Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘outlining’

It’s late, I’m tired, I probably should leave this until tomorrow, but it’s not been a good day writing-wise, so I’d like to go to bed knowing I accomplished something. I’ll try to be coherent.

My last book (The Scent of Death), I wrote up as “The Experiment,” a mostly-weekly rundown of how well I had kept to my 8,000 (later 6,000) word schedule. Now I’m working on Son of the Experiment (The Killing Scar), and it’s not going nearly so well. After seven days, I have close to 5700 words. (It is, again, ironic that under my old system this would have been considered quite satisfactory.) And the words are all right; I have no problem with them; the characters are behaving themselves. Although it took time, I have the major plot points worked out, and the settings, and all that. But it’s been slow, and I’ve been slow to realize why.

The problem, I now understand, is that I’ve been trying to go too fast. Not that I can’t put out 1500 words a day (I wrote 1900 last night), but I’ve put the cart before the horse. The whole basis of my new system is outlining–and I kinda sorta forgot to do enough outlining.

I thought that because I only outlined the last book up through the first dozen chapters and wrote the rest with a vaguer sort of guidance, I could write a whole book that way. Turns out I can’t. You see, as long as you know where you’re headed, the closer you get to the end of the book, the easier it is to write. In the case of The Scent of Death, I was able to apply that principle to the last 40,000 words (and the last 10,000 flew by). But that still means I wrote 20,000 words from a pretty detailed outline, a luxury I haven’t given myself this time.

Last night’s 1900 words came in the form of a prologue–that I wrote after I was 3000 words into the book. If you’re writing a huge prologue after you’ve started the book, something’s wrong with your schedule. It means, most obviously, that you began your book in the wrong place. And if you start in the wrong place, you cannot end in the right place.

So I’m going back to the outline. (I feel better about the whole process already.) I’ll outline the first quarter-to-half of the book, maybe more if it is working. Then I’ll be able to jump into the real writing with a sense of confidence. Yep, I’m rarin’ to go now!

After I get a good night’s sleep. I don’t want my characters yawning in the middle of their dialogue.

#SFWApro

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

As you are aware, by this point in the proceedings, the plan was to have reached 40,000 words, the putative 2/3 mark of this monument to one man’s ambition. However, as you are also aware, from having read the title of this post, things this week did not go entirely as planned.

Through a combination of events largely out of my control, I couldn’t keep up the pace this week. Apparently, 32,000 words per month is my limit. (Already the experiment is yielding valuable data.) Even before Life took precedence, I had decided that 2000 words per day, even working only four days a week, was just too much. It was eating up all of my “free time,” and this gig doesn’t pay well enough for that. (Doubtful that it ever could.) So I ratcheted my goal back to 1500 words per night, which will extend the time it takes to finish, but not as much as you might think, since I’m so far into it already. I’m thinking ten weeks instead of eight. This should still leave enough time to make my September 15 deadline. (And if it doesn’t, I-the-publisher can fight me-the-writer over it.)

For the record, I am at 37,418 words. Since I already gave myself permission to slack off, however, this means I am only about 1100 words behind schedule on the sequel to The Choking Rain, which will now with 90% certainty be called The Scent of Death. Our Heroes, having hied themselves to an Asian kingdom where they don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and which is threatened by both revolution from within and invasion from without, have been attacked by a mob in the market square, resulting in becoming separated from their guide, the princess they’re protecting, and one of their own gang. Add to this a mysterious method of assassination, a gallery of untrustworthy high officials, and a couple of “allies” with their own secret agendas, and it’s all pretty much business as usual.*

And that’s all I can tell you. Fortunately, as part of the outlining process, I know who’s who and who’s not. Unless you count this character, who just kind of showed up and introduced himself, and that guy who’s not what I thought he was, and the other fellow who’s now…

I’m telling you, this would all be a lot easier if the characters would just read the outline first.

*And that’s not including the fact that their fearless leader has taken on a new identity so secret he won’t even tell them.

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

As of the end of Week 4, I am at 32,189 words. (Target threshold: 32,000.) If you remember, at the end of last week I was about to embark on a Big Action Scene. Turns out 50 bandits was a little on the heavy side, and I settled for 30. How that all turned out, who faced up to the danger, who was shoved to the sidelines, and who got shot, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

The plot is beginning to coalesce, with the cast of characters growing, potential villains set up, potential allies acting mysteriously (could they also be villains?) and making various shocking disclosures. (All I will say is that there are more people sneaking around the palace after lights-out than there were during the day.)

I am now considering a tentative release date of September 15. This presumes, of course that (a) I finish on time; (b) I can commission a proper cover, not only for this book, but a coordinating one for The Choking Rain as well; and (c) editing does not take more time than I anticipate. Plus, of course, I need a title. The Scent of Death is hanging around like, um, a mysterious and sinister perfume, and unless something really cool comes up, that will likely be the winner.

Meanwhile, of course, the Smashwords July sale is still on, and you can get all of my titles at reduced prices (one is actually free). So don’t be shy; I write these things to amuse myself, but you might find you like them too…

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

I’ve never really tried writing to an outline before, but now I’ve outlined the sequel to The Choking Rain, provisionally titled Something in the Air (but very much subject to change), and I’ve spent the last two evenings writing the first 4300 words. The idea is to write 2000 words a night, which would bring in the first draft before Labor Day.

I hadn’t planned to write another novel so soon; the idea was to concentrate on short fiction this year. But after a couple of tries (and one completion), the Muse wasn’t hanging around. “Well,” I thought, “no plan to do something is good if it keeps you from doing anything,” so I allowed myself to think about writing another book–but only if I could get it done quickly. None of this “twelve months and a bit” this time. None of this foundering in the middle trying to figure out how the plot was going to get from A to Z. (A and Z are easy. It’s L, M, and N that will kill you.)

So I tried outlining, and surprisingly, it wasn’t tough. (I’ve had this idea for a long time, so that helped.) I had the outline done in half the time I had allotted, including details for the first dozen chapters, so I started even sooner than I thought I would. So far, I’m 300 words ahead of schedule. We’ll see how tonight goes.

I’ll keep you all updated every week or so, unless I fall completely behind, in which case I will close this page and start writing under an assumed name, something with fewer expectations. I’m leaning toward “Will Shakespeare,” since no one thinks he ever wrote anything anyway…

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

I’ve always been what they call a “pantser,” which is to say I write by the seat of my pants. Now, I know, from one experience in writing in someone else’s universe, that outlining can increase my output dramatically, but it never seemed to work for me. I tried it to a degree in The Cosmic City, and it helped keep me moving, but it didn’t achieve the results a true outline can bring. And so far as writing short stories is concerned…forget it.

But I’ve been blocked lately from writing much of anything, so much that when a couple of my friends asked me, a week apart, if I was writing anything I had to admit that, no, nothing specific at the moment. (Although yes, I was and am still writing.)* Okay, I thought, I was going to concentrate on shorts this year, but if you’re not writing, you’re not writing. Even writing something that may never turn a dime is better than sitting around feeling like a lump.

So I grabbed an old idea I had, a sequel to The Choking Rain, and I started noodling with it. I thought, outlining is easy, and it counts as writing. If I get stuck or inspired by something else, it’s easy to put aside. On the other hand, if I could create an outline in say, eight weeks, I could probably have a book written before Halloween. That’s about half what it usually takes. Not a bad use of my time whatever happens, and I can still spend the last two months of the year writing short stories (which have a better chance of selling).

An outline for a 60,000-word novel means (given my typical chapter length), setting up 40 chapters. If I were shooting for an eight-week schedule, that would average five chapters a week, or one a day. (I don’t work weekends.)

In two days’ work, I have outlined eight chapters.

Now, they will get harder. I haven’t created any real characters yet, only cut-outs, and characters are hard. But then again, they don’t need to be fleshed-out at this point. And if I can even approach four chapters a day, I can finish the outline in two weeks.

That means I could be writing a new novel by the end of the month, and finished before Labor Day. My previous record is just over a year (albeit that was 85,000 words).

I’d better start designing a cover.

 

*Why do people who have known you for decades, and have always known you as a writer, ask if you’re “still writing”?

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

I was getting down thinking about my WIP (work-in-progress in writer-speak). I thought it was stalling creatively, that while all the scenes were necessary, I was really just filling in the time until I reach the next phase, which in this case is the final act, the last third of the book, which I had scheduled for 50,000 words, or about 6000 words from now. (Like drivers in LA who measure distances in the time it takes to get there, writers don’t measure time in minutes, they measure it in words.)

And then it hit me: Who was I creating this artificial milestone for? If the story was stalling out, then certainly it wasn’t for me, and if I do my job, this stuff is invisible to readers, so who?

The publisher. Who at this stage is completely hypothetical. But I knew that publishers like books to have a certain length to justify its cost. So when I was outlining, I had divided my book into roughly even chunks in order to block out the scenes, if you will. But now, with the scenes almost all blocked, and the big climax (with explosions, if you’ll pardon a spoiler), looming ever larger, my outlined structure had gone from being a frame to a cage.

Well, the heck with that. I’m not Dan Brown or George RR Martin. (I think their books are too big, anyway.) If you think my book’s too short, let me know. I’ll write a sequel. That’s my “write,” too.

Read Full Post »