Saturday, October 29, 2011

Preparing for my NaNo Mini Vacation

This will be my 11th NaNo year.  I have won every year, and done multiple full novels all but the first year.  I love it.  I love the chance to fly.  However. . . .

A couple weeks ago, about the time I realized I could not get the outline for Water/Stone/Light done before November 1st, I began considering not doing NaNo this year. I started feeling as though there was just too much stuff piling up and I couldn't get enough done in time.  I started listing out all the stuff, and by the time I had eight things on the list I had already noticed something rather odd.

Everything except the newsletter turned out to be something I did for other people and without pay.


So I rethought everything again.  I pushed forward on getting some things done, told a few people they would have to wait, and went to work on the Bunny Hopper outline, which I actually got done and early.  Then I threw myself into the rewrite of Devlin 1 as well, just because I'd been letting my own stuff go a bit.  I always finish my projects by January 1 and I realized I was running out of time with too many projects sitting there in my folder.

And I decided that I can take a few days just to leap in and do something fun.

I'm a happier person now.  I will be writing like mad for the first few days of NaNo.  I'll have a newsletter to do during that time, but I'm hoping it won't be too difficult.  I plan to have everything else that has to be done cleared away by then.  

The first week of NaNo really is my little vacation.  I love to write, but like everyone else in the world, real life and obligations take precedence over what I want to do too often.  Truthfully, I could not write all the time like I do at NaNo.  I wouldn't want to.  But I can take a few days to really live in the heart of a story and enjoy the magic that comes from it.

I have two of my three outlines printed off.  I'll do the last one today.   The first is Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper, a fun little urban fantasy. The other two are books 5 and 6 from my Devlin science fiction series.  I already had the outlines done last year, and I'm glad I hadn't written them yet.  They are perfect for a year when I don't have as much time to prepare as I would like.  I have a fourth outline I might use if I need it.  Or, if I still have time after these three, I might go for something without an outline at all.  Those have been fun for NaNo in the past.

Can you tell I'm getting fired up about it again?

I don't know how well I'll do this year.  There is stuff going on that may stop me entirely.  It would, of course, be easier to just say 'oh, things don't look good, I won't do it' and bow out.  What fun would that be?  No, I'm leaping in and enjoying myself.

Year 11, here I come!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zette's Take: How Outlines Work

We are not all the same and neither we do not all work the same.  Nothing is as simple as 'this' or 'that' when it comes to writing and that includes working with outlines.  People approach them in different ways and create different types of outlines.  I don't expect people who dislike working with outlines to suddenly jump up and embrace them.  However, I do think outlines are often misunderstood. 

People who don't work with an outline seem to assume that creating one is the same as telling the story, all planned out and complete, and there's nothing more to it.  This isn't true: An outline is almost always little more than a series of plot points.  There might be a few notes and even something that says 'Tom is mad' at some point.  Creating one is just as much an act of discovery as writing a first draft without one.  Outlines also often include questions on the trouble areas which might be fuzzy -- you know something is going to happen, but until you get to that spot, you can't tell how the forces are going to come together.

The story itself only occurs when the characters interact with those plot points.  Until the characters come alive on the story page, it's little more than a set of stage directions.  In other words, an outline is all about tell; the story is about show. 

Having an outline does not mean I won't discover other interesting things along the way as I write the story.  For me, in fact, an outline means I am more open to discovery.  With an outline, I'm not focusing all my creativity on discovering what happens next in the big plot or what I have to change earlier based on a new direction -- or change back when the new direction doesn't work.  With an outline, I've experimented with those things already and (I hope) worked out the problems so the plot movement is set.  If something didn't work in the outline, I cut a couple hundred words instead of several thousand. My focus is now far wider than merely moving the plot along.  Knowing the direction I'm going means I get to look at all the odd little bits and pieces around the main events and create even more interesting links into the story plot. 

My stories are richer since I began outlining.  I also have far less revision to do later because I make certain the basic plot is going to work from start to finish before I begin writing.  This doesn't mean everything will always work perfectly, but I have stacked the deck in my favor.

Having worked both with and without outlines, I can tell you that for me there is no difference in the actual writing.  It's always exciting because the story starts to come alive once the real writing begins.  With an outline in hand, I can move in the flow of the story just by glancing at my little 'cue cards' to keep going.  I don't step back out of writing until I have hit the time constraints of real life.

And, of course, the story will change as the characters grow.  No outline should ever be 'this and nothing else' to an author.  You might drop whole sections, add new things, change a character's direction, and all without destroying the overall plot line.  By having worked out the outline, I know the story I want to tell.  I am not going to diverge too much from the basic storyline to tell a different story that suddenly comes to me.  That's what other books are for.

To be honest, if I wrote an outline and then wasn't interested enough to write the story, I'd think the story wasn't very good to begin with.  (It's like people telling me they hate to edit because they already know the story.  Ack.  If you're so uninterested in your story that you can't even look at it a second time to make it better, how can you expect the reader to like it at all?)  If the outline plot is so boring I don't want to make it into a real story, then it's just as well it never goes any farther.  I do have one outline that has been holding off for years because I know there is some basic 'magic' that is still missing from the storyline and I haven't happened on what it needs yet.  I'll get to it eventually.

In the meantime, I'm just finishing one outline and really looking forward to writing the story.  I can see the path I'm going to take, and I can't wait to find the adventures there.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Release: Lucky

Lucky is a short story from the IWC Universe and was previously published by Yard Dog Press in my Star Bound collection.  The 'lucky' person is Misea, a woman released early from prison and given a job working construction on the new Shepherd Station.  She's determined to stay out of trouble.

That's not going to work, of course.  Especially since there's already been acts of sabotage at the site.  Misea is about to find herself right back in the center of trouble.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Announcing Guest Post

First, check out my Nanowrimo guest post at Wrimos FTW!

Second, I am nearly done with the outline for The Wrath of Bunny Hopper.  It's inching closer to a good size for this story, so I'm pretty happy with it.  With two Devlin outlines lined up to go with it, I can stop fretting over not having Water/Stone/Light done in time for this year.  I'll start it on January 1.

Life is going to be a bit rough for a while.  Temps are already dropping below freezing and I still don't have a working furnace, just a single plug in room heater.  I don't do well with cold and this is going to put me in a bad mood until I get something worked out, which should be soon.

Otherwise I am going to spend November in bed with my little Netbook and the electric blanket.  Probably a few cats, too.

Time to get back to work, though.  Running out of time to get all the little NaNo things done before November 1, not to mention a few of those pesky real life things that are getting in the way.

NaNo is near!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Love Editing: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour 4

I love editing

No really, I do. I love being able to take a story and nudge it closer to what I first imagined. Many of you have seen my line -- the only story you can't fix is the one you never write. I truly believe that, though I'll concede that authors may have an occasional story that would take more time to fix than is worth the effort.

Or that can be a convenient excuse and some authors give up too easily.

But then I'm the person who finishes every first draft she starts, so my view might be slightly skewed.

Editing is about attitude. You have to want to make the story better, not merely edit because it's required. This isn't school work. This is about creating something you'll be proud to have others read.

One of the most common complaints I hear from people about editing is that they already know the story and it bores them to do the work. Come on, people. If you can't stand to look at your story a second time, then why did you even bother to write it? If it bores you, it certainly isn't going to be interesting for anyone else to read, right? If you want to be published, you better be writing things that don't bore you, let alone anyone else. You have to be writing stories you love so much you want to make them as good as possible.

Obviously, not wanting to see the story again is a very bad attitude to have and probably more often hides the true nature of why they don't want to edit: They don't want to work that hard.

Editing is hard work. For many of us, it means learning things that didn't much interest us in school -- of course back then we may not have realized those excruciating English classes would have a practical purpose later in life. So now we stack our desks with dictionaries, a thesaurus or two and a few books on grammar in hopes of finding the hidden treasures in language. We check oddities and recheck things we think we know.

We know there's not much of a chance we'll get everything right, but that's no excuse not to try.

You want to write the best book you can from the start, and learning to edit will help. After you start learning what mistake you have been making, you stop making them. This means less editing later.

Grammar is only part of it, though. The rest of editing is the part where you take scenes and make them closer to what you really wanted when you first imagined the story. You choose better words, better phrases and cut away the excess.

Overused words are a problem for many people. Here is a wonderful free tool that can be used online or downloaded called Manuscript Analyzer:  which has been a wonderful help. I especially check the frequent offenders and adverbs. Remember, though, that adverbs exist for a reason. Just don't over use them!

If you are like me, you start searching for ways to describe things with better terms. Some people do this every step of the way -- go over each line several times as they write it. I don't work that way because I lose the flow of the story. So I write fast first drafts and then I put the work aside and write something else. I come back to the first story after some time which makes it far easier to edit. A story or two between has cleared the work from my mind so that when I write, I don't see what I expect to be there, but what I had actually written.

And I have a lot of fun playing with it. Sometimes, too much fun. I don't want to let it go, which is a problem a lot of authors have when it comes to editing. Some people edit so much, thinking to get every line grammatically correct, that they take away all the flavor and style of the piece.

Editing is not about making better sentences; it's about making better stories.

This means that occasionally you are going to end up with lines which fit the story but may not fit the grammar books. Great stories are not about perfect grammar. They are about the soul of the story and the way in which the author helps us see the work.

Only you, as the author, can forge this link to the reader and you do so by wanting to create the very best story you can. And that means you have to practice the art of editing.

This is all the more important for people who have taken the Indie Author route and self-published. Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation often mar otherwise wonderful stories and will lose the author a future reader.

I guess that brings up the real question: Who are you writing for? First, you must write for yourself. If you don't like the story, you can't expect anyone else to. That doesn't mean the story has to be fun, but it has to be something you want to tell and do so well.

After you have written the story for yourself, do you want to share with others? If not, you don't need to do anything more. Put it away and read it later if you like. No more work. However, if you are an author who is writing for the public, you have more to do. Set up a schedule for it and do five pages a day then go on to write something else. Let that be your reward for getting the editing done.

And remember to watch that attitude.

If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers and find out what's on their nightstands, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Change in NaNo Plans

I had the feeling, the more I worked with Water/Stone/Light, that this might happen.  The world is complex, the story intricate -- and I can't rush it, even in outline.  I might get the outline done before NaNo, but I decided I had better have something ready if it slows down again.

My second choice for NaNo this year has always been a fun Urban Fantasy called The Wrath of Bunny Hopper.  The outline is going together well and I might have that one done by early next week.  I also have two outlines from the Devlin (sf) series and even a contemporary YA mystery outline I've had for a few years.  So I am not without work for NaNo.

I am enjoying the Bunny Hopper story.  It's light, fun fare with a feel like my 2005 NaNo novel, Kat Among the Pigeons  I like Bunny's voice and I think she's going to be a great deal of fun to write.

Changing focus eased a great deal of stress for me at a time when everything seems to be nerve-racking.  A fun story sounds like just the sort of thing I want, and I am already half way through the outline for it.  So that's good. This will be a short novel -- maybe 60k.  I'm looking forward to writing the story.

Which is good because NaNo isn't very far away.  Ack!  17 days to go!  The new boards are up at the NaNo site, with all the usual new board NaNo problems.  It doesn't matter.  Many people are there and starting to get excited.  And panicked. Even I had a moment of panic when I thought I wouldn't have an outline done.  Then I realized I had outlines just waiting for me.

And besides, I've done NaNo without any outline, and I'm half tempted to just give that a try for one of the books this year.  We'll see how things go. 

If I get The Wrath of Bunny Hopper done in the next couple days, I think I'll go back to work on Water/Stone/Light.  I'm getting more ideas for it, too.  I hoped that would happen if I just stepped back and took some of the pressure off for it and other work.  I'm even avoiding some bits of research and world building for Bunny because these are things I can add in later.  In this case, I am going to write the story line and then adapt what needs changed when I settle on the setting.  I have an idea of where I want the book to take place, and I haven't been there in years.  However, I know enough to get through the first draft, at least!

And there is the huge difference between writing an urban fantasy and a fantasy in a brand new, just creating it world, of course.  Bunny will require some world building work, but not any true world building creation for most of the story.

As we get closer and closer to NaNo, I will be ever more crazy.  That's good.  I need a little fun insanity in my world.  So I am looking forward to NaNoWriMo and The Wrath of Bunny Hopper.

Let's get on to the fun.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Back to work, I hope

Russ has been back in New York for several days. I'm having trouble getting back into any routine, and I'm still not quite working well, but I'll get there. I'm running out of time! NaNo is coming! And I have two unfinished outlines! ACK!

I've taken a little time from Water/Stone/Light to work on The Wrath of Bunny Hopper. This is a faster story to outline (relatively speaking -- even it is fighting me!) and this way I'll be sure to have at least one of them done. Water/Stone/Light takes far more work because of building the entire world and it requires that I focus completely on it. Bunny is a light-hearted urban fantasy and with the help of some people in the Forward Motion Chat the other night (Personally, I think we were all up way too late!) I figured out the structure of the bad guys she's facing. Today, as I was waking up, I got the last link of how the trouble started. So all is good there, except for the actual outline.

I'm not certain why I'm not clicking on the work yet, but I'm sure I'll get there. Just have to make certain I get there before November 1!

And in other news, I screwed up and didn't get either Ada Nish Pura or Summer Storm up on Amazon yet. Just way too much going on, and it skipped right past me. I'll be doing that this weekend. I don't know how I managed to miss them both.

Someone had posted a link to one of Konrath's posts earlier on Twitter. I didn't notice it is an older post and made a quick answer. The post was 'Same Tired Arguments'

This was my answer:

The biggest problem I have with both sides is often an 'either/or' sort of attitude. You are trying different things to see what works. You have that opportunity because you are in control. This has nothing to do with being a hypocrite. It's being wise and taking advantage of your ability to see what works because it is in your hands. Adaptation to change is one of humanities greatest abilities and we can see it even in this. None of us are 'hidebound' (so to speak) and must continue in one way when something new comes along.
And for all we know, everything could change again next month.
A few years ago, I was still in the 'no, don't self-publish' realm as well. Several of my published friends (Holly Lisle, C.J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher among others) finally brought me out of the dark ages. In the few months I've actually been part of the Indie revolution, I've sold more than I ever did in my few print publications -- and that without a huge amount of marketing because I'm still stumbling around on that part.
I own Forward Motion for Writers; this year we have an Indie section. I publish Vision: A Resource for Writers and this year it has an Indi area as well. I have a small company of associated Indi authors which will soon have more than just my work out. (Mine to start with because I am prolific and we could experiment with some of my material.) We have our own editor.
But that doesn't mean I won't send something to a traditional publisher if I think it's a good idea. Granted, I know to watch those contracts.
No one is required to become an independent author. I have other friends who are very happy where they are in the traditionally published world and others whose dream is to see their book on a shelf in a store. (Let's hope the stores survive.) I love print and ebook. I read some of both almost every day. I will not give up my print books. But I won't give up my ebooks, either.
Right now, at least, it's not an either/or world in any sense. Embrace it all. This is the most exciting time to be an author since the invention of the printing press.

So I am basically in the 'do whatever you want camp -- but do it well.' And stop complaining about what others are doing. If you don't like ebook readers, don't get one. You're needlessly limiting yourself, but that's your choice.