Sep 01

Strategic Writing

Posted: under Craft, Editing, Life beyond writing, Marketing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags:  September 1st, 2023

Since early 2001, I have been the only earning member of our family.   Luckily for me, the timing coincided with the largest advance I’ve ever received.  But a writer’s income depends on continued writing–even with books already out earning royalties, they eventually slide down the publisher’s priority list as their sales drop.   Gaps in publishing lead to sagging income and when it sags enough, the writer starts burning through savings, if they’re lucky enough and canny enough to have them.  Or, as I did, have a relative who leaves them something more substantial than “dinner out after the funeral” or debts, which is what many are left with.   My last full-size book came out in 2018, five years ago.  Five years in publishing is easily the average employment time for editors in some companies, and being out of the mix for five years is…not great.  If the Horngard novel sells to someone, it still would not be out until 2025, most likely.  That’s 7 years without a release.  I’m well down the staircase.  Which is way better than it could be.

The good response to Deeds of Youth and going to ArmadilloCon gave me enough confidence to break out of the concussion + Covid inertia I’d also struggled with, and join an online writing group on Discord (for which I purchased an actual webcam and microphone because I could not remember the password for the laptop…I wasn’t using it enough.)   The online writing group does the usual “read stuff, discuss the stuff,” thing, which I used to find very helpful with my first-readers, but my original first-readers are now (but for one, who’s in that writing group and got me into it)  older, have health and/or vision problems, and just can’t respond quickly.  It took a few weeks, but this past week the group sank its collective teeth into the new shorter piece, “Final Honors.”  I should mention that nobody else in the group is writing anything like what I write, even those nominally within the umbrella of SF/F.   I like that.   It’s a check on whether what I write might be attractive to people who aren’t already fans, or even reading in the genre.   The comments I got were very, very valuable in helping me consider the revision of that story…and the Horngard novel.  Editors are always looking, in series/same universe works, for the possibility (or not) of introducing new readers to that body of work.  I’ve never been that great at it in fantasy, though I’ve been successful (to a point) with SF.

As well as the question (from several) “Are you considering this for appeal to your current fans or people unfamiliar with your work?” one bold person asked “Are you looking to make money, or just write for yourself and friends?”   I think I blinked about four times, processing that.  Because I do write for myself, always have even when making money at it…AND I depend on an income because I like to eat (maybe too much) and so does my family including two horses.  The consensus of the group was that the short story needed considerable work to make it accessible to readers not familiar with my work (and pointing out things I hadn’t thought of as lacking–which is good to know–like making clear which unfamiliar names are people and which are cities) and then a lack of consensus on the story’s possible appropriate length.   At the end of the discussion, I was full of new ideas, new insights, which is the best possible outcome of having your work looked at.  More than one person, more than one viewpoint coming out of a different readership.  Story is Story, but there are places where SF/F demands more of readers than most other genres, and if you want to expand the total readership of the genre, as well as your own work, you need to provide clues as well as handholds.

Hence this post, because I’ve spend several days looking back at recent work, finding the same gaps and rough spots as in “Final Honors” in the other stories, in terms of making the work more accessible, and those gaps and rough spots would be a serious barrier to acceptance of the Horngard novel even within genre.  Eyes wide open here.  So what to do about it, given the limited writing time enforced by eyesight, health, probably length of life?  Like many writers, I have a perfectly functional (?) *practical* brain  alongside WriterBrain’s wild talent for running off in the wilderness and coming home with big game in the form of books.  Practical Brain is in large part shaped by my mother’s Engineer Brain and it is willing to look firmly at numbers, probabilities, stress points, failure analysis…all that stuff.  So the challenge is “1. How to write what will satisfy me when it’s done..2. .satisfy my existing fans when it’s done…and 3. at least not repel (and preferably attract) new readers.  I want to write within Paksworld for awhile, both long and short, because the Plot Daemon’s successor generates better plot there.  I know that background best, I’m able to stay “in character” there best.  And I want stories that are true to Paksworld, not “other.”   I’m reasonably sure that existing Paksworld fans will be happy with those, though if I can get back to the earlier “tighter” writing, they’d probably like that better, and they never did seem to like anything fluffy or too lightweight.  Keep the depth of place and character.  And those fans–you readers among them–won’t want boring infodump in the service of bringing in new readers.   Insert all necessary handrails on the stairways, and light switches in the deep levels, to give new readers a fair chance of following a story.  The group I’m in can definitely help me with that, by telling me what they stumbled on, where they felt lost, etc.

So I’ve gone in and consulted WriterBrain, who was chomping at the bit to get back to writing itself, explained that we were going to have to revisit several stories and re-vision them, and so far (not having actually started) WriterBrain is willing to do that, as long as it doesn’t mean “just cutting.”   And WriterBrain would like more input from the critics.  OK.  That can be arranged, every Tuesday evening.   There is a danger that this group’s ability to be “the outsiders” to my work may decay with constant exposure to it, but since they prefer to chomp down on what are to me *minute* amounts per person per week (very practical,  but for a LOOOONNNGGG form writer like me, 1500 words isn’t even a day’s work, let alone a week’s)  that probably won’t happen for several years.  And–despite grumbling over the need (self-created) to get the webcam and the microphone…wow is the image and sound quality better.   The friend who rescued me back in May from the tech collapse and office chaos told me which to buy.   They’re not built into the computer–they’re completely separate and stored elsewhere when not in use because I’ve heard about what happens if you have a live cam on your computer all the time–eventually you forget it’s live, with unfortunate world wide exposure you didn’t want.

Now that I’ve written down what the plan is, I can go back to throwing ingredients into the bowl without measuring, stir them up with whatever implement is handy, and bake until the kitchen smells “right”.    WriterBrain is happy with that.  PracticalBrain would like a flowchart and blueprint, *with* dimensions, thank you, but is muttering only softly when I say “You’re a consultant, not the designer. We’ll get back to you.”  PracticalBrain, who sounds like my mother, never gives up completely.  It’s WriterBrain who if really upset goes off in a huff for days.

See you later.  I’m opening WriterBrain’s gate.

Comments (16)

Jul 26

Horngard I Progress: Fixing Beginnings

Posted: under Craft, Editing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  July 26th, 2023

Horngard I has a new first chapter, new first section of the first chapter, and everything is now “clean” through C-3.   One segment that was second in C-1 is now at the end of C-2, and other segments (aside from the very first, which is new) have been shifted around (often more than once, like quilt pieces) to find their best spot.  General tightening to make the new arrangement work better.   And so on.  Chapters will need to be re-numbered, at least (right now there are two C-3s, one helpfully saved as C-3+) and more splits and/0r joins may need to be done as this revision progresses.   Since re-numberiung this many chapters (34 now, will likely be 35 if I don’t find more largeish cuts to make) is tedious and it’s easy to make mistakes, relabeling the second “overlapping” chapter and leaving re-numbering to the end seems to work more smoothly.  For me, anyway.

This, and maybe some subsequent posts, is a “technical writing” post.   How do you fix the front end of a book–what decisions are involved, what actions need to be taken, and what natters most?  Though it’s a “how-to” and “how-not-to” post, it is not (except for Rule One–maybe)  a black-and-white prescription.  As always, my way is NOT the highway, but a crooked path through the wilderness.  If you find yourself in the wilderness with your book (first or thirtieth) it’s a reminder to look at that first chapter you were so happy with six months ago.  Maybe it could be where the problem with the book started.

Rule One  Don’t bore the reader.  Bored readers don’t finish the book unless they need it to pass a test.  If they’re bored on page one, they’re done with it.  This is why even bestsellers don’t sell to everyone…someone’s bored, they don’t buy the book.   If you leave the finished book alone for a few months to…um…ripen or rot…and then you start to read it, and you find yourself skipping the first chapter after the first page…be sure to have no fewer than five people read that first chapter alone (no reward visible) and listen to their comments.  “Starts kinda slow…” means “I was bored.  “I guess we’ll find out what it’s about later on, huh?” means “I was bored.”   And so on.   Reader boredom anywhere in a book damages it, but reader boredom at the start kills it.

The most common cause of boring starts is starting before the action.   The writer often needs to start writing before the book starts; the writer certainly can spend words and time on setting up when/where/who/how the start is going to happen, and ease into the story itself…but the reader, especially the modern reader, wants to feel, from the first page at least, that they’ve stepped into a strong narrative current and are being pulled along.  Doesn’t have to be a roaring flood, but does have to be a current.

A contribution to boring starts that will overwhelm even starting where the story itself starts is too much information too soon.   (And if that sentence was a boring, there’s your clue.)  If you have even a touch of “instructor” in you, you’ll be tempted to demonstrate your knowledge, as well as your storytelling.   I have a large bump of instructor, since I’ve tutored individuals and taught classes…and like many instructors, I’ve been sure my lessons were interesting and useful to my captive audiences of students.  But…the students didn’t have much choice.  As a writer, your readers have many choices of what to read, and as a fiction writer, they didn’t come to you to learn about the English civil war, the pastimes of medieval peasants, how a ‘tall ship” is rigged, or exactly how to grow food for your family on a quarter acre.  If you write fiction, your readers are fiction readers, and they want a good story.  Story needs to be there in that critical first few pages.  So don’t front-load your book with description, a history lesson, or the things that fascinate you about the story you’re telling…tell the story itself.

How does this relate to what was wrong with my earlier beginnings to Horngard I?   Here comes Rule Two:  Get important characters into the first scenes.  Characters make stories.  Introduce the characters readers will be following at the beginning.  Not–as the old Bobbsey Twins books used to do it, with a page of “Let’s get to know the Bobbsey twins” infodump–but instead with a name, an action, and a glimpse of their thoughts, feelings, selfhood from inside.  It can be in an immediate crisis (Paks and her father having a row, Brun climbing a cliff being shot at, Ky called out of class and forced to resign), or in a calmer but still active situation (Gird setting off with a basket of fruit for the required tax, Heris taking command of a civilian’s personal yacht, or–in the present case after fixing the problem–a young man riding out of the foothills toward a city, thinking what he’s been told to do.)  In the previous version of Horngard I’s beginning, I had Dragon flying around looking at the old citadel and remembering and thinking and planning and then going away again.  Followed by a long scene with some bad guys dealing with their own problems –neither bad guy likely to attract a reader’s interest on his own– and the co-protagonist, who is now up first, not showing up for pages and pages and pages.  Oops.  Stories are *about* someone as well as something.   Dragon is not a character.  Dragon is a Force, or Power…not a deity, but the personification of transformation, or change.    Yes, a dragon can fry you with its breath, but it’s more like plate tectonics than a character.

Rule Three:  Get someone doing something in the first scenes.  Stories are about someone doing something that matters to them (and hence to the still-imaginary and future reader.)  Character sitting on the bank fishing and nothing’s biting?  Quickly boring.  Character sitting anywhere and just musing…quickly boring.  Character riding toward a city still confused about what he’s supposed to do…most readers can think of branching lines of possibilities in that.    Another character on a fractious horse on a dangerous mountain path near a cliff…again, readers can imagine multiple possibilities there, too.  Both of those are a) doing something and b) doing something that has potential problems all over, leading reader to mild suspense.  Will this confused character be unable to function in the noise and confusion of a city?  Will he get robbed? Will he find someone who can clear things up for him?  Will the character on the fractious horse end up in pieces at the bottom of the cliff?   If one character (not of these two alone, any two) thinks of the other, wants to find the other, wants to avoid the other,  wants to kill, or save, or make love to the other, that adds another layer of possibility to the plot, and raises the reader’s interest.  If they’re both going to the same city, especially.  The reader will have several questions in mind that the reader wants answered.   Questions the reader wants answered count as “suspense.”   Suspense is good reader-glue.  The sooner in a book the reader wants to read the next page, the better.

Notice…I broke all three rules in that first chapter.  Boring instructional glop in the first section (OK, it had Dragon, who’s not intrinsically boring, but also not a character the reader will identify with at all.)  Minor characters loosely connected with a minor character in earlier books, unpleasant, doing not much besides talking & planning, in the second section.  They did at least mention they were planning to kill the person in the next section but they didn’t actually DO that, or even approach it more closely, until several chapters later.   Third section finally introduced a character, but not one of the major characters, and what was she *doing*?  Sitting (SIGH) and signing a contract and thinking about the general state of things.  Then she heads off for lunch.  That’s really riveting storytelling, right?  Er…um….no.  It’s not.

New start: Start of plot, major character shows up in Significant Clothes (knight in shining armor on fancy horse) with definite immediate goal (get to city, get to banker…oh, so there’s MONEY involved?!) and confusion about how to accomplish future goal.  Dragon in his past (hmm), memory loss, and according to Dragon, important future.   Then another major character shows up, headed to the same city, from farther away, on a steep and dangerous mountain trail on a fractious young horse next to a cliff where the rocks below are decorated with bits of wrecked wagons and skeletons.  Both characters are named.  So  previous readers in that story-universe have an advantage and almost certainly put 2 and 2 together and get the right answer, but new readers are being handed information they need when they need it…and their minds will correctly decide that both these guys are important, and since they’re headed for the same city, might meet.    Another important minor character from previous books, tightly connected to Major Character 2 is also in that scene.  Next scene down, another important minor character is connected to Major Character 1.  Then Major Character 2 drops a final clue.  Even new readers are now oriented to two major characters’ relationships to  the most significant secondary characters and their potential relationship to each other, their ultimate goals as they see them, and some of the difficulties foreseen by characters and writer.

More coming another day.

 

Comments (6)

Jul 10

Another Story? Yes!

Posted: under Editing, Life beyond writing, Progress, Revisions, snippet, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  July 10th, 2023

Writerly egos really do work this way.  Inspired by the review copy of DEEDS OF YOUTH,  I was able to finish the sequel to “Consequences” (last story in that volume) yesterday.  MUCH faster than I finished the first one of the pair.  Together they cover the entirety of Kieri Phelan’s first independent mercenary command.  The original version I wrote in the neighborhood of 35 years ago hasn’t been found, so I was reconstructing from my memory of it.   I’m sure it’s not an accurate reconstruction, but nobody else knows the original at all.  Ha.  What you’ll finally get, when the collection after the new collection comes out, is  all there is.

An ego-correction was finding out, while doing what I thought was the final revision, that I had *reversed two characters’ names.”  Between stories.  Within weeks of having re-read “Consequences”.    Yes, OK, I’m good enough to write an exciting story in less than two weeks, a story that involves blocking out a clash of militaries (size, location, terrain, opposing forces’ different weapons, mobility, background of military theory for each, etc.)  and collapsing all the details the writer then knows into just the ones the *reader* needs to know to grasp what’s happening, the sequence of events, the personalities and back stories of the POV characters, and fitting all that into less than 7500 words at most.   But I’m not apparently good enough to noticed that between “Consequences” and (its current name, this may change) “Unintended,”  Crown Prince G-‘s name turns into younger Prince H-‘s name.

All fixed now.  G- is back to being G- across the narrow temporal gulf between reading story C and writing story U.   Be sure that from now on in I will be looking harder when writing subsequent related stories to existing stories, and doing the name check *earlier* in the process.   First-readers of story U liked it a lot.  I still like it a lot today, having spent last night and today cleaning it up.  Is it spotless and shiny, all ready for its debut later?  I’ll know better after letting the resident Nitpicker at it.  Meanwhile, a snippet.

……………………………………….

“Get a horse,” the king said.  “A good one.”

……………………………………

Meanwhile, in the daily life stuff, it’s been very, VERY hot so I’m feeding horses later and later in the evening and today moved the morning feed up to “nearly all hard feed in the morning because it’s cooler and better for them.”

A US Senator (former football coach, whoop-te-do) is taking out his spite on the Department of Defense by blocking all promotions that require Senate approval and thus leaving many commands without a commander when the previous one reached legal retirement age.  Including my branch, the Marines, who are without a Commandant for the first time in over 100 years.  (And, dear friends, you really truly do not want to leave the Marines to their own devices without a solid command structure.  You don’t want to leave ANY military that way, but we have particularly…strong…well…our nickname with at least one other branch is Uncle Sam’s Misquided Children, and our reputation is “If you want something absolutely totally destroyed, call in the Marines.”  I, of course, am now a sweet old lady, perfectly harmless except for the razor edge on tongue and pen.

I called said Senator’s Senate office today and gave a brief and non-profane description of his misdeeds (this is only one of them; the guy’s a raging racist and a contributor to the J6 insurrection) before calling on him to resign.  He won’t, of course, but this is what I can do legally, for now.  Let him know he’s not the strong noble hero he thinks he is but a pissant southern neo-Confederate who broke his oath of office, tried to overturn the government, and has pissed off a Marine veteran.  At least one.  Sure there’s more.   I’m feeling that the Senator, who never served in any branch, should perhaps contemplate the effect of Marines minus a complete command structure on something closer to his heart than the rest of the country, since he doesn’t care about the rest of the country, just his billionaire donors and the white folks in his home state.  Needs to be reminded that the Senate doesn’t command the military.  That’s an executive function, and it needs a whole, unbroken, chain of command from POTUS on down to the lowest level just-out-of-boot-camp E-1.

So I think I need to call his office *daily* with things he clearly doesn’t know, and needs to know, about the real, serious, deal it is to stand in the way of the Marines having a  Commandant.  His name, in case you don’t know it, is Tommy Tuberville, and he pronounced it TUBBER-vill.  Wouldn’t want to say a Senator’s name wrong, would we?  (Rubber-Tubber?  Flubber-Tubber?)  I leave the cussing out to the senior NCOs, who are superb at it (an art form, once they’re up in grade)  and recommend that former officers and lower grade enlisted just list any four or eight of his “errors” as politely as possible within the need to make it clear what a [redacted] he is.

 

Comments (4)

Jan 23

Tomorrow…..Became Today

Posted: under Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: ,  January 23rd, 2023

Yesterday I was going to write a post saying I’d be talking to agent tomorrow.   Never hit SEND.   This is it:  “Another chat with Agent.  You will get a report.   As for Horngard II, it creepeth onward (it doesn’t want to cooperate unless I’ll give it all day…this splitting time with the County Tax Office’s deadline-looming Wildlife Management report doesn’t suit Paksworld, which thinks-since I’m back in it now–it owns my brain.  Does, mostly, at the moment.  But I’ve misplaced the Kieri’s First Command store I found I could work on in short snatched, which makes me hate Word’s misnamed “search” function all the more. Search INSIDE a file fine.  FIND a file (actually Microsoft’s FIND function for files is the problem–apparently it won’t look inside folders, and Word never lists the path while you’re IN a file so you can take notes.  The memory thing of TBIs kicks in when I try to remember which folder that file is in…I’ve looked in the Paksworld Stories and Stories folders, both of them, for a hint, but no.  On both drives it might be on (Data, under D: in the computer, and Data under the (folder) that replicated the D: drive on the card, F:/”

Today had the chat.  Still another draft to do.  SIGH.   As he said, and I also agree (but hadn’t agreed *in time*) , when you are first fixing a flawed ms. every fix can make it better but open up new views of what’s not that good yet.  The goal, of course, is to have it equally good from start to finish (whatever level of “good” is reached.)   Or at least a “smoothed out” reading experience so it’s not four good chapters, a boring chapter, two OK chapters, two good chapters, two real stinkers…etc.   He was encouraged because it’s definitely better overall…except….where it isn’t.  SIGH again.   He pointed out that since I hadn’t been able to write even remotely publishable book-length fiction for over 4 years, I could expect to have lost some skills, and since the cause of not writing was the brain injury…it’s more remarkable that I can now…with more revision…than it would be if I couldn’t.   I remind myself that the original Paks books had three full-length drafts before I submitted it (when I’d had only one concussion) and then the estimable Betsy Mitchell worked them over…so I’m still within the envelope.  Fast first draft, multiple revisions.  Because I don’t know the whole story, haven’t sorted out what “really” happened and thus can’t critique the whole story structure.   I’ve muttered before and say it again:  using Michelangelo’s analogy, my method seems to be to create the block of marble first and *then* cut away everything that isn’t the final statue…except that the creating of the stone and the cutting away occur multiple times.  Very messy process.  Chips of marble all over my mental and physical floors (in the form of sheets of paper covereed with notes to self, notes from agent or first readers, pages of ms. in the trash.  Only right now I can’t print any of the ms, so…grrr.

ANYway, I was working on the next little collection of Paksworld stories, trying to decide how to group them.    Several would fit into a group of “young people as protagonists”:  “Dream’s Quarry” from Horse Fantastic, a horse nomad story, “First Blood,” from Shattered Shields,  maybe “Mercenary’s Honor” from OperationArcana, because Aliam is still a young man and Kieri is in it as a squire, “Gifts” from Masters of Fantasy,   “The Dun Mare’s Foal,”  serialized here,  or       “A Bad Day at Duke’s East” (a story never published–Arcolin’s adopted son Jamis is in it.)   The story now called “Kieri’s First Command” could be retitled for its main POV character, that Marrakai kid, if there’s enough room.  It’s the first half of the longer story (which was written back when, and both file (in WS) and printout lost over the years)  that ends with Kieri  saving the Tsaian force and pushing the Pargunese back into Pargun.   Duke Marrakai is badly wounded and (IIRC) died on the way home; the Crown Prince is killed.  Kirgan Marrakai lives.

Comments (17)

Dec 18

Another two days….

Posted: under Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  December 18th, 2022

December 18, 11:43 pm and I’m at 178,644 words, p. 551 of 811, after some hours off today, working in the “picnic grove” to trim snaggy bits off the lower trunks of trees, and then the barn leveling more decomposed granite in the east stall, pick up manure in the south barn lot, feed, and yes, pet and give treats to the horses.  Progress is slow, my brain’s tired of staring at the text and trying to find words to cut.  Still finding them but not as fast now.  I think the writing was getting tighter in this part maybe.  I hope.  Clock’s ticking, calendar’s turning, I need to get this finished so I can get on with the wildlife management report and turn the book back to my agent so it has a chance of finding a publisher.

This is the season of trimming trees, too, and even though some of the bur oaks still have green leaves on them…most of the trimming’s being done right now on the cedar elms in the near meadow.  The picnic grove looks more and more like a grove of actual trees every year–not only are they taller, but the trim is defining, as I’d hoped, the “rooms” in the grove.  We won’t live to see it mature–and a later owner can of course just destroy it–but we should be able to use it a little this year.  The part of the near meadow between the grass waterway and the original fence of the house and lots, east of the main maintenance path, I hope to fence as an additional horse lot soon.  The south horse lot is turning into a “dry lot” (just dirt, which means it erodes in heavy rains, is badly compacted by constant use, and has very little grass left after several years of drought.   It needs a year or several of rest & recovery, with reseeding with a good shortgrass like buffalo or a buffalo/blue grama mix.

Outside work to accomplish these things eats up writing time; writing time eats up work /maintenance/housekeeping time.   But better to have too much to do than be bored and think there’s nothing to do, right?  Right!

Must be in bed in 5 minutes. Bye now.

Comments (3)

Dec 16

And still going…and still going….

Posted: under Horngard, Revisions.
Tags: ,  December 16th, 2022

At present,  5:26 pm Friday 12/15/2022, I’m working on page 486 of 813.  The total word count is down to 179,041.  The high in word count was I think in the 183,000+ range.  I don’t think it ever swelled to 185K but I didn’t check every minute.   There’s still stuff to be added and stuff to be taken out.  This round of revision includes a lot of  word-removals.  Most are singles, some are multiples, and a few are “That whole paragraph: OUT!”  Ideally, from the feel of it, this needed an overall shrinkage of about 10% .   In other words, 18,000 words gone.   Very roughly, that’s one word out of every line of the ms, 23 per page.  I’m not on target for that amount of shrinkage, and there’s still a little to be added.

 

Comments (0)

Dec 12

Still Going….

Posted: under Background, Characters, Editing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  December 12th, 2022

Another talk with my agent last week, and I had new things to work on (which is fine, though of course I’d prefer to write absolutely perfect books up front.)  One thing he couldn’t explain clearly enough, except that one character’s sections did not work for him…and I kept looking at them and looking at them, and finally…in a “scales falling from the eyes” moment tonight, there it was.  An absolutely plain as mud and about as interesting lump of  infodump masquerading as an interesting look inside a major character’s thinking processes.

All informative.  All static.   No reader should have to read that many pages of Gwenno reviewing her reasons for doing something.  Was it accurate?  Yes, that’s how she thinks and what she thinks.  Are some of those points plot relevant?  Yes, as showing motivation.  But do we need them laid out in order like a plot summary?  No, we do not.   WHY couldn’t I have seen that months ago when I first wrote it?  (I was having a lot of fun just writing…)

Said it before and I’m saying it again…if you’re writing ANYTHING and you start thinking “If I can just make it until the next interesting/fun/exciting/ bit…that’s the part to change or just delete.”   Gwenno deserves to have her POV sections bouncy and energetic and determined as she is, not pages of her thought processes.

Comments (2)

Nov 30

Back To Work On Horngard I

Posted: under Characters, Editing, Horngard, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  November 30th, 2022

Having turned in the stuff I needed to turn in  for legal reasons, I’m now back at work on my agent’s requested changes to Horngard I, current (not necessarily final) title of Dragon’s Price.   I’m incorporating additional research into the effects of big memory loss…the character has lost everything before waking up after prolonged treatment and unconsciousness.  Fortunately, I’ve added Tribel as a possible replacement for Twitter, and one of the people there offered me some of their experience with someone with massive memory loss.    This wasn’t something my agent suggested, but works well with one of his requests.  I’m going to check a few more sources as well, because although this is not intended as a book *about* memory loss itself it still needs to be plausible (if the reader accepts the idea of an imaginary creature able to magically heal–at least partly–brain injuries.)   It’s *about* a bunch of other things in addition to what the main characters are doing visibly in the book.  Most books are.

This set of changes will take longer than the previous, because it’s requiring reconsideration of just about every conversation in 800 plus pages of ms.

Meanwhile, Horngard II has lain down and gone to sleep.  I opened it yesterday after taking the stuff to the post office and it yawned, rolled over (never opening its eyes) and gave the impression of someone who’d gotten bored waiting and is now soundly asleep.   So what to do when the brain hits the wall in revision, as it does at some point in every work period?  Organize the next collection of Paksworld short fiction, I guess, since when I do wake Horngard II back up, I need to be prepared to stay with it as the primary activity for at least six weeks to get its engine past the pocketa-pocketa……pock…pock… stage when it can try to go back to sleep.  It’s only interrupted books that do this to me; the ones that are allowed to gallop on without any interruption longer than 48 hours aren’t going to stop completely once over 75-1oo pages.  But until they’re past the halfway point, interruptions that last a week cause a hiccup and interruptions that last a month are flameout time.

Friday morning is “horse hoof trimming time.”  I’m hoping for a calm and cooperative pair of horses.  At least it’s not raining (not supposed to rain again until Saturday night) and they’ll have big hay nets the night before.  They have hay nets tonight because it’s going to be in the low 30s in the morning…a forecast guess of 33F in the weather we’ve got could end up in the upper 20sF instead.

 

 

Comments (4)

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)