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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Off to a Good Start...Or a Terrible Start...Okay, Some Kind of Start

I'm never one to pass up jumping on a good bandwagon. Writing/blogging buddies Krystal and Michelle recently made great posts about going back to their old writing projects and critiquing their opening lines. They were a ton of fun to read, and I also never shy away from self-deprecating humor, so I figured I'd have a go at it!

The vast majority of my early writings were Phantasy Star fanfic. Actually, those were the only stories I ever finished. I'll start as far back as I can find, and I'll also toss in some more recent ones, because why not? Some aren't too bad, some are, and there's one in particular that, due to a proofreading fail, is dumpster fire-levels of awful. Onwards!


My first fanfic ever. I think I was around 12 or 13 years old:

I see trees, I see sand, I see ice. And I see hell.

Okay, not too bad. Like lots of games and sci-fi in general, Phantasy Star made use of the Single-Biome Planet, hence the first line. I suppose my career as a writer didn't get off to a terrible start.


Another fanfic. I'm pretty sure I was 16:

The sun shone brightly over the sands of the desert. Because of the planet's irregular orbit around the sun, there was no actual night - daylight was a constant on in this barren world. The majority the population was in bed sleeping, having adjusted to the consistent sunlight long ago. But deep in the mountains, far from the sunlight, someone was awake.

First off, that's not how science works, Thea. Next year you'll take astronomy in high school and learn more about planets and orbits and such. (And then many years later, you'll enlist the help of a friend to teach you even more about orbits to set up the concept of a book.) Also, I'm so glad it's specified that the sun shone brightly, as opposed to all those dimly-shining suns.


Here it is, the laughably bad one I promised. Also fanfic. I think I was 17 or 18?

The light of the two moons cast a dim light over the small village. While the outside temperature was not unbearably hot, the villagers kept all their windows open to take advantage of the sporadic cool breeze.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRGHHsdghoijasengeiwsdf. How did I not catch the two instances of "light" in the VERY FIRST LINE OF THE STORY?!?!?! And the kicker is, this was actually one of my best fanfics. It's held up over time. It's poignant and heartbreaking. It took a new spin on a topic that had been written about before. BUT OH MY GOD, THAT FIRST LINE.

In the immortal words of Blanche Devereaux, "God, I wish I was dead." Even 15ish years later.


At some point, a long writing break happened while I was off doing other life stuff. Let's see how I re-entered the writing world with one more fanfic example:

Alys shielded her eyes from the sun. In the distance, she could make out the silhouettes of the tents at the edge of the native Motavian village of Molcum. “Finally,” she muttered to herself as she approached the outskirts of the small village.

Maybe not the most attention-grabbiest thing ever, but it works. That was late 2010, and I'd say my style hasn't changed drastically since then (based off this example, anyway).


Now let's see what I actually got published. Here's the opening of Searching the Skies, my first published book (written in 2011):

Geneva Greyson removed one of her twin daggers from the throat of her enemy and watched him fall to the ground, wondering yet again what could have possibly possessed her people to land on this planet centuries ago. Ophari was a cold, desolate world with little to offer in the ways of food, minerals, or technology, as the Opharians were not nearly as advanced as the humans who had stumbled upon them. Had it been up to her, she would have passed over the near-barren rock without a second look. Her ancestors, however, had thought differently; they had sought to colonize it and add the small planet to their ever-growing empire.

Not too shabby. Definitely screams "this is sci-fi!" from the get go. Funnily enough, very little information in this opening paragraph is actually relevant to the rest of the book.


Elysium remains one of my favorites; let's see how it holds up under the magnifying glass (written in 2014):

Janie stood in my living room, one hand holding a bag of food from the local Chinese take-out place and the other planted firmly on her hip. She fixed me with a stern glare. “You shouldn’t leave your door unlocked."

Well, we learned a lot about Janie in a few lines. Too bad she's not a main character.


I might be getting too full of myself. Let's look at Flight of the Dragon Queen (written in 2014-2015):

“Hey, Caleb. How’s it going?”
I glanced toward the entrance of the cubicle. Ricky, my closest acquaintance at the office, leaned against the edge of the flimsy wall. “Hey,” I greeted him in return. “I’m all right, can’t complain."

SNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE. It's a good thing this book has dragons and magic and shit, because something has to make up for this opening. If I recall correctly, even the editor had some qualms about the whole prologue, but sometimes you just need to quickly establish the parameters of the story and then get to the good stuff.


Might as well end on a high note with Out of Orbit (written mostly in 2015):

“Captain Hale, are you okay?”
Jasmine winced as she scrambled to her feet, trying to ignore the pain radiating from where her back had slammed into the floor. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” A quick glance around the spaceship’s deck indicated she hadn’t been the only one knocked off balance by the blast. Concern flitted through her mind, but tending to injuries wasn’t her responsibility or priority. “Keep firing!”

This is one of the few times I was really happy with an entire introduction/first chapter. When discussing this post with another writing friend, I also realized that OoO is probably the only time when I really felt I wrote a good opening, ending to the main story, AND ending to the epilogue. Yay.


I just sent in another round of edits for Seductive Suspect. The whole opening chapter is quite long and a lot happens, but the first couple lines/paragraphs probably fall somewhere in the middle between awesome and Blanche Devereaux both in quality and level of excitement. I can live with that!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Repetition Repetition Repetition Repetition....

Hey, a post that's actually about writing! Or something close to it, anyway. Though I haven't actually written anything lately, I did just finish the first round of edits on Seductive Suspect.

When doing my own proofing/editing before submitting a manuscript, I have my list of words I check for to make sure I haven't overused them. I've discussed "that" here before, and even though I've gotten better, it still sneaks in every now and then. The list grows because lately it seems that with every book I write, a new word gets overused. Granted, every editor has his or her own words that bug them with overuse, and what stands out to one may not stand out to another. Most of the time, though, I find myself agreeing with the words they pick out and check for them in the future.

The overused word for Flight of the Dragon Queen was "just". Like "that", it's often unnecessary, almost like superfluous adverbs. For Out of Orbit, it was "look". That got a little trickier, because to me, repetitive use of words like "stare" and "gaze" stand out more. I did try to mix it up more in that book, and "look" is now on the list.

So what's THE word for Seductive Suspect? "Make/made/making". As always, it can be hard to notice something until someone else comes along and highlights it. Like, literally highlights it. And then I see how many times it came up in a short span and say UGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH how did I not catch that earlier?

Like I said earlier, it's possible that "make/made/making" is just this editor's pet word. Since I already have enough on my plate, I'm not going to go back to previous works and see how often it popped up. However, it came up SO much in Seductive Suspect, it's probably going on the list. And I'm sure it'll be joined by something else next time around.

"That" count (aside from the times I used it to illustrate a point and put it in quotes): 7
"Just" count (same stipulation): 2
"Overuse" count (ironically): 4
Level of caring for this blog post: 0