Bits & Snatches & Lessons Learned
I just realized that my last post on this blog was written in July, and the last God of Wind and Fire post is from way back in April.
The truth is, that living takes up so much of my mental capacity that I don't seem to have much space for anything else. All of my writing went on hold because I knew there were certain plot problems that were keeping me from pressing onward, and I just didn't have the space to sit down, figure out what they were, how to resolve them, and how to move on. It took nearly a week of quiet and calm before my mind got out of survival mode and started being creative again.
During that period of time, I've learned a couple of things:
- If someone who knows you well tells you that you really should find a way to get back to being creative, you should definitely listen. Your sanity...and your fictional characters...will thank you.
- I have, potentially, the best beta-reader in my sister, Carrie. She doesn't tell me that my work is wonderful. Instead, she tells me what she likes and what doesn't feel right to her. And it's immensely helpful.
- If in doubt, simplify. Dismantle your plot. Examine the core of your story and your characters. Figure out what needs to happen to get your characters from where they are at the beginning of the story to where they need to be at the end. Then determine the best route to take them there.
- 'If in doubt, simplify' is applicable to a lot more than just writing.
- If you're lacking inspiration, do some reading about the setting/era that you're writing in. Like, you know, some Mongolian history. Or the Prohibition.
- If you're writing merrily along, and encounter a minor plot hole or a revolutionary new idea, make a note of it and move on. Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked.
- Beware the complicated plotline!
- Avoid the complicated plotline like the plague!
- Seriously. My natural impulse in uncertainty is to complicate. A sure sign that I don't really know what I'm doing is if I chuck in some kind of conspiracy.
- For example: I cut a very important secondary character, a long trip, an assassination plot, and (you guessed it) a conspiracy, along with an ENTIRE CIVILIZATION out of one story. They were bogging down my plot, and I realized I could accomplish what I really wanted to accomplish...and do it with higher dramatic impact...by saving these elements for a different book (or three). It was like a breath of fresh air for my poor, beleaguered plot. Now that I've rid myself of the complicated mess that I had before, I'm thinking, 'hey! I can actually write this!'
- Writing page after page of deeply flawed characters is horribly...depressing?...sad?...disheartening?...I don't know. It's just not fun. The gears are in motion for redemption to happen. I just want to write really quickly so that I can hurry up and get there already.
- In the meantime, can all of you characters please just stop losing your tempers and killing each other off? I'm beginning to understand why God sent the great flood. Broken human nature, when left to run amok, is definitely not pretty.
- Sometimes, writing gets way too intense and you should take a break and make a cake. Or earrings. Or watch Hornblower, or Hercule Poirot, or some random gospel film in Portuguese.
And that, my friends, is that. How's about some actual writing?
Bataar felt a surge of liking. He ducked his head to hide his grin and check his horse’s girth strap. “She is like our father, in his younger days.”
“She is like the warrior women of the stories from the time before this. Now I know how the men of Boktani’s day must have felt.”
[He] felt that there was something - an important something - that he’d failed to take into account, and his mind fretted over it as he plodded along through the melting landscape.
The morning came cold and grey and brooding. Altan chafed her cold hands and stamped her numbed feet against the frost-rimed ground. The impact sent little jolts of warmth up her legs. She tucked her hands deep into her horse’s mane, tangling them in the dusty warmth of his hair. The rumor of war throbbed as an undercurrent in the expectant morning air, and she wished her fingers limber for the blade-work that was to come. Her horse lifted his head, ears pointed toward the spires that were still visible from behind the long shoulder of rock where they stood in wait.
“They are coming!” The man beside her said.
Another hissed, “Be still!”
Altan looked to the position of her weapons, ran her fingers under the girth strap to test its snugness. All was ready. The hot blood stirred in her. It would not be long now.
[Her] right hand found her sword hilt and she brought it out in one sure movement, the blade dully reflecting the somber sky. The corner of her eye registered the movement of Bataar’s unsheathed blade off to the left, and she had a fleeting sense of the rightness of the moment: the cold, grey sky, the familiar weapon in her hand, and Bataar’s steady bulk at her side.
Bataar’s first warning of the impending disaster was the voice of Subejin, shouting from within inches of his ear, “Stop! Stop you fool!”
“So, it’s over.” Bataar said.
“Aye.” She replied.