Revision = Perseverance

I’ve spent the last month revising my Sci-Fi book Rifted. My last draft was 114,400 words, but I’ve whittled it down to 99,962. I chopped 14,438 words from this thing. I killed off a lot of scenes that I liked, but they had to go. I dumped a whole chapter. I fixed dialogue and cut tags. I murdered widows (those single words dangling on their own line at the end  of a paragraph).

Yep. I killed lots of widows by rewriting or cutting sentences.

Overall, I cleaned this manuscript up a lot. I’m happy about it, and I feel satisfied with the result. I think it’s probably ready to shop, but I’ve thought that before. So I’m going to give myself some time. I’ll sit on it, reread it, and re-evaluate. But later.

Right now, I’m going to enjoy the sense of satisfied euphoria at accomplishing what I feared was an impossible task when I began. I knew I needed to get the word count below 100,000, but I didn’t believe I could possibly cut that many words.

Still, I buckled down and did the hard work of revision. And I proved that I could. Self-doubt is the most debilitating kind, and I proved mine wrong.



SCBWI Wild, Wild, Midwest Conference

Hi Everyone!

I got to spend an amazing weekend in Naperville, IL at the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Midwest Region’s Wild, Wild, Midwest conference. I got to see my Noodle Friends (minus Victor who writes for adults, so not a member of SCBWI, but I’ll see him in July at the Midwest Writers Workshop). It was so great to be with them again.

On a really cool note, the 500 or so authors and illustrators present at the Wild, Wild, Midwest conference donated something like $3,815.00 for We Need Diverse Books. We raised enough to support a Walter Dean Myers grant plus some mentoring to writers, which is totally awesome! Our conference has challenged other SCBWI conferences to beat us in giving.

All in all, I have come away from this conference inspired and reinvigorated about my writing. I think some big takeaways for me were the lessons on craft. That’s really what I hoped to learn.

But I also feel a lot more patient about things. I want to make my stories the best I possibly can because I believe the stories are worth it. I think I had grown impatient about publishing over the past year, and now I’m not worried about it. I need to get the story right. I write because I love to write, not because I need to get published. So I’ll breathe, drink my coffee, and write.

One of the grander realizations I had is my need to split my first novel, The Lesser Betrayal, into two books. I think I’m trying to accomplish way too much in a single book, and it really does feel like two separate story arcs that I’ve essentially forced together. I’ve thought about this for a while, but (honestly) I didn’t want to do the work to make it two books. I thought I could live with it as is. But now, I know differently.

As a way to examine this, I wrote query letters for each of the books. Query letters can act as a guide for the story before it’s written. A query answers four important questions:

(1) Who is the main character?

(2) What does she want?

(3) Who/What is blocking her?

(4) What does she sacrifice?

These are all essential parts of story, which is how your character struggles to overcome conflict in order to achieve (or fail to achieve) her want or need. So, writing a query letter BEFORE you write your manuscript can help you sort through the mess of ideas in your brain about your story and help you focus on what’s important for your story.

Here’s the query draft for what will be Book 1. Possible title: For The Order (still cogitating on that one).

Long ago, Ashura’s ancestors were betrayed and cursed with mortality. Now, Tellia is a world divided between mortals and immortals. But divisions among the mortals also run deep.

Like all women in the Queendom of Hoqra, Ashura has trained since childhood to be a warrior. She will protect her home from the kingdoms that want to destroy the only land where women rule. After another invasion full of devastating loss, Ashura’s one desire is to protect her family.

But Ashura is torn away from her family when she is claimed by the powerful Order of Shifqu and forced to leave Hoqra. Ashura hates the master who claimed her, even as he teaches her another way to meet her goals. If she can help the Order regain her people’s immortality, she’ll do more than protect her family: she’ll save them from death.

But her master reveals that the Order has lost sight of its true purpose, and he believes only Ashura’s talent can put it back on the path to saving their people. But many of the Order’s members are men from the kingdom that killed her sister. To save her family, Ashura must sacrifice her identity as a warrior of Hoqra and embrace her place in the Order of Shifqu alongside those she hates.

This is the query draft for Book 2, what will become the new The Lesser Betrayal.

Long ago, Ashura’s ancestors were betrayed and cursed with mortality. Now, Tellia is a world divided between mortals and immortals. But divisions among the mortals also run deep.

After successfully moving the Order of Shifqu on a path to unite the Children of Daedin, Ashura is given a mission that no member of the Order has ever accomplished. Following the Order’s tradition for those voted Arc-assassin, Ashura is sent to kill the latest-born princess of the Elder Line.

But when Ashura reaches the enemy lands, she can’t reconcile what she sees of the Children of Ainariel with what she has been told about them. She wrestles with killing an enemy who doesn’t seem evil. But killing the princess is the only way she can return home.

When Ashura is captured while attacking the princess, she expects execution. Instead, she is shown kindness and care. Her definition of what makes an enemy is further challenged when she discovers a long-lost hero living among the people her Order wants to destroy.

Now, Ashura must choose between her family and her heart. One must be sacrificed to keep the other. When every choice she has is treachery, Ashura must choose the lesser betrayal.

I think two books simply works better than one. I won’t have to span huge amounts of time with little recaps of what happened. Instead, I can just tell the story. And that feels like a relief.

Anyway, I wanted to share how I’m re-imagining this stuff. It feels exciting and intimidating, but it should be so much fun to do! I can’t wait to get writing.

Comments welcome, as always.

Keep writing and keep reading!