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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Hello CC! NaNoWriMo has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never got around to because reasons, including all the classics: “I don’t have time”, “I have no idea what I’ll write about”, “I have a concept for a world but I don’t have characters or a story”, “What if my writing sucks?”, “I’ve got more important things to do”, “My idea isn’t original”, etc. This year I decided to stop making excuses and get it done.

What are you attempting for NaNoWriMo?
I’m going to rewrite the first part of Sharon Green’s The Blending series, a terribly written 8 book romance that was deceptively marketed as an adventure/fantasy epic. If you’re not familiar with it, you can check out the hate-read over in The Book Barn for the full experience, though as part of my planning process, I will do a post summarizing the flaws.

Why not write your own story?

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

I'm really not sure why you think this series deserves a rewrite to be salvageable. The prose is bad, the characters are two dimensional, nothing has happened except Tamrissa assuring us how special these protagonists are for presumably future sexy times. Our protagonists are a generic farm boy who is a powerful wizard, and a prostitute traumatized from sexual abuse who manipulates men as a result who is being set up to lead our team of generic fantasy people. There are no stakes, there is no antagonist, there is a vague mention of some prophecy that laid down the law but has no impact on day to day life, and the best that can be said is that there is a bunch of minutia you can put on a wiki. I gave Robert Jordan a lot of poo poo, but his works have the occasional effective passage (for instance, Rand trying to get help for the wounded Tam in the first book) and actually try to be about something. This just squanders any mildly interesting potential it has to be a mediocre formulaic fantasy bad even by the low standards of the fantasy shovelware publishing industry. It has no soul. Even the magic system is just ripping off Wheel of Time but without the spiritual overtones and ties to the Wheel which tied into the work's greater symbolism. It's a stunning failure of imagination.

Leng posted:

it's a writing exercise for myself where I can focus on the mechanics of establishing setting, character, plot and overall narrative structure. I don't have to spend time doing a lot of world building, coming up with ideas for characters or plotting, because that's all been done. Green's output is obviously bad, but all writing is bad to begin with, so I can basically treat these books as a super detailed outline.

In my mind, the difference between churning out a terrible first draft of my own unoriginal idea and then either abandoning it or going back to edit/revise it versus rewriting someone else's bad writing is I save all of the time I'd need to spend coming up with an idea, etc. I'll probably still come out the other end a better writer either way since the process is the same.

The goal is to write a better version of the story Green is trying to tell, while improving myself as a writer. I know I need to work on the following:
  1. Develop a habit of consistently writing
  2. Discipline to finish, rather than endlessly revising the first half of a story
  3. Prose
  4. Writing distinct, memorable characters
That sets some specific constraints on this project:
  • No reusing any chunks of prose from Green’s original work
  • No major changes that would otherwise alter the overall theme or what Green’s story is about (at least not beyond what normally happens in film adaptations as an example). That means: a) retaining the core premise, main conflict, resolution and key events, but b) combining/cutting characters/subplots as needed, c) keeping the fundamentals of Green's world building and magic system, though ideas and concepts may be utilized differently to fix plotholes and I might fill in missing details, and d) using different scenes to achieve the same intent/purpose where necessary
  • Focus will be on fixing the key flaws: 1) overall structure of narrative (which includes eliminating the repetition), 2) flat characters, and 3) contrived conflicts
It's tempting to do more but that would defeat the point of this project. Tinkering with too much increases the likelihood of getting sidetracked into writing the story I would have written using these ideas…in which case I should just write the story I actually want to write with my own ideas (that'll be NaNoWriMo 2021).

For anyone who’s coming over from the Let’s Read thread and hasn’t read the series before, be warned that because Book 1 was so…unsatisfying, there’s a good likelihood I’ll be pulling from material in Book 2 (and potentially Book 3) in order to round out a satisfying narrative.

How will this work?
Essentially, I’m going to do my best Brandon Sanderson/Will Wight impression. That means leaning into the action/adventure side of the narrative, away from the romance aspects and aiming for “transparent” prose as Sanderson puts it. Sorry in advance to folks who don’t like their writing style!

From past experience, I know my process goes something like this:
  • Spend ages meticulously planning and outlining
  • Stare at blank page, also for ages
  • Make somewhere between 5-10 false starts
  • Go lie down in despair
  • Panic about my deadline
  • Crank out words upon words
  • Realize only 50-70% of my outline made it in, with the rest being written on the fly
  • (Optional, depending on complexity of project) Berate myself for wasting all that time on the outline / Curse the need to rebuild the outline because I've written myself into a corner
  • Finish right on the deadline and hand in a first draft that's about 10% longer than the estimated length at the start
  • Cut 20% in subsequent rounds of editing
This more or less works but the yoyo stress levels and writing crunches are a killer for bigger/more complex projects. As a result, I'd like to work on making my process a little more balanced and sustainable.

While I’ve done a lot of theorising of how I would change the books as part of the Let’s Read, I don’t have a concrete outline. That’s the mission for the next 2 weeks (significantly less time than I would usually spend outlining) using Brandon Sanderson's method (see https://youtu.be/Qgbsz7Gnrd8 and his outline for Skyward as an example format). To hit 50k words, I’m planning on 16 to 20 chapters (3000-4000 words per chapter). Despite my tendency to overwrite, I don't expect to pull a Sanderson where he plans to write a 30k word novella and ends up with 57k word novel instead.

Once November begins, the goal will be to write 4-5 chapters a week. I know from past experience I do better writing in long solid blocks of time, so I’ll be aiming for 2 writing days a week, with 2-3 chapters per day (6000-8000 words), likely on Tuesdays and Thursday/Friday. In terms of the writing process, I'm going to try really hard to apply Sanderson’s method instead of my normal method (you can see in action here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSH_xM-KC3ZviGuhA9pT7ETB481Fw-VEL - it's a screencast of him writing the ~7600 word Rsyn interlude in Words of Radiance in 12 real time ~22 minute chunks - just over 3.5 hours in total)

This leaves Mondays and Wednesdays for some quick self-editing before posting chapters for anyone interested in following along. Chapters will be posted as individual Google Doc links so specific line critiques can be done via comments. Higher level critiques on prose, plot, character, etc would be greatly appreciated as replies in the thread.

Any critiques received will be taken into account when writing the next chapter, rather than going back and continually revising the chapter that was critiqued. Where there are major issues highlighted by critiques that can only be solved via major revisions (e.g. changes in plot points, character motivations, etc), we’ll just assume those revisions were made for the purposes of writing the subsequent chapters - I will list them in the post with the very next chapter.

In theory and assuming I adjust quickly enough for any feedback received, this means the end of the book should have objectively better prose compared to the beginning AND the output should be better than the original , but you guys will be the judge of that, not me.

Why not attempt something on a smaller scale to hone your skills first, like Thunderdome?
This is me attempting something on a smaller scale, as a diversion from a more ambitious creative project that I’m currently stalled on, 3/4s of the way to the finish line.

What kind of prose have you written before?
I have been writing for a living for a long time now though the writing skill has always been secondary to technical skill in my field. Most of what I write is for business, technical non-fiction (textbooks) or fictional case studies (for education and training). Creating fictional case studies is what I enjoy the most: all effective case studies apply the core principles of good storytelling (including world building, characters, plot). Weirdly, that means most of the narrative prose I have written is generally in second person POV.

INDEX
Anyway, here goes! I will update the bottom of this OP with links to each planning post I make and each chapter written.

What has Green done (and why is it bad)?
Planning

NANOWRIMO HAS ARRIVED ENDED AND THE REWRITE HAS BEGUN IS COMPLETE!

OVERALL PROGRESS: 113% (based on minimum word count) / 100% (based on planned chapters)

WORDS TO DATE: 56,810/50,000 50,421 (0 to go)
CHAPTERS TO DATE: 10/12 10 (0 to go)

Wrap up

Leng posted:

What next?

With NaNoWriMo concluded successfully, it's back to the more ambitious creative project I was stalled on last year

<snip>

In the mean time, I'll be turning my posting attention back to the hate-read of the canon books over in Book Barn. This thread will stay open for crits and other general discussion. I really enjoyed doing NaNoWriMo in 2020 so in all likelihood I'll end up doing NaNoWriMo again in 2021. Whether it'll be a rewrite of the sequel or something else, I don't know and can't commit to at the moment, but if I do decide to go ahead with a rewritten book 2, I'll pick up the project in this same thread.

Leng fucked around with this message at 04:45 on Jan 1, 2021

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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Everything wrong with The Blending by Sharon Green

Let's start with the plot summary before digging into the issues:

Leng posted:

Book 1 (+ first five chapters of Book 2) Summary:
Here is a TL;DR supercut based on the chapter summaries with some additional context for anyone who doesn't want to wade through the drag that is Book 1 (or anyone who has been following along and wants to take a step back to consider the whole picture but doesn't want to risk their sanity by revisiting any chapters).

Prologue/Opening
A poorly written extract from a faux historical textbook tells us it's the time of the Prophecy, when a Chosen Blending will arise to defeat the returning tyranny of the Evil Four and there will be "obvious signs" and "subtle happenings" to indicate the identity of the Chosen. We are introduced to five protagonists, each independently making their way to the capitol city of Gan Garee in the Gandistran Empire:
  • Lorand Coll, a naive dreamer desperate to escape life as a poor dirt farmer in Widdertown (Earth magic)
  • Jovvi "Regina George" Hafford, wantrapreneur - bootstrapping her own startup endeavours thanks to her time as a renowned paid sex goddess (Spirit magic)
  • Clarion "I'm a Lord" Mardimil, a pompous manbaby with a slight Oedipal complex (Air magic)
  • Tamrissa Domon, a mentally unstable survivor of domestic violence suffering from severe PTSD as a result of two years in an abusive marriage on top of an abusive childhood and has not just "anger issues", but "murderous rage issues" (Fire magic)
  • Vallant Ro, a sexist assholic melodramatic "daddy's boy" (Water magic)
Before any of them step into their coaches, they are individually attacked by giant murderous fireballs which they smother with dirt using Earth magic/calm with Spirit magic/suffocate with Air magic/burn out with Fire magic/quench with Water magic with as much emotional tension as a bowl of soggy cereal. The Guild representatives witnessing each respective attack gives each protagonist a paid coach ticket to Gan Garee and a pouch of silver.

Day 1
Lorand/Jovvi/Clarion/Vallant arrive at the testing facility in Gan Garee while Tamrissa (Gan Garee born and bred) is shuffled around like thirty different waiting rooms inside. All of them get shiny IDs and are sent for testing. The test involves escaping live burial/raging emotions/suffocation/being crushed alive/a ring of fire. After each protagonist escapes, a creepy dude gives them "water" to drink and they are taken to Tamrissa's house (which Tamrissa has volunteered as an official residence in exchange for legal protection). Everybody arrives at slightly different times, heads straight to the bath house, and gets walked in on/walks in on somebody else with ensuing in one of the most stupidly repetitive sequences in the entire 8 book series because Green.

Lady Eltrina Razas, their representative from the testing authority, shows up to boss everyone around and implement pointless attempts at dehumanizing the protagonists at dinner. Highlights of the dinner conversation include: every male protagonist getting raging for Jovvi and Tamrissa, Jovvi verbally bitch smacking Beldara Lant (discount Tamrissa), Pagin Holter (token "guy who is an outsider but because we're nice people we're nice to him to prove that we're nice people") clueing the oblivious in to the fact it's a twenty-fifth year, and Vallant and Jovvi blasting Eskin Drowd (anti-Lorand) with some blatant moralizing on about how controlling other people and invading other nations is bad.

Somewhere in the midst of all this mess is spoiler laden interlude from the creepy dudes administering the tests that flat out states everything is rigged and people have been dosed with mind control drugs to ensure their absolute compliance.

Day 2
After an angsty, silent breakfast where everyone is stewing in their own thoughts because they've been rained on by a tiny thundercloud that everyone blames on Vallant (who blames his on Pagin), and a lunch with boring small talk, they are taken to be fitted for their Grown Up Magic Not-School Uniforms. The group splits up at the fittings:
  • Jovvi deliberately alienates Eskin and Beldara so Green can establish the best friendship of Jovvi and Tamrissa. Jovvi and Tamrissa continue to ostracize Beldara and share chocolate induced foodgasms and a bath.
  • Clarion outs himself as a literal man child on the way to a tavern. Lorand has to explain where babies come from so Clarion can have supposedly mind blowingly good sex with Naran. Vallant spends the entire time moping and pretending he's banging Tamrissa. A bunch of tavern toughs start a fight that is easily broken up by their group minus Eskin. The crowd turns fearful after they start cackling like proto-evil overlords so they leave.

Day 3
Tamrissa experiences her first random encounter, with her parents and intended second husband showing up on her doorstep unannounced. Jovvi and Vallant come to her rescue. An upset Tamrissa runs off to the library and is pursued by Vallant. He yells at her to not feel her emotions and threatens her with unwanted sexual contact as "punishment".

Lorand fondles plants in the garden, is interrupted by Jovvi and starts kissing and fondling Jovvi instead. He's awkwardly trying to ask her to sleep with him when Clarion interrupts them to ask Jovvi if she wants to sleep with him instead. Lorand pulls Clarion aside to say "no, bad, don't do that" and Jovvi renames Clarion to Rion, who wanders away aimlessly repeating his new name to himself until dinner time. Meanwhile, Lorand discovers Jovvi is a courtesan who has no interest in his marriage proposal and would rather make him her number one stud instead. After Eskin clues Rion in on the Lorand/Jovvi relationship, Rion spends the rest of dinner plotting murder before changing his mind.

Day 4
Everybody learns to braid their elemental aspect into three/four strand patterns, except for Jovvi who gets to balance spheres in fields of pitching emotions, which is way more interesting than the braiding stuff and hence we never get to read about it because Green. Rion discovers that anyone who's an applicant is cut off from their bank accounts. Everybody (except Beldara) heads straight to the bath house after an exhausting day of magical braiding, though thanks to Tamrissa declaring mixed bathing off limits, we're spared any further awkward bath scenes with the full cast. Jovvi goes head first into territory with early converts Tamrissa and Vallant, who brings Rion and Lorand for the ride. Eskin and Pagin get left out because reasons they're not main characters. It is all very boring since the Day 1 interlude spoiled the entire conspiracy the protagonists are in the midst of discovering.

Lorand has a random encounter with Hat (his best friend who came to Gan Garee for testing with him whom Lorand assumed was dead) and is saved by Tamrissa. They adjourn to the library so Tamrissa can sort out Lorand's confusion with Jovvi asserting her right to be a sex worker using Facts and Logic. After dinner, Rion has a successful confrontation with Eskin before Jovvi and Tamrissa has to swoop in to save him from his random encounter with his abusive mother, Hallina Mardimil.

Day 5
Everybody heads back to their sessions and all five protagonists qualify by taking in more power to weave five strands/balance five spheres. Allestine (sex worker exploiter extraordinare and Jovvi's ex-boss) and her henchmen show up to kidnap Jovvi and Tamrissa, only to be chased out after deadly displays of Fire and Air magic.

Rion flirts with Jovvi, and Vallant flirts with Tamrissa, on their way to lunch. Jovvi and Lorand have weird sex in the bath house where she's lying on her back thinking of England Gandistra while he's stroking her internal organs with his magic. Rion has an incel pity party for himself and Vallant indulges in murderous fantasies about Tamrissa's father and intended husband. Everybody has a random favorite object appear out of thin air (barrel, gym equipment, swing, cloud, bales of hay) which they proceed to hide in/punch/swing on/lie on/hide in.

Warla (Tamrissa's companion and de facto mistress of the household by the testing authority's instruction) announces that Beldara and Eskin were moved out at dinner. Jovvi reinforces the . After dinner, we get a combined random encounter for Tamrissa and Vallant in the form of her father and his ex-fiancé Mirra Agran, which kicks off the next drama in the on/off Valissa ship.

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials". They arrive at their respective testing grounds where their Adept explains the first and second levels of masteries for their aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
They all pass their first level masteries (Lorand, Tamrissa and Vallant with the benefit of some moral support from an animal cheer squad) and notice an abrupt shift in their supervising Adept's attitude.

Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Counts so far:

TOTAL WORDS: 193,676
Book 1: 181,539
Book 2 (first five chapters): 12,137

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil, Toblis, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 39
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 31
"CLIFFHANGERS": 18
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 11
TEA DRINKING: 22
BLATANT MORALIZING: 19
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5)

Core premise and main conflict
After further reflection, I think Green's story is about control - when is it good, when is it bad and why? She explores this concept at three levels:
  • Individual - characters use both magical and non-magical means to control others
  • Family unit - same deal, but with a focus on the cycle of abuse
  • Societal - a corrupt power regime uses various methods of control to maintain/abuse their positions of power and wealth
The main conflict of the first five books is about overthrowing the corrupt power regime, with Books 1-3 focusing on "get good at the magic" and Books 4-5 focusing on "use magic to overthrow the corrupt government". There's a conspiracy plot woven through Books 1-3 to discover the fact that those in power are corrupt, are out to kill the protagonists and therefore their main objective is staying alive.

ISSUES
These are my main issues with Green's books as a reader, in order of book level to line level.

Issue #1: Overall structure is broken
Books 1-3 seem to have been plotted in reverse, with the highest stakes at the front (deadly assassination attempt by fireball) and the lowest at the end (whether the main characters will achieve their first level masteries which involves doing mundane exercises with magic, easily solved by taking in more power and braiding braiding braiding). Even just focusing on Book 1:

Leng posted:

Changing NOTHING ELSE about Green's plot, world, or characters, you could at least sort of fix the overall narrative flaws by rearranging the chapters:
  • Useless excerpt from boring history textbook (Prologue)
  • Braiding, braiding, braiding to qualify (Chapters 28-38)
  • First and second level masteries (Chapters 39-44, Book 2 Chapters 1-5, 22-26)
  • Congrats! You are now a master and get to be forced into communal living in preparation for being a part of a challenging Blending (Book 1 Chapters 11-15, 17-27 and Book 2 Chapters 11-15, 21, 29-30)
  • Insert some sort of transition here that doesn't exist in Green's books
  • Game on! Compete against other people in your aspect to secure a place in a challenging Blending - by the way, deadly use of magic is permitted so, pass or die (Chapters 6-15 rewritten)
  • Yay, you're a challenging Blending now, stay tuned for the next book which will be a tournament plot about competing against other Blendings!

Issue #2: Repetitiveness
Green got extremely carried away with her FIVE FIVE FIVE concept of Blending. As a result, she wrote 5 different variations on the same plot beats. The highlight (lowlight??) was an egregious bathhouse sequence forcing readers to experience the same dialogue back to back five times in a row.

In this rewrite, we're going to pick one protagonist's POV. I am not ruling out writing from some other POVs if needed, but for the most part, I intend to stick with one primary POV.

Issue #3: Flat characters
The protagonist arcs are fairly one dimensional and there are only the barest hints of character growth. Even worse, the main characters often feel very similar to the point where I question whether they could all just be rolled into a single character. Worst of all are the antagonists. They have no arc, simplistic motivations and are all incompetent to the point where they never pose any credible threat to the protagonists.

Characterization is hard, so I'm going to stay focused on developing about 10 characters with the goal of making them distinct and having some sort of arc (no matter how small).

Issue #4: Plot is author driven rather than character driven
Since the characters are so flat, there was never any way for Green to avoid this. Things in the plot simply happen because Green wants it to happen that way. And since the overall structure is broken, Green leans heavily on contrived plotting, unnecessary twists and overuse of "cliffhangers" in an effort to maintain tension.

Issue #5: Bloat
Besides the issue of repetitiveness, Green also writes a lot of bloat. We see practically every moment of every day for every character. Some of the moments are good character moments, but nothing happens to advance the plot. Often it's simply clumsy exposition. Most of the scenes and quite a few chapters seem to be written for a single purpose only, when they could be combined to be more interesting. Some things that can be summarized in a few paragraphs take up multiple chapters. Some events that should be a single chapter are split up across two chapters for the sake of having a "cliffhanger".

Looking at the substance of Green's actual story, it feels small enough in scope that I could do "get good at the magic" in 50k words from a single POV. We'll see how we go when I get to outlining.

Issue #6: Telling instead of showing
Green's favorite go-to techniques include:
  • long exchanges of butler and maid dialogue where character A tells B about thing X and event Y and discuss implications Z
  • long stretches of internal monologue where character C rambles all over the place
There's very little use of action and description, to the point where I've got serious white room syndrome while reading the books.

I'm going to work towards about 20-30% of internal monologue and the rest being dialogue/action/description (see Sanderson’s 2020 BYU Lecture 10: https://youtu.be/fJfE-HMfSkk?t=1135 and https://youtu.be/fJfE-HMfSkk?t=2079). Sanderson recommends writing introspection at the end to fill in any gaps left after you've fleshed out the dialogue/action/description. It's an interesting approach which is different to how I normally write.

Issue #7: Being way too high on the pyramid of abstraction
Most of Green's word choices and phrases are very vague. She'll often have her characters note that something is "odd", that they feel "disturbed", someone is "official-looking" or an object is "surprisingly large". The worst offender was probably "strong handsomeness".


REMINDERS/SELF-EDITING CHECKLIST
On that note and in no particular order, here's a list of reminders for myself before commencing writing and on self-editing days:
  • Proportion: Aim for introspection (internal monologues) to be no more than 20-30% of the text, with dialogue, description and beats (action) taking up 70-80%
  • Description: don’t forget touch, taste, smell and sense magic, in addition to seeing and hearing.
  • Dialogue: dialect, vocabulary, inflection, tone, subtext, word choice, phrasing, sentence structure, syntax
  • Beats/action: blocking, incorporation into dialogue tags, how does this reveal character? (motivation, proactivity, liability, express flaws, competence)
  • Introspection: what is the key takeaway/arc? (accomplishment, decision, insight)
  • Beware: telling instead of showing, infodumps, being way too high on the pyramid of abstraction, repetition (info, content, character, sentences)

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLOTTING: Promise, Progress and Payoff

For lack of a better idea of how I want to do this, I'm going to follow Sanderson's 2020 BYU lectures during my planning. Here's the YouTube link to the full playlist, but in this post, we're focusing on Lecture #2: Plot (Part 1). The highlights from the lecture for me:
  • Stories are made up of: 1) Plot, 2) Character, and 3) Setting - which are glued together by Conflict
  • Setting is the least important of the big 3: a story with a great setting but terrible characters generally is still a bad book; but a story with a cliché/generic setting with great characters can still be a fantastic book
  • While you can write a short story on 1 idea really well, a book generally needs multiple ideas mashed together
  • Ideas are cheap; it's the execution that counts
  • Editors and readers can and will judge you on your writing within a couple of pages; it's on you to hook their interest and convince them your story is worth reading
  • Important things for SFF writers:
    1) convey information in an interesting way (i.e. avoid info dumps for the sake of exposition and use info dumps for characterization)
    2) understanding what your promise (tone, character arc, plot), progress (create the illusion of steady progress toward an inevitable and exciting goal -> usually plot archetype) and payoff (deliver on what you promised - either as promised, or with a satisfying substitute) is when constructing a story
  • You can be more predictable with your plot as long as you have an interesting setting and characters we care about, though most of the time virtually every story has been done before, so what you typically want to do is a subtle inversion of a promise ("strange attractor" that makes your story feel familiar but strange at the same time - e.g. Mistborn as a mash up of a heist/My Fair Lady)
Sanderson is a really good lecturer though so I highly encourage anyone interested in learning more about writing a book to watch this lecture (and all of the other ones) in full.

Now, let's apply these principles to The Blending.

Promise
I'm going to try and reverse engineer this based on the marketing that was done for the book, since the wisdom from the amazing Self-Publishing thread states that the cover, the blurb and the book itself are all equally important. That means, the cover plus the blurb combined is MORE important than the prose contained within the pages - which makes sense, because they are the first part of the promise that the reader sees.

Here are the covers for all 8 books in Green's two serieses:



Now let's take a look at the blurbs - Let's Read goons, I'm going to spoiler parts of the blurbs for Books 6-8 in case you don't want the major reveal in Book 5 to be ruined for you now:

Book 1: Convergence

quote:

"In a world of magical adepts, every quarter-century the five greatest talents must be brought together. For only this powerful union of strangers can prevent the prophesied return of the Evil Ones who once enslaved the land."

Convergence

Lorand is of "Earth, " a simple farmer called to the city. Tamrissa is "Fire", sacrificing her home to escape an undesired marriage. Clarion is "Air", an aristocrat flying free for the very first time. "Spirit" is the talent of Jovvi, the beautiful, sensuous, and knowing ex-courtesan. And Vallant is "Water, " a sailor who aches to return to the sea.

As one, they must stand against the odious treachery of past masters -- and confront a fearsome depravity that hungers for their world. As one they must triumph...or as one they die.

Book 2: Competitions

quote:

The perfect Blending of the primary basics of the known universe-Earth, Air, Fire, Spirit and Water-will create unimaginable power. Power enough to hold off the dread Evil Ones for yet another quarter-century... Power enough to rule the world...

COMPETITIONS

They are the five greatest talents on a beleaguered world of magical adepts-and its only hope for salvation. But first Lorand, Rion, Tamrissa, Jowi and Vallant must prove themselves to be the Chosen Five of the ancient Prophecies. Which means they must first compete in a series of deadly contests designed to reveal the full scope of their powers . . . and place them at the center of a corrupt nobility's lethal schemes.

And there are those who wish them to fail. But defeat is unthinkable . . . because failure is doom.

Book 3: Challenges

quote:

The competition has begun. The band of five which best combines elemental magics into the most powerful alchemy will be chosen to win the throne and ward off doom for the kingdom. But the stakes are much higher than anyone suspects.

Each magical adept possesses a potent preternatural talent. Stunning Tamrissa is Fire; Vallant the sailor, Water; Jovvi the lissome ex- courtesan, Spirit; farmer Lorand, Earth; and blue-blooded Rion, Air.

But their fragile union threatens to disintegrate when Jovvi and Tamrissa discover a secret sensuality that would make their Blending supreme. And the dissension within is nothing compared to the perils assailing the enchanted quintet from competing nobles and judges alike, all determined to see the peasant mages perish. For as they vie for the Palace of Five, the brave but unwary team rushes headlong into desperate danger...and unknowable jeopardy.

Book 4: Betrayals

quote:

On a world of magical adepts, the five greatest talents are fated to unite and rule. But Tamrissa, Jovi, Vallant, Rion, and Lorand have been cruelly separated, struck down by treachery at the very moment of their greatest triumph.

Scattered across a vast empire, the five heroes must escape their prisons and find each other again. For only then will they be able to re-create their Blending, that magical melding of their powers that will allow them to defeat their enemies

Book 5: Prophecy

quote:

The Chosen Five-wielders of elemental magic-have defeated their betrayers and are returning to the city behind a legion of their followers. Tamrissa, fierce lady of Fire; Rion, noble lord of Air; Vallant, brave captain of Water; Lorand, clever master of Earth; and Jovvi, passionate sorceress of Spirit have so far successfully met the challenges set by those who would prevent the Five from their rightful throne. But the struggle is not over yet. Still barring their way are the sinister usurping Five, an invading army and a peasant rebellion. The battle has never been more desperate, nor the stakes so high. But nothing can stop the forces of Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Spirit when they unite behind the greatest power of all the power of Destiny.

Book 6: Intrigues

quote:

When the masters of elemental magic-six extraordinary men and women-merge the primal forces they represent, the ultimate sorcerous union comes to be: The Blending. Lorand, Rion, Vallant, Tamrissa, Jovi . . . and Naran, possessor of the newly discovered prescient power of Sight, came together to wrest a beleaguered empire from the strangling grasp of treacherous nobles and to save it from the savagery of invading armies. Now it is the benevolent Six who reign, and the common people have found a voice at last.

But now the Ruling Blending are ensconced in the bloodthirsty arena of politics–where their magicks may hold no sway. In the roiling waters of the ruling court, the hungry sharks are swimming. Across foreign borders, sinister plots are being hatched to conquer the fledgling republic. But there is a dark, hidden enemy growing ever-stronger amidst the riot of traitorous schemes and secret intrigues–a terrible malevolence which, when it reaches the peak of its power, will wreak havoc upon an unsuspecting empire . . . and on everything and everyone beyond.

Book 7: Deceptions

quote:

In the empire of Gandistra, a mystical union of elemental magics reigns...

Lorand, Rion, Tamrissa, Vallant, Jovvi and Naran have combined their elemental powers and their deep compassion to bring a new era of enlightenment to their once enslaved land. The miraculous reforms decreed by the Ruling Sixfold Blending have enabled all to freely pursue the Limits of their magic. But freedom is a hated thing to some, giving rise to jealousy, deceitfulness and unchecked ambition.

As traitors scheme at home, the Chosen Six are called beyond Gandistra's borders to deal with a dire threat to their empire and their world. For, as the leaders of neighboring Gracely bicker and brood and play politics, an inconceivable army is massing -- an invading wave of impossible terror, dedicated to the total devastation of everything in its path. And it may already be too late to stop a foe immune to every known magic -- including the awesome blended might of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Sight, and Spirit.

Book 8: Destiny

quote:

The Six are stronger than the Five ...
But the darkness is most powerful of all

Naran's remarkable Sight magic completed the Blending and brought solidity to their rule. But even their combined elemental powers--Earth, Fire, Air Water, Spirit and Sight--will not turn back the dark clouds of destruction massing at Gandistra's border. For war is inevitable, as a horrific army led by a faceless malevolent entity sweeps relentlessly across the neighboring lands, enslaving, devouring, and destroying everything in its path. And fallen nobles closer to home implement dire schemes to unseat the reigning Six, intent on regaining the throne through the blackest of acts: mass murder. Only by developing new, untested abilities--and unearthing startling secrets buried centuries ago--can Lorand, Rion, Tamrissa, Valiant, Jovvi and Naran hope to prevail.

The hour of reckoning is finally at hand. All else was a mere training for a grim and terrible destiny that they cannot avoid.

Let's list out the plot promises as per the 8 blurbs:
  • Prevent the prophesied return of the Evil Ones
  • By assembling an Evil Fighting Team with magical talent from all over the Empire...
  • Using some sort of magical tournament...
  • Which also makes the winners the rulers of the entire Empire
  • Hence the whole game is rigged by the corrupt nobility who want to maintain their positions of power
  • Preventing Our Heroes from winning
  • Requiring them to gather an army and defeat the usurpers in order to win back their thrones
  • And consolidate their reign against political treachery
  • While fighting off a powerful invading army of unknown origins
Overall tone promise:

Leng posted:

The cover and blurb is promising political intrigue culminating in some sort of awesome action sequence using magic to defeat Super Evil that will otherwise destroy the world. After reading all of the books, I have no idea what the "fearsome depravity that hungers for their world" is (Books 5 and 8 spoilers: it's the general concept of depraved people ruining their children creating an endless cycle of abuse, which is most definitely not the Super World Destroying Evil that was promised).

These promises can be reduced to three main plot arcs:
  1. find the strongest magical talents in the Empire (Green's Books 1-3)
  2. overthrow the corrupt nobles (Green's Books 4-5) and
  3. defeat the Evil/invaders (Green's Books 6-8)

Progress
The most painful part of these books is the progress part.

Plot #1: Tournament plot archetype (i.e. magical Olympics)
This should have been the easiest thing to nail. In a tournament plot, there's a clearly specified method of determining the winner, either through:
  • multiple rounds, usually consisting of an initial qualification trial to fill out a limited number of spots in the competition (e.g. say 32 or 64), then there's a successive number of rounds to eliminate half of the contestants every round, until we get to say the finals (quarter finals, semi finals, grand finale) - see Will Wight's Uncrowned and Wintersteel, or
  • multiple events, with performance in each event conferring a number of points with the overall winner being the person with the most points - see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or
  • free for all, last man standing - see Hunger Games, or
  • some combination of the above
Green tries to do all of these things and succeeds in doing none of them well. An example:

Leng posted:

Now is a good time to talk about how Green has messed up the stakes all round in her plotting of the magical challenges across the first two books before the big competition:
  1. Chapters 1-5: Fireball attack
  2. Chapters 6-15: Pass or die
  3. Chapters 28-38: Braid your element into five strands
  4. Chapters 39-43 and Book 2 Chapters 1-5: first level masteries (variations on basic magical tasks) - do not ask me why Green choose to end Book 1 here, it is the stupidest place to end the book
  5. Book 2 Chapters 22-27: second level masteries (even more variations on the same basic magical tasks)
  6. Book 2 Chapters 31-35: individual time trials (based on other slightly more advanced magical tasks)
Taking the whole list into consideration, the boring fireball attack is the closest thing to an action sequence and the even more boring pass or die first test has the highest stakes.



We have no understanding of the overall structure as it's linked up to the corrupt regime plot line, there's inconsistencies in the books so that some events that are promised don't come to pass, and the protagonists themselves are discovering the next stage one after another so whenever they win something, we keep finding out that there's another thing, so as a reader you get the sensation of constantly moving goal posts.

Plot #2: Mystery + Rebellion plot archetypes
This should also have been easy to nail, especially since rule of the Empire is directly tied to winning the competitions. Green does muddy the waters with the reigning Blending being puppets for the nobility who are the true powers behind the throne and thus they have rigged the competition process to ensure that every winner can be easily manipulated.

Unfortunately, that means instead of going with a straight forward rebellion archetype (generally goes along the lines of small incidence of rebellion -> gather support/a large army -> black ops to take out powerful players/control key locations -> final battle - as seen in Mockingjay and Mistborn: The Final Empire) we actually have a mystery plus conspiracy archetype ( -> find clues -> -> do something with the knowledge gained - see also Mistborn: The Final Empire).

Now obviously the two things can be combined, as Sanderson shows, but Green doesn't do this at all. Instead, the mystery plot takes up Books 1-3 with the characters being extremely passive the whole time and never doing any investigating - new information is always just dropped on their laps as a side effect of Plot #1. They also never do anything with the new information, they simply decide that the new information means they should just go along with Plot #1. That effectively means ZERO progress with the mystery being solved basically because the characters never participated in it and didn't overcome it (the game was rigged, they suspected it was rigged, then they were victims of the results of the rigged game).

The failure of the mystery plot arc kicks off the rebellion arc. The main characters defeat several enemies easily (no tension), acquiring an army in the process, and then the hard part of drumming up a following/support is done through by a faction off screen which until that point in the story had been basically painted as an administrative function only, with the clumsiest of foreshadowing the first book to set this up. Ergo, the main characters make NO PROGRESS on this plot either, stuff is either too easy or it's one for them. Nothing feels earned.

Finally, I think Green ran short on word count for the sequel trilogy because while the main characters are off gallivanting around a neighboring country doing the A plot (Plot #3 below), half of Books 6-8 is ANOTHER rebellion B plot with a bunch of new protagonists and antagonists (like some 15 new characters in all) who decide to take advantage of the main characters' absence.

Plot #3: Defend the castle
The opposite plot archetype to "Defeat the Dark Lord", progress involves surviving increasingly dangerous waves of enemy attacks until aid arrives/a daring plan succeeds or defeat (which then becomes about escaping and regaining lost territory). The relevant Sanderson example is Mistborn: The Well of Ascension, but the standout example for me was from Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe. She has a Q&A on her website listing the specific battles she researched in order to write that sequence. Maybe historians or military people can pick out errors in her text, but for someone who has no idea, the sequence made me feel terrified the whole time I was reading it and I could not put it down.

But let's assume we're not going for historical accuracy or alternative history feasibility - merely a satisfying story. How did Green approach this?
  • First off, there's 4 different armies in the whole Blending storyline: 1) the one invading Astinda (the neighboring country to the west), 2) the Astindan army that defeats army #1, 3) the one attempting to invade Gracely (the neighboring country to the east), and 3) the one that is successfully invading Gracely (yes, there are two different armies invading the same country). Notice most of the armies are invading places that are not Gandistra, the actual Empire we're supposed to care about
  • Progress is measured by how many villages the armies attack and by how much the main characters are able to slow/stop the progress of the invaders
  • Defeating the invaders involved figuring out one magical trick on the fly which made the invaders go from invincible to ineffective - I am going to quote two lines from Book 8, Chapter 18:

    Destiny, Chapter 8 posted:

    This time there was no reason to give ground or allow the attack to touch me in any way, and once it had washed past me harmlessly I couldn't hold back a very nasty smile.

    -Well, I'd say that that's all the chances you're going to get today,- I sent, making sure the enemy was able to perceive my amusement. -Now it's my turn, and I can guarantee I won't need more than just the one.-
    (I kid you not - Green doesn't even attempt to mention the main characters shielding or anything, the invaders' attack just becomes ineffective because plot armor, afterwards every character is like " how???" and the character who did it goes "yeah I don't know either I just did")
At no point do we get any idea about how many villages there are, how much territory is being lost, how many troops either side has, how many innocent civilians are being slaughtered, etc. It goes from " the invaders are slaughtering everyone in sight!" and then "I did one magic trick and now the invaders are defeated".

Payoff
As someone who has read all 8 books, I can honestly say that the blurbs are technically accurate high level plot summaries so someone playing rules lawyer could argue Green DID deliver on her promises. But here's where I, as a reader, felt like there was no payoff:
  • There was never any doubt that the protagonists were the strongest magical talents ever. None of the obstacles they encountered were challenging, nor did they ever run across another magical talent who was even close to them in power. That means the first plot line never had any conflict - everybody just sailed their way through by taking in more and more power as they go. None of the magical challenges ever required creativity to solve, it was just "use more power". There was no cost to using more power, other than "I get really tired and hungry but that's easily fixed by sleeping it off and eating more". Oh, and having regular sex, apparently. Yes, regular partner swapping sexy times is required for increased magical power in Green's magic system (while Book 2 confirms that this isn't limited to hetero sex, but of course only hetero relationships are represented in the book)
  • About a third of the way through Book 1, we discover that the game is rigged. Whenever we see an antagonist, they always come across as completely incompetent. These two things combined completely undermine any hope of tension. The corrupt nobles conveniently have no magical power of their own, so it's a cake walk for our protagonists to overthrow them. Book 5 spoilers for the Let's Read crew There is some sort of final battle, but the antagonists don't even come close to matching the protagonists because of how amazing strong they are, and then the antagonists die of poison from somebody else (yes really)
  • The same thing applies to the defeat the invaders plot line - they spend a bunch of books trying to figure out why nobody is as strong as the invaders, then learn one neat trick and suddenly it's no contest.
  • The prophesied Evil Ones - who are meant to be horrifying on world destroying levels - never show up! We get an infodump in Book 5 that explains it was a made up story by the Sight magic people (again, yes really)


What does this mean for the rewrite?

Leng posted:

I would map Books 1-3 roughly as Act I (they become the most powerful mages), Books 4-5 as Act 2 (they fight a bunch of battles and end a war) and Books 6-8 as Act 3 (political hijinks and a new external threat must be overcome to stabilize their reign) in terms of the overall story in this universe. When we get further into the books, I can discuss that in more detail, but for now I think I would use the materials and plot a new trilogy like this:
- Book 1 is a tournament arc that answers the question of who gets to rule the Empire next, seeding a lot of the background for the political intrigue to come
- Book 2 is focused on political intrigue and stabilizing their new rule, with hints of the Prophecy and the Big Bad in the background
- Book 3 is all out action dealing with the Prophecy and a mad battle with the Big Bad

Hard to judge length without having done the outline, but let's take a few proxies for a tournament plot archetype:
  • The Hunger Games (free for all) - 92,075 words
  • Uncrowned/Wintersteel (round based/magical Olympics) - ~84,000 words + ~145,000 words = ~229,000 words
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (multi event) - 187,775 words
On that basis, the scope of this rewrite is limited to Book 1 though I will keep the general direction of Books 2 and 3 in mind while writing:
  • Plot #1 becomes the main focus of Rewritten Book 1 with the mystery part of Plot #2 being a subplot.
  • As the first rebellion component of Plot #2 was barely there, Rewritten Book 2 will condense some characters and deal with the second rebellion component of Plot #2. The plot archetype here will likely change to "fish out of water" rather than "rebellion" per se.
  • That leaves Plot #3 to be the focus of Rewritten Book 3.

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:43 on Oct 16, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


WORLDBUILDING: What has Green done?

This is going to be a bit of a grab bag of a post due to the constraints of the project. The objective is to summarize everything we know about Green's setting. Since the scope of this project is limited to the first "get good at the magic" act, I'll only be drawing on the things in Green's Books 1-5.

Relevant Sanderson lectures:
My notes:
  • Sanderson distinguishes between two main categories of worldbuilding: physical and cultural
  • Physical = anything that would still existing in the world without sentient beings. Examples:
    - Weather
    - Techtonic activity
    - Map
    - Terrain
    - Climate
  • Cultural = stuff that exists because of sentient beings. Examples:
    - Religion
    - Government
    - Economies
    - Borders
    - Languages
    - Fashion
    - History
    - Moral beliefs
  • Do not fill out all of these details for every book - otherwise you will not be able to publish a book every 2 years (minimum for a career in SFF, depending on success of your first book)
  • You just need to create a "hollow iceberg" that gives the reader the illusion that you have thought about all of these things - a good approach is to pick 1 from the "Physical" side and focus on a couple in the "Cultural" column
  • The key is to interconnect your focus areas together - e.g. Stormlight Archive focuses on weird weather patterns, then draws out the implications from that to the other areas: climate, religion, government, economies,
  • Your explanations are not necessarily as important as making it feel real!
    - Internal consistency (within your story and world - e.g. each Harry Potter book is internally consistency but as a series, there are problems, see time turners) is more important than external consistency (making the world of your story consistent with the laws of our world - e.g. explaining X-Men exist because of genetic mutation)
What has Green filled in?


PHYSICAL

Magic
Most of this is from the books, though I am filling out some of the details where Green didn't give things a specific name or put them in a particular category.

Elemental-based magic system
  • People are born with some level of talent/ability in an elemental aspect (e.g. Fire) or with the Guild ability (can identify/sense strength in all aspects)
  • Being born with no talent at all is considered a birth defect (applies to a small percentage of the population)
  • Strength is rated in three tiers: Low, Middle and High, with further designations within each tier (weak/average/strong, with strong generally referred to as "third level", e.g. "third level High")
  • Raw magical strength is determined genetically
Using magic
  • There's some sort of power that pervades the universe
  • People need to "open to/touch the power" in order to use their magical talent
  • Holding onto the power over time increases overall magical strength
  • Taking in more power provides a temporary boost of energy, which disappears once the power is released
  • Drawing on too much power can result in burn out - a minor consequence of burnout is loss of ability; in the worst case, you lose your mind and become a drooling vegetable
  • Control over magic is achieved by weaving the power/talent into patterns
Universal abilities:
  • Shielding
  • Affecting the environment (aspect specific - e.g. Earth magic can manipulate soil)
  • Affecting the self directly
  • Affecting others directly
  • Linking (including Blending)
Earth magic specific abilities
  • Encouragement: make plants grow by directly supplying power
  • Persuasion: control over animals and can bond with them
  • Decay: Break down physical substances into smaller components (Green didn't name this ability so I did)
  • Healing: enhance the body’s natural healing processes by supplying and guiding power
Spirit magic specific abilities
  • Detect/affect emotions
  • Calm/enhance existing physical things (Jovvi calmed a fireball in Book 1, Chapter 2 which I forgot about)
  • Mind reading/control
  • Telepathy
Fire magic specific abilities
  • Summon light
  • Summon heat
  • Summon flame
  • Detect heat
Water magic specific abilities
  • Condense water from air vapor/freeze water (massive range - can teleport water/ice from clouds)
  • Dehydrate objects
  • Manipulate water-based liquids
  • Weather sense (given range and abilities, in theory capable of minor weather working though we don't see this in Green's books)
Air magic specific abilities
  • Hardened/thickened air
  • Call wind
  • Manipulate acoustics
  • Light bend
Book 5 spoilers Sight magic specific abilities
  • See probability of future events
  • Block others from seeing future events

CULTURAL

Nations

Gandistran Empire
  • Lots of trade routes - overland (thanks to an impressive network of stone paved highways) and naval (thanks to various ports)
  • High basic standard of living thanks to a government funded safety net
  • Factions:
    - Seated Blending: ultimate rulers of the Empire, responsible for Gandistra's defense. Each reign lasts for 25 years and the new rulers are chosen via single elimination tournament
    - Advisory Board: At least 12 Advisors, elected from the nobility, who administer the Empire on behalf of the Seated Blending
    - Seated High: Each aspect has a Seated High, their function is unclear from Green's books.
    - High practitioner: Must pass a test to have official status, responsible for doing things for the benefit of all in the Empire. Eligible to compete as part of challenging Blendings every 25 years
    - The Guild: members have the Guild talent, bureaucrats who maintain a register of the population, taking an annual census of everyone’s magical powers and strengths, responsible for identifying and sending strong talents to the capitol for testing
    - Nobility: granted in perpetuity for service to the Empire, along with grants of land. Divided into high and low nobility. Rising higher in the ranks of nobility requires distinguished service in the government
    - Merchant families: each family specializes in a specific type of trade and region
    - Academics: responsible for schooling and education of commoners
    - Commoners: not allowed to own land or real property - must pay rent to the noble landlords.
  • Key locations
    - Gan Garee: capitol of the Empire, located somewhere in the centre
    - Widdertown: farmlands, at the Western edge of the Empire
    - Rincammon: city in Northern Gandistra
    - Haven Wraithside: wealthy noble enclave east of Gan Garee
    - Port Entril: southern trading port
    - Regisard a.k.a. University: home to five universities and academics
Astinda
  • Gandistra’s western neighbor
  • Made up of various warring clans, each with a leading Blending
Gracely
  • Gandistra’s eastern neighbor
  • Governed by an Assembly of 15 Blendings. Each Assembly member is a High talent in their aspect (the rest of their Blending are Middles). All spots in an Assembly Blending are determined via magical competitions

Things we don't really know anything about
  • History - once upon a time the Empire was ruled by the Evil Four who were eventually defeated by the first Fivefold Blending
  • Technology/fashion - we're somewhere in 17th century fantasy Britain (carriages/coaches, women wear gowns and men wear suits)

...that's literally the extent of the worldbuilding Green has done. It's alarmingly short, considering that it's supposed to be 5 books' worth of material, though since the books should only have been 1/5th the length, we could take the length of Book 1 as a proxy (~180k words). As a point of comparison, Sanderson's Skyward outline has about 2,811 words addressing the setting for a book that's ~135k words.

I've got a lot of blank details to fill in, but I'll probably do characters first, and then backfill the missing worldbuilding based on the character arcs.

EDIT: Caught an ability for Spirit magic that I forgot about because Jovvi uses it once and then never again.

Leng fucked around with this message at 12:06 on Oct 18, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


CHARACTERS: What has Green done?

Relevant Sanderson lectures:
My notes:
  • Flaw: something within the character’s control that the character should have fixed by now, e.g. bad temper
  • Handicap: something NOT within the character’s control that needs to be overcome, e.g. born blind
  • Limitation: something that is never going to change (or that we don’t want the character to change), e.g. Peter Parker cares about Aunt Mary
  • Antagonist: somebody working against the main character
  • Villain: somebody doing expressly evil things
Framework
There are 3 things we can do to make people care about our characters:
  1. Establish empathy (likeability)
    - how are they like us?
    - are they nice?
    - do other people like them?
  2. Establish rooting interest (proactivity)
    - what is their motivation? (and how is it interesting?)
    - why can’t they have it?
    - how are they personally connected to the plot?
  3. Progress (competence)
    - overcoming a flaw that they have
    - character going on some kind of journey
    - mystery: will they succeed or become what we think they can?
    - what is going to change?

Let's try and see how many we can answer for Green's characters.


MAIN CHARACTERS

Lorand Coll - a naive dreamer desperate to escape life as a poor dirt farmer in Widdertown (Earth magic)
  • Likeability: 3/5
    - small town boy going to the big city, very relatable generic farmboy fantasy trope
    - cares about and looks out for his best friend
    - takes Rion under his wing
  • Proactivity: 1/5
    - wants to leave Widdertown and see the world

    - but never really does anything of his own accord, he just reacts to things
  • Magical competence: 5/5
    - strongest Earth magic talent discovered
    - best healer ever
    - good with Persuasion (rare)
    - studied with a poison expert
  • Non-magical competence: 2/5
    - he's a tall hot blond
    - country hick way out of his comfort zone
    - has some pretty outdated views about women, their right to be independent and sexual equality
    - is not ok with non-monogamy and partner swapping in a world where the magic system requires it
    - terrified of burn out due to a traumatic event witnessed as a child
Jovvi "Regina George" Hafford - a wantrapreneur bootstrapping her own startup endeavours thanks to her time as a renowned paid sex goddess (Spirit magic)
  • Likeability: 1/5
    - selfish and manipulative
  • Proactivity: 3/5
    - wants to accumulate enough gold and power to be secure forever

  • Magical competence: 5/5
    - strongest Spirit magic talent discovered
    - most famous courtesan in Rincammon and all the North
  • Non-magical competence: 4/5
    - street smart
    - sophisticated and socially savvy
    - capable of logical thinking
    - observant
    - cynical and doesn't trust people due to an abusive childhood
Clarion "I'm a Lord" Mardimil - a pompous manbaby with a slight Oedipal complex (Air magic)
  • Likeability: 1/5
    - an insufferably supercilious idiot
  • Proactivity: 5/5
    - the only one in the main cast to ever have a thought and then actually follow through on it
  • Magical competence: 5/5
    - strongest Air magic talent discovered
  • Non-magical competence: 1/5
    - incel who doesn't know where babies come from thanks to an abusive childhood
Tamrissa Domon - a mentally unstable survivor of domestic violence suffering from severe PTSD and has not just "anger issues", but "murderous rage issues" (Fire magic)
  • Likeability: 2/5
    - thinks she's funnier than she is
    - constantly judges other people based on incomplete information/deliberate misunderstanding
  • Proactivity: 4/5
    - quick to attack perceived threats
  • Magical competence: 5/5
    - strongest Fire magic talent discovered
  • Non-magical competence: 1/5
    - trust issues, as a result of two years in an abusive marriage
    - confidence issues, thanks to an abusive childhood
Vallant Ro - a sexist assholic melodramatic "daddy's boy" (Water magic)
  • Likeability: 2/5
    - an arrogant controlling sexist rear end in a top hat
  • Proactivity: 4/5
    - ex-captain of a ship who's used to coming up with the strategy and calling the shots
    - wants to find "The One"
  • Magical competence: 5/5
    - strongest Water magic talent discovered
  • Non-magical competence: 4/5
    - severe claustrophobia due to traumatic near death escape as a child

SECONDARY CHARACTERS

Camil Coll - Lorand's father (Earth magic)
  • Likeability: 3/5
    - solid and practical
  • Proactivity: 1/5
    - wants to keep his son at home
    - but does nothing about it
  • Magical competence: 2/5
    - powerless compared to his son
  • Non-magical competence: 1/5
    - firmly under the boot heels of the nobility
Hattial Riven - Lorand's best friend (Earth magic)
  • Likeability: 1/5
    - doesn't take responsibility for his own actions
    - selfish
  • Proactivity: 2/5
    - wants to be a High practitioner for the women and money
  • Magical competence: 3/5
    - he's a Middle
  • Non-magical competence: 1/5
    - lives in denial of reality

ANTAGONISTS

Eltrina Razas - a Lady of the nobility (Earth magic)
  • Likeability: 2/5
    - selfish
  • Proactivity: 5/5
    - wants to climb the ranks of the nobility and enjoy a lot of sex
    - ambitious, makes no apologies for it, and goes after what she wants
  • Magical competence: 1/5
    - she's a Low talent and never thinks to actually use it
  • Non-magical competence: 4/5
    - actually uses logic
    - good at persuading other people
    - resourceful
Eskin Drowd - an academic (Earth magic)
  • Likeability: 1/5
    - he's a petty bully
    - apparently also a sadistic sex pest, according to Jovvi
  • Proactivity: 5/5
    - he picks on Rion at every chance he can get
    - wants to be made a noble himself
  • Magical competence: 3/5
  • Non-magical competence: 1/5
    - ignores empirical evidence
    - tries the same thing over and over again, expecting to get different results
The rest of the antagonists are so flat that they're only going to get a one line summary because none of them are likeable, proactive or competent:
  • Allestine Tromin - an ex-courtesan who views her sex workers as slaves and uses her henchmen Ark and Bar to keep them under control
  • Hallina Mardimil - a noble Lady related to three of the outgoing Seated Blending who's selfish, controlling and emotionally abusive
  • Storn and Avrina Torgar - a merchant couple who are selfish, greedy and emotionally abusive
  • Beldara Lant - a potential High applicant who is arrogant and doesn't have the talent to back up her boasts
  • Odrin Hallasser - merchant and potential High who is a sadistic violent sex pest from your worst nightmare
  • Soonen - Adept in Fire magic with a superiority complex
  • Mirra Agran - daughter of a wealthy merchant family who is a self-centered spoilt daddy's girl


These are caricatures, not characters.

I need to make them human.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Thanks! The hope is that even if the output isn't so great, at least I'll have learned a whole bunch about my process and developed some good habits.

Technically the requirement is to write down something that vaguely resembles a story with at least 50k words, so I reckon we'll both be fine!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Planning the plan

We're now at the point where I've covered most of the useful stuff from Green's material. Whatever I haven't covered/summarized is not going to be critical to the project. From here on, I need to start making decisions about what I'm going to do for this story.

#1: Days left between now and 1 November 2020

Days I can't do NaNoWriMo stuff:
  • Sat, 24 Oct
  • Sun, 25 Oct
  • Tue, 27 Oct
  • Thu, 29 Oct
  • Sat, 31 Oct
That leaves 8 days to finish planning:
  • Mon, 19 Oct
  • Tue, 20 Oct
  • Wed, 21 Oct
  • Thu, 22 Oct
  • Fri, 23 Oct
  • Mon, 26 Oct
  • Wed, 28 Oct
  • Fri, 30 Oct
#2: Remaining preparation

We're going to call this done when I can post an outline that basically looks more or less like Sanderson's Skyward outline but in dot point form (i.e. the plot and character arcs haven't been combined yet). The plan is to use that outline document as my guiding star on writing days - i.e. I take a look at all of the bullet points I've got listed under character arcs and plot arcs, pick 3-4 points, smash out the chapter and then cross them off.

In the past (and what I've done for the big project I'm stalled on) is I used index cards. Then the index cards got messy, and I had to throw out half of them and write new ones and rearrange them. Then I found it hard to keep track of which character was up to where in their arc and where their arc was even going, so I had to create a spreadsheet/matrix to plot it all out. It's actually driving me completely mental to the point where I now avoid both the index cards and the matrix and just sit here pulling my hair out because the last 25% isn't coming together. If Sanderson's method works for me, then the first thing I do after NaNoWriMo is going to be redoing my outline, then comparing it to what's already been written and figuring out what's missing.

In order of priority:
  • Detailed character arcs
    - 3 main characters (including antagonist)
    - 7 secondary/minor characters (TBD)
  • Detailed plot arcs
    - 1 main plot
    - 1-2 sub-plots
  • Detailed setting
    - map
    - factions (the Guild, the nobility, the merchants)
    - history
That's 7 things total, so I have a day up my sleeve in case any of these things turns out to be extra hard to do or–more likely, because I'm going to have new ideas as I get more into the planning–I need to do a final pass to fix inconsistencies.

#3: Scheduling writing time

I'm planning on 2 writing days/week with a target word count of 6000-8000 words per writing day - that's the best I can do with my schedule. From past experience, I can do 1000-1500 words per hour if I know where I'm going, so this word count should be achievable in two 4 hour blocks each writing day. As a point of comparison, Sanderson writes roughly 8k-15k words/week. Guess this'll be good training!

Currently planned writing days that I'm putting into my calendar right now - some days I've had to split the sessions a bit unevenly; others I've slotted in some additional time to make sure I don't fall behind the word count:
  • Tue, 3 Nov: 7-11 AM and 1-4 PM
  • Thu, 5 Nov: 2-7 PM and 9 PM-12 AM
  • Tue, 10 Nov: 7-11 AM, 12-3 PM, 9-11 PM
  • Thu, 12 Nov: 12-7 PM (1 hr break at 3 PM), 9-11 PM
  • Tue, 17 Nov: 7 AM-12PM, 2-5 PM
  • Thu, 18 Nov: 12-7 PM (1 hr break at 3 PM), 9-11 PM
  • Tue, 24 Nov: 7-11 AM, 12-3 PM, 9-11 PM
  • Thu, 26 Nov: 12-7 PM (1 hr break at 3 PM), 9-11 PM
  • Sat, 28 Nov: 3-8 PM (30 min break at 6 PM), 9:30-11:30 PM - emergency buffer in case I don't finish on the prior Thursday
Planned editing/posting days - not exactly sure how long I'll need, but assuming editing takes half as long as writing, this seems ok:
  • Wed, 4 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Fri, 6 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Wed, 11 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Fri, 13 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Wed, 18 Nov, 7-11 AM
  • Fri, 20 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Wed, 25 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Fri, 27 Nov: 7-11 AM
  • Sun, 29 Nov: 9-11 PM - emergency buffer in case I don't finish on the prior Thursday
On writing days I'll report what the total word count is and update the OP with a running total. Editing days results in a post with the chapters written.

#4: Decide on the protagonist

This will be no surprise to anyone who's been following the Let's Read: Lorand is gonna be our man for a few reasons:
  • Farmboy seeks adventure is such a classic trope - every aspiring SFF author just needs get this one out of their system
  • Most of my speculation to date has been thinking through Lorand's POV
  • It's true to the essence of Green's story as well as she also begins with Lorand
  • Since he's from the middle of nowhere, I have more time to figure out how I want to introduce Gan Garee
  • Rion, Tamrissa and Jovvi all have issues in their canon backstory that need to be dealt with sensitively and it's a layer of complexity I don't need when I'm trying to figure out how to write a novel for the first time
  • Vallant is a valid option, but I'm still mad about him being a sexist controlling rear end in a top hat who constantly objectifies women in the canon, so Vallant, I'd rather not have to write from your POV just yet
  • He has the only non-abusive parental figure that we see in canon, and Camil Coll actually has a little arc of his own
  • Lorand comes with a sidekick, Hat, who also has his own arc in canon

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: List of all plotholes in Green's canon

In order from the Let's Read thread - this will be a good internal consistency check to see if I've miscounted anything :

Leng posted:

PLOTHOLES: 39
Plotholes that are irrelevant to the rewrite are struck out but included for completeness:
  1. How did people not apply basic logic and just try every single permutation possible for a Blending? (Book 1, Chapter 1)
  2. Jovvi leaves the residence at night, but arrives at the very close depot in the morning (Book 1, Chapter 2)
  3. Magical talent is basically equivalent to any other ability (e.g. artistic, athletic, etc), so why would the entire population be tested for their level of ability especially if Guild talents can rate them just by sensing them? And why would there be a belief that "there are only so many positions as High awarded"? A High practitioner is a descriptor of how strong someone's ability is, not a position. (Book 1, Chapter 3)
  4. Jovvi, a savvy manipulator whose Guild man was her patron, decides to gather intelligence about the test from the door guards instead of the Guild man who probably knows actual stuff (Book 1, Chapter 7)
  5. How does the competitions result in a significant increase in demand for transient housing when there's always a steady stream of applicants coming to Gan Garee? (Book 1, Chapter 9)
  6. If finding new High talents is important for the Empire, why would they be housed in privately owned volunteered residences which would be a logistical nightmare to manage instead of in controlled locations? (Book 1, Chapter 9)
  7. Governments that need assets usually just seize them - either by force or by law (e.g. compulsory acquisition). No government simply relies on private citizens volunteering their housing in order to fill a temporary housing shortage - this is stupid (Book 1, Chapter 9)
  8. Why would the coach ticket stub be the only means used to identify who the applicants are? (Book 1, Chapter 10)
  9. Inconsistency between whether a Fire magic user needs to be running their flames over an object to sense it (Book 1, Chapter 11)
  10. Does Gan Garee have mixed bathing customs or not?! (Book 1, Chapter 11)
  11. Can Water magic teleport water/ice or not?! Is direct line of sight required? Does being inside limit range? (Book 1, Chapter 12)
  12. What exactly are the laws regarding the use of magic, High practitioners, applicants and the competitions? (Book 1, Chapter 12)
  13. Why are "flawed potential Highs" bad and how are they different from Middles? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
  14. Why doesn't the corrupt nobility just drug everyone of Middle strength and higher? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
  15. How big is the Gandistran Empire? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
  16. What is the rough distribution of aspect and strength in the population? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
  17. What exactly is the technique that an "ordinary talent" (read: Low) can use to neutralize an opponent to a certain extent before a fight turns physical? (Book 1, Chapter 23)
  18. If it's unheard of for a High to be condemned, why would the penalty for trying to escape the tests still apply? (Book 1, Chapter 23)
  19. What constitutes "acting together" for the purposes of the anti-Blending law? (Book 1, Chapter 23)
  20. Are Highs regarded as "a misbegotten plague" or incredible wealth, power, prestige and duty to the Empire? (Book 1, Chapter 27)
  21. Why do they all get "the speech" from their Adepts about getting used to using their talents to harm others when Tamrissa was told off for it during her initial test? (Book 1, Chapter 28)
  22. If everyone can feel how wide everyone else is opened to the power, how the hell are these qualification rounds even any mystery? (Book 1, Chapter 35)
  23. The last time "terror hit [Tamrissa]" when a man made unwanted physical contact, she immediately attacked him yet she freezes in the same situation here (Book 1, Chapter 35)
  24. How exactly does "facility with one part of the aspect" translate "into facility with the others"? (Book 1, Chapter 36)
  25. Why would Vallant assume the cloud came from Rion? (Book 1, Chapter 37)
  26. How big is Tamrissa's sitting room and why would she assume Vallant asked Rion to make the swing? (Book 1, Chapter 38)
  27. Was Vallant engaged to Mirra formally or not? (Book 1, Chapter 38)
  28. How are people socially conditioned to accept that using their ability to affect other people is disgusting and absolutely forbidden? (Book 1, Chapter 40)
  29. If Rion has heard of people who were awarded High positions, how does he have no clue how this impacts the ? (Book 1, Chapter 41)
  30. Additional round of competitions (1 vs 1) between the masteries and the actual competition is explained but doesn't happen (Book 1, Chapter 41)
  31. Additional round of competitions (1 vs 1) between the masteries and the actual competition is explained but doesn't happen (Book 1, Chapter 42)
  32. How does Eltrina know so much about what's involved with Blending when it's top secret? (Book 1, Chapter 44)
  33. If they can take as long as they like to qualify, how is there a conspiracy? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
  34. Why is Jovvi convinced there's still a conspiracy even though the other people have been here for weeks and are clearly not dead? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
  35. If Middles are used as well, then why do they even need to go through the qualification exercise? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
  36. Why even bother with the training, if everyone is mind controlled? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
  37. Why are the Fire magic trials the only ones that involve learning how to defend against direct attack? (Book 2, Chapter 4)
  38. How rarely do people qualify that the Adepts are still shocked when it happens? (Book 2, Chapter 4)
  39. If Fire and Water can feel things through their elements, does this mean Air magic users can just feel everyone and everything within range? What is the standard Air magic range anyway? (Book 2, Chapter 5)
That's just the stuff that's internally inconsistent in Green's canon up to the end of the first level masteries. At least some of them overlap and others will be made irrelevant by changes to the plotting.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Main characters

Relevant Sanderson lecture (guest lecture by Mary Robinette Kowal): Lecture #7: Short Stories

Technically 50k words is a novel, but in SFF it's close enough to novella that I think using the short story framework is helpful. Also it's a hands-on lecture where you have to write a 250 word piece of flash fiction using the given prompt and applying the concepts she gives you. I highly, highly, highly recommend doing it!

MICE Framework

This framework recognizes 4 types of conflicts/story threads:
  • Milieu: about trying to navigate a space. It begins when the character enters and ends when they exit/escape
  • Inquiry: characters are trying to answer a question. It begins when the question is posed and ends when answer(s) are obtained
  • Character: internal conflict, resolves when there is a change in identity
  • Event: external conflict, resolves when there is a change in the status quo/world
When constructing the overall story, you should nest your threads like you're coding. Open with the main plot, then nest the subplots within, and have the resolutions of the subplots drive the main plot forward:
code:
<m><i></i></m>
Using this framework, we can see Green's canon has an Event thread as the primary plot (everyone just qualified as a Middle, now they have to go test for High, oh by the way, it's a 25th year) with an Inquiry thread as the subplot (why is the testing authority doing weird things? Oh because the game is rigged) which feeds back into the main Event thread.
code:
<e><i></i></e>
How long is your story?

Apparently there's some sort of rule of thumb:
pre:
Length of story = (Number of characters + Stages) * 750 words * MICE threads
                  -----------------------------------------------------------
                                             1.5
Solving this equation for 50k words gives me 10 characters in 3 locations with 3 MICE threads. Yes I was using this formula in my previous post on planning.

If my main plot is the 25th year (Event) and my subplot is the conspiracy (Inquiry), then that last one must be Lorand's arc as the protagonist (Character) since I don't want really want to write 50k words about the journey from Widdertown to Gan Garee (Milieu). That said, I could also shuffle off that conspiracy plot into Rewrite Book 2, which might be a better fit since that is planned to be more relationship heavy anyway.

In that scenario, I'd cut a character and add a MICE thread so all of Act I would be a travelogue (Milieu), Act II as "how do I qualify?" (Inquiry) and then Act III as an Event (individual competitions), with the whole story anchored by Lorand's journey from farmboy to powerful High practitioner. It just means that I'd end nesting the plot like this:
code:
<c><m></m><i></i><e></e></c>
Yeah ok, I like that quite a bit. We hit all of the typical SFF tropes and we get to have a three dimensional character. I think I'll go with that so let's get to working out the main characters' arcs.


Lorand Coll (Earth magic)

Our protagonist. He's a farmboy born and bred in Widdertown, the second of six children. By tradition, the farm is passed down to the eldest. He used to be a dreamer, but when Lorand was ten, his older brother burned himself out defending the farm against raiders. With Mildon's death, the family struggled to survive on the farm, often needing to borrow money in order to continue sending Lorand and his younger siblings to the Guild-run school.

In his Earth magic classes, Lorand displayed an innate talent for Healing, particularly for animals. He also spent a year learning about cures and rare poisons from a travelling herbalist. There was talk of sending him to the nearest city to be apprenticed to a proper physician–sponsored by the Guild–but his father Camil refused as Lorand's ability to Encourage crops was the only thing keeping them ahead of their debt payments.

Since then, Lorand has dreamed of being able to save up enough silver to make up for his absence. He hopes to be able to get a physician's licence, find patronage from a local lord and clear the debt from the family farm.


Talitha Riven (Earth magic)

She's Lorand's best friend and the third of five children. Her father, Phor Riven, owns the neighboring farm. She grew up listening to stories from her maternal grandmother (an outsider who was never quite accepted by Widdertown folk due to her different beliefs). Unlike her siblings, Talitha looks a lot like her grandmother; as a result, she was often bullied and excluded as a child.

Talitha has a vivid imagination and is known around town for her escapades. Most of the time, Lorand ends up taking the blame for the consequences of her ideas. Despite her strong Earth magic talent, her parents have been unable to find her a match, and no one is willing to take her as apprentice, thanks to her reputation for being flighty.

Not that any of it matters to Talitha - she intends to leave Widdertown the day she comes of age. The only reason she hasn't left yet is because of her grandmother, who is dying from an illness no one recognizes.


Delin Moord (Earth magic)

Born into nobility, Delin is used to getting what he wants by virtue of his position, wealth, or charm. He spent the last three years at Regisard's most prestigious university and was recently expelled for misuse of talent. Thanks to his father's influence, he evaded a sentence to the Deep Caverns and an official note on his Guild record.

Unfortunately, due to this incident, his father has refused to name him as successor on the grounds that his temperament and abilities are unsuitable. He's got a year to change his father's mind, otherwise he'll be disowned for good.


----------

What did I change and why?

I haven't written much yet so it feels really weird to have such a long list already:
  • Killed Mildon: he appeared once in Green's canon in a 888 word conversation that was an unnecessary rehash of an infodump
  • Made Mildon's death due to burnout: Lorand's burnout issues comes from this incident in his childhood:

    quote:

    If Lorand had had the strength he would have shuddered, knowing as he did that all those stories hadn't been exaggerations on the part of adults trying to keep their children manageable. He could still remember that little girl at school, when he'd been nine or ten and she'd been about the same. Her talent had been Water magic, she'd been incredibly strong for her age, and the indulgence of her parents had made her more arrogant than anyone should have been allowed to be.
    ...
    That little girl had ignored the words of caution from their teachers, and had constantly searched for new ways to show how good she was. When spring came that year with its thunderstorms, the little girl had been delighted. She decided to gentle a thunderstorm the way Middle practitioners sometimes did, not realizing it took more than one Middle and more than Water magic. Lorand could still see her quietly slipping out of the schoolroom with a triumphant smile on her face . . .

    Her screams had brought everyone running outside, but by then it was already too late for the girl. Afterward their teachers had explained that she'd summoned enough power to handle the thunderstorm, but hadn't herself been able to handle that much power. It had filled her beyond bursting, raging through her when her control slipped. The teachers had quickly herded the other children back inside the school building, but not before Lorand had seen the girl.

    She'd been sitting slumped on the ground, the most horrible blankness and slackness in her face, a still-breathing body with no one at home any longer. No one home now, and never, ever again. . . .
    Ok, this is a pretty horrible thing to witness, but the level of PTSD Lorand has as a result seems disproportional. Let's bring it up to the right level by making it his big brother sacrificing himself to protect the family from raiders
  • Lorand's parents are in huge debt: this is extrapolated from the canon. In Green's books, Lorand has no clue about any of this, probably because Green didn't have any idea about it until she got around with writing Book 5, at which point she backfilled.
  • The Guild runs the schools: We don't have a lot of information about schooling or the Guild or the testing process, so I'm going to be filling in a lot of blank details here when we get to the factions.
  • Lorand's Healing talent: this is a reworking of details already in canon and then extrapolating. Being in the middle of my Stormlight reread, I am super conscious about the parallels to Kaladin's story arc
  • The rare poisons: this is a detail from Book 5, where Lorand had a sort of apprenticeship with a retired poisons expert who lived on a very small farm in Widdertown. It felt super random in the canon so I've changed it slightly.
  • Gender swapping Hattial Riven: after making a list of all the possible characters I would be using in a Lorand focused book, I realized most of them were male. Since I'm rewriting this in 2020, I'm gonna have more female representation, especially since Jovvi and Tamrissa won't feature heavily (if at all). That makes Hat the best character to gender swap, since the friendship and eventual rivalry will be more interesting when we run up against Lorand's beliefs about women, sex, gender roles, etc. Green never bothered to give Hat a backstory so everything here is new.
  • Delin Moord's backstory: the Let's Read thread hasn't met him yet (he's Book 2, Chapter 10) but the only part that's canon is the first sentence. Green's antagonists are Evil so he was a murderous psychopath due to his...you guessed it...abusive childhood
How the relationships between these main characters will change will get covered in the plotting post because I need to figure out how the main plot works first. On that note, I'll probably do the secondary characters post after the main plot as well, because who ends up being a secondary character will likely depend on the plot structure.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Main plot and subplots

Relevant Sanderson lecture: Lecture #3: Plot (Part 2) (if you want to just watch the bit where he talks about his method, jump to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qgbsz7Gnrd8#t=2116s)

My notes:
  • The key to using plot archetypes when developing an outline is to figure out why we like them and therefore how to break them down into small, quantifiable components
  • Sanderson outlines backwards: he starts by considering what the most satisfying ending is to the plot archetype then he lists out all the things that need to happen in order to get there
  • When he starts writing, he will grab points from each in order to figure out what he needs to achieve in each chapter/scene
  • This leaves him to focus on making the scene active, interesting, full of dynamic conflict, etc without having to keep all of his plotting in his head
This is very interesting to me because a lot of the times when I get bogged down and stuck, it's because I feel completely overwhelmed with how much I have to think about at the same time. Often I'll be halfway through writing something (or will have just written something) and then realize, oh no, this is all wrong, it's not right for the character arc, but if I cut this and change that, it's going to have a knock on effect over here, here and here, and now I have to rebuild the whole outline and change something earlier that I was really happy with and . This is how I end up getting to a point of being too afraid to write, because I'm just going to end up spending the whole day in that spiral. What's really appealing to me about Sanderson's method is how it works to reduce cognitive load. An outline feels doable because it can be broken down into components; and that in itself makes the actual writing feel achievable, because you end up with concrete targets for each chapter that sets some parameters around the characters that need to be in scene, what they're doing and where it's taking place.

For the record, thinking about the ending is the part that intimidates me the most. I think it's because I'm like, "what would be an awesome ending? I have no idea". Who cares, the first draft of everything is terrible, let's just get something workable down and go with it.

I also have no idea how many points I need in each section. Would 3 points per chapter be too many? I have no idea. I'm going to trust in the formula that if I have 4 MICE threads, it'll be enough to get me to 50k words.


Character Plot: Lorand overcomes his fear of his own potential
Oh boy, this one was the hardest, because all I had to go on from the canon was "Lorand's scared of burnout, but whenever he's put in a life or death situation, he gets over it because obviously it's about the same thing so he's got nothing to lose, and then Jovvi just fixes it so he never has to overcome the problem on his own".
  • Young Lorand: has always been naturally strong in Earth magic for his age and was constantly showing off.
  • Mildon's burnout and death: Lorand feels like it was his fault that Mildon died (because he had been doing some typical showing off which attracted the attention of some Astinda raiders).
  • Testing for Middle: Talitha pushed him into this because her grandma got sick and she was hoping Lorand could heal her
  • Audit: he knows his bribe only bought his family a year or so and that the corrupt local agent of the nobility has been steadily increasing the number of bribes demanded. It all compounds his guilt, he decides that since he was responsible for Mildon's death which sent them spiraling into debt, he's got to be the one to save them. Lugal and Talitha convince him that trying to qualify for High practitioner is better than his original plan of apprenticing to a small town physician - especially since High practitioners get specialized training beyond what any small town physician would be able to give him and the Empire guarantees their income - to the point where he might be able to buy out the family farm in a few years
  • Qualifying: something happens during his initial qualifying test that triggers memories of what happened to Mildon, he fails the first two attempts and scrapes through on the third. It's a turning point.
  • Testing for High: he's feeling confident in himself and his abilities. Talitha's failure hits him pretty hard. He feels extremely guilty for achieving her dream.
  • Training: Lorand notices a lot of corruption in the nobility, similar to what he had experienced. He gets mixed reactions from his group and ends up pretty fired up to win a place in the competitions so he can try to change things.
  • Return to Widdertown: he manages to sneak a visit to the corrupt agent, threatening retribution if said agent tries to blackmail his father again.

Event Plot: The Competitions
The first five books of Green's canon focused exclusively on magical strength and ability. There's not really a lot of clarity around how the magic system works or what advancement looks like so I'm going to be making up a lot of things. Not sure how I'm gonna go writing action scenes. Oh well, here goes:
  • Testing for Middle: two components - a theory component that covers all four abilities relating to their aspect and a practical component (they can choose which ability to demonstrate). Tests are held twice a year. The first test is free for everyone, but people who want to test again are charged a fee.
  • Qualifying as an applicant: Similar to the test for Middle, the first three attempts are free, but subsequent attempts are self-funded. The qualification test changes every quarter. Aspirants are given a set time limit to complete a complex task, which requires demonstration of basic competence in all 4 Earth magic abilities (at a Middle level), and advanced aptitude (beyond Middle level) in at least 2 of the abilities.
  • Training period: All potential Highs have to go through a mandatory training program, which involves them going around the Empire doing things for the benefit of the Empire.
  • Testing for High: there's an exam (similar to the Middle one), with the practical component being successful completion of an Imperial mission. If/when they pass, all High practitioners draw wages from the Empire, who reserves the right to deploy them wherever. The penalty for failure is severe
  • Competitions: Capture the flag race. Everyone who makes it past the finish line with a flag earns a place in competition

Milieu Plot: Leaving Widdertown
In the canon, Lorand is required by law to leave once the local Guild representative confirms he is a Middle practitioner. He's given the means because the Guild provides a coach ticket and a small purse. Green basically shoves Lorand out of Widdertown so fast that we barely get an idea of the place, though we're told over and over that it's "bucolic".
  • Testing for Middle: The in-world equivalent of the high school graduation exam. The exam is optional, but a passing grade is required for many occupations - healers/physicians and governmental posts included. He passes. Master Lugal, the local Guild representative, is so impressed by Lorand's results that he comes to the Coll farm with an offer of an early apprenticeship, all expenses paid by the Guild. Since Lorand hasn't hit his majority and the Colls are still up to their ears in debt, Camil refuses to give him leave. Lorand decides to find a way to save enough silver to make up for his absence from the farm
  • A traveling herbalist: It's harder to earn money in Widdertown than Lorand thought. He can't heal without a licence, every farm already has a few Encouragers of their own (and besides Camil disapproves of him using his magic to help another farmer when he could help his own family), most of the animals have been domesticated for generations and are easily managed by anyone with the slightest ability in Earth magic, and Decay is viewed as dangerous (not that he's any match for Talitha in that skill anyway). A chance encounter with a traveling herbalist gives him an opportunity to earn some extra silver.
  • Audit: By the time he turns fifteen, Lorand's finally saved enough silver. He spends all day trying to work up the courage to broach the subject with his father. That afternoon, the local lord's agent visits their farm for an annual audit of their taxes, apparently the official records show that the Colls are short (due to the agent skimming off the top). Lorand gives up his silver to bribe the agent into correcting the records–this time.
  • The Guild: Lorand goes to Master Lugal to check if the scholarship is still on the table. Unfortunately, it is not–it was given to Talitha instead. Lorand begs to be allowed to go along and train with her, promising he'll earn his own way.

Relationship Plot: Lorand and Talitha
I was so tempted to make these two friends with benefits as a nod to the source material and there wolf's suggestions in the Let's Read. This may still yet happen, though I'm gonna wait and see first. If I start having trouble hitting word count, then yeah, we're gonna go there.
  • Testing for Middle: She also passes, the second strongest talent after Lorand (he's first, by a wide margin, mainly because Talitha didn't show up for the theory portion of her exam). There's only so many scholarships to go around though; she's both jealous and upset that Lorand gets a ticket out of Widdertown but he can't take it. She would have been next in line...if she had done her exam properly.
  • Trying again: Talitha persuades Master Lugal to let her take the exam again. This time, she beats Lorand's previous result and secures the scholarship. She has no interest or talent in healing though; she wants to be sent to the capitol to test for High. Master Lugal is unconvinced, but when Lorand begs to join her, Lugal changes his mind (he thinks Lorand's got High potential). He can sponsor them a one way ticket to the capitol and one week of lodging at the Gan Garee Guild House; beyond that, it's up to them.
  • Qualifying: Talitha passes easily, but Lorand struggles. He squeaks past, barely.
  • Testing for High: The tables are turned. He passes, she fails on the theory component. Buried resentment is aired in a massive fight. She disappears the night before Lorand's group is due to leave on their mission/practical exam.
  • Return to Widdertown: Lorand's supervising Adept takes his group of Highs in training to the western border, passing through Widdertown en route. There's no sign of Talitha; she never came home. He manages to heal her grandmother though, who gives him a message and keepsake of some sort for Talitha.
  • Finding Talitha: Based on the clues her grandmother gave him, Lorand tracks Talitha down in Gan Garee. There's a reunion and a reconciliation of sorts.


Ok, that was hard. I've spent most of the day procrastinating on this and this is probably my third attempt at getting a coherent outline together. If you're curious, I actually plotted the sections out of order to how they're presented: Event, Milieu, Relationship and then Character. At one point I had Lorand and Talitha making their way to Gan Garee on foot until I figured out that I really didn't want to spend a third of the book traipsing around western Gandistra. I've written about ~1300 words of outline and the same bit from Sanderson's Skyward outline is about ~4200 words. Since Skyward is about 2.7 times as long as my 50k word count and I've used point form, hopefully this is about the right amount of story. There's 23 bullet points right now and I was planning on 16-20 chapters, so maybe I overestimated and 1-2 bullets per 3000-4000 word chapter is ok, or my chapters are gonna be longer than I planned. I guess we'll see what happens! Maybe I'll have to come back and mess around with the plot more later.

Now that I know where we're going plot wise, I can loop back to characters. Delin will likely get demoted from main to secondary character, since the main conflict is coming from the competitions and then internally from Lorand. This is basically consistent with Green's canon, and there are a few other things mirrored as well. At this point, it's easier to point out the essence of what I've kept, rather than explaining what I've changed and why:
  • We open and close with Lorand in Widdertown - Green opens Chapter 1, Book 1 with Lorand in Widdertown and the main cast returns to Widdertown at the beginning of Book 5.
  • Lorand's dad still objects to him leaving the farm
  • The road map for being in the competitions is roughly the same - you have to be a confirmed Middle to go for High and there's an initial qualification round before the testing
  • Testing for Middle still happens in your home town while testing for High happens in Gan Garee
  • Lorand's best friend still doesn't make it as a High, and they still have a fight over that resentment (though hopefully it's now hitting some genuine emotional notes rather than Hat just bizarrely showing up at the residence demanding Lorand pay his gambling debts and give up his spot and being generally deluded)
  • Lorand still has burnout issues, and he still has a turning point in the middle of his test about that
  • Corruption in the nobility and their agents is still there - this is an extrapolation from the source materials

I feel like everything I've outlined is...adequate but I can't tell if what I'm doing is good or bad and I don't know how Green's themes of control are going to get worked in. Maybe that's just going to be something I keep in the back of my mind as I write by focusing on how characters are controlled and try to control others. This doesn't really surprise me though - I have found that I rarely approach storytelling by consciously thinking about themes; my themes tend to emerge during the writing process and only become obvious later.

On that note, if you're reading along and you'd like to critique anything of the planning to date, go for it. You don't have to wait until I start publishing chapters to critique - in some ways if you have macro level critiques it's much better for me to get the feedback now rather than later!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Map

Since I finished all of the plot arcs yesterday, I decided I could indulge myself. In this post, we're going to take a detour from fiction writing and work on a lower priority but fun thing - a map! This has been on my wish list since the very beginning of the Let's Read:

Leng posted:

Possible fixes
I would either cut the prologue entirely and begin the book with Lorand, or replace it with a totally different prologue that doesn't involve extracts from pseudo academic texts or a journal framing device.

The overall story isn't really that complicated or nuanced, so I think I'd lean towards cutting the prologue and investing the time into DRAWING A MAP. Even a half-assed one would do a better job at establishing the setting than Green has done in the entire serieses (or whatever the plural form of series is when you are referring to multiple series, and not just the multiple books within a single series).

wizzardstaff posted:

I don't know that a map is necessary since the entire series (or just the first series, I never read the final three) takes place almost entirely within Gan Garee.

This was a weird wish list item for me, since when I normally read books, I don't pay much attention to maps. That's not to say I ignore them - I usually like to look at them before I start reading, admire how pretty they are, and then forget about it when I start reading. This is the case even when the author spends loads of time on hiring an illustrator to do a map, etc. Usually the author does a good enough job of conveying setting that I can still evoke the world in my mind without a map. Unfortunately, since the Blendingverse has a serious case of white room syndrome, I find myself missing the map and the tone it sets for the story.

Sanderson relies on his art director to do all things art related, including maps, so I had to go elsewhere for guidance. I took a year's worth of drawing classes long ago and it was the standard landscapes, still life, etc stuff. These days, I mostly draw doodles for my daughter. Drawing is fun though, I would love to do more of it. Good landscapes, still life, cartoons and people are beyond my skill level, but I figured a simple stylized map would be doable. WASD20 has a great overview of things to keep in mind for creating believable fantasy maps (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17NU-io9dmA) plus a more detailed series on how to draw one (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLq8DIL0O-i-mYmd-rt-xvy-MfvkGMvJf7). My first attempt (before I had watched any of the videos) broke most of the rules and had me wishing I had paid more attention in geography classes.

Drawing the landmasses gave me the most trouble. The detailed tutorial suggests several methods for drawing landmasses and I went with the random fractal generator method (https://donjon.bin.sh/world/) and then just took two screenshots of things that I liked the look of (keeping in mind that I had to go for a fairly wide continent given the canon):


(I'm not really sure why but imgur keeps uploading the screenshot as a rotated view, sorry guys)

I eyeballed and freehand copied it loosely using my stylus and the Bamboo Paper app (free version) on my iPad. The stylus I have is the Maglus Applydea (https://maglusstylus.com/product.php/2/Maglus_Stylus_with_Removable_Tip_System). I have no idea how they got all these testimonials from people saying it's great for drawing. In my opinion, it is not great for drawing. I spend just as much (if not more) time erasing lines that were drawn slightly off because it's really hard to tell where the stylus is making contact with the screen:



I couldn't do a lot of the fine lines that the tutorial was doing to detail the map, so I decided to color things in using the highlighter, since using the pencil results in a super dark shade and I only have 9 colors to choose from. In Bamboo Paper, the highlighter is just a wide (wider, widest) brush with opacity turned way down. This means to get a consistent color, you need to keep the stylus on the screen down for the entire time you're shading an area, otherwise you start getting multiple layers. Bamboo Paper not being the best drawing app and the Maglus not being the best drawing stylus, I screwed up while filling in the ocean:


(yep, stylus lost contact with the screen when I was filling in the northwest corner and now I'm screwed - I'm gonna get weird overlapping layers of color now instead of one consistent color)

Tried to "fix it in post" by copying/pasting squares of blue in Preview (because I don't have Photoshop or GIMP installed):



I had drawn individual tree symbols like the tutorial but couldn't do it at the small scale required with my stylus (since you can't zoom in on Bamboo Paper). I was hoping I could fix it by just copy/pasting my forests in Preview but it did not look good. Ugh. Revert to the untampered version and keep going. I'll just pretend I meant to progressively shade the ocean from the landmass, even if that technically means it looks weird since I'm fairly certain that the ocean becomes DARKER to the naked eye the further away you get from the landmasses. By this point, I've spent at least two hours on this so let's forge on and add: mountain ranges, rivers, a lake, forests, one swamp, two hillly areas, fill out everywhere else with grassland, mark the important named locations that we know of (despite a good handful of viewpoint chapters in Astinda, Green never got around to naming any of the places (they're all referred to as "the work area", a "town", a "house" and an "office") and draw a really basic compass rose. The text I had to type in Preview (the font is Trattatello if anyone is curious).

And we have a map! Green had so little information in her books that I decided I could do basically whatever I wanted, including putting Gan Garee on an island in the middle of the continent's only lake. I'm not sure whether I should have drawn in lines to indicate the borders between the different nations, but I figured it'd be apparent enough based on the mountain ranges.



That was about 3-4 hours of work though I'm fairly certain half of that time was me battling my stylus and the drawing app. I didn't bother with other decorations and things, nor did I try to figure out a scale because it's not really going to be that relevant to the story. Maybe this will come to bite me later, but this is the one instance where I'm going to permit myself to handwave stuff with "because magic".

Now I'm pretty excited about fleshing out the rest of the setting details. Factions will most likely be next so I can figure out the politics before circling back to secondary characters. I'll leave history to last since most of that will just be a backdrop and likely won't make it into the actual text (it'll just inform how I write the characters).

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Factions

I have very little interest in real world politics so I find it surprising that when I read fantasy, I really enjoy seeing political intrigue that's well done. It must be something to do with strong character motivations, the mystery of figuring out what those motivations are and the subtext involved. Stuff I like:
  • GRRM - A Song of Ice and Fire no explanations required
  • Janny Wurtz/Raymond Feist - Empire trilogy (Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire)
  • General Battuta's Baru - no spoilers for books 2 and 3 because I just finished book 1 which is amazing amazing amazing and everybody should read it
  • Sanderson's Dalinar's arc in Stormlight Archive plus the Ghostbloods are fascinating
  • I did enjoy the short-lived Commander in Chief TV series as well
It's a short list because I don't go looking for political intrigue, I just enjoy it when it pops up! Reading recommendations welcome.

Relevant Sanderson lectures - same as characters, since factions are composed of and run by characters so for all intents and purposes, they're like super-characters:

Leng posted:


Green actually had 9 factions within Gandistra, none of which were very fleshed out. 9 is too many for a 50k novel, so I'm going to group some and then zoom in on a few. Most factions will just be background color and–as far as Lorand is concerned–are a homogenous group. If/when I do the follow on Rewritten Book 2, the worldbuilding on factions will get expanded to suit the conspiracy plot.


The Seated Blending on the Fivefold Throne (the monarchs)
  • Scope of authority: ultimate rulers of the Empire, responsible for Gandistra's defense (each of them individually and collectively as a Blending are weapons of mass destruction) and direction of government policy. The actual day to day administration of the Empire is delegated to the Advisory Board
  • As the most powerful magic users, they are also the notional heads of magical research by the Universities (this will not be a big part of Rewritten Book 1, just mentioned), magical training by the Adepts and command the High practitioners for their aspect
  • Mandate for rule: combination of sheer magical power and divine right as the closest personifications of the Prime Aspect, so their will/actions are considered to embody the law. New rulers are chosen via a single elimination tournament (heavily focused on magical combat) and each reign lasts for 25 years.
  • The current Seated Blending have been the undefeated champions of the last 3 competitions. They rose to power by defeating the previous Fourfold Seated Blending 75 years ago. Their goal is to nurture the stability of the Empire

Adepts (effectively heads of the royal guard/army generals)
  • High practitioners hand picked by the Seated Blending as their deputies, so loyalties are to the Seated Blending are close to absolute
  • Main duties are to oversee the training of potential Highs and subsequent deployment of trained Highs

The Advisory Board/Nobility (basically stewards)
  • Nobility is granted by the Seated Blending as a reward for exemplary service. Recipients are given grants of land along with the hereditary title of "Lord" or "Lady". The non-hereditary title of "High Lord" or "High Lady" is conferred for extraordinary service as an indication of high favor.
  • Advisory Board is comprised of 5 Advisors who administer the Empire under delegated authority of the Seated Blending. They make decisions and pass judgement in matters that relate to established laws in their area, draft and implement new policies and laws at the direction of the Seated Blending, and may propose new policies/laws for the consideration of the Seated Blending.
    - Fire (mining and industry)
    - Water (fishing, sea trade, sanitation)
    - Earth (farming, healing, building)
    - Air (overland transport, communications)
    - Spirit (intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy)
  • Tend to excel in administration and logistics rather than in their aspect - though as with any governmental post, they must qualify as Middles at minimum. Some may have High potential but choose not to sit the High exam
  • Technically appointed by the Seated Blending for life. The first Advisory Board was appointed by merit. By tradition, Advisors select and train their own successors (whose appointment is confirmed by the Seated Blending when the previous Advisor dies).
  • Most Advisors were made eventually nobles by various Seated Blendings.
  • Over time, noble lineage became an important part of the selection criteria, with many Advisors preparing their bloodline heirs to succeed them as Advisors (or if not, securing prestigious positions in an Advisor's staff)
  • Current Advisors are of houses: Ruhl (Water), Noll (Spirit), Maylock (Fire), Moord (Earth), Razas (Air)

The Guild (a weird bureaucracy of priests, career advisors, recruiters and trackers)
  • All members have the Guild talent, which is the ability to sense and rate the strength of anyone in any aspect whenever they are in contact with the power. In addition, Guild members are immune to direct attempts to affect them using any of the aspects (most useful in defending against Earth/Spirit/Water magic trying to directly affect their minds/bodies, whereas Air/Fire by nature tends to affect immediate environment which Guild members can't block)
  • They maintain a register of the population, taking an annual census of everyone's magical powers and strengths
  • The Guild's primary duty is to locate and foster the pipeline of Middle and High talent in service of the Empire - kind of like a bounty system (for each potential Middle or High they find and each Middle or High who passes)
  • All members start with the rank of Initiate. Becoming skilled at performing a Search is required before promotion to Acolyte. Acolytes are sent to assist Adepts in finding and training Middle and High talents (also in locating those who misuse talents).
  • Masters are assigned to individual towns to carry out the Guild's duty
  • The Guild is led by the High Master, who is elected by the Masters, Adepts and the Seated Blending (each faction determines how they will vote according to their own rules)
  • Being the only aspect neutral faction and its members being immune to being influenced by any aspect and in their role as a pseudo priesthood, the Guild also runs the competitions to become the Seated Blending every quarter century

It's past midnight and I no longer know if any of this makes sense. There's gonna be some cross jurisdictional problems for sure which makes for an inefficient government but interesting conflicts so I guess that's good for the purposes of writing fiction?

EDIT: wow yeah reading over this the next day I clearly left incomplete sentences and stuff and also didn't type in stuff I was thinking. Fixed now, hopefully!

Leng fucked around with this message at 05:34 on Oct 23, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

I don't remember if this comes up in the series, but what happens to people born with the "Guild talent" who don't want to join the Guild? I remember that (fifth book) some people with Sight magic are passed off as Guild members but this is kind of the reverse.

Since the world has people of varying talents they wouldn't necessarily be shut out; they could be just as much a member of society as someone who has barely enough Fire to light a candle. But do they hide it? Is there stigma? And how do Guild members feel about their role in society? Do they resent being pigeonholed into their roles? Do they see themselves as separate and elevated from normal magic?

Another thing that I always wondered is how Spirit is treated by society as a relative newcomer. In your chronology the empire was ruled by a Fourfold Blending just 75 years ago; that means there are people with a living memory of a world with (apparently) only four magics. What does that look like? Are there old government buildings constructed with beautiful fourfold symmetry that needed a hastily added fifth wing? Are there classic works of art that feel outdated or prejudiced? Academic theories that prominent historical Guild leaders were actually Spirit practitioners in disguise?

These things probably aren't too relevant to the story about Lorand you want to tell, but I just find them frustratingly unexplored in the source material. (At least in my memory.) If nothing else they seem like an opportunity for foreshadowing a hidden sixth magic.

Excellent question - I believe it's never actually covered in the series! Though spoilers for the second series which I think you haven't read: the High Master's 2IC goes rogue and takes a bunch of Guild people with them. They get hunted down and executed, basically. On your spoilered bit the Sight magic people were actually hidden in the communities for defective nulls, people who were born without talent, since the Guild never learned to recognize Sight magic and only begin learning that recognition in Book 6.

I have some plans for the implications of the cultural shifts resulting from the acceptance of Spirit magic! These are great questions/ideas and I hope you'll be pleased when I figure out the history bit, which will mainly be filling in the backstory of how they went from a ruling Fourfold Blending to a ruling Fivefold Blending. Mostly more important for me to know when writing characters, descriptions and dialogue, rather than featuring front and centre in the story.

Sitting Here posted:

Skipping ahead (I just opened this thread) to say: I love this thread! What an excellent idea, and great comprehensive posts

Thank you! I hope I can do the idea justice when writing time starts.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Secondary characters

Now that we know a bit more about our factions, we can figure out the secondary characters in this final planning post on character related stuff! Once again, these are the relevant Sanderson lectures:

Leng posted:



Let's start with Delin, who has been demoted from main character to a secondary character. Edits to the earlier bit underlined or struck out, now that I know what I'm doing with factions.

Leng posted:

Delin Moord (Earth magic)

Born into nobility, Delin is used to getting what he wants by virtue of his position, wealth, or charm. He spent the last three years at Regisard's most prestigious university and was recently expelled for misuse of talent. Thanks to his father's influence as a High Lord and the Earth Advisor, he evaded a sentence to the Deep Caverns and an official note on his Guild record.

Unfortunately, due to this incident, his father has refused to name him Delin as his successor on the grounds that his temperament and abilities are unsuitable for an Advisor's position. He's got a year to change his father's mind, otherwise he'll be disowned for good.

Solthia Noll (Spirit magic)

At fourteen, Solthia is a prodigy of Spirit magic–just like her common born mother Bensia who narrowly missed out on a place in the last round of competitions. The daughter of Lord Sembrin Noll (chief secretary to his brother, Spirit Advisor High Lord Ephaim Noll) is the pride of House Noll, pre-eminent amongst all noble houses, and their hope for a Noll seated on the Fivefold Throne.

Now that Solthia is about to come of age, old and scandalous rumors about the circumstances of her parents' marriage are the talk of Gan Garee again. And after twenty years of playing dutiful wife and mother, it might be Bensia who's ready for a second chance at being the Seated High in Spirit magic.


Camil Coll (Earth magic)

Lorand's father and a family man. Camil is a potential Middle who never took the exams. He has a strong talent in Persuasion but his skill in Encouragement is so weak that Low talents with an affinity for Encouragement can do better. His dream was to explore the Gandistran Empire, by running a travelling menagerie of exotic performing animals.

As the youngest, Camil was never meant to inherit the farm, however his elder brother and sister had such strong High potential that the Guild sent them to Gan Garee, and they both became High practitioners. Things were good for a few years and Camil got to travel around with his menagerie–he almost made it as far as Haven Wraithside–until the elder Coll siblings died defending the border against Astindan marauders thirty years back. Camil gave up his Bonded animals, and returned to Widdertown to run the farm and look after his aging parents (as was his duty). He married his wife mainly because she was a local girl with a strong skill in Encouragement to keep the farm going. Lots of late night heavy drinking (when he thinks his wife and children are asleep), resigned to never being able to leave Widdertown again.


Grami Riven

Talitha's maternal grandmother. She's an outcast from Astinda who somehow survived the climb through Ofgin's Teeth–alone, in winter–and found refuge and love at one of the smaller farms in Widdertown. Her eldest daughter inherited the farm while her younger children sought their fortunes elsewhere in the Empire. When her eldest daughter married Phor Riven, their farm became part of the larger Riven farm.

Her eldest daughter died in childbirth and now she lives with her son-in-law Phor Riven and her grandchildren. With her husband and eldest dead, and other children gone, no one left in Widdertown remembers her real name. Most people call her Grami Riven (even though she's no Riven by blood or marriage) and think she's an eccentric recluse due to her worship of the Fates rather than the Prime Aspect.


Elmin Ofgin (Earth magic)

A member of the Seated Blending, one of the rulers seated on the Fivefold Throne. Their battle with the previous Seated Blending on the Fourfold Throne was just the first legend in a body of mythology. It is rumoured that the unnaturally long and youthful lifespan of the Seated Blending was due to his talent–according to Guild records, all members of the current Seated Blending have at least a century of years, yet they appear no older than four or five decades at most.

Elmin’s strength in Earth magic is second to none, proven not just in the arena every quarter-century but every few years whenever the Astindans grow bold and come raiding at the western border. The small mountain range between Astinda and the western border of Gandistra (about a day’s travel by foot from Widdertown) is known in Gandistra as Ofgin's Teeth as they were supposedly created by Elmin's power–the few historical accounts from that time period and some academic treatises assert Elmin and his Blendingmates worked as Blending to augment the pre-existing terrain.


Adept Hestir (Earth magic)

Known as Elmin Ofgin's Shadow, first amongst the five Earth magic Adepts. Despite only being in her fourth decade, she's a battle-scarred veteran of two wars–one fought by Elmin's side and one against him, as a member of an Astindan Blending. People in Gan Garee learned long ago to keep their thoughts about her ultimate loyalties and her exact relationship with the Seated High in Earth magic buried so deep that a High in Spirit magic couldn't dig it out of their minds.

Hestir is rarely seen in Gan Garee, as she and her group of elite Highs spend most of the year travelling around the Empire to carry out the will of their Seated High. Occasionally, a group of particularly promising Highs in training are permitted to join Hestir's band.


Master Lugal (Guild member for Widdertown)

A former High Master, Lugal took an early retirement of sorts to Widdertown twenty-five years ago, after thirty years of loyal service in Gan Garee. While he no longer leads the Guild, he is still held in high respect by Adepts, other Masters and the Seated Blending. Most of his time is spent running the Widdertown school, teaching children aged five through fifteen about the Prime Aspect, history, geography and basic magical theory.


----------
Who did I pick and why?
Green's got pretty bad character sprawl for very little story across all 8 books so I had many options. I chose keeping in mind that I wanted to keep the focus on Lorand as the main protagonist, I didn't want to complicate his character arc by having to introduce the other four main characters of the series as a whole, and I wanted variety from the perspectives what we've already got in Lorand and Talitha. That meant picking at least 1 character from each faction and then using my remaining secondary character slots to round out the cast. This is the order I fleshed out the characters in:
  1. Delin Moord (Faction: Advisory Board/Nobility): I needed someone whose background and moral values oppose Lorand's for some instant conflict. I've basically mashed part of Eskin Drowd in here and extrapolated some things that are plausible based on the canon
  2. Camil Coll (Faction: Commoner): We're spending a lot more time in Widdertown and Lorand's relationship with his father (and his father's expectations) is a pretty big driver in his character arc. I tried to give him a back story that's a little more nuanced compared to what we see in canon
  3. Elmin Ofgin (Faction: Seated Blending): Green's canon never mentioned which of those five names of the first Fivefold Blending in the crappy prologue related to which aspects so I just picked the least worst sounding one. The alternatives if you are curious were: Azelin Rays, Widia Almoy, Summia Kamb, and Failin Jarl. At least Elmin sounds like it could be intimidating, assuming that you don't misread his name as Elmo. I refuse to believe that Green, a US Southerner who would be dropping the 'g' from her words a fair bit, did not look at the name "Failin" on the page and think "hrmm, that sounds an awful lot like failing". Then again, she did legitimately name a character Forum so...
  4. Adept Hestir (Faction: Adept/ex-Astindan): The canon Hestir is an idiot. To be fair, all of the canon Adepts are idiots. So I gender swapped Hestir, kept the name and changed the entire character and backstory. Now she's interesting and a badass!
  5. Master Lugal (Faction: Guild): in canon, he's just a boring Guild man who is "cityfolk" and it turns out in Book 5 that he didn't know anything about anything, he just shipped off all these potential Highs to the capitol because he was told to do so. Now he's the mentor type character for the first subplot arc.
  6. Grami Riven (Faction: ex-Astindan): She's the balance to Camil Coll, being the key driver in Talitha's arc. "Grami" is stolen from a canon character, Kambil Arstin's grandmother (the Let's Read hasn't met them yet, that's Book 2 Chapter 9). People who have finished the first series you probably guessed that she's got Sight magic and it will come into play for Lorand and Talitha's relationship arc - that's how she could give him clues to find Talitha - though I will probably not state that outright in text since the Sight magic reveal will come in Rewritten Book 2 if/when I write that
  7. Solthia Noll (Faction: Advisory Board/Nobility): She's the balance to Delin, and given the earlier questions about how Spirit magic is a pretty new addition, I wanted to include a Spirit magic user amongst all of these Earth magic users so I can show some of the world building (hopefully in a way that reveals character and advances plot rather than being info dumpy). Her mother Bensia is actually one of the antagonists in the sequel trilogy; Solthia herself only appears on screen a few times. Canon Bensia is written like every other female antagonist Green writes: all ambition, no ability to back it up and is a bitch because she's unapologetic about her ambition.

Bonus content!

At the beginning of this year, before I was even thinking of doing the Let's Read thread, I had set a personal resolution to 1) get better as a writer and 2) do NaNoWriMo this year. I had an original story I wanted to attempt for NaNoWriMo but wanted more practice so I decided I'd start a lazy rewrite of The Blending. This meant using Green's prose as a starting point and trying to improve it by cutting stuff, filling in details, attempting characterization, etc.

Because Green's story was so crap, it soon morphed beyond that and I was moving plot elements around, introducing new plot elements and characters of my own, etc. I got as far as a new prologue and halfway through chapter 5 from a Lorand POV narrative (he's fought the fireball, left Widdertown, arrived in Gan Garee, passed the initial test, met Jovvi and then got sent off to do some training with Tamrissa and Vallant) before I stalled and realized I didn't know where the story was going now that I had changed so much stuff.

Yeah, a discovery writer I am not. Then life got busy until August came around and I started the Let's Read thread, and here we are now!

There's only one more planning post to do (and I think it will be a big one, since it's going to be history and I'm not exactly sure what I'll cover in that) but I won't get to it for a few days with the weekend. So I thought it might be fun to give you guys some bonus content ahead of NaNoWriMo. Elmin and Hestir were effectively new characters that I created in this world as part of my lazy rewrite at the beginning of this year. You can see the seeds of the ideas in the outlining I've now done in this thread:

Leng posted:

While my version of Chapter 1 stuck pretty close to Green's original sequence of events. From Chapter 2, I made more changes:
  • Instead of having Seated Blendings rule for twenty five years, I changed things so the first Fivefold Blending were still in power
  • I opened with Lorand and Hat experiencing Gan Garee as the coach winds its way through the city towards its destination
  • I kept the registration scene, but made the man doing the registering one of the Seated Blending in disguise instead of a random person
  • Hat getting uppity (with one of the Seated Blending) has actual consequences
  • I gender swapped and pulled forward a character from later in Book 1 to be Lorand's tester here
  • Changed the actual test from "buried alive" to one of the qualification exercises we'll see in Chapter 28

In both examples, you can see small remains of Green's prose mixed in with new additions of my own. These chapters were written back in...late January and had 1-2 passes of a self-edit, so it's a good indicator of the quality of writing you'll get from me come November. Feel free if you'd like to offer critique, though don't feel obliged to, since neither of these scenes will reappear as they are.

Bonus Content #1: Introduction to Elmin Ofgin
Lazy Rewrite Chapter 2 (2557 words): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VPSrl7WIF6TSDuhYCF4aHfr2WjWpO-atsMZ5wyz_YF4/edit?usp=sharing
(corresponds to the first half of Canon Book 1 Chapter 6: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3935822&userid=96871#post507328417)

Bonus Content #2: Introduction to Adept Hestir

Lazy Rewrite Chapter 3 (2943 words): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YztZUWA3x-w_XWFmYw2SP7NBoWzhQGA-I6CcgqrlyA4/edit?usp=sharing
(corresponds to the second half of Canon Book 1 Chapter 6: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3935822&userid=96871#post507328417 and Chapter 14: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3935822&userid=96871#post507619123)

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Liquid Communism posted:

I'm really hoping to see you salvage Talitha. Just from the outline she sounds a great deal more sympathetic and reasonable. Hat's whole arc in the originals is only really justified by him being so transparently stupid and entitled that he kind of deserves the karma.
The worst part of Hat's whole arc in the original is that he decides to go for his moment of redemption once Tamrissa uses Facts and Logic to convince him, despite said Facts and Logic never having worked on Hat or any other antagonist before in the books.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm missing a few points in the Lorand/Talitha relationship plot arc, but I can't put my finger on exactly what. It's going to be one of those things that I'll only figure out when I start writing!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: History

This is our last big planning post before NaNoWriMo starts! Most of what goes in here won't directly appear in the narrative; it's more for me to know and keep in mind while writing description and dialogue. We're back in worldbuilding so these are the relevant Sanderson lectures:

Leng posted:


Green didn't leave me a whole heap to go off in her canon:

Leng posted:

Book 1 opens with a prologue.

quote:

HISTORY AND PROPHECY

. . . and so the major error of the past was discovered. In order to have full control of the world around us, there must be a Blending not only of Air, Water, Fire, and Earth, but of Spirit as well. That fifth aspect, so important and yet overlooked for so long, completed the magic necessary for dominance, which in human terms meant rule.

When the first Fivefold Blending, comprised of Elmin Ofgin, Azelin Rays, Widia Almoy, Summia Kamb, and Failin Jarl, came together to defeat the tyrannical Four, our Empire was saved from the dark time of oppression that seemed destined to continue on forever. The Four were each High-level practitioners, and had they Blended with one of Spirit—but they did not, and so met their downfall.

When the Five took their place as the rulers of our Empire, they were first to speak of the Prophecy and then they announced the laws made necessary thereby. Where the Prophecy came from is unclear, but none doubted when it was first spoken of three hundred years ago, and none doubt it today. The Four will attempt to return to reestablish their tyranny, and should we stray from the laws laid down for our protection, they may very well succeed.

For this reason the competitions are held every twenty-five years, and the strongest of the new Blendings takes over our rule and protection for the next quarter century. No Blending is permitted to compete a second time after having won the first, and no Blending may simply be appointed without having competed and won. During each rule comes a crisis, which cannot be bested without the laws having been followed to the letter. What causes these crises to arise is another question which seems without answer, and yet most believe them linked directly to the Prophecy. The crisis faced by the Second Five . . .

. . . mentioned in the Prophecies. There will be Signs to show that the Chosen Blending has arrived in our midst, but nowhere are the signs detailed. It has been promised that they will spring from all corners of the land, that their might will be seen clearly by all those about them, that they will blend as well in their ordinary lives as they do in the the Blending of their aspects. There will also be "subtle happenings" surrounding them as well as "obvious signs," but many of the more obvious signs are to appear "out of the sight of the Five's enemies." Who those can be is not clear, as the only enemy of the promised, Chosen Five is the Dreaded Four. Therefore . . .

That's all I've got to work with. Let's see how I go constructing a very abbreviated history of the world as it applies to the continent of Gandistra.


Creation Myth

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

This is where things get really weird for me. There's a Prophecy that no one questions per Tamrissa and her desperate attempt to mimic a Joss Whedon protagonist, and all we're given is that no one knows where it came from or that no one ever bothered to question it despite it being the foundation of the ancient laws set down by Ray, Lamb, Of Gin, and Failing. Generally prophecies in mythology are tied to the gods somehow such as the Fates or the Norns or Apollo or who have you, but there doesn't seem to be a creation myth around who created the sun. We get some yammering about "Chaos" later, but the idea that some random human created the sun is really weird - especially considering that this is a bog-standard uncreative "farm boy hates farming and wants to be a wizard" and our stereotypical accented farm dad isn't religious at all.

Leng posted:

What you have hit upon is the real missing element in the world building is religion. It is never mentioned at all in the books so I'm forced to conclude that there is no such thing in this universe, which is really weird, given that every human society ever has had some form of religion/creation myth.

(as taught by The Guild)

Long ago, the Prime Aspect carved our realm of existence from power, infusing our world with ordered manifestations of its aspects and holding back the void of Chaos in a perfect balance of Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Yet as the inhabitants of the world moved without thought, according to their aspect, they were vulnerable to the insidious touch of Chaos. The Fates–in knowledge of all that was, that is and that will be–gave a portion of power unto the Prime Aspect, which did endow us each with our own Spirit.

Now Chaos did, in its eternal quest to return all of the Prime Aspect's creations to the void, seed its own disorder into that power and thus our realm. So it is that the Spirit of all humankind, children of the Prime Aspect, returns first to the void before our bodies return to the Prime Aspect, each one having lived their life according to the Fates.

So closely woven was the Chaos power that it could not be separated out from creation. Thus the Prime Aspect did sacrifice, dividing its own powers amongst humankind, blessing us with talent according to our Fates. And so each of us carries within ourselves a portion of the Prime Aspect, given to us to fight and control the hidden Chaos power within.



Gandistran Empire

Origins
  • The continent of Gandistra consisted of a dozen provinces which, over time, consolidated themselves into six territories. While talents of all aspects could be found in every territory, each territory tended towards a dominant elemental aspect that allowed humans to live in balance with the land. Thus the cold Northern plains were home to nomadic tribes who were mostly Fire talents; the windswept alpine ranges of the East were inhabited by clans with mainly Air talents, and so on with the rivers and seas of the South and the fertile farmlands and forests of the West. Each territory was ruled by one whose title is 'the Highest', being the strongest practitioner of the predominant elemental aspect.
  • People with the Guild talent were considered marked by the Prime Aspect as servants–as they had no talent to speak of, they were considered to be subordinate to the talented who each embodied an elemental aspect of the Prime Aspect. Nulls were considered to be cursed; as children who had been touched by Chaos in the womb, and thus would never gain any talent, nulls were outcast when they did not demonstrate any talent by age five.
  • Spirit magic was a rare talent due to its mythological association with the Fates and being less practical due to its limited ability to affect the physical world. However, due to the advantage granted by having insight into the hearts and minds of others as well as other attributes, the Highests each eventually came to rely upon a Counsellor, whose Spirit magic was used to augment the abilities of their Highest.
  • There came a time when the Counsellors urged the Highests to make a great treaty uniting all the territories. The Highest of Gracely (that territory being separated from the rest by the Tondron Peaks) declined, as did the Highest of forested Astinda, who saw no advantage to yoking their plentiful territory to the demands of the four in the center.
  • The four remaining Highests agreed, each seeing the wisdom in the Counsellors' suggestion, and so the Gandistran Empire was established under the key terms:
    - all historical borders between territories were abolished and combined into a single Empire under Fourfold rule
    - a central seat of government would be established at heart of the four former territories
    - as additional insurance, the treaty would be sealed by the Highests becoming a Blending, which would permanently bond their spirits to each other
    - no Highest would be permitted to appoint their own successor, and all challenging candidates must publicly compete to become Seated so there is proof of their divine right to rule
  • The Counsellors had proposed one of them be elevated to Highest and included in the treaty as an equal, but they were rejected by the Four. Concerned that their aspect would continue to seen as below the other talents, the Counsellors attempted to take over the Four Highests and force them to agree. Alerted by loyalists, the Highests were prepared and the Counsellors proved to be no match for a Blending. The former Counsellors were publicly denounced as agents of Chaos and executed by the newly Seated Four, with the story repeated throughout the Empire until it became common knowledge from the smallest hamlet in the West to the most remote fishing village in the North.

The Fourfold Reign
  • The Seated Four devoted much of their reign to the subjugation of Spirit magic users, determined to eliminate the risks of similar treachery in the future. Spirit magic was not outlawed, but became heavily regulated, with any Spirit magic users of Middle strength of higher being required to swear an oath of absolute loyalty and service to the Seated Four under Puredan. There weren't many, since most Spirit magic users of strength either fled to Astinda or Gracely or went into hiding when the word of the Counsellors' betrayal spread.
  • In exchange for the Guild pushing the Four's religious doctrine as their main form of control over the common population, the Four made the Guild powerful as a priesthood of sorts, giving them funds to open Guild schools throughout the Empire. Core Guild teachings include: putting a heavy emphasis on talent being an individual's manifestation of the Prime Aspect, how increased strength in talent meant an individual embodied more of the Prime Aspect and thus the Seated Blending personified the Prime Aspect, the tainted origins of Spirit magic from the Fates and how its practitioners are therefore more susceptible to being unwitting agents of Chaos.
  • The wisdom of the treaty proved itself quickly, with the Empire growing in wealth and prosperity, as the combined talents and resources of the former territories resulted in increased crop yields, better health outcomes, improved infrastructure and extensive trade routes. The Four paid little attention to Astinda (which had fractured into a succession war upon the death of its Highest) or Gracely (there were few well travelled passes in the Tondron Peaks and a sea voyage took the better part of a year regardless of whether it began in Rincammon or Port Entril)
  • The original treaty provided the ability for anyone to issue a formal challenge. There were no challengers in the first decade of Four's reign, and few in the second. In Four's third decade of rule, challenges appeared frequently (at least one or two each year) and three of Four came close to defeat. Having grown attached to their positions, the Four passed a law that formal competitions would be held every quarter century, on the pre-text that the constant challenges were a distraction from their duty of leading the Empire, and that it was inefficient and wasteful for the Four to personally face each challenger. Instead, all challengers would face each other to determine who would be worthy to face the Seated High.
  • By this point, the natural synergies of the treaty had been realized, and the population explosion that had resulted from the treaty began to strain the Empire's existing resources.
    - In need of additional revenue but being unable to increase taxes further, the Four stopped subsidizing the free Guild schooling (now that the religious doctrine against Spirit magic was solidly entrenched in society), instead requiring citizens to pay for the cost of their own education.
    - Formal training programs (and categorizations of strength and potential) in the four elemental aspects were established as an attempt to increase the population's productivity.
    - No training program was established for Spirit magic. Instead, the Guild (and Puredan oathsworn Spirit magic Adepts) were tasked with locating, subduing and controlling any Spirit magic users who demonstrated Middle potential or greater.
    - Universities dedicated to the research of new applications of magic were also established, directly funded by the Four.
  • Basic grounding (Low level) in an aspect became the baseline for employment, with critical disciplines and important posts mandating certification as a Middle, all citizens (except for those residing in the most remote locations) scrambled to pay for the Guild run schooling (the only Empire approved method of certification and training).

The First Fivefold Blending

  • As a precaution against the time of the first competitions, the Four became increasingly paranoid and began to demand Puredan oaths from anyone with Middle strength or greater, regardless of aspect.
  • The pace of peaceful applications of magical innovation proved to be slow, so the Four cut research funding for projects that did not have potential combat applications.
  • Using Puredan oathsworn practitioners who were armed with experimental magical techniques, the Four began working to expand the Empire's western border. Thus began the Astindan War, which ended only when the Puredan oathsworn annihilated the Astindan forces in a suicidal attack that laid waste to most of the farmland in western Gandistra, leading to famine across the Empire. Sensing an opportunity, the few hidden Spirit magic users who remained, stoked the simmering resentment of citizens and turning popular sentiment against the Four, who were due to defend the Fourfold Throne against challengers.
  • Meanwhile, a young, newly elected High Master Lugal was horrified to discover the Four's use of the Guild to manipulate religious doctrine to oppress Spirit magic. He gets in contact with the hidden Spirit magic users and other rebellious factions, and they plan to send in a wave of challengers as part of the competitions. There aren't many candidates, since the majority of potential Highs had long been made into Puredan oathsworn and those had all perished in the Astindan War
  • As part of Lugal's research, he had uncovered a strange riddle amongst the old Guild writings relating to Spirit magic. With help from the free Spirit magic users, they decipher the message. Written by one of the old Counsellors, it gave them the knowledge of Blending, the secret ability that was the key to the Four's strength
  • At the competitions, the Seated Four surprises their challengers by appearing as a Blending rather than individuals. Thanks to solving the riddle, the challengers were prepared and faced the Four as the first Fivefold Blending. The ensuing magical battle turned the city into an enormous crater but saw the Five emerge victorious

The Fivefold Reign

  • The Seated Five spent their rule undoing much of the harm the previous Four had done, including granting full rights to Spirit magic users, implementing strict controls around the use of Puredan, stabilizing the economy and nurturing the next generations of talents.
  • While some of the previous structures and secrets were retained (e.g. Guild schools, competitions, universities and results of their research, the knowledge of Blending), others were disbanded in favor of new ones (e.g. Advisory Board)
  • Unfortunately, most of their progress has been hampered by a decades long on/off war with Astinda, that has no end in sight as the Five's attempts at peace-making have been rebuffed repeatedly. Many of their protégés have perished one way or another while fighting Astinda
  • Though the Five remain undefeated, their time is running out. They have been relying on an experimental technique to extend their lives and the price is taking a toll. They must find worthy successors in the next competitions, or the Empire they've dedicated their lives to will fall


----------
And with that, I think that's the bulk of the outlining work done. I'm not really a history student, so who knows how many unrealistic details are in there, but fingers crossed that it kind of makes enough sense to pass as internally consistent. You can see how I've pulled some of the ideas Green used in her canon into the history (mostly the bits that I think are too hard to tackle in a 50k word rewrite).

From here, I'm going to do a look back at all of the outlining thus far and do a tidy up of any plotholes either from canon or newly created. The last thing I'll probably attempt in my planning is a chapter breakdown by plot point - and it will be very interesting to see how closely I stick to that as I write and if/when I'll diverge from it.

EDIT: caught a typo!

Leng fucked around with this message at 10:47 on Oct 27, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Liquid Communism posted:

I feel like if you do go the FBW route you can short circuit the tedious epoch of 'Lorand is a prude' that happens in Gan Garee. Maybe still keep the tension by not having him quite know where he stands and feel guilty about it, and resolve that when Talitha shows back up in a way that gives him closure and leaves them both more developed?

Yep, that's exactly the draw of putting in the FWB angle though I'm uncertain as to whether I need it for word count (and if so, whether it should already be an established part of their relationship or whether it should be developed as part of the plot) and whether it would be better to keep it in the theoretical Rewritten Book 2 which would focus on forming a Blending and fighting other Blendings.

Though on further consideration, I'm not even sure that the FWB angle even needs to be there to hit Lorand's hangups. One thing I've been keeping in my back pocket is having Lorand find out Talitha decided to stay in Gan Garee and work for Jovvi, instead of going home to Widdertown. Talitha's justification would be that she needs the money to pay a High practitioner to travel all the way there to heal her grandmother, and being a courtesan is the fastest and most lucrative method left now that she's failed her High exams. That gives Lorand plenty of scope to put foot in mouth by being "no woman of good repute would do this" judgemental, etc in the way that recalls how other Widdertown kids used to judge Talitha in the past for how she looked, etc.

Assuming this all happens by way of Lorand partaking in a drunken "woo, we all passed the High exams, now let's go get blind drunk and get laid" outing, I could even keep the spirit of the only decent sequence (the tavern visit) in canon Book 1 and give Jovvi, Rion and Naran cameos. I'll get a better sense when I do the chapter breakdown which may is likely to result in shuffling around plot points. Thank goodness I left a day up my sleeve for this.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Canon plothole check

With the heavy worldbuilding done, it's time to go back and close off the remaining plotholes from canon Book 1! Type of fix is noted in italics.


Leng posted:

1. How did people not apply basic logic and just try every single permutation possible for a Blending? (Book 1, Chapter 1)
(extrapolation from canon worldbuilding)

Two or more magic users can link by reaching out to each other with the power. Any combination of aspects is possible. Each aspect brings a unique advantage to linking. For example, Spirit magic grants the link the ability to communicate mind to mind, greatly enhancing the link's ability to function as a cohesive unit. Physical and emotional intimacy increases the strength a link between two people.

A link is only formed when every person in the link is connected to every other person. Linking beyond six people is not done as past experiments have shown multiple link groups of smaller numbers outperform a larger link group with the same number of people. This is because the number of connections in the link grows at an increasing rate with each additional person.

Linked magic users join together in a collective out-of-body shared consciousness that exists only for the duration of the link. That means while the link can act using the pooled magical talents, the bodies of the linked users are left vulnerable. Therefore, there are many situations where it is more advantageous to have practitioners functioning as individuals rather than link groups.

Individual strength of will determines the extent to which a given magic user can direct the shared consciousness. Strong-willed individuals will be able to proportionally direct more of the link. Conflicting desires will result in the shared consciousness either doing nothing (mild to moderate disagreement) or dissolving (strong disagreement), which is dangerous in most situations that require linking (magical tasks that require great strength/concentration/skill). Therefore, a link is usually comprised of three or five people for maximum effectiveness (since the uneven numbers generally prevent a stalemate from occurring), though two-person links are also common, so long as there is agreement in advance on who will direct the link. Four or six person links are also possible, but the people involved must be very practiced at functioning as a single unit.

Blending begins with linking but has a number of additional steps which cause the bonds within the link group to become permanent.

Leng posted:

3. Magical talent is basically equivalent to any other ability (e.g. artistic, athletic, etc), so why would the entire population be tested for their level of ability especially if Guild talents can rate them just by sensing them? And why would there be a belief that "there are only so many positions as High awarded"? A High practitioner is a descriptor of how strong someone's ability is, not a position. (Book 1, Chapter 3)
5. How does the competitions result in a significant increase in demand for transient housing when there's always a steady stream of applicants coming to Gan Garee? (Book 1, Chapter 9)
6. If finding new High talents is important for the Empire, why would they be housed in privately owned volunteered residences which would be a logistical nightmare to manage instead of in controlled locations? (Book 1, Chapter 9)
7. Governments that need assets usually just seize them - either by force or by law (e.g. compulsory acquisition). No government simply relies on private citizens volunteering their housing in order to fill a temporary housing shortage - this is stupid (Book 1, Chapter 9)
8. Why would the coach ticket stub be the only means used to identify who the applicants are? (Book 1, Chapter 10)
(fixed in worldbuilding and plotting)

Testing requires demonstration of both theoretical knowledge as well as practical application, rather than just raw magical strength. There's no limitation on the number of High practitioners; in fact the Empire can't get enough of them. The economic incentives to become a High practitioner are very strong.

Housing demand from applicants is constant as testing happens all year around. High applicants normally live at the Gan Garee Guild House, unless they are exceedingly rich or well connected in which case they might make other arrangements, like live in their family's townhouse in the city or stay at a very exclusive inn.

Everyone is assigned a Guild identifier at age five, when they become old enough to be counted as part of the Guild's annual census.

Leng posted:

9. Inconsistency between whether a Fire magic user needs to be running their flames over an object to sense it (Book 1, Chapter 11)
(worldbuilding decision)

Yes. If a Fire magic user is not actively using their talent to affect something, they get to rely on their eyes and other physical senses, like every other non-Earth magic talent.

Leng posted:

10. Does Gan Garee have mixed bathing customs or not?! (Book 1, Chapter 11)
(worldbuilding addition)

Varies according to which of the four original territories people are from. Mixed bathing is common practice in the north (where it's cold and therefore centrally heated communal bathing pools are the norm) and south (where it's tropical and people spend most of the year swimming in rivers/the ocean) but rare in the west (where families tend to bathe together but not whole communities) and frowned upon in the east (where traditionally men and women bathe separately). Gan Garee itself being a melting pot, private residences are designed according to each owner's taste while inns typically have a small communal mixed bathing pool with a number of private bathing stalls to cater. More exclusive inns eschew communal bathing facilities altogether and have in room bathing stalls.

Leng posted:

11. Can Water magic teleport water/ice or not?! Is direct line of sight required? Does being inside limit range? (Book 1, Chapter 12)
(worldbuilding decision)

No, they're not teleporting the water but they are grabbing it at such high speed that it seems like they are. Direct line of sight is not required, so long as the water has an unobstructed pathway between the source and the target. So being indoors with all windows and doors shut would mean Vallant can't pull ice down from the clouds, but if he wanted to, he could try and shove a thundercloud over the next town and cause it to rain on a street corner (though his chances of hitting a specific street corner as opposed to an area that's about the size of a street corner is very slim as the further away he goes, the lower his degree of accuracy). He can't evaporate water though, so if he decides to kill someone by desiccating them, he'll have to do something with the resultant water (near instantaneously returning it to the clouds if he's outdoors is the easiest).

Leng posted:

12. What exactly are the laws regarding the use of magic, High practitioners, applicants and the competitions? (Book 1, Chapter 12)
(mostly fixed in worldbuilding and plotting, though a few additional decisions required)

No restrictions on use of magic, other than use of magic to facilitate a crime. Given the Four's abuse of Puredan, there was a fundamental law passed by the Five requiring uncoerced consent for arrangements, results or information to be legally valid (applies to everything ranging from employment, marriage, property laws, etc). The only exceptions are for prisoners of war (status must be determined by the Five) or individuals who do not have the mental capacity to give consent (e.g. people who are burned out). Forcing consent is considered to be a crime.

That means mind control by Spirit magic users (or by use of Puredan) is outlawed, though mind reading or affecting emotions is not (though deep mind reads and strong tampering with emotions without informed consent is socially frowned upon). Use of elemental talents in a way that has the potential to result in serious injury or death to another person is also outlawed. There are exceptions for Highs in training under the supervision of an Adept, High practitioners acting in the course of their assigned duties to the Empire and challengers for the Seated Blending during competition activities.

Leng posted:

13. Why are "flawed potential Highs" bad and how are they different from Middles? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
(fixed in worldbuilding)

Low, Middle and High are arbitrary levels of accomplishment set by the Seated Blending.

Leng posted:

14. Why doesn't the corrupt nobility just drug everyone of Middle strength and higher? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
(fixed in worldbuilding)

The Seated Four did this and it was very bad.

Leng posted:

15. How big is the Gandistran Empire? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
(fixed in map)

Handwaving this "because magic".

Leng posted:

16. What is the rough distribution of aspect and strength in the population? (Book 1, Chapter 16)
(sort of fixed in worldbuilding, but a few more details required)

Elemental talent makes up about 85% of the population. Thanks to the efforts of the Five, Spirit magic is about 6% of the population and increasing. Per Guild records, about 2-3% of five year olds are classified as nulls in each annual census. The rest (about 5% or so) are born as Guild talents.

Leng posted:

17. What exactly is the technique that an "ordinary talent" (read: Low) can use to neutralize an opponent to a certain extent before a fight turns physical? (Book 1, Chapter 23)
(worldbuilding decision)

Let's just call this Vallant being imprecise. There's any number of ways any of the aspects can neutralize or eliminate someone via use of talent.

Leng posted:

18. If it's unheard of for a High to be condemned, why would the penalty for trying to escape the tests still apply? (Book 1, Chapter 23)
(fixed in worldbuilding and plotting)

The tests are voluntary now.

Leng posted:

19. What constitutes "acting together" for the purposes of the anti-Blending law? (Book 1, Chapter 23)
(fixed in worldbuilding)

No anti-Blending law preventing different aspects working in concert; knowledge of how to Blend is still a secret though.

Leng posted:

20. Are Highs regarded as "a misbegotten plague" or incredible wealth, power, prestige and duty to the Empire? (Book 1, Chapter 27)
(fixed in worldbuilding and plotting)

The latter.

Leng posted:

21. Why do they all get "the speech" from their Adepts about getting used to using their talents to harm others when Tamrissa was told off for it during her initial test? (Book 1, Chapter 28)
22. If everyone can feel how wide everyone else is opened to the power, how the hell are these qualification rounds even any mystery? (Book 1, Chapter 35)
(fixed in plotting)

The tests for High are totally different from canon now.

Leng posted:

24. How exactly does "facility with one part of the aspect" translate "into facility with the others"? (Book 1, Chapter 36)
(worldbuilding fix)

It doesn't. Each aspect has four different abilities and it is normal for people to only be skilled in one of them. A strong skill in more than one area indicates Middle or High potential.

Leng posted:

28. How are people socially conditioned to accept that using their ability to affect other people is disgusting and absolutely forbidden? (Book 1, Chapter 40)
(fixed in worldbuilding)

The Counsellors who betrayed the Seated Four did this and were executed for it. It then became embedded within the cultural norms.

Leng posted:

29. If Rion has heard of people who were awarded High positions, how does he have no clue how this impacts the ? (Book 1, Chapter 41)
30. Additional round of competitions (1 vs 1) between the masteries and the actual competition is explained but doesn't happen (Book 1, Chapter 41)
31. Additional round of competitions (1 vs 1) between the masteries and the actual competition is explained but doesn't happen (Book 1, Chapter 42)
33. If they can take as long as they like to qualify, how is there a conspiracy? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
34. Why is Jovvi convinced there's still a conspiracy even though the other people have been here for weeks and are clearly not dead? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
35. If Middles are used as well, then why do they even need to go through the qualification exercise? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
36. Why even bother with the training, if everyone is mind controlled? (Book 2, Chapter 2)
37. Why are the Fire magic trials the only ones that involve learning how to defend against direct attack? (Book 2, Chapter 4)
38. How rarely do people qualify that the Adepts are still shocked when it happens? (Book 2, Chapter 4)
(fixed in worldbuilding and plotting)

The testing process and competitions are completely different from canon now.

Leng posted:

32. How does Eltrina know so much about what's involved with Blending when it's top secret? (Book 1, Chapter 44)
(fixed in worldbuilding)

The only people who know are the Seated Five. After the Five defeated the Four in the first competitions, they reverted to the second and third competitions being individual challenges rather than a challenge as a Blending.

Former High Master Lugal knows of the riddle but the Five never told him the solution or what the riddle's purpose was. There was only one copy of that particular Guild record, which Lugal gave to the Five, and it was destroyed in their battle against the Four. Lugal himself doesn't remember the words of the riddle.

Leng posted:

39. If Fire and Water can feel things through their elements, does this mean Air magic users can just feel everyone and everything within range? What is the standard Air magic range anyway? (Book 2, Chapter 5)
(worldbuilding fix)

Air magic can only feel things in contact with the parts of the air they are actively manipulating. Calling wind means they can feel everything the wind is blowing across, while using hardened air means they can only feel things in direct contact with the hardened air.

All talents can affect things at range, but Water magic has the greatest practical direct range (they can reach ice/water in the clouds so 6 km/20000 feet). The practical direct range of Air and Fire magic about a quarter of that (1500m/5000 feet), while the practical direct range of Earth and Spirit magic is about a quarter of that again (400m/1300 feet). Inverse square law applies to accuracy and intensity of the ranged affect.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Plotting sense check

Since Liquid Communism likes the adjustment to the relationship plot, I'm going to add it in (additions bolded and deletions struck out):

Leng posted:

Relationship Plot: Lorand and Talitha
I was so tempted to make these two friends with benefits as a nod to the source material and there wolf's suggestions in the Let's Read. This may still yet happen, though I'm gonna wait and see first. If I start having trouble hitting word count, then yeah, we're gonna go there.
  • Testing for Middle: She also passes, the second strongest talent after Lorand (he's first, by a wide margin, mainly because Talitha didn't show up for the theory portion of her exam). There's only so many scholarships to go around though; she's both jealous and upset that Lorand gets a ticket out of Widdertown but he can't take it. She would have been next in line...if she had done her exam properly.
  • Trying again: Talitha persuades Master Lugal to let her take the exam again. This time, she beats Lorand's previous result and secures the scholarship. She has no interest or talent in healing though; she wants to be sent to the capitol to test for High. Master Lugal is unconvinced, but when Lorand begs to join her, Lugal changes his mind (he thinks Lorand's got High potential). He can sponsor them a one way ticket to the capitol and one week of lodging at the Gan Garee Guild House; beyond that, it's up to them.
  • Qualifying: Talitha passes easily, but Lorand struggles. He squeaks past, barely.
  • Testing for High: The tables are turned. He passes, she fails on the theory component. She tries to talk Adept Hestir into letting her have another chance and is turned down. Talitha leaves and try as he might, Lorand can’t find her. Buried resentment is aired in a massive fight. She disappears the night before Lorand's group is due to leave on their mission/practical exam.
  • Return to Widdertown: Lorand's supervising Adept takes his group of Highs in training to the western border, passing through Widdertown en route. There's no sign of Talitha; she never came home. He manages to heal her grandmother though, who gives him a message and keepsake of some sort for Talitha.
  • Finding Talitha: Lorand's group returns to Gan Garee, goes out to celebrate their official status as High practitioners, no longer in training. Based on the clues her grandmother gave him, Lorand tracks Talitha down in Gan Garee. There's a reunion and a reconciliation of sorts. Turns out she decided to stay in Gan Garee and work for Jovvi, since she needed the money to pay a High practitioner to travel all the way to Widdertown to heal her grandmother, and being a courtesan is the fastest and most lucrative method left now that she's failed her High exams. That gives Lorand plenty of scope to put foot in mouth by first saying “I healed her” and then being "no woman of good repute would do this" judgemental, etc in the way that recalls how other Widdertown kids used to judge Talitha in the past for how she looked, etc. It ends in a massive, massive fight.
  • Reconciliation: Lorand gets over himself, apologizes, convinces Talitha to join him in the competitions

Today I spent a few hours reviewing everything outlined and compiling it all into a single document for ease of reference while writing:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QpKU-26lwtjR8gY9gjZqHEzjtrRNysU8qxtsLjD_444/edit?usp=sharing (copy/paste from existing thread content, just organized a bit better)

During the process, it hit me that the missing piece wasn't necessarily specific to the Lorand/Talitha relationship plot, though the extra additions certainly made it stronger. Effectively, the story in Rewritten Book 1 is: "A young man leaves home to become a powerful magician in an attempt to save his family’s farm from being seized by a corrupt agent of the nobility. He discovers that the seeds of corruption are widespread across the Empire and vows to change that by becoming part of the next Seated Blending."

The problem is that second sentence isn't really reflected in the plotting because I'm missing a freaking third act to the story! It's just sitting there, hiding as the last bullet point under whole "Competitions" stuff (which is not really the most accurate description of the plot):

Leng posted:

Event Plot: The Competitions Becoming a High Practitioner
The first five books of Green's canon focused exclusively on magical strength and ability. There's not really a lot of clarity around how the magic system works or what advancement looks like so I'm going to be making up a lot of things. Not sure how I'm gonna go writing action scenes. Oh well, here goes:
  • Testing for Middle: two components - a theory component that covers all four abilities relating to their aspect and a practical component (they can choose which ability to demonstrate). Tests are held twice a year. The first test is free for everyone, but people who want to test again are charged a fee.
  • Qualifying as an applicant: Similar to the test for Middle, the first three attempts are free, but subsequent attempts are self-funded. The qualification test changes every quarter. Aspirants are given a set time limit to complete a complex task, which requires demonstration of basic competence in all 4 Earth magic abilities (at a Middle level), and advanced aptitude (beyond Middle level) in at least 2 of the abilities.
  • Training period: All potential Highs have to go through a mandatory training program, which involves them going around the Empire doing things for the benefit of the Empire.
  • Testing for High: there's an exam (similar to the Middle one), with the practical component being successful completion of an Imperial mission. If/when they pass, all High practitioners draw wages from the Empire, who reserves the right to deploy them wherever. The penalty for failure is severe
  • Competitions: Capture the flag race. Everyone who makes it past the finish line with a flag earns a place in competition

Alright, so let's pull that last bullet out as its own arc and flesh out more detail. We'll make it a short one to tie it in with the history and follow the cardinal rule of storytelling by choosing interesting moments that are not normal:

Event Plot: The Competitions
  • Competitions: The Seated Blending are desperate to find worthy successors but they’re running out of time. They decide to call the competition a year early. To compensate for the lack of notice, they make some changes to how people become eligible challengers
  • Talitha and Lorand are both eligible: Lorand races to find her, beg forgiveness and convinces her to enter
  • Teamwork/alliances, but not linking is allowed: Talitha tells him that the two of them on their own won’t be enough. They recruit a few others via Talitha’s newly established network
  • Capture the flag: Everyone who makes it past the finish line with a flag earns a place in competition.

What I'm conflicted on now is whether Talitha gets through to the competitions herself, or whether I seed some sort of sacrifice from her into the relationship plot, and if so, how serious that sacrifice should be. Possibilities:
  • They both get through, setting up a friendly and honorable rivalry later in Rewritten Book 2 (boooorrring)
  • Screw the reconciliation: Talitha doesn't accept Lorand's apology, throws down a challenge and becomes an antagonist for Rewritten Book 2 (potentially interesting, not sure where that'll end up going)
  • Reconciliation happens because Talitha is the bigger person here: due to how things shake out in the qualification rounds, only 1 of them can get through. Lorand tries to play white knight to damsel in distress and Talitha's not having any of it. They argue, he acknowledges that he wants it more, he accepts her gift and goes through (don't know about this, feels a little Goblet of Fire for some reason)
  • The above, but the decision is forced because Talitha saves him from being eliminated and burns herself out in the process (could be good thematic reinforcement of what happened with Mildon, there's an option to choose the less severe version where she ends up talentless but that then leaves her story hanging awkwardly as it wouldn't fit into the plot idea for Rewritten Books 2 and 3)
  • The above, but Talitha dies instead of burning out (probably the tidiest, though I wonder if it's too plot twisty for the sake of it)

Tomorrow is my last day of planning so it's definitely going to be chapter breakdowns. Eeeesh, I'm not looking forward to it because I am having a weird fear of "locking in" decisions that I think I might regret later but I know from experience if I don't I'll be extending outlining into writing time and I don't want to do that. If I only get through doing 10 chapter breakdowns instead of all 20, then so be it, at least the first 10 chapters will be easier to write. I can always spend the time I've allocated to editing to doing any breakdowns that I don't get to tomorrow.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Liquid Communism posted:

Maybe run with the reconciliation but to keep it in line with her base characterization it's because Talitha was mostly just looking for an easy, privileged life and has it now that she's not saving up for her Grammi's health? Being an actual High would be work, and duty, and all those other tedious things that mean others can make demands of you, while being a high-end courtesan is a lot more fun, at least in the near term.

That's an excellent point. Not every character needs to be all fired up about saving the Empire and that means we could close off her arc neatly here!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


PLANNING: Chapter breakdowns

This is the part in my process where I throw my hands up in despair. All my ideas are unoriginal and suck, yada yada yada. I have issues with writing endings. Whenever I get to that break into three, my brain always yells at me to give up because it sucks, everything sucks and I should toss it all out and start over. There's something not right with how the Highs in training part sits relative to the competitions bit. I have a feeling it's to do with the promise/progress/payoff relationship. At a guess, maybe the error is in sticking too close to Green's canon.

One of the worst things about the original books is how bloody unwilling the protagonists are to DO anything. Having just finished rereading Sanderson's Words of Radiance, what I really noticed this time around was how character driven all of his plot is. Even when his characters are wrestling with something, stuff happens. All events, big and small, in the plot happen because the characters are actively making choices that lead to those events. There's nothing that just happens because Sanderson is moving around characters like chess pieces; his characters have strong motivations, problematic obstacles and are trying different things in order to achieve their goals.

So the question that needs to be answered is: in Green's canon, the only two protagonists who even wanted anything to do with the competitions were Tamrissa (self-preservation) and Lorand (because he thinks it beats being a nobody hick farmer). They never run into any problems, because they're just the bestest and strongest talents ever. The rest of the main cast would much rather be going about their own lives and short of imminent disaster resulting in upheaval of said lives, wouldn't go anywhere near the competitions.

Hrmm...alright so the answer is, we need to have some sort of imminent disaster resulting in upheaval of said lives. That would be required in order to go straight into the competitions stuff and have that be convincing. But that would mean the book would need to focus wholly on that so the competitions are firmly in Rewritten Book 2 territory.

So what does that mean for Rewritten Book 1? I think I need to scale back the story, and not address so much of the world. Lorand basically wants to save his farm. There needs to be some obstacles in the way. Having him just diligently work away at being a High doesn't count. We need Delin to step it up as an antagonist. Alright, let's see what we can do:

Relationship plot: Lorand and Delin rivalry
  • Instant dislike: Lorand's used to being the pride of Widdertown, the genius of his generation with the brightest future. Delin makes him feel like a ignorant country hick and his three years at university means he outclasses Lorand all the time
  • Delin is jealous: Despite Delin being better-looking, more accomplished, richer and with more influence, Lorand is more popular than him and he can't stand it.
  • Lorand catches up: Delin gives some sort of wrong answer in training. Lorand answers correctly and Delin fumes and feels even more insecure
  • Delin beats him up: Unfortunately for Lorand, they move onto individual combat training and Delin is way better. He overhears Delin's father tearing him a new one and ends up feeling sorry for Delin
  • Lorand saves Delin's life: From an accident or something. Delin's extremely confused about it
  • Delin decides he owes Lorand a debt: he finds out about the agent's extortion of Lorand's family and takes care of it by doing something horrifying to the agent.
  • Lorand finds out: Lorand returns to Widdertown, with the aim of paying off the agent and making a few threats so the agent will stop the extortion. However, Delin's done such a thorough job of messing up the agent to the point that Lorand can't Heal him. Lorand returns to Widdertown to confront Delin, who shrugs and says they're even now. This, on top of all the other issues with the nobility Lorand's witnessed during his time in training, makes him decide to compete in the next round of competitions.

The other thing that occurred to me is the qualifying round as I had it feels more exciting than whatever the High exam is, and I have no idea what that training sequence looks like. It feels weird to have a training sequence after some sort of qualification round. This is another place where I've probably stuck too close to Green's canon. Being confirmed as a Middle should immediately qualify you for acceptance into the High training program, which should have an exam at the end of it. It doesn't make sense in any other way. Let's try swapping it around:

Leng posted:

Event Plot: The Competitions Becoming a High Practitioner
The first five books of Green's canon focused exclusively on magical strength and ability. There's not really a lot of clarity around how the magic system works or what advancement looks like so I'm going to be making up a lot of things. Not sure how I'm gonna go writing action scenes. Oh well, here goes:
  • Testing for Middle: two components - a theory component that covers all four abilities relating to their aspect and a practical component (they can choose which ability to demonstrate). Tests are held twice a year. The first test is free for everyone, but people who want to test again are charged a fee.
  • Qualifying as an applicant: Similar to the test for Middle, the first three attempts are free, but subsequent attempts are self-funded. The qualification test changes every quarter. Aspirants are given a set time limit to complete a complex task, which requires demonstration of basic competence in all 4 Earth magic abilities (at a Middle level), and advanced aptitude (beyond Middle level) in at least 2 of the abilities.
  • Training period: All potential Highs have to go through a mandatory training program, which involves them going around the Empire doing things for the benefit of the Empire, in order to discover where they would best serve the Empire.
  • Testing for High: there's an exam (similar to the Middle one), with the practical component being successful completion of an Imperial mission. Similar to the test for Middle, the first three attempts are free, but subsequent attempts are self-funded. The qualification test changes every quarter. Aspirants are given a set time limit to complete a complex task, which requires demonstration of basic competence in all 4 Earth magic abilities (at a Middle level), and advanced aptitude (beyond Middle level) in at least 2 of the abilities. If/when they pass, they get the option to enlist and take an official position as a High, serving under an Adept of their aspect. All High practitioners draw wages from the Empire, who reserves the right to deploy them wherever. The penalty for failure is severe
  • Competitions: Capture the flag race. Everyone who makes it past the finish line with a flag earns a place in competition

At any rate, I'm kind of with this chapter breakdown. It seems like my brain just doesn't work this way. I just end up questioning my own sanity and it does no good. Maybe I'm more of a discovery writer than I thought. Huh. Anyway, a chapter breakdown of sorts was attempted:

Chapter 1: Widdertown, near Gandistra’s western border with Astinda
Lorand is a precocious showoff
Talitha’s great at getting into trouble
Mildon is idolized by Lorand
People think Grami Riven is weird
Mildon’s burnout
Saved by Elmin? Or Hestir?

Chapter 2: Testing for Middle
Talitha’s absence from the exam room
Lorand working his way through the exam
Practical exam–Talitha’s skill with Decay, Lorand’s skill with Healing
Lorand’s scholarship, Camil’s refusal

Chapter 3: A ticket out of Widdertown
Saving money over the summer with a traveling herbalist
Grami Riven’s sickness
The audit
Convincing Lugal to let him tag along with Talitha
Lugal sends along a letter

Chapter 4: Gan Garee
Registering for training
Exploring the Guild House
Delin and Solthia make an appearance
Rion cameo?
Exploring Gan Garee
Jovvi cameo

Chapter 5: Training–overview of their schedule
Group training on universal abilities
Aspect specific training
Combat training

Chapter 6: Slice of life
Talitha’s in theoretical lectures and hating it
Solthia’s doing well, but subdued
Lorand is embarrassed
Talitha and Solthia go out, they invite Lorand but he says no
Lorand writes a letter home

Chapter 7: Specialized training–Healing clinic
Meets Driffin, who is very impressed by Lorand, asks if he wants to earn extra silver in additional after hours shifts
He finds out as much as possible about Grami’s illness
Talitha’s spending a lot of late nights away from the Guild House

Chapter 8: Specialized training–excursion to the western border? Deep Caverns?
Lorand hates it
There’s an accident of some sort; he saves Delin’s life

Chapter 9: High exam–first attempt
Magical spectacle! It’s a crazy maze
Talitha passes
Lorand fails

Chapter 10: Return to Widdertown
Discovers Delin’s done something to the agent
Lorand visits Grami Riven, heals her, discovers Talitha’s not here
Conversation with Lugal/his father/Elmin/Hestir?

Chapter 11: Qualifying–Lorand’s last attempt
Overcomes his fear of burnout
Finally passes
Runs into Solthia instead; they have a deep and meaningful conversation
Turns out Talitha’s a working girl at Jovvi’s exclusive high end pleasure house!
Massive, massive fight

Chapter 12: Confrontation with Delin
Set up next book for competitions

Uggggghhh how do I plot good ahhhhhhh there's no more planning time life send help for next week when writing begins. This is not the 16-20 chapters I had in mind, but that only matters if each chapter's significantly shorter, like 2500 words short. Maybe I can do longer chapters. Or throw in a prologue. Or something. I don't know. Suddenly 50k words seems like a lot.

Whhhhhhy why why why why did I think this was a good idea? Everything is terrible and I am terrible. I hope at least you guys will get some amusement out of this, starting from next week.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

You can do it! Think of us as little spiders and birds, cheering you on from a distance.

You Knight in Shining Aspect you, this is the best reference.


Enchanted Hat posted:

Looking at the chapter breakdown set out like that, I'd say that if anything, it looks like you have more stuff outlined than you strictly need!

This is good to know! It helps hearing this from someone who's done it before, as I find it really hard to judge length.


So I am not meant to start writing until tomorrow according to my own schedule but I'm getting super antsy about it so what the hell, I found a few hours this morning, let's see if I can knock out Chapter 1.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER ONE (5970 words)

Day 0 (2/11/2020): I cheated and wrote 2213 words yesterday, and I'm glad I did.
Day 1 (3/11/2020): 3757 words to close off the chapter. Phew. I wasn't sure I would make it.

This is what I planned to write:

Leng posted:

Chapter 1: Widdertown, near Gandistra’s western border with Astinda
Lorand is a precocious showoff
Talitha’s great at getting into trouble
Mildon is idolized by Lorand
People think Grami Riven is weird
Mildon’s burnout
Saved by Elmin? Or Hestir?

It turns out that I edit a lot as I write, so this is a pretty clean first draft. I think I hit everything, more or less:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KealOvbVTAQnlYEkjPeQ7Ysf3CkLgH_xM0_YPDtM_e0/edit?usp=sharing
(I apologize in advance to anyone who knows anything about farming, farm animals, growing up and living on a farm, etc. An hour of Googling doesn't take the city out of a city girl, though to be honest, a week on a farmstay probably wouldn't either)

This makes for slow writing, so I'm gonna need that editing time I blocked tomorrow to make a start on Chapter Two. In the meantime...

We are open for crits!

General reaction crits, line crits, structural crits, crits on character/plot/setting are all welcome! Commenting is turned on in the Google Doc - my preference would be for line crits to be in the Google Doc so we can keep the in thread discussion to bigger picture crits.

There are definitely things in the prose that bug me:
- grammar: why do I like writing in past perfect so much when I'm in third person limited?
- also grammar: someone good at grammar set me straight on how I should be using my commas, semicolons and em dashes
- words I overuse: "actually" (there are way more but this is the one I have to backspace the most)
- word choice: don't know how people feel about Lorand as a character using the word "preternaturally" to describe something. I feel like it's not a word a ten year old farm boy would use correctly, though on the other hand I feel like it fits him being a precocious little show off

But what I'm most interested in is how you guys felt as readers. How did I do with regards to:
- pacing?
- hooking (and keeping) your interest?
- making you care about the characters? (do they feel real?)
- foreshadowing (big and small)?

If you're short on time, an overall chapter rating out of five is also helpful, bearing in mind that I'm going to set the benchmark of Green's canon as a 2/5 (she gets 1 for the overall concept and idea, and 1 for everything else she's done). Let's see how you rate mine!

Canon References/Easter Eggs
Not sure of how many I can work into the overall narrative, but it's not that hard to do some this early in the rewrite. Featuring in Chapter One:

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Thank you!! That's high praise so here's hoping I can keep you entertained as a reader for the rest of this ride.

Don't ever feel like you can't crit because you're "just a reader" - I'd say that actually makes your crits more valid! Art is in the eye of the beholder and it's my job as a creator to make you feel things. If you have a different reaction to what I intended, then the fault is in my technique and my approach, not you!

On a related note, I'm going to cross quote some amazing words of wisdom from the self-publishing thread from a very successful author who puts out 2-3 50k word novels every month.

angel opportunity posted:

I try really hard to put my own voice into this stuff and get elements in there that I appreciate myself (usually humor, for example, even if it's not a "comedy") but I am always hyper-conscious of what the readers actually want to read

<snip>

These are things that often make me feel constrained or limited in what I can write, but I always deliver them so that I can make money.

With all that said, I find that "non-readers" like me have a pretty big advantage when it comes to writing really fast. When I used to write stuff for the Thunderdome, I was hyper-aware of how I would judge it as a reader, because I was writing stuff purely for fun. I was writing what I would want to read myself. Now I am writing things that I don't like to read, and so I use the Pomodoro method. I set a timer for 20 minutes and write non-stop for twenty minutes, usually producing between 900-1,200 words. I take a 6-minute break and repeat. I try to do this for two hours to produce 5,000 words in a two-hour chunk. My first drafts are very clean, and my editing pass for a full novel takes maybe 6-7 hours. My editing pass will be fixing typos, mistakes, and occasionally making some sentences sound better. I never edit anything as I write, and I never go back and look at what I wrote until a book is finished.

"Readers" really struggle with this kind of thing and generally write much more slowly. They also tend to let what they personally like get in the way a lot, and typically what they like isn't what will make them the most money. I am already writing stuff that I don't like, so I tend to just write stuff that makes the most money.

This is an entire lecture on how to be a commercially successful author crammed into a single eloquent post, and also very timely NaNoWriMo advice for me!

I've got the exact problem angel opportunity pointed out: my pace is slow because I'm a "READER" when I write. It's true but counterintuitive, and I'm trying to wrap my head around it.

No looking to Sanderson or Wight on this one since they both specifically talk about the fact that they write stuff that they want to read - and that nobody else was writing.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER TWO (5138 words)

Day 2 (4/11/2020): 517 words. This was an editing day that wasn't supposed to involve writing but given how slow my pace has turned out to be, I decided I should make a start
Day 3 (5/11/2020): 3463 words across 8 hours or so to get the bulk of the chapter done. Action sequences are really hard for me.
Day 4 (6/11/2020): 1158 words to finish off the chapter:

Leng posted:

the thing that is slowing me down the most is my prose, because I'm working out so many details about character and setting as I write. In the last session, I stopped writing to:
  • Fiddle with word choice
  • Google random world building details that I didn't realize I needed until I sat down to write the scene
  • Block out detailed plot stuff on the individual beat level. Like the chapter breakdown in my outline says "this character is tested for magical ability", so when I sit down to actually write the chapter, I have to figure out: a) what the test actually is, then b) all of the individual beats in the scene, and c) make sure I've strung all of them into a solid, self-contained plot or character arc within the chapter
And when I say I stopped writing, I mean that I sat there staring at the blinking cursor, debating three or more directions for the next word, or sentence, or paragraph. In hindsight, I think I needed to have done another pass on the outline at a more detailed level if I want to get my hourly word count up.

On the plus side, I've hit my chapter goal for this week and I still have this afternoon free. I'm tossing up whether I should make a start on the next chapter or do a more detailed chapter breakdown. I suspect the more detailed chapter breakdown will win out, because hey, what else is NaNo for if not experimenting with different approaches?

Anyway, here's what I was supposed to hit:

Leng posted:

Chapter 2: Testing for Middle
Talitha’s absence from the exam room
Lorand working his way through the exam
Practical exam–Talitha’s skill with Decay, Lorand’s skill with Healing
Lorand’s scholarship, Camil’s refusal

Link to Chapter 2: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fhFUIT2773SjdkQeFtVSDeuGnBT7stv1t9EIp4obf_k/edit?usp=sharing
(I'm not a fan of the chapter title, but I haven't exactly come up with anything spectacular in the prose to replace it with, so )

Self-crit/Commentary
  • This chapter doesn't have the emotional impact the previous one did, but to some extent I don't think that can be helped. I deliberately ratcheted the tension way up in the first chapter according to Sanderson's principles on promise/progress/payoff so it's a self-contained sample of the overall story. Now we're back to building out the world, setting up character motivations, bigger conflicts and the call to adventure
  • The plot point about Grami Riven got pulled forward from Chapter 3 because I wasn't too sure on how to transition from the first scene to the third. And when I was writing the first scene, I realized I need to establish deeper motivations on why they all want to pass, versus the shallow ones presented in the first chapter
  • I tried to work more humor into this chapter but I'm not sure on it. Humor is hard and I don't know whether I've leaned into it enough
  • Dialogue and introspection were both more challenging, since I had a three year time skip so Lorand and Talitha have grown up. Hopefully this is coming through
  • Actions scenes are so so so hard and I have no idea how Sanderson and Wight do this. Maybe I need to play more video games. I never did get around to playing Dark Souls.
  • I made a deliberate decision to not show Lorand's test on screen–partly because I did not know how to up the ante after the first two, but also because I felt the sequence was tapped out. It's 2073 words long, almost half the chapter
  • I stalled on writing the last scene of the chapter at around 3 AM because it felt wrong to write it from Lorand's POV. I switched over to Camil's and it worked a lot better. This was unexpected because I hadn't planned on any non-Lorand POVs until much later
  • There are some very awkward turns of phrase in the prose that I don't like. It will be interesting to see if they're the same ones that stick out to a reader

Questions for you guys:
- Do you feel cheated that I skipped over Lorand's demonstration of Healing?
- What did you enjoy the most?
- Where did things drag or feel off?

Canon References/Easter Eggs
  • In this version, Eksin Drowd is a respected academic who came up with an all encompassing framework to describe the laws of magic, instead of the hack that is canon Drowd (Book 1, Chapter 18)
  • In the Let's Read, I joked about making Camil the ringmaster in a travelling circus, and decided to run with it
  • Talitha's cube is a reference to the Earth magic time trial event (Book 2, Chapter 33)
  • Mollit's hunting cat is a reference to the puma in Lorand's second level Earth magic masteries (Book 2 Chapter 23), as well as the funniest scene of all eight canon books (Book 6, Chapter 28)
  • Odrin Hallasser is now one of the Evil Four who were defeated, instead of being canon Tamrissa's second intended husband
  • Canon bramleaf juice is a forbidden drug rather than a painkiller (Book 1, Chapter 24)

Edit: Oops, forgot a reference!

Leng fucked around with this message at 04:16 on Nov 6, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


This is great feedback! Thanks for taking the time.

wizzardstaff posted:

I do feel like it would be nice to see Healing in action though.

This is planned for Chapter 7 currently! Hopefully by then, Rhythm of War will have been released and I'll have indulged in a lot of Kaladin doing his new official surgeon thing and I can therefore cheat somewhat instead of slowing down my writing time by having to google stuff.

wizzardstaff posted:

My favorite part was the moment where Mollit slams the desk and breaks his slates.

Mollit was an unexpected, fun surprise that came up during the writing! I had casually thrown him and a bunch of others in during Chapter 1 (like they were extras in a movie) because it felt weird to be describing Lorand and Talitha being in school and not mentioning any classmates, and just pulled the remaining named characters from canon Widdertown. When I got to Chapter 2, I realized I needed another character for the main characters to play off, so his role got expanded.

wizzardstaff posted:

I felt like some of the language choices were a little wordy

You nailed it! I am struggling with tone and style a lot, particularly with dialogue. The conversation between Lorand and Talitha versus the conversation between Lugal and Camil almost feel like they're from different books.

wizzardstaff posted:

The other thing that felt the most off to me was Talitha catching up with Lorand after he fled from the test. I had to read that conversation three times before it sunk in what had happened. Even with numbing himself, it felt like Lorand was far too flippant about breaking his leg. But I guess maybe that's just how you are when you have access to instantaneous magical healing?

Question: was Lorand planning all along to Heal himself as a demonstration for his exams? Was he not expecting Lugal to provide him with an opportunity that didn't involve self-harm?

Based on this feedback, I should have filled out more background information in that dialogue exchange. I was worried because I knew I was going to have a big infodump about Grami shortly after and I wanted to practice conveying these two characters through dialogue only (with the intent to avoid butler and maid dialogue). As a result, I kept back a lot of the details I had worked out in my head: like how Healing is not the best skill to demonstrate when you're going for exams, since you're very limited in what you can demonstrate. Deliberately causing a serious injury for examination purposes, then placing the patient at risk of further injury or potential death if the person taking the exam messed up, would cross some moral and ethical boundaries and in the rewrite canon, the powers that be aren't as callous with citizens' lives.

So the answer is, anyone going for Healing usually ends up demonstrating on an injured animal that they provide themselves. Lorand hadn't planned on breaking his own leg–he was supposed to heal one of Phor Riven's cows (Willowbloom) that had gone lame–but once he did, he tried to capitalize on the situation because he guessed (correctly) that successfully Healing an actually broken human leg would be more impressive. And because he's a cocky idiot, he somehow convinced himself that exacerbating his injury to make his Healing demonstration even more impressive would be a great idea, because everyone's been telling him he's this genius talent.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER THREE (6281 words)

Day 5 (8/11/2020): 839 words on a non-writing day, split across two sessions
Day 6 (9/11/2020): 2291 words to finish off the first scene across a very interrupted morning, with a 2.5 hr session at night
Day 7 (10/11/2020): 3151 words, split 1070 in the morning and another 2081 across 3.5 hours tonight


Planned outline for this chapter:

Leng posted:

Chapter 3: A ticket out of Widdertown
Saving money over the summer with a traveling herbalist
Grami Riven's sickness
The audit
Convincing Lugal to let him tag along with Talitha
Lugal sends along a letter

Since I've been struggling with getting my hourly word count up, I spent a little time on Monday breaking these high level plot points into a slightly more detailed outline:

The Outline posted:

Detailed scene by scene outline
3.1: Talitha in Widdertown
  • Another time skip, she’s almost 15 now
  • Open with Grami, a story?
  • She’s thinking about Lorand’s scholarship, nervous about her plan
  • She goes into town, to see Lugal
  • Passes tavern and its occupants
3.2: Lorand, Camil and the agent
  • He’s somewhere out far out of town, collecting herbs for money
  • Lorand goes home and finds the agent collecting rent from his father
  • The rent doesn’t add up to what they harvested
  • Do they collect in coin or in produce?
3.3: Lugal
  • Talitha gets a high enough score to get the scholarship
  • She tries to him to sponsor her to Gan Garee
  • Lorand runs in to beg to join her
  • He agrees and sends a letter along with them
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QpKU-26lwtjR8gY9gjZqHEzjtrRNysU8qxtsLjD_444/edit?usp=sharing

The first two scenes wound up much longer than I expected so last two high level plot points/3.3 are getting pushed to Chapter 4. Which is probably a good thing anyway, because I had a quick skim to remind myself of what's planned for Chapter 4 and while there are a lot of points listed, they feel quite fluffy so there should be room for Lugal's scene in there.

Link to Chapter 3: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hRpV2b87aGda7FTNgYMZ8LhY1yXaCwLqB2WBg_zEAQk/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • Stuff happens but it's not as fast paced as the earlier chapters so I ended up with a lot more introspection than I was planning. But I guess that's ok, because not everybody can write at Will Wight's breakneck pace. Or maybe it's boring, I dunno!
  • I put in another six month time skip so I may or may not have messed up the timeline. On that note, maybe I should start a timeline, but that seems like it might be a distraction from focusing on writing. Timeline issues can get sorted in a second draft (if I do one)
  • Don't know how I feel about having the song in there. I hated it when Tolkien put massive chunks of ballads in. I wanted to do one just as an experiment (because NaNoWriMo, so why the hell not?) and as a nod to the fact that most of my creative output has been songs (for musicals, mostly). I mainly do music though, so I kind of suck at lyrics and need the practice.
  • The Camil POV was fun, so I tried a Talitha POV to see how that felt. I think it helped me flesh out her character a bit more though I don't know if all the focus on sick Grami feels repetitious.
  • I'm tempted to do the next scene as a Lugal POV, because NaNo fantasy fix fic, so why not? We'll see!
  • Eslinna was a planned but unplanned character. I hadn't really thought about how the travelling herbalist thing would work in advance. I think this kind of works?
  • Don't know about some word choices again; for example, "pyrrhic" really would be an anachronism since the origins of that word happened in our world rather than the Blendingverse
  • Did I overdo the stylistic bits in Ravis's dialogue? I don't know!

Canon References/Easter Eggs
  • Puredan still exists and is still a controlled substance, same as canon
  • Canon Eslinna is the Earth magic member of another Blending that features in Book 7. I think she might have been around in Book 4 or 5 in the first series, but as part of a clump of unnamed background characters.
  • Deadly poison and related chat is a reference to multiple instances of various poisons used by different antagonists throughout the canon books, particularly Book 5
  • Regisard is still the location of at least one university
  • Canon Book 1 mentioned "duchies" once in the Prologue, so I kept it
  • Canon Ravis Grund is also an agent of the nobility, though it's not mentioned which noble he works for

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

I think the main thing that confused me about the scene was that it was tied to Lorand's flight from Mollit, so I thought the "convenience" of the leg break must be related too. Like I thought that Lorand was expecting a beating from Mollit's crew and that maybe they'd show mercy if he was already hurt. But I guess knowing that he could easily be Healed might just make them more aggressive.

Ah! Yep, that's a totally valid way of reading the sequence as written that I hadn't considered.

wizzardstaff posted:

You are probably not looking for giant rewrites at this stage, but here are some random unsolicited suggestions for alternate scenes:

-Replace the essay-writing scene with Lorand searching for his cow and getting injured in the process. (Hey, you wanted humor, how about slapstick?)

I love this suggestion! I don't even think it'd necessitate a rewrite specifically, just the addition of a new scene between the end of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2.

Slapstick, when done well, is hilarious for me. My two favorite examples:

1. Sanderson - the scene in Bands of Mourning where the main cast is fleeing New Seran (Bands of Mourning, Chapter 16). It's a payoff after two and a half books of character set up and one specific chapter (Bands of Mourning, Chapter 10). Chapter 10 is hilarious in itself.

2. There's a very old movie called 雞同鴨講 (translates roughly as "Chicken and Duck Talk") made by Michael Hui, one of the greatest Hong Kong comedians of all time. The entire 90 minute film sums up Hong Kong in the 1980s in pure, glorious slapstick. You might be more familiar with Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer which I'd say was highly influenced by Michael Hui's work. At about the 1 hour mark, we get 1 minute of setup immediately followed by the most memorable 3 minute slapstick fight/chase sequence of the film, complete with an instance of wire fu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4lt1iBeiEs#t=3604s


Based on the current rate of my writing (35% through the target word count but only 25% through planned chapters), I think Enchanted Hat was right in saying that I probably am going to hit 50k words well before I finish the story. That means I don't know if I will have time left over to write this but I'll put it on the radar as a fun stretch goal!

Leng fucked around with this message at 21:36 on Nov 10, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

I definitely did not leave the chapter feeling upbeat.

Mission accomplished then

Let's hope Chapter 4 makes you feel better.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER FOUR (5189 words)

Day 9 (11/11/2020): 218 words on a non-writing day, though I did do some more detailed outlining
Day 10 (12/11/2020): 1331 words, on a planned writing day that turned out to be incredibly non-productive because I was super distracted all day and had serious Blank Page Syndrome
Day 11 (13/11/2020): 3640 words on a non-writing day. The words started flowing once I got past the first few pages of this chapter


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapter:

Leng posted:

Chapter 3: A ticket out of Widdertown
Convincing Lugal to let him tag along with Talitha
Lugal sends along a letter

Chapter 4: Gan Garee
Registering for training
Exploring the Guild House
Delin and Solthia make an appearance
Rion cameo?
Exploring Gan Garee
Jovvi cameo

The more detailed outline from Wednesday:

quote:

4.1: Lugal
  • He contemplates a letter from the Seated Blending (? or the current High Master?), his own death, legacy and the future of the Guild and the Empire. Camil's words hit him harder than he let on.
  • Talitha shows up to hassle him about her results–her score is a high enough score to get the scholarship
  • She tries to convince him to sponsor her to Gan Garee
  • Lorand runs in to beg to join her
  • He agrees and sends a (sealed?) letter in reply (? along with them)

4.2: The Guild House
  • They travel by public coach (they have to work part of the fare or something?)
  • The capital city makes a stunning first impression. It’s a mish mash of old and new, divided into five concentric rings, connected by radial paths and gates. Each has a dedicated defensive or other purpose with one aspect dominating each ring: Water (the lake), Fire (continually burning bonfires on the watch towers), Air (a very high ringed walkway?), Earth (massive fortifications) and Spirit (contains the palace, a miniature microcosm of the aspects with five-point symmetry) at the centre
  • They find their rooms in the Guild House and drop their gear
  • They get lost while trying to find the dining hall and stumble into somewhere they’re not supposed to be and overhear/see something they’re not supposed to see. Something related to the competitions and the possibility of them being called early?
  • Hestir/Elmin encounter?
  • They beat a quick retreat and go out to explore the city

4.3: Gan Garee
  • They got in late, so they go to explore the entertainment quarter.
  • Contrast what they've heard from the guardsmen passing through Widdertown to what they see. Reality is both more amazing and less amazing than they expected
  • Spirit magic in action, somehow. Bubbles of influence?
  • What kind of experimental practical applications of magic work

Other than 4.1, I did...none very little (because ok, I technically did show the first bit of the Water part of Gan Garee) of the actual things slated for Chapter 4 (from either of my outlines). Is this what discovery writers feel like?

Leng posted:

The first two scenes wound up much longer than I expected so last two high level plot points/3.3 are getting pushed to Chapter 4. Which is probably a good thing anyway, because I had a quick skim to remind myself of what's planned for Chapter 4 and while there are a lot of points listed, they feel quite fluffy so there should be room for Lugal's scene in there.

I am a very bad judge of my own outline, apparently. Maybe it's a good thing though, because Chapter 5 didn't exactly have a lot in its outline.

Link to Chapter 4: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-1Ivw0Tbo6QIzH9FSAHwvIk1oZiza22SKe3N9eRNQnc/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • For anyone from the Let's Read who was as frustrated as I that Green never showed what a Search was after dropping it on us in Book 1 Chapter 1, this one's for you
  • I had a lot of trouble getting into Lugal's POV. I don't think my old man is very convincing
  • The final part of this chapter is about as slice of life as I plan to get. I may need to do some Tamora Pierce rereads to prepare for the next few chapters
  • No Rion or Jovvi cameos, but I surprised myself with a Vallant cameo instead. Somehow, when we're not in his head and get to hate him vicariously through Lorand, I don't hate him as a character so much
  • We've now officially crossed the threshold into the unknown! Hopefully Lorand's little reversal is more convincing than weary old Lugal, and now we understand his motivations a bit more about feeling like a hick
  • There are things that I've just thrown into the chapter that I have no actual idea what I'm going to do with, mostly because they ought to be laying groundwork for a Rewritten Book 2, if I ever get around to doing that

Canon References/Easter Eggs

Leng fucked around with this message at 14:02 on Nov 13, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER FIVE (5747 words)

Surprise chapter release ahead of schedule! Mainly because I've been so panicked about my output per hour that I cranked up the writing on unscheduled days.

Day 12 (14/11/2020): 799 words on an unscheduled writing day, which is very low output thanks to 4 hours of crippling Blank Page Syndrome
Day 13 (15/11/2020): 797 words on a non-writing day
Day 14 (16/11/2020): 4151 words on a non-writing day. This is my second highest word count in a day and a whole bunch of it happened during unscheduled nap time


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapter:

Leng posted:

Chapter 4: Gan Garee
Registering for training
Exploring the Guild House
Delin and Solthia make an appearance
Rion cameo?
Exploring Gan Garee
Jovvi cameo

Chapter 5: Training–overview of their schedule
Group training on universal abilities
Aspect specific training
Combat training

The more detailed outline:

quote:

5.1: The Guild House
  • The capital city makes a stunning first impression. It’s a mish mash of old and new, divided into five concentric rings, connected by radial paths and gates. Each has a dedicated defensive or other purpose with one aspect dominating each ring: Water (the lake), Fire (continually burning bonfires on the watch towers), Air (a very high ringed walkway?), Earth (massive fortifications) and Spirit (contains the palace, a miniature microcosm of the aspects with five-point symmetry) at the centre
  • They find their rooms in the Guild House and drop their gear
  • They get lost while trying to find the dining hall and stumble into somewhere they’re not supposed to be and overhear/see something they’re not supposed to see. Something related to the competitions and the possibility of them being called early?
  • Hestir/Elmin encounter?
  • They beat a quick retreat and go out to explore the city

5.2: Gan Garee
  • They got in late, so they go to explore the entertainment quarter.
  • Contrast what they've heard from the guardsmen passing through Widdertown to what they see. Reality is both more amazing and less amazing than they expected
  • Spirit magic in action, somehow. Bubbles of influence?
  • What kind of experimental practical applications of magic work

5.3: First week of training

(not a typo, the detailed outline really does just kind of trail off there because I still have no idea what that looks like. At this stage I don't even know whether I'm going to try and flesh it out at a detailed outline level or just dive into writing it, because while the more detailed outline seemed to have helped in writing Chapter Three, it did nothing of the sort for Chapters Four and Five)

As with Rewritten Chapter Four, I kind of did stuff that sort of but not really matched up to this. Perhaps I need to cut myself some slack from not slavishly following the outline, I mean not even Sanderson manages to do that perfectly. I had trouble understanding what he meant by him having to go and rebuild his outlines when he gets too far away from them and now I know.

Link to Chapter 5: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1atVqcrQcwKlNCK37a7DNVgdyo1jkEZHi8UA4p0FQjM4/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • I forgot to mention in the notes to Chapter Four that I apologize to anyone who knows stuff about sailing and ships. At this point, I'm also going to apologize to anyone who knows anything about architecture. If nothing else, this exercise has taught me that the only thing I feel like I can write convincingly about is accounting, because the stuff about Lorand's farm and taxes in Chapter Three was by far the easiest detail to write.
  • The biggest thing that felt off about Green's Empire (and my reimagined one too) is how...homogenous its people are. Not a history student, but I always had the impression that empires covered massive amounts of territory and therefore counted a diverse range of peoples as its citizens. There should be distinct cultures and things...that in my struggle to just get words out I haven't managed to detail. This would be the biggest thing I'd work to address in second draft. My yardstick for this is how Sanderson manages to convey the cultural diversity of Roshar in Shallan's first POV chapter when she arrives in Kharbranth. The way he gets so much of his world building across at the same time as establishing character is amazing.
  • Conveying character through description is tricky. I felt like Lorand, being a landlocked farmboy, wouldn't have any clue what mother-of-pearl is or what violins/stringed instruments/an orchestra sounds like so I avoided using specific terms like that.
  • A super interesting thing I came across in the Fiction Writing Advice thread, was Steven Erikson's annotation of his opening scene to the Malazan series, where he discusses what he terms "elliptical narrative" and the concept of ringing a bell. I'm fairly certain that he would term every example of when I've tried to do this as "crude" but it's been a helpful exercise because he's right when he says keeping that bell in mind helps in staying focused on the scene/chapter.
  • I struggled with trying to make description interesting, because my outline basically boiled down to "write about a cool city" which does not specify any conflicts, whatsoever, and therefore means boring. I need to keep a better eye out for this going forward. The solution here was to have Lorand cause an accident, which helped with continuing to build on his fish out of water feeling from last chapter and keep on drawing on the contrast between how he's handling things and how Talitha is doing.
  • During my lazy rewrite, I had put in a scene of Lorand going to eat breakfast in the Guild House dining hall after he passes his initial test. He basically goes in, tries his best to copy what Clarion's doing so he doesn't commit any faux pas, then sits down at a table with Hat who has fallen in with Pagin and Vallant. It started ok but quickly tapered off after 707 words when I tried writing the dialogue between the four men because I realized I had no bloody idea what they should be talking about, why it was important, how it would convey character or advance the plot, so I abandoned it. When I was writing this chapter, I thought it might fit here with some alterations, which it did. I carried 421 words over from the old scene, so I guess my new word count target is 50,421.

Questions for you guys:
- just the one really: what have I gotten wrong about writing from a fourteen year old boy's perspective?

Canon References/Easter Eggs
  • Driffin Codsent runs a public Healing clinic, just like his canon counterpart (Book 6)
  • Everyone who's an aspirant wears identification tags, just like the five separate explanations we got in canon (Book 1 Chapters 6-10)
  • The only curse Green ever wrote into the canon was "blazing blue hell" and it came from Vallant (Book1 Chapter 5)
  • Canon Ennis was the coach driver who dropped Vallant off for the initial testing (Book 1 Chapter 10)
  • Confusion with buffets happened to Hat in the original canon (Book 5, Chapter 29)
  • Talitha's unapologetic attitude comes from Canon Lorand when he was embarrassed about being a country hick in front of Clarion during the bath house sequence and decided to lean into it for all he's worth to save face (Book 1 Chapter 14)
  • Passing your second level masteries gets you a bracelet, which the Let's Read will have the pleasure of reading the same explanation five times when we resume going through Book 2
  • The amphitheatre features in Canon Book 3, when Green finally gets around to showing the competitions
  • Canon Jovvi tells Tamrissa about how she was "discovered" by an agent for a courtesan residence (Book 1 Chapter 24)
  • Regensi is the proprietor of the dress shop that Canon Jovvi, Tamrissa and Beldara were tormented in (Book 1 Chapter 20)
  • Canon Tamrissa and Rion go to buy glass figurines of animals in Book 2, Chapter 40, and I have never worked out whether Green deliberately worked in a glass menagerie reference or not (I kind of have to assume it was deliberate because it's Tennessee Williams)
  • Canon Jost is a horrible excuse of a human being that is the captain of the Nolls' private guard (Book 7)

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

I was going to say "needs more awkward horniness" but then I got to Jovvi's introduction.

Well then, I'll have to dial it up for Chapter 6. I just finished the first scene and hopefully it hits the mark.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER SIX (5418 words)

Day 15 (17/11/2020): 1674 words on a writing day, as I had carved out some writing time to do detailed outlining time.
Day 16 (18/11/2020): 1077 words on a non-writing day, around other appointments
Day 17 (19/11/2020): 1980 words on a writing day, lower than what I would normally get on a Thursday. I blame this on the fact that Rhythm of War is out and a very bad morning. I have been staying away from the Sanderson thread because carving out 15 hours to finish the book when I've got a word count to hit seems like a bad idea. The book will still be there after NaNoWriMo and I'm gonna reward myself with one chapter every time I finish 2k words.
Day 18 (20/11/2020): 687 words to finish the chapter, so I can get straight into the next one.


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapter:

Leng posted:

Chapter 4: Gan Garee
Delin and Solthia make an appearance
Rion cameo?

Chapter 5: Training–overview of their schedule
Group training on universal abilities
Aspect specific training
Combat training

Chapter 6: Slice of life
Talitha's in theoretical lectures and hating it
Solthia's doing well, but subdued
Lorand is embarrassed
Talitha and Solthia go out, they invite Lorand but he says no
Lorand writes a letter home

The more detailed outline:

quote:

6.1: Lorand
  • Talitha’s already left her room, he presumes that she’s gone early for breakfast (in truth she went to go investigate the address Jovvi gave her)
  • He bites the bullet, tries to apologize to Delin about damaging his furniture
  • Delin spends the whole time making fun of Lorand for being a country hick
  • Lorand gets mad and throws what he heard about Delin not being a Lord–maybe some stuff about the worldbuilding on how nobility works here?
  • Delin’s a much better player at this game than Lorand is, so he comes out of the exchange the winner
  • Solthia catches the tail end of it and uses the opportunity to build rapport with Lorand on their way to class

6.2: Establish social dynamics in their intake
  • Rion is their instructor! He’s on a temporary home assignment after a turn at the Astindan front. He’s adopted and Delin makes sure that everyone knows it.
  • Unfortunately for Delin, he’s no match for Rion in any regard. He takes it out on Lorand instead
  • Lorand and Delin are both kind of upset at how Talitha and Solthia are into Rion
  • Irritatingly, the only classes they have are combat classes which are almost free for alls–the education on magical theory they got as Middles is supposed to be sufficient for them to start researching their own thing
  • Explain some stuff about what the written component is–it’s part civic duty part academic research thesis. Collaboration is permitted but comes with its own risks
  • Lorand decides to use what he learned from Eslinna and research how to heal or prevent burnout
  • Talitha is super frustrated because while Decay is her thing, its applications are typically boring and straightforward, or involve killing a lot of people. The texts in the Guild library are very dense and obscure and the only one who can make any sense of them is Delin, and he isn’t helping anyone
  • Build in something about Drowd’s model of power and talent or one of the Five Fundamental Theorems

Is it a good or a bad thing that I keep over outlining? I guess it's probably neither good nor bad, and just a thing. I now totally understand how Sanderson starts out planning a novella and ends up with a novel because I guess I'm basically in the process of doing the same thing.

Link to Chapter 6: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1d-HdQ7oM3oQemWDgWxyJPc3hTEmiCVbbpQDPHc4BOnA/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • This chapter was a lot easier to write compared to the last two and I think it's because the outline is more specific as to the character conflicts. Instead of "characters travel from A to B" or "write about a cool city", the motivations for each character were clear from the start, so it's easier to write because I don't have to worry so much about the world building
  • As you can see, the opening scene for this chapter ended up very different to how I planned it. I'm pretty happy with how it ended up, because not only does it establish Delin's character vividly, I managed to work in a few mysteries about the magic system and use it as a jumping off point for Solthia
  • The hardest scene to write was Rion's cameo. To be honest, I'm not even sure that he's really still the same character as Canon Rion because I've changed his backstory so much.
  • I debated whether to include one more scene of Solthia taking the mental block off Lorand but decided against it due to the chapter length. Besides we kind of already hit those emotional points already so I had a hunch that it'd feel repetitive

Questions for you guys:
- how are we doing now on the awkward horniness quotient?

Canon References/Easter Eggs
  • In the canon, Guild talents are only immune to being affected if they are actively flexing the part of their talent that matches the relevant aspect. I've reversed this in the Rewrite - i.e. they are immune by default unless they consciously suppress it.
  • Linking people's ability to speak to breathing was a thing done by Ebro Syant, a Gracelian Assembly member, but totally in line with Canon Delin's characterization as an insane sadist (Book 6, Chapter 15)
  • There was one instance of a non-het relationship in canon, and it was between Ollon Kapmar and Zolin Maylock (Book 4, Chapter 5)
  • There are multiple instances of Canon Jovvi having trouble blocking out Canon Tamrissa's emotions
  • Monitoring bodily reactions to figure out if someone is telling the truth is also a canon Earth magic ability
  • Canon Rion also gets a letter from Canon Naran, though she delivers that one personally (Book 2, Chapter 22)
  • Canon Hallina Mardimill is related to 3 of the Seated Five (Book 4, Chapter 28)
  • Minor spoilers for Canon Book 5: Canon Rion is adopted
  • Canon Delin always has to rely on his father's authority to get anything done and he hates it (Book 2, Chapter 17)
  • Canon Lorand is also supposedly homesick at one point (Book 1, Chapter 32)

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

You remember how I said the Sanderson influence was strong in your earlier chapters? This one, uh, diverges from his style a bit.

I'll count that as a success on the awkward horniness quotient!

wizzardstaff posted:

One minor thing wasn't quite clear to me: what does it mean to "tie someone's ability to speak to their breathing"? The way both you and Lorand describe it sounds very clinical and special, but functionally it doesn't seem different from making someone mute.

Spoilers for Canon Book 6:
According to Green's text, an Earth magic practitioner can apparently manipulate neural pathways. In the book, Ebro Syant (an Earth magic High in Gracely) is a short and fat Assembly member who uses his Blending to kidnap and rape a girl he has the hots for. After he rapes her, he uses his Blending on her so that any time she tries to tell somebody that he raped her, she starts choking on the words. She's supposed to have a lot of suitors so she thinks she'll be able to escape by getting married but he's a member of the Assembly so he manipulates things to get suitors to leave, so he can keep raping her at his leisure. She decides that death is preferable so she deliberately chokes to death trying to speak out about his crimes.

Muting someone is less complicated as I think it just involves an Earth magic user futzing with the vocal chords by like, introducing temporary laryngitis or something. Whereas linking two different abilities to each other makes one dependent on the other. I.e. if you want to continue to be able to breathe, then don't talk.

Now that I'm thinking about it, it could be argued that if you're affecting neural pathways in the brain, that really should be the domain of Spirit magic rather than Earth magic. I couldn't remember the specifics of the canon scene when writing this so I might have messed up on that one. So theoretically, Earth magic should be about affecting someone's physical state while Spirit magic is affecting someone's mental state. But I guess since we know physical damage to the brain does weird stuff to the neural pathways, I guess an argument could be made that Earth magic could kind of do something similar, though the counter argument would be that's probably a level of precision that Earth magic shouldn't grant.

So...if I ever go back and do a second pass on this, I would probably just change it so that Delin muted the Acolyte instead of doing something more complicated that he'd probably need Spirit magic help for.

Either way, both of us have spent more time thinking about this than Green actually did!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER SEVEN (6032 words)

Day 18 (20/11/2020): 1300 words. I had good intentions of doing more, but Blank Page Syndrome was really difficult to defeat this time, with Rhythm of War begging to be read.
Day 19 (23/11/2020): 1855 words on a non-writing day, after a weekend long reading binge on Rhythm of War. It was so interesting to read this time around as I was hyper aware of things from a writer's perspective.
Day 20 (24/11/2020): 2877 words to finish the chapter. I think I'm gonna aim to get another scene down tonight for the next chapter, because tomorrow's schedule is looking pretty bad for focused writing time


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapters:

Leng posted:

Chapter 5: Training–overview of their schedule
Group training on universal abilities
Aspect specific training

Chapter 6: Slice of life
Talitha's in theoretical lectures and hating it
Solthia's doing well, but subdued
Lorand is embarrassed
Talitha and Solthia go out, they invite Lorand but he says no
Lorand writes a letter home

Chapter 7: Specialized training–Healing clinic
Meets Driffin, who is very impressed by Lorand, asks if he wants to earn extra silver in additional after hours shifts
He finds out as much as possible about Grami's illness
Talitha's spending a lot of late nights away from the Guild House

The more detailed outline:

quote:

7.1: Lorand writes a letter home
  • It’s addressed to his mother, care of Master Lugal, but written for both the Coll and Riven families. It’s the only thing he can send them, because he still doesn’t have money, and the only reason he can afford to send the letter is because he’s sending it with the Guild’s normal dispatches to Master Lugal so it didn’t cost him anything.
  • He gives a quick overview of what they’ve been doing: basic combat training with staffs in the first month, progressing to spears in the second month and the last month has been bringing in magic into the mix, but restricted from using their aspect-specific skills.
  • They’re learning to fight mostly one to one, he doesn’t mention that Delin keeps beating the crap out of him
  • Next month they’re supposed to start aspect specific training, and he’s sad about that, because Solthia won’t be there and she’s the only one who can really rein Delin in
  • He asks after news of Grami’s health, sends some information he’s researched in the library, mentions he’ll be doing a placement in a clinic from next month
  • He includes some words of advice to Jeris. He wants to ask his father about whether Ravis is holding up his end of the bargain but decides against putting it into writing because it could make things worse
  • He ends by saying that he misses them all and he’ll try and come home as soon as he can, he just doesn’t know when.
  • He goes all judgemental on Talitha about a few flings she had with some of the other aspirants

7.2: Talitha in the Healing Clinic
  • They’re in the main clinic in the Air district, and Driffin is giving them a tour of the facilities
  • The other three are super interested, she had expected that Solthia would be doing something else but it turns out that Driffin is doing some experiments with mental healing and Solthia is there training under another High in Spirit magic

I had a bunch more points that were supposed to go in the clinic scene but when I got to writing it, none of them fit so I'm gonna shove them into the next chapter.

Link to Chapter 7: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1180IhaZSFfHO9AWQzdeQ98pV5r8hfCOJBVFDLFhNBus/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • I feel like this chapter is kind of repetitive, but I needed a way to do a timeskip with Lorand reflecting on everything so I went with the age old "write a letter home" method that Tamora Pierce used to great effect in First Test (from The Protector of the Small series). I did cheat by checking on how Pierce did it, and I did nowhere as good a job as she did. I feel like too much of Lorand's letter overlaps with information we already got in the previous chapter but whatever, this is NaNoWriMo, so let's just note it and move on
  • Eslinna's reappearance was unplanned. Basically, I couldn't figure out how to end Lorand's scene because the whole letter writing felt like an info dump and there were no other characters he could plausibly run into, since everyone else was supposed to be away. Then I realized I should probably put his confrontation with Talitha in because we're now past the halfway mark, so I did that afterwards.
  • Not a lot happens in this chapter, which is the fault of my outline. It's mostly a world building chapter and focused more on Spirit magic rather than Healing. I guess that's gonna have to fit in one of the upcoming chapters. Luckily, there should be plenty of opportunity to do so, assuming I don't get distracted and go in a different direction again.

Canon References/Easter Eggs

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER EIGHT (5264 words)

Day 20 (24/11/2020): 1249 words, which was a good start for a new chapter!
Day 21 (25/11/2020): 90 words on a non-writing day. Any possibility of writing more got destroyed by a bunch of random urgent errands
Day 22 (26/11/2020): 3925 words to finish the chapter. Pretty good output for me!


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapters:

Leng posted:

Chapter 6: Slice of life
Talitha's in theoretical lectures and hating it
Talitha and Solthia go out, they invite Lorand but he says no

Chapter 8: Specialized training–excursion to the western border? Deep Caverns?
Lorand hates it
There's an accident of some sort; he saves Delin's life

The more detailed outline:

quote:

Preparing for the Trials:
  • Driffin is so impressed with Lorand that he offers him a job after hours at the clinic, because they always need help. Lorand accepts and decides to start immediately
  • Delin’s disappeared off somewhere so that leaves Solthia and Talitha. Frustrated at not having any money and no idea what to do about her Trial, Talitha wants to be anywhere other than the Guild House.
  • Solthia takes her for a girls night out somewhere unexpected and they have a Deep And Meaningful Talk
  • They talk about Lorand and the Trials, two topics that Talitha wants to avoid.
  • Talitha is super frustrated and worried about her Trial of Duty, which is the written component: part civic duty part academic research thesis. Collaboration is permitted but comes with its own risks. While Decay is her thing, its applications are typically boring and straightforward, or involve killing a lot of people. The texts in the Guild library are very dense and obscure and the only one who can make any sense of them is Delin, and he isn’t helping anyone
  • Solthia gives Talitha some advice about Drowd’s model of power and talent or one of the Five Fundamental Theorems
  • Talitha brings up Delin and what she overheard Solthia’s mother saying on the night before the first day of classes.
  • Solthia confesses that she hates the role she has to live up to; she just wants to be a Healer but her family won’t have it
  • At the end of the night, Solthia goes back to the Guild House and Talitha goes to find Jovvi

Specialized training–excursion to the western border? Deep Caverns?
  • Lorand decides to use what he learned from Eslinna and research how to heal or prevent burnout
  • Lorand hates it
  • There’s an accident of some sort; he saves Delin’s life

Continuing with the trend since Chapter 3, the second half of that outline involving the Deep Caverns completely didn't happen so it's getting shoved into the next chapter.

Link to Chapter 8: https://docs.google.com/document/d/10AWawzS1LW2nocUBZ2PbfHd18II5z0sDbSfHLXeWTMo/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • Chapter 7 ended with Talitha in a bit of a funk, and since we've already had a POV from her before, I felt like we had to kind of address her issues, especially since she's been more proactive than Lorand as a general rule.
  • I am pretty conscious that it's Chapter 8 and we still haven't made it to the Deep Caverns. This chapter was originally titled "Deep Caverns" and then I got like 4000 words in and still wasn't done with Solthia and Talitha on their girls night out, so it clearly wasn't going to happen.
  • That aside, writing this chapter was weird. I didn't really know how I was going get there, but I had in mind a very specific moment between Solthia and Talitha, to show them actually becoming really good friends. There was no room for it in Chapter 6, since that was entirely from Lorand's POV, and chronologically it had to come later anyway, so that became the key moment I was trying to build up to.
  • I'm still iffy on whether or not there's too much introspection. I feel like the chapter starts off very slow. Things only pick up when the two characters start talking, which means I have like four pages of introspection that I'm a bit ho hum on whether it's needed. I feel like if I was a more experienced writer, I would be able to do better here.
  • There's 4 more (very vaguely) planned chapters left and only 4 days and just a little over 5k words to go. Between now and the end of NaNoWriMo, I only have 1 real planned writing day left and I will be lucky if I can finish a whole chapter in that time. I don't mind if the last chapter gets wrapped up in the first few days of December but that's all the time I can spare for the project.
  • So realistically, that means the last 4 chapters need to be condensed into 2 chapters, with the aim to write Chapter 9 before the end of November to hit the target word count, and then Chapter 10 to wrap up the story so we can get back to the Let's Read and normal life. That means I'll probably spend an hour or so rejigging of the remaining outline to figure out how to close off the story properly.

Canon References/Easter Eggs

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER NINE (6124 words)

Day 23 (27/11/2020): 1655 words, another good start for a new chapter! I had hoped for more, but writing time was eaten up by rebuilding the outline time, which is fine and good, especially when I can see the finish line in the distance.
Day 24 (28/11/2020): 1295 words on my buffer writing day which turned into a non-writing day due to last minute plans. Some words happened first thing in the morning but the rest was done late at night.
Day 25 (29/11/2020): 3174 words to finish the chapter.


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapters:

Leng posted:

Chapter 8: Specialized training–excursion to the western border? Deep Caverns?
Lorand hates it
There's an accident of some sort; he saves Delin's life

Chapter 9: High exam–first attempt
Magical spectacle! It's a crazy maze
Talitha passes
Lorand fails

Chapter 11: Qualifying–Lorand's last attempt
Overcomes his fear of burnout
Finally passes

The more detailed outline, which included rejigging some of the original points so that I could finish off this rewrite in two chapters:

quote:

9.1: Lorand
  • Spring is here, and they’ve finished their aspect specific training. Lorand basically stuck with the clinic after a few other day excursions elsewhere and has submitted his paper, though he’s still waiting for news from the Seated Five
  • The rest of his intake tried other stuff: Talitha weirdly went to work in the Treasury, hunting down counterfeit coinage–as far as Lorand knows, she still hasn’t started on her Trial but she’s been very tight lipped about her plans, Delin passed his Trial of Duty early on the strength of whatever research he did, and Solthia went into law enforcement with her uncle and also passed her Trial of Duty.
  • He notices that Solthia has been acting differently towards Delin, and Delin himself has been tormenting him less and less because he’s developing some sort of fascination with Solthia
  • He’s thinking about all of this on his way to meet Mardimill at the very top of Gan Garee to be taken to the Trial of Mastery
  • As he passes through the palace, he inadvertently takes a wrong turn which takes him to the Earth Advisor’s office. He overhears a conversation between Delin and his father, who warns him to remain in control to not risk another scandal. Delin’s father is cold, manipulative and horrible to Delin to the point where he finally gains some empathy for him

9.2: Talitha
  • Mardimill flies them there–this time the Trial is located near an abandoned section of the Deep Caverns, a network of caves underneath the Tondron Peaks
  • Legends say all sorts of things about the Deep Caverns: that the Four used to do all sorts of horrible experiments down here and they stumbled into unknown magic that corrupted them, that the Five thought they had killed the Four in the uprising but the Four were protected by some evil power and their still living bodies were entombed somewhere in the Deep Caverns
  • It’s a gigantic 3D maze where the walls are thirty feet high and made of different elements. The top is sealed off after the Aspirants are dropped in at random points. They have five hours to attain two goals: 1) find the center and 2) collect 2 keys along the way
  • Basic competence in all 4 abilities (at a Middle level) plus combat is required for survival in the maze
  • Advanced aptitude (beyond Middle level) in at least 2 of the abilities is required to get 2 of the keys. You can keep whatever keys you earn through multiple attempts but you always have to start from the edge of the maze.
  • Like the tests for Middle, cheating (either via linking or cooperation) is prohibited. Interference is not (since it’s too easy for accidents to happen), but it is frowned upon and if determined to be deliberate, carries a heavy penalty
  • They swear an oath under Spirit magic to maintain secrecy

9.3: Lorand
  • He tries to use his Earth senses to navigate, but the maze is shielded, and there are so many people and things using magic that it’s kind of blinding.
    His strategy is to rely mainly on Healing and Encouragement, his two strongest skills, especially after honing them in the clinic for weeks, which means stealth mostly.
  • He’s not as good at shielding as Talitha, but she’s been coaching him: he layers on three shields - one against Earth magic in general, the most familiar and the most solid, one against mental attacks and a general shield made of power, which won’t entirely protect against the other elements but should weaken their attacks
  • The hardened Air on top has blurred out the sky so he can’t navigate using the sun. He picks a direction at random, trusting that he’ll be able to use enough Decay to blast through obstacles
  • The first one he runs across is an artificial infinite river. Turns out it’s sentient and tries to engulf him. He gets out by churning up all the dirt and turning it into a sludgy mud pit and filling it with plant life, then growing himself some ropes to climb out. When he finally does, a wall that looked like a cliff parts and sends him into the next part of the maze and drops a key
  • There’s a chime that lets him know the first hour is up. He runs deeper into the maze

9.4: Lorand
  • There’s an hour left to go. He still doesn’t have his second key. He begins thinking that trying to rely on Healing was a bad choice–just like it was for the first exam–and can’t solve the puzzle for how he demonstrates it.
  • He had made it to the inner part of the maze by following first Talitha and then Solthia. Talitha had basically wrapped herself in shields and brute forced her way through the maze, basically blasting through or disintegrating every single wall she came across in a straight line to the center. The last he’d seen, she was trying to fight a sandstorm, at which point he decided to backtrack and find another way.
  • Halfway through the allotted time, the maze itself shifted and he lost his sense of direction. But he glimpsed Solthia riding past on a massive ice dragon that breathed ice around to shatter things in its path–it was animated by a combination of all five aspects and she had taken control of it. He follows them but gets attacked by a ravenous pack of flaming wolves that were setting everything on fire as they chased him. He tries Persuasion on them but can’t manage the split concentration to do it, and managed to use his combat skills to fend them off enough to escape
  • He follows a trail of destruction. At the end of it is Delin, losing his fight against a rock golem, right before the final gate. It crushes him and stomps off somewhere else. Lorand rushes over and he’s somehow still alive. There’s not enough time left to Heal Delin and get to the center of the maze, but he decides that he won’t leave Delin behind like he left his brother. He finishes the Healing the moment before time runs out. It’s enough to get him the second key but he’s failed.

At this point, I have reconciled myself to the fact that the Deep Caverns are just not gonna happen in this rewrite. That's fine! That means there's a worldbuilding detail for Rewrite Book 2, if/when that happens.

Link to Chapter 9: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RZjj-N4cb4DtUS2jhoKrlf7nLkBNGQ9H6Y5HElZkuiY/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • I tried to Pomodoro my way through the opening scene which kind of worked and kind of didn't. Even with a super detailed remaining outline, I ended up vomiting far more words onto the page and jumping around a lot, but the word count didn't get as high as I was hoping. In some ways, the draft ended up far messier than usual because I was forcing myself to get words out faster than I had finished thinking, so I ended up having do quite a bit on a self-edit pass. I'm not really sure I save much time overall this way, but it was good to try anyway.
  • This new method actually led to me having a false start on a scene for the first time since Chapter 2. I originally started Talitha's POV in this chapter when they were still waiting for Lorand and Delin. It got deleted because I was like ahhhhhhhhhhh this is taking too long to get to the Trials.
  • Action scenes are soooooooo hard. SO HARD. I don't know about the suspense level here guys, I really don't.
  • I also don't know about the progress and the pay-off in this chapter. Lorand's the protagonist and based on the tone promises, we kind of know that he's gonna make it from the start.
  • My detailed outline actually had another scene that I had to move into the final chapter because I knew halfway through writing this one that I wasn't going to make it. I thought about whether I should relax my general guideline of aiming for chapters of around 5-6k words, but eventually decided that it was more powerful to end on this note
  • That means there's only one chapter left and my detailed outline has two scenes in it. I feel like they're going to be big scenes, so I'll see how I go fitting everything in. But I have a good hunch about this!
  • EDIT: forgot to celebrate - with this chapter posted, it's a NaNoWriMo success!!!

Questions for you guys:
- how did the chapter leave you feeling at the end?
- did you buy the "twist"?
- did you feel like there were any plotholes or stuff that came out of nowhere?

Canon References/Easter Eggs

Leng fucked around with this message at 06:39 on Nov 29, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


REWRITE: CHAPTER TEN (5645 words)

Day 26 (30/11/2020): 174 words. During a horrific meeting that I was desperately trying to pretend was not happening.
Day 27 (2/12/2020): 606 words.
Day 28 (3/12/2020): 4865 words to finish the chapter and the book!


Planned outline for this chapter, including overflow from the planned outline for the previous chapters:

Leng posted:

Chapter 10: Return to Widdertown
Discovers Delin's done something to the agent
Lorand visits Grami Riven, heals her, discovers Talitha’s not here
Conversation with Lugal/his father/Elmin/Hestir?

Chapter 11: Qualifying–Lorand's last attempt
Overcomes his fear of burnout
Finally passes
Runs into Solthia instead; they have a deep and meaningful conversation
Turns out Talitha's a working girl at Jovvi's exclusive high end pleasure house!
Massive, massive fight

Chapter 12: Confrontation with Delin
Set up next book for competitions

The more detailed outline, which included rejigging some of the original points so that I could finish off this rewrite in two chapters:

quote:

10.1: Lorand
  • Advanced aptitude (beyond Middle level) in at least 2 of the abilities is required to get 2 of the keys. You can keep whatever keys you earn through multiple attempts but you always have to start from the edge of the maze.
  • He decides last time he got too bogged down in fighting everything, so he goes for speed this time and copies Solthia’s tactic of finding a mount–a massive hunting cat made of air. It can’t fly but it can phase from solid to gas quickly and do insane jumps
  • Mounted on the cat, he can basically outrun most things in the maze. It becomes a navigational challenge and he came prepared. Instead of heading through the dimmest parts of the maze to avoid trouble, he aims for the brightest parts, because that’s where other aspirants are fighting to get through. He dodges past everything on the cat and gets to the center, presenting his two keys
  • The last challenge is a Spirit magic challenge. He walks through the gate into mists and emerges into a familiar cornfield, alone. He’s wearing his brother’s clothes and boots and he’s hiding from the Astindans. He tries to avoid them, shielding, but he has to attack them.
  • They’re too tightly shielded for him to affect them directly, so he has to go for a quake. When he does that, he breaks their link and they circle him. He sees a snake in the cornfield–it’s a poisonous one–and the Water magic talent doesn’t have a shield against physical harm so he gets the snake to strike, paralyzing them. The Fire talent starts lighting up the crops to burn him out. The Air magic talent senses him though, so he ends up fighting them for the ability to breathe. He doesn’t have enough to stop himself from being strangled but the Air magic talent has dropped their shield to focus on strangling him. So he takes in more power and stops their heart–hoping that Lorand will have found help. He can’t control the power though, so it burns him out.
  • Lorand returns to himself and finds that he’s made it out of the maze. Adept Hestir is there to give him his master’s bracelet–his other essay was accepted by the Seated Five. Fresh out of the vision, he asked her what really happened that night, whether what he saw was what happened. She tells him that the parts that mattered were true and welcomes him as a High.

10.2: Lorand
  • After he passed as High, he got assigned new living quarters. Delin and Solthia both went back to live with their families. Talitha came to say goodbye when he packed his things–he assumed she was going back to Widdertown but she’s not, and she’s disappeared. She asks if he can bring Grami to the clinic
  • After collecting his first pay, he takes a flight with Mardimill out to Widdertown (Mardimill is passing through on his way to Quellin)
  • First things first, he goes to Heal Grami, using what he learned from Eslinna’s experiments and his own experiences at the clinic. It works but not as well as he hoped; her cough and symptoms are gone, but she’s weaker than ever.
  • Next he goes to find his father, tells him he’s going to find Ravis and make him give the deed to the farm to his father. He says that he’s decided to stay and work as a Healer in the Gan Garee clinic, not at the battlefront, as per his Duty. He promises to come visit periodically and help with the farm as needed. Camil passes the word on that Ravis has been unwell
  • He shows up at Ravis’s house and finds Ravis bound, gagged and bleeding. Of course Delin turns up, tosses him the deed to the farm and says they’re even
  • Lorand threatens to report him and Delin laughs, gloats about the fact that Lorand made it through the Mastery on sheer luck and he’s not actually stronger than Delin, and good luck stopping him when he becomes the Seated High upon winning the competitions next year. He’s discovered what he needs to know with Ravis anyway, and he walks out, saying that he’s not going to bother to Heal Ravis now since he knows Lorand will do it.
  • Lorand decides he needs to enter the competitions next year so he can stop Delin.


Link to Chapter 10: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KfPG4vSaI1hTF16Yet2xJrM26QGgRjw8PCJanZggQJs/edit?usp=sharing

Self-crit/Commentary
  • This final chapter was really hard to write. Really, really, really, hard to write.
  • I didn't really know what I was going to do in the general outline, so fleshing out the detailed outline took a while.
  • I had in mind a couple of things I really wanted to bring full circle with the last chapter: I knew I wanted to have Lorand return to Widdertown and realize he's changed; I wanted there to be an extra element to the Trial of Mastery, other than just going through the maze–there needed to be an extra degree of something that warranted setting somebody with a master's bracelet apart from everybody else; Lorand's issues with Mildon's death and his own sexuality were still unresolved and we needed to kick up the antagonist relationship with Delin to the next level
  • Conceptually and structurally, I feel like the ending is fairly by the numbers but hopefully I did enough work on the promise and the progress throughout the rewrite so that the payoff feels satisfying

Questions for you guys:
- now that we're at the end of all the rewrite chapters there's only really one question that matters, though it has two parts: what would you rate my rewrite out of five and did I do better than Green?

Canon References/Easter Eggs
  • Canon Lorand really wants to keep a large, dangerous hunting cat as a pet (Canon Book 6, Chapter 28)
  • The go to attack for canon Water magic talents is to drown people by surrounding their heads with globes of water
  • There is a brief "battle" scene where enemy magic users are dropped into a deep pit and attacked by indirect means (Canon Book 5)
  • Canon Books 2 and 3 are filled with BDSM fetish scenes because of the introduction of the noble antagonists (some are sprinkled through Canon Books 4 and 5); the Let's Read will probably get to them soon in the new year
  • Canon Book 4 has a character burn out onscreen
  • Canon Oplis Henden is the Air magic talent for one of the High Blendings that sequel series spoilers babysit the Empire for the main crew while they're off gallivanting about Gracely (Canon Books 6-8)
  • Canon Lorand also has a reunion with Canon Camil and they actually hug (Canon Book 5)

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


A Small Car posted:

I don't have much to add (I'm rubbish at editing), but I will genuinely miss reading your chapters when this is done. Every one of them has left me wanting to read the next one to find out what happens (and this one is no exception), and the characters all feel like actual humans, a very welcome change from Green's writing. I hope you'll continue to rewrite her trash!

Thank you so much for the kind words!

The fact that the rewrite has been entertaining enough for you to follow along and post is really rewarding. Hearing that you–a random internet stranger–enjoy my writing actually means more to me than hearing it from friends or family (mainly because I feel like they have to tell me nice things).

I'm going to deliberately refrain from re-reading anything from the rewrite for a couple of weeks, but will likely return to do an overall reflection some time at the end of the year when my brain's had an opportunity to refresh. And then, well, I guess we'll see what happens!

EDIT vvvvvvvv:

wizzardstaff posted:

The US Thanksgiving holiday and family life in general has really done a number on my schedule so I am something like 4 chapters behind now, but I want to echo the kudos. I've enjoyed what I've read so far, and there's no question that it's better than Green's stuff. I think it's different enough to stand well on its own, not just in reference to her work.

Thank you!! This is amazing praise, far beyond what I had hoped for when I started so I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed (in a really good way).

Leng fucked around with this message at 04:24 on Dec 4, 2020

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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


WRAP UP: Making an eBook!

Given the number of projects and other pieces of work I've got going on, it's unlikely that I'll do another pass through what I've written so far. So I thought it'd be fun to wrap things up by taking a look at the production side of things and put everything together in one package!

Designing a book cover

(note: do not do what I did if you are seriously considering self-publishing a book; pay an actual designer to design a good book cover, because the wisdom of the self-publishing thread says that your cover and blurb matter as much as your book)

Looked at the Amazon Kindle store for best selling fantasy ebooks. They all have expensive illustrations of characters wielding swords or magic or both, or focused visuals on an important object (e.g. a crown) or badge or symbol of some sort. As I don't have the skills to pull anything like that off (and it's more time than I have to invest on a fun thing), I spent an hour on Canva.com and Flickr searching for free/creative commons licensed images of "magic" and "glowing", messing around with fonts and random font effects.

I repeat: do not do what I did; this is not a good book cover!!

Creating the Epub file
I use Calibre as an eBook library manager and it has a built-in eBook editing function. Because I wrote each chapter as a standalone Google Doc, I needed to also install the EpubMerge plugin to compile everything into a single book.

The default "Download" option in Google Docs allows you to download an EPUB file as well as a HTML file. Since ebooks are basically fancy file packages of HTML, either technically should work. In addition, Calibre has a built in ebook format converter so you can import a DOCX or whatever and it'd still be able to output an EPUB. Amazon Kindle accepts the MOBI format.

I downloaded all of the chapters as EPUBs, imported them into Calibre, and then used EpubMerge to smush them together in a single file. At this point, you need to confirm the meta data for the book, which technically includes the blurb. I am bad at writing concisely and blurbs are a heck of a lot of work, so I just did a single sentence blurb. I will attempt a proper blurb later, probably after doing an overall reflection.

By default, the cover page and title page are created for you, so all I had to do was edit it. A few sections had to be added in manually: the map, table of contents, acknowledgements.

At this point, the book will look terrible. Like, really, really, really terrible. Mainly because whenever you export out of a word processor software into HTML it produces terrible code with in-line CSS everywhere. It will stick all of the general CSS into one <style> tag within the <head> section like this:

code:
<style type="text/css">ol{margin:0;padding:0}table td,table th{padding:0}.c0{color:#000000;font-weight:400;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;font-size:12pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";font-style:normal}.c1{padding-top:0pt;text-indent:36pt;padding-bottom:0pt;line-height:2.0;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}.c3{padding-top:0pt;text-indent:36pt;padding-bottom:0pt;line-height:2.0;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:center}.c2{font-size:12pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";font-style:italic;font-weight:400}.c5{color:#000000;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline}.c4{font-size:12pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";font-weight:400}.c6{background-color:#ffffff}.title{padding-top:0pt;color:#000000;font-size:26pt;padding-bottom:3pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}.subtitle{padding-top:0pt;color:#666666;font-size:15pt;padding-bottom:16pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}li{color:#000000;font-size:11pt;font-family:"Arial"}p{margin:0;color:#000000;font-size:11pt;font-family:"Arial"}h1{padding-top:20pt;color:#000000;font-size:20pt;padding-bottom:6pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h2{padding-top:18pt;color:#000000;font-size:16pt;padding-bottom:6pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h3{padding-top:16pt;color:#434343;font-size:14pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h4{padding-top:14pt;color:#666666;font-size:12pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h5{padding-top:12pt;color:#666666;font-size:11pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h6{padding-top:12pt;color:#666666;font-size:11pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;font-style:italic;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}</style>
Apparently the fix is to use Calibre to convert your EPUB file to another EPUB file, because the Calibre converter has some menu options that will strip out all of this crap and stick it in a proper style sheet. I ended up with 10 duplicate stylesheets because of my ten separate files so I had to delete 9 of them and then link all of the HTML files to the same stylesheets.

This is before we even factor looking into the ridiculous nested tag nonsense around the actual text. Like this:

code:
    <p class="c1">
      <span class="c0">Lorand held his breath as footsteps approached his hiding place inside the barn. Unfortunately, the small sack next to him happened to wriggle at that moment. The soft rustle of straw drew the heavy footfalls closer, until Mildon’s new boots peeked through the narrow gap in the foundations of Lorand’s bale fortress.</span>
    </p>
...why??? Just why? Why does all of the text inside the paragraph tag need to be inside a span tag, with both of those tags having different CSS classes? Why not just generate some clean code with a clean stylesheet?? I wasn't sure if that was me being crazy so I used Calibre to have look at the code inside the non-DRM copy of Dawnshard that I got as a Kickstarter backer:

code:
<h2>1</h2>
<p class="img"><img class="logo" src="../Images/icon-rysn.gif"/></p>
<p class="breakfirst"><strong>Some people might</strong> have considered it boring work to select a new trade expedition. To Rysn, it was a thrilling chase. Yes, she did it sitting in a room surrounded by stacks of papers, but she felt like a hunter all the same.</p>
<p>Among these reports hid so many interesting tidbits. Details of goods for sale, rumors of ports with needs that the war was making difficult to fulfill. Somewhere among all of this minutia was the perfect opportunity for her crew. She sorted through it like a scout creeping through the underbrush, quiet and careful, seeking the perfect line of attack.</p>
Annnnd yep, it's very clean! (also lol at that classname, at first I read it as "breakfast" and went, yep that makes sense, The Lopen is a main character in this novella)

The next two hours were spent using regex expressions to strip out all of the unnecessary span tags, replace the relevant ones with <em> tags for italicized text, then centering the section breaks and cleaning up other weird stuff. I either stuffed up one of my regex operations or the original output from Google Docs was terrible, because there were italicized direct thoughts that were completely messed up, with the wrong bits italicized.

I had to add a few special classes to format the song Talitha sings in Chapter 3, Lorand's letter in Chapter 7 and the scroll he receives in Chapter 10 nicely. Then because I felt like it, I added some more classes to make the chapter headings and chapter titles look nicer, plus drop caps because why not? I don't know if the drop caps will come out nicely on other ereaders but hopefully I've written code that degrades gracefully so even if it doesn't show up properly, it won't look too weird.

The EPUB looks pretty nice in the Calibre viewer:


And terrible as a MOBI (granted I haven't actually tried looking at this on my Kindle yet, maybe it doesn't suck so much on an actual Kindle, but wow does it look bad in the Calibre viewer as a MOBI file):

(why does MOBI split the title page across two pages? I don't know!)


(yuck, default ul list formatted bullets)


(oh those drop caps didn't work here)

The AZW format seems to land somewhere in the middle, so if you're using a Kindle, that's probably the better format to download.

After doing all of this, I can totally see why someone would want to pay US$45 for Scrivener or even US$199/US$249 for Vellum. There is no way that I would be spending any more time than this hassling with this annoying crap. And I'm speaking as someone who is an amateur level front-end web developer. If I had to do this by hand, I think I'd write in a HTML editor because of the agony of formatting the ebook file afterwards, though the writer side of my brain thinks that would be a horrendously bad idea because wow, is thinking about the correct HTML tags to stick in while I'm trying to get the flow and tone of the scene down the worst thing ever (besides Blank Page Syndrome).

Download the eBook!
(assuming you enjoyed this enough to want to add it to your elibrary)
Available in AZW (Kindle), EPUB and MOBI (also Kindle, but uglier) formats.

Well, this was a fun exercise in discovering just how annoying the ebook production process is. If/when I get into self-publishing, I will definitely be springing for Scrivener at least. No way am I going to repeat this exercise in self-flagellation; writing the book was hard enough!

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