Elizabeth thinks she knows the gloomy Fenlen Forest. But when her treasured unicorn fawn, Sida, goes missing, Elizabeth tracks her into a strange land where the people think Elizabeth is a changeling, a malignant being who too closely resembles a missing girl.
If Elizabeth can find her fawn and uncover the fate of her lost double, can she stop the fear from turning into hate? To solve the deepening mystery, Elizabeth befriends a handsome, skeptical young shepherd whose stories hint at a dark secret lurking at the forest’s edge, and follows a herd of wild unicorns with the ability to unlock the past.
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If I Knew Then What I Know Now About Writing
I knew I wanted to be an author when I was five. But it took a long time before I published my first book, The Changeling of Fenlen Forest… Here’s what I wish I knew:
- While you’re waiting for the muse to arrive, learn to do something useful.
- Plan ahead, but be flexible.
- Finish something before worrying about publication. Then finish something else. Then worry about publication.
- Be Prepared to “Revise and Resubmit”
While you’re waiting for the muse to arrive, learn to do something useful.
Although I knew that I wanted to write, during high school and early university, I felt too young and inexperienced to say anything interesting. Everything we read in school had to do with love or death and I hadn’t seen much of either. I didn’t write much at all as a result. (Looking back, I could have typed away anyways, just to get a hang of plotting.)
But the time wasn’t wasted.
I read a lot and by writing essays, I learned how to communicate clearly. Studying history, spending time in nature, and getting involved with my diasporic community helped me gather different ways of looking at the world. Eventually, my experiences laid the groundwork for the forest and unicorns and “mysterious” language and culture in The Changeling of Fenlen Forest. In retrospect, even when I wasn’t actively writing, I was learning how to translate the world around me into stories that other people wanted to read.
Plan ahead, but be flexible.
You can do a LOT of research about the publishing industry before you’ve even opened a blank Word document or cracked open a fresh notebook. Depending on what you want to write, it may be useful to read up on certain generic conventions…the “rules” are very important if you’re writing a series, romance, or mystery, but they might also subtly influence other genres. Some rules are firm (romance usually has a happily ever after) and some rules are made to be broken. When researching things like agents, competitions, and publishers, it’s good to be know about submission guidelines, but be aware that these may change by the time you’ve finished your novel/story/play/essay/poetry collection.
You might also have a firm plan for your novel/story/play/essay or poetry collection, but as you write, you may discover that characters misbehave or plots take an unexpected turn. That’s okay. While writing Anna Karenina, Tolstoy was surprised by his character, Vronsky, who suddenly decided to attempt suicide. Tolstoy decided to see what Vronsky would do, and he ended up with a masterpiece.
Finish something before worrying about publication. Then finish something else. Then worry about publication.
Lots of people have started a novel. Far fewer have finished one. Agents and publishers are not interested in half-written work. They want to know that you have the ability to deliver a product they can sell.
Writing is a craft that you master through practice; therefore the first thing you finish is probably not going to be your best work. Before I wrote and published The Changeling of Fenlen Forest, I wrote several full “practice” novels. These had beginnings, middles, and ends. But they weren’t quite right. When I started to write The Changeling of Fenlen Forest, I immediately wanted people to read about the protagonist, Elizabeth, as she and her unicorns search for her missing double. That was when it was time to think seriously about publication.
Fun fact: the famous Victorian author-siblings, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë all wrote fanfiction and full-length zany fantasy novels before they turned to publication. Then their first poetry collection only sold TWO copies. So, it was only after a great deal of experimentation and work that they found success with Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey.
Be Prepared to Revise and Resubmit
You finished your manuscript! Hurrah! It’s DONE!
Except it’s NOT done!
You will continue to revise and edit your manuscript as you take into consideration the comments of: your first readers (friends, family, a writing group), publishers who give you a friendly rejection, your agent, your editor. You might not agree with all the suggestions you receive. But, perhaps, after taking a few days or months, you’ll take another look at your manuscript and realize that some changes would make it better.
That being said, you DON’T have to act on everyone’s advice – only on the advice that makes sense for your book. Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women, has some sensible things to say about the business of revision and publication. After publishing short stories, the heroine Jo March submits her beloved first novel and finds herself swamped by the editors’ demands for revision and the conflicting advice she receives from all of her family members. What happens next?
[W]ith Spartan firmness, the young authoress laid her first-born on her table, and chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre. In the hope of pleasing everyone, she took everyone’s advice, and like the old man and his donkey in the fable suited nobody.
Because Jo doesn’t distinguish between which advice makes sense for her book and which advice weakens the story, the novel isn’t what she imagined. Jo’s conclusion? “I’ll comfort myself … and when I’m ready, I’ll up again and take another.” (This reaction is one of the many reasons I love Jo!)
Not all revision is scary. My editors at Great Plains asked me great questions which let me incorporate an origin story for Elizabeth’s mother to The Changeling of Fenlen Forest. I already had the answers in my head, and now I had permission to share it. Hurrah!
Katherine Magyarody grew up in Toronto, Ontario. During graduate school, she researched the history of adolescence, taught children’s literature, and wrote fiction on the sly. Her debut short story, “Goldhawk,” is anthologized in PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2017. She currently lives in Connecticut, where she blogs about interesting and weird unicorns at https://offbeatunicorn.com/about-offbeat-unicorn/.
- Two (2) winners will receive a physical copy of Changeling of Fenlen Forest by Katherine Magyarody (INT)
Mary Preston says
An interesting Guest Post thank you.
Elizabeth Robinson says
Love the cover. Thanks for the giveaway.
Congrats on the new release! Thanks for sharing.
Sounds like a good read.
the cover is gorgeous!
Daniel M says
sounds like a fun one