In Which I Become Productive: Row80 update

13 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

This has been a week. Well, yes, that’s true. More than that, it’s been a week that went from OMG to YESS!

Last Sunday I finally got on board with the whole Row80/blogging thing, and it solidified my Social Media preferences. That is, I’m a Blogger. Not a Tweeter, or a Facebooker. I went to the Row80 homepage, and took the time to actually read and comment on a good number of blogs, and while that could have deep-sixed my email (I subbed to all the comment threads!), I kept that window open and was diligent with scanning and deleting comment emails. I discovered that the blogging community means the most to me, and is more to my taste than Twitter. As far as Facebook, I’m keeping my personal FB for friends (including my writer friends, yay!), and eventually, when I get to the point of publishing something, I’ll go with an author fan page. Yes, I found Row80 and other writing friends on Twitter, and will still be there from time to time, but for now, I think that blogging is where it’s at for me.

So, on Sunday I was on the computer for hours – FUN hours. Then work started to intervene. Let’s just say that rehearsals this past week were pretty hellish, and though I played well (mostly), it was damned stressful. Beer helped, specifically the new Shiner brew: Wild Hare. I’ve been alcohol-free for months, but this brew made the week go better. Now that the 6-pack is gone, I’ll get back to my teetotaling days. My stomach acid is relieved (but wishes I’d also deep-six the coffee. Oy.)

Then came Friday, and my muse put her feet back on the ground and started running. 1,100 words, in a scene that I may use. Not sure yet. Because yesterday I fired up Scrivener (which I love with a mad, passionate, and completely inappropriate love) and printed out all my chapters and scene headings. While I’m still not convinced that my WIP is one novel (as opposed to, say, THREE), I went to Starbucks with the file, and organized it into three acts (including three intermezzos and two entr’actes). That took over two hours. When I got home I fired up Scrivener on the iMac once again, and re-arranged the file per my earlier work.

With that, I’ve taken my writing to another level. You see, it’s been driving me absolutely crazy that I hadn’t settled on the shape of the story. I’d written scenes from my protag’s entire life, and there was no way that anyone would buy a chronological book of that magnitude. I hadn’t determined where to begin, and how to incorporate some earlier scenes (if at all), and it had me in knots. I knew that I’d eventually figure it out – though I may not have it completely figured out just yet – and you cannot imagine the relief I feel.

Until last night.

I woke up several times, reminded of scenes that I’d intended to write, that seemed to be quite important to the novel, but wouldn’t fit into this structure. Ahem. But I’m not back to square one. Maybe square three. The important thing is that I have a huge smile on my face. This is such FUN!

Onward to my goals.

This week has been a bust in the Better Life Habits department. Too much stress, too little concentration. In addition to my work stress, my Mom had a lumpectomy on Thursday (she’s fine, just waiting on the final pathology report. Looks like Stage 1 and five days of radiation therapy), my Dad is having an angiogram on Monday (he had three stents in ’03, I’m hoping they’ll just put in a couple more, versus bypass surgery). They are 81 and 82, respectively, and in excellent health, except for the above. All this has affected my sleep – I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. That’s very unusual for me. I’ve walked some, but I live in Texas, and the recent rain and storms put a dent in that (though we really need the rain!). The house is not spotless, and won’t be for a while. Oh. Well.

My Creativity is flourishing, as above. Too much music-making to do any knitting – it’s too hard on my hands. I’ll get back to that soon enough.

Social Media goals are working out well, as above, though I’m not going to meet with my writer friends this month. We are all too busy – or rather, when one of us is free, the other two are busy. June, for sure!

I’m adding a second blogpost series, Tuesdays will be for quotes that spark something in me. I inadvertently started that last week, with my post on the Cambrian Shoreline. I’ve got to get cracking on Tuesdays’ entry in the series, because I’ll be with my parents all day Monday… and Tuesday is full of (stressful) work.

Oh, and here’s a fabulous link for writers. Raelyn Barclay’s current Row80 update has a great link to Jami Gold’s post on Scenes and Sequels that you must read. Oh, and cute pics of Raelyn’s family’s three new members, Sonic, Neptune, and Poseidon. Squee! So cute!





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.





Early Row80 Check in

14 04 2012

Since I have this afternoon off, I thought I’d go ahead and write Sunday’s Row80 check in. The week has been a mixed bag, in large part due to a house guest, and finishing up my tax return.

Better life habits: Housekeeping: I was much better with the cabinet doors/lights/ and kitchen sink. However, I didn’t make up my bed the entire week. FAIL! I have to laugh at myself. I was getting up too late and rushing around at the last minute.

I didn’t walk much at all – and I’ll blame that on the weather and my schedule. And my house guest. I did limit my Facebook time – that was a success. iPhone games? Not so much.

Creativity: I did not spend any time with my HTTS course, or finish my plotting. I managed to write yesterday, and have been knitting every day during downtime. I didn’t practice every day, but I did think about it. Does that count?

Social Media: I didn’t write a blogpost, but I am managing the Row80 check in. I have been on twitter, and the get-together with local writer tweeps is scheduled for the 22nd.

While I didn’t manage to make these goals a reality this week, I’m not down on myself. Health-wise it was a difficult week. A couple of days I was dealing with heavy fatigue, when simply breathing seemed like work. I also had my friend visiting (she works with me), and some of my creative time was taken up by social time with her… a trade-off that I don’t regret at all.

The one thing that I feel bad about is not making up my bed! Julia! Just get up when the alarm goes off and do it!

I find that my word count takes a nosedive when I don’t take the time to exercise. It’s as though my Muse requires me to get into my body in order for her to speak. Taking a shower works, too, as long as I have the time for a leisurely shower. Holly Lisle talks a lot about getting/letting the Muse speak in her How To Think Sideways course, and I can’t wait until my life evens out more so I can get into the meat of that course. For now, it’s one day at a time.

Oh, and the IRS owes me money: THREE dollars. (applied to next year’s taxes, of course!)





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!





Inventing a Religion

10 01 2012

My Writing Process™ strongly tends towards the free-form and whimsical. (God, is that the worst sentence I’ve ever written or what? LOL! I’m LEAVING it.)

Here’s a ‘for instance’ for your edification. The other day I was thinking about Naweetan, one of the Umgonnan characters in my Nanowrimo fantasy book. He is a warrior/defender/career military guy… single, in mid-life, childless. He becomes a pivotal character in the book when he falls in love. I was in the shower, thinking about his motivations.

“Whirling Dervish”, said the muse.

“What the heck? Whirling dervish?”

I have no idea where that came from, but I’m willing to consider it. Umgonnan are dragon-like proto-birds, living 55 million years ago, some 10 million years after the Cretaceous extinction which wiped out their cousins, the dinosaurs, and they fly, so ‘whirling’ makes some sense. I’m soaping up my hair, thinking about Umgonnan religion.

I’d been mulling over Umgonnan religion for a while. At this time their major religion is rather Taoist, something to help these newly-sentient beings remain rooted in their natural world. There is a ‘goddess’ of sorts, who may be a ‘demon’ of sorts to other Umgonnan tribes, but I’m not married to that thought yet. I hadn’t considered that there could be another religion, which could be completely different.

My musings led me to Mithraism and the worship of Mithras (I thought that he was worshipped by military men only, the link doesn’t confirm that). I started wondering about some kind of officially-forbidden military cult worship that Naweetan would be involved in. It would not resemble Mithraism at all, except that it would be a cult for military men only.

At that notion, I happily jumped into writing a nighttime scene around this, and it failed miserably, a waste of time. Actually, not a waste of time, because I figured out that I needed more background before I could write anything about his religion.

So tonight my meditation is this:

What needs would a Umgonnan Defender have? And…

How could a spirituality/religion meet these needs?

Umgonnan fight using three weapons – teeth, claws, and breathing fire – they have no spears/shields/arrows. So any battles would likely be fought tactically, avoiding clashing armies, because hand-to-hand fighting would result in severe injuries and death… and none of the Umgonnan tribes are heavily populated. However, his people’s sworn enemies, the Rodannerra Umgonnan, are primitive by comparison, and more likely to go all ‘Brave Heart’ on the Udunoa (Naweetan’s people).

That suggests that rituals/spells for protection, for concealment, for confusing the enemy would be useful. Perhaps veneration of a militarily talented ancestor, invoking his/her help. Even some sort of ritualized cannibalism – eating the heart or brain (why am I thinking entrails? Must be important!) – which could account for the religion being banned. Then there’s also the Whirling Dervish meme – perhaps some kind of ritual practice that puts the warrior into an altered state before going into battle? Which gives him access to telepathic communication with the fore-mentioned ancestor?

I like most of the above – nice to add meat to the story  - a source of conflict between Naweetan and his lady-love… and his boss, the Qingann (Qi is pronounced ‘Chi’, as in Pinyin. Why? Because I like it that way!). Tomorrow I’ll break out the notecards and plot!





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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