Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dreaming of the Ocean

It's not even 11am yet and I've put out half a dozen fires at work (no, not actual fires, issues/problems) and I have a huge list of other problems that need to be fixed yesterday.

One guy who works for me needs something to do, but all of these are too hard for him, so I have to think of something to give him so he's not wasting his time.

Stuff that was just fine yesterday magically decided to break today. Gremlins. I think I have gremlins.

My goal is to write 2k words tonight to get up to 20k. I deleted a bunch of the bad plot line so my word count took a nose dive. I usually try to work on my novel over my lunch break, but I think it's going to be a 12 hour day, no lunch.

Days like this, I'm dreaming of the ocean.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Making Characters' Lives S*ck

Disclaimer: If you don't like the word "suck" don't read this article. I think I'm going for an all time record of the use of suck.

If I met my main character (in the plot line that is going well) I think she'd zap me through the heart with a purple lightning bolt (she's a mage).

Why is it my favorite plot line? Why would my character go all homicidal?

The answer to both of these questions is the same. Because her life sucks. I mean *really* sucks. Seriously.

Making life suck for your character is one of the most important elements of the novel. Seriously, who wants to read about Daisies and Rainbows all day? (Okay, besides Environmental Scientists...I totally lost Crystal and Jenny both to that section the other day at Barnes and Nobles...but those books *were* non-fiction :-P)

Plots are important, and your premise is really all you can go into on your query letter--so it needs to be solid in order to get a request for a partial--but the characters are who the reader identifies with. How your characters react to the events you have created in your plot is what propels the story along; and gets your readers to keep turning the pages (and maybe results in a request for a full--or a book deal--or lots of money...okay, backing up now).

I'll admit, this is why my one story line is a bit stagnant. Her life isn't sucking enough. "Push 'em to the edge and then throw rocks at 'em" is a common novel-writer rule. I think it's fun, and a bit maniacal.

Events aren't the only way to make your character's life more difficult. You can also raise the stakes--either the personal stakes or the public stakes--of the events you have already created.

For example:
Your heroine's husband getting caught having an affair sucks.
Your heroine's husband getting caught having an affair with your favorite 18-year-old babysitter really sucks. (Who will watch Timmy?)
Your heroine's husband getting caught having an affair with your favorite 18-year-old babysitter by the board of the country club you were trying to join that would ensure your 3-year-old gets into the best preschool really really sucks. (Who will watch Timmy? How can he get into Yale and make me feel better about myself? How can I go to the store--everyone will be watching me!?)

You know what else would really suck? The president of the board was the baby sitter's father. Timmy can kiss that preschool good-bye. Or what if he was the heroine's boss? Ouch!

Of course, it would also suck if the affair was with your heroine's best friend. Or with your heroine's best friend's husband (that would *really* piss off the country club). Or maybe your heroine's father left her mother with his mistress and her mother was unable to take care of herself and your heroine has all this angst.

And then your heronie can react to all this suckage, pull herself up by the bootstraps and make the reader cheer with her. Don't let her whine too much. Even if her life sucks, the reader doesn't care. They want to see her get out of the suckage.

I think you get the point.

But you probably already knew that. What's important is how can I add more of this to my story! I know where I want my character to get next. I just can't think of any seemingly-sucky-but-everything-will-turn-out-okay-in-a-couple-hundred-pages way of getting there.

I am modifing the snowflake method. Get out 4 sheets of computer paper (or really any paper). Tape them together along the edges to make a big square. About half way up the top two sheets of paper, in the middle, write a sentence about where your character is at now.

Draw a circle around this. For everything that could happen next, draw a line to a point below where you have started and write the sucky event. For an event to come after that, draw another line to a point even further down and write the next incident. If you need foreshadowing in order to make this event even more sucky, draw a line for this make make it go above your initial point. Once you are done, you will have a not-to-scale timeline from the top of the page to the bottom. Connect the dots of your favorite sequence and use this as your plot. You can also draw a line between events that you could connect. So it becomes more of a web than a snowflake. Below I drew an example of what I am talking about. Hubby caught is the starting point.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Pete!

The hubby turns 26 today. His present is a cat, Skittles, who we got about 3 weeks ago from PAWS Chicago (a very awesome no-kill shelter). I think that he was expecting a techno-toy in addition to cat, but he didn't get one. Although I am thinking about giving him a card that says that he can get a Windows Home Server. His Media PC about bit the dust over the weekend, but he brought it back to life.

The weekend didn't quite wrap up the way I was expecting. I ran out of steam on Saturday. I still managed to hit 19k words, but I didn't want to push it. I think that I am just going to push through with the sub-par/glorified outline writing until the end and then go chapter by chapter to fix it up. I'm loving one of my story lines, which is funny because it was the secondary storyline initially. I'm about 70% done with that story line and only about 15% done with the other main one. I'll probably keep going with it until the story lines merge, which isn't very far off. At that point I will *have* to do the other story line. I like it, I'm just unsure how to get them from point A to point B with out seeming too contrived.

So, I don't know if anyone else has the same problem, but recently all I can think about/want to talk about is my novel--how it's going and the worries I have about getting to point B within a marketable word count. I think the hubby is getting annoyed by hearing me talk about I made him listen to the first chapter, which he really liked, but it was like pulling teeth to get him to let me read it to him. I guess he's not going to be a beta reader :-P

Friday, April 25, 2008

Chuggin Along at 16142

I am over 16k, which is awesome seeing as how last week I was sitting around 9k. That being said, these last 7k from this week aren't that great. The plot stuff rocks, but the words just aren't there. It's just a lot of placeholders.

This can be both good and bad.
Bad: I need to do a lot of rewriting. It's mostly in a glorified outline. Definetly putting the rough in rough draft.

Good: Since the story bit is solid, it's probably more like 11k+ worth of story telling once I add more description. This may sound psycho, but I really enjoy rewriting. Stringing words together to say something beautiful is my favorite part about writing. I'm not going to have to worry about what to say, just how to say it.

More Bad: The writing is really sucky so I might depress myself when I try to read it. Also, I'm out of practice. Maybe the quick writing will help me get back into practice, I'm not sure.

Plan of Attack: I've still got a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head. I think that I'm going to keep going until I hit around 20k max or Sunday morning, which ever comes first (which would be 11k up from a week ago). On Sunday I will start going chapter by chapter doing some micro revision to add description. Through the micro-revision, which I will finish by the end of next weekend, I hope to be up to around 25k. Most of that will be through added descriptions, details and events to previously created scenes and some will be new scenes to help set up what's going on or to add more colors.

I'm not sure how feasible these goals are. Normally I'd think they were too ambitious, but I'm totally obsessed with my story line right now and it's just flowing along. I don't want to revise too much while all these plot line juices are flowing because I find revision is a good way to deal with days that have a bit of writer's block associated with them.

To Write or Not To Write

Out on the inter-tubes there are several discussions going on about why writers write and if they would continue even if they would never be published (book ends and spy scribbler). Most of the responses are along the lines of "my muse is burning a hole through my heart every minute I am not employing her". I think that's totally awesome. I wish my muse was more hard-ass.

So why do I write? I'm creative. I like making things. That's why I'm a software developer. Stop development can be a very creative process. Building something out of nothing. Taking ideas and bringing them to live. Making something. Seriously, there are lots of similarities between what I like about my job and what I like about writing.

Writing is my hobby and I do have other hobbies besides writing. I like to knit. I am learning how to sew. I enjoy interior decor. I get great joy out of the fact that my condo looks nicer than the others in my 4-flat. I'm just competitive down to my bones. What's competition to a writer? Getting published. So yes, if I knew I would never get published, I wouldn't want to write. However, I'm stubborn so I'd probably keep trying to get published and wouldn't believe who ever told me that.

Another hobby of mine is reading. This is why I want to write. I want someone who I don't know read my book and get the same enjoyment out of it that I get out of other authors' works. The more marketable my books are, the more likely they will get published, the more likely the next one will be published and the more likely someone will wonder into Barnes and Nobel's and give me the privilege of leading them on an adventure through my world.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


yWriter is quite possibly my current favorite piece of software.

Okay, before I discuss yWriter, let me explain what I hate about writing long novels in Word. It sucks. You've got all these pages and all these plot lines spread out all over the place. I'm a software developer (Director of IT, actually--which makes me even more anal :-P). I've dealt with large files and usually if it gets to big you move them into two smaller files. At first I was going to create a separate document for each which would make moving scenes and reordering a major under-taking.

yWriter allows you to divide your writing into chapters and scenes. That's why I love it. A scene is complete, succinct. You can write one and feel accomplished. You can easily drag scenes between chapters. You can even create empty scenes with just a description. That's how I'm doing my outlining. Each outline point gets it's own scene. If I need to expand it to multiple scenes, not a problem. Just add a new one. It also makes it much easier to jump around in the story without losing something. That outlined place holder is still there, waiting for you to be ready to add detail.

You can also rate your scenes based on various metric (tension, charictorization, etc). You can mark the viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome for each scene. I don't really use that part, but expect to use it more as my novel gets longer.

If you have already started your novel, no worries. There is an import tool that only requires a little formating to make sure your chapters and scenes get imported correctly.

I only have one complaint. There is no spelling checker/red line when I misspell a word. My spelling is atrocious, so not having this functionality is problematic.

Best part? It's free!

yWriter (
***Note: I had not been asked to review this and have no attachment to the developer. I just love this software and want to share the love :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Finding Time to Write

I have been intending on writing a novel for over a decade. That's coincidentally the last time I finished a novel and went through the submission process. I was 14 at the time. The book actually wasn't horrid and came in around 70k words. It took nearly three years of my life, which at the time was a decent percentage. Maybe one day I'll polish it up and resubmit it.

Since then, I've drawn up maps and sketched up outlines, but never made the time to actually write. I even promised one college boyfriend I'd write one for him. We broke up. Never wrote the book.

What's different this time? Well, I created a New Years Resolution to write, edit, polish and submit my novel during the year 2008. And I told people. Peer Pressure can be a good thing.

I'm also making time. I'm lucky that work is my only main responsibility. No kids and the hubby can take care of himself. For three days every week I am going to work on my book over lunch. Every day I am going to invest an hour after work. Adds up to ten hours a week. Minimum.

Okay, the AIC (ass in chair) method doesn't work for everyone, but it's been going okay for me. I had a job change late January, which messed up the whole "writing thing", but I'm getting back on track. I think this year is going to be a good one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Cooking

Book in the Oven isn't about cookbooks, it's about the creation and development of a novel. It's intended to be a pun on "Bun in the Oven". I'm just hoping it won't turn out half-baked.

Currently I am beginning the blogging process while sitting at 13k words. My word count goal is to end up somewhere between 100-115k.

From looking through the blog-o-sphere and various websites, there seem to be as many methods to writing a novel as there are authors. It's really funny when one person says to *never* do something and the next guy says it's the best way.

So considering how I work and what I want to produce, here are the steps that I will be following:
0) Get a rough outline for the story and major goals. (done)

1) I have two major plot lines (that merge a little over half way through the novel). Right now I am going through and writing a very rough draft of those plot lines. I hope to hit around 70k works when I am finished with that.

2) I am going to go through all of those scenes and add tension and description. I am going to remove the generic/boring phrases and replace them with better ones. I hope to be up to 85k through that.

3) I am going to go back through the novel again and layer in some additional plot lines and add more color to secondary characters. (This idea is one that people swear on both ways.) I hope to be around 125k after that. Basically Steps 1 and 2 are for the main characters and their primary issues. Step 3 is adding colors/layers to emphasize the main plot line and keep action moving throughout

4) I am going to go back through my novel yet again and remove scenes that don't advance the story (maybe merging important details into another scene) and tighten up the story. At the end, I expect to be around 100-115k

I also plan on working through Writing the Breakout Novel workbook and employ his suggestions into my writing. I will blog about what I learn.

This blog to take me through my novel's writing process , submission process, and--with any luck--publishing process. I won't discuss any details of my novel besides saying that it's the first of an Epic Fantasy Series.

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