Posts Tagged ‘Trilogy’

Poll Results, Project Switching, and Musical Aftermath

Okay, so judging from the poll last week, the next nonfiction topic we’ll focus on is writing consistently–why you should do it, strategies for doing it, and how not to beat yourself up about it if life has other plans. We’ll start that on Thursday. Woo!

So, in the continuing saga of breaking writer’s block by starting another novel, I have switched back to book one of the trilogy and…it actually felt pretty good. Not like pulling teeth at all. I think giving myself some distance really helped, and now hopefully everything will go smoother.

That said, distance has helped me realize that the new chapter one that took me a month to write is really, really terrible. I mean, okay, not terrible. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever written. But it is lacking in relevant plot points. It introduces characters, the world, the plot just fine, but the action in the chapter itself isn’t helping anything and isn’t terribly interesting on its own. The main characters go through training for much of this book, and so I introduced the training in chapter one. I also switched chapter one viewpoints (this story is dual viewpoint between a male and a female character), so I think I eliminated the training-related tension in doing so.

That being said, it’s not like there was a lot in the last version of the story, so I need to do some brainstorming on what to do about the first chapter in general. Maybe take the training sequence out, or add something to it to make it not just a standard day, or…

But, anyway, things for another time. When I was outlining this draft I’m working on now, I did consider taking the first chapter out and starting with the second chapter (where unexpected things definitely happen during training), but it felt too in medias res-y. I know there’s something to be said about starting in the middle of something, but when you’re setting up a high fantasy trilogy it felt like the reader would be too adrift without at least a smidgen of setting and worldbuilding and plot thrown in. (If you have examples otherwise, please let me know.)

I also considered writing chapter two both ways (from the female character’s viewpoint as the starting chapter and from the male character’s point of view as the second chapter) which I may still do.

But I’m leaning towards just leaving the beginning alone to percolate and plowing ahead with the rest of the draft, and then coming back to fix the beginning later. I’ve heard that it can sometimes help to write the beginning last anyway, since you’ll know your ending and how your theme plays out and can go full circle earlier.

So, that’s that.

Also, my musical is over (closed Sunday), so I can no longer use that as an excuse to not write. I’m hoping this means I can get a little more momentum going. I was, in theory, going to be pitching this draft at the end of April, but I’m not sure I can pull out a 100K word novel in a month and a half (or that I want to), so I may have to revisit that as well.

Musical went well! I’d do another one, if they’ll take me.

How was your weekend, Squiders?

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Performance Anxiety

Let’s take a breather from the submitting/publishing for a moment, squiders. I’m having a problem at the moment that I suspect a lot of other authors occasionally run into as well.

I’m calling it performance anxiety for simplicity’s sake.

You guys know that I’ve been working on organizing a revision/rewrite of the first book of my high fantasy trilogy.

(For newer people–I outlined this trilogy in 1998, wrote the first full draft of Book 1 2004-2005, rewrote it 2009-2010, and am now hopefully doing the final major revision/rewrite, using what I’ve learned over the last several years.)

And I’m done with my prep! I’ve looked at all my conflict arcs, revamped characters, changed plot and pacing, re-outlined, looked at my worldbuilding and setting, tweaked character arcs, set theme and tone and meaning. I went through the last draft with a red pen (which is always a bit cathartic) and scribbled all over the place.

I’m ready. I can sit down and start typing any moment now.

I’ve been at this point since Monday. Tuesday I had three glorious hours to myself with which I had hoped to chug out a few thousand words. Instead, I played games on my phone and wrote a single paragraph. And I’m not even happy with said paragraph.

Last night I again had some writing time. Did I write?

No. I chatted with some other writing friends about writing and got sucked into tumblr. (::shakes fist:: tuuummmbbblllrrr)

I know why I’m not writing. It’s because I spent seven months organizing and fixing everything for this revision and still feel like I’m not quite organized enough. It’s because I told myself years ago that I’d have this book published by the age of 35, which is now only a few months away. It’s because I’ve been working on this story for over half my life and I’m worried I’m never going to get it done right.

What if I write it again and it’s still not good?

What if I’m not good enough to write this story?

Logically, I know that if I just get going, it’ll be fine. I’ll get into my groove. If nothing else, this draft has to be better than the last one if only because I am a much better writer now than I was seven years ago. And I’m certainly never going to meet my goals if I never try.

I know all that.

But there’s still an emotional block sitting in the way.

I’m going to try again in a few hours. Wish me luck.

Any tips for getting past this sort of thing, squiders? Things that have helped you in the past?

Ironically, I’ve been invited to write a story for a Lovecraft anthology, which is something that is on the edges of my comfort zone, and I’ve been procrastinating on that instead working on the story I’ve already written twice. (But now it’s done and I have no more excuses, alas.)

Depth of Setting

Well, Squiders, I’ve talked about Holly Lisle’s revision class before and how helpful I have found it when putting together my own revision process. I still reference the class often, even though I’m working on my fourth revision since I took it the first time.

There’s one lesson, Lesson 7, that deals with setting. As I mentioned sometime recently, setting is something that I’ve only recently come to appreciate as an author. I normally skip lesson 7. I did it the first time through the process, but found it unhelpful, and so skipped it for the next few novels (which were, coincidentally, Shards and City of Hope and Ruin).

But as you guys know, I’m working on the revision of the first book of a high fantasy trilogy, one I’ve been working on for more than half my life at this point (sheesh). I decided I needed to do lesson 7 for this one because of the complexity of the setting. This first book takes place entirely within a non-human species and their homeland, and it’s been hard work over the years dealing with mythology, customs, geography, history, and all the miscellany that comes with building your own society from scratch.

You see, lesson 7 is about setting, but it’s not about the layout of your world–it’s about how your world works. The customs. The philosophy. The way your magic system works and its limitations. What items are available to your characters and why they’re needed/make sense. The objects that make up your world–the doors, the buildings, the plants, the animals.

And I got to tell you, I put this lesson off for a long time. I reached it at the beginning of September. I read back over the lesson. And then I avoided it for approximately three weeks. The thought of having to go back into the story and pull out what made the world work–or didn’t–was overwhelming.

But I finally got my act together and went into it. And I’m so glad I did. Just by going through how the world was designed to work and how it was presented in the current draft actually helped me work through a ton of worldbuilding issues that I’ve been struggling with for years. I hadn’t expected that at all, especially not with how useless the process was with my YA paranormal.

It just goes to show you, again, that each novel is individual and has its own needs.

Of course, now the next step in the progress is to consolidate everything that’s wrong with the novel (the list is practically novel-length itself) and then put together a plan of action for fixing things (and, to be perfectly honest, rewriting most of the dang thing).

Ever tried something in revision that proved to be way more helpful than you expected? Thoughts on setting/worldbuilding?

How Much Can You Plot the Heart of a Story?

I’m not going to lie, Squiders. I’m having a ton of issues with the edit on the first book of my fantasy trilogy. I’m getting nowhere fast, and even when I do get somewhere, it’s only to find myself facing a cliff face with insufficient climbing gear. I’ve never had so many issues. Normally, when I do an edit, it’s more of organizational exercise, with clear goals in sight. This is just a mess.

As a short background, I decided to write this trilogy at 16, based off some roleplaying I’d done with some friends (not your classic ‘I’m going to write a novel off my D&D campaign’ riff though–this was based on Star Trek). For my second Nano in 2004, I wrote the first draft, mostly based off my 16-year-old thoughts. That draft was extra terrible, but it was the first draft I ever finished. In 2009/2010 I wrote the current draft of the story, addressing a lot of worldbuilding issues from the original draft, as well as some plotting issues. That’s the draft I’m working on now.

When I revise, I tend to follow the method Holly Lisle lays out in her How to Revise Your Novel course, with some modifications, since I’ve used the process several times over at this point and know where I have issues. (For example, I always lay out a calendar and place key events on it, so I have an idea of what happens where and can visualize time passing, which is not something she includes but is something I need.)

(It’s an excellent class and I recommend it, but I don’t believe it’s currently available.)

Normally it’s just the process of going through everything and working through it, and then I’m good to go for the actual revision. This time it’s like pulling teeth.

During the fourth step, you’re supposed to identify your core conflict. And it took me several days, and even then, I had to go with a different conflict than is written in the book, because the current core conflict doesn’t work. The current step is to identify what matters about the story, the reason people will care about and remember the story for. I spent about half an hour last night just staring at my notebook. Overnight I think I’ve worked something out, but I’m still not sure it’s quite right.

This morning I had the thought that instead of hodgepodging this book together over 15 years, I wish I had outlined. But then I got to thinking, well, yes, the plot is a mess and could have maybe been saved if I had outlined (though I think I did outline the current draft, at least a bit), but what about this heart and soul sort of stuff? Can you sit there before a story is written and say “these are my core themes, this is why this story will resonate, and this is why people will care”?

I’ve certainly never done it. But normally, when I go through this revision process, that stuff has already been built in subconsciously. And maybe this story had this too, once upon a time, but it’s gone through so many iterations and rewrites and complete upheavals that whatever that original core was is gone. Or maybe, when I first started this story oh so many years ago, I didn’t understand that a story needed that sort of thing.

Who knows? But now I face the laborious task of adding it back in. Do not envy me, Squiders. This is not fun.

What do you think, Squiders? Can you plot out the core of your story, or is that something that has to come more naturally?

New Directions

Oof, squiders. Yesterday was rough. On top of it all, our one-day book blitz ran, so I needed to stop by the many many blogs throughout the day to respond to comments and whatnot. Oy vey, that’s tiring! I’ll give you guys an update on how our new marketing things are working out thus far next week. Probably Friday.

We’ve got City of Hope and Ruin on sale for $0.99 for the blitz, and our giveaway for a $50 Amazon gift card is still open for another 12 hours or so. All the information you need to enter can be found here. Also, you should totally pick up the ebook while it’s on sale, because it’s $4.99 normally. 80% off! Woo!

So, marketing for CoHaR is winding down, though there’s still some stuff to do–we’re doing a longer blog tour in July/August that will need guest posts and interviews written, and there’s book stores/libraries to talk to, and the like, but in general, I can move on to other things.

I thought I’d talked about this here, but I don’t see it anywhere, so maybe I just talked about it over at Turtleduck Press. At the beginning of the year, I made a spreadsheet of all my writing projects for the year, with the dates I thought I’d work on them and some basic notes about current status. And then working on CoHaR ate everything and I found myself extremely behind on the whole idea.

At first I thought I’d just catch up on everything, but then logic caught up, so I decided to just pick the most important thing on the list and make sure that got done, and everything else could get done as there was time.

So, I’m revising/rewriting the first book in my high fantasy trilogy. You guys probably remember me talking about this here. (I thought I had a tag specifically for it, but apparently I don’t and that’s dumb.) I wrote the first draft on Book 3 in 2014. The current draft of Book 1 was written 2009/2010, and ew, is it bad.

Like, really really bad. Hence the rewriting part of said revision. I’m sorry I asked people to read this version, which is saying something, because I was really sorry I made people read the original version (written 2004/2005, and my first finished novel draft).

You know, if I ever get this book done decently, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.

So, that’s the current plan! Revising/rewriting. I did get slightly sidetracked by the whole Shards thing (and also looking a language building class), but I’m focused again now.

How was your Thursday, squiders? Big plans for the weekend?

When Your Brain is All Over the Place

I find myself kind of in a weird place at the moment, Squiders. Normally I am excellent at compartmentalizing my writing, at working on a single big project at a time (with some side smaller projects), and everything is fine and dandy and lovely and so forth.

But recently, I’ve been all over the place and I think I’m starting to go a bit mad.

As you guys know, I’ve been working on editing a YA paranormal novel. That’s actually going pretty well. I hit 25K on the edit this morning, which puts me about a third of the way done, and I think it’s more even in tone and plot flow than the original draft was. I don’t think this will be the final draft, in the end, but I do think it’s getting much better.

I’ve been working on a consistency challenge–making sure I get in at least half an hour every day on the edit–which is definitely helping.

So all’s quiet on the Western Front.

I’ve also been attempting a short story a week this month, which is going though less swimmingly, but I was admittedly a little overambitious. Probably shouldn’t be attempting a full short story outline/draft/edit in a week’s time frame while also editing/rewriting a novel, but so far I have written something every week. The first week I wrote a novel-related drabble. Last week I wrote a prompt-response short that I promised my sister for her writing blog about two months ago. This week I wrote a novel-related drabble AND finished up a short story I started in February of 2012.

The drabbles are not related to my YA paranormal novel, however. Which leads us to probably the most frustrating aspect of my sudden inability to focus like I normally do.

Do you remember earlier in the year, when I was finishing up the first draft of the third book of a high fantasy trilogy? Well, I sent that sucker out to betas, and in some cases I sent all three books out to people. And I asked everyone to have it done by October and then went off to work on my YA paranormal novel.

But the issue is that I haven’t been able to get the high fantasy trilogy out of my head since then. I’ve read over the drafts myself multiple times, and every time I get comments from someone else, I read through their comments and tend to get sucked into the draft myself. I’ve started an editing document where I’m keeping track of things I want to change, from character names to new scenes to tweaks to existing scenes. I’ve pondered what the characters did after the end of the third book, or what they did before the first book. I’ve had character arc discussions with anyone who would let me. I have a non-standard “hero” who does bad things at the beginning before he reforms, and everyone has different things they dislike about him, so I’ve been trying to figure out if and where things are too bad (but they are literally different for every single person and I am going to go insane).

Do you know how distracting it is to work on an edit when your brain is trying to edit something else? Normally I might follow my brain’s lead and switch edits, but there’s no reason to do so until I get all my comments back from my various betas. And that’s still months out.

Any advice, Squiders? About any of it?

Now What?

Happy May Day, Squiders! (The expression in of itself amuses me. I am easily amused.)

Well, April went quite well. I got all four projects done (including my novel draft which I am apparently still hung up on) and wrote over 35K, which means it might be worth it to go for Nano again this year. Depending on what November brings. And I realized I’m over 85K for the year already, which isn’t too shabby.

But now I find myself with a conundrum. What do I do now? The trilogy can’t be touched until I get beta comments back (and I got betas crawling out of the woodwork, which was a bit of surprise but gratifying) and I don’t want to start a new novel (I’m trying to not have a giant backlog of first drafts even though I got the best idea yesterday).

I should go into editing, but I am doing something later this month that will essentially eat half this month and make it impossible to edit (writing might be doable if I take a notebook along and handwrite) and I hate to leave off in the middle of an edit. Editing requires so much focus, and you have to keep track of everything, and I almost feel like I’ll have to start all over again if I start now and then take a two week break.

I have my scifi serial that I suppose I could get ahead on, but that kind of defeats the purpose, which is to make sure I’m writing regularly at least once a month.

So what do I do with myself? I don’t want to just waste the first two weeks here, because I’ve been so productive thus far this year. Do I start a new novel knowing I’m going to drop it come June? Do I do nothing and go mad? Do I do some sort of short story challenge?

Suggestions would be highly appreciated. It’s only the first and I’m already going insane from inaction.