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That moment you realise you’ve revised all wrong…

Last week I had an epiphany…

lol not quite like this :p

lol not quite like this 😛

For those of you unaware of my writing journey, I completed my first novel about a year ago – and by complete I mean I’d written a first draft, second draft, revised and polished to submission quality, with each process taking about 8 months (I’ve written other things before, but I’ve never taken them so far).

Anyways, the final product was a wieldy 105,000 words – way too much for a debut novel. Usually for Young Adult fiction, a new writer should aim for anywhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words – definitely no more than 90,000. So I knew I would be pushing it with agents and publishers submitting the novel as is.

In my gut, I knew the issue rested with the start of my novel.

A third of the way through, my story really took off and kept going great guns all the way to the end. It was the first third that was the problem – I had a lot of setting up squished into the first 100 pages – or, as Blake Snyder calls it in Save the Cat, lots of piping.

And I didn’t know how to fix it.

Then finally, I received some amazing feedback from an editor who acknowledged my issue and suggested a fix might be to bring one of the key incidents (that takes place about 150 pages in) forward.

So I thought about this and thought about this, discussed it with my beta readers, and finally came up with a new way of structuring my novel. It only took me about two months to rework everything, and when I was done I had a new and improved version – with the incident in question now taking place within the first 50 pages and my total word count standing at a svelte 88,500.

Phew!

Finally I was ready to take on the world of submissions…

cheerleader

or so I thought.

After getting my novel out there and receiving some more feedback, I realised – just last week – I’d revised my novel ALL WRONG!

Yes, the word count is right where it needs to be… but now I fear I have too many conflicts/motivations crammed into the beginning. In my first version, it is very clear what my main character wants – to run away with her childhood sweetheart (this is the entire premise of the first third of the novel). Then in the second third of the novel, the obstacles start piling up in her way, one after the other.

But by bringing one of the obstacles to the start of the novel, what I’ve done is muddy the waters. It’s no longer as clear what my main character wants or what her main conflict is – she’s effectively running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Well, maybe it’s not that bad… but still, it’s an issue.

I have more scotch

Now believe me, I was not too keen on realising this. But, as is typical Yani fashion, I just couldn’t let this lie. I love this story – I have to get it right (or at least as right as I can get it). So I thought, “Hey, let’s look at a few other stories of like genre and see how they lay the foundations in the first few scenes. Maybe I can learn a few things.”

And I did – as I said, I had an epiphany.

I started my novel TOO SOON!!!!

Yes, you read that right! I committed one of the simplest and most well-known errors a writer can make. You might not believe this, but I actually had contemplated it before – and ruled it out – as in my original version of Boudica’s story I started writing in 2009 (back before she had super powers and she was just a simple lass), I had included seven chapters about their childhood, which I omitted in my later drafts. “I have started just right, now,” I thought, as I typed the scene of Aiden’s return.

Pfft… I was soooo wrong.

No, instead of starting when Aiden returns, I need to start several months later, when they’ve already spent time together and fallen in love, and Aiden is asking her to run away with him. Then – BAM! – obstacle number one raises its ugly head, and then – BAM – obstacle number two soon after. And so on, and so on.

And you’ll never guess where in the 105K version of this novel this new starting point sits… right at the end of that pesky first third!

Blah!

Squint

I see it so clearly now – and it’s such an easy fix. All I need to do is lop of the first third of the novel, rework anything from that first third that is integral to the plot into the last two thirds, and then smooth the changes throughout the novel. Not only will my word count be within the right range, all my original and carefully worked out character motivations and conflicts will prevail exactly the way they were supposed to.

Woohoo!

Now I’ve just got to do it 🙂

Fortunately, I’ve almost finished writing the first draft of my second novel – my YA portal fantasy inspired by Norwegian folklore. As of last night, I officially have only five scenes left to draft. So once I sign off “The End”, I can throw myself back into my Whisperer novel and get the damn thing right, once and for all…

Yay!

Oh, and by the way – the Buffy/Angel rewatch is going great! Cole and I are halfway through Season 4 and loving every moment of it :p

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Killing My Darlings…

I watched Kill Your Darlings over the weekend – you know, the one where Harry Potter gets to kiss Dane DeHaan? Now, I wouldn’t say it’s the best film ever (it was okay) but it has officially inspired me.

I’m not sure if any other writers will identify, but for me coming up with ideas for novels takes a long time – and when I say long, I mean l-o-n-g. Usually the full concept, plot and cast of characters is a culmination of many ideas over many years. I’ll start with a basic type of story I’d like to write (eg. a vampire romance or a fantasy with Norwegian folklore) and an idea of the kind of themes I’d like to explore (eg. drug addiction, obsessive love, the love/hate dichotomy of female relationships). But that’s about it.

seize the moment

For example, I always wanted to write a vampire novel. I’ve loved vampires since forever, and although I cannot say who the first vampire was that I came across (well, unless Sesame Street counts), I do remember reading Le Fanu’s Carmilla as a young teen and being fascinated by the relationship between Laura and Carmilla. Then of course I discovered Buffy Anne Rice and Bram Stoker through film (namely Interview With The Vampire in 1994 and Dracula in 1992). Oh, and The Lost Boys! How can I forget The Lost Boys? (It came out in the 80s but I wouldn’t have seen it until the 90s, given my age). Throughout my teens I was also an avid Buffy LJ Smith and Christopher Pike fan. Have I mentioned Buffy yet?

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a vampire child of the 1990s 🙂 But they were my teen years – some of my most formative years (well, that’s my excuse anyway). 

As I was saying, I always wanted to write a vampire novel, but it took about ten years for me to come up with the right story. I guess it had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t really lived life yet. In my opinion, life is the best inspiration there is – the good stuff and the bad (maybe especially the bad). And finally at the age of 28 (after completing two degrees, having a beautiful baby boy, stepping out into the workforce, and having lots of those pesky life experiences) everything clicked into place. I had a story – and not just any story, a story that could span several centuries and several books, complete with love, loss, obsession, betrayal, and a really, really destructive ending – woohoo! Book 1 (the book I currently have on submission) is only the beginning of what will one day be an amazing series (I hope). But still it took me a long time to even get to the point where I could start writing it.

Step in Kill Your Darlings

Anyone who knows me would know from the trailer that I’d be drawn to this movie…

It’s got:
– an Ivy League college in the 1940s;
– Obsessed professors;
– Self-destructive writers and poets;
– Jazz; and
– Murder.

What an awesome combination!

It’s also got Dane DeHaan (think David Bowie meets Leonardo DiCaprio). Yes, Daniel Radcliffe is in it but in my opinion DeHaan outshines him every second of every minute – all 104 of them. But then again I am biased – I’ve always had a soft spot for the preppy blonde hell-raiser (Sebastian Flyte, h-e-l-l-o… and not to mention Dickie Greenleaf, my dah-lings).

Oh my, those blue, blue eyes…
soldier-brnes.tumblr.com

The movie itself was so-so, but — and this is a big but — it was the catalyst for the final pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, that has been slowly assembling in the recesses of my psyche for years, to fall into place. Finally – yes finally – I have the plot for the most awesome story ever – a story I was born to write (at least I like to think so).

And what story could this be, perchance? Let me explain…

The Secret DiariesMy favourite YA trilogy of all time is The Secret Diaries by Janice Harrell. I discovered the first book in the series, Temptation, back in 1995. I was living at Kangaroo Point at the time and I remember reading it of a morning while I rode the ferry to school.

It’s about a girl named Joanna who transfers to a new school and is drawn into a mysterious group of kids who have a dark secret. Just before Joanna arrived, another member of the group – a girl – mysteriously went missing. Some say she ran away. Others speculate something more sinister. As Joanna is drawn deeper into the group she gradually learns the truth.

It was (and is) awesome – I’ve read it many times since. And even though the writing is simple and unadorned, the story and characters captivate me every time. It’s a shame Scholastic don’t re-release the trilogy like they re-released The Vampire Diaries and The Last Vampire series (by the way – there are no vampires in The Secret Diaries – it’s a basic contemporary girl-meets-boy-and-his-circle-of-friends, boy-and-his-circle-of-friends-have-a-deadly-secret type of story). In fact, it’s actually very similar to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History – except set in high school.

In case you are interested, there is a great review of The Secret Diaries HERE.

Anyway, why do I bring up this story? Well, ever since it touched my life I’ve wanted to write something just as riveting. Something that was a little bit The Secret Diaries, a little bit Brideshead Revisited. Something that was a little bit The Talented Mr Ripley, and a little bit Poison Ivy and Mad Love (yes, I love Drew).

And now, thanks to Kill My Darlings, I’ve finally got it!!! The final piece of my puzzle. And I’m very excited 😀

I wish I could tell you more, but at this stage it’s all gotta stay hush-hush. Unfortunately due to the intricacies of the plot, I think this novel will take me a long time to write . But it will be worth every painstaking moment of toil toiled, and every drop of blood, sweat and tears dripped.

Man, I can’t wait to get started…

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Fun! Fun! Fun!

I’ve had the most awesome week!

Last Thursday the boys and I went Trick or Treating at Sunnybank Shopping Town. On Friday for Halloween, Cole and I dined on burgers at Grill’d (Cole had the sweet chilli chicken and I had the crispy bacon and cheese) before catching Ghostbusters on the big screen. On Saturday, we met up with family at Boondall lake and watched model boat racing for the day. Then all this week, Cole and I watched Season 1 of Buffy 😀

Come Along WillowIt was the first time Cole’s actually sat down and watched Buffy episode-by-episode, and I’m very happy to report he enjoyed it! Of course, I’m not surprised – he is a Doctor Who fan after all and can appreciate great writing when he sees it 😀 Tomorrow we start Season 2 – I can’t wait.

Speaking of Doctor Who, the season 8 finale aired this morning. Cole and I will be catching it sometime this evening, once the littlies have gone to bed and we can watch without distraction. I really hope it lives up to expectations. Last week’s episode was exceptional and the massive Missy bomb was totally beyond all expectations. I found this season a little hit and miss though, but I have faith in the Doctor Who crew. They’ll make magic happen again, I just know it.

Desperate by Athena DanielsOn another note, I’m very excited to announce that a writer friend of mine was offered a publishing deal with Evernight Publishing this week, for her romantic suspense novel, Desperate. Congratulations, Athena Daniels! I can’t wait to read your masterpiece once it is released to the world 😀

Progress on my WIP is coming along nicely. I’m currently working on scene 20 (of 39) of my first draft – so I’m just past halfway. I’m taking my time with it though – balancing it with my family time and work time. It’s only one more year until Sebby starts school so I want to be available to him as much as possible and not completely lost in my work. There will be plenty of time for me-time once the boys are older. One thing I learned with Cole is how fast they grow up – I mean, gosh, he’s starting high school next year, and it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was trotting him off to prep! I’m just so glad I get to enjoy the little-kiddie years one more time with Sebby and Dom. It’s lovely (albeit crazy at times).

The law firm is going well. We have our first few clients now, and this weekend we started our marketing campaign. So, all things going well, business should start kicking off very soon.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the FathersOn a final note, I recently finished playing the 20th anniversary remake of one of my favourite 90s games, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The soundtrack is amazing and the graphics phenomenal. It made me fall in love with New Orleans all over again, and tickled that urge inside me once again to travel. Of course, that will have to wait.

Anyways, that’s enough from me for today. I’m going to go now and tap out some more of scene 20 and then, once Dom wakes up, pick up Cole from his ong ba noi’s.

See you on the other side of the TARDIS!

PS. Only 5 weeks til Tassie! Woohoo!

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