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.