Posts Tagged ‘Not Forgetting’

I don’t really have writing “goals” for 2016. My goal is to finish something. And if there’s year left, I’ll finish something else. That’s all.

My strategy for getting there is based on last year’s generally successful work pattern. Last year, my life accidentally fell into a pattern where Real Life took up alternate months, leaving the other months for writing. I tend to be a binge writer, so writing in binges instead of “Omigod, I’m not writing every day!” was a productive change. And it let me free to really enjoy my family and personal stuff, because I didn’t have the constant feeling that I “should” be writing.

So I’m planning to use the same strategy this year. It looks like our plans aren’t going to fall into such neat month-by-month categories this year, so this rough plan will have to be tweaked as the year goes on. But generally speaking, it looks like family/personal breaks in late February, May, August, October, and December.

Scheduled writing events that I’d like to do: Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, scaled down Story a Day in May, and if there’s time in October, Nightmare Fuel. I’m thinking not NaNoWriMo this year.

First up: Start working on the final stages of Crows, with the goal of being able to submit by the end of March or early April. The first task is to reread the draft and note what has to be done. After that I’ll have a better idea how long finishing will really take.

After Crows? I’m not sure yet. Maybe Sal and Troy. I’m also considering setting up Nicky’s story (Not Forgetting) to publish as a serial novel. Way back when I started it, I had grand ideas of setting it up as a web page with mock videos and even some of the band’s songs, but lack of talent and money makes that unlikely. Maybe eventually…

But that’s the year ahead. I plan to re-evaluate every two or three months.

I also have personal and health goals, but I mostly don’t plan to discuss those in public 😀

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I spent years trying to learn how to outline so my first drafts would be cleaner and I wouldn’t have to spend so much time on revision. It took several complete disasters to make me realize that for me, revision is the writing process.

First drafts can be fun when the new idea takes over and just flows onto the page, the way Overamped did, but the first draft is no more than the starting point. I’ve even started calling them exploratory drafts rather than first drafts. I look at what I wrote, poke at it, probe it, explore option and character interactions. What happens if the girl who dumps Joey before the book opens is also his friend and rival on the snowboard circuit? Rhonda jumps out, ready to take her pleasure wherever she damn well pleases. (If I write a sequel, it’s gonna be Rhonda.) Can I restructure the timeline so the pace is quicker, so the tension builds more?

Gradually the real story emerges from the morass, like a fine pot emerging from a blob of clay. And like clay,the story can be punched back down to the blob and reworked again and again. That’s what I’m doing with Not Forgetting for NaNo — going back to the blob and reworking it from a different perspective, with a different time line.

With the ghost novel, I’m taking a slightly different approach. In a way, it’s been in a revision phase from the beginning. I look at what’s there and add what I know. Bits here, scenes there. I put it aside for a while, take it out again, poke at it some more.

Writing this way is time consuming. I’m never going to be a novel-a-year wonder. But I like the work I produce this way, and I am once again enjoying writing in a way I haven’t for a long long time.

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A statement like that seems straightforward, but when I stopped to think about it, it had a lot of possible meanings I hadn’t considered.

* I don’t wanna! This in the same sense that a toddler doesn’t wanna take a bath.

* I don’t want to, in the same sense a person might say, “I don’t want to go to work today.” The answer is usually, “Tough.”

* I don’t want to write this way: something is wrong with the time, the place, the thing I’m writing about.
* I don’t want to write this, I want to write something else.

* I don’t want to write, in the more basic sense of, “Writing is not the thing I want to be doing for where I am in my life now.”

I thought I probably meant the kind of “I don’t want to write” that means I need a break. A month or two to just read and let things simmer. For some reason the ghost story is one that wants to procede at a leisurely pace; I thought it had just reached one of its quiet points. And this is partly true.

Another big part turns out to be a simple physical issue. I haven’t used this workspace much for months if not years, but since the laptop died, I’ve been here regularly. I never liked this computer much, but it’s just a tool, y’know, and I can live with it. The room is laid out wrong. The chair is uncomfortable, and it can’t be adjusted short enough for me (it used to be my son’s). The desk is laid out wrong. There’s clutter. There’s glare. There’s no good place to spread out. Together, it makes the writing a physically unpleasant experience. And when I think about sitting down to a day’s work, my body goes, “Oh, do we hafta?”

Most of the issues are easy enough to deal with. I got a new keyboard and mouse. I rearranged the desk. I’m still working on clearing out all the clutter, and I may yet move stuff around, but it’s getting there. And as the clutter clears out and the pieces go into place, an idea I’ve been wanting to work on for a while is coming forward again.

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Outlines don’t work for me for planning and writing a novel. But on the other hand, I have found revision outlines to be an extremely useful tool under some circumstances. I’m looking at Nicky (Not Forgetting) now, thinking in terms of emotions and thoughts as Alex suggested, and things look like they might fall into place. I’m not sure how much of the older drafts I’ll be able to salvage as I work through, though. Probably nothing, which would mean another rewrite from scratch. So the question becomes, how much do I believe in this story? Would I be better off taking what I’ve learned and applying it to the new story?

I’ll ponder that in the back of my mind while I write genie smut and finish Joey’s last-pass edits. If things work out well, that will put me at NaNo ready to do something just for fun. A new draft might be just the ticket. But we’ll see.

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the plot thickens

I’ve been thinking a lot about plot recently, trying to gain some insights into why it is that outlines so far haven’t worked for me. It ought to be simple enough to write down what happens, right? And then the meaning hangs on that. If I get to know the characters better as I go along, that shouldn’t change what happens, right?

Wrong, apparently. I need to go deeply into the characters before the story hangs together, and to do that, I have to find out what they do in the story. Very circular. So that’s how I’ve been writing, in a circular fashion, in a process that bears a passing resemblance to Ingermanson’s “snowflake” outline, only more random. It’s time consuming but produces good results, so I’m not complaining too much. But why does it work that way? What is it that more conventional outlines leave out?

The answer, it appears, is meaning.

I don’t mean meaning as in that theme-and-symbol stuff that kill so many readers in high school. But everything that happens has significance to the characters, and it goes far beyond just what happens next, which is what the basic plot is about. It’s the string of events that make up the story. Most stories are also influenced by another layer, the details of how it happens — the complications and setbacks that turn a string of events into a more dramatic structure.

Even the most plot-oriented stories don’t operate well at this level. Romances, thrillers, mysteries tend to be straightforward, but if they don’t go beyond the what and the how, they seem like shadow plays. For the characters to have real depth, the story has to get into why it happens — the motivation. And that’s when things start to change, because motivation can go deep. The deeper it goes, the better the story — but also, the more complicated the situation becomes. Characters with motivation want things, and they react to things, and that means what happens in the story changes them. This is good. This is what makes a character arc. But that also means that the character I’ve developed sometimes won’t do the thing I had planned in the plot. It would be out of character.

So the character acts and changes things, and those things change the character. Not just the MC, though. This is true for every single character in the story.

Relationships are changing. Dynamics are changing.

And that’s where another aspect comes in. The events mean something to the characters. The fact that one of my MC’s has an ex-boyfriend who is closeted, so their relationship was never public, so they can’t have a real breakup without giving the relationship away, isn’t just background accounting for why Nicky’s single at the moment. It’s not even just baggage. It causes unexpected complications in what seem like simple events. If Nicky doesn’t go to a certain event because he doesn’t want to run into the ex, reporters will notice. If he sucks it up and goes, the new guy in his life is jealous. The event’s the same as it was in the original outline, but all the context has changed.

And it occurred to me that for the kind of fiction I write, the entire story is taking place at this level. The events don’t really matter. They’re just a stage for the emotional interaction to take place on.

So it isn’t that the outline isn’t working. It just isn’t telling me what I need to know.

Anybody have thoughts on this? Ideas? Does it fit in with your own observations? Am I way off base here?

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