Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Writing and Revising

I had a strange realization this morning. I am finding the task of revising my novel for a final draft much more daunting than the task of actually writing the thing.

See, the writing process was very straightforward. I took my outline to Starbucks every day and put more words on the page. It was a purely linear process—even though I wanted, at times, to go back and revise things I'd written before, I didn't have time. So I basically started on page 1 and wrote straight through to page 294 or whatever it came out to be. I could measure my progress day by day, as demonstrated by the word meters I put up here once in a while. A very manageable process, once you get past the initial, "Holy cow, that's a lot of words."

But working on the final draft now, I feel like I'm confronted every day with this enormous behemoth of a novel, and it's hard to know where to attack it. I've been trying to handle it as a linear process like writing: Start on page 1, make edits according to the notes that my wife and my editor have given me, and carry on through to page 294 or whatever it turns out to be. But it doesn't really work like that. Much more than in the writing stage, I feel like I have to think about the novel as a whole. I need to think about the arc of the main character's development, and make sure that the change is happening at the right pace. I have to jump around within the document a lot more, sometimes moving chunks of text from one place to another, and occasionally leaving little "@@" marks in the text so I remember to go back and mess with stuff later. It's a much more challenging process. 

I don't remember In the Claws of the Tiger being like this. I feel like the linear revision process worked for that book—maybe because I had more time for the first draft, and I'd already gone through it once myself before I even sent it to the editor. 

Well, daunting or not, it has to get done. I know it has to get done, because I saw the book listed on Amazon. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

Whee! We got a Wii!

Turns out, I am in fact the best father in the world. Sorry to all you other fathers out there reading this who might believe you have a claim to the title. I know it must be disappointing.

OK, just kidding. But I earned enormous brownie points. See, Monday was my son's birthday. We had talked about getting a Wii for Christmas, but it didn't happen—largely because I pooh-poohed the idea of going and standing outside of Best Buy for hours before they opened. And we figured they'd be easier to acquire after Christmas, and my son's birthday is in late January. Seemed easy, right?

Well, demand hasn't gone down, but supply is starting to rise. And I happened to see in Sunday's ad fliers (which I've been checking from time to time) that both Best Buy and Target were advertising new stocks of Wiis. So Sunday morning I got up and went to Target five minutes before they opened. Ha! So from there I went pretty much straight to Best Buy, an hour and a half before they opened. I was about the 30th person in line, with maybe 10 people in line behind me. After about an hour, they came down the line and gave out tickets, and I got one. We gave it to my son on his birthday, and he was just stunned. It was awesome.

So Mike Mearls has talked quite a bit about the Wii phenomenon over on his blog. And I have to say I agree with him. It is incredibly cool and innovative, and I think it's seriously awesome that my son and I can play on more-or-less equal footing. My mother, in town for the birthday, took a little more getting used to the controls, but she beat us in bowling once, too. And the hard-core gamers I work with want Wiis too. That's really cool.

But the coolest thing about the Wii? Well, the Starbucks cup I held through all that time I was waiting in line sums it up pretty well:

The Way I See It #198
You can shower a child with presents or money, but what do they really mean, compared to the most valuable gift of all—your time? Vacations and special events are nice, but so often the best moments are the spontaneous ones. Being there. Every moment you spend with your child could be the one that really matters.
Tim Russert
Host of NBC's Meet the Press and author of Wisdom of our Fathers

Because the coolest thing about the Wii, much like our experience with World of Warcraft, is that we play it together. And we're buddies forever.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Holy Cats! has a page for my new novel! The Storm Dragon: The Draconic Prophecies, Book 1. Apparently it's coming out August 28, which is about a week earlier than I expected. And it showed up on Amazon (as our products often do) a few months earlier than I expected...

Want to see? Take a look at my new store! When you get there, click on Fiction over on the right.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bruce Cordell on Outlining

My co-worker and friend Bruce Cordell posted recently about his experience outlining the first novel of his new trilogy. It was neat for me to read another author's thoughts on a process we've all gone through, and to compare my own feelings about it.

Bruce said he's never been a fan of outlines, preferring to just write as he goes. My sense is only slightly different: I never even thought about outlining a novel until I was asked to submit one. I always assumed that when I did write a novel, I'd sit down and write from the beginning to the end, making it up as I went along. And over the years I made a couple of feeble stabs in the direction of a short story, writing as I went along, and each time sort of petered out, not knowing where the story was going. 

So when my editor for both Tales of the Last War and In the Claws of the Tiger asked for, first, a pitch (a pretty brief summary of the plot of the book) and then a chapter-by-chapter outline, I was taken aback. But I found myself able to write such outlines. And then, much to my surprise, I found that having an outline made it possible to write the story or the novel. I sat down every morning with my mocha valencia and knew what I had to try to write that morning, even if I didn't know exactly what words to put down. It turns out that is the hard, or at leas the time-consuming part. To sit down and know what the characters have to discuss, what they need to do, what needs to happen in the world around them, and to struggle to find the words to express all that can be pretty disheartening. Usually once the caffeine from that triple-shot coffee delicacy kicks in, the process gets easier.

Like Bruce, I enjoy both the structure an outline provides and the freedom to deviate from it. As I wrote this novel, I kept a file called "working outline," which I used to guide my day-by-day writing, but also marked up thoroughly, so that it remained a faithful outline of the plot of the novel even as I veered away from the original plan. There's at least one place where I wrote, "Wow, that chapter ended up very differently than I expected!" and then struck through all the rest of the text of the outline for that chapter and filled it in with something new. And when I got to the last couple of chapters, I threw the outline away completely. That working outline file also served as a handy place to make notes about things I wrote that I knew I wanted to pick up later on. It was a handy thing to have alongside my actual novel file (one big Word file, ending up at 1.8 MB!). 

I also kept a character file, with some basic information about each of the major characters in the novel. I had notes about D&D stats (I never statted these ones up completely), physical description, mannerisms, and favorite exclamations. For In the Claws of the Tiger I had a timeline file as well, where I tracked the action of the novel day by day. I started one of those for this novel but fell away from it... I'm sort of wondering if I should go back and fill it in to make sure I'm not making any weird mistakes about continuity. 

So there it is—a reaction to Bruce's comments, with some extra thoughts of my own about the writing process. Make of it what you will...

Oh, Yeah, There's This...

I've been remiss about updating, partly because I got a .Mac subscription in September and I'm still trying to decide in my head if I want to move my blog to that server and perhaps even let the domain name go. That would make me sad, but how long has it been since I've done any work (or any gaming) in Aquela? A very long time.

But the important thing is this, as of this past Sunday (the 14th):
Zokutou word meter
120,555 / 120,000

I've started working through the manuscript toward a final draft. That's a much happier place to be: sitting at Starbucks with my printed manuscript on one side (covered in my wife's notes), my editor's notes on the other side, and a cinnamon dolce latte in my hands, without any word-count target for the day. There's still some time pressure—I need to get this done so that I can start outlining and writing the next book! Oop—did I spill the beans?