We’ve been workshopping our first three chapters. Kij mentioned that many of us had setting but little in the way of anchoring a scene. At least five of the nine novels take place in worlds different enough (Earth’s future, medieval Earth style, space or non-Earth planets) that we must really set the place. This holds true for everyone in the group so Kij has given us an assignment of rewriting the first scene of the book.
The scene should be around 700 words and give at least six pieces of info on the first page and no more than three on the subsequent pages. I may not be remembering this correctly but five senses have to be used, and then three per page.
It sounds easy but is not. One has to get the right amount of pacing as well as the right info in the setting. Too little and the reader is not anchored. Too much and the reader gets lost. I’ve started my scene and it’s not one I’ve written yet. In fact, it was a later scene, which is now moved right up, bringing action and my three races into the picture all at once.
Tomorrow (today) we go over the last of nine novels, which means three chapters and the outline. The writing is of a pretty good caliber in all of these and all of them need work. Kij is amazingly astute and finding what’s not working and at defining structure.
There has been quite a range in the ideas from humorous space opera to medieval fantasy to alternate histories. I hadn’t worked on the novel for ten years and knew I had huge expository lumps. But I was getting mired. I had to build a complete world, including geography, races, culture, religion and rulers. No small feat and it’s still evolving. I was told to get rid of the first two chapters and simplify the information. I also had to drop the meddling gods back.
The more I thought about it, the more relieved I was. I have so much information to impart and I was getting mired. After we went for BBQ (where the food was okay and the waiting staff terrible) at the Vermont, I think, we went back to the dorms. Most nights people sit around and talk and write, to varying degrees. There’s a quiet room if you don’t want to be bothered by the chatter. I was working on my outline and chatting with Eric Warren from the short fiction workshop.
He had sat in one day on our workshop and had read the two novel bits so he could see how the process went. It’s not round table like Clarion and is a more gentle, more brainstorming style which I quite like and find useful, not to mention you learn from the other people’s novels too. We ended up discussing my novel and it was really useful. Eric gave me a very cool idea for the second novel and I got to bounce my changes off of him.
What this outline has given me that the first didn’t is a jumping point to a second novel. I had only thought in the vague terms of “there will be one” before this. Kij has made me cut down to three viewpoint characters. Because of the races and plot, I can’t really go to fewer. But this leaves room for different character viewpoints in the second novel. One rule was that two of the three problems must be solved by the end of the novel. I’ve done this (at least in the outline), and leaving one unsolved problem leaves room for that problem to flow into the next novel and for joining them.
The outline gets turned in next week and taken through the process. I think it is stronger and kind of exciting. I also wrote up story arcs for each of the four characters, which definitely helps in plotting the outlines. I hope to have most of the outline done by tomorrow.
Back around grade 10 or 11, I was taking biology and had to do an experiment and write a report. I chose to do something with fish, guppies most likely. Therefore I would get some guppies–we might actually have had some still, and colored lights. I would then test how different colored light affected fish.
Well, I never did buy the lights at all. I did no research, I read no book. But I did submit the experiment. I wrote up a full paper on how the various lights (red, blue, green, yellow) had affected the fish. I can’t remember what I wrote but I talked about how the red light made them sluggish…or maybe it was the yellow, though I think I equate yellow with sunlight and had them more active.
The experiment covered several weeks and in the end, i received a B+ for the paper. Not bad for a piece of science fiction. Not it could be I got away with it because the teacher knew nothing about biology, being the physics teacher, but that’s the point.
I don’t really consider this cheating because I didn’t copy anything from anyone else. I just made it all up. Somehow, this tale came out tonight after we did Mexican with margaritas and came back to the dorm where several people actually worked on stories. I did too. I’m nearly done on the Berchta story. My day for being critiqued is Wednesday.
I know what will be said: my story is very complex. I’ve had to create a society, religions, races, geography, culture, myths and history. It’s not easy but I am looking forward to getting some direction. And I’m still waiting to see if I received a grant or not.