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Archive for the ‘Novel Plans’ Category

Tidbit of a Beginning

So… I started the rewrite.

I’m calling it Casimir Hypogean until further notice.

And now, for your enjoyment, here are the first few lines:

“…. Mist, pervasive and cloying, settled in between the tall buildings of Casimir’s spiral streets. The fog dimmed the bright advertisements pasted on screens, blurred the shining lamps and ever searching eyes of the security drones. On the far outskirts of the shell, beneath the conical towers of the aeroponic gardens, two shadows were up to no good.  ….”

(Now, to get things going properly, because I got two pages into the first chapter and realized it would work better as the second chapter.  So I restarted the first chapter.  I like it okay so far.)

Into the Dark

All right.  The (final, maybe? hopefully?) outline of Dangerous is done.  I’ve tweaked it as much as I can without actually starting to write the damn thing.  Writing begins tomorrow.  I’m terrified.  However, I can already see the shape of things to come.  Even the outline has more tension and peril than the rough draft.  I’ve removed extraneous plot bits and jammed it full of character conflict.  Will it be enough to make a story I like out of this mess?  No way to tell except to write and see what happens.

By my calculations I need to write about 6 pages a day to have the novel done by the time classes start.  I’d like to have a draft I can hand to people by then.  I’m not sure how feasible having a manuscript worthy of trying to sell by December is at this point, but I’ve got nothing to lose in trying to get it done.  Hopefully if my readers can get me comments within a month (and if the novel isn’t totally broken again), I can power through some mad editing and get a semblance of a decent book ready for queries.  It’s bad that I still don’t have any idea how I’d sum up the plot in a couple sentences, isn’t it?  Oh well, maybe by end of this draft I’ll have that nailed.  And a decent title.  Because “Dangerous” is a stupid title.  I suppose I could call it “Casimir” (the name of the city it takes place in) or some variation on that.  “Casimir Conflict”?  “Casimir Hypogean”?  I don’t know.  Any ideas?

I’m aiming for 18 pages this week, then 30 each week after.  And I’m taking weekends off, damnit. I will not burn out.  This is do or die time now.  It’s unlikely I’m ever going to have as much free time ever again as I do now.  Plus it will give me a decent feel for how well this whole writing for a living thing might work someday if I’m fortunate (and persistent) enough to be able to do it full time.

Lie To Me

Tell me it gets easier after the first one. Tell me that after the months of uphill slogging, the view will be spectacular and that it is all downhill from here.

I’m working my way through the 4th outline of Dangerous. I’m going to change some basic elements of the story. I’ve been reading a great deal now that I’m free and lately one common element of books bugs me. I  get a little annoyed at a story when there is a secret power or society or special character who knows a great deal and pulls the strings behind the scenes too much. It can be done well, but is done so often that it stands out to me as a glaring conceit. Wrapping everything up neatly due to someone coming in and waving some sort of magic wand is too nice, too tidy.  Human situations rarely resolve tidily.

I’m guilty of this. In my first draft there is a secret society that seems to only exist to wrap things up easily and provide loose and convenient motivation for the characters to be together. It reads more like a one shot RPG session than a tightly plotted story. The first couple of outline rewrites moved the society first into a more prominent role with more of a back story, and then the latest has them more understated. The new rewrite? Well, I’m going to get them out of the story entirely. Instead I plan to make some of the characters actually a part of their own group, doing exactly what the idea was for the secret group, only now with a lot more at stake because they’re really more like a sleeper cell of societal activists than just a few criminals who got hired by the right (wrong?) people. This is going to require a lot of intricate introduction and plotting.

I’m starting to both hate and love this novel. I feel like this rewrite will make it something real, a creature I’m proud to have given form instead of a misshapen foundling. I’m not sure how feasible my goal of having a draft down by the end of September really is, however. I’m not only revamping the plot, I’m changing how the city works, how people get around, what they eat, everything. It’s going to barely resemble draft 1. Which is terrifying.

It’s like the first time you run a whole mile. You feel wonderful. Then you realize that you “ran” that mile at a pace most people walk it. Not only that, but you are sore and tired now. And you still have to get up and run it again. And again.

I don’t want to believe that. I want lies. Filthy wonderful lies. I want to write a novel and have that be the end of things, not the beginning. I wrote this, here, take it. I want to run a 3 minute mile without any training. Without pain.

Well, maybe not. But, I’d like to believe in the possibility of it.

Which is probably why I’m a writer and not a runner.

Into the Scary

My other job is over now.  Starting this week, I’m a full time writer.   Hopefully I’ll even get paid for it someday.  It is a little terrifying to be launching into trying to write for a living without having anything ready to sell, but the timing worked out this way what with graduate school, my (ex)job having some serious issues.

First up is tackling the rewrite of Dangerous (I really need a better title for this novel).  I’m aiming for writing or writing related things being worked on for about 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week.  I’d like to have the second rough draft done by the time school starts at the end of September.

Real Life Intrudes

My paying job, as I like to call it, is giving me plenty of extra hours lately. This is good on the whole paying for grad school front, but very bad on the whole editing three short stories and rewriting a novel front.

I worked a couple 61 hour weeks followed by food poisoning followed by a horrendous cold/fever. Needless to say, I’ve done very little writing in the last few weeks. Fortunately, I seem to work in binges, so hopefully as I feel better and my work schedule regulates, I’ll get more of the unpaid work (ie writing) in. I realize that many writers have full time jobs. I don’t think I could do it, however. Even working 36 hours a week takes a huge toll on my writing productivity and free time. I suppose for me it is a matter of priorities. I do tend to read a book a day (or every two or three days depending on length), as well as hang out with my husband and roomates and play videogames or watch DvDs. It’s about finding balance, as with anything in life.

Writing always seems to suffer first, however. I think that is because I really do require a certain amount of space and alone time to listen to the things in my head for the production of coherent stories and ideas. All work and no play, etc… I have three print outs full of comments on my stories as well as a word doc with comments from my online workshop readers. They are waiting for me to have the brain power and the time to deal with them.

I think I’m going to make a 500 a day rule until I am no longer working an extra 16 hours a week. 500 words of either revision or writing, every week day. It isn’t the two hours a day I was managing before, but with the extra days of work, I think this is a more reasonable expectation of myself. Hopefully this won’t last more than a month. Money is all well and good, but at 500 words a day, finishing a 100k word plus draft of a novel will take, well, forever. (Or actually 200 days, which might as well be forever and is certainly not going to get me to my goal of polished novel by Dec. 31st).

Time to go get those 500 words done before I have to leave for work.

Too Many Ideas?

I’m in the middle of a discussion with a friend about being trapped with too many ideas. I have four or five (or six if you count the sequel to one of those) good ideas all outlined and ready to go. I want to write all of them. Right Now. Of course, I don’t have the time or even the multitasking ability to pull that off. I might be able to work on two, maybe. I think the writing might suffer, however.

So what should I do? How do I pick which to work on? I’m inclined towards the Dangerous novel since some interest was garnered from that novel by a major publishing houses’ editor. However, the others are speaking to me as well. I find myself daydreaming entire scenes and character exchanges for the Werewolves in Space novel, or literally dreaming about the quest part of the Welsh fairy tale novel. I watch Handscio and Brynna train together and fight in my head, watch her change from a sickly, overweight selfpitying teen into a resourceful and powerful young fey. I dream of dragons and flying and know that I am Jax from Werewolves in Space, dreaming of the same things. And I see Radiant from Bladebearer raising his new sister and new tribe as they form new songs and evade hunters while his other sister seeks both him and the sword. (Stupid short story that wants to be a novel, sigh). I see also a slave, a holy man, escaping and being rescued during the American Civil War by twin witches in Appalachia. I can feel the mists that they call to confuse the soldiers and lead them away from their lands, I can hear the axe as it goes into the threshold cutting the pain of a childbirth.

They are all there, my stories. Waiting, wanting out, begging exploration.

How to choose? What to write? I have an embarrassment of riches. Where do I begin?

Accepting the Reality of Dangerous

It’s time.  Time to accept that no matter how many iron-on patches and crazyglue fixes I try with my first novel, it’s over.  This edit isn’t happening.  Yeah, I’m halfway through.  Sure, I’ve hit the 200 page mark. Woohoo.

It sucks. End of story.  My ears bleed when I read the text aloud.  The writing barely feels like it’s mine.  I don’t really care about the story, the characters are flat and noncommittal, the action without actual peril, the setting half-assed.  I can fix all these things.  But not if I’m stuck in the framework of the original novel.  It is time not to revise, but to rewrite.

I’m making a list right now.  On the list go all the things I like about the original text.  These are things I’ll keep.  I might end up with a wholly different novel than I had before. I don’t know.  I’m going to keep the basics of the plot, the setting, and most of the characters.  I can rebuild it, better, faster, stronger.

If I can’t write a whole new novel, then I don’t belong writing novels.  This is going to be a lot more work than ironing on patches and debugging the original.  I think I’ll be lucky if I’m done by July (my tentative goal). I want the novel to feel like I wrote it though.  I want to write characters I’m interested in, and I want the time to find their voices, to weave their cares and conflicts into the story.

It also means that my other two novels are going on the back burner.  I think this is good.  They can percolate in my head for a while longer.

On Series

Today over at John Scalzi’s blog there was a reader post about diminishing returns in series. The part of Scalzi’s answer that I’m going to talk about is specifically the world-building.

I’ve always enjoyed series. I thought it was mainly due to the characters. Once you get to know someone, even in a book, you want more of them. You want to know what happens to them, you want to hear their jokes and fight through their issues with them. I think that familiarity and interest in a character or set of characters has something to do with why people love series and why authors like to write them.

It wasn’t until I wrote my first novel that I understood the point that Scalzi brings up about worldbuilding. Now, as an avid roleplayer and sometime GM, I understand the difficulties of building worlds. I’d never understood it from a writing perspective, however, because until a couple years ago, I only wrote short stories.  Each story is a tiny world, and I didn’t have to worry too much about over-arching consistencies or taking things out of the small perspective.

Novels have no such protection.  For my first book I built a city, then a world.  I started small, thinking only about the characters and the immediate world around them.  But in order to bring length, richness, and consistency into things, I had to form a history and from there a whole bunch of layers, rules, reasons, and description took shape by necessity .  I’m still working on it.  Every time I sit down to edit I find things I haven’t completely thought out that need tuning and details that I either need to explain further or change to something more in line with the world as a whole.

I wrote this first novel as a dare.  It was sort of a joke novel.  Now I’ve got about 15 pages of the sequel (the first chapter basically) also on my computer.  I didn’t mean to do a sequel.  I have other novel ideas, other worlds I want to build and explore.  But since I’m spending so much time building the world of the first novel, it almost seems a waste not to explore the world further.  There is much left unsaid, undone.  The second book will have barely any of the main characters from the first, though as I outline and plan it they speak up more and more.   I’ve spent so many hours inside their heads, so many hours imagining their planet, their cities.  I want to do more in that universe.  I feel like if I’m putting in all the effort, I want to reap a little of the fun too.

I think series jump the shark when the Author stops caring about the characters or starts just following a formula to churn things out.  As with anything, there is a time to let a world go.  To relate it back to gaming, would you run the same dungeon ten times in a row just with slightly different monsters?  No, of course not (hopefully anyway, cause damn that is lazy!).  Your players are going to get bored since they’ve already fought through the same corridors.  Returning to the dungeon once or twice could be interesting to them.  Familiarity can leave room for surprises if you change things a little and upset expectations in good, reasonable ways.  Too much familiarity (haven’t we fought this dire rat before in this room? Or… yeah, we know the grick is about to pop out from behind that suspicious black shrubbery) just breeds contempt.  The key is not to let things get stale.  The key is to care.  Care about your players (or readers), care about your world, your characters.  If the Author has something invested in the work (besides the money…), it shows.

I don’t think there is a “law of diminishing returns” so to speak in writing.  I believe it is fully possible to just get better and better as one goes.  Keep caring, keep writing, keep exploring the crazy ideas or the areas of a world that are still shrouded in darkness.  It’s a lot of work to build a world.  Might as well enjoy the bounding about inside it finding problems to solve and dusty corners to explore.  As for my writing personally, well, frankly this is the first novel I’ve ever written.  Because I’m learning and growing my craft, if I’m doing it right any other books I write in the series will be better than the first.  And that’s just as it should be.  If everything went according to some law, thereby, I would say it would be a law of compounding returns. (Invest early and often kids).  The more you write, the more you explore and grow and evolve as both a writer and a person, the better your writing should be.  So it follows that the final book in any series should be worlds better than the first.

If it isn’t, maybe, in the words of the internets:  Writing, UR Doin’ it Rong.

Writing, I Choose You!

Well, I made my decision.  I am not taking the new job.  I know I wouldn’t have time for writing, not writing anything substantial anyway like a novel.   Thus do I go forward into the unknown.  I can’t succeed if I don’t try, right? Hopefully that thought won’t be a thin blanket in the years to come.

This week I’ve gotten exactly nothing done.  I was on quite the roll with my novel edit last week.  This week I’m working 11 nights in a row (I have 6 days left) which means I have zero energy or brains for anything.  At least I’m getting lots of reading done.

Next week I plan to get cracking.  I want the novel edit finished by the end of April.  I have two more chapters to add that need to be written from whole cloth and about ten more chapters that I have to go over with the proverbial fine tooth comb for errors, inconsistencies, and stupidity. Everywhere in my hard copy notes I’ve written “More Peril”!  While amusing me, it also means more work.  Fortunately, I have the new Dresden Files novel to inspire me.  If Jim Butcher can do one thing perfectly, it is creating peril.  Poor Harry never gets to sleep or eat or prop his feet up.   There are plenty of scenes in my novel where I give my characters a break or gloss over parts where they could be in a lot more danger.  Just one of the many things I’m slowly fixing.  It is mild comfort that authors I enjoy like Jim Butcher or Elizabeth Bear go through multiple drafts that apparently often number in the double digits.  Comparisons can only go so far, however.  Every writer is different, every writing process is the same.  I think this is one of the places where writing lots really does help a writer get better.  We learn about ourselves this way, we learn the HOW of what we’re doing.  Every time I try something I haven’t before with my process, I’m growing as a writer.  Just as every time I continue to do things that work, I still refine the why and how of what’s working.  Maybe in ten years I’ll have more concrete answers. Maybe things will be wildly different.

Also, I joined the Online Writers Workshop, http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com .   I haven’t posted any writing yet.  I will likely post a short story for review once I’ve finished rewriting the first half.  I have reviewed a few stories.  The quality of work on the site is higher than on the random forums I’ve been trolling.  There are still the gems of the “oh my god, why do you even bother thinking you can write a coherent or interesting story?”  I had the entire house in stitches over one such piece (the melodramatic live reading probably amped up the badness factor).  The quality of the criticism is pretty good, so I’m using my 4 week trial to see how helpful it could be for me.  We’ll see.

That about wraps it up for this week.  I’ve been getting about 5-6 views a day, strangely enough.  So if anyone reading this has fiction writing topic  posts they are interested in me writing about, let me know.  I’m trying to think of some more craft related things to write about since as long as all I’m working on is my novel edit, it makes my posts here rather dry.  I do intend to write up a post about writing for comics and how I do it. That’s all for now.

The ten in ten project continues!

Editing and Bribes

I added an entire chapter today in the beginning part of the novel. It sets up a conspiracy that is alluded to later and ties the events of the first two chapters into the events later in the novel. What it means for the practical side of writing is that I now have a ton of inconsistencies to go in and fix as well a couple more threads to pick up and weave into the main part. Which means that for the moment, the novel gets even messier.

I want it done. I want to be able to print a few hard copies, stuff them in binders, and then disperse to the people who have offered to be my beta readers. I want to start on my new projects and get this whole stupid thing over with. It’s so easy to just ignore it, however, and work on other things. I’ve got books to read and two other novels in the works. So I arrived at a natural solution to trick myself into buckling down and just doing it.

Bribary. I wrote a sticky note and fixed it to the wall behind my monitor. It reads “When you finish editing your novel, you may spend 250 on things from your Amazon Wishlist. So do it! Now!” Thus not only will it be off my back in terms of needing to get done, but I’ll get real life rewards of things I want. It’s sort of like getting paid to do it. I think if I make a real effort and a big push, I can finish in two to three weeks. The more hours I spend on it, the faster I’ll get to reward myself. It’s a cheap trick. But if it works, I’ll use it.

The other bribe I’m debating offering myself is to go to World Con in Montreal in 2009. It would be awesome to get to vote in the Hugo awards and it would be a good networking opportunity since agents and editors go as well as some of my favorite authors. There are also workshops and such run. If I can get both novels done this year and edited up to a basically polished state, I think I’ll be ready to find an agent and launch myself into the world of rejections (err, I mean professional writing, really).

I’ve also joined the Online Writing Workshop. So far I’m just reviewing things since I don’t feel I have anything to post for reviews yet. Once I’ve finished the rewrite of my Monsters short story, I’ll probably post that. The quality of writing on the site is better than most and the reviews I’ve read so far are fairly detailed and helpful. I’m using my month long free trial to see if I could get enough out of it to be worth the 50 per year fee for access. So we’ll see how that goes.

Well, that is the news on the projects of doom so far. I’ll try to think up a more interesting or at least writing informative post later this week.