Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Draft Update & More

A week or two ago, I was panicking because I was only on about Chapter 17. Then I sat down and did some more thorough plotting because I was having issues with certain plot lines.

My main issue, to be honest, was the romance plot. Which is crazy, really, since I'm writing a paranormal romance. The paranormal was going great, but I was like, what to do here? So, I really had to have a deep discussion with myself, and now I believe that I'm happily back on track.

When I turned the corner into October and realized that November (aka NaNoWriMo aka National Novel Writing Month) was coming up, I decided that I would charge full speed ahead and finish this draft before the end of NaNoWriMo. I have never actually participated in NaNoWriMo before, and I'm not sure how "official" this will be since I will have most of a novel when it starts. Still, I'm looking at a higher word count than NaNoWriMo standard, which, I think, is 50K. At that time, I only had maybe 25,000 words. Then I started pushing, and I'm now over 41K! My outline grew from 36 planned chapters to 57. That's not set in stone because sometimes I will decide to combine or split chapters. Also, I have things of interest written down, but when I get into the actual creative process, things happen. It's really kind of fun and a happy place to be because that's when you surprise yourself. Not every thing that gets written on the fly gets to stay, but the same can be said for what's planned. Things will be rethought, and changes will be made. We have to get some stuff written, good or not, so we have something to work with.

I did some calculations, and, all things being equal (which they never are), I'm about 39% of the way finished with the book, which may come in just over 100K words. Like I said, nothing is set in stone. I have so much going on in this story that I won't be surprised to see a kitchen sink in here somewhere. Wait... there is one.

For most NaNoWriMo regulars, this month is known as Preptober, as I have recently learned. They use it to get everything ready to write their book in November. It is my goal to have the first draft of a 100K-word book complete at that time, and I think that's very doable.I already have my outline, so my "prepping" part is complete.

* * * (Whispering) Just between you and me... I'm not sure that I really get the drama of NaNoWriMo. It's a little... I don't know... strange. This is my third novel. I'm not going to burst into tears of joy, and there probably won't be a lot of people waiting at the finish line to present me with a t-shirt. * * *

And that's okay. I don't do this because I think people will think I'm awesome. :) I do it simply because it's what I do. I make stuff up, and I write it down. It's werewolves and fairies, not rocket science. Unless your werewolf turns out to be a rocket scientist. Hmmm. There's a thought.

I'm getting excited about the book, which, at 165 pages so far, feels more like a book right now. There will be answers to some questions from Book One, and some characters will be explored more. Some characters will face challenges and evolve as a result. There are also several new characters.

By the way, I chose this image of the cat and rabbit because I wanted to name my company Black Cat White Rabbit, but after some thought, I decided not to. I couldn't get the .com, if I remember correctly, and the name was long enough without adding Books or Publishing to it. So, Bunny Rose Books, it is.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Organizing and Working with Multiple Plots

Today I thought I would give you a peek at how I plot. In a novel, there are usually multiple things going on at one time. You might introduce a character in an early chapter with plans to bring this character back later for some major event, and you need to be able to keep up with all of these threads.

When I was writing When in Gnome, there were a lot of things to consider in regard to the day of the week or the time of the month. Not every book requires keeping a calendar. Thinking back to some of the novels I've read, I don't recall the date being a major deal. Outside of a weekend or a holiday, dates or days of the week might not even be mentioned, unless the date was somehow important to the plot, such as the suspect of a murder couldn't have committed the crime because he had to be somewhere else every Tuesday.

However, when I'm writing a character who gets furry on a regular basis, the day of the month seems relevant. Also, Evie arrived in town shortly before the fall semester was to begin at the university, so the time of the month was important there, too. Since it was likely that Evie would arrive on a Saturday since she was having a beach weekend, this was something I wouldn't want to mess up by having the next day be a Wednesday or something crazy like that.

So, with that in mind... I created a spreadsheet. I know, I know, this may look absolutely crazy to some people, but it worked for me. Keep in mind that your story may not require this much detail, but I find it helpful when writing a novel where multiple plots are going on, and a detail in one plot contributes to another. I'll break it down so you can understand what each section means.

The first two yellow rows indicate the day in the story. The details it that first column happened on the day the story began, although the exact date was the 8th of August. It's a simple chronology so I can keep up with what happened on each day.

Below that, you see where I broke down the day of the week, since I knew that the story started on a Saturday. I also have a row for that month and the exact date. At this point, I was using the 2015 calendar, but it doesn't matter exactly which calendar year you choose unless there's a particular reason, like if you decided to include a well-known event that happened on a particular day and year, like Hurricane Harvey or the sinking of the Titantic. You get the idea. The only reason the date was relevant to me, in this case, was because of the time Evie had before she was to return to school. In the end, it might not have mattered to the reader, but, again, I didn't want to mess that up. It was kind of over-planning on my part.

On the row with chapter numbers, you can see where I indicate which chapters were included in that day. This is a great way to get an overview of your book, comparing the events and chapters--particularly when writers these days are making shorter chapters. I admit that I like the shorter chapters as a reader, but it does have an impact on your overall plotting when you're trying to get all of the important stuff into the first chapter.

Below the chapters, you can see a little blurb about the major events that took place in those sections. Most of this was from Evie's perspective. If a column doesn't have any events below the date, then I probably skipped time in the book there. Then I had to keep a log of her magical development since we were on a learning curve here. Below that, you can see where I inserted parts about Ben's mystery investigation, which was a subplot that was tied in with the main plot at the end. There weren't as many major events in the subplots, which is probably kind of why they're called subplots. 😁

I also included details for things that happened at night, and I kept a 28-day werewolf calendar.

In this same Excel Workbook, I have spreadsheet pages that include lists of frequently used words to help me to be aware if I'm repeating a word too much and lists of songs for a Gnome playlist, more for inspiration and focus than to share.

I tried organizing the plots in many different ways, but this way worked out the best for me. Initially, I had tried expanding my outline, which was just a numerical list of events, but the vertical format wasn't working for me. There was just too much info in one column. I found it easier to work across, with each column being one day. Considering that my book was concentrated into a time span of about five weeks, it wasn't too difficult. Events that take place over a larger span of time probably don't require being broken down day by day. However, most of my books seem to involve events that take place within a shorter period of time.

In another novel that I wrote, the events took place in the week or so leading up to Christmas, and the novel involved several major plots, each with their own characters who didn't really interact with the characters in the other plots until near the end of the story when it all came together on Christmas Eve. In the book I am writing now, No Place Like Gnome, events take place after a brief interlude after When in Gnome, during the latter part of October.

This method is also good for when you feel a little stuck on one plot and decide to focus on the events that happen in the others until you get some clarity about the problem areas. So, I found this to be the best way that works for me to see the whole scope of the story in one page. I thought that this might be helpful to those who are trying to find good ways to manage their plots.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Behind the Scenes: First Drafts and Rabbit Trails

Years ago, when I was taking a course in short story writing, my instructor said that my ideas were too big to fit within the confines of a short story. Writing short stories is as much about the breadth of a story idea as it is about the length. It really has to be boiled down. Now that I've written a few novels, I have a better understanding of her meaning because I tend to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink.

As I discussed in my last post, there is a lot of pantsing going on as I write. I have a thin, translucent skeleton of an outline, and planned chapters get bumped down the line while I'm adding new ideas that flow as I'm writing. When I'm finished with the first draft, I'll have a lot of clean-up work to do since there were ideas discussed in earlier chapters that I may have changed or completely eliminated.

That being said, the middle of the writing process is a fun place to be. I'm not all about being a best seller or Nobel Prize winner, and I would write anyway simply because it's what I do. I make stuff up and write it down. Maybe it's a way to feel a sense of self-control in a world that seems out of control. Who knows? What I find enjoyable is the path of discovery and how the story evolves from an idea that I thought was very simple into a novel with multiple plots.

I sit down to work on a chapter that seems to be stuck with no idea how to proceed. For example, my outline simply says something like Another attack. Well, that's pretty vague, isn't it? First I have to write about the attack itself, the choreography of it, and the effects of it. Then I have to write the reactive scenes, and all of the attacks and reactions have to be unique and logical. Next, I may have another event in my outline, but I'm not quite ready for that scene yet. I'll need some transitional scenes to get me there, and I also have to make them logical and interesting.

The exciting part is when I'm cruising along, and, on a whim, I find myself in the middle of an interesting scene that I hadn't planned at all, and it works. It may help me to pull in a character that I had planned to be in the story later anyway while adding another layer of mystery and an element that is completely in keeping with the character. Of course, rabbit trails can always go the other way. I have written scenes that I've had to cut out again because they were leading me in the wrong direction and not an interesting one.

However, I don't discourage exploring rabbit trails because you may find something in the mess that is worth keeping, and had I not explored that rabbit trail, I would have simply been drumming my fingers while wondering how to proceed. The rabbit trail that didn't completely work out allowed me to understand what wasn't working and why. It allows me to refocus and write something that does work. If you wrote five pages that you had to chunk, but you discovered two paragraphs with a good idea, those two paragraphs can lead to a lot more than five pages of good stuff.

I do like having at least a rough outline because it gives me a map of where to go in case I find myself completely lost. It helps me to see the overall path of the story, but it's not completely set in stone. I encourage writers to not limit themselves to only what is in the outline. Chase a few rabbits and see where it goes. After all, this isn't technical writing; it's supposed to be creative.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Outlining versus Pantsing, and... Brainstorming Doesn't Just Happen

If you are one of the wonderful people who read When in Gnome, then you know that Evie, who was adopted, set out on an adventure to find her roots. This adventure really took off when she got her car stuck in the mud and was forced to stay overnight at Rosewood, the plantation home where her mother was born and raised. As irksome as getting stuck may have been, it was necessary in order for events to play out the way they did.

I bring this up because sometimes I feel stuck in a story. I always have an outline, but it's really just a list of major things that I expect to happen in that order in the story. Actual mileage between these major points may vary. That being said, I'm thinking I'm a 50/50 outliner/pantser.

1. One who pantses.
2. A person who flies by the seat of his or her pants. 
3. A term often used in the realm of writing to describe a person who does not rely heavily on outlining.
4. A derogatory term used by writers who sweat blood over outlines to describe those free-spirited ones who seem to manage well without an outline. 

When I first attempted to actually write a story, I wrote a great beginning and then stopped because I had no idea where it was going. I had set the stage. I had a few characters and this great atmosphere, but I wasn't sure what the acts would actually involve. So, my stories tended to fizzle out.

As I matured as a writer and had a better understanding of story structure and plot, an outline became vital, a safety net that let me refocus so that I always knew where I was going. But there's still a whole lotta pantsing going on between those milestones.

I think this pretty much sums up my personality because I'm about 50/50 on the left/right brain dominance. I like structure at work, but I let my hair down at home. I like knowing expectations and parameters while, at the same time, wanting to make the most of freedoms. I'm 50% analytical over-thinker and 50% fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants free spirit.

As I write the rough draft of No Place Like Gnome, it occurs to me that I only had the vaguest notion of what I expected to happen in the story. I had a major idea, and, following quickly on the heels of the release of When in Gnome, I wrote about four chapters. I thought I was just going to jump right back in and pick right up where I left off, but it wasn't that easy.

"Ideas don't just happen unless you're actually thinking about them."

My ideas were undeveloped at that point. As I explained in the last post, I needed to let the ideas ferment a while and grow some subplots, to mix metaphors. Of course, ideas don't just happen unless you're actually thinking about them. Months can go by. Years even.

Which brings me to my point....

I don't really like to think of being stuck as "writer's block". I always have ideas. I just don't always know where to put them. To me, being stuck is like being at a crossroads. You have options, and the point that many call being stuck is simply a place where I find that I have to make decisions. I can turn right, turn left, or go straight ahead. There are times when I decide that the best course of action is, simply, to turn around.

That being said, there are those scenes that I know where something happens, and maybe it's major or maybe it's reactive, and I haven't really decided how it's going to flow. Sometimes, it's best for me to just leave a section of my document with a few notes of what I think will happen here and move to the scenes that I am able to clearly visualize. So, writing doesn't have to be linear.

I find it easiest, until I am finished with the first draft, to have my chapters, or scenes, titled with descriptions, and I have those Summary Descriptions (ex: The Investigation) set at a Header in Styles, so that the description shows up on the navigation pane. If I decide to move things around, I can click and drag that scene without cutting and pasting. Of course, you should always reread to make sure it flows and that you haven't overlooked something that is out of sequence.

I spent most of the past week brainstorming on the book, and I came up with some exciting ideas about the story, and I think it's possible that this book may be even better than the first book. Ideas kind of bubble up from different places, and, in this case, it was a song that gave me a good idea for a twist in the story.

As mentioned near the beginning of this post, everything doesn't always turn out the way that I originally plan. There were some changes that had to be made because, however interesting the result might have been, I just wasn't comfortable with the idea and didn't want readers to suffer with a horrible cliffhanger.

I think what I came up with will be just as interesting, if not more so. I would like to think that, in most cases, my episodes of being stuck, were actually just indicators that I needed to proceed in a different direction from what I had previously thought. It's not a matter of just getting out of the mud and plunging ahead, but it may actually be a way for my subconscious to flag me down and prompt me to reconsider my chosen path.

Until next time.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Update on Book Two

The blog got an upgrade today! Some areas are still under construction, but I hope to have things ironed out soon. I just wanted to give you an update on the LONG-anticipated Book Two of the series and kind of let you know what the issues have been.

The main issue has been the author. I got very distracted. I finished and published a children's book, and then I proceeded to get distracted.

Of my last two books that I have finished, those were mostly written in less than a year, after I put the pedal to the metal and aimed to finish them. I mainly had to get cover art, hire an editor, finish/rewrite a few chapters, and finish formatting. That sounds like a lot, but I already had most of a book in the months leading up to publication. After I published that second book, I really didn't have any other rough drafts in progress. I had spent the previous two years reaping, and it was time to start sowing again. I hope that makes sense.

That being said, I had about four chapters written and a vague idea of what I expected to happen in Book Two of the Gnome Sweet Gnome series. The more I tried to work on it, the less I realized that I knew about how it would go. While waiting for the book idea to "ripen" and develop more complex plots and subplots, I finished another book and began generating a lot of new ideas. So, waiting for Book Two to get ripe enough to write so that I knew where it was going, generating new ideas, and getting overwhelmed by "real life"--these have been some of the major reasons that I haven't completed Book Two before now.

I wish I could tell you that negative people didn't affect me at all, but I had had more positive reviews than negative ones, and I just wanted to let you know that I truly and deeply appreciate those who took the time to write such wonderful words. 

You may have noticed that Book One is not currently available. I will be making some minor changes and re-releasing it with a new cover when I am closer to finishing Book Two. I am not sure, at this time, exactly when that will be. I currently have about 25K words written, and I took time out today to edit the website and try to get a little organized.

Thank you for hanging in there and checking on me. Now that I took the time to take care of a little "business", I'll be getting back to writing so that readers can find out as soon as possible what is going on in Evie's world!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fun Werewolf Read

5 Signs Your Son Is a Werewolf by Akshay G is a fun short read over at Medium.com.  If you're hankering for a short, wolfy read, check it out.



Sunday, March 6, 2016

Giveaway and Playlist

Two things:

First, the extended version of the When in Gnome playlist is on Spotify.

Second... I'm running a limited-time giveaway on the Kindle version of When in Gnome.  Download for free here.

Now, back to writing No Place Like Gnome.