Thursday, June 28, 2007

What Dreams May Come

Had a fascinating dream last night that gave me the change in story direction I needed to get Hacker Dragon back on track. I was writing, but it was slow as molasses... and then I came up with the next twist to get it moving again.

I get a lot of material from dreams. I have very brilliant, colorful, vivid dreams. Sometimes very strange ones, at that. I've got another tale in the works, a seed of an idea that is germinating as we speak. It came straight out of a very bizarre dream involving a blue dragon, hiding in a mudslide, and a strange post-war environment of refugees. I've now got a tale in my head that tells the story of an amnesiac sniper who must discover his identity... all the while he is now working against the people he used to work for.

I don't know where it's going, but I do know what the final confrontation will look like.

Dreams are a fertile source of ideas for me. I was trained very early in life to remember my dreams, and I've gotten quite good at it. I usually lose a little of the "feel" of a dream, but I do remember most of them. Enough to build my stories on. I also tend to work out nasty plot knots as I lie in bed, trying to fall asleep. Given that it generally takes me at least an hour to fall asleep (sometimes longer), that's usually a lot of very focused concentration. Which usually leads to more dreams, more ideas, and I literally work out my novel's problems while I dream.

It's a good system, and works for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Obsession and time

I hear about this sort of thing a lot, especially on the NaNoWriMo forums. Someone will talk about a story that they've been writing for years, often five or more. You'll hear about a book that took seven years to write, and now the writer is trying to find (unsuccessfully) representation for it. Justine Larbalestier wrote of one such who is so defensive about their magnum opus that they literally will NOT ever accept any criticism, positive or negative, regarding their work. They still have no representation.

Part of being a writer is learning that no matter how wonderful you think a scene, a character, or even an entire novel is... that other people can and probably will think differently. When you invest so much of your life and heart into one work, you literally become unable to separate yourself from it in any useful fashion. I see truly talented writers get lost in a sea of obsession over a single piece, a single character. I've seen good novels go in the toilet because of a single scene that detracted from the meaning, but the writer was too invested in it to cut it.

Being a writer, a successful one anyway, means being able to step back and look at your work objectively.

Not only that, if you spend all your time and effort on one tale, your other tales get lost by the wayside. When and if you finally get published, your agent and your publisher aren't going to want you to stop there. They'll want you to keep writing, because that's what a career is: writing books. Plural. So if you've spent all your life writing one, you're not going to really KNOW how to write the next.

All writers need distance from their work in order to really be able to improve it. I spent five years away from Nightblade's Fury. That was probably longer than I should have gone, but my life was tumultuous. When I did finally pick it back up, I was able to read it with fresh eyes. If I couldn't see where something was going, I knew that my readers certainly wouldn't be able to. It gave me perspective, and I was able to whip out my red pen and brutalize it.

Here's what my novel looked like when I picked it up after five years and started reading:

2576 x 1932 (807 kb)

Do you really think I would have been that brutal with it right after I was done with the first draft? I cut whole chapters... probably half the novel, lost to the red pen. But when the chaff was gone, I had wheat. And I had a product that I was actually not ashamed to show to others. It's not perfect, and still needs a lot of work, but I think that the end result will be great, and salable. But I won't stop there; in fact, even though I'm not done with this one, it's out of my hands, and I'm already working on the next project. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. Thanks to my completion of Nightblade's Fury, I've got motivation to really work on other things... I want a backlist of novels to submit. When Nightblade goes out to the agents? I'm going to keep writing. Because it may not get accepted, no matter how great I think it is. I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The most dreaded question

We've all got one. The one that is asked when people find out you are/have writing/written a book. It's the one that makes us cringe, and makes us wish we were elsewhere. The one that makes us wish we'd never brought it up in the first place.


"So what's your book about?"

It's exponentially worse when you know the person you're talking to doesn't read the genre you've written in. Exponentially worse than that is when the person you're talking to doesn't even really read at all.

And if you write fantasy like me? Well, might as well just go ahead and take off your hat and take the shame like a man. Err, woman. Because even science fiction gets more respect than fantasy.

My mother broke my heart the other day when she said "Why don't you write something other than that fantasy stuff? Like something about your dad."

Mom, I love you (And I can say this because I know she'll never read this), but no one wants to read about my dad. He was an amazing man... but his story is not remarkable, and it's unlikely it would ever sell. Not as a debut novel, anyway. I'll think about it one day, but I prefer my life to stay out of my writing, at least on the surface.

When I mention that my current work in progress is about an assassin hunting for a demon, I can see their eyes glaze over. They don't get it. And usually, they spout out the usual "I keep meaning to write a book one day." No one ever says "I keep meaning to paint a portrait one day."

There's always this sense that writing isn't a difficult art, that anyone can do it, regardless of actual writing ability, and regardless of the fact that they've never written a word that wasn't for a grade in their lives. And they always think their life story would be interesting to someone else.

But that's a rant for another day.

So tell me, dear readers. What is your most dreaded question?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

You know, it's funny

When you finish a novel, I mean really finish it to the point where no more changes can be made before you send it off to the printer (for the critique group, in my case... I don't do that self-publishing crap), its a strange feeling. I'm done, and have been working frantically to BE done for the last week, but now, I really am. No more changes before handing it off to someone to be READ.

It's scary, exhilarating, and now I'm feeling a little bereft. Now don't get me wrong, I still have plenty of other projects to work on, including one I just started typing up a few minutes ago. It's just that this one has been taking up so much of my mind that it's weird to not be worrying over it.

And it also energizes me to want to finish ANOTHER project. It feels really good to finally be done.

I mean, I've written novels before, but never for someone else to critique, and this is a big step towards publication. It feels good to have a 'finished' product that I'm not too shy to hand to someone else to read!

Final word count: 60,546
Final Page Count: 220

It feels right, lengthwise. Lean and mean, with few frills. I like it. I was shooting for around 80k, but to make it larger at this point will be adding unnecessary bloat. It's possible that post-critique it will make it to that size, but for now, I'm pleased.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Nightblade draft 2 is complete. A very un-impressive 57k.

However, I've got some major theme reworking to do, and hopefully I can up that a good 20k. I'm about to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and give it some real depth.

Feels good to be finally in possession of a complete manuscript, though, however rough it may be. Here's to the bubbly. And since I don't have any champagne, I'll break out a bottle of Smirnoff Triple Black.

I'll save the champagne for the final manuscript.