This last week has been productive, and it feels good. I’m just gonna jump right into it.
Last week, my reading goal was to finish the first portion of Ursula LeGuin’s novel Rocannon’s World, “Starlord.” I ended up finishing the whole thing. Like a lot of LeGuin’s work (and unlike a lot of the fantasy I prefer), the novel was fairly short. Once I got into the groove of reading, I finished it in two sittings.
One of the things we’re discussing in my fiction class is trying to read closely, read with our noses smudging the page as we try figuring out how a writer’s sentences work. I tried focusing on this while reading Rocannon’s World because LeGuin’s writing is almost always beautiful, and I found it cheering. I’ve been aware that I love the “flavor” of her work for ages, but it was on this reading of this novel that I really came to grips with how much she’s using poetry’s aural techniques. (Alliteration, for instance.)
As someone who feels like he overuses alliteration way, way too much when trying to be writin’ all fancy-like, slowing down and trying to pay absolute attention to how LeGuin’s words weave back and forth with certain letter sounds was encouraging. I’m certain it took an ungodly amount of work – learning both writing and revision – to reach the point where it feels effortless when simply being read. Still, encouraging.
I want to spend some time with Eddison again, soon, re-reading bits of The Worm Ouroboros in the way that I practiced reading LeGuin this past week, but I don’t think it’s the right time yet. I want to do that while revising my chapter of Jiharel (more on my progress there in a bit), but I should let that writing sit for a bit.
So, this week I’ll go read a bit of Tolkien. Not a deep plunge back into Middle-Earth, but a little wading, to look at his language. Probably The Hobbit.
My first goal last week was to prepare a sample from Jiharel for my writing group; there’s good news, and bad news. The good news is that I finished my goal! I got through a round of edits on about another five pages, written down and typed up. The bad news is that our host had to cancel the group this month at the last minute, so I didn’t get to go share it. Well, there’s always next month.
Apart from that, I wanted to finish the chapter. Done! My “second draft” document – one including the edits from the two samples I extracted for the writing group – breaks just over 6,500 words, and is probably going to grow a bit, given the trend so far in my edits. (Which just means I’ll have to cut away so much more later…)
Ultimately, I’m pretty happy with how the chapter’s come out. The majority of it is one big drawn out sequence of battle scenes done all flowery and metaphor-ey, but there’s a bit of a tone change at the end. I didn’t want to leave it strictly at a cliffhanger because that’s a bit cheap, but since this will be the first chapter proper, I felt it needed some more emotional investment and hinting toward the rest of the story.
Right now, I’m going to let the chapter sit. It will be my workshop submission for my fiction class, but I don’t owe one for a few more weeks yet. So it’s going to sit this week, and maybe next week too. That’s the point at which I’m going to go dive into Eddison while revising and seeing if I still like the writing.
I’ve also been working a bit on a short story. I’m currently calling it “The Fisherman of Orsak” (although it’s actually settled itself more on a fisherwoman as I brainstorm). Like with other short stories I’ve written, it started from a little piece of my world – this time, a swamp on my map I didn’t know anything about – and grew into a couple seed ideas. I’ve got just under 600 words written on it at the moment, and I’ve mostly got an idea where the story is going.
(Not a hard outline, but a handwritten synopsis page, though I’m typing this one from the start.)
I’m kind of mashing up the “fisherman catches a talking fish that grants wishes” fairy tale with a love triangle and seeing how it works out. I know I want something involving powerful, semi-benevolent spirits as part of the setting of Akhelas, and I think this story about peasant fisher-folk will give me space to explore how the spirits interact with everyday life.
“The Fisherman of Orsak” will be my main writing focus for the next week. I’d like to just pound it out in the upcoming week, but I won’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen. My goal will be to work on it every day, even a little.
Beyond that, I’ve also been tinkering a little with the Language Creation Kit. I’m currently trying to build a sound inventory out of the few words from my world I know I want to keep. For example, “Jiharel” has three syllables; the first syllable is “Ji.” English’s “j” sound comes from d+zh (apparently), and then there’s a short “i” vowel. So I’m doing that process for the handful of words I know I’ll be keeping around, although with more of the technical notes involved (in part so I can learn the jargon of linguistics).
It’s slow going, and I haven’t spent a lot of time on it yet. I’m not in a huge rush. At the moment, language stuff is just something for me to chip away at.
Last Week: Finish reading part 1 of Rocannon’s World, revise a chunk of Jiharel, then finish that first chapter. All accomplished, and beyond!
This Week: Spend some time reading Tolkien for his language, and work on writing “The Fisherman of Orsak.” Keep chipping away at my Jihari languages, too.