stephaniecain
06 April 2012 @ 02:34 am
Okay, time to guilt myself into writing more. I meant to write a bunch last night. Instead I got sucked into the first three chapters of Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. Good writing, and an amazing and excellent mission. I'm having to fight to keep myself from picking it back up to read some more tonight.

But no! No reading! Tonight I need to make a second attempt at the scene that is currently giving me trouble. It never fails to astonish me how easily some scenes pour out of the pen, while others are just a long, painful struggle for each word.

So tonight I have to get inside the head of my main villain and figure out what he wants to say to his major adversary. Who is currently within his power, and basically buying time with whatever (bruises, blood, nasty invective, etc.) he can afford to spend. It's not hard to understand what the poor good guy is feeling and thinking. The bad guy, though...

What motivates him in this scene? Besides the pure enjoyment of inflicting pain on someone he's hated for a decade? I'm just not sure yet.

So time to turn off the computer (and, more importantly, the internet), and put pen to paper and learn.
 
 
 
 
stephaniecain
19 March 2012 @ 08:18 pm
I'm almost 20,000 words into my epic fantasy novel revision, and I'm finally beating my head against a subject I have long dreaded.

Calendars.

Seems like an innocent enough idea, until you think about how in epic fantasy novels, the world is usually not our own. Okay, Middle-Earth was our world, in a sense. But in the quest for an authentic-sounding world, will it really be shaped like Earth? Will it have the same diameter and orbit and axis tilt as Earth? Will it have the same length of year and day? Even if the inhabitants of the world don't know anything about planets revolving and orbiting suns and what actually causes the seasons, an author has to know that stuff, in order for it to have any internal coherence.

So from the beginning of my fantasy world's existence in my mind, I've always held to an Earth-like calendar, with 12 months in a 365-day year. The month names are the same. It drives me crazy to have to learn an entirely new system in order to read a fantasy novel, and trying to figure out that Istvaharla is actually basically our January, and Furryday is the same as our Friday.

But isn't it just as frustrating to be immersed in this world where the names don't sound like ours, and there are magical creatures we don't have, but still call the months names that go back to Latin-based languages and days that go back to pagan gods?

So I started playing with the notion of a 400-day year, with 96-day seasons and 4-day holidays between each season. The 96-day seasons would divide neatly into 3 months of 32 days each that way, which means easy math and calendaring for me, but a slightly different feel for the reader. Then I renamed the months, using a standard -ien/-en ending to the name, to indicate months. But that would mean I needed to rename the days, as well. It might not matter, since I can't recall a single time I mention the name of the day, but that probably just means I have a dozen mentions in the novel that I don't remember.

By this time, I've only written 647 words today, and I'm tearing my hair out, especially since the only reason I need to do this right now is because I want to know how much time has passed since the start of the novel. I don't want to have people in chapter 2 scene 4 reacting to something that isn't actually going to happen for four more days.

So right now I'm giving up on the calendaring system and numbering things by what day of the book they happen on. Scene 1 happens on DAY 1. Scene 2 happens on DAY 6. Etc.

But I'm curious. When you read a fantasy novel, how much attention do you pay to the calendar? Do you have strong feelings either way about the date system an author uses? Why?
 
 
Current Music: Patrick Doyle - 'Once more unto the breach'
Current Mood: frustrated
 
 
stephaniecain
27 February 2012 @ 01:37 am
I should have realized that renaming one of the major villains in my epic fantasy novel was going to be a lot of work.

I'm one of those people who's always set great store by names. I love to know the meaning of names. I throw in little jokes about the meanings. I play with spelling. In one novel, the characters even talk about the importance of names. (To be fair, it's in the context of why you never give your name to a fairy, so it's important to the plot of the novel. But still.) Back in my creative writing program at university, one of the compliments I consistently got was about my character names.

So I should have known, going in, that renaming this guy was going to be a bitch.

The villain's name was Robert. It's a good name, but it doesn't scream EVIL GREEDY BASTARD at me. Maybe because I have a friend named Robert...oh, and, duh--my grandfather was named Robert. What on earth possessed me to name a bad guy after my grandfather? My dad tells me he wouldn't mind, but it bothered me, and the name didn't feel right anymore.

I spent two days intensely scouring baby name books and the Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. What sort of name did I want? Robert means "bright", so I'd never really thought about the meaning of my villain's name. So what sort of names would I find if I went looking at meanings?

Oddly enough, there aren't indexes of names that mean "betrayer" or "oppressor" or "ambitious". The indexes all list nice characteristics, like "brave" and "pretty" and "strong". I suppose no one wants to name their kid something that might make them turn out to be the next serial killer. (Though all those people naming their babies Jacob? "Supplanter," y'all. Think about that. If Stephenie Meyer had been paying attention, Jacob would have stolen the girl at the end.)

But paging through on my own, I found a name that means "to oppress", one that means "loves war", and one that means "glory". Not that glory is necessarily a bad thing, but it's definitely something my villain is after. I also found a "friend of wealth", but that wasn't quite as fitting.

So I started looking at things his father might have named him. The villian's family symbol is a falcon, so I looked at names meaning "falcon". Turned out I really like one of those names, but I want to save it for one of the villain's ancestors. The villain's family is supposed to be a gatekeeper of sorts, defending the kingdom from a powerful enemy to the north. So I found names that mean "determined protector" and "nation's defender" and, yes, "brave". I really liked two of those names, and I liked the irony of naming the kingdom's betrayer something like that. The villain's family is also traditionally redheads, so I even found a name I kind of liked that meant "redhaired".

Of course, then I had to start trying out all these names. I went back and forth on three of the names in particular, but none of them quite worked. Ellard made me think of Ellery Queen every time I said it, so that was just out. (Nothing against Ellery Queen, but this isn't a mystery novel.) Ledyard is a cool name, but it sort of feels like one of those bizarro mashup relationship names, like if Logan Eckles and Edward Cullen got together. (And now that I mentioned that, I totally ship Ledyard.)

So what did I finally do? I looked down my list of names, threw out the meaning of them, played around with the spellings, and eventually picked the one closest to what I'd already had.

So Robert Perregal has officially become Rostis Perregal. Rostis, shortened from the Slavic Rostislav, meaning "glory".
 
 
 
 
stephaniecain
12 September 2011 @ 01:26 pm
I've been making a lot of those lately. "It's a three-day weekend, I don't want to work on the revision." "I have a migraine. I don't want to work on the revision." "I worked on plotting and world-building for a different project, I don't want to work on the revision too." "I spent all day doing housework, I don't have enough energy for a revision day."

Seems like I've been making a lot in my personal life too. "I'm sorry I suck so much at keeping in touch." "I just haven't felt like being online."

The truth is, I don't feel like I have enough energy for everything life throws at me as well as everything I want out of life. Since it's impossible to ignore the need to work & pay bills, impossible to ignore a migraine that feels like a spike through your left eye, and impossible to ignore kittens who are running roughshod over your head? I end up letting personal stuff fall to the wayside. I don't answer emails quickly enough. I forget to call my best friend. I stay up too late one night and drag around at half-energy the next.

I've been simplifying and cutting some things out of my life lately. I intentionally let go of a friendship that meant a lot to me, but simply became too emotionally vampiric for me to continue. Even the friends I do value have gotten short shrift lately, and I'm sorry about that.

Of course, I also have had some victories. I think I've done pretty well at raising two kittens at once, which wouldn't have seemed like such a victory this time last year, but definitely is. I've gotten a third of the way through my novel revision, despite the new migraines that started in June. I've read over fifty books this year.

We're slipping into autumn, which is always a reflective season for me. Something about the combines throwing up clouds of chaff in a bean field, the golden light, the breezy cooling of the weather, makes me take stock of my life and yearn to give in to my wanderlust. Knowing my birthday is a month away makes me wonder where I'll be and what I'll be doing on my birthday next year.

Just a little bit of lunch-time introspection...
 
 
Current Mood: contemplative
 
 
stephaniecain
03 August 2011 @ 11:38 am
And lately some of the casualties have been a couple of scenes I always liked and a character who, honestly, sort of annoys me.  But fortunately I've discovered a few foxholes, like a couple of scenes with a new character I like more than I expected, or a way to rearrange the plot in a way that both speeds up the lagging pace of the novel and also salvages what I liked best about my favorite deleted scene.

Another casualty of the revision process lately has been my confidence.  I've been saying for years that I think this is my most readily marketable novel.  This is the first one I plotted out in advance, and it has series potential but stands alone, and it does a lot of things I want the novel to do.  AND I'm suddenly not sure that I'm doing it justice yet.

I've been vicious with this revision.  I've looked at every scene and asked what it actually accomplishes, what purpose it serves, if it puts me to sleep rereading it.  A lot of scenes have simply been slashed out of existence because of that last reason.  And now I'm wondering:  If, after 7 years of living with this novel and thinking about this novel, I have deleted about a third of it, what's to say that after another 7 years of living with it, I wouldn't realize another third of it needed to go?

This morning while I was doing some mundane stuff at my paying job, I got to thinking about the main conflict in my novel and started wondering if it's really as compelling as I think.  What if the "bad guys" are right?  Will readers look at the situation and go, "You know, they have a point.  Why IS it that way?  Who actually benefits from this situation, and why shouldn't they try to change it?"  Because that's absolutely NOT the reaction I want.  But maybe I'm setting myself up for that.

It isn't enough to tell a good story.  I want the story to make sense.  I want the conflict to tug at readers' guts and make them root for the good guys.  And suddenly I wonder if I'm doing that.
 
 
Current Mood: worried
 
 
stephaniecain
16 November 2010 @ 11:22 pm
So I've been stalled here for the past four days:



I did all kinds of plotting on Friday. I scratched out about 10 words Saturday. Didn't even try Sunday. Didn't try last night. Gave the novel to [livejournal.com profile] microgirl8225, who's been awesome at kicking me back into gear in the past. Scratched out a couple hundred words tonight.

I'm really far behind, but it's still doable. Today's word count was 25k+some change.

I guess I'll look at it this way--now I'm super qualified for that Rally Merit Badge. *G*
 
 
Current Mood: discontent
 
 
stephaniecain
30 March 2010 @ 11:07 pm
In the interest of pure honesty, I have only managed 500 words once since making my new goals five days ago. Part of me feels like a failure and part of me has decided that I'm going on vacation in three days and bugger those goals.

I find myself frustrated. The common theme in my life is sitting at work wishing I was writing, then coming home and finding something like Warcraft or a well-written book or randomly linked studies about non-believers who are working in the pastoral field (while I was looking for a way to hide those Twitter posts on my LJ friends-list...you know how you do a Goggle search and click a likely result and then see someone talking about something non-related and then--ooooh, shiny!)

Anyway.

I suppose the good part is that I'm sitting down and hand-writing the words I do write. The bad part is that once I sit at the computer I seem to have trouble staying focused. I'm clearly going to have to start using Q10 more often, even though I'm stupidly in love with Calibri font ever since installing Office 2007. (Yes, I'm a typeface nerd, sue me.) I'll remind myself that I love the little clickety-clacking of the typewriter keys, and the satisfying ka-chinggggg when I hit the carriage return. Honestly at this point if I still had that old Royal Sahara electric typewriter, I would shut my computer off and make myself crank out a few pages on that.

Of course, what I've discovered is that as soon as I set a goal like that, Life Happens. I spent the weekend painting and cleaning at my grandmother's old house to try to get it ready to sell. My best friend's dad is in the hospital. Another friend is possibly facing hospitalization. Another friend needs me to give her cat insulin shots on a fairly regular basis because she's dating someone a couple of hours away.

And in the time I have left, I get selfish and whiny. I don't want to write. I want to relax! I want to read or play a game. I don't want to THINK.

I'm going to tell myself that a good vacation will help me out. Vacations always get me writing.

Check this space two weeks from now. *G*
 
 
Current Mood: frustrated