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MayNoWriMo: Day 4

Up Dark & Early this morning to grind into the next section. This one’s entirely new — it doesn’t even exist in the two-year-old Fast Draft version. I made a [note] to look up a poetry quotation. Back to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Lord Byron). It surprised me to see how many times Conn used it in Dear Sir — now I really need this poem specifically because I know Byron was publishing those exact cantos in the year of my story (1812). Problem: I need a very specific sort of quote, so finding that reference may prove difficult.

ETA: Ah, Byron, you may have been mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but you gave me the perfect quote and very early in canto 1.  Thank you.

But one sad losel soils a name for aye,
However mighty in the olden time;
Nor all that heralds rake from coffin’d clay,
Nor florid prose, nor honeyed lies of rhyme,
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.

What in incredible warning for my character!  Exactly what I needed.

Decent progress, nothing earth-shattering, but good. I plan to finish this section tonight and then switch gears to the Maya Fantasy. I have a few plot things I want to look at, and the synopsis is still dreadful.

11296 / 100000

Today (so far) 1,127

Total: 11,296

Snippet:  this is continuing yesterday’s post between Lilias and Violet.

Joining her in effort to pick up the worst of the mess, Violet shuffled papers on top of the larger teaching desk, her gestures stiff with frustration.  “Is this truly what you envisioned for us?”

“I always wanted to be a teacher.”

Her sister huffed out a long sigh.  “Not me, certainly not like this:  watercolors, French, dancing and simpering, while always hiding what we truly are.”

“I know very well what you want, dearest.  As soon as we have enough students to support Nocturna, you may have your Season.”

Wistfully, Violet stared unseeing at the chalkboard on the wall.  “The Season is in full swing now.  Lord Byron is supposed to publish his latest canto soon.”

Heart aching, Lilias went and wrapped an arm about her sister’s waist.  It hurt terribly to know Violet wanted something with every fiber of her being, and Lilias couldn’t provide it.  Blinking back tears, she mentally tallied the receipts and expenses for the thousandth time and came up short once more.  With careful budgeting, she could use the Littletons’ modest tuition to provide food and supplies for the castle until the harvest.  Running a castle of Nocturna’s size was a daunting endeavor in the best of times.  If she could sell the wool for a decent price, and enroll a few more students, then she could eventually afford to pay Violet and Miss Weston more than a roof over their heads and meals in their bellies. 

“More students,” she said more forcefully than she intended. 

Violet’s bottom lip jutted out, her eyes sparking.  The air tingled with electricity as if a storm hovered on the horizon.  She could raise a terrible thunderstorm in moments if she became angry enough. 

“I need more students to support us, and to accomplish that feat, we need our existing students to be happy and accomplished, so their parents will be pleased and provide referrals to their acquaintances.  This is our only hope, dearest.”

“But I hate teaching!  I’d rather muck out stables or shear sheep or–”

“If you don’t cooperate and ensure the success of the Nocturna School, you will indeed be forced to become a governess or companion, working for little more than a few pounds a year, constantly at risk from unwanted male attention.  You know what happened to Theo.”

Miss Theodosia Weston had not fully recovered from the trauma of her first and only formal appointment as companion.

Violet drew herself up and marched from the room.  “You might not be paying me a salary, Headmistress, but I’m nothing more than an employee of Nocturna School for Young Ladies.” 

Angry footfalls echoed in her sister’s furious retreat down the hall of classrooms which had once been full to capacity with eager, young mages talented in every gift from medicine and weather to marvelous inventions, some of which were covered in dust in the storeroom, their purpose long ago forgotten.

Drooping a moment, Lilias took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let all the pain and guilt wash away on the flood of power always curling around the castle.  Her sister was young and rash, selfish in her passionate dreams of adventure and romance.  She simply didn’t comprehend why she couldn’t have what she wanted, as soon as possible; she was too young to understand that treasured dreams could sadly become tarnished beyond repair and quite often, an unbearable nightmare.

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MayNoWriMo: Day 3

Today was a hard day, but mostly for mental reasons.  I’ve already detailed the mental blocks I had about this story and why; today, I had to break through them and keep going

I had an unofficial, unstated goal that I’d like to hit 10K before tomorrow, but after starting this next section shortly after church, and struggling, for at least an hour, and only having 216 words to reflect that work, I was obviously worried.  I’d run out of previously-written sections, you see, and had only my ridiculously extensive outline with which to proceed. 

I know my characters, my setting, my story.  I simply had to find the words. It took much longer than usual today.  But I pecked at it off and on all day, throughout laundry and catching up on That Man’s TiVo’d shows while we folded said laundry.  I had a tiny bit from the old first draft that I wanted to save, but I had to write TO that point and make it all fit and make sense. 

Finally, I reached the end of the scene.  I did write it in a separate file so I can revise it later — it’s mostly new “first draft” words, with very little more than a few sentences saved from the original draft.

Today:  2,307

Total:  10,169 (whew!)

10169 / 100000


Snippet:  Violet is Lilias’s younger sister (by 6 years) and she has one very precious story goal.  She’s young and headstrong, only 17, very pretty, and she feels terribly trapped and helpless at Nocturna.  Not a good feeling for a mage of her ability.  I’m struggling to balance her youthful mistakes with making her at least sympathetic.  While Lilias is the protagonist, her sister is a very important character who pays quite a steep price in this story.  I want that price to mean something, so if you hate her, then who cares about her sacrifices? 

This snippet happens early in Chapter 1, shortly after Violet is introduced.  She’s been misbehaving, as usual.

Violet smoothed her skirts and bit her lip, until she finally apologized.  “Lily, I’m sorry that I made such a scene.  I know we must hide our gifts, and that the school must be a success, but I’m so terribly bored!  When your grand idea was to reopen the Nocturna School again, I didn’t realize that we’d be nothing more than governesses to a bunch of silly geese!” 

“You know the day for the Nocturna School of Arcana is long past.  Society has no wish for their young gentlemen to admit to any such outlandish behavior, let alone their ladies, for shame!  We must–”

Violet rushed to quell the lecture before it started.  “Don’t explain why mage ability is in decline in England.  I’ve heard it all before, from Father and now you.  It was his favorite lecture and he constantly bemoaned the death of magic since the school closed its doors in the 1500s.”

She fell silent, and both sisters paused at the uncertain territory into which they’d wandered.  Their father’s death was still a difficult subject.  While Violet had put away the mourning gown at exactly one year, Lilias still wore black.

If it would ease the guilt she felt, she would wear black as penance for the rest of her life.

“You look tired today,” Violet whispered, worry darkening her brilliant aquamarine eyes.  “Was your sleep troubled again by… er…”

Lilias smiled wryly.  Even her beloved sister didn’t quite believe her.  She didn’t quite believe herself.  Nocturna Castle might be ancient with dozens of legends involving curses and magic, but those stories had never included a ghost.  “I stayed up very late last night so that I would sleep unhindered when I finally retired.”  She neglected to mention the dangerous encounter in the Great Hall.  The tall neck of the mourning gown hid the bruises on her throat.  “If the ghost appeared last night, I was too weary to acknowledge him.”

Violet toyed with the bright green ribbon that outlined the high bodice of her muslin morning gown.  “Are you sure it’s Edmund?”

Ah, even more dangerous territory.  Here be dragons, after all, horrendous beasts which blasted her constantly with fiery pangs of guilt.  “You may not believe in ghosts, Violet, but I assure you that Edmund does appear in the room we once shared as husband and wife.  He appears more often than not.  I know it’s him.”

“Pick another room, then, any room in this monstrously large castle.  Why do you refuse to simply move to a new bedchamber so that you may rest?”

“I considered that very alternative, but if he’s truly a ghost, he would follow me to any room in the castle.”

“Exactly!  It will prove whether…well…”

It will prove whether I’m beginning to succumb to mage madness.  Lilias calmly bent to pick up the papers from the floor, while inside, her mind shrieked with terror.  Am I mad?  Truly?  Will I die writhing in agony like our mother?

“I refuse to let nightmares frighten me from my room.  My room was mine long before Edmund came into my life, and it is mine still, no matter how many horrific dreams I may have.”

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MayNoWriMo: Day 2

I knew my Beloved Sis was coming today, so I wanted to get a little work done this morning and clear my afternoon and evening for visiting.  I got most of the next section edited before she and Papa arrived at noon, and then I managed to finish up the polish tonight.  All previously-written sections are now pulled into the main draft and heavily revised to carry the new threads and plot elements.  Should be interesting from here on out!

Today: 1,974

Total:  7,862

7862 / 100000


Snippet:  This is part of the first section in the hero’s POV, establishing his story goal and the reason for his arrival.

As ravens spread destruction, mayhem, and death, so did Derne Nevarre expect to find nothing less than chaos at the Ravene family stronghold.  Castle Nocturna was a natural focal point of massive amounts of life energy:  for millennia, Avebury, Stonehenge, and Glastonbury Tor had cast circular waves of power out across the land, and ancient Castle Nocturna had been purposely located in the intersection of those rings.  Needless to say, Nocturna’s nexus had been at the forefront of every major British working of magic in the past thousand years and more.

The cataclysm that Lilias Ravene Slymere, Lady Nocturna, had spawned little more than a year ago had made every mage in the world sit up and take grim, even fearful, notice.

Slim, slight and deceptively vulnerable, the rogue witch he’d been ordered to assassinate sat at a mahogany desk while massive amounts of wild magic crashed about her.  Untouched.  As the mage of this famous nexus of power, she should be carefully and deliberately weaving power into the castle and lands to build her defensives; as a rogue, she would be crouched like a spider with her web spun across the wellspring of energy to greedily soak in every drop.  Instead, she didn’t draw energy at all, despite the incredible surges all about her.  Unused, the magic became more volatile and unbalanced until chaos threatened, something any sane mage would fear.  Why did she let the castle nexus run rampant like this? 

Even more troubling, why didn’t she defend herself–vehemently–as soon as a mage of his power so much as stepped foot on her land?  Let alone allow him to advance into her obviously private retreat without so much as raising her head.  However, he would be surprised if Lady Nocturna even knew he’d arrived.

So why was I sent all the way from Karnak to assassinate this “rogue?”

Power buzzed in the room so thickly he struggled to breathe.  His mage instincts trembled with the force of his concentration as he held every offensive attack he knew hovering within his mind, ready to protect himself at a moment’s notice.  Yet she made no move to strike him down.

Then she raised her face, pale and tear-stained, soft and expressive, etched with worries well beyond her years.  He felt an uncomfortable twinge in the general region of his heart.  With coiled muscles and mage powers prepared to deflect any retaliation from a deadly rogue, he suddenly felt his will falter.  Those brutal nets and clubs of power fizzled away to nothing in his mind, leaving only burning questions.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Lady Nocturna?”

“Yes.”  She pulled herself together and calmly brushed the evidence of tears away.  Firming her voice, she straightened her shoulders.  “Have I made your acquaintance?”

“No, my lady.  Forgive me, the housekeeper sent me directly, and I knocked but you must not have heard.”  Nevarre hesitated, utterly thrown adrift.  A grim cold ball of lead settled in his stomach.  He’d expected the venomous hatred of a rogue, not a woman’s tears and softness.  “I have a letter of introduction from a gentleman in Cairo with whom your father has corresponded for many years.”

He offered the letter from Lord Nedry and waited silently while she scanned the page.

“Oh dear.”  She set the parchment aside and invited him to sit before the desk.  “I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Nevarre.  My father and husband passed away over a year ago in a fire.  I have no knowledge of the book you seek.  In fact, I’m terribly afraid it may have been destroyed as well.”

The backlash of her cataclysm had rushed across the world’s power lattice like a raging wildfire devouring a tinder-dry forest.  Every mage had felt her signature:  viciously feminine, blazing with fury, fear, and betrayal.  Two men had died in her attack, and their sacrifice would have made her spell all the more powerful.  However, while every mage in the world would know Lady Nocturna simply by the barest breath of her power on the flows of magic after that day, not a single one knew the true reason why she had released such a massive, uncontrolled amount of energy. 

Anyone tapping the nexi directly during her spell could have been burned out, their mage ability seared from his mind for eternity.  What repercussions had she experienced as a result?  Or had she already been too deeply in the throes of mage madness to feel any regret at all?  Enough evidence pointed at that very likelihood–especially the previous Lady Nocturna’s grim demise–that the Magi of the Temple of Amun had called for their most skilled magical assassin to eliminate the threat before she could release another such cataclysm with even more dire circumstances.

Staring at her and studying her reactions, Nevarre couldn’t help but doubt their recommendation.  “Please accept my condolences, my lady.  No wonder we received no further correspondence from Lord Nocturna.”

“It was very sudden.”  Her delicate jaw tightened, her lips flat with strain, yet she didn’t avoid his gaze or dissemble.  “I didn’t know he was corresponding with Lord Nedry or I would have written to him myself.”

A slight tremor in her voice sent another twinge of empathy through his chest.  Either she was the most skillful liar he’d ever encountered, or she was authentically vulnerable.  Doubt held his magic in check.  He mustn’t strike until he confirmed her guilt. 

Derne Nevarre was many things, most of them dark and vile in men’s eyes, but he did not kill innocents.

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MayNoWriMo: Day 1 Part 2

A long, slow crawl tonight through another completed — but very loose and messy — section, which managed to bring my totals up considerably:

5888 / 100000

I still have one more previously written section to edit (I miscounted earlier thanks to an 00A section), and then everything will be from scratch with my handy dandy outline!

Snippet:  I’m still terribly afraid that the voice for this story isn’t quite right.  Fantasy, I keep reminding myself, not “historical.”  I’m never going to sound like a British native–and that’s okay!  I can fine-tune the dialogue and narration later once I’m steady and sure of the voice.  Here’s the first complete section — first draft only — subject to revision.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a powerful woman with seemingly fearsome abilities is quite often burned at the stake as a witch.  Lady Nocturna had regretfully come to the realization that perhaps such punishment might be justified in her case. 

The intruder now gripping her throat so tightly that Lilias could neither breathe nor scream surely regarded her as no threat at all; it was she who quivered with dread, her mind a frantic whirlwind of terror. 

With all the magics of Nocturna Castle racing to her defense, she certainly could burn her assailant to a smear of ashes, if only she dared use that birthrighted power.  Instead, she pried at the fingers squeezing her throat and in her other hand, she clutched a silver candlestick against her skirts, waiting for the opportunity to bash in the man’s head.

I swore to never kill with magic again.

Her snuffed candle smoked on the wooden floor of the Great Hall, and the only light came from the dimmed red glow of the banked fireplace.  Well after midnight, it was too late to pray the servants might hear the scuffle, and she daren’t scream for fear of waking the precious few students sleeping upstairs.

The man’s breath was hot and rapid against her face, his jaw chaffing her cheek. A blade glinted red in the banked fire’s glow and he began whispering guttural words that sliced her mind like broken glass. 

Her heart pounded so hard she feared she might lose control and reach for the crashing magic thick in the cavernous room.  A mage.  He had to be a mage intent on stealing the Castle’s power for himself.  Her stomach clenched, bile burning her throat.  There was no known darker magic than that wrought by blood. 

Power flows eddied like a mighty river around her legs, calling sweetly, begging to be used.  She could light a raging blaze in the fireplace, wrap this murdering black mage in bonds of air he would never escape, and wrest his blade from his hand without exerting a single muscle.  Salvation awaited, readily at hand, if only–

The coals glowed brighter and a tiny flame leaped with excitement.  Shuddering, Lilias pushed the thought from her mind, burying it beneath a mountain of cold stone and iron chains.  The charred ruin of the North Tower was a daily reminder of the dread weapon which she might wield; she couldn’t risk burning the entire castle to the ground with her sister and students trapped inside.

Something crashed against the window, black wings beating the air and claws screeching against the glass.  The mage jerked her around toward the threat, his voice rising with alarm but not ceasing his chanted spell.  It was only some poor befuddled bird, but she used the distraction.  She clawed backward, snagging the cloth of his shirt.  Soft linen tore.  That was certainly no coarse peasant’s shirt. 

His voice growled louder, each word slamming into her brain like a physical fist.  His face was too close to hers, so she slammed the candlestick back into the man’s ribcage.  The satisfying crunch confirmed she’d at least cracked a few ribs.  His breath whistled out and the vise of his fingers lessened on her throat. 

Whirling free of his grip, she raised the heavy silver weapon to slam into his head.  Her emotions blazed high, fury and fear feeding each other. 

He would have done worse than kill me; he would have stolen my life’s blood to wrought horrors I can only imagine.  Strike him down.  Kill him now!

The fireplace blazed to life behind her, breaking the seductive call of the magic.  The man hid his face in his greatcoat and raced for the door.  His shirt hung open, torn linen trailing like a white flag of surrender.  She glimpsed a dark tattoo at the base of his neck.  A dog’s head, she thought, but it was too dark to be sure.

The flames quieted to a soothing crackle, but she continued to tremble.  Her jellied knees dumped her to the floor, and she sat shivering before the cheerful fire that should have been nothing more than banked coals while her mind tormented her.

The fire frightened her worse than the blood mage assassin.

Memories paraded through her mind:  flames engulfing the tower, her rage blazing to the heavens, screams, and the scent of charred flesh.  Pressing her hand to her mouth, she fought down the urge to sick up on the floor.  A sound escaped her mouth.  Laughter?  Or relief?

Her mother had been utterly mad when she died.  Lilias had only been fourteen but she still remembered the crazed sounds of laughter and horror tearing from her mother’s throat.  Trembling, she forced herself to her feet.  Her cold fingers trembled so badly she fumbled the candle, smearing cooling wax on the floor. 

Mage madness ran in her family.  The villagers whispered that her father was mad before he’d died last year, that he’d started the fire himself.

If they only knew the truth, they would seize their scythes and torches and march to the castle, a mob of hatred and fear in this enlightened age of steam power and Lord Byron’s poetry.  They’d burn Nocturna Castle to the ground while shouting the word she hated above all.


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MayNoWriMo: Day 1 Part 1

I got a later start D&E this morning than I planned, thanks to a thundestorm that took out my alarm clock, but I got a good head start thanks to a few sections I wrote about a year ago and then abandoned.  They needed a lot of work, but the ready words helped conquer that “blank page” feeling.  I have one more previously-written section to edit into the main file, and then the word counts will go down considerably.  Nice start though.

3636 / 100000


Snippet:  Opening line, sure to change at least 100 times before I’m happy with it (you know how much I think openings suck and struggle to get them just right):

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a powerful woman with seemingly fearsome abilities is quite often burned at the stake as a witch.

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MayNoWriMo: Final Outline

Whew, I finally finished typing in all my notes!  The outline ended at 100 sections, 14,820 words.  I have two things I thought of that should be researched — but neither are a big deal and I can add those details after the fact if needed.

Each section has its own page in the outline, a header that details POV, location, etc. and then whatever notes I felt I should make.  For example, this is part of the opening section:

Title:  Arcana
Day:  pre-1
Scene:  001
POV Character:  Lilias (Lily)
Additional Characters:  assassin
Location:  Nocturna Castle, Great Hall
Approximate Time:  Midnight

Someone tries to kill Lily as she makes her nightly walk from the library through the Great Hall. [more details]

Then for each section, I have a line in the “Daysheet” spreadsheet so I can quickly see where I am in the midst of days/scenes.  Here’s a short snippet of Arcana’s daysheet, color coded by POV so I can make sure I have a good balance.  e.g. I don’t want 100 pages to go by without a certain POV showing up.

Day Scene POV Total POVs for Character Scene Title
Pre-1 1 L 1 Midnight Assassination
1 2 L 2 Hysterics
1 3 N 1 In Search of a Book
1 4 L 3 Surging Magic
1 5 V 1 Sisterly Spat
1 6 L 4 Boring Country Dance
1 7 A 1 Taunting the Raven
1 8 N 2 The Sleeping Guardian


I didn’t include as much detail in this spreadsheet as I did for the Maya story.  I don’t expect to “salvage” as much of Arcana’s first draft, so I don’t need to track revised second draft section vs. brand new section.  Everything is going to be brand new, although I will gain a little in the morning by using some revised sections I started a year ago and then abandoned.

I won’t post the whole character sheet online, but this is a sampling of the information I have for each character, in particular, Nevarre, the hero.

Personality and Background

Greatest Strength:  Honor.  Once his word is given, he keeps it, even if the holder of his oath proves less than trustworthy.

Greatest Weakness:  Once his oath is given, he continues the path, even when it’s apparent the path is wrong and dishonorable.  He’s been led into dishonor in the past because he refused to back down from his oath.

Personal History

As a powerful young mage, he was squired with Hugh of Grimsgate along with several others. Hugh was a hard man with shaky political motivations that changed on a dime, but by the time Nevarre was old enough to understand his master had questionable loyalties, he’d already given his own oaths. Hugh fled to Palestine, taking his knights with him. Their families left behind were punished for their crimes and Hugh told them they could never go home or suffer the same fates. Nevarre was devastated.

Dishonored through his leader but sworn to loyalty, Nevarre can do nothing but fight in the Crusades as directed, holding to his word. Events worsened in Palestine. Lured by promises of gold, Hugh joined a secret sect of the Hashshashin (assassins) specializing in magic (dedicated to Anubis) and plotted to take his knights with him.

To join the Hashshashin was to die. Literally. Hugh betrayed his own Knights, took them into a battle where they were slaughtered to the man. In a bloody ceremony of death, they were raised to kill. They gained power from killing, bringing souls to Anubis.

Nevarre didn’t mind killing the guilty or to enforce justice.  If Saladin were assassinated, the Crusades would be over, or so he believed.  If other enemies to the Church were eliminated, lives would be saved.  He was already dead, after all, and could do some small good for his people.  However, the assassinations against Saladin failed with vicious retaliation.  Hugh abandoned them and secretly returned to England.


Un-dead and trapped in Palestine, Nevarre went mad for a time.  He killed his way out of a prison and roamed the land until he came to the Temple of Amun in Karnak.  Their Archmagnus claimed he called Nevarre to join the Magi.


In Karnak, Nevarre learned of Great of Magic, the Egyptian Goddess protecting the Sun.  Humans failed him, forced him into dishonor, yet he hoped that service to the Goddess would truly give him a higher purpose.  He has nothing left.  No honor (even broke his oaths to the Hashshashin), no country, only his magic and the dreams of the snake goddess.  It is She who sustains his life, now.


He has served Her and the Magi for hundreds of years.  To fail is to die.  Part of his oath is to put Great of Magic above all, especially other women, so he remains celibate.  His heart beats, his body lives, but his soul holds a great debt against it.  To fail Her–or love another–is to surrender his soul.


Obviously those above paragraphs are *all* backstory and won’t be directly in the story.  However, these details are crucial to who this character is, and the torments through which I should put him in the story.  All  major and secondary characters got a character sheet, most between 4-6 pages long.  I have one more minor secondary character I want to do some work on — I think she’ll provide the comic relief.  Hopefully I’ll flesh her out while drafting and then polish her afterwards.


Well, my wrists are killing me and Dark & Early will come very, very early tomorrow.  Let MayNoWriMo begin!

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MayNoWriMo: final prep

I ended up editing all of my character sheets again yesterday, as well as creating a new one for the secondary character I mentioned.  I also revised the setting sheet for the castle to give it more character and detailed its long, impressive history.  I clarified the conflict between the two major groups of magic practioners.  I tracked all the new little themes and details all the way through the outline in multiple passes, making notes by hand on the pages.

Today, I will sit with the outline and daysheet open, and then make the final pass.  I’ll transcribe all my notes into the main file, and sync it with the daysheet to reflect any new scenes I decided to add.  I’m sure to break 100 sections for this story. The outline is sitting at 12,327 words right now (including the section heading on each page detailing POV, setting, etc).  I bet it’ll break 15K by the time I add all the notes I’ve made this week.

After that, the only thing left to do is print everything out and update my binder, and try to hit the sack early tonight.

I’m setting the goal of finishing this revision by June 30th.  I know that’s probably at least 100K in two months, but my production always goes down in the summer.  I need to get this story done and then sit back and relax through July and August, working at my leisure on worldbuilding the new sci-fi stories and polishing Arcana, getting it ready for submission.  I did finish Return to Shanhasson for NaNoWriMo by Christmas (I think 104K), so this should be doable — if a bit insane.

Yes, I started sleeping in my wrist splints again and have a nice stash of Caribou Coffee.

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Arcana Revision Hell: Preparation

Dig a little deeper in the Well, boys
Dig a little deeper in the Well.
If you want a good cool drink of water
You gotta dig a little deeper in the Well.

One thing I remember really struggling with as a beginning writer was “deepening” a story.  What did that mean, exactly?  I had a story in my head.  It was “the” story.  I didn’t know how to change it.  If I changed it, then it was a NEW story, wasn’t it?  If the character wanted to be different, wouldn’t he/she have shown up in my head that way?

I’ve been deepening Arcana and its characters today.  Gregar has been bellowing that song above in my ear all night.  Deeper, dig deeper, ask why, make this WORSE.  In many ways it’s like the tip of the iceberg.  What I know or see is so little compared to the details that lie beneath the surface.  I don’t necessarily need all those details on page, but knowing them adds a whole different dimension to this story.

I have to say, I have NEVER been so prepared to start a story.  The scary thing:  I’m not quite finished with these preparations yet, either.  I modified 5 character sheets tonight and realized I need to create a new one or I’ll end up with another cardboard secondary character.  (Yes, I was originally going to kill this character, how’d you know?  Now this character is sticking around indefinitely for me to torture.)  I’ve got a map of my castle drawn, but I’ve decided it needs a history.  This castle should have its own personality on page, very much a “character.”  This story could not be set anywhere else, and I need to reflect that down to the finest detail.

The character sheets are incredible.  They really are.  Why did I forget I had this template thingie?  It combines every little thing I’ve picked up over the years that help me get to the heart of my characters.  I’m not talking favorite colors and eye color here (although if there’s something important in physical description, I do have a spot for that) — I’m talking greatest fear, darkest secret, why the hero and heroine should NOT be together, etc.  I have paragraphs or more backstory for each character.  I have meticulous historical dates where needed.

It’s crazy.  Why isn’t this story written yet?  Oh, yeah, I covered that whole fear aspect already.

And even though I have a NINETY-SEVEN-PAGE OUTLINE (boggles), I’ve already gone through with pencil once and added details, then started another pass with a few new angles I thought of.  I’ve added a few scenes — bringing the list up to around 100 scenes.  It should be a nice meaty book when I’m done.  I’m going to make a third pass through the outline with character sheets in hand to make sure I cover scenes where the characters’ fears and secrets should come out or affect the emotions.  Heck, I might even make a fourth pass just for EMOTION. 

Then I’ll type up everything, print out fresh copies, and be ready to go on May 1st.

The biggest changes so far have been making things worse.  More people die or pay some cost to achieve what they want.  The cast is a little bigger — and the overall themes are more complex than I originally envisioned, which are all good.  I have something more to say than I originally thought.  The general theme is balance vs. chaos and how the various characters all reflect different degrees — but there’s another new subtle layer underneath that just came to me today.  I definitely want to spend some time ensuring that shadowing exists in the outline.

More importantly, though, I eliminated some of the “fluff” elements.  This is a flaw of mine.  When I originally thought “Regency Fantasy” with a little “Romance,” I let a few standard tropes creep into the story, especially the ending.  Tonight, I axed every single one.  My heroine is going to be a bit subversive.  Her sister is excessively subversive, but she will pay a steep price for that independence.  I’ve done my research to the best of my ability, so I understand the consequences.  I think.  :wink:


There is a “Regency Romance” buried beneath the magic and fantasy, but it’s not going to end with a wedding, baby, and title, if you know what I mean.

Dig a little deeper in the Well.

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Arcana Revision Hell: The Plan

While reviewing my notes last night and this morning, I thought I’d made a dreadful mistake.

As I’ve mentioned, I have a huge binder full of notes.  The first draft was finished as a Fast Draft (ala Candy Havens) back in March, 2007, and ever since I’ve been overwhelmed at the prospect of revising it.  Literally, I’ve been unable to comprehend how I can possibly complete this project. 

While I’m glad I attempted a Fast Draft (and succeeded), the lesson I came away with is that draft is an OUTLINE, not a foundation on which I can build a story.  I can’t open that file and begin revisions — I have to start FRESH.  The first draft doesn’t contain all the story threads I decided to add later (when I realized I only had “half” a book), and the characters are two-dimensional, again, because I wrote the blasted thing so fast.

It’s a fantastic story premise, though, and well worth the work, if I can decide how to tackle it.

About a year ago, I bought Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days because of its revision chapters.  I cut the first draft apart like she recommended, made notes for each section, did tons of worldbuilding and new character development.  All good work.  But when I started the revision, I quickly became overwhelmed again.  I was afraid.  I got it into my head that I’d never be a Regency writer — which is true.  I’m a FANTASY writer who wants to write a Regency-based fantasy.  I lost sight of that and allowed myself to skip off onto a new project.

My fear beat me a year ago.

So determined to conquer this fear, I reviewed everything and found many incredible notes.  I also found something sadly lacking.  While I had 3 spreadsheets outlining the scenes, I couldn’t find any DETAILS about those scenes.  Now a year later, how the heck am I supposed to remember what a section title of “Somedays….” means?

After building up my mental reserves to tackle this revision, I sat here this morning sick to my stomach.  Had I really been that stupid to spend so much time outlining and planning — only to never create any kind of outline?  Usually I create notecards for each scene and jot a few notes.  It doesn’t have to be formal — just enough to help me remember what that section title was supposed to mean.  Was I so afraid that I’d wasted all this time on “planning” and “research” only to subconsciously sabotage myself?

I went through all my secret drawers, looking for a baggie of notecards.  Nadda.  I decided to go through my laptop files one more time.   Maybe I’d done something different that I couldn’t remember.  After all, I was using FD30D documents.  Maybe…

With a huge sigh of relief, I found a document called “Capsule Outline” — a glorious 97 page outline, one page for every single section in my day sheet.  WHEW.  I was really sweating bullets here, people! 

So now this week I’ll read my outline, review each character’s biography (yes, I have that much detail!) and make sure they’re tightly tied to the premise, and make any revisions to my notes that I come up with.  Then hold onto your butts, because May 1st, I’ll start the second major re-VISION draft of Arcana (RHP).