Sunday, May 31, 2009

... outline, coffee, quiet

The outline for 23 is ready. I have peace and quiet for the next 8 hours or so (it's 1 am) and a cup of coffee. My schedule for the next few days is wide open. Let's finish this sucker.

(23 will be officially the end of the story, like the original's 25. The rewrite's 24 will be an epilogue. The original also had an epilogue, but it wasn't given a chapter number or title.)

Because I like comments and I never get them, I'll ask a question. For the epilogue chapter, which minor or side characters would you like to see a segue about, to know what happens to them after the story is finished?

... the hump has been cleared

Chapter 22, the big climax of the entire story, called No Name by the Tongue of Man, is finished (1st draft). I almost had it done in two days, but near the end of the second day I decided I need to step back, think about for it a bit, do a revision of everything I had written, and to have this chapter go a little long but wrap up the main action and not drag the end of the climax into the start of 23, only to have the rest of 23 be wind-down. At first I was not feeling very good about how things were turning out, but after the revision and finishing the chapter, I am feeling quite satisfied.

In fact the whole thing came together much more tightly than I had thought, making this hardly an over-long chapter at just under 23K words, which actually makes it shorter than 21. There were many things I could have easily drawn out, but in the interests of keeping things moving, the writing is fast-paced and focused.

There's still a great deal of things to wrap up in 23, not the least of which is Sheam's plotline, which was totally absent from 22. It wasn't just a matter of the tone being completely different. Every event in 22, from Nightfall to Ghost to Lytha to Jyre to James, was connected, but Sheam's plotline by its very nature is not connected to the others - she's the one facing what's going on at the home turf while everyone else is out on their adventures.

I think fans of the original will be happy between the balance I struck between honoring what they remember while also keeping them in suspense. There's shades and echos and mirror images of nearly everything that went on in the old story, but everything plays out a little differently, in a different order, and with some wildly different results.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

... gestate

Normally when I finish a chapter, no matter how rough it is or now self conscious I feel about it, I send it right off to my critics and await their feedback. This time, on the other hand, I hesitate. I am extra self conscious over this one because, even though the final action of the story is spread over this chapter and the next as well, most of the biggest events of the entire story happen in 22. It has both some of the weirdest stuff and some of the thiefiest stuff in the entire book.

As mentioned in the previous post, I think one of the cooler things is that finally the events described by each principal are directly linked to one another, and what happens to each character and what each character does has a big impact on what is going on with the others (well, with one exception...).

So the plan now is to go over 22 word by word and do a revision, though since I technically am not finished with the 1st draft yet I am not counting it as a revision, merely a continuation of the writing process. Who is keeping track, anyway? In other bad news, the outline for chapter 23 is in pretty rough shape, and my family is expecting out of town company again next week, so I won't have much time to write. Taff!

Friday, May 29, 2009

... this is what they call a climax

Were human hands designed to type 10,000 words in one night? Mine don't seem to happy about it.

Everything seems quite on track. I have about half of what I had planned for 22 written, and am right at the 10K word mark, which is telling me that I'll be able to wrap this story up without going on and on and on like I feared.

22 is being written old-style again, where everything is done in order and I finish a section before going on to the next one. I need to for this one, because much of what happens in one section is built off what happened in the previous one, and helps me decide some things about the next one after it. The widely divergent activities of the six principals over the previous book are beginning to impact one another.

In other news, I moved one section from chapter 20 into chapter 21, because chronologically it happens a few hours into 21. When I first wrote it I felt like it needed to be on "paper" before wrapping up 20, but now that it's been moved it does feel right as part of 21. It more neatly contains Ghost and Lytha's adventure at Soulforge inside Chapter 21 (which is continued in 22) and also lets 20 end with a little more bang.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

... that's a wrap (rap?) on 21

Chapter 21, With Breaths Held, is now finished, clocking in at just under 22 thousand words. The title is probably temporary, as it's pretty generic and a bit cliche, so I am sure that I'll come up with something better later. Given how much I was able to pack into this one, I don't think that going over-long will be a problem anymore.

Just goes to show, sometimes when writing the outline I can't seem to figure out how to make the events flow naturally, but when I am actually writing the chapter it all seems to come together and make sense.

We're now at about chapter 24 of the original, and though the rewrite's 21 bears little resemblance to the original's chapter 23, the final sections directly correspond to one another. In fact, I probably could have cut and pasted it verbatim into the rewrite. (I didn't though.)

One slight problem I am running into is cronological slip. Nearly half of Chapter 21 takes place before the final events of 20. I am not sure if I should worry about that or not... probably not. I could try editing it up later to put things in perfect chronological order and see how I like it, but right now I am happy with the way things are.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

... about game design

One last note before I resume work on 21. Soulforge is the first in-game location that I did not at least consult and at most follow to exacting detail. Simply put, I find the level design of that mission to be an incomprehensible mess, which bears no relation to any form of sense. Most of T2's level design was very good at giving a "sense of place" as they say in the architecture world. Soulforge felt like a video game level. SO, expect some time spent in those holy halls, but don't expect it to be anything like what it was in the game.

Oh, and I know that the "ending" poll isn't close yet, but I can spoil it by now. The new ending will very much honor the original, but I still intend to keep the fans guessing until the very end.

... beginning of the end

The majority of Chapter 21 is now written, with just a few more scenes to go, best left to a time when I am not grossly underslept.

To my surprise a very big scene with Lytha turned out to not only be something I am quite happy with, but an excellent continuation of her character arc beyond what, in Book 4, could have been the end of her story. (Not to mention a big plot thread introduced early in the story finally coming to a head.) It's essentially the 'big moment' of Chapter 21 that leads directly into 22. Did I mention that I am writing out of order now?

James is proving difficult, but in a good way. He's a unique challenge, due to his character's sytle of having a much more dense internal monologue than any of the others. This is needed since he's facing the pure unknown, and the reader will probably appreciate having an expert analyst along to figure things out with them.

Jyre is mostly an observer this time, which had given me a chance to flesh out some of the minor characters I really wanted to get some quality time with. Unexplectedly, I stumbled upon a very natural way of progressing the plot with her in a direction that I had recently given up on because I, well, couldn't find a natural way of doing it.

Ghost is really enjoying being away from Lytha. By that I mean he hates being away from her, but I am enjoying writing him being away from her. After four chapters of them being joined at the hip, it's refreshing to write a Ghost scene that doesn't have its tone colored by Lytha's dramatic hues.

I was afraid that with all of the high-level stuff going on with the other five principals, Sheam's stuff would be a boring drag in comparison. After writing some of it, I think it makes a refreshing intermission from all of the Goddesses and Alien Beings and Serious Spirital Contemplation, and gives the reader something they can relate to on a much more down to earth level.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

... book covers

I contacted some artists today to try to get the team ready to do the cover images. I already have Dominus and Ireth Kalt, and to my great surprise redface was very happy to accept the task. I am still waiting to hear from Silmuen, Tazio, and Julia, but if everyone can do one that takes care of the six images.

I haven't decided yet what the six covers will be, except for the first one (which Dominus is already working on) that will feature Jyre climbing the tower in the opening chapter. I am a little torn between two ideas; having each cover focus more on the contents of that volume, or having them focus entirely on a pivotal moment for that character no matter where in the story the scene falls. I started a new poll - but if you're reading this note that the third option is a lark. I have no desire to see movie-poster style covers for any of the books. :)

... for the back of the book

The City is a place of conflict, where technology and magic eek out an uneasy coexistence, where the religious and the occult vie for dominance, where crime and politics intermingle and corrupt everything within their reach.

Jyre had escaped from a life of servitude, holds a meager existence in the gutters, and seeks to right the wrongs of her past.

The nobility knew him as Lord Thresh, the church as Brother Daelus, but the underworld knew him as Master Nightfall.

To Sheam it was a simple job, cataloguing, managing schedules, turning a blind eye to the criminal intent behind it all.

No one had ever broken into the sacred tomb before, but no one held so little regard for their own preservation as Ghost.

She stole, and had never been caught. Lytha lived apart from the world, yet could feel every thought and feeling around her.

James loved coffee, baked potatoes, and knowledge; especially knowledge cherished by others as secrets. His spies rarely failed.

Six stories tied together by chance and circumstance, between the belching factory towers and the haunted hidden grottos, between the clutching fist of the church, and the conniving fingers of the criminal underworld.

... the only way I can work

Thursday, May 21, 2009

... do we really care about length?

No progress yet on the last four chapters, but I am starting to wonder if it can be done in four chapters. That's why I've started the new poll. Go vote!

Monday, May 18, 2009

... the final push

As it happens sometimes, I don't have the next three chapters divided into chapters. I know how I am going to do the very last chapter, but for the climax of the story it's really hard to chop it up. The outline for finishing the story is getting downright fleshy, which means I think I will be ready to start writing soon. One thing I am looking forward to is getting Ghost and Lytha separated again, since it can be hard to decide which scenes to write from whose point of view with them being glued to eachother for the entirety of Book 5. The climax is planned, with a few big holes in it still of the variety I can usually work out as I am writing, the epilogue is planned, and the "how did each character grow or change?" statements have been drafted, so I can keep my eye on them and make sure I properly represent those ideas to the reader. Like I said to a friend of mine (who wants to read it but wants to wait until it's in book form) ... I am going for somewhere between a Disney ending and Nihilism, which is sort of like saying the color is somewhere between infrared and ultraviolet. I tried to craft an ending for each character that is both satisfying and a "new beginning" in a way that doesn't demand a sequel (i.e. no big cliffhangers, but it's made clear that life will be going on for everyone.... or will it?)

I don't know how much writing I will be getting done over the next week, there's some stuff going on, some good, some bad, but I will keep plugging away at the outline and polish it up. It surprises me how fast I can go from "no idea" to "this works great" really well when I sit down with no distractions. Also, when taking a shower.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

... for Circle guests, only

Anyone remember this?

I updated it. Can you belive there were dozens of spelling and grammar mistakes on that page? It was also really poorly written, and I think a little insulting to Alex, James, Beate, and Steve. I hope they weren't offended. I don't think it offered much hope for the rewrite... three whole years ago. I think the new version is better. It's only accessable through The Circle's fan-novels page, so it will only be read by taffers going after some fictions, not by the forum goons.

So, are there other questions I should be answering there? Also, I really do wish Helen Vesper was actually a real person and not a name I made up on the spot.

Friday, May 15, 2009

... poised, ready to spring

Whew. Chapter 20 is done. Alliances and Betrayals. Book 5 is done. Book 5 is also the longest book, at over 100,000 words. None of the chapters in it are overly long, but it has some very long segues, most over 2000 words.

What can I say? As I already mentioned, the goal of 20 was to get everything poised on the verge of the climax. For every character that means something a little different. For Nightfall, it means facing the consequences of a choice he made. For Jyre, it means her journey coming full circle. For Ghost and Lytha it means facing the aftermath and side effects of their turmoil. For Sheam, it means pushing ahead in site of a worst case scenario. For James, it means realising that one can become hopelessly out of one's league.

As my critics may note, Chapter 20 is extremely rough. When doing revisions, I usually have the luxury of many months of additional experience in order to boost my writing ability and refine a chapter based on a better understanding of what's coming ahead. Well, Book 5 will get the last part, but there isn't going to be much going on to boost my writing ability in the next 90,000 words of Book 6. For the last book, a revision will be even harder, and I will have to rely more and more on the input of my critics.

I have two confirmed yeses for cover artists, and one strong possibility, with a few others who I plan to ask if one of the three artists I have either can't do two covers or can't do even one. I'd like to have fewer artists rather than more, so that the styles won't be too far all over the place (the three I have all possess very, very different styles). I've also started thinking about proofreaders. It would be perfect to have six, and assign each to two books. How could I find six proofreaders who don't mind not being paid, though?

In case anyone is still keeping track, this point in the rewrite very, very loosely lines up with around Chapter 23 in the original.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

... making haste

As far as the word count is concerned, chapter 20 is nearly half done. I think this may end up being the longest chapter in the story though (can it be longer than chapter 3?) since I am definitely not half done with the content that 20 needs to have. My goal is to reach a very specific point with 20, to go into Book 6 with all gears turning, with the plot spiraling into the climax. The aim is then to have the major action finished by 22, leaving two chapters for epilogue, for a total of 24 (and the original story had 25 chapters... huh!).

Monday, May 11, 2009

... a chapter after all

Chapter 19 congealed into a chapter far better than I had hoped, eventually coming together under the title Hosts and Hospitality, which applies to all four plot threads present. It is mostly driven by Sheam and Ghost who have semi-self contained and extremely important adventures which begin and end within the chapter, and are told bit by bit as we switch back and forth between them, with an occasional visit to James and Nightfall, who are both continuing the paths they began at the start of Book 5. Only Jyre is absent from Chapter 19, with part of Ghost's adventure being told from Lytha's point of view, who is with him the entire time. James meets a character often talked about but so far unseen, and helps me make up for all of those cute Ultima Underworld references I had cut from the story. Nightfall on the other hand gives a brief nod to nostalgia with a small touch which hearkens back to the original, in a story that increasingly resembles the original less and less. Sheam meets a collection of minor characters which I suspect many readers did not think they would see again, especially not all within the same chapter. As for Ghost, we may just learn his most closely guarded secret.

Additionally, I solved a problem I was having with James, being that a lack of a personal conflict for the character weakened his integrity as a principal. I have developed that inner conflict, and have evolved his adventure to take full advantage of it. This separates his path even farther from the other principals, which is what was needed, giving him his own set of goals, needs, fears, and possibilities of failure.

Amusingly, sometimes I like to check on the fraction of the entire story each principal represents. I discovered that Jyre, Lytha, Ghost, and Sheam all sit at around 17/16% of the total (in that order from high to low), with Nightfall having a much larger chunk and James a much smaller chuck - but if you average out Nightfall and James, both come to 16.5% ... I wonder how I managed to balance it out so evenly.

... hi?

So, is anyone still reading this? I think I'm going to need to tell a few people that I am updating again... but who is IrregularJelle? :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

... each in turn

I discovered that an advantage to having most of the rest of the story planned out (rather than just the next chapter) is that I can change my writing method to skip around. Normally I have a section that I need to write because it's what comes next in the plot, and I don't let myself do anything else until I can get it out... which could take months. What I am doing differently now is that I have six documents, one for each principal, and I keep switching between them. I'll write about a thousand to two thousand words in one, or until I reach the end of a section, and then I'll switch to another character, do the same, and won't return to one of them until I have written something for all six. The only limit on this is Lytha and Ghost, who are sticking together at this point, and some scenes I want to write from Ghost's POV and some from Lytha's, and I don't want to write things out of order. The result is that chapters 19 and 20 are being written at the same time, with 19 more than half done now, and 20 a few thousand words in. I hope to be finished with them both, and thus Book 5, by the end of this week. Book 6 will be the end of the story, and may or may not be four chapters, depending on how much space I need to tell all that needs to be told.

The other method that is working well is moving out to the garage-turned-studio to write, totally isolated from the internet and any distractions. As a bonus, that room has a separate air conditioning system from the rest of the house (the whole house has five air conditioners... yay Florida!) which mean I can make it so much cooler than my own room. Thus, I really like being out there. :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

... on theft, and, technique

One thing that constantly bothers me about both the plot to CoSaS and to COT is that for something with Thief in the title, my characters don't do very much actual stealing. I always wonder how to reconcile this, and always come back to the idea of writing about one of the six principals actually trying to steal something not only doesn't work well with the plot, but is seems like it would be lazy writing. It seems like it would be throwing this deeper into fanficcyness and come off as gamey.

As some of you know, I alternate in my writing style between writing "chapters" and writing "the story". When I write "chapters" I have a particular chunk of the big plot I focus on and it is composed in a mini-arc according to a given theme. When I am writing "the story" there is no mini-arc, just events which play out as they must, without me composing them into a neat chapter-like package that will span 20-25 thousand words. As a result, these tend to go on much longer, sometimes to nearly 40 thousand words, because without the clear arc or theme, I don't know when to stop! What usually happens is that after it's all written, I will edit the content into chapters and then come back in a revision and edit it even more into mini-arcs. Those who were reading the blog months ago may remember when I revised some chapters that didn't seem to work by splitting them into two chapters, maybe at the expense of chronological storytelling. I have a feeling that chapters 19 and 20 are going to be like this. After completing the outline for 19, which was going to focus on James, Sheam, and Ghost, I realised that I had far more in it than will probably fit into one chapter, and that if I went that far ahead with each of those characters, then it will have been too long since we've seen Nightfall and Jyre (Lytha is with Ghost so it doesn't hurt her as much). The solution? Work on The Story, not on A Chapter, and edit it into Chapters later.

Monday, May 4, 2009

... a new chapter

I just finished Chapter 18. Sometimes when finishing a chapter I am as surprised as the readers about how it turns out, but this one was fairly by the numbers, given that I've had months to tinker with the outline of it without actually writing anything. So, I had the entire thing pretty much mapped out point by point without much deviation. Some, but not much. The only surprise is that I actually finished it! Some parts turned out great, other parts I will need to whack steadily with the revision hammer for months to come, but hey, it's a first draft, and even the good parts will be revised.

The title of the chapter is Guests in Alien Realms, which is taken directly from the original, but it's as far from the original as anything I've written so far. It puts Jyre, James, Ghost, Lytha, and Nightfall all in unlikely situations that they were not at all prepaired for, even though they were certain that they knew exactly what to expect. (Ghost is in it, but only told from Lytha's point of view.) It includes a scrap I had actually written nearly a year ago, inserted nearly verbatum into a scene I had long imagined but finally was able to completely illustrate.

Finally, I've included the name change I had been planning for Nightfall for a long, long time now. He's still called Nightfall, but his real name is now completely fictitious, rather than being a distortion of my own name. I am not going to say it here, yet. I'd rather my critics judge it in context. (On the other hand, it doesn't matter what they think, since I am not going to be changing my mind about this topic!)