Milestones and Setbacks #342b

Time for an update!

First off, Book Three passed the 50K-word milestone a few weeks ago. It continues to expand and coalesce into something that not only excites, but also moves me in unexpectedly deep ways. I’m juggling more locations, interwoven subplots, and POV characters than ever before. I’d expected this book to run to roughly the same length as its predecessors, but now I think it may have to go longer. It definitely hasn’t reached the halfway point yet.

Secondly, it is with great ambivalence that I report Ilina’s failure to woo David Farland. That’s right—my follow-up entry to Writers of the Future didn’t so much as place. Which is perplexing to me, as I consider it a much stronger story than the one which netted me an honorable mention earlier this year. But be that as it may: neither entry was written to win a contest. They were merely the most self-contained excerpts I was able to extract from the much larger “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow” narrative.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any other such excerpts up my sleeve. The rewriting that’d be necessary to detach another chapter from its contextual matrix would require more time and effort than I’m willing to invest in something that wouldn’t directly serve the story I’m telling. So I hereby abandon my pursuit of WOTF glamour. FutileFistShakeAtSky.gif

Onward!

Pretty Paper

My WOTF certificate from the first quarter of 2019 arrived by mail today. It certainly looks legit. Though L. Ron’s ginormous gilt endorsement has been posthumously appended, the signature of David Farland appears real enough.

photo-1

So now that Hugh has been honorably mentioned, we’ll see how Ilina fares. An episode from her backstory is currently charging the Great Farland Wall. For those of you interested, it appears—with minor adjustments—among the first four chapters of A Sea Sought in Song. And if you’d like to see what it was that convinced David Farland to sign such a pretty paper, The Pull is available here.

The Plot-Paint Thickens

Now that the work of selling my series has passed out of my hands, I’ve been free to focus on finishing Book Three—a wild waltz through a kaleidoscope of espionage. It’s good to be back in the saddle and traversing new ground. As of now, I’ve completed 45% of my initial 100k-word goal for the novel.

But the thing about kaleidoscopes of espionage is that they demand plotting. Which is not my strong suit. Ugh. Fortunately, it’s actually quite simple to create a complex plot if you know the secret three-step formula: (1) create a simple plot, (2) identify all its holes, and then (3) explain them. Voila!

So if I’m being honest, my plotting process looks a lot like a four-year-old’s interrogation.

Me: “Why does W happen?”
Also me: “Well, I guess because X.”
Me: “But why does X happen?”
Also me: “Well, I guess because Y.”
Me: “But why does Y happen?”
Also me: “Well, I guess because Z.”
Me: “But why …”



In other news, the inimitable Hannah Gunderson, Painter of Arlam, has unveiled a gorgeously pensive new portrait of Ilina Lightkeeper.

Ilina03_v01

Once More Unto the Freytag, Dear Friends

So I gave in and submitted another entry to the Writers of the Future contest. I wasn’t planning on doing so, but the fact that my first entry made it up onto the scoreboard has given me what may be false confidence that I can top myself. But a single rangefinding strike, no matter how visible, is still only one data point. It’s impossible for me to know whether I’ve adjusted correctly for windage until I see further results.

Out of curiosity, I recently read an article that purports to delineate the characteristics of a strong WotF entry (after I entered in December, of course). I laughed at how badly I’d handicapped myself. First, because trace elements of fantasy don’t even appear in my story until right toward the end. Second, because the story is set in a very specific historical time and place—one which I know only through Internet research. Third, because the coordinating judge is partial to a “traditional Freytag triangle with three Try/Fail Cycles” … whatever the heck that is. Basically, I’m lucky the thing even got read.

So did I buckle down and do my due diligence and pick the brains of successful entrants and research plot structure and map out an optimally-calibrated story specimen on a grid? Of course not! That’s not how I write, and it’s not how I got where I am. Why on earth would I switch gears now?

What I have done this time is to create original content for inclusion in my second entry. I have neither the time nor the inclination to write original stories simply to enter them in contests, but in order to continue cannibalizing “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow” I had to do some retrofitting. Last year I tossed Book Two’s overture in the WotF hopper because it was the only chapter in my series that was entirely self-contained. This time, my selection made more of a ripping sound upon extraction from its surroundings. This time, I’d turned to the overture from A Sea Sought in Song.

If you’ve read it, you know it’s full of questions. I originally wrote it as an exercise back when I was first fleshing out the character of Ilina Lightkeeper, without ever intending it to see the light of day. It’s a petri dish of thematic ambiguity from which the whole novel burgeons. Yes, it has an arc. But it was never intended to stand alone.

So I went to work. First I had to figure out which threads could be left to dangle and which needed tying off. Turned out there were two that felt out-of-place sans closure: Forkbeard’s relationship with Ilina, and Ilina’s relationship with her father. A Sea Sought in Song explores both of those relationships in detail later on, and its overture—”To Face the Night”—concerns itself primarily with the Ilina/Rikard dynamic. Nonetheless, I had to bring those supplementary relationships to some kind of conclusion if I wanted to refashion the overture into a self-contained narrative. They needed little arcs of their own.

And hey, you can decide for yourself whether I succeeded, because I ended up liking my additions enough to include most of them in the story proper. So if you click through to the initial chapters available on my website, you can read a version of “To Face the Night” that’s nearly identical to my WotF entry. I think it’s a strong contender, but what do I know? After all, I’m not even familiar with the traditional Freytag triangle, lol.

Delay of Gratification

So at the end of December, on the final day before the quarterly deadline, I submitted the “Overture” chapter from Book Two to the famous Writers of the Future contest. I imagine everyone who enters WotF entertains delusions of Rothfussian grandeur, and I may or may not have been no exception. I was told to expect results around mid-March. Well, March came and went, and I heard nothing, so I shrugged, resigned myself to continued obscurity, and dispatched a bevy of queries and submissions to agents and publishers.

Then, two nights ago, I was notified that my entry had received an honorable mention.

*epic fantasy facepalm*

It’s not like I actually won or anything, but I’m still quite pleased. The chapter was never intended as a contest entry, and barely contained any fantastical content. I submitted it because it—as a flashback episode from Hugh Conrad’s past—was able to stand on its own as a self-contained narrative. That it received any recognition at all is quite gratifying. I only wish I’d restrained my horde of solicitous missives a tad longer.

And now, a treat: the honorably-mentioned story, on the house to readers of this blog! It’s spoiler-free for the same reason it worked as a contest entry, so those inclined may indulge without regret.

Through an Image, Moodily

On a primal level, my novels are rooted in imagery—very specific imagery that evokes particular emotions in me. For my “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow” tetralogy, the prevailing mood of each installment finds its source in a visual impression.

Book One (A Sea Sought in Song): Fire in the night sky.

Book Two: Blood in the snow.

Book Three: Silk in the desert.

Book Four: An arch over emptiness.

The subtle centrality of such impressions devolves to the individual chapter and scene level. It’s nearly impossible for me to write anything that feels cohesive until I identify a visual vehicle for the mood. To paraphrase Lewis, I do not see the image so much as I, through the image, see everything else.