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Archive for the ‘Novel Plans’ Category

Another Tiny Update

Rejection number 10 (form letter) came in yesterday.  Time to send that story out somewhere else.

On the “dancing, not quite from rooftops” level of awesome, I queried about another story that had been in the ether fora  couple months and found that they’re holding it for consideration/second opinions.  I’m going to interpret this is a win, even if they don’t take the story.  It means I’m getting past the first glance, which is a mark of improvement.  Go me.

I have an edit of that story also, so I responded thanking them for letting me know where I stood and offered up the edit if they’d like to see it.  I like both versions (one is cleaner since more eyes went over it) but who knows what they’ll want? Anyway, I’m psyched that I’m at least being considered.

Meanwhile, I’m working on the novella which will never sell.  Seriously, who buys fantasy novellas?  I’m going to try to keep it under 17k words so I can at least enter it in the ‘Writers of the Future’ contest.  I just finished Ken Rand’s (may he RIP) “Ten Percent Solution” and intend to put his ideas into practice to reduce the draft of the novella to as short as I can get it without hurting the story.

Then I need to type up Sparks and finish it.  I know where the story is going now, and the logistics of the fort.  All that I need to do is add some kick ass fighting and I’ll have story.  I really like the concept, but I’m not too sure I can write good fights.  I think I’ll enlist my husband to help me keep things realistic while still awesome.  There’s always a balance in fight scenes between cinematic kick-ass and “he did what with that sword?”

After Sparks and A Prince Called Courage are finished, I swear I’m going back to Chwedl.  I haven’t added a single new word to the novel in months (though I did do a bit of editing of the first 60k words).  Time to finish that baby so I can move on to finishing my Albetross (ie Casimir Hypogean).

All right.  Back to work on Novella that Won’t Sell.

Writing Projects Update n Stuff

It’s been a while since I wrote up a comprehensive “what I’m doing/going to do/hate etc…” sort of progress report, so here goes!

Currently in submission process:

Space Bones, Rusalka (poem), and Delilah.

Number of rejections in 2009:   2 (1 form,  1 w/comments)

Projects I’m editing:

Delilah (though I might have worn myself out on that…)

Blade Bearer- currently waiting until it gets critiqued at NorWesCon

Monsters- need to tweak the middle and change the ending.

Novels in progress:

Chwedl- 56k words, currently working on how to solve problem of finding two matching stones on a beach.  Goal is to be done by April or so (hello/goodbye spring break!)

Casimir Hypogean- rewrite is approx 7k words now, currently on hiatus due to massive hate of this novel and stuckness with how to pull threads together.

Werewolves in Space- outlined but probably holding off until after Thesis.

War Witches- is going to be my thesis. I have basic character ideas and some plot.  Also, now I have a list of books to start reading this summer or there abouts for research since this is going to be the toughest project I’ve taken on yet between historical/cultural accuracy issues and the whole slavery thing.

Nadia’s Tale- semi-outlined (this is a sequel to Casimir Hypogean) (working title).

As yet Unamed Third Lorean novel- the final novel in the Casimir Hypogean world.  Yes, the plot of this cropped up when I realized there was no good way to end the second book without a giant war/cultural clusterdoom.

Darkside of Revenge- A novel which started as a short story idea in my head and has quickly tried to utterly dominate my thinking for the last couple of months despite being aggressively back-burnered.  I’m not even sure this story works beyond one dimension (revenge stories are awfully hard to do well), but it would mean I get to write about horses and a lot of clever murder/revenge/cool made up horse culture.  And that would be freaking awesome.  Stupid novel. Go away!  (scribbles down some more notes).

Epic Sprawling Node Novel- I think I’m about 10 years out from being sophisticated enough to write this novel. It has everything:  conspiracy, dragons, an apocalypse, angels, prophesy, demons, love, war, and pirates.

Epic Sprawling Fantasy Novel with Maps- I’m about 3 or 4 years away from being cool enough to write this.  And probably a few hundred hours of research on the cultures I want to shamelessly appropriate to make this tale of gladiators, slavery, nomadic/magical OE horse people, blood rituals, and godhood work at all properly.

Projects I’d like to start:

More flash fiction.  I think I’m going to set myself a goal of writing a decent bit of flash and editing it each month.  I suck most at dialogue and beginnings, so really, writing something super short should help me tighten up at least one of those problems.

Revive Monday short story day.  It got me Space Bones, after all, which is so far my favorite story that I’ve ever written.

I also think I should try to write some more speculative poetry, mostly for a lark because I do think it’s passing strange that I don’t really write it, oh, ever.

To sum up:  I have too much to do.  Why am I still awake?

New Year: Writing Resolutions

It is technically the start of year 2 in the 10 year 10 novel plan.

I won’t say I’ve failed so far. While 2008 didn’t entirely go as planned, I did manage to get more writing done than ever before in my life. On various projects I’ve written over 150k words this year counting editing and rewrites. I hope to double that this year.

2009 will hopefully look like this:

I’ve submitted the first three chapters of Casimir Hypogean and Bladebearer to the writing workshop at Norwescon. This will be my first non college work-shopping experience.

I’ve edited and polished my two submissions for Clarion West and have only to format and send them in. If I get in, awesome. If not, at least I tried.

I’m going to finish the rough draft of Chwedl, edit it, and prepare a synopsis and query for it. This will officially be my first of the 10. Actually selling the novel or getting an agent is out of my hands, but my goal is to begin the process and not give up until I get there (which might take years, I accept that).

I’m going to finish Casimir Hypogean this year, at least the rough draft.

I’m going to write 5 more short stories.

I’m going to find homes for the 6 short stories I already have that I think are marketable.

I’m going to finish and polish A Prince Called Courage and set the novella aside until I can find a market for it.

These are my goals for 2009. Perhaps ambitious, but I don’t feel they are unreasonable.

Happy New Year!

First Term and Future Plans

Heh, wordpress looks strange again. Grr.

Anyway, I survived first term of graduate school.  It was underwhelming.  Hopefully next term will go better.

I’ve decided to attend a couple of cons (specifically geared towards spec fic/writing/etc…).  The deadline for the workshops for the first con I’m going to is the 14th of this month, so I’d better get my ass in gear.  I think I’ll send them Bladebearer because it’s a complex little story and has some weird problems I could use perspective on.  You can send two pieces, so I’m tempted to send in the first 3 chapters of Casimir Hypogean.  I still hate that novel, but maybe feedback on it would somehow make the path clearer.  Or at least give me a few better ideas of what is going so wrong with the whole thing.  I’d have to write up a synopsis, however, which could prove problematic since I’ve never written one.  It’d be a learning experience.  Well, we’ll see how far I get this week.  Otherwise I’ll send Monsters as my second piece.

The second con is World Con, which is in Montreal this year.  I’ve always wanted to go to Montreal, and I think Chwedl will be in at least polished draft form by then and (cross fingers?) ready for agent hunting, so it’ll give me something to really peddle around at the con.  Plus the panels should be informative and I’ll get to vote for the Hugo winners.  Which means my summer will be full of reading the nominated books, never a bad thing.

I’m also, this month, polishing Space Bones and Delilah for my application to Clarion West.  I’m terrified I won’t get in and I’m terrified I will.  It’s like a perfect lose lose situation.  But really, I want to go.  I think it would be fantastic and horrifying and awesome all at once.  Besides, then I could stalk EBear in person (note, this is a joke, unless you consider reading someone’s lj stalking…).  I’m just jealous that she has a cat. Seriously.  Stupid renting with no pets rule.    Moving on…  I think that the two aforementioned stories have the best shot of showing how I write.  They’re  also now the most polished of my spec lit pieces and Delilah is still one of my favorite things I’ve written ever.  It might be a risk considering the very Christian overtones and the linear inevitability of the plot, but I hope that the characters and stylistic tones will override that and punish the reader with its awesomeness.  Seriously, I like that story.  And Space Bones has grown on me.  I wrote it mostly for the title at first, but after about four drafts I finally feel a connection to what is going on in the story and to the characters.  Hopefully this will all translate into the Clarion peeps thinking I’m whatever they’re looking for.

By the end of December I hope to have the draft of Chwedl complete.  Then comes the editing and pain, but I already see things I can do to help it along.  This novel, to repeat myself, is nothing like Casimir Hypogean.  It’s such a breeze to write and the language flows nicely instead of feeling forced and choppy as all hell.  I wonder if I haven’t written the world of Casimir Hypogean too bleak, its characters too unsympathetic.  After all, why should a reader care about chars who hardly care about themselves?  It’s a strange dilemna.  More reason probably for why I should edit up those first 3 chapters of the rewrite and send them off for critique.  Maybe the novel is dead and I’m still pining for a ghost of a thing that shouldn’t be.  It’s hard to tell such from my close perspective.

Update on NaNo and Life

One of my classes got way behind due to teacher illness.  This meant that week before this last one I had free time!  In which I got to chapter 13 and just over 45,000 words in my novel draft.

Then said teacher decided to load us down with work to try to catch us up.  Result of that?  I’ve gotten no further in my draft, in fact, it’s been about 9 days since I did anything on it.  I intend to remedy that this weekend and to make a push for 60,000 words before Tuesday.  There are only two weeks of classes before finals and I have papers to write and a lot of extra translating to get done, so we’ll see if that last 40,000 is feasible in only a week and a bit (this novel will, however, be finished by the end of December no matter what that takes).

I also found out that one of my writing instructors next term is the author of “How to Make an American Quilt”  which I think I read as a teenager.  I know it was made into a movie, but I don’t remember if I saw the movie.  Hopefully her workshop will be better run than the one I’m taking this term.  No more poetry workshops for me, no sir, not at this college anyway.

So that’s where things stand.  On the plus side, my Casimir Hypogean characters are chattering in the back of my mind again, though the scenes seem to be working their way back towards the beginning of the story.  Hopefully by January they’ll be at the point I quit writing so I can pick up the threads and move it along.  We’re only a few chapters away now with the current mutterings in my brain.  Maybe I just needed to take a break and let the story get back to me.  We’ll see.

In Our Darkest Hour

I’m stuck on Casimir Hypogean.  Not like before, either.  Truly and fubar sort of stuck.   I’m not enjoying the slog, I don’t like what I do manage to get done, and the whole project is sinking my mood.

I find that the most effective of epiphanies are usually the things that seem stupidly obvious in retrospect.  Those head-slapping moments of “why the hell didn’t I think of that weeks ago?”

I didn’t think of it weeks ago.  In fact, I’m not sure I thought of it at all.  The solution stumbled upon me more or less by accident.

I don’t have a deadline with this novel.  Just because it was the first novel rough draft I’ve ever written doesn’t mean it needs to be the first final product.  There is nothing, as long as I don’t give up on it forever, preventing me from moving on and working on something I’ll enjoy.  Clearly Casimir Hypogean needs to get back burnered.  The ideas aren’t flowing like they could, the images just aren’t there.  I don’t see any need to keep forcing myself.

I have other projects.  It was one of these projects that cast the light on this path.  I was sitting here at the keyboard, grinding out another couple hundred words that I would most likely just erase tomorrow, when images came to me in my despair.  Out of the negative self-talk I love so much started to emerge a character I’d thought of over a year ago.  Someone who also is full of negative feelings about himself, someone who leaves his life up to others because he just can’t trust his own decisions.

I quit out of the novel and opened a fresh page. A couple hours and 3444 words later, and I have two chapters of whatever this story is.  I don’t think it will be novel length.  I’m guessing it will be novella at best.  I’m hoping for about 30k words, I think that will be enough to tell the story.

In some ways I’m in the infancy of my writing life.  The writing I did in grade school and high school, it was the baby steps.  I was fitting shapes into other shapes.  Now I’m a toddler, learning to walk. Learning that there is a whole huge world outside myself and figuring out how to relate to it.

I get to be a child again.  I don’t have to decide right now what works and what doesn’t.  I’m a freshman in this world.  I’m still in that stage where I can be anything.  I’m reborn, remade.

In the desperate race to get something done so I can start the submission/publishing phase of life, I’ve been ignoring the gift that is this time of being an infant, of being unknown, unvetted.  I don’t have to do one thing or the other.

I just have to write.

Seems stupidly obvious now, doesn’t it?

The First Cuts

There’s an anecdotal story about Michelangelo’s David which goes something like the artist spent 15 months just staring at the marble before he ever cut into it.

I feel that way about this novel. An awful lot of staring is going on and not so much is happening with the cutting (writing). It’s the damn plot. I’ve constructed it in a way that for the next 4-5 chapters the whole rest of the book is set up. This is the climb towards the crest of the rollercoaster. And if I go off the track now, the whole thing will fail. I want to get this right. Which means I’ve been stabbing at the same couple paragraphs for the last week and a half.

To continue the stream of unrelated and piss-poor metaphors: this is probably the writing equivalent to opening the oven door every two minutes to check on the cookies. I know I need to stop obsessing and apply word to page. Let the whole thing sort itself out later. If I break it, I break it. That’s what editing is for, right?

The only problem is that once again I’m faced with the paralyzing fear that I’ll break this draft as badly as the first one and have to rewrite the novel in its entirety again. And again. I deeply respect and admire authors who are able to run through five or six or more completely different drafts of the same novel. I really do. I’m just not sure I have the fortitude to be one of them. We all have our own styles, our own ways of writing and working. I don’t think I’m a gazillion draft writer. Or maybe I am and I haven’t accepted my fate. Who knows?

I think I’m going to just try to press on. If the novel ends up broken in a way that small scene rewrites and repairs won’t solve I think I’ll be done with this book for a while. I’ll stick it in the proverbial drawer and move on to the next novel. Lessons learned. I can’t take another rewrite, this one is hard enough. Hopefully my future first drafts won’t be quite as broken as this one was. I have a feeling writing the thing on a bet in 19 days pretty much doomed me there.

I also think my next project will be fantasy. Probably the Welsh fairytale novel. It will require minimal research and have nothing to do with science. Making the world believable and constructing the pseudo-science is one of the things slowing my current novel project down a great deal. The next novel that requires research will definitely get better research done before I write it.

Of course, the next novel that will take lots of research will likely be my thesis project. I’m hoping I can do the War Witches idea as my thesis. That novel is slowly percolating and building in my mind and would be perfect for a MA thesis. Lots of research, lots of history, lots of texture, and plenty of Important Themes to explore.

All right. Back to hacking up the stone. Which really feels a lot like trying to gnaw the David out of titanium. With my teeth.

Tasty.

Ego Boost

While not specifically related to writing (at least not my novel project anyway), this last weekend I attended the Penny Arcade Expo. Which is nerd-fest central. Mostly I go to nerd out with friends and learn all about the shit that is going to take all my money and consume all my writing time in the next year. (Fallout 3 being one star example).

This year, as usual, I went to the “Pitch Your Game” panel. Last year I went and laughed along with everyone else at the people brave enough to try to pitch a game to a panel of experts. In 45 seconds. Good luck.

This year was different. About 30 seconds before they started the thing, I decided to take a shot at it. I had a simple but cool game idea kicking around in my head. So I found myself standing in a long line (over 100 people pitched in the first round), my heart trying to kick its way out of my chest, thinking of how to explain my game idea in only a few seconds. This is where everything I’d been reading over the years about how to pitch a novel to an agent or editor in only a couple sentences finally paid off.

I thought to myself that if this was a novel or story instead of a game, what would I do? One sentence. It’s all I needed. A good hook that explained everything. For a novel, I’d want genre, subject, basic concept. Why would a game pitch be that different, right? So I did. Instead of genre, I’d need what platform I was going to use. Instead of subject, I’d need the idea of the game, and for concept I’d want a rough idea of game play.

“My game idea is a text-based hard-boiled noir adventure game for the Nintendo DS.”

It worked. I was through to the second round in which 30 or so of us got to answer questions about our concept. I spent the time I had in that line drafting up answers to all kinds of potential questions. They quizzed me on font (typewriter, of course), on the potential market (me?), and other things. I brought up my experience with running games of that type (I helped write/run a cyberpunk MUSH years ago that was pretty well populated). All in all, it felt somewhat like what pitching a novel to an agent in person might feel like.

And guess what? I placed third. Which is cool, hell, I’d want to play the games that beat me. (You have just one tank and you have to conquer medieval Europe, for example). I got some cool prizes (giant Cthulhu statue for example) but mostly what I got was a feeling of “holy shit, I did it.”

Not that this means all my ideas are gold and I’ll turn around tomorrow and sell a novel on spec, but hey, I survived a pitch session and stood out among the masses. I managed to take my concept and put it into a good one liner that won me some swag. I’ll cling to this tiny triumph, thank you. And come January when I have to type up that terrifying query letter and start shopping for a home for Casimir Hypogean, I can take out my shiney little nugget of ‘been there, done that’ and use what I’ve learned.

Oh, and I got to meet Wil Wheaton, again. He was exhausted and had broken ribs. I’m really impressed that he was so tolerant, all things considered. I must admit I bought his little chapbook out of support for his awesomeness more than excitement about what might be in it. However, having now read it, damn. I’m really glad he’s writing. His blog is great, but his work is even better. I can’t wait for the compilation of Star Trek TNG stuff to come out in book form.

Whew. Enough fan-girling. (He said my hair was awesome… *grin*). Back to writing.

I’ve got a month until my pseudo-deadline is up. And I’ve got 3 chapters. That only leaves about 25 chapters left to write. So, a chapter a day? Really? I have a feeling this novel isn’t getting rewritten in the next month. I’ll get as far as I can, however. Come January 1st, I’m done with it. It will be sent out. I will start the next one.

Thoughts on Rewriting

I’m one chapter into the rewrite of my first novel.  I’m glad I decided to start anew rather than continue trying to fix what came before.  I doubt I’ll use much of the old material beyond the plot, characters, and some ideas.  There are particular challenges, however.  In rewriting I’m essentially constructing another novel from scratch.  This means I have to do most of the work over again.  It would be very easy to overwhelm myself with the concept of “Too Much Work.”

To combat this, I’ve decided on the major large changes and then have narrowed my focus.  I outlined with the major changes.  For this rewrite, however, I’m mainly working on getting the characters motivated.  Looking at the first draft I don’t really feel connected to anyone in the novel.  I feel like I could, maybe, like a couple of the characters, but they aren’t quite there yet for me.  They feel flat.   This is not acceptable.  I read novels 70-80% for the people in them.  I want to write novels that have the same draw.

To do this, I’m plunging in and going (perhaps) a bit overboard.  I’ve done a lot of hand written background brainstorming for everyone.  I’ve made RPG character profiles for a couple of them.  I’ve given them disorders, quirks, interests.  Essentially, I’ve thrown the kitchen sink of character building at my people.  I was in the bath when I realized that I needed to do this.  Before a day or two ago, they weren’t talking to me.  I couldn’t really see the characters as more than wooden dolls in a nice set I’d created.  I don’t want to play with dolls (dolls are creepy. Seriously creepy).

With this focus, now I can continue the rewrite.  Plot and setting can be tweaked.  If I can manage a few compelling, interesting, dare I say memorable characters, the rest can follow.  The rest will follow.

Here’s a list of the changes between drafts one and two.  (In no particular order).

The Dude is now named Ryg.  He’s also agoraphobic and OCD.

Sif talks less.  In fact, she pretty much only talks to Hex.  She’s also far more psychotic and less moral than before.

Sif and Hex are already in a relationship.

Hex is not the jealous type anymore.  He’s now the type to hide his insecurities with sarcasm.  He’s also more accepting of Sif and her issues.

Kadin is a more major character who contributes to a twist.

The setting is quite a bit different.  There are no cars now, just small electric vehicles  and personal transportation.  Stuff is transported on the electric rail system under the city or via carts hooked to the personal vehicles.  I’ve refined and altered the food system as well as government.  The city only has one main street now, the whole thing is a spiral.  The districts are more defined (and in fact can be closed off from each other if necessary).  The setting is much more complex, but also I hope more unique and interesting.  Since I’m focusing on character, not setting as much, I will definitely have to flesh some things out later I think.  That’s what the next bit of editing is for.

The plot is essentially the same, but with some more challenges and complexities tossed in.  I’ve removed the secret society and am working on making everyone motivated due to character desires rather than using the GM Stick.

On another note: sometimes I think I definitely bit off more than I really should have for this first novel.  I’m writing what boils down to a Political Cyberpunk Adventure/Thriller with medical and fantastical elements.  Couldn’t I have just started out with a nice straightforward quest fantasy or something?  It feels like learning to walk by running a marathon.

24 Hours Sleepless and Counting

Insanity tastes like…  Everything said here might be a giant lie someday.   We’ll see.

I’ve been thinking about practice.  I read a quote by someone (or someone quoted it to me? I can’t quite recall) that referred to art, but I’m going to appropriate the meaning for writing.  Basically the gist was that if you want to be good at drawing, draw something 1000 times and you’ll excel.  I think the idea has merit, which is good because it is essentially the idea behind the Ten Novels in Ten Years project of mine.  If I do it ten times (and really, with all the rewrites, drafts etc… it will be triple that at least), I might get halfway decent at this whole writing thing.

So I’m going to extrapolate this concept out even further.  I’ve decided that since I now have the time, and certainly the ideas, I want to write one short story a week.  I accept they won’t be good.  That’s fine.  Some will likely be variations on a theme in nature.  Who cares?  I can sort through later and revise the ones I like, steal from the ones that have promise, and murder the ones that should never see Others‘ eyes.  So from now on, Monday is Short Story Day.  Each Monday for at least the next year, I plan to write a short story.  My only rule for myself is that it has to be at least 2000 words (about 6-7 pages double spaced depending on dialogue etc…).

So begins Doom, part 2.

Now, I go sleep. Maybe.

Novel is creeping along.  I think aiming for ten solid pages a week is good enough. Yeah.