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New eye…

screechowl

 

I’ve been reading a lot this year, which isn’t actually a new or surprising development.  Normally, I read two to three books a week depending on how crazy my life happens to be.  Sometimes when I am knee deep in a project, like the crazy Pirate costumes last summer and fall, I hardly read at all.  For the most part this isn’t really good for me, after a couple of weeks of not reading I start feeling…well, funky.  It’s the same thing with writing, if I go too long without writing I start feeling restless, it’s like my imagination starts going a little stir crazy.  The craft projects are good for my creativity but they don’t help me get the voices in my head to quiet down.

This year in addition to my pledge to make a concerted effort to get my work-in-progress rewritten and finished, I also set a goal at Goodreads to read 52 books this year.  It’s only a book a week but I figured that was a good start and that it would cover any crazy times that popped up that might cause me to read less or not at all.  So far I think I am about six books ahead of schedule.  At the recommendation of a fellow writer I have been reading a lot of contemporary romance since it’s the genre I am attempting to write.  To be honest, it’s not just a lot but almost exclusively contemporary romance.  Since January, I’ve read 25 books, of those one was an autobiography (Carrie Fisher), one was a book on writing and getting published, and a single young adult paranormal for teaching, the rest were all contemporary romance.  Over the last six to eight weeks I have noticed that I am reading with a more critical eye.  I don’t mean critical in the regards to the writing in the book being read, instead I am noticing so many things that went unnoticed before.

Previously, I wrote in first person point of view, which I have discussed before, in my rewrites I have decided to change to third person point of view.  And while it is easier to work on character development there can be some serious problems writing the inner voice passages.  In first person you battle the ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that’ but in third it’s ‘she, she, she’ all over the place and it gets worse when you have two female characters in a scene together.  You end up with a lot of  ‘Liz did this’ and ‘Mary said that’, and when using a pronoun it takes an extra minute of backtracking to make sure that the pronoun is referring to the correct person.  I am not saying it’s not what we should all be doing anyway, just that it gets a little ‘who’s on first-ish’ after a while.  In reading these other contemporary romances I’ve gotten some good examples of how to manage the inner voice parts so that it’s not repetitious and not so narrated that it sounds more like stage direction.

Another critical thing that I have learned is that I need to start off with the major event that gets my main character in motion.  This was kind of a happy/sad revelation for me, happy that I realized it and understood the dynamics of it and sad that it means the first six chapters that I just rewrote will be rearranged and rewritten…again.  Some parts will have to be dumped completely, once I move the critical scene to the beginning some of the other scenes just won’t be necessary.  The basic concept of the story is that my main character is going back to her home town after several years away.   Currently, my first few chapters are about the circumstances that cause her to leave, her decision making and finally packing to leave.  She doesn’t even get to her hometown until Chapter 10.   Also, if I wanted to do the point of view of the hero then he wouldn’t show up until Chapter 10 or 11 that seems awkward.  It doesn’t make sense to have it drag on that far when I can get her there by Chapter 3 or 4, I totally see that now.

The final thing that I’ll mention here is the hero’s point of view.  This is the part where I am going to sound like a designer on Project Runway, when they complain that they’ve never made men’s wear.  It never fails and I feel like screaming at the TV, ‘they have this sort of challenge every season. How can you not be prepared for it?’  I feel the same way about third person point of view and writing the hero’s side of things.  I’ve never done it and it makes me nervous knowing that I will be writing a few of those scenes soon.   And yet, everyone of those 20 plus books that I’ve read since January were in third person with passages from the hero’s point of view.  It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, or at least shouldn’t have seen it coming, I am going to blame a healthy combination of procrastination and denial, with a touch of insomnia just for fun.   In the most recent books that I have read I am realizing that the male point of view isn’t so different.  I’ve written dialogue for male characters including the hero when I was writing in first person, taking that same character and expanding on it should be fun.  I keep telling myself that I am making things harder than they need to be.

For the most part, I have really enjoyed writing this year.  Every time I learn something new or find a helpful tool it makes me feel like I am that much closer to my goal of being a writer.  It might be a little safer to let my procrastination take over but I know that just takes me farther away from where I want to be.  I also know there is so much more to learn and I am excited and looking forward to those opportunities.  For now though, I am going to take my recent lessons to heart and keeping working on my WIP.

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Big picture…

For the last three to four weeks I have been writing about 2,000 words every day.  It had been going pretty well until about three days ago when I sort of ran aground.  A month ago I worked on a rough outline of the beginning chapters and I ran with it.  Since then I have avoided anything to do with the story that wasn’t directly related to my daily word count.  I didn’t want to get distracted and spend a lot of time on character descriptions and backgrounds or mapping out the timeline beyond a rough time span of summer vacation.  I figured this is a rewrite so I didn’t need to do anything that could be a time waster, avoid procrastination and just get the words on the page or in my case on the screen.

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As it turns out those things I usually do aren’t quite the time wasters I thought they were.  I am seven chapters in and I feel a little like I am in a revolving door.  Without a more in depth outline I am not sure how to proceed, back story information needs to be in there but how much and where?  Clearly, it has to be part of what moves the story along, I don’t want it to feel like an info dump.  If it’s not relevant to the characters and their role in the scene then it’s like slamming the brakes on the flow of the story.  I am probably mixing my metaphors there but hopefully I am getting the point across, no one wants to read the blah, blah, blah stuff.  It’s boring.  Any back story details or story details in general need to be nearly invisible.  Or disguised as character development or additional conflict.

I need a new and improved outline so I can get an idea of where to scatter the details.  If I go through them too early then the rest of my characters’ inner dialogue is going to look like stage direction.  If I wait too long then it may be confusing to the reader.  A new outline will help me remember if I’ve already gone over something, nothing worse than hearing the same stupid episode from a character’s past repeated a couple of times.  I’ve had moments where I’ve thought, “Seriously, not this again.  Yes, we got it.  Bonnie doesn’t like using public restrooms after the time she trailed three feet of toilet paper behind her when she was in high school.  Get on with it!”  Now that I am writing every day I have to wonder if the author didn’t have a moment where she truly wondered if she had written that part already and just wrote it again to be safe.  Probably not, but I have moments where I have to skim through previous chapters trying to figure out what details came out and where in the story.  It’s a complete waste of time and somewhat exhausting.

My words for the week are…

Outline, flow and relevent

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Camp NaNo – April

April is here and along with it, another session of CampNaNo.  Brought to you by the same people at National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), Camp NaNo is much less strict version of the November event.  In November, participants spend the 3o days writing 50,000 words towards finishing a novel.  Offered in April and July, Camp NaNo allows campers to pick their word count goal for the month as well as pursue other non-novel projects.

For April, I picked a word count of 30,000 words.  I’ve already been writing about 2,000 words a day so I thought giving myself a daily word count goal of 1,000 words would be fairly easy to achieve, and without adding any extra anxiety.  Three days in and I’ve written an average of 2,500 words each day, so… so far, so good.

Overall, I’ve kept at my writing and although it can be really frustrating at times, I am totally loving writing every day.   I’ve been wanting to rededicate myself to my writing for a while but told myself that this year was going to be my year.  So far I’d been dealing with various things that needed to be done around the house and putting off writing.  I promised to post here every week and that’s been a bit hit and miss too.  Apparently though I found my ultimate motivation, trying to help my husband.  Almost two weeks ago Sully had a difference of opinion with his boss and without going into too many details my husband and his employer parted company the following week.  I’ve been procrastinating about writing and this just seemed like the kick in the pants I needed to get my butt in the chair.

After two weeks, I’ve got over 20,000 words and I am really enjoying it and I am hoping that I will keep it up.  I’ve already developed some elements of my process.

Here are my top two…

 

My writing notebook –

.It’s a Mead Five Star Stay-Put Folder, it has prongs inside and is made out of the tougher poly material, rather than paper.  I tucked a legal pad into the pocket on the right.  The left pocket holds daily word targets, and any loose notes.  I secured the legal pad with a binder clip, which also doubles quite nicely as a pen holder.

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notebook   180952_1785968616469_4114111_n

 

The legal pad is home to notes on story outline, characters, locations, chapter notes and anything else story related that isn’t actual story.  I take this anywhere that I might end up waiting for any period of time.  It’s a sure bet that if I am sitting quietly waiting for doctor’s appointment or for the oil in my van to be changed and my brain will suddenly work out some plot point that I’ve been struggling with for days.  Being able to make notes when it’s actually in my head is essential, before I get distracted by the doctor talking about prescriptions or the mechanic’s recommendations about new brakes and tires.  In a pinch, I can type some notes into my iPhone or iPad but putting pen to paper can be so much quicker.  I also think making notes quickly can be key, there’s something about that peppering of ideas that has it’s own life.

Monitor –

The other fun thing I’ve added is an additional monitor to my computer.  It’s great to see my Mural.ly corkboard, or an inspirational picture or even just having iTunes open where I can easily scroll through my library.  Right now I’ve got an older non HD monitor and it works well for what it is but it’s more of a square shape and somewhat awkward.   It was free and therefore I am not really complaining.  I just know that eventually I’ll want to get an HD monitor that will fit on my desk better.

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This is my basic setup, ignore the bad photography.

 

 

 

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Parts of the tool box…

Here’s the update on my current work-in-progress (WIP)… I have a pretty good outline for the first couple of chapters and I am working on a rough outline for the rest.  With any luck I will actually get some writing done this weekend.

Here are some ‘tools’ I have been using to help me along the way.

On my laptop…

Writing software –

One of the prizes for reaching your word count goal for National Novel Writing Month was a 50% off coupon code for a software program for writers called Scrivener.  I actually used my code from Camp NaNo over the summer and I just recently began using  Scrivener for the revision process.   I transferred my WIP into Scrivener and I am enjoying many of the features.  I’ve used the outliner and virtual corkboard to create a good overview.   Chapters and scenes are written separately, allowing the ability to navigate easily or even to move elements around as needed.  Images, notes, web pages and other research can be imported and can be viewed right next to the chapter or scene.

Corkboard –

Mural sample 1Back in May, I wrote a post about using Mural.ly, a web app that can be used for what they describe as visual collaboration.  It’s an interesting concept in that it allows for any number of people to access the board to add input and make changes.  This would have been a great thing to have when I was in college. I could have avoided long nights at Denny’s, rearranging my work schedule to accommodate other people’s schedules and roaming around campus finding places to meet to deal with those annoying group projects.

I’ve been using it as a virtual bulletin board, I’ve added images, notes, mind maps, floor plans and few other miscellaneous items.  You can see more, including a sample board, at my previous post – Bulletin…

Family Tree –

When I wrote  my first NaNo book I had no idea that I’d turn it into a series.  I had some scribbled notes about peripheral characters and how they were related.  My notes consisted of a lot of names underlined or with boxes around them, arrows snaking around the page, not so easy to follow.  When I started the second book that essentially ended up being a prequel, I realized I needed to get everything straightened out.  My first solution was to write everything out, I tried lined paper, blank paper and graph paper.  It was driving me nuts because no matter what I did I’d still have a name crammed in because there wasn’t room to add it where it belonged.  I also started mapping it out in Excel but that took forever formatting everything and then I’d have to move things around to add someone and then more formatting.

Finally I decided to look around online and found a free family tree site, MyHeritage: Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History.  I was able to download it to my laptop and easily create a no nonsense family tree so I could keep most of the people straight.  The free version is somewhat limited in what can be printed but it really helped get everything set.  After that I was able to work on the Excel version,  now I have a hard copy so I can add notes as I am writing, or even scribble something on a sticky note to add later without having to stop what I am doing to go digging for it.

Floor Plans –

In my second NaNo project, the prequel, the main character has to pack up her house and move and then subsequently has to search another house for something.  Like with the family tree, my notes about the houses were hard to read and all around difficult to follow.  I found a free floor planning website.  Floor Planner from smallblueprinter.com has been really helpful, it took a little playing around with the features but it’s pretty user friendly.

Tori - Silver Creek

The rewrites I am doing now will be the first time that I’ll be able to use all of these tools in the same project.  The family trees and floor plans took some time and although I am sure it looks like a way a time sink or a way to avoid writing, I think they’ll be helpful.  When I worked on the family tree I found it to be a good way to expand on the character’s back story.  That information may never make it into my writing but it’s helpful to me.  The floorplans were equally helpful with setting up scenes that called for multiple characters and a lot of movement.

There are a lot of different tools out there and different people are going to find different options out there that will help their writing process.  I hope these will help me but I know that the most important thing is to get my booty in a chair and actually write.

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Writing space…

Last week, I rambled about point of view, and the tendency for people to be fairly rude online.  Monday evening was spent on Chapter 1, switching my POV from first to third.  It was easy enough, in spite of a wonky mouse but as I went along I realized that I really hate the beginning of this story.  I’ve changed it around ten or twenty times already and so far nothing is making me happy.  I moved a major event up in the story, which is a good thing but now I am still trying to cram the same amount of stuff into a smaller space.  It’s not working.

Needless to say I am once again reworking the beginning and therefore, I am not any farther in my revisions.  I am going to chalk this up to progress though.  This process is definitely moving me forward and I can’t really complain because right now any progress is ten times more than a few weeks ago.

So, today while I was trying to streamline things and work on a new outline, I straightened out my writing space.  It’s a fair assumption that sometimes I clean my desk as a delay tactic.  I mean back in college the only time I would really clean out my closet was when finals rolled around.  When you think about it, that’s pretty good for a college student to clean out the closet twice a year.  Anyhow, I feel that having a clean, organized space is often conducive to getting work done.  I figured as I sorted papers and put things away that I could let stuff roll around in the back of my head and maybe come out the other end with some good ideas.

My desk is fairly good at multitasking, writing space, household management, drop off point for random items from around the house, and of course, the gateway to most of my internet activities.  Needless to say my desk gets overrun with detritus of various origins and periodically I have to clear everything off and start over.  Today was just a minor search and seizure sort of cleaning but the pictures below are from the last major overhaul.

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I built this desk about eight years ago.  It looks really cluttered but this is how it looks when it’s clean.  Honest.  That’s Jericho snoozing on the corner.

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I built the bookcase a little after the desk and  modified it last year.  I made room by removing the middle shelf and added some dry erase and magnetic boards to keep some of my visual inspiration close at hand. 

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This closeup picture is a bit blurry but you get the general gist of how I am using the boards.

The colored folders on the right hold my main notes for the different stories in the series that I am working on now.  I’ll check to see if I’ve posted about them before, either way I will follow up with a link to the previous post or in a future post.  

The stack of books on the left are various books resources on writing, I’ve even read some of them.

I have clipboards hanging on the inside of either end where I have other notes like character descriptions, maps, floorplans and other various information.

I got this set up last year but then ultimately stalled on my revisions.  As I work on the new outline, I plan on doing more with the boards to keep me on top of everything.

I think next week I will post about some online tools that I have found to be helpful.

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Point of view…

A couple of months ago an author on Facebook posted that she was thinking about writing a future book in the First person point of view and asked for opinions on the idea.   I learned a couple of things from the comments that followed.

The most important is that, wow, people are rude in their bluntness.  I know that I shouldn’t be surprised but it amazes me that people are so up front about being rude.  These aren’t direct quotes just the general sentiment that I remember reading a few months ago.

– Yuck!  I’d never read it.

– I hate books like that.

– I put books back if I pick it up and it starts out with ‘I’.

…and my personal favorite

– I’ll never read your books again if you do this.

The second thing I learned is that some people like first person and third person equally, some favor third person but are okay with first and those that dislike first person seem to really hate it.   I was really surprised by this, I’d never heard that people disliked that point of view.   Well, actually I remember a gal that I worked with griped about the Stephanie Plum books and the first person POV.  Of course, she griped about everything so I didn’t really take her seriously at the time.

I’ve written my stories in first person for as long as I can remember.   At first, I think it was easier to write because I could put a bit of myself into the character.   When I read books I enjoy that connection with the main character, there’s a certain level of honesty or intimacy that you feel privy too.  That being said, I can’t really ever say that I have disliked reading a book in third person.  I’ve actually stopped reading a book or two that were in first person.  I definitely stopped reading one that had first person point of view but for different characters.  It was a gritty, paranormal sort of story and one point of view was seen through the eyes of an evil entity and it creeped me out.  Every time the point of view shifted  to the shadowy bad guy I’d put the book down and eventually I never went back to it.

I did some research today on advantages and disadvantages of different points of view.  I am seriously thinking about revising my current work in progress from first person to third person.  I’d been having issues with the inner voice parts, as opposed to my dialogue, of which I have too much.  This WIP was written during NaNo so I knew at the time that a lot of the dialogue would get slashed during revisions.  

I think part of my problem with this story is that the main character is doing things I’d never do.  Writing from third person may make it easier for me to connect with the characters.  Also, writing from a male point of view would be new to me and possibly increase my investment in these characters.  I’d love to revive the story and get it properly revised.

Here are a few of the articles and blog posts that I read today, in no particular order.

WHAT POINT OF VIEW SHOULD YOU USE IN YOUR NOVEL? 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in first person?

Writing in First Person

First or Third Person: Which Point of View Is Best?