Nov 22

Interruption…Once More in Revision

Posted: under Horngard, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 22nd, 2022

NewBook I has had a partial read by Agent now, and I called to find out what his reaction was so far (about 1/3 through it.)   Still some concerns, things to work on, so I’m back in revision mode sort of,  hoping to also get back to work on NewBook II while it still has life in it, so I don’t have to revive it from coldsleep when NewBook I is deemed ready for its debut in the market.   NewBook I needs to read like the new beginning of something that it is, and now like the added-on “tail” of Paladin’s Legacy, which finished with Crown of Renewal.   Yes, there are carryover characters from earlier books…Aris Marrakai from Divided Allegiance for instance, as a young schoolboy in Fin Panir, right the way through Paladin’s Legacy where he’s a page in the palace in Tsaia growing older through those five volumes and developing a close friendship with Prince Camwyn Mahieran.  That friendship, and the future of both boys (Camwyn’s older by three years but they’re both too young to be squires, for instance)  is left in doubt at the end of Legacy, after Camwyn’s critical injuries from an iynisin attack and his removal by Dragon for a chance at life.

So far, Agent says, the first chapter or two of the book doesn’t feel like a new start.   And, of course, if it IS a new start, that means it’s a new entry point (potentially) to the entire story-universe for potential new readers, and new readers need  some background (can’t insult them with “You should’ve read the previous 10 books”)  without boring those who’ve read the previous ten books repeatedly and know exactly who all the repeat characters are.   The question of “simple straightforward “Here’s the background you may need” vs. trying to slot in 10 books’ worth of background without reducing the story proper to endless lumps of infodump” has been raised, and when raised in this blunt fashion makes it clear that “Background in the forward” would be kindest to all.  If it’s short enough.  (It’s also becoming clear to me that with this many books–and words!–in print,  there needs to be some kind of place where ALL the stuff new readers need is in one place.  I thought I’d done that–before even starting the Paladin’s Legacy group–in the Paksworld website, but it’s not working as well as I hoped, even considering that Legacy doubled the number of volumes and the wordage.)

So…once again into the breach to build the story-wall up so the whole thing is sound and will work for most (never all) readers.    No writer really enjoys the moment at which “Needs more work” (whether in those words or couched more gently)  is uttered instead of “Amazing, wonderful PERFECT in every way!!” but every writer with some insight knows that books (and stories) DO need more work more often than not, and that reflection will show how true it is that this one (whichever one you just finished) does in fact need more work.   (The same is true in every craft and art.  A choir full of really good singers still doesn’t sing a big piece perfectly at the first…or second…or fourth…rehearsal.  “Begin at measure 83, all the way to the solo…” and everyone suppresses a groan but then sings it better.  The best riders in the world on the best horses are told by their coaches “Need more work on your core, horse needs more work bending through the body to the [left/right], less rein and more leg.” etc.)

I will be more absent than present unless I have more news, which isn’t likely anytime soon.  Agent’s buried in work, and I’m about to be.   This is also posted in the Universes blog, for the benefit of anyone dropping by either location.

 

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Nov 07

Onward With Horngard II

Posted: under Horngard, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 7th, 2022

With Horngard I with my agent, Horngard II is up for some work, even though I have Other Things that must be dealt with.  Over the weekend (M-‘s birthday weekend, so less writing time, in addition to struggling with a computer/printer difficulty and a .pdf file difficulty) and today, Horngard II has gained 4000 words without excessive effort or loss of sleep.  I hope it continues to behave like #1 and roll itself out in front of me.  And if it doesn’t…I’ll cope.

Right now (this instant) it’s at 17,289 words and 81 pages.   The words before about 75-100 pages are very…fragile, vulnerable to alteration or even abandonment later.  For a middle book, in particular, as I expect this one to be, there’s a lot of mist and fog and not much to see from the beginning, which is back down from the height the first book reached.  Characters are alive, vivid, full of themselves right now.  Story itself is eager to get to the next “good stuff,” but in that hurry is quite capable of running madly ahead and off the cliff into a nasty ravine of “it never happened, go back and write something different.”  That happens once a book at least anyway, so though I don’t LIKE it, it’s not a really serious problem.

So Horngard II is alive, moving, has withstood its first long interruption (when working on agent’s suggestions, and all that suggests it will follow its older sibling and continue to grow with its own vigor.

 

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Nov 03

And Gone Again (With A Bit of Characterization)

Posted: under Craft, Horngard, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 3rd, 2022

NewBook is off to the agent again.  It now has 34 chapters, and I did not regularize chapter length.  My brain was tied in knots last night.  I did some formatting cleanup and *think* I got all that straightened out.  Maybe.

The “gone again” reminded me that–without much if any spoilering–you might enjoy a bit of insight into how I approach characterization when a character has neurological or other physiological  differences.  You’ve seen the results in several books, but not the process of development.  Leaving aside The Speed of Dark, where I had daily contact with an autistic family member from birth to about age 18 when I wrote it, plus years of researching what was then known about that condition, it starts with at least some familiarity with the condition or a close relative.  For instance, growing up in “polio times” I knew both adults and kids who’d had it and were living in the community.  Also knew (over my life span) people who had severe loss of hearing (or were born deaf),  blind people, people with malformed or missing limbs from various causes.   My mother had had polio as a small child (and had post-polio syndrome as an older adult) and had told me about some of her childhood experiences and feeling.  Personally, I had sequelae from a bout of encephalitis that left one side weaker than the other, a temporary hearing problem, and (unrelated to that, I think) progressive vision loss through childhood.  So I had mostly secondhand, but a little firsthand, experience of various limitations of sensory, motor, and brain function.

As a future writer, this was great (though I didn’t know I would end up a writer other than hobby level.)   Everything is grist for the mill, ingredients for the soup, bits of character to aggregate into someone who never lived but feels like someone you’ve known for years.   How to show these things in fiction depends on the character’s place in the story (and the milieu.)   A minor character, a limitation or problem not related to the plot–just mentioning can be enough.  Or, if it’s not that conspicuous, not mentioned unless there’s an intersection with something where it becomes so.   A medium level character missing a limb, or blind, or paralyzed, has to be shown in a way that makes clear how that affects their life in that venue: what can they do and not do?  What are their days like?   The book may not be about them, but at that level they’re “onstage” enough that they have to feel real and whole as what they are.

With major characters, the writer needs to know more about how that condition affects most people with it, and what the range of emotional/psychological reactions is.  Whether this character’s condition was from birth or acquired–and when and how–and what elements of maturation may be tangled in the effects of the condition.  Does it affect socialization?  Cognitive capacity?  Physical strength or endurance?   Are those with it typically more or less cheerful than those without it?   This means more research, of course, and ideally the research will involve being around someone with the condition in more than an “interview for my book” setting.   The blind person you’ve been taking to and from choir practice (for instance) becomes the person who, over time, is comfortable explaining more about the experience of blindness, the little things that annoy or make life a little better.

In NewBook, the person with a serious problem is Camwyn, King Mikeli’s younger brother, who suffered major injuries from iynisin and was taken away by Dragon as the only way of saving his life.  We saw enough of this in Crown of Renewal to know that he was left with a memory deficit for everything but his life since he woke up in Dragon’s cave.  He was about fifteen at the time of injury: he has lost his entire childhood and part of adolescence.  He has, at the start of NewBook, been told little about his past, at Dragon’s insistence.  He knows he was a prince, that his brother is a king, that Dragon has planned to put him on a throne of his own.  He’s relearned walking, talking, reading, writing, weapons skills, riding a horse.   He’s been taught some history, philosophy, etc.–a Renaissance prince’s education, minus religion. But he’s missing what other people have–the narrative of his life up to waking in that cave (some time after the first wakenings.)   And we who have memory have that narrative, starting in early childhood.  We know what kind of person we are because we’ve “been there” with ourselves and the people telling us “That was mean!” or “You’re a good boy.”  We know what we did and how we felt about it, and how others reacted to it, and we build up from that our own version of our identity.

Camwyn starts this book at 20-21.  Physically adult.  Mentally competent–Dragon was able to reproduce a healthy chunk of damaged brain, but not to restore its content.  But in terms of psychological maturity–in terms of self-understanding–he’s got a huge gap, and as a result a lot of self-distrust.   He wants to know more about his life before the injury, but Dragon has kept him away from anyone who might tell him–he’s been “out in the world” but not anywhere near the Eight Kingdoms.  Cam wants to know that his feelings, his intuitions, his desires are normal-for-him.  That he can depend on them, as I  know I can depend on mine (including the “different” craving for chocolate I get sometimes is part of my migraine prodrome and that’ the time I should not eat anything sweet or chocolate, while ordinarily chocolate doesn’t kick up a migraine.)

At the start of this book Cam feels completely disconnected from his past–unlike me with my first memory loss (fall off a horse over a triple bounce) that cost me 45 minutes complete loss and partial loss for the next half hour to hour as I tried to find my way back to the city “by instinct”–Cam has absolutely no recall for the injury that started it or anything before it.  I had the fall itself, up to sitting up and seeing my instructor walking over.  It was a “waking memory loss” because (I heard later) she helped me up, I helped catch the horse, got on, rode the rest of the lesson (which I do not remember at all), and “came to” sitting on the horse in the cool-down period.  I was able to reason out, sort of, what day it was, and “on a horse” was where I was, but the rest was confusion…and the very typical brain-not-working desire not to let anyone find out I wasn’t all there.  The missing 45 minutes bothered me for years.  I was told I jumped the bounces perfectly the next several times, but the next time I saw a bounce jump (not at that stable) I froze, terrified.

Dragon does not really understand human psychology.  Dragon thought memory loss would be a chance to start over with a clean slate and not be “bothered” by annoying past memories that could make someone repeat earlier mistakes.   And memories can be so bad that they are edited out or stuffed in a mental box for years–or they can be destroyed by brain injury.  But for most of us, our memories of ourselves, good or bad or in between, are important in defining who we are…to ourselves.

So how does someone like Camwyn develop a personal narrative?  He needs help.  He gets some.   It can’t all be repaired at once.

 

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Nov 02

Almost Done (Again)

Posted: under Horngard, Progress, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: ,  November 2nd, 2022

The most difficult of the “fixes” to the book my agent suggested was the result of a decision I made after the first couple of tries at “braiding” the POVS  of multiple people in multiple places who arrive at a very critical point in time and space together did not work–left things choppy and confusing.

I elected to put all of one POV group first and all the second POV group afterwards.  And *that* didn’t work either, my agent said (correctly said, I insist.)

Fixing it has not been easy and I’m not entirely sure now that it does what I want (especially since it added words to an already long book to get the rearranged stuff eased in, smoothed, and feeling like they “grew in place.” )

It reads better to me, but then I’m the person who wrote it and screwed that up in the first place.

I have multiple charts, notes, and attempts at doing it piece by tiny piece…the mosaic has to make the overall picture that includes high anxiety in three groups of people and impatience and frustration in the fourth group.   Looking back over the previous books, especially the ones in series, I see that I started out writing *somewhat* simpler books (not shorter…my first was very, very large, but not as complex all over as this one.)   And as soon as I learned how to do something more technically difficult…whammo, there it was in the next book (or the same book rewritten on the fly.)

I swore after one of the Familias Regnant books that had 12 major POVs scattered across part of a galaxy, most of them going somewhere rapidly in a ship, and having to be at the right place at the right time to execute their plot effect here…and then there…and then…etc., that I’d never have that many  plot-critical POVs again.  Ha.  I don’t even count anymore.  Keeping track of them was exciting in the sense of juggling explosives while dancing on a high wire…now it’s “Here we go again.”

The difference in Paksworld is that lack of fast, easy communication between the parties in motion.  Who knows what when always matters, but when you have to remember that there are no links, no phones, no computers, no satellite navigation aids…and then allow for “normal” weather patterns and the effect of them on unpaved roads traveled by humans on foot or riding animals or being hauled in wheeled vehicles by same…it’s…tricky.  No clocks either.  No longitude & latitude.  There are stars, but in a forest in the rainstorm, you can’t see them.

One more day of travel out of sight of the nexus point where all must come together.  One more day for those in the tunnel to endure…

Brahms’ German Requiem is the right music for this. I’ve tried other things but this (and the Faure Requiem for part of the earlier sections of the book) particular requiem carries the tension, the anxiety, the stark fear, the determination in the music itself and keeps me from sliding off into something easier to write.  The unearthly beauty of some passages also fits–around the story is a stunningly beautiful setting, dramatic in itself, inspired by and then developed from a photo I saw online years ago.   I moved a mountain range in behind it, added a plausible region of geology in front of it, and added the appropriate vegetation, then had the rockfolk go to work on it.

A snippet:

“Now,” Regar said, when he’d caught enough of the enemy’s cadence to be certain of the timing, and his men cut the ropes on their side.  The tower swung out away from the cliff all in one swoop, landing on the burning pinpigs, crushing them, and landing on some of the enemy who’d been straining to pull it down.  Fire spread quickly.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

If I haven’t mentioned the recording, here is is on YouTube:

 

 

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Oct 25

Agent Said….

Posted: under Horngard, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  October 25th, 2022

So my agent and I had a good long talk on the phone last Friday, and yes, NewBook IS a book, and IS publishable, BUT (there’s always a BUT.  Always, from every level of alpha reader, beta reader, agent, and editor)  there are Things To Be Fixed.

Which I’m working on.  Started early Saturday morning.  Everything he said made sense to me (another change since late May of this year is that I can “get” what the “could be better if” is about again.)   So the fixes are a matter of finding the places to put the fixes in the right place, in the right words, and remove the less-right words in a way that leaves everything looking like it grew there in the first place.  That’s never as simple as it sounds (just take out the wrong words, put in the right ones)  because the simple form means cut-and-patch…and the new “better” words often clash in some way with nearby words (sentences, phrases, tone, prosody, etc.) that also need some work to make the patches truly invisible.  But it’s doable; it just takes (always) more time than I hope.  I’ve already made considerable progress.

Meanwhile, though, NewBookII is having to sit on the inactive line, and it’s about as patient as I’ve been when an earlier delay has meant the passenger train I was on had to be held on a siding so a series of long, slow freight went by.   (We had had a collision with an idiot work truck parked on the tracks; it damaged the locomotive’s cowling–it was dragging on the tracks–so we had to crawl slowly to a siding where a welder could come cut it off.  No fault of Amtrak, it was the company that owned the rails’ work truck that had parked there when the train was due to come whizzing through at full speed.  SNARL.)  Anyway, NewBook is being grumpy and trying to push its words into my “fix this” tool, and that it not really a help at all.

All thanks to my percipient agent for pointing out what I think were the two biggest things that needed fixing, one of which is now completely done, and the other one far ahead (but the small fixes in between are necessary to set up the big later fix, so it’s not sitting there outlined in fluorescent orange screaming “Look at me!  I’m where the dead story bit was!” at the reader.)   I’m now eyeing the first POV section of Gwennothlin Marrakai, whom some of you will remember as one of Dorrin’s squires, last seen about to enter the Bells school for young knights.   She’s a knight now.  But the first POV section didn’t please my agent and what seemed to me a reasonable and seamless transition didn’t work for him.  So I’m looking at home to make it obvious that it should be there.  And one thing is to put an obvious link to her brother, who has (just previously) been the most vivid of characters.

So the morning’s work goes on and I will get back to it, now, and you, later.

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