1. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming's Progress Journal

    Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by Commandante Lemming, Mar 18, 2015.

    Not sure how dedicated I will be to updating this thing, but probably worth having since I'm doing my best to stay on track and have an annoying habit of always referencing details of how I approach own work when responding to other people's questions (still trying to figure out if that's a good habit or a bad habit, oh well...)

    "Millenial"
    Genre:
    I keep calling it a "Futuristic Newsroom Drama" - can't bring myself to call it near-future sci-fi, although it's very much speculative and has a lot of "social sci-fi" elements, but not a lot of techy stuff. Help appreciated with labeling.
    Format: Novel - planned as the first installment of a 4-novel series but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
    Setting: The year is 2034 and the world is slouching slowly toward a complacency-driven collapse. Generation X are hitting retirement age as the first Millenials hit age 50 and begin to take the levers of power. The income gap is widening, innovation is slowing down in most non-communications fields as the educated and empowered become increasingly self-focused. Society is on cruise control - with many either unaware or unconcerned with an increasingly inevitable race/class confrontation, the coming bankruptcy of the US Government, and a rapidly disintegrating international order.
    First Conceived: Circa 2004 - about when I graduated high school
    Re-Started: Early 2014
    Premise: 26 year-old Nina Constantinos is a small-market TV news reporter in Appleton, Wisconsin who has recently broken a story that forced the resignation of a U.S. Senator. As a result, she is quickly hired as the newest national correspondent for WWN, America's most-watched news channel - reporting directly to anchor and editor Priscilla Davis, arguably the most influential journalist on the planet. It soon becomes clear that Priscilla is hopelessly corrupt and manipulating coverage to suit her own political interests - often in ways that shouldn't even be possible. Nina is immediately placed on the team covering the death of the Pope, and while in Rome meets minor cardinal who agrees to give her his first sit-down interview after the election of a new Pope. When this cardinal is surprisingly elected Pope himself, his loyalty to his word catapults Nina to journalistic stardom and sets this small-town girl on a collision course with both her editor and path of history itself. Along the way we meet Nina's roommate and co-protag - WWN Fashion Blogger Vinya Jain - along with aging war correspondent Dan Dragovich, gruff cameraman Aiden Healy, and alcoholic self-described "celebrity news-babe" Madison Rylander.
    Themes: Objective Fact vs. Subjective "Truth", the consequences of long-term complacency in civil society, the virtue of altruism over self-interest. Critique of the postmodernist contention that "good and evil don't exist - just shades of gray" - most things and people are indeed gray, but that does not negate the existence of black or white.
    Motifs: High-gloss TV news production, religious themes, modern pop culture re-purposed as nostalgic memories, repeated intrusions of ancient things into what is ostensibly a futuristic piece.
    Current Word Count: 62,000 and change. Of which about 30-40,000 is continuous from the beginning.
    Target Word Count: 90,000 - and based on where I am in the story after 60,000, I'm going to run over that target and have to cut.

    Comments: This is my first novel, and now it has about a year of work in. I'm finally to the point where I'm really getting comfortable with both the narrative and the process of writing. Having burned a bunch of words and still not gotten the continuous part of the narrative to the point where the pope has been elected, which is supposed to be about a third of the way, I'm starting to worry about length (or whether I really have enough plot for two books). Finally getting to know Nina as well as I know the crazy people around her - although it's still a struggle to contain Vinya and keep her from taking over the plot. Also trying to figure out how to manage a ballooning cast size - my readers are on board with the large cast for the most part - and since the story has global scope it's needed....but at the end of the day I still have to contain it into one plot for one book.

    Well I guess that's a start. I guess I'll keep you updated on a semi-regular basis, of what frequency I know not. Probably plenty of musings about the proclivities of Nina, Vinya, Madison...or even T.A. Ballantyne or Sophie Lee (neither of whom are supposed to appear until later books, but who still annoyingly assert themselves in the creative process of constructing the overall storyline.)

    Here goes nothing...
     
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  2. Commandante Lemming
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    So, the in-person writing group got their second crack at "Millenial" last night - we submit 30-page segments at a time and then hack away at two hapless victims per week. All in all not bad feedback, and the story seems to be progressing OK. I seem to have kept them interested with both Nina's career and family-history dramas, and I got kudos for successfully pulling off the dreaded chapter-length flashback sequence...but now I have to figure out how to implement the things people didn't think work...and there I have the vexing problem.

    On the one hand, I get a lot of "you need more action". Probably true, my MC is a TV journalist covering the death and election of a Pope - there ought to be more craziness with her out in the streets of Rome rather than always catching her when she gets back to the hotel, plus her cameraman is the planned love interest so I REALLY need to show their dynamic on the job.

    That said, on the other hand, I get smacked for my lack of worldbuilding - which I guess is a good problem to have in the speculative fiction space, as it means I have room for more. But I'm going to have to take time to slow down and explain what people look like in 2034 - especially why the culture is dominated girl groups, doo-wop, poodle skirts, and general 50s nostalgia (Repeated criticisms boomerang between "this feels too much like today!" and "why does the future look like the 1950s?!"). Of course, there are multiple reasons for that - but they need to go in the text rather than in my head.

    So - I need to simultaneously speed up the action and add more worldbuilding (which usually slows down the action). All the while my overall word count is breathing down my neck and I'm already freaking out that it's impossible to fit this plot into 90,000 words.

    *Sigh*

    They're right of course - I can see both of those problems in the text myself - just the question of how to walk and chew gum at the same time. Also debating whether I should move the ending up and turn this thing into two books - getting all of it out in 180,000 total words would be a piece of cake (well, not the writing, but I'd certainly have room to do it right). But I don't really WANT it to be two books, and if I move the ending up, then I have to start yanking out the foreshadowing of what's supposed to happen in the second half of plot (which would now become Book 2). Probably not worth thinking about until I get closer to finishing anyway.

    Although one thing I think I am going to do is commission some DeviantArt sketches. I've been ordering a good amount of character art, which I find helpful (especially as I can't draw...at all), but now I'm thinking I need worldbuilding art. Screw my buttoned-down professional foreground characters, I need to see my background cultures - the modernized poodle skirts, greasy men's hairdos, every thing that make "Brill" culture tick (yeah, I call the girls in the subculture Brills - it's a reference the "Brill Building Sound" of the 60s, the Brill Building being a major center of the music industry in the 1960s when record labels and producers were driving music in more of a bubblegum, conformity driven direction...great time for recording innovation, bad for individualty). I hadn't planned on doing much with it other than as a background motif, and the only actual Brill I planned on introducing as a character wouldn't appear until my theoretical Book 3 - but I think I need to get some visual artists to show me what the Brills actually look like so I can start populating my universe with them

    Well - I guess I just figured out my next project....
     
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    Ok - got my first sketches back on my "cultural worldbuilding" project on DeviantArt (of all things, some quick sketches of women's hairstyles circa 2034) and it already feels more real! Not sure yet if it will help my worldbuilding in text, but it's so neat to see your world pop out perfectly on paper, in more detail than you can imagine it yourself.

    Hopefully this is the first step to finally getting over the "I'm not buying that your future culture is obsessed with the 1950s" critique I keep getting - because now I can see an early-1960s-inspired futurism rather than just dumping 50s-60s references into the text. I know if would be easier just to give people a "futuristic future" but I can't do that because it undermines the entire plot, and all of my symbolism (the entire POINT is that the future doesn't look like the future we want - the question is why and what broke it) - so hopefully I can at least start giving readers a vision that they can buy, because I know I can't give them the future they want.

    Either way - I'm just enjoying my pictures of "hipsters" who look like they just stepped out of a weird, futuristic Elvis movie :p
     
  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Really productive week. Think this thing is finally hitting it's stride, and the characters are coming out a lot more fully formed in terms of their relationships. I'm worried about that bogging the action down but for now I'm just pressing forwards. Wrote a chapter laced with super-short scenes bouncing between three points of view around the same event, so we'll have to see how that plays with readers.

    And my romantic subplot finally asserted itself - I'd been avoiding it because I hadn't figured out how the characters interact, which is an even bigger plot problem because my MC is a TV news reporter and the love interest is her cameraman....so avoiding writing them together also meant not showing the MC in action in her career. So I tried writing a bit of it this week and they got into a huge fight which I'm totally loving (they hate each other at this point), but now I have to figure out how to resolve the argument (I started it, then got too tired to write and went to bed - but so far is it's a delicious future -lovers spat).

    Had several readers from various proficiency levels tell me it "reads fast" so I guess I've got a big enough sample size in terms of saying the pacing is good - but then there's pressure to keep it up. But I guess that's a good problem to have ...although to me it's funny because while I don't think pacing is a problem, I am worried I'm using too many words on too little of the plot. I really don't want this to be two books....

    So - yeah - that's what I'm doing. Just realized I have one week to prep my next 30-page submission to writing group, which means the hammer falls on the next few chapters in three weeks. And since it's an off-week on the "Long Project Table" I think I'm going to shock my writing group by making them read a time-waster I wrote at the office - I wrote the first scene of a screenplay with my office as "The Office" (which I work at a research institution, so my office is WEIRD). I have this odd sadistic urge to see what happens when my critique group reads lines as my co-workers :p
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2015
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    Hyper-productivity is a weird place to be. I'm getting tantalizingly close to the end of my first act where the new pope is finally elected - only took me some 52,000 words. Oh well, it could also make a good midpoint if I do it right - is there such a thing as "Two-Act Structure" instead of Three? Anyway, I'm so close to that point I can taste it, which means I'm writing like a madman and probably spending too much time on it....but I've been trying to finish this dang election sequence since I started this project a year ago. Once I get over that hump, I finally get to start launching all the nutty fallout and blowing things up (in some cases literally).

    Starting to wonder what it says about me that mo0st of my sequences are becoming more and more about the characters' relationship lives - not that it's a bad thing, it's pretty deep and cool. But I've gone from avoiding the MC's love-life entirely to writing three different male-female relationships in the space of three chapters (The MC and her love interest are finally liking each other. An antiheroic side-character had a brief romantic interlude that ended very badly and messed her up mentally - foreshadowing for later. Then I'm writing a flashback sequence between my MC and her old boyfriend who dumped her when her career took off).

    Personally, I'm liking most of it - but I'm dreading taking some of this stuff into writing group. Thankfully I'm not yet to the point where there's any kissing or sex, but I'm still a man writing romantic subplots for my largely FEMALE cast, and that's a minefield when it comes to getting the head-space right. I got around it with the MC and primary love interest by actually playing the scene out from the love-interest's perspective - I don't have a problem getting HIS thought process. But the other two are in the female perspective and probably need some heavy polishing.

    That, and I think I have the opposite of "worldbuilder's disease" - I have character builder's disease. All of my side characters keep demanding more screentime and telling me more about themselves. For instance - there's Emma - she was never meant to show up until later in the book and originally intended just to show that the villain editor did indeed have reporters who buy into her program. But, I ended up needing her to walk onstage early to reveal some details about another character, and since I'd been thinking a little more about her to begin with, she quickly morphed from "minion" to "likeable but tragic antiheroic mirror of the MC". She's now getting POV sequences - which is awesome because she's interesting - and because I can use her likeablilty to hide the fact that her less likeable minion-BFF is the one who actually gets the heroic rejecting-the-dark-side moment later. But still, the cast is huge - I've got POV sequences from seven different characters so far (not counting the prologue which is in the villain's POV). I guess as long as readers tell me it's working, it works - and I've got some pretty blunt readers - but it's a lot of plates to keep spinning.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Well - busy week, not much sleep and even less time. Yeah - no 2,000 word goal-meeting this time. But I've got some interesting stuff coming so I can live with it.

    The writing group got their crack at the third section of the book, bringing them to Chapter Nine. Mostly good, some bad - but that's why I give it to them. They like the story, and surprisingly, they think the point-of-view-switching makes it better - so I guess I can stop freaking out about what would happen when they got to that.

    Still having difficulty selling my setting after a year and getting tons of suggestions that it's not future-y enough to be the future and that I need to set it in the present - which I can't do because then the whole plot and reason for writing falls apart. And I can't make it TOO much more futuristic because the fact that it's not "Back to the Future" or cyberpunk is THE ENTIRE POINT. It's not sci-fi, it's social sci-fi, and I'm trying to build something that actually looks like where we will actually be in 20 years...which unfortunately looks a lot more like where we are now than most readers want it to. Trying to find little places to shove in more technology, but it's still frustrating that nobody's willing to buy the idea that lot's of what we do now will STILL EXIST in 20 years. I hate to break it to people - but we will still have TV screens (if not channels), yes there will still be 24-hour video news coverage provided by major "networks" of coms format, cars will still take some gasoline and no they won't fly (thank goodness nobody's asked for a flying car), the pope will still be a man and no there won't be women cardinals, age-77 will still count as "old". That's the actual future if you look at - and it's the craziest thing that attempting to be realistic is messing with people's suspension of disbelief because they're all making overdone sci-fi based assumptions about the future.

    Okay...breathing...rant over. Although I may go buy a bunch of cyberpunk novels and burn them for catharsis.

    But seriously - any ideas 0n how to sell an overly-realistic future that subverts sci-fi expectations of tech advancement would be welcome.

    Still - at the end of the day, the feedback on the story and the characters is good. People just can't stomach my view of the future - but I guess that just means more worldbuilding work to be convincing.
     
  7. Commandante Lemming
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    So I did it. I got to the pre-ordained "End of First Act" point in the story.

    Now what the heck do I do?

    Granted, stringing those last few scenes together involved a lot of short "giving yourself permission to write bad" scenes....all of which are going to need lengthened and heavily edited in the revision process. And I'm now far too aware of all the plot holes I left trying to get to where I am...all the needed info I haven't dropped..and the contrasting fact that it took me 56,000 words to get here as is. (Hmm...more than half the word-count on first act...problem). So now for the first time I guess I'm going to have to fight the urge to revise rather than moving forward, as I'm suddenly unsatisfied with key elements.

    But the good news is I now get to embark on the crazy series of events that I've been waiting for the whole time...but I'm going to have to outline them at least a little, because the story is going to have to get more complex. I also have the sneaking feeling that this thing is going to top out at 120,000-ish words for a first draft...which is going to mean either a lot of snipping or expansion into two books (I really shouldn't be leaving that second option on the table, but if anything people are telling me my first half reads too fast and needs some expansion...so I'm wondering whether I should be shooting at eventual shortening to a 90,000 word boo...or eventual lengthening into two...oh wait...I've been doing this same stupid Hamlet act for like four posts now :p)

    Oh well, for now, as always...cue Dory from "Finding Nemo"

    Just keep writing, just keep writing...
     
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Been a tough few weeks without much writing time, but when I get time, at least I know what to write - mostly because I just hit a big plot point, which means that I need a series of events to happen in a certain order. I guess that's good - although there's a defined shift in how I'm approaching the scenes. A lot of the earlier writing has scenes ranging from 1,000-2,000 words and taking time on one event - now I'm writing scenes ranging from 300-1,000 words bounding around all of my POV characters' heads like a pinball as they circle an event in which they're all involved. And I'm feeling there's more of what Brandon Sanderson calls "workmanlike prose" - telling you what's happening straight - than flowing prose. Although, given that my action is picking up, that's probably best. I'll be interested to see what happens when readers get to this point, because I bounce around heads a lot to begin with, and I'm worried that picking up the speed at which I bounce is going to throw people out of the story. Hopefully they'll hang with me and I can slow back down once I get firmly into my second act.

    Then there's the question of cast size - so far I've pulled off the large cast - but I'm finally getting feedback indicating that it's messing with people (I brought up a character who I introduced briefly at the beginning but then dropped for like 10 chapters). I don't necessarily mind "What is this, Game of Thrones?"...because it kind of is...at least that's how I'd like it. But I'm certainly not George R. R. Martin (not yet...*maniacal cackling*) and this thing is definitely going to require a lot of cutting and smoothing out when it's done. I like having a complex plot, but it's certainly making some things difficult, especially now that I've got all my pieces on the board and need to start winding them all together.
     
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    So remember a few weeks ago when I said I hit the end of my first act? Well actually I hit the big event that throws the story out of whack, but the first act in it's entirety had a bit left to go. I ended my fictional papal election and announced the name of the new pope, but I still had minor wrap up to do in terms of revealing my main character's connection to said pope - which I got done late last week. So now I'm REALLY done with Act 1 - which means I'm in uncharted territory, but Act 2 is slowly gelling in my head (it's still confusing and going to need an outline). That said, I am really happy with getting to my "fade to black" moment on this part of the book - which ended with a character opening an envelope and saying "Holy F--k". I thought that was a nice nod to the fact that that the sacred side of my story, inside the Vatican, was now on a collision course with the highly profane newsroom side of the plot.

    So - I'm lost but I'm happily lost. And now I'm going to be forced to figure out what happens next, as I've officially run out of other stuff to write. Oh - and I wrote a flashback scene where a character overdosed on Aderall, which may or may not open my second act, so that was interesting to try and construct (dare I say, trippy).

    Onward and upward into Act 2.
     
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    Your book sounds quite interesting.
     
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the kind words. And if you ever want to see it feel free to ask (I let pretty much anyone I trust read it if they want, even though I have plenty of feedback.)
     
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    So - the book went under the microscope at writing group again last writing group session -which was a week and a half ago but who's counting. They still like it but they hit a big chunk of worldbuilding which I expected them to choke on and they did - even for me it's like when you're eating a TV dinner and you realize it's undercooked when your fork hits ice. Going to have to figure out a way to drop that information in the background rather than just stopping and dumping - but hey they wanted more worldbuilding...here..have some worldbuilding! (Remember that scene in "Aladdin" where the newly empowered parrot is ramming crackers down the sultan's throat while scolding him for the "Polly Want a Cracker" routine? Yeah, it felt like that.) But now I'm going to have to go back and rip out the flashback that that whole world-building sequence built up to - I know it doesn't fit, I just don't know what does.

    But in all honesty they liked the majority of what they read and I'm worrying about the final page - so all in all, I'm happy and they're happy.

    Meanwhile, while they're back in the middle of Act I, I'm slowly getting Act II moving - and by slowly I mean SLOWLY. I basically have to re-boot the entire book, re-set up all my characters, and re-set the stage. Plus I have a lot less of this part planned - so it's like re-winding back to the frustration I had at the beginning, forcing myself to string little bits together. Honestly I'm not thrilled with the product right now, but it's product and it's accomplishing what it needs to in terms of inching me onto the downward slope to the climax. I feel like I'm positioning one of those little pinewood derby cars at the top of the ramp very carefully and tediously, but once I pull the lever I'm thinking it will roll downhill very fast.

    In other news - dang I'm using a lot of weird metaphors today.

    Anyhow - I guess it's been a semi-frustrating few weeks, but the train keeps rolling and the plot keeps coming. Onward and upward.
     
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    Well, another few weeks in. Finally getting the feel of Act 2. This thing is going to have to run a lot different than Act 1 just because now the cast is split up instead of circling one big event, and I have to plan it out differently. I'm still discovery writing within a basic mental plot-plan, but I think I've hit on something in terms of outlining individual chapters before I start in on them. Each of my Act 2 chapters so far has been about 4 scenes from different POVs, and this weekend I actually planned the four scenes in order before writing them, and they came out really easy. Either that, or I just wrote faster because I actually got writing time during the day when I wasn't fighting the urge to pass out (Seriously, that helps - although some of my best scenes are the ones I write when I'm too tired to care if it's good. :p). That and hopefully I've just finished a scene that's simultaneously heartwarming and incredibly vulgar, which makes me happy...probably should test rung that on the writing group to see if it works the way I think it works.

    The writing group has been really, really liking the snippets I'm giving them when it's not "long project night"...but that's actually making me nervous because I've been feeding them stuff I know is pretty good from later, but needs refined. That and the best things I write are flashback character studies that have to be integrated later. So, in my head I'm freaking out that everyone's going to be disappointed when then read the in continuity boring stuff. Granted, they've generally gotten to like that as well (I think I've finally beaten them out of questioning why my future isn't futuristic and just forced them to read the story from a non-sci-fi point of view - although I'm still going to have to go back and work in more worldbuilding, but that's for later).

    Oh, and it looks like I finally get to start long-distance grad-school (been delayed for like a year, long story)...so now comes the fun part of seeing if I can balance job, life, school, AND writing...but I'm going to do my darndest to keep going at it full speed. It helps that my fiancee would probably kill me if I stopped writing, and my writing group would probably skin me alive if I don't tell them how it ends.
     
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    Well, I'm writing - I'm also lost. I got to my first set-piece event in Act 2, and now I can't figure out which one comes next. I mean, I know the next piece I have to write toward, but in the middle I'm realizing I've not allowed enough time for the romantic subplot to develop as organically as I wanted it to (and by that I mean how much time is passing in the story, not me having to make writing time), not to mention the two or three other subplots I'm juggling. I got told once that I was doing a good job pulling off the "cast of thousands" (thanks @jannert!), but now that large cast is making it hard to decide which events come next and I feel like the whole thing is getting out of hand. Granted, I'm still coming up with good stuff, so I shouldn't complain - but it's deciding which good stuff is the right stuff that's hard. I've been watching this thing as an HBO Series in my head for years (seriously - it has a theme song, a soundtrack, and credits sequences when I picture it - darn my brain is weird) but the more I write the more I realize that a book is NOT a TV show, and the complex plots feeding into eachother take a lot more space than I actually have...

    Which brings me back to my habitual complaint about word count - I gave up on it a while ago and decided I was just going to write it until it finished and cut from there - but I actually checked my count for the first time in a few weeks and I'm up to 96,000 words...which it's great to say I can crank out enough words for a standard-length novel...but I'm really just getting to the midpoint in my story, and I've already let a lot of important plot and worldbuilding info languish in the interest of pacing (which the good news is readers like the pace). But if I'm being this wordy with my first draft, I'm worried about how many darlings are going to have to be killed on revision.

    That, and I keep trying to figure out what kind of book I'm writing, because that dictates what I'm shooting for in terms of word-count and pace. I've been operating on the assumption that this is eventually going to get filed as "popular fiction" even though really it's soft Social Science Fiction - which means I need to cut the worldbuilding out and shoot for 90,000-ish words. But if I were to just admit that it's Social-Sci-Fi I could go back and do the worldbuilding properly - which is a complaint I get often - and stop stressing about length (although I don't want to slow down the pace). I probably shouldn't even be thinking about these concerns right now, because really I should just be writing, but at the end of the day I think most of us are thinking ahead to pitching, agents, what the market wants, etc - and when you see the manuscript veering away from what you think you're shooting for, it's not hard to freak out. My endgame, at least as I see it, is to pitch this thing OUTSIDE the sci-fi genre, because generally the feedback I get from sci-fi readers is that they don't want to see a future that doesn't focus on tech, and because I've always thought of my audience as the general public (more specifically, my future is calibrated to make Joe Blow on the street think he sees his kids in my adult characters). That gives me a 90,000-word pop-fiction novel target. But at the end of the day I still have to worldbuild if I want this thing to make any sense.

    Anyway - I'll keep writing - that's the fun part. I just submitted a really key piece of the book to the in-person group, so that will be a lot of fun to get feedback on in two weeks. They're finally getting to the point where my action starts speeding up and the POVs start jumping from character to character really fast - for me that's when the book really hit it's stride writing it.

    Oh - and one more thing - even after labelling my book as Social Science Fi - I really am starting to wonder about that term. The term Social Science is relatively new, created in an attempt to systematize certain subjects and create a binary academic world divided between Arts and Sciences. At the end of the day, though, the Social Sciences are no-such thing. There's no scientific method in History, not much in sociology or antrhopology. There's a bit more in Political Science - but really the only "hard science" in that world is Economics, and even that one has a big debate on how rigid the laws are. We used to call these subjects "Humanities" - placing them in a third column between the Arts and Sciences because really the study of how humans work can't be approached in the same experiment-and-test fashion that we approach physical science. That's been the big thing I've been thinking about regarding why this book doesn't work as "sci-fi"...even "social sci-fi"...because there's really no "sci" involved. I'm certainly taking a speculative, genre approach - but really it's "Humanities Fiction", which makes it tough to fit into the larger "Science Fiction" universe.

    So that's my rant for the week - tune in next time to see if I've made any more sense of it all. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  15. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow - been a while since I updated this thing. Oh well, not having time to surf forums means that one is busy in real life and that's usually a good thing.

    I've blasted through almost to the end of my planned Act 2 - or rather my re-planned Act 2. Actually, I'm at the mid-point of my original plot, but I've become increasingly convinced that I have two books here rather than one. Which is simultaneously liberating and scary as heck. On the one hand, I'm a lot closer to completing the fist draft of what is now "Book 1" and will have a lot of time to dwell on the cool stuff I have planned for "Book 2". On the other hand, ALL OF MY REALLY COOL STUFF IS IN NOW IN BOOK 2 AND BOOK 1 HAS NO STAKES!

    So, once I blast through to the end of this thing, task one is going to be be going back through and raising the stakes for the protagonist. Then I'm going to have to hammer the story line into a full three act plot, because right now it's a slow build to a mid-point - which is great if you're actually AT a mid-point. But now my mid point is my climax and that means re-shaping the way the whole thing reads.

    Plus I'm now having dark fantasies about some future agent seeing the finished product and thinking that the plot is boring because all the cool bang-bang-shooty stuff is getting put into a sequel - or a reader putting it down after Book One.

    But one thing at a time. That agent can't reject a book that isn't done, and that reader can't put down a book that isn't published.

    So - onward and upward!
     
  16. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Realizing that I haven't updated this thing in forever, so why not.

    Real life went bonkers the last few months so writing time hasn't been forthcoming - but I'm through Act 2 and slowly slogging through my on-the-fly Act 3. I hadn't really planned out Act 3 inasmuch as I split the pot into two books and had to come up with a way of wrapping things up about near the planned midpoint. Of course, that means re-thinking story structure, re-thinking what the novel is actually about, deciding what beat to end on, and then figuring out how to get there. So I decided to end on a bit of a down beat halfway through, instead of the triumphant victory that will end up at the end of what's now going to be Book 2. That meant veering off in some weird directions and teasing out the darkness in my innocent main character, figuring out ways to rough her up emotionally (sorry about that, Nina), and coalescing around an ending that involves her taking ownership of the fact that she's okay corrupting herself in service to a bigger goal...which then coalesces her friends around the idea that they're going to need to support her to keep her from veering off the deep end. And, Voila! - Avengers assembled, self-realization accomplished, minor victory in the book, set-up acheived for titanic battle with the villain in Book 2.

    Yeah - not that easy. First off that means the scenes are coming slower (granted, I'm getting some GREAT scenes), and I've had a divergence from the plot of the first two acts in that I've rid myself of the need of a major character who happens to be halfway across the world and can't participate in the MC's emotional self discovery. Plus I'm already way over word count.

    Then last night I realized that actually I pretty much have a finished book if I cut at the end of Act 2. That gives me a consistent plotline, no major character dropoffs, a big victory at the end, even a bit of a denouement - at about the word count I want. Did I actually finish a draft and not realize it?

    So, I guess the question now is tor read through it and figure out if I have a book. If so, I'll then have to go back over it with a fine toothed comb, even out the Acts in length (Act 1 twice as long as Act 2). Then I'd have to retro-actively layer in a bunch of worldbuilding, especially cultural stuff, and then maybe look at ways of digging up the darker aspects of Nina's character earlier in the book. I can't have her make it through an entire first book as an plucky, idealistic young reporter unscathed by the cruel world - not with what she ends up doing later. Maybe I need to revisit her idiot ex-boyfriend in her hometown and make it clear a bit earlier how big of an emotional scar that moron left....*gears beginning to turn*

    So, yeah, that's where I am...which is to say I'm not entirely sure where I am. But I have a large stack of paper that's looking more like a novel and it's making me excited.
     
  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    So...wow...this thing hasn't been updated in a while.

    I'm behind my own internal schedule but I think I'm only two chapters away from having a complete rough draft - so hooray for that.

    Of course, as this progress journal has often been my own personal hand-wringing session freaking out over whether or not the thing is any good, I guess that's why I'm on it today - more so because I'm mad at myself for blowing the hand-wringing and confusion at other people and still not sure what to do with the book. The fact that I'm supposedly turning the corner into revision is freaking me out, as is the fact that I'm finally starting grad school classes on Monday and as such am going to see diminished writing time - and I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with a substantial number of readers who reject big aspects of my premise.

    ...which is fine, people do that. But I do get a little frustrated with it, and when it's repeatedly phrased aggressively but not maliciously (i.e. "the future isn't going to be like this and there's not enough tech, so take out all your future-y stuff and set it in the present") - well then, you have to take that criticism a bit seriously. And as I'm someone who generally believes in not doing things unless they have an achievable goal, it creates a lot of angst when you have to try and decide whether or not to accept the idea that your premise is flawed at such a root level that editing can't help it. Don't worry, I'm not accepting that and not even the people critiquing it are actually saying that - but I'm not sure people realize what they're saying when they day "the way to fix this is to take out all the future worldbuilding and set it the present day." Okay - well - I guess I can do that, but then I lose my most basic plot element (which is a problem with basic tech development), all of my characters' backstories, and the realism of corporation they all work for. So, yeah, that's pretty much every element of the story.

    And when I get to the point where I feel like I'm going crazy and think I'm morally obligated to throw out fatally flawed manuscript, well that's when I normally reach out to writers online to try and sort it out. (and yes my brain does that - it tells me the thing is flawed at the root level, can't be fixed, and that continuing to work on it at all is an act of harm against myself and everyone else around me and therefore immoral - and yes I have a therapist for that issue).
    Funny enough that's why I joined this place originally - at that point I'd been with my writing group about two months and was getting a ton of feedback that my villain's existence was impossible and that my future wasn't future-y enough to justify being set in the future. And I'm sure one or two of you remember the hamlet act that was my opening post here (I think it was GingerCoffee that responded first).

    So, anyway, so at the beginning of editing - in the same emotional shape I was at the beginning of WRITING - I did the same thing. I joined a forum - don't worry y'all are still my favorite but I joined a forum more aimed at people querying and put up some of my frustrations about trying to figure out how to get some sort of consistent mentorship or critique on what I was doing. Of course I was promptly told to slow down and not rush thing , and that I should have at least another draft before I seek that out - but of course the entire reason I'd joined was that I was worked up and saturated with negative feedback, and trying to find some objective way of judging whether my worldbuilding has as many problems as people seem to think it does - and how to fix those problems because clearly my attempts to fix them have not stopped people from telling my that my future is wrong to the point of being unusable...which frankly is an argument over scientific extrapolation that I'm tired of having with people, but I at least want to TRY to produce a product that can be read and enjoyed by those people.

    So, yeah, I got called on my crap. Again. And I still don't have answers other than "keep writing". Or in this case, "keep editing", which I'm really not sure how to approach given the rather strong nature of some of the critiques I've received so far. Of course I'm going to try and refine it, I just want to stop having this argument handing over my head over whether my future fails to meet some "minimum standard of believability" - and the fact that I'm getting that from enough different people gives me some severe pause. I can defend the science (or rather social science) until I'm blue in the face, but fiction isn't about being right, it's about people BELIEVING you just enough to go on the ride with you. And if people choose to believe that "the future" has to be a certain way - and that the things you say "happened" aren't possible, well, where do you go from there?

    That's all - most of it probably doesn't even make sense which is why it's on this thread and not phrased as a question in a more relevant part of the forum.
    I'm sure eventually I'll figure it out - or eventually I'll figure it out enough for the type of people who are willing to go with me on the worldbuilding - which I think is about half of them. And I guess if half the rest of the world is the same way, that's still enough to sell books, right?

    ...and if you're still reading, I certainly welcome thoughts from anyone who's been there - especially on the ideas of figuring out mentorship, getting enough feedback without either overdosing or working in isolation, and distinguishing a flawed premise from flawed execution of a decent premise.
     

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