Saturday, March 31, 2012

NaNoEdMo 2012 Final: I Win! And Spanner Will Never Be The Same

I've done it again! I'm a NaNoEdMo winner yet again! But this time there's a difference. Several, actually.

First: I had a tool, yWriter5, which gave me much more flexibility in editing because it allows you to easily rearrange scenes and chapters just by dragging and dropping them. Last year I won with Spanner's second draft, yet later I would discover I'd been constrained by the limits of the traditional word processor (Microsoft Word in this case). The fourth draft has turned out radically different: there's more material, sure, but it's far more coherent, I've thrown scenes all over the place, and it's reading much more like the TV/comics novelization it's supposed to be than a fanfic to a nonexistent series.

Second: Even though I didn't finish all eight early chapters, I still made a lot of progress. The Intro, Chapters 1 through 3, and now all eleven Interludes of Book 1 are complete. Even in the incomplete chapters, I developed some pivotal scenes much more: Shira's birthday party in Chapter 7, now with a climactic confrontation pitting Shira in a feathered Carnival mask and nothing else against Drusilla showing on widescreen TV what would happen if the Wicked Witch of the West got her hands on the Great and Powerful Oz's projector; the Chapter 4 opening sequence that begins with an emergency broadcast interrupted by Spanner's first piratecast and ends with the local theocrat dying of "loli poisoning" courtesy of Rebel Styles; the April Fool's Day flashback featuring the first appearance of Spanner (Shira graffiti tagging in a costumed-vigilante costume) which became the new Interlude 6; the chapter trade making "The Bad Endings" Interlude 5 and "Four Visions of the Future" Interlude 11; and of course the massively rearranged order of scenes in Chapters 5 through 8.

Third: I felt my prose style evolve as I wrote the fourth draft. It's become more condensed, less grammatical, more style-conscious, and more metaphorical; I now feel myself bending the English language itself the way a rock guitarist bends notes. Somehow, while I was reading poetry and literary fiction, their styles rubbed off on my muse and I ran away with it and transformed it into something else, a new style all my own. My dialogue style hasn't changed, though; it was already excellent.

Fourth: In the third draft (and the first draft of Book 1, plus several scenarios I recorded in my Project Notebooks over the years), there are scenes which depict Shira as vindictive to almost villainous levels. For the fourth draft, I'm correcting that. After all, she's a Charmer; she doesn't need to beat people up, even if her fellow Slasher Hunters beg her to, except when she specifically intends to fight. She has none of her author's vindictiveness, which is really the moralism of the bullied misfit. That would be Leila. Incidentally, Shira's been more persistent in getting out of her clothes more in the fourth draft than in previous drafts...

To conclude: This has been my most productive EdMo ever, and I've learned more about both editing and writing than I've ever learned before in such a short time. My style is rapidly evolving, even transforming into something resembling rock 'n' roll. Spanner is going through massive transformations, and it will transform even more as I continue to edit this final draft. At last I'm starting to become not a merely competent wordsmith, but a genuine artist of words.

Next up: Script Frenzy! Where the camera is king...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

NaNoEdMo 2012 Update: Into the Homestretch

During the middle of the month, my muse went "Ooh shiny!" all over the free-software download sites, so I hardly edited a thing. But in the last week of NaNoEdMo, I've more than made up for it. Spanner Chapters 1 through 3, the Intro, and Interludes 1, 2, and 7 are now in pretty much publishable shape.

Chapters 4 through 8 are proving tougher. Part of the reason is that I've been rearranging scenes in Chapters 6-8 so that now they no longer resemble their third-draft counterparts, and now Chapters 5 and 6 are trading scenes. Chapter 4 is getting many new scenes (I just deleted one and inserted another), and Chapter 5 now has a new climax (currently in outline). A few of Chapter 4's new scenes help the final scene give new meaning to the chapter title, "Special Delivery Service", including the one I wrote this morning in which Shira flies over the decaying (fictional) Bremerton suburb of Bangor at night and ends up saving Mimi (now introduced a chapter earlier than before) from a new character, the serial killing homeroom teacher who becomes the center of Chapter 5's new climax.

I'm going to finish Chapter 4 today. In fact, since right now I have 46 hours of editing under my belt, I might just win EdMo tonight. But my real goal is to complete the final draft up to Chapter 8. If I have to cut into my Script Frenzy to do that, so be it.

To be continued...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hypothetical Crossover: Leila vs. the Ultimate Posette

One major difference between an outlandish character that becomes interesting and one who turns into the dreaded Mary Sues that the likes of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and the Mary Sue Elimination Society hunt is that the character you like is that way because the author put some effort into, as the 20th-century English novelist Ford Madox Ford put it, "getting the character in". As James Wood relates it in How Fiction Works, he and Joseph Conrad (of Heart of Darkness fame) loved this sentence from Guy de Maupassant's short story "La Reine Hortense": "He was a gentleman with red whiskers who always went first through a doorway." — of which Ford commented, "That gentleman is so sufficiently got in that you need no more of him to understand how he will act. He has been 'got in' and can get to work at once." Now, getting a character in may not work quite that fast, but it's the one surefire cure for Mary Sue syndrome.

Now consider the difference between Spanner's Leila Renata Shelley and ludicrous badfic creations like, I dunno, let's call her Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way (an extreme example for the sake of illustration). Leila: languid pale beauty with black hair elegantly bobbed, violet eyes, and ninja training (long story). Raven: well, "goff" (sic), with (and I quote) "long ebony black hair with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears"; her catch phrase is (and I quote), "Why couldn't Satan have made me less beautiful? It's a fucking curse!" To which Leila replies, "I don't care how beautiful Satan made you if you're a total bleedin' git." Sure, Leila has been known to cut herself and attempt suicide (long story), but she has no tolerance for "posettes" (feminine form of "poser"), the Rocker version of what the PPCs call "fangirls".

Now here is why I picked Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way as my counterexample: she is the supreme posette of fanfiction. Oh, and her hair is purple. Apparently even silky raven locks (to swipe a notorious bit of urple prose) such as Leila's isn't "goffik" enough for her.

Here's the scenario: After coming back from the dead after being killed by yet another Mary Sue hunter, Ebony returns to Hogwarts only to find that one Leila Renata Shelley has stolen not just her position in Slytherin House but her beloved Draco Malfoy as well. (Now here's a scary thought: if there's any character in any continuity who can encourage Draco Malfoy to Voldemort levels of evil, it's Leila Shelley.) Ebony's all "goffed" up and listening to Good Charlotte as she plots her revenge when Leila comes to her:

Leila: (switches off Ebony's iPod) "What in bloody hell is that supposed to be?"

Ebony: "That's goffik, bitch!"

Leila: "By the way, the word is 'gothic,' and Good Charlotte are not the least bit gothic. Real goths can't stand that mopey emo crap."

Ebony: "Let's hear you explain the difference."

Leila: "Gothic rock is melancholy and deep. Emo rock is wangsty and naff." (Note: You can actually hear the Author straining for words...)

Ebony: "So what are you listening to, huh?"

Leila: (leans against the wall, smiles romantically upward) "Right now I'm in love with Emilie Autumn."

Ebony: "Ew! That's not even rock!"

Leila: (crosses her arms, smiles contemptuously) "So how'd you earn your credentials as an expert on rock? Huh, 'Goffy'?"

Ebony: (shakes her urple hair indignantly) "Same to you, you bloody cunt!"

Leila: (shakes her head sadly) "Ever heard of the Damned?"

Ebony: (confused) "Who the fuck are they?"

Leila: (frowns) "Figures. They invented gothic rock. Did you know that Rat Scabies himself is my godfather?"

Ebony: "You're lyin'!"

Leila: "And you're posin'."

Ebony: (spots Draco coming) "Draco, my love! Help me! Get this bitch away—"

Draco: (takes Leila's arm in his) "Leila darling, is this stupid git twisting your knickers again?"

Ebony: "No — Draco—"

Leila: "Shut your gob, slob. Draco belongs to me now." (looks lasciviously at Draco) "Shall we go and do some... 'evil' now?"

Draco: "Your place or mine?" (waves contemptuously to Ebony) "Toodle-oo, Mary Sue." (leaves with Leila for Marty McFly's time-travelling DeLorean, making out the entire way)

...and they leave Ebony sputtering. What's a heartbroken Mary Sue to do? Of course you know what Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way will do: call her Twu Wuv, Gerard Way — over and over and over, until once again he's annoyed enough to call in the Mary Sue hunters after her.

Vampire Harry: (seeing Ebony dead, drained of blood glitter) "Here we go again..."

*clears throat* Anyway, the moral of this story is, if you're a character whose author doesn't detach themself from you that you're sufficiently got in, you'll suck hard enough that a genuinely interesting character can swoop in from some other continuity and swipe the love interest you yourself swiped from canon. Yeah.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mid-NaNoEdMo Report: Radical Changes in Spanner's 4th Draft!

It's the middle of NaNoEdMo 2012, and so far I've been really surprising myself. In the final publication edition I'm working on, Chapter 1 is complete, Chapters 2 and 3 are close to complete, and Chapters 4-8 are being completely reorganized as I fling scenes all over. Especially, the scene order of Chapters 6-8 is now completely different. Not counting the Intro or the Interludes, all these chapters are now so much superior to their third-draft counterparts that the Third Revision reads like a rough draft in comparison, mainly because I've refined the plot so much. yWriter5 has proved the indispensable tool this year. The challenge I'm giving myself for the remainder of this week is to finish editing all eight of the early chapters by the time the coming weekend ends.

Next will come the important middle section of Book 1, Chapters 9-15. Already I find myself completely rewriting Chapter 14, eliminating most of the Third Revision version I posted, though I haven't come up with many replacement scenes yet. The most important part is where the relationship line (the Shira/Leila love affair, increasingly passionate over the course of these seven chapters) and the action line (the increasing tension between the people and private government of the most liberal state in America) meet, particularly in Chapter 12, when in a new cliffhanger ending Governor Brinkman will make the fateful decision that will lead to the disasters of Chapter 15. I want to finish editing this section by the end of March.

That leaves Chapters 16 through 23, though I've been doing a little work on them too (especially Chapter 16). I probably won't be able to finish editing the whole novel this month, but I intend to complete it. But by then, I'll have earned my EdMo victory, and the next question to ask myself will be, what project will I do for Script Frenzy?

Total hours edited so far: 29 out of 50.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mission for NaNoEdMo 2012: The Final Draft of Spanner Book 1

It's that time of the year again — NaNoEdMo — and this year I'm working on a fresh new draft for Spanner Book 1. With the help of yWriter5, which divides your novel into individual scenes you can rearrange and even put into different chapters just by dragging them, I've completely transformed my editing method. The result is that the fourth draft is looking much, much better than the third, much less the first or second. I've added new scenes and an intricate new scene weave that makes Spanner read less like your regular comic-book adventure novel and more like the new breed of television shows with their complex multithreaded narratives.

So far I've completed Chapter 1 and am heavily reworking Chapters 2 and 3. I'm definitely impressed with how Chapter 1 turned out: in it I succeeded in incorporating into the plot itself Shira's own strategy of misdirection. So far, Chapters 2 and 3 are looking impressive in their new versions that I've just printed out for manual editing with the red pen. Also, I'll be adding more scenes to Chapter 4, which right now is shorter than the others, and better connecting Chapters 2-4 to Chapter 1 before it, the School Arc after it, and the later events of Chapters 15-23.

That, of course, is only the beginning. I have a month and 20 chapters left to go, so who knows...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Our Cyberpunk World: The Speech-Jamming Gun

The article: New speech-jamming gun hints at dystopian Big Brother future (Extreme Tech)

Here's the perfect accessory for dystopian police agencies determined to silence the masses: a speech-jamming gun! Turn it on, and everything goes silent within 30 meters. Problem is, the "bad guys" (i.e. anti-authoritarians) could get their hands on these things, especially once they get small enough, and use them to silence the windbag officials. Every cyberpunk worth his handle wants one, and you know it.