Aspiring Writer Interview: Anna Gailey

Anna Gailey
This week's Aspiring Writer Interview is with Anna Gailey, a fellow writer from here in Utah. She is 23 years old, and lives in West Valley. She and I attended the same high school (WJ represent), with a year difference. In fact, she and my wife Becky were friends. It's odd how you sometimes find out that people's interests coincide with your own, years after you meet them. Anna agreed to do this interview just yesterday, as I was running behind because of the holidays. She is very active in the writing scene, and runs her own blog, which you can visit here. On to the questions!

Thanks for helping me out on short notice Anna. Tell us about yourself. Are you married? Have any kids?
I've been married for almost four years and though we don't have any children, we do have two cats, named Aerith and Rikku (After Final Fantasy characters) that are as close to children as we would like at the moment. 

Let's talk about writing. How long ago did you start?
I've been writing for a long time. I remember writing small stories when I was younger, then when I found my love Harry Potter that's when a lot of the writing started. Mostly with Online Role Playing and fanfiction (that is truly terrible, like all fanfiction should be). It wasn't until about High School that I seriously considered writing more. 

What project are you currently working on?
Currently I'm contemplating on revising my NaNoWriMo [titled Out of Tune]. Since this was the first year that I actually finished (with a whopping 50,123 words), I feel like I should try and tweak it a little bit. Though the idea of reading it, and realizing that it's as awful as I imagine it to be, is a bit daunting. 

I'm also working on a short story about a modern Greek God reincarnation. It may end up going further than I think, but for now I'm just planning it being a short story. 

How long have you been working on Out of Tune?
Not long. In fact, only a few months. Which (unfortunately) is the longest I've ever really spent on something of my own creation. 

Tell us a little about it.
My NaNoWriMo project is about a deaf girl that falls for a boy who is hearing. I am completely in love with Deaf Culture, and I really wanted to try out writing about it. There are a lot of common misconceptions about people who are deaf, and so I handle explaining that through my main characters, and how the language difference could be a challenging, but not completely impossible to overcome. 

What are your goals for it?
As of right now, my goal is to finish. As awesome as it would be to get published, I'm focusing on one task at a time. Finish, then revise, revise some more, and again with the revising, share with friends/critique partners, revise more, ect. 

What is your favorite book or author? Why?
That is a loaded question, as of right now, I have a handful of favorite authors. 

Meg Cabot: I loved Meg's Young Adult literature as soon as I read them, then as I got older, I jumped into her 'adult' fiction. I love the way that she writes, it's like talking to your best friend after months of not talking. 

John Green: Having become obsessed with his YouTube videos, this man has given me some of the greatest advice when it comes to writing. John Green is one of those authors who when you read his stuff, you don't think "I want to write something that is just as good as this" you think "This is amazing, I want to write something BETTER!", which is what a good book does to authors. 

I normally tend to stick to Contemporary Fiction, and Young Adult Contemporary. It's where I'm the most comfortable.

What has been the hardest part about writing Out of Tune? About writing in general?
The hardest part of writing my NaNo is the conversations. I had to figure out a way to describe the sign language, while also making it so the characters could understand each other. I used everything from charades, to pen and paper, to just slow talking. 

What has been the best or most rewarding aspect of writing?
Creating characters. I have about 30 characters that I've written out full histories and bios for that still have yet to find a home in a story. Creating characters is one of my favorite things to do. 

Do you have any "technical" suggestions for new writers?
When I start a story, I always create Character profiles of my main characters. That tell a little bit about the character and range from favorite color, to thoughts about the universe. This helps me when I need to look back on my character when I'm not sure what they would do in a certain situation. 

Do you have any sage advice for new writers (inspirational messages, cautions, etc.)?
Two of the best quotes about writing I've ever found are from John Green and Meg Cabot. 

John Green: "I just give myself permission to suck. I delete about 90% of my first drafts (the only exception to this rule so far has been Will Grayson, Will Grayson) so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90% chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating.

I also like to remind myself of something my dad said to me once in re. writers’ block: “Coal miners don’t get coal miners’ block.”"

Meg Cabot: "Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either."

Particularly the "Giving myself permission to suck" thing has stuck with me.

Have you published anything?
I had a few poems published when I was in high school, but nothing as of late. I'm also part of a collaborative website called

Can you give us some links to any blogs, websites, or other online media you run?
This section should be called: Anna is addicted to the internet:



YouTube: (a collaborative Youtube channel)


Thanks Anna!

Finding your groove.

Finding the rhythm and flow of writing isn't easy. I think some new writers think that once you finish your first book, or sell a novel, that suddenly writing becomes easy. I know I did. Unfortunately, it never works that way. It has been several months since I finished my first draft of The Sometimes Sword, and yet the last few weeks have been the most difficult for me to find motivation. Now, I don't want to focus on the difficulties; I want to highlight some of the things that will, first, help you realize you aren't that different from the rest of us, and second, maybe find some good advice to help you out.

I don't have much in the way of advice today, but I do want to say this: ask yourself why you are writing. Is it just a hobby? For fun? Are you just bored? Do you want to someday sell a book? Whatever your answer is, be it ambitious or laid-back, that's fine. But, you need to look at what your intentions are, then carefully assess what you've been doing, and how it supports, or doesn't support your dream. If you want to make a living writing novels, then approaching it like a hobby is probably not going to work, etc. Just try to make good decisions, and constantly re-evaluate your priorities.

Now I want to hear from you. What advice can you give other readers about managing their dream, and finding the healthy groove of writing?

Posts and Interviews resuming after the first of the new year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday week! If you find yourself bored, feel free to browse the archives (I've got some long posts in there). Stop by my previous interviews if you haven't already!

Aspiring Writer Interview: Laura Mclain Madsen

Laura Madsen
This week's interview is with Laura Madsen, a member of the writing group I pretend to be in (I have only attended two or three meetings because of scheduling issues). She's a veterinarian with who just turned the big four-oh. She's married with two daughters, one dog, a cat, and lives here in the Salt Lake Valley. I've actually read her current book titled Ophelia's Flowers, and thoroughly enjoyed it (despite my initial misgivings stemming from the issue of me not being a teenage girl). It's an unapologetic story about the (sometimes) brutal nature of teenage relationships, and I hope you all can one day read it. I had a chance to ask her some questions for my Aspiring Writer Interview series, and she agreed to help me out. Lets jump in.

How long ago did you start writing?
If you count school-related writing, I've been writing nonfiction forever. My first nonfiction piece published was a short description of a veterinary case (a hedgehog), published in Veterinary Forum in 2001. Since then I've written many nonfiction articles, including a couple when I was bored out of my mind on maternity leave. I only started writing fiction about four years ago.

What's the project you're currently working on?
I've written two novels: a middle-grade urban fantasy and a contemporary YA (young adult). After the holidays I plan to start querying the YA novel, Ophelia's Flowers. I also have a nonfiction children's article coming up in April in the magazine AppleSeeds, about the evolution of dogs from wolves.

Have many works have you published total?
About twenty nonfiction articles, but no fiction yet.

How long have you been working on Ophelia's Flowers?
I wrote most of Ophelia a few years ago, but got sick of it and put it aside. Then I wrote the fantasy, sent out a bunch of queries, and received a bunch of rejections. After that I decided to go back to Ophelia, revising, rearranging and editing.

Tell us a little about it.
Teenage angst. The basic plot is: girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a manipulative jerk, bad things happen.

Ophelia's Flowers is full of some, frankly, gritty teenage stuff. Where did you find the inspiration for that?
I've been in a manipulative relationship and started writing Ophelia in the hope of helping some other girl who might find herself in a similar situation. Most of the plot is completely fictional, but there are little kernels inspired by real life.

What are your goals for Ophelia's Flowers?
Hopefully traditional publishing.

Have you sent out any queries? How many have you gotten responses to?
I haven't queried for Ophelia yet, but sent out roughly forty for the middle-grade fantasy. One agent requested the full manuscript but declined to pick up the project. I've got my fingers crossed.

What is your favorite book or author, and why?
Too hard of a question! I love love love the Harry Potter series, and fantasy in general, but will read pretty much anything. I just finished reading The Magician King by Lev Grossman, and started A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I also have a fascination with children's picture books and love David Wiesner's work.

What has been the hardest part about writing your current work? About writing in general?
For me, writing isn't hard in itself, but the hard part is making time for it and making myself do it. I know some writers who get up at 5 AM to write before they take the kids to school or go to work, but I'm not that energetic. I tend to go in phases when I write a lot, but then won't write again for a month or two.

What has been the best or most rewarding aspect of writing?
I guess I'm just compelled to write, to get my thoughts on paper (or on the screen). Even when I'm not doing "official" writing, i.e., writing that might eventually make some money, I also blog and write book reviews.

Do you have any "technical" suggestions for new writers?
Getting into a writing critique group is important. You need people to say, "This part doesn't work," or, "You used the wrong word here," instead of just saying, "It was good."

Do you have any sage advice for new writers?
Don't take rejections personally. After about fifty rejections you sort of become immune to them.

Do you have any online media my readers can check out?
I have two blogs, one on writing and books at, and the other on veterinary medicine and my personal life at I'm also a frequent contributor to a book review blog,

There you have it folks, stop by and check out her blog and say "hi". If you haven't already, check out my other interviews with aspiring writer Melanie Fowler and author Peter Orullian, who's hardcover The Unremembered is on sale now for just $7 on

Interview with Peter Orullian, author of THE UNREMEMBERED, now on special sale through Tor Books!

This is incredibly exciting for me, and I'd like to thank Peter for graciously giving me the opportunity to interview him. The hardback of his book The Unremembered is on sale right now for $7 on Amazon; click here to take a look.

Peter Orullian
I first met Peter at the Caped Conduit 2011, a sci-fi/fantasy writing convention held here in Salt Lake City every year. My wife Becky and I were making the rounds to all the hourly panels that we found interesting and pertinent to my own work, and stopped by one called "To Cliche or not to Cliche". As you can probably guess, the subject was figuring out when stereotypes, cliches, and tropes are appropriate in genre fiction (hint: more than you'd think). Peter was on the panel with a few other authors: Michael Collings, Berin Stephens, Suzanne Vincent and Tracy Hickman. Each panelist took turns talking about a lot of incredibly interesting things, but it was Peter Orullian who really struck me. Through the entire panel I kept thinking, "Who is this incredibly passionate dude with long hair, and why haven't I heard of him before?" I could tell whenever he spoke that he really cared about being at the con, and more than that, he cared about writers and writing in general.

After the panel, Becky and I stopped him in the hall and told him how we enjoyed his comments. Surprisingly, he took the time to talk to us for about five whole minutes, really paying attention and clearly investing in speaking to us. He told us about his new book titled The Unremembered that had come out, and showed us a copy he had with him.

We've spoken several times since then, and Peter has always been extremely amicable. I can think of no one I would rather have as my first Published Author Interviewee. So without further ado, I'll jump right into the good stuff. Ladies and worms: Peter Orullian.

Peter was born and raised here in Utah. He graduated magnum cum laude from the University of Utah, and later met his wife before moving to Seattle where he currently lives. He works full time, but still fits in writing, getting up at ungodly hours to write the second book in "The Vault of Heaven" series, a trilogy he sold to Tor Books. The first volume, The Unremembered was released earlier this year in April.

Take a look at the great recommendation by Terry Brooks (author of the numerous
SHANNARA novels) and ogle the beautiful cover art. Then go buy it. Really. Here. Now.

So Peter, tell us a little about yourself. Are you married?
Indeed. I snagged a good one, too. We went to high school together, but didn’t date until we’d both graduated. Actually, in high school, I dated her best friend. Don’t know what that’s about. She’s got a great sense of humor, though. Maybe that’s it.

What about kids?
Yes, two. Both are wicked smart. My son has perfected the Vector (from Despicable Me) butt-slapping dance. When we go to the bookstore, my daughter chooses books on geology, astronomy, geography . . . girl’s going to be a scientist. She’s starting to doubt the whole Santa thing. The other day, my son, who’s younger, says, “If you don’t believe, you don’t get presents.” Because she really does want to believe, she articulates this bit of logic: “I do get presents, therefore I must believe.” Love that kid!

What do you do for a living?
I work at Microsoft in the Xbox division. I’m in marketing—read: “separate you from your money.” So, ya know, if you gotta work . . .

Having a full time day job, how do you find a balance between work, writing, recreation, and your family?
Tough. I get up a little after 3:30 a.m. every day to write. I work at it until about 7:30, then I head off to a long day at Microsoft. Come home. Eat. Kids. Wife. Sleep. Repeat. Oh, and I fit in music there somewhere, both listening and playing. Takes a lot of discipline. But I have little choice now; Tor bought three books, and they wants ‘em.

How long ago did you first start writing?
Not easy to answer, actually. I wrote once every few years, for a single evening, when I was very young. Nothing sustained. Then, just out of high school, I did a few short stories. Very Stephen King-esque. (BTW, I recently re-read those, and I think they hold up pretty well.) Then, later, in college, I wrote an Honors Thesis, which was a couple hundred page piece of fiction called Skinwalker, based on the Navajo legend—more King-like prose. But I didn’t kind of get serious until about ten years ago, I guess. And ­real­ seriousness probably began about five years ago. So, pick your poison.

Tell us a bit about The Unremembered.
(He refers me to the back of the book, retyped here for your pleasure.)

When rumors of threatened strife from ancient enemies reach the eastlands of Aeshau Vaalthe, those rumors auger an onslaught of raids and destruction more severe than any since the legendary Convocation of Seats, a gathering unknown in the land for generations without number.
For an author's son, a true threat would mean taking up a legendary weapon with hands that have never touched steel;
For an expectant mother, it would mean learning the harsh toll the world exacts from its children, and the latent power of her song to ease their suffering;
For the simple huntsman, it would mean discovering his lost childhood, and facing the truth behind the words he is impelled to speak each time he draws his bow.
These three, aided by an exile who fosters orphans in a desolate waste, a rogue member of a powerful ancient brotherhood, and a woman warrior of a legendary race, will fight the past even as the face a dark future.
Because the threats are more than rumor...

(Peter continues.)

As for where THE UNREMEMBERED fits in the broader fantasy genre, it’s squarely in the epic category. Lots of fantasy books these days are marketed as ‘epic’ by publishers, because they want to appeal to that audience. But most of them aren’t epic, really. But by most definitions of epic, THE UNREMEMBERED qualifies: war, conflict of nations, social tumult, scale, moral questions, family implications—you get the point.

How long after you completed The Unremembered was it published?
Ten long years. I wrote a few books afterward. Later on, when I found a new agent, the first thing he sold was the fantasy. Goes down like that sometimes. It’s all about patience with writing and publishing. Which means I’m constantly being tested. . .

If you could describe the process of writing The Unremembered from the first draft stage to the initial release day in one word, what would it be?

Where (chronologically) does the writing of The Unremembered fit into your other works?
Second. I wrote a dark thing very much like a Dan Simmons or Stephen King's novel first. After THE UNREMEMBERED, I wrote a couple of thrillers. Someday, I’m going to publish those thrillers. I’m quite proud of them.

I hear you are working on the next book in the "Vault of Heaven". Does it have a title yet? How is it progressing?
I do, but it hasn’t been unveiled yet. I imagine that’ll happen when Tor puts out the cover. I have to say, though. I quite like the title. I think it’s got power.

On the writing front, I’m closing in on the end. I’m going to have a whole lot of self-editing to do, though, as it’s gotten very big. I scoped a huge amount of story for the second volume. So, first draft complete pretty soon. Then, merciless cutting.

Why did you choose to write fantasy? What attracted you to that genre over other genres like science fiction or historical fiction?
Well, I do write in other genres, as noted above. Oddly, most of my published short fiction is SF. But I love writing fantasy because you can explore questions that if you tried to deal with in a contemporary novel would get readers panties in a bunch. Try writing a fiction book where good/evil—even if it’s all grey-like and ambiguous—is prominently featured and it’s present-day. You’ll immediately polarize your audience. People are funny that way. But with a fantasy, it’s somehow safe to explore such things. Plus, you know, magic, dragons, like that.

What has it been like to meet your fans, and talk about your fiction with them?
All smiles. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is. I wrote a book I’d like to read. So I get all nerdy talking about the intricacies of my world and plot and characters with folks who’ve read my book—if they want to, that is.

How do you get in the mood to write?
I get up. That sounds snarky, but honestly, if you’re finding yourself needing to get in the mood, you better question how bad you want it.

What do you do when you feel like your day's writing is crap?
Never satisfied; always content. My vocal trainer taught me this little bit of wisdom. Essentially, it means: I’m at peace with where I’m at, what I’ve done; but I’m always stretching for better. Hard to go wrong with this approach.

What is the hardest part about writing for you? Coming up with an idea, building an outline, writing dialogue?
Right now, it’s not over-lamenting that I don’t have more time to do it; and related to that, not hating on writers who do. They don’t suck for getting to write full time, honest.

Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?
Yes. Lame answer, right? But here’s the thing. They’re all me. And none of them are me. I’ve invested a lot of heart into all of them. There are things about each that I love: Grant’s uncompromising nature; Vendanj’s willingness to do anything to achieve his goal; Sutter’s good humor; the tragic backstory of Jastail; Wendra’s music capabilities; Braethen’s marriage of knowledge and desire; Tahn’s ability to relate to all of the above, and his passion for the sunrise. Gosh, I could get all sappy on you here . . .

Were there any scenes that just creeped you out to write? Or gave you goosebumps?
Yeah, Wendra’s scene in the high-mountain pass when she confronts the Bar’dyn and finally looses her dark song. I can both see it and hear it. Gives me chills.

Also, there are several scenes in book two which have been tough to write. You’ll see. But readers will have to confront some stuff when they come upon these ones. Hope you all survive. Bwa ah ah ah ah.

Pretty much all your characters in the Vault of Heaven have some sort of tragic past; where do you think your inspiration comes from, and do your characters ever depress you?
I guess I feel like it’s less interesting if a character’s history is daisies and parasols. We tend to be defined more by the trials in our lives than anything else. Plus, ya know, pre-industrial worlds are tough on folks. Beyond all that, I like giving my characters internal struggles and something to try and overcome. Where’s the inspiration come from? Well, our world has its share of strife, if I need source material. Mostly, things just occur to me as I’m writing or creating a character. But nah, I don’t get depressed. I’ll put it this way. Probably the nicest thing a reviewer ever said about the book was something to the effect of: The dark moments make the rays of hope shine the brighter. I butchered that. But she was referring to Tahn’s stint in prison. It’s a dark passage in the book for many reasons. And yet, there are some sublime moments that take place there. So, a ray of hope in the dark, maybe.

You've talked a lot elsewhere about how important good characters are. Do you have any particular process for developing your characters that you would like to share?
It’s somewhat instinctual. I will say this, though. As much as I love magic systems, and world building, and dragons, and sword fights, and all the rest of it, what you come away from a book with is a feeling (maybe a relationship, if you want to go that far) with the characters. That’s what you’ll remember, mostly, when the experience of reading the book is done. So, I kind of put some time in on characters. And it’s been gratifying that one of the fairly uniform comments from fans and reviewers has been that they think I did this well. I don’t wish to sound arrogant. I’ve got room—as all writers do—for growth. And even where characterization is concerned, I’m always putting in my time. But I think the investment of thoughtful energy in their creation is paramount. You can go a long ways by simply asking; What matters most to my character?

Do you have any words of advice for us aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. When someone beats down on your dream, let it make you mad enough to try harder. Defy the naysayers. Keep at it. If you show up at your writing desk every day, eventually good things will happen.

Do you know when you'll be stopping by Utah again for a signing?
Man, I don’t. I hope it’s soon. I may try to tag Brandon again for a joint signing like we did a few months back. With any luck, it’ll be in the spring.

Is there anything else you'd like to say, comment on, plug, pitch, or geek out about?
Well, if you manage to publish this soon, folks can get the hardback of THE UNREMEMBERED on Amazon for 7 bucks. That’s cheaper than the paperback will be. So, deal hunters take note. The paperback releases in February for readers who like that form factor. As for geeking out, I’ll turn to my music side for a moment and say: Folks, you need to be listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra! You’ll thank me.

Thanks Peter, I really appreciate you making yourself available to your fans! Hopefully we get some good hits on the interview and spread the word about your book.

Be sure to check out his site, watch some of his own interviews, listen to some of the music he's done, and read all the extra goodies.

Short Story: A New Sorceress on the Council

Waldorf ran his be-ringed fingers over the rough gray stubble on his chin. Just a moment ago, it had been a rather magnificent beard, falling in waves to his belt. Scissors had made short work of it, and now he could comfortably run a razor over what remained. His magic could have done the job well enough, but after two hundred years, Waldorf knew better than to try doing anything that close to his face with magic.

Gazing into his scrying orb, the wizard examined his jaw line as the razor glided through the cream on his cheeks. How had he forgotten his weak jaw line? His neck looked like an iguana's. Shaking his head, Waldorf pushed the orb with a stream of golden magic, adjusting its angle of observation to better see what he was doing.

Waldorf could hear his wife moving about the tower beyond the stout wooden door of the washroom he stood in. Here a stair squeaked, there a cupboard opened, then shut. He glanced surreptitiously at the thick iron lock, not knowing exactly why he was nervous. He was only shaving his beard after all... perfectly normal thing to do. The blade nicked a wattle on his skinny neck, and he grimaced. Slapping a handful of greenblane on the tiny cut, he moved the razor onward, working away at the scruff on his upper lip.

Several minutes later, Waldorf looked at the shaven lizard staring back at him in the scrying orb and sighed. Something needed to be done about his hair. This dirty gray just wouldn't do. An idea occurred to him. He glanced around, located his staff, and taking it in hand pushed open the window. A brisk summer breeze blew his long wispy hair about as he thrust his head outward, peering down the long tower wall to the second window down. His wife had a magical crock of dye down there in her sewing room, and it would be just the thing. Muttering some boring words, Waldorf waited a moment before reaching out to grasp the newly arrived stone crock that floated in front of him.

Smoothing his purple robes, he lifted the lid and sniffed the clear liquid inside, recoiling slightly at the scent. Bleh. The staff went back to leaning against the wall, and the crock was set upon the wash basin as Waldorf thought about what color his hair would soon be. Purple was obvious, it matched most of his robes. But would The Council laugh? Most likely. Brown was probably the safest color, it was what he had been born with.

Snipping carefully with the scissors, Waldorf cut his white hair short, hoping that he hadn't missed any strands on the back of his head. Any chunks of uneven hair would be covered by his wizarding hat wouldn't they? Best to not worry about it.

Now the unpleasant task of applying the dye to his head. Surely it would work, even if it was a bit unconventional. After all, his wife colored her new dresses however she liked. Removing the lid with distaste for the smell, Waldorf glanced around, wondering how to best get the magic liquid from the crock to his hair. Was there a ladle? Did he just pour it on? No, that sounded rather sloppy.

In the end, he decided to simply dip his fingers in the watery substance and rub it quickly into his hair, imagining a handsome color of brown all the while. That step was very important, requiring steady, controlled thoughts to get the desired results. Waldorf closed his eyes as he worked, the acrid smell of the dye burning his nose and throat.

Finally he opened them and gazed into the scrying orb. There was still a shaven iguana gazing back him, only this time it had a mop of jet black fluff on its head. Apparently the dye was "Extra Strength" or something. Waldorf peered at the crock dismally. A label saying so would have been nice. Still, this black was better than wild white hair and a massive beard wasn't it? Looking objectively at himself once more, he supposed he did look younger, more... dashing.

Someone cleared their throat and Waldorf jumped and glanced around, startled. His wife Delores stood in the open washroom doorway, her hands planted on her ample hips. Waldorf glanced at the treacherous iron lock, then back to his wife's eyes. Oh my.

“Delores...,” he said weakly, “I didn't know you were about....”

Waldorf's wife stared at him with blue eyes like disapproving ice cubes until he wilted. Shoulders slumped, Waldorf handed her the crock of magic dye as the black faded from his white hair. Several more moments of squinted displeasure, and Waldorf's wife slowly swung the door shut, leaving the wizard once again alone in the washroom.

He knew exactly what she would have said if she hadn't chosen the "cold silence" route: 

"Walforf you old goat! Just what do you think you're doing? You look ridiculous! Is this because of that new young thing on The Council? Well I have news for you, you besotted old fool, no twenty-year old sorceress is going to look twice at the likes of you! Now fix your hair and get to work on that weak chin of yours!"

Waldorf cringed at the thought and ran his be-ringed hand over his smooth chin as he looked in the scrying orb. It looked as if he would be growing an entire beard tonight, and by the look in Delores's eyes, he was to remain here until it was finished.

The two-hundred year-old wizard snatched up his staff as he plopped onto a stool in the corner, and settled in for a very long night.

Aspiring Writer Interview: Melanie Chaston Fowler

With this series, tentatively titled "AWI" (Aspiring Writer Interviews, clever I know), I hope to bring out some wonderful writers and get the word out about the great scene we have here in Utah. If even one person is inspired by it to begin their own writing endeavors, it will be well worth it. This is the first of (hopefully) many interviews I will be doing each week. 

Melanie Chaston Fowler
I thought I'd start off with someone I know: fellow aspiring writer, Melanie Chaston Fowler. We actually attended the same high school and performed in the same (awesome) choir. Several years after graduating I discovered that she too wanted to be a writer, and already had a few years under her belt. Melanie began writing in earnest in 2007, though she wrote a book in high school that was read each week by a friend as it progressed. She is 24 years old and married with two children, "the most beautiful daughter, and the toughest, sweetest little boy." She lives in Northern Utah, and loves it.

I had a chance to ask Melanie some questions yesterday, and I hope you enjoy hearing about what she has been up to.

Tell us what writing project you're currently working on?
Daughters of Etheria

How long have you been working on it?
Since 2007

Can you tell us a little about it?
It is a childhood game that my sisters and I used to play when we were young. It is about four girls who are the four seasons, and my book is about how the four seasons/girls, came to be. 

What are your goals for it?
I would like to traditionally publish but I'm open to other ideas if things don't work out.

Have you sent out any queries? How many have you gotten responses to?
None yet, but I know I'm getting closer because I just downloaded Elana Johnson's *FREE* e-book called From the Query to the Call.

What/who is your favorite book or author?
It changes so frequently, in middle school, my first love of books were Dealing With Dragons by Patrica C. Wrede, and Beauty by Robin McKinley. But now I love anything fantasy, and mostly YA (young adult) but I have a growing love for MG (middle grade), especially since another story of mine is going to be MG.

What has been the hardest part of writing Daughters of Etheria?
For my current novel, figuring out the point of view. And writing in general, learning how to balance it all, life, writing, and more life.

What has been the best or most rewarding aspect of writing?
Probably having author friends that have succeeded in getting their books published. It's simply amazing.

Do you have any sage advice for new writers?
New authors; don't be afraid to call yourself a writer. Also start a blog, create a platform. Learn from others, and go to a conference. Get a crit. partner. And lastly, it doesn't all have to happen at once. Take your time, but keep moving forward. Don't ever give up. If you have a story that you want to tell, keep working on it until it is perfect, and then when you think it's perfect. Work on it again. Just keep going.

Thanks Melanie.

Melanie runs her own blog Adventure Writes, and is quite active in the writing scene. I highly recommend you check her out, and get involved with some of the awesome stuff she has going on.

Short Story: Darkness by the Funhouse

I thought I'd write something that wasn't fun or fantastical. I was reading an article today about job satisfaction, and how amusement park workers are among the lowest tier. It made me think about what it would really be like to be one them, and I found myself writing a short story. So here it is. Warning: there are some relatively adult subjects and language.

Seth rubbed his hands together against the cold wind. His knuckles were chapped, and small cracks were beginning to open up. His skin itched horribly, but he couldn't afford the gloves or even moisturizer to solve the problem. He blew on his numb fingers and wiped his running nose as he squinted his eyes against the wind. Red and brown leaves skittered across the asphalt and the skeletal trees creaked back and forth. It was well into November already, and even without snow, it was freezing. Raging Funland had decided to stay open through the fall this year, trying to squeeze the last few dollars out of the amusement park-going public. Seth was one of the few employees that had somehow ended up with a double shift this weekend, and he hadn't had the nerve to refuse. He was currently on hour four of his shift minding the Funhouse, pressing the cold button to advance the rail cars as people climbed in and out.

Seth knew he couldn't complain. His mother didn't work, so it was up to him to support the two of them. The extra shift would be just enough to keep the heat on for another month. Not to mention when he tried to get out of extra shifts, she yelled at him. He wasn't exactly afraid of her, she was too heavy to get off the couch, but he hated when she was mad. It was too loud. All he wanted was to be left alone when he got home, so he could go to his room without talking to her. He spent all his time in there, drawing or sitting on the bed. At least he could keep that much of the apartment clean.

A group of teenagers a couple of years younger than him walked past, laughing loudly as they waited in line outside the Funhouse. Seth watched them bitterly. They were all happy and warm, most of them attractive and probably popular. One of the girls in a pink parka was wearing tight jeans, and Seth absently watched her behind as she walked past. One of her friends glanced back and saw him, so he jerked his eyes away and scratched at a paint fleck on the black metal button stand. He felt his cheeks heat up as their laughter pummeled him. They were probably cheerleaders, and he hated cheerleaders, even if he couldn't help but watch them.

He pressed the car button again, not caring to give the mandatory safety speech. If anyone was stupid enough to stick their arm out while the cars turned a corner, it served them right. More people crowded past, their inane babble obnoxious to his ears. It was better than the Funhouse music though. Sometimes when there was no one in line, Seth could hear every off-pitch note from the metal clarion, repeated over and over. He wanted to curl up in a ball and scream. He tried his best not to.

How could all these people be happy? Seth watched the group of girls get into a car, hating himself for how much he wanted to look at them. He couldn't help it; it felt good to imagine the bodies under their clothes, and he almost never felt good. He rubbed the scars on his wrist, feeling the raised, bumpy skin. That was another thing he couldn't seem to help. His mother never noticed what he did, not even when he left the blood on the sink overnight.

"Miller!" an angry voice said suddenly from behind him, and Seth jumped. He turned around and cringed at the sight of his supervisor's bulk advancing quickly toward him. Bill Masterson had a gut that hung far over his belt, so large he couldn't zip up the ugly brown windbreaker he was wearing. He had a thick black beard like a wire brush and chew-stained teeth. The man stopped so close to Seth that his rancid breath washed over him. "Are you reviewing the safety guidelines for every group?" he demanded.

"Yes," Seth lied.

"You little shit," Bill gritted, and Seth looked at the ground quickly. "I know you aren't, I was just listening! I can't believe you just lied to me! Do you ever say it?"


"Bullshit," his supervisor spat. "I warned you about this last time didn't I? My ass is on the line when you lazy piss-offs don't follow the rules! Do you want me to lose my job?"

Seth wanted very badly to say yes. He hated Bill Masterson more than anyone else, and listening to him yell was worse than his mother ever was. The man losing his job would make Seth genuinely happy for once. Instead he shook his head. "No," he whispered.

"Well it doesn't matter," Bill said, "You're fired Miller. Get your ass out of here."

Seth looked up in shock. "What?"

"You're done, dude."

"You can't, I need this job!" Seth sputtered, knowing from the stinging in his eyes that he was about to start crying.

"Not my problem," his supervisor said, raising a hand dismissively as he turned to walk away, "I'll send Rita to take over, and I want you to leave as soon as she gets here."

Seth stared at the man's retreating back, a fire flowing through his veins. He had never wanted to hurt anyone so badly as he did now. He clenched his fists until they started to shake. Bill got into a golf cart and sped off before taking a turn behind a building, where he disappeared from sight. Seth let his shoulders slump. What was he going to do? Fight Bill Masterson? He let out a gasp as impotent tears of anger fell down his cheeks.

He waited until Rita came, not even looking at the girls as they exited the Funhouse noisily, then he walked slowly back to the main office where he would turn in his Raging Funland polo shirt. What was he going to tell his mother?

An article I thought you all might like.

My brother Travis sent this to me, and I thought it was interesting. Click here for the link. How do you do the whole "writing thing"?

New friends, new writers... Good to meet you!

It seems like the interviews are going to be a pretty fun feature, because I got a lot of interest from all of you on Melanie Chasten Fowler's from yesterday (or maybe it was just the fact that it was Melanie). Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment. A special thanks to those of you who added me as followers! I look forward to some good conversations.

As I've said before, the purpose of this blog was originally to give myself a writing outlet while I was in school, and didn't have time to actually write in my own novel much. Since then I've had several people tell me that they had found some worth in something I posted, and it had helped them with their own writing (I don't claim to be any kind of expert in the slightest). So the blog has morphed into something I think might be beneficial to the writing community. The way I plan to accomplish this is to open it up to everyone to contribute. I know many of you have blogs or websites, and I want to be a support for those. If you have an event or contest you'd like to spread around, let me know. If you have an awesome local writer you'd like me to interview (even if it's yourself), also let me know! Feel free to post any questions about writing you might have in my post's comments, or email me.

If you discover a great website or book that has helped you in your own writing, let me know so I can post it. Throw quotes from authors' blogs at me, notify me if you get published or self-publish. Let's pull some of the great writers here in Utah into the spotlight and get some great books out there!

Local Aspiring Writer Interviews.

Every week, starting now, I will be conducting an interview with a local aspiring writer from here in Utah. I hope to make it a regular thing, and I have several people in mind already. Soon though, I'll need to get some suggestions from all of you out there in Internetland. So if you know anyone who is currently writing, regardless of whether or not they've been published, refer them to me. I only ask that they have been doing so for long enough to have formed some (somewhat) solid ideas about themselves and their book, and it would be helpful if they have some kind of Internet presence (blog, Facebook, website, etc.).

So have at it, start sending people my way. You, or the writer themselves, can contact me at

One last note. If this is successful, I'll possibly begin doing interviews with aspiring writers outside of Utah, and perhaps someday get some published authors on here also.

Freelance Writing: A Plea.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with my life. I obviously dream of being a full time writer, but there's a lot that goes into that. Much of it is outside the aspiring writer's control. (For instance, I don't have complete control over my work and school schedule, I have financial obligations that prevent me from devoting more time to writing, and who knows if anyone will ever buy one of my books?) I don't want to be one of those writers who pins their hopes on a book selling someday (not that there is anything wrong with that) and does nothing else. Even if I never sell a book, I still want to write for a living.

I've come to the conclusion that I'd like to start questing into the world of freelance writing, be it the Community College newspaper, websites, blogs, articles, or what-have-you. I have no illusions that I will have much success, especially to begin with, but I need to get out there. I can't complacently sit by while my life passes in front of me. College is a great plan, but it can't be my only plan, just like my book can't be my only plan.

So the question is this: how the heck does anyone get started in freelancing? What I know about it could be written on the back of a stamp. In 24 pt font. I've heard that most places don't accept unsolicited inquiries, which leaves me... where exactly? How does one find information about writing one-time articles? Are there websites advertising for writers? Are there publications that regularly accept submissions? What about short stories, is anyone taking those? These are all questions I'm hoping some of you might have suggestions or answers to. I'm not too worried about compensation right now (obviously), I mostly want to flex my writing muscles and work with some deadlines and editors, even if it's just on a small scale.

Blow up the comments people, I appreciate anyone's input!

A little status update, and a word from Pat Rothfuss (via his blog, link in the body).

Okay, so I thought it was high time to write once more about writing, even if it's short. I've been steadily making progress on TSS 2.0 over the last few weeks. I estimate I've already passed the 50k word point, though only 20k of it is in the current first draft (the rest is garbage I eventually filed away). 30k is a lot of words to throw out, but I had good reason, and it wasn't for nothing.

As some of you may remember, in the course of rewriting the book from the ground up, I chose to convert it to a sort of urban fantasy, where a girl from our world crosses to a magical one. This is really exciting for me, and I feel like overall, it's going really well. But, there have been challenges. The biggest one has been the scene where she first appears in the new world, and subsequently needs to get some info about her new surroundings. (The reader also has to get info, otherwise they'd be completely lost.) My first attempt was about 15 pages long, and was a train wreck of info-dumping and unnatural dialogue. The second attempt trimmed it down to maybe 10 or 11 pages, but didn't really address or solve the original problems. (Keep in mind, these were complete rewrites of the same scene, not edits.) The third draft of the scene was about 8 pages, and I decided to rethink the process, eventually changing some key elements of the logistics so everything flowed a bit better, but once again, I didn't solve the problem. It was still too long and it still felt like an info dump (I was bombarding the reader with names and terms), both of which add up to a really, really bad scene.

So I asked some people what they thought. I asked my writing group (a bunch of really neat people who I have only met like 3 times, but we chat over the interwebs) for some suggestions, and threw some ideas around at my family. Eventually I was able to hammer out a new version, and with Becky's help, I reformulated the scene, switching out characters, and revising the outcome of the "magical explanation". I started to write it, and made it about halfway through before I once again realized it just wasn't right. The basics of the new idea were solid, and it would work, but I was still trying to do too much, too soon. A couple of writing groupies (is that a good term?) brought up some books that had slow reveals related to the magic system and travel to magical worlds, so I tried hard to edit my own thinking on the subject.

So I began Rewrite Number 5 of this particular scene. This time, I acknowledged that I couldn't do everything in one scene. I wrote it simple and fast, trying to be concise as possible. I eliminated several aspects of the previous scenes, made the reasons for appearing in a magical world more of a mystery, and withheld some stuff that the reader probably didn't need to know (the technical mumbo jumbo I had developed for myself).

I ended that version at 5 pages, and while it still needs the tweeks and revisions all first drafts need, I think I finally pinpointed the right way to do it. Last night I was able to move on and begin writing Chapter Five, where the story really gets interesting.

In all, my wasted words add up to about 30k, but the trimmed and lean version was worth it, and I learned a lot about myself as a writer, and also saw the deep black hole many writers fall into. Endless rewrites of a chapter early on can really take the passion out of you, and stall your book. While I think I escaped that trap this time, it's something to look out for in the future. 

On a related note, I wanted to share something Pat Rothfuss (author of the Kingkiller Chronicles) posted in his blog a while back, and I hope he doesn't mind me linking it here.

How to overcome fear of failure, by Pat Rothfuss: "You come to grips with the fact that writing something that sucks is better than writing nothing at all.

If you write something and it sucks, then good for you. Not all explorers discovered lost golden cities and trade routes to the mysterious East. Some of them died in a ditch. A lot of them did, actually. But still, they get full props for being brave.

But if you sit there paralyzed with fear, afraid to get out of your chair, then you’re no kind of explorer at all. You’re just a sad bastard. You have no chance of being cool.

The same is true with writing."

Now at 22k words (not counting 10k that went into the trash) into TSS 2.0!

It's been a while since I posted, but I see that some people at least have continued to visit everyday. Thanks for that. I've been involved in school and am currently in a post-procrastination rush toward finals. With only a week left, I find myself horribly unprepared, so this will be a small island in a sea of non-existent posts.

First off, any of you who come to visit me and also participated in NaNoWriMo, congratulations (if you succeeded)! Even if you didn't make the 50k word goal, you should pat yourself on the back, then keep going! Finish it!

As the post title says, I'm currently at 22k words into my rewrite of TSS. I had planned to do NaNoWriMo, but only started mid month, so I guess you could say I'm on track so far to hit my 50k mid December. With school though, I'm looking at the middle of January as my goal. This particular rewrite is shaping up to be a lot longer too, possibly into the 110k range as opposed to TSS 1.0, which was 86K words. The story is progressing nicely, and oddly enough, becoming more mature and complicated, despite having made my characters 2 years younger than before.

Just a small note before I take off. If you writers out there haven't looked into a program called Scrivener, you need to do so, now. Click here and watch the videos, download a 30 day trial, and prepare to be blown away as it changes your writing forever.

Well, I'm off for another week at least, nose to the wheel and shoulder to the grindstone and all that. Thanks for stopping by!

Giving in to NaNoWriMo.

I officially signed up for NaNoWriMo last night. Yes, I know I'm half way through the month already, and I've only been writing for a week, but their little word count graph was just too much to pass up. I'm currently at just below 16,000 words, and need to step up my daily writing to finish 50,000 by the end of the month. My current goal was 2k per day, but now I need to do 2.3K to catch up. Will I succeed? I dunno. Finals are coming up in a few weeks, and I have a massive research paper in my Art History class, so I may be doomed to failure. However, it's important to me to know where I sit, and shooting for a goal will help motivate me, even if it may not be possible. So here goes.

I'll try to link my graph somehow....

Opportunities to write... Are they really that few and far between?

Lately I've been bemoaning my lack of time. With work and school sucking down minutes and hours like a hungry hamster, it seems like the day is over before I can manage to type a word. Even on the days where I manage to find an hour or two, I feel like my brain will explode if I don't veg out in front of Frazier on Netflix, or catch up on that MMO I've been playing.

Thing is, I'm looking at it all wrong. Writing is hard, but it isn't work. At least it shouldn't be. I've personally found a lot of pleasure and pride in the things I've written (crazy, but true), so why do I treat it like a chore? I think the answer lies in my organization of priorities. I've chosen to put TV and MMOs in a place of importance when it comes to relaxation, when really, I should be developing writing into my main source of enjoyment. And here's the thing, writing is totally fun. It really is. But sometimes our brains have to be taught that fact. Even us bookish types have been indoctrinated all our lives that the definition of recreation is watching the tube or playing video games. On a related note. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim comes out tomorrow, and I won't be purchasing it. Why? Well, the $60 price tag is part of it, but mainly, it's because I want to remove that lazy temptation to fall back to video games from my life. If I'm bored or stressed, I should go write, and if that means radically changing my way of thinking about it, then so be it.

Writing can be fun, and it should be. No one, and I mean no one, should be writing novels or stories because they think it's a smart career choice. What about you? What things are you letting get in the way of writing?

I've officially started the first draft of a new The Sometimes Sword.

After converting the existing (straight fantasy) prologue to fit with the current incarnation (urban fantasy), I have completed the first chapter--nearly 6k words--so far. It's going surprisingly well. Despite my misgivings, I'm staying motivated and positive, and I think it's reflected in the material. Entering the modern world as opposed to a pseudo-medieval one in my writing is something I've never done before. It feels odd to reference things like TVs or iPods, but it's also kinda fun. Writing about high school and friends seems natural to me, and a character that previously lacked a fully-formed personality has since come busting through the screen at me.

I exceeded my daily goal of 2k words by, well, 2k words, for a total of 4k today alone. If I stick to it, I will easily have a 90k word book by the end of the year, ready to be edited and revised, possibly even submitted by summer 2012. (Once again, in case you missed it, this is a rewrite of The Sometimes Sword, an already completed novel running at 86k words. I am rewriting it to convert the entire thing into urban fantasy, a task too large for simply revision.)

Here's hoping this holiday season is a productive one! What about you? What are you working on right now?

Converting a draft into a new story.

I'm going to try and start writing shorter posts, to make it less of a chore for you to read. So here goes.

I'm in the first steps of tearing apart The Sometimes Sword, mostly just thinking about it. I have yet to do any actual changes to the words, but I'm making progress nonetheless. Yesterday while I was walking into the Tech building for my math class, I had an epiphany of sorts. It wasn't a specific idea for the story, more like an over-all revelation. It occurred to me that I wasn't thinking big enough, despite my intentions to reorganize the book. I needed to completely re-imagine the whole thing, from the ground up.

So I spent some time thinking about everything (you might begin to detect a common theme here about thinking...): what I like to read, what I want to write, whether or not I had pigeon-holed myself, etc. I came to several conclusions, one of which was a pretty big deal. I've always been a fan of urban fantasy, and wanted some of that feeling in my book, but at the same time, I don't want The Sometimes Sword to take place in our world. So as of right now, I am in the process of converting an existing character into a modern-day visitor to the world of TSS, sort of a Narnia/Harry Potter type infiltration of a magical This changes so much existing material that I will essentially be rewriting the book as opposed to revising it, regardless of the scale. It's a monumental change, but since I'm writing it as a new book I will hopefully make more headway than if I had continued editing.

Perhaps this will give me the motivation I need to get some real progress made toward my dream of being a writer, and as winter break approaches, perhaps I'll have the time too.

Research and Writing.

Why should writers/authors do research, and what benefits does it have? I'm sure opinions on this subject vary wildly. I wanted to give some of my thoughts, along with recent experiences while working in The Sometimes Sword.

I've never been a research buff. I've always fancied that, in Fantasy at least, the author's mind should be sufficient to provide details in the world they themselves made. (Makes sense right?) Well, not so much. recently I've been taking advantage of research more, and I wish I had started earlier. First though, let me define research, as there are two parts in my opinion. First, what most people think of: basic fact finding such as discovering the different parts of a horse's saddle, looking up what different metals were used in weapons in medieval societies, or the names of the individual pieces in a set of plate armor, etc. Second, there's the research for story, character, and setting ideas (this one is especially important).

It's true that an author can invent most anything they want to, and a really smart author can bluff their way through many details, or just make them up on the spot. Writing in extreme High Fantasy makes this easier than say, modern crime thrillers, but for those of us who want to ground our fantasy world closer to home, we need to introduce some solid facts to forge that link. For instance, back when I first started The Sometimes Sword, I knew I wanted to have a horse in there somewhere, but knew nothing about them. Not wanting to treat a horse like a motorcycle (as Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary fame phrases it in several Writing Excuses episodes), I had to find out something about them. What do they eat? How much do they eat? How fast can they run, and for how long? Do my characters need to worry about the cost of maintaining their mount? Do they sleep standing up or laying down? These things were important. Even though the story I was writing might have been okay without them, I knew I needed to have those details to give it a sense of reality. So I jumped on the Internet (yes, it really is that easy) and looked up a few reputable sites dedicated to caring for horses and began to read. Truth be told, it ended up being pretty dang interesting all by itself. I took some notes and added a few bookmarks.

I've done the same with pieces of armor, and terms for different weapons and styles of swords. These details, when integrated seamlessly into your story, help to flesh the world out, and give the illusion that you really know what you're talking about. After all, telling a story is all about creating illusions, because an effective one hides everything that doesn't make it into the book, along with any failings the author might have in say, horsemanship.

The other kind of research is a little more involved, and ultimately, serves a story better than fact-finding alone. I'm talking about using the world's thousands of stories as an inspiration for yours. There's a lot more of this than we realize, even from the greats: Lloyd Alexander's Horned King came from an old legend in Ireland (I think) about a spectral hunter with antlers on his head called Herne the Hunter (much of his world is loosely based on Welsh legends). Banshees in countless tales come from another set of Irish legends. Sherlock Holmes's(?) case "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is based on the legend of the Beast of Bodmin Moor. Nearly any modern witch you read about has some characteristics tie back to Black Annis, the English legend of a witch in Cornwall. (Feel free to correct me about these facts or add to them, I haven't actually done research for this blog article, pathetic I know.) J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter and Brandon Mull with Fablehaven use countless fairy tales and mythical creatures from our world to fill their own.

Don't be afraid to do some searching. Need a crazy creature to put your reader at unease? Look no further than the some of the anal-fixated monsters in South America and some of the American islands, or the old crazy stuff Japanese freak the crap out of their kids with. You can find legends about everything: kings with curses, sorcerers who turn people into animals, witches who eat children, demons in disguise, etc. Now, I'm not saying you have to lift details straight from them (though you definitely can) or that you have to base your story on an existing legend. What you can do though, is research these things to give yourself a kick in the pants, or to find something that sets a spark in your brain. When you feel completely squeezed dry of creativity, it helps to take some time looking for stories that intrigue you, then determine what qualities made them stick out, and convert them to something you can use. (I know I've always been fascinated with the old school creepy stuff, hence all the talk of witches and old Irish legends.)

I'm currently doing this for The Sometimes Sword, and I'm finding that so far it's helping to pump some excitement back into the writing process, along with informing some changes to fundamental characters. So next time you sit down to write and feel a little bored, think about doing some research to liven up your story and increase the illusion of reality.

How we should all be viewing our "first drafts".

Lately I've been in a funk. Yes, I just used that word. At some point in the last few months, I realized that I don't know myself as well as I thought. I'm not able to gauge when my depression will kick in, and unlike a few years ago, I can no longer turn it off and on like a switch by listening to some posi-core. Right now I'm feeling better about writing, and a few fun ideas have popped into my head about The Sometimes Sword. But I can't guarantee that next week I'll feel the same. It's a reality I need to face in order to overcome it someday.

As for my blog, I think I may just need to suck it up and write about writing, not the lack thereof. Who knows, maybe it will eventually bring me back into the right state of mind. Today I wanted to focus on editing, specifically when you realize that the editing you are doing is a dead end. At some point a writer might stop in the middle of the second or third edit, sit back, and realize that the story they wanted to write has never been further away from reality than at that exact moment.

You wrote your first draft, maybe you gardened it, watching as it grew and took shape. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the story also got away from you. Perhaps it still turned out well enough, but your original vision got lost in the metaphorical grocery store. Along with the usual horrible prose, shudder-inducing dialogue and other things that plague first drafts, you find yourself trying to find where your vision went. A lot of time can be wasted with this process, and even worse, you may find yourself struggling to deal with a fragmented and revision-heavy manuscript, purely dead weight. I found myself in just this situation a month or so ago. At the time I decided to give up the book indefinitely and move on to something else. I've since changed my mind, for many reasons (you can read about them in some of my previous posts).

So what do you do when you suddenly find yourself in this position? Some people give up, thinking they just aren't good enough writers, others move on to something else (like I almost did), and some people just keep plugging away at it, endlessly revising for years and years. I like to think there is another way. Chuck Wendig at has these wonderful lists he does, usually titled along the lines of "25 Reasons Why Writers Blank" and so on. Recently there has been a theme throughout them (possibly because of NaNoWriMo coming up) where he focuses on the purpose of a first/rough draft. I think many writers, myself included, think of the first draft as the stepping stone to the second draft, then on to the third and so on; something to be improved over time, incrementally revising each version until it shines. Naturally, this can lead to the aforementioned years of editing, or giving up.
Nowadays, I'm suddenly not so sure that this is how it's intended to work. What if--and stay with me here--what if the first draft was meant to be a practice draft, and no more? What if a writer sat down and pounded out a 60k word manuscript just to clear his/her head? We all know what it's like to have an entire world, story, and several characters floating around all schizophrenia-like in our brains, especially when we first develop a story. It's sometimes painful, often confusing, and always frustrating to have so much information stored away without an outlet. What if that first draft was the outlet, and not the first step toward the final result? Crazy huh? (Maybe it's just me, maybe you all knew that back when you were five years-old, and I'm simply horribly behind the times.)

This is something I want experiment with on The Sometimes Sword. What will happen if I take a machete (metaphorically) and hack this book apart, ruthlessly throwing away any crap I encounter, and trim it down to its elements? I'm hoping this will relieve the dead weight, destroy the fragmentation, leaving only the scenes with worth, ready to be studied and arranged how they need to be (maybe even into a new book). Perhaps I can bring my story back to the original vision I had, before it got away from me.

I haven't actually done this yet, but I've been thinking a lot lately (thinking about a story is almost as important as writing it) and I think I have some fun ideas that will add a lot: considering new characters, introducing new plot lines, redefining the antagonist and her motivations, rearranging events, changing character personalities and backgrounds, etc. Another thing I want to bring back is the description of the world and locations, which fell out along the way. I want to dive into the history of the world and highlight the crazy creatures and individuals within it. This last bit is actually why I initially began to write the story, but in the course of devising plot and (struggling) to develop believable characters, this fell by the wayside. (I admit, Fablehaven was the series that sparked this particular desire. I've always had a soft spot for the "magical menagerie" type fantasies, and I wanted to write one myself). I need to bring it back, because it was what made writing The Sometimes Sword fun. Without it, I ended up where I am now with the book, depressed, bored, and pessimistic.
Back to the main point of this post however, my first draft has been treated as a diamond in the rough, as opposed to the wet clay sculpture it really is. There is no cutting and polishing of a precious gem, only demolition and rebuilding, mixing it back into itself. Now that the ideas have been vomited onto the paper, and my brain-clutter cleared away, I can begin writing the real first draft, the one that will eventually become the final manuscript. At least, that's the plan.

What do you think? Are you stuck in a draft that you think is the diamond in the rough, but in reality, is simply the first clay pot that you need to mix back in and start anew?