The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No actual writing today, but I've been scribbling notes and trying to work out a plan of attack. I want to work on the middle, which has got preplanned plot stuff to it. But I don't want to get off track and end up with an unusable mess, like I have with some of my other WIPs. I'm trying to come up with an approach to plot that can work for me; obviously the straightforward approach that some other people use isn't my thing.

What I'm going to try now is to look at the overall character arc and keep one eye on where I'm heading--the ending change or realization that takes place in the MC. At the same time I want to look at the plot stuff I have (these are individual scenes where things happen) and try to make sure I can also see each piece in terms of how it affects or shows something along that arc. Then maybe, when all is said and done, the plotting stuff will consist of scenes that do something emotionally as well as story-wise--thus making for a successful read.

I also have a bunch of scenes in mind that are pretty much all emotion--not much going on in terms of action--and I'm not sure how to work those in yet. I don't know if there needs to be a rhyme or reason to it.

I finally had time to take a very close look at some books I'd been hoping would offer some clues about ways to look at plotting vs. that emotional trajectory. I was disappointed to find nothing helpful. It looks like some people have the opposite problem from me, is all I figured out. I guess it was good to get that opposite problem nailed down in detail, though. And maybe I should take another look and see if I can learn something about pacing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No writing yesterday; got caught up on e-mail and worked on 2 of 3 outstanding writing-related projects. Will write today, though.

I'm going to try to pick apart a problem I'm currently working on, because I caught myself starting to drone on about it in a private e-mail, which is unkind to those I am corresponding with.

Problem: when you need a character to do or say something. You can't just make them act or put words in their mouth, because that can mess up the book. They have to really do or say it, all on their own.

In my case, what I need from my MC is more of an internal change, and it's interwoven with other problems that need solving, but all I'm going to look at right now is me trying to get the character to fall in line with what the story needs.

Some of the things I've tried:
  • Write through, step-by-step, the MC's considerations as he reasons his way toward doing/saying what I need him to do/say.
  • Go through the scenes from other characters' POVs to see if fleshing out the scene helps.
  • Let the characters talk about the situation in scene to see if one of them influences the MC.
  • Rethink who's present.
  • Rethink when they're present (i.e. coming in, leaving).
  • Rethink what everyone's doing in the scene.
  • Break down the MC's considerations into smaller scenes; in other words, take him through the steps required to bring him to doing/saying what I need him to.
None of that quite works. Now I'm going past these types of changes to change the deeper structure of the story. I'm actually making these changes in an attempt to address other problems, but it may solve this one as well (the problems are all interrelated anyway; I'm not sure which is causing which). By changing the time of day, I don't have to account for the characters' interactions because they'll be asleep as soon as I'm done with them in scene. I can move straight into action the next morning, and story problems will come in more quickly, thus changing my MC's mindset. I'm also, er, thinking about drugging a character so he'll stay quiet while my MC works things out. Or giving him greater injuries than he's had in previous versions (again, so he won't be an active presence in the story for another scene or two).

Anyway, after I get all this worked out, I'll forget the process I went through--I may even think the story came out right the first time--so I wanted to get it down while I'm in the messy middle of it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Line of thought re. dystopian ms:

1. It slows and sags by the end of chapter 5. (I think it's chapter 5; still haven't looked at it.)

2. I could make stuff happen quicker; i.e. let the new people show up and introduce the new problems.

3. But I already just brought new people in--3 of them at once.

4. Therefore, switching out the sagging part for more new people and problems feels "off" to me, pacing-wise. It just seems like too much to take in, as a reader. It seems too crammed.

5. I'm trying to remember what I've been telling students lately, and am seeing if I need to follow any of my own advice.

6. If I was my own student, I would advise me to find the emotional points I feel drawn to and see if I can use them as "markers" then fill in the rest from there.

7. I do have two small pieces that I love and feel drawn to, that both go in this part somewhere.

8. If I switch the time of day to evening rather than morning, I can probably skip a lot of the saggy part and go straight to those two pieces.

9. The problem with this is one of logistics, but I'm not going to worry about that right now.

10. Those two pieces are more internal and quiet, and will provide the break in pacing that I need. So I think I might be able to go straight from them back into faster-moving events.

And that is what I'm going to try today: pull up the ms, go to that last completed chapter, and start changing it under the assumption that the characters are losing daylight. But I'm not going to go back farther in the ms and try to change earlier stuff to fit; I'm just going to see how this goes. Who knows what I've forgotten about the story that could make this not work? Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Okay, where was I?

I'm finally down to only three things on my writing-related to-do list. This respite will only last a few days, but with any luck I can do better at keeping up when the pile increases again. This past couple of months has been hellacious, what with family stuff going wrong, and a serious misjudgment on my part re. the w-f-h novel. I thought that since I'd written an 80K word novel in two months, pounding out a 40K one in the same amount of time would be a piece of cake. Here's what I didn't realize:

1. The 80K novel was from my own outline; this one was from somebody else's.

2. The guidelines I had to follow for more than half the scenes formed an intricate web of minutiae. This meant that I couldn't write so much as a sentence without flipping through reference books and going back through the ms to make sure everything hung together and I wasn't f*cking something up. This took time, and it also meant that I couldn't get any writing momentum going in those scenes, which in turn meant the whole thing took even longer.

3. Almost all the scenes had 4-5 main characters present, each of whom had to be actively involved in the scene; I couldn't "lose" any of them for any length of time.* It doesn't sound like any big deal, but juggling more than 2-3 characters in a scene takes some doing. And these people were in every freaking scene, participating as equals.

Anyway. That ms will be back on my desk shortly. I hope I can stay more on top of it this time. I guess that depends on how off-point the version I sent them was. I bloody well tried to get it as on point as possible.

I'd like to try to get something done on my dystopian ms before the w-f-h comes back, but I'm scared to look at it because I'm afraid it really sucks. Right now I'm deciding whether to actually look at it, or just starting writing in the general vicinity of where I left off without taking a peek. I know that part needs to be rethought anyway, so I'm leaning toward diving in blind. I can't even remember what all I had in there, the last time I worked on it.

*Now that I think about it, this is probably one way I could have worked faster, by just letting everybody say generic stuff that needed to be said, and not worrying about personalities. I ended up doing that some, anyway.