Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: The Sinister Plot Is Complete, Now to Give the Characters Their Arcs

I thought I'd have trouble plotting all those messy or barely even written chapters of the new Spanner Book 1. To my surprise it turned out to be easier than I thought. Even so, I knew I had to finish the plot before I could start rewriting, or I'd remain stuck indefinitely. And now I have.

I started with the seven "flashback" chapters that take place earlier in the day. Some of them I kludged up out of really short chapters which I extracted out of Chapter 1 R4. I expanded everything and added real flashback scenes and a second plot thread. I did something similar to the 13 "present time" chapters that alternate with them. I made sure the plot coheres, the continuity has as few errors as possible, and there's some conflict and suspense in every chapter.

Finally, I organized the mess that was Interlude 0 and worked out the events of the next-to-last chapter, the big flashback chapter. Plotting these also turned out to be shockingly easy. Book 1's plot is now fully worked out so that I have a complete outline to work from.

But that was just the easy part. The real work now begins. Next come the all-important character arcs, especially those of main character Shira and apparent protagonist Rico. After that, I'm going to rewrite much or most of what I've written so far, and write what I haven't yet written. Once that's done, I'll need to do a full read-through and a second pass of editing to make sure I eliminate all the typos and continuity errors that slipped through. And I want to get it all finished and ready for the beta readers this month. And so it's on to the next step...

P.S. Incidentally, as Win Scott Eckert tells us, on this day in 1795 a certain meteor fell down near the hamlet of Wold Newton in Yorkshire, England, irradiating a very special group of people, some of whose descendants include various Spanner characters whom you'll recognize by the telltale names Becket (=Noel-Moriarty), Wilder (as in Clayton-Wilder), and Holmes...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Why Does the Future Keep Catching Up With Me?

In the Spanner comics script I did for Script Frenzy in 2008, I opened issue 2 with a Dalek-like security robot summarily executing a one-shot character. Then in Chapter 4 R3, I gave Corporate patriarch Dr. Lars Thorwald, chairman of Biotron, a more advanced production version of a prototype robot that uses an iPod as its head and brain.

And now this:

The article: <a href="">5-foot-tall 'Robocops' start patrolling Silicon Valley</a> ( The subject: a security robot now policing the streets of San Francisco — and it looks exactly like the one from the Script Frenzy 2008 version of Spanner #2.

Why does the future keep catching up with me?

One thing about speculative fiction is that an author must keep second-guessing the future. My second guesses involve "friendly fascism", the technology of oppression, the cyberpunk truism that the street makes its own uses for things, and the level of tolerance that masses of ordinary people have for tyranny before their desire to live forces them to revolt (and the eagerness of elites to push that tolerance to its limits). Not superheroes, not psychics, not vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters; those belong to my critique of superhero mythology.

My problem is that I've been delaying Spanner's publication for so long that history has started overtaking my speculation. This problem has become so bad that I actually moved the years in which the series takes place from 2014-16 to 2018-20, simply because 2014 had already arrived and thus was no longer speculative. I picked the 2014 date all the way back in 1994, when I aged Shira down from her original 25 down to the Standard Anime Protagonist Age of 15; now I've aged her back up to 19 while keeping her birthdate of September 9, 1999.

Some events that occurred in the middle of writing and editing Spanner:
  1. the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-3, coupled with a "USA PATRIOT" Act that almost convinced me that the "future fascism" I'd been setting the series in since 1992 (if not 1989) had already arrived;
  2. the death of Steve Jobs in 2011;
  3. the "Arab Spring" revolutions and Occupy Wall Street movement, both also in 2011, and both of which failed; and
  4. the anti-police-state protests going on as I write this.
On the technology front, progress in aircar, jetpack, hoverboard, and sexbot technology is such that all of them will be in commercial release by 2018. Despite the failure of Google Glass, augmented reality will become common and normal just as tablet computers, which were a pie-in-the-sky technology, have become today. Another new technology I borrowed toward the end of the plotting phase (late 2000s) was the smartphone; later, in the leadup to the NSA surveillance scandal, I gave my hackers and rebels generic smartphones without tracking devices; and now the PiPhone (made from one of those tiny Raspberry Pi computers) has convinced me that, under a Chinese-style phone company/ISP monopoly with massive supercomputers dedicated just to censorship, hackers must kludge up their own smartphones and use secure meshnets for calling without the monopoly's interference.

Even the particular manifestations of the reactionary politics I would later call "the Conservative Revolution" have largely come to pass. Apparently I didn't get dystopian enough to expect the British "panopticon" surveillance policy, the growth of Soviet-style "vote for the ruling-party candidate Or Else" elections in the US, or the return of the Gilded Age capitalist predators who tried in the 1890s to destroy American freedom and are trying yet again. I did throw in a tyrannical megacomputer, but that's almost a cliché of 1960s and '70s science fiction that — surprise! — turns out to have become a reality as well, along with The Terminator's Skynet. It also took me years to realize that the "Conservative Revolution" is really just the ultimate manifestation of the American Civil War that, despite the near universal assumption that it lasted only four years in the 1860s, really started in the seventeenth century (or even the thirteenth, the century of mother country England's Magna Carta) and has never ended.

Yeah, I know, science fiction has a reputation for making predictions that turn out to be not just wrong but impossible. I throw in some impossible things myself, usually to either critique the superhero mythology or pay homage to classic SF. But too much of the SFnal speculation I've put into Spanner since 1992 has already come to pass, and I'm certain a lot more of it will by the time the story begins in 2018.

Now to edit that second-issue opening back into the third chapter of the new Book 2...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: The Insidious Plot, or Making This Thing Coherent

There's still a lot of chapters in Spanner Book 1, especially in the flashback chapters, which are made up of pretty much nothing but exposition. Originally I compiled them out of short segments which, in their original context as scenes scattered throughout the second half of Chapter 1 R4, didn't need action. Well, now that the short segments are part of long chapters, they need to contribute more than just background exposition to the plot. And so I'm going to plot the chapters. Among other things, I'm adding action, suspense, and antagonism generally.

There are seven flashback chapters. I have at least rough plots in mind for the first four:

  1. "The Emergent Pattern": what choice of action will Jennifer take, and will it clash with Shira's?
  2. "Climinal Team Origin": the girls have to convince Rico to join them for better reasons than just money and thrills.
  3. "Breakfast at Winkie's": the team have to fend off both terrorists and cops at the same time and still get the weaponized malware and Cold War tech they need for their mission.
  4. "Welcome to the Penguindrome": they have to root out a group of "boxed crook" police infiltrators, including one who will later become a major villain whose final act sets off the plot of Book 6.
The problem here is that the remaining three flashback chapters don't yet even have plots I can connect with each other and the present-time chapters. Agent Niemeyer and Paulie the Worm, who appear in "Breakfast at Winkie's", don't return to the foreground until the last flashback chapter, "The Fuses Have Been Lit". As for the remaining chapters, "Know Your Enemy" and "The Chosen One", I haven't even decided which segments of Chapter 1 R4 go where.

I have the same problem with several of the present-time chapters as well: they remain unplotted.

So here's my next challenge: before I get back to editing the narration and dialogue, I must give all these neglected chapters the plots they require, as if they really are the TV episodes I once intended them to be. Once I give them their structure, the rest should come easier.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: The Post-NaNoWriMo Slowdown

I haven't done much editing this first week of December. Partly, it was the expected slowdown after a particularly frenzied late-NaNoWriMo Panic Time. It was also a busy week for me, requiring this night owl to wake up early because of the requirements of his early-bird mother's schedule, meaning loss of sleep, morning lethargy, afternoon fatigue, and headaches, leaving me too confused to do much editing work at all.

But I have in fact done some editing. After the Intro, Interlude 0, and the two introduction chapters, every chapter either has its own plot or otherwise fits into the main plot. For example, the new Chapter 3 (the first chapter of the flashback thread, now called "The Emergent Pattern") used to be episodic like the two chapters before it, but now has a coherent plot involving a choice so pivotal that the character who chooses it seems to be the real protagonist for most of the story, through both the flashback and present-time sections, a choice reinforced in the last two chapters of the flashback section only to be undermined at the very end. The new Chapter 10 (the present-time chapter "Escape to New York"), by contrast, is not relatively self-contained but carries on two sets of tightly intertwined threads from the previous chapter (8: "Hunting the Hunters") to the next (12: "Last Train to Grand Central"), one involving the villains in New York, the other involving the heroines speeding from Seattle and Los Angeles toward New York. Looking over the plot, it seems the flashback chapters are more episodic and the present-time chapters are more serial.

The other thing I've been focusing on is Shira's character arc. The main character of the series needs a strong character arc more than any other character. But Shira's arc is the hardest to successfully plot because of the three primary ways she acts:
  1. she misdirects and otherwise tricks people, and hides in plain sight;
  2. she rapidly adjusts her strategy to changing situations; and
  3. she does what one least expects even when the situation doesn't change.
"Hunting the Hunters" (new Chapter 8) is a good example. Ostensibly Shira's in Washington, DC to save a young niece (Lucie in Revision 4, now Melodie) from both a pedophile senator and a team of assassins; but though she fails that mission due to another unexpected factor (the arrival of Drusilla's most dangerous priestly acolyte), she manages to steal Leila's power crystal from one of the assassins (Oliver), the one who claims ownership of Leila by marriage arrangement and also wields NaNoWriMo's infamous Travelling Shovel of Death (whose craving for blood he of course indulges). Shira surprises him by stripping naked in front of him specifically to fight him, whipping out her lead-loaded lemon-yellow Go-Yo™, stealing the crystal while he's still disoriented, and disappearing in front of his eyes. The example I just added is toward the end of "Prelude to Ascension" (new Chapter 19), when an attack on Shira through the computer in her head forces her to adjust her strategy just a little, but enough to change the outcome of "Spanner in the Works" (the last chapter) completely.

I hope that once the weekend's over and I get caught up on my sleep, I'll get my editing back up to speed. New story ideas must be fitted in and old darlings must be killed when they don't fit. Anyway, back to the scratch paper...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: SpaNoEdMo 2014! or, I'd Better Finish This Thing Pronto

In my last post, I celebrated my ninth consecutive NaNoWriMo victory, which I won with Spanner Book 6. But now that I'm done with Book 6 (until I reach it in the edit phase), it's time for me to return to Book 1 for a very special "SpaNoEdMo".

I've completed some very important chapters, but most of the rest seems stubbornly resistant to editing. So I'll need a strategy for the month. I have most of the important character arcs worked out, except ironically Shira's own. Shira's is the most important because she has to make the most impact at the end by revealing herself as the true protagonist.

The strategy I'll adopt for the final edit of Book 1:
  1. Work out Shira's character arc. By the end, she reveals herself to be far more than just some amoral young "fixit girl".
  2. Give each chapter its own coherent plot as if it were an independent short story in a series of interconnected ones.
These are the keys I need to finish Book 1 at last. My goal is to get it completely edited and send it out to my beta readers by December 31. If I don't get it done now, will I ever get it done? Thus the deadline.

Here goes...

NaNoWriMo 2014: Victory #9 Achieved: or, It Was Spanner What Done It

I thought winning my ninth NaNoWriMo would be a cinch. Problem is, the novel wouldn't come. Then I realize that only one novel would come:

Chaos Angel Spanner Book 6: Business Is War. That one.

And indeed it came. I remembered several of the plot points I'd put in the initial five-volume manga plan I mapped out in the Project Notebooks back in 2000, plus several others I'd worked out or at least thought up in the years since. I found myself making references to the previous five volumes, indeed all the way back to the Spanner Incident in Book 1. My muse threw me several shocking new plot twists, including the deaths of several villains, the entire Socialist Revolutionary Organization left-wing terrorist group (with former villains as its new members), and even what is possibly the coolest character in the series, Willa (though the muse is already bringing her back in an equally shocking way at the beginning of Book 7).

I hit a surprising number of major plot points. This is a major improvement over two years ago, when I didn't get much of Book 5 written (when it was Book 3) and didn't hit most of the important plot points. I'll have to revisit Book 5 sometime soon, just to map out the plot more completely. But right now I'm taking a break after eleven days of way too much writing.

December will be my month for editing Book 1. My goal will be to edit it completely and send it out to my beta readers before New Year's Eve. It's getting ever more urgent as history catches up to my speculative fiction at an ever faster pace.

But first, I'm going to sit back and savor my ninth NaNoWriMo victory. Champagne is in order.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Abandoning the "Non-Novel" for a Coherent Flashback Structure

In the original version of the new Spanner Book 1, I split not just the old Chapter 1 apart but various chapters from all over Book 1 R4 into shorter new chapters made up mainly of single sequences, then trying to organize them on the order of John Brunner's "non-novel" Stand on Zanzibar. After I moved the timeline forward to 2018, enough major plot elements changed along with the characters' ages that I find myself combining chapters again. Here's a short rundown of the first five chapters alone:
  • Intro: To the end of the original version, which hadn't changed all that much in 4 years, I tacked on Chapter 1's date tag ("19 August 2018") and its associated epigraphs, followed by the new R5 scene in which Shira gets her mission which becomes the Spanner Incident that is the focus of the new Book 1.
  • Interlude 0: To the already unorganized mess that is Revision 5's new Interlude, I'm merging the chapter that previously followed it, called "The Age of Unreason". I plan to reorganize so that the entire "old Jennifer meets young Jennifer" thread becomes a single scene followed by the flash-forwards that gives this Interlude its name, "Foregone Conclusions". I may move some villain scenes into the next chapter, or not, depending.
  • "The First Blast of the Trumpet": From "Welcome to Spanner's World", I moved the short Leila scene and expanded it. A new action sequence introduces the myth arc I borrowed from Jack the Giant-Killer (which the title references) and has our distaff Jack, Shira, killing her first "monster" in the series, here a transhuman mercenary with multiple Bioroid bodies. The double epigraph to the original Chapter 1 are now here; previously it was in a chapter I'm not keeping, "The Beginning of the End"
  • "Welcome to Spanner's World": In addition to the various epigraphs to various later chapters in Book 1 R4, I inserted some epigraphs and character quotes taken from "The Age of Unreason". In place of the Leila scene I moved to the previous chapter, I inserted the entire chapter "Escape from Harmony", which is basically her escape scene from Drusilla's "halfway house". Spanner himself became the focus for a new opening intended to foreshadow the very last chapter ("Spanner in the Works") and an extended version of this chapter's final sequence with added backstory.
  • "The Point of No Return", formerly "The Day of Destiny": The original chapter is now a framing sequence for the series of flashbacks that used to be the chapters "Beauty Queen on the Television Screen" (containing Leila and Shira backstory) and "The Bright-Eyed Girl" a.k.a. "Bright-Eyed Captive" (Amanda's backstory), then rearranged things to my satisfaction. But the result is that this has become quite a long chapter.
What I did was abandon the "non-novel" approach with its single linear continuity intercut with its related short stories, essays, and collections of "happening" fragments for a coherent flashback narrative. I abandoned the nonlinear structure of Stand on Zanzibar for that most complex of flashback structures, the one which structures David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. The structure of Enter the Monkeywrench is far from identical to Mulholland Drive's, but I'm modifying that template even without the content (since I plotted what is now the final chapter, "Spanner in the Works", along with the Intro before that movie even came out). Thus, the flashback and background chapters I wrote for the first version of Book 1 R5, I'm either incorporating into other chapters in their entirety or breaking up to put in more than one chapter. That's how, for instance, the entire chapter "Escape from Harmony" became the replacement Leila sequence of "Welcome to Spanner's World". I've settled on long chapters this time, not short ones; "Spanner in the Works", after all, is one of the longest chapters in the book.

So far, of the first five chapters, I've finished all but Interlude 0. I'm continuing to stick to my decistion to abandon chapter numbers in the Fifth Revision, since I'm no longer doing Spanner as a comics or TV novelization but simply as a novel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: The New Direction

Resetting the first four books of Chaos Angel Spanner four years in the future has changed some things, some in major ways. Admittedly, the new Book 1 had become something of a mess in the edit. I was attempting my own version of the complicated structure science fiction author John Brunner used in his 1967 masterpiece Stand on Zanzibar. Shifting the timeline forward allowed me to remove the backstory and pseudo-essay chapters that were getting me in trouble. Now I'm combining chapters and putting parts of some chapters into others. Even the Intro, which I thought I got completely finished two years ago, isn't untouched; parts of what was to be the following chapter got moved there, including both the prologue and the quote section from Chapter 1 R4.

I've simplified Book 1's structure. I'm building on a flashback-narrative structure that alternates "present day" and "earlier today" chapters for the first two-thirds to three-quarters of the book, after which I may alternate the long climactic chapters with shorter chapters containing crucial backstory reveals. Various character threads get introduced in the second story chapter ("Welcome to Spanner's World") and split apart in all directions only to collide in the final two chapters ("Prelude to Ascension" and "Spanner in the Works") and the explosive climax. All the main story chapters will remain, but I'm adding a few new scenes and moving some of the backstory there. Moved into the story chapters, backstory flashbacks will need to serve as important reveals or Shocking Revelations, or I'll move them elsewhere or edit them out. My goal is to make it more readable for the casual reader who's used to similarly structured thrillers.

I'm expanding Leila's role in Book 1. Originally I had her appear in three scenes: one toward the beginning, one in the middle, and one near the very end. This worked when the new Book 1 was merely Chapter 1, the equivalent of a television pilot episode. It doesn't work so well when what was a chapter expands into an entire novel. She's one of the most important characters in the entire series, more important to the action than just being Shira's love interest, so she deserves an expanded role in the volume that introduces her. And so instead of just sending her off toward Seattle sleeping in the back of her aunt Ariel's car at the very end, I'm putting her front and center in the climax. She wasn't in the original "Spanner in the Works" from 2010; now she's one of the reasons it happens.

So far I've added to the Intro and finished the first story chapter, "First Blast of the Trumpet" (the name's a reference to the folktale Jack the Giant-Killer, in which Jack begins the battle against the final giant by calling the villagers to his aid with his horn, and from which I'm taking the series' myth arc). I have three scenes left to do in "Welcome to Spanner's World", two existing scenes to edit and one expansion of the final scene. I've taken several quotes, from both characters and real-life people, from the now omitted chapter "The Age of Unreason" and inserted them in "Welcome..."; other parts will go into Interlude 0 and into later chapters.

My goal is to get as much of Book 1 edited before NaNoWriMo as I can. Here goes...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Shira's 15th Birthday and the Second Radical New Plot Change

Spanner main character Shira Thomas turns 15 today. The first volume (originally chapter) of the series, dated August 19, has already taken place. Considering how much time I've been taking to write and edit this thing (four years already?), it looks like events have already overtaken the story. Therefore, I must make one more radical change to the series.
  • The first radical change: turn Chapter 1, Chapters 2-4, and the School Arc of the old Book 1 into three separate volumes, the new Books 1-3.
  • The second radical change: Move the series start date forward 4 years, to 2018.
Now that Spanner begins in 2018, I can solve two major problems with the original 2000 plan:
  1. the fact that so many of the major characters were underage, making them overly precocious in intelligence and maturity, and causing a potential legal problem around their sexual libertinism; now they're all 18 or over (or in Elle's case almost 18), which also eliminates the added potential problem of this story potentially being swept into the "YA ghetto";
  2. the fact that the story is no longer "twenty minutes into the future," as I don't intend to write an alternate-universe story set in what is now the past.
It also eliminates the plot complication from the old Chapter 2 of Shira seducing private cop J.T. Sparks and then blackmailing him over her being underage, and reduces what was the major turning point of 12/21/12 nearly two years before the story began into a relatively minor backstory event 6 years in the past. But oh well, sometimes tradeoffs must be made.

In the new Book 3, containing the complete School Arc, the cousins Shira, Jennifer, and Karen are now plausible college students, though Karen can no longer be Bangor High's head cheerleader now that she's being aged up to 21. The Shelley twins likewise make more plausible fallen fashion models at 19 (turning 20 at the beginning of the new Book 4). Team Bremelo now become credible adults for the students to envy or hero-worship. And Shira can get away with an all-nude all-Rocker 19th birthday, though she'll still be agitating to lower the voting age to at least 16.

The new Spanner Book 1 now takes place on 19 August 2018. Book 7 will end in November 2020. Now I have some leeway so I can spend more time editing and formatting Books 1-3 to my liking. But I can't take too long. I want Book 1 over, done, and ready to publish before NaNoWriMo.

So it begins again...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spanner Update: A Completely New Publishing Plan in Not 5 (or 6) Volumes, but 7

In a flash of inspiration while waiting for my mother at the dentist's office, I realized that I've been doing this Spanner thing all wrong. Not the writing, actually; most of it's at least good enough. Mostly it's the editing, for this reason: the five-volume plan I came up with back in 2000, to which I later added a Book 0, has proved inadequate for what I've written so far.

And so, while Mom and I were eating lunch, the new plan began to emerge in my mind. The chapters, threads, and arcs scattered like the cards in a game of "52 Pickup", and here's how they settled:
  1. Enter the Monkeywrench: the Intro, the new Interlude 0 ("Foregone Conclusions", with the "two Jennifers" sequence from Interlude 6 now framing a sequence of flash-forwards), Chapter 1, and Interlude 1. As it's already a complete novella, it's fitting that this should serve as the "pilot episode".
  2. Banned in Japan: (temporary working title) The Japan arc originally planned for Book 0, now a flashback thread; the first four chapters from the original Book 1 including the complete uncut Rebel Styles thread and representing the "present time" following from the new Book 1; a few later scenes as "flash-forwards"; and the relevant Interludes (by their current numbering): 2 ("The Brown Note"), 3 ("One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved"), 5 ("Approaching Solstice, December 2012"), 8 ("Rebel, Rebel"), 9 ("City on the Edge of a Dream"), and 15 ("Six Degrees of Keenan Sasser"). All flashbacks related to the Shira/Leila relationship line will be moved here.
  3. Love Terrorists: the complete School Arc from Chapters 5-21, plus Interludes 6 (as the new opening, to be renamed "Previously On..." and rewritten), 4 ("The Rules of Tournament"), 7 ("Pop Will Eat Itself"), 10 ("You Have Lost the Game"), and 16 ("The Ego and His Own"). I may want to merge the events of Chapter 15 into Chapters 22 and 23.
  4. Rock City Blues: Chapters 22 and 23 from Book 1, all of Book 2 except for the Pretty City Arc, and Interludes 13 ("This Is Not America") and 14 ("The Crisis") as a frame.
  5. Mad Frontier: the original Book 3 plan, now condensed, centering on the pivotal Phoenix Arc.
  6. Business Is War: the original Book 4 plan with the Pretty City Arc from the Book 2 plan now added.
  7. Revolution Rock: the original Book 5 as planned, beginning with the final Interlude and ending with the Outro.
The new vision for the series is as a novelized 6-season TV series with a pilot movie. The chapters will be shorter and (from the new Book 2 onward) be renumbered by volume/season (e.g. the original Chapter 5 is now 3-1). Each volume will have its own plot in addition to the series continuity. And I'm going to make each book much more coherent, though just as head-spinning as ever.

So what's my new plan for the new Books 1 and 2?
  • Work out the complete Book 2 and transplant various scenes from the old Book 1.
  • Edit the original Chapter 1 (now unnumbered) accordingly.
In fact, I've already started doing it. I've started editing this blog's Spanner series page to add the new series plan; when I'm done with it, I'll tell you here.

And thus does it begin again...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Chapter 1 Is Done! (again... for now...)

Okay, I claimed that a few months ago. But after a few months' break, including FAWM and my first NaPoWriMo, I went back to the Chapter 1 HTML page and took another long look at it. I got a few new ideas in the intervening months and edited them in. I got some really cool ideas while editing (e.g. the fedora Willa stole from Henry Becket back in 1992 when they divorced) and threw them in. I found a couple continuity errors and corrected them. Then I made a few more tweaks. And now, for the second time, I can declare Chapter 1 done.

Except for that "for now" part. You see, I've finally started actually writing Book 0, Banned in Japan. I've plotted several scenes for the first two chapters and am working on an overall plot that will fit in the continuity of Book 1 Revision 5. Turns out Steve Jobs is not the first "posthumous man" Shira assassinates, and they're called "Ascended", and she takes out two more Ascended in the course of Book 0, and one of them was the killer guru responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attacks bombings. And even he isn't the first Ascended she takes out, only the first she takes out in the series. Ostensibly Shira's there as an exchange student; however, she's really there on a contract, to kill a ghost.

Book 0 also introduces some characters who appear later in Book 1, possibly later. Previously existing characters who now debut here: baka-boy gangster Koji Mizoguchi, "world's worst kogal" Nenene Sasakawa, loli slavegirl Ayla Izumi (whom Shira rescues here), deranged detective Locke Holmes, the Tachibana sisters with mother Umi and cute male cousin Seika, and some of the major characters whom I couldn't leave out. Jennifer, both before and after the Blake Island incident, gets some side scenes and phone calls; Karen gets introduced as Shira's counterpoint (the teenage female Victor Laszlo); Henry Becket gets his first scene in the first chapter, in which as Secretary of National Security he browbeats the American ambassador to Japan and strongly hints that he does the same to the Secretary of State back home; Shira's dad Ric appears on tour with a Band with No Name side project (in Book 1 he makes his first appearance in Chapter 3); and others I'll likely fit in. An idea just popped into my head at just this moment: might Debbie be there too, trying to be something of a blond teenage female Golgo 13 only to find out her target is a ghost? And of course Leila, who plays such a central role in every subsequent book in the series as love interest and deuteragonist, should hover over the prequel as an "absent presence" at least mentioned every chapter and already clearly Shira's obsession.

Oh, and the chapters are numbered -13 to 0, with Interlude 0 ("Foregone Conclusions") coming before Chapter 0.

So as the plot of Book 0 develops, I'm bound to make a few more edits to Chapter 1. In fact, I just realized there's one edit I need to make now: the one about Shira having already killed three targets like Steve Jobs — that is, three Ascended. And so a-#amediting I go again...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spanner R5 Update: The #amediting Resumes; Plus, the New Chapter 4 Plan

It's been a while since I've done any actual edits on Spanner. Since FAWM began, to be exact. I was so busy writing 28 songs and agonizing over my inadequate singing and playing skills that I dropped the Revision 5 edit altogether. I'm returning to the script with only the first section of Chapter 3 scripted. The R5 version will be roughly like previous versions, especially once I get it novelized.

However, Chapter 4 R5 will be very different from previous versions. Most of it, starting with section 2 or 3, will be a single sequence with several intercut threads, dominated by a completely new thread called "Capital Day" focusing on the Party's corporatist replacement for the American version of Labor Day, the very idea of which the Corporates revile as "commonist". I intend to introduce several major series themes in this chapter. The most important, though, is "the second half of the end of the Cold War", better known as "the fall of the American Empire", an America that declined into the corporatist version of Stalinist Russia and is about to suffer its fate despite the Herculean efforts of America's future (as of Chapter 15) superhero dictator. Introduced along with it: the "foregone conclusion" motif involving the story brazenly spoiling its own endings, whether they're inevitable (the aforementioned imperial collapse, already far advanced when the Conservative Revolution attempted to prevent it starting in 2012) or self-fulfilling prophecies (Henry Becket, the superhero dictator, bringing the end about by trying to prevent it).

To get the new Chapter 4 organized, I'm going to have to break open a pack of index cards for the first time in years, write the scenes on them, and fling them around. Some older scenes likely won't make it into the final version. Whatever scenes survive will surely be the most interesting.

Meanwhile, I've started the tedious process of editing all the Revision 4 chapter and section posts to read "Revision 4" instead of "Final Revision", because R4 is not the Final Revision. The actual Final Revision (i.e. Revision 5) is turning out much different from previous versions. Since Revision 5 is already turning out to be far superior to the posted Revision 4, I'm editing the posts accordingly. This will probably take a few days.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting update: Goals for April, Despite the Death of Script Frenzy

Now that I've shifted my focus from a particularly gruelling FAWM to the much easier (i.e. no singing and guitar playing required) NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), I've decided I can return to the Spanner Chapter 3 script again with intent to finish. I'm not doing Camp NaNo and Script Frenzy's dead, but I'll do more than just finish one chapter: I'm going to script at least to the end of Chapter 5, and maybe even as far beyond as I can get depending on whether my muse is willing to cooperate. All I have to do, you see, is write one poem a day, and scripting is just as easy for me. In fact, I'm going to complete at least one section of Chapter 3 tonight, and maybe even two or more depending on how pleased to return to Spanner I find myself.

Not that I'm going to abandon my FAWM songs or my singing and guitar practice. I do, after all, have to prepare for July 4, when 50 Songs in 90 Days begins. But I have a series to script and a novelization to publish. Spanner will introduce me to the world. I can't give up on it.

NaPoWriMo Update: Poem #1 is "Dead Rocker Song". I still haven't gotten over this year's FAWM agonies, you see, and there was this book on the "27 Club" of dead rockers, so I wrote it in a style inspired by my reading of the Beat poets...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: The #amprocrastinating Is Almost Over

When FAWM came around this year, I decided to take a break from editing Spanner Book 1. That "break" lasted into the next month, making it two months I haven't done a single edit. Maybe a few notes, but no editing. I've decided to end the break soon, even though starting tomorrow I'm doing NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), which takes place the same month the now defunct Script Frenzy used to. It won't exactly be Script Frenzy, though considering how fast I script, I could easily write a full 100+ pages of Spanner TV series script (the basis for the final Revision 5) even while I write 30 poems.

Here's another way Script Frenzy, NaPoWriMo, and Spanner intersect in my mind: in the Final Revision, I'm writing all dream and vision sequences in the form of poems. I originally made the decision last year during the long and difficult Chapter 1 edit because I was bored with dream sequences that read like I plagiarized them out of self-help dream books and it struck me that the best way to apply the Rule of Cool to them was to rewrite them as surrealist poems (the Surrealists, remember, were big into dreams). NaPoWriMo will give me a lot more practice writing poems, and I intend to apply whatever I learn to Spanner wherever I can. However, that goes in the novelization; for the script version, I'm following Alfred Hitchcock's example and using avant-garde film techniques, or as close to them as you can put into a TV script (the director, cinematographer, and editor will of course have to help your humble showrunner do the rest).

And so while I'm writing 30+ poems for April (and incidentally practicing singing the 28 FAWM songs I write), I'll be doing a one-man Script Frenzy on the Spanner Series 1 script as well. Here goes...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Chapter 2 Script Finished, or: The Mess Makes Way for Awesome

As I mentioned last post, Spanner Chapter 2 had accumulated an unmanageable mess of scenes between the Fourth and Final Revisions. I thought I'd never be able to cut it away. I then realized I could make an end run around my Inner Editor by returning to the TV script version I did for the final two years of Script Frenzy. My hunch was right; it did the job. The script version of Chapter 2 is now complete.

Here's a (probably) incomplete list of the many changes:
  1. 2.1: "Lethal Lolita" is now the name of the "cold open" sequence that plays before the Spanner logo descends and announces the episode name and so on. The opening news reports with the Bin Laden and Spanner video messages now segue smoothly into Henry Becket's videocall with the first local villain and then the appearance of Rebel Styles who then makes said villain her first victim in the series before she screws up the scene and the logo makes its appearance. New scenes: the goddess Nike whose body is the corporation named after her invades Shira's dreamspace only to get kicked out; the COPCO agents on the plane from New York to Seattle; on the passenger plane home, Shira takes a call from Teachers Guild president Dr. Jenna Hunter and accepts her offer at once (think Butch Coolidge in his first appearance in Pulp Fiction).
  2. 2.2: Now called "Coming Home". The interrogation scene that has migrated throughout the chapter's first half in various drafts is now its centerpiece. "Ghost Hunting", the original 2.2, is now a sequence beginning here. New scenes: the homecoming at Sea-Tac Airport; Shira and the other surviving hoverboard racers getting fired by the head of the Xtreme Racing League over the Spanner incident and the death of Rico X; a phone call in which Ariel taunts her enemy Drusilla.
  3. 2.3: now the section called "Ghost Hunting", not to be confused with the thread, which now extends into Chapter 3. The scene where Shira enters her apartment for the first time in the series is now here, and her older half-sister Selene now makes her debut here. The first of the nameless women, the petite Asian woman who first appeared in Chapter 12 R4, is now the apartment building manager. Shira, Elle, and Akimi, no longer racing for the XRL, take their first trip to Kitsap Kouriers (introduced in 4.4 up to R4) and get hired immediately.
  4. 2.4: Now "Playing Rebel's Game". It begins with another interrogation scene, now the first personal encounter between Shira and major character J.T. (Jim) Sparks, who in Book 1 is a COPCO agent; his father Brendan Sparks owns COPCO. The shopping-arcade scene that's taken several forms over the various drafts now introduces the second nameless woman, the tall brunette ex-swimmer-cum-ex-psychologist who first appeared in 10.1 R4, who now works as the food-court espresso-cart barista; also, fellow ex-racer Liz McPhail appears here and annoys Shira into calling her "Epica"; and Shira and Leila meet eyes for the first time.
  5. 2.5: still "The Rebel Sell". Another corporation-god invades Shira's dreamspace, this time AT&T, and gets the Spanner tag sprayed all over it. The one scene I actually omitted from Chapter 1 R5, "Get Ready for the Bad Endings" with Keenan and Ada, is now here in 2.5 and much shorter; it's now where Shira announces her intention to make sure nobody (especially Brinkman) interferes with the election taking place in Chapter 23, plus the "bad endings" are now specifically the ones described in Interlude 10. The "Henry Becket and his mother" scene that ended Chapter 2 in R4 is also now a thread, and it begins here.
  6. 2.6: Formerly "The Dangerous Type", it's traded names with the chapter for R5 and is now called "Sex Bomb". The "Henry Becket and his mother" thread continues until it ends in the final minute of cliffhangers; the thread's name is in fact "The Angel of Chaos" and has the mother (Mrs. Abernethy) nearly die from finding out in mid-scry that Shira's completely immune to fate. The central thread is now a duel of sex and blackmail between Shira and J.T. that ends in his crushing defeat at the hands of the mistress of the "WHAM! line" in another cliffhanger. The episode of The Civet that was in R4 has been replaced by the funeral and deification of Rico X in his native Brazil (celebrities, gotta love 'em), and Minty Fresh gets her first appearance as Rico's grieving girlfriend. And now the final scene of the chapter is now the signing-on of pirate television KCUF which was previously at the end of 2.2.
  7. The Leila sequence: It's now broken up into a thread recurring through the episode and culminating in Leila and Shira meeting eyes for the first time.
  8. Rebel Styles' Victims: There's only one this episode now, and now it's a thread stretching to Chapter 12 or 13. Instead of being the first victim, Shepherd-Mayor Ward Tremayne will be the last, and it's this along with Leila's success in erasing her name that provokes the by-then irrational Governor Brinkman into initiating the madness that is Chapter 15.
By choosing to script the TV version instead of sorting out the prose mess, I've managed to bring to Chapter 2 a coherence it's never had before, primarily by sorting the various scenes into a small number of closely intercut threads. I'd have to say that the final Chapter 2 is now almost as perfect as Chapter 1. Like the Intro and Chapter 1, Chapter 2 now brings the awesome.

As a bonus, I've completed 3.1 as well. The "teaser" sequence is now "Stalking Minty Fresh", which used to be in 3.2. After that, Leila gets disgusted with the music available in America as she did at the very beginning of 3.1 R4, followed by Shira's dream of Kira and early-morning videophone duel with family enemy Henry Becket, whom she of course checkmates. The new additions: the two nameless women explain why they're nameless and how they manage to remain so without losing their identity (and here R5 background villain Doctor X, a Conservative Revolutionary leader who became its Benedict Arnold and can never again be named on penalty of expulsion from the Party); and Jennifer gives Shira a pre-birthday present which is in effect the Wold Newton Universe version of the Akio Car from Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Right now, instead of scripting Chapter 3 past 3.1, my Spanner edits are focused on changes to subsequent chapters, mainly in the form of notes. Since this is February Album Writing Month, I'm focusing mainly on writing and recording songs, primarily a certain few earworms that have been haunting me over the past few years of relentless Spanner edits (here's my FAWM profile). By necessity I'll be paying less attention to the Chapter 3 script, but I'll find a way to get it done this month. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: A New Attack on the Chapter 2 Mess

Every time I look at the current state of Spanner Chapter 2 in yWriter5, I have to admit it's a complete mess. Out of frustration, I took an alternative solution: adapt it back into a TV script in Celtx! It worked like a dream on 2.1. Then, looking back at the Revision 4 version, I had a sudden realization: 2.2 and 2.3 are in the wrong order! The events in "Ghost Hunting" properly follow those of the "homecoming" sequence in the final version of 2.1 and what in R4 is 2.3, especially since it covers a six-day period. So I picked through the many potential scenes that had been piling up over the past year, picked the ones I judged were the best fits for the R5 continuity, and turned them into 8 pages of script.

Now the script versions of 2.1 and 2.2 are complete. Some of the changes:
  1. The "Leila comes to Bremerton" sequence that has been in the story since Revision 1 is no longer a group of scenes put together (dream, two flashbacks, and a scene in the present), but an intercut thread that takes all place in the story present. Now I slap my forehead and wonder why I didn't do that in Revision 2.
  2. I made 2.1's victim, Tremayne, the villain of the week instead. Not only did I change the identity of the villain Rebel Styles kills through the TV screen in 2.1, I had her do it at the end of the opening scene, as a true TV-episode "teaser".
  3. It's no longer just Leila who gets a dream scene. Shira does too, as part of the new "coming home" thread. Nike — that is, the victory goddess whose body is the corporation — tries to attack Shira in her own dreamspace. Followed by...
  4. The "Call to Adventure" in the form of a literal phone call from Teachers Guild president (and Hope's archnemesis) Dr. Jenna Hunter to Shira. Shira accepts, of course, in the expectation that their respective plans will eventually collide. This is the first event in what will become the School Arc in Chapter 5.
  5. The interrogation scene I put after "Ghost Hunting" in R4 is still the penultimate scene of 2.2, but now part of the "coming home" thread rather than the sequel to "Ghost Hunting". Shira tells her future Javert or Zenigata exactly why she pulled off the Spanner Incident — and why she'll get away with it.
  6. In Chapter 1 R5 (finished but not yet posted), I turned Shira, Desiree, Elle, and Akimi into hoverboard racers. After the interrogation scene, it's not COPCO or CPMC that punishes them for the Spanner Incident, but the CEO of the Xtreme Racing League. And it's not for doing the crime, or even getting one of their number (R5 new character Rico X), but for doing it without his permission (read: the opportunity for him to profit off it, Corporates being Corporates). He fires them and claims their racing handles as his "intellectual property" which he's now forbidding them to use. This is Shira's cue to bring up Kitsap Kouriers:
    Elle: What'll we do now?
    Shira: Remember that courier place at Seventh and Park [in Bremerton]? They'll be more than happy to hire some off-season superstars.
  7. And, looking at the unused yet named "index cards" in the Celtx project, 2.3 is about to begin with the end of the Leila thread, the actual homecoming in the "coming home" thread, and the introduction of the first of the nameless women (the mysterious Asian one; conveniently, as the new manager of Shira's apartment building).
  8. Last but not least, the chapter name itself. Up until R4, it was "Sex Bomb". That's now the name of 2.6. The old name for 2.6 is now the chapter title: "The Dangerous Type".
Then there's "Ghost Hunting", which began as the entire Chapter 2 in R1. For 2.3 R5, I'm going to cut it apart into its constituent scenes and intercut in a series of new short scenes of Shira being interrogated by Locke, Diana, or J.T. in which she simultaneously denies being part of Rebel's assassination-by-TV of (now) minor villain Jesse Jameson and reveals just what kind of threat Rebel really is. So that's next up. After that, 2.4 and 2.5 should be easy enough before I get into the third and final real challenge of this editing session: 2.6, with its many flashbacks and its ending sequence from R4 that I'll be intercutting into it.

And so it continues...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Projects: Finish the Spanner Edit, Write Book 0, and Get Published

The holiday season was my excuse to slack off from editing and writing at the end of 2013. The combination of a Blu-Ray player and a new widescreen TV didn't help. That's over now. I've had my year-end vacation. It's back to work. And the muse is obliging with the craziest story ideas I've had in a long time:
  1. The entire plot to Spanner Book 0, complete with new title ("Banned in Japan"). Now it begins with a Yakuza-Triad war interrupted by a certain masked prankster and graffiti tagger who goes by the handle Spanner, and ends with a political crisis that may end in a devastating war between an increasingly fascist Japan and Chinese Communist Party (Holdings) Limited.
  2. A new graphic novel idea incorporating the "Blake Island incident" repeatedly referred to in Spanner Book 1, and which takes up one night during the time period of Spanner Book 0. On the night of July 14 this year, Jennifer will kill 52 hitmen, mercenaries, and serial killers. Now I know how it begins: with her and some far more broken female former child soldiers robbing the Seattle Triad (under flashy young boss Ringo Wing) of money, sex slaves, and a snuff pornographer who resembles an infamous web cartoonist, as dozens of disposable gangsters die John Woo style (I ask myself the question: how would Lone Wolf and Cub artist Goseki Kojima do a "heroic bloodshed" shootout?). Because it's so action-oriented, it will not be called "The Jennifer Theory"; I'll have to find yet another new story to match that title.
  3. Three final tweaks to Spanner Chapter 1 (Jennifer's "Red Baron name" changed from Blonde Phantom to White Phantom; Shira kicking Johnny-Johnny in "his nonexistent manhood" to begin a recurring motif linked to the Blake Island incident and ending in Chapter 11; and a rewrite of the fourth flashback) and such a complete overhaul of Chapter 2 R5 that I'm even switching the positions of 2.2 and 2.3 to avoid pointless time reversals.
Getting that graphic novel off the ground necessitates, of course, that I start drawing again and actually improve my skills so I can actually draw real comics. I decided I'll even throw in a "comic within a comic", of the bad-webcomic kind, which I'll draw in the inferior style I abandoned in 1999, when I stopped trying to ape Masamune Shirow (and failing) and began developing my more recent Clamp-influenced style, which I'm now modifying in a more Takeshi Obata direction that allows me to incorporate more of my "school of Alex Raymond" influences: Neal Adams, Ryoichi Ikegami, Tony Wong, and Raymond himself (with elements taken from Will Eisner and midperiod Frank Miller).

Meanwhile, I'm going to get one non-Spanner novel published this year. In March, during NaNoEdMo, I'm going to pick one previous NaNoWriMo novel and edit it to as close to publication quality as I can in one month. I have four options: Bad Company from 2007, Black Science from 2008, Dirty Pop from 2009, and Freefall from 2013. Once I feel it's ready for release, I'll publish it online. Thus, after 25 years of practice and planning, I will become a published author at last. Then in April, now that Script Frenzy is dead, I'll throw myself into NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) the way I do FAWM. To be a NaPoWriMo winner, you must write a poem a day for 30 days. I'll do my usual stuff inspired by the Surrealists and Beats, of course, but I'll also make my first attempts at traditional forms such as the sonnet, ode, and villanelle.

Above all, 2014 will be the year I complete the final edit of Spanner Book 1. Last year it took me 5 whole months to edit Chapter 1. One reason is that I completely changed certain older story elements (e.g. removing Hope and Karen and replacing them with Elle and new character Rico) and threw in new ones (e.g. the propaganda-video opening). I will not spend that much time on any later chapter, no matter how much I change it, not even Chapter 2 which I'm radically overhauling. Books 0, 1, and 2 are set this year, so I plan to get at least Book 1 published this year, Book 0 if I can squeeze it in.

And so it begins again...