Thanks so much to everyone who has watched my journey and cheered me on. You rock.
Next up, final revisions of Acephalous, which I aim to publish in early 2017.
Guys, I’ve been approved for a booth at my first convention of choice!
Visit my info table at AgamaCon 2017, March 3-5, in Aiken, South Carolina to view pre-release copies of my novels, Humans In My House and Acephalous, and chat with me about the writing process (yours or mine!).
I’m hoping to also get tables at Katsucon (should know by the end of August), Florence Comicon, Dragon Con 2017, IchibanCon 8, and XCON 10. I’m waiting for the latter to open applications. My lofty future goals include CatCon LA and Sac-ComiCon, but California is a long way to travel pre-publication.
Regardless, I look forward to traveling and to schmoozing with all of you. If you see me at a convention, stop by and say hi!
I’ve gotten some amazing, useful feedback from the test readers who’ve returned their comments so far. I can’t wait to get the rest and to start rewriting Acephalous Book 1 (which very well could become a longer, single book that’s not part of a series).
Some items I plan on changing include:
-POV shift from 3rd person limited to 3rd person omniscient. Though I value the challenge the former POV presents to an author–successfully presenting all of the characters in a rich and emotionally arresting way without getting into the inner thoughts of most of them–I feel like I’m missing out on opportunities to better link my readers to the characters’ emotions, fears, and motivations, to add history and detail to a scene without narrating or telling.
-Structure/Order of Events. I’m looking to get to the action sooner than the current version does, and to reel people in with the mystery and intrigue of Breena’s situation by making the dreams she experiences carry more weight.
-Character Behaviors. The characters are still hollow at this point, as is usually the case in any initial shell of a story. They aren’t fully independent, separate, complete people in the world of dreams or reality. They each have the beginnings of uniqueness, but undermine their own existences by contradicting their thoughts with their actions, cultivating dislike through unrealistic dialogue, or failing to display their importance to the story. The goal is for each character to sound like a real person, their own person, rather than sound like different variations of me as the author.
To accomplish all of this (and, doubtless, the many more decisions I’ll make as more feedback comes in), I plan on performing a total re-write of the test-read version. I’m going to work page-by-page to recreate each with fresh words. The plot will stay essentially the same, as will the basis of the current characters, but by rewriting in one stretch of time, I will have a more homogeneous text. As it is, I can still tell which sections I wrote as a high school student and which sections come from master’s degree me. It doesn’t mesh.
I’ve worked for a long time to get the story to a coherent shell to share with others for input. It’s a tricky stage where it’s complete enough to call a story, but too rough to call publishable. This version is a husk of what it could be, and it’s always hard to let people read something that I know is not finished. I always pray those reading realize it’s still just a draft, that I wasn’t passing it around as a sneak peek of the completed story. (Read: Yes, you’ll still need to buy the real one to find out what happens even if you test-read it.) The text that will go on sale by the end of next year won’t much resemble the one they read, and I’m thankful. Even Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” For me, while I’m much more proud of the story than what I put in the toilet, and while I wouldn’t store the book alongside your manure fertilizer, it is a first draft of sorts. It took 12 years and who knows how many full overhauls to get to the state where I handed it out for critique, but, in terms of publication readiness, the 2015-2016 version of Acephalous is the first draft. It’s the first draft I’ve had printed and bound; it’s the first draft I’ve let people see; it’s the first draft to be acceptable enough to consider moving forward.
Rewriting is the stage where many aspiring writers quit. We get through the feat of finishing something as huge as a novel and realize that, even though there’s a finished story with a beginning, middle, and end, it’s not acceptable in its current state. It would be easy to stare at the piles of commentary and say, “There’s still so much left to do…” and never say anything else about the project. It can feel overwhelming to think about how many little (and major) things need to change, but authors press on because the satisfaction of creating a viable beginning, middle, and end isn’t enough once people have read it. Viable doesn’t mean finished once someone points out what’s lacking. Personally, I’m thrilled to rewrite and leave the opinions of Mr. Hemingway in the dust.
Whether you’re the type to go for allegory, obscurity, trends, or historical accuracy, naming your characters can take daunting research. It’s a fun job, don’t get me wrong, but it helps to have thorough tools to get the job done.
Baby name websites are a good start. Just Google “baby names” and you’ll find a number of sites that’ll do the trick. They usually include origin and meaning of the name. In addition, many rank the names based on popularity. So, if you want to reflect the times, you can choose a popular name. If you want uncommon names, you know what to avoid. However, these lists, in my experience, are exclusively for given names. And that makes sense. People aren’t looking at lists of surnames for their children. They get those automatically.
Writers, though, we get saddled with having to choose it all. These decisions, if you’re one to put a lot of emphasis on names reflecting personality like me, are foundational ones to make. (It’s totally fine to arbitrarily choose a name based on aesthetic preference alone, too.)
The website Behind the Name is the most thorough list of surnames I’ve found. It includes many geographical areas making naming by ethnicity or nationality is easy. It provides the meaning of each name listed, and it is detailed about noting any variations in spelling or language where applicable.
I’ve gotten a lot of use out of Behind the Name today while working on the second installment of Acephalous. New characters, new names. Comment below if you’ve got your own favorite naming sites to add to the conversation!
Author, Editor, Red Ink Enthusiast™
It’s the author’s task to adopt each life, event, and feeling in the story as his or her own in order to write evocative, realistic, and compelling prose.
Some days, the task is a fun escape from the rain outside, the dishes in the sink, and the reruns seen so frequently they’re quotable. Sometimes, it can feel like too much to take on–the problems of a character on top of the stresses of daily reality, no matter how mundane.
In either instance, it can be hard to focus, whether that’s because there are chores and errands on the brain or because putting yourself through a fictional trauma feels too real. But, at least in the case of the latter, that’s how you know you’re doing a good job.
Writing is emotionally exhausting, but that level of psychological and emotive design is how you bring a reader into your created world as a participant, not just an observer. It’s easy for me to say, “Power through; it’s worth the effort.” It’s not always easy for me to take my own advice, though it’s true advice. There are times when my writing ruins my mood for the rest of the day. As awful as it might sound, those are the days I know I wrote something really important, or at least true to the human experience.
On those days, I take a lot of breaks and read books I really love. Oddly, becoming a participant in other stories doesn’t feel nearly as taxing, even when they are equally as serious, emotional, or tense as what I’m writing. This is perhaps because becoming emotionally invested in a story of someone else’s creation provides the mental escape of writing one’s own fiction minus the heightened sense of scrutiny, attachment, and truth that accompanies authorship.
With this in mind, I’d like to know what YOU do when the story starts to weigh on you as if it wasn’t fiction. Join the conversation in the comments below, or visit my Facebook page.
As always, thank you for reading. Happy (or maybe not-so-happy) writing!
Amanda Marsico–Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast™
It’s cold and rainy here. It has been most of the week. But, that kind of weather is perfect for hot drinks and long projects. I’ve decided to pursue publication of my first novel. This isn’t the children’s book I mentioned a few weeks ago, but the first manuscript I ever completed–a YA novel called Acephalous. I started writing it in high school and, over the years, it has taken on many new forms, getting better every time. It’s now in its third edited draft of the completed version. I plan to send it for copyrighting at the end of this edit (unless I find something glaring along the way that I have to overhaul. A realistic possibility, as I’m never satisfied).
What I’ve learned is that it is sometimes necessary to step away from projects for a long time in order to realize their worth. I always thought the story was pretty decent. I even shared clips of it here when I was planning on publishing after the second draft. But, after spending so much time with it, I lost confidence. I thought it needed a total rewrite, that there was too much of my younger, untrained, high school writer self left in it. I got overwhelmed. An edited draft two and a fresh draft three sat on my shelf for a couple of years, third printing better than the second, but still unedited.
Now that I’ve come back to it, I realize it’s really not bad. Sure, there are parts I’ve changed, and the time away allowed me to see them, but the time also allowed me to see what was great in the novel and what was innate in my writing abilities–things from my younger, untrained self that really work and don’t need to be educated away. I’d have to say that writing is never more “you” than it is before you’ve been trained in theory, style, and genre. After that, “youness” gets hushed by correctness and propriety. So, this latest version is a balancing act between my original voice as an author, as a teen, and the technical sensibilities of an academic, an adult. What should be thrown away, and what should be added to achieve a properly formed plot? All while being my own, not what any professor encouraged (or ordered) me to be. It’s a line by line choice that I’m fully equipped to make thanks to my education. After all, you have to learn the rules in order to artfully and purposefully ignore them.