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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Started smoothing out chapters 8, 9, and 10. However, there isn't much time before the new school year kicks in, so this coming week I might be better off trying to get some more large pieces staked out in the ms' middle. When school kicks in, I won't be able to work more than a couple of hours at a time without being interrupted, and these nice large chunks of new story I've been writing seem to feed off marathon writing sessions.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Again, an excellent writing day. Most excellent; I pulled a bunch of stuff together and suddenly have sketched my way up to chapter 10, well over a hundred pages in.

I will be interested to see how the upcoming tricky part--the development of my main secondary character--can be worked out without losing any of the tension or high-interest pacing I'm trying to maintain. I may sit down and list all the plot-hook types of scenes I know will happen in the middle of the book, so that I can wrap my mind around exactly how many there are, as well as what they are, exactly. Right now these plot-hooky things are mostly big generalities in my mind (with pieces, scenes, and conversations scribbled down in the ms as placeholders), but I think they'll necessarily need to be broken up because the ideas in them are too big for one scene or chapter. Instead, the plot-hooky things are probably more like little mini-arcs. If they are, they may be enough to intersperse with the character-development so that pacing stays sharp.

It sure would be nice if this book could live up to what my brain thinks it could be.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another very productive day, 1300+ words. I wrote a new scene, a knife fight, which--now that I think about it--is backstory. That led to another new scene, also backstory, which I loved writing and found very touching.

The reader's going to need both these backstory scenes, either as discrete flashbacks, as memories related by the MC in detail, as paraphrases, or as cut-up snippets scattered around. I have no idea which. All I know is, both scenes really happened, and the reader needs them in order to fully understand the story.

Since so much of the world-building and internal story of this ms relies on the characters' backstories, I'm wondering if I'm simply going to have to cut away every once in a while for a set-apart in-scene flashback. If I do, it's going to be very, very tricky. Extremely tricky. Potentially tension-killing.

It occurs to me that the swordfighting ms has the same problem. However, with this dystopian ms I understand what the deeper story is and how it plays out and rises to an end. So it should easier (relatively!) to figure out how to structure the dystopian. And if I can, that should help me with the other ms.

What do you do when the story begins in the right place, but a ton of stuff happened before the beginning that the reader needs to know?

Much to think about. Hmm.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yesterday, very busy, but still got some work in--continued freewriting from secondary character's pov. Today was very productive; more freewriting led to a real scene. This scene marks the first solid foray into the middle of the book.

I also went ahead and moved some of my freewriting into the actual ms because that new scene would naturally lead to an explanation of the secondary character's backstory. I'm considering leaving the freewriting as is; in other words the ms would suddenly switch pov, tense and voice for this big chunk of backstory. Right now that seems less draggy than the lengthy in-scene conversation that'd be required to get in this same info. However, I'm probably wrong, and also it may turn out that the info needs to be chopped up and scattered around the ms. Will have to see.

I also had the thought that one of the pieces from chapter six would do a stronger story job later in the ms, but I'm not moving it yet.

Again, 2000+ words today, even with doctor visits and family stuff going on. Took a notepad and scribbled some word lists and other thoughts while in the waiting room.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Very productive writing day--2000 words, all freewriting from pov of secondary character on whom the book hinges. I never lost interest, for nearly 10 hours of writing. It starts in scene near the beginning of the book and goes through deeply and inch-by-inch via SC's pov, using second person present.

I really don't want to write the whole d@mn book out twice if I can avoid it*, so I hope I can get going enough to eventually start skipping around and just figuring out this guy during certain key points in the story. Not sure which points, just so long as I don't have to, like I said, write inch by deep inch through the whole novel twice (or g*d forbid, three times, for the sake of that third character who's so important, the antagonist).

I figure the type of freewriting I did today is interesting enough that if the book gets published, I can publish these pieces on a website as a supplement to the novel. It really is fascinating (to me, anyway) to get the same info from this other guy's view, with access to his secrets and his extremely unusual way of seeing the world.

*And I hope I didn't just jinx myself by saying that out loud.
While I was in VT, a fellow writer posted some in-depth thoughts re. The Putting On of Pants:

I completely agree. One can Put On Pants in glorious and lyrical detail, but if the story itself doesn't require readers to absorb the full import of a pants-donning, then to me that space on the page is self-indulgent, even if it is pretty and well-written.

I always have wrongly-emphasized Putting-On-Pants moments in my writing*, but I try very hard to get rid of them before the book hits print. It's sometimes difficult, though, because, well, they are pretty. Very pretty. Right now I've got one I know I need to cut, but I keep leaving it in there because I haven't yet managed to force myself to get rid of it.

In other news (or not-news; what's the opposite of news?) I woke up understanding that there is indeed something wrong with the scene I wrote yesterday. I have no idea what. All I know is that it's not sitting right with me--I don't feel good and energized when I think about it; I feel very slightly uneasy. That doesn't mean the whole thing has to go (although it could mean that), but it almost certainly means that 1) I need to have a stronger grip on the characters as they head into this scene, 2) something about the scene is preventing the many threads of emotional and character arcs from falling nicely into place, or 3) both.**

There are a lot of threads that need to come together in that scene, and I already knew that, so I'm not alarmed. I'm glad I was able to get something out on paper so I can seriously start (slowly) figuring out the book's climax. I've wanted to write that scene for a long time, but the closest I could ever get was one time when I managed to half-describe the road they're standing on before I stalled out and sat there staring blankly at the screen. This part of the book wouldn't come at all before yesterday.

So anyway, back to work.

*The former GN is one big wrongly-emphasized Putting On of Pants.

** #3 is most likely. Usually somebody in the scene isn't doing what they really would do (like, if I wasn't around stage-managing the whole business), and that throws the whole book off.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This morning I had ones of those long mental flashes where a scene came to me in sequential order--where the characters were in place in my head, and one character's action or thought led to something happening, and then that led somebody else to react, which led to somebody else responding, etc. etc. all the way down the scene. That happens sometimes if you've been working and trusting the process enough to tuck problems away for the back of your mind to work on. The big question now is whether the scene I wrote will actually work when all is said and done.

Anyway, it was a good enough flash that I skipped ahead today and wrote out the scene, which is the climax of the book. It may be a bit maudlin right now, especially compared to the blood and gore surrounding the sad bits, but maybe it's a decent placeholder till I get the rest of the story working enough to earn this climax. If not, I'll have to rethink. In the meantime, I can pretty much guarantee I will not be showing anybody this part till I have a better sense of whether it's just plain silly or not. I don't mind showing people most of my rougher stuff, but if something I wrote makes me sad yet makes everyone else laugh, it's not good for my creativity to hear them laughing.

I didn't want to kill this guy, and have been dancing around it, coming up with scenarios where he walked happily away at the end, but this morning I was called upon by my flash to accept the death and just go with it. So I did.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Realized I need to get some of the early middle part of the book written out, just for the sake of getting a better grip on the main antagonist. I wanted to write a scene I haven't so much as touched yet, where he (the main antagonist) comes to visit the MC's home. But before I even started, I saw that it'd be futile to try to write my way into it without having a decent feel for an earlier scene--namely, the antagonist's first appearance in the book. I've had pieces of this earlier introductory scene for some time, but most of them dance around this guy. Mostly they just pin down some of the blocking as well as a simpler, more minor character who doesn't have such a huge effect on the story.

So I started tackling this main antogonist's on-scene introduction, and never got to the new scene I wanted to try out. Maybe tomorrow. Today's writing went pretty well as far as sketching out stuff, giving me a good base to work from, so it was a good writing day.

I'll be disappointed if I get to the new scene and find that something's off and it's not workable. I hope it's okay. I suspect I'll be writing flashes of it, not a start-to-finish sketch, but we'll see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yesterday, worked on transition getting MC from one location to another. Today, skipped to the climax and started chipping away at that. Since I'm not sure exactly how the climax plays out, this is a very rough, vague, and unsatisfying placeholder that may not even work to hold the place. However, trying to write it at least sets the problem down in concrete form so the back of my mind can start turning it over.
In other words, it's possible that today's rough, vague, unsatisfying work may bear fruit later. I hope so. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wrote a fight scene from the middle of the book yesterday.  Then I had the good luck to run into some fellow writers who very kindly walked me through the physical and emotional interactions that might take place in a quick, unplanned alpha-dog guy fight. This helped me get a better grip on the blocking/choreography involved. 

Another FW showed me the Casey Heynes bully video (slightly disturbing, and yet shockingly satisfying), which I had not seen. 

All in all, an excellent writing day. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yesterday I worked a little bit on a scene from the middle of the dystopian, but it wasn't feeling right. I decided I needed to get a sense of what went before and work up to that part, so today I picked up at the last place where I'd left off chronologically (where my MC is going to beat the h#ll out of a guy). 

This got me thinking about the way that area of the book was structured, and I realized that what felt wrong yesterday was the order of events; the piece I was working on didn't feel like it flowed from the events right before it. So I rethought that portion of the story and moved the scenes around, getting them into a lineup that feels better to me. Now, at this moment, it all seems workable. 

If it is workable, I'll have well over a hundred pages of the book done once I get this next part smoothed into cohesive scenes. Will have to wait and see, though. 

I also had the thought that I should remember to tentatively plan to alternate exciting stuff with slower info-heavy chapters. I don't think this is possible all the way through, but if I keep it in mind as the goal, it should help keep me on track. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Snatched an hour out of a busy schedule to work on my own stuff. Ahhhhh. Feels good.

Pulled together tidbits for hair-braiding scene, which now is used to bring in MC's unrecognized guilt at beating somebody bloody, and to plant hints re. new guy's mysterious past. Without losing the hair-braiding part, which does nothing much but I like it. 

The tidbits aren't knit together yet, but they're in approximate order, ready to be worked on in more detail. 

I also tightened the story by removing a slower scene where the unrecognized guilt used to be. Now two action-ish parts are close together. Don't know if this pacing is right, but it feels okay for the moment. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I suddenly realized I'd better make sure I've got something with me for the reading I'm supposed to do in VT. I don't have anything halfway cohesive* that will also fit in the designated time slot, so I decided I'm just going to e-mail myself some freewriting from the dystopian and read that. It's a bunch of rough and nearly unintelligible pieces, but hey, that's where I'm at in my writing right now. A book does not spring forth fully formed from the mind of its author. Life behind the curtain is messy and sometimes downright ugly.

As I starting pulling out pieces and putting them into one document, I saw that I'd better explain to the audience what I'm using them for, as far as helping me to get the book written. Otherwise, my reading is going to sound like random selections from the backs of different cereal boxes.

The last piece I'll probably read is one that will end up as an actual scene near the climax of the book. Right now there's not much to it, and there's also a gap where the character epiphany takes place; the MC makes his choice and acts on it in this scene, but he currently has no reason for doing so. I just know that he does, I know it for sure, and so I know there's a line or two missing that shows the exact moment where the previous 2oo or however many pages of the book add up to make him decide: I will now do ____.

In short, one of the huge epiphanies that helps form the core of the book is missing.

But here's what happened: I wrote out a brief explanation of the scene for the reading. Then I moved on and tried to succinctly explain the gap.** And as I was trying to explain about the gap, I suddenly noticed that, back when I'd explained the scene, I'd also unknowingly written out what drove the MC to make his choice. It's pretty funny, really. In struggling over how to word the fact that I didn't have a clue what I was doing, I accidentally wrote down exactly what I was doing.

They say God looks after fools.

So anyway, it feels good to have this pinned down as I move forward with the ms. Having a grip on that one wee but crucial spot will help me carve the whole thing into shape.

*I'm not flying 1500+ miles to bore myself to tears by reading from one of my already-carved-in-stone books. The only thing that's interesting to me about doing a reading is if I'm reading something I'm still trying to figure out. Because then I can hear how it sounds and catch pacing problems I wouldn't normally see just from looking at it on a computer screen or on paper.

**Because VT College is, after all, a writing school. If I know there's a gap in my ms, I don't want anybody to think it's okay. I want them to understand that a gap is there and needs to be fixed.

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