Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Posts under The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

The Poison Eater: the Final Push Toward the First Draft

posted on: May 21, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

This is my writing process. Do not try this at home kids. It sucks.

Sit down.
Forgot coffee.
Oh, a cookie.
Sit down.
No, not here. Other room.
Move everything.
Decide it’s cold.
Get sweatshirt.
Sit down.
Oh, I haven’t looked at FB in forever.
Story about trees that sleep.
Cool idea. Bookmark for future story.
Open Scrivener.
Look at stuff I’ve already written.
Decide ugh I am the worst.
Oh, cute dog.
Play with dog.
Sit down.
What’s FB?
No.
What’s cookie?
No.
But cold…
No.
Aw, cute dog…
No.
Find first word.
Begin.

Despite that, I am closing in on the shitty first draft of this novel. It is shitty and that’s what it’s supposed to be, because shitty is done, it is complete, it is killing the editor and the panic in my head to put the words down. Plus, beneath the shitty, I can see the shine. It’s like when your dog eats glitter. Ew, but also, oooh, shiny!

Here’s some of the “ew shiny.” Possible spoilers for The Poison Eaters ahead. Kind of. Keep reading at your own risk.

~~

The shadows that walked at night kept her up, creeping on the edge of her vision. Maeryl, with her fingers broken and bloody, sat on dunes beside her.

“I didn’t recognize you at first,” Maeryl said. “I couldn’t find you in the blackweave.”

Her voice was metal and Talia realized her mouth was too. Teeth and tongue and the black hole of her threat. Her face was covered in metal bandages that shone with red from the inside. The braids of her hair were black serpents tied off with their own pink tongues and the black of her eyes were spiders that fluttered their legs like lashes.

Her eyes bulged through the bandages, became vermillion buds that bloomed open to pink insides.

“You’re dead,” Talia said.  

“You’re saying the obvious,” Maeryl said. “Say something different.”

She was petting Khee with gloved hands. Gloves that were hands. Carved from someone else’s body and sewn to her arms at the elbows. They billowed, fabric or synth or skin. Inside them, things small and black shifted and scuttled.

The thing that wasn’t Maeryl flicked a hand and ran it down Khee’s back. Except it wasn’t Khee, not really. It was Khee gone inside out, the red of his flesh a raw and ruddy skin. Sutures, puckered and pink, ran along the lines of his shoulders. The creature shifted, and something inside went the other way, broken and bulging. His eyes were unseeing, white and thick, run with mucus. His snout lifted—the entirety of it nothing more than two rows of long, skeletal fingers that came together like teeth. Sharped at the ends. He sniffed the air and blood spattered from the holes in his bones.

like

Or maybe it was

look

the creature said in something that had once been Khee’s voice but now was bitter acid in the bowl of her stomach. Talia put her hand over her mouth, trying not to retch.

“Why are you here?” she asked with a mouth that no longer worked.

“You know,” the thing that was Maeryl and not Maeryl said.

“Here’s your ocean,” the thing said. “Beware the salt.”

~

Finwa, Poison Eaters. May the moon meld you and may you shine.

The Poison Eater: Picking Your Novel Back Up After You Put it Down

posted on: April 21, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Even those of us who write full-time sometimes have to put projects aside for long periods of time. Recently, I had to put my novel, The Poison Eater aside in order to finish up another book I was working on (The Torment: Tides of Numenera sourcebook). I’ve talked before about how I like to have multiple projects going at the same time, but one of the side-effects of that is that sometimes one of those projects moves to the forefront (due to deadlines or other needs), and you have to sink deep into it and focus on it solely for a while, pushing everything else to the side.

Now that Torment is finished and off for editing, I can move The Poison Eater back to the front burner of my brain. Of course, that is HARD to do after so much time away. I find myself saying, “Who is the character? What does that look weapon like again? What the fuck was I thinking here when I wrote those? Oh, I had an idea for this chapter, but I’ve totally forgotten it.”

This is the point where many people give up on their books. It’s HARD to go back to it. The sparkly bits have lost their shine. The path is overgrown and full of thorns. The characters you loved have started to fade into ghostly paper dolls. You can’t remember what happens next, and you are sure you screwed up whatever came before.

But here’s the truth: very few people have a life where they can work on their novel non-stop. Life intervenes. Someone gets sick. Work explodes. Summer arrives and you spend your days down in the dirt with seeds and soil. There are a thousand ways to step off the novel path — but there are also a thousand ways to step back on. It’s hard, yes, but not as hard as it looks. I promise.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.16.44 AM

I have a whole bunch of techniques for picking a novel back up and finding my way back into its dark woods. I thought I’d share a few in case you find them useful.

  • Use a Pinterest board or other visual resource as a reminder. I start an inspiration novel board very early on, pinning everything that makes me think of the book, whether it’s a color scheme, a character’s expression, a weapon, or a creature. As the novel develops, I start moving some of those pieces into Scrivener and I start making notes. Talia has this character’s eyes, but her tattoos look like that character, and this is the dress she wears when she goes to see Isera. Using art can help you remember tiny details about your story, and submerge you back into the deep well of writing space.
  • Use music. I have a Spotify playlist called The Poison Eater. Some of the songs are general, to get me back into the feel of the book. Others are specific to characters, places, or even scenes. If I’m struggling to remember a character’s motivation or need, listening to their song helps put me back in their mindset.
  • Take ridiculous notes. My notes for a novel are crazy, wild, all over the place, and probably make no sense to anyone else (god forbid someone reads my novel notebooks after I’m dead. They’ll think I’m completely psychotic). But just picking the notebook up and flipping through it can help spark connections and get you back to the page.
  • Reread what you’ve written. Do this on your phone or ipad, where you won’t be tempted to go into editor mode and try to fix things. Just read for the rhythm of the book, the sounds of the characters, the thematic essence. Read it aloud if it’s useful to you.
  • Watch a movie or show that captures some essence of your novel — a character, the locations, maybe even the plot. Do this mindfully. Be aware that you’re thinking about your novel, that you’re sinking into the story. This process can be a bit like guided mediation. Don’t feel like you have to watch the whole thing. If you’re halfway through and feel inspired, stop the movie and jump into writing (or start writing with the movie in the background).

Beyond all of those suggestions, I come back to what I always come back to: just do that shit. Seriously. There’s a moment where you have to stop worrying and wondering. Just know that you’re going to screw it up, be okay with it, and write anyway.

Which is what I’m going to go do right now.

~Moon meld you, poison eaters.

The Poison Eater: Singing Cities and Angry Robots

posted on: March 11, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Enthait is a city that sings. No. Singing isn’t the right word. The city’s sound isn’t one of mouth or lungs, throat or tongue. It is stormvoice–thunder crack and cloud breath and rain pattering on a bloodied blade. It’s a beautiful and terrible chorus that makes her bones howl in reply. 

Enthait is a city that sings. And every time Talia hears it, it knocks her back.

She hadn’t meant to emerge from the tunnels here, but she also wasn’t surprised to push open the door to Emont’s underground room and instead stumble into the bright daylight and open sky of the athenaeum. She staggered as the song threaded through her–everyone told her she’d get so used to it that she hardly heard it, but that day had not yet come.  

As she stumbled, a hand caught her by the elbow, rings clanking against the metal armband.

“Affah,” she said, nodding her thanks.

It was Burrim’s voice that answered, low and close. 

“Liar.”

[new draft chapter, work in progress]

 

Big news on The Poison Eater this week, and it is this: we’re partnering with a really awesome publisher called Angry Robot to publish softcover versions of the Numenera and The Strange novels! That means that not only will the books get a wider distribution, there will be more of them in the future AND we get the benefit of the really smart Angry Robot team.

I did a Twitch channel? broadcast? show? last night (my first one ever) for a really fantastic sci-fi podcast called Speculate with Monte Cook and Patrick Rothfuss about Torment: Tides of Numenera, and in it I talk a bit about the writing process. It might be of interest to some of you.

That’s all for now.

Finwa, Poison Eaters. Moon meld you.

~shanna

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

The Poison Eater: Double Fisting Your Writing

posted on: February 21, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.14.03 AM

I can’t remember if I told you this already, but in addition to The Poison Eater, I’ve been working on the sourcebook for the upcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera computer game. (As well as thinking about dinosaurs and guns for this other thing).

I’ve always been someone who likes to work on multiple things at a time. I think it comes from my own nature of loving to start and learn new things (I once had someone tell me, “Well, of course you never finish anything. You’re an Aries.”), but it also means that if I get stuck on one thing, I can jump over to something else. That (plus, of course, damn and lovable deadlines) is what keeps me from hitting writer’s block (or, more commonly, writer’s “what the hell am I doing?” inertia.)

I like to have one book that I’m just starting (all these awesome ideas! and I haven’t written anything but ideas so it’s still perfect! WOOO!); one that I’m still in the “I got this” stage (cool. I know what I’m doing. This is going well.) and one that I’m in the “OH NO I NEED A NEW JOB!” stage (Ugh. This is awful. I can’t remember what I wanted to do with this book or my life. I should just tear it all up and start over.”)

Currently, that’s Predation (new), Torment: Tides of Numenera (knee-deep) and The Poison Eater (Ugh. I’m the world’s worst writer).

Having three projects that were all in the same mental space would be awful, I think. Particularly if it’s in the world’s worst writer phase. I might never write again.

On the other hand, I know lots of other writers who like to deeply immerse in a single thing. Anything that takes them from that thing is a nuisance and a distraction. I envy that in some ways. I don’t think I have the focus or patience to sink that deeply in a single thing, but there’s a lot of value in that process.

I think one of the biggest fallacies in writing (beyond: There’s only one way to do it) is the idea that you are going to figure it out right out of the gate. That you’re going to finally carve time and space out of your life and you’re going to sit down and make a single book and you’re supposed to just know how to do it. And that’s just utter bullshit.

It took me years of shame and “I’m doing this wrong” to finally admit that I worked on multiple things at a time, because I’d never heard anyone else talk about that. Worse, I keep trying to do it “right” — in this case, by writing a single thing. And, my god, the time I wasted.

Allowing myself permission to work on many things at a time might seem obvious to lots of people, but it wasn’t to me. It was one of the many blind spots I had in my own writing process. So if there’s something that you do that feels like it works for you, but you don’t think you’re supposed to do it that way, I say: keep doing it. Maybe, in the end, it isn’t your thing. But maybe it’s one of the important keys to your writing process.

Double- (or in this case, triple-) fisting your writing can be weird sometimes, I’ll admit. Today, for example, my task list looks like this:
Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.24.05 AM

And there’s a very different tone and sensibility for each book. So I have to figure out good ways to transition. I have talismans at my desk for that process. There’s a dinosaur with bright colors and feathers that reminds me to do good research and make sure we’re representing dinosaurs as they really were. There’s the cover and a map for The Poison Eater. All I have to do is look at Talia striding across the Ninth World and I remember what I’m doing. When I’m about to start working on Torment, I often jump into the beta of the game for a few minutes, immersing myself in the interactive version of what I’m making.

Working on more than one thing keeps me excited about each of the projects. Because I know that if I get stuck on one, I can jump to something else. And by the end of the day, I’ll have words and ideas to move all three projects forward. And that, more than anything, is what I know about what it means to be a writer: What words I have made at the end of the day.

~iadace~

 

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

The Poison Eater: Say No to Say Yes

posted on: February 18, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Photo on 2-17-16 at 10.28 PM #6a

How do I say no to thee? Let me count the ways:

  • Sorry, can’t make it to your event/wedding/game/dinner party/awards ceremony.
  • No thank you, dirty dishes.
  • Just walk by the XBox… walk right on by. Fallout 4 will wait for you.
  • “I’m sorry. I’m booked out with clients for the next six months.”
  • I can’t do your podcast/radio program/video blog until May.
  • Oh, puppy. I know it’s a beautiful day for a long hike, but how about a bone instead?
  • What dinner?
  • What shower?
  • Go away, social media. Go away, cute puppy pictures. Go away, trolls. Go away, interesting and informative articles.
  • I’d love to, but I must decline for secret reasons.

Saying no is, for me, the hardest part of writing. I WANT to say yes to all the things (Okay, not all the things, but many of the things). I like people (mostly), I like fun things (a lot), and in all truth, there are days where I’d rather do ANYTHING other than write. Those are the days where I almost convince myself that I like cleaning out the fridge.

But. That’s not my road. My road is the No Road on the way to the Yes Road. In order to find writing time, I have to leave something behind, like so much litter out the window on the highway of life. (Don’t actually litter. Duh. It’s a turn-of-phrase).

When I was 20, I thought I’d have time to do everything. Write all the books. Love all the people. Have all the sex. Eat all the desserts. See all the places. Learn all the things. Watch all the movies and read all the books.

Now I know better. Now I know that every gain is a loss. Every yes is a no. Every recipe perfected is a chapter unwritten.

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t want to suck the joy out of my life. One of my oldest, most favorite shirts just says HEDONIST on it in big, bold letters. I want it all, goddamn it. And there’s a part of me that’s still angry that I can’t have it. But the older, wiser (?), more realistic me gets it. It’s a return-on-investment equation. The bigger the NO, the greater the YES.

Today, I said yes to this blog post. I said yes to dinner and watching X-Files and playing with the dog. I said yes to work tasks that can’t be put off.

And then I said no to everything else. Because this novel needs a lot of yes from me today.

What will you say no to in order to say yes?

~iadace~
Shanna

PS – Did you snag the sample copy of the first chapter of The Poison Eater yet? Grab it here.

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

The Poison Eater: Have a Chapter!

posted on: February 14, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Photo on 2-14-16 at 10.24 AM #3

You can now download and read a draft of the first chapter of The Poison Eater

I talked about the chapter and my process a bit in our recent Kickstarter update:

The Poison Eater is a story that is deeply immersed in the Ninth World. Along the way, you’ll encounter places, creatures, and numenera that you recognize, as well as a lot of weird stuff that will be entirely new. Talia, the main character, will be your guide through the dangers and delights of the Ninth World.

I say all of that as though the novel is complete, and of course it’s not yet. I’m an organic writer (a process I do not recommend, by the way); I don’t start a novel on page one and write it chapter by chapter. And so I’m always tweaking and changing things as I go, making them better, upping the stakes, breaking more hearts, kicking more ass.

This first chapter will likely change a bit by the time I finish writing the rest of the book (this is just a rough draft, after all), but I’m happy with how it’s coming along so far. I hope will be too.

~iadace~
Shanna

 

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 33 The Poison Eater: Finwa, Poison Eaters.

posted on: February 2, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 8.23.21 PM

Finwa, Poison Eaters.

I’ve been reading a lot about language and the invention of language as I work on The Poison Eater. For the past few weeks, I’ve been making my way through The Art of Language of Invention, and earlier today, I read V.E. Schwab’s great essay on language in the world of magic.

The world of Numenera has a few “common” languages (meaning languages that a number of people in the more populated areas might speak) such as The Truth and shin-talk. But in many parts of the world, the only language spoken is the local language (or languages). To give the novel a better flavor of the world and its people, I want to incorporate parts of those local languages into the novel.

The main character, Talia, has the language of her growing up. It’s a whispered language, a secret language, designed for the offering of hope and kindness in the dark. It’s a soft, quiet language, full of words that can be spoken without opening the mouth too far, without hard consonants that bounce off walls and give the speaker away. It’s a language of touch and lips to ear.

Talia also has the language of Enthait, the place where she lives when the novel opens. Enthait is known as the city that sings, and its language too is a song, spoken with a lilt and a running together of words that can make it hard for newcomers to understand. Here, words are believed to have power. Some words spill over with the power of their thing. Kaffre, the name of the city’s defense force, is a word spoken fiercely, to show that the Kaffre too are fierce, hard-edged, strong. But the names of the city’s poisons – ebeli, itasi, iisrad — they are spoken languidly, to show that their power is insidious, slow-acting, subtle.

Finwa is an Enthait word that means a prayer, an offering, the antecedent to a request. You speak it on the exhale of the breath, to give a bit of your life with the saying of it. This shows you are serious in your meaning, and that you are prepared to exchange something precious of yours in return for the thing you are asking.

Finwa, Poison Eaters. Moon meld you.

Shanna

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 24 The Poison Eater: You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

posted on: January 24, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Photo on 1-24-16 at 5.24 PM #3

Here’s the secret to writing, creating, and living life that no one tells you. Or that someone did tell you, but you didn’t hear it or you thought, “no, that can’t be true” or you heard it but thought it didn’t actually apply to you.

You don’t know what you’re doing. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s how it’s supposed to work.

All the parts of that truth have to go together. Don’t say one without the other two. In fact, I’ll say it again, as a single sentence, in case you didn’t hear it:

You don’t know what you’re doing–AND THAT’S OKAY–because that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Every day, I sit down to do my job. And I don’t know what I’m doing.

Every day, for twenty+ years, I have sat down to do my job. And I didn’t know what I was doing.

Every day, for twenty+ years, I have made a career out of doing something that I don’t know how to do.

And that, I think, is how it’s supposed to work. To be a creator, you have to create. The very act of creation is to make something brand new, to do something that’s never been done before. How could you know how to do it if it’s never been done?

There’s no secret potion. No magic bean or button. No book or class or teacher that’s going to give you the perfect key to the creative door. (And having read a lot of books, taken and taught a lot of classes, I’m all for them–I think they’re great, and they help you learn–but they’re only part of the process). 

If you want to be a writer, a creator, a life-liver, this is the only way I know how:

Be okay with the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Sit down and do the thing you don’t know how to do.

It’s a catch-22, but the very best kind: Because every time you sit down and do what you don’t know how to do, you start to figure out how to do it. Rinse. Repeat.

To do it is to learn how to do it. So, the sooner you start screwing up, the better.

Today, I screwed up 2500 words of this novel. Tomorrow, I will screw up even more.

Go. Start screwing up. Right now. I dare you.

~iadace~

Shanna

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 23: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 23, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

The Poison Eater Cover-2015-08-05

Just put the nail in the lid of the draft of the first two chapters (yes, two!) of The Poison Eater for Kickstarter​ backers. I’m very very happy with them (even though I know that a lot will change by the time I finish the book and go back to do a rewrite).

Also, I apologize in advance for breaking your Ninth World heart.

~iadace~

Shanna

 

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Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 21 The Poison Eater: Write and Rewrite

posted on: January 21, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

JAM_9583ac48-f8c7-409f-9dd9-4afcbd176282

I have started this blog post three times. Four, now, by the time you read this.

I had what I thought was an awesome idea for a blog post, which was to write today’s section of the novel in Word (I usually write in Scrivener) with the Track Changes on, so that I could take a screen shot of it and you could see all of the changes that I made as I worked on a single section. Because I don’t have an internal editor, but I do have an internal voice. And I’m always adjusting the words to get the voice right. One line leads to the next and the next, and there’s a delicate balance. Writing a book is, for me, like building a house. If every brick in the foundation isn’t right then it will fall in the end. (Of course, I’ve written enough books to know that I never get every brick right and it will fall at the end, and I will have to rebuild it, but the closer I get to being right, the less rebuilding I have to do later).

Sadly, for whatever reason, the track changes wouldn’t take. So, here is a section without track changes. But let me tell you, if I was writing with pen and paper, this entire section would be so slashed through and rewritten and torn apart that you couldn’t read it. Thanks be to the god of the delete key.

There was very little in the room other than herself. A bed. A small table topped with a hexed arm band and a broken blue-black blade. A cobalt cloak upon a hook. Two doors, one to the street and one to the clave. And Khee, curled about himself and snoring lightly on a blanket in the corner, the creature’s weirdly angled legs and long neck forming an impossible circle.     

Talia picked the hexed metal armband up and pulled it over the space where her hand used to be. It glowed blue as it settled around the skin of her upper forearm. Emont’s handiwork. He’d wanted to recreate her a hand, but she’d refused. She had reasons for wanting to remember her loss. That negative space was as important to the entirety of her self as her face or the streaks of red hair that had grown from the scars on her scalp. 

She had not been able to turn Emont away from building this, though: As she reached for the cobalt cloak hanging on the wall, the hexes covering her forearm spread apart and reworked themselves into a semblance of her former hand. The transition was silent, and took a mere second—barely long enough for her to marvel, as she always did, at Emont’s skills—and then she was using both hands to pull the cloak over her head.

The cloak was not hers. It belonged to her station—those who had worn it before and those who would wear it after—but the metallic fabric settled and shaped itself around her as though it had been made for her. It had taken her weeks to figure out how to flow the fabric with a thought, but now it was second nature, a passing trifle in the small ritual of getting ready.

~iadace~

Shanna

 

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

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