State of the Book, February 25, 2013

Posted: February 25, 2013 in State of the Book
Tags: , ,

lotus_cover_pulp

(temporary cover art made with Pulp-O-Mizer)

Well, it’s been a little over half a month since I finished the first draft of The Lotus Imperiate. And, as you can see, I’ve made a lovely piece of cover art to go along with the book.

I don’t know what the scene is depicting. I assume that the young lady is Kitt Ashlocke, but in no place does Kitt wield a laser gun. Or have red hair. Or smile, for that matter.

I think that the man behind her is Taishoan. I believe I will give him a name for the purposes of this temporary cover. I will call him Li. Li’s a good Taishoan name. In fact, there’s already a character named Li in the first draft. This is a different Li. Let’s call him… McGillicuddy Li. McGillicuddy isn’t a Taishoan surname, but I don’t care. The universe of this cover art is already insane enough.

Wait… where was I?

Oh yeah.

One thing that you may have noticed about the cover art is the change in title. Book 1 is now going to be called Lotus. This wasn’t a hard decision. “Imperiate” isn’t a word that I invented, but it’s certainly not common as a synonym for “empire”, and so I was worried that there would be a person one day walking into a bookstore and saying to the clerk, “I heard about a fantasy novel that sounded kind of cool. It’s called The Lotus Something-or-Other. I think that last word started with an I, or something.”

You can imagine that I wanted to avoid that at all costs. Generally a title only works if it’s memorable, and because I didn’t want to confuse people by giving them hard-to-remember words, I changed the title, dropping the first and last words of the title.

So yes. The new name of my book is Lotus, and it will be book one of Song of the Lotus, which is my prospective name for the whole following trilogy. If all goes as planned, the following books in the series will be called Dragon and Black Sun. Or, as I’m going to refer to them for ease of remembering, Lotus 2 and Lotus 3.

The change in title isn’t the only change that I made, though. There’s quite a few others. Like, for instance:

  • The universe in D1 was a sort of uncomfortable mixture between steampunk and samurai epic. There were airships and magic trains, which are hallmarks of the steampunk genre. However, I didn’t feel exactly comfortable with writing an Asian-steampunk universe, for two reasons: while I was writing D1, a book called Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff came out (that was book one of The Lotus War trilogy, no less), and I didn’t want to draw unfair comparisons*; and more importantly, I don’t have much of a handle on steampunk. I enjoy some works of steampunk, like Girl Genius, but I don’t feel like I know the genre well enough to write a fully-fledged steampunk fantasy at this point. So I’ve scaled back the level of technology in the universe, from steampunk-level to the level it was about the year 1600. For those of you who don’t know, 1600 was a significant year in Japanese history, because it was the year of the Battle of Sekigahara, which allowed Tokugawa Ieyasu to unite Japan under his rule, and led to two-and-a-half centuries of Tokugawa family rule as Shogun (the Edo Period, in case you didn’t know). It’s also the year that one of my favorite novels of all time, Shogun, happens to be set, which isn’t coincidental: Shogun really gave me a love of East Asian culture and history, so it was natural to want to write a book set in that sort of time period. What this means is that, while technology will be more advanced than most traditional medieval fantasy, Lotus will still have a very feudal Japanese feel to it. This was the era of the great daimyo, after all, and was a few decades before Miyamoto Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings, which is the book on bushido and swordplay. This necessitates a change in style, of course, but not an unwelcome one. 
  • Along with that, the Flying City, the citadel of the Lotus Lords (which is a magical city that flies in the air, as you can guess from the name) is gone. I had to think a lot about this, because the image of a flying city was one of the things that made me want to write my book in the first place. However, I felt that a flying city had to have a huge amount of infrastructure that wouldn’t exist in a 17th-century Asian environment. You’d need to have air travel to get to the city, or some form of teleportation (I had both). And since 17th-century Asia had a distinct lack of airships, and I thought that teleportation would be a direct hindrance to the story in Lotus 2 (which involves a lot of walking around from place to place), I couldn’t have either of those without seriously undermining the world I’d built. Which meant that both of them had to go, which meant that there could be no Flying City.
  • Apart from that, there were a lot of other changes. I can’t go into too much detail, not because I’m afraid people will steal my ideas, but because if I told you all that’s been changed, it would make absolutely no sense without the context of having read the book before. Suffice it to say, all the characters will be significantly different in Draft 2. Some will have new dimensions, and new roles to play in the story. Many people had their backstories changed. Two fairly important characters had their nationalities changed. One switched gender, because of the societal role that his/her gender plays would be directly contrary to the position of power I wanted to put them in. One character doesn’t even appear in Draft 2 at all. I felt that he didn’t have much character in D1, and most of the actions that he takes would impede a new subplot for one of the other main characters. And there will be sexings. Many new and strange sexings between characters that did not sex before.
  • That being said, the overarching plot remains mostly the same. For one thing, D2 is still primarily a heist story, and heist stories have a certain structure that works. For another thing, I feel that good storytelling stems from characters, and not from plot, as I stated in one of my earliest blog posts. When I write, I tend to go character first, plot second. That being said, the plots of books 2 and 3 will be significantly different, mostly because of the new role that one of the main characters in Book 1 has.

As of this writing, D2 (which I have started) has around 12,200 words, which is about a tenth of the length of D1. There’s a reason for the fact that I’ve written so much in such a short time. First of all, I’ve done a chapter-by-chapter outline of the book, and I’m writing D2 out-of-order: I’ll write whatever chapter I most feel like writing at that time, and then move onto the next one. This is a change for me because I wrote D1 in a huge lump, starting at the beginning and working my way through the whole book one step at a time. Writing this way feels more like writing a series of interrelated short stories, rather than a big indigestible book.

But there’s another difference, as well. The best way I can articulate them is in terms of relationships.

Writing a story is like a relationship. With a short story of less than 5,000 words, it’s a one night stand: you get it over with as soon as possible, and then don’t look back. When I was writing “Cassandra”, it was a passionate, monthlong fling. The whole process of writing the story took a month from start to finish. (Ah, “Cassandra”, when can I finish you? You and I have so many fond memories, and you’re so beautiful… I’ll have to give you a call sometime, my darling. Wait by the phone. When you see my caller ID, answer.)

A novel is like a fully-fledged longterm relationship. It’s hard work, and it’s not as easy as a month of passionate cheap sex, but you get to know each other. You know how to please each other. You know how to make the other sing. And there are rough patches, just as in any other relationship, but you work through them. Because you love each other. Because you care.

That’s the way I am with Lotus. When I began writing Lotus, it was awkward and uncomfortable for both of us, like it always is among new lovers. I was clumsy and hamfisted, and the book wasn’t performing to its full potential. But it’s been eight months this Thursday since I started writing Lotus, and because of that, we know each other. We’re both in it for the long haul. I know the book, and she knows me. We both know what’s right for each other, and we work together to make that happen.

And then there’s the actual physical writing. If a writing session is like sex, then at the start, I was nervous and awkward, and because of that, we both suffered.

But now we know each other perfectly. And the sex is amazing.

…Okay, this is getting seriously weird. For those of you who are confused, I DON’T HAVE SEX WITH MY BOOK. It’s a metaphor. Geez…

It’s gotten to the point where everything feels right between me and my book. And because of that, I’m writing more and better than I had before.

Right now, only one person has read my book to completion: my friend and beta reader Blake Hihara, who is currently in the LAND OF THE RISING SUN. (Kamisu, in Ibaraki Prefecture, to be precise.) And from what I’ve heard from my other betas, then the book is good. Yes, they say, it has a lot of rough places. But there’s still something there. Something is starting and trying to climb towards the light, to quote Pink Floyd**. Which makes me confident.

A few weeks ago, I announced to the world that I wrote a book, not knowing whether it was good, or whether I’d wasted the last seven months of my life. Because of both the positive feedback I’ve been getting, combined with the incredible writing sessions I’ve been having, it feels like it’s going to happen, for reals. And because of that, my goal of an actual, for-real publication date of 2018 (five years to do the process of rewriting, revising, and shopping for markets) doesn’t seem unattainable. It feels like it’s going to happen.

My basic plan of attack for the years between now and 2018 are as follows:

Now to mid-2014: Finish the second draft of Lotus. (So you know, the attempted finishing date of Book 1 will be very close to my college graduation.)

Mid-2014 to end of 2014: Revise D2, so that it gets to the point where I’m at a penultimate draft. Talk with beta readers, and revise accordingly.

2015 to mid-2016: Let the book sit for a while. Send my shorter work out to markets and get it published, so I won’t be a complete unknown when I send my work in to agents/publishers. That way, I’ll have a resume to work on. Work on Book 2, and hopefully get its first draft done. Revise D2, so that I can get it into Final Draft stage.

Mid-2016 onward: Send it to agents/publishers. When it gets rejected, rinse and repeat.

2017. Get the book accepted. Pre-publication process.

2018: Publication date… I hope!

2018 is still a while off, and I’ve got plenty of time between now and then. But it’s going to be five years of work.

This isn’t because I’m too lazy to send it out right now. It’s because I want it to be the best book it can possibly be.

Regardless, things are going to be interesting.

I’ll be doing State of the Book posts from here on out. Look for at least quasi-regular updates into the status of my book.

In the meantime, I’ll close with a gif, as is the custom of the Internet.

watertribe-live

Stay frosty, Canada.

~ Ian

* I’m not too worried about plot similarities between Stormdancer and Lotus, though. I haven’t read Stormdancer, but from what I’ve heard, it’s about a teenage girl with the power to talk to griffons, which is a world away from my deicidal heist novel. Basically, the only similarities between the books are the fact that they’re Asian-inspired fantasy novels with Lotus in the series’ title. I’ll take heart from NK Jemisin and Christopher Paolini, who both have series called The Inheritance Trilogy that are about as different as books can be.

** You know. Like I always do.

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