I’ll Fix It in Post

film-reel

“Fix it in post.” The most dreaded words on set?

Often when J and I are writing, we will borrow from the world of film the idea that we can fix what’s wrong in “post.” Of course, this is just our silly way of referring to revision, but I thought about the idea, and the trope, more seriously when I was working on my ill-fated NaNo novel. Granted, unlike a film, a novelist can always go back and “reshoot” (rewrite) a scene to get what she needs, but I think there’s something to be said for having the raw materials you need before you get to the revision process.

Now, I’ve never made an exact study of the numbers and percentages, but let’s say in a novel that has been properly outlined and researched ahead of time and is drafted thoughtfully, it will have 10-20% changed significantly in revision. When I start a novel knowing that eventuality is coming, that is something I can live with at this point, because I’ve written enough to appreciate that writing is rewriting. But then on a novel like The Queen’s Tower, my NaNo book from two years ago, I went in with a tenuous outline and characters I didn’t know especially well. I finished the first draft of that knowing I would be changing around 20-30% of what had been written, plus adding about 30% entirely new content. That’s pretty daunting, and probably why I still haven’t finished the novel.

And that brings us to this year’s NaNo novel, The Swift True Road. Not only did I not start with the level of detail to my outline I prefer, but I didn’t do as much character work as I would have liked, and being my first historical novel, I quickly realized I hadn’t done even close to enough research. Because it was NaNo, I kept plowing along, but around 35,000 words in, I realized I would be completely reworking at least 50% of what I had already written. Knowing I would be chucking half of what I was laboring so hard to write became discouraging to the point that I didn’t have the heart to continue writing the novel. It also seemed to be a supreme waste of time.

As J pointed out last week, I decided to set The Swift True Road aside, and I went to work on other projects to see me through the month of November, and make certain I still wrote 50,000 words for the month. At some point, I absolutely intend to return to The Swift True Road. I still think it’s a great idea for a book, a romance between two mercenaries in Renaissance Italy, but I’m not going to pick it back up again until I’m sure I can successfully draft a novel that will leave me with the pieces I need to polish a good story in post.

~S

Are You Ready to Rumble?

 

battle_of_pavia-bernard-van-orley

Tapestry of the Battle of Pavia by Bernard van Orley

NaNoWriMo is just a little over a week away, and I’m still furiously trying to get ready. I’ve filled out the basic character sheet J and I have been refining over the years for my most important characters, and I have a basic outline. Now I’m trying to add more detail on the outline, because I well know every minute I spend now will save me very many minutes in November. The one bit of preparation I’m nowhere close to having complete, though, is my research. And I think now is the moment I go ahead and explain here just what it is I’m doing this year.

I’m writing historical erotica, the primary pairing being two men. They are mercenaries in Renaissance Italy, and while they both have relationships with women (and in one case with another man) during the novel, they are what the kids call “endgame.”  Thing is, I’ve never written a historical novel or erotica (fanfic isn’t quite the same), so I’ve been spending the last couple of months finding out all I can about both. Here are my finds.

Erotica

So, when I told folks I was planning a Male/Male Erotica for NaNo, several people excitedly told me that was a brilliant idea. M/M stories are one of the fastest growing segments of the Romance industry, and when it comes to adult fiction, Romance is the industry. Now, back in the day when J and I decided to start writing fantasy novels, I had read almost no fantasy, so that became Job 1 for me. Therefore, I went in search of published smut. (Smut, by the way, is always a term of affection when I’m talking about fiction.)

As I have been toying with the idea of writing erotica for a while, I first tried several months ago to listen to some racy romance novels, picking from what I could get from the library in digital audiobook. I started a couple modern romances, and didn’t make it more than a half hour into any of them. I clearly wasn’t doing well on my own, so I did what any librarian would do—I found recommendations on tumblr.

I started with Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War, an excellent heterosexual romance with some naughty bits, but I really wanted to see what was being written for M/M pairings. The next novel I read was Bound with Honor, a book recommended by a fanfic author I hugely admire. This book features lots of groupings of the two male and two female leads, but it left me still wanting something both historical, as these two books are, but strictly M/M.

And, if I can sound like a dirty old lady, smuttier. In a panic, I started listening to a book that was definitely smuttier, every bit as dirty as the best fanfic I’ve read, but it was M/M/F, modern, and horribly written. So my search continues for the perfect M/M historical erotica. I have several in my to be read pile, and I’ve started one called False Colors, which so far is well written, historical, and M/M, but I haven’t hit the smut yet. Fingers crossed.

Renaissance

I’ve had much better luck doing my historical research. Michael Mallett’s book Mercenaries and Their Masters is a godsend. I also listened to all of Will Durant’s The Renaissance from his The Story of Civilization series. In addition to these, I have a whole basket full of books on the era, which have proven invaluable. I wish I had time to read them all cover to cover, instead of just dipping into them. Also, Ohio libraries are amazing, and the only way my research has been possible. May they remain ever thus.

Outline

So now I outline and hope that what I put on it spurs me to ask the right historical questions before November starts. If not, I suppose historical detail is something I can add on revision. But I really want the time and place to help drive the story, so hopefully I’ll know what I’m doing well enough come November 1.

~S

Yet Another Camp Update

Aramis and Anne

Aramis gets busted sneaking into the girls’ cabin.

We’re still at camp, and today we’re at Panera having a write-in with some friends from the local NaNoWriMo group.

S is still moving along, and she’s almost certainly got enough words to win, except that first she needs to get it all typed up so she can validate her word count. If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo, the way you win is to copy and paste what you’ve written into a window that then counts your words and verifies that you’ve got enough. And that’s perfectly simple for people like me, who compose at the keyboard. But for people like S, who prefer to handwrite with a pen in a journal, there’s always the challenge of getting everything typed up.* I’ll be helping her with that in a little while, once I’ve finished writing this blog post.

As for me, my novel has been finished for a while now, and I’m working on a reference file on the history and culture of one of the imaginary countries in the Myrciaverse. We’ve done a number of these files over the years, starting with the very first ones, which we were working on before we even had names for the countries. Somewhere in the basket by S’s chair at home, there’s a journal that still has headings in it like, “Bad Guy Country” and “Other Country.”

Doing the research for this sort of thing is usually pretty fun. All our fictional countries are, to a greater or lesser extent, based on real places. So reading up on, say, ancient Chinese nobility or the types of Viking ships, is always a good time. And, on the occasions when it gets a bit tedious, I can always just remind myself that I’m saving myself time later on, someday when I write a novel that takes place in this country, and I can just open up the file and find what I need to give the story a little local color, rather than trying to make it all up on the spur of the moment.

So that’s what I’ll be working on later today. But for now, there’s typing to be done.

J

*Technically, NaNo allows you to have a friend count the words and then you can use a Lorum Ipsum generator, but that’s a lot of work to put in when it needs typed anyway. ~S

Research Findings

sorrow thereof collage

S’s pics from research trip to Cleveland. Clockwise from top left: The Cuyahoga River; ex-hubby’s apartment building on St. Clair; boss’s apartment building in the Flats; heroine’s apartment above shops in Little Italy; heroine’s grocery in Little Italy.

 

For anyone who doesn’t follow us on Twitter, I just wanted to stop in and report that our trip to Cleveland was wonderfully productive. We found an apartment we think would be suitable for my heroine, rode the train to where she works, figured out where her ex-husband lives, where her boss lives, and what her favorite walk is along the Cuyahoga River. We bought a bottle of wine at the local grocery where she shops, ate what is surely her favorite pizza, and decided the coffee house down the street is way too hipster for her. In other words, it was genuinely helpful, and I think my novel will be better for the trip.

~S

 

Road Trip

cleveland

The fantastic Cleveland skyline.

While J is between semesters, I’ve taken a week off work, and we’ve been doing a lot of writing. With both of our birthdays quickly approaching, we’re frantically trying to finish up presents for one another, hence our absence on Sunday. J, as always, is writing at an impressive clip, but in order to write my novel, we’re thinking of taking a road trip.

I’m trying something different for J’s present. It’s not fantasy and it’s modern. (This doesn’t frighten me too much. I may also be lying about that.) A big chunk of the story is going to take place in Cleveland, because I figured if I need it to take place in any American city other than New York, why not one I’ve been to and can visit anytime I want? The visiting part is actually kind of important to me, because while there’s a lot you can figure out about a modern city simply by looking online, I’d much rather scout locations. We already have potential spots picked out for my heroine’s apartment, place of work, as well as where some other characters live and spend their time. But I think it will add some authenticity if I literally ride the train from my heroine’s apartment to where she works, and walk around the neighborhood where she does her shopping.

There are certain to be lots of pics, and we will share them here. Also, keep an eye on our Twitter (@jsmawdsley), because we may be posting pictures there as well. Wish us luck!

~S