Editing your sequel – Step 2

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently, I wrote about my experience in drafting the sequel to my debut science fiction novel, Resistance (Divided Elements #1)and promised to share my upcoming experiences in editing said sequel. Last week was Step 1 – Reviewing Book 1. Which brings us to Step 2 – Seeing your strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of your readers.

 

STEP TWO – SEEING YOUR WORK LIKE YOUR READERS DO

You’re probably champing at the bit to actually rip into your draft manuscript, but trust me – it still needs more resting time. Going back in to a work in progress too soon after typing ‘the end’ can be like trying to reflect on a relationship a week after the break-up: All you’re going to get are hot, messy tears or a rose-tinted view of the belle epoque (neither of which are helpful).

If you’re like me, you’ll be spending this time working on completely unrelated projects – the half-drafted Nano project from two years back that you’ve been holding out on, various short stories for upcoming competitions, beta reading for crit partners, etc. If you’re not doing these things, you should seriously consider them. At the very least, bury yourself in an amazing book that can act as you ‘palate cleanser’, benchmark and inspiration when it finally comes time to review your own novel.

So, while waiting for our WIPs to get to room temperature, it’s time to kick off Step 2 – Seing your work like your readers do.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges and advantages of writing Book 2. One of the advantages I neglected to mention was having the benefit of third party reviews – from crit partners, beta readers, ARC reviewers, and book reviewers.

Getting feedback about your writing style, your plotting, your characters, your world-building – it all adds up to a more refined blueprint for making your second book shine. When you write your first book, you send it off for publication not knowing how readers will respond or engage. With your second book, that uncertainty is not as all-encompassing.

annie-spratt-454816

For those of you playing along at home, this is what I did:

  1. Take out your notebook or open up a new word or excel document – anything you can divide a page into 2 columns. Title the first column “Positive” and the second column “Negative.”
  2. Go to the Amazon and Goodreads pages of Book 1.
  3. Take a deep breath (you’ll need it) and start by filtering for 1* and/or 2* reviews. If you’re lucky enough not to have these, start with your 3*.
  4. Ease the pain by looking for the good amongst the review – even ‘bad’ reviews usually have something positive to say. When you find something good, write it down in the “Positive column”. Where multiple readers raise the same thing, underline/highlight/bold the entry.
  5. If you have less than 100 reviews, repeat step 4 for all them. If you have more, consider doing a dip sample from each of the rating categories.
  6. Now go back and look for the negative points. Write them down – but maybe not verbatim. Bad reviews tend to be full of emotion. Strip that away and get to the core of what the review is telling you – e.g. “All humans have a ‘lifeline’ that plugs into things. All I could think of was [a] silly looking plug-in device. I actually giggled each time it was referenced or used even if it was a serious moment” (yes, that was written in the 1* review for Resistance. sigh.) becomes “lack of understanding about / poor characterisation of world-building technology “.

 

These lists of things – of what your readers loved/were fascinated by/engaged with and what they hated/were turned off by/didn’t understand – become your touchpoints as you edit. The entries become the red flags for things you need to either a) incorporate more strongly or b) consider removing/reframing.

Here’s a snapshot of my list to get you started:

POSITIVE NEGATIVE
·       Original world-building

·       Dark tone that built tension

·       Great character development

·       Thought-provoking

·       Too philosophical

·       Didn’t like the main character

·       Didn’t understand the technology or mechanics of population control

 

Interestingly, of the three negative points listed, I’ll only address one: the lack of understanding about the world-building mechanics. The other two – character likeability and philosophical bent – won’t change. And that’s the thing with reviews – sometimes they just come from readers who didn’t like your book and not because your book was poorly written.

Remember, you’re not trying to please everyone. You want to engage the readers who want to love your story. Remove the obstacles for that love, but don’t try to write the book they wish they could have written.

What about you? What critiques or reviews have been left about your first book that you will incorporating in your Book 2 edits? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

 

LIKED THIS? WANT MORE?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

RESISTANCE

 

Advertisements
Editing your sequel – Step 2

Editing your sequel – Step 1

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently, I wrote about my experience in drafting the sequel to my debut science fiction novel, Resistance (Divided Elements #1)and promised to share my upcoming experiences in editing said sequel.

So, here it goes – a look into Week One of my editing process.

 

STEP ONE – REVIEWING BOOK ONE

 

I haven’t read Resistance since I did the final check prior to publication. Crazy right?

Part of that was because I was terrified that I would read it and hate it; effectively caught in a writer’s purgatory where you hate the words but can’t take them back. But it was also because I had no time to read – my TBR pile of books on my bedside table is already its own Jenga stack and everytime I opened a page I would always feel guilty that I wasn’t writing words instead.

So, last week I sat down and read Resistance. Read it in two days. And (happily) I loved it (and hope I can do it justice with Book 2).

But it wasn’t all recreational reading. I had a purpose here – actually, I had two:

  • Identify the unresolved or hinted plot intrigues
  • Create a first-pass style list of key terms, phrases and spelling conventions

green-chameleon-21532

For those of you playing along at home, this is what I did:

i. Took a deep breath and opened to page one

ii. Read the dedication and reminded myself why I was doing this

iii. Read the first chapter as a reader – no pen in hand, no keyboard in reach

iv. After the initial read-through, wrote down all the plot intrigues – all those hints of conflict, the developing complexities, the world-building points of interest.

I can be pretty left-brain at times, so I used a spreadsheet: the first column for the chapter number, the second for the plot intrigue, and the third for whether it was resolved by the end of the book (fully, partly, not-at-all).

For example, in chapter 4 we see Anaiya (the protagonist) playing a time-wasting / tactical-sharpening game on her wristplate. The game is faintly reminiscent of Solitaire. It was a nod to the retro days, but it was also a reminder that not all technology is ‘new’ in the future. It’s the 21st century and I still use a strangely shaped piece of metal with a fine-toothed wheel to open cans, I still use a metal key to open my front door, I still check the mailbox to find paper letters from companies who want my money, and I still occasionally use tiny rounds of copper and nickel to pay for paper movie tickets. All this in a world where space travel is commonplace, libraries of information can fit into a portable drive smaller than my hand, and video-conversations can happen in real-time with multiple people on the other side of the world.

I touch on the concept a little in Book 1, but it’s such an interesting concept to me, that I think I will elevate it in Book 2.

v. Read the chapter again, focusing on the ‘mechanics’. Again, all this was captured in a spreadsheet, but for this step I used multiple tabs –  one each for character descriptions, location profiles, unique terms, capitalised terms, turns of phrase, spelling conventions, timeline milestones, etc, etc.

This is where you should pick up on things like which words you capitalise or hyphenate and which ones you don’t, e.g. rundown or run-down, the Emancipation or The Emancipation.

More important are the character, location and story-specific nouns. The last thing you want is a diminutive character in Book 1 becoming tall and imposing in Book 2 (unless that’s the sort of sci-fi you are spinning).

Sci-fi and Fantasy have it tougher than most. I can’t tell you how many made-up and manipulated terms I have for things like plastics and metals or city infrastructure. Keep track of them and their descriptions and write it all down.

The list of your character descriptions is also useful because it doubles as a character list – use them! Don’t invent new characters for Book 2 if a supporting (or cameo) character can do the job.

vi. Repeated step 4 and 5 for the subsequent chapters (not forgetting to go back and update whether a plot intrigue has been resolved).

vii. Closed the book, sighed a happy sigh, started planning for the next stage of edits.

 

What about you? Are you going through the editing process as well? What other steps do you walk through in your approach? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

 

 

LIKED THIS? WANT MORE?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

RESISTANCE

 

Editing your sequel – Step 1

Sophomore Syndrome – How to handle your sequels…

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

*Brushes away the cobwebs* Hello! Yes, it has been quite some time since I last shared my angst and discoveries about crafting compelling fiction. For the veteran readers of this blog, you’ll know this is an annual occurrence – marking the shift from musing about writing to figuring shit out and actually writing.

But, today, dear readers,  I am back.

I celebrated the start of 2018 by typing the final words in Divided Elements #2. It’s crazy to think I actually drafted an entire 100,000 word novel in less than 12 months. I’m really happy with how the sequel to Resistance has developed and I’m looking forward to diving into the editing process to polish up this rough gem of mine.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be posting about this process – sharing my approach in all its glory (challenges, pitfalls, successes, frustrations) – particularly as it relates to editing a sequel.

Sophomore Syndrome

Sequels are tricky things. So tricky, in fact, there’s a whole turn of phrase to describe the inherent difficulties: Sophomore Syndrome.

Sophomore Syndrome (aka Sophomore Slump or Second-Year Syndrome) is the common perception that a second effort or sequel will fail (or has failed)  to live up to the standards of the first. It can plague books, movies, albums, sporting careers, academic achievements, and progeny. [Hahaha, just kidding – let’s not give middle children another reason to get all angsty (shout out and love to my middle siblings)].

9309782229_93d4976928_z
Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland via Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes the slump is just a product of expectations and time pressures. Think about it: Your first attempt enters the world clean; no-one knows what to expect, no benchmarks have been set, no context is available. And you’ve had all the time in the world, up until that first attempt, to hone your craft and prepare for the unveiling of your debut.

And then it’s time for your sequel. Now, everyone has expectations – of you and your work; the quality of your writing, the complexity of your characters, the nuances of your world-building. And they’re not just expectations that these will be merely as good as they were in the first effort – your audience wants to see growth, development, accelerating excellence; a failure to deliver on these will be seen as failure to realise the potential you so clearly presented in your debut.

And just as expectations rise, patience to see these expectations realised diminishes. Before anyone knew you or your work, there was no demand. Your audience didn’t know what they were missing. Now they’ve tasted the Kool Aid and they’re begging for more. Now. Right Now.

For indie/self-published artists, the pressure is a little less constricting – there are no agents, editors, publishing houses banging on doors, waving around contract clauses, to ratchet that anxiety up a little higher. But, still, it’s there – all artists know that no-one is going to wait too long for a sequel when there are other pretty fish in the sea to turn their attention to.

It’s not all bad news…

So, yeah, sophomore efforts are tough. The narrative arts have their own particular complexities – for instance, juggling stylistic and content consistency while being interesting, innovative and fresh (something I’ll cover in future posts on editing your sequels) – but, like all sophomore efforts, they also have their advantages.an

So before you despair about the challenges of the Sophomore Syndrome, I present the key advantages I gleaned from drafting Divided Elements #2:

  • Competency – This isn’t your first time at the Rodeo. You still have a lot to learn, but you’ve also mastered a lot of the basics. You’re firmly off your L-Plates and on to your Ps
  • No Blank Canvas – By now, you should have fairly well-developed characters, conflict, momentum and world-building. Plus, your first book should hold lots of little nuggets to flesh out, spin, turn inside-out in book 2. Winning!
  • Incentive – You know the end goal. You know the thrill of finishing a draft. You know the awesomeness of publishing and having total strangers say things like:
    “A book that would appeal to fans of dystopia (Think 1984, George Orwell) Resistance is an utterly thought-provoking and subversive book in this genre – Highly entertaining, poignant and brutal by shades, Divided Elements is an original novel, pushing the boundaries of this genre – and Mikhaeyla is surely a writer to watch out for.” (I loved this review – My readers are the best!)
  • Curiosity – Just like your readers, you’ve also set off on this journey of discovery. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be just as curious to find out what happens next 🙂

Where do we go from here?

Second attempts are tricky and satisfying in equal measure. If you’re drafting or polishing your own sophomore effort, why not join me over the next few weeks as I wade through the complexities of editing a sequel? Subscribe to the blog to get the posts delivered directly to your inbox!

In the meantime, tell me about your own sophomore issues/anxieties in the comments.

 

Liked this? Want more?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. 

RESISTANCE

 

 

Sophomore Syndrome – How to handle your sequels…

Rinse & Repeat – The Four Act Novel Structure

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently I reached the midpoint in the first draft of Divided Elements (Book 2). As anyone who has read my blog would know, I am not a fan of drafting ‘story middles’. After smashing through 5000-word weeks while drafting the first act, I watched with dismay as my production levels dropped and my indecision set in.

So, I did what I always do – I went back and reviewed my story structure. 

Like most advice on novel plotting, my own story structure model is great for guiding a writer through the first and final act – the breakdown in structure is clear and detailed and logical. But looking at the middle acts and it all breaks down. The gaps between the single turning point (the Midpoint) stretch for too long and the detail of what is required is reduced to ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’. Not very helpful, is it?

I’m not alone in that department, though. Even the legendary Save the Cat (Snyder) only gives us ‘B Story’, ‘Fun and Games’, and ‘Bad Guys Close In’. Story Engineering (Brooks) makes it even simpler, ‘Reaction’ and ‘Attack’.

Looking back on my plot outline, I knew immediately that the ambiguity around my story middle was the issue. Whereas all the other acts had detailed notes and clear plot points, Act 2A and Act 2B were notated with bare, broad-brushed statements – narrative equivalents of ‘Reaction’ and ‘Attack’.

I needed more detailed advice and guidance, so I started to analyse movies to find a common structural breakdown (I tend to find movies easier and quicker to analyse…). And what I discovered was surprising.

All story structure can be broken down into four acts. And those four acts essentially follow the same structure consisting of five elements. 

To draft this story I didn’t need to plot five turning points and the gaps in between, I just needed to write the first act four times.

“What??” I hear you say.
Stay with me…

The Rinse & Repeat Story Structure

So, this is my new and improved model of story structure, which borrows heavily from the old model but re-imagines it from a completely new perspective:

  • There are four acts: Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b and Act 3
  • The main story elements still apply – the inciting incident, the plot points (or doorways), the pinch points, the midpoint, the dark night of the soul, the final battle, the denouement – they’re all still there, but they’re framed differently.
  • There are five elements to each act – i) Status Quo, ii) Incident, iii) Initial Response, iv) Escalation -/+, and v) Decision
  • Each act deals with these elements in slightly different ways

The Matrix - Smith Clones

And this is how it plays out when plotting a novel:

Act 1 – NO ACTION or WRONG ACTION | Protagonist Mission: Maintain 

  • Status Quo – The Normal World – Showing the current state of play and hinting at why it shouldn’t (or can’t) continue on the same trajectory…
    • Introduction to protagonist in a characteristic moment that hints at their strengths, their ‘armour’ (what they draw comfort, protection, stability and strength from), and their critical weakness (their ‘fatal flaw’, ‘wound’, ‘misbelief’)
    • Introduction to the story world or environment that hints at its dark underbelly, vulnerability or weakness
    • Early indications, emerging issues and/or opportunities for a potential incident
  • Incident – The ‘Inciting Incident’ – the incident that threatens the status quo or (as is often the case in sequels) exacerbates it, and that calls the protagonist to action
  • Initial Response – Lack of engagement due to avoidance, resistance, ignorance, inability or error
  • Escalation -/+ – Increased Threat (the negative) followed by the Removal of the Obstacle to Action or emergence of a New Incentive for Engagement (the positive).
  • Decision – ‘Plot Point 1’ –
    • Conscious decision to engage, and
    • Articulating the goal or desire that will drive the protagonist forward from this point on.

Act 2A – ACTION WITHOUT STRATEGY | Protagonist Mission: Survive

  • Status Quo – The New World – Showing the Protagonist challenged by and reacting to the new world they find themselves in
    • Pandora’s Box – Removing the obstacle to action has introduced a whole raft of other obstacles to the protagonist goal
      • Introduction to other players – who assist, distract, antagonise, mentor…
      • Introduction of subplots – to deal with the various new obstacles presented
    • ‘Promise of the Premise’ – Let’s get tropey! – this is what Snyder calls the ‘Fun and Games’, it’s all the stuff you imagine when you hear ‘alien caper film’ or ‘time-travel romance novel’.
  • Incident – ‘Pinch Point 1’ – Hints at the true nature of the threat encountered in Act 1 and raises the level of tension and expectation. Requires a ‘boosted’ effort by the protagonist – i.e. deciding to engage isn’t enough; they need to interact with the threat (note: this is unlikely to be the true antagonist at this stage and more likely to be a manifestation or cronies or similar…)
  • Initial Response – Failed attempts. This is the heart of ‘all action, no thinking’. Everything is reactive, incoherent, unorganised – either because the protagonist and co are acting in the heat of the moment or because they don’t yet have what they need (information, resources, expertise, collaboration, etc) to develop a strategy. In this part of the story, the protagonist is still approaching the new problem the way they would in the old world.
  • Escalation -/+ – Threat of overall failure (the negative) – This needs to be HIGH STAKES! In the face of total failure, the protagonist can not have the option to just walk away. “Failure is not an option!” Immediately followed by a new understanding, revelation, or insight (the positive) that changes everything the protagonist and/or the reader knew (also the ‘Midpoint’)
  • Decision – To take on the antagonist – To deal with the real problem, not just its manifestation.

Act 2B – STRATEGY WITHOUT CHANGE | Protagonist Mission – Win

  • Status Quo – New Imperative – the frenetic action of a new plan coming together. Anticipation, excitement, urgency. Preparation and initial implementation/roll-out.
  • Incident – ‘Pinch Point 2’ – Highlights the underestimated strength of the antagonist and the continued weakness of the protagonist. Sets tone of menace even though the plan seems to be going swimmingly.
  • Initial Response – Continued implementation of the plan, building towards confrontation with antagonist, stringing together small wins, meeting the interim milestones needed for the plan to ultimately be successful. Building towards the False Victory. (This is the opposite of the Initial Response in Act 2A)
  • Escalation -/+ – The plan fails in the worst possible way and all seems lost (the negative) (also the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’). Immediately followed by a reprieve – an indication that success can be obtained, but that it will require facing impossible odds and taking extreme risks.
  • Decision – ‘Plot Point 2’ – The possibility of success is worth the risk / the threat of failure demands that every chance of success is pursued. The greater good takes precedence over personal safety.

Act 3 – CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION | Protagonist Mission: Resolve

  • Status Quo – Final preparation. Coming to terms with what is being risked. Shedding the ‘armour’ and confronting the ‘misbelief’.
  • Incident – ‘Final Battle’ – Confronting the antagonist in the ultimate battle – a zero sum game – only one can survive.
  • Initial Response – The protagonist stumbles. This is the moment in The Karate Kid when Johnny sweeps the leg, or the moment in Rocky when he’s down for the count, just before the music builds and he lurches himself into one final effort.
  • Escalation -/+ – Threat of overall failure is palpable (the negative), immediately followed by new and extreme resolve (the positive).
  • Decision – The last ditch effort. All-in.

The Decision of Act 3 doesn’t lead into a new act, instead it progresses to:

  • Outcome – the Protagonist defeats the Antagonist (and either survives, or dies (literally or metaphorically) in the process)
  • Impact – the ‘Denouement’ – the resolution of the story. The impact of defeating the Antagonist. The ‘true’ goal of the protagonist is achieved – the intangible, bigger picture, ‘thematic’ goal (e.g. happiness, closure, forgiveness, etc)

 

I hope this helps you with your novel drafting and editing as much as it helped me. Can you see this structure playing out in your own book or favourite movies? Does it work? Let me know in the comments!

 

Liked this? Want more?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. 

RESISTANCE

 

 

Rinse & Repeat – The Four Act Novel Structure

*Resistance* Book Launch – Event #1 – Excerpt Reading with Author

This event is NOW LIVE!! Purchase your copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo or Nook.     Share your feedback in the comments below!

Source: *Resistance* Book Launch – Event #1 – Excerpt Reading with Author

*Resistance* Book Launch – Event #1 – Excerpt Reading with Author

#Spotlight on Mikhaeyla Kopievsky of Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

It was great to be interviewed by one of the first readers of my blog! You can read the original post over on Lit World Interviews, a great site which supports authors and introduces them to new readers.

Lit World Interviews

MIKHAEYLA KOPIEVSKY is an independent speculative fictionML Profile Photo author who loves writing about complex and flawed characters in stories that explore philosophy, sociology and politics. She holds degrees in International Relations, Journalism, and Environmental Science.  A former counter-terrorism advisor, she has travelled to and worked in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Mikhaeyla lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia, with her husband and son. Divided Elements | Resistance is her debut offering.

  1. What’s Resistance about?

Resistance (Divided Elements #1) is the story of Anaiya 234 – a Peacekeeper of the Fire Element who patrols Otpor’s streets enforcing the Orthodoxy. In Otpor, a future post-apocalyptic Paris, Reistance book covverlife is a utopia – debauchery, security and stability are all provided by the Cooperative and maintained by strict adherence to the ruling ideology. Wrong action is termed Unorthodoxy and punished in a way similar to how crimes are dealt with in these days – retraint…

View original post 985 more words

#Spotlight on Mikhaeyla Kopievsky of Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

The day has finally arrived! My speculative fiction / dystopian novel Resistance (Divided Elements #1) is now available for purchase!

resistance-read-now

To celebrate, I want to share with you some of my favourite excerpts from the reviews I have been getting on Goodreads. It has been such a beautiful and humbling experience to hear what readers have to say after finishing Resistance. Enjoy!

“A whirlwind cross between Fahrenheit 451 and Divergent. This novel grabs your attention and keeps it locked in place for 34 chapters.”

“Resistance isn’t like other dystopian novels you’ve read.”

“I couldn’t put this book down. Or I didn’t want to put this book down because I had to put it down many different times throughout the day and each time, I was incredibly disappointed that I wasn’t in the middle of the action of the book. I needed to know what was happening next and if I wasn’t experiencing it, I wanted to be.”

“This was an amazing book. A fantastic book. Something that I would read again in a heartbeat (and probably will, once I’m done with the next book on my list). Any book that makes me want to read it again and again to absorb everything it’s made of is something rare and I don’t think it’s going to happen more than a handful of times in the next year.”

“At first, you might think this is your typical dystopian future civilization YA novel. And you’re kind of right. But you’re also kind of wrong.”

“I would highly recommend this novel to fans of dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. The novel also reminded me of the video games République and the post-Paris cyberpunk adventure,Remember Me in setting and tone. But none of these other works do the novel justice: in Resistance, Indie author Mikhaeyla Kopievsky manages to create fresh and new dystopia worth exploring.”

“I’m excited to see where Divided Elements goes from here. It’s definitely a series to keep an eye on. If you’re looking a dystopian novel that’s original and entertaining, no look further.”

“I freakin loved this book!”

“I loved this as a first book in the series. I really hope that the rest of the series would be as amazing. I can’t wait for the next book to come out!!!”

“This is a delightfully complex story and I enjoyed immersing myself in this richly detailed otherworld.”

“This book. Is. Awesome. It’s Divergent’s bigger, badder, tougher, realer older sister. So much more than your basic dystopian fill-in-the-blanks, Resistance has amazing, almost magical worldbuilding.”

“I was attracted to this book by its cover and for once I was not disappointed.”

“This is probably one of only a handful of sci-fi books that I have read and liked. The plot is engaging and a one of a kind story that is fresh and interesting.”

“This was an interesting and quite quirky dystopian science fiction novel in which the author shows alot of flair and heavy doses of imagination.”

“I loved Resistance! It was well written, the characters were amazing and the story was awesome.”

Resistance (Divided Elements #1)