Late last night, I finished the proposal for my book. It needs polishing of course, but it's done! And I'm happy with it! I think it has just the right amount of fight scenes, character development, worldbuilding, and mystery for its length. I'm so excited about it.

Okay, buzzkill: Heard from my agent that we're not shopping it until the new year, what with holidays and stuff. Wah.

Bright side: More time to polish. More time to make proposal as strong as possible. More time, to, perhaps, write more to offer potential buyers.

Fooey. Fine. This business is sooooo hurry up and wait.



The number of words in my CUT file.

Some of them, of course, are duplicates of words that did, eventually make it into the book. The same scene, written slightly differently. The same scene, but from a different character's perspective, and thus with a totally different purpose.

But there there are the never-weres, the scenes that I aborted a few paragraphs in, that I decided better of, whose info I felt would work well someplace, somehow else.

I had no idea it had gotten so long. If all of those words were in my book, my proposal would be done already.

Right now, the source of my confusion is trying to remember how the real, actual, made-it-through-the-cuts version of the story goes. What information have I yet to share with the reader? What information would I be repeating? I know that this version of hte story has managed to get the most possible worldbuilding in the tightest amount of space, and has added four times as many fight scenes as the first version.

But is enough?


The Real World

Don't laugh: For the longest time, when I'd read writers who were blogging about "the real world" getting in their way, I thought that there was some aspect of their plot that didn't conform to the laws of physics or the nation. Like those love scenes that require a three-armed contortionist.

Hey, I said don't laugh.

For me, writing is the real world, or at least, every bit as real as grocery shopping or laundry. I'm not here to be a hobbyist. I can say that the real world gets in the way of my knitting or my ability to go out with friends on Saturday night, or the number of Netflix movies I get through in a month. I'm busy with classes or my job or my health or personal pitfalls. But I can't take off from writing any more than a person can take off from work. Okay, you've got "personal" days at work. I've taken those. I feel sick, I stay home from work. No problem. But that's not the real world getting in the way. It's something else getting in the way of the real world.

This is hard to convince others of. My partner seems to think that since I don't have actual office hours and a commute, that I am free to run all the errands in the house. Um, no. When I look at the people who have become truly successful in their careers, they are always hte ones who treat writing like a job. They set goals, sit down in front of their computers and say, "I'm writing this many pages/until this time and I'm not getting up. I don't care if I'm 'not in the mood.'"

And that's how it has to be. Writing is my real world.


A Very Good Place to Start

Over at Fangs, Fur, Fey, they are talking about first lines. I've always been somewhat obsesed with them myself. I don't have an LJ account so I can't post there, but I guessed all of them except for the primroses one, (which I looked up and I haven't read the book, but it's the one about the rabbits. So, fur, right?) When I sell my book, I want to join that merry band, but I guess that means getting on LJ, as well as figuring out what "F" I belong to. (You know, aside from the little things like finishing this book.)

Has anyone else noticed that the SFF people seem to gravitate to LJ while the romance people gravitate to blogger? I wonder if that means there will be more romance than I expect in my book.

Anyway, first lines. I love mine. I'm completely obsessed. I love reading it over and over again. The only thing I may like more than the first line of my book is the first line of my synopsis. When I sell my book, I will try to recommend it in strong terms to the people who write the cover copy. Actually, there are things I love more. Mostly, the last lines of each chapter. I think I'm even more obsessed with those. Scott Westerfeld once listed the first lines of every chapter of one of his books on his blog. I think, perhaps, that's easier to so than last lines of the chapter, which would be rife with spoilers.

What's your absolute favorite first line? Does it match up with your absolute favorite book? Mine, from One Hundred Years of Solitude, doesn't even match a book I've read. How awful is that? It's been on my "someday" list for a while, though...


A-ha Moments

Agent Rachel Vater is discussing "a-ha" moments on her blog. I experienced one a little while ago while reading Kelly Link's excellent Magic for Beginners. This was something I felt I understood on some level for a long while, but it hadn't really crystallized for me consciously.

When you set a story in a world not our own, you deal with rules. They may be spoken rules, like the three rules about Gremlins that everyone knows and no one obeys, or they may be unspoken and even vaguel amorphous. But there are rules. When I speak to published writers of fantasy, they believe in these rules. I even have one friend whose entire fantasy series was inspired by the fact that she was so annoyed with fantasies that have no rules.

I digress. So you have these rules. At some point, you have to tell the reader the rules. Explicitly, implicitly, doesn't matter. They need to know them. Even if you're writing some really well-known otherworldly creature like vampires, because by this point there have been so many vampires that every reader of your story comes to the vampire situation with an entirely different idea of how vampires are made, how long they live, how often they eat, whether they're undead or aliens or diseased or monsters or ancient Greek gods or what, and what will really kill them.

And this is where the lightbulb moment comes in.

If a reader knows the rules, jknows them like they're natural, they will react to your book on an emotional, gut level. When readers real non-fantasy books, and a character is hurt or betrayed or whatnot, they react instantly. When you are reading a "real world" book and a character jumps off a building, you're scared, because in the real world, when characters jump off buildings, they splat. But if a character walks out into the sunlight, they aren't scared.

But in a good fantasy novel, if you have set up the world and told the reader the rules, when that vampire walks into the sunlight, they are going to get scared. They aren't going to be in their real world "sunlight is harmless" mindset. They aren't even going to stop and go, "Wait a second, in this permutation of the vampire myth, vampires die in sunlight." They aren't going to think at all. They're just going to be scared. Instantly. Organically. Elementally.

I know, I know, it seems basic. But it was cool for me.


Getting Off Track

Being the Flip Side of Yesterday's Post...

I love research. I love digging into a subject and finding that the more I deeply I delve, the most it seems to "fit" my project. There is a strange synergy to research. How often have you found, while reading up on a topic, that some aspect of it already fits the fiction you are making up?

Not to get all woo-woo and mystical about it, but it's as if this information is out in the ether, being soaked up by the muse. In actuality, it's probably more like the things we imagine just rationally (and imaginably!) follow from the same cause, so it's little wonder that the real life counterparts unfold the same way. That, and we just choose to ignore the parts that don't fit into the fiction.

But I'd intended to write about getting off track, before I, um, got off track. The flip side of this research is that occasionally I get so hung up on the research, sometimes I have so much great info that FITS, that I forget that the only purpose of research is to serve the purpose of the story. No matter how cool it is that I dug up little factoids, no matter how fascinating the factoids are, the story isn't ehre for factoids. The story is here for story.

It's a battle. I spent most of the morning trying to concoct a ritual scene and convincing myself that there had to be more information available to help me before I realized that I already had all the material I needed for the story.

The story, the story, the story. I should have it put in big, blinking neon lights above my computer.


vox inauditae melodiae

Latin for "the voice of the unheard melody."

Hildegard of Bingen is by some considered a saint of the Catholic church (though she was never officially canonized), a 12th century abbess (though she was never officially recognized as such by her archdiocese), and a medical writer, philosopher, and composer who from a very young age, experienced divine visions (which may or may not have been migraines). She was tithed to a German nunnery at the slender age of eight.

She invented her own language, wrote a variety of medical and botanical treatises, and created a large body of music, much of which is extant and performed today. Occasionally some lyrics are written in this lingua ignota (unknown language), the alphabet of which is totally freaky looking. It is written for mostly females (because, in the nunnery, who else would perform it?) and the occasional male role (often playing the devil). Many of the words sung in the songs using the lingua ignota remain untranslated today. When choirs perform these songs, they don't know what they are singing, except that the words are derived from eight hundred year old visions from God.

How cool is that?

The first time I heard the music performed, I knew it belonged to my story. Listen to yourself to the song entitled: "O Virtus Sapientiae" (O, strength of Wisdom). It's a little like Gregorian chant...if Gregorian chant were ecstatic and feminine.

I know, I know, what does contemporary urban fantasy have to do with 12th century German nuns? Man, I hope this thing holds together.