darkemeralds: Photo of a microphone with caption Read Me a Story. (Podfic)
Who here likes audiobooks? Can I ask you some questions?

What's important to you in a reader/narrator/actor--particularly in fiction? Have you ever figuratively thrown an audiobook across the room because some particular thing about the reading bugged the crap out of you?

For example, do you value voice quality above all? Can't stand certain types of voices? Would listen to Alan Rickman reading the phone book?

Or is vivid characterization most important? Do you like really dramatic character readings? Or are subtle variations enough for you to keep track of the story?

How much do you care about authentic dialect, accents, and accurate representation of, say, foreign words in a text? 

What about male versus female voices? Have you ever felt that an audiobook would have been improved by an actor of a different vocal gender? 

And pacing: do you use the playback speed control on your audiobook app if someone is too slow? Too rushed?

Here's why I'm asking: I'm thinking seriously of hiring a voice actor to create an audiobook of Restraint. I know what I like, but in the long process of workshopping the novel I've learned that my taste is pretty specific, maybe even alienating to people who might like my work if I opened it out a bit more.

I can't please everyone, of course, but if I'm gonna shell out for this production, I'd like to get a sense of your taste, too, and try to meet it.


darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)

I now have most of the props for my book cover photo shoot. Spray paint, pins, hot glue, RIT Dye, masking tape, old curtains, bits of hardware, an actual riding crop off eBay--I really haven't had this much crafty fun in ages.

The lighting is pretty good. I'm pleased with the complementary orange/blue color scheme--which was a happy accident. It was time to put a body in the chair and start testing poses.

So I asked my sister to don the shirt and drape the (very skinny) "buckskin breeches" (linen drawstring pants, still awaiting modification) over her legs, and strike the attitude.

I liked the effect, so I pasted on the head of the actual model I hope to hire for the photo shoot.

test book cover art for Restraint, showing a long haired and barefoot young man in Regency garb lounging in an ornate wingback chair

(The professional graphic designer will be charged with a real layout and real fonts. It's still up to me to tweak the costume. The draped column might have to go.)

What do you think?

darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
There's been some progress on the book cover photo shoot. Here's the first mockup, just to test color contrast between the costume and the chair.

Yellow trousers, white formal shirt, and a red and gold brocade vest draped over a red wingback chair to resemble a Regency gentleman lounging, for the Restraint cover shoot

Those are Goodwill garments in roughly the right colors and shapes. We decided that with the pale costume we'll want a dark chair, so here we're testing red rummage-sale curtain fabric. We've got a bronze-gold-brown-red pair of drapes coming from eBay.

The backdrop will be a nearly-black wall, aka my living room, so pretty soon I'll have to drag that chair indoors.

Meanwhile, I've acquired some fake gold leaf for illuminating the decorative elements, and a white linen tablecloth that will make a pretty nice poet shirt. Sewing will ensue. Really quick-and-dirty, fusible-and-glue sewing.

Then we just need to find the guy. Think "finding the guy" thoughts, please!

a poster advertising for a male model for a book cover photoshoot

Cover Art

Mar. 2nd, 2017 10:04 am
darkemeralds: detail of beaded purse, caption One Bead At a Time (Details)
I need a book cover!

There are quickie template-based designs online, and there's $5000 for original artwork, and there's not much in between.

"Well, what do you want to wind up with?" asked my sister Helen.

"Basically this," said I:
Working cover of Restraint, a photograph manipulated to look something like an oil painting, featuring Jared Padalecki's face on Johnny Depp's tuxedo-wearing body slouched in an enormous baroque brocade armchair, all in tones of red and gold

"...but a) without Jared Padalecki's face; b) not stolen from a copyright fashion shoot with Johnny Depp; and c) featuring a poet shirt and buckskin breeches rather than that 20th century tuxedo."

"So let's do our own photoshoot."

Wait. What? Do it ourselves? )
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Beta-reader notes on the final draft of Restraint have started coming in. This is the most nerve-wracking process!

The feedback so far is excellent: constructive, knowledgeable, and detailed. Nobody so far hates the novel. But the silences! Do the non-responders dislike it too much to comment? Were they too bored to finish? Are they too nice to say so?

It's impossible to get my ego out of the way. These people are doing me a huge favor and I don't want to press them, but only the fact that I have acrylic nails is keeping me from biting those nails off.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
Beta readers are coming back with very few notes on Restraint. The rewritten story works for them. I think it really is finished. Seth Godin (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a workshop in NYC a couple weeks ago) basically said, "Ship it."

Now comes marketing. )
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
I finished my final draft of Restraint on Thursday and sent it out yesterday to four champion fellow writers willing to read it for structure, pacing, flow, and logic. That's a big, big job.

I expect to get suggestions back for further small changes, and of course I spotted typos the instant I hit the send button. I could undoubtedly still shave a few words for style, or add a sentence here or there to fill out a minor plot point, but the novel--this novel--is finished. Any big changes at this point would be making it into a different novel.

It's a little weird, cleaning up all the files, closing all the research tabs, shutting down the gigantic spreadsheet called "Engineering Restraint" after more than two years of rewrites. The prospect of starting a new project is daunting.

But I'm starting. I'm thinking about the new political situation, and how it's my responsibility to write for the Resistance in some way. Not a dystopian Hunger-Games-ish thing--that's not who I am as a writer--but somehow a weaving of resistance into the fabric of the historical novel I'm already researching.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Happy New Year to the few, the strong, the loyal who are still here at Dreamwidth.

2016, like 2015, has been about my homemade MFA program in creative writing. My "thesis"--which was due on December 31st and should be done this week--is a publishable final draft of Restraint. I expect 2017 to be about writing, too.

My program of study has revolved primarily around story structure and editing. As I approach the finish line, here's a roundup of the changes my studies have wrought:
  • Word count: Fanfic 230,000, Profic 145,000.
  • Character names changed: 15
  • Characters cut: 2
  • Subplots cut: also 2
  • Subplots added: 1
  • Scenes cut: I've lost track. A lot.
  • Scenes added: about 10
  • Average sentence length: Fanfic 16 words, Profic 14 words
  • Reading ease score: Fanfic 69, Profic 72 (higher is easier)
  • Number of drafts to get here: 8
Here's a rough and improvised heat map of the restructured novel, scene by scene. Green bars are scenes that end positive; red, negative. Height of bar approximates scene intensity:

a bar graph with green bars rising above the centerline and red bars descending below it, representing scene-by-scene valence shifts in the novel Restraint


Three fellow writers have volunteered to read and comment on the final draft. Assuming they find no major failings, I'll polish it up and start sending it out in March.

In other writing news, I'm taking Shawn Coyne's Story Grid Workshop in New York City in February. It'll be three days with the story structure master and 25 other writers who are ready to go pro. Since Restraint will be finished by then, I'll be applying what I learn there--and everything I've learned in my Homemade MFA Program--to my next novel, which is currently in the proto-outline stage.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
The biggest difference, I'm finding, between a novel-length fanfic and a publishable novel isn't that you have to change the characters' names and give them different haircolors (though there is that).

The biggest difference is that you're writing for strangers.

Telling the story to strangers )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Robert McKee: Story: Style, Structure, Substance...
Christopher Vogler: The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
Shawn Coyne: The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
John Yorke: Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story
Larry Brooks: Story Physics and Story Engineering and Story Fix Larry Brooks

Lately I've been wooed into the left-brained world of editors and screenwriters writing about story structure. Studying these books (blogs, podcasts, presentations...) has helped me see my work's real flaws.

But because I'm more analytical than creative myself, I'm in danger of over-engineering my novel to fit a Grid, a set of Tent Poles, or a Hero's Journey. It's getting hard to tell whether I'm improving my story or ruining it.

A metaphor keeps springing to mind from a craft I'm more proficient in: sewing.

Crimson velvet and chiffon ruffles )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The second meeting of the Super Hardcore Editing Group left me a bit wrung out. The work is intense and so are the people doing it. A lot of brainpower goes into those two hours--so much brainpower, in fact, that I was worthless for anything except Twitter and grocery shopping until six hours had gone by.

We spend little to no time on our prose. Two of our four members don't even have much prose yet. Just outlines. Tent Poles (PDF). We've spent 90% of our meeting time so far digging deep into each other's story summaries, trying to place those poles accurately so that the fabric of the story can be stretched taut over them.

I'm struggling with the middle of my novel. Apparently this is a common problem. The beginning of a story tends to be clear in a first draft and not that hard to spiff up in further drafts. The final act is typically pretty clear too--it's often obvious from the very moment Inspiration plants the story seed in your mind.

But my middle 50%--that is, everything between my First Plot Point (the event that introduces my conflict and drives my protagonists on their path) and the Second Plot Point (the last bit of new information, which drives the story to resolution) is a complete rat's nest tangle of loose ends, extra characters, scenes with no arc or direction...a mess.

A roadmap out of the mess is beginning to emerge thanks to the Sheggers. But boy does my brain hurt.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
[personal profile] lycomingst pinged me yesterday to inquire after my continued existence--very kind!--and caused me to face the ridiculously wide gap in my posting history around here.

I continue to exist. )

So, yes. Still existing. Chipping away at this thing called life. How's everyone doing?
darkemeralds: Jensen Ackles in Regency Attire (Restraint John)
Yesterday evening I went to a lecture at the Oregon Astrological Association* and then, because it felt like my day was just getting started, stayed up reading and goofing around till 4:00 a.m.

Of course, today I didn't wake up till almost 1:00 in the afternoon, and only a good hard stare at my phone told me that it was Saturday.

I've written 5000 words of backstory for two secondary characters who need work in the Restraint rewrite (Uncle Martin and Mr Braithwaite--I really wanted to find out how they met). This has meant revisiting old research into the Napoleonic Wars, George IV, Brighton, and smuggling on the Channel coast.

In other words, I'm basically just goofing around and enjoying myself.

Who here uses Scrivener? Can anyone describe to me what its advantages are? Other writers wax fannish over it, but I'm frankly finding it unintuitive and more frustrating than exciting. I'm limited to the Linux version, which may be hobbled compared to the IOS and Windows versions, but before I give it up, I'd like to know what I'm failing to appreciate.

And now it's 2:00 a.m. Almost bedtime. :D

*The subject was the Tea Party and the GOP, and it was fascinating.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
  • IF you're stuck in an annoying and irrelevancy-filled two-hour meeting with Norm, and
  • IF you sit at the far end of the conference table, and
  • IF you have a smartphone, and
  • IF you have either wifi or a data plan you don't mind using, and
  • IF you're near retirement and really don't give a damn that you don't look very engaged in the subject of the meeting
THEN you can accomplish a remarkable amount of research on your novel rewrite.

Editing

Jan. 5th, 2013 11:20 am
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
[personal profile] ravurian, one of those rare birds who is an accomplished writer and an incisive editor, has been helping me face the editing of Restraint for publication by breaking the massive project into a series of approachable steps.

Three tasks and some help from the cat. )

So, thanks to [personal profile] ravurian (and Graydie), I'm on my way.

(I need a project name. Hmm. "Project Publish"? "Project Cut 100,000 Words"? "Project File Off The Serial Numbers"? Suggestions?)
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
I was out hacking down the overgrowth in the north forty (aka my side yard) yesterday , bleeding freely from a couple of rose-thorn pokes, avoiding a hornets' nest, taxing my hands by removing ceanothus branches that were a bit too big for the loppers, and generally enjoying the heck out of a gorgeous October afternoon, when my phone gave the sonar ping of G-chat notification.

I continued hacking for a bit, and the phone pinged about four more times.

It was [personal profile] ravurian, pitching a story idea so gobsmackingly wonderful that I might have to take sedatives to keep from dwelling on it. Either that, or I'll have to write it.

It would be a crossover or fusion piece. It would branch off from Restraint in a kind of Sliding Doors parallel universe. It would involve magic.

It would be amazing.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
Technology--the high kind, anyway--never works quite as one hopes, and this becomes really evident during travel. The power adapter turns out to be incompatible with the charger for the bluetooth earphone that you were hoping would communicate walking directions in London discreetly to your ear from Google Maps, which in any case fails after half a day of tramping around because the battery in the mobile device is sucked dry by the GPS connection.

Strangely enough, it's still worth doing, this travel thing. There is, I can now say from experience, a huge difference between choosing an address for a fictional character by staring long and hard at Google Maps, and actually walking up to the door of that address and hearing the heavy traffic in the next street.

Knowing that it's a mile and a half from that address to the one occupied by another character is nothing like walking that mile and a half and feeling the shift from respectable to resplendent, and the pleasant relief of turning from a busy thoroughfare into the quiet side street. "Your destination is on the right," says the navigation voice. "And two hundred years in the past," I think.

The past, of course, shows through--shines through--everywhere in London.

Three key places in Restraint. )
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
Having a cappuccino at the end of Half Moon Street, imagining Lord Penrith emerging from his townhouse and striding past me here on his way to call on John.

Looking up Half Moon Street in London from the cafe at the end of the street.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
[livejournal.com profile] yourlibrarian has posted a thoughtful piece on Restraint and its place in the Real Person fanfic continuum.

She examines some of the ways in which John and Tristan do and don't hew to the "canon" of J2, and I have to say, she caught everything I intended and few things I wasn't conscious of. She also identifies a range of Alternate Universe categories and asks the question of whether Restraint and other AU Real Person fic can or should make the leap into "print" as published works with the serial numbers filed off.

I enjoyed the post and the discussion in comments (I probably also broke a cardinal rule by leaving a comment of my own!) and I thought other people might be interested in it. It's worth a read.

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