Tishta the Crystal Orb – Chapter Five Revised

With the completion of the revision of Chapter Five—A Trip to a Real Town of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” I have finished Part One—Coming Together! That puts me about twenty percent of the way through the novel. I feel good about my progress. Since I did a lot of reorganization and added backstory to this part, it doesn’t really indicate how work much is left.

I added seven scenes of backstory that was already written, although I did a lot of rewriting of these; four completely new scenes; and significantly extended nine, including more scenery descriptions and enhanced character and story lines. I combined several related scenes and completely rewrote one. I pulled one up from way later in the book, and moved two to the next part. I completely removed at least two scenes—I liked those stories, so that was hard.

In the first draft, there were twenty scenes unevenly spanning three chapters. There are now thirty-two scenes, more evenly distributed over five chapters. My word count nearly tripled.

My biggest concern is if the closing scene should really be the end of this part. I’ll go back to it once I dive into the next part. I’m still learning about how to manage the overall story arc. Part One would be equivalent to Act One in a play or a movie. I’m trying to master this concept well enough to tell a good story.

One of the things I found interesting in my editor Anne’s feedback was a comment she made about one of the scenes in this chapter. It was the one where Criften purchased a wagon. It’s a key element in facilitating travel with a vampire.

Her comment was, the scene didn’t move the story along. Later in the book, she made another comment about how the importance of the wagon should have been made clear earlier. This taught me that the original version of the scene didn’t grab her attention like it should have. This is the scene I completely rewrote.

The  other problem with the original chapter was, I introduced two key elements, one of which was the wagon. The other was finding a sword for Brant. This was the thing Anne placed the importance on. I removed it from this chapter and plan to add it in the next one. I’ll see how well it fits there.

A lot of the additions were to flesh out Coltan as the main protagonist, and to develop his story more completely. I added exposition gleaned from the (extremely long) backstory I wrote about him in August—what amounts to his addictions to blood and sex, especially together. By adding the letter in chapter one, from him to his wife—his very first victim—I hoped to gain the sympathy of the reader for Coltan.

Some of the work was to give more personality to Criften. He’s a very aloof leader. I tried, in the original draft, to make him more mysterious by not describing him much at all. Anne convinced me to make him more known, and a little more reachable.

I also added more conflict between Malcan and Coltan, beginning with total animosity in the first chapter. Just as Coltan starts to gain Malcan’s trust, he does something that pushes Malcan into another confrontation with him, this one amounting to an intervention. And, that’s where this chapter and this first part leave off. Now that I’ve explained it, I think it really might be a good ending point.

I have to say, once again, what a wonderful writing tool Scrivener is. I can’t imagine trying to do what I’m doing without it, or one of the other writer’s tools.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb – Chapter Four Done

The editing I’ve done so far has been an interesting process. The intent was to introduce the characters more slowly and give them more depth—so the reader gets a better feel for who each of them are. I think I’ve been able to accomplish that.

At the same time, I’ve begun pushing the story in a new direction with respect to my main protagonist, Coltan. This has involved adding more sex, and it’s more explicit. I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

Coltan’s backstory that I wrote in August—which I grew into another whole book—is full of sex. It’s a major topic in the story. I got used to writing about it, but that doesn’t mean I feel comfortable sharing it with everyone.

I’ll go ahead with adding the graphic sex scenes for now and then see what my editor has to say during her next pass through the book. I can always tone things down.

In chapter four, the entire group has been together for a few days, and are discovering things about each other. There are new jealousies and rejections, but they start to rely on each other, and that leads to a certain amount of trust.

As I’ve worked to flesh out some of the characters, a lot of it has been selecting stories I had already written and discarded as backstories. This was especially true for Gillan, Toran and Kano. I think they are much more believable and memorable characters now.

Criften has been a bigger challenge. In the original draft, I wanted him distant and hands off, and that led me to not telling the reader much about him. My editor wanted to know more. I’m adding interactions that will hopefully make him more human without making him overtly compassionate and loving. He is these things, but he hides them well. I added a scene where Coltan is introspective and he even says Criften has shut himself off from the world.

“Criften tries to help me sometimes, but he has his own demons. He has learned to shut out the world, except the parts that require him to participate—to keep The Others from taking us over. He’s really very dedicated to that, and, I suppose, to me and the others he is bringing together. I’d like to say, after all this time, that he is my friend, but neither of us has the capacity for that.”

Aside from added character development, scenes have shifted around a bit. One of my challenges has been making sure they move seamlessly into their new positions. I’ve had to keep a careful eye on the beginnings and endings to make sure they fit with the scenes before and after them. I have to pay attention to the moon, especially since there is an eclipse at the end of chapter three, so there shouldn’t be a moon during the watches in these first chapters—they take place within the span of a week.

The group also moves through mountains and down to lower land as they move from Maglin’s cabin—which wasn’t even in the first draft—to the first real town the get to, Milfar, which is where chapter five picks up.

As I usually do, I’m recording each scene as I change it. It’s a lot of extra time and work, but when I listen to the story, I can hear discrepancies. Listening to my story has been one of my most useful tools. I still recommend it to all writers. The first part, Coming Together, is already up to two hours and twelve minutes. The recordings give me the added benefit of reading myself to sleep at night.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Finished Chapter Three—For Now

I like certain things about the changes I’ve made to the story line at the beginning of Tishta the Crystal Orb. I used to introduce all ten characters (excluding Maglin) in the first scene. Now, it’s spread over the first three chapters.

It allows the reader to get to know some of the characters before they meet new ones. I also added in a fair amount of backstory that I had removed in the first draft to allow me to start the book with Coltan’s arrival. I only had to rearrange some of the material and update it to reflect current reality. I’m not entirely satisfied yet, but I suspect, after I get further into the revised story, things will become more clear. Then, I can go back to this beginning and make sure it feels right.

In the original story, I had my main character, Coltan, explain to nearly everyone—mostly separately—that he was a vampire, although some of the characters knew this on their own, Malcan and Mar, in particular. In my new chapter three, where the whole group finally gets together, I’m struggling with whether or not my warriors, Gillan and Toran, who have worked pretty extensively with Criften and Malcan, know about Coltan.

One of the comments my editor made on the first draft of the book was that I repeatedly had Coltan exposing his “condition” to the others. By the time Contara finds out, Gillan already knows about Coltan. Contara confronts her. “Why didn’t you tell me?” But, Gillan had only just found out, so it was all right in the story. If I change it so she knows all along that Coltan is a vampire, I’m not sure how or why she would keep this from Contara. I think I’ll just go ahead and write it, and see how it feels when I get to that scene.

I’ve already pulled a scene I really liked, where Coltan told Gillan and Toran about himself. I hate the idea of also pulling the scene between Contara and Coltan. It’s short, but I like it. Maybe I can move it earlier, to just after he arrives. Currently, I have it taking place in the next chapter.

I’m going to call chapter three finished, at least until I get through chapter four and see how all the story arcs move forward. I have to say, this editing part is much more difficult for me than the initial writing.

I’ve heard this is the way it is for “seat of the pants” writers, like myself. If I had planned out the whole story, with story cards and summaries and all the other preliminary work that the other type of author uses, I would have done the work up front. The difference is, they say “this happened, so he behaves this way.” I say, “I wonder why he behaves this way?” and then I write a backstory that tells me.

I might try doing all of the up front planning sometime, but that’s not the way my mind works. I start writing and it just flows out my fingertips and into my computer. I get to find out, each time I sit down to write, what’s going to happen next. It’s exciting. I enjoy that.

I do have a general idea of where the story is going. Also, I don’t necessarily write the scenes sequentially. In fact, I have the final scenes, as well as large parts of the rest of this series, already written. I know where my characters are headed four years into the future.

I actually have stories that go well beyond that, but they aren’t necessarily the actual future, only a potential future. My extensive backstories help me to understand where my characters are coming from and why they react the way they do to the often horrific experiences I put them through.

I’ll keep you posted as I make my way through the next chapter as to how everything comes together. Once I have the gathering of characters solidly in place, I can start to focus on some of the awkward pacing and story arcs my editor also pointed out. I’m excited to go there.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Second Chapter Revamped

The second chapter of Tishta the Crystal Orb now introduces Gillan and Kano in the first scene, and Toran, in the second. It was more difficult for me than chapter one, although, that chapter is much longer.

One of the differences is, most of the first chapter was included in the first draft of Tishta—the one I spent all that time on before sending it to my editor, Anne Bean, for a preliminary review. It was in pretty good shape as a foundation for the revised version. Also, all of the additions were new writings, and my writing has improved since last year, when the content of chapter two was originally written. I’ve had to work harder to pull it into shape.

The other major difference is, the characters—Gillan, Toran and, to a lesser degree, Kano—have always been secondary, so I haven’t thought as much about them or written as many backstories. I don’t know these characters as well. One of Anne’s comments was that she wanted to know more about them. I’m still working on that, although, I recently wrote a fairly comprehensive story of Gillan’s childhood and adolescence up to, and including, when she met Criften.

After deciding how to fit the stories in this chapter into the story line, I set about filling in some details and “showing” instead of “telling” major parts of the prose. I’m relatively happy with the results. This will be one of the chapters I come back to later, to re-examine the content and the flow.

For now, I’ve recorded it and moved on. Chapter three brings all ten characters together in the first scene. It’s what I tried to do in the very first scene in the original draft. It was too confusing for readers to keep all the characters separated in their heads. I’ve also added a lot more descriptions of the characters. I hope this time, it will be easier.

Stay tuned for more about the progress of the book. Two scenes into chapter three, I’m already far more comfortable, back with the story revolving around Coltan.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: First Chapter Revised!

After finishing what turned out to be a very long backstory for Coltan last week, I began revising “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” It’s been exciting to plunge back into the book this week.

It was probably a good thing to let it sit for a bit after getting back my editor’s feedback on the first draft. I am looking at it with fresh eyes, and more information.

I had already pulled some of it apart, introducing the characters at a slower pace and reintroducing parts of the story I had previously removed. This had also allowed me to include introducing Maglin, in the flesh—I only mentioned her in the previous version—and to flesh out Gillan, Toran and Kano a little more.

This week, I focused on revising the first chapter. I added character descriptions and mannerisms, and related more about the environment, which were missing from the original draft. I also added things about Coltan I learned when I wrote the backstory for him.

I’m feeling pretty good about this newly revised chapter and I’m going to call it ‘done’ for now. I’m ready to dive into the second chapter, which is totally reintroduced backstory about Gillan, Toran and Kano. Hopefully, by the end of next week, I’ll be reporting on its completion.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Lessons from the Fledgling Author: Backstories

A funny thing happened after I reviewed my editor’s feedback on the first draft of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” As I analyzed my main protagonist, Coltan, to enhance his story arc, I discovered I needed to know more about him.
Being a vampire, and having to live around and work closely with humans, is part of his challenge, but another part is deeper. It deals with his need for blood which, for him, is also tied to his sexuality. I decided to treat these as addictions. I’m not sure how this is going to work out yet.
I already had an idea of a backstory where Coltan spent time at a monastery and learned “how to wield my weapon properly.” Criften sent him there, not to learn better swordsmanship, but to learn how to separate his sexuality from his need for blood.
Once I started writing this story, it just flowed out. I learned so much about Coltan from writing it. I finished it at the end of last week. I’m hoping it will guide me as I revise Tishta. I’m already starting to incorporate some of it into the book.
An added benefit is, I now have most of another book written. I’m planning to release it after the second Wolf Dream book, “Into the Wolf Dream”—which is about three-quarters finished—is published.
I am a firm believer in writing backstories. I already have many stories about several of my main characters written. They help me know how the character will react to a given situation, and more importantly, why he reacts the way he does.
My backstories about Coltan are the most extensive—I know him as boy, a youth, a young husband and father. I have a complete short story about when he and Criften, the wizard, first met, and many other stories about him.
Some stories are future stories. I need to know where the things that happen in The Wolf Dream Books lead—who survives, how long they live, how they die—and make sure the events support the future I envision. Especially, Coltan. I had to know, so I wrote about his death. It really made me sad. It may not be the actual story of his life, but, like Kano’s visions, it’s one of the possible endings for him.
Malcan’s stories are also quite extensive. He had a rough time as a kid. It helped shape the man he became—the one we see in The Wolf Dream Books.
I more recently wrote an early Criften story, about when he first became a wizard and met his Master Wizard, Kalef. It helped me understand why the two wizards have such a cantankerous relationship. Kalef is introduced in “Into the Wolf Dream.” The story also helped me understand Criften a little better—where he’s coming from; what his issues are. I learned he was a farmer, and that’s all he ever really wanted to be. This is helping me develop his character a little more in “Tishta.”

I’m working on fleshing out Gillan and Toran. My editor wanted to know more about them in “Tishta.” I needed to know their backstories in order to do this. I’ve got some for Gillan now, and I like her more, now that I know her better. Toran’s next.

When I started writing, I wrote the children’s stories. It was much later, when I was trying to figure out where to start Tishta, that these became my first backstories. It was hard to rip out so much of what I thought was going to be “the book.” When I wrote them, Coltan didn’t even exist. He walked into the story, one day. He immediately took over the whole thing. I’m glad he did. I like where it starts now.

I know I’ll be able to share most, if not all, of the backstories in the future. I think my readers would enjoy learning more about the characters.
Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.