I just finished a novel, no big deal

You read that right. I just finished Stranger Skies, the NaNoWriMo novel I’ve been posting snippets from for SFFSat.

First draft clocks in at just over 70,000 words. Definitely shorter than Bellica‘s ~250,000 words, but then Bellica was meant to be a standalone (ha ha) and Stranger Skies is going to be the first in what’s looking like at least a 4-book series. Perhaps six. I’m not sure yet, because the rest of the plot is pretty damn hazy.

No, I didn’t intend a series when I started it. As I was writing, I realized there were too many plot threads to keep in one book, and I had to choose one plot thread for this book and continue the others in the rest of the series. It’s staying fair to the story, that way — it’s a big one and doesn’t deserve to be shoved into one book. It needs space to tell itself.

At this moment I’m filled with elation and a bit of gratitude for my school and the bullshit they pulled — had I been enrolled in SFU this semester, I most certainly would not have finished the book this soon. Yesterday I sat down and wrote over 4K words, and knew I’d finish it by Friday. Today I wrote 3500 words and unexpectedly reached the end.

I now have revisions to make, as well as some additions to threadbare places earlier on in the story — I’m glad that it’s only 70K right now, because it gives me room to add more in those places. I’ll also be working on making the series story bible more fleshed out (if you want to read a great guide on building a story bible, RJ Blain has a tutorial in three blog posts: The Basics, World-Building, Characters), as well as cementing a timeline for events not only in this book but for the next one. After revisions, I start work on the second book by drafting a plot outline.

Oh, hey, at some point I became a sort of professional author. How did that happen?

Stranger Skies will be released sometime this year. I also have plans to release Bellica‘s sequel, The Jade Star of Athering. Which means finishing it, of course. That’s February’s writing goal. (Or rather, my writing goal for February. February does not have a writing goal. It is a month. It has days.)

I’m also currently suffering from a bit of “MY BOOK IS FINISHED WHAT DO I DO WITH MY LIFE????”-itis. It’ll pass shortly. I hope.

Too long; didn’t read: I’m awesome and amazing and am off to go celebrate now. See you after the weekend! (Yes, SFFSat post still happening, but scheduled ahead of time. I likely won’t be back on the blog till Monday.)

SFFSat, November 10th: the agony of living

This week we’re veering away from The Jade Star of Athering snippets so I can share with you a bit from my NaNoWriMo novel, Stranger Skies. The first two chapters of Stranger Skies is available on Smashwords for free, by the way, so I’ll be sharing the first few sentences of Chapter Three: Flesh Prison.

Silva woke to alien smells and sounds. Her hearing was duller than a wolf’s, but sharper than a Terran’s. The sounds of a fire crackling, bacon sizzling, people outside chopping wood, talking, laughing — all the sounds of a morning on a farm — assaulted her.

There were too many hearts. The rhythms were off. She was used to one heart per body; now she had…two? Three? They thrummed in her ears; she could not escape the beat of them. Her chest felt as if it would explode.

Stranger Skies is the story of the goddess Silva, Lady of the True Woods and Queen of the Deep Furs, Wild Goddess of Wolves, and how she falls to a different planet and becomes mortal. Trapped in her new mortal body and life, she has to discover her destiny in this new world and find a way to reclaim her godhood.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the other great offerings for SFFSat here!

Eight Days In, Halfway Through — the magic of planning my NaNo-novel

You read that right. I’ve already hit 25K in my NaNoWriMo project, Stranger Skies.

The story is fleshing itself out nicely, and I’ve gone ahead and done the Smashwords NaNoWriMo promotion — you can read chapters 1 and 2 for free. Curious as to what it’s about? Here’s a short description:

Silva, Lady of the True Woods, Goddess of the Deep Furs, falls through a portal during her search for her missing friend, Etan. She lands on the planet below, suddenly mortal.

On an alien planet, she must navigate her new and strange mortal life. Soon she discovers there’s a reason for everything, and her coming to this new world was not by accident.

As war brews on the horizon, Silva goes on a journey to reclaim her godhood, find Etan, and save the wolves of Min.

I’m experimenting with several different things for this story. I’ve named chapters with things like Falling to the Future, Flesh Prison, or The Wolf in the Woods — instead of my usual practice of naming chapters with the name of the character who’s telling that particular part. (I say ‘usual practice’, but truth is I’ve only done that for one book — Bellica. The Jade Star of Athering is, so far, simply divided up by numbered chapters. So is Islands of Fire and Water. That may change.) Another, I’m not writing about Terrans, or Terra, or Terran colonies at all. The main character is original from Terra, yes, but she’s also originally a goddess — it’s not exactly the same as, say, writing about a Terran mortal traveling to a new planet. So that’s interesting.

The big experiment is that I actually planned out the story. Not every scene was decided ahead of time (and a lot in the latest chapters have changed), but the big ones were. I decided, ahead of time, what my First Plot Point was, my Second Plot Point, my pinch points, my resolution. I have Larry Brooks to thank for that — while I don’t agree with him wholly on his philosophy that planning is superior to pantsing or percolating, I do concede that planning my Nano novel is leading to an infinitely better first draft, and a higher likelihood of my hitting 50K well before the month is over. And I wouldn’t have been able to plan if I hadn’t read the majority of his posts on how to plan your Nano novel.

If you’re a pantser or percolator and you want to give planning a try, I recommend reading Larry’s posts for some ideas as to where to start.

Now, full disclosure, while planning has yielded higher word counts and better writing for me, I don’t fully like it. It’s contrary to my nature, so I may never fully like it. But I find that when I do a beat sheet and figure out the big five scenes ahead of time, I get sort of bored with the story early on. I wasn’t able to do a complete beat sheet, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to where I’d quit planning out scenes — I wanted to “get to the good stuff”.

Which tells me something important about myself. As much as I dislike having my routine changed unexpectedly, I love the unknown when it comes to writing. I like getting stuck and having to think about it for a few weeks until it suddenly hits me, a flash of inspiration while I sit in the bath, getting pruney. Running naked down the street shouting EUREKA! appeals to me.

I also find that I’m not always sure what will take a full scene, or more than one. Some things that I had planned out as one scene took three; other things that were planned as four scenes only took two. I’m having to adjust as I get through these bits, re-numbering scenes and re-structuring chapters.

Which is fine. It’s a learning experience. I’m not knocking it. It works.

But I don’t think I’ll be planning all my stories. The NaNo ones, yes. Possibly short stories, as well. The other novels?

I’m going to keep on percolating, I think.

This, of course, means that The Jade Star of Athering will probably not be done until the end of December, and released at some point in early 2013. I’m aiming for April. Cross your fingers that that will happen (and let me know if you’re interested in being a beta reader).

What about you? If you write, do you pants, plan, or percolate? Some combo of the three? No idea what I’m talking about? Wondering where the pie you ordered is? I love hearing from my readers — leave me a comment below!

Galactica is trying to murder me

She knows I’m a Cylon.

Galactica is my 1987 Volvo Station Wagon. She’s a good ship, but then she does shit like try to kill me and I feel like beating her with a hammer. Or calling up Aaron Douglas and screaming “WHY WON’T YOU MAKE MY BIRDS FLY? I need my birds to fly!

The latest shit she pulled was this weekend. I was heading to my friend’s house in Burnaby for a Friday night write-in. It was raining, which is the usual in Vancouver from about the end of September to the end of June. It was night time as well, which is usual after the sun sets. I had my wipers going so I could see and not crash and die in a fiery ball of fiery death.

Then there was a clunk! and a scraaaaaaaappppppeeeeeee, and suddenly I couldn’t see out the driver’s side window. The wiper blade had come loose and flipped itself so it was now pointing outwards, and the metal bit that holds the blade on (I have no idea what these things are called, ok, I just drive the car and check my oil once a week) was scraping the windshield glass.

I pulled over and turned on my emergency flashers and stood in the pouring rain trying to fix the godsforsaken thing for about twenty minutes, perhaps half an hour. I’m not sure, because when my limbs freeze I lose track of time. It soon became apparent that I would not be able to reattach the wiper blade in the dark and driving rain, because what the fuck do I know about wiper blades, so I did the next best thing.

I drove with my window down and wiped the rain away by hand. The wiper blade was separate from the arm-thingy, so I just had to hold it by the corner, lean forward, and wipe away the rain when it got too thick.

The only problem with this is I have to use my left hand to wipe the windshield, and that’s my writing hand. So by the time I reached my friend’s place for the write-in, my hand was numb and cramped and wanted to fall off. I…didn’t get much writing done. Also her cat distracted me. It’s a valid excuse.

After the write-in I managed to fit the blade back onto the arm, and started the drive home. It was still raining, so I turned on the wipers. And the godsdamned thing flipped again, after about five minutes of driving.

I spent the entire drive from Burnaby to Coquitlam wiping by hand. I was exhausted and had frostbite on my hand by the time I got home. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, I was cold ok.

Once I reached home, I was able to fix the wiper blade again. I have a brightly-lit underground parkade in which to park my car, therefore there was light! And I could see what I had been doing horribly, horribly wrong before!

I fixed it and went to bed.

Saturday I decided to go to my boyfriend’s house. He lives in Delta. It was misting outside, but nothing as serious as rain. When I got about ten klicks from home — ie, past the point of no return — the rain started, so I turned on my wipers.

Oh, wait, make that wiper. Now that the driver’s side blade was fixed, the arm refused to work. I spent the entire drive looking out the passenger side of the windshield. Or out the window. That was fun. I love driving slowly and getting my face all chapped.

I am now stranded, more or less. Ogre’s going to take a look at the wipers and see if he can fix them, but if he can’t I have to go home before sunset so it’s a bit safer, and then I will be stuck at home until…I don’t know. Until it stops raining, or I have money for transit. So. June. (Gas is cheaper than transit right now.)

So much for my plan of not being a shut-in anymore now that I moved to Coquitlam.

ETA, 6:42pm: My boyfriend fixed it. Because he’s a frakkin genius, that’s how. (That or he’s more like Chief than I realized. In which case...win.)

Day one of Nanowrimo

I stayed up late on Hallonanoween so I could start writing at midnight. I didn’t start writing until 12:30 or so, because my Samhain ritual ran a bit late. Kept writing till 4 am.

Totals

Longhand: 7.5 pages.

Typed: 3,814 words.

Those are about equivalent with each other — I typed up almost all I handwrote. My goal for the rest of today is to do another 28 pages longhand. Tomorrow I’ll start the day off with doing another 7.5 pages longhand and then typing up 3,666 words.

I’m doing the NaNoWriMo Rewards System this year, with a few modifications. Every Wednesday I’ll be working on The Jade Star of Athering instead of Stranger Skies. This gives my percolating writer’s brain a break, too, from the NaNo story. I’ve got most of it planned out, but the details in the last two parts are pretty hazy and probably will be until I write some more. This is the first time I’ve ever really planned a NaNo story and so far it’s going really well. Sending my thanks to Larry Brooks at StoryFix for his tips and tricks (even if I don’t agree with everything he says, he does know his way around story mechanics and beat sheets).

I’ve got a beat sheet mostly worked out (missing some details between the second plot point and the ending), some maps drawn, character profiles done up, chapter titles written.

So far, so good, though I’m running desperately low on junk food. (No, I didn’t stock up. Silly me.)

I’m going to share with you the opening lines to Stranger Skies. This month expect me to be pretty sparse on the blog entries — I’ll be doing SFFSat and regular progress reports for NaNo, to map the decline of my sanity. Probably won’t be doing much else.

Without further ado, a bit of Stranger Skies:

Chapter 1: Falling to the Future

She was falling so fast, so hard, plummeting like a dying Ice Crown Starling.

Yes. The bird. Desperately she tried to change shape — her humanoid figure stretched like elastic, briefly, then bounced back into its shape.

She was falling faster, hurtling to the ground below, and she was stuck in the form of a bipedal ape. Her powers weren’t working.

How did this happen to me?