Tag Archives: plotting

Vlog post: Pre-writing

I got a few reader questions about what I do before I write a book, so that’s the topic of this week’s vlog post (which is late. Oops).

We’re talking ideas, characters, plotting, and pantsing!


Welcome To First-Draftsville, Population: Me

*shoves cabin door open with shoulder, coughs at dust*

Sorry, I still have a lot of cleaning up to do.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I wrote the first draft of Bound in 2010, the first draft of Torn in 2012, the first draft of my Urban Fantasy novella Resurrection over a year ago (and that in two very separate parts). Sure, there have been drafts of blog posts since then. Short stories. Flash fiction, just to keep me on my toes. But this? The big stuff?

*whips dust cover off of decrepit sofa*

This is big time.

Have a seat. I don’t think the dust bunnies will bite. Or the plot bunnies, for that matter. Mind the spiders, though.

I’m 18,000 words into the first draft of book #3 in the Bound trilogy. It has a name, but that’s top secret for now. If you need a working title, I was going with “Creepy Uncle Pantaloon’s Circus of Fun.”

Probably best to just go with “book 3.”

My point is… this is kind of a weird place to be. I know some people love drafting. Me? I love revising. I don’t like filling the sandbox, I like playing in it. I like taking the words that are there and improving them, pruning the stray branches off of an unruly story, re-shaping character motivations that aren’t helping them or me, finding the problems and fixing them.

The blank screen is intimidating, I’m not going to lie.

Now, I have done a few things to make it less so, and I’m going to share them with you. I’m always experimenting with technique. This is by no means a permanent battle plan, or right for everyone, but here’s how I’m doing it this time around:

  • This is the end of a trilogy, which means lots of loose ends to tie up (if not all of them, then at least the major ones). I’ve also dealt myself a whole lot of wild cards in books one and two. All of this went into a pair of lists that we’ll come back to later.
  • I’ve known the ending since before I started drafting book one, but until a few weeks ago, the first half of book three was… let’s be generous and say “nebulous.” I knew the answers were there, but I couldn’t see them no matter how hard I tried. Scary stuff. This is where those lists came in. Those were the blueprints and tools that helped me build the bridge to the second half of the book.
  • I planned more this time than I ever have before. Every scene I knew I wanted to use and every one I thought I might use went onto an index card in Scrivener. I added to them, rearranged them, figured out who would be the POV character for each scene. As I made those notes, the holes became clear, and I started to fill them in.
  • I took a fresh look at how the characters have developed so far, where they need to end up, and what internal and external pressures would logically lead them there. They’ve already surprised me a few times, and this could all change, but it gave me ideas for those missing scenes.
  • Having those scenes laid out meant I had no excuse to not start drafting.

That’s it. Nothing fancy. But it’s a big leap from having ideas for events in my head and just trying to get to them, or scribbling notes on paper, as I’ve done in the past.

What I’m really trying to do here is streamline the process. Might save on revisions. We’ll see.

Now, this isn’t to say that everything is planned out and writing is just a matter of finding the right words to express what I already decided on. After ten scenes, things have already happened that I hadn’t anticipated. Bright little moments have popped up and made me smile, new scenes have turned up, internal conflicts have come to light*, past relationships have… well, you’ll see. Plotting doesn’t mean taking the surprises out of writing, as I always thought it would. It just means that with the big things taken care of, I can turn my attention to teasing out the little ones that make a story rich and satisfying. In the past, those moments didn’t come to light until draft two.

It’s still hard. I haven’t had a day yet where the words flowed and my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain. But I’m hitting a steady pace, and I like what’s happening in the story, even if getting words out of my brain is like pulling taffy.

Taffy. Out of my brain.

Terrible image, sorry. I used up all of my good ones this morning.

This is all I can ask for, really. I’m working. I’m actually enjoying the first draft this time through, even if part of me still just wants to have it DONE.

I’m happy. And I think readers will be, too.

*I now need to go back and make adjustments to Torn because of this–and this is exactly why I draft the next book before I publish the previous one. That, and so I can release more than one book a year.

 

 

 


Notebooks

Confession: If I could choose a store to have a shopping spree in, a good stationery store just might top my wish list.

Further confession: Honestly, I would accept Staples/Business Depot.

I love notebooks. I try not to buy more than I will use, but they make me so happy. A nice pen is always a great mood-booster, too, but notebooks…  *sigh*. A new notebook is just a tiny world of infinite possibility, isn’t it?

This is me trying to cut down:

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(AND wearing awesome argyle socks. Does that count as successful multitasking?)

I have more… my journal is in the bedroom, and the quotations notebook has gone off on a magical adventure someplace else. There’s another book for notes on things my friends like, and the one I keep in my purse in case inspiration (or a grocery-list related emergency) strikes. All we need is these, though, if we’re talking about writing.

I do all of my actual writing on the computer. My hands can’t keep up with my brain when I’m writing longhand, and there’s also the fact that I’m just going to have to type it up later, anyway.

For everything else, there’s notebooks.

I can’t make notes and plans on a computer. Tried it, hated it, couldn’t make my brain process the results. Something about having a pen in my hand opens my imagination up in a different way. I’m not saying that my method will work for anyone else, but I always like insights into how other people work, so I’m throwing mine out there. Ready?

Let’s start with the little purple one- it should be beside my bed for middle-of-the-night inspiration, so I don’t have to much up my journal with that stuff. Right now it’s blank. Moving on.

The big ones: The one with the green stripes on the left is for expanding on ideas that have been jotted down elsewhere- short stories get their outlines in there, and the back section has concept, plot, and character notes for another novel that I won’t be getting to for a while. I like to try to focus on one thing at a time (though short stories do make a nice break when other work is getting frustrating), so this is a place for the other ideas to rest and incubate, kept safe until need them. I would definitely forget them otherwise, even the good ones.

Next over is…  Oh, that’s my notes on Bound- plot notes, mostly, and random ideas that did or didn’t make it into the most recent draft. Brainstorming, notes I make while reading it over (AGAIN), notes I’ve had from my Beta readers, random doodles, and anything I just need to jot down while I’m working- wouldn’t want to forget that one horse’s name, or exactly how many mer-children there were running around that one night, would we?

The one with the orange stripes is very important, and needs to be replaced. It’s everything about my fictional world- geography, history, politics, laws and theories of the magic system, animals and plants that live there, geology, characters and their relationships, notes on names I might use some day, character arcs and plot planning, what’s going on elsewhere while my characters are living out their stories (but only if it might apply to future works. I’m not obsessive, guys, jeez). It’s useful, but it’s out-of-date. I started this book during the first draft of Bound, and so much has changed. Every main character has a different name from what he/she started with. Ditto for most towns, provinces, and one of the two principal countries involved. Rowan’s much more competent than she was in the beginning, Aren’s more eviler* at the beginning, especially if you factor in the prologue (which we’re not, of course…). It’s time for a do-over on this one.

The fancy blue one is for Torn what the zig-zaggy one was for Bound, which right now means plot notes, new characters, and notes from my read-through of what I got done during NaNoWriMo last November (which I don’t even count as a first draft, but it’s a fabulous outline/place to mess around and figure things out).

That’s it. That’s my system. For the actual writing I use my little acer netbook and Scrivener (which is a great writing program- anything that doesn’t organize in chapters and let me move scenes around drives me bonkers, now). Oh, but I use Yarny for short stories… I don’t know why, they’re just a whole different game.

As for this guy…

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…I don’t know what that one’s for yet. It’s my new favourite notebook (and has unlined paper, wheeee!), which means that I refuse to mark it up with notes or drawings. We’ll have to wait and see; I just wanted to show it off. LOOK HOW ADORABLE THAT DRAGON IS!

 

*really? Spellcheck will accept “eviler” as a word? Huh.


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