Writing Rewind #10: Wings of Fate Chapter 7 Part 1

Whoo boy, we’re getting into the thick of things now! Last time, Heiwa was feeling discouraged about the mission until he met a mysterious girl on the deck of the UNMEI. Determined to help her, Heiwa has the bright idea to hide the girl in his room for the remainder of the mission, but inspection day is looming, which means the secret probably won’t last for long…

Let’s examine Wings of Fate Chapter 7: The Mission Revealed!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe
Green highlight – switch/move

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Poor, poor Heiwa. Naturally, his plans have all gone to shit. But they don’t need to fall apart in such…wordy fashion. Time to take out the shears!

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Good lord, that sentence about Shirotaka in the closet is unbearable. “Brightly pigmented eyes” might be the most cringe-worthy phrase I’ve encountered in this piece thus far, which is saying a lot. Also, a lot can be chopped off and some other things can be reworked to improve the flow.

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Much slimmer, and it still gets the point across.

After the disastrous inspection, Shirotaka is whisked away and Heiwa gets sent to Sector One to meet with Major Tango, where he will presumably be assigned a punishment. But once he gets there, he encounters some trouble in the form of Major Leiter, who seems to be exactly as Daisuke described her. But when he asks for help, she doesn’t appear to be listening…

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Well. Major Leiter has quite a temper. And this passage has quite a few errors to fix!

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Major Leiter’s outburst and Heiwa’s shocked reaction don’t need to be so dense; it can be pared down and reworked to make it less clunky, while still giving insight into the type of person Major Leiter is.

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There – much cleaner! The interaction flows better and doesn’t have so much needless fluff. Honestly, I think half of this entire story is fluff… but regardless, let’s move on…

After his encounter with Major Leiter, a young woman offers to help Heiwa, but Major Tango is late meeting him and he starts to grow worried. Which means it’s time to shoe-horn in a surprise introduction!

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This is another interaction that doesn’t need to take freaking FOREVER TO GET THROUGH. I mean really. Really. Obviously, I intended the reveal of Tango’s identity to be a “super cool” moment, but when it drags on for ages, the moment loses some luster.

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UGH, THE CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS. Hair and eyes don’t need to be so DRAMATIC. Also, women as high-ranking officials shouldn’t be a shock anymore, so Heiwa’s reaction is a tad overblown, but I did write this as a high school freshman, so I’m giving myself some leniency here.

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There; the Tango reveal takes less time and some of the cringiness is gone forever, never to be seen again, while other bits have been reduced and spruced.

So, Major Tango takes Heiwa to his next destination… and do I catch the whiff of a romance subplot?

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WHY. DO. I. SPEND. SO. MUCH. TIME. DESCRIBING. MATTHIAS? WHYYYYYY????? *bangs head on desk* Seriously, he’s a cold dude – it’s obvious by now.  He’s basically the abominable snowman at this point, and we already have a pretty clear picture of his character, so it doesn’t need to be repeated OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

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So, there’s a lot of description to be removed here. And some general rephrasing, as well.

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So there we have it! Chapter 7 is a pretty dense one, so I’m halving it – this time, we get two new major characters, and next time, in Part 2, we finally find out what the mission of the UNMEI is! Over 50,000 words into it and we’re just now getting to the point. It’s been a bumpy ride, and trust me… it’s gonna get bumpier.

SIDENOTE: I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour later this month! Details HERE!

Writing Rewind #8: Wings of Fate Chapter 5

On our last Writing Rewind excursion, Heiwa and Daisuke discovered they were roommates and Heiwa took a tour of the UNMEI with Sergeant Kahler. Now, the real adventure is about to begin… with training! Will Heiwa’s first training session go off without a hitch? Probably not!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

CHAPTER 5 P 1

Sigh. Again, the set up for the chapter doesn’t need to be so… tedious.

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Too much inner and outer dialogue, and can easily be rectified with some slicing and dicing. And the remains of the slicing must be reworked in order to flow better.

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There! Set up is effectively pared down and not such a drag. However, there should be a comma after “training” in Daisuke’s second bit of dialogue; didn’t notice that until now. Reading over things multiple times is important, folks. Clearly, I am a bad example.

Next up, Heiwa’s having a jolly old time as training starts under the supervision of Lieutenant Kurokawa and Colonel Berkmann… and by jolly, I mean miserable.

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*sharpening axe*

So clearly, our protag is having an awful time. But we don’t need to hear about it ad nauseum. Really.

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The usual changes are emphasized here; less talk, and more clarity.

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Much better! Though, really, I should scrap the ComBoards idea.., since tablets are a thing. But they weren’t a thing in 2005, so cut me some slack.

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Heiwa’s suffering at the hands of Colonel Berkmann goes on for like, 2 pages. So… that needs to be addressed. Because it definitely does not need to encompass 2 entire pages. I am not a sadist.

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I think even more could probably be chopped off here, but basically, we’ve got more of the same old, same old. Colonel Berkmann’s dialogue can be curbed and Heiwa’s self loathing can be slimmed.

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Much cleaner, still as mortifying for our hero, and nothing of note lost. I mean, not sure if “drop and give me fifty” is still a relevant punishment, but I’ll stand by it.

Next up, some more suffering for our dear hero, as Colonel Berkmann has pieced together who Heiwa’s father was…

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Blah, blah, blah… again, doesn’t need to be this long.

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Petition to never use “orbs” as a way to describe eyes ever again!!!!!!!!!! GAHHHHH. I dread how often this is going to recur, though I know for certain it will rear its ugly head again…

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So, Heiwa’s suffering is much more concise, now! And Colonel Berkmann’s alleged “cruelty” remains intact.

After the disaster that is the first training session, Heiwa and Daisuke set off for lunch. Naturally, everyone is pissed at Heiwa for his behavior, but one lone wolf strays from the back to befriend them – a young woman named Robin. And they get to talking about the mysterious mission they are on…

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Repetitive and repetitive, said the New York Times…

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We know about Heiwa’s dreams already – it was discussed in the first couple of chapters. We know Heiwa wants adventure and he believes in myths and legends. That bit doesn’t need to be dredged up again and again in the same way; the reader knows it.

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Better – it illustrates the differences between Heiwa’s and Daisuke’s perspective, without beating the dead horse too much. Plus, some new info gets passed on thanks to our new character!

Last up,

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The foreshadowing doesn’t need to be so… prominent. It’s already been hinted at, but the point of a hint is to be subtle, and this passage is not subtle.

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Short and sweet is the key! Most of this segment can be hacked away…

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Dun dun dun! What could Dr. Black mean in this shorter, and much more effective section? WHO KNOWS? We won’t find out next time, I can tell you that much. But we will find out eventually!

Next time, Heiwa meets someone very, very interesting… someone who may hold the key to the adventure he longs for.

Writing Rewind #6: Chapter 4 Part 1

On our last trip down memory (and cringe-worthy) lane, Heiwa, with some persuasion from the folks in his life, decided to go on the life-changing mission aboard the UNMEI. It took 10,000+ words for him to come to that conclusion. We are literally 30,000+ words into this story and just hit the official start of the main plot. That is 1/3 the length of my first published novel, for reference…

Not much recap to do, so let’s get started!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

CHAPTER 4 P 1

*pours fifth cup of coffee* Settle in, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Per usual, this selection is bogged down by heaps of detail that are totally unnecessary and which add nothing to the story. So, it’s time to chop it up and glue it back together into something a bit more cohesive!

Here are the proposed changes…

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The start of a chapter should not be such a drag. It needs to accomplish the set up in a way that isn’t so slow and wordy. A lot of the detail in this isn’t needed at all; Heiwa’s week leading up to the mission isn’t important to the grand scheme, so that paragraph needs to go, and what is left needs to be reworked.

So, here are the results:

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Much shorter, and yet, it conveys the same message. Heiwa is clearly excited about what is to come and we don’t have a useless recap of the non-important events leading up to the day of his departure. Who cares if he had to fix the roof before he leaves? IT DOESN’T F*CKING MATTER!!!!….Ahem. Sorry about that…

Next up, this lovely passage:

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Ristsuko’s first dialogue segment features the word “good” three times. THREE TIMES. You know what that is? It’s NOT GOOD, that’s what it is!!!! I’m not against using “good” in terms of dialogue, but three times is excessive.

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THREE TIMES. THREE. TIMES. I’m sorry, I can’t get over it…

Other than that, it’s the standard fare; needs to be trimmed and rearranged; slimmed and reworked. The dialogue is clunky (THREE TIMES!!!!!) and needs a bit of clarity, so the words will flow better.

CH 4 P 2 FIXED

Ah… the use of “good” is down to an acceptable level, and the dialogue has been re-worked so it sounds more natural. Heiwa’s description is also fixed, so, although it relies on the “looking in the mirror” cliche, it sounds a bit better.

For a bit of a summary of the bits I’ve skipped to get to the next section, Heiwa shares a tearful goodbye with his mother, catches a ride with Kato to the airship base, and is now awaiting orders, though he has yet to see Daisuke…

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We get two new major/supporting faces in this chapter; Colonel Kaiser Berkmann and Sergeant Benedikt Kahler. Also, I apparently didn’t know that the “v” in “von Schneider” should not be capitalized. Hindsight is so fun, y’all; especially when a bit of googling could have saved me a lot of time, way back when.

My first scan results in this:

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I genuinely believe that if I eliminate all references to Matthias being “cold” or “frigid” or “austere,” the word count could be under 100,000. Well… that might be a stretch. Let’s say 150,000. That “austere” reference is getting the axe, and fast.

Lots of yellow, here… and it is definitely necessary. This whole portion is tough to slog through and has no sense of flow, plus the character descriptions need to be tweaked. Also, the way General von Schneider speaks must be addressed, because I know that I was aiming for “intimidating” (or “cold,” if you will) but the way he speaks rings hollow in that regard, and doesn’t seem genuine or particularly “official.”

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Much better! (There should be an “a” before “chiseled,” though. Just pretend it’s there…I don’t have the document with me to fix it at the moment…)

Exposition is still there, but it’s smoother and less clogged with unnecessary words/sentences, and the character descriptions are trimmed to the basics. The dialogue for General von Schneider has also been fixed, and he sounds a bit more “General-esque.”

Lastly, we move on to one heckuva doozy…

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*bangs head on table*

How will we ever fix this…this… MONSTROSITY?!?

After a long perusal, this is what I’ve got:

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A few cuts here, and a few cuts there, and we might be able to save this bit! There’s a lot of description here, but sentences can be fused together to create better transitions, and some can be eliminated to make the whole thing move faster and smoother. Also, I believe Sergeant Kahler’s “nonchalance” can be summed up instead of described in multiple different ways.

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That selection is just about halved and nothing of importance was lost, and the awkward descriptions have been fixed. The conversation flows better and isn’t stilted with superfluous fluff. Honestly, it’s amazing how much I am able to cut from this piece with ten years of practice and some schooling under my belt.

Alright, next time we have the second half of chapter 4! Who will Heiwa’s roommate be onboard the UNMEI? What will their training entail? What is the exact mission that Heiwa is now involved in? What are Majors Tango and Leiter like? Only one of those questions will be answered next time, but the rest will follow eventually! After all, what is a scifi/manga epic without excessive exposition and at least 7 chapters to establish the plot and main cast?

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Writing Rewind #2: Wings of Fate – Chapter 1 Part 1

Because the chapters of this monstrosity are so long (the first was 10,000+ words and it’s one of the “shorter” ones if you can believe it) I’m splitting them each into at least 2 parts. Some may even be 3, depending on the content. Since I’m only including snippets instead of the full draft, which means large cuts in plot and context, I will attempt to assemble some semblance of a story from the passages I select. Don’t want y’all to miss out on the extremely well thought out and plausible plot I devised ten years ago!

Last time we dissected the problematic prologue, which introduced a mysterious “mission.” This time, we meet our hero, and my very first original protagonist (of some kind of substance) – Heiwa! So let’s get started with Wings of Fate, Chapter 1: The Letter.

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

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*sigh* Here we go again… bogged down with excess description and detail.

If it wasn’t cringe-worthy enough in itself, I envisioned this piece as an “anime/manga,” hence the random Japanese phrases strewn about. But that’s the least of the issues, here, so I’m not going to bother pointing them all out. Rest assured, I am mortified by them.

Every sentence just keeps going, and going, and going, when it has already conveyed the message and does not need any further explanation.

Also, way, way too many adverbs. I’m actually not as anti-adverb as some folks tend to be (within reason), but I do think they should be used sparingly. A decade ago, I was a huge advocate of adverbs; but I didn’t really know better. Still… I look forward to hacking through them. Might get my word count under 200,000 with that alone!

So, an initial scan yields this:

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Time to get rid of that awkward phrasing and those pesky adverbs! Not to mention the overly-descriptive passage about Grandma. Her character becomes clear later through dialogue and her interactions with others, and doesn’t need to be so overt from the get-go. We don’t need a full description in her first appearance. Or ever, really.

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Despite losing some description, Ritsuko’s character and personality still seems to come through, as does her relationship with Heiwa. And it could be done in far less words! Imagine that!

*cracks knuckles* The next bit is going to be… well… a challenge. But it does show just how bloated this entire story is, as there are passages like this throughout the piece.

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SWEET JESUS. Where to START? I almost wish I could highlight all of it in red.

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While some degree of description is necessary for setting and for characterization, as blindly leading a reader into a story probably isn’t wise, I think I laid it on a little too thick. And by “a little,” I mean way too thick. There does need to be set-up of some kind, especially since the story is futuristic, but an exposition dump is almost always a bad way to approach it.

These revelations should be more gradual, especially when it comes to the protag; we’re going to be spending 22 chapters with this guy, so not everything needs to be spelled out right at the beginning. Especially not in such a callous way, either – the listing of his flaws comes off as trying too hard to show what a “screw up” Heiwa is, or to downplay him on purpose; like making a girl protagonist “clumsy” just to give her a flaw. In retrospect, the message doesn’t need to be quite so heavy-handed, as his personality unfolds throughout the introductory chapters and doesn’t need to be foisted upon the reader right at the start.

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The word count for the selection was more or less halved, and nothing was really lost. Everything that needed to be said is still there in a more concise manner. Heck, it could probably be trimmed even more! HECK, I PROBABLY COULD HAVE LEFT IT ALL OUT. But, I digress… onto the next snippet!

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I thought the last section was bad, but now, I… am beginning to regret doing this. I’m not sure I can take it. I might just shrivel up and die of embarrassment.

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FIRST OF ALL, THAT CRINGE-TASTIC RED HIGHLIGHTED SENTENCE HAS GOT TO GO. That is so, so, so bad. “Green orbs.” I am horrified. LAY OFF THE EYE DESCRIPTIONS, ALLIE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Sadly, as I have seen the rest of this work (being the one who wrote it, and all) I know it will only get worse from here on out. Much worse.

Also, lots of awkward wording and phrasing that needs to be refined.

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Whew, the cringe is gone! Well… most of it, anyway.

The last portion for the first part of the chapter (because I don’t think I have the energy to any more of it today… I need a break to ponder my life choices) features another character; Heiwa’s mother, Izumi.

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*gets out the scissors* TIME TO START CUTTING!!!!!!

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Izumi doesn’t need to spell out her entire life story and the progression of her illness all in one chunk of dialogue. Especially since it has already been discussed previously, and it is partially explored in the paragraph that follows it. It’s just too much, and can be narrowed into something that is more efficient.

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AH, much better! So much is gone, but not much is lost. Izumi’s personality and her situation peek through without bombarding the reader with info. Subtlety is a virtue… one I did not understand a decade ago.

That’s it for today – I’ve done enough damage! Next time, we’ll tackle the second half of Chapter 1… which is, unfortunately, similar to the first. We’ll discover what “the letter” means and how it will affect our hero, Heiwa. Hopefully, I can whip the latter half of the chapter into shape without splintering my sanity.

Writing Techniques: Phases

I think every writer – whether professional or amateur – goes through phases. As a teenager, I wrote fanfiction. I don’t mean to admit this in a dramatic fashion, like admitting past alcoholism or addiction. I’m not ashamed of this tidbit of my writing history – but it is definitely a practice that I never intend to return to.

That said, I also prefer not to disclose the fandom I used to write for, but it isn’t any of the easily recognizable ones. I will admit, with some measure of pride, that I am the author of the longest (English language) story in that particular section, which clocks in at over 200,000 words – though without author’s notes, it’d be a bit shorter. For context, my debut novel was under 100,000 words. I even had a couple of people draw fanart for my original characters; I still have them saved on my computer.

It might sound impressive, but as I said, it wasn’t a hugely popular topic to write for, and the community was already waning by the time I started posting. I’d missed the peak of the fandom by a couple of years, but a handful of dedicated members still hung around while I was there, sharing their stories and posting reviews. I met some wonderful people, a handful of whom I still occasionally speak to. I consider it a vital phase in my development as a writer.

Eventually, I lost interest in the fandom and couldn’t scrounge up the inspiration to finish the last entry in what was meant to be a trilogy. I still regret that I was unable to complete what I started, but whenever I go back and take a look at those old pieces (and by old, I mean nearly a decade old) I cringe a little.

My writing during that phase was so… superfluous. Admittedly, this is the issue I’ve struggled with the most that isn’t grammar/syntax related. There’s a reason one of my fanfiction stories is over 200,000 words. It’s because, as a fifteen/sixteen/seventeen year old writer, I felt the need to cram as much detail as possible into my writing, which results in bloated, overly-descriptive, repetitive passages in desperate need of a solid trimming. I ascribed to the “more is more” mentality back then; if I went back and edited my longest story, I could get it under 100,000 words and not have to slice much, if any, of the actual plot. I am still somewhat proud of my characters and the overall plot structure, but I was incredibly long-winded, verbose, and by no means a fanfiction maestro.

Every now and then, I go to my old profile and glance at my work, and am pretty astonished by how much my writing style has changed since those days. In college – the start of which coincided with the demise of my fanfiction career – my writing style underwent some significant changes due to learning new techniques in my classes, developing a more stable voice as a writer, and receiving influential feedback from my peers and teachers. I see almost zero similarity between my 2008/09 writing and now, as far as fiction goes.

The same can be said for my high school writing assignments in comparison to college work, because in college, I worked on slimming down my writing – though I do still slip into old habits, which leads to numerous, extensive editing sessions. It wasn’t always an easy change to make, but getting the right kind of feedback at this time in my life was important; when multiple sources tell you that something in your writing needs improvement, it’s imperative to take that criticism into consideration. As a result of peer assessments and creative writing classes, and some introspection, I started trying to place less emphasis on florid detail and “pretty” words, and more emphasis on clarity, character development, and flow. More focus on story and plot, not description. During this shift in the tone of my writing, I wrote the first draft of I’m With You.

When I settled the details and finally started typing I’m With You out, my style had adapted to suit the tone I wanted for the story. And, because I was learning about writing and was reading various kinds of literature during this time, my style and process evolved as I was writing. The first draft of I’m With You featured much less detail than the one that was published- there was no insight into previous instances of Remiel’s “curse” in action, no description of the different regions of Empirya, no “flashbacks” to Ciarán and Remiel’s mother or their past/their family dynamic… all in all, a lot less background into the characters. Instead of my previous tendency toward an overabundance of detail, I adopted a more extreme stance of “less is more.” Luckily, my editor was able to point out the need for more detail when the time came to polish up my draft, and I was able to flesh my manuscript out prior to publication. Now, I strive to find a balance in my writing; not too much detail, but not too little.

Even now, the project I’m currently working on has a different tone than I’m With You, but the writing contains some similarities; I feel as though I’ve retained a certain voice, while changing/adapting the way it is delivered. My 2008/09 fanfiction is nothing like my 2016 novel, and that’s okay, because I consider it an improvement – and I hope to improve even more as my writing continues, and I attempt to launch a career. Certain traits might remain the same across stories and projects, but adapting is all a part of the process, and some phases may last longer than others. Writing is an ever-changing thing – and thus, I don’t consider it a bad thing that I no longer recognize my writing style from year to year or project to project, whether it’s a 200,000 word epic fanfiction or a vaguely steampunk low-fantasy YA novel. Phases come and go, but the point is to continue to grow, and learn, be willing to listen, and embrace change as it comes – even if others won’t.