Sunday, June 30, 2013

Should Have Stayed Buried

A week ago, I started reading a book I finished back in 2005.  I had this idea of rewriting it from the POV of the main antagonist, and reviving her personal story arc as its own book, really delving into what it means to serve a dark god and then lose everything, including that god.

I refer to this idea in the past tense, as the reread completely killed my desire to go back to this story.

I think it's safe to say a lot of writers look back at their older work and cringe.  But reading this book was like checking off a list of how not to write a novel, and I'm flabbergasted that I ever thought this thing was good enough to be published.  Not joking at all here.  Prologue with all kinds of mysterious portents that's too vague for its own good?  Check.  First chapter starts with the main character waking up from a dream?  Check.  Main character looks in a mirror so there's a reason to describe her?

Gods help me, check.  And to go one worse, I spent half a chapter having a supposedly mysterious minstrel tell the entire backstory to an audience.  I'm kind of surprised they didn't fall asleep.

I also spent paragraphs describing things like the stone and wood a town was mostly constructed of, carvings on unimportant walls, and dozens of other tiny and irrelevant details.  The word count is over 177,000, and it was hard not to start cutting things out while I read.  All in all, the whole thing is ridiculous, and I'd like to formally apologize to everyone who read it way back when.  After three days, I gave up on rereading the entire thing and skimmed large chunks, only reading the main antagonist's POV parts.

The thing is, it's not my bad writing that makes me want to give up on this idea.  It's that I'm not interested in working in this kind of world anymore.  The story amounts to what Jim Butcher called "sword and horse" fantasy, and writing that bores me now.  I don't think there's anything truly special or interesting about the world it takes place in, and while the history holds some good ideas, it's not enough.

Despite all that, I'm disappointed that I feel this way.  I thought I had something good.  I thought I would make this the second book I wrote this year, and even said I wanted to do so in an earlier entry.  But the thought of facing down this dull world, this black-and-white mythology, and dealing with these characters again . . . no.  Just no.

I'm done with this book, hopefully forever.  And now I'm wondering what I should work on next, since I still have another month before I can start editing The Accidental Warlock.

Next entry: digging deep and desperately in search of a plot.  Several plots.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bringing up Old Stuff, Part Two

I've been a fan and proponent of the New Adult category ever since I first heard about it.  For those who don't know, New Adult deals with characters in the 18-21ish age range, where people usually leave home, find themselves on their own for the first time, and have an entirely different set of problems and issues than characters in either YA or Adult books.  I've also said that I was writing New Adult before I even knew what it was.

I found some of that writing a few weeks ago, in an abandoned story from March of 2010.  And it's something I want to discuss now and get back to writing someday.

The story itself deals with college, with being away from home for the first time and finding out the real world is nothing like what the main character expected.  The story also deals with magic, non-human races, interplanar travel, and horrific things from worlds far, far beyond our own.  While that's the kind of stuff I find incredibly fun to write, I also think it's the kind of thing the growing New Adult category needs more of.

Simply put: a lot of New Adult stuff is romance, and there have been more than a few media stories talking about NA as nothing more than YA with more sex.  Granted, judging by some NA book covers, that doesn't seem too far off.  I know NA that isn't romance exists; take a look at the Catalog of NA Reads over at NA Alley, one of the best resources around for New Adult.  (No, seriously, take a look; the site's very well-done and this entry will still be here when you get back.)  It's a good list for a growing category, but the listing is far longer for "Contemporary" than "Speculative".

This is a tremendous opportunity.

I'm only speaking for myself here, but the years that NA covers were the years that my life changed a ton.  What better time to find out the world is not what you think it is, that there's worlds beyond the one you know and that there are things out there that not only beggar description but that pose a threat to existence as you know it?  How do you balance the life you thought you'd have with the reality that's nothing like you expected?  And how do you stay awake in an 8AM class when you're tired as hell because you were up until dawn stopping a cultist ritual from breaking a hole in reality?

Okay, it's not like falling asleep in an 8AM class would seem all that unusual.  But I think the rest stands.

New Adult is still growing, but it has a listing on and there are some bookstores with NA sections.  (Yes, I've seen pictures.)  So I'm hoping that by the time I get around to writing this story, not only will there be an audience for it, but publishers who think it's going to be huge.  And I'll be happy to know that I'm not the only one who thought college would only be made better with a few encroaching eldritch abominations.

Next entry: rereading a book I finished in 2005.  This might hurt.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The book is done. Let the real work begin.

As of less than five minutes ago, I wrote the last sentence in my current book.

It's always an odd feeling, finishing one of these things.  The ending never feels strong enough.  Is everything that needs to be resolved taken care of?  Are there massive dangling plot threads?  Have I planted that sequel hook firmly enough into the readers that they'll want to know what happens next?  Too much to consider, when all I really want to do right now is have a strong drink and watch a Disney movie.

Hey, I don't get on you for how you deal with writing a downer ending.

In a way, that's really how it is for this book.  In most everything else I've written, things get wrapped up pretty neatly at the end.  The heroes achieve their goals, the antagonists get killed or defeated or driven away, and everyone celebrates, smiles, hugs, and/or kisses over the last few paragraphs.  Not in this book.

I went over my plot points before last night's writing session, and remembered that the main protagonist had to do something truly horrible to bring the story to its end.  And it's even a phyrric victory, considering the destruction - both personal and property - wreaked by the antagonists.

I didn't want the story to end like that.  But I knew I had to.

In a way, this feels like the most mature story that I've written, possibly ever.  The characters feel more real, the plot feels tighter and better orchestrated, and the consequences feel more long- and deep-reaching.  I still have a lot of editing to do; there's a pile of folded-up pages from a small yellow notepad sitting here on my desk, all story ideas I frantically scribbled down while at work.  Tomorrow, I'm going to go through them and see what I implemented already and what changes I need to make.

And then, I'm going to let this sit for a month or so before getting back to it.  With any luck, I'll have a readable version by the end of August, to hand out to my pre-readers.  I have three people willing to read it so far, which is a great start.  And then we'll see how this one goes.  I have a lot of faith in it right now, but only time will tell if it's justified.

The title of the book is The Accidental Warlock.  It's a YA Fantasy about a young woman who discovers she's been planned since birth to be the new body of an ancient demon.  She's also falling, hard, for her brother's would-be betrothed.  Her fun is just beginning, trust me.

Next entry: on digging up an old, abandoned manuscript and why I think it could be something the growing New Adult category needs.