Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walker Novel 2 & Characters & Donald Maass

Writing the Breakout NovelAs I worked on the KPP2 of Novel 2, I realized I never posted the revised KPP1. I'll have to rectify that this week.  The major changes in both key points dealt with changing characters.  The Wonder Twins, though I love them, are removed from Novel 2.  Why?  Because as I worked on the outline, I realized they didn't have a recurring role in that novel.  It hurts, but they didn't . . . fit.  Sad, but true.  Just like in real life, huh?  Sometimes you spend less time with certain friends because they just don't fit into your life anymore.  By removing them, I strengthened the relationship between Walker and Maha, his desired lover.

Same in KPP2.  Instead of Smiley, Walker's out-of-place, off-reality friend, it is Maha's voice he hears.  That make his understandable hatred of her after his rescue that much stronger.  Doesn't make it any more reasonable.  But it's there.  He's not very reasonable in that world.  Hard to be reasonable when you are a walking wound, hurting.  But, also, removing Smiley here meant removing him from KPP1--so that happened too.  I think it helped strengthen Coustin Bustis's role in Walker's life because she is a minor character that is seen across several novels--a little bit in Novel 1, more in Novel 2, somewhat in Novel 3.  I like her, too, because like her cousin, Walker's wife, she is provides levity through her sexual attraction, joking with, and baiting of Walker.  Also, she is a kinder version of Walker's wife, although that makes her a tad less fun.

The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction WritersI made all these changes on characters before I started really re-reading Donald Maass's books.  He believes in complex relationships in novels.  That is, characters who have more than one role in the main character's life.  He says these are the "most absorbing" ones in novels.  To that end, he suggests combining characters.  When I first read that long ago and took his advice, it really changed how created characters.  It made them so much richer. Unconsciously, I still try to do that today.

Speaking of Donald Maass. Did you know he has a new book coming out? I bought it and another book I had been eyeballing (a sequel to Martin Lindstrom's Buology, which I adore).  I used my membership, a gift card I had earned from B&N 1, and online coupon.  Except for a few cents, the gift card covered the entire cost.  Don't you love it when you and a book are meant to be?  It's is supposed to ship in a few days--that is another reason why, if I can, I order books from B&N.  Their freebie shipping?  They don't punish you by adding an extra two weeks to the delivery time; rather they try to get to you fast!  Unlike some other online *cough* Amazon *cough* venues I could name.

1 Note: I have B&N's credit card, and love it.  It means free gift cards after 2500 points from non-B&N purchases.  But using it to make B&N purchases has benefits too--a discount of . . . I can't remember.  It's not much, but it usually comes close to matching the s&h fee or the sales tax, so I'm happy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Updates: Launches and Retirements

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook 

On Launches.....  

I have recently finished the first KPP1/beginning edits for all novels.  My goal is to get the KPP2s, the launch points, done this week.  What are launch points?  I read something in Donald Maass's (lit. agent) workbook about building interesting or tense content between opening pages and the main events of the novel.  He called it "bridging conflict."  When I started writing out of order, I felt that there had to be something to balance the climax section of the novel.  So, I started thinking about what the beginning meant.  It is a hook, an introduction to the important elements of the novel.  The climax is the key scene before the denouement, or end.  Now, I couldn't have an idea as important as the climax in the beginning, but I could have something that started the plot ball rolling. Something that moved the reader and characters to the main conflict.  What was that point?  I called it the launch point.

Not all novels have them, especially in shorter works where I have what I call a climatic ending.  Where the climax and ending are so close in timing and meaning to each other.  In that case, to provide balance, the beginning also launches.

The other thing about beginning and launch points is, like climaxes and endings, they generally abut.  That is, I do not have any content in between the beginning and launch, just like I don't with the climax and ending.  Walker Novel 2 differs from this setup.  I think one other novel might too--Harem?

Anyway, that is what I mean by launch points.

On Retirements.....

What is the saying?  Sometimes the best plans of mice and men go awry?  Well, I recently worked up a schedule for my Walker series, and I realized to get it up on January 1st, its going to take a lot of work.  Except for nano, I don't have the time for side stories right now.  More, I find it hard to shift between the series and an unrelated project.  Why?  I have an obsessive personality, one that makes it hard to get interested in other material when I am more interested in what I am already working on.  I realized I better not mess with that, since my obsessions, they never last long. Some of it has to do with my writing process (more on that in another post).  I tend to see the novel in my head, certain scenes, like a movie, and I will go back to those bits and keep replaying them.  But eventually, like a song I play too often, I tire of it.  I obsess, I get bored, I move on.  So while I am in the obsessed mode, I need to finish the Walker Series.

To that end, I decided to cut out some of the editings--the obsession killer--planned.  I still will write a certain key point or event, for example, the beginning scenes.  Then once all beginnings are done across the five novels, I will edit them to a polished state.  But in general, unless the scene is giving me problems, I won't squeeze another edit in between.  Also, I won't edit them again once I say write two parts, like an event and a key point that are near each other.  That was to be my "merge" edit.  I don't have the time or patience.  Rather, once I get to the point where I am writing the tertiary events (the third level of events, including key points), then I will start editing after write them for a section or a block.  Then I will start merging them together.

In this way, by retiring side stories and extra editing sessions, I hope to be done entirely with the series by November 1, giving me time to work on my nano and giving me time to work on formatting the series for publication.

We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Writing Out of Order: Editing Phase One: Getting It from Me to You

As I mentioned in my last post, the first edit is really a fleshing out.  Sometimes when I am in a hurry in certain sections I write material like a poor screen-writer's manuscript.  Talking heads, negative space, and smiles galore.  Not all of it, though.  The part that drove me to write the scene is usually rich in details, including phrasing options.  Those get pared down or changed in the edits.

The second edit comes a week later after each same block from the five novels is done.  This is the first, real edit pass.  This is not the time to flesh out material; instead it should be pretty close.  Of course, with the newer written bits, I do more than grammar check.  But mostly this is to make the writing look pretty and clean. 

I start the second edit by saving the file as a new name appendage, called Polish.  Using the Search and Replace function in MS Word, and highlight key words such as be forms, will forms, had forms, -ly adverb forms, there was/were, it was/were, now, then, and by.  I am a passive voice and adverb queen, dual crowns.  Highlighting these help me get rid of less polished wording.  Then I double space it.  Then I open the file up in my main (free!) writing program, Rough Draft, because it allows me to see how many of each search function and I can note it in the handy notepad feature.  I have to admit, I don't always get rid of many of these.  But every little bit helps, especially if I have the same structure in a paragraph unintentionally.

As I edit, I highlight the completed paragraph, change to single spacing on it, and remove highlights.

At the end, I recount those bug words above.  I do happy dance when I drop the number by the tens; I sulk when I drop it by one or none word.  Then I move on.

Finally, if I am to post, I usually resave the file as Postable, and use the Replace feature in Word to add extra paragraph spacing (^p^p) and remove the tabs (^t).  I save as an RTF, then I copy and paste it to Rough Draft--because Word acts up when you try to save a RTF as a text--and save the text version there.  Voila, it is ready to be posted.  Generally, if I have to cut it up because of length, I do it within Blogger.

PS:   Do not be deceived, this is not the last edit, but is the last to mention in this post.

The Difference Frequent Editing Makes

Well, the first KPP1/Beginning of Walker Novel 2 is clean-edited 1. I can definitely feel the difference in it and in the newly written KPP1s of Novels 3, 4, and Harem. Namely because this isn't the first edit for either of Novel 1 or 2.

That is why I think my current method works. After I write all the new blocks, that same week I go back over them and flesh them out. Then once they are all done, the following week (like this week) is dedicated to line edits or polishing.

After this week, and it should only be this week because I am on track, I will start on the KPP2s/Launch Points, going through the same process again. Not so bad, methinks. Not so bad at all.

1 Notes:  I don't have time to post the new version today, but I will this week.  However, I really hate cutting it up into so many blocks to make blogable.  I may end up hosting it on my webpage and posting a link to it here.  Not sure yet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Story a Month Changes

It is good to have goals, but in order to succeed at those goals you must have the proper skill base first.  Before I can try to write a story a month, which would have to be a short story to work at that pace for me, I have to become good at writing short stories.  Not sure if that is in me.  Sure, I can try, but naturally I write in the 10,000 and up range.  So, instead of having an artificial time limit on writing such a story when I am working on other series, I will merely set a goal of always working on a side story, something completely unrelated.  This is good practice, keeps my mind active.  In honor of my original intention, however, I will post the story for free on this blog for one month.  Then once that month is up, it goes up for sale on various epub sites.

So, that is my goal for these stories, these side stories, these asides; and it is a goal that I am more likely to reach.

Walker Universe Series: Novel 1: KPP1 (Edit Pass One)

Early Draft, Edit Pass One

Copyright ©  2011  Jodi Ralston

My sometimes-wife had the knack for finding me while I was in the bare.  It was how we met and how she found me now when I was knee-deep in the teardrop pool at the first House of Health.  She of course was fully clothed back then; this time she barely was.  A sheer dress.  And stringy golden breast-band and loincloth almost rivaling the size of the golden kohl around her eyes.  In other words, dressed to impress.  Dressed for trouble.

It didn't help matters any that she was carrying my bundle of clothes.  Clothes I had left with the attendant to purify.  Ketesha did not offer them up as she stopped before me.  Instead, her gaze raked me up and down, lingering on the silver, healing waters, then ascending somewhat higher as she tutted.  "Such is a pity."  She stroked my clothing.  "Truly."

"Ketesha-Uret."  I stepped out of the pool, and made a grab for the clothes.  She pulled them away, teasingly.

"Ketesha is so . . . "  She cradled my clothing like a pet cat.  "Formal, my love, for our relationship."

"Where's the attendant, Ketesha?  What are you doing with my things?"

"I sent her away so we could . . . talk.  But I suppose that can wait until your prescribed time is finished here."  She pouted as she held out my garments to me.  I took them.

"Beware of strange women; that is how you got in this mess."  

Beware the woman you know in Tesha's case.  Well, let her keep her supposition.  It would save me from her prying out the truth, and me from a certain matrimonial vow, vows which I have never quite figured out were legal or fictive or some singular combination of both.  My only regret was that exaggerated word of our encounter would get back to her sister.

Getting more exaggerated the longer I stood in the natural wasting thoughts on it.

I carefully shook out the first piece of clothing.  After all, Ketesha-Uret was the pharaohine of suprises.  Like this one:  somehow I had gained a pair of pants.  Scale-armored pants.  For once, not made out of candy prone to melting.  I arched an eyebrow.

"I remember the measurements that wear on you best.  You'll need the pants and jerkin where you we are going."  After one final look, she turned from me, and strutted away.  Turned out she was even more sheer and more narrowly-stringed from the rear.

At the door, she looked back over her shoulder, hand resting on the minature god's-eye pedestal.  She rubbed its dripping tears for luck.  "What are you waiting for?  There is no groom here, my Pheteh."

"The name is Walker," I told her, and I scowled down at my garments.  Scowled, not because I had been caught looking, which was bad enough, but because I had had been stupid enough to look in the first place; that way lay only trouble.

I gave the pants one last, good shake, and turning up nothing suspicious, pulled them on.  I investigated the rest of my garments and found more surprises.  Not only had scaly jerkin and pants replaced my gold-sheened kilt and forked vest, but the underclothing looked distinctly serpentine in pattern.  Dressed, I followed a suspicion and my garmenter to our next stop, the anteroom.  My high-laced, standard-issue sandles were gone from my cubby-hole; in their place, real boots made from some real serpent, pebbled dark.  The footwear attendant/greeter was also conspiciously missing, but I had already chosen not to raise a complaint against Keteshsa's meddling.  After all, I didn't often meet an opportunity to wear pants.  Damn, I missed pants.

I actually felt that I came out ahead until I went outside and I saw Tesha beside what had become of my mount.

I rushed down the steps to Horse's side, and ran my hand over his flank, over the plated metal that shone like gold.  It almost burned under the sun.  Horse swiveled its head around on me, cobra-like hood expanding along its falcon-horse head.  The acursed thing even had wings now, scaled wings, and so deeply forked of a tail, it might as well have been two; this it flicked at me like a whip, forcing me back a step.

"Katesha, curse you, you don't mess a man's horse!"

Katesha laughed.  "Horse?"  She reached out and stroked the blunt nose, and Horse's metal plating blushed beneath her touch, hood retreating, a clear indication of her corrupting influences.  "Your mount was never meant to look like a horse.  It is an upgrade befitting a man of the mehnset."

Was there nothing left to my Horse--or inside it, for that matter?  I fumbled over its rump until I found the proper scale, and lifted the storage hatch lid to begin inventorying the rest of my gear.  First and most importantly, I retrieved my mehnset from the mounting inside the lid.  The snake looked all right, but in this sun, It was hard to see.  So, I relied on feel and hoped it didn't cost me.  The magic, gold metal coiled up my left arm--as it should--however, it too was in a foul mood and tightened painfully on me before subsiding with a hiss, resting its head against the back of my fist.  It never opened its eyes once, too disgusted by the situation at large.  Who could blame it?  Changing a perfectly good representation of a horse to this . . . whatever it is.  Mech-monstrosity.



That was not the end of her upgrades.  She had replaced my back-up weapon, one that few knew about for good reason; instead of a simple boot-knife, I now had a pair of overly ornate, snake-eyed switch blades.  Blades, I found out shortly, that I could barely squeeze inside the hidden sheathes in my boots.  Blades that I would have to re-envenom, a process my mehnset found rather demeaning at the best of times.  I hoped at least she had properly disposed of the old ones.  Mehnset venom was nothing to mess around with.

As for the rest of my stuff?  Too hard to tell, what with my eyes watering from the glare off the beast-bribe's skin and my sunglasses turning up oddly absent.  No choice, I closed the lid, giving up on counting my losses until I was safely back at the base.  Make that safely indoors the stable.  So, I grabbed onto the embedded pommel and swung my leg over the beast-bribe's back, almost getting a crotchful of rippling-hot wing scales.  I shoved that wing aside once I settled in my seat--fortunately, a cool seat.  The wing bumped me back, and I was sure, if It weren't for my pants, the base's doctor would be treating me for a rather unusual abrasion.  I pushed again the wing away with my thigh.  Beast-Bribe briefly squished my leg to its side in return.  I gave up.  "How are you supposed to ride with those things."

She shrugged.  "One supposes in the mode of high fashion befitting one in such the employ of the Pharaohine.  Don't damage it overly, dear.  It's all rented."

"Under whose name?"

She smiled and crossed her arms over the thing's shoulder.  With one finger, she caressed edge of its hood.  The bribe trilled back.  "Under Ytben."  She shifted her eyes to me.  "Pheteh and Ketesha-Uret, of course, my love."

"That name isn't worth the paper it's written on."

She stood upright, startling the mech-beast out of its daze.  "How would you know?  You weren't there when I had it drawn up."

There was no arguing with her or our supposed marriage.  What little money I could afford went nowhere on the lawyers who had tried, far too expensively, to pose an argument.  If one could not quite assume one was married, one cannot quite assume one was divorced either, no matter how eager one was to try.

"Shouldn't you offer a lady a ride?"

Find me one, and I'd be happy to.  But my former horse had a mind of its own making, and without waiting for my response, it folded itself in place over its legs, pitching me against its neck in the process.  At the same time, it nearly gave me a new kind of abrasion when its back expanded to accomodate another passenger.  Ketesha demurely settled into her perfectly molded seat before shifting her skirt out of the way of sub-optimum passerby exposure.  By the time I found my less-than-customized seat, the bribe was rising again.  Somehow it nearly dislodged me in the process--again--while Tesha in her precarious pose hadn't shifted a muscle.  In fact, she had found a way to cross her legs.

Enough was enough.

She could keep her mech.  I'd go hide out in the House of Health until it had returned to normal and she preyed on one of her other sometimes-husbands.  I shimmied my leg over the top, and found myself in a less than comfortable parody of her own position.  The wing had locked my leg into position.  My seat warmed and bristled, threatening sunburn and more, in inoppurtune places.   She draped an arm over my shoulder and toyed with the back of my neck.  "Rather comfortable, isn't it?  And roomy.  One could practically do anything atop him.  One doesn't even have to be so flexible any more."

Choosing the lesser of two evils, I swung that leg back onto the proper side of the trap, and sighed.  "You're going to sell me to the--"  I caught myself and looked around at the bazaar-goers.  We were being watched, but no one wanted to stand within hearing distance of a menhset; after all, that meant its bearer could hear the watchers as well.  "--to the vampires again, aren't you?"

She withdrew, rigid.  "You should know I possess more sense than that."  She plucked at my sleeve.  "Do you have any idea how much these would cost to buy?  I'd never recoup their loss or my standing with the creditors if I let you go off to a harem in these."

Well, she could if she did business with the greater harem holders, but none of them would have anything to do with her, after her last deal.  "So I'm safe as long as I'm well dressed?"


"What's keeping you from just stripping me down beforehand?"

She scoffed.  "Men, you only have one thing on your minds, don't you.  But I am flattered you miss me so."

Reassuring that:  In her mind, she connected my nudity only in regards to intimate acts with her; It was also quite unreassuring for entirely the same reason.  But continuing to argue down this path would only lead to more equivocations of increasingly uncomfortable nature.  So nothing was left for it but this:  I turned in my seat, stared her in the eye, and entreatied her for a straight answer.  "Tesha, what do you want?"

She pulled out a case from an unbeknownst-to-me side panel on the bribe, and rubbed on some golden lipstick.  Next golden blush.  She continued peering in the mirror, angling for the perfect application of irritation on her audience, before, at last, she handed the mirror off to me.  "Hold this."  And pulled out a veil from the same panel and said,  "Hold it right there."  Then she began to affix a body length veil over her dark hair with its attached pins.  Sensing that perhaps she might lose the mirror, much less the last of my silent patience, she dropped the veil into position over her face and said,  "I want you to ride."  She plucked back the mirror, and pointed with a finger.  A golden-nailed finger.  Perhaps derived from real gold.  Which she took a moment to admire.  "Mmm."  Then:  "In that direction, my love."


But the shiny bribe said yes with its taloned feet, and its consent was the only one that mattered.

(end of KPP1)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week One Thoughts

This weekend didn't turn out as I expected.  I was busier than I expected, more depressed, and more tired.  But I still got things done.  Maybe I'm not ahead, but I'm not horribly behind, either.  I'm right on target with Walker Series.  I'm behind on the bi-monthly tale, Dole.

But more importantly, this last week made me realize I have to free up more time during the day to do other things.  Don't get me wrong, I want to make this a career, but I also want to improve myself for my tutor job, I want to improve my body so it is healthy and strong, and I want to improve myself in general by learning things I keep putting off.  So, it is not so much as spending less time writing, it is spending less time snoozing and internet playing.  I wake early because I have no time after my night job to do anything but eat and go to bed.  Usually, I snooze for an hour or two after waking up, because I'm still not used to it.  No more:  nappy time is gone.  This is going to work, but it will take at least two weeks to feel the real effect.  After all, I heard that is the time necessary to set a habit.  And I am going to set this habit.

The other habit I want to implement is less time spent on the internet.  Blog posts are good okay.  Keeping track of my industry is okay.  Email checking is okay.  But it needs to be kept in check.  It needs to be scheduled just like my career, so I don't spend more time than I think on these places.  Time I don't need to be spending thus.

So, as I work on editing the KPP1s this week, writing a quarter of Dole, returning some critiques, and doing other writerly tasks, I'm going to keep a sharper eye on what I spend my time on and make sure I make room for what I want to do. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Progress Report 3-2-11 so far

Progress Report:
  • Walker Novel 1: 2062 words edited on KPP1, this pass done.
  • Walker Novel 2: 1088 words edited on KPP1, pass incomplete ('tis long).
  • Monthly Fiction: 4 handwritten pages (and twice that many notes), done yesterday.

Not bad for being depressed (partly because of writing expectations not met; mostly because an oppossum raided our chicken pen last night and killed several chickens, including one of my favorites).  Although being depressed is the worst time possible to make decisions, I decided that I'm going to give Dole this weekend yet to see how far I can get.  I tend to overestimate word count, after all; it may not be 30,000 words.  My insane goal?  To get it half written before the weekend is up.  If I can manage that, it might still make it as a March fic.

March Story and Adult Content

For a while, my March story was stalling.  I even posted on DW Smith's site when I saw that it happens to him too, and he was kind enough to respond.  Then on the car ride home from work last night, I had an idea on how to get me excited about it again.  The problem?  If I do so, it is longer, closer to short novel length (i.e., 20,000 to 30,000 words).  That means it won't be done this month.

Also, I realized that I may run into problems with "adult" content (and not just on this story).  Blogger allows adult content if you label your blog as Adult.  Not my preference, but I may have to, especially since, my website host, doesn't want content "deemed adult related."  Dole, my March story, does have some sexual content--though not explicit.  A couple of the Walker novels make allusions to sex, nudity, and some other situations--though, again, nothing explicit.  All have mature language in them.  Maybe there is a way to censor the scenes the way people do with curse words.  Not sure.  All I know is everything just got more complicated.  Darn.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quick Progress Report

Walker Series: 
  • 1178 words written on Novel 3, KPP1.  Is done for this pass.
  • 1593 words written on Novel 4, KPP1.  Is done for this pass.
  • 2351 words edited on Harem/Prequel, KPP1.  Is done for this pass and posted to crit group.
Daily Ideas:
  • Nada.
Monthly Story:
  • Nope.
So, some progress is done.  Though, I wrote over on Walker Series, at the expense of exercise and Monthly Story/Dole, it was worth it.  Tomorrow, I hope to edit Walker 1 and 2.  Then lightly edit all of KPP1s the next day.  Then Saturday, a day ahead of schedule, I hope to implement my new method of revision.  That is, in one week I write, say, all KPP1s.  The next week I go over them, revise them, make them good.  (Which is when I can post them too.)  Then the week following, I rinse and repeat with KPP2s.  The only area where this will really get tricky is when I get on the events, what I call tertiary level (with KPPs being primary).  But I'll simply give myself more time to write, and I should be good.

With my new schedule?  It looks like likely October is a more likely post date.  Not bad.

Anyway, as I have to leave in a bit, I'm going to save writing on the Monthly for tonight. It's a story I am struggling with.  One hand I like the idea and the story works, but it is different for me and it is . . . well, I'll save that for another post. 

That's what I've got so far.  Hopefully, by early next week, the revised Novel 2 KPP1 and the new-to-the-blog Novel 1 KPP1 can be posted.  Cross your fingers, anyway.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not So Bad

Today is my official start on goal for my Walker Series as well as for my monthly fiction.  I had a late start, because of the evil free Starz channels.  Even so, I wrote about 700 new words on KPP1 (Beginning block) of Novel 3.  Then I revised Harem's KPP1 (about 1600 words).  There should be one more part to Novel 3's KPP1.  Harem needs one more look over on its opening.  It feels a little . . . stark, not quite finished.  Then Harem goes off to my crit group for an edit.  Tomorrow, I hope to finish up both of those KPP1s, so that on Thursday, I can get a move on to the KPP1 for Novel 4.  I know right now any of my key plot points are going to have another full-fledged edit at a later date.  They are the hardest to write, but the most important.  I'll have to revisit them after I get in the groove of later writings.

As for monthly fiction?  Nada so far.  Despite my late start on the Walker series, I managed to write over my allotted two hours.  So, I will have to take a break then get some words down on it.  It too is a vampire story, just like Harem is.  But Blood and Bread (aka Dole) won't be as "fun" as compared to Harem.  In fact, it is rather bleak.

That's all I have time for.  Let you know how it goes later.