7th Sea — Swashing and Buckling through the Quick Start

It has been a few years since my last campaign in Theah ended. I look back on those times with great fondness. The game I ran using the 7th Sea system were full of perils, and not a few prison breaks. I combined pregen situations with original ideas and ideas stolen from other games I was in. The heroes were actually heroes, not psychopaths masquerading as good guys.

The system had issues, don’t hate me for saying it. Every system has issues. The magic was difficult to use, the skills were varied and convoluted. But, that just meant house ruling how something worked with a mind toward action and adventure.

So, then I heard about a kickstarter for a 2nd edition of 7th Sea. Start the hyperventilating. Then I learn the best part, John Wick was creating it. I hoped that meant that the system wouldn’t become a D20 ripoff. Boy was I right.

Last night, 3/6/16, a group of six of us gathered to play through the quickstart. We had one person who had never played before. It took a few minute to review the rule changes, to figure out how things worked, but rather quickly the players were dashing through burning, swinging off chandeliers (I have a personal rule that if a player asks if there’s a chandelier and it makes sense at all, you say yes!). Poor Uncle Boris’ picture was getting shot as a Castillian  captain used it for cover.  You can see below that we pulled out paper (not gridded), not needed but helped for giving a visual to the player of roughly where things are.

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There were debates over the rules. Some of the fighting skills were a little vague  (in a duel, how often can you used an advanced maneuver? Once per round or can you use each maneuver once per round?)… dice pools were insane on occasion. Ok, ok, I gave them a lot of hero points. I wanted villain points because we’re testing a system. I had to see how it worked! I didn’t expect someone to cash in for 8 extra dice during the pivotal duel at the end… the character was ultimately defeated but man did he put up a fight!

I like the raise system and would like to work through the dueling again. I’m curious on the health difference between players and NPCs. Of course, players get more dice and have the opportunity for dice to explode at high injury levels or high skill levels. I don’t recall whether dice can explode for the bad guys. I did like the suggestion to give players to a count of 5 to make fast decisions. It kept the pace moving and players responded positively to the mechanic (we did talk about it before hand and I clearly stated their options to them before I counted, this gave them a moment to react and process what I was asking).

Overall, we had a great time and are looking forward to the entire rule set. John Wick, I think it’s safe to say that you and your team made our Sunday night. #sailthe7thSea

 

 

 

Queries, Novels, and Sequels…

I’ve nearly finished my first novel. Two friends and looking it over for any remaining grammatical uncertainties or any story issues. For better or for worse I’ve finished a query letter and a synopsis. I have a “submission package” document ready to go. To wrap this novel up I just need to look through the edits once they’re sent back and start the query process. Over the last months I’ve taken some time off of writing stories and worked on the submission documents. Anyone who tells you writing a query or synopsis is easy is lying. Or, at least in my case they are. I found creating these documents really difficult.  The multiple POV issue didn’t help! Which stories and intrinsic? What can be left out? What are preconceptions a reader might have? So much to juggle and think about…. ugh.

A few weeks ago I started outlining the sequel.  I’m using Scrivener to outline this novel. That’s something I didn’t do for the first and in hindsight I regret.  That being said, I don’t know if I would have known how to outline a novel. I never did it for papers in school so I think I needed to work through the process. For my first novel I shot from the hip and had to rewrite and reorganize. I had to create an ending, to revamp the middle, to cut and rewrite thousands of words. I want this to be more focused. I want to do half my brainstorming up front. Then, I want to hide and to write. I want to return to Agrini and my lords and ladies. I want to watch characters fall in and out of love, to see the machinations of gods and goddesses, kings and paupers, come to fruition or fail. The Shadow of the Labyrinth (oooh! title perhaps?)  is going to cover this novel. Sebelina will be stronger than in the first novel, she will rise, get knocked down, and come back all the better.

And now, a bit about our antagonist Edric and his first taste of magic from his sorceress Shira:

Shira’s already pale skin shone white as pulse after pulse of red energy shimmered down the ribbons, circling her flesh, and then reaching out toward him. He gasped, his own pale flesh stained red from the scalding touch of magic burning its way up his arm. After long moments of agony, the pain faded and he began to feel stronger, better, more. He could think of no other word. He could scarcely think. He was more.

Anyone else struggle with query or synopsis? How about a title for your novel? Do you outline or shoot from the hip?

Transported

Every time I sit down to write I’m transported into a world that I’ve created. For those minutes (sometimes hours) I allow myself to be swept away be an imaginary character I’ve created. Along with the joy of spending time with these friends and enemies, is a sense of responsibility to find and tell their stories.

My current story is older YA. A person at a writing group asked if I ever considered writing an adult story. My mind strayed to the unfinished manuscript I have saved to my computer. That story is 100,000 words that never quite became a full story, which never built a grand arc of tension, and which will eventually require massive rewriting.

I told him I had and mentioned the other story. It’s adult fantasy with sinister villains, sword fights, sex, magic, and death.  At some point I’ll finish that story. But for now? Now, I’m enjoying the world of monsters and teenage angst.

What genre and age range do you write and why are you drawn to it? Answer in the comments!

Pushing through

So, I’m pushing through the tension section that’s leaving me nervous. I guess I can come back and refine it later. I also started an overall motives outline of the story to track the two different goals the protagonist will have. I realized that I needed to flesh out some supporting characters and figure out who they were and where the fell in the great scheme of things. I cut a subplot because I felt it detracted from the tension. I can always resurrect it but at this point I think it would only work if I cut the horror element of this story. That’s not something I’m currently willing to do. 

Tension and Contests

I might not have posted since October, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. In February I entered a flash fiction writing contest. It’s the first contest I’ve ever entered and I’m nervously/excitedly waiting for feedback from the judges. Women on Writing (wow-womenonwriting.com) hosts quarterly contests, the entry fee is only $10 to cover their costs and prizes. You can also buy a critique of the story which is another $10. So, for a grand total of $20 I’ll get feedback on my story and it’s entered in a contest.

In other writing news, I put my rough draft fantasy novel on the shelf and I am expanding the flash fiction story into something longer. I’m not sure how that’s going to change the story but it has psychological thriller tension that I’m cautiously outlining. I’m nervous about getting too hopeful because I’ve had issues with tension throughout an entire story before. It seems to be going well so here’s hoping.

When you write tension how do you track it?  I’m working with outlines but I’ve heard about people using spreadsheets and sticky notes. What works for you?

Lost

Disaster.  So, I disappeared in order to get married.  It was a lovely ceremony and I’m so happy I took to time to really enjoy it.  When I came back, disaster.  My dogs bumped my open, not backed up laptop on to the ground and the (not solid state) hard drive died.  Gone.  So, I’ve lost a lot of work and now have to re-imagine it.  Perhaps this is good but the tension I’ve been working on building is gone and I’ve been struggling to find the motivation to continue writing.   I keep telling myself that it’s find and I can take the opportunity to focus on other parts of the novel.  But, it’s so much that I’ve lost.

How do you handle such a loss?

The Letters Constructing a Word

Well, I fell off the planet.  Yes, a metaphor – falling off the planet would be extremely difficult. That, however, doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.  I met my “rough draft” time frame and I am now working on improving said draft.  It has a long way to go but I’m very happy with the introduction (1 chapter down, 40ish to go!).  It’s sitting at around 97,000 words.

The original beginning was scrapped.  It might show up later but now it’s just referred to in passing.  I thought cutting scenes would hurt… you know, someone grabbing your innards and twisting as I gasped for enough air to stay conscious.  But, you know what?  I feel fantastic!  It’s one of the few large cuts I’ve made and felt extremely therapeutic.  There’s also a level of vivacity and sexiness to the new opening that I really enjoy.  Every writer should enjoy their own work.   After all, that means one person likes it!

Commentary on Critiquing:

Words can hurt, can inspire, and can make a writer walk away from their project.  They can also close a writer off to the intent behind each syllable spoken.  In a critique group (and I am a member of many), we read the work of others to provide feedback to help them improve.  Sometimes it’s extremely concrete.  Sometimes we can’t give that same concreteness to the words we use to critique because technically the story is fine but something is missing in the heart of the scenes which are read.

The other day a new critiquer read through a few (later) chapters of my rough draft.  He had not read any of the earlier stories, which can be problematic in fantasy.  He has little context for some of the words or growth of the characters to that point.  He response was (I’m paraphrasing) “I don’t feel you, the author, in this.  I don’t see what you like.  Reading this is like reading a textbook.”   So, concrete? Not really. Painful to hear? Absolutely. What were they reading? Part two of a first draft.

A few reactions I thought I could have: My novel? You couldn’t feel me? Preposterous! He obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about.   A textbook? Well, I read a lot of textbooks I liked, so there! He obviously can’t enjoy a good text book.

 Are these the emotions I thought worthwhile and constructive? Nope.  If I employed them I was listing to the letter of the words spoken, not the intent.  And, let’s face facts, not everyone likes what I write.  When I’m done, if I’m lucky, agents, editors, and publishers will all have a go at twisting my words, telling me to cut them, expecting me to improve what I wrote so it will sell.  If I ignore one critique because of the words used, I’m not learning how to handle rejection.

So, let’s start with the initial reaction: Ouch!  Ok, got that out of the way.  I, as the writer of those pages, had to work hard during and after a critique like that to understand what he was saying and be open to take the time to process.

This goes back to some of the critters.org guidelines which suggest that the words chosen to critique material are chosen with care.  Now, lest you think I threw my walls up (per my earlier examples) and said he was wrong, I thought about it.  He was saying the description could have been better.  See, those sections were mostly straight from a character’s POV (except one – sure enough that was the part he liked) without elaboration on the setting, places, etc… It was an area I was aware needed improvement. So, I focused on the intent, which was similar to comments other spoke throughout the night. I listened, I learned, and I went home to write and allow the writing to soothe the remaining ache.

Remember when you review someone’s work, while you might not be able to see their heart in the story, it’s there.  Hidden beneath words, diluted by facts, it sits on those pages you are reading.

Working through a SNAFU

So, we write because we have a story to tell.  What happens when the story we tell isn’t one that somebody else is reading?  In my current novel I have an elaborate world which is hard to get across.  Some have told me it’s too elaborate, some that it isn’t.  There is a great depth to it.  Getting enough through in this first novel is proving difficult.

 

On a side note.  Working with a friend to critique each other’s writing.  Very helpful.  It’s nice to have an honest opinion which isn’t tainted by previous knowledge of the book.  Back to trying to figure out how to illustrate this information. 

Friday Morning Ramble

When you read do you see a video playing in front of you? For better or for worse, I do.  I also fall asleep telling myself stories and watching these scenes.  Somewhere between awake and asleep is often where I fix troubled parts of my story, once the scene is clear in my mind I can write it.

How about writing, when you write what do you see then?  It’s more difficult to craft these scenes (some days I’d rather just read a great scene!)  Layer by layer a moment in a scene is built: the visuals, the sound, the texture, voices, smells, even taste can become important elements.  Some of this has been written in the first draft and some was left out.

When I’m in need of texture I walk around my apartment touching walls, wood, and other items.  I think about them, feel them, and then I write the object I need in my scene (sometimes nothing like the item I studied, but studying a single item helps my mind begin working through texture).

Happy Friday Everyone!

Finding your writing voice: putting black ink on a white page.

I write one word at a time and to be even more technical, a letter at a time.  I know, I know, how does that help?  It’s all about voice, finding your voice as a writer and finding the voice of each individual character.  A friend admitted to me today that he didn’t like my writing when he first read it; he said it was too choppy.  Now he says he finds the same scenes compelling.  I shot back that it might have been helpful to know there were problems with my writing to begin with!  Of course, I had no objectivity when I started my novel.  It was the beginning of November and NaNaWriMo was expecting me to hit 1667 word a day – a day!  I did (and then some).  The result?   A semi-completed novel of more than 50,000 words that was in desperate need of editing and re-examination and plot and character development (the list goes on) AND an individual who wanted nothing more than to continue writing and improving her story.  Overall? a complete win.

I hardly recognize a lot of the words I wrote just a few months ago.  I sit back reading and changing them on a daily basis.  Sure, they’re on the page, which of course is the first critical step.  However, they lack polish and they lack voice.  I’m don’t just mean accent, but the  phrases, meanings, colloquialisms and feel all need to ring true.  This is actually difficult because while my world is relatively high fantasy the language used intentionally has (a few) swear words in it but is also linguistically high fantasy in spots.  Yes, you read correctly, my protagonist swears (I like her better because of it).  But, finding the balance in tone is difficult.  It takes work and honest feedback from readers.

In order to achieve this I take the advice of those smarter than I am, many of those I read have emphasized the importance of writing every day and so I try to write a little each morning and evening.  However, finding time to write can be exhausting.  I wake up a little earlier in the morning and start typing away.  Depending on how many times I hit the snooze button I get between 30 and 60 minutes to dedicate to writing.  Then I write when I get home in the evenings.  This part is tricky because I often need time to decompress from work and that inevitably involves the internet.  And, what starts happening when you surf the internet?  You don’t want to stop surfing the internet.  Some days I’m successful in focusing on writing, sometimes I’m not.

When do you write and how are you developing your tone?  Have any ticks you want to share? I find having a well-developed world and character are an important place to start.  Write your character by herself and figure out how she thinks, feels, and reacts.  Who knows, you might use it elsewhere.