research, Writing

Novel Thoughts

I’ve begun work on another novel, working titled Unspoken. This is a secondary world fantasy novel that has involved a fair share of behind-the-scenes world building, which I’ve enjoyed a lot. It also gave me an opportunity to create two entirely new species, one predator and one prey, which, OMG is just fascinating. Talk about your research rabbit holes! I could research critters’ biology and habits until the cows come home, until the power grid goes down, until…well, you get the point. I kinda likes that sort of thing. ūüėČ

My process for this novel has changed from the previous ones, and those changed from the process I used before that. Basically, I’m moving from “pure pantster” to “whole lotta plotter.” This is not something I’d anticipated doing when I started writing seriously. It’s happened organically, and I’m happy with the changes so far, so… *shrugs.* Live and let live, right? Which also means to be willing to try something new if your old way just isn’t working for you anymore.

Unspoken has gone through three full levels of outlining–or outline editing, as I prefer to think of it. I’m thinking of each like a mini-draft of the novel itself, which let me get over the “just outlining” negativity. The first pass was simply taking the bits and bobs of story and imposing an order on them, then filling in the blanks. This was comparatively easy, as it’s how I started adding structure when I found pantsing wasn’t doing it for me. It’s fun. I saw the shape taking form, and it was thrilling (this was the only step I took for book one of Jess, btw).

The second editing level came next. I let the ideas simmer a week, then went back to the rough outline with a “Yes, But/No, And” checklist. The idea here is that every scene should have a protagonist with a goal, and for every scene I should ask “Did the goal get met?” The answer, of course, should never be “Yes” until the very end. It could be, “Yes, BUT…” and then something worse than the present situation came about. The answer could be “No, AND…” so that something worse came about. But always, things get worse, get more complicated, etc–even when some small victory is achieved, there is a setback.

That process drew my attention to where the story was fuzzy in my mind. Where the protagonist wasn’t fully on my mind, just the “really cool world building” or “here I’ll show how tough the desert is” and that kind of thing. Then came another cooling off period, a plot-breaking with others to see what was/wasn’t working, and my final round of editing: the scene/sequel process.

I found this bit at the old Jim Butcher LJ (scene bit here, and sequel bit here), and he’s carried the links to his new site, so honest, go read them! His “Scene” reiterates the “Yes, But/No, And” process, so for me, “Sequel” held the gold. I’ve always muddied my reactions, dallying too long around the emotions, etc. And even after the second edit of the outline, going through Unspoken scene by scene really let me zero in on the places where I was still dallying too long, or too unsure of what I was saying, or why. It was a frustrating process, but one that showed me–quite clearly and plainly–my own writing weaknesses.

And now I can’t imagine having written off that first draft of the outline! Nor do I want to imagine the process of trial and error to get three full written drafts to structural state this first draft will be–my mind simply boggles at the thought! That said, there are as many ways to write as there are writers who write. Do whatever works for you to get words on the page, and to feel good about them.

As for me and my writing style? I’m still a work in progress. My next novel will probably see yet another change in process. But that means I gotta get back to writing this one. So…*waves and disappears*

Today's Desk

Writer’s Desk, 5/14

Ready for another look into my utterly fascinating world of writing? Me neither. ūüôā Despite that, here we go.

Out the window:¬†Gray skies and¬†misty rain. Colder temps that are leaching in around the windows, which I’d finally removed the plastic sheeting from earlier this week. Too soon, it appears. Ugh.

On the desktop:¬†The general clutter of maps, glasses and note-like bits of paper, along with the plant that I’ve removed from the window sill so it doesn’t “catch cold.” ¬†Also, a cup of jasmine green tea, to make it feel warm and springy whenever I take a sip. Mmm, good.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:¬†The novel, naturally. I am relieved to be able to report that I’m nearing the end of Act 1–the part where conflicts¬†are gaining steam and the good stuff is getting underway–and I’m somewhere near the 1/7 of the book’s total word count. This is a relief, because I planned (as much as I’m able to plan any of this, at this point–more like hoped, but planned sounds so much more in control and writerly, doesn’t it??) for Act 1 to consume 1/7th, and Act 3 to consume the final 7th, while the majority of the book goes into Act 2 (with 5/7th total word count).

Where did this come from, you ask? I think it came from the Donald Maas book, Writing the Breakout Novel, which I read a few months back. Regardless, it seemed like a good rule of thumb, one that fit how I saw this book of mine progressing, so I was happy to see this falling into place in reality.

And Another Thing, or Two:¬†This may be really old news for some of you, but I somehow found myself over at an old (antiquated, in online terms) LiveJournal page by¬†Jim Butcher, reading his discussion of Scene and Sequel. If you’re writing almost any kind of fiction, I highly suggest reading these little nuggets of wisdom. Scene comes first, then click to the “next page” for Sequel. (Cool how that happens, no?)

And finally, I have to squee just a moment here: my contributor’s copy of Twisted Boulevard: Tales of Urban Fantasy, edited by Angela Charmaine Craig of Elektrik Milk Bath Press, just arrived in yesterday’s mail. It is so nice to hold an actual book containing your work and byline in your hands, you know?