Making this up as I go….

Princess of Shadows is at 127,000 words. That’s after couple of minor restarts on a particular scene, some moderate floundering, and a small amount of despair. Actually, fairly large globules of despair, but that’s not unusual. There was also some time off doodling on Dinosaur Planet (another episode coming soon), and even a few hundred words on Princess of Fire, which probably won’t even see the light of day for a year after I finish Shadows.

With most of my stories and novels, to some extent or another I’m making it up as I go. The days when I planned out stories and wrote out elaborate histories and backgrounds and dissertations on economics and social patterns mostly belong to the period of my life I spent far more time planning to write than actually writing. To a certain extent with my actual work I have tended to wing it, try to fix it in the re-write, and pray that I’ve achieved some degree of consistency in the end. I have been making notes on the background for Kathy’s stories, largely because there is so much ground to cover with this whole world I’ve created, and because I want to be able to breathe some life into its details.

But I don’t think I have ever had to wing it quite so thoroughly as with Shadows. And more than once this has forced me to back up, rethink something I have just written, and then rip it out and start over. As the probable final size of this novel keeps climbing (160,000 words? 170,00?) I have been wondering if I would ever actually finish it (that’s where the despair part came in).

The last few days, however, I seem to have come to a slightly different understanding of what has been going on. With Shadows I embarked on what I knew would be a big book, with a cast of thousands and novel situations for Kathy fall into. In this instance, not planning everything beforehand has meant that, not only am I trying to create a believable non-Western society on the fly, but I am essentially meeting a bunch of important characters for the first time and coming to understand them as I write them. And that is a large part of why I have had to start major sequences over again, as the characters took off in directions I didn’t expect. Dragon, Mother Sun, Scar, Dahlia and Cloud are all different people than I initially pictured them (hell, Cloud started out as male and is now female).

And in the process of realizing that, I seem to have taken some encouragement– I’ve just met these folks, and it’s going to take a second draft to get them and their world all down right anyway (some of the important details of the village Kathy stumbles into are now obvious to me only after I’ve written my way past where I need to put them), so I might as well just write and tell my inner censor to go hell (nitpicky little bastard).

At this point, I have at least three major sequences left to do. Thirty thousand more words? I don’t know, but I’m (tentatively) feeling a little more hopeful than I have in a while. Just don’t sneeze.

Later.

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Episode One of Dinosaur Planet

I swore I wasn’t going to spend any time writing anything other than Princess of Shadows, but then I starting doodling with my idea for Dinosaur Planet, and then I had a thousand words or so, so I figured, what the heck, I’d post it here.  I might even post continuing episodes whenever I need a break.

WARNING– the following fiction is derivative, probably bad for your health, and certainly lacking in redeeming social value.  It has also not been closely copy-edited.  It is, however, copywritten by me, Doug Daniel, 2013.

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DINOSAUR PLANET

Episode 1

Escape to Disaster

They came out of sub-space, and the scout ship screamed.  Not with the voice of organic life, but with the sound of ruptured structural members, and the shriek of alarms.  The ship shuddered, as if convulsed with agony.

“Jump complete!” Paul said.  The alarms going off assaulted his ears.  “We’ve got multiple failures…power, jump-drive, internal integrity field…holy crap….”

“Is there any pursuit?” Mackemann called from his command seat, behind Paul’s pilot position.

Paul scanned the holographic readouts.  “Negative, negative…all sensors are clear.  That last push shook them.”

“Thank God,” Mackemann said.  “Jasper, turn off those damn alarms.”

“Those damn alarms are there to tell you something, commander,” the ship’s AI answered.  “The ship was hit hard by the last volley from that Verturi cruiser.  It’s barely holding together.  Primary systems are failing across the board.  Artificial gravity is offline.  Main shielding—scratch that, all shield systems—are down.”

“Damn it,” Mackemann said.  “Luropanca, what’s going on?”

“That hit fried our primary shield generator, and the back-flow overwhelmed the secondary and damaged our power-core.”  The image of the ship’s tech, a marsupialoid from Gettes IV, appeared in the holo-screen on Paul’s right.  He was trying to close an access port as he spoke, and having a difficult time in the sudden free-fall within the ship.  “We got a runaway degenerative cycle, and I can’t control it!  We have to jettison the jump-drives.”

“We’ll never get out of here if we do that!” Mackemann said.  “Wherever the hell here is.”

“We’ll never get out of here if we blow up,” Jasper said.  “God, I wish you organics could think clearly in crisis….”

“Shut up!” Mackemann said.  “Luropanca, dump the damn engines.  Franklin, give me a position report.  Jasper, kill those pilking alarms!”

The ship shuddered with dull thuds.  Paul activated external viewers, just in time to see the jump-drive pods detach from the hull and tumble away.  All three were venting coolant and hydrogen fuel.  Along the ship’s hull Paul glimpsed gaping holes and scorch marks; Class V scout ships of the Alliance were not big vessels, and a distressingly large portion of the ship looked damaged.   

The alarms stopped.  Paul’s ears rang in the sudden silence.  “Jump drives jettisoned,” Luroponca announced.

Paul ran a position check.  “I read our position as 95120.00-delta-67, minus 18 degrees from plane–  we’re deep into a system, G2 primary, probably that was the gravity well that pulled us out of jump.  First scan shows several planets, mostly terrestrial.  I’ll cross-reference and get a system information dump in a minute.”

“We’ve still got problems down here!” Luroponca cried.  “I’ve got to scram main power before the containment fields fail.  And the secondary generator….”

His words were wiped out by an explosion.  The shock threw Paul sideways against his restraints.  The ship shuddered again, and Paul felt it tumble and yaw at the same time.  The inertial dampers have failed

“Luroponca!” Mackemann cried.  Amid fresh alarms Paul heard his commander unbuckle from his seat.  He glanced around in time to see Mackemann grab a handhold on his seat in the weightlessness.

“Explosion and fire in the engineering space!” Jasper cried.  “Internal fire suppression system offline!”

“I know!  I’m going down,” Mackemann said.  He opened the floor hatch at the rear of the cockpit. Paul felt a waft of heat and smelled smoke.  Mackemann pulled himself headfirst through the hatch and shut it behind him.   

Paul fought with his controls.  Fly-by-wire was not responding; he switched to manual.  The ship was tumbling in three directions at once.  He activated the reaction control system; with the jump drives gone, he would have to rely on the ship’s reaction jets and its normal-space impulse engines to control it.  He fired the starboard jets, a long burst, and then the forward up-pitch.

After long minutes, and sweating effort, Paul nulled the extraneous motions of the scout-ship.  He found himself panting at the end, but the ship was stabilized on a single vector. Vector to where?  

The lower hatch opened.  Mackemann pulled himself up into the cockpit.  Paul looked back; the commander’s face was smudged with soot, and the back of one hand was red with what looked to be a nasty burn.  “The fire…?” Paul asked.

“It’s out.”

“You’re hurt,” Paul said.

“It’s nothing,” Mackemann said.  He sounded out of breath.  His face was fixed and grim.  He climbed into his seat, strapping in.  “Luropanca is dead.”

Paul closed his eyes.  A memory; he and Luraponca working together, heads down in the main engine housing, trying to chase down a system flutter.  Why?   

“Didn’t have a chance…the explosion….” Mackemann didn’t finish.  “What’s our status, Jasper?”

“We’re screwed,” the AI said. 

“Could you elaborate a little?” Mackemann said, exasperated.

Paul swore he heard the AI sigh.  “We’re on auxiliary power, but we can only function on it for about six hours.  After that, life support for you organics is going to fail, and I won’t be doing so good, either.”

“We have to land,” Mackemann said.  “Any prospects in the area?”

“There is a terrestrial planet, Class V, within range, and not far off our current vector,” Jasper said.  “It reads as habitable, well within you organics’ required tolerances, and with a lot of life form indications.  Aside from that, I have almost no information on this system—it’s not been surveyed by any ship from the Alliance.  There’s no way of knowing what’s down there until we’re there.”

“Can we make it?” Mackemann asked.   

“We have enough power to reach the planet, but I am not too sure about a controlled landing,” Jasper said.  “Once we come out of re-entry we may be dead-sticking it all the way down, and there’s no way to predict if we’re going to find a suitable landing spot.  And then, of course, there’s the junior Space Cadet I-still-got-my-training-wheels flying this thing….”         

Paul felt himself flush.  He wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or anger.  Mackemann growled, “Keep your damned opinions to yourself, short-circuit.  Paul, lay in a course.  Meanwhile we’ll shut down everything not needed, to save power.  Jasper, generate a list of systems to close out.”

“It’ll be a short list,” Jasper said, “because most of the systems we might have shut down are dead, anyway,” Having said that, though, the AI shut up.  Paul tried to focus on setting up a course.  As he did, system indicators on the control panel began to go dark. 

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It’s loud in here…

My wife is watching the Oscars on our main TV, across the room from where my computer is set up, and I’m having a little trouble concentrating.  Even so, I still hope to clear 122,000 words tonight. 

I am struggling a little with the stuff I am laying down at the moment– Kathy’s reached the farming village where she will hide out from her pursuers and share in the celebrations of a harvest festival, a central sequence that affects her atitudes toward the world of the Val.  But I’m not sure I have the characters and the situation right and I had to spend some time this afternoon writing out a few notes on the political structure of the Val Empire, which was feeling a little thin.  I’m telling myself that I’ll get it down first and fix it in the second draft.  But at the moment what’s winding up on page is about 52.2% of what’s in my head, which is even worse a percentage than usual.

In general, I think I am a little down about the quality of my writing.  There’s a lot of better writing out there and I wonder why anyone should bother with mine.  My imagination, which is no great shakes at the best of times, seems to be running especially low on gas lately.  Maybe it’s partly the thought that I am as old as I am and have taken so long to reach even a minimum level of competence. It seems I should have been here a long time ago.

Having said all that, I’m not likely to quit.  However poor they may be, I need to get these stories out.  I look back on my life and I realize that, one way or another, I have always been telling stories.  I am not really going to stop now. 

Well, Anne Hathaway won for Best Supporting Actress.  I can get back to work.

Later.

      

More temptations….

Princess of Shadows is now at 120,000 words. That’s after I was unable to write for a couple of days because of this, that, and certain other things– the problem with being a working writer (that is, a writer who has to work for a living at something other than writing) is that certain other things are continually coming up to steal away your writing time. That’s on top of my naturally undisciplined nature (Season Two of Game of Thrones is out on DVD….).

At the same time, I continue to fight off the temptation of other projects. Perhaps it’s an indication of how tired I am trying to get this novel out. I have actually started reading for the Civil War novella I mentioned in a previous post, but the latest severe temptation is an idea for a hard-boiled detective series in a fictional town that would be some kind of horrid three-way hybrid of Seattle, Gotham, and Prohibition Chicago. This thing has been stewing in my brain for a couple of years and for some reason its been particularly on my mind for the last week or so. Never mind that my only exposure to the detective genre has been watching Rockford Files as a kid and reading some John D. MacDonald. But I’ve come up with what I think is a fairly compelling central character, and the possibilities inherent in constructing a whole fictional city as the milieu for the stories intrigues me.

But if I let it distract me from Shadows, I am doomed. If nothing else, my daughter may murder me. She wants the next Divine Lotus novel now and can’t understand why her dim-bulb father can’t write faster.

Sigh– when I was young (a long, long time ago), one of the hardest things for me to do was to come up with story ideas that were not thinly disguised rip-offs of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings. Now that I am old, I have far too many ideas, more than I can probably cram into the remaining minutes I have left on this Earth. Youth, indeed, is wasted on the wrong people.

Later.

A quick note…

At 116,000 words tonight, and damn if in the middle of a scene a new character didn’t show up and start demanding attention.  A Redeemer leader (sorta like the Boxers in China of 1900), this guy has just arrived, but I know instinctively he’s going to show up again.  This has happened to me before, where the narrative suddenly produces surprises and forces changes on me.  It’s a very odd experience, but I try not to fight it.

Working on improving my blog, adding pages and features.  I was going to create a webpage via Gutensite, but it was too convoluted for my simple mind.  I’m going to stick with Wordpress for the time being, at least. 

Later.

Resisting temptation….

Princess of Shadows has reached 115,000.  I have managed, perhaps inadequately in this draft, to close out one major sequence that had puzzled me enormously; the remaining sequences feel fairly straight-forward, although my estimated final draft word count is probably now about 150,000 rather than 130,000.  I seem to be coming in at an average of about 500 words a day, which is less than I’ve wanted to do, but better than sitting and staring at a blank screen.

As I make progress on Shadows, though, I am fighting off the temptation of other projects. I was sitting in my office the other day, reminiscing about all the pulpy TV sci-fi I loved when I was a kid and wondering if I could possibly write a story that would combine all the elements of those sorts of shows and movies, and lo and behold a ’60’s B-movie trailer popped into my head–

DINOSAUR PLANET!

In deepest space, a lone astronaut crash-lands on a planet filled with primitive beasts—a savage world where death waits under every tree, and the very land itself is torn apart by primeval forces. But worse than any dinosaur or lava-flow is the dark alien menace that threatens to conquer all human life in the galaxy!

SEE him battle ferocious beasts from out of time!

WATCH as volcanic death spews across the land!

THRILL as he falls into the hands of the fierce Cave Women, who wage their own desperate battle for survival on DINOSAUR PLANET!

GASP in horror at terrible battles against the alien conquerors!

Don’t miss a single terrifying minute of DINOSAUR PLANET!

By the end of the day a full-blown plot had come together in my head. I’ve resisted writing it, though, because 1. it would take away time from Shadows, and 2. I’m pretty sure no one would buy it (not that I’m selling a lot of anything on Kindle the moment, anyway).

Then there’s the temptation to start writing a follow-up to my novella about the Battle of Shiloh, with the same characters, as we’re approaching the 150th anniversary of the siege of Vicksburg, which was the true turning point of the Civil War. I would really like to do this, but I really, really want to finish Shadows first, all the way through to final draft and publication. If I can finish the novel in three months, then I might have enough time to whip out the novella. Maybe.

Sigh. I supposed it’s better to have too many projects than to have nothing to write, but I hate the way they tend to get log-jammed in my head. Comes from being narrow-minded, perhaps….

Later.

The wind is blowing, and darkness is all around…

and it’s way past my bedtime, and I’ve already taken my medications for the evening, so this is the quickest of quick updates.  Yesterday I reached 101,000 words on Princess of Shadows. I was able to re-purpose some material I had previously cut, and flesh it out and rework it to fit where I dropped it. I’m hanging on to my sense of momentum, although I didn’t get anything done today (11 hour day at work).

I will try to post something more detailed and interesting soon, but right I have to go to bed. Later.

90,000 words

Last night I reached 90,000 words on Princess of Shadows. I have a sense that the struggle for a draft of this novel is entering its terminal phases, not quite to the mopping-up operations, but I’ve got the bastards on the run. I say this while being fairly sure that I still have about 40,000 words left to write, give or take, with several major sequences either not on paper yet or only in fragments. Think the liberation of Paris, rather the crossing of the Rhine.

So, perhaps, another two months and I will have a draft in hand. After that at least two months to edit and format, and maybe, maybe, a complete novel by April or May. That’s pretty slow, but I’ll feel better about the end-product than if I rushed.

Once I have Princess of Shadows finished, I may take a break to possibly write one of the other novels kicking around in my head– either a space opera, for which there exists an unsold/unproduced TV pilot, or a fantasy novel based on a character that I’ve been carrying around in my head since the summer of 1977. Once I have that off my chest, it would be on to Princess of Fire, and then Princess of Stars.

In the meantime, I am working on a personal webpage through Gutensite, to which I may move this blog. In addition, I will probably be adding my stories to outlets like Smashwords and Nook, now that I am done with Kindle Select. I expect 2013 is going to be very busy for me.

Later.

At 82,000 words…again…

I recently told some friends of mine that writing Princess of Shadows has been like taking two steps forward, one step back, one step sideways, spin in place, and repeat (see “the Seattle Crawl” from a previous post).  I am once again at 82,000 words on this novel.  I say “once again”, because I reached 82,000 words several weeks ago, shortly after my last post, and then spent the last month ripping out about 13,000 words that no longer worked, were obsolete, or just didn’t fit anymore. For the first time since I started writing full-length novels I’ve had to begin distinguishing between extant versions of a work in progress– I am currently on version three, and there is no guarantee there won’t be more versions to come.

Having said that, my confidence continues to slowly grow. For the first time I can see how the narrative holds together as a whole, and I think I finally, genuinely have a handle on all of the major characters– and some of them (I hope) are real characters. If I can maintain a good pace, I can probably finish the draft in another three months. That may be a big if, but I can try.

Once again, the link to my Amazon Kindle author’s page–

http://www.amazon.com/Douglas-Daniel/e/B005UEWLCQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Later.

The turtle trudges on….

A brief note, because I am ‘way tired at the moment– I have made it to 81,000 words with “Princess of Shadows”.  I’d thought I’d be celebrating that milestone, but I don’t seem to have the energy– Kathy is dodging bad guys in a wilderness again, and I seem to be as stuck in the badlands as she is.  There are at least three major sections (maybe four or five) that I need to write for this book, plus connecting passages and stuff to round out or complete previous sections, and that’s all got to happen before I can call this a complete first draft. I think I’ll have to re-title this story “The Never-ending Composition”.

In this instance, I have to wonder if my habit of skipping around the narrative, of writing where it’s easiest and bypassing (temporarily) the difficult parts, is serving me as well as it usually does.  The next 50,000 words will tell the tale.

Later.

 

 

Pray and Write

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