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Posts Tagged ‘R&R’

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 10

Through heroic effort, we got this one done before Worldcon.

One of the interesting things about our method of collaborating is, it’s making me much more aware of my own writing process. For example, it isn’t uncommon for me to drop in a detail or a bit of exposition, write onward, realize it would fit in much better three paragraphs later, and move it. But when that detail or exposition is something Alyc wrote, I’m much more self-conscious about relocating it. Or what I used to not think about at all, and now think about enough that I’ve borrowed the poetic term “enjambment” for it: not always having a paragraph break when the narrative focus shifts between characters, but sometimes having Character A’s thought or reaction at the start of a graf and then shift to B’s response for the rest. Because we are each more or less taking on certain characters in any given scene, there’s a tendency for us to always paragraph break when we hand it off, so now I’m watching for that and looking for ways to smooth it out with occasional enjambment. Which is a thing I do normally — but now it’s conscious, rather than reflex.

In other news, we — and by “we” I mostly mean “Alyc” — have now figured out the astrological system built out of the numerical magic system, and have fallen down the rabbit hole of calculating the charts for the various major characters. With the added complication that one of them is lying about their age and when they were born, so then we needed to figure out what that chart looks like and how to make the discrepancy narratively interesting. We managed to massively confuse ourselves for a while, but it turns out this exists, which is AWESOME — we were able to program it to the calendar we’ve made up, complete with 20-hour clock and two separate lunar cycles. So that has made our lives infinitely easier, and means we can be consistent to a degree no reader will ever notice anyway, i.e. if our protagonist R— was born on the equivalent of a Saturday, then the novel begins on the equivalent of a Wednesday. (These things matter, when you start assigning metaphysical significance to them in the narrative.)

Word count: ~81,000
Authorial sadism: One of the characters just sold another out. Complete with lots of rationalizations for how it isn’t really selling them out . . .
Authorial amusement: All the horoscope stuff. And some fun banter between two characters whose previous meeting was kind of fraught. And my god, some of the shipfic for this story writes itself.
BLR quotient: Rhetoric wins the crown this week, with a whole lot of manipulation and political horse-trading going on.

Sekrit Projekt R&R: Chapter 9

Last week was stupidly productive: we wrote most of Chapter 8 and all of Chapter 9. And they weren’t short, either. But it may be a while before I report in on Chapter 10, because Worldcon is going to eat a lot of this week.

Chapter 9 is in some ways an exemplar of the book, I think. Much of it is taken up with politics of the social variety: not the formal, “let’s negotiate a treaty” kind of work, but rather the ways in which things like being fashionable can translate into attention and therefore into connections and therefore into power. The ability to get something done politically in exchange for talking the right person into publicly having tea with a social outcast, thus tacitly granting that outcast readmission to polite society. Offers of marriage as a strongarm tactic. Etc.

But it isn’t all social politics. Some of it is also a duel with bonus trash-talking. Or breaking into a house while disguised as a servant. Or flirting. Because we’re us, and we enjoy those sorts of things, too.

Word count: ~73,000
Authorial sadism: Some sick burns in that trash-talking. And some actual burns later on — evidence came out regarding a certain fire. But I might give the nod to the thing I didn’t see coming, which was Alyc realizing that, logically, what we had set up would mean a certain character unexpectedly caught sight of their mother.
Authorial amusement: We’ve been waiting seventy thousand words to stick those characters in a very small closet together. 😀 Honorable mention, though, to the formal debut of the World’s Gaudiest Spider.
BLR quotient: Despite all the political maneuvering, and the duel, and that evidence about the fire, I give the award to love. Because of hiding in that closet . . . and because this is the moment you see the whole T— family pull together.

Sekrit Projekt R&R: Chapter 8

We’re more than sixty thousand words into the book. I commented to Alyc that by this stage I’ve usually had some days where I’m all, “ugh, I don’t want to write; the story is so boring” — non-writers think the job must be fun every day, but the truth is that it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a slog, even though the story turns out well. But here? I have yet to have a day like that. There’s been a few where getting started was hard or things didn’t feel entirely lively, but none where forward progress felt like pulling teeth. And we’re excited enough for the next several chapters that it’s unlikely to come any time soon.

Mind you, that effect normally hits somewhere after the halfway point in the book. Since this one might be as much as 200K, maybe we just haven’t gotten far enough in to reach the slog stretch. Alternatively, normally it takes me about two months to get this far — not less than a month and a half — so maybe in a few weeks the momentum will start to flag. I’m trying to bear in mind that we may hit some periods where the work feels a lot harder, and that’s okay; it happens with every book, and doesn’t mean there’s a serious problem here.

So far, though, there’s no problem at all. We’re working at well over the (conservative) pace we set for ourselves, and if it weren’t for Worldcon in the way, it would look like full steam ahead for the next several weeks.

Word count: ~64000
Authorial sadism: It’s never a good sign when you coordinate the next scene by saying “you remember what it looked like on Supernatural when [spoiler] happened?” (My sister has been reading each chapter as we finish them. We apologized to her ahead of time for that scene.)
Authorial amusement: We saw an opportunity to get G— with his shirt off, and took it. 😀
BLR quotient: Well, we killed one character, accused another of child slavery, set somebody up for heartbreak, and started dropping hints of oncoming disaster. I think this one gets filed under “blood.” (Shirtlessness and intermittent flirting notwithstanding.)

New Worlds: Religious Sites

This week the New Worlds Patreon doesn’t just have an essay for you — though there’s that, too, on religious sites — but some news as well!

As those of you who follow this blog know, I’m working on a collaborative novel with Alyc Helms. Since it’s a secondary-world fantasy and we’re both anthropologists, we are eyeball-deep in worldbuilding and swimming ever deeper . . . and with Alyc’s permission, I’m going to be reporting on that process to my New Worlds patrons. Everyone at the $10 level and above receives a bonus essay each month, and for a while to come those are going to be focused on different aspects of the setting we’re creating for Sekrit Projekt R&R. So if you’d like a front-row seat to how I do this stuff — not after-the-fact musings but a look right down into the guts of how we’re creating the clothing and religion and geography and monetary systems of our world — this is your chance. Become a patron, and get a behind-the-scenes peek at what I’m cryptically alluding to in the progress reports!

Sekrit Projekt R&R: Chapter 7

This was a fiddly chapter. Since the previous one was a bit of a pivot point, here we’re dealing with the fallout from the events there, and setting things up to lead toward the middle of the book. There’s a lot of information-wrangling going on, and a lot of us trying not to trip over our own feet in our cleverness, because of course we need to drop clues without letting the reader know they’re clues, and make sure certain scenes can be read in (intentionally) erroneous ways — which means continually going, “wait, what do the characters in this scene actually know, and how can we get them to behave in the ways we want while still having it be logical and in-character.”

This is also the point at which — at least for me — it starts to sink in that we’re writing a book. Noveling, I have often said, is an endurance sport: you work your butt off for weeks on end, and you’re nowhere near the end. That’s especially true here, since this bidding fair to be the longest thing I’ve ever written (though Alyc has written longer). I’m mentally cinching the straps on my backpack tighter and tugging my socks straight, because we’ve got miles to go before we’re done.

Word count: ~56000
Authorial sadism: Twisting the knife in a wound of grief. Also making a character who is terrible at lying fish for information — and the lie she gets in response is going to come back and bite the other character on the ass later.
Authorial amusement: New category! But with the number of things Alyc and I toss into the story for our own entertainment, it really deserves its own call-out. Sadly we had to cut an excellent line of Alyc’s because it would, for the right kind of reader, have been a giant neon arrow pointing at what we’re really up to — but that scene in general is far too much fun, with lots of social dancing and awkwardness and our protagonist R— trying to figure out just how many things she needs to be worried about right now. (Answer: more than even her paranoia realizes.)
BLR quotient: Well, we did dislocate a character’s shoulder. But I’d say mostly love, as there’s lots of creation of and leaning on social bonds. Don’t worry — we’ll have some blood for you next chapter.

Sekrit Projekt R&R: Chapter 6

Alyc and I have been writing one chapter a week because we don’t want to outrun our ability to plan the scenes ahead. After finishing Chapter 5 we had only one more mapped out, so we got together Wednesday night . . . and proceeded to outline the entire second quarter of the book.

You have no idea how weird this is for me. I don’t do outlines. Except when forced to.

It wasn’t forced here — just a matter of us knowing what’s going to happen at the midpoint of the book, then retracing our steps from there to figure out how to organize the things we want to have happen into coherent chapters, then filling in the gaps, and next thing we knew we’d accidentally committed outline. And then we looked at each other and said, “well, is there any reason not to . . . ?”

There was no reason not to. Thursday and Friday we wrote Chapter 6, and this post is only delayed because I mostly don’t blog on the weekends. 😛 We wrote almost 15K last week.

We are now officially a quarter of the way through the book, at least according to our general sense of narrative timing. I’m hoping it’s at least a quarter of the way through what will end up as our final wordcount, because we are trying really hard to keep this under 200K. Our original target was 150K, but we were three chapters in when we realized that was just not. going. to. happen. Epic fantasy doesn’t incline toward fat books just because the writers are inefficient (though sometimes that happens); the books are fat because establishing lots of characters and a rich setting and a complex plot requires a lot of words.

So. Many. Words.

Onward to Chapter 7!

Word count: ~48000
Authorial sadism: My header/summary for Chapter 6 is “In which we give poor D— mental whiplash, jerking her around without so much as a by-your-leave.”
LBR quotient: It was going to be rhetoric, as this is the point at which the dance of lies and manipulation that launched in the first scene of the book transitions to a new stage. But then we realized this chapter needed another scene, and wound up writing a fencing lesson that’s more flirting than swordplay, so love decided to make a bold challenge for the crown.

Sekrit Projekt R&R: Chapter Five

Last weekend Alyc and I wound up talking about how — despite the fact that our main characters all have traumatic pasts, will be more traumatized by the events of the story, and live in a city where horrible things happen on a routine basis — this story is anti-grimdark.

I don’t just mean that it doesn’t belong to that subgenre. I mean that its arc goes in exactly the opposite direction. I think of grimdark as being “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Characters surrender their ideals; those who don’t often die for clinging to them. They lose what is most precious to them. Many of them don’t survive events, and those that do come out scarred, their victories pyrrhic at best. Pragmatism rules the day.

This is the opposite of that. Our characters start off not trusting anybody except themselves and maybe one or two other chosen people; by the end they will have learned to build alliances and be stronger together. Half of them can’t sneeze without telling a lie; they will slowly let go of their deceptions and allow the world to see their true faces. They’re used to putting their own survival above everything else, but over time they will find things they’re willing to risk their lives for.

It isn’t quite the same thing as a redemption story. We agreed that our characters aren’t trying to atone for the harm they’ve done, making restitution and earning forgiveness. They’re just going to become better, happier people: more open, more relaxed, more trusting and more trustworthy. Their trauma, both backstory and in-story, will heal enough for them to not think about it every day.

The path there won’t be all unicorns and sunshine, but the place it winds up will be bright.

Word count: ~41000
Authorial sadism: You would think that “this beloved person is not actually dead” would be be a wonderful thing. But when the near-death was your fault, apologizing for that gets awkward. (Bonus sadism, Tables Turned Edition: Alyc and I are now far enough into the story that we’re having trouble keeping track of all the layers of deception and misdirection. Somewhere our characters are saying, “You brought this on yourselves.”)
LBR quotient: Love, hands down. Because in the end, “this beloved person is not actually dead” is a wonderful thing, even if apologizing is awkward.



At the request of Alyc and others, here is what I probably would have posted for the first two chapters if I’d been progress-blogging then. 🙂


Word count: ~8000
Authorial sadism: Making our protagonist drink coffee. And pretend to like it.
LBR quotient: Wall-to-wall rhetoric, more or less; it’s all politics and manipulation up in here.


Word count: ~17000
Authorial sadism: Coming up with what A Certain Jerk did to earn himself some vigilante attention in the following chapter. Also, making one character the very unwilling audience to two others flirting.
LBR quotient: Rhetoric and blood, as the manipulation starts to get weaponized. Nothing like publicly embarrassing your mark into doing what you need them to do . . .

Sekrit Projekt R&R: Chapter 4

It’s interesting to see how different the workload feels when collaborating like this with someone else. I imagine that varies widely depending on how you approach it; Alyc and I are trading off as we go through the scene, usually with one of us writing the viewpoint character and the other handling the NVPs (non-viewpoint characters; it’s our new term), and some amount of swapping about on the narration. The result is that momentum carries me surprisingly far: not only are we producing more each week than I generally aim for in a week of working solo — which makes sense when you figure that each of us is writing roughly half of it — but we’re doing it in about three days instead of seven, and it doesn’t even feel that hard. The only reason we’re not going even faster is that we need to stop and work out details of worldbuilding and plot structure before we charge ahead. It is possible that our pace will become terrifying when we have more of that in place. 😛

(Or we’ll just find more things to worldbuild. Let’s not kid ourselves: it’s me and Alyc. That’s how we roll.)

Word count: ~33000
Authorial sadism: . . . would you believe, I’m not sure there is any? Some awkward moments, but we fed hot chocolate to our protagonist and gave a beloved family heirloom back to another character. We were nice this week.
LBR quotient: Lots of rhetoric, as we start getting into the politics of the city. But also love, since this chapter was all about the characters working on setting up various alliances. Mind you, those alliances are half-built on lies and the warmest they get right now is enlightened self-interest — but you take what you can get.

R&R, Chapter Three

I used to blog my progress through writing novel drafts, back when it was the Onyx Court books. Fell out of it with the Memoirs, and I’m not sure why. But I was remembering that I used to log three things with each post: the current word count, Authorial Sadism, and the LBR quota, i.e. “love, blood, and rhetoric.” Since Alyc and I announced Sekrit Projekt R&R yesterday, and moreover it is very much an LBR kind of book, I think I’ll take another crack at progress-blogging!

Current word count: ~26000
LBR quota: With our first fight scene and our first dead body (not, as it happens, produced by the fight scene), you would think blood would win out this week. But I think that in hindsight this chapter will be more memorable for love, non-obvious though it is. 🙂
Authorial sadism: Somebody got what was coming to him, but that’s more just desserts than sadism. I’m going to award this week’s laurel to a different character really regretting their choice of priorities. And also “I can’t sleep” being a line worthy of your creepier class of Doctor Who episodes.

Next week is likely to be a whole lotta rhetoric, as that’s the category I used to put politics into during the Onyx Court days. But also some love, again more visible in hindsight than fore.

Announcing . . . a Sekrit Projekt

Lately I’ve felt like a duck: serenely gliding along the water, but furiously paddling beneath. Lots of things in progress and/or hanging fire; not much I can talk about publicly. But after some discussion with the other party involved in one of those things, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should flip over and show you what my feet are doing. Or something. Pretend I came up with a metaphor that doesn’t involve drowning a duck.

This video is not what I’m doing. It is merely to set the mood:

Now imagine that feeling, in epic fantasy novel form, written as a collaboration with Alyc Helms, aka my best writing buddy for the last eighteen years. When I get stuck with my plot, Alyc is the person I throw the manuscript at wailing “helllllp meeeeeee,” because they think like I do when it comes to story.

And, well. Do that for long enough, and you start thinking, “Why don’t we try to write something together?”

So we’re giving it a shot. We’ve managed to write over 25000 words in less than three weeks, so I’d say we’re off to a good start. It’s got love, blood, and rhetoric, more false-identity hijinks than you can shake a stick at, all the worldbuilding you would expect when two anthropologists decide to write a novel together, and all the character shipping potential you would expect when Alyc gets involved. 😀 We have made no attempt to sell it anywhere yet because we agreed it would be good to make certain that writing a novel together is a thing we can do before we contractually obligate ourselves to deliver a manuscript.

It is code-named R&R. That does not stand for Rest and Relaxation, but in some ways it might; there’s a certain “wheeeeee!!!” feeling in writing something on spec, because we’re too excited by the story not to give it a go.

Expect more posts and tweets about this as time passes, because there are so many cool things we’re putting in here, I want to be able to talk about some of them. In the meanwhile, wish us luck!