Steelgods September - Self Imposed Improvements

on Sunday, September 25, 2011
So my car issue might finally have reached it's resolution...or rather we made a decision but still have to finish it up. Which means I (hopefully) can finally put a full week of frustrations and general stress behind me and just accept whatever happens. While I'm still having difficulties transferring back from being stressed every second of every day to actually relaxing again, I'm glad this has finally reached some sort of resolution (even if it wasn't the one I was necessarily rooting for).

What does this have to do with writing? Nothing at all. I just felt like mentioning it.

Steelgods 1 has suffered immensely from my almost mental breakdown, but I'm still hoping to get most of the edits done ASAP. That will require three-ish chapters a day if I want it finished by the end of September, which actually might not be possible, but either way I'm going to try. I want to start my next book at the beginning of October (which currently has a basic premise and a few ideas but no title, actual plot, or magic system yet) and I'll need at least a couple of brainstorming days before I leap headlong into it.

I've been re-reading lots of comments on my previous books as well as current feedback for Effulgent Corruption and The Gears of Anbar. From all this I've been pinpointing things I can work on in my upcoming books. I've actually been doing this the entire time, but I felt it might be beneficial for me to actually write them down this time so that I remember. Some of these things are also things I've been working on for a while and apparently failing at, so they'll still get a mention.

- Decreased Melodrama - This is a big one for me. In attempts to make scenes more "powerful" and "emotional" I draw it out too far and instead beat the reader over the head with how I want them to feel. It's a big problem, the root of which probably has something to do with me distrusting my reader, but the point is that subtlety is both hard to accomplish but a masterful thing when you actually pull it off. This is going to be a major focus in my next dark fantasy novel.

 - A Focus on Voice - Voice is another big difficulty for me, at least based on most feedback I receive. I have an "author" voice, and I have a "Nathan" voice. One of these is good, one of these is funner to write than the other. I need to eliminate the "Nathan" voice (I have the Steelgods books to go all hog-wild with that) and instead try and refine it down to be a consistant tone.

 - Tactful Adult Themes - Another one I've been working on. This includes all types - violence, sex, language, etc. - but the one in particular I have issue with is violence. There's a time when violence can be used to evoke certain emotions, usually shock or horror or disgust. But when violence is overdrawn and overused it makes the reader desensitized and comes off as tasteless. This is actually another big one for me, as I enjoy writing detailed battle/fight scenes but really should be cutting down the content.

- Restraining My Overactive Imagination - This one isn't exactly what you think it is. I'm not saying I shouldn't brainstorm crazy things or invent interesting ideas; far from it. What this means is that, as Pat Rothfuss says frequently, "Everything must be in service to the story." Too often I find myself adding things because I think they'll be "cool," or "interesting." This is a darling that must be killed. It doesn't matter if my specific character as this great quirk; if it doesn't provide any service to the overarching narrative it is just a dead end. It doesn't matter if I think this section of dialogue is funny and entertaining, if it isn't adding to the plot it is just wasted words. I discovery write, which usually results in me adding tons of crap that should ever make it to a second draft. If I can find a way to identify the crap before actually committing to it in the rough, then I'll save myself a lot of time editing (as well as grief in the future when I look back and wonder what the heck I was thinking when I wrote it, and regretting showing people my rough drafts).

- Consistant and Proactive Characters - I've been doing better at both of these, I hope. And honesty, sometimes your main characters just aren't very proactive. Someone doesn't always have to take charge all the time; that doesn't happen in real life. But that doesn't mean I should let my characters slouch about, making half-assed attempts at being proactive before other characters take care of business (unless the plot directs it, which the Steelgods books do in certain instances). Characters need to press on and be interesting and compelling, not slothful. They also need to stay consistant, which is an issue that seems to plague my side characters more than main ones. This one is a bit harder, since I never think my characters are inconsistant, but when readers get a hold of it they are quick to tell me otherwise. So it's going to be tricky, but it's something I'll keep in mind. As was brought up in writing group today: what's the difference between a character you think is acting against their nature, and a character who is developing? How do you know this action is just a change in character rather than an inconsistency? I suppose that's the $10,000 question.

There are other things I've worked on in the past (eliminating modern dialogue and references, creating better act 2's of my books, keeping a pace consistant) but these are my current big issues. We'll see how well I can accomplish them with the next untitled novel.


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