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I&E follow-along: starting in the right place

So, I’m back on task after my time off to deal with copyedits for The Prince of Lies and attend a convention, which means I need to get on with this outline!

Taking a break from the outlining process has allowed me to look at it with fresh eyes—and I’ve realised that I’m not starting the story in the right place. That is, I’m trying to start my plot at the wrong part of my protagonist’s character arc, with the result that he ends up taking a back seat in some crucial events because he’s not ready for them. My solution has been to move the beginning of the external plot arc further along in his timeline, to a point where he’s badass enough to be the star of the show :)

My Muse is clearly happy with this change, as she’s practically dictating the opening scenes to me whenever I have a spare moment to think about the story. On the frustrating side, I’m going to have to throw away big chunks of my initial outline—but better that than throwing out 30,000 words of prose!

I&E follow-along: brief hiatus

This week I’ve been anxiously awaiting the copyedits for The Prince of Lies, so I haven’t been able to focus on I&E. The file arrived mid-week, so this weekend (and possibly the following week) will be dedicated to working on that, which means that this follow-along may be on hiatus for a little while. Them’s the breaks when you’re a pro writer – the paying gigs have to come first!

I&E follow-along: Outlining

This week I’ve been off work, so despite the distractions of a convention I’ve managed to get most of HtTS Lesson 8’s exercises done. I still have a few gaps in my character planning, but I have the core of their story motivation so that will do for now. The rest required little or no work, since I’d already done the wordbuilding during my earlier brainstorming phase.

So, next up is the outline! I’ve decided I want to try outlining this book in detail, just to find out if I can make the method work for me—I have plenty of time this summer for experimenting. The idea is that if I can do it this way, I can storm through the first draft this autumn in a couple of months and end up with something that doesn’t need to be rewritten from scratch before I dare show it to my agent! Read more

I&E follow-along: Characters

This week I’ve not been doing a lot of work on I&E, as the hot sticky weather doesn’t agree with me; it’s hard to sleep, which makes it hard to concentrate on work that needs my full attention. However I’ve made a start on HtTS Lesson 8 (if you’ve got the Ultra version – Lesson 7 in the original course), and have begun Module 1: Critical Characters.

My protagonist was easy; I already have a critical event that gives rise to his story motivation, so it wasn’t hard to fill in most of the questions about him, though I’m still prevaricating over the “three physical characteristics” section. The poor fellow has a very distinctive appearance that will make for a multitude of conflicts, so I hesitate to burden him with anything else!

The antagonist is giving me more problems—as  per bloody usual! It’s not that I don’t have one; on the contrary, I have several candidates who “oppose” the hero in different ways. There’s the hero’s arch-nemesis, who in this book wants the same thing as the hero, albeit for different reasons; the arch-nemesis’s minion, who is therefore the person actively competing with the hero; plus the character whose aims both hero and villain are trying to thwart. Add in the fact that the hero is working against the villain in secret, so any actual “opposition” is somewhat one-sided, and you have one hot mess!

I guess I really need to develop both the first two characters and possibly the third as well. Whilst Holly cautions against doing too many characters at this stage, I’m trying to write a series here, so I think a little extra planning won’t hurt :)

 

I&E follow-along: Stage 4

With my initial brainstorming period complete, I can finally start planning the books—hurrah!

Stage 4: Creating the framework

A lot of writers go straight from idea-generation into outlining their novel scene-by-scene, but I’ve discovered that this doesn’t really work for me. There’s a big difference conceptually between the narrative—the stuff you actually show the reader on the page—and the plot, i.e. the objective sequence of what happens in the world of the story. I like to know what my plot is before I decide which parts of it I want to show the reader (and through whose eyes). Read more

I&E follow-along: Stage 3

So, I’ve done my preliminary musing (Stage 2), and now I’m ready to start planning the book, right? Wrong. I know that in Lesson 4 of How to Think Sideways, Holly jumps straight in with creating her Sentence (what is more generally known as a premise), but at this stage I still haven’t made any decisions as to what I’m writing about. I barely have characters, let alone a plot, so I need to do some more work before I can even think about nailing down the core conflict. In effect, I’m skipping ahead to Lesson 8: How to Develop Your Personal Writing Project System—which is appropriate, since I’m now in the position to know what works and doesn’t work for me. Read more

New fantasy series: follow-along

I recently went back to the forums of Holly Lisle’s online Novel Writing School, where I was somewhat abashed to discover I’m somewhat of a poster girl for the courses (well, I did get a three-book deal out of the manuscript I put through How to Revise Your Novel!). When I mentioned I was using the How to Think Sideways writing course materials to help me with the new series I was planning, one of the moderators thought that students would find it interesting to hear what I was doing. However I don’t just use Holly’s materials, and I thought it might be confusing to students on the course if I talked about my own methods on the official forum. So, if you’re here via a link from the HtTS forums (and even if you’re not), welcome! Read more

The Prince of Lies final draft – done!

I know – I didn’t post here at all after the first week, but I was so focused on the draft itself, I didn’t have the time or energy. Usually I give myself two months for initial revisions (and that’s what’s specified in my contract) but this book was already running late and I didn’t have that luxury.

It was a gruelling process, trying to revise a substantial novel in a month, but I got it done, finally handing in the draft to my editor Marc on Tuesday 7th May. He may still want a few tweaks before it goes to the copyeditor, but it’s basically complete as far as I’m concerned. If I got hit by a bus next week, the book could still go out and I’d be happy at the result. Well, not the being dead or incapacitated part, but you know what I mean.

At first I was so relieved to have hit my deadline—and so mentally drained—that I was just glad to have it done and out the door. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I started to feel a bit sad that I won’t be writing about Mal, Coby and friends again, at least not any time soon. Their story has come to (for me at least) a satisfying conclusion and I’m ready to move on to new things. In any case it’s not over yet; there’s copyedits to check and the book release itself to look forward to, and even sooner than that—the cover reveal! Watch my main blog for more news on that, very soon :)

The Prince of Lies final draft – revisions, Week 1

Bit of a journal hiatus last month, as I was analysing the plot and working out fixes, so I didn’t really have anything to say that wouldn’t be spoilers. Now I’ve had feedback from my beta-readers and my editor Marc, so I can finally knuckle down to the rewrites!

This first week has been slower than I hoped – despite taking time off work, I’ve only managed one or two chapters a day. The first three chapters went particularly slowly, but I think that was a combination of post-con exhaustion and the fact that the opening of any book requires a lot of care. Although I don’t expect new readers to pick up the series at this point, Book 3 needs to refresh returning readers’ memories without getting bogged down in infodumps, and that’s always a tricky balancing act. Add in some minor but fiddly plot illogicalities, and it required a lot of thinking.

Fortunately I hit a stretch of chapters that needed only light editing to bring them up to scratch, so I’m now on Chapter XI and thus almost a third of the way through the book. I can’t rest on my laurels, though – it’s back to the day-job today, which means fitting my edits into mornings, evenings and weekends. I’m hoping to finish by the end of April, then do a final spellcheck and polish before sending it in for copyedits. Then it will be onward to the next project!