Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Done with Medusan Mutation!

Medusan Mutation is done! Yay! I started it on January 20th and finished it on February 20th. Not too bad at all! It was a relatively easy book to write since it was a rewrite of an older book, of course, but I still feel a great deal of satisfaction at getting it done. I'm always amazed at how much improvement I've made from one version to the next. I like to pull up older stuff to work on now and then. It gives me just the right 'yes, you do write better than you used to!' charge that helps me go on to new stuff with some confidence.

But it's done, and I'm happy!

Well, done enough for the moment, anyway. I've changed two names so far. I also need to let it sit for a couple weeks and then read it again.

The picture today is of my work board that I used while I worked on the book. Since Medusan Mutation is part of a much larger universe, I found it handy to jot down anything that would be used again elsewhere, and pinned the notes to the board. That allowed me to keep track of things for this book and for the future as well. Over the next few days, I'll pull them down and type the material into an Access database, which will allow me to pull it up again later for other work.

The cork board is sitting on the floor against the wall. I found out by accident (not able to put it up by myself) that this actually works very well for me. It's right where I can see and reach it, and it was no problem to add new notes, change things, and scribble stuff on older notes already pinned there as I went along.

I've tried doing stuff like this before, but it never worked as well as it did this time. I used a draft copy manuscript and tore it into fours. I could have used notecards (I have a ton of them around there somewhere) but when I do, I feel like I have to write important things, and do it neatly and file it properly. This was just scratch paper with little notes on it. Worked very well.

Working in a universe that has several stories means that I'm bound to make continuity mistakes. This will help cut those problems down, at least. I had already started to build the database late last year, but getting info into it just bogged down. I like this much better.

I am now at a very odd stage where I'm not certain what I'll work on next. I have several pieces that need to be done -- a workshop for Vision, and about 30k on the last Dark Staff book which came in very short. That's the one I need to concentrate on. I think I can get it done between now and the 8th, when I will start a new novel.

I am still managing 3,000 words a day. I've love that part, though looking at the rest of today (only about 600 words so far and nothing new lined up) looks a bit difficult. Maybe I'll write a new short story. I have not written enough short stories the last few years, and I miss them.

I have editing to do, too. I want a couple things done soon.

But it's going well, really. A nice, good prolific year, with a little over 150,000 words written so far, and lots of editing done as well. Next up is getting the rest of Vision put together.

I'm happy! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Organization and ideas


I think my word for this year should be 'organization' which I've gotten about half right -- or half write, as I started to type. The writing is going very well this year so far. My 'writing comes first' attitude is really paying off this time. I am almost 60k into Medusan Mutation and almost 120k for the year so far.

But, even better, I'm almost on top of things for my other work. I have an odd little schedule written out on a white board, with something on each day of the week. The only one I fall down on is Sunday, which is when I always mean to update this blog. That's all I have listed for that day, but even so, I seem to find something else I need to do. But then again, I purposely put something odd there just so I wouldn't worry too much if I was trying to get other things caught up.

Because there will always be other things, of course. The great trick to this year, though, is to get the writing done before I let all the rest of it take over every available moment I have. I am still writing 3k a day -- I could do more if I wanted to, but instead I've been letting myself play with art and pictures and even -- the muses help me -- cleaning house. We're all happier for it so far.

The important part about being prolific isn't the ability to type 3k words a day, though. The important part is having the ideas to keep a story moving and to move on to a new story when that one is done. About half of the words I've written so far this year has been on brand new (not even an outline) material. The other half has been the rewrite of an older novel. I think it might be important for me to alternate sometimes between the two. I could keep writing 3k a day of brand new stuff, sometimes with an outline and sometimes without, but then I would just build up more material that I need to work on again later. Not all of it will need drastic rewrites, though. I have learned a lot about writing in the last few years. Some will only need editing. Right now I'm also editing a novel (Gathering), and I don't count the work in the daily word count, though I do try to get at least 5 pages a day averaged at the end of the month.

Coming up with new stories is difficult for many people. I never much had that problem because I never really worried about 'will this work' or 'am I wasting my time.' Even after I set my rule of finishing everything I start, I still don't linger too much over those two problems. I think I have honed a sense for knowing when I have something that will usually work for me -- and the few that haven't been what I expected, turned out to be very interesting to fix.

There's the important thing, I suppose. You can't be afraid to write, and you can't be afraid of your story ideas. It's far too easy to say tell yourself that something isn't good enough, or that it's not original enough, or any other thing that stops you from examining an idea and expanding it into something you want to write.

And there -- there is the other important part of being prolific. You have to be working on things you want to write, or else you're not going to want to work. If you don't like the story, how can you expect anyone else to like it? Writing is about passion, and you have to feel the passion to put it into the story.

I just posted something over at FM which fits very well with being prolific. Here is what happens when I get an idea:

I read a great deal of nonfiction, and I find a plethora of ideas in just about everything. Here's how that works for me:

I am currently reading a book about birds. Actually, it's the 7th volume of a 13 volume encyclopedia of animals. Yes, I've read the previous six and intend to read the rest as well.

Idea one: Many raptors respond aggressively to the sight of weak or wounded prey.

Idea two: Some kites gather in large numbers around the nests of birds like gryphon vultures begging for scraps of food.

Idea three: Many birds of prey have a sort of 'free zone' around their nesting areas where they will not hunt. It is possible for normal prey animals to live and even rear young in these areas without fear of being hunted. Since the birds also defend their areas against other intruders, they are sometimes well protected.

The moment I read the first one I had the vision of a human and some other being traveling together, and all goes well until the human is wounded and brings out the predator/prey scenario. I saw it as a double-edged problem -- that the other being isn't stupid and has to fight against his own instincts.

And the second one brought to mind a group of other beings along on the journey, subservient to the 'raptor' and maybe hoping he will kill the human for them.

The third brought the idea of trying to reach a sort of safe zone of some sort.

My first thought was science fiction. It would be easy to build an alien race like this (and, in fact, I have one novel where this might all fit in very well and improve the story). However, I thought it might be more interesting, and a nice twist, to create this as a fantasy story instead. Maybe human-like descendents of dragons?

The moment I thought of that, I remembered some material I'd read about nomads in the Mediterranean area -- about the paths they marked as their own, about seeding some fields before they left so that their herds would have food when they returned the next season, etc. There was another tie to the 'safe zone' idea somehow.

Suddenly, I'm starting to see a wider world growing. I see problems over land use, the possibility of a war between two sets of beings -- humans and the others -- and an ambassador who is purposely injured at a time that will make him vulnerable and maybe help push the two groups into war.

Two characters start to emerge immediately. Actually the first character, the human, came to me the moment I thought of the idea. I am character driven and I saw him, hiding among some bushes, his elegant clothing ragged, his broken leg braced, his arm and neck wrapped in cloth that shows blood. He has a makeshift weapon in hand, but he doesn't think it will do him any good.

This led me to think about what is hunting him. Dragon descendent? That still somewhat appeals to me, though I might change it later. She -- yes, she -- is tall, elegant, and bright-eyed, with a crest of vivid colored hair. Emerald green, perhaps, which matches her eyes. She is given to the impulses of her kind and she's already wounded the human, which angers her, that she hasn't had that kind of control. She wants to get him back because he's heading into dangerous territory.

And besides, she's marked him as hers now.

Just so you know, I'm making all of this up as I type. I only read the parts of the nonfiction book a little while ago, and it's starting to fall into place for a story. It needs far more, of course. I'll need reasons for everything, and depth for the cultures, and especially reasons why someone would want the two groups at war.

What is the level of development for the two cultures? Why are they clashing? How can they come to terms? Who are the allies and who are the enemies of both?

This could develop into something interesting, and all from a half dozen pages in a nonfiction book on birds.

You just have to be open to ideas and learn how to warp them. (grin) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The First Month

Here we are at the first of February already! I did well in January.

I started out the year with a plan to write 3,000 words a day. The first step was to write 1000 words first thing, before I ever looked at emails, websites, or anything else that might take my attention or require work. The plan worked very well. By the first week, those first 1000 words were the easiest writing I'd done in a long time. I was still struggling with the other two thousand words, though. But then, I got a bit ahead. I was getting my 3k done about midnight, and since I'm a late night person, I'd start working on the next day's material right afterwards. I'd do 1000 before I went to bed... and then a 1000 first thing the next day. The remaining 1000 words turned out to be very easy, fit in between while I did other work.

So, I wrote one 50,000 word story (either longer than I wanted or shorter than I needed -- I still can't decide!), and two 4,000 word short stories. After that I went to work on a novel that badly needed a rewrite from scratch, and it's going very well. I wrote about 94,500 words for January.

I also edited 162 pages worth of material, and that went far better than I could have hoped. I'm about half way through one book that I will soon have off to the publisher.

Last year, there were many days I had to fight to get the words written. It wasn't that I didn't want to write -- that has never happened. However, I went through a great deal of outside stress last year, and my writing paid for it. Work also piled up that I had to get done, and knowing I had that stuff, it weighed on me when I tried to write.

I decided it wouldn't be that way in 2007.

Sometimes, the biggest part of writing, and especially about being prolific, is just attitude. It's easy to let other things take the time you could devote to writing. It's easy to let your mind worry about so many things that there's no room for a story to grow. I decided I would not do that this year. I wanted to have a good time writing again, and the best way to do it was to allow myself to enjoy the fun of writing again.

Here's another thing for this year -- I have not worked with a single outline. The rewrite of an older novel is the closest to one, and could probably pass for one, considering how close to the original story I'm staying. But the first three pieces I wrote were completely without any planning. I love doing that now and then, but I also like writing the more complex, layered stories that come together so well with an outline.

I don't watch much TV and I don't go to the movies. I used to, but writing took the place of that sort of entertainment years ago. I would rather 'watch' my stories unfold than watch most shows. I still read, but not as much as I used to, and more often it's nonfiction than fiction. I learn things. (Did you know that swans are really just very long-necked geese?) I find it all fascinating.

But mostly I write. It is both my first love and my most important job. I'm not going to let either of those facts get lost this year.

Oh, and the new Sangre story is up on my Storybook blog. Have fun!

http://zettestorybook.blogspot.com/ Posted by Picasa