Sometimes things just come together for you. The book I just wrote was like that. Not so much the ending, which I changed three or four times as I went, but just the way the book came together as a whole was great. I’ve got a couple of Works In Progress that are like pulling teeth. To have one whip together so fast and so clean from a start with so little to go on was really fun.
This manuscript – tentatively titled Watching Uru – was something I did for the Camp NaNo National Novel Writing Month event for August. About a week before we were supposed to start, I thought I’d give this idea a try. I’d had a series of re-occurring daydreams involving a particular character. These daydreams mostly resolved into individual scenes, but they weren’t necessarily related, and I didn’t have a central premiss. I wasn’t at all sure this was going to work.
I opened up a spreadsheet and put each scene on a row in a particular column. There were about twenty of them, all told. I then looked for something that might be chronological about them, something that might be a theme, and anything even remotely resembling a plot. To my utter amazement – it had it all, and didn’t even have any scenes that had to be eliminated due to timing or logic conflicts. Everything could be made to fit.
I then added some scenes as connective tissue and fill in, numbered everything in the order in which I thought they should appear, and did a data sort to automatically put it all in order for me. I love spreadsheets for stuff like this.
I then went through and added approximate dates to show the chronology in a different column and in another put in what point of view the scene should be in. Normally I would go on to add GMC and emotional arc information for each scene, but my week was up, so I skipped it and went straight into the writing.
A few days later, I’d had some ideas for the way things should go, and certain details had an impact on the plot, so I went back to the spreadsheet. I removed some scenes, re-arranged a few, and added a few, all while still keeping my word count high.
I went through the same process two more times before finishing the book. At the end I mostly just winged it. My word count got slow, but it wasn’t worth messing with the spreadsheet again. Finally, I thought I was right at the end, so I put aside everything else in my life to focus on finishing. I pushed hard, but couldn’t finish it in one day. I finished it the next day.
If only all the books I write would come together so easily.
So that’s why I was so slow getting back to you a few days ago. My head was totally in a different world. Now I’m ready to get back to… um… reality?
Ben couldn’t stand it any longer. He had to write this all down. This, this drama stuff that always seemed to be a part of Gene was better than fiction! Mrs. Audrey would love it. Ben could write it up so she wouldn’t know and….
Continue reading Suzie’s House 236: The Lurker
I’ve become a NaNo addict.
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every year in November. The idea is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month. This is the third time I’ve done it.
Why? Because of the library.
Yeah, yeah, the library is there all year long. What does it have to do with NaNo? Well, a bunch of us get together in the library to encourage one another to get our words written. I have discovered that I can write much more effectively when I am sitting with other people who are also writing. I focus better, and take it more seriously. I can do as much in two hours as I normally do taking all day.
We meet once a week. I can’t wait until the next one.
The first time I wrote the rough draft of Remember Me. It’s a Suzie’s House book and too deeply entwined with the Suzie’s House story (It’s about Ben’s mother) so that I’ve struggled with the revisions, but I’m hoping to have it come out this coming year. The next NaNo book I wrote was actually two, as Crazy Love only took 40,000 words and I had time left. I went on to Start Beautiful Spanish Hussy, which I haven’t finished yet.
This year it’s a fantasy book about dragons and dire wolves and a girl’s quest to find her father. I’m shooting for 100,000 words, but I’ll count myself a winner if I get the first 50,000 done.
If you’re a novelist, have you ever tried NaNo? How did it work out for you?
“Humph!” The idiot. How hard could it be to sit down and write a story? Lisa stomped her way down the hall, feeling awkward for being in Ben’s house after saying something she knew would make him mad, as if the house itself were telling her she didn’t belong here.
“Hey, Lisa.” Tracy came out of Gene’s room. She had a rosy look to her cheeks, and Lisa suspected she and Gene had been kissing.
Gene came to the doorway, looking a little rumbled.
“Goodbye, my sweet darling,” Tracy said over-grandly. “See you tomorrow?”
Continue reading Suzie’s House 213 : Big Idea
Ben read a chapter or two, then put Fahrenheit 450 down and stared into space.
“I want to write something like that,” he muttered. “Only not like that.” He stared some more. “I want to write something that good.”
He pulled his spiral notebook close. It was already open to a blank page.
Continue reading Suzie’s House 190: Fahrenheit Inspiration
It was only a few months between the day I watched two red haired men run out of Cindy’s apartment during a party and the next time I ran into Suzie’s son, Ben, but it seemed like a couple of years had gone by. In that time, Ben had nearly been abducted by those red haired men, seen them arrested, been accused of insanity by a crazy teacher, sent his own father to jail for attempted murder, rescued his best friend from an abusive father, started summer vacation, and maybe acquired a girlfriend.
In contrast, I had only written a couple of books, and done a lot of walking.
Walking, if you’ll recall, brought my friends and I together in the first place. It was the reason for the party held at Cindy’s house. It was also what brought Ben back into my life.
Continue reading Suzie’s House 143: A Walk in the Park
I went to my first ever live NaNo event this Sunday. Imagine a score of people sitting at a long table, all writing. That was it. No conversation, no joking, the only sound the clatter of keyboards, the scritch of pens on paper, and the rustle of snack wrappers. It was great!
In an hour and a half (I was late arriving) I managed to eek out as many words as I’d done all day the day before. They aren’t going to show up on that NaNo meter at the bottom of my sidebar, though, because it was all outline. Still, I count it a significant step in my writing efforts because now I have some clue as to where I’m going with this story. Don’t know why my attempt to outline before failed, but I’m really glad to have what I do now.
In the process I made a discovery. I don’t know the name of one of my characters.
I could swear I gave Gene’s father a first name. Of course his last name is Thomas, the same as Gene, but I can’t remember his first name, it isn’t in the spreadsheet where I try to keep track of that stuff, and I couldn’t find it when I went digging through the archives for it. Maybe I’m misremembering, and never posted anything in which he has a first name. And no, I don’t count “Dad” or “Gene’s Dad” or any other such title.
A lot of the episodes of Suzie’s House are written minutes before I post. There are (shudder) spelling errors all over the place. Yet, I have been quite proud of having picked up loose threads as I go. For instance, there’s a bit in there where Miranda has a bad encounter with the employees of video store. I picked up the thread on that several months later. There are a couple of mentions in the first three or four installments of Suzie’s House that I follow through on in Moving In. I try hard not to leave you hanging. But maybe I’m deluding myself.
I really, really don’t want to give the man a whole new name then some day have a reader going through my archives point out I got it wrong. So, I’ll make you a bet. I bet $100 that you can’t find a first name for Gene’s father in my Suzie’s House archives. Be the first to leave a comment about it on any post in which his first name appears and you win. The offer is good for at least two weeks. I’ll update here if either someone finds it, or it’s been way too long with no one even trying, and I withdraw the offer.
What do you think?
Frankly, I’m a little disappointed. Even though I’d heard many, many authors complain about how little control they had over their covers, and knew they also received information request sheets from the art department, when I got mine, I dared imagine what kind of cover I would like.
This isn’t it.
Not that this is bad. It simply isn’t what I was hoping for.
For instance, it doesn’t really look like much when you shrink it down. On a bigger scale, little details bug me. There are no moving trucks in the book. All the moving is done by personal vehicle. The heroine’s hair is down to her shoulders, and the book describes as heavy. You don’t find many ceiling fans on the porches in Wisconsin, nor ferns either, though they can grow there. And the layout of the house doesn’t quite match what’s in the book, though it isn’t far off.
Maybe I’m being too picky. What do you think? Do you like it?
I’m going for it.
I have little control over being accepted. Even if I do my very best work both on my manuscripts and on my queries there is no guarantee I will even be read, let alone offered a contract. I’ve been letting this lack of control hold me back.
A while back Shelly Munro said she had a deal with a friend to see who could pile up the most rejections. The one with the most won dinner out with the other. This kept them both submitting in spite of the pain.
I have no partner in crime for this, but I can do something else. I’m going to send off two queries a week for the next year. I was going to send a query a day for 365 days, but thinking about it made me too tired. It would mean a lot of polishing.
Who knows? With any luck I might even find the motivation to do more writing.
Want to know how I’m doing over the course of the year? I’m going to tweet it in my side bar. At the end of the year I’ll let you know how it all went. in one summary post. Wish me luck!
It was suggested last week that I might be dwelling on the negative about my writing. I don’t see it that way. A mistake is just a mistake. So long as I fix it, who cares if I messed up? No one but me needs to see my rough drafts. Well, except for Suzie’s House, but we aren’t going there. Right?
So anyway, here’s a list of positive things about my writing.
1. Even when it’s torture, I still enjoy doing it. Perverse, I know, but there it is.
2. Now and then I get compliments. Lately, a lot of compliments. THANK YOU!
3. I love it when I can come back to an old manuscript fully expecting to have to do some hard-core pruning and discover I don’t need to.
4. The Flow – I am seriously addicted to the flow. By the flow, I mean when the work takes me so far out of my own head I’m barely aware of the actual effort of typing or story structure and am completely immersed in the story. Then the words just come pouring out.
5. My characters may have similarities to one another, but they are each distinct individuals with their own quirks, intentions, and over-all personalities. It wasn’t always that way.
6. I enjoy reading what I write much more now than I did a few years ago. Not that I always like what I wrote, just that I dislike it less.
7. Writing gives me a good excuse to do research.
8. If I ever actually sell any of my writing, I can start deducting the cost of research. Castles of Europe here I come!
9. Writing gives me a good excuse to read. It’s research, right? I need to do lots and lots of it. Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t count the paranormal romances as I haven’t written one yet, but you never know….
10. My efforts to improve my writing and get published has lead me to some interesting places on the Internet – including doing my own blog.
11. My blog, which is supposed to be presenting me to the world as a writer (yeah, right) has given me a great excuse to play with dolls.
12. It has also given me some common ground with some totally cool people who have since become friends.
13. I have proven I’m no quitter. I might be all kinds of idiot to still be writing regularly after all these years, but I clearly am not a quitter.
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Yes, these are all things I have done. Yes, I regret them all.
1 – Say over and over in one chapter that the hero’s eyes are a vivid blue then mention how brown they are two chapters later.
2 – Fall in love with the word “That”, or “As” and refuse to get rid of a couple hundred usages.
3 – Include more than two exclamation marks in a paragraph.
4 – Forget to include any setting details.
5 – Let the hero come off looking like a total jerk for most of the book just because he’s that kind of guy.
6 – Fall in love with passive tense and refuse to get rid of it.
7 – Write dialogue that doesn’t move the plot forward at all because it’s what the characters would say at a time like that. “Oh no! You mustn’t!” “Oh, but I must”
8 – Use words like “oh” and “looked” and “just”, and “Glock” way too often.
9 – Lose track of who was talking so I put the dialogue tag in the wrong place.
10- Make a sentence so long and convoluted it not only takes up a whole paragraph but fills the page.
11- Switch out every flipping verb for something action packed so I end up slamming into the car seat instead of getting into the car and verbally attacking the butler instead of telling him he stinks, and generally sounding like an episode of Batman and Robin. Bam! Pow! Woof!
12- Forgetting that I want the reader to come away with a clear and particular emotion.
13- Confuse all these bad habits with my voice.
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On a Limb with Claudia
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I tried a different technique on the book I just finished writing. I started with a detailed outline on a spreadsheet that included GMC for hero and heroine, plot, subplot, POV notes, and emotional arcs for each scene. I was hoping to cut down on plot holes and revisions. Here’s what I discovered.
1. For the way I write, 67 scenes is way too many for a 90,000 word book. I ended up ditching or condensing about 1/3 of the outline.
2. I need to do a better job with the emotional arcs before I start writing. I didn’t fill in the entire spreadsheet before hand, and regretted it.
3. Some of my rows were really only more development of the same scene, and unnecessary.
4. Every time I significantly strayed from the outline, I ended up deleting however many words I’d written because I wrote myself into a dead end.
5. I seem to have a fixation with travel in my books. The characters almost always end up going from one place to another, if not cross country, then across town. I built this into the outline, then had trouble accommodating it though the emotional development of the characters required it.
6. Having the GMC down pat before I started made a huge difference, but still left me with a lot of choices as I wrote. At least I didn’t get lost in the choices the way I do when I’m pantsing.
7. Google Earth is addictive. I didn’t find any caves, but had fun looking.
8. I don’t need to list POV for scenes because I tend to move around so much anyway as to make it a moot point. Not that I head hop. I break the scene into segments to accommodate changes in POV. About a third of the way through the book I stopped paying attention to POV info.
9. Too much setting detail in the outline actually slowed me down in the rough draft because I would get fixated on making the scene play out the way I had originally visualized it instead of the way that best fit the book as written. OTOH having the setting helped me keep track of what was coming next. Don’t know if I’ll keep that column in the future or not.
10. If I don’t keep my characters clearly in mind as I outline I will end up with a different character on the page.
11. I need to keep the climax in mind better as I do the outline and as I write. I’m pretty sure this one is going to get tossed, but I’ve had to toss out the climax in almost every book I’ve written, so no surprise there.
12. Joining Sweat with Sven, the Gonzo group, and the 100 day challenge helped a lot, but the bottom line in still just me.
13. If I set a deadline, then reset it, I don’t work as hard.
As you may have guessed, I’ll certainly be using this technique again. It did indeed speed up the rough draft and help reduce plot holes. I won’t know if it helped that much on revisions until after I have tackled them, but what I’ve got so far looks better than a lot of my rough drafts. I have high hopes.
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I did all right this week. I finished the rough draft of A Miss for Mark, which is why the ticker came down on all the boards where I hang out. Yay! It’s so good to have that done. Now if only it didn’t need so much revision. We closed the polls on the Best Revisions of 2007 at FanLit Forever. Yay Natasia for first place. I started my submission for the next round, though I’m no where near done with it yet. Let’s see, if I write 100 words a day, then it will be done in… how many characters does that convert to? Nevermind. I’ve decided to go on to revise Caroline’s Folly now, but haven’t cracked the file yet. Instead I started reading Historicals like Victoria Alexander’s Secrets of a Proper Lady.
Did I mention Victoria Alexander is going to be doing a chat session with the FanLitters? February 26th at 9pm Eastern Standard Time go to www.RomanceRoundTable.com and click the link we will have set up special for that day.
Otherwise it’s been a normal week except for two things. First, the boy is no longer grounded as of today. It’s been so long that our whole way of life changed. I’m not looking forward to his return to the social whirl. Second, I noticed something funny about the way I get out of a car.
Which end of the car do pass when you have to go around from the driver’s side to the other? I just realized I always go around the back end of the car. I think it’s because I tend to already be going when I close the car door, which means it’s in my way to go around the front. Then about the time I reach the tail lights I start thinking the front would have been a shorter distance, forgetting the door had been in my way before. Am I the only one who is weird about this? Just wondering.
Remember a while back when I mentioned that a friend of mine is in the American Title contest? Here she is. Allow me to introduce Helen Scott Taylor.
Here I am in the fifth and final round of American Title IV with the chance to win a publishing contract for my story The Magic Knot, and I have to admit, I nearly didn’t enter.As the contest is called ‘American Title’, I thought I wouldn’t be eligible because I live in England. A friend told me to send my entry anyway. ‘What’s the worst that can happen,’ she said. ‘You don’t hear anything, and then you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t bothered.’
I took the chance, mailed my three chapters and synopsis in to Dorchester Publishing just before the closing date and forgot about it.
A few months later, a friend of mine who’d also entered received a letter from Dorchester requesting her full manuscript for the contest. I cheered with her and assumed, for whatever reason, The Magic Knot hadn’t made it. I forgot to take account of the extra time it takes for mail to make the leap across the Atlantic. A few days later, my own letter requesting the full manuscript arrived. Obviously, I had been eligible to enter. J
To cut a long story short, a few weeks after I mailed my full I had an email from Romantic Times telling me I was one of the ten finalists and requesting my entries for all five voting rounds.
I tend to be laid back about success and rejection. I wasn’t prepared to be zoned out yet unable to sleep for excitement over the next few days. As I only had a week to return my entries, I pulled myself together and sent them in.
Promoting myself for American Title has been a promotional baptism of fire. There is no doubt it is stressful, two weeks of voting and manic promotion for each round, followed by a two or three week breather to regroup. I’ve coped by keeping busy with other things in my life in between voting. (And with two kids and a business to run, I have no shortage of work to keep me occupied.)
Having supportive friends and family has helped tremendously. I’m grateful to all the wonderful people who’ve taken the time to read my entries and vote for me.
Whatever the final result, I’m delighted to have met the other nine finalists and made a new group of friends. We have set up an American Title IV finalists’ blog together at www.titlemagic.blogspot.com.
To all writers out there, if you get the opportunity to enter American Title, I say go for it. You have to be in it to win it!
If you have time, I’d love you to check out my love scene in the fifth and final round of American Title. Voting runs from February 18th to March 2nd. The entries can be found at www.romantictimes.com/news_amtitle3.php
If you like my entry, I’d love your vote.
For more information about my writing, please go to www.helenscotttaylor.com
|What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd
Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it’s eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today’s society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.
It’s okay. I understand.
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