Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: rewrite

Fits and Starts Whee!

Well, the title says it all. My writing hasn’t been steady. I either have a god flow of ideas, or none at all. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could wrap my head around my plot cards like I’ve sometimes been able to do in the past, but even those aren’t helping.

I’m not working on my speculative fiction either. My brain switched gears hardcore toward the end of July, and I’m not working on gay romances. My usual habit with these has been to run with an idea and write on the story until it fizzles out because I don’t have a solid ending. Yes, the goal is to get the couples matched up by the ends of their stories, but I need to know the details as each story ends a different way. I’ve also been trying to insert some discipline into my gay romance writing and have been doing plot cards before starting to write on the projects. Not yet perfect, but I actually think that’s unattainable at this point, so I’m telling myself to be pleased with the successes I’ve had.

However, I will say that when the ideas flow, I write pretty much every day. I got I think about two weeks (5 days each) of writing in when I did write. One story I’m rewriting from an older version with updates to my style and skill, including moving the conflict to the spots where it needs to be instead of deflating that aspect of the story within the first few chapters. I like what I’ve gotten so far on that rewrite, and I’ll probably make the original version available as a freebie somehow if I ever publish the new version.

Other than that, I’ve not been doing much with my writing. This focus is so complete I can barely even make myself read the off-the-shelf D&D campaign I’ve got to prep for—2 weeks left for that and I just cannot get into the campaign book ’cause I’m so focused on gay romances. LOL

What Happened to “Solid First Drafts”?

As some readers will recall, I felt compelled to write about how I typically write solid first drafts back on the 14th of November of last year. I waxed poetic on my writing history and basically boasted about my writing skills.

Masks shot that all to hell.

I wrote the first incomplete draft of Masks in November of 2014—last year, the very same month I wrote that bragging post about solid first drafts. Of course, at the time, I thought I was well on my way to creating that solid first draft I bragged about. Oh, I was aware I’d have to do a bit of work on it—that it wouldn’t be perfect—but I thought I could handle the challenge of writing my first mystery book without too much trouble. Yes, it was a challenge, but it wasn’t beyond my abilities.

Since then, Masks has been cut to a scene I find acceptable twice, then rewritten from that point. I’m pleased to be able to say the second cut happened at a scene that happened later in the manuscript than the first cut did, though not by much. Maybe two or three scenes after the initial cut was made.

The first time I cut Masks, I did what I had before, and started working on the plot cards as I wrote. Since I was doing this rewrite over the course of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I had to meet a specific wordcount goal each day. Since I’d set my total goal at 25k, I had to get only about 834 words a day. If you check my stats, you’ll see how inconsistent I was, and part of that, particularly later on in the month, is because I was struggling with the story again.

Yes, again.

I had a vague notion what the problem was, but since I was on a deadline with words, I tried to push through and continue writing. Unfortunately, the outline wasn’t moving any more, and I ate that up after a few days of writing, so I had to stop and consider things. I was looking at failing Camp Nano if I tried to force things as I had been doing. So, after much thought, I forced myself to cut everything I was dissatisfied with and start from the new cut-point. As is obvious, I did meet the 25k word goal, and that’s because I saved my cut words since I had after all written them over the duration of the writing challenge.

I copied and saved the plot cards I was keeping (those I’d already written out as scenes) and did my 2-plot-cards-per-1-scene-written habit since I was still at the tail end of the Camp Nano challenge and still needed words. This time, I put more thought into my plot cards as I wrote them.

In the first manuscript, I lost track of a number of subplot threads that fed into the red herrings I needed to establish in the mystery. In the second version, I lost track of the conflict Eirni was supposed to keep dragging into his relationship with Yavaniel. Because I want both these elements, I need to take the plotting of Masks slower. I see that now. Rushing through like I do on my standard books won’t serve me well here; I’ve got to spend time on the background work—I actually have to list out all those plot points I usually try to keep in my head! And then I actually have to employ them in the WIP. I’m not used to doing things this way (though I must say since I started this habit with Masks, it’s serving me equally well with my non-mystery stuff).

Masks is on hiatus right now. My creative mind has decided it’s time to work on stuff from Chraest, and I’ve made a number of breakthroughs on TPOM3 the past couple weeks, so I’ve been working on that as time and attention allow (I’ve been rather out of focus since my surgery, but things are starting to settle into place like I want them to). I also seem to be in a bit of a writing downswing; it’s creative, to be sure, but I’m just not writing as much as I’d like, though I’m trying not to push myself.

Progress on Brotherhood

I’m glad I cut Brotherhood like I did. It’s opened up a whole new storyline for me. Same basic plot, but I’m taking things a little differently. I’m cutting one side character out (a Priest Doéna befriended), moving Bréyan into her place, and using the whole switch-around to set up the relationship which develops between him and Doéna.

Right now, in terms of outlining, it’s moving slowly. I’m kind of struggling to come up with plot cards, but it’s not because I lack ideas. I have plenty of ideas. It’s sorting them into something I can use, then coming up with a scene combining a couple different plot factors.

I’m having fun, though, and I’m very excited about the story again. It thrills me no end to be making such progress on Brotherhood, even if it’s going slowly.

My original plan with it was to copy and paste scenes I wanted to keep from the original manuscript. It seemed to make sense, as there will be places where the two versions meet. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I learned how unwise that would likely be the hard way. I came to a spot where there was a scene I really wanted to keep. So I copied it over, rearranging the scenes I already had around it without paying much attention to what I had written. Then, I proceded to rewrite the scene a couple days later, after writing an interim scene.

I’d forgotten I’d already included this particular scene, which was one where Lorien and Necée spend their first period of Visitation Hours together with their respective chaperones—Doéna and the princess’s cousin, Anée.

I didn’t realize my mistake until I read through the wip from beginning to where it ends. Then I tried to cut/paste the scene from the old wip into a workable spot before finally giving up. It just would not fit. I deleted it completely, reread the past few scenes, changed some things which were mentioned previous to when they actually happened, and now have a story I’m well satisfied with.

Sometimes we writers cause ourselves more work than writing needs to be. LOL

Of course, I made the decision to cut the scene immediately after writing the brand new scene (I hadn’t even written the wordcount total for it down, which I should have done). After cutting the scene, I realized my mistake, but had lost only about 208 words in the cut, so just decided to go with it and recorded it on my logsheet. Thus far, the new logsheet I started has more lines used for cuts and totals following them than for actual additions of words I’ve written. Makes me chuckle. My recording of Brotherhood‘s words has not gone well. This set of logsheets was started off with a patch-in of wordcounts because I shredded the 5×8 index card I had the original logs written on before copying the times and chapter counts over to the proper logsheet. That was, I assure you, enough to convince me not to use index cards for makeshift logsheets again.

As for my Nano project, I’m not moving on that. Need to look at it, see if I can get some more plot cards for it before November. I doubt I have enough written on TPOM3 to make it to 50k words, and I’d rather not have to do the outline as I write. Yes, I’ve left it for the last minute, but I’m backbraining a lot of stuff still, so I haven’t been able to make much progress when I have tried.

Then again, I’ve been really into Brotherhood the past weeks, so I may switch my Nano project over to that and go rebel—add 50k words to what I have already. It’s just moving too slowly for me to have much confidence I’ll be able to keep up with Nano if I use it.

Oh, well. I’ll get something going.

Made the Cut

This isn’t “made the cut” as in “got selected.” This is “made the cut” as in, I did finally cut Brotherhood back to the last point where I felt really good about the story. I’ve referenced it on Twitter a little the past few days.

Basically, I took the story back to the point where Doéna and Lorien are introduced to Evening Court. This was the point where the story started to get bloated and long-winded. I had to change a few things in the preceding scenes to make things gel with the new plot cards I developed from that point.

Getting the original plot cards up to the point where I cut was relatively easy. Since I use Scrivener, I simply opened the old outline in the left side of the screen and, after discovering the “Duplicate” option by right-clicking, I copied the card, closed it for further editing since the new card is open for editing, and moved it over to the new outline and put it where it belonged. Did this with about 15 or 16 scenes. I’m now up to a total of about 20 plot cards, only a few of them new.

From here, I hope to write richer scenes with more happening in them. This is requiring more thought prior to writing out the plot cards. I’m having to dredge up what I know of the story’s future events from my mind and may resort to the original manuscript to keep track of things, if I just don’t go through it and make notes from it at some point.

There are several things I need to set up, not the least of which is Karé’s influence in Court. I’m beginning to think he’s learned how to function in the Imperial Court—it makes no sense for him not to be smart enough to have figured things out. That won’t mean he still won’t try to force my MCs into rash actions, it’ll just mean he’ll have a firmer connection to Court and the influence he claims he actually has. Another thing I need to work on is making Lorien less easy to deal with. I don’t want to fiddle with his cooperativeness too much, but I do need to have him act less willing to do so more often; his reluctance will definitely color how Doéna responds to Bréyan’s advances, and I need to make that situation more intense for Doéna. What I had in the previous manuscript kind of fell flat. I also need to make the whole marriage between Lorien and Necée more difficult for Doéna to deal with—mainly due to the couple’s reluctance to cooperate with each other, and I think I’m going to change things a little, so Doéna doesn’t realize the princess’s perfidy until he’s told by someone. I may still have the Empress, Necée’s mother, do this, but it may make more sense for someone else, possibly even Karé, just to insert doubt, to do this.

Overall, I feel much better about Brotherhood now. I feel more confident in the story, and I like what I have better. I’m glad I cut it even though it wasn’t finished. It’ll be better this new way I’m writing it.

On Brotherhood

Brotherhood is incomplete.

It is also too long, and bloated, and needs a word loss plan. I’ve been spending today reading a different project, set on a completely different world, so I would not start tearing apart what I have of Brotherhood to rework it. I’d far rather finish it and get at least one other person’s opinion on whether or not it’s bloated and needs to lose words. I know, as written, about the first quarter is good; it’s a pretty straightforward line for the characters, taking them from their homeland to the Capitol of the Empire. The ending quarter should be decent as well, as I have a clear idea of what needs to happen. It’s the middle two quarters which need the shrinkage.

There are a few problems with the middle. I seem to have written one event per scene in the middle portions. I think I can combine a lot of these one-offs. I also lose track—for thousands of words—of important subplots; for instance, Karé, an antagonist, makes few appearances throughout the two middle portions, and he needs to make more. I also think I need to bring Doéna’s realization of Karé’s “influence” in earlier. I need to make Doéna more active—not calling Karé in challenge, but doing more acting instead of simply reacting to what Karé says and does to him. I need to get Doéna into unarmed self-defense training much, much earlier, and have Karé take risks in his threats—and be more threatening. I may give Karé something of a party of allies in the Imperial Court to complicate things.

One of those complications, I think, needs to be Karé betraying the fact of Doéna’s true birth status. I think it needs to come in earlier, and I think it needs to color the way the Courtiers behave toward Doéna and his prince to some extent. I’ll give them allies who won’t care, but I think I need to add some conflict—or at least some difficulty—to their relations with at least some of the nobles in the Court.

As it is, Brotherhood looks like it’ll come out to about 120-150k words as is. I would like to cut this by at least 30k in the reworking of it. Ideally, I’d like to bring it down to around 100k. I think this is possible in a rewrite from the point where Doéna and his prince arrive at the Capitol.

I’d really rather not cut the beginning quarter out, because it gives what I think is necessary background (the process Doéna’s prince goes through in becoming the “responsible” person he acts like for most of the remainder of the book), and also think it’s necessary to illustrate the depth of the brotherhood between the two. I think without those two things set up in the beginning, Lorien’s behavior would be unbelievable to some extent, especially when things get very difficult for him and he begins to revert to immature behavior. I want readers to see the full spectrum of Lorien’s changes of character, from the day he receives word of his impending marriage to the end of the book. I also think I need to have the depth of Doéna’s brotherhood with his prince shown to make his very real concerns about Lorien’s likely reaction to certain things understandable.

I know the rewrite will alter the ending somewhat, so I’ll probably do an outline from the point where I cut the book through the ending. But that will come after I’ve finished the project and gotten a second opinion.

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