Organizing stuff

This weekend I was really tired and found it hard to do any of the useful, grown-up things I had planned to do. It was my first week at work after five weeks’ sick leave (I’m fine by the way, I just had a brutal meeting with the metaphorical wall), so perhaps it wasn’t so strange. But – I actually managed to procrastinate by doing other useful stuff!

The first thing was to look through my books and write down which series I am reading and what books I haven’t yet bought/read. Fun fact about me: When I’m stressed, there are two things I have an urgent need to do: Finish things, and get rid of things. I have a stack of not-all-that-awesome books I’m getting rid of, and now I’m trying to finish a few of the series I’m reading. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that, I think, and there are some series I’m reading where there won’t be any more books. While I like series with many books, most of them go stale at some point, so I like series that actually end properly.

The other thing I did was to go through my stories. All of them. And if you count the snippets and multiple versions and iterations and idea files and so on, there are a lot to go through. Now I have a word file with every single story that’s not utterly hopeless, sorted by story type (novels, novellas or short stories/short story series). I also have several stories that are the combination of several ideas/drafts (where the discarded stories go to be reincarnated, apparently), so I have listed all the different stories they consist of. One of them is a Frankenstein’s monster of a story, consisting of more than eight different (but related) ideas, so I might split it back up.

Next on the agenda is entering them all into Excel (so that I can sort them better and do fancy automatic colour coding) and going through the list, which is what I’m currently doing. Which ideas are worth pursuing, and which should be archived as a lost cause? Some should perhaps remain only as part of the worldbuilding. Some stories are probably not worth writing at all, even if writing the drafts was enjoyable. The Frankenstein’s monster of a story will probably be replotted into something completely different. Before the day is over it might already have become a series instead…

Finally I will devise some kind of system so that I can easily see which stories I am working on and which ones are discarded, and which is the current draft/old drafts in those folders. Not quite sure how I’ll do it, but my plans for tonight were cancelled and I have no more exams to study for, so I guess I need something to do 😉 In any case the goal is to change my story folders from complete and utter chaos into something I can actually find my way in. If anyone knows of a good way to do this, I’m all ears!

Edit:

Look! I finished the overview:

Story overview preview

49 stories – that’s quite a lot. But I guess some of them will get discarded along the way, and most of them are fairly short anyway. It’s nice having an overview like this, though. It contains the current status, the type of story, brief summary (where I remembered it) and so  on. Not sure if I’ll look at it enough to justify the work, but at least I’ve made it 😉

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!

The infinity project, endless book lists and Twitter

The Infinity Project

Back when I first started Rogue Sorcery, nearly fifteen years ago now, it wasn’t intended to be more than one book, perhaps two. There might be other stories from that world, but they would stand alone, with different characters (mostly). But then, as I got ideas for new plots and expanded on the characters and stories I already had, suddenly Rogue Sorcery became the first in a trilogy, and then there was another story (intended to be completely independent) which, while the plot stands alone, heavily depends on the plot in the Sorcery Cycle and is extremely important to the story that follows immediately afterwards. What can I say, my mind keeps finding connections and consequences for every story I even think of writing, even when it’s not supposed to.

Last week or so I started organising my stories, setting up a rudimentary timeline, and realised that I have a lot of stories. And the list just keeps growing. Perhaps I just cannot let go of those main characters, but I keep expanding on what happens after this and that story, and what if this happens, or that goes wrong, and perhaps that little background conflict in one of the early stories should get a resolution? What about that side character, isn’t he actually quite interesting? What if he has a secret? Of course, it probably doesn’t help that many of the characters are immortal either, and in quite a good position to get into a LOT of trouble.

It has led to a conclusion: I don’t think I’ll ever finish writing about them. There are just so many possibilities, and considering the setting (it’s not as much a world as a set of worlds) I don’t think I would ever tire of that, either. I would probably be fifty before I am even close to finishing the list I already have, even if I only count first drafts. And the stories as a whole has a new and very fitting working title: The Infinity Project. What the actual title would be is a completely different matter.

Endless book lists

For the past 6 months, at least, I’ve had a reading project. I am one of those who feel bad about re-reading old books (and I loooove re-reading old books) when I have new ones that I haven’t read. Unfortunately I also love buying books. So I’ve had a rule, to finish all my unread books (last year it was more than 50 of them) before buying new ones. With certain exceptions, as there were some books I really, really wanted right away. Last weekend I finished the project, ending it with Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick (what a way to finish! It’s on my to-re-read list already). The problem now is that there are just so many books on my wishlist that I have no clue where to start. Several of my favourite authors have published new books that I haven’t read – I’m hopelessly behind on Mark Lawrence’s books, then there’s War Master’s Gate by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Gail Carriger’s last book, several books by Rachel Aaron, not to mention several other very good series in which there are new books. I have a feeling that a lot of my holiday pay will disappear very fast. Might be an idea to get more income… (because not buying books is apparently not an option)

Twitter

I am now on Twitter! Technically I am on Twitter again, returning for what must be the third time now. But I think I’m back for good now, at least it feels like I “get” Twitter a bit more now. It helps actually following people, surprisingly enough… Anyway, you can find my profile here. I’ll also post links whenever I have a new blog post on any of my blogs.

 

Confidence boost in surprising places

When I first started writing with the thought that I was going to write a proper book, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I still don’t, but that’s another matter. You see, when I started writing I was really bad at plotting. Seriously bad. I’m not even exaggerating here – it was very evident that I had just read Lord of the Rings and thought it was the best thing ever. My novel sported a loosely assembled crew, based on random encounters along the way just like in some of the old Norwegian fairy tales about Espen Askeladd. It had the moody assassin, the cheerful thief who was good deep down (really deep down, in fact), it had a street kid, a prince who had given away his right to the throne to his little brother, it had a fabulously pretty sorceress (with the mandatory dark and troubled – and mysterious – past) whom everyone liked (she has transformed into my current MC, by the way), it had an evil king and an even more evil emperor (who is also still with me, only significantly less evil and more cynical) with correspondingly barren and desolate lands, it had a long journey for slightly uncertain reasons, a mysterious but dangerous artefact, a prophecy and a suspicious lack of resistance against joining on a very dangerous quest.

Not the best plot I’ve read out there.

Over the years I’ve read the tiny bit that I managed to save (I had the rest on an old-fashioned floppy disk, but over the years the data on it was lost) and had a good laugh at my own expense. Despite the misgivings of some of my friends it is really effective when it comes to restoring faith in my own writing. You tend to become a bit delusional, sometimes, and see your writing as worse than it is, so it is often good with a reminder that it could be far worse.

Today, after searching and searching for a story beginning that I knew I had, which I remembered I had written on a website (only after searching for an hour), I started reorganising my story files. All of them. Since I have used both my external hard drive, a USB stick and two different computers for writing, there are plenty of duplicates and versions out there. I found a lot of old stories, and thought I might delete those that aren’t quite so bad that they are funny, but not quite good enough to keep.

…Turns out that there are extremely few of those. I found, for example, a story from 2005. Too short to know anything about the plot, but still. It was a story written just for fun (it’s too dark to ever publish, I think) and it’s set in Ayamar like most of my other stories. I remember quite clearly that I never even edited it – I did not edit anything else than my novel at that time. And it was good. Even knowing that I made it myself, I liked the way it was written – I would have picked it up in a bookstore, in fact. The dialogue was natural, the progression was nice, and with a few exceptions the words flowed rather nicely along.

I almost had an existential crisis right then, and that’s no exaggeration. My writing isn’t nearly that good now. My plots are far better, sure, but I seem to have lost that way with words that I had. It wasn’t that I read more, I think, because I read far more now. At the same time I read quite fast, but haven’t had the time to re-read books, so I never really notice the details of how an author writes anymore. I don’t notice those clever little sentences or the way the dialogue goes or the way he or she transitions from one scene to another, simply because I only have enough time to read a book once. Yet.

Another example is also from 2005. This story is nothing else than an exchange of letters between my favourite pirate captain (who suddenly isn’t a pirate anymore but a soldier on dry land) and a duchess he holds hostage. Even the measly two paragraphs she writes in the first letter shows her personality, and the way it changes when she does not get what she wants and tries a different tactic. The captain has a rather snarky reply that does not hold back anything he thinks, and shows his personality just as well (far too decent and impatient for spoled noble ladies).

Yet another story from the same year shows my main character and the aforementioned pirate captain during a dramatic incident on the pirate island. Rather, the incident isn’t dramatic, but upon re-reading it, it did feel that way. In all four versions of it. Their emotional struggle, their dialogue… Why can I not write like that now?

2005 was right in the middle of all those years I had writer’s block. I wasn’t able to write anything “proper”, not anything for my book. The only things I could write were short fragments, beginnings and scenes – little things that didn’t really mean anything and didn’t really belong anywhere. I never would have guessed that they could ever become so significant. That something like that could come out of a year when I struggled really badly, to the point where I don’t really remember anything from it, is amazing. Even more so that it could be so useful now. But back then I had nothing but time to sit and polish a paragraph for an entire day (perhaps not so strange that I usually had writer’s block)

I could become frustrated because I don’t write like that now, and I did for an hour or so. But I have vastly improved in other areas, and if I could write like that before, it must also mean that I can write like that again.

That’s the way I’m going to look at it, at least. I think I need to write for fun again, something that I’m not overconscious that I am going to try to publish. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try.

When I’m done reorganising, of course.