Tag Archive: planning

Plan your novel!

Now! Dammit! Or else! Plan your novel. (This is dear me, love me, you can do whatever you want.)

I need to do some more planning as the end of the month looms large.

Project?

Easy: Jenna’s first novel, a full rewrite. (That part is hard, knowing was it is is the easy part, also reading that sentence, hard.)

Pre-November steps:

  • Make a Pinterest board (or rather add to the one I already have)
  • Pull out and enhance physical descriptions of the people I already have from both books 1 and 2
  • Write up description of the mashup/remade character
  • Consider the scenes that need to be added – figure out what the goal will be and about what they need to be and then let them noodle around in my brain
  • Set up time to write – create a real plan (either first thing in the morning, later in the day, weekends, etc)
  • Plan more backstory weaving in

Jenna’s novel is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy. A young woman who is struggling to regain her life after a long absence from the world is finally feeling settled. Now she’s finally gotten a job offer, she’s meeting new people. And she’s got a shiny little necklace.

The second book is written and I’m feeling pretty good about it, but the first needs to come in line with it. I know basically where the third will go for the big arc on it.

Now I just need better titles. Oof titles.

Save

Save

Flash Fiction Main Characters

I read something a while ago that has been bubbling around in the back of my brain. I’ve read a lot about flash fiction and I’ve read a lot of flash fiction. I read something that said the person who wrote it assumed all flash fiction main characters were stand-ins for the authors.

I was stunned and confused. Was this person reading the same flash fiction I was?

I’ve read flash fiction with characters that have more depth than some of the epic novels I’ve read.

Writing flash fiction can feel like a way to just dash something off quickly. But great flash fiction evokes a lot of things in just a tiny little space. You are basically creating a world from white space.

I will say that I far prefer flash that is sci-fi and fantasy because it opens the world wide. The contemporary flash I’ve read does feel a little different, so maybe the person who thinks that all flash fiction main characters are author stand-ins.

lightning flash

Flash!

Finding a way to develop a world with brush strokes that all draw your eye far beyond the edges of the canvas is the magic of flash fiction.

Thinking specifically about those main characters and how I build them.

Main Characters

Sometimes they are characters from larger stories. (An Axe is a great example of this in my work since I’ve been working on putting some more polish on the novella about that character.) Those stories are often small bites, more information of the character, side stories that didn’t belong in the book. I love doing these, they are fun, they let me explore other sides of a primary character. They give that character the chance to show other sides of themselves.

Side Characters

I don’t often run between a ton of POVs. My novels tend toward a single POV. Doing a flash fiction lets me explore what other characters are seeing. I often write these just as I’m doing planning work for the novels, I’ll write a handful of these for each of the characters to see what I’m thinking about them, most of these never make it past my drive, but sometimes I’ll really like one and clean it up well enough to send it off into the world. A Meditation was very much that. Jana was a character who was sort of a mash of things and I had done a couple of scenes with her separately. This flash came out of that. It was significantly rewritten, but it was partly about me learning who Jana was in the first round, and showing a little more of her in the final.

Somewhere else

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I will often find bits of inspiration, a situation, a story, a news article. I’ll pause and let this play around in my head until I’ve got characters and situation developed. Most of the time this sort of dies on the vine. But sometimes these become stories.

But…

Thinking back to writing my first stories, I’ve sort of always been a shorter fiction writer. At least I don’t recall a time I was a tome writer. So, I’m sure there was a time when I was doing a lot of that. I hope these days I don’t do that nearly so much. I think of parts of myself in some characters. But some are clearly someone else. The Thing About the Future? That’s a mash of a handful of people I know plus a few stereo types carved into an actual character. On Fire? That’s a few characters from books and a few heartbreaking true stories I read all mashed together and then carved and molded. But Relics? Yeah, there are shades of me in there I suppose. Discovery? Not really, but I had a couple of people I know in mind, if you take this from that person and this from that person and yeah that person hates science (don’t ask me, I don’t get it) but that part.

So maybe sometimes there is shades of the author, but I think that good flash fiction is like all other fiction. Sometimes there will be shades of an author just like there are shades of people they know or celebrities or the personality test they took for a character. It is always a mash, carved and molded to be a unique character.

PS…

I’ve read flash fiction that doesn’t have people/aliens/monsters/ghosts as characters at all. Environment only. Or beautiful descriptions of ships. Or processes. I  suppose you would argue that the author as the person who decides what to show you is the main character. But then you’re really saying that the author is always the main character in a way that is sort of no longer worth talking about. You literally can’t create anything without being the main character in that way. So it doesn’t really seem relevant. So sometimes there is no main character.

This all makes me want to read more flash fiction though.

ThisSave

Missing

What real life things are missing from fiction?

Jocelyn at 52 Letters wrote a great post about the Top Ten Parts of High School she wishes YA authors talked about more. Really good to think about, but fantastic if you write YA. I don’t write a lot of YA at least nothing that happens in high school.

missing piece

Missing puzzle piece

I’ve been thinking a little about what is missing from other fiction. (I’m also a bit inspired by the great series Elizabeth Rose has been doing about heroes and heroines.)

Finding things that are missing seems slightly harder than I expected. Part of it is that I don’t really want my fiction to really reflect real life. No one wants to read “And then she slept moderately well for a couple hours and then woke up to use the bathroom and then went back to bed and tossed and turned before finally falling back asleep.”

All of this kind of comes back to the voice thing as well. We don’t want a real voice, we don’t always want reality in fiction. There are some elements though that are valuable, or at least could be more interesting or dramatic.

Missing Drama

Real financial trouble

I feel like financial trouble in books (and tv) is weird and fake. People will go from having trouble eating one day (and they never have to eat the last bag of rice that might be old at the back of the pantry, just don’t have anything) to taking a fabulous trip the next day. This seems a bit better in books, but there are still a lot of times where I roll my eyes. If you want to hand wave and make someone obscenely wealthy, fine. But don’t pretend someone is super poor and then have them never have actual consequences from that.

It also seems to reinforce this idea that poor people are poor because they want to be. Not that there are situations that make it hard, like not having enough gas money to get to work and losing your job. That’s drama.

Sibling/Family humor

Not exactly drama, but even with siblings you hate (which is common in fiction) or who you are fighting with (also common) you share a great bit of history. You knew the same people, have the same reference points. Like it or not, you probably even have in-jokes with those siblings or family members. Why don’t more of them use it? Having moments of shared points leading up to something, not just, “We are from the same blood.” but more like, “Remember the time when mom was super tired and washed the red shirt in with the whites and you had to wear pink shirts to school for a week.”

Giant drama over tiny things

Fiction often has giant drama over giant world-ending things. People create drama over tiny things. People scream and fight like crazy over the remote or dinner or other things that mean nothing. Usually, because there is something else giant and stressful in their lives. These moments can be such a good way to show so much about a person. It can make a person look petty, but I don’t think it has to, it’s about how you tell that story.

Does the person break into tears because they forgot the sourdough bread and the sourdough was their daughter’s favorite and she’s sick and all the stress of dealing with that is just overwhelming? It can be touching.

What else?

What other things could be done more/better in fiction? What do you feel is missing from the things you read?

Save

Death and Weddings

I’ve been plotting out a Smoke Jumper novella. I’ve been wanting to write a mystery for a while and the idea came to me for a murder set at a destination wedding. So I’ve been researching death and weddings. It’s been…weird.

First the wedding!

I’ve been making a Pinterest board. Just like other Pinterest board makers. Except my thought when I look at something is, “Would this make a good clue?” “Would this make a good red herring?” “How will this factor into the death?” “I wonder which bridesmaid’s dress color will look good with blood?” “What picturesque location would be best to find a dead body?”

Basically, it’ll be a sort of rustic farm wedding, with a dead body and a shape shifter. That’s how most weddings are right?

Death and corpses

I’ve seen this making rounds but The Human Body After Death is extremely helpful.

I’m having a poisons problem. Wolfsbane seems WAY to obvious considering that my shifter will be a wolf.

Here’s a list of 10 poisons used to kill people (beware audio – sorry!) The real problem for me is where and what I’d like to use. Poison ivy just won’t cut it. I’m not sure if this poison will be the actual weapon, or a red herring, but I know I need something that is plant based, ideally found in North America, super ideally found in the Rocky Mountains. Hm.

Mysteries

15 Tips from Elizabeth Craig

25 Things You Need to Know from Susan Spann

Really old post but had some good stuff about plotting clues which I’ve been having trouble with.

This (long!) post has some clue examples which is also helpful. Beware it isn’t even for writers, it is for creating one of those mystery dinner things I think. But I really liked the clues section.

 

 

Subplots and complexities

So I know I’ve talked about the endless pushes to cut, but adding can have value too. Sometimes that value is in subplots and complexities. I think of the try-fail cycle often as I work on plotting things. These are reading about it things.

Writing Excuses

I love this podcast, I do keep looping back to it over and over. This discussion of pantsing talks about my favorite thing which is “yes-but/no-and.” This focuses on the try-fail cycle. Having a character just succeed and succeed is boring unless those successes just make things work. Successes that make things work are fantastically useful. Failures that make things worse are also useful.

Creating Subplots

Lists

Side Quests

Some people like them! I think it is important to remember that people like and enjoy the subplots.

(Yes, I’ve written on this before. This is more links and resources about it, hopefully helpful. It is something I think I will continue to come back to over and over. Character I don’t feel like I struggle with quite the way I struggle with good plotting skills. The thing I think that would make me better, weirdly would be doing something like running a tabletop roleplay game campaign, but that is a TON of work and requires knowing a LOT about the rules of the game. I am always in favor of throwing out the rules for a good storyline, which people who have been my GMs clearly know, but I think that works less well when you don’t have someone going, no no, there are rules, this isn’t all about the story.)

stat plots

I’m trying to make a plot/subplot joke but I feel like it isn’t turning out well…. Christophe Dang Ngoc Chan (cdang)

 

Romance Planning

No not planning a romantic getaway, but romance planning for plot or story. I’ve had some troubles hanging onto my romance arcs. They seem to get shuffled to the background, which is frustrating when sometimes they’ve started as the primary point for the spark of the idea.

Every time it has shuffled to the back it was ultimately the right choice for the story. But I also wonder if I’m just not as strong at writing it so it is easier to shuffle than to strengthen.

So I took some time and read some stuff. Because reading!

Finding your Romance Arc

by Susan Warren

This talks about the Why/Why not vs the Why not/Why…I’m a little worried I don’t entirely understand it. But it sparked a few valuable things.

Make the Romance the Story Arc

by Scott Eagan

This is completely my problem. So I’m going to try something in the future that takes this plan the romance and backdrop the other thing approach.

The Seven Story Beats

by Kaye Dacus

This was really direct. I think my issue is that I hate hate hate #6! So I have to struggle through writing it to bring back around to #7.

Suggestions?

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips for planning a romance or having it not get lost behind the other stories?

romance roundup

Sunset is romantic right?

I have no idea what I’m doing!

I’ve had a couple people insinuate lately that I might have a clue about things. I had someone important do it to me at work even. I have no idea what I’m doing!

None

I don’t know what I’m doing with writing, or blogging, or podcasting, or all the stuff I do at work. I mostly just try to figure it out as I go. I google, I research, I listen to podcasts and watch webinars and read articles and whatever else.

I try things that make me uncomfortable. I try to learn what things work and don’t. I try to constantly remind myself that it is ok to fail. Learn from that failure and move forward.

I feel out of my depth constantly. I feel like making this post is likely a HORRIBLE idea and I’m sure I’ll go back and forth on should I push the publish button or not a dozen times. If you are reading this I went for publish. (Unless you for some obscene reason hacked my blog and are reading my trashed posts, in which case…I can’t help you.)

I can’t be the only one who feels like this. Someone else out there must too. And sometimes it is good to know you aren’t alone, so maybe someone will read this and go OH! Me too! And maybe Future Me will read this and go, oh you were so adorably young then. (Future Me I promise to floss tonight, you can thank me now.)

But…

This was partly pointed out at work and partly in the writing sphere. I do all that stuff, and I learn. I ask questions and listen and try very hard to learn.

That’s good. That’s apparently not something everyone does. I know this because I watch other people, but I don’t entirely believe it. I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone else has a secret handbook on how to exist and how to write and how to be a leader and how to whatever else. If anyone has a spare I’ll take it.

I fail.

Often. And then I go ok, so that didn’t work, what can I try now. I reflect and try to learn and really take in what didn’t make sense, what wasn’t right for me. Whatever.

Sometimes I don’t have a good plan on how to fix it. (I’m looking at you future ancient anthropology flash series that I just can’t make work.) But sometimes it helps.

And it doesn’t always have to be failure. Every time I record I get a little better, a little faster, a little clearer.

Last weekend I listened to my podcast in the wild. Normally I’m listening to it at home with good headphones and no other sound. Music is really loud so I keep turning it down. In the wild? On the train with people around me making noise and my ear buds? I need to turn the music up. (If you disagree please let me know!) I can learn from things like that too.

I learn every time I write something, even if it doesn’t work. I learn every time I read something and take it apart. I learn things listening to podcasts that aren’t fiction at all. I learn things from reading “informational” letters from my health insurance company or the government.

And maybe…

I do kind of know some things.

I’m not entirely sure what. That seems to be the next step, figuring out what it is that I’m learning, what it is I know. What am I really good at? I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I’m learning.

Audio. I think I might be kind of ok at audio. I get annoyed when people who know me listen to the podcast and act surprised that it is good. Of course it is, I have experience, I know what I’m doing. I’m not saying I’m perfect or I know everything, but I know some. Certainly enough to put out a decent podcast. Enough to professionally narrate audiobooks.

Blogging. I might not be horrible at that. I’ve done that before. I have experience. History and and understanding of it. Maybe I’m not great at social media, but this long form thinking stuff? I’m not horrible at this.

Seems the theme is the stuff I’ve done before I feel best about. I don’t want to pack up and throw this all away so I feel like I’ve done it before to succeed next time. But I do want to learn every day. Learn as I go forward and maybe succeed this time.

So…that’s my perhaps way too personal, perhaps way too vulnerable, perhaps totally stupid post about how I have no idea what I’m doing, but I might be learning.

Side Quests

I’ve read a few things slamming side quests lately and I get the desire to cut it. Far too well. I’m not a heavy author who needs to cut endlessly. I’m not a 100K word novel writer. I write extremely lean. And I’m feeling a little defensive about this whole cut cut cut!

In the past I’ve cut and  cut and I’ve cut down and down and down and you know what if you say “just cut everything that doesn’t matter!” to someone like me, you get me to throw up my hands and go, “Girl meets boy, they fall in love, bad shit, everyone dies.” Guess I’m done. Oh wait. I can cut bad shit because why do we care? I can cut they fall in love. And really does it really matter if girl meets boy?

Suggested edits:

Everyone dies.

Romeo and Juliet

Everyone dies

Eh…maybe not

Well that’s not very fulfilling.  (I’ve had several novels cut out of existence because of this whole cut cut cut mentality that is so common to read about.)

Cut things may be great advice for someone who wrote a contemporary romance that is 250K words. That doesn’t mean it is universally good.

Unless I’m writing flash fiction, editing means adding content. Usually a lot of content. Side quests can do a lot including develop the character, show you who they are, what they can achieve. We can watch characters fail. Failure makes us fall in love with characters when they get back up and dust themselves off and try again.

When I am reading I want to love the characters. I want to care about them and what happens to them. Otherwise the novel might as well be “Everyone dies.” Heck even nonfiction has characters I love, sometimes characters are dead bodies, or shrimp, or anything.

The magic of being an author is tugging those heart strings and making me fall in love, cheer, shout, whoop, feel. I guess I could just take some drugs, but books are…for the most part cheaper and much much better for my brain.

I like bare bones things, I think I brought that up when talking about flash fiction as adult coloring books. But bare bones doesn’t mean cut all side quests. It means create an interesting and engaging frame work. A blank page isn’t actually an epic adult coloring book. (I refuse to google this and find out that someone out there has a bound empty book and is calling it an adult coloring book. I refuse!)

Interesting and engaging content includes things that are more than everyone dies. Weave them together, make them valuable, interesting, grow the characters, tie it in, but don’t assume you are doing it wrong if you aren’t slashing things with a machete. Listen to your beta readers, do they feel like they need more? Do they say some things are a little bloated? Focus on your work and your needs. Not everyone needs to cut down to everyone dies. If we all did the world would be a very sad literary space.

Bonus content

I relistened to the Writing Excuses episode about side quests and I highly recommend it. It made me feel like oh, yeah, these aren’t bad things. Just because some people say cut ruthlessly, unless they are actually talking about my novel that they have in my hands, they might be wrong, or talking in generalities. I’ve never had a beta reader tell me I just needed to cut wholesale. I nearly always get the opposite. I want to know more about this or that or whatever. Which is good. And tells me that I’m not generally too heavy on side quests (or descriptions, or whatever else).

Writing excuses also talked about writing side quests as bonus content. Which I’m super for! A part of the 600 Second Saga podcast was developed based on that idea. Those  side pieces, I love to read them. They are stories that take place in the same world but outside the primary story line.

(And here’s the plug! If you have some bonus content that you’d like to share with the world, bring in more readers, or flex your skill with something different way? I highly recommend submitting it to the 600 Second Saga podcast. I’m always looking for new authors, and side quests can be a great way to have a complete story, and develop interest in your world.)

Writing oops

I’ve had a little bit of a writing oops recently. I’m not really sure how to feel about it. I feel like this whole write something fresh is advice I need to say and hear constantly. I know this is a thing. I know I get frustrated and my work suffers when I’m not working on anything new and I’m just struggling through a thousand edits.

So what have I been doing lately? Struggling through a thousand edits and not doing anything new. Even the “new” piece I was working on wasn’t really new at all.

So a writing oops

And then…Wednesday or so I think I started to get this idea. And I wrote a bunch on the iPad in bed. And then I kept waking up with more ideas, and kept sitting up to write more and more. NO! BAD! Sleep is important. So I made as good notes as I could.

And then the next day it haunted me all day. And I had to make more notes and more. And it was fun and delicious.

I realized that what I had written, which was just going to be like a throw away doesn’t matter was a later scene for something. And then I started to outline a story.

I really like writing. It is fun. I enjoy seeing the thing I have eating inside my brain on the page.  I’m not sure I really like editing. I like the final outcome, I like when I have the thing that was on my brain in a form that is better than I could have imagined it. I like when I sit down to read the thing later and it makes me excited and nervous and happy and scared and whatever else. I like when people listen to (or read) my work and say it feels like I’m just telling them a story. That’s what I want. I want to share all of that. I’m willing to do the work of the editing to get it there. But I just like the writing all by itself too.

A writing bonus

I also sat down and hammered out the friday flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. Which I did in my most scarcast voice. So it took a while to shake off that feeling of being a teenager. But it was also fun. Give a tiny little glimpse into a strange world where your future in a habitat colony is decided by a test  and you have ear stalks.

I do love that about flash fiction. The writer gives just the barest brush strokes of the world and the reader can come along and fill it in. Let’s be real. Flash fiction is like adult coloring books. We are super trendy! Go us!

secret garden coloring

flash fiction is like adult coloring books sort of?

ahem…join us in the trending

If you want to be a super trendy adult coloring book like writer come write flash fiction for 600 Second Saga! I would really like to bring in some new and exciting authors. I have a slot open in June still.

If you aren’t sure I’m really happy to answer any questions. I am also very willing to work with new authors or those who aren’t sure about writing flash. If you’d like feedback or notes please let me know.

(I’m not very good at or comfortable with plugs, but I really to want to bring more authors in and help spread the word about some very cool authors that we’ve already had on the show. So I’m trying to learn.)

So what do I do with my oops?

I finish it. I don’t know that it will see the light, and I’m ok with that. It is fun, it is short, it makes me remember that OH! I like writing! And that makes me very productive in all the rest of the writing tasks.

Anyone else ever oops?

Publicity Roundup

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about publicity, marketing, outreach, and such recently so I thought I’d do a publicity roundup. These are a few of the more interesting links, resources, and even an ad I ran across.

Publicity infographic

Infographic from Book Baby. Because infographics are pretty.

I am doing most of the things on the list…ok like halfish…I am working on developing a couple contests, likely for audiobooks, coming up soon. Stay tuned!

Spending an hour a day in social media seems like a lot to me. Though if it was one of the less productive hours of the day it wouldn’t be so bad. And if writing was my full time job it would be different. For me it seems like the best thing I could do with an hour would be write. I don’t always get to do it. Sometimes it is a blog post, sometimes a flash piece, sometimes novel work. But I feel like if I’m going to commit another hour a day to something it should be writing. Though every hour can’t be productive. I can’t expect to spend 4 hours a night after 9 hours of work being productive at writing, that’s not how you brain, or at least not how I brain.

A great ad

Tree Lobsters has a fantastic ad for a new short story collection. (I didn’t know the Tree Lobster guy did short stories, but a read and love the comic so I’m going to guess the stories will be as fun.

Awesome ad/comic

I don’t know that I’ve learned how to make a great ad, but I think this is one. Funny, visual, but some thing else I can’t place.

Blog tours

I’ve been reading a lot about blog tours lately. I actually feel like I know less now than I did when I started reading. I’m not sure how that is possible, but that’s what I’m feeling.

You can pay someone to help you set up a blog tour, and there are a lot of these companies out there. I found lists of companies and inevitably about half of the sites no longer existed so I think it is a high turn over business. Mostly they collect bloggers and connect authors with bloggers.

There also seems to be a site that does it free, though no guarantee of success, you as the author have to do the outreach on your own.

Blog Tour (the free site)

There also seems to be the idea of just find the sites you like and ask. That seems terrifying. On some sites the authors do regular things that are guest posts you can request to participate in. For most sites though…scary.

Publicity roundup person

Image via Under30CEO