An excerpt from Terror Australis

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“Clever bastard,” Ried said and waited.

Once it was all clear, he counted to three and then darted inside the barn hoping to find a car or motorbike to make his escape with. Instead, in the dust-filled shafts of light, he saw only bales of hay and several horse stalls on his left.

“That’d be right…” he faced the small stables and puffed his cheeks. “Okay, on horseback it is.”

Behind his back, something metallic moved with a clink and tap.

“Shit.” Ried’s gut clenched and his diaphragm lurched. He crouched, turned and moved against the wall opposite the stalls. Ried balked for several seconds at sounds source. Despite his fever, Ried’s blood chilled from the vision.

A wall of implements, all drawn from the stuff of murder; scythes, long shears, double-bladed axes, and different-size cane knives hung on the wall, swaying in the breeze.

“Bloody hell. I’m never reading Stephen King again.”

What a differance time makes

While Terror Australis has been away at the editor’s, some will know I have been ticking away with the second installment. Now during those weeks, it was tempting to open the MS, but what would be the point. However, on Friday the edited manuscript for Terror Australis came back.

And as the title of this post states, albeit a bit cliche, the sentiment behind those words are so, so true. Not only did Eevas fresh eyes and friendly, yet stern critique help so did the forced abstinence.  Now over the last couple of days, I have found it easier to review it from a less personal level.

In fact, I have, in an odd way found the process a little cathartic. Who knew?

I found myself at a cross road wondering which path to take.

While Terror Australis is away being reviewed by the editor, I’ve been ticking away at the second book’s manuscript. At this point, I am now nearing the end of the first act and I want to give Ried some added emotional challenge.

First, let me set the scene…

Our hero, trapped on an alternate but vastly different earth, meets his alternate family. From their perspective, the alternative was a cruel sadistic traitor. While the hero is almost the opposite in many ways.

So, the alternate family meets the hero: Do they shun him? Do they vent anger and distrust? Or by taking him into the fold, do they see a chance at the families redemption.

But what about our hero? To him, his family is lost. So how would he feel seeing an alternate version of those he loved. Deep down he wants to go or at least find a home. Would the alternate family provide that or would it slap at his loss and longing?

I appreciate no one knows the story of Ried’s adventures on an intimate level, but what I seeking is some thoughts and opinions to throw into the melting pot.

Inner dialogue

Inner dialogue, when is there too much or too little and how should it be used in our writing?

This still a question I ask myself, which I did again after reading another writer’s comments on his blog. https://writersenvy.me/2017/07/14/a-wished-for-love-first-beta-review/#comments

Personally, I like inner dialogue, probably because I talk to myself a lot. I also believe that inner dialogue helps the reader get to know who the character is, what the emotional stakes are and hopefully make them appear more real, rather than just words on a page.

For instance, our hero must maintain his or her strong, unflappable, super cool persona. They are who the world looks up to after all. For example, in the beginning of a story, our hero prevents a volcano from erupting and therefore saves countless lives and property. Hooray. But then he or she learns their action created an earthquake somewhere else. One which caused horrible death and destruction. Here are two basic examples of how inner conversations can change what is written.

On his triumphant return, X puffed his chest with pride and looked back towards the now quiet cinder cone of the volcano. Standing there, he waited for people to congratulate him, but instead, nobody noticed him, they all stood huddled in groups or sat on the ground with shocked faces, filled with sorrow and anger. Yet apart from the odd thank you, X, was ignored. When he saw his new sidekick, X waved him over and asked what was their problem. After a brief conversation about an earthquake across the valley, X turned on his heel, glared at the smoking mountain and stormed off.

In the above instance, I told you, the reader, in a vague sense, about the scene but left in open about why the hero stormed off or how he ‘felt’. Now below, I added some inner dialogue so you can get a sense of the emotional stakes with our hero. Who you might still think is a dick, but now you know why.

X puffed his chest with pride and looked back towards the now quiet cinder cone of the volcano. Good job X now the village will have nothing to worry about. When no one came up to congratulate him, X moved towards the crowded plaza. With a frown, he stared in confusion at the people huddled in groups or sitting on the ground with shocked faces. Come on people. what’s the matter? Nobody died and I just saved your town. So, a thank you would be good. When he saw his new sidekick, X waved him over and learns of the earthquake. A conversation follows to reveal why the earthquake happened. Hero X storms from the square. Did I do the wrong thing? But how could I have done it differently? He paused at the edge of town to glare at the smoking mountain. What’s the point of haveing these powers if people still die?

For me, it doesn’t matter if the hero is arrogant and self-righteous or naive and still coming to grips with their powers. Why? Because there is always emotional content behind the outward persona. So, in my opinion, the inner dialogue should give us characters who will seem more believable. But, like many things in writing, styles have changed over time and as a result, there are many mixed thoughts and opinions. I suppose, in the end, it will be the readers who determine what they want and it will be the writers who must adapt.

The copy edit journey continues…

My first reaction to the editor’s report was cocky with a self-gratifying ‘pat yourself on the back.’  Okay, there were some minor plot holes to correct, but otherwise, not a bad report card I thought. Then I opened up the edited manuscript.

Da, Da, Daaaa…

Myself self-affirming pat on the back turned into a slap on the forehead accompanied by deep breaths and tissues to wipe away the tears.

Now, remember for over eighteen months, I have sweated bullets, broken fingernails, and worn my fingertips to the bone on the keyboard writing this manuscript to a point where I felt confident enough to hand it over to an editor. Some may ask what is the big deal? Well, try to imagine handing your first born over to a tyrannical monarch and you’ll get the idea. So I set about reviewing the notes, changes and error corrections with a dispassionate eye.

No doubt, some may ask what is the big deal? Well, try to imagine handing your first born over to a tyrannical monarch and you’ll get the idea. So I set about reviewing the notes, changes and error corrections with a dispassionate eye.

Well, try to imagine handing your first born over to a tyrannical monarch and you’ll get the idea.

Be cool I thought, and let the inner Vulcan rise forth when you read the edit, I thought. I mean you’ve put it through two grammar and editing programs, you’ve revied it and re-read it, and re-run it through the programs a chapter at a time, so how bad can it be? Okay, now armed with a Zen mindset I began to review the notes, changes and error corrections with a dispassionate eye.

Can you guess how long the emotionless review lasted? Yep, not bloody long at all. The farther I read, the more I resembled Dr. Jekyle and Mr. Hydes love child. Then I remembered what TM Clark said at a small seminar I attended. With shoulders straight and a set to the jaw, I said to myself, “come on AJ time to swallowed a class of cement and harden the F*** up!”

I opened up the document and started again. Sure enough, within two pages I had the definitive ‘light bulb’ moment. I began looking at the pages with a new fresh eye. My resistive and emotive comments became accepting and understanding. I quickly learned to appreciate all the effort Lorin put into her work on the manuscript.

Now, two weeks and two-thirds of the way through, I have kicked some decent goals. No more Blues for this Maroon because the last third of the manuscript will win the series.

Goals to Date: –  I have reduced the word count by 1000 words. I also flipped many of my more passive sentences and addressed the plot holes.

So, you are never too old to learn, and humble pie can taste good.

A pause for reflection on my journey so far.

Oh my, doesn’t such a heading sound deep and meaningful?

I suppose it is.

As I have mentioned, in December 2015 I decided to write a book. “After all, how hard could it be,” I said to my wife and myself. Now after eighteen months I understand those words were fuelled by naïve misunderstanding.

Did I have a premise for the story? Kind of. Did I have a clue who, what, where or when the story would be? Yes, but in the vaguest sense. This lack of substance and vague ideas came from the simple fact I didn’t have a single clue how to plot or what the hell a character arc was.

However, what I did have was a burning desire to fill a page with words. So that is exactly what I did.  At the end of two months, I had written over 50,000 words. Man, I was proud of myself. I had set up how my hero went from one universe to another. I created his mentors, and the beginnings of bad guys, friends, and even a subplot.

Through the Good Reads forum, I found an author, Brooks Kohler, who was willing to review my efforts to date. His response was thoughtful, honest and invaluable.

http://www.laptiast.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/group?utm_campaign=communitynav&utm_content=groups_cta&utm_medium=web&utm_source=homepage

Soon after I signed up for an online creative writing course through the Australian Writers Centre.

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/online-writing-courses/#creative-writing

Why online? It’s a simple case of maths. I work a full time forty hour plus job which leaves me ‘X’ amount of hours to relax, spend with my wife, family, and friends.

From those two things alone I realized things need to change in my story. “No big deal,” I said. Then I fell into a swinging door cycle of writing a page and then edit the page. This turned my world of writing into pea soup. My time became stodgy and trapped with no visibility in any direction.

The desire to complete the manuscript waned under my own misconceived understandings and self-induced burdens. At one stage, I missed an online manuscript and editing course run by the Queensland Writing Centre. By then my pea soup became a storm enraged ocean. I was drowning and clutching at small pieces of flotsam just to reach the shores of a completed manuscript. Then the QWC released the schedule for the second half of 2016. At last a lifeline. I signed up for a six-month manuscript editing course.

http://www.qwc.asn.au/events/

WhooWhoo… Except there was a catch… I needed a completed manuscript to enter the course. Bugger… This meant I needed to break my habit of micro editing to complete the last third of the manuscript.

So, How good did it feel to type those words ‘the end’. Bloody fantastic. Now I had something whole to work with. My vision saw a goal.

Hang on, why do an editing course? Well, at that point, I wasn’t sure if I would go traditional publishing or self-publish.

If I did go along the path of traditional publication, I wanted a manuscript which the publisher or agent wouldn’t toss out from the first page. Also, if I chose the self-publish road then I wanted a manuscript the reader could see worth investing their valuable time and money on.

I completed the course and from that, I produced two new drafts with better flow, more pace, and a tighter plot. Since completing the editing course I have now become part of a writing group, who I consider as friends with advice, input, and support. All things I feel as a necessity to grow as an emerging author.

They say writing is a solitary occupation, and across the web, you can find author quotes attesting to the solitary state of writing, and much of those sentiments are true. When we are writing we do need to be by ourselves. I personally can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for a lot of authors before the digital age. Let’s be honest, those exceptional storytellers really did do it alone. Until they felt ready to hand the work over to their agent and or publisher. Now as authors, we have access to a myriad of support beginning with those found in the digital world in its many forms. Beta readers, training, forums, publishing agents, editors etc. These should make us feel less alone and help to achieve a better place in which to complete our dream of writing.

Now as authors in our 21st century, we have access to a myriad of support beginning with those found in the digital world in its many forms. Beta readers, training, forums, publishing agents, editors etc. These should make us feel less alone and help to achieve a better place in which to complete our dream of writing.

If you read this and are thinking about writing a novel, short story or a novella in whatever genre you like or for whatever reason you want. Good on you. Or, if you started and have reached what you think is an overwhelming impasse and want to abandon your dream. Please don’t! You are not alone because there is so much support out there to help and guide you through the journey.