Writing Wednesday: NaNo Is Coming

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching!  With only half of October left, I’m getting ready for November’s writing in earnest now.  I’m set up on the NaNoWriMo website (add me as a writing buddy, if you’re writing too!) and am putting the pieces together to be ready to go on my next project, The Princess Beyond the Thorns.

I already have 35,000 words written for this project, but those words are in a somewhat complicated shape.  I essentially wrote two novellas some months ago, which are now Parts One and Two of the planned novel.  I revised Part One before my September writing retreat, but I still need to finish revising Part Two, so that everything is lined up and sorted before I dive in to completing the novel for NaNoWriMo.

I’ve already gone through Part Two and determined where I need to add a chapter or reorient an existing one.  The biggest changes I need to make are to bring Terrence’s perspective in (because the original version was all Rose, and now I want it split more evenly between them!) and to add in details and context that weren’t important when this was a smaller piece.  So I need to rewrite around three chapters to put them from Terrence’s point of view, and add in about six more (mostly Terrence, but there’s some extra Rose stuff I need too).  Plus do any revision on the remaining, less heavily to-be-altered chapters.

As I calculate it, if I take care of one chapter per day, that will get it all done before NaNo starts (with three days to spare).  And if that turns out not to be feasible, there are less significant changes in the final portions, so it won’t be too big a crisis as long as I get most of the way through.

We’ll see how that all goes…  In the meantime, here’s a bit I expanded in a Rose chapter, now that I have a better sense of her character growth over the span of the novel.

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Instinctively, automatically, she reached out for Terrence’s hand again.  She had known they’d be separated eventually, but she still wasn’t ready for that, not yet.  Only after their fingers were entwined did it occur to her that the entire room, and the king, had seen that gesture, had seen her reach for Terrence.  What would they read in it?

Without even looking at her, Terrence’s fingers tightened around hers and he said evenly, “I’ll show Princess Rose to her new rooms.”

A longer look from the king this time, and did she hear a faint murmur in the crowd?  But finally the king said, “My youngest son has grown suddenly bold.  How…remarkable.”  He turned away, to return to his throne, everything in the movement speaking of dismissal.  “Very well then.  I expect to meet with you directly after.  We have much to discuss.”

For just a moment, this felt like a solution.  And then some little part of Rose rebelled, maybe the same part that had been so angry when she thought she was going to die.  Because this was a solution, but it was a dismissal too, and she didn’t want to be that girl anymore, the one she had been in the before time.  The girl who was sent off into another room while the men discussed important things.  While they discussed her.  And if she had just showed the king and all his court that she couldn’t stand without Terrence next to her—it felt suddenly as though, if she didn’t make some kind of gesture right now, right at the beginning, she would never be anything more than she had been.

Squeezing Terrence’s hand, wanting him to know she wasn’t exactly rejecting his effort to help, she very carefully, very clearly said, “I appreciate Prince Terrence’s kind offer, but I would like to attend that meeting.  To discuss my return to court.”

This prompted a louder murmur among the crowd, and the king stopped a step away from his throne.  He turned very slowly back around to look at her, eyes narrowing.

Writing Wednesday: Plans Revisited

Before I went on a writing retreat in mid-September, I put up a list of writing goals.  I didn’t get to most of them on retreat, but I’ve been working away at projects since then.  I thought it might be fun (and good for me to keep things straight!) to come back and see where projects stand now.

Here was the list…

  1. Finish revising Guardian III for beta-readers – I completed this on retreat, my main goal!
  2. Guardian II revisions based on second-round beta reader feedback – This got done as my first project when I came back.
  3. Guardian I revisions based on read-aloud review – I started this on retreat, and finished it within a few days after.
  4. First-round revisions for Thorns I, Part Two – This is my next project, and planned focus throughout October!
  5. Beta-read a friend’s novel (due by mid-October) – I sent this off to her at the end of September.
  6. NaNoWriMo prep for Thorns I, Part Three – Closely related to #4, this is my other October focus, especially as NaNoWriMo gets closer.
  7. Continue drafting short stories for planned “Bookstore Anthology” – My main project of late September, I made some good progress on my story of a ballerina falling into Leroux’s Phantom.
  8. Stonehenge Circle Writers’ biweekly blog prompt short story – Well, this is ongoing…

So that’s five out of eight complete, which is a nice feeling.  I don’t usually have quite this many things going all at once in different stages. 😀  It’s been interesting, but I’m looking forward to being more focused again…

Writing Wednesday: Plans Abound

I finished (!) my big, complicated revision pass through Guardian III last week, and started again the next day in Chapter One.  Happily, this simpler revision pass is going even faster than I expected—always a pleasant surprise when that happens.

My goal was to finish revisions to prepare the book for beta-readers by the end of this weekend.  The tight timeline seemed doable originally because I am going on the Stonehenge Circle Writers annual retreat this weekend.  We get together Thursday to Sunday, do writing workshops and spend a lot of time writing.

Now that Guardian III is going even faster than I expected, I’ve started thinking about other projects to work on during the retreat.  I have an…ambitious list.

1) Finish revising Guardian III for beta-readers
2) Guardian II revisions based on second-round beta reader feedback
3) Guardian I revisions based on read-aloud review
4) First-round revisions for Thorns I, Part Two
5) Beta-read a friend’s novel (due by mid-October)
6) NaNoWriMo prep for Thorns I, Part Three
7) Continue drafting short stories for planned “Bookstore Anthology”
8) Stonehenge Circle Writers’ biweekly blog prompt short story

I know I won’t do ALL of it…but it’s nice to have plans!  Realistically, I’ll be happy if I complete 1 and start 2, I’ll probably do some of 5 for a change of pace, and I may do some work on 7 or 8 as a different kind of change of pace.  We’ll see what develops.

Writing Wednesday: Closing Things Out

I’ve been working my way through Guardian III for what feels like forever, but I’m so, so close to the end of my current pass-through (so I can start the next, hopefully much faster one!)  I’ve been expanding my final chapter, which was originally written on the last day of NaNoWriMo 2016; there was a definite element of, “just throw something down and finish.”  So there was some work to do!

In the biggest change, I added an extra scene that I should have realized I needed years ago.  But it’s there now, so beta-readers won’t yell at me 🙂 that a crucial moment is missing.

For people who like to read the end of a book first, here’s just a glimpse of that newly added, nearly at the end scene.

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He stood on the stage of the Opera Garnier, the largest stage in Europe, and looked out over the rows and rows of empty seats.  They were barely visible in the shadows, with only a few safety lights burning.  It was still dark outside, though no light ever penetrated here anyway, and it was quiet in the Opera.  His mind filled in what his eyes couldn’t see in the dim light—the glowing red velvet of the seats, the gleaming gold of the decorations, the glittering, newly-hung chandelier hanging above, the sun in the sky of the Opera.

Writing Wednesday: Worldbuilding and Mythology-Making

I’ve been working on Phantom revisions and Princess Beyond the Thorns planning concurrently for the last few weeks.  I’m more than halfway through this pass of Guardian of the Opera, Book Three, and I’m nearly done with character creation for my next project.  I’ve recently turned to worldbuilding instead, figuring out the fantasy world this new book is set in.  It’s separate from my Beyond the Tales series, so it calls for entirely new decisions!

I got surprisingly far into the process before I realized there ought to be a pantheon of gods specific to this world–something that wasn’t in my previous fantasy series at all.  I worked out a handful of major gods (although they all still need names!) and the last bit of character-building I’m doing is deciding who (and how) each character worships.

Here’s my initial notes on the major gods, though it may change as I write…

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There is a pantheon of major gods, and a large number of small, local gods identified with places. Gods are not considered to have a fixed gender; people will regard any god by whatever gender feels most approachable/comfortable to the individual. Tendencies shift in different areas and over different eras. The major guilds generally have a chosen patron god, and many people have one they most connect to, but this is nonexclusive. Even priests/priestesses of a particular god may occasionally worship another. People usually have statues or emblems of their chosen god. Small villages will have a chapel suitable for all the gods, including the local one. Larger towns and cities will have temples specific to each major god. The major gods are:

  • God of Passion (Love and War) – worshiped by warriors and the current monarchy; also presides over weddings
  • God of the Sea – the most changeable god – worshiped by sailors, fishers
  • God of the Hearth – most popular among the common folk, especially anyone dealing with food
  • God of the Arts – many of the major guilds
  • God of Wisdom – the rest of the major guilds
  • The Traveler God – popular amongst misfits and outcasts
  • The Veiled God – followed by dark enchanters

Writing Wednesday: Character Trauma

I stepped away from revising for the last few days, to work on building and exploring characters for the novel I plan to write for NaNoWriMo come November.  I plan to expand on the two short stories I wrote earlier in the year, about the Princess Behind the Thorns.

I’ve been delving into the backstories, and particularly the terrible childhoods, of my two protagonists, Princess Rose Amelia and Prince Terrence.  As I explored Terrence’s past, I was inspired for a prequel short story to illuminate some of the ideas I was having.

I ended up writing a 4,000 word short story Sunday afternoon, a darker and grimmer story than I usually write.  And it strikes me that probably only writers understand the particular thrill of thinking, ooh, here’s a really terrible thing I can do to this character I love!

I’ll spare you the grimmest moments, and give you an excerpt from the comparatively positive aftermath.

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His mother still looked pale, after it was all done, and he was stretched on his stomach on the couch in her room.  The cool cloth she pressed to his bared back helped with the pain, but not the guilt.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” he said, scrubbing at his damp eyes with one hand.  “I’ll be stronger next time.”

That was what his father wanted.  To make him stronger, to make him a proper prince who could be a proper leader some day.  It was his own fault he kept failing.

His mother sighed, and ran her fingers lightly through his rumpled hair.  “You are perfect, my Terrence.  You are kind and sweet and good, and don’t ever, ever change.”

It was nice his mother thought that.  But of course he knew there were lots of things wrong with him.

His mother’s door banged open and Elena rushed in like a windstorm.  “I brought the turmeric for the tea, Aunt Lillian,” she announced, dropped her bundle on the table and came over to inspect Terrence.  “How bad is it this time?  Ow—pretty awful.”

“It’s not that bad,” Terrence said, though he didn’t expect Elena to be sad about it like his mother was.

Elena was his cousin, his mother’s niece, and two years older than him.  She had lived at the castle most of her life, since her parents’ deaths, and at fifteen she considered herself quite the adult.  She was far more likely to get angry than to cry about anything.

Sure enough, she launched straight into a sort of combined scolding and consoling.  “It is too that bad, and it never should have happened at all.”

“I shouldn’t have—”

Your father shouldn’t have beaten you for losing a footrace against the servants!  Of all the ridiculous—I’d like to get a belt and—”

Elena,” Queen Lillian said sharply.  “Do not speak ill of the king.”

“I know, I know,” Elena said, plopping down in a puff of skirts to sit on the ground next to the couch.  “I didn’t say I would.  I’d just like to do…something.”

Despite the pain in his back, Terrence smiled into the couch cushion.  It was very Elena.  And he liked when he could be with his two favorite people, even if this was a bad reason for it.  He liked looking at them together, both small, both with perfectly straight brown hair and the same blue eyes.  He wished he looked more like his mother but, like all three of his brothers, he took after his father, with curly hair and dark eyes.

Writing Wednesday: Trust and Arguments

I did heavy revisions on another scene for my Phantom novel today.  Like some I revised a few weeks ago, I wrote this one early in the process of writing the trilogy, although I’ve been able to keep most of it as it was.

Even after years of working with these characters, they still surprise me sometimes.  In this scene, Erik and Meg have the kind of argument that starts about one thing and turns into something else, and probably is really about a third thing entirely.  The funny part is, I don’t think I properly realized until I revised it this week that it’s actually about trust.  At least, that’s a bigger part of it than I realized–along with two or three other things!

As I reworked the scene, some of the original lines of dialogue just didn’t ring right anymore…and pretty soon Meg was coming out with new things I hadn’t quite known frustrated her.

Erik, obviously, was even more unaware than I was.

Here’s an excerpt. 🙂

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“Did you trust Christine?”  I demanded, a question I had never dared even think let alone ask, but that I had always, always wanted to know.  “More than you trust me?  Because you obviously don’t trust me.  Not enough to tell me your plan when the mob was coming, or to tell me you were still alive, or to believe the best of me when you overheard something that sounded bad.  You’ve never even told me what happened when Christine left, and I trust you enough to ignore all the stories saying you killed her!”

“Stop saying her name!”

That was the important part in what I had said?  That was the only part he heard?  Anger that had started red hot had turned into a cold fury that was even harder to control.  “I am not Christine,” I said, my voice seeming to come from outside of myself, even and steady.  “I don’t sing like Christine, and I’m not as beautiful as Christine, and I would never betray you like Christine.”