rowyn: (studious)
I have finished initial revisions on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince! That means I need first readers for it!

Blurb:

After the kingdom of Mireni is conquered by a vicious dragon, Mireni's king-in-exile is willing to do anything to save his kingdom, including promising half of his kingdom and his daughter, Princess Cherish, to whomsoever stops the cruel beast. With luck, he reasons, one or more of the neighboring kingdoms will come to their aid, and some eligible prince will claim his daughter's hand. Perhaps even some palatable individual, like the handsome Prince Eclipse, who is already on friendly terms with Cherish.

It does not occur to Cherish's father that she might have her own ideas about whom she should marry --

-- Or that the best individual to stop a dragon is, of course, another dragon.

~

This is a standalone polyamorous fantasy romance, set in one of the mortal realms through which the fey shard (the setting for the Etherium novels) passes. It's not an Etherium novel and there is no need to have read the Etherium books to follow this one. The titular prince is a transman in a transphobic culture, so content warning for transphobia. Also contains explicit lesbian and straight sex. 

If you'd like to be a first reader, send me your email! You can leave a message with it here (comments are screened), or email my gmail account, LadyRowyn.  Or DM me on Twitter (also LadyRowyn).

Thanks for reading!

rowyn: (Default)
I started reading romance novels in the 80s. I was a voracious reader, and exhausted the little branch library's allotment of the genre quickly. I could only afford to buy so many new books, so I bought a lot of used books. The used book store charged half cover price, which made 60s and 70s romances cheap.

After a couple dozen, I stopped reading 60s and 70s romances because even teenage me was appalled by the rampant misogyny in them. These were books for woman, by women, starring women characters, and YET. The female protagonists were often caricatures: helpless creatures, with no ambitions beyond love, marriage, and children.

I was, in one way, fascinated by this, because I read much older books that portrayed women in a far more attractive light. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte gave me independent, confident, interesting women. Why were 60s romances so bad at this?

While I recognized the shallowness of the characters early on, it took much, much longer for me to realize how unhealthy many of the relationships were. It wasn't uncommon to read a romance in which the male protagonist outright raped the female protagonist. I don't mean "this is kind of rapey because she's uncomfortable about having sex" but "woman is saying "no" over and over again while ineffectually trying to push him away, and man ignores her protests and rapes her".

The Flame and the Flower was a 1972 romance showcasing this trope on the lame excuse that the man thought she was a prostitute and I guess prostitutes don't get consent? And this was one of the romances I liked as a teen. I read my favorite parts over and over again.

By the 2000s, most romances had gone from "rape is a good way to get the protagonists in bed because it lets you have your pure female character and sex too" to "howabout we portray the kind of healthy relationships we'd like to be in, instead?"

I love healthy romances. I write about characters who are careful with one another, who consider issues of power and consent, who have an unselfish love for one another. They do not seek to gratify their own desires without regard for the object thereof. Even in Frost and Desire, I cling to that overall tone, despite having a scene of mind control and rape. This trend delights me.

But I feel as if romance is now held to a different standard from every other genre. We don't just say "Wow, that relationship in The Flame and the Flower is messed up": we say "This book is objectively bad because the relationship is unhealthy". When teens say they love TWILIGHT, we fret that they plan to get into abusive relationships.

People, I loved The Flame and the Flower and A Woman Without Lies and I've never been in anything close to an abusive relationship, or thought that abusive relationships were a good idea. I loved reading books about these warped relationships that somehow magically turned out for the best because they were fun, not because they were my role model.

We don't wonder if people who love horror are going to become serial killers, or expect that people who read mysteries will become either cops or murderers. We don't watch Game of Thrones because we long for a return to the War of the Roses.

But romances, ah, if they show unhealthy behaviors, it has to be because the author and the readers endorse those behaviors in the real world.

As I built my playlist of dysfunctional love songs for Frost, I found it freeing to realize just how much music glorified terrible relationships. Music is expected to cover the full spectrum of relationships, from happy to broken to dysfunctional. Music is cathartic, not a model of the ideal.

I came up with the plot for Frost in 2015, and I put off writing it for three years in part because "people will assume I think this is a romantic ideal".

And I finally decided to write my messy hurt/comfort problematic romance anyway.

Because yes, it's great that so many romance novels now model strong, healthy relationships.

But fantasies that would make for bad realities have their place, too.
rowyn: (Default)
I still consider myself "on break", so I've been doing whatever I feel like doing in my free time instead of pushing myself to be productive. I still do productive things, but I stop once I stop feeling like it. It's been pretty relaxing, and not very productive.

I've written 2500 words on The Twilight Etherium in the last week, which by my current standards is much the same as "not writing at all". I looked up my the old Master Plan(tm) I used while writing Prophecy, and realized that 2500 words a week beats my average for the entire time I was working on that manuscript. For those of you not following me back when I was working on Prophecy, I complained pretty much nonstop about how hard it was to write enough to meet my goals.

Lest you think that this means "well, obviously it's easier to write for fun than it is to meet a goal": my goal last month was 11,700 words per week, and I had no particular difficulty making it. Beyond that, after 2004 I stopped setting any rigid writing goals until 2012. I wrote less from 2005 through 2011 than I had under the Master Plan(tm). I didn't pick up writing speed until I started writing fantasy romance in 2012. (My first foray into fantasy romance was a joint project with LadyPeregrine in 2012, which alas remains unfinished. But it did clarify my love for the subgenre and contributed to my decision to write A Rational Arrangement in 2013.)

Anyway, 2018 Rowyn is much better at working on books than 2003 Rowyn.

~

On Thursday 11/29, I talked to an artist on Twitter about commissioning them for a cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. They tentatively agreed, and I said I would send character descriptions and a contract and such in the next couple of days. This was one of only two writing-related tasks for the month.

Doing it required looking through the manuscript for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, something I had not done -- well, at all. For many years, I used to read my works-in-progress avidly. This has some good effects: it keeps what I've already written fresh in my mind and I get in some preliminary proofreading. But I mostly did it because I like reading my own work. In recent years, I've been more inclined to avoid reading my own works until I start editing them. This also has good effects: it means I am less familiar with the text when I finally edit it, so I am more likely to see errors, and it means I'm not avoiding writing on the pretext that reading the existing book is productive. Princess is one of the books where I didn't go back to read earlier scenes of the book once I finished writing them.

Once I started looking at it to extract info for my artist, I got caught up in reading it. After I got to the end, I decided to start the very early part of the editing process. This is where I make a spreadsheet of all the things I want to change in the text. This part is easy because I make notes as I go along about what I want to change, so I just have to search for square brackets in the master doc and put the items on a spreadsheet.

The list had a total of 39 items. I each item scored based on how annoying it will be to do. Most of them are in the "pretty annoying" range: 25 items with a rating of 6 or higher, on a scale of 1 to 10. I went on to complete the four easiest items on the list. I don't like editing so I generally work the easiest items first so that the list will get shorter and less intimidating. Anyway, I have 35 items left to do. The total number of items on the list generally grows as I edit. It's just as well I don't plan to release this book until March at the earliest.

~

One of the sections on the annual self-evaluation form at work is "what are your long-term career goals?" Back in 2016, I looked at this question and decided to put down the truth: "retirement". I talked to my boss about it: "I would like to drop to reduced full-time -- 4 days a week -- in the next year, and drop to part time -- 3 or 2.5 days a week -- in the next two years."

To my surprise, my boss was supportive of this: "I would love for you to stay full time, but if you need to reduce your hours, we will definitely accommodate you. We value your expertise and want to keep you in whatever capacity."

When Lut was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, this had two opposed effects on my retirement plans. On the one hand, money became much more of a concern, as my expenses went up with car ownership and incidentals. It also became critical that I keep Lut on my health insurance. On the other hand, managing Lut's care was exhausting and I desperately wanted more time in which to do so. In September of 2017, the latter concern triumphed, and I dropped to four days a week. My "day off" was used to take Lut to whatever doctor visits he needed.

For a while, this sufficed. But over the last couple of months, I've felt more and more like four consecutive work days is too many, despite the fact that Lut's doctor visits have dropped to one or two per month. It had reached the point where I used PTO to cover the days when I had to take Lut to the doctor, rather than switching my day off to that day.

Last week, my boss told me that she had applied for a new managerial position in a new department, and so was leaving her current role. The promotion was official on 11/26, but she's still working in our department for a couple of weeks while the department manager searches for her replacement. My boss will officially transition in January, whether or not a replacement has been hired. Our team have all been in our roles for years, we are all pretty well cross-trained, and we can work autopilot for months without an intermediary supervisor between us and the department head, if necessary.

But this news made me think harder about transitioning to part time. My boss and the department manager have been big boosters for me for as long as I've been working for Teenage Bank. The replacement boss will not be someone within my department and I probably won't know them. Would they still support my switch to part time, as my boss had committed to?

So I talked to my boss about it: "Would it be better to switch now, while you're still here, or should I wait and see who your replacement is, or possibly stick the department manager with handling it if she's not able to replace you for some months?"

Boss: "If you want to do it soon, best to do it now, while I'm still here to manage the paperwork,"

So I emailed her a formal request to drop to part time starting January 7. I decided to wait so I could get the 6 hours of holiday pay for Christmas and New Year's that reduced-full-time employees get, instead of the 4 hours that part time employees get. I considered waiting until after MLK Day too, but three more four-day weeks felt like a lot as it was.

My overall feeling is relief at finally pulling the trigger. I have about six months of expenses in my accounts in the bank, and a lot of money in retirement accounts. The cut in my weekly paycheck will be much larger, proportionately, than the 25-33% indicated by dropping from 30-32 hours to 20-24 hours per week. First, my personal insurance premiums go up by a lot: the bank pays 80% of the insurance premium for full time employees and 0% of the premium for part-time. Second, a lot of my paycheck goes to repaying the 401(k) loan for my car, and that amount will remain fixed. I'm not sure how much I will be making, but it will not be much.

My writing income is not going to make up the difference. My net income from writing averages to maybe $200 a month, before taxes.

But Lut will still have his disability stipend from Social Security, and the house is paid for. I am hoping we can manage without resorting to withdrawing money from my retirement accounts, but if I have to withdraw money from my retirement accounts, well, that's why have retirement accounts.

And I am looking forward to spending less time at my day job. Only two 4-day weeks left!
rowyn: (Default)
 One of my friends (@InspectorCaracal over on tootplanet.space) asked jokingly about the secret of finishing things a few days ago.
 
There isn't a secret -- that's the joke -- because writers will happily go on at great length about their particular processes. It's been almost two years since the last time I babbled about mine, and I need an excuse to procrastinate on my current WIP, so now looks like a good time to do it again. 
 
I find the process question fascinating, because I have wanted to be an author since I was a smol child. I started writing my first attempt at a book when I was 14 or so.  I finished my first draft of a book when I was 35. I finished a final draft of a book for the first time when I was 44.
 
In the three years since then, I have finished and published six more books, finished editing a seventh, and finished drafting an eighth.
 
I want to emphasize one thing right here: if you always wanted to be a author but so far you've never been able to finish anything, THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU NEVER WILL. Yes, eventually you will have to finish things in order to be an effective author. But you need not be discouraged or give up on yourself based on your past failures. You can still become that author who publishes three or four books in a year. I say this because I have, so I know it's happened at least once.
 
Still, when I hear people say, "I just can't get anything finished", my reaction is "MAN I TOTALLY REMEMBER FEELING THAT WAY. FOR AGES AND AGES." Like the span of time where I wanted to be an author and write books and yet did not work on anything long enough to finish it is WAY LONGER than the tiny fraction of my life where I go "Okay, I'm going to write this book" and then somehow I ACTUALLY DO. In a reasonable period of time.
 
For my own amusement, a timeline of various milestones in my writing life:
 
1985: I started my first serious attempt at writing a novel: Draco. I'd made at least one other start, but this was this first time I made it past the first few scenes.
1987: By now, I had written over 100,000 words on five different unrelated novel ideas.  I had finished none of them.
1988: I actually finished two things this year! Neither of them were novels.  One was a very short story ("The Bribe", <2000 words) and the other a novelette ("Heartseeker", 10,000 words)
1989-1999: During this period, I finished five more short stories, four of them contemporary fiction that I only wrote because a writing class required it. I started and abandoned several different would-be novels.
2000: Jordan Greywolf told me about Sinai, an RP MUCK where he ran games. I joined and started running games there -- and, relevantly, often seeing story arcs through to completion when I was involved in them.
2002: At this point, I had written about 200,000 words of fiction over the course of seventeen years of "I want to be a writer", and had about a dozen abandoned projects. I decided to go back to one of these ideas and finish them. I picked Prophecy, a book I'd started writing in 1991, and embarked upon The Master Plan(tm). I wrote an outline for Prophecy and set a writing schedule. I also sent the parts of Prophecy to Greywolf to read as I wrote them.
2003: I started writing Silver Scales as my fun side project while working on Prophecy. I hated writing Prophecy a lot. Most of the time that I was writing Silver Scales, I enjoyed it. I never wrote an outline for it.  Silver Scales was the first of many works that serialized as a work-in-progress for a small group of friends. That "serialize every WIP for a small group of friends" habit persisted through 2014.
2005: I finished the first draft of Prophecy and the first pass of revisions on it.
2006: I finished the first draft of Silver Scales..
2009: I finished twelve short stories this year. I'd begun and abandoned another ten or so different novels since finishing Scales. Three of those abandoned efforts were more than 10,000 words long. I hadn't tried a detailed outline for anything since Prophecy. I decided to try outlining a project again.
2012: I finished another nine short stories. I started and abandoned in short order another couple of novel ideas.
2013: It'd been seven years since I last finished a novel. At this point, I had written almost a million words. I had finished two books (although not complete revisions for either).  I  had finished a whole lot of short stories. I decided to write a romance because playing through the Sith Warrior arc in Star Wars: the Old Republic a second time was too much work just to see the romance arc with Malavai Quinn. I finished writing the first draft of A Rational Arrangement by the end of the year.
2014: I finished the second draft of A Rational Arrangement. I also revisited one of my abandoned books, Golden Coils, and resumed work on it. I did not do a private serial for Golden Coils. A Rational Arrangement is one of the last works I serialized while I was writing.
2015: I finished the final draft of A Rational Arrangement and serialized and published it. I wrote/finished Further Arrangements, a collection of three follow-on novellas. I felt guilty about writing only ~50,000 words when two years before I'd written ~220,000.  I decided that 2013 represented a high water mark of productivity that I would never achieve again.
2016: I finished drafting three books: The Moon Etherium, The Sun Etherium, and Golden Coils. I also started a fourth book, Fellwater. I wrote a total of 347,000 words. I also finished editing The Moon Etherium.
2017: I wrote some more of Fellwater and then abandoned it. I also started and abandoned PollRPG, an experimental work-in-progress serial based on poll responses.  I revisited one of my abandoned book ideas from 2009 and started over on it, resulting in the first drafts of Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil. Total words: about 220,000.
2018 year-to-date: I finished edits on Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil. I revisited an abandoned outline from 2015, and wrote and then did first-pass revisions of Frost. I've begun work on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. Total writing as of 6/21: about 135,000 words.
 
I can draw a bunch of lessons for myself from this. These may or may not apply to anyone else: all advice is a reflection of the person giving it more than anything else.
 
Write Books I Want to Read. I spent 3+ years working on Prophecy because I thought it would be cool, not because I wanted to read a book like it. I thought "books like this don't exist" and didn't realize "no, they exist, but I don't read them because I don't like them." I even changed the ending on Prophecy in an effort to make it more to my taste.  But I disliked writing this book in part because I didn't particularly want to read it. I like re-reading parts of it, but as a whole it wasn't something I looked forward to with eager anticipation. This is one of the key takeaways for me.
 
I Still Abandon Projects: I think of 2018-Me as a disciplined, motivated writer who keeps working on things even when she doesn't want to, and who finishes projects even when they're a slog.  But I abandoned two projects just last year.
 
Abandoned Doesn't Mean Forever: My self-image is "once I start, if I don't see it through to the end via steady work, then I'm never going to finish it."  But of my ten complete drafts, over half (Prophecy, Silver Scales, Golden Coils, Demon's Lure, Angel's Sigil, and Frost) were completed after three or more years of being ignored. Even if I wrote 350,000 words in every year, I'd still come up with new ideas faster than I can finish them. That I decide "now isn't the right time for this" doesn't mean I will never come back to it.
 
Finishing Things is the Best Way to Learn to Finish Things: Two things helped me a lot in Learning to Finish Things. The first was running RPGs alongside Greywolf.  Greywolf was very keen on wrapping up story arcs and campaigns. I'd been roleplaying for over twenty years by the time I started gaming with Greywolf, but "finishing campaigns" wasn't a thing that ever really happened in my experience.  GMs burned out, or players did, or the GM didn't know how to wrap up the story, or hadn't really had a story in mind to start with, just "stuff happens", or all of the above. Greywolf visualized games in terms of narrative arcs, and encouraged me to do the same. He also promoted the idea that "even a mediocre ending is better than leaving it in limbo". Players had a lot of influence on the outcome of an RPG, and a GM might not be able to arrange a dramatic finish to the plot. The GM could always arrange some conclusion, however. I sometimes whined and balked at finishing an arc, but he gently coaxed me through and offered lots of encouragement and assistance. I finished a handful of major and minor arcs with characters in Sinai, and brought three different long-term campaigns to a conclusion. After I managed to pull off endings when I literally couldn't control or predict what most of the major characters would do, writing endings where all of the characters were under my control felt a lot less intimidating. I learned so much from Greywolf, y'all.  He was both an inspiration and one of the first people to encourage me and offer constructive, targeted advice on solving specific problems.
 
The second thing was writing a lot of short fiction. Writing the tarot stories was particularly useful in this regard, because I discovered I could take three random cards and build a little narrative around them. In addition, since these were short, they took much less time and dedication to finish.  So they were quick and satisfying and gave me confidence.
 
Portable Writing Devices Are Magic: I got my first phone with a keyboard in 2007 and even though it didn't improve my ability to actually finish things back then, it improved my word count immediately: I won my first Nano in 2007 and wrote half of it on my phone. In 2016, I got a laptop and that vastly improved my editing speed. The ability to write and edit while not sitting at my desktop with all of my desktop distractions is way more useful than I realized before I had devices that let me do it. 
 
I Don't Revise Until I Reach the End: When I first started writing, I would re-read and fiddle with existing text constantly. I still re-read to a degree, but I've cut back on it. I feel like re-reading before I've finished writing is an indulgence that lowers my willingness to edit once I am done. Further, any edits I make before I finish the initial draft are unlikely to be substantive, and if they are substantive they might just be things I change my mind about AGAIN before the end. 
 
"Don't revise until you're done writing" is a common piece of writing advice that I have followed without much thinking about it for the last 15 years or so, however. I'm not entirely sure it's a good idea, given how much I dislike editing.  On the other hand, I don't dislike editing now as much as I did even two years ago, so writing and editing are much closer to at a balance point with one another.
 
Outlines Work for Me: I waffled on this one for a long time, because I wrote Prophecy with an outline and wrote Scales without one. I thought my success with Scales meant that I could figure things out on the fly and I didn't need an outline. This is arguably true, but an outline makes things easier.
 
I prefer to Write Events in Order: Even though I outline my books now, I don't adhere to my outlines that closely. The benefits of writing out of order are mostly that I can work on the scenes I'm motivated to write at the moment. For me, these are outweighed by the drawbacks: mostly that I will need to do more revisons/rewrites because once I get the earlier scenes done, I will find ways in which the later ones don't fit after all. But also that I will find it more tempting to contort earlier scenes to fit the narrative I already made for the later ones.  Eg, I might realized in writing scene 5 that the setup for the already-written scenes 7-10 doesn't make sense for my characters after all. If I force the characters to follow my original script, the whole book can come across with that "characters being dumb or acting out of character for narrative purposes".  The Demon/Angel books went way off script because of this: the things that seemed reasonable in the overview stopped making sense when I was in the details. But since I was writing in order, I could just adjust the script.
 
Serializing Works-in-Progress Is a Localized Peak of Excellence: A "localized peak of excellence" is from a mountain-climbing analogy. If you climb to the highest point of the mountain that you are on, you will find that to climb a higher mountain, you have to first climb down. Hence, a "localized peak": you are not as high as you can possibly go, but you can't keep climbing up from where you are.
 
When I first started sharing my works-in-progress in 2002, I found it a huge boost in my morale. I loved having instant feedback and friends cheering me on. I was motivated to write more because I had an audience waiting to read the next scene and speculating about the direction of the story. Comments were my incentive to write.
 
But there were drawbacks, too:
 
~ I was using my most enthusiastic readers as cheerleaders. That meant they weren't offering critical feedback on my work, and were less likely to want to re-read the story in order to offer advice for revisions or corrections.
~ Once I posted a scene, I often stopped writing until I heard back from a few readers.
~ I became a lot more reliant on feedback; if I didn't get a few comments on the latest post, I'd become dispirited.
~ It made me feel like a flake who couldn't finish things. This one is more complicated, because I did finish several things that I serialized. But I wrote in spurts, and I posted things as I wrote them. The experience of my readers was "she was posting every day for three weeks but she hasn't posted anything in the last month." Every time I stopped writing for a week or more, I felt as if that slowdown was magnified by the existence of an audience to watch it. I abandoned a book at 80% finished in 2017, and that doesn't bother me at all. Every serial I left unfinished feels like a failure. Taking three years to finish drafting Scales felt like forever. Taking 8 years to finish drafting Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil felt irrelevant, because no one else saw that abortive initial start in 2009.
~ I was more likely to incorporate authorial mistakes into the narrative. Sometimes I did go back and revise scenes when I forgot to put something in, but I also lampshaded continuity mistakes or added explanations in to cover for them.  This isn't always bad, but it's something I could so without an audience if I thought it would benefit the story, and something I am more likely to do when it doesn't, if I have an audience.
~ It encouraged me to write longer: I wanted to have "something to show", so I'd write something, even if it didn't further the narrative. If readers asked questions about something, I'd write about that, even if it wasn't important to the story.  This is another "sometimes it works out for the better" case, but still.
~ Negative feedback when I was in the middle of writing a book was a major deterrent to writing more. I can use constructive feedback on outlines and on finished drafts, but criticism in the middle of the draft is generally counterproductive for me. I have too many voices in my head telling me "this is terrible and not worth finishing" to afford to give them any encouragement.
 
Ultimately, I decided I didn't need the cheerleading badly enough anymore, and I gave up serializing works-in-progress. I gave it another try with PollRPG, and ran into the same problems all over again.

Amazon Is Better at Selling My Books Than I Am At Giving Them Away: when I ran serials, my peak for commenters was, I dunno, ten or maybe twenty different people over the entire course of the serial.  The reader numbers per LJ stats and the website were considerably higher, but it still peaked at maybe a few hundred unique visitors per post, IIRC.  The Moon Etherium was much less successful, with no more than a couple dozen readers. Whereas all of my books have sold over a hundred copies through Amazon, and A Rational Arrangement has sold over a thousand. I feel like I'm doing a much better job of reaching my audience by selling books than I was by running free serials of them.
 
I Work Better with a Lot of Scheduling Flexibility:  Writing 200,000+ words on a few different books per year is a thing I can do without too much effort.  Writing 500 words every day of  a specific project turns out to be so much harder. PollRPG really emphasized this for me, because I couldn't write a buffer for it (since the polls influenced what happened next.) I would much rather have the latitude to write 3000 words one day and none the next, or to write on unrelated projects, or edit instead of writing, or whatever.
 
Goals Are Useful: In particular, slightly-underachieving goals. I want goals that require some effort to beat, but not enough effort to be daunting.  I love blasting past my goalposts, whereas not reaching them at all is dispiriting. 
 
I Never Do the Right Kind of World-Building Beforehand: These days, I try to do somewhat more world-building before I start writing. This consists of things like "general history of the setting, relevant nations, relevant languages spoken, type of government, kinds of technology/magic available".  I make character notes beforehand and set out some guidelines on how the major ones speak.
 
I am afraid of world-builder's disease so I rarely make more than 10,000 words of notes, including the outline. 
 
I inevitably get to the end and realize that I have basic continuity problems stemming from "I didn't know X when I started out so I made it up when I came to it only that would have affected twelve other things but I didn't think of them at the time and now it's all a mess and I need to fix it."
 
One of the problems is that some times I did determine X beforehand, but in the process of writing I changed my mind about it.
 
Anyway, world-building for me kind of comes down to:
 
~ make up what seems like enough of the world
~ write the first book
~ do all the other world-building it turns out you needed after all
~ edit the first book
~ be glad at least that's all settled for the next book
~ write the second book
~ crap this is in a new part of the setting I don't know enough about
~ dangit
 
I Like to Have Multiple Works in Progress. I am not a "start Book A, write until finished, revise, wait for first reader feedback, complete final draft of Book A, and ONLY THEN may I begin Book B" kind of author. Yes, I do struggle with the compulsion to Write Shiny New Thing Instead of Boring Old Thing.  But it really stopped feeling like a problem in the last two years. Now I'm more like "well, it'll be good to have a head start on the next thing and also I will still go back to Boring Old Thing and finish it." I don't know how to explain the difference except that it seems to pan out? I don't expect to finish every abandoned project I've ever started; Fellwater, to use a recent example, may never be finished even though I have the rest of it planned out. (A big disadvantage many of my abandoned works have is that I have no clear idea of where I was going with them, because they were begun before I started consistently making complete outlines first.)
 
Also, I do less "I'm not going to write anything for weeks/months and then when I decide to go back to writing it will be Shiny New Thing" than I used to. I switch tracks quickly now.
 
Last, I think it's useful to give my first readers a month or more to finish reading and for me to be less immersed in the book before I do my final revisions. Working on a different project lets me make use of that mandatory stop-futzing-with-this-book period.
 
Congratulations to those of you who made it to the end! \o/ Tell me, what are your favorite parts of the writing process?  What parts of mine would you avoid, and why?
rowyn: (Default)
Frost, master sorcerer, only wanted an apprentice so he would have someone to pass the tedium of his work onto while he enjoyed the more sophisticated and varied parts. Sorcery-bound individuals are vanishingly rare, so when he stumbled upon one who'd been overlooked by testers, he counted himself lucky indeed. No matter if the boy was old to begin an apprenticeship; he would learn.

After growing up a bastard and a whipping boy, the promise of a future as a rare powerful sorcerer seemed impossible to Thistle. He tried to brace himself for failure and disappointment.

But nothing could prepare him for his growing attraction to his master. And it turns out there is one thing worse than an unrequited infatuation with one's mentor:

Having it reciprocated.
~

Frost is, fundamentally, an M/M hurt/comfort romance. It has some kink elements, but it's a 241 page manuscript with maybe 15 pages of sexually explicit material. The side plot of characters researching new aspects and applications for sorcery is a lot more substantial than the erotica. 

Most of the hurt/comfort aspect involves the main characters, somewhat inadvertently, doing really awful things to each other. And then they feel terrible about it and struggle to cope with the consequences, to do better, to forgive one another, and perhaps even to forgive themselves.

This is a fantasy novel not merely in the sense that there's magic, but also in the sense that "in the real world, if you have a relationship that turned abusive and toxic, it is almost impossible that this relationship will later have a happily-ever-after." I enjoy this kind of fantasy, but I don't want anyone to confuse it for a role model.

I'm looking for first readers for Frost, so if this sort of story sounds like fun to you and you're interested in providing feedback, let me know your email address! You will need an address that is linked to Google docs in some way. Comments are screened and your email address will not be shared with anyone or purpose but to give you access to the doc.

You can also send to my gmail account, ladyrowyn, or message me on Twitter or Mastodon.

If this story does not sound like fun to you, that's also fine! This one is fairly niche even by my standards. 
rowyn: (Default)
One of the things I wrestle with as an author is "giving my characters distinctive speech patterns". I can usually manage to make a few main characters sound unique. But if I have a large cast, everyone starts to sound like me, or like one of a few defaults.

A couple of my beta-readers for Demon's Lure pointed out that Lure had this problem. I would ignore this criticism -- it wasn't every reader -- except that I agree with it (dangit). So I really wanted to fix it, or to be more accurate, I wanted it to be fixed. I actually have zero interest in doing the fixing

Hence, instead of fixing it, I've spent the last three weeks writing Frost.  Which is now at 70,500 words. Yes, I wrote 53,000 words in three weeks. Some authors clean to avoid a deadline. I write a different book. Uh. Go go avoidance habits? \o_

Anyway, today is the first weekday I've had off in a long time where I didn't have to take Lut to a medical appointment, so I celebrated by going to the coffee shop for breakfast. I asked a few friends whether I should work on Frost or Lure, and Lure won. So I am Actually Editing this morning, albeit slowly. 

To help me with this task, I started  building a list of specific speech quirks.  Because I tried Googling for one a while ago and didn't find an existing one that was useful to me.

A few of these are stolen directly from Bard Bloom (or maybe Vicki Bloom; I don't know which of them invented the "Sleeth" one, but I named it for the World Tree species). "Using 'the' for emphasis" is also stolen from Bard. Hopefully they will forgive me. I am sharing the list here, so that future authors can find it and maybe be slightly less frustrated than I am. Also so that I can solicit y'all for further suggestions. c_c

~

A couple of notes: I write pretty much exclusively secondary-world fantasy. So my books all have the conceit of being "in translation": none of my characters speak English, I'm just writing their dialogue in English because it is what I and my readers speak. So when I say "ESL", what I mean is "in this dialogue, the character is speaking a language that is not their native language." For bonus points, you can show them speaking their native language and take away the 'accent'.  Since all the underlying languages in my stories are fictitious, I can do whatever I like with it. I still try to use language quirks that (a) I can tie back in a sensible way and (b) are not similar to common real-world stereotypes.

If you are writing an actual English-as-a-second-language speaker whose native language is, say, Mandarin or German, I strongly recommend you do research to figure out what kind of missteps they are most likely to make in English and do not just pick one because it sounds cool.  You know that, right? Of course you do.

Unusual tenses: Speaker uses a tense that's a little bit off, like "always uses 'shall' instead of 'will'", or uses past tense instead of past perfect, or never uses imperfect tenses. This kind of quirk can be grammatically correct by careful choice of words; in fact, the whole quirk  may be "they phrase things in an odd way that avoids these tenses".  Tends to give the impression of an ESL speaker.
Improper conjugation: Also an ESL quirk. Character might conjugate all verbs in the third-person, say, or might not conjugate verbs at all. Another option is to try to use declensions on nouns or otherwise do things that aren't done in modern English.  Declensions would suggest the speaker's native language is very similar to the language they're speaking now, close enough that declining nouns feels natural.
Uses names often instead of pronouns: not all of the time, just more often than most people.
Uses nicknames instead of pronouns: again, do sparingly
Nicknames everyone
Endearments: 'she calls me baby/ she calls everybody baby'. 
Terse: short sentences.
Long-winded: run-on sentences
Breathless: insufficient punctuation, or avoids needing punctuation: "we went to the store and then to the bank and after that came home!"
Sleeth: always speaks in the present tense. 
Brevity: Leaves out normal words if they're not needed for clarity: "Went to store" instead of "I went to the store". Or even "Store."
Shatner: pauses mid-sentence for emphasis
Articles for emphasis: speaker uses "the" instead of "a", to call attention to a noun. "He bought the beautiful rug" even though "rug" had not been mentioned earlier.
Avoids possessive pronouns: "he has a thoughtful expression" instead of "his expression was thoughtful".  This kind of phrasing works better than "the expression of him was thoughtful", which is unwieldy.
Favorite word: uses a common word more often normal, or in not-quite-appropriate ways. Modern use of "like" for emphasis, for example. Patrick O'Brien had characters use "which" in this fashion. 'And he asked a third time, which he's not gonna like the answer, you mind me.' A "favorite word" doesn't have to be grammatically correct by normal English rules but whatever meaning or purpose they serve for the character, it should do so consistently. 
Formal: elegant, grammatically-correct sentences. 
No contractions: goes well with formal. Also can be ESL.
Casual: chatty, uses sentence fragments, uses filler words, lots of contractions, colloquialisms. 
Erudite: uses big words. Also goes well with formal.
Plain-spoken: uses small words
Bless your heart: avoids hostile/angry language. Patronizingly kind when annoyed, if not deliberately using kind-sounding phrasing while meaning the opposite.
Negativity: Frames things using negative language, in terms of no/not/un-/in-/won't/don't. Eg, might answer "How are you today?" with "nothing's gone wrong so far" instead of "fine". This doesn't necessarily mean the character is negative or unpleasant. For instance, "no problem" is the negative-language version of "you're welcome." Tends to come across as blunt or a downer, however. 
Positivity: Avoids using negative language. Eg, instead of saying "No" to an invitation, explains that they have a prior commitment.
Rising tone: when uncertain, ends statements with a rising tone (question mark) even if they aren't phrased as questions.
Flat tone: Makes statements out of things that are phrased like questions.
Brusque: leaves out normal courtesies, like hello/please/thank you/you're welcome/goodbye
Alternate courtesies: eg, "you have my thanks" instead of "thank you" or "no problem" or "my pleasure" instead of "you're welcome".
Polite: uses courtesies frequently. Or uses elaborate ones, or to excess. "A great and wide apology, noble sir, from this humble servant."
New colloquialisms: turns of phrase appropriate to the setting/character religion (or dominant religion: characters may swear by a god they don't believe in)
Swears like a: Uses frequent inventive imprecations. Or uses curse words casually/constantly
Code-switching: Changes speech patterns depending on who they are with (most people do this to one degree or another, but it is more or less marked depending one circumstances.)
Respectful: addresses people by title & surname, 
Rude: avoids calling people by name, may not know names. "Hey, you."
Poetic: likes using alliteration and/or rhymes and/or particular rhythms in their speech.
rowyn: (downcast)
 The latest attempt at mobilization (the process of getting Lut's body to make enough stem cells in the blood stream that they can collect enough for a transplant) started 13 days ago. It had been going reasonably well, though not great.  We are at the point where "if things went great, we would've been able to collect stem cells from you today".  Things had not gone great, and his white blood cell count was still at the "too low to be detected" point. Since the chemo (cytoxin), he'd been given fluids once and platelets twice, but hadn't needed hemoglobin yet. He was feeling about as well as he had before the chemo.
 
Yesterday evening, at 6:30, I went in to talk to him about dinner and he felt hot to me when I touched his forehead.  So I took his temperature: 100.4, which is 1/10th of a degree below the "call 911, you are going to the hospital" threshold. I made him dinner and we sat down to watch Blade Runner 2049.  An hour later, I took his temperature again: 100.9.
 
So I called 911 and we waited for the paramedics.  They arrived and said "oh hey uh we've both been sick lately so maybe you should just take him to the ER yourself."
 
I took him to the ER, then called the BMT 24-hour line.  I am still confused as to what the exact order of operations is supposed to be with various symptoms.  It seems like "just take him to the ER" is the quickest, to be honest.  Anyway, the ER saw him pretty quickly and started him on a course of general antibiotics at once, because with immune-suppressed patients they do not fool around. I hung around the ER until 10:30, then went home to get some sleep.
 
Not very much sleep: about 5.5 hours.  Then back to the hospital this morning to see how he's doing.  His fever at the hospital had gone down, and some of the readings have been normal, although it had spiked just before I left him this morning.  He doesn't have any other symptoms (this is as expected, because when you have no white blood cells they can't cause any of the fighting-off-infections symptoms).  They haven't found any signs of infection yet. So possibly it is just an allergen-caused fever, or "fever because that sometimes happens when you have no white blood cells." 
 
There is at least a chance he'll be able to proceed with mobilization despite the hospitalization. I am not sure what happens next if we abort mobilization again. Lut thinks there are more options for collection. I kind of thought there was a point where they go "this isn't going to work, just go back to normal chemo and how for the best." But I don't know if we're there yet.
 
Anyway, since Lut's in the hospital, I do not need to be at home taking care of him. So I went to work today. 
 
The enforced staycation for the last twelve days was not too bad up until the hospital stay. Daily doctor appointments, sometimes for several hours, but mostly pretty quick. Lut hasn't been able to do much for himself and he can't have restaurant food, so I was doing a lot of cooking and cleaning. But I had a lot of free time too. I finished editing Demon's Lure on Saturday night, so that put me ahead of my writing schedule for the month. I should have gone straight to editing Demon's Sigil,  or possibly to working on The Princess, Her Dragon their Prince. Instead I went haring off after the outline for Frost, which is full of problematic material and was originally started in 2015. I'd forgotten all about it until something reminded me of it on Thursday. I doubt I will make this thing my next WIP. But I will let myself noodle at it until the end of the month, because cancer is the worst and my brain deserves some candy. 
 
Next month has to be more editing or work on planned next book, though. Assuming cancer doesn't take another turn into AHHH NUUU land. 
 
Prayers for Lut's recovery appreciated  thank you.
 
rowyn: (studious)
I am on my final read-through of Demon's Lure before I send it to first readers, and hope to finish in the next few days. This is my call for volunteer first readers! Here's the blurb:

In the fight against the demons of the skylands, Sunrise has one of the rarest powers: that of a lure. Where demons normally feed by tormenting their victims, Sunrise draws them with her happiness.

She doesn't want to hunt demons, but when a hunter team arrives at her village to ask for her help, she agrees. It should be easy: they just need her as bait for a pain demon that is too fast for them to capture otherwise. And a typical pain demon is no match for an experienced team of demon hunters.

But this is no typical demon. And it has its own plans. It has no intention of being trapped, and is not worried about the hunter team. No, its main concern is: what does a demon who's spent millennia torturing and tormenting humans know about making one happy?

Demon's Lure is the first book in a new setting. There will be at least one sequel. The lead character is bisexual and she lives in a queer- and polyamorous-friendly society, but neither this book nor the sequel is a romance! There are no central conflicts or sub-plots that are resolved by the power of romantic love.

You needn't have read any of my other books in order to volunteer for this one. First-time volunteers are appreciated! General feedback I am looking for from first readers:
  • General commentary on what works/doesn't work in the story
  • Spelling/grammar/editing artifact errors
  • Continuity errors
  • Overused words
  • Confusing text (eg, if you find yourself confused about what's going on, or what this word the characters keep using means in the context of the story, or things of that nature)
I figure on sending the book to first readers somewhere around Feb 20 (Tuesday). I'd like readers to be done reading & providing feedback within a month, so by 3/20 or so.

Please comment with your email address (or direct-message me on Twitter or Dreamwidth) if you'd like to volunteer. All comments are screened so your email address will not be made public. Reading will be done through Google Docs, so email accounts with a Google account associated are preferred.

Thank you!

What Next?

Jan. 12th, 2018 02:17 pm
rowyn: (studious)
I finished the draft of Demon's Sigil on Wednesday and sent Alinsa the backmatter for Golden Coils yesterday and my final proofreading notes last weekend. So Coils is awaiting final layout and I have drafts for two more books complete, Demon's Lure and Demon's Sigil. Both of the Demon books need significant amounts of editing.
 
The obvious thing for me to Do Next is edit the Demon books, but I am not ready to dive into editing and even if I was, I'd still want to be writing new material at the same time.
 
I am not sure how long the Demon books will take to edit. Scales and Coils combined took a year, total, including time for first reader comments and accompanying revisions. The Sun Etherium took two months. My guesstimate is three to four months per book for the Demon books. They are about half the length of Scales and Coils so I expect them to be quicker to edit, but the draft is rougher than TSE.
 
In any case: I get to pick a new project to write! For the first time in about ten months! SO EXCITE.
 
I have a bunch off ideas but I haven't settled on one yet.
 
Old Boring Ideas
Fellwater: my ridiculous BDSM fantasy novel. It's about 80% done but I have so very little interest in the last 20%. Even though I'm fond enough of about half of it that I reread it for fun sometimes.
 
Poll RPG: I love some of these characters still and I know generally how the plot goes. But I don't want to commit to a serial, and the long hiatus means the people who were reading it have probably forgotten it by now. And the audience for it is smaller than for a book. It is so weird to me that I am less good at giving away my stories than Amazon is at selling them.
 
New Exciting Ideas
The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince: a polyamorous fantasy romance, set on one of the mortal worlds that the fey shard from the Etherium setting passes through. It would have cameos from some of the Etherium book characters, but mostly be set in the mortal world. The dragon is a shapeshifter and the prince is trans, either a man or a masculine-leaning enby.
 
Amaryllis and the Demigoddesses: polyamorous fantasy romance about a trans woman from Newlant (the setting for A Rational Arrangement) and two Blessed women from Southern Vandu (where Blessed are considered to have two parts, one
human and the other divine.)
 
Demon's Solution: third Demon book, which I am mostly interested because I could finally get to the polyamorous romance between the three human protagonists. It'd have a main plot about demon-hunting, though.
 
Wisteria's Daughter: an f/f romance between Astraia Striker and Sharone Whittaker, with an epic fantasy subplot or possibly main plot.
 
Pyrite Chains: third book in the Warlock, the Hare, and the Dragon series. This would be about Lilith and Hell and escape therefrom, and probably involve Madden prominently.
 
A Fey in Exile: One of the fey folk from the Etherium setting accidentally gets stuck in a mortal world when the fey shard moves on, and hijinks ensue as he ways for it to come back. I have no plot, I just did a few cartoons of him and he amuses me. Also, he's a sympathetic figure, in contrast to the fey in the idea below.
 
To Kill a God: A couple of fey trapped in a mortal world use their power to conquer a human nation and terrorize the population. Mortals struggle to find a weapon that can stop immortal, invulnerable people who can walk through walls to escape traps.
 
The Twilight Etherium: about the creation of a new Etherium, with bonus polyamorous subplot involving Miro/Ardent/Whisper.
 
Bowracer: Callie (Anthser's love interest from ARA) finds a bowracing partner of her own. I wrote an outline for this novella when I was writing FA, and then decided I needed to write "A Regular Hero" first. I'm thinking of writing this and giving it away as a freebie for people who sign up for my mailing list.
 
Real: An itinerant writer on modern Earth. A former space marine with PTSD trying to recover on a peaceful world while the war rages on. A princess in dangered of a political coup. They have nothing in common, other than that they are all the same person. Kind of a psychological action-fantasy story.
 
The Future Unbounded: a small-town seer has a vision of the end of the universe, and struggles with how to best use her gifts in response. If she can save one world, or risk that world for the remote chance of saving them all -- which should she chose? Epic fantasy.
 
 
Of all of these, the princess/dragon/prince one interests me the most. Only one of these -- "Bowracer" --has a complete outline, but the princess one has a significant chunk of development.
 
Also, I really want to do a female-centric romance, and also another poly romance. It's been so long since I wrote a poly romance. SO LONG.

Anyway, poll because polls are fun:





Poll #19306 What Next
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 17


Which projects would you most like to read?

View Answers

Fellwater
2 (11.8%)

Poll RPG
3 (17.6%)

The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince:
9 (52.9%)

Amaryllis and the Demigoddesses
7 (41.2%)

Demon's Solution
0 (0.0%)

Wisteria's Daughter
9 (52.9%)

Pyrite Chains
5 (29.4%)

A Fey in Exile
5 (29.4%)

To Kill a God
1 (5.9%)

The Twilight Etherium
7 (41.2%)

Bowracer
7 (41.2%)

Real
1 (5.9%)

The Future Unbounded
2 (11.8%)



rowyn: (studious)
I've been working on the current draft of Demon's Lure since February. Technically, it's a book I started in 2009, but I only wrote around 5000 words back then, plus a rough outline. I scrapped most of the outline and started writing again from scratch. The book went much better this time around.

But, while I'd written a detailed outline for the new version, my draft had severely diverged from the original outline. From where I am now, the rest of the outline works remarkably well all things considered, despite that I've kept changing things as I wrote the story.

The changes I'd made had, however, made the first half of the book much longer than I'd anticipated. I was at 80,000 words and less than 60% of the way through the outline. I complained to Maggie that the book might end up over 150,000 words, instead of the 100-120k I'd been targeting.

"Split it in half?" she suggested.

"Split it in half" is what multiple people advised me to do with Silver Scales and A Rational Arrangement, and in both cases I declined because I don't feel like either book made a satisfying story if I chopped it into two parts. But the way I'd changed Demon's Lure already from the outline did make the current section a reasonably good break point. The central conflict may not have been exactly resolved, but it has mutated dramatically, to the point where it's really a different conflict now. I could finish out the current scene and it ends on a "this obviously needs a sequel" note, but it wouldn't be a total cliffhanger.

So I wrote the rest of the scene and went "Huh. So I guess I finished a book?"

It needs considerable revising and probably some new scenes before I am ready for beta readers on it. I expect that I will plug away at Book 2 as my next-thing-to-write, although I'm not ruling out letting myself work on a different book. I won't be releasing Demon's Lure until 2018 anyway, because I have three books coming out in the next eleven weeks and that's plenty. Really.

But I feel pretty good about having finished a draft and edited three books, with eleven weeks still to go in 2017. I mean, "edit The Sun Etherium and draft another book" was one of my STRETCH goals for this year. I have already finished my regular goals. And those were set when I didn't know Lut had cancer. o__o

Granted, I've decided against serializing Scales and I was still editing it in June and nowhere near releasing it. So my time scale has slipped and I removed one of my goals for business reasons. Even so.

... I still feel kind of like I should finish drafts for another two books this year, though. So I can be sure of releasing three books in 2018 too. And I do have most of a draft of Fellwater written, and book two of Demon's Lure would be comparatively short, by my usual standards ...

I'm not gonna push for this, though. One thing at a time. And Lut is still sick and the new normal is different and not as conducive to writing as the old normal. I need to remember this and not charge off thinking I can write 3000 words in a day and everything else in life will sort itself out.

Regardless: I finished a draft! \o/

rowyn: (studious)
After posting yesterday's poll, I came up with a few new possible pairings. So I'm narrowing this down some and splitting out the Book 2 possibilities because there's more of them.

Poll #18700 Great Unnamed Fantasy Duology Part 2
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 20


Which title do you like best? (These are for book 1)

View Answers

1. Silver Scales
17 (85.0%)

1. Dragon's Scales
1 (5.0%)

1. Warlock's Birthright
2 (10.0%)

Which title do you like best? (these are for book 2.)

View Answers

2. Golden Eggs
7 (36.8%)

2. Golden Birthright
3 (15.8%)

2. Golden Legacy
4 (21.1%)

2. Dragon's Birthright
1 (5.3%)

2. Dragon's Legacy
4 (21.1%)

How do you feel about articles in the title?

View Answers

Use definite article (The Silver Scales, etc.)
1 (5.3%)

Use indefinite article (A Warlock's Birthright, etc.)
2 (10.5%)

No articles (as titles are shown in poll questions above)
16 (84.2%)

Are polls fun?

View Answers

Yes
4 (22.2%)

HECK YEAH
4 (22.2%)

Please just pick your favorite title already like you're going to anyway
3 (16.7%)

I like to click it click it
7 (38.9%)

rowyn: (studious)
I am still poking along with final edits on Scales, aka my Great Unnamed Fantasy Duology. I am, oh, 60% through what'll be my second-to-last editing pass. The last pass will be to see if I added any mistakes on my second-to-last pass, because I'm still doing fairly significant revisions. Mostly taking out words. I've chopped out about 12,000 on this pass, a few thousand by deleting whole scenes, and the majority by rephrasing things more concisely and trimming unnecessary descriptions and such. A few words here, a few there, it adds up. I am long-winded, y'all. You knew that.

Anyway, I am still indecisive over book titles, so I am going to use my time-honored resolution method of LET'S DO A POLL.

Also debating whether or not I want to go to the trouble of serializing it, so I'll throw that in here.

Also, by "which title do you like?" I mean "which title would you be most likely to remember/look at the blurb for if you saw it?" Not being familiar with the story is no impediment to voting. :) If you don't have an account to vote in the poll, feel free to leave a comment, they're open to anonymous.

Poll #18695 Great Unnamed Fantasy Duology
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 20


Which pair of titles do you like? (Pick as many as you like.) "1" would be the title for the first book, and "2" is the title for the second.

View Answers

1: A Dragon's Scales 2: A Dragon's Birthright
11 (61.1%)

1: Silver Scales 2: Golden Birthright
11 (61.1%)

1: Silver Warlock 2: Gold Dragon
5 (27.8%)

1: Warlock's Redemption 2: Dragon's Legacy
6 (33.3%)

1: Warlock: Redemption 2: Dragon: Legacy
0 (0.0%)

1: Warlock: Redemption 2: Dragon: Rebirth
1 (5.6%)

1: Redemption of A Warlock 2: Legacy of a Dragon
4 (22.2%)

1: Scales 2: Birthright
5 (27.8%)

1: Redemption 2: Legacy
1 (5.6%)

Which pair of titles do you like BEST? (Pick one) "1" would be the title for the first book, and "2" is the title for the second.

View Answers

1: A Dragon's Scales 2: A Dragon's Birthright
4 (22.2%)

1: Silver Scales 2: Golden Birthright
10 (55.6%)

1: Silver Warlock 2: Gold Dragon
0 (0.0%)

1: Warlock's Redemption 2: Dragon's Legacy
1 (5.6%)

1: Warlock: Redemption 2: Dragon: Legacy
0 (0.0%)

1: Warlock: Redemption 2: Dragon: Rebirth
2 (11.1%)

1: Redemption of A Warlock 2: Legacy of a Dragon
1 (5.6%)

1: Scales 2: Birthright
0 (0.0%)

1: Redemption 2: Legacy
0 (0.0%)

Other Title suggestions:

If I serialized book one on Dreamwidth and my website, would you read it in that form?

View Answers

Yes, I prefer serials
3 (15.8%)

Yes, but I don't really care
10 (52.6%)

Nah, I prefer books to serials
3 (15.8%)

Ooh clickie
3 (15.8%)

rowyn: (Default)
My Editing Process

Ugh I don't want to edit.
*read Twitter*
Still don't want to edit
*write a scene in a new book*
why is the editing not done already
*open spreadsheet of planned changes, Evernote, three different Google word docs*
*read Twitter some more*
*stare at spreadsheet*
All of these are too hard
*read LJ friends' list*
*pick one item from spreadsheet*
*flip between different parts of book in total despair*
*play with Flight Rising*
*select a scene from book*
*re-read scene*
*despair some more*
*read Twitter*
*go back to scene. Insert two new sentences*
*cross item off editing list*
*wonder why this is taking so long*
rowyn: (Default)
[ Content note: this is about written kink and rape scenes. Contains nothing explicit, however.]

I was talking to a friend of mine about the distinction between "rape written to titillate" and "rape written to be unpleasant/traumatic". (I am sure this is a totally normal, everyday topic, and there is nothing weird about discussing it. At least not when one is writing BDSM erotica.)

I am in kind of a strange position on this topic. I enjoy kink, including rape fantasies, but my tastes in written erotica are finicky enough that I don't look for stuff that satisfies it.  I say "finicky" because it's not that my tastes are particularly bizarre, it's that it's hard for me to gauge what will appeal to me versus what will squick me. I have engaged in some BDSM, both online and RL, but not a great deal. So while I'm not totally hypothetical about the subject, I am nothing like an expert.

My experience, such as it is, is that there are two separate axes: "Do I, personally, find this erotic?" and "Is this designed to titillate?" I may regard something as titillating even if it doesn't appeal to me personally, and I may find something erotic even if I am fairly confident it's not intended to be.

This is not quite the same as "author intent". For example, someone can intend to write a rape scene as a horrific event, but end up writing it as erotic because that's the only way they know to describe the action involved. But I suspect it's pretty common for the way the author feels about the action to affect the way it's portrayed.

But I do have a lot of trouble articulating what exact qualities differentiate "this is not designed to titillate" from "this is".

To return to the specific issue of rape: I can easily name some examples of "non-titillating rape": Captive Prince (the first book, not the series) and Even the Wingless both contain scenes of rape, and in both cases I not only felt revulsed but felt that the scenes were written to evoke revulsion. I have a harder time naming examples of titillating rape, not because I've not read it, but because what I've read is all unpublished. Either it's stuff I wrote myself, or scenes I watched or took part in on a MUCK, or material from forums or archives I browsed many years ago. Oh, wait, I read a lot of rape in historical romance when I was a teen, except that it was supposed to be romantic so they never called it rape. The Flame and the Flower is a good example of that.

It is not as simple as "is it told from the victim's perspective or the assailant's?" or "does it emphasize the assailant's pleasure or the victim's misery?" Because a rape scene written to be erotic can still be from the victim's perspective and be about how much pain the victim is in.

I think one quality of titillation is the way the action and the victim are described: titillation will emphasize the sexiness of the body and use sensual language. Certainly some tropes are common only to erotica and porn, like the rape victim who comes to enjoy being raped. But it's hard for me to say what exactly distinguishes "this is fetishizing pain" and "this is depicting pain to make the reader feel tortured". I am put in mind of the Supreme Court justice who declined to define what he meant by "hard-core pornography": "I know it when I see it".

Anyway, I write this entire long-winded piece because I'm curious if other people share this same sense, that writing kink erotica is not a matter of what one describes as much as the way one describes it. And, if you do ... how would you describe the difference between the two?
rowyn: (Default)
I was talking to @AlphaRaposa and @LynThornAlder on Twitter about the kinds of feedback writers receive and the kinds they want, and thought this might be a fun thing to expound upon at greater length.

 

The conversation was touched off by a post from an author who really, really hated comments of the "PLEASE WRITE MORE" variety.

 

I am not completely unsympathetic to that position. There were ten or so years when I was writing erratically and sharing my work as it was written. At that time, I found it guilt-inducing to have people ask after the next update. But at this stage of my life, I like it when people leave any kind of positive comment, including "WANT MOAR". Alpha and Lyn were much the same way. Encouragement is good!

 

On the broader topic of feedback in general, I find different kinds of feedback are helpful at different stages of my process.

So here are some broad categories of feedback:

  • Cheerleading: The best kind of cheerleading is not just "Yay, you wrote more, I love this story!" but responds specifically to the content of the installment. "I love the way this character snarks about that one thing!" Cheerleading is always beloved; I don't know anyone who objects to it at any stage. Some people may think "but it's not necessary -- it's not like you're going to change something after finding out it's good", but it actually is important to the revision process. If one person dislikes something and three people love it, but I only hear from the first person, I will probably change it. Similarly, a scene or a line might be cut for space or pacing, but if it's a favorite with readers, I would look for something less popular to ditch.
  • Spurring: I'll put "WRITE MORE" and "NOOOO I don't want to wait for the next installment" and "will you update soon?" kinds of comments into this category. These are specific, direct requests to the writer to produce more of this particular story.
  • Neutral commentary: This is general chatter about the story: "Hey, John Doe made it to the castle! I wonder what's inside?" or "Jane and JD met! I was wondering if they were going to". Neutral commentary lets the author know the reader is still following along and what things caught their attention.
  • Structural critique (major/minor): Criticism of the plot/characters/setting on the whole. This would be stuff like "I don't understand how the characters got to this ending" or "this character's motivations don't make sense" or "there's a huge plot hole here". Major structural criticism means "this is a thing that affects a lot of the events of the book and would require significant revision", like "I hate your protagonist, she is too passive and has no effect on the story" or "the plot feels really random and doesn't make sense" or "there is no depth to this setting". Minor might represent a serious weakness, like "you did not foreshadow the technology that your characters use to solve the crisis", but one that can be easily fixed. What I personally like in structural critiques is solutions. So not just "this is a problem" but "and here's one or more ways to fix it". I don't know if all authors appreciate this, but I certainly do.
  • Word choice: Noting sentences that are awkward or words that don't fit for the setting. These aren't strictly errors, just things that could be phrased better.
  • Typos, spelling & grammar errors: Simple, straightforward mistakes.

 

And here are my stages of writing:

 

  • Outlining: This is when I figure out the broad details of plot, character, and setting. This is a great time for structural critique, especially major ones, because it's much easier to revise an outline than a novel. Pointing out word choice issues or typos in an outline is pointless.
    • My desired feedback: Cheerleading, spurring, structural
  • Drafting: From 2002 to 2014 or so, I shared my drafts of novels and stories as I wrote them, with a small group of friends. The only kind of feedback I wanted at this stage was cheerleading or neutral commentary. Negative feedback of any kind did bad things for my likelihood of completing the draft. This is one of the reasons I stopped showing my drafts to people while I was still writing them. Other reasons: I don't want to "use up" my beta-reading audience on a stage where all they can do is cheerlead; I'd rather they read the finished draft and could give me detailed feedback. Also, I now write at a pace that's more likely to lose people who are used to reading in bite-sized serial chunks. Most importantly: in the past, I needed cheerleading to motivate me to finish a novel. I don't any more. I think this is mostly that I am now confident that several people besides myself will read what I have to write, and so I don't need them to prove on an ongoing basis that they will. Note: this is all deeply personal and no reflection on the reasons or motives that other people have. Anyway, I don't get feedback at this stage of my writing any more and for now I'm very happy with that.
    • My desired feedback: None. I don't share at this stage. Back when I did: cheerleading.
  • Revision: At this stage, I have finished the draft and done whatever revisions I personally thought were necessary. (My first draft usually ends up with some inconsistencies that I documented along the way and will fix on my own, and other such things, so I make those changes before I ask for readers.) Here, I can take pretty much any form of feedback: I don't need to worry that it will cripple my motivation to work on the project because, hey, it's basically done any way. I may be sad to learn the whole thing needs a major overhaul and makes no sense, but the worst that happens is "I don't revise it that way" rather than "I give up halfway through the draft and never look at it again".
    • My desired feedback: Any, but especially "how to fix structural issues".
  • Polishing: This is after I've let various people read it and made whatever changes I plan to based on their feedback. I am probably not going to make any structural changes at this point, but I don't really mind hearing it. Mostly I just want to hear about errors or awkward wording. In a more-perfect world, I would only get structural feedback at the first "revision" stage and not worry about wording then, and I would only get line-level and error feedback at the "polishing" stage. This is not that world, so I don't worry that much about getting both kinds at both stages. 
    • My desired feedback: Any, but especially word choice and typos.
  • Post-publication: Once It's out in the wild, I am not going to make any major revisions. I am not even going to make minor revisions. I once had someone write me a few months after I published A Rational Arrangement to tell me what major changes they thought would improve the book. Which, okay, that's fine, I can consider this in future books, I guess? But I'm not going to change a book that's already sold a thousand copies. I am in the middle of writing the next book. I am so done with the last one. SO DONE. However! I do continue to fix typos and other minor errors in my published books, so I am still happy to have people point out errors.
    • My desired feedback: Cheerleading, spurring, typos

This is my process right now, and everyone's process is different. Even my own process used to be different. What works for me may not work for other people, which is the most important thing to remember. We get taught things like "this is how to give a critique" and "this is how to receive one" as if everyone was stamped out of a cookie cutter. As if it were unreasonable to specify "these are the types of feedback that are useful to me" or "this is the type of feedback I am capable of giving". I have to love and adore a person AND their writing before I am willing to do anything other than point out typos and cheerlead or give neutral commentary. I hate giving structural criticism and I hate trying to articulate what I like/dislike about a writing style to the writer. Doing so requires tremendous effort on my part, and I have a hard time even reading novels for pleasure these days. So. I am deeply grateful to people who are willing to put in that work for me, and also for the fact that most people are less neurotic about giving feedback than I am.

I have some closing advice, which I will also put in bullet point form. BULLET ALL THE THINGS.

  • If you are an author and you want specific kinds of feedback, or dislike specific kinds of comments, make sure your readers know what you want. Asking for feedback does not bar you from expressing your preferences. It's okay to say "I just want someone to say nice things about this" or "I only want to know if these two characters sound distinct now" or whatever. If you offer some general guidance, you are probably more likely rather than less to hear from people, Just like writers often have an easier time starting with a prompt than staring at the blank page, so do readers find it easier to answer your questions than to start from scratch.
  • Seriously, if you're really want comments, putting specific questions-to-the-reader at the bottom of your post is a great way to get them. Even "what do you think of this?" often gets some bites, but detailed things like "what do you think will happen if [X] does [Y]?" or "I think John and Jack sound too much alike, can anyone suggest a good speech quirk for one of them?" or whatever.
  • If you are an author posting online and you don't want any kind of feedback, disable the comment box.
  • If you've read something online that you enjoyed, and you want to encourage the author, cheerlead. Whether a generic "I love this!" or a more specific "Your dialogue is delightful!", any author with a comment form will be happy to hear this.
  • It's generally safe to point out typos. Check to make sure they're typos first, and not variant spellings or a meaning of a word you're not familiar with or somesuch. Some authors do hate having their typos pointed out, though, so if there's an author's note or an info page you can check, never a bad idea to do so.
  • If you want to offer an author suggestions, check to make sure they are wanted. Some authors welcome ideas! Some authors hate them! If you can't tell which kind you are responding to, I recommend not doing it.

At this point, I should take my own advice and make sure this is linked somewhere that people can find it if they look for it. Oops.

I feel like I'm leaving some significant stages of writing out, or some kind of feedback that ought to be picked out distinctively, but that since the difference isn't important to me I'm overlooking it. Anyone else have different categories they use in their process? What kinds of feedback do you appreciate most?*

* Yes, I realize I am demonstrating the "use questions to get comments" technique, but I am super-curious what other people think about this topic, so yes, I am gonna encourage y'all to weigh in. :)


rowyn: (studious)
2007 Me: Nano is SO HARD. I barely won it and it was such a miserable slog.
2016 Me: I can't remember why I thought this was hard. Let's write 2500 words a day and finish early.
2007 Me: WAT.
2016 Me: and make an outline for a new book and write 19k more.
2007 Me: HOW
2016 Me: I'mma take December off from writing, mostly, though.
2007 Me: I SHOULD THINK SO.
2016 Me: I'll work on editing and just do a little writing on the side. Like 15,000 words or so.
2007 Me: ... WAT. HOW IS THAT A "LITTLE" WRITING.
2016 Me: It won't all be fiction.
2007 Me: *just stares*
2016 Me: This is what happens when you get power-leveled by [livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar, okay?
rowyn: (studious)
One of my Twitter friends, @AnaMardoll, did a poll for writers on "which part of the writing process is the worst":


I have a clear choice for this: editing. Definitely editing. At the end where I have to fix all the stuff I left notes for myself about fixing later. "I need to foreshadow this clever thing I thought of in chapter 15 somewhere in the first 7 chapters so that it actually looks clever." "I really should've come up with this historical timeline before I started writing but since I didn't, here it is now and I'd better make everything consistent." "Why do all three of these major characters sound exactly the same? I need to make them distinctive somehow." Etc.

Also, I don't have a good way to measure progress when I'm editing. I'm always jumping around in my manuscript looking for places to add foreshadowing or other details. Even when I'm reading through sequentially to edit for things like "make voices distinct" or "fix minor continuity errors", I usually can't hold the whole list of issues-I-need-to-look-for in my head at once, so I wind up making multiple complete passes. Editing just goes on and on until I give up. Writing is better because I can watch the book grow and see how far I've come. And once I have the thing written, I can read it, which is arguably the thing I want most out of writing. The edited version is important for readers-who-are-not-me, so that the book makes sense, but it doesn't make nearly as much difference to me.

I often wonder if the folks who prefer editing have a different process for "getting to the editing stage". Do they never come up with cool new things to add in the middle that effect the beginning? Or do they go back and add the stuff to the beginning right away, before they continue on? Is this a feature of good planning at the start? Is there a connection with experience? Because I used to hate writing a lot more than editing, but that was when (a) I hardly ever finished anything and (b) I thought the things I did finish were perfect and only needed a little proofreading.

It's not that the things I finished were perfect, mind you. They weren't even very good. It's just that I didn't understand enough to know what the faults in them were.

My writing process in general has changed a lot over the years. When I started writing in my teens, at first I didn't outline at all. I also never finished anything. My first attempt at planning a novel was supposed to be a five-book series, and it was an extremely simple outline: here are the characters, here is the conflict, this is the resolution, repeat x 5 with bonus resolution at the very end. I did finish the first book of that but lost interest in the project. It was also the first time I wrote fiction deliberately as practice-for-writing-fiction, rather than because I thought it would be brilliant.

I took a long break from trying to write either books or short stories, ten years or so, from the when I was 21 or so until I was 31. At 31, I was Very Serious about Writing This Book Properly. I decided to write Prophecy, a Serious Book with Meaningful Themes, and plotted out a detailed outline, and set day/week/month/year goals, and wrote pieces of the story in whatever order I felt like writing them. I called it The Master Plan(tm) and generally hated 95% of working on it. I kept at it until I was done, 2.5 years later at the end of 2004. Then I pretty much said "Welp, never doing that again." I hated writing that book a lot more than I hated editing it, but I didn't like any part of the process. The process looked like this:

  • Outline before writing

  • Revise the outline as necessary

  • Write in any order

  • Keep writing. Revise at the end

  • Have a plan for how much writing you're going to do

  • Write an intellectually and emotionally challenging story

  • Share it by email as it's written (with my one wonderfully enthusiastic beta-reader, ♥ [livejournal.com profile] jordangreywolf)

The second book that I "finished" (it's still not really edited) was The Warlock, the Hare and the Dragon (aka Silver Scales). I enjoyed writing it much more. I never plotted it outside of my head, or made any setting notes or character notes. Literally nothing except "wrote the story in chronological order as it went along". I posted each entry as I finished it for a small group of friends to read. I loved this book. I only disliked writing it about 25% of the time. It took about three years, but overlapped with the first book. I finished it in August 2006. I decided that clearly This Was My Process. The lessons I took away were:

  • Don't outline

  • Write chronologically

  • Keep writing. Revise at the end

  • Don't make a writing schedule (no "words per time period" quotas)

  • Share it as it is being written, with a small group of friends on LJ

  • Write cheerful, upbeat stories about lovable characters


Fast-forward seven years, to 2013. I'd been writing, but I hadn't finished anything other than short stories since my second book. I don't even remember if I was even theoretically working on anything when I decided to start A Rational Arrangement. *checks* Doesn't look like it.

Because the process that I'd taken away from my second book had not worked for me since then, I'd been gradually modifying my process. I'd experimented with different kinds of "scoring" systems to track my progress on writing, editing, and completing projects. For A Rational Arrangement, my process involved a weird scoring system, and an outline that I didn't worry about adhering to or revising as things changed. It took me 11 months to finish the first draft of ARA, and then about 16 months to finish editing it, My process:

  • Outline

  • Make character & setting notes

  • Write chronologically

  • Keep writing. Revise at the end

  • Don't revise outline even as the book changes; just keep going.

  • Keep score on progress

  • Share it as it is being written, with a small group of friends on LJ

  • Write cheerful, upbeat stories about lovable characters

Then I published ARA with greatly unexpected success, and everything changed.

Over the next six months, I wrote and edited a three-novella collection, Further Arrangements, as a sequel to ARA. The collection is book-length; one of the three novellas was 2/3rds written already.

Then there was 2016, where everything changed again.

I slogged away at the start of this year on Birthright, the sequel to The Warlock, the Hare and the Dragon that I'd been writing on and off since 2006.

Near the end of March, I stopped slogging on Birthright and started The Moon Etherium, where my process looked like:

  • Outline

  • Make character & setting notes

  • Revise the outline/make it more detailed if stuck

  • Write chronologically

  • Keep writing. Revise at the end

  • Write as fast as possible while in friendly competition with [livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar to see who can finish first. ♥

  • Don't share it as it's written

  • Write cheerful, upbeat stories about lovable characters


I wrote TME's first draft in six weeks, and edited it in about the same amount of time (finished edits 2.5 months later, after letting it "rest" for a month while I didn't touch it).

After that, I finally finished Birthright's first draft, and then wrote the first draft of The Sun Etherium over the next three months. That brings me to where I am now. My process going forward will be ... whatever I think is most likely to work.

I have some elements of my process that I will probably keep using, because my results with them over the last year have been so good:

  • Outline

  • Make character & setting notes

  • Revisit/revise/refine outline if stuck

The rest will vary.

I have complex feelings about "share the story as it's written", for example. On the one hand, I love positive feedback that encourages me to continue. On the other hand: I only want cheerleading while the writing is in progress, and thus I'm asking my best beta readers to either (a) read the story twice or (b) not provide critical feedback. (A) is an awful lot to ask. On the gripping hand: I think sharing the story in progress might actually slow my writing down, as I wait for feedback before continuing.

I am pretty sure that my insistence on "writing chronologically" is tied to negative feelings about Prophecy. I may try writing out of order again some day. We'll see.

I think the "write cheerful stories" is a permanent part of my process, but I don't want to lock myself into that. I do have some sober, thoughtful, heavy ideas that I might yet explore someday. It's not likely. I both read and write as escapism. My tolerance for reading or watching grimdark is very low at present. Writing happy, fluffy novels is like going off to live in a happy, fluffy world for several months. Writing grim material is the exact opposite. "How long do I want to live in this world?"

I have done the "Keep writing. Revise at the end" thing for all of the last fourteen years, though when I was a teen I was much more likely to keep going back and revising earlier sections. "Don't revise until you're done" is a common bit of writing wisdom, and it certainly make the "get words down" part of the process faster. I expect it makes the "edit the final draft" process slower, however. But I am currently pretty happy to write on and on and on, while I hate editing so much that I have three complete unedited drafts that I am ignoring to start writing a fourth book. It's quite possible I could do with exchanging "fun while writing the first draft" for "less hate while revising it".

So that's me. What are your experiences with process like? Do you keep changing your approach, or parts of your approach, while other parts stay static? What parts do you like or hate most, and why?

Gaming

Nov. 24th, 2016 09:28 pm
rowyn: (Me 2012)
Me: I have the day off. I should play some games.
Also Me: *browses through game sites* Howabout 4thewords?
Me: Self, you realize that is not a game, right?
Also Me: Sure it is! Let's beat up some monsters.
Me: By writing. You beat monsters up by writing. That is not gaming. It requires thought.
Also Me: It doesn't have to be complicated writing. Or a lot of it! We could beat up the little 250-word monster. It'd be quick.
Me: I don't think you understand what "relaxing" is.
Also Me: It's at least as much fun as Flight Rising and you get a story out of it at the end.
Me: ... point.
Me: But no, really, this is not gaming.
Also Me: You do text RPGs with your friends. That's gaming, right?
Me: Yessssss but --
Also Me: So writing by yourself is basically like a single-player text RPG.
Me: PLEASE STOP. You're just trying to get me to say "let's read a book" the next time I want to relax instead of looking for a game, aren't you?
Also Me: We do have that hardcopy of The Moon Etherium to proofread still.
Me: ... you are really messing with my self-image as a slacker, you know.
Also Me: \o/

Winner!

Nov. 22nd, 2016 09:36 am
rowyn: (Me 2012)
I won Nanowrimo yesterday, with 50,800 words. At the same time, I completed the first draft of The Sun Etherium (sequel to The Moon Etherium). TSE is a total of 93,100 words at present (I started it in September). It'll probably get a bit longer in edits.

Despite the horrible election, despite taking of a couple of days off for Contra, I finished Nano in 21 days. I am pretty proud of this.

I am also tired. And a combination of amused and annoyed by 4thewords.com.

4thewords has been a nice motivational tool throughout Nano. It's fairly bare-bones still, but it's cute and it encourages me to write more. However, despite having won Nano and completed my book already, I have only finished 5 of 9 quests in 4thewords' Nano section. One of those is because 4thewords decided to throw in a bonus "write ANOTHER 25,000 words this month!" quest. But the other three are because 4thewords has timed quests throughout the month and I am not allowed to finish them yet. As of this morning, I can finally do the "beat the 4th week monsters" one, which takes a minimum of 10,000 words. Then there's another quest after that which I don't know the terms for yet because not unlocked. Then I think I can use that to finish the last one.

*side-eyes 4thewords*

Anyway, this is a reasonable structure for people who are procrastinators that need to be motivated to do some minimum throughout the month and then push hard at the end. But when I'm finally one of those YES I FINISHED MY HOMEWORK EARLY people, I find it aggravating that I have to do some more work still.

Or I can ignore my completionist streak and just let them go undone. (But I'm soooo clooooose!)

Also, I finished my book and I don't have another outline I want to write just now.

Anyway, my current plan is to keep writing stuff for the rest of November, but it's just going to be "whatever the heck I feel like." Maybe I will write some LJ entries! Like this one! This morning I wrote setting notes for a ridiculously self-indulgent kink story. Which my muse seems to think needs to be novel-length with a plot. Part of me thinks "this is an excuse to write erotica! It doesn't need a plot! 'And then they have kinky sex' IS the plot!" and the rest is all "but if there's no plot what's the point booooooring".

*side-eyes muse*

Anyway, there's nine days left to November. I can write 15 or 20k of fluff in it if I want to.

Other near-term goals, which I will probably start in December but might start sooner if I get sick of writing random fluff and/or generally impatient:

1) serialize The Moon Etherium
2) edit The Warlock, the Hare and the Dragon (aka Silver Scales aka I Wish I Had a Title I Like for This Book)
3) find an artist for the cover of (2) above.
4) do some reusable header art for The Moon Etherium.
5) do not do 90-some pieces of header art for TME.
6) Proof the print edition of TME.

That's probably enough for the rest of 2016.
rowyn: (Me 2012)


A long time ago, one of my friends suggested to me that the world would be better off if there were only one human gender: if everyone was hermaphroditic, say. "It'd eliminate gender discrimination. What good do gender differences do us?"
I never liked that idea, although it was hard to articulate why. I've certainly never been fond of gender roles.  But gender itself? I like the diversity of it. It's fun.

After writing A Rational Arrangement, where societal and legal pressure to conform to a heterosexual, monogamous ideal was overwhelming and a major source of conflict for the characters, I wanted to write about a much more open society in The Moon Etherium. I made a magic-rich setting where all the characters had easy access to a variety of powers, including shape-shifting. In their society, gender is a choice: a choice one can change on a whim, and doing so is unremarkable. Many characters in The Moon Etherium strongly identify with a particular gender and do not change it. Most identify as male or female. But some identify as neuter, and some identify as a mixture, and some change randomly, and all of this just happens and no one much worries about it. One of the challenges of writing the story was presenting this without giving it undue emphasis, because to the characters it's trivial.

In a similar vein, there's no societal stance on "this is the right kind of sexuality" or "the right kind of relationship". The female protagonist, Ardent, had a wife for many years, and is now attracted to the male protagonist, Miro. She never reflects on her sexual orientation because of this, because her society doesn't care. Straight/gay/pan/etc are all ordinary and acceptable and the society doesn't feel a need to categorize them. The protagonists do have an explicit conversation about relationship types (monogamy, polyamory, etc.), because 'we should agree on what our relationship is, since there is no default.'

The Moon Etherium's romantic subplot is M/F and between two people, so in a sense the LGBTQIA+ and poly-postive aspects of the setting are not integral to the story. The main protagonists strongly identify as male and female, respectively. There were various reasons why I wanted to write their story this way. Part of that was that my protagonists live in a society without gender roles, and I wanted to distinguish between "gender roles" (which is a meaningless concept to them) and "gender identity" (which they do have, although it's more fluid for some than others).  I didn't want to write about a society where characters took on male forms to do masculine activities and female ones to do feminine activities (though that could be interesting!)  But I did want one where the people still felt that male/female/etc. had some meaning. Because gender is fun.

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