Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Château Soleil: Final Update

Word count: 173,227

Well, it's done. For now. This phase, anyway. Still, this feels like a major accomplishment. It is the largest project I've ever completed, and I'm very happy with the result.

Next steps:

First, I'm going to put it in a drawer and forget about it for at least a week. I'm going to spend my writing time catching up on other obligations that I've let slide. Cleaning the basement. Doing alpha reading for other writers that I've gotten behind on (sorry, Steve, David). Catching up on The Daily Show. And so forth.

When I've got a comfortable distance, I'll start incorporating feedback from my own alpha readers. I've only put up eleven chapters for them so far--due mainly to crippling insecurity. But I'll go over those chapters with an eye towards fixing continuity, setting up plot elements that I haven't adequately foreshadowed, and getting the character voices to better match what they are at the end.

Then I'll compile the whole thing into a mobi file so I can read through it and take notes on my Kindle. I expect it to grow by another 10,000 to 20,000 words over the next few drafts. Just knowing the way I write and edit. I tend to skip over a lot of details in the first draft, so edits are about making the story breathe better and putting in those missing elements. For instance, I don't think I've described a single article of clothing. So that sort of thing will need to be backfilled. This will mean a final draft length of around 185,000 to 195,000 words, or between 600 and 700 pages in mass-market paperback.

I expect the title to change. Château Soleil has been a useful working title, but it doesn't really say "Sci-fi prison-break novel," does it? It'll probably end up being called something like Escape from the Sun. Less glamorous, but far more functional. Who knows? I'll workshop that.

And then I'll start submitting it. Hopefully before the end of the year. But we'll see.

So yeah, I've still got lots to do, but the first and arguably hardest part--writing the damned thing--is done.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Château Soleil Update 16: Action is Boring

Current word count: 161,029
Chapters done: 48/52
Projected length: 174,448 words

This is the actual, honest-to-goodness home-stretch for this draft. In fact, I don't anticipate writing another post until the draft is complete. Right now I'm dealing with the climax of the novel, resolving character arcs--all that good stuff. This has included a number of action-sequences. And in putting them together, I've had to keep one bedrock principle in mind the whole time: Action is not inherently interesting.

A few years ago I was an alpha-reader for an acquaintance who was writing a space opera, and it was pretty much un-relenting action. This worked well enough for a few chapters, but it quickly became exhausting. In fact, I started using the term "combat fatigue" to describe the reading experience, because it really was just fight scene after fight scene. If you think this sounds painful... it is way more painful than you think. And it's even worse on paper. A movie or a TV show can at least use visual spectacle to its advantage. In a book, on the other hand, it's just a never-ending fight between two people that I have no reason to care about.

This was reinforced recently when I watched Captain America: Civil War. It's a movie with a lot of action sequences in it and some of them are really huge fights, but there's a lot more standing-around-and-talking in that movie that you'd think. In fact, a lot of most action movies involves standing around talking, or sitting around talking, or making dinner while talking. This is because most of what human beings do is talk to each other. It's how we build relationships with each other. And it's the building of those relationships that gives the action sequences weight. And then those action sequences work because they contribute to the story of the characters that we already care about.

So when I'm writing a fight between a thug with a bionic arm and a man piloting a giant mechanical spider, hopefully the reader enjoys the spectacle more because they care about the combatants and the bystanders and the outcome.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Château Soleil Update 15: This Outline Is Useless!

Current word count: 151,482
Chapters done: 45/52
Projected length: 175,046 words

I'm sure I've mentioned once or twice that I'm using an outline and that my outline is falling increasingly out of sync with what I'm actually writing. This isn't a problem, really. The outline is still useful because, more than anything else, it's an emotional map of the story. But the actual story beats I have mapped out aren't proving all that useful anymore--and at this point in the story it was pretty thin to begin with. So I basically have to look at what I have written, note the POV character, imagine what I thought was going to happen and what effect that might have on the reader, and then write something that accomplishes same but gels more with the story I've been writing. I've also been looking ahead at the next few chapters to try to get a handle on what they could be story-wise.

But I haven't been writing any of those changes down. Because I'm an idiot. I knew that I wanted to keep my outline around so I could learn from it (and, hell, for posterity, right?), so I was reluctant to make any changes to it. It only occurred to me recently that I could save off an "old" version and a "current" version separately rather than relying on head-canon. This may seem obvious, because it is. But the reason it never crossed my mind is a major point that I want to reiterate, so I'll make it its own paragraph here.

I'm an idiot.

Thankfully, this hasn't been a problem for me either (the head-canon, that is--being an idiot will haunt me for the rest of my days). Fortunately I haven't forgotten about any of my head-only changes. Or, perhaps more accurately, I haven't missed the changes that I've forgotten about. And since I only have seven chapters left, it's not going to be a problem. In other words, I'm not going to change that thing I've been an idiot about. But this brings me to another point.

I only have seven chapters left! In the neighborhood of 25,000 words.

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