Rewrite comparison: Of the Arbour

As you all may or may not know, I wrote a book several years ago that I’m rewriting, called OF THE ARBOUR. While I still liked the plot and the characters, the writing was juvenile and sloppy, and desperately needed honing. Hence, rewrite!

The rewrite very closely follows the same plot as the original, with added characters and new subplots, and a much darker, more tense and miserable tone. I’m on the penultimate or penultimate penultimate, depending on how much I write chapter of the rewrite, and as I reread it and check back at the original for important plot points and bits I still like, I can’t help but be amazed at the difference a few years has had on my writing style and skill.

The original and the rewrite both start the exact same way: Sage, the main character, and Cain, an anti-hero, are sparring for the grandmaster of the Arbour as a final exam for their second-last year at the school. In both scenes, Cain is winning via superior skill and strength, and Sage is forced to defend instead of attack and ultimately loses the fight.

But the difference astounds even me.

OF THE ARBOUR ORIGINAL

Glittering sparks flew as metal screeched against metal, flashing in the dark and echoing painfully in the shadowy cavern. The swords flew apart and their wielders leaped back at each other, swinging and slamming their heavy steel weapons together, causing the blades to scream once more. Their feet shuffled against the rocky floor, hopping off small boulders and the sliding walls of the cavern, their wild, seemingly aimless swings always hitting their mark with natural ease.

Both fighters were male and both tall. They jumped away from each other, lips lifted in silent snarls. The taller of the two had long black curls that brushed shoulders covered in thin cotton, a uniform that moved and breathed freely. He emitted a low roar as he pushed his feet off a flat rock nearby and propelled himself at his foe with a wild slash. His opponent was a slightly shorter blonde with painfully messy hair. His dark blue eyes flashed as the brunette’s blade barely missed the top of his head, and in a split second he rocketed forward, his long sword clasped tightly in his hand as he jabbed forward at his enemy’s feet. The brunette just leaped in time, twisting his body in the air so he landed facing the blonde, who was back on his feet, his blade held defensively. His teeth were bared in a dark sneer, his breathing coming heavily as the black-haired one growled, tossing his sword from his right hand to his left and yanking it in a slash across the blonde’s chest. He barely stepped back in time, swishing his own sword up to slap his enemy’s away, causing the hard metal to screech together.

The young blonde calmed his panting, his pale peach skin flushed with the excitement and adrenaline of the battle. He hated that he was panting and heaving, and that his face was red as the new sun, whereas his foe’s flesh—a dark, olive hue that matched his tangled black hair—never seemed to change from that same shade.

The dark-haired man hesitated. His mouth opened somewhat as he gasped for air, and his gaunt cheeks filled with breath, giving them a rounded shape for a split second, then he exhaled sharply, trying to conserve his energy. His narrowed brown eyes sparkled with the pump of the battle, egging his fellow warrior on, taunting him.

His foe caught the taunt with open arms and grunted as he hefted his sword, thrusting the sharp, slanted tip at his dark rival, his cobalt eyes bright in the dank, dim grotto. The brunette man dodged in time, and the apex of the blade tore the front of his simple white robes, somehow managing to miss the flesh. The skin was left intact.

The blonde launched backward, forcing a few metres between himself and his antagonist. He flexed his fingers on the circular hilt of his sword, lifting his free hand to brush dirt from his long, straight nose. He examined a tear in his own plain white robes that he hadn’t even noticed he sustained—a small bit of crimson was soaking the simple material of his attire, turning a deep vermillion as it spread into the fibres of the clothes. Furious that he had been injured and the brunette man hadn’t, his sky eyes flicked back to his enemy, who was standing calmly fifteen metres away, his brown eyes small and evil in the darkness. The blonde snarled and leaped forward, bringing his sword down in a malicious arc, slamming the blade onto his foe’s. Their faces were centimetres apart, both pushing against each other as hard as they could, muscles straining beneath the flimsy cotton of their robes.

“Enough!”

OF THE ARBOUR REWRITE

He was exhausted.

His muscles trembled when he moved, shuffling back and scraping his feet on sharp rock. Lifting his arms was a challenge, but he had no choice—he had to keep going. When it came, and steel crashed against steel, he felt the vibration in his very bones. They seemed to grind together in his hands where he gripped the smooth leather hilt; but he felt no pain in his flesh, where the skin had grown thick and tough with practice. He knew his soles bled—he had seen the smears of brownish red on the stone floor—but he felt nothing. Aside from hot streaks of salt where the sweat slid down his temples and his chest, his flesh was numb; the pain he felt was etched into his bones, coursed through his muscles with each movement.

But he had to continue. What small part of his mind that wasn’t overwhelmed by his exhaustion knew that he had no choice but to keep going.

The crash came again and again. His breath was loud in his ears, and sweat stung his eyes; he blinked it away and pushed back, giving himself even a fraction of a second to catch his breath.

Cain’s cheeks were flushed mottled scarlet, and his curls were plastered to his skull with sweat. Sage could have smiled, if he had more energy. It came as something of a small relief to know that Cain was just as worn out as he.

The reprieve was brief. Eyes narrowed, sword hilt clenched in both hands, Cain let out a guttural roar and pushed forward off the rocky floor. Sage only had a moment to react, and then their swords were once more locked together. One more step back; another swing and block; and the screech of metallic song that made his ears ring.

As he danced around Cain’s attacks, blocking almost mindlessly, he wondered how long they had been at this. Sunshine streamed in dusty beams through the open mouth of the cave. Sage’s sword met Cain’s once more, and when he shoved it away he hopped backwards several steps, both in an effort to dodge Cain’s relentless blows and to better see the sun.

An hour at least since they began the fight. An hour of the most brutal training of his life.

By the gods, how he wanted it to end.

But there was no end. There would be no end until blood stained one of their blades, and Sage had sense enough to know that it couldn’t be his.

Cain’s attacks were relentless. It was all Sage could do to keep his sword up in time to block them. He had no room for attack of his own, but if he couldn’t get past the speed of Cain’s attacks, he had no hope of drawing first blood. Each time he stepped forward, dragging his feet on the gravel and sand, Cain pushed back. They had endured all the same training—they were well matched as sparring partners—but Cain had just enough of a height advantage over Sage to keep any hope of attack at bay.

Master Kelvan had always said that the best offense was a good defence, but this was getting ridiculous. There was no way to win if you were constantly defending, unless you were lucky to accidentally tire out your opponent enough for him to make a vital mistake.

Sage knew Cain would never make any sort of mistake. Cain was tireless; as a child he and his friends assumed that Cain simply evolved past the need for sleep.

“Sage, Cain, you may stop.”


Check that difference. Even rereading such a small portion of the original makes me cringe.

Practice makes permanent. A wise man once told me that. Read and write and practice, and you’ll get better. It’s the only way to improve.

What I was proud of before I’m embarrassed by now, but that is the way of the artist. Without having been proud of it once, I couldn’t have learned and improved.

Updates on the projects

Abomination Changeling comparison

And now, an update on the many projects I’m working on!

Changeling

Now, Changeling has been finished for a long time now, and I’ve already gone through and edited it once. But I’ve just sent out copies to beta readers, so the second round of edits will be starting shortly. I’m also in the process of organizing a photo shoot with an old friend and photographer, and my friend and beta reader Lexi, to start creating a cover for it, so she can be sold online!

Abomination

Abomination, as can be seen from the above picture, has surpassed Changeling, its predecessor, in word count. I always had a hunch this would happen, and now it finally has! I’m actually very excited about this, because it means that ‘Bominatino is getting close to the climax. Plots are being brought together now, and others are being opened for the next in the series, thus far titled Usurper. Though I have had Lexi beta reading ‘Bominatino since I started, I will be going through a round of edits fairly soon, and will need more readers once I begin.

“After the tremors began to shake buildings from their foundations, the sky split and the mountain burst.

“Black snow belched from the crater atop the mountain and covered the city in dust. Molten fire and rock came next, and melted everything in its path. We could do nothing but watch the city burn, watch as the river of fire came closer and closer and finally consumed all.

“For countless aeons after I swam in empty blackness, unable to move or speak or do anything but listen to the final cries of my people as they drowned in ash and flame. Until the day you came along, magus,” Mirek Ko’shul, the King of Ghosts, murmured, and his dark eyes fell on Leto, “and the power you carry in your soul, so like my own, woke the curse in all of us.”

The quote above is a story told to the main characters by a ghost of a long dead king, explaining the final days of his people. This is a vital point for them, to solving the mysteries that have plagued them for so long. Continue reading

The conundrum of being a writer

WRITER’S BLOCK.

There. I said it. And what a phrase it is.

Two simple words shouldn’t be so terrifying. But they are. They really are.

Whenever I want to sit down and write, I’m at a place where I can’t – namely, at work. And vice versa: whenever I have time to sit down and write, I’m unable to do much more than gawk at my computer screen or get wholly distracted by imgur or the newfangled television James set up in my bedroom. Even as I write this post, I’m getting distracted by the Tudors.

Like, three days distracted. I’m sick.

But the thing is, distraction is the only cure. If you sit there and stare at the cursor, waiting for something to happen and damning your brain for suddenly being a sack of shit, nothing will ever come to you. Distraction is the only means.

My best time for inspiration is Tuesdays and Wednesdays at work. Why, you might ask? Well, I might answer, because that is the day the LMPI – import – magazines arrive at the store, and the day I do nothing but sit in the back and price and receive. It’s monotonous and distracting, and because of it my house is littered with handwritten notes for full write-up at a later date.

I’m weathering a bit of a slump right now. It isn’t terrible, and I am powering through it, but it’s a challenge. After not touching ABOMINATION for a while and only working on OF THE ARBOUR, I’ve pretty much switched places, only I’m trudging on the former and now flying through it as I did with OF THE ARBOUR.

Ah, the life of a writer is a troubled one.

What does everyone else do to power through writer’s block?

The finale: Of the Arbour teaser

His palms were sweating, and he doubted it had anything to do with the fact that it was already so hot out despite being early in the summer. For the hundredth time in a minute, he wiped his hands on his pants and wished he could scratch the sweat off his scalp.

The professors were still assembling themselves in front of the crowd that stood before the great wooden doors of the Arbour. Clenching his teeth, Sage stole a furtive glance through the little crowd. He couldn’t see Briar in the sea of combed hair and solemn faces, but he spotted Ash further down the line, looking as stoic as ever.

Behind the professors stood the rest of the Arbour’s body. Kell was easily visible despite the number, standing high above the others as the sun caught her hair and turned it to fire. And though he couldn’t see her, somewhere in that mass of people was Arcana.

Murmurs brought his attention back to the line of professors. They seemed to have finally organized themselves into a neat line, squinting against the sunlight. The grandmaster stood at their centre, wearing the same frown he always did despite the delighted atmosphere thick around the two groups of students. It was a joyful day, from the mood to the blue sky and sunlight, but one would never be able to tell by looking at the grandmaster’s sour expression. Sage wondered if the old man was capable of a truly genuine smile, or if he had long ago lost the ability.

“Children,” the grandmaster called, and it seemed as though even the birds quieted to hear his words.

The sweat burst out on Sage’s palms with renewed vigour. Part of him was still unable to wrap his head around this. He had made it. He had survived fifteen years of brutal training to become one of the most renowned and elite warriors in the known world. Continue reading

Dark dreams: Of the Arbour teaser

Letting out a long sigh, he shut his eyes.

And opened them again a moment later when a cool hand touched his face. It took a moment for his vision to adjust, but the infirmary seemed much darker than it had only a moment ago. The beds were all empty and though the candles were lit, the room was swallowed in darkness.

The hand that cupped his cheek was joined by another, and a shadow loomed over him.

Sage squinted through the darkness, but the shadow remained veiled. “Who are you?” he asked.

One hand lifted and fingers combed through his hair. How you look like him, a soft voice whispered. I wish he could see you now.

Sage glanced down at the hands that touched him. Long and slender, with creamy skin marred only by calluses from long years of labour. “Maybe he will see me one day,” he suggested, if only to comfort the shadow. It seemed so terribly sad; he didn’t want it to suffer.

It gave an unhappy sigh and once more cupped his face in both hands. You deserve to know what happened. You deserve to know the truth. Bastard, they call you. Orphan. They are cruel words spoken by cruel children who do not know the truth. You will do great things some day, my son. I know you will. I have always known. You are the sunshine of my life.

The hands slipped away, and the shadow faded into darkness.

Sage jerked forward and reached after it. “Wait! Please, don’t go!”

His words were greeted with silence.

He gave it another moment, then flung the blankets off his bed. He had to find the woman behind the shadow. He didn’t know what was driving him, but he had no choice.

His injured leg bothered him little as he stood and padded across the room. There was no sign of the woman who had spoken. It was as if she had disappeared from the infirmary entirely.

Well, no matter.

Moving slowly so his steps made little noise on the stone floor, he wandered across the length of the room to the door leading out to the rest of the Arbour. The handle was icy when his palm touched it. He winced and pulled his hand back, and listened at the door instead. Silence rang from the other side.

Gritting his teeth, he opened the door and stepped into the bitter cold.

He was no longer in the Arbour. Continue reading

Happy anniversary!

I missed it. Like some kind of forgetful man.

Yesterday was my second anniversary blogging here. How time flies when you’re having fun, right?

In writing news, Purity is just finishing up the very last dredges of editing and will be published at the end of the month, as per my last post. Abomination is just about 150 000 words in, and aside from a writer’s block I’m currently weathering, still going strong. I planned out the next few chapters (which is terribly rare for me) and it looks as though it’s going to very easily overcome Changeling’s 180 000+ word count that being said, Changeling could have easily gone longer, but I thought I should probably end it at some point. The Of the Arbour rewrite is about 17 000 words in and things are really kicking off. So things are happening, albeit a little slowly. Purity is my first priority right now, naturally.

What better way to celebrate an anniversary than with a publication?

Of the Arbour rewrite update, and the similarities in style

As you may have seen with a previous post, I’ve begun writing a rewrite for Of the Arbour. It started out strong and feverish, but now that the initial excitement has worn down a little, it’s become as plodding as the other stories I’m working on not that I’m slow, per se, but I’ve been weathering a slump as of late. I’m very pleased with the direction it’s going so far, despite being only around 15 000 words in. I’m still really excited to get to some of the major plot points coming up. Sage’s final year at the Arbour is only just starting where I’m at, and with it come strange dreams, a permanently crippling injury or two, and a life-shattering revelation. I’m also very excited to get past his time at the Arbour, and touch over his time spent as a mercenary before leaping into his meeting of Maia and Stride, rediscovery of old friends, and the beginning of the main plot’s manhunt. I plan on this being a lot darker and more violent than the original, which was fairly violent to begin with. Lots more descriptions of how bleak and grim of a place Hailstone is.

Not a lot of note has changed since the original, save a few minor things touched on in a previous post.

  • Carol’s name has changed to Thalia
  • Sage has more friends
  • but is more reviled by his classmates
  • He doesn’t deal with this well, and gets into more fights than the original (in which he got into a lot of fights; 15 000 words in and he’s already been hospitalized 4 times) as his way of dealing with it
  • He knows virtually nothing about his parentage (he used to know a little about his father)
  • He’s self-conscious about his appearance—despite being a strapping young lad in my head—and especially his height (he towers a head over most men)
  • Kell, a friend two years younger than he, has become a major character quite without my meaning her to. She’s a fiery redheaded giantess (she’s taller than Sage by an inch or two) with a foul mouth and a hairtrigger temper. Which actually ties in with the second part of this post:

I noticed something the other day as I was writing a scene between Sage and Kell in which she harasses him about his sex life. While he fumbled about in true, head-to-toe blushing, awkward Sage fashion, she sat there with a wolfish grin and watched him squirm. She talks in slang and is considered foul and uncouth by other characters.

In other words, she’s a redheaded Sophia Henson.

For those who might be unaware, Sophia is a minor character in Changeling, who grows up to become a major character in Abomination. She’s 10 in Changeling, a precocious raven-haired girl who has a penchant for swearing, getting her way, getting in scraps with boys—who also happens to be the daughter and only child of Vincent Henson, the pirate king of Canton. In Abomination, she’s hitting 30, has become powerful in her own right, keeps daggers on her person at all times, is known for her brutal war over Canton (during the first year of which she never bathed, so the people would see that she still wore the blood of her enemies), and uses such phrases as:

  • old whore’s cooter
  • meat shield
  • calm your balls
  • son of a cock sucking whore
  • for fuck’s sake
  • what in the holy shit
  • witching slut Continue reading