Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learning from mistakes

I'm taking a Depth in Writing class from WMG Publishing, taught by Dean Wesley Smith, and I just got my latest assignment back. I did okay, but not great. However, the feedback I received made me happy to have screwed up.

The purpose of the class is to learn how to write with so much depth that readers won't stop reading. Think about the last time you read a book you couldn't put down. It was probably written with depth.

The assignment was to write 300 words about "Ben meeting a child." I decided that my "Ben" was a police officer and wrote my scene. The feedback was that I had written the scene as a writer, not as the character. Smith was right. I had written about "Ben the cop" but I had gone no deeper in my characterization than that.

As I pondered the feedback, I realized I had made the same mistake in my current draft. I have a character who is a cop with about as much depth as poor Ben. Worse, my main character has depth in some areas but none in others.

I know why Jim is a warlock. I know why he walks with a cane and how that affects his life. That's all good. However, his profession is as an anthropology professor, and there's little about why he chose that. Smith says that if certain details can change without it changing the character, then the character is too thin. Jim could be an English professor, and it would change little about the character. Oops.

How did this happen? Paul and Dafydd have depth, so this shouldn't be a foreign concept to me. This book is a rewrite of a very thin draft, and I added some depth but not enough. One lesson learned is that rewriting a decade old draft can be a problem. It will be less so as I hone my craft, but I wasn't a very good writer then. Have I ever improved!

I knew the draft still had issues. Now I know what they are, and the class will give me the knowledge to fix them.

I highly recommend you check out the WMG classes if you aspire to be a professional author.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Draft finished of the next book, Buried But Not Gone

It seems like I just released The Case of the Reincarnated Lover yesterday, but it's been about six months now, and I'm getting closer to my next release.

It is in the same genre as The Warlock Case Files. However, the next book will introduce a new set of characters, including another warlock.

There's a bit of history behind this book. I wrote it more than a decade ago, long before I'd created Paul and Dafydd. The book was the result of one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had, and that dream was the focal point of the first chapter. When I first started writing the Case Files, I'd planned to rewrite the older book to make it part of the series. However, that dream caused me a problem.

While Dafydd does have prophetic dreams, and I probably could have made it work, the dream needed to be from the point of view of a different character, and I decided it wasn't worth making the changes necessary to write it in Dafydd's first person narrative. I'm not a fan of breaking point of view unless absolutely necessary, and this reason wasn't compelling enough for me.

Besides, in Reincarnated Lover, Dafydd realized he needed a community of warlocks supporting him, and I thought I had an opportunity. One of the characters in the older book was a Wiccan anthropologist, and it was easy to tweak him to make him a warlock. Voila! Lots of problems solved.

All I had to do was shift the main point of view character to the new warlock and do some quick editing, and the book would be ready. Just goes to show how little we know until we get into the middle of something...

Turns out the original draft was awful. Oh, there was the seed of a good story in there, but it took lots of work to tease it out. I'd be surprised if 10% of the original draft survived. It was more like a complete rewrite than an edit, and it took months longer than I'd anticipated.

However, the first draft is done now, and I'll be reviewing it later this week to make changes before sending it to beta readers. If you're interested in being a beta reader, let me know. I've got a couple lined up, but I can always use more.

The blurb will go something like this. Emotionally, Denise Evans was barely ready for her divorce. When her soon-to-be ex-husband committed suicide in front of her, she thought her nightmare was finally over. Turns out it had just begun, as Denise and a local warlock, Jim Novik, have to figure out why her ex was Buried But Not Gone.

I'm sure I'll tweak it before publication, but that should give you some idea of what's going on. The book is a bit darker and has less humor than the Case Files, but Paul and Dafydd do have a guest starring role!