Friday, April 30, 2010

Heat Map and Answers

Remember this post I made last week about revision? Here’s the results of some of that analysis:

Steam Palace Heat Map
The columns left-to-right:
  1. Scene Number
  2. Word Count
  3. Cumulative Word Count at end-of-scene.
  4. Importance (0-10). High values indicate a critical scene that usually contains some form of turning point.
  5. Promise Count – Promises are new pieces of story information not explained in the scene. This is high in the beginning of the book and tails off towards the end. I do have a “promises kept” count column but I haven’t started filling it out yet.
  6. Tension Level (0-10) – How high are the stakes in play in a given scene? This is what keeps the reader interested.
Note that this is Act I and a bit of Act II. Can you tell which scene is the transition scene? So you can see that the map starts pretty hot, levels off, then pops up for a bit. From here on, the map should increase into the reds as we press on into Act II, then Act III should be red across the board. Hmm…does that mean the ending is more important than the beginning?
One thing to note is that anything in green is probably worth cutting or combining with another scene. Since I’m running about 6K words over budget, I’m going to look through this carefully to see what I can do.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More on Revision

More on Revision

love_on_the_square Or is that Moron Revision? Anyways, as usual, I’m now five months into my revision of Steam Palace. I’m now at the point where I’m in a full rewrite and done with all the endless analysis. So much stuff is changing that it’s hard to keep up. I now have to figure how twins were separated at birth. D’ohh!
I’m trying to avoid getting sucked into the Evil Twin meme. Even though the twins grow up on the opposite side of the tracks, I don’t want one to be the polar opposite of the other.  And then there’s the so-called love triangle, where my MC is marrying one guy but is in love with another. Well that damn twin messes everything up, because she loves the guy the MC is supposed to marry, but then gets with the guy the MC loves….it’s a horrid mess. BTW I’m NOT a romance writer. So now I have a Love Quadrangle (or is it a Love Square?). Help…me……
And then there’s this new element, this whole backstory that explains why and how my alternate history is alternate. And I’ve barely touched on it, and it’s an integral part of the story.
So right now, I’ve printed out what should be the first third of my novel (Act I + maybe a little Act II) and I’m going over it with a fine-tooth comb. I can see a lot of issues in the printed version I can’t see in Word. Aside from writing down all the story issues I find, marking up poor sentences, and checking consistency, I’m rating every scene on these dimensions on a 0-10 scale. Then I add a comment to justify the score.
Dimension Definition
World/Setting How real is the setting? How unique is the world?
Conflict How intense/interesting is the conflict? How can it be improved?
Tension How much will the reader care about what happens here?
Twist How big, permanent, and irreversible are the actions in the scene (the outcome)?
POV How strong/deep/intimate is the POV? Do we really feel the emotional arc of the scene?
Importance Probably the most “important” dimension…how important is this scene is the grand scheme of things? Turning points should be 8-10, pure backstory should be 0-3. How much does this scene contribute to the Main Plot?
Character How believable are the character’s actions? Are they “in character?” Would they really do these things or am I making them act for my own convenience?
Continuity/Transition How does this scene flow from the previous to the next scene? Do we know where/when we are relative to other scenes? Are we missing anything in between?
Theme How strongly does this scene express the Main Theme of the novel? Do we go off on tangents?
And now here’s my write-up for Scene 4 to give you an example. I probably need to be harsher on the numbers, but I’m still fleshing out my system.

World/Setting 7 Nice intro to RL. Maybe some more details on clothing
Conflict 8 Emperor is asking Dunstan to do a lot of hard things he doesn't want to do.
Tension 9 Emperor is nuts.
Twist 8 Dunstan now has a few to get married
POV 7 Dunstan really sees what's going on...need a bit more emotional reaction
Importance 6 Kind of backstoryie. Also promises a lot that won't show up until Act II. It might make sense to push back a few scenes
Character 6 Emperor is good, Dunstan a bit soft, but he knows his place. Emphasize Emperor's power a bit more
This gives me a better feel for time but it's not related to the other scenes in any way yet.   
Theme 6 Nobility gone wild. Power madness.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t plug my Bad Girl Blogfest coming up May 7! And checkout my Blogfest Page for many more!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alternate Version Blogfest: Steam Palace

Thanks to Livia Blackburne for hosting the Alternate Version Blogfest.


alternative I chose a scene from my WIP Steam Palace where Prudencia, my main character, meets Lily for the very first time.

Original Version:

A rustling noise shivered the door. Prudencia shot up, feeling vulnerable with only a towel to cover her nakedness. The door opened, and a figure stepped in, closing and latching the door behind. The figure removed a cloak and turned to face Prudencia.

“Oh,” she said.

Prudencia held the towel tightly. “Um...hello? Who might you be?” The person who had just entered didn’t look much like a housemaid. She bore long golden hair, a contrasting dark complexion, and her low cut shirt revealed half her bosom, which had been enhanced with some kind of tight corset. Dark liner circled her eyes, and her lips were painted a painful red. Her skirt ended shockingly right below her hips, exposing her knees and ankles. Prudencia wonder if some street walker had just walked in by mistake, not that she knew what one looked like except in books of course.

“I’m Lily. I’m the—maid.” She extended a white gloved hand.

Prudencia studied the girl. Buxom, handsome, mixed ancestry, but the kind of figure she knew men sought. She grasped the hand and shook it. “Aunt Bea—I mean Lady Harwinton is not up yet,” she commented.

“She never is.” Lily lifted a sack and handed it to Prudencia, who managed to grasp it without losing her towel. “Put that on the counter, would you dear.”

Prudencia lifted the heavy sack and heaved it over. “I’m Prudencia, Lady Harwinton’s niece. I just arrived late last night, and I’ll be staying here.”

“For how long?” Lily eyed Prudencia.

“For—as long as I want, I suppose. She wants to show me Hartford.”

Lily laughed. “Not much to see here. Factories, banks, whale rendering plants, machine shops, a lot of boring stuff. If you want some excitement, you’ll have to leave this part of town.”

Okay, I call that “Welcome to Snoresville.” So during revision, I completely changed Lily’s character into someone much darker, and changed her name to Viola. I wanted her and Prudencia to be in conflict from the first second they meet. In the first draft they become fast friends. In the new revision, they hate each other…but they will be forced to work together and overcome their differences. So here is the “alternate” version of their first encounter:

Prudencia woke to the sounds of rummaging. Judging by the moon’s progress, dawn’s arrival would be imminent. She pulled on a thick woolen robe and wrapped it against the night’s chill. Something downstairs clinked and clattered. She stepped into the hall and glanced into Bea’s room from which emanated the soft sighs of sleep. Could some stray animal be foraging in the house? She grasped a baleen broom from the corner of the hall and crept down the stairs, prepared to beat away any crafty raccoons who might be pilfering the pantry. The nocturnal animals were regular infiltrators in the Wethersfield Manor, and a strict beating would usually deter future infiltrations.

She froze near the bottom. This was no animal. A dark figure moved among the shadows. An intruder. Prudencia clutched the broomstick. The creature dropped something and cursed. A woman’s voice. She peered into the unfamiliar pantry, searching for an accomplice, but the female felon worked alone. She spotted no sign of forced entry, but the darkness could conceal the evidence.

“Come on, where is it,” muttered the figure.

The intruder lit a small lamp. In mere moments, Prudencia summed up the figure before her. A black corset and dress, long dark tresses of hair, and deep colored eyes revealed the hallmarks of a lady of the night. Prudencia might have been raised in Podunk, but she knew enough of the world to notice the bright painted lips, the red sash, and ambergris scent of a prostitute. As she computed this postulate, the woman’s gaze fell upon Prudencia. A thick silence gripped the air as both women appraised the situation.

The black-clad intruder sprang for the door, but quicker than thought Prudencia blocked her, wary of her sharp red nail-tipped fingers. She waved the broom above her head. The thief crouched like a cat, her gaze darting about the room. “Who are you,” demanded the intruder at last, pointing a finger at Prudencia. “What are you doing in my house?”

It has come to my attention that people do not like the name “Prudencia.” In fact, many people hate it so much they would rather read something else than deal with it.
So in the spirit of “Alternate Version”, I’d like to suggest some alternate names. Let me know if any of them resound with you, or if you have any suggestions.. I’m looking for a formal, antique sounding name. (Last name is Stratton FWIW)


Apparently, there’s more to “Alternate Version” than I thought…many people are alternating genres….so here’s my attempts (very off-the-cuff and unedited)

Spy Version:

Agent Stratton woke to the subtle noises. She was instantly awake, every sensory nerve firing at maximum. She downed a stim, just in case, and checked her Glock as quietly as possible. Something stirred down in the parlor. She had come to this B & B her aunt run as a vacation, and now she feared her past had found her. She slowed her breathing, and hugged the walls as she crept down the stairs.

Down in the kitchen, a dark figure rifled through drawers. Dressed in black riding clothes, a helmet sat on the counter, along with a brown leather duffel. Stratton noted the curves of a woman. She hoisted the gun to eye level.

“Drop it,” she said, but before the words left her throat, she must have made a telltale noise, because the intruder pulled her own gun. They stared each other down.

The intruder spoke. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my house?”

Slash Version (The alternative alternate version)

Prudencia woke from her usual dreams, her body tingling with a lust no man could satisfy. A noise echoed from downstairs. Throwing on a sheer silk, she stumbled down the stairs, wondering who dared disturb her delightful slumber. A woman pawed through drawers in the kitchen, but not any woman. Perhaps another guest, Prudencia could not remove her gaze from her curvy figure, her pert breasts, her deep eyes and tumbling hair. She drew in a sharp breath, and the figure turned to her.

The both watched each other as time stood still. Every sense in Prudencia’s body came alive. She dared not hope for the impossible, that this woman shared her desires. At last the angel spoke.

“Please tell me you’re staying here too,” she said, her breast heaving with emotion.

Sci Fi Version

A chime woke Prudencia. Words flashed across her vision, something about a visitor. She rolled out of bed which deflated and retired to its box. She waved and arms fell out of the closet, throwing clothes on her. She checked her message list and feeds, finding nothing of import. Her hoverpad approached, and she stepped on. “Downstairs,” she said, and the pad pushed her along while a head spider arranged her hair.

She stopped at the bottom. A readout appeared in her vision, identifying the person who rummaged through the kitchen.

Robotic Model “Viola”
Current Location: Steam City
Current Assignment: Pleasurist

Yes indeed, the android bore the trappings of a pleasure provider, the vinyl and rubber of a machine dedicated to the whims of its clients. The machine turned to her.

“Return to your designated quarters and you will not be harmed.”

I hope you enjoyed those!