Friday, August 28, 2015

The Finish Line - Step One of Edits

I've been meaning to post for the last week and a half but I've been so busy with my manuscript, I keep forgetting.  The good news is, I'm looking at having the first draft done by Monday!!


It's been an odd experience from start to finish with this manuscript.  I've finished the first draft for four manuscripts before and only two of them are even halfway presentable.  One of those two is a 30,000 word novella which I wrote in three weeks two years ago and have never gotten back to.  The other two have long since found their way into my recycling bin, which is possibly too good of a place for them.  The fourth one, of course, is Only Human.

I've been working on Queen of Time since January 18, 2015 which is a long time for a first draft but considering I'm looking at an ending word count of 135,000, it's not too bad.  It's certainly the fastest I've ever written a novel, certainly one of this length.  Only Human was really long before edits for me and it was 115,000 words.  It also took me two and a half years to finish - the first draft.  In editing my 21,000 word chunk to send to my critique group this week, it's now down to 18,500 words so I'm guessing my bulky story will shrink down under the same process.

This year's writing experiences have been informative, painful, and roller coaster like.  I thought I had the story all figured out when I started and it's gone in so many directions I never could have predicted.  I've brought in characters I never cared to include but am now so attached to (i.e. Gawain) and gotten rid of characters I thought would be crucial to the story.  It's going to be a lot of work chipping it down and making a good story out of it but the gem is there.  Buried deep deep deep down where only a determined (and possibly crazy) author would go, but I believe in it.

After I finish on Monday, I'm going to print the whole thing out.  I bought myself a new notebook and a set of highlighters and I'll be setting to work on Friday.  I'm not going to chop it apart yet.  It's too soon at the end of a project.  On Friday, I'm taking it to a local outdoor mall and I'm going to read it in one sitting.  I have a notebook where I'll note all the plot holes/changes in plot I see being needed.  I have four different colored highlighters which I'll be marking different things with.  Orange will highlight sentences out of character, yellow for outdated or discontinued story lines, blue for awkward sentences, and red for repetitive words.  I'll mark that baby so much it will hardly be readable and then it will be going under my bed for a minimum of two weeks.  Enough time for me to detox, work on other projects, and forget about the problems in the book, for which there are many.  I've never really set aside my work for so long after writing the initial draft but I've always been tight on a self imposed deadly.  I'm changing my method up a bit this time.  The few weeks time away from it will allow me to concentrate on other things I've been letting go and even start on the final book of the series.

I cried for the first time while writing this week.  I'd like to say it's because I was so wrapped up in the artistic intensity of the moment but it probably had more to do with the fact I'd been sitting for three hours and was six thousand words deep into my day.  There are some difficulties at the end of my book and *spoiler* some deaths that have to be dealt with. *end spoiler* It was a struggle for me to write them because I've been dreading it since I started seven months ago and then, as I was writing, it occurred to me all the characters were dying.  Not because I was killing them but because I wouldn't be writing them again.  Yeah, I'll be editing and doing rewrites but I'm nearing the second step in the journey where I'll be deepening their characters and it's only going to be harder in the next few months when I finish my edits and really let them go.  If you're not a writer, this will sound like crazy talk to you but if you are, I know you get what I'm talking about :)

I'll make sure to write again, even if it's a short post, when I have the official first draft wrap and then again after I get a chance to study my work Friday and share some thoughts!

- Anna Leigh

Monday, August 3, 2015

Character Breakdowns and Legendary Myths

I've been breaking down my characters as I'm nearing the end of my first draft of Queen of Time.  Without even realizing it, I've been weaving a consistency into all of my characters.  It wasn't until I started getting into what made my characters "them", that I realized it.

Gwen is my MC.  She is eighteen, living with a verbally abusive mother and new stepfather.  She has a lot of chaos in her life.  Her solution? Have things as tidy as possible.  In a messy house, she always keeps her room clean.  In a messy life, she lives by the rules.  No illegal music downloading, no jaywalking, no stealing, etc.  She goes from the petty things to the big ones.  It's how she makes her way through life.

Arthur is my male MC.  He's twenty-three, living with a detached father who spends more time ruling a kingdom than being a father to him, and his knights who rely on him to lead them.  Rules are a part of his every day life.  Enforcing the rules tends to mean him living by them.  Only he doesn't always.  He believes rules are only good until the point they cause you to compromise your beliefs.  This is a point of contention between him and his father.

Merlin is the youngest physician in Camelot.  After losing his home in Penrith, he's brought much needed help to the people living under the shadow of the castle walls.  He is very intelligent and believes the technology brought to them from Gwen's world is something they shouldn't be shunning but should be grabbing on to.  He does a lot of work with science in secret so he won't be called out for witchcraft.  He believes rules are made to be broken.  They were made by dull people with dull lives.  The people who've added good to the world were all the people willing to go beyond, to risk everything.

I have several more characters but as you can see with the common thread here, they're one of a few kinds.  Rule keepers, rule breakers, and the one's who take it rule by rule.  They go to varying extremes and each person has a different reason for living life the way they do.

The reason I focused on rules is simply because it shows so much about a person.  When I look at the people around me, a lot of their personality and ethics can be seen in their feelings toward "rules".  When I say rules, I'm not just talking about laws.  I'm talking about a moral code that people live by.  I don't need to know it's illegal to murder in order to know it's wrong.  The fear of punishment doesn't stop me from committing the crime.  It's my own morals that would stop me from even contemplating it.

It's been a good thing for me to remember as I'm writing each character.  When I write Merlin, I'm always asking myself how someone who enjoys breaking rules would react to a situation.  It will hopefully convey his mischievousness.

I'm up to 112,000 words.  I was surging a bit further ahead in word count but I deleted some portions this week and I had to work on my chapter for my critique group so I've neglected my manuscript for a few days.

I was reading a history of King Arthur, mainly the legends involving his death.  I'm using a portion of them for the ending conflict of the book and going a bit of a different direction than I was expecting too.  From what I've been reading, Geoffrey of Monmouth's works are the oldest dramatized accounts of King Arthur we have.  In his works, Arthur succeeds his father at the age of fifteen after Uther's death.  He then leads armies to defeat the Scots and the Picts (who by the eleventh century were Scots as well), conquering Ireland, Iceland, and the Orkney Islands.  At twenty-seven, he sets out to expand his empire by taking over Norway, Denmark, and Gaul.  Because Gaul is still under control of the Roman empire, it leads to a fight between Arthur and Lucius, emperor of Rome.  Arthur wins but while he's gone, Mordred (his nephew in Geoffrey's works) takes over the kingdom and steals Guinevere to be his queen.

My version doesn't go a lot into the battles of Arthur and in my book, Uther is still alive and Arthur is an adult.  Still, battles and the peace of the surrounding territories would've been a big factor in both Arthur and his knight's lives.  I've certainly included more than I intended to when I first started.

I haven't done too much research into Excalibur.  I know its original name was Caledfwlch (also called Caliburnus) and that its magical properties were a big part of several legends, including Arthur's pulling of the sword from the stone.  While Arthur does have a special sword in my book which plays into the story a little toward the end (right now), it isn't magical.  Everything in my book is explained by science.

I've never cared for history too much so to be doing research on a fictional legend from Europe is really outside of my comfort zone.  It'll be interesting to see how this all works out!

- Anna Leigh