One Month Until NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo coming up in a month, I’m not sure what to work on. There’s a distinct possibility that I might free-write 50k words. That would probably be good for me. It will be an exercise in keeping-the-writing-fun and not-worrying-if-it-doesn’t-make-sense. First I need to come up with a character that I like, because I feel like that’s the main thing that keeps me writing.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting started on any other writing projects, so I’ve been spending most of my writing time revising last year’s Sovereign of Tel. I figure working on revisions has got to be better than doing nothing at all, right?

It’s actually been an interesting process. I’m really enjoying the story of one of the characters who was originally supposed to be a supporting character. As it turned out, the main character’s story isn’t all that interesting. So I’ve taken all the chapters from the supporting character’s POV and put them all together in a row and I’m working on trying to make it make sense.

Slightly Belated April Update

I was scheduled to finish the first draft of Tel on April 30. I think I did pretty well on that, in that I was indeed finished Monday night. Until I thought of a tiny thing I needed to add to resolve one plot line. Then on Tuesday morning I thought of one other tiny little thing I needed to add to explain what happened to one of the characters.

It made me think of that old logic puzzle (Zeno’s dichotomy paradox, I believe), which I will now adapt to the writing process: Suppose that each day a writer sits down to write, he finishes exactly half of what is left to write. How long does it take him to finish? The answer is forever! That’s pretty much what writing a novel is like. You never “finish” per se, because there is always an infinite number of things you can do to improve it. In order to move on, you have to make a conscious decision to abandon it. I imagine it’s something like having a baby, except that instead of nature performing the normal birthing process, you have to do it yourself by tearing the child from your flesh, leaving behind a massive, bloody cavity of organs, meat, and bone fragments.

Hrm. Yeah, that sounds about right.

So anyway, after I write those two tiny scenes, which I will probably do after I finish writing this post, I will be ready to abandon Tel. (Update written before posting: Those two tiny scenes are done!)

Then what? An excellent question. I am not scheduled to start my next project until June 1. I’ll have four full months to complete that one, so I expect I’m going to set an unprecedented word count goal of 150,000 for it. I used to think that my first novel submission needed to be 90k-100k, but even a 150k book is pretty short in the fantasy field. If I spend a few weeks planning, then the rest of the time writing, I should be able to meet that easily. Assuming there is enough story to fill 150,000 words, which is always a challenge.

In the intervening month of May I could do a number of things. 1) I could do nothing, which would obviously be the easiest thing, but not writing after months of writing would leave a hole in my life akin to the death of a loved one, which would leave me pretty depressed and likely to spend most of my off time playing uselessly unproductive MMOs, and then when June rolls around I won’t feel like writing and I’ll be out of practice to boot. So I’m not sure I like that path.

I could 2) continue working on the Tel draft because of the aforementioned infinite number of things I can do to improve it. However, that doesn’t seem like a productive thing to do either. It feels like this draft is at the point where it needs to be set aside to “simmer” so I can come back to it later. If I had alpha readers, this would be the point where I would send them some chapters to get some feedback.

Or I could 3) do some revisions on a previous draft. This is probably what I’m going to do. I’ll pull out Kubak Outpost, import it into Scrivener, and start revising it to fix all of the known problems in it. I was quite fond of that story but I know it has too many problems to submit it anywhere. If I spend a month correcting those problems (mainly rearranging the order of things, as I recall), I could possibly start sending out query letters for it in June, so I can start building my collection of rejection letters!

The Sovereign of Tel Draft Completed

Okay, here’s the sitch. I have finished what could loosely be defined as a “first draft” of The Sovereign of Tel. (Although, technically, it is the third draft of the March project. It’s hard to define these things. The first revision might not count since it was a totally different story and world.)

Now I face the same dilemma I had after I finished a draft of Kubak Outpost. I’ve imported everything into Scrivener for Windows, which, sadly, is the best thing out there for novel management on Windows, as far as I can tell. So now I can look at the draft from a very high level for the first time. (I used WriteMonkey during the actual writing.)

Wow, it needs work. I can clearly see that I wasn’t really into it through the entire first half of the draft. Almost all of it would need to be redone before I would feel comfortable with it. Also, the focus of the novel changed over time. Also, some sub-plots were started but I could never work them back in later. Also, it doesn’t really have a beginning.

So here’s my question. (If any of the Writing Excuses folk happen to see this, it would be an awesome topic for a podcast.) I’ve written this draft, but I know it needs work. Should I a) shelve it and go to my next project, and try not to repeat the same mistakes, or b) take some time to fix it up now while it’s still fresh in my mind?

Decision, decisions.

Monday Meta (4/9/2012)

Not much to say about yesterday’s writing. I worked on another "beginning" scene, from Ordicus Metherel’s POV the night he falls into a coma, which sort of sets the whole book into motion. I am still not happy with it, so the search for a way to start this book continues. (This one fails because there is too much information delivered. It’s really frickin’ hard to introduce a new world in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the reader.)

The other scene I worked on was sort of an introspective look at Mila the night after she went off on Hayden. Those are the kinds of scenes I generally prefer to write (getting inside characters’ heads), especially when I find my interest in a story fading. I still haven’t quite figured out what is motivating her actions, though. She has become a much bigger character than was even intended.

Burning Grain, New Characters, and Names

Yesterday’s writing: Vence rescued the Metherel cousins from the castle prison. Of course, as planned, he was caught in the process. Then I started a new chapter from Mila’s POV, where Lord Garret receives the news that someone has poisoned his troops, burned up his food stores, and freed his prisoners. He goes to have a chat with Vence, now a prisoner.

There’s another “getting things right” issue I worry about here. Does flour burn? :) I have no idea. I’m just assuming that if you dump lamp oil on a bunch of sacks of flour and grain and then set them on fire, they would actually burn. I seem to recall stories of grain silos exploding, and I think they did something like that in Mythbusters. I’m also making the possibly bold assumption that a fire would actually burn for a while inside a closed stone room inside a castle.

A new character popped up in these scenes: Cedrec the steward. I don’t know if “steward” is the historically correct job title for him, but he’s the guy who handles all the mundane bits of running a castle and reports to the lord. (In GoT terms, he might be the “Hand of the King.”) Basically I needed someone to wake up Lord Garret and tell him something bad happened, and it didn’t seem like something a lowly guard or servant would do.

It’s kind of annoying when a new character appears like this, because now I have to start thinking things like: Where did he come from? What does he look like? What’s he sound like? What does he wear? Did he work for the Andalorans before, or did he come with the castle? Is he like that guy in the White House who’s there through all the different administrations to manage the staff? But if he is, wouldn’t that be kind of awkward to work for the guy who just violently overthrew the previous castle owner? And it just goes on and on. And I’ll have to go back and insert him into some previous scenes, too.

You might be wondering where I get these names. (You probably aren’t, but that’s what I’m going to write about anyway). For this book, I use this supposedly census-based Random Name Generator with the obscurity factor set to 99 until I find something I like. Many of the names I use unchanged, which tells me there are a lot of people in the world with fantasy-sounding names. Here’s one that just came up: Indira Dilgard. That could be a character in this book. And another: Margit. A good first name for a woman. And here’s two more: Coretta and Gayle. I try to use somewhat modern-sounding names and surnames for the Elahi in Tel. The Buhites, on the other hand, typically get one or two syllable, simple names (Ril, Ali, Swen, etc.). (Like one might give to a pet.)