Tag Archives: See The Sky Again

The Line…

TooltasticBorrowing real life cultures for fiction is something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late, and the book I’m currently reading has just slammed me in the head with what I don’t want to do.

Let me explain a little bit. In my novel-in-progress, currently titled See the Sky Again, I am working really hard on developing the culture of the Aphanasian mountain elves. I worry a great deal about the perception of that culture, I do not want them to be -insert any culture or race here- transplanted into the inside of a mountain. That being said, I have borrowed one or two of the trappings of real life cultures and bent them to my purposes. Each instance of this (there are two, from two different cultures) has required a lot of introspection on my part before I did it (a lot) and the results have been run by several people to make sure no one had any red flags or eye-rolling moments. Indecisive as I am, I’m confident now that they are woven into and integral enough to the story that they aren’t going to make people go ‘Oh, she just totally stole that from ancient Japan!’*

I’m reading The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett and for the first two thirds of the thing I freaking loved it. It’s a story about a world where every night demons rise up out of the ground intent on killing anything that moves. It’s a fantastic concept, the people and lifestyle that have developed as a result of living with that threat are very believable and I was completely drawn into the story.

I’m almost done the first book and the three main characters haven’t yet met each other which tells me that the book is not going to be self-contained. That is one of my pet peeves about books in a series, but in this case I was totally willing to forgive it because I liked the book that much. Then I encountered the Krasians. Everything I read about these people makes them sound like a renamed real-world culture to me. That taints my reading of the story, partly because I find part of my brain analyzing the story to see what the author thinks/feels about that cultur, and kills my suspension of disbelief.

As an aside, most people don’t seem to see the Krasians the way I do. As I was writing this I googled them just to see and it seems they are often seen as a cross between different warrior races. One interviewer described them as “a blend of Vikings and Mongols, with a little bit of the near East thrown in for good measure” and Mr. Brett said the original inspiration for them came from Medieval Japan. So it could be that my perception may say more about myself than it does the book. Still, for the sake of this blog post, let’s assume that it’s not completely on me.August 30, 2010

The Warded Man is well-worth reading (and I’ve not even finished it yet), but my issue with the Krasian race has tainted my completely unbridled enthusiasm for it. I don’t want to do that with my stories, and I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on the issue. Not, so much on the political/moral/ethical correctness of borrowing from cultures and what not, but more the effect it has on the work itself (or, as a reader, your enjoyment of it).

I’m sort of feeling around in my brain to see where the line is. If you’re a writer are you constantly aware of cultural appropriation? What about as a reader? Do you find yourself pulled out of a book if the cultures in it too closely resemble real ones? What about psychoanalyzing the author when that happens? I’m willing to bet it’s not just me.

*Not actually a culture I used LOL

**Pictures just added because I took them and liked them, not because they are relevant in any way.


I’m feeling intimidated by the novel I’m working on. It’s sad but true. The novel in question is currently titled ‘See The Sky Again’ and so far its got an interesting ‘life story’. I started writing it as a NaNo novel a couple years ago and then stopped because I realised it could be a really good novel if I gave it some more time to develop in my brain before writing it. So I stopped working on it, but not thinking about it. My subconcious has been chewing away on it ever since.

A few months ago I started working on it again, then I enrolled in a novel-writing class with Candas Jane Dorsey. The class, it turned out, include a lot of critiquing (both giving and recieving). I don’t usually show my work before I’ve got the entire first draft done. History has taught me that this is for the best, however, I mean, this was Candas Jane Dorsey. If I was going to get a critique from her on my work I was going to get it on the project I cared the most about. That was StSA.

I got fantastic feedback on the first two chapters which I then revised the crap out of, turned into one chapter and submitted for new feedback. The second round of feedback was even better than the first, so another revision ensued. Then another after I sent the first chapter to my regular critique group to make sure some parts I wasn’t sure about worked.

Here’s the problem. Chapter one of StSA is the best piece of fiction I’ve ever written. Ever. And now I’m intimidated by it. It feels like a betrayal almost to add on to it with a crappy first draft. I know I have to. I know that the first chapter is like version four and that the stuff I’m writing subsequent to it will eventually be polished and revised to be good. I know that the first draft of anything is shit and that I have to let it be so and just get it out. I know all these things, but I’m still paralyzed. Knowing things and knowing things are entirely different.

I’ve decided that enough is enough. I can’t be held hostage by this block anymore and I’m going to write. 1,000 words a day. The plan is threefold. First, I’ll use willpower. I know I have it, I just need to channel it into this and really stick to it. Secondly, Jo is making me a spiffy word count program with pretty graphs and stuff, that will help keep me motivated on the especially hard days. Thirdly I’ve discovered that I write better outside the house. Now that it’s warming up around here I’m going to be going to coffee every morning, taking a notebook and writing long hand while I’m there. The link between coffee and writing will be a good one, as will setting up a routine and getting out of the house.

Wish me luck. I may need it.


So, for the second year in a row I have stopped trying to write See the Sky Again as a NaNo novel. This time for different reasons.

Last year when I started writing See the Sky Again there were still a lot of blank spots in my mind. I knew the setting, one of the characters and the ending. That was pretty much it. When I stopped writing it as a NaNo novel it was because I thought I should fan away a bit more of the fog and solidify some plot points in my brain before I worked on the project in earnest. Then I got distracted with other projects and See the Sky Again got put on the back burner for a while.

Well, when I dusted it off to work on again I had a good idea of where it was going and how it was going to get there. Or, if not good, at least I had an idea, which was more than last year. Unfortunately, as I was writing on it for NaNo I just wasn’t feeling it. I love the story, and I’m excited to tell it, but I don’t think it’s destined to be written in this way. Which is too bad because I’d like to get the first draft done sometime soon LOL

However, like I said above, I’ve pushed it to the side again for a while (shorter term than last time I hope LOL). Now I’m working on the re-write of Shadows as my NaNoWriMo project.




I couldn’t help it. Shadows won’t leave me alone. It’s always on the edges of my brain, demanding my attention. After the critiques I got from Jim C. Hines and Deena Fisher I had some really great ideas on how to improve it – trying to make it wait its turn until after I got the first draft of See the Sky Again done was, apparently, a very bad idea. I couldn’t focus on StSA because I really wanted to be re-writing Shadows.

Now that’s what I’m working on for NaNo (Note to any rules lawyers out there: I know that’s technically against the rules and um…I don’t care) and it’s going well. I’m enthusiastic about writing again and I really feel like the story is being filled out more this time. (One of my goals was to add more description and fill out the middle which I felt was lacking.) Yay! I’m hoping to complete the ‘new first draft’ via NaNoWriMo and then, just to be novel, NOT workshop it to death.

My nano word count is 6,652 so far, and I haven’t written yet today. Soon, I hope.

I’m also still working on the Poem-A-Day challenge and still loving it. Wheee! I’ve got 4 zombie poems (that I Love) and 2 more mainstream ones. I haven’t even looked at today’s prompt yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be sure and share at least one of the zombie pieces in my newsletter this month.

So far, November is being good to me. I hope you can say the same thing 🙂

What about second first drafts?

The first draft of anything is crap. These are words I say over and over. I tell them to myself, I tell them to people on NaNoLJers, and I’m writing them here now. The idea of the first draft, for me, is just to get it down. Get it out of my brain and onto paper. Once I’ve done that I can revise it and make it better, but the first copy doesn’t have to be good.

But what about the second first draft?

I’ve decided to re-write SHADOWS, but so far I haven’t actually started that because I’ve paralyzed myself by over-thinking it and having too high of expectations. I have been unable to make my brain accept that this is going to be a first draft…because it’s not…it’s a rewrite, but it’s the first draft because I’m starting over, or should I? What about the parts of SHADOWS I really like? Maybe I should just really seriously revise it and add some chapters to the middle to deal with a couple issues I had with it. But if I do that, won’t it be choppy and over-revised?


This is just a small sample of what my brain does to me.

I’m beginning to think that I should just walk away from SHADOWS for now and work on something else, at least until I can gain some perspective on it. Though, if I do that, won’t it just be there, in the corner of my mind, taunting me?

I think it might.

What do you do when it’s time for a big revision/rewirte? Start from scratch or save the bits of the original that you liked? Do you give yourself permission to write crap, or is it not -really- a first draft in your mind? Does your brain mess with you as much as mine does me? And what am I going to work on at my write-in tonight?

Maybe SEE THE SKY AGAIN. It’s the backstory for one of the characters in SHADOWS and one of my critique partners said, “NAME is one of my favorite characters from SHADOWS so I have high expectations for his backstory…” when this woman says she has high expectations she means it LOL And I don’t want to disappoint her or anyone, so I’m pseudo-paralyzed there too. I need to get over that one and just remember that the first draft of anything is crap.

The first draft of anything is crap. The first draft of anything is crap. I can do this! Hopefully if I chant this for the next couple hours it will re-penetrate my brain and I’ll be able to report back tonight that I’ve made some progress on SEE THE SKY AGAIN and I can focus on that while I figure out what to do with SHADOWS.

The first draft of anything is crap. The first draft…

Retreat Update

After posting my last blog entry I sent an email to Ms. Fisher to make sure she’d actually received my story to critique. She hadn’t. I swear there are gremlins living in my email server. Seriously. *sigh* Anyway, the good news is I’ve sent her the first 100 pages and she says she’ll have it critiqued in good time for me to do rewrite Shadows on my retreat. Yay! This makes me very happy because I’m anxious to get it rewritten and in reader’s hands.

In other good news, my ARC of Jim C. Hines’ book The Mermaid’s Madness arrived today. *squee* I can’t wait to read it.

The only bad news I have is that I will have to wait to start reading it…because I need to write something for my critique group to, well, critique, on Monday. I’m out of un-critiqued stuff…seriously. That like, never happens to me. I’m thinking about doing the first chapter of See The Sky Again and sending that…just as soon as I figure out if my love interest is a man or a woman. Hmm…

Writing Retreat

My critique group is holding our first (of many, we hope) writing retreat next weekend. I’m very excited about it, but I have a problem. I don’ t know what to write on it.

My first pick would be the re-write of Shadows, but I won a critique of the first 100 pages of Shadows by Deena Fisher from Drollerie Press and she hasn’t finished the critique yet. I don’t want to start the rewrite based on the critique of the first chaper I got from Jim C. Hines and then have to re-rewrite it once I get the one from Ms. Fisher. If that makes any sense. So Shadows is still on hold. *sigh*

There is a paranormal drama/mystery novel bouncing about in my head, but I’m going to be taking a novel writing course this fall (mostly to have deadlines. I NEED deadlines in order to have focus. More about this later) and I was going to use that plot as the novel I’d work on for the course. I got the impression the course was going to have a specific novel writing system it wanted to teach, so if I’m going to give it a fair try, starting the novel ahead of time seems like a bad idea.

The collaborative project I’m working on will take up some of my time on the retreat, but because of the nature of the project, it won’t fill the weekend. Not even close.

That leaves ‘See The Sky Again’ which is a fantasy novel set in Aphanasia that I am looking forward to writing. I was going to do it for my NaNo novel last year but decided against it because I hadn’t sorted out enough of the details yet. I think I know enough to write it now…my only hesitation is that I’ll be starting this novel on my retreat, then starting the other one for my course in October. Think I can get the first draft of See The Sky Again done before then?

I guess we’ll find out…

In other, picture-related news, I think I’m going to put the bulk of the rest of my vacation photos up on My Facebook Page rather than taking this blog over with them.

Except for this picture I took at Alcatraz that I love.

And maybe a few more inserted one at a time into blog posts.