Sunday, 29 August 2004

Weekend's Progress

The combat sequence is finished. Total now stands at 30853 words.

Just a few minor scene-lets to go, and one bigger wrap-up bit, and the chapter is done.

Mind you, it still has to go to the pre-readers after that! From past experience, that can take a while—giving detailed commentary on a chapter this size can be slow, and of course I have to re-edit to take account of the commentary. Still, the release is getting pretty close.

Saturday, 28 August 2004

The Omake File

I promised quite a while ago to talk about this sometime.

So ... yeah. Stuff gets cut out of chapters. Or, sometimes, I write scene fragments that I just never find a good place to use. The conversation bewteen Iku and Dhiti in chapter 10 ("Why do you keep talking to me?") was nearly an example of this—I wrote it for chapter 9, and actually posted it as a teaser for chapter 9, then had to cut it again. Fortunately it found a home next chapter.

If there's something about a cut scene that I like—it's a nice piece of characterisation, or it makes me laugh, or—probably the most common reason—because it's not bad, but it's just going in the wrong direction—then I usually save it. I have about 90K of cut stuff now, ranging from brief conversations that never got used, to entire cut scenes or alternate version of scenes.

And then there's the big cut: an entire alternate version, 95% complete, of chapter 10. One of the things that made chapter 10 take so long was that there was a massive subplot about Iku running all through it, affecting most of the chapter, and as the chapter got further and further along it became harder and harder to make the subplot work. I finally had it licked, and the chapter almost complete ... and then, at the last moment, I realised that if I kept it in, it was going to make chapter 11 even harder to write, and after that, a big chunk of my outline would have to be junked. So I rewrote large sections of the chapter and tore the whole thing out, and oh how much better the chapter felt.

The inital teaser for chapter 10 that I posted—basically, the opening scene with Beth arriving at school—contained a bit of this subplot: Iku arrived at school looking like she'd been dragged through a bush. That was the only part of it that ever went out publicly. It got changed when I removed the subplot; but if you didn't see it, or have forgotten, it went like this:

It was Iku, all right, but she looked ... different. Her face and hands were smudged with dirt; her hair-braid was loose and ragged. Her school uniform was rumpled and creased, and looked as though she had slept in it; there were grass stains on the trouser legs. Her shoes were caked with half-dried mud. She looked tired. And she—

She was smiling. Faintly, nervously; but she was smiling.

Anyway. Most of the cut scenes I've squirreled away were killed because they were going wrong in one way or another. One had to be killed for a different reason.

In the story of the Fall in chapter 9, I made a rule for myself that either Artemis, Makoto or Rei had to be present in every scene. It was simple logic; in the year 4200, those three were telling the story, and how could they tell what they'd never seen? I did let myself stretch a point a couple of times, to allow brief sections where none of the three was around, but only if they were nearby or they entered the scene fairly quickly. So when I realised that I'd written a reasonably extended Uranus-and-Neptune solo scene ... it just had to go, nice though it was. (A bit of it stayed, but it's trimmed back drastically from the original.)

So that's the story with the omake file. And I'm not going to go posting them all here, so don't ask; quite a few of them contain spoilers, and others just aren't that interesting. And one of them, cut from chapter 9, I may develop into an independent short story sometime ... :)

Well ... okay, one brief example. This was from chapter 2, when Beth asked Bendis if she was supposed to be Minako reborn.

Better make something up, Bendis thought uneasily. Let's see ... "Umm, you see, when Sailor Venus died, Queen Serenity used the Ginzuishou and spent her spirit to join the ranks of the dead Senshi of the past ..." She trailed off. Wait a moment. That sounds familiar. Where have I heard that line before?

"That's so romantic," Venus murmured dreamily. "Just like on the viddy program."

"Uh, yes," said Bendis nervously. "So you see, you can't be her because she's passed on to another plane ..."

Venus nodded agreeably. Then, suddenly, her eyes hardened. "As a matter of fact, it's exactly like on the viddy," she snapped. "Word for word. Are you a big fan of the program, Bendis?"


"Admit it! You don't know a thing about all this either, any more than I do!" Venus shouted. "You're just making it all up! First you follow me home from school, get me into dozens of accidents on the way, you drop a piano on my head, and almost get me run over by a truck—"

"Hey, the truck wasn't my fault! You did that one on your own!"

"And now you're trying to make like you know everything about it all, and you're as much in the dark as I am!"

"I am not either! Artemis has been training me for months for this! Umm, I mean—"

"Months?! Just how old are you anyway?"

"No, wait. Did I say months? I meant years. No, decades. Centuries?" She wasn't buying it. "Damn. Let me put it another way—"

Suddenly, for the second time in entirely too short a period, she found herself picked up by the scruff of the neck

Wayyyy to much, wayyyy too early. (Also, the viddy program didn't turn out that way, obviously.) Snip, snip. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Latest Updates

Another piece of fan art from Ian Roll—thanks!

I haven't gotten much writing done over the last week or so; the weekend was full of other stuff I had to get done. Still, i've made some progress. I finally know what became of Venus after the little cliff-hanger at the end of the teaser, for instance! The chapter now stands at 28659 words. And counting.

I've been thinking lately about some of the story elements in SM4200 that were never planned; they just wrote themselves in, usually because I was stuck for a plot point. For example, take the years-long feud between Jupiter and Mars. Back when I was writing chapter 4, I was writing a scene with Artemis and Itsuko talking about Miyo, and suddenly realised that there was no good reason for Artemis not to bring Miyo round to the Olympus immediately. The trouble was, my outline didn't have the two meeting until chapter 8. (Just one of those plot points I'd scribled down without thinking it through: "Itsuko and Miyo finally meet.") So I invented a massive argument between them, on the spur of the moment, so that Itsuko might not want to meet Miyo yet.

Later on, of course, this caused serious repercussions. A good deal of chapter 7 was devoted to bringing the feud to a resolution, and on the whole I think it worked fairly well...and even, more to the point, fairly credibly. (Although, really, I'd have preferred to leave the two of them driven apart by a renewed feud for a couple more chapters before they finally made up. But Miyo had to be able to move into the Olympus when her parents threw her out in chapter 8, so the reunion and resolution came all within a chapter.)

What else? The church of Serenity were originally just a bunch of lunatics that I mentioned in the prelude, and never intended to refer to again. Until, half-way through chapter 6, I realised that it could be interesting if Suzue was a member. That led to a good deal more development of the Church, much of which has yet to be seen (some of it will probably be in chapter 13 or 14), right up to its ultimate role in the final dénouement.

And there's the very interesting development of Number 13 of the Serenity Council. (You haven't missed anything; this is in chapter 11.) After her questioning of the council in chapter 10, one reader suggested that she might go further, investigating them on her own. A good, logical idea, so I used it; but it turns out that it combines with a few other points rather interestingly, as well...

Friday, 20 August 2004

Web page updates

And ... the chapter 11 teaser is posted.

I've also received some new fan art from Ian Roll, which is also up. Plus, I've taken the opportunity to overhaul the code for the index web-pages—they now all officially conform to HTML 4.01 standards. A small victory, perhaps, but a satisfying one.

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Another Block Hits the Dust

So, it's been a while since I posted.

The fight scene turned out to be a real bitch (if you'll pardon the language). I said before that it wasn't working; then i switched viewpoints and let Venus carry the action for a bit, and it went fine. Sadly, then I had to switch back to the other characters, and wound up right where I'd started. Wrote and re-wrote the following passage half a dozen times or so. No joy.

Well, not to end on a bad note, last Sunday night I finally found a viewpoint that worked, and chruend out a lot of words fairly quickly. The fight scene isn't done yet, but it's reaching the climax and that should go down fairly easily. (I really should have polished it off tonight, but—odd though this may sound—there was a Kabuki performance in town tonight, probably the first ever in New Zealand, and I didn't want to miss it.)

So. Chapter 11 currently stands at 27499 words and with luck it'll actually be finished this month or early next month. It's probably time for me to post a teaser of some description. Hmm...

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Working, or, why I Like Sailor Moon in the First Place

Making progress again. Not as fast as I'd like, but not too bad.

That said, I've just been exchanging emails with someone who expressed surprise that I like SM at all. It's not an uncommon attitude, or even an unwarranted one, actually. (Not when you consider the DiC dubs.) My mother watched an episode once—she was baby-sitting a young girl at the time—and came away saying, "What rubbish that is!"

And if I'd only seen one episode, I might say the same.

So how it happened was ... Sailor Moon was on TV where I live at around 7:30 AM. (Not any more, of course.) And at around 7:30 AM every morning, I was getting ready to go to work. I'd turn on the TV to check the teletext weather report; and quite often, I'd see a flash of ... some anime program I didn't recognise.

I checked the TV listings. Sailor Moon. What on earth did that mean? I had no idea. It seemed to be about a bunch of girls, doing ... ordinary girl things. (Recall that I was only seeing bits of the beginnings of episodes.)

Eventually I caved in and set the VCR to record a week's worth of episodes. Watched them that weekend. And—

I've heard it said, more or less, "Watch a single episode of SM and you'll think it's trash. Watch a week's worth and you're likely to get hooked." That's what happened to me.

There are worse fates.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

A Man Has Needs...

No progress yesterday. Some days, there's no option; you just have to sit down and spend the evening re-watching My Neighbour Totoro
Ahhhh ... feelgood.

Monday, 2 August 2004

Moving Again

Well, things are advancing once more. Switched character viewpoints and found the words flowing again. Which was something of a relief. :)

Actually, though, I spent most of the weekend with family, or watching some new anime. A couple of recommendations, if you're interested:
  • The Twelve Kingdoms. I've only seen volume one of this so far (all that's out here), but it's definitely leaped high on my "buy" list.
  • Chance Pop Session. One of the nicest, uplifting, generally waffy series I've seen in ... too long. Appealing characters, good music. They should write more like this.
And ... that's all for now.