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Monday, October 25, 2010

Phase One, A Tangent

Diversions are a necessary evil. As a good friend said earlier today, "Life's just too short to worry about things that don't matter." I'm diligently working toward Halloween party things right now. I have looked at the ton of story notes I spewed onto printer paper. I haven't done anything more with my story.  I think I'll consider this stage as the "percolation" stage of writing.

I'm allowing the story to roll around with a dozen other things in my mind. It seems like the kinks in plot or other inconsistencies often work themselves out if I force myself to wait a while. There was a time when I fought very hard to write every single detail in a super-special notebook that I would sift through when the time was right. I have several notebooks with practically irrelevant info now, with only a few gems among all the wasted ink.Ahem...  I mean the important, brain-flushing idea-storms from which I gleaned true knowledge! :-\

While it's true that I often still make notes, I find that the more poignant details remain in my head and reverberate until something clicks in place, makes sense, and ends up a character trait, plot point or other significant bit of storytelling gold. I would be lying if I told you I never have moments where I should have written an idea down and felt it was deeply detrimental to the telling of a perfect story. :-D

Of course, a writer is only as good as her procrastination allows.  Don't think that adding more details to your notes or doing a complete genealogy on every character will help you in the long run. When it comes right down to writing, planning is counter-productive and just another form of procrastination. Just start writing! I like this NaNoWriMo guy because he tells us to do just that.

And as far as detail while you're writing, be mindful of your tangents! Most of those little "darlings" you love will not fool an editor and you should be cutting them out in the editing process later. No matter what you've read or how self-indulgent the author is, know that what works for one author should not be a blueprint for you. As a reader, I could care less about the number of sparkles on Edward Cullen's forehead. Get to the point!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Phase One, Activate!

I'm collecting my notes today, but I doubt I'll spend the full allowance of seven days on planning. I want to make sure I have a list of recurring and incidental characters after I get the overall story outline, whether they have been named yet or not. I have a tendency to forget some character names, but I'm also not ashamed to enter brackets and  blanks to fill in later. :)

After I finish a basic outline, I'll split it up and expand it into chapter headings and enter it all into a new Word document. I just use Times New Roman font, size 12 point. I set all the page margins to 1 inch. I center the chapter numbers and titles and align the body of text to the left with a default indent. All standard formatting stuff that will make my writing virtually brainless!

If I have time left over before November 1, I do a little more preparation. I may make a world map, do some character art for visualization purposes, and design the weapons. But if you've seen my Character Portfolio, you'll know that most of that is already done for the main characters. I don't want to go overboard with a full family tree and social hierarchy map, but I may. Stuff like that just helps in the rewrite process or with a very complicated political plot structure.

Now, here is where I need help:

1. What is the difference in "Mainstream fiction" and any other genre? I've seen sci-fi and fantasy fall under "Mainstream," but I don't know what makes certain fiction "Universally Appealing."

2. One of my form rejections was accompanied by a note that told me that my writing is more for young adults than adults. Young adult readers are between 13 and 17, and up to 20 in some accounts.This led me to my new direction with this novel's story concept. Violence is an unfortunate but necessary part of my character's world. What examples can you provide from popular novels that would showcase appropriate levels of violence for young adult readers?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Ethos of a Novelist

I spent a lot of time doing what is expected of me because it paid the bills. I had to pay the bills. Going to college was something I so wanted that I allowed the debt to pile up. Now, to the detriment of logic, I am unemployed for the first time in my adult working life. But I am managing quite well, considering the huge relief that supplemental finances can provide. To meet the requirements of logic, I am searching for a qualified teaching job. Now, shut up Logic and let me do something I really want and need to do!

If you need the stats mixed in with the dream: I grew up in small town Kentucky and loved it. I earned a Master's Degree in Art Education this Spring. My Bachelor's is in Art with a minor in Theatre. I love the art of storytelling, no matter the medium, with a preference for sci-fi/fantasy based stories. Why would we want to escape from our boring lives into someone else's boring life?

I realized at some point that I'm a list-driven person. If I can make a list, surely I can accomplish everything on that list. Right? I categorize lists and break them down into sub-lists. I write micro-lists from my macro-lists. I half-heartedly accomplish the "need-to" lists of cleaning and organizing. I throw myself completely into the fun things that defy reason. After some enthusiastic list making...

So, there is my disorder. Laid out for the world to see. I make lists. The truth is that if I don't list, I have all the ideas for stories and things-to-do crashing around in my skull and I really can't focus. It's not a particularly horrible "disorder," but it is a character attribute. I've broken myself of the symmetrical stacking of toilet paper, finally. So only the listing remains.

Another weird thing I realized is that I am blissfully free of most levels of OCD. I don't ritualize every moment of every day. This is good because I don't have to freak out if something doesn't go my way, but it's hard to develop the good habits of taking vitamins and exercising. This anti-ritualistic mentality allows me to remain malleable (and physically squishy due to lack of constant exercise).

I think it's due to my messed up right-brain-left-brain integrate status. My left brain tries to keep my right brain in check with logic and lists. My right brain says "A'ight, then. I'll fill this head with ideas, but I refuse to keep her hyper-focused on your silly un-fun things so that she can dream!" Then the left brain says, "Then at least she'll be really productive with those dreams!! HA!"

So, I guess this is how I tick. And this is how I arrived at NaNoWriMo. Throw a deadline at me and tons of pressure, and I thrive!

Of course, I have a prediction and a self-challenge: I will get finished with this novel early. I will get antsy by the next morning when I wake up, and I will consciously stop myself from editing this novel until it has "percolated" long enough. I will direct the energy toward outlining the next, next novel.

Now you know I'm slightly warped. All of us "Creatives" are a bit crazy. If you are one, stop denying it! Bask in your creativity-induced-pseudo-insanity!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Quick Background

The hardest decision I ever made was to follow my dream. I was lucky. The school board, my employee for one year, indirectly made the decision for me. When I finished my Master's degree, I was suddenly too expensive for them. I got the permanent pink slip and a ticket to unemployment. As I have no desire to return to my previous call-center job, I found myself struggling between what is logical and what is fun.

During the first week of my job-less status, I finished a rewrite on my first book, a sci-fi/fantasy story that has been pseudo-finished but rejected by agents for a couple years. I gutted the story, ripping out my rambling backstories and pasting them all into individual files for expansion later. After a little tweaking, I finally had a functional, linear plot with one protagonist I could focus on and some supporting characters that weren't painfully forced into the story. 

The one problem I encountered with this new draft was that it wasn't Book One anymore. I'd shuffled it into sequel status before the edit was finished. Now, the content called for a new novel. I'd get to use the main character's gutted backstory to write a brand-new novel that would fit neatly into my story. I already had a functional outline for the first part of this book from a graphic novel script I'd written and never made. 

So here we go, approaching November... the official National Novel Writing Month (See for more info). I have a few days before our annual Halloween party, and a few days to plan the content. Then I'll be writing a full rough draft for a new novel. I'm excited.

Just a note: Any writer or artist who tells you they're doing it just for themselves is lying. :) As much as I am making the story just the way I want it, I intend to pursue publication to the fullest extent. I'll post what works for me and will graciously receive any advice or comments you have. Don't worry. I don't bite!