swan_tower: (Default)

Of all the rewards I’m offering on the Chains and Memory Kickstarter, I think this one is the most special to me.

Changeling: The Dreaming has a concept it calls “dross”: objects invested with so much emotional significance that they actually contain energy of the sort changelings use to power their magic. They literally embody somebody’s dreams. Sometimes a piece of dross is famous or valuable — e.g. Babe Ruth’s bat — but they can just as easily be personal, like your beloved teddy bear from childhood.

That miniscript? Is dross. Back in the fall of 1999, when I had finished the first draft of the novel eventually known as Lies and Prophecy, I knew I needed to edit it. Since I was going on a weekend trip to a football game with the Harvard Band, the bus ride seemed like a good time to read through the book and mark it up — but for that, it needed to be portable. And, well, I hadn’t told anybody other than my then-boyfriend (now husband) that I’d finished a novel, and I didn’t want anybody saying “wow, that’s a giant stack of paper you’ve got there; what did you do, write a novel?” So I invented the miniscript: eight-point font, half-inch margins, single-spaced, full justification, print on both sides of the page, and voila, you’ve got a book on forty pieces of paper.

Which is still, to this day, the way I do my first round of edits. (You can tell me that is a bloody stupid way to print out a manuscript for editing. I will agree with you. And then I will go on printing miniscripts, because that is How I Do Things.)

The miniscript of Lies and Prophecy is quite literally the first time the first draft of the first novel I ever completed existed in print. Its creation is pretty much the moment that Marie Brennan, Fantasy Author stopped being a thing I wanted to be when I grew up, and became what I actually was.

It’s also a record of just how much the book changed over the years — and how much it didn’t. The first draft was flabby as all get-out, and I’ve added all kinds of new layers since then (the Yan Path stuff), fiddled around with secondary characters (Grayson used to be white; Liesel’s friends went through about eight different names apiece), cut out bits of worldbuilding that didn’t really contribute anything to the story. But it’s still the tale of Kim and Julian and the attack on Samhain and it ends pretty much the same way. If somebody ever writes an academic work on Marie Brennan, Fantasy Author, this miniscript will be a goldmine for their attempts to trace my growth as a writer.

And if you want a copy of your very own, you can have one. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)
The revised draft of this novel is due in to my editor in about a week and a half. Plus, due to problems with my financial institution, I'm going to have to do all my tax-related work in the same span of time.

So, naturally, my brain is trying to write three short stories at once.

swan_tower: (victorian)
Things I do not have the brain to deal with tonight: the continuity error I just caught during my copy-editing slog. The CE didn't flag it for me, because it's not the kind of thing she would notice; you have to know the floorplan of the Cromwell Road corner houses to know that I got something wrong. Yes, this means that [livejournal.com profile] shui_long would be the only person on the planet (other than me) to notice. I don't care. It still annoys me, and I have to fix it. Either Louisa's bedroom faces the street and is above her mother's boudoir, or it's directly off the servants' staircase; it can't be both. But I'm coming down with a cold and just don't want to deal with it tonight.

Really, what god of writing did I piss off to saddle myself with this kind of historical nitpickery?
swan_tower: (victorian)
With Fate Conspire is revised and off to L'Editor.


Length of final draft: 157,000 words

Length of kill-file, containing material longer than a sentence or two cut during the process: 57,000 words


Dear Whichever God Rules Over Novelists,

What do I have to sacrifice to you in order to guarantee that my next novel will not require me to write thirty-six percent more material than I actually use? Lemme know, and I'll get right on that.

Your obt. servt.,
A Very Tired Writer
swan_tower: (victorian)
Dear Mr. Myers why did your name have to begin with an M it makes all of these sentences unfortunately alliterative gah stupid actual historical people in my novel I'm never doing this again okay that last part's probably a lie.

<goes back to fixing the book>
swan_tower: (academia)
I'm not sure how to phrase this best, but -- at what point in history did we start to develop actual, workable "detection" devices? I'm thinking of things along the lines of a Geiger counter, but it doesn't have to be a radiation detector; just a device to measure anything not visible to the eye. Wikipedia claims Gauss invented an early magnetometer in 1833, but the claim consists of three not terribly informative sentences, and the article on Gauss himself just says he developed a "method" for measuring magnetism, without specifying what it was.

Basically, Fate may or may not end up including a device for the measuring of a particular substance/effect/force/whatever, and I'm trying to figure out how much the concept of such a thing existed by 1884. (The question of how this thing works can be dealt with separately, if I decide to include it.)

Any historians of science able to answer that one for me?
swan_tower: (victorian)
With the two new scenes I added in tonight, With Fate Conspire passed the 150,000 word mark. (150,975 words, to be precise.)

Nothing next to the bricks of epic fantasy, of course -- but more than long enough for me. Unfortunately for that sentiment, I have four more scenes to add before this revision is done. Please, God, don't let this book balloon all the way up to 160K . . . .
swan_tower: (victorian)
Things You Should Not Put Into Your Novel, No Matter How Good You Think Your Reason Is, Part Two:


<swears at Madame Blavatsky>

<goes back to revising the book>
swan_tower: (victorian)
For the amount I'm having to juggle who knows what about whom and when they know it (and when they don't), I really ought to have a mystery novel to show for it.

Instead, I have an Onyx Court book that makes me want to tear my hair out.

Let this be a lesson to all concerned: never inflict amnesia on multiple characters at once. (No matter how good your reason for it may be.)

Ah well. L'Editor liked it -- quite a bit -- so there's that stressor removed; I do still need to do a lot of work, but it's entirely of my own making. Can't really blame anybody but myself for that.

Oh, hey! The "l'editor" thing reminded me. If you're a fluent French speaker and could spare me a few minutes of work checking a handful of lines from this story, please drop me a line, either in comments or by e-mail. It isn't much, but I should probably fix it before this goes to the copy-editor.
swan_tower: (victorian)
Just noticed that as of last night's revision, With Fate Conspire is officially the longest Onyx Court novel. (144K and counting.)

I'm hoping the damn thing doesn't hit 150K before I'm done, but given the big honking change I'm thinking of putting in, I wouldn't bet the farm on that.
swan_tower: (albino owl)
Does silver nitrate have a distinctive smell?
swan_tower: (albino owl)
How about sulfates? Do they tend to smell of sulfur, or not?

(This is what I get for deciding to put faerie science in my books. I have to figure out how the real science goes, then figure out how the fantasy version goes, then figure out how to describe the fantasy version, based on but maybe not identical to how I'd describe the real version. If I ever do this to myself again, somebody please kick me.)
swan_tower: (albino owl)
How would you describe the smell of acid? Does it have a smell? (Any kind of acid will do; I'm looking for commonalities here.)
swan_tower: (victorian)
1) If a word or phrase isn't in [square brackets], I should trust that means I've already looked up whether it's in period or not.

2) Scenes are so much more exciting when your protagonist doesn't play nice.

3) [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw gets a funny look on his face when I appear in the doorway of his office and say, "Can I get your help for a second? It's spousal abuse for fun and profit."

4) But he is then very good about dragging me across the living room floor so I can figure out where a flying elbow would connect under particular circumstances.

5) I'm still in draft-brain, rather than revision-brain; my subconscious is depressed that all my work has made the book about a thousand words shorter. (Thanks to my first bits of revision being the combination of two pairs of scenes that each really only needed to be one.) But I'm sure it will get longer again, soon enough.


Sep. 21st, 2010 10:52 am
swan_tower: (A Star Shall Fall)
Went to bed early last night, slept gloriously, woke feeling more like a human being. Which is good, because I've got a book that needs revising.

To entertain you while I do that: Alyx Dellamonica's got an interview with me posted on her blog, wherein I ramble on about a whole bunch of things, including the grade-school evolution of me as a writer, and the perfectly legal tax scam I've got going. :-)

Also, a review of A Star Shall Fall, from a place entertainingly named "Elitist Book Reviews." Their opinion? "This is how Alternate Historical Fantasy should be done." Awww, yay! And they hadn't read the first two books of the series -- in fact, they didn't know it was a series when they started reading -- so I now have a clear data point in favor of having pulled off what I was trying to do, namely, making the book work acceptably as a stand-alone.

Now I'm off to print the miniscript of this thing. Ta!


Aug. 2nd, 2010 01:07 am
swan_tower: (love blood and rhetoric)
After a few days' break, I'm back on the horse. And how; in addition to 1,142 words to kick off Part Three, I backtracked to add a couple of necessary scenes to Part One. 1,874 to cover one, and 942 to start the other, for a total of 3,958 today.

Why so much? Because I wanted to hit 90K, dammit. So I did.

The additions are important. For something so central to this book, the Underground really hadn't appeared onstage properly, so one of the additions is basically Cyma Rides the Train; the other gets the Academy onstage faster and more clearly, which will help with the Part Three scenes I'm about to write that feature it. As for Part Three itself, I waffle between trying to figure out how I'm going to fill all forty-five thousand words, and panicking that there's no way I can get everything necessary into a mere forty-five thousand words -- which is a pretty good sign that we're about to leave the Middle and move into the End. Once that happens, I doubt I'll have trouble meeting my daily quota.

Word count: 90,001. (Yes, I hit my goal and stopped. At least I finished the sentence.)
LBR quota: When your protagonists are kinda trying to kill each other, it's blood.
Authorial sadism: Aside from making Cyma ride the train? Making Dead Rick be too vulnerable to hide it.
swan_tower: (love blood and rhetoric)
Remember back at the beginning of May, when I was stuck on the 15K treadmill? I had to replace some of Eliza's scenes, so I would put in a full day's work of writing, then paste it into place and discover my wordcount had essentially not changed.

Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder, a little bit worse.

Dead Rick also needed a lot of scene replacements. (This is apparently my New Method of novel-writing. I want my Old Method back.) I could't really afford to stop dead on forward progress, so my plan lately has been to hit the book from both ends, writing substitute material for him, while also adding new material for Eliza. But for a while there every scene I swapped in turned out to be a few hundred words shorter than what had been there before, so despite doing a thousand or eleven hundred or twelve hundred words of forward progress, my total wordcount was only inching along. Yesterday I wrote three thousand words for a gain of about five hundred. It's felt a lot like running up the down escalator: a hell of effort for slower-than-average progress.

Which is why it feels like such a victory that I finally have fifty thousand words of book. And I'm almost done with the replacements; just one more thing needs swapping out, and then there's one new scene I'm going to write for Part One. Okay, I just lied through my teeth: I still have to go back and redo that pair of scenes for Eliza, that I've been meaning to do ever since I got back from London. But I've got those clear enough in my head that I've been able to write her side of Part Two just fine without having backtracked first, so there's less pressure there. (As opposed to Dead Rick, whose plot had gone so badly astray that I'm only just now starting to see what he'll be doing in Part Two.)

I'm just hoping I don't have to keep doing this scene-replacement thing, because man, as writing processes go, this one kind of sucks. But as long as it turns out a good book in the end, I'll live.

Word count: 50,640
LBR quota: Tonight's Dead Rick work was mostly blood. Louisa got some love, though.
Authorial sadism: The Goodemeades are good at subtly applying guilt trips.
swan_tower: (victorian)
The good news is, I don't think I'll have to completely replace every Dead Rick scene from Part One.

Just a bit more than half of them.

Seriously, I feel like a book or two ago, somebody sneaked in and replaced my writing process with another author's. I used to write relatively clean first drafts; now I flounder through writing wrong scenes left and right, inventing Spanish nymphs that may not even show up in the final draft, and generally failing to figure out what one of the villains is doing. Some concerted effort on my part has at least begun to sort that last bit out, which is why my pessimistic guess of "all Dead Rick scenes" has been revised downward to "five of the nine, with revision on the rest," but it's still disheartening. (Oh yeah, and I'll probably need to write at least one entirely new scene, aside from replacing half of those already there.)

I'm glad I noticed the growing pattern from Ashes and Star, and gave myself extra time for this book. Otherwise I'd be screeeeeeeeewed.

I'm also very glad that I figured out most of Eliza's PII while in London, as it gives me something to do while I figure out where I went wrong on the Dead Rick end. If I can manage to do his scene replacements while moving forward on her part, I'll be in good shape. But first I need to finish sorting out him and Nadrett -- and figure out if La Madura's staying in the book or not -- so I know what to replace those scenes with.
swan_tower: (love blood and rhetoric)
I didn't write while in London, nor did I revise. The first was expected, but the second wasn't; unfortunately, the cold drained me of too much energy to be useful on that front.

So I haven't technically written since May 27th, which is a remarkably long break for me while noveling. I think it was a good idea, though. The latest iteration of my much-revised timetable for this book focuses not on words per day, but on larger units than that: the book is in three parts, I have six months to write it, therefore I need to write one part every two months. I can technically take off as many days as I like, so long as I complete Part Two by the end of July. Since it's supposed to be about forty-five thousand words, and there are sixty-one days in June and July, that's eminently doable, even with a long break.

Mind you, I also need to revise. And Part One, as mentioned in my last status update, needs a lot of work, especially on the Dead Rick side. The good news is that one of my semi-sleepless nights in London brought with it an outline for something like 75% of Eliza's PII scenes, so I can cruise along writing those while I figure out where I went wrong with Dead Rick, and where I'm going next. It might be a little <sarcasm>fun-tastic</sarcasm> from here to the end of June, while I pull double-duty on revision and writing, but I think I'll survive.

Anyway, 1393 words today, because I wanted to clear the 40K mark I should have hit back in May. I'd revise a bit, too, but Jet Lag Brain utterly scotched my attempts to think about Dead Rick earlier, so I think I'll take what I've got and get to bed. Time enough for the rest of it tomorrow.

Word count: 40, 026
LBR quota: Blood; Mrs. Kittering's on the warpath.
Authorial sadism: Sorry, Ann. I have to make good on the claim that servants in that house get treated like shit.
swan_tower: (victorian)
If you're a math-and-science type person, please read this and give me your thoughts.


Tonight I thought up a question that really shouldn't wait until after my trip is done, because depending on the answer, I may end up working it into the revision I'm trying to do while I'm here.

Before the question, though, the background: Charles Babbage designed two devices, the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. The former is essentially a calculator, doing polynomial functions; the latter (had it been built) would have been an early computer, capable of being programmed to do several different mathematical jobs.

So imagine you're reading a book set in 1884, and it tells you that faeries got hold of those ideas and built them, But Better -- for values of "better" that involve extrapolating this design in a magical direction. My question to you all is twofold. First, what extrapolations would you consider reasonable, given the parameters? Second, what extrapolations would make you say "Oh please" and put the book down? Example: "It would be cool if it could do calculations using imaginary numbers, but dumb if it could run World of Warcraft." Or whatever. In essence, I want this to be interesting, but I don't want it to be interesting in a way that's totally divorced from the original purpose of the design.

I'm soliticing feedback because this is, among other things, a matter of the boundary between "suspension of disbelief" and "excruciating torture of disbelief." Which varies from person to person, though math-and-science type people are likely to have a much firmer boundary than those who don't know Babbage from Byron. Also, thanks in part to a declining series of math teachers in my education, I no longer have much love for the subject; ergo, if I ask my brain to think about "math magic," it pulls up images of workbooks designed to make third-graders believe math is fun. So I am ill-suited to judging what I can get away with designing. Would it bother you if the faeries' Analytical Engine performed non-numerical calculations of some kind? What if its function was predictive, analyzing a situation to make semi-divinatory, pseudo-statistical descriptions of the future? Would something like that bother you? What wouldn't bother you, that also isn't so mundane that it wouldn't add much to the story? (The other ideas I've come up with so far all fall into that latter camp.)

Feel free to respond however you like -- brainstorm, talk amongst yourselves, go off onto wild digressions about nineteenth-century math. I know some of you have thought about math + magic, so I'd love to hear what you have to say.


swan_tower: (Default)

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