The faceless enemy

I’ve begun my first reread of “The Red Box” in preparation for revising it and I think I’ve hit upon a problem that’s been bugging me in both this novel and “The Motley Star.”

In both stories, while there are plenty of named allies–some difficult, some reluctant, but still allies–there are no or very few named enemies/antagonists. Mostly the antagonists are big, faceless groups: Leos, Emperors and White Flags in the “The Red Box,” and an unknown human, alien or possibly multispecies anti-treaty group in “The Motley Star.” In “The Red Box” one named, ambiguous character turns out to be an enemy, but that isn’t known until later in the story.

In both stories, I’ve also had motivation problems. It’s not clear why the characters proceed on the courses they do. I have to admit, in “The Red Box” even I wonder a little, and it’s something I mean to address in revisions.

So now I’m wondering if part of the problem is the lack of clear antagonist. In my short stories, this isn’t too much of an obstacle. The stories, being much smaller in scale, seem to work even when the antagonist is more of a vague concept. But to keep a character motivated over hundreds of pages, well. Maybe we need to know more clearly who’s a problem.

Something to think about.

I’ve been spinning my wheels as I pick and re-pick at the first chapter, but I think what I need to do is just do a straight reread, no edits allowed, jotting down a synopsis-like thing as I go. Then sit back and see if the addition of (or adjustment of an existing character/problem into) a named, clear antagonist would help, among the other additions I already know I need to make. I can’t get too fussy when everything may still change down the road–I need the big picture first. So that’ll be this week’s project, I think.

How about you? What problems or challenges have you faced during revisions? Have you run into issues that required you to take apart large chunks of your story, or add/remove entire plotlines?

What’s in a name?

It’s hard to think of yourself as a writer when the words are coming in stuttering drips and drabs, in awkwardly formed sentences that feel clunky and sound wrong. It’s hard when you haven’t sold anything in the genre you really want to work in, when you’re always tied up with this or that and you keep telling yourself that’s why you haven’t been writing anything to sell.

Lots of people have day jobs. Lots of people write anyway. Lots of people have depression, or anxiety, or a stupid burning need to stick too many fingers in too many pies. That doesn’t stop them. They write every day.

It’s like an itch under my breastbone, this feeling–I can’t scratch it. No matter how hard I scratch or how I tear my skin. I stutter and the words won’t come out right and I wonder if I’ll ever really be an “author.”

The fancy suit

I haven’t been able to write much lately. My brain is stuck and I’m not sure why. There are so many possible reasons, but I can’t pinpoint the correct one, which means I can’t really address the issue yet.

In the meantime, if I had my way, this entire post would be links. I recently joined Broad Universe, which is a pretty nifty group promoting/celebrating women in speculative fiction, and through that group I’ve been introduced to all sorts of fascinating people and blogs. So I have been reading and networking a bit.

Networking’s not easy for me. By nature, I’m an introvert, a recluse, a bit of a hermit. Socializing is stressful. I admire the heck out of Die Booth because she networks in person all the time; for me, even doing it online is a huge huge effort.

Which leads me to the link I will post today: Wyld_dandelyon’s Persistence, Patience, Luck, and Finding the Right Audience. Plenty of food for thought here.

I do believe that making connections helps. One of the best, most surprising reviews I’ve ever received was thanks to a friend I’d made recommending the book to a friend of hers–who happened to be a reviewer. If I hadn’t made that friend I don’t think my book would have ever caught that reviewer’s attention.

I’ll always have that bit of me that just wants the work to be what speaks for itself. That should be what matters, right? But when you have limited time in your day and so many possible things you can read, I certainly understand why recommendations, networking and other social connections become the filters you employ to help you decide just what you want to spend your precious time on.