Little (BIG) Breakthroughs in Novel Planning

Some days just make you feel ebullient, happy and ready to take on the world. Today started out that way for me, as I worked out some new plot hooks for my current work in progress (WIP from here on). The great part was realizing that one plot hook actually opened doors into other novels.

It’s no secret that I’ve written a book, but only a handful of people have read it because, well, it still needs an apeload of work. But more than anything, it needed me to clean up a little matter of the main antagonist’s motivation for why he was behaving like a big bad and generally a massive a-hole. Today, I was mulling over the same problem in my latest outline, why would Bad Guy even bother doing what he was doing, and why would Good Guy (who is a woman) even care? I don’t want to get too much into the details of the plot (read the book!… er, someday?!) but the eureka moment helped to solve the core of the problem and actually unveiled an underlying piece of the structure of my homespun(ish) universe.

The current WIP is actually the second book in a series that I’m putting together, based around one character’s growth arc. As she’s growing, the world around her is changing, dramatically. It’s not an uncommon theme for multiple book arcs for main characters, unless you’re more into just writing episodically. ThexfilesOne of my influences has always been the X-Files, I loved how there was the main storyline where Mulder is trying to dig through the layers of conspiracy and bureaucracy to find the truth about aliens visiting the earth. The thing that made the show a knockout success was taking that theme and intermingling the monster of the week episodes. Just when you were getting tired of all of the UFO stuff, you’d get hit with an episode about the Jersey Devil, a psychic killer or a humorous break with vampires. The Dresden Files is another great example. So when I stumbled across this character, who started out her life as a supporting character but became so dynamic that she moved to the front of the pack, I saw the potential to give the multi-story arc, multiple book thing a go.

Until this morning, I wasn’t sure exactly how that was going to come together, but now I’ve significantly helped my editing process in book 1 and also have a great potential plot nugget for book 3.

Hello beautiful Tuesday, thanks for coming in and body slamming Monday.

Second draft done, now looking for beta readers!

Last week, after six months of almost daily work, I finished the second draft of my novel.

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As excited as I am to send it off into the great blue yonder to make a life for itself, I wouldn’t be much of a book daddy if I did right now.

I don’t think it’s quite ready to meet the challenges of life as a fully grown, published book yet. It’s still got some plot holes, some weak dialogue and cliches that it needs to work through before becoming a mature story.

As a wise man once said, “it takes a village to raise a child and hopefully the villagers aren’t carrying torches and pitchforks.”

So I’m turning to you, my fellow village people to be my beta readers and help turn my heap of words deathless prose into a masterpiece.

Shucks, what’s a beta reader? A beta reader is you! But more specifically, it’s a person who agrees to read my book in its early state and give feedback on what you think works and what you think doesn’t. I’m not looking for line-by-line edits, people who do that are called editors, just a quick read and a temperature gauge with a few specifics would be endlessly helpful.

If you’re up for giving my fledgling novel a read and giving me some feedback, wave your hands wildly and yell, “ooh me, ooh me, me me me!” If I don’t call on you, you can also reach me through my web form or on twitter. And let me know what file format you prefer, I’ve got pdf, kindle, epub and doc.

Now, if you’ll excuse me:

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Not quite ready for Disney, a dream

From a dream I had this morning just before waking:

Scene: subterranean cavern, shadow of a human form
“Some people call me some really bad names. They accuse me of committing awful crimes.”
The shadows pull back, revealing a man with a knife cutting into a slab of meat.
“Others look at me as a hero, a sort of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.”
He cuts off a chunk of meat and feeds it to a gathering swarm of rats.
“These poor rats see it that way. And I know this BP executive probably feels like I stole something from him.”
Scene zooms out to show the man leaning over a human form and cutting chunks off of it.

No one ever accused me of having the most Disney friendly dreams but that one even shocked me a little.

Time challenges: My short fiction conundrum

The journal continues, and I’m surprised at how much pent up reflection, brainstorming, story ideas and more it’s generated for me. I journaled (I don’t care, it’s a verb to me) for years and never felt like I got much out of it. Maybe I should take a look back at those stacks of notebooks and reassess.

This morning I sat down and started thinking about short stories. I’ve never focused too much on them. I enjoy reading them but I usually defer to reading full-length novels rather than shorts, novelettes or novellas. And I feel pretty much the same about writing them. I could focus my energy on writing short stories, but I’m always afraid it will distract me from novel writing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of novelists who aren’t very good at or flat out just don’t write shorts.

On the other hand, I look back at this blog, and it’s been going in this incarnation for pushing two years now. I’ve been talking a lot about writing, the writing business and issues related to my genre. The only problem is that I don’t have anything to share with people and it occurs to me that generating some short fiction would be a quicker way to allow people to get familiar with my work.

It’s not for lack of ideas either, I’ve got a collection of story ideas that I’ve been cultivating for a long time now. I always thought they were novel ideas but being able to pick what stories can support a novel is a discussion for another time.

In the interest of starting to get some exposure around my work, I’m reconsidering my reticence to go short.  More importantly though, I’m coming at it with a definite need to become more well rounded as a writer. I need to be able to identify for myself the short vs. long boundary and be satisfied with both. Regarding time concerns, I may have to accept that this will delay the editing process on my first novel and the writing of the second. There are, unfortunately, only so many hours in the day.

Are you a traditional novelist considering getting into shorts? Are you someone who is or has been in my situation? Leave me a comment!

Update on my novel and other writing projects

Uh, hey there folks, remember me? I’m the person who started this blog as a place to talk about how my writing process has been going. I know lately I’ve sort of turned my daily posts into sharing links that I find interesting. That’ll probably continue until I get enough people together threatening me with fire if I don’t stop.

But yeah, writing. What’s been going on with that for me?

First up- the book I wrote last year. I finished it back on December 7th and what’s happened since then? Honestly, not a whole lot. I handed out some copies to some awesome folks to give me their impressions. I got some feedback from that, which was helpful but also left me wondering how to fix all the problems. This past week, I sat down and started working on THE chapter. The one that has been giving me fits. The one that had me questioning whether I could salvage the book or not. It’s been slow going but I think for the first time since December I can say that my novel is progressing. I’m not stressing anymore about editing, I’m just doing it. And I think I needed this time away from it in order to make any progress with it. Slow and low is the tempo, but we’re getting places.

Other than that, I’ve begun heavily outlining a new novel. Let’s say that I’ve learned from my experience with the first book that I’m not a “pantser” (someone who writes without a firm plan, flying by the seat of their pants). I don’t mind being a plotter, I see a lot more room for creativity this way because I can more adequately create connections intentionally within the plot ahead of time rather than clumsily  attempting to force them while in the flow.

Another bonus about doing all of the outlining ahead of time… I am capable of giving a synopsis! That was one of the most embarrassing parts about the first novel. People would ask me what it was about and I’d stammer and stutter, “it’s this guy… he’s got a thing with his family… there’s elements of the supernatural… urban fantasy? magical realism…” Yeah, when I said that to my friends and family you can imagine the looks I got. I think they suspected I was having an acid flashback and just stammering words as brilliant fields of kaleidoscopic color danced before my eyes.

I’m hoping to finish the outline in the next month to month and a half so I can begin work on the first draft. It’s a slower pace than I’d like to have but with a full time job, it’s the best I can do right now.