caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
In a culture whose nearest best approach to a great redemptive figure would be either Bacchus or alt-Alexander, a penitent has to take her rôle models where she can find them - however ill they fit her...

A little cleaning up; a little removal of inexplicable character amnesia/insouciance/boneheadedness about what this ought to remind them of; and a bit of foreshadowing of something I had yet to discover, first time around, for at least another fifteen chapters.

Next comes the climax of the arc.  I foresee a lot of time spent swearing at bad sketch-maps of the terrain where it happens.  Action scenes are a bastard that way!
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
Ah, Scene 9, the spear in my heart!  But this time the wound is clean, and we will never be quite in hell again - from here on in, our heroes are really heroes at last, doing tearingly generous deeds without recking either of their own glory or of whether the beneficiaries have the least conceivable claim on them.

The changes required in this long section were pleasingly small and subtle, although they have made all the difference.

This is not the climax of its arc - I have a couple of scenes left before I get there.  But it is the pivot.  This is, of all places, the place where Kate is permanently established as not merely Gawain the flawed flower of the old order, but Launcelot the unwilling and transcendent harbinger of the new.  (Who on that reading is Luke?  I think he most nearly counts as dead Tristram and living Palomides in one person, which is a pretty interesting combo - and is it utterly an accident that both knights in their latter days came to love Sir Launcelot above all other men?  H-m-m-m!)

The rest of the Last Quest Arc should be relatively a glide, in which case I will be back on schedule come Sunday.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
A second minor scene from Chapter 6 given its minor revision, while I try to puzzle out the remaining problems in the previous chapter.  We'll see what I can do on my  days off, today and tomorrow.

The omniscient viewpoint hasn't been shifting quite as smoothly from one character's focus to another's as I thought it was on the first write, or even when I was making my revision notes.  I'm going to have to watch out for that.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Scene 9 is many of pages and full of trouble, and constitutes most of Chapter 5.  So I'm working on its many issues in the background, whilst I polish some shorter and simpler scenes that follow it.

This one wanted little beyond the sharpening of a couple of character points.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
So I end this second week two scenes behind schedule. 

On the other hand, the scene I just finished is not only a whole chapter long, but also happens to be the one I loathe writing most in the whole book, and have by far the worst history of shirking.  A couple of days is probably excusable, this once around.  Also, I have two days of "time off in lieu" owed to me at work next week, so I might well be able to catch up again before next Sunday.  For the moment, all I'm feeling is relieved.

Gave the Bad Guys more agenda, background, and direction.

Gave one Proper Noun a slight name-change.  One letter of difference means that suddenly Kate can see the thing she sees without recourse to the Power of Plot, which was pretty much the only explanation for her seeing it in the first draft.  Hooray!  What can I say?  I was rather stressed out the first time around, and still reeling from the shock of finding out that the episode didn't end the way I'd expected.

Also today I detected some horses attempting to impersonate bicycles, and made them do other things instead.

Here ends Chapter Four, and the pitchy darkness before the first glimmer of dawn.
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: 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)

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: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

August 2015

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