Posts Tagged ‘progress blogging’

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 7

Marie Brennan

My sister, speaking of the non-linearity of how we’re writing the third volume of this trilogy, dubbed it “an entire book of Chapter 14s,” in the sense that by the time we’re done, everything in it will probably have been part of Chapter 14 at some point or another. I wound up correcting that to “an entire book of Chapter 7s.” Here we have a scene we initially skipped over and back-tracked to write, a conversation that was originally in Chapter 2, a scene we decided to retrofit in when we were in the middle of drafting Chapter 9, a scene that was originally in Chapter 8 before being moved forward, and oh yeah there’s the fact that I got turned around and had us writing Chapter 8 before we even started this one, because I forgot what order things went in.

>_<

But hey, it’s finally in a complete enough state that I feel like I can report about it! (Well, it was that way several days ago, but I didn’t get around to posting until now.) This chapter has a lovely bit of spectacle, but the various adjustments means it also has some important politicking before we get to the spectacle. Revisions mean it now also also has a minor character who’s been a constant, low-grade irritant from the start of the series, getting the first of two comeuppances that are coming to them. It also also also has a moment that caused my sister, our alpha reader, to cry “portage feels!,” which I suspect is a phrase that has never before been used in the history of the world. 😀

I have given up on pretending that the non-linearity will stop. It just seems to be how this book is going to go.

Word count: ~46,000
Authorial sadism: Someone shared only half of what they know. The rest will come out eventually, but right now, that someone wants their listener to suffer.
Authorial amusement: The aforementioned comeuppance. It’s really quite shamelessly delivered.
BLR quotient: Rhetoric in the first half, pivoting through blood to a final note of love.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 6

Marie Brennan

Still catching up! I’ll admit I’ve been slow to post the progress-blogs because our non-linear approach continues, and I don’t feel like I can report in on a chapter being done when I already know we intend to backtrack and add a scene to it, even if we thought it was done at the time. But we have now slotted the addition in: a scene which has to do with a neglected side relationship, which didn’t seem that load-bearing until we looked further down the road and realized it would NOT work to leave things undeveloped over there.

This chapter has a lot of tricky little bits, actually. In one scene, we needed a character to wander close to a correct idea before getting distracted by something completely different. In another . . . there’s a certain type of error that can be hard to sell if the reader sees it happening, because they wind up being unconvinced by the character being taken in. So what we’re trying to do instead is keep the reader from noticing until the character does — to make the actions and decisions there seem logical and inevitable, until omgwtfbbq RED ALERT DANGER WILL ROBINSON. Hopefully it works!

And hey, we got our metaphysical woo on again. Been a while since we had a good dose of that.

Word count: 39,000
Authorial sadism: RED ALERT DANGER WILL ROBINSON. Also known as, it seemed like a good idea at the time?
Authorial amusement: omg senpai!!!!1!
BLR quotient: Got some non-trivial amounts of blood in this chapter. Not that anybody literally bleeds, but a whole lot of things are on the edge right now, and here and there a character steps right over it.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 5

Marie Brennan

I continue my slow attempt to catch up!

I wrote a line into this chapter (which may or may not remain in the finished version) where one of the characters says that the attempt to do X has failed, so there’s no point in continuing on with the rest of the plan. A suggestion the character they’re speaking to rejects wholeheartedly, because who says the goal of the plan is to accomplish only one thing? It’s a species of what I’ve talked about before, where scenes need to serve more than one purpose, but in this case there’s another valence to it: our characters do, in fact, get to have lives. Even when something big is looming over their heads, they aren’t literally going to devote every waking minute to that problem. They can’t. Sometimes an investigation is blocked, and until it produces results, nothing else is going to happen. Sometimes they just need to think about something other than the end of the world. And sometimes, taking a moment for a personal goal or three is what they require in order to have the heart to face that big, looming problem.

So yeah. There’s a moderately frivolous personal goal at work here, because dammit, that matters to our characters. Don’t worry; we’ll be dropping the plot on their heads soon enough. And if the reader doesn’t care about that personal side of things by this point in the trilogy, we’ve failed anyway.

Word count: ~32,000
Authorial sadism: A detail retrofitted into the first scene, which seems like a small personal thing right now, but which is setting up a couple of emotional gut-punches later on.
Authorial amusement: Dude, how do I pick? Could be anything from the Fox Volto to L–‘s painful attempts at flirtation to the counter-pickpocketing.
BLR quotient: Rhetoric is dancing energetically here, but seriously, I wind up calling so many of these chapters for love. At this point in the story, it really is driving half of what our characters do.

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.