Writing is SO Weird: Plotting

I’m working on the plot for book 1 of my new project.  It’s going to be an Epic Space Opera, and while book 1 has a clear plot that is finished at the end, but the overarching story goes on for at least two more books.

Anyway, I have 23 chapters of story worked out.  It isn’t enough.  I’ve been wrestling with this, because there are clear holes in the story–not so much plot holes as discrepancies between the story-as-plotted and the story-I-want-to-tell.  For example, while the T’lari Alliance is part of the story notes, and that government has an agent who is a POV character according to my notes–the character wasn’t in a single chapter of my outline.

So today, driving to pick my daughter up, I realized I could change something in the last few chapters, and have a much stronger story.  But doing that would mean changing some things earlier in the book–things like character motivations, as well as what a particular character knows in the early part of the book.  And that change would necessitate even more changes, some of them to the basic bedrock of the plot

But in exchange for that effort, which fortunately isn’t that great, since all I have right now is outline notes, the plot makes more sense.

And even better, I have a place for the alien agent.  And a storyline for her that dovetails with two other characters, and their storyline dovetails with yet another character in a much more believable way, and oh right, now I have a rebellion against the guys who staged the coup in the first place, led by a presumed-dead Prince and a pissed-off Admiral, and supported by the villain’s own son.

Much more interesting.

Writing can be like that–often a change in one place makes another change necessary. And sometimes it’s like a hall of dominoes going down, one after the other, and leaving a much nicer picture in their place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish this plot outline before I lose it.

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My Wasted Day, and the Fury it Spawned

I am so completely and utterly furious at my school administration and the district.

At 9:15am, my classroom door was opened by security, who said we had to evacuate to the gym. The teachers of D wing did our best to ensure the students moved to the gym as orderly as possible.

Fifteen minutes later, a school monitor walked into the gym and, without saying anything to the teachers, told students on one end of the gym to move out to the main building. Since we didn’t see him, we tried to stop the students from moving until he finally told us what was going on.

We then sat in lockdown for four hours while Sac PD did their thing. We were told a “suspicious object” had been found.

For the next four hours, the only way teachers knew anything about what was going on was by checking the news on our phones. Three hours in we got an update on our “emergency text” system; it said only “Thanks for your patience; we’ll update as soon as possible.”

BULLSHIT. They’re telling me that in those three hours, there was NOTHING they could tell us? Do these people not get that it’s ridiculously hard to keep students calm when we don’t know anything? As one student asked me, “Why are teachers LESS informed about this than the Sacramento Bee?”

We should have been told the “suspicious package” was a possible bomb. We should have been told when SacPD arrived on scene, when they deployed their little robot, and when they decided to detonate the object on school grounds. We were told NOTHING.

This administrative team is constantly blowing smoke up our asses about how much they respect our professionalism. And yet they treat us little better than they treat students. They have little to no actual respect for us.

Not related to today, but related to the problem: A colleague in my department caught one of her classes cheating on their final exams. She had proof. The five ringleaders got five hours of community service rather than the prescribed consequences from our student handbook. Yesterday one of them called the teacher a “fucking bitch” (to her face, in front of an admin) and only got a one-day suspension.

Similar things have been happening to me. I’ve got a kid who attended 19 of the 90 days of school in semester 1. She’s still enrolled despite our policies saying she should not be. She’s also an attitude with legs who told me this morning to “go fuck yourself” because I told her to stop cussing at another student and posturing to fight. Nothing was done about it.

I’ve got another kid who hasn’t turned in a single page of work all semester; he walks in and out of all his classes at whim, and has cussed out not only me, but all his other teachers AND the administrator who tried to deal with him. And NOTHING is being done about it.

And people wonder why I’m stressed out.

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Still Working, But Slowly

I’m still working on Rage Across the Stars, but it’s going very, very slowly.  I wish I could say it’s for good reasons, but it’s just that I’m having a hard time with it.

With Seeking Home (which is my new working title on what I used to call The Widening Gyre), I only had to deal with one POV.  The only thing the reader sees is what Tajen sees.  But with Rage, we’ve got at least four POVs to worry about, and three (or four, or maybe even five) separate-but-linked stories that all have to come together by the end of the book.  It’s a challenge, and it isn’t made any easier by the lack of “creative energy” I feel lately.

I’m not as much of an activist as many of my friends, but I’m plugged in to what’s going on, and I’m as dismayed as most moderate liberals with what’s going on in our country. While I don’t think Trump is going to destroy the US, I do find myself incredibly worried by the incremental rollback of rights and hard-fought victories we’ve fought for years–decades, even–to get.

More importantly, my students are worried.  I’ve been fielding many more questions than usual about politics.  Which means I’m spending some time every day assuaging their fears, or helping them find ways to help, etc.  And I’m also spending more energy trying to redirect them back to the class.  Which means that at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is use my brain.

It’s no wonder I get most of my fiction-writing done during vacations and the summer.

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New Project: Rage Across The Stars

So, The Remembrance War Book 1 has a new title, Seeking Home, which will hopefully work better as I continue to flog it (but of course not to agents who already passed on it under the old title).  But I need a palate cleanser, and also I don’t really want to start work on Book 2 unless I sell Book 1 (or decide to Indie-publish it).

So I’m starting work on a new saga.  Like The Remembrance War, this one is intended to tell a larger story, and like TRW, it’s Space Opera.  But where TRW is all told from the point of view of Tajen Hunt, this story will be told by multiple POV characters on a much larger canvas, encompassing an entire galaxy, five different interstellar governments, and over a thousand years.

Current Status: Plotting

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On Realizing One’s Britches Are Too Tight

I’ve been avoiding submitting The Book to small presses.  I was thinking about it, and I realized my reasons are dumb.

I’ve been holding out on the small presses because “I want a Big 5 deal.”  Well, look who’s a little big for his britches!  Yep, that’s me.

I still think it’s possible to get that deal. But to get a Big 5 deal, you must first have an agent.  And that hasn’t been working out so well.  I’m sure there’s one out there for me, but I’m not there yet.

I know my book is good.  More than one person whose opinion I trust has read it and said it’s good.  But “good” doesn’t mean a large publisher will be willing to take a chance.  A smaller publisher might.  Still no guarantees, but you never know.

Thinking on all this, I recalled that an author I admire made her first sale to a small press, and has now published more than 20 books, most of them with my dream publisher.

So I’m going to sub to agents, until I get one.  And I’m going to sub to the relatively few Big Houses that take unagented subs for SFF.  But I’m also going to add the small presses, because who knows?  Maybe they’ll take a chance on it.

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Our New Kitten

I hesitate to include posts like this sometimes, but he’s so cute.


You wish you had a cat this cute

Meet Loki.  Loki is only five weeks old, but he was found stuck in a fence and turned in to the veterinary office where my sister works.  She couldn’t keep him, but we could, so he’s now nominally Tegan’s kitty (but really spends about as much time with Elli and I).  He’s a cutey, of course, and his run makes us burst out laughing every time.

I had some internal misgivings about adopting another cat–we already had three, and we long ago decided to stop acquiring new ones and letting attrition take us back down to two.  But he needed a home, and he’s very sweet, so I no longer have any problems with it.

He’s a good boy, too–uses his litter box and everything.  The other cats tolerate him, but aren’t ready to make friends yet.  But at least none of them are outright attacking him.  It’s all posturing and hissing.

Anyway, I’ve got essays to grade, so I’ll see you all on the other side of hell.

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How I Smashed Through the Wall of Writer’s Block (This time)

Sometimes, a story just won’t gel.  Usually, that seems to indicate the story just isn’t ready.  You need to do more research, or think on the story, or something.

I’ve been stuck in that spot for months, with several competing ideas swirling around my writer brain, but none of them ready to actually start writing.  Some of the ideas were compelling, but I couldn’t seem to make an entire novel’s plot out of them.

I complained about this to my Viable Paradise classmates, and they reminded me of something Teresa Nielsen Hayden told us at VP17: If you have a few ideas that aren’t working out, try smushing two or more of them together.

Holy shit.  It suddenly became clear that several of these ideas can actually coexist as part of an epic Space Opera.

In the aftermath of an attack in which his entire family was killed, Prince Shin Kincaid attempts to reclaim the throne he never thought he’d inherit–and finally grows up along the way.  Disgraced soldier Alua Ten is trying to save Shin’s life and serve the Empire she once loved.  A couple of infamous thieves are each trying to steal an important artifact before the other gets it–on a time limit, and while a corrupt cop is chasing them both. Several Interstellar Nations are being invaded by a seemingly invisible enemy that can turn their own people against them. And The Witness watches it all, as he searches for the alien race that made him immortal, so he can ask them to finally let him die after all these millennia of watching humanity make the same mistakes over and over again.

All of these stories are linked, in ways both big and small.

I’ve always wanted to write something on the scale of Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy.  If I can pull all these plot threads together in a way that makes sense, I will finally be able to make that happen.

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