Like The Wind

I finished A Memory of Light, the final volume of The Wheel of Time, on the plane back from Paris.

As a series of books, The Wheel of Time has its flaws. But it’s far more than that; a story stretching nearly two decades of my life; characters as firmly rooted in my nostalgia as they are on the page; images, events, and characters I’ve known as a child; as a teenager; as a college student; and as an adult.

There was this beautiful line at the end that I thought served as an epitaph to the series.

“He came like the wind, like the wind touched everything, and like the wind was gone.”

I teared up when I read that line. I think it’s perfect.

I already spoke of some of my thoughts as to the series as a whole and don’t have a lot to add right now. Maybe I will later. For now, I simply want to bid it farewell.

Thank you, Mr. Jordan, for leaving the world with something wonderful, and Brandon, for making sure we all got to experience it.

In The Midst of a Lesson Learned

I mentioned in my previous blog post that my novel-in-progress, The Wildfire Crown, ran into some problems during the holiday. I was on my second draft, nearing the three quarters mark or so, and things were feeling pretty good. The first half was in solid shape, I knew approximately how my climactic sequence worked,, so all I had to link the two. I even had that section outlined, having run into problems with it before.

Except, I had trouble with a scene. It started out small – the scene didn’t “quite” work. I had trouble putting my finger on why. I started to investigate, and decided it was because an important secondary character’s motivations weren’t properly defined. I set to work on that – and discovered they weren’t defined, because they didn’t quite make sense.

No problem – I just had to adjust them. I found an adjustment. But then when checked to see how that change affected the rest of the story, it turned out my adjustment made another characters previously-reasonable motivation turn bad. Okay fine – change that, only that screwed up a third thing.

It was a lot like watching dominoes tip over and fall on one another.

Essentially, I had seven or eight important elements to the story that all made sense on their own, and generally all made sense when considered as pairs, but the intersection of al of them together was not quite working.

I had no idea what to do. I searched for the “minimal changes” necessary to fix everything, but then I started thinking, maybe there was no minimal change. Maybe it was flawed from the start.

Maybe I had to start over from scratch.

It was like watching this carefully built house of cards, each piece painstakingly placed over a period of many months, slowly but inexorably collapse under it’s own weight.

These things happen – just because you spend a lot of time working on a story, doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to work out. And frankly, it’s way better to find these things out at this stage then, say, after putting it out on Amazon. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing.

The good news is – after 3 weeks of agonizing, I did find hope. I didn’t need to start over. The key was to realize that some parts of the story I’d declared as “working”, in fact, needed work. Specifically in the “first half” that I thought was solid. It didn’t need a complete overhaul – I think I can fix it by adding a couple chapters at the very start. Even better, I found the key part of my solution in the rules of the world I’d already built – I’d simply overlooked it before. That was a cool moment, and gave me confidence that even if the novel isn’t done, the structure is still there.

I did have to dump everything I’d written in the second half and start again, but It’s going well. I realize, the more I do this, that I need to spend more time being an architect. Sometimes I try to improv a few to many scenes and I end up stringing things together that don’t quite work. What I’m going to do, going forward, is make sure that for each scene, I know how it starts, how it ends, what the main characters goal is, and what the conflicts are. I think if I have those well established, then I’ll know if the scene “works” without having to know all the details of the implementation. That will  also make it easier for me to skip writing scenes I’m not totally sure how to implement.

Anyway – this is all still happening, hence the somewhat vague language. Once the story is complete, I plan on doing a more detailed analysis on what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how I fixed it.

As painful as this whole episode was, I think it ended up being immensely educational, and served as a good reminder how hard writing is and how much I have yet to learn. What I tried to keep in mind every day was this – the only way you really fail at writing, is if you stop.

And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a mere plot-cataclysm stop me 🙂

 

 

I’m off to Paris with my friend Sean tomorrow – I’m hoping to get a lot of writing done, and will be sure to blog about the trip when I get back. Until then, please enjoy this (surprisingly) touching piece by Macklemore x Ryan Lewis:

 

 

 

 

 

Transitions

2012 was an incredible year for me.

I went to writing seminars and workshops for the first time. I started to produce the first writing I’d consider in the neighborhood of publishable. I did an awesome webshow with my friend Sean. I switched from QA to tech writing at work. Internally, I improved my self-confidence and tried to push myself to new heights. All things I hope to continue in the coming year.

2013’s shaping up to be pretty awesome as well. I’ve been searching for a new apartment for the past few months, in hopes of finding a place that will let me get an awesome big dog. Thanks to Palo Alto realty prices, that’s been rather depressing. I found one place last month that would have been perfect. Turned out, around thirty other people thought it’d be perfect as well, and I didn’t get it.

This past Saturday, I had an appointment to see two apartments over in Menlo Park. It was a long walk to the first one. I was already tired from getting up at 6 am to meet an old college friend. The guy was ten minutes late to a 10:30 appointment, which was stressing me out because I also had an 11:00 appointment and I really hate being late. The guy finally pulls up and gets out. We shake hands and he and asks me if I liked the Michigan weather. I told him I’d just spent the holiday in Michigan and liked it just fine. He laughs and shows me the apartment, which takes about two minutes. It looks good to me – plus, he’s okay with cats and the big dog. I tell him I want it and ask him for a rental application.

He says he can tell I’m a trustworthy guy, and I can have it if I want.

Thirty minutes later, I have a signed lease, a new set of keys, and he’s driving me around Menlo Park, showing me the best places to eat, before stopping at his son’s restaurant and giving me a gift certificate. Sometimes, things just work out.

Writing wise, I’ve got a busy year planned already. I’ll be attending Superstars again in May. This time, it’s in Colorado Springs, and I’ve extended the trip to meet with my parents beforehand to do some sightseeing. In November, I’ll be doing the Writer’s Mastery workshop with David Farland. It’s hard to even describe how much I learned in those two last year, and I look forward to a reprisal this year.

My current project, The Wildfire Crown had a bit of a set-back this holiday, when I realized a number of key plot elements weren’t cooperating. Dealing with those issues has turned out to be a far more painful process than I would like, and puts me a few months behind schedule. Still, better to find out these problems now, than, say, after I’ve sent the manuscript to a dream agent. I’ll blog about the issues at some point – I think there are some good lessons to be learned.

I’m headed to Paris in a couple weeks with my friend Sean and some others. I’ve been once, for a brief stay, about six years ago. Looking forward to getting to know the city a bit better this time.

I hope to get back on track with blogging, I know I fell a bit behind. Thank you all for reading, commentating, encouraging, and critiquing – I appreciate it so much. It’s been a wonderful experience and I hope it continues through another year.

 

For 2013’s first video, I move away from music to bring you Simon’s Cat, a must-watch for cat-lovers of all kinds 🙂