28 June, 2015

Plot, and making sure it moves forward

I'm in the second draft revisions of Tragedy of Ice, and I'm taking my time with them since I have plenty of feedback from my critics to consider. And it seems most of them are in agreement about one particular issue: openings.

Something I've always known is that I have a problem starting scenes, but no trouble finishing them. Beginnings are my weakest point, whether it's chapter 1, or the opening scene to chapter 35. I'm like an old car, having to take my time to rev up speed -- though once I get there, I'm fine. But I'm having to teach myself new techniques on the go to make the openings just as active and strong as my middles and endings.

And I think it's a good thing I chose now to finally watch Attack on Titan, an anime that I've only ever heard folks rave about. Well, it does have a great premise, but the execution of the story is so poorly done that the plot stagnates and putters to a halt by the end. What muddies everything is the overuse of flashbacks (especially short-term flashbacks that could've easily been part of the linear plot 2-3 episodes earlier), side stories for characters that aren't integral to the plot (the military police side story in particular towards the end of the series), and history lessons meant to explain things about the Titans that could've easily been covered during the training episodes (again, as part of the linear plot).

So while I don't use flashbacks or side stories that deviate from my two POV characters (Franklin and Kadiza), I do have to make sure I don't stall my plot with exposition that would turn the reader off to the whole novel. It's okay that my characters experience setbacks, just like it's okay for the characters of Attack on Titan to experience setbacks, but it's important that the plot moves forward even if the characters are struggling. If everything comes to a standstill, then there's nothing to hold my interest as a writer, and by extension there's nothing to hold your interest as the reader.

I have to make sure things move forward, and that's doubly important during these second draft revisions, as I have to make sure I'm not over zealously adding new character interactions that will weigh down the plot instead of advancing it. I've got to find that perfect balance, but that's a topic for another day.

For now, I need to get back to editing, as I'm sure you're all more interested in reading the finished work rather than my ramblings about finishing the work. I'll check in again soon (still struggling to get back into a blogging groove, but Tragedy of Ice is keeping my attention laser-focused), but in the meanwhile, here's a link to Hipólito's character sheet.

Until next time! :)

07 June, 2015

The muse is strong with this one . . .

*blows out air*

I am tired.

It's been a long, long trip from February to now, but I have written and revised the first draft of Tragedy of Ice, and now it's time that I sit on it and let it simmer and mature before going back to tackle the second draft.

The final word count this round came out to 121,919 words. That's a lot. That's a LOT more than Uncertain Heirs, even. But I won't let the word count intimidate me. It's a big manuscript, but it's a quick read.

Which means I will have to slow down for the editing. First revisions meant I was packing in information for clarity. This time I'll have to slow down to address character development, plot holes, consistency (you know, the nitty-gritty of making sure someone's designated broken limb doesn't change between chapters from their left to their right, or something similar), etc. So to be able to do that, I have to distance myself from the writing so it's like brand new material when I sit down to comb through it.

"So what do you do in the meanwhile?" you might ask.

Well, assorted things, really. I've been doing character sheets for my four main characters: Kadiza, Franklin, Hipólito, and Suresh. I've finished Kadiza's and Franklin's, and I'm working my way through Hipólito's. I had hoped to get to Suresh's this weekend, but it doesn't look like that'll happen. After I finish the main four, I'm planning to do character busts for the others mentioned throughout the novel, if only so they can have faces, at least.

And of course: notation. Making running notes of the manuscript is going to be the biggest help. I use OneNote for all my note-taking needs, but I have a copy of Scrivener now, so I'll be playing with it to see if I want to change over. Basically, I make my notes as I read through the manuscript, keeping quick references for characters, settings, motifs, themes, etc.

Something else that I'm trying new this time is to write "behind the scenes" bits (mainly for my benefit) to see what happens in the interim between chapters. Keeping in mind that this story is told from alternating POVs for Kadiza and Franklin, there's a lot of information that doesn't make it into the manuscript, so to make sure I keep the alluded-to knowledge accurate and consistent, I'm writing them out in hardcopy form so they're not running together in my brain.

Because that does happen. I sometimes think of things that overlap after awhile, and I forget the chronology, so it's best to start writing these things down now.

And so I won't keep you, I'm going to get back to the world building. So I'll see you all again soon!

Cheers!

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Ash Litton

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, Comeuppance, and Cabover Cabaret, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she's not writing, she's drawing, and when she's not doing either of those, she's dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.