August goals

Talkin’ ain’t doin’

Here it comes: actual, concrete goals to hold myself to. I’ll have to start with arbitrary numbers as I get back into the swing of things, and adjust as I go along. Naturally, I’ll try to push myself harder.

In terms of writing, I’d like to have a new novel outlined before August is up. That gives me three weeks, so I’ll set myself a goal of ten chapters outlined per week.

Revision is a little harder. I’m due for another reread of Yggdrasil to see what needs editing, cutting, and where new material needs to be fitted in. I can manage a reread in one week, then a second look over another week to target problem areas.

Of course, I’ll want to make hokey index cards to put on my corkboards to illustrate my progress with these goals. It helps to have them there, staring at me at all times.

I’ll be back next week with updates on my progress!

 

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Planning

It’s the last week before NaNoWriMo 2014 begins. I am a good 20+ chapters into my outline for Project: Destiny and feeling good. I have color-changing LEDs on my desk that I believe I will use to admonish myself; red when I haven’t written, yellow once I’ve started, green once I’ve met my word goal for the day. (I will probably not keep up with this.)

desk leds

I’m excited. I’m raring to go. I’m posting encouraging notes on the corkboard beside my desk. I have magnetic poetry next to that in case I need some unrelated word play to get the creative juices flowing. I have lots of good music ready to go.

Tick-tock.

Hacking through the wilderness

I deviated from my outline, making another chapter on the list obsolete. I tried to write it anyway, because I liked the neatness of my POV rotation: A B A C A D… etc. However, I found myself writing a chapter that didn’t have a direction, that I didn’t like writing, and that didn’t need to be there.

2014-04-18 16.18.27

So I decided to move on. “I make the rules,” is going to have to become a mantra of mine, because I seem to keep forgetting that as I write. Forcing out a chapter that will end up being crap isn’t worth losing momentum; better to set it aside and keep going. In the unlikely event that this chapter is worth salvaging in some future draft, it will be easier to do that once the bulk of the story is out.

I was essentially tying my own hands, thinking, “But… the plan! I have to work within the plan.” I’ve said from the beginning, the outline is meant to be ignored if a better idea comes along. I can work my way back to it, but I shouldn’t go hacking through the wilderness when there might be a more natural path that starts a little further out of the way. I would just get exhausted and make a mess for the sake of a straight line.

Chapters and scenes

While I was writing Climbing Yggdrasil, I outlined chapters in Scrivener by writing a brief summary and filling in the narrative from that alone. However, the default in Scrivener seems to be filling a chapter with scenes, which I had not considered before.

I finished the broad strokes of the outline for Destiny and thought I could give scenes a shot. It’s sort of like going from mile markers to smaller signs every tenth of a mile. There’s a little voice in my head saying that this will just give me more opportunities to deviate from the outline; I think I get some of my best ideas that way.

For this story, I don’t want to simply outline a sequence of events. I want to write notes about what’s going on inside the characters’ heads, thoughts and feelings that I can allude to through well-placed expressions and subtle behaviors. Yggdrasil was something of a race, with all the pressure of NaNoWriMo, but now I can take the time to get more right on the first attempt. If the characters’ thoughts and desires come through in a suitably subtle way in the first draft, that leaves less for me to polish during the editing process. (By “subtle” here, I mean that I’m not beating the reader over the head with what the character is feeling; some characters, like some people, clearly display every emotion they feel on their face with no subtlety whatsoever.)

I feel like my biggest obstacle with Destiny will be parceling out information properly. I want to tantalize without frustrating the reader. I want to explain without lecturing. Above all, I want to be economic with my explanations. No one wants to read a book where the main character takes up pages and pages of every chapter expounding on the way the world works. It would be far more effective to set up scenarios in which the reader can directly witness forces at work and come up with their own conclusions.

Here’s to hoping that in going deeper and outlining scenes for the story that I discover new ideas and better ways to write it. Something I have to keep reminding myself of is that nothing is set in stone, not even if I stated it in an outline or the rough draft or a later draft. Until a book is published, I can rearrange and change anything that doesn’t work for me. The worst case is that I have to rewrite something and it takes a little more time; a small enough price for getting it right.