How I Improved My Fiction

Since my single attempt at sending a proposal out ended in the expected result, I have decided to improve my fiction in three different ways:

I Simplified The Names Of My Characters

My book is fraught with difficult names, but my most egregious choice was spelling Merlin and Arthur’s names different from the standard English: Merlyn and Arthwyr. Why did I spell them this way? Because these are one of the many variants of the old ways of spelling them.

I have now amended my ways.

So now the first series will be known as “The Merlin Spiral“, Merlin will be Merlin, and Arthur will be Arthur. Most of the other names I am leaving alone, but will consider fixing them if requested by a publisher or an agent.

Why change just these two names? Promotion. Any publisher will have fixed dollars to spend on promotion, and there is little reason to confuse the public about the fact that I am writing an Arthurian set of novels.

The Merlin Spiral

I Improved The Main Character’s Motivation

My first fifty pages are probably the worst of my entire novel. That’s a bad thing, considering that this is how agents, publishers, and readers will first judge the book.

But don’t be confused. The novel picks up pace very fast. I am just laying the foundation for the novel. EVERY SCENE. Let. me. repeat. EVERY SCENE in the first fifty pages is necessary to the plot.

So what was the problem then? Did my fiction writing THIRST™ methodology fail? Did I not have enough Tension, Humor, Incident, Romance, Suspense, and Terror/Fear in those pages?

Actually I did. There was enough. What was missing was the letter “M”, which is “MOTIVATION”. My main character did not have a strong enough motivation to drive the novel’s beginning.

Sure, there was an external purpose, but there was no internal one.

I have now amended my ways.

NOW my main character has a driving, internal purpose for the first fifty pages. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it earlier. It drastically changes the beginning of the novel, yet it changes very few words.

And everything I had already written actually makes MORE sense.

So, my recommendation is to make sure your novel’s main character has an interesting internal AND and external purpose to start them off. And make their choices ruin everything and set up the rest of the book!

Read more about this from the master agent himself, Nathan Bransford. He started my brain thinking about my novel’s shortcomings. Thanks, Nathan!

I Renamed My Books

My books are all named using inanimate objects. I realized that this was a lost opportunity. I should try to grab the emotions and interest of a reader/agent/publisher with titles that actually contained the names of the characters.

In short, I have now amended my ways.

So gone are the hammers, stones, shadows, eyes, and kingdoms. Here are the new titles. I’d like to hear what you think of them:

The Merlin Spiral:

  • Merlin’s Blade
  • Merlin’s Shadow
  • Merlin’s Nightmare

The Pendragon Spiral:

  • Arthur’s Blade
  • Pendragon’s Blood
  • Morgana’s Hour

Anyway, to commemorate this drastic change after three years, I have a new NEW masthead at the top of my blog!

Merlin's Blade

What’s Next?

I am in the process of a 5th draft working through the incredible edits that my wife put together. She has an editor’s heart and her pen is intensely wise.

After that, S.D. Smith and I are planning to swap manuscripts and that’ll be fun. I am also planning to send out a slew of queries, but It’ll be a bit before I start that process.

Stay tuned.

6 thoughts on “How I Improved My Fiction

  1. I do understand about making changes and evaluating a manuscript for rewrites – it can be a tough process. I agree with your points above, particularly as it concerns the first 50 pages of your book, or any book. With my own project, I know that if my opening is bad, no one will get beyond the first couple chapters. Those early pages must charm the reader, bring them into the story, make them comfortable, help to relate to and love the characters. For my part, I like the new titles you list above, especially Merlin’s Blade. Onward and Upward!

  2. Hey, Robert! I met you and your daughter briefly at ACFW 2008, and thought I’d stop by your blog. I like where you’re going with your new book titles, but I have to say “Merlin the Fool” doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of them. What about something like “Merlin’s Folly” so that one matches the rest? Just an idea…

    Best of luck with your journey to publication!

  3. Hay, thanks for visiting!

    I agree that the structure of Merlin The Fool doesn’t match the others, but I’m considering revising Pendragon’s Blood to match so there’s more variety.

    Merlin’s Folly isn’t bad though… hmmm…

  4. Wow, you’ve been busy.

    Internal motivation is so essential, but so easily overlooked. Thanks for reminding me of that! I like the names of your series’. Keep up the hard work! God’s in control!

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