It seems I haven't written in this very much. And I probably should go to bed instead, but I'd like to write this.
I have the hard proof of my novel, Final Flight of the Ranegr!
I was so excited to receive it last Friday, having ordered it from IngramSpark with expedited shipping. I waited so long for Tess, my graphics artist, to finish the amazing cover art, spent two weeks assembling the cover, submitting the eBook versions to Smashwords and Amazon, and getting my Ingram account ready.
Ingram finally accepted my manuscript and cover versions, and I ordered a proof copy. I put my address down properly, and waited anxiously for the delivery. It never came.
I checked the shipping quote. Ingram had stuffed up the shipping address! And it was the Australia Day long weekend, so I couldn't get the copy until the next Tuesday! Gah! So much waiting!
I had to go directly to the depot to pick it up, and LO! The first hard copy of Final Flight of the Ranegr! What started in 2011... doesn't end in 2019. There's still way more to be done.
The Story behind the Story
I should probably describe the story behind the story...
The Stalled Magnum Opus
During my undergrad, I'd been building upon an invented world I'd been developing in High-School. I'd germinated various stories set in an invented universe, the most prominent ones in my mind about one individual: The Silver Alchemist, a elven, telekinetic savant in a yellow jacket.
Then, while I was doing professional experience in CSIRO during the summer of 2009-2010, I bought an expansion set for the game Spore, and played a few of the missions. I recall this one battle that was so intense - cartoonish, sure, but intense. It struck an image in my mind of The Silver Alchemist himself in an epic battle. So, I started writing. In the space of three weeks I'd written almost forty-thousand words. By June 2011, I'd written almost three-hundred-thousand words!
And I wasn't even ten per cent of the way through my planned story!
Unfortunately, I was still a little novice as a writer, and did a lot of info-dumping and telling, which is a bit of a no-no in the realm of fiction writing. Also, as I reached out to publishers and agents, I was told unequivocally that I had no chance of getting this story published as a first-time author. As I was sure to find out later, there is a huge investment in editing and publishing, and the investment is proportionate to word count. So, unless you're an established author with a large fan-base, publishers (being businesses who are in the market to make a profit) won't touch a manuscript as large as mine was. So I grew despondent, and found it hard to continue writing.
I can't remember who told me, but someone suggested I write a smaller story, set within my invented universe. That way, I could gather some fans, introduce my world, and then I could start on my magnum opus.
A Seedling on a Cardboard Pirate Ship
My writing languished for a few months... plus I had a PhD to worry about, and boyfriend duties to attend to.
Then, my sister invited me and my girlfriend at the time to a circus show with her kids. It was pirate themed, and I was surrounded by little kids. I did feel a little out of place. The woman playing the pirate captain stepped up on the stage and screamed, "We need a couple o' kiddies to scrub the deck!" Naturally, all the kids threw their arms in the air, screaming, "Oh, me! Me! Me!"
I kept dead quiet. It's odd, since I'd worked in speech and drama, and acted in student films, you'd think I'd have been okay being dragged on to the stage. But to be honest, I am still a little shy.
Anyway, two of the pirates leapt off the stage, grabbed four kids, and dragged them onto the stage. These kids were screaming and fighting back, and I was thinking, "Umm... those kids don't look too happy. They might ruin the play, guys." Then, almost ten seconds later, I realised, "Ah! They're part of the play!" And they were.
As I'm watching the show, and seeing these people bound about on the stage, something just jammed its way into my head. I walked out of the theatre, almost on auto-pilot, so much that my girlfriend had to direct me to the car as if I were Ray Charles. I went home and wrote a two-page synopsis for what would become Final Flight of the Ranegr.
Fits and Starts
I started writing in October 2011. I was determined to keep this under eighty-thousand words, which would make it more appealing to publishers.
It was slow going, because instead of info dumping, I had to control myself. If ever I wanted to info-dump, I would start a new document and write out the ten page essay about the concept I'd come up with. Then I'd come back to the story, and completely forget my train of thought!
It was also a bit hard to keep writing and manage my PhD work. I had to write papers for my degree, and that meant experiments! Practical experiments and simulations! Those took up a lot of time and were quite soul-destroying. Plus, it didn't help that I had to deal with a break-up. TMI, I know, so I'll leave it at that.
I got about halfway through my planned story, and was infuriated to find my word count at sixty-two-thousand. Goddamnit!
I hired a beta reader to help out with the story, and she was really helpful in providing feedback about the characterisation and story structure. But I reached a point in the book, in what is now Chapter 15, where I stalled entirely for almost a year. I tried to write, but it was at a point where my protagonist had to learn an alien language cold, without any support. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out a way to write that without a lot of telling, which was something I wanted to avoid.
I moved onto a programming project for a while. I put a bit more focus on my PhD papers as well, and even spent time overseas presenting at various conferences. Finally, at the start of 2014, I was able to get moving again.
Languages and World-Building
I read some excellent world-building and language construction books by Mark Rosenfelder. I used the knowledge therein to invent first the alien language challenging my protagonist, and later languages used for naming and enriching the invented world. I have used several samples of the language, written both using latin characters and alphabets I invented for the languages. I produced beautiful calligraphy from this effort...
I just realised I didn't credit Mark Rosenfelder in my acknowledgements section! Damn it!
I'll have to do so in my next book.
I may also do a blog post boasting my languages. Hehe!
It was on 17 November 2014. I finished the first draft of Final Flight of the Ranegr. Final word count: one-hundred and seventy-nine thousand and sixty-six words! Almost one-hundred-thousand words more than I'd intended...
God, I was annoyed!
I started the editing process slowly. I gave the book to friends to read, and the feedback was useful. One friend in particular suggested I expand the ending a little more. She said it felt very abrupt. So I did, and added another ten thousand words to the story. Gah! Will my word count not cease to rise!?
Obviously, the story of Final Flight of the Ranegrdoesn’t end here. There’s at least another blog post’s worth to rant about.