After struggling with my writing for the last six months, I've come to the conclusion that even though I learned a few useful things from First Draft in 30 Days, overall it's done me a great deal more harm than good.

And this is why... )

So I'm getting off the wordcount bandwagon. From now on, my only goal is to write for at least two hours every day, and quit when I'm reasonably satisfied with what I've got, whether it's 1000 words or 500 or only 50. After all, despite what all the efficiency experts say, it's always worked for me before. I wrote my first novel There Came a Traveller (120K) in six months, the first version of Knife (85K) in eight months, and the original Darkness and Light trilogy (110K) in about a year (including the gaps between, when I wasn't even sure there would be another story let alone how long it would be). To me that proves that even if I'm "wasting" a lot of effort polishing paragraphs and scenes to a high gloss only to throw them out on the next revision, it can't be holding me back that much. So forget other people's ideas of efficiency, I'm going back to what works for me.

And there's one thing I've really been missing, the thing that has always kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep writing when I'd otherwise be tempted to slack off or quit -- but I'll save that for tomorrow's post.
I am proud to announce that during the month of April I did, indeed, achieve my goal:

50,000 words.

How I did it )

Anyway, I still have about 25K to write, but I have definitely hit the home stretch and I'm very happy with my progress. My goals for May are to keep writing my 2000 words a day until I finish Touching Indigo, then put that first draft away for 4-6 weeks while I query some more agents and get started on the preliminary work for the next book. Then I'll either write the first draft of that novel or I'll revise Indigo, whichever seems most sensible at the time...

Thanks to [ profile] jmprince and all the others who joined me on the Fast Draft Express! And I wish you all the best as you start on the next phase of your own projects!
Since mid-January I have had two major illnesses -- one 24-hour bout that left me weak for days afterward, followed closely by the Flu O'Doom, which I am just now getting over two weeks later. I am tired of being tired, and sick of being sick, and generally ready to stop coughing now, thanks. And unsurprisingly, all this has put a crimp in my First Draft in 30 Days plans, leaving me stuck somewhere in the middle of Days 7-13 (Research).

I must confess, too, that this is one of my least favorite phases of Wiesner's outlining process. There are things in this section which bore me to fiery tears -- fact sheets ("there are twelve patrol officers in the precinct") and timelines and such. She also suggests making a list of your various characters' dialogue quirks, which is giving me flashbacks to Redwall with all the accents spelled out phonetically (noooooo), or Fflewddur Fflam saying "Great Belin!" every six paragraphs throughout the entire Chronicles of Prydain.

So I am cheating on Wiesner with Randy Ingermanson at the moment, and trying to decide which method I really want to go steady with. But since I haven't actually done anything new for about two and a half weeks, I should probably, y'know, make some forward progress first.

There is an outstanding problem with Indigo, however. It involves an Evil Conspiracy on the part of all my characters to drive me insane. Like this... )

However, my new objective is to take a page from [ profile] novel_in_90 and churn out 750 words of something every day, whether it's plot notes or character interviews or (gasp!) actual writing. So I think I'll go and do that now.
As I'm struggling through the opening chapters of First Draft in 30 Days I find myself more and more drawn to the idea of interleaving Karen Wiesner's method with Randy Ingermanson's snowflake method, especially as the former seems highly plot-driven and I like the more character-centric approach of the latter.

Anyway, one of the exercises I'd like to try is that of interviewing my characters. But in order to get them "talking" and find out more about them, I need to think of some good questions to ask them -- and to avoid "leading the witness" by asking them questions which I already know relate directly to the plot. So that's where you come in...

Give me one question to ask my characters in an interview that you think will help me really get to know them better.

Those of you with a bit of background knowledge on Thea and Leith Faraday may be able to come up with questions that are personalized rather than general, but even standard questions like "What's your favorite color and why?" would be fine. I can use the more generic questions for some of the secondary characters as well.

Thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to participate, and -- fire away!
As you have probably already noticed, Day Five in First Draft in 30 Days and Day Five on the actual calendar are... not so much in alignment. But I am still ahead of deadline, or at least I haven't missed my deadline yet. Remember I'm planning to do this in 90 days (max.) instead of 30, so you can do the math.

I have managed to plow through my Character Sketches, Setting Sketches and Research List, and today I finally broke through my mental block on the Plot Sketch. Now I am working on the Summary Outline -- a sort of essay detailing as much of the book as I can come up with at this point, from beginning to end (and allowing for any number of gaps in the middle, which will be filled in later).

And lo and behold, I find that I actually have a plot. It's nothing special -- "linear" would perhaps be the kindest word for it at this point, and there are elements which will require a good deal of finesse if I'm to keep them from appearing cliched and predictable. But it is at least a rough map from Point A to Point B. And I can already pick out scenes which are going to be a lot of fun to write, which gives me something to work toward and look forward to. Best of all, a character I didn't know existed until a few days ago has not only become three-dimensional, she's starting to insist on taking a significant role in the action, which surprises but does not displease me.

Still working on alternate character names -- though I do think that I'm going to end up keeping Thea after all, and it's only Dr. Tristram Leith's last name I need to change.

Not unexpectedly since it's about a teenaged girl who discovers she has synaesthesia, there's a little bit of overlap with Touching Indigo in terms of plot and characterization. But I think they're different enough that there might be room for both. Plus, Thea is significantly older than Mia and has a very different family background and dynamics, and things that are major subplots in Indigo are only minor ones in Mango or not really there at all (and vice versa). And, of course, my book has a major SF/Fantasy element whereas Wendy Mass's book doesn't. This is a relief, because I would hate to feel that all my ideas have been taken already, or that nobody would be able to read Indigo without making odious comparisons.

Meanwhile, Day Four has been a complete creative disaster, in spite of the trouble I took to drive the kids out to their grandparents' farm for the day so I could really knuckle down and get some work done. I still haven't decided what to do about my setting, my research list is sketchy at best, and I started my plot summary only to give up when I couldn't even decide on a decent Story Goal (i.e. the main point that all the characterization and action in the book is working towards). I know how Indigo started -- with the question, "What if someone had synaesthesia so intense that it screwed up her life and made everybody around her think she was crazy?" But that still doesn't tell me anything about The Point Of It All.

All I know is that I do not want to write yet another teen novel where a girl is ashamed of being weird and outcast and desperately wants to be ordinary and popular for a change, and tries for a while to pretend she's just like the popular girls at school but it all backfires, and in the end she learns that she is special and finds friends who are just like her and all is sunshine and butterflies. I for one am heartily sick of that particular YA motif.
Okay, okay, so I got distracted and am... well, not exactly behind schedule, as I still have until the 15th to complete Day 1-6, but not exactly on schedule either.

Mind you, I don't have enough information in my head yet about the secondary characters for Indigo to write down more than a line or two for each of them, and I already wrote down all the thoughts I had on Thea and Leith on Days One and Two. Today I'm supposed to be making notes of the various settings in the book, and compiling a research list -- but I don't know yet what specific settings I'm going to need, and since the majority of the book's action takes place in a town where I lived for ten years, I'm not too worried about getting the details wrong.

On a tangential note, though -- I'm trying to decide whether to set Indigo in the actual Sudbury, or a fictional northern Ontario town just like it. The advantage of a fictionalized city is that I can rearrange landmarks and make up new ones without local readers saying, "Hey, there's no such place as Trufflehunter's on Lasalle Boulevard!" It also prevents any potential English readers being confused (since there's a Sudbury in the south of England which is manifestly different from the Canadian one).

On the other hand, it's just possible that nobody actually cares about that stuff so long as the general feel of the place and the major geographic and historical details are right. [ profile] james_bow, care to weigh in on why you chose to invent Clarksbury rather than work with an actual town? It might help me to decide what I want to do. And, of course, anyone else with experience of reading or writing about contemporary places is heartily invited to comment.


BUT I DIGRESS AS USUAL. The actual point of this entry is to present the fruit of my distractableness, in the form of my revised hook for Knife:

The New NEW Hook )

I've tried to include the added plot and conflict details that Miss Snark and the Snarklings requested, and I think the result is an improvement over the original, but I'm still not sure if it covers all the necessary bases. Thoughts? Suggestions? Squashy tomatoes?

ETA a totally different version of the hook, just to confuse the issue for everyone and MAKE YOU ALL SHARE MY PAIN.
Touching Indigo has won for Book I'm Going To Outline First, by virtue of taking up residence in my head over the past few days and flatly refusing to leave. I've got a folder for Wayfarer set aside so I can jot down any ideas that occur to me, though. No thought shall be wasted!

Day 1: Character Outlines )

Another thing I did today was go back through early drafts of Indigo etc. and highlight all the Good Bits -- vivid imagery, strong metaphors and similes, clever turns of phrase. There were a lot more of them than I expected, which was gratifying and depressing at the same time. Is it possible that over the past ten years my prose has actually got worse rather than better? *cries emo tears*

Stuck to my Time Map -- mostly -- for the second day in a row, and found that I felt much better about, well, everything. Telling myself that I am not allowed to play on the computer except during the baby's naptime and after the kids have gone to bed enabled me to get through the day without feeling frustrated and divided in spirit. Any time I had a brilliant creative idea, I just jotted it down in longhand and stuffed it into the relevant story folder, and when I had a few extra moments, I used them to do non-computer things related to the book (like the aforementioned re-reading and highlighting). And now I am doing my online stuff with a clear conscience...

...except for the little nagging voice telling me that I need to finish those character outlines, and why am I writing an LJ entry instead, hm?

Ahem. See you all later.


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