Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

The Changes of the Process, Part 2

Along with the revision/editing post from Tuesday, I found a post about outlining from February of 2011. A little newer than the editing one, but still completely different from my current process.

Again, for those too lazy to go back and read the original post, I shall summarize: at the time, I made a list of characters with plot-specific characteristics, freewrote out my premise and the story that I had thus far, and then usually began writing. At some point I would use phase outlining (where you outline by writing out sentences or phrases in chronological order, usually in bullet point form), usually after I’d written some of the story.

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve become more experienced and serious about my writing is that more organization has come into the writing process. There are still some situations where I will pants a story, but they’re increasingly rare. Short stories I always completely outline (admittedly, by phase outlining) before I start. There’s no room in a short for meandering about trying to figure out your direction.

But past!me didn’t do short stories, so that’s a moot point.

For novels, I’ve been experimenting lately by outlining by structure. For my space dinosaur adventure story that I wrote for Nano last year, I noted internal, external, and character-based arcs, and then found the “tentpoles” for all three plot lines (inciting incident, midpoint reversal, and climax). No phase outlining. I did write down my worldbuilding and characters before hand (mostly rank and position, as well as appearance). And it worked–by knowing where I needed to be at a certain point, the story naturally built toward the necessary goals.

I’m working on a co-authored story at the moment, and we’re working in a similar manner, though with more “acts.” (Five, I believe.) But I’ve also mixed my phase outlining back in. I identify where I need to be and how many words I have to get there, and then I make a list of everything that needs to happen between the current point in the story and the next turning point. And then I arrange those points in a chronological order, and tada! Phase outline.

I used to believe that outlining killed the sense of discovery one had when writing, and that identifying what needed to happen when would force you to ruin the flow of your story. And I always used to say that I wrote because I wanted to know how the story went. But I haven’t found any creativity drain by putting in some organization, and I’m much more pleased with my first drafts now than I was back then. In many cases, they just need tweaks instead of a major revision, which is awesome.

Believe in outlining, Squiders? What’s your process? Tried anything new lately that’s really been looking for you?

The Changes of the Process

So, for some reason that currently escapes me, I was re-reading the very start of this blog (from five years ago–yikes!) and one of my very first posts was about my editing process. (You can see that post here.) And it was interesting to see, because in the five years since, my process has almost completely changed.

To summarize my original post, at the time I wrote a first draft, sent it out to betas, and the created a bound Master copy, which I would put all the reader comments into. I would then go through the Master copy myself and makes notes, then do a chapter by chapter edit. Then the process would repeat itself until the story was done.

At the time I wrote that original post, I’d done two edits: one directly following this method (and judging by the pictures, the story I used for the post), a YA fantasy that I’ve not touched in years and probably needs close to a full rewrite at this point; and a complete rewrite of the first book in my high fantasy trilogy (that I am still working on).

It was a good starting method, but it doesn’t deal very well with the overall picture, which eventually became apparent over the years.

So! Five years later, what do I do now?

Well, the first steps are the same. I write a book. I send it out to beta readers. I create a Master copy. (The Master copy is great because it keeps all the comments, both mine and my betas’, in one place, nicely bound together so chapters in the middle can’t wander off.)

And the end steps are the same. I still do the chapter-by-chapter edit. I still get people to read it again (or for the first time).

What’s changed is what goes between the two halves. I’ve been using a modified version of Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel process. (I would link, but she’s in the process of switching websites.) I highly recommend the course if you’ve been having editing issues, or if you’re having to go through a ton of drafts to get a finished product. Basically, this process has you look at the aspects of your book–characters, conflicts, plot arcs, settings, etc.–making sure you know what your goals are and what needs to be done from a big picture point of view to get there.

Thus armed with this information, you’re more informed going into your edit, and it’s easier to make the changes necessary to get the story you want out of it.

I’ve found it works for me. It may not work for everybody. It doesn’t really deal with structure, so if you’re someone who edits or outlines using turning points, it may not work as well for you. I’ve started putting those in my writing outlines, so I haven’t run into issues with that as of yet.

What’s your editing process, Squiders? How has it changed over time?

In other news, I have a new short story available for free over at Turtleduck Press! Give it a look! It’s a creation myth with a bit of a twist. I’ll send out an email to my mailing list in a few days explaining its origin, if such things interest you.

The Changes of Nanowrimo

The dear people at the Office of Letters and Light have Nanowrimo pinned down to a tee.  Week One – an exciting week where word counts ramp up.  Week Two – where the momentum hits a brick wall.  Week Three – where you push past 25K and the story comes together.  So on and so forth.

It’s been interesting watching Nano grow up.  When I started in 2003, it was quite possible to keep up on the forums.  You could read every thread if you wanted to without it being too major of a time dent.  Now it’s so big it sometimes feels like I can’t keep up with my own region.  I barely venture out into the rest of the forums anymore.  I can remember when the site always crashed on Nov 1st, when the Office of Letters and Light was formed, when spin-off programs like Script Frenzy and the Young Writers’ Program came into being.

And as they’ve streamlined the proceedings, made it professional and shiny and official, things have changed.  There are things I miss about the early days of Nano, but I’m proud of where they’ve gotten to and wish them luck with what they want to try in the future.

What’s interesting to note is that my own personal Nano has changed over the years as well.  Oh, sure, my first Nano I did exactly what you’re expected to do – I joined on November 3rd after a dream gave me a premise.  I wrote first person (which I almost never do) and a mystery (which I certainly don’t do, alas) and put in dares and kept going even when I knew my plot needed severe help.  Anything to get the words, right?  It didn’t matter if they were silly or bad or that the plot had no point or that I had done no research and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  I was writing with Literary Abandon!  It was awesome!

I’d like to think I would have finished that year, without the concussion and the illness, but I’ll never know.  I was doing fine, but maybe the plot would have completely stalled in the next few days even if I had been able to follow a train of thought all the way to its station.  Maybe I would have realized that my main character was a Mary Sue and that there wasn’t a single likeable character in the bunch.  Maybe I would have given up.  That’s all in the past.

I can’t do that anymore.  I can’t randomly put in ninjas when I’m frustrated with the plot, or shovels of death, or trebuchets, or whatever happens to be popular that year.  I haven’t stopped by the Dares thread in probably three years.

Challenges need to evolve, or they no longer are challenges.  Yes, each story has its own problems to overcome.  Each one teaches you new things and improves your skill as a writer.  Nanowrimo doesn’t change.  It has the same goal, year after year.  So instead you have to change how you do it.

A lot of people up the word count goal.  They’ll do 75K or 100K or 150K in a month.  Some people will work on multiple stories.  Some people will try to get to 50K by the 15th, the 10th, the 5th.

My answer, over the years, has been to become slow and steady.  I write 2K every day.  I make sure I’m not sticking in random scenes just to meet word counts.  I’ll take time to outline or research as I need it.  I work on serious projects, ones I plan on editing and submitting and hopefully seeing in print one day.

Nano is not a challenge for me.  It hasn’t been for a long time.  I don’t worry about reaching 50K.  I just write.  Nano is just something I do.  It gives me an excuse to give my family every November and get away with it.  Besides, I love the energy Nano brings with it – all my writing friends, all writing at once.  So often throughout the rest of the year some of us are editing, rewriting, revising, submitting; it’s nice for everyone to be on the same page.

Nano is a lot of different things for different people.  One of its greatest benefits is that you can make it what you want.