Preptober: Not Ruined

Just a quick note to say that I broke my streak at 4thewords.com last weekend. I didn’t write (or at least didn’t write there) for two days. That’s a big motivation killer for me. Like Mur Lafferty said in her stream (I’m paraphrasing again), “miss one day, but don’t miss the next.”

This isn’t a failure. I’m reframing it as self-care, though that’s not quite right. There are disruptive forces in life and sometimes they come very close. Sometimes they’re on a collision course. No matter what you do, you just gotta stay in orbit.

Metaphors, how do they work?

Preptober: A bit of everything

This post is just a miscellany of things I’m thinking about. I’ll have an interesting tutorial for you tomorrow!

Backwards is out for now

Well, I tried the backwards outlining and, it’s just not for me. I think perhaps I’m too familiar with the story and the way it progresses to work my way backwards. For both of the outlines I’m working on, I’m building outlines from established plans. Connie J. Jasperson mentions writing the last chapter first in her latest post and I think that will be something I try as well. While I’ve been able to discover a lot about my characters (which changes the sequence of events) the fundamental story stays the same and while the backwards outline will be something I try in December (for the second book), as we near November, as they say in the granola factory, it’s crunch time.

Windows v. Mac

I’ll be spending the next two days working on The Forest Book and making sure the second to last pass on the Snowflake outline is finished. From there I’ll build a scene outline, the roadmap I’ll use during Nanowrimo. I’m keeping all those little details and bits of dialog that pop up in my head in a Notes file in Scrivener, my go to writing software. I’ve been using the Windows beta version, but I’m thinking of getting a second-hand Mac Book and may purchase that version as well. I want to use Vellum too. I don’t know if there are issues with opening the same file in the Windows and Mac versions, I’ll have to look into it. I just can’t justify the full price of a Mac Book, not for two pieces of software. 

So much screen time

I work from home and while that gives me more opportunities to write more throughout the day, I’m spending way too much time sitting at my desk. I’ve started incorporating short walks now that the weather is cooler, but eye strain and headaches are becoming a regular thing. I think it’s time for new glasses. I have friends who swear by blue-blocking lenses, but I use F.lux and wonder if that would be overkill. Either way I’m trying to find ways to minimize the aches and pains associated with this much computer work. There’s a lot of information online, but sorting through it takes up too much time right now. 

Clickety-click

What I’m thinking about now is a new keyboard. I’ve seen YouTubers swear by the mechanical keyboard (Kate Cavanaugh has a beautiful one), but I wonder if there is something to be said for putting more work into typing and stamina. I’ve found laptop keyboards to be comfortable, if not a but small, but the feel of the “shallow” keys is more comfortable to me. I’ll have to do some research, but if you are passionate about your keyboard, please recommend it in the comments.

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. I mostly wanted to check back about my experiences with the backwards outline. I will definitely try it again when I have more space for experimentation. But right now, it’s full steam until Nov. 1st. 

Battle skills

Oops, I started a battle but ended the blog post. I have a cat scratching at the door but I don’t want to get up to let him in because that will take time away from fighting this Frizi. The Frizi is a cutie pie, but must be defeated. I need that dust! Come over to 4thewords.com and be my buddy (or not, it’s ok) and join the battle during Nanowrimo.

Preptober: Going backwards

Wow. Don’t start the day looking for opinions about outlining your novel. There is a treasure trove of information and examples, but with each gem, there is so much dirt and grime. Where people fall in the “outline or no outline” debate reveals some passionate points about art and craft and work and what it means to be a “real” writer. It’s all just shouting at your allies while author factories and AI steal readers. So, like, support each other, okay?

The reason I went on that doomed quest was to find other ideas about outlining backwards, starting with the resolution, and working your way back to the opening image. While I was freewriting yesterday, I thought this may be a good option for another project not associated with The Forest Book. It seemed like a natural fit, as this book is a different genre and more plot focused. I liked the idea of figuring out the solution and devising an epic way to get there and then slowly work the buildup. In a way it almost seemed natural.

I also think that the only reason this is appealing to me is that I’ve done a character study on my major (and a few minor) characters. There are possible plot threads that have developed out of that. Without that deeper knowledge of my characters, I don’t think outlining backwards would work as well. I have a clear idea of where I want these people to end up, what has changed about them externally and internally, where they are in their lives and careers, etc. Since I’ve figured out their ending, I feel more confident starting from there and unraveling the path they took. I’m actually a little excited to try this out.

It’s important to note here that outlining backwards is not the same as the reverse outlining, though backwards and reverse are temperamental synonyms. The reverses outline is typically done when you have a draft and you outline what you’ve already written. This can be an enormous help when dealing with plot or organizational issues as you can get a clear map of where you’ve been. People who are adamant pantsers can gain a lot of insight by reverse outlining without having to admit that outlines are helpful. They do it after the discover, you see? Nothing wrong with that. The muse has spoken, I guess.

The outlining for The Forest Book will be straightforward. As I’ve been building out the story using the Snowflake Method, I am nearing the moment when I can start sketching out scenes. After working out each character’s motivation, I feel closer to them and more aware of their desires, but also, surprisingly, have left quite a lot of space for spontaneous growth. As I get to the scene-by-scene, hopefully by the end of next week, I’ll have created a solid structure with room for play. Preptober is shaping up to be a time of experimentation for me and I’m thrilled. Remember, different books demand different things and it’s up to you to give the story what it needs.

Happy writing.

Preptober: Where are we?

As I’m reading over my old outline, I realize that there’s quite a bit of traveling going on. Not Lord of the Rings level of travel, but definitely some down time spent in a cart, or on foot, or on some sort of traveling beast that I haven’t invented yet which is really just a weird horse. Place is important in my story and the movement from place to place is important as well. How you are because of where you’re from is fundamental to the human experience, just as the experience of being from many places, or no place at all. Whether we see a place a the root of our lives or the runway, there is a moment where that place imprints upon us its unique features. The language, the culture, the clime are influential to the individual and to the society groups of individuals build.

I made a map, years ago, and for now the map still holds. While the details of the places were important, at the time, their relationship to each other felt less so. However, as I uncover more and more about my characters, where they come from becomes clearer and how those places interact with each other will be central to the story. I feel like I’m dancing around a lot of things, trying to provide valuable information without giving too much away. It’s not that the story or its details need to be kept close, but there is that weird feeling that when I put an idea into the world, it sticks and I may not be able to change it later. It’s silly, I know, but there it is.

It’s no secret that when your working title for a book is called The Forest Book, the forest is going to play a critical role in your story. In my mind, this particular forest is a collage of places: the autumn crispness of a New England wood, the mossy draperies at the foot of Mr. Rainier, the dark recesses of the suburban copse, the last holdout against the invasion of brick and macadam. All of these forests make up this one and while botanically there may be issue with some of its characteristics, in a fantasy, the world is (mostly) mine to create. If I want velvety logs and crunchy undergrowth, then I’ll have it. But those scenes haven’t been written yet.

Travel is also important and while we don’t stay in the forest long, for at least one character, it travels with them. I think how that sense of place comes with us when we enter a new environment is interesting, like some invisible suitcase that we heft along, with only one sticker on the side that says “home.” We evoke where we’re from as we encounter a new culture or a new clime and can’t help comparing the two. For some, one is always better, depending on their love of the other. For those without the “home” sticker, perhaps every place is a potential home and embraced with the curiosity and joy that we should bring to everything. For a few, they’re just passing through, having seen so much they understand the underlying truth of the world: people are the same where ever you go.

I think, moving forward, and as a way to procrastinating doing the scene-by-scene part of my outline, I will do “Character” sheets for my places, giving them a personality, a history, and maybe some sort of goal. Even if that goal is merely to persist, each place has different means of doing so. The forest must seed itself.

  • Place Name:
  • Climate Characteristics:
  • Boundary Places:
  • Trade Routes, Partnerships:
  • Main Human Activity:
  • Main Environmental Activity:
  • Main Environmental Threat: