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Posts under The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Day 15-17 The Poison Eater: On Choices (and the End of Choices)

posted on: January 17, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

 

Day16-TPE

 

Some days, you have to choose between writing a blog post and writing another paragraph on your novel. Or between writing a blog post and working out. Or, on the really rough days, between writing a blog post and taking a shower. The past few days have been like that for me. Blog posts got scrapped for more novel writing, an hour-long walk with the dog along the nearby Cheasty Trail, a shower, and even a little Fallout. This is the trade-off you make, every day between now and the day you die. Every day, small decisions. Do I write? Do I spend time with loved ones? Do I take a nap? Every day, words that you give up in lieu of other things. There’s no right or wrong. There’s only today and choices. Tomorrow and choices. Until all of your choices are behind you. That’s how stories work too, I think. The character makes a choice every scene, and those choices inform the next scene, and on and on until someone (the writer, in this case) says, “Okay, you’re done. You’re out of choices. How do you feel about your life?”

In general, I don’t take much time off. It’s the danger of being driven, of hearing death’s pen coming for me, of owning and running a fairly small, fairly new business where people (both fans and employees) are counting on you, of thinking you can do it all. But on Friday, I checked everything off my to-do list for the day (a rare accomplishment), played some Numenera with the Monte Cook Games team, and then took the rest of the day off. I needed it. My creative sponge was wrung dry, and there was nothing else to get out of it.

I thought I’d jump back into the book on Saturday morning, raring to go. Let me tell you, that was not to be. I was like a school kid who’d gotten the taste of playing hooky in my mouth and who never wanted to go back. “Snow day!” I cried (even though it wasn’t snowing). “But I’m sick…” (even though I wasn’t). “I just don’t feel like it.” (that one, at least, was true). Most of the time, tight deadlines don’t allow me to listen to that whining little voice. I have to wrestle it into submission, lock it in a cage, and refuse to let it out until I’ve done the work. But sometimes I just let it run wild and I listen to it, deadlines be damned (yes, yes, I know that the odds are very good that past Shanna has just screwed over future Shanna in a very big way, but she’s done it before and I know she will give me cookies and I will forgive her).

So I decided to read instead. I am very careful about what I read when I’m writing a novel. I unconsciously steal other author’s voices the way that some people unconsciously mimic other people’s accents. Short stories are okay. Non-fiction. Graphic novels. So I read The Art of Language Invention. I read about the deadliest rocks on the planet. I read a paragraph or two out of every book on the coffee table (it probably doesn’t surprise you to know that’s a lot of books, and if I didn’t love coffee so much, I would call it a book table instead).

And when I had read enough that someone else’s words had filled me to the brim, I put down the books and started writing again. Because the writer that is Death gave me the choice, and who knows how many more I will get before he decides my story is at its end.

~iadace~

Shanna

~~

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Day 14: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 14, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel
Photo on 1-14-16 at 4.28 PM

Butt-in-chair face.

I locked myself in the coffee shop today for four hours and wrote a lot of words. I currently have 24,000 words. Probably half of those will be changed, cut, or expanded upon before I’m done with the first draft. I currently anticipate that the novel will be about 80,000 words.

Here are a few of those words, in very particular order:

Poison never lies.

But Tali does. Every time she takes the poison, she lies. False words are the only weapons she has left, and she wields them with precision, but not with pride. She tells the ormess that she sees danger in the woods, creatures in the clouds, something coming, something dark. Not too specific. Just enough menace. For those who are looking, those who believe, there is always a danger to be found outside Enthait’s walls.    

She would lie this time too. She had to.

In the small room that she’d come, over time, to think of as hers, Tali marked another circle on the wall with a small spray pen. Five silver circles. Five moons. Five poisonings. Five lies.

~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 13: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 13, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

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Cutting Losses

I cut the first two chapters of my novel today. The entire first two chapters. Every word. Just ripped them out whole-cloth after waking up at 5 this morning with an epiphany that I had started the book too early in the story.

Ten years ago, doing that to a book would have caused me grief and panic. Oh, my god. I would have died. Just given up. Or, I wouldn’t have cut it because I would have been scared.

But now I trust myself and my process. Now I know what it feels like when you do the right thing for a book. This morning, dumping all of those 8,000+ words felt freeing. It felt perfect.

It does make me panic about my upcoming deadline — 8,000+ words, just gone! — but I know in my heart that book is already better for it and that’s all that matters in the end.

~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 12: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 12, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

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What I’m buying myself when this novel is done. ↑

Some days there is nothing as hard as putting one word on the page in front of the other. Those are the days that you need to promise yourself something pretty at the end of the trip. Today, I promised myself this skirt. I won’t get it today. Or tomorrow. Not this month. Or next. But I will get it. And every time I wear it, I will think of how I persevered.

One word in front of the other. As many times as you can.

~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 11: The Poison Eater

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

Day11-TPE

The Things Writers Carry

There are very few things that I NEED in order to write. A pen. A piece of paper. My brain. That’s pretty much all that I have to have in order to write.

But there are many, many things that I WANT in order to write. These are things that make the writing experience smoother, better, easier, or sometimes just more comfortable. Many of these are tangible things–of course, there are lots of intangibles, like software and apps, that I will write about some other time. Today I want to focus on the tangible things.

As I gathered myself together to sit down and write today, I had at my side:

  • My Macbook Air. (I alternate between that and my iPad/Keyboard, depending on what I’m doing)
  • My lined Moleskin Alice in Wonderland notebook (I prefer dots over lines or blank pages, but this cover was too good to pass up)
  • One of my many, many Papermate InkJoy pens (writes great, super cheap).
  • A blanket. (I’m often cold and insecure when I’m writing, and a blanket solves both problems at once)
  • Hot tea (Today’s was Apple Crumble from T2. And then it was a homemade mocha).
  • The kind of mug that makes me happy to look at and drink from (This one is from Society 6)
  • A dog at my feet (Dog is lab-something mix rescued from the local animal shelter; they’re sold out of her, but you can probably find a different one in your size)
  • Rain against the window (Seattle-style)

Here are some things that I no longer need (or want) to have in order to write:

  • Cigarettes. Yes, I used to smoke, in my former life. And there was a time that I had myself convinced that I couldn’t write unless I was smoking.
  • Soda. See above.
  • Stress and sadness. See above.

Building a character is so often about focusing in on the things that the character holds dear. The things they carry. Covet. Care for. Now I’ve told you the story of the character that is me the writer. What I cherish. What I’ve left beyond.

For Talia in The Poison Eater, she covets and loves the things she’s lost more than the things she has still: Her arm. Her innocence. Her lover. Her blue-black blade.

Part of Talia’s journey–part of all of our journeys–will be discovering what new things she carries now and learning what they mean to her.

~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 10: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 10, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Got up. Coffee. Some words. Some people I like.

Panel: Beginning GMing: Tips and Tricks

Lunch. More coffee. More people I like.

Panel: Queer as a 3-Sided Die

More people I like. Drive home.

Some more (very few) words.

Dinner. No more coffee. Sleep.

Today’s word tally while at OrcaCon: 394.

Tomorrow’s word tally goal: Exactly 10x that.

~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 9: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 9, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Day9-TPE

Writing in Small Spaces.

By writing in small spaces, I don’t mean like in a closet or inside a dryer (although I’ve known more than a few writers who sneak off to the bathroom to write, since it’s the one place in the house that they know they won’t be disturbed). I mean in small spaces of time.

I like to write in big chunks. Ideally, a week. I’m kind of kidding, but also not really. My ideal way to work on something is to have a long stretch of time where nothing else is required of my brain. I can do nothing but think about the story. The most productive I’ve ever been was when I lived on a tiny, rural island in Scotland. I only knew a few people. I didn’t have a job. Internet was sporadic. I walked and ate and read and wrote A TON.

But the truth is that space rarely happens. Thankfully, I do have a life where I can often grab two or more hours of solid writing at a time. Not always though. This weekend, I’m a guest at a lovely convention called OrcaCon. I’m doing panels on sex, gender, GMing, spending time with people I adore, and doing some other fun and interesting stuff.

I’m also trying to write this novel. Which means small spaces of time. I’m at a coffee shop now, and have just finished writing for the 15 minutes it took me to fuel up on caffeine and sugar (and to recharge my introvert battery). I managed to get some solid words down, to rework a small section that’s been bugging me, and to jot down the ideas that I had on the drive to the convention this morning. It’s taken me another 3 or 4 minutes to shoot a photo and write this blog post (which probably means there are typos, so I’ll apologize in advance).

Now I’m going back to the convention, feeling like I’ve accomplished something. I’ll probably try to get another 15 minutes in later in the day as well. One of the things I’ve learned is that successful writers are often the ones who find time for what they love. I once had someone tell me, “Everything you want to achieve requires some kind of pain. Choose your pain wisely.”

So here is my pain I choose: that sometimes I don’t have my ideal of long spans of time to write, but I find a way to make the time. Even if it’s just 15 minutes. Small spaces make big things.

~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 8: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 8, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel
Photo on 1-8-16 at 11.38 PM

How my novel sees me.

Late-night writing to this video tonight. This is the theme song for one of the saddest part of the novel. It helps get me in the emotional space that I need to break your heart. You’re welcome.

 

~~

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 7: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 7, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Photo on 1-7-16 at 9.52 AM

Today’s work is going back to the beginning, both literally and figuratively.

The idea for The Poison Eater came about when I was working on a short story for one of our fiction collections. The story idea was really exciting to me, but the story itself wasn’t quite coming together. I realized that part of the reason was because the story was bigger than I could tell in a short piece. It needed breathing room to explore the characters and the situation.

So, when I needed to come up with an idea for a Numenera novel, I dug up the draft of that story and used it as my inspiration. So much has changed since then, but the essence of it and the main character have stayed the same.

My novel-writing process is a jumbly process that I honestly don’t recommend to anyone else. It takes forever, it’s confusing, and it’s a lot of extra work in the end. But it works for me — and if there’s one writing “rule” that I believe in, it’s: Find what works for you.

To start, I write an “outline” — I put that in quotes because I’ve seen other author’s outlines, and they’re beautiful binders full of detailed plot points, chapters, scenes, and character backgrounds. Mine is a sentence. Or maybe two. And then I start writing. Each section that I write continues to add to that outline sentence. It’s very much like exploring the Ninth World in a game. Oh, look, here’s a new character! I should put them in. Look at this crazy place I just made up. I should put that in. Here’s a cool artifact. I should put that in!

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Because each time I encounter something as I’m writing, I have to ask questions: What is the significance of this? Does it mirror the characters’ emotional states, the thematic elements of the book, or this particular plot point? What is its role in the story? Where do I need to “back fill?” (A good example of backfill: I was writing a chapter in the middle of the book and I wrote about one particular character wearing an object. The object just showed up as I was writing (this happens a lot, I think, if you’re open to discovery). And I realized that it was the perfect object for the character, but it needed to show up earlier in the book, so that it had even more emotional significance when it showed up in the middle. So I made a note in an earlier chapter to mention the object there for the first time).

Which brings me back to rewriting the opening chapter. Now that I know so much more about the characters and the story and the objects that matter, rewriting the first chapter is all about adding those elements and giving readers the foundation to understand the story. The opening chapter is a promise of what’s to come–and until I know what’s to come as the writer, I can’t promise it to readers. I’m sure the first chapter will change again, as I continue to write and learn about the novel. In fact, this is pretty early in the process for me to go back and revisit the first chapter, but we’re sending it out to KS backers as a reward soon, so I want it to be as close as possible to its final form before it goes out.

Remember: Poison never lies.

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 6: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 6, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel
 Day6

Today was one of the first days in a while that I’ve had trouble working on the novel. I know why — I walked to the coffee shop, thinking about the novel the whole way, really excited to get to work on it. Then I sat down and …

…nearby, someone was watching a very loud video on his phone. He was soon joined by a friend, who started watching a different but also very loud video on his phone at the same time.

…the guy behind me made a phone call that started with, “I’m turning in my resignation. Fuck this shit.” And went downhill from there.

…I forgot my headphones.

…someone close by was wearing way too much perfume and my headache was instant and ferocious.

…I’m feeling a bit stuck on where to go next in the book. Go back and rework the first chapter to send to Kickstarter backers? Write a new scene? Do more planning?

None of those things by themselves is enough to knock me off my writing track, but all of them combined? It’s more than my brain can handle. It’s kind of like this: I have a dog who is 90 percent the most awesome dog in the universe (sorry, other dog owners who read this, but it’s true). But 10 percent of her is a reactive dog. If other dogs bark at her, she sometimes loses her shit. We’re working on it — she can walk by one dog now, two dogs, maybe three dogs and be mostly calm and well-behaved. But if, on a single walk, she walks by a fourth dog? Then no amount of training, treats, or tricks is going to keep her from freaking the fuck out. It’s kind of like decision fatigue, only it’s more like focus-fatigue.

That’s how it is for me as a writer. One distraction? I got this. Two. Yep. Three? Maybe. But four or five in the same writing session? Nope. I’m done. And no amount of training, treats, or tricks is going to keep me writing right then.

This morning, I did try for a bit, focusing inward and putting some words down on the page, but they weren’t good words. (Note: There are two kinds of “not good” words. The first is “rough draft not good” words, which are useful words, and ones that I can come back and fix later in the revision process. The second–what I encountered today–are words that won’t be useful in the revision. They’re just me putting words down for the sake of putting words down. It was only my own determination — I WILL DO THIS — that kept me typing and the words were angry, not in tune with the book, useless in the end.)

So, I switched gears and started writing this blog post instead. It provides a useful vessel for my cranky-pants mentality, it is easier to write right now because I know what I want to say, and it makes me feel like I didn’t give up on writing completely.

What’s the lesson here? Sometimes it’s okay to say, “Nope, not today.” (Or, nope, not right now.).

Now. I want to be careful here. It’s really easy to read this and think that it’s okay to just drop your writing at any sign of difficulty. But that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m saying know your limits and your triggers. The fault here, in many ways, is mine. I left the house without my headphones, which is the only action that I could have controlled in this scenario. That alone would have decreased two of the triggers and left me with more possibility of productive writing this morning.

I’ve found that taking a few minutes to prepare before I sit down to start writing is vital to my ability to be productive. What are your writing focus-fatiguers? Mine are social media, the Internet and email (I set up Freedom and Self-Control before I sit down to write); my caffeine addiction (I have coffee or tea ready in a cup that I like); noise (I try to remember my headphones so that I can block distracting noises AND provide myself with the right noise–my novel soundtrack, or whatever I’m in the mood for); and emotions (I’m bored. This is hard. I want to play Fallout. I should get up and have a snack – I have lots of ways for dealing with that, and it’s probably enough for its own blog post, so I’ll tackle that at a later date).

Will I come back to the novel today? I don’t know. I will probably try. There is still the stream of excitement from this morning’s walk bubbling inside me, and since I capped that excitement (instead of wasting it by writing useless, grumpy force-writing), I am hoping that I can come back to it later and that it will still be fresh and full of life. I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I’ve written this blog post, which might help someone else. I’ve dispensed with my grumpiness at those who have a large social footprint. And I’m looking forward to the walk home, where I can continue to mull over what’s next for the novel.

~iadace~

Shanna

 

Edited to add: I did return to the novel late in the day. It wasn’t as productive as a morning writing session would have been (morning is the time that brain goes zing and the words flow like coffee; nighttime is more like each word is a heavy rock and picking it up and putting it down in the right spot takes a lot of work), but I went in and reworked some of the opening chapter, and even solved a plot dilemma that I’d been having. (If you are a Kickstarter backer of the novel, you’ll get to see this opening chapter pretty soon!).

~~

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.

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