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Posts Tagged ‘rook and rose’

Sekrit Projekt R&R is sekrit no more!

You may remember that last year Alyc Helms and I fell headfirst down a hole and emerged a few months later with a novel we’d written together, which I blogged about here as “Sekrit Project R&R.”

R&R, my friends, stands for Rook and Rose: the name of the trilogy Orbit Books has just bought from us.

What is it? Epic fantasy. But that sells it short. It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles, and I’m only sorry we didn’t manage to get a giant in there; maybe we can make somebody really tall during editorial revisions? Also the kind of worldbuilding that happens when you let two anthropologists off their leashes. It has a con artist, a vigilante, and capers as flirtation. It has weird dream shit because we love that stuff, yo. It has noble politics and street gangs and deception layered so deep I literally made a color-coded chart at one point about who knew what, which persona of theirs knew it, and whether other people knew they knew it.

It also — and this is important, so remember — has a new name on the cover. Rather than publishing under two names (which is often unwieldy), we are putting this out as M.A. Carrick. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can do so @ma_carrick, and we also have a placeholder website that we’ll be expanding into something very shiny just as soon as we’re not both about to get on planes to Ireland.

Later I will tell you all the story of why that pen name. (Appropriately enough, it involves Ireland!) In the meanwhile, I need to go squee some more. I’ll just leave you with this song, which we posted last year as a teaser for the flavor of the thing we were working on . . .

(Oh, and also? We’ve already started writing book two.)

Calling all poetical/artistical types

I have a favor to ask!

For Sekrit Projekt R&R, Alyc and I have some divinatory cards we need to name. The catch is that we want their names to more on the metaphorical side, rather than directly literal, and neither of us is exceptionally good at thinking in those terms. Example: one of the cards represents travel and journeys. The obvious thing would be some kind of name involving roads or paths or whatever. But our placeholder name for it was “Horizon,” and now it’s “Dawn and Dusk,” because the city where the story takes place sits in the middle of a major trade network that extends east and west. That’s one we’re very pleased with . . . but we need a bunch more.

If you would be willing to help brainstorm card names, drop me a line. We’re especially interested in suggestions from people with a poetical bent, or people with a visual bent who might think in terms of what the image on the card would be, and then come up with a name to describe that image. I’ll send you a rundown of what the cards are that need naming, and also a little information about the setting to riff off in terms of knowing what details might be appropriate. There are thirty-four that need names; you’re welcome to suggest more than one for any given card, and you don’t need to suggest things for all of them if you don’t have ideas that seem fitting.

We’d like all suggestions to be in by the end of the month.

So if that’s something you can help out with, let me know. We’d be very grateful for the assistance!

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 24: Finit

113 days after we started writing — and one year and twenty-four days after we said, “hey, what do you think of this idea for a novel we could write together?” — the book is done.

Not 100% finished and ready to go, of course. We’ve both done a lot of revision along the way, but there are still things we need to expand on or add in (D—‘s dog appears out of nowhere halfway through the draft), and there are a lot of brackets marking things we need to name: people, districts of the city, cards in the divinatory pattern deck, etc. But you could read it through from beginning to end and there would be no holes, and I don’t expect there to be any major changes to the shape or feel of the story between now and when it does go out. We’ll be refining what we’re doing, not replacing parts of it with something else entirely.

For now, though, we rest. 113 days — not writing every single day, but more days than not, and averaging 1826 words per day across that span, i.e. more than that much on the days we actually wrote. My normal drafting pace is 1000 a day, so I guess this kind of works out to “normal,” just doubled because it’s two people? Except I don’t think that’s how the math works.

Yeah. ima go fall over now.

Word count: 206,347
Authorial sadism: When you pride yourself on your skill as a player, it hurts to realize you’ve been played.
Authorial amusement: It’s a bit like Volkswagon preferring to confess to fraud than be thought incompetent.
BLR quotient: When the blood is over with, rhetoric is there with a mop.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 23

We budgeted two days to write the penultimate, climactic chapter.

We did it in one.

Word count: ~199,000
Authorial sadism: Turning V— into a chew toy.
Authorial amusement: Turning V— into a housemaid. Also, making people step repeatedly on the magical third rail.
BLR quotient: So very much blood. But if it weren’t for love, this all would have gone down in flames.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 22


One down, two to go.

Which is to say: after making our absurd plan to finish the book even more fasterer than we had originally planned (I say “originally” — that was, like, the third or fourth plan after the original original plan), we successfully finished Chapter 22. In which there is more humor than I had necessarily expected for the chapter in which the characters realize just how screwed they are, before they’re in a position to actually fix it. But we had one character high as a kite and getting distracted from telling people what they need to know, and Alyc continues to be good at thinking up vile language for a twelve-year-old to use, and man, you wouldn’t like T— when she’s angry and armed with a knitting needle.

Sunday and Monday, we write the climax. Before then, we need to patch two small holes earlier in the narrative — one a scene that needs to be rewritten to match the later story; the other a small interaction that’s getting added to an existing scene — because Alyc and I share the tic of needing to feel like there aren’t any holes in the draft before we write the end.

And tomorrow we get to take off and play a fun tabletop game, because oy vey do our brains need a break.

But it’s close.

So close.

Word count: ~192,000
Authorial sadism: M— has always been a terrible person, but one of the scenes here is where all masks and gloves come off and you see just how deep that goes.
Authorial amusement: Seriously, O— is the worst. minion. ever.
BLR quotient: Blood’s on top, but really, at this point in the story, the three are all pulling in harness together.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 21

I put my cursor into the window to start typing this post, and my mental jukebox cued up “The Final Countdown.”

. . . which is pretty apt. We have three chapters left, but it doesn’t feel like it, because the avalanche has begun. Shit Went Down in this chapter, and while we have one more to go before the big confrontation, that’s all basically the overture, rather than something separate from the throwdown.

We had a nice, sensible plan for how we were going to approach that. Chapter 21 this week; Chapter 22 next week; Chapter 23 over the weekend (when neither of us have anything else scheduled and could give it two days of our unbroken attention); Ch 24 denouement the week after that, finishing up by the 26th. But, well, you’re getting this post on a Wednesday, because we finished Chapter 21 on Tuesday. And while we have something scheduled for this Saturday, Alyc declared that they could take a day off work. Like, say, Monday.

New plan, much less sensible. Chapter 21 and 22 this week; Chapter 23 Sunday-Monday; denouement next week. Done by the 19th.

We have no sense of self-preservation.

And neither do our characters, because they’re charging headfirst into danger. Allons-y!

Word count: ~182,000
Authorial sadism: Cities are easy to save. Broken hearts? Much harder to deal with. (Also, and much less seriously, making a Big Scary Character sit through a chiding, knowing that the random dude rowing the boat is listening to the whole thing.)
Authorial amusement: G— doing his not-so-subtle best to bail out of a Very Awkward Conversation. (Also, making the Big Scary Character sit through the aforementioned chiding.)
BLR quotient: It’s more or less blood from here on out.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 20

I have to admit, the strain is starting to set in. Not badly so; I’ve written books where I felt completely burned out at one or more points along the way, and I’m not that tired yet. But Alyc and I have written 174K in fifteen weeks — more than 11K per week. Closer to 12. Even for shared work, that’s a lot, and especially so when it’s sustained for such a long period of time.

Especially since I’ve been editing as I go. I’ve done this in the past with other novels — usually when I have a deadline breathing down my neck and need to make sure I’ve got a workable draft very soon after I have a draft at all — and even though revision doesn’t take it out of me the same way drafting does, I think the lack of downtime from thinking about the story starts to get to me. Writing a novel is an endurance sport to begin with, and writing + revising is even more so.

Mind you, I have only myself to blame. No egging on was required to make me sign up for the escalations of “why do only 5K a week when we could do a whole chapter?” and “why do only one chapter when we could do two?” And I don’t actually have to be revising as we go. I’m doing it because I’m so excited about this book that I’m impatient to see it out in the world, and since I can’t do anything to make the submissions process go faster, the only way I can hurry it along is to get the draft ready as soon as possible. All wounds here are self-inflicted. πŸ˜›

Fortunately, the end really is in sight. We’ve got four chapters left, but as of this post going live, we’ve already started on 21. We’ll finish that this week, give ourselves a short break, and then it’s a pretty straight run through to the finish line. We may collapse on the other side in a pile of exhaustion, but we’ll have set ourselves a new record in the process!

Word count: ~174,000
Authorial sadism: Putting G— in a conflicted position all chapter long, then making him dig his heart out and present it for someone else’s inspection before they’ll listen to him.
Authorial amusement: “Aren’t you afraid of drowning?” “Only in the metaphorical sense.”
BLR quotient: When blood and rhetoric have a baby, we call that a riot.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 19

You guys . . . can I tell you a secret?

I really like this book.

Which, y’know, ought to be a “duh” kind of thing? Except that by the time I get three-quarters of the way in on most of my novels, I usually hit a point where I’m tired of them. Like I’ve been eating the same meal for three months straight, and no matter how fond of it I was to start, the taste has really palled. But I’ve been catching up on revisions (doing a first-pass polish on earlier chapters, because the back-and-forth nature of our collaboration means both Alyc and I wind up having things we want to tweak), and . . . when you get head-down in the nitty-gritty of a scene, working through the metaphysical math for an important plot event, or trying to figure out how to make a character imply X when they’ve only got like seven percent of the available information on X and additionally have to look like they’re trying not to imply anything, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Revising earlier chapters reminds me the bigger picture is there, and additionally that it contains a lot of awesome stuff. Over here it’s political shenanigans; over there it’s bitchy fencing practice; this corner has the caper and that one has the journey into spiritual woo. We’ve got something for everybody, including all the bits of me that like different things.

And so much of it isn’t standard-issue stuff. Like — let’s see if I can do this without spoilers — for that journey into spiritual woo, the characters have an argument over who ought to be the one to go. Everybody who speaks up has a good reason, because their various agendas are colliding, and the point of view we chose for that scene lets you watch a certain character manipulate the whole thing without telling you why they’re doing it. Which is good enough all on its own . . . but then we layer in our metaphysical worldbuilding, and the character backstory that gives the lies personal depth, and the overarching plot that means the reader should be very worried about what’s going to happen as a result of this, and you wind up with a scene that feels genuinely fresh. (Even to me, and I’ve read more of my own damn work than anybody. But then: this is a collaboration.)

So I’m three-quarters of the way in and when I look back over the road behind us, I still really like it. Partly because this being so large of a book means we’ve got so many different things going on, it’s hard to get bored — but partly because I think it’s damn good.

Which is a good feeling to have, going into the endgame. And I say “endgame” in the full awareness that the home stretch of this book is literally more than half the length of an entire Lady Trent memoir; we’ve got another month’s work ahead of us before we get there, and that’s at our rather high pace of drafting. But I’m in the sort of mood where 50K feels like I can snap my fingers and it’ll be done.

Word count: ~163,000*
Authorial sadism: Bitchy fencing practice means asking on Twitter for suggestions of how somebody can be a jerk with a rapier, and getting all too many good ideas. πŸ˜€
Authorial amusement: You’re going to have to explain that again, T—, this time in words of three syllables or fewer. And then convince R— to take some little baby steps along the road to altruism.
BLR quotient: Rhetoric of several different kinds, if I take that to encompass both social politics and intellectual labor. Don’t mind that splash of blood at the end; that’s just to set up the next chapter.

* Anybody who’s comparing numbers might notice this is a big jump from the last post. It isn’t all one chapter; in addition to writing 19, we also backed up to add a scene to Chapter 6, and I finally remembered to include the prologue we wrote a while ago in the wordcount total. Between that and revisions done to flesh out scenes we’d been short-changing in our quest to stay under 200K, there’s a lot of growth that isn’t part of the new chapter.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 18

As I mentioned last week, we’ve slowed down a bit — partly for life reasons, partly because this turned out to be the World’s Longest Chapter despite us relocating one of its major scenes to the next one in line. But with this chapter we’re officially three-quarters of the way through the book, and although rationally I know that what remains is, y’know, a quarter of the book, it really does feel like we’re about a sneeze away from being done.

I did have to sacrifice a bit of structural prettiness recently. We’d originally aimed to have the book divide neatly into quarters, with certain beats being hit at the conclusion of each part, and the end of part three would have mirrored the end of part one in a kind of nifty way. But the actual rhythm of the story needs to take priority over structural prettiness, and so that moment’s been pushed back one chapter, unbalancing the quarters. I spent a couple of minutes side-eyeing the spreadsheet where we track our chapters, wondering if I could talk myself into believing it makes sense to turn Chapter 13 into some kind of “interlude” thing to rebalance the numbering; then we’d resolve a certain plotline at the end of what would become Chapter 15 (it’s currently 16) and put everything back on track to have things break into three- and six-chapter chunks. Except that if we did that we’d have to come up with an additional chapter to fill out the final quarter, so uhhh, no, that doesn’t make sense, and I need to just let go of the tidy structure I had in mind.

Apparently this is what happens to me when I actually outline a book: my OCD tendency starts to rear its head. πŸ˜›

Speaking of letting go of things . . . yeah, so, um. That 200K target? That’s not so much a thing anymore. As I put it to Alyc, what used to feel like the authorial equivalent of “I’m going to aim to eat a healthy diet” has recently turned into counting calories, in a way neither of us was happy with. I’ve found myself skimping on description or characters’ reactions to things because I’m trying to keep the chapters within a certain range, and that’s not good for the book. So even though there is some practical merit in staying below 200K — think of it like pricing something at $9.99, because it sounds like much less than $10 — there’s much more merit in giving our scenes the room they need to breathe, so the story winds up feeling rich instead of stripped to the bone.

I don’t think we’ll wind up ballooning absurdly past that goal. But then again, I also originally thought this book was going to be a hundred and fifty thousand words long, so what do I know?

Anyway. This chapter contains a scene that is, in a sense, where the whole idea for the book began, so it was very satisfying to get that down on the page. Caper as both apology and flirtation! It’s how these characters roll.

Word count: ~148,000
Authorial sadism: So there’s this divinatory card deck that plays a role in the story, and instead of engineering layouts to suit our needs, we’ve actually been laying out the cards and writing what we get. This time the deck got SUPER HELPFUL and answered R—‘s question so clearly it would have blown one part of our plot completely out of the water. Our solution to this problem was . . . interesting. And a little painful. >_>
Authorial amusement: The aforementioned caper/apology/flirtation. Not just because flirtation amuses us, but because on my list of narrative kinks is the moment where someone who expects to be hurt instead receives a touch of kindness.
BLR quotient: Another complicated chapter. Despite the flirtation, I think rhetoric wins out in the end; there’s a lot of investigation here, and pinpointing the problem if not yet the solution.