An Interview With Grace

A Rendering of Grace Richardson, the main character of Chasing Fae. Complements of Skye Kelrose, a fantastic artist!

 What is your full name? – Grace Andrea Richardson.

How old are you? – I’m 19.

When were you born? – I was born in Lisden in the Middle Realm.

What is your current state of mind? – Current state of mind? Pretty chaotic. Lots of thoughts scrambling around. I’ve kind of blocked out most of my emotions. I guess that’s autopilot, huh?

What do you consider to be your lifelong dream or aspiration? – Lifelong dream? I don’t know… to get revenge on my brother’s killer? To avenge his death? I don’t know if I have many aspirations. I suppose I’d like to take care of my mother, make sure she’s okay. Oh! For myself? I suppose… I suppose I’d like to have some place where I feel like I truly belong.

How close are you to your family? – That’s such a loaded question. It’s entirely different for my various family members. Like, my brother and I? Inseparable. My mother and I are somewhere in the middle. We used to be close, but we’ve kind of grown apart since Leo’s death. And my dad? He was never around. I’ve never even met him. So our relationship is nonexistent.

What is your earliest memory of? – Violin music. I heard the violin for the first time when I was about three years old. I don’t remember much about where we were, but I could make out the melody of a pretty song. I begged my mom to let me try the pretty music. She and my brother had to physically drag me away from the performer.

What is your favorite memory from your teen years? – My first violin gig. One of Mom’s regular art clients was hosting a party. She caught me practicing one time when she stopped by to pick up a painting, and she demanded that I perform at her party. She offered me a decent amount of money, so I took the job. My mother and brother both came. I was super nervous, but when I finished that last note, I remember how brilliantly my brother smiled. I’ll never forget it.

Who is the person you despise the most, and why? – The Fae. Just… just all of them. I hate them. They took my brother away from me. They’re self-centered and all they do is take. They take from the people, they take from our Realm, and they take from our families.

Describe a normal day for you. – I wake up early to go for a run. Like, really early. About dawn. After my morning run, I can usually sneak in an hour at the gym before I head back to my own house before my mom wakes up. I eat breakfast with my mom. On non-gig days, I practice my violin for a couple of hours and then either do some studying/planning or paint with my mother. On gig days, I don’t really practice. Gives me more time to study or work out or rest for the evening. My mom and I always have dinner together. We talk the most then. In the evenings, I’ll either be at a gig or reading and relaxing some more. Sometimes I go out and back to the gym.

What about you is heroic? – That’s a weird question. I don’t really know how to answer it. I suppose my mission and my passion for it makes me heroic. My willingness to do whatever it takes maybe. A willingness to die for my family and friends? I don’t know.

What is your occupation? – I’m a freelance violinist. I used to do some art on the side as well, but now, it’s primarily playing violin. I play gigs and then also, I sometimes play street corners or train stations.

Do you like your job? – I love it. I love playing. Sometimes it can get monotonous cause a lot of clients want the same boring songs. But…even just playing makes me happy.

Describe your perfect romantic partner. – I want someone who will listen to me and let me have my space when I need it. I need someone stubborn and intense to match me. I need someone to take care of me when I need it and let me take care of them when I don’t. I want someone who’s not afraid of chaos cause my life is a lot of chaos. He should be able to keep up.

Do you think the future is hopeful? Why or why not? – I…. no. I really don’t see hope for our future. The Middle Realm is subjugated by the Upper Realm, I’m headed headfirst into a snake pit, and my brother is dead. What kind of a future could I hope for? Even if I do come out of this alive.

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #10 – Social Organization: Government and Politics

Hey everyone! Welcome back to another Worldbuilding post. We’re about three quarters of the way through this worldbuilding series! I don’t know what we’re going to go into next after this questionnaire, but I know we’ll find something! Today, I want to focus on what can be one of the more intriguing elements in a world, if used properly: the introduction of government and politics.

Government and politics has a heavy influence over my novel. Conspiracy is a beautiful thing to create, but it requires a deep and intimate knowledge of how to undermine your own system. In order to do that, however, you must start with a system that you can either build on or poke holes in depending on your story. I hope that I can present these questions in a way that will be easy to understand and easy to build from.

Let’s go! (Here’s the link!)

Government: The Basics

First, we need to start with a structural question: how has magic and the presence of magic users affected the structure of government and the law? Are magic users barred for holding office, or is it mandatory to have magic to hold office? Once we know the answer to this, we can focus on the actual structure of the government.

You have a lot of government types to choose from. I’m going to outline a few options here:

  • Feudal system – The king grants land to the barons, who in turn provide money and knights to him. The barons grant land to their knights, who provide military and protection services to the barons. The knights grant lands to villeins, or serfs, who provides food, labor, and services whenever demanded.
  • Aristocratic system: a government ruled by a small privileged class of people made up of those who feel the best qualified to rule.
  • Oligarchy: power rests with a small group of people.
  • Absolute ruler: One monarch holds supreme authority. Authority is not restricted by any written laws or customs.
  • Democracy: a system of government by the whole population, or all of the eligible members, usually through elected representatives.

Pick something that fits. If one of these doesn’t feel right to you, choose another.

Government: Services

What kind of services is the government responsible for providing? These can include items as broad as maintaining an army or as specific as providing public education. Which services are then provided privately or locally?

Who has the right to levy taxes? What kind of taxes, and on who? This can help establish different social classes.

Who supports the heads of state? What kind of associates and assistants help them out? How are these people selected? Are they elected or selected by the heads of state themselves, or do they apply for the position like any other job?

Who is considered a citizen? What rights and privileges does that grant them? What responsibilities are theirs to take on? Are there any classes or groups of people have fewer rights than a citizen? Why are they kept repressed?

Government: Status and Succession

How can you advance in status? Does more money move you up further, or do you have to be placed in that position based on selection or election?

Then we need to focus on the rules of succession. Who takes over running the government if the head is incapacitated? Is there an apparent heir or successor? How many levels of succession are there? Is there potential for the land to dissolve into chaos? Who is responsible if the heir or successor turns out to be a minor? My story features this element rather prominently. Without giving anything away, I am playing around with who is expected to rule and who will end up ruling along with some ancient Fae laws that will throw the world into disarray.

Government: More Questions

The last several questions revolve around a variety of subjects. Some attest to the protection of the heads of state and the greater land at large. Others refer to coinage, education, and diplomatic relations. I will leave those to you to answer. Feel free to comment with any questions you may have.

I hope you all have enjoyed this article! It was a fun one to write. Happy worldbuilding!

Going Back to the Beginning: A Lesson in Revisions

Hey everybody! On Monday, I finished up my last exam and my last paper, and I am officially finished with my freshman year! I can’t believe this year has gone by so fast. It feels like just a few weeks ago, I was moving into my freshman dorm, and now I’m trying to move out! I swear moving in was a lot easier.

My thoughts are a little jumbled right now due to me being a little under the weather. But I wanted to make sure I put out something solid for you all to read. So, I want to talk a little more in detail about the work I’ve been doing over the last couple weeks on the novel.

Revisions

At the advice of a very handy revision guide (linked here for reference; I will most likely do an article on this later), I decided to break down my novel into chapter summaries. Basically for each chapter, I made notes about which characters were featured, where the scene takes place, and the important plot points. This serves as a really great tool to understand everything that is going on in the book without rereading the whole thing every time you want to make changes. Note: You should still frequently read the whole book when you do make changes; but right off the bat, I’ve found this to be a good first step.

After this, the revision guide provided me with a multitude of questions to identify the main structural edits that my book desperately needs. I really loved working through them. They gave me the best information I needed to identify what needed to be done. Sometimes it’s very hard to formulate these questions on my own without any direction. With these, I made a list of about 25 major/moderate structural changes that needed to be made.

25 seems like a lot to me. The guide recommended listing 20 for your first pass, but I’ve never been able to do anything with limitations xD. Now, once the list is made, the guide recommends to go ahead and start revising. But… I felt like I really wasn’t prepared to do that yet. Two of my biggest fixes were as follows: make character development bigger and much clearer and incorporate more worldbuilding throughout. I didn’t feel like I had all the tools necessary to revise in the best way.

So I went all the way back to the beginning. Back to my ten months worth of research and notes from before I wrote this novel in November. I hadn’t visited them in great detail in a decent amount of time, so it was long overdue. I worked with the character interview questionnaire alongside my character profiles so I could work with both my basic original ideas and have inspiration to build off of them.

I focused on Grace and Aiden for now as they are the most prevalent in the novel. I plan on working with other characters as I revise as they pop up in the story. Grace has become a fuller character: retaining her stubborn and passionate nature while mixing in a few more character flaws, fears, and somewhat of a softer heart underneath. Aiden has completely reverted back to my original intention for the character that did not come across at all in the current draft. He plays a little more fast and loose and is driven by a strong desire for adventure. His regrets in his life will hopefully come more into play as well as he develops.

What Happens Now?

Now that I’m finished with character development for the time being, I plan on working a bit with each of the locations. As much as I talk about worldbuilding, I need to revisit mine and create more descriptive details that can be readily incorporated when I need them. Especially in the Middle Realm: that area has not been as planned out as I would like.

So because of all this, my timeline has shifted significantly. I plan on spending the entire summer in revisions. A second beta read will be pushed to either late July or August, depending on how efficiently I revise once I’m ready. I won’t be querying until potentially September or October. As much as I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to start looking for literary agents this summer, it is more important that the book is in its best possible condition before being judged. I believe it will make the process go quicker at the end of the day. I want my novel to be strong. So I will put in the time.

The Results of A Second Reader

One of the most important parts of preparing a draft for the querying stage is to get another opinion on your work. At a certain point in revising, an author loses sight of the flaws in their own work. When you’ve worked with a story for a long time, it becomes ingrained in your mind. You can’t see what’s clear or not clear.

This is the point where you need to pick a beta reader. An outside perspective that will let you know exactly at what stage your book is at. Whether you’re getting close to a polished draft to start querying on or whether you need some heavy revisions in certain sections. This person can really come from anywhere. It can be someone close to you, a family member or a friend who loves to read. It can be another writer that you’ve connected with through a writing group or social media. The possibilities are endless. You only have to make sure of two things.

  1. Your beta reader is going to be able to be critical about your work without covering their opinion to assuage you.
  2. Your beta reader is available to finish your book in a reasonable time frame.

Two weeks ago, I was ready for this stage of the writing process. For my first reader, I chose my boyfriend. I did this for several reasons. He’d been extremely motivational during the writing process. He’d been asking for weeks to be the first to read it. But most importantly, I knew that he was going to be able to be critical of my work and tell me exactly what needed to be done regardless of whether it hurt my feelings. He’s one of those people who loves to find loopholes in everything.

Spoiler: There were a lot of loopholes that need fixing.

One of the things about the writing process that I don’t think authors talk enough about is their mistakes during drafting. So I’d like to be candid about what the results of having a beta reader were for me:

1. Too much plot convenience in the beginning: Things happen a little too quickly without much explanation of how we got there. My main character, Grace’s strength doesn’t quite match her body type and needs to be adjusted. Speed and agility over strength.

2. Magic system: My boyfriend immediately pointed out to me that certain parts (okay, maybe more than a few) of my magic system were overpowered and needed some sort of system to work out exactly how much power each individual had. We sat down together and worked out a tiered level system that allows for both natural affinity and growth within those affinities without giving everyone a high level right away. As I’ve been working on it over the past couple days, I am finding it to work a lot better!

3. Economy: Can I say no comment here? Because… I just don’t do economics. I had no idea what I was doing. My boyfriend made that very clear. On the upside, we’re gonna work on that together later! (Thank God.)

4. Relationships: The relationship between Grace and Aiden needed to be explored further at a slower pace with more scenes added. See, I was afraid of writing too much, but it seems I wrote too little. Luckily for me, it’s easier to add than cut!

Extra: My boyfriend seemed to guess a lot of things before they happened. I’m pretty sure that’s a combination of the way he is and how well he knows me. I’ll need a second opinion on this.

Now, I get to move forward and revise yet again! But this time, with a much clearer picture of what needs to be done to improve my novel. Overall, an extremely favorable experience. <3

This Week in The Publishing Process: March 16, 2019

Hey guys! Sorry for the short (and late!) post today; I have been super busy doing logistics for next semester and this summer.

For most of this week, I have been lying in anxious wait for my boyfriend, and extremely helpful beta reader, to finish reading my novel. This week, especially on Friday, I have had such a drive to create. Having set aside my novel for almost a week and a half really put me in a creative mood. I kept bugging him to finish so I could get back to work!

During the week, I focused on my magic system. I had been working previously with only categories of magic, such as energy magic, elemental magic, and flight magic. I realized that I really needed to modify this system to make it more specific. More magic needed to be incorporated into my world to make the fantasy feel real. So I broke down each category into specific types of spells, specific magical actions that would fall under each category. After three days, I could see real progress in my magic system.

Feeling like the master of your story is very powerful.

I have also begun to look into literary agents. While it’s a little early for me to be looking heavily into this, I believe it’s a good idea to go into the querying process with your eyes wide open. Working with a guide that I bought a few months ago, I’m working on a master list of literary agencies and agents that I would like to query. I love to make organized lists of details; I’ve got a table going along with details of what needs to go into each submission package.

Something that struck me during that research is how diverse the submission packages can be. Some agencies want a query letter and the first ten pages, one wants a partial manuscript right off the bat; I even found one agent who wanted a query letter, first three chapters, a one paragraph pitch, and a list of similar books that could be comparable to yours. Who knew?! I can’t even fathom where to begin.

But luckily, it’s not quite time for that yet! 😀

Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be receiving feedback on my book from my boyfriend, who has been incredibly helpful and critical so far. Tonight, as I write this, we’re working on revamping my universe’s economy (which could not hold up, let me tell you; I’m terrible with economics). Every comment he has made so far has gotten me to look at things in a new perspective, and I could not be more grateful for that. I will update you guys with the beta reading results once I sort it all out!

Thank you all again for following me on this wild ride. Much love. <3

Cady Hammer

World Anvil: Back to the Beginning

As I have enjoyed my vacation over the last few days, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about where to improve my novel. Of course, the best ideas always come when you’re actively trying to leave things alone for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to incorporate more worldbuilding into my story, particularly when it comes to magic interacting with everyday life. Now, I’ve had a solid magic system built since I started worldbuilding, but details have either escaped me over time or have been written down across a bunch of documents I have no organization for. Many of my other elements are like this as well: useful but disorganized.

This is why I think it’s time for me to revert back to a tool that I discovered during the process of worldbuilding and experimented with on and off for a couple months.

Writers, may I present to you, World Anvil.

World Anvil is an online set of tools designed for writers, artists, and RPG creators alike and the worldbuilding process. This website has a lot of great components to help you make the most out of your research and efforts.

The site has templates with worldbuilding prompts to help you create your world and explore the relationship between places, characters, and laws. You can connect entries to each other to build complex families and systems. World Anvil also has features for map building and timeline creation (a feature I would highly reccomend; it did wonders when looking at my universe’s history).

You essentially have the ability to create an entire encyclopedia for your world that you can refer back to over and over again as you write.

A free plan will get you all of the basic features you need and a decent amount of space to store things. Of course, if you want to put a little money into it, you can get things like more storage and extra features. But pretty much everything you need is encompassed by a free plan.

So as I head into next week, I have plans to hop on World Anvil again and see if I can’t straighten my world out. It can only improve my writing, right?

Until next time, friends. <3

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions: Part 1

This Sunday, I completed round one of revisions for Chasing Fae. It was a long and laborious process, and while I’m incredibly excited and proud that I made it through, I know my job is far from over. But for now, let’s talk about what round one of revisions looked like, especially for those of you who find themselves in the revision stages of a novel.

Once NaNoWriMo was over, I put aside the book for about two weeks. It’s a little short of a turn around time, but that’s the bare minimum time that you should let a novel sit before attempting revisions. When I picked it back up, I read the first draft all the way through while taking notes. Now, I did this in Google Docs, using comments down the side to make my notes. Most writers like to print their draft out and make handwritten notes. I did not have the means to print out 200+ pages at the time, and I found that working online and typing works faster for me.

I did not hold back in my comments. I picked out everything, large or small, that I wanted to fix or add or revise. Nothing was sacred, and that’s the way it should be. You have to be critical if you want to get anywhere with your next draft.

From there, it was two long months of revising. I wrote about an additional 8000 words. I fleshed out worldbuilding details in various places, trying to make the Three Realms come to life in a brighter way. I wrote two new chapters and reworked nearly the entire middle of the novel to create better flow. I tried to work on my characters by making their intentions more clear from scene to scene.

Eventually, I ended up with a beautiful set of 66,519 words of YA fantasy.

Now, I’m beginning to send this second draft out to my chosen beta readers who I’m hoping can give me a lot more feedback about where my novel needs to go next. I know that there are places that need a lot of work, and I really would like help identifying where those places are. I’m looking forward to seeing what they think!

Until next time. <3

My Experience With NaNoWriMo 2018

Making the decision to take the National Novel Writing Month challenge wasn’t an easy one.

Let’s look at the facts:

Pros:

  1. I have an idea! I’ve been mulling over the same concept and world for nearly ten months, narrowing down the plot, finessing an outline, and building a beautiful world from the ground up. I had all of the preliminary work finished. Now it would just be about writing the story.
  2. I wasn’t involved with too much on campus yet. My afternoons were relatively open depending on how much homework I had.
  3. I really, really loved this idea, and I wanted to make it a reality.

Cons:

  1. I’m a college freshman in the middle of my first semester of college. Classes are beginning to pick up with an increased workload before and after midterms. Did I really have the time to put in?
  2. I had attempted NaNoWriMo several years back and failed miserably. I didn’t want to see myself fail again. I knew if I didn’t succeed this time with this story, my motivation for this story would surely fall and it would disappear on the shelf with the rest of the unfinished ideas.
  3. I didn’t know if I could do it. That’s what stops from me trying a lot of new things. I just don’t know if I can pull anything off. Three cheers for anxiety!

The Decision

Eventually the turmoil came to a head about three days before the first of November. I was sitting at the Caf (one of the cafeterias on campus) with my best friend at college, Roger, where somehow, we end up on the topic of writing. He mentions that he’s got a few ideas and that he’s going to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge himself within the week. Then the decision suddenly seemed easy. If one of my friends was going through the process too, maybe I could find it in myself to dive in headfirst.

This was going to be the most I had ever undertaken creatively. 50,000 words looks very far away when you’re sitting with a blank page and a word count of zero.

But on the eve of the first, I surprisingly felt ready.

November: The Process

Let’s just say the month started off poorly.

I missed class the entire day of the 1st because I was stuck in bed with a terrible migraine unable to move. I was so disappointed; I had been psyching myself up to start writing, and now I was unable to look at a computer screen without my head spinning. Had I already failed before I got a chance to start?

Luckily, by the next morning, I was back to my normal self, and after class, I wrote my first 700 words. I know, not much, but it’s what I could put in at the time. And it boosted my mood immensely. Alright! Now I’ve started!
I wrote over 2500 words the next day. Then another 1000. I found myself getting into a good pattern. I would write whenever I had inspiration, even it was jotting down only a single paragraph. If my inspiration stalled for more than ten seconds, I would immediately highlight over the text I had just written and see how many words it was. Then I would go to the NaNoWriMo website and update my word count. Watching the little blue bar rise closer with every update gave me the energy I needed to keep going.

And the story grew with every word I put down on the page. My characters became full fleshed beings who I manipulated through dangerous situations and honestly, put through quite a bit of hell. I began to see the inklings of the world I was creating although I knew eventually I would need to develop it a little more with the research I had already done. Events connected to each other seamlessly, and I found myself taking the story in a slightly different direction from my original outline. But I followed wherever the characters showed me, and it honestly made for a better story.

About a third of the way into the month, I took a little weekend trip to visit my boyfriend in Dallas. Since we hadn’t seen each other in over three months, I spent every last second I could with him and I did not pick up my laptop to write a single word. I don’t regret it for a minute. But when I came back and looked at my word count bar, I was reminded of how far I had to go and how much I needed to make up. I don’t think I was doubting myself yet, but it definitely was beginning to stress me out.

So what did I do? I became a maniac. I wrote about 3000 words each for four days. Don’t ask me how I accomplished that because to be honest, I don’t remember. Low homework days and a bunch of music, I think. Then I was pretty much back on schedule, now only needing to write 1667 words a day to be on target to reach my goal.

The End of the Road

I reached my goal on November 29. I surpassed my goal on November 29. In 30 days, I wrote 53,001 words. And my novel wasn’t even finished! I wouldn’t finish the last 5000 words until after finals in mid-December.

But I had done it. I had written 50,000 words in a month, and I had created something beautiful that I loved. I sat and stared at my computer in awe for a good ten minutes. I was so proud of what I had accomplished, probably more proud than any singular accomplishment in my life.

My Advice

If you’re thinking about undertaking NaNoWriMo, I want to give you the following advice:

  1. JUST DO IT. Commit. Sign up for an account, and put your name on the list. The only thing that is holding back is fear. It isn’t your ability or your inspiration or your idea maybe not being up to par. It is only fear. It is so much easier to figure out what to do next once you’ve made the decision.
  2. Set aside an hour a day to write. Get yourself on a schedule. You are far more likely to stick with the challenge if your phone dings with a reminder at 2 pm every day to write. And actually listen to your reminders; don’t swipe them away, or you will never finish.
  3. If 1667 words a day seems like a lot to you, break it down. I discovered during the month that I wrote paragraphs that were about one hundred words each. Ten of those, and I had a thousand words. Much easier to stomach in smaller terms.
  4. Feel free to write from any point in your story. Don’t feel like you have to write straight from beginning to end. When I lost inspiration for the forward moving plot, I would skip to the end and start writing chapters in reverse order. (And yes, I did actually meet in the middle in the end.) You may find you reach your word count much more easily if you write where the inspiration leads you rather than trying to force it.
  5. Know that there are thousands upon thousands of writers just like you who are going through the exact same process that you are undertaking. Everyone is in the same boat, whether it’s your first or tenth challenge. Go read the forums if you get discouraged. It really helps boost your confidence.

I hope to see all of you join me for next year’s NaNoWriMo challenge!