The Sureshot Excerpt: New Bow, New Challenge

Another preview as I finish up editing. Coming soon!

When he reached his forest cabin, a hawk which looked very much like the one he admired before, was perched atop Durbar’s smoke house. Durbar halted in his tracks and greeted the bird with surprise. The hawk spread his wings as if bragging to the woodsman, called to him in his shrill piercing voice, then leapt and climbed in the free air, riding the wind away. Durbar smiled. “I see you my friend,” he whispered. “Teach me to fly.”

Durbar started a fire immediately upon returning. It was already getting dark outside and he was hungry. He skinned and cleaned the rabbits he killed earlier. Slowly and mindlessly, he cooked one of them, staring into the fire. The flames leapt and danced about in the stone hearth, mesmerizing Durbar. The fire seemed alive as it danced before his eyes; its heat warmed Durbar’s face. He enjoyed the feeling the fire gave him. It helped him feel alive. He knew he needed more fire and decided that he would travel to Harmon and meet with the pretty-boy prince he found in the forest. He had no idea what he was getting into, but he was willing to find out.

The meat was finished but Durbar wasn’t hungry anymore. He went to a chest that lay at the foot of his bed. From it, he retrieved his tools. From a mount on the wall, he grabbed an unfinished bow, which he had been working on for several months. He sat down in front of the fire and continued smoothing out the edges of the nearly completed staff. The weapon was cut from a piece of blackwood; from the tree that he buried his father under. For several hours, he worked diligently on his bow adding the final touches to the magnificent weapon. Finally, he was satisfied with the piece of wood. He went back to the chest and retrieved a fine silk bowstring. Such string was hard to come by in Dirka, and Durbar traded two fine bows, three quivers, and several furs for the thin string. He strung his bow with it, took his knife, and carved “Adar” in the grip of the weapon.

“Now you will hunt again, Father,” Durbar announced, with determination in his voice, and a hint of sorrow.

Bow in hand, Durbar grabbed an arrow and stepped outside to test his weapon. The bow was five feet tall, nearly as tall as he was. The dark-colored wood made it bold in appearance. Its curve was elegant; the grip was perfect for Durbar’s large hand. He notched an arrow, held the bow down, and closed his eyes listening intently. The mountain air was cold. It nipped at his face, and the wind laughed at him as it rushed by. The sun was setting in the west, which threw a deep red glow on the trees it was slipping behind. The breeze blew through his hair. He caught the sound of an animal moving in a nearby bush. Durbar opened his eyes as he raised his bow and aimed in the direction of the creature. He saw a skunk sniffing around in a large shrub. Durbar marked it but raised his aim just high of the little beast and fired his arrow with amazing speed into the trunk of the bush above the animal. Frightened, the skunk ran off as quickly as he could and Durbar retrieved his arrow. He smiled to himself and thought, I hope you are ready, Durbar.

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I Hate Editing

I’m supposed to be editing my final draft. I hate it. I would rather blog about how I hate editing than edit. So, here I am.

It’s good though. I’ve come a long way. I literally used to argue with my teachers, who only wanted to make me a better writer, that I didn’t need to edit. Then I’d get my papers back with tons of red ink on them. Seems I should have edited and drafted. Lesson learned. In my 20s I was still reluctant to draft and edit. I was so excited when I finished a story that I didn’t care about drafting. I just wanted people to read it. Now I’m older. Slower. Closer to life’s end. So I’m editing and drafting more.

For my final edit, as I mentioned before, I’m reading the entire draft out loud. It is super effective actually. Reading aloud lets me hear how it sounds. Duh, right? But it’s great! When I read silently my mind skips over all sorts of mistakes to make sense of the passage (it’s a legit brain thing, our minds want to make sense of stuff) and besides, I wrote it, I know what I meant. But that isn’t good enough.

I figured an editor would be able to iron out any errors in my writing, but again as I shared before, that didn’t really work out either. So, after much research, I concluded that it is best to be a good self-editor besides working on the writing. So here I am, reading my own story to myself.

I highly recommend it though. I edited plenty of lines that I would not have noticed otherwise. If your story sounds good read out-loud, then it sounds good.

Try it!

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Goodbye July

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

July was a great month for me as a writer. I finished the final draft of The Sureshot and managed to blog at least twice a week, every week, for the entire month on each of my three blogs. Both were goals and I am proud to announce that I accomplished them. I racked up some impressive “stats” for me at least and so I’m celebrating and thanking everyone who read my posts, my poems, my work and even more so those of you who “liked” or commented along the way. I’m looking forward to more months of writing and blogging and one day doing this full time. Cheers!

If you liked one of them, you may like others I post.

Writing: https://thesureshot.wordpress.com/

Poems: https://poemsnoonecaresabout.wordpress.com/

Parenting: https://1superdad.wordpress.com/

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The Story Grid

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This last year I read the “Story Grid” by Shawn Coyne and it was invaluable in a few ways. I highly recommend any writer or aspiring writer to read it as well. It absolutely helped me feel more secure in my writing and more than anything, make my story telling more efficient and more effective. Here’s how:

In “The Story Grid,” Coyne lays out the effective pattern that all stories need in order to impress and entertain the reader. He makes the case that every story, no matter the writer or the genre, has essential elements that must be present. Have you ever read a story and then told yourself it “just didn’t work?” I sure have. Coyne’s book helps to sort out those issues that keep a story from working. I felt like I sort of had those things sorted out but it was fantastic to read about those elements from an accomplished editor. Besides, the grid helped me identify one obvious problem that kept my own story, “The Sureshot,” from being great. Problem identified, fixed and now I’m less likely to commit the same mistake in future.

Coyne broke down all levels and elements of story telling and how to be a master of them. The information is invaluable. He uses several stories as examples to help the reader understand effective story telling with “Silence of the Lambs” as the anchoring story throughout. He even broke the book down by chapter and element with the speaker in each and even the times author, Thomas Harris, used italics. It was all amazing information.

Since reading “The Story Grid,” I revised and rewrote “The Sureshot,” learned to use the foolscap outline for more effective story writing and to tweak some other things I do to improve my writing. Again, if you want to be a writer, I highly recommend this book. Get serious and check out the story grid.

He also has a website with great information:

http://www.storygrid.com/

 

 

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Finished! 

I finished the rewrite of The Sureshot. I’m very proud and very satisfied with the story. It is a little longer but a bit more compelling! Can’t wait for you all to read it!

 One last task; final edit. I’m going to try reading the entire thing outloud. It’s a great way to find more errors than normal. 

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Sureshot Excerpt: Training

I drew very literally from my own basic training experience to write the pages about Durbar’s training. They are some of my favorite scenes.

The next morning came quickly for Durbar. He was up with the sun, but noticed little about the spring’s beauty as he prepared to leave his temporary home at the Lone Pine Inn. He thought of very little except what the day would bring as he washed his face and put his clothes on. No one else was up yet, and he knew this, so he dropped some coins on the counter and left. He didn’t look back at the inn, walking toward the garrison. The sun was low in the sky and the mud of the streets was still frozen from the night’s frost. As he approached the garrison, he heard the sound of a horn apparently signaling something. The new recruit would soon learn what every signal meant.
He reached the guards at the entrance where he had entered before. It was the main entrance through the walls that surrounded the garrison, separating it from the rest of the city. The guards halted him and ordered him to identify himself. Durbar answered with his name and his purpose. They knew who he was, and one of them offered to lead him to the training barracks. It was normal for one of the guards to escort a new recruit to the training area. Durbar didn’t realize that there were separate barracks for trainees.
“You mean, I won’t be staying with all the other men?” he asked the guard.
“Nay, not yet anyway. After your training, you will; that is, of course, if you make it. I’m sure you won’t have a problem, if everything I’ve heard is true,” explained the soldier. “Follow me.”
So, Durbar followed the soldier through the main building where there were soldiers everywhere getting dressed and preparing for the day. They paid little heed to Durbar as he walked by them. They were all focused on their morning routine. The soldier led the young woodsman through the building and exited on the far side into the center of the compound. They walked over a small hill and some buildings came into view by the outer wall of the garrison. They were made of logs like most everything else. In the square that the buildings formed, there was a bit of a scramble. About twenty men were running about and appeared to be forming into some kind of an order. There was only one man who wasn’t running. Durbar could hear him at a distance.
“Move it! Faster! Form up!” he commanded.
“That’s Captain Noashk,” Durbar’s escort declared, “the officer in charge of training. He’ll be your new family. Don’t worry. He only yells at you if he likes you. You’ll do fine, trust me.”
“If you say so,” is all Durbar could say as he began to doubt his decision. They continued their approach, and by now all of the other recruits had formed four ranks of about five men each. The two men reached the group.
“Captain Noashk, Sir, here is another recruit, Sir,” shouted the guard in a loud voice.
“Thank you, Sergeant, you’re dismissed,” replied Noashk without turning from his formation. The men in the formation were being as still as they could, but most were fidgeting a little.
“Good luck,” encouraged the soldier that led Durbar there, and with that, he turned and headed back to his post. Durbar was also trying to be still. He held his bow in his left hand. His knapsack was over his left shoulder and his quiver over his right. He was still, as if anticipating an attack. He was poised to spring and run at any moment. Slowly Noashk turned around. He wasn’t a large man, at least not in stature, but he did have strength. He was wearing a black leather tunic with metal studs sewn onto it. He also wore black studded leather pants and heavy leather boots. His tunic did not have any sleeves but around his wrists he wore bracers. A sword was attached to his left hip. His head was bald but his face bore a trimmed dark gray beard. He studied Durbar for a moment, looking at him from head to toe; he noted the bow in Durbar’s hand.
“You’re Sureshot, no?” he asked calmly.
“Yes,” Durbar answered hesitantly. As soon as the word left his mouth Noashk exploded into a rage and charged Durbar stopping just short of the young man’s face. Durbar froze.
“Address me as ‘Sir,’ boy, or I’ll throw you over the wall or maybe I’ll just cut your tongue out!” screamed the man, his face only inches from Durbar’s. “You wouldn’t like that would you?” Durbar didn’t respond out of fear. “Answer me!”
“No,” replied Durbar timidly.
“No what?” yelled the man.
“No, Sir.”
“That’s right. Now I’m just going to say this once so you better listen,” Noashk lowered his deep, scratchy voice. “I don’t care if you think you already can do something. I don’t care if you think you are already fit to serve at this unit. I don’t care if you are the best bowman around or even in all of Dirka. Here you are all the same to me. I call the shots around here. I just want to make that clear. Now that we got that straight, go inside and talk to Sergeant Urlaum. He will get you the things you need. Then we’ll find out if you are good enough to be a part of this garrison,” he paused as if expecting Durbar to do something. “Go!” he shouted. Durbar dashed toward the building, his backpack banging on his back and his bow swinging with his arm. He ran inside the building and quickly assessed the area trying to remember what he was supposed to do when he got there. He saw a man at the far south end of the building. He trotted over to him still feeling some urgency but not as much as he had initially. The man noticed Durbar when he ran in and addressed him as he neared.
“New recruit?” he asked.
“Yes, I mean, yes Sir,” Durbar stammered.

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Writing tip: Outline

As soon as people heard that I was a published writer (for whatever that’s worth) I had a number of people tell me they too had an idea for a story and wanted to be a writer. First of all, that makes me very happy. The human heart loves stories. Its how our ancestors learned about their culture, their religion, their world. Its how we continue to communicate and seek connection and meaning. But that’s for another post. Many of the people who were interested in being writers asked me for advice. Well, ten years later I think I have some decent things to share. For this post I’ll focus on the outlining.

I admit, when I was a teenager and began writing for the first time I hated outlining, editing, rewriting and the entire writing process. I regret it a bit as I’m confident I could have done much better early on if I had embraced the writing process, but alas, I was young. When I set about writing The Sureshot for the first time I did no outlining. I just started writing with absolutely no idea where I was going. This was obviously a huge mistake. With no real direction the story just sort of meandered about. Each sentence lead to another and each paragraph inspired the next but it was not planned. The result? I got stuck many times and then had to go back and rewrite. Eventually however, I figured out I needed a map that lead to the end of a logical story; an outline.

After that experience, as I set about to become an actual writer, I did plenty of reading and research on the proper steps for completing a story. Everything I read made it plain that an outline was key. Apparently there are several writers who outline a hundred pages or more before writing; essentially creating a near first draft. Others, write simple bullet outlines of their story creating a path for the essential elements. I’m one of the latter. I like to have a logical outline that leads me to the desired completion of the story but I don’t like to create too many details because, for me, those tend to develop once I’ve begun drafting. It works.

So, if you have a story in your heart that you want to tell, my first piece of advice is to outline it. How does your story start? What conflicts arise? How are they resolved? How does the story end? The outline is your map to complete the story, without it you will be writing blindly, like a ship with no compass floating aimlessly. You may finally arrive at the desired destination but by luck more than design. You will be a much more efficient writer using outlines as tools. I’ve come upon a fantastic resource that helped me take outlining to the next level where I can use it to evaluate my story, but I’ll write about that later. For now…outline.

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