Lesson Twenty-Two from a Manuscript Red Line: Does your Protagonist “Grow Enough?”

 2015 comment: Pay careful attention to this one. I think this is one of the most frequently missed aspects in first drafts and first manuscripts. There has to be a reason for your story. Your character must “Grow”.

In the closing comments of the Gold Mine Manuscript, the Publisher who red-lined it noted that the MC didn’t “Grow enough”.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

They said the main character does not have a struggle in the story that pulls him from one state of being to another.  They thought he was pretty much the same at the end of the novel as he was in the beginning.

I’m not really sure I completely agree about this comment.  I saw little changes in the character throughout the novel.  I suppose the problem was the presentation of the final scene.  The author wound down from a big action scene very well, and in the end, the MC is relaxing and thinking.

I am just guessing here, but maybe the Main Character’s thoughts should have reflected HOW he is changed.  Maybe he should be thinking:  “Wow, I was such a stuck up prude, and the world used to revolve around me, and now I just put my life on the line and fought an army and stood up for myself to protect a whole kingdom!”

Okay, that was really bad, but do you get my meaning?  Again, this is totally a guess, but this publisher is looking for “the change”… What happens to the MC along the journey that makes him or her a better person?  This, again, brings me back to my own novel (and you should be thinking about yours)

Does my main character change?  Well, yes.

  • He starts out confident,
  • Gets ripped away from his family, get unconfident.
  • He gets the approval of the King, gets confident,
  • He leaves the King’s house, gets picked on all the time, and gets unconfident again
  • Finally, in the end, he steps up to the plate, and proves his worth in the climax.

However—does he think about this in the closing scene?  Well, no, he doesn’t.  But… in the last few lines there is another change that slaps the reader in the face with an “Oh my Gosh!”

My overall change, like in the Gold Mine Manuscript, happens during the climax.  Then there is this little hook after the wind-down in the last paragraph, which could be considered an epiphany.  It includes another change, and then a “no way!”  Is this going to fly in the publisher’s opinion?  Dunno.

I changed my ending a lot in the last year to make sure my MC changes.  I had him fall in love, I had him not be in love, I had him flat, I dealt with amnesia, I had him accept who he was, I had him outright refuse to be the “chosen one”… yikes what I put this kid though!

Admittedly in the first draft, he really didn’t change at all… at least on the inside.  I didn’t know this was a pre-requisite for story-writing.  Now, I think the change is there.  At least, I THINK THAT’S WHAT I WROTE (Go back and read that post if you don’t remember it)

I hope my stab at an exciting last page didn’t “blow it” but I guess that’s for the publishers to decide.

swish swivel sparkle

2015 addendum:  Three years after writing this original post, I am VERY conscious of character change. My stories have both a “plot” arc (The exciting stuff that happens in the story) and a “character arc” (How the characters *all of them* change throughout the story.)

Take a good look at your manuscript. How do your primary and secondary characters change as events of the story unfold? Are they the same person?

cropped-website-thinner-top.jpgcropped-fire-banner-final2.png

Sometimes, no matter how tight the deadline, you need to just stop and pick up a pencil

I thought I was home free when I got a one month extension on my deadline.

I even used one day of my Writer’s Retreat weekend to start a new project. But now, with one more week to go on that deadline, I’m getting a little nervous.

Arghhh! PictureIt’s over-used words.

They are killing me.

It takes hours, sometimes days to remove a single word from the manuscript (I try not to repeat the same word within ten pages, but I’ve had to do every five pages on some of these)

But that’s not what this post is about.

Last night after dinner I settled in to my desk for a marathon editing session. My computer was just booting up when my eleven-year-old son came in and asked if I would teach him to draw a dragon.

Part of me wanted to say “No, Mommy has to work.”

But what good is life if you can’t spend a little time with your son?

So I broke out the drawing pencils, and we called up a YouTube video tutorial on drawing dragons.

We had a good laugh at how fast this lady could draw, and we had to stop it several times, but about an hour and a half later, we both had beautiful dragon pictures, and big smiles on our faces.

dragons

It was a wonderful time with my son (reminding me of when my oldest and I took Manga lessons together a few years ago)

So, I’m taking a few minutes before getting back to my editing to write this post and remind you that there are more important things in life than making your deadlines.

Of course, sleep is not one of them… so it’s going to be a very late night for me.

It’s okay. My son is worth it.

cropped-website-thinner-top.jpg

cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

The scary, but exciting journey of starting something new

Last weekend, after spending over a year writing the Fire in the Woods Series, I jumped into unknown territory. I started writing something brand new.

No___PressureIt suddenly struck me that the last two novels I’d written were contracted before I’d even written them. There was no query process. No doubt. No decisions to make (other than what to write the book about.)

It was kind of weird, come to think of it. Since they were already sold, the only person I really had to prove anything to was myself. (And ultimately, I suppose, the readers.)

Should_I_be_nervous

Huh womanBut now I was back in “unknownville”. I could write whatever I wanted. I could create entirely new characters. I could reach for different themes.

With a basic idea in mind (a solid premise, and a very defined ending) I set out to write just the first few pages of the book.  Before doing so, I did some basic character studies. I listed them out, decided who they were, what their goals were, and what their quirks might be. How do these characters know each other, and how would their interaction draw the main character through the story.

With that set, I wrote the first page. My goal was just to get out the “set up”, or the beginning of the novel, because this is always the hardest part for me.

1430695 YAY CHEERI was pleasantly surprised how the new characters flowed. The characters instantly came to life, developed their own voices, and added on to their character studies in ways that I hadn’t intended.

While I was writing, I found I could pare down the story slightly by combining two characters into one. An interesting concept, to combine these two very different characters, but I think it will give my story a touch or originality.

PKO_0010650 pink robe clockAll this so say, I ended up with a solid 3700 words written that first day. I was thrilled! I really wished that I had my last contracted manuscript handed in on time, because I would have loved to stick with it and kept the story going, but the back of my mind kept screaming “deadline”.

So, yes, I forced myself to go back to edit. But now I am totally excited for the day I hand in Book Three of Fire in the Woods, because I have a brand new world waiting for me.

The_Synopsis

Yes, I will have to write a query, and the dreaded synopsis, and I will have to start the query process all over again once this new project is done… but I even look forward to that.

I am all juiced up to get back to the fun of creating something new.

Have you ever been super excited about a new project like this?

JenniFer_EatonF

cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

Lesson Twenty-One from a Manuscript Red Line: Common, and Cliché Themes

This one made me laugh.  There is a point in the Gold Mine manuscript where a secondary lead character finds out that someone is his father.  His reaction is “You’re . . . my . . . father?” (minor action element for dramatic effect). “My father?”

What made me laugh is that the publisher said “This immediately bought to mind Star Wars”

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Now, I actually did not think “Star Wars” when I read it, but there is another element in this story that has since been removed…  My son and I (he also read the manuscript) were talking about this other element, and my husband said:  “She stole that from Star Wars!”  I was thinking it in the back of my head, but he verbalized it very well.

The problem is, Star Wars is not just a story that was written over thirty years ago.  It is a piece of Americana.  There are too many people in the USA, and in the world, who have seen Star Wars… even memorized it.  You simply CANNOT mess with themes like that anymore, unless you are careful.

Now, is this to say that no person will ever find out about questionable parentage again in literature?  No, of course not.  However, you need to be VERY CAREFUL when you do it.  Like this publisher stated in an earlier post… Find the uniqueness in what is not unique.

You need to make this your own.  When they read your tear-jerking scene, they should see only your characters in their minds, not Luke laying on that platform and then falling down the shaft.  If an element has been used before, and notably so, work that scene harder than any other scene.  Make sure, without a doubt, that the element is now YOURS.  Make them forget all about Luke Skywalker.

 

cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

 

JenniFer_EatonF

Writer’s Retreat! Woo-hoo!

PKO_0004442 Nervous ScaredWrite a story with me guyJust a quick wave “hi” on the way to my writer’s retreat.  I’m heading back up to internet-free woods of PA to an old house in the middle of nowhere where for three days, without interruption:

 

NOTHING

BUT

WRITING

1430695 YAY CHEERI am totally ready to sit back, relax, and open myself up to a brand new world.

It’s been so long since I’ve had the chance to create brand new characters. Not that I don’t love Jess and David from me FIRE IN THE WOODS series, but the thought of starting something new just makes me all a-tingle.

If you even get a chance to get away with creative people, I highly recommend it. I’m really looking forward to this trip!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

Jennifer___Eaton

Lesson Twenty from a Manuscript Red Line: Don’t make things so easy

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

In the Gold Mine Manuscript, there is a point where the MC is thrust into the magical world.  He has been there for a few days, and suddenly he is faced with an animal that can speak to him through their minds.

In concept, this is fine.  However, the publisher red-lined that the MC was “too accepting” of this.  The MC just jumped in and said “okay, no problem” – well, he didn’t say it that way, but he jumped right on board.

The publisher said that it would be okay for the characters who were born into this world to be fine with this, but the MC should not accept so easily.  A few paragraphs later, the MC also tells his friend  that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that he’s harmless… they red-lined that too.

Think of it this way… if you ran into a guy in the street, and just started talking to him for a few minutes, would you be willing to risk your life, and your best friend’s life in trusting this person, or would you be a little wary?  Now make this person a really large mythical animal.  Getting nervous yet?

Be careful that you don’t put your own knowledge into your character’s heads before that knowledge is learned.  You as the author know there is nothing to fear, but to make it realistic, your character’s “trust” needs to be earned to a degree.  Let relationships develop so they seem more natural and believable.  Don’t take the easy way out to move your story ahead more quickly.

Think over your novel.  Have you done anything like this?

JenniFer_EatonF

cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

Eleven-Year-Old’s Review of “The Three Thorns”: Brotherhood and the shield by @Michael_Gibney @chapterxchapter @tantrumbooks @month9books

TTT-CoverI figured a middle-grade review would be best coming from a middle-grader. Here is what he had to say, in his own words:

.

What was the book about?

It was about three orphans who band together when a bunch of guys tried to kill them. They end up traveling to a new magical world and find out that they have special powers and are part of a prophecy that says they will bring down the evil emperor.

What did you like about the book?

I liked how there was lots of action and adventure. There wasn’t just talking all the time. There were a lot of fight scenes, and it never got boring.

Who was your favorite character?

Tommy was my favorite. He was the oldest of the kids, and he was really mean when the story started, but he changed over the course of the book.

TTT-CoverTell me about the bad guy.

He has assassins and a big army. You don’t really see him to much.

You mostly see the big scary assassins that are nine feet tall and in every fight scene. They are really more like the bad guys in the story.

What was your favorite part?

When they broke out of the orphanage, everyone chased them. Mr. Jennings offered a year of work off to any of the other orphans who caught the kids who escaped. There was so much action! And they forgot something and had to go back, and someone got caught and stuff, and it was really exciting.

On a scale of one to 5… One being that book you didn’t finish last year because it was boring, and five being the best book you ever read, how would you rate “The Three Thorns?”

TTT-CoverI think 4 stars.

Why?

There was a lot of action and a lot of chasing, but the part  where they were being taken to the castle didn’t have a lot of action.

There should have been some fight scenes to make it more interesting.

Would you be interested in reading the next book?

Yes. They ended it in a way that made me say “Omigosh I have to see what happens next!”

Would you recommend this book to your friends?

Yes, to my friends that like action adventure books.

Swish thin

 A note from Mom:

There you have it, directly from my son. I have to say that each day he finished reading with a smile on his face. He is easily bored, and there are a lot of books in his “did not finish” pile. He does not put up with books that don’t keep his attention. There is a rafflecopter going on to promote this book. Click below to enter. Good luck!

Purchase Links:

Chapters Indigo | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD | Indiebound

Swish thin

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c08c9e8e288/?

More about the book:

THE THREE THORNS (THE BROTHERHOOD AND THE SHIELD #1)

Three brothers born to a once powerful King were abandoned at birth and cast out into the old world as orphans – alone and unaware of the other’s existence or their royal heritage.

In the new world, by order of the false King, three of the most lethal assassins are sent to kill the children before they come of age and avenge their father’s throne.

But when the brothers find one another, Benjamin, Tommy and Sebastian must resist the temptation of magic and power if they are to defeat the unspeakable evil that has threatened them since birth.

The Three Thorns is book one in an exciting children’s fantasy series called The Brotherhood and the Shield from debut author Michael Gibney.

ABOUT MICHAEL GIBNEY:

Michael Gibney began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen and assumed his first sous chef position at twenty-two. He ascended to executive sous chef at Tavern on the Green, where he managed an eighty-person staff. He has worked in the kitchens of Morgans Hotel Group, 10 Downing in Manhattan, and Governor in Brooklyn’s DUMBO, among many others. Over the course of his career, he has had the opportunity to work alongside cooks and chefs from many of the nation’s best restaurants, including Alinea, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Bouley, Ducasse, Corton, wd~50, and Momofuku.

In addition to his experience in the food service industry, Gibney also holds a BFA in painting from Pratt Institute and an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Connect with the Author:  Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

Taking a deep breath and admitting “I can’t do it.”

“I can’t do it.”

Wow… coming from a neurotic, over-achiever-based upbringing, you would not believe how hard it was for me to type those words … or how hard it was for me to contact my publisher and ask for an extension.

When I was offered a three-book-deal for FIRE IN THE WOODS, I knew it came with some pretty serious deadlines.  But being the psycho I am, I took it as a challenge.

The first challenge was to come up with a concept for Book Two, outline, write the book, beta the book, polish and submit ALL WITHIN 4.5 MONTHS. (While promoting the high-speed release of book one)

Wow. 

But I made it! It was tight, but I did it.

However, in order to make the deadline for book three, I needed to start the next book during the beta-reading process of book 2.

That DID NOT happen.

But I thought I would be okay.  I still had four months to write book three. (Same deal: come up with a concept, write the book, outline, write the book, beta the book, polish and submit)  Heck, it was only two less weeks. I could pull that off, right?

WRONG.

In act two, I got hung up. The writing came slowly. It was not writer’s block, per say, but I just SLOWED DOWN.  On such a tight deadline, it killed me.

Did I finish the book on time?  Yes–and no.

I did finish the first draft two days before the deadline, but it was just that — a first draft. No one had read it but me.

I am in no way vain enough to think I can write a perfect first draft in four months and just hit the submit button. Nope. No way.

Enter my beta-reading army, who had already been through the first fifty pages by then (I do not recommend sending out part of your book to beta before you are done – I did this only out of necessity)

PKO_0013466 sadAnyway… These people have lives of their own, and it was unrealistic to ask them to finish a concise developmental edit and proofread in a few days.

So I had to take a deep breath,

suck it up,

and ask my publisher for an extension.

I'm_not_above_begging

I now have an extra month to get the final draft in.

Whew! What a relief…

Until my bubble burst and my edits for Book Two came back.

 Both novels are now due on the same day.

Seriously

Arghhh! PictureHa!  No pressure.

No pressure at all!

The good news is the developmental changes are minor for book two. I actually let them sit for a week while I finished reviewing beta comments for the third book.

And at this point, I firmly believe I will be handing both books over with a smile in three weeks.

No___Pressure

Anyway… Lessons learned:

  1. Wow. I can seriously write fast if I need to.
  2. Don’t make myself write that fast if I don’t have to. It made it “not fun”
  3. The relationships I’ve made along the way have totally paid off. I have friends who are wildly talented and willing to help. (And now I get to see their work before the rest of the world to pay back the favor. Woo-hoo!)

Soooo

Sooooo… that’s where I am.  A little bump in the road, but I don’t think it is a production-stopper.

Fire-in-the-Woods-Cover 3DA year ago, if you told me there would be three FIRE IN THE WOODS books I would have laughed at you… and here they are. And even though one is not completely polished yet, I am pretty proud of them. There is a whole lot of trouble that two teenagers can get into if I put my mind to it.

How’s your writing been going?

JenniFer_EatonF

Lesson Twenty-Nine from a Manuscript Red Line: How’s your synopsis?

The publisher talked a lot about the synopsis in the closing comments of the Red-line.  I found this really strange, but I thought it had merit to mention it.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

The reason I found this strange, was because they’ve already read the manuscript.  They’ve already made comments, and asked for it to be re-submitted.  Why are they even talking about the synopsis?

What it seemed like to me (being an optimist) is that they were actually being helpful.  They probably knew that there was a chance that the author may not make all the changes to their satisfaction, and that she might submit to other avenues.  They were nice enough to point out problems with the synopsis that might help her if she sent it somewhere else.

(Honestly, after reading all their synopsis critiques, I was wondering why they even asked for a “full” in the first place.  I guess you never know.)

So, this is what they said…

They went through a laundry list of what the story “is not”.

It is not about this, it is not about that either.  (Quoting what was mentioned in the synopsis)

It is not a character study on the main character.

The quest is not fleshed out…

These are some of the comments.  I am guessing they are saying that the synopsis was too in-depth and talked about the side plots in the story.

I can totally understand this.  It took me months of writing and digging and cutting and beta-bashing until I finally realized what my story is about…

Magellan Talbot has to save the world.  Too bad he doesn’t know it.

Boom.  Done.  Now, there is a lot of other stuff going on that is SUPER important and makes the story unique, but you wouldn’t believe how hard it was for me to boil it down to the above.  I kept getting bogged down by the details.  The crux of the story is simple.

To save the world he has to save the Goddess.
To save the goddess he needs to fight for her.
To fight for her, he needs to find the Rapier.
To find the Rapier, he needs to remember his dreams…
The catch?  He can never remember his dreams.
Or anything else about who he really is.

There is also a lot of other stuff going on.  There is a love story, and a jealous brother trying to kill  Magellan… but simplicity is the key for the synopsis… I need to use only the elements that draw the story forward that are closely attached to Magellan saving the Goddess.

The publisher’s next comment in the Gold Mine Manuscript was “If the story is about saving (the alternate world) then that’s your focus and everything that happens in the story needs to lead to that point.  And the synopsis needs to be focused on all the activities that happen to get to that point.  Tie in every character that is introduced to get there as well as why and how (the MC) is the true key… build that up and show how that’s important.  Show us through actions and scenes that push the story forward.”

After reading this, I think I may have edited my own summary down too far.  I bought it down to the bare bones of the fewest characters involved that draw the main plot line forward.  And I also think I centered on the WRONG plotline.  My current synopsis is straight and to the point, but it is more centered on the jealous brother… which is important, but not the center.  I also took out Harris, who is probably equally as important in the novel as Magellan is.

Honestly, I am just not qualified to give anyone advice on a Summary.  I am just as lost as the rest of you.  I have helped out others with suggestions, because sometimes it is easier to have someone else boil down your story for you.  The best I can do is give you the exact quote that the publisher wrote for the Gold Mine Manuscript. (above)

Read their comment over carefully, and do your best with it.  And… when you get lost… remember that you have friends in the blogosphere who are always willing to help.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry

Gah! Today was supposed to be the cover reveal for ASHES IN THE SKY. But my publisher called me to say it would be postponed. I don’t have a date yet.

Ashes Teaser postponed

I guess lesson learned that no matter how well you plan and publicize, something can always happen at the last minute to pull the plug on your drain.

I understand why they pulled it, and it’s a good reason that I think will make FIRE IN THE WOODS fans happy in the long run.

From what I hear, little hiccups like this are not uncommon in the industry.

Sooo… Onward and upward.

I still have plenty to do finishing up book three.

Have you ever had something flip-flop on you at the last minute?

cropped-fire-banner-final2.pngJenniFer_EatonF