How do you write your novels?

Scott Oden, fantastic Historical Fiction writer, has posted on his blog his process of writing a scene. Go over there and read, it's fascinating!

Replying, I started exposing mine, and thought it was worth an entry of their own, even when I have already written about this, let's go into a little bit more detail!

My writing process, once a story bites me and doesn't let me go, is the following:

First I read, everything I can, about the event, the surroundings, the starrings, the political, military, economical, health, cultural, etc situations, and try to find a place to match everything with everything. These are usually frantic times, of book shopping, book hunting, and Internet searches.

Then I find a time slot to get my hands dirty... :-)

Then I start planning the whole thing. I follow, though, a different process from Scott's, I think: I have IONs (Items Of Narration) which are kind of scenes/chapters (actually they are linear narrations that can't be fractioned and keep their wholeness, so I can't mess around with their narrative ordering without creating weird temporal rifts and whatnots, which may be on purpose, anyway... :-)

IONs sometimes are a couple of scenes, and sometimes whole chapters, it depends on the specifics (and my chapters were very short a while ago... Currently they are a bit longer, which is somewhat worrisome, but we'll see...). They are all born from the basic novel layout, which is the way the 'director' in me wants the reader to get the story: each item gets a heading, and goes into the 'TOC' with a letter.

Once I have the TOC set to my liking, I get the rough layout of the novel:

The Libyan had identified some 22 IONs in 3 parts, plus opening and closing chapters: Prelude: S, Part I: A-B-C-D-E-F-G, Part II: H-I-J-K-L-LL-M, Part III: N-Ñ-O-P-Q-R, Epiloge: T;

By this time, I know, roughly, what I have to show/tell in the book and I have the dependencies between the different IONs solved---e.g. ION C cannot be understood without reading ION H first, because C happens first in time, but it's actually a flashback from H and needs its info to avoid repetition.

As an example, here's Damned Linneage: Prelude: U, Part I: W-A-F-B-G-C, Part II: H-D-I-E-K, Part III: L-M-N-Ñ-O, Part IIII: P-Q-R-S-T; Epilogue: V; yes, the flashbacks end with the Part II, which is a crisis point, anyway... :-)

Then, it all boils down to get the ION, read the 1 or 2 lines description, recall what's all about, and what has gone before, and pre-create the whole thing in my mind. While doing the TOC I already decided on POV and narrator (for example, in D.L. there's a 1st person POV in IONs A-F and then an omniscient 3rd person narrator. In Inaros I have three voices, one for the Greeks (Argyros), one for the Libyans (Amyrteos), and one for the Persians (Megabyzos), but development has shown a second Persian voice (Bagâbigna), and I may change the whole voiving thing once I start rewriting/editing the draft; in Alaric there was a 1st person narrator, presbyter L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, and an omniscient 3rd person narrator, with two, so far, additional voices: Alarīks's and Pa. Cornelius Ruber Thiudarīks's).

So, I get the ION, the story in my head, the actors ready, makeup, dressed, and characterized correctly (even if they need post-production FX or C.G.I. partners), the set already up, the attrezzo in place, the orchestra in place, partitures and violins at the ready; silence! camera! action!

And then I complain about this! I am, definitely, a whiner: there are not many things comparable to get all your being involved and transcribed into words; comics are one I've also enjoyed creating, the 9th art, but it takes a lot of time and effort as well, so I cannot afford more for the time being. The other activities I have felt this are quasi-mystical in nature, and hard to describe in words (ocarina-making and Aikidō, among them)

Whichever, though, there's magic around, and if you can feel it, and transmit it to your readers, so they can share your world---their world!---with you, and together live a new experience, one that'll transform all of you into better persons, and happier, the more the better! :-)

And that's all... Tooth pain, and a travel in the sights, a great long weekend in my homeland, Galicia (good, old, poor, Gallæcia). I'll try to take pictures!



Egyptian sarcophagi found near Giza!

Yup! Apparently of some 2,500 years of age, they are believed to be from the XXVI Dinasty! That's Inaros's daddy's Dinasty! :-)

Reuters reports that one of the sarcophagus bears the name Neb Ra Khatow, while the other one was inside the first one, and it definitely bears human appearance...

Now, if Carbon 14 was able to pinpoint a little bit more, I'd have a name to use in my novel... :-)

Osiris and Ra (I wonder if Re would be more appropriate, and if the owner's name would, then, be Ned Re Khatow... Any egyptologist with language knowledge around?) are depicted in the exterior sarcophagus, which was to be expected, I guess... We'll have to follow this discovery closer!



Do Not Disturb: Genius At Work

After considering lots of interesting possibilities, and weighting the different combinations, this is, probably, what's going to go into the book. More or less, anyway... Hehehe... :-)

I'll show you the Real Thing, but in the mean time, I can't wait to show you the battle of Memphis!

That's right, to show you! I have recreated the Battle of Memphis! Nod...

Now, this is a low scale, poor resolution sketch of the Real Battle, so please be kind with the author (who happens to be me, please be doubly kind!).

Ladies and gentlemen... With all of you, and only for you (considering the number of readers I have, this is basically true! :-) The Battle of Memphis!

Legend: Red is Greeks and Libyan rebels, Blue is loyal Persians (ahem!).

The rebel lineup is, after roll call, Left wing Libyan cavalry, Libyan and Egyptian infantry led by Pharao Inaros (and his generals; on the upper left of the image), Right wing is Greek epibatai, mercenary hoplites and Tesalian cavalry (depicted as a horrible diamon of 3 sides, i.e. a triangle, because I forgot it was a diamond configuration and drew a triangular Macedonian formation, my fault; all of this led by strategós Kharitimides and his commanders; holding the Place of Honor in the battle line). The Persian line is, Right wing assorted Median and Bactrian cavalry, and Memphis garrison and stationed army, plus the Eastern Fort army, led by the Lower Egypt army general; Center Persian infantry (basically Lidyan army and Upper Egypt Judean garrison from Elephantine; led by Megabyzos himself, because Artabazos is AFK because of illness) and Left wing, opposing the Greeks, the bulk of the Siryan army and cavalry (led by Megabyzos's commanders, including Megabazos).

Cavalry is marked by the crossed rectangles, infantry by the non crossed ones, and movements of the different units are marked in their own colors. The black line in the middle shows the infantry battle line after the clash between the armies, while the lines that leave the picture on the upper and lower sides mark the initial clash and further development of the cavalry units as they run away and pursuit each other.

I've left the picture very clean, in order for you, gentle reader, to clearly envision what's going on, once I get the pictures off the camera card, I'll show you the thing in its full glory, with all the gory details easily discernible... :-) For example, here's no distinction between shock troops and distance troops, or between heavy and light infantry, for example.

Of course, this battle is the final clash of a much more complex operation that's going on in several different layers and places, this is simply the signature to the whole thing...

As a final note, I am sure that the clever reader will have already guessed in which battle I have based this one, roughly---and only roughly, because I noticed the similarity only after I have saw the battle, not when it was happening---, to show Megabyzos's military genius. If you haven't, though, then you'll think I am really clever and a military genius myself, which will be very funny and will make me laugh until very late hours in the night before a chimney when I am an old, famous writer... :-)

Lastly, I know the picture is not scaled, don't be picky... If you press me enough, though, I'll make a scaled one, but be forewarned: the scale of these bussinesses is really beyond the experience of a XX Century born mind, unless you happen to have military experience... Don't complain if you feel scammed after it! But first, you'll have to insist... :-)

ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗ (and blessed Litha to all that celebrated!)


We'll Always Have Prosopitis


OK, the crisis is over, sort of. My long time reader and collaborator, Pierre (pacal), has shaken a bit my foundations and self-pityness, and he was about right, anyway.

So, I'm back into The Libyan. I'll update the sidebar of this new layout to contemplate this one of these days.

Where were we? We were in Memphis (Libyan rebellion army and Delian League, Greek navy) and in Pelusion (Persian army).

Our impressive Satrap of Syria and General of the Armies Megabyzos (Bagabuxsha) has conquered Pelusion back from the paws of the Rebellion after a long trip through Palestine, and the Sinaí desert, and is getting ready to defeat the Rebellion once and for all.

The Greeks, led by stratégos Kharitimides, and the Rebellion army, led by the recently (self-)crowned King Ienherru (Inaros) of Libya, Son of the Sun Psammetik IV, Pharao of the Two Lands, are licking their wounds, still trying to break through the solid defenses of the White Castle of Memphis, which has been resisting a siege for almost four years.

Our "starrings" are also well positioned: Libyan Prince Amyrteos is in Bubastis, preparing a line of defense on the river, while Argyros, the Greek psiloi, and Leucon, the Sacred Band mercenary, are coordinating the efforts of the Greeks in effectively blockading the Phoenician, Persian fleet in the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. In the meantime, our young general Megabazos (Bagâbigna) is preparing the path for the Army to move to Memphis, securing the Eastern bank of the river all the way upstream to Memphis and the Eastern Fortress little army.

Now, the pieces are almost in place, and the big battle is ready to begin: the Persians will destroy the Rebellion in Memphis, and force the Delian League navy to drydock in the river island of Prosopitis, near the town of Papremis where the first big battle happened, four years ago. The remnants of the Rebellion will hide in the Libyan marshes beyond Mareia, while the Persians will siege the Greeks for 18 months before destroying them, securing the whole of the Delta and returning the normality to the Lower Egypt.

Now, the trick is, how did they do that??? You'd like to know, eh? :-)

Well, I'd love to as well! I am, however, examining different possibilities. I'll move for the more plausible one, but not if it's extremely complex to do so. The most probable path, nevertheless, is usually the fastest, but that rarely means the shortest, just the easiest to travel through...

The Persians will have to be able to win the battle (not an easy feat, as the Rebellion's been fighting and working for years, and count with a formidable army of 5,000 Greek hoplites) and force the 200 Greek triremes to land on the island instead of escaping down through Kanopos or Naukratis... I'm about to setle and start writing. I'll let you know how it goes, but experts and friends alike, you are welcome to share your thoughts... Let's discuss!

And thanks for being out there... :-)




Alright, maybe as a result of the small crisis, or jealousy of Scott's new image, I have decided to revamp a bit this blog... a bit ahead of time for the incoming Summer Solstice, but anyway...

I am using a new template file, but I'll probably make up a new one one of these days, though maybe not.


Yes, reconsidering...

What? My current WiPs, specially The Goth.

Why? Because I am starting to see I can't enjoy writing down a certain detail level I --at least at the moment-- have to deal with writing novels for such lengthy periods of time. I tend to become wandering and disillusioned. I enjoy reading those kind of novels, but I'm no Gisbert Haefs of Gore Vidal to write them, and I can't seem to find the "right" way for me.

Solutions? Well, yeah, kind of.

I have to concentrate in shorter events. I have to be able to find the knob of the historical event and concentrate around it. Shorter means more focused, more character-driven, instead of event-driven, and where characters show the story, instead of me telling it to the readers.

This is easy --more or less-- to do for The Libyan, because it's mostly written, and the events left are "just" 18 months. Besides, the whole thing can be seen as a unique event with some small ramifications (the Spartan thread, and the siege years), but it's the Rebellion, the Greeks, and the Defeat, basically one biiiig jump, not lots of things happening... Therefore, I think I will concentrate on it and on doing a good rewrite, and then I'll evaluate my whole possibilities with The Goth. Because I find it fascinating, but there are so many fascinating things to tell about! And this is part of the problem, by telling I lose the showing...

As for Damned Linneage, it's conceived in a completely different way, and I think I will be able to follow it without so many problems.

In my last entry I suspected I had moved through a door, but instead of closing behind my back, I find an open, wide space in front of me, full with opportunities to become a better writer (who knows, maybe a good one in the future?) if I am bold enough to locate myself in the map...

Anyway, I'll appreciate your help and comments on this matter...



Gothic update

A little update in The Goth:

$ perl ../Meta/wc.pl alarico_2006062.txt 120000 2>/dev/null
W: 12937 (MP: 51.748, PP: 25.874), %: 10.7808333333333

This is small step ahead, but I think I have broken a certain barrier,
conceptually speaking. We'll see how things move along after my exam next Monday.

Great weekend to everybody in the meantime.


PS- Edited to correct some typos.