Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Choose This.

So I'm elbow-deep into plotting this book.  I say "elbow-deep" because it's messy, complicated, and I'm sure at some point I'll realize I've severed something vital.  This is the metal fantasy thing I talked about a few entries back, and I think I'm hitting the points I want to with it, at least so far.  I have the first draft of the plot done, and with that behind me, I did some great character work that will also make the plot better when I go over it again.

I've gotten so used to things crashing and burning or just fading away in the early stages, so it's a little weird to actually feel good about a plot again.

However, I'm dealing with a different issue with the main heroine.  The story takes place in a world where just about everyone has draconic ancestry, many generations removed.  (Yes, dragons were made to be able to breed with just about anything, and there are reasons both for why they can and why they did.)  The heroine gets thrown into the whole mess because she's the only one who has the same very rare draconic bloodline as the main villain, and some people believe that makes her the only one who can defeat him.

Which sends me kicking and screaming into The Chosen One territory.

I'd like to state for the record that I'm bloody tired of The Chosen One.  Not only have I seen it too much, I've used it too much.  The first book I ever wrote relied heavily upon destiny to explain why the heroes had their unusual abilities; I had plans to actually explain that away in the second book.  (Looking back on it, I have no idea why I ever thought there would be a second book.)  The rewrite of that story did the same, only with an even larger Chosen Cast.  There's something about someone starting the story with prophecy or something similar on their side that takes a lot of the fun out of it for me.

Though I do wish I hadn't had to write it so much to learn that.

I'm also tired of a similar variant, a hero with an incredibly unique ability that means they're the only one equipped to handle what the story throws at them.  Yes, I did this all over the place in THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK, and it wasn't the first time an incarnation of Shiloh filled that role.  But this leads to the same thing - a hero with a much greater chance to succeed not because of their own skill or knowledge, but because of something they were born with.

So, one of the things I'm working on is making sure I avoid these particular tropes.  There are no prophecies in this book - Our Heroes have their own reasons for getting into all this trouble.  Good reasons too, I think, since the villain is not exactly a nice individual.  And while the heroine's bloodline is rare, it's not unique, and its powers don't manifest in the same way as the villain's.  That power, while useful, is also not the key to solving the whole problem - no one person's bloodline is.  It's more about this motley crew coming together to take care of a problem no one else was willing to solve.

While I don't deliberately aim for tropes (okay, most of the time, sometimes it's just too good not to), it seems like The Unchosen One serves much better here.  And I'm good with that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Let's Get Fictional.

And while we're at it... let's get a bit silly.  ^_^

I found this image quite a while ago, and while I generally think it's hilarious, it gets me thinking: if your life was fiction - if each year of your life was a season of a TV series, for example - what would your fans say about you? What would they discuss, what would they argue about, what would they like the most and what would they think needs to change?  Granted, I know I don't live a life worthy of fictionalization, but let's just say whoever's watching has vastly different standards of entertainment and go from there.

Considering the vast misconceptions I've seen online of how the writing thing actually works, I'm sure my viewers would be ranting regularly about how long it's taking me to make it as a writer.  He started writing books back in season 13, they'd say.  (Some would argue if the stuff I did back in season 7 counted or not.)  But after so long, shouldn't I be rich and famous?  Others would say that I hadn't made it yet because I'm not spending every waking hour writing, and there would be arguments wherein fans linked one of my own blog entries to those people.

It's very odd to think there would be flame wars over my lack of success.  O_o

Some fans would point out that the show's writers had clearly either run out of ideas or gotten into a serious rut, what with me staying in the same place at the same job for eleven seasons.  Others would praise the rotating cast of characters at said job, and talk about the character development I've shown.  This isn't like seasons 18 through 21, they'd say.  Still others would be disappointed at certain characters from work leaving the show, and say that at least the work time was more interesting with them around.  I would agree with them.

In that same vein, I'm sure there would be even more arguments about my moving plans, with some saying the series needed a new direction, and others saying that eleven seasons in the same place was proof that it was working out.  But such a thing would lead to a new supporting cast, which would only give more fuel to... the shippers.

I haven't had anything even remotely resembling a romantic life for a very long time, but I know how shippers work, and I know that nothing stops someone who's dedicated to seeing two characters get together for a happily ever after and/or mad crazy sex.  I tend to get along well with women, which means that I'd be shipped with every woman I've ever known and a few I merely walked next to.  >_<  The smushed-together pairing names would be ridiculous, as would the ship wars between people who wanted to see me with one person or another.

And in every single argument, there'd be that one person saying, "Dude, he treats her like he treats everyone else.  He's not interested in her.  Get over it."  That person would be the only correct one.

To leave this with one final mind screw: I've cosplayed as various characters from a handful of series over the years.  Which means I'm now imagining one of those characters sitting down to watch the series of my life, only to see me putting together a costume and going to a convention... dressed as them.

I can only imagine the look of utter dismay on Snape's face, but I'd like to think Bumi thinks I do him justice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Getting Personal.

This is mostly supposed to be a writing blog.  (Mostly.)  But I'm working toward 2015 being a year of significant change for me, and I want to talk about that for a bit.  Starting, as it should, with some backstory:

I'm originally from southern California.  I went to college at UC Santa Barbara, met two of my best friends there, and a year after I graduated, I moved with them to Vermont.  Hell of a change, I tell you - living in the state that invented the term "sub-70 weather" for nearly 23 years and then heading to a place with winters that drop past zero?  Actual zero, not just below freezing?  Two years of that was enough, so we packed up and moved to Albuquerque, where I've lived since then.

After nearly ten years here, my friends moved back to CA, the end of a long story that's not mine to tell but only bears telling if alcohol's involved.  I thought about moving with them again, but after taking some time to consider, I decided I didn't want to go back to California.  I then spent the next year hunting for a job where I really want to go:


The astute among you will note that I've said that I'm still in Albuquerque, which gives an indication of how that job hunt has been going.  It's a lot like my search for an agent, I might say.  I think that still being in NM is a disadvantage, though; someone who's hiring wants an employee who can start next week, not next month.  After giving it a year, I decided that was more than enough.

So, I'm moving to Seattle, job or not.  The planned exodus date is at the end of March.  And just typing that freaks me the hell out.

I've been purging my apartment of everything I don't need - you accumulate a lot over nearly eleven years in one place, believe me - and I've started searching for a moving company as well.  The apartment search begins in earnest this coming weekend.  There's a lot to do, and it's really stressing me out.  This is the first time I've moved completely by myself.  And while I have friends and family in Seattle, I can't ask them to drop everything and travel over a thousand miles just to help me move.  So it's on me, all of it.

Despite the stress and fear, though, I'm excited about this.  I've been to Seattle before - my friend there and I went skydiving to celebrate our 30th birthdays - and I love the area.  It's also one of the geekiest cities in the country, which is always good.  I just keep telling myself that this is a good thing, and it'll all be worth it, even if I'm freaking out about it now.

So, yeah.  That's my major plan for 2015: getting the hell out of the desert.  I'd also like to find a job I enjoy, write at least two books, and get one of those books to a point where I can start submitting to agents again.  (I've never been good at thinking small.)  Here's hoping it all works out, one way or another.

Wish me luck.  O_o

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

IWSG: I Say This Every Year.

"Expectation is the root of all heartache." --William Shakespeare

There's something about the new year that makes me even more hopeful for the future than usual.  I'm a relentless optimist, and every year, I think this is going to be it, this is going to be my year.

This year, I'll write the book I love, the one that everyone who reads it thinks is amazing.  This year, I'll write the best damn query letter anyone's ever seen, and I'll get an agent on my first round.  This year, it's all going to work out.  This year, my career starts.

And it never happens.

You know what?  To hell with that.  The new year's a good time for affirmations and assurances, yes, but I don't need a new year for things to get started.  Nobody does.  Writing is a year-round job, and those moments we're waiting for can come at any time.  Start something new with the new year if you want, but there's no reason to feel like you have to.

Because when you're in this place, this limbo of plotting and planning and writing stuff with no idea if it'll ever be published, the only thing you need to worry about is writing what you want to write, and making your work the best it can be.  That's all that matters.

With that in mind, something I've already learned this year is that it helps to look at what you're working on and figure out if it's what you well and truly want to write.  I've spent the past two weeks working on six different plots-in-progress.  And I've learned that just because I like the ideas that go with a genre, that doesn't necessarily mean I want to write in that genre.

Simply put, as much as I like the trappings of dark fantasy and the cosmic horror story, I lose interest when I try to plot those stories.  It's still a struggle for me to really put my characters through hell (though I'm getting better at that, I swear), and while I believe in making everyone earn their happy endings, I want there to be happy endings, damn it.  So after careful consideration, I decided to set aside dark fantasy.

Instead, I'm going to write metal fantasy.  I want to write worlds that read like they were swiped from the lyrics of albums where every single instrument was turned up to eleven.  I want people to look at the covers and swear they've seen that art on an album before.  I want to write books where, if they're ever made into movies, they'll have to get a necromancer to dig up Dio to do the soundtrack.

(Yes, I said dig up, not resurrect.  You can't get much more metal than having an undead guy do your soundtrack.)

I do still want to write a bunch of other stuff, yes, but I just came up with the term "metal fantasy" this past Monday and I'm honestly not sure if I'm the first to apply it to literature.  But it resonates with me strongly enough that I plotted a full book from stuff I came up with that day.  It needs work, as all plots-in-progress do, but I love it so far.  And it's not the only thing I've been working on that's going well - the story that's been evading me for months, one I've blogged about several times, finally clicked for me this past Friday.  I've got a huge chunk of it plotted, and while there's still a lot to figure out, I'm ridiculously pleased to know how it goes.

...which brings me back to my point about how the only thing that matters in this stage is writing what you want and making it as good as you can.  Will a metal fantasy tale in a world where everyone has dragon ancestry ever sell?  I don't know.  Will a surreal YA story involving dream duels ever sell?  No idea!  What matters is that I keep trying, and keep going.

Because regardless of what year it is, someday, I'm going to get published.  Someday, we all are.  And it'll be better for all of us, and all of our future readers, if what gets published is exactly what we want to write.  So write that.

"If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold onto.  If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve."  --Lao Tzu

Yes, I say all this because I need to hear it.  But I'm sure I can't be the only one.