Archive for March, 2022

I Think I’ve Got It

Well, squiders, I’d like to say I’ve been hard at work and have made great progress on my revision, and that everything is going fine and I am close to meeting my goals.

I would very much like to say that.

Unfortunately, the truth is that Life has really gotten in the way over the last few weeks and I haven’t had much time to work.

(Well, I take that back. Yes, my time has been limited, but I’m also running into the problem I had the last two years where I’m so stressed that when I do find a bit of time I can’t focus and instead play phone games or something useless.)

It’s all very frustrating, because I can see myself falling into the issues of the previous years and goddamnit I want to get things done!

Now, all that being said, I have made progress. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the revision, which, while not the most useful thing, isn’t too awful.

I’ve also spent some time writing some related scenes about the changes, to see if they fit with the themes and larger narrative, and so far so good, so I think we’re good to move forward.

The next step, I think, is to make a list of each chapter (and their summaries) and map out what changes need to go where.

I still haven’t figured out how to do the actual revision without rewriting from scratch (it’s easier for my brain to add the changes in if I’m writing everything out, but it takes longer and I would like to figure out how to just edit where I need to edit), but I think maybe I need to print out the chapters that need the most changes and map them on paper, and then I can just put them in.

Progress! Just not as much as I wanted.

I also bit off more than I can chew for the month, I think, which is adding to my stress. Hopefully I can just prioritize things, however, and that should help.

How’s your March going, squiders? Reaching your goals?


WriYe and Pantsing

It’s that time of month. March’s prompt from WriYe reads as such:

Planner, pantser or plantser? Why?

Okay, quick runthrough for the new people (because we’ve definitely talked about pantsers and planners before)–planners outline before they start writing, pantsers start writing without planning and make it up as they go, and plantsers are somewhere in the middle.

(Arguably almost everyone is a plantser of some shade.)

So! I definitely started as a pantser. I remember my first Nano way back in 2003. It was a murder mystery, and I was 10000 words in before I knew who the killer was. The next several novels went the same way, where I just made it up as I went. This led to Issues, most specifically pacing and the fact that some stories (my YA horror that I poke at occasionally, and Shards‘ first draft) would change tone/genre in the middle.

(My YA horror went from fun high school romp to horror, and Shards went from romance to adventure. You can’t really do that and get away with it, in most cases.)

(There are, of course, exceptions to everything. I’m sure there are novels out there that undergo tone/genre changes at the halfway point and are brilliant.)

I think it was…probably the second draft of Book 1 (2009/2010 time frame) where I sat down and planned out the story before I started writing. Of course, it was also a second draft, so I knew generally where the story was going (makes outlining WAY easier), but I did plan it out to some extent, because I needed to make changes and changes are always easier if you know what you’re doing and why.

I want to say I also outlined Book 2 (written 2010/11), though with a much simpler outline than what I currently use.

And then I spent a few years revising, and in 2014 started the space dinosaur story with a different but still simpler outline. The space dinosaur outline is significant because it fixed pacing, which had been my major issue up to that point.

After that we get into the City of Hope and Ruin timeframe, which I co-wrote and, consequently, adapted to Siri’s outlining process. Siri’s outlining process was WAY BETTER than what I had been doing up to that point. I combined it with the space dinosaur outlining and occasionally the phase outlining that I used for Books 1/2 (and still use for short stories) and that is my current outlining process.

It is lovely, and I find it works really well for my novella and novel projects.

But would I consider myself a planner? No. At most I’m going to have like, 10 pages of outlining and notes before I start a story. When I think planner, I think someone who has the exact events of each chapter planned out, and knows how long each chapter is going to be, and has already figured out all of their character quirks and worldbuilding, and has mapped out the whole series if, indeed, it’s going to be a series, and knows the rise/fall of their scenes and so forth and so on.

I would love to be a planner. But I can’t do it. My brain gets bored of the whole project and I never write the thing. Oh well. From what I understand from acquaintances who are planners, the actual writing goes really easily because they’ve figured everything out in the planning stage.

So I am a plantser, and I suspect I will stay that way. As I said above, my process is working really well, and it’s dynamic enough that I can change it to fit each individual project. (For example, when I wrote my cozy it required way more pre-planning of where everyone was at what times, and I also use a timeline for longer duration stories that take place over several months.)

Anyway, that’s me. How are you doing, squiders? I need major non-writing projects to stop popping up, thank you very much.

Shannara Readthrough: Running with the Demon

In late 2020, I started watching the first season of the Shannara Chronicles, and at the time I talked here on the blog about how The Wishsong of Shannara was my gateway book into adult fantasy and how that, now that Terry Brooks is done writing Shannara books, I could, in theory, go back and read them all in chronological (not publication) order.

(We only watched the first season of the Shannara Chronicles. It’s my understanding that the events of season two don’t have anything to do with the books, really.)

According to the Wikipedia page for Shannara, there’s 42 works in the series. I hunted down the first one, a short story called “Imaginary Friends,” originally published in 1991, in an anthology in early 2021.

Next up is Running with the Demon, the first of the Word and the Void trilogy, published in 1997.

I was actively reading the Shannara books in ’97 (which ages me, but shhhhh) but at the time it wasn’t clear that these books were related. After all, Brooks has multiple fantasy series, and it seemed like this was just another one. (Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold! is a good one. There’s a talking dog person.)

The original Shannara Trilogy (Sword, Elfstones, Wishsong) are pretty much straight fantasy. I think there may have been vague hints that they were post-apocalyptic in there, but if so, they’re very subtle. I don’t know how much of all that Brooks had planned out at the beginning.

Running with the Demon does not feel like a Shannara book to me, though admittedly it’s been a while. It takes place modern-day-ish (no year is mentioned) in Hopewell, Illinois, a midwestern small town. Multiple viewpoints, but mostly following 14-year-old Nest Freemark.

I kind of thought we would ease into the fantasy, but no, we jump right in. Nest has magic, as have at least six generations of women in her family. (The magic is unspecified, but can be used to attack people as long as you make eye contact.) There are Feeders, shadow creatures that only Nest and her grandmother can see, which feed on negative emotions. There are sylvans, which are small, nature protectors that look like stick dolls.

All of this is very confusing to me, because none of this stuff exists in the later (chronological) books.

In addition to all that, there are demons in service of the Void, and, to counteract them, Knights in service to the Word, who are fighting a long-term good vs. evil battle.

To say that this book was not what I was expecting is an understatement. There’s already magic, even before the apocalypse? Where did this magic go, after the world falls apart? What happens to the Word and the Void and all that jazz a thousand years or whatever down the line?

I have a vague understanding of what happened based on the Shannara books I’ve read, where civilization collapsed and people evolved into distinct races–elves and goblins and trolls and so forth. There already being magic before hand was unexpected, for some reason.

I guess that’s part of why we’re doing this. To see the evolution of the world throughout all the books.

The next story in sequence is the second Word and the Void trilogy, A Knight of the Word. I’m going to give it a month or so before I get to it.

Fingers Crossed

Okay, squiders. I’m still going through the feedback from the marathon, but I think I’ve figured it out.

(Turns out there’s a lot of marathon feedback to go through, and some of it is just grammatical which is unhelpful in this particular instance.)

Part of the problem I’ve had with the beginning of the story for God knows how many iterations is how to properly pace the beginning to give the characters the time they need to build a relationship while still keeping up tension. It’s a balancing act, certainly, one that has gotten better with each iteration (I still recall the first draft, where they started in a different city and spent the first third of the book getting to the main city before the main plot even got going).

(Ah, to be young and unaware of structure.)

But I think I can solve both the pacing balancing AND the internal conflict bit by moving up a plot point to happen just before the story starts (right now, it’s in chapter…six, I want to say, which isn’t really doing anything and can probably be taken out after I move this).

So right now, the plot goes something like: FMC moves to capital > hints of prophecy > war is declared (and so on, to be vague about everything).

So I think I move it so the war being declared is the catalyst for the FMC to move. Then war is already looming throughout the beginning of the story, plus it gives Lana some internal conflict because the war will have already affected her life, versus everyone around her, who are operating under the “it’s awful, but it’s not affecting me” state of things. PLUS it adds in some tension to her relationship with the MMC, because she can feel conflicted about building relationships in a place she doesn’t intend to stay.

With the exception of chapter six (or whatever it is) which can just quietly go into the night, most of the other chapters don’t have to change that much, either–just change internal monologue and dialogue, tweak motivations, etc.

This…this might be the answer.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, squiders.

Also, I’m going to take next week off of the blog. Hopefully when I come back the week after, I will have successful news to share with you all.

Revision Uncertainty

Okay, squiders. I have finally started my revision on Book 1. Well, a week or so ago. I read through the current draft (put it in the mode that makes it like a book and occasionally clicked on a comment to see what it said) and took some notes. I still need to look over the feedback I got from the critique marathon last summer, but hopefully I shall get to that here today or tomorrow.

But I find myself in a bit of a pickle.

So, I’ve revised books before. I use a modified version of the process Holly Lisle teaches in her How to Revise Your Novel class, which I’ve found to be very useful over the years. Heck, Book 1 has been revised this way itself, to get it into its current state, which is a million times better than the previous draft was and is, in general, pretty solid.

The problem is the beginning. My critique people last summer rightly pointed out that one of my two viewpoint characters is lacking internal conflict at the beginning of the story. She’s fine later, once the main plot is rolling along, but at the beginning, she’s lacking.

I suspect what happened is that I’ve got two viewpoint characters (chapters alternate, for the most part), and the other one has given me issues for years. Back when these two characters were characters I role-played (many years and a couple universes ago), he was essentially the villain. So every iteration of the story I’ve had to tame him down a bit to fit the plot. He got a major overhaul between the last and the current draft, and I’m really happy with him now–he’s sympathetic and believable, even if he still does questionable things from time to time. But I think, since he was so difficult compared to the other viewpoint character, that I mostly focused on him and saw her as being essentially fine (probably just by comparison). And now she’s lacking, and I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do with her.

And how to approach the revision as a whole. As I mentioned, once the main plot gets rolling, the story mainly needs tweaks (a couple of subplots get a little lost in the middle, but it should be relatively easy to weave them back in). But I’ve never just revised part of a story. Normally I do the whole thing, and it takes forever, but that what I’m used to. I’ve never had a draft before that’s mostly working but having issues in a few places.

Plus, because I did such a massive overhaul of everything last time, it feels weird to change things. Like, this is a story I have written on and off for eighteen years (holy crap), and almost nothing is the same as that first 2004/5 draft. Almost everyone has a different personality than they started with, half the character have different names, the plot has changed and subplots have been added or taken out. So I haven’t had any issues making changes, til now. But now, it feels weird. Sigh. Brains are weird.

Anyway, I spent some time talking to a friend on Tuesday about Lana (my female MC) and her lack of internal conflict, and we came up with something at the time, but in retrospect it was more of a character arc than internal conflict, so I may be back where I started. Hopefully going through the marathon feedback will help, but if I recall, the internal conflict issue didn’t come out until a discussion after the fact.

So, wish me luck. Hopefully this gets sorted quickly and I can get to the actual revision, once I have ideas and a process in place.

Happy Saturday, squiders!

Theater Thoughts

So, the show is over! Hooray! I had a good time, we sold out the run, and we got two and a half standing ovations. No one messed up in any obvious ways, and the bigger, mobile one, despite many tears and arguments over the length of rehearsal, came up to me as we were breaking down the set and said, “Mom, thanks for not letting me quit.”


(He’s also decided he’s going to do every musical from now on, but when I suggested doing children’s dinner theater or doin a summer show at the local kids performing arts troupe, he was having none of it. Sigh.)

I do think I will stick with my plan of not doing the musicals going forward (not sure the bigger, mobile one is allowed to do them without me, so that’s going to be a thing), or at least I will need to look at them closely before going in and remember how I feel about them and make the decision knowing I’m probably going to be frustrated with the casting.

Added on to the musical is that my high school theater teacher, who was a major influence on me, passed away this weekend. (Kind of ironic to be late to that news because I was busy performing.)

So I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of days thinking about high school theater, and how great a time I had and how much I learned, even though my teacher was kind of a jerk and was prone to cussing at us when he was frustrated. He really did provide us with an excellent program–lots of opportunities to try out different things, and always pushing us out of our comfort zones. We did three shows a year: a drama, a comedy, and a musical (I only did my senior musical, not getting cast in the earlier ones, so you see that this is an ongoing weak point). One of those would be Shakespeare (not the musical). Plus, on top of that, we had a children’s theater troupe that would go to local elementary schools and perform, the occasional one act play festival, improv competitions, and whatever he got it into his head to do.

(He was a bit of a mad genius. He’d come up with these ideas for shows that sounded crazy, but were always amazing in the end.)

Kind of weird, the two events coinciding. Lots of confusing feelings.

But, anyway! Now on to revising Book 1, which is going about as horribly as I feared. But we shall persevere. More on that later in the week.

Spring looms, squiders! See you in a few!