Outlining

I took the plunge and did the first step: outlining my novel as a subdivision of five parts. The decision to label them explicitly within the novel will come later. For now, they are a way of organizing my work into distinct acts. Of course, anything can change as I go on.

Now I’ve given myself the task of fleshing out each part with “chapter” outlines. I’m identifying key scenes and the events surrounding them, and will probably only go this far in the outline process. The rest will be narrative linking them, and I will get into the whole of determining how much goes between each major point as I go along.

I have to keep reminding myself that the most important word is ROUGH: this is a first draft and I don’t need to get hung up on refining things. I need a framework, a skeleton. I will sculpt the muscles and the flesh at a later time. I need raw material to work with.

For the moment, I’ve got two out of five parts “fully” outlined. Not bad for just past halfway into the month. I’m doing my best to give myself incentives: do some work in a cafe, or bring home a bar of chocolate I won’t open until I reach my daily goal. (Dark chocolate, sea salt, believe me it was WORTH it.)

I feel happy with my progress so far, and each consistent bit of work I can put behind me makes me more confident that I can keep going and accomplish what I set out to do. I’ve also decided to outline in a notebook I can carry around, and type up the result in Scrivener when I’ve completed it. I should take to keeping it in my bag; I was on the way home from an appointment earlier and wished I’d had the chance to stop at a café and work there. At least I got it done at home.

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Typing is faster

I am nearly halfway done making edits in Climbing Yggdrasil. Progress has slowed somewhat as I’ve encountered elements that need a bit more work. Plot inconsistencies were easy enough to fix, but altering entire scenes and adding new content are a bit more difficult. Also, the blurb is tormenting me, though I have come up with a new angle of attack.

I had been feeling a bit off about not having done any writing lately. My efforts to write Project Destiny in a journal had ground to a halt. It had been difficult from the outset; I would spend most of a train ride home (which takes a little over an hour) writing only to discover that I had 600 or so words. Words I had to count. Writing in Scrivener is much more rewarding because of session targets. Every time I open the program, my goal is to write at least 1,000 words. Two days of writing have yielded a total count of over 6,000 words: the prologue and first chapter. I printed up a calendar to have a handy motivational tool pinned to the wall next to my desk. (It’s Wednesday evening as I write this, so no word count yet. Check the sidebar for more up-to-date progress.)

destiny words per day july 9

I also learned from my proof copy of Yggdrasil that I wanted an image to separate blocks of text, because images won’t be missed if breaks fall at the ends of pages, be they print or digital. This time I didn’t have to go hunting around online for an appropriate one: I’ve had eight of Destiny’s symbols tattooed on me for years now. This book (as I expect there will be more than one) will use the orange symbol. In the world of Destiny, orange represents the human soul, language, blood ties and oaths.

orange destiny separator

Getting proper narrative out again is wonderful. Editing remains, of course, rewarding and an integral part of the writing experience. No one wants to pay to read a rough draft. But let’s face it, spilling out those words is just more fun, especially when we get into the flow and they seem to tumble forth so easily. This is another advantage of using Scrivener over a pen, I can almost keep up with my thoughts. I don’t write longhand nearly fast enough, and when I try the words become an unintelligible jumble that I would find difficult to edit.

It feels weird to be steaming on ahead without being part of Camp NaNoWriMo, which is going on currently. There’s no reason why I couldn’t sign up now, though.

I neglected to mention this last week, but I created an author page for myself on Facebook. My posts from here are Publicized there, and I post random status updates here and there between posts. You can also check the sidebar here for the latest updates.

Making cuts, not second-guessing myself

The long weekend has been great for writing, I plan on keeping up the goals notebook as a source of motivation. I got the bulk of my work done on Saturday, which gives me hope that I can keep this up during ordinary weekends. I have five of those before my next stretch of time off.

One item on my list that I didn’t realize was such a tall order is the blurb for Yggdrasil. I have agonized, I have ask the advice of friends, and still I am not satisfied. I’ve poked around online and found that most writers hate writing blurbs, which comforts me somewhat. Comfort won’t get this damn thing written, though. I struggle with the idea of drawing in potential readers, and I can’t exactly write, “This story is interesting, trust me.” My name carries no weight to the vast majority of readers out there. This makes the blurb more important than the book in some ways.

I did a fair bit of work on the book itself. I finished importing my Yggdrasil notes to Scrivener and began working on the second draft. I scrapped a lot of text from the first chapter, so I combined it with chapter two to create a slightly longer introduction to Captain Renwright and her daring crew. Originally, I had a lengthy description of a mural in her bunk, the artistic representation of the central star Yggdrasil as a burning tree, complete with descriptions of the various worlds orbiting it. I suppose it was fine when I wrote it, but when I have a finished draft in which the crew of the Sylphid actually visits the worlds I blather on about in chapter one, it seemed redundant. So it’s gone. Forever.

Only… not quite. The great thing about using Scrivener is the ability to create snapshots. I created my first snapshot of each chapter as I finished it last year. I created a second after my notes were added, and a third to those chapters I’ve edited. It’s great for keeping me from second-guessing myself. It could be that I never roll back to a previous version, but knowing I can makes me braver about cuts and changes. After every major change, I take a snapshot of the chapter and move on.

One seemingly unimportant change I’ve made is to add a small graphic to separations of text. During editing, I stumbled across a break that happened at the bottom of a page; when I started the next page, it took me a moment to realize I had changed scenes. This is a common annoyance when I’m reading books on my Kobo; there is no symbol to indicate a separation of text, so when they end up at the bottom of the page they’re difficult to immediately notice.

It was a bit of a pain to find all such breaks in the text and insert the graphic I had chosen. Then I had to figure out how to tell Scrivener to keep the graphic centered when I output the file to eBook formats. That’s another lesson learned. Next, I’ll probably figure out how to make Scrivener output a perfect Word document formatted for upload to CreateSpace, with table of contents, headers and footers, etc.

Back to Scrivener

I’ve just realized that I should begin preparing for the next step of revision, the actual edits to the draft in Scrivener. As I started copying my highlights and notes from my proof to my computer, I realized that these notes are not nearly enough information for me to properly produce a second draft. To that end, I went into the notecard view of my manuscript and printed it: I got the synopsis of every chapter, three per page, on twelve pages. My entire story on a dozen sheets with plenty of room to write thoughts, justifications and feelings.

cy synopses

These notes will be vital in determining which chapters stay and which go. I want to have a solid reason for keeping every chapter, and I also want to write where new chapters need to be inserted to tie up loose ends or explain things that happen too suddenly toward the end. I’m starting to think that I might need a reread of the draft just for this, ignoring all the notes I’ve made about character inconsistencies, plot details, holes in the world, etc. This chapter justification is probably something I should have done first, so that any cut chapters won’t have already been marked up with notes for edits. I’m still making the rules up as I go, though, and the best lessons will be learned from my own mistakes.

I have reached the end of my book, with two chapters and two interludes left to mark up. I’m mostly tempted to throw them out completely and write a new ending, though. While I deliberate, I will continue transferring my notes to Scrivener at a rate of two chapters at a time (it’s very boring work) in between watching music videos on YouTube and other timesinks. I can also begin rereading the book while making my chapter notes. I can do this on my Kobo so that my more specific notes in my physical copy aren’t too distracting. Also, it’s a new Kobo and any excuse to play with it is a good one.

I got my second proof from Creative Digital Studios today (yesterday, by the time this goes live) and am absolutely thrilled. I asked for a few more changes and should have the final result by Friday, which I will definitely have to post about. This will likely light a fire under my ass in terms of getting Draft #2 ready so that I can get my hands on a physical copy with my brand-new, professionally-designed cover.

Pear productivity

Last month, Alexandra Needham commented on a post of mine suggesting a way to get more productive 25 minutes at a time.

pear timer

 

While shopping at the dollar store yesterday, I snagged this pear-shaped timer. After attempting to scare my cats with it (they were unfazed), I set it on my desk and planned to use it to boost my own productivity. That isn’t to say that I haven’t been productive lately; I got over 4,500 words out over the course of the last week. I also wrote in my personal journal, reminding myself that no matter how much faster I am at the keys, there is something special about seeing a page covered in my hurried scrawl. When I write longhand, I feel like I’m always in a race to get the thoughts out before I forget them.

I would like to try writing daily for 25 uninterrupted minutes as an exercise. If at the end of that time I still feel inspired, I will let that momentum push me forward and write more. While the pear is ticking, I will refrain from looking up definitions or points of research; the details can be sorted out later. I’ve already disabled spellcheck in Scrivener since I can’t force myself to ignore those squiggly red lines as I write. Typos be damned, proofreading is part of the editing process anyway, so I won’t let it interfere with this step.

I am on vacation again, so it seems like the perfect opportunity to form new habits.

Another thing I’d like to do this week is flesh out the page for Project: Destiny, which is currently pretty sad.

Then Bravely Default will come out Friday and my productivity will go down the toilet…

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.

Another chapter down!

I finished another chapter last night! Chapter thirty-two, wow. I write using Scrivener, so I don’t generally see the chapter numbers as I write them, and I don’t bother to count the index cards in the corkboard view. However, every time I finish a new chapter, I do a fresh compile of the manuscript into a Word document and an ePub for my Kobo and stick them in my Dropbox. Then I set Word to take care of widows and orphans so that there aren’t any when I print the pages out.

Thirty-two chapters. Apart from what I like to think of as “interludes”, which are short chapters told from the synchronizer’s perspective, each of them is at least 2,000 words long. Not that chapters have to be of a certain length in order to be good; I’ve read many books where a chapter has only been a few words to serve as a dramatic pause in the narrative or switch POV briefly.

I feel a bit like I did when I’d hit 40k during NaNoWriMo; I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and that excited me beyond description. I have only three planned chapters left, 7,500 words or less. Of course, this would be the moment where I veer off course completely and discover that I need to get a lot more done to reach a satisfactory ending. If that’s the case, so be it. There’s only so much planning I can do for a novel before it sweeps me off on its own strange currents.

I really like the gardener and architect images that George R. R. Martin spoke of:

I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.

To me, I’m charting a course down a river. I know that it leads to the sea, but I don’t know which forks to take, which waters are troubled by rapids and cataracts, which branches end unexpectedly and force me to carry my craft over land for a time. I don’t know when I’ll have to backtrack and take a different path. There is a lot of planning that goes into it, but there is a pretty large element of discovery as well.