‘licking it to death’

I learned that lovely turn of phrase from a sculptor who let out his studio twice a week– one day to draw or paint, one week to sculpt. The clay was a soft tan that melted under heat. To work it, there was a studio microwave were we softened blocks up. The artist, Terry Lee, would walk among us and give advice. Mine was, “You’re licking it to death.” Trying too hard to make her skin too smooth, too perfect, inspecting the exact proportional measures, putting on clay, scrapping it off again to achieve the same result.

Jody is virtually my only sculpture. The first time I tried, and perhaps the last. Not that I dislike sculpture, but it takes a lot of time, and I have too many things to do. Going over the last version of my book being one of them.

I didn’t really like the first chapter. I wrote a prologue to balance it, but I’m not happy with that, either. I got another idea. Started another prologue. Stopped. Got another idea. Started again.

After showing the revised versions and the samples to my fiance, he wonders if he didn’t like the original better. Now I’m conflicted.

How do I know if the book might have been already good enough? I was convinced it wasn’t. Now I’m not so sure. When do you realize you’re not doing anything to improve it any longer?

the end

After months of sweat, tears, and very probably blood, I bring you the most beautiful image I’ve created in some time:

For those of you who may not understand what this is, allow me to explain. This is the last page of the last chapter of the last draft of my novel.

Three drafts, from 52k to 96k to finally 105k, bringing us up to over 250,000 words written on this novel over the last year and a half– my first version was written because of a spur-of-the-moment decision to join NaNoWriMo 2007.

It needs to be revised, proofread, ect..

I also think I’ll need an agent, or at least an agent-hunt list, by the end of the year. And a new project for this November.

checking in

By tonight, I’ll be at or above 35,000 words on my novel, roughly 1400 from where I’m standing now. I’m frequently a bit below par, but I blame that to writing late at night, past the midnight line. I’m not dead, just very, very focused. Sorry I haven’t been around a lot!

I’ve said this before, but I think I need to say it again. Complete rewrites are beautiful, wonderful things. They’re a lot, a lot of work, but the improvement to the plot and composition are fabulous, and well worth it.

Since I’m finally very happy with my plot and the balance between characters, I’m going to keep up my NaNo pace through December (I’ve heard of a NaNoFiMo– National Novel Finishing Month– next month). Depending on how long this new draft takes me, I’ll be done a little before or a little after the new year.

So, based on that, January through March are going to be editing and revising months. I’ll start agent-shopping this April.

Wish me luck!

making up a schedule

I admit it, I’ve been gone lately far more than I have in the past. Things have been a little crazy.

I quit my job two weeks ago (and four days after that, they laid everyone off at the company), moved up to a more remote location. I was set then to write full-time, but the new house has needed a lot of work. Old, smelly carpets to tear out, popcorn ceilings to scrape off, walls to spackle, everything needs to be painted. I’ve also taken on an informal job designing a logo, business card, brochure, and website for one of my neighbors, in exchange for a huge, gorgeous wooden desk that’s soon to be the center of all writing-related activities (not to mention the crowning glory of my bedroom).

So, the short of it is, we’re not moved in yet, and we’ve got a metaphorical ton of work to do before carpets get in, much less furniture. It seems that I’m taking a longer break from my book after all. It has, however, emphasized something that I’ve been thinking about for writing full time. You need a schedule. You won’t make the time if you don’t think of this as a business.

Or, at least, I do.

So. Since November 1st is the day our short-term apartment lease runs out, as well as the first day of NaNoWriMo, I’ll be sticking to a schedule, most of which centers on writing.

Priorities:

  • Write ‘Blue Crystal’ (no side projects): 2,000 words a day. Estimated time… 4 hours?
  • House remodeling. I’m not stupid enough to think it’ll be over by then. 1 1/2 hours.
  • Spanish. Because I’m stubborn, and determined to learn it. 1/2 hour.
  • 3d, art, and design work (such as that commission I took on). 1 1/2 hour.
  • Exercise. I’m cranky if I don’t move at some point. 1/2 hour.

That’s eight hours. I figure that my house remodeling hour and a half will be replaced by my internet social networking time once work is done (it’s so much harder to keep up on now that I don’t have a boring desk job). So, with a bit of scheduling… my tentative schedule will look something like this:

09:00-09:30 – Exercise.
09:30-10:30 – Writing.
10:30-10:40 – Break.
10:40-11:30 – Writing.
11:30-12:00 – Spanish.
12:00-12:30 – Lunch.
12:30-02:00 – House remodeling/housework/blogging/networking.
02:00-02:10 – Break
02:10-04:00 – Writing.
04:00-05:30 – 3d, art, and design.

That’s a full eight hour day. If I don’t make my 2,000 words, then I get overtime. Too harsh? Too much to do? Anything I’m forgetting?

starting the 3rd draft

I’ve started the 3rd draft of Blue Crystal today.

I haven’t finished my plot-scrub. I’ve made some changes, questioned some motives, filled in several characters, but the detailed chapter-by-chapter plot lies incomplete on my notebook. I think it’s time to admit that I’m not much of a plotter. Which isn’t to say that I won’t be using all the ideas that I did come up with for those chapters.

I’m resetting the word count bar. I’m also putting up the first five hundred words in my excerpt page. Go take a look– I think this draft is already much better than the last.

(intelligent) magic

I’ve been reading through one of the Forgotten Realms series– not a particular favorite, but since D&D is a hobby of mine, and because some of the aspects of the books are interesting, I’ve been slogging through them.

One of the things that annoys me is just a little detail. Anyone familiar with the D&D magic system knows that the spells are geared to be balanced game mechanics, and doesn’t really hold a lot of internal consistency, or even any economic sense. I can accept fireballs, I can accept bolts of lightening flying from wands, teleportation, shadow-stepping, slow-falls, ect.

But I can’t accept an enchanted whip.

Not just any whip, either. This whip is fashioned to have snake-creatures instead of lashes, which will occasionally speak to their wielder, warning of poison, eavesdropping, ect. And when she uses this whip, the snake heads will sink their fangs into the victim, poisoning them.

I’ve seen this whip in action for three books now. And every time the snake heads bite down, they inject poison. So you have long, extended battles with this weapon in use, and all I can think of is ‘where do they get all that poison from?’.

Since the snakes never eat, never drink, never diminish, I can only assume that they somehow repeatedly conjure poison up from nothing, expending no energy or resources to do so: a never-ending supply of venom, by nature of the design. Nothing else in the book does this. I don’t see good, cheap poison readily available. It’s a ridiculous mental image, but I keep picturing the characters getting into financial straights and trying to figure out how to milk this amazing whip.

CHARACTER: “Here, you guys each grab a head. Now, whip, when I say ‘go’, start squirting poison.”
WHIP: “F*** you.”
CHARACTER: “Hey, you always contributed this stuff before…!”
WHIP: “I demand death first. It turns me on.”
CHARACTER: “Hmm. So you’d say that you’re rather ‘limp’ right now?”
WHIP: *attempts to murder the character*
CHARACTER: *holds up the vial, tries to hide behind it* “The tube, not me, the glass tube!”

Please, fellow fantasy writers. Do not do this. Please think carefully about your magic/magical items/magical effects.

invitation to world building month

This is the official invitation!

August is going to be dedicated to world-building, here, and on any other blog or site that wishes to participate. We’re going to be exploring everything; history, art, politics, geography, map-making, town-building, magic, science, rumor mills, everything that provides a setting for writing. Any medium of exploring these topic is welcome, from essays to writing samples to artwork. This is an open project. As with Villain Month, I’ll be showcasing people’s work every week.

Interested in participating? Just leave a comment, and be sure to include the URL where you’ll be posting your own projects.

June’s Villain Month was a great success; here’s hoping that World Building Month can do the same!

world building woes

Recently I started reading an enormous book (700+ pages) that had, among other things, fantastic world building. History… no, it wasn’t just history. It was economic history, military history, artistic history, mythological history, the history of arcana, discrepancies between the histories and difference of opinion based on source. It spanned racial customs, clothes, weather, standards for different classes, idioms, the difference between different districts in a city, children’s skipping rhymes. It included little details, always relevant, always practical: a minor character took a room not far from a butcher, and the main character can’t help but notice the smell every time he comes by to see her. And the method of immersion into this world was so well done that finding more about it felt as if I were slipping into a steaming bath, or cuddling up to a down blanket. I get excited when the author writes a few pages of summary or explanation; I feel as if I can safely laugh at the show-don’t-tell Nazis now that I’ve seen it done so well, so efficiently, in such an entertaining and smooth fashion.

I have a difficult time reading new books. I can’t turn off my internal editor, which tends to focus on plot, theme, and composition. So when I’m trying to read for fun, I keep finding myself considering the question, ‘If I’d written this, would I be proud of myself?’. When I find that the answer is ‘no’, I tend to stop reading. And when I find something as detailed, complex, and well-done as this, I start raising my standards. My novel just got a little worse.

June was ‘Villain Month’. That seemed to go fairly well. I think I need a ‘World Building Month’ next, a concept that was mentioned a few weeks ago. I do want to finish this draft of my book first, but there are fifteen days of July left and roughly twenty thousand words to write. And I get anxious the closer I draw to the grand finale. That puts me at 1,333 words every day (including this one) until July. … On the bright side, it’s not as bad as NoNoWriMo.

Here are my goals, then:

  1. 1,333 words a day until the book is finished. I estimate that will let me finish the book before August.
  2. Finish ‘The Name of the Wind’.
  3. Write a book review.
  4. Possibly send girlish fan-letters to Patrick Rothfuss.
  5. Start the hype for ‘World Building Month’. Set it for August.

I’m imagining that World Building Month will be more useful to writers of speculative fiction than contemporary fiction. Even so, solidifying a good, living setting does deserve some attention. So, since Villain Month met with such approval, I’ll be doing the same thing. Anyone interested in signing up and joining in the event are welcome.

showcase of villainy, part iv

Villain Month

As promised, here is the last showcase of the month-long villain series.

This ended up being more difficult than I thought it would be. Just spending time thinking about the antagonists was useful, and it was fantastic seeing other people join in. Thanks to everyone participating!

I spent the week focusing on my last villain of the four I meant to go over, Sorche du Remerdii. I also wrote a closing message and introduced a bonus villain-type, the king’s secret police, nicknamed after the silver masks that they wear.


Saint Know-All finished a few more drawings, and bid farewell to the month.


Nilah wrote a short article about human predators, in regards to the villain month project.


Aldersgatecycle focused on her last villain, Sally Din.


Nymeria wrote about Orion Novak, Dahlia Laras, and posted a gallery of her villain portraits.


And, last, even though she wasn’t actually participating, Worderella was kind enough to write up a few posts on villains on her blog as a kind of villain-month-tribute.


Closing links:

A list of participants
Showcase of villainy, part i
Showcase of villainy, part ii
Showcase of villainy, part iii

Thoughts? Comments? Shall we do this again someday? 🙂

A ‘hero month’ idea has already been put out, and I wouldn’t mind spending some time dedicated to world building as a future project…

villain: sorche du remerdii: introduction

Sorche du Remerdii
“Common sense really isn’t that common.”

Sorche du Remerdii

(Ideally read to the tune of Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult.)

Sorche is my favorite villain in this story– I’ve touched on him before in my Kione excerpt, and have been working on him in the background since June began and I figured out what a smart-ass he was.

“Apologies, du Jadis.” One of the men in black bowed slightly. Rylan decided (for now) that he was the leader, and noted his unusually dark skin showing between his cap and scarf. “This is a rescue, despite appearances. We’d appreciate it if you would move quickly. We’re not to hurt anyone.”

Another man appeared with bandages while a third pulled out Rylan’s coat that he’d left in the other room, along with his hat, muffler, gloves, but not his swords. Rylan allowed them access to his wounded arm, and they bandaged it (sloppily– Rylan thought he could have done better, even with one hand). “Who do you serve?” Rylan asked.

“Now?” The leader glanced back to the men who were keeping the doors. No one had intruded on them yet. “Very well. On behalf of my lord, Rylan du Jadis, I commend you for your bravery, congratulate you for your victory, and condemn you for your idiocy.” He offered Rylan an exaggerated bow, and pulled back his left sleeve to show a golden bracer, celestite set into the ring on his middle finger instead of a sigil. “You can call me Sorche du Remerdii.”

Sorche is the adopted son of Remerdii, a landed gentleman who has managed to achieve great wealth, and foster brother to Kione Remerdii. Sorche was taken as a small child and given the name of the Remerdii’s dead son and brother. Sorche has always been considered a gentleman as long as he could remember, given good rooms and private tutors, encouraged to compete with his brother Kione. He’s better than Kione at the Mordache Art, fighting and other physical activities, but falls short at tact and diplomacy. Sorche just can’t help but take jabs when he sees the opportunity.

I’ve put another Sorche excerpt, longer this time, under the cut.
Continue reading