alderpodlogoAlderpod #22 is live! Huzzah.

I was going to do a special video podcast of this one, but that did not pan out. Instead, it only delayed the finishing of this one. Grr. Ah, well. What can be done?

There are a few short noes at the end of this (Brick) chapter, but hey–there’s only ten more chapters to go until the end. Exciting, exciting. The first Alderpod went live on April 22, 2008, so with 22 episodes since then, I’ve almost managed twice a month. I feel accomplished!

As always, let me know if you have any comments/suggestions/likes/dislikes. Remember, this is a podcasted draft, so I’m always looking for input. Special super shoutout to commenter Tintri who has not only read the whole book, but has also given me some incredible feedback!

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Inspiration:

1 a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions2: the act of drawing in; specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs

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Yesterday was not a writing day, in that I managed to find absolutely no time whatsoever to edit the book, and instead shuffled around doing grown-up things including working and grocery shopping, and some wonderfully not grown-up things like playing D&D with our awesome group of new found  friends. However, by the time I got home, well past my bedtime, I collapsed into bed.

So, technically, I didn’t make any progress in the novel.

However, as odd as the day was and, at first sight, too busy to be thinking of anything else than being a mom, an employee, and a friend, I had an oddly imaginative day.

I’m not sure how my brain does this, or why. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism, when I’m overwhelmed by the day-in, day-out drudgery or something. But in the middle of some of the most repetitive, bland work, my brain suddenly turned on. I don’t remember what I was doing exactly, but I got a really cool idea for a series of steampunk short stories. A really, really cool idea (that, if I manage to pull off will be shared of course.) I don’t usually think in short-story bits. By nature I tend to think in book length, so this was a surprise (even the short story here is really just a kitchy little take on a character already in my book).

Then right smack-dab in the middle of our game last night (I had the most abysmal rolls last night–although I love the game, there’s something really annoying about being completely ineffectual during a fight… there was no love for my warlock) something started to crystallize in my brain.

First, there was the seed. A situation. A question. I asked myself a question in my head about a character in the Aldersgate Cycle, Ellinora (the princess), and suddenly I realized I’d been a) writing situations in book one that would be much more suited for book two b) had made her too young c) hadn’t given her enough background to make her as strong as the rest.

I also realized that about 30,000 words of this book in another two narratives needs to be moved out. It’s not like losing it, per se, because I know it’ll be used later. But one of the hard things about juggling a multi-POV narrative is balancing plot with character. I do mean with and not and, too. Unlike a normal, single POV novel, where you only have to worry about one plot, I am in essence balancing about 8. Some of the characters progressions are easy to plot, and their stories simple to intertwine. But as I move out of the Territories characters (Emry, Cora, and Brick) and into the Queensland characters (Kaythra, Ellinora, and Sylvan) the challenges become more intense. I’m dealing with political intrigue now, and plots that are part of years, decades, and in some cases, centuries

Deep. Breath. (Inspiration, perhaps?)

Anyway, essentially there’s a lot of work ahead of me in the weeks to come. But it’s not overwhelming. It’s exciting. These little seeds of thought often sprout into amazingly lovely flowers, if given the time and care.¬† But it’s a lot of maintenance and perseverance. As a writer in the “flail around in the dark until you find some plot” school, and not the “write everything down in a spiral notebook” crowd, I definitely need to find some way to organize myself more thoroughly.

But I’m not overwhelmed. I’m excited. This process has proved to me that I can challenge myself, which is important. Hopefully, the finished project will challenge the readers–albeit in a different way–as well.

Anyone who’s attempted to write a novel–even if they’ve just managed through the planning stage–knows how challenging and often daunting the prospect can be. Precious few of us have unlimited time to sit back, drink coffee, and write (as Stephen King famously does, for instance) until you reach your daily 20 pages, or 10,000 words, or whatever.

Here’s a few suggestions that might help you out of the mire. I’m not an expert, but over the last decade or so I’ve figured out some tips that just might get you going in the right direction.

1.) Don’t listen to other writers’ processes. I’m not saying not to listen to me, exactly. I’m saying, don’t take a successful writer’s process as law. Everyone works differently, and at difference paces. Tolkien took decades to write the LoTR, and many popular authors seem to crap (for lack of a better term) out a book every month or so. Find your own pace, your own style. Learn when you write best, and under which circumstances. If you are busy, like me, you might want to use a calendar for a few weeks and mark down what days and when you were the most prolific.

2.) Avoid quicksand. There’s a reason writers write in drafts. Very few people–excluding, I’ve heard, Neil Gaiman–have to rewrite large parts of their books during the process. So when you’re writing your first version down, try not to sweat the small stuff. It’s way too easy to mistake the forest for the trees when you’re writing your first draft, and you can get hung up on the smallest stuff. If you’re like me you treat your first draft like an outline, and build from there. I’ve talked to plenty of writers who get stuck in this stage and never get out, and blame it on extraneous factors. But quite often, the mire of stalling in draft stage is self-inflicted quicksand.

3.) Don’t apologize. This happens quite often with fiction that skitters along the fantasy, science fiction, or steampunk flavor: writers feel like they have to apologize for their interests. This is deadly poison. The moment you start apologizing for what you like or what you like to write, you immediately discredit yourself to whoever it is your talking to, and to yourself. Writing takes confidence, and any crack can cause serious stress points in the whole structure.

4.) Get over the hard work factor. For the vast majority of writers out there, writing a novel is damn hard work. It’s harder, too, when you have a real job, a family, and a life outside. Making writing a priority is no small task. I’ve been setting word goals for myself. i.e.: no surfing the internet until I’ve hit another 1,000 words. And then, only for a few minutes. You can’t sit and say, “Ugh! This is so hard!” because you could be writing instead of complaining. If you’re dedicated to getting it finished, then you just have to do it. No publisher in their right minds will take an unfinished novel! We all have ideas, after all. It’s the work in between that distinguishes a novel from an idea.

5.) Keep finding inspiration. Whether it’s movies, music, other books, or pieces of art, we all have points of inspiration when it comes to writing. Don’t get so wrapped up in your book that you forget to absorb; be a sponge! Writing takes momentum, and it’s much easier to maintain it than to lose it and start from scratch again.

6.) Figure out why you write. Ask yourself the question, and examine the answer. Think about it. If the answer is acceptable for you, something you can live by, great. But if you’re not finding success writing, maybe your heart’s not in it for the right reasons.

Hard drive crashes are not fun. Even if you’ve backed up your work, and maintain the bulk of your information, one lapse (say about six days) can cost you. When my HD choked, it was in the midst of a good run of writing and editing, in which I’d changed around a great deal and put about 10,000 new words on paper. As I mentioned before, this work was wiped from the face of the planet.

When bad things happen like that, friends are quick to reach out and tell you it’s probably for the best, and that what you’ll write next will be even better than before. That sort of advice, while always well intended, often feels like a kick in the gut.

As grumpy as I was to lose so much of Brick’s narrative, my well-meaning friends were, actually, quite right.

I’ve finished editing Brick’s narrative through to the last 1/4 of the book, up until the point where his narrative starts intertwining more heavily with others and I have to wait.

And oddly enough (or not oddly, depending on how you look at it) losing all that work on Brick actually made me examine him more closely, to ask some really difficult questions. I thought I knew Brick, I really did. But after rewriting and tightening things up, I’ve realized there were a great deal of things that even through the first draft I hadn’t realized about him. It’s that extra layer of complexity that not only makes for a better story, but a more believable hero.

Coupled with the timing of Villain Month, this edit also happened to be Sir Gregory Ander’s (or just Ander as he’s referred to mostly) real entrance into the narrative. Now here’s a surprise. Even though I was pretty happy with his profiles (see the posts here) he’s turned out to be very different even than that. I’ve promoted him from minor villain in the first draft to major antagonist in the edit, and wow. He’s really taken on a life of his own.

My rambling point is that I’m very happy with the writing of the last few days. I’ve been putting my head down, as it were, and really concentrating on telling a good story.

I guess the moral of the story is to try and not let things get to you. Not to get all Pollyanna on you, but seriously: bad things happen, to everyone. And sure, a hard drive crash is worse for a writer in some ways than just about any other sort of person. You’re allowed a sulking time, but once it’s over: just get over it.

And just because it’s fun, here are five things I didn’t expect editing Brick’s narrative:

  • The appearance of codes and ciphers
  • The loss of appendages
  • A berserker knight
  • Major confessions and admissions of guilt
  • Strange alliances

A bit of an excerpt after the cut from Chapter Seventeen: The Merry Gentleman. Brick’s been recaptured by the Order of the Oak, and has been stowed away, tied up, in the corner of a stable stall for the better part of two days. Sir Ander finally pays him a visit and tries to make a deal with him.

(more…)

Lady with a luteIf growing up means you can no longer play pretend, I want nothing to do with it. In fact, I’d like to go so far as to that I am, as of right now, declaring myself a professional pretender. I want to be a bard.

What am I on about? I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering my craft, lost in the labyrinth of my own brain, opening doors that have either been shut for too long, or have been cracked open, but not yet fully discovered. Prompted by no small part by some of Matt Staggs’s recent posts at Enter the Octopus, I’ve been waxing pensive (okay and maybe a little poetic) about this “new” age of writing and storytelling. I completely agree with Matt that the Internet has ushered in a new era of storytelling, where writers, readers, and publishers (well, sometimes) are connected on a level never imagined. Not only do we, as writers, have a direct feed to mountains of information (where would I be without Wikipedia or BoingBoing?), but we have direct feeds to audiences, looking for us. It’s no longer a matter of publishing houses telling readers what the next big thing is: they already know!

The thing is, even in this era of technology, gadgets, and ever growing worldwide problems, fiction is needed now more than ever. Fiction functions to keep us hoping, to inspire, to get us thinking outside our mundane little cubicles.

When I was in college and graduate school, my main era of study was the Middle Ages. As such, I tend to have a really backward view of how things work. Once upon a time, in our own world, storytellers, bards, and the like were revered. The Irish bards were a kind of druid, and held the lore and history of their entire culture in their minds (to our knowledge, they never wrote anything down). Sure, stories changed with the telling, but that was part of the fun. In some regions, being a bard was the highest calling one could have; remember, the majority of the population could not read, and certainly no one had televisions (um, duh). People depended on storytellers to transport them out of their dreary worlds into the space of the imagination.

So what’s happened to the bards and troubadours? Where have they gone? Most of us can’t go off to barding school (though, if you’ve been following along in my podcast, you’ll notice I invented one and sent Emry to it). Even if we write thousands of pages and novels and stories, there’s no guarantee that anyone will read them. In most circles, barding or writing or storytelling isn’t a viable option.

That is, unless you make it available.

Because, if you care about sharing your stories with others–if you care about continuing the tradition of storytelling–there are plenty of options. You can publish with a Creative Commons license, you can podcast, you can attend virtual writers’ gatherings and meet other bloggers and writers just like you. Instead of letting your manuscript languish at the bottom of a slush pile (which is still an option, of course, not that it doesn’t occasionally work), you can be proactive.

Sure, we all want to be the next bestseller. But don’t just assume it’s going to happen to you overnight (if at all, says the skeptic part of my brain). Remember, bards had to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to share their stories; modern day writers need to, too. Ours are just measured in bps rather than feet.

The Alderpod

It’s here!

Alderpod #5 – Chapter Four: The Bard

I am super excited about Podcast #5. I’m learning as I go along here, and have a new microphone that, at first was more headache than anything. But now, with a pop screen I think the quality is much better.

This is the introduction of Emry Roy, the bard in my story. Now, of all my characters, he’s closest to heart for me. He’s one of the characters that when I write, I simply melt into. I don’t have to think it out too much (like with Brick or with Denna), and the writing goes lightning fast. In order to do him justice, I also wanted there to be music to accompany this podcast.

There are two original pieces of music during the podcast. The new theme during opening and closing is literally THE theme; that is, it’s “The Aldersgate” which I wrote with the whole book in mind. Using GarageBand I conducted my own little orchestra. The only piece that isn’t “me”–rather, a loop–is the drum track. Everything else is yours truly. I’m quite happy with it, though I’m by no means a composer.

The second piece of music is Emry’s song called “Man of the Open Road”. It’s supposed to sound just a little different, slightly off to our Western ears. I wanted him to sing it, and so you’ll notice the voice isn’t quite mine during the song.

It’s also longer and higher quality compared to the last few podcasts, so I hope to make up for the long break in between 4 and 5 with some more substance. It’s also the most violent chapter so far, so this is not for a younger audience, I don’t think.

If you listen and enjoy, or if you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m truly thrilled to be sharing my novel with you, and appreciate the feedback.

I’m also hoping to put up some .pdfs of chapters already read and (mostly) edited. So far there’s been one big change to the Brick story arc, but the rest have stayed the same. As soon as I make those changes, you’ll be able to read the chapters, too.

I’ve been letting Sylvan do the talking this week for Villain Month, as you might have noticed. The truth is, writing Sylvan is less like creating and a whole lot more like channeling. And I honestly didn’t even realize he was a villain, per se, until I sat down to contemplate villainy in my novel as a whole.

Characters are weird in a thousand ways. What gets me most of all is how at times, certain characters can literally take the reins of my writing and run with it. An hour or so later, I’ll sit back, wrists tired, and look at what’s gone on while I was in the zone. Of all the PoVs in the novel (which include Brick, Cora, Emry, Denna, and Kaythra to name a few) Sylvan is the loudest. I see him so clearly–heck, I even hear his voice at times (think Heath Ledger crossed with James Callis, and you’re close).

Anyway, villainy is subjective. I guess I just want to say that just because Sylvan is a villain doesn’t mean I love him any less. It is all quite a matter of perspective, as he might say.

Not to mention… he’s SO much fun to write!