Writing Quote

"Don't write merely to be understood.
Write so that you can't possibly be misunderstood."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My kind of history

School's out and I'm back! For a few weeks anyway. Day one of summer break and I felt so lost without homework to do, I set some for myself. I've got a book of writing exercises that I've been meaning to look through for a while. So my assignment was to read a chapter and do the exercise as it relates to Armathad.

The exercise was all about finding the history of your story. I hate history. HATE. IT. But then my History tests might have been a lot more fun if I could just make stuff up. You know like, "and George Washington, he had wooden teeth..." wait. I think he did have wooden teeth. Anyway, history is fun when you get to make things up. The idea behind this exercise is to find out why your story ends up the way it does. Particularly if you start in medias res, you're going to need that back story to make sense of things.

I had already done this history making with a lot of Armathad's plot. But when I went back and thought about it, I realized I had not done it on most of my main characters. I know who they are and who they become later on, but I don't know who they were before page one. I don't know why Dop became Athelell's ward, who his parents are or what his relationship with them is like. What is it that gives him that youthful, spunky, trying-too-hard-to-please personality despite the underlying hurt that no matter what he does, he doesn't seem to be able to win his peers' respect?

My villain, I did do a back story on. I had an entire chapter in which he sits and broods on his past. Yeah. That got cut. It was mostly for my own information anyway. But I also decided he doesn't get a voice in this book. In thinking about his history, I've decided he gets his own book; a prequel. This may end up being this year's nanowrimo project. We'll, see.

As interesting as this history-making is, I just need to be careful not to let it take over. I still have a book to write, after all.

How do you find the balance between the helpful history invention and moving forward with the plot? Ready, set, go.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Up to my Neck in It

So here I am again, despite my desire to avoid any sort of accountability for the month of March. The Nanoedmo site was down for several days and I wasn't so good at tracking my time without their handy logger. But I estimate I finished the month with about 21 hours of editing, which is nowhere near 50 hours of editing. My other confession is that I missed three days of writing altogether. School has had me inordinately stressed the last few weeks. One day, I decided to escape into a book and I did not resurface until I finished that sucker! It was one a.m. and I hadn't written. Doh! A few days later, I started a puzzle with my son, who walked away after about half an hour. I didn't walk away. I finished that sucker! It was one a.m. and I hadn't written. Doh! Doh! Then last night, I was working on a cross stitch, which I haven't touched in about six months, and was trying to finish a particularly detailed section, but I finished that sucker! It was one a.m. and I had not written. doh.

Lately I've been wondering if I can actually do school and take care of my family and my house and serve the members of my church and write and and and AND

And breathe. and breathe. and 1&2&3&4&5&6&7&8&9&10&11&12&13&14&15&16&17&18&19&20
and breathe...

*cough, cough* Sorry. I flat-lined there for a minute, but I'm back now and dealing with it all. There's not a lot of things I can cut out of my life right now and I don't want writing to be one of them. So I'm going to forgive myself for not having a perfect record this year and just pick up with April 1st.

It's a new quarter and I'm starting it off with another one of Tristi's challenges. In an effort to keep things simple and fairly attainable, I have three modest goals for April.
1. write in the morning instead of the evening. If I can get my sorry tail out of bed at a decent time, I can get at least half an hour in before the kids open their eyes.
2. finish the editing for chapters three, four and five of Armathad. Really, I'm trying to figure out a way to combine three and four, since neither one is really pulling its weight on its own, but each has some valuable information AND they're connected anyway.
3. get my research paper written. It's due at the end of this month and I don't know how I'm going to carve out the time for it. But I will figure it out and not flat-line this time.

That's doable, right? What are your goals for April and how will you manage them with your busy schedule?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Creating as an Editing Tool

Hey! I made it back before the month ended. Look at how good I am!

I'm a little behind on my editing for this month, but I've gotten some time in every day and I've scratched one item off my list already. The problem I'm running into now that keeps me from spending more time actively editing my MS is the need to create. I don't mean that I want to work on something new and it's distracting me from editing. I mean that as I edit, it becomes necessary in the editing process to create something new.

For example, the scene I'm working on right now is super short compared to all the other chapters. That's not a horrible thing, but it has me questioning whether the information revealed in that chapter is essential. Some of it is. So I figure I can either try to extend the chapter with some new material that will make further necessary revelations or I can try to combine a couple related chapters, which means writing this information from a different character's perspective. In either case, I'm creating new material. And that's where I'm stuck. In one case, I need some stock characters that I don't really need to keep track of later. In the other case, the information will be presented second hand, after the fact.

I have to remind myself that I don't have to keep any changes that I make. I could write the scene both ways and see which works better. I'm having difficulty switching from edit mode to create mode. So my question for my fellow writers is:

When you need to create during the edit phase of a project, how do you get your brain to shift back and forth between the edit mindset and the create mindset?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No time to say hello. Goodbye!

Just popping in for a quick breath of noveling community before plunging back into writing, family, and school work (not always in that order).

I'm still 100% for writing every day in 2012. Though I didn't quite get through all my goals in February. Okay, I only got about half of them done. But still, I got HALF of them DONE!! I could have fizzled out and done nothing, but I'm still making progress. And I'm very happy with the progress I'm making. That's all that matters, right?

With a truckload of school reading to do, a couple of tests and an essay or two (and that's just THIS WEEK), I have been reluctant to commit myself to anything official this month. But this is March, and NaNoEdMo is on. That's 50 hours of editing in a month, which is roughly 97 minutes a day. My entire body freezes up at the thought of giving up that much study time/play time/cuddle time/cleaning time/reading time EVERY DAY. And I've never won a NaNoEdMo before. I don't know if I can do this...

But I'm going to try. And if I only roll out 20 hours or even just 1 hour for the month, I hope that time will have made a difference to my novel.

Here's how I'd like to spend my 50 hours of editing:

Finish outlining my existing story (only 3 more chapters to go)
Begin outlining the rest of my unwritten story
Fix some of the plot holes I've noticed

That's about as far as my ambition goes at the moment. If I don't make it back here until next month, I hope your nanoedmo goes well, too.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

If January was any indication...

...I am so going to OWN 2012! January was a great month for me in every way. As far as my writing goes, I could not have been more pleased. It turned out that my goals for the January writing challenge were a bit lofty. Even my revised goals ended up being bigger than I thought they were. So I didn't quite meet all of them.

BUT the amount of work I did get done was pretty substantial, so I call it a win.
I spent part of every single day in Armathad, which I've never done for an entire month before.
I did a detailed plot outline of 19 chapters- somewhere between 30-35 thousand words.
I transcribed 15 thousand words which I had hand written a while back. I still have several thousand more words to transcribe before I'm done with that.
And all the while, i was able to see, with a clarity I've never had before, what is working and what needs to be changed.

I did have one little snag, though. Our home server crashed earlier in the month. My files were completely unavailable. Both hard drives were on their last legs (our backup drive went out at the same time as our main drive- worst nightmare, realized!) and we didn't know if we'd be able to retrieve all our data before they died completely. Fortunately, my resident nerd got us a new sever and worked tirelessly to retieve all our data. It took DAYS for everything to transfer safely, but as of last night, all our stuff is safe and the tension in my chest has finally been released. My digital manuscript is open. Making a copy of all my writing to my desktop now... and I can breathe properly for the first time in three weeks.

My husband is a lifesaver. *Ahem* but I never doubted him for a second. All along, I've have nothing but the firmest confidence in his super-human computer skills.

Moving on-
I don't have an official challenge to join for February, but I'm so on top of things, I don't need one. Er... something like that.

In February, I am going to:
1. Write every single day.
2. Reconcile the differences in my digital manuscript with the ones in my hard copy.
3. Finish outlining the 10 chapters in my digital manuscript that aren't in my hard copy.
4. Begin plotting the rest of the novel/series

Okay... GO!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9 and Still Strong

Today is January 9. The 9th day of the new year, the 9th day of January, the 9th day of the writing challenge. I have worked on Armathad every single day so far. Some days I didn't get much done, but I've done something every day. For me, that's great progress. Today's post is partly a follow up on how I'm doing in the challenge, and partly a note on some small observations I've made.

First, I should mention that Beyond the Veil of Armathad or The Veil of Armathad or just Armathad is the story I'm most excited about. It's kind of a big deal to me. It's a massive project and I have a lot invested in it emotionally. That said, I haven't touched it in a very long time. And that is actually turning out to be good for the book. As I'm plotting out the story I have thus far, I'm seeing areas that need work which I just never noticed before. I'm seeing chapters that can be combined, altered or omitted.

This last semester, I've had to do a lot of reading (yea!), and a lot of note taking. This has been fabulous for the plotting exercises I've been doing. When I originally plotted out this story, my notes were very general and vague. I wanted to just give myself little clues as to what was going on in each chapter, trusting to my memory to fill in the details I was looking for. Bad idea. My memory sucks. When I took notes on Dracula, I got pretty detailed because I had no idea what my teacher was going to think was important and what was superfluous. That ended up being incredibly helpful. I was able to skim my notes and find the exact point of the story I was thinking of within moments of needing the information. It's taking a little time to re-plot my 17 chapters, but I think it will be worth it. When it comes to plotting new, unwritten ideas, less may turn out to be more until the editing begins. We'll see.

In the mean time, I feel really good about how things are going. I don't know if I'll meet my stated goals this challenge, but if I can at least get some new material out this month and write every day, I'll still feel happy with my progress.

On the horizon: spring semester starts up next week. I have one Internet class and one on-campus class. If this semester resembles last semester in any way, it's going to be hell. But bring it on. I'm up to it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Novels as a Commodity

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, but haven't had time, or haven't felt like blogging, or (insert acceptable excuse here). But since my husband got me a nook for Christmas, it has been especially on my mind.
I love paper books.
The weight, the texture, the look, the smell (that's right, the SMELL), the very act of holding a book and turning the pages and marking my place with a beautifully hand-crafted bookmark that reflects my personality ever so slightly, flipping through the pages to see where the chapter ends; all combine to make reading a lifestyle rather than a hobby for me. I have a book in hand almost constantly. Life won't allow me to do nothing but read very often, but I've learned to cook with one hand so I can hold a book with the other. If I have to run errands, my current read goes with me in case I'm stuck sitting in the car or standing in line. If I'm watching a TV show with my husband, I'm also reading. I even bathe with a book in hand.

Then along comes the ebook.
Suddenly most of the things I love about reading become impossible.
Except the most important thing: the stories, the stories, THE STORIES!
The stories are still there and they can be so neatly grouped together by the thousands. So many stories to choose from and to jump back and forth between at a second's notice. Many of the classics, which are now public domain, I can even get FOR FREE! BLISS!! But some of the more modern books I'm interested in reading cost as much as a paper book. Of course most ebooks are priced a bit lower (sometimes more than a bit lower) than their paper versions. I won't claim it isn't worth the price to get a good story in my collection. It absolutely is. I won't claim the author/publisher/retailer don't deserve the money. They absolutely do. But as much as I love a good novel, I can't deny that I've treated novels as commodities my whole life.

When I spend money on a paper book, I know that if I don't care much for it, I can sell or trade it later for something I might like better. If I love the book and decide to keep it, I can lend it to my friends as many times as I want, for as long as I want. That paper copy is mine, and I can do almost anything I want with it. That knowledge goes a long way towards justifying the cost of a book for me. I pay for the pleasure of the story, but it also retains some value as a commodity- something that can be sold or traded for other goods. This is not so for ebooks. If I buy an ebook, it is mine. Period. If I don't like it, I can delete it and get no more good from it. If I love it, I can keep it, but I'm limited in how I can share it with others. I am no longer buying a commodity, only the story. I understand the reasons for all these restrictions. They are reasonable and necessary, but they make me sad, too.

I have two opposing views at war within me and they are both right. I love the new and exciting world of eReading, but I can never entirely give up my paper books- my heart couldn't bear it! (cue a melodramatic pose and a crescendoing orchestral movement in the background, dim the lights, aaaaaaand scene. that's a wrap folks. pack it up and go home)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends

I'll be the first to admit that I suck at self-motivating. At least when it comes to writing. When it comes to eating chocolate, reading novels or procrastinating any activity that prevents me from eating chocolate or reading novels, the merest suggestion is sufficient to motivate me. That's why I love a good writing challenge. It's time once again for the quarterly challenge, hosted by the lovely and talented Tristi Pinkston.

After struggling all last year with The Slave Knight, and not making much progress, I've decided to take a break and work on something else. I'm going back to a novel that I started about four years ago called The Veil of Armathad. I usually refer to it as just "Armathad." I pantsed my way through about 30000 words and had to sell my house, leave the state and buy another house. Nothing kills great noveling momentum like an abrupt relocation. My goal for this quarter's challenge is to read through my 30K and plot out what I've got so far. I need to finish plotting out this book and possibly begin plotting books two and three. Yeah. I dream big. With a little help from my friends and the writing challenges they throw at me, I might just end up with a high fantasy trilogy.

A Tardy Update on NaNoWriMo

When I finished my last blog, I made the mistake of blinking. Not only is it a different month now, but it's a different year! How did that happen? Oh well.

My 2011 NaNoWriMo experience was insane. There were a few times when I seriously considered calling it quits and just focusing on the "more important things" I had going on in my life. But why, oh why, would I do such a thing? So what if my brilliant idea was completely hampered by my utter ignorance of prep schools and high school football? What did it matter if I got a few hours less sleep per night? I am a WRITER, DANG IT! This is what I DO! So I pushed through and ended up with 52626 words and a swiss cheese plot and a couple of MCs I can't really relate to. In short, I don't think I'll do anything with this particular story. I still like the concept, but I don't have enough interest in prep schools and high school football to make it worth my while to do the proper research. I may be able to pare it down at some point and make it a short story. But mostly, I'm just ready to move on. The dreams that inspired me to write this story have stopped and that was kind of the point all along. Unfortunately, I immediately started having some other too-real dreams once NaNo was over. But maybe that concept can wait a while...

So what was the point of NaNo if I just ended up with recycle bin food at the end of it?

Aside from getting rid of the dreams, I got a bit more experience. I learned more about myself as a writer. I learned that YA fiction is highly unlikely to be my niche. I should have known that, since I didn't relate well to young adults even when I was one. I learned that you really do need to write what you know, at least to some extent. If I had gone into this project having some knowledge of at least one aspect of my story, I probably would have had a much better experience. But it didn't matter which facet of the story I worked on, I was clueless everywhere I turned. It was so frustrating, especially since there really isn't time during NaNoWriMo to do much research. I ended up constantly skipping ahead to the parts of the story I was excited about writing, or else floundering in the scene, hoping my characters would come to life and take action on their own. That's one of my favorite parts of writing and it never really happened with this book.

SO the book goes on the shelf, indefinitely; and my lessons go into my pocket. I plan to give it another go in 2012. In the mean time, I have other stories that need editing. So much editing.