Wednesday, March 20, 2013


My supervisor can't seem to pronounce the word "reconsideration". He has an interesting command of the English language to begin with, but no matter how many times I try to correct him, he always pronounces it "reconsiderization."

I bring this up only because I've been doing some reconsidering of my own.  Simply put, I'm wondering if I should be trying to get Skyborne published.  ...and that's quite possibly the hardest thing I've ever had to write in this blog.

I don't love the story any less.  I don't love the world any less.  And ye gods, I don't love the characters any less. Shiloh and Alexi are pretty much my Eternal Champions; I've written them in five different books, across different worlds and different times and different names, and it always ends with them together.

But through the query process, I've started to realize things about Skyborne.  The story is very hard to explain in brief, which makes querying difficult.  While the story itself is self-contained, it's also not the best way to introduce an entire world with the hopes of telling a long story series on that world. Reading about tiny pieces of the world called Abraxas which aren't really the world called Abraxas and they all go away in the end as the real Abraxas gets put back together... see what I mean?  And besides, when the story ends with the world getting put back together after being destroyed, really, what do I do for a second act?

So, last Tuesday night, I asked myself, is there another story to tell for Shiloh and Alexi, another way to do things for them.  I spent all day Wednesday having ideas I didn't want, which was bizarre.  But I wrote them all down.  A week later, 5000 words of plots and plans later, I've got a new story.  And y'know what?  I really, really like this thing.

It's strange to consider setting Skyborne aside.  This is the first book I've had enough faith in to try to get published since 2005.  But after spending a week with this new story, I'm seeing Skyborne's flaws quite clearly.  And I can accept that it just might not work.

Rena showed me this a while back: The Book of My Heart.  I found it again on Sunday, after reading a blog entry from Juliana Haygert that linked to On Writing the Book After the Book of Your Heart. And all of this put together helped me realize I was doing the right thing.  I'll write this new story.  I'll give it my all.  And for crying out loud, I'll write it slower than my last efforts.  If it works out, excellent.  If it doesn't, I'll write something else. Far better to keep casting out new hopes instead of clinging to one even after it starts to sink.

And hey, this means I can work on the project I mentioned in my last entry, the one that was too close to Skyborne's supposed sequel. And that means I can write someone attacking the Big Bad by air-dropping herself from a flying motorcycle. And that will be fun.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I've Done this Already.

Music for this entry comes to us from U2, because I'm trying to light my own way and it's frustrating as hell.  Or rather, I'm trying to find light several ways at once and just realized I'm using the same torch and... and the metaphor is breaking down.

I do a lot of plotting.  I did that entry about being a plotter vs. a pantser a while back, so that's not new news, and it's nothing new at all for me to have three or four different plots at various points between "shiny new idea" and "make this a book now".  And like most (if not all) writers, I have ideas and themes and stuff that I keep going back to because I find them fascinating.

The problem that came up a week or two ago was when I realized I was ripping myself off.

I've been plotting the sequel to Skyborne, currently titled Heartfire.  ...even if I still think that one sounds a little too much like a romance novel.  The word's important to the plot, I swear.  Anyway, the basic plot of Heartfire involves travels to gather items to help a deity.  I'd also been plotting something that, in my mind, would span an epic and warped trilogy that dealt with order vs. chaos and traveled across dozens of worlds and all the space between, only to realize that the entire plot of the first book could be summed up in one phrase:

"Travel to gather items to help a deity."

Not only was I repeating myself, I was working on two books with the exact same basic plot.  I know that some say there are only five or six (or seven, the number varies) actual plots, but that's another discussion.  This was crushing.  This was the death of a book I was really, really looking forward to writing, one that I knew I couldn't do anymore because it was too much like another one.

In the time since then, I've chalked it up to just another part of the writing process, but now I'm thinking about this sort of thing too much.  In tonight's plotting, trying to hash out an idea that I'm far from sure about but it's worth looking into, I couldn't help wondering if it was too close to Skyborne, in essence if not in execution.  I quickly closed it off with a note to myself to "FIND THE FUCKING STORY" and moved on to another plot.

Yes, I swear at myself in my story notes.  It's nothing new.

So, as it stands now, I've got two things to work on that are going well and the usual half-dozen things that might or might not work out.  And then there's the one plot that I don't truly want to write because it hits way too close to home and yet it might have the best shot at actually getting published out of everything I've worked on.

Too much to think about.  Too many questions.  And I don't remember the last time I was this frustrated with what I love to do.  Enough about this for now.  Grr.  Arg.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

World-Building: Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Right?

So, in the ongoing agent search, I found several agents who mentioned the same thing: books that started off telling everything about the world, instead of advancing the story.  Apparently, a lot of people who submit their first five (or ten, or twenty) pages have a habit of getting the story started and then laying on the backstory and history with a trowel.  Possibly with a shovel.  And this got me thinking:

I write fantasy.  It's about the only thing I've ever wanted to write, and recent attempts at novels have taught me I just don't belong in the real world.  ...writing in the real world, I mean.  But since writing fantasy means working in a world that doesn't exist, there's always the issue of making sure the world you're working in is defined enough.  You don't want the reader to be lost, or feel like it's all happening on an empty stage with a few cardboard trees and a dragon made of duct tape hanging from a length of twine in the background.

Two books I read last month took very different tacks on this whole world-building thing, and the sheer contrast makes me think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The first book had Not Enough background info.  It was a fantasy novel in which some people had a distinct connection to the land and there was some kind of council of them whose job it was to make sure things didn't get horribly screwed up and the land didn't rebel against them.  If this sounds vague, it was - I don't even know how many people were on the council or what their roles were, as most were very ill-defined, and the book focused on only two or three of them.  While the book itself was worth reading, I found myself constantly wondering who these people were and why they were important.  When the lack of background detail and explanation means the story's events fail to have the intended impact, something is wrong.

The book that got it Just Right drip-fed a steady stream of background info as it came up.  The story was based around a military and its operations, so whenever they went to a new place, or dealt with new people (for various definitions of 'people'), we learned a little more.  By the time the book ended, I had a great picture of how the army operated and the worlds it worked on.  All without resorting to an eighty-page infodump.  The fact that the narrator was old and cynical but still amazed at all the stuff he was getting into helped a great deal.

As for a book with Too Much background and world-building... Well, there's only one thing I can say, and I say it with the utmost respect: Tolkien.  Moving on.

While I doubt I'll ever write military-based sci-fi, I know I'll keep that book in mind as I work.  Most of my plots involve significant world development and backstory, so I'll look for a way to get it to the reader as it's necessary, pace it out same as I would the plot. As I say about everything I write, hopefully it'll work.

Next entry: what do you do when you realize you're ripping yourself off?