Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Closing Scene Week, Day 4

Good writing day. I spun for 30 minutes on the closing scene, and wrote the dialogue. I've been having a hard time focusing on writing the past week or so, but today The Son went to play at a friend's house for the afternoon and it was amazing, the difference it makes to work without being interrupted constantly. We are both so so ready for nursery school to start back up; he is bored and restless, and we're frankly just kind of sick of each other.

I'm looking forward to fall in general. It's my favorite season, and the one in which I traditionally have had the most writing time (The Son's in school, but tutoring's not busy because no one's gotten a report card yet). 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Checking In

Between the hurricane and the book club get-together, I'm already woefully behind for this week. I haven't even finished the scene sheet! But I've got some child care set up for tomorrow and Thursday, and I should be able to catch up. Of course, that means not even glancing at the Fringe DVD that arrived from Netflix today. That show is like crack for me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Opening Scene Week in Review

I finished the opening scene today. 1,646 words down, ~85,000 to go.

Tomorrow I start work on the closing scene. That's another interesting thing about this "write the key scenes first" scheme: you don't write those six scenes in strict linear order either, but rather in resonating pairs. The opening and closing should resonate together, as should the climax and the mid-point, and plot point one and plot point two.

I'm not sure how the hurricane will affect my writing plan for the next few days. I assume we'll lose power, but I don't know for how long. And I'm supposed to host a book club meeting at my house monday night, and the house is a mess. Ugh.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Linky Friday

In honor of Opening Scene Week, here's a short but thoughtful article about getting the most out of your first 131 words.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 5

I'm still working on the opening scene, building it up from the dialogue. I spent most of a writing day dithering over an opening hook before deciding to cut my losses and write the rest of the scene first. The hook is not coming easy.

I also have to keep reminding myself that just because I have a detailed plot outline, doesn't mean the actual writing is going to be any better than my usual crappy first draft writing. It's been a while since I wrote a rough draft, and I forgot just how rough it can be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another Experiment: Dialogue First

I wrote the dialogue for the opening scene today-- two pages worth. That's another Weekend Novelist scene-building trick: once you have a good sense of what needs to happen in the scene, you write just the dialogue; nothing but two voices speaking back and forth on the page. Then you build the scene around it. My first draft dialogue tends to be just dreadful, but for this scene at least, writing the dialogue in a kind of vacuum really helped. I still need to let what I wrote cool a bit, and then read it out loud to make sure it plays right, but I'm pretty happy with what I got.

I'm also excited to find that despite the detailed planning I've done for this novel, I am still discovering more about it as I write. I just found out that Irsa's father has a cleft lip and a serious speech defect, and that that's why he's so stoic and taciturn. Who knew?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 2

Not a lot of writing time today, but I did manage to spin for 30 minutes, and got a 700-word sketch of the opening scene.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Draft, Day One.

Today is the day!
I'm off to great places!
I'm off and away!

Sorry. I can rarely resist an urge to quote paraphrase Dr. Seuss. (That poem was read as part of our wedding ceremony.)

I'm mixing it up a bit this time around. In The Weekend Novelist, Ray suggests taking the first six weeks of the first draft to write the six key scenes (opening, plot point one, mid-point, plot point two, climax, and closing). I have always been a linear thinker and writer, so I immediately pushed this idea aside as Not For Me. But it stuck with me, and more and more I've come around to thinking that as someone who has trouble keeping her plot ducks in a row, this might actually be tailor-made for me. So I'm giving it a try. I'm going to take eight weeks because I have eight key scenes; my climax scene is really three scenes that wrap up the three plot layers one at a time.

Step one in this process is to complete the scene sheet, so this afternoon I sat down with my laptop and my notebook and cards and worksheets, and wrote down everything I could think of that belongs in the opening.

And I picked a working title: The Shadow Emissary won out at the eleventh hour. (I considered changing it to The Sixth Emissary, but then I tried saying that out loud without lisping and thought again.) I don't love it-- it's like too goth or something--  but it'll do for now.

So The Novel Known as New Project, or NP, will henceforth be referred to as The Shadow Emissary, or TSE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Excavating the Relic" 100th Post Extravaganza and Linky Friday Kickoff

Yes, it's my 100th post. No, no, please-- hold your applause.

Today is also the first in my new "Linky Friday" gimmick. Every Friday I'll link to an article, exercise, or other online writing resource that intrigues me. Since today's the kickoff, and the 100th post extravaganza and all, I thought I'd post five links: four to resources I have previously linked to, and one new one.

1) Scene Checklist, from author Kait Nolan. Instrumental to the development of my own rampantly OCD scene sheets.  This is the first in a series of blog posts about Kait's "Conversion from Pantser to Plotter", and I recommend them all.

2) The emotional toolbox. I found this one through Joely, and it's a pretty cool way to get deeper inside your characters. It was developed for screenwriters, but the tools are applicable to novel-writing as well. The link takes you to the first of six questions.

3) Concise explanation of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, from author Susan Bischoff. I've read before about external vs. internal goal, and could never figure out WTF the difference was until I read this.

4) Article about titles. Recently mentioned in my long post about trying to title NP. It's not the deepest article I read on the subject, but it made me laugh.

And now for the new one:

5) Fascinating examination of the "static trait", from author Joely Sue Burkhart. I can't say I've ever managed to fully incorporate this idea into my own characters, but still so worthwhile to think about in the character-building stage.

Enjoy the linky goodness.

Plans for this weekend: Saturday-- take The Son to the fair. Sunday-- start a novel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Long Writing Day

My mother-in-law took The Son on a day trip across the state to see his great-grandparents; they've been gone all day and he's not due back until bedtime. I didn't do as much housecleaning as I'd hoped (when do I ever?), but I did finish the synopsis. It's only 7.5 pages but man, it took me forever to write it. No wonder everyone hates doing synopses: they're hard. I also did a bunch of note-taking and chart-making, and tweaked around the second half of the book into what I am sure is still not the final version. And I found names for all my thingies and whooziwhats.

I wonder how the 90something great-grandparents fared on their day with an extremely inquisitive, talkative, and show-offy 4.75-year-old boy. I have fond memories of my own great-grandfather, and think it's cool that The Son is getting to know his a bit. They've been married for 72 years, which makes my heart flutter if I really think about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

T-7 Days

Less than a week until I start Draft One. Eeeek!

I'm still crawling along on my synopsis. I've been having some interesting thoughts about the second half of the story, and trying to decide which of those thoughts are worth applying to the outline. It doesn't look like the first half is going to change much; it flowed out of me that first night I wrote out the problem-solution chain, and it's stayed pretty much intact through all the character work, worldbuilding, and outlining I've done since.

Tonight I spent some quality time with the thesaurus, trying to find names for things. I really, really suck at naming "stuff": futuristic technologies, political groups, and job descriptions. I love to name people, and have even e-published an article on the subject of naming actual non-fictional children, but my first attempts at describing the gadgets in my world usually include the word "thingie".

So tonight I finally sat down with my list of fifteen-some thingies and whooziwhats, and struggled to give them all names that don't suck. I got through ten of 'em. Stephen King once said that any word you have to look in a thesaurus to find is the wrong word, but he can kiss my thingie. We can't all be good at everything, bucko.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Titles. Again.

I believe I've mentioned before that I have a problem with titles. One of my goals for this two-week fiddle period is to come up with a decent working title for NP. NP, as you'll recall, stands for New Project-- my titling prowess at its finest.

I tried googling "titling a novel", and discovered that some extremely helpful articles have been written on the subject. This one was my favorite-- the bit about the "reverse gobbet" had me cackling with insane laughter, because I've totally done that. Anyway, as I read through these articles I realized that I had never applied analytical thinking skills to my search for a title. Having the different categories of titles (Character, Place, Events, Theme, etc.) spelled out for me was a revelation, and I was quickly able to determine that NP needs a Character title. And figuring that out feels like half the battle won right there.

Several of the articles recommended making a list of your favorite books, and then analyzing the titles you consider the strongest. The one I wound up most impressed by was Kushiel's Dart. First, it's like a mini-hook all on its own. Who is Kushiel? Is this a literal or a metaphorical dart? It gets the curiosity flowing before the reader has even opened the first page. Second, it's a Character title, although it's a description of that character rather than her name. Third, it's a title that changes meaning as you read further into the story: at first it refers to a defect in the character's eye, which is a sign of having been touched by a god; later, it is used to refer to the character herself, when she becomes a tool that the god uses to dispense justice. And finally, she mentions the flaw in her eye (although she doesn't yet know it has a name) on the very first page of a 900-page book, which makes the title relevant even to the first words of the story.

That's what I want. And it's a mighty tall order.

So far, I've titled the four "parts" of the story: Act I, first half of Act II, second half of Act II, and Act III. These are not titles I intend to keep in the story; they're more like another exercise in more deeply understanding the story. They are:

Part I: Balhara
Part II: The Shadow Emissary
Part III: Stories and Lies
Part IV: Who's the Fool and Who Wears the Crown

Part I has a Place title; Balhara is Irsa's home and where all the action in Part I takes place.

Part II: has a Character title; "Shadow Emissary" refers to the role Irsa plays in Part II, which thrusts her into the heart of the story's external conflict.

Part III has a Theme title; the search for truth is the theme of the novel, and Part III is where the theme is most strongly expressed.

Part IV has a Quote title; the words are from "Fearless" by Pink Floyd-- which is this novel's theme song-- and express a sort of secondary theme I have going on. I intended for the book to be about the search for truth and how both the search and the truth affect the searchers. But it also seems to be about who has the right, or the obligation, to lead others.

Of the four, "The Shadow Emissary" is closest to what I want the title of the novel to be. It refers to the main character by description rather than name. But it's not right as a book title. It's not how Irsa's own people would refer to her or remember her. And I think "shadow" has a evil connotation in SF/Fantasy; I would expect a novel called The Shadow Emissary to include either demons or evil aliens. This book has neither. It's a coming-of-age novel, with a significant romantic subplot, and a hefty dash of political intrigue... that just happens to take place in the far future, and includes a few characters who have achieved virtual immortality. Should be a cinch to title, right? And yet.

If I can't think of anything better in the next week, The Shadow Emissary will be promoted to working title status.  Level with me: if you heard that title, what would you assume the book was about? Mockery welcome! I have no emotional investment in this title and am longing for something better.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I started a synopsis for NP.  Not like a submission packet synopsis, where the point is to sell the story; this is more of a working synopsis that boils the plot down to its most essential actions. Three paragraphs for set-up and backstory, 2-3 for Act I, 4-6 for Act II, 2-3 for Act III. I figure that, with luck, I'll need to write a submission synopsis for this book one day, and when I do, I'll be glad to have this bare-bones account of the characters and plot to gussy up.

I've got five paragraphs so far, but I keep fiddling with them. For the moment I'm not setting a time goal for this exercise; I've never written a synopsis before, so I'm not sure how long to expect it to take me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Six Weeks

I've been working on NP for six weeks as of today. I'm giving myself another two weeks to tinker with my exercises and scene sheets and index cards, and then I'm starting the rough draft. That's the plan, anyway.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Checking In

I just finished up the last of my WtBN Workbook character exercises, a neat one with a column of words and phrases such as man, woman, hello, God, oh well, attractive, alcohol, and then columns to fill in what word or words your character uses for each. I've got it 95% filled out for Irsa and Akenam, and feel like it's already helping me to better hear their distinct voices.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Door in the Mind

Just got back from four days visiting friends on a lake in Maine. I did more porch-sitting than writing, but I did make some progress on the WtBN exercises for secondary characters and antagonists. This has been illuminating, but in the process I realized I need some alone time with Akenam, my love interest character. I just don't get him yet-- don't understand the why of the stuff I have him doing, don't understand how he can be all the seemingly incongruous things I want him to be. I put him together a bit too hastily, I think.

Today I spent five hours driving and listening to Ramona Quimby audiobooks, and when I got home I was too fried to even think about writing. But then I found myself nudging at Akenam's backstory in my mind, and a door swung open, and I am so excited about what I saw when I looked through it. One of those dorky writing moments when you work something out and go, "Ohhhhhh... that's so cool. God, it's almost like I know what I'm doing."