Archive for November, 2018

Landsquid Sketches

Sorry, squiders, no Red Mars discussion today. We’ve had a really bad week, personally, around these parts, and I’m just not done.

(I’m close, but I don’t see any way it’s going to happen today, around everything else that’s going on. Plus each section has a different point of view character and I’m super not digging being in the current one’s head, especially after [spoilers].)

So, instead, I’m going to share some landsquid sketches. I think I told you guys that I’m trying out a few online courses on drawing, coloring, and shading, with the idea of doing children’s books (both picture and chapter books) with illustrations. I did a digital coloring class last week (you can see the results of that over at the Turtleduck Press blog), and this week I’m doing digital sketching and character design.

I have a wacom tablet that my spouse got me several years ago. I used it for a bit (you might have seen the results here on the blog), but when I switched to my current two-monitor set-up, the graphics drivers couldn’t seem to manage the tablet correctly, and I had to stop using it.

But I’ve plugged it back in, and since I had to get a new computer about a year ago, apparently this one can handle both the dual monitors and the tablet, so hooray! We’re back in business.

Except, of course, that I find there’s a bit of a learning curve drawing with the tablet. See for yourself.

landsquid sketches

(They’re light because the class recommends sketching in a light color so they’re easier to “ink” later.)

I’m trying out different eyes, obviously–the center one is the way I’ve always drawn landsquid (for almost ten years now–wow!) but I’ve always found it a bit hard to do expressions. Any preferences on the eyes? I kind of like the anime-style ones (far left) but I’m not sure they’re any better expression-wise. But the ones with pupils look weird to me.

I don’t know. Even when I was using the wacom before, I never found it as natural to use as just drawing on a piece of paper. So we’ll see if it gets better.

Anyway, thanks for understanding, squiders. Red Mars on Tuesday even if it kills me, and more outlining on Thurs–wait, Thanksgiving. Um, Friday.

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What is an Outline? (Part 1)

Okay, squiders! Let’s dig into outlines.

What is an outline?

In the most basic terms, an outline is a plan you make before you begin a story.

You’re probably familiar with the form they teach you back in elementary school (five paragraphs, intro, three body paragraphs–strong, weak, strongest–and a conclusion), with the alternating letters and Roman numerals.

This is indeed an outline–and you’ll see something similar if you go into an outline mode in any word processing software–but that’s only one type of outline, and really more of a style than anything else.

(If you are writing a technical or nonfiction document that requires an outline, this is what you’ll want to include. But fiction works differently.)

You’re welcome to use that if it works for you, but, seriously, an outline is just a plan. Any plan. And how much, and what’s included varies person to person and story to story.

Some people pick a main character and a starting situation and jump feet first into the actual writing. Other people write hundreds of pages, outlining dialogue, characters, theme, arcs, plot points, relative word count, etc.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

Some people jot down a few ideas on a napkin. Others use Scrivener, or Word.

But basically, you need something to start writing a story. And whatever that something is is part of your outline. You may not call it that. It may not feel like that. But it is, nonetheless, essentially an outline. Even without the indents and Roman numerals.

Plotter vs. Pantser

If you’ve been around writing communities, you’ve probably heard the terms “plotter” and “panster.” A pantser is a writer who write by the seat of their pants. They require very little starting information before they jump into a story. A plotter is a writer who painstaking plots everything out before they begin writing.

(NOTE: It is interesting to note that a pantser may still have an outline for a story. It won’t be a “this happens, then this happens” sort, but they may still flesh out characters, world, theme, and general arcs in a less official format.)

Most writers fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Some may pants some types of projects but prefer to outline others. And those writers that do outline may do different levels for a short story versus a novel, or between one genre and another.

In my experience, most writers start off as pantsers and move toward plotters as their careers progress. This is not always true; Stephen King famously does not outline, and neither does John Scalzi, as examples.

How do I know how much outline I need?

You’re not going to like this answer, but–experience. As you write more, you try new things, and you learn what works for you and what makes you want to jump out a window. And eventually you find a process that works best for you (or maybe a few, if you write multiple lengths/genres).

If you’re just starting out, however, next week we’ll talk about how to get started with outlining, and how to try out different levels of outlining to find a good starting place. You’re not going to find your perfect outlining process on the first time out, but you can probably triangulate an amount of information that will work, even if it’s not perfect.

Any thoughts on outline basics, squiders? Agree that your outline is essentially your plan, whether you call it an outline or not?

Outlining Introduction

So, my darling squiders, I have gone through my nonfiction book ideas, and there’s only ONE left for the series.

Madness, I know. Thank you guys again for coming along with me on these book posts! After this one is done, the idea will be to consolidate the posts off the blog, add new information/sections where applicable, and release them as ebooks.

But, for now, let’s talk about outlining. Or talk about the fact that we’ll be talking about outlining.

Outlining can be scary for many new writers. There are a lot of misconceptions about what an outline is or isn’t, what the point of it is, and why you even need one. We’ll tackle all of these concepts, as well as types of outline and how to tell how much outlining works for you personally, in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about outlines that you would like me to address, please drop them in the comments!

I’m excited to get into this subject because while I am not that detailed of an outliner myself, the whole process appeals to the analytical side of my brain. And the poor analytical side needs some exercise every now and then.

We’ll start whatever day next week ends up not being Red Mars day. See you then!

Making Nano Work For Me

Afternoon, squiders! If you are doing Nano, you should be 10K at the end of today. How’s it going?

As we discussed as a possibility last week, in the end I decided to do a time goal. 45 minutes a day. 22.5 hours for the month. Most writing-related activities count, whether it be looking for short story markets, writing, or outlining.

We’re technically 20% done with the month. How’s it going? Pretty good.

As of yesterday I’m 17 minutes behind schedule, which isn’t terrible. (But I do feel like the time limit has the potential to snowball more than a word count limit does. But maybe that’s crazy.) And so far I have:

  • Checked and updated all my KDP data from the CreateSpace/KDP move
  • Finished the draft of my anthology story (I wrote 2K in an hour yesterday!)
  • Identified short stories for revision/editing
  • Identified markets for other short stories

So not shabby. I made a list of things that have needed to be done forever and it’s very satisfying to cross things off. On the deck to day is sending out the short stories to said selected markets and working on my monthly serial section.

Nano has gotten so huge because of the creative momentum it drags along with it. I think it’s a great thing for people who want to write but who have never successfully managed to get very far. The quantity over quality approach kind of forces you to produce something, whether it’s good or not, and a lot of times that can teach you enough about yourself and your process so that you can go on to continue writing outside of Nano.

But I think it’s also important to be honest with yourself about Nano. I did Nano for ten years straight (plus one additional year). I came out of that with two drafts that to this day are unfinished (though the space dinosaurs are almost done and will hopefully be gotten to later in the month; the other one will rot on my hard drive until the end of time), one draft that was eventually finished and published (Shards), two drafts that have been edited and sent to agents (both YA) without much luck so far, and many, many iterations of my trilogy (I’ve spent…::counts::…six Nanos on the trilogy). Nano is great if you are in a place where a new first draft is both useful and timely. But after awhile, you start to build up drafts, and sometimes you need to, you know, actually do something with them.

I know this isn’t a real Nano. I haven’t declared a project on the website. I probably will not go to any official write-ins (how can there be 20 every week and none at a decent time?). I won’t update my time anywhere anyone else will see it. But there isn’t any reason I can’t harness that creative momentum and use it for what I need it for.

And if you can see how to do it for your goals, I recommend you do so as well.

Red Mars continues to be too…something…for me to read at my normal pace so I’m going to put it off again, probably til next Thursday. But if it speeds up here, I reserve the right to do it on Tuesday instead. I’m also going to look over my nonfiction series today and get everything organized moving forward, so expect an update on that in the near future as well.

Reminder to Move Your CreateSpace Books (and the Promised Landsquid)

First, landsquid!

Ghost Landsquid

Boo!

Secondly, I wanted to remind everyone who has been using CreateSpace that the service is closing, and if you haven’t yet, you should look at moving your paperbacks over to KDP (which is replacing it). Amazon will eventually automatically move everyone who’s left.

There have been some issues with the transfer–some people have reported that their metadata got lost in the move. Mine transferred, but it’s worth going through, since, depending on when you published the book on CreateSpace, you get more categories/keywords over at KDP. Plus it doesn’t hurt to occasionally book them to make sure your book is placed appropriately.

See you next week, Squiders!