Quit Resisting the Muse!

27 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

The past several weeks have been, for all practical purposes, novel-writing free. As you might remember, I received a sleep apnea diagnosis a while back, and have now completed two months of treatment using a CPAP machine. I’m finally feeling mostly better, having more energy. If I wasn’t superstitious I’d say that I’m over the hump.

:::knocks on wood:::

Most weeks I’d barely managed 1,000 words, and that mostly blogposts, some weeks were a big, fat zero. Then on April 22nd I knocked out over 2,100. What happened? I stopped trying to tell my muse what’s what, that’s what!

I have been trying to hog-tie my (now 116,000+ word) novel into something that made three-act sense. I was looking for that opening scene, that inciting incident which would hook the reader into reading something that I hoped would be around 85,000 words. And it wasn’t working. I was blocked up, unable to move until I figured out where the heck to begin.

Then on Sunday morning, in the shower, my muse hit me over the head. (She has a way of jumping me when I least expect it).

“Just write the damned thing! Tell this man’s story! Damn the word count! We’ll figure it out later!”

Um, yeah. By the time I had dried my hair, I had the beginnings of three new scenes begging to be put on paper, and was ENTHUSED about writing again.

Today? I’m all WTH if it turns into a 210,000 word-trilogy. I’m unblocked, and writing better than ever.

And… I found a website with a novel-writing system that really appeals to me: the Snowflake System.

 

I’m going to take that out for a walk today, going through the steps for this particular novel, and fitting in the scenes that I’ve already written as I find them. Then I’m going to finish this novel, and self-publish it.





Row80, once again

6 04 2012

If there’s anything that I learned last time, it was that life was going to intervene, and I wouldn’t finish Round One. I discovered that I had sleep apnea, and dealing with that reality continues to occupy a good amount of my psychic energy. There are going to be more changes in that arena, I’m sure… and I’ll deal with them as they come.

But I’m inspired, seeing all my peeps (and tweeps) lining up for Round two, so I decided to give this another go. My goals fall into a couple of categories: building better life habits, creativity, and social media.

Better life habits:

  1. Housekeeping: Become anal retentive about turning off lights and shutting cabinet doors. Make sure that the kitchen sink is clean and shining every night before bed. Make up the bed every morning (yeah, I’m messy!)
  2. Walk at least 150 minutes/week. That’s 30 minutes/5x/week.
  3. Spend less than 30 minutes/day on Facebook – use a timer. Get out in nature more!
  4. Limit iPhone games to 20 min/day. Use the timer!
Creativity:
  1. Finish plotting out my first draft, and finish it, if possible.
  2. Spend time every day with the How To Think Sideways course.
  3. Practice the flute at least 15 minutes/day (after all, it is my main job!)
  4. Finish the scarf I’m knitting, and start my mask-making project.

Social Media:

  1. Write one new non-row80 blogpost/week.
  2. Check in to Row80 on Sunday (this post, on a Friday, will count for Sunday, as I’ll be celebrating the holiday)
  3. Be on twitter 4 days/week
  4. Get together with local writer tweeps at least once/month.

I’m cutting back on social media, because I don’t see it as practical for me right now. It’s eating into my writing and studying time, and my Facebook time is mostly sharing photos with friends – not the best use of my time, even if it does bond us together. I think that this list is do-able for where I am in my life at this time.

Thanks for reading!





My First Anniversary: My First WIP

20 02 2012

Today is my First Anniversary… my first writing anniversary! I have been writing for one year.

February has historically been a questionable month for me. After all the darkness of winter I’m left in a deep depression, waiting for spring. I hit my lowest of lows in February 1994, when I had a nervous breakdown of sorts. I still have my struggles with depression, but for the most part, I’m okay now.

So it’s a blessing to put a gold star on February 20th, a star to brighten an otherwise bleak month.

My bestie is a writer, among other wonderful things. Sometime last winter she sent me a few pages of the novel she was writing, and I was blown away. Then it was as if a tiny angel whispered in my ear: you can do this too, Julia. Just give it a try.

I sat down with my laptop and opened up a word processing file, and started to write about Steven. I am character driven, but already had a scene for him. Boom. There it was. I opened up skype and read it to my bestie. She said, “Oh my god, Julia, you’re a writer!” I took on the mantle from that moment.

My life changed in an instant. Today I’m a happier person, more focused, more passionate, devouring everything I can about the craft… and, of course, WRITING.

I plotted out Steven’s life, and wrote out of order. For almost a year I had no idea how this book would end, but I kept on writing in fits and starts, until I had 90k words. Then I put it on the back burner for NaNoWriMo, and only returned to the Story of Steven Canelli in the past three weeks or so. I finally figured out the ending, which brought his life back full circle. Last night I wrote that final chapter, with a short epilogue planned.

But… and it’s a huge but… the book is nowhere near finished. I’ve cut out huge swaths of material (perhaps for a reader freebie in the future), and am seriously considering a complete rewrite to first person.

Even with that, I don’t know if I’ll ever publish this story. It is, after all, my first novel… and I hear that most writers have four or five of their first work in a drawer somewhere. But you have to start somewhere, and I did. I am a writer. One of the Creatives!





My First WIP is…

2 02 2012

 

… giving me indigestion.

 

I bought Scrivener a few days ago, and was happily putting my NaNoWriMo novel into it. I love the way each part of the story is easily accessible, and how the outline and corkboard views make it easy to see the story’s trajectory. So far so good. I was psyched.

Then I decided to put my first (unfinished) novel in, and uff da. What a mess! What I’ve written covers most of the protag’s life, from just after birth to his 50s in therapy.

 

::excuse me while I die laughing at myself::

 

 

************************

 

 

Ahem. That took a while. Advice from the writing blogosphere: don’t write your character’s therapy. It’s boring to read! (in my defense, I got bored myself and didn’t finish the scene…)

I was a complete pantser when I wrote the Canelli book, with no concern for plotting. I had scenes in my mind, and though many of them turned into true chapters, the chapters don’t fit together. In fact, the character changed as I wrote, becoming a much more complex, darker character. That kind of character development works well in novels, but I’d been writing his story out of chronological order. At 38 (which I wrote in August 2011) he’s a dark character, while at 48 (which I wrote in March 2011) he’s a happy being of light.

I hope to rescue this 96k novel and turn it into something more readable. (Yes, I wrote nearly 100k in this meandering mess.)

My first task: setting up a three to four-act plot. What is the point? Who/what is the antagonist? What does the protag want? What is his passion? What scares him to death, makes him break out in a cold sweat? What would he give everything he has to have in his life?

My second task is like unto the first: deciding what happens in the end, and write it. Is the guy salvageable? Or have his secret compulsions backed him into such a dark place that there is no way out? Will he manage to weasel his way out of XXX?

Can I bust out a series of short stories from this manuscript? Or a bloody TRILOGY? (Duology?) Or a sensible Contemporary Fiction 85k word novel? Or will I finish it at all?

 

That’s a lot of questions to be answered. There’s a bunch of dreck to be deleted, okay stuff to be rewritten, and some awesome wordsmithing in the manuscript. Time to spend some time coming up with a working logline, and plot from there.

The basic formula for a logline (from Anne R. Allen’s linked post above):

When______happens to_____, he/she must_____or face_____.

That’s what I don’t yet have… but I will!





Belated row80 update

16 01 2012

Yesterday was a wash, so here’s my belated row80 update!

Writing: I managed about 1600 words or so yesterday, which is all I wrote since the last update. At this rate, I’ll complete my 40k to finish the novel in October… which is several months after my ‘end of this row80 round’ goal. There are several reasons for this. I’m still using the Dvorak keyboard, and it’s a trial, though it’s getting faster. Right now I’m writing using QWERTY, and flying through the writing. :\

The second reason for my slow writing is that I’ve been distracted, and the book is mucked up in ‘omg I need to sit down and do some #amplotting’ mode. So though I want to write, I’m disheartened with the novel right now. When I sit down to plot, I’m lost. I have subplots that have sunk below sea level, and every one of my chapters needs fleshing out. The first 50k were written in 2011′s NaNoWriMo, and read like it. However, I do like the story, and I think that it has merit. There are twists and turns that will keep pages turning.

I did manage a blogpost last week that I liked, and am having fun on twitter. I have an open tab on the iMac to Kristen Lamb’s ‘Twitter Tuesday‘ category, and am putting into practice many of her suggestions.

I have been successful with my walking goals, and have put in 20+ minutes most every day.

I am going to set aside the rest of today for some #amplotting. Time to get out the notecards and Just Do It. I have another day off tomorrow, and I will get to 3k words by 11:59 pm CST 1/17/12!

Have a great day, and keep on #amwriting!





Goal Revisions, worldbuilding links, my row80 update

7 01 2012

I spent way more time on twitter than I meant to yesterday, but I’d like to think that it was time well spent… though it may well result in my revamping my row80 goals.

I had realized that I have major plot/structure/worldbuilding work to do before my writing time will be productive, but then this afternoon I came up with several new scenes while walking the dog, and wrote another 1800+ words tonight. So much for needing major work before the muse settles in for the weekend! Thanks to my friends at #wordmongering, I wasn’t writing alone. (Well, them and the dog…)

This post by Donna Newton is the impetus for restructuring the book, FWIW.

Dvorak is coming along nicely – every day it’s getting easier! I reverted back to qwerty while writing today, but I’m back to dvorak tonight, and as slow as molasses. O, F, and I remain my nemeses.

I found the following worldbuilding links useful in showing me what is missing in my book’s world. This one is one place that I found Patricia Wrede’s worldbuilding questions. I copied and pasted them into a new file, printing them up and deciding which ones I needed to consider for this book. My inner geek is smiling!

The second link is to a 30-Day Worldbuilding Challenge, and it lists a topic per day to be considered. If you read a few of the posts, it was originally suggested for October, as a NaNoWriMo warmup. I’d love to do it that way, if I didn’t have a job!

I’m adding two more goals to my list: walking 20 minutes every day that it isn’t pouring down rain, and getting to sleep before midnight. I’ve been doing the former, and I feel better already. As for the latter… I’m starting tonight!





The Beauty of Row80

4 01 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Today I discovered the beauty of Row80 – or perhaps just one of the beauties of it. I’ve been visiting my parents, and still recovering from my trip to Australia (I returned less than a week ago). Writing has not been at the top of my priority list… then I remembered that today is Weds, and the first Row80 check in day! O.M.G. LOL

While my Mom (a hale and hearty 81!) took a nap, I broke out the laptop and WROTE. Slowly – using the Dvorak keyboard as I promised. And in the process I realized that I definitely need to do more plotting away from the computer, so I went out and bought some colored note cards – I’m going to contact one of the world-famous Wordbitches, Elena Aitken of “Nothing Stays in Vegas” fame, and ask her how she storyboards. Actually, I think that she already wrote a post about that… so now I don’t need to ask her. Maybe I will anyway!

I blogged about my 2012 goals, and I’ve been on twitter off and on, being positive and helpful (helpful reminders from Kristen Lamb). So I’ve managed to stay on track for the first three days.

How are you doing with your Row80 goals… or your 2012 resolutions?





Post-NaNoWriMo advice, from the blogosphere

4 12 2011

Yippee!! Fritos and KitKat bars for everybody!! Streamers and noisemakers, confetti everywhere!!

You just won NaNoWriMo!!! 50k in 30 days WooHOO!

Ahem. Now what?

In my case, finish the bloody novel. It’s nowhere near done, as I didn’t do any worldbuilding before I started, because I didn’t decide to participate until 9:30pm, Oct 31, 2011. I was originally going to set the novel in 600 AD among Germanic tribes, but people who read historical fiction expect that there be some historical accuracy involved, and I had less than 3 hours to do any research. Then I remembered Avatar and the Na’vi, and boom! But what do Umgonnan eat? Bother. Time for worldbuilding.

There is no shortage of good advice out there for Nano writers, whether ‘winners’ or participants, and since this is my first time out, I’m not going to stick my neck out and make a fool of myself. So here are some post-Nano links that work for me.

First out: Chuck Wendig. I <3 Chuck, and you might, too… IF you aren’t offended by coarse language. Don’t click this link if you are, because I guarantee you’ll be seeing red and unfriending me on Facebook and unfollowing my blog and my twitter feed… You get the idea. Just don’t do it if the F-word bothers you.

Chuck’s exhortation to Just. Write. is brilliant, vintage Chuck. IOW, just because you finished (or didn’t), don’t get the idea that you’re done. You aren’t. Miles to go and all that…

And for more specific advice, I like Victoria Mixon’s post on 23 Questions to ask yourself at the end of NaNoWriMo. I can see spending several hours contemplating that list, and there are links to four more of this editor’s posts on beginning a novel. I’m sorry I didn’t see those before now… though if I had I might have been too cowed to even begin. But now that I know I can do this, I’m ready to learn how to do it better.

Daniel Swensen’s post on Writing Through the Wolf’s Hour, deals with the ‘crippling doubt’ that every writer has about his/her work from time to time. I look at my ‘novel’ and think “Eeep. No one is going to be interested in this shit!” Well, maybe, maybe not. It’s nice to know that we all are host to those fears more often than not.

This will be my last post for a couple of days, as I’m heading out on vacation on Tuesday, and tomorrow is packed. I meant to get this post out on Friday, but as you can see, it’s Sunday evening and … here it is. I hope you guys have a good week, and I’ll see you on Friday-ish.





What I learned While Participating in NaNoWriMo for the First TIme

30 11 2011

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

First off, I finished! I managed 51K, though the novel is barely half done.

I learned that I still have my determination muscle hanging about. I mentioned before that I put it to good use back in high school, becoming an All-State flutist three times over. I thought that I had it in me, and I was right!

I also learned that I can put my competitive streak to good use, especially when I’m competing against myself. Watching that blue bar move from left toward the completion zone on the right every day was highly motivating, especially when it vaulted heavenward above the ‘par for the day’ line on the graph.

That competitive spirit is also well served on twitter, at the hashtag #wordmongering. There is a terrific community of supportive writers from around the globe who start writing at :00 or :30 of the hour, writing for 30 min. I’m actually wordmongering this blogpost right now, and will report my wordcount at 11:30 local time on twitter. Any wordcount is celebrated there, because it’s X more words than one had 30 minutes previously!

I also learned that while it’s optimal to write every day, with my professional schedule it just doesn’t happen. I knew that would be the case, and when I had time to write I pushed myself to get the words down. That padding kept me from despair when two or three days would go by without any progress. So from now on I’ll have weekly goals, rather than daily ones.

After NaNoWriMo I proudly wear the label pantser/plotter. I started out with a logline (which changed, oops), and a basic idea, but after about 10k words I was lost. In desperation I sat down and plotted some scenes, and that unblocked me. The pantser in me came back as I was writing the scenes that I’d plotted, nice juicy stuff that I couldn’t seem to plot before I had my hands on the keyboard. For the next books in the series (yeah, that’s the plan!) I’ll try out @elenaaitken’s storyboard idea, and see if I can plot it out in more detail.

Another thing: if you’re going to write a fantasy novel, it helps to have done some worldbuilding beforehand. I hadn’t, and there are scores of “XXXXX”s scattered throughout the manuscript where I didn’t have a word or an idea for something (What the hell do Umgonnan EAT, for crying out loud??) I need to go back and flesh them out. I’ve bought a couple Holly Lisle’s ebooks from Amazon, and if I find myself a committed fantasy writer, I may well take one of her courses. Hell, I may take one anyway!

I forced myself to not edit as I was writing, but my natural flow is to edit what I wrote the day before, then begin writing again. I need to read what I wrote before anyway, especially if it’s been a couple of days since I’ve written. In my first novel (unfinished, naturally!) there were days when I was uninspired, and I would edit during that time, thinking that I was getting something done. I probably deleted some good stuff in that process, but I’ve kept all my changes for that book, so I can go dig it out when I start working on it again.

I learned that I enjoy writing sex scenes. Even when they’re between non-humans. So shoot me! It’s fun, especially when the beasties are not only sentient and have consciences, but also have to deal with strong instincts that drive their sexual behavior. That’s part of culture building – how they deal with that.

Oh, one more thing. Playing Bejeweled does not add to one’s word count!

Did you participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Or in previous years? What did you learn? Did you grow as a writer? As a human being? Let me know in the comments!





On the Last Week of NaNoWriMo

22 11 2011

I’m at 41,000+ words, and it’s the last week of NaNoWriMo. What have I learned?

I’ve learned that I can still channel the determination that made me an All-State Flutist during my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years of High School.

I’ve learned that a log-line is NOT enough for me, if I’m writing 1500+ words every day. Simply mapping out some scenes works much better, even though I end up adding more in between them when I’m in the thick of it.

I’ve learned that there is scads of info that one can give the reader using dialogue alone. In fact, the blasted book looks more like a screenplay now – pages and pages of dialogue.

I’ve learned that it’s big fun to hang with the folks at #wordbitches, #mywana, and #wordmongering, and I can really pound out the words when I’m against a timer.

I’ve learned that 1000 words/one hour is comfortable for me, at least in the first draft, when I have scenes set out already.

I’ve learned that having a spot of tea with a character helps me understand his/her motivations.

Is that enough? ::smile::

There are things that I know now, too. That I need to write, it’s in my blood. That I can trust when something just isn’t working. Set it aside and let it marinate, ferment. Perhaps it will turn into yogurt, or maybe just appalling goo. No matter, it was a learning experience. And, that I have no idea how to proceed, after the first draft is done.

I trust that I’ll figure it out. I have made so many writing friends on twitter, and they are such a helpful bunch! Go to my profile, and I think there will be a list of blogs that I follow. Maybe. I don’t know wordpress well enough right now… and I haven’t put up a blogroll yet. There is so much good info out there to be had for FREE.

If you are NaNoWriMo-ing, or have in the past, let me know – what have you learned from the process? Does any of the above sound familiar?

 

Oh… and I’m going to be blogging more regularly now. At least once a week through December, perhaps more. No more two week unplanned hiatuses. (Is that even a WORD??? lol)








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