Monday, August 26, 2013

Zero Count, Worldbuilder's Disease and Flagging Morale

Dear God in Heaven this ain't good.

It also ain't accurate - my last blog post went up on the 14th, and I've jotted down some bad attempts since - but in terms of "words of like, fiction I've put down on paper" it's pretty much spot on.

Now, in my (pitiful, shameful, insufficient) defense, my wife and I did have a baby at the end of July and our schedules have been a teensy bit thrown off by, um, getting up at all hours of the night to feed the boy. And I've recently gone back to work, which means when I get home I get to take the baby for most of the evening to give my wife a break and then go to bed for not enough sleep before I get up to do it all over again.

So it's not all me being lazy. But I don't get to use that as an excuse to not write anything.

Let me introduce you to A Boy and His Demon. (Working title. I don't use nifty code names like Sarah Cawkwell.)

I started this book last year for NaNoWriMo and finished the first draft in... February? That sounds right. The idea is an epic fantasy series, ultimately, but starting with a fairly self-contained first book where an adventurous young boy tries to overthrow the undead king of his island home. The basic plot is in place

(just got stopped by a dog walk and a crying baby, feeding and diaper change)

and I've got a killer ending and I think the story's interesting, the villains are cool and the heroes have potential.

But nothing fucking works.

The island's geography is a mess, and that's screwing up all my timelines because Boy Hero has to go from one end to the other at least once. The villages operate under a system of law and government that amounts to "don't piss off the Lich". I'm not sure if the population is sustainable, especially with people getting killed and raised as zombie slave labor all the time. There are sentient animals that probably should have been hunted to extinction by now. Trade and travel are highly limited but every village has boats capable of reaching the mainland and I'm not sure how that works.

(now my wife's going to bed, so I'm on baby duty until his next feeding. at midnight)

(and now I'm back, after about four, maybe four and a half hours of sleep)

It gets even worse when I consider that I mean for this book to set up a trilogy. What's the back story on the Lord High Butcher and his horrific master, the Burning King? How much of the southern continent does the Empire of the Dead rule? Are there still independent kingdoms? Were there ever independent kingdoms? Either way, how did they interact with my island before and after all the shit hit the fan? What happened on the island during the worldwide demonic invasion? The War of the Three Sorceresses? The Godwar? Where are the gods and the demigods anyway?

There's a term for all this worrying and nitpicking, and it's Worldbuilder's Disease.

(transcribing notes jotted down at my day job while waiting for a meeting to start)

My real problem is that I'm not writing, but also that I started reading epic fantasies when I was beginning my second draft. J.R.R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks. These are guys who have mastered the epic form and demonstrated just how much work I have to do. But how do I know when it's too much? And how do I start revising when I have so many gaping holes - honking big plot-relevant holes - in my world?

(and back home after work, haircut, dinner, changing a poopy diaper)

The answer, of course, is that I don't, I have to fill in the damn holes or there's not much point to revising. But the sad truth is that worldbuilding feels like treading water to me. I know it's necessary, but it doesn't improve my word count and it doesn't help me fix my bland main character, and the longer I do it the more I think that I'm losing my ability to actually finish the draft.

Where was I? What is this?

(God help me Miley Cyrus)

And I am going to finish the draft no matter what, because I do not need another set of lunatic ghosts dancing around in my head. (Hi Constance, hi Shosanna, I'll get to you, shut up.)

(two loads of laundry hung and folded)

I am going to finish the draft. I am going to fill in that chart with words every day. I am going to build the world I need to build.

But, ah, if anyone has any tips on the worldbuilding thing? Post them in the comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Letter To My Son

Dear Benjamin,

We found out you were on your way the day after Thanksgiving. Your mom had been nauseous for a few days and finally took a pregnancy test. We'd been trying, in a "let's see what happens" kind of way, for two years, but it was pretty much a given that some fertility drugs would be in our future.

That morning I woke up to your mom saying "What?" as loud as she could. I walked to the bathroom and I already knew what I was going to see, and she showed me the positive test. Then she cried - just couldn't believe it - and I held her. Then I raced out to get four more tests just to be sure. I think by the time the doctor confirmed you were coming we had twenty positive tests sitting in a baggie.

We told your grandparents and your aunts at the holidays by showing them your first sonogram picture. Your mom got tackle-hugged twice and a few people got choked up. Everyone was just overjoyed.

You were kind of a big deal.

* * *

I think as far as pregnancies go you were a pretty easy one, right up until the end. I had to rub your mom's feet more than a few times, and she had to go on a special diet because you messed up her blood sugar, but there was never any terrible pain for your mom and no real danger to either of you.

Not that I didn't imagine a few. You've probably seen Star Wars by now if I'm doing my job right. Well, I understand where Anakin Skywalker was coming from now. When you're a dad you can imagine all sorts of horrible things happening to your wife and son and be scared of them, no matter how ridiculous they sound. Traffic accidents were very popular in my mind for awhile. I don't know what I would have done if your mom had still been working in D.C.

I think, maybe, I didn't quite believe it was real, even when your mom's belly got big and you were just a few weeks out and we were taking parenting classes and setting up a crib for you. I kept thinking something was going to happen and I'd never get to meet you.

But I did.

* * *

The doctors brought your mom and me into the hospital on Tuesday the night before you were born. They wanted to jump-start her labor before you got too big to handle or something else happened. They gave her drugs that bumped her contractions up from "that's happening" to "Oh my GOD OW" pretty quickly - I think the time between the drugs starting and the epidural starting was the worst.

Your grandparents came to visit us in the hospital, and while your mom was talking to your grandmom there was a little "pop" on the monitor, like you'd kicked it again, and your mom's water broke. That was around seven in the morning. After that the labor went very quickly, then stopped by four in the afternoon for no apparent reason. So the doctors asked your mom if she'd like to meet you early via Caesarian section and she said "yes", and a little over an hour later we were holding you for the first time.

I got pretty overwhelmed. Okay, I cried. You probably can't imagine your dad crying all that well, but it happened. It wasn't sad crying, it was "too many emotions hitting me at once" crying. The nurses measured you - 8 lbs, 9 oz, 21 inches long - and cleaned you up and got you dressed in a little white onesie and a pink and blue striped hat. You hated that hat, it never stayed on your head.

Your mom came in to meet you and then had to take a nap because she'd been through a lot. Then we took you up to a hospital room and you got to meet your grandparents and your Aunt Lauren. Everyone thought you were adorable.

* * *

We took you home as soon as we could and introduced you to Lina. She wasn't sure about you at first, but once she got a good sniff she accepted you. She still likes to bark when we take you out of your bassinet, but she'll get over it once you start dropping some food for her in a few months.

You've been a really good kid for this past first week. You're healthy, you eat well, and for the most part you're quiet or sleeping. Sometimes you get fussy when we don't feed you as much as you want, but I swear we're just trying to make sure you don't eat yourself sick. You love car rides and your stroller and your bouncy seat and looking out the window. You like to walk around in your dad's arms and curl up with your mom in the recliner.

I hope you get to read this one day and know how much we both love you. We waited a long time for you to turn up and we're glad you're here now.