Readings and Writings of Jan ’19

As a writer it’s pretty important to keep reading.

Readings (No spoilers)

As part of a job situation I spent a ton of time on a bus with no room to pull out my computer and write. The next best thing was audio books. Next month I’ll be back on the usual bus I can spend more time writing, so I won’t have nearly as many books to list.

  • Brandon Sanderson
    • The Emperor’s Soul
      • An interesting piece. Satisfying after sleeping on it; originally I didn’t like the ending. In hindsight that was because I was anticipating her Sealing herself into the Emperor as her escape plan, but that would have undermined the core themes of the story, and what really happened is cooler. Plus, I called Hoid’s cameo :).
    • Reckoners
      • Steelheart
        • Satisfying if predictable. The characters carried this one. I did feel that their early discovery of a certain weaknesses eased the tension quite significantly a huge portion of the story. This is an example of a predictable story that still had a strong delivery. I normally worry about the cinematics of gun fights in books, but each action sequence was engaging and satisfying. The Epic finale (lol) was very satisfying.
      • Firefight
        • Again, the characters carried this one. I felt Regalia’s plan was pretty obvious from the moment we met her, but the Avalanche seemed much cleaner than with Steelheart. I do think that what we learn about Epics and their weaknesses is something you’d think more people would have figured out in the last decade.
      • Calamity
        • I feel that I’ve read too much Brandon Sanderson for the twists and surprises in this story to be twisty and surprising. Predictability aside, it was a good story and end of the series. Those less familiar with Sanderson’s work might have had their minds blown by the end.
    • Children of the Nameless
      • The beginning felt too much like an typical fantasy opening, and it took too long to meet the Man in the Manor. Once we meet him, the story gets really interesting. It has the Sanderson-style plot twists and some pretty cool action sequences. I am not at all familiar with Magic: The Gathering but I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything reading this. However, I did feel cheated about who the culprit was.
    • Mistborn
      • Allow Of Law (Mistborn Era 2 #1)
        • Very entertaining. I liked the characters, the worldbuilding, and the tone. The magic played very nicely into characterization and the “Western” bindings. Wayne is one of Sanderson’s most interesting characters. However, the pacing was awkward in that it read more like a Hollywood movie than a Sanderson book. Since I had the three-in-one edition, I was actually surprised to see the Epilogue pop up when it did, since I didn’t think we got a Sanderlanche in this book. But I trust him to write a good series, so I kept going.
      • Shadows Of Self (Mistborn Era 2 #2)
        • I found it very interesting to be taken in a direction where “God” and his “immortal minions” are trying to be on leads’ side and yet so often end up so disagreeable. MeLaan was an interesting blend, relating to humans better than other kandra if only because she’s basically a kandra version of Wayne. However, as the story goes, I felt Wax’s distaste for Harmony, while perfectly believable, was quite a bit stronger than it should have been considering how the next book picks off. Also Marasi is probably my favorite character of the series so far.
      • Bands Of Mourning (Mistborn Era 2 #3)
        • Once learning about the in-world Bands Of Mourning, I made a few predictions based on the storytelling structures and formulas of Sanderson books. I shouldn’t have done this, as it’s becoming increasingly easier to pick out the clues. It was also great to finally get in-story explanations of Investure, Connection and Spirit Webs, when formerly it was mainly exclusive cryptic letters or notes from Frost, Khriss, or Hoid. Brandon seems to be very deliberate about the order he releases his books, as the information about the Cosmere in this book will undoubtedly provide a ton of value to Stormlight 4.
      • Secret History (Mistborn)
        • Unfortunately nothing can be said about this story without spoiling it. Highlight this content to read it.
        • I liked it. But I also regret reading it. The entire Cosmere suddenly feels far less lively and impulsive now. But the story was interesting and despite being a Mistborn story really helps clear up some confusing parts of Stormlight Archive. Those familiar with Sanderson’s Law will know that, now that Brandon has given proper explanations about two of three realms and the whole principle behind how all magic works, we can finally expect some more complex interactions and deep, clever solutions.
  • Christopher Paolini
    • The Fork, The Witch, And The Worm
      • The short stories themselves are interesting, but there’s an unfortunate amount of “setup” before each one in which Eragon mopes about how boring and tedious his life is, and unfortunately as the reader I felt the same about the chapters in Eragon’s perspective. Once the stories started up they were fine though. The short stories are all people sharing their stories with Eragon. He isn’t actually doing anything here.
        • The Fork: It took a very long time to get to anything interesting. I feel the girl’s story could have been cut in half without taking anything away from the story. The theme to stop running away works for this characterization.
        • The Witch: There was way too much time her spent describing the planet and universe. It wasn’t boring as much as disappointing to find that their world works exactly like ours. What could have been a really cool worldbuilding moment turned into an introduction to astronomy. I would have preferred if it had the same boring info-dump tone from the characters’ perspective but describing a completely different world from ours. The story itself was fine once it got going.
        • The Worm: This was the meat of the trio. A lot of interesting worldbuilding details went into the Urgals (although I kinda feel their entire culture is basically the Klingons–read this part replacing every “Urgal” with “Klingon” if you don’t see it yet). Like the other two, I felt the opening was weak (the main character chooses not to take action for half the book). Like the other two, it was good once you got passed the slow opening.
  • John Darnielle
    • Wolf in White Van
      • An interest book with an interesting premise. I was confused at first but I think it was intentional. However, I had absolutely no interest in how the main character got the injury, as I called it way ahead of time and honestly it wasn’t as important as the effects it had on his life, which were interesting. I was really into the mail-based role playing game and the incident with the teens playing it. I felt so relatable to the one who had his character kill himself just to quit.
  • George R. R. Martin
    • A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones 1)
      • I only got 4 hours in and had to quit. This is the only time I’ve ever done this on my blog, but I’ll be blunt and say that I simply could not get into this book because the audiobook’s narrator was too monotonous and unengaging. Normally I’m up for audiobooks; note that almost every book I’ve read in the last year has been an audio book. If I give this series another chance, it will have to be the physical or eBook.

Overall I would say that Children of the Nameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Fork, The Witch, And The Worm have all led me to understand that I’m not actually a huge fan of fantasy in particular, but of interesting stories where realism steps aside in favor of letting characters do interesting things and grow in interesting ways.

Writings of January

  • Project:Countdown
    • I alternated discovery writing and planning in order to construct a very detailed outline and the deepest worldbuilding I’ve done yet. I’m proud of the result and can’t wait to share.
    • Planning is ~80% done. The last 20% I am intentionally leaving as breathing room.
    • The draft is 16% along, but the “hard work” has been ahead of time so it feels more like 60%.
  • Project:Selection
    • Born from the ashes of my NaNoWriMo of 2019. Most of the actual words are completely useless, but it made for a great discovery writing session to figure out what works and doesn’t work.
    • Planning is ~40% done.
    • Drafting is limited only to discovery writing that will be scrapped.

I’ve given myself a tentative writing schedule for 2019:

  • Jan-March: Draft 1 of Project:Countdown
  • April-June: Draft 2 of Project:Selection
  • July-September: Feedback and revision cycle of Countdown and Selection
  • October-December:
    • Draft 1 of Project:Violet.
    • Hopefully query Countdown or Selection, depending on which one beta readers like more.

That leaves Project:Giants. I have a revised draft ready to share, but I’m holding off on querying it because I don’t think the story reflects my style. Beta readers seem to enjoy it but neither I nor them can agree on which of the several endings I’ve tried work best.

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