BCS Year Three

September 28, 2012 at 6:31 am (Stories online, Writing work)

The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Year Three is now out!  My story “Letters of Fire”appears within, along with a lot of fantastic work from BCS authors.  If you have a moment, go take a look.  (There’s also a special offer at the moment — buy The Best of BCS Year Three and get a copy of Year One or Year Two free!)

Work on the new draft is going well, but I’m outlining about a chapter ahead of where I’m writing the draft. I feel a little like those cartoons where Bugs Bunny is laying down the railroad track about two feet ahead of the train (I’m sure there is a Looney Tunes cartoon with that schtick, but damned if I can remember which one).  My general outline remains the same, but the details — the passage from A to B — is changing day by day.   Still, it’s getting done and on the page, and I like how it’s turning out.  On!

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cabbages, gingerroot, and a crucifix

September 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm (Writing work)

Some days it’s a slow stream, just strong enough to keep the mill wheel turning.

Some days I can feel the story forming, still so fragile that if I poke at it too much it will collapse into a heap of unusable shards.

Some days I have to catch it before it slips away — or, more likely, before I realize that it’s a bad idea.

Some days it is a bad idea, and I do it anyway, giggling over just how ludicrous this is and what am I even thinking to write this.  (Somehow, those often seem better when I come back to the drafts.)

Some days the plots spin out one after the other until I’m curled up in bed well after I should have fallen asleep, scrawling barely-legible sentences in my notebook.

Some days there’s a pressure at the back of my head because I’ve almost got it, I’ve almost found the key, and when the last piece slides into place it’s like the world finds a new axis.

Some days it’s just putting one stone on another.

And some days I can look back and see that yes, I’ve built a lot and yes, there’s still a lot to add, and the world is just getting bigger around me.

Hello world.  I’m writing again.  How are you?

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Bring back the extras!

May 4, 2012 at 7:17 am (Writing work)

Best part of revision today: bringing back some minor characters in order to create some emotional resolution.  Also, there’s something satisfying about cutting out whole swaths of text.  I know I’ll have to write more to make up for it, but the act of paring down has its own satisfaction.

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Or by turning the fight scene into a dance-off. That’d work too.

May 2, 2012 at 7:58 am (Writing work)

Best part of today’s revision: realizing that I can fix most of the problems with a chapter by moving the action to another location — which will give me a little more of a chance to flesh out a previously-flattish character.  Simple solutions rock.

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also, hijinks and/or mayhem

May 1, 2012 at 7:31 am (Writing work)

Best part of revision today: reducing an entire chapter’s worth of comments to “ADD SHENANIGANS.”


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It’s the little things that make it worthwhile

April 24, 2012 at 6:23 am (Writing work)

Best part of revision so far: finding a comment of “FUCK YEAH!” and a scribbled heart.  I love my crit group.

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when blog back bring pie

March 20, 2012 at 8:00 am (Writing work)

After a lovely weekend in which we celebrated Piemas (the holiday when everyone sits around and eats pie), I’ve decided to try to update a little more in the coming weeks.  Unfortunately, there are two stumbling blocks: I’m currently composing a first draft — and we’ve seen how well I do with blogging first drafts — and BRAWL will be giving me comments on a novel manuscript at the end of the week.  Or, more accurately, they’ll be handing me a heap of shredded pages and some very kind but adamant critiques.  Funny, but the closer I get to the crit session, the more I’m convinced that this draft really wasn’t up to snuff, and I’m going to get my butt kicked for it.

Of course the next step is to remove butt from floor, dust off, and revise — but waiting for that kick is a little annoying.

In the meantime, though, I’m planning to post a bit this week, probably on research and structure.  Between that and this first-draft work, I might be able to keep my mind off the crit.

And I should make more pie.  Because pie is always good.  Sometimes strange (the margarita pie?  the “liquid pie”  cocktail from a few years back?  the rabbit-and-crayfish pie with crayfish sticking out of the top?), but always good.  Even if I’m just regarding it from a distance (those crayfish were looking at me funny, I swear).

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More revisions, day eleven

January 30, 2012 at 8:33 am (Writing work)

This was unexpected.

I finished the revisions today. Yes, the chapters at this end of the story are short, and yes, the very last few weren’t too bad to begin with . . . but I really didn’t expect to be done this soon. I think this may be the difference between a major reconfiguration draft (such as one that follows a critique) and a polishing draft.

Overall, it’s a good novel. It has flaws, but that’s why I’m asking BRAWL to take a look at it. In the words of another BRAWL member, they will fall upon the manuscript like a pack of erudite hyenas. And when they’re done, I’ll have an idea which flaws can be patched and which are dealbreakers.

And now? Now I set it aside, fix those short stories that have been awaiting edits and send them out, and then get back to work on research for the tangled next project. I have a couple of scenes in mind already; maybe I’ll write those and then see where they fit later on.

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More revisions, day ten

January 27, 2012 at 10:00 am (Writing work)

Two more chapters, one of which had been giving me some trouble before. I may have reached fatigue point with this manuscript; I think there are flaws, but I can’t yet see them, and knowing they must be there is driving me nuts. Or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.

And I get a few more pages into Chapter Twenty-three while I’m at it. I should get more of it done, but I’m trying a new morning schedule and if I’m going to get moving, I need to finish up quick. Maybe I’ll take care of it when I get home from work.

Actually, that sounds like a good idea. (Later note: yes, but I didn’t do it. Oh well.)

Comments from manuscript:
No longer true
He knows in prev. chapter — change there so he finds out here
Change names to some consistent form
Condense and put earlier
This sounds pompous (well, more so than usual)
Need physical details
Where are they?
Is this necessary?
No time for a long discussion here

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More revisions, day nine

January 26, 2012 at 11:52 am (Writing work)

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty, both of which need lots of work. Nineteen is too long by far, partly because a lot happens and partly because the fight scene is far too padded. There’s also a good deal that needs to be glossed over, unless I want to write a tedious travel scene.

Chapter Twenty has a scene that I wrote back when I was still working on the first draft of the prior book, and while it’s a great scene, it also shows its age. Names and circumstances have changed, one so substantially that I stop work to go back through the manuscript to make sure one character is no longer referred to by a certain title. I find two instances in chapters I’ve already revised. That’s embarrassing.

Three-fourths done. This might work.

Comments from MS:

Condense into 1-2 grafs at most
Cut entire page (usually indicated by one big slash of the pen)
They’d have no need for this
He knows this already — no need to tell
Make sure reader knows where [thing] is
What does this mean?
Reconcile with several-day journey
She’s heard this language before, would know its name

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More revisions, day eight

January 25, 2012 at 9:50 am (Writing work)

For a number of reasons, I get time to revise, but not with my marked-up manuscript. So I spend the time revising a short story instead, one that BRAWL took a look at some time ago. Strangely, it takes longer to revise twenty-five pages of short story than twenty-five pages of novel, probably because short stories have much less room for error. Or maybe it’s just that I know this novel will be going to BRAWL, while the story’s closer to sending out. It still needs a readthrough, but it’s almost ready to go.

It’s also an example of a weird-inspiration story: I dreamed one of the major scenes in this story almost ten years ago, then tried to write a story around that scene. It failed, miserably, but the story remained on my computer. Then last fall, I started poking with some of the ideas, switched around a few characters, and took another crack at it. And this time, it worked — and that particular scene is still very close to the dream. It doesn’t happen often that I get handed gifts from my subconscious (or gifts that don’t need tailoring, anyway), and it feels a little strange to have the context for it now.

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More revisions, day seven

January 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm (Writing work)

I was right; two chapters take up all of my allotted writing time, plus an extra half hour. It’s worth it, though; I pare down a lot of redundant conversation, add a scene that not only provides a way of showing what I’d been telling the reader in the first draft, but sets up the next scene fairly well.

I ended up removing a totally gratuitous shirtless scene in this chapter in the first round of revisions, and I thought I’d miss it more.  Nope, made the right decision.

Even with today’s slowdown, I’m still about two-thirds done with this draft.  I did not expect to be here so soon.  It’s making me impatient to get the whole thing done, which is not a good thing.

Comments from the manuscript:
(Weird situation here: I had several pages with no changes, but on rereading I decided they were entirely irrelevant and collapsed them down to a paragraph.  Go me?)
Need a beat or something before the attack
Really? (This happens when my first draft has only the barest idea of how something works.  Second draft gets cranky.)
Let him state what the problem is instead of what isn’t
These are excuses, not reasons
Need an actual plan here, not handwavy (from either me or the character)
He’s never seen [X], no comparison (Curse you, limited point of view!)
Gloss — a day passes
20th century slang in wrong era

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More revisions, day six

January 23, 2012 at 9:56 am (Writing work)

Three more chapters down, but the next two are going to take some work. This was a lull in the action, and from about Chapter Seventeen on there are going to be very few pauses for breath.

Two of today’s chapters were new from scratch last draft, which is again mildly reassuring. They have their own flaws — I have a bad tendency to repeat revelations if I’m not sure where they should go — but they don’t have the longer-established flaws of the other chapters. Which, unfortunately, is what I’m up against with tomorrow’s work. I suspect I won’t be able to maintain this three-chapter-a-day pace.

On the bright side, I’m liking some of my characters more than I did before.

Comments from MS:

Reconcile with end of prev. chapter (this is a problem when writing chapters that have cliffhangers; change one and the other needs to be adjusted)
Be careful when name changes (a problem with a character who goes by more than one name)
Where is [character]? What’s he doing?
Tone too harsh for this conversation
No longer necessary
Put flashback here but quick and less gross-out
Show surroundings — onlookers?

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More revisions, days four and five

January 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm (Writing work)

Day Four:  Is it only day four?  What is going on?  How can this be going so quickly?  HOW DID THIS GET HERE I AM NOT GOOD WITH NOVEL anyway.

Chapter Eight takes a while, but most of that is cutting irrelevant matter.  Character development is fine, but redundant development at the expense of plot less so.  Chapter Nine is one I mostly wrote from scratch in the last draft, after realizing I’d revised everything All Wrong.  That it still holds up is, I think, a good sign.

I even manage to get Chapter Ten revised, and that was one that gave me so much trouble in the last draft.  Exposition chapters are always iffy; in early drafts, my characters kept sitting down for tea and plot-related revelations.  Nice and cozy for them, less so for the plot.

Comments from the MS:
Use this to intro chapter
Need dialogue beat here (the pace of action and dialogue is something that needles me a lot at this draft)
Cut (repeat x15)
Reconcile with earlier cut (i.e., something happens “again” here, but if the first instance has been cut, there’s no point in “again.”)
Clarify where everything is
Cut — remnant of earlier draft (a character remembers something that now never happened)
Build up to revelation — check language vs. previous use
Remove filter (Lots of “he felt X” or “she saw Y” dilutes the immediacy of an action.  Showing the action rather than perception of action usually is better)
Too little time to make that judgment

Day Five: I’m almost half done.

Three more chapters down.  I think I know why I’m moving so quickly, and I know it can’t last; the last few chapters have some serious blocking issues.  Not writer’s block, but theater blocking: who is doing what when and where.  Most important for combat scenes, but I’ll need it for description as well.  These chapters, though, were in pretty good shape the first time around, and so they’re not in need of much change.

I’ve also reached the stage where, if a sentence I’ve marked in need of revision isn’t doing anything, I’m more likely to cut it than fix it.  This is a ruthless approach, but it does streamline quite a bit.

Comments from the MS:
Find and replace [name].  (I choose one that I may still have to change, but it’s better.)
Syntax is wrong
Show what he’s doing and to what
Reconcile with earlier attitude
No nostalgia
Match rhythm of second clause
This should creep her out
Cut entire page; need better sting at end of chapter

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More revisions, day three

January 20, 2012 at 8:05 am (Writing work)

Chapters Six and Seven today, and they move more slowly than the others.  Six has a number of pieces that add nothing, so need to be cut, but still needs a better sense of the passage of time. Seven needs an ending that has more of a punch, and I think I get it almost right.

Comments from the MS:
Cut, split, clarify (over and over again)
Add implication of later problem
Add motive for later
You just said this above!
Connection is iffy
Too detailed — he wouldn’t notice this straight off
Tense is off and too much of a digression (shame, because it was a cute little anecdote, but really had no point or connection to what’s going on)
Put bit from p. 67 here
This whole ending is off — give no time to do anything yet, no preparation

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