Monday, November 24, 2014

YA YA! I did it :-D Two announcements

13574102525_ec06db3eb8Announcement #1 -- I finished the outline for Night Shift :-D I've never written one before but here it is, in its shiny imperfection.

There are 3 or 4 minor holes, to be honest. No, really, minor ones. I'm not sure HOW certain things happen but I know they do happen. I've dealt with that kind of issue before and my muse has always helped me work through it.

I'd like to say that forcing myself to sit down, sit still, and deal with plot problems head-on has been enlightening. I didn't think I could solve writing problems like that. But writing by the seat of my pants only gets me into trouble I can't get out of, so rather than keep on doing the same thing and expecting a different result, I did something different. I marched right up to those Gordian knots, cut through some and untied others.

Writing by "pantsing", for me, is like letting a young child run loose. The poor kid has no sense of priorities and no sense of direction. There's a feeling that everything has to be investigated because you might miss the BEST opportunity if you skip looking into even one treehole.

However, once I put side-blinders on and forced myself to focus only what was in front me, I was able to handle the uncertainties.

Ta-da! Outline!

Yes, it's imperfect. I'm not entirely sure how much I need to explain in the outline and how much I can leave open to be solved during chapter writing. Some points may be cliched or cheesy or weak or impractical or impossible, but they keep the framework of the story up for now. That leads me to --

Announcement #2 -- Someone has agreed to professionally critique my outline, and then my chapters :-D Art Edwards was co-founder and bassist for The Refreshments (no, not the Swedish band!). If you've seen the TV show King of the Hill, that's The Refreshment's music in the theme song. Art's writing regularly appears in online magazines on the topics of music and writing. He has self-published three books and is planning more. I took an online rock-n-roll writing course with him back in 2010 so I have a sense of what kind of teacher/guide he is.

However, Art is only able to do this in February 2015 because of his usually busy schedule. I need to get him my outline ASAP, then I'll have roughly two months to produce the manuscript. I did hit 51k in NaNo 2013 so I hope I can do a real manuscript in twice that amount of time.

Talk about pressure :-) Keep your fingers crossed for me, peeps. There won't be any time for fooling around on Facebook or watching cat videos on Youtube. I'll post updates as I can. Cheers!

Photo Credit: <a href="">evaxebra</a> via <a href="">Compfight</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And that, friends, is why I haven't progressed further on my outline

File:Oval Crock Pot2.jpgMe to muse: Come on, empty that Magickal Crockpot. I know there's something else in there.

Muse: But how can there be? Look, it's empty!

Me: Uhm, I see bits of something clinging to the bottom.

Muse (grabs Crockpot back): Well, bits of mushroom stems and sauce scrapings don't count.

Me: Of course they do! If I can see it or smell it, it counts. Now give it up.

Muse: Here, why don't you have more from the Street Glass bowls? I can tell you really like the one labeled Possible Epilog.

Me: Cut it out. I told you, one creation at a time. No meddling with something else while this one's unfinished.

Muse (folds arms and huffs): Look, I can only work with what you give me. You don't put in all the ingredients, you don't get a complete dish.

Me: You're a muse. Creativity is supposed to be your forté.

Muse (waving arms around): You're the one who grabbed the Crockpot as soon as you smelled something good! Did you ask me if I was finished with it? Nooo!

Me (drains coffee mug): We've had this conversation before. Stop being stubborn. Where would Neil Gaiman be if his muse was as stubborn as you?

Muse: His muse has better working conditions. You don't even have a desk, how am I supposed to concentrate with you muttering and complaining about your headache or backache? The cat comes in and sneezes all over the bed. I'm constantly being interrupted!

Me: Other muses deal with it. Some even help their writers churn out a book or two every year.

Muse (sighs overly loudly and rolls eyes): Speaking of writers, why can't you come up with some of this yourself? You bark orders like a drill sergeant and I'm just supposed to ask 'how high' when you say jump?

Me (fills wine glass): Screwing up metaphors and becoming an incarnate cliché will not get you out of this. I know there's a way to connect these plot points, I can smell it. Put the Crockpot on "keep warm", maybe that will loosen the bits stuck to the bottom.

Muse: And you never share anything you're drinking. Look, I ... (Drops gaze to floor, kicks feet back and forth) I'm kind of stuck. I made some sauce with the new ingredients and it should have been a great sauce, but it's watery and tastes like old socks. It won't coat anything. It's not even soup, just failed sauce. I hate it when that happens.

Me (nods): Oh, you should have told me before. It sure smells great, though. Does it need a bit more spice? Would some arrowroot help?

Muse: I don't know, I've tried thickeners. I guess the next step is to lock the top on and turn the Crockpot upside down again. Just please promise me you'll turn it right side up when you want to look inside!

Me: I do try to remember that. It's hard to slow down when I smell the perfect solution. Tell you what, I'll set out the ingredients one at a time so you can get a look at what I've got before putting it all in the pot. Sometimes throwing it all in at once messes it up, I think.

Muse: Great idea! Sauces are tricky, you have to get everything just right. And you have a lot of requirements for this one so it might just take longer than you'd like. You tell everybody else to be patient.

Me: I know, it's just that the aroma is lingering and is making my mouth water. All right, I'll go pull out stuff from the cupboards and the fridge. We can do this. You've stuck with me for a long time, I know it's not in you to give up.

Muse (puffs up and grins): I'll go wash the utensils and get the cleaning things out. I secretly get a kick out of watching you come tearing in here and grab the Crockpot, even if you do forget to turn it right-side up.

Photo: By User:MECU (self) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Outlining, as seen by a pantser

This is my first try at making an outline. Now that I'm 7 pages into it and approaching the climax of the plot, it's not as awful as I feared. In fact it's similar to writing a first draft, just less of it. I have something of an advantage in that I wrote 35 chapters of Draft One so I got to know the main characters pretty well. Without that, I wouldn't know where the plot should go.

There are a couple of hard things about it. First, I'm writing some new plot points so am trying to figure out how the characters act in those situations. That can take a few days of hard thinking. Second, deciding which problems I need to solve before continuing the outline and which ones can wait.

One guiding principle for the second issue is: how hard is it to solve? If I have that "so close I can taste it" feeling, I'll spend a few days on it and usually come up with something that will work. If I've tried coming at it from different angles and do not have the sense that a solution is close, I add a note in parentheses right there in the outline to the effect of, Need a reason for this.

It's happened that not solving something has led me to a brick wall. Running into that while doing the outline is a whole lot better than running into it in the middle of chapter 16 (or chapter 35), believe me.

I still have a lot of respect for writing spontaneously. That's where the emotion comes out. It's not planned for, just like in real life. You get to be the fly on the wall. If I just let my characters talk, they can come out with great lines. One example that comes to mind is in Street Glass. In music, sustain is the length of time you can hear a note after it's played, roughly speaking. Neal and Sandy are talking about relationships and Neal expresses frustration that women don't seem seriously interested in him. Sandy knows Neal is still hung up on a woman from his past and tells him: If you try to prolong the sustain, you'll ruin the song. In other words, don't hold on to relationships that are finished. Neal immediately gets what Sandy means. I love that the comment just popped out. I can't plan that kind of thing in an outline.

So, onward and upward with outline writing! I'm not going to hit 50k this year in NaNo but that's okay as long as I make strong progress. Primary goal is to finish the outline, get it into shape so I can use it to start writing chapters. Secondary goal is to write a few early chapters. I tweet about it as OwlladyWriter, using #NaNoRebel.

Writing is so cool. You learn about yourself as you go. I never thought I could write an outline or that I'd ever want to. Got a new superpower :-D

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNo rebelling 2014

Hi peeps. Who's doing NaNo? I've signed on as a rebel this year to finish my outline for Night Shift and hopefully get a solid start on writing chapters. Still doing a bit of research. It's challenging for a host of reasons.

For one thing, have you ever tried to research the initiation of Babylonian priests? I mean, there's not much out there accessible to paeons like me.  I get a lot of "Professor So-and-so wrote extensively on this in 1895" without a clue as to what or where he wrote. Or I'll find article and author names but can't track down the article itself.

Reason I want to do research is that my demons and angels are not meant to be representative of any one religion. The idea is that most religions have picked up on parts of the truth, so the angels will have aspects familiar to Christians, Jews, Moslems, whoever. At least, that's the idea. Plus, many of the demons have their origins in Sumerian or Babylonian civilization so I'm trying to use some names from those mythologies.

How did James Michener get started researching his tomes, I wonder? I suppose he just knew people who knew things. *sigh*

Currently, I'm working on how to get a group of demons into the angelic realm. I hesitate to call it "heaven" because the word is so strongly associated with Christianity. Normally demons can't enter holy places so I need a way for them to protect themselves while doing what they went there for.

By the time the novel ends, half of humanity may be in ruins :-) I'm having fun pushing myself beyond logical lines of thought. It's all well and good to have an orderly home and workplace, and it's great to be organized enough to hit that 50k mark in NaNo, but too much expectation of logic and creativity suffers. Rather than saying "Well I've already established that demons can't enter holy places so I guess they won't be able to assault the angelic realm", I'm working around that roadblock.

Here's to people being creative, whether they're trying for that shiny winners badge or just trying to make themselves happy. *raises glass*