Beautiful People – June edition

Welcome back to another edition of Beautiful People! This is a monthly meme hosted by the lovely Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further up and further in. Basically, the ladies come up with ten fabulous questions to help us delve into the hearts, minds and souls of our characters, and we answer them. Simple as that.

Beautiful People linkup for writers

If you’ve been here before, you might know I recently finished my WIP The Fair Queen and sent it off to beta readers to get some feedback. I’m also planning to take part in Camp Nano next month, so I’ve been plotting and outlining a new novel idea loosely based on The Secret Garden. Today I’m going to treat you to your first glimpse of my new WIP! Exciting, no?

My new MC is called Marie – Em for short – and she’s 18 and, sadly, an orphan. At the moment I’m imagining her with waist length jet black hair and bright blue eyes. Shall we dive into the questions?

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What’s their favourite place they’ve ever visited?

Em grew up in Aix-en-Provence in Southern France, her parents were British and met while working over there. Her father was a University lecturer and her mother was a ballerina. Every summer they would travel to Barcelona for a couple of weeks when school finished, and Em absolutely loved the city – the architecture, the food, the atmosphere.

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What’s one mistake they made that they learned from?

When she was eight, her parents were killed in a car crash and she was flown back to England to live with her great uncle Archie. Since then, Em has been pretty much alone. She was home-schooled because Archie’s farmhouse was so remote and miles from any local schools. She didn’t have any real friends, spending most of her time reading in her room, posting on her Tumblr account, and hanging out with the farm animals. Basically, it wasn’t her fault, but she learned at a young age that the things you care about can be snatched away in a moment, so she stopped caring about people and things. She learns from that mistake over the course of the book!

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What was their favourite subject in school? Or favourite thing to learn about?

Em loves to read, her favourite part of being home-schooled was choosing books to study for English Literature. She particularly enjoys classics like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre – living in North Yorkshire it was pretty much like living in a Bronte novel.

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What’s their favourite flower/growing thing?

Em’s favourite plant is lavender. There were great fields full of it in Provence, and it grows all over the North Yorkshire moors as well. The colour and pretty scent remind her of home.

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Have they ever made someone cry? What happened?

She sometimes heard uncle Archie crying at night when she first came to live with him, but not because she had upset him.

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Would you consider them a reliable or unreliable narrator?

Mainly reliable, but a bit of both. She has a very specific frame for how she sees the world, after everything she’s been through, and it’s not always accurate. She tends to see the negatives rather than the positives, and always assumes the worst. But she isn’t a liar, she would never deliberately deceive anyone.

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What do they dream about at night?

She has frequent nightmares about the day her parents died, and wakes up in a cold sweat, expecting to get a call about something else bad happening, someone else she loves being taken from her. Like uncle Archie.

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They’ve gone out for a “special meal.” What would they eat?

Moules frites, probably. Or some other kind of fish or shellfish. She doesn’t eat meat after living on the farm and spending time with the animals, the first time Archie killed a pig she’d become friends with she cried for a week and vowed never to eat meat.

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What’s at least one thing they want to do before they die?

She would love to go back to France, but she’s terrified. She really wants to be brave and go back one day, see where they used to live and spend time in the city where her parents fell in love. After that, she’d like to travel and see the world.

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Do they have any distinguishing or unique talents?

She has a way with animals, she can calm them, and almost communicate with them. She wanted to be a vet as a little girl, until she realised that would mean putting animals to sleep when they were too sick or injured to survive. She couldn’t bear that, so she never applied to veterinary college. She has her mother’s figure, a dancer’s figure, but she never learned how – she does have natural grace though, so maybe one day she’ll do something with that.

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That was fun! I haven’t done character bios for my new novel yet, but I feel really inspired now, so I’ll have to get right on that!

What do you think to my new WIP and my MC, Em? Let me know in the comments, I can’t wait to see all your answers to this month’s questions!

 

Lyndsey

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My writing progress

After almost a year of thinking, planning, plotting, outlining, drafting, editing, revising and a whole lot of procrastinating, I finally finished my first novel.

In case you were wondering, those pterodactyl screams are coming from me.

Writing progress Lyndsey's Book Blog

I wrote the first draft of The Fair Queen between September and January, I rewrote it between February and May, and I completed my final edits a few days ago and sent my MS out to a handful of beta readers to read and give me feedback.

Excuse me while I curl up in a ball of utter dread waiting for my beta readers to finish reading and tell me how terrible it is.

I’m exaggerating. I hope. One of my betas has been sending me regular messages about how much she loves it and hopes I’m already working on a sequel (I’m not, just in case editors and publishers alter it beyond recognition and the sequel in my mind doesn’t match anymore, but the ideas are there!).

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For those of you who are new around here, I took part in my first ever NaNoWriMo in November last year. If you’re REALLY new around here, Nano is a month long writing camp where writers from all over the world get together online and sometimes in person (your local chapter will have meet-ups but you don’t have to go), and try to write 50k words in 30 days. I discovered it on Twitter at just the right time, by October I’d written about 15k words, so I worked on my outline, created a list of 30 scenes I needed to draft for my WIP, and joined in.

I managed a solid 35k words in November, which I am really proud of, it’s the most I’ve ever written and even though I didn’t “win” I felt so much satisfaction and motivation to finish my first draft, which I did in early January, with around 70k words total.

I took a couple of weeks off to refresh and recharge my mental batteries, before getting stuck into draft two in February. Then I discovered Camp Nano, a branch of NaNoWriMo that takes part in April and allows you to choose your own targets, but gives the same sense of community and support as the November version.

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I set my target at 35k words for April, thinking I’d managed as much in Nov and this was just rewriting and editing. Well, do not underestimate the work it takes to turn a first draft into a neat and structured manuscript! I also had a week’s holiday in Turkey booked during April so I basically had to rewrite 35k words in 21 days. I managed about 32k words, which I was really pleased with, although I would have loved to win this time.

I spent May finishing my second draft, and completely rewriting the ending as I had realised it wouldn’t work the way I’d originally planned it. I was going to leave the book on a huge cliffhanger, with the intention of writing a sequel, but I found out that debut authors should always tie up their endings as they may not get a sequel if the first book isn’t a huge hit. So, the cliffhanger had to go, and I pretty much pantsed my way to an ending I’m happy with – one that ties up the story line of the book and brings the characters full circle, but still leaves a couple of questions and plot lines open for a follow up, without being too frustrating for readers (I hope!).

After I finished draft two I immediately started my third and final read through, formatting the MS and correcting any spelling mistakes I spotted, amending a few word choices, and probably delaying the next step to some extent. Then I sent it out to my beta readers. And that is where we currently are. Waiting for feedback. Watching the clock and biting my fingernails. I’ll let you know what they thought of it!

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Almost as soon as my MS was winging its way to betas, I saw an email ping into my inbox about Camp Nano July. I really find NaNoWriMo to be the most motivating and inspiring experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a completed MS and a real sense of achievement, if I hadn’t come across Nano. So of course I’m going to take part in July!

I decided, instead of hoping my betas all have their feedback in by then so I could do a final round of edits before querying agents, I’m going to start working on a new novel idea. It’ll help me to get some distance from The Fair Queen before that final round of editing, hopefully making me more objective to any faults and flaws in the book. And if TFQ doesn’t sell and get me my first book deal, I’ll need something else to work on and submit! So, as of July, I’ll be working on a sort of modern retelling of The Secret Garden in YA fantasy style.

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So, that’s what I’ve been up to in my writing life, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now for finishing what I started, and I actually really enjoyed reading my novel back through to check for spelling errors etc. I really hope my beta readers enjoy it too, but more than that I hope they give me honest feedback about the plot and characters and pacing and whatever else they have thoughts and feelings on. I definitely need a fresh pair of eyes to tell me what’s working and what isn’t, so I can make this MS the best it can possibly be before submitting it to agents.

What have you been working on lately? Will you be taking part in Camp Nano next month? Tell me all about your current WIPs and story ideas in the comments.

 

Lyndsey

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My writing progress Lyndsey's Book Blog

Writing an epilogue

If you haven’t read my post on writing prologues you might want to pop over and give that a read – you can even read the original version of my prologue for The Fair Queen from my very first draft!

Epilogues, like prologues, are a hotly debated topic amongst writers. Some love them, some hate them. But they can add an additional layer to your work, when used correctly.

Let’s have a look at how to, and how not to, write an epilogue.

Writing epilogues Lyndsey's Book Blog

As I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, I’ve used a prologue and an epilogue in my current work-in-progress. If you read my post about writing your story’s ending, you might recognise the circular ending tradition. This is where your story ends in the same place as it begins, or the ending brings in elements that are reminiscent of your beginning.

I’ve used an epilogue to bring my story full circle in the sense that it is framed by a prologue and epilogue, each with a time jump (eighteen years earlier in the prologue, three months later in the epilogue). Elements from both the prologue and chapter one reappear in the epilogue to really tie it into the story.

I’ve always hoped to turn The Fair Queen into a series, with at least two, maybe three books. However, in my research into querying agents and publishers, I discovered that debut authors rarely get series offers, so it’s best to wrap your story up at the end in a way that will satisfy readers if there’s no sequel, but express to the agent/publisher that it could extend into a series.

With that in mind…

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Dos and don’t of writing an epic epilogue:

Don’t

  • use an epilogue to tie up loose ends that should have been tied off in your story’s climax and following scenes
  • tack on a lot of unnecessary information that your reader won’t care about, if it doesn’t add anything to the story, cut it
  • leave your readers with more questions than you answer, you should be concluding the story rather than setting up a sequel (a few hints are fine if a sequel is definitely forthcoming)

Do

  • skip forward in time if appropriate, revealing the outcomes of events at the end of the story further into the future
  • write your epilogue from another character’s POV if your MC dies in the story’s conclusion, or if you intend to write a sequel from this other character’s POV
  • explain the outcomes for any much loved secondary characters who may not have been involved in the final scenes of the story’s climax

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Your epilogue shouldn’t be dead weight dragging the ending of your novel down. Sometimes an exciting, action-filled climax requires a steady finish to give a satisfying end, but other times your story is best left off after the main action concludes. This is something your Critique Partners and Beta Readers can help you with, if they see the epilogue as unnecessary then it should probably be cut. If you absolutely love it leave it in, but be prepared for an editor to tell you to cut it later.

So there you have it, a few basic tips on whether your story needs an epilogue and how to make sure it serves your story and doesn’t end up getting cut later.

What are your thoughts on epilogues? Do you skip them? Love them? Do you have any advice on writing them? Leave me your tips in the comments!

 

Lyndsey

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Writing an epilogue Lyndsey's Book Blog