• Mark Meier

I watched a video this morning of Stephen King saying something like this: “Outlines are the hallmark of a bad writer.” That’s not the first time he’s said something I disagree with.

To be sure, I’ve always been a panster - someone who writes by the seat of his pants. I hate outlining, but The Archives pretty much demands it be done. There’s too much going on across thousands of years to keep it all straight in my head. So I need reference points, and a structure for the story to follow.

I just finished up my first raw outline of Neora. Last week I wrote out the first half’s outline, today I finished the second half. And I have to keep in mind this is a RAW outline. (Some assembly required.)

What I’d had in my head going into this project has changed considerably. Probably the biggest change is it’s now more concrete. Instead of simply talking about it, which I’ve done all year (and more), I’m actually moving forward.

With The Brotherhood getting closer to a finished product I find I have more time to devote to roughing out Neora. There’s only so much editing I can do at a time before I get bored and need something more . . . thrilling. Unlike some, I’d rather be composing than picking apart something I’ve already written.

Don’t get me wrong, self-editing is an important part of the process, but actual writing is far more interesting: “Streamers of fire blossomed across the red dwarf star, exploding across the close-in habitats and broiling the crops growing within.” Then comes the nitpicking of which exact word to use: “Broiling or baking? Blasting or exploding? OH! Shatter would be good. Can I rephrase to use that? Oh, no, I used ‘across’ twice. One of those needs to be changed.” I can only take so much of that before I need to put down something new.

It’s odd, really, finding myself outlining. Characters have surprised me so often that it seems like I’m suppressing characterization to get their actions down before I can fully explore what Neora is like.

She’s an idealist, to be sure. Hardworking, honest, hates duplicity and backstabbing. Not a fan of her father, who is mostly a good man, but those who serve him are sycophants and ruthless in their desire to ingratiate themselves to him. She doesn’t like them at all.

The outline doesn’t contain any of her flaws as a person, though. At least I’ll get to discover that as I go along. Part of expanding my existing outline will explore those issues. She’ll definitely be burning bridges as she leaves her father behind. Crossing the border from his kingdom in support of another will spark wars.

That’s for the future, though. The story titled Neora will be over before those wars come to fruition. Perhaps Daddy’s sycophants will be in charge when the war starts.

Hmmm. I hope I remember that when it’s time to do that outline.

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  • Mark Meier

The first settlements around the red dwarf star of Iseabail have been lost to antiquity. Suffice it to say, the larger city of Tzurel overshadowed anything coming from the backwater farming communities established in the neighboring system.

Records from the monarchy indicate a wealthy, unnamed man brought a colony ship to set up a self-sustaining estate, only to find a number of small “hoop” habitats already existing in close orbit. Though disappointed, that man stayed and his facility was a boon to those holding their habs together with wishes and starlight. He brought a minimum of heavy industry which allowed the others to continue, each hab helping the others as needed.

This colony ship became the first static satellite, or “statite,” which established a coordinate system necessary for effective flight control standards within the star system. Though the Iseabail system itself never grew beyond a small agrarian economy, Iseabail Statite provided enough of a resource base to service the local population.

Raiders and marauders, instead of setting up their own agricultural bases, plundered the existing farms for centuries. After sweeping through on their way to some other system, they left behind death and destruction. Otherwise Iseabail was largely ignored, the residents patching together the carnage to continue on. They, in turn, largely ignored the rest of the galaxy.

During the Kelmun Age, only one of the many Kelmuns came from Iseabail: Jacan. Even he was of no great consequence. All that changed when the first King of Avudel proved a disappointment and the Last of the Kelmuns visited the system and selected another to replace Shaan. Even then it would take another twenty years before King Mika took the throne.

The setting for the story of Neora is in a time relative peace, after the Kelmun Shyla vanquished the Yordanites with the assistance of Admiral Faran. That, though, was a hundred light years toward the Core and not much of an issue for those in Iseabail.

Shortly after the events detailed in Neora, the Mandarites began their own campaign of plunder, bringing to an end the peaceful interlude which is the backdrop for Neora.

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  • Mark Meier

I find it somewhat funny what people remember. About a decade ago I tried writing a story that would now fit into my “Purple Crypt” book series. That’s totally forgotten, apparently, by a lot of people. Then again, it wasn’t very good (first drafts never are), nor was it thought out effectively. Issues with the plot were . . . legion. So I stopped, and now what people remember is “Purple Crypt” is like what Someone Else is working on. Funny, but also kind of irritating.

Having expressed that, I’ve written about three beginnings to the novel Neora - A “Purple Crypt” Story, which starts in the year 2680 in my timeline. No doubt I’ll have another beginning soon, because research has made my characterizations questionable. That’s the thing about research, though - every time you learn something new it affects the whole story.

The Amira (Neora’s mother) I have now is kind of a complainer. However, the needs of the character require her to be nice and pleasant, then turn into the complainer. For the time being, however, I need to change that personality. But that means I have to change OTHER characters’ responses to Amira.

Basically, it would be easier to rewrite the whole beginning I’ve already written three times.

That’s the update on Purple Crypt. My other major project, The Brotherhood, is getting a revision to put in more descriptions. I tend to write on the side of brevity, leaving out things like emotions and setting. Now I need to put some paint on the walls and smiles or tears on faces. The closer to the ending I get, the more the story is simply framework. Once that gets done, I’ll turn it over to people to check if the plot holds up. Perhaps I’ll be ready to find an agent by the end of the year, or submit without the benefits an agent can provide.

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