Sunday, November 7, 2010

One Year Later

Current Word Count: ~90,000 in the manuscript.
Listening to: Not too much of anything recently.
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November 5th marks the 1-year anniversary of my completion of the first draft of the first chapter of ARK.

For any unversed readers of this blog, the novel follows two alternating story lines from the points of view of Tru Arneau, a powerful Telepath in the ranks of the Magisterial Authority, and Laro Sadoleto, a crime boss of the Antipodes who finds himself in the jaws of the World's most dangerous fugitive. Each story line contains its own specific characters: we learn of the workings of the Authority as Tru traverses the vaunted halls of the Citadel while weaving her way through the political spider web to achieve her own goal: justice at any cost. And we see both the vast expanses of natural beauty and the grimy back alleys of port city of Fair Havens as Laro is forced into the service of the fugitive Sa'ava on pain of death.

The (current) novel synopsis is as follows:

Nearly a millennium ago, an unexplained geological catastrophe called the Tumult brought humanity to the brink of extinction. The few who managed to escape the disaster orbited the World in man-made Arks: drifting, self-sustained space cities.

After eight centuries of extensive terra-forming, the World was once again inhabitable. The descendants of the original survivors began re-populating the World under the banner of a New Humanity: a homogenized society committed to its own survival. This New Humanity was governed by the Magisterial Authority: a council of "gifted" humans with extraordinary physical and mental abilities.

150 years later, the World is safe, but the expanded population and political interests of an evolving culture have once again yielded a society of vying powers.

In the midst of this, Magister Tru Arneau, one of the Authority's most gifted Telepaths, struggles to track down the World's most dangerous fugitive. But years of failure are beginning to erode her tenacious demeanor, and there is the ever-present fear that a second Tumult will once again plunge humanity into darkness.



Originally titled "Days Gone By" and totaling approximately 2,000 words, the first chapter has since undergone extensive editing: it was combined with (and also renamed for) chapter 2, "The Autumn Garden," and now totals ~5,500 words. In addition, a prologue, "The Prose of Photius" was added.

Since its publishing on Scribophile.com, chapter 1 has received favorable reception by the writing community on that site from both members of the community and site administration, placing 2nd in the site's NaNoWriMo 2009 contest. It has also been encouraging to see the general positive feedback of friends and family on the first chapter.

Though many have offered to read the manuscript, my most consistent readers have been Allie and Kristina. When this thing is done, readers will be able to thank them that Dang's mesh armor does not "croak with a rubbery moan" like Chuckie's shoes from Rugrats or Darth Vader's fiber-mesh. Readers will also have them to thank that the book is even finished, as their interest in and support of the story motivated me to work quite diligently during school.

The story was untitled until about December/January 2009/10. It was, prior, titled "the Gifted" on Scribophile.com. I figured ARK to be a more appropriate title after chapter five.

Currently, I'm sitting on eighteen completed chapters with the nineteenth about 40% through at ~4,800 words. The total for the manuscript is dependent upon whether I'm working in MS Office or Openoffice. Either way, it's safe to put the word count at 90,000, which is 10,000 short of my hope. I figure it's not too much to wink at, though.

I am nearing the closing of the novel's first "book" or "act" which is entitled "Lying Awake." I felt the theme of restlessness was appropriate not only for the characters and their personal struggles but also for the sense of foreboding inherent in the uncertainty about the Tumult and the political machinations that are chugging along throughout.

My current estimation for the book's total length is anywhere between 200,000-250,000, hopefully on the lower end. It should end up in three acts.

The editing process has been consistent, with major re-writes being done on the 4th chapter's fight scene as recently as later September/early October. Less drastic changes have occurred in the fifth and thirteenth chapters and the rest of the manuscript has endured slight changes throughout the writing process. The chapter that has undergone the least amount of revision (which I also wrote in one sitting and consider to be one of the book's strongest) is the sixth.
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Some changes have taken place recently:

-The western continent, formerly referred to as "the Wildlands" has been renamed to "the Antipodes," as I found "Wildlands" too cliche'.

-"Quorum Guardians" have been given the rank of "Palatine," which, in addition to being the name of one of the towns of the Chicago suburbs, is another form of the word "paladin." It's use in the story is more Byzantine/Constantinian than medieval European.

-"Covenant coin," the currency of the New Humanity, has been renamed to "Covenant sterling." "Coin" is the choice term for "money" in general.
The Iustinian leadership has been renamed to the "Dukedom." The leader has been renamed from "President" to "Grand Duke." Lesser leaders are referred to as "Duke" or "Duchess."

-The "venture coast" in the eastern Antipodes has been renamed "Egnatia." The "Venture Bay" has been renamed the "Bay of Egnatia."
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Influences for the story are manifold. Much of the terminology (karpa, therios, kinetic, empath, iskuoid, pyromancer, mison) is Greek in origin (I knew three years of study would amount to something...) and there are also numerous terms which are rooted in church history (province of Westphalia from the peace of Westphalia in Reformation history, Tubegalia is named after Tubingen, Germany--the seat of 19th-century German liberal biblical criticism, Laro's last name, "Sadoleto," is taken directly from cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto who debated via letters John Calvin in 1539 regarding the protestant conversion of Geneva, Switzerland.)

I've discovered in the writing process that many names I thought to be original (Dang, Syrio) are actual names in other cultures (Chinese and Greek [Syrio is a derivative of "Cyril" meaning "lordly"] respectively.) It seems impossible at this point in history to write anything that is truly "original." Rather, I hope to align a number of already-used ideas in such a way that is original. (Interestingly, I was once called foul for my application of the term "Empath" to refer to those with the gift of healing. I politely but clearly responded to the critic by stating that as long as I redefined the term for my readers, I was within my rights to make the term mean whatever I chose. I don't think she took too kindly to that response.)

Influences are abound; "there is nothing new under the sun." Except, perhaps, the characters themselves. While each character fits into a certain archetype, I'm pleased to see how they interact with one another in very fresh ways. In talking with people about the characters, I find that I have moments that make me smile. Tru and Linus' banter and Sa'ava's dark comedy are two favorites of mine. I also admit to having a surprising interest in Laro.

Ultimately, this is a labor of love.
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Generally the writing process has been consistent ,though I admit this semester has been much slower for the adding of new material due to meticulous editing, my social/academic lives, and a bit of writer's block with how to plot out the complex series of events that will encapsulate the climax of chapter 19. Fortunately, I'm working through that at the moment.

In spite of the positive feedback I receive, I have learned a lot during this year. One of the most important lessons I've learned is the need to be more succinct in writing. Having written a number of academic papers, it becomes pattern to "pad" your work a bit in order to milk the word count. I've found myself cutting a lot (particularly the word 'that' ) from my manuscript and I feel it has benefited.

The need to maintain reader interest is of course always present and, thankfully, that doesn't seem to be too much of an issue. I like writing poetic prose, and from what I can tell, people like to read it, too.

For now, work progresses, and I hope I have many wonderful things to write about this novel next year!