Friday, November 29, 2013

Orsolya Autumn 2013 Analytics

I have officially finished two novels.

It hasn't really sunk in yet that I've finished writing Orsolya. I mean, so much of it was months and months ago that the majority has slipped out of my memory. In general of course I know what happened, but the details escape me.

I have no idea what my next project is going to be. I've been telling myself--somewhat ludicrously--that whatever it is, it will be "easier."

Ha. Ha. Ha. Of course some projects are harder than others, but each story brings its own challenges that can be difficult to anticipate, starting out. So I don't know if I'm right in saying that I want to do something less complex...something with one viewpoint character and a storyline that takes place without huge timeskips.

I want to write a novella, probably, something that clocks in at, say, less than 150 pages instead of 347. Maybe because I've been reading a lot of short, concise, structural books recently (Animal Farm, Frankenstein). Who knows? Maybe I'll do short stories instead.

All right, I'm getting ahead of myself. Analytics:

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Numbers

Time elapsed (real): 3.5 months
Time elapsed (story): 2 months of action with a 3/4 year timeskip to the next summer
Chapters finished: 5 (8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Words: about 60000

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Sticking Points

Emotions, particularly strong emotions that I have not felt much before.

Setting/imagery. I am a plot and character person, so for much of my writing there's not really much sense of place and how it shapes characters' feelings. I can do landscape descriptions, but it's a weakness of mine that there's very little in the way of concrete, evocative stuff that brings the reader in to participate in the story.

Inexperience. I think I'll have to revisit this story once I'm older, because I just don't know enough about how the world works to ensure that some of the stuff that happens is plausible.

Repetitiveness. Especially with the traveling--surely there can't be a merchant with convenient open places in every situation.

Tone swings. Some parts I was waxing poetic--a character travels alone in the desert, how could I not?--while others had a more down-to-earth tone. This is not necessarily a bad thing--variety, no?--but it does also reveal that I am unsure of my own voice and am experimenting. That's not a bad thing, either; it just tells me that I have a long ways to go.

Inconsistent characterization. When I revise, the first thing that needs to get taken care of is the plot: does it hang together? Does it make sense? Do the characters' decisions make sense? The final question pulls in characterization, because the character arcs don't feel...smooth. You could not differentiate them, which is probably okay because people don't improve monotonically with time, but...consistency. That's what I'm missing.

Fight scenes. Are they interesting? How can I distinguish them from one another?

Show v. Tell: as I may have mentioned before, I have this hybrid show/tell mode that is basically summary but with occasional detours into dialogue. I'll have to decide what of that to convert to show and which to tell.

Laziness. I basically summarized an entire three-week journey through the mountains where big important stuff was happening to a non-viewpoint character...but since the guy does become a viewpoint character for two scenes later, I should probably explicate what happens in his head.

Violating the law of conservation of detail. I set up a lot of things that don't get picked up. I also tend to overtrump Vin since he's my favorite (since he's me). As my band director says, though, if you want to make a bigger delta you can make either end more extreme...so my boy may well be less powerful in earlier scenes...spoilers, eh.

The above problem likely stems from the fact that when I write I throw in basically everything that comes out of my typing, and then I forget about. So, definitely, the first time I look at Orsolya again I'm just going to read, and I'm going to take notes on interesting things that could play out later on.

A conventional metaphor: weaving. Right now I have a lot of loose threads, or strands that don't quite fit the rest of the creation, and I need to decide whether to scrap those bits entirely or make them into a pattern arching over the entire story. I really want to get better at making structural stories, ones that have internal tension and economy, purity of line.

Right now, Orsolya sits at 167000 words. If possible I'd like to get that down to...let's be ambitious. I'd like to cut that down to 120000. My heart quails. Whatever.

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Successes

Certain parts wrote themselves--usually the parts where characters become not just angry but enraged and go berserk (literally).

Pretty prose...but I may have to murder my darlings.

Technical magical explanations and science metaphors. I love them so. Probably most people wouldn't, however, so more darlings to murder.

Plotting things out in advance. It helps a lot. Just think about what you want to happen and write it down in short sentences, and go through hitting all the points. Sometimes it also helps by showing problems before they happen, where you can combine scenes, etc.

Unexpected gold from the past. I did some character journaling way back in...September, I want to say? As I was finishing chapter eleven I thought that there wasn't enough punch, and when I looked back at my previous work I found something that would function as both plot advancement and character revelation.

Note to self: when you revise, go back through all that character/plotwork that you did before. You may find more surprises.

I finally made a timeline! It was at the end of October, when all the EA apps were making my head explode with stress, and I couldn't focus on creating more words. The lesson here: measuring word count isn't the optimal way of doing things (although that is what I do), because auxiliary functions can be massively useful.

What I did was kind of like my logbook: weeks along the side. Then there were two parallel arcs, so I gave each one half the paper and just wrote down what happened.

Google is wonderful. Docs--character files to keep everything consistent. I started making a powerpoint on which to collect images (see: my issues with imagery/setting, above) and should keep on doing that. Calendar--I'm going to investigate this to see how useful it is for timeline. May be more trouble than it's worth, but may also be useful. Especially if you want to make poetic references to the moon and have to know what phase it's in.

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Game Plan

I'm leaning toward short stories, because I can iterate more and develop my voice. So I will read a lot of short story collections to get into the mood, and I'll write whatever and see where I go. As I said, I have no idea what I want to write next. Usually there's a project that starts calling to me when I finish another, but I've been so busy that I haven't had the opportunity to listen to myself as closely as I should.

Take in a lot of stories/knowledge (I want to read more science books) and wait and see what emerges. I am going to trust my unconscious mind.

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I finished Orsolya listening to a 10-hour seamless edit of The XX's "Intro." (No, I didn't listen to the whole 10 hours. Only two.) But the music for today will be a song that found me when I first shifted the timeline of Orsolya and narrowed the span considerably to focus on the things that she does.

Over the course of writing, I feel as though I've lost some of the drama promised by this piece. We'll see how I can infuse some of that back in.


Give Us This Day - David Maslanka
Performed by the Trade Winds, conducted by Daniel Schmidt

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Bonus:

The "Orsolya" Playlist (a WIP)

Rome is Where the Art Is - Elenora
Give Us This Day - Maslanka (above)
Radioactive - Imagine Dragons
Lost in the Echo - Linkin Park
Unbreakable - Three Days Grace
The High Road - Three Days Grace
Another Nightmare - Outline in Color
A Fracture, A Fallout - Outline in Color
Jury of Wolves - Outline in Color
Collapse - Adelitas Way

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