Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Dance With Dragons

So, it is well known that I am an unabashed George RR Martin fan/sycophant/apologist and I will be until it is known that Samwell Tarly is the Prince Who Was Promised and he rules the Seven Kingdoms atop the Iron Throne with Danaerys at his side as his queen along with his seven little princelings because his seed is that strong. (This is merely my own theory and can be debunked by a thousand other members over at Ran’s board!) Because of George, I am the writer I am today…well partially, it’s not his fault I am yet undiscovered as a talent. This last summer was a very exciting one for me and many other fans of the classic series, as we were allowed to return to the world of Westeros and catch up on some fan favorites (Dany, Jon Snow and Tyrion most notably), while having some supreme questions answered and getting perhaps my most favorite POV character in the entire series: Barristan Selmy. Now some complained it was dragged out and it took too long for anything to happen, but I disagree completely and the book jolted me into a realization about my own writing, Winter’s Discord and the other books of Seasons of Destiny especially, that I needed to address immediately. Namely, back story.

Series, especially fantasy, need back story. Think about it. Can you name any fantasy series that doesn’t have a complex and deep back story? Tolkein, Brooks, Eddings, Martin, Jordan, etc. All of them have intense and layered back stories involved in them and they are completely necessary.

Now, the perils of writing a series are pretty self-evident. But that seems to be what publishers are looking for and from a business perspective that makes sense. Stand alones make money one time; series can make money multiple times over. So most of us that choose to write in the speculative area realize that we very much need to write series in order to entice publishers (and agents) to our work and we write series. But we have to write that first book and almost frame it as if it is a stand alone (a paradox of the publishing industry). Now, Jon Sprunk had a great article about the difficulty of working on a series and I was faced with that recently when an agent made a subtle request for an outline of the series.

I don’t like to be unprepared, but the only outline I had was a very vague outline of “Parts” of the following three books with the POV characters who had something to say in that section in my writer’s notebook. Actually, they were literally cut from the loose leaf paper they had been written on and PASTED into the notebook. The outline for book 2 was missing. (Damn my organizational skills) So now I’m piecing it together bit by bit, but it’s a painstaking process. Why? It’s a complex story with a lot of back story necessary for me to know in order to write what happens next. Now, I told you this story to talk about back story and A Dance With Dragons.

Dance is loaded with back story. Important back story that is necessary for what happens in the last third of the novel to make sense. (I’m not going to spoiler anything, so put the “NO SPOILERS” signs away!) Reading it inspired me to actually plot out what happens BEFORE Winter’s Discord in a sort of narrative outline of a prequel trilogy. (How’s that for being arrogant, I’m planning the prequel before I finish planning the series I am trying to sell!) But it was a practical endeavor because, unlike George, I cannot keep everything in my head. It is impossible. I forget where I put my car keys and wallet more often than I should ever admit in a public forum, how am I going to remember the significant events of something like Robert’s Rebellion or the War of the Ninepenny Kings? So after I finished Sisters of Khoda, I set about doing what I was calling a “macroplan” for the entire series. I was going to plot out the “prequels” (complete with titles and tentatively titled The Prince’s Folly) and then transition into Seasons of Destiny. Then school started and the overwhelming of life began.

I’ve been peeking at what I wrote already and doing some rudimentary outlining of the next book of Seasons, Spring’s Tempest, but I’m still working at it. The odd thing about Spring is that I wrote it once already. Really. But it’s a completely different book now and very little of what is in that draft is even part of what’s going on in this book. The interesting thing is that there are parts of Spring Draft 1 that may actually work for book 3. It’s crazy, but some tweaking and a lot of that book might already be written. I’m going to try and hit some of it tonight. It’s another big book and very different than the first version of it I wrote 4 years ago. So for the second time, George RR Martin has moved me forward in my writing. Currahee!

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