The threshold of a new age

My Tribes Asunder novel is approaching completion. It took me much longer than I initially anticipated but at least I had good reasons. The original 8 chapters turned into 15. What used to be Chapter 1 has now become Chapter 3. In Book 2. Why that happened? Because I’m as much a visitor in this world as the reader will be.

I don’t consider myself as a very prolific writer. I could write much faster and turn out a greater word count per day, I’m aware of that. I could make the usual excuses: my writing style makes it hard for me to write fast, I come up with new things as I write, have to explore the ideas as they come. Those are all true and they are all excuses.

I’ve taken up NaNoWriMo a few times and failed every single time. I think NaNo is a great way of kicking yourself in the behind but it doesn’t seem to work on me. The NaNo catchphrase “Don’t worry about writing the perfect sentence, just write!” is all well and good but its main idea is to stop people languishing on the empty first page. I never had the problem of the ‘First Page Block’. My problem is organizational.

I’ve been exploring and testing the various degrees of pre-planning the story for as long as I can remember. My early stories went without any planning. The first novel that I’ve written, I finished in exactly 365 days. There’d been plenty of planning involved but the main points of the plot were quite unexplored until I got to them. This has been my way ever since.

I do my best work on the fine edge between pre-planning and exploration. Sometimes, I fall over the edge on either side. Too much exploration will kill my timing (as it happened with Tribes Asunder). Too much pre-planning will kill my fascination with the world that had grown around me.

So how do I speed up the writing process and keep the quality of writing? One published novel per year would be ideal. I need to optimize my organizational side as well as the pure increase of word count. Being the control freak that I am, I’ve gotten quite good in pre-planning. I plan my stories in scenes now, not chapters. I plan the main plotline separately from the character arcs now though I need to correlate them regularly as they are naturally linked.

As for my putting the words down, I will define smaller deadlines. The weekly quota would be best, I think. The monthly quota is too long-term to ensure my loyalty and the daily quota can be too vulnerable to bad days. I abhor the word-count targets because they make me put down words I know are rubbish but I put them down just to have the necessary count.

I also need to record ideas as they manifest during the writing sessions but not let them interrupt the session currently at hand. As great as they are (these spontaneous ideas are one of the best parts of writing), they tempt me to stop in my path and waste time smelling the roses. At regular intervals, I need to go through the ideas that pop up and check where they could improve the plot.

Recently I figured I was quite the rookie in the editting department. I didn’t need to edit my first novel or the other stories much. The plotline was simple, the character arcs straighforward. Back then, it was all about putting the letters down. And writing was done in my native language. I write entirely in English now. This gave me a greater and more flexible vocabulary and it has made finding the right words much more a rational process than before. It also made editting a necessary part of the creative process. After six years of switching my writing completely to English, it still baffles me how much the process is different just because I use another language.

I will need to use quotas in editting as well. As the scene is the basic unit of writing, I think it will be a good unit of editting too.

Then there’s the characters cards. Do I need them? I used to think these were beyond me. I know these characters. I know what makes them tick. I know what part they are to play. But do I remember every single detail of their nature in such a way that I would know how they would react to a certain situation? Do I instantly recall the minutiae of the relationship one character has to all the others? I think not. Character cards are coming but not in the way they are done traditionally. I will need to redefine them so they suit my personal style of planning.

The number of interactions among characters grows much quicker then the number of characters. I will need to take care not to overdo the minor characters and just focus on their relationships to the major ones, which is their main role in the story. Personal stories are reserved for major characters.

I have several other ideas on how to improve the planning and outlook part of writing, to maximize work efficiency and decrease useless time. I will most likely need to adopt new software as Word is too generic and lacks flexibility. I’ve already read up on certain software, specifically designed for writers.

I’ve gone through a lot of growth in the past few years, personal and craft-wise. This is no longer the first step I’m standing on. While the staircase to success might be a long and steep one, at least I’m no longer at the very bottom.

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Why Game of Thrones is failing

I’ve been an avid reader of this series long before they decided to turn it into a TV show.

This was the first time a fantasy book grabbed me so hard I could actually call myself a fan in that fanatical sense. This was what fantasy ought to be. Forget the battle between good and evil, the endless talks of the chosen ones and destinies, forget all that and focus on the complexity of the human character. That alone is enough to produce a wonder.

This story gave me the ambition to write. It still does.

When I heard they were making a TV series, I was carefully hopeful. I knew some of the actors, I knew and loved some of HBO’s past shows (Rome!) but there are so many things that can go wrong transplanting a book story into a TV screen story.

Glad to say, my doubts were needless. While there were many simplifications of the original story, most of it made sense. The show even expanded the character interactions by some new and exciting scenes. It gave us engrossing exchanges of character conflict.

But now, with great sorrow, I see the show has begun to lose its momentum and is being watered down into a typical mainsteam blockbuster.

The primary reason for this, I believe, is the lack of guidance by the books. Until now, the screenwriters and producers could rely on the solid foundation of the grandmaster himself, George R. R. Martin. George even wrote the script for one episode per season, so he was definitely around to be asked for details.

With season 6, I think George had probably distanced himself from the show so it couldn’t influence his writing of the remaining books. I know he’d stated before he doesn’t read the fan theories so he has plausible deniability if anyone accuses him of stealing ideas (which has happened to some authors).

Here are some examples of why this show is losing its grasp on my very demanding attention.

The main premise of Daenerys’ story arc in season 5 was the underground movement in the conquered city of Meereen. For the first time, Dany faced an enemy that she couldn’t fight off or run away from. The sons of the Harpy were so determined to get rid of her that they didn’t run from Drogon even after he’d burned several of them.

In season 6, the sons of the Harpy are simply butchered by the Dothraki. Where is the might of the old houses of Meereen? Why did an underground movement put all its strength OUTSIDE the walls to butcher some random people? The whole Sons of the Harpy plot was solved in less than a minute of screentime.

Dany promised to keep Slaver’s Bay free of slavery and yet she took all her ships and soldiers west. How did she ensure security? By executing two of the slave masters, one from each city. It was said countless times that these cities are not kingdoms but oligarchies, rules by councils of aristocracy and merchant princes. Would killing one man per city truly ensure slavery does not return?

The whole situation in Slaver’s Bay was so poorely brushed under the rug it’s beyond ridiculous.

One of the greatest disappointments in the last season was Tyrion. The premise in Season 5 was “Here is a man who knows how to rule a city, who knows how to stamp out corruption.” I expected a marvelous cat and mouse battle of Tyrion and the Harpy of Meereen, with Tyrion using his entire skillset to come out ahead of his enemy. What happened? Tyrion recruited some red priestesses which apparently placated the people and sons of the Harpy but when the slavers brought ships to besiege the city (again, something Tyrion actually has experience with), it was matter-of-factly solved by Daenerys who now has full control of her dragons. Very convenient.

As they grew, the dragons turned more and more feral and at some point, Dany had lost control of them completely. This was a riveting conflict with herself and brillianty shows the burden or rule. Why does Dany now have full control of the dragons? How did she acquire this control? Some fans online say it was her burning of the khaals that had caused this. Brilliant. If the show actually told us this. But it didn’t which is why this is just another of the fan theories out there. It is a sad day when you have to look up what the apologists’ theories are to make sense of what you’re watching.

There are other disappointments. Arya, for example, is released from her service to the Faceless Men without any penalty whatsoever. Jaqen trained her for months, gave her forbidden knowledge and abilities. For what? So she can not use them as her plaything, killing anyone she wishes? All this after the show worked so hard to build up the Faceless Men’s obsession with righteous murder, worship of death and the careful dealing with the Many-faced god. Where is this devotion when Jaqen gives Arya leave to go away and kill however she wishes?

Season 7 has managed to kill much of the drama and conflict the previous seasons worked so hard to establish. I will remain an avid watcher of the show but now I will be looking for what to AVOID in my own fiction, not trying to emulate it.