Hello hello, friends (and strangers)!
I wrote this post a long while ago. It was inspired by Sarah Baran (aka The Sarcastic Elf). I highly encourage you to check out her blog if you enjoy mine (or even if you don’t). Crazy homeschooled fantasy writers are the best. Especially if sarcasm is involved.
As the title of the post implies, I’m going to go back through various drafts of my current WIP, Remnant. I’m going to talk about my writing process and ideas. I’m going to share snippets. And I’m going to laugh at myself.
It’s going to be a lot of fun. (I should know, because as of right now, I have already written the post and read it numerous times.)
This whole story starts back when I was eleven years old. Having read LOTR and Eragon recently, I was full of grand ideas of adventure, high fantasy, magic, and (of course) elves. However, I was suffering under the misconception that I couldn’t write a novel until after high school.
. . .
Yes, I know that makes no sense. I have no idea how I came up with that. Unfortunately, it was firmly cemented in my mind and I had never even attempted to write something longer than a few pages.
Until that day, standing in my bedroom, when I had THE IDEA.
Yes, it deserves capital letters. Because even though I no longer like THE IDEA, even though barely any of it remains in Remnant, even though it was honestly a terrible idea…
It was mine, all mine, and it’s the reason I started writing seriously. It’s the reason I am who I am. So thank you, eleven-year-old self, for THE IDEA.
THE IDEA involves silvery magic tattoos that signify power, a race called (wait for it) elves, another one called dwarves, a group called the Guardians (think the Varden, but cooler) who aided both, a bunch of (typically clueless) humans, yet another group (comprised of elves, dwarves, and humans, some of whom were Guardians) called the Chosen, a boy named Joe (it was a placeholder name that stuck around far too long), and a bunch of recycled plots from my previously planned fantasy series.
Because, though I was certain that I couldn’t write a novel, I saw no reason not to plan a novel. Many of them, in fact. So many that, before THE IDEA entered my brain, I had come up with the plot for a twenty-four-book series.
I’m not sure how I planned to write all those while figuring out adult life. But the Eagle-Wing Trail series (Wingfeather Saga meets Kingdom Tales) provided ample material for this The Chosen.
Sadly, none of the very first scene of The Chosen remains (at least not anywhere I can find it). So no one shall ever know of the meeting between Raldin and Taresil. How Raldin, tears in his eyes, handed baby Joe to the beautiful elf (beautiful beyond description), and she, crying and laughing in turn, marked the baby as one of the Chosen and spun him in circles in the forest…
But though this spectacular beginning is lost to history, I do have some amusing quotes from other sections.
For all things pleasant passed away in a time of desolation and sorrow, because those who were called the Chosen passed away into the land of memory… now let us eavesdrop in on one tale that was told… for the Chosen kept the peace and ruled over the land — until an unknown disaster befell them and they mysteriously disappeared…
This is deep stuff, people. At the tender age of eleven, I was already contemplating that dark and desolate place called “the land of memory.”
You interrupted my meditation on the select foods chosen by the rare race called “Svilak”!
I clung to those Svilak for many years, even to the point of trying to keep them just for the sake of having them. (They are no longer in existence in anything but this draft.)
Fare thee well, partner of love, daughter of the stars.
Um. Apparently elves are “partners of love.”
Keep to your own business, Aionladon Pokypersonsson.
I’m glad to say that Raldin still has this great sense of humor. He just shows it a bit more subtly now.
As soon as you are done contemplating the greatness that is Chosen, then read on. For now you have arrived at draft two…
Matthias and Bekah manu
Yes, I know, I was great with titles. (Manu = manuscript. I guess I was in a hurry when I typed the file name.)
I started this one about a year after abandoning my first draft. At this point the Chosen (and, thankfully, the pseudo-Varden Guardians) disappeared, some new characters made appearances, Joe got a name (Matthias — a name he still retains today, thanks to Redwall), and there were more chapters.
Not many more, though. This one clocks in at 15 pages. Which covers 13 chapters. (I still hadn’t discovered how to make chapters longer than a couple pages.)
The woman fumbled for words, but the man spoke easily, his syllables short and irate. He was pointing furiously at one point on the map, she meekly motioning to another. Both were tense, quiet, and hurried.
Count the adjectives and adverbs, if you can.
Bekah, the old crone, sat.
But she did not only sit — she listened. And in this way she gleaned information that most would have missed. She knew much, many things unknown to others — and not just because she listened.
Thus we are introduced to Bekah, a character who had several iterations before (sadly) being cut out of the story. This is my favorite version of her, though. She’s witty, funny, and sarcastic.
The name of an Elf that I will tell you is Taresil, she of the blue eyes. And a person who was important to this time is named Raldin. He was persecuted, one of the only humans who stood up for God.
Do not forget these names, as they are important. You may need them someday.
Bekah finishes off her mysterious, confusing, info-dumping story with a flourish.
She fought with her emotions and lost. We can’t win, not against Quintessr, not against evil.
Very astute, Elarin. You couldn’t win because you were busy crying. All. The. Time.
Maybe that’s why you’re not in the book anymore.
On to draft three.
This title idea struck me a while before I actually decided to use it, and was inspired by the concept of the heirs to the kingdom being “embers” (sound familiar? *cough cough* S.D. Smith?). Having a title was amazing, and inspired by that, I wrote a bit more. This one made it to 46 pages. It also introduced Matthias’ sister Acacia, and elaborated on a complicated backstory involving revenge, a fire, and feuding sisters.
“I know, you’re simply swamped with suitors.” Ariana rolled her eyes and grabbed a broom from the corner.
“When you’re a few years older, you’ll likely understand – that is, if any young mad cares to notice you.”
Yes, “young mad” was in the original draft. And no one noticed it.
Also, wow, Lyriona and Acacia were awful to each other back then. It’s much more fun to write about cousins who are friends.
The moon passed behind the clouds, and Lelani Ira drifted to sleep.
In her dreams, she could hear Gwyndyr calling.
Heyyy, this was halfway decent writing! (Even though Lelani Ira is now Rosamund and Gwyndyr is now Gabriel and this scene doesn’t even exist anymore… I still kind of like it.)
The goodmen of several nearby towns received numerous reports of a young man, heavily armed, running alongside a galloping white horse — and not falling behind. Accounts differed on the point of who rode the horse. Some said it was a beautiful maiden brandishing a sword. Some said she was an old woman feebly handling a kitchen knife. Those nearer the truth described her as a middle-aged, yet still agile, woman with a dagger.
The goodman of Alii, not sure what to make of this, scratched his beard.
Yeah. Not sure where I was going with this one. Clearly I wanted to show that everyone was astonished that Kalrona could run fast (they didn’t notice that he was an elf) and confused as to what Lelani looks like (obviously, a middle-aged — yet still agile! — woman looks a great deal like a beautiful maiden and and a feeble old lady).
And poor goodman of Alii. I feel bad for him, since he only got this one scene and the most momentous thing he did was scratch his beard.
“She was very kind, and she let me take care of her (many) children.”
Because people use parentheses when they’re talking.
Still with me? 1700 words in, let’s get to draft four!
This title was retained for three years, during which period the book reached 110 pages and over forty chapters. Emberhope was scrapped because I didn’t know exactly what the embers were or why they offered hope (I just liked the way it sounded because of The Green Ember).
I feel pain inside / Tears fall down for what I’ve lost / There is always hope
I don’t know where that came from.
Well, I’m Raldin. There go all your problems, out the window.
Raldin tried to show his true self for several drafts. It still hadn’t come out here.
You’re supposed to be dead.
Well, he was.
Failure? You named your sword failure?
Well, he did.
After that, the perfect title struck me: Remnant. This is the title that still remains, because it fits just perfectly and it alludes to the Bible. (Ten points for your Hogwarts house if you figure out what part of the Bible I’m referring to.)
(Not sure how I’ll give you those points, but, y’know. Consider them yours.)
On to the next draft (five? I think?)…
Remnant (previous version)
This one reached 225 pages and 44k words, and is the longest single piece of fiction I
have had ever written. I’m quite proud, even though it wasn’t very good, because five years after my original idea, I had an almost-novel that made almost-sense and was almost interesting.
When the terms “before” and “after” are used, they are meant in relation to the present (which starts when chapter one does and continues from there), not in relation to the previous time period, unless otherwise specified. The author apologizes for any confusion this, or any other timeline issues, may cause.
People kept getting confused. This was my solution.
They were immortal and impassive and incomprehensible and everything elves usually are, and they lived in splendor and sadness.
This was me blatantly assuming that my readers had read enough fantasy to know what typical elves do. Also that they wouldn’t mind my elves being typical.
All she knew was pain and its terror and its glory.
Still can’t decide if this is ridiculously sappy or gloriously beautiful.
I know too much, and I am consumed by my desire to have revenge, to forget, and to die.
Wow, Gil, great job at being melodramatic!
He looked away from her hastily. “It’s not — I mean, I don’t — she’s just — weird,” he finished lamely.
Elarin grinned. “Her mother is Quintessr, Aion, that’s probably why.”
Right. Because if a girl is weird, the reason is probably that her mother is evil.
(I’m sorry, Lyriona, you are not defined by your mother and I know it.)
“It’s Barran,” snarled Quintessr, losing some of her queenly atmospheric charm.
“Why did I write that?” I yell at myself, losing some of my writerly atmospheric charm.
Remnant (current version)
I started the story over in January 2019, but really attacked it beginning in January 2020 and it’s now at almost 45k (goal is 50k by the end of May — yes, I realize you won’t read this until June, so as of the post’s publication, it’s probably over 50k). I’m actually mostly happy with my writing, plotting, and character development this time around. I’ll share a few of my favorite quotes.
Rosamund woke in the grey dawn to the smell of smoke.
It curled under the door, seeped in through the cracks in the walls. She stared at the high stone ceiling. Waiting for what she knew would come.
An eternity passed in a few seconds, and then she heard them. The alarm bells of Arendelin, clear and strong and terrible. Ringing for the first time in a decade.
The current opening paragraphs.
Now Quinn ruled a broken land, and Rosamund hid with Acacia and Lyriona. For fourteen long years, the symbol of heirship, Brand Emyr Dragonslayer’s seven-pointed gold star necklace, had been lost. Some said it had burned in the fire that Quinn had set, burned with Gabriel and his kingdom. Some said it had been stolen, stolen by Kalrona the liar.
I mean, okay, I am still info-dumping. But at least it’s a helpful info dump full of info the reader actually needs to know. And the quality of the writing of said info dump is an improvement from previous info dumps.
But her own greed and jealousy had made her daughter fear her, and Lyriona had gone.
So she ran. Ran away from what she’d made, fled what she’d conquered, not caring what she left behind.
It was nothing compared to what she’d destroyed.
My Lyra —
Ahhh, my Quinn! My Lyra!
He walked quietly among the shelves, picking up books now and then and examining them. One called The Dragon Wars caught his interest, but when he opened it he discovered it was in a language he did not know; the cover told him it was Sleit’Ranian. Another intriguing one was called The Lay of Tare and Retniw, and he was two pages in and thoroughly engrossed in the compelling story of the mortal and immortal bound in unbreakable brotherhood when a voice spoke behind him.
At last I get to write about a fictional library.
“Break the idravaela,” shouted Aionladon. “Break them. Sometimes you have to — you need to. Break the idravaela and help the Raelins. Be good people for once in your lives. Redeem your honor and restore your good name and write a story of salvation and rescue to replace the legacy of Brasnin and Kalrona.”
Yesss I’m so excited for what’s going to happen!!
I have written a lot of drafts of my novel. They have improved as I grow older.
Someday I will finish the novel.
A day may come when my novel is finished, when I have written it all and finished editing it, but it is not this day. A time of rejoicing and happiness when the hours of typing are finally complete, but it is not this day! This day… I write.
Until next time, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and stalkers —