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Posts Tagged ‘progress blogging’

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 4

Marie Brennan

For various reasons the first part of this book (which will be divided into three overall) has something of an alternating structure: one chapter of exciting! spectacle! followed by one that spends more time on quieter character moments. So, having had our caper last time, this time we get the character stuff. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course.)

It’s a bit of a grab bag, actually, which is unavoidable at times. Though we like our chapters to have a distinct identity — not just “this is what happens in words 19,000 through 25,000 of the book,” there’s going to be material which isn’t an entire chapter in its own right. Here we’re doing some more detailed work on furthering Problem A while hinting at Problem B, advancing Plot T while deepening relationships X and Y, and also making it clear that neither we nor the characters have forgotten about that unresolved thing over there; it’s just that their efforts to resolve it have not yet reached a point where they would be interesting to show on the page.

Chapters like this are the ones where it becomes the most important to pay attention to the idea of scenes needing to serve more than a single purpose. If we don’t find ways to pack these things like bags of holding, not only would the books be unmanageably long, but the threads of the narrative would get so stretched out that when they finally show up again, the reader’s reaction would be “oh, right, that thing.”

. . . and sometimes, one of the purposes that needs to be served is the authors entertaining themselves. I mean, if we can’t port in some form of the “dancing on a rooftop” thing we wrote for the game, then what are we even doing here?

Word count: ~25,000
Authorial sadism: Somebody got fired from their job, and that somebody is doing their very best to hide how much it upsets them. (Their very best is not quite good enough.)
Authorial amusement: Apart from the rooftop dancing? Getting caught out in your ignorance because you’re browsing wrong-handed swords.
BLR quotient: Love definitely wins the race this time. Lots of people working together to solve problems, even if those problems aren’t going to be solved any time soon. And even if some of them can’t quite admit what problem is there.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 3

Marie Brennan

In which, as is traditional, we get our caper on again!

I guess that’s a minor spoiler, but really only in structural terms — we do have a habit of putting some swashbuckling action into Chapter 3 of each of these books, a la the Lacewater duel in The Mask of Mirrors. This particular one features a plan going very wrong and then a plan to fix that being not through at all well enough, though in fairness to the person who failed to do the thinking, the outcome was still probably better than if they hadn’t done anything at all.

It also features an amusing little callout to the game that lies behind these novels. The whole series takes place in Nadežra, so we can’t do the “fish out of water” absurdity of Game!Ren being dragged out into the wilderness and having to learn about The Naturez . . . but I can and did put her near a cow, which is more or less an alien creature to her, and far too large for comfort. When you have a character who’s highly skilled in their chosen field, of course the fun thing to do is make them deal with something totally outside that field — a realization I had as early as my second published novel, when I made my accomplished ninja protagonist ride herd on a bunch of adolescent girls. 😀

True to form, this chapter was done somewhat out of order, including both its final scene being written when we were a couple of chapters further along and something significant being added to one of the existing scenes. (It took an embarrassingly long time for me to notice that, uh, maybe somebody who’s vital to a future plan ought to be told about it . . .?) Also some pov stumbles: we managed to sail right past the point at which we were supposed to shift to a different viewpoint, then realized that actually, there wasn’t as much meat as we thought on the first one, so we wound up having to redo all of it in R–‘s perspective. So basically, par for the course these days.

Word count: ~19,000
Authorial sadism: The cow is the least of it. We need to remember to give someone nightmares over the consequences of that insufficiently-planned plan.
Authorial amusement: Using the weapon of the enemy. Also, yes, we have totally made a running motif of the coat thing.
BLR quotient: The rhetoric got very bloody all of sudden.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 2

Marie Brennan

Retroactive progress-blogging continues! I’m glad that a number of you spoke up in the comments to various versions of the previous post to say that you enjoy these things; it helps me feel that it’s worth the contortions to say interesting things without giving spoilers.

Though having looked back at my posts for The Liar’s Knot . . . wow, heh. Should any of you try to slug those against the book itself come December, be aware that if you’re scratching your head and thinking, “I can’t figure out what this is referring to,” that’s probably because what it’s referring to isn’t there anymore. We changed a lot in that book, both in the course of drafting it (e.g. me saying “everything in this chapter focuses on Vargo!” and then later we replaced a scene with one that has nothing to do with him) and during revisions. Other scenes are still in the book . . . but in a different chapter now, oops, good luck tracking that down. When I talk about getting pov in for a character who hasn’t had it in a while, and then the only pov characters in that chapter are ones you see all the time? We rewrote a scene to be from Ren’s viewpoint, because the plot thing that scene was originally doing got beefed up enough in revisions for The Mask of Mirrors that it made what we’d written pointless, so we had to change it to focus on something else more Ren-centric. I make extensive coded references in the posts for Parts IV and V to a narrative strand we kept having to re-wrangle — but because said references are coded, you can’t actually tell that we ripped that entire strand out of the back half of The Liar’s Knot and replaced it with a completely different one. (Though there’s one bit where I talk about how we do something horrible to a character at the end of a chapter, and that’s still true! It’s just, uh, a different horrible thing to a different character.)

I can hope that the same won’t be true with my posts for this book, but I’m not holding my breath. If I’d posted about Chapter 2 as we were writing it, I might have referenced a conversation with C– that leads to a moment we really love with F–. But the conversation with C– isn’t here anymore: we realized that wasn’t as high priority as something else, so we rewrote the back half of that scene to do the more important thing instead. Then we were having trouble with the following scene, until we realized it would be better in a different viewpoint — the same viewpoint as the previous scene, hmmm, do we really want to have two of those back to back? — hang on, given that we pulled the conversation with C– out, is that scene even very useful anymore, especially with the exposition there clunking so hard? Scrap that scene, put the weight it’s pulling into the scene we were having trouble with and do it in that better viewpoint, re-use the opening premise of the scrapped scene in Ch. 4 with a different character showing up, move the C– conversation to Ch. 5, and the later fallout with F– will be in Ch. 7.

Oof.

(Oh, and also: we slotted an additional scene into this chapter as a quick break while writing Ch. 6. Linearity, what’s that?)

I swear, if we do write another book in this setting, it’s gonna be less intrigue-y. And also shorter. So we don’t have to play quite so much of a game of Twister, trying to n-dimensionally pack everything we want to do in the space allotted.

Word count: ~12,000
Authorial sadism: I feel like the sadism was on ourselves with all those changes of plan, but since that’s not what this part of the report is for, let’s go with someone having fun being a bit of a dick to somebody who deserves it.
Authorial amusement: “Would you like to see my collection of Seterin crossroads idols?” (Which are basically herms, not that we come out and say it.)
BLR quotient: I think love wins out, given the number of people we have working together here in various combinations — including scheming behind the back of someone you loathe to save them from the consequences of their situation.

Revenge of the Return of the Rook and Rose Progress-Blogging

Marie Brennan

Up until now, I haven’t been blogging the progress Alyc and I are making through the draft of the third Rook and Rose book. It gets harder to do this sort of thing the further you get into a series; what I can say about the story is always constrained, of course, because I don’t want to give wild spoilers, but it gets even more so with subsequent books. When I progress-blogged what became The Mask of Mirrors, I could talk about R– and D– and so forth without any of y’all knowing who I meant. Now, even giving an initial means I am at a minimum spoiling that said character is still alive and in the story (since in most cases you’d be able to guess who the letter refers to; we have very little overlap in our central cast), and because you know them all now, you can also read more into even hints of their activity. Assuming, of course, that you’ve read the first book, which not everybody has — so spoilers might be not only for The Liar’s Knot (out in December!) but for The Mask of Mirrors, too.

But . . . we both enjoy the progress-blogging. Maybe some of you do, too; who knows about that; but it turns out that me reporting on the story is part of what helps us feel like it’s a Real Book that will Really Be Out Someday, rather than a chimera that exists only in our heads. And as we go three rounds on the wrestling mat with the many-tentacled kraken of our plot, it turns out we crave that marking of the milestones.

So I’m going to be backtracking to report on our progress with earlier chapters, before catching up to where we are now! Doing it retroactively is a little odd, but then again, it’s very nearly the only sensible way to do it, as we’ve been much less linear this time around. One conversation got kicked to like three different places in the draft before it found its (probably) Forever Home; other chapters have seen us skip over a scene before backtracking to write it. (The bit where we started writing Chapter 8 before touching Chapter 7 is entirely on me and my inability to remember what order our plot is going in. As God is my witness, I thought that bit came next.) Once I catch up to where we are in the draft, hopefully we’ll have settled down into less back-and-forth; if not, well, blogging might be more sporadic as I wait for us to really truly finish a chapter and not relocate bits of it elsewhere.

So, Chapter One! Which didn’t get rearranged, but did get a significant revision post-drafting on account of us realizing that a) we’d skipped past some stuff we really needed and b) we’d missed the mark a bit tonally with a new character. This is also a short chapter for us — this book will have more chapters overall, so they each need to be somewhat shorter, and this one is much shorter because there really wasn’t structural room to add anything else. That’s fine; it buys us leeway to have some later chapters be longer.

For those who are new to the progress-blogging or have forgotten what the standard report at the bottom means, “authorial sadism” is our favorite bit of meanness to the characters, “authorial amusement” is our favorite bit that’s mostly about entertaining ourselves (always in service to the story, of course) (okay, usually), and “BLR quotient” measures the relative balance of blood, love, and rhetoric, where blood = conflict and literal violence, love = positive interpersonal relationships, and rhetoric = conceptual stuff and also politics, not that the last one there isn’t also sometimes blood.

Word count: 5300
Authorial sadism: A particular chicken coming home to roost, at long last.
Authorial amusement: CHICKEN CUP!!! (An in-joke nobody else will see, as no such thing actually gets mentioned in the text.) Also “now I know why embroidery is outlawed in Ganllech,” though that may or may not stay.
BLR quotient: The rhetoric very much has some blood on its claws today.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 25 – FINIT

Marie Brennan

We are done!

With some twists we didn’t quite expect, all the way up to the very end. (Well, some of them were twists we knew would happen eventually; we just figured that would be third-book stuff.) It is always a good sign when we make ourselves bust out laughing — even if sometimes we’re laughing at what we’re putting our poor, long-suffering characters through.

And now? We flop.

Word count: 198,268
Authorial sadism: There were consequences to that trick.
Authorial amusement: Does somebody have a sweetheart?
BLR quotient: This is the middle book of a trilogy, so it ends on a darker note than before. Rhetoric is staging a defensive action against blood, but some slips through the cracks anyway. Love will hold the line, though.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 24

Marie Brennan

One! Chapter! Left!

True to previously-established form, we wrote this one in a single day — though it was a bit less heavy lifting this time, because the chapter wound up running short. By which I mean it’s just under 6K, and will probably tip over that line once we add in some more detail we rushed past in our initial race to get to the exciting bits. I recognize that this is not a “short” chapter by most people’s standards, but ours are mostly in the 7500-8500 range, so this is noticeably below.

Which is fine. The thrilling climax would not be made more thrilling by the addition of padding. And since we’ve spent this whole book trying to make sure things don’t balloon up above the range we’re supposed to keep to, this just means we’ve bought ourselves more breathing room to add in all the descriptive stuff we’ve been short-changing throughout (not on purpose, just mostly because it’s a sequel and we forget we need to re-establish things).

So all that’s left is the denouement. And a couple of earlier bits we need to polish up, so we can truly feel like we’ve got a finished draft when it’s done.

Word count: ~190,000
Authorial sadism: A chance to solve a problem forever . . .
Authorial amusement: A fistful of charms, and someone being puzzled by their own hesitation.
BLR quotient: Oh so much blood. But not nearly as much as there could have been, if the characters were just a little harder-hearted.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 23

Marie Brennan

So close to the end!

The progress blog I didn’t post because we wound up utterly reworking our plans for what lay ahead talked about the idea of playing with both repetition and change over the course of a series: doing the same thing again in order to leverage the echo, tracing a different path through the same beat, or shaking things up completely. That’s coming back a bit here, because the climax of the first book and the climax of the second have a certain element in common — so how can we keep it from feeling stale?

Part of the answer is to change the on-ramp. The Mask of Mirrors goes careening into its climactic bit with only a brief lull between a Big Thing and the grand finale; this one takes a slower and more deliberate approach. The characters see what lies ahead rather than running face-first into it, and that means they have time to plan (which is what they’re doing in this chapter). Of course their plans won’t go off like they intend — it would be boring if they did — but the time has come for them to be less reactive, more proactive. And that will also set us up nicely for whatever it is we do at the end of the third book. The specifics of which are very much TBD, of course, but we know the gist of it, and I think it will make for a nice third variant on the pattern.

Heh, pattern. Which is a kind of important thing in this setting.

Two chapters to go!

Word count: ~184,000
Authorial sadism: Not everybody made that promise.
Authorial amusement: Cavalry to the . . . rescue?
BLR quotient: I think rhetoric, since a whole lot of this hinges on doing some metaphysical math.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 22

Marie Brennan

As I mentioned before, Chapter 22 was almost done by the time I reported on 21, so here, have another one!

This is basically our last bit of fun, in the sense of having some scenes where our characters get to deal with smaller problems in a more lighthearted way. In fact, what we originally conceived of as being some kind of caper wound up instead being two characters literally toasting each other with wine glasses while they watch a small farce play out: we could have made it something more involved and energetic, but the ironic effect of dialing it back makes for a fun change of pace.

With all the rearrangement and changes of plan we’ve done, this chapter also wound up having a plot beat that was originally in Chapter 18, now stripped of half the characters who used to be there, moved to a new location, and simplified. As much as it sucks to scrap two thousand words and replace them, I think this version is much better — even if I spent way too much time thinking about methods of execution only to have the scene not even reference that aspect. Oh well, waste not, want not; maybe in the third book we’ll have some reason to refer to the idea I came up with, which is horrifically gory and also culturally appropriate.

Or, y’know, in a future series. Because yes, we’re already tossing ideas around for doing more in this setting, if we get the chance. We’ve spent so much time building up a rich world for this story to take place in; it would be downright thrifty of us to re-use it for another plot.

Word count: ~176,000
Authorial sadism: It’s a surprisingly non-sadistic chapter! I guess we pummeled our characters’ hearts so much last chapter, they needed a quick breather.
Authorial amusement: Too many to count. The wine glasses, the reaction to a name, someone putting her foot down, a gibbering fanboy moment, “go ahead and finish your breakfast.”
BLR quotient: Rhetoric makes a strong comeback.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 21

Marie Brennan

I’ve been so busy writing, I’ve forgotten to report!

We’re in the home stretch now, the fifth part of a five-part book. It would feel more like the home stretch if we didn’t keep retooling our plans; the Chapter 21 we wrote is neither the original Chapter 21 we had planned, nor quite the Chapter 21 we replaced the original plan with (though the second redesign was more about changing the sequence of stuff so that its context was different, rather than swapping it out wholesale). We’ve got so many threads we’re trying to pull together now, and we have to balance the demands of exposition against emotional weight and still try to have some kind of action going on.

But that’s my thoughts being colored a bit by the fact that we’re almost done with Chapter 22 and have actually started 23 (because linearity, what is that?). 21 is really more of the feelingz wrecking ball hitting the characters from several directions at once, not all of thos good. They finally know, in full surround-sound smell-o-vision technicolor glory, just how much danger they’re in. And they’re not getting out of the woods this book; following the grand tradition of sonata structure, this movement is the one in a minor key. Final resolution will have to wait for the next volume.

Word count: ~168,000 (we also added in the earlier scenes we needed)
Authorial sadism: The worst thing is when you start to doubt your own mind.
Authorial amusement: Look, you can’t set up a character to be afraid of X and NOT inflict X on them eventually.
BLR quotient: What if the love is actually just more blood?

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 20

Marie Brennan

THIS &#$#@$%! BOOK

I say that with love. 🙂 But I had a progress report all written up on Tuesday night, ready to post the next day . . . and then I woke up on Wednesday to a slew of emails from Alyc, the bulk of which boiled down to “I think we should throw out most of the plot we have planned for the last fifth of the book.” You know, the stuff we spent Monday outlining with multicolored index cards all over the floor.

They had good reasons. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be posting this progress report instead, the one that starts with the keysmash profanity. The plot we had in mind isn’t a bad one — but it’s one that would benefit much more from being delayed to book three, where it would have stronger logic backing it and a lot more room to breathe. And by chucking it, we bought ourselves room to do some other things in its place. But it meant that instead of waking up, posting my report, and getting started on Chapter 21, I got in the car and drove to Alyc’s place to do the outlining thing all over again. (Side note: I promise we are both taking pandemic precautions as we should, but for several reasons Alyc has essentially been counted as a member of my household for quarantine purposes. That’s why we were sitting on the same futon for the unboxing video for The Mask of Mirrors, why we’ve been getting together in person for book planning, etc.)

That work barely affected this chapter at all — we just had to cut the very brief ending scene that existed to launch the plot we scrapped, and we may alter the sequencing of the remaining ones. But the things I had written for my old progress report were all about us figuring out how to ring the changes on certain conflicts, keeping them from having too much the same shape as the things we did in the first book. Instead we’ve decided to go a different direction entirely — which is another reason why this shift of plans is a good one. I think one of the cool things a series can do is revisit core conflicts or themes from new angles, so it wasn’t inherently bad that there were similarities, but we like this version much better.

However. It isn’t just a matter of snipping out that one scene and proceeding into the new map. This change means that the narrative strand which was going to have its big climactic thing in part five just lost that; it needs a new climax. Which means taking the thing we did in Chapter 18 (where it honestly felt too cramped anyway) and pushing it back to 22, now in new! improved! form!, then figuring out new things to do in 18, and changing the fallout that it had in 19. And those other things we now have room to do? As I said in the last post, we’d already marked a few places where we felt like we needed to go back and add scenes; well, the things we want to do rest on the foundations of those unwritten scenes. So instead of starting Ch. 21 this week, we’re taking a few days to make some revisions and backfill some new material.

It’s all good stuff. Which is why, even though one of Alyc’s emails started with “Don’t kill me, but…,” my reaction was “yeah, we should probably do that.” But still. This &#$#@$%! book.

Word count: ~158,000
Authorial sadism: Someone’s worst nightmare come true.
Authorial amusement: She doesn’t have a first name. (Er, not that other character over there, whose lack of a first name is not amusing at all.)
BLR quotient: Since we snipped out that one scene, I’ll give it to love. Even if some of that love is really twisted and in need of help.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.