Happy Friday everyone!
It's been a few weeks since I posted a more personal update, rather than a blog tour post (not that I don't love those), so I thought I'd update with what's been going on in my writing world recently.
I'm still working on my new project, and doing so with a more structured plan. The idea is to get a chapter as close to perfect as possible before moving onto the next, so I'm not left with a 90k manuscript full of holes once it comes to revisions.
It's going well. I'd day I'm 90% happy with chapter one. The only problem I was having was with the opener. The age old question struck - was it strong enough? I toyed with the idea of having a later scene at the beginning - a scene in which the antagonist reveals how evil they actually are. But then that lead to the problem that it'd create a looping non-linear narrative, with my story having to go back on itself. After a couple of days debating this problem, my CP and wonderful friend Kyra Lennon, actually pointed out by revealing the antagonist's dark side so early, it cuts some of the tension of chapter one. So it was back to the drawing board.
How to make my opening more BAMF?
While contemplating this, I stumbled across a blog post by Keith Cronin over on WriterUnboxed about Being A Copycat. Keith's post suggested for writers to improve their skills they should do an exercise where they copy passages by their favorite authors, because it's only through emulating their words - rather than just reading them - that you can really see the techniques the author uses to make their writing impactful. Keith used Jonathan Tropper's latest story as an example, stating "he (Keith) felt he (Tropper) totally nailed the opening, giving us
the main characters, the core conflict, the main character’s backstory,
and the narrative voice, all in one page. He wanted to understand better
how Tropper did it. So, he opened the book and started typing. Again, he
learned a lot, and gained insights that merely reading the passage would
not have provided."
Intrigued, I downloaded a free sample of Tropper's One Last thing Before I Go, and I was blown away. Keith was right. In just two pages, Tropper had me hooked on a book that given it's genre, theme and protagonist, I probably wouldn't have read. But the voice just spoke to me so clearly, and the main conflict was laid out simply, while still leaving questions for the reader to chase after as they read the book. It was a perfect example of an opening chapter, and I will defiantly be buying to book to read the whole story.
Keith's advice about copying authors you like, and Tropper's wonderful opener, got me thinking about what opening chapters have drawn me in. What about them did I like. One that instantly sprang to mind was the prologue chapters in each of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott. Each book opens with a diary entry written by titular character Nicholas Flamel, summarizing what's going on, or what happened in the previous story. Scott - through Flamel - clearly lays out the threat protagonists Josh and Sophie face, and what they've achieved so far to combat the threat. Intriguing and compelling, without giving too much away, but revealing enough to draw the reader in.
Exactly what I want to do.
I started to mix this idea with what I'm doing for the A-Z Blogging Challenge in April. As previously mentioned, my writing entry for the challenge will be the A-Z of Prenatural Entities faced by The Order of the Ancile. I've started work on my A-Z, writing about creatures like liches, kitsunes and even a piece detailing the history of the Ancile themselves. But something felt lacking. It wasn't personal enough. It read more like a Wikipedia entry than a story. That's when I thought of the idea that each entry should be accompanied by a first hand account from a member of the Ancile when they faced one of these Prenatural Entities.
Then I related this idea to the book I'm currently writing, and thought why can't I do something similar. Why can't I have a diary type entry from the protagonist, as the prologue, detailing what she faced and how her life changed throughout the story. Doing what I'd seen Michael Scott do - offering something intriguing and compelling, without giving too much away, but revealing enough to draw the reader in. So, I'm going to study Scott's techniques a bit more, and then try it myself, hopefully creating a compelling opening for my story.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Aside from writing, I've also been reading. A LOT. I think I'm on my third book of the week. I've been completely sucked into Joseph Delaney's Wardstone Chronicles. They're a young adult dark fantasy series about a Spook (a seventh son of a seventh son, who hunts creatures of the dark) and his last apprentice. I'm on the forth book now (as well as reading the short stories anthology A Coven of Witches) and I've already seen the Spook and his apprentice Tom fight one of the most powerful witches in the County, take on powerful demon known as The Bane, and find out why the Spook is keeping a dangerous lamia witch in the cellar of his winter home. While the language of these books is simple in a way you'd expect in YA, and the stories themselves are only 400-odd pages long, they're absolutely bloody brilliant. They're chilling, creepy and full of intriguing mysteries that have me devouring them at a rapid pace. While each book has a different antagonist that's defeated in the course of the story, the questions and mysteries surrounding Tom's Mam, his friendship with witch girl Alice, the Spook's failing health and if he'll live long enough for Tom to finish his apprenticeship, and the cause of why the dark is steadily increasing, have hooked me into the entire series and I look forwards to each new installment when I'll get some more answers.
They're also inspiring my own writing, and thoughts of witches having feral and human forms, and what materials creatures of the dark are weak to have me jotting down notes for my stories.
So, that's what I've been writing and reading this week. How about you guys? I'd love to hear what you've been up to recently.