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Writing Progress: Week Ending December 17, 2011 & A Milestone

December 19, 2011

Las week was not a bad week in writing:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 2,259 words

Grand Total: 2,259 words

In the previous week I had reached the point in my outline for the “Book of M” where the primary antagonist was introduced.  Up to this point I’ve been pretty uncertain about the final direction of the book: where it was going and what was going to happen.  I hadn’t really settled on a specific climactic moment for the book, as yet.  Given that the motivations and goals of the villain are going to be an important driver on the plot, I decided that I needed to take a step back and really dig into the backstory of that villain, so I could understand him better.

So mostly that’s what I did last week: the majority of my wordcount last week was the villain’s individual backstory and goals and motivations.  I’m pretty satisfied with the progress I made.  Whereas before the villain was sort of a nebulous, ill-defined “bad guy who does bad stuff because he’s bad”, now I understand why he is the way he is, and why he does what he does.  Of course, his story turns out to be fairly tragic.  Some bad stuff happens to him, and this leads him to some pretty stark and nasty conclusions, which leads him to act on those conclusions in ways that are not at all rosy and cheerful.

What’s particularly satisfying, however, is the way in which the particulars of the villain’s backstory serve to mirror the particulars of the protagonist’s backstory.  They both suffer some pretty tragic events (though under very differing circumstances).  The different ways in which the two characters react to those past tragedies informs the directions they take in the story.  This mirroring, especially, starts to hint at the form of the plot and climax to come.  I’m still not entirely sure what happens at the end of the book, but I feel like I’m close to understanding what must happen.

So even though I didn’t accomplish much more than writing up the backstory of a single character, it was still a pretty significant step forward in the production effort for “Book of M”.

The week ended with a little more work on the outline, which has left me on a cliffhanger as the story’s creator, and a dilemma that I need to figure out.  If you don’t mind, I’m going to blather on a bit about that.

Here’s the set-up: while the novel has one main protagonist, it also features an important co-protagonist, as well as a contagonist or anti-hero character.  Most of the book will be written from a Third-Person-Limited POV focused on the protagonist.  But occasional chapters will be focused on either the co-protagonist or the contagonist.  The second chapter is from the co-protagonist’s point-of-view, for instance, and gives insight to his character.  I want a small number of additional chapters from his POV.  But… let’s just say that after his first POV chapter the prospect of further chapters from his POV becomes… tricky.  Tricky why is something that’s sort of important and integral to the plot.

I left the outline off at a point where I’m trying to justify to myself using a certain plot gimmick to give me another opportunity to have a chapter from the co-protagonist’s POV.  But to justify it, I need to have some worldbuilding to support it.  But I haven’t come up with a good in-world justification for it yet.  Narratively and structurally, I think is the right time and place for this co-protagonist POV chapter.  But without some in-story justification for it, I don’t know what else to do with the chapter, except in terms of pacing.  The problem is… the in-story justification is likely to prove decidedly important, and would impact the direction of the plot, if I’m able to figure it out.

Thus the dilemma: presently, the outline note for this chapter basically reads “I need to figure out the in-world justification for this character doing something”.  My idea, in writing it, was that I could continue the outline and come back and figure out the justification later.  But if that justification impacts the later plot, it will change what I would’ve outlined later, thus possibly mooting whatever I might write in the absence of  having figured it out.

It’s at this point in writing and planning a story that I like to start bouncing ideas off of someone – a friend or family member that I trust – and seeing what sticks.  I’ve found in the past that this process can lead to the generation of new and exciting ideas.  So just as one part of my brain is trying to figure this problem out, another is trying to figure out how I can recreate the experience of bouncing ideas off a friend to help me solve the problem.  Sigh.  Of course, said person wouldn’t be terribly useful later as a beta reader, because they’d then have been exposed to some of the underlying plot and ideas, so they wouldn’t be coming at the story fresh.

Hopefully I’ll figure it out.

After this week, I’m not expecting a whole lot of productivity, writing-wise, over the next couple weeks.  The holidays are upon us, and as such I don’t figure on having much, if any, writing time.  I had hoped to have the outline done by the end of the year so that I could start 2012 by actually writing the book.  It looks like my start-date for writing the first draft may be delayed by a few weeks while I figure out this outline.

And now, besides all that, “The Undiscovered Author” crosses a milestone today: this is my 500th post.  And about a month past, I let my 2-year-blogging-anniversary pass without comment or remark (mostly because I forgot).  So hey: here’s to sticking around for 2 years and 500 posts, and making a pretty good go at blogging and being a writer.  A lot has changed in the 2 years since I started: in my personal life, in my professional day-job life, and in the industry of writing and publishing books.  But here’s looking forward to the next 2 years, and the next 20 after that: there will be many more changes in all of the above, I am sure, in the years to come.

So that’s life in the writing trenches on the Watkins front.  How was your writing week?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2011 12:56 pm

    Happy 500th anniversary, Stephen!

    Tragic antagonists are such heartbreaking stories. Their arc is one that starts high and descends into a 90-degree termination. Very tragic. Hopefully, there is a bit of redemption for your antag at the end…?

    My current antagonist of design is the same kind. Not the kind of person who wakes up one morning and thinks, “Hmm, I think I’ll be evil today, and maybe for the rest of my life. Perhaps I’ll set up an evil organization, and get a few evil friends in on it. Maybe we can have an evil party. Or kidnap a good guy.” No, the more complex “evil people” are those who have something happen to them, then react the wrong way.

    • December 19, 2011 1:28 pm

      Oooh. Hate to disappoint you, but I don’t, at this time, have any plans of incorporating a “redemption” storyline for the villain into the book. The villain’s tragedy is well in the past – by many years – before the book starts. The hero’s mirror-tragedy is only months gone, so the hero has the chance to decide her own course in response. The villain has already made those choices. There’s a lesser villain of a sort, however, who may or may not have a shot at redemption. I haven’t figured out his arc yet.

  2. December 19, 2011 2:40 pm

    Happy 500th post! I think you started blogging a few months before I did. I’m glad you’re still at it 😉

    And yes, I doubt the next few weeks will be productive for me either, but there is holiday fun to be had.

    • December 19, 2011 3:07 pm

      Thanks. I started on November 29th, 2009 – so really only a month before the beginning of 2010. Your site is a bit fuzzy on the specifics of when your first post went live (is something fishy in your archives?) – what, was it in January of 2010? So yeah, maybe a couple months before you. I’m glad I’ve stuck to it, too. And have fun with your holidays! 🙂

  3. December 19, 2011 5:09 pm

    First of all, congratulation on the 500th post! I’ve been blogging for six and a half years and I’ve only just got to 400 posts (which I didn’t realize until I just went to look).

    Second, I know what you mean about wanting the story to go somewhere and then having to figure out how to get it there. Sometimes I’ve managed to get it where I’ve wanted, and sometimes I’ve had to let it go somewhere else.

    Finally, my week was good. I’ve basically finished the draft of my book. The epilogue is written, the last graphics are created, a few inconsistencies have been smoothed out. And I’ve written more of my new idea, just handwritten scenes and fragments so far.

    • December 20, 2011 8:49 am

      Yeah, I’m still struggling with that particular plot question. I haven’t figured it out, yet. Definitely sounds like you’ve had a good week, though!

      • December 20, 2011 10:54 am

        Things were going great until I did a spell check on the draft. Not a lot of typos, but a few. That’s a tiny bit embarrassing because the stories are already online (though some in different forms). Oh, well, all fixed by tonight.

      • December 20, 2011 10:56 am

        I know that feeling – every time I post a blog, thinking I’d given it a good looking over, only to discover (often after the post has gotten a comment) that there is an embarrassing typo. I suspect many a blogger can relate.

  4. December 19, 2011 5:51 pm

    Happy 500th! *noisemaker noise*
    And I’d put together a lovely, comprehensive comment on my recent writing progress, except I’m pretty sure that would derail my *present* writing progress. I’m on a tighter self-imposed deadline than I first saw coming, so I gotta keep chugging along as fast as I can make myself. …as well as feed the dog. That first, more writing after.
    See ya at post five-oh-one!

  5. December 19, 2011 10:55 pm

    Stephen, found your blog through the Cartographer’s Guild (it’s been a few years, but you provided feedback on my map of Tornalia: http://tornalia.com/maps). Belated congratulations on getting your article published by Fantasy Magazine, and on your honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest! Keep up the good work!

    • December 20, 2011 9:08 am

      Hey, thanks for stopping by! I recall the map (after going to see it to refresh my memory). Sadly, I don’t spend as much time at CG as I used to – mainly because I’m not actively working on any maps, at the moment (partly because my current computing situation has become untennable in terms of doing so, i.e. my comp simply can’t handle the graphics processing I want to do, and also partly because I don’t have as much free time to fiddle as I used to). Glad you’re taking your work there and putting it to good use! Good luck with your world-building.

  6. December 20, 2011 12:08 pm

    It’s great when you can find friends and family to bounce ideas off of…My family appreciates my writing but it’s so hard to talk to them about unfinished ideas! Good luck on the next phase of your project…you are a great motivator!

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  1. Writing Progress: Week Ending January 7, 2012 « The Undiscovered Author

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