alexandraerin: (Default)
So, the current book of Tales of MU has been dealing a lot in dream-stuff, the dynamics of dreams. I have no idea if anybody finds it as interesting as I do, because I'm going through one of my comment-averse phases.

But the basic foundation for it is my dissatisfaction of the way dreams are usually treated in fantasy. I.e., it's often taken for granted that there's a realm of dreams in which dreams are real, that exists outside and beyond our heads, etc. The idea of lucid dreams that one can exert perfect control over is presented as a simple and unavoidable consequence of being aware that one is dreaming. Sometimes -- more rarely but often enough for it to be a trope -- the idea that one can't experience some kind of sensory input in dreams becomes a turning point. Actually, now that I think about it, that's not rare. It's rare that it's anything other than pain ("pinch me, I'm dreaming".)

It's not that you can't tell a story about a world of dreams, it's that nobody ever tries to do anything else. I frequently realize I'm dreaming in dreams without the dream as a whole becoming more coherent or sensible of under my control... last night I dreamed that somebody mailed an embarrassing compilation of my internet activity from 1995 till today to my parents, and when I became aware it was a dream because of inconsistencies I wasn't suddenly able to control things or banish the feeling of creeping dread that permeated the whole thing.

The most I could do was resolve to check the mail before they did when I woke up, because I was convinced that the document was real. Never mind that I haven't lived with them for over a decade and that my internet activity is all public anyway.

That's just how dreams work. It's not just that we dream things happen that don't, we dream knowledge that doesn't exist. And it's compelling within the scope of the dream.

Anyway, today I'm taking a trip down to Lincoln for [profile] s00j's concert, so this will probably stand as my status post for the day. Dreams: I have thoughts and feelings about them.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So, for several months from the fall through early 2012, I had a period of reeeeeally great updates to Tales of MU. Really consistent quality, really consistent timeliness, really consistent everything. And it had everything to do with having pegged the perfect interval between chapters at four days. I made a four day development cycle that gives me adequate time to come up with a concept, write it, then go back over it and not just polish it but strengthen it however I could, by tying it into ongoing stuff better or by emphasizing an arc or theme within it or whatever else it needed.

It works great when things are going great and when things aren't going great... well, I still have enough time to bang out a chapter.

And there were enough times where a chapter didn't take the whole four days to be substantially finished that I was working a chapter or two ahead, something that never happened before.

And every month, the whole thing either fell apart or came close to it, for the simple reason that months have irregular lengths that are only evenly divisible by four ~6% of the time. If I just made the schedule "every four days" this wouldn't matter, but I thought it was important to have an update schedule that was pegged to the calendar. Making it every day divisible by four leaves about a week that's just dead, from the 29th of a month through the 3rd of the next, so I added an update on the 1st. That gives me two "short" cycles in a row, and that keeps tripping me up, and setting the tone for the rest of the month.

And I have a tendency to make it worse by trying to do other things at the beginning and end of the month.

The parts of this plan that work really work, and the whole thing came about through a process of embracing what works and discarding what doesn't... but like Professor Bohd explained in her class on purifying elements, no matter how much of X you take out of Y, there's still some X in there. Perfection is a process, not a goal.

So it's time to throw out what's not working.

I have two different ideas for how to do this. I'll call the two plans EMBRACE THE CALENDAR and SUCKS TO YOUR ASS-ENDAR and outline them below.

Plan One: Embrace The Calendar

Plan One is to keep the schedule mostly as it is, with the following changes: one, drop the scheduled update on the 1st -- Tales of MU main story updates on the 4s of every month, period. Two, use that extra time at the end of the month to really do up the side story Kin & Distant Relations right.

Plan Two: Sucks To Your Ass-Endar

Plan Two is: forget the calendar. New chapter every four days. There is no overarching schedule to fall behind on. Something happens and I fall a day behind in finishing/posting a chapter? New chapter four days after that. I don't scramble to finish the chapter in three days or try to and then give up and post it in four days anyway and have to keep adjusting the schedule to compensate.

On the surface I see a lot to recommend embracing the calendar. The presence of actual dates feels predictable and stable. But in practice? I get the impression a lot of readers haven't learned/internalized the schedule, so much as they know that when I'm following it the chapters come out pretty regularly, they can check it once a week and have a chapter or two to read, etc.

Ditching the calendar means that whenever a new chapter goes up you know you don't have to wait more than four days for the next one, which is something nobody's complained about. It means I'm always focused on making the next chapter solid and strong and what it needs to be instead of trying to make up for what happened with the last chapter.

Really, I started this post as a "weigh the pros and cons" type thing and expected to have a great big debate with myself, but the more I type the more I think it's clear what I need to do.

I'll have to work out details for things like how to slot side stories/other tales into the flow of things. But for the main story? Yeah, I'm going with "every four days". It works. It works so well.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So, in the most recent chapter of Tales of MU, I put some mouseover text and links to help explain some of the references. The use of the term "Universal Temple" has caused confusion before... the reference feels obvious to me, being 1) an adult child of what was a Catholic family and 2) an etymology nerd, but some people have thought it was a reference to something like the Universalist Unitarians, and other people seemed to take it as a sign that the worship of Khersis was absolutely monolithic and unified... if there's a Universal sect, how can there be any others? So I linked the mention of the Universal Temple to the dictionary definition of "catholic", just to clear it up.

Then near the end when I got to the geography lesson... something I put in specifically due to multiple readers' requests... I was feeling particularly pleased with the double-layered reference in the name of the Ardan Sea (Mediterranean Sea ~= Sea of Middle Earth ~= Sea of Arda), and so instead of linking to or explaining the reference I added mouseover text challenging someone to do so in comments.

What followed was... baffling, and kind of frustrating. Most of the readers who responded to the challenge seemed to miss that it was a sea at all, acting like the nature of this geographical feature was completely unspecified and they had nothing to go on but the name. I had to go back and check to make sure the word "sea" didn't get dropped out of the story somehow. It didn't. It wasn't right next to the word "Ardan", but the sentence was pretty clearly specifying that the thing Hart had just named and was drawing was a sea. I could see someone skimming the story missing that, but these were people who accepted the challenge and were trying to solve it. It didn't make sense to me that they'd overlook that clue.

Also, some of the people who were trying to solve the riddle seemed to miss other details of that paragraph. Again, I wouldn't expect everyone to pick up all the details, but I would have expected someone who was engaged with the riddle to do so.

It was almost like the people most interested in the riddle where paying the least attention...

And that's where I think I made the mistake: by attaching the riddle to that one word, I ended up taking them out of the flow of the story, or at least the immediate paragraph. The indentification of the Ardan as a sea happens on the same line of text where it's named, but by that point they already have a goal besides simply taking the story in.

My other uses of hypertext were intended to further the understanding of the story; this one had a different purpose, and it ended up lessening that understanding.

So the lesson here isn't so much "Don't issue riddles or challenges," because I think the fact that so many people were so distracted by it shows that it's something that can be enjoyable. The lesson is to not interrupt the story to do so, even in such an unobtrusive way. Better to put the challenge at the end of the story, as I have occasionally done in the past.

That little stumbling block aside, I'm pretty happy with how the chapter came out. As I explained in comments, it's a happy accident that this chapter came about... I wasn't able to fit some essential information into the preceding chapter due to my heat exhaustion, and so I decided to spend another chapter on the class and fill it with reader-suggested questions to make it worth another chapter. I don't believe there's anything I can do that will make everyone happy, but if I want to do something as a treat for the most readers at once then some extended class time is a pretty good bet. Adding the audience participation just sweetens the pot.
alexandraerin: (Default)
A rendition of Hart's whiteboard map from chapter 14. Just for added reference I've added Merovia, which did not come up in the lecture but which has been mentioned several times in-story so you can get a picture of its location.



Caveats:

1. Nothing here is to scale. In particular I have a feeling the landmass between Pelorus and the Mother Isles should maybe be a bit thicker, north to south. You certainly should not draw any conclusions about the relative size of Pelorus and the Isles themselves from this map. Likewise, the shapes of the coastlines and things like that are the quick impressions of a teacher who knows geography but is not a cartographer or an artist.
2. This only includes things relevant to the immediate discussion (and Merovia). Absence of detail is not detail of absence, in other words. Or in more clear words: no, this map does not canonically establish that there are no islands in that area of open water to the northwest of the continent, or that there are no peninsulae jutting south into the Ardan, or that there are no mountains on the continent besides those in Pelorus (this last one is countered by the story, which notes that the "Giant's Fist" is at the junction of several chains.)
3. Both Merovia and Thylea extend beyond the borders of the whiteboard, Merovia filling a peninsula maybe 2/3rds the size of Iberia and Thylea covering a somewhat expansive region to the north. Note that modern-day Merovia is a nation with borders roughly what is shown on this map and a central government, but Thylea is a region that comprises multiple nations in modern terms. The fact that they're depicted in the same way on this map isn't meant to draw a parallel between what they represent in geopolitical terms.
4. No, the fact that it is crappy, inexact, and not to scale is not the reason that this doesn't look exactly like a map of Europe and the Mother Isles aren't positioned and numbered correctly to be the British Isles. It's not a map of Europe and the British Isles. It's a map showing the relative positions of the Mother Isles, Pelorus, Merovia, and Thylea around an imaginary content in an imaginary world.

Musings.

Apr. 28th, 2011 01:32 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
I'm really glad I decided not to push myself for three chapters this week. As things stand chapter 10 is not jelling as easily as some of the past chapters (for instance, the ones with Callahan) have. One of the reasons I liked having a cushion of written-ahead material is the ability to step back and look at it and see what's working great and what's not working so well. The problem with doing that on a three-times-a-week schedule is that it quickly erodes the cushion.

Anyway, as I consider the problems of this chapter I'm considering experimenting with viewpoint a little bit more; giving some chapters a short introduction that is either third person omniscient or a fragment of an in-universe source. The latter would probably be more interesting but the former is more flexible. For instance, the information I want to convey about "the Arch" at the start of the chapter could be rewritten to be more of a guidebook style instead of trying to convey it exclusively through Mackenzie's impressions. Ah, well, on the subject of flexibility there's no reason I'd have to limit myself exclusively to guidebook or narrator.

I don't think I'm going to jump into that with this chapter, though... conversation is probably a better solution there. Mackenzie herself can stand as the guide as she's already been there and her friends haven't. That way, not all the insights on elven and dwarven and other culture that I want to work in have to come from her. If I put Hazel in the scene I can have a secondhand source for dwarven stuff, and actually get her "on camera" since she's been talked about so much. That will also give me a way to anchor Two into the conversation... mentally, she's "there" in the scene but as she hasn't contributed to the conversation at all she might as well not be.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Okay, so I'm about midway through writing the next chapter of Tales of MU. And when I paused for reflection on how to improve and continue it, I realized I really want to expand the beginning part with Ian more. Give him a proper introduction in the volume, give new readers a proper introduction to the sexual and sensual aspects of the story, etc. And I realized that will give a chapter that splits pretty evenly into two segments: Ian, and Amaranth. And I thought, "Well, that's good." Each of Mackenzie's lovers introduced in turn.

But then I thought how weird it's going to be to have a chapter segmented like that, and I thought that with my current plans to have all largish chapters (5,000 words = 20 pages) is going to result in a lot of segmentation.

And then I thought, "If I split it into two chapters, then I'm already looking at 'bloat' to the timeline I wanted to follow for book 1." But my concern there is not about how many chapters it takes to get somewhere... a "chapter" is not a concrete unit of story, time, or space. It's about how much real world time.

But my next thought that followed on the heels of that one was, "But if I already have Monday's chapter done-ish because it's branched off from this one, I can do a chapter on Wednesday and Friday next week and be right back where I was."

And then the lightbulb came on.

I settled on two updates a week because trying to do more consistently introduced too many chances to fail. It's not a matter of volume of words produced. My three-updates-a-week periods generally had around 9,000 words. When I was doing 5 updates a week, the chapters were shorter... maybe around 2,000 words, so 10,000 words total. Two updates of between 4 and 6 thousand words? Right in line with everything else.

The key factor is that it's easier for me to make sure I have two days I can sit and do serious writing in than it is to make sure I have three days or five days.

So here's what I'm thinking now. I'm going to go ahead and write what I'd planned on writing for Friday. But I'm going to post half of it (about 3,000 words... my good ol' standby.) And the other half is going to go up on Monday. Monday I'm going to write another 5 to 6 thousand words. That's Wednesday and Friday's chapter. Some other day next week... Wednesday or Thursday... I'll write another 5 to 6 thousand words. That's next Monday and Wednesday.

If I have an off day? If I have 3,000 word day or even a no thousand word day? Meh. First of all, I only need to be able to muster one and a half heavy writing days per day to keep up with the demand... writing MU heavily two days a week will give me a buffer. I don't expect the buffer to last long because Stuff Happens, but it will be a regenerating buffer. When I've tried building a buffer before it was based on the idea of things like writing four days a week and posting three. It's way too easy to stumble there, and having a break between days when I'm writing MU really helps.

Within a day, the momentum of just working on MU is very helpful. But from day to day, I need to be able to turn my mind towards other things, and to let my mind wander over possibilities without immediately having to write them down.

So, anyway... the chapter breakdowns I talked about for the first book of MU will not work out exactly the way I said. There will be a minimum of three chapters to cover the weekend (possibly four... slightly shorter chapters allows for more gradation of time, which seems to me to be a good thing) instead of two. But in terms of how fast in real time the story moves along and how much space is allotted to various things, I'll be more or less in the same neighborhood.

And while I'm finding that spending a whole day writing on one subject/project works best, this plan is flexible enough that if I have a week that's busy with other things I can spend a few hours each day writing so I don't lose my whole buffer.

This might seem premature but I'm not going to announce a Wednesday update until it's Monday and I have the chapters for the rest of the week done. If that happens... if I have a writing day on next Monday like I've had this Monday and like I'm having today, then I think I'm really on the right track in terms of what I've been doing differently.

That's enough talking about it. Time to get back to writing.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Okay, so... right now there's a placeholder post in front of the first chapter. Originally I was going to write an introduction to volume two that would serve as an abbreviated "story thus far" for newbies. I'm still going to do that. I mean, originally I was going to write that first. But then I realized I don't know how much detail I need to go into there. There are two levels there. One is that I don't know how much recappiness I'm going to end up doing as I go. The other is that I don't know on an abstract level how much is necessary. I mean, for all that some people hate jumping into a series halfway in... well, those people are going to go back to the beginning anyway. And even if you're there from the start of a story you're still jumping in to a story in the middle.

As Carl Sagan said, "If you would make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." You're not there at the start of the world, you're not there at the start of the story. You pick things up as you go even if you're thrown into the shallow end of the pool.

So, I'm going to write the "introductory" chapters of the first book of volume 2 and see how good a job of introducing the world and characters and concepts I think they do. And then the meta-level introduction will be written with that knowledge.

Chapter 1 was about 5,500 words, which is about 22 pages of a book. In terms of internal pacing it's not much different than anything that's come before. Those who read the Soon: box will already know that it's not going to be followed up with a chapter of Mackenzie walking back to her dorm and thinking to herself. That's not to say that the walk-and-think chapters are a thing of the past... my more introspective answer to Aaron Sorkin is going to remain a part of my writing repertoire for an interminable number of years to come.

(The Sorkin style walk-and-talk creates the impression that the story is progressing somewhere. The Erin style walk-and-think is useful to convey the opposite.)

So here's my plans for Book 1... not in terms of the story or plot (such as they are) but structurally. The first couple of chapters get the established main cast back in place. Steff is in the first chapter because she's the one who doesn't live with them. She needed re-establishing more than the others. Friday's chapter (covering Saturday) is going to be about re-establishing the dynamics. Once that's done, the main body of the book is going to be concerned with Mackenzie's class load. One chapter... one good, long chapter like this one... for each class. Now, here's where the old pacing comes in again. If I spend one 5,000ish word chapter on six classes... well, at two chapters a week, that's a minimum of three weeks to cover two days of story-time. More if there are social bits that take up their own chapters.

And by the time that's done? Well, that's a NaNoWriMo legal book sized chunk of story we already have. 30,000 words of classroom text plus 10,000 words of stuff from the weekend before plus 10,000 words of social chapters is 50,000 words. That's two hundred pages of standard mass market paperback book, to cover the period from Friday through Tuesday.

That won't be the end of book one. Book one will probably go through the end of the story week, with a slightly quickened pace as I won't be covering all classes equally in that first book after their initial establishment. Probably it will weigh in at around 20 chapters, and 100,000 words or 400 pages. Again, that's to cover about a week of story time.

Now... none of what I've just explained is a problem to me. It's my plan, not somethingthat needs solving. I'm just "showing my work" here because there are two things my readership asks for more consistently than anything else: more looks at Mackenzie's classes, and a quicker and tighter pace. I've never stopped to correlate comments to see if these are the same people, but a little thought should show that I can't make everybody happy and it's entirely possible there are specific people that I can't ever make happy because if I veer too sharply in one direction they'll feel the lack of the other, whichever way I'm leaning.

Volume 2 is going to have better pacing/plotting, but when I say that I mean a very specific thing: I mean I'm always going to be writing towards something. No, this is not a promise that you will never see a chapter that strikes you the individual reader as "filler", or that you can't see the point of, or that doesn't advance what you've identified as the "plot" in a meaningful way. I say this with the belief that most people reading this blog don't need to be told that, but I don't want anyone who doesn't regularly read my posts about writing to see this talk of always writing towards something and think I'm promising them something that I'm not.

The above is the meta-structure of book one. It isn't the story. It isn't even an outline of the story. But while there is going to be story, the first book of the volume is going to very unabashedly not be a self-contained novel. It's a foundation to build on. It's hints of things to come. It's going to set up guiding conflicts, not offer resolutions. I'm not saying that problems might not arise and be solved in the course of the book. If it fits the flow of events, it'll happen.

But I can see little point in shoehorning in a big conflict/resolution thing. No conflict worth a big resolution could be resolved in the course of 20 chapters when those chapters need to serve the primary purpose of being used to build a foundation for all the remaining books in the volume.

...

As I side note, I had kind of an interesting experience writing this chapter. I'm still parsing what happened and how. That's probably going to get a second post. I attribute it to some of the things I've read lately, some of which are sadly in locked posts that deal with confidential matters. But to make a long story short (hey, I actually managed it this time), I think I'm going to be using my "work week" technique to manage what I call the mundane bullshit parts of my job... the job parts. I've got something much better for getting the writing done.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Well, that's finished...

I had planned on launching Volume 2 on April 1st for irony-related reasons, but given that it took me well into Thursday to finish this and I don't think my flip-flopping sleep schedule's going to stabilize in the next 48 hours I think Monday's the better bet.

In the meantime have some teasers for Volume 2, under the cut.

River Song would not approve of you reading these. )
alexandraerin: (Default)
In case anybody's curious about the errors at Tales of MU today, it's because I was extending the post taxonomy. I'm sure that explains everything to everyone. :P

No, see, when Wordpress added tagging to posts, they put architecture in to make it extensible, so that instead of having posts with just categories and tags, you could have different ways that they're categorized or different sets of tags. I've been using the built-in/default tag set as characters all along, which limited me from tagging posts in other ways without diluting that. But now I can add more sets of tags and plug them into the layout as I want.

The thing is that the functionality is there, but there's no user interface for adding a group of tags. It has to be declared in the code for the site. That's what I was doing when I broke it. It's fixed now, and I have a total of four sets of tags: characters, setting, topics, and trigger warnings.

These are all defined in the back end, but they won't all show up in the front end immediately, and of course there are over 500 chapters/stories on the site that don't have any of these tags applied. But getting them declared is a necessary first step. I might see what I can do about crowdsourcing some of the actual tagging, by and by.

(It also occurs to me now that I could possibly use some combination of tags and/or custom fields to help with chronology.)
alexandraerin: (Default)
...that I ate your fucking plums and I'm not the least bit sorry that the last few chapters of Tales of MU Volume 1 are among the most difficult things I've had to write. I'm not talking about emotionally, at least not the emotions that people usually mean when they talk about how difficult it is to bring something to a close. For me this is a "moving forward" thing. There are some trade-offs. Skipping so much time means there are things that I won't get to cover directly that I might have wanted to, but I get to move on to other things. On the whole I'm happy about that.

No, the emotion is worry. I'm kind of glad I've had the distraction of The Gift of the Bad Guy to keep from obsessing over getting these chapters right. I mean, I'm emphatically not trying to wrap everything up with a neat little bow but there are certain things that I want to make sure get addressed, plot-wise and emotion-wise, before the end. What if I overlook something? What if I forget something? I know at a practical level the answer is nothing. I mean, it's not like there isn't going to be any chance to look backwards and fill in the gaps from the point of view of year two. But the worry is there.

Still, it's a lot smaller worry than I expected it to be. Again, I attribute that to how much of my worrying capacity has been occupied by other things, but also to how excited I am for volume 2. It's going to be a whole lot of fun.
alexandraerin: (Default)

  1. Make hay while the sun shines.

    I did this when I did it because things were getting a little uncomfortably tight, but there was no real crisis, and because of that I've got a comfortable cushion of money in my bank account that will be there if I do have a crisis between now and WisCon. If that happens, then the question becomes "How do I pay for WisCon a little bit from now?", not "Oh my God what am I going to do to get money right now?"

    And because I'm ahead on things I can probably add to that cushion at the rate at which I expected to be saving for WisCon or more, so even after I pay for the con-related expenses I'll still be protected.

  2. Rattling the cup < putting on a show.

    I've said before that I need to rattle the cup more often, but you know, I think in the long term doing something like this... not this exact same thing but something fun and semi-competitive that's going to stir people up and get them involved... doing something like this every several months is going to work out better than rattling the cup a couple of times a month. You know? The sponsorships are at a nice steady level, and I think that'll only improve when I roll out a few of the things I've been working on quietly in the background here.

    If I make a point of doing a fundraiser like this on a quarterly basis or so, not only will I not have to keep reminding myself to rattle the cup (which can feel awkward), but folks can plan accordingly. I know there were people waiting for payday, because they told me so. People who get paid on the other week or who don't have direct deposit might have missed out. Next time I'll plan ahead. I mean, I'd kicked this idea around since I started planning volume 2, but I only finally did it on an impulse.

  3. Readers come up with the best incentives.

    When I name a incentive target I always try to come up with something I think that the readers might enjoy that I probably wouldn't have done in the normal course of things. I mean, I'd love to explore more about Mackenzie's family overseas but they're just not connected to the main story, you know? But readers can come up with things that I wouldn't ever dream of writing about... Bill Springstep in the modern world? When I saw that request in my email, I wasn't sure I could do it, I mean, my first thought was, "I'm not even sure that Bill is real." But you know what? Apocrypha happens. Heck, the most recent Bill story that went up had a disclaimer on it that it was a later addition added in what was at one point the modern age. Do gnomes stop telling stories about Bill?


Thanks to everyone's who participated!

Status 2.0

Jan. 29th, 2011 10:10 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
I had a looooong nap this afternoon. Apparently I was still on a sleep deficit. Quite by chance, I fell asleep with relaxing music playing, something I haven't done for some months... I have to add that to my routine, as it really does improve the quality of my sleep.

I had a very odd dream, the second one in recent history involving George W. Bush as president. I don't get it. In this one he was on vacation and could only find solace in carelessly (and destructively) reading rare books, comics, and manuscripts. If I put more stock in dream analysis, I'd say my brain has labeled him the embodiment of conservative political impulses and this was about austerity measures threatening public libraries and arts and education, but I really don't think the human brain actually works that way.

I woke up with a sore throat. Not great.

The roommate derby, as I've found myself thinking of it, is going really well. I didn't expect to see much of a response before Monday, as even when I update the story very late on Friday the site tends to be quiet over the weekend. Some people are attaching comments in the "Purpose" field of the PayPal form, and some of them are quite heartening and/or entertaining.

Hazel's supporters seem to feel that her role as Two's friend should be taken into account. The biggest recurring theme among Steff fans seems to be that she'd be most entertaining. The most commonly cited reason for Dee, who has taken on a lead due in large part to support from monthly sponsors, is that her presence would be beneficial to the others... though one person rather perceptively noted that Two's presence might be beneficial to Dee.

It'll be really interesting to see how this all turns out.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So, I just got a question in my Formspring alerting me to a continuity error/plothole in Tales of MU... I've edited the previous chapter (445, when Callahan announces her absence) to close it up. As I said in my Formspring answer, this is the sort of thing I worry about with the time difference between real world and story time getting bigger, and one of the reasons I want/need to pick up the pace.

See, I wrote chapter 445 back in May of last year. At the time there were good reasons I wanted Callahan to be out of town for the weekend, reasons which still hold true. I also wanted the opportunity to skip a melee class so that I could get on to the weekend a little bit more quickly, so I had her trip starting on Thursday. In the intervening time, I forgot about the second part, and what's more I decided separately it was important to show the melee class so I could show Mackenzie's progress and have Callahan make her offer. So I had two sets of plans made seven months apart that came to contradictory conclusions, resulting in a conflict in the text.

When I'm not updating steadily, I spend a lot more time going back through the archives and looking at my rare and arcane notes to try to avoid things like this... "Wait, what did I say they were doing in the next class?" I won't be surprised if more such discontinuities pop up when I go through the chapters to collect them. Hopefully they'll all be things I can patch up with a slightly altered line here and there.

I'm perversely better at remembering things that are happening in my stories than I am at remembering things that happen to me in real life, but it's kind of a balancing act, as I don't feel the need to have every plot thread tied up neatly before the next one arrives, and I certainly don't think it's realistic to have the protagonist keeping everything that's happening in the front of her mind at all times... but if she's not thinking about something, there's a good chance that I'm not thinking of it, either.

Anyway, that's what happened with that.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Right now Tales of MU is in the midst of what I think of as "the collision course", which is my attempt to bring to a close the most pressing plotlines afflicting our protagonist. When that's finished, we'll be going into "the fast forward", during which things will be happening even quicker but will be dealt with at a glance. You might think of it as the "where are they now" for volume 1.

After that, we go into the start of volume 2, which is entitled Sophomore Effort. Yes, for those of you who've wondered how far ahead the time skip is going to go, the name is a big clue. We're skipping ahead to the second year.

The end of volume 1 is not going to explicitly resolve every single dangling plot line... that would be a bit of an information overload, as well as be anti-climactic in some cases. Some plotlines will still be ongoing in the second year, and some will be left up to reader inference or filled in later.

There is inevitably going to be some anti-climax in this, but much less so than if I allowed the story to just wither and die, as it has threatened to do.

FAQ )
So, that's it, basically. If you have any questions I did not address, just formspring.me or comment below.
alexandraerin: (Default)
People seem to enjoy it when I make posts that give insight into my creative decisions, so here's another such post... this one's written up in my poorest imitation of the Cracked style. Five ideas I had in the early days of MU that I gave up on.

Cut for potential spoilers. I mean, if I tell you that I had been planning on Steff being a renegade white martian but changed my mind, then you know she's not a renegade white martian. So, yeah. )

If people like this, I'll write another one... maybe dealing with the parts that are autobiographical that strike other people as unrealistic? :P
alexandraerin: (Default)
When I first started writing the character of Puddy in Tales of MU, I had more plans... and more specific ones... involving her than any other character. I knew her whole backstory before I knew anybody else's. I knew where she'd come from and where I wanted to go with her.

But then she moved out of the spotlight and stayed at the periphery of the story. Why? Because she's really a much worse person than I had realized, and I couldn't justify to myself keeping the spotlight on her, especially since this would mean keeping my first person narrator near her. Puddy's progress as a character would come at the expense of Mackenzie's.

That hadn't seemed like a problem to me when I started because... well, it didn't seem so bad to me for Mackenzie to suffer for Puddy's advancement. The angle of them being friends through thick and thin, no matter what Puddy did because friendship counted for so much (even when it basically consisted of them being thrown together in the same place and one of them declaring friendship) seemed reasonable to me. If you've never had a friend like that in your life it might be hard for you to understand that... but if you have, you can probably understand where I was coming from.

But one of the amazing things that came out of my writing of Tales of MU is my friendship with one of the very first MU readers, [livejournal.com profile] popelizbet. Through my association with her I've met many other wonderful folks as well, and because of this I found the way I thought about friendship... and the Puddy/Mackenzie dynamic... has changed in some pretty profound ways. It no longer seemed reasonable to me that so much of Mackenzie's story should be about how she helps Puddy become a better person, while enduring the things that Puddy does. I couldn't even define their relationship as friendship.

Bigger changes in my life happened because of this adjustment in my thinking than a plotline shifting in a story I write, but the impact on the story is important.

I don't yet know if the plotlines I'd envisioned for Puddy are going to be completely abandoned. There's going to be a bit of a "fast forward" involved in the Volume 2 launch, and while that's not happening because of the Puddy situation, I feel it'll give me a chance to examine my plans for Puddy and decide if any of them are worth keeping. She needs a chance to grow on her own a little before she's worth Mackenzie's (and thus, the reader's) time.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I'm realizing it's been a few days since I've done on actual blog post.

It's weird how freeing it can be to decide to make a change. I'm not actually going to be doing that much different in Tales of MU, in terms of the format... but the mere act of evaluating what I'm doing with it and deciding to make a change has got me thinking about my other projects, the ones that have fizzled out or never caught fire.

So Star Harbor Nights is going to be undergoing a similar facelift/relaunch, complete with a time skip and some retrospective storytelling. It's still going to be a serial, more or less, but it's going to have a slightly different format, a focus on keeping things moving forward, and a stronger embrace of the "mosaic" concept... more of an anthology of intertwining stories sharing the same universe and timeline, less of a soap opera.

I'm not going to be updating content to the SHN website for a while, though, both because I need some time flesh out my new format concept and because I need some time to work on its layout. I love the parchment draft theme I found and adapted for Tales of MU and Fantasy In Miniature, but that's not quite going to fit the setting for Star Harbor Nights. So I'm working on modernizing it a bit. Making it a sheet of white paper seems like the obvious thing to do, but a lot of people don't like looking at black words on a white screen.

I hope to show some substantial progress on A Wilder World before the end of the month. My attempt at writing out the "bare bones" combat rules was kind of a flop... it took too long and the results were too muddled, in my opinion. I feel I was doing better when I was trying to write closer to finished copy as a rough draft. Conciseness is simply not among my natural virtues. I've started writing another section of the rules in a more conversational style. Oh, look at that... it's a A Wilder World website. There's not much there and the theme needs some readability tweaks, but it's not actually ready for wide public consumption yet. Think of this as a sneak preview.

My idea is to eventually have the whole core rules available for free there, along with playable sample characters. The business model for the game is going to be that the modular character content is available for a small price. That's my plan right now, anyway.

My NaNo novel has encountered a bit of a stumbling block in that I realized I'm writing a very different novel than I set out to. See, originally, Dustball Ramblers was going to be a wacky science fantasy story (less explicitly fantasy than Void Dogs, but you can only get so "soft" and still legitimately call it science fiction or even sci-fi, in my mind) set on the already colonized planet of Erebus. But in my first attempt to write it (pre-NaNo) I found myself referring back to the exploration and colonization so much that I decided a prelude describing that would be easier, so when I started writing again for NaNo I started there. And I ended up writing what would work better as a moderately hard science fiction prequel to the book I want to be writing.

So tomorrow I'm going to start writing Dustball Ramblers. Again. From the point I originally intended. Will I "win" NaNoWriMo with it? Probably not. Honestly, the NaNo thing just doesn't agree with me... I'm remembering why I only ever did it once before. The things that serve to motivate so many others just sort of grate at me. So I'm going to be following the NaNo ethos, more or less, in writing DBR, but I'm not going to be actively participating in NaNoWriMo.

I'm not abandoning the story of Dr. Monica Raven... I'm going to be postponing any further work on it, though, because it really deserves to be fleshed out more. What I've been writing so far reads to me like a bad abridgment of a good story.

Changes

Nov. 12th, 2010 12:40 am
alexandraerin: (Default)
Some of the first responses to my announcement about the Tales of MU Volume 2 shift have been to express puzzlement over why anyone would avoid taking on an online work that has a large archive... it didn't occur to me when I made the announcement but there probably will be relatively few current MU readers who share that concern, because if they weren't attracted to a large archive (or at the very least, if they weren't unafraid of such) they wouldn't have become MU readers in the first place.

But while I hope this change will make the work more inviting to new readers, I feel that established readers will find things of value in the shake-up.

Part of the impetus behind the change is just psychological... the changes I have in mind could be done without any sort of special title and without drawing any kind of before/after line, but it'll be easier to follow through this way.

Here are some of the things that the second volume will entail:


  • The return of numbered books. Once I stopped breaking up the books as I went, it was kind of hard to go back and start doing it again, and the longer I let it go the harder it became to do so. This had cascading effects on the story, too. Conceiving of the plot as individual books made it easier for me to focus on my medium-term goals, which made it easier to reach long-term ones. The story became a lot more circular when I started lumping everything into "uncategorized".
  • Consistent date-stamping from the start.
  • More consistent cross-referencing (using floating text) and in-line back referencing. At the start of the series I was in the habit of giving reminders on characters and concepts as they recurred in each book. I fell out of this habit and abandoned it completely when I stopped splitting up the books, but giving little re-introductions I believe will be the sort of thing that makes the story easier to get into for some new readers and easier to follow along for some established ones.


And of course, that's not getting into the things that are going to be changing on campus and in Mackenzie's life.
alexandraerin: (Tales of MU)
Well, if you've looked at the Tales of MU page today, you might notice a big change. I have yet to hear any feedback on it (because I decided to do this in the middle of the day Saturday instead of a time people would be watching), but I'm pretty happy with it. It needs some readability enhancements on the main page view (make individual entries stand out more) and in the sidebar, but it looks a lot like what I wanted the page to look like to begin with. I was very fortunate to find a ready-made theme that was all parchmenty and fairly easy to customize.

I'm also enhancing the page in a few other ways. For instance, check out what happens if you click on an individual character's tag. Pretty snazzy, eh? I only have basic information put in for about 10% of the tags, and I'm doing them in alphabetical order, hence why Amaranth and Barley are filled out. I'm also culling any tags that were for no-name characters that never recurred ("Cabbie", "Waitress", things like that).

All of this is preparatory for some of the bigger changes that are going to be coming up before the end of the year. Stay tuned!
alexandraerin: (Default)
I've made some pretty awesome strides in managing my insomnia lately, through a combination of managing caffeine intake, finding a combination of sleep aids that work well for me, and rearranging my sleep environment to address the needs I have instead of the needs most other people seem to, but I'm still an insomniac and it still happens that I can be absolutely exhausted and not be able to fall asleep.

(I always fall asleep, I never go to sleep. I never learned the way.)

So I'm not going to complain much about the eight hours of awesome sleep I just had, even though I had them between the hours of ten in the morning and five in the evening instead of at night, when I really could have used them.

Anyway, I don't have much to complain about: I'm still in Florida, it's the first of several days I'm spending gloriously alone, my folks have a cable package that includes Music Choice and I have Soundscapes playing. I'm reading over the Tales of MU I've written today and then I'm going to take a bubble bath while I mull it over some. Write, reflect. It seems to be a good way of doing things.

Edit-dendum: Oh, I almost forgot... if you're a [livejournal.com profile] s00j-fan and would like to help her bring her music to the masses in a real way and possibly get yourself a shiny credit on her next album, check out her call for sponsors. The offer ends tonight.

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