Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time to Start Researching Australia

It is truly amazing how much work goes into writing a book beyond what a reader sees on the written page of the finished project. For example, I spent the month leading up to last November doing quite a bit of brainstorming, outlining, plotting, and world-building so that I would be at least marginally prepared to get the details of Etrasia right when I actually started writing Living Legend.

I did a little bit of research for my book before I started writing it, certainly. After letting the manuscript sit for two months and then reading through it again, however, I now know where I need to go back and dig deeper so I can provide a more authentic feel to my story. Most of this research probably won't even end up in the book itself (the expansions to the story as it is mostly will require fleshing out the world-building a bit more extensively, which is what the research will let me do).

For example, I realized upon reading through my story that the population numbers I have in my head for Etrasia just aren't realistic to the setting. Thus, I need to start doing some research on Australia. Why, you may ask. My story isn't set in Australia, it has nothing to do with the outback or aborigines. Well, that is certainly true enough. Etrasia, however, is in my mind approximately the same size as Australia, however, and though the environments of the two continents differ vastly, the population is actually spread out about the same. So that means I need to start figuring out what the actual population of Australia is (or what it was when the civilization there was slightly less technologically advanced). From there I can extrapolate the sustainable populations for small villages and larger cities. That, in turn, will let me get a better grip on the actual size of each nation's army, because I know I vastly underestimated that in my original notes.

I also need to research the actual dimensions of the continent so that I can figure out the mileages within my book. Going hand in hand with that, I need to figure out how far horses can reasonably travel in a day so that I can pin down more accurate travel times for my characters. My readthrough left me feeling like the travel timelines were a little vague and more than a little shaky, and I would like to firm those up in draft two.

Other research notes I made for myself while reading through my manuscript:
-Layouts of castles and medieval cities.
-Bone up on basic medieval architecture.

Then, of course, there is the ending. I still feel like I made it entirely too wishy-washy "oh there's hope for us all" and I feel like if I leave it like that, then when I continue this story in the next volume, I am gonna have to kill off one of my favorite characters. Look, I am not trying to purposely make it all gloom and glum or anything, I just feel like the situation these people wound up in at the end is one with some serious consequences, and they weren't even acknowledging this fact. While the romance is part of the story, it isn't meant to be the center, at least partly because, as much as I think these two characters really do love each other, I also firmly believe they just aren't meant to be. This is really intended to be one of those "it's better to have loved and lost" situations, but I didn't end the book with that implied, and I am not happy with that. So...that's gonna take some reworking, I think.

There are also one or two instances where the characters are acting kind of, well, out of character. I need to either fix that, or have a good reason I can show my potential readers for why that is.

All in all, I am really happy with how the first draft came out, especially considering it is a NaNoWriMo novel, which means it was written in thirty days. There is plenty of room for expansion, and I have some good ideas for where and how that expansion needs to occur. There are a few plot points, events, and characters that I feel came across a little vaguely, but I believe that is down to me not doing enough behind-the-scene world building, and once I have that in place, I can go in and tweak those spots to make them fit into the flow much better. It's pretty exciting, I have got to say.

One of my goals for the next month or so is to hit up the library to start some of this research I need to do and to sit down and do some more of the necessary world-building. I think Baby Girl and I are going to start getting pretty familiar with the local library. Assuming she can behave herself. Otherwise, I might need to find someone to bribe once a week to keep an eye on her while I go do research...

I am going to set myself a goal to try to have draft two finished by the end of August. I don't know how realistic that is, but that is my hope. That gives me September and October to think about this year's NaNoWriMo effort, as well as to start on the research for my next big project.

The more I start to flesh out the world I want to set my SF book in, I have to say, the less I think my original story idea fits the setting. So as I am fleshing out this world, I am going to also be looking for exactly what story it is offering to tell.

My brain is truly awhirl with the possibilities. I love it! Now, if I can just keep the momentum going, this could be a darn good year for writing.

Have a great weekend you guys! No post tomorrow as we have a rather insane travel schedule for getting to Seattle, and I have no idea when we will actually get to settle in to our hotel room, and therefore have internet access on my laptop. But I will be back Monday (hopefully) with all sorts of reports from the convention for you.

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