Archive for November, 2014

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.

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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?

Winter Has Come

Do you ever have those days–or weeks in this case–where your ability to adult just kind of falls apart?

Yeeeeeaaaahhh.

I’m going to at least partially blame it on the weather. We dropped below freezing mid-morning on Monday and have yet to climb back out, and it’s been lazily snowing ever since. It’s hard to be super productive when the precipitation can’t even be bothered to fall out of the sky at a reasonable rate.

(Our high today was 8 degrees. Fahrenheit. Tomorrow we might make double digits.)

This isn’t technically the first snow of the year but it’s definitely our first real cold blast, and my reaction to early season snows and cold is almost invariably to plant myself on or near the couch, binge watch whatever, read books, drink cocoa, and curl up in a blanket.

Not the best for productivity.

Luckily I eventually adapt to the season and the snow doesn’t make me want to hibernate quite as much.

The other part of it is probably a combination of a bunch of editing work and Nano. More work than usual + hibernating = decrease in nonessential adult activities.

Anyway, I apologize for the latest of this post, and the fact that it doesn’t include any real content. It’s supposed to get into the 40s by the end of the week, so hopefully my motivation will wander back this way before then.

Musical Interlude

Sorry, Squiders–the whole lot of us are sick, and it’s hard to motivate brain thinking in this state. So, instead, have a music video for a song that has been stuck in my head forĀ days.

Science Fiction is Hard

So, I’ve started my space dinosaur story, and in general things are going well, but I’ve discovered I was underprepared in some aspects.

Yes, I had the history of the world between now and the start of the book, had thought through cultural changes, set up a military-run organization, populated my ship with officers, gave them stuff to do, but I forgot a key aspect of science fiction.

The technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I did plan out some of it. I did research on possible interstellar forms of travel and designed an engine that could, theoretically at least, allow a ship to travel faster than the speed of light. I figured out the purpose of my ship, which inspired its overall design.

What I didn’t think about was day to day technology. And that became an issue almost immediately. How did the officers receive messages from home? How did the doors work? If someone wanted to search the computer for something, what was the process?

A lot of space adventure scifi gets away with a lower form of technology–computer screens, metal doors, projectile weapons–but it feels weird to go that way, when we have voice-activated computer controls and pocket computers and doors that open automatically at every single supermarket ever now. And yes, I have a traumatic event between now and then, something that more or less destroyed much of human civilization, but it still feels weird to think that that we wouldn’t have any progress between now and then, even with a major disruption.

So this is my hangup. I can tell you how the ship works overall, but I’m a little unsure about the rest of it. Are things digital, virtual? Or have we gone back to analog? Is there any conceivable reason to go back to analog?

It’s always the little things that get you in the end.