Posts Tagged ‘SFA’

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The Perfect Book

January 24, 2009

“This is why I’m not good at being witty in real life. I think I’m so clever that I start laughing before I finish what I’m saying.”

-JLY

It’s probably no secret that JLY and I both enjoy writing SFA quite a bit… That should probably be reward enough for toiling over our pages… But I do take great delight whenever I see on the forum or in an email that someone is enjoying reading our work.

On the other hand, it makes me sad, sometimes, to know that some people… okay, possibly a lot of people… aren’t going to like our book.

There are many reasons for this, some of which have already been elaborated on in various comments, and others that are simply reasons I know, reasons that keep me awake at night every now and then, wondering if we should have done things differently.

I should probably admit that this is in no small part my own fault. I’ve developed a bad habit of reading the Amazon reviews for other books. It’s oddly fascinating to read the 5-star reviews, and horribly terrifying to read the 1-star reviews. Even great books, amazing books that are given 5 stars by reviewer after reviewer can be ripped to shreds by a single scathing 1-star review. How can some people hate a book so passionately, and other people love it so entirely?

The answer, I think, is both reassuring and unsettling. It’s just that people have different tastes, different things they look for, different things they love and hate.

For example, with our story, I know there are going to be people who don’t like the pace, people who don’t like the characters, and people who don’t like the plot (or lack there of in the beginning). But I also know– or at least hope– that there will be people who love seeing the school before we launch into the story, people who delight in watching the simple stereotypes blossom into deeper characters, and people who read foreshadowing into the early events that prepared the way for the main plot.

Writing is about making choices, and those choices come with trade-offs. The trade-off to getting a big, fun cast is that you might lose people when you introduce so many new faces at once. The trade-off to spending time on bullies, social events, and all the high school details is that there’s less time for the epic fantasy elements. The trade-off for entertaining ourselves with funny jokes and twists is that we undercut the dramatic elements.

One of my friends recently read our story, and he commented that he was taken by surprise when everything in the ending started happening, since up until then, it’s a happy little story without much danger.

Part of that is intentional. We wanted the twists to come as a significant surprise, but the trade-off is that there’s less urgency early on. Wisteria having a bodyguard, for example, seems completely superfluous at first. Rakam comes off as a slacker tag-along set on annoying her and making an easy buck… But we all know how that one ends.

Ultimately, there are many different ways that we could have told our story… I strongly believe that the published version is much, much stronger than the draft that is on the website. Even so, sometimes I still wonder if we should have told it a different way…

But if writing is about trade-offs, then I think the best we can do is to write from the heart, and write what we love… Because there’s no such thing as a Perfect Book that everyone will love… There will always be people who like a book, and people who don’t. And if you write for someone else, for what you think other people will like, at best you’ll still end up displeasing some readers, and at worst your writing will ring false to your readers and to yourself as well. The best I think we writers can hope for is to write for ourselves, and if someone else happens to like it, then we can consider ourselves very, very lucky.

And on that subject, I have a confession.

If you couldn’t tell, last week’s post is one of my favorites. JLY and I have had this scene planned for quite some time, so we’ve been looking forward to finally getting here. We’ve debated for a while how we wanted to play this scene… Ultimately, we had had to do it this way… It was just too much fun.

There are a lot of different ways that this scene could have happened. Perhaps more dramatically, perhaps with more suspense. But here we are, and I happen to personally like it the way it is.

You see, here at SFA, we write because it’s fun. We wouldn’t be able to sit inside on a Friday night and write for hours if it weren’t fun. We can be serious when we need to be, but our default setting is ‘have a good time’. And I can imagine that a lot of our choices aren’t very traditional, or might be very different than how other writers would do it… But maybe (hopefully?) different can be a good thing?

So that’s my rambling for today, but before I go, my sincerest thanks to everyone like mjkj and Mary who has helped so far with The Great Tagging Project (I’m compulsively checking to see if we ever claim the #1 spot for “Young Adult Fantasy” or “Young Adult”), to everyone who has bought the book, and to each person who has posted a review–Generic Pen Name, Charvale, Aiden Naecea, G. DiStefano, Larry Liang, and Drucilla Shultz–you definitely made our day, week, month! I’m savoring the time while we have a 5-star rating, since I know it’s doomed to not last for long…

KL

Quote for the week:

JLY: We have option A and B.
KL: What should we do?
JLY: Well, ‘A’ sounds funny…
KL: Yeah, let’s do that. Like we usually do. Whatever personally amuses us.

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Done? Really?

October 31, 2008

JLY and I just submitted the Word document with the entire novel to Booksurge late last night… Fingers crossed that there won’t be any problems, and we’ll get it out in time for people to buy as holiday presents! What could be better than sharing SFA with someone you love, like, or barely know? (Really, we’ll take anything…) … Please? ^_^

JLY and I have worked extremely hard to improve the story from what’s on the website. There are new scenes, tons of cleaned up plot lines, and a veritable barrage of properly-used commas. We’ve agonized over making it the highest quality story possible, so we really hope you enjoy it. In particular, anyone who has been bothered by inconsistencies, wished for more details about the world, or wondered what happened to Fell for the middle part of the book should definitely read it!

So if you’ve enjoyed the website, if you’ve enjoyed the story, please save a spot on your bookshelf (and perhaps even a place on your gift list?) for SFA! We’ll let you know as soon as the book is available for purchase– hopefully it’ll be early December or late November!

KL

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Massive Rewrites, You Say? Why Yes, We’ve Got Those.

September 25, 2008

As you might know, JLY and I finished writing Book 1 on 7/7/08. And then, began editing it. That means we’ve been editing for over two months now. Two months. Of editing.

If you’ve read JLY’s blog at all, you know she’s the perfectionist. She likes it when things are perfect. Me, on the other hand? I like it when things are done.

Which is why editing is painful for me. I wanted to power through it and finish it and submit the book so I can put a big metaphorical DONE stamp on SFA Book 1… But luckily, JLY and KM Ricker (amongst other people) have talked sense into me… So it looks like we might delay publishing until we can go over the entire book again and make it… better…

Sometimes, with editing, I get the feeling that I’m not making things better, I’m just making things different. I hate that feeling… It seems unproductive.

But, JLY and I did have a good round of editing lately, where we rolled up our sleeves and cleaned up some of the Annalise sub-plot (which gets a little messy at times)… Hopefully, what we’re doing is making it better, and not just different.

After some discussion, JLY and I decided to share one of the changes— an added scene, in this case– for the update last week. This scene is in rough-draft (and by that, I mean it hasn’t been gone through any rounds of editing yet). If you read it, I hope you liked seeing what we’ve been bashing our heads against for the past two months or so… The process of ripping open the story and then putting it back together. So to speak.

Oh, to answer the question in the comments, JLY and I have opted not to use a professional editor… Since we’ve already got the two of us, plus KM Ricker’s opinion, I tend to think we’ve got enough opinions floating around… Also, I’m not sure that the quality of professional editing we’d get with a self-publishing company would be that worth it, since the editors don’t work with you for as much time, or as closely. But maybe a professional editor would be a good idea in the future, at some point…

KL

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Reviews, Deadlines, New Favorite Hobbies.

September 10, 2008

First off, I really can’t thank everyone enough for joining the facebook group, posting comments, joining the tangler forum and overall reading the book. My new favorite hobby is checking to see who the new members of the facebook group are, and hoping we break 100 people. ^_^

Also, I’ll admit that every now and then JLY, KM Ricker, and I spend a couple of hours sorting through all of the places where fans have posted SFA links on forums, or mentioned it on blogs or profiles. It’s always a jolt of encouragement to see that someone out there has taken the time to share our story with other people. We really appreciate it!

So… along those lines, JLY and I have submitted our site to a couple of web fiction websites, so I wanted to let everyone know that you can now find a listing of our book at Pages Unbound and the Webfiction Guide. We’ve had so many thoughtful and amazing emails/comments that I thought I’d throw those two links out there to see if anyone would be interested in giving us a ranking/writing a review at one of those sites. (Who wouldn’t want to write a review for SFA? No one, presumably… Right? =D)

Anyway, apparently the only way JLY, KM Ricker, and I can manage to get anything done is to set some strict deadlines… The latest one we’ve set is to try to submit the manuscript to Booksurge by Sept 15th. Given how long the formatting, etc. takes, that should mean the book will be ready to buy in time for the holidays… Hopefully. So, as per usual, we’re scrambling to get everything done, tighten up anything that needs tightening, and add in all the scenes we think make sense to add.

As JLY and I have mentioned a bit, we’re planning on filling in Fell’s arc somewhat more completely, so you can look for a couple more Fell scenes in the first book. Honestly, one of the main reasons that Fell was neglected was the steady-progression nature of his character. Warriors take their lumps and grind through the first year, so that’s what Fell is doing… and unfortunately, that’s not particularly eventful, or plot-relevant… (We can really only have so many scenes where Fell gets beaten up again, right?) But, looking back, we did end up skipping over some parts… So, I can now definitely say that we’re going to round all of that out a little more, particularly the social side of Fell’s first year.

Other than that, just more of the same type of work that we’ve been talking about for the past couple months… the Fell additions are the last major thing on our list, along with a couple other scenes that need looking at… and, realistically, probably going over the entire thing one last time… But, after that! We can submit it! I feel like I’ve been saying that for awhile…

Anyway, I’m looking forward to submitting it, and finally really moving on to work full-on for book 2. We’ll keep you updated as we go along… With hope and much luck, the next time I post, I’ll be congratulating the SFA team on successfully submitting our book to Booksurge by September 15th. ^_^

KL

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Self-Publishing, RSS, Facebook, and Fell

August 24, 2008

Thanks again to everyone who’s been commenting and emailing. KM Ricker, JLY, and I were very encouraged by all of the feedback!

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on the non-writing side of SFA. We called a couple of self-publishing companies and spent a few hours talking to each of them so we could figure out what the best company for us would be. After much debate, we decided to go with Booksurge (as David Dunham even recently recommended). We picked Booksurge for several reasons, including the book size (smaller, and more like real fantasy books), and the price buyers pay (which should end up being lower than other companies). The process takes a couple of months to complete, so when it’s available to buy, we’ll be happy to let everyone know!

On top of the self-publishing research, JLY and I also spent many (too many?) hours bashing our heads against the RSS feed, but we finally got it working, so SFA now has an RSS feed. Sign up and stay on top of all the upcoming SFA news. =)

Lastly, you might have noticed that SFA has a shiny new Facebook group, so you can join up and discuss SFA on facebook with other readers, or just show your support. =D Thank you to everyone who has signed up so far!

Whew. Well, hopefully this week it’ll be back to writing. Rai’s prologue will be posted on Friday, so we can see how Eastridge’s resident charmer spent his summer. After that, it’ll be time to dive into the first chapter!

By the way, there have been a few emails and comments asking about why Fell isn’t more involved in Book 1. Originally, we had a few more things planned for him and for the Warrior major, but as it was we felt we were taking too long to get to the actual overarching plot, so we decided to push some of it to the second book.

So, JLY and I have previously talked about this imbalance, and as we’re editing the book, we’ve been looking to see if we can balance the narrative a bit more evenly while still making sense and without getting too side-tracked. So, it’s something we’ve definitely been thinking about and looking into, although I’m not sure what the end result will be. I can, however, say that we’ve got lots of plans for Fell this year.

KL

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As Though We Planned It

July 11, 2008

If you’re following along on the School For Adventurers website, you’ll be reading Chapter 11: Final Examinations over the next couple of weeks. This chapter was fun to write, so hopefully it’ll be at least equally fun to read. ^_^

By the way, if anyone is wondering if we planned the last names to work out so that there would be certain groups for the Final Examinations, I can honestly admit that it was one of many fun coincidences that JLY and I luck into every so often. We have a saying whenever we stumble across something that we didn’t plan, but that works out perfectly and just makes too much sense. We say: As though we planned it.

Because, in all honesty, we both know that the kinds of things we’re pulling together for the end of SFA should have been planned and set up months in advance, and somehow, some of these things are just falling together. And even though there are things we have been setting up for months and months now, it’s sometimes more exciting to realize there’s something hiding in our text that we ourselves didn’t even plant there. It makes the writing feel true– like we’re just transcribing something that’s not arbitrary or made up, but something that had to be called into existence in just this way, to work out and tie together in all these places.

By the way, maybe this is only funny to me, but you’d be surprised how long it took us to come up with the line:

“Not bad, Wisteria.” Lyre said. “But, this isn’t sparring class. […] You forgot about Sariil.”

For about twenty minutes, we were stuck on:

“Not bad, Wisteria,” Lyre said, “But you forgot one thing. Sariil’s-behind-you-with-a-rock!

KL

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Countdown to Disaster

July 2, 2008

JLY and I have been writing at a break-neck speed to meet our 7/7/08 deadline for finishing SFA. We’ve finished writing Chapter 10 and Chapter 11, which is currently titled Final Examinations. We’ve started on Chapter 12, and we’re making good progress on it. I think we’ve actually got good odds of finishing by the deadline. I’m pretty optimistic, even though I recently discovered that the document we use to keep track of our time line for what we need to write is titled “Countdown to Disaster.doc”– clearly JLY has tons of faith in our ability to write quickly =P (Alternate nicknames for it include “The Time Line of Doom”…)

Yet, somehow, we’re writing and writing and almost done. And, it’s actually been a lot of fun. One of the many great things about writing the final chapters is that the story is falling into place much more easily than I would have expected. Even JLY and I had forgotten some of the elements that we’d purposely set in place earlier in the story, and when we rediscover them, we’re usually delighted. Now it’s just a matter of tying it all together and not being lazy– and by that, I mean pushing ourselves to make every scene interesting, fun, and exciting. Which I think we’ve managed to do lately, hopefully, even though we’re writing at such a frantic pace. Well, not too much time left, and we’ve still got the biggest scenes to tackle, so wish us luck!

KL