Sunday, February 12, 2017

Checkpoint reached

TL;DR version

-wrote 1,300 words of mostly crap. Revised and got over 2,000 words that I'm semi-pleased with
-semi-officially 10% through my novel
-finished Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
-started Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

In the white room

I wrote what I think will be the third chapter of my book this past week. Originally, it was 1,300 words. After getting some feedback from the Reddit fantasy writers group, and just feeling my way through the text on my own, it wasn't working. Basically, I had committed the fatal error of what is known as "white room syndrome." This is where two characters just talk back and forth with minimal action or scenery description, and it ends up feeling more like an info dump in an empty room than a real scene in a novel. I also really didn't like a lot of the dialogue I had written - too much of it felt stilted or like it was from a soap opera. I think I'm still "getting to know" my two main characters, so nailing their voices is going to take some time.

So, after taking stock of my pile of narrative shit, I went back at it and fleshed it out. I changed the POV from the male lead, Taris, to the female lead, Meryl. I added more action and more character thoughts and observations that felt genuine and not as scripted. I also tried to give them distinct voices. In the end, I went from 1,300 words to over 2,000 for the chapter, and I felt relatively proud of myself for it. In short, it was a reminder that writing is about revising, revising, and revising some more. I now understand why so many forewords to books begin with authors thanking their editors for "making them readable" or "making them look good." This gig takes time, and I'm happy to put in that time.

Also, I've now written over 8,000 words of a story. This is the biggest story I've ever written, so that's to be celebrated. The other reason this number is significant for me is that it puts me at 10% of the fantasy industry standard 80,000-word minimum for publication. So far, I'm right on target to finish my first draft by the end of the year. We'll see how things develop the deeper I go, as I fear how much of a shit sandwich the middle is going to end up being if I find I'm running short and needing to fill out the narrative.

Honestly, I don't know what an 80,000-word story feels like to write. I'm basically learning as I go and trying to take as much useful advice as I can along the way. It's been fun, and I figure I'm about to head into some rough waters and experience some necessary growing pains.

If you'd like to read how chapter 3 changed over the course of one revision, you can read the original here, and the revised version here. Thanks for your feedback.

Prince of pacing

I finished up Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence this week. (Goodreads review here) In short, I admired the pacing of the book, and I ended up enjoying that the chapters were all three to six pages long, as it gave me hope for my own book, knowing that's something which is possible in fantasy today. It was a bit jumpy, which made parts of it hard to understand, but overall, the middle clip of the book was just excellent. I loved how things just kept moving forward without a second to breathe. I'd like my own books to have a similar feel, but with more dashes of scene description than Lawrence provides. Actually, The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan is pretty great in this regard too, and it's far less jumpy. It's even closer to the type of pacing I'd eventually love to have in my own stories.

Now that I'm done with the Mark Lawrence book, I'm moving on to my first Brandon Sanderson stand-alone novel: Warbreaker.

It sounds wonderfully inventive, which is what fantasy should strive to be at the best of times. Thinking of my own story at the moment, it's not going to reach the thematic heights of something like this, but right now, I'm writing with an eye on improving my craft, not changing the entire fantasy industry. I'm definitely pushing myself to be as creative as I can be, but within the self-imposed limits of the world and story I'm crafting in my head.

Getting back to Sanderson, in case you don't know, he's currently the it writer in contemporary fantasy. He's also very generous with his time and is a proud nerd. Finally, he's the guy who was tasked with completing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. By most accounts, he did a remarkable job of it, so needless to say, I'm looking forward to diving into this one.

Of note is that this is actually the first third person limited POV contemporary fantasy that I've read with an eye on studying what other writers are doing, so I'm looking forward to that in particular after back-to-back first person POV stories. I'll talk about the POV stuff a bit more later on, but for now just say that the third person limited POV is what's in vogue in published fantasy these days, so I'm trying to build my skills with that in mind. It's hard because most of the time I just want to default to third person omniscient where I have access to every character's thoughts. This is much harder, but it's also pretty fun. (Game of Thrones does this FYI)

Welp, that's all for this week. I should make some good progress this week, especially since I'm now mostly healthy, and I know the next steps I want my characters to take in my story.

Thanks for reading if you've made it this far, and have a great week!

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