caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
In Elder Days, in years of yore, I was revising this set of cuneiform tablets collectively titled Three Katherines of Allingdale, and posting the odd shard about it to this journal.  At the beginning of this year, I was comprehensively stuck, and turning to other projects until some idea or other worked loose.  My life then performed several unscheduled triple back somersaults before landing in a marvellous better place (waves to [personal profile] green_knight across table).  And now the long-awaited missing clue to the Kateverse has finally turned up, and I'm writing in it again...

Okay.  Three Katherines in its first draft presently consists of The Deed of Katy Elflocks, a fairy-tale novella with which I'm almost wholly satisfied; and Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, a chunky low-fantasy novel which brings all the chickens home to roost thirty years later, and with which I'm not satisfied at all.  I'm unsatisfied although, or more likely because, I think Killer-Kate has the elements of being the best story I've ever told.  The issue is that there turns out to be far too much backstory essential to its unfolding. 

A grand epic fantasy driven by timeless destinies and history-mastering heroes might get away with skating lightly over a generation or two, even if great matters and dreadful reversals have occurred in the interval.  This is not such a story - although it is partly about its greatest hero's lifelong struggle to keep stories like that from happening anywhere around her, for much the same reason that she works to keep  plague, famine, and other similar disasters from the door.  In the first draft, I put the history into the story as it touched it, and the resulting datadumps proved both unlovely and hard to redact.  In the abortive second, I tried to wrap the true story artfully around the tale not directly told, somewhat as Tolkien did to The Lord of the Rings and the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.  I got some myriad words in and bounced hard, either because I'm no Tolkien, or because Three Katherines and the untold 'Tale of Foxfires' are no such a pair of stories, or I don't know what else.  That left telling the Tale of Foxfires in full.  I've attempted this several times in the past, and broken every time upon the undeniable fact that it is a messy history rather than a proper story of its own.  What to do?  I was out of ideas I hadn't tried, so I let it lie fallow for a bit.  Now again, I think I've got it.

I've identified the actual stories I think need telling in the gap.  The real key was discovering that some of them have no direction to the Foxfires matter at all, and that Katy Elflocks as a character spends far too long completely out of scope.  So my new, improved, revised version of Three Katherines should end up looking something like this:

1) The Deed of Katy Elflocks - Novella; essentially complete for many years.
2) The Bridge to the End of the Night - Novella; set several years later, telling of a border-quarrel and what came of it.  Work in progress.
3) The Wain of Winter Stars - Novel; set immediately afterwards, following an exodus from slavery and war into regions dubious and uncanny.  Not yet written.
4) Crown of Foxfires - Novel; set ten years after the Deed, telling of the fall from grace of two heroes, and a contention for a kingdom.  Exists in scraps and many incompatible versions.  Will have to be completely rethought, now that the extraneous matter has been hived off into its own tales, or else placed in question.
5) Roger Rock Candy - Long novella or short novel, set about eight years later, telling of an ill-fated peasant uprising and what lay behind it.  Not yet written.
6) Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland - Long novel set twelve years later, telling the last great deeds of all three Katherines and their comrades, and how a new popular rising changed the days of the Northdales, and brought all ever-afters home.  First draft finished; in need of much revision, and probably no little shortening.

And that is where things stand at the moment.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
A short scene that didn't require many drastic changes, except to correct some of my worst goofs about the practicalities of pre-modern cooking.  Introducing two of my major secondary characters.  I didn't notice much need for change, but I was surprised to see how far they'd both developed over the course of the story from my original (and mostly static) conception of them.  I think that works, and I also think that following it consciously through the redraft is going to make it work a lot better.  The extra year ought to help there, too.

Next scene is another of the big difficult revisions, as I have to deal with THE major secondary character now.  I didn't handle her at all well in this arc of the story last time, because I had such an imperfect understanding of what was happening, and of what she would end up doing.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
Finished the first scene in the revised Fairfields Arc.  It was at least 50% erase-and-start-again.  I gave Luke's hosts better sense in how to deal with obviously traumatized and very very dangerous patients, and I gave Luke a better apple than he got last time.  Also, Makepeace Hall and its bit of land now have an actual - if very crude - map in my workbook, and an approximate daily routine against which everything else takes place.

Chief credit for helping me make sense of the Hall's domestic economy goes to:

- my mother, Jean Woodland, for many nerding sessions and pointed questions that have rendered many previously invisible things visible;

- that invaluable sourcebook, overview, and jumping-off point, Life in a Medieval Village, by Frances and Joseph Gies;

- [personal profile] green_knight and her many thoughtful postings on the writing process, for persuading me into the following excellent habit: When in doubt, map it out!

Oh, and the apple?  Here is the apple of awesome which I found out about while messing around, and immediately scrumped for my own use because it is such a perfect fit for this setting.  Read 'em and drool!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
Back from Wales - where there has been much herb-lore of the fields we know, and much design of more dubious countries and their wisdoms - and now beginning the actual, word-and-sentence revision of the Fairfields Arc.  A bigger job than I'd expected, with more new or completely rewritten scenes (such as this first one is turning out to be).  Still, I expect it'll be worth it.
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Chugging along here restructuring the Fairfields Arc, with several new scenes in prospect, and a much stronger rôle for Katy Elflocks herself.   Fixing of plotting and pacing continues.  I have two alternative timelines on the go, one of which is going to have to be eliminated before I know just what the whole plot and flavour will turn out like.  More work on hand before it's clear which version works best.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
The great climactic scene of the arc, slightly revised for physical feasibility of the parts that are supposed to be physically feasible.  The Big Bad revealed in all its chaotic terror. 

A running challenge through the rest of the story has been to avoid making every future encounter with BB into a relative damp squib.  I still have work to do on those others.  Power-ups are not an option because this is not that kind of story.  I'm counting heavily on the unwritten "Triona's Way" arclet to bridge the gap between the obvious reasons to be scared of the Bad, and the right reasons to be scared of it.  That aspect is all developed in the text already: unfortunately, it's developed as I discovered it, rather than as I want the reader to meet it. 

This completes the revision of the Last Quest arc.  I certainly haven't finalized every last dot and comma, but every part of this first section now describes exactly what happens, in pretty much exactly the way it's to be told.  I have some standard polishing routines which I'll be running in parallel with the rewriting of the next arc, which have been so generally useful to me that I'll probably give them their own post in the fairly near future. 

But they're almost mechanical.  The big job of the revision is next: the sprawling, exploratory, and curate's-eggy mess that is the Fairfields Arc.  It will be hard work - the scene correspondence isn't going to be one-to-one between drafts in this section, I know that much already! - and also it ought to be a lot of fun.  Fairfields is, almost by definition, a place I love to visit.

For now I'm knocking off with one of the four big arcs completed, only three days behind schedule.  Off to shop for a big bunch of travel I have coming up - and then to celebrate!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
The closing scene to the Last Quest arc, while I work on the sense of the climactic scene.  I think that will hold: my map-let is strangely acceptable.  Here I had only to tweak some dialogue, and make the movements part of a consistent topography.

Fairfields at last!
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)

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: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

August 2015

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