On revisiting an old story: the Shadow series

Dangerous by Sickbynature
Dangerous by Sickbynature

I’ve been debating revisiting the Shadows series for a little while.

There’s two books currently; Shadows in the Light is about an assassin and a vigilante, a city filled with corruption and hope. I wrote it when I was just out of my teens, and it – bitterly, beautifully – reminds me of London every time I dip back into it. Ghosts in the Fog was the second, plotted on a train in China and looking at the assassin’s fight against his past, the new workings of the city, the slow rise through the mire.

And I always knew there was a third book. I’ve got a scribble someplace; “I can’t write this until I’m older.” I knew I wouldn’t be able to write it when I felt barely out of my teens and, bluntly, hadn’t had any experience in losing things to know how dearly a character very close to my heart would fight for the things she really loved.

But I’ve been pondering, for the last few months, about reworking them. I came up with a title for the third book yesterday – Hunter in the Dark – and I know roughly what it would be about. I wanted to properly plot out the first two, and I knew that they needed rewriting; they mix too much of my old and new styles so that I can’t revisit them; I’d have to completely rewrite. Which means, of course, that it would be a big project (and one that’s sitting alongside my GreenSky novels). It would be a different world and a different style of writing. But I loved that world. I invested so much of my heart and soul into the story; picking up the characters again would be like meeting old friends. And I’d be able to make it better. I’d be able to use some of what I’ve learned in the past few years – make my characters bigger, make my plots sturdier, bring my city to life from my memories. It will hurt to rewrite. But for all the love and the joy it would bring…it would be worth the pain.

So that’s an ongoing thought, and that might happen. Watch this space 🙂

How to create a character (A Kate guide)

Ok. I’m going to try to give you some sort of insight into how my mind works…I need a new character in Heights & Horizons. I don’t have anyone in Taderah to follow for my mapping, and I’ve pretty much got a blank canvas; I don’t have any characters already that I want to follow specifically.

My first point was an image that I have kept in my mind from the very early history of Greensky; a patch of ferns in a woodland, surrounded by firs*, with sunlight trickling down onto their bright green tendrils. We walked through a forest with my aunt, and I knew that somehow, I wanted that one scene to be in my world.

The forest was silent; a sleepy, quiet silence that lulled and swam. The golden tendrils of sunlight were floating down through the branches, and there was only the faintest of breezes. ___ walked through the silver-white trees, bemused and wondering.

The branches were like lace above her head, their faint tracery overlapping and fanning in a beautiful pattern that radiated out from the trunks. The white of the bark made them look ghostly, but they shone in the sunlight. When she held out a hand to them, the faintest radiance made her skin glow, giving her an aura of golden light. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Who is she? Why is she walking through Taderah?

And then I went off on a tangent. If we follow a mapper, that’ll take ages. I can do it in another book, but in this one, I’m trying to keep things a bit more fast-paced. She wouldn’t be mapping. So who is she?

At times like that, I let my mind wander. I started thinking about people I knew who could serve as character templates…who’s interesting? Who has a role that I could use? Who could serve as a darker side for events? How about a boss, or supervisor? (Thankfully nothing to do with my current ones, who are lovely, but I admit a former one may have been inspiration). My X character has a supervisor who’s going to belittle and criticise, she can never be good enough…

So what happens if she finds out that her work is actually brilliant?

And then I realised I could pull a character in from a previous story; someone who’s insecure, horrible, arrogant and selfish. Someone who’s already been through the grindstone of Iilde’s temper. What would happen if he was handed his first research project, and got two assistants? He’d treat them like dirt and take all the credit…which would work up until X found out.

There’s a few more tangles (hey, I gotta keep some spoilers from you!) but that’s dropped my main characters in. I haven’t yet got a name for X or for her companion, but they’re formed in my head; I can ‘see’ them!

However, this does mean I can’t use my lace-forests piece…but I have a solution to that, too. I need a second setting for Crystals & Communications, and I want to explore Taderah’s forests without the world-view of the Mages. I can use my walker there and as I still don’t know who she is, that’ll be fun to work out when I come to write that.

I’m really looking forward to writing my next chapter about X and her colleague and her supervisor – and the nicest thing about the Greensky series is that I know they’ll come back in later, somehow.

 

* Edit: they’re Tsugas – commonly called “Hemlocks” as the crushed needles are supposed to smell like hemlock.

Time off to write: three days away

Well, I did get some writing done from my few days away to write! However, I also got minorly sidetracked by family…which isn’t exactly a problem, but did mean I didn’t get as much done as I wanted.

I didn’t get any of Empty Skies (Book 5 of Greensky) finished. However, I did get two chapters of Desert Sands (Book 6) written and another two plotted, Heights & Horizons (Book 7) is now only two chapters from completion, and Golden Trust (Book 8) is plotted. I had to book-hop but I got about 10,000 words written over the three days – not bad!

Heights and Horizons was my NaNo novel last year, and I managed to write half of it then. In the second half, I get to bring old characters back, but also get to introduce some new ones. I’ve stalled on chapter 10 as I’m introducing a new one, and I’m still debating what form she’s going to take. It’s one of my favourite things with writing – what’s her background? What’s her story? Why does she volunteer (or is she sent?) on the assignment that she’s on? Why is she walking through the woods, trying to map the world?

I didn’t get anything else done on my ‘day off’, but if I can kick the cats off my windowsill tomorrow, I want to do some more writing while the boys are destroying the car again. So here’s hoping to more progress!

NaNoWriMo 2014: final summary

Nearly the end of NaNo!

My official wordcount is something like 26,000 words on Heights & Horizons, which I am very happy with. I am over halfway through the story; I have a plan (planning! me!) and have just started writing the second half of the story. I hope that it will end up at something over 40,000 words, which will be about the right length. The characters are flowing, the story’s interesting, and I’m really enjoying writing it.

However, I haven’t been too worried about finishing my ‘official’ novel; I just use the opportunity to write! And in the last week I have got Salt Winds (aka book 4 in the Green Sky series) finished, and that has now gone to my editor for a first read. I’m hoping I’ll get some constructive comments but I also don’t want to have to change too much, so I’m a little nervous…

I’ve also been trying to work on Empty Skies (book 5), but I have been struggling with it. I’m missing the middle section; it’s action, and plot, and a whole bunch of new characters – and I don’t have anyone to hang the section around. I don’t have my pirate lady in my head as much any more; the motivations of my two main characters aren’t clear to me. I need to get it finished, but I also need to sit down and work at it – and my head’s not in the right place for that at the moment. I’m hoping to spend a few days on it over December, and otherwise it will go on my New Year’s list for 2015!

As well as working on Green Sky, I’ve also been working on some Dresden writing. If I total the two together, it puts my wordcount as a little over 40,000 words (13,000 on Dresden; 26,000 on H&H, a few thousand finishing Salt Winds) – and for a month of writing, for me, that’s brilliant!

So in conclusion: NaNo 2014 has been a personal success, even if not an official one.

On maps and imaginary places

I don’t think I’ve done a post on this. Have I done a post on this? *goes to look* Well, no ‘maps’ tags, so probably not…

I’ve had the Green Sky world in my head since I was very young. It started off as parts – the forest-land of Taderah came from the redwoods, and my childhood dream of living in a tree; the floating Islands of Tao were just because wouldn’t that be AWESOME? I have a scribbled map somewhere (done in those gel pens that smelled like strawberries and things, because those were the only coloured ones I could find at the time) that showed the lands we went ‘sailing’ around on our bed-ship. Some of the place names, I later realised, are villages in Dorset and Wiltshire that we drove past or through – Huish and Oare are real places! – and some of the names are simply made up. But most of it has origins that I can trace back to something.

So over the past few years (well, ten) it’s slowly become more coherent. Individual lands were brought together as parts of a whole; a desert world became a desert in another land, Quorl shrank to become grasslands and plains, and Meton/the Ridge/the Pass all became part of a mountain range. Tao hasn’t changed from those early drawings, and it’s hard to change a forest, but all the rest has been added to and condensed into one world.

But it was only last week that I actually sat down, for the first time, and drew out a proper map. I’ve done some before when I was vaguely trying to understand where people would travel from, but it’s never mattered. Now, with a story about mapping, I need to know where people are travelling from and to; I need to know what Jesse is mapping in my story. I need to be able to see what discoveries people could make. I need to see my world laid out in front of me.

Drawing the map provided a few extra bonuses. The first was that I can remember most of it without having to look things up (although I did have to check a few city names) – win! The second was that one of my previous story quests actually works if I send them ‘east’ instead of ‘north’, which is brilliant. (It also triggered the realisation that ‘north’ and ‘south’ would be cold, and I’ve written it as hot…I’m not the brightest when I’m writing. Luckily ‘east’ is equator so would be hot.) And the third realisation is that if my floating islands are on a volcanic vent, that could be traced back into some mountains, which provides me with a nice technological solution to float-ballast for the Fliyers and therefore a glimmer of an idea for another storyline.

I’ve got my sketchbook open next to me now, and I’m going to take it to work tomorrow to scan the picture in so I have a copy on my computer. I need to tidy it up, and at some point I’d love to get a professional copy drawn (or at least someone who draws better than I do). But until then, I’ve got something to reference, and I’ve got my world laid out in front of me.