Crossing Things Out

So, I was trying to finish my first draft and what I wrote was awful.  Even as I was writing it, I was shaking my head with each forced sentence…it actually came to the point where I said, out loud, “This sucks.”  Usually, I’d just get past it, move on to the story and fix it in the second draft, but the direction it was heading was just really, really bad.  It made no sense and felt completely contrived.

After realizing that the path I chose was going nowhere, I tried to think of ways to get the story back on track.  My decision: rewrite it.  In my mental vision, I rewound it to the point where everything went wrong and came up with a completely new direction, crossing out about a page and a half of writing.  …And I am totally fine with that.

There is something so very satisfying about scribbling out a failed attempt.

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Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is a fantasy novel and it sucked.  😡  I didn’t finish it, only got through a portion of chapter four, but it made me so mad, I actually chucked the book across the room.  The prologue grabbed me right off the bat, but then I started chapter one.

Alright, let me explain.  Part of why I picked this novel up was because it quite obviously drew a lot of influence from Middle Eastern culture.  Okay, sure, let’s give it a shot, I thought.  Let’s take a break from the Eurocentric stories I’m usually into, expand my horizons.  Boy, was that a mistake!  Apparently, the book follows a middle-aged (elderly?) ghul hunter named Adoulla and that’s all I know.

Four chapters and I end up having zero investment in any of the characters despite the fact that Ahmed spends an unholy amount of time with them undergoing introspection.  Half the time I was reading, I was shouting (literally) at the characters to shut up and get moving!  And the dialogue was ridiculously archaic – you know, the “formal” dialogue where the characters use old fashioned terms/ways of speaking and makes it painfully obvious that the author is a rookie in fantasy (aspiring fantasy writers, please read what I have to say in my blog post Dialogue Advice for Fantasy Authors).

Nothing that Ahmed wrote made any sense, the characters were barely described, and his writing style was just plain annoying.  He was repetitive and vague, filling the pages with needless, time wasting scenes that had no business being there.  I’m not reading his work again because this was just plain awful.  The only good part was the prologue.

For more details on what made me give up, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers (actually, no, not really, but just in case you don’t like knowing the details of the first few chapters, thought I’d put the warning there).

Dialogue Advice for Fantasy Authors

(Please note that the following is more from a reader’s perspective than from a writer’s.  Also, I do not speak for all fantasy readers.)

Why do new fantasy authors feel the need to write archaic dialogue?  I’ve noticed this time and time again where a rookie to the fantasy scene writes their characters’ dialogue in an old timey way (things like “I heard tell”, “For that is why…”, and so on).  Have to say, not only is it cliche, but it makes it obvious to avid fantasy readers that you’re a total newb to the whole fantasy realm.  Using dialogue like that takes away from the story because it looks like you’re trying too hard to follow the “fantasy formula”.

I’m not trying to tear down writers who start out like this.  Heck, I did the whole archaic dialogue thing when I first started out, too (none of which will see the light of day) and that was when I was in the midst of reading The Wheel of Time.  I’ve noticed quite often that the most engaging fantasy books use modern speech mechanics (even Sullivan did that much), so try to stay out of the trap of making your characters talk like they’re in a Shakespearian play.

If it helps, this is how I see it: you are telling a story that takes place on a completely different world in an entirely different language, so your job is to translate it into something modern day Earthlings will relate to and understand.  For my own writing, I’ve found thinking that way has improved my dialogue greatly.

(This rather spontaneous post will probably make a lot more sense to you on Saturday.)

Warbreaker

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.  I adore his characters, plotlines, and the fact that he’s created his own universe called The Cosmere in which he continuously hints at having a massive crossover.  However, even favorites disappoint.  That’s not to say Warbreaker wasn’t a good book, in fact, it’s probably a good first book for Sanderson newbies, but I didn’t really feel it was at his typical standard.

In a nutshell, Warbreaker was about a princess, Siri (yes, I’m serious, that’s actually her  name – pretty sure it has nothing to do with the phone), from one nation sent to marry the king of another nation, who her people see as a heretic, in order to mediate peace between them.  Everything that follows is simply the characters attempting to prevent a war.  The story itself is fine, but the magic system he created was kind of a letdown.

Sanderson makes a really big deal of establishing complex magic systems with, usually, an equally complex set of rules.  In this case, the magic involves using color to bring things to “life” through what’s called Awakening, but I think what I found disappointing was that the magic wasn’t color-based so much as color-fueled.  I mean, if you’re going to use colors as an integral part of your magic, then wouldn’t you have each color (or at least primaries) have some sort of special and distinct function?  Not in Warbreaker!  Any color at all is simply drained away in order for “Awakeners” to breathe life into…whatever comes in handy.

I don’t know, maybe I just found it disappointing because it’s not the way I would’ve done it.  The magic is still very impressive, as well as colorful, but not at all what I was expecting.  Everything else was…typical Sanderson.  The plot was intriguing, the characters believable, and plenty of twists, though it was a slower read for me than usual probably because of my disappointment with the magic.

Sanderson’s writing style was also a bit less engaging than usual, though I can’t quite put my finger on why.  I somehow get the impression that this was a bit of a rush job that he came up with at the last minute.  At the very least, though, you can tell he had fun with it and that’s all we can really ask from any writer.  Of course, I had to read Warbreaker since it’s part of the Cosmere (how it ties in to everything is yet to be explained) and if he ever gets around to writing the sequel, I’ll definitely read it.

For a more in-depth (and much longer) review, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

…Uh, now what?

So, I was in the groove of writing when I finally reached the “big reveal.”  I don’t think I can exactly call it a “twist” since it’ll probably be fairly obvious to my future readers (probably), but it was a big moment nonetheless.  This was the point that signals the beginning of the end, the hallmark of the final act.  I know it seems a little early for that since I’ve only been working on this project for about two months (and it is just above twenty pages at this time), but it’s a first draft which is more like an extensive outline.  So, the end is near for my story…except I have no idea how it ends.

I’ve trudged through a little bit and gotten a few scenes past the “big reveal”, but I still don’t got a clue how to end this.  All I know for sure is that I want a fight of some sort.  …That’s about it.  How does it get to that point?  No idea, but I’ll still try my best to not let the story drag.  So, I’m pretty close to finishing up my first draft despite my…cluelessness.  Though it’s a little short right now, I’ve already got quite a few places in mind that need more build up (translation: an additional thirty or forty pages), so the second draft might come easier.

Well, on to figuring out what happens next!

The Dark Prophecy

I’ll admit it.  I am an absolute fangirl of the Percy Jackson universe created by Rick Riordan.  From Greek to Egyptian to Norse (as well as other mythologies hinted at), Riordan created a world where all the stories of ancient times are alive and kicking.  I am of the Percy Jackson generation, growing up alongside this character, so anything Riordan writes in the PJ universe is something I am practically guaranteed to enjoy.  The Dark Prophecy was no exception.  (Warning: there are some spoilers for the previous series, Heroes of Olympus.  Read at your own peril!)

This is the second novel of a series called The Trials of Apollo in which the god Apollo has been turned into a mortal by Zeus as punishment for starting a war with giants in the preceding series Heroes of Olympus (come to think of it, though, I can’t remember if it was actually his fault).  Alongside his demigod friend (*cough* master *cough*) Meg McCaffrey, Apollo must complete a series of trials to return to immortality.  Go figure!

The Dark Prophecy itself takes place in Indianopolis where Apollo must defeat a resurrected Roman emperor who’s trying to take over the Midwest.  With the help of Leo, a character who sacrificed then subsequently resurrected himself at the end of the last series, and Calypso, Leo’s girlfriend/rescuee, Apollo undergoes a series of quests.  …Actually, now that I’m away from this hilariously written book, I realize the plot was kind of all over the place.

Whatever, it was a great book which was nothing short of hysterical.  Reading the perspective of Apollo in his woeful mortal form had me laughing out loud from page one.  I think Riordan did an excellent job of writing from the viewpoint of an arrogant god turned into a being of much lesser power, though, I suppose I don’t exactly have much to base that on.  Oh, and have I mentioned that the main character’s bisexual?

This was stunning.  I’ve said before that Riordan has been breaking heternormative expectations in his middle grade books left and right, but this is one of the first series where his main character is not heterosexual (I’m counting Magnus Chase alongside Apollo because I believe he is heteroflexible, not heterosexual – yes, there is a difference).

Riordan acknowledging that the original Apollo was bisexual and a massive flirt was genius on his part.  There’s even  a minor male character (who is also used to hint at African mythology) that drops in for Apollo to crush on.  Oh, the implications!  So exciting!  First of all, the rather insecure way Apollo flirts with him was so believable since it is exactly the way I think an ordinary teenage boy (Apollo’s mortal form) would flirt with any crush of any gender.  Second, Riordan is actually writing in same sex attraction which gives me hope to see some of Magnus Chase’s attraction to the male aspect of Alex Fierro (refer to The Hammer of Thor review).  Finally, hints at African mythology!  I don’t know what he’s going to do with it, but I’m so in.

Overall, The Dark Prophecy was wonderful.  It was hilarious, fun, and engaging.  Again, now that I think about, the plot wasn’t all there, but with Riordan, I couldn’t care less.  For me, it’s all about the funny as well as getting as much diversity as possible.  His writing style is a mastery of sassy storytelling.

For more in-depth fangirling, check out my YouTube video here!  Warning: video contains spoilers.

 

Sometimes, You Just Have to Cheat

So, once again, I was stuck.  Not the “I don’t know what to do” stuck, but the “I know exactly what happens next…how do I write that?” stuck.  Of course, I was frustrated.  …I seem to use that word a lot in this blog, don’t I?

Anyway, stuck as I was, I already had a scene in mind that would happen much, much later, but I had no idea how to get there.  So, instead, I did the biggest no-no and did the most telliest of things possible: I wrote a two paragraph summary of what happened next, then dived right back into the narrative.

Hey, it’s a first draft and I can do whatever I want.  I’ll fix it in the second draft (probably) and as long as the story gets out, who cares if I cheat.

Magic’s Price

In Magic’s Price we have concluded The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  …If you can call it that.  In my previous reviews of the last two books (Magic’s Pawn and Magic’s Promise), I have said that there is a certain lack of plot.  This last book was no exception.

True, the main conflict involved an imminent threat of some dark force beyond the borders of Vanyel’s homeland, but it was not built up very well in the series, though Lackey certainly tried.  Honestly, I can’t even tell you much more than that since doing so would actually spoil events in the first book (if you don’t care about that, then go ahead and watch my YouTube videos).  …Don’t have a lot to review here.

All I can say for sure is that I adored Lackey’s characters and I was so engaged with their relationships that I devoured the final installment in about one day.  But that’s really all the series has going for it.  Vanyel is a wonderful character, a selfless hero who suffers anything to protect the country he serves, and that’s all the trilogy is about.

I hesitate to even call this a series.  Yes, it follows one character, but the books are really episodic; they really don’t connect to one overarching plot.  Lackey drops hints of it here and there, yet I felt like the “plot” was more of an afterthought than anything else.  It was a good book; it had a rather sappy ending and I was annoyed with Lackey skipping the good stuff more than once, but still a good book.

Will I read Mercedes Lackey again?  Probably not.  Don’t get me wrong, she is a fabulous author.  Again, her style’s a little old-fashioned (though I think it became more modern with each book), however, it is no less engaging.  The main reason I don’t think I’ll read her work again is because she seems to have a major focus on character relationships more so than on story – nothing wrong with that, just something I would prefer as a subplot not a main plot in a fantasy novel.  It was a decent trilogy and definitely worth reading even if the only reason is that the main character isn’t hetero.

For more commentary on this last installment, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

The “Write at the Same Time Everyday” Advice Can Go Hang Itself

Alright, I’m not in as bad as a mood as the title implies, but I am a little frustrated with this advice.  I see it everywhere and it drives me absolutely nuts because it assumes that all writers have a consistent schedule.  I don’t have a consistent schedule!

My work life is unpredictable.  There are weeks where I don’t even know if I’m going to be working one job more than the other since both jobs’ workload depends on the season.  Oh, yeah – I have two jobs!  They end up balancing each other out well enough, yet the hours are completely different.  On top of errands and school work (I got into the master’s program – hooray!), there is no particular time that I consistently have free.

However, I have found a way to adapt this piece of much hated advice to my own life.  Since I am so busy, I’ve decided to write for at least twenty minutes a day…which I haven’t been doing for the past few days, but that’s beside the point.  Do I write at the same time everyday?  No, because that’s frickin’ impossible, but I try my best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get started on the dreaded…I mean, the highlight of my day and write for twenty minutes.

Magic’s Promise

As the second book in The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, Magic’s Promise is more of the same (check out my previous review of the first book, Magic’s Pawn).  The novel takes place twelve years after the first book and continues to follow Vanyel (our gay main character).  A lot of it centers on some politics between Vanyel’s home country, Valdemar, and other countries across the border along with some conspiracies within said countries.  …That’s pretty much it.

I’d say I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s really not much to spoil.  The main conflict is figuring out if the heir to the throne of a country bordering Valdemar actually killed his whole family…again, that’s pretty much it.  Despite that, I really enjoyed the book – I read it in about two days, yet there’s so little meat to it that I don’t think this is going to be much of a review.

For now, I’m going to say that I like how Lackey doesn’t make too big a deal of Vanyel’s sexual interests.  Sure, she hits home on common prejudices and writes how he deals with them beautifully, however, it’s not thrown in your face all the time; it’s really only there as much as any hetero flirting might be in a book.

Other than that, this novel takes place twelve years after the first – that bothers me.  Why?  Because Lackey drops tons of hints and references to Vanyel’s adventures over that time and even goes so far as to say songs have been written about him. ……Why are we skipping the good stuff?!  Apparently he spent an entire year fighting of evil alone, but do we see it?  No!  We start the book with his freakin’ homecoming!  Arrgghhh!  And the ending made me mad too, but whatever!

Anyway, I’m pretty sure Lackey’s writing maintained its style in the second book, but I have to say I found it far more engaging than the first.  Whether it’s because her narrative was of a more mature character or I was simply more familiar with her style by book two, I can’t really say for sure.  At the very least, it was a decent read even though the ending sucked (not in any unpleasant way, I just thought it was anticlimactic).  I feel like I might end up being more disappointed, but I’m definitely going to finish this trilogy.

For a more detailed review, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.