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.

 

Comments (2)

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:

 

 

Comments (5)

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.

Comments (0)

Oct 05

Finished, Sort Of

Posted: under Editing, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  October 5th, 2022

NewBook is now complete, where complete means the story makes sense end to end, the plot and subplots are correctly articulated (in the sense of how a skeleton is articulated), there are causes for effects, and effects from causes, and the motivations of POV characters, in particular are shown through behavior, not just chit-chat.  Though frankly I think any female person will know *exactly* why Gwenno was bored with the Royal Guard.

It is a proper Paksworld book in size  (a bit under 170,000 words)  and geographic scope (smaller than some, but covering locations from northern Tsaia, in Arcolin’s domain to well south and west of Valdaire in Aarenis.)  Chronologically it’s a spring/summer/fall book, even though there’s a blizzard in it.  It’s an *early* blizzard and melts back into a cold nasty wet period.  The gap between this book and the last previous Paksworld book is about 5 years, so the page who woke up, ran upstairs when everyone else was spelled, and pulled the non-working rope that wakes the Bells of Verella only in real disasters ….is now a late teenager  and considered a young man.  The prince with no memory is 20 or 21.  An 18 year old squire of Duke Verrakai is 23.  And so on, including the people who were hale and healthy five years ago and now…aren’t.  Some of them.

It also has horses, swords, spears, lances, thieves (not nice ones), brigands (ditto), pirates (ditto) ,  bad relatives, good relatives, an overprotected little boy who isn’t that little or shouldn’t be, a birth, some deaths, and–because it involves the Matter of Horngard–Dragon.  Several assumptions about eldest girls in a family.  But also politics, economics, history, psychology, and such things.  Oh, and a song.    Sung in an ordinary way and people who also make weird scary noises some other way.

Someone on a Twitter writing group asked people who were writing things  “What is your book about?”  and I always draw a blank on that because I think my books (and most books) are about more than one thing, and different readers will fix on one or more of the possibilities.  But this book–still untitled, though its “barn name” is Horngard, name of the place in which a lot of important things happen–is a story about friendships as people grow up, trauma, memory, honor, personality, politics (et al) from the above list, and so on.   The “lead” characters are two boys (in the Paladin’s Legacy books) who became friends, were separated by violence,  and their meeting again 5 years later.   One has lost all memory of his past due to a traumatic brain injury.  The other temporarily loses the memory of having seen his friend again, for the first time in five years because someone else thinks it’s the wrong time for them to be together again.  Now the boys are men.

The loss of memory, whether temporary or permanent, has profound effects on them.   It interferes with “agency”–that capacity to make things happen, to not be just an object swept along, but to make decisions that work, that move other objects.   If you do not know–if you have no story of–your past, it’s a mental amputation of the information most of us use to make decisions and act from.   I remember the first time I was lifted up to sit on a horse; I remember how wonderful it was to be up there, able to see so far,  to not be blocked in by the legs of older children and adults.  That memory starts the chain of my understanding of how I feel about horses.  I remember being in an open boat out in the Gulf of Mexico and peering over the side into the green depths…seeing something large rising out of the dimness far below and come up closer, closer, and reveal a mouthful of very sharp teeth.  That memory starts the chain of my understanding my relationship to deep water.   Horses are wonderful, they’re freedom, they’re lifting me out of limitations.  Deep water is scary, dangerous, limiting me to less vision, less freedom, less opportunity.  These are not “facts” about horses or deep water, but the memories are at the roots of my attitudes, my deepest feelings.

Soo…what about a snippet, then?  And a test on it?

Here are the words of a song (translated into English because I write in English) which can be sung to the tune of one of my favorite songs.  The song itself was not, originally, English.   Can you figure out from reading the words what the music is?  (Don’t go looking over in the Universes blog because it’s listed there.)   These words appear in this book (unless an editor rules them out) and I hope to write some music to sing it to *other* than the one I know.

Dragonkin we stand before you

Dragon’s iron wings fly o’er you

Dragon’s iron teeth will score you

We will stand for all

 

Though we tire, though we hunger

Though we grow not any younger

We will stand as stone in thunder

All will stand for all

 

Men of Horngard ready

We will all stand steady

Taste the iron of our spears

Your swords will never wake our fears

 

Our hearts lighten, our eyes brighten

Blood or death, they do not frighten

We of Horngard, Dragon’s kin,we!

Never will we yield.

 

If you do catch on quickly, just answer with “Got it” or something like, until others have a chance to answer.

I can’t find on YouTube the version I like of the original, which was a capella, not over-enhanced with orchestra  or even piano accompaniment.  It doesn’t NEED that.  It does need a good stout choir.

Comments (15)

Sep 17

Snippets

Posted: under Contents, Craft, Editing, Progress, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  September 17th, 2022

Time for some snippets, yeah?

This one will not be in the final book….it is the original start of the book:

Camwyn had no memories of his childhood, only those begun in a dark cave, when he woke from grievous injuries.  He knew of his past only what he’d been told by Dragon.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This was followed by pages of past-history stuff and landscape descriptions that (aside from describing  a gorgeous view of the Vale of Valdaire and a good opening shot for the movie, maybe)  have nothing to do with the story because he’s never there again.   Also, there’s no tension.  People who’ve read the Paladin’s Legacy group know who Cam is, what his injuries were, and that he’s lost his memory.  People who haven’t will be thinking ‘How many pages of infodump before I have a reason to care about this character?”

Worse, the next person being shown is thinking about how disappointed he is that on his last trip over the mountains, there’s fog and he can’t see his favorite view.   Interior monologue with nothing happening but the fog lifting and a horse whinnying.  Ho-hum, ho-hum, the starting point is dumb…and then it goes into pages more of trivia that’s interesting to ME, because I was working back into this invented world, checking that Fenis Kavarthin & Sons were still in the building they’d been in that previous book, that this and that were in the right place and the right kinds of interactions were going on. Fine, for a book on the economics of merchant-run late-medieval cities, but this is supposed to be a story.

………………………………………………………………………………………..

So now we have the result of a complete mental reset:  When the problem is a static passage, nothing really going on, AND it’s in the POV of a known character who’s a protagonist…don’t whittle away at it hoping for something better.  Take a big leap.

The blade lay lightly, but dangerously, on his neck, just under the side of his jaw.  “You haven’t paid your bill,” said the voice in the dark.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

The next sentence tells you who “he” is…Ilantides Balentos.   Those who’ve read the short story “Mercenary’s Honor”  may have a vague memory of an Ilanz Balentos who was Aesil M’dierra’s uncle and the reason she became a merc commander.   Ilanz in that story is a middle-aged merc commander who helps a village win independence from its greedy neighbor city, and when that city hires a much younger Aliam Halveric to attack, and Aliam sends out his squires to a recon mission, Ilanz meets Kieri Phelan for the first time.   Between then and now is a story of the young Aesil M’dierra and how she met Aliam and Kieri in dire circumstances–unfinished, still.  Maybe now I can write it.  Ilanz left his company (and some money) to M’dierra when he died.

This isn’t Ilanz; this is Ilanz’s much younger relative (and thus, more distantly, M’dierra’s relative.)  You don’t yet know who the other person, the voice in the dark,  is (and won’t, thanks to, ummm, errr, mmph, and mumble-mumble-writers-keep-secrets.)   But you know, every one of you, that you do not want that voice in the dark in YOUR bedroom, and you already suspect Ilantides may have a shady side.   You also want to know if the guy gets his throat cut and what happens next.

Does this 13 page segment connect to anything else in the book?  Yes, it does.  It foreshadows events already written some chapters later (and thus was easy to think of and write) that make other connections…and so on.   So when mmmrff happens, readers (the more astute ones) will be thinking “It’s those Balentoses!” while at the same time wondering if fffnnf can possibly make it out and can vlkksr get there in time.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

But remember the entire first chapter had problems of insufficient forward motion and insufficient tension.  Yet certain precursor things had to happen before other things could.  A had to meet B.  B had to not meet C.   D had to misjudge a situation.  And so on.  So what should come after that 13 pages that makes it clear the initial engine is putting tension on the same overall plot, getting the whole thing rolling?   Who gets the next POV slot, and why, and what do they do with it?

To keep the tension on, the next logical POV will be either the other conspirator or…another potential victim. The other conspirator has no further appearance in this book, as who he is, at least.  Readers are free to think he took part in a certain nefarious deed, or to think he was in another part of the same organization.  Doesn’t matter.  Another potential victim is already in the book, several chapters ahead, and was going to be in chapter 1 anyway, but from a different angle.  Well, then…make the next POV that of that potential victim’s POV and take a first look at Protagonist through that potential victim’s eyes…and at Balentos through that victim’s eyes as well.    Another big leap.

So the next POV is Aesil M’dierra’s but not in an exciting moment, though exciting moments are referenced, and a Significant Moment occurs in that POV segment when she walks into The Golden Fish and sees an obvious newcomer.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

She noticed a striking young man at the front window table, richly dressed in yellow and black over mail and–her experienced eye recognized the way the cloth laid over it–breast and back plate.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

Other necessary nubbins have been dispensed in this POV section before this moment, relating to the matters her cousins have kept bubbling on the legal stove, adding to the tension of *that* plotline, but this is where another and major plotline’s rubber hits the road.  The naive reader (the one who hasn’t read the previous volumes) doesn’t know who he is, and even the experienced reader–though perhaps guessing correctly–isn’t sure either.  The last black and yellow colors shown so prominently down here were–as far as readers know–on Siniava, the Honeycat.  Who IS this fellow?  Why hasn’t he doffed his heavy-weight armor, or taken the coif off his head?  M’dierra (experienced readers will know) knows every merc commander in Valdaire…this isn’t one of them.  So who and what is he, and what is he up to?   That’s revealed in their conversation, or the part of their conversation that’s shown, so the main direction of that plotline seems to be clear and straightforward.  The book is going to visit a place none of the previous books have shown, but that’s been mentioned a few times.

Another POV section is coming, which introduces two well-known characters from previous books but in different roles, and foreshadows (obscurely) a major road-block in the major plotline that’s just been shown, though the actual roadblock isn’t at all clear.  One of those two is the second, co-equal protagonist.  And Dragon, who, though a plot-mover, isn’t a protagonist, and gives readers the chance to question Dragon’s good will, sanity and, um, “wisdom.”   If humans have holes in their logic, and gaps in their knowledge, how is it possible for a creature of such length of age and vast experience and desire for all to be wiser…to be so blind to certain things?  Why isn’t Dragon the perfect deus ex machina, instead of…well…fallible?  Or are the humans just misunderstanding the nature of the beast, so to speak?

But that would be telling, not showing, says the mischievous writer, running off to work on other chapters.

 

Comments (9)

Mar 04

Whirlwinds

Posted: under Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  March 4th, 2016

(Mirrored from Universes blog)

Working on the rewrite of Cold Welcome.  On Monday, I sent Editor the latest draft of the new ending, and in light of Editor’s comments worked on it some more, then started in on front-to-back run (actually crawl!) through combining her original letter, the marked up manuscript line edits,  and the changes that would be required by the new ending.   This also involved having two versions of the first chapters on the monitor at once, the letter, a stack of reference printouts, and the marked ms beside me on the desk. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)

Nov 15

Closing In

Posted: under Craft, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 15th, 2015

At this stage of revision, I always wish I had another two weeks.  Or a month.    There’s always one…more…problem bit to untangle, that I think would benefit from more time to analyze and think about.  And then another, in the next section.  However, things are progressing appropriately.  The holes are filling in,  the once-blurry places are sharpening into focus, and though I’m dealing with some decisions made earlier that I might make differently now, they’re working out with some fierce hammering and welding.   (Clever ideas.  Clever ideas are the ones that seem so shiny! and smart!  at the time, and that flow easily in first draft and then…toward the end…reveal themselves to be more clever than good.  For instance, the…mumble-mumph.  How do you mumble-mumble and mumph-mumph so as to have a crisis *here* that requires characters to appear to have a random emergency giving you-the-writer the opportunity to lay the hook for the string that will later be pulled, so when something (errummph?) is revealed, the reader will feel a connection–yes, there was a foreshadowing but things were so hectic I missed it–and thus the revelation is not a deus ex machina.   Though of course all this backstage work IS the writer being the deus ex machina.)   Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Nov 02

Just to Complicate Things

Posted: under Life beyond writing, Revisions.
Tags: , ,  November 2nd, 2015

Roofing Begins

Yes, those are roofers tearing off shingles at the house my mother owned when she died.  Our son lived there awhile and stays there on weekends, as do guests.  It’s where we have parties, too, as it has  more room than our house.   It will soon have a metal roof, which should last longer, given that we have hail storms and branches that fall on the roof and squirrels who think getting through roofs is a lot of fun.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

Oct 11

Annals of Revision, 2015

Posted: under Revisions.
Tags:  October 11th, 2015

So…when did I forget about active verbs, huh?  Not completely forget but forget enough to find myself in a thicket of “was carried, was done, was this and was that.”   Oh, and pluperfect constructions where they weren’t needed.    Also temporal glitches.   It helps to keep things in order, except when you intend to have them scrambled, right?  Right.  FIRST they did this, then because that happened they did this other thing, the results of which caused yet another action.

This doesn’t mean I’m down to the fine-combing, really, it’s just that some things stick out and I deal with them then, even if it’s not strictly by my protocol.

Comments (3)

Jul 11

Sailing, Sailing…

Posted: under Crown of Renewal, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , , , ,  July 11th, 2013

This will be the last post for awhile because a) deadlines and b) medical stuff–appointments, tests, all that, all taking time out of the writing day.    So I decided to hint at some things coming up in Crown of Renewal, along with the background research that went into them.   I hope this will tide you over for a couple of weeks, while I finish the revisions and the shorter work due for an anthology. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)