a little bit victorian

I received this morning a thoughtful critique on the prologue of ‘The Artificer’s Angels’, my steampunk novel. The gentleman in question had several good things to point out: a contradictory description, some wayward sentences breaking the flow, and imagery problems, all of which I was very grateful for.

But at the end he wrote this:

I also wonder if you are trying to emulate Victorian-style prose. If so, I think you might want to reconsider. The reason is that Victorian prose is really difficult for modern Americans to slog through, unless they are reading a book that was actually written in the Victorian era – then they recognize that they have no choice. The only other time I believe American readers would tolerate flowery prose and long, long sentences is if the writer were depicting the action from the first-person POV of a Victorian.

Now, I understand that this is an opinion, and should be weighed like all critiques. But it’s also a projectory opinion. “Other people won’t like it”, and that bothers me, especially since he said nothing at all whether he thought it distracting.

I’m not even a particularly flowery writer.

Ironically, a few minutes later I read a blog post by Mister Dave Kellet, writer and artist of the Sheldon webcomic. It included this:

One of my favorite things that Victorian writers figured out was how the inclusion of scraps of letters, telegraphs, and diary entries within their larger novels could help enhance a story and fill out a world.

Call me crazy, but I wonder if I would rather err on the side of more Victorian. Unrelated short steampunk stories between parts of the novel. Nano-fiction sprinkled here and there, to go with my pen-and-ink illustrations, my omniscient camera, and my insistence on spelling out titles like ‘Mister’. I’d not considered adding more material to flesh out the setting prior, but now I find the thought exciting.

Am I just being contrary? How does that sound, slogging modern American readers?

my new query letter (shred, please?)

I’m starting to be happy with Blue Crystal. I’ve finished a new query letter, and as soon as I’m farther with 3.2, off it goes.

In the meantime, what do you guys think of this?

Agent Name,

Wyrren became a political hostage to save her father. Now her own life is in danger.

An investigation originally meant to give the king’s enemies political leverage has led to the remnants of a plague, a vanished city order, and a conspiracy that could destroy the city of Vastii. Someone in the palace will kill to see their secret protected. They already have. Between the threat of imprisonment, the court’s manipulated king, the corrupt nobility, and the rebellious commons, it’s hard to know who Wyrren’s real enemy is. Maybe Vastii deserves to die.

Blue Crystal is a novel of action, intrigue, and dark fantasy, complete at 96,000 words. As per your submission guidelines, I’ve included the first X pages.

Eliza Wyatt

where did you get your novel ideas?

Nathan Bransford started this question, but I thought it interesting enough to relay. How did you get ‘the’ idea for whatever it is you’re writing?

Here are mine:

Blue Crystal

Why do ghosts wear clothes?

It’s not part of their soul. Neither is their face, their body… these images that represent them aren’t them, not really. They can’t be. You’re seeing a spiritual memory. And if bodies and clothes can be conjured from memory, what can’t?

And…

The Artificer’s Angels

Resurrection is possible, but illegal. They’re going to kill him, if they can.

‘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?

in which i attain an illustrator

That was easy.

Have I ever mentioned that my mother is a professional artist?

I mentioned that I wanted Victorian-style pen and ink illustrations for my novel to my mother; she mostly does a lot of still life and landscape. She got very excited when I described the sort of things I wanted– cloth bows, still life with wine, a top hat and gloves, birds’ nests between the junction of steel beams. She’s not a fantasy fan, but then, I’m not much interested in fantasy illustrations.

(Though the giant mechanical crab might be nice.)

7 days left – about 95.7%

Rylan sat back in his chair. His manacles dug into his back. “I think she’d rather die than marry you.”

“Are you certain that you’re not speaking of yourself?”

“I’d rather die than marry you, too.”

1500 words by midnight. (And the snippet amused me. Rylan doesn’t get to be funny nearly enough.)

With all of the changes I’ve been making to the plot, my traditional progress bar is less than effective. Since my typical chapters run about 5-8k, I’m guessing that tonight’s effort is about 22% of the last chapter (ish). It’s progress, at any rate.

9 days left – 92.4%

9 complete 24-hour days until November.

Progress: 171/185 pages. 92.4%– was 90.8%.

I should note that this progress bar is not always accurate. Since major revisions changes my wordcount, I’m pacing myself with the same ‘events’ in draft 3.0. It’s mostly on-track, but if I need a new point… yeesh. I could write two thousand words in a sitting, and that bar wouldn’t move one bit. I already know that I’m adding in two extra pages to the end of chapter twelve, and the last chapter needs a complete rewrite.

the final stretch – finishing a novel

I am over 90% finished with Blue Crystal revisions, as of tonight.

It’s kindof boggling. I’ve been working on this novel for over two years. Three full blind drafts. Test readers have pointed out things that need to be edited, of course, and I’ll need it to be polished, typos spotted. For instance, I have the hilarious tendency to write ‘kill’ instead of ‘kiss’. Hmm. Subconscious logic there…

It’s midnight now. I have exactly ten days to finish before NaNo comes around, and I think my test readers might not forgive me if I delay the last chapter for a month. So, for accountability… Every midnight, I’ll try to post a short post on my progress. It’s not a great read, I know, but I react very well to support. I’ll probably need it.

revision update: 75%

I’m slightly feverish, and must go to bed, but after an almost NaNo-worthy day, I’m drawing to the last two major scenes of chapter ten. Page-count wise, I’ve passed the three-quarters mark.

Also, I keep trying to write ‘Tyobe’ when I mean ‘Maeche’. I know the two characters are brothers, and they sort of resemble each other (a little) but why can’t I keep them straight?