Commentary, We Sail Off To War No. 5

Commentary:

Lots of stuff today! It’s mostly because I feel bad about doing the weekend open threads (that is, my uninteresting gabble) if I’m not writing regularly.

First: lists of world leaders pre-2200 (AD; the Confederate calendar is in the 1200s, and I maintain that the precise AD date is unimportant) are available to the naming board[1]. Frigates tend to get strange names because few people care enough to lobby for their cause; there’s an Inconstant on the Naval Arm roster.

Speaking of which, there are on the order of three hundred ships on the Naval Arm roster at the time this story takes place, not counting non-combat support vessels (which are almost all commissioned, and which are on the official count). I have names and dispositions for about a third of them four years before the Exile War; some rainy weekend when I don’t have anything better to do I’ll have myself a cup of coffee and a date with Wikipedia to name the rest of them, and some time with pen and paper to figure out where they are and where they move during the war.

Some people would call me crazy for doing that, and they’re probably right, but I like having a framework to write in. I find it easier to fiddle with things as I’m writing and modify my framework to make the plot fit than trying to derive the framework from the plot.

Second: if I were writing this as a script or a duology I would call this the end of Act I or the point where I cut off the first book, respectively. It’s just a hair shy of 5,000 words. I think we’ll end up somewhere around 8,000 or 9,000 words, a bit longer than most places would take as a short story; I doubt most places would take it anyway, since it’s already been ‘published’ in the sense that it’s posted here. I might eventually take it down, go over it with a red pen and continual wincing, and see if I can sell it to someone, but that seems like a lot of work for the money it would make me (although the satisfaction of being able to call myself a published author does count for something).

Third: the way to capitalize military ranks was bothering me, but I finally hit upon a solution I like: when they’re just common nouns, they stay uncapitalized (Winston was an ensign), but if they’re used as a title they get the capitalization (I see you’re doing well, Ensign [Hughes]). Just felt like sharing that.

Fourth: I’ve been watching an amount of Castle lately I would grudgingly characterize as obscene. It’s making me want to dust off those detective story plots (in the same universe as the current story) I have lying around and try my hand at them, but there are two problems I have with that idea.

I’ll introduce the first in a needlessly roundabout way. I don’t like the saying ‘write what you know’; literature would be very boring if everyone followed that all the time. I prefer a modified formulation: write what you know how to write. Detective stories don’t fall into that category for me–I watch a lot of crime-solving television, but I don’t read very much of it at all (beyond Sherlock Holmes, anyway), and I have very, very little practise in writing it. I suppose I could reply to myself that now I’m saying, “Write what you know you know how to write,” which would lead to my never growing as a writer.

Second, while I think the crimes I have planned are really quite inventive, but the characters aren’t particularly fleshed out yet. Part of that is because they only feature in detective stories, which we’ve already established are outside of my comfort zone and therefore unwritten, but it is what it is.

I suppose I’ll ask for your thoughts. I wouldn’t mind getting back to the fantasy story. After all, our plotlines have to merge eventually, and that involves introducing the central arc, and that’s something I’d be doing in the next thirty or so Lägraltvärld entries. On the other hand, detective stories are fantastically cool, and science fiction detective stories even more so (although they’re not particularly science-fictiony, or at least not the ones I have planned). It comes down to your opinions: I’ll almost certainly end up doing both eventually, but which one comes first is up to you.

[1] I was going to name her William Howard Taft and make a joke about her being an old tub, but some of the people who read this live close enough to hit me.

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One Response to Commentary, We Sail Off To War No. 5

  1. John Brimlow says:

    You should totally name her William Howard Taft .

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