I Finished My Draft!

Well, Squiders, I’ve finished the first draft of the third book of my high fantasy trilogy.

Now, I don’t know how you guys work, but when I close to the end of a draft, I get all fidgety and restless, and all I can think about is the story, and my friends all get sick of me because I essentially just say variations of “Oh my God, I’m almost done with my book!” instead of regular conversation.

And then, when I finish the draft, there’s this feeling of, well, depression, almost. Because you don’t get to work with those characters anymore, or follow their adventures, and it’s somewhat sad.

But it’s worse this time. I invented these characters when I was 15. I laid out the trilogy (though not admittedly in a form that resembles the current project) at 16. I started writing the first draft of the first book at 22.

I’m 31 now.

I’ve literally been working with these characters for over half my life.

And the whole project has had its ups and downs, and there were a few years in there where we hit some major snags and nothing of any real consequence got done, but I’ve been thinking about and working on it for a long time now. And it’s weird to now that I’ll never sit back down and explore their world with them again.

I mean, I’m obviously not done. I’ve got to figure out how to edit a trilogy, where each book is intricately connected, rather than a single book, and then I need to, you know, actually do it. And I’d like, for these books, to go the traditional route. So I’ll get to work with them some more.

But the plot is done, and I don’t foresee any major changes to it unless my betas find something major that I’ve missed, so their story is essentially set.

And while I’ve always known how the story ends, it’s still very weird to have actually gotten there, to have written “The End.”

Any trilogy editing tips, Squiders? (Or tips in general about whatever you want?) What do you do when you finish a major project to combat the finishing depression?

Online Education and Story Research

I’m going to tell you guys about this, because apparently this is a well-kept secret.

You can take college-level courses for free on the internet.

Kit, I hear you say, what does this have to do with writing and/or reading?

Well, I’ll tell you.

I use Coursera mostly. Coursera partners with universities across the world, and they have tons of classes in all sorts of subjects. (There’s also tons of classes offered by MIT.) Not sure how the other ones work, but Coursera doesn’t really care if you complete all the class requirements or not.

Again, you say, what’s your point, Kit?

Well, guys, you know how you sometimes need to do research for your stories? Wha-hey, here’s a good research area. I’m currently taking a class called Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences, which is from Rutgers. It’s not for any specific story but just for inspiration. (I was hoping we’d focus more on cultures and mythologies, which we did in the beginning, but we’ve moved more into biology and neuroscience, which is still very interesting, but not quite what I was looking for.)

Aside from that, it’s your opportunity to take classes in whatever you want. Things you wanted to do in college but didn’t because it would mean you wouldn’t graduate on time. Things you’ve become interested in since. I think, as a writer, you need to always be learning new things and having new experiences, and this is just another venue to help you do that.

As for me, my class ends on Monday, so it’s probably time to go searching for a new class. Coursera recommends Comic Books and Graphic Novels (from my alma mater, haha) and Video Games and Learning from UW-Madison.

Have you tried one of these online college courses, Squiders? What’s you take, and how did you like it?

The Foundation Trilogy Readalong: Foundation and Empire

Moving on in our Foundation readalong, today we’re going to discuss the second book, Foundation and Empire. Last time, with Foundation, I speculated about how Asimov had written the book, and the answer was given to me in a forward that Asimov wrote in my edition of this book. (I have the 1983 version, which has some truly horrific front cover art.)

And essentially, Asimov says that the entire original trilogy was made up of (increasingly longer) short stories, originally published in magazines, which is probably why it reads like it does. Foundation had four stories; Foundation and Empire has two.

And someone remind me–was the Second Foundation mentioned at all in the first book? I feel like it’s suddenly become a fairly major plot point out of nowhere.

So, Foundation and Empire is made up of two distinct stories, two distinct crises. For those who are reading this but not reading along, the basic plot here is that the Galactic Empire was falling apart, and Hari Seldon, who was a psychohistorian (and I am taking an online psychology course, and the professor said something about psychohistory and I did a double-take), uses math to predict the course of human society and to come up with a plan to lower the dark ages between empires from 30,000 years to 1,000 years. And so he engineers a Foundation, which will manage this, though purely through Seldon’s manipulations and predictions.

The first book covers the founding of the Foundation, as well as the first three “Seldon crises.” Society automatically changes so that the Foundation endures and grows in power, according to Seldon’s predictions.

The first half of Foundation and Empire focuses on the fourth Seldon crisis. I found this one a little unsatisfying, honestly, because in previous stories the viewpoint characters were directly working to change society so that the Foundation survived the crisis. The viewpoint character here, though he tries, accomplishes nothing, and the crisis is automatically resolved without him. The only thing that seems to be of note is that this is a direct confrontation between the remains of the Empire and the Foundation. (Hence the name of the book, I assume.)

The second half is more interesting. An external crisis, one that Seldon didn’t account for in his calculations, ruins the whole thing. The Foundation falls. The Empire falls. It sets up nicely for the third book, and I’m interested to see what the Second Foundation is like.

Also of note, in the discussion for Foundation, Ian brought up how sexist the book was. And he was absolutely right. The first book has exactly two women in it, both of who are easily distracted by fashion. In the second half of Foundation and Empire, one of the main viewpoint characters–the most main, I would say–is a woman. And while there are the occasional throw-away comments that kind of made my eye twitch, she’s actually presented quite well, considering the time period (late ’40s for the original short story publication). In fact, she figures out the plot twist, saves the entire thing, and is probably the strongest character in that part of the book. So good on you, Mr. Asimov.

Reading along, Squiders? What did you think of the book? How did Bayta’s characterization strike you?

Discussion for Second Foundation will go up in early May.

When Things You Love Betray You

Have you ever really loved something, only to have that thing/person/band/television show/etc. do something that so completely turns you off you have to just cut them out of your life?

And you feel silly about it, because it’s just a band/movie/fandom/etc. and in the great scheme of things it’s not really all that important, but at the same time you’re really upset, because you put a lot of time and effort into whatever, and even though you know it has absolutely nothing to do with you, you can’t help but feel a sense of betrayal.

I was ditzing around with my trilogy playlist again this morning, and I came across some Nightwish music. You guys have probably heard me talk about Nightwish before. They’re a symphonic metal band from Finland, and they were the first band I truly loved. I knew all the members’ names and stalked every new single and album. (Of which I own a lot.)

Nightwish has been since 1999 or something. I found them in 2006, while they were between singers. They’d apparently asked the first one to leave, had an open letter explaining why on their website, and they’d yet to announce a replacement. So I found them and fell in love with them in this lull, and then they hired a new singer and released a new single and I loved her and I loved the song and I loved everything.

I saw them in concert every time they swung through the States. The latest time was in October 2012. I’d talked some friends into going to the concert, but the whole thing turned out to be a whole mess. Apparently the singer had had to go to the hospital because she was so sick, so they decided to play the set without her, recruiting the back-up vocalists from the opening band to sing. Now, these girls are excellent singers in their own rights, but they didn’t know the music (and at one point weren’t even singing the right song). It was painful. And I was embarrassed, because it was honestly the worst concert I’d ever been to, and I’d dragged my friends along and they will probably never go to a concert with me again.

One bad night doesn’t equal betrayal. But the next day, after she recovered, the singer expressed some disappointment that they’d decided to go on without her or without even asking her, and the band fired her.

It’s entirely possible that they were already having issues, but that was what did it for me. Firing one singer might have been a fluke, but two seems like just part of a horrible trend. I was so appalled at their behavior that I haven’t been able to listen to them since without this horrible feeling sinking into my stomach.

(I did listen to a couple of songs this morning and damn if the music isn’t amazing. Still upset about it, though.)

Has anything/anyone who’ve really loved ever done something that’s turned you off?

Are Bloggers Beholden to the News?

So, to continue from last Friday’s musings, I was going back through my RSS feeds and going through some articles that I’d put aside, because it seemed like I should actually read them and I didn’t have time earlier while I was catching up.

Every now and then, some controversy comes up in the scifi/fantasy community–someone does or says something sexist or racist, whether it’s an author or something at a convention, or everyone hate-tweets someone they don’t agree with hosting something or other, or someone insulted something they’d never read and received fandom backlash because of it, and I read a whole bunch of posts on the matter (usually a week or two after they happen, because I am always late to the party) from a bunch of other writers, all of whom have excellent points and are witty and brilliant.

And I almost never say anything (because, again, late to the party), but part of me wonders if eventually I’ll have to. Like, if someday, when I (hopefully) become a best-selling fantasy author, will I need to comment on the latest sexist thing that’s popped up in medieval-based fantasy or hard science fiction? (I’ve noticed people really only talk about things that directly relate to them. Probably for the best.)

I have John Scalzi’s blog on my feed, and on his blog, he’ll have controversy-related posts, and a lot of times they’ll start out something like “Well, a lot of you have asked me about x-controversy (some not even scifi-related), and so here’s a post about it.” And maybe he answers them because he’s also president of SFWA and feels some sort of social and/or political necessity to do so.

And I suppose it’s my blog and I don’t have to talk about anything I don’t want to, and it’s entirely possible that everyone else rambles about their current projects and writes alpaca poetry when they’re not writing insightful posts about the state of things.

But part of me wonders, if the day ever comes, if I’ll be able to express myself as elegantly as everyone else seems to be able to.

RSS Feeds

Well, Squiders, I did a whole bunch of marketing research before Shards was released. And some of the research I did told me that I should set up a reader and subscribe to RSS feeds that I could then use to make intelligent and interesting conversation, here on the blog and on twitter and, in theory, on any other social media I chose to use as a part of my author platform.

So I dutifully did so.

And I think I’m doing it wrong. First of all, it falls by the wayside whenever I’m really busy, and then when I come back to it, after a few weeks (or a month), it’s backed up, and I kind of speedread through everything, and invariably the most interesting things are the old ones, and conversation about them is either 1) out of date, or 2) everyone who cares has already seen it.

I’ve got my reader categories: writing, fantasy/scifi, science and mythology, and individual authors. And, unfortunately, some of these feeds are highly prolific. Very interesting, yes, but if I read everything they put out, I’d never have time for anything else.

So I’ve found I mostly just read through things, don’t use them for anything useful, and retweet interesting stories about space and archeology.

Do any of you know how to do this properly, or have any advice? Should I just give up on the whole process?

Getting Left Brain All Over My Right-Brained Activities

Have they disproved the whole right brain/left brain thing? I think they probably have but ANYWAY.

And I apologize again for the spate of writing-related posts lately. I’d like to do more reading/genre/media ones, but it turns out that, while I’m editing, it’s really easy to put together nice, well-thought out posts about high fantasy, or premise versus plot, or why it’s important to make sure your main character is an active character and why people hate inactive main characters (like Bella Swan, or Katniss in Mockingjay). I think it’s because I’m already in an analyzing mode because of editing.

And when I’m in the middle of writing (I’ve got FOUR projects to work on this month–two short stories, my high fantasy trilogy, and my scifi serial), all I can think about is how to explode my thoughts into my word processor in the quickest and most awesome way available. Quite frankly, you’re all lucky we haven’t devolved into alpaca haiku and drawings of plesiosaurs.

(That may yet come.)

ANYWAY CONTENT.

I spent some time this morning tracking down and then modifying a spreadsheet to work for April. So I needed one that kept track of overall word count and also could keep multiple projects going at the same time. (I need to modify it a bit more and add in something to keep track of total word count versus where I should be, and also add in some graphs, because GRAPHS.)

I am lazy and I prefer to track down spreadsheets on the internet and modify them versus making my own.

But the great variety of spreadsheets out there makes me realize that, despite writing being “right brained”, we do a lot of left-brained stuff to keep track of it. I don’t personally use Scrivener or any of the other manuscript organizers out there, but look at them–places to put plot, characters, scenes. Everything all nice and organized. A lot of people I know use spreadsheets, and a lot of people use calendars or timeline programs to keep their chronology straight.

Admittedly, if you don’t do a bit of organization to keep track of things, your manuscript tends to turn into an unmitigated mess, but pretty much every writer I know–and I mean the ones who are actually completing drafts and getting their stuff out there–has their own organization system.

Mine just happens to involve complicated spreadsheets, graphs, drawn calendars, and copious Google docs.

If you’re a writer, Squiders, what left-brained activities do you stuff into your writing process? (Do you have excellent spreadsheets to recommend?)

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