This week, after my best friend came over for a visit, and we began to bounce some ideas off of each other, I had a short burst of creative inspiration for the sequel to my previous work-in-progress. Talking about our mutual love for our stories got me excited to get back to work on the project, and for a brief moment, when I started writing, I thought my creative slump might be over. I can’t say for certain that it isn’t. Truth be told, I haven’t felt I had much time to write since that first little creative burst, but it was exciting enough at the time to make me feel as though the possibility was still alive. I could, with any luck still get a fair amount of writing completed.
I’m working to get myself more organized with my current projects, to ensure that I’m doing some of the heavy lifting now rather trying to do everything at the same time, I’m spreading things out and making specific days in which I know that I should get the most amount of work done based on the fact that these are my days off from my day job. Technically this will be the first week of this new schedule, so I’m hoping that it will work out for me ultimately and I’ll be able to utilize my time better in order to be able to write and read more.
It started unexpectedly as I was working on the sequel to my previous work-in-progress. I had accomplished a number of things already, I had written the better part of three chapters, I had outlined what the rest of the story needed to be, and I had titles and notes for the better part of the 30 chapter novel I was planning. Everything was falling into place, I was confident, and more importantly I was eager to get to work.
Now that I’m nearing the end of phase 3 (of my three phase editing process), I’m approaching the exciting and somewhat nerve-wracking task of letting people actually read my work-in-progress and give me feedback on it. On the one hand, this is exciting because it means getting to hear from people I trust and care about on a project that I deeply care about, on the other something about people reading something I’ve written always feels surreal. Gratefully I will not be with them at the time so I won’t have to necessarily think about it until they give me their honest opinions, and I try not to be the typical writer and not take critique’s personally.
Meanwhile, I’ll be working on checking and double checking my query letter to ensure that it’s the best it can possibly be in time to send out to agents starting in April. There’s something about querying agents that I’ve always found a little bit exhilarating. For as long as I can remember sending queries is the part that actually feels like I’m working. It’s no longer just the joys of writing the actual novel or even the work of editing it, now it’s about the task of trying to get someone interested in the book I’ve written and that’s where the real work comes into play. I’d also like to give myself a little time to recharge before I jump headfirst into the sequel. Somewhere in my mind I thought April-June, but knowing myself better than that, I should imagine I will make it perhaps a few days after I officially finish typing everything up before I move onto the sequel. I feel better when I’m creating something new, and even though I ought to take some time to read more and refuel my creativity, I have little doubt that I’ll be on my computer typing something new all the same.
Well here we are. November 30th, the last day of NaNoWriMo, and nothing so far this month has gone quite like I expected or imagined.
More and more frequently I’ve begun to notice a trend amongst author blogs in sharing their book in it’s entirety on their blog, posting new chapters each day, or every few days.
I first heard of the concept of the serial novel from the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. And perhaps to an extent the Sex and the City columns that later branched out into the book by Candace Bushnell.Thanks to blogging it seems that the serial novel has made a resurgence (however brief–as of this reposting I feel like I rarely hear about it any longer) amongst authors and I have to say I’m rather tempted. I love the following I’ve managed to amass thus far, and I have felt for a long time that I’m doing myself a bit of a disservice by not sharing my fictional prowess on my blog. Which admittedly is not the same as my blog writing prowess. Here’s the thing, because it’s going on my blog there’s a good chance I won’t be able to send each individual chapter over to my editor before posting them (particularly if I’m hoping to make this a daily thing) so it will really only undergo my personal editing…
Authors Update: At the time of the original writing, three years ago now, according to WordPress, I was excitedly working on an earlier draft of my previous work in progress which is what I had intended, or at least thought I should post on my blog as a sort of serial novel. Since then however, beyond the obvious time constraints, serial novels have taken a sort of dive in popularity once more (if they ever really were that popular to begin with). It was, to my mind, a sort of good idea that might have been a fun challenge but that unfortunately never panned out. That said, there’s something to be said for short stories, written specifically for this blog and I might consider that going forward, assuming I can figure out what story exactly I could make that would be short enough to blog in a segment or a few segments.
I almost did it. I got so close to the finish line, I was fifteen pages away from finishing the first script on time, or at least, mostly on time. I was on a roll, and then… the story decided to crash and burn and well, here we are, week two and things aren’t quite going how I would have liked considering I’ve still not finished my first script nor even started the second.
I know enough about myself by now that I should really know better than to try and plan things out like this. Planning to far in advance tends to work against me and apparently a full time job, plus a novel, and a blog, might have been a little too much going on already to add trying to write four scripts in a month to my list. But it was still a fun experiment, and I learned some things that I didn’t really expect during this process. Not speed, naturally, but I did come away with some interesting ideas that I hadn’t considered during the original writing of the book that might be interesting to bring back in the next draft of the book come February. Not major changes, thankfully but still interesting enough and worth considering.
I knew that I would probably learn at least a few things from the process, not the least of which being that I actually really love the script writing process even if it frustrates me in the lack of narrative freedom and even if the time constraint is more than a little difficult to maneuver.
Do I like it enough to try and make it a full-time career? No. Scriptwriting for me, is more of a hobby act, to keep me writing, but not having to write a full novel. It also proves a good way to really figure out what parts of your book are the most important, and worth keeping, and what maybe you could take or leave if it came down to it for a 2.5 hour movie.
Pantsing v: To write by the seat of your pants.
The blank page, your cursor blinks judgingly at you as you stare into the white abyss. For some, facing the blank page is the most daunting part of writing a novel. For me, it’s a new adventure, the story can go anywhere, and as a pantser, it probably will. The pantsing method is a simple one, an outline, if one should exist comprises as little information as possible, you have a general idea of overall plot of the story and where you want to go, and maybe some things about characters, but the vast majority of what’s going to happen is a mystery. It’s exciting and you learn things as you go along much like your reader would. But the pantsing method isn’t without its drawbacks. Because you often don’t really know where the story is going to go, there’s a risk the story can go off the rails, (or rather, more off the rails). When you’re writing a series (as I am) its difficult to write a novel without knowing how everything is going to fit together in the overarching story and ultimately where the hell this thing is going.
Over the years I’ve tried many tricks for becoming a more organized writers, from multicolor pens, pencils, and highlighters to a series of notebooks, and software programs, to a sticky whiteboard attached to my desk that allows me to write a dry erase timeline of my story that my cats can lay on and erase. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)
This month however with NaNoWriMo once again drawing near, I feel it imperative to work on not only an outline for my next novel, but the overarching outline that will encompass the entire series as well as each individual book. For this I purchased a five subject notebook which will house information for each book allowing me to see where I’ve been, and where everything fits in. For instance, if something in book one is going to be foreshadowing for an event in another book, I’ll have a note that will reference me to my notes for that book. This sounds a bit complicated, and I’m sure doing this all with Scrivener would be a lot easier, but the truth is, I have to start from a hard copy. I may transfer my notes to a Scrivener file to make it easier before actually writing, but there’s something about outlining in hardcopy that I just can’t seem to pass up.
So, where do we begin?
- Book One: Start by outlining the book you’re already on, I’ve looked at a few different outlining methods including the Snowflake method (which at this point is one of my favorites) but my method is more madness than method, and it combines a few methodologies into one. The first of which being…
- Outline: In a wonderful post (actually about editing, Chuck Wendig) suggested that you should write an outline after the first draft is written. I generally like to do a chapter by chapter outline, just a few sentences to get the overall plot and important event notes. Then you write an outline of where you think the story needs to go from here, what changes are needed etc, and you go by that. After the final draft is done you’ll want another chapter by chapter outline to give you an idea of everything that happened so you can work on the next book.
- Snowflake: The Snowflake method is a multi-step method for outlining that begins with a one sentence summary and turns into a multi-page outline of major scenes, plots, and character arcs. If you’ve written nothing of your first book you’ll want to start with the Snowflake (or similar method) to outline your novel.
- Book Two-End of Series: Once you have a foundational set of characters and settings, you can use the snowflake and chapter by chapter methods to allow you to figure out where the story is going, where it needs to go and ultimately how you should get there.
There are numerous outlining methods, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and frankly how you outline depends entirely on what works for you, but as a pantser who wants just a little more structure for the rest of my series, I’m going to do my best to keep up with my outline and make sure everything goes according to plan.
Over the last few months I’ve come to realize that, I’m very much of a conflicting mind when it comes to the plotting vs pantsing debate. On the one hand, plotting allows you to clearly define where your story needs to go. On the other, pantsing feels a lot more freeing.But as I’ve started to realize, like it or not, a series dictates a certain necessity for a meticulous outline and note taking, and ultimately a well thought out and well documented timeline of events. Whatever else I have said to the contrary about outlining, it offers a great opportunity to explore many possible scenarios and resolve problems before they arise.
Maybe it’s because I’m trying something new in my outline process or maybe it’s something else entirely, but I’m actually starting to enjoy this outline, and I’m excited about book two for the first time in a long time.
I’m not known for being a plotter. Were I writing a stand alone novel I don’t think it would be something I would find all that necessary. Being however that I’m writing a series, I realize that there are a lot of things that you have to keep balanced in order to make it work. Timeline, characters living and dead, plots, subplots, locales, and the over all story arch that’s going to run in between the series. It’s a lot to try and keep in your head, so I’ve been working on trying to write it all down in a tangible form.
What’s it about? What makes this story worth dedicating more than one book to, or even more than four? This is probably the most important factor and will give you an idea of where the rest of the story goes. For me this also lead into…
Book By Book Summary:
This is an individual summary of each book. Like the overall series summary it doesn’t have to be long (it’s mostly for you) but it gives you an idea of what you want to happen in each book, if you happen to have ideas that far ahead.
This is where things can get tricky. Keeping track of characters, their importance in the story and where then they show up and where they go within the story is vital. You probably don’t want to introduce a character in chapter 3 of book 1, kill them off then bring them back in book 3. In the most recent draft of the first book I have at least 40 characters that we meet throughout the course of the novel, this is definitely a shorter list than most, but it’s a lot to contend with in one book, and it’s made me realize I need to have a timeline of where they are in the book, when they show up, when and if they exit and everything in between. You should also include history and future plans even if never explicitly stated in the book.
Plots and Subplots:
If you’ve ever seen J.K.Rowling’s notes from Order of the Phoenix (which have been making the rounds on Social Media and websites again lately), you’ll know how crazy plots and subplots can get. Particularly when you need to balance what character is in which part of the plot and their importance to that scene. The plot and subplot can make or break your story as much as characters can, so this is where specifics are key. You can’t mince words when it comes to plots and subplots, it needs to be clear where everything is going, and why it matters.
When did I set that scene? Where does the first book start, and where does the last book end? Timeline is one of the most crucial elements to the believability of you work and it dictates everything from how your characters talk and dress to possibly even what food they eat and how they act towards others. Also, it’s sort of difficult to start the book in the Fall, say six months had passed and have it only be Winter. People might be concerned at the weather pattern in your novel, so it’s important to know what’s happening and when. Because you’ll need to add to this, I recommend writing in pencil.
Location, Location Location:
More than just is it a city or is it a mystical land, you should probably know what building a scene is taking place in. What does it look like? What’s the median temperature in the winter? (Yes I did look that up once for clarity). It’s important you have an idea of where exactly everything is taking place, because if you don’t, it’s likely your readers wont either.
After you’ve written your first draft, you should check back on your over all story arch and make sure everything fits. I would also recommend writing a book by book version of this kind of mapping as well, that way you make sure you have an idea where everything is going for each book as well as the overall series. If something doesn’t look right in this map, it probably doesn’t in the book either so it might be something to check out in your next round of edits.