Editing as Worldbuilding

We’re here! Made it into San Diego last week, despite freezing rain (Flagstaff), gusty winds (most of New Mexico), and fog (Cuyamaca Mountains).

No, we’re not unpacked yet. Yes, I unpacked the books first 🙂

So, back to work. And also back to writing.

I’ve decided to do another editing pass on the first novel. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about writing in just the last few months, and I’d like to apply what I’ve learned to it, see if it makes it better.

I’d also like to go back and fill in a lot of the worldbuilding details I left vague in the first two drafts. Flesh out character backgrounds, city histories, etc. I don’t want to add a huge info-dump to the book, but I do want to make sure everything holds together better, the various pieces of book matching up to make a more powerful whole.

And after thinking through the plot more, I’m really not satisfied with the way I’ve handled the female protagonist. That’s part of why I need to flesh out the character backgrounds, specifically hers. I realized her character arc is muted, a victim of me being unsure who I wanted to be the protagonist in the first draft.

She deserves better, so I’m going to pull out her conflicts and struggles into its own storyline, an independent path to follow while she also contributes to the central plot. I think it’ll make the book stronger, and the ending more compelling.

Some of these changes will be dialog or description tweaks. Some of this will probably end up being major surgery. But I’ve got to try.

Wish me luck.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Easily worthy of the awards it won. Fantastic ideas, presented through conflicts with interesting characters, and writing that describes just enough and no more.

And I almost stopped halfway through.

There’s a point where the protagonist does something so amazingly dumb, that I wanted to put the book down in frustration. But I kept going, and I’m glad I did. Because it only got better from there.

Three things I learned about writing:

  • Beware delaying explanations for too long. A character that says “I don’t know why I did X” too often, before their inability to explain is outlined to the reader, can lead to frustration.
  • Don’t have to wait for the character to say “and then I told them my story” to tell that story to the reader. Can layer it in, piece by piece, via flashback chapters.
  • Small touches, like bare hands being considered vulgar, when followed-through, can do a lot of work to make a culture feel real.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo

Fascinating. Examines both what we know about Anne Boleyn (very little), and the stories that have been told about her (very much).

Turns out most of what I thought was accepted history is in fact based on gossip spread by her enemies.

Three things I learned:

  • Execution of Anne was the first time a queen had been executed in English history
  • Anne spent a good deal of her childhood on the continent, under the tutelage of Marguerite de Navarre (sister of Francis I of France) who ran the most philosophically glittering salon in Europe
  • The intelligent, pro-reform Anne of the second season of The Tudors is due mainly to Natalie Dormer, who wanted to portray an Anne closer to the historical one than had been done before

Idle Hands

No writing this week. The novel’s done (for now), so I’ve been focused on the upcoming move, getting everything boxed and labeled and loaded. 

It’s like having our lives flash frozen, to be thawed on arrival in California.

Not having a writing project to work on is, as ever, weird. It’s as if school exams have been canceled, but just for me: I feel like I should be studying, but I’m not. Because I don’t have to.

Not that my brain has noticed. Woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for another story. I think it’s a flash fiction piece, but there might be more there. Have to write it and find out.

It’ll have to wait its turn, though. Behind the move, and the novel edits, and the short story edits, and querying agents, and the…ye gods, I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Excuse me, I need to go write.

There are No Sides. Just the Truth.

Dear U.S. Media: Please stop reporting both sides.

I know you want to appear impartial. I know you want to be trusted.

But here’s the thing: by reporting ‘sides’ instead of facts, you reinforce the idea that having sides is legitimate. Instead of pushing both sides to acknowledge the truth, you let their opinions stand.

The result? Neither side trusts you. Because you’re no longer digging for the truth, you’re just a parrot, repeating what you’ve been told.

This idea that you need to repeat both sides is itself a political one. It goes back to the days of President Nixon, when his staff used the threat of the loss of FCC licenses to get tv news organizations to spend more time giving the President’s “side” of things. Instead of just sticking to facts.

I know, I know. You think the “truth is in the middle.”

But that’s false.

There was no middle ground between Saddam Hussein having nukes or not.

There’s no middle ground about where President Obama was born.

And there will be no middle ground about the lies a President Trump will tell.

So please, stop pretending to be impartial.

The facts aren’t impartial. The facts always support one side over another.

It’s time you started supporting them.

Going Home

Thank the gods 2016 is over.

I think it’s been a rough year for many people. My rough 2016 actually stretches all the way back to fall 2015, when my wife and I upped stakes and moved back to the mid-south to take care of her mother.

The stress of that time — her mother’s health, the terrible condition of the house we bought, the shock of discovering that all traces of the friendly South we’d once known were gone — almost undid us. We felt abandoned, hated by our neighbors and resented by her family.

Things improved when we were able to tread water enough to reconnect with our friends, plug back into the community of accepting nerds and geeks we’d missed.

But the presidential campaign, culminating in the election of a liar, a swindler, and a bigot, convinced us that nothing could make up for the fact that we don’t belong here. And never will.

So we’re moving back to California.

Back to a state that takes life seriously, and so passed the most restrictive gun control laws in the country.

A state that takes liberty seriously enough to want to offer it to refugees from a horrible civil war.

A state that knows the pursuit of happiness means respecting the many diverse ways that its citizens go about it.

I can’t wait to be back home.

Done!

Novel’s complete at 50,122 words!

At least, I think it’s complete. Last time I thought it was done, there turned out to be another 45,000 words of story to tell in there.

The cut-off point this time felt more natural, but could seem just as arbitrary to a reader.

Only way to find out for sure is to hand it off to those brave friends willing to read and offer feedback on something so rough and ragged (bless you all).

Till then, it’s back to editing my other projects. I’ve had some ideas for how to trim my first novel into a better shape. *cracks knuckles*

Hope you have a Happy New Year! May your words sparkle, your stories captivate, and your edits be painless 🙂