The Season for Revision

Santa Writing

He’s not editing the Nice list.  He’s revising his latest fanfic.

November is over, and in fact it has been for more than two weeks now. S and I both “won” NaNoWriMo, as usual. S is revising and posting chapters of her Turn fanfic, keeping up a regular schedule so her readers don’t wonder what happened to her. She reports that she has two chapters left to draft, and five more to post. This afternoon, though, she’s typing up her literary fic. During November, she handwrote that story in a journal, so now it needs typed, and then, of course, it needs to be revised.

I’m working on revisions of the two novels I wrote in November. S and I read the first one, An Ally By Surprise, at the beginning of December. We’re saving the other one, The Hardest Science, so it can be S’s Christmas present. This is appropriate, since she was the one who gave me the idea for the book. She said something along the lines of, “You should write a story set in the Myrciaverse that’s like Call Me by Your Name.” So I did. We’ll start reading that one around Christmas sometime, along with a short story that S wrote as a present for me. I have no idea what her story is even about, so that will be very exciting.

It looks, though, as if S and I might also be hosting our family’s traditional Christmas get-together. That means we’re going to have to plan meals and put a lot more thought and effort into our decorations. Usually I put up some lights around the front window and call it done, but if we’re going to have company, it feels as if we should have something a bit more festive. The main problem, however, is that if we have other people around the house, we’ll have to put off reading and revising our stories. It’s not just that the stories are inappropriate for a festive, family setting (though they are). It’s also that it would be terribly rude to make people sit around and listen to half a story, when they’re not going to be staying long enough to hear the end.

Anyway, hopefully we’ll have time to keep posting to this blog, but if we don’t post for a few weeks, it’s probably because we’re too busy reading. Or perhaps napping after eating too much.

J

Personal Best

personal-best-again-youre-such-an-amazing-person

One of the fun things about doing NaNoWriMo is that the website keeps track of your stats for you. My personal info page, for instance, tells me that my “wordiest day” ever was November 18, 2016, when I wrote 13,391 words in a single day. When I checked that against my own records, I discovered that was when I was writing the midpoint of When Uppance Comes. That was a really fun book to write, and the midpoint is pretty great—with an awful person just starting to get her comeuppance (hence the name of the book), so I’m honestly not surprised that I managed to write it at a record pace.

And speaking of writing at a record pace, S has been having a really great November this year. She managed to hit 50,000 words on Friday, which was the 16th day of writing, of course. That’s the fastest she’s ever gotten to 50,000, beating her previous record of 19 days, which she set in 2013, while writing The Science of Fire. She has been working on two projects simultaneously—Magnificent Kingdom with me, and a literary fiction novel that she’s “discovery writing” (a.k.a. “pantsing,” i.e. writing without coming up with an outline first). It’s unusual enough for one of us to write something without a hugely detailed outline, but her writing process for Magnificent Kingdom is a bit unusual, too, in that she’s composing right at the keyboard, as opposed to writing it in a journal by hand and then typing it up afterward.

Perhaps sometime she’ll write a blog about the difference between handwriting and typing, but so far, she’s discovered that typing is faster. That’s certainly always been my experience. And I don’t just mean that in the obvious sense—that if you compose it on your laptop to begin with you don’t have to take the time to type it up later. I noticed a long time ago (back when I was writing My Private War) that it was easier to get ideas down quickly at a keyboard than with a pen on paper.

Anyway, right now, I’m well into my second solo novel of the month: An Ally By Surprise, which I think is going pretty well. It’s a good example of why I like to outline stories so minutely before writing them. I ditched an entire subplot and a major POV character during the outlining stage, and now that I’m actually writing the book, I’m so glad I did. There would have been simply no room for her. At the moment, there are three wizards, four queens, and two pairs of thwarted lovers. The story really couldn’t have contained much more.

In other news, our marvelous ML (municipal liaison, or the person in charge of our local NaNo group) has told me that I’m not getting a prize for “finishing” unless I write a third novel this year. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I probably would have time to do it, but I honestly don’t know when S and I would ever have time to read it. As it is, between my two books, and her literary fiction novel, and Magnificent Kingdom, it already looks like we’re going to be doing nothing but reading to each other for the whole month of December.

Besides, I have to give myself something to shoot for in the future, right?

J

Discovery

space-shuttle-discovery-approaching-mir

Like the space shuttle, I’m exploring new worlds. Sort of.

Clearly because he loves me so much, in his post last week J rather committed me to giving an update on my NaNo this week. So, here I am.

The fact I’m here is a sign that my NaNo is going well. If I were struggling and behind on my word count, I likely wouldn’t take the time out of my day to blog, but my word count is kind of awesome. Today is Day 11, and the word count goal for those who want to keep pace for finishing on Nov. 30 is 18,333. I haven’t even started writing today, but I’m already over 30,000. Most days, I’ve put in some time on my Magnificent Kingdom chapters as well as the literary fiction novel I’m discovery writing, and it’s turned out to be a productive combination.

We’ve talked a fair bit about Magnificent Kingdom here on the blog, as well as how we outline, so I won’t go over that again. But I feel like I ought to say a little something about the first novel I’ve ever tried discovery writing (aka, pantsing, aka writing without an outline). It doesn’t have a title, but that’s not really a surprise when you stop and think about the fact I started writing it in First Person POV and didn’t know the narrator’s gender, so let’s just call it Literary Fic.

This has undoubtedly been an interesting experience. I began writing and decided that it was the story of the narrator’s Great Love. I eventually decided that said narrator was a bisexual male, his true love was his male best friend in college, but circumstances would conspire to keep them apart for a couple of decades. In the interim, Adam (that’s my narrator), would have various casual affairs, a serious long-term relationship with a woman, and shorter relationship with another man, and then (spoiler) find his way back to his BFF. As I write, I make decisions and conjure up scenes, occasionally using that time when I’m drifting off to sleep think about what might come next.

I’ll admit that it’s been fun creating in this spontaneous manner. I’ll also admit that more so than usual, I’m already making notes about all the things that will need fixed on revision. Sometimes on a whim, I’ll add something in an off-handed manner that hints at things to come, and then I typically find some way to work that in. But I’m sure I’ve not paid off everything I’ve set up, and a million other things ought to be set up that haven’t been. Still, I think for this specific work, the sort of dreamy wandering discovery writing it’s encouraging in me is just right. This is a man looking back over the past twenty some odd years, and that isn’t going to happen in a perfectly linear, bullet-pointed fashion. At least I’m hoping that’s what will come through in the final product.

And now, I need to go get some words down!

~S

It’s NaNo Time Again!

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Theoden realizes he should have spent more time outlining his novel. 

Once again it’s November, and that means it’s time for NaNoWriMo. S and I have been attending all the write-ins for our local group. For the midnight kickoff on the evening of October 31-November 1, we got little his and hers unicorn horns at a local party supply store. Because that’s just how we roll.

The writing is going pretty well, I think. S is working on a literary fiction novel that she’s writing without any outline at all. That’s the first time she’s tried that, and maybe next week she’ll have a report on how it’s going for her. She’s also working with me on the continuation of Magnificent Kingdom, the same book we started for NaNo last year.

I’ve got my own side projects, as well: two shorter novels that I’m hoping to get done by the end of the month. I’m well over halfway done with the first one, called The Hardest Science. It’s a school story about the competition to win a prestigious new fellowship while indulging in forbidden romance. It’s full of sex, drugs, and rock collecting. I like to think of it as a cross between Call Me by Your Name and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

When I finish that book, I’ll probably write some chapters of Magnificent Kingdom, and then I’ll start on An Ally By Surprise, which is yet another in my ever-growing sequence of Myrciaverse civil war novels, and follows directly after A Tincture of Silver, which I wrote for NaNo two years ago. This one will be full of spies and diplomacy and arranged marriages. One of my favorite characters is back from exile under an assumed name, trying to negotiate a treaty to end a war that he started, purely for his own nefarious purposes. It should be fun to write.

So that’s what we’re up to at the moment. Just remember that if you haven’t signed up for NaNo yet and started your novel, there’s still plenty of time.

J

Check

nano crest

It’s almost NaNoWriMo time, and I’ve decided to make a check list. Some of it is fairly obvious.

  1. Outline printed.
  2. Journals selected and ready for writing.
  3. Pens everywhere and plenty of cartridges.
  4. Playlists made.
  5. Wine.
  6. House in order-ish so I don’t have to worry a bunch during November.

But some items are less obvious, if just as important.

  1. Vow made to not beat self up when I take days off.
  2. Peace made with fact some days I will think my writing is shit.
  3. Reminder ups and downs happen every year and I still manage to hit 50K, and that will likely happen again if I don’t panic.

~S

Pick a Name…Any Name. Please.

Dolly and Stiva

Look, it’s our good friends Dolly and Stiva. I mean Darya and Stepan. I mean Darya Alexandrovna and Stepan Arkadyevich. I mean Princess and Prince Oblonsky. I mean…. Jeez, Tolstoy. Just pick one and stick with it.

Part of planning a new novel is writing character profiles. This is something we’ve discussed here before, but as I’ve been doing this for a few years, I’ve become more and more aware of the importance of simplicity when it comes to names.

I’m not just talking about picking simple names that the reader will remember, and not trying to get too fancy, cute, or faux-exotic. Yes, it’s true that this can be annoying. (For example, why does the elder Jacobis brother on Killjoys have to be named “D’avin”? What is that apostrophe even doing there?) But that’s not what set me off on this rant today.

I thought of this earlier this week, not because I was doing character profiles, actually, but because I was reading an ebook that I borrowed from our local library. I won’t name the book, or the characters, except to say that two of the main characters are a pair handsome young men who are in a relationship. I’ll call them Sam Jones and Bob Miller. Eventually, as the story goes on, the reader can see individual personality quirks, and can differentiate them pretty clearly. But in early chapters, they are…I’m sorry, there’s no other way to say it…they’re practically indistinguishable.

And this is all made about a hundred times worse by the authors insistence on mixing it up between their first and last names whenever they’re in a scene together. So in one exchange of dialog, you might have “Jones” talking to “Miller.” And then on the next page, there’s “Bob” talking to “Sam.” I had no idea who was who, and it got fantastically frustrating. I very nearly gave up the book simply for that reason.

Perhaps the author (or her editor) was worried about just saying “Jones…Jones…Jones…Jones,” over and over, again and again, all down the page. And so she wanted to mix it up a bit between first and last name.  But that’s entirely unnecessary. It’s like the beginning writer problem of not wanting to use the word “said” too many times in dialog, and then throwing in verbs like “opined” or “pronounced,” which are actually far more distracting to the reader. When a reader sees a boring old dialog tag like “he said,” the reader just skims over that, barely even noticing. In contrast, a reader is more likely to notice “he queried,” or “he contended,” and that will take the reader out of the story.

But that’s not nearly as bad as forcing the reader to flip back to an earlier chapter just to figure out if “Bob” and “Jones” are the same person, or if it’s “Bob” and “Miller.” So my modest request to fantasy authors out there is to pick one name—just one—and stick with it. Please.

I know you’re thinking, “But what about Tolstoy?” To which I have to say, 1) you and I are not Tolstoy. 2) if we’re writing in English, we’re not writing primarily for an audience who grew up with the dizzying system of Russian diminutives and patronymics, and who therefore finds it totally normal. And 3) go tell someone that you’re going to force them to read War and Peace. Do they look happy about it? Look at the face they make. Is that the face you want people to have when they contemplate reading your work? I think not. Just pick a name—any name—for each character, and then stick with it.

This gets a bit tricky when you’re writing in a quasi-late medieval/renaissance fantasy world like S and I have created in the Myrciaverse. A great many of our characters are knights and ladies and nobles, and a lot of our stories are about war and spying. This means we have a lot of characters who have ranks and titles, and before long, if you’re not careful, you have people named, say, “Colonel Lord William Smith, Earl of Ashwood.” So from this, we can get an almost Tolstoyan variety of appellations just for this one guy:

“Colonel Smith”
“Colonel”
“The Earl of Ashwood”
“Lord Smith”
“Lord Ashwood”
“My lord”
“Smith”
“Ashwood”
“Earl William”
“William”
“Will,” “Bill,” “Willy,” “Billy”

And finally, maybe his old school friends and army buddies have some juvenile nickname for him that has nothing to do with his given name or rank, at all, like “Stinker” or “Goose.”

If I use even half of those names for the same character, the reader will hate me, and rightly so. If I use even two or three of them, I have to make sure it’s very clear in context that the guy whose troops call him “the colonel” is the same person his neighbors call “Lord Ashwood,” who is, in turn, the same guy his wife calls “Will.”

So, thanks to running into this problem in the book that shall remain nameless, I’ve been giving more thought to exactly what my characters should be called, and trying to make sure that I’m not confusing the reader.

And also I’ve been expanding my outlines and looking up the history of geology, but those are topics for an entirely different blog.

J

What’s Doing?

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Lovely cover art made by J.

So, last week, J reminded you all that we are, in fact, not dead. He also promised I would blog this week, so here I am. Honestly, I’ve started multiple posts, but I figured I would rather be working on one of the numerous projects I’m currently juggling than writing a mediocre blog, so I never finished any of them. What are those projects, you wonder? What am I doing for NaNo, you plead? Let me tell you.

Magnificent Kingdom
As J mentioned, we are going to each be trying to tackle 50K more words in Magnificent Kingdom for NaNo. And as has come up before, I’m a handwriter (although I’ve been composing more at the keyboard lately when the mood hits). Because last December and the early part of 2018 were pretty insane for us, I, well, somehow forgot to type what I wrote during NaNo last year, so J and I are furiously working to get that typed so we can review it and know what we’re doing when we start writing again in November. I suppose having to type it is a good way to force myself to remember what I wrote, so it’s not all bad. However, before November, I’m working on some other stuff, too.

Muskies fanfic
My first foray into fanfic as many of you will remember was The Musketeers as presented on the BBC a few years back. I’ve drifted away from the fandom a bit, but I still have close friends in the fandom who request Muskies fic for holiday presents. And the particular fic I finished drafting just two days ago is the third and final part in a series I started a couple years ago, so I’m happy to have written it. Revisions will happen swiftly after NaNo, because, gosh, Hanukkah is early this year.

Turn College AU
One of the central characters in Turn, the Revolutionary War spy show I love, is a Yale graduate. Did you know that J is also a Yale grad, if a couple centuries later? Point is, J has been a delight with stories of Yale and tidbits about the school’s history, so I decided I needed to write my first ever College AU. It’s currently outlined at 18 chapters, and I have 11 drafted, and I’m hoping to get at least one more done before November. With that cushion, I’m feeling confident enough to start sharing this story a chapter a week. Hopefully, folks like it.

Regency M/M
I follow a few publishers on Twitter, mostly publishers that specialize in LGBT fic and/or erotica. One of them put out a call back in January for a certain style novella. I decided to try and write something that fit the call. And while I wrote something that technically fits the call, I don’t think it’s actually what the publisher is looking for. But recently, another submission call came across my Twitter, and it fits my story pretty much perfectly. I currently have it with a couple of beta readers to see if I should make some changes since the new call has fewer restrictions, but I’m genuinely thinking about testing the submission waters with this Regency Era male/male erotica. Whether that happens before or after NaNo (or even during if I need a break or get really psyched about reader feedback), who knows.

Random Literary fic
As anyone who has ever spent 30 seconds on this blog knows, J and I are outliners. We outline our outline and then outline it some more. There is always a plan. So imagine my surprise when last week I got this germ of an idea for a literary fiction novel that I decided to dive in and start discovery writing with no plan. I mean, I wrote the first few pages in first person POV without knowing the gender of said narrator! (It’s a dude, I finally decided.) To say this has been an interesting process is an understatement. I really wish it hadn’t happened right before NaNo when I’m dealing with so many other projects, but inspiration doesn’t work like that, does it?

And that’s what’s happening at the moment. And at some point, I have another holiday present that needs written, but I’m sure I can squeeze in a little something for J.

~S

Getting Ready for November

THS cover

A quick cover design I did for one of my NaNo novels.  The picture is of Ophelia, by Ernest Hébert (1817-1908).  Trust me, the picture makes perfect sense in the context of the story.

Believe it or not, we’re still both alive and well.  S and I have been too busy to blog most of the time lately.  Except for when we were too lazy to blog.  But now we’re getting ready for NaNoWriMo in November, and I thought it was time for an update.

I’m working on the outlines for two new books, tentatively titled The Hardest Science and An Ally by Surprise.  The first one involves a competition between students for a science prize, which is complicated by forbidden romance.  The second one is yet another Myrciaverse civil war story, a direct sequel to A Tincture of Silver, which was one of the books I wrote in November, 2016.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, the first hurdle when writing stories that fit into a series like this is keeping the continuity straight.  So before I did anything else, I reread the last few novels that lead up to this new one, chronologically speaking.  There’s also a character coming back who hasn’t been seen in any of these books for a while, so I had to go reread the last book that she was in, which takes place 20 years before the one I’m writing now.  It’s kind of fun imagining how she might have changed in the interim.  You want the reader to recognize her as the same person, but at the same time, you want it to seem as if time has realistically passed for her.  She was in her mid-20s in her last appearance, with two young kids.  Now she’s in her mid-40s, and an important part of the plot will be her daughter’s arranged marriage.  I think it’ll be interesting.

In addition to those two books, I’ll be cowriting part of another with S.  Last year for NaNo, S and I wrote the first act of Magnificent Kingdom, so this year we’re going to do the first half of Act 2, up to the midpoint of the story.

S also has some projects of her own that she’ll be working on, in addition to the one we’re writing together.  She’s going to be working on holiday presents for friends (and for me, I think, though I wouldn’t presume to speak for her).  Maybe next week she can talk about what she’s doing, specifically.

J

It’s Camp Time Again!

Anna Camp

Anna tries to sneak away to do a little writing at camp.

We’ve been busy for the past few weekends, between house repairs and guests from out of town.  So we haven’t really had time to write blog posts.  But now it’s July, and Camp NaNoWriMo is in session again.  It’s lots of fun, and we’ve been meeting up regularly to have write-ins with some of the people in our local NaNoWriMo group, just like we would in November.

I’m working on a novel that’s a sequel to two previous novels.  It took most of June to get prepared to write it, because I had to reread those two books and then figure out what all the characters had been doing in the time since.  And, because it’s a nautical story and I’m not really into boating, I had to do a lot of research.

S is finishing up a regency romance that she started a while ago.  And then she will be working on some fanfic projects when she’s done with that.

She has a new computer: a Lenovo X1 Yoga that she has named Gwen, after a female spy in our shared fantasy universe.  Her old computer, Konrad, developed a problem where it turned off suddenly without warning.  That’s bad enough if you’re just scrolling through your Twitter account, but if it happens when you’re trying to write, it’s really annoying.  So far Gwen is working out well, which is nice.  I’m still using Ellard, my HP Elitebook 850, S has promised that when I need a new computer, she will support me in getting a really nice one.  So that’s something to look forward to.

And now, back to writing.  I’m past the climax now, and now I just need to write a few chapters that wrap everything up nicely.

 

J

LIBRARY!

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A pic of our home library. Before you ask, yes, it’s in Dewey order.

Life has been quite hectic this past week. I had some time off work, and J and I furiously attempted to get our new house in order as best we could with our bathroom and kitchen renovations still happening. Also, we read my birthday novel, which is AMAZING and made me cry, and I finished revising the Turn fanfic I wrote for April Camp NaNo. With all that going on, honestly, I’m mentally spent, with no idea what to write this week, so instead, please enjoy some pics of our home library, which was one of the big projects we finished this week.

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~S