Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Why Do I Even Bother Making Plans?

Oh, squiders. My month is so off from where I planned it. And I thought I was being realistic! I only had to do two real things: come up with an editing plan for Book 1 and outline the novella for TDP.

Have I made any real progress on either? No, of course not.

We talked last week about the…no, sorry it was two weeks ago. Good lord. Two weeks ago we talked about the writing books I got from the library.

(I actually got an email this week about that hold I’ve been sitting on for over a year to let me know that the book was not on the shelf and they would not be sending it to me. But then I discovered my library now has a copy, so soon it shall be mine. Whenever the person who has it returns it.)

I am most of the way through The Story Grid. A lot of it is things that are already included in my normal revision process, so, uh, I guess I feel good about that?

One thing it does point out to track that I don’t however, is the change throughout a scene. Like, does the scene start on a negative and end on a positive, or vice versa? Basically, is there a change in the MC’s situation.

Not sure how I feel about the whole thing. I mean, if I do the process outlined in the book, it’s going to be a lot of work that’s going to take a long time. Probably put me into October easily. And while I want to make sure this book gets done right, as I said above, a lot of it I’ve already looked at. Maybe it just makes sense to go through with a focus on a couple specific things. But then part of me feels like I’m trying to cheat things.

Brains are whack, dude.

Aside from that, well, I had a repeat editing customer pop up with a job. Probably won’t take me more than a couple of weeks, but certainly eats into my work time.

And, well, I’ve been offered a part-time job, outside of the house. For the first time in 10 years. And I’m going to take it.

Which is scary! But I think it will be good for me. To be completely honest, I waste a lot of time right now, and perhaps having more structure to my schedule will help my focus. Or I shall completely self-destruct. Time will tell.

My general hope is to finish up The Story Grid today or tomorrow and make my editing plan, and then spend next week outlining. But at this point, who even knows.

You know, some months I’m so good at following my plans. Maybe I need to make this one more concrete. Set times and session goals. Yeah, I think I’ll do that.

Wish me luck, squiders!

Already Distracted

So, yesterday, my spouse woke up and was extremely upset about his lack of camping and specifically backpacking this summer. And I said, “Look, we’re super busy this month, so the only day we have to go is, well, today.”

So guess who had to go backpacking out of nowhere yesterday.

(Also just after we booked the campsite we got a freak hailstorm, which shredded all our plants and also flooded our basement, so we got out of here late to go backpacking. Yesterday was…something.)

So we talked Wednesday about World’s Edge being done finally, and how now I need to either revise Book One or outline/write the novella I owe Turtleduck Press or both.

And then I proceeded to do neither.

One because choices are hard, but, two, because I have two writing books out from the library. You see, a month or so ago I was going through some list of recommended writing books, and I thought I might actually read some of them.

But not now, no, that would be crazy.

So I put some on my To Read Later lists on my library card, or downloaded some samples to my Kindle, but there were two that my library did not have/were not available on the Kindle, so I decided to request these through my state’s Interlibrary Loan program, with the idea they would show up at some point but probably not soon.

(It’s been a year on my request for The Man Who Was Thursday. I know it’s still in the system because I check with the librarians periodically.)

So of course they came immediately.

They are The Story Grid, which is a revision technique, and a book called Plot Perfect, which is about plotting, as the name implies.

Now, the issue with Interlibrary Loans is that you get a single renewal. Six weeks and then they go back from whence they came, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. And from last year when I was attempting to read a writing book a month, I know that it is not fast to go through a writing book. You have to sit and absorb them, or sometimes do exercises. You have to try out the content, or what is the point?

Anyway, I’ve started working through The Story Grid. It proports itself to be a system that allows you to pinpoint what’s wrong with a story so it can be fixed in revision, which sounds like a lovely idea, and maybe will be helpful with my Book One revision.

I’ve mostly just made it through the set-up part of the book (because backpacking) but hopefully we’ll get into the process here soon. I admit to being a bit skeptical that this or any system is going to be able to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong, but here’s hoping!

My revision process works pretty well in general, but I’ve already run Book One through it once, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to try something new.

So, it’s kind of like I’m working on my revision? Very kind of.

But it does throw a wrench into things, because I do still need to get to my novella and if I’m going to try out a new revision technique, it may mean that it’ll be longer before I can switch projects. I mean, you don’t want to stop something new in the middle. That way lies madness.

Sigh. Dang it, occasionally efficient library system.

Have you tried the Story Grid technique, squiders? Thoughts on stuffing both projects into my schedule?

Also I just realized we’re less than a month from MileHiCon. Oh no.

No, no, I’ll worry about that next week.

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

Moving On (And a Finished Draft)

Apologies, squiders. I started this hours ago but then got distracted by Ghost Hunters. Man, I love ghost hunting shows even though I don’t actually believe in ghosts. Oh well.

So, as promised (or at least hoped for), I finished my draft of World’s Edge before this post! I finished it late last night. It’s so nice to actually have a finished draft, even though I’m not quite sure about the ending. Things to worry about later. It’s a little shorter than planned, only 95K, but close enough for now.

It’s nice to know I can still finish a draft too, after I spent all last year fighting with the Changeling story before abandoning it. (I’m pondering re-working it, maybe as a children’s book? Something for later, definitely.)

We’ll revisit Marit, Rae, Sol, Viri, and Ead in the future, of course, maybe once I finally get to revising things.

Also over is the critique marathon, which ended on Sunday. So now I’ve got six weeks of feedback, through chapter nine of Book One. It was very helpful. You guys know that the first seven chapters or so have been driving me crazy, because there’s something just off enough to bother me, but I’ve had the hardest time figuring out what it was. But I have a pretty good idea now (one character is lacking in internal conflict at the beginning, and I can condense some of the scenes without condensing the timeline), so maybe I’ll finally be able to fix it! Fingers crossed. Very excited.

Finishing a draft is always a bit weird, because you’ve been working on it for so long and whatnot, but I don’t actually feel too burnt out on this one. Which means I should be able to move on to the next project pretty quickly.

I’m thinking I’ll make a plan to move forward with Book One–figure out what needs changing and how I’m going to do it–and then, next week probably, switch to outlining the novella I owe Turtleduck Press. I’m going to film my outlining process and turn it into a workshop for SkillShare, to go along with the outlining class I put up earlier in the year.

(Reminder for self: It takes forever to edit the videos. Don’t forget that this time.)

And then…back to Book One? I’m not 100% sure. Since my soul searching in July, I know I’ve been avoiding working on Book One because I’m afraid of failure, even though my biggest goal is to have the trilogy published, and the last thing I need to do is lose the momentum I gained from the marathon.

But, on the other hand, the novella is due December 1, and it may make sense to push on through writing that to meet the deadline after outlining. It’s probably best to work on something consistently rather than switching back and forth.

But I’m at least going to make a plan for Book One. A path forward. So even if I don’t get back to it for a few months, I can remember what I wanted to do.

Hopefully.

Sigh.

I mean, I could always try to do both, I suppose. They’re in different stages, and I can normally manage an editing project and a writing project at the same time. We’ll just have to see.

Anyway, happy September, squiders. See you Friday!

The Climax Conundrum

Oh, squiders. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I always get all squirrelly when I reach the climax of a novel. It’s extremely frustrating, because I’m so close to being done, but sitting down and actually working, getting more than a few hundred words in a go, is nigh impossible.

You’d think it’d get easier over time.

So far, it does not.

Anyway, I’ve reached that point in World’s Edge. A couple of weeks late. I should build a few extra weeks into the ends of all my schedules to deal with climax focus issues but I never do.

This climax is a little trickier than usual, you see.

If you recall, every time I do Nanowrimo (at least recently), I try something new. The raw creative energy that accompanies Nano is a great time to try something that might not otherwise get done (and also, serious projects sometimes do not hold up well under the “quantity over quality” mentality). The new thing for 2019, when I did World’s Edge, was writing from a non-protagonist viewpoint.

You know, think the Sherlock Holmes books, where Watson is telling the story but Sherlock is (mostly) doing the work.

This hasn’t been too bad, in the long run, because it hasn’t been hard to give my viewpoint character (and it is single viewpoint, another thing I’ve never done in a work of this length) her own character arcs and conflicts to go alongside the protagonist’s arcs.

But now, in the climax, I’ve run into some issues. It feels disingenuous to just have my viewpoint character follow the protagonist around and narrate what she (the protagonist) is doing. At the same time, my viewpoint character absolutely cannot resolve the main plot because she’s not a main player in it.

So I’m struggling with keeping my viewpoint character active in the climax of a story that’s not fully her own.

No wonder I’m only getting a few hundred words at a time.

That said, I am almost done with this draft, and then I’ll do what I do with all my first drafts…let it sit for a bit and then recruit a couple of betas to see if it’s fixable. Most things are fixable–I find I can’t get anywhere near a climax if the story isn’t mostly working–so I’m not too worried.

This is probably the only post for this week, my dear squiders. I’ve got some intensive leadership training this weekend (and some questions I have not yet answered for said training), and I’ve got to prepare and pack and all that jazz.

But fingers crossed that by the time I’m back here next week, the draft is done and we can move on to new and exciting waters.

(It’s a joke because World’s Edge takes place on a boat.)

Pondering a Series Bible

I’ve heard about series bibles before, but I’ve never really considered making one. A series bible, for those unfamiliar with the terminology, is a document where you keep all your information relating to a series, such as character information, worldbuilding, plot summaries, etc.

If you’ve been here for a while, you know I don’t tend to write series. In fact, aside from my trilogy and the Fractured World universe, I’ve never written multiple stories in the same universe (aside from little scenes here and there for my own edification). So while series bibles have sounded interesting, they’ve never seemed like they would be much use to me.

However, today I was working on one of those little scenes I mentioned above. These are little vignettes related to the main story that aren’t meant for any specific except to help me flesh out character and worldbuilding. Most of them are backstory, though some of them are scenes from alternate points of view. But, anyway, I was working on one related to the trilogy, since I’m still running it through the critique marathon and will be working on it again shortly.

And I ran into some issues where I couldn’t remember some of my worldbuilding. Or if I’d done that particular worldbuilding.

And then I had to do said worldbuilding, which slowed down the process, and made more work of random little scenes than I wanted.

So maybe it wouldn’t hurt to consolidate all my notes in one place, where I can find everything when I need it. I mean, I do this for individual books, so it makes sense to move all the stuff from the whole trilogy into one place, right? Or copy it over, maybe, so the information is still in place for the individual book and I don’t have to dig through everything to find it.

Have you guys used a series bible? How many stories are necessary in a world before you start up a bible? What do you use?

(In the interest of full transparency, I do have a bible for the Fractured World stories. Because the Fractured World is designed to have multiple authors telling stories in it, I made a governing document so that everyone’s worldbuilding is consistent.)

Thoughts On the Writing Journal

Well, it’s been about two months since I started my writing journal, and, as I know this is a recommended writing habit among writers, I thought it might help to hear how it’s going.

I’ve talked about it quite a bit lately, but in case you’ve missed it somehow, a writing journal is kind of like a normal journal, except you focus on writing-related things. A lot of people write a couple of pages in them first thing in the morning.

You can plot out bits of story, draw maps, keep track of bits and pieces that were interesting but don’t fit in what you’re currently writing, do backstory, etc.

I will admit to some trepidation about the idea, mostly because it’s on paper.

Story time!

A million years ago, I had a spiral-bound steno notebook that I used to take with me everywhere. I’d plot in it, write segments of stories in it, do worldbuilding, etc. Kind of like a writing journal, except I just kind of worked wherever and it wasn’t a consistent practice.

(Actually I had two. I still have one of them–I think–which is falling apart at this point and is covered with many, many years of Nano stickers.)

I used to keep it by my bed so I could write down dream ideas in it. One night, I had a dream that would eventually be turned into Shards. I woke up, and wrote down everything.

And the notebook went AWOL. I mean, I never saw it again. To this day, I have no idea where it could have gone. I thought we’d find it when we moved, that it would emerge from wherever it’d fallen or whatever, but nope.

It’s been over ten years since that notebook disappeared. I did go ahead and write Shards, obviously, but I’ve always felt that I missed something from the initial idea that would have been really neat.

(Not that I dislike Shards or its world at all! Just that I am aware that what I ended up with from the vague memory of the dream is not what I would have ended up with had I had access to my original notes.)

So the idea of having a notebook where important ideas are stored and which is not backed up elsewhere makes me a little anxious. But, on the other hand, I think much better on paper, and I have almost always plotted and worldbuilt on paper. There is something about drawing and writing things out by hand that gets my creativity flowing.

I will admit I am not using it consistently. I’ll go for a few days at a time then take a few days off, normally to catch up to where I’ve gotten idea-wise. But when I do use it…it’s amazing. Aside from the realization that I have been actively avoiding my main goal for the last five year, it’s just been great for figuring out the next bits on World’s Edge and working through other things.

So I guess I do recommend the practice, with the caveat that any really important things might be worth copying over to a back-up somewhere.

What do you think, squiders? Do you use a writing/creativity journal? What practices do you find work for you?

WriYe and Getting Started

Oof, squiders, sorry I’m flaky this week. My basement has flooded TWICE in THREE DAYS. At least we’ve figured out the problem this time, as opposed to two days ago when we thought we’d figured the problem out and were obviously wrong.

(God, we’d better be right this time.)

Did you know if you have a wet/dry vacuum you can just vacuum up water? For some reason this is very strange to me.

ANYWAY.

Normally I like to leave the WriYe prompts til a little later in the month, but man, this has been a week, and I’m too tired to figure things out otherwise.

Describe your writing beginnings. How did you get started?

I started writing when I was about eight, and mostly because my mother was a writer. Emulating her and all that. This is back in the olden days, when we had CorelWrites and WordPerfect and you had to know the key shortcuts to do things. Or sometimes I wrote on an electric typewriter.

I started, like many people, using my favorite things as a base, changing a character here, a premise there. I had some picture and puzzle books I made my own versions of, plus I made up roleplaying situations for me and my cousins to do based on my favorite shows and video games, and I made a fashion book based on the Wizard of Oz, and other bizarre creative things only children ever think of.

I mainly focused on roleplaying throughout my teens, aside from writing a few short stories and starting a dozen novels that never went anywhere. In college Nanowrimo started, and that’s when I switched more to writing from roleplaying.

What was your “a-ha” moment that made you realize this was something you wanted to pursue?

So I started doing Nanowrimo in 2003, which was fun! I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the friends I met through the event. But I mostly only wrote during November. I would finish my drafts slowly throughout the rest of the year (my last year I snuck off to a tea shop called The Tea Spot at least once a week, where I wrote and ate scones and also fancy chocolates) but it was just a hobby.

In 2006 we moved to California, where I knew no one. I didn’t have a job for the first few months and I was super, super depressed and isolated. I think I’ve told you guys this story before.

Anyway, I recognized that things were going poorly and decided that I needed to do something to keep me occupied, and I decided that I wanted to write full-time and maybe try to do something more formal with everything, so I joined a bunch of writing groups (some of which I still belong to today, including WriYe, actually) which gave me some much needed social interaction and got me going on something until I got a job and started to find my place in my new home.

And here we still are, I guess. Nothing big. Just a decision, once upon a time.

Anyway, pray for my basement, squiders. If nothing else, then for my state of mind.

See you next week!

The Depths of Summer

Hey hey, squiders! Look I’m remembering to post twice this week. It’s a miracle! Or something.

I’m actually feeling pretty good. Yes, this summer has been a bit of a mess in terms of, you know, productivity or consistency, but the last week has actually been really good. It’s like examining my goals actually helped me focus or something.

Funny how that works.

We’re into my second week in the critiquing marathon and, unfortunately, the last week. That’s my own fault for not being on top of things, though being super busy/out of town for all June would not have made it so I could participate anyway. So far the feedback I’m getting seems positive, so that’s good! Encouraging even.

Last week I also wrote the second part of a serial story I’m writing for Turtleduck Press, about a scientist in an underwater station after the surface of the Earth has become unlivable. That’ll go live on Sunday, and my editors on that were very complimentary, so maybe I’m not a hack after all.

This week I’ve been focusing on World’s Edge so I can hit my camp goal of 10K. I’m at 9K on it, so just need to do another thousand tomorrow, which is doable. I’m at about 87K on the draft out of a planned 100K, so we’re almost done!

I’ve got the whole thing detail outlined to the end, so it should be fairly easy going, unless I get into that weird mood where I’m almost done with a draft and hence cannot focus at all. Which is a distinct possibility, but maybe we can just push past it for once.

I will need to plan out what I’m going to do after the draft is done. I need to plot out and write a novella for Turtleduck Press, but I should also focus on editing Book One so I can, you know, stop hiding from it.

I might be able to do both at once, if I compartmentalize, but it might be worth it to just focus on one thing. But do I outline the novella first, or focus on the edit first? I know from experience if I bounce back and forth I’m not going to get anywhere.

Maybe I could do a really intensive edit through August and then do the novella in September. Maybe I’ll plan on that until I have reason to do otherwise.

How are you guys doing? Hopefully it’s not too hot where you are. It has been very hot here and I do not like it. But I maintain hope that we shall see the end of summer soon, and that it’s not one of those years where it’s hot into November.

WriYe and Writing Tips

How’s it going, squiders? I did put my first chapter of my trilogy up for the summer marathon and hence have fallen behind on my other writing stuff, since part of the deal is critiquing other people’s stuff.

Of course, this is week 7 out of 8 of the marathon, so everyone else is several chapters into their stories and thus far I am mostly confused. Oh well.

I hope to finish a serial story bit for TDP either tonight or in the morning, and then it’s back to World’s Edge full speed ahead and whatnot.

Anyway, let’s do the July blog prompt over at WriYe.

Quick! Name your top 7 writing tips of all time.

Seven feels like a weird number to me, but, uh, okay.

  1. Make time for writing. If you don’t plan your writing in (and I find the earlier in the day the better) it’s hard to get to it.
  2. Don’t focus on perfection in a first draft. Worry about getting the story done before you worry about whether it’s any good.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others. That way lies madness.
  4. Also, don’t make your goals dependent on other people. Madness lies that way too. Plus it just makes you frustrated. I guess that’s more of a life tip than writing specifically.
  5. All progress is good progress. Sure, 100 words a day doesn’t feel like much, but it’s still better than nothing, and even planning gets you closer to a finished story even if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere right now.
  6. Don’t get weird with speech tags. Make sure it’s something you can actually do with your mouth.
  7. When revising, do big picture fixes before easier polishes. Nothing sucks more than spending a bunch of time on a scene that gets cut out.

Why those 7?

Uh, cuz those are the ones I thought of? I’ve actually been avoiding this prompt, because it has felt very intimidating. Are these my best writing tips? Probably not. But these are kind of general tips that are useful in most situations.

And a lot of them are good outside writing too! So, yay me or something.

How are you guys doing? Thoughts on my tips? Tips of your own?

Re-Evaluating Writing Goals

Well, guys, I’m back from camp, and, in theory, I can rev up my engines, or some metaphor that makes sense.

Last week we talked about my writing journal and also how it’s July and my word for the year, Polish, just has not been happening. The idea being that I would use said writing journal to look at my goals for the year and either figure out how to re-focus on Polish or change the focus for the year to be something that fit in better with what I’m actually working on.

However, it turns out it’s kind of hard to get going on re-evaluating your goals. So, eventually I decided to ask myself a pointed, direct question:

What do I want, more than anything else?

If I can only accomplish one thing, what do I want it to be?

And the answer was that I want to get my fantasy trilogy published.

Which led me to the revelation that maybe the reason that I have my fingers in so many pots is because I am avoiding working toward this particular goal.

Hold on, let me see if I can clarify.

I have been working on the Trilogy for SO LONG. It’s been 17 years since I wrote the first draft, 22 since I first came up with the idea. I have written the first book, in its entirety, three times. It holds a special place in my heart as the first book I ever finished, and at this point I know the characters like I know my family. It’s near and dear to my heart.

BUT when something is so important to you, it’s hard to put it out there, to be rejected. So I think I write other things, work on other projects, because if they fail, oh well. Or maybe I’m putting other things out there because if they work, then it shows that I’m good enough, my stories are good enough, and I can risk putting out the Trilogy.

But the fact of the matter is that I’m all over the place–other novels, trying out new genres, working on the nonfiction stuff–because I’m avoiding fully committing to the Trilogy and potentially getting hurt.

Oof. It was a realization, I tell you what.

It seems logical what I should do now. If the Trilogy is what really matters to me, I should switch over to it. “Get the Trilogy published” isn’t a good goal, because as we’ve talked about before, any goals that rely on other people are frustrating and leave you without control, but “Polish the Trilogy and get it ready for submission” is a perfectly good goal.

But I’ve got to tell you, dropping the defensive behavior is not easy. When I even thought the idea it made me wildly anxious. Landsquid knows how long I’ve been doing this. Years, at least.

So I’m going to compromise with myself. I’m going to take steps toward the main goal. There’s two weeks left of the summer critiquing marathon over in one of my writing groups, so I can at least get feedback on the first and maybe the second chapter. I have beta comments from previous critiques that I’ve already put into my document. So, in theory, I should have enough feedback to get going on the next step after the end of the marathon.

Meanwhile, I’m still going to work on finishing this draft of World’s Edge. It’s the same world as the Trilogy, so it’s arguably related. I’ve got a couple of commitments that need fulfilling as well–the next part of a serial for TDP, and a novella that needs to be written over the next few months. Those need to be done.

But I’ve got to finally commit to the Trilogy–really commit–or it’s never going to go anywhere.

Blah. Scary. Stupid journal, revealing all my deepest secrets to myself.

Anyway, how are you?