Tuesday, July 26, 2016

STARWIND: Chapter One

I'm a little nervous about this, but it's either this or another week of me whining about the editing process.  Trust me, I've gone with the more interesting choice.

Anyway.  I've finished the second round of edits on STARWIND, and I've officially started round three, which means adding in all my handwritten notes and making further changes.  Once the book is up to version 1.3, I send it to beta readers.  Which means the first chapter is technically ready for people to see.

So I'm posting it here.

I still think it's a little rough, and gods know it'll go through more changes as I get this thing ready for prime time.  But I've been working on this book, one way or another, since 2014.  I want to share a little of this thing and hope that people will want to see more.

Hope y'all like it.  Here goes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Slightly More Than 12% of a Plan

I had an idea.  In retrospect, this was a bad occurrence as it will only bring me pain and generally make my life more difficult.

...let me start over.

I've been working on yet another book plot, because that part of my brain never stops working and hopefully never will.  It's been difficult for more than the usual reasons - not only have I genuinely figured out how to put these new characters through hell, it's also shaping up in a way that it could be one of the most personal things I've ever written.  The theoretical book also already has a soundtrack in the new Garbage album (which is frickin' awesome and you should listen to it), and some of the songs fit the characters ridiculously well.

During a lull at work last week, I ended up hashing out most of the plot.  I determined that since I knew how it started and how it ended, I could rough out an outline of what happens in between.  Five notepad pages' worth of frantic scribbling later, I thought it sucked, but that's more indicative of my mood last week than the actual plot.  But I wasn't thrilled about it for a very good reason:

Something is still missing.

I don't know how I know this, I just do.  There's a feeling that comes when a plot is working out well, when it's coming together as it should.  There's a different feeling when things aren't the way they're supposed to be.  This feeling is what kept me from writing STARWIND for almost two years, and it only went away when I swapped the main characters' genders.

So, since I really want to write this new book someday, I've been trying to figure out what's missing from the new plot.  (No, I can't swap the main characters' genders in this one.  Trust me.)  I've been going in a bunch of different directions for this, ranging from adjusting the magic system to changing what's happening in the world to swapping out nearly everything about the story and turning it into a novel version of a giant robot fighting anime, but with magic.

...okay, I totally want to write the giant magical robot battle book, but that's not this one.

To be fair to myself (for once), it's hard to come up with new ideas and make them work when I'm in the middle of editing.  STARWIND is taking up most of my writing time these days, and I'm glad to say it's going well.  But my brain's still tagging along on the crew's multiversal travels.  Switching gears to something completely different isn't easy.

I am glad that I finally have a reason to not beat myself up over not being able to get a plot to work, and the reason is that I'm editing a book that does work.  As writer problems go, this isn't bad.

The plan is to let this plot sit and simmer for a while.  I still haven't even transcribed the notes from last week; they're sitting here on my desk, just another small pile of yellow paper covered with scribbles.  I'll get to it when I'm done editing STARWIND and have sent that one off to beta readers.  And hopefully by then, I'll find or figure out whatever's missing.

So, what about the rest of you?  How do you know if something's missing from what you're working on?  How do you deal with new ideas when you're neck-deep in working with something else?  And if you haven't listened to the new Garbage album, why not?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The First Book

I wasn't sure what to write about this week, until I hit upon something I haven't seen very many of we writers talk about: what was the first book you ever wrote?  Not early stories, not something that started off just for fun and somehow turned into a book along the way, but the first result of you deliberately sitting down to write a book.

My first book had the unfortunate title of THE BLESSED, and if I ever have a writing career, I will credit it with this book never seeing print.

The book itself was classic fantasy.  Heroes with swords and other medieval weapons, lots of riding around on horses, dark forces at play, and dragons.  So many dragons.  Much of the plot (at least as I can remember it) involved both the return of dragons to the lands and the arrival of an unusual kind of magic.  These two were of course linked, largely via a group of dragon-worshipers, and it was up to five heroes (the titular Blessed) gifted with the power of five of the world's gods to track down the source of these happenings and put a stop to them.

This story took me three years to write, and I had no idea what I was doing.

A lot of the plot was inspired by the early Final Fantasy games, which were my favorites back in the days of the NES and Super NES, so the book had kind of a classic RPG feeling to it - building the party over the course of the adventure, everyone with a different elemental power, stuff like that.  It was also an enormous story, easily over 200,000 words judging by the file size.

No, I'm not opening up the file to check.  I don't want to see how bad I really was back then.  Because trust me, I was bad.

I opened the story with the main character waking up from a dream.  The heroes found each other because destiny said so, almost literally.  Every single character had their own POV sections, often swapping from one to the other without warning in the middle of a chapter and swapping back with even less warning.  I had no idea how to decide what scenes belonged in the story and what didn't, so I included everything I thought up.  And not only did the book have five different chosen ones, there was a sixth person who believed he was chosen and went about telling everyone that he was.

I killed that character off at the end of one chapter, having the group's main adversary gut him while the two of them were fighting.  That was the last chapter available at one point when I let Rena read it, which led to her stepping into the middle of a fencing match I was in to threaten my soul for the next chapter.

Maybe I wasn't very good back then, but I did know how to pull off a cliffhanger.

It's been years since I gave this book this much thought, and it is kind of fun to look back.  I tried re-plotting the book once, with a better title and a darker way of going about things, and it worked out all right at the time; I still think of redoing that tale from the antagonist's point of view.  But considering how many stories I have warring for dominance in my head, it's not high on my list.

So!  Your turn.  What was the first book you ever wrote?  What do you remember about it?  How did it go?  And would you ever let anyone read it?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG: The Things We're Good At

I have even more insecurities than usual this month, something I didn't think was technically possible.  But instead of another round of Why I Suck At This or Why I'll Never Make It, I thought I'd try something different.

It's time to talk about the things we're good at.

I don't have much of an ego, so I'm rarely one to toot my own horn.  But I think we writers need that from time to time.  It helps to look at our work and acknowledge that what we do can be pretty damn awesome.  So let's do that.  I'll start.

I know I'm good at pacing, largely because when I ask my readers about it, the feedback is always positive.  I'm not sure where I picked this up, or even when I started realizing it was a thing.  But I seem to have developed the knack for moving the story along at a speed that works for it, without delaying things or having too many things happen all at once.  My best guess is this came from reading a whole lot of books and subconsciously figuring out how to make it work.

I'm good at non-dramatic romance, which I think largely comes from my dislike of melodramatic romance.  :P  I'm a big fan of characters realizing they're into each other and doing something about it.  Whether I plan to get characters together or it's something that happens while I'm writing (which usually means a round of re-plotting), it's usually a matter of realizing that these people are both awesome and into each other, so they should get together and do awesome things together.  That's it.

Granted, part of why I prefer to avoid romance drama is that my books aren't about that.  My stories are about these people having adventures, and if they find love along the way, cool, it adds to the story.  If not?  STILL AN ADVENTURE.  ^_^

Something I've realized while editing STARWIND is that I'm good at small-but-revealing lore drops.  There's a lot going on out in the multiverse, and I seem to have become skilled at putting enough for the reader to understand things into one or two sentences that the POV character can quickly relay and then get on with the story.  I'll have to keep an eye on this when people are beta-reading, but I'll be happy if I can keep getting across the necessary info without it feeling like an infodump.

On the same note, I think I'm good at small-but-revealing character moments.  Not everything is a big dramatic revelation, and I think things work out well when it's a few lines of dialogue that help us see what's really going on in a character's head.  So much of the first draft is discovering the characters, and I've been pleased while editing this thing to see that a lot of who they are comes out in the smaller moments.

Finally, this one will be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly: I'm good at weird.  I think the following bit from STARWIND is proof of this:

"Kris tapped a few more symbols on her screen, logging onto the Core net now that they were in the Between.  The Core net was basically like the internet back on Earth, only it covered a few hundred different planes and had much weirder porn."

Anyway!  Sound off in the comments if you wish - what do you know you're good at?  If I can spend all this time bragging about myself, so can the rest of you.  :P