Tag Archives: writing

Kris Austen Radcliffe — The Emperor

Today we’re going to meet the writer behind the next card in the deck of the Allegories of the Tarot project, Kris Austen Radcliffe. So far you’ve been introduced to The FoolThe Magician, and The High Priestess.

Kris is not only a talented writer, she’s an amazing photographer and the genius behind the photographs of the Tarot cards featured here. She is focused, driven, and I love working with her on her projects. Kris’s stories are quite unusual and unlike any I’ve read, which is what drew me into her world of Fates, Fire, Shifters, and Dragons. What really sealed the deal for me is how much she loves Dragonriders of Pern. My own original copy of that particular trilogy I still own, held together with packing tape. I’ve had it for almost thirty years. When I found out she took down a pack of hungry wolves with hers, I knew this relationship was a match made in heaven.

Her photos are STUNNING.

Kris’s card is The Emperor, and it is quite fitting if you know Kris and her work.

From Wikipedia: “The Emperor symbolizes the desire to rule over one’s surroundings, and its appearance in a reading often suggests that the subject needs to accept that some things may not be controllable, and others may not benefit from being controlled.

“As with all Tarot cards, multiple meanings are possible. Where the Empress is the Feminine principle, the Emperor is the Masculine. Most individuals will relate to this card in the same way they relate to their own father. The Emperor is Key Four of the Major Arcana. Fours are stable numbers; four walls, four seasons, four corners. It takes a massive amount of energy, comparatively, to move them. The strength of The Emperor is the stability he brings. The weakness is the risk of stagnation.”

Major-Arcana-4
Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe

Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? Emperor is the ultimate Alpha Male. He’s a jerk, often a total bastard, but he gets it done. No one messes with the Emperor.

Why did you decide to get roped into this project? I used to read tarot for a talent agency. And Annetta asked. I can’t say no to Annetta. She’s the Emperor.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? Like I said, I used to read for a talent agency. I also ran a special on my Facebook page last Halloween where I did readings for people. I’m quite good at it.

What other projects do you have planned? “Conpulsio”, a new Fate ~ Fire ~ Shifter ~ Dragon novella, is slated for release at the end of April. “Flux of Skin”, the second book in the FFSD series, is on track for a September release.

I’ll also have fine art photographs available for purchase by the end of May, including several of my Irish landscapes—and a tarot print or two.

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She means business.

Bio: As a child, Kris took down a pack of hungry wolves with only a hardcover copy of The Dragonriders of Pern and a sharpened toothbrush. That fateful day set her on a path traversing many storytelling worlds—dabbles in film and comic books, time as a talent agent and a textbook photo coordinator, and a foray into nonfiction. After co-authoring Mind Shapes: Understanding the Differences in Thinking and Communication, Kris returned to academia. But she craved narrative and a richly-textured world of Fates, Shifters, and Dragons—and unexpected, true love.

Kris lives in Minnesota with her husband, two daughters, Handsome Cat, and an entire menagerie of suburban wildlife bent on destroying her house. That battered-but-true copy of “Dragonriders”? She found it yesterday. It’s time to pay a visit to the woodpeckers.

Have questions? Drop me a line:
Email: krisradcliffe@sixtalonsign.com
Six Talon Sign Website
Facebook Fan Page
Facebook Profile page
Flickr Photostream
Pinterest Boards
Goodreads
My Amazon Profile
Twitter: @KrisRadcliffe
(Twitter’s the least reliable way to contact me.)

Kris has generously donated not only her time to this project, but copies of her Most Excellent books in the Fate~Fire~Shifter~Dragon universe, and five signed photo prints. Check out the Allegories of the Tarot Campaign and a listing of the perks currently available on the Perks Page. Donate if you can, and share if you would. Your support is much appreciated!

Come back tomorrow for an introduction to The Hierophant!

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Allegories of the Tarot–The Monday Scoop

Today I’m taking a little break from introducing the authors of this anthology to bring you up to date. Don’t worry! This week you will meet the writers behind The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, and The Chariot.

So far, I’ve introduced The FoolThe MagicianThe High Priestess, and The Empress. If you’ve missed anyone so far, go ahead and take a look.

Things are going well–everyone’s pulling together to get the word out, and I appreciate all the shares, Tweets, shout-outs, and most of all, the support. The writers are actually so stoked for this too, I’ve already received three stories–even before contracts and payment have gone out. Before funding! I’m so honored and touched by this, I can’t even tell you. And the stories?

HOLY. SHAZAAM.

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BOOYAH!

Photo courtesy of dantada from morguefile.com

All I can say is…this collection is going to blow your socks completely off your feet.

Coming up we have a special, one-of-a-kind perk (SO COOL) that will be posted sometime this week, and another exceptional surprise I will reveal in the next couple of weeks. So excited!

In the meantime, come on back to meet four more writers and their back stories of why they want to participate and the card they’ve chosen. You can read here how all this got started.

I’m really looking forward to putting out an excellent literary project and I’m giving this everything I have. Please help spread the word, and donate if you can. Every dollar helps, and the perks are amazing thanks to the support of the people involved. You’ll get good value for your contribution!

Thank you, thank you, to all the people who are helping to bring this project together. Mad love to you!

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Spike Marlowe – The Empress

Today we’re going to meet the writer behind the next card in the deck of the Allegories of the Tarot project, Spike Marlowe. So far you’ve been introduced to The FoolThe Magician, and The High Priestess.

I’ve known Spike for a long time, and she is one of those special people who walk the paths of my heart. She tends to have that effect on people. Her work is haunting, weird, and bizarre, and once you read one of her stories, you’re hooked. Spike can take the most unusual elements and weave them into a story you never forget. Just check out the sample of Placenta of Love and you’ll see what I mean.

The card she’s chosen is The Empress–a perfect fit, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see her story.

From Wikipedia: “The Empress is mother, a creator and nurturer. In many decks she can be shown as pregnant. She can represent the creation of life, of romance, of art or business. The Empress can represent the germination of an idea before it is ready to be fully born. The Empress is often associated with Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love, and indeed the Rider-Waite deck brandishes her symbol upon a heart-shaped bolster. The Empress is also often interpreted to be Demeter, goddess of abundance. She is the giver of earthly gifts, although at the same time, she can be overprotective and possessive. In anger she can withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped: Due to her fury and grief, Demeter keeps the Earth cold and barren until Spring when her child is returned to her.”

Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe
Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card?

Amongst other themes, the Empress represents feminine energy and creativity. My fiction tends to be filled with this feminine energy and elements the Empress represents. And, of course, as a writer, how could I not be interested in a card that represents creativity and the act of creation?

Why did you decide to get roped into this project?

There are four reasons why I decided to do this project:

1) It’s different than the other fiction projects I’ve been working on.
2) An amazing group of people are involved.
3) The tarot is a fascinating topic, and a ripe resource for artists.
4) I adore working with Annetta Ribken.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before?

I have. I’ve had friends who read Tarot, some professionally. Having them read my Tarot has always been a fascinating and illuminating experience.

What other projects do you have planned?

I just turned a draft of a new book titled Little Miss Battle Queen to my editor at Eraserhead Press. It’s basically Battle Royale with pint-sized beauty queens. I’m also looking forward to reworking a book I wrote last fall calledHowl. It’s a fantastical YA that’s part Watership Down, The Shining, Donnie Darko and Allen Ginsberg.

So much beauty, inside and out.

So much beauty, inside and out!

Bio:

Spike Marlowe is a San Francisco writer who has been known to make busking appearances wherever she travels. Though she has held a variety of odd jobs, including performer in a Wild West show, detective, Bigfoot researcher and writer for an internet content farm, she now focuses on writing bizarro and weird fiction. Her first book, Placenta of Love, is now available.

You can find Spike at her websiteBizzaro Central, on Amazon, on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @spikemarlowe.

Check out the Allegories of the Tarot Campaign and a listing of the perks currently available on the Perks Page. Donate if you can, and share if you would. Your support is much appreciated!

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Billie Sue Mosiman – The High Priestess

So, you have met The Fool and you’ve met The Magician, so now it’s time to meet The High Priestess. This is the third card and will be the third story in the Allegories of the Tarot anthology.

I know Billie Sue through Facebook, and have come to know her as a generous, supportive person. She is a gem–as busy as she is writing and converting her impressive backlist to accommodate the e-book revolution, she always has time for her fans and fellow writers. I’m so happy she decided to join this project!

Her chosen card–The High Priestess.

From Wikipedia: “Commonly this card is associated with the card reader or the querant, because it is also focused on ‘secrets’. It also interpreted when a secret is kept or revealed, when you are holding on to the truth or revealing it. The card is associated with mystery, when powerful feminine influences and support are currently in force for the querant. It can also represent the perfect woman in a man’s life, and to a woman it can represent being independently solo, perhaps without a man.”

Beauty and mystery, which suits Billie Sue to a ‘T’. Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card?

The High Priestess is involved with intuition, higher powers, mystery, and subconscious mind. I’ve always thought the card was very intriguing with the priestess sitting before an elegant veil and she sits between darkness and light, represented by the pillars of Solomon’s temple. It made me wonder—did she advise Solomon? Did he listen?

Why did you decide to get roped into this project?

I trust the editor and although I’ve written one short story years ago for an anthology on the Tarot, I wanted another crack at it.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before?

I have a few decks and have played with them before because they’re beautiful works of art and they’re mysterious.

What other projects do you have planned?

I have a few short stories that have been bought for other anthologies and I’m always writing new stories while trying to finish a new novel.

Mysterious her own self. :)

Bio: Billie Sue Mosiman sold her first novel in 1983 and since then has published more than a dozen novels and hundreds of short stories. She was nominated for the Edgar and was a finalist for the Stoker.

You can find Billie Sue on her blogon Facebook, at her YouTube Channel, her Amazon Author page, or follow her on Twitter @billiemosiman.

Billie Sue has generously donated a copy of her book, BANISHED for the Allegories of the Tarot Campaign, along with other cool swag which you can find on the Perks Page.

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Lon Prater – The Magician

Yesterday we met The Fool and Peter Giglio, the writer behind the card. Today we meet another of the authors included in the Allegories of the Tarot anthology, Lon Prater. I had the pleasure of working with Lon in a small critique group many moons ago at the beginning of my fiction career. He was kind and supportive to a fledgling wordslinger, and whether he realizes it or not, taught me a lot.

He chose The Magician–the first numbered card in the Tarot deck. And that surprised me not one bit.

From Wikipedia: “In the Magician’s right hand is a wand raised towards heaven, the sky or the element æther, while his left hand is pointing to the earth. This iconographic gesture has multiple meanings, but is endemic to the Mysteries, symbolizing divine immanence, the ability of the magician to bridge the gap between heaven and earth. On the table in front of the Magician the symbols of the four Tarot suits signify the Classical elements of earth, air, fire and water. Beneath are roses and lilies, changed into garden flowers, to show the culture of aspiration.

“When the Magician appears in a spread, it points to the talents, capabilities and resources at the querent’s disposal. Depending on the card’s placement in relation to other cards, the message is to tap into one’s full potential rather than holding back, especially when there is a need to transform something. There are choices and directions to take. Guidance can arrive through one’s own intuition or in the form of someone who brings about change or transformation.

“The card can mean that a manipulator is floating around, usually if it’s reversed. He may be a beneficent guide, but he does not necessarily have our best interests in mind. He may also represent the querent’s ego or self-awareness. He can also represent the intoxication of power, both good and bad.”

Behold! The Magician! Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe

Behold! The Magician!

Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? I like the idea of transformative knowledge. That having gone through certain stages, the Magician has learned a thing or two about both the divine and the mundane, and he’s been changed by it. Empowered by knowledge, the Magician is equipped to deal with what comes next.

Why did you decide to get roped into this project? Annetta and I used to be part of a smallish online writers group. I know her talent, her obsession with quality, and her drive. There is no way I would pass up the chance to be a part of a project she believes so strongly in.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? I have had rune readings done several times by a skilled friend, but I am foggy on whether I’ve had any honest-to-gosh Tarot readings.

What other projects do you have planned? A novel I co-wrote with Josh Rountree, ALAMO RISING, is due to debut at Worldcon San Antonio this year. Having a lot of fun with promotional plans that I’ll be able to talk more about later in the year.

That smile is nothing but magic.

Bio: Lon Prater has worked in the Reactor Compartments of USS Enterprise, edited the military’s textbook on arms deals, and kept things safe in the produce and laundry industries. He lives, writes, and plays a lot of boardgames in Pensacola, Florida.

You can find Lon at his website.

He has generously donated his Mad Critiquing Skillz plus some of his fabulous fiction as perks for the Allegories of the Tarot Campaign, so make sure to check that out as well as the Perks page.

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Peter Giglio-The Fool

Today kicks off the Meet the Authors of the Allegories of the Tarot anthology. I’m really excited to introduce to you a fabulous line-up of writers for this project. You’ll have a chance to check out each writer, the card they’ve chosen, and why in the coming days.

I met Pete working with him on his story, A Spark in the Darkness. He was totally fearless about the editing process, and eager to put in some hard work, and it totally paid off. An awesome story; one of many he has written.

We’re starting off with the first card in the Major Arcana of the Tarot–The Fool. Actually, this card is un-numbered and can appear either at the beginning or the end of the deck.

From Wikipedia: “The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool’s wisdom and exuberance, holy madness or ‘crazy wisdom’. On his back are all the possessions he might need. In his hand there is a flower, showing his appreciation of beauty. He is frequently accompanied by a dog, sometimes seen as his animal desires, sometimes as the call of the “real world”, nipping at his heels and distracting him. He is seemingly oblivious that he is walking toward a precipice, apparently about to step off. One of the keys to the card is the paradigm of the precipice, Zero and the sometimes represented oblivious Fool’s near-step into the oblivion.

In many esoteric systems of interpretation, the Fool is usually interpreted as the protagonist of a story, and the Major Arcana is the path the Fool takes through the great mysteries of life and the main human archetypes. This path is known traditionally in Tarot as the Fool’s Journey, and is frequently used to introduce the meaning of Major Arcana cards to beginners.”

Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe.
Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe.

Photo by Kris Austen Radcliffe.

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? Who isn’t intrigued by the fool? So many possibilities. Or am I a fool for saying that?

Why did you decide to get roped into this project? Netta saved my life in ‘Nam.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? I dated a tarot reader once. That lasted for about a week.

What other projects do you have planned? STEALING NIGHT, a rural crime thriller, is coming out later in May from Nightscape Press, and my dark sci-fi novel LESSER CREATURES is coming out from DarkFuse in December. I also have stories popping up in other anthologies here and there. Another busy year.

He’s definitely not a fool, but he sure can write about one.

He’s definitely not a fool, but he sure can write about one.

Bio: A Pushcart Prize nominee and an active member of the Horror Writers Association, Peter Giglio is the author of five novels, three novellas, and he edits a successful line of books for Evil Jester Press. His works of short fiction can be found in a number of notable volumes, including two comprehensive genre anthologies edited by New York Times Bestselling author John Skipp. With Scott Bradley, Peter wrote the author-approved screen adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Night They Missed the Horror Show,” and an established screenwriting team in Los Angeles holds the film option on Giglio’s Sunfall Manor. He resides in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he stays out of trouble. *Editor’s note: HAH!

You can find Peter on his website or his blog.

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Behind the Scenes of Allegories of the Tarot Anthology

Once upon a time, there was an editor who became obsessed with an idea…
Portrait of an obsessed editor.

Portrait of an obsessed editor.

That would be me.

The Tarot has always been a fascination of mine. As a writer, the images of the Rider-Waite deck contain much inspiration for fantastical stories; the meaning behind each and every one of them equally as interesting. While most people equate the Tarot with the occult, possibly imagining a mysterious gypsy telling fortunes, in reality the Tarot is less related to the “otherworld” and actually deeply rooted in the human experience.

From the forward of “The Key to the Tarot”, written by Liz Greene:
“Yet the images of the Tarot cards are neither inaccessible nor occult, however much any particular spiritual or esoteric school might seek to mystify them. These images are archetypal, which means that they describe essential human situations and patterns which all of us experience in life at one time or another.”

To me, this means a talented Tarot reader can bridge the inherent mysteries of being human with the archetypes depicted in the cards. That is not to say Fate, or Destiny, or whatever you want to call the forces of the Universe do not have a role in the cards which are revealed or their position in a reading—depending on your beliefs, this could very well be the case. Rather, a reading of the Tarot is less of an occult experience and more of an exploration of the human experience. Perhaps even a guide to understanding your current state of mind and a pointer in the direction you wish to travel.

With all that in mind, I have long had the desire to put together an anthology of the Major Arcana of the Tarot. I thought of how fascinating it would be to corral an author for each of the cards, and see what kind of story they’d write. Because although there are many universal human experiences, the truth is they are as diverse as the perspective of the individual.

I, myself, own two decks of Rider-Waite cards. I read them on occasion. I am fairly accurate in the readings, but I don’t do it often and only for special occasions. I know several people who are scary-good. Sometimes I just take out the deck and study the images, and I’ve read many, many books about the Tarot. And the idea of an anthology of stories about these images which fascinated me kept cropping up. But I was scared. Scared I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, scared people would say, “No, that’s a stupid idea,” you know. Just…scared.

But then I had a very vivid dream about jumping from one ledge to another. In the dream, it took me forever to decide, because I have a definite fear of heights. I mean, my palms were sweating, and I about wet my pants, but I finally did jump and I made it. The next day, I realized if I let fear stop me, I would never know if I could make that ledge or not. And the answer is always “No,” if you don’t ask.

And behold, the Allegories of the Tarot project was born.

Twenty-two cards. Twenty-two writers. Twenty-two amazing stories. WIN!

Twenty-two cards. Twenty-two writers. Twenty-two amazing stories. WIN!

The first step was to outline the project and decide how to raise the funds necessary. I knew I needed to pay the writers professional rates and cover the publishing costs. With a budget and a firm plan, I then constructed a list of writers covering a wide range of genres. I have the Most Enviable position in knowing a slew of mega-talented writers. As a matter of fact, I had too many writers on my list and not enough cards, but I figured some would have other obligations and others no interest. Plus, if this project goes well, I have a brain full of ideas for a second anthology. Maybe a third.

Evidently, I’m not the only one fascinated by the Tarot. Within 24 hours I had 21 writers on board—I round out the 22. Much to my surprise, there was no fighting over which card went to which writer. They all seemed to fall into place as if they were…fated. *cue spooky music*

The plan was to line up the writers and then with a firm TOC (Table of Contents) move on to launch an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds. All the writers involved in the project have thrown their considerable weight behind this effort, for which I am eternally grateful and honored. Many have donated services and products to tempt both readers and writers for the perk packages; all have been extremely supportive and generous, and quick to get back to me when I’m demanding photos, bios, and feedback.

You will meet this group of talented and fabulous people in the days to come on my blog and on the campaign. I will introduce each and every one of them and the card they’ve chosen to write about. You will get to know award-winners, new and outstanding talent, and established authors who run the gamut from fantasy to mystery to romance and everything in between.

Please donate if you can—every dollar helps. And if you can’t donate, I’d appreciate a shout-out on your favorite social media platform. Help me get the word out because this is a whole lot of epic just waiting to happen, and with the perks offered, you’ll get good value for your dollar.

It’s been a lot of work, and I’m loving every minute of it. I jumped, and I’m so glad I did.

Tomorrow you will meet The Fool and the writer associated with the card. Stay tuned for an introduction to all the writers involved with the project. I’M SO EXCITED!

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Editing With Netta-The Plot

Last week we talked about story structure—the basic framework on which to hang the flesh and blood of your story. Keep in mind this is just the basic structure. There’s a circular structure, the Hero’s Journey, etc. but at the core, it all boils down to these five elements. I could go on and on about story structure; it’s an obsession/fascination for me, but for the sake of self-editing this is what you need to know.

A Word About Outlining

There has been and probably always will be an endless debate about outlining. You have your die-hards who will outline to the very last detail down to the color of their character’s underwear, and others who paint broad strokes and leave the rest to the actual writing process. I’m not going to get into that here—everyone has their own way of writing a story and there is no right or wrong way. However, I will say once you start editing your story, it’s quite helpful to create an outline of what you’ve already written.

But Netta, you say, isn’t that backward? No, not really. An outline before you write can keep you (mostly) on track, but we all know outlines are not written in stone. Many things can change as you write. Characters can get a wild hair up their ass and take off in a different direction; that’s part of the creative process. So it’s a good idea, in your first read, to construct an outline of what you’ve really written. This will help you chart your tale, and pinpoint areas which need work to flesh out, tweak, and help you evaluate your plot line.

The Backbone of Your Story—Plot

Think of the plot as the spine. Without a strong plot line, all you have are a bunch of random people wandering around doing random things. After you complete the first read and construct an outline, take your red pen and read over the outline with these things in mind:

1. Do you have a clear story goal? In other words, what is the point of the story? Even in a series with an overall story arc, your novel requires a clear story goal within the arc of the series.

2. Does your story start in the right place? You want to establish your protagonist’s problem early, and hook your reader from the beginning. Ideally, this should happen in the first two chapters.

3. Does the plot make logical sense? No matter the genre, you are asking your reader to suspend their disbelief, but if you establish rules/parameters for your world, they need to make sense within the constructs of your world. For instance, if angels are invisible in Chapter One, you can’t make them visible in Chapter Twelve unless you lay the groundwork for this to be possible.

4. Do your hooks, twists, and turns make sense and are they related to the rest of the plot? Or are random fixes appearing out of nowhere?

5. Are there too many or not enough sub-plots? Is it clear what’s going on? Or are you leaving your reader lost and confused in the maze of Too Much Happening?

6. Do you have the right point of view (POV) for the story you are telling? If you’re writing in the first person, how might your story look in the third person instead?

7. Have you maintained a balance of narrative, action, and dialog? Or are there pages of backstory, info dumps, and long conversations going nowhere?

8. Is the climax sufficiently dramatic? Is that deep, dark, black moment ripping out the guts of your readers? Good. Clean up in Aisle 5. If not, go deeper.

9. Did you resolve the main story goal or problem for the protagonist? It’s okay to leave some sub-plots dangling, especially if it is a book in a series, but regardless, the major issue needs to be resolved even if it’s a part of a series.

Cliffhangers

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*Photo courtesy of hotblack from morguefile.com

A word about cliffhangers at the end of a volume in a series: Some readers love them, many readers hate them, especially if they have to wait a significant amount of time between books. If you are writing a series, it might be a good idea to finish the series before launching, especially if you include mind-blowing cliffhangers at the end of your volumes. Otherwise, you can easily lose your reader following and really piss them off and this way, too, you can control the timing of release.

Make notes in your outline as you read through a second time, targeting soft spots in the plot and ways to shore up the story. With a strong outline based on what you’ve written, you can easily see where important tweaking needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to cut and paste, change things around, or mark certain spots for a re-write. DON’T BE AFRAID. You always have the original document, so if you feel you’re messed things up beyond all repair, you can always return to that. Think about one thing as you evaluate your plot: If it doesn’t advance the story, it has got to go. Period. Yes, it’s a lovely scene. Yes, it might be the best writing you’ve ever done. Yes, it’s gorgeous and you love it and it amuses you. But does it ADVANCE THE STORY? That’s the real question.

Here. Have a tissue. You’ll get over it, I promise. Cut and paste into a new document and save it. These bits and pieces can be used in a variety of ways–blog post extras, a short to include in the back of the book as a bonus, a collection of outtakes for your adoring fans. Your main focus here is to create the strongest story you can. It only hurts for a hot minute. Keep your story goal foremost in your brain.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Next week, we’ll take a look at your cast of characters.

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Editing With Netta–Story Structure

In the beginning, I advised you start the editing process by throwing your masterpiece into a drawer or a closet for at least a couple of weeks before you begin digging in. This is to not only give your brain a much-needed rest, but to also give you distance so you can look at the manuscript with “fresh eyes.”

Don't be scared. Unless you're writing about the undead. Or spiders. *shudder*
Don’t be scared. Unless you’re writing about the undead. Or spiders. *shudder*

*Photo courtesy of kconnors from morguefile.com

You will be surprised—maybe even shocked when you take it out and look at it again. It might be better than you thought it was, or it might be worse. A word to the wise: a writer is the worst judge of their own work. A close second would be your mother, or your Best Friend Forever. At this point you want to maintain a certain amount of objectivity, or at least as much as you can muster. Please refrain from blasting it out to everyone you know, because at worst you will get a ton of back-patting, which serves you not at all, or at best, a ton of back-patting which serves you not at all when it comes to editing.

Yes, you just wrote a book and you should be proud. But let’s wait until we pretty it up a little, okay?

The first thing you need to look at is the basic story structure. This is the framework on which the rest of your story hangs—the skeleton, if you will. There are many ways to look at the framework, but it basically boils down to this:

1. A character has a problem. (Also known as the “inciting incident”.)
2. Bad things happen and conflict intensifies.
3. Climax
4. Resolution
5. The hero learns something about self/life. Or not.

It sounds really simple, doesn’t it? It’s just that easy and just that difficult.

Take the time and resist the temptation of the red pen just yet. What you want to do here is keep a notebook and pen handy, or whatever writing implements float your boat, and read the manuscript. Jot down notes about what “feels off” as you read. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does the beginning drag? This is a common issue with many manuscripts, because in your first draft you’re getting your feet wet, putting your back into it, finding a way to open the story. The beginning of your book is crucial–this is where you will either hook your reader or not. Start with a bang, not with a boring conversation or long description of the setting. Grab your reader by the balls and take off. This might mean cutting a paragraph, a chapter, or even the first two or three chapters. Try to look at it through the eyes of the reader. Have you engendered enough curiosity for the reader to turn the page? No? Then cut it.

2. Is there enough conflict? As bad as you’ve made it for your protag, can you make it worse? If the Prince is on a horse to rescue the Princess, break the horse’s leg. BE MEAN. Then be MEANER. Cry in your Kleenex if you must–I know, I hate being mean to my characters, too–but if you’re crying, then your reader is crying. But without conflict there is no story.

3. Is there a satisfying climax? Do the events come to a resounding crescendo? Or do you leave the reader unsatisfied and wondering why the hell they just slogged through two hundred pages only to be left hanging? Readers don’t like this, people.

4. Is your major plot point resolved? Or are there dangling bits which need a solution? If it’s a stand-alone work, you need to make sure your subplots are dealt with in a satisfactory manner, but if it’s a series, these can dangle for the next work. However, it’s necessary the MAJOR PLOT POINT of the book is resolved. Readers don’t like this, either. As a matter of fact, if you don’t resolve your major plot point, be prepared for pitchforks, fire, and possibly tar and feathers. Worse than that, those readers will most likely never buy another thing you write for fear they’re going to be left hanging once again.

5. The story goal—what has changed about your protagonist? What has s/he learned from this experience, or what have they missed? If there’s no change in the character, then why? And there’d better be a compelling reason, or you just lost the whole point of the book.

Once you’ve got your notes jotted from the first read, then you can take out your red pen and work on specifics. This is what we’ll talk about next week.

Next week--IT'S THE RED PEN!
Next week–IT’S THE RED PEN!

*Photo courtesy of jppi of morguefile.com

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Thursday Editing Tips, Tricks, And Observations-Where To Start

Well, you’ve finished your masterpiece, and finally written THE END. Omg, what a relief! And congratulations! There are many, many writers who haven’t gotten to this point. Pat yourself on the back, because this is a huge accomplishment.

HOORAY!
HOORAY!

*Photo courtesy of hotblack at moreguefile.com

But now what?

Finishing a manuscript is a rush, no doubt about it. You did it! You wrote a book! You’re dancing around the house, maybe envisioning millions of dollars just roaring into your bank account; ready for the critical acclaim you just KNOW is coming your way, movie deals, interviews on Good Morning America, hitting the NYT best-selling list. Maybe an HBO series.

Then you sit down to re-read what you’ve written.

And here starts the cycle. The cycle of, “Holy shit, this really sucks, I suck, who wrote this crap?” and moving on to, “I’m so brilliant I can’t stand myself,” to “Just what the hell did I write here? Nothing is making sense!” And then it starts all over again.

The first draft of any manuscript is full of holes, errors, and tangents. No matter how well-plotted, it’s a first draft. It’s not supposed to be pretty. It’s supposed to be butt-assed ugly; raw, bleeding, and in dire need of CPR. But it’s also glorious in its rawness–your story is now on paper, and there is very little which can’t be fixed in an edit.

First off, let me just tell you a writer is their own worst judge of their story. Why? Because it’s in your head, perfect and complete, but transferring that to paper is very difficult. Sometimes a writer errs on the side of caution, and holds back essential information the reader needs. Other times, a writer may suffer from diarrhea of the keyboard and lets all of the cats out of the bag at once. Pacing could be off, the plot needs thickening, some of the characters are as dimensional as a hunk of cardboard. It’s a first draft, so that’s to be expected.

You might feel the urge to send your masterpiece to close friends and your mother. Restrain yourself, cowboy. I know, trust me I do, you want to crow about this to everyone. But you still have a lot of work to do before your story is ready for an honest critique, and in light of your joy, the people who love you will not tell you what you need to hear. They’ll tell you what you want to hear. Although that may be very gratifying at first, it’s not going to help you take your story to the professional level for which you’re striving. WAIT. It’s difficult, I know! YOU JUST WROTE A BOOK! But…that’s just the beginning of the process.

So, where do you start the editing process?

You start by sticking it in a closet and leaving it alone. That’s right. Throw it in drawer or closet, lock it, and forget it. I guarantee you if you start editing as soon as you finish, you’re never going to see what needs to be fixed. You’re too close, you’ve been living with these characters too long and you know what’s going to happen before it happens. What you and your manuscript need is some space apart.

That's right. Throw it in there with the rest of the stuff, like the treadmill you never use, and LOCK THE DOOR.
That’s right. Throw it in there with the rest of the stuff, like the treadmill you never use, and LOCK THE DOOR.

*Photo courtesy of ronnieb at morguefile.com

My advice is a minimum of two weeks. A couple of months might be even better. Leave it alone and start on another piece. Get your head OUT of your book and into something else. Let the manuscript marinate for a while, spend some time alone to ripen and for you to develop a bit of distance so when you do go back in to re-read and note the issues which need work, you can do so without feeling as if you’re ripping the arteries out of your heart.

So the first step? Closet, drawer, whatever. Mark it on your calendar to take it out in a couple of weeks, longer if you can stand it. Start on your next story.

Next week I’ll tell you the next step in this editing wonderland. Don’t be scared. You’ll love it.

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