"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."
-Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Isaiah, 2YN Week Four: Goals and Conflict

This assignment was easy for me, as well. I knew what the primary conflict of the story was going to be from the beginning, and since the type of story I decided to write fit most closely with that original concept, I didn't have to change it. Choosing the conflicts was a bit harder, and defining them well enough to put them into a concise sentence was the real challenge. I finally have something I'm happy with, though, and I'm very pleased that I've done two assignments in two days, without feeling like I'm doing a half-arsed job on them.

The assignment is posted here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/36328.html. I also included something Zette did herself in this chapter, but which wasn't part of the assignment. It was a basic, three part structure (beginning, middle and end.)

While thinking conflicts out, though, I also jotted down a preliminary timeline so that I could see what I thought would happen when. That's available here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/36570.html

This assignment made me realise something else, though, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I write primarily fantasy, which tends to have larger-than-life conflicts. The world is almost always at risk. And I really like that about fantasy. I enjoy reading it, and I enjoy writing it. But repeatedly in my own work, the threat to the world seems like it's always secondary, a MacGuffin. It looks important, but really what matters is the internal conflict of the main character. For example, in this story I'm still not sure who the antagonist is or what's going to be happening (other than in my character's head) at the climax of the book, but it doesn't seem to matter. All that stuff is, really, is a catalyst for the change of the main character, which is the real point. It's like I'm writing introspective fiction disguised as action stories.

Maybe that's just what "character-driven" means. I know I prefer to read stories where what happens to the character is the most important part. While I enjoy plot-driven stories sometimes, if the character's essentially the same, inside, at the end as the beginning I usually don't feel very satisfied. But I worry - does this mean that I don't have enough plot? Am I getting lazy and just not developing the action enough and it really should matter? Am I using this as an excuse for vagueness?

I don't know how to answer these questions. A good story, well edited, makes the events it contains look inevitable. Perhaps it's okay to be unsure at this point, and for the external action to follow the internal action in my mind. These are the kinds of questions and realisations that I was hoping this whole project would bring up, so I'll just be aware of it for now and see where the future exercises take me.

Isaiah, 2YN Week Three: Theme

This one was easy for me. I love working with theme, and that's often one of the first things, after character, that comes to me. It's the touchstone I use throughout the writing process, and it's just naturally the way I think about what I write.

I didn't already have a theme for Isaiah, but it didn't take more than a few hours of brainstorming to come up with one I like, and that I think works with the plot elements, tone and characters I already have. Which is good - I really don't want this to actually take the whole two years!

So, my theme, in one word, is Faith.
Expanded: Faith is the gateway to the extraordinary.

Edit: Before anyone thinks I'm writing a scary religious book, by "faith" I don't mean religion but the basis of religion - a combination of belief and trust. You can have faith in anything.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Isaiah, 2YN Week Two: Genre

Though making these kind of big-picture kind of decisions at the beginning of the process has been difficult for me and felt a bit unnatural at first, I think I'm learning to really like the idea. Taking the time to answer these questions - "What's your idea?", "What kind of book are you writing?", "What do you want to say?" - at the beginning, thoughtfully and thoroughly, is making me really analyse things and not just run ahead with an idea that's not as clear as I think it is. I think I'll be able to write a much stronger book because of it.

Asking for other people's opinions on my assorted summaries was an interesting experience. There was no consensus as to which type of story was the best or mose intriguing - in fact, I got one vote for each before I started to get any repeats. So there was no obvious answer, but everyone's reasons why they liked the ones they did, and their suggestions, were very helpful. In the end, #1 won with 3 votes. I was pleased with this because, based on other comments and my own ruminations, I had pretty much decided to go that route anyway, at least in tone and theme, while still pulling plot elements from some of the other summaries.

So - my genre will be urban fantasy, using magical elements such as shapechanging and vampirism in modern Reno. My tone/subgenre will be mythical.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Today was writers' group day, and since our usual planner couldn't make it to the evening group I volunteered to bring an exercise to share. What I decided was to have everyone try writing a pantoum.

A pantoum is based on a form of folk poem from Malay. It doesn't have a metre or a rhyme scheme, but rather uses repetition to give itself form. It is made up of quatrains, and the even numbered lines from each quatrain (the 2nd and 4th) are repeated as the odd numbered lines in the next quatrain. So the structure of line repetition (each number representing a new line) looks like this: 1-2-3-4, 2-5-4-6, 5-7-6-8, 7-9-8-10, 9-11-10-12, 11-3-12-1. As you can see, in the final stanza the even numbered lines repeat from the first stanza, making the final line of the poem the same as the first line of the poem.

They're actually much easier to write (and to read) than they are to explain. The ideal result is that each line should take on a new meaning when it's repeated, because of context, though the words remain identical. And the first & last line should be the most transformed, because of the shift in perspective over the course of the poem.

The folks at the group were unsure, to say the least, when I introduced the idea tonight. However, by the end, everyone had produced three poems they were at least interested in, and seemed to enjoy the potential of the verse form. I enjoy them because they allow you to play with the meaning and context of phrases, and the structure of the poem kind of inherently creates a feeling of importance and depth to the words - a cyclical, nearly mythical tone.

I've posted the three I wrote here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/35640.html.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One of Each, Please

So I finished my summaries, one for each type of urban fantasy I could think of. The only problem? I like them all, and I want to write them all. :) I'm letting them percolate, but I'm also curious to see what you lot think. Let me know which one or ones are your favourites, and, if you like, why.

Read here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/35581.html

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Exploring Possibilities

So this week's assignment for the 2YN plan is to determine the genre & subgenre of your story. I know mine's urban fantasy - that's been clear to me from the first blush of the idea - but to me that doesn't narrow it down enough. Should it be truly fantastical - almost mythical - in the style of Charles DeLint or Jane Lindskold's Changer? Should it me more like a harboiled mystery, like Tanya Huff's Blood Ties series? Should it be dark, nearly horror, like her Smoke series? Should it be lighthearted and romantic, like Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries series? Or could I shift the whole thing and make it science fiction, instead?

This had me completely stumped. How the heck should I know? I thought about it for ages (I actually started down this path during the last assignment, while trying to figure out the central conflict, so I was a bit dismayed to find out that this was the next task.) To me deciding what type of novel I wanted to write - genre and theme and plot - was all one huge dilemma, and I couldn't find any loose threads with which to start unravelling the knot. All of the options had potential, and none of them felt exactly right.

Finally I decided that what I needed to do was actually explore all of these possibilities rather than trying to decide which one was the perfect version of the story before moving on. So I'm writing a summary of the story specific to each - what? sub-sub-genre? tone? I'll just go with type - type of story and, at the end, I'll decide which one looks best or like the most interesting to write. It's actually going really well and it's a lot of fun.

This idea is probably ridiculously obvious to those of you who plot ahead of time, but it's kind of news to me. :) I guess that's why I'm doing this whole Isaiah exercise.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Note on E-Piracy and The Two-Year Novel

Looking over my blog, DaWG M just remarked that by talking about borrowing a copy of The Two-Year Novel from DaWG S I'm advertising that we violated the terms of sale and have committed piracy. Just in case anyone else is concerned about this, I'd like to clarify things.

This is not an illegal copy of the book. I am currently using the only extant copy of this ebook acquired through the original purchase. The terms of sale state "No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means..." We did not reproduce the book except, perhaps, in the most technical sense. DaWG S attached the book to an email to me and then deleted her copy. I will be returning it to her when I've had a chance to try it out for a bit - without keeping a copy - and, if I've found the book helpful, buying my own copy then.

I don't want to deprive anyone of the income they've earned by producing and selling a good product. However, money is tight for me, as well. I don't have the ready cash to purchase every ebook I think I would like or use. Trust me, I'd have a lot more books by now if I could. :) Though I enjoy the convenience of ebooks and am aware that it's the only cost-effective way for some books to get into print, I strongly believe that publishing in an electronic format should not make it illegal for readers to preview or borrow books.

I'm not doing anything unethical. Whether I'm doing anything illegal is up to Lazette Gifford - but I hope she'll at least email me before she sues.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Isaiah, 2YN Week One: Idea

Wow, two posts in one night? How'd I manage that? Head for the bunkers, folks, the world's obviously about to end.

This was a whole lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I thought I had a solid idea, but when I tried to put it into words it became painfully obvious that I only had half of an idea, at best. I didn't have a central conflict or even a clue what kind of novel I wanted to write. I mean, I knew it was a fantasy, but dark? Romantic? Mystical? Hardboiled? I had no idea. I spent days trying to come up with something - anything - that gave me some insight into the basics of what this novel was about.

In the end, though I made some progress, I'm still not really sure. But rather than get hung up on trying to figure the whole novel out right now (which this whole having a plan to follow for developing the book thing was supposed to avoid, anyway) I decided to keep the idea a little vague, still, and hope that future exercises will help me figure it out.

I'm not sure I'm completely happy with it, but it's a starting point. I've posted it here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/35247.html.

It's a private post - you will need a LiveJournal account and to be on my writing filter in order to see it. If you'd like to included on that filter, comment on my journal here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/35026.html and I'll add you.

Calgon, Take Me Away!

So today, after the second person nagged at me about doing this plotting exercise (Isaiah) instead of "finishing what you've already started" - and I almost bit their head off about it - I got to thinking.

I'm currently juggling six seperate jobs, though only three of them pay anything at the moment. Writing is one of them. But after I've spent all day focused on my other jobs, pounding out the stuff I have to do, I need writing to be a bit more of a fun time right now. And it's not like this project is completely self-indulgent - I am hoping to learn quite a bit from it. I'm almost done with my current freelance web design project and with my current software configuration project, and once those are over (provided I'm not too stressed over being broke to deal with anything else) I'll likely have a bit more energy for headway on my works in progress.

Until then I'm happy with escapism, thank you very much.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Isaiah, It's a Bit Early for Trouble, Innit?

So, the first step of the 2YN project is to come up with a sentence that describes the basic idea of your book, and then expand it into a 50 - 100 word paragraph. Every sample in the book is plot-based, and all I have so far is a character and a half and a vague scenario. And though I know it probably doesn't have to be a plot-based summary, "So there's this guy, and he meets this other person" just doesn't seem good enough somehow. :P So I'm trying to flesh it out a bit and come up with a general idea of what kind of book I want.

Which is all well and good, but in the middle of generating ideas for the plot I managed to question and possibly rearrange two major components of the parts I'd already decided on. Which, as I already mentioned, weren't exactly in abundance to begin with. Having since thought about it a bit more, I think I'm going to stay with my original idea for the characters (I was considering switching the genders of the two main characters) but an event I was assuming would occur long before the start of the book probably needs to happen during.

Anyway, all that and I'm still not sure what's actually going to happen in the book. I'm still hoping to have the assignment done by tomorrow sometime.

Creative Income

I've been reading a lot of books on writing lately (I rediscovered my local library) and doing some exercises. I think I've read too many in too short a time to really be able to review them, though. I got a book called A Passion for Narrative that I was hoping would give me a set of exercises that would help me develop Isaiah, but while the exercises were interesting and set up to fully develop a story, they required that one work with specific story elements rather than letting one develop one's own original work. When I mentioned that I was looking for a set of exercises that would help me develop a novel, DaWG S let me borrow her copy of The 2 Year Novel by Lazette Gifford. It looks good, so I'll be using that for awhile to see if it works for me.

I've been learning, though it's all still in the stage of bubbling around messily in my head rather than coalescing into anything I can express. Between BayCon and this I've really been focussed on absorption rather than production for the last month or so. I think I'm about ready to turn that around and start writing again.