Fantasy Friday – What’s a Quatrain?

Well, it’s official. I’ve restructured The Lore of Efrathah so that it is no longer a trilogy. It is also not a “series” in the usual sense of the word. This is one story, now told via four books (think, epic fantasy). I suppose the proper classification would be “quartet,” though I don’t have any examples to draw from. Instead, I’ve chosen the word quatrain—pretty much because I like the way it sounds.

I did ask the advice of another fantasy writer, wondering if it was “legal” to co-opt the word when it clearly has a restricted definition (“a stanza of four lines, esp. one having alternate rhymes,” according to the two sources I checked). The answer? You’re a fantasy writer—make the word do what you want.

Well, note, I didn’t use quotation marks there. That’s how I interpreted the advice, maybe because my heart was already set on quatrain. But why the great divide, you may wonder. Nearly a year ago, at a small writers’ conference here in Southern California, I met with a knowledgeable agent who looked at my proposal. At that time, I estimated the third book would be approximately 150,000 words. This agent categorically stated that editors would not want a book that long.

At the time, though I tried, I couldn’t see dividing the story. The numbers didn’t work, I thought, and I’d end up padding book four—the very book that should have the meaty climactic ending, not a puff-and-fluff fizzle. So I plunged on.

However, as I came within sight of having the entire rough draft transcribed onto the computer, I topped 150,000 words, with six or so chapters remaining. That’s another 20,000 words, at minimum. The decision seemed clear.

I already knew there was a natural break that could work as the end of a book three, so this week I tinkered with the chapter order and checked to see if the new ending would need any work (I don’t think it does). And with that, the birth of the quatrain.

The Lore of Efrathah now consists of The Sword of Secrets (90,000 words), Journey to Mithlimar (120,000 words), Escape from Moldark (100,000 words), and The Battle for the Throne (approximately 80,000 words). I say “now” because there’s an outside chance that I’ll move one section from Escape to Battle and that would change the word count of those two books. I’ll know more once I have some readers weigh in on this.

Any volunteers? 😉

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 10:24 am  Comments (6)  
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So earlier today, I had two different topics in mind for this post. Do you think I can remember either one now? One was something about characters. The other … haven’t got a clue.

All I can think about is Efrathah. For those who might not know, Efrathah is the land of my fantasy world, and it is on my mind because I’ve been working on some chapter late in the final book.

I can’t give you the number because I’ve decided to split this book into two, but I won’t do that until I have it all into the computer. As it stands now, this is chapter 47 and I’m on manuscript page 445. How many words is it? I was at 100,000 thirteen chapters ago. And the thing is, I still have six more chapters to go, not counting the one I’m on. Yep, I needed to split this book. So no longer am I working on a trilogy. It’s a quatrain. I like the way that sounds better than quartet.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with rushing. When I first joined a critique group, one of the writers, now a published author, would have these wonderful manuscripts, rich with detail so that you felt like you were standing beside the characters, witnessing it all first hand. Until the end. Then for some unknown reason, she’d start to rush. Scenes were no longer vivid. The climax seemed sloppy. It was a mystery to me

But lo and behold, as I dove into work on this current problematic chapter of The Battle for the Throne, I realize when I wrote the rough draft, I rushed it. I actually have two beginnings, and I never took time to resolve them. That would be for later, I’m sure I thought. Well, now is later, and I’m stuck trying to pull loose ends together.

What I will probably end up doing is writing an entirely new scene to bring some sense to this part of the story.

But here’s the question. How many stories are too rushed in the end and there’s no one around to hold up a slow sign? I doubt if I would have realized the problem in my work if I hadn’t seen this rushing in the manuscripts of my crit partner. But now that I’m aware of it, I’ve spotted it in several published works, and now in my own writing.

What’s the rush, you might wonder. By “rushing” I mean some actions aren’t properly motivated, some settings aren’t clearly drawn, some internal monologue is too prescriptive, some scenes are incomplete. The overall feel is that there are holes. Holes in the plot or in the character motivation. Things begin to feel a little contrived because there are too many coincidences.

I don’t pretend to understand why the rush. I only know I’m paying for it now because I’m having to fill in all those gaps during this rewrite. Here’s where I wish I had an editor who would just tell me what to do. 😉

Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 2:12 pm  Comments (13)  
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