Voice and Editing

Voice and Editing

My first, introductory call with Paul (my editor) went great.  Total transparency here, I have never worked with an editor that would be taking a more technical look at my writing.  I have alpha readers, and I have greatly appreciated their feedback, but this feels like a whole other level for me.  In amongst geeking out on various things that we are, well… geeked about, we got to talking about writing and “voice.”

Before going any further – I have to say: I’m really excited about this project!  (bet you can’t tell)

One of the things we discussed was Voice and the use of colloquialisms. As an editor, this can make it hard for Paul to sort out whether I meant something to be grammatically incorrect as a colloquialism, or whether it’s just grammatically incorrect.

Stepping back for a second, its pretty cool looking at my writing through the eyes of someone else, an editor that is interested in preserving my writing style but also in cleaning up it and making it better.

We came up with a couple of basic rules (that I will also have to keep in mind as well!)
Grounders (lower social classes) generally walk on characters, will speak pretty heavily in slang and colloquialisms. Main characters, will be better spoken, but may slip into colloquialism when speaking with other grounders. Narrative voice will be the same. Highborn upper classes will be more formal.  I have read stories with slangy narrative voice and it just gets annoying pretty quickly.

Technical Plausibility

Technical Plausibility
One of the things I described to Paul (my editor) that I hope sets my writing apart from the usual steampunk is the plausibility of the technology.
The Brymlight stories rely on hydrogen as the source of energy – no crystals, alien substances, or other unexplainable magic. I tried to ground my writing in science and reality, if a bit stretched at times to make it work.
Hydrogen provides the lift that keeps the massive estates of the aristocracy afloat high above the plains of the American Colonies western frontier.  Ironically, those estates are both literally and figuratively tethered to the ground and their dependence on the lower classes that produces the hydrogen.
Production of the hydrogen is based on steam reforming, or steam methane reformation of natural gas.  One of the most common industrial approaches to manufacturing hydrogen and a number of other related products.  In the Brymlight world, the Whitley Hydro-Works is one of the largest producers of hydrogen, what our boffins are going to call “diprotium” and the more common term everyone else regularly uses: Brym.
Just for fun… steam reformation, in a deeper meaning, also refers to my break from the more traditional steampunk doctrine.

Tales from the Brymlight Observer

Tales from the Brymlight Observer

Official revival of my long neglected blog… because through happenstance, luck, karma, and long odds, I have stumbled into a small independent publisher who would like to publish my steampunk stories!!!

Where we stand right now:

  • We have settled on the “Tales from the Brymlight Observer” to be the umbrella name for the stories that are set in the steampunk world that you will see referenced through earlier blog posts as the setting for the West Wind and Due West.  The Brymlight Observer is an underground subversive newspaper that is proudly “Shining the Light on the Truth.”
  • Five short stories that are publish ready (they were originally submitted to various horror and other short story anthologies) are being edited by Paul.  My editor.  Paul.  Yes, my *editor* (sorry, still trying to get used to this!)  One of the five, Forgotten Memories, was previously published in a ghost hunting anthology the subject of other posts here.  A second was accepted, but the publisher ultimately did not release the anthology.  All of the short stories will be receiving new titles and cover art.
  • A kickstarter is in the works that will be publishing the five short stories in eBook format, a printed anthology, and some other goodies.  This is to help build awareness around publishing of the West Wind, which will also be receiving a new name and cover art.  A webpage has been setup that will be the home of the Brymlight Observer that includes an email sign-up if you want to keep up to date on the kickstarter and other goings ons: www.brymlight.com

Hunting Ghosts: Thrilling Tales of Paranormal Investigation

I am excited to announce that my short story: Forgotten Memories will be included in “Hunting Ghosts: Thrilling Tales of Paranormal Investigation!”

As the title of the anthology would imply, it is a ghost hunting story and it is set in the Steampunk Western world introduced in “The West Wind” and its sequel-in-progress “Due West.”

For all my Friends on Facebook – head over to Hunting Ghosts Facebook page and give it a “Like.”  You will also find the full table of contents and excerpts from the stories being posted.  More to come!

Timelines

Insert usual apologies about not updating blog more frequently…

I received a question from a reader regarding how I constructed my timelines – any special software?

When setting out to write The West Wind, I knew I was going to need something to create timelines.  I had never written something so big and complex but knew that I needed something to organize the multiple story lines.  I am also a very visual person – I often find myself drawing a picture to help describe some point I am trying to make.  Notebooks are fine, but I really needed something a bit more specific.  There were several features that, at the time, I thought I needed:

  1. The ability to capture a short description – these ultimately became my writing prompts for scenes
  2. Some way of tagging or creating meta data
  3. A way of showing relationships

I looked at the writing apps that had timelines built in, e.g. yWriter and even basic notecards.  They covered most of my requirements, but ultimately lacked a fourth item that I discovered along the way: flexibility!  Notecards, I need to point out, was a horrible experience.  I didn’t have enough space for all the cards, couldn’t keep the relationships, and most importantly, couldn’t read my handwriting.! My romantic notion of  a writer staring at a cork board plastered with notecards was quickly dashed on the rocks of practicality.

Then I started using Visio.  I use it in my professional life and in the design of boardgames, the other often referenced hobby of mine on which I will blame my lack of writing…   I put together timelines for each of my characters, a timeline for the world, and connected them all together with the dynamic connectors.  I found the flexibility I needed to move things around without losing anything and had control over cutting and reconnecting the relationships.  I also found I didn’t need to use any tagging, like an action vs reflective scene, instead I used colors.  Worked just fine…

Until I found out how much I was missing using the Windows Beta of Scrivener and, as luck would have it, demands of my professional life gave me a great excuse to invest in a MacAir.  Darn.

I finished writing The West Wind in Scrivener on my new Mac but then found myself wanting to re-arrange my timelines.  No, nothing really easy or cheap for importing Visio documents into Mac drawing programs that I could find.  I also didn’t want to go back and forth between platforms.  I wound up re-building the timelines in OpenOffice.org Draw which, as it turned out, was needed anyway due to the amount of drift from the original story timelines over the year that I wrote the story.  Re-building the timelines got me back in touch with the story and allowed me to implement an idea I had for telling much of Rachel’s backstory through a couple of key flashbacks.

To give some context, here is about the first third of The West Wind timeline as it was orginally in Visio:

First third of the West Wind timeline in Visio.

Let the Re-Write Begin!

I am re-writing.  Finally.

No more excuses.  No more indulgent distractions.  Time to buckle down and get going on the re-write.

Rachel’s backstory, though not actually in the novel, was my first task.  Something I had wanted to do following reading Jeter’s “Infernal Devices.”  The whole “inherit a clockshop” thing seemed a little too trite, too cliche.  So Rachel now has a new and better backstory.  Much darker and dangerous than previously.  Even better motivation than finding your fortune in the American Colonies… fleeing a dangerous conspiracy in England.  Unfortunately, Rachel and Clarence are only going to find themselves embroiled in even deeper intrigues.  Sort of “out of the frying pan an into the fire” type of thing.  Can’t let the two of them off that easy now can I?

NoNaNoWriMoForMeOh

No NaNoWriMo for me this year.  I enjoyed it last year and found it a challenging and rewarding experience.  Rewarding in the sense of personal accomplishment but also the first 50,000 words of the West Wind.  Considering it took me 6 more months to write another 50,000, it truly was a great experience.

Instead, I am going to buckle down and tackle the rewrite of the West Wind. NaNo would just turn into another month long excuse not to get cracking.  I have been doing well enough distracting myself with short stories (I have convinced myself it is good for honing my editing skills).  I think I need a month of NaNoEditMo!

So for the folks that are going to take take up the challenge, whether for the first time or more, I wish you best of luck.  Enjoy and I will see you next year…