Drafting and revising a novel, the illustrated version

I draft and revise a novel the way I draw a horse (or the way I would draw a horse if I could draw horses). Here is my illustrated process.

I’m a planner, though I’m terrible at planning. As I draft the first terrible draft of my new WIP, I have to keep reminding myself that all a first draft has to do is exist.

I’m not always very convincing, even to myself. But they do say pictures are more convincing than words. (Or was that chocolate?) In any case, I decided to draw some pictures to better convince myself.

My first draft can be ugly. Like this horse.

A very bad line drawing of a horse. I mean, there are legs pointing everywhere.
First draft horse. It’s clearly a horse. It has a head, four legs, and a tail.
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Fantasy maps, publishing, editing, and writing: an interview with Dewi Hargreaves

I interviewed Dewi Hargreaves about his freelance work making maps for fantasy books, working at an independent press, and much more.

I’m here today with Dewi Hargreaves–writer, artist, editor, and all-around fantastic human being.

Picture us sitting in front of a crackling log fire, in a room with dark wood panelling and a wall covered in bookshelves. On the rug before the fire sleeps a unicorn.

We’re actually doing this by email, but I think it’s more fun if you picture the room with the unicorn.

I asked Dewi to keep his responses PG rated, and he almost entirely succeeded. I only had to bleep out one word. Otherwise Dewi’s responses are entirely his own, except for a few additional paragraph breaks.

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How emotions can help with your editing or lead you astray

When I’m editing, I use an emotional Geiger counter to tell which parts of my story are working. It often helps. Here’s how it can go wrong.

This is not a post of writing advice, because I don’t do those. This is a post of writing observation. They’re different. Trust me.

I read books first and foremost for the emotions they evoke: wonder, awe, hope, joy, dismay, despair, and all the other good ones.

Similarly, I write with the intention of evoking such emotions in the reader. The hard question is how do I know when I’ve succeeded.

Writers with a lot of craft knowledge and experience probably just know. I expect they don’t need to read their draft to know how the reader will react emotionally at each point.

Me? I’m not quite there yet.

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How (not to) get unstuck while editing

Editing my fantasy novel in progress, I reached a scene that I couldn’t make work. Here’s how I tried (and failed) to solve my problem.

Not too long ago I finished the third (and final?) structural edit of my work in progress. Which meant it was time for a scene-by-scene edit.

Everything was happy bunnies and golden sunshine for a while as I made my adequate scenes dramatic, glittery, and deep.

Then something went wrong.

I could blame work. Or Minecraft. Or poor sleep.

Really, the problem was my midpoint.

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Living and editing in the time of Covid-19

I wanted to write a blog post that entertained or meant something, but it feels wrong to be funny when the world is so grim, and currently my insights are as scattered as my concentration. So you get a stream of consciousness about my current editing strife instead. Sorry about that.

Recently I looked back at my record of word counts, and discovered I started writing my WIP in December 2015. I finished the first draft in March 2016, and I’ve been editing ever since. During that time I’ve changed the story substantially, learned a lot, and written enough scenes for five books.

Okay, probably not five. But I have scrapped and replaced a lot.

I even sent the story to beta readers once. The feedback? Parts were good, but what the main character was doing for most of the book had nothing to do with the main quest.

Problem.

I’ve pulled the whole book apart and put it back together again. I’ve solved some problems and introduced others.

And along the way I’ve discovered some truths. In case they’re helpful for you, or you enjoy laughing at my pain, here they are.

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