Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Ah, Summer

I hate summer. Sorry. I really do. It’s hot, and I despise being hot. There’s no rhyme or reason to the days, there’s too much going on, there’s too much going on and yet it’s too hot to do anything…

Also it thunderstorms but so rarely rains.

ANYWAY, this is a long way to say I’m sorry about missing last week here at the blog. I blame it on coming back from a 16-day road trip (I hope you liked my story ideas!) and then immediately having to teach songs/dances to children for three hours a day.

When you dance outside for three hours a day, in the sun, it takes a surprising amount out of you. I honestly don’t know what I did any afternoon last week.

And I apologize again because this will probably be the only post this week. There’s the off-chance I’ll manage to put something together, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Writing-wise, June was, well, not impressive. Most of that is because of the 16-day trip immediately followed by the dancing. I think I managed 1100 words during the trip, on a few mornings where I snuck out of a hotel and found a coffee shop.

For June I also started working on a writing journal, but I ran into issues pretty fast. It was great the first few days, planning out the long-term and immediate next parts of the draft of World’s Edge. Then I planned out the blog posts for while I was gone, and I did a couple entries about being frustrated about my current lack of writing time, and one about a mystery short story idea.

But then…it got weird. Because I wasn’t working on World’s Edge actively, I kind of ran out of things to talk about. I mean, I could plan out a wealth of short stories, or things along those lines, but without doing the writing part, it felt like spinning my wheels. So that kind of died off too.

But now we’re back, and after this weekend, things should settle into something of a routine, at least enough that I should be able to get momentum again.

It’s July now, and I signed up for 10K for Camp. This is my sweet spot–I can almost always get 10K for Camp Nanowrimo–though I’d like to finish my draft. We’ll see. My first couple days of the month were very productive, and then there was birthday madness that I won’t bore you guys with.

I think I will use my journal for refocusing my year. If you remember, I picked Polish for my word for the year, with the intention of editing the drafts I have sitting around. And here we are, halfway through the year, and aside from poking impotently at Book One for the first couple of months of the year, I’ve made no progress along those lines.

So it won’t hurt to re-evaluate and see if I can refocus on something else. Or see if there’s a way to switch gears. Things to do in the writing journal.

Oh! Did I tell you guys I finally submitted my Landsquid picture book to a few agents? Thus far nothing’s happening over there, but it does feel like a threshold has been passed. And I’m debating signing up for a spot in the Art Show at MileHiCon in October, if I can put together some nicer pieces.

So many plans, not enough time, too easily distracted by YouTube.

Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well! Do you hate summer too? Got any big plans?

See you next week, if nothing else!

And What About Cozy Mysteries?

Hey-o, squiders. Sorry for missing Tuesday’s post. I have no excuse except, uh…oh. Oh yeah. I had volunteer commitments. Okay, that’s a pretty good excuse.

So, as I move toward trying my hand at my first cozy mystery during November, I’ve been reading how to write mystery books for fun and profit. I read two, specifically, helpfully titled How to Write Mysteries and How to Write a Mystery respectfully, and am now done with both.

They were middling helpful, especially when talking about plot. A lot of the books were on more universal stuff, like creating characters or writing dialogue, which was less useful. And both contained extremely outdated information on agents and publishing. Good times.

But neither of them really touched on cozies as a subgenre. They both mentioned them, but were obviously confused by the concept. The second book author noted that he only included them because people had asked why he wasn’t. Both dismissed them as “an English sort of mystery” and didn’t have a lot to say.

Which was, of course, not useful for me, planning a cozy mystery. But I also found it interesting. These are older books–the first is from 1989 and the second is from 1995–but cozies are not a new phenomena. Off the top of my head, the Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun are very definitely cozies–and the inspiration for all following cozy series that include animal sidekicks–and the first of those was published in the mid-60s.

(And the Cat Who books also take place in America, and in Chicago for the first few, if I recall correctly. What does an “English sort” of mystery mean? Maybe they’re thinking of Miss Marple, which is probably also a cozy series.)

Now, if I had the time and inclination, perhaps I could pick up a much more modern book on writing mysteries, and I would probably find a larger section on cozies. There seems to be several dozen series going at any point in time, with new ones starting all the time. I was a bit concerned, when I first started thinking about my paranormal cozy series, because I couldn’t find any others, but now I know of at least three other paranormal series, so all is well.

But at this point I’m also running out of learning time and need to get on to the doing phase of things. (Though I may cruise around the Internet and see if there’s any good blog posts or YouTube videos on the subject.) So now I’m on phase 2, which is market research, as I’m calling it.

Market research consists of reading cozies from the last few years and analyzing things like setting, structure, characters, and plot. I’ve got two out from the library. The one I’m currently reading came out in September, and is called Murder Goes to Market. So far I’m enjoying it!

(It’s third person, which is interesting. Most cozies are first person.)

(Also, reading cozies is definitely more fun than reading probably too old books about writing mysteries.)

Still weird, though, how those older books just brushed the subgenre off. There are probably numbers, somewhere, of what subgenres sell the most and how much money they’re making. They do it for books in general, right, so someone probably tracks by genre and specifics. I would think cozies have to be a sizeable chunk of the market, given how many are published (and how quickly you can read one).

Ah well. Onward!

(Favorite cozies, squiders?)

Fantasy Cartography

Happy Wednesday, squiders! It’s been cold and snowy here, so we’ve been trapped in the house for essentially three days. The small, mobile ones are sad because Halloween things keep getting cancelled or delayed.

Nano starts tomorrow at midnight, and I’m essentially ready to go! I’ve got outlines for plot and character arcs, and I spent some time fleshing out my main and supporting characters. That’s typically all I need to get going–more than that and I start to lose interest or find the story gets a bit flat when I write it.

But a friend mentioned creating a map for her story, and that sounded like a good idea. I poked around the Internet for a bit and found a couple of different options, but some of them were not terribly intuitive with their controls.

I ended up with Inkarnate, which offers both free and paid options, and amused myself making islands across an ocean for several minutes. I like that it was kind of like your standard graphics program, where you can draw where you like, and change the size of your paintbrush to change the effects on your shorelines and whatnot.

I did run into some issues, though not with the program itself. My story for this year, World’s Edge, is based in the same world as my high fantasy trilogy that I’ve been working on FOREVER. The trilogy takes place on a single continent of this world, the geography/fauna/weather/etc. loosely based on Europe. At some point, many years ago, I did bother to create the rest of the world, but who the heck knows where I bothered to do so. One of my many planning notebooks? A Word document lost to the annuls of time?

(I did look through my oldest notebook that’s still floating around. Found lots of very interesting things. Did not find this information.)

(This is, of course, why it’s best to have a system for keeping track of your story information. This is something I have learned over time. Unfortunately this was a long time ago.)

(Wait, could it be in here…? No.)

Anyway, at some point I created the rest of the planet, and who knows where that has all gone. Not me! But it did cause problems when mapping, because I could recall that I had mapped this out once before, but could not remember what exactly I’d done. Three continents, I’m pretty sure. The trilogy one is well defined. A large one across the ocean is the goal of the characters for this book. The third one…? Did I decide who or what lived there? Did I name these other continents?

(There was another species in there, once, that I took out of the trilogy because it messed with its themes, but did I decide to get rid of the species altogether? This is the problem with working on something for 20 years and only starting to organize things in the last eight.)

Did I name the planet? Bad job, past!Kit. Keep track of your damn information.

But I have enough of a map for what I need, and I’ll keep an eye out for that old information, wherever it’s wandered off to. And, I guess, if I don’t find it soon, I should probably re-do it.

AH NANO TOMORROW

See you Friday, squiders, to see if I survived the kick-off party.

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

I’m going to do Nano this year, squiders.

(NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and this is its 20th anniversary, which is insane. My first one was 2003, the fifth year it existed, and there were only about 3000 of us. Now there’s hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Madness!)

I’m really, truly going to do it. I’m going to sign up, I’m going to maybe go to write-ins, and hopefully I am going to get my 50K and win.

I haven’t done so since 2014.

I did Nano every year 2003-2011, but then the small, mobile ones arrived, and it’s been near impossible to get the focus/time necessary to do so since then.

The years I didn’t do it, I always tried some sort of unofficial challenge, which has traditionally failed miserably. There’s something about the energy and community that surrounds Nano that makes it infinitely more doable than trying on your own.

But I’m going to do it. And I’m excited for it.

Of course, the first step is to pick a story. I’m behind on that–one of my writing groups is already doing planning parties for their stories–but it IS September, and this is traditionally the month I pick what I’m writing and then proceed to do nothing until Nov 1 hits.

In 2014 I made a long list of various novel ideas and then slowly whittled them down until I was left with the Space Dinosaur story. Most of those other stories are still on the table.

Yesterday I started going through my idea file, which quickly became unwieldy, because there are a TON of ideas in there and a lot of them looked pretty dang good, and the thought of adding more ideas onto the other list (which has 16 perfectly good ideas on it anyway) was terrifying, so I gave that up.

It’s all moot, really. I feel like I should be making an informed decision, looking at my options and logically deciding which story to write, but the fact of the matter is that I’ve already made up my mind.

The looking at ideas and lists is all for show.

I knew before I started looking at lists and ideas that I wanted to work on a story project related to a story I’ve already written. I have a couple plotted out for Shards, sequels or prequels, and those were very tempting, because I’ve been writing short pieces in the Shards universe lately for practice. I’ve got some other sequels as well, but the first books in those still need work before they see the world, so it’s maybe not the best to work on succeeding books that might never see the day.

But even that list is just for show.

You guys know about my high fantasy trilogy that I’ve been working on forever. About eight years ago, I had an idea for a “prequel”–but not a true prequel. A story set in the same world, about 700 years earlier than the trilogy. Almost five years ago I sat down and wrote the first chapter. And now, damnit, I’m going to write the freaking book.

I’ve already done a lot of work on it, actually. Most of it will take place on a sailing ship, so I did a lot of research on types of sailing vessels (how big, what era, whether or not they’d be able to make it across an ocean the size of the Pacific, how many crew, how much they could hold, etc.) and drew several pictures of rigging and whatnot, because I remember, when Hidden Worlds came out, a family member noting the vagueness of sailing terminology in the section that took place on a ship.

(Which is fine in context, Margery, the MC, knows nothing about sailing terminology. But for this story, where the sailing portion is much more substantial and the characters–though not the viewpoint character, at least at the beginning–much more experienced, I need to know my stuff.)

I will need to do some better plotting and work on my character arcs, but hey! We’ve got time.

I’m trying something new here as well, as I typically do with Nano stories, and that’s a non-protagonist narrator. That’s always been the plan, since I first conceived the story. Think what’s-his-face in Wuthering Heights, or Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories. They’re there, they’re telling the story, but they’re not driving the story.

Could be a disaster, but we’re going for it anyway.

I re-read that first chapter this morning, and I am excited. It’ll be fun to explore a different section of the world I’ve spent so much time in, I’m already super in love with the main characters, and it will be interesting to try something new and see how this story unfolds.

(I may need to do some conlanging before we get going, though, and that is not my strongest skill. Oh well.)

Got other non-protagonist narrator stories I should look at, squiders? (Especially anything more recently than 100 years ago.) Doing Nano yourself? Anything else interesting going on?

Why You Need to Break the Mold

We’re doing a sewing analogy today, Squiders. Sorry.

So, at the end of last week I finally managed to get my patterns together. (Which was a pain in the butt–one pattern had to be traced off a sheet included with the book that included ALL the patterns on the same sheet, and the other one had to be printed off an included CD–in 21 pieces which then needed to be trimmed and taped together. Worst ever, why would you do that? The tracing is highly superior, in the end.) And I got all my pieces together, laid them out and realized…

…I couldn’t use them.

Well, I couldn’t use them as is. I remembered, as I stared down at all those pattern pieces, that I have to modify the patterns, usually extensively, because I am 9 inches taller than the average woman. I have to length everything. I have to change where the darts go. Sometimes I have to completely reshape a pattern.

And then I realized I probably hadn’t bought enough material for one of my planned shirts and had to go make myself some tea.

The same thing goes for writing. Have you ever read a book where parts of it felt derivative? Like, instead of spending any time on a character, the author just used stereotypes? Where, instead of focusing on a good-fitting setting, they just grabbed the status quo, even in places where it didn’t make sense?

It can be tempting to take shortcuts sometimes. To use the default setting, because it’s expected and familiar. To grab the usual bag of characters, because you know how they fit into a plot and why invent the wheel, right? And sometimes it’s okay to use the pattern. There are reasons patterns exist. They do work.

But it’s important to make sure you’re using the right pattern for the story that you want to tell, and if it’s not fitting right, it’s okay to modify it. The fit is what’s important, in the end. If your story ends up too long, too short, lumpy in odd places, too tight, too loose–all things that can be fixed with a little modification–your readers will notice. And next time they’re looking for a well-crafted, good fitting story, they’re going to go somewhere else.

Have you ever tried to use a standard bit of plot/setting/character and found it just didn’t fit? What ways do you employ to fix the fit?

(In regards to my shirt without enough fabric–because it turns out I need to lengthen it almost four inches–I think it can be salvaged by doing a sleeveless version. I had planned for elbow-length sleeves. I suppose I could go back and get more fabric, but the likelihood of the store still having the same kind in stock seems low.)

New Directions

Oof, squiders. Yesterday was rough. On top of it all, our one-day book blitz ran, so I needed to stop by the many many blogs throughout the day to respond to comments and whatnot. Oy vey, that’s tiring! I’ll give you guys an update on how our new marketing things are working out thus far next week. Probably Friday.

We’ve got City of Hope and Ruin on sale for $0.99 for the blitz, and our giveaway for a $50 Amazon gift card is still open for another 12 hours or so. All the information you need to enter can be found here. Also, you should totally pick up the ebook while it’s on sale, because it’s $4.99 normally. 80% off! Woo!

So, marketing for CoHaR is winding down, though there’s still some stuff to do–we’re doing a longer blog tour in July/August that will need guest posts and interviews written, and there’s book stores/libraries to talk to, and the like, but in general, I can move on to other things.

I thought I’d talked about this here, but I don’t see it anywhere, so maybe I just talked about it over at Turtleduck Press. At the beginning of the year, I made a spreadsheet of all my writing projects for the year, with the dates I thought I’d work on them and some basic notes about current status. And then working on CoHaR ate everything and I found myself extremely behind on the whole idea.

At first I thought I’d just catch up on everything, but then logic caught up, so I decided to just pick the most important thing on the list and make sure that got done, and everything else could get done as there was time.

So, I’m revising/rewriting the first book in my high fantasy trilogy. You guys probably remember me talking about this here. (I thought I had a tag specifically for it, but apparently I don’t and that’s dumb.) I wrote the first draft on Book 3 in 2014. The current draft of Book 1 was written 2009/2010, and ew, is it bad.

Like, really really bad. Hence the rewriting part of said revision. I’m sorry I asked people to read this version, which is saying something, because I was really sorry I made people read the original version (written 2004/2005, and my first finished novel draft).

You know, if I ever get this book done decently, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.

So, that’s the current plan! Revising/rewriting. I did get slightly sidetracked by the whole Shards thing (and also looking a language building class), but I’m focused again now.

How was your Thursday, squiders? Big plans for the weekend?

January: Came and Went

Is it just me, or did January seem extra short this year? One minute it’s a brand new year, brimming with possibilities and freedom, and the next it’s snowy, dark February and despite trying to be realistic in my goal planning I am already horribly, terribly behind.

Sure, there were extraneous circumstances. My website (technically websites, since I had to move my editing one as well, though it hadn’t been crashed since October), which we’ve gone over. (Now all moved and still working, thankfully, except I still need to figure out how to fix my stupid theme.) And I’ve been sick all month. First there was the pink eye debacle (two and a half weeks to clear up, all told) and now I’ve had a cold for about as long, with is mostly annoying because I cough myself awake several times throughout the night and can’t take any decent decongestants because of life.

Oh, sleep, how I long for thee.

Oh, well, life happens, and you just have to shrug your shoulders and climb back into the saddle, and other nonsense sayings.

(As a random aside, my sister got bucked off a horse when she was about 12 and did the whole get back on and so forth, but I don’t actually know what her current thoughts on horses are, and she didn’t answer when I called her to find out. We were part of the Westenaires at the time and I don’t know if either of us have done anything with horses since. I know, for me, that it firmly determined that I didn’t actually like horses.)

(I think it probably says something that my favorite horse was a cranky Appaloosa named Smokey that liked to try and bite me when I brushed him and was known for kicking people across the arena when they tried to pick his hooves.)

(ANYWAY.)

I mean, January wasn’t all bad. I wrote half of a nonfiction book and got my short story collection in order with a title, cover, and everything. (I’m just waiting for the final go ahead on that.) I’ve done a fair amount of work on the co-written sekrit project. I submitted two short stories, one of which is still out (and finally got a rejection on a story that’s been out for almost a year and a half). I learned to use a new image processing tool which I can use both in book publishing, and probably here at the blog when I stop being lazy. And I did a ton of freelance work and made a bunch of leads in that direction. So those are the good things.

I did have a lot more planned, though, things that probably wouldn’t take too long if I could just get to them. Mostly marketing things. Poor Shards needs a new book description and to be re-categorized on Amazon. My YA paranormal needs a decent query letter (and probably a Twitter pitch–I’ve been wanting to try out those #PitchMad things and there’s one around Valentine’s). And I’d like to get Hidden Worlds some new reviews, so I need to hunt down some reviewers for that. (Let me know if you’re interested, and I can get you a free review e-copy in the format of your choice.)

Sigh, alas, and all that rot.

It’s no use crying over passed months. It’s February now, and there’s still things to do. And, maybe, I can get some of those dropped January things done around the sekrit project edit. (We’re still waiting on our formal feedback, so if nothing else, this week is kind of free! Though I have tons of edit prep to do.)

How was your January, Squiders? Get anything exciting done?

 

Nano: The Aftermath

Ah, December. Sweet, sweet freedom. And yet, it highlights yet another less attractive aspect of Nano, aside from the fact that it is unaccountably exhausting.

And that is that you feel restless when December comes.

I am not one of those people that finishes a draft during Nano. I have exactly once, in 2006, when I wrote a younger YA fantasy whose first draft came in at a whooping 54K. But in general, 50K is about half a draft for me, so I rarely write “The End” during November itself.

So, because November is exhausted, I find that I have little motivation to keep going when December comes (again, not sure why Nano is so exhausting when it’s about what I write on a regular basis) even when my drafts aren’t done.

So here we are, about a week in December, and I still haven’t finalized my writing plans for December.

I have three options:

1) Go back to my YA paranormal edit (sitting at about 65K, so 20 to 25K more to be done) that I was working on over the summer and up to the beginning of Nano.
2) Continue working on the first draft of my space adventure story I started for Nano until it’s done (Probably 30 to 40K more past 50K).
3) Take a break from both big projects for the month and work on shorts and other miscellany.

I can’t quite decide which to do. Every time I think I’ve got it figured out, another one starts to look more promising. At this rate it’s going to be Christmas and I’m still going to be deciding. I have written a section of my serial and sent out some short stories to ezines, so that’s something at least.

I would like to start the edit on my high fantasy trilogy in January, but I’m still missing most of my beta comments and I feel like I should finish the last edit first. But man, to leave a first draft in the lurch…

You see my dilemma.

How did Nano go for you Squiders that did it? Any opinions on what I should do?

Prepping for Nanowrimo

Well, Squiders, it’s that time of year again. We are a mere 13 days from the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and all the insanity that that entails. What is NaNoWriMo (asks probably a very few of you)? A writing challenge where you write 50,000 words on a novel during the month of November.

(We talk about this every year, Squiders dear. You’re welcome to peruse previous Octobers and Novembers for words of wisdom as the fancy hits you. I won’t be offended if you don’t.)

We’ve talked about Nano Zen and Plot Death and what to do if you want to do Nano but aren’t feeling it. So, now, it’s mid-October, and people start thinking that maybe they should start getting ready if they’re going to. If you’ve done this before, you know what you need to do to be prepared. If this is your first time, I recommend that you have at least the following:

1. Main character (or two)
2. Setting
3. Basic plot and/or premise
4. Starting point

Realize that none of these things need to be set in stone, but you will make things infinitely easier for yourself if you have something for each point.

(Some of you may note that I didn’t include villain/antagonist in the above list. This is because I find they tend to be fairly organic–they come into being fully formed to block your protagonist and/or are defined by your premise. Your mileage may vary.)

This will be my 10th year participating, and probably my last. Dunno why, but it seems like ten years is some sort of threshold. My plan is to finally write the third book of my high fantasy trilogy, though we’ll see how it goes with our new family addition. People who have written (especially for Nano) around very small infants, do you have any recommendations? He’s not on solid foods yet, so I can’t leave him for very long.

Are you doing Nano this year? What are your goals?

Nanowrimo Prep and Avoiding Plot Death

Nano looms ever closer, my friends.  (Also, it’s my birthday!)  I talked last year about Nano Zen and Plot Death — this cheats Nano Zen a bit, but I do think it’s important.  It’s hard to experience Plot Death if you have no plot.

A quick rundown for those too lazy to click the above link: Nano Zen involves not actively working on your Nano story in October to allow your brain to work on it subconsciously and to avoid Plot Death.  Plot Death is where you overplan your story to the point that you no longer want to write it.

“Kit,” I can hear you say (or perhaps it’s just the Landsquid, who wants some of my hot chocolate), “How can you write a post about Nano prep when you practice — and are the founder — of Nano Zen?”

As much as I advertise Nano Zen, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do any planning for Nano.  In fact, I ardently believe that there are some things you should have going into November, and if you don’t, you should try to get some before Nano starts.

A main character (or two).  The main conflict (what does the MC want?).  A starting point.

What gets you in trouble is the overplanning, and what counts as overplanning varies from person to person.

So how can you tell if you’re planning to the point where you are approaching Plot Death?

Well, first things first.  Make sure you’re registered at nanowrimo.org (the 2011 site is up now) and have chosen a home region (this is the region that gets to count your words).  See if your region has any write-ins near you and, if not, suggest some.  The social aspect is a major part of Nano and I highly recommend you participate in it.

…sorry, I totally got distracted by the Nano site.

If you’ve done Nano (or written a novel) before, you probably have a good idea of what you need and how much you can do before you experience Plot Death.  For you newbies, find the above (characters, plot, beginning).

How are you feeling?  Are you excited or panicky?  If you’re excited, good job.  You’re probably good to go.  Go make yourself a book cover.  If you’re panicky, you probably need more.  I recommend fleshing out your characters a bit, finding a villain, and doing a basic outline of your plot.

Repeat the above until you find a place where you’re excited to write.  Then stop planning.

See, the problem with Nano and Plot Death is that you can’t start writing until November 1st.  So people reach that excited state, and then, since they can’t write, they just keep planning and planning and planning and then…Plot Death.

It’s hard, I know.  And by all means, write down anything important as you think of it, but after you reach the excitement phase, that’s when Nano Zen is essential.

Ever experienced Plot Death, Squiders?  Where’s your happy middle between panicking and overplanning?