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The Return of the Bound Chronicles: Writing!

February 25, 2013

Right-o! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

So research took up two and a half weeks of winter break. I was still aiming for my January 31st deadline, and I could do it if I wrote 1 chapter a day. For someone who didn’t have any other job this sounded easy.

It didn’t go as I imagined. But it still went well.

Writing a chapter a day is A LOT. Except for one chapter that is deliberately very short, all my chapters are around 10 pages, with some getting up to 20. It takes Dubslaine forever to get to the point because he keeps referencing and thinking about past things. I made myself stop and explain historical concepts (but I will no doubt need to add more). In addition, I had a lot of trouble killing one of the monks. Like…I wrote a bunch of extraneous homoerotic scenes of the monklings being happy and together because I felt terrible that I was going to break it. This roadblock extended past winter break and into college/February where I finally took the plunge…or grabbed the knife handle, rather. In my defense, I had just spent a bunch of time developing and getting to know his character. I felt so, so, so terribly bad for what his death was going to do to the other characters (that I also love) that I just couldn’t. It was so much easier to write them visiting the falconry. Or picking marigolds (no joke: it went there). I told my thesis reader, and she burst out laughing. Those scenes are probably going under the chopping block faster than you can say “hair-shirt” but I still wrote them they still happened right I’m sorry your original lives were so terrible, monklings I love you okay have a cookie. 

But I did finish, eventually. My friends were very patient with me talking it out. They are still being patient with me, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. Thank you.

After finishing, I sent the draft out, as discussed previously. My Thesis Reader A (TRA), we’ll call her, got the first 5 chapters and the prologue. At my college, with my major, the second semester of your thesis, you choose two readers who help you revise/write your final piece throughout the semester until you turn it in for a formal grade. The grade not only evaluates the final product, but also your responsivity to the reader’s revisions, what you did with their thoughts on your work as you created it. After reading the first 5 chapters + prologue, TRA came up with an interesting evaluation that I, once again, was not exactly expecting.

What are you trying to say.

If you’ve read the my interview with Charlotte Blackwood, you know that I write stories because I want to write stories. It’s a self-fulfilling, endless cycle. I want to create meaning through words, but I don’t really have a specific message. Well…maybe for The Bound Chronicles in general I want to show all the forms and differences and shapes of love, and how they’re all fantastic. But you don’t necessarily get all that from Book 1. Their asexual relationship actually doesn’t work out in this one (it does later).

But TRA explained that, while I do have the bare bones of a story, that’s it. It’s just a story. There’s a bunch of little themes, but there’s no polished overarching ones–no “messages” that the author is sending to the reader. Readers will expect me to have messages on things, that I as an author don’t necessarily have a message on. Specifically, even if I don’t mean to, I’m commenting on monasticism and alternative families.

So I had to go back to my room and really think what I wanted to say about these things. It involved distraction and using my mirrors as whiteboards. For monasticism, I want to portray it as I think it was: a closed, Catholic devotional community that would have all the problems associated with being a closed, Catholic devotional community. People coming out of that to interact with the rough-and-tumble outside world as going to have problems in addition to their own internal conflicts.

For alternative families, I want to say that they work or not work out based on the same principles as nuclear families. If you have willing, cooperative participants, then they thrive. If one of the monks didn’t die, literally the monklings would have been utterly, completely fine and ended up traveling to Rome and settling in another monastery. Really. Or, you know, if the Vikings killed them all, and then we’d have a much shorter story.

Anyway! Now that I’ve decided this, I have to go back and add alllllll the layers. I need to more fully sketch out characters, add some patriarchy that I forgot (I swear, patriarchy is the reason we can’t have nice things), complicate some decision-making, and stop writing nice people. I’ve been looking at my character list and mentally comparing it to Ken Follet’s. His characters can be utter mules and jerkfaces. Mine are all either semi-decent or completely evil (Vikings). Whoops.

One tip as well was to structure your chapters as miniature story arcs. You ‘set the scene’ of the chapter, ‘complicate it,’ ‘climax,’ have ‘falling action,’ and a new reality set i.e. ‘new resolution.’ I’ve never really thought about it this, and it’s a bit of an awkward fit. A couple of my chapters are rather “inverted checkmarks” where the beginning and end are action-packed and the middle is calm. I’ve had to move stuff around so the novel doesn’t lose tension.

In addition, most writers like to end chapters on mini-cliffhangers in order to keep their reader reading. I don’t really like doing this: it feels like a cheap ploy. It frustrates me as a reader when writers push themselves for that cliffhanger to the point it becomes totally transparent. Like, okay I know you’re just ending that chapter with “six suddenly ravenous vampires” to perk my interest to see if she gets eaten next chapter when really it’ll be totally fine and like 90% dialogue on how to defeat the bad guy. I prefer my cliffhangers to involve actually leaving characters falling from/hanging onto tall things with long drops. Otherwise, I find it much more rewarding to leave readers feeling intrigued or excitedly looking forward to an event. Or mildly shocked/horrified. That works too. If it’s been a rough couple chapters, I like to end on a peaceful note because then the reader can (finally) go to bed with nice dreams. If the restructuring/try-to-end-on-a-cliffhanger really bothers me, I’ll speak with TRA, and I’m sure we can compromise somewheres. She’s a very reasonable person.

And that’s it for thesis! My meeting with Thesis Reader B should be sometime soonish. She wants to read the whole thing in one go, and get back to me on an editing schedule. My second meeting with TRA is Thursday where I’ll be getting new edits! Wooooot. And feedback on my old ones. Woot! Woot! Yup yup.

In the meanwhile, stay healthy, happy, and hale, readers! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments. =D

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