Monday, April 14, 2014

A Writer's Lost Thoughts

g'day gentle readers  

I dreamt last night I was a writer. (That's a first - I sometimes have the weirdest dreams or salacious ones, even boring ones but never in any of them, have I been a writer) 

The dream writer was in, metaphorically speaking, a dream location. A farm of magnificent beauty and scale much like a film set. (Recent visits to real film locations like Hobbiton and Monument Valley probably played into the setting. Me the dream writer took notes and photographs much the same as me the real writer does. 
And then me the dream writer had what all writers dream of, sudden inspiration and I dreamt up a solution to a problem, I the real writer has had from book one of the trilogy. At the same time, the dream solution provided the seed for a scene that will become the trilogy's epilogue. 

Then I woke up. 

Now let me digress a moment because the dream solution solved a problem that should never have existed. It arose out of the way I write. I start knowing only where I want to end and make it up as I go along. Problem is I often forget little but significant details made up on the spur of the moment (with good reason at the time) and dismissed until stumbled over during the edit, at which point I scratch my head and say, "What was I thinking?"

For example from Book 3: The Arch of Restoration.

"There seemed to be no end to the flickering torches, they filled the park, the roads and all the gaps between the houses. Jorgena had seen crowds before but this was something else; this was a population on the move, a vast flowing beast like a herd of Wilderbeef." 
Rowena: “I take it the relays are in place.” 
Jorgena: “Yes.” 
Author: "Relays? What relays?"

As Sarah inspects the hull, she wonders why Jorgena went to such trouble to remove her implant but had no objection to her twin daughters having them. 
Author: "I'm with Sarah. Why?"

Thanks to Burnell’s slip as he began the scanning process…
Author: "What slip?"

“Look on the bright side,” Jorgena said hiding her one true regret. 
Author: "Which regret was that?"

Now the problem the dream writer solved, which the real writer created at the start of the trilogy, was a headless body in a dam overflow pipe. The scene in Ch7 of Book 1 is a precipitating incident for a major POV character. The problem is - whose body is it, who killed them and how did it get there? 

In creation, I had a few quick thoughts: I'll make it a bloke who is going to disappear anyway and have this person who is both mysterious and powerful do the deed - solved, forget until later, write on, 500,000 words to go. A decade and 500 Kwords later, I have never revisited the question and the first reviewer of Book 1 wants to know who the body belongs to - so do I.  

The original thought for 'who' got blown away, he turns up alive in Bk3. There are no other logical contenders without unbelievable contrivance. It would be better to invent a character and integrate he/she into the story but that adds more words to a book that is way too long already. Secondly, the person I had in mind to do the deed would not leave a body. She has the resources to make a body vanish completely. Then there's the location where body turns up: on a farm in a dead end valley with a single track in. Who would be stupid enough to drag a body all that way then dump it where it is bound to be found. 

So like the above examples, I have to scratch my head and say, "What was I thinking?" It plays on my mind and then my dream writer comes to the rescue and writes dream notes which when I wake and look for them, don't exist. I do remember however, I have the answer but of course, it's not something I want to reveal. 

Here's a hint: Think iconic phrase from 

ooroo until my next post

Monday, February 24, 2014

Done ... almost

g'day gentle readers  

The title sums up. The summary is done ... almost. As posted on Facebook the result was somewhat uneven and unexpected 

of the 58,854 word summary for the 581,270 word trilogy
Bk 1: 8,312 / Bk 2: 18,883 / Bk 3: 31,659   
I started summarising chapters and ended summarising paragraphs, so now I'm summarising the summary from book 2 trying to get them all under 10 Kwords.  As I say, done ... almost.  

The exercise however, condensing the work to 10%, covering years of effort in a couple months, was useful. Some passages jumped out and smacked me in the face. 

For example: In Book 2 FACE, I deliberately created
a villain (Hyatt), easier and more fun to write than a hero. Then as I summarised the second half of book 3 ARCH, I was struck by how many enemies the poor guy now had. He has to die (the reader will expect it) but I'm hard pressed to settle on which character will do the deed, and satisfy the reader that justice has been done; everyone in book 3 wants to, including his mother.

Again during the summary some of my vague ideas gelled as I got a grip on story as a whole. 

For example: Way back (both in time & words) in Book 1 BREAK, I put in a scene where Averil wields two named swords, Willard's and her own. This isn't supposed to be possible with swords keyed to the user. The scene and its problem were left to be dealt with at some future date once the rest was written. 

Later I settled on keying the sword to the users DNA in such a way that a close relative (i.e. parent|sibling|child) could also use the sword but that meant I had to make Willard and Averil siblings. That became a new problem; the crux of this tale is these two having a child destined to save the world.

But then during the summarising of Book 3 ARCH it became clear what needed to happen and the solution to that problem cleared a heap of other niggling problems throughout books 1, 2 and 3.

Come now, you really don't expect me to reveal the solution ahead of publication.       
'ooroo until my next post 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Quick Update

g'day gentle readers 

As usual despite what life throws my way I do progres, I write (as in summarise, which inevitably includes writing) daily - almost (I did lose 2 days)
 to do 

I'm now summarising the last part of the trilogy's seven parts? 

ooroo until my next post (once the summary is finished)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Revised Standard Edition

g'day gentle readers 

On the day of my last post I reached the first of the two milestone (perhaps millstones) highlighted below .

If only I understood 
what it all meant. 
The red bits not highlighted are my attempts to clarify what I think I meant. 

To understand how this happened I must plunge into history for a salutary lesson in how not to write a novel - not slow.

Book 2: FACE  (The Face of the Goddess) started well, with the exhilaration of finishing Book 1: BREAK, which took only a year to write, still fresh in my mind. I had six chapters approx 30K words done when we decided to move back from to Adelaide from Sydney.

We started a 7-day business and the writing slowed to a dribble. At the same time a health issue I'd had since age 10 reared up so I had an operation, we closed the business and my condition steadily worsened but That's Life (my other blog). What I did not understand at the time however was the illness was slowing my mind, not just my body. 

A bookshop on weekends and
a postal agency Monday-Friday
a writer's studio not ever 
The shop had made the writing stop-start but by the time I was free of that my mind was on the blink and the story boldly went where no story should go. I didn't like it,  I chopped and changed, inserted 50K words before the original 6 chapters. 
Several times I stopped altogether to edit and submit BREAK or edit parts of FACE, drew up timelines, character sheets, glossaries, outlines and even managed a few very short stories (published by AntipodeanSF

Then I made one of those pebble-in-the-pond authorial decisions, which ripple throughout a manuscript - I changed the nature and direction of several POV character such that the entirety of the finale, Book 3: ARCH shifts a generation.(my original plan)

I restarted the edit with that in mind, changing as required. Problem was that half the time (due to the earlier edits) I didn't have a clue if a change was required. Try reading a novel at one sentence per fortnight and you'll get the idea. One tends to lose track of who's doing what with whom.

I was working at glacial speed. (pre globally-warmed glaciers of course)
Writing/Editing FACE stretched over a decade. 

Some individual scenes are good, an occasional chapter is not bad but the separate parts do fit together well and the edit of it got bogged trying to reconcile the mismatches. 

I gave up at FACE chapter 105 where it says Full edit to here 

I now ditched the arbitrary chapter divisions, called each POV change a scene, renumbered the lot and started editing from scratch - Book 1 Chapter 1 - tweaking events to produce the new story arc/thread I wanted through FACE and ARCH.  This time I got to scene 99 in FACE where it says Revised edit to here ... and life again got in the way. 

Forward to the Past: Post transplant and life back to normal. 
I wrote Book 3: ARCH in one year. The trilogy was done and now to edit. BREAK took a month. But FACE ah, there's the rub  

So back in the now after a long break and needing to come to grips with the sour tale FACE had become I resorted to a desperate measure * outlining * to integrate FACE into a revised standard edition.

As to said outlining, I'm at scene 23 of Book 3: ARCH past the trilogy's dread sagging middle called FACE. Only in outline mind, the edit is still to come.  I'll try to keep you posted.  

ooroo until next time 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Out of the Starting Gate

gday gentle readers 

As I indicated last time 2014 has begun and I can now say with confidence begun well

When I left off way back in May last year to do other things like web work and travel I had edited 90% of Face (book 2 a.k.a. "The Face of the Goddess") and I was struggling. When I say left off in May, that was the end point, the dummy spit, after the effort had dribbled off from a weekly edit 15,000-20,000 words to only 1000. 

It's hard now to remember exactly why but it was something like this: despite all my spreadsheets, glossaries and maps I had quite literally lost the plot. I had no idea what the story was about, and remember I was editing a finished work, I had no right to be lost.

So how do I cram the essence of my sprawling epic back into my tiny brain after a long break. I have 382 POV changes over the 3 books, call them chapters: Break 152, Face 120, Arch 110.
Last time I tried to summarise the events of each chapter in a spreadsheet but it was too slow, too unwieldy I needed both the spreadsheet and the novel open and synchronised. Read and digest the chapter, transfer the gist of it to the sheet. The problem is me, I get carried away with spreadsheets. I divided the chapters into mini scenes, put in columns for 'characters mentioned' and for 'new concepts introduced'. Filling the columns required research; too slow, too hard, too damn stupid for words.      

I'm trialling a new approach. I saved a copy of the trilogy as at 1/1/2014, set it up in outline using 3 levels of headings for book, part and chapter.(Face has 3 parts - the others have 2) Now simply delete each paragraph that isn't essential 
to the story line 
as I go.  What's left, I cull of needless words and re-arrange as the summary.  This will also serve as an outline for my publishers :^)

The old method took me two weeks to do 24 Kwords. At that rate to summarise the trilogy would take a year, not editing mind just summarising to guide the edit.   

With the method I'm trialling, I did more (27 Kwords) in the first 4 hours.  It's about as fast as I can read and I can already see where changes need to made. Read like this, with an eye for the essence of each chapter, inconsistencies pop out.


As of this post 20 days later the trial is over I'm using it and have summarised 60% of the trilogy. Book 1 was a breeze, book 2 to date a slog. I've come to the conclusion that little of book 2 is salvageable. (not unexpected all things considered) Cant wait to deconstruct Book 3.       
'ooroo until my next post