World-building! Yay!

And so we start the world-building again!

This is blackboard tape on my bedroom wall.  It was a Christmas present and I love it so much.  I can’t decide which is better anymore—my whiteboard, my sticky-notes, or my blackboard!

After deciding that I won’t start any major plot changes/revisions until after I’ve had at least one beta-reader go through my novel and give me feedback, I figured starting the world building now would be acceptable.  I tried it last night, actually, and ended up instead extremely frustrated.

Today, though, proved to be much more fruitful!  That blackboard was actually mostly empty this morning, and the strip underneath wasn’t there at all.

I decided that I was going to start my world building with the history.  And the history, I’d start at the beginning.  Yay for figuring out creation!  I actually considered an idea for it, but then it developed into something else, and now I have a really, really awesome idea for my religion, and no clue how the world actually came into existence.  (I’ll probably say “science” and be done with it.  Because, really.)

Tomorrow I’m going to work more on fleshing out my timeline (that’s what that bottom strip is), and then next week, I’ll probably be working on research.  I suck at research and my first and second draft were both written with a “I’ll pretend I know what I’m talking about and hope nobody notices” kind of attitude.

I’m pretty sure that won’t actually slide.  (It actually already hasn’t, considering the culture and whatnot of my world feels very blank.)  And I would like to know what I’m talking about in a few cases.  So now begins the research!  Yay!

That’s basically how it’s going so far.

I also happen to be procrastinating from my WIP, but hopefully that won’t last long, because I would like to finish the first draft of that.

How goes the writing for everyone else?  Where do you usually start when you tackle the huge chaotic mess that is world-building?

Showing versus Telling & Subtlety

Sometimes being subtle is more descriptive, I’ve found.  Saying “they were brothers” is specific, but not really descriptive. What kind of relationship do they have? Are they estranged or close?

Showing

I realized that while writing about the siblings in my story. I did say outright that they were two brothers and a sister—but the important part is actually the way they treat each other.  For example, they argue a lot. Especially the older two. And yet they also have pet nicknames for each other. These two things together show both how close they are and yet also how imperfect their relationship is.

Yet it’s also totally subtle. I never pointed out either of these two things (or any of the other ways they treat each other that help suggest their relationship), but it still helps the reader figure out what the dynamics are between the characters, way better than me saying “they’re siblings” does.  Or even “the siblings were close, but they had some issues”.

Actually, this is exactly what showing instead of telling is. I am showing their relationships.

I think there actually is a place for telling, somewhat. In this particular situation, who’s to say that my “showing” won’t leave the reader just assuming they’re really good friends, rather than siblings?  I think I show their being family well enough, but that’s certainly something to consider, hence why I actually do say they are siblings.

I hesitate to let this turn into another “showing versus telling” post, because there’s already so many of them out there.  But it really clicked with me, this time, exactly what showing is.

In all the examples of showing versus telling I’ve seen in the past, it always seems to be smaller things.  Say, emotion.  Show the emotion, don’t just tell me she’s angry.  Right?  We know that.   (On the subject of showing emotions, the Emotion Thesaurus is awesome for helping with that.)

But showing is so much deeper than that.  In fact, it occurred to me, you can show while telling.  Take, for example, a description of a room.  If you describe the room, you’re probably telling.  But while you’re telling me what the room looks like, you can pick your words so that at the same time, you’re showing what the narrator thinks/feels about the room.

Another thing is character arcs.  Or character personalities.  Do we tell our readers upfront that this character is saucy?  Well, maybe, but then what do we do?  Show their sauciness.  And then as the story progresses, again, we show the character development.  What good would development be if it was all told?

Once upon a time, Selena was a spoiled child who had no idea what privileges she had.  Then her father declared bankruptcy and she lost everything.  She got a taste for what life is like at the poverty level, and she found humility.

THE END.

That really isn’t how we develop characters.  Or introduce characters.  Or introduce events.  Or…really any of that.  I’m pretty sure even the “the end” is telling.  (You know, usually we show readers they reached the end by having a back cover after the last page.)

Or world-building!  Isn’t that all showing, as well?  (Of course, there is the occasional world-building info-dump because I think it’s impossible to avoid info-dumps 100%, but still, that isn’t how all of it’s shown.  Or even most.)

Showing goes way deeper than just a simple “her cheeks turned pink and she looked at the ground” instead of “she was ashamed”.  And I think the best showing is so subtle, you don’t necessarily know you’re being shown.

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.

IMG_1171

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?

NaNoWriMo—Past the MidWay Point! & Extras!

I’ve found it’s strangely discouraging to see how much further ahead everybody else’s wordcounts are from mine, so I decided to stop looking.  After all, it doesn’t matter how much everyone else has written! NaNoWriMo isn’t a race against other people.  It’s a crazy motivational month in which we all try our bests to write a full novel.

Okay, at the end of the month, I won’t have a full novel.  I’ll have 30k of assorted, random scenes that I can then use to write a fairlyish good outline of the next two novels.  (Instead of just one.  Oops.)

So far, I’m right on track.  Today’s the nineteenth and I have almost 19k.  (Okay, fine, I’m a few hundred words behind.  There, you got me.)  I’m not worried, though.  I’m still pretty confident I’ll make my goal, and I’ll be pretty happy with it.

Meanwhile, I realized that come December, I won’t have anything to write.  I’m not finishing the novel I’m writing this month, for several reasons—the biggest of which simply is that I have written absolutely nothing this year that wasn’t set in this world and with these characters. (Well, okay, I tried a few other things for Camp NaNo, but I’m not sure those count because I didn’t do much.)

I want something new. Something really different. So while I write my 1k for NaNo each day, I’m also brainstorming for a new project that I had an idea for way back in…I don’t even remember when.

The premise?  Aaaaahh, you want spoilers?  Okay, fine, you convinced me.  I managed to figure out how to turn Sleeping Beauty into a heist.

I love this story.  Unfortunately, I have never written a piece of sci-fi longer than 3k (which means I’ve never done any sci-fi worldbuilding), and I have never ever written a heist.

Nothing like new experiences, right?  (If anybody has any world building advice they could share, I’d be eternally grateful.  I am so lost.)

I’m excited.  Since I probably won’t start the writing itself for another month or so, I think this project will either be a really good way to start 2016 off, or it’ll be a really bad way.  Or both.  Probably both, knowing me and my projects, hehe.

World-building and Editing

I discovered this week that it’s important to finish world building before going onto the huge, plot-changing edit that is draft two.

Hmm.

Over the last Camp NaNo, I worked on editing.  Most of the beginning needs to be rewritten, so that’s mostly what I did—lots of rewriting, and only editing the occasional scene that I thought I could keep.  Around the last week, however, and in the weeks following Camp, I got stuck, though.  There was this one character, Tiri, who’s voice I just couldn’t quite capture.  She has a personality, and a sort of strong one, and she seemed to be pretty willing (mostly) to do what I wanted her to do, but it never came out right.  As if it was forced.

First off, when does a well-developed character ever willingly do what the author wants them to do?  I don’t know about other writers, but if my characters seem real, then they never do what I want.  Ever.

Secondly, if she was willing, then why did she sound forced?

It occurred to me that the problem, or at least part of it, was that she had no motivation. Sure, she had reasons  for doing what she was doing within the story, but not really motivation.  I’m pretty sure there’s a distinction.  I might have a reason to eat lunch, considering that it’s lunch time, but I’m not motivated to get out of my chair and actually eat something until I start feeling hungry.

So then I got to work backwards.  This was what I wanted her to do, so what could make her want to do it?

After lots of rambling at a friend, who’s probably dreading looking at her email and NaNoMail now, I finally figured out how to motivate her.  Turned out to be something as simple as taking advantage of her “the more you want me to do this, the more I’m going to do the opposite” stubborn attitude, plus introduce the stakes a little earlier, and I got her exactly where I wanted her.

Mostly.

The other problem with her was that I realized I was trying to put her into situations where her personality was struggling to show through.  She’s very hands-on and physical, and probably an extravert, and so sticking her in a situation which forced her to isolate herself—yes, that caused a little bit of conflict, but not quite the kind I wanted, and it only allowed me to show a small portion of her personality.  As a result, in the first draft, she was horribly flat and I actually quite disliked writing her.

That last problem isn’t completely fixed, but I think I might be able to tweak it somehow to at least be better.  Hopefully.

What does any of this have to do with world-building?  Well, nothing, apparently.

Mm.  Those stakes I had to introduce to get this character where I wanted her?  Those stakes didn’t exist up until, well, a couple of days ago.  The first draft had absolutely no stakes at all.  One character almost had stakes, but then I didn’t actually integrate them in, and so…there were none.

Big mistake.

So obviously, I had to figure out what the stakes are, and then figure out how to integrate them into the story.  For each individual character, too, since most of the characters don’t even meet each other until like 50k into the story.

For this one character in particular, the best way to introduce the stakes was actually to throw a party.  Well.  The world she lives in, the people there are known for being somewhat sort of obsessed with festivals and parties and celebrations.  So, I throw a party, and introduce some stuff, and voilà!

Wait.  I actually know nothing about how these people throw their parties.  You know, things like, is it indoors or outdoors?  Do they dance?  Is their music?  Food?  How long do they last?

Most people who know me in real life know that I’m not a party-person.  I tend to avoid them if I can, actually.  So this sounds kind of backwards, me writing about a society that loves their parties.

Eh.  The point being, I had some world building to do before I could go any further.  And, of course, by figuring out how the party goes, it actually affected two other chapters that I’d already finished rewriting and editing.  So what do I get to do now?

Go fix them.

Basically, the lesson learned here is that it’s kind of pointless to edit something without really knowing what you’re doing, because you will end up going back and fixing it again soon.  That’s all fine and dandy for first drafts, but not second drafts.

Anybody else make that mistake?

On Beginnings and Being Late

Sometimes, I really despise beginnings. They’re so hard, and yet, in my four years of writing, I’ve written about a dozen times more beginnings than I even have written middles. I should be an expert by now.

I’ve been trying to edit my beginning for a few weeks ago, and I’ve been so stuck. I edited my prologue, and I’m immensely happy with it. It might be a little confusing, because I did kind of introduce some concepts of my world-building and then not explain it all (but my one beta-reader didn’t say anything about being confused, so maybe not), but then I got to chapter one, and I’m just like… “Aggghhhh!”

I know what happens in the chapter. Or what needs to happen. But everything I read says, “In late, out early.” Well, how late is that supposed to be? If I start the chapter right when the action starts, then that’s all fine and dandy, but I feel like then I have no introduction of the character, and so this plot-twist-like thing that happens in the chapter doesn’t feel real surprising, because the reader doesn’t know who my protagonist is before this reveal. Or maybe I’ve just got the wrong perspective, because I keep thinking of this thing as a plot twist, even though, technically it isn’t, because it’s not twisting the plot, because there is no plot in chapter one, so what this is is actually my inciting incident! It’s what gets the plot going somewhere, at least for this one character.

I considered trying starting it before the plot twist, but I’m afraid that’ll be boring and it might make this chapter too long. Heh. Plus, I have to figure out how to introduce this other character and some more world-building concepts, and it all kind of gets overwhelming.

I think what I’ve decided to actually do is start the chapter after I reveal the plot twist, because then I can still start with action and I can start with my protagonist’s emotion and his feelings about the whole thing (which I feel might be a better, more interesting way of introducing his character).

Still, it’ll be hard to balance, what with me still having to introduce…everything else.  I was told that I’m somewhat decent at giving out information without info0dumping, though, so I’m hoping that that one time I did it right wasn’t a fluke or something, hehe.

Anyway, yeah.  Beginnings are hard to write.  And apparently…rewriting them is not any easier.  We’ll see how editing them goes when I get to draft three (because I really hope I won’t be rewriting it again then).

Editing and All of the Things Stopping Me from Doing It

First off.  Notice the red bar on the right side of the page.  It’s full.  It’s also not even at 30k.

That’s basically how my writing is going.  I had expected that project to be a novel, but it just wasn’t going to do that.  Not enough story or something, I’m not even sure, but it decided to be novella instead.  When I edit it later on this year, perhaps I’ll figure out how to make it novel-sized…but then again, maybe this story needs to be a smaller size.  I’m not sure yet, but it really doesn’t matter so much, actually.  I’m not disappointed.

Maybe that’s just because I’m excited that I finished another project.  After almost two years of not finishing a single thing, I’ve now finished two decent-sized projects in a little over three months.

Speaking of other finished projects.  I’ve gotten a little bit overwhelmed with all of my world building in my other novel, and I decided…that should probably be enough.  There is one thing I still need to figure out, since it’s somewhat relevant to the story, but I can work it out later.  So for now, I’m going to actually start editing.

Gosh.  At first, staring my 100k novel, I wasn’t even sure how to begin the editing process.  I mean, what should you do first?  I know from reading other writers’ experiences in editing—and from a little common sense—that I need to edit the big stuff before I worry about the little stuff.  How much sense would it make to start correcting my grammar in a scene that might not even stay in the novel?

Yeah.  So.  I figured, I’ll start with my characters.  I have five viewpoints in this novel, and I noticed they were very much out of balance.  One character was the narrator for…twenty-something chapters, while another character had only six chapters in her PoV.  That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, especially since six chapters, in this case anyway, really isn’t much room to work with for her character arc.

So, I decided to start with character arcs.  I started writing outlines for each character, but started struggling with how they weaved together.  The five characters don’t always spend the whole novel all group together, but group up and split apart several times throughout the book.  So each character’s individual story depends a lot on how the other four go, so trying to write an outline for each is…not exactly easy.

Here’s the best part, though.  I realized that I actually can’t really figure out what their character arcs are because not all of them even have goals in the first place.  Hmm.  That’s problematic.

So I guess, I get to work on character development a little bit.  Some day, I’ll actually start editing this thing.  Some day soon, I hope.

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.

Planning for NaNo…

So…it’s been like a month and a half since I posted anything.  Part of it’s that I’ve had nothing to say, and part of it is that…well, I’ve been having a lot of self-esteem issues recently, so I’ve just been avoiding my blog. But, I think it’s time I at least say something.

So, it’s October.  NaNoWriMo starts in less than a month.  I’m as prepared as I’m going to be.  Characters are more or less developed (meaning, my MC’s are developed, but I have only backstory and motivation, but no personality, for my villain).  I figure that’s probably enough for the moment, and even if it wasn’t, it’ll have to do since I’m bored of developing characters at the moment.  Same with world-building.  I have random things figured out, and random holes in other places, but I think I have enough to write the first draft.  Afterwards, in December or January, I’ll go through and finish my world building and then I can edit things in and whatnot, but for now, I need a break from all of that.

I know I can’t just not do anything for the next month, though, so I decided to start working on an old story I had started a while ago, and so I’m working on that for now.  I’ve been consistently writing every day, averaging probably around one thousand to two thousand words a day, and I’m very happy about that.

NaNo is going to hard this year, though.  Last year, I wrote about 84k, and so, of course, I want to try to beat my own record and get more than that.  Currently, I think I’m going to try for 100k, but that’d mean I have to write four thousand words every single day.  That’s a stretch even for me (and people are always asking how I write as much in one day as I do…hmm), but I really want to try this.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten one of my siblings to do NaNoWriMo with me.  Just one…maybe two.  The other one doesn’t want to touch NaNo with a ten foot pole.  Eh.  So I was trying to help the one brother with figuring out some things for his story, and he’s got this big thing of time travel and a colony on Mars and magical jewelry, and while it sounds awesome, I wonder if it’ll be too much for him to handle.  He did NaNo last year, but he only wrote about 2k, and so this is going to be a big project for him.  Still, I think it’ll be fun, if nothing else.

So, how’s planning for NaNo going for everyone else?  At least, those of you who are actually planning anything…

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.