Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Page One

I started Queen's Legacy today. Sure, I already set up the page on Monday with 'Chapter 1', but today was the first prose. Staring at that empty page, I understand the intimidation factor of it. So I just started typing. Well, not exactly. I did spend some time thinking about the first line. After that, I followed my outline for the action, and tried to keep it flowing. It's okay, I suppose, all 898 words of it (according to MS Word). I know it'll need revising, but I have a fine library of examples here at home to guide me, and there's no other way to do it. Write, revise, repeat. Let's have at it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Outline done!

The outline for Queen's Legacy is done! I've done a brief on every scene, so I have the framework I can wrap the prose around. Of course, like any plan, it's unlikely to survive three seconds contact, but at least I've got all the bases covered plotwise. I've got all the necessary characters involved, and I think the pacing should be good. We'll see as it becomes a full work.

However, as my reward, I get to play with some toy soldiers for a bit (translate: put together some warhammer models that have been lurking on the shelf for too long). That and a Terry Goodkind novel that's been whispering my name from the other end of the library for a few days now.

I'm taking a few days to relax the mind, and then dig right back in. I think I need to check the timeline for a few things, plus there are a few details I need to clean up. However, it's time to throw down and write the story. At this point, I can't prevent it from coming out. I couldn't quit if I wanted to. Whether or not it eventually reaches publication, I need to write the story. To get it out and on paper, make it as good as possible, then start the next one. I love the 'high' of creation.

Beyond that, writing is the only thing I've focused on for the past weeks. Damn it feels good to have the outline finished. I'm going to go revel in my personal glory.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Target acquired

I made my target last night. Even on a swimming lesson night. Felt pretty damn good. Broke through some scenes with serious confrontations, and I think they'll shape up nicely. It was just good to get the words down.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Missing Teeth

Well, I'd like to say my time spent not-blogging was spent writing, but having had all four wisdom teeth extracted last Tuesday, the past week or so has been a complete null-zone. Reading and recuperating, mostly. However, thanks to the benefits of codeine pain killers and anti-inflammatories, the time was not the agony I've heard described by others. In truth, the whole op was pretty simple from my perspective. They put me to sleep, I woke up, and it was all done.

However, back into the saddle now, and almost finished. For this year supposedly being the year of the first draft, I think I may have been optimistic. Real life, combined with a lack of discipline on my part, has slowed me down. Hmmm, discipline eh? Maybe I could get my wife some leather for Christmas...

Yeah, too much information. I'll just keep that thought for later.

However, I refuse to worry about setbacks, even self-imposed ones. I'd rather consider that I'm almost done the scene-by-scene outline, and ready to start some serious prose. Now I just have to buckle down and keep my ass in the chair and fingers to keyboard. I figured I'd do something I heard at Toronto Trek, where one of the other writers at the workshop puts on a tiara marked 'Diva' when it's her writing time, as a signal to her family to 'do not disturb.' Not certain I'm the tiara type, mostly as I have no matching purse, but a light I can turn on to indicate the same thing is an idea. Besides, it is an excuse to get one of those cool lighting dish lights. Mmmm... pretty lights.

Now I must interrupt this impressively boring diatribe to head off to swimming lessons for my daughter. Maybe I can borrow one of her tiaras until I get my light.

Then again, maybe not.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Been a while

Sweet mercy, has it really been since June that I've put anything up? Where did summer go? Much as I look forward to winter, it feels like the time just swooshed by (much like deadlines).

Almost finished the scene breakdowns. 'But that was supposed to happen ages ago.' you say. Yes, but as ever, my optimistic view of getting things done was destroyed by the arrival of our new daughter, in June. Thus, in my forgetting of how much work a newborn actually is, my timing is a bit off. Oh well, some things are worth shoving schedules around for. Nevertheless, I've almost broken the story down, and let me say, there are some pretty cool scenes I'm planning. Hopefully I can pull them off and get the impact I'm aiming for. It felt pretty good to get done what I have, actually, so I'm not too worked up over being behind.

Since I'm sneaking a post in at work on lunch, I shall leave you all to get back to work. However, more (and more regular) to follow.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Word Play

Have you ever noticed that some words are just plain, cooler than others? I don't mean their meaning or specificity, but rather just how they roll off the tongue, like a fine wine. For example, the word buccaneer. Honestly, just say that a few times, then throw some emphasis in, maybe an arrrh! or two. Doesn't that just conjure an image just from saying it?

Not that other words are boring, but let's face it, even the word word is a little dull. Not much you can do there. Doesn't change the use, or how important it is, but even some of the simplest words can just be thrown out there and sound so, well, cool.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Doubt demons and plasma guns!

Hello all, once again my rare wit graces these electrons. Mind you, rare seems to mean post frequency, rather than some level of genius, but I shall endeavour to maintain my own illusions. Helps keep up my (questionable) sanity.

On the writing front, I am continuing to churn away, though things such as real life continue to interfere. I've found that I can get through three or four scene outlines per evening, maybe a little more if I slide some in at lunch. Mind you, my scene outlines tend to run 1/4 to 1/2 page of longhand. It seems to get slower as I progress, while I double check things like timelines and past scenes to make sure everything is roughly in line. However, I can see the story take shape. I've already modified a few things. Mostly for timing. Amazing how you realize that certain events you thought were okay, move around dramatically (pun intended) when you start to detail things out. Little details, travel time, preparation, and that sense that your character just can't do something then, they have to wait, yet they're bound an determined to do it anyway!


On the bright side, it feels good that the characters are coming alive. They're starting to emerge from the page and become more real. The down side; the usual demons are stalking. Mostly the doubt demons. You know the ones, they whisper at you "why are you bothering, who would read this tripe" "that's so unoriginal it doesn't even qualify as boring" and that sort of stuff.

Fortunately I keep my mental plasma pistol handy. You just can't have too much plasma!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Outside in

I just read a great book by Dave Duncan, who is one of my favourite authors. Another in the 'King's Blades' series, Paragon Lost. As with the others, he weaves a rollicking good tale, best read to soundtracks like Three Musketeers, Dragonheart and The Mask of Zorro. One thing that hit me while I was reading it, is that the entire book is written in third person limited point of view, using everyone except the main character! (At least, I don't remember many scenes from the MC's PoV) When I realized this, the writing took on a new level of interesting, in that I was impressed by the way he handled it. You almost wouldn't notice if you weren't looking, but lately I find I try to turn a critical eye to the books I read, if for no other reason that to add to my own knowledge of technique. At any rate, the book was good, and his use of PoV was just cool.

It goes to show, even while writing, keep reading, in and out of your genre. Everything going in will coalesce into that mystical concoction known as your own technique.

As for my own work, I've been letting life and work stand in the way too often. Must work on that. However, I'm still pounding away at my scene-by-scene breakdown, and the story is coming together. I think I'm heading for a bit of muddle in the early middle (say that a few times fast, I dare ya!), but we'll see. Nothing the revision can't smooth over, at least with a thick, red sharpie!

The one advantage to having a love of writing certain things by hand (there's just something about pen to paper, which I've gone on about before), is that you can't run out of power. Taking everything camping was great, save the cold last weekend. We took Friday and Tuesday off (Monday was a holiday here in Ontario) to get a camping getaway. Weather called for 8-16 degrees C all weekend, with a bit of rain. Hah! More like high of 8, with rain every night! Still, the days were nice, we got in some hikes, and kept the fire going when the rain wasn't coming down. That and turned on the heat in the tent trailer for the first time. Cold weekend, I tell you. It's May, so you always expect to have long shirts, short shirts, pants, shorts in any combination, but all three at once was a bit much. Always an adventure, which is why I love camping (car or backcountry, I'll take either).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Now we're getting somewhere. Once again, I am taking entirely long to post. *sigh* Much ado about the day job and all that. Plus I've been hovering around the next step in my writing, that of breaking down the scenes for the book. Not sure why, probably a mix of fear, uncertainty and a healthy dose of 'where do I start?' So I just started.

Right now I'm thinking one scene per chapter, but that's in the future, once the actual prose takes shape. For now it's just a somewhat arbitrary benchmark. I'm outlining in some detail (i.e. a paragraph or so) for each scene. The key for me is to do a few things:
1) outline the action - make sure it's not too much or too little, that the scene has purpose and moves at the right pace
2) maintain point of view - in the margin for each one, I outright state the PoV character. I even alter the way I outline to ensure I'm thinking from the mind of the right character.
3) establish some flow and get the story down in detail.

Granted, I could probably just jump into the prose and have at it, but I'm not like that. Maybe with more experience, but right now I want to make sure I get the story tight. Make sure I cover all the plots and subplots (or erase/chage them) that I listed in the overall plot breakdown. This way, each layer of the story becomes like building a structure. Start with the design itself. The world, the characters, you have to choose the right plans. Once you have that chosen, each layer gets closer to the actual prose.

The first layer is the basic story. What is going to happen, to who, and why. Kind of like the foundation. The next is the plot outline, where more details are thrown in and the whole thing subject to the 'does this make sense' check. This is the stud walls to hold the building up. After that, the scene-by-scene breakdown, so that I don't leave anything out or let any subplots get warped. This is the structural layer, and the final reality check. All the drywall, electrics and other necessary items. After that, each scene gets layered over with prose. This is like the drywall, paint, tiles, carpet and other tasty stuff.

Enough with the analogies, though. Right now this is the way I feel comfortable, my biggest concern is to get the story right. Even though the chances of my first one selling are grim, that's no excuse for not making it the best possible.

So that's my method right now. If anyone feels like sharing, please, share away in comments.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Story is Broken

I got the type-in done for the story breakdown. All those scribbles turned into an actual summary. Four pages, not bad. I have lots of extra ideas floating around, but for making the summary, I just kept it to the flow of the story, with the extra notes (e.g. a needed scene here, some background to flesh out there) written in as needed. All it is are some headers for each 'act' and a list of bullet points (in rough chronological order, sort of) of things that must happen, plus key scenes (where needed), and some other details.

Next is the breakdown of all the scenes. I may just type this one in, rather than handwrite first. It also depends on where I do it, as I'll take any level surface with a pad and pencil. I like to have control of the story, at least until some good ideas beat their way in and I have to include them. We'll see. For now, I'll stick to the plan.

I kept the summary to a five-act format that I tend to use for writing adventures and other things. Maybe I've just read too much Shakespeare, but the thought process of using 'acts' to break the story into manageable chunks seems to be working. I think of it like the film Star Wars IV: A New Hope, where you have the Tatooine section, the Death Star section and the final Space Battle section. Simplistic? Maybe. So far it's helping me frame the story and weed out weak portions or other inconsistencies or having the aliens arrive in chapter 14 (TM to Miss Snark for that one). that and the simple appearance of it belies the work involved to make the whole come together. It's that engineer thing. Start with the supports, the framework, then start laying in the electrics, the power transfer, then the inner and outer hull, etc.

Of course, all of this has raised more questions for world building, and I suspect there are some more secondary characters coming out of the woodwork somewhere in the middle, but that's all part of the fun. Those details can be cleaned up once the scenes are broken down.

Lots more to do, hopefully the trials of the day job will ease up a bit. A bit too much overtime lately has crimped the writing. Not only that, but were in a house crunch as well. With a baby on the way, that spare bedroom has to be cleared out and made ready. Since it's been a bit of a 'drop zone' while we worked on other areas of the house, it leads to the basement organization and that spills into the garage... well, you get the idea. It's been almost two years since moving in, and we still have a huge bunch of white walls. *sigh* All in due time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A small taste

What a great day yesterday. I felt like I had a taste of the life of a full-time writer. My company has a policy of giving everyone their birthday as a day off. Very nice. The best part was that I spent the bulk of the workday writing. Aside from a short jaunt to take the car for an oil change, as well as walking my daughter to and from school, I had the day to myself to get some work done.

And boy, did I get work done. I took the original plot outline, and basically tore it apart and reassembled it. Combining the ideas generated by creating my main cast of characters, plus assorted brainstorms, as well as reviewing and wondering "what did I mean there?" I think I've managed to refine and clean the whole storyline. Funny how a lot of thinking and work boils down to four or five pages of notes. Doesn't look like much, but it's the quality that counts here.

Next step: let it lie and tomorrow, give it another pass, just to be sure, and then type it in so I can back it up all over the place. That final look is what I call the 'morning after' check, when painting models. Sure, when you've been milking the muse until 3am to finish that Necron lord model, you go back the next morning and put it under some sunlight, and you find a spot you missed and a few highlights to fix. Then it's done. But I digress.

After I've got the outline done, my next goal is to get every scene plotted out. It sounds a bit crazy, and I know I won't get every scene down on the list, but I have found myself to be more of a structural writer, I like to keep control and know where the scene is going. That said, I'm not going to be chained to the outline, just need a roadmap of sorts.

Not much done today, though. Must remember the mistake in having a middle-of-the-week vacation day. The day job was insane today, which sapped all the energy, not to mention the overtime. Ah well, must pay bills and such (repeat as required).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Characters done

Yikes, I just realized it's been two months since I updated. (insert crickets chirping here)
I have duly entered in my palm to update once a week, because as you can tell my brain is obviously occupied with other, weighty matters. (read: just picked up SG-1 season 5 and is motoring through that and season 6) Well, that and chasing ski demos to test drive my shortlist of potential new skis (thanks to the Ski Canada magazine ski test for the initial data). When you've been on skis since the age of 3 (thus, almost 30 years for me), choosing the right pair of weapons in the fight against gravity is important. And you can feel the difference, at least at my level. Nothing matches the sublime bliss of the perfection created when muscle, gear and skill combine into one entity. Hard to explain, a thing of beauty to do.

Seriously, between actually working on Queen's Legacy and painting models for Astronomi-con, I've let it slide. For those that actually read my words, stay tuned, I'm here to stay. For those that don't, well, why not?!

On the writing front, as that was the original reason to jump into the blogosphere, I've finished all my character profiles. I went with a bunch of questions for all of them, and my 'A-list' is done. Those are the ones now with 5 page profiles of tasty information. I think I burned out a bit, as I used the same basic set of questions. On the upside, I think it added an additional dimension, as some questions force me to think of all those little human details I mentioned in an earlier post. On the downside, answering the same form for all sixteen major characters got tedious. Sometime later I'll post the basic set of questions so you can check them out (read: steal mercilessly!).

That, of course, highlighted certain discipline issues. Meaning: I need to sit down more consistently and apply ass to chair and fingers to keyboard (ATCFTK - the automotive engineer in me needs an acronym - attack f... nevermind). At least I can start kicking my butt now, rather than later.

This process also had the benefit of highlighting all kinds of details, such as the need for a timeline in the history leading up to this book, so everyone's ages and other events are straight. Detailing parts of the world so that background can be filled in, as well as tidbits like languages, calendars and certain uses of magic that I have to define in more detail.

My next goal is to flesh that stuff out (and follow the naturally occurring gaps and fill those in), then re-state the plot I came up with originally, and clean that up, then start breaking down the scenes. I know going in that I'm an outline writer. It's the way I write RPG adventures, and I just can't see traveling through the story without a roadmap. That said, it's all in pencil and the eraser's handy. If need be, the story can change to follow interesting paths, but I'm going to keep to the core story, at least for now.

This is the part I think I can be good at, and I'm looking forward to it. However, this week is all about taxes, some spring cleaning, and planning the yard and baby's room (she's due in June). Writing regularly will resume this weekend after I figure out CCRA's cut of the income.

I just have to find some time in between writing to keep painting my latest army for Warhammer 40, 000, to be done in time for Astronomi-con, in October. Yes, it sounds like a long time. However, at three days or so to do a tank, October can come quickly. My new army is an all-vehicle Imperial Guard force, with all tanks, transports and even an aircraft. I'll post photos as they get done.

Speaking of photos, there's an outdated meme (that's me, right on the latest trend!) about posting your workspace. I said I'd post mine (in the library), so watch for that soon.

Friday, January 13, 2006

On worlds, pen and paper

Got some background work done at lunch. Printed out a few character profiles to work on, so some good progress today. Of course, my brain couldn't help run amok asking all sorts of questions like what is the native fauna in my fantasy world? Why is it the same? Or not? What about languages? etc, etc, etc...

It brings up the question of whether those who write SF/F prefer to keep the creatures and such the same as Earth or different. Of course, if Earth is involved (and it is in my tale) then the question of why becomes trickier. I've seen both, in my readings, and both seem to work in those given books. It's a sticky dilemma, and I'm trying to determine the best way. Since Earth is present as a setting, as is my fantasy world, I'm not certain which way to go. On the one hand moving certain elements into the background (i.e. keep them the same/similar) should put the focus back onto the story, where it should be. On the other hand, it may take away from that 'suspension of disbelief' as a contrast of the new world to Earth. Hmmm. (Or, I could be worrying too much, I think I'll go back to the story/characters and just add this question to the 'open ideas' list.)

On another note, I find some of my best composing is done with nothing more interesting than a good pen/pencil and a nice, thick pad of paper. There's something about the unlimited possibilities of that paper and a pen wholly under my control that is... hard to describe. Then later I usually re-read and distill my notes for working up into a story, but there's still that magic of the pen. There's just something about that brain-to-hand that works for me. As teasing as all the new devices and software are, I always come back to the pen and paper. What does anyone else think?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Happy 2006

Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hannukah, and best wishes to whichever holiday you prefer. What the hell, happy all of them! I hope your holidays, however much you had, were wonderful.

For ourselves, we loaded up the truck and stayed with my parents from the 24th to the 26th and had a blast. Whenever you have a kid around at Christmas, it's infectuous. That and I got some really good warhammer in with my brother. Only appropriate, as his gift from me was a 4'x4' set of gaming boards.
(4pcs 2'x2' that fit together). The joys of styrofoam, glue and paint.

Granted, he kicked my butt across the scenery, but that's only appropriate as two years ago he made scenery boards for me, and I kicked his army across the table. Much fun.

So in the end, I haven't really disappeared. Between lurching from one crisis to another at work and the general madness of the holidays, my writing (and blogging about it) kind of ground to an almost-halt. *sigh*

Wah, wah, wah. Suck it up, bucko!

So, on the writing front, I'm still working through characters, though lately I've stopped obsessing about it and just 'done it.' While the details may get more or less sketchy, I've been attempting to get it done, and I can revise and tweak them as I have good ideas through the story. I've refocused on the real goal, which is to lay the foundation for the story. Just have to leave my perfectionist tendencies behind and allow that foundation to evolve, otherwise I'll never get started. Now I'm really feeling like Tina K. (one of my faithful readers - both of them! :-) ) did some time ago, as if I'll never get out of the gate.

Nevertheless, 2006 is the year of the Novel! Specifically, my novel, finished (first draft), and start the editing process. Beyond that, I'm not going to bite off more than I can chew, especially with the requirement of a day job (mortgage and all that).

On a side note, I have been gradually filing my stack of scene bits, ideas for the next book, and other tidbits, so at least I'm not totally idle. Just a bit unfocused. Now if only I wouldn't always be inspired in the truck, because attempting to take notes and driving does NOT work. I haven't tried, except to call my voicemail at work and leave my idea as a message. Otherwise I'll forget by the time I'm there.

On a second side note, many in the writing blogosphere have posted photos of their workspace. I must do this, as I'm happy to show off. Not so much the workspace, which is decent. More the library it sits in, as I'm awfully proud of that. One of the conditions for our new house was a library for me and a dining room/living room for my wife. Now I have a library, which has my office, reading chair and painting table all in one room. My sanctum against the madness of work and life. That and we painted it soon after moving in (new house = blank canvas!) because I was NOT going to put all the shelves together, fill them up, and then move them out again to paint. Not since I moved 24 boxes of my books up three floors (no elevator, 'cause I'm insane) moving into an apartment years ago do I want to needlessly move my book collection.

Now that I've rambled on and on (it does say 'ravings' at the top, so you were warned), I'll sign off and get back to the day job.