Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

WriYe and Romance

Afternoon, squiders. WriYe’s going well so far. I’m still remembering to check in, and through the challenges I’ve finished my serial story (which I’ve worked on almost every month since January 2009! It’s insane to think that it’s done), wrote a 4K short story, and started revisiting some of my universes which will help with longer projects moving forward (I wrote a Shards verse drabble this morning, which was very enjoyable and came really easily).

But now it’s February, which means there’s a new prompt up for the blog circle, so let’s get to it.

Is romance necessary in all fiction? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t say romance is a necessity. It can be nice, or it can be terrible (in the case where it’s forced in, or comes out of nowhere, or is just really badly written). I don’t mind romance, but I do think it needs to be done well and serve a purpose.

But a necessity? Nah. I’m perfectly happy to read about a group of friends, or siblings, or cousins, or any other relationship. It doesn’t need to be romantic in nature. And to have all stories rely on romance is, frankly, a little unrealistic and uninteresting. Some people don’t like romance, and plenty of people get through life without it showing up every time something exciting happens.

Bonus:

If you do have romance in your fiction, tell us about your favorite pairings. Why are they your favorite?

I am not great at romance (I suspect because I’m not a romantic person myself), but if I had to pick, I think Syvil/Chism from my story For Justice in the To Rule the Stars anthology (which you guys might remember me mentioning under its working premise, which was space princesses) is probably my favorite romantic couple that I’ve written.

Don’t tell any of the other couples, I guess.

Despite including romance in a lot of my stories, it doesn’t come naturally to me in most cases. I often have to go back through in the editing stage and add in things like significant looks, and feelings, and things along those lines. It’s a known issue.

What do you think about romance, squiders? Essential to a well-rounded story?

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Picture Books and Progress

Happy Friday, squiders! I hope you’re doing well. It keeps snowing on my plans over here in these parts.

I think I’ve told you guys about my plan to try out writing some picture books. I tried once before (waaaaay back in 2012, before I had small, mobile ones of my own) and it was hard, but now that I’ve read a ton in recent years, I feel like I have a better handle on the whole thing.

(hahahaha we’ll see, won’t we?)

In an attempt to have this go better than the last time, I’ve been doing some research. One of the things I’ve been looking at is how many pages you get to tell your story, since, unlike a novel, a picture book needs to fit in a set, industry-standard range, and it seemed important to understand what that was before I wrote the book and potentially ended up with too many or too few pages.

My research tells me the story tends to make up somewhere between 26 and 30 pages (with 28 being most common) with their being four pages of administrative stuff (such as title pages, dedications, copyright, etc.).

I’ve also been taking classes various places, studying illustration and narrative art and comics, all of which are very interesting. But I kind of feel like I’ve reached the point where I’m still poking around because I’m nervous about actually doing the work, if you know what I mean.

The last time I tried this (seven years ago! Good Lord!) went poorly. It is scary trying a new format. But I know what I need to know, and I just need to do the dang thing.

What else have I been up to so far this year?

  • I wrote the second-to-last section of my serial. The last part will be done next month.
  • I edited my anthology story. Just one more rounds of edits before publication. I’ve also spent some time making mock covers and poking titles.
  • I joined the genre stretch challenge over at WriYe (this month is dystopian + Gilded Age romance) and am about 1.5K into my story.
  • I also joined the prompt challenge, picked universes to work in (decided on Shards and the Trilogy), and chose prompt lists
  • Siri and I are actively working on CoHaR II now that we’ve survived the holidays (and Disney World)
  • One of my writing groups is doing their winter critique marathon, so I’ve got my space dinosaur story in there. So far, so good.

For the rest of the month, I’m going to work on the genre stretch story, CoHaR II, and the picture book. For February, I’m pondering a few different things.

  • Now that the nonfiction books are drafted, I should go back through them, compile them, add new sections, and get them ready for publication.
  • I’d also like to start a new draft of something. I’m pondering going back and doing Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class with something, which I’ve never gotten all the way through. But now could be a good time to do so.

How’s your January going? Thoughts on February? Things to note about picture books?

Troubleshooting Your Outlining Issues

All right, squiders! I think this is the last bit of the outlining book. And from here, it’ll be time to go back through all the nonfiction book posts, put them together, and see what’s missing. Woo.

Outlining issues essentially fall into three main categories:

  1. Over-outlining
  2. Under-outlining
  3. Feeling trapped by your outline

Over-outlining

Problems stemming from over-outlining typically lie in overplanning, i.e., all your creative energy goes into the outline, and there isn’t any left over for the actual writing.

So, how do you fix this?

This is one of the hardest issues to fix. After all, you can’t un-plan. The best thing here might be some distance. Work on something else for a while. Let the story get out of your brain. Test different levels of outlining, so you know where your limit is.

Then, after you’ve given it enough distance, come back and give it another go. It might be that without directly working on, the story has regained some of its mystery. Or, if you’ve discovered you need less of an outline, skim what you have instead of re-reading everything to avoid overwhelming yourself again.

Under-planning

Do you often find yourself staring at your story, having no clue where to go next? This is often a symptom of under-planning. If you don’t have enough of an outline, you might not have a good idea of where your story is going or what you’re trying to accomplish, which can directly lead into writer’s block.

The good news is that this is the easiest outlining problem to fix. Just plan the story out some more. If you’re not an outliner and don’t want to be, try something more stream of conscious, like a mindmap or a freewrite. I find that phase outlining the next section can be extremely helpful for this problem.

At the very minimum, you can try a simple fix–leave yourself a clue about where to go when you stop writing for the day. Some authors like to stop in the middle of a sentence (forcing yourself to try to recreate your frame of mind), while others prefer to jot down a few notes about where to go next.

Feeling trapped by your outline

Let’s say you’re happily writing along, following your outline. Everything is going great. But then, instead of following the plan, at the height of the climax, your character suggests an alternate path forward, one that makes more sense, both to the plot and to the character’s personality.

Your outline says one thing, but it feels right to do something else. What’s the solution?

Remember, above all, that your outline works for you. It is a tool, designed to help you move the story forward and avoid stupid issues in plotting (like forgetting a subplot, or accidentally introducing a deus ex machina). Once you write yours, there’s no rule that says it is an immutable document that cannot be changed.

If something better comes along, give it a look. If you don’t want to get rid of your initial outline, make a second one with the new information and see how it looks. And the next time you run into something that needs to change, do the same thing.

(I would caution not just making the change and running blind into the wind. Take a second to give the new storyline the same level of scrutiny you gave the original, to make sure you’re not introducing anything terrible that will be hard to fix later.)

Any other issues you can think of when it comes to outlining, squiders? Solutions for these issues?

Also, I’m moving back the readalong discussion for Green Mars. The holidays and the Disney trip got away with my time, and I’m not ready to discuss it next week. Let’s look at mid-February for that discussion.

WriYe and 2019

So, in December, I got an email letting me know that the WriYe boards were being refreshed for 2019, and it was a weird blast from the past. Do they send these emails out every year and I’ve just ignored them? Did they do something different this year? Who knows!

WriYe (at some point it was NaNoWriYe) stands for Writing Year, and it is a year-long writing challenge where you pick a total word count for the year. Each month has a number of individual challenges (new moon and full moon challenges where you try to get a certain word count on those days, genre stretches were you write stories outside your comfort zone, etc.) to help you stay focused.

Back in 2006 I joined a ton of writing communities/challenges, one of which was WriYe. (This was because I graduated from college in Dec 2005 and then moved to a new state in Jan 2006 with my then-boyfriend–now husband, so it wasn’t a totally bad idea–where I had no job and knew no one and was generally going completely stir-crazy. So I decided to focus on writing more than I had been in an attempt to save my own mental health.)

I did well that year–I won, and I became a mod-of-sorts closer to the end of the year. I think I was in charge of making up challenges. But I haven’t really done it much since then. The last time I tried was 2013, and I didn’t check in past August.

But, for whatever reason, WriYe sounded like a good idea this year, so I signed back up and here we are.

They’ve got a blog circle, so you may see periodic posts relating to WriYe throughout the year. This is the prompt for January’s:

What’s your WriYe Word Count goal for 2019? Why did you chose it? 
What are your plans for the year? What do you want to accomplish with your writing?

I picked a 75,000 word count goal for 2019. This is one of the lowest tiers (there’s 50K and 60K underneath it) which I feel comfortable with because I haven’t been terribly prolific recently (see: small, mobile ones) and so it should be doable.

(Also, I believe I can change it later if things are going really well.)

My plans are a bit up in the air. We did discuss things that I wanted to work on at the beginning of the month, but aside from the anthology and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin everything is more or less an option. But I would like to do something new this year. And get some things done. So many things are in revision limbo and I’ve got to get them either polished and ready to go or give up on them.

Bonus: What are you most looking forward to in 2019?

I love the possibility that comes with a new year. Of course, this is completely arbitrary, since one can start a new thing at any old time, but there’s so much possibility right now.

But I am going to write something new this year, and gosh darn it, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Also, they’ve got a complicated prompt system over at WriYe, and it’s been forever since I’ve done prompts, but they actually make sense with some of the things on my list this year, so I’m going to go for it. As soon as I figure out how it works.

Got any year-long goals this year, squiders? Tips on helping me focus? I’m in that weird state where there’s so much possibility it’s hard to pick something and settle down with it.

Why Science Fiction/Fantasy?

I was ditzing around the blog and discovered a variety of draft posts that never got written, for whatever reason. This is the earliest, from 2010, right after I started this blog up.

No reason to let things sit around forever, right?

Here are the notes I left myself for this post:

“Why I write scifi/fantasy

Including points:
-why read the real world?  It is sad and depressing
-you can do anything with scifi/fantasy (not even the sky is the limit)”

Good job, Kit. Very useful.

Maybe I felt like I had to explain myself, back then? I know that sometimes people who write genre get pushback from “literary” types about how genre stories aren’t real literature or whatever. I don’t think I’ve ever really run into that in person, so I don’t know if that was it. (2010 was an awfully long time ago.)

Since this was from the beginning of the blog, maybe it was as an introduction? Kind of a “here’s what you’re getting yourself into” sort of thing. I think I’ll go with that one.

In my case, the question wasn’t ever “Why Science Fiction/Fantasy?” I don’t think there was ever any other option available to me. I watched Star Trek with my parents before I could talk. My parents were huge scifi fans, and that definitely rubbed off. And when I found and read my first real epic fantasy book in sixth grade (The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks), well…I’ve never looked back.

That’s not to say I don’t like other genres. You guys know I love mysteries, and I’ve read my fair share of classics, romance, historical fiction, thrillers, horror, etc. But there’s something about science fiction and fantasy, about the possibilities, that has always stuck with me. In most cases, there’s a sense of wonder, a sense of possibility, even in the bleakest of storylines.

Plus, you know, dragons. And spaceships. Oooo, maybe dragons on spaceships?

It’s probably for the best. When I try to write something without fantastical elements I get a little melodramatic.

So the question isn’t “why science fiction/fantasy?” It’s “Why wouldn’t it be science fiction/fantasy?”

How about you, squiders? Why do you write/read your genre of choice?

Using Outlines for Revision

A lot of people consider outlines as something you need before you start writing your first draft, but I would argue that they’re a much more important tool for the revision phase of a project.

That’s not to say that having an outline when you’re doing the initial writing isn’t helpful. In a lot of ways it is. (Please refer back to the section about why you need an outline for more on that.) But revision is a whole other beast, and if you’re unprepared for the process, you can find yourself putting out draft after draft and never really getting the book/story you’re looking for.

Revision is the process of taking the book you have and making it the book you want. But if you don’t know what you want…

That is why I highly recommend using outlines for your revision process. And the more thorough the outline, the easier it is to put into place. Even if you’re a pantser, use an outline for revision. The story’s been written. You know how it goes. The point now is to make it coherent, logical, and beautiful, and to prepare it for whatever the end goal of it is (whether it’s to share with a few friends or family or send it off hoping for traditional publication).

If writing is a right-brained activity, revision is left-brained. And having the right tools and processes make left-brained activities flow better. Having an outline can help you see where you’re missing scenes, where scenes don’t make sense, where you can add in more conflict (or streamline some that’s too complicated).

And once you’ve planned out what needs to go where, then you make it do so.

I like to use a combination of phase outlining and note cards for my revision process. Note cards in particular can be very useful, because each scene is its own card, which means you can rearrange scenes or add/remove them without disturbing the entire outline.

So, if you’ve had issues in the revision steps of the writing process, look at adding some outlining in. It can also help to note what in particular you have to keep rewriting (character motivation, plot flow, etc.) and focus on that in your outlining.

What say you, squiders? Do you think using an outline for revision is helpful? Alternates or other tools you like instead?



Looking Back at 2018 and Ahead at 2019

For the last few years, I’ve had a spreadsheet with a general idea of what I want to get done for the year and the general time frame in which I think it’s going to get done.

There’s a lot of overlap from year to year–the same projects not really getting done–so I may want to rethink this moving forward.

But, hey! Things got done in 2018, and they were generally useful:

  • I wrote 20K to get to The End on my space dinosaur story first draft (started in 2014)
  • I wrote approximately 10K on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin
  • I had a story published in an anthology (The Necro-Om-Nom-Nom-Icon) and wrote another one for an anthology that will be released this March
  • I finished the revision on Book 1 of my trilogy (two years in the making, argh)
  • I had a short story published in a magazine in April (Bards and Sages Quarterly) and also had two more published online (here and here)
  • I went through a critique cycle with the beginning of my YA paranormal novel, which will help me streamline it for submission
  • I continued my monthly scifi serial (which should be complete within a few months)
  • I worked on the nonfiction books here on the blog (and we’re on our last one now!)

Plus other, littler things. But it’s not too shabby. I’ve laid a lot of new projects out, so I should be good to go to work on them when I get there.

Of course, getting there is always the issue.

It’s hard to plan out a whole year of projects. Things take longer than you expect them to, or new things pop up, or priorities change, but here’s generally what I’m thinking for 2019.

  • CoHaR II MUST get done. Hopefully by March. That may be a little optimistic. This is a hard one since Siri and I have to work together on it, so I don’t have full control of the time frame, and it’s hard to work on other things around it, because then I have to re-center myself on it every time it’s my turn again.
  • I have a bunch of projects that are in this weird state between revision and publication. There’s Book 1, which I finished a major revision on last year and could, in theory, be submission ready, though I would like some betas to read through it before I act on that. There’s the YA paranormal, which I was submitting, but probably needs some work before I send it out again (the critique process I put it through pointed out that the tone is inconsistent in the beginning). And there’s the space dinosaurs draft, which is pretty good but does need some tweaking. Again, betas will be necessary. All my normal betas are too busy for writing lately so I need to find some new ones.
  • The nonfiction books are almost ready. The outlining one we’re doing right now is the last one. Then I’ve got to consolidate, write the new sections, get betas (Lord), and get them out into the world.
  • I could, in theory, start a new draft of something. Hooray! I have no outstanding unfinished drafts, and it helps to write something new occasionally instead of revising all the time. But then the options, and which to choose.
  • I spent some time in Nov/Dec poking at ideas for children’s books of various levels. While the chapter book ideas need some fleshing out (right now they’re mixes of premise and character without anything really solidifying), I do have three picture books completely outlined that I could get going on.

My thought is that until CoHaR II is out of the way, I’m going to be fairly useless on revision, so I may focus on new things at the beginning of the year (and finding betas) and then do the more brain intensive bits later on. But hey! Plans change. We’ll see.

How did 2018 go for you, squiders? Anything major and awesome planned for 2019?