Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Story Feature: THE LAST INKWEAVER From Start to Finish!

I finished my first novel on Monday.
It wasn't my first idea that I'd ever started. It wasn't the first project I had ever finished. 

But I count it as my "first novel" because it's the first one I would be serious about publishing. So in honor of finally not having to think about it any longer... I just wanted to give a little taste of what I have been going through over the last two years. (*You'll also notice that the images scattered throughout this post--and also the linked text--are all linked to the excerpts from "The Last Inkweaver" that I've posted over the last couple years!)

1. The Start
"The Legend of the Wordspinners"

I can still remember the spring of 2013 when I first envisioned this scene: a girl wearing a dress. It tears, and the painted characters on the fabric shrink away in fear. The girl goes to see a woman, who tells a story that repairs the rip, and the girl returns to playing.
And so the concept of "Inkweaving" was born. I had the idea that there would be a girl who did not believe in the Inkweavers, and she would find an article of clothing, like a cape or something, and when she wore it, it would lead her to where the last Inkweaver was in hiding. The skeptic would not only come to believe, she would also become the next Inkweaver.
"The Last Inkweaver"
"What Are You Afraid Of?"
I think it was right about the time I started reading Shannon Hale's "Books of Bayern," where different characters had long-forgotten abilities to hear "voices" in the elements, and appear to manipulate or at least interact with them. (The first is "Goose Girl" and they were fantastic!) I suppose I kind of wanted my book to be a little bit like that. Hence, I decided there would be more than just the Inkweavers; there would be a whole guild of them: Inkweavers, who used their storytelling to fashion clothes and blankets; Earth-Tellers, who could shape clay and stone; Talesmiths who plied metal, and Story-Healers, who carved wood and could also grow plants and herbs for medicines specific to the ailment plaguing their patients. 
"In The Inkweaver's Cottage"
The fashioned items would have a story within them, audible only to the person in need of the item. I could not think of a credible reason why something so beneficial would suddenly be considered witchcraft—especially since it wasn't going to be anything like magic in my mind. It was just in the fact that storytelling is a powerful art. 
"The Unfinished Tapestry"
Telling the story in first person seemed a clever way to express some speculation over potential ideas of how and why this happened, without having to supply the answer just yet. I happily plotted the pending novel with different potential challenges that sounded good and "questy", ones that would be easy enough to make exciting, while teaching her different things about the benefit and power of storytelling. 

I had my character, the potential for conflict, and a good start. Little did I know what kind of story I was in for...

2. The Tales
"Needle in A Haystack"

To begin with, I started noticing that whenever I sat down to write "The Last Inkweaver", I would start to "hear" the characters in my head. Of course, that meant I would be writing out the words as soon as they popped into my head. I started hearing little noises, too, and I would describe those as they occurred. The further I progressed, the deeper I got into my main character Shereya's head—and the more I began to actually "experience" the novel in my head. 
"The Labors of Shereya and Belak"
I kid you not; it was the strangest thing I had ever done. Even as I was writing the fact that Shereya had begun to hear voices (because the Inkweaver's tapestry was "speaking" to her, as I described before) and snatches of a Tale, like sounds and words—her story "happened" in the same way inside my head. 
"The Three Daughters"
About that time, I decided that her story would be reflected in a series of shorter Tales which the Inkweaver had ostensibly told before, or "Told into" the tapestry–sort of like how a fairy tale adaptation I had recently read would occasionally reference the original tale, and proceed with the chapter that pertained to that part of the story.
I had the first Tale, and it led right into the core story very nicely, and so "The Last Inkweaver" was humming along...

"The House of the Talesmith"
Then the voices stopped. And it was the worst feeling in the world. Here I was, just starting out on an idea that had do encapsulated all of my mental senses that I had essentially put every other project on hold for it... And I could not add a single word. 

"The Blackrope Forest"
After trying and failing to continue, I decided I would go ahead and just focus on writing the Tales. They weren't connected to each other, and I could tell them in the style of the Brothers Grimm, which is to say, in a rather oblique manner. I could use all the flowery language and the "time snap" phrases (like "by and by" and "after a time") I wanted. There was no need for consistency between the Tales.
"Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham"
I wrote the first three Tales... And the story came back in full force. As time went on, I kept on writing, listening to the voices of my characters. Most of the time, I would be absolutely stumped on the story, so I would go ahead and write the Tale—after which the ideas would begin flowing again and I could continue. 
"The Morning After"
I may have been a little disappointed having only twelve chapters and ten Tales, but if this was the way "The Last Inkweaver"  was turning out, then who was I to stop it from happening? I figured I could always expand as necessary.
Once I finished with the last Tale, I had added at least three chapters to my original plan (because some bits took longer than expected), but finally, I was on the second-to-last chapter, which meant I only had two more chapters to write.


 3. The End

Lady Veronica and "The Four Travelers"
That was back in... March? I think... At any rate, I spent several months on that "second-to-last-chapter"... And yet I was writing constantly. No, I wasn't just pegging away at the same chapter.
Rather, each time I tried to write the "next-to-last", something unexpected would come along and add details to the vague references I had on my outline, and would require me to add another chapter. 
I was aiming for the short and simple; I intended to be precise and concise... But these scenes would just explode in my head, and the conversations would start, and I would end up with a general mess of the original plan... But some great character development just happened. 
"In The Court of Count Bergen"
I realized what happens to a story when you don't force it. I learned just as much about myself as I did about my characters.
More importantly, it wasn't till I started writing this "end" that did not have a Tale to direct it that I realized the key to this whole story: Shereya would not become an Inkweaver. 
This whole time, I had been gearing her up for being a Wordspinner. She had been hearing Tales from different items, able to recall and share these stories—
"The Four Travelers" (Part 2)
It hit me, at about the second time I added a chapter: how come Shereya can hear ALL the Tales, when she is only supposed to be an Inkweaver? That would be like a quilter knowing how to throw intricate pottery, or smith horseshoes. Not the same skill! So would I have to go back and change the parts that have her hearing Tales from other objects? How else was I going to fix this?
I thought back to what was going on when I first conceived this idea. I think it was actually about the time I wrote my first "How To Book" post, and I was bemoaning the state of literature. I felt that a lot of writers were content with the shallow and cliche because it sells. It saddened me that writers with the whole of English vocabulary at their disposal would resign themselves to a limited number of the most basic words.
"Do You See What I See?"
That's why I wanted to write a story like "The Last Inkweaver," in a world where storytelling was a skill like smithing or weaving, and people thought it was some magical art, when it was only the ability to perceive things deeper than face value. Like sleight of hand or the fortune teller at the carnival, writing feels like "magic" when it seems to tell your deepest secrets, but while you're being dazzled, the "magician" is reading your appearance and your body language to be able to guess your "tells." In the same way, writers pull on those inner motivations that are more common than people realize, to come up with characters and morals that tell us deeper things about ourselves.

"Moon Valley"
This is what I wanted "The Last Inkweaver" to be; I wanted Shereya as the person who is afraid to "speculate", and yet when she tries to "take over" and ascribe her own meaning, even choosing to follow someone else's lead instead of actually listening to the voices she hears (as in "The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham") it doesn't turn out well. Writers are still responsible for their own writing.
"Writer's Eyes"
In Moon Valley, I was going to expand her abilities of perception to be able to Tell a town (she is still Wordspinner-bound at this point) but halfway through, I began asking, "Can a Wordspinner actually do that?" She was going to Tell the town and then accidentally Tell some dire situation (like a careless writer who puts characters in needless danger "just because")...
But instead, she meets an Earth-Teller who started talking about Writer's Eyes.
In a world where there are essentially no stories (because the only people Telling stories are skilled crafters, and the only people hearing the stories are the ones either watching it be made, or the ones receiving the item) what use would they have for Writers?
As soon as I decided that Writers were the ones who could hear ALL the Tales, and it was their job to Write the Tales with their deeper perception, to make them real and vivid for those who possibly did or could not hear the original Tale... Many things fell into place:

"A Word on Wordspinners"
-Shereya is the first new Writer, that's why she can hear all the Tales;
-The expulsion of the Wordspinners was not arbitrary; it started when the new King (who ascended the throne when Shereya was born, after being educated abroad in exactly the manner that Shereya had been, emphasizing logic and reason and observation instead of discernment) rounded up all the Writers; without the Writers, the Books could be banned, and the Wordspinners misrepresented, their Tales falsified, and the distrust built over time
-What was more, this wasn't going to be the end of the story, because she hasn't even been to Gramble yet;
-Additionally, it provides a sort of "in-world" explanation for the existence of this book, "The Last Inkweaver" and the accompanying "Tales of The Inkweaver"... since it could be construed as Shereya the Writer keeping a record of this story!

Final count: 21 chapters; that's 9 chapters added to the original plan.

4. What Now?

Now that the story is done, I am going to work on summarizing it in less than 300 words; I think that is about the length of a jacket blurb. If I can do it, then I will start looking for beta readers. If not, then I know that I need to pare away at those parts that do not have anything to do with the story.

Also, in case you're wondering, this is not going to be a standalone novel like I thought it would. The arc for Shereya came to a close, but I am happy to report that there is still room for expansion and loose threads! Each book will center around a different guild: this one was Inkweavers, and the rest will be for the Earth-Tellers, the Talesmiths, and the Story-Healers. The whole series will culminate in achieving the resolution to the big problem introduced in this first one. 

And then, of course, when I've gotten through all of this, I really think I will end up publishing "The Last Inkweaver." I am grateful to be participating in the anthology that will include my novella "The Princess of Undersea," because that will give me insight into the publishing process, without the entire responsibility of the project resting solely on me. Maybe I will get the confidence I need to then embark solo!

5. What Next?

I do have a project I am about 3/5 of the way finished (almost done with "Act II", that is) and now with "The Last Inkweaver" out of my head, it won't take very long to finish that.

After weighing the pros and cons of three other potential projects I've started but set aside, I've decided to go with...

(A Modern Adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion)

-Basic Summary: The Elliots are now a Texas oil family who have run out of money due to some of the wells drying up (and the accelerated spending due to the rise in the cost of living). "Captain Wentworth" is now Fred Winston, an environmental scientist very keen on the use of modern technology to improve worldwide agriculture. "Admiral Croft" is a computer software engineer and creator of the operating system "MyCroft." Due to the extensive connections to both environmentalism and technology--neither of which Mr. Elliot trusts--Meredith (Anne) is encouraged not to associate with Fred... till his brother-in-law rents out The Beaumont Estate, and Fred comes in town for a visit. Perhaps her feelings aren't as dead as she once thought...

I've been poking around this project a lot, and I actually made it pretty far along in the story. I've been following the novel itself for my plot-line, only adjusting the storyline where necessary to befit the updated setting. It is the next incomplete manuscript that I have (besides "The Red Dragon of Wales" which I want to be more of a collaborative project, and "The ReBible Series" which I'm saving for this year's NaNoWriMo) so it naturally made the most sense to move on to that one.
Feel free to read the excerpts I have scattered around this blog, leave comments on the ones you like, and perhaps that will entice me to write more...

Till next time....

Catch you further Upstream!