Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: A Life of Note

Slow on the Writing Front

My writing downswing seems to be over, but I can’t really say as I’m tearing through any projects with regards to writing right now. I’ve been trying to divide my attention between two projects set on Chraest in preparation for National Novel Writing Month in November.

The books I’m trying to prepare for Nano are A Life of Note I: Antiphons and The Horseless Carriage I: Clockworks. The reason why I’m trying to tackle both of them right now is because I have this notion that during the course of both series they’re going to touch and tie in to each other somewhat. As I see it, Géta’s friend Udé is going to train one of his Gifts by assisting the MCs of THC1, and I’m considering having Géta and one of the MCs (his name keeps changing) of THC become romantically involved. This means, either way I go with the books, I need to have both books 1 written before I start working on books 2 for both series so that I can tie them together.

I’m thinking THC will be only two books long, unless I send Juner and the other MC of the series off to war for some reason. ALON will of course be three books long, and I suspect may carry some of THC’s characters’ lives into the third volume.

But I started on THC1 late. LOL Only last week, I started getting plot points on it. Actually, I outlined a couple of scenes, then realized plot points would help me there and started on them. I’m excited to work on this project. More than for writing on ALON1. I’ve been concentrating on getting plot points into Scapple for THC, and intend, if I do write that book instead of ALON1, to do my usual thing of getting two plot cards per scene written until I have a total of 15 cards and then run with an open-ended outline.

Getting the plot points is slow, though. Only two or three a day. The way my scenes build upon one another, I’m wondering if the plot points won’t come faster until I’m actually writing on the project. Same with the plot cards for the outline. Over the next week or so, I’ll be outlining from what plot points I have to see if that shakes something loose like writing can sometimes help with the outline. That’s part of the reason why I prefer an open-ended outline. Sometimes a scene I write gives me an idea for a future scene, or feeds into a subplot thread in a way I didn’t see prior to writing the scene out. I’m hoping the outline will work like that for the plot points.

It would probably help if I were a bit more enthusiastic, but this year has been a low year for writing enthusiasm in general. When I have written, I’ve not been as into it as I was last year. Knowing my luck, my writing enthusiasm will surge up the moment I start classes in January. LOL

Fear of Finishing

When my creative mind wakes up again, the WIP I’d most like to focus on is TPOM3. I stopped working on it a while back for a few reasons: 1) I couldn’t figure out how to carry on the outline from the card where it stops; 2) my creative mind decided to focus on something else; and 3) I’m afraid to finish it.

I go through this fear at some point with all my writing. Sometimes it stalls me longer than it does other times. With some stories, I’m able to power through; this works best with my short stories, especially since I tend to enjoy seeing how they end. While I enjoy seeing how my longer works end also, I also start to balk at completing them. The longer the project, the more I balk.

Someone suggested I may be afraid of completing my longer WIPs because I’m afraid I’ll miss the characters—writing about them, that is. I don’t think this is the case with TPOM3. This is the culmination of only one particular story I want to tell about Asthané and Géta. I even already know how I want to open the next book, A Life of Note I: Antiphons.

The Power of Music is the absolute longest project I’ve ever worked on—at least, up to this point in my writing life. I expect ALON to be longer, and Melodies of War to be even longer. These are epic stories, though I don’t think they precisely follow epic fantasy’s “rules.” Quite frankly, I don’t care about whatever rules I may be breaking.

I think at least part of the reason why I’m afraid to complete TPOM3 is because it’ll mean I can succeed as a writer. This will be the first major project I’ve ever completed from any genre of writing. It also means that I’ll have to make good on the “promises” of writing ALON and MOW, and, right now, I’m not sure I can do that. There’s a part of me which cringes at the idea of completing anything more than TPOM3, even though that alone isn’t the entire story of Asthané and Géta. Géta has much more to do magically speaking, and Asthané has a lot of learning to do. I also want to see them and their Empire through the major conflict they’re going to have with Ghulia later on. They have much, much more to say than what I could possibly fit in TPOM.

I think the plot card which I stopped outlining with is a turning-point, though. Both for my story and the characters in it as well as for me. Back in November, I started to get inklings of a way to deal with the block, and those vague notions came stronger when I recently read through the plot cards I have. I’m currently in the middle of a writing downswing, but it’s been mild, and I’ve been getting clearer ideas for my MCs’ lives onward from the ending of TPOM3 than I’ve had before now.

All this is making me anxious to finish TPOM, and hopefully I’ll find the courage to do so. Maybe holding up starting on ALON will help me. Maybe this writing downswing will send me into a writing upswing which will enable me to blast through my fear to complete TPOM. I don’t know. All I do know is that I want to complete TPOM so I can start on ALON.

Writing Goals 2014

This is a bit belated, but I’ve only recently gotten myself organized enough to determine what I want to write this year. It isn’t a complicated writing goal, just a heavy one. The following are the writing projects I want to have done by 31 December 2014:

Discordant Harmonies Ennealogy

The Power of Music III: Measure of Resistance – Currently working on outline, adding one plot card per scene written.

A Life of Note I: Counterpoints – Write outline and book.

A Life of Note II: Antiphons – Get outline written.

Touched by Kalia Duology (At this point, it’s only a duology. Waiting to see how long that actually lasts.)

Book I: Unwritten Letters – Currently working on outline; trying to get two plot cards a day.

At least title book 2.

Sense of Balance Trilogy

Book I: Exemplar – Do research necessary on it and at least finish outline.

Autocrat’s Rise Trilogy

Back from the Dead – Keep up with this project’s Two-Year Novel course exercises and finish book before end of year, perhaps write at least part of it during Nano.

Right now, I’m in a severe writing downswing. Severity in the length of time it’s been around, not depth of down it is. I’m still actually able to work on various other aspects of my writing and have had a few odd days of writing and plot card progress, but not much. Those days are sporadic at best, so I’m not counting on them. I think it’s Real Life stress getting to me, which I probably shouldn’t be surprised about, considering. I’m actually surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. This downswing began on about 15 January this year, and it’s lasted over a month so far. It probably won’t go away for at least a few days yet (much as I hope otherwise).

Writing Insanity

There are times I think I’m more insane than being bipolar makes me. Like right now.

I have, at this moment, a total of five writing projects pulling me in various directions.

Five.

Main project I’m working on is Unwritten Letters. This is the one where I want active wordage on as close to daily as I can make it. Missed yesterday due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which was because I hadn’t been to bed the night before, but have written every previous day since Sunday and will get another scene on it today. I’m outlining two plot cards per one scene written on this project, as is my usual habit with writing now.

I’ve “set aside” Casi/Vel, whose title is now Sense of Balance and looks like it’ll be a trilogy, possibly with both characters’ points of view. I’m debating POV while I consider what I need to research to make this project roll. Usually I balk at heavy research; what I can’t take care of on an “as needed” basis usually scares me off of a project, but I’ve known for a long time that all I needed was to conceive a project whose characters grabbed me by the creative-mind’s throat and held on. SoB is that project. So, as soon as the snow starts melting and I’m done with cancer treatments (which may happen at about the same time depending on what radiation research study arm I end up in), I’ll be heading up to the public library to start my research. Can’t go ’cause of snow and ice on sidewalks right now, and taking the bus is a waste of money when I can walk there (and need the transit money for trips to cancer treatments and other appointments). So this story is “set aside” but very much on my mind, and I intend to make a list of plot points over the duration I’ll be waiting until I can start the research.

Third project is going to go a bit slower. This is the first book of Autocrat’s Rise. I’m writing this according to to the steps in the Two Year Novel Course written by Lazette Gifford. She’s teaching it now on Forward Motion For Writers, and since I have to basically build Ghulia from the ground up, I decided to join the class. This will be a slow process: one class a week, so I should be able to keep up with it (provided I don’t have any more major unplanned events like last year, which caused me to drop out of it). I’m not too worried about moving fast on this project, so using the 2YN course should do me fine by it.

I’ve picked up on TPOM3 again, too. Been getting about two plot cards a day on it, and that’s been my goal for five days this week. I need to organize the cards I have, so I know what all I need to get done. For this, I’ll probably finish the outline before I pick up on active wordage for it, then I’ll have to go through and add in all the (few) unwritten scenes in the first two books before I can call the whole trilogy complete. Then I’ll have to go through and correct age/time/date references since I finally completed the Calendar and age conversion tables (which I may write more on later). Once I get done with this, I’ll start work on A Life of Note, which follows the same MCs into different situations.

For my final project, I’ll be spending the next week or so going through Stirrings. I spent all day yesterday reading it to get an idea what I need to do to fix it, and Jennifer Amriss read through it for me and told me what I needed to know in order to do a full edit run on it (verdict was I didn’t make any character completely unlikeable and I don’t need to do too much work to emphasize certain plot points). Basically, the major issue is correcting all the age/time/date references and picking out typos and other minor things like making sure everything makes sense (came across a sentence earlier which I needed to correct). This shouldn’t take much time, though, so I should be officially DONE with it within a few weeks at most.

And these are all in addition to things like reworking the Timeline for the stories/world and Real Life Things and finding time to read and work on other crafts (namely, crocheting). I want to get UL and TPOM done before this fall, when I plan on going to college. I’d like to have ALON and AR outlined by November and be at least starting on the outline for the first book of SoB by then, too. I’m trying to learn to treat my writing professionally now, so when I’m able to start publishing, I have a backlog of outlines and story ideas to do background work on as well as write.

Rathers

Get any group of writers together, regardless of genre, and if they’re the type to write a little each day, or have a set wordcount goal a week, you’ll eventually hear them discuss what they’d rather be working on. This isn’t a negative desire as in “I’d rather be at home reading than working my paying job.” This is the writer full of a fresh (or not so fresh) new (or maybe not so new) idea which is currently firing up their creative mind to the point where that one idea is the one they want to focus on.

Some writers are fairly good at lining up all their story ideas and saying, “I’ll write you in this order and no other way.” It’s just the way their minds work. Others aren’t able to be quite so organized or patient and bounce from one project to another until they eventually start completing stories.

But there’s always those Rathers. Even when if a writer is the type to bounce, it’s that Rather speaking.

I’m generally able to line my writing up and say “I’ll do you in this order.” This does not preclude me getting an attack of the Rathers, however. I’m in the middle of one right now in fact, with A Life of Note, the story (set) which follows pretty much right after events in TPOM. Well, within a year or two of events from it. ALON has been a rather well-behaved idea most of the year, to be honest, waiting patiently for me to get close to finishing TPOM’s three books. But it wants to be written. I can tell.

‘Cause I’d rather be working on it right now.

To explain: Last year, when I started on Unsought Gifts, the first book of TPOM, I did so with the assumption ALON would be book two of the (at the time only) trilogy planned with my characters Asthané and Géta. I thought UG would be about 90k-120k words, then I’d take my characters back to the Capitol to do their thing, then have a third book concerning a major war with an ancestral enemy. No problem. Simple!

Except, not quite so simple.

I wrote UG and book two of TPOM in one individual file, and it quickly became apparent that, though UG itself was only around 50k-60k words, the rest of the story was going to exceed pretty much all expectations for putting it into one book with UG. So I did the wise thing and cut UG from the wip and put it in its own file and wrote what is now the second book to TPOM out to completion. The second book, tentatively titled Severe Notes, is about 110k words, with a few missing scenes I haven’t been able to write ’cause I haven’t known the ultimate ending of the trilogy. I’m looking at book three to come out around the same length.

This of course necessitated me setting ALON aside, since there was (is) no way it can fit in this trilogy. It’s had a year to get “ripe” for writing. This means I now have plenty of scenes for at least one book sitting in my head, with quite a number of plot points and a variety of other ideas which may or may not get used once I start hammering things out.

As a result, every so often throughout this past year, I’ve looked at ALON and thought, “I’d rather be working on that.” I simply haven’t been able to since it requires me knowing where TPOM ends for the MCs on an emotional basis. Now that I’m getting close to that ending, I’m feeling the Rathers very strongly. My mind is turning more and more to ALON and what I want to do with it.

Even with my ability to organize and line up my wips, ALON has been getting antsy to be written, and I’m enjoying the process of going batty with anticipation of working on it while finishing up TPOM’s third book. I have to say, after the experience I had with the gay romances, this is not as annoying as some other writers might find it. I’m glad to have my Rathers and be toying with the next major project I have planned.

Possible Prework Method

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to begin outlines before I begin writing the stories I come up with. Typical method is for me to write a few scenes, then reverse outline them on plot cards in Scrivener before continuing on with a preworked outline. Once I get to this point, I typically do two plot cards per one scene written as I progress through the project. This method is far from perfect. Not only do I get confused between what I’m writing and outlining, if I hit a block in the outline, I don’t feel confident enough to continue writing scenes, especially when I have few outlined, and it stalls the project—as it has with TPOM3 at the moment.

I think, however, I may have discovered a method I can work with. It’s how I figured out the last portion of Brotherhood A’s outline.

Basically what I did was create a new text file in Scrivener and typed in all the plot points which were required to complete the story. This was about ten or eleven plot points, and I typed them up out of order, so the next step was putting them in the order in which I wanted them to happen. After I did this, I handwrote the scene summaries on 5×8 index cards—again, doing them out of order, as the ideas occurred to me. Once I had these done, I organized them then read through them over and over until I came up with interim scenes to fill out the outline a bit and tie in plotting I’d already outlined or written out. These cards, I tucked into place in order despite writing out of order, because I was basing them in part on the big plot-points cards. With the outline completed in handwriting on index cards, I then entered the plot cards in Scrivener, then read through the last portion of the outline and the rest of the story to make sure I was picking up all the plot threads I’d opened in the manuscript and numbered outline. I ended up adding a card or two, then numbered the new cards with an epilogue summary card at the end.

This is not the most speedy method I could have come up with. The whole process took me a couple days for about fifteen plot cards, but it was both fun and helpful. I plan on using this method with the next story I do after I finish Brotherhood A, starting with it before I actually write any scenes out. I’d like to develop a completed outline using this method.

Now it’s just a matter of deciding which project to work on next. I have quite a few in line, but none are calling strongly enough to really grip my attention. I’ve already got a plan for what to work on after I’m done with TPOM’s books—the first and second books of the trilogy have some missing scenes I can’t write until I know how the third book ends. That will be A Life of Note, which will either be one long book or a trilogy. Not sure which at this point and probably won’t have any idea until I get to working on its outline.

I’d kind of like to work on a couple different books/trilogies after Brotherhood A. I also need to work up a timeline of events so that I can keep everything straight in the books, because most of the ones following TPOM kind of follow upon one another. Even the book I have planned of the changing of Lissau’s government from empire to hierocracy ties into the overall scheme of the Édalain Empire’s longstanding animosity with Ghulia and its ruler, the Autocrat.

The Humble Miracles trilogy and Brotherhood B don’t directly tie in to that relationship, but they are about conflicts which must be ended for the greater good of the Empire. I see Brotherhood B as the last Empire-centric story set during Empress Yulée’s rule. I may write a “sequel” to Brotherhood A; it should be one book, and it ties in to Brotherhood A a few years following events in that book.

I really need to get the timeline worked up. That’ll help me with organization of this mess of ideas. LOL

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