behind the scenes

Ranking Magical Specialties

Today I’m giving you access to my writing notes. Some of them, at least. There’s plenty of notes I have that contain too many spoilers or information that frankly may seem a bit dull, but I think you’ll all be interested in how magical specialties are ranked.

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FanFact is a novel about a fangirl, Clara, who finds herself in the world of her favorite book series, The Hierarchy of Magic. In this world the political landscape is changing rapidly. Magical specialties, the type of magic you are most naturally skilled at, are being ranked based on how useful they are perceived to be for society. Your rank determines not only the type of employment you can find, but your place in society.

I had a lot of fun playing with magical specialties and ranking them in an order based on what a capitalist society would think. In a world where everything is about making money, it only makes sense that your magic has a perceived worth as well.

While most people can do most types of magic, there is one skill set they tend to excel at, which determines the path their life will take. Below, see some of my notes on the Hierarchy Party as well as the tiers they have placed magical specialties into.

(But don’t be surprised if additional specialties pop up in the novel).

Hierarchy Party

A rising political party that believes your magical specialty directly correlates to your worth in the world, and should determine how much agency and power you have in society. Presented as a way to make society more organized and more efficient. Recently passed a law separating magical specialties into tiers. Different tiers dictate how much schooling is required, and this means people fill jobs related to their specialties which helps to alleviate the job crisis in certain fields.


Tier 1 Magical Specialties

Dark Magic
Elemental Magic
Manipulation Magic
Time Magic
Dimension Magic
Illusion Magic
Voodoo Magic

Tier 2 Magical Specialties

Concealment Magic
Healing Magic
Teleportation Magic
Alchemical Magic
Geometrical Magic
Analytical Magic
Astrology
Numeromancy

Tier 3 Magical Specialties

Memory Magic
Light Magic
Weather Magic
Dream Manipulation Magic
Animal Control Magic
Assembly Magic
Craftsmanship Magic
Fertility Magic
Levitation

Of course this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it does give you an idea of how roles are broken down within the Hierarchy of Magic world.


What do you think? Are you surprised by any of the tiers? Let me know, I’d love to talk about it!

Behind The Scenes: Editing FanFact

As you may have seen, I’ve finished my first draft of FanFact, the story of a fangirl who stumbles into her favorite fantasy book series. After taking a brief break to give myself some space from the manuscript, I’ve started the editing process.

Every author has a different editing process, and I’m just starting to really understand my own. This is my third fully completed novel, but it is the first I’ve gone back to do hard edits on. I think part of the reason for this is because I had such a firm handle on this story from day one, and I have a more vocal support group than I used to.

This time I think I’m actually going to get through the editing process without losing my mind!

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Step 1 - Beta Reader

The first thing I did was hand off my finished rough draft to my first beta reader. During this time, I didn’t go anywhere near my manuscript. You need to give yourself space right after you write something, otherwise it is easy to ignore mistakes because you don’t realize something in your head didn’t make it to the page.

I’ve sent my draft to several people for feedback, but I only waited for one of them to finish their critique before I went back to work.

Having a talented beta reader is necessary when working on a novel. They point out plot holes, where there needs to be more character development, inconsistencies in the text, and so much more. Once I have these notes I can move on to step two.

Step 2 - Making Notes On The Manuscript

After reading the notes from my beta reader I drove to the local library on a breezy, cloudy day. Before that day I had never printed any of my manuscripts, mostly because it seemed like a pain and I didn’t see the point when I could make the edits directly on the computer.

But what I’ve come to understand from working as a professional copywriter is that printing materials you write on a computer is one of the best things you can do in terms of editing. Why is this?

  • We’re conditioned to expect computer documents to be neat and organized. Track changes look messy.

  • It is easier to write notes (“Re-write”, “Expand this section”) on paper, versus on the computer where it feels like the changes should be made immediately.

  • It’s easier to spot typos on paper.

  • It is impossible to get wrapped up in re-writing specific sections, because there’s just no room to do it.

I’m really loving making my edits on my physical manuscript. There’s something extremely satisfying about it. For this round of edits I’m ignoring typos and grammar, and instead focusing on sections of the text that need re-writes.

After I make it through the manuscript the first time, I’ll have a full manual stating where I need to put in the most writing work. Then it will be back to writing again based on those manuscript notes, until I’ve gotten through all of them.

Step Three - Back To The Beta Readers

After I finish making all the noted changes, including the changes proposed by my beta reader, I’ll send the manuscript back out. Hopefully this time I’ll only get a few, smaller notes for improvement. The goal is to not have any major rewriting to do after I get my second round of feedback.

As notes from my beta readers come in, I’ll start applying changes as needed. By now my writing should be at its best.

Step Four - Proofreading & Fact Checking

This is the bit of the editing process that I am looking forward to least. Step four is a much more monotonous undertaking than the first three steps, and it requires I pay very close attention to every single word I’ve written.

This isn’t just looking for typos and grammar errors. This is the final run before I start to pitch to agents. That means that everything has to be as perfect as it can be. I need to fact check not just my research, but my own writing.

From page to page, all the little details have to be consistent. Liam must be the same age across the entire book. Small details, such as town names, must always match. Details that are unnecessary and distracting must be removed so they don’t create confusion for the reader.

My beta readers will make some of these corrections themselves, but that doesn’t get me off the hook.

As I continue through the editing process I’ll be sending exclusive previews to my email newsletter subscribers. Sign up so you don’t miss out!

Meet My Writing Space

While I prefer to spend my writing time at local coffee shops, spending all that money on coffee really adds up. And unfortunately, there are no 24 hour coffee shops in Milwaukee (that I know of) so sometimes I have to do my writing at home.

My wife and I aren’t rolling in money so right now we’re still renting a 1 bedroom apartment and I doubt that will change anytime soon. Because of this I am not lucky enough to have an entire office to myself for doing writing work.

But my wife was kind enough to give me full ownership of the desk in our living room, as well as partial ownership of the bookshelf next to it. I’ve been working on transforming it into a space that inspires me to get work done.

The Desk

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So, I’m not gonna lie, this desk isn’t great. It’s not the most sturdy and the height is awkward for typing (though it may be my height). For years this desk was a breeding ground for stray papers - post it notes we’d had for months, junk mail, old grocery lists - pretty much everything we didn’t know what to do with ended up here. As you can see though it is now a clean workspace, and that’s forced us to not let our papers pile up as well.

I have a large open space for my laptop with extra room on either side of it. I usually have a cup of coffee beside me as I write, since it seems I can’t focus without it. This still gives me space for a notebook if I need it, though usually I only use one when I am editing.

Along the wall of the desk is where I keep my writing essentials. I have post it notes and pens for practical use, but most of the stuff on my desk is for inspiration. The Writer’s Market book isn’t for me to reference yet, as I am still writing a first draft, but seeing it is a reminder of what I am working towards. I picked up the wooden sign at a TJ Maxx so I could look at it when I was struggling and have a good laugh. I plan to add some type of plant in the far right corner as well, once I get back from my trip to Japan.

Desk Storage

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This desk was meant to hold a keyboard, but we’re a laptop family. Instead I use it to hold items I may like to reference on a regular basis.

This is where I keep printed copies of my critiques. I also have an editing textbook I was assigned in college stored here for easy reference, as well as a book of writing prompts for when I’m simply lacking inspiration.

Bookshelf Storage

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Since the computer desk is very small, I use the neighboring bookshelf to hold some of my materials I use regularly for writing. The most important of these are my binders and notebooks. I keep a lot of material here including outlines, character notes, and plot ideas. For one of my novels I even have a map I (poorly) drew that I have to reference almost every time I work on the book.

I also keep all my writing textbooks from college here. Well, the ones I liked. I don’t usually use them, but it’s nice to have them closeby. They have a lot of good writing advice. Sometimes when I am writing I know there’s a problem but not how to fix it, so having these reference materials can be a huge help.

Walls

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I’ve tried to utilize my wall space as well. In the future I’d like to add some shelving to give me more storage space, but strictly speaking I’m not supposed to so that’s on the backburner. For now, I’ve hung two framed illustrations of Sherlock Holmes’ flat. I adore Sherlock, as I’ve mentioned before, and I adore these prints.

I also have a whiteboard. How exactly I use this whiteboard changes depending where in the writing process I am. Right now I’m about 75% through my first draft of FanFact, so I’m keeping note of things I need to go back and change on the whiteboard. Sometimes I use it to track plot points. Other times, when I’m swamped, it becomes a To Do list.

Extras

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So these aren’t technically a part of my writing space, but usually they end up being there. First off, coffee. I really enjoy coffee. Expensive coffee, cheap coffee, flavored coffee, fancy coffee beverages, I like it all. Right now this is my favorite coffee cup. It’s very thick and from a local coffee shop, so it gives the illusion of being in a cafe.

I also usually have a throw blanket with me. I like to be comfortable, and just having a blanket wrapped around me or in my lap seems to make me more productive. My two favorite throw blankets in the apartment are this Christmas one (it’s huge and super soft) and this Sherlock one (it’s Sherlock).

Music. Some writers love it, some hate it. I’m sort of in the middle. My favorite ambiance for writing is quiet background music along with the sounds of everyday shuffling. I like to use the website Coffitivity to give me the background noise of a cafe. I’ve found it makes me a lot more productive than just listening to music with my headphones on. It provides the exact amount of background noise I need to sit down and focus.

I hope you liked my writing space tour! I’ll be heading to Japan next week so don’t expect any new blog posts for a couple of weeks. If you’re interested in seeing my adventures in japan, feel free to follow me on Instagram!