IMG_5845Revisions are tough. I mean, drafting is hard too, but you get to ignore the bad bits and the lumpy plot and the endlessly repeating ‘looked’, because everyone tells you to “Just get it out! words on a page! You can edit a bad page you can’t edit a blank one!”. You can’t escape this in revisions.

 

I’ve been carrying out a lot of revisions lately and am super happy to have completed the third draft of my Dust Bound fantasy novel. (SUCH a relief). When I first started the revision process I found it very overwhelming and difficult to get a handle on. I could do a couple of tweaks, sure, but I found really improving it a harder thing to figure out. I didn’t know where to start.

 

Sandcastle from Sand Shannon Hale Quote

This advice about sand to sandcastles is often given, and during my drafting stage it was really reassuring. But not for the revisions.  I had no idea how to get from vast quantities of sand, some pristine, some with bits of cat wee, some left best unmentioned, to glorious turrets of a mighty sandcastle.

 

Then I had an epiphany.

 

I didn’t have a vast sprawling sandpit with nothing on it. My manuscript wasn’t a virgin beach. There were lines, small heaps, markings in the sand. Foundations. Placeholders. These are the statements that are usually ‘tell’ statements. “They walked through the lush fields.” It’s a sentence that doesn’t do a lot. It’s a placeholder. It helps tell the writer the story so we can go back and flesh it out.

 

I realised this was my process.

Find the StoryTell the StoryShow the Story

 

This made the whole thing far less overwhelming. I wasn’t starting from scratch. I wasn’t trying to get from finding to showing, or from sandpit to sandcastle. I was moving slowly in stages, each point moving me that bit further on.

The way to get from tell the story to show the story, for me, was to identify the placeholders and focus on developing them.

 

An example is probably best to demonstrate what I mean:

 

This is the first draft:

 

They noticed the quiet hum of the nomad camp the closer they got. It wasn’t silent, but it wasn’t just the dust that muffled the noise. It had the feel of people who knew exactly how loud they could be before they started drawing the attention of the boogieman in the dark.

Around a small fire, which was responsible for the glow, sat 15-20 people. A rigged cloth stretched high over the flames to catch the dust, allowing the fire to smoulder without being damped.  There were no old people and no children around the fire. That didn’t mean there were none. Covered carts ringed the clearing and it was through two of them that they walked, weapons down but out.

 

This is full of placeholders. Key signal words – ‘noticed’, ‘wasn’t’, ‘was’, ‘it had’, “there were”, “they walked”.

 

Focusing in on these words and statements, recognising that they provided a foundation for my sandcastle, enabled me to develop them into something more immersive:

 

Flickering light turned into the steady glow of a small fire. Thin trees opened to a clearing ringed by covered carts standing guard against the outside world. The quiet hum of people, all too aware of the threat of black tipped wings in the dark, grew louder with every step. Sweaty palm slipping on her knife handle, she edged closer to Ryder. Flames threw shadows shifting over the Dust, sending shivers crawling over her skin.

The carts loomed on either side of them as they walked a pathway into the centre, whispers trickling out from frayed canvas covers. A warm glow danced over the people gathered around the fire, eyes fixed on the newcomers. Rigged cloth stretched high over the flames to catch the Dust, allowing the fire to smoulder without suffocating under grey powder. No children playing, no old people talking. An expectant hush spread through the clearing

 

The biggest thing for me with my placeholder epiphany was a liberating acknowledgement that I didn’t have to have it right the first time. That it was a process. It helped me feel less overwhelmed and gave me a strategy for my revisions.

 

What are your best revising/editing tips? Share in the comments below!

Light Breaks Collage 3

 

Time stood still on the clock, golden hands trapped in an echo of ticking seconds. Marius wiped the crystal face, dust of years turning to smears like the memories it tugged at. Strange that Nanny Cara hadn’t dusted. He tapped the clock, willing the hands to move, seeing in his mind the day it broke, the tears smudged on her lined face. Maybe not so strange.

 

He turned to the bay window, cream curtains hanging stiff and yellowed with age. They crackled as he pushed them aside, eddies of dust swept up in the ruffles on the floor. Darkness covered the world outside, snow sprinkled path untouched by footprints reflected by the light left on downstairs. Hopefully they would see it. Damon should remember what it meant.

 

As he turned back with a sigh his eyes caught on a moving light in the gloom outside. His heart slowed. They were coming. Leaning back against the wall he closed his eyes. Nanny Cara had been right. This trouble was too deep for him. Sinking down to the floor he drew his knees up, resting his clasped hands between them, his head resting on the wall. He opened his eyes but the room was still empty, the air thick with time lost and discarded. His finger traced the scar on his wrist, little more than a faded line now.

 

Crunching gravel and snow sounded from the path below the window, cutting the silence.

 

Voices.

 

Arguing.

 

A bright flare of red lighting up the window.

 

His mouth twisted. She was strong. Blinking his eyes against the red, seeing again in his mind a man knocked down by crimson fire, a child running for his life, his own arms stealing round little Ella, he let out a shuddering sigh. He deserved her rage.

 

The furious light died, replaced by waiting silence.

 

Dark purple mist filtered through the open door, floating over faded carpet and discarded toys, seeking. He held out a hand and it wound its way to him, playing over his trembling fingers.

 

Hello Damon.

 

The mist tightened on his wrist, binding him. His lips curled up. So much for brotherly trust.

 

A chill breeze as the front door opened. Only one lot of measured footsteps thumped on the wooden floor. The creak in the steps avoided by someone familiar with the house.

 

Shadow filled the doorway and he looked up into his brother’s face. Shame sat behind his eyes, pushing them away but he fought it, holding Damon’s calm indigo gaze though his heart pounded in his chest.

 

“Marius. Where is the child?”

 

“Gone.”

 

Damon’s brows lowered but no darkness stole the light in his eyes. Leaving the doorway his brother walked slowly over towards him, filling the room with his presence as he always did.

 

He smiled as Damon crouched next to him, black coat dragging in the dust, wondering if this was the feeling that made humans cry.

 

“I’ve been waiting, brother, sitting in this room where the walls leak memories, trying to figure out where the path broke.”

 

Damon sighed and the purple mist around his wrist turned lilac, loosening its grip until it was more of a caress.

 

“It broke a long time ago Marius.”

 

Damon’s eyes went to the clock and he stared at the scar on his wrist.

 

The words dragged out of him, ripping at his heart. “Why do you think she did it?”

 

Damon tore his eyes from the clock, eyes darkening to midnight purple.  The lilac mist fluttered up to tousle Marius’s hair briefly before dropping away, vanishing as Damon stretched his legs out, leaning away from him with a sigh.

 

“Because we were in the way.”

 

“And power was more important.” It wasn’t a question. He’d answered it long ago. His mother’s face as she turned her back on them an image he could never scrub away.

 

“As it is more important to our uncle.”

 

He flinched. “He tortured her, Damon. In front of me. He had Aerin screaming on the ground. His own daughter. I couldn’t stop him.”

 

“We never could.”

 

His fingers traced over the scar, burning now with remembered pain. “I thought he was right. I thought it would work. But it didn’t and now I’m caught.”

 

Clasping his hands tighter he steeled himself, looking up at Damon’s face. “I’m in trouble and I need my big brother to help me.”

 

A small smile tugged at Damon’s lips. “I’ve been waiting a long time to help you, Marius.”

 

He reached out his hand and his brother’s clasp sent strength through him in a rush.

 

“But now, brother, you need to help me get the child back.”

 

He nodded, guilt a heavy weight in his chest.

 

“I am sorry about Ella but she’s not hurt. I sent her away with Nanny Cara before Orlon’s soldiers came.”

 

“The candle in the window told me as much. It was harder to convince Phoebe.” Damon released his hand and stood, shaking dust from his coat. “Come, Marius. Facing her won’t be easy but the right thing never is.”

 

He rose more slowly, pushing against the wall. “Do you think it’s too late to change paths?”

 

His brother shook his head fiercely, eyes glinting in the dim light. “I am forging a new path brother, one free from our mother and free from our uncle. Join me on this one. Help me find Ella. Help me keep Phoebe safe.”

 

ricardo-cruz-31577 sword

The cafe had emptied except for a few patrons, and Merlin was hardly through his second coffee. He listened to Arthur reading out some of the more outlandish things from the paper when his friend’s voice was interrupted by a sharp tingle running up his back. Slowly placing his cup on the table he cocked his head, motioning for Arthur to stop talking. Arthur took one look at his face and his hand went down to his hip, only to come up again more slowly, his face a twisted grimace.

 

The door exploded in fragments and splinters of wood, dust circling through the air.  He was already on his feet, arm flung out to try to ward off the heat of the blow. From the corner of his eyes he saw the waitress flung across the room. The crack of bones and Sally’s anguished cry as she landed shot steel down his spine. Arthur stood at his back, fists clenched.

 

“Tell me what to do, Merlin, I don’t know how to help.”

 

“We need to leave, get away from any civilians, there’s a back door.”

 

“Do you mean the one over there with the big scary man blocking it?”

 

Merlin risked a glance. Bugger.

 

“Okay, new plan, slightly different from the old plan, we get rid of the big scary man and then we go out the back”

 

“Right.” Arthur scanned the room. “I need a weapon, Merlin, something I can be useful with.”

 

Merlin’s arm was barely shaking with the power needed to hold back the onslaught of the women from the hospital. It would be easier if he was just covering himself and Arthur but the remembered crack of Sally’s bones and her frighteningly still body pushed him to extend the shield as far as he could. His eyes darted towards the fireplace. Brilliant, he thought he’d seen one before.

 

“There, Arthur, by the hearth”

 

“I see it, thanks Merlin!”

 

Arthur ran, barely pausing to snatch up the heavy iron poker from beside the fire. Whirling it, he charged through Merlin’s barrier, striking the big man on the side of the head. Although he stumbled, he didn’t go down and Arthur ducked as Big Man swung his own baseball bat, narrowly missing Arthur’s head. Merlin edged his way slowly towards the door – if he could block the magic of the two women, Arthur might have a better chance.

 

Movement caught his eye. Lance, forgotten in the furthest corner, stood with his mouth open, staring at Arthur.

 

He bit his lip. “Oh well, as good a time now as any I suppose,”  With a flick of magic he sent a lampshade flying towards his assistant. Lance snatched it out of the air and knocked the lamp off the wooden pole before hoisting it like a javelin. He froze, eyes wide.

 

“Oh come on! Lance! Get on with it! You need to help Arthur!”

 

Lance dropped the wooden pole like it was on fire, stumbing back, his hand reaching out behind him to the wall.

 

Merlin cast a glance around the cafe. Apart from Sally’s still figure they were the only non-assailants left in the room. He risked it, switching all his power from his shield, thrusting it towards his cowering assistant.

 

“Lancelot! Awaken and serve your King!”

 

The force of the energy bolt hit Lancelot, knocking him into the wall. Shattering pain drove Merlin to the ground as a blast from the nurse hit him full in the chest.

 

He gasped for breath, winded, and pushed himself up, shaking his head to clear it. His eyes flashed gold and he sent a blast of power towards the approaching women. The matron was flung backwards but the other, the one who seemed in charge, flung up a barrier that held against his. His eyes narrowed. She had power indeed to stand against him.  He cast a glance over to where Lance had stepped forward and taken up the makeshift spear. His former assistant met his eyes and lifted the lamp stick in a salute. After years of looking into Lancelot’s face and seeing only Lance, his friend had returned.  Exhilaration swam like fire in his blood. A smile quirked the corners of his eyes and he left Big Scary to the two best knights in Camelot. The witches were his.

 

He moved closer to them, picking his steps carefully over the broken table legs and upended chairs.

 

“Who are you?”

 

“Who we are does not matter so much as what we will do, which is kill you and your king”

 

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” He flicked a hand and she staggered back but did not fall. He paced slowly closer to her.

 

“I have to say though, you do seem familiar. I’ve seen you before, but I don’t think it was this century.” He frowned, trying to catch the elusive memory. Her teeth bared in a snarl and he felt the memory slide past again. “At least tell me your name, I’m guessing it isn’t really Kelly”. Something pinged in his mind as he said her name and he shook his head. “No, not Kelly, but like it”

 

She shouted wordlessly and jumped at him, fire shooting from her hands. He smiled. Effortlessly, a wall went up from his outstretched hand and her flames dissipated around the edges. The magic flowed from him, through him. Fierce joy at the magic teased at his mind.  Her fire sputtered out and her hands dropped to her side, her chest heaving. Her chin sank down and when she looked up through her lashes the shock of recognition caused his own shield to fall.

 

“Keliandra?”

 

Her lips tight, her eyes burned him more than her flames. He stepped back, shooting a glance at Arthur. Her laugh brought his hand up again.

 

“Emrys. It has been so long. Youth suits you.”

 

“You look well too. Unfortunately.”

 

“Oh, always so snarky! I must admit I rather hoped you would have had some regrets but it appears not.”

 

He kept his guard up, trying to ignore the pounding of his heart. “You never did understand the true purpose of magic.”

 

Her eyes flew to Arthur and he refused to follow her gaze despite the noises coming from behind them.

 

“So, this is the man you spent eternity waiting for? Well, we have been waiting for him too.”

 

“Who is ‘we’?”

 

“You’ll find out in due time. Of course, you might not last that long.”

 

Her eyes flashed but he was faster. She flew across the room, colliding with the wall. He strode towards her as she dragged herself up and stumbled out the door before he got there. He looked down at his clenching fist, memories swirling.

 

She had always been strong.

 

***

 

Arthur twirled the poker. What he wouldn’t give for Excalibur. He’d have to remember to ask Merlin what he’d done with it. His first hit against the giant in the doorway crunched satisfyingly into the side of his head, but the big man just shook it off and glowered at him. Bugger. He swung the poker in a tight figure eight.

 

“You could make this a lot easier on yourself and just leave,”

 

A wooden post sailed through the air, knocking his assailant sideways and slamming him to the floor. Arthur swung the poker smacking the big man on the side of the head. This time he stilled and stayed down, his eyes closing.

 

Panting, Arthur turned to thank Merlin for a well-timed throw but saw him closer to the other door confronting one of the nurses. The man who walked towards him was dressed in the jeans and sweatshirt everyone seemed to wear now but there was no mistaking the walk, or the eyes. His heart stopped.

 

“Lancelot? Do my eyes fool me or is it really you?”

 

The man dropped to one knee in front of him.

 

“Sire, it is indeed and my heart is full that I should see you again”

 

He laughed,  delight a flame inside him.  He moved to draw Lancelot up to embrace him but memory came crashing in and he froze. A vision of Guinevere wrapped in Lancelot’s embrace, the soul-destroying pain of betrayal. He stepped back, absently trying to put the poker back in a scabbard that did not exist.

 

“Well. This is all unexpected. Merlin didn’t tell me you were here.”

 

“I didn’t know myself, sire. I have but now awakened.”

 

Despite the sense of betrayal still churning his gut he reached out and cuffed his former knight on the shoulder.

 

“Good timing as always Lancelot, you always seem to be there to save the day”.

 

The other man’s eyes darkened but he nodded. “My destiny has always been to serve you Arthur”

 

“Yes, destiny seems to be pretty busy really.”

 

He looked around for Merlin and saw him kneeling beside the still body of the pretty tavern girl. Waitress. She was a waitress.

 

“Come on Lancelot, let’s see if we can help”.

 

It was pretty hopeless but the stricken look on Merlin’s face tore at his heart.

 

“Merlin”. He put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Is there anything we can do? Is there a healer nearby?”

 

Merlin shook his head, tears making streaks in the dust on his face. “There’s too much damage. I’m going to have to try, I’ll need you to stand guard in case Keliandra comes back.”

 

“Keliandra? You know her then?”

 

“Later, Arthur, I need to do this now. Sally was always kind to me, even when she thought I was a grumpy old sod who drank too much coffee.”

 

He tightened his grip on Merlin’s shoulder briefly then stood back. “Of course, do what you can.”

 

When Merlin’s eyes turned gold and he began chanting he had to restrain himself from a sudden movement. He’d forgotten about the magic. He’d assumed Merlin would use the healing arts Gaius had taught him. Casting a glance at Lancelot he was surprised to see his face relaxed.

 

“I did not think you of all people would be so comfortable around magic, Lancelot.”

 

The other man smiled. “I have known about Merlin’s magic for a long time. He used it many times to save lives. His healing power doesn’t surprise me at all.”

 

Arthur looked blankly at him, his mind focused suddenly on one thought. “You knew? You knew all the time that he was a sorcerer?” The hurt was new and it stung.

 

He looked down at Merlin, his friend’s hands gentle as they stroked over the girl’s head as the words of magic surrounded them.

 

“When did he tell you?”

 

Lancelot shook his head gently. “No Sire, he never told me. I guessed. I did not betray him because I knew deep in my soul that he would only ever use it for good.”

 

Arthur inhaled deeply. “And indeed he did”

 

A moan from their feet brought both men’s eyes down. Merlin was smiling as he lifted Sally to a sitting position. Merlin’s tale of a gas explosion, whatever that was, seemed to satisfy the girl and they left her calling the police and the insurance company, the body of the dead soldier covered by a table cloth. The arrival of the nurses who were clearly witches was worrying, but he couldn’t deny a certain exhilaration in the midst of the fight.

 

Blue sky and green hills lifted his heart. So much had changed but some things were eternal.

 

“Where to now, Merlin?”

 

“You and I are going to my place, in London, and Lancelot – I need you to do a couple of things here and then join us.”

 

His smile was quiet, but fierce.

 

“It’s time to waken the others.”

 

________________________

From my Merlin fanfic i wrote in 2016. I tried to improve it a little before posting but it still needs a lot of work!

 

I’ve been trawling through old writings I did when I was 14, inspired by a #WriteFightGifClub post on Twitter. I found some real doozies, but I also found some old sketches I made when I was convinced I would be an author someday.

 

Somewhere along the way I lost both the belief that I would be a writer, and the belief that I could draw.

 

I’ve reconnected with my writing soul, but my drawing soul is still very much under the debris of adult skepticism.

 

When you’re a child, you don’t question your ability to create. You just do it. I love watching kids draw and then be overtly and happily proud of the result. It broke my heart when my son stopped drawing because what was on the page didn’t match what was in his head because the same thing happened to me.

 

So these are to remind me that maybe, like the melodramatic and half baked pieces of writing that I unearthed and smiled over, these too are a part of my creative side that could be fostered and dusted off and maybe, just maybe, I can believe again.

 

old sketch commander

This was titled Commander Shereen. I can’t remember what story she was attached to.

 

Old sketch lying down

I was quite influenced by Larry Elmore’s drawings.

 

Old sketch wise warrior

This ‘wise warrior’ kind of looks like my dad.

 

old sketch portrait

I’ve never been great with portraits. They all look the same.

 

old sketch punk witch

This is a very 80s looking witch i believe.

 

old sketch princess

and my princess about to rescue herself.

 

I had fun looking at these old pictures and wondering about the girl I had been, who believed so strongly that she could write, and draw, and do well at both.

 

I think I’m going to try and recapture that.

 

How about you? what did you love doing when you were young that you just stopped doing?