A step into the past

Revealing character insights is a very complicated business.

I come to a “flashback”-style moment in my book, I don’t know if I want it. Is there a better way to integrate that information? Can I make it more seamless? Or is it fine to just have the main character narrate their reminiscing? I don’t know, because I’m too close to it, I don’t have an objective opinion when I’m so deep into editing. No one else will know the answer without reading the story, but I don’t want to give it to my betas yet. It’s not ready for that read-through.

I already know that a very clever author will provide insights like the one I am debating, in a way that doesn’t disrupt the momentum of the scene. Does this flashback take too long? Does it disrupt the flow? I can’t figure it out. It seems to sit well enough, and it’s not totally unique in its delivery.

The degree and speed of which I wish to divulge information is one of those tricky things. I don’t want to dump all the character’s knowledge and feelings at the beginning of the book; there are more natural, poignant moments to reveal certain elements. But I also don’t want to take too long to establish the early motives of these characters. I don’t want it to be one of those books that someone else reads, wondering, “Why would these people do this?”. I’ve experienced that with other people’s stories, and I know I want to avoid it in mine.

I can try re-writing, or I can carry on. This won’t be the only edit the story sees, so it isn’t completely essential to figure it out right now. But it gets me all tangled.

~A

Is this what we’re doing now?

You don’t have to say a thing. I already know.

I’ve skipped out on continuing one story in favour of hitting the eight-novella series again. The characters crept back into my head with some astounding clarity today. There were things that I hadn’t gotten right during draft one which I am confident I can fix and keep fixed through the series now.

I also got to have a very complicated discussion with the husband about magic theory. Scientific-based magic is a sneaky business. When the magic in my universe is just that much closer to known physics, I have to be even more aware of all the places I am intentionally stretching reality to fit in my brand of fiction. As I work through the theories, I bounce confirmations off the husband and get his input on the likelihood of one thing affecting another, or the limitations that must be in place.

One of the things that came up during this was the X-Men character, Magneto. The X-Men series is one of those things that has so much intense depth, I can’t even begin to do it justice by a few lines of explanation, but suffice to say, someone with the powers Magneto is given shouldn’t have any actual restrictions. He should pretty much be able to do anything, with no contest from the other mutants in that universe (besides the ones intentionally made even more undefeatable).

All magic requires limits, but certain powers need author-imposed restrictions that keep the character from being able to just do their thing and overcome the challenges with no effort, growth or progression. These are the most difficult scenarios for me, because they still need to live in that realm of believability that I am already applying to my magic theory. They also have to be hidden restrictions, things that don’t jump out at the reader as something I have used as a character-roadblock.

So with all this fresh and burning in my mind, I’ll be getting back to the first major edit of TDM. Then, should everything go well, I’ll charge straight on into finishing the first draft of SL. Yeah!

~A

And now, a return to your regular viewing

I can safely say from August 9th through until today (September 5th, I note), I have done next to nothing productive. I actually went away during that time, and should have had normal internet to retain contact and updates, but just a fluke of location made the connection non-viable. Aside from that, with my cat dying, and being hit by the most god-awful case of influenza, I just lost a lot of time in the past month.

I have glimmers of awareness that I am, in fact, rejoining the land of the living. I can stay awake for most of the day! For a while there, I was actually sleeping some obscene amount, over 20 hours a day. That is unheard of in my life, so there’s some gauge for the severity of my illness and despair. I’m also hungry. You can always tell that I’m on my way back to good health when eating becomes a priority again.

With my experiences to reflect upon, I have come to terms with the fact that I have absolutely no way to focus on my writing whenever I go away. I take my equipment, I intend on using spare time to keep working, and it NEVER happens. Ever. So I accept that I am not an out-of-house writer.

It was a surreal feeling to truly quantify how long it had been since I was even mentally in my story world. I considered this while I was still pretty ill and prone to sleeping all day, so the thoughts were kind of hazy. I was actually wondering what I used to do, before all this, before the month. Who was I? What was important? It was like my characters were under an invisibility cloak, and I had suddenly realised the room was very empty. So I searched, and I came across an anomaly in all that blankness, something from a half-remembered dream. I used to write. I have people waiting for me, stories not fully told.

It didn’t all come rushing back in some blaze of creative glory. I was probably in the middle of drifting back to sleep, but the knowledge had been released, freed from the cone of silence. I thought of names and faces I hadn’t considered for almost an entire month, of their plans and conflicts, and it was weird. Weird that I hadn’t thought of them, when they had consumed so much of my mind previously. Weird to think about them again, and not have the clarity of the constant, immediate work on their story, but also weird because there was that secret little passion tucked away with them. The one that makes me a writer. I remembered their story, and it began niggling in the back of my head. I want to read what I’ve already written, and throw myself back in. I need to.

So maybe to say I’ve rejoined the land of the living isn’t entirely honest. I’ve woken up, though. I’m here. The part of me that doesn’t just lay around and feel sad and lost is gaining ground, gently soothing back the parts which are still tired and raw. And I missed you guys. I like my collection of internet peoples, you’re all so bright and interesting! It’s nice to be aware again. I hope your month hasn’t been anything like mine.

~A

Series potential

My novella project is the first time I’ve put a lot of effort into planning a series. It’s alien and frightening, and every time I come up with some new perspective on the story, I’m afraid that half way through writing the whole set, I will understand something new and want to change something.

Usually an author will begin publishing a series before all the installments are complete. This is understandable, since a novel often takes a year or more to write, and no one wants to wait ten years to start publishing something they’ve completed. This means that the overall theme has to be well established before they send out book one, because once it’s printed, there isn’t any “fixing” the story.

I thought I had done most of the important planning aspects for TDM, laying out plots and important events, characters which won’t be involved until several books in, the list goes on. My notes are extensive and the outlines were poured over until a cohesive plot was made. I really believed I was in a good position to just write these and expect things to turn out the way I planned. But as I progress through the edit of book one, and drafting book two, I realise that little things can change, and indeed sometimes need to. I worry what this means to my series. Do I need to go back to the planning stage and make the outline even more detailed? Would that be so much different from just writing the drafts and working from there?

At the end of drafting book one, I realised some of the mistakes I’d already made. In some places, I had written the characters to behave in ways I had never intended, and some of the scenes were really unsuited to both the characters I was creating, and the story they needed to tell. Not only that, but it wasn’t until the full first draft had been completed that I understood some of the events I rushed to include too soon when I planned the stories. They shouldn’t happen in book one. They need time to get there organically. My enthusiasm for this series was driving me to cram too much in right away.

Maybe I deviated from my outline too much, even though I really didn’t change many events in the first draft. At the same time, one of the added ideas was so solid and brought together all these other elements, I start thinking I just need more time to get to know my characters and reassess how they will respond. Maybe I haven’t done nearly enough planning. This is an interesting learning curve. It’s hard not to worry about it.

~A

Surprise, this is what you’re writing now

I have been absolutely consumed by a new story.

I was doing so well! A strong start on book two of the novella series, getting through a quick edit on book one, then all of a sudden I’m just hit with this idea. It came to me almost fully-formed, ready to go. Characters popped out of nowhere, with flawless interaction, solid personalities and reason for being. I kept interrupting work to write parts of it, and as soon as I arrived home, I got right back into it.

At this stage, from what I can tell, it’s probably another short story. Horror, maybe a little more “typical” than my other horror works, which tend to be very psychological with minimal blood and gore. I don’t know an approximate word count yet, but I’m hoping it won’t take too long to write. I was genuinely enjoying the novellas. The characters in that series are really exciting to write about, and there is so much potential. This, though… this is just stuck in my head, and I’m certainly not going to let it go to waste by working around it, even if I am somewhat torn between my stories.

There’s a good chance that I’ll write part of the story and come to a point where I don’t need to continue right away; there are plenty of others in my project list that have taken that route. Of course, with it already started, I shouldn’t have any trouble coming back to it at a later date to finish it off. On the other hand, I might just be stuck with the idea until I’ve written it all out.

One of the funniest things about this story? The characters came to me with names already, all except the main character. I have no idea what his name is. Maybe it will never be revealed. Maybe he is to remain nameless. We will have to see as it all pans out.

~A

The story of names

To lead off with, I completed the full first draft of my fantasy novella, currently known as TDM, sometime late Sunday. I am super pleased with having it finished, and I’ve jumped straight into writing the draft of its sequel/series-mate because I am so enthusiastic about this collective piece!

[Side note: I haven’t been able to update Facebook at all since Saturday, so that explains my sudden silence/lack of updates!]

If you’ve seen my projects list (found on the Ashlee’s Writing page), you might notice that some of the abbreviated names have changed. This is a large part of why I don’t list the projects by their full titles; when they are a work in progress or even just planning stages, the name of the story can change in a snap. Book two, now AEN, didn’t have a firm title until yesterday, and the name itself will help shape the direction the story goes (it fills in a small but significant detail).

In traditional publishing, it’s pretty commonly known that the author’s chosen title can change. That was always one of the things that concerned me about eventually shopping my work around. They say don’t get too attached to the name, but the name of a thing is a very important aspect of its whole. And frankly, I know of more than enough books which have been printed with pretty terrible names (and worse covers), so I can’t imagine the industry as a whole is that much better at naming than I am.

Character and place names are also significant, and can take a lot of work to get right. Sometimes when I’m writing these fantasy stories, I get really nervous that my naming treads are getting… you know, too “fantasy”. What kind of notion is that! I know that I’m generally very reasonable about creating names, too, but when my main character ends up with something four syllables long, I worry that others might see it and think, “wow, that’s really clichéd”. But it suits her. And after 40,000 words with her, it feels completely natural.

But the concern is there, and I admit that. When you’re creating locations, mythical races, and people who wield magic, some names fit, and some don’t. I’m the kind of person that puts heaps of thought into the naming of things. The spelling, the way it’s pronounced, how the name looks in text, it’s all taken into consideration. This goes for all names. Book titles, people, whatever needs its own proper noun.

I still haven’t settled on a name for the whole series, either!

~A