Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Twas the night before NaNo...

'Twas the night before NaNoWriMo, when all through the house

No one was writing, not even moving a mouse;

The plots and characters were waiting with care,

In hopes that midnight soon would be there.

Tonight at midnight NaNo 2012 starts!
I have to say I feel far more vested in my world and characters than I usually do when I start a new book. Clearly a side effect of the whole planning and outling thing ;). 
Now, I have to be honest, I’ve only partially outlined this puppy (which for me is still a major achievement!). I changed around act 1 so often, that I was wary of doing as much of a solid chapter by chapter outline for act 2. I do have scattered notes of scenes that need to happen, and I do know where it will end. (And where the OTHER books will go-LOL!  I am an avowed series junkie. )
Right now only act 1 is chapter by chapter. My plan (and I do have one ;)) is to take a day breather after act 1 (which could be between 80-100 pages) and tighten my chapter planning for act 2. I write big books, so NaNo won’t even get me half way there, probably not much past the first section of act 2 ;).
But I think I’m as ready as I can be for tomorrow (no, sorry, not staying up to start writing at midnight ;)).
I do have the pantser fear of freezing since so much has already been thought out, but I really think I’m going to be ok. Of course, we won’t know for sure until this rodeo gets started!
Happy NaNo Eve all!  (If you're not doing it- cheer on your friends!  Chances are a few folks you know are going NaNo!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Great NaNo Experiment- The Plot Thickens!


Yes, bad pun aside, my plan to actually plot for this year’s NaNo (a first for me for any book ;)) is coming along nicely. I’ve found that I really like playing with post-it’s and the HUGE cardboard board is a hoot too.

Ya know, those big “science fair” fold out boards? FABU for setting up my 3 act/8-sequence plot. Act 1 (seq 1 &2) is on the first flap; act 2 (seq 3-6) is on the inside (act 2 is twice as big as act one, which is why sometimes you may see it called a 4 act, instead of 3 act structure), then the last fold out is Act 3(sequence 7 &8). On the outside I have one flap of character notes, and the other flap has “Big Bad” (aka the villains) notes. All in pretty colors!

I will admit at first I was terrified- as a serious pantser, plotting like this would previously have made me run screaming for the hills. But I figure we have to grow and learn right? Nothing worse than a stale novelist! besides, I told you all I'd be trying this last week ;).

And I’m finding some perks. For instance, did you know that if you plot ahead of time you can sometimes catch glaring problems BEFORE you write them?

Shocking, I know!

I’ve already changed parts of act 1 (only part done so far) 3 times, and all I had to do was write out a new sticky note and take off the old one. No going back and deleting whole sections that no longer fit, no writing, “cut this” “fix this” or the ever lovely, “Put something better here”. Yes, I do leave notes for myself as I do drafts, and no, my future self does not like them one bit.

And crumbling up a little sticky note is far less emotionally traumatizing to my creative self as opposed to ripping out pages, and/or deleting them online.

Also, you can see a huge problem in the sections ahead before you even get to outlining them. I just had an epiphany this morning and realized I had a HUGE problem. But no worries- I can fix it with a sticky note!

My plan is to have the whole book outlined before Nov 1- then, to sit and detail that evening's writing for at least 5 minutes before each writing run.


 Any of you have experiences with the 3 act structure? Like playing with sticky notes?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Something NaNo This Way Comes

Apologies to Ray Bradbury for the title, but NaNo- aka NaNoWriMo- aka National Novel Writing month IS scary!

For those of you still not aware of this annual exercise in literary madness, authors from across the globe will spend the entire month of November- yelling, screaming, swearing, drinking too much caffeine- all to complete 50,000 words.

Just because.

One does wonder if there is anything more insane than self-inflicted madness?

This will be my forth NaNo, and like previous ones, I'm going to use it to try something different.

I'm going to outline the new book.

Serious outlining- like an entire three act layout and everything.

I know, madness, right?

Well for a hard core serious pantser like myself, this is probably the biggest out of the box experiment I could try. But I've got a secret....

I'm liking it so far.

Now, granted, I've just started the outlining process, just figured out my scene/chapter count (about 36 more or less).  But I'm kinda liking it!  It's like a puzzle, I have some characters I want to really screw up, then follow as they figure things out.  I know who they are (or will through the magic of character outlines) and I know about how long I want it to be.  I also know the basic bits, pieces, and screws that need to be in place to keep the story on track.

I'm even going to make a fold out three act board with cards!!!

So, I'm having fun, and looking at this as the Great NaNo Experiment of 2012.  I may end up keeping some of the things I learn, or my head may explode when I actually start writing with an outline in place.

But either way I'll learn something about me and my writing- right?

What about you?  Ever NaNo?  Why?  Why not?  Have you ever tried "the otherside" (aka plotting if you normally pants, or pantsing if you plot like mad?)?

Share!  And share any NaNo survival tricks that you've learned too!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Serious about series- how to keep things real

Ok, I’m the first to admit that I am a series junkie. I rarely pick up books that don’t have “Book 1 of blah” at the top. I love the feeling of total immersion you get from a series. You really get to see the wonderful world and people created by the author, and since it usually takes years for a series to play out, you have an ongoing treat for a long time. (This excludes those books for whom the author over stayed their welcome- some series have gone on waaaay longer than they should have. But that’s for another post.)

This obsession with series flows over into my writing. All four of my currently completed books are series. Now all four can also stand alone, but all of them have further books in my head and in various notebooks. Two are more trilogy based-aka- the big arc would be resolved in a total of three books. The other two are open ended series. Meaning that while the main adventure for book one is resolved in book one, there are plenty of further adventures in store. In both types of series I’ve got hints to the other stories- little bits of information that when the next book comes out will make the reader say, “OH! I remember that!” In a way it’s akin to planting the gun in chapter one that the killer needs to use in chapter four- only longer range.

For example, in my steampunk book one of the minor villains is tracked deep under water at one point, then later found with certain issues that indicate a time spent exposed under great depths of water.

Not alot is said about it, he’s a minor villain. But it leads directly to book two Jand a very large sea based threat that my heroine and hero have to face.

Since my main characters run through the entire series, they have secret plants/hints as well. As they go through their adventures, there are hints dropped that they may not be what and who they thought they were. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it’s very very bad. But the point is, there are hints. Even though who they really are may not be part of the arc of the first book, there are enough hints there that when more is revealed in future books it’s not a shock. I hate it when an author pulls something major out of thin air that wasn’t in a previous book, then acts as if it’s part of the main story. The whole point of unveiling things is to entice the reader, but also to make them see how the pieces fit.

A word of caution about planting hints. If you plant them, they need to lead to something. This is true for long-term plants (things for future books) and especially true for bigger ones you use in a single book. If you as the writer focus on a certain action, event, type of shirt, whatever- I as the reader will think it’s important. When the author doesn’t do anything with it, then I as the reader get vexed.

Unlike real life where unconnected things happen all the time, there has to be a connection between everything you show your reader. And even everything you hint at.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I see written people!.

The other day a friend asked how I kept all my characters separate, especially since I do have a type that I write- aka tough chicks.

I’m sure I blinked my eyes at her for a few moments in confusion before I stammered out, “Because they’re different people!”

To me it would be as if someone came and said, “You have so many friends- however do you keep them separate?”  Has anyone, without a disorder of some sort, had trouble confusing their friends?  I don’t think so.

To me my characters are like friends- even the ones I wouldn’t want to be friends with.  I know them, I know their differences and nuances in behavior.  My two closet characters are probably Vas (The Victorious Dead- Space Opera) and Sakari (Sakari’s War- fantasy steampunk in progress).  Both are by far my toughest of the tough chicks.  Both have probably killed far more people than they care to think about.  But there are differences.  Sakari used to be an assassin, she killed who she was told to kill, and fled that life.  She still has no problem with killing if it’s called for, but she’ll ask questions afterwards.  Vas is a kill first ask questions never gal- or at least she starts out that way. But even though both women have blood on their hands, their reactions and temperaments are vastly different.  If I’m writing about Vas, words that Sakari would use would never come out.

Unlike a visual media, writers don’t have something in front of them reminding them that oh yeah this character has red hair and is taller.(Ok, so folks who use clippings, planning books, and Pinterest might- but I doubt they need to visually remind themselves which character is which ;)). But what we do have is how they sounds or are seen in our head.  I see my characters, but it’s not just how they look, it’s how they feel, how they react to the world around them.

They are all as unique as the real people in my life- maybe even more so since I know everything about them :).
What about you- do you have a “type” of character you lean towards?  Have you ever had a problem keeping lead characters straight?