Re-Organizing

dreamstimefree_57687

Image from Dreamstime

 

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the long weekend re-organizing my latest novel.  I was unhappy with the way that it had originally been set up and so I decided to take the time and make the changes that I wanted to make.  It took over six hours, a lot of re-thinking and moving and copying and changing the point of view of several scenes and adding far more new scenes than I had thought I would need to, but I finally got it done.

 

So far, I’m pleased with the changes that I made.  The story seems to be much clearer and gets my intent across better.  The organization should fix some of the issues that my critique group had with the structure.  And, so far at least, it’s been easier to work with.  Now, I’m only still editing and haven’t yet gotten to any of the new stuff (with the exception of one new scene, everything that I am working on now is being edited or re-written), but I really believe that the time made the story better.

 

It was frustrating, to be sure, and sometimes I wanted to just give up and read a book for a while, but I’m glad that I stuck with it.

 

Next up: organizing my office.

 

Have you ever made a drastic change to a story?

R and R

dreamstimefree_149205

Image from Dreamstime

 

No, not rest and relaxation (although I did some of that too!)

 

No: re-plan and re-organize.

 

This last weekend was the Canada Day long weekend for me and I spent the time resting at a secluded spot by the river.  This is a very peaceful spot, completely unplugged, and very private.  I only brought one book (more on that in a few days) that I finished by 4:00 on Saturday.  What can I say: it was good!

 

The novel read, I turned my attention to the novel I am writing!  You see, I wrote the requisite 50,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo, and almost got the book done (as it turns out, there’s only five chapters to go!)  As usual for a NaNo project, the words felt like they lacked a certain… punch.  The novel was lagging and the reviews I’d received from my critique group had given me pause.  I finally decided that the novel needed a little bit of re-thinking.

 

Nothing major, of course, just re-organizing some scenes into different chapters, changing some points of view, and adding some scenes where I felt like they were needed.

 

I managed to get down to 26 chapters (from 32), deleted about six scenes, and tightened some others up.  All told, it was several hours of work, but the basic framework should now be (relatively) solid.  I’m sure that things will change as I continue to re-work and get feedback, but I feel like I’ve clarified things a lot, even if only for myself.

 

The novel itself still needs a little lot of work, but at least I have a map for the editing adventure that will soon be upon me!  Now… to get to that little detail…

 

How did you spend your weekend?

That Point

dreamstimefree_7858388

Image from Dreamstime

 

I’m at “that point” in my current novel.  Those of you who write will know what I mean.  I’m far enough in that the excitement and joy that I felt at the beginning of the writing have faded.  The right words seem to be slow in coming, the characterization seems to fail, and I’m alternating between over-reliance on dialogue and over-reliance on exposition.

 

I’m just over halfway through the novel and I’m convinced that it sucks.

 

That’s not true of course.  Sure, parts of it need work, but this is only the first draft (of this incarnation of the story, it’s about the fourth time I’ve attempted to write it) and there’s definitely room for improvement.  That part, I can handle, as much as I might dislike it, because that’s a part of it.

 

No, the problem is that the story hasn’t yet met my expectations of it.  It’s lagging along, with completely pointless chapters, characters that some of my critique group doesn’t find lovable, and a set of subplots that I’m not sure I have the skills to pull off.  Of course, it’s not fair of me to blame the story.  I should be blaming myself, the incompetent writer who can’t handle a simple subplot and a half-engaging chapter.

 

In short, the story doesn’t seem redeemable and I’m tempted to give up, to work on something new or, even better, to move to Florida and become an orca trainer at Sea World.

 

I have no plans of doing anything quite so drastic as moving, of course (for one thing, my co-ML would do her best to murder me if I abandoned her before NaNoWriMo) but that doesn’t mean I’m not tempted.  I don’t have any shiny new ideas right now (that and the camp deadline are probably all that’s keeping me working on this story), but if I did, I would be quite happily working away on those instead.

 

Which is exactly the opposite of the thing that will get me past that point in the process.

 

I am trying to remind myself that this is normal, that everyone feels this way, and it’s part of the process.  Neil Gaiman said it best in a NaNoWriMo pep talk a few years ago.  Everyone goes through this, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

 

No, it doesn’t make it any easier at all.  Fortunately, I only have about 5,000 words to write until things start getting exciting again.  Then I should have reached the beginning of the “momentous downhill slide” and things will get easier and easier until I can finally reach the glorious end that I’ve been longing for since word one.

 

Unfortunately, the only thing that’s likely to get me to that point is more writing.

 

A word after a word after a word.

 

That and trying not to think about how much I have to edit this.

 

What do you do when you hit “that point”?

 

Rest and Recovery

dreamstimefree_12524414
Image from Dreamstime

 

So I took Thursday and Friday off this week.  The plan, initially, had been to take the cats to the vet, rest, and WRITE.  A lot.

 

Sadly, only two of these things happened.

 

I did indeed get the cats to the vet, and it was a resounding success.  Much better, and more hilarious, than in previous years, and I only have one scratch to show for it.  The scratch was a direct result of my impatience and my cat’s desire not to go in the carrier, rather than from the visit itself, so I can’t even count it as a strike against the experiment.

 

I also got lots of resting done.  You see, my handsomer half managed to get a stomach flu mid-week, and I caught it too.  Sadly, the half of Thursday and the Friday I had envisioned spending writing in the silence of my house were spent curled up on the couch drinking gingerale and cleaning off my PVR.

 

I only finally felt up to writing/doing anything yesterday, and that mostly surrounded knitting.  I wrote a chapter in my novel yesterday and another one today, so I feel pretty good about that, but I am still weak and (now) behind on my Camp NaNo goals.  Fortunately, the fact that I was ahead earlier in the week and that I wrote an extra 500 words both yesterday and today mean that I’m now only a day behind, but that’s not entirely comforting to the girl who’s usually confidently ahead by three or four days.

 

Anyway, I was definitely sick (when I’m too sick for surf and turf, I’m too sick for anything), so I’m comforting myself with the knowledge that resting was more important.  And it’s not worth getting angry at myself over now that I’m nearly caught back up.  Life is going to throw curve balls like that at me, and I think it’s the recovery from the setback that’s important.

 

And I’m well on my way to recovery!

Character Profiles in “The Hunger Games”

As an advance note, I’m trying out a new posting system. I hope everything here turns out okay, but in case it doesn’t, please forgive me for any formatting issues.

 

Now, onto the subject of this blog post:

Hunger_games1

 

I receive the monthly eZine from Randy Ingermanson, aka: “The Snowflake Guy”. I subscribed to his monthly emails after trying, and loving, his Snowflake method. I’ve only used it for the one novel so far, but using it up to step four has been helpful for short stories too.

 

However, there’s one place where I always seem to struggle, and that’s step 5. I’ve never really liked writing down the details of my characters, it seems unnatural to me. Strangely enough, I have no problems listing their basic motivations or the details about them when it comes down to it. But for some reason, summarizing the story for each of the characters is excruciatingly painful for me.

 

So imagine my surprise when I read this month’s eZine and saw Randy do it well, with a book that I’ve read recently as an example. I think I understand the concept of step 5 a lot better now, and I think that I’ll have to go back and re-work it for my current WIP to see if I can’t discover any unknown subplots.

 

Here’s the first character profile (warning: spoilers herein and in Randy’s full eZine):

 

Katniss
_______

Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old girl in a dystopic future America. She scratches out a bare living by hunting illegally with her best friend Gale.

Katniss only loves one person in the world, her little sister Prim. When Prim’s name is drawn for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place, which she knows will be a death sentence.

Katniss is particularly unhappy that the other tribute from her district is Peeta Mellark, a boy she hardly knows, except that he saved her life a few years ago when she was starving and desperate.

During the last interview before the Hunger Games begin, Peeta reveals on national TV that he has a terrible crush on Katniss, and therefore he can’t win even if he survives. Katniss is furious, thinking this is a scam to make her look weak.

When the Games begin, Katniss grabs a few supplies and heads for the hills to evade the Career tributes. Late that night, she discovers that Peeta has joined forces with the Careers, and has promised to deliver her to them.

Katniss is now completely convinced that Peeta is doing his best to survive at her expense. Can she outfox the Careers — and punish Peeta?

 

Read the rest here.
I have to say that Randy does an amazing job of, not only getting me engaged in the characters, but in the story, as each successive character’s mini-bio gets closer and closer to the finale of the story, when all the little story-threads finally come together. I think I finally understand how this type of synopsis can be more engaging for editors and agents, and I definitely think that my step 5s need more work.

 

If you want to read more from Randy, all of his past eZines are available on his website, and you can subscribe to receive the ones on the first Tuesday of the month.

 

Who do you follow regularly to learn more about your craft?

 

 

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 31,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

The Muse Returns?

Originally posted January 26, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

Maybe… maybe not.

DSCF4687

 

But like wisps of steam rising off a freezing pond, ideas are slowly coming to me.

 

I posted a few weeks ago about how my muse has abandoned me.  At the time, I felt like I had the drive and the motivation to work but, other than my novel, no good ideas.

 

I still can’t claim to have any good ideas (I can’t claim anything is good when I’m still so close to it), but I did find some inspiration in the suggestions of my twitter followers.  Consequently, I just finished draft one of a short story that came to me, nearly all at once, at the zoo last Saturday.  I’ll have to get some other people’s input onto it, but I’m excited about it.  It’s dark, and unusual for me, but maybe that’s just the thing I’ve been looking for.  As a little drawing of a coffin in my Pintrest account says “You’ll have a whole eternity to think inside the box.”

 

I also have one short story about 2/3 done and another plotted and ready to go.  I’m not sure that I’m crazy about them yet, but I’ll finish them and drop them in a drawer for a few months and see if I can find anything redeeming in them.

 

In more positive writerly news, the novel I am currently re-writing is going well and I am nearly at 15,000 words!  Just another 65,000 to go!  It stands a good chance of getting done before the end of June, which would be nice, because it gives me a fair chunk of time to do some plotting and planning before NaNo this year.  What am I going to write this November?

Work-like UnWork

dreamstimefree_2976874

Image from Dreamstime

 

I haven’t been writing much lately [cue the *gasp, choke, shock* noises].

 

Now, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about writing.  In fact, I have been doing a lot in the last few days that is writing-related but isn’t actually writing.

 

1) There’s the group creative project I mentioned, that’s kind of beginning to get some momentum since we had a meeting on Saturday.

2) There’s the flash fiction and new short story idea that I have rattling around in my head.

3) There’s the critiquing that I’m doing.

 

Of the three things on the list, the last is taking up a lot of my time right now.  Not only do I have the regular, weekly chapter critique(s) that I do as part of my critique group, but we’ve all volunteered to critique a full novel for one of our members.  Of course, it’s a long novel and I’m struggling with the process of reading the work with a critical eye instead of purely for enjoyment (my usual MO).  That’s proven difficult for me and is requiring a lot more brain power than I might like.  On the positive side, though, it’s really made me think a lot more about what I look for in a novel, which has consequently made me think about what should be in a novel.  A novel like the one I’m writing!

 

The break in writing is okay, though, because chapter two of “Fighter One” is currently out for critiques and I don’t really want to continue working on it until I know what I need to fix.  Besides, I plan on working on it during June Camp NaNoWriMo, finishing it in July, and using the August camp to plan my November NaNo novel.  Then I have September and October to edit it and it’ll be done before the end of the year.

 

That’s reasonable when working on short stories, traveling for work, and trying to get a group project finished up by the end of the year, right?

 

Right?

Flamingo Dream

Time for another Flash Fiction!

 

Today’s submission was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Paint Color Title Scheme.  Of the ten possible colors listed, I chose “Flamingo Dream”!  I’m… not entirely sure what this is, but it was interesting to write after an emotionally draining day.  I am 99% sure I will be going back to this one and revising, as I think there’s a lot of good stuff here I might re-purpose after a night of good sleep.

 

In the meantime, please enjoy this rough, 20 minute (to write), 666 word story!

 

 

Flamingo Dream

Flamingos dream in black and white.  That was what the researchers said anyway, Ryan thought as he watched one of them nap in the sun.  But he couldn’t help but wonder how the researchers knew that was true.  Had they asked them?  Had they psychically wound their way into the flamingos’ dreams?  Had they experienced the richness of the world through a bird’s eye?

 

He doubted it.  Humans would probably never know, regardless of how many animals they studied in zoos.

 

Ryan enjoyed watching the zoo animals.  They always seemed so calm and content – all that they had to be was themselves, with no worries or fears.  Everything was provided for them: food, water, safety, interaction, family, friends…  It was probably a boring existence, but few of them seemed to mind.

 

He stuffed his hands into his pockets and sighed as he watched the graceful pink necks curve down and back up as the animals ate.  Sometimes he wished that his life could be that simple and easy.  But he couldn’t be what he wanted to be, or even what he was.  There was always something that someone else wanted of him: to be smarter, to work harder, to have more, to want more, to be… more.

 

Ryan wasn’t sure how much longer he would be able to withstand it.

 

One of the flamingos ambled closer, drawn by the shrieking glee of a small girl in purple standing near him.  She was holding a mittened hand out towards the birds and yelling “pink, pink!”

 

The flamingo sniffed curiously at her hand.  Finding nothing exciting there, it pulled its head back and vocalized at her, which sent her into another shriek of excited glee.  Ryan smiled at her carefree enjoyment of the sunny day that he couldn’t seem to appreciate himself.  Animals and children: both were equally free to just be themselves.

 

And here he was, only in the later half of his twenties, wondering what the point of it all was.  Wondering who he was trying to impress with his long hours at work and his fancy new car.  Wondering when, exactly, he had stopped enjoying the simpler things in life like sunshine or the laugher of a child.

 

Ryan eyed one of the flamingos suspiciously as it shook water casually off its wings.  It sometimes seemed like he was far more caged than these birds.

 

###

 

The elder flamingo woke from her doze to find the tall human was still there.  That one came by a lot, she knew, and stayed longer than any others.  He was nice enough, as humans went: he didn’t throw things at them or honk back or make fun of their long legs and he always watched them so intently that it almost felt like admiration.  He could come and go as he pleased, but he always seemed to visit them late in the afternoon, just before bedtime.  With the young ones around and the constant visits from strange humans, it was pleasant to have some rhythm to the day.

 

One of the babies raced awkwardly towards her, nearly stumbling over his growing legs.  A commotion at the other end of the pond needed her attention.  She sighed and began her stately walk towards the fighting teens, proud even in the face of such a commonplace squabble.

 

Fights were for the young: the ones that still had down and spirit.  The ones who still naively believed that there was a place better than the pond they inhabited and the nice humans in the beige clothes that brought them food and let them inside for the winter.  They were still young and foolish, she knew, and would change their mind as soon as the cold struck.

 

When she looked back, the tall human was gone.  No matter: she knew that he would come back, as he always did.

 

If Ryan had been able to ask what she had dreamt during her nap, she could have told him that she dreamt of nothing.

Restful Thoughts

dreamstimefree_984948

Image from Dreamstime

 

Several months ago, I posted a little about how I had been writing every day.  A while after that, I posted that I had stopped writing every day.  And then, these last few weeks have been a little bit hit or miss.

 

Why the inconsistency, you ask?

 

The answer is simple: I needed a break.

 

I didn’t want a break, make no mistake.  I wanted to keep writing, to keep working, to keep developing new things and to finish a project (or five).  But my body had other ideas and essentially forced me to take a break.  Which amused the heck out of me, because things like that usually only happen when I am sick or stressed.  And I haven’t really been either lately.

 

Yes, part of it was recovery from Script Frenzy and A to Z blogging, but a larger part of it had to do with sheer creative exhaustion.  I would sit down for 15 minutes or half an hour, finish a scene or two, and that was it.  My fingers could keep typing but my brain had nothing left in it.

 

So I was forced to rest.  To watch TV, to nap, and to knit.  And, for the first two weeks of May, that was enough.  I’m nearly done another knitting project: one that uses a brand new-to-me technique that I dare say I have perfected.  I’ve got another little something on the needles, and I’m re-watching some of my favorite shows.  I haven’t really had any new creative ideas, but I think that the story that I’m working on right now has slowly been percolating away in the coffee pot I call a brain.

 

I had a good few weeks rest, and even took some time off from work as part of it (I get paid hourly and there wasn’t much to do at work.  Not to mention that we’re in the middle of an office renovation that’s happening right outside my door).  But I’ve been feeling the creative urges stirring again, demanding that I return bum to chair and fingers to keyboard and do something productive.  Which is a good thing, because Camp NaNoWriMo starts in eleven days!

 

Do I have any new and wonderful ideas?  No.  And while that bothers me a little (shouldn’t a rest be a breeding ground for such things?), I am learning to live with the frustration.  I have a novel on the go and another one in the very beginning stages of being re-planned, and that’s enough for now.  Besides, there’s a creative group venture in the early stages of becoming that looks like it will keep me very busy for the next while.

 

I think that the break was good for me.  But now I’m anxious to get back to the writing: the fun and the work.

 

Do you ever take breaks, willingly or otherwise?  How do they help your productivity?

Why I’ve Stopped Writing Every Day

Originally posted February 19, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

STOP SignPhoto from Dreamstime

It was just four weeks ago that I was bragging in this space about how I’d done something writing-related every day.

 

How quickly things change!

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t still write every day.  For the most part, I do.  Some nights I even spend a full hour or two (in between my day job and life things, that’s pretty good for a week night) working at my craft.

But I’ve also come to realize the importance of breaks.

Last week, I was having a pretty rough time of it.  My day job was getting busy and hard to handle (not at all unusual for a February in the oil and gas industry) and I hadn’t been sleeping well.  I’d also gotten some negative reviews on something I’d been working on consistently for two months.  To put it simply, I was run down!

As I’m sure most of you do, I follow a few blogs.  One, in particular, has recently been advocating taking regular breaks from writing (one day a week, in that author’s case).  I don’t have the desire to break all that frequently… yet… but the idea certainly has some merit!  One of my biggest frustrations with the writing feedback that had upset me was that it was right… I was just too close to the problem!

Looking back on it now, none of these things were quite so bad (except possibly for the day job issues, but I don’t see that changing anytime in the near future).  But it got me thinking a little more about how hard I’ve been working and how I manage stress.  While writing every day is a fine habit to be in, this last week, I’ve needed to take a few breaks from my habit.  Thus far, this has meant two whole nights where I didn’t write (one of which was a thirteen hour work day and the other my scheduled time with friends).  I know… I suck at taking breaks.  It’s just my personality, I suppose!

I’ve recently found that the concept is true for work as well.  Two weeks ago, things got rather stressful at my place of employment (to the point where I was ready to start yelling at coworkers).  Fortunately, the ongoing tasks didn’t need my direct supervision at the time, so there was a chance for me to take a mental health break.  I ended up spending about an hour and a half on e-mail answering questions, but it felt good to knit, snuggle the kitties, and watch TV for a while, rather than worrying too much about work.  I’m definitely thankful for the flexibility that my job offers, which allows me to work from home or take mini-breaks like that when needed.

But that day off only proved that a longer break was in order.  Since I tend to hyper-focus on certain things (work, writing, TV shows from the late 1990s…) I find it very difficult to take breaks and fully separate myself from something.  Fortunately, I know this about myself and several months ago we made plans for a long break right around this time!  This week, I’m taking a break from work and all of my related responsibilities.  I think some people call it a ‘vacation’.  I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now, and I think that the rest will be good for me.

If nothing else, I can catch up on my sleep.

What do you do when you just need a break?