It’s been 25 days since I last wrote a blog post, 41 days since I worked on revisions for Arcana Revived, and 16 days since I last did any writing for my #NaNoWriMo project. I ended NaNo with only about 35,000 words, my worst performance yet. To say I’m in a funk is, frankly, an understatement.
There’s plenty of reasons for it. Compared to this time last year I’m at a new job, in a new relationship, and no longer in college. Things have been rather topsy-turvy for awhile now, and it’s taken awhile to get settled into a new routine. One where I’m no longer fretting about whether the rent will be paid next month, and where I know for sure that there will be food on the table. That sort of thing makes a big difference.
I’ve missed a number of self-imposed deadlines. I do a lot better when someone else is imposing a deadline on me, like when I was in college. Part of the reason that I’ve written six first drafts of Arcana Revived books already is because I was writing a lot of them as class projects, such as my master’s thesis project. After I lost that structure and got out of the academic routine, it became a lot harder to keep focused.
Hopefully I can make some changes soon and get back into a groove again. I was doing a good job writing almost every day during NaNoWriMo. I earned a lot of stickers (one for every 1000 words). I haven’t earned any stickers all month so far, though this blog post counts as one (one blog post = 1 sticker). So hopefully I can fill my calendar with stickery goodness and get back into the groove. We’ll see how it goes.
If it goes well, expect more regular blog posts again. I enjoy blogging about my writing and revision progress, and the feedback I get on these posts tends to help keep me in the zone.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently working on two different revision projects. One is Contamination, the sequel to Manifestation. I’m currently about 80% of the way through Draft 2 (and I need to update that progress bar on the right to show that). I’m mostly working on line edits, making sure everything reads well and is clear, adding descriptive details where needed, and looking for plot holes that need filling or scenes that need cutting.
The second project is my Rowan University Master’s in Writing Thesis Project, a.k.a. Arcana Revived Volume Six (currently untitled). I’m pretty much doing the same thing there that I am on Contamination: basic edits and cleaning up the prose. I’m not to the point yet where I can make major changes since I need more time analyzing what is already there. I already have a few ideas on chapters that need to be cut, but I’m not to the point yet of making those decisions.
Normally, I wouldn’t be working on both of these projects at once. After all, Contamination is book two, so why be working on book six? Well, because I need to for school. Book six obviously won’t be published for quite some time, and I’m only doing the amount of work on it now that I need to for it to be “complete” in terms of what the thesis project requires. Mostly this means focusing on polishing up the first 30,000 words, and leaving the rest for later.
However, I’m running into a slight issue on Book Six that I’m not running into on Contamination, and I think I’ve figured out why. I don’t have enough distance from the first draft yet.
See, I wrote the first draft of Contamination for NaNoWriMo 2013. I’ve had close to a year and a half to get some objectivity about what I’ve written, so I can look at it and decide what needs to be changed, what needs to be cut, what’s working, and what isn’t. It’s a lot easier to say “Okay this is crap, it needs to go” on a scene or chapter that I wrote so long ago. It’s not so easy to do that with Book Six, which I just wrote a few months ago, for NaNoWriMo 2014.
The result is that I feel like I’m slogging through each chapter on Book Six, but I have no trouble with Contamination. The revisions on Book Six feel too “big.” I’m having trouble looking at individual issues instead of seeing the whole novel as, from the point of view of my critical side, one big steaming pile of crap. I’m still too connected to the rush and joy I felt writing the first draft and all the fragile emotions that go along with it.
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says that when you finish a draft, you should put it in a drawer for six weeks or more. This is so that you can come at it with a fresh perspective. I feel like I need a little more than six weeks. Maybe six months? Which means that if I didn’t have a deadline, I’d be shelving everything to do with Book Six for a long time, until I’m more ready to deal with it. Which is besides the fact that I’ve got four other novels to revise before I touch that one.
I’m not really sure how to address this issue right now, since I need at least one revision of the first 30,000 words before March 1st. Which is totally doable for me in terms of the amount of work that I need to get done in that time frame, but less doable from an emotional point of view.
For the time being, my solution is to focus on Contamination. I’ve got a self-imposed deadline to finish that one by March 1st as well, and I’m more confident in my ability to do that. And maybe, by working on a different project for awhile, I’ll remove myself from Book Six a bit and be able to come back in during crunch time and get it done.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
I just finished #NaNoWriMo last week. My currently untitled novel is sitting at 160,484 words of magic, mystery, sex, love, telepathy, golems, lesbians, teddy bears, and maybe a giant mutated monster or two. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, though I know it’ll need plenty of revisions and work just like all the others. That work is for later, however, and now it’s time to turn my mind to other things.
On the writing front, there’s two main projects on my mind right now. Both of them have something in common: scavengers (did the title of the post give that away?). I’d like to talk a bit about the concept of scavengers first, then discuss how it relates to my upcoming projects.
A scavenger-based society can develop in a variety of ways. In real life, it can happen when some groups of people live in the slums or run-down neighborhoods of otherwise wealthy cities. I read a book earlier this year, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which told the real-life story of people living in such conditions in Mumbai, India. The people in the story live in tin shacks in a muddy, rancid slum, where they deal with crime, pollution from the city, poverty, poor education, and the struggle to survive and feed their families each day. One of the main characters is a boy who collects scrap. Plastic bottles, wire coat hangers, tin foil . . . anything he can haul down to the recycling center to sell in order to earn what he can to help feed his family. Parts of the story follow this boy and others like him as they scrounge in the dumpsters behind hotels, gathering plastic straws and lids to be sold as scrap to the recycling center. Sometimes they have to fight off gangs of larger boys who will beat them up to steal their garbage and sell it themselves. And no one in the city cares, except when it comes to shooing them away so the rich tourists at the hotels don’t have to see the street urchins digging through the trash.
More extreme examples can be seen in some post-apocalyptic stories, where society has collapsed and industry no longer exists. I’m reading a fiction novel right now called The Drowned Cities, set in a post-apocalyptic future where global warming has flooded the coasts, war has torn the country apart, and people struggle to survive amidst ongoing fighting between rival factions that try to claim their own piece of the broken world. People use whatever they can get their hands on, and the author describes things like plastic antifreeze bottles now being used as water bottles, ruined buildings being torn apart for scrap to rebuild elsewhere, and old medicine that is “only a year past its expiration date.” These details do a good job setting the scene and showing the reader just how desperate people are for whatever resources they can get their hands on.
The idea of a society with limited resources will be helpful research for my current and future projects. One of those project, my seventh novel, is currently only in the planning stages. I’ve got about ten pages of notes so far on what I plan to do with it, though I don’t intend to start writing this one until next year, maybe during #JuNoWriMo. Some of these notes are based on ideas I got from books like The Drowned Cities, relating to the idea of where people get the resources they need to survive. Food and other resources can be scarce. People might be having to improvise items to use them for something other than their original purpose. Gabby Palladino, my main character (who is also a poet) may have trouble finding simple things like pens and paper to write her journals and poems. Though I’ve already written things in the past that involve looting old, abandoned stores, so I’m sure she could find an abandoned office supply store with plenty of useful goods.
My more immediate project right now is continuing revisions on my second book, Contamination, which is the sequel to Manifestation. I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil some of the events of Manifestation, but suffice to say, some of the characters in Contamination can end up in some difficult situations where food and supplies are scarce. The scene I’m currently revising involves a gang of thugs with magic powers fighting for control over a grocery store, since controlling the store means controlling the food supplies left inside. When you’re desperate and hungry, that’s a higher priority than anything else. There are also other scenes of people doing things like smashing open an old vending machine to steal the stale snack foods inside. People will do what it takes when it comes to staying fed.
I plan to read some more books in war-ravaged post-apocalyptic settings in the near future in order to see how other authors have addressed the scavenger lifestyle. I find it an interesting one, and I think there’s a lot of potential character development to be found in writing a character who has to dig through the rubble to find the things they need to survive.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
As I mentioned, I recently won #NaNoWriMo 2014. It was a long haul. I had quite a few nights where I was up until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. My back is killing me. I spent several days in a daze, barely able to focus on anything else.
The novel is complete. At 160,484 words, it’s both the biggest NaNoWriMo victory I’ve ever had and the longest novel I’ve written in the series. As you can see by the progress meters on the sidebar to the right, it’s 28,000 words more than the previous novel. This was more-or-less what I expected, and the reason why is the first “thing I learned” from NaNoWriMo:
I learned to better estimate word counts
When I first wrote Manifestation, I had no idea how long it would be. I also didn’t know how the story would shift away from any original plans I had. These shifts can lead to longer word counts on some drafts, since the story expands in places I didn’t expect, then shorter word counts in revisions, when I cut scenes that end up not fitting the new direction the story went in. One of the consequences of these unexpected turns is that the structure of the novel can change.
For example, when I first started the series, I already knew where the third volume, Collapse, would end. I had a scene in mind for the climax and what consequences it would bring. I started writing with that goal in mind from early on, always trying to move Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah, the two main characters, in that direction. But at the time that I started writing, I thought that would be the end of volume two, not volume three.
I had originally planned Manifestation to stop in a place that is now somewhere around the middle of the second book, Contamination. I had a story arc planned out for Gabby that would take her through various family dramas, build on her romantic relationship with her main love interest, Callia Gainsborough, and help her grow from the introverted teenage girl we see at the beginning into, well, you’ll have to wait and see what she becomes. But when I was moving past the 100,000 word mark on Manifestation, I realized I needed a lot more time to get Gabby to the point I wanted to take her in. So I devised a new climax for Manifestation, finished the first book, and started the second one.
Then, when I was near the end of Contamination, the same thing happened again. I had a point where Gabby’s relationship with Callia was really just getting off the ground, where Gabby’s understanding of the supernatural changes to the world around her are finally coming together, and where Gabby’s growth as a character was reaching a major turning point. But a turning point isn’t a climax, and I realized I needed another 50,000 words or more to get Gabby the rest of the way down that path. Like with the first book, had I not come up with a different ending, the total length of the book would have been over 170,000 words. Instead, I started the third book, and about halfway through Gabby reached the point of character development I’d originally planned. It was mostly smooth sailing after that to finish the third book, reaching the climax that had originally been planned for book two.
This year, I went into my writing expecting and planning for a length of 150,000. I came up with this number by considering the various story arcs of the previous books, how many main characters had leading roles in each, and how much world building had to be done. When I crossed the 130,000 word mark, I reanalyzed based on the number of scenes left, and adjusted my word count estimate to 160,000. The final total word count was only a few hundred off of that second estimate.
I plan to consider these variables when working on future books as well, so that I’ll have a better idea of how much will “fit” in one book. That way I’ll be able to avoid major restructuring like I went through in the early books.
I learned the difference between a “romance” and a “love story”
As you may have seen by recent blog posts, I’ve been studying romance novels lately. I have a few serious problems with the common romance tropes I’ve seen. Examples include characters who seem to constantly profess their love in the narration without me seeing love in their actions, characters who are too perfect (perfect bodies, perfect hair, flawless morals, etc), characters who fall in love too quickly without enough development of their relationships, and the unrealistic nature of the “happily ever after” ending. I’ve been trying to avoid abusing these tropes in my own writing, by either breaking them entirely, or at least approaching them from different angles in order to avoid being cliche.
However, a new variable was recently brought to my attention. I recently wrote a post about exploring infidelity in romance stories, where I considered the possible roles cheating might play in the development of a story. In particular, I cited novels like The Notebook, where the female lead started off in a relationship then cheated on her fiance with the male lead, who she eventually ended up with. After writing this post, however, one of my romance writer friends directed me to the rules of the Romance Writers of America, and I learned there are some things you can’t do if you want the story to be considered an official “romance.”
According to the RWA, a story is only a “romance” if it has A Central Love Story and An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending. That is, the love story can’t be a subplot, and it can’t have an ending that isn’t in the “happily ever after” category.
A happy ending, according to my friend, means things like no cheating. You can’t do anything to betray the relationship or make the reader stop rooting for the characters to get together. If the reader reaches a point where they wish the characters would break up, it’s not a “romance.”
Q: You once said the difference between a love story and a romance is that “love stories must use universal characters and settings.” What did you mean by that?
“Universal” means you feel as if they are real. You feel like you can know them. I don’t write stories about astronauts or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or millionaires or movie stars. These are stories of everyday people put into extraordinary events that are also very real in ordinary people’s lives: accidents, a past you want to get away from, a husband that got violent.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with his entire view here, but what he’s basically saying sounds like “romance novels have unrealistic characters but love stories have ordinary people.” I wouldn’t call this a 100% accurate statement, but it touches on what I mentioned above. Most romance novels I read have people who are too perfect. They’re rich, famous, gorgeous, and flawless. Now, I think you can have a traditional romance novel that has believable, down-to-earth characters (just many of the ones I’ve recently read don’t). But if you go by Sparks’s views, romances are fantasies, while love stories are more realistic.
Even if you disagree with how sparks describes this difference, I do think that the distinction is related to the “no cheating” rule I already mentioned. Characters who cheat on each other would spoil the perfect fantasy of the ideal relationship. But characters who have to struggle to heal and forgive after an affair might better represent the kinds of people we see in real life.
I’ll probably follow up with some more things I learned in a future post. It was definitely a long and educational experience.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
As you may know, I’m participating in #NaNoWriMo this year. If you didn’t know that, you haven’t peen paying attention for the last 19 days. I’ve been chugging along at a pretty crazy pace, and so far, I’ve written 117,349 words.
But to put that in a little perspective, here’s some pictures of my sticker calendar.
First, here’s what I wrote in September, before I started working on this novel:
Every sticker is either 1000 words or 1 blog post (I get a sticker for writing this blog post you’re reading right now). As you can see, I had a shitty month. Busy with work and school, I went days at a time without writing. I had a nice surge of energy at the end of the month, which was mostly revisions for Contamination, the sequel to Manifestation.
Next, here’s how October went:
A lot better, all said and done. The stars are for new chapters I wrote in Contamination, and the “Wow!” and “Great!” stickers are for every chapter I revised. I made pretty good progress . . . but I still had long stretches of inactivity. I maybe managed a sticker or two per day some days, and there were a few days at the end of the month I only got three per day. After the big rush at the beginning, I was starting to slow down.
Now, here’s my #NaNoWriMo calendar so far:
I know, right?
I had a few days in there where I managed between 10,000-12,000 words per day. Which is really killer on the back. My average goal has been 5,000 per day. I’ve hit that . . . most days. I’ve got a few days with only one or two stars (the round star stickers are still the same, one sticker for 1000 words written, but I ran out of the shiny stars on Sunday and had to switch to new ones). But as you can tell, the last week or so has been a lot slower than the beginning. I only managed two stickers yesterday, one last Friday, two last Wednesday. I’m losing a bit of steam, but I’m almost done.
My goal is still 150,000 for the month, give or take. I’m almost done the novel itself (which is still untitled because I can’t think of a title). The main characters, led by Gabby Palladino, are marching off to the epic final battle right now. Some of them will live, some will die, and some will kiss. Though I don’t plan on anyone kissing someone who died, cause, eww, that’s some creepy Disney stuff right there.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Wish me luck. I may break something before the end.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
I was peer pressured encouraged to share an excerpt from my current #NaNoWriMo Project, Arcana Revived Volume Six (currently untitled). The chapter below is an early chapter that introduces Gabby Palladino and her sister, Adrianna.
Be warned, spoilers ahoy. Since this is a sequel, there’s massive spoilers in here for my first novel, Manifestation. Read ahead at your own risk.
Gabby and the Manifested warped into Evesborough, landing at the edge of the city in a flash of light. They staggered a bit in catching their footing and adjusting to the difference in elevation; Evesborough was in the mountains, high above sea level, so it was a stark shift from the coastal city they’d just left. The air was cooler, the sky was clear, and the mountains around them were covered in fresh evergreens that climbed the slopes all around the city.
Gabby rubbed her temple, fighting off a headache. The pressure around her skull from the ever-present weight of her aura was worse than usual. She was sure it was a mix of not only the stress she was going through, but also of the massive mana surges she’d just witnessed Tock wielding in the City of Arcana. Tock’s power had become immense, far greater than it had been last time Gabby had seen her a couple of months before. It was something she wasn’t sure how to handle, or even wrap her head around.
“What happens now?” Mason asked. He stood off to the side with the others, outside of the range of Gabby’s aura. She was having trouble holding the aura in right now and pulses of mana were leaking through it. The Manifested kept their distance in order to remain safe.
“Gather the rest of the Manifested in the city square,” Gabby said. “We’re going to have to make preparations for tomorrow.”
“Preparations for what, exactly?” Vijay asked. “To fight?”
Gabby shook her head no, but she didn’t know what other answer to give. “We’re going to stop the fighting.”
“How?” Mason asked.
Gabby sighed. “Just get everyone together.” She turned to Jaden. “Send out a city-wide summons. Not just our usual crew. I want all willing volunteers with any kind of arcana to come. We’re going to need everything we’ve got.” Evesborough currently held a few hundred thousand citizens, most of them refugees who had fled from other mountain towns in the surrounding area and come here for the protection offered by a more well-defended city. Out of the whole population, somewhere between ten and twenty thousand were Manifested, though they hadn’t been able to perform any kind of census to get an exact count. Plus, many of the Manifested were children who were too young to fight, or people who were unwilling to join the struggle. Gabby could hope for a thousand, maybe two, but that would be it. Not enough to stand against the entire massed force of the Northern Union army, to say nothing of Tock’s mass-produced golem army.
Jaden raised her megaphone and channeled a stream of mana into it. Translucent emerald light flowed from her fingertips into the gemstones that were encrusted around the device, melding arcana and technology together in a design Vijay had developed just for the telepath. When she channeled her thoughts into the megaphone, they were amplified by the arcanatech and channeled across the whole city. All Manifested willing to help us stop the war, please gather in the city square. Commander Palladino requests all Manifested willing to fight . . .
Gabby gave Jaden a grateful smile. “I’ll see you guys there in a few minutes.” She headed off on her own, walking down the street towards the lodge that had been turned into a makeshift command center. She kept her head held high as she walked, giving professional nods to the citizens and Manifested she passed by. The streets were fairly crowded with pedestrian traffic, though there wasn’t a single car in sight. They hadn’t yet had time to develop any arcanatech vehicles, and gas was a resource that had all but run out in the months since the mana storm. She didn’t think there was a single operational car or truck left anywhere in Evesborough, and in the other cities to the south, the military had taken control of all the gas supplies to keep their jeeps and tanks running.
She headed into the lodge, where groups of volunteers were working to coordinate everything from the details of Evesborough’s defense force, to the management of their food supplies, to the manufacturing of arcanatech weapons and devices based on Vijay’s designs. Several people stopped her with questions as soon as she entered and she was stuck for almost ten minutes making decisions about where to mount the newest arcanatech gun turrets, how to handle distributing food supplies to different parts of the city, and how to settle disputes between different teams who each wanted a bigger portion of their limited manufacturing supplies. She didn’t have the first clue what the best answer was to half of the questions, so she just made her best guess, or delegated the task to someone else. She didn’t really know how to lead an army or be responsible for the lives of others. She’d just been roped into the job because of how powerful her arcana was, and how it made the others look to her as their leader.
As she was moving among the various desks that filled the lodge’s main lobby and central rooms, Gabby spotted her sister seated at a desk in the corner. She arched an eyebrow, curious as to why Adrianna was there. Her doctor, Mahir Pavari, stood by Adrianna’s side. Gabby walked over to the and gave them a small wave. Adrianna looked up from the paperwork she was working on and gave her a tired smile.
“Hey, Sis,” Adrianna said. “How did it go?” Her eyes showed signs of strain and dark circles had formed under them. She was dressed in a hospital gown and slippers, with a fluffy blue robe on top.
“About as well as could be expected,” Gabby said. She decided not to go into detail, not wanting to add to her sister’s stress. “What are you doing here? Should you be out?” She looked to Dr. Pavari.
Adrianna frowned and lowered her head. She pressed her palms down flat on the papers that covered the desk before her. “I’m not an invalid,” she said. “I’m perfectly capable of being out on my own.” She glanced over her shoulder at Dr. Pavari. “I don’t need to be babysat.”
Dr. Pavari pushed his glasses up his nose and said, “We’re giving it a trial run. I think it’s good for her to get out and try to get into some kind of normal routine.”
Adrianna pressed her hands down harder on the desk. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,” Gabby said. “It’s okay.” She paused, chewing on her lip. Then she nodded to the papers. “So, what are you working on?”
Adrianna cast a glare up at Dr. Pavari, the turned back to Gabby. “Food inventory. I used to do this at the restaurant.” She patted the papers before her, then smoothed them out, then patted them again. “I know how to do this. I used to do it all the time.” Adrianna had worked at a small restaurant in the West District suburbs for a few years, back before she got pregnant. She had been planning on going back to work when Dante was old enough. Though his death, and Adrianna’s subsequent breakdown, had prevented that. So had the beginning of the apocalypse.
Gabby opened her mouth to reply, but she was distracted by the way Adrianna continued smoothing out the papers before her. Her movements became rougher and she ended up ripping one of the pages. She held the two halves of the page up and pressed them back together, frowning. “I can fix that,” she said, her voice a bare whisper. “I can fix it. I just need tape.”
“It’s okay,” Gabby said, giving her sister a reassuring smile. “It’s not a big deal.”
“No,” Adrianna said. “No. I can fix it.” She opened one of the desk drawers, her hands shaking. She dug through it, her movements becoming more frantic by the moment. She slammed the drawer shut and reached for another. It stuck and she yanked on it, squealing. “I can fix it!” She yanked the drawer open and knocked it off its tracks. Pens, pencils, and paper clips spilled all over the floor.
“Maybe it’s time we head back,” Dr. Pavari said, touching Adrianna’s shoulder. “It’s been a long day, and it’s time for your pills.”
Adrianna sat stiffly, tilting her head towards him. “I don’t like the pills,” she said. She pressed her hands down on top of the desk again. “I don’t like the way they make me feel.”
Gabby swallowed a lump in her throat, fighting off tears. “Addy, if the doctor says—”
“You’re always taking his side!” Adrianna snapped. She stood up and slammed her hands down on the desk. “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child, Gabby!” She leaned against the desk, shaking.
Gabby held still, not sure what to say. She hated having to treat her sister like this. She’d always looked up to Adrianna when they were growing up; her sister was two years older than Gabby, and she used to teach Gabby about life and love and making friends. But their relationship had broken down during Adrianna’s pregnancy, and fallen apart completely in the aftermath of Dante’s death.
Dr. Pavari touched a hand against Adrianna’s back. “Let’s get back to the hospital. You can get some rest, and we can come back to finish the work later.”
Adrianna turned and glared at him, her fists clenched. Then she turned her glare on Gabby. “Fine,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. Fine.” She swung her hand out and knocked the pencil sharpener off the desk. Flakes of pencil trimmings flew everywhere. Adrianna turned and stalked from the room with Dr. Pavari trailing behind her. He gave Gabby an apologetic look and Gabby responded with the bravest smile she could force onto her face.
When they left, she took a deep, shuddering breath. The rest of the people in the room were staring at her, though most of them were trying to hide it. She held back her tears and pushed down her feelings, then forced herself to get back to work. There were still questions that needed to be answered and concerns that needed to be addressed. She was the one in charge, so she had to keep working.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Timelines and Continuity. It had a lot to do with rearranging chapters during revisions, due to my nonlinear writing process (note: Professor Ron Block of Rowan University says all writing is linear, even when it’s not, because you have to write it and read it in a linear fashion across the page). As an example, I said I usually write, say, 6 chapters from Gabby’s POV, then 7 from Tock’s, then back to Gabby, and so on. But during revisions, I need to weave these chapters together to flow more fluidly back and forth between each character. The result can throw off some details that need to be fixed in revisions (such as if a character refers to something that happened “yesterday” but due to rearranging the order of events, it now happened “this morning,” or it won’t happen until tomorrow).
So why am I revisiting this topic? Well, my #NaNoWriMo novel, Arcana Revived Volume Six, is requiring me to look at chapter order in a very different way than in my previous first drafts. As an example, here’s the chapter order (before any revisions) for Volume Four, Mutation.
As you can see, I wrote 16 chapters in a row of Gabby, just because that was where my Muse was taking me. I kept writing on Gabby until I reached a point where I wasn’t quite sure what to do with her next. Then, to avoid getting log-jammed by writer’s block, I switched to Tock and Mae. I wrote with them for a while, then switched back.
Once I get to revisions, these chapters are more likely to go Gabby/Tock/Gabby/Tock/Gabby/Mae/Gabby/Tock or something like that. But when I was writing them, I just went with where my flow was taking me, in order to get all the words down as smoothly and quickly as possible. And it didn’t really hurt the narrative or the continuity at all, since Gabby and Tock weren’t directly interacting with each other in those early chapters. They’re in different places, going through different (but parallel and directly linked) events. Which was all building up to a point, close to the end, where their individual halves of the story merge and they end up in the same place at the same time.
This is the method I’ve really used with every book I’ve written so far, from Manifestation to Contamination (which is currently on Draft Two) to the next three books (which are all first drafts). It’s worked well each time. But the sixth book, which I’m currently writing for NaNoWriMo, is turning out to be an entirely different process. I’m handling continuity and the order I write the chapters in a completely different way.
As you can see in the chapter orders for Volume Six, I’m alternating a lot more between the characters from chapter to chapter. Really, this is what the above chapter order will look like after revisions. I’m just doing it during the first draft this time, spending no more than a few chapters in one character’s POV before I move to the next. This is because the stories are more directly interwoven than before. As a result, I have mostly fallen into a pattern where I write Gabby/Indra/Jaden/Gabby/Indra/Jaden in order. I have to do this because it’s not just a question of “which event happens first.” It’s a situation where all the characters are having a very direct impact on each other’s actions, so I can’t continue to write the next character’s chapter before I finish the first.
Here’s an example of two scenarios, one from Mutation and one from the new book, that demonstrate what I mean in a more concrete way.
During Mutation, there’s a point where the characters are battling a variety of giant mythological creatures that have come back to life because of the revival of magic. At one point, some of the characters are split up, so that Gabby is battling one Beast of Legend, Tock another, Mae a third, and Callia a fourth. The individual battles don’t impact each other, but they all impact the overall plot and together the battles determine whether everyone will be safe or if the Beasts will crush entire cities and kill thousands of people. So, after each battle has been decided, the characters can reunite and we can see the aftermath, but during each battle, each character is on their own (or “the character plus the miscellaneous supporting characters helping them fight”).
What makes the new book different is that for the majority of it, the characters are coordinating their efforts in the same struggle, instead of battling separate (but related) foes. For example, right now, Gabby is lying in ambush, waiting for a signal from Jaden that a certain task has been completed before it’ll be time to strike. But Jaden can’t do what she needs to until she gets crucial information from Indra and her cousin Vijay. So while I’m alternating between characters from one chapter to the next, they’re working together on a common goal, and their actions directly impact things. Gabby literally can’t proceed from her current position before I’ve written Jaden’s next chapter (unless she wants the entire mission to fail), and Jaden literally can’t accomplish her goal without the key information she’s waiting to receive. It requires me to look at the book differently than the previous volumes.
That’s not to say that either method, “nonlinear” chapter order or direct alternation between POVs, is better or worse than the other. It just means that the revision process for this volume will require less rearranging (in theory), since the chapters are already in more-or-less the order they’re going to stay in.
Hopefully things continue to flow well throughout the rest of NaNoWriMo. And if you’re also writing a novel this month, good luck, and may the continuity be ever in your favor.
#NaNoWriMo is here. We’re going into Day 9. Words are happening.
I’ve written before about the Midnight Disease. I have it. It’s obsession. Insomnia. Mania. Ever have a book that was so good, you just couldn’t put it down? You had to keep reading until you found out how it ended? I’m that way right now, but with the writing.
Here’s my progress so far:
I’ve written more in the first eight days than I did for the entire month in 2012, when I was working on the first draft of Manifestation. I’m about as far now as I was 14 days into NaNoWriMo in 2013. I’ve had multiple days, including today, where I wrote over 10,000 words in a day.
The characters are a lot of fun. If you’ve read Manifestation, you’ll be familiar with some of these characters, particularly Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah. But there’s some new characters as well, like Jaden Farrell, my telepath. She’s a very different type of character to write. As a telepath, she’s very in-tune with other people’s thoughts and emotions. Her ability to contact people across distances with her telepathy allows me to bring distant characters into the same scene, without needing to use scene breaks to move back and forth between locations. It’s also interesting to explore telepathy as a type of magic. Magic is a very big part of my series, and each character’s abilities are unique. I’m having a lot of fun considering how a telepath will use her powers to overcome various obstacles, such as evading enemies, defending against magical attacks, or defeating magically animated living war machines.
I’ve also got another new character, Aeldra Dekara, the druid. I’ve mentioned her on the blog before, because she was in book five, Possession. I haven’t even gotten the chance to really delve into her capabilities yet, because my plans for her come into play in the second half of the book. But she’ll have a whole new set of magic to explore, melding healing powers, plant manipulation, earth magic, and cybernetic capabilities. She’s extremely versatile and has the potential to become quite powerful. She’s also a blast to write because she has a snarky attitude and she won’t take shit from anyone.
I don’t know quite what will happen in the next few days. If I keep going at my current rate, I might finish this book by around November 20th. Or I might crash and burn. Either way, it should be fun, right?
If you’re also working on #NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck. But I don’t recommend staying up all night in a daze, writing until you drop. It’s neither healthy nor wise. But I’ve never claimed to be wise.
I’ll give you a moment to freak out about that, then we can continue.
. . .
This will be my third year doing NaNoWriMo (you can see my profile (and add me as a buddy!) on my NaNoWriMo author page). The first year, I was working on Manifestation, which (as evidenced by the link I just slipped in there) is now a published novel. The second year I was working on the sequels, Contamination and Collapse. This year, I’m working on the sixth volume of Arcana Revived. And I’d like to talk a bit about word counts, including how my NaNoWriMo word counts have improved over the years and how each novel’s word count can shift drastically during revisions with expansions and cuts.
My first year, I was what NaNoWriMo refers to as a “rebel.” See, the “official” rules for NaNoWriMo say that you start writing on November 1st, finish by November 30th, and confine all your writing into that time period. But I had already started Manifestation in September of 2012. I ended up writing the required 50,000 words (actually, 53,552) during NaNoWriMo that year, but I wrote most of the novel during September, October, and a little bit of December. The first draft of Manifestation was 123,139 words, so it was definitely more than I had to write all in November in order to “win” NaNoWriMo.
My second year, I was a rebel again. I started Contamination early in 2013, and by the time NaNoWriMo arrived, I had about 40,000 words written. I ended up finishing the novel in the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo, writing another 80,000 words. Then, since it was still NaNo time, I dove straight into Volume Three, Collapse. I wrote about half of Collapse during NaNo, then finished it in December. All together, I wrote 141,151 words for NaNoWriMo 2013, about 80k on Contamination and 60k on Collapse. A vast improvement over my previous year. (Though I ended up with a bit of NaNoWriMo Burnout at the end).
This year, I’m starting (almost) from scratch. I’ve got 7100 words written on Volume Six, and the only reason I did those was because I’m writing this novel as part of my Rowan University Master’s in Writing Thesis Project. To meet class-imposed deadlines, I had to write the first three chapters. But I’ve been avoiding writing anything else until *checks clock* about 23 hours and 37 minutes from the time I’m writing this.
My “goal” this month is 150,000 words. Part of that is because I want to surpass last year’s 141k. And part of it is that I’m expecting this book to be the longest one yet, so I’m aiming high. It comes out to 5000 words per day, and my Writing Calendar (an idea I stole from Victoria Schwab) is set up with daily totals listed so I can keep track. If things go according to plan, this will be the first year I write a WHOLE novel (give or take that first 7100 words) all in November. No starting a month beforehand, no finishing in December. Just doing it all in one mad rush.
But aside from the number of words I’ll write in NaNoWriMo, there’s another thing I need to consider: how my word counts fluctuate during revisions.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King said that when he revises, he aims to cut unnecessary words (particularly adverbs) and to tighten up descriptions and prose. He says his formula is “Second Draft = First Draft -10%.” It’s a good bit of writing advice . . . that just does not match up with how I work at all.
See, the first draft of Manifestation was 123,139 words, but the next draft ballooned up to a whopping 139,023 words. Why? Well, for one thing, I was adding new scenes to fill in plot holes, flesh out minor characters who hadn’t gotten enough development, and build up certain themes and foreshadowing more. For another, I find that I tend to not be as descriptive as I should in a first draft (something I’ve mentioned on the blog recently). The same thing is happening with Contamination as I revise it now; the first draft was 123,559 words, and it’s currently sitting at 133,343 (and I have at least two more whole chapters to add to fill in some stuff that’s missing).
Now, I DO end up cutting later on. I cut about 60,000 words from Manifestation, added about another 20,000 back in with new scenes, and the final, published novel ended up sitting at 100,180 words (and a bit less than that, really, since that number includes the copyright page and the About the Author section). So draft three of Contamination will probably slim down, after I fatten it up during draft two. And Volume Six, despite my 150,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo, will probably end up smaller than that in the long run.
So, hopefully I can write 5000 words per day for all of NaNoWriMo, even if some of those words don’t make the final cut. And if, like last year, I finish the novel before November 30th . . . well, maybe I’ll start writing the seventh book (which will actually be Volume One of a new series, tentatively titled Arcana Revived: The Dark Ages).
I hope you’ll be joining me in writing like a crazy person, or at least in cheering me on and making sure I don’t completely lose my mind. Cause the madness starts in . . . *checks time* crap, 29 hours and 12 minutes.