Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10/30 Check-In

Finally finished chapter sixteen-- it wound up being 800 more words than I estimated. *gulp* The end has a nice little heart-fluttery romantic bit that I enjoyed writing.

Chapter seventeen opens by continuing the same wicked long scene and immediately shooting down the nice little romantic moment.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The second draft of The Owl Bearer is three-quarters done. O glorious world that has brought me to this day.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that I am certain that this draft will be longer than my originally projected 100,000 words-- probably between 105,000-110,000. But I don't care! I'll call it 105% when I get there! I'm 75% done. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Goal for Today

As usual, the weekend has not been kind to the writing. Yesterday, I slipped on our insanely treacherous walkway steps and twisted my ankle, and today I'm hobbling around like Quasimodo. I have no tutoring students today, and had planned to run a whole mess of errands in strip mall land, but that's out of the question now. I'm not sure I can even empty the dishwasher. So since it looks like I'll be sitting on my ass all day, I'm going to try to finish chapter 16. I'm not sure how many words that's going to turn out to be, since the dialogue is written and the rest is all attributives, beats, description, and introspection, but it may be enough to break 75%.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Plotting for Funsies

My only writing goal for the day was to finally finish the dialogue in this monster talkapalooza scene, and I did it. But I was feeling a little down after three days of painful revelations and angst, so I decided to take a little walk on the wild side and see if I could plot a novel from scratch in twenty minutes.

I've blogged about these storytelling archetype cards before; I first heard about them through Joely, and I've found them useful for adding dimension to character; they help me access a less linear, more subconscious-driven part of my storybrain. But I've never used them to create a story out of nothing.

I began by drawing seven single cards to represent the seven key scenes of the story: opening, first encounter, plot point one, mid-point, plot point two, climax, and closing. I wound up with:

Opening: The Festival
First Encounter: The Poet
Plot Point One: The Knight
Mid-Point: Terminus
Plot Point Two: Alchemist
Climax: Terminus
Closing: Water

How cool is it that I got the same card for the mid-point reversal and the climax??

Next, I looked at the profile of each card and chose one of the plot suggestions by instinct. Now I have:

Opening: The Festival. A Street Fair.
First Encounter: The Poet. Traveling Acting Troupe.
Plot Point One: The Knight. A new friend shows unexpected loyalty.
Mid-Point: Terminus. Drafted for a lost cause.
Plot Point Two: Alchemist. Search revealed to be as important as the goal.
Climax: Terminus. Hunted by an assassin.
Closing: Water. Romance.

I'm thinking the climax and closing plot threads run throughout the book and find their resolution in these two scenes. So now I know I have an assassin antagonist, and a romantic subplot. It seems obvious that the opening and first encounter will be either the same scene or back to back, and that one of my lovers will be a resident of the town where there the street fair is taking place, and the other will be a member of the traveling acting troupe. And then in plot point one, one of them saves the other and they set off on a quest together. That's all I've got so far.

Then I looked at the cards again and chose one of the suggested objects to include in each scene:

Opening: The Festival. A Street Fair. Statue.
First Encounter: The Poet. Traveling Acting Troupe. Spider's web.
Plot Point One: The Knight. A new friend shows unexpected loyalty. Horse.
Mid-Point: Terminus. Drafted for a lost cause. Last will and testament.
Plot Point Two: Alchemist. Search revealed to be as important as the goal. Book.
Climax: Terminus. Hunted by an assassin. Dead leaves.
Closing: Water. Romance. Cup.

Ah-- the street fair is in a town square, at the center of which is a statue. The picture on The Poet card shows a girl looking through a spider's web, so I will have my female main character (FMC) catch her first sight of the male main character (MMC) through a web. In plot point one, the FMC and MMC escape on horseback. The dead leaves of the climax imply the passage of time for the story: a street fair would probably take place in the summer, but by the end of the story it is autumn. And the cup in the closing is a symbolic cup in a wedding ceremony. Happily ever after ahoy!

Now time to learn a little about our FMC, MMC, and antagonist. For these I did the two-card character spreads.

First the FMC:
How the world sees her: The Noble
How she sees herself: The Widow

Hmmm, a noble widow. Until this point I'd assumed the FMC would be the one who was in the acting troupe, but I guess not. She's not only from the town, she's at the top of the town's ladder. And she's been married before? Not necessarily-- the card says it represents great personal loss. I don't think she's a literal widow, but she's lost someone very important to her, and now she's alone. And one of the objects listed for The Widow is a statue! Okay, the statue in the town square is of her father; he was all the family she had, and a respected leader. He's died within the past few years, and she isn't over it yet. Ooh, and she notices a spiderweb on it, and is noting with disapproval that no one cleaned the statue before the fair, when through the strands of the web she first notices MMC. 

But who is he?

How the world sees him: The Architect
How he sees himself: The Engine

Okay, with two cards like that, this guy is not an actor. He builds things-- mechanical things. I'm guessing he's a set designer, and probably makes amazing ahead-of-his-time devices allowing the actors to fly and stuff. The Architect card describes him as "intently peering at his own creation", so I think that's just what he's doing when FMC first sees him: he's working on one of his fantastic machines.

What about the antagonist?

How the world sees him/her: Childhood
How he/she sees him/herelf: The Beast

Yowsa. All right, since this is an assassin, I'm not going with the most obvious interpretation of childhood. The card talks about the ability to play like a child, to lose oneself in imagination, so I think this is an actor in the troupe. Ooooohhhh, lots of potential for conflict there. Who is he (I've chosen a he) to MMC? And now the antagonist can also be present in our opening/first encounter scene. The Beast has interesting possibilities too-- is he cursed somehow?

For the next level of character development, I looked at all the suggested objects for both of each character's cards, and chose the ones that seemed to make the most sense. These will be the symbolic objects for each character:

FMC: red rose
MMC: a machine
Antagonist: a sword

The sword is kind of a duh for an assassin, although I probably need some backstory for it. 

The machine is also kind of a duh-- we see MMC tinkering with it when we first meet him. But if it's going to be his symbolic object, it needs to be small enough for him to take with him on horseback later. And whatever it is, I don't think it's just a piece of set design. It means more to him than that. I'm reading The Golden Compass right now, so I'm thinking of the alethiometer. Maybe he's built something with mystical abilities?

As for the rose, it can't be a literal flower, since it has to last the entire story. So I'm saying it's a brooch in the shape of a rose, set with red stones. But I want it to symbolize power rather than beauty, so it's the symbol of her House, worn for generations by the current head of the family and ruler of the town. It passed to her when her father died.

Now let's find out what motivates these people. For FMC and MMC, I drew two cards for each: one for what they want, the other for what they need.

Want: The Shepherd
Need: The Price

The Shepherd tells me that FMC's goal is to protect her people. Her need is more complicated to interpret-- the card talks about "paying a Karmic debt". But whose debt? Her father's, I bet. Maybe there are things about him she doesn't know, things he's done that have led to someone using an assassin to try to eliminate her House altogether-- things she has to put right. The last will and testament in the mid-point must be dad's, and is sure to contain shocking revelations.

Want: The Void
Need: The Poet

Whoa. Who the hell wants the void?? This guy sees himself as an engine, and his goal is to feel absolutely nothing. He's like a Vulcan, man. Gotta be some effed-up shizz in his backstory. What he needs is meaning, and beauty-- and because The Poet was also the card for the First Encounter with FMC-- love. Duh squared.

For the antagonist, I just did one card for WHY? Why is he an assassin? Why is he trying to kill FMC? I got Fortune's Wheel, which basically tells me that this is his fate. In order to find out what that means I'd have to understand the cultural/religious context for his belief in that fate and obedience to it.

What else do I know?

This seems to be a Fantasy/Alternate History kinda world with a slightly steampunk feel and probably a little mystical magical stuff, and a strong romantic subplot.

So there you go. It literally took me twice as long to type this up as it took me to plot all that. I had a blast doing it, and am feeling energized to fight the TOB fight anew tomorrow. I'm not planning to actually write this story or anything... although... Nanowrimo is starting up next week...

Kidding, kidding! No wrimos of any description until I finish. this. book.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Happened in Darnythigan?

That's the question I need to work on today.

I'm at 1,044 for the day so far, and have reached the part of the conversation in which Akenam's Big Trauma is revealed. The problem: I'm not sure exactly what that is, beyond the fact that it happened in a O'Neil-style space habitat called the Darnythigan. I know what this experience meant to Akenam and how it continues to affect him now... but, um, I never really worked the details of what actually happened. Which is a problem now that it's time for the big reveal.

Time to crack out the computer paper and colored felt-tip pens and do some brainstorming.

Dreaming of Blue

I worked on dialogue a bit this weekend, but only made a few hundred words of progress. We had a full schedule of tennis lessons, errands, pumpkin picking, a cub scout hike, a baby shower for my friend C., and work for me. I also had an article due today, so any free time I did have was spent working on that. I just submitted it, though-- yay!-- and plan to hit the library in about an hour and get 1,000 words today. My characters are spending the day on a very odd ship floating in the Coral Sea, so I'll be spending this orange and brown New England fall day dreaming of hot sun, blue sky, turquoise water, and a rainbow of fish.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Talky Bits

I just finished a scene/section; it was one of those "show the passage of time" sections that I love reading when they are well done, but find tricky to write myself. I think this one was the best I've ever written, though. I'm pretty happy with it.

Now I'm on to the second and last section of the chapter. It's going to be long, and basically all dialogue. Like the last section, it's entirely new; this scene does not exist in the first draft. I was able to copy and paste chunks of dialogue from different scenes in the first draft that now belong here, but it's really just to remind me of the topics that need to be discussed. The dialogue itself will have to be so aggressively rewritten I might as well be starting from scratch.

It's been a while since I've used the "write the dialogue first" trick, but I think that's the way I'm going to go here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

10/12 Check-In

Yesterday was kind of a bust: The Son had the day off from school, and between work, play dates, the house being painted, and a late night out at the town bonfire, I didn't get much done. I made some notes, but no real progress.

Today The Parent is visiting, so I slipped off to the library while The Son got in some grandmother time. I got just over 900 words and am sitting at 69,000 on the nose. Willa's been trying to solve a mystery from her past, and I'm about to drop another piece of the puzzle into place.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

10/10 Check-In

I added about 300 words in details and hints to earlier chapters. Somehow, the "mere sentences" left in chapter 15 expanded to fill the rest of the day's word count. I stumbled across some first draft infodumpy bits that I had cut from an earlier scene, and realized that they belong in this one.

So I'm still on chapter 15. But this time it really is mere sentences left! (I think.)

One-third of the way through the month, and on track to finish Act 3 (of 4) by Halloween!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Just Call Me Streakbreaker

I broke my streak yesterday, and made only 300 words of progress for the day. *sigh* In my defense, I wrote closer to 600 words, but I've hit a section that was much wordier in the first draft than it needed to be, and so I've cut more than I've added.

Oh, well. Today I have less demands on my time. Although... we're having our house painted at the moment, and it is a little distracting to have guys hovering in the windows and blasting the radio.

I'm still in chapter 15, although I have mere sentences to go before I'm done with it. First order of business today is to go back and add a few lines to earlier chapters. I realized one of the antagonists is missing her symbolic object in the mid-point, simply because I forgot to mention it. And I'm about to pick up a thread from Akenam's backstory, but I've failed to drop enough hints and teasers about it, so the whole revelation's going to come out of left field if I don't fix that.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I was stuck around the middle for so long it feels almost surreal to be well and truly into the second half of the book.

I should finish up chapter 15 tomorrow. I'm pretty pleased with it; I deviated from the outline and added a new mini-scene, but I think the changes make the chapter much stronger than it was in the first draft.

The next two chapters are comprised of entirely new scenes. There's nothing to edit; it all has to be written from scratch. This part of the book-- the bit between the mid-point reversal and the action-y scenes leading into plot point two-- is the last to come into focus for me. The first draft version was filled with poorly-conceived plot elements (remember that flybike crash in the jungle that I totally pantsed?) that had nothing to do with anything. I'm 98% sure I've got it all straightened out.

Now I just have to write it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So Far So Good

850 words every day in October so far! So, um, three days.

Last night I took a look at the chapter break outline I made way back when, and tweaked it to better represent the book as it is now. I've dropped from 29 chapters to 27, which for some unfathomable reason sounds infinitely more accomplishable to me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Out of the Murk

I finished the Big Murky Scene today. I'm still not completely happy with it, but considering where I started from I'm proud of the work I've put in these past few days. Fourteen chapters done! I have a lot of good ideas outlined for chapter fifteen.