Archive for writing


Not There Yet

It seems I was perhaps a bit overly optimistic when I thought I’d finish this book this week. It’s easy to forget that more detailed, action-oriented scenes are a lot slower to write. I also had the issue that while I know what will happen, I’m not entirely clear on how it will happen, so there’s a lot of brainstorming before I can write each scene as I try to picture it and think of what, exactly will happen to bring about the plot points I already know about.

It’s funny how my mental images of these scenes have changed along the way. The scene I wrote yesterday ended up happening in an entirely different way than I originally planned, in a different place, with different people involved.

I’m also in the phase of “headlight writing,” where I can only see the scene immediately ahead of me, and I need to write it before I get a clear mental image of the next scene.

As a result, it may take me all week next week to write the rest of the book I thought I’d finish this week. It’s already longer than any other first draft I think I’ve ever written. It’s epic-style fantasy, so it can be a bit longer, but there may also be some cutting.

I like the way it’s shaping up, though. The things I’m coming up with now are definite improvements on my initial ideas, so it’s worth taking the time to think through it. This is normally when I get impatient and rush ahead, then have to drastically rewrite, so it’s good that I’m taking my time to try to get it right.

I do feel bad because I’m doing mean things to my hero now. He’ll end up better for it, in the long run, but he has to go through some stuff first.

I definitely have “book brain.” I was mentally planning the scene I needed to write this morning as I was falling asleep last night. Then in the middle of the night I woke in a panic because I’d forgotten to take into consideration the hero’s nephew Jonathan in my plans for the scene, and that was going to throw off all my plans. When I woke for real in the morning and thought about it, I remembered that there is no nephew Jonathan. The hero doesn’t have a nephew. The name “Jonathan” wouldn’t fit into this world. It’s important to the story that the hero is alone in this scene, facing the bad guys by himself. I suspect my brain was playing with something I did forget. I’d realized earlier in the evening that I had forgotten to take a certain element of how the magic works into consideration in my initial plans for the scene, and that’s why I was thinking about it as I fell asleep. I was figuring out how to work around it. I’d already had the “I forgot to consider this!” panic, and I guess it got incorporated into a dream. I have no idea where the nephew Jonathan came from, but now I think I absolutely have to have a character in some book have a nephew named Jonathan who’s present in a scene but not noticed by anyone.

And now back to not writing about Jonathan.

writing, TV, movies

Redemption Arcs

In the book I’m currently working on, for the first time in my career I have scenes written from the perspective of one of the villains. He’s a henchman, not the big bad, and he’s the one sent out as the errand boy for the offstage villain. I haven’t decided yet if this guy is going to get a redemption arc, if maybe he’ll end up turning against the villain and joining the good guys, but pondering that has had me thinking about redemption arcs. I like them in theory. I belong to a religious tradition that’s all about redemption and believes that no one is beyond salvation, but I’m also picky about fictional redemption. I love the moment when a villain flips and joins the good guys, but I want to really feel the redemption, and I don’t want someone who’s done true evil to get off lightly.

A few years ago in a TV discussion forum, I jokingly came up with the redemption equation:

bad deeds=good deeds+remorse+suffering

The idea is that both sides of the equation have to balance for the redemption arc to be satisfying. If the good deeds, the remorse the character feels for the bad deeds, and the suffering don’t seem equal to the bad deeds the character has done, it doesn’t work. By suffering, I mean the consequences for the bad deeds, like prison time or other people not liking them; karmic payback; or mitigating circumstances (like a street kid taken in by the leader of a criminal gang). It doesn’t count if it’s suffering the characters bring on themselves. If you murder your parents, you don’t get suffering points for being an orphan, for instance. The worse the bad deeds are, the more the other things have to make up for it. It does get to the point where the bad deeds are so bad that you can’t imagine making up for it in a way that would allow an audience to accept a redemption. That doesn’t mean the character can’t ever be redeemed, but it may require the character to die for redemption to work. You can’t imagine that character just going on and hanging out with the other good guys.

Not that people haven’t written that. One of my biggest gripes with the TV series Once Upon a Time was the fact that the big bad from season one, someone who was shown to have casually murdered innocents because she was having a bad day and who cursed an entire civilization, was crowned Queen of the Universe by her former victims in the series finale, after she’d spent most of the series being friends with her former victims — and in spite of her never apologizing or acknowledging the harm she’d done. She just stopped being evil, with no explanation for why she stopped, and she never actually changed her attitude.

And I think that’s key to the redemption arc. There has to be a reason the villain stops villaining, and usually it’s the “are we the baddies?” moment, when the villain realizes that they’ve been wrong. If they don’t realize that killing and torturing people is bad or that they were on the wrong side and their reasons for doing evil weren’t valid, why would they change?

This is my problem with the “redemption” of Darth Vader (you knew this would get around to Star Wars, didn’t you?). I don’t know that we ever really got the moment of him realizing he was in the wrong. His redemption involved him choosing his son over the guy he was already planning to betray. That’s still a somewhat selfish move. He couldn’t stir himself to save entire planets, but when it was his son in danger, then he acted. Now, maybe I could be generous and say that hearing Luke refuse to kill him because he’s a Jedi like his father gave him his, “Whoa, I’ve been doing it wrong,” moment, but it’s still not super satisfying to me. It only really works because he immediately dies. It wouldn’t have worked if he’d lived and had become a good guy, hanging out with his kids. I’m not even that keen on the fact that he got to be a Force ghost. I don’t know if that’s the equivalent of Force heaven, but a last-minute change of heart doesn’t seem like it should allow him to hang around as a Force ghost, and I was especially irked when they re-edited it to be his younger self, when they didn’t also change Obi-Wan (and would Luke even have known who that random young guy who looked nothing like the man under the mask was?).

Image of dying, maskless Darth Vader.
Text: I chose you over the guy I was planning to betray. You were right, there is good in me!

In the Star Wars world, they did a bit better with the redemption of Kylo Ren. It happened before the very end. He had a chance to really think about what he’d done, and he made an active choice to go help Rey — that wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. And, again, he died, giving up his life for someone else’s. He didn’t get to hang around with the good guys and live happily ever after.

As bad as Once Upon a Time was with that one character, they also managed to do it right. Their version of Captain Hook had some good reasons for being the way he was (explanations, not excuses). He had been wronged. He just went over the top in doing something about it. He had a big realization that he’d wasted his life in revenge and that people didn’t like him because he’d done horrible things. He even later counseled other villains about this and helped turn people away from becoming villains by sharing his advice. When he ran into former victims, he tried to atone and set things right with them. He got hit by a lot of karma on his way to redemption. It seemed like every time he did something bad, he’d get hit by a car, kidnapped, etc. And his suffering didn’t end when he turned good. He did some pretty big heroic acts as a good guy, so he had the good deeds to balance the bad. They did another good redemption arc on the Wonderland spinoff, with a character who was a villain for the first half of the series having a huge turnaround, realizing how badly she’d screwed up. She had to face some of her victims and learn how she affected them, and she had to work to earn the trust of the people she’d hurt, even after she turned good.

I do think it works better for the henchmen to be redeemed, the ones who were following orders or who’d been taught evil. It’s less believable when the big bad, the one who came up with and led the evil schemes, changes sides. Though it might make for a fun story if the big bad did change sides but all the henchmen were still on board with the previous goals and ended up fighting against the former big bad.

I think there’s room for my guy to be redeemed. He hasn’t done any large-scale evil. He’s the kind of weasel who stirs other people up to do his dirty work rather than doing it for himself. He’s suffered some, and he comes from a background that somewhat explains why he’s the way he is. He just made some poor choices in response to those circumstances. He’s enough of a jerk that I can’t imagine him joining the found family of team good guys, but he might realize the big bad has been using him and switch sides in the final showdown. We’ll see.


The Final Push

I’m so close to the end of this book. I could reach my target word count in a day’s work, but I won’t be at the end of the story then. This may be a somewhat longer book, but since it’s fantasy I figure that’s to be expected.

Normally when I’m at this point, I find myself impatiently rushing to the end because I’m so eager to get the book done, but I’m strangely reluctant to finish this one. I don’t really want it to be over with. I’m enjoying spending time with these characters. It’s like when you’re reading a book you don’t want to end, and you slow down to savor each page.

I suspect some of my current slowdown has to do with where I am in the book. I’m in the slight lull where they regroup before the final push, and I’m enjoying the characters having a moment to catch their breath and interact. The next thing I have to do involves shoving them out of a safe place and making them do difficult things, and I’m a little reluctant to do that, even as I’m also eager to see this part of the story play out.

No matter how much I drag my feet, I should finish this book next week. That means I’ll be in what I call Book Brain mode, when I don’t really want to think about anything else while I immerse myself in the book. I picked up some convenience food at the grocery store so I’ll have meals I can just reheat, and I might cook a few things this weekend so I’ll have leftovers. I took care of the serious errands this week, so I shouldn’t have to go anywhere until late in the week.

And then when I finish this draft I have some admin tasks to take care of, but then I’m going to give myself a little time off to relax and think. I need to start figuring out the next thing to write. I got a new idea I want to play with. It’s a long way from being ready to write, but I can start thinking about it.

writing, movies

Ending With a Bang

I’m getting close to the ending of the first draft of the book I’m working on, and that has me thinking about endings. There’s a frequently repeated bit of writing advice about how the first few pages sell this book and the last few pages sell the next book. You want readers to get to the end of the book and want to immediately read the next one. But what, aside from a huge cliffhanger, has that effect? As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that it has to do with leaving a reader feeling something.

I discovered one trick for this a number of years ago when I was reading books to judge for a romance contest. I ended up with a book by a top-selling author, and I’ve got to admit that I wasn’t impressed. The book was doing nothing for me, but then I got to the end and read the resolution with a tear in my eye, and I realized she got me, in spite of my misgivings. The next year, I got another book by that author in my selection of books to judge. I read that book on a plane. Near the end of the book, something bad happened to a kid, and it was a real tearjerker moment. I just had the final scene or two of the book to read when the plane got to the gate and I had to put the book down to get off the plane. Then I had to get out of the airport, take the train downtown, get to the office of the friend I was visiting, get shown around her office, then go to a nearby bookstore cafe to hang out until she got off work before I was able to pick up the book again and read the ending. And that ending left me cold. That’s when I realized what she did. She’d have some really emotional thing that didn’t even have anything to do with the plot happen just before the ending so that you read the resolution of the romance and ended the book with a tear in your eye, and that gave you the impression that the book had really touched you. It was so quick from the tearjerking moment to the end that I may be the only reader who put the book down at exactly that point, since I had to. If you separated the ending from the previous scene, there was nothing special about it. She’d done a similar thing in the previous book, only it was an old person with a health crisis.

In my recent Star Wars viewing project, I was also looking at the endings because I recall always leaving the theater after one of those movies excited and wanting to see it again, even when the movie itself wasn’t actually that great. I remember feeling that way about The Phantom Menace, and I can barely sit through that movie. I’ve noticed that there’s a sequence in the last part of almost all of those films that I think has a lot to do with the way people react to them (the rest is due to John Williams because the music really helps). The last quarter or so of these movies builds to a climax with intense tension and high stakes, resulting in a cathartic moment that releases the tension (usually, it involves reaching safety in some way). After that, there’s celebration and connection, usually with hugging. And then there’s something to create a lingering emotional impression that has the audience feeling something as they leave the theater (again, with some help from John Williams).

The throne room scene at the ending of Star Wars, with the characters lined up on the temple steps and Han and Luke wearing medals
Yay! We won! And we’re heroes, with the medals to prove it.

Take the first movie: We have the space battle with the ticking clock — will they destroy the Death Star before it destroys the rebel base? — with the space station blowing up being about as spectacular a catharsis as you get. Then they return to the base, and there’s lots of hugging. Our final emotional impression is one of triumph with the medal ceremony. You get a similar sequence in Return of the Jedi and the sequel trilogy. Battle, something blows up, hugging, then a big emotional hit. The Empire Strikes Back works a little differently, since there’s no clear victory. Our cathartic moment is the ship going to lightspeed, which means they’ve escaped and will be safe, but we get the bonding and hugging before that, when the Falcon rescues Luke. The prequels are all a downward slide. We get the regular sequence in The Phantom Menace, with that final celebration mirroring the first movie, right down to ending with everyone lined up on the stairs. The lingering emotional impressions are mostly nostalgic, since we’re seeing things happen that we’ve heard about or known must have happened, like Obi-Wan taking on Anakin to train or the start of the Clone Wars. Revenge of the Sith goes for full nostalgia, with a repeat of the twin sunset moment from the first movie, but with baby Luke and his aunt and uncle.

I’ve been looking at how this works in other movies and books. It’s less obvious in books, since they don’t have visuals or John Williams, but I have spotted it in some books. In The Mummy, we had the frantic escape, the “whew, we’re safe” moment, and the bonding, since that’s where the romance was resolved, though I don’t think the lingering emotional impression was as strong.

Oddly, the one of the Indiana Jones movies that does this the best was the most horrible. I rewatched Temple of Doom last weekend, and I kept pondering turning it off because it was so unpleasant, but then I found myself weirdly happy at the end and realized they’d done this sequence. We had the big action sequence, ending with the defeat of the villain (one of the few times Indy has something to do with that) and the cavalry showing up. Then they return to the village with the captured children and there’s lots of hugging as all the families are reunited. Our final impression is of Indy and Willie kissing, with Short Round on the baby elephant in the background, and everyone is happy. Doing a satisfying ending can salvage even an unpleasant movie.

I need to look back at my favorite books, the ones that have me wanting to either re-read them or read the next one right away, and see what the lingering emotional impression is. And then see if I can figure out how to use this. What do I want readers to feel when they close each book?

writing, movies

More Star Wars Story Structure

In my last post, I talked about how the story goal was a problem for The Force Awakens, and that got me started thinking about the whole Star Wars series. It was a fun exercise, so I thought I’d share. I’m going to try to avoid totally giving away the endings, but I figure if you don’t know how the Star Wars movies end, then you probably don’t care.

I have absolutely no idea what the story goal for The Phantom Menace is supposed to be. Something about stopping a trade blockade? But that’s mostly offscreen for most of the movie. I think it might work best if you consider that Palpatine is the protagonist, and his goal is to be made chancellor. Everyone else is just running around being manipulated by him, thinking they’re doing one thing but it’s all part of his plan.

In Attack of the Clones, I think Obi-Wan is our protagonist, with his goal to track down who sent the bounty hunter, which leads him to learn about the clones. But still, I think Palpatine has his own plan to get emergency powers, which the rest of the movie is about, with him manipulating them into doing things that support him.

And that’s still going on in Revenge of the Sith, in which his goal is to take power and turn Anakin to the Dark Side.

I think the fact that the villain is driving the action of these movies may be part of why they’re not very satisfying. It’s not that much fun watching a master manipulator at work when the characters you’re supposed to like are being utter patsies and falling into all his traps. The tricky thing is that since these are prequels, the outcome was already decided. We know Palpatine has to win. The good guys can’t stop him. But there had to be better ways to go about structuring these stories to give the good guys more to do. My favorite part of the whole trilogy (aside from the truly epic lightsaber fight in the lava fields, which is even more impressive when you learn the actors trained hard to do most of it themselves) is the Obi-Wan plot of episode 2, where he actually has something to drive toward and has some success. Another thing that’s unsatisfying about this is that there isn’t really any room for character growth. I don’t feel like anyone truly learns anything or has real personal growth in this trilogy. As much as I like Obi-Wan in this, he’s a fairly static character. Anakin regresses. Palpatine doesn’t have a true protagonist arc, even as he’s driving the action. It’s not like he’s going through any kind of internal struggle.

As I mentioned previously, the goal in the original movie is to blow up the Death Star, with Luke as our clear protagonist.

The Empire Strikes Back is another villain-driven story. The only way I can make it work is to consider Darth Vader as the protagonist, and his story goal is to capture Luke so he can turn him to the Dark Side. The heroes don’t have the kinds of arcs that can drive a whole movie. Han and Leia just want to get their ship fixed so they can meet up with the fleet, and Luke wants to train to be a Jedi. Luke’s goal is more of a character goal than a story goal. Generally, a protagonist has to go through some kind of growth or change in order to carry out the story goal (like Luke learning to trust the Force before he can destroy the Death Star), but Vader fails here, so I guess he doesn’t go through that growth. But since it’s an evil goal, it may mean that since he didn’t pull off the evil goal, it meant he made the right choice and failed to be the villain he should have been.

In Return of the Jedi it gets pretty complicated. The big-picture goal is to blow up Death Star 2.0 while the Emperor’s on board, while the villains’ goal is to trap the Rebels and destroy the Rebel Alliance. But Luke has the secret goal to turn Darth Vader against the Emperor, while Darth Vader has the secret goal to turn Luke and gang up on the Emperor. All of these things are in opposition, and it’s zero-sum.

I was actually pretty disappointed in Return of the Jedi when it first came out, but I found myself liking it a lot more this time around, while I was less enthused about The Empire Strikes Back, which is considered by many to be the best of the films. I wonder how much of that is the dark=automatically good attitude.

I’ve already gone over the issues with The Force Awakens. The Last Jedi is a bit more focused, though it’s split into two plots that converge at the end. The Resistance wants to escape from the First Order, but there’s internal conflict because there are opposing factions within the Resistance who have different ideas for how they should go about this. Meanwhile, Rey’s side of the plot has her goal to recruit Luke to help the Resistance. Ultimately, this help is a big part of what allows the Resistance to escape. However, the protagonist isn’t all that clear. It’s Poe who learns the big lesson and undergoes a lot of change, though that doesn’t have much to do with whether they succeed or fail (he learns from the near-failure, but his learning the lesson doesn’t help them have success) and then there’s Luke realizing that he’s been wrong all along and finally taking action. I guess Rey learns not to be so afraid of the Force and to use it consciously when she lifts the rocks to allow the Resistance forces to escape through the tunnel.

In The Rise of Skywalker, the big-picture goal is to stop the First Order mega-fleet and deal with Palpatine once and for all. Rey’s our clear protagonist, as she has to face some tough truths about herself and finally open herself up to the Force in order to prevail, and she’s also helped by some groundwork she’s laid.

On the side stories, I think Han’s story goal in Solo is to free the woman he loves from what he sees as servitude, though things aren’t what he thinks. And Rogue One is about getting the information about the Death Star. That one has kind of a two-headed protagonist, with both Cassian and Jyn working together toward the same goal, in spite of having some conflict with each other. Basically, that movie is structured a lot like a romance, in spite of it not being romantic, and I think that may be a topic for another post because it’s an idea intriguing enough that I want to dig into it.

Incidentally, if you’re writing a story that’s not working, this is a good exercise to go through to spot plot problems. What is the story goal and who’s the protagonist? From there, you can figure out what the stakes and conflict are. This is also a good way to figure out what to focus on when writing a book blurb.


Robot Writers

One of the big topics in the writing world lately has been AI. There’s an AI program that supposedly can write as well as a human, given a prompt. And it’s already become a huge problem. Some science fiction magazines have had to close submissions because they were getting spammed with AI-written stories and couldn’t weed through all the submissions. Apparently, there are people who seem to think that selling short stories they don’t have to write is a get-rich-quick scheme. Give the AI some prompts, churn out a story in seconds, and then flood the publications with submissions, and something is sure to sell. It’s a quick and easy few hundred bucks made in minutes of work. Of course, that assumes that any of these stories sell, which they probably won’t, but there’s no loss to the submitter if they don’t, since they put no effort in. It’s the same principle as with spam e-mail. Might as well flood the world with it because it doesn’t cost anything more.

Except these AI submissions are pretty obvious and not that great, but the editors still have to go through all the submissions to find stories they might like. It’s hard to come up with a filter to screen out the spam that doesn’t discriminate against possible real authors who are just new and learning and don’t deserve a lifetime ban on submissions the way the people gaming the system do.

And, of course, there are already people “writing” novels with AI and publishing them on Amazon. A few minutes of work, then you’ve got a novel, and if it sells more than a few copies, you’ve still made a decent hourly wage. Even if most readers figure out it isn’t very good, it still increases the flood of books out there, making it harder to dig in and find the good ones.

I suspect that no matter how good AI gets at writing, AI-written fiction will never be that good because it comes down to the ideas. Just about any writer has had the experience of meeting someone who says they want to be a writer, but they don’t really want to write. What they have is a brilliant idea they want to share with a writer, have the writer write it, and they’ll split the profits. And I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a decent idea from these people. About 95 percent of them don’t actually have a story idea. They just think that their own lives are interesting enough to be a novel, so what they want is to write about themselves. I’m picturing all these AI-written books about boring men who’ve overcome some minor adversity.

What real writers know is that the idea is the easy part. Most of us come up with new ones every day. The trick is to figure out which of those ideas has what it takes to develop into a story and then to develop it so that it has enough substance to build a story around, and to do that, you have to write. Every time I’ve had an idea that feels totally complete, like I could just sit down and write the book, once I do start writing down everything I know about the story, I’m lucky if I get two pages. The idea is nothing without a lot of work. Feed that initial idea into a computer, and you’re not going to get any kind of decent result, especially since this is just a sophisticated auto-complete based on other people’s work. It merely guesses what word should come next based on all the input it’s received.

I think what a lot of the people using this tool want is to be published. They don’t really want to write. They just want a shortcut to the result.

Supposedly this tool does write good book descriptions, like what would go on the back of a paperback, but it can also be badly, hilariously wrong. I’ve seen one person describe it as more like having an enthusiastic intern who needs a lot of direction and supervision than like hiring a professional writer.


How Does it End?

I’m still working on plotting the ending to this book I’m working on. I struggle with endings. When I start out, I have a detailed outline of the beginning, and the ending of the outline is a vague “they beat the bad guys and live happily ever after.” I tell myself I’ll figure it out as I get closer to it, once I have a better sense of my characters and the story. Then I get there and I still don’t know, so there’s a lot of handwaving and chaos.

But the ending is so important. It’s said that the first page of a book sells that book, and the last page sells the next book. That doesn’t mean it has to be a cliffhanger, just that it should be so satisfying that it makes the reader want to repeat the experience with the author’s next book, whether it’s another book in that series or an entirely new book.

So, I got the bright idea to figure out what that last page should look like. What will the characters be doing at the very end? What will the new configuration be? If the beginning of the book is the “before” picture of the main character and the world, what is the “after” picture once the characters (and maybe the world) have changed?

And I realized I had no idea. I had a vague sense of what the characters will be like at the end, but not what they’re doing or how I’d show what they’d be like.

This week, I’ve been working on that, outlining a potential ending scene and then reverse engineering from there. What kind of story climax do I need to get to that ending? What would lead to that story climax happening? And so forth. That’s made me realize I’ve made some poor choices in the beginning. There’s a whole sequence I can cut because it doesn’t support the character arc (and even undermines it). And that’s going to move the midpoint of the story, which also needs to be changed.

It’s been a good week for doing this kind of work because it’s cool and cloudy, so I’ve been huddling on the sofa under the electric blanket with tea and a notebook and letting my mind play.


Doing It Wrong

I’ve reached the point in the book I’m working on where I need to figure out exactly how I’m going to end it. I know the final result, but how I get there and what the climactic scene looks like is kind of hazy. I was working on plotting it and struggling to put it all together when I got insight from an unlikely source: the trailer for season 3 of The Mandalorian.

It occurred to me that the story I’m writing is in some ways a lot like The Mandalorian. There’s a lot of “except for” and “but if instead” there, to the point that it’s not really like it at all, but the important thing for my purposes is that it centers on an isolated loner who takes responsibility for a vulnerable orphan. In all my outlines and character development, the fact that this guy is a loner is key, and his character arc is supposed to be him learning that he can’t go it alone and he’s stronger when he teams up with others.

And yet, very early in the story, when he gets stuck helping this young woman travel to a place that will be safe for her, his first thought is that she might be able to help him with the thing he needs to do. He then wants her to stick around. This is why it was so hard for me to plot the end. He completed his character growth arc in the first quarter of the book. That left me with no big turning point for the end.

Commence head banging on desk.

Oddly, I’d set up Chekhov’s entire arsenal to show that he was going to have a hard time working with someone else earlier in the book. We saw him have to take responsibility for someone else and immediately dump that individual with the first potential new home, which set up the way we expect him to act later. And then I forgot about it entirely. I did have some story reasons for taking the route I did, since there is some conflict and deception involved with him planning to get her to help but manipulating her into being the one to offer, but that’s not really what I want to do with this character. His character arc isn’t about him being manipulative. I’d have to change a lot more to set that up, and it would be a totally different story.

Fortunately, I know how to fix it, and it adds a lot more conflict along the way. Although this character is actually very little like the Mandalorian (not a bounty hunter who belongs to a strict warrior religion), I should put a picture of him on my desk to remind me that it’s supposed to take him some time to really warm up to this individual he feels responsible for, and even longer to figure out that this individual might have something to offer him instead of just being a burden. My Star Wars obsession seems to be good for my writing.

Now I’m going back and fixing the book so I can move forward in the right direction and maybe get a running start on writing the ending.


Remember the Conflict

I woke this morning with the horrible realization that yesterday’s writing had been all wrong. I wrote a scene that was supposed to have been the big emotional turning point in which a key piece of information was revealed to one of the characters. It was supposed to be so shocking that it changed the way she saw one of the other characters and made her question her dealings with him. In a previous draft of this book, I’d tried to put this revelation too early in the story, but it was a dramatic scene in which the villain tried to force this revelation by creating a situation that made the character do something that he then had to explain, and then the other character had to react. But since I’d put it too early, they didn’t have enough of a relationship established for it to have that big of an impact.

Moving it much later in the story had a different effect. They’d built up some trust, but that meant I wrote it as just a conversation, and the reaction was simply, “Oh, that explains a lot.” No real emotional impact, no shock. No decision point. I’d completely skipped the turning point scene.

At least I did figure it out before I wrote any further, so I can fix it, and I’ve figured out how to fix it. I think the new version will be much better even than what I had originally planned because there’s more trust to have been broken. Since I realized this so quickly rather than on a later draft, I guess I haven’t entirely forgotten how to write. I think I was just being conflict averse. There’s so much conflict and tension in the world right now that I want these characters to like each other and get along. But fiction needs conflict. It’s hard to have a story where absolutely nothing bad happens. Even a book that’s being called the cozy fantasy has some bad stuff happening and some conflict.

So now I’m writing an angsty bit, and there will probably be a lot of chocolate consumed while I work on it. And I will need to put sticky notes around my desk saying “remember conflict.”


Almost There

I should hit my target word count goal for the book I’ve been working on today, a week ahead of the deadline I set. Go, me!

However, since I’m revisiting a book I started writing last year, there’s a lot of junk left over from the previous attempt that’s still included in the word count. I’m still using bits and pieces of it in different places, so I haven’t moved it out of the manuscript file yet. When I do that, I’m sure I’ll lose at least 5,000 words.

And I’m nowhere near the end of the story. I may be a bit beyond the midpoint, but it’s hard to tell, especially with all that extra stuff around the beginning.

But I’m still going to take it as a win and celebrate as though I’ve reached a finish line when I hit that target today. And then I’ll reset the word count, delete the extraneous stuff that I know I won’t be using because I’ve long passed those parts of the story, and set a new word count and a new deadline for actually finishing the book.

That may happen after the holidays. I was planning to take a couple of weeks off after next Friday, but since I’m hitting the target early, I think I’m going to consider next week a light duty/admin period. If I have an idea for what to write and want to write, I may write some. Otherwise, I’ll catch up on promo stuff and admin stuff, watch some video lectures I’ve been stockpiling, and maybe actually do some Christmas decorating and shopping. And when I’m not doing that stuff, I may just read and relax. My brain is very tired. I think if I keep busy doing other things, it may figure out the rest of this story. Right now, I have a vague idea of what major things will happen, but I don’t yet have a clear picture of how it will look when it happens or what else needs to happen to get to those major events. It always comes to me just before I need to write it. And then I write it and then I realize what should have happened, and so I rewrite it.

But I’ve worked very hard this year, logging more writing hours than I’ve ever done before, and I haven’t taken a substantial break all year, so I’m not going to push myself for now. That’s what January is for.