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And you're gonna be in it!

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Lessons learned

My writing project is still slowly going along. It will eventually end up as at least one finished novel. I don't really have a lot of time to work on it, but I hack away when I can. Sometimes I plunge ahead writing; sometimes I step back, frown, and gun down darlings. Up to a point I have high standards, but I'm not trying to write a Great Novel; just write something I like. If you want to make money from writing, I am no-one to advise you, but I can recommend writing a novel as a hobby. It's f

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

When the going gets tough, step back further

So I wrote a 130K-word first draft in a year, and I thought I'd try to finish the second draft in a second year, but that deadline passed four days ago, and I wasn't even close to making it, despite a lot of steady work over all that time. I did manage to hammer out an improved version of the most difficult part. The revised version held together and I thought I was over the hump. But then I asked myself, Why did this take so long?   It took so long because it was hard. I thought that was okay

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Scrivener

I worked on my novel for about a year and half using Apple's Pages app. It gave me no problems even as the story stretched well past 100,000 words. Pages is a general-purpose word processor and doesn't claim to be optimized for writing novels in particular, but it's robust and easy to use.   I liked that it wasn't anything more than that. I knew about fancy-pants apps like Ulysses or Scrivener, that offered all kinds of corkboard views and index cards and stuff. I was afraid of them. I thought

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

What little protagonists are made of

After writing quite a lot more of this story than I had at the point of my November 2012 post "Cordite and steel and everything nice", it seems that Anastasia works quite well as a character. The people who have read my drafts so far are all family members, so they're an easy crowd, but everyone seems to really like Anastasia.   Liking the protagonist is really important, especially when she's also the narrator. An unlikable narrator-protagonist makes the whole book painful, but with a likable

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

True Magic: 3

He can almost use his eyes, this starving writer. Perhaps I must tell my invisible angels to draw up their hoods. But of course I have none. I do have servants, many servants, and some of these might be called invisible. Few of my agents are aware that they serve me, and none needs frequent direction. But my affairs are involved, and directing them requires ample time. My young author has seen this much truly, that I have needed more time than is normally given to mortals, and have secured it de

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

True Magic: 2

The old man is no merely ancient mariner, but a sailor who has sailed away from time. How old can he be? Surely he has seen kingdoms rise and fail; has he also watched their ruins sink in sand and sea, till new kingdoms rise in turn?   He has, and it must be many times, for the question is not how old he is, but whether he is really a man. He is a magician, a true magician, and true magicians must be older than men dream, because true magic takes half eternity to learn. It is foolish and igno

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

True Magic: 1

No-one in the inn even saw the old man before he appeared in the doorway, but the eyes that flicked to him there are staying to stare. He is so far beyond old, it takes very good clothes just to keep him from falling apart. His small grey coat is fine and new. His shirt is clean, his trousers are white, his shoes are black. His shriveled head sits in his stiff collar like the head of a doll. An ivory cane hangs down from within each sleeve, as if his arms are just long white sticks; but inside h

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Drafting

Okay, it turns out that there's a big difference between having a first draft of a novel, and having a novel. In principle I knew this, but I didn't appreciate what the difference was. I had the idea that if all had gone well it would mainly be fine-tuning prose; and that otherwise I might have to make major changes, like adding or removing characters, or radically revising the plot. It turns out that there's a whole lot of stuff that I now have to do, in between those extremes.   Having a fir

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Second draft stuff

There's more to do for the second draft than I thought.   For example, for a long time I had imagined my first chapter as this perfect thing, because it came to me kind of out of nowhere and wrote itself quickly and launched the whole story with a bang. Once it actually occurred to me to think about whether it needed revision, though, I found that it needed quite a lot.   Some things had changed since I wrote it. Anastasia had gotten quite a bit more backstory and it had become clear that sh

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Starting a second draft

After tinkering and polishing a bit on my first draft of A Lady of Morandau, which was completed in exactly a year, I began work on the sequel. I didn't consider the first book finished, but I had some ideas for what came next, and I wanted to write them down. Now, after some time away from the first book, I'm coming back to it and seeing what it still needs. I post this because I've found it interesting to discover just what kind of thing you do in a novel's second draft. In my case, at least,

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

A finished draft

Somewhat to my surprise, I have finished a complete draft of A Lady of Morandau. It's just shy of 125,000 words, so it's long enough. It's well short of the ending that I originally conceived. I have enough material left over for half of a sequel, and I think I may have a couple of good new ideas that will fill that out to full novel length. If the sequel starts looking skimpy or padded, I might still fold it back into the first volume, making a big, fat book. But at the moment I'm optimistic th

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

A really confusing part of the story

Without mentioning any details of the actual story, I have something to say about the latest episode in writing my novel. It's really confusing.   Total length is just over 110,000 words, now. The current section is about 40,000 words of confusing stuff. Without my quite realizing it, the plot in this section has somehow turned into a dense composite of deceptions. It's bad enough that there are three different characters within the story who are currently all trying to deceive each other. Wha

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Wallace-Bechdel Test

The Bechdel test is named after Alison Bechdel, who introduced it in a comic strip in 1985, but Bechdel herself attributes the idea to her friend Liz Wallace. A work of fiction passes the test if it contains two female characters who have a conversation about something other than a man. It sounds like a pretty low bar to jump over, but apparently it's alarming how few books or movies pass this minimal test. (I'm reluctant to start checking through my favorite sci-fi and fantasy books — and the m

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Tentative farewell to arms

My story is roaring along. Somewhere around 40,000 words so far, I think. I'm working on chapter 10, now, and I have already done several pages of what is supposed to be the next section of the book.   After Chapter 12 there'll be a different narrator, for what is supposed to be about a third of the book, before coming back to Anastasia in the end. The middle chunk is the diary of this native princeling, Thomas MacLayne, which Anastasia acquires and pastes into her memoir. A lot of it is about

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Pause

I have another chapter of A Lady of Morandau ready, but it doesn't feel like a good time to post it. It's not a violent chapter, but a brief but important passage has Anastasia receiving a modern assault rifle as a gift from her parents. In another chapter or two, I'm planning that she'll use it. This is not the time for any of that.   I don't buy the argument that I sometimes hear, that making things up in fiction has nothing to do with what you'd approve in reality. I happen to despise the e

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Commentary: Scrapwork

I may change the title of this chapter. I couldn't think of a name until 'Aftermath' occurred to me as a lame joke, since Anastasia quits math at the end of Chapter 4. Maybe just something like 'Shooting high,' since that embraces both the shot in the air when the native dad walks in, and the bizarre effect of the skull talisman at the end.   This one is a mixture of stuff that has been planned so long I don't remember at all when I got the idea, stuff that was planned out more recently, and s

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

Glossary entry: Morandau

An alien clan of warlocks and witches, mercenaries, whose own purposes are inscrutable. They will accept gold, but prefer to barter their services for materials, as basic as grain or as exotic as pitchblende. Their interventions in war have shaped history for many generations, but there are no reliable accounts of their battles, for they make no alliances and leave no survivors. Legends about them are innumerable, but the Morandau themselves are no legends. Many have met them. Most have seen the

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Chapter 5: Aftermath

It was late after caring for my horse and cleaning my revolver, but I had to see Rianna about my cough, and I still had to put Huygens’s broken carbine on Mother’s workbench. I had planned to leave a note with it, explaining how it had seemed to jam, but Mother was there, working late. She had her engraving station set up, with magnifying loupe and fine tools. She rarely bothers with that, though long ago she had made some uselessly beautiful patterns, designs etched on metal plates as intricate

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Commentary: Rocs fall, nobody dies

Chapter 4 started out very thin and sketchy, but grew fast. I wanted to do something to kind of nod at the whole 'school days' genre, and then get Anastasia out of it. So I fairly quickly got the idea of her leading a patrol with her math teacher under her command, and showing him, herself, and the reader that school was pretty much out, for her, now. I didn't really want to have her gunning down any more pre-industrial natives quite so soon, but riding around shooting gross alien beasts seemed

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Chapter 4: Boundary Conditions

The next day began calmly, in the machining shop. I brought Mother a rod of good barrel steel that I had made the previous month, and carefully baked and cooled to anneal out flaws. I turned it on the lathe, carefully making it perfectly straight and round. Then I set it into the borer, and I checked the alignment three times, measuring and laying on the guide wires by hand, and stretching them tight. Mother judged it correct, and in effect that meant I had passed for a trained smith, because no

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Chapter 3: Ghosts

I stared at the small white square in my hand and didn’t notice when Yerzy left the hall. I was thinking about my father, but looking at the marker with which he had thought to banish himself in my place, I was also thinking about the strange white skull. It was a similar color.   The intrusion I had defeated was a real concern. It was a new kind of raider behavior, and the eery skull was a new kind of eldritch. The fact that it had seemed to disturb my shooting had alarmed the rest of the cou

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM commentary: Hitting the ground running

The second chapter even more than the first seems to me to move fast. It's not supposed to be entirely clear why the council makes such a significant decision so abruptly. It's supposed to become more comprehensible over the next three or four chapters, as it becomes more clear who these people all are and what they do. A problem in writing this story, though, is that I've done some thinking ahead right to the end, and so there may be a lot of things that I already have in mind in these early ch

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Chapter 2: See the Pattern Change

The council convened the very next morning. I would have attended in any case for the formal review of my brief tenure as Mistress, though under normal circumstances I would have been dismissed with some ritual phrases. Other than a few such bits of ancient liturgy, our councils are not formal. The few most senior residents — the ones who will anyway end up taking leadership in patrols and engagements — simply sit around a table and argue. The Master and Mistress decide who should shut up if mor

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM commentary: Cordite and steel and everything nice

Anastasia Morandau is to a considerable extent a sort of tribute to Agatha Heterodyne, but she lives in a world that is not supposed to be at all cartoonish. She's spark-like in inventing technological weapons, but my intention is to keep all the science real, at least within a certain amount of poetic license. Along with her destructive genius, she has a nearly miraculous ability at right-handed shooting, but both these traits will eventually have explanations.   I've never really been able t

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

ALOM Chapter 1: The Third Reason

Oh, what was it this time? “Stazya, Stazya! Help!” One of the children had no doubt called another a Name. They had disturbed me all that morning, when I had really needed peace. And they were supposed to remember to call me Miss Morandau, now. I was Mistress of the House, for the next three days still. But the book I was reading was pitiful; I’d have more satisfaction flinging it down and stalking angrily downstairs than I would in pretending not to have heard the little monsters. Who were yell

Student of Trinity

Student of Trinity

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