Month: July 2012

My, What A Busy Week

I took my kids to camp for five days, and what with their being in activities for a good half the day, I had a lot of spare time on my hands. Time that could be used to write, only I used most of it to read the book I posted about previously, make notes and analyze what I’ve already written based on what it suggests. It was pretty great – I identified a few issues and developed some more insight into the structure of my story. At some point I’d like to work on some detailed character outlines too.

The hardest part by far was summarizing my story into one short paragraph, but I’ve found that since I’ve done that, I’m a lot more comfortable with the “so what’s your book about?” question, which I’ve always dreaded and fumbled around.

Then once we got home, it was off to a quick 24-hour writer’s retreat by holing up in a hotel with two fellow writers. I love doing this. I want to find away to make it happen every month. I got so much done, had other people to bounce a few ideas off of and came out of it with almost a full chapter done, along with a metric assload of research.

The need to be accurate even in books that touch on fantastical subjects was something we talked about a lot. Even though my book has a strong fantasy element to it, I like the details to be logical and realistic whenever possible, so I don’t like to just make something up if there’s proven science out there instead. It sure makes for slow going at some parts – I think I know more about tsunamis and evacuation plans and the webcams of a particular city than anyone else I know, but I feel so much more confident in my writing than if I’d just fabricated something and pounded out the scene in fifteen minutes.

And then we watched The Day After Tomorrow. So satisfying to be writing an apocalyptic book while watching an apocalyptic movie.

And once again my iPod never fails to guide me when I need it – I triggered on a couple of major character/relationship dynamics while I was driving to a friend’s house today. Which I’m going to add to my “things to remember” doc immediately after this so I don’t forget. Something about the sunroof being open, it being a hot, sweaty evening and the right song at the right time brought it all together for me. Thanks, brain, for being so tuned in.

Since my experience with this last book went so well, I’m considering looking for one on how to revise or edit a novel from the first draft. Having never done such a thing before, I’m at a complete loss as to how to go about it. When I re-read a chapter every so often, I make little changes here and there, but that doesn’t feel like a proper revision.

Oh, and before I forget,

***drumroll***

Isn’t that something to see? And there’s still so much cool stuff coming up.

Orphan Scenes

Ever have ideas for a scene that’s completely isolated from your story – just a vignette, a brief moment in time, that forms so vividly in your brain you just know you have to use it somewhere? I do all the time, but then I’m stuck with trying to figure out where it could fit into the story arc in a way that’s organic and makes sense. I had one such scene develop this morning as I was semi-conscious – prompted by my desire to start making soup in the fall – and it’s been spinning around inside my head ever since, developing layers, dialogue and feeling. I really like it, and I think it could prove to be an important moment between two of my characters.

Problem is, I have no idea where to put it, or how to develop the story in a way where having it occur would make sense. I mean, I’m sure I’ll figure it out somewhere down the road, but since it’s so detailed in my mind now, I’d like to know where its eventual home will be now. Nothing to do but write down a few notes about it and hope I can find it a good home eventually. I know I don’t want to shove it in there somewhere just for the sake of having it because I thought it up and I’m all enamoured with it right now.

In other news, I thought up the ending to The Unravelling today. I’ve known how the climactic scenes leading up to the end of the book were going to come together ever since I’ve had the idea for the story, but I haven’t been sure quite where one book ended and the next began. Today, I know, down to the very last line, and I’m going to write¬†that down too so I don’t forget it like I have other important details.

Not too bad for a couple hours’ lazing around in bed, hey?

Update: and a couple hours later, once again when I was laying in bed (this time waiting for my youngest to fall asleep) I know exactly where I’m going to put today’s orphan scene. My bed may have magic creative powers.

Bookish

As a rule, I try to avoid reading how-to or theory books, because I prefer to follow my own instincts and find my own way in life. Too much reading on a subject – let’s say parenting, which my life mostly revolves around these days – only leads to eventual conflicting information and viewpoints, and a whole hell of a lot of confusion and second-guessing oneself. At least it does for me. The authors of these types of books don’t know me or my family and our specific circumstances, so I feel they aren’t qualified to dictate how we do things. If I’m looking for advice I’d much rather turn to friends who do know me, and may have been in similar circumstances. In this respect I am wealthy indeed, because I have a wonderful community of supportive friends.

Same goes for writing. I figure I can muddle my way through better on my own because I’m the one who’s most familiar with the particular mechanisms of my brain and how it likes to develop a process for writing. I did buy one book to help me outline and flesh out the basics, Ready, Set, Novel, which I started with the best of intentions, and is now gathering dust on the shelf. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t get to know what her characters are all about until she starts writing them, and I found it impossible to fill out before I’d begun my story. Someday, I may get back to it and finish filling it out now that I know more about these people.

Other than that and my copy of CP Style which I’ve had since the early 2000s and my j-school days, that’s it for writing assistance. In this instance I’m not against it, but I don’t want to fill my head with all kinds of how-to information and have that drown out my own creative process. When I find all the things wrong with the manuscript when I’m done – and I know there are many at this point – that’s where I can turn to experts to help me solve those problems.

I suppose I can do that with my kids as well – when they’re in therapy three times a week I can read all kinds of child psychology and development books and find out where I went off the rails. However I imagine kids are a lot harder to edit than first drafts. Oh well.

Anyway, I read this interview on Terribleminds and immediately thought, this is the sort of book I could find useful, here and now. And today my copy of Wired for Story by Lisa Cron came in the mail.

Blowing.

My.

Mind.

I’m only a few chapters in and I’m already seeing so much that I could stand to improve, but also what I’m really nailing (admittedly a lot of the latter I wasn’t even aware I was doing, which either makes me unconsciously awesome or one lucky biotch). I want to make notes, highlight things, create charts, maybe even (gasp!) an outline (don’t hold your breath there, it still wigs me out a lot).

Anyway, I’m really into this book. I like how it’s based in science instead of opinion, because I can get behind science. Science makes sense. And the rest of the chapters, based on my totally superficial evaluation of their titles, look like they’re going to be awesome too. So while I probably won’t be writing any new material for the next couple of days, my time spent reading will (hopefully) help me to reach a point where when I do start up again, it will be with a clearer focus on my goals and what I need to include in order to make the story the best it can be.

Can’t wait!

Umm, Whoops

I realized randomly today that I forgot to include a fairly important detail somewhere around chapter 8 or 9. It’s not going to change what I’ve written since significantly, but now I’m stuck with the task of finding the right spot to include it after the fact, in a way that seems natural and without disrupting the narrative flow I’ve already established. And no, I can’t add it into what I’m about to write – it’s time-sensitive and should’ve have happened a couple story-days ago.

Again, this is where outlining might have aided me. That’s two strikes against me – one more and I might have to actually write one out.

Anyway, I have a couple ideas. Might as well get that done now, instead of waiting until I’m revising. It’ll only be a couple paragraphs I think. But it definitely falls under the category of Really Important Later so I can’t leave it out.

In other news, at around the 63,000 word-count mark, I’m starting to wonder if maybe this isn’t the halfway point, not 50,000. There’s still so, so much to happen. So much. Holy crap.

And… Go!

I have my laptop and my charger. I have a delicious smoothie full of fresh greens from the garden (and chocolate for balance). I have the pillows propped in a most comfortable manner. I have the entire house to myself until at least late afternoon tomorrow. I have a cat who seems inclined to sit beside me most of the day. I have a fresh mind after a lazy morning sleeping in, and I have some busywork to fall back on if my brain needs a break.

In short, I have the perfect recipe for a writer’s day in!

Goal: 5,000 words.

Update: Goal accomplished at 5,091, although it’s 2:30 in the damn morning. Holy shit am I slow. But OMG do I ever love chapter 11. I finished it tonight, and it’s by far my favourite chapter so far. There is so much awesome in it, and I love the relationship dynamic that’s developing.

And a short list of the random things I had to research today:

  • Piezoelectricity
  • Black cohosh
  • Quartz crystals
  • Methods for steeping tea, and why chamomile turns pink when you add lemon (I still don’t know the latter)

It’s funny when I read this post from ten days ago, and how apathetic I was toward writing then. Now, a short time later, I want to write ALL THE WORDS, to the point that it’s this ridiculous hour and I should have been in bed a long time ago because I have to go to work in the morning. Ebb and flow, right? Ebb and flow.

Chapter Breaks

Something that I’m not so great at is where to end one chapter and start a new one. I like to cut them off at a point where there’s a little bit of suspense, to create a bit of incentive to turn the page – the best books for me are the ones that I can’t just stop reading and put down when I reach the end of the chapter, as I so often promise to do when it’s very late at night, because that chapter ending totally leaves me hanging and wondering what the hell is going to happen. So then I just read one more page… and the next thing I know it’s 4 a.m. and I’ve just read an entire book in a day.

But I’m off track now.

A lot of times I have a preconceived notion of where a chapter should end before I’ve actually written it. I don’t know if that’s a good idea when it comes to plotting or not, but that’s the direction my thoughts usually go when I’m thinking about structure (which is seldom). But then I’ll check my word count and realize my one chapter is actually about 12,000 words, which is just way too long any way you look at it. A 40 page chapter is just not reasonable in my mind. So then I have to split it into two smaller ones. My orginal ‘chapter 3’ was actually close to 24,000 words. True story. It ended up splitting into four. But then it’s kind of cool, because it’s way better to be able to say “I’ve finished six chapters so far” instead of a fairly measly three, and you feel like you’ve accomplished so much more. Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to getting to be able to write “Chapter 10” because, hey, double-digits, that’s kind of a neat milestone, right? And then when I checked my word count for chapter 9 I saw it was around 11,000 words, because once again I had this idea stuck in my head of where it had to end. Oops. I bisected it rather successfully, I think, and got to write both “Chapter 10” and “Chapter 11” tonight. See? I didn’t even know I was that far along.

I wonder if it would be better to just write the whole thing without worrying about where the chapters end, and add that all in afterwards, when it’s done?

And now for a musical interlude. The overly large section of the book formerly known as Chapter 9 was brought to you by the following songs, which have given me some inspiration and/or insight into a few of my characters’ motivations and emotions. One’s newer, and one’s an oldie but a goodie:

Thanks, iPod. Once again you have served me well.

Chapter 11 is going to be SO MUCH FUN to write.

It’s Not Even Funny Anymore

Uh-oh. Guess which one mine is.

I cannot believe how indifferent I am to writing these days. I have free time most evenings, but I’m not using it at all. I have ideas, I know what I want to write, I just.don’t.feel.like.it. And I feel guilty about it, because I’ve already taken so much time, time that I could have chosen to spend with my family or friends or doing other, productive things, but I didn’t because I felt like this all needed to get out of my head. Now that I’m halfway my momentum has completely stalled and I feel like if I’m not going to continue, then all that time could have been put to better use. Yesterday I had every intention of writing – I had almost three hours set aside – but I kept putting it off, putting it off. Even the threat of having my pie taken away if I didn’t write something wasn’t enough to get me going. I just went pieless. Now I’m sitting here again, in my writing spot, with my writing blanket and my writing laptop perched on my writing legs (okay I don’t have special legs just for writing) I’m procrastinating. First I had bills to pay, then I had some very important facebook things to look at, and now I’m blogging about my failure to progress, despite the fact that everything is in order for me to ACTUALLY WRITE except my brain. My brain wants to check today’s Wimbledon scores and read DYAC. What’s going on, brain? Why haven’t you wanted to write for the past two weeks? Don’t you want pie? Is this a normal thing everyone goes through sometimes, or should I start getting worried? I want to finish. I WANT TO FINISH. Just… not now.

I’m going to open my doc and stare at it until it shames me into writing something, even if it’s only 200 words. Maybe a tiny nudge will get the ball rolling again.