Digging Into Plot

Yesterday I pulled out my synopsis and I started making notes. Finally!

I’m really glad I wrote the synopsis now. It makes it easier to figure out where to change things. My notes are in dark blue, littering the typed pages.

Today I think I’ll add green or purple, whichever I can find first. I like adding a different color to show different kinds of work, and today I’ll be making a new line for the plot. It might take two or three times to get where I need to go and changing colors in the notes helps me see which direction I’m going.

As opposed to all black and white- then I’ll forever be scratching things out that don’t work.

Makes me think I should’ve done all this work before I wrote the book, but I didn’t develop the synopsis first.

Why oh why didn’t I do the synopsis first?

Well, I suppose I haven’t yet outlined a book before I’ve written it. The Art of Science might have been the exception because I had a chapter guide before I wrote it – but that one changed away from the outline version completely, too.

Do any of those writing books out there mention the people who have to write the rough draft before being able to look at the plot structure and make it better? I wonder if I might be one of those people.

The Market Says

Discussing the magazine market with my friend, she said there was a bigger market for ‘how to write’ especially in the speculative fiction field than there was for the fiction. She’s been researching for her own magazine, and I don’t doubt it.

But it’s a little funny, since in order to write for any genre you need to be familiar with the genre. Of course, they’re probably buying books instead of magazines, but why?

If we’re out for the short story market, it’s best to get our hands on the actual publication we want to have purchase our work. (I’m sure that’s best in every market.) Wouldn’t that make the demand equal for both products?

Are we trying to write in a vacuum?

Maybe we’re listening to the characters in our head. What’s to stop them from taking over the story? Not that it’s bad for them to take over the story, that’s part of what happens when they become real to the author. I guess I’m asking: How do we know they have the best plot possible, if we have nothing to compare to?

Not that we want to redo a plot. I know I’ve heard Twilight has a lot of similarities to Wuthering Heights (can’t be bad to be compared with a classic), but I wonder sometimes where the line can be drawn between using an old plot with newish characters, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the arguable every plot can be traced back to one of [insert number of plots below 50 you think there are].

Have you ever wondered what the true fascination with Zombies really is? I think if I get around to reading those re-makes, I’ll choose Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters instead…

Monday Again

Bummer!

It seems odd to get attached to certain days of the week, but how often do you hear people say things like, “Oh, I can’t wait until Friday.” Friday may still be three days away, but they’re pushing through their weeks to get there. Barely enough time to enjoy the weekend, and another week hits.

Why are we trying to travel so fast through the days? It’s not like we’re given extra. Even Mondays have their place, and I suppose I wouldn’t prefer other days if there weren’t Mondays to compare them with.

Like I stop calling the early hours of morning the “ugly” hours as long as I get to sleep through them, I’d campaign to sleep through Monday, but that’s a lot of sleep time. I don’t think my daughter would go for it anyway. Since she’s the one who determines my schedule, we’re stuck with Mondays.

We’re stuck with the ugly hours, too, until she learns to sleep through the night.

I have a to-do list a mile long, and finally my plot is figuring itself out for my current project. Yes, I’m still talking about Don’t Tell Your Mother, the one I had the editor give me comments on weeks ago. It just takes forever for the words to really seep into my head and do their damage.

Not really damage – I think it’s going to make it better. A lot better, I hope.

Then I read about authors who hand out their synopses to people they know looking for opinions. They use the information to develop the plot of the next novel. I could do that, but I’m not sure about the feedback I would receive from my friends.

As in, would I receive feedback?

I think I need an advisory board. A bunch of people who read books similar to what I’d like to write, and maybe not so similar, but also willing to meet and discuss a prepared outline. Sounds like fun to me…

Does anyone out there 1- outline in advance to develop the plot and 2- run it by a group of people for comments?

Old Novels

I think everyone has a novel idea in them somewhere. Not that everyone writes a novel or has the desire to, but the ideas are in there.

Some of these people talk about the idea to others. Sometimes people even start writing.

Do you ever wonder what happens to these ideas?

I think some of them get talked out. Eventually there is no way the paper version could even measure up to the image, or pieces get lost in the telling.

Some of them languish after a start and never get finished.

I’ve learned writing a novel is hard work. It doesn’t happen in a day or a week or usually not even a month. Those of us who finish NaNoWriMo are exhausted, with 50,000 words (more or less) to our names, and realize it needs a total overhaul before it’s really worth anything.

But most first drafts are like that.

I have two languishing from my past. One stretches back to high school, and I have notes and sketches about it somewhere. I’m not sure I ever really knew where the project was going. I’m not sure I could figure it out now. But maybe I’ll save some of those characters to make into something in the future.

The other one is much more recent- only four years past. I didn’t do enough world building at the beginning, and I’m almost to where I can make another go at it. My ideas have changed as the world has evolved. For the better, I think.

Either way, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t had those ideas. I definitely wouldn’t be a writer today if I only talked about them and didn’t put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard as the case goes now.

I read advice that says to write your ideas instead of talking about them, and for the most part I follow that advice. For one thing, it helps me hone that 100 word pitch for when I’m ready to shop it out.

Plotting

I managed to get my daughter  down for a long nap this afternoon. (She really needed it – she didn’t get a good one in the morning.) While I also caught up on my chores, I got out my notes from the novel project I abandoned a couple years ago. About three, but who’s counting?

I didn’t completely abandon it; I just realized about seven chapters in that I didn’t have enough of a background in the world and I’d written myself into a corner, plotwise. Setting it aside for a time put things in perspective and made me realize what I needed to make it more real for me.

I’ve done some sketches since then. I have a couple left to do, but the approach now is completely different. Sometimes I wonder if my friends are going to yell at me since it’s going through such a large change in focus. Sorry, but you’ll have to live! I might be on the right track this time. I still have things to work out, so it’ll be awhile.

It just feels so good to be going back to it.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Recently I read a book (an adult novel) where the main character lived near his parents. Next door, in fact. An injury prevented him from doing many things on his own, and as a consequence his mother often cooked or one of his parents would drive him around. While he hated being dependent, he didn’t have many other options.

Young Adult (or even Children’s) novels often differ from adult novels. Adult novels often lack the parents and siblings found in the younger genres. Part of this might be due to setting: at those ages people must interact with parents and siblings (if any) because they live together. Even orphans have foster families or extended families to fill the gaps.

And as any young adult knows, those family relationships are ripe for conflict. Something always provides conflict at home – usually someone. Who do you pick for the bad guy – Dad? Mom? Siblings? All of the above? To make a good novel, the conflict must be strong; the worse the bad guy can be, the better for the story. Often the mundane details from ‘real life’ are too dull to hold the reader’s attention for an entire novel.

Is that a comment about how our adult lives change? We’re no longer with our family from our childhood; we grow and change and build new families. It made me think, anyway.

Reading

A lot of writers I know talk about how important it is to read. We don’t always make distinctions on whether it should be good or bad pieces, or in our genre or not.

One of my friends started a goal to read a book in print every day. Then it started catching, and we’re all trying to remember that reading is a great way to learn. It isn’t just about emulating an author – we all have our own styles. It’s also about being inspired to be better, and keeping an example around to remind us what we’re working toward. It just makes sense, because books are what led us to want to be writers anyway.

I’ve read there is a time where it isn’t the best idea to be reading, but it’s only during a certain time period when writing a novel. The point was not to get discouraged because someone else wrote something better (that’s always going to happen) and not to give up. I think everyone who’s attempted a novel knows that point, and if reading changes how you feel at that point you should definitely give it up for a time.

Sometimes, however, I feel we get too wrapped up in our own stuff and forget to read the other things out there. How do we stay in touch with our target audience if we don’t know what else they’re reading?

Writers on writing…

I should be writing.

That’s the name of the site and the podcast by Mur Lafferty. I listened to this podcast in the car yesterday, and I learned a bit about podcasting through the interview with Scott Sigler. The website has more information – a great resource for budding writers.

Scott Sidler was adamant with his last contract about wanting to give away his novel for free. But, wait, we’re authors for a living, don’t we need to make some money? He talks about the younger generation wanting things online, and he gets our feet wet with podcasting, for free, a chapter a week. His point is that although some will wait for the entire novel at that rate (3 or 4 months), others will go out and buy the book that is already available in the bookstores. He’s increased his audience that way.

Made me think about that novel I have coming out. With a Young Adult audience, it’s very likely that could spread the story to places I can’t travel to or otherwise might not reach.

It’s something I think I will look into and discuss with my publisher.

Book Wrap-Up

Amazing. At some point you think you’re done, and you find the little things that are left. Almost done. I might even have my copy in a month or so. It doesn’t feel real.

I got the cover and I love it! It’s done well and very colorful. Sometime this week I’ll post it on site with a new page for the book. I know everyone’s been waiting patiently, but it’s finally here!

I must keep reminding myself this is really fast for a book. It’s only been a year coming.

Opportunities

As a writer, bringing in money can be a concern – especially when starting out. There are hundreds of opportunities to be found; each has pros and cons. The best case scenario is to be supported by the craft, but in the beginning it takes time.

Most of us have supportive spouses who try to understand our crazy tendencies to write in spite of what else could be done. Watch TV? No, thanks, I can get another chapter out instead. Weed the garden? I can still see the things I planted, give it another week until I get this drafted. Those examples aren’t always realistic, but we do have to steal time in our schedule to finish our projects wherever we can. We juggle jobs and families and chores in the hope that we can share our creative talents.

Jobs are difficult. They provide security, but also take most of our energy. Few can push on after a full day, and a part-time option doesn’t pay the bills. The indulgent spouse may offer an opportunity to stay at home for awhile, especially to save on child-care.

Even when we do manage some success, publish that novel or several short stories (or both), it can still be a long time between paychecks. Some of us cover it with freelancing, or using other talents to fill the gaps. I’ve been looking at several options lately, and while it surprises me to figure out how many options there are, I struggle to decide what the best option is.

For now, I’m attempting Helium, but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep other things in mind.

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