New Project: The Prewriting

In June of 2014 (or maybe it was July, I don’t really remember), I had decided to start planning my novel for NaNoWriMo ’14, and so I gathered up a plot bunny I’d had a while back, combined it with a different idea, and started developing it.  When NaNo came around, I had semi-developed characters, the vaguest hint of a world, a bit of a beginning, and zero plot.  When November ended, I had 100k of flat characters, broken plot, and non-existent world building.

It was awesome.  Staring 2015, I started editing.  And world building.  And…more world building.  And…oh yeah, I did world building, did I mention that part yet?  Plus some world building.  And then when I thought maybe I’d done enough of world building, I edited some more.

I finished draft two on Halloween.  Then for NaNoWriMo ’15, I wrote assorted scenes for the sequels.  By the time this November ended, I decided I was sick of this world, this story, these characters.

Don’t get me wrong.  I adore them.  I love working with these ones, and even though draft three is going to be a huge, time-consuming process that will probably take almost as long as draft two did (which was ten months, roughly…maybe nine, because I don’t remember if I started in January or February), I am so looking forward to it.

But first, I really would like to explore a different story.  Something totally new, totally different, totally unrelated.

And that’s what I’m doing now!

I mentioned in a previous post that this story is basically sci-fi Sleeping Beauty meets a heist.  It’s going to be awesome.  (It had better be, anyway.)

I discovered recently that I’m actually more of an outliner than a discovery writer, so the first step was to, well, plan.

This is how I planned.


That is my bedroom wall.

The bottom right corner is a timeline.  The story is set in America at 2137AD, so I wanted to figure out some of the important things that happened between now and then.  Like world war three.  It’s not very detailed, and I probably don’t have as much information as I could have, but it works for now.

The other white papers were originally a to-do list for what I needed for world building and stuff.  On the left is world building, and the purple sticky notes taped there are related to world building.  I assigned each sticky note to a particular part of it.  (I tried to write small, and I didn’t get very detailed, so yeah, only one sticky note for each thing.)  In the middle is character related stuffs.  Personality, backstories, and other stuff.  (Strangely enough, I never actually figured out what my characters look like.)  The right ones are just random things I wanted to make sure I figured out.

Below that is my outline.  At the bottom of the white pieces of paper, I noted parts of the Three Act Structure, and then way below that, the salmon-pink pieces of paper are character arc events relating to the three act structure that I recently learned about in this cool post.  In between those, the purple sticky notes are events relating to the plot, while the other colors are each associated with a character, and so the events written on those are related to that particular character.

I don’t know if any of that makes any sense to anybody besides myself, but that’s what I have.  I considered a few months ago trying to get Aeon Timeline because it sounds awesome and it syncs with Scrivener, but then there was just too much to put in when I messed with the trial.  I think I like this, though.  Sticky notes on my wall.

The only downfall is I think I’m going to run out of sticky notes.

That’s basically the extent of my prewriting.  I rambled a bunch at my other writing friends, especially about the worldbuilding, but then as soon as I figured it out, I wrote a condensed, focused version on a sticky note and taped it to the wall.

Also, fun fact: sticky notes don’t seem to stick to the wall very well.  So I had to use my masking tape.

So that’s what I’ve got.  How do the rest of you prefer to keep track of your prewriting and notes?

A Mishmash Post of Plot Holes, World-building, and a New Project

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I was rereading my NaNo novel, and taking notes/asking questions, as if I was my own “alpha reader”.  I’m finished with that now, and I can say, it worked as well as I had hoped it would.  Since I took a break from the novel for a month before I did this, I was fairly well distanced from the novel, and I could look at it from the perspective of a reader, of sorts.

That was encouraging.  I was looking for problems to fix, and I certainly found plenty of them.  However, I found more problems with the story, rather than problems with the writing, and that is hugely encouraging, at least for me.  See, I wrote this novel in a single month.  Thirty days.  I did some world building and some character development, but no actual planning, and I had no clue what the plot was until, well, I got there.

So, I expected lots of problems.  Plot holes, and inconsistencies, and flat characters, and things that just don’t make sense, and all things of that sort.  Did I find them?  You bet.  But what I didn’t find were issues with my writing style itself.

I mean, there are issues.  I have more mistyped-words and typos than real words, and there’s plenty of things like info-dumps and blank descriptions and whatnot.  However, the thing is, my writing could be improved, and it wasn’t really good, but it didn’t strike me as being oh-my-goodness-that’s-horrible-how-could-I-ever-have-written-that kind of bad.

Does that even make any sense?  I guess my point is, while the novel had it’s fair share of issues—and then some—I know that all of those issues are ones I can fix, and I know I can get this novel into a readable state.  It’s not like my ’12 NaNo novel, that I don’t think I’ll ever touch again.

So, I’m encouraged.

On a different note, one thing I found through this reading process was that I didn’t have nearly enough world-building.  I hardly knew that world at all when I wrote about it.  So, before I really start editing, I have to fill in that world-building.  (That’s why the little editing bar on the right of the page has been staying consistently low, even while the other two bars go up.)

World-building is, in a word…odd.  I’ve never done much of it in-depth before, not to this extent, and it’s kind of overwhelming.  I realized, though, that the more I got to know about the world, the more I began to really, really love the world, and then the more fun the world-building became.  I now understand why people get world builder’s disease.  Hopefully I won’t end up that far down, though.

Anyway!  On unrelated things… The writing’s been good, as you can probably tell by the lower two word-count bars on the right.  I’ve been able to consistently write every single day, though there was one day where I’m not completely sure I met my 200 word goal.  It might have only been 100 or so, but I think there were other things going on that day and I couldn’t do more than that.  So, I counted it anyway.

Also, for that one novel, the progress is coming along nicely.  I hope I’m about half way through the novel, though since I’m mostly pantsing this one, it’s hard to tell.

Unsurprisingly, with my multi-projects-at-once self, those two novels aren’t my only projects. I recently started another novel, and I’m only about 3k into that one.  I know I probably shouldn’t let myself multitask so much, but I’ve kind of learned that it’s really hard to not do it, so I’m letting myself for now.  I don’t think this new novel will take me very far before I get stuck and will need to sit back and figure out where I’m going, in which case I can step back and go back to solely working on my other projects.  That’s why I’m not bothering to put a bar up for it in the side, even if I am working on it as well.

So…I think that’s it.  This is kind of a mishmash post, isn’t it?  Heh heh, oh well.

Writerly Wish-List

So there are a few other blogs doing this, and I figured, hey, I need to post something and it sounds fun, so I’ll do it, too.  Some day soon, I’ll actually post something original and also possibly interesting.  Maybe.  No guarantees.  So, uh, here’s my writerly wish-list thing of things I want to write some day.  Maybe I’ll even write them this next year, in 2015.

(Note, these are composed in absolutely no order whatsoever.)

1. Something Sci-Fi

I’ve honestly never written anything sci-fi before.  Written plenty of fantasy, but never sci-fi, and I’d like to do that some day.

2. A murder mystery

I watch murder mystery cop shows with my mom all the time (Castle and BBC’s Sherlock are my favorites, if you were wondering…which you probably weren’t), and I kind of want to write one one day… I’ll admit, though, I’ve never actually read a murder mystery before. That’s also technically on my list, even if it’s reading and not writing related.

3. Something publishable

Am I allowed to say that?  It’s true!

4. A graphic novel

Like in the case of the murder mystery, I’ve never actually read a graphic novel (I mean, unless the Artemis Fowl ones and the Lightning Thief ones count, but…they were originally novels to begin with, so I don’t know if they actually count…), but I would really want to write one.  I do have an idea for a superhero story that I think could work as a graphic novel.  Honestly, though, I think my art would need a lot more improvements before I could even begin to tackle this.

5. The script for a video game

could just write the script for a movie or something like that, but I don’t know, the idea of writing a story for a video game sounds cooler.  Is that just me?

6. A good fairy tale retelling

I’ve written fairy tale retellings before.  I sort of wrote one for NaNo ’12, and I had one attempt that made it to about 15k, and I’m sort of working on another one off-and-on, but I’d like to actually be able to write a good one.  The attempts so far haven’t been great.

7. Something with more swords and weapons and…

…and do I even sound like a girl anymore?  I don’t know, I kind of like stories with big, epic sword-fights and battles and that stuff.  I’ve never written anything like this, though, because the only thing I know about a sword is that one end is typically pointy, and the only things I know about a bow is that it’s not as easy as it looks to shoot it, the things Legolas does are impossible, the few times I have shot with a bow it’s been really fun, and I can’t imagine ever traveling with a bow. There’s goes that dream of one day being a Ranger.  My knowledge on modern weapons are even less.  Um…guns have a trigger and you pull it to shoot…right?

8. A historical fiction

Yeah, kind of self-explanatory.  I don’t even know what part of history I’d want to do it in, though.  Maybe something in the Victorian era.  Or maybe something in colonial America.  Or maybe something else entirely.

9. Something steam-punk

I honestly don’t know why.  I didn’t even know I liked steam-punk, but I think it might be kind of cool to write one time…

That’s about all I can think of, though I’m sure as soon as this post becomes public, I’ll think of a bunch more.  Heheh, but that’s how it always works.

Darlings and November Planning

So, after months and months—almost a full year—of procrastination, I finally did what I think is right for my writing.  I killed two of my darlings.  Two that I have been trying to write for almost four years now, and that for the past year, almost, have done me nothing good.  They’re never going to go anywhere, so they’re a distraction, and not even a good one.

I finally came to terms with that and let them go.  I’m going to write the two poor characters a happily ever after on Monday, and then I’ll move on.

I hope.  These two are hard to leave behind.  But I’m pretty sure this is what I need to do.

Meanwhile, on cheerier notes, I’m still working on the planning for my November NaNoNovel.  World-building is going pretty well.  Slow and painful, but as well as I’d expect.  My characters are also coming along quite nicely, though also fairly slowly.  Two of the four protagonists have almost-fully-developed personalities and have joined the herd of other characters that feel like they might be alive in my head.  The other two are…coming much more slowly.  My villain, too, is still mostly flat and lacking any personality, but I’m not too worried.  I have time.

I’ve also been working on a short story, both to help flesh out the backstory of one of the characters, and to keep myself writing until November.  Somebody told me this story is one of my best works so far, but I don’t really believe that it doesn’t need quite a bit of work.  I do agree it’s better than a lot of my other writing, though.  I’m trying to remind myself to properly describe things, and the short story is way more exciting than anything I’ve written.

For some reason, I never seem to have much action.  Just dialogue.  It’s kind of boring.  So this novel I’m planning, I want to be far more exciting.  There’s going to be sword-fights and…other cool stuff.  (I did say I’m not writing an outline, didn’t I? I’m not planning everything!)

My novel is basically a twist off of your stereotypical, “Prophesied Chosen One has to save the world from the ultimate evil”.  I thought it would be interesting if the oracles and prophecies were more everyday things, and how they’d affect things, and it basically turned into this world where the prophecies basically rule everything.  It’s also very interesting to see how the setting affects my characters’ motives and goals.  It’s actually fascinating to build this world, and I’m definitely very excited to write it this November.

Percolating Snowflakes and Other Strange Things

So.  As some of you might have noticed, I haven’t exactly been absent from WordPress.  Not as much as I’d wanted to be.  So, right, so much for a break.  I didn’t see a point in continuing my half-break, so here I am again.

Long time no see.

Anyhow, in the week since I’ve posted, I’ve decided to change things around a little.  For one, as you can probably tell by the fact that my bar on the right is still at 31 days, I haven’t written in that particular story in about a week.  I won’t go into why because that frustrated rant isn’t necessary here, but I more or less stopped.  I plan on trying to finish it anyway, at some point (in fact, if anyone’s willing to do any word wars at any point, that’d probably help a lot), but now my focus is on a newer story.

Yeah, yeah, a new one?  Anybody who’s really listened to me rant much knows that I can’t keep my concentration on one story very well, so it’s not a big surprise that I came up with a brand-new story to write on.  But that’s one of the things I decided to change up a little.

For two years, I’ve always thought I was a discovery writer and I abhorred the very idea of outlining ahead of time.  I thought, but then I’d know everything that happened before I wrote it!  It’d be no fun.  I wouldn’t be able to discover plot twists right as they happen anymore…  How could anybody want to outline?

As you can probably tell, I’ve changed my mind.  Discovery writing is fun, but I’ve found I can’t write any form of beginning without an outline (you can probably see how that might be problematic as a pantser), and my stories always end up with about half a million plots running through them because I can’t decide which one I want to actually work with.  That is the main reason the story that first started me writing still hasn’t been written yet.  So, I think I need to try outlining.  But instead of just the half-outlining I’ve been doing the past few months, I decided I’m going to try some really heavy outlining.

Ta-da!  I’m doing the Snowflake Method.  It’s the most in-depth outlining method I’ve ever seen (not that I know of very many), but I like how it works.  In case nobody’s ever heard of it and is too lazy to click on the link, it’s basically an outlining that starts with the very basics and slowly builds upon it.  Like taking a very simple triangle and adding to it until you have a complex snowflake (hence the name).

I’m on step…five at the moment, I think.  Yeah, step five.  I’m actually having two issues with it so far, both of which are entirely my own fault.  The first is that I’m not outlining just one book, I’m more or less outlining an entire trilogy at once.  (Is it bad that every time I say the word trilogy, I’m thinking of this post and wondering if I should find another format for it? Liam, you’ve screwed up my trilogy already and I haven’t even written it yet!)  Mostly, I’m doing it this painful way because the idea I had for the story was an idea for the entire series, not for the first book.  I’m not even a 100% sure how I’ll break it up into separate books yet, but I’m trying to basically outline and figure out the structure for four things at once.  The three books, and then the series itself.  (I love it when series have a big over-hanging story and yet each individual book has a smaller plot on its own that still fits.  That was one of the things I liked about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.)

The other problem I pulled on myself was I started too early.  I haven’t let this story sit and brew in my head, so I barely know anything about it or the characters yet.  This also brought on the realization that I haven’t really let any story of mine sit there in my subconscious for a while before I start writing it in…oh, six months?  I seem to have found a lot of issues of things I’ve been doing/not doing the past six months (but I’m pretty sure this particular one isn’t imaginary).  I think somebody stole my percolator.  It took me forever to find one that doesn’t brew coffee.

If anybody happens to see it (or run into it, since it has a tendency to turn invisible), please kindly call the following number and ask for Shim.  [Insert random phone number here.]

Anyway.  This post is getting awfully long, so I’ll stop it hereabouts.  Or so.  Anybody do anything exciting while I was sort-of gone?

Little Sisters and a Little Bit of Stress

So.  Way back in November, I decided to write a novel.  Y’know, for NaNoWriMo.  I actually didn’t end up writing said novel, instead writing an outline for a different novel, but that’s not important.  The important part is, I decided to drag my younger siblings in with me on the wonderful craziness of NaNo.  One brother decided to write a Minecraft fan-fiction, while the other made up a story about a can and a ghost who ran away from their home and the cat’s cruel master.  Neither finished their story, but considering their age, I think they both wrote a decent amount and I was very proud of the fact that they at least tried.  (I’m also happy to hear that one of them plans to finish his novel this up and coming November.)

Then came my little sister.  She’s younger than the two boys, yet she’s always loved telling stories.  Never written them down, but certainly told them verbally enough to practically be an expert.  Or, well, as close to expert as an eight year old gets.  I convinced her into joining NaNoWriMo as well, and she wrote a story about a dragon who got lost and has to find her way home, with the help of a friendly cat.  (It amused me greatly that two of my siblings’ stories had cats in them as one of the protagonists…now I’m tempted to add a cat into one of my own stories, just for the fun of it.)

She completed her goal of a thousand words and finished the story, on about the 24th of November.  The story was awesome.

As you can probably guess, considering it’s like the opposite time of year as November, I just helped her finish editing it.  It’s even more awesome now.  I love it.  She had quite a few spelling and grammar errors (including switching back and forth between present and past tense, using comma splices, and so on), but she is only eight, so I helped her fix them up.

Now it’s pretty much finished and she’s even illustrating it with little sketches of some of the scenes.

I’m the proudest older sister there ever was.  And also…one who’s kind of discouraged in herself.

I haven’t finished a project since last May.  That’s nearly an entire year ago.  That was a story I believe I mentioned in an earlier post about my lack of motivation, which is now back in the outlining/figuring-out-what-in-the-world-is-going-on-here stage.  Or, er, the drawing board, I guess.  I’ve got so many plots holes…

But that’s for another rant.  Anyhow, there are a few excuses for my lack of finishing anything.  I lost both my uncle and my grandmother in June, and since then, there’s been enough family drama to, well, fill an entire soap opera.  Or three.  But right now?  After all, that was way back in June.

I’m…not really sure.  I just feel stressed.  I’d like to blame school, but we’ve actually figured all of that stuff out.  I know what I’m doing the next two years of highschool and maybe even a vague idea of what comes afterwards.  No need to be stressed.  Yet…I keep feeling stressed out.

It finally occurred me that it’s really the writing itself that’s the problem.  I can still do most of my creative process.  I can outline, I can brainstorm, I can even do some world-building and some sort of character development (I’m not very good with that part yet, unfortunately, without doing discovery-writing….which is weird, since I’m more or less an outliner at this point…hmm.).  But  whenever I sit down to write, that’s when I get stuck.

Turns out, I can’t seem to get into the story.  Any story.  I’ve got five of them, after all.  (Or was it six?)  I’ve found I can still, occasionally, write random scenes here and there, but nothing important and nothing that actually goes anywhere.  I tried writing a new short story, too, and that didn’t work either.  I tried just sitting and writing nothing, I tried switching to a notebook, and I even tried taking a break from writing altogether and coming back later.  No matter what I do, no matter how I try, no matter even which story I work on, I can’t seem to lose myself into my writing anymore.

So that’s what the problem is.  That’s why I’m completely stressed out about any of my writing and avoiding it.

I also…have no clue why this is the case and what in the world to do about it.

Gah, so this post turned out far more complain-y than I intended…I had really just wanted to talk about how proud I was of my sister. Heh.  So, yeah, there it is.  Anyone have any suggestions of what to try?   And anyone else have awesome little sisters?

Getting Back Into Writing…

It’s been a little over two weeks since I decided to stop writing.  And… it’s worked.  I’ll admit, I haven’t really stopped writing; I’ve just stopped forcing myself to write.  If I was inspired for something, I wrote it down.  Otherwise, I didn’t do anything related to writing.

A part of me feels slightly guilty about not writing every day, but, overall, I feel a lot better.  Two of my stories still have frustrating elements to them (mostly, plot holes), so they’re pushed onto the back-burner, to be dealt with later.  For now, I’m working on a story that really is being made up in my head as I’m writing it—but I’m rather inspired to write it, so that’s good.  I think.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to branch away from my normal fantasy in my reading list, and so currently, my mom and I are reading the complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I’ll admit, the biggest (only) reason I’m reading that is because I’m a big fan of BBC’s TV show, Sherlock.  Still, three chapters into the first book, A Study in Scarlett, I’m definitely intrigued and going to read more.

Writing Needs Motivation, Part Two

When I want to be, I can be a very stubborn person.  I’ll admit, when I don’t want to be, I can give into things far too easily, but that’s beside the point.  When I’ve really put myself into something, I’m not going to just go and give up.

So, as you can probably guess, I’ve still been trying to write.  I did some brainstorming with a friend of mine, fixed about half a dozen plot holes, and I started to feel confident again.  I wrote an outline for my story, and although it’s not as good as the outline that I wrote for NaNoWriMo (which is kind of ironic, considering that most of what’s written during that is…not very good at all), I think it’s not too bad.  Of course, when I started writing it, I was immediately unhappy with it.  Nothing came out how I wanted, even remotely.  It didn’t even sound how I wanted it to.

It didn’t occur to me what the problem was, however, until earlier this evening.  After deciding to take a bit of a break, I decided to rewrite a scene that I’d written a few weeks ago, and immediately, it came out disastrous.  Frankly, I’m not even sure what went wrong—probably a mixture of things, really.  So, I decided to go read one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan, but it only seemed to make my own writing seem worse.  I think I write too wordy, with long sentences, but it throws my flow off, and even with all of the words, I lack description.  Oh boy, description is definitely one of my weakest points.

As I realized that, my first thought was, Well, there goes my chance of trying to go somewhere with my writing anytime soon.  Then, I realized something else.  I want to publish one day.  I’m not trying to, say, get on the Bestselling list (though that would be awesome), because I doubt that would ever happen, but I would like to share my stories with the rest of the world one day.  But, of course, if that’s why I keep writing, then am I ever going to get anywhere?  Probably not.

Frankly, it embarrasses me that this has become what’s making me keep writing, so, I’m going to change it.  I am writing for me, nobody else.  I have a story to tell (or three), and I’m going to tell it, whether it takes me three months, or fifteen years to do so.  I’m only a teen, right?  I have my whole life ahead of me, and I sure don’t need to rush anything.  In this case, quality over quantity.

So, I’m going to take about a week break from writing, to separate myself from my stories and all of the frustration that I’ve been facing with them.  I’m not sure if taking a break from writing entirely is a good idea, but I’m not sure it’ll really hurt anything.  And, considering the fact that half the family (including myself, possibly) are fighting off the flu, I’m not sure I’ll be able to write much this week.  Plus, I think I might try to be more analytical in my reading, and try to pick up some tricks and things (which, admittedly, probably means that I shouldn’t keep reading an average of three or four books a week).

First Day—Love Your Characters

Well. Camp NaNo started today. Of course, I was completely and utterly excited for it. I had planned out my first few paragraphs in my head the night before, so I was all set. ((Though, I wonder, does that count? I didn’t write anything down, but I knew the sentences before Camp started. Hmm…)) I wasted a bit of time on NaNo, talking about how some of us stayed up ’til midnight waiting, and just generally excited.

Then I sat down to write and….didn’t get anywhere. I got those few sentences down that I’d almost memorized the night before, and wasn’t sure where to go after that. The beginning was just so…slow. What didn’t help was I kept getting distracted, with things like complaining about the 100ºF+ temperatures, feeding my baby brother, and watching a t.v. show. And NaNo, of course.

Finally, though, I pushed my headphones in, moved from the couch to the table, and just started writing. Now, I’m up to over 2k! And since my word-count goal is 35k, that means I’m ahead of schedule. I only have to write about 1,130 words per day, to finish on time.

But, in my opinion, if you can go further, do it. Don’t just stop at your goal. So that’s what I’m doing. And hopefully, I’ll be able to get even further in tonight. If not, however, at least I’ve done what I need for the day.

What’s more, I’m really enjoying it. I already really like my main character, which is always good. I’ve noticed that the more I like the protagonists, the better and more I write. I mean, think about it. Would you read a book with main characters you didn’t like? No? Well, I wouldn’t want to write it, either, unless I liked them.

So, there you have it. Love your characters and you’re all set.

We hope.

Now, I shall go do the dishes for the day. That, and hope my headphones aren’t breaking again.

Now For the Ideas…Or Lack of Them

Something doesn’t seem to want me to write, it seems. First, I’ve spent the past week procrastinating instead of actually writing. Finally, yesterday, I’ve gotten back into writing. Just needed a bit of stubbornness to shove myself back into it, it seemed.

Now, I have a different dilemma. It turns out, I didn’t write down the ideas I had for what happened next, and now, after my week of procrastination, I don’t remember what they were! So, now, finally that I’m on a roll with the writing, it’s stopped by a lack of ideas of all things. I had a brilliant idea of what was supposed to happen, and yet I didn’t write it down. It might as well never had happened, except that I remember coming up with it.

It’s going to drive me nuts, I think. Even if I come up with something better.

Well. Now that I’ve gotten that out, I think it’s time to go brainstorming. Now, where did my ducky go…?