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Revisit, re-assess

Posted by nightphoenix on December 22, 2011 in Novels, Output, Process |

I just looked at the date of the last post I made here, and I’m fairly embarrassed. I’d love to say I’ve been wonderfully busy and productive and just haven’t had the time to update…

Well.

The problem is, my productivity has been extremely spread out. I’ve gotten a little further on Promises, Like Tears. I’ve written the script for about half an episode of Grimms, and mapped out all the episodes in each season…so I have a very clear picture of where everything is going. I’ve written a better version of my query letter, and am set to revise it yet again. I discovered the most awesome epic fantasy writing music on the planet. I made some awesome Halloween costumes. Aaaaaand, I’m revising Hands, Like Secrets. Again.

I just really don’t seem to have the discipline to keep plugging away on one single project at a time. I can do it for a couple of weeks, but then it’s like I HAVE to work on something else for a little while. My system of grouping projects together (one series, one novel, one season of Grimms, specific visual projects) has been useful in keeping myself within limits, as far as what gets worked on. I really can’t decide if my multiple project mindset is something I ought to try and train myself out of, or something to harness. I mean, once I break into the business I will have to be able to work within a schedule. I won’t be able to work on whatever the hell I want when I want, you know? So maybe I need to get myself used to that now.

So, in order. I’ve kind of hit a wall in Promises, one of those “just wanna get this stupid scene DONE and move on” walls that you simply have to kind of plod through. I felt like I was losing my grip on the characters and their motivations, like everything they were doing was coming from me instead of them. Being a character-driven writer, I hate that feeling. When I get that way I just have to take a step back. That was around Halloween, too, so I was doing costumes, which always eat a lot of my time.

Also, I got a copy of Scrivener for my birthday this year, and part of what’s been eating my time in the last couple of months has been moving all my various ideas and works-in-progress over to that format. Scrivener is a writing program which basically allows you to store all your documents, photos, bits of research, anything related to your story in one place, and lets you organize it. It’s really a great tool if you, like me, find yourself creating massive folders full of story-related stuff for each novel, and get tired of having to have multiple programs open all the time just to access it all. Initially I wasn’t going bother moving Shades, since Hands, Like Secrets was done and Promises well started. But after realizing that I could put ALL of my Shades stories in one project file, including the sequel and prequel, I decided it made sense to dump it all into Scrivener. Moving all my various projects has really helped me take stock of where I am in each project, and what still needs to be done. It was this move, actually, that got me working on Grimms again.

I ended up going through the whole story and working out arcs for each character, especially when they would peak or bottom out. What I didn’t want to happen was having all eight Grimms hitting rock bottom at the same time, because then I’d have a bunch of emotionally charged episodes followed by episodes where nothing significant happened. Gave each episode a name and a general plan of action as well.

The other major thing I did was make one of the Grimms gay. When I was creating the characters initially, I set out to make the cast as racially diverse as possible (without it seeming contrived). The girls outnumber the guys, but since guys tend to be over-represented in visual fiction, I think it will actually end up feeling even. But my relationship pairings were…too perfect. Hansel/Gretel, Red/Stiltz, Cutter/Cinder, Rapunzel/Oros (a fae), and Rora was going to fall for Alan Hunter in the end. But the whole point of having a diverse cast is so that, hopefully, everyone that reads the graphic novel will have at least one character they can really relate to. One character that “represents” them. This is the strength of an ensemble. So I got to thinking, who will my LGBT readers relate to? I felt like that perspective deserved representation as much as any other.

I chose Rora, initially because she was the only “unattached” Grimm, and changing her orientation would least affect my already established story arcs. But as I began to approach her character with this new nuance in mind, something unexpected happened. She almost immediately fell for Katie, the human girl who gets placed with Mother Goose in Season 3, and it was perfect. It introduces the problem of a Grimm falling for a human, which nicely contrasts Rapunzel’s struggle (Grimm falling for a Fae). It explaines a lot about Katie’s character. It links the Grimms with Smile, the second Fae-rescue team that Katie eventually helps start. I get to address the issue of homosexuality from the perspective of someone who’s grown up in an environment entirely free from the usual associated stigma (Arcadia), and someone who is all too familiar with the stigma.

And then, just this month, I really started to reassess where I am with Hands, and my agent-hunting. Because aside from that one nibble right at the beginning of the process, I’ve only gotten form rejections and silence. I tried revising my query letter, but that hasn’t seemed to help. Therefore, I have to think that it’s the story itself, specifically the beginning (as that’s what most agents request), that’s the problem. I have actually suspected (and tried to deny) that Hands didn’t start in quite the right place, that the scene in the High Priestess’ office is too tame to kick off the story. I just couldn’t figure out how to include all the necessary backstory otherwise. But I started reading a book called Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers by Les Edgerton…and realized that a lot of that backstory is not really necessary. Interesting, perhaps, but not necessary.

What I essentially decided to do was start the book in Chapter 2. I mean, compare the strengths of the opening lines:

Chapter 1: “I’d been summoned to the High Priestess’ office that night.” Bleh.

Chapter 2: “I sank back against the wall, gripping my hands into fists to stop them from shaking.”

Yeah, the second one is a whole lot more intriguing. And that immediately segues into the battle between Raphel and the High Priestess, which makes for an awesome first chapter. I was able to add back in enough information that (I hope) the reader will be able to figure out what’s going on. (Though I will say, if you are the kind of person who likes to have all new information, definitions, words, and explanations laid out for you up front, you probably aren’t going to enjoy this book.)

And, in rewriting that beginning, I really started to straighten out Saeli’s GMC as it progresses through the story. Although the last major rewrite I did straightened out most of the major continuity errors, there was still some disconnect between various scenes, specifically in the area of how Saeli is reacting to what’s going on. The various issues were coming and going, one after another, instead of piling up to the climax. Also, Saeli’s a bit tougher and sharper this time around, and there’s a very noticeable disconnect between what she’s thinking and how she’s acting at any given moment. I think this has everything to do with where the story starts now. She’s all over the place, emotionally, in her head…but to anyone else, she probably comes across as calm, quiet, and even a little bit cold. She’s actually pretty downright harsh to Raphel at first, and overall I think she’s a better match for him this time around. I’ve found myself writing him a little bit softer and more seductive in response, and I think he actually likes her a little bit more than he did before. It means that his cruelty is all the more jarring when it surfaces, which is appropriate.

I think this will also help me push through Promises, as I have a much clearly picture of where Saeli has been.

I’ve also discovered what seems like a hundred little tiny plot holes, which is both irritating and alarming (I’ve sent this to agents? Good gods, what was I thinking??). Most are continuity gaps, emotionally getting a character from here to there. Some are logistical, like why on earth did I have Saeli and Raphel walk up an entire flight of tower stairs in the city Temple when time is of the essence and THEY CAN TELEPORT?

And the latest one: After Raphel spirits Saeli away and returns her, the High Priestess decides that it’s not safe for Saeli to leave campus until she is dedicated to Scisaxar. Saeli gets special permission to leave campus for a few hours to go to a graduation party, at Cara’s request. She walks alone to a cabstand and takes a cab. On the way, she is intercepted by Raphel.

See the problem yet?

Saeli would never have been permitted to walk out of Aschamon alone. See, the reader knows that Saeli has already thwarted this rule once, and that she is not in any physical danger from Raphel. But the High Priestess does not know that. There’s simply no way she would allow Saeli to travel to this party by herself: she would arrange for Saeli to be teleported straight there, or at the very least, assign someone to escort her.

Cara is a bit more blaze about the whole danger aspect. She’s helped Saeli sneak out once…but that was only to Main Street, and she was with her roommate the whole time. Letting Saeli travel by herself, across town, at sunset? No, I don’t buy it. Again, as far as Cara knows, there is a murderous Cowl out there just waiting to get his hands on Saeli again.

But the thing is, Saeli has to be alone for this scene to work. She has to disappear with Raphel for an hour, and then has to appear at the party with no one the wiser. (Which means Raphel can’t neutralize Saeli’s escort, or abduct her for an hour when teleportation is supposed to be near instantaneous.) Raphel also cannot go anywhere near the party, because any Anjahel there will sense him. Saeli has to start learning rashas qi onscreen, as it were, and it must happen before all the party excitement (because she won’t be in any emotional condition to do it after she’s been “abducted”). This does not leave me many options.

My best one:

#1: Cara acts as Saeli’s escort. Raphel, in the guise of “Aiden”, whom Cara has met, convinces her to let him have an hour alone with Saeli before he takes her to the party himself. Cara would probably agree to this.

Downsides: Cara has been to Valene’s house (where the party is), so there’s no good reason for her to NOT teleport her and Saeli straight there. Especially since Cara wants to give Saeli the full advantage of her limited freedom, and figures Saeli won’t want to waste time in travel. Granted, they would have to exit the school in order to teleport, but they’d only have to be outside the gates. Raphel cannot intercept them there for obvious reasons.

Possible solutions: Saeli convinces Cara to get a quick bite to eat in town before heading for the party. Maybe, if Cara can be convinced that isn’t bending the HP’s rules too much. Or, Saeli travels with a large group of girls (probably Cara’s friends) into town ahead of time to, I dunno, eat or accessorize or whatever. A group would seem safer. Problematic, in that Raphel isn’t going to want to be seen by a whole bunch of Aschamon students and risk being pegged for what he is: a Cowl. Also, it means lots of people are going to know that Saeli disappeared with a guy, which means the word is much more likely to get back to the Priestess. The Priestess would recognize Raphel from his description. Eh…sounds like I’m going with option #1. It’s the least complicated.

Least complicated being an extremely relative term. Just thinking of all the little scenes I’ll have to alter to make this change is making my head hurt. But it needs to be done.

After all that, I’ll have to do another line edit, because somehow even though I dropped an entire chapter, my word count went UP. Then I will write yet another query letter, which I think I have a better idea of how to approach that now. If all goes well, by the first of the year, I will be querying again.

Oh! Epic fantasy writing music. Discovered a group called Two Steps From Hell (via Brandon Sanderson’s Facebook, of all places), and immediately had to get both of their commercially available albums. Apparently they mostly make movie trailer music (in fact, I recognized two of their songs in the latest Twilight trailer). Which means most of what they’ve done is only available if you, you know, have lots of money and make movies. But, man. This is what I’m talking about:

Two Steps From Hell - Archangel

Anyway, here’s to getting an agent in 2012.

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