Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where Did Today Go?

Unrelated dog picture

Seriously. I've been awake for over 13 hours (I went to bed at 6 AM and slept in), and can't come up with much that I did to account for the time. I watched some tv with John, took the dogs to the park, bought groceries and made dinner, caught up on the Doctor Who Forum after a couple of days away, posted a shortened version of the entry below this one to my Obama blog, and read a lot of political stuff online. Is that all? In 13 1/2 hours?

Well, not quite. A week or two ago I announced in my horribly neglected LiveJournal that I was going to try to put in at least an hour a night on my latest Mâvarin edit. I did well for the first four days, and then started to falter as I got involved in this whole Obama thing. Last night (this morning) I stared sleepily at the page and went to bed. So much for that run. But today I started a new run. I've reached Chapter Six, which is nearly halfway through Heirs of Mâvarin.

And on working on it, I promptly hit a snag.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I'm a continuity junkie. I'm the one who spent several years writing about (among other things) the internal evidence in Quantum Leap that Sam's whole body leaps, and that descriptions saying he "leaps into the body of..." are inaccurate. I once wrote all the questions - sorry, answers - for a game of Whopardy. At one time I could tell you the three mutually incompatible histories of Atlantis in Doctor Who, and the two origins of the Loch Ness Monster. I noticed when Anne McCaffrey changed a character's name from T'ton to T'ron, initially without explanation. I'm good at both identifying and explaining away inconsistencies in complex works of fiction. Yup, continuity is a wonderful game for me - when it's someone else's fiction.

When it's my own fiction, it's harder, and I'm not quite sure why. I think it's because I can't seem to sit down and read the whole story in a day or two, as I would a book by J K Rowling or Madeleine L'Engle. Usually it's more like a third to half of a chapter per night,with lots of tweaking along the way. By the time I reach a scene Chapter Six, I may not remember the exact timing of a related scene in Chapter Four. Also, working my way through the story for the second time in the last couple of months makes it harder to recall whether a scene is in the chapters I just went through again, or in a later chapter I looked at a month ago.

So tonight in Chapter Six (titled "Two Princesses," fact fans), the imposter king tells the Archmage that some tengremen are about to leave the city, having learned that the real Prince is traveling with a rival faction of tengremen. Two problems, I realized belatedly. One: the Archmage is probably responsible for that particular pack rushing off to attack the Prince's allies, and therefore ought not to express surprise about the pack's wherablouts. Two, Sunestri has known about the Prince for three days. Why is the enemy pack still hanging around the capital city?

Not that I was sure at first that an inconsistency existed. I had to dig back a few chapters, and check the dating on who was where when, and who knew what when. Yup, there's a problem. To fix it, I need to place the scene earlier, and kill Sunestri's expression of surprise. But how far back do I move it? What other timing issues still exist that I'm just not seeing?

Bottom line, I'm comparing the current versions of the chapters with my day by day and scene by scene outline. It's the only way I can think of to get the big pictures, and see how all the moving parts fit together.

After all, I don't want some editor or reader to point out all of my continuity gaffes!



bea said...

I chuckled... reading about the continuity issues you are having. It's very much like time traveling issues. If one could time travel, and one wanted to change a particular moment in history, to make a more positive, earth-friendly impact on our planet or amongst our people in the present, how far back should one go? One would have to consider all the rebound effects and consequences of changing that one moment, that one person's thoughts, words or actions which would subsequently lead to the present, or the alternate present. You, as author, get to experience a bit of time travel, backwards, forwards, and backwards again, and experience the issues facing a time traveler. I often catch continuity gaps in movies, or at least try to catch them. It's a game I play when I get involved in the movie. It's fun ... thanks for sharing some author's insight.

barrettmanor said...

One reason you're having so much trouble is that you're very close to your work - and that's something every writer goes through. This is why we have beta readers and editors.

While I'm not suggesting you send out a substandard ms. (the horror!), I am saying that there are likely things you won't catch. There's nothing shameful in this. Yet, it's also a good thing to turn in a polished manuscript. There's also a time to let go and start submitting. Only you can make THAT decision.