The Next Chapter: Progress by inches (and bounds)


It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my progress, or lack thereof, on my writing.

Initiate of Stone

I’ve been struggling to rewrite my first chapter.  I’ve now made progress, after writing, and rewriting it several times.  I really had to go back and decide what it was necessary to accomplish in my opening chapter.

A short list:

  • Introduce my protagonist – Ferathainn, or Fer, is fifteen, and her coming of age is in two moons, at the next goddess festival, Sestaya.  She wants to become an Agrothe mage, and will be the first girl to do so in a very long time, but she chafes under the tutelage of her master, Aeldred.  Fer has been studying from the moment she wakes to the moment she sleeps (except festival days) with Master Aeldred for 12 turnings of the sun through the seasons, but it’s all been mundane. He’s forbidden her from using her innate talent, to speak with the spirits, or souls, of animals, plants, elements, and perhaps even people, like he controls who the spirits speak to …  Fer desperately wants to be initiated so she can start using her talent and learning “real” magick.  She knows she’s capable of more than what Master Aeldred permits her to do.  The process is long and demanding, though, and she will have to make sacrifices.  She loves Leaf, the eleph finiris, or song master, and will marry him on Sestaya as well.  She sees her astara, or soul-lights, in his eyes, something that only the eleph are supposed to see.  She’s not so sure about children, though they seem to be the natural consequence of marriage.  She’s just been so long separated from other girls her age by her studies that she wants something that everyone else takes for granted.  Fer worries that love, marriage, and family will be the sacrifices that she will have to make to become a mage.  She’s determined to have at least love in addition to the solitary life of a mage.
  • The “normal” world – Hartsgrove, Fer’s village, is a “free town” and the eleph and people of Tellurin live side-by-side in relative peace.  It’s an agrarian village that sends tributes to the surrounding, larger, towns and cities to show fealty and secure support in times of need.  The predominant religion is worship of the Goddess Auraya, creatrix of Tellurin.  Every year the season of Vedranya brings deadly storms to besiege the land.  This has been the way of things since the Cataclysm, two centuries before, changed the face of Tellurin and reduced much of Tellurin civilization to rubble.  Fer lives in a small, but sturdy cottage, with her mother and father, Selene and Devlin, a seer and a bard respectively, and her younger half-sister, Aislinn.  She has never left Hartsgrove.
  • Hook the reader – What’s the root cause of Fer’s resentment of her master, the man who could grant her wish to become a mage?  Why does he want to keep her from using her talent?
  • Ask a question (that needs to be answered by the end of the novel) – What is the secret Master Aeldred feared so much he magickally bound Fer’s friends and family to silence?
  • Foreshadow the inciting event – An earth elemental, or nomi, tells Fer the secret is a potentially deadly one though it cannot more than hint at the nature of the secret; she must be strong to face the trials to come.

So I’m slowly working my way through the list without dumping too much backstory or world building on the reader.  Beginnings, why are you so hard?

Some links about beginnings:

On a whim, I’ve signed up for Margie Lawson’s course, A Deep Editing Guide to Making Your Openings Pop, starting May 6, 2013.  She focuses on psycho-linguistic and rhetorical techniques to improve your writing.  My undergrad was focused on rhetoric and I love psychology, linguistics, and brain science, so this looks like it’s right up my alley.  Will let you know how it goes.

I might do the crazy and send my beginning (when I’m more or less happy with it) to Ray Rhamey’s Flogging the Quill to see if it passes his test.  Stay tuned.

Short Stories and poetry

Well, so far, I’ve kept up with Kasie Whitener’s Just Write short story challenge.  I’ve written a completely new short story for each of January, February, and March.  I’m a little behind in April, and may opt for flash fiction to make up the short fall.

The short story that I revised and sent to On Spec in January has been accepted (!)  I am very (like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) excited about this, even though I know that it won’t be in print until sometime next year.  I’m looking forward to working with their editorial team to whip “Downtime” into shape.

“Beneath the Foundations (original story #2),” my attempt at medieval Cthulian for Sword and Mythos was rejected.

“A Terrible Thing” was rejected by the editors of Tesseracts 17.

It’s too early to have heard back from either Writers of the Future, to whom I sent “The Gabriel,” or In Places Between, to which I submitted “Molly Finder (original short story #3).”

There wasn’t room for my poem “peregrine” on the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month blog, but I have subsequently submitted that poem plus two more, “contain you” and “infant crawls,” to Sulphur.

From last year’s submissions, I learned that my submission to Mark Leslie’s Spooky Sudbury will be included in the publication, and my poem, “north of thule” was included in the fabulous Sopphey Vance’s Enhance no. 11.  It’s been a good month (and a bit) for happy dancing!

I’m going to work on something flashy this week to round out April’s short story quota, and set to work on another original for May in hopes of garnering some attention in the Rannu Fund competition.May Submit-o-rama Choice

I’ve joined Khara House’s May submit-o-rama and have committed to 1 submission per week in the Choose Your Own Challenge category.  Rannu will make up only one of those, so I’ll have to get my arse moving on identifying other submission opportunities (!)

Critiquing

Actually finished the BIG critique for my online group and am working on a review of the first 100 pages of another online critique buddy.

Have only three people left to critique for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild before I’m caught up with them.  We’re trying to get our stories and poetry together for an anthology.  I put forward “A Terrible Thing” and “Old Crow,” another short story of mine that was rejected by Tyche Books last year (Masked Mosaic anthology).  It looks like “Old Crow” might be salvageable as a short story, but that “A Terrible Thing,” as editors have said—and I’ve thought—in the past, is really a novel in the making.

Conferences

A local effort, Wordstock, will be happening June 7 and 8 at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.  This is the first year for the event, and the organizers are hoping to build on what they hope to be this year’s success.  The SWG has a block of time for readings.

I’ve registered for the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, June 12-16, and booked my room in the Orillia campus of Lakehead University.

I’m still waffling about When Worlds Collide August 9-11.  The registration fee is reasonable in the extreme, but I still have to bear the cost of the flight and accommodation.

One reason I’m waffling is because I want to go to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year (Oct 25-27).  Domestic flights are sooooo expensive.  Right now, a return to either Calgary or Vancouver for the conference dates is showing as over $1000.  It may be an either/or kind of thing for me.  Or I might just cash in my Avion or Aeroplan points for one or the other flight.  That’s an idea!  Thanks for letting me suss that one out online 😛

I think that’s all the conferencing I can take for this year.  Next year, I hope to add some fancons like Ad Astra.  We’ll see how the financial situation sits.  And my various air rewards plan balances 🙂

Other stuff

Taxes done and refund received 🙂

Am still putting off the decision to move to WordPress.org.  I think I just need some dedicated time to devote to research and reflection.

Hope all is well with you and your writing lives.

I’d love to hear from you about your latest literary adventures!

Tonight’s viewing line-up: Doctor Who and Orphan Black!

Tomorrow, I’ll share my thoughts on happiness and how my experiences have influenced my writing in the final instalment of a life sentence with mortal punctuation.

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16 thoughts on “The Next Chapter: Progress by inches (and bounds)

  1. Wow you have a lot on! Initiate of Stone sounds very interesting – the names you have picked are wonderful. There is a lot of information there so your challenge will be – as you say – introducing it all without too much backstory. If you can manage to do that you have a very intriguing story. Good luck!

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  2. Phew, just reading about your year leaves me exhausted. You do like to be active don’t you.
    Your ‘Initiate of Stone’ looks to be most interesting and if rewriting the opening chapter was the problem, it sounds like you’re well on your way. I can’t tell if that means the rest of the book is done, or will follow once you’ve completed the current chore. But if you’ve completed the rest it looks like you’ll soon have a possible ‘Book of the Year’ on your hands.
    Many congratulations on all you’ve achieved so far this year., I hope the rest of it will be as successful for you. xx Hugs xx

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    • I know I overcommit. It’s one of the way I try to self-medicate. Then again, it could be the manic coming out (crud). The Margie Lawson course was only $50 USD though, so while it may be a commitment, it’s not too hard on the pocketbook. Joining challenges and setting deadlines really helps too. It keeps me on track, evdn when I think it’s not going to happen. I find the time for the things I love.
      The rest of the book is done, but is in need of revision. Once I’ve done with the first chapter, it’s going to be moving much faster, there’s not so much writing of new stuff, but revising/deleting existing.
      I’m hoping for more good this year as well. Though I must say that what I’ve already done is very satisfying.
      Thanks, David. I hope this year brings you all sorts of good too!

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  3. Mel- just a thought but could Fer’s resentment of her master be due to her own frustration at her lack of control over her destiny? She wants to marry and yet she can’t if she becomes an Agrothe. She wants so much but she knows she can’t have it all. What do you think?

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  4. Melanie it sounds like you’ve done amazing things this month! I know the feeling about not doing enough writing, but I have been in other forms, like RFPs for work. Also, I didn’t know there was a festival in Orillia. Sounds cool, but it’s too bad it’s during the weekdays…

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    • It’s kind of been my 2013 accomplishments. When I looked back at the last time I’d done a Next Chapter post, it was back in February (!) So I had to update 😉
      I don’t go every year, but the CAA conference looked good this time around and it was posted in a timely enough manner that I was able to book a couple of vacation days for it.
      You could just do the Saturday if you want. I think they have a daily rate and you still might be able to get in on some of the workshops or pitch session.

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  5. So much work, Melanie! I love it! Can’t wait to see what the Just Write Challenge helps you complete. Maybe we need to think of a single annual best-of-Just-Write anthology? Write on!

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    • Truthfully, I can only devote the time and money I do because Phil and I have chosen not to have children. I have so much respect for those of you who have career, children, and somehow find the time to write as well. You are all amazing! So you are inspiration to me 🙂 Honour what you do. Feel proud and let that validation carry you through to brilliant success!

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  6. Melanie, I’m amazed at what you’ve accomplished! Congratulations – glad all your hard work is paying off in acceptances. I attended the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference over the weekend, caught up with friends from last year and made new friends. I love conferences! I’m lagging behind on the WP.org – I’m glad you are researching it.

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    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Marilyn 🙂 Will you be blogging your conference experience? Some things I’m very slow at. The WP.org thing is one of them. I’m taking my time.

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      • Yes, I plan to starting tomorrow. I’m terribly slow these days, Melanie. Shame on me! I didn’t feel too great Sat. night and left after the banquet. It will be in the blog this week! Thanks for asking.

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