News from Ashlora – Apr/2017

For this monthly News from Ashlora issue, I’ll provide an overview of Revision 4 and how White Destiny project is being crafted.

REVISION TIMELINE

Let’s talk about revisions. Revisions happen when a significant portion of the plot changes. Below is an overview of the timeline for each revision so far.

White Destiny timeline_rev4

For White Destiny, the first revision adapted the events from the original assassin games into story format. It still included a number of game elements such as Truth Serum, the Illuminati and the Vatican factions. The key conflict was between the witch plus Illuminati and the church. The “call to adventure” was the summoning of the horsemen of apocalypse and the unsealing of the seven Obelisks. The story in first revision started after angel summoning event and the early stages of Azeth’s rebellion.

The second revision expanded the universe, the character baron and priestess made their first debut in this revision. The city of Ironheart was introduced (previously, the entire scope was set within Azeth only). The main conflict and call to adventure remained the same from the first revision.  The story here started from before the bishop’s death event which set the stage for the princess and the witch’s encounter in God’s mercy (rev 2).

The third revision shifted the focus from the witch to the princess, with an attempt to exclude angel, demon and the likes from the plot. The main conflict revolves around the war for territory or “magic domain” between the witch and the archbishop, and the princess’s attempt to thwart the inventor’s Azeth-Ironheart war scheme. The story started a short while after the witch and the princess’s meeting and it was intended to last longer than the final battle between the witch and the archbishop.

Finally, the latest revision culled all cheese angel-demon-holy-war elements from the original game. Unlike all previous revisions, revision 4 is set on an entirely different timeline, starting with the dragon’s attack on the witch’s hut as the call to adventure all the way to the end of war and beyond. The focus of this revision is the inventor, his war scheme and the results of the princess’s meddling as established in rev 3.

I hope this recap clarifies the convoluted and confusing story excerpts I’ve been posting so far.

DRAFTING STAGES

This section explains the goals and purposes of each draft in my writing process. I intend to share this process as guidance for interested writer-to-be out there; by informing them the kind of serious business they’re signing up for. Who ever said editing a manuscript is only about proofreading and spellchecking? Plot doctoring and story crafting are serious business.

In the first draft, I’ll perform a number of revisions in order to determine a logical timeline for all events in the story, as well as a rough outline of the scenes. A viable example of a first draft scene can be as simple as…

The inventor wakes up in Steve’s forge. The place is unbelievably hot“.

First draft is guarantee to be flawed in one way or another. Plot holes can occur. Unexplained information can happen. While I write, I often move passages and change the way I introduce a given piece of information and then completely forget to put that piece of information back in before it’s needed. The prime example of this, I’ve only noticed recently, is the information on the three factions in Silverflow Council. I originally had a passage in scene #2 to explain how the votes in Silverflow Council were distributed among three factions:

“Born a woman of the prestige Silverflow family, she were given four permanent seats in the council—half of those given to the Ruby Garden—the moment her gender was determined. Within the Silverflow family, only female could succeed the crown.
In her twenties, she studied clergy under the Archbishop’s guidance and earned a priestess title in the Church of the Saint. When she returned to Ironheart, her clergy privileges were transferred to the local Church of the Spirit and this earned her two seats from to the church. Later on, she became more active in Silverflow Academy and had recently snatched the rank of master in Alchemy from Leo. She also claimed her eighth vote in the council in Wizardry in the same year. Not from Leo, of course, but from the old court wizard of Solaris Observatory who had gone missing recently”

The above passage did not make it to blog release. Without this explanation, some of the vote counting and name (title) calling in scene #3 can be hard to understand. I obviously know the purpose and reason behind all the interactions as I’m the author, but the readers won’t.

This is why in the second draft, I aim to address this information discrepancy and make appropriate changes so that readers can understand what they’re supposed to understand. This is also when I place foreshadows, hints and bread crumbs so that readers don’t feel I’m pulling a fast one on them. This step usually involves alpha readers who are willing to go in dry, focusing more on the character, world building and plot holes than on the presentation, storytelling and whatnot.

Third draft makes the second draft manuscript more pleasing to the eye. That means lots of purple prose, scenery porn and audio-visual. The sample line I mentioned in first draft would look a bit like the following after third draft

“Sometime after the council meeting, Leo found himself occupying the carpentry table at Steve’s.

In the air was the sizzling of blue steel in white water, the crackles of red flame on dark charcoals, and the rumble of hammer hoisted above the chestnut hair on black anvil. The building was crazy hot. Wood splinters dug themselves into his back. Yet, when he was dead-exhausted, they were surprisingly pleasant.”

And yes, the scenes I published in this WordPress blog do contain some third draft’s quality elements but the quality is not uniform across the board. Many elements are still at bare bone first draft’s quality, only a few easy ones I can come up with right away have third draft’s quality. The official third draft brings the quality of every element in the story up to a uniform degree, unlike the unevenness we have in blog releases.

Finally, I’ll go over the manuscript another time with a surgical knife to make the cut. The idea here is to trim the excesses so that the writing is more “show than tell”. Some of the explanations added in second drafts will also be changed or removed if I deem the implications are sufficient and the readers are smart enough to connect the dots themselves. In the third-draft passage above, my fourth draft’s cut is the line

The building was crazy hot

as all the audio-visual cues are already pointing to that idea, it’s excessive to repeat the point outright here.

Geez, I hope I didn’t scare any greenhorns…

We’ll have another News from Ashlora issue in the next two weeks (so soon!), in which I’ll stop being so meta and finally talk about what exactly is going on in Ashlora nowadays.

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo, here we go again

Yes, it’s this time of the year. I’m currently in a cabin at Camp NaNoWriMo April, churning out scenes after scenes for yet another attempt at White Destiny. The new release schedule is working out quite well for me and for once I’m looking forward to sharing my writing every week. Thursday can’t come fast enough, can it?

And this is a heads up for prospective readers out there. The scene I’m releasing tomorrow is a Silverflow Council meeting so expect a lot of talking and not a whole lot of excitement. Perhaps, I’ll revisit this scene at a later day to make it more…confrontational. No real senate would be this cooperative. I’ll apologize for that first.

My plan for the current revision is simply getting a rough draft of the plot. There will be some storytelling; descriptions and purple prose; here and there but for the most part the writing would be very bare bone. It wouldn’t be very engaging to read I bet.

The placeholder food and drink for now are white bread and ale (or wine for the upper classes). That mysterious non-Newtonian bubbly blue drink with ice crystals I had in mind would have to wait for the next revision, in which I’ll focus on engaging the readers into the story world.

I need to cover all the holes and patch together a coherent plot first and this is what I set out to do this camp season.

Next week, I’ll take a break from writing for the seasonal anime review. There’s still one more episode of Kobayashi no chi maid dragon. That’s why I’m postponing the review to Monday. Please look forward to it.

Story by the campfire: The worst possible ending

First week of Camp NaNoWriMo went by and I got about 3-day-worth of writing. Not bad, I supposed, but it could be better. The serious writing starts next Monday when I’m done with the surprise Microwave engineering re-exam. But first, some quick progress updates on White Destiny’s revision:

The bishop and the Witch

There’s been yet another revision to chapter 3 scenario. I can’t say I’m happy with the current scenario so I’ll hold on to the update for further reviews before I push it to this blog. I have decided to omit a few things in the chapter and hold them back for later revelation. And by that, I mean the whole “corrupted church members burning women behind the bishop’s back” exposition.

In the latest revision, the Witch was in love with the bishop but she decided to kill him anyways. This new scenario leads to two things. First, the Witch now has a reason to hang around and stay on the Priestess’s side according to the bishop’s last request. And second, she’s now guilty of murder; unlike before where she was framed for the murder. This means, she’s even more of an anti-hero than before and the motivation driving her action is going to be something less noble than sympathy for prostitutes in West Rufus.

Shhh, I’m not telling her reason now.

Magic in Ashlora

Along with the changes done to chapter 3; chapter 5 and 6 will receive some fixes as well. In a spark of drunken ingenuity, I have come up with the last missing piece for a magic system in Ashlora which will be reflected first in chapter 5 and 6.

In Ashlora, magicians cast spells by channeling ambient magic into their focus (staff, wand, broomstick, crystal ball, etc.). They are allowed to channel as much magic as their focus can handle. The amount of magic they can use is limited by the “saturation” point of their focus or the amount of ambient magic available. This means, one cannot use magic if his staff saturated or if the ambient no longer has any free magic.

This is why magic cannot be conjured in the Dark Forest. The ambient magic was tainted by the blight and channeling this corrupted power would ruin the caster’s mind. Additionally, binding to a new focus takes as much time as letting the current focus fully recharged several times over. This prevents multiple wands exploit.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. The so-called “domain wizards” (for a lack of better naming) can use their own magic, which would be infinitesimally small for normal magicians,  instead of ambient magic. They can resupply the ambient with their own self-contained magic and manipulate the land to their power.

In the story of White Destiny, there are four domain wizards representing Fa’el (?), Ironheart (the Witch), Merlock (the Necromancer) and Azeth (the Archbishop).

The worst possible ending prompt

I attended a virtual write-in last Thursday under the alias Lightning ray. One of the writing prompts was “Write the worst possible ending for your story”. My reply was picked and read aloud by the streamer. This means a lot to me. Not only it is a special achievement but it is also a confirmation that the ending I have in mind for Black Existence was interesting enough to grab professional authors’ attention.

Without further ado, the ending I wrote was:

“When they finally beat Satan, God decided that he wanted a rematch. He’s a high-score hunter. The score this time wasn’t high enough for him”

Story by the campfire: This is why I’ll never finish my writing

So NaNoWriMo camp is on, it’s day 3 and I’m sitting here with a grand total of 0 word written. In fact, I believe it’s on the negative side of word count as a matter of fact. I’ve been editing out speeches here and there from chapter 2 through 4 so as to make the chapters less clunky.

Not until NaNoWriMo is upon me did I realize how overbooked this month is.

And I thought July would be free…

Last week, I received a memo saying that I had flopped the exam on Microwave engineering and I would need to take the “surprise” re-exam on the 11th this month. So now I can’t concentrate on writing with the exam looms near and I have studied jack. for it

There’s another problem with the mobile call-triggered watering module I built two weeks ago my dad informed me only last night, while I was in the middle of rewriting the encounter in chapter 3. In short, the electric valve I bought was too small and it didn’t fit in the water pipes of the dripping irrigation system.

This is a huge problem for me because I registered this project for the prototype subject of my engineering thesis and the initial report is due to the 28th this month. I didn’t expect problems to occur at this late stage. Apparently, Murphy’s law holds “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.

Another time-consuming issue arose yesterday. I missed the memo from CDRW last Thursday on the annual staff promotion for Kantai Collection English Wikia. So much of yesterday afternoon was spent on reviewing the candidates. I was supposed to interview two of them today (but I haven’t…yet).

Well, that’s part of my job as the wiki’s senior administrator. The last thing we want is hiring a liability. That happened before, trust me, it’s not pretty. Things tend to get very hectic during KanColle events so every member of the staff needs to be at his or her best. Or at least, not causing even more problems by bickering with anons and causing huge backlash in the comment section.

An invitation?

Half an hour ago, I received an email from mytrendingstories.com inviting me to join their team as, I think, a collaborated blogger. I have no idea what that site is about. And so, I did the common sense and take the question to the Grand Magnus Google Search.

According to Google search, a number of other WordPress bloggers also received the same invitation as recent as….last month. I’m impressed by the blogging skill of some of these bloggers. The prospect of giving and receiving mentorship from other bloggers seems lucrative as well. I like the design of the site: glorified ASP.NET5 stock template.

However, yes, a big however here, I’m much less impressed by the site statistics provided by Alexa. Also, the site gives me 504 Gateway Time-out error half of the time. I can access the content sometimes but this partial error is very alarming. So when I finally got in, I looked for their “About” page. After 10 minutes, I gave up. There’s no such a page and this fact comes off quite sketchy.

So…I don’t know. I have a lot of things to juggle so I’ll put that off till next month. I bet many of you’ve also received the same invitation, I’d love to hear some thoughts on this in the comment.

A month of revision

Okay, so I’ve just had this bizarre thought that I should let the Witch kill the bishop for real. For real! No more misunderstanding, no more framing the innocent heroine, just let her do what a real anti-hero would do. Or, at least, I need to treat the whole “corrupted members of the church” deal like an end-game mystery and make it less obvious in the early chapters.

This calls for revisiting chapter 3, 5 and 6. Chapter 4 is probably okay as it is.

In regard to chapter 3, the idea of compensatory sex is plainly awkward now that I’ve gotten enough sleep and sobered up from the nutjob-character-writing trance. Either ways, I’ll have a lot of time to think about the alternatives with the endless backlog this month.

Speaking of backlog, there’s an addition to my writing toolkit: Git repositories. Like backlogs, git repositories are frequently used in software development but I’ve never used them in writing before. I’m looking forward to using this tool beyond NaNoWriMo Camp.