Remember how, last year, I wrote a new novel? Well, as I mentioned in the last post, work on a companion to it had begun. Daemon was so pleased to be doing something other than editing, that he’s really buckled down this time and we’ve managed to complete the draft in about three weeks!
I’m surprised too.
There was a co-incidental three days off work which helped, as I’ve managed 30K in 5 days. Which isn’t super fast when I can sit down with no distractions, but nothing to sniff at either.
The one thing that all my various novels have proven is that I write about 700-800 words an hour (I’ve said this before) and even on days where I hit 1,000 you can still average it back down to that range. It’s nice to be predictable / consistent!
So, how did friend-of-gun-runner shape up? I really like the story. Again, like gun runner, there’s a lack of world-building because we (gives the writing daemon side-eye) still haven’t quite decided where it’s set. I think we’re closer to deciding that now.
I also like that we have the same protag in two different stages of his life. That’s kind of fun, and it actually got me thinking that maybe there’s another novel or two that would show other points. We’ll see. I have a lot of other worlds in my head clamoring for attention!
It did prove the point that I should think more carefully about how I name current WIPs when drafting. This one – because I wasn’t 100% sure it had legs – got called ‘snippet’ in the original document. Of course, now that has stuck. So despite the fact it’s over 50K, it is still called Snippet. <insert eye-roll>
Getting both gun runner and snippet up to full 1st drafts is going to be interesting. I’m not sure daemon has realised that by not giving me the world, he’s set the scene for a major edit-fest to come.
Over the past few years, I’ve gotten better at putting setting into my novels. Better. Haven’t nailed it yet.
It is quite hard judging how much setting readers need when you are yourself not one who needs much at all. I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how I tackle the issue!
So, for the curious, the secret is: beta readers. I know, you probably thought it’d be something more exciting, but in truth knowing your beta readers and knowing which ones read like you and which ones read differently, is the way to go.
Usually I don’t get beta readers involved until 2nd draft – which in my nomenclature is a very clean draft – and with any luck that means the next editing pass is almost totally setting. Of course there’s often other stuff too, but if I can focus on a “setting/worldbuilding” pass at that point, I’m happy.
Indestructible has been through this process now and after some excellent feedback from a good writer friend, who kindly beta read for me, I’m feeling pretty good about starting the next edit. Not that I’m allowed to until I’ve finished the edits on the novellas…but it’s a treat in the future!
After completing the draft of Indestructible in November, I’ve been focussed on other things, but due to an offer from a friend to read it, I needed to tidy up my 1st draft a little. I re-acquainted myself with it, did a few edits and sent it off.
This project is noir, and it was always my intention to write the draft as it came and then “noir it up” in 2nd draft. After reading it through, though, I wondered if it was already noir enough. As my reader is a fan of noir, I guess he’ll tell me his view, but I realised I didn’t know what the definition of noir was!
Funny how you can know something when you see it, but not be able to describe it succinctly.
Apparently the definition is: a genre of crime fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity. So, how does Indestructible fare with all of that? Crime – tick. Cynicism – tick. Fatalism – tick. Moral ambiguity – tick. I think it’s doing okay!
For a few weeks now, whenever I’ve taken a break from writing/editing, I’ve been playing around with figures of rhetoric. This is a) because I have a cool book on them and b) because I’m looking for ways to play with language in one of newer novels.
The thing is that I write plain, sparse prose. That’s my natural style for fiction and I think it generally suits the type of sci-fi I’ve been writing. Just occasionally though, I play with dialogue. Usually because it makes no sense to me that characters from different planets all speak the same way. Sometimes I keep it subtle – like a character who never uses contractions – and sometimes I go the full Yoda!
But I’ve used up most of the simple approaches over my existing short stories and novels. So, now, I’m looking for new patterns that work in English to try out, which leads back to rhetoric.
The Ancient Greeks spent a lot of time sitting around thinking about language. They broke it down into all sorts of patterns that have different strengths and weaknesses and put a name to each one. Thus the title of this post, because honestly the names of the figures of rhetoric are almost harder to wrap my head around than the definitions!
You can tell I didn’t have a ‘classical education’.
My favourite for thinking “Yep, because that was totally obvious” is the pronunciation of zeugma (zyoog-ma) and for thinking “Stop with the syllables” was definitely epanalepsis.
Aside from struggling to pronounce and remember the names, the thing I’ve realised about many figures of rhetoric is that they work really well for applications where language is heightened, like poetry a speech, or types of theatre. They are a bit trickier to deploy in naturalistic fiction.
Ah, the fine-line between world building and annoying the hell out of people…
From xkcd – of course!
A friend who is currently teaching script-writing asked me the other day if I use diagrams when plotting, or in any other way in my writing. It was an interesting question to be asked because I do, but not as a planner would. (Being a pure pantser, I don’t map stuff out at all before I write.)
Where I often find diagrams useful is in the process of editing a draft – particularly a scratch draft or a first draft – and I use them to examine logic. It might be that I know there’s a logic problem, or – as with PAR in recent weeks – I’ve got multiple sets of motivations feeding into movements and interactions, so I have to explore each set independently to check they hold up on their own and aren’t just serving the plot.
I also sometimes diagram to check how much time has passed over a sequence of chapters, as I lose track of how many days have gone by about as easily as my characters do!
Credit to my brain, it does a good job of getting logic and the passage of time right in the pantser chaos it prefers. I rarely find any big things wrong when I do my diagrams. They do, however, get me thinking about other things – probably because they get me looking at the story from different angles – and I find that interesting and often very valuable in itself.
Sometimes I laugh at the application of the “scene must have conflict” idea. Sometimes I weep! Particularly in TV shows where excellent writing can be ruined by someone ramping the conflict up to ridiculous levels.
Exhibit A from my recent watching was the penultimate season of a legal show, in which every scene in every episode was either a break-up or make-up. To achieve this, characters who were on the same side of the greater narrative conflict kept suddenly turning on each other. They then, of course, had to make up the breach so a few scenes later they could have another fight!
I found this absolutely exhausting. It was just such ‘shouty’ writing.
Also, you quickly realised that none of these conflicts were real conflicts and none of them would influence the narrative in any way. They were conflict for the sake of having conflict in the scene, so why was I watching them?
Possibly this would have been less annoying if I’d watched it weekly on traditional TV, instead of episodes back-to-back, but even then I can imagine the result being the same – I’m never getting to the final season.
Sometimes a scene needs to be there for a reason other than conflict.
I have had a hellish two weeks with the PAR! After being sooooo excited to start on a second draft, I hit a total go-slow in my writing brain (not sure what Mr Daemon has been imbibing!) and it’s been damn painful. What I needed was a completely new chapter to slip between existing Ch1 and Ch2. That turned out to be way more challenging than expected!
The reason? When I read the draft, I was jarred by the large time-gap between them and it needed a ‘bridging’ chapter. This was a better way to show the aftermath of Ch1 and the protag’s change through to the time where the bulk of the novel is set too, so it seemed simple. Totally not.
I discovered it was hard to:
- pick a point in time between the existing chapters that made sense
- decide what to cover in terms of aftermath/growth without completely gutting the existing Ch2
- choose events which gave the new chapter a good justification for existing, beyond the simple time-jump-bridging.
I think I may have written 7 different scenes. Some were variations of the same scenes and some were alternate scenes. The result was a new chapter that is about a thousand words too long! Sheesh.
At some point I’ll get that word count down, but for now I moved onto re-working the original Ch2. Also painful! Editing so it fits with the additional chapter has turned out to be its own hell.
For some reason that chapter just wants to be all dialogue. I don’t know why (secretly suspect a certain winged beastie has been watching too many movies) but it’s done my head in.
Maybe it’s a good thing to get the really tough stuff out of the way at the beginning? I’m pretty sure nothing else in this 2nd draft will be as tough.
You know, I wrote the title for this post and thought that’s actually a cool idea for a story! But no, I haven’t (yet) run off on another project. The black hole I’m referring to is a narrative one I fell into at the end of last week. Because there’s a gap in my story. A dark, deep hole that I’m still dangling a plumb line into to work out the depth.
It always strikes me as funny that the width of the hole can be quite small (I just need to get my character from here to there), but the depth – all the stuff you have to work out to fill in this gap – can be brain-bending!
The good thing in this case, is that I feel like I’m filling in a few further holes that were between here and the end as I go. How do I fill in holes, I hear you ask? I write out lists of questions like:
- If character z knows that the well is poisoned, then when did she find out and does she have an antidote?
- Could character p suspect z knows the well is poisoned? Could they be wrong?
Sometimes I scribble in an answer. Sometimes all the questions that follow indicate I’ve picked an answer. Sometimes they just stay as questions.
I don’t know if anyone else takes this approach, but I find it effective. It stops me from obsessing over finding answers before moving on to developing a new question and strange left-field things tend to pop up as a result. That or my brain suddenly goes “huh! that’s why we have the tame bobcat in the lake scene”.
It would be nice if my writing brain cells could put up hazard barriers or warning signs before I step into these holes, but then I guess the writing daemon and I wouldn’t be having so much fun thinking up new stuff!
Now this won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s read this blog over the years, but I am a bit of a film-fan. I’ve even mentioned before that it’s not uncommon I find books by first seeing the films based on them.
After having watched You before me a few months back and enjoyed it for a wonderful quirky protagonist and a sweet but sad romantic storyline, I thought it would be interesting to read the book. This led to my discovering they really didn’t change much between the two versions, though I liked what they pruned out for the movie.
The book though was interesting for another reason altogether.
It is a largely first person narrative with the bulk of the book in a single point of view. Where it deviates from these two things are curious. Firstly, it starts in third person. For only a bit over a thousand words of the point of view of the love interest. Then it sits in the protag’s first person for ages. Then there’s one chapter in an ancillary character’s POV, also first person. Then back to the protag for a while. Then another ancillary character. Then protag. Then another ancillary character. Finishes, finally on the protag.
Is it just me, or is that weird?
The ancillary characters are all fairly important people in the plot, but their POVs aren’t important at all. They expand on character and extend their different voices, but that’s about it. In the case of the last one – the protag’s sister – this POV change occurs at a crucial emotional and decision making moment for the protag, which I found downright jarring. The other two were harmless.
But what’s with the opening in 3rd? To me that’s really weird. Essentially it is more like a prologue without being labelled as one and, right at the start like that, you kind of forgive it.
Of course it was an interesting thing to read – a romance with an underlying social issue – after reading a literary novel that also mixed third and first. I think Hannah Kent had more justification for her choice, but it’s funny to see these kind of structures in such popular and film-convertable books.