Posted on January 17th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
News, Website Updates, Writing
Where do I even begin? 2020 was a crazy year for me in more ways than one, and not just the obvious. You would think being largely trapped at home I would have had plenty of time to get some writing done, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
So let’s just hit the highlights. Last year in August I married the love of my life.
Matt and I at our wedding
Before that we adopted a kitten. Her name is Zoe and she’s spoiled rotten. She loves her big brother Mayhem.
Zoe and Mayhem
I went back to school for my bachelors. That’s been a trip. I may have a post about that in the future if anyone is interested.
And finally, we sold our house (finally closed this month) and moved into my childhood home. The first thing we did upon moving in was replace the flooring. A lot of flooring. We still have the room that will be my office to go. I hope to be uploading some pictures of my sweet new office set-up by the end of the first quarter. In the meantime I am doing my writing and my normal day job sitting at a desk crammed in the bedroom. Since I sometimes start work super early in the morning my poor husband has learned so sleep with me typing literally three feet away. The things we do for love, right?
But Sara, what about your writing? Are we ever going to get that long-promised sequel to Saving the Dragon?
Yes, my friends. I have finally had a breakthrough and am once again making good progress. I’ve been stuck in this sort of in-between state where I’m not really revising but also not really writing the first draft anymore and it has been hell. At this point I am writing the “first draft” of the remaining scenes that are needed to complete the ending and go back and fill in some things I now know I need back at the beginning. Once that is complete I have a list of revisions I know I need to make to the first 2/3s based on some serious character changes. After that I can go into a full, normal revision pass and work on cleaning it up before getting it to some beta readers. I am optimistic about getting the draft completed sometime in the first quarter. Be on the look-out for a new release date announcement.
In other news, I’ve started working on an overhaul of the website. I know that doesn’t seem like a productive thing to be doing in light of the unfinished writing I have, but hear me out. In addition to being a part of my platform as an author, my website also serves a more practical purpose. It gives me a real-world project to experiment with for skills that apply to my day job, the thing that still pays the bills (because let’s face it, writing ain’t paying no bills right now). So the website re-write has been an on-and-off work in progress for a while. I’m playing with a framework I have some experience with, but have never built a site from scratch with before. I have to say it’s been quite fun (and frustrating). I hope y’all like the finished product. If I’m lucky I might be able to coordinate the launch of the new website with the release of Courting the Dragon.
I think that’s pretty much it for this update. As part of my plan to get back into the game here I will be trying to post at least one monthly update to the blog, plus some meatier posts as the opportunity arises. So stay tuned, and Happy New Year!
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Posted on May 10th 2019 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
Audiobook, Website Updates, Writing
Happy Friday, everyone! A couple of quick updates.
First, I haven’t got my words in today for either the new WIP or CtD simply because there were some things to take care of this morning. I’m hoping to get 500 in on the new WIP before bed. Tomorrow is Saturday so I will have plenty of time to hit the CtD rewrites hard.
Second, I’ve started working on the website revamp that I’ve been procrastinating on for ~2 years. It’s coming along nicely. Leveraging some new tech, so that’s exciting. If anyone has any suggestions for the site, please submit them through the website Contact form.
Finally, I currently have a giveaway running for a free Audible copy of Saving the Dragon. You can find all the entry details for that on my Facebook page. Look for the pinned post. Please read the entry details. A lot of people are liking the post but not commenting, which is pretty much the opposite of what the entry requirements as for. That closes May 31st. I may actually do the drawing as a Facebook Live thing. We’ll see, haha.
And I think that’s pretty much it.
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Posted on May 9th 2019 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
There are so many things going on right now that I don’t even know where to begin.
First, I am currently in the process of buying a house, so things are a little bit chaotic right now. I’m hoping to have that all squared away in the next couple of weeks. From there I will be able to get my office set-up and devote some major time to writing through the summer.
Second, I have an update on Courting the Dragon. Over the course of attempting to revise it – and fix the gaping plot hole that was causing it to bleed out all over my hard drive – I came to realize that some things with the story were fundamentally broken. Large chunks of the first draft are just going to see the trash bin and whole new swaths of story are in the process of being written. And it wasn’t just one thing. There were multiple problems. I really needed to get to know one of the villains better and think through his motivations, for one thing. So that project is underway at a pace of about 1000 words a day. The general synopsis I have posted on the website is still correct.
Thirdly, I have sent the first third of The Foundling to a beta reader for feedback. That story is also stalled out with a problem annoyingly similar to CtD’s plot hole. The good news is, I don’t think that story is fundamentally broken, I just suck at outlining.
Finally, I have started (or I suppose restarted) a new WIP (work in progress) to give myself something with no castle storming. It’s coming along at a pace of about 500 words a day, although I hope to pick that pace up a bit next month. That will largely depend on how stubborn CtD is in mending its ways. I tried a different pre-writing/outlining process for this one that I will talk about more in a later blog. I feel pretty good about this one. My hope is to have it ready sometime in November. But, as we have all learned, my hopes don’t mean a whole lot when life decides to come knocking.
Oh, and finally-finally, I am going to be trying to keep the blog updated more often, even if it’s just a quick status update on the office, CtD, etc.
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Posted on June 29th 2018 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
News, Self-Publishing Woes, Writing
We are close to the end! So close, in fact, that I’ve already drafted the blog post to announce the release dates. I have only a very thin stack of papers left in my print-out of the Courting the Dragon’s second draft (because remember, I threw out like half the book several months ago). Once that is finished there’s a new epilogue I want to write and then it’ll be time for final polish.
Getting through this revision has been a real trip. I’ve been trying to reflect on why it was so much harder to get through this one than the last one. I think a few factors are at play:
- I wasn’t really trying to write a book for publication when I wrote Saving the Dragon. I was just having some fun with NaNoWriMo. There was no pressure to get the thing done.
- Courting the Dragon is a lot longer than Saving. You could make an argument that Saving is almost more of a novella than a novel and I would have a really hard time refuting your point. You cannot make the same claim about CtD. It is novel length. Not like George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan epic-tome-of-doom novel length, but still long enough to get past some publishing houses’ minimum submission requirements.
- I hated my villain and a lot of other parts of the first draft. That made it really hard to want to work on the book and prompted the great word count massacre earlier this year.
- I really want this one to be good. I want to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. I want a stronger story, better writing, more character development, etc, etc. I am also really concerned with consistency for the magic system and generally continuity. I painted myself into some weird corners with random little things in Saving. Book 3 is going to be really interesting depending on how I tie up so worldbuilding in CtD.
And of course there was all of the of big life stuff all right in the middle of writing and revising this book, but we don’t need to rehash those details again.
I will say that after the long, arduous journey of getting Courting the Dragon finished, I think I will be taking a short break from Penny and her dragon. I have several projects that are begging to be finished. The Foundling is probably the closest to completion, and I really feel like that should be my next focus. After that it is up in the air whether Penelope’s Dragon Book 3 will be next in line. Odds are probably good that it will be, but I think I will need to see how I feel after Foundling.
All that is left of draft 2 to edit/revise as of this posting
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Posted on June 25th 2018 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
A monsterous, messing stack of *most* of the pages from draft 2 that have been revised to date.
Note: I wrote this back in February but never posted it. I have left it unaltered, so in my time in the following it is still February. Better late than never.
I’ve been thinking about a complaint against one of my review videos that just came out. It wasn’t on one of my own posts or the video itself, so you probably won’t be able to find it. In any case, in the commenter’s mind, my review missed the mark because I hadn’t given enough attention to the originality of the book in question. The thing is, I’ve seen most of the elements used in that story somewhere before. Every book is going to recycle something. Usually many somethings. What makes a book shine, what makes it good, is when it reuses the expected in an unexpected way.
Every book of any quality is a unique compilation of elements. But those elements, those same building blocks, have probably been used and reused a million times. If you don’t believe me, go watch or read my (very positive) review of That Time I Broke Time by Sarah Emily Lelonek where I lay out examples of other books with the same core premise. That premise is that the heroine discovers she isn’t who she thinks and has special powers. Usually, all hell breaks loose around the time of such discoveries.
So, let’s look at the book that’s actually in dispute, which is Franc Ingram’s Heirs of Eternity.
I’ve seen the whole re-incarnated until you get it right thing in Heirs of Eternity and Katherine Kerr’s Devverry books. At first blush, these books are nothing alike, but the core premise that these characters will keep coming back and play out the same drama as different people and only one of them knows it/really understands why is the same. The execution is completely and totally different, but they use the same building block.
Then there’s the main plot thread. It has a lot in common with classics like Lord of the Rings. That’s why I said in my review that it was a pretty standard high-adventure plot. I can sum it up in one sentence: the main character must go to a particular place to do this particular thing to stop this particular evil (usually at the risk of the world ending) and he/she collects some friends along the way.
If I dig deep enough in my stack, I can probably also find a few books where the gods or god-like creatures made an oopsie and set some terrible evil loose on the world in a manner not dissimilar from the Twelve when they created the Ultras.
This is not a bad thing. I repeat this is not a bad thing.
As I said with That Time I Broke Time, tropes and story arcs are reused because they’re good. They’re a formula that our brains recognize and appreciate.
My own books are full of tropes. I like to joke that when writing Saving the Dragon I wanted to see how many tropes I could squeeze into one book. Just touching on the obvious ones, I have the rebellious princess/noblewoman trope (see Disney’s Brave for another popular example) and the shapeshifting character trope. I could go for days with examples of dragon-shifters alone. A quick glance at a list of paranormal and/or romance novels and you’ll probably find a few pretty quick. Actually, someone just fairly recently published one with the exact same title as mine. Talk about unoriginal.
I can’t think of a book or movie off-hand that follows a similar arc to my first one, but I am sure one exists (if you know it, please tell me in the comments. I’m dying to read/watch it). My second book plays with the arranged marriage trope. My third planned book of the same series will follow a questing plot #NotASpoiler. I’ll bet when I say “questing plot” all sorts of stories come to your mind. And I’d like to think that I put my own personal spin on the tropes and character archetypes I’m using. I manage to make myself laugh, at any rate. Then again, what do I know? Maybe my stories are a colossal snoozefest and you all are too nice to tell me so.
In any case, this is why I didn’t choose to focus on Heirs of Eternity’s originality. I thought there was something much more important to focus on, and that is what I think Franc does best: writing beautifully rendered characters. So, to the commenter who thought I missed the mark, I say to you: I stand by my stance that the strength of Heirs of Eternity does not lie in the plot, the wide cast, or the worldbuilding, but rather in the exceptionalcharacter creation that Franc displayed in writing Oleana. WhoOleana is drove her on that go-to-this-place-to-do-this-thing-to-stop-this-evil-style journey. Her strength didn’t let her give up even when her weakness begged her to. Her inner turmoil was far more interesting and soul-rending than what was going on outside of her. She gave everything, all that she was, to see her mission through to the end. Thatwas the story. And I hope to see so much more of such talented character building from Franc in the next one.
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