Monday, December 28, 2009

The Twelve Part Outline, Part II

This series on the structure of my Twelve Part Outline will not, in all likelihood, track with my writing progress on Maradaine Constabulary, if for no other reason than the simple fact that it's a lot faster to write about each stage of the outline plan than it is to actually write each stage. On top of that, there is the way in which I write, which having a structured outline allows me to do. I will on occasion jump ahead of myself-- write that Exciting Bit that I know will be happening later, and then go back and fill in that connective tissue to make the whole thing a cohesive whole.

Anyway, Part II: Incitement. This is where the actual plot gets rolling. Establishment puts the pieces into play, it sets up the go-cart at the top of the hill. Incitement is pushing it down the hill and seeing what happens.

What it comes down to is, whatever comfortable status quo the characters were in at the Establishment now needs to be changed, to get things moving, to prod them into action. So something has to happen, some new information has to present itself, or some other thing is imposed upon them. In Maradaine Constabulary, having established my characters as Inspectors and partners, Incitement is a pretty easy thing: give them a murder to solve. And since this is a fantasy world, and just to make it a little more interesting, the dead body was a mage.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Twelve Part Outline, Part I

I've reached a word count of 5554 with Maradaine Constabulary: The Mage Murders, which also puts me quite cleanly at the end of the first part of my twelve-part outline structure: Establishment.

I prefer the word Establishment over, say, Introduction, although introduction is a key element. But in my mind, this first section of the book is about not only letting the reader know the main characters, who they are and what they are up to, but about getting a firm toehold into what the world is about. This is the foundation upon which the rest of the book is built.

Here we've got my main two characters, Katrine and Minox, with Katrine as the POV character, where she establishes herself in her new situation (see, there's that word) that sets the stage for what she's doing now. When I first drafted the outline for this book, I came up with the idea that Katrine had a big secret, and it would come out at part seven of the outline (Collapse). But there was no reasonable way to have Katrine's POV and dance around said secret, I realized. The secret, in and of itself, could not be the bomb that gets dropped. So I put it right in the beginning. Right in the very first sentence:

Katrine Casey walked to the Inemar Bank Constabulary House carrying a lie.

The over the course of the Establishment, we have her meet Minox, and get a grasp who he is, t least through her eyes. We also meet four other secondary characters, whose roles, I will admit, are not entirely fleshed out in the existing outline. That is part of the discovery of writing. The process of outlining never takes that away.

Anyhow, I've found that for the Establishment, around 5000-6000 words is a good zone, especially with a target length of 80-90K. It's also, for me, one of the harder parts to write, because it's part of the mental process of getting into the world and the characters. Once I've established that in my head, the rest becomes clearer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The short and the long game

I make no bones about the fact that my four different Heroes of Maradaine series are all, in fact, series, and therefore the plan is to write several books for each one of them. That said, I'm writing each of the First Books as a total story. You read Thorn of Dentonhill or The Fire Gig (or, eventually, The Mage Murders or Between Them and Harm), you will have read a story to its satisfying conclusion. You may anxiously anticipate the next in each of those series (I really hope you do!), but you won't be left hanging for the story to conclude.

I'm doing this, in part, because it feels right to me. But also because it strikes me as more publisher- and reader-friendly.

I've noticed, however, in some of my writing groups, a certain degree of, shall we say, "writing for trilogy". (If not five or seven or however many.) I know of one who is definitely writing a big, long epic. The problem with said Big Long Epic is, in our group, what we're seeing is Book One, where Nothing Happens. Oh, there are signs and portents and prophecies of a Chosen One to fight the Coming Darkness, but no actual sense that there actually is said Darkness actually going to show up any time in the near future. The tension is further sucked out of the room by having years pass and nothing happens. There might be a great payoff in Book Three, but what reader-- and more to the point, what publisher-- is going to suffer through fifty thousand words of farm work and mysterious mentors talking about something might happen sometime, but I can't really tell you anything yet, just to get to that payoff?

But fantasy readers are, actually, kind of conditioned to expect this, and thus fantasy writers mimic this. Look at Lord of the Rings: first there's a birthday party, and then Frodo dithers about and does nothing for seventeen years, and is then told, "Hey, this ring might actually be all kinds of bad, you should do something about it." So then he launches off-- on a slow, several-month plan to pretend to move to another town... and then actually kind of does move to the other town, and then starts to go to Rivendell... only to be held up by some powerful song-and-dance man who never shows up again and DEAR GOD will the actual plot start sometime soon? No story, no urgency... and yet it is considered the godfathering work of the genre. So those elements creep into the genre, despite them being the elements of LotR that are far from laudable.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I've decided that the next project I'm pushing forward with is Maradaine Constabulary, which is the one, when I first conceived of the four "Heroes of Maradaine" series, that I was having the hardest time finding a foothold into. I didn't have a beginning for a long time. Now I do. Of course, I had had a beginning for Vanguard, which I've since thrown away. I was going at that with the wrong tactic. I think I've found the entryway into that story, but Maradaine Constabulary has been buzzing more and more in my brain.

If I'm being honest with myself, I would say that the ads for the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie has been a factor. That, and re-reading Asimov's Elijah Baley novels.

The basic premise is one of importing the murder mystery novel/police procedural into a fantasy world. Which works, if it still stays focused on character. I'm not going to break my arm patting myself on the back, but I think I have that with Katrine Casey and Minox Welling.

But we'll see over the next couple months how that comes together.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So, now that the manuscript for Thorn of Dentonhill is at fighting weight, and off to the prospective agent, so it's time to rev up the gears for the next thing. The question is, what, exactly, is that.

First, there's second drafting Holver Alley Crew. I've got my writing group's notes, and I know I should also bring that up to 90,000 words for the next draft, which I don't think will be a problem.

Next, there's finishing the scripts for Triple Cross, which was going full steam when I got the word to expand Thorn. I need to find the momentum on that.

Which is the key word, I've found, on any writing project: momentum. Getting going is something I always have to muscle through. Once it's moving, once I'm in it, then I can keep pushing it. When it really starts rolling... then it can't be stopped.

USS Banshee has not quite found its momentum yet. I think it's a question of worldbuilding. I haven't quite hit it deeply enough, it hasn't marinated long enough.

In two weeks I'll be in Mexico, which usually is Intense Writing Retreat. I would love to delve deep into, say, Maradaine Constabulary or Vanguard.

But, as usually, I'll get moving on things, and see what really starts rolling.