So, my list of accomplishments for today:

1. Finished off my complete plot outline for Wayfarer and sent off to my agent, who liked it very much and didn't think it needed any changes, hurrah!

2. Read Infernal Devices, which left me going "AAAAAAA NEED NEXT BOOK NOW" and, of course, I don't have it yet.

3. Read Fugitives of Chaos, which left me in precisely the same position, only more so because the cliffhanger on that one is even worse. However, and I say this with all due respect to [ profile] johncwright, his fetishes are showing and it's creeping me out, seriously. Not that this will keep me from reading Book III, but it will make me grimace and roll my eyes a lot. And it will remind me why I enjoy YA fantasy so much more than supposedly "adult" fantasy these days -- not least because it has a tendency to weed out these kinds of excesses.

On the to-read pile:

1. A children's biography of Michael Faraday (I couldn't find a "grown-up" one), which I'm two-thirds finished and which has made me more his fangirl than ever;

2. Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which I am reading because, well, it's McKinley -- although I am really not into vampires (they don't scare me, they don't fascinate me, on the whole they simply bore me), so my enthusiasm is somewhat diluted;

3. #8, 9 and 10 of the Lemony Snicket series, which I am reading out of an obscure sense of duty and the belief that the narrative has to pay off eventually.

But tomorrow will be absurdly busy, since we are having a joint birthday party for my two oldest sons, and they've each invited three friends, so I doubt I'll get much of anything else done.
On the weekend I sent off the first chapter and a three-page synopsis of Touching Indigo to my agent. I am itching to write more on that novel, but for practical reasons I now have to force myself to switch mental gears and start paying some serious attention to Wayfarer (a.k.a. the Knife sequel) instead.

So I've started by making myself a Timothy icon, and now I'm going to fiddle about with random faery-related ideas and hope I can come up with something resembling Plot by the deadline, which would be, oh, the end of this week.

*slightly hysterical laughter*

I won't complain, though. It's a nice position to be in.
When giving advice on how to write a good query letter, I've often heard agents and editors recommend that authors compare their ideas to something that's already out there. For instance, I've heard one paranormal romance author describe her books as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets James Bond". Well, I just came up with a description of Wayfarer (the sequel to Knife, which I am currently brainstorming) that amused me greatly:

"It's like Thomas Covenant meets Watership Down. With faeries."

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!
I'm not dead, truly... just doggedly writing 2000 words a day, every day, and using what little time I have left to catch up on what other people are saying in their journals -- which leaves me precious little time to post anything new to my own. Would you prefer I ignored you lovely people in order to grace you with my dubious wit? I thought not. :)

Anyway, Touching Indigo is progressing quite well so far -- in just ten days of writing I've managed to crank out 22,000 words. I have yet to diverge in any dramatic way from the outline, but I've still surprised myself a few times, which is gratifying -- it bodes well for me being able to get through the whole story without boring myself to death. In the past, the fear of losing interest in the story was always my chief excuse for not outlining. So that seems to indicate that answer to my original question, "Can a Pantser become a Plotter?" is a yes... but I'll have to reserve final judgment for the revision stage.

It sucks how much research I have to do for this story, though. In one sense it's fascinating, but on the other hand it leaves me petrified about the ever-increasing chances of getting something wrong. It would take me years to become an expert in any of the relevant areas, so my best hope at present is to finish the book and then find a criminal lawyer, a neurologist, a policeman, and someone who's worked at a psychiatric hospital to read it and tell me where I've screwed up. Oh, and an astrophysicist and a synaesthete, but thankfully I already have both of those (*bows gratefully to Doug and Erin*).

Tomorrow I'll be sending my one-paragraph hook for Indigo to the [ profile] fangs_fur_fey contest -- I've made a few modifications since I posted it here, and I dare to hope they are all for the better. But I guess I'll find out on the 23rd whether I'm right.

Still no news from Boss of Editor, or from Agent. Alas.
The bad news: I did not write 20 pages on my first day of Fast Draft.
The good news: I wrote 10 pages (2,727 words).

I'm going to try again tomorrow, and Saturday, and see if I can get over the stumbling blocks my Internal Editor keeps setting up for me. If I can make a spreadsheet of scenes that need to be written, that should keep me from floundering around wondering what to write next.

Other things to be done ASAP include making a chart of Thea's colored alphabet and number associations so I can refer to it at a glance, and doing a character map of Thea and Faraday.

The character map link is part of a site for screenwriters, but the concept works for novels and short stories just as well, and now that I've found it I'm quite excited about working through the questions. If you've ever struggled with finding your characters' motivations and making them three-dimensional, or with figuring out how to come up with a plot worthy of these great characters you've invented, I highly recommend Laurie Hutzler's Emotional Toolbox.

Another cool concept I've started to make work for me: making point-form notes detailing the events of the story from the perspective of each character -- including the bits of that character's backstory that most define their personality and influence their actions. For secondary characters, who appear only intermittently or for just one section of the book, this is a pretty quick exercise but I can already see how helpful it will be later on -- I never have to stop and try to figure out where they are at any given time, or worry whether their individual stories make sense when they're not "on-screen", so to speak. It helps to remind me that these characters aren't props -- they're people, with lives of their own even if those lives aren't the story I'm telling.

Off to bed now. Yawn.
I've been really struggling with Touching Indigo the last couple of weeks -- I seem to have lost the groove as far as outlining is concerned, and now I really have to figure out precisely which method I'm using, or else which parts I want to borrow from each method and what deadlines to set for myself along the way. I now have only one month left to finish the outline, after all, and then I am supposed to start writing the first draft in earnest, so it's definitely time to get cooking.

I think part of the difficulty I'm having is that the story already exists in another form, and Thea's backstory already exists in another form, and I am slowly realizing that I can't just transfer all the details over -- what worked for the original plot and characters doesn't necessarily work for the rewrite, and in fact may even get in the way of telling the story. So I have to question everything, and ask myself once again, "Yes, but why does it have to be this way? And is there another possibility that would work better for this particular plot?"

For instance, Thea's mother was originally a neurotic shrew and her father was vague and distant, specifically so that Thea would be able to leave them and not look back (not for a good long while, anyway). But there's no need in the rewrite for Thea to be so totally estranged from her parents. And when I realized that this afternoon, Thea's mother suddenly became real to me in a way she'd never been before. I know her backstory now, and I know exactly why she behaves in certain ways and how that affects her relationship with Thea, and it's real and poignant and I'm actually excited about writing it. She's still a flawed character, but she's a human one.

So. One difficulty down, 50,000 to go...
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.
So. As I think I said before, come January I intend to try the method Karen Wiesner lays out in her book First Draft in 30 Days. Until now I've shied away from outlines because they seemed such dry, lifeless things, just the skeleton of a story with none of the Good Bits. I always thought that if I knew how the story went, there'd be no reason for me to write it -- that having an outline would spoil all the fun and the wonder, and suck away my creative drive. I was an inveterate seat-of-the-pants writer -- a "pantser".

However, having just gone through a major revision of Knife using my earlier draft more as an outline than anything else, and not only enjoying the process (mostly) but feeling that the book is considerably better as a result of having that existing structure behind it, WHY DO I WRITE SUCH LONG SENTENCES WILL SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE ME STOP, where was I? Oh, yes --

Uh, anyway. Yeah. I rewrote the book. From the old draft. And it was really not that bad. It was actually nice not to have to worry about whether the plot would come together, or how. And even though my creative engine was driving along a track already laid, and I knew exactly where all the stations were, I still made discoveries along the way. My characters surprised me from time to time -- these people I've known for thirteen years, or thought I knew. And there was one bit, not present in any of the earlier drafts, that actually made me tear up -- me, who almost never cries at books, ended up crying over my own book.

So apparently it's not creatively stifling to have the plot and other major details sorted out in advance after all. And that means there's a chance that Wiesner's outlining method, or something similar, could work for me.

In the New Year, I hope to use this LJ as a progress journal as I work my way through the outline for, uh, either Wayfarer or Touching Indigo or both -- I still haven't decided yet. I'm not going to go into spoilery detail about what I'm writing, but I do want to keep a record of how well the First Draft method is working for me, and how I feel about the process.

In the meantime, completely unrelated to the above, you should all go and watch the sad, smelly saga of the exploding whale.


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