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kmtolan
May 24th, 2010, 01:35 PM
I have "officially" started my next novel and will start tossing updates within this thread on the creative process of writing a novel from scratch - comments and questions welcome.

First, the title. My "Dancer" series made the last part of the title obvious (grin). The first part was a tossup between "War Dancer" and "Battle Dancer" - "Battle Dancer" won out for purely marketing reasons - in any alphabetically sorted list it will appear at the front. Of course, any title I come up with must pass muster with my publisher.

Titles are of maximum importance, folks. It draws an immediate picture and expectation in the reader's mind - in this case they will expect action - and this new novel is intended to be all of that and more as Mikial, my MC, fights to free a world of us pesky humans. This is all-out futuristic war, which brings its own set of problems when you figure that anything capable of tracking you can kill you in one shot. More on that later.

The first task I am faced with is to make my idea list. Some of this list is preordained - but much of it still needs to be thought up. Basically, and idea list is every idea I would want to see expressed in this novel. This list will eventually become my chapter outline.

Kerry

CharmedGirl
May 24th, 2010, 02:54 PM
Like the title Kerry.

kmtolan
May 28th, 2010, 12:38 PM
First milestone! The "idea" list has been created. What's in it? Well, beyond a slew of neat things I want to have in the book, I also know my primary cast of characters (all from past books in the series) and have three great sub-plots - two centering around relationships and one dealing with yet another scheme against my poor main character that is coming from an altogether different quarter. A lot of work has gone into not providing the same old thing that might have been covered in the previous books, yet giving a story that builds off everything happening to her so far. The trick, as a writer, is to still present this in such a way as to not require the reader to have read the previous books and yet not force them to wade through a bunch of back-story either.

Highly probable that this book's first scene will be akin to a bar fight when some human marine makes a very sexist disparaging remark to Mikial - something he would normally get away with with a regular human girl. Trouble is, she's not human. Violence ensues. This is a great way to showcase the cultural differences as well as let my lady readers enjoy a little sense of pay back (grin).

Next up? The detailed chapter outline grown out of the idea list and sub-plots. If things go well, this outline will have the bejeezus kicked out of it as my characters come alive.

Kerry

kmtolan
June 9th, 2010, 11:53 AM
The chapter outline for Battle Dancer is now underway, and along with it are character sketches for the prominent players of which there are quite a few. Readers will see characters from all three previous novels playing their part. As my characters are fleshed out, the "stew" becomes thicker and results in more changes or depth to the chapter outline. When completed, I will have a story guide leading me from the beginning to the end of the novel - a guide that will not survive intact once my characters come alive, though. Currently up through ten chapters - which never corresponds to ten book chapters.

So what am I looking for here? Mainly, I am interested in character growth as the action is pretty clear cut from start to finish. Mikial's betrothed becomes more than the love interest - Pell's personal struggles and convictions come to light which in turn will cast a less than favorable glow on Mikial's tendency to focus only on her concerns - thus creating an interesting friction. Mikial still has a lot to learn, both personally and as a leader. History is rarely written with a perfect pen.

I will also balance the love-hate relationship with humans. Individually we can be wonderful, but I've rarely seen a well-behaved government - especially one that thinks it has the upper hand. I also continue giving a backhand to typical American "our way is THE way" arrogance when dealing with cultures we are more interested in thrusting jeans and fast food at than understanding their own customs. I also will keep my Mikial mindful that her bunch is no less predatory or biased than humans - such is the natural order of things. The advanced species didn't get to be top dog eating plants.

Kerry

kmtolan
June 12th, 2010, 12:32 PM
The chapter outline is done! Thirteen planned chapters (though they are more like "logical units") will result in around twenty or so actual chapters if things go like they usually do. There is one main story arc, and three sub-plots. None of these will survive intact (grin) once my characters start strutting their stuff.

So what comes next? Why, the very first draft of Battle Dancer from start to finish. This will be a "literal regurgitation" (eww) that attempts to test out the ideas and see what the characters think of them. I will attempt to keep more or less on track with the basic chapter outline, but little else. The writing quality will be awful. Description and characterization won't rise much beyond the muck and mire. The idea here is to get everything out of my head and see what I end up with. Next step after that will be to fashion the actual plot lines with what I came up with - the second draft. The fun part will be the third draft where I finally let my characters and world come alive within the confines of the resulting story. This will be the draft sent to my reading group - and the fourth draft emerging from the savage pounding will be what my publisher gets - a process that from this stage will be about a year. Onward!

Kerry

kmtolan
June 15th, 2010, 12:50 PM
Just started the first chapter - bringing into play the mechanics of that all important "hook". Bar fight sounded like a good idea so I went with it.

kmtolan
June 21st, 2010, 12:31 PM
Not even halfway through first chapter and changing characters. This is a good thing - though with a first draft is more than not a change dealing with story construction than character development. The problem was a too-early introduction with a General Powell whom folks met in Rogue Dancer during a rather violent-ending incident. Mikial has a bad history with this fellow, but putting it in front of the reader before they even know the basics of the Dancer series (always write a stand-alone book) would be asking too much. So, the good General (hah) gets replaced by another stalwart character from the series - Ryan Donald. This is a love/hate type of friendship Mikial has with this human commander and Ryan helps give the humans some amount of sympathy (we're not all bad). Ryan was planned to be introduced, but originally not as the base commander.

So, what this does is three-fold. It keeps pacing going a bit faster in the first chapter, gives Ryan a better part, and sets us up for a much better dramatic moment when Mikial does finally meet with Powell - slated to become the architect of Earth's military operations on Me'Auk.

Of course there are drawbacks - the amount of drama in the scene with Ryan won't be as electric as it otherwise would have been with Powell since Ryan is going to be no where near as antagonistic due to their friendship. End result for this scene will remain the same - her getting kicked off the base.

All this, and I've barely started.

Kerry

kmtolan
July 2nd, 2010, 11:59 AM
Restart! As is often the case with first drafts, good ideas can land with a distinct "thud". Not enough opportunity for back story snippets, an abrupt resolution (being kicked off base), and a need for some sympathy toward her human allies has worked to make me take another run at the first scene. We may use the bar fight later for sure, but much more exciting to have a scene involving some nice scenery (climbing to the summit of an extinct volcano) and an interplay with a human that is not adversarial in nature. Interestingly enough, there is a bar fight, but it will have already happened and the opening scene is the result. Mikial and the offending marine are paired together on a deliberately arduous task to better learn about each other. This builds a needed sympathy I felt was missing, and also a more fun approach. It also plays out better in my head.

Restarts are not uncommon for me (Rogue Dancer had three) as I find the right place to start a story. That's what first (and even second) drafts are for.

Kerry

kmtolan
July 15th, 2010, 11:00 AM
Chapter One first draft almost complete but grappling with one of the more often used phrases in military life - ye old "F" world. On one hand I want to stay true to the military way of life (human) as I know it. On the other, I do detest vulgarisms. Should be interesting to see how this comes out.

Looks like this chapter will be "good to go" without further false starts.

Kerry

kmtolan
July 18th, 2010, 02:30 PM
First draft - chapter one finished. Chapter two continues the background familiarization as we whisk off to find out what the trouble is in Kioranna.

kmtolan
August 29th, 2010, 12:10 PM
Now three chapters in, and with some venue changes as well to keep the plot firmed up. Had to set aside a chapter's worth of writing, but this is par for the course when you realize something's not working. Other than that, I try not to look back too much. First drafts are sort of like being chased by zombies in that way.

Kerry

kmtolan
September 23rd, 2010, 03:49 PM
It happened - the first character driven plot change. This is something I would expect on the second draft, but lo and behold there is going to be a much deeper romantic arc to this novel than anticipated as a certain fiance has had enough of my main character's mindset by chapter six. I love it when characters make mistakes - especially Mikial. This one she will sorely regret. Wish I could say more, but spoilers are spoilers.

Kerry

kmtolan
January 5th, 2011, 04:44 PM
Just passed the 60k mark with the first draft. This is significant as my last novel's first draft only made it this far - promising a much larger work this time. In other news, the story arc has enjoyed yet another tilt - a very dark one this time as my main character is in a long slide toward a much-feared version of herself.