Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: The Power of Music

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.

Random Vs. Predictable

When I began writing The Power of Music, I knew I would be working with two points of view. Throughout most of the first volume of that story, I managed to pretty predictably ping pong between the two. I’d write one or two scenes with Géta, then match that number with an equal number from Asthané’s point of view. There were a few places where I didn’t do that, but for the most part, I was able to keep that pattern.

In the second book, that was blown all to hell. I’ve always seen TPOM more as Géta’s story—in fact, the whole Discordant Harmonies series. Asthané is an important point of view, but he’s not the most important one. It’s Géta. Don’t get me wrong. I love Asthané. He has a point of view because what he has to “say” is just as important, in some ways, as Géta has to say. They both have a major hand in the plot and making music for the Mages of the Empire what it’s supposed to become, not just in TPOM, but in the other two books as well.

However, since Géta, as the musician, is pivotal to everything, the focus is primarily on his point of view. His scenes, and that meant I had to accept the fact that I could not tell the story I wanted if I kept up the equality ping pong between his pov and Asthané’s. So, in the second volume of TPOM, I wrote the story I wanted to tell.

As a result, books two and three are pretty randomly divided between the two, with a greater number of scenes from Géta’s point of view. Asthané simply isn’t as influential on the story, and he has much less to go through with regards to plot.

I think pretty much every Chraesti book which has two or more active points of view will fall out this way. These stories are my heart’s stories in a lot of ways, and I don’t want to screw with the technical side too much or they may not come out the way I want to—the way they need to in order for the whole saga I see for Chraest to work the way it has to.

But my Hatuni books aren’t like that.

It’s kind of an experiment what I’m doing with the books set on Hatu Napor. At least with Degrees of Subtlety (I) and Fairy-Touched. When I started outlining DoS, I determined I’d try to make the pov breaks as predictable as possible. They’re random in the extreme in TPOM—happen anywhere regardless of whether or not it’s actually a new chapter. With DoS, I wanted to challenge myself. So, with that in mind, I outlined two scenes at a time for each character. DoS begins with two scenes from Arrowroot’s pov, then the chapter breaks, and the next two scenes are from Sweetbriar’s pov. Each character gets two scenes, and these two scenes comprise a single chapter told from that character’s pov. In Fairy-Touched, I have three scenes from each character’s pov in alternating chapters. So, one chapter of three scenes from POV1 (whose name keeps changing) in one chapter, and three scenes from Kaj’s pov in the following chapter.

Thus far, I’ve been able to keep up with things like this without the story breaking down. I do not want to break this pattern with my Hatuni books. That’s part of the challenge. I want to see if it’s possible for me, someone who changes point of view arbitrarily, to create a comprehensible story which is logical and makes sense plotwise while keeping to a strict, predictable pattern.

I also want my Hatuni books to be stylistically different from my Chraesti stories somehow. I want them to have their own “personality.” Making the point of view changes predictable is the best way I could think of to do it. Dividing the pov changes by chapter makes them even more distinct from my Chraesti books.

I’ve found my Hatuni books require a different mindset. In order to create the divisions between points of view I have in them, I spend longer trying to see pertinent scenes. But the challenge is fun, even if it’s slow-going with them. I’m finding myself able to write deeper scenes than I think I’d be getting on them if I were randomly changing points of view. Writing more than one scene from one pov is also allowing me to deepen their characterization over a longer “period” in the story. I’m also able to focus on plot points better, which means I see more things I can do to add depth and complication to them. Staying in one point of view throughout a chapter also enables me to give both characters “equal” page time, relatively speaking.

They’re turning out to be “neater” books—no matter how much I love them, I’m always going to see my Chraesti duo/multi pov books as “messy.” No rhyme or reason to the randomness of their pov switches aside from the plot requirements. I’m finding I enjoy creating predictable pov switches in my Hatuni books. I’m excited by the difference in the style, and it makes the books challenging enough to plot out that I haven’t lost interest.

Now if only I could switch back to writing these books, I’d be happy. LOL

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.

Beginning of the Writing Year

On 1 January, I started a new story. This was unplanned, the result of an idea which wouldn’t leave me alone long enough to focus on other stories. Writing out the initial scene on this NewIdea worked; I was able to write on Unwritten Letters. The next day, I ended up writing more scenes in NewIdea, which, for lack of a better title at present I’ll refer to as Casi/Vel (the two MCs).

January second and third, I rather plowed through the opening of this story. Unfortunately, this focus on the NewIdea coincided with a rather severe case of chemo fatigue, as I had chemo on Tuesday. I was not expecting my third round of chemo to take me out like it did, but I lost my connection to my writing, though I wrote anyway. It was the oddest, most disturbing two days of writing I’d ever experienced, even taking into account Hell Year of Writing in 2012, which was my worst year of writing overall. In 2012, I spent most of the year in despair with my writing, hating every word, but so desperate to write I forced words out, which only exacerbated my depression and writing downswings. I spent at least half of 2012 in a writing downswing, where I didn’t write unless I had an outline and some sort of incentive (Julno, Nano). I barely got my 2012 FM Anthology story written and turned in on time, and it was the only writing I actually enjoyed the whole year.

The second and third days of this month were like that, only worse. I not only detested my writing and couldn’t stand to look at it immediately after writing it, but I also felt so disconnected from it I doubted it was any good. Normally, when I have doubts, they’re not unfounded, but I was in no condition to figure out the problem and deal with it until yesterday (the 4th).

When I came back to myself—started feeling connected to the story and characters again—in the evening of the third, I asked an online writer friend, Jennifer Amriss, to read through what I’d written already. This was important. I’d regained contact with my writing on an emotional level, but I knew something was wrong with it, and couldn’t identify the issue. Not knowing the issue blocked me after I wrote one scene where I felt connected to my writing and my characters, so in order to progress, I knew I had to identify the issue and deal with it so I could move on. The reason why moving on this project was so important? I was not receiving any inclination to work on either of my other projects; the only ideas I was coming up with went to Casi/Vel.

Jennifer kindly agreed to do a quick read-through of the 12+k words I’d managed to write on Casi/Vel. I emailed her the project and distracted myself until she contacted me. Her verdict: the first several scenes read like a textbook. She told me where she thought the story actually began to open up and where my writing started touching the characters in such a way to make them real.

I had two options. Either try to fix the faulty writing, or simply cut the first four or five scenes or so to the point where Jennifer told me my writing got real. I didn’t make a decision on the third, primarily because I wanted to make sure I was actually in touch with myself and my writing mind and I knew the best way to do that was to sleep on the issue.

Yesterday, I cut the scenes out. They had no pertinent information I could not provide a different, better way, and it would have taken too much time and effort to fix them up to a point where they didn’t read like a textbook. What little important information I needed to include, I was able to sprinkle into the first couple scenes as exposition attached to dialogue or in descriptions and whatnot. After the cut, I had just under 7k words, and I proceeded to rebuild my wordcount right after the cut, since dealing with the problem removed the block.

Another good thing about making the cut . . . I’m now able to deal with UL and TPOM3. I read the most recently written scenes of UL and its plot cards last night before bed and am ready to get two new plot cards on it before I write a scene. I also plan on getting at least two plot cards on TPOM3, out of order, later.

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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