Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Revision has Officially Begun

I dunno. Somehow, it just seems right that the header is in caps, you know? It's a fairly momentous occasion around here. Not that I haven't ever revised before. Not even that I haven't ever revised THIS novel before. It's more because there is a lot to be done to this story to make it (hopefully) saleable, I have a plan mostly in place, and after putting it off for a couple weeks, the Great Revision has begun.

Barely, mind you. One of the things that my critters pointed out was that a lot of my characters seemed to have names with a long *a* sound in the first syllable. That's a little embarrassing because I spent a lot of time making sure that first letters were different. But indeed, I had Cae and Treyan, the main characters, followed by Ramon (sometimes known as Ray) and Jade and Aram. That is who those people are; I've known them for two years. However, the latter three got identity upgrades today: Ryn, Jocasta, and Effrem. It's gonna be a challenge. They are who they are. It will take more than Find and Replace to really change them.

The first scene has had an upgrade. I think I covered everything on my list for this scene. My goal is to revise three chapters this week and at the moment I have no idea if that is reasonable. A fair slice of the second chapter will require extensive work. However, life without goals is kinda pointless, pun intended. So we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Playing with themes

The concept that Zette covered in the third assignment (due a week ago) was theme. I always find themes hard. I spent hours that week sifting through the bits of story idea I'd come up with in order to condense the essence into its theme. Eventually I decided that the theme of my new novel, Puppet Prince, is Tenacity: To achieve your destiny, hang onto your dreams against all odds. I then decided on a secondary theme, Compassion: The journey from selfishness to compassion results in strong leadership. Some of the other contenders at the time were destiny, purpose, free will, manipulation, choice, and wisdom.

Assignment four, due today, focuses in on the main character's goals and the conflicts that arise to keep him from simply reaching out and grabbing the goal. I've spent hours on this concept as well. It simply isn't gelling. After beating my head against the proverbial brick wall (many hours, I won't bore you...) I cast my gaze back to assignment three and the theme.

A little light came on.

I had picked the wrong theme.

The new theme is COMPROMISE: Treading the destined path through life may require a careful dance. Basically, we'd like to see life in black and white. Either something is right or it's wrong. As a Christian, I believe that is true in many areas, but the older I get, the more I appreciate the various shades of gray in relation to some issues. In an ideal, perfect, sin-free world, things would be simpler.

For the main character of Puppet Prince, Jhonal, this is equally true. He cannot simply choose the best path. What is best in one way is not best in another way. He needs to go through this story deciding on how much compromise he will be willing to sustain in order to negotiate the best deal for himself and for his people.

Already the goals and conflicts are sliding into place.

Why is choosing a theme important before you ever start writing? Do you have to do it this way? Of course not. Though I must admit I've been much more aware of themes since taking this 2 year novel course the first time two years ago. If you are building a building, whether it is a small storage shed or a mansion, you need a suitable foundation. The wrong theme is like building a great foundation, and then raising the building next to it, or across the yard. All I have done today is stuck a large hook in my theme and dragged it underneath the walls that are starting to go up. Everything should be much more secure now.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Time to focus

In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes the writer says: There is a time for everything. I'm thinking that it's getting time to focus on revising False Perceptions. No, really. I'm serious.

Hubby and I spent the better part of the past four days at a time-share condo owned by my sis and her hubby. This is the sis who has custody of her four-year-old granddaughter, so it wasn't a straight adult time. We'd hoped to do some cross-country skiing, but we had trouble deciding which 1/4" deep and eight foot long patch of snow to ski first. So many decisions. It didn't stop my great-niece, but, hey...she's four. We spent part of every day at the swimming pool though, and when my shoulder had reached its max I switched to jogging widths of the pool in chest deep water. You can't sit in the hot tub all the time. A four year old won't let you!

Other than that, we ate well and played a lot of cards. Our family game is called Hand and Foot, and it is always played guys against girls if at all possible. Because I have four sisters and we generally think alike, the girls usually win. Not so this week. Sigh. My sister and I are going to be many months living down our poor showing.

While we were gone, the sump pump that pulls water from our open well into our cistern went. There was enough water in the cistern to tide the cows through those few days, but it meant that Jim had to go buy a new pump and install it before heading back upcountry for work. Good thing we didn't spend all our money buying a time-share! ;)

So here I am back at work. I've sort of caught up on doings at Forward Motion, although I discovered a few areas that require a bit more attention. I have to study this week's 2yn lesson and do the assignment. And I do need to finish filling in plot-holes in the FP road. (If I would listen to Erin, I would throw a bunch of plot bunnies in the plot-hole and pave it over, but I'm afraid of them breeding. I think I have enough loose plot bunnies at the moment.)

Monday. Monday I will open FP chapter one and start rewriting. Really I will.

Friday, January 20, 2006

One step closer

Yesterday I finished writing the fourteen page document that outlines my plans for revising False Perceptions. This novel was written with the 2004 2yn class at Forward Motion. I revised it last summer and sent it out to critiquers, from whence it has recently returned. Shock of all shocks it isn't perfect yet. Hard to believe, I know. It seems to me I should have been able to see some of these issues for myself, but as a writer you get very close to a story and you think that certain things are clear. After all, you see them clearly in your own mind. The difference between what I see in my mind and what I type into my keyboard apparently can be quite startling. Not only that, but there were fudge areas. Did I think my readers wouldn't notice that the plot had some soft spots?

In planning this second revision, I referred back and forth between manuscript and crits thereof and broke down what needs to be changed in each scene. I'm embarrassed to think how few scenes were completely nailed and just need a minor grammar brush. Several scenes will be pretty much trashed and started over; some will sport new settings and some changes in characters. And I'm not off the hook on the 90% of the middlin' ones, either. Many of them will require extensive work as well. One of my two main characters (yo, Treyan, are you listening?) will require a personality upgrade, and two others need less extensive facelifts. A few need to be re-named.

As I went through the novel and found holes, I flipped back and forth in the revision plan to find places to plug them. However (another big surprise...) when I got to The End and read back through the plan, I see that there are still issues in there that haven't been addressed. Holes that haven't been plugged. There are less holes, and the ones remaining are smaller, but it isn't water-tight yet by any means. I've printed out The Plan so I can continue to work over it the next week, during which time I will be computer-less again for a few days.

This is not the fun part of the job. Anyone have any tips? How do YOU map out revisions?

Monday, January 16, 2006

More of same

Writing wise, I feel like a hamster on a wheel. More working on False Perception's revision plan; the novel is approximately half analyzed. Which isn't quite the same thing as half planned, unfortunately, nor the same thing as half re-written. See, I'm still complaining about it!

I'm also still complaining about trying to keep Jhonal and the rest of the cast from my newest novel, Puppet Prince, from taking over the world. Something brand new and unsullied sounds so fun right now, compared with trying to repair the obviously imperfect. Even telling myself that this one won't be a perfect first draft either does little to dampen my enthusiasm. I don't KNOW it won't be perfect, after all. Perhaps seven is the perfect number, and my seventh novel will be perfect. It's still all possible. In theory, anyway.

In other news, my hubby seems to think that 2006 is the year of the addition on the house. I'd thought we were a couple years away still, but he wants to start getting quotes and analyzing costs in hopes of a 2006 project. So I'm buckling my brain down to drawing plans, one of my favorite past-times. I'm not sure I actually believe him yet! We've talked some rough ideas over the five years we've lived here (in Canada's ugliest and least designed house and almost the smallest), but now we need to make sure we're on the same page as to what functions the new area will be best used for. I *am* excited, even while I try not to be, but then he tells me I CAN be...I'm confused, but drawing!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Life goes on

Life even goes on for hubby's grandmother, although in a different sense. She was a Christian, a believer in Jesus, and ready to go. Although there certainly were some tears at her funeral and in the days surrounding it, there also was gladness that she is through the pain and massive difficulties of increasing age.

The winter roads were passable with iffy sections. Connecting with the cousins and other relatives was a good thing. We did some shopping in the city. It was good to go, and it's very good to be home.

My main task these days is to work up a revision plan for False Perceptions. I vacillate between thinking I can do this, and being sure I can't. There is a fair bit of work, but only a few scenes (thus far) need a total rewrite. On the flip side, there are a similar number of scenes that just need a grammar brush-up to be fine. The rest require varying degrees of work. A couple of main characters need some overhauling to be consistent and sympathetic. At the moment I have gone through about a third of the novel, scanning critique notes and making lists. At this rate it will take several more days for this step, but I think it is a vital one. I may need a couple of *mulling* days afterwards to come up with a plan for implementation. Or I could be optimistic and believe that things will begin to gel before I get to the other end. :)

In the meanwhile, I have books that NEED to be read and a new novel that wants to push to the forefront. I did play with ideas some on the road trip, and have narrowed down the possible plotlines from billions to merely dozens. I have a clearer vision of my main character. And I am trying really REALLY hard not to lock myself into any specifics ahead of the class schedule. Must keep focusing on FP. MUST. (Of course, Shann and Taafa from Marks of Repentance want to come out to play, too, but they have to wait for the next revision slot.

Maybe I will do what I suggested to Maripat, and what several folks from the original 2yn class did, and that is to write the first draft of their 2yn as their Nano. It would certainly give me more revision time this year if I planned on only one first draft instead of two. Of course, I could also skip Nano... Hmm. Things to think about.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Aaack -- busy

Just a very quick update. I need to get in a habit of posting here more regularly again, but it won't be this week. My husband's grandmother died yesterday, and we'll be away for a few days to the funeral.

Meanwhile, I'm playing with my 2yn idea, which I'm loving and itching to get serious with (whoa, Val, follow the class...), and reading A Clash of Kings by George. R.R. Martin.

Three of the four critiques on my own False Perceptions are back now, and I'm in the process of creating a revision outline for the book. (That's what I worked on for most of last week.) Fixing the inconsistencies in one character looks to be my major goal, and it doesn't sound huge until you remember that Treyan is the major male main character and is in many of the scenes. And who he is affects the scenes he isn't in, as well. So while the task sounds simple enough, the execution of it is going to take awhile.

So far I've compiled information for the first seven or eight chapters out of thirty-two. Only two scenes out of all that have only grammar brushups to complete them. All the rest (and some chapters have 6 or 7 scenes) will require more work; two of them need to be completely rewritten in a different setting and with different character interaction. I had really hoped to complete the revision outline this week so that I could get into the *real* work next week, but it won't happen. This week won't have a normal routine.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Roll out the red carpet for the new year!

After almost two weeks of lolly-gagging around on my vacation (if you believe that, you'll believe anything; hang around cause I have more lies I could tell you...) I went back to work today. Work for me has a dual purpose. It's to sell flooring, organize my guys, make customers happy, provide a sounding board for sales reps and to earn that all-important paycheck. The second reason? (Yes, all the aforementioned was only one reason.) The second reason is that the flooring shop is where I write. So when I'm on vacation from the shop, I'm REALLY on vacation.

Not quite, but almost. Because I decided, after all, to sign up for the new 2yn class at Forward Motion, I had to come up with the kernel of an idea to jumpstart my own participation in the class. I spent most of my vacation *mulling* whenever I had spare time (not much). Until Sunday evening I was hammering away at an idea that just wasn't germinating. It looked like a good kernel, and maybe it IS. Maybe it just needs soaking for another year or two. Whatever its issue, it didn't want to sprout and be a novel just now.

Now, I've been reading George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones recently (and waiting, somewhat patiently, for book 2 to arrive back to the library, but I digress...) and tried to decide what I was liking and not liking about it. Too many pov characters, though their presentations at least are solid. I like the fact that Lord Stark has five kids, not because the writer needed a magical number five, but because each child has their own personality and thus serves the story in their own way. The youngest not so much yet, but I anticipate that he'll find his uses as the series carries on. I like the fact that there are several characters that I can't pin which side they're on. I suspect that the characters themselves might not know. And I enjoyed the whole medieval castles and war thing that sometimes gets over done in fantasy, but I've been avoiding it recently so it seemed new again to me. Well, not new, exactly, but not *same old* either.

And it occurred to me that while I've written a few fantasies in my day (three), none of them took place in these kinds of circumstances. Imagine that. Quests and travelers I have written in plenty, but no castles. It's time for castles, I thought on Monday morning, and threw away that dried up kernel of an idea that didn't want to sprout anyway.

So are you ready? Here's the basic premise for my next novel (2yn, and currently un-named): Being raised as a ward of the conquering king, a young prince seeks his future in the face of brainwashing by his hosts, an uncle who wants to retain his own family line as puppet kings, and recurring visions that offer him a brighter hope if only he can overcome the difficulties and hold the faith.

That's it. At this point, I have way more questions than answers. That's the fun of a new idea, I think. So many possibilities to choose from; so many paths the writer could take. It's that old *walking the tightrope in the fog* thing. You can't see where you're going, or what will grab you if you fall off. All you can do is inch forward and hope for the best. WooHoo! I'm gonna have fun inching forward with this one!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy 2006!

Happy 2006 Posted by Picasa

It's been a busy time over Christmas week, spending time with my husband and our son and daughter-in-law. Things are settling down now, and I'll be back to work (and starting revisions) on Tuesday.