The (Mostly) Post Nano Blitz

So I’ve been sitting around, trying to figure out why my goals are now that Nano is wrapping up. (Not actually done, but only a thousand words and all evening to do that, with the promise of sake at the end.) I’ve got a handful of things I want to tackle next year, including getting better at editing, continuing to finish things, getting something published (even self pub’d), and a project that will hopefully get more activity up in the blog.

But before all of that, I’m thinking about what I want to do in December. Just December. I don’t want to set a big word count goal, as A) Just did one and B) Holidays, fuck them. But I will feel better if I give myself some sort of goal and it gets me in the habit of aiming for things to accomplish. Plus, I have one really clear goal that should have been accomplished already and has not been.

The goal? Finish spot checking the first few chapters Itzie and Rodney’s novel, then start tossing it at agents/publishers.

However, I’ve got some mixed feelings on this goal. I mean, obviously, I am doing it. It is the Next Step In the Process. However, this means I’m going to be tossing this bad boy around in the post Nano blitz, where well intentioned and gleeful writers throw their unpolished manuscript at every agent, publishing house, and editor in the area.

The Pros: The novel has actually been revised! Maybe it’ll get some notice as standing out against all of those other novels, like a polished diamond amongst river rocks. A shining gem of decent grammar and minimal typos, fully fleshed and a delight after reading so many raw, bleeding manuscripts.

The Cons: My novel will be one in a sea of slush that editors will have to slog through to find. When they get to my novel, they are guaranteed to be cynical already. They will hate everything. Does my novel have the ability and skill to overcome that level of hatred? Does anything?

Anyway, those are my brief editing thoughts this evening. Back to the grind. *Salutes*

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White Rabbit: Topaz Edition

HAPPY WRITING NEW YEAR! Er, well, yesterday.

You will not be seeing me again until December.  I can pretty much say that with certainty, given my track record of blogs and the fact that, well, you know. Nano.

Anyway, last year was generally a success. The goal was four major projects and I accomplished three major projects and one short story. And since I never write short stories, I’m counting that as a success. As well as editing one novel and completing first drafts of two others, I slapped down words on a whole bunch of projects. I had Plot Wars with two novels when I realized what I was writing was not part of those novels, but those battles have been resolved with a new direction for said two novels and thoughts for pursuing later books in the series. Over all, a fairly productive writing year.

The goal for this next writing year is going to be getting a lot of things edited and get a number of things to the point where I wouldn’t be ashamed if the public read them. I’ll likely try expanding on this next month.

So, what am I doing for Nano this year? Which project am I tackling?

Any of them that I want. I have a list of ‘active’ projects and I am allowed to add words to any of them. I am not allowed to write random scenes that aren’t part of anything and I’m strongly discouraged from jumping around chronologically. I have the Crowned Act listed on my Nano page and that is tentatively the one I will be focusing on most. However, any of my major projects are allowable, so that I end with 50k new words on my projects by the end of the month.

Anyway, this blog is wasting words I could be putting on my Nano! I had best go put my nose to the grindstone. Or. Get brunch. One of the two.

White Rabbit: Opal Edition

Pppppppt, September.  Let me sum up my feelings of the month thusly.

Accomplished little visible last month, all told. Did not get my editing done. Did not do much in terms of word count. Scraped by, which is never a great feeling. Mostly, it was a month of scribbling. It was the equivalent of an artist sitting down with a sketchbook and just doodling whatever. Sometimes it’s a necessary, but when you’re sitting there surrounded by scenes that aren’t attached to anything and may never be, it doesn’t feel productive.

Still, did get a draft of a short story done, so I’m rounding that up to four projects for the year, thus completing that goal. While I don’t feel good about September, it was a rough month on other fronts and I did get some good work out of it at the end of things.

So now we’re sliding through October and the question of what the hell do I want to write for Nano next month? Here are the big contenders that are on my radar at this early point in the month, though I make no promises that I won’t go sheering off into a whole new and unexplored territory, probably on October 31st.

The Crowned Act
The sequel to the Collared Act. Burlesque clubs, out of place slaves, foreign royals, and language fuckery.
Advantages: The first was a blast to write and kept getting words tacked on every time I turned around.
Disadvantages: I… don’t actually have much plot? It’s always been a character-centric work, so much of the plot will come out of how characters clash and bounce off of each other. May throw in some multiple homicides, those fix everything in novels, right? Don’t answer that.

Untitled Itzie and Rodney Sequel
A gay necromancer and a seven foot tall lizard woman continue their friendship. May involve vampires, fairies, zombies, murder sprees, and one undead cat. Or may not.
Advantages: Banter. Banterbanterbanterbanter. It’s easy to get these two chattering at each other, which keeps the words flowing on the page. Also continue to have good thoughts about the future for this series. It’s fun and less weird than some of my other stuff, while still carrying its own unique accent marks.
Disadvantages: The plot is starting to come together, but is still pretty loose at this point. This is one where I’m worried I’ve got too many things trying to be crammed into one book. On the one hand, I can always triage the plot AFTER I’ve managed 50k words. On the other hand, I’m trying to work on writing tighter drafts the first time around. So I’d really rather NOT. But hey, however the novel gets written.

Thrall
Gay BDSM smut with consensual magical mind control interspersed with magical detective agency shenanigans. Or maybe vice-versa?
Advantages: This one’s on my mind currently, I’ve been hammering out the plot, and I’m pretty sure I can do something with it when it’s done.
Disadvantages: So I spent last night hammering out the details of one of the mysteries, because I have made a new rule for myself where I’m not allowed to do any murder mysteries unless I KNOW who did it. And I actually succeeded! Got the basic shape down, I know where the twists are, and damn, it looks like it’ll be a good mystery! Aaaaand then this morning, I realized that thematically, it’s completely inappropriate for the first book. And yes, I am aware how nerdy it is to be concerned with theme in a work that is one half gay smut. The point still stands and the upshot is that plot. Once again, I have to build that up out of nowhere.

Dragon Bride
Knights, dragons, and unexpected gayness because the princess decided to go have her own adventure. Intended to be novella, but who knows.
Advantages: Few expectations exist for this work, so I can write a little wild. I’m going for a shorter work, so in theory, I could get the entire thing done in a month, provided I don’t unexpectedly spawn a monster. A promise which I am not making.
Disadvantages: Few expectations exist for this work, so I don’t really have a plot. WHY IS PLOT SO IMPORTANT TO THINGS? UGH, YOU WOULD THINK IT WAS THE BACKBONE OF ALL STORIES OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, those are the major works that I’m looking at. There’s a few other works that might get on that list, but these are, as of today, the big contenders. For the rest of this month, the plan is to try and get some edits done, get my word count to a more respectable average than its been so that I’m not out of practice when November hits, and maybe, just maybe blog more than once a month.

Next month is out though, I have traveling for family to do.

White Rabbit: Sapphire Edition

So yeah. August. That happened.

Completely failed my tentative word goal, in fact, didn’t even manage to hit 30k for the month (which is my generally prescribed ‘minimum.’) But, you know, over all? Not actually feeling bad. Seeing as how I. Well. Sort of accidentally finished two novels in August. Very much by accident in one case. Once again, what I thought was going to be one novel ended up being two, but at least I noticed before I was halfway through the second. But hey, I’m no longer dreadfully behind on my goal of four projects this year.

So here are the two projects I finished this month:

The Collared Act
A complete surprise, started in December and finished at 79863 words. I was not expecting this one to happen or actually become finished. But damn, it was just a blast to write. On the light side of novel for word count right now, but since I thought I had another half again as much to write, there are several places that can be expanded and fleshed out in subsequent drafts and I plan to get to said drafts before too long. The downside of this one is that I have no idea how to market it. It’s a character centered story about a gay slave who ends up working at a burlesque style theater with psychics, oh, and there is no romance or sex. Obvious selling points? Lacking. Thus, how to find a market? No clue. And none of this has stopped me from taking off and writing the second book, which is now in progress and growing steadily. Yup.

Phoenix and Wolf
Started for Nano last year, finished at 127578 words. And it is a big, ugly rambling mess of a novel. I hit the end and realized that there were two dramatic reveals I was saving that should have happened far sooner in the novel. There’s a glut of needless scenes and exposition, we end up in the library at least two times too many, and I failed to properly explore a lot of the elements which make the actual novel neat. So, while it is a draft that I can declare finished, it’s really not viable and the work that is needed to make it viable will come more in the form of fresh writing rather than editing. Because of all this, and the fact that I’ve got other novels that seem to be going much better, this one will be put on the back burner for a while. I plan to revive it at some point, but have no idea what point that will be.

Plans for this month? Unsure, not bothering with a word count goal since I can’t seem to keep them lately. I am, however, trying to get done another draft of the Cat That Wouldn’t Die. After some of my earlier mishaps with other novels, I’m not confident that I haven’t left some major issues in the draft, especially after reducing its length by a solid fifth.

After that, well, we’ll see what happens.

White Rabbit: Peridot Edition

So I had three goals this month.  And.  I occurs to me that technically, I failed ALL of them!

Major Goal: Begin submitting The Cat That Wouldn’t Die to agents.
Novel is completely ready to submit, I didn’t actually submit it anywhere, I realized. I think at some point, I forgot the goal was to actually start submitting and had it recorded in my head as ‘have ready for submission this month, including all required edits and accessories.’ And I succeeded in that! I have a query letter, synopsis, fully edited novel… I just didn’t actually throw it at anyone. Threw something else at a thing, however, so I don’t actually feel failed.

Minor Goal:  38750 words, or 1250 words per day.
Ehhhh, ended up with around 30k words this last month. So, failed my word count. Most disappointed about this failure, but there were reasons. Focus became a struggle one week, another week I took easy because of my birthday, and then another week I fucked up my hand with inexplicable bruising (FUN TIMES). So, there were reasons my word count wasn’t what I wanted, though logic has nothing on Writer’s Guilt.

Most Minor Goal: Complete Phoenix and Wolf.
So, yeah, I only added about 4k to this project. And the whole thing keeps sliding sideways on me when I jump in to try and tack more words to it. Either I keep forgetting plot points I mean to bring up or it just takes off somewhere else entirely. In general, I’m feeling like this project is not really where I want it to be. There’s a lot of elements that I included, but never did as much with as I wanted to and I kept fucking ending up in the library in the story. Three fucking times, the book goes to the library AND ONLY ONE OF THESE IS PLOT SIGNIFICANT. So, long rant short, there’s a lot of edits in this book’s future, if it has a future at all.

Anyway, that was last month. Moving on to this month! Plans! Goals! Dreams!

…Yeah, I got nothing.

Tentatively going for my 38750 word goal that failed last month, but not feeling good about it since this month has started out rather weak. Not that I can’t recover and recover easily at this point, it is the third fucking day of the month. But my hopes right now are low and I have a few things I’m flipping out at. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of them when I report in next month.

And hell, maybe I’ll blog more than twice this month. THAT would be something to see, wouldn’t it?

The Contradictory Nature of Mary-Sue

So, I said I’d blog more about Mary-Sues and I meant it. Here we are.

One of the big difficulties in defining Mary-Sue comes from the contradictory nature of what we expect out of her.  Looking at the list of traits ascribed to Mary-Sue, we see a lot of contradictions on.  Here’s a couple that I want to talk about:

10) A female character who is too passive or boring
4) A female character who is too powerful

So why the obvious contradiction?  Neither of these can exist together, one must be false.  And yet, both contradicting traits (too active OR too passive) both scream Sue to people.  Why?

The reason is because there are actually two major types of Mary-Sue.  The Action-Sue and the Drama-Sue.

The Action-Sue

Action-Sue is the character who is too powerful without any limits or breaks.  She’s the one who kicks too much ass.  She’s the girl who single-handedly saves the day without even breaking a sweat or mussing her hair.

Also, I’m using feminine pronouns, but the fact is, there are a LOT of Action-Sues who are male that never get called out as Sues.  Even though they are terrible Sues.  Ignoring the low hanging fruit of every super hero ever, think about the classic fantasy knight.  He’s dashing, kind, strong, he saves the kingdom, thwarts the evil wizard, slays the dragon, then comes home and gets the princess AND half the kingdom.  If he’s got a flaw, it’s something he nobly overcomes during the story and then he becomes the perfect king.  How is this any more or less Sue-ish than if a girl does the same thing?

The Drama-Sue

She’s sweet, she’s kind, she’s a picture of loveliness.  And every time you turn a page, something awful is happening to her.  And not just like, her toe getting stubbed or a bad hair day or someone calling her mean names.  More like her dog died, she’s been disinherited, and she has to marry the same asshole who murdered her dog three pages ago.  And that’s just the start of her woes. This the Drama-Sue.  Through no fault of her own, horrible things happen to her. Constantly.

Male Drama-Sues are less common, unless you’re reading certain stripes of yaoi and I could spend a whole blog discussing the problems with yaoi but that is not this blog.  They still happen, but less so, due to a lot of preconceived notions that we hold about gender. Women are expected to be passive and take awful things as they happen.  Men, on the other hand, are expected to be active. If horrible things happen to them, society says ‘man up and do something about it!’  Oh, your evil uncle took the kingdom from you, the rightful heir? Well, if you’re a girl, you’re expected to flee from this tyranny and hide in a miserable cave until bandits sell you into slavery where some handsome prince will see your kind heart in the market and buy you out of bondage but not before a lot of awful, horrible things happen to you.  If you’re a boy in this situation, you run and then RAISE AN ARMY AND KICK YOUR UNCLE IN THE POLITICAL NUTS, though maybe after some horrible things happen.  Men are expected to be active, so male Drama-Sues are uncommon. Unlike Action-Sues, who generally have far more male examples than female.  Just nobody calls them on it, because gender.

 

“But, wait!” you cry, “You’re not covering all the types of Sues. In fact, I’ve seen characters who are both really strong and full of drama. How can you say Sues are one or the other?”

This because there is a third type of Sue.

The Oscillating-Sue

She is, in one scene, the strongest, bravest, prettiest of them all. No one can stand against her, every obstacle is defeated with a smile and an inappropriately vast display of power. And in the next moment, she’s suffering at the hands of cruel fate, unable to do anything. Unable to react. Unable to defend herself. And for no solid reason that the reader can see.

This is the Oscillating-Sue. One moment, she is the hard edged Action-Sue. The next, she’s a helpless Drama-Sue. And she’s always whichever one is most convenient for the story, rather than what actually makes sense. You can bet that her tragic past only causes her problems when it’s convenient, rather than in the middle of battle where her version of PTSD cropping up makes sense.

The Oscillating-Sue is the culprit for why it’s hard for many people to say what is an actual Sue and what’s not. Partially, this is because in modern media, there’s a demand that women characters to be EITHER a drama-sue or an action-sue. Give your bad-ass female character a flaw or actual emotional trauma, and people start screaming sue. Have a regency styled damsel trying to escape a bad marriage who suddenly takes control of her life in a powerful action, clearly she’s a sue. Heaven forbid we see actual balanced female characters who are both strong, in charge of their life, and also have real flaws and issues that they are coping with. Can you hear my eye-roll through the page?

But while this is a pressure that gets put on female characters especially, characters of ANY GENDER can run into issues of Oscillating-Suedom. It’s frustrating, as a reader, to see a character in one scene who is very powerful, too powerful even, and then the next scene, they seem unable to make even the simplest action which would resolve the unabashed hyper drama. Or the reverse, a character who has otherwise done little but wail and sob at the cruelty of fate, only to turn around and do a judo-chop on the villain at a key moment, which they either could have done at any time or is a power they spontaneously sprouted for the sake of drama.

Frankly, that’s a lot of why I don’t like Superman. He smashes through everything without pause (Action-Sue), only to be taken out by Kryptonite right as the bomb drops to one minute (Drama-Sue time), allowing for an over the top dramatic finale, that will ultimately be resolved perfectly in the end. He’s overpowered AND moping that Louis Lane won’t date Clark Kent. The overpowered quality to Superman is bad enough, but then he oscillates into Hyper Drama mode and I’m done.

But there is the crux of the Sue. I know there are many people for whom Superman is the height of storytelling. And that’s okay. Because sometimes, as a reader or a writer, all you really want is the Action-Sue.  You want the unreserved ass kicking, the power player who can do everything. It can be empowering to see a character just wail on an enemy and save the day without restrictions.

And on the reverse, sometimes, you’re in the mood for drama and trauma and horrible things happening to fictional characters.  Drama and tragedy exist as genres because they both fulfill a human desire to watch a train wreck and walk away with a few tears in your eyes but no actual harm to yourself or actual people. Over the long course of a story, you’ll probably see a little of both and that will be deeply satisfying in its own way.

Ultimately, what’s too much power playing in a character and what’s too much drama are going to depend on the individual and their mood at the time. What is one person’s Sue will be someone else’s really enjoyable tough character or heartfelt drama. It’s highly variable and also changes a lot across genre and subgenre.

And even if you have on your hands, either as writer or reader, a genuine Mary-Sue, that’s okay too. Mary-Sue is wish fulfillment.  And there’s nothing inherently wrong with a little wish fulfillment, either as something you produce or consume.  Sometimes, you really crave junk food.* Wish fulfillment isn’t inherently bad and you should find your character fun to write and read. But your story will be better if you take the time to round out your character and give them some genuine flaws, strengths, and agency within their own story.  There is an entire blog to be had for discussing what makes for a genuine flaw in a character and what agency actually looks like (for those Drama-Sues), so I’ll discuss that at a later time.

And, readers, if you see some work that smacks of wish fulfillment and ramen quality characterization… I’m not saying you have to enjoy it or praise it.  But respect that there is probably somebody for whom this is exactly what they want. Comment on specific things you don’t like about the character, the specific things that break your enjoyment of the story. Because so often, characters get labeled as Mary-Sues for specific instances, rather than being taken as a whole character.  If a particular scene bothers you, then say so.  But don’t trash the entire book or character because of it.

Enjoy what you enjoy.  And stop calling out the Sue Mob when you run into something you don’t like.   Because I think we’re running out of pitchforks in here.

* Or in my case, ramen. The cheap ten for a dollar kind, that isn’t just empty calories, it may even be negative calories considering the amount of msg and salt and other awful things in it. But sometimes, I really want some ramen and every once in a while, I give in to the desire and I make a bowl. But I certainly couldn’t go back to living on a diet of the stuff, like I might have during undisclosed times in college.

White Rabbit: Ruby Edition

Happy July and an early happy birthday to me. I have begun celebrating early by picking up some new books, with promise of more before the month is done. Yes. I am shameless.

Hope everyone’s June went well, mine wasn’t abysmal. Well, except on the blogging front. Nnnnot so good at that last month, (for some good reasons and some lazy reasons) but you probably noticed that.

On the other hand, I hit my word goal of 45k words, the majority across two of the projects I started this year, with Phoenix and Wolf coming in at third and a few outlier stories getting a bit of attention. And best of all, I didn’t start anything new! Someone hit the gong and get the marching band

Okay, so I DID start narrating another game on Storium and lost a non-significant chunk of time to building the world and setting. But there’s no new story taking up my word count. And it’s a setting I might play with for my own fiction at some point. So ultimately I can’t feel terribly guilty about it, especially since I managed to get my word count in spite of the distraction.

For July, I’ve got one major goal and two minor goals. Major goals are things I absolutely must do or else I will Bring Shame Upon the House of Gibbs. Minor goals are things I’m aiming for, but will accept defeat on if it comes to that.
Major Goal:
Begin submitting The Cat That Wouldn’t Die to agents. This goal includes some additional polish on the first chapter, a decent query letter, and a synopsis for when those are needed. I have actually started poking at this, doing some of the needed edits and I have a basic query letter. The synopsis evades me so far. But I hate synopses. I especially hate trying to pluralize the word. Anyway, want to start shopping this around, because I’m starting to itch to write these characters again. The urge to see what can be done with a sequel is strong.
Minor Goal:
38750 words, or 1250 words per day. Less than I was aiming for last month, but not a goal to be sneezed at either. Should be enough to stretch me a bit, but allow enough time to tackle a few other things. Like, you know, maybe blog regularly? So far, not doing great at keeping up with my word count, but it’s still early in the month. There’s lots of time to recover and really, I’ve had worse starts on word count goals.
Most Minor Goal:
Complete Phoenix and Wolf. I have hit the last chunk of the novel, we’re building towards a climax and I think a good month of focus will push me over to a “The End” marker on the book. But I’m not really betting on my attention span at this point, which is why this is the lowest goal right now.

Anyway, everyone have a happy July, good luck staying at a moderate and comfortable temperature!