This blog entry was first posted on Beth Cato’s blog Catch a Star as it Falls. Beth is Dy Loveday‘s critique partner, and she (and Dy) have very kindly given permission for me to re-blog it. Dy’s first novel, Illusions, was released last week by Liquid Silver Books and is available from there and Amazon as an ebook.
In the interests of full disclosure, I will state here that I work with Dy’s partner, so I’m doing my best to give her and her book as much publicity as possible. I’ve started reading it and it’s incredible so far, so please give it a try.
Anyway, take it away Dy!
I remember sending my first 50 pages of the novel to a crit buddy I’d met on the Online Writers Workshop (OWW-SFF). She gently told me I’d made some of the same mistakes she’d made when first starting out, and proceeded to show me exactly what needed to change to get the manuscript into shape.
Writing Illusion wasn’t easy. It took me around 6 months to get the first draft down and another 18 months of hard slog to revise structural problems. Writers often focus on the line edits or nits, misspelled words or agonize for hours over paragraphs of text. But the real problem usually lies in the harder to fix structural issues: boring main characters, superfluous secondary characters, a clichéd or obvious plot line, and my particular bugbear, the wrong point of view. I recently wrote a short story and it just didn’t work. Until I realized I’d been telling it from the daughter’s point of view when it was really the father’s story. Thankfully, it was only a short story, but still …. *bangs keys extra hard for emphasis*
Major revisions can also be enjoyable. During the revision of Illusion, I found myself fleshing out characters, giving them stronger goals and motivations, cutting entire scenes and adding new ones. Maya became less sarcastic and more vulnerable, more specific in her reactions as events in the scene moved her further away, or closer to her goal. I wanted the climax to be exciting, so I spent extra time foreshadowing events, creating decent causal links and giving Molokh a clear agenda. By the end of the book I hoped that even if the reader didn’t like Maya, they’d understand why she did the things she did, and find her interesting and believable.
Working with my OWW crit partners helped a lot. I think every writer needs to surround themselves with a good writing community, because let’s face it writing is a lonely existence. Writers spend so much time in their head it’s easy to forget there are others out there, trying to do the same thing. The virtual support community was essential for me and helped me to develop the skills of the craft. I say ‘develop’ because despite various workshops and writing degrees, I’m still learning. That’s the great thing about writing. It’s such a complex art, you can only get better.
I revised Illusion with the reader in mind and focused on four questions:
1. What contract with the reader did I establish on the first page?
2. What anticipation is this scene creating?
3. Is this causally related?
4. And most important of all, did I fulfill the contract with the reader? Did I deliver what I promised to deliver?
Thank you Beth for hosting me on your site and for helping me with Illusion. Your unique blend of encouragement, humour, gifted writing and ability to find the answer to plot holes was immeasurably helpful, from those first 50 pages to the final product
Thanks Dy, and thanks also to Beth for allowing me to re-host this. I hope that you all check out the book, and importantly leave a review! As a first time author, Dy needs all the support she can get so please do your best and share the love a little. I promise, I’ll do the same for you.