Writing, Character Ghostings, and Mermen: Updates from My World

Some really amazing things have happened to me in the past two weeks. Amazing writer things.

Yippee Girl at Typewriter[1]









On March 16, I finished revising my “Round Two beta draft” of Mark of the Pterren, and began submitting the new manuscript to my second wave of beta-readers for feedback.

(Beta-readers are friends, and friends-of-friends, who agree to read an unpublished manuscript and offer feedback to the writer about the book. Beta-readers are really awesome people because unpublished manuscripts are often rough, confusing to read, and chock-full of mistakes, errors that beta-readers take the time to point out for correction.)

For my Round One beta draft, which went out in late November and December, I had four readers. They were: my brother Dale, my alpha-reader (and Reading Angel) April, my childhood friend Bonnie, and my Australia-lovin’ friend Jen, who loved Mark of the Pterren so much, she found more beta-readers for me.

Starting on March 16, I began emailing the manuscript to eleven more people (three of them people Jen connected me with) — and now I wait. Wait to hear what else needs to be fixed, what plot holes I missed, what sentences and paragraphs should be deleted, what words I misspelled, what character arcs still fall flat. It takes so much work to clean up a book. The quality level I need is out of my hands at this point, because only those beautiful beta-readers can find the flaws I don’t see.









As soon as they message me or email me with the problems they find, I fix them. So I’m certainly not “done” writing Mark of the Pterren.

But I do have a lot more time on my hands now, and I’ve thrown myself back into reading. I’ve also started researching my next project, which will be a YA (Young Adult) fantasy novel. I really look forward to revising and rewriting Book II in the Pterren series (a series which will most likely be five books total), but I would also like to write something I can pay my mom’s mortgage with. Prioritizing the YA novel seems prudent.

In the past few years, more and more book sales have gone to YA, not just adult fiction sales, but adult nonfiction sales. There is simply a huge market out there hungry for YA novels, especially of the sci-fi/fantasy kind.

And that is exactly what my next project is — most of the novel takes place under the sea, and it’s a gender-reversal of The Little Mermaid










A story in which the male teen protagonist is a merman, and the female teen protagonist is a human. The story mostly takes place under the sea (opposite to how most of The Little Mermaid takes place on land).

And, like in The Little Mermaid, one of them changes form for part of the story — in this case, my female protagonist is transformed (against her will) into a mermaid for a time —









There is a lot of magic and danger in the story, a lot of plot, because action is one of the biggest draws for the genre — the stakes are high, stuff is happening, people are swimming around being heroic and awesome — unique characters and strong plots make for compelling stories, and I want to deliver a compelling story.

This story is about more than magic and danger though. It’s about the perils of climate change, and the damage being done to the oceans. It’s about spirituality and religion, and how people navigate their own truths while honoring the values of their faith community. My female protagonist is sixteen, and being raised by a man who is not her father. This man is also one of the most wonderful characters to ever appear in my head. I spent hours this morning listening to him converse with the teenager he’s raising, and I can’t wait to let readers meet him! He is really amazing.

I feel very honored that such admirable people show up in my brain. Though sometimes, I’m not always nice to them. While I don’t normally interact with characters in past books, Mary Jane from Love and Student Loans and Other Big Problems stopped by for a visit a few weeks ago. I’ve been under so much pressure this month with possibly losing my mom’s house to foreclosure, I was pretty sarcastic to Mary Jane when she showed up. I asked, “How’s your happy ending going?” and she said, “Don’t be like that. I just came in for a milkshake.” I said, “You know nothing. I was so nice to you. I could have made your life so much harder.” I waved the most recent foreclosure notice at her. She shrugged. “Maybe you need a milkshake.”

I think the last time I had a milkshake was about two years ago. A yummy blackberry-malt that Greg bought during one of our trips to Pagosa Springs. I think this was around Easter, which is coming up soon.

But a few weeks ago, I certainly wasn’t in the mood for a milkshake. I told Mary Jane to go away, and I went back to work on Mark of the Pterren.

Normally, of all my old characters who revisit me from time to time, it’s Noelle who drops by (Jimmy Fairchild’s best friend from The Etiquette of Wolves). Sometimes when I’m driving, Noelle appears in the backseat and does Noelle-things, like texting people and fussing with her hair and making random comments.

The memory of writing a character operates much the same way as the memory of any person from life — they appear at odd times, sometimes to interact with you, sometimes just to be there. I’m fortunate that none of my antagonist-characters ever ghost me like this. Of course, my antagonists in a work in progress frequently show up so I know what to write, but not the old ones, and I’m grateful for that.

Oh, and a side note before closing — if any of my readers read my recent post about The Night Circus — please note that I was mistaken about a movie coming out this year. While I was browsing for more pictures online, I realized those movie posters were fan art! Not Hollywood creations. I went back and corrected my original post.

Thanks so much for reading! And if you have ghosties who visit you, I hope they’re the non-scary kind, like mine.








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2 Responses to Writing, Character Ghostings, and Mermen: Updates from My World

  1. Hi Melissa! Beta readers are such a blessing. My favorite is a cousin who loves to read but is not a writer. I think getting a straight reader’s point of view adds a lot to what I’ve already received from my critique group.

    P.S. I have not experienced any ghostie visits, and that’s just fine with me.


  2. April D says:

    I’m good without ghostie visits as well. Though it’s easier never having written anything where characters would be sticking in my mind! 🙂

    Mary Jane definitely deserved that happy ending though so I can’t find it in me to begrudge her that life 🙂 Still; I can wish you might ALSO have similar happy things happen! *hopes*


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