Posted on February 5th 2018 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
I finally fixed Courting the Dragon’s plot problem.
I threw away the plot.
Alright, the main plot points are still the same. The blurb that’s already posted on this website is still wholly and perfectlyvalid. But I threw out that stupid outline that’s been suffocating me from day one.
Didn’t I just say that outlining is important for sequels like two or three blog posts ago? Yes, yes I did. And I stick by that statement. But that only works if you wrote a good outline in the first place. I’m here to tell you, this one was garbage.
If you follow me on Twitter you’re probably aware that I took a machete to my more-than-half-finished draft a while back and I’ve been building it back up. Most of what I axed at the time was related the to the villain I hated oh-so-much and the utterly failed attempt at using him as a pseudo love interest. That didn’t work out for all kinds of reasons, primarily because Penelope wasn’t having it (I don’t blame her) and I just couldn’t make the guy likable.
But that still left me with a heap of things I didn’t like, and a whole big section that feels like a Regency Romance novel that makes me want to beat my head against a wall. It isn’t anything against the genre. I’ve read quite a few that I enjoy (a bunch of things by Johanna Lindsey come to mind). The problem is that writing in that way made my female characters feel very vapid to me, and it’s really the antithesis of the personas I built for Penny and Tiffany in Saving the Dragon. I have no idea how other authors manage to write strong female characters in such a setting. More power to them, honestly. If you have any tips to leave in the comments I’m all ears.
So, for the time being, that section I’m unhappy with is still technically part of the draft. I expect it to bleed red in the first round of hard revisions. Like, big red X’s and all new scenes scribbled on the back and in the margins. There’s a plot point in there I somehow need to keep, and I have a few ideas about how to do it dancing in my head. BUT. That is a problem for future me. I’ve promised myself no more big cuts before the last line of the first(ish) draft has been written.
So, what did I do about the plot?
I went back to who my characters are.
Penelope isn’t someone who waits around for someone else to come up with a solution. To quote her in one of her new scenes: “Have you ever known me to sit in a tower and wait for rescue?” And yet, I had her doing exactly that for a substantial part of the very early draft. Some of the things I had her doing were so appalling out of character that it made it impossible to do anything with her.
Don’t even get me started on what Salarath was up to. Let me just say, sulking is not a good look on him.
Getting reacquainted with my heroes put a few things in sharp perspective for me, and made doing a few more surgical removals (prior to the no-more-big-cuts-vow) a simple matter. I graphed on some new scenes to replace what I’d sliced away, and suddenly some things fell into place nicely, because Penny and her dragon were acting like themselves again. Whew.
From that point, I decided to take a road somewhere between the complete and utter pantsing that I did for Saving and the tightly constrained outline I initially did for Courting. My characters were at point A, but I knew they needed to get to B, C, and D before I could even think about writing the finale. So, I noted B, C, and D, and then just let the characters take me to them.
Do I have a few crap transition scenes that are totally going under the knife in first revisions later this month? Abso-frickin’-lutely.
Am I a thousand times happier than I was with this draft a month ago? You have no idea.
When I finished my first round of big tear-outs, I’d taken the draft down from over 50k to ~43k words. I’m now coming up on 70k again (probably more by the time this post actually goes live). At this rate, Courting may very well end up being almost twice as long as its predecessor. I ain’t mad about that. I don’t think everyone who has been looking forward to this book will be either.
I think it may be time to accept that I’m not a traditional outliner. I do need to take notes like nobody’s business because I will forget the neat little plot twists I had in store. Or I’ll forget some detail about my magic system I had intended to work in. Or whatever. I had all kinds of things planned for book three, but I didn’t write them down, so now I’m having to try and remember what they were. I’ve now started my notes file for book three now precisely because of this. But it’s just that, notes. It seems that a more free-form approach of just random bullet points in a Google doc works best for me.
The truth is, with only one completed long-form work under my belt, I’m still learning what exactly my process is. But I think that the moral of this story is you are NOT married to an outline (unless of course, you signed a contract stating that you are and you owe it to some big publishing house, then I’m both sorry for you and extremely jealous). If your outline isn’t working for you, throw it away. Start over. Get back in touch with who your characters are and the story they are trying to tell. Then write a new outline if you’re someone who needs the structure. Or don’t if you’re really a total pantser. But don’t stick with an outline you’ve come hate.
General Progress Update
I’m now very confident about getting the first(ish) draft of Courting finished this month. I had hoped to be done around the last weekend of January, but doing the editing on my first video book review turned out to be waaaay more time consuming than I anticipated, partly because I was trying to learn new software. To complicate things further, I’m now dealing with some hand and wrist issues that I’m hoping aren’t a big red flag for worse things yet to come. So that is slowing down my progress a bit from the rapid movement I was making before. Still, being well into revisions by the middle of February remains realistic, despite my hand and wrist pain. Fortunately, I revise on a printed draft, so that will give my left hand a nice break.
With that confidence about finishing the draft, I am now also ready to say that I am targeting a summer 2018 release for Courting the Dragon. I do have an exact date in mind, but I’m not quite ready to share it since these pain issues are cropping up and *cramping* my style (get it? get it?). As I get into revisions and get the second(ish) draft out to beta readers it will become more obvious whether or not that date is feasible. Start looking for an official launch announcement around March.
Posted on January 24th 2018 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
This week I am going to be starting something new on my very infant YouTube channel. I am going to be doing video book reviews from local (mostly Indie) authors. The reviews will be going up on a weekly to bi-weekly basis on Sundays. They will each be added to a specific playlist, and will all follow approximately the same format.
Introduction and disclaimers
About the Author
Formats (Paperback, Ebook, Audio, etc)
Availability (Amazon, iTunes, B&N, etc)
Final Thoughts & Overall Rating
The Ratings section is broken into four categories (there may eventually be more, but we’ll see how I feel after a few reviews). The book will be given 1 to 5 teaspoons of tea leaves in each category, and then an overall score.
and this book is a good, strong cup of tea
and this book has a lot of flavor
and this book isn’t my favorite, but it’ll do
and this book is a weak cup of tea
and this tea might as well be water
I decided against doing a star system, because, really, reviews are entirely subjective. I may love a book, and you may hate it. It really all comes down to what kind of story is your “cup of tea.” I would also like to point out that in the unlikely (I hope) event of a book actually receiving 1 teaspoon, that does not make it the worst book I’ve ever read. I have intentionally read some of the worst-rated free books on Amazon, and attended “Readings in Terrible Fiction” at Anthrocon. I have seen the worst that there is, and we shall not speak of it.
Each book that I review by video will also get a follow-up blog-post that is a transcript of the video. All follow-up blog posts will be categorized as “Review” posts and tagged appropriately for the book being reviewed. An abbreviated version of the review with the overall score converted to stars will be posted to Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, etc as applicable. Links to the books will be included in both the YouTube description box, and the follow-up blog post. I will also try to include links to the authors on social media, their websites and/or their blogs.
This post is a follow-up to the announcement made on Saturday.
This spring, Saving the Dragon will be available as an audiobook through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. The exact release date is still forthcoming, but it should be sometime in April. Sooo… be sure to watch the blog, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter for updates! Stayed tuned for release details, pricing, and maaaybe even a give-away 😉
Saving the Dragon Audiobook Cover
As I explained in my initial announcement video, this is a first for me, and the narrator, Hilary Dickinson. I’m so pleased that she was able to bring the characters to life for this exciting release. I hope you all will enjoy her performance as much as I have. This project absolutely would not be happening without her, so I wanted to give everyone a proper introduction.
Hilary currently resides in Georgia with her two cats, one dog, and six very fat goldfish. “Each is special in their own way (even the fat goldfish),” she says, “and bring me tremendous happiness.” She spends her days working for the Veteran and Military Crisis Hotline. In her spare time, she is an avid gamer, reader and all-around sci-fi/fantasy junkie. She decided to try audiobook narrating on the insistence of a friend, who clearly has excellent acoustic tastes.
Listen to a sneak peek here (but please bear in mind that this is just an early sample, and not from the finished audiobook)
Here is the video announcement to YouTube on Saturday.
It’s been radio silence for me for a while, so I want to check in with everyone and give some updates.
First, Courting the Dragon is still – you guessed it – behind schedule. This has not been an easy book for me to complete for a wide variety of reasons. Rest assured, however, that it is coming out and coming out soon. Expect a final release date on CtD in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I am happy to make a couple of other announcements:
The Foundling has once again been entered in one of those awful popularity contests. If you have any interest in what my more serious fantasy is like, please consider a pre-order of The Foundling. If I don’t win the contest (most likely outcome) I do have plans for releasing The Foundling sometime next year. Here’s the link.
I will be doing a series of readings from Saving the Dragon and Courting the Dragon via YouTube. Release dates on those are forthcoming.
Thank you for your continued support. I hope you all are looking forward to seeing CtD as much as I am.
Today I decided to take a leap and try something new. I bought an iPad. It has a tough little case with a built-in keyboard, and I thought it would be great for writing on the go. Let’s face it, poor old Harbinger with its bad battery isn’t much of an option for a busy author on the go. My poor, even older and heavier iBook is so past its prime. Even after I replaced Mac OS with an extremely lightweight Linux I still type faster than that poor computer can process. Seriously. And don’t even get me started on its internet situation. Remember dial-up?
But, before you get all excited about Sara the perpetual Apple-hater buying an iPad… I’m already thinking about taking the stupid thing back. I am at this moment, as my husband hangs on hold with Apple’s support people, wishing I’d bought an Android instead. It was cheaper, has expandable storage, and I guarantee you the problems we are experiencing wouldn’t happen with Google. Ever. But the shiny allure of an iPad on sale brought me around to the Apple way of thinking. In other words, temporary insanity.
At this moment my iPad is as good as useless, because I can’t sign in with my Apple ID. Oh, I’ve got the right email. The password is right, too. I reset it through the website on my working android phone. The stupid thing won’t let me update my billing addresses. And since it can’t update my billing address it won’t finish signing me in to iTunes. Since it can’t finish signing me in to iTunes, I can’t download apps. Since I can’t download apps, I can’t install Google Drive, Google Docs, etc. Since I can’t do that, I can’t use the stupid thing for what I bought it for.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a run-in with Apple. When I was trying to get my book out there to all platforms I had a heck of a time getting it up on iTunes. Now, some might say it’s my own fault for working with Apple directly instead of going through Smashwords, but I didn’t like Smashwords terms. Here’s the problem though. In order to sell something on iTunes you must have an Apple device. Let me repeat, to set something up to sell on iTunes you must have an Apple device. The necessary application cannot and will not run on a Windows or Linux device. And once you get it downloaded, well, let’s just say it’s not exactly intuitive and no one on Apple’s support team knows how to use it. I can’t tell you how long I sat on hold at my sister’s house while using her Mac desktop to attempt to upload my book. And when it did upload, half my name got dropped for some reason. Sadly, I didn’t notice that until it was too late and I haven’t been back to my sister’s since to fix it.
Needless to say, that whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth where Apple is concerned. I was hoping this experience would be better. So far, not so much.
So, here I am, using Harbinger to update my blog with an anti-Apple rant. We’ll see if Henry can get the iPad working. If he can, then I’m prepared to give it another shot. If not, well, there’s a Samsung Tab E with my name on it at the Verizon store.