Wednesday, December 31, 2008

... revisions complete

I met a goal. I decided I wanted to finish the revisions before the new years, and I did it. That's always nice. With the read-through of Chapter 17, the revisions are complete. Naturally Chapter 17 wasn't to see much work, because it was the chapter which inspired most of the revisions in the first place! Still, several spots were tweaked, a few clarifications added, and for some reason I forgot how to spell one character's name. Oops.

385,575 words. 964 pages at 400 wpp.

Trivia for fans of the original - At the moment, Nightfall is at around Chapter 22. James and Jyre are at around Chapter 17. (Merely a coincidence!) Sheam, Lytha, and Ghost are all, of course, far beyond where the old story ended. Why are they so far out of sync? Because in the original events were paced unnaturally to allow the characters to conviniently meet where we wanted them to.

Before I begin writing Chapter 18, (or outlining it - I always do that before I write a chapter) I'm going to see what segues I want to add (bits of story told between chapters from the point if view of very minor characters who are seeing things that I want the player to know, such as what mid-level characters are up to - I intend to do one between each chapter, but I am not forcing them, instead waiting for inspiration before writing the very short segments) and then will be sending the whole thing out to my critics. Nailbiting as it is, I will be attempting to find non Thief fans to read the story and get their opinions on it as well. I have a few suspects, but if anyone can make any suggestions or can help me find some unbiased bookworms with no knowledge of Thief, now's the time for it.

With the revisions over I will certainly be updating the blog much less, but I won't just vanish.

... only one left

Remarkably, there's very little to say about Chapter 16. There was very little editing to do, and thank goodness - I wrote it along with 15 and 16 just a few months ago. The 'revision' of it is done, and now there's just one chapter left to go.

Then... you know what that means.

... epic

Chapter 15 is epic.

It's also the only chapter that's one single section. There's no switching back and forth between points of view. It covers events that spanned about a half-dozen chapters in the original, though in the original it was all only given a bit at a time as the point of view switched around.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

... Ghost plays an FM

After 12 and 13 went so smoothly, it was a little jarring to have to go back into revisions mode for Chapter 14. It wasn't because I suddenly devolved (well, maybe I did) or had plot points to change, but because I made a bad decision while writing it.

When I first wrote it, I decided that COT needed to get back to its roots, so I wanted a character to go on an actual mission, and do the things that we taffers do on missions, and see the things we see, and have the same basic kind of experience. At the time, I figured I had pulled it off nicely. Stacking crates. Stealing loot. Twacking guards. Listening to servants babble. Reading diaries. Getting confused by samey level design. It had it all. Looking back at it, I found it a convoluted mess of asides, in-jokes, fourth-wall snickering, and outright nonsensical rubbish that gummed up a perfectly good humorous suspense sequence. I wasn't happy about it, since I thought that some of the things I had put in were clever, but I realised that they would only be clever to Thief players, and so the deal was off. I removed everything from the section that was unneeded, which basically amounted to everything which acknowledged the fact that Ghost was playing a game of Thief. I could keep a copy of the unedited scene on archive somewhere as a curious outtake, but I seriously think that all of the gamey stuff detracted from the storytelling. Close to 600 words were removed in all - the section itself around 4 ,000 words total.

14 marks a complete break from the original COT. Not a bit of it is based on the original story, because it deals with events in The City during the time when James, Jyre, and Nightfall are all away, and with Ghost and Lytha now a full day after their adventure in the original had already concluded. (None of it is borrowed COT2 material either.)

... more of a proofread

What used to be the second half of Chapter 12 and is now Chapter 13 has been revised, though now it's more of a proofread than a revision. Even though I wrote these chapters several months ago, I think I am still too "close" to them to seriously revise the contents like I've done for the past eleven chapters. Either that, or they're just fine and don't need many changes.

Like the new 12, the new 13 works very well in its divided state. The only problem was that many of the Lytha sections were designed with breaks in between, so that a 'boring' part would be simply left out (rather than narrated through) by switching to a different character and then coming back to Lytha later. Well, it seems that all of these switches were to either James, Jyre, or Sheam, which means that now chapter 13 is dominated through the middle by a very long stay with Lytha. As suggested above, the breaks were supplanted by bits of narration to connect one section to the next.

Monday, December 29, 2008

... easygoing from here?

Unexpectedly, I completed my revision of Chapter 11 and, in record time, finished Chapter 12 as well.

Chapter 11 was also very hard to work on, but for a new reason. It is the farthest COT has traveled from the Thief Universe thus far (and yet in one important way swings back around and becomes far closer to the Thief Games than COT ever dares elsewhere!) The rather longish chapter could have been even longer, had I included everything I wanted to, but so much is presented so fast, and all of it so new and so strange, that I had to hold back on several things.

Chapter 12 used to be the longest chapter in the story (twice as long as any other) and I now experimented with cutting it in two. The reason why I didn't divide it before was because splitting it down the middle produced something that I felt didn't provide a complete episode. I've discussed this before in the blog at length. However, electing a different method, I feel that the division was extremely successful. Rather than just finding the mid-point and inserting a new chapter title, I divided it by character. Everything for Sheam, James, and Jyre went into chapter 12. Everything from Nightfall, Ghost, and Lytha went into Chapter 13. I haven't read through the organized 13 yet, but I found it remarkable how much more entertaining 12 read when it focused only on three characters rather than jumping around between six. It's also a welcome break from 11, which was mysterious, slow moving, dramatic, and tense. 12 is fast paced, clever, familiar, and slightly humorous.

I believe that 12 also marks another resume after a break from writing, as the quality of the work is much, much higher than 11 and everything before it.

I'm going to tackle 13 now - I am feeling much better, and would really like to stick to my goal of finishing the revisions before New Years Day. Two days left!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

... recaps and infodumps

The chapter 10 revision is done. I think this chapter was the hardest to revise so far - in fact I even had dreams about it last night. 10 represents several turning points in the story. Ghost and Lytha are now finished with their original COT adventures and are now venturing into new territory. James finally appears in the flesh, as the sixth principal, with more than half of the chapter told from his point of view (though this is arguably superfluous, as the whole thing could have just as easily been done from Daneel's point of view!). Most importantly though, this is where we take a look at where we are, and where things are going.

Before the revision, much of this chapter was an infodump. I tend not to like those, but that's in the case of the author narrating a pile of information directly to the reader. In this case, it's one character explaining to another everything he knows about what's going on. After the revision, it's now an infodump intertwined with a recap. When I first wrote it I was afraid of recapping, thinking the reader would be bored by having things explained to them that they already knew. Now, I realised that it had to be done, both for in-character reasons (the explainer would tell his audience things that the reader already knew - they wouldn't skip over them!) and for storytelling reasons. The infodumps had to be grounded, completely interconnected, with what is already known. Simply putting the information out there and letting the reader maybe, maybe, figure out how it is related to everything they already know isn't good enough. It's actually pretty unsatisfying. I don't want to name any examples in the blog, that's a little too spoiler after all, but I can give a crude illustration.

The reader knows about C, E, and F. The way the original was written, A, B, D, and G were explained. So, now the reader technically should know what's going on, if they can assemble it all in their heads. After the rewrite, it is explained as A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Yes, it's longer, but I think it's actually a much easier read, because it's not full of holes.

I'm tired, and have gotten a little sick.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

... his name is Nightfall

There was no sense in putting it off - now all of the section headings for Nightfall are properly labeled as Nightfall and not Daneel, as per popular vote. Find and replace!

... they would call it episodic

Chapter 9 is the biggest example of inconsistencies of style which resulted from the huge writing gaps that occur ed from around 2005 - 2007, during which Chapters 6 - 9 were written. I was maturing as a writer, and was seriously feeling the stress of being cut off from something creative that I really wanted to work on. When I eventually did write Chapter 9, over the course of months, I redefined alot about Lytha which would then inform the revision I did after 9 was finished. Many of her scenes in Chapters 2 and 4 were written and rewritten after 9 was finished, such as her investigation of Thalia's chest and her infiltration of the astrologer's tower. Her torture scenes were also very nearly rewritten, expanding both on The Inquisitor's methods and how she reacted to it all. Essentially, Chapter 9 is the one that created Lytha.

For the others, it did not go so well. Nightfall's tone was also very different in this chapter, but rather than be an improvement I decided to scale him back to how he had been written all along, and during this revision I attempted to scale him back even more. At first he seemed to swerve in Lytha's direction, with his inner thoughts becoming very poetic, and then he swerved in the opposite direction, with over-written phrases and an overabundance of vocabulary that would have made him very tedious to read. Ghost became mostly wisecracks and humorous asides and little substance. His sections were riddled with commentary that often went off on wild tangents from what was going on, leaving him feeling detached from the action and the importance of where he was and what he was doing. I removed most of it in the revision just now, and in one case completely deleted an entire section of his and rewrote it from scratch - making it very different. It seemed that I knew what I wanted to do before, but it was too difficult to write in the amount of free time and energy I had during school, so rather than actually make any of it happen I made jokes about it and took shotcuts, thinking myself clever and ironic. Well, the new version is neither clever nor ironic, and is instead (I think) exciting and satisfying. It was good that I had done such a cheap shot when I wrote this last year - it allowed me to totally throw it out and do something good without quirks or gimmicks. When Ghost is funny, it's because of how he reacts to horrible situations, not because he's sitting in the theater as part of the cast to MST3K being all deconstructivist... or is that simply obnoxious?

Friday, December 26, 2008

... on the importance of being fry

I just finished some additional work to chapters 7 & 8 (mostly 8) that crept up on me during the past day or so. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean my mind stops COTing! There were a few places which I felt were still a little shabby and I didn't do as well on them as I could have because I wanted to get 8 done before things got seriously Christmasy. Most of it is little touches, such as Brother Ivan spreading incense over the work site, or tweaks to the conversation Jyre hears at The Blood's hideout, but there were two bigger changes that reflect new ideas for Chapter 9 and beyond.

As I mentioned before, I have been thinking about both making COT more 'accessable' (a dirty word sometimes) to non-Thief fans and un-gaming certain aspects of The Thief universe. One difficulty is that the story lacks a Fry. A Fry, as I have decided, is what you call the outsider that is put into the story mostly for the purpose of exposition. The Fry doesn't know what anything is or what is going on, so other characters have to explain things to them, or they have to observe and figure out things on their own that everyone else would take for granted. Sometimes it works well (like Fry in Futurama) and sometimes it's tedious and alienating (like making Neo not know what EMP is in The Matrix).

I did a little tinkering with it today, focusing on the fire arrows. First I found all cases where they are mentioned and renamed them to fire-arrows. Yep, a dash. A small distinction, but I think it's important to idenfity them as a thing and not as an adjective followed by a thing. Ghost is the only one in COT (so far) that uses or sees fire-arrows, and he's the farthest thing from a Fry (at this point in the story anyway ... later on he very much becomes one!) So the problem was, how do I have Ghost explain to the reader something that he would completely take for granted? I added this paragraph to the start of his first section, before he enters The Bonehoard.

I checked my gear one more time before going in. I always took more than I would need, not because I was afraid of running out, but because I wouldn’t use what I had if I was afraid of running out, and might do something stupid instead. I had a set of fire-arrows, which I had already carefully inspected to make sure that the explosive crystal tied to the end of each arrow-shaft wasn’t chipped or cracked, or had any other flaw that would cause it to blow up while in my quiver. I didn’t have many, not because they were rare or expensive – in fact I grew them myself in a few fire pits I tended in my basement – but because if I packed them in too tightly the sharp edges would rub against one another and sooner or later the whole set would become just one big fireball. On the other hand the bombs and mines were more predictable and more expensive, and tended to be used as more of a defensive last-resort. They were the most fun when combined with big flasks of oil, which I had, to really make sure that whatever was chasing me would regret it.

So I had him explain something he takes for granted by making him consider something he would not take for granted - them exploding. I think it works. What do you think? What else in the story needs a Fry to explain?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

... an easy cut

Today I finally decided to remove the mysterious unmanned ship from the story of Daneel's arrival at The City. I had made a deal with myself that if I could not figure out what that was all about by the time I got to the final act of the story, I would change it. Well, I changed my mind - I am still in the middle of the revision and am not yet ready to write the final act, and I removed it completely. It was surprisingly easy, which is a good sign that it needed to be removed. I only had to edit the first prologue bit by the Keeper, and one paragraph of Nightfall's inner contemplation later (around Chapter 3 it seems). Rewrites were not even required; I simply removed the sentences that mentioned it and patched up the ones around it to make it flow correctly without them. Done. That's it. The following paragraph is no more and the events it describes no longer happen.

We discovered that this man, appearing as an aristocrat, was the sole occupant aboard the vessel. News of this aristocratic sailor and his unlikely feat of operating a ship of considerable size without a crew to aid him propagated through the seaside pubs and watering holes until it had passed from mouth to ear several times, soon to be disregarded as nonsense by any who considered themselves to be of discerning intellect. This vessel remains to this day, docked at a private location to which it was moved shortly after its owner’s arrival. Inspection of this vessel has revealed it to be nothing aside from completely ordinary.

Too bad. I kinda liked some of the phrasing in that.

I had already sent out the revised Chapters 7 and 8 to my critics, but I'm feeling the need to go back over them both one more time and make sure things are best. This is a point in the story that sort-of fell through the cracks when it was first (re)written, as I had just started Architecture school at around the end of Chapter 6, and would not find my stride again with writing until around Chapter 9 (which was then 8). So if memory serves all of the old 7 was sort-of tossed together when I could over the course of a year and a half. It's no wonder it's shoddier than most.

Monday, December 22, 2008

... the urge to add more

Chapter 8 was very easy to expand to a full chapter's length, and I didn't even really need to add any new plot points, just expand and extrapolate what was already there. The biggest changes were to Nightfall's sections, each of which were almost entirely rewritten. One small bit was cut off from where it sat, moved earlier, and expanded. I am surprised that so much in these sections as well as in chapter 7 were left so mediocre, even after the last revision. It's possible that when I was writing and revising it the subject matter simply left me so uninspired that I didn't want to bother trying to fix it. I feel that with the division and repurposing of these sections into a new chapter 8 with the theme of "serious distractions" (that's the new title) the events are given breathing room to be fleshed out and given true purpose.

Sheam saw the greatest amount of expansion, with several completely new scenes written that filled in some gaps that were left up to assumption before, or simply forgotten. The goal of the work was to 'give' the chapter to Sheam and Nightfall, just like 7 was given to Jyre. Though Ghost and Lytha see important events take place here, it is Sheam and Nightfall that provide the structure for the chapter. The strangest thing I did was the incorporation of the end-chapter segue into the body of the chapter. It was unique in that it was a flashback told from Nightfall's perspective, so it naturally lent itself to being part of a chapter proper, but was awkward because it dealt with events from a long time before the start of the story. I worked it in, and it works... I think so, anyway.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

... on chapters

I just sent the revised chapter 7 out to the critics. This chapter had some of the biggest alterations since the beginning, mostly centered around Jyre. Three of her scenes were very nearly rewritten, with one totally new one drafted to fill a careless gap. (Of course that means that there's new 1st draft material in this chapter, which means it will need attention during the next revision after this one.) The unexpected thing, however, was my decision to end the chapter about 12 thousand words earlier.

I take what constitutes a chapter fairly seriously, not only because it's important in general, but because the story is going to be released as a serial and each chapter needs to be able to stand as an episode. Even when the story is published as printed volumes I am not sure yet where the divisions will fall, and I don't want to compromise any of the books because one of the chapters isn't structured just right. The rules for what makes a chapter are quite flexible. As I am writing I tend to think of 20 thousand words as the 'standard' length for a chapter, though a few are shorter and most are longer. Each chapter tends to have a theme or a tone which makes it distinct from those around it. I try to give each one a sort-of arc, with a beginning, middle, and end, though what constitutes those is of course very open to interpretation. As a rule I try to avoid 'cliffhanger' endings because I happen to think that's slightly childish especially when done over and over. It works for the serial format because the reader then is anticipating the next chapter a week later, but in printed form it's a bit meaningless unless it's a chapter-a-night bedtime story. Basically it has to work as both - a novel and a serial - or I avoid it. I think the simplest, and most pure rule is this - if I can think of a short title that sums up the chapter's essence, it works. If I cannot, then there's a problem.

So, chapter 7 was giving me trouble. First of all, it was the longest so far, and the second longest of the entire story at 31K words, very far above the standard length. However I didn't think that it was the length that was causing the problem. After going over it a few times, I realised what was happening. The first half of the chapter was devoted to continuing and concluding events from chapter 6. It took the main action of those adventures and provided an epilogue for them, and set up the way the story was going to progress from there. Then, after about 19K words, it switched to new events which were of a considerably different tone and focus from chapter 6. I thought, okay, split it in two - but it wasn't that simple. It was very, very clear where Chapter 7 wanted to end, and it was at around the 19K word mark. I couldn't split it in two and have one of the chapter be a mere 12K words, which would be painfully off balance from the rest of the story. Length isn't the most important aspect, I reminded myself, what felt right for the chapter was. So, with that in mind, I wrote in 'End Chapter 7' where I wanted it to go, declared the rest of 7 to be the new Chapter 8, and changed the titles of both to things that I felt were far more fitting than the original title for the old 7.

So now figuring out how to make a 12K word Chapter 8 right is going to be interesting. I have a few ideas, but it doesn't involve chopping off bits of the old Chapter 8 and adding them on to the end. The structure of that one is just how I want it, and it doesn't need to lose its beginning.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

... one of the polls actually closed!

Looks like Ghost won by a landslide for readers of the original COT, with Lytha coming in last with zero votes. I really hope that for the rewrite the spread will be more even. I am curious though... if you voted, why? Assuming that those who voted for Ghost are still reading this blog, was it just because he was a funny rascal?

My thoughts for a new poll really don't work as a poll... I need actual text feedback. The question is basically this. How do you feel about the sections of the rewrite that are based closely on actual Thief 1 and 2 map areas? Did you know that when I wrote them I was actually playing the game to make sure of accuracy? Do you think it muddles the story up too much with needless details or does it work well? I'll make a poll for it anyway.

I am trying to ramp up to getting back to work on editing, but I am pretty exhausted from finishing thesis, publishing the japan journal, putting my portfolios online, graduating, and finishing all 26 cosas release packs. It is, however, very excellent to have done so many projects that I had to put off until now (sometimes for years). Things are finally getting done.

Monday, December 15, 2008

... restarting the revision?

Lately I have been thinking about restarting the revision, because I think there's things I am taking for granted. A recent discussion in Thief Gen started me thinking about the way the thief-game tools should be treated in a different medium. I realised that we, the authors of Thief fiction and those aspiring to create short Thief films often take things far too literally. I am no exception. Consider the differences between how a game set in the 'real world' compares to the actual real world. Everything exists as a cartoon version of itself rendered as either an obstacle or a powerup. I think that most Thief fans would be offended if a speed potion were called a powerup, since powerups are for mario, but that's what LGS called them in their development journals.

Some reverse engineering is needed, I think. I know that iff A then B, and I have D, and must find C. We know what the cartoon/game version of the Thief world is like. How do I backtrack from there and find the reality it could have been based on? What exactly are water and fire arrows when freed from the constraints of balanced gameplay? What about rope arrows, which many players and authors themselves have often scratched their heads over?

I'm not talking about throwing that all out. Jyre shouldn't suddenly use a different way to climb Nightfall's tower. Ghost shouldn't have to wrap an oil-soaked wick around an arrowhead and light it if he wants a fire arrow. These game items should have a 'real Thief world' counterpart that they are based on - not a mundane 'our real world' un-imagining.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

... mind the gap

I should have seen this coming. After working on thesis, COT, then the Japan journal, I am pretty sick of text. I did a little more work on the cosas release packs, but then decided I am sick of work in general. But now I need to get back to work... on school related nonsense. There's a thesis gallery on Friday, and because my presentation was done on the projector, and there will be none at the gallery, it means I need to get to work on a pinup. It's no big deal... it will just take a few hours. I am just sick of my thesis.

The good news is that both the MX manual printing and the Japan Journal have been a success. The manual is ready to go, but I am going to hold off on it until things can calm down. There's no rush, after all.

Also, from the looks of things, my critics don't have much time to do any criticising either, so now isn't a bad time for a break.

Friday, December 5, 2008

... I can get back to work now?

The full color version turned out to be way too expensive, but I am putting it in the store anyway, in case there's a crazy person out there. You never know. I might be able to get myself a copy when I actually have an income.
I'm tired now, but at least I can resume COT.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

... still "in" Japan

I gave the first run of the MX manual to the artist Ireth Kalt (Marianna) who did the team member portraits (which turned out to be eerily accurate in some cases, in spite of neither she nor I knowing what some of us looked like) for use in her samples kit. I expect the next draft in the mail any day now. An additional problem has appeared through - any time there are elements which must be precisely against the edge of the page, it seems I am asking for trouble. As a result, half of the borders around the pages are cut off by about an eighth of an inch. I don't think there's anything that can be done about it. Another problem was the darkness of the cover image, but I anticipated this and brightened it up for the second run. We'll see how it turns out! By the way, its a perfect fit for a DVD case insert; both the dimensions and the thickness of the booklet for fitting under the plastic tabs in most cases. I suppose this means that an MX DVD cover should be next, no? Anyone want to try designing one for me? :)

As the title suggests, I am still hard at work on the Japan Journal. The text is finished of course, with the selection and insertion of photos dragging on and on. The problem is that I have about 2,500 photos, and I am trying to narrow that selection down to only a few hundred. In the end it looks like the book will be about 400 pages long, which means for black and white it will be about $10 (guess) and for full color about $80. I'm going to make the full color one a hardback too. Oddly enough it did a switch on me mid-path. I was thinking of it as a journal with a few photos to illustrate. Really it's more of a photo book with a few pages of text as introduction to each photo section. Eeeash!

I'm going to add a new poll to the site, which asks opinions about the ending. Don't worry, I am not going to determine the story based on popular vote, I am just curious about how people feel concerning a certain topic, especially considering it entails dramatically changing the ending from the original. Doing this poll, I keep in mind several things. I have never been formally educated in creative writing, and have always considered COT as a learning process. Discussing and debating storytelling issues is almost as interesting as writing itself. I like to keep things unexpected and mysterious, but think that plot-twists are an overrated device. The reader should feel that the author is a confidant, not a trickster or conman.

Monday, December 1, 2008

... just a little bit off the top

It seems that there was a cropping issue with the manual cover design, which wouldn't be a problem except that I put the text so close to the edge and it looks odd. I've uploaded another try at the cover with proper margins this time, and had it sent to me with a bit of a faster shipping option. I am afraid I made the margins too big, though.

... in hand, 150 miles away

The Mission X Manual arived in the mail today. It came to my family's house rather than to my apartment. This is good, but it means that I will not be able to have a look at it until the 3rd of this month. At the moment I am back in Tampa turning in my printed/published Thesis. Work also continues on the Japan Journal today, with possably another day after that. I hope to resume work on COT no later than Thursday.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

... my other book

As I mentioned in my other post, I am taking a brief break from the COT revision to compile, edit, and complete my Japan daily journal. During the summer of '07 I spent over seven weeks there on study abroad with architecture school, and I kept a daily log of my adventures. I always meant to edit it into a book and self-publish it, and now seems like a good time. I needed a little break from COT, and this way I can get it done and ready in time for Christmas in case I want to send it to anyone as gifts (or if anyone wants it). Yesterday I went through all 120 pages of it, scanning for errors but leaving most of the writing as-is, since it should maintain the "journal" aspect. I also added comments as footnotes wherever I felt like it.

The next step will be to add photos, but I also want to write an introduction (in case anyone gets their hands on it who doesn't actually know me) and a concluding journal entry as a year-and-a-half later reflection. Naturally, if anyone wants a peek at it, I'll be happy to send out the manuscript. Or you could just head over to my other blog and check out the J months in 2007, as well as my flickr and youtube accounts, which are all linked to on the side of the page.

In other news, the print&bound Mission X manual should be arriving any time now, and once I've had a look at it to make sure there's no problems with it, I'll see about using it as a "trial run" for how the COT volumes will be distrubuted.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

... a trip through crazy town

Very little commenting is done in the revision of Chapter 6, because almost all of the editing is structural and not content related. On the other hand, I've always had trouble editing these parts of the story because I get into it too much while reading, and find it hard to take the time to scrutinize my sentence structure.

In a switch from the previous pairing, 6 focuses mostly on Ghost and Jyre, though the story is still told from the point of view of all five. The difference is that those two are in the most proactive situations whereas the other three are stuck in mostly reactive situations.

In a fit of nostalgia, I recall that it was the contents of this chapter which prompted the rewrite to begin with. I was plugging away at COT2 and tackling the problem of the monster in the forbidden district, when I decided I needed to do a 'flashback' to refresh the reader's memory about what exactly I was talking about. No, wait, that's not what it was - I was writing about events that were taking place at the same time (the whole chapter was a flashback) and wanted to illustrate that, at that very moment, Jyre had read the scroll and was summoning the monster, so I added in the text from COT. Well, I was miserable over the fact that the pasted text from the old COT scene was very "roughly" written compared to the surrounding content, so I decided to rewrite it. I wouldn't set about trashing COT2 in favor of the rewrite until some time later, but that's where the bug came from. Of course, the rewritten section I used back then wasn't used in the actual rewrite (though it was temporarily!), because the situation and circumstances are very very different in the current draft. Explanation: In the original, Jyre just found the scroll under some loose rocks outside the mansion after a few minutes of looking.

From the looks of the latest poll, I'll be needed to switch the chapter headings back to Nightfall, as it was in the original story.

I will be taking a break from the COT revision to work on something else soon (maybe today, maybe I will work on Chapter 7 first) - the editing of my Japan daily journal into a book, which I think would make a nice Christmas present for some people. That, and I might actually be able to sell it. Wouldn't that be cool! It would also be ironic that my first published and for-sale book turned out to be nonfiction!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

... one third done with revision

It's not actually one third done, since one of the chapters in the middle if twice the length of an ordinary chapter, but we can pretend that I am one third done! I think Chapter 5 is exciting for a variety of reasons.
  • It's the unofficial gateway to "act 2" where introductions are quite done with and the meat of the story is underway.
  • Day to day life is over - all the principals are in some type of peril and have no way to escape it. Of course, much of this peril is the direct result of either their own actions, or the actions of one of the other principals!
  • It's told from the point of view of all of them, whereas chapters 1 - 4 are divided with Nightfall and Jyre on the odd side, and Ghost and Lytha on the even one. Sheam is a bit of a nomad, appearing in 2, 3, and 4. (No James yet; as readers of the original will remember, he does not appear in the story until around the middle.)
  • It's heavy with COT2 elements. Though not a single word was cut-&-pasted from the discarded documents and into this one, one of the major plot points that impact this chapter and those that follow comes fully formed from my plans for the sequel. The best part is, when it was written into COT2, it seemed tacked on and tenuous, since it was designed to patch a big hole in the original story. As part of the COT rewrite, it's the inevitable progression of events.
  • The original COT did not have very many compelling side characters, but Chapter 5 marks the arrival of two of my favorites; Brother Thurm and Richen (the getaway-driver).
  • For those who do like fan-ficcy elements, the principals stumble upon two Dark Project locations. I had those missions opened while writing to ensure some level of accuracy, too! (I also did this while writing the bonehoard.)

If I said anything else it would get a little too spoilerific I think. Well today is a holiday in The United States of America (Happy Thanksgiving!) so I won't get another chapter done today, but that doesn't mean that I won't start tinkering on 6.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

... and four makes a set

The revision of Chapter 4 just went out to the critics. This is the first chapter to see any kind of additions to in along with the revisions, mostly to flesh out a character who was supposed to be very minor but ended up, a few chapters later, getting an unexpected amount of "page time". Another addition involved the removal of a loose end, not by tying it, but by making it never a loose end in the first place. There can only be so many unanswered questions that eventually get answered, and sometimes it's better to simply not ask them at all. I don't usually do this, but as the case may be, this one had to go.

I "traditionally" thought of the first four chapters of the COT rewrite as "Book 1" of the saga, and it will probably be printed that way when the time comes. Of course, since I am determined to do six volumes and not an indeterminate number with a set length each, I have no idea what will actually end up in Book 1.

The bad news is that I am halting work on the lexicon. It simply became too much to proofread and edit, check for plot holes and either fix them or make note for them to be fixed later, as well as keep a catalogue going of all characters, places, things, and so forth. It may get done at some point, but right now I just don't know. Besides, I am sure everyone would rather I spend only as much time on the revision as I need, so that I can get back to writing new chapters!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

... clearing the hump

Chapter 3 marks the transition from introductory elements into the meat of the story (and it is the longest chapter until chapter 7). Though it and 4 are technically still setting the stage, with the main action not properly beginning until Chapter 5, 3 is when things start to get complicated, and when the character's normal lives (if they have one) began to be disrupted by the plot. It is also the first chapter that goes to great lenghts to illustrate the setting of The City beyond the scope of the principal characters, but from a decidedly COT/COSAS point of view. The first section of it, "A Matter of Economy," has been released to the public in the form of the Mission X manual, back in August, so everyone can see what I mean by this. That's far from everything, however. Though we catch a peek of the Hammerites in Chapter 2, this one is where we dive head first into The Order, though it is not nessecarily what one would expect from Dark Project (or even Deadly Shadows!) I digress. Chapter 3's has been sent out to the critics, and with a little energy and luck, 4 won't be far behind.

Monday, November 24, 2008

... introducing everyone's favorite

Chapter 2's revision is done. I didn't have as much feedback on this one, so most of the changes were at my own discretion. Ghost seems to be winning our little poll, and I don't blame anyone for thinking so, so naturally working on his introductory chapter was a pleasure. Both Chapters 1 and 2 were split into two, making 3 and 4, and while the division of Chapter 1 into 1 and 3 works well, I think 2 and 4 probably less so. Ghost's introduction is robust, maybe even the best out of all of them (maybe!) but Sheam and Lytha's seem a little lacking in comparison. I have no plans to change this; it's just a casual observation. The copy has been sent out to the critics, and I am interested in hearing their thoughts on the topic.

... electricity in a fantasy world

I just realised that there was still alot about the The City which I take for granted and readers who have never heard of the games won't be expecting, or realise. For example - I am not sure where or if I ever actually make it clear that The City has electricity. I need to find somewhere I can slide that in. Is there anything else like that? What am I forgetting? Post ideas to the comments!

Edit: I added one word to Jyre's introduction segment, where I describe the city's lights as electrical. I think that will be enough. I'm still interested in thoughts on the matter, especially issues that may be assumptions on the part of fantasy readers who are not familiar with Thief.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

... a brief distraction abated

I never did get to Chapter 2 last night. I am about to go visit my family for Thanksgiving (they get the whole week this year, not just one day) so I decided to get a little more of The Witcher in before I left, since I am not taking my big desktop PC with me. I ended up playing for about eight hours, and finished the game. I loved it. However I don't think the people who made it understand what an epilogue is. ;) On the other hand, now that's finished, it's one less "obligation" to keep me away from working on COT. (I don't think that Bioshock and STALKER will ever be able to hold my attention for eight hours straight, because almost no game can, not even Thief. Is Bioshock even eight hours long?)

Also, to avoid confusion, I am not saying that I liked The Witcher more than Thief, just because I could play it for eight hours straight and I couldn't do that with Thief. Witcher is quite easy (I had it on medium setting) so there's very little anxiety, and it's very story based, so there's always the need to see what happens next. Thief on the other hand is extremely stressful (if it's good ... Thief is no fun if it's not stressful!) and the story is under several layers, with the focus much more on your gameplay choices. So as you can see, the time you spend playing something often has nothing to do with how much you like or dislike it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

... the most revised chapter

The latest revision of chapter 1 is finished. I will probably clean up the editing marks and send both versions (the clean one and the one with all my editing marks) to my critics. Hopefully they will feel like the feedback they have given me was worth it. I am consistently astonished at how much work there still is to do on chapter 1. It's been edited and revised twice as often and thoroughly than any other chapter, and I am still finding things that need fixing. There's several reasons for this. First of all, of all the chapters in the rewrite, 1 is the closest to the original. That alone is cause for concern and the need for a great deal of editing. Secondly, when it was first written I had very little understanding of what the rewrite was going to be like, so alot of the details were hazy and underdeveloped. Finally, it contains a scene that was very difficult to write in the first place, so it comes as no surprise to anyone that I would need to revisit it every few years and apply my improvements to it. I was tempted to just skip it this time, unsure that I could do anything more for it, but Dusty insisted. As it turns out, there was still a great deal I could do.

I've been doing more than just a revision though. I'm creating a database in four categories - characters, factions, places, and things. There's 48 entries so far. Amusingly, only seven of those entries are things from the original games. (The City, Hightowne, Shalebridge, Keeper Scribe, Ramirez, Constantine, Hammerites) This is the lexicon which I mentioned previously - or will become it once it's more complete and I understand better how I want to organize it. Finally, I am creating a document with bits that fall into three categories - Unanswered Questions, being mysterious elements introduced into the story that still haven't been resolved as of chapter 15. Unconveyed Information, being facts about the story or characters I'd like to keep in mind even if they are never revealed in the story itself. The third category is a bit of a spoiler. Tales of The Lady, being a collection of all information about The Lady actually presented in the story.
The night is still young, so I expect to get to work on Chapter 2 after I send out revised 1 to the critics.

Friday, November 21, 2008

.. a trial run

I've ordered the first attempt at a self-published paperback copy of the Mission X manual. This is a good trial run for the eventual self-publishing of COT, as I intend to use the same company ( which I worked with successfully on school projects. I will have the published book in about 14 days, and will be able to then know what we can expect from similarly published COT books. The size of the published manual will be simialr to a DVD case insert, which is smaller than I intend to print the novels.

... writing badly, well

Jyre's letters are always fun. As Dusty pointed out to me previously, a young orphaned girl in a medieval inspired fantasy universe shouldn't be able to read or write. Well, it kind of debacles the whole story to change that, since it all started with the idea of Jyre pestering Nightfall with her letters. (Yes, I just used debacle as a verb.) This morning along with a little more explanation for why she can write, I did another revision of her first letter. I expect all of her others to get similar makeovers to this one.

I did something I had always resisted doing, and that was drastically changing the ‘tone’ of the letter by removing a lot of things which I saw as “chatty” habits or “sloppy” ways of making writing “bad”. The worst one was the use of ellipses everywhere. With… and… and... over and over, which is a very chatty thing to do, but I don’t think any child who is getting the hang of writing would ever do it. The next thing I did was remove all of the ‘yoda-speak,’ which is the way so many phrases were written backwards. Again, I don’t think any barely literate person would ever actually do that. Next, I removed most of the commas and apostrophes and indulged in the liberal use of the word “and”. I removed any ‘big’ words or complex phrases and tried to tell everything as simplistically as possible. I removed "I feel" or "I felt". I kept the verb tenses simple and often incorrect. I wanted to make it all one paragraph, as Jyre would likely not understand paragraph breaks, but that gets monotonous to read, so I just reduced the number. I put in two glaring mistakes… “a orphan” and “The Ladys House” … but I suspect even those will bug people. The challenge is to create something that looks like Jyre would actually write, but without frustrating the reader. That’s why she still has good spelling – though appropriate, I think that would do more harm to the reader’s experience than good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

... where am i AT anyway?

A common question from fans of the original is... at what point in the story is the rewrite? It's hard to answer that because the timeline in the rewrite has changed dramatically. Simply put...

James and Jyre are cira Chapter 17 and have just entered a "lost city".
Nightfall is cira Chapter 22, and has just entered The Lady's realm.
Lytha and Ghost past the conclusion of their story about four chapters ago, and are now deep into sequel territory, none of which was planned for COT2!.
Sheam's story is completely new. Yes, the rewrite features Sheam as one of the principals, and almost all of her story is based on COT2 plans.

... smoothing out the scars

This morning I opened up the 10-08-08 version of the document (versions are named after the day I was working on them) and edited out all of the gray text (deleted content) changed the red text to the proper character colors (new text written after the first draft) and removed the commentary asides. A week ago (or longer) Chris (a.k.a. The Watcher on TTLG - I didn't know that until yesterday) emailed me asking if he could see a copy of the rewrite. He had read he original back when it was new(ish) and was going to re-read it, but then saw the webpage I had made dedicated to the rewrite. So, now he's getting more than he bargained for. (I look forward to your feedback, Chris!) I just emailed him version 11-20-08. :)

The next thing I will do might make all the people waiting for chapter 16 sad. I am going to go back to the beginning and do a thorough re-read myself, editing where I need to. The problem with working on this very long story over so many years with so many long breaks from it (to work myself numb at school) is that I forget half of what I wrote. I need a refresher, and one of those jtr7 style lexicons wouldn't hurt either. No Jason, I am not asking you to make one. I'll do it. ;)

Once I get to chapter 9 the heavy editing will set in, since everything past that is 1st draft material. So, while I am doing this, I will be using all of the feedback I started to get from the handful of people who started to read the story recently. I'll need to get back in touch with them. And who knows... I might get some new ideas for the final chapters based on something I forgot I wrote back in chapter 3.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Starting back up soon

I had the silly idea to create a blog to narrate my finishing of Correspondence of Thieves.

Work will be resuming soon. I am suspending other projects until this is finished. It's about time this multi-year project came to a conclusion.