Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Revision Update, Reading List, and Some Links

So I'm still in Chapter One. Ugh. I always forget how looooooooong it takes me to revise. Not that I've exactly been faithfully plugging away at Draft #2 of Seer… I keep getting distracted. On Journeys Bound is niggling away in my brain again and a deep philosophical conversation with the BFF about Whale and the Tree has gotten me thinking about another revision… which is a pretty clear sign I'm done querying it for now… which is sad but kind of okay I think… maybe? (Don't worry. I'm gonna stop with the ellipses now.)

But I do quite like the revisions I've gotten in thus far, and I am almost finished with Chapter One and am completely determined to plow through this second draft. Just have to step up my game a bit is all. I can dooooo it! There are six check marks on tRLoHLA so far but there will soon be many more. Many more!! Raawwwwwwr!


On a semi-related note, my cold-hearted villain scrounged up a spark of humanity in the scene I finished rewriting today. Made me kinda like him. Aw.

Also, after a horrible dearth of reading material during which I discovered that the Phoenix Public Library system has drastically cut back their hours (the branch near me isn't even open on Mondays anymore :-( ), I am happy to announce that my TBR pile is stacking up nicely. Just finished Diana Wynne Jones's Dogsbody, which was lovely even though I wasn't *quite* satisfied with the ending, and am partway into The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein, When You Reach Me (this year's Newberry award winner) by Rebecca Stead, and Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken are waiting in the wings. I know virtually nothing about any of these books—they're all mostly recs from reliable internet sources—but it's almost more fun that way. Excited to get into them!

And now for some links:

The controlled schizophrenia of writers (via inkygirl)
An interesting article on the theory of mind as applied to creating believable characters.

Hunger Mountain
The VCFA Journal of the Arts—I subbed a short story to them a while back and haven't gotten a response yet (though I'm expecting one soon). I'm thinking of entering one of their writing contests, just have to figure out if I can tweak a story I've already got or if I need to write a new one! I have until June 30th to get my submission ready.

A thoroughly fascinating guide to the languages and writing systems of the world.

 And that will about do it for today's Blog Post of Random Disconnected Stuff (BPoRDS).

Until next time!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Take Two!

I officially started Draft #2 of Seer today!! Whooooooooo!

I finished working through the scene outline on Saturday, and have dubbed it The Revision List of Hi-Lighted Awesome to make it sound like loads of fun. (But it is hi-lighted. And hopefully awesome.)

I only made it through three scenes.

You see I was suddenly inspired to write a query letter, so I worked on that most of the afternoon in lieu of revisions. Queries, in case you were wondering, are still really, REALLY hard. Boiling down plot + character + voice into one or two paragraphs is no easy task! I think this one actually turned out pretty good, though. Too bad I can't exactly use it yet!!

So anyway. Revisions. The Revision List of Hi-Lighted Awesome (tRLoHLA) is nearly six pages total, and gives me a lovely breakdown of all the scenes that will be included in Draft #2, some new, some moved, some facing complete and total rewrites, and a few (a very few) that will get mostly left alone. Draft #1 had twenty-six chapters and Draft #2 will have twenty-nine, so even though I'm deleting a number of scenes (and the entirety of chapter three), I'm guesstimating I'll gain 5-10k by the end of it. My novels always get longer when I revise them. I'm really glad this one began life at only 70k. Gives me lots of wiggle room. :-)

I'm hope hope hoping to have Draft #2 completed sometime in June so's I can hand it off to a few trusted souls who'll tell me if it's any good or not (hopefully gently, if it's the latter :-)).

This revision train is off and running!

… as long as I don't get too distracted tweaking that query letter.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Revision Science (sort of)

Been pretty quiet on the ol' blog lately. Sorry about that.

I am hard(ish) at work on getting my revisions for Seer sorted out, and am pleased with the results so far, even though I haven't made any actual changes to the manuscript yet. I'm working exclusively with the scene-list outline I compiled during my read through a couple weeks ago, and am loving this method—it's forcing me to focus on the big picture instead of getting hung up on the details of the prose, which is helping a proverbial ton with my pacing issues.

There's a heck of a lot of new scenes getting added in (mostly having to do with developing a character barely mentioned in Draft #1), lots of rearrangement, and of course some inevitable deletion. What's great about doing all this revision on the outline is there's no risk of accidentally messing something up in the manuscript, plus it saves you from reading the novel so many times you haven't a clue after a while if you're helping it or hurting it.

I'm pretty excited about all these changes! The novel is going to be sooooo much better (and stronger! and actually coherent!) when I'm done with it. Kinda makes you wonder why on earth I couldn't have come up with all this stuff the first time around, but I think sometimes you have to do something one way in order to figure out that's not the way you wanted to do it at all. First drafts are like science experiments—you don't know what's gonna happen until you try. Revisions clean up the inevitable mess, lay everything out in an orderly fashion, and calmly put it back together right.

Or something.

At any rate, I'm in Chapter Fifteen on the outline, so I'm a little over halfway there. Can't wait to finish so I can actually get these changes made.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Queen's Thief Series, by Megan Whalen Turner

I've now read A Conspiracy of Kings (twice!), and felt compelled by its awesomeness to write a review, which is impossible without at least mentioning the previous three books in the series.

So I'm going to attempt reviewing the entire series.

With as few spoilers as possible.

Which will be a trick. :-)

Here goes.

Book #1: The Thief

After bragging that he can steal anything—and flaunting the pilfered king's seal in a tavern to prove it—Gen winds up in prison. Fortunately, the king's adviser, the magus, needs him, and Gen finds himself bundled along on a cross-country trek in pursuit of the mythical Hamiathes' Gift, an object which can only be retrieved by a thief.

But this isn't just a straightforward adventure story. Set in the three countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia, MWT gives us a wonderfully-drawn world inspired by the landscape and culture of ancient Greece, complete with her own pantheon of gods. She's so exact in her story-telling, so deft with her characterization and so careful with every single word, that you don't notice the subtleties of her impossibly tight plot until it whacks you up top the head at the end and you find your jaw sitting involuntarily on the floor.

This would be why The Thief garnered a Newberry Honor.

Book #2: The Queen of Attolia

In many respects, The Queen of Attolia feels completely different from The Thief. It reads more like a YA novel, and is told in third person instead of first. Gen—or Eugenides as he's referred to in this book—is still the main character, but the third person POV changes things a bit.

In Queen, Eugenides is forced to deal with a terrible loss, and the third person POV gives a certain amount of needed distance from this loss. We learn as much or more about Eugenides's character than we did in The Thief, but the focus is slightly different. He's vulnerable in a way he wasn't in the first book, and as we mourn for him we wonder if he can go back to the way he was, we wonder if that's even possible.

And while we're worrying about Eugenides, MWT is busy with her careful descriptions and meticulous character studies and oh-so-subtle-and-understated plot threads. There's war, political machinations, a new threat to our trio of countries in the form of Nahusersh, the oily ambassador from the Mede empire, and last—but certainly not least—one of the most intriguing romances ever to grace the boundaries of fiction.

Oh, and I started reading this series because of Queen's cover. Intriguing, no?

Book #3: The King of Attolia

This is the book I can say the least about without completely giving everything away. It's narrated in third person by a young soldier named Costis, but is still very much about Eugenides—we get an even further wide-angled view of him than we did in Queen. It's a great, great book, filled with all the MWT surprises and subtleties and complexities and heart we've come to expect.

And that's really all I can say. :-)

Book #4: A Conspiracy of Kings

Narrated largely in first person by Sophos, a character from The Thief, this, again, is a different book entirely from the other three in the series. Eugenides is important but even more distant than before, and for once this isn't his story—it's Sophos's. We find out what he's been up to since the first book, and follow his journey from timid, insecure boy, to mature, hardened-yet-vulnerable king.

Sophos is a great character, albeit very different from Eugenides (whom he sort of hero-worships, which is adorable), and I really enjoyed getting to know him. I read Conpsiracy last Wednesday and again over the weekend because I couldn't stop thinking about it.

You really almost have to read these books multiple times to understand/appreciate all the subtleties and motivations; MWT is a careful, meticulous writer, which is why rereading her books is so rewarding—you inevitably find things you missed the first (or second, or third) time around.
There's a definite sense in Conspiracy of things-being-set-in-motion-for-epic-ness-to-come (there's two more books planned in the series), which left me feeling a ttiiiiiiny bit unsatisfied, because I know there's going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.

But only a tiny bit. :-)


That was hard. I started this post on Tuesday.