ROW80Update: Movin’ Right Along

This is going to be a short one today–not much to talk about really, but I wanted to make a check-in.

Fortunately, this week has been more productive than last–I wrote 3000+ words! They came very easily, too; it says a lot about the direction your writing is going if it flows so nicely.

And here’s the most important thing I learned this week: if writing that scene if like pulling hen’s teeth, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing–it’s your muse telling you you’re going in the wrong direction. Pick a new one, and it’s amazing how much easier things become. Last week I had a crisis of faith with where my story was going, but I found a solution by taking it in a direction I hadn’t thought to go. It worked, and now I have a firm direction, my character arc is established (rather than just being ‘set up,’) and I’ve got a cliffhanger. Sometimes you have to force yourself to think outside the box.

The other great accomplishment I had this week was finishing the first draft of Court of Rain. This puts me at 50% of my first draft of phase one, and about 1600 words in total. Court of Sand unfortunately needs a lot of work yet, but that’s okay; it’ll be easier to edit that now that I have a clearer direction with Court of Rain. And the next instalment, Court of Sylphs, is being set up nicely.

 

ROW80 Update

I was going to include this update in today’s longer post, but decided that topic deserved to be set alone. I’m a fan of evocative writing, even if I’m not too good at it yet, and I’ve wanted to share that for a while. Hope you like it.

But on to the update:

I’m managing to keep myself vaguely on track, having written just shy of 2000 words since Monday. Not too bad at all, I think. More than that, the scene I wrote introduced a character I’ve been waiting to feature: Tobias Osir.

In the original incarnation of the story I’m writing, the plot takes place hundreds of years after the story I’m writing now. There was a long complex backstory I was going to reveal in flashbacks and short “interlude scenes” that would give more information on the mythology of the world. They all featured the Prophet Osir and his quest to reinvigorate the faith of his people in the midst of a devastating war. When I started writing Tapestry this time around, I decided to just write that story. Why hint at it when I can put it front and centre?

Osir is a character I’ve had in my head for a long time, but he’s never really been well defined–precisely because he was in the background. That’s a mistake, of course–background characters of any importance should be fleshed out–but now that he’s one of my main characters, that’s moot. I’m excited to get a chance to know him better, and more than just some esoteric prophet.

The thing that’s surprised me most about Osir is that he’s pretty timid. I generally build characters by having an overall view of their arc, then just writing an introductory scene; I have an idea of where I want to go, but I find I get more colourful characters if I let them develop organically (especially when they do so in relation to other characters). The scene I wrote was between Osir and Alkut, who is trying to overthrow the Empire and start a war–and wants Osir’s help. Osir’s reaction is meek and defensive. This seems like a weak start for him, but I think it will serve his arc well–there’s a lot of room for growth and development.

Not Enough Hours and a late update

Time by Alan Cleaver, c/o Flikr

You’ll notice, of course, that I missed my Wednesday post. Well, maybe missed is a bit harsh–I’m writing it a bit late, that’s all. I wanted to talk about characters this week in my Writing Wednesday, but my lateness has inspired me to write about something else: the issue of finding the time to write.

My update for ROW80 today is, sadly, not very exciting. I haven’t gotten much accomplished this week beyond daydreaming about my plot and characters, and one could hardly call that progress. I didn’t even come to any epiphanies that will affect the story; really the only decision I made was that one of my main characters loves licorice root. No word count.

Since I signed up for ROW80, I’ve tried to keep myself accountable, and get frustrated with myself when I don’t have much to report. But then I sat back and thought about why I didn’t have much to report. I haven’t been exactly idle; I’ve been very busy with work the past month, and worked several evenings in the past two weeks. More evenings are on the horizon. Who has the time to write?

And there’s the rub: there aren’t enough hours in the day. I still have to sleep, eat, and walk the dogs, not to mention spending quality time with my wife and family. People have this image of a writer as someone who holes themselves up at a desk and pours over the keys for hours on end. Anyone reading this blog knows that’s not how it works. Sometimes, you’re lucky to get 250 words down.

Which all got me to thinking about two main points I want to address today:

Excuses

They’re so easy. I couldn’t write today because I slept in. I’m just not inspired today. It’s Thanksgiving or (for our Canadian readers) Grey Cup. See my excuse above: I’m working at my real job.

Except those excuses and others like it don’t accomplish anything. They just point a finger at the problem, and attempt to absolve you of your own guilt. I do this all the time, so I’m not exempt: making excuses makes me feel better when I fall behind. The problem is that excuses are intangible. They’re just words, and they won’t help you get back in the saddle, or any further ahead. They’re completely arbitrary, and often don’t have anything to do with why you actually didn’t write.

Of course, that’s not to say excuses aren’t occasionally valid. A family emergency certainly applies. Work is a good one too: if you’re not making a living off your writing, you have to pay the bills somehow. That, and family, need to come first. The trick is to know the difference between these valid excuses and ones that just give you a pass–the ones that don’t do anything for your half finished book. Which leads into point two…

Finding the Time

This is probably the most common excuse; for me, anyway. I just didn’t have time to write this week. This is what I’ve been telling myself since mid-November. It’s a potent excuse, and very easy to justify. The problem is, it’s complete bunk.

I used to work a job that was mostly evenings and weekends. I’ve also wanted to take Tai Chi classes for a long time. Once, I lamented to my wife that I’d really love to take a class–you just don’t learn the same from a book or DVD–but that I didn’t have any time to commit to it. She told me flat out that finding the time wasn’t the issue at all. I wasn’t making the time. Wise woman.

Finding the time is a ridiculous notion in the first place. There’s time everywhere. It’s not like you get more or less allotted you in a day: it’s always 24 hours. What matters is how you manage that time. It’s all about priorities. You have a given amount of time each day for recreation or personal use; it may be more or less depending on what’s going on, but you’ll have it. You just need to use it wisely. Instead of lamenting that I didn’t have the time to take Tai Chi because I worked evenings, I could have been looking for daytime classes, finding a private tutor, or finding a class close enough to work that I could pop in on my dinner hour.

It’s the same with writing. You don’t need to find the time to write, you need to make the time to write. If you have a busy week, that’s fine, but make sure you set aside some of your off time to pound out a few words. Every bit helps, and if you’re consistent with this demand on your own time, you’ll get where you need to go. Just don’t let excuses get in your way.

Now, let’s see if I can follow my own advice… 🙂

Three Pillars of Fiction, and ROW80 Update

image by troismarteaux c/o Flikr

This has been a wonderfully productive week. This time last week, I was stumbling around trying to figure out why my characters were misbehaving–now I’ve got a clear(er) vision of what they’re up to, and I’ve set aside the scaffolding behind the book to settle on the actual writing. I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed 2242 words in total since Sunday’s update. This means I’ve finished the re-write of my Knight of Sand scene (with a new character!) and have half finished Queen of Rain, the first scene in the second story. With luck, I’ll have that finished by tomorrow and will be well on the way toward finishing Court of Rain by the end of next week.

All this work last week on the structure of my book got me to thinking about how fiction is, well, structured. So I thought I’d share something today that I’ve long thought at the core of a good novel or story: the Three Pillars of Fiction.

These aren’t by any means the be-all and end-all of writing fiction, but I think they’re a pretty well distilled group. I don’t think you can write a story without them–and if anyone knows of an example, I’d love to read it! I think all three are necessary, too–you can’t have one without the other. They’re like a tripod holding a brazier: knock one leg down and the others will topple, spilling embers and setting fire to the whole temple.

Anyway, in no particular order:

Description

This is the meat of your story, and has always been my favourite part to write. One of the most quoted adages of writing is “show, don’t tell,” and that’s what description is all about. This can be done well, or very poorly, and how it’s handled will give the reader a very strong image of the book as a whole either way. If you have some great descriptions, it can bring a reader into the World of your book like no other way can–but if your descriptions are tepid, cliched, or dull, they’ll just want to put it down.

This, I think, is where the book really comes alive. In a way, description is where you as an author get to whisper in your reader’s ear. You set up the tone and the feel of the story for them, lead them through it. When I’m writing description, I often think of my background in the theatre–it’s like directing a play. You have a particular image you want to portray, and it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to show it to your reader. The best part is that, done right, this pillar isn’t all that difficult–the secret is in allowing the reader some leeway with their own imagination. They’ll fill in more detail than you could ever conceivably put down into words, and make your descriptions stand out with as much vibrancy as they like.

Exposition

Anyone can have a character tell the backstory, but doing so in a compelling and informative way is not easy at all. The trap here is falling into a lecture. The last thing a reader wants is a five page history lesson about the background of your main character–even if it’s crucial to the plot. Exposition should be used like salt: a little dash here and there.

There’s an excellent article about this here. Roz Morris says it as succinctly as anyone could: “The only sin of exposition is that it is unnatural.” Exposition–as required as it is in some form–just seems jarring when it’s not done well. Would you enjoy a movie where the main character took ten minutes of screen time speaking directly to the audience trying to explain the story? No. In fact, having a character take the time to explicitly explain the story is a tell-tale sign that you’re not trusting your reader. You don’t have to beat them over the head with it, they’ll figure it out. And if they don’t, maybe your writing is too obscure in the first place.

On the other hand, exposition is very important for any story. Any reader is going to ask “why should I care?” when they first pick up a book. What drives them to want to read it? What’s it’s about? You have to get that across somehow. The trick is doing it subtly enough that your reader doesn’t realize it’s happening. Morris shows a great example from Orwell’s 1984 in the link above. To use another theatre analogy, one of the best ways to inexpensively build a set is to use Indicative Props: items you put on stage to hint that you’re in a particular place. A couple trees shows you’re in a forest, a scarecrow and sheaf of corn shows you’re in a field–you don’t need a whole painted backdrop. Writing is the same: sprinkle hints here and there, and you’ll get some nice “Indicative Exposition” to coin a phrase.

Another of my favourite techniques (though I’m not too good at it myself) is The Watson. This is a character who exists to ask the same questions the readers need to ask to get involved in the story. The Watson might be a major character or a narrator, and have other reasons for being there–but part of their purpose is to get the reader to identify with them. Effectively, the reader experiences the exposition vicariously through the Watson’s eyes.

Dialogue

This, for many people, is the big one. Honestly, I hate dialogue–I don’t think I’m very good at it, which is precisely the reason I don’t write stage plays. Dialogue has a lot of small factors you need to get right before it sounds real: accent, colloquialisms, tone, phrasing. And so on. It’s like maintaining a large machine without knowing how all the individual parts fit together.

For me, the hard part about dialogue is getting characters to sound different from one another. I’m not expert, but I think the trick in this case is to do character sketches. The way a character talks should reflect their character as a person. Someone who’s been brought up with a silver spoon in their mouth probably won’t swear as much as the dock worker who needs to bust his hump ten hours a day to feed his family. If you have a well fleshed out character, dialogue is a bit easier to write.

I think the most important thing to consider about dialogue is how it reads. That might sound redundant, so let’s rephrase it: you should hear how it sounds out loud. Read your dialogue as if you were reading a script. Have a friend read the other part, and have an actual conversation. If it sounds stilted or forced, re-do it. If it doesn’t sound like people talking, it’s not good enough. Dialogue that sounds unnatural sticks out on the page like a sore thumb, and it’s another easy turn off for a reader. On the other hand, if it reads like people talk, it’s easy for the reader to follow along–and more importantly, to connect with the characters.

 

Well, there we have it. Three Pillars of Fiction–do you have more to suggest? I’d love to hear your comments below!

Back in the Saddle–plus, New Schedule and ROW80 Update

Around of Words in 80 Days

A Round of Words in 80 Days

Well, after more than a week of writer’s block and general lassitude, I’ve been able to jump back into it and actually write. Research, plotting and organization is important, mind you, but I feel like I haven’t accomplished much tangible work in the last while. But I’m happy to say that in the last few days I managed to hammer out 1,153 words.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound like much spread over the three days since Wednesday’s update–but it’s a start. And a good one, considering that each of the scenes in my project–of which there are sixteen in total–are supposed to be around 2000 words. So, half done one new scene = not too bad. The unfortunate thing is that this is a new scene I’m writing to replace on that wasn’t working, so in a sense, it’s backtracking. But, it’s better for the overall story, so there you go. Perhaps I can salvage some of the replaced scene for something else.

I also have some news to share. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I originally set out to write a new post for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And you also know that for the past couple weeks, I haven’t managed a Friday post. This is a combination of work ramping up, trying to focus on writing my story rather than blog posts, and generally not having a topic to write about.

But on the advice of Duolit, I’ve decided to concentrate my efforts for this blog into certain areas. This will help me keep to a more regular schedule, and also help me figure out what exactly I want to say on this blog.Which, in turn, I hope will make it more interesting for you guys! So, I’ve come up with a new schedule:

  • On Mondays, I’ll blog about publishing. This may include articles about cover creation, how Kobo/Amazon works, formatting, or general indie publishing topics. This is the bare bones of self-publishing.
  • On Wednesdays I have an update with ROW80, so it’s a good time to do an article on Writing. This will be the meat of what we do; topics will cover things like character arcs, plotting, world building, and what makes good fiction.
  • On Fridays I’ll feature other indie authors with two semi-regular features: Indie Reviews and Indie Interviews. This won’t happen every week, but I’ll offer them as often as I can. This gives me some flexibility in my schedule while doing something that gives back to the indie community at large–showcasing other people’s work. There’s a lot of it out there, so there’s plenty of potential in this feature. I’m going to aim for at least two of these posts a month.
  • And on Sunday I have another ROW80 check-in. These posts won’t be very long, and will be more for keeping me accountable to my schedule. On Sundays I may also post news about this blog, or important topics that come up outside the topics listed above. Lie Fridays, this may not happen every week, but with a smaller post it shouldn’t be a problem.

So there we have it–a new schedule, and some concrete topics to look forward to each week. Enjoy–and as always, feedback is appreciated!

Organization Woes, OneNote, and ROW80

I’m a writer of short stories. This is something that’s starting to become apparent as I work my way through my Tapestry Project–writing an extended series is a much different thing. It will be, effectively, an epic length novel by the time it’s finished–and a novel has very different considerations than a group of short stories.

We won’t get into that today–I want to share, as part of my ROW80 update, what has helped me get back on track. As I mentioned Monday, I’ve been having trouble with some of the basic plotting of my project, in particular what the characters will be doing. So I sat down and did some careful organization–and I used a new (to me) Writer’s Tool called OneNote.

OneNote is a Microsoft product bundled with their Office Suite. It’s basically note taking software; you can make notes,add images, sound or video, organize it into separate workbooks, and generally keep everything tidy. It’s a one stop shop for all your notes and research.

Now, I know I’ve talked about Scrivener and it’s organizational qualities, and they’re great–but OneNote is something I’ve wanted to try for a while, and now that I have, I’m loving it. It’s easy to use and does exactly what I need it to do. The only trouble I’m having is synchronizing it between computers–but I’m troubleshooting that.

Anyway, this program has helped me get back on track. My update on Monday showed I haven’t moved very far in the project, and I’m afdraid I can’t extend that progress–at least not in word count. But, I’ve been able to set down what I want, and some deadlines as to how I’ll get there.

OneNote 2

Deadlines

As you can see (click on the image to enlarge), this is a very long term project. I based these timelines on the ROW80 schedule; this first round I’m participating in will encompass Phase One; I’ll tackle Phase Two over the next couple rounds, and Phase Three will probably take two rounds in itself. All in all, I don’t expect to finish the project by at least 2014.

That seems like a long time away, but I like giving myself the extra time. Realistically, I may be able to write parts of it much faster–but keeping a schedule like this will keep me on track, and allow me to see when i’m dropping behind. It should be interesting to see how I keep up with it.

(Incidentally, you’ll see I was also doodling on this tab in OneNote; the program has a drawing toolbar like Word, though I had to use a paint program to fill in the lines and dots and such. I’ll get into this symbol another time; suffice it to say it’s an Occult Glyph that the Hierophantic Caste uses, and that its meaning will be explored across the project as a whole. Meanwhile, I’ll promise a free copy of the entire project to the first person who can decode it in the comments below…if you can!)

OneNote is great for all sorts of things. The ability to insert check boxes made drawing up that schedule pretty easy. The big thing I like about this program, though, is that you can write anywhere on the page–just point your cursor and start typing, and it’ll put your text into a separate box. You can then pull this box around the page, fitting it wherever you like. That proved helpful in the page you see to the right.

OneNote 1

My plotting of Phase One

This is a Plotting Diagram for Phase One. As I’ve explained, Phase One will contain four stories of four scenes each; putting each story into it’s own block allows me to move them around

as I decide which will come first. My original order was Court of Sand, Court of Rain, Court of Sylphs, and Court of Tinder; comparing all of these together makes me wonder if I should switch Rain with Sylphs.

I’m a very visual person when it comes to organizing, so being able to basically shuffle index cards and move them around was very helpful for me. And I use that metaphor intentionally; one of the highlights of Scrivener is the use of Index Cards on the corkboard, which would can move around as you please. The difference is that in Scrivener you can only change the order–you can’t place a card wherever you want. In OneNote, you can put one card on top of another, move it off to the side, or move it completely off the page (as I did with my scene by scene synopsis in the picture here; I didn’t want to give you any spoilers!)

So this is how I’ve spent the last few days working on my Tapestry project. No, I don’t have a word count to offer for ROW80 this week–I wanted to, but didn’t make the time. However, all of this planning and finagling has helped me achieve something very valuable: I know have a very concrete idea of where I want this story to do, how my characters should act, and how long it will take me. I feel like I’ve painted lines on the road and am ready to barrel down the highway–remembering of course that in writing, it’s occasionally encouraged to go off the rails.

Lastly, you’ll notice a change in the theme I’m using for this blog. I got tired of the ragged page looking one, and wanted a bit of colour. I haven’t settled on this theme, and migth play with a few others over the next while–tell me what you think in the comments!

~J

ROW 80 and the Tarot

The Fool–beginning of all journeys.

I’ve got another update for Round of Words in 80 Days–but it’s a small one. Unfortunately, I haven’t made a whole lot of progress since Sunday; not in terms of words written, anyway. Maybe around 300.

But, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been researching, and that’s something I’d like to talk about today.

My Tapestry project, as I’ve explained before, is structured into three phases. What I haven’t revealed yet is that the entire project is based on a larger overall structure–the Tarot. For those who may not know, the Tarot is a card-based system of divination* that’s been around for several hundred (some say thousands, though that’s a tenuous claim) years. I won’t go into the history of the Tarot here, though there’s a great book about the subject.

A bit of backstory: I’ve been reading Tarot for nearly a decade, but I’ve always had trouble memorizing the meanings of each card. When I did readings, I usually did them with a book in hand–which doesn’t make for a very confident result. Nevertheless, people seemed to enjoy my readings, so I continued.

About a year ago, I realized that the reason I was having trouble figuring out the meanings of the cards was because I was researching them too much. Everyone has a different way to interpret the cards, and it gets confusing if you’re trying to decide amongst several different interpretations, all of which claim they’re more accurate. I realized that Tarot isn’t about hard and fast meanings–it’s about intuition. When I stopped “learning” about the cards, I quite suddenly found myself able to give accurate readings without a reference book.

What does this have to do with Tapestry? This project is, in part, a way to familiarize myself with the deeper structure of the Tarot.

There are three phases of the project, and each corresponds (roughly) to a part of the Tarot. Phase one follows the ideas behind the Court cards; phase two will follow the pips (or minor arcana,) and phase three–the big one–is structured after the Major Arcana. This final bit of the project was actually the part that started me off; I’ve always wanted to write an allegorical “hero’s journey” type book patterned on the Major Arcana, which is essentially a story of spiritual development from Fool to Enlightenment.

Anyway. Right now my research is focusing on the court cards. I know, I said above that research isn’t getting me anywhere in understanding the Tarot–but this is different. By comparing the accepted meanings from several different sources, studying the actual cards from various decks I use, and intuitively learning to understand the archetypes behind them, I’m beginning to get a general sense of each card. Each chapter in phase one will center around a particular character, and my research will help guide the development of that character.

Now, I should stress that I’m not turning the Tarot into a story. I don’t have sixteen characters (the number of court cards) in phase one. Ohmel, introduced as the Knight in the Court of Sand, also appears as the Knight in the other three courts. My main villain, Alkut, appears as the Page of Sand as well as the King of Rain, and possibly the Knight of Tinder. The characters are still my own, and won’t be held fast to the archetypes I discover in the tarot; instead, I like to think of them as being “coloured by the cards.”

So this week has been spend researching and thinking about the Court of Rain. In this part of the story the Queen of the Toral and her retinue deal with the fallout of the Ozym’s trade proposal–understanding that it is very likely a prelude to war. This is a suit interested in intuition and feeling, so it promises to be an emotionally charged entry, which I hope will pull the reader in, and help them make strong connections to the characters. Next up is Court of Slyphs.

You’ll notice that I’m not titling my stories directly after the Tarot; that’s because the story isn’t about the Tarot, just inspired by it. Breifly, here are the correlations:

  • Court of Sand = Suit of Pentacles (or Coins), which deals with Earthly, practical matters.
  • Court of Rain = Suit of Cups, as explained above.
  • Court of Slyphs = Suit of Swords, dealing with thought and logic.
  • Court of Tinder = Suit of Wands, which is about action and movement.

And there we are! How’s everyone else doing with ROW80 this week?

*I want to clarify that I don’t believe the Tarot can actually tell the future. Rather, I consider it an Oracle that can help give advice by revealing things we may already know, but aren’t paying attention to.

Image by snowqueen1426, c/o Flikr.

Slow and Steady: ROW80

This week’s been a bit different, you will have noticed. Last weekend I spent a lot of time doing my cover image for The Ancestor and Other Stories, and planned to do a blog post Monday about the process. That got split into two, which you can find here and here. After that post, I wanted to concentrate on getting my book released–my personal deadline was October 23–so I didn’t have much time for a post on Wednesday, opting for a simple update and inside look at my next project. No post Friday.

This morning is the Sunday check in for ROW80, so that’s what I’m here for. An odd schedule this week, but there you are. Hopefully back to normal next week.

So, an update: I had the day off on Friday, so I had some solid time to devote to writing. Before 10:00 AM, I’d plowed through 3000 words, and finished the first four stories of the sixteen planed for this phase of the project. In a rough draft, mind you, but still.

I also worked out a kink in the story that was bothering me, and wrote myself out of that corner I mentioned last time (I think). The characters are also coming out a bit more, and I’m learning about their habits and personalities. (My characters tend to start as an idea or even an archetype, and develop as I write into fully fleshed beings). I’m learning who the major players are–not necessarily the ones I’d thought, which means a bit of plot restructuring!–and this will make things easier going forward.

A Quick Note

This weekend, fellow writer/blogger Ryan Casey did a promotion through KDP Select for his book Something in the Cellar. There was a great response, pushing the book to #1 of the lists in the short story category. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you can do so here. It’s a great book, and I’d certainly recommend it.

The reason I mention it is because I’ve been thinking a lot about KDP Select over the last week–and specifically, about an article by Mark Coker of Smashwords about Amazon’s treatment of indie writers. Check out his article Amazon is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns. It’s a very enlightening article, if not for the content itself rather than the comments. Coker is a direct competitor to Amazon, and although he says he supports the Kindle store, he seems to put KDP Select in a corner. The comments get even more enlightening: they mostly centre around the Shamshwords “Meatgrinder,” and how difficult it is to get a quality product out of it. Coker’s response is generally that people aren’t using it right if they’re having trouble, but I won’t get into that…

My point is that there are two very different distribution options highlighted here. KDP Select gives you great visibility and promotion on the biggest eBook retailer out there, but keep you tied to it exclusively. Smashwords gets you out to numerous retailers, providing a wider visibility, but has an arduous application/formatting process that some writers claim mangles their work. Smashwords also requires you to put their name on your copyright page–ostensibly they say it’s only as a distributor, but many readers would easily mistake that page as meaning Smashwords is the publisher, not the author.

Personally, I’ve kept away from Smashwords, mostly because of Meatgrinder. I’ve stayed away from Amazon because of the exclusivity requirement. But, as a writer trying to build a platform and get some visibility for my work, I know something needs to be done besides the regular Amazon store and the Kobo store.

Anyway, Ryan’s success with KDP Select (which isn’t restricted to this past weekend’s promotion,) is making me seriously consider pulling The Ancestor and Other Stories from Kobo, and offering it through KDP Select. I’m also considering giving Smashwords a shot with The Astrologers–because it’s the only way to get a $0.00 price point into the Amazon store without a lot of price-matching mumbo-jumbo.

I haven’t made up my mind yet, but lok for some new adventures around the corner!

ROW80 Update, and Random Musings

So, this is my first Round of Words update.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot to say. The ROW80 FAQ looks for tangible results, so all that daydreaming I’ve done about where my plot will go doesn’t count, right? 🙂

Seriously, I’ve not done too bad. This week I wrote close to 2500 words–I forgot to get an exact count, but my story was around 1000 a few days ago and is 3500 now–and finished the first rough draft of one part of my project, tentatively titles Succor. I also corrected some plot holes, I think…and in the process, sort of wrote myself into a corner. The ending of my story now makes a bit more sense, but I’ve added what will turn out to be a major plot point in a later part of the project. Mental note to follow up on that.

So, considering that I released two books in the last seven days, I think ~2500 is pretty good. Here’s to keeping up the pace. By my calculations, reaching 32000 in the time I have left is only an average of 470 words a day, so I’m on track.

While we’re on the topic, I thought I’d describe my project a bit more…clearly.

Tapestry is the working title of a nine part project (series) which takes place in the world of Tornum, where my short story The Astrologers, is set–but a few hundred years earlier. The basic setup is this: the Ozym are a hard people who live in a land of deserts, mountains, and little else. They’re rich in wealth, metals and (steampunkish) technology, but are wasting their resources otherwise–they’re a starving people, and need help.

Then there’s the Toral, a more agrarian people steeped in faith, religion, and dogma. They’re a deeply spiritual people, but their Hierophantic religious caste has grown decadent and useless–their religion is more a “matter of course” than anything, though there are those who long for their faith to be affirmed.

The warlike Ozym want what the Toral have–resources–and through the conniving of a young ambitious page of the court, are willing to take it by force. A war is inevitable, but there’s much more at stake than food for the people and religious freedom–and powers at work that neither race suspects.

As I’ve described elsewhere, the project will encompass three phases:

  1. Phase One: four collections of four stories, each centering on a different viewpoint leading up to the conflict. Court of Sand is first, and features the Ozym; Court of Rain follows with the Toral; Court of Slyphs concerns the Four Hierophants, and Court of Tinder leads to the call of war.
  2. Phase Two: four novellas, as yet untitled, each focusing on a different side of the war. The Ozym, Toral and Hierophants all get their own feature again, and the fourth will cover the actual conflict.
  3. Phase Three: A stand-alone–but intricately linked–novel focusing on the journey of a young Toral page-turned-prophet, Tobias Osir, as he struggles to find meaning and salvation for his people. This one is further down the line, but will serve as the basis of the mythology I’ve drawn up for the world of Tornum.

The whole point behind this project–and the reason it’s called Tapestry–that that each segment of the project will link to another in a way that’s more than just chronological. The aforementioned Succor takes place as the Yziman Emperor is discussing terms with the Toral Queen; the second story in Court of Rain will look at it from her point of view. Items that are hinted at in one story will be explored in another, and questions here will be answered elsewhere.

All in all, the story will feature magic, technology, and alchemy while attempting to discuss issues of racism, class disparity, and spirituality. It’s been in my head for a good long time, and I’m loving that I’ve finally found an outlet for it. I expect the entire project to take at least a full year to write, and maybe around 332,000 words.

Fortunately I’ve got the ROW80 community at my back keeping me accountable and providing inspiration!