Musings

[Blog] Looks Like I’m a Planner

So! The first takeaway I have from the grand experiment that was me actually planning the project I worked on this past November is: I must be a planner after all. My friends. I cannot overstate just how much easier it was for me to write throughout the month. I didn’t get stuck. I didn’t waste time wondering where I needed to take the story next. It just didn’t happen, and that was weird and wonderful and I’m never going back.

That being said, it wasn’t without its hitches, which is why I’m not actually sitting here with a complete first draft of my new novel. In fact, if I’d had to go past 50k this past month, I almost certainly would have gotten stuck. And despite the wordcount I reached, I didn’t get all that far into the story. (That, at least, is normal: my first runs through new stories always run long as I figure out what I’m doing.) The difference being that I know why I got stuck. I didn’t have a clear vision of the weird, wacky world I was throwing my poor character into, which, naturally, made it difficult to write about.

And the other half of knowing why is knowing how to fix it. Roughly speaking. It’s meant that I made the decision to step back and return to the structuring/outlining phase, and I may or may not be able to repurpose the stuff I wrote during November, so in some ways I’m sure it doesn’t look all that different from previous years with regards to what I actually managed to take away from the event. But instead of having a huge mess of words and no clear idea of where to go with it, I have a huge mess of words and a much stronger idea of where my planning went wrong and what I need to do to fix it. If nothing else, I’d call that progress.

Additionally, it’s made it clear that all my other projects could benefit from the same treatment. Specifically, Tanner and Miranda. I’m not gonna like, I’m currently in the thrall of this shiny new plotting/planning thing, so there’s absolutely a huge part of me that wants to say that this is exactly what I needed in order to finally finish the darn thing. And who knows– maybe it is going to make all the difference, and I’m not just making like James Garner in Support Your Local Sheriff (I refuse to let this story become my own personal Australia).

In short, I’m excited. So excited. I write better when I plan like this, and reaching the “end” of a project seems like it’s within reach as opposed to just being some mystical, theoretical state of existence that my projects have no real hope of ever reaching. I suspect I’m going to have to learn how to balance some elements of both– half of the excitement of writing comes from the times the characters take over and decide to do their own thing (this November his name was Locksley and my sister got all kinds of texts of me complaining about his hijacking of the story)– but I think this is another one of those “you have to know the rules in order to know how to break them” cases. And it’s really, really cool to be getting a better handle on the rules of my craft.

Musings

[Blog] Here we go!

Last blog before NaNo! Now, if I was really organized and professional and all that, I would have built up a buffer to get through November so that I didn’t have to worry about it while aggressively noveling.

However.

I am not. And so I didn’t.

And if I’m honest, even this one is more me rambling than writing anything structured enough that I could generously describe as an essay. Which, to be clear, is fine by me. Mostly, I’m really excited for next month. Which I think I’ve been saying on and off for the last two. Oh well. It’s still the truth.

This will be my twelfth time participating in NaNoWriMo. (Get a hobby, you say. I already have one, I reply.) I’ve reached fifty thousand words eleven times. The one time I didn’t, it was the year my college campus got hit by one of those infamous California wildfires, so I’d argue that I had a good excuse. Now, here’s where the numbers get a little less ideal: of those eleven manuscripts, I have… one that qualifies as a proper draft. Three if you count the two that gave me the skeletons for the various Tanner and Miranda stories.

Like I said: less ideal.

That’s not to say I consider those other eight (or nine, counting the unfinished one) to be failures. If nothing else, they greased the gears and got me writing. So what if none of it is much good? You can’t edit words that never made it to the page, and you don’t get better without practice. And considering that I participated in my first NaNo when I was sixteen, that counts as a lot of practice. And a lot of encouragement from an exuberant writing community. And a lot of exposure to all kinds of different writing advice and methods. Enough that I had a lot to work with when figuring out my own.

So here I am. 2021. Doing it again and trying to take it a step further. We’ll see how it goes.

What about the rest of you? Anyone doing NaNo this November? How are you feeling here, standing on the brink? Ha!

Musings

[Blog] Plans and Progress!

So, the other day I was chatting with my sister/writing buddy, and I started explaining my general premise for The Dalton Job. And, to my surprise, I found that I actually did a relatively good job at explaining it, complete with a few details and the basic gist of the plot. And to my even greater surprise, I didn’t finish and feel like the whole thing was more plot hole than actual plot.

It’s a high bar, I know. But honestly, I’m really excited. Because a bunch of what I was talking about was stuff I’d been grappling with for some time that didn’t seem to quite make sense. I’ve still got a long ways to go, of course, and a basic plot treatment that doesn’t shriek inconsistencies is a long, long way from a complete book, but it’s definitely progress. And that’s nice to see.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”
Musings

[Blog] November Plans

One of these days, I’m going to figure out how to get used to what month it is before the darn thing is a third gone. I mean really.

Between work and a mild cold, the draft of the Tanner and Miranda Chronicles is moving slower at the moment, but it’s still moving, and I’m happy with the ideas coming out of the explosion of words on the page. I’m still trying to figure out how the last couple of stories work into the greater arc, but if the last few have been any indication, it’ll sort itself out on its own as I work them onto the page.

I’m also trying to plan out more of the story for November, since it’s going to be a bit longer than the individual Tanner and Miranda stories I’ve written up previously, and the nature of the premise means I’m going to have to have things more planned out than usual if I hope to maintain any sense of continuity. It’s a tall order, particularly during November, I know, but who knows! I’m already trying to figure out how to put up string and flash cards somewhere in my room to make a sort of makeshift and readily changeable timeline. It could work!

Musings

[Blog] Murphy’s Law Plotting

I’ve spent my writing time this week trying to figure out how to harness Murphy’s Law for the next Tanner and Miranda story. It’s been so much fun, and and has mostly involved me writing lists for the plot with what should happen on one side and what actually happens on the other. I’ve also been cackling the entire time, which has drawn a few strange looks and worried glances, but oh well. At the risk of drawing even more worried glances, it’s been a rewarding process, and I’m excited to see the result of this embrace of absurdity.

Musings

[Blog] Different Sorts of Progress

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This week, it’s felt like I’m not making any progress with writing at all. The words just aren’t coming, as, sometimes, they won’t. I’ve come down off the giddy high of completing a chapter, only to find that the one I need to write next is different enough from the first that I almost need to relearn what I’m doing. And I’m not going to lie… it’s a little frustrating.

And yet, despite the lack of a climbing wordcount to provide evidence that I have, indeed, been working at this recalcitrant beast of a novel, it hasn’t all been a waste. Because aside from the different pacing causing me some trouble, every time I get stuck it’s been an indication that I don’t have things structured and plotted and planned as well as I thought I did.

So I’ve been going back and outlining and answering all those niggling little questions that keep pulling me up short: “Is that really how the captain of a bunch of bold outriders respond to that situation? Or is that how I think I would/ought to respond to it? What exactly is the method of government in this fictional kingdom thingy? And how big is it?

And there, I have made progress. Organizational progress. And while I fully admit to having, at times, used such things as an excuse to keep from doing the so-called actual work of writing, for once, that’s not true. Because while I may have not made it much farther, at least every question I’ve answered has made the next sentence a little easier to write.