Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 5 Edit Complete

I am super excited to say I have finished the first edit of the second draft of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” Going through “Part 5: Into Mondar” was a lot of fun. I can not wait to release this book.

I continued to trim words even as I filled in incomplete parts of the story. The word count for Part 5 dropped from 48,630 to 46,691, although the page count increased by two to 144. The total for the novel went from 175,847 words to 173,696.

The reason for the increase in pages—even though the word count continues to decrease—is, I have been splitting up paragraphs based on who is doing the action. It started when I began breaking compound sentences into their parts, especially when the first part was the action of one character and the second of another character. It led to inserting line feeds between the actions. I am happy with the result.

Here is an example:

Malcan sat and crossed his legs. Mar turned to look at him. She moved into his lap with her back against his chest and he put his arm around her. They waited.

became:

Malcan sat and crossed his legs.

Mar turned to look at him. She moved into his lap with her back against his chest.

He put his arm around her.

They waited.

I like this much better, especially the final sentence being by itself. Before, it was buried at the end of a fairly long paragraph. It took me a while, but, now that I am used to it, it seems natural when the actions are so discrete to each character. There are cases where it is more about the group—I sometimes leave paragraphs intact, even though there are multiple characters involved—especially when they are all involved in the same task or idea.

I had a similar epiphany when I stopped using gerund phrases so much, especially at the beginnings of sentences.

I hope these are both good changes. I fear they will make the reading of the book too drab or boring. Time will tell.

I learned some of these tricks of the trade from Jack Remick and Bob Ray. The style they teach is aimed at being concise and using only the words that need to be used. I didn’t understand all of it when I regularly attended their twice weekly writing group (it used to be at the now-closed Louisa’s on Eastlake and E Louisa in Seattle, but now meets at Vios Cafe at Third Place at NE 65th and 20th Ave NE in the Roosevelt Neighborhood), but it sunk in. Once I discovered it in my own writing, I learned to embrace it. If you’re interested in learning about what they share, check out their website, bobandjackswritingblog.com.

Because I added so much to the second draft (it more than doubled in length from the first draft), there were characters and scenes I didn’t remember. I made sure they were adequately described, consistent with their place of origin, and unique. While I read, I carefully monitored the passage of time—there were three main story plots going on that had to line up for the finale. I am pretty confident they are all in sync in terms of passage of time. In the final edit, I will ensure these are completely correct.

The final edit—that’s the next thing I have lined up. I am planning to read the book from end-to-end while listening to the audio recordings. This will help me find any remaining plot and character vagaries; missing periods or commas; repeated words; and typos; as well as ensure the uniformity of my writing style. Audio is really helpful to me in this regard. It also helps me find inconsistencies in the voices of the characters—“that’s not something Coltan would say; it’s more like what Malcan might say,” I hear myself thinking.

I do not have a really good feel for how long this will take, but I am guessing something on the order of a month. My plan is to do it—earbuds in place and computer open on my lap—on the bus during my commute to and from work. I will also spend most of my evenings engaged in the same process.

As soon as I finish, I plan to release a Beta to my Beta Readers. If you are interested in helping with this, let me know at TheWolfDreamBooks@gmail.com, and I will add you to the list. The work for you would be to read the book in a timely manner and give me feedback. The reward will be my eternal gratitude and an autographed copy (if, and when, a physical book is produced), or maybe a signed special edition of the final ebook.

While the Beta is out, I will be getting cover art done, and drawing maps and maybe some other inside art. The first edition might be a little rough around the edges, but I think it is important to get it out there. A second edition will likely have professionally drawn maps and scene art. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

For now, I feel a great sense of relief to finish this step in the process. My current goal is still to self-publish before the end of the year. The next book, “Into the Wolf Dream,” has been tugging at me—it is ready to move forward.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part Three Edit Completed

Oh my goodness. That was a slog. It took me three weeks to get through Part 3: Travels and Battles, of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” Granted, it is a much longer section than Part 2: Learning to Trust, but, still, three weeks versus three days? I had a lot going on. At least, in the beginning, the drugs I was taking for the stomach pain last month made me stupid—literally, I couldn’t focus on anything. Regardless of that, I made progress only in fits and starts. I am so relieved to be finished!

As I edited Part 3, I found the writing is more in line with my current style—which is represented at the end of the book—but I was again surprised by how much my writing style has changed so recently. Some of the editing was changes to the way things are presented, but it was predominantly simply rewriting complex sentences into smaller, stronger ones. As I read them out loud—to record them—and then listened, I had to admit I like it better this way. This encourages me to keep it up. I am still looking for that magic place where the book’s writing style is my writing style.

Part 3 is the second longest in the book. Its nine chapters remained after the edit and, although the number of scenes diminished by one, the number of pages increased from one-hundred-thirty to one-hundred-thirty-two. At the same time, I like it that my total word count dropped again, from 187,155 to 186,544.

It was fun going back through these chapters. It is the part of the book where the relationships between my characters start to really solidify. There are also several battles. I love battles. They go through a major failure where they loose two members of their little team—one to a death on the battlefield. Their grief rang true to me, so I hope that means it will speak to others.

Another thing I enjoyed was simply reading the story. I made a lot of changes when creating this draft—I already noted the word count more than doubled. A lot of that took place in this section, so some of the scenes actually surprised me, as a reader. I’ll be interested to see if this delights me again when I make my—hopefully—final pass through the book to ensure all the tenses are correct and the periods are in place at the end of sentences.

This is the part of the story where Coltan starts to feel more like a man. He begins to show a real interest in the well-being of the others in the group—especially Mar, at first—and then, he really falls in love with Gentu. He also has to come to terms with his limitations, in this respect—he is not a man. Criften is good at reminding him of this; Inla certainly does; he almost loses Gentu when the sun comes up. He even reminds himself during a dream where he basks in the sun.

Coltan’s relationship with the rest of the group starts to change by the end of Part 3. Even though he never challenges Gillan’s leadership, Coltan begins to make decisions for the others, and no one questions it. An example of this is when Gentu asks Coltan if they can fight together, and he immediately says, ‘yes,’ without passing it by Gillan first. Malcan readily agrees. This was pretty subtle, but it is an important stepping stone in both increasing his authority among the group, and also his movement toward becoming more human.

The only one whose authority Coltan doesn’t trump is Criften, to whom he is deferential. When Criften tells him he can’t go with Gentu, Coltan pleads with him, then basically pouts before simply accepting it. These two have a completely different relationship—Coltan is, after all, magically “bound” to Criften.

I am looking forward to getting through the next section, Part 4: Colmaria, where we learn a lot about Malcan, and also get some idea of how the monarchy works. It is also the shortest. Hopefully, I can get through it in a week.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: That Was Quick

Well. I wasn’t expecting to finish this edit of Part 2: Learning to Trust of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” so quickly. That’s what happens when I get sick. I spend all my time on Tishta, instead of trying to focus on work stuff. On Wednesday, I spent the evening in the ER—stomach pain of undetermined origin—where I passed my time editing. And then, since waves of pain kept interrupting my focus, I allowed myself keep editing during most of Thursday and Friday. If I could afford to work exclusively on the book, I think I would be done by the end of this coming week—only if the stomach pain doesn’t resolve itself and I wouldn’t wish that on myself.

The six chapters in Part 2 are where my characters get to know each other and build up some trust. Again, there were whole scenes that I only vaguely remembered writing—they were new in the second draft—so I had the pleasure of reading them with almost-new eyes.

I consolidated two scenes into other scenes, so the count went to 37 scenes. I still don’t like the way the scenes are split up in Chapter 11: Coltan’s Passion. Some of them are too short, and there are simply too many, at nine. I’ll have to readdress this on the next edit pass.

I guess I’ve been trimming words. The total word count went from 187,965 to 187,155. I was surprised since I have also fleshed out a few places where I was telling, instead of showing. Interestingly, the page count went up by three, but that’s probably due to new dialog—dialog is definitely less dense than when the narrator tells what is going on.

I like Part 2. Criften’s longing to be a simple farmer starts to come through—he never embraced being a wizard—as does some of his relationship with Eido. We learn a lot about Coltan and Gentu’s backstories as they become intimate and share their stories with each other. The children also tell some of the traumas they have experienced. This is the emotional stuff that I like.

Relationships start to solidify here. When someone risks his life to save yours, you start to trust him. This happens between Malcan and Coltan, after the first battle, where Coltan takes a dagger to the gut to protect Malcan. At the same time, Malcan is given a reminder that Coltan is not human. He still doesn’t feel comfortable trusting the vampire.

“Mar trusts him. So does Kano, but…” Malcan said.
When he paused, Criften said, “But?”
“All my instincts tell me I shouldn’t.”

The best part of editing this section was it includes one of my favorite scenes, “An Evergreen Grove.” This is where Coltan and Gentu really become bonded to each other, and their love blossoms. Can you imagine making love to a vampire oozing with that vampy sexual attraction?

“Coltan”—Gentu’s breaths came in heavy pants—“I’ve never done this before… with a man.”
Coltan smiled and stroked his cheek.
“Then I’ll show you how it’s done.”

I still feel like voyeur when I read this scene. In the first draft, I didn’t go into much detail. I was not brave enough. While I waited for that draft to be reviewed by my editor, Anne Bean, I wrote a backstory for Coltan. It’s something I plan to release after the second of The Wolf Dream Books, “Into the Wolf Dream.” In it, I gave life to Eido. It enabled me to write the scenes where Criften communicates with him, in his mind. I also learned to write sex scenes, since that’s what most of the story is about—Eido helping Coltan to separate sex from feeding. It gave me a lot of insight into Coltan that I included in the second draft of “Tishta.” And, I became more comfortable writing fairly explicitly about sex.

I’m excited to get into Part 3: Travels and Battles. As the title indicates, there are several battle scenes. I love battles.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 1 Editing Done (for now)

I was super excited six days ago to announce I had finished the second draft of Book One of The Wolf Dream Books, “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” I envisioned a quick final edit through the whole book—correcting case; adding missing periods and commas; making sure the characters’ voices rang true.

It turns out, even though I thought I had changed my writing to use fewer gerunds and shorter sentences, I hadn’t. Well, not the way I’m writing now. So, the beginning of the book is in a much different writing style from the end of the book. I guess, I should have expected that. I was trying out new writing skills, and that was nine months ago.

I have made some pretty extensive changes in “Part One: Coming Together.” Not to the story, so much, but to the way I tell it. Even spending every free moment (and some when I should have been doing other things) working on these five chapters, it took me six days to finish. I ended up re-recording every one of the twenty-eight scenes. This is the shortest part, at 71 pages (down from 73, pre-edit). I hope, by the last half of the book, that I won’t have so many of these kinds of changes to make. When I finish this edit, I will circle back to do the edits I was planning to do around syntax and whatever.

One of the nice things about going through these first chapters is revisiting the beginnings. Although much of it is very, very familiar, there are things I added in the second draft that I don’t remember so clearly. It is giving me a chance to experience at least some of the story as a “new” reader might. I still like it. A lot. I think this is a good thing. But, I like it even better with the edits I just completed.

This edit is going to take a while—at least a month, if I can manage to get through a chapter a day—but, I am all right with that. Everything about writing this book has taken far longer than I could ever have imagined. I’m not trying to make it perfect, but I want to ensure it is complete. I am much closer to that than I was at the beginning of the second draft. I feel fairly confident that I won’t be adding much to this revision. I hope I don’t need to, because that will mean I found a hole in the story.

When all is said and done, I love to write. I knew this before I started writing in earnest two-and-a-half years ago, but I never found the time to act on it. Now, I know. It’s something I must do. The more I write, the more I write. It stimulates ideas, even if they’re not for the story I’m currently working on. If I could, I would do it full time. I like it that much.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Exploring Audio Stories

Technology amazes me. It seems like I just get one thing figured out and something new comes along. When I started writing again, about a year and a half ago, I didn’t know anything about editing tools, publishing tools, ebooks. You get the idea. It’s been a fascinating journey.

After I completely overwhelmed the free word processing tool, Pages, that came with my Mac, I was introduced to Scrivener. Without it, I would certainly not have been able to manage all the words that came flowing out once I sat down to write. I was crashing Pages on a regular basis. I was frustrated beyond words, and not sure what to do.

Scrivener saved my life, or, at least, my sanity. With it, I am able to organize my stories into coherent scenes, chapters, parts and books. I can move things around to my heart’s content and effectively organize supporting data and stories about my characters. It manages title and other pages, and exports what I write into all the most common ebook formats. A perfect writer’s tool.

I’ve started calling myself a writer, now. The other writers with whom I socialize and collaborate call me that. It’s starting to feel comfortable to say out loud. Until my book is actually published, I’m reluctant to use ‘author’ to describe myself. I’m hoping that will be a reality by the end of summer. But I digress.

Once I got my writing organized into discrete scenes, it became much easier to manage the story arcs. I’m a software developer by trade, and the organization Scrivener provided matched pretty closely to the organization of code. The words I use to describe it are the same for both applications. It feels comfortable.

The more I wrote, the more I needed to hear it. I read it out loud. This helped. I found places where what I had written didn’t flow off the tongue. It was good, but it wasn’t enough. ‘Wait,’ I thought, ‘I have technology, right here on my computer, to record this.’ And so, I did. And I continue to do so. I record everything, and then I listen to it. Hearing it, many things catch in my ear. I’ll hear the same word repeated, or find phrases that sound awkward or incomplete sentences.

After deciding to publish my book, a few scenes per day, on this blog, I decided I could also share the recordings on SoundCloud. These two things forced me into a final beta edit. I was hoping to engage friends, or even strangers, into reading some of the story and providing feedback. I got some and that helped refine the words.

When I posted the last scene in the last chapter of the book, I felt I was ready to have a professional look at it. I sent it off to a story content editor. I should have feedback soon, and, after a final edit based on that, I’ll be ready to figure out Kindle and the other places one can self-publish.

It’s been a great ride. Along the way, I’ve started mingling with the local writers, going to writing groups and read outs. I’m having the most fun I’ve had in a long while.

Two Hour Transport is a monthly North Seattle SciFi and Fantasy Writers event where the first hour is an open mic for SciFi and Fantasy writers to share five minutes of their works, and the second hour presents two longer readings by invited guests. I started attending in January and have read several of my stories there.

This is where I met my friend, Joe Follansbee. He’s an established writer, and also works in radio and audio production. After I shared what I was doing with the book online, Joe decided to record one of his short stories, “A War Beyond War, And I Am the Only Soldier“, and publish it on SoundCloud. It’s gratifying to be able to influence other writers to try new things. With his background, he created a nicely polished recording, including a soundtrack. It’s a good story! You should give a listen.