caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
Considering what happens here, the revised version ends up markedly less depressing than the original.  Added some history and psychology, and have serious hopes that the result reads faster and shorter.

I planted the thing I was trying to plant yesterday.

The next scene is the one I spent a year, three years ago, compulsively avoiding writing.  Nearly half of the most different tale possible got told just to be writing something other than this shoggoth-shagger*.  After tomorrow, I ought to be sauntering uphill for a nice old  while.

*No actual shoggoths were shagged in the drafting of this scene.  No future shoggoths will be.  Tekeli-li is not a good pick-up line.  If it works, run away.  May not apply in Palmer Land, Alberta, or Penge.  Void where prohibited by quantum.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
That would be both my protagonists' lives, and my feelings about the prose that bears them along, at this point.  Meh!

I fixed a big bundle of inconsistencies concerning the state of Kate's health in the early story, and discovered that the answer I finally happened on had been lurking unnoticed in the text all along.  I failed to plant a Chekhov's Suitcase Nuke in this scene, so I'm hoping to wedge it into the next one.

This is the part of the book where I got stuck for a year and turned to gentler work, before taking up the original telling again.  It's all in this week's quota, and it's nearly as brutal to revise as it was to write.  Next week will be Purgatorio to this section's Inferno, and after that - Fairfields, which is not even the Earthly Paradise but will do until something better comes along.  So at least I've got some motivation to stick to my timetable!
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
It's marvellous how it concentrates the mind, having to either finish a scene right now, or leave it the way it was.  Plenty to fix in this scene, mostly removing repetitions and correcting obsolete backstory.  Chapter Two, and my first week's revision quota, accomplished!
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
For a scene that took me so long to sort out, I didn't have much change to show for it.  I fixed a fossil of a previous chronology, and discovered something about fern biology which I never bothered to look up when I was studying it as a scientist.  One more scene makes a chapter, and starts the super-quixotic Last Quest.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
We know a song about that, don't we?  Unfortunately, the folk song is about as accurate as folk songs usually are, and Golden Kate is about as qualified to be a beggar as I am to shoot ogres through the heart from horseback.  This turns out to be an issue, since in the first draft her stint  as an impoverished hermit appears to require several tools she can't make for herself in the wilderness, and I'd forgotten to allow her any truly useful interactions with other human beings.  She is a ridiculously good woodswoman for an aristocrat, but nobody is that good.  Her circumstances are accordingly rejigged to fit (i) plausibility, and (ii) the tone of the rest of the book.

Several other changes have been made, all according to the principle that everything that is complete cobblers when you think about it twice has got to go - however fine the prose it made, and however prosaic its replacement.  Sacrifices have occurred.  Boo hoo!

Two more scenes, one of them very short, to fix on Sunday if I want to make my quota.

caper_est: Musical notes (song)
Return of the Kateverse folksongs! Run away! Run and hide!

Soldier song, set ten years after The Deed of Katy Elflocks and twenty before Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland. It does not depend on knowledge of the story.  It has a tune, though not a very remarkable one, and I've probably nicked the musical elements from some part of the Great Folk Cauldron or other.

The Queen of the River

When I was naught but a lad of sixteen,
Ambrosine Wills was the name of my Queen.
Freely she called to me, gaily I strode
Daily to meet her by the old river road!
The old river road, boys, the old river road -
Our babe came sailing down the old river road!

Payments grew many and pennies grew few.
Amber and I barely knew what to do
Till our lords put the young Queen from her throne.
I took her silver, and left Amber alone.
The Allwater road, boys, the Allwater road -
Off with the Green Rose down the Allwater road!

Battles we fought for her, battles we won.
Bounty she showered when her battles were done.
Now I could pay all the debts that we owed,
And farm like a franklin by the old river road!
The old river road, boys, the old river road -
Homewards to Amber up the old river road!

Back home by Siffswater, Amber was gone,
Fled with a pedlar and with Simkin our son.
All the Queen's silver she'd spent for their meat -
Fled with a pedlar so Simkin should eat.
The damned river road, boys, the damned river road -
She saved our Simkin down the damned river road!

I walked a thousand miles, bowed and bereft,
Back to the Green Rose, all the queen I had left.
Loyalty I offered her, loyalty she showed -
I send her foemen down the Black River road!
The Black River road, boys, the Black River road -
Till I meet Amber by the Black River road!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
The second scene needed less work than I'd expected.  I changed a bit of dialogue so that two secondary characters' actions made more sense, and made somebody Mention the War where it seemed especially called-for.  I hadn't even suspected that it had come near Langdale when I was writing the early chapters, far less that it would bear directly on the ongoing foul-ups there.  That emerged during the Rising Arc, and the details during the first revision pass.

With this scene I conclude the first chapter, and catch up a bit on my quota.  The three scenes of the second chapter are the rest of my work for this week.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
Finished revising the first scene this morning.  Getting through this week's remaining four will require a slight acceleration.

What I Did:

- Changed the opening narrative voice from the one I started with, to the one the story acquired as it evolved.  Exit Alan Eaton's redaction of an unattributed Allingdale folk-tale: enter Carrie-Anne Booklorn's redaction of the Fairfields folk-epic of the Rising, as told by romantic Hick-Mack-Heck and earthy Sairey Salt-the-Stew.  The telling is now finer-grained, and closer to a peasant's-eye view, than the way I began it.

- Backfilled some of the consequences of the way I later developed Northdales history.

- Sneaked some incluing and Chekhovian gunnery into the scene.

- Made the village of Blackwaterside into more of a particular place and less of a generic backdrop, in keeping with the way I depicted the Langdalehead region when my characters finally got back to it.

- Patched some shoddy prose, which henceforth may be taken as read for every scene.

Scene Two is another that will need quite a bit of work, in the light of where I took all the stuff in it later.   I'll see what I can do about that tonight...
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Hard revision continues to be hard.  I've now put in about all the thinky-time and research reading that I can benefit from on this stretch.  The first two arcs make as much sense on every level as the Tale and I have to offer.  I've got my head around Loosestrife, the one significant minor character the first draft was wanting.  As a bonus, I like her company.  The only thing to do now is to execute everything I've worked out, and write the actual, beta-ready version of what's presently the first thirteen chapters.

When I've done that, I'll know whether the changes I'm planning for the rest of the book will still look good.  I have to write this bit first and move on from it, though.

I shan't be posting any wordcountage on the rewrite, not least because shorter here will be generally better.  Instead, it's time to move into deadline country, lest I get stuck in a vortex of perfectionist suck - one of my known failure modes.  Therefore, starting next Monday after the Weekend of Everybody's Birthday, the plan is this:

- Five scenes per week, for the revision of the Last Quest and Wassail material; half that quota for the short run of completely new material ("Triona's Way") to be inserted near the end of the Wassail arc, hopefully replacing some of it and tautening the rest.  This should take me through to somewhere in September.  Reporting will occur.

- Tentatively and assuming that part works out as planned, a similar pace for the rest of it.  Complete revision ready for beta-call with the New Year.

I don't seem to be able to concentrate properly on any other story while this one is being such a swirly thing in my skull.  Time to start the last march out of the Dubious Woods.

It's come a very long way from the story that blew into my skull on that wild winter's night, four-and-a-half years ago.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)

Three Katherines of Allingdale: Masses of research and plot-wrangling going on, though little enough actual writing.  The Wassail Arc is going through some serious changes, in the course of being drawn taut into the line of the plot.  By far the biggest change sorts out a number of my other problems simultaneously - it's now really the Fairfields Arc, spanning almost a year from the Wassail until the approach of the next winter.  Much of that year is going to be skipped over or alluded to only in passing.  That still gives time for a number of things to develop organically. 

Most of all, it gives Katy Elflocks time to try to deal with the situation her own way - and actually fail, learning first-hand what sort of impossibility she's up against this time.  That's really far more in character than deducing a lot about the Big Bad in advance, so Kate and Luke can convince her and her circle that it's time for desperate remedies already.  And I get to do big reveals in action rather than exposition!

I couldn't do that the first time around, because they hadn't been fully revealed to me either.

Also, Fairfields' military strategy in Langdale now looks at least roughly plausible - they actually do logistics, and get time to set up the anvil for their great stroke at Carrowglaze in a less handwavy manner.

Here I go again...

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
"...Son of Japhet," said John's girl,
Jenny's daughter, wood and water,
"Earth and breath would offer thee,
Blood of fire, a friendship free..."

From an unpublishable fragment in which a definite non-poet attempts to recount a part of the backstory which does not translate reasonably into prose, from a place where even the physics rhymes instead of repeating.

I don't know that I'll get any prose out of this excursion myself, but I did get some enlightenment on one of the Kateverse's wilder mysteries.

caper_est: Sharpening the quill (writing)
"The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just 'What if' - it's 'My God; what if' - in frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming."

Philip K Dick, 1980.

SF as the rightful literature not of "What if - ?" but "My God; what if - ?!" is a motto I would willingly blaze in forty-eight point letters of gold upon every ideas folder I ever keep.

And I wonder how much of the spirit of modern fantasy can be well understood in such terms - not so much of "My God; what if this should come?", but of "My God; what if this should have been?"

To get from the idea to a story worthy of it, we then mostly need a protagonist who can answer, "By God, then this...!"  - and to great triumph or tragedy, or occasionally even to great laughter, carry their answer and the reader all the way home.

caper_est: Sharpening the quill (writing)

Inspired by this thought-provoking conversation about the tension between story-telling and word-craft, but at a somewhat different angle and not directly responsive to it.  The same events are covered in each of the following... yarns. 

First up, we have this exciting fight scene from super action thriller The Flowerpot Conspiracy!

Bill hit Ben. “You rat!” snarled Ben. Ben hit Bill and knocked him down. 

“Weed!” cried Weed.

I might call The Flowerpot Conspiracy many things, but the salient one here is under-written.  Even Dan Brown's prose needs to do more than this, to engage the reader with the tale.

Next, we turn to Death and the Daisy, a hard-hitting pulp-style adventure:

Ben stepped in front of Weed. “Back off, Bill!” he warned.

Bill came in swinging. Ben’s block was a hairsplit late, and his brother’s fist smashed into his nose, staggering him backwards in a sputter of pain and blood. “You rat!” snarled Ben, over a rising vegetable keening from Weed.   He surged up under Bill’s careless guard, and slugged him a good one to the solar plexus. Bill whuffed, choked, and folded. Ben cast a cold eye down on him, and finished the job with a hammer-blow to his occiput. Bill went right down and stayed there. Ben wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, then withdrew his long unsavoury handkerchief from his pocket, and clapped it to his gouting nose. It hurt like the devil, but at least it didn’t feel broken.

“Weeeeeed!” cried Weed.

Death and the Daisy is not, perhaps, very good.  For one thing, I write punch-ups not much better than I practice them.  However, in terms of matching style and matter, I think it's about on the right level.  This is deliberately about the most basic level of story for which it's worth finding a properly-matching prose style: Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men fall out over Weed; Bill goes to the bad and does foo-bar; Ben and Weed emerge triumphant.

Now we can turn the prose dial right to the other extreme.  Here's the excerpt from a treatment I consider overwritten - that ambitious romantic mediaeval fantasy, The Weed at the World's End:

Bill’s eyes, cold and unwholesome as the stagnant waters of some peat-hag or mire in the kindless days of February, glinted evilly. As a man wisp-tempted Ben’s brother now seemed to him; as in a manner led by some vague unhallowed light through obscure marsh-tracks and by-ways in which all goals go awry, united only in their despair of any good ending.

Yet it was the Damsel Weed who must now be his only care – whether by duty, as his oath and his chivalry charged him alike; or for the right of the matter, seeing how Weed had set aside all thought of comfort or safety in her care for the many-coloured world, whereas Bill ever slighted all causes save his own liking and pleasure; or yet only for Ben’s very love and delight in that dear flower-nymph’s fellowship, who had become to him through many trials indeed his Day’s-Eye.

Bare is back without brother behind it, thought Ben in great anguish of mind; yet say again this, that love exceeds blood as blood surpasses water; and my soul’s choice is made! “Back off, Bill!” he warned.

His words fell as a doom: the author could no more be arsed: the reader slumped gratefully into the all-solacing arms of Morpheus.

If one wishes to write something this weird and ornate, the deed can be done, and done well.  The result may even aspire to greatness - though less likely to great sales.  William Morris inspired Tolkien, among others, with works in a very similar register.  But Bill and Ben and Weed, with all respect to them, are not the characters to do such, and they're not in the tale to do it.  Or even the kind of tale.  They are not the kind of people who can be.

So where underwriting simply lacks what the story demands, overwriting just as simply ladles whatever the author likes best onto the story, whether it demands gravy or not.  And whilst the list of common lacks is generally a short and too-familiar one, the list of personal gravies is effectively infinite.  Worse, underwriting and overwriting aren't  mutually exclusive.

More thoughts on this as and when they're thunk.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)

Or weird quantum-mechanical state of chapter, as the case may be.

Further work on the Fairfields arc of Killer-Kate has revealed that it needs to be tautened up by, 'ere we go again, adding another chapter.  I have a fairly strong vision of this already, including the makings of a climactic scene I like a lot.  As a bonus to resolving most of the problems set out in the previous post, it gives me a free chance to bring back the Big Bad plotline to the front of the reader's mind again, without adding yet more fruitless talk and speculation.  Which makes it a pretty rich vision.

What makes it an embarrassingly rich vision is that I have two of it.  There's a pre-Wassail version, provisionally titled Hunt and Holt, and a post-Wassail one I've dubbed The Holt and the Haunt.  The former is slightly more focused on Luke and the mortal opposition, the latter on Katy and the Big Bad.  The dynamics of the surrounding chapters will depend a lot on which one I choose.  Post-Wassail is looking better in several ways.  But I can't choose one for certain, except in the act of deciding how the whole Fairfields arc is going to end up.  Which can't be decided for certain until the whole-book critical review is finished, so that I'll know what I need to plant in the Fields and what I ought to grub up.  Meantime, the chapter exists in a cloud of uncollapsed contradictions, and is going to stay that way for at least the next week or two, as I plug on criticizing the first draft all the way to its end.

Has anybody else had similar experiences?  I seem to have spent quite a lot of time with this book, holding contradictory plot ideas in tension until the stronger one crystallizes into truth.  This is just a blatant case.  It's somewhat mind-bending and occasionally exhausting; and until I'm done I'm not going to know whether it's just inefficient and indecisive, or a necessary part of telling this tale honestly.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

Oh wait, they didn't.  This news brought home to me through my current whole-story, line-by-line critical pass over Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland.  I'm about half-way through that now.

- Luke's strategy in the Rising, on more careful analysis, involves entirely too much of: "Ha!  The nobles are used to summer warfare!  But this is winter warfare, so we can cunningly deploy tactics against them which will work even less well in winter!"

- If Dougal Dare-All really needs Luke to come up with the good plan Luke presently supplies him, he needs to be re-named Dougal Duh!-All forthwith.  They are supposed to be experts in totally different spheres.

- Neither Katy Elflocks nor any of her circle are supposed to possess any spark of military genius.  This does not mean they won't notice when a plan is slapped together entirely out of hope, cheek, plot wire and gaffer tape.

- And the fact that they're exceptionally good with hope and gaffer tape doesn't mean they won't insist on something more substantial at the core of it.

- In particular, neither Luke, nor Dougal, nor the former merchant-adventurer, nor the clever grange-clerk of Fairfields are going to involve themselves in a campaign whose logistics appear to have been delegated to the rats, rats, big as bloomin' cats, in the quartermaster's stores.

Katy ain't no Elrond, Fairfields ain't no Rivendell, and all their fellowship are well aware that Kateverse providence is somewhat less trustworthy than a prince's promises.  This is not the fairy-tale part of the story!  (At least, not on that overt a level.)

I'm seeing and sketching out solutions as I write, and trying to minimize the amount of new or magical matter in them.  The good news is that getting the reconnaissance and logistics right should simultaneously solve another problem: the narrative slackness of the important Fairfields arc, which was written in largely exploratory mode the first time around.  The less good news is that this exposes a need for even more re-writing than I'd expected.  Still, after all the time I've spent on the book so far, it would be a crying shame to send it out half-formed into the world like the proverbial unlicked bear-cub!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Finished first revising pass on the Last Quest arc, which is thematically a cascade of heroic descents into, and escapes/rescues from, successively more profound hells of one kind or another.  This happened more or less by accident, but is now being sharpened and accented by design, because it's so well-placed to foreshadow the corresponding public hell-harrowings attempted by our heroes in the Rising.  This re-emphasis also builds up and draws together the matter of the Curse.

Also, I now know why Katy is so ignorant of such a horrid lurker on her threshold, until Kate and Luke make it... impossible to overlook any more.

I'm now moving onto the Wassail arc, which I pretty much made up on the hoof and which needs to be purged of considerable process-writing and dead-ends.  The numerous characters of Fairfields will want to be made consistent with their later development and portrayal in the Rising, and the exploratory sections repurposed to fit with events later in the book.

Before I reach the Rising, I ought to have some research materials I've ordered, which I need to get Garcastle and its sketchy community into a truer focus.

In my copious spare time, I continue exploring the broad frontiers of my ignorance about West African history and culture, in order to be somewhat better-informed when I finally get past this epic and onto Deity & Decolonization/ Fatal Exploit/ Translation & Transgression/ the One About The Chocolate.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Just begun the second draft.  I've still got donkey-work to do on setting and the Political Plot, &c., but I think I've got all I need to re-write the first of the four great story arcs (Chapters 1-6).  And I badly need to do some actual writing for readers' eyes just now, instead of writing myself notes and guides for the real writing.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)

Three Katherines of Allingdale: Another week of donkey-work.  Analysing and amending the Lord Evil arc; annotating old scenes for revision in light of it; writing the outlines for the first set of new ones; and finally coming up with a rough geography of the north-eastern counties and foreign nations which is plausibly consistent across the whole tale.

Still to do: rinse and repeat for the Puffin-Genius arc; ditto for the Matter of Fairfields; ditto for the Big Bad/the Untold Tale.  Then a consistency-check per major character, a correction-scheme for all major blunders so far noted, and the big straight-through rewrite before final polishing.


caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)

The Deed of Katy Elflocks: A new 2,000 word scene composed last night and this morning, to retrofit one of the thorns in Katy's side from Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, and make the portrayal of the Dales more consistent between the two stories.  Also planted a couple of Chekhov's guns, so that they're not just pulled out of my ear in Killer-Kate.  Pulling guns out one's ear is not, I'm told, considered best practice by the cognoscenti.

I spent most of the last week donkeying through the major structural critique of Three Katherines as a complete novel.  What came out of this:

1) I'm going to go ahead with the two-part story in strongly differentiated voices.  First, the theme's expounding in Alan Eaton's lighter, terser, more courtly and satirical fairy-tale of Katy.  Then, the development and resolution in Hick-Mack-Heck and Sairey Salt-the-Stew's denser, fiercer, more grounded and committed folk-epic of Killer-Kate.  The Lord Dunsany knob is turned higher in Alan's style, the William Morris knob in Hick and Sairey's, though I think they're both recognizably modes of mine.  The authors don't explicitly intrude themselves into the tale at any stage, but it helps me to have a fair sense of where they're each coming from.

2) The unfolding of the untold middle tale of Kit Fox seems to more or less work in Killer-Kate: again, I'm going to leave that part of the structure largely as it is, give or take a bit of modification in detail.

3) The Rival Revolution subplot doesn't need much more work than I just supplied it.  The Lord Evil, Puffin Superior, and Diplomatic subplots will on the other hand require significant structural changes, not least because they all bear on just what exactly everybody is fighting for.  I've donkeyed up some of the legal, customary, and folk-historical groundwork over the past week, and shall start the Political Rewrite shortly.  This won't - or shouldn't - add to the proportion of politics in the story: it's about rooting it in local reality, and about making the characters' actions mesh more reasonably, whilst removing patches of pointless intriguey filler that never went anywhere.  It's by far the biggest and most critical section of the rewrite, and will certainly involve at least three new chapters.  It may also involve the disappearance of one or more of the existing ones: can't see that far ahead, yet.

Anyway, the job's begun, and I'm writing actual story again!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: With yesterday's insight into what Lord Evil was all about, the last missing pieces fell quickly into the puzzle of the Big Bad's plot, and it took me only a day instead of the projected week to make full sense of it.  I've now begun work on the last big structural issue - the handling of the Missing Thirty Years, and the implicit Story of the Fall.  That requires a brief return to donkey-work: then the resulting structural decisions about Three Katherines as a whole, and then I'm set for the actual, physical, writing-words-for-other-people's-eyes-again REWRITE!


caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

August 2015

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