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The Magic Arts (& Crafts) - Volume 2

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There of course will be SPOILERS if you haven't read the Volume yet. There will also be some repetition if you've read the chapter commentaries.

What worked?

  • I finished for one thing. And I accomplished all the major goals in my outline. I introduced many of the major characters, the place, the world, and Melfina had to fight her way through her rent problem. For such a boring sounding problem, I think I made it interesting enough.

  • Volume length. Obviously the biggest change between Volume 1 and Volume 2 is the number of chapters. It might have been possible to shorten the Volume by one or two chapters, but it would not have worked with just thirteen.

  • The length of the chapters also worked well. I've read novels on a computer screen. I can make your back ache, give you eye problems and all that. The chapters need to be long enough to flesh out each event/point that I want to say in each chapter, but not too long to give the reader problems.

  • My notes. The notes kept the Volume intact despite the two long breaks that I took. (4 months and then 16 months) Chapter 220 (Melfina Prays to her Parents and Daksage Attacks) would have had the most drastic change, because without my notes, the chapter was still "Melfina Challenges Darksage" in my head, even though I did not know how I was going to lead that into chapter 221.

    If chapter 220 had taken that route instead, it would have been much harder to figure out how to set up the magery duel between Melfina and Wayland, because if she purposefully sought out Darksage to dominate him, that meant she had a plan to use necromancy to defeat Wayland. And without my notes I would have forgotten to put the Tome of Enlightenment in the Volume that is titled "Enlightenment", and I would have forgotten to show Stark using chivalry from his perspective, which would have been a shame since he's been around since the first chapter of Volume 1.

What didn't?

  • My schedule. I wanted to move from two chapters a month to three chapters a month, and that plan completely fell apart. Instead of taking under seven months to finish, the final chapter appeared 26 months after the first chapter went up. Both the four month break and the sixteen month break began from writer's block but other things eventually got in the way as well.

  • My outline. After writing chapter 210, I realized that my outline was incomplete. My outline listed a purpose or an event for the individual chapters, but I learned that an event is not enough. There always has to be a purpose to the chapter. There has to be something that the chapter contributes towards reaching the end goal. The purpose of the early chapters can simply be to establish a new/changed setting or a new concept, but once the middle chapters and onward are reached, there always has to be something of significance that happened, or the chapter feels lacking.

  • My cursive. I like what I've done with the calligraphy pieces and the drawings, but the simple diary and journal entries seemed lacking. I decided that I would prefer to see them writing in print, rather than in cursive, so I stopped making them. I have their new styles mostly set, so hopefully they'll be up soon. I certainly want to start Volume 3 with the documents back in place.

What almost?

  • Rearranging chapters. It worked well to rearrange chapters 214 and 215 (Stark learns Melfina's Practicing Necromancy & Darksage Challenges Melfina). The goal there was to create distance between the first two Darksage appearances, and for Stark to learn about Melfina before she has any doubts about what she's doing. But it only semi-worked with chapters 217 and 218. (Wayland Returns to Demand the Tome & Melfina Evaluates Her Situation). I needed to switch the chapters because the Melfina chapter was originally outlined to be "Melfina Makes Scrolls with the Assistance of Familiars", but then chapter 210 showed me my outline was lacking. I needed to switch the chapters to provide something relevant for Melfina to think about more than just how Stark and the guards are reacting to her necromancy.

    But then when I came back from the fourteen month break, I realized I didn't take into consideration how that affected the overall flow of the volume. I had Melfina going about her days as usual, while thinking about what was going on, when she had learned about Wayland's demand. When I figured out that I needed the mage duel in the final chapter, and realized I could have Theowulf use a scroll to put up the wall of stone, I finally felt much better about having that large section about how scrolls work. In the end, it worked out decently well, but certainly at the time that I posted the chapter, I felt like I wished there could have been a way to move it a chapter back again.

What surprises?

  • It was not surprising that the Stark chapters were the hardest ones to write overall, or that Stark's story arc had the most changes from my original outline of Volume 2, but it was surprising that even though chapter 219 was the hardest chapter to write, it ended up being one of my favorite chapters.

    My original outline simply had "Stark finds a lieutenant". About halfway through the Volume I realized that it wasn't nearly good enough of a premise for the third to last chapter. Chapter 213, was originally designed to talk more about the guards themselves, but ended up revolving around the relationships between Stark, Melfina, and Gamblor, but in chapter 219, not only was I able to put that information in, I was able to resolve the Conflicted Stark arc in a satisfying (and not cheesy) way, show the guards in action, show chivarly from Stark's point of view, show the reason why Stark chooses his lieutenant, and have the West Luna Recruits arc end with convincing Draven to join West Luna, rather than simply have Stark figure out who his lieutenant would be. I accomplished a lot, and even found a place to use the Profession of Virtue, in a chapter that I had thought for the longest time was completely inadequate and gave me the most problems.

What else?

  • Random Fact 1 - There are nine recruits. Bear, the lieutenant, and Warren, Edwin, Stone, Tulip, Loren, Ulloa, Nathan, and Alan. If you take out Bear, their names spell out West Luna.

    Random Fact 2 - The first letter of each chapter in Volume 2 spells out Delve Into Spirituality. Volume 1 has a similar easter egg.

  • It might have been better to split chapter 221 into two chapters. If I had done that, the cut off would have been the agreement to have a duel, then chapter 222 would have been to extend the two battles. The benefit would have been extending various parts of the chapter. But there are several reasons why I chose not to do it. The first reasons may seem somewhat trivial. One reason, is the fact that it would have ruined the symmetry of the point of views of the chapters (MMSMMSMMSMSMSMMSMMSMM). Another reason is that I would have had to do the same thing as Volume 1, when I extended that volume from 12 chapters to 13, and started the chapter with an ellipses, if I wanted to maintain the "Spirituality" sentence. Third is that I would have felt forced to make Volumes 3-8 also twenty-two chapters.

    The last reason is an actual story related reason, I wanted to keep the introduction of the Grimoire and the reminder that all necromancers come from Umbra in the same chapter as the ending. The ending was abrupt, and I wanted to reason that Aedilwulf commands all of them to return home and commands Wayland to leave the Tome of Lost Knowledge with Melfina fresh in the readers minds.

  • If I say that every word has to have a purpose in the chapter, and it's important to cut out all the unnecessary parts, why do I have random guidelines like spelling out a sentence with the first letter of each chapter, and have (so far) had the point of views of the volume be symmetrical? It seems like the number of chapters and who's point of view it is should follow the same rules and not some arbitrary set up.

    Well... for one thing, I like patterns. I like easter eggs. It creates enjoyment for me to put those things in there. If I'm not enjoying what I'm doing, I shouldn't be doing it. But the other reason is that restrictions can help bring about creativity. Figuring out what I need to say about each character while at the same time figuring out what point of views go where and how many are needed, has helped with the outlining process, and given me ideas that I wouldn't have otherwise come up with.

  • The biggest things that I learned while writing this Volume were how to create a much more friendly outline that will keep the volume tighter, and help to prevent writer's block, like it's supposed to. A good outline that will work for me is one that will what is supposed to happen and why it's important for the Volume (and possibly for the story as a whole beyond the volume). Its seems obvious now, but for some of the chapters I confused event and purpose as being one and the same. It's also important to keep in mind the flow of the volume and not unnecessarily slow down the story in the ending chapters.

    A minor detail, after doing all the revisions to Volume 1 and what I had of Volume 2, is that I learned that I do not usually like to see the words "immediately" and "suddenly". They are long words and convey the opposite message for the reader as what the scene was supposed to convey.

  • In the end, with all the problems that I had, I think the Volume came out decently well. Much better than I expected after really seeing what kind of trouble I wrote myself into. Almost everything that I wanted to accomplish in the volume was accomplished, and anything that was left out can still be done in later Volumes without harming the story.

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