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Monthly Archives: May 2010

>Plotting like a Snowflake

>I forgot to title the last post, whoops.  And yes I know I have to stop changing the blog template but I can’t find one that works so I’m going to keep at it whenever I get the inclination.

I’ve spent the weekend plotting.  Yesterday was a sort of bare bones type of thing.  I knew the gist of the story but not much in the way of detail so I tried using an excel spreadsheet to set out scenes in each chapter.  It sort of worked out because it helped me maintain a certain order but it sucked the fun out of it so I’m not sure it is something I’ll do a lot.  Perhaps I did it too early, it might have been more useful to do it after all the work I got done today.   Today I got some serious planning down and have a very strong focus on where the story is going.  I tend to feel uncomfortable about investing time into something unless I have a good idea of what the main story arcs should be.  Today, I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know the characters well enough so decided I needed to sit down and sort that out.

I’ve been using a sort of variation on the Snowflake Method for novel plotting for the last few months.  The Snowflake Method itself doesn’t work for me.  By step four I feel like I’m repeating myself and get bored.  But even I can see how useful it is, particularly to start with one sentence.  For me, trying to condense an entire book into one sentence is impossible.  Unless I started with that one sentence.  Sure, by the end, the sentence can alter in some ways but if you can describe a book in a couple of words then half the battle is won when it comes to categorising and promoting it afterwards.  So many of us struggle to give an easy, quick description of what our books are about – for me, it’s easier to work this out as completely as possible in the first place.

I like how you can turn that sentence into a paragraph and then that paragraph into a page.  It feels like a natural progression and helps me figure out the order of events in a broad way.  The Snowflake Method advises that each sentence in the paragraph except for the last one is about different conflicts in the story while the last sentence should be the resolution.  Similarly with the full page.  The first four paragraphs should show the problems that occur and then everything winds up in a satisfying way in the last paragraph.  This is useful for me because I find it hard to stay focused.  If I divide the book up like this then I know if I’m on track or spending too much or too little time on a certain section.

I like those parts and I admit I see the value of the character synopsis sections.  I tend to mesh all of the character descriptions into one document because there seem to be a lot of steps dedicated to variations of the same descriptions.  It’s pointless to keep typing the same things over and over again so I change it to work for myself.  I give a long detailed synopsis for the main character including appearance and what they were doing before the book began, then add shorter variations for the other characters in their points of view.  I find it really helpful with minor characters.  Particularly with their back stories and pinpointing where everyone should be at each stage in the story.  Rounding out a minor character might sound like an inconvenience, particularly when most of it won’t make it into the actual manuscript but I find it balances out the entire novel. 

The more I know about each character’s motivations and point of view, the easier it is for the details to reveal themselves.  It helps me see the novel on a different level.  I am big into characters so probably over-indulge in these kinds of character study/synopsis combos but it helps me stop doing it in the novel itself.  I’ve really enjoyed plotting today, probably for the first time so whatever I’m doing is working for me.  I know other people like stricter or more fluid methods but I’ve started to change how I feel about plotting and outlining.  Probably because I may have to leave novels for a while over the next few months so having a strong plan will help me get straight back in the middle of things when I can.

Right now I have the first draft fully planned out and the characters as broad as they can be at this stage.  Typing out the first draft is the next step.  In theory, it should go by relatively easily.  Unless I write myself into some corners – although my plan is pretty thorough and will hopefully help me get back on the right track if I go off the rails a bit.  I rarely have writing blocks so my biggest problem is finding the time to get things done.  I’m excited to see if the planning helps or hinders the writing process.  🙂

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>1700 words so far today and it is still early so I have lots of time to get more down.  I usually write at night but I wanted to beat yesterday’s word count.  Competing against myself really works for me, thats how sad I am.  I’m planning on doing some plotting – The Other Side of the Story has another good post on this – and then seeing how much of a first draft I can get through.  I have a bad habit of plotting in my head (I like to do things in my head but just like Maths, you sometimes need to look back at the rough work to see where it all went wrong) so I’m trying to get into writing some things down to compare notes with later on when I have a draft down.  Am all excited about writing again, she says with a sigh of relief.  🙂

It seems to be a good week for indies all round.  There are a few indies on the top paid bestsellers list in the Kindle store.  Vicky Tyley’s Thin Blood is at number 14 while D.B. Henson showed a screenshot on their blog of them sitting at number 36 just ahead of Stephen King with their book Deed to Death.  (I’m sure there are more.)  Ruth Ann Nordin is currently number two on the bestseller charts on Kobo Books with her book An Inconvenient Marriage.  Rumour has it she hit the number one spot earlier so who knows what can happen next.  These aren’t the only good news stories lately and we all have different ideas of what being successful means but I get such a kick out of seeing indie names on bestseller lists alongside big name authors. 

ETA:  JA Konrath has a much better post on Indie Kindle Success Stories.  Check out the list if you’re looking for something to read.

Also, I’m not sure what’s happening but I was able to download free books on Kindle today.  99c books seem to be around 16-18c higher now and the international wireless transfer charge seems to have disappeared completely.  I have no idea if it is a glitch, a mistake or a temporary boon but yay for free books.

>Back on Form

>I had a hellishly long hospital appointment yesterday and then a migraine afterwards that lasted until this afternoon but all is well with the baby so that’s sort of put a shine on everything.  I’m still sick but I’m feeling a lot less whiney about it and even got some writing done.  Being forced to take a bit of a break actually did me the world of good.  I’ve managed to let go of my WIP for longer than a day (trust me, ’tis good news because I am soooooo close to it I’m blind to it) and I read a blog post on plotting today that made things a little clearer in my mind.  I can change some parts of the plot without necessarily changing the story and that’s something which has been bothering me – sometimes you have to hear it from someone else.

But I’m putting it to the side for now until I’ve figured out exactly where I want to go with it and also until I’ve gotten a bit of space from it.  I wrote a silly short story yesterday and today I started on a paranormal novella.  All for fun and a good way to ease back into things.  The baby is due in six weeks, I’ve lots to do to prepare (such as figuring out some names we both agree on) and I think working on something new writing wise will help keep my mind off the scary stuff like labour pain.  Things seem to be going great all of a sudden and I am ready to make the most of it.  I’ve only written 1,000 words today but I’m feeling really inspired and keen to work so I’m off to write some more.  Here’s hoping it lasts.  🙂

>Pity Party

>I’m still sick and I’m feeling really sorry for myself.  I have some kind of madly persistent chest infection, my wisdom teeth have started acting up making me feel like I got punched in the face and I’m having some pregnancy related back problems that result in a lot of pain and not much sleep.  I’m not in good form and I haven’t gotten a thing done.  I’ve lots of catching up to do in real life and online but I’m just completely wrecked so I figured posting would be the easiest thing to do first.  Then I’m going back to sleep.  🙂

I have a hospital appointment in a few days and if I’m not better I am screwed.  They will not be impressed if they see the state I’m in particularly because I’ve missed a few appointments now – oops.  I’ve even missed out on all the lovely sunshine this weekend.  There better be some sunny days when I’m better!  >(

>Going Indie

>I’ve spent the last day sick in bed – I have to stop making plans because the universe keeps throwing everything possible at me to thwart them.  🙂

I’ve been thinking more about the whole Konrath/AmazonEncore partnership thing.  I’m only really surprised that Amazon have taken so long to gain some leverage from Konrath and vice versa.  It’s kind of perfect really.  The reactions to it have varied wildly.  For some of us, it’s a huge deal.  The start of a brand new future.  For others it amounts to yet another indie fobbing off work they can’t get published.  The perception of prestige behind traditional publishing is still there.  Although I can see Amazon some day being accepted as a major publisher, albeit through different means as the established sort.  I haven’t had the chance to check back on the comments on Konrath’s blog but the other day a comment left by a bookseller gave me the impression they felt left behind and even deserted by Konrath’s actions.

This is the thing.  Every major decision is going to have a different impact on people.  Some will love it, some will hate it.  In this case, I feel like he’s worked his balls off trying to brand himself and earn a living.  So should he turn down a decent offer in case he lets down some of the people who helped him along the way?   I think he has to do what works for him and his family.  Priority one.  What is best for the readers comes next.  Priority two.   If he can’t earn a living then he can’t look after his readers at all so this is my logic.

I sometimes think people forget that writers are people trying to make a living from a job that is a little different but amounts to business all the same.  We have to sell our words.  People complain about authors spamming the boards and to a point I agree that it is annoying but a lot of people overreact (on both sides) – after all for most of us, it amounts to .35c a sale.  I’m not going to begrudge anyone .35c even if they are annoyingly persistent.  We can’t wallow in creativity forever.  At some point we have to get out there and start selling.  Traditional publishing just isn’t doing the job anymore.  Publishers aren’t investing time or money into marketing all of their authors.  Writers aren’t making a living by sitting around and writing beautiful stories anymore.  Things have changed.   Trad publishing isn’t the most viable or attractive option for a lot of people anymore. 

The ebook issue isn’t the only problem.  The contracts tend to be long term and restrictive in general.  The resulting income isn’t enough for the investment.  I don’t care what anyone thinks of indies, most people put a lot of time and effort into their work and a lot of writers have the type of personality that forces them to continually improve and up their game.  That’s how it is.  If you’re going to pour your heart, soul, time, energy and focus into something then you better make sure the returns are worth it.  I can’t see a publishing contract giving me the returns I want or need.  I like the control I have.  I like the instant feedback.  I like that I can instantly see how changes I make are received.  I get back what I put into it. 

That’s a major point for me.  Our success depends on hard work as well as luck.  It isn’t exactly dependent on what other people think are best for us.  Any indie will admit that their sales tend to drop once they stop promoting.  That says a lot.  We can see the results and know that we have to work hard to get what we want.  It’s a hard route to take sometimes but for me, it’s better than having our rights tied up for years, our WIP being considered at the publisher’s discretion and then if it is rejected we still may not be able to do anything with it for years depending on the contract terms.  And I’m sure I don’t have to get started on the ebook issue.  Going indie is becoming more attractive.  Making an entirely new path (like Konrath) is becoming the new goal for many of us.  The success stories are attracting more writers to take a second look at what they thought they always wanted.  What do we really want?  Time will tell.  But no matter what happens over the next 5/10 years, the publishing world is facing a major overhaul and I for one am glad to witness it.

>Scream

>First of all, congrats to JA Konrath who announced his new deal with AmazonEncore.  He’s a grafter and it is nice to see Amazon taking advantage of the inadequacies of trad publishing by providing yet another option.  It’s a brand new day.  🙂  He gets paid, his price point stays at a pretty low $2.99 but with the added bonus of Amazon’s crack marketing team behind it and the traditional publishers stand around bitching about how things like this never happened back in the day.  Win-win.  His ebook will even be available before the print version – I’m liking what I’m seeing.

Back to me, me, me, me, me.  I haven’t been around in what feels like months but is probably closer to a week.  Things have been hectic and I’ve been trying to relax and keep this bubba cooking for as long as possible.  I wish I could post videos instead of blogs because then I could just sit on my arse and talk instead of having to move my arms.  Actually, that wouldn’t have worked over the last week either.

My broadband provider has switched hands and the aftermath is not so good.  My connection has been sketchy at best – incredibly irritating how I find I have a million things I want to google rightnowthissecond as soon as the connection fecks off.  It’s slowly getting back to a useable state but I believe I’m going to be mourning the loss of my original provider for a while considering how slow the connection is despite the fact I live in the middle of a freaking hotspot.  I haven’t even checked my email yet and I’m absolutely dreading the amount of catching up I’ll need to do when I open up Tweetdeck.  I’m scurred.

At least one, although I expect it was more a combo of maybe three, of my children flooded my bathroom.  This in turn flooded my bedroom.  If my ceiling falls in, I won’t be best pleased.  The drip, drip, dripping was driving me insane and has literally taken days to stop.  The guilty party/parties did a drive by tap turning on session.  Now, usually the pressure gives way if all the taps are on and the water stops by itself.  Of course, this didn’t happen when I needed it to.  Our house is three stories so nobody heard the water (until it was too late) and the drive by happened so quickly that nobody is even sure what child was missing long enough to do the damage.  Kinda proud of their tenacity and sneakiness, if only it wasn’t so destructive.  The stair gate is permanently locked now which is upsetting for the smallies.  They sit in front of it and weep the loss of their freedom.  I hate caging them to one floor but I’m too slow at chasing them right now so they have been taking serious advantage of my beached whale status.

Lots more distractions abound – I should start writing Mammy lit because I have bucketloads of material at this stage – but I can barely focus on what is happening today never mind yesterday.  The whole family is still fighting off a stupid cold/flu virusey thing.  I’m starting to think it might be some weird allergy because they usually have 24/48 illnesses and that’s it, all over.  My eldest is back in school but he still looks very peaky.  The others are still snotting away.  Speaking of my eldest, I was very upset to realise he will be six very soon.  He’s practically moving out and getting a job.  We found an old baby video today of him laughing and hiccuping at about five months old – he’s a little gentleman now, it’s kind of depressing how quickly time is passing by.  Moving on from that tangent!

Quickly, I have to say a big thank you to Donna Fasano who reviewed my book on Amazon and then bigged it up in other places.  Very unexpected and a lovely surprise.  Please take a look at her book on Amazon, The Merry-Go-Round.  Better yet buy and review it for the sake of karma, the goodness of strangers, whatever – the people who support others are the ones who really deserve the support.

>Falling Behind and Catching Up Again

>I haven’t been keeping up with my to-do list.  I said I wanted to do an outline, a first draft and a decent revision of a WIP in the next 8 weeks.  I keep “almost” passing out which exhausts me so I’ve been sleeping a lot more than normal which hasn’t helped.  However, after yesterday’s episode, I slept so much I ended up being awake for a good few hours after everyone went to bed and got a few chapters done.  Hoping to do the same tonight.  I’m back on track with the revision, I may even manage to finish it tonight.  I haven’t looked at the first draft in a while.  The outline isn’t happening.  But one out of three isn’t, well, it isn’t good but it’s better than nothing. 

I finally broke my short story block by throwing together some flash fiction.  I was only able to truly get stuck into my revisions once I did this.  It was such a relief.  I wasn’t having a full on writer’s block but I was definitely having trouble getting started.  I sat down with one sentence in mind and forced myself to write a short story.  Once I started, that was it, I couldn’t stop so moved onto the WIP and got a lot of work done.  Very proud of myself.  I thought of some new “rules” for my first draft – really liking the world I’m seeing.  I even made out my hospital bag list – something I’ve been avoiding for ages.  The only thing I still can’t do is come up with some decent baby names but I’m on a productive streak right now so who knows what will happen next.  I figure if I keep praising myself I’ll stay on track this time.  🙂

Now if my neighbours would stop having a ridiculous drunk argument outside their door then I might actually get some work done.  Nice Stylistics ring tone, sir, but please STFU.  Thanking you.