Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I like that writing is an organic, living process for me. That the way I write this book won't be exactly the same as the way I write the next book. I like that I started this journey a few years ago with assumptions about what it meant to write a book and what it meant to be a writer and that, for the most part, I've had to toss those assumptions out on their ear or give up being a writer.
You know the part I really like? That each and every one of us does things differently. That there are no rules when it comes to how you write. That there is no way to do it wrong. The only criteria for success is whether you meet whatever personal goal you set for yourself, be it finishing a book, submitting to an agent or editor, or getting a contract. I'm the only one who can decide if I'm successful. If you've never worked in a highly structured, highly managed environment (e.g. for a big corporation), you may not understand just how freeing (and sometimes terrifying) that really is.
(Great, now I've got, I am the very model of a modern Major-General, running through my head. Funny how the singer sounds an awful lot like Tom Lehrer. ....A-n-d now I'm back. :-) *
The last couple of weeks I've been focused on plot. Hip deep in it, as the title of this post says. I've been applying new (to me) approaches and coming up with a workable structure and a lot of ideas for scenes. I've learned quite a bit about what works--and especially what doesn't--for me from all the books I've started writing and then abandoned in the last few years. It all seems to be coming together. The best part is that I'm more excited than ever about this story. Coming from someone who had convinced myself that knowing too much about what was about to happen was a sure fire way to kill a story dead for me, I have to say I'm a bit in shock.
My goal is still to have a first draft done before heading off to the RWA National Conference. And for the first time since I started working on this, even with the short time left before the conference, I actually feel like I'll make it.
* With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan, Tom Lehrer, and the Duke of Wellington (gratuitously pictured)
Monday, May 30, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Status: Moving forward
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Status: Nearing the halfway point of the series
I mentioned in one of my comments on our blog that I hit a point last week where I needed to step back and re-plot some of the major events in my nine-book series.
I usually do this about three-quarters of the way through a single book. However, with this series, I'm doing more plotting than usual (hard to believe, I know!). And this re-plotting happened just short of the halfway mark in the series.
Re-plotting is one of the times I take advantage of tools and techniques I've learned in classes/ presentations, or read in books--most of the time mutated to fit my own unique writing process.
I had lots of great action events--explosions, fires, one of the main characters getting shot--lots of "stuff" going on, but it seemed to be getting mired in circles rather than moving forward.
I realized I hadn't dug deep enough to show the building tension and rising stakes behind these actions for both the main characters and the villain/antagonist.
So for each major action event, I listed the steps that led to each event--arranging them from simply irritating to the last straw that led to an extreme reaction--and what motivated the main characters and antagonist to react as they did.
This process of re-plotting gave me a clear direction, some additional ideas for plot twists and surprises, and kicked me back into intense writing mode for several of these books--at least for now.
Since this series is fairly complex, I'll probably be re-plotting several times over the course of writing these books. How about you? Does your writing process involve stepping back and clarifying--or changing--the direction of your plot? Or do you know your direction with certainty from the time you start writing?
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Status: Last polish of Spirit of the Sky, formatting Perfectly Good Nanny for kindle, and deciding what to do with two already written stories.
The next book I'll tackle is the last Halsey brother book. Hank's story- Lawyer in Petticoats. Though I've been thinking that title may change. Since I couldn't make the storyline work for that title I'm thinking of changing it to Logger in Petticoats.
I still need to research and see how I can make a conflict between Hank and a logging outfit that of course the heroine's family will own/run.
But doing the plotting I can see her perhaps joining in a 4th of July logging contest and perhaps beating the hero... There are some things that agility is needed over brawn.
And I think it would mean a road trip to a logging museum. Yes.. I see that in the future, too.
This is how my stewing and brewing process begins. Changing the title has given me a new perspective on his story and makes me eager to get started. Time to hit the library and start researching. Hmmm.. Shall I keep the heroine I originally slated for this story?
Gallagher McConnell has a full head of chestnut hair, fiery temper, quick mind, full body that's muscular. She is constantly proving to the world she belongs in her family's profession. At times her twin brother, Grayson, teases her she should act like a woman or she'll end up a spinster. But for now she isn't interested in a family, she's set on becoming a partner in the logging business.
And that is the beginning of brainstorming my next book.
Are you this sporadic in thoughts? Do you start with ideas and slowly merge them into something on paper or do you start write away jotting them down and making charts?
Monday, May 23, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Status: Discovery Wordbuilding for Revisions
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Status: Would love a title
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Status: Final edits to book #1
I'm definitely a detailed plotter. However, unlike some other writers, that doesn't "spoil" the story for me, as surprises always come up when I do the intense writing of the story.
I'm currently working on a series of nine books. The main characters are eight adopted siblings and their mother, along with love interests for each. Not only are there internal conflicts for each character and external plot conflicts, every major event affects each member of the family. There's also a major story arc that connects all of the nine books that seems to be resolved at the end of each book, but isn't actually complete until the end of the final book of the series. That means plotting for this series is critical so I don't have one of the women pregnant for two years or have a town explode in one book and miraculously be intact in another.
My plotting process usually involves storyboards on a wall in my office--one with pictures of the main characters and things that are important to them, and another that shows the plot development scene by scene. My series is more complex than any previous projects, so one entire wall in my office is covered with visual storyboards of the main characters and draft covers for each of the stories in the series. (The picture is an early version of my photo storyboards for this series.)
Since the wall space is full, the plotting developments are on spreadsheets on my computer. I've listed the main characters of each book down one side of the spreadsheet, and the main events and when they happen across the top. Then, for each main event, I'm making notes of how that event affects each character. For example, the town exploding triggers one of the main characters to propose to the woman he has been dating for a short time because he realizes he loves her. One of the other main characters is seriously burned in the explosions. Another character suspects the town's citizens are keeping a dark secret that she decides to investigate. And so on for each character.
I also need to keep my spreadsheets up to date as surprises come up in the intense writing of the stories that change later events or spin a character's development in a different direction.
I'll venture to say this kind of plotting is not for pantsters. However, I think my detailed spreadsheets will save me a lot of time and hair-pulling when I'm doing final edits and need a quick check of events that happened in the summer of my story timeline. :)
A question for plotters and pantsters alike: have you used spreadsheets to track the outline or plot of your story or series of books? Do you use spreadsheets for any part of planning your book or is this something that makes your eyes roll back in your head?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Status: First Draft finished!!
I also have a couple people I brainstorm with when I'm coming up with a project or stuck on a project. Usually not the whole thing.
Many years ago I did story magic with some members of this RWA chapter with my spirit books, mostly book one. It would be interesting to hear from the members who have read it if it was what they thought it would be when I was story magicking it.
The reason I'm wondering this is my latest finished project I've been shopping to agents has had two thumbs up from everyone who's read it EXCEPT the person I brainstormed nearly the whole thing with. She read the first few chapters and said "It isn't what I thought it would be. I don't like your heroine and I did when we brainstormed."
Do you think when you brainstorm a project with another writer that they then sort of write it in their mind and when it is different in your story they have trouble wrapping their mind around your story? Have you had that happen to you with either something someone else helped you brainstorm or something you helped someone else with?
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 09, 2011
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Status: Characters stuck in limbo in middle of climax due to Other Obligations
Pink listed the romantic developments.
Green were the subplot
Yellow tracked the H/H’s Story Arcs
I used sticky tabs for each scene in the chapter. These included chapter/scene numbers (1-1, 1-2, etc.) and a description (Body find, First Meet, etc.)
Heroine’s POV scenes=pink tabs
Hero’s POV scenes=green tabs
Villain’s POV scenes=purple tabs
Suspense Plot Kickoff
(Meg, Alex, dogs=Beauty and the Beast)
Dogs find body – someone’s framing Meg for murder
Sisters toss body in the river [ORANGE]
Romance Plot First Meet
(Meg, Lance=police chief/ hunky neighbor, Beast)
Lance shows up looking for uncle’s lost dog (Dingbat)
Tish=Meg’s sister and Jamie=Tish’s Bosnian friend/
CONTRASTS w/ Meg’s foreshadowing [GREEN]
Meg’s Character Arc
Sisters State Meg’s Goal
Lance’s Character Arc
Shows he needs to prove himself as the new Chief
1-1 Body Find M=POV
1-4 Meg waits during search M=POV [PINK]
1-2 First Meet L=POV
1-3 Body-in-woods Call L=POV
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Status: Opening scenes
This month's suggested blog topic is uncannily appropriate for me to talk about right now. I'm still at that point in my writing where I'm searching for the right balance of plotting vs. "writing by the seat of my pants" or what some people refer to as being a "pantser". (I prefer to call it writing without a net)
If you had asked me whether I was a plotter or a pantser when I first starting writing with the goal of publication, I would have come down squarely on the side of being a plotter. I used to see that question as black or white, or as opposite sides of the same coin. Either one was a plotter or one was a pantser and that was that.
And then I found that the more I plotted a story, the less likely I was to want to actually, you know, write it. So I thought, well, I must be a pantser and set about jumping into story after story without any idea where they were going and, you guessed it, completely failing to finish any of them.
Now I tend to view the writing process as a spectrum with being a plotter at one end and a pantser at the other. I'm learning that I fall somewhere on that spectrum, with a mix of both approaches combining into a process that's uniquely my own. I just have to figure out where on the spectrum I'm happiest.
I know, for instance, that I'm afraid of getting bored if I've plotted out what's going to happen too far in advance of writing. However, I do want to know what's coming a few scenes ahead of where I'm at so that I can keep the momentum going. One tricky part comes in knowing how far ahead is too far.
I also like to know the ultimate goal and major turning points in the story. But not in too much detail. A lot of people say they can write an outline and still feel able to deviate from it. Not me. Oh, no. That would be too easy. No, when I put plot information on paper I tend to be stuck with it. I have to make my turning points and story goals sufficiently vague so that I can change them easily if needed without causing me grief, but with enough detail that I can write towards them. That's the other tricky part--how vague is vague enough without being too vague?
Well, I know my head hurts now--how about you?
Those tricky parts? They're what I'm still figuring out.
So, tell me about your process. It's the age old question for writers: Are you a plotter or a pantser or are you somewhere in between? Did figuring it out come easily to you, or did you struggle to find your process?
* The title of this post is a totally gratuitous and unrelated reference to "Spock's Brain," generally agreed to be one of if not the worst Star Trek (the original series) episode ever, in which the following immortal line is uttered, "Brain and brain, what is brain?"