Draft Two Complete

Manifestation,_Draft_2_Wordle

Manifestation, Draft 2, is now complete and assembled.

The image above is a word cloud made by Wordle.com.  All in all I think it’s a pretty interesting representation of the work.  The total length of the draft is 123,154 words.  Though it’s going to be longer in draft 3.  I’ve got a few key areas that need to be expanded upon, which includes at least 2 full new scenes to add.

The “Book 1: Manifestation” page on the top bar now has a complete listing of the chapters in the new, chronological order.  Though even those are going to be adjusted a bit as I continue working on Draft 3.  Some of the existing blog posts are going to be split apart to make separate scenes, in order to improve the overall flow.

The next stage of editing now for Draft 3 will be a combination of 1) line edits, 2) adding the necessary scenes to fill in gaps, 3) revising a few areas I already identified as problematic and 4) making sure the new order flows well.  That’ll likely take a few weeks.  After that, I’ll see where I’m at and work on plans for Draft 4.

Revisions… Revisions, REVISIONS… HOOOOO!!!

Image source: Collider.com (http://collider.com/thundercats-new-cartoon-network-series-animated/30124/)
Image source: Collider.com (http://collider.com/thundercats-new-cartoon-network-series-animated/30124/)

I don’t know what made me suddenly associate revisions with Thundercats. But once I thought about it, it makes a sort of sense.  You start with a rough first draft (when the sword is all small and unimpressive).  Then you call upon the mighty powers of your super allies (read: critique group) and they come rushing in to help save the day.

Something like that, anyway.

So in the current process of revision, I’m restructuring the order of the chapters.  They were originally written based on which character I had inspiration for at a given time.  However, in a traditional novel format, the story needs to be told in order based on a) chronological sequence of events (flashbacks and flash-forwards notwithstanding) and b) the order that certain information needs to be revealed to the reader.

It’s already proving challenging.  One difference in the final novel compared to what is currently posted online is that there may be scene-shifts at different points than the way they are in the blog posts.  For example, during the power outage, I’m likely to shift from, say, Gabby to Dr. Caldwell at whichever point seems most appropriate for narrative flow.  This might not be at the end of the blog posts, since those were sometimes chosen simply based on how much writing I got done on a certain day.

Another challenge is in the flash-forwards.  They contain crucial information at a few points, but they are naturally not part of the chronological flow.  I’m therefore choosing their placement based on the events they most directly link to.  Many of the flash-forwards were deliberately written to have connections to the events right before or right after them.  On the blog this meant they were simply in between each character’s chapters.  But say for example I reorder the chapters to go from Tock to Gabby to Tock again, I’m then left with the question of where the flash-forward goes: after the first Tock chapter, or before the second?

Reordering chapters in this way is also making me aware of certain areas that need to be developed more.  The most obvious example of that is Gabby’s friend, Callia.  Callia plays a huge, crucial role in the second book.  I was actually EXPECTING her to be in the first book.  But that was before events in the first book developed to be bigger than I’d planned.  I didn’t expect to spend as much time as I did in the power outage, and some events (like Tock’s relationship with Frankie Palladino) weren’t even IN my first set of notes and outline.  As a result, events planned for the end of book one got pushed back into book two, and we end up never seeing Callia in person.  I’m planning on amending that during revisions, with some scenes with her earlier in the story.

So the final story is going to be very different from what is seen here.  But then, the first draft rarely works without the need for major changes.

Now, if only the Eye of Thundera could grant me the sight beyond sight to see how these revisions are supposed to go…

EDIT: So, in the ultimate irony, I somehow misspelled the word “REVISIONS” as “REVIONS” in the title of this blog post.  Good thing I can go back and revise it…

Writing Tip: Out with the New, In with the Old

Steampunk-Computer

Image Source: By ChiefRanger from Hollywood (steampunk-computer) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We live in the modern world (well, duh).  A lot of the writing we do is set in a modern-day setting.  Yet when writing fiction, or historical nonfiction, there are many times when you might be writing about a setting that has a great many differences from what you know and are familiar with.  In order to keep such writing believable, it’s important to avoid clashing with language that is ‘too modern.’  That doesn’t mean Ye Must Speaketh Inne Ye Olde Tongue, but it does mean that sometimes, depending on your setting and genre, it’s important to avoid using too many modern references.

There’s two main areas where I tend to see this sort of mistake made.  The first is in anything set in the past, which in a fantasy setting is most commonly a medieval or renaissance period.  Obviously it’s important to be historically accurate (such as, for example, knowing when gunpowder was invented before deciding whether or not to include it in your work).  But I’m not here to discuss historical accuracy.  Rather, I’m referring to modern references that can jar the reader out of the work.

A simple example would be something like referring to a character’s chaotic life as something like “a never-ending roller coaster ride.”  Obviously, if the setting of the story is before the invention of roller coasters, then such a modern invention shouldn’t be referenced at all– even in the narrative text.  This can not only make the phrase seem out of place, but it can result in a shift in perspective (from 3rd person limited to 3rd person omniscient).  In most stories, unless you’re choosing an omniscient perspective, it’s important only to refer to things that the character knows and understands.  Accidental point-of-view-shifts tend to be most common with things like having one character reference another’s thoughts or emotions, since those are things the character you’re narrating wouldn’t ‘know’ (unless they’re some sort of psychic, which is common enough in fantasy writing).  But it can also still break the point of view when the narrative text refers to things that could only exist outside the story’s setting.

This also applies to pop culture references.  You don’t want to refer to a bear as reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh in a story that is set centuries before Ol’ Pooh Bear was ever invented.

In addition to historical fiction, the second area I see this mistake in is alternate worlds.  It is common in both fantasy and science fiction for the setting to be a completely made-up world that has a different history and culture than Earth.  My novel, “Manifestation,” is an example of that.  Since I set it in an alternate world, I had to be very careful not to reference any real-world politics, celebrities, or pop culture.  A simple example of that would be Dr. Caldwell’s cat: I briefly considered having her name it “Sigmund” or “Jung” after a famous psychiatrist, before catching myself and remembering those psychiatrists wouldn’t exist in my fictional world.

(The fact that the cat remains unnamed in the first draft is no small coincidence).

Of course, there’s another whole problem with using pop culture references in any work: they become dated and cliched.  Readers today might recognize a reference to, say, Snookie or Honey Boo Boo, but they are likely to fade from memory in ten or twenty years.  You’ll lose the reader if they get confused about a reference they don’t understand or aren’t familiar with.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be used; the intertextuality of drawing on the reader’s previous knowledge and experiences can be helpful in making your writing tighter and cleaner.  For example, it’s far easier for me to just say, “He had hair like a Muppet,” without having to go into deeper detail by clarifying, “He had hair like a Muppet: wild, unruly, and childishly carefree.”  Most readers (presumably) will get the image just fine without having it explained to them (which also brings us into the territory of “Show, Don’t Tell”).  The important thing is to understand your target audience, and make sure the reference won’t be lost on them, or else you’re leaving them confused and breaking them out of the story.

Though on the other hand, you might just introduce a reader to a new word, phrase, or reference and teach them something.  Which just goes to show that, like with any and all writing tips, it’s always a question of what works best for your story.

Title of this blog post inspired by the song ‘Steampunk Revolution’ by Abney Park.

A Little Bit of Art

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So seeing as it’s been awhile since I posted much fiction (what with the main novel being done and revisions underway), I thought I would toss a little something different up here today. These are some art pieces made for me as gifts by old friends on a collaborative writing site I used to write with. All three are representations of Tock Zipporah.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, both Gabby and Tock are “rebooted” characters. I developed each in collaborative writing sites, and when it came time to start writing “Manifestation,” I decided that it was time to start the characters over. I still plan to re-create some of the most crucial parts of their stories (the Flash-forward sequences Mother Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are actually revisions of something I wrote during Tock’s previous incarnation).  There will be some substantial changes, of course.  For one thing, Tock’s previous incarnation (which was actually her second, with the first being more than a year ago now) was set in a medieval world.  There she worked as a blacksmith and carpenter, whereas in “Manifestation,” we see her working as a mechanic and engineer.

Her core concept remains the same, however.  She is, first and foremost, a creator.  Not just a builder, but a creator of life.  This is seen in an almost child-like fashion during “Manifestation,” when she first creates Minty and Pinky.  However, in the sequel(s), she will be building some much bigger and grander things.  After all, as of the end of “Manifestation,” she has an entire workshop at her disposal (not to mention some pretty nifty powers).

G8YOx

The first image (in color, above) was made for me by a friend named Sandy, who lives in the Philippines. I always found that picture of Tock to be rather cute, right down to the mischievous grin. Tock has a bit of a dark, playful side, something that comes out in the story from time to time in her sense of humor and her sassy attitude. In addition to being a builder and creator, she was designed to be someone who just doesn’t take shit from anyone.  She’s rather smug in her views, thinks she is always right, and considers herself to be nothing short of genius (which she is, but she’s also batshit insane [patricide will do that to a girl]).  She’s also highly lacking in morals, something I made a point of showing during her scene with Gabby during the power outage.

The second image was done by another friend, and I always felt like it showed more of a softer side of Tock.  She looks calmer, and more casual.  This is the side of Tock you see when she’s with Frankie Palladino.  He gets her guard down, and gets her to show the feminine side.  While Tock is a rough, greasy, violent, and foul-mouthed little spitfire, there’s still a part of her inside that is a scared and vulnerable woman.  Frankie brings that out in her, spurring her romantic feelings, and working to protect and care for her (something she’s normally far, far to independent to allow).  Of course, exposing the side Tock was fighting to keep hidden would eventually have consequences.

The last image is something the artist called a ‘silhouette.’ I was always rather fond of her distinct art style, and she was happy to make me a picture of Tock using her unique methods. You see Tock playing carpenter here, right down to the hammer, lumber, and blueprints.

rWeaM

At some point, I’m going to need to figure out a way to make some cover art for the novel. I’m no artist myself (though I have taken several classes in things ranging from art philosophy, semiotic principles, and publication layout and design; these classes taught me theories about art, layout, balance, and visual rhetoric, but I still can’t draw for shit).  It’s likely enough that I’ll end up using creative commons licensed pictures, though I might try to find an artist willing and able to make me some images.  I’m just not sure if I can afford to/will be willing to pay for anything professional.  After all, I deliver pizza for a living and am paying my own way through a somewhat expensive college.  I’m still several drafts away from needing a cover, though, so I’ve got time to figure that out.

Flash Fiction

So, recently, two of my fellow authors have invited me to post flash-fiction short stories on their blogs.  I was glad to do so, and both of them took me a bit outside my norm.  One was a vampire story, and the other a ghost story.

But both have one thing in common: they star one Gabriella Palladino as the main character.

Neither of these stories is necessarily ‘canon’ in the terms of my novel, “Manifestation”.  They are, however, true to Gabby’s character.  What I mean by that is that the events in the stories  are true representations of Gabby, but the events themselves should be read as stand-alone stories rather than part of the main storyline’s continuity.

The first, “Maternal Instincts,” is a vampire story based on a previous incarnation of Gabby’s character.  Long before I wrote “Manifestation,” I wrote an extensive story on a collaborative writing and roleplaying site where Gabby was my main character.  When I began “Manifestation,” I was essentially rebooting the character to explore sides of her story and concept that I couldn’t do on a collaborative site.  The vampire tale told in “Maternal Instincts” is based off developments that took place in the original collaborative story, which included vampires.

As of now, I don’t know if “Manifestation” will ever include anything related to vampires.  If it ever does, however, this story could be a ‘sneak peek’ or ‘flash-forward’ hinting at the way those events might develop.

“Maternal Instincts” is posted on the website of indie author Elise Valente.

The second story, “Crying,” is much closer to the canon-version of Gabby currently seen in “Manifestation.  If you’ve read the full novel, you’ll immediately understand the events going on in this story and how they relate to Gabby’s overall tale.  However, they are still considered ‘non-canon’ unless and until they get incorporated into the main story itself.  I hope you enjoy the story and find it emotionally moving.

“Crying” is posted on Ravenhart, the website of Prisca Crawford & Elena Jacob.

An Actual Blog Post?

12-18-2012

Yes, I’m writing an actual BLOG post on my blog. Go figure?

I haven’t really written anything blog-ish on here before now.  Primarily this site has been a place for me to post short stories and the chapters of my work-in-progress novel.  I haven’t had a lot to say about me or life in general, though now I do, therefore… blog post.

So here goes.

The novel is finished.  There are about four more posts, saved and waiting to be uploaded, but the story itself is complete.  I’m planning to post the final four posts today.  My writing process for this story has mostly involved writing a post, letting it sit for a few days, then revising it and uploading it.  Thus everything posted here has had at least SOME revision and polishing.  Though I still consider the entire thing to be “Draft One.”

So what’s next?

Well, the STORY isn’t done yet.  What’s posted here is working out to be Book One in a series of I don’t know how many books.  I’ve got an outline and plans for the future (many of which are hinted at in the Flash-Forward chapters).  In the long run, there will be a minimum of three books, maybe more (I’m not sure exactly how it’ll go; the story as it stands developed a lot of turns I wasn’t expecting, and I thought to get through another six months of in-character-time in the first book, except there was just so much going on here).

In the meantime, I’m going to be revising revising revising.  I’m not planning to post the revisions online (I need SOMETHING to sell, after all).  Though I do still have plans to re-index the existing pages in a more traditional, linear format.  The current format, broken down by each character, has mostly been an experiment in digital text layout, and a way for me to keep events organized as I go along.  Because the layout is so unorthodox, it’s given me quite a few complications (such as confusion with chapter numbers; because of Crossovers, Gabby’s index goes Ch 1, Ch 3, Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 5, Ch 3).  It needs to be cleaned up.

As for Book Two, I’m not ready to start it yet.  Until I am, I’m going to see about posting normal blog entries, short stories, and maybe “side stories” in the main story.  I have plans for several more characters that just didn’t fit in the story because Gabby, Tock, and Dr. Caldwell took over.  There’s lots more that has been going on besides what those three are up to.  The day of the power outage alone has potential fuel for tons of adventures by other people, which might be developed soon as short stories that aren’t part of the main novel.

In the meantime, I’ve got planning and outlining to do for Book Two (I know the whole plot of it, but need to organize my plans).  I’ve got revisions to do for Book One.  I’ve also got ANOTHER old WIP novel sitting on my desk (time travel!) that might get revised.  All of which is a lot of work.  We’ll see how things go.

A Tale of Three Princesses

This story was written for Daniel Strasser’s “Communicating Gender” Class at Rowan University.  The purpose of the assignment was to write a fairy tale that broke free from gender-based stereotypes.

The writing included in the work is entirely my own.  However, the images are all cropped from the webcomic “Girl Genius,” by Kaja and Phil Foglio.  Because this work was made for educational purposes, is not published for profit, and uses only small samples of the images, the image use falls under Fair Use Guidelines.  I chose “Girl Genius” for several reasons.  One, I am a huge fan of the Foglios’ work (seriously, go check the comic out, it’s AWESOME).  Two, their main character, Agatha Heterodyne, is a strong female protagonist who is highly empowered throughout the comic.  She is a fitting example of a female lead who does NOT fall into gender stereotypes.  And three, the variety of images of the character allowed me to find selections that fit each of the three triplet princesses in my story, showing them as distinct characters even when they’re identical.

The story was made in Microsoft PowerPoint, because it was the best way available to layout the images and text in a picture-book format.  Unfortunately, this may mean you need to have PowerPoint on your computer in order to read the file, until I figure out a better way of posting it.

A Tale of Three Princesses