Puzzling Quests

Puzzling Quests

The third draft of book two of The Puzzle Quests is almost complete. Rewriting a book is basically like rearranging  those puzzles where you have to shift one word in order to make a sentence fit. Or slide a paragraph in order to make the whole picture make sense.

This is where I am right now. I have pages printed out and marked up. I have a word document with the actual draft, another with deleted passages (because you never want to permanently delete anything!), another with passages that will go into Mark’s Book Three, and a final one that contains passages based on Peter’s Book Four.

Peter has been a pest with Book Two. Of course he wants to be in the picture, because he has a lot to say about what Rose does. Rose has her moments of jumping into situations, which is why they probably get along so well. It’s more fun when you have someone to get in trouble with!

IMG_6295
Peter and Rose in Cape Cod

For example, Rose doesn’t think about what could happen when she swims off after a monstrous octopus, because he happens to have one of the missing Aegean Sea coins stuck in one of his suckers. Rose knows this coin is one of the five needed to save Atlantis. When the octopus hides between two rocks, Rose doesn’t take no for an answer. We have to applaud Rose for her determination, but sometimes she has to learn to walk away or wait for help.

When the octopus attacks and Rose is caught in its arms, pulling her further and further into the ocean depths, it takes her sea dragon, Sparkle, and the mermaid, Natalia, to save her. She manages to get the coin, but at what expense? Her friends, her life?

For me, writing a magical world is probably the best occupation in the world. I am inpatient like Rose and jump in with both feet. But that’s how I learn what works and doesn’t work. It’s a game of creating, shifting, and puzzling dilemmas. Ones that I hope you will enjoy.

Look for The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis in the Fall of 2018!

 

 

Advertisements

Going with the Flow

Going with the Flow

For the last four months, I have been writing book two of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis (working title). It’s been a steady flow of writing scene after scene, not really knowing if the chronology of each one works. It’s the process of spitting out the images, words, and scenarios from Rose’s point of view.

It’s very difficult to do this, because we want to edit, review, and get confirmation that we are on the right path. This especially happens with new writers. It can be hard to trust your gut if you aren’t used to listening to it or you haven’t established your voice.

I have learned to trust my gut and go with the flow letting the characters and the situations evolve. The chapters may not make the final cut, but it’s a step in the right direction. It at least shows you what works or doesn’t work. Here are some tips I use to go with the flow:

  1. If I’m stuck on a spot in my book, I might switch modes and journal. Why am I writing this book? What is Rose’s journey? How is she interacting with everyone? What do I want her to learn, how will she grow? I recently did this and it clarified my direction and opened the valve to write a few chapters. I haven’t read through my first draft, but if I have a strong feeling while writing, I know I’m on to something that will probably stay in the final draft.
  2. Be prepared to let go. Once you have that first draft and even as you are writing, don’t second guess, delete, and redo. Keep writing until you think yes, there is a book here. Let it sit, then when you reread it, be prepared to let large or small parts of it go. Always save what you delete. It might lead to something else. It might go into the next book of a series. Someone else who reads it might think it works. Best way to figure if it stays–ask if it moves your story forward. Does it excite your readers? Do you get the same ‘yeah this is amazing’ feeling when you read it again? It’s like a second date where you either know you want a third or have to claim illness and get out of there quick.
  3. Read and listen to books similar to your own. It can help with getting an idea of what works with each age group and understand how to deal with certain writing issues. For example, I have been listening to Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. I had already written Shimmer’s Eggs before reading this series. The idea of a quest is the same, which a standard theme in an adventure plot. Collins had a prophecy, mine was a riddle. In book two, I was having a hard time accepting that a certain person would betray a main character in the book. Did I want to include this in a middle grade book? In Collins’ series there are major upsets and betrayals. This theme obviously can work in a book for ages 8-12. The world is fraught with betrayal and disappointment. My book will touch on that, but how will I instill hope?
  4. Write what makes you smile, laugh, cry, and whoop in victory, not what you think will sell. Sometimes I worry that Saving Atlantis won’t be as good as Shimmer’s Eggs. It’s a common worry among writers. I can easily get caught up in what people think. Then I remember that I write to soften the harshness of reality, build friendships, instill values, and empower children and young adults to make a difference in their world. To give hope. That’s not ego. That has to come from the heart. As long as I do that, my words will ring true.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Pat yourself on the back when you have a good writing session. Begin again when you don’t. Step away from your story when you’ve have a bad day. Do whatever brings you joy and come back to your writing with the words that lift you up. “I am a writer. I practice my art. My words have meaning.”
  6. Write, write, write, write, etc. Every single day. If you want this to be an important part of your life, your career, you have to practice daily. No other way around it. Don’t expect it to be a bed of roses. Sometimes we hit a thorn and we bleed, but when the roses bloom, the scent is sweet and magical.
  7. Most of all: Go with flow and don’t overthink it.

When your Book is Done

When your Book is Done

Start Another!

The most important task a writer can do upon completion of a book or story is start another. When we finish a project it’s a good idea to take a break, especially if edits still need to be made. But when that book is complete and off to production, you have to jump right in and start the next.

Why?

Writing is like swimming, lifting weights, yoga or any other sport. If you don’t exercise those muscles you lose them quickly. Plus, if you’re like me, you have a myriad of other ideas you’ve been itching to begin.

The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs is getting closer to print. Carol Coogan, my fabulous graphic designer, is working on the cover and a couple illustrations that will be inside the book. There’s still so much to do to, but I have started the third book in my Fianna Cycle.

ShimmerEggs
visit http://www.janinedetilliocammarata.com to get on my mailing list for publication news!

It has been a long time since my second book in the series, Eyes of the Goddess, came out. Life sidetracks us and I wrote my non-fiction book, What Makes Them Amazing, and then tried many times to write what I thought was the third book in my series about Maecha’s daughter Eibhlin. But with the help of my Super Cool Writer’s Group, I realized that Natalie Fischer’s story still isn’t down. She has to meet her biological mother, time travel to 3rd century Celtic Ireland, free her druid father, fall in love with the knife-wielding warrior, Caoilte, all while being threatened by those who resent her.

That’s a lot for a young adult, but she is up to the challenge and so am I.

I’m excited to start this venture along with the first session of my 6-week writing workshop about creating characters to propel plot. We met last night and there are some fabulous ideas!

So if you are ready to write your story, get to know your character. Writing a story without knowing your character is like getting married after a one-night stand. Yes, there may be something thrilling about that person, but you do not know who you are marrying! Last night was the first date with our characters, and I believe there will be a second!

Keep exploring and writing!

In the Book House

Monday my SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)  met at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza for a writers’ field trip. It was a change of pace from where we usually meet, and it was probably one of the most effective gatherings for me.

As you may know, I’m finalizing my next book called The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs. Carol Coogan who designed my book, What Makes Them Amazing: The Inspiring Stories of Young Adults Fighting Cancer, is currently working on the cover. I have been calling it a middle grade novel, but wanted to make sure that I had it right. Some advice was that it was based on the age of the characters, or the word count, subject matter, or level of reading.

According to an article I found on writingrhymeandmeter.com: “Middle Grade Books are written for kids approximately 8-12.  The language has to be modified to complement their lexile ranges, but it is not acceptable to write in a way that is pedantic.  Themes should be relevant: adventure is essential, parents are generally absent, romance is light if present, happy endings are the norm, and the protagonist is always in the age range of the readers or slightly older.”

In my book, Luke and Mark are 11 and entering 7th grade, which Peter and Rose are 9 and going into 5th grade. Time travel through a puzzle is definitely adventurous, parents aren’t usually around to keep them from getting into trouble, just a smidgen of romantic interest, and although the ending isn’t what may be expected, it’s hopeful.

According to a blog post by Writers Digest, a middle grade novel word count is between 20,000-55,000 words. Mine is just over 50,000, so I think Middle Grade is the right category for this book.

Understanding where my book will fit on the shelves of bookstores is essential to marketing it and getting booksellers to purchase it. I believe I’m in the right spot and look forward to sharing it soon.

Next step? Finding a printer.