Normally on Thursdays I do a post pertaining to Tough Traveling with Fantasy Review Barn, which is often my only post of the week, alas, since I’m stuck in the limbo of having a lot of ideas but not being able to write about them until after book 3!
Curse you, threat of spoilers!
However, this week’s topic of pirates isn’t something I can wrap a post around. I know lots of people like pirates, but I really don’t, and though there will be sea-travel at some point in the series, I’m not looking forward to it. I don’t know why I dislike it…I just do, and while I can enjoy the occasional book or movie involving pirates, I have next to none of them in my world.
Well, there are the jackal pirates of Xiroacer, but they don’t show up in this series.
But I was recently linked-to by the fabulous Andrew Knighton in a blog-hop post, and since it’s pertinent to what I’m going through right now, I figured I’d jump on that bandwagon.
1. What am I currently working on?
As mentioned in an earlier post, I am entrenched in the process of rewriting Book 3, The Living Throne. The biggest difficulty with this situation is that it’s about a fifth too large for CreateSpace’s physical print parameters, so it needs a lot of trimming.
Additionally, though, I have three major threads in the story, and I’ve decided that for this rewrite, I will unbraid them and work on them separately so that they can be internally consistent — and so that I go from chapter to chapter with the previous ones fresh in my brain, thus cutting down on my tendency to accidentally repeat myself. I have already completed the Blaze Company thread (huzzah!) and am two chapters into the Geraad thread, which is a fairly short one. With luck, I’ll finish that in early August and have a couple months to devote to the hefty, much-in-need-of-trimming Cob thread.
Additionally-additionally, Erica and I have begun the process of outlining a collaborative story in a different world. While we’ve edited each other’s stuff for a while, we’ve never written together, but I have some experience in piecing together a multi-writer narrative; I spent some time during my EQ days turning roleplaying chat-logs and forum posts into coherent stories, so hopefully that will help me figure out my end of this project. We already know what our roles will be in the writing. I, naturally, am handling the villains.
Additionally-additionally-additionally, my cover artist and I are preparing to vend at the SOE Live convention in Vegas this August, so we’re preparing some stuff for that. It’s more her project than mine, but I need to work on my elevator pitch. I should write a new one — maybe tattoo it on my arm, because I keep forgetting it!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Yeesh. Half the time, that’s something I pester my beta-readers about, because I’ve been working on this piking story for so long that I’ve lost all perspective.
Oh! One reviewer mentioned the multicultural nature of my cast and setting! Yay! That was very intentional. It may be a small world (or at least a small landmass), but it has a great diversity of peoples and cultures and religions — and they all want to throttle each other. Note that I did not say kill each other. Quite a few of them have gotten past the stomp-on-our-neighbors mode of geopolitics and are now into the economically-pressure-or-maybe-just-tut-at-our-neighbors mode.
But because it’s a small landmass, everyone is sort of inextricably up in each other’s business. There are ethnic and religious diasporas in all the major cities — including those of the xenophobic Empire — and foreign-born individuals in the armies, the mage societies and even the governments. Because of this, there are a lot of modern stresses on display within the locales where the series takes place, but also some callbacks to historic melting-pot areas like Moorish Spain.
I also like to throw a bit of science into the High-Magic Epic Fantasy mix, and I’ve kind of reverse-derived humanity’s origin, and eventually the theory of multiverse-as-prophecy will crop up…
Oh and I have origami space angels.
3. Why do I write what I write?
Because I wouldn’t want to write anything else. I started this project back when I was twelve. If I had given birth to my main antagonist when I’d first created him, he’d now be old enough to drink. (For those of you outside the U.S., that means he’s 21.) This makes the whole project kind of a tangle, yes, but it’s…me. It’s my life.
More specifically, though? I write a lot of the topics and twists and characters that I do because they’re what I would have wanted to read — back when I still had time to do so. Sadface. I also write to ‘correct’ a lot of things I dislike about others’ stories, movies, concepts, et cetera. I am motivated by inspiration but also sometimes by fury or disgust, and so I’ve found myself writing short stories that involve concepts I hate, just so I can try to make them something I don’t hate.
Those stories tend not to see the light of day. If I ever go back and clean them up some time, though, you can expect to see a story about a hapless vampire who wins the day (night?) due to his skill as an accountant, a story with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl being hit by a bus, and a necromancy tale with a dreadful romance plot and a dancing roast chicken. Doesn’t that sound great?
Some day I should write a story about unicorns. I hate unicorns. It’ll be a good challenge.
4. How does my writing process work?
For those wretched short stories I just mentioned, it tends to go: IDEA (while at work)! Hour or two of musing upon that idea! Driving home, trying not to die, and then frenziedly writing out that idea before it completely congeals and dies!
If I can’t get the full rough version of the short story out within 2-5 days, it’s gone. I’ve lost the spark.
For the novels, though, it’s a great lot of work. While there is plenty of inspiration, those usually come as small connections being made between disparate story elements in my brain — the sudden ‘aha! so that’s what he was up to all that time!’ kind of thing, rather than the ‘aha! a completely new story idea!’ I have such a cloud of series-material in my head that it tends to crackle together like lightning sometimes — thus why I always take time to dance around my room for a while before I begin a day’s writing, to give those lightning bolts a chance to strike.
Beyond that, I have a big framework made. For the initial drafts, I have big files of all the ideas I’ve tossed together for that particular book, and I take a while to sort through them and roughly group them into character threads, or novel quarters, or individual chapters if I’m feeling very ambitious.
Then I start writing. And as I’m writing, I start refining the amorphous cloud of the book-idea into a proper framework. Pruning the unused branches, cultivating the ones that seem to be leading somewhere, et cetera. By the time I reach the end of the rough draft, I have a chapter/section list — which doubles as an outline, I guess — and a distilled file of themes and character arcs and little plot elements I need to seed back into the text. And tons and tons of notes about what to change.
During that initial process, I also send my chapters out to my alpha readers, Erica and Asta, who give me directional feedback. Erica then goes over my rewrites in GoogleDocs, and we discuss anything she points out. This is how I learn which of my jokes are funny and which are dumb, and how far I can step over the line before someone will fling the book away in disgust.
Then comes the parallel rewrite, which is what I’m doing right now. For book 1, I did a million line-by-line editing drafts, but each one seemed to make things worse: overcomplicating my prose, making it clunky and tortured and info-dumpy. Part of that was of course the fact that I’d been working on that tale for decades, but the process of line-editing sometimes feels like microsurgery. Great in small doses, but if you’re microsurgerizing every single inch of the damn text, soon it will all be covered in sutures.
So the parallel rewrite was my solution. It’s simple: I open my original document in one window, then open a fresh new document next to it, and completely recopy the entire manuscript, changing and cutting things on the fly. No line-editing; if I hit something in the old draft that feels wonky and I can’t remember why I had it, I cut it. If there’s a bumpy patch, I smooth it ruthlessly. If I reach a scene and start falling asleep while I’m typing it, I slap myself awake and write something new in its place. Basically I give myself permission to see the old text as the outline, and spin a new version out from there.
The first time I did it, I just felt so free. So unburdened by the endless edits I’d done previously. I could feel the flow of the story, and if I thought the scene needed a page of dialogue instead of some bundle of overwrought thoughts and feelings, I could change it without having to stitch the new stuff back into the old framework. I could just continue on in my new direction. Because I had to retype the whole damn thing anyway, so why not change whatever I liked?
Anyway, on Book 3, the parallel rewrite has become the second thing I do, and it’s letting me fit all my changes in quite smoothly so far. I still have files and files of outline, detail and direction, which I pare down as I hit my chapter targets, but it’s a much cleaner and more pleasant process than it used to be. I’ve learned to write!
And I should say that I’m not a pantser. I have an outline for the series as a whole, with certain targets to hit, and the closer I get to the target, the more I see the details necessary to reach it. But within that framework, I give myself and my characters a lot of freedom, which I think contributes to them feeling like actual people.
5. Yap about three other writers.
Well, I already mentioned Andrew Knighton and Erican Dakin up above, so they don’t count. You don’t count!
So I’ll just give a wave to some of the folks I have found interesting and/or chatty and who are also working on their own projects.
First, Pauline M. Ross! Her first book, The Plains of Kallanash, is sidling toward publication, and I was pleased to be a beta reader for it. Go check out her lovely cover and anticipate her book’s release!
Second, Jay Dee Archer! I reposted one of his worldbuilding entries a little while ago, because it helped me detail a bit more of my solar system — and made me use serious math for the first time since I escaped college. We’ve chatted on a few threads and I look forward to what he can do.
And finally, Buffy! While she mostly does reviews, she has a novel in the works that I definitely want to read. Go Buffy! You can do it!
Thanks for the shout-out! And I’m so looking forward to the unicorn story… 😉
Unicoooooorns! My enemiiiiiies!
One, two, three, four… see, I do count!
That aside, your parallel rewrite process is fascinating and sounds very effective. I don’t think I could bring myself to do it, but I’m sure such an extensive approach would do my work good.
It takes a long time, and in the middle of it I’m usually going ‘when will it eeeeeeend?’ but it’s done a lot to smooth out my writing. I think Book 2 benefited the most. But everyone writes differently!
It worked wonders for my first book, I’ll say that. I think it’ll do my current one a lot of good too.
Thanks for the recommendation. I still have to add some more posts about worldbuilding. Lots to write about!
I look forward to seeing them! I love being able to add a more scientific basis to the underpinnings of my world.
Not everything will be scientific, though. A lot will go into politics and demographics. I’ll even deal with religion and architecture.
Hi H., it’s great to meet you through Andrew’s blog. I am also intrigued by your parallel rewriting process. I can see how that would be very freeing! And what an awesome idea to write about things you hate. Although I have a suspicion it would always end in me killing everything in sheer disgust. Looking forward to the vampire accountant. 🙂
I’ve read her vampire accountant story. I quite liked it actually, and I hate vampires.
Hi H., it’s great to meet you through Andrew’s blog. I am also intrigued by your parallel rewriting process – it sounds like it would be very freeing! And what an awesome idea to write about things you hate. Although I suspect I would always end up killing off everything in sheer disgust. Looking forward to reading about the vampire accountant someday. 🙂
Welcome, welcome! 😀 I try not to populate the hate-stories with only things I hate, because yes, it would be a massacre. Just an element or two that I want to tweak, or hit with a bus… But I do have difficulty sustaining my motivation through a normal short story, so I think it’s funny that I can only reach the end when it’s about something that angers me. Yay for personal revelations?
Write a story about unicorns and dragons!
Can the unicorns be eaten by the dragons? Mmm, unicorn steaks…
It’s your story, do what you want!