Writer Problems: Too Much Research

So, my husband and I were chatting last night, and he repeated something someone had said about guardian angels.

Me> Did you know that the Muslims believe that you have two shifts of guardian angels? And people are most at risk at dawn and dusk during the changing of the guard, as it were.
Husband> …what does that have to do with this conversation?

Research. I’ve talked in the past about how it can enhance a story, even if you’ve got it set in the real world in modern times. And I think, to some extent, that writers really like research, because it seems like we tend to go overboard with it and end up with way more than any sane person would ever logically need.

Part of that may be because we’re not quite sure what we’re looking for (with Shards, which is of course why I know random guardian angel trivia, some of the stuff I researched directly impacted the entire plot and worldbuilding, but it was not stuff I was aware of beforehand), part of it may be that we want to be as informed as possible (because I’ve noticed when other authors get things wrong about things I know about in their books), and part of it may be that we just like learning, and if we’re writing a book on a related subject, it’s probably already something we’re interested in.

But, anyway, writers do more research than necessary, in most cases. And then you can’t actually put it in a book. You use your knowledge to create the right atmosphere, to make sure your characters are acting appropriately, maybe twist it into your plot, but most of that information just sits behind the scenes, necessary but not really there.

But you, as the author, knows it, and then it tends to come out at inopportune times, like dinner parties or to your extremely religious relatives that probably don’t want to know how the Bible was constructed or when, and how Moses probably did not write the books attributed to him because there’s four distinct writing styles AND the whole thing was probably written a good thousand years after Moses lived, and…

…you get the point.

Any research that tends to seep out into your normal lives, squiders? Do you have any embarrassing, random knowledge stories? If so, please share.

The Pitfalls of Christmas Creativity

Ah, squiders. If you’re anything like me, you occasionally have these ideas where you’re going to make some or all of your Christmas presents for the year.

And, if you’re anything like me, it occasionally goes terribly awry. There was the year where everyone under the age of 5 was going to get a crocheted toy. I had taken a crocheting class about six months before, but after I bought supplies and sat down to work, I discovered I remembered none of what I learned.

There was the year where I was going to embroider a table runner for my grandmother. I eventually got it down for her birthday–in May.

Last year, or maybe the year before, I thought I’d make everyone homemade bubble bath. I went all fancy, buying real rose petals and rose oil. The rose petals just floated at the top and kind of shriveled up, which was less than appealing.

You’d think I’d learn. Or I’d at least learn to stick to things that I have done before and am relatively good at. (It would have helped me avoid the Great Soap Debacle.)

(I’m mostly good at drawing landsquid and making friendship bracelets, though, which are not the best skills for presents.)

Anyway, I didn’t learn. I’d tell you more, but potential gift recipients may read this.

Let’s just say I need to repaint part of my basement floor, and that the carpet cleaners will be out on Tuesday.

Have any particularly spectacular stories of homemade presents gone wrong, squiders?

Nano: The Aftermath

Ah, December. Sweet, sweet freedom. And yet, it highlights yet another less attractive aspect of Nano, aside from the fact that it is unaccountably exhausting.

And that is that you feel restless when December comes.

I am not one of those people that finishes a draft during Nano. I have exactly once, in 2006, when I wrote a younger YA fantasy whose first draft came in at a whooping 54K. But in general, 50K is about half a draft for me, so I rarely write “The End” during November itself.

So, because November is exhausted, I find that I have little motivation to keep going when December comes (again, not sure why Nano is so exhausting when it’s about what I write on a regular basis) even when my drafts aren’t done.

So here we are, about a week in December, and I still haven’t finalized my writing plans for December.

I have three options:

1) Go back to my YA paranormal edit (sitting at about 65K, so 20 to 25K more to be done) that I was working on over the summer and up to the beginning of Nano.
2) Continue working on the first draft of my space adventure story I started for Nano until it’s done (Probably 30 to 40K more past 50K).
3) Take a break from both big projects for the month and work on shorts and other miscellany.

I can’t quite decide which to do. Every time I think I’ve got it figured out, another one starts to look more promising. At this rate it’s going to be Christmas and I’m still going to be deciding. I have written a section of my serial and sent out some short stories to ezines, so that’s something at least.

I would like to start the edit on my high fantasy trilogy in January, but I’m still missing most of my beta comments and I feel like I should finish the last edit first. But man, to leave a first draft in the lurch…

You see my dilemma.

How did Nano go for you Squiders that did it? Any opinions on what I should do?

Book Announcement: Even the Score

I’m pleased to announce the release of Turtleduck Press‘s latest book, Even the Score!

even the score ebook cover 200x300

One, two, three,
How many will my victims be?
One, two, three, four,
How many more to even the score?

When Taro Hibiki leads a survival class into the backwoods, he has two goals: to prove himself as an instructor, and to propose to his beloved Rafe before he loses his nerve completely. In the wilds might seem a strange place for that, but it’s where Taro feels most at home—and the only place the couple can escape all their other responsibilities.

On BFR, proud colonists say the name stands for “Big Effing Rock,” and brag about their planet’s dangers. More treacherous than bomb bugs or sight scamps, though, is a human seeking vengeance. Soon Taro’s students are dropping one by one, and no matter what Taro does, the killer stays a step ahead. Worst of all, Taro comes to suspect that the students are targets of opportunity—that the ultimate goal is Rafe.

Taro would die for Rafe in a heartbeat, but who’s going to take care of Rafe if he does?

As it happens, the killer has a plan for that, too.

Buy it now!

KD Sarge writes for joy and hope, and works for a living. She has tried her hand at many endeavors, including Governess of the Children, Grand Director of the Drive-Through, and Dispatcher of the Tow Trucks. Currently KD loves her job at a private school for children with autism.

Past accomplishments include surviving eight one-year-olds for eight hours alone (she lasted about ten months), driving a twenty-foot truck from Ohio to Arizona by way of Oklahoma, and making a six-pack of tacos in twenty-three seconds.

Writing achievements include the Weightiest First Draft Ever, as well as eleven other, much lighter, completed novels. She has somewhere between five and ten universes under construction at any given time, writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, smut (in many genres), and means to one day undertake a cosy mystery. A widow, KD lives in Arizona with her biological daughter, her internet daughter, two cats, and a hermit crab named Bob.

KD can be found on the internet at kdsarge.com or turtleduckpress.com. Follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, where she mostly talks about cool things she found when she should have been writing.

Nearing the End

My apologies for this being a little late, Squiders. I spent yesterday pulling out 5,000 words around everything else, so I’m afraid blogging fell by the wayside.

Something always does, during Nano. This year it seems to be blogging (sorry!) and non-essential house chores. The poor car desperately needs to be cleaned out, alas.

I spent most of Week 3 being utterly exhausted and sick and so I didn’t get a lot of writing done. I’ve written 8K over the past two days, which brings me up to 46K, which, to the untrained eye, looks like it’s nice and close to 50K, but from experience is forever away, and I am probably doomed.

Nano can get a little exhausting. I’m not quite sure why. It’s not like there aren’t other times of the year where I write 1.5-2K without breaking a sweat. So if I’m not necessarily writing more (5K days aside), why does it wear me out so bad?

I really wish I would figure that out. I swear it exhausts me every year.

An added complication that I didn’t have in my earlier years of doing Nano is that we now (since 2011) host Thanksgiving. Before I just showed up at someone’s house, helped set up and clean up, and then hid in the basement and pounded out a couple thousand words during the football game if I wasn’t already done for the month. Now I’ve got to cook and clean, and yesterday the store I was picking the turkey up from and I had a truly epic (and long) miscommunication going, and I’ve got to make stuffing for the homeless (admittedly volunteered for that one), and we’re in the middle of repairing the formal dining chairs (we’ve got one half-done, so that needs to be finished today).

Sorry. Thanksgiving stresses me out. I’ve got 16 people coming tomorrow and toys spread everywhere. And the other day I cleaned off the inside of the oven door (badly needed) and now the whole oven smells slightly bizarre and hopefully isn’t creating toxic gases.

ANYWAY. I shall be done when November is over and I will go back to my edit (which hopefully, when I read back over it, will be better than it felt to do) and will freak out about Christmas instead.

Happy Thanksgiving, American squiders, Happy Wednesday everybody else. I hope everyone else who’s doing Nano is feeling like they’re having a good time and making good progress.

More Structural Thoughts

Another issue I’m running into with my Nano is my structural beats, or acts, or whatever you want to call them.

You see, when I plotted Nano this year I tried a new technique. In the past I have phase outlined, which consists of basically making a bullet point list of what happens in order. This generally works well for me, and is especially useful when I have multiple viewpoint characters that directly affect one another, because it helps me keep track of what’s happening overall and also what’s happening in relation to the other character.

But I find it hard to phase outline an entire novel (it is an excellent technique for short stories and I highly recommend it) if I don’t already have a draft of said novel under my belt. It’s an excellent tool for sharpening things up. But a whole novel is a lot of work to phase outline otherwise.

So, for this book I decided to outline by tentpoles. In story structure terminology, a tentpole or a milestone is a major event, typically that divides your acts if you’re using a 3-Act Structure (or a 4-Act, or I suppose any number of acts). Depending on who you talk to, there can be a variety of numbers of tentpoles, but normally you have one 10-25% through your novel (sometimes called the Inciting Incident) and another one 75%-90% through the denotes the start of the climax. (That one probably has a fancy name too, but I’m blanking on it.)

Aside from those two, I’ve also got a midpoint tentpole, and I’ve got all three set up for both of my main plots.

So, for the first time ever, I’ve gotten somewhere, thought to myself, “Oh, I should hit such and such plot point, that would be fun,” and then had to back up and realize that it’s not time for that yet.

So it should be interesting, at the end of this draft, to see if my story is more sound structurally because I had my tentpoles in places before I stuck them in during editing.

Anything interesting happening on your ends, Squiders?

Playing with Structure

I’ve always thought that Nano is a great time to try something new–new structure, new genre, new chronology, whatever–because I feel the format of Nano forces you to keep going where, at other times of year, you might turn back from something new because it’s too different, or because you feel like you aren’t doing it justice.

A lot of the Nano options I was considering for the year would have been “new” in some way, but the ones I narrowed it down to the end had differences in structure that were new to me. And maybe some of them would have been too complex to try during Nano. Or maybe everything would have been fine. Who knows? It’s all moot because I’m not writing those stories at the moment.

The new structure my space dinosaur story has going for it is that it’s composite cast. Most things I’ve written in the past either had a small cast of characters, or a larger cast of characters, of which only a few are truly important. This is the first time where I have a large cast where everyone is of equal importance.

So how do you write a book where you’ve got eight main characters?

Well, in this case, since this is the first book of a series, not everyone has to be equal in this case. So I picked the three characters most affected by the plot to use as viewpoint characters, and, for the first time ever, I’m not numbering my chapters.

(Well, I mean, Hidden Worlds doesn’t have chapters, it has parts, but that’s kind of its own beast in general.)

So I’m 27K in and have no idea how many chapters I have. Some of them are really short, 1000 words or so. They’re just labeled by character. In some ways, it’s kind of freeing, like I’ve loosened the bonds of the dreaded chapters and can do whatever I want.

And sometimes I feel kind of adrift.

But I do think it’s good to try new things, and I can always go back and change structure later if necessary.

How about you, Squiders? If you’re a writer, do you have something you’d like to try, structurally or otherwise, that you are currently doing or have thought about doing? As a reader, have you noticed any really interesting structures in books that you have read recently?

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