Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Starting to write

So, I’ve been writing!

Well . . . pretty much.  More or less.  The puppies are distracting (though extraordinarily cute), but even MORE distracting is the sudden need to pick TEN MILLION plums, rinse and slice each one individually, and cook the resulting gallons and gallons of plum slices into pie filling to can.

And before the yellow plum (Shiro) is done, the purple Fortune and red Ozark Premier will be ready.  And the peaches!  I can’t even think how many peaches we’ll be picking this year! Barring hail like last year.

Summer would be a great time to lose that pesky five pounds, what with all that fresh fruit rolling in, except that fresh fruit has a strong tendency to turn into plum cobblers and peach pies and blackberry tarts and rhubarb ice cream (seriously!  Mmmm!  Rhubarb!), and somehow it’s more like a pesky eight pounds, now.

But along with the puppies (housetraining and crate training and socializing and playing with and just admiring), AND along with processing the abovementioned millions and millions of plums, I’m also writing.

I’ve worked out the plot of a new story!  Well, only part way, true, but a whole lot more than not at all, which was where I was plotwise this time two weeks ago.  Don’t know the ending.  Oh, well, that’s not true:  of course I know the ending!  I just don’t know exactly HOW the good guys will win, if by ‘exactly’ you mean ‘at all’.  But at least I’m now clear about the overall problem the good guys will be facing, and some of the complications.

Part of what you do when building a story, you know, is increase the tension?  By dropping your main characters into a hole?  And then digging the hole deeper?

So what I know now is the shape of the hole.  What I don’t yet know is a)  what will happen to make it deeper, b) and deeper, c) and deeper, and d) how to get my good guys out of the hole at the end.

But that is fine!  I never know all that stuff to begin with!  As I work my way through the, uh, late beginning of the story and into the middle, the stuff toward the end will become clear.  Besides, I am exaggerating:  I do know SOME of the complications that will make for a deep, deep hole.

But here, for me, is one big advantage of having written more than one (or two) books in the past:  I KNOW that the plot will work itself out for me.  It always does!  So it’s okay not to know what the climactic scene will involve; I know it’ll be there when I get to it.  Then a little touching up through the whole manuscript makes it look to the reader like I knew right from the beginning what the end would be, or so I fondly believe.  Which, out of, um, counting the unpubished stories . . . would be . . . ah, I think I knew more or less the entire plot of two out of nine finished novels at the time I started writing it.  So for me that is the exception rather than the rule.

So, how long will it take to finish my current project?  I would like this to be a rather short novel, say 300 pages.  What is that, 90,000 words or so?

Quick quiz question:  if you write four pages a day, how long will it take to write 300 pages?  Answer:  not long, if you don’t get distracted by your puppies or home orchard and actually sit down and stick to that schedule.  The whole POINT of barely working in the summer is to make time for . . . well, other kinds of work.  So any day now!  Four pages a day!

I will say, though, that for Book Three of The Griffin Mage Trilogy, I wrote almost exactly a hundred pages more than appeared in the final version.  Secondary goal for current project:  don’t do that again.

So how about the current project?  What is it?  I’m thinking it will be a YA fantasy.

Oh!  And by the way, I read this snippet someplace that advised writers never to start a story with dialog.  Well, whatever!  Here’s how I started my most recent project:

* * *

“They say the Lord is dying,” Tassel said, swinging without ceremony into the bakery kitchen.  She let the door slam shut behind her.  It banged hard because its frame had warped in the wet spring weather, an event predictable as the blooming of crocuses and daffodils.  The bell chimed, once and again and a third time as the door bounced against the frame.  The chime was a bright cheerful sound, but it reminded Keri that she needed to hire someone to replace the warped boards.

Keri’s mother could have got out a hammer and a handful of twopenny nails and fixed the doorframe herself.  If Keri tried to do that, she would probably bend all the nails and crack the doorframe and knock the head off the hammer.  But since her mother’s death, the bakery never seemed to earn enough in a week to pay a carpenter to repair the door, so from week to week the door continued to bang in its frame.

Keri sighed, shrugged, and kept her attention on the immediate task facing her – one she could at least address properly, and one that would earn decent coin.  Maybe this cake would even pay for a carpenter at last.

Tassel watched critically as Keri piped cream frosting around the circumference of a cake layer and then spread peach jam over the layer. “Did you hear what I said?”

Keri produced a wordless murmur, more interested in keeping the peach jam from oozing out of bounds than in Tassel’s far-from-surprising news.  She placed a second cake layer on top of the first and repeated the piped circle of frosting and filling of peach jam.

“Yes, but my cousin says you can stand in his back pasture and actually watch the boundary mist thinning,” Tassel persisted.  Her voice dropped portentously.  “He says, some days lately, you can see right out across the border.  He says you’d swear you can glimpse the tips of mountains against the sky.”

“Um?” said Keri.  She placed the third layer on top of the second and began to spread frosting in large swirls across the sides and top of the towering cake.

Tassel clicked her tongue in exasperation.  “Not Gannon, and not Timon either.  It’s Cort who says he’s seeing mountaintops through the mist.”

Her attention momentarily captured, Keri glanced up.  She tried to imagine Tassel’s most humorless cousin standing in his back pasture, gazing into the border of the Demesne and frightening himself with vague shapes in the mist.  Her imagination failed her.  “So what else does Cort say?”

“Only what I told you.  But if it’s true, doesn’t it mean the Lord must really be dying this time?”

* * *

And, of course, he is, with all kinds of repercussions for Keri and everyone else.

I have 20,000 words written now, give or take a couple thousand.  Mind-boggling to consider that this should be something like 1/4 of the total length.  Well, we’ll see.  It would be very nice if this story cooperated with my idea of its proper length.

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