NaNo Prep, part 1!

There was no Worldbuilding Wednesday post yesterday, because, well, stuff. Had to help out a friend of mine with something, had a translation to do and had to work a little on a mandatory assignment for my studies. The headache didn’t exactly help either.

The main reason, however, is a good one. For once in my life I’m actually prepping for NaNoWriMo beyond deciding what story/stories to write. Not that that’s not quite a bit of work in itself – I tend to write more than 50k and also tend to need more than one story – but, well, with this crazy November and a wordcount goal of 200k I need all the prepping I can get.

Story 1 will be the second draft of Rogue Sorcery. It will be a complete rewrite (only a tiny bit will be left from the first draft, as the plot is wildly different), so I don’t feel bad about including it.

Story 2 will be a story I’ve tried to write twice before, but I have never been able to find the right plot. I had the premise and the characters, but nothing more, until last weekend. I’ve planned the main points of the plot, but hopefully I’ll have time to revise and flesh it out a little before November starts.

Story 3, the reserve story, is also a story I’ve tried to write several times before. I have six or seven versions of the beginning in my files, and I also posted it as my Saturday Snippet on the 8th of August. The plot has changed a bit – it was originally about the youngest son of the farmer’s family, who had his head in the clouds and headed off to adventure once he was told to get the dragon away from the village. Now it’s about his rational, steadfast brother instead, who is dragged along in order to keep his brother from harm. It will also feature a character I’ve been dying to use in a story for years now, after his own story fell through.

In other words, I have plenty to do before November, but I’m looking forward to it. Now I’ll just have to work hard on finishing the plots, and then finish all the other things that need to be done so I won’t have to think about them in November. We’ll see how it goes!

Plot breakthroughs

If there’s one thing I have been thinking about lately, it’s my trilogy (the Sorcery Cycle). The main source of frustration is the fact that it doesn’t feel like a trilogy. While some parts of the third book are related to the previous two, there is a very large time gap between them, and after book two it would just be a huge anti-climax. It is not really part of the main story arc of the series; I have just thought so because it follows the personal story arc of one of the important characters.

The trilogy, which consists of Rogue Sorcery (RS), Forgotten Sorcery (FS) and Natural Sorcery (NS), is the first in a longer series, if you can call it that. The series does not have a continuous plot, nor does it necessarily feature the same characters (or even the same world(s)). Some characters and places are recurring, others not.

RS and FS is, in reality, more closely tied to a fourth story, The Madness, which in many ways is the conclusion (though sort of indirectly) to one of the main plotlines. However, they have no characters in common except a minor one, do not occur at the same place or time, and feel quite different from each other. NS is more the personal story of Ceredi as he battles the demons of his past.

So after agonizing over everything that is wrong for quite a while now, I’ve come to the realisation that it’s actually not a trilogy. The one part that relates to the story of RS/FS and/or The Madness can be reworked quite neatly into RS. This way NS can be it’s own thing, and get a new and not-so-misleading name.

So now I am working through the story arcs, deciding which stories and subplots will be included, and what the plot of the actual duology will be. I think I am getting closer. I fear I have a lot of work in front of me, but I am convinced that the series will be better for it. I have certainly gotten back my enthusiasm for it!

Overachieving without overachieving too much

This year’s NaNoWriMo has proven to be quite the balancing act. There’s been the usual two-day meeting at work that always happens the first few days of November, and there’s a big dance competition coming up next week that will take away four full writing days, plus anywhere between 4-10 hours of dance practice every week. Plus my regular work, meetings in my writing group, translations for my brother’s company, occasionally meeting my friends… and somehow in the middle of it all I’ve decided to write 200k (dream goal 250k).

I know I should probably reduce the goal a little to ease the load, particularly since I’m lagging quite a bit behind now, but… I really don’t want to. Yes, I am behind, and yes, I’m rather tired now, but the first half of the month was the most hectic part. I also really struggled with my novel, which I finished a few days ago and replaced with a significantly more fun one. Besides, I’ll have the entire last week of November off.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m not giving up on the 200k, though – I only need to write a little less than 7300 words per day, and unless something comes up I’m going to write more than that during the last week.

As I mentioned, I struggled with my first story. Those 50k were a chore – the story just would not come out right, and I’m neither used to writing urban fantasy nor 1st person POV, and it took me 80% of the book to discover the plot.

My current story is in a more familiar setting, while being new and fresh (I haven’t written about any of the characters involved before). I’ve only written 11k so far, but I like most of the 11k, and I enjoy writing both the characters, plot and setting. Sure, there are problems, but none that cannot be fixed in the edit. The story has princes, moody kings, war, trickery, dark secrets, mystery, a little bit of romance and quite possibly dragons. The latter weren’t in the original outline (lots of things weren’t, since it’s old and very brief), but something’s got to be in those massive mountains, after all. I think it’s fair to say that while I LOVE to read urban fantasy, writing epic fantasy is more my thing. Epic, sarcastic and dark-but-optimistic fantasy.

Plot revisions

I never used to do very many plot changes after I had written the first draft. No, I treated the first draft as if I had somehow committed to the story being that specific way. I sometimes rewrote a story, but it was less changing what was already there and more writing a brand new story. Reading about authors who had to move chapters to different parts of the story and so on just seemed confusing and pointless to me – why create that much work for yourself?

But you seldom get your descriptions right at first try, nor the dialog. Why should plot be any different?

Perhaps it’s that changing the plot commits you to doing several big changes instead of small ones, and that’s always daunting. And of course it’s not something you want to do. But if it makes the story better it has to be done.

Nowadays I always tweak the plot between the first and the second draft. How can I edit it properly if things are in the wrong place? What’s the point of perfecting the conversation between A and B if the plot has to be changed so they do not meet at that time anyway, if at all? Sometimes it’s hard to make these changes, but if they are necessary there’s no way around them.

The story I wrote in August, during Camp NaNoWriMo, had a promising beginning, but even I was confused with regards to the ending. I forgot why exactly they had to be there – and if they have to be there to make the story add up then the plot isn’t really… good enough. I want plots where things don’t just randomly happen. If a character must act a certain way to make the story work, even if that way is out of character, then something is wrong. Let’s just say that there isn’t much of the latter half of the book left.

I hadn’t really planned on revising it that much – I spent about an hour tonight fixing and redoing the plot – but the ideas kept coming. Things are radically different, but the characters are truer to themselves, and truer to, well, logic. I’m fairly satisfied at the moment, and being the perfectionist that I am I think I’m very close to something good here, if I haven’t already found it. The characters aren’t very trusting or naive anymore, which would be completely out of character for both of the main characters, nor are they so honest with each other. The rest of the good things about the changes will have to stay secret, since it would spoil the ending. Just in case.

Another change is that it was supposed to be two books, but now it’s only one. It made more sense with regards to the plot and the ending, and the book is more coherent now than it was before. It doesn’t make sense to stop the story before the story is over, after all.

Hmm. Strange that it should take so many words just to tell that I had revised a part of the plot that bothered me, and that I am happy with the changes. Guess it shows just why I can’t write short stories… 😉

Now it’s off to bed, then back to work tomorrow. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll figure out what to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I intended to finish revising Rogue Sorcerers before November, but I doubt I’ll get the time. Probably I’ll do it in December instead.

I’ve got it! (again)

I feel like this is a repetition of a previous entry, but it seems to me that it takes some attempts before the story feels right.

In august I intended to write a story about the owner of a magic shop, but I couldn’t exactly find the right perspective on it. I thought I had it when I changed to 1st person point of view, but ended up discarding the story and working on another instead. I don’t believe in forcing a story if it doesn’t feel right before I’ve gotten properly started at it – mostly because I’ve seen how much better it can become if I just give it enough time to mature in my head.

Aaaand I was right.

Today I began watching a movie that I was only half interested in, when I thought I might as well be writing. The shopkeeper story has been churning around in my head ever since I started it, and I realised that I had to re-think the whole thing.

Initially the premise was that the shop was situated in a world with portals to many other worlds, and that there one day came someone from our world who had no clue about, well, anything, and who couldn’t get back. But it seemed a little… forced. And boring.

So now it was back to square one, and… it was a smart choice. It helps giving some thought to what you really want to write about, and I didn’t really want to write about guys stumbling into another world and getting stuck. I’d much rather write about guys going to another world for a purpose, or just staying in their own. I didn’t much like that guy either. Besides, what else is there than figure out where he came from, figure out who closed the portal and then get him back home?

No, I’d much rather go in another direction. I don’t know exactly where that is yet, but I’m closer to finding it than I was. Instead of one character I like and one I find boring I have suddenly two that I like, a premise that has some potential, and the beginnings of a plot. Instead of awkward and stilted interaction between two strangers that have nothing in common there is now two people who have known each other for a very, very long time. And who still don’t always like each other.

We’ll see – it’ll be interesting to see how this attempt turns out. Maybe I’ve actually found my story for NaNoWriMo this year?