Published: The Tiny Giant

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Look at that, I wrote a book. The Tiny Giant is published, available on Amazon and from my online store, and it’s really, really better than I could have hoped. I’ve been so busy with the last iteration, then the nuts and bolts of publishing, everything else got shoved to the side. A few things to know, for the writers interested in these things…

I wrote this book five times.

The first draft was about 83,000 words. The published edition is around 45,000 words.

The final draft has a completely different ending, four new characters, and holds the third “aging” of the main character—from 8 to 12 to 11.

The first draft had 18 long chapters. The final has 35 short ones.

A whole plot line moved to the next book, and a bunch of fancy fantasy world-building crap just disappeared.

The entire process took me four years.

I used an editor and a professional artist/designer at the end. (DO THIS if you possibly can.)

Also, I cried, I was on fire, I was depressed, and I laughed out loud. This is not a process for the faint of heart or those lacking perseverance. There are two things that I think got me through it.

  1. Be Too Dumb to Quit: A lot of what I’ve accomplished in life, well, I got to it this way. My first professional job had a glitch in the hiring process, and I had to temp for a while until a position opened up. I called the partner every week until he finally said he had something. I ran a half-marathon. I wrote a novel. I could have quit at any point, but I didn’t want to tell people I quit. I did all sort of drastic rewriting and revising and improving—because I’m too dumb to quit. It may not be an easy way to live your life, but I’ve been pretty happy with the results to date.
  2. They Can’t All Be Winners: Sometimes, stuff just doesn’t work. Characters, ideas, story lines, words. If you had a dozen children, odds are at least one wouldn’t work out like you’d imagined. I had to make painful, heart-wrenching decisions to get to the end with this. I had to cut things I really liked, true, but I also had to admit that some of it WASN’T GOOD. As much as I wanted the construct of magic I’d made to work, it wasn’t a winner. It was dragging everything down into the Pit of Incomprehensibility. When I took it out, everything was better. (I realize I may be opening the kimono a little much here, but I’m nothing if not OPEN.) On the good side of this, it shows that you’re taking risks when you have things that don’t work. I have a couple of short stories in my drawer that won’t ever get developed because THEY ARE NOT WINNERS. S’alright. I learned.

There will be a sequel, and I’ll be shopping it to traditional publishers as a series when I’m a few chapters in. I didn’t do much of that with The Tiny Giant. I felt like I wanted to learn what I was doing without the distraction–maybe that was dumb, but I still have a book and the publishers are still there. In the meantime, I’ve been doing school visits and that is terrific fun. Kids have the best questions–I might do a whole post about that experience.

If you want a fun, easy summer read, The Tiny Giant is for you. If you have kids in the 9/10+ age group around, this is great summer reading for them. There’s adventure, a dragon, and the unexpected. There are hard decisions. There are some very funny bits. Get it signed at my online store at Little Voices Publishing, or head over the Amazon and use that Prime shipping.

Now I’m working on Bitches and Dead People–all the stories are written and I’m working with a different editor on those, one with specific expertise in short fiction and some familiarity with the horror genre. It’s some fantastic writing, and I can’t wait to share it later this year.  Until then, I’ll be around a little more. Thanks for being here.


PS. Isn’t that cover the most gorgeous thing ever? Steve Ogden at Steve Ogden Art did the cover, book design, and little illustrations for each chapter head. Check him out on your fave media platform for his comics and the behind the scenes on The Tiny Giant. Here’s one of my favorite chapter illustrations. Bahahaha….IMG_7279

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Introducing: The Tiny Giant

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Okay, fortune cookie.  I did.

Here’s an elevator pitch for The Tiny Giant, the novel I’ve been working on for nearly three years.

The Tiny Giant follows the adventures of a very small giant and a suburban boy with a big imagination, brought together to explore a hidden landscape of magical beasts and threats in a struggle to right a centuries old injustice.

Boiling the 70,000 word novel down into 40 words is an exercise in beating one sentence to death, but I’m getting close.  The Tiny Giant is a suburban fantasy, a novel set in familiar surroundings for many of us.  The lush green Pacific Northwest provides a beautiful, albeit damp, backdrop.  Imagine waking up one morning to find that you’ve been brought into a world you never knew existed, just because you planted a seed on a whim?

Dan, one of our two protagonists, is a 12-year-old boy with a fairly normal life until he meets Zeeble, the 18″ tall giant in his garden.  Everything goes a bit sideways from there.  The woods behind Dan’s house are not what they seem, and a world Dan never suspected brings him new wonders and dangerous enemies.  Exploring themes of loyalty, justice, and making up for the mistakes of the past, Zeeble must overcome centuries of inaction to do the only right thing.

As for me, I’m preparing the cover letter and other materials to submit to agents and publishers.  I’m working out what the second novel for these characters looks like, and I’m excited to start writing it.  The working title is The Unnatural Giant, and after writing about 150,000 words in total to get the first book ready for its close-up, I suspect I’ll be a little better at it this time.

I’ve had that fortune from a long-forgotten restaurant for about 10 years.  I’ve spent three years working and reworking The Tiny Giant.  I have never been more nervous about being a novelist than I am right this minute, on the verge of rejection or acceptance.  And we step off the high dive and …. see what happens.

How could anyone not write a novel set in these woods?

How could anyone not write a novel set in these woods?

On School Days, We Write

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I finished rewriting The Tiny Giant at the beginning of August. I let it sit for three weeks to redistribute the juices before I read it.  Honestly, I was scared to tears of it.  Here’s why:  I worked really hard for six months rewriting it, and maybe it wasn’t any better.

That rewrite was the most painful writing I’ve ever done.  The new book is about 10,000 words shorter, but more than that, it’s almost unrecognizable.  A different, better writer did this version.  I learned so much writing 150,000 words over the last two and a half years.  A lot of those words didn’t survive, and some of them are different stories, but they were all critical to getting here.

Two weeks ago, I finally read the new manuscript.  You know what?  It’s good.  I have a handful of things I’d like to change, but it’s nothing like that half-in, half-out thing I did right before it, the in-between the First Reader draft and here.  I’m all in, and it shows.

What did I actually DO differently?  I gave myself permission to write whatever needed to be written, even though it’s aimed at a YA audience.  I will probably go and scrub the one time I wrote “FFS” in the dialogue–that was just a placeholder–but moving the intensity up gave it higher stakes.  I practiced writing in different formats, short stories and etc…  This cut my rambling descriptions down naturally, gave me better economy and impact.  I made myself uncomfortable.  I took chances, and I wrote from a highwire instead of a comfy nursery glider.

The kids are in school now, and I have longer blocks of time to edit and fix the little things.  I need a coherent synopsis and a cover letter to send out.  End of September?  You betcha.  I’m excited to get there.  That doesn’t mean I’m not procrastinating… like writing a blog post about it…but I’ll get there.

Wrapping Up a Novel Is Like Urgent Macrame

I’m in the home stretch of rewriting The Tiny Giant. I am deleting whole paragraphs in favor of the better writing I’m capable of after 150,000 words of practice. I am crying, sometimes, when the clever bits turn out to be irrelevant, or a sweet moment slows down the action, and they have to go.  I am fist-pumping at the ceiling when the new section is funnier, more adventurous, or just actually makes sense.

In these last few chapters, the whole of the story has to come together in a way that is both interesting (complex) and organic (not distractingly complex).  It makes me tense.  I’m preoccupied with it.  A bit obsessed.  This is where I run into issues.

See…I’m at home all day with the Two Things.  My kids are 4 (almost 5) and 7 (almost 82, he’s wonderfully odd).  I get up and write for a couple of hours if I can manage it before they get up.  Once they stir, there is no more writing.  This doesn’t happen at a nice stopping point.  Right now, at the climax, I’m juggling all the cords of this macramé masterpiece, trying to get the knots connected so the plot doesn’t just crash to the floor.  When I “stop” for the day, I still have these mental threads precariously wound through my imaginary intellectual fingers.  All day.  All I can think about is NOT LOSING MY PLACE.

I take notes, and I leave markers for myself.  I know what’s going to happen (thanks, outline!), and I know what I need to do to get there.  It doesn’t stop me from worrying that somewhere along the way, I’m going to leave a cord out, or tie the wrong knot, and this big piece of mental macramé is going to end up looking like the actual macramé I made in the 7th grade.  I urgently need it not to be as amateurish as my 7th grade plant hanger.  I urgently need to be done.

I will not rush through this last bit just to be done.  There are still 7 chapters left, and they deserve the same attention as all the others, if not more.  I’ll spend the next two weeks tying knots and balancing strings and probably snapping at my family (sorry, family) to see it through to what I hope it can be.  If I seem a little preoccupied, well, it’s just that I’m trying to remember if the blue cord is an over or under cord…

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Now….what was I thinking with this one?

I Stopped Fooling Myself, Since I Wasn’t Fooling You

I updated my About page recently to include my name.  After three years, I was still reluctant to do that.  I realized a couple of things, though…

I’m going to need to connect with my real name in preparation for releasing a book, whether it’s traditionally published or self-published.  This means that any distance I thought I was keeping between myself and my online persona is probably counter-productive.

Also…there really isn’t any such thing as privacy when you decide to have a presence on the internet.

You Should Be Happy is now going to include the humor that I’ve been posting, and my author’s blog.  I won’t bore you to death with daily updates about The Tiny Giant, but I will be talking about the process and teasing some of what the book is about.

Major milestones, too.  I’m getting close to the end of the big heart-rending rewrite.  More to come on that soon.

So…hello.  My name is Rebecka Ratcliffe, and I’m a writer.  Nice to meet you.

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Rewritin’

Well, I spent a couple years,
Pilin’ up a mess of words,
But when I read ’em back,
I didn’t like what I heard.

Those words were too simple,
Those too flowery.
These sound like I made ’em up,
And those don’t sound like me.

I grabbed my inky editor
And marked them pages up.
I bled all over those suckers,
Man, I really changed some stuff.

I beavered away at the pages,
Started feelin’ like a pro,
Until I read the new version
And saw how far I had to go.

Well, I sucked it up, my friend.
I wrote the whole thing over.
I worried about the “central conflict”
And what “motivation” drove her.

At the end, I could see
My mess of words was clearer.
So, promise me, you’ll buy my book
When I finish it…late next year.

A Note From Me:  I know some of you have been through the process of writing and rewriting novels, and let me tell you, it’s quite a process.  The good news?  Two-ish years after I started using my 3 hours a week on The Tiny Giant, I finally know what the finished product looks and feels like.  This 4th Draft is the last draft before I edit and send the manuscript out.  It has come a LONG way in that time, and I have a mess of work left, but I can see and feel the main arc of the story, and I know the characters as well as I know anyone.  I’m excited to get there, and honestly a little tired of looking at it.  I’ll be happy to see it out the door, then turn to some stories aimed at adults while I wait for responses.

What do I expect?  Nothing.  Hope for everything.  The young adult fantasy market is more open than ever before, I think, and more crammed with competition as a result.  But…back to the work, which I need to get done before I do any dreaming…

(Bonus points to you if you heard Baxter Black in your mind as you read the poem.)

On Being Thankful That I Am Not Getting Paid To Do This

I’ll start off by letting you all in on a big thing.  I have written thousands of words in the last few months.  Some of them are very cleverly put together.  Some of them are put together as if the dictionary had the stomach flu, but I’ll fix that later.  But… BUT…If I’m writing all these words, WHERE ARE THEY?!?  Right?  And why am I writing about writing when I said I wasn’t going to do that?

I’m not publishing anything because I am writing a novel.  Given that I am also caring for Things One and Two full-time, this is being accomplished in the three and a half hours a week that they are both in preschool at the same time.  It *is* being accomplished, though.  As I dig my way through Chapter 3, one stolen prison dining hall teaspoon at a time, I believe it’s actually going to make it all the way to Chapter 12.  It’s a fantasy novel.  I’m not at liberty to go into detail, because the idea is…well…novel.  I don’t want to spill the beans until I actually have the thing in hand.  It’s outlined, timelined, and I know what the two follow-up books would be in major plot strokes.  I love the main characters.  I think fantasy readers will, too.  I can’t even say it’s “insert famous book”-like.  It’s new.  It’ll be interesting as long as I just let it be what it needs to be.

Given that I have the opportunity to take a wonderful idea and fully realize it (at least to the extent of my capability), I’m putting the blog on official hiatus.  I’ll post a thingy here and there when the mood strikes me, but I need to reserve those three hours a week to work on the novel.  At the rate I’m going, I expect to have a first draft in about a year and a half from when I started writing.  If I can speed that up, I will, but hey….that really isn’t that long.  I’ll leave the blog open, and if something strikes me funny, I’ll share it.  I probably won’t be doing any of the long pictures and humor posts for a while, though–while I love those, they take a lot of time.  It takes me hours and hours to sound quite that slap-dash, and even more time to carefully plan and stage those most professional pictures.

So… I’m not really writing about writing.  I’m writing about how glad I am that I can just say, “Not this year, honey,” to the blog without impacting my financial outlook.  If there’s someone who is disappointed that they won’t see more of the humor pieces…I hope you’ll like the novel.  There’s plenty of wry humor in it so far.

I also wanted to say how thankful I am for this blog.  I was encouraged to do this by several friends, one in particular, and it made me think that writing was something I wanted to make time for.   That opened the door to the bigger possibilities… I think if I hadn’t already been writing, I would have let the idea for the novel wither off into the ether.  For everyone who is following me, or has liked or commented on something–thanks, man.  You’re the best.  I also know that you’ll understand why I am choosing to spend my limited time where I am.

Light a candle for me every Thursday and Friday between 9:00AM and 10:45AM PST, excluding holidays and teacher inservice days.  That’s when my Martha Stewart lifestyle gets put on hold while I live the dream.