I will have an instructional post for you next week, please send me your questions. I see many of the same topics that I end up answering together. I need some new lines of direction. What haven’t I covered, or what would you like me to go into more detail about?
For this week, it’s difficult to take the time off from writing the book to do the blog. In the beginning stages of writing a book, it’s sometimes hard to get into the swing of things. But I never have writer’s block because I’ve planned my story, I’ve done the work to make sure I won’t have stray story lines, and Chekov’s Gun, and plot holes. I know where the next scene should start and end, so all I have to do is write. Some chapters flow like water, and some feel like sandpaper to the touch. That’s okay. You know what we say about first drafts… It can all be fixed by editing, and if you have good beta readers, they’ll tell you where the pace may not be right, or where it sounds clunky or dry.
And there are days when you are on a roll and can’t stop. On New Year’s Day I wrote 7500 words. For those of you who may be curious, if you want to make an estimate and don’t have the time or ability to highlight all the words and click the word count button, a standard typed page has 250 words double-spaced, and 500 words single spaced. Generally, new and querying authors will use double-spaced text. The average number of words per page for a novel is generally 250 (to 300) words, depending on font size and format. So if you want to know how many pages your novel will be, use your double-spaced manuscript as a guide, but remember, those pages are double-sided, so cut the number in half when estimating number of pages.
So, that means I wrote 30 pages on Friday. I am proud of myself. I am still shady on the end of my book, though. I have an ending that I planned, but wasn’t particularly happy with, because I don’t think it’s very creative, considering the possibilities. I mean it’s an epic battle inside a planet. But the idea is that this time, she stops the battle, or tries to. So if the reader is gearing up for a big fight, how do I manage to make stopping the fight as dynamic as having one? This is my conundrum. If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I haven’t told you much about this book aside from the fact that it’s high concept and I plan to take it to a certain publisher that I want. I’m not too worried about the ending being shifty because as I’ve been writing the novel and the characters have been taking shape, they’ve been making decisions that are contrary to my plotline. I know for non-writers and some novice writers, hearing someone say, “My characters make their own decisions and change the story,” may sound strange. They aren’t real, how do they tell you anything? Unless you’re a schizophrenic and hear voices. As they back away slowly. Lol.
What I mean is that as I write my story, I get to know Marishel, my main character, and she develops into a person with certain thought and behavior patterns. As I come to a scene, sometimes what I have planned for Marishel no longer fits the character she’s become. As I’ve developed her into a type of person, she wouldn’t do what I had planned–she would do something else.
At that point, I have two options: force her to do what I want, or let her do what she would normally do in that circumstance and see where that takes me. It doesn’t usually take me far from where I wanted to go in the first place and I get back on track with the net scene. Other times, it changes a great deal and I need to stop and find a way to incorporate it into the storyline, or make an alternate plan. But usually it all falls into place.
Because I know the story, and I know the end result, I know where the story should go–that means I know the options available to the character that will still fit into the plot. I’m not making wild guesses as to where this might lead, or making promises to the reader that I end up not being able to fulfill. If your character is leading you down an alternate path, follow them. They’re usually right. Even if they aren’t, it will sound much more authentic than if you forced the character to do something … out of character. lol.
So in the back of my mind, I’m hoping the answer will come to me, or my character will decide to do something that gives me an idea, or one of my writing partners will tell me what they think and we’ll make up a brilliant ending. If not, I do have one to fall back on, but I don’t think it’s packed with enough drama.
Are you guys curious? Would you like to take a peek at my first chapter? Okay, you twisted my arm. In the following first chapter, look for an introduction to the main character(s), world-building without infodumps, a view of the character’s “normal” before an inciting incident, varied pacing, an idea of the story and the stakes, introduction of a nemesis and/or love interest, a connection to the main character with interest in their story, and a chapter hook that makes the reader want to know more. Tags, correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation can all be worried about later, in editing. But the more books you write, the better your first drafts will be in that regard. My first drafts now look like the third or fourth drafts of my first novels.
I’m definitely not saying I have it down and that I don’t make mistakes. That’s like saying I’ve never told a lie. Untrue. But is it better than it used to be? By miles. I’ll let you be the judge. My first draft chapter of The Clockwork Pen is in here somewhere I think. I’ll give you a cookie if you know where it is. Ha ha. Take a look at chapter one of The Blood Match:
By Jennifer Haskin
The cold air was sharp inside Marishel’s nose. A tear gathered, and trekked down her cheek. She dabbed at her eyeline, careful not to disturb the contact that was currently playing her favorite show. Her shoulder glowed where it pressed against the living concrete wall outside Ulu’s Electronics Repair. A plastic basket of mending was crooked in her elbow, cutting off circulation to her already swollen fingers. More work she hadn’t gotten finished–although her fingertips were numb from a long day of sewing.
Yolenie swept through the doorway. “You been waiting long?”
“Just long enough. I’ll be lucky to make it to a reasonable bedtime.” She laughed, but her stomach clenched like a knot of yarn—tighter, tighter.
“Then let’s go.” Yolenie linked her elbow with Marishel’s empty one and they strode toward their neighborhood.
Marishel minimized the feed with a flick of her eye, and her attention was caught by a light blinking out above them. She reached behind her ear and muted the show with her cochlear dial. They still had tech, but the once-proud outer limits of Haumea had been crumbling for a few generations. Being carved out of solid rock and minerals, the remnants of art surrounded them. Centuries of carved rock, like the ancient frescos on Earth. They didn’t always have color to spare anymore, but the oldest works were brilliantly pigmented, doming over their heads—the latex colors peeling, losing their adhesive qualities over the years.
She hugged her sweater closer to her body. Some days Marishel couldn’t shake the chill. One day she’d move to the summerlands, beyond the farms and their comfortable climate, nearer to the core of the planet, where it was always hot. The rich people lived there, with swimming pools and homes with open arches and fluffy furniture. Her father claimed to hate the cold as much as she did, but he’d grown up in the outer limits and was used to it, he said. Even the farmlands made him feel like his bones were melting. She knew part of it was the price, but not how much. She shivered.
“You cold?” Yolenie asked, her expression full of empathy. Yolenie enjoyed the crispy coolness of the outer limits. She rubbed Marishel’s arm briskly as if that was all it took to defrost the thickness of her muscle.
“I can’t wait for next week. Classes are done, and I’ll be so warm.”
“You going to your aunt’s farm?” Yolenie coughed.
Marishel laughed. “Like every other school break we’ve had in the last ten years.” She bumped her friend’s shoulder.
Yolenie coughed again, so Marishel pulled back her arm and patted her friend on the back.
“Thanks.” She choked. “Stop. You’re making it worse.”
“Sorry.” She worried that Yolenie might get the sickness. The mining kicked up dust. No matter how hard they tried to purify the air coming out of the mines, they never caught it all. The poor miners, like her father, had to breathe it all day. He even coughed in his sleep. Miners got it, mostly, but the dust seemed to settle in the outer limits and covered everything in a filmy grit. Of course, the miners lived in the outer limits, so there was naturally a higher number of them who got sick. The dim chill didn’t help. Electricity cost a big portion of the workers’ salaries, and the outer limits couldn’t afford to pay much collectively, so they lived in a perpetual dusk, or what she’d heard of dusk. She’d never seen the sun. They said it only looked like a small star from here, but she’d never been outside the dwarf planet to see what stars looked like. Just the videos in school.
She remembered why she’d been in such a hurry to get home. “We’ve got to hurry. We’re going to miss the announcement.”
“The lottery? Ah, who cares? It won’t be us. We’re not even fighters.”
“You aren’t even a little worried they’ll choose you?”
“Nope. My family’s not in the pool.” Yolenie grabbed her arm again and threaded her hand through Marishel’s elbow, then gave her arm a squeeze. “Don’t worry Risha. We’ll be fine.”
Marishel couldn’t swallow the lump of anxiety that clogged her throat. Why did she have to be seventeen the same year as their leader’s son, the Ambassador? Sixty 17-year-old girls would be chosen to compete for the title of Ambassador’s Bride. Her family name was chosen in the pool of competitors. Jilly, her cousin on her father’s side—they seldom spoke—was eight months older than she and so her name was always destined to represent the family, but Marishel believed in the one percent. If there was one percent chance it could happen, it would probably happen to her.
They turned the corner and reached Marishel’s street. More like a ten-foot-wide path, crumbling in the middle, the edges showing remnants of a once-smooth walkway; the streets weren’t self-repairing, like the buildings. She touched the nearest wall of living concrete, and its bacteria glowed in the shape of her hand.
“See you on Monday,” Marishel said. They still used the old times and dates from Earth, though Haumea spun completely every four hours. It helped with the artificial gravity. Days and nights were only a concept here. She couldn’t imagine walking on the outside of a planet and being warmed by the sun, huge in the sky.
Yolenie smiled. “See you Monday.”
When Yolenie’s coat was out of sight, Marishel kicked up the dust and ran home.
“Hi Mom. I’m home,” she called, closing the front door, and dropping her basket on the floor.
“Hi honey. Good day?” Her mother stepped out of the nook they called a kitchen, and wiped her hands on a towel.
“Mmm hmm.” She absent-mindedly tossed her mom a smile. “Nex, turn the TV on.” The screen flipped on, and she plopped down on the loveseat.
“Hey!” Her sister Madigan was spread out on the floor among her schoolbooks. “Don’t step on me.”
“Missed you by a mile.” She leaned forward and tugged her sister’s braid. “Nex, volume up.” The housebot’s name was given by each home’s inhabitants. Her father had named theirs Calanets after the current leader of the time—a joke to himself about his lack of political discussion—but Madi was often frustrated as a little girl when all she could say was “Nex,” and couldn’t turn on the lights.
“You scared?” Madigan asked.
She opened her mouth to answer.
“Of course not, Madi,” her mother interjected, going back to the kitchen. She called out, “Supper will be in half an hour.”
Marishel smiled at her little sister’s innocent question. She was scared witless. If anything went wrong…
A sweet floral scent surrounded her in soft fragrance and worked to ease some of her anxiety. The candles were lit. That meant there was news. “Why’d you light the candles?” she called over the couch.
Her mom peeked around the wall. “I had tea with Granny Elspeth. She was all in a tither because Sootsie’s daughter eloped last weekend with a boy from the Summerlands who put her in,”—she looked over at Madi—“a family sort of way.”
“What’s that?” Madi asked.
“Wait.” The blood drained from Marishel’s head and the back of her neck felt prickly. “Aunt Sootsie? That’s Jilly’s mom.”
“What is it?” Madi repeated.
“That’s right. Jilly’s gone off to the Summerlands to start a new family. That’s what it means,” she said, a little too brightly.
Marishel turned around and faced the TV, effectively dismissing her mother. She felt numb—no, not lacking feeling, she felt like her skin was electrified. She was buzzing with energy. If Jilly wasn’t in the lottery, that meant her name was in the pool. She concentrated on the hard breath she pressed out her nose and inhaled as deep as she could inflate her lungs.
The program came on with the show’s host, she couldn’t remember the guy’s name. “Welcome,” he boomed, “to this generation’s Blood Match coverage. I’m your host—”
“Why do they call it that?” Madigan asked.
“Sshhh!” Marishel didn’t have time for silly questions—especially ones she didn’t have answers to.
The scene shot to the leading family of Haumea—the Leader himself, Karthik Porter; his oldest son Quinlan, called the Ambassador; his wife Gioia, called The First; and his younger son Canon, called the Second. They sat with stoic poise, except for Quinlan, who looked like he’d rather be out in space without a suit than sitting on a televised sofa with his family. Marishel thought he might have looked excited or at least pretended to be, but he glared at his father and the camera.
The First stood in a sparkling gown of indigo sequins. It must have been brought ready-made from Earth. Nothing Marishel ever sewed was that fancy. “Good evening. I thank you all for watching as we play the lottery.” She gave a little chuckle. “As you all know, the Blood Match honors The First, and I am very honored to be the mother of this generation’s Blood Match. As you all know, the contest for the title of Ambassador’s bride has been carried out for centuries. Though it began as a silly pageant, when Analiyah The First came to power, she won by proving her true worth in a battle against the other contestants. Wanting nothing less for her own son’s bride, she carried on the competition, and her daughter-in-law did the same. On and on we’ve honored the old traditions.” She clasped her hands. “So exciting! One month from now, one young woman will prove herself worthy of being the Ambassador’s Bride, in the most romantic, self-disciplined, show of bravery … and she shall be the future First.”
“Yeah, and all the rest of them die,” Madigan said, coloring a page on the floor. She lay on her stomach with her knees bent, swinging her feet back and forth.
“Hush.” Marishel leaned forward.
“This year’s contest—”
Marishel’s father flung the door open and slammed it shut. She turned around to look, but didn’t dare “shush” him. She valued her life.
“Hello family.” He plopped down in a chair at the table and sighed, kicking off his boots. He unbuckled the straps of the exoskeleton across his muscled thigh, and then began pulling on the other leg’s strap. “Nalyn! You aren’t going to believe this.”
Her mother came out of the kitchen. “What? What happened?”
“They pushed through a new decree.” He slammed his hand on the table, his still-mechanized fist nearly cracking the surface. “They’re taking corporate ownership of the mines.”
“Who?” Madigan popped up and kneeled on the loveseat next to Marishel, facing backward. “I thought you were going to own it, Baba.”
On TV, the show’s host was going on about contests of the past and flashing pictures of girls in fancy dresses and pony-tailed contestants training with state-of-the-art weapons. She wanted to watch but she also knew what a crisis this was for her father.
“Madi, that was the plan. The mines have always been owned individually, maybe it was something they forgot when Haumea was made community property. But now they’ve realized the mistake and want to make it corporate.” He put his face in his hands and Marishel’s mother laid a hand on his shoulder.
“We were almost there,” she whispered.
Marishel’s father had worked his way up from the bottom to being the name on the mine’s lease. It was almost paid off and he had planned to sell it once it was his, and that would be his ticket to the Gentry—what the rich called themselves. It was his dream. To choose where to live, to have what he wanted, to leave the mines. It was all over now. The hoping. The plans for a home in the farmlands next to her aunt. They’d be stuck in the outer limits forever now. A chill ran over her skin. She’d never escape the cold.
“And now for this generation’s contestants!” the TV rang out.
Her family stopped and watched the screen as names scrolled from the bottom to the top. Her eyes were crossing, and her sight was blurry reading all the names. As twenty names rolled, some of her apprehension eased. After forty names, she was calm and reading to see if she knew anyone who was chosen. There was a girl she’d seen at school who didn’t live too far away. That eased the last of her tension. They wouldn’t choose girls who lived so close together, right? Number forty-nine was Marishel Vance. The letters scrolled up the screen slower than any of the others, it seemed, and she sat motionless. Had she really seen it? Her family was not reacting, it must have been a trick of her eyes.
She looked around the room at her family, each staring at her with open gazes, and Madi’s mouth hung open.
Oh no. No, no, no.
To be continued…
What do you think? Better first draft than before? It may change drastically from this and it may not change much. Once I have the whole thing written, I will put it away and read a book or two. Get it out of my mind. Then edit. Then do a kindle read and/or give to beta readers. Don’t know what a beta reader is? Click here.
I’d like to go back through my blog and separate the personal posts from the teaching posts because they are all in a jumble. Maybe I will just pluck out the learning bits and expand on them in new posts? Do you have a preference? Feel free to vote. I need to find the time, as well. Right?
Ah, I also forgot to tell you all that I changed my first book’s title. We’ve talked about this before, how my title (The Key of F) was keeping me from being listed with the YA fantasy romance crowd I was after. If I changed my paperback title, I would need a new ISBN, and would lose my reviews. Amazon just deleted two more of my reviews and I have no idea which ones or why. I wrote to Amazon and asked, and they said they could only talk about reviews with the reviewer, because it belonged to them, and they must have broken a rule. I wrote back and said not only did they not break any rules that I had noticed, but the reviews were MINE. They were given to ME by the reviewer. Amazon isn’t punishing the reviewer by taking down reviews, they are punishing the author. I told them they should go pick on those who have six million reviews and are scamming the system and leave us little guys alone. I only had 37 reviews left and they took two more! They’ve already removed everyone they thought I could possibly know or be related to. Meanwhile, I know of an author who left herself a five-star review because she has more than one author name. Not that I would tattle, but knowing Amazon won’t give me the tiniest break, it chafes.
So, the ebooks have new branded covers with the new title and description, and they are doing well for me as an indie:
Someone told me recently that I needed to be in better categories. Let me explain. You can be in up to ten categories on Amazon. You just have to email them through your Author Central page (you all have one if you have a published book), and tell them exactly which categories you would like. I am in ten categories–some general and some niche. The basic categories like YA fantasy are highly competitive and I don’t rank nearly as high in them as in others. The three shown just happen to be the three that I rank the highest in. And no, my book is not non-fiction, but even when you enter the category as a fiction book about prejudice, it puts you in this category, so I am not scamming the system. In general, I want to keep my overall Best Sellers Rank under one million. If it’s around 500,000, I know it’s selling copies or having pages read. The lower the number gets, the more sales I’m getting. That’s an easy way to see how you and/or your competition are doing at the moment. It is updated hourly, I believe.
Enough suspense, right? What do the new covers look like? Obviously people are buying.
Here they are
(Click covers for links to Amazon):
Secrets from Fale’s past haunt her—and visions of the future might hold the key to her legacy.
Having vivid premonitions that come true is unusual, but for Fale it’s part of her routine once she turns eighteen. She has no idea why.
When one of those premonitions allows her to save Keron—the guy she loves—their destiny is sealed, and their lives are in great danger.
She suspects it has something to do with the sacred key her father entrusted to her as he lay dying. She was eight when she found him brutally beaten and watched him succumb to the injuries.
Now hunted by thugs who want to steal the Key of Effailya, Fale and Keron must rely on themselves until two mysterious benefactors offer them protection and answers.
Fale needs to protect the Key of Effailya at all costs, but she needs to know who is behind the plot against her. The enemy is powerful and ruthless, and holding the sacred key might kill her like it killed her father. Unless she accepts the magic that courses through her veins and learns how to use it.
Before the evil forces triumph, can Fale rise to the occasion and perform a duty she never knew was hers to carry out?
A fast-paced YA fantasy that will have readers racing headfirst through the pages.
★Are you ready to embark on this adventure? One-click, today!★
The race is on. Beware the henchmen.
Fale and her friends are on an epic journey to find the magic machine that will open dimensions, allowing her to rescue the mage slaves—her people—from the hands of an evil Source Wizard. Still accepting her role as queen, she welcomes her new powers. But the group is not alone. Henchmen wait for them when they least expect it. Tensions are already high, but when Izzy—Alloy City’s socialite—decides to wage war on Fale, the situation becomes toxic.
Fale is devastated. She’s lost her way of life, her identity, her guardian, and now her best friend. Worse, she pushed Keron—her hot boxer crush—away so he could focus on his job, but sharing a tent with him is excruciating when passions boil over.
She’d give it all up if it weren’t for her trusty sidekick, Lisle—the wizard—who loves her, but wants to see her succeed and to find his own purpose.
They sail to an island in her visions that no one believes is there. Fale is relieved to be on her way, but fear of what awaits her, plus the constant state of tension in her group, immobilizes her. She’s miserable, just trying to make every choice a good one.
Things will never be the same as they were back home, she will never be the same. Fale doesn’t know what they will find once they reach the island. She doesn’t know why she’s having memories of Queen Effailya’s life, making her magic misfire at inopportune times. She has no clue how they’ll manage to get a huge machine onto the boat and back to the mountain mages’ estate. Impatient for answers, she seeks clues to the mystery. She may find everything she’s looking for—she might not—but the price for winning will be higher than she ever imagined.
★If you like epic quests, sword and sorcery, mages, wizards, love triangles and plot twists, you’ll love this complicated emotional must-read. You won’t want to put it down. Fans of the first book, The Key of F, The Hunger Games, Eve, and The Rise of Isaac will enjoy this character-driven story.
“It is so packed with action that there was no place where I could say, ‘Ok time for bed now. I’ll finish it tomorrow.’ A must read.” ~Amazon Reviewer
Fale doesn’t know why she has visions of the queen’s past life. All she knows is that her magic becomes dangerously faulty every time she sees into the past. Through the visions, the mystery of Effailya’s banishment and life of slavery is solved; the reasons of her heated parting with Gryndoll are revealed, as well as who was the queen’s secret lover. And how that could possibly relate the Source Wizard to the Queen of Mages, herself.
The Source Wizard Gasten sends out his best efforts, but the new queen stays one step ahead of him. He may have found a way to send his spell to her. And if not, he’s found the old wizard’s journals, which are sure to give her weaknesses.
The Final Rescue is a fast-paced adventure as the wizards and mages race toward their mutual destruction. A strong female lead not only survives her dystopian society… she solves the mystery of a hidden war, only to cause a new one, then battles both sides to rule it herself. It’s a conclusion for fans who fell in love with The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Reader series. If you’re hooked on genre-blending, suspenseful, fantasy romance novels, with adventure, you’ll love The Final Rescue!
I have also added a page to my website for my freelance editing, please take a look by clicking either here, or choosing “Editing” from the menu above. I will be open to projects in February of 2021. If you’d like to hear from some of my clients, check out the “Referrals” page from the menu above.
That’s it for today friends! Keep writing!
Tip for the week: If you know you can do better, then do better.