Tag Archives: plotting

Unhappy Camper

Well, this hasn’t been going according to plan.

And by “this” I mean “Camp NaNoWriMo” of course.

And by “plan” I mean at least one thousand words a day.

It’s day three and as I write this I have written less than a thousand words.

What happened?

I wish I knew.

Saturday I had every intention (Yeah, yeah, the road to Hell is well-paved. I know) of writing three thousand words.  I managed a little over seven hundred.  (Soraine is being a very uncooperative pirate captain and is trying to do some sort of odd heroic thing that is going to completely mess up other stuff… But maybe I should just scrap the other stuff and let her go and do it.  But anyhow, I digress.)

I did have one hellacious headache all day, though, which didn’t help.

So, Saturday was a bust.

Sunday was even worse – I managed to scrounge up another two hundred words or so, despite the headache that staggered in from Saturday.

And so far today hasn’t been very productive either. I was running errands for a large part of the day, though, so at least I know where some of the time went, unlike the two previous days.

But still… How did I get this far behind already?

I think maybe part of it was the departure from what I had planned. I’m fighting against the natural flow of the characters and story, trying to force it into what I had planned.

Or maybe it’s that I didn’t really have a whole lot planned for this scene, but when it made a 90 degree turn from my expectations I still insisted that it needed to follow along my non-existent planned route.

Either way it seems that the problem is my reluctance to give up control and go with the flow. (Maybe because what I’m writing is an extra scene to a more or less completed (a beta reader wanted more added) novel that I’m trying to finish up?)

At any rate, the solution now seems clear.  Strike through a lot of what I have written (don’t want to lose the word count) and start fresh, letting the characters lead the way.

On Friday I’ll let you know how that works out.

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Evolution of a Novel #1

So, on Friday I mentioned that I’d started outlining my project for November.  It’s a science fiction novel that’s been kicking around in my head for a lot of years (long before I’d even heard of NaNoWriMo).

It still doesn’t have a name but for now we’ll call it The Desert Planet. (The Word doc name is my usual ever-(not)-helpful “NaNoWriMo 2017 Outline.”)

Anyhow, I thought it might be fun to explore where the idea came from and trace it from that one bit of inspiration through to the final project.

This novel started as a single scene that hit me as I walked out of an air conditioned building in downtown Pittsburgh and into a wall of city heat.

And that’s all the scene was – the main character walking out of an air conditioned building and into a wall of heat.

Then a second character came up to him. Said second character was supposed to be his guide on a rescue mission.

And for a long time that’s where the whole thing sat.

Throughout the years a couple more scenes got added inside my head, but nothing major was happening, just two characters traveling through the desert.

Then last Wednesday, years after the initial idea, it suddenly had a prologue, some background, and a plot twist. (What brought it to the forefront after all that time? Unseasonably hot weather that hit me when I stepped out of my much cooler house.)

So, I started outlining.

So far I have the prologue outlined, and the first two scenes.

Scene two used to be scene one, until I decided that there was too much telling (it was MMC1 reflecting on the mission briefing he’d just left) so I made the briefing scene one so I could show it instead.

Scene two is MMC1 meeting his guide for the mission – one of the planet’s natives.

It still doesn’t have a title, and none of the main characters have a name. One minor character does, but the main characters are MMC1, MMC2, and FMC. I also need names for the planet, the city, the natives, their tribes, and the enemy.

But, hey! I have over five months to name everything, right?

 

 

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Catching Up vs Staying Caught Up

If you’ve been following my blog (and paying attention) you’ll know that I participate in two weekly blog hops: the LGBT-oriented Rainbow Snippets on Saturday and the more general Snippet Sunday on… well, on Sunday, obviously. (Although the thread is started on Saturday, just because I don’t have enough trouble knowing what day of the week it is.)

Both are through Face Book and between the two of them there are probably forty to fifty posts each week.

The Rainbow Snippet thread usually starts around noon my time and I post my link and then read and comment until time to go to work, and by the time I get home (I work 3 to 11) the Snippet Sunday thread is up.

Once I’m home from work, the first order of business (after I post the link to my Sunday snippet) is to finish the Rainbow Snippet blog hop.  Then, depending how tired I am I either go to bed or start the Sunday Snippets.

I try to stay on top of the posts as best I can while working on weekends, my goal being to have all snippets done either Sunday night or Monday before work at the latest.

I’m usually pretty successful.

Usually.

Sometimes, like last week, for whatever reason, the above plan falls through and just doesn’t happen.  (I think I finished last weekend’s blog hops on Friday, just in time to start all over on Saturday.)

Every time I let myself fall behind (thinking I’ll do both hops on my days off) I am reminded of how much easier it is to stay caught up than it is to get caught up.

Why is that?

I don’t know.

I’m thinking it might be because seeing 20+ comments per thread waiting for you to click and read is kind of overwhelming and makes you feel like you’ll never get through all of them so you may as well just throw in the towel before you even start.

All I know for sure is that it seems to be a lot easier if I don’t wait to do it on my days off.

It’s like that with NaNoWriMo, too.  It’s much easier to get a good lead and try not to fall too far below par than it is to say “I’ll make up the deficit on my days off.”

Sadly, I seem to have spent a large portion of the last few NaNo events scrambling to get caught up, but I’m hoping this time will be different.

This time I’ll have a detailed outline.  (It’s currently at 1800 or so words and still has two weeks to grow and deepen and add layers.)  That will help a lot.  I know me, and I know that my writing (and later, editing) goes a lot smoother if I am working from an outline – and the more in-depth the better.

Also working in my favor for NaNoWriMo is that I’m taking the 31st off, so I’ll have a nice relaxing day and will be caught up on social media and ready to start writing at midnight.  (That’s kind of become my tradition – start writing at midnight and get at least a thousand words in before I go to bed.)

I’m also off the first two days of November, so I’m hoping to be able to get a good jump on my word count.  I’d love to hit at least 10K before I go back to work on the third.

And then I need to stay not just caught up, but ahead on word count, because I’m planning on going to the midnight showing of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on the 18th.

Because, you know, I’m sure it won’t stir any more plot bunnies…

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Outlines…

Can’t live with ’em, can’t write without them.

Well, okay.  Technically you can write without them but I know me and I do better with an outline. A good outline keeps me on track, keeps me from floundering and from straying too far from the plot, and gives me something to gently herd characters and story line back to when they stray.  A good outline also makes revisions and edits much easier. (Without an outline I tend to have multiple versions of how a scene plays out which is a nightmare in the editing phase.)

So, with that in mind, I’m outlining for November, and I can already see the headaches that it’s saving me.

Like Sutag’s advisor that double-crossed him.  I decided that there was enough going on that I didn’t need a second antagonist, so he is no longer even mentioned in the outline.

And the fact the prologue that I had planned isn’t really a prologue and is going to have to be put into the main body of the book. I’m now toying with not having a prologue at all.  And I’m not even certain that the former prologue should even be in the book. I’ll write it in and maybe delete it in revisions.  (It takes place in the Orc Kingdom and everything around it is in the Drow/Elf kingdom and I’m not sure I like jumping back and forth between places.  But we’ll see.  I’m not sure I can get the needed information relayed without that scene, though.  Fortunately, the outline will help me sort that out — hopefully before the first of November.)

I am kind of stuck in the outline right now.  I had so many potential scenarios that I couldn’t really move forward and work on a “what happens next” scene until I figured out what happened to get them to that point.  I’ve managed to get that mostly sorted out but still need to smooth out a few minor points (like who gets where first). I’m about ready to resort to writing the scenes on post cards and rearranging them, but I think that once I enter the current changes in the Word doc and type up a few more notes and such that I’ll be able to see where to go next.

I sure hope so, at any rate.  October is almost half over already.

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Song and Spam

I don’t know what it is about NaNoWriMo that brings forth plot bunnies.  Does it emit some sort of pheromone?  Does some favorite treat only grow during NaNo months and lures them forth?  Does my muse just put out a casting call for out of work plot bunnies?

I have no idea, but whatever it is, it never fails.

This morning, with three weeks left before NaNoWriMo, a new plot bunny climbed out or the woodwork and jumped into the bathtub with me.

On the positive side, it is part of the Elven Bard series (which is growing out of Song and Sword), is pretty much fully grown, and helps me eliminate some of the potential scenarios in the one I’m currently outlining.

On the negative side, I don’t know exactly where it’s going to fit in the timeline for that world.

And on an even more negative side, it wants to steal the title for the one I’m currently working to get ready for NaNo.

So now the question becomes, do I continue with the current book or do I stop and work on an outline for this one?

And what do I do about titles?

I was sort of falling out of love with Song and Shield for the current project anyhow.  The use of “Shield” makes me feel like I need to get the Shield of Truth from Palora’s Crossing to use in it, and it doesn’t really fit into the book at all.

Actually, the shield doesn’t fit into either the one I’ve been outlining or the new one that hopped in, so I’m thinking that they both need new names.

Because, yeah.

Three weeks.

Two stories.

No titles.

(Or maybe lots of titles, courtesy of Cassy and Danielle and Danielle’s dictionary.)

(Song and Spam is not going to be one of the choices.)

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Four More Days

Remember on Friday when I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t really have a bad guy?

I now have two.  Maybe three.  Okay, two and a half. (The third is behind the scenes, manipulating bad guy number two.)

Sadly, the only one who has a name is the one behind the scenes.

(I should probably work on correcting that sometime in the next four days.)

Overall, though, the outline is shaping up.  (I’m not going to say what it’s shaping up into, but it is shaping up.)

The antagonists are making me tear my hair out.  They’re all after the same seven year old boy.

One wants him dead.

One wants to use him to blackmail the first one.

And the third? The third wants to use him as a pawn to destroy Vinadi and the Academy of the Accord, and is using the second one to get him.

The problem now is figuring out how to weave all three of those together.  The first two aren’t bad, but that third one…

I really want that third one in there, as it will be a great way to tie this into the overall story arc of the series, but I’m not really sure how to make it happen. I’m hoping that as I keep tweaking the outline and moving stuff around and asking and answering questions I’ll figure it out.

Meanwhile, another problem has cropped up, namely, the order of events.  Specifically, the length of time between the arrival of bad guy number two at the school, the arrival of a messenger, and the disappearance of the seven year old boy.

This thing is seriously giving me a headache.

 

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Camp Countdown

One week!

Camp starts next Friday and my outline is a mess.

I have all the scenes listed, and I know (mostly) what happens when and to whom, but I’m lacking a couple important elements.

Like the villain’s motivation.

For that matter, I’m rather lacking in a villain, too. I have a couple candidates, but no clear choice.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that this book ties in rather closely with books five and seven, so a lot of my outline says to check them to see what happens.  Since I won’t have time to stop and check them next month, that’s probably going to be what the manuscript says, too.  Maybe I’ll build a timeline in the next week.  That would help, but realistically, it isn’t likely to happen.

After the final plot point on my outline there is roughly a page of notes, mostly ramblings about who and why and how. Somehow I need to integrate those notes into the outline so everything makes sense and flows in some sort of more or less natural order.

So, for now, my daily routine is to print out what I have and edit it, writing notes on the paper, moving minor things around, asking and answering questions, and trying to make it look at least semi neat so I can follow it next month.

That’s actually how all my outlines get done.  The problem this time is that I only have a week to iron out the details — and it’s really wrinkled.  I feel like I should have started this daily outline workout a month ago.

On the other hand, I do tend to work better under pressure and with a tight deadline.

And on a brighter note, I have the first day off from work to hopefully get a lot of words written.

 

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Half a Plot Bunny

…is better than no plot bunny.

I think.

A few days ago a friend and I were chatting on FB (Hi, Dani!) and a plot bunny hopped into the conversation.  So of course, both of us being writers, we tried to push it off on each other.

It’s not really a plot bunny, though.  More like half a plot bunny.

But what do you do with half a plot bunny?

Well, I don’t know what she’s doing with hers, but I’m putting mine with another half of a plot bunny.

And, no:  writers have a special kind of math in which two plot bunny halves do not necessarily make a whole.

Let me explain.

I had a story idea.

Well, sort of a story idea.

What I actually had were a couple main characters and a few minor ones.  And a building that they live in. And sort of an idea of what they do. (They’re kind of like Jedis, only different.)

Then I grafted on the new half of a plot bunny and got some added depth involving… I’m not sure what to call it. Finding a soulmate? Your other you? I’ll need to define it more closely eventually, but for now, it’s there, hovering over the story and trying to find a piece of plot to wrap itself around.

So I have a bit of world building but no story, no plot.

That will come as I get to know the characters more, get some back story on them.

More world building will come along with it because right now, other than the one building, there isn’t much. I’m not even exactly sure what to call what the not-Jedis do.

But I’m in no rush.  I have plenty of full grown bunnies to work with, not to mention way more works in progress than any one writer should have.  And let’s not forget The Academy of the Accord – I’m still about halfway through entering the changes for Book One, book Two is done with the first round paper edits, and I’ve started them on Book Three.

I just wish the half bunnies weren’t so persistent.

 

 

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What Doesn’t Work

In Friday’s post I mentioned some ideas that I’d come up with for the villain of my current novel that were just too far fetched to use.

Like having him be some sort of ancient evil being who is trapped in a human form that drains people’s life force so he can live forever.

And the one where I had him body-hopping into the body of his own eldest son down through the generations.

And I’m probably not going to go wit the demon-summoning, either.

How, you may wonder, did I come up with such weird things to begin with?  Did they just happen while writing the way my village of zombies did in my first ever NaNoWriMo?

Nope.

For one thing, I haven’t gotten that far in this novel yet, although I am currently starting to give the reader the idea that the antagonist is… not normal… and that there is something going on that my protagonist doesn’t know about yet.

For another thing, my first NaNoWriMo novel was the first – and last – time that I went into November without some sort of outline.

So, nope, these weren’t November insanity ideas.  These ideas came while working on the outline.

Where did they come from?

Free writing.

It’s like a brainstorming session with yourself.  Or yourself and your muse.

You just write down ideas.  They don’t have to be good ideas, just ideas.  And you keep asking yourself questions and writing down the answers.  Do it longhand on unlined paper because it’s fun to draw arrows all over the place.

When you’re done, you’ll have a mess.   A big glorious mess of hilariously bad ideas, some of which you may really like but which just won’t work in the world of your novel.

But that’s all right.

Because somewhere in that mess, when you start discarding the stuff you wrote down but didn’t like, you are left with some ideas that will work.  And even if they aren’t perfect, they can spawn another round of brainstorming and free writing.

And what about those ideas that you like but that won’t work?

Well…

Non-workable ideas are frustrating.  They seem like such good ideas, and often they are, but just not for that story.

And that’s okay, because there’s always another book, and what might not work for the current one may be a plot bunny for another, so ideas you don’t use in that book can be saved to be used somewhere else.

And sometimes, in order to find out what works, you have to find out what doesn’t.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

(Who am I to argue with him?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Am SOOOO Not a Pantser*

This novel is going to be the death of me.

I was so eager to start this story when I first came up with the idea, but now that I’ve started writing it, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really starting to get into the story and my momentum is picking up as I leave myself notes to check this and retcon that, but… I don’t know.  I think this might not have been the best story for NaNoWriMo.

For one thing, it’s not really in my usual genre.

For another, I didn’t really have the outline cemented down.  Oh, I know what happens – or at least what I think is going to happen – and I even have an end scene.  Some things aren’t happening exactly when I had them planned, but as long as everything does happen (and I have a list of stuff that needs to happen) then it’s all good.

But there are some things that are just not well thought out.

Like the bad guy.

The antagonist’s motivation and back story were never finalized so I’m having a bit of trouble making the story make sense.  Some of my brainstorming for it was way too far fetched for this, although might work in a different story so I’m saving the notes, because, you know, I don’t have nearly enough plot bunnies.

So I’m still trying to get a handle on why he does the things he does.  I think jealousy is part of it.  And the fact that he’s power-hungry. (Aren’t all villains?)

But I think I really need to ditch the part that he’s some sort of ancient evil being who is trapped in a human form and drains people’s life force so he can live forever.  Yeah.  That and body-hopping into the body of his own eldest son down through the centuries. Yep.  That needs to go too.  And possibly the part about summoning a demon.

(Actually, I also created some back story for the protagonist that is a bit too far fetched as well, but I’m going to just run with it for now and take it out in revision, as it doesn’t really impact the story line enough to worry about it this round.)

I also need to figure out exactly how and why the protagonist’s father died.  That’s kind of important because it involves the antagonist and his motives – which aren’t finalized yet.

Solve one and I’ve solved the other.

And there’s an aunt that may never make it into the story.  She’s kind of tied into the antagonist, but I’m not seeing her as really being necessary, so she may not make an appearance after all.  (Pity – she’s kind of interesting.)

So, yeah.  I wish I’d done more to nail down the details of the outline.

But on the other hand, I’m learning to just trust the process.  Just keep writing, and trust that sooner or later everything will fall into place.

I hope.

 

*Pantser: one who writes without an outline, who writes by the seat of his/her pants

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