Sunday, October 26, 2008

Break on through to the other side.........

A while back, I got into a conversation on Precie’s blog about getting down to the writing. We struck a little deal that we would each finish our novels by December 31st. We struck this little bargain, back in August, but as any writer will tell you, two months is a mere blip on the radar in the novel writing process.

We also had two witnesses (and assorted blog commenters who will certainly heckle and cajole us should we slack off). The lovely Moonrat is watching from the sidelines, with her megaphone, chanting, “Down with the downward spiral!” And the wonderful Ello is nudging for to beta read at the end of our marathon runs.

Precie – status check!!! Are you still hitting the fifteen minutes a day? Progress report time... (p.s. – if you’d prefer me to pester you in private, rather than on my blog, just send me comment rasberries and I shall desist)

For me, August through September was productive, as far as the fact that I was actually writing... just not the novel I’m on now... so I’ll explain my oddities for those who are better organized with their efforts.

I decided way back while I was doing revisions for RASKIN’S WINGS that I would try to write in a more organized way. I would be the type of writer who outlines – sha-zahhh, therefore saving myself tons and tons of revision time... I would be the type of writer who writes out the pitch first and follows it through in the writing... yep, one of them.

Okay, I tried it. It doesn’t work for me. It’s great that it works for some of you, but not me. I tried. Never again. What happens when I try to outline that way is that I get bombarded by all new plots and brand new shiny ideas. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I’m in pitch mode and since I’m not writing a pitch for a novel whose characters I’ve lived and breathed with for eons, but a brand new one I haven’t fleshed out yet... well, instead of getting into those characters, I keep going with the whole marketing pitch thing. I can’t shut it off. It’s like a water spigot with a broken handle. So I had to just stop. I’m guessing that sounds odd to some of you – too many ideas? What the hell’s the matter with you? But the fact that I kept getting a new idea, instead of getting uber excited about the one I’d just written the pitch for, told me that they weren’t the ones. Not yet, anyway.

Then I decided to work with another middle grade fantasy. I got about two chapters in (three really, but the third one sucked and I tossed it). The middle grade fantasy I will go back to, I’m sure. But I’m not there. I’m not in that mode.

Okay, so that takes you through to the end of September, when this main character bounced into my head... and he did, what I love most about writing fiction – took up every available corner of space and yapped at me even when I was trying to sleep. So I started with page one, which ran into two and three and four and before I knew it there was a brand new shiny first chapter... and then a prologue, that screamed out of my fingertips within the span of about six minutes. I love when that happens and it only happens for me when I’m open to it... when I’m not worried about the rules, when I’m not second guessing what I can and can’t do in fiction.

I talked a long time ago about embarking on a novel that was too big, that maybe was a bit ahead of what you thought you could do. That’s what I’m tackling with this one. My narrator has a voice all his own and I keep thinking, while I’m not actually writing, ‘gee, can I do that? Doesn’t some of that fly in the face of some of the rules?’ But when I’m writing, all of that stuff goes out the window... as it should. I’m having fun with it because I’m not bouncing my head off the desk over whether or not it should be more active, shorter sentence structure, blah, blah, blah... I can look at that stuff in revision.

So, the first month was a wash, albeit a creative one. From the end of September until today, I’ve gotten a prologue and the first five chapters done. I know where he’s going, who’s going with him, and how he’s going to get there... but I can’t wait to see the side roads he leads me down that I haven’t already guessed.

How about you guys? Are you plotters and planners or do you let the characters lead you through the journey? Do you pay strict attention to the rules in your rough draft, or do you leave that off for later? And how’s your writing coming?


Travis Erwin said...

I always set a dozen or more deadlines until I finally make one of them, but I still believe you have to have a goal.

And no worries, I'm always short on time but I'm looking forward to reading. Should get started tonight. Sorry I'm not getting back to you as quick as you did me.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Travis,

Don't worry about it at all - I just sent it to you... and it's your fault I got back to you that quick, I opened the damn thing and couldn't close it until I was done.

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm lost without a detailed outline. I think everyone else is too, but don't tell the seat-of-the-pants writers, because they'll throw rocks at me and vote for McCain.

jjdebenedictis said...

It's so cool to hear someone talk about that great rush when the words "scream" off their fingertips. Thanks for giving me a smile today!

I need an idea of where I'm going, but if I get too much detail in it, I'll lose the "zip" needed to actually type it up. It's like my brain has decided I already wrote the scene.

Thus, I outline up to a point, and then I abandon the outline and dive on in.

Merry Monteleone said...


Never would I throw rocks at you... a worthless effort all around, may aim's not good enough to hit you in Germany ;-)

Hi JJ,

So nice to see you again! How are things going by you?

I can't outline at all, but I have a rough idea of where it's going and keep notes of various things so that I don't slip up... I can see how outlining would almost make you feel as if you'd written it though, I get the same way if I tell someone else too much about where a story's going.

moonrat said...

ooo, i'm lovely??!?!!?

(but yeah, i'm totally here. don't make me get my megaphone.)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Moonie,

Thanks for the nudge, and no, I fear the megaphone... and yes, you're totally lovely, and it's a far better adjective than ratty, so I'll stick with it. :-)

Ello said...

I am at yours and Precie's service!!!

Precie said...

Bhahahahahaha!!! 15 min a day! I must have been out of my mind. No, I haven't been keeping up on that.

But...I did revise a short story, with help from a lovely reader, and submit it to Glimmer Train's "Family Matters" contest. And I've got a couple other things clamouring for my attention very recently.

But I'm bound and determined that November will be MY month. Mine. November, I own you! In November, I will:

1) write every day. Even if only for 5 minutes...heaven knows, if I can write for 5 minutes, I can write for 15! :)

2) focus on my historical...being torn between two WIPs truly has advantages, but I'm letting my indecisiveness get the better of me these days.

3) do a modified, personalized NaNoWriMo with a goal of 10K. :)

November, you have been warned! (ps--my word verification: verywil)

Merry Monteleone said...

Ello, have I told you lately that you rock?


Yay, you! Get those stories out there!

10k is both reasonable and doable, and if you'd like me to shake pom poms from the blog o sphere, I'd be happy... and if you'd like another beta reader, I'd be happy to.

Love the word verification, sometimes it's better than a magic eight ball!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Pitch, synopsis (ever growing), start writing, characters scripts when I realize I don't know the characters well enough, back to drafting, adding in more detail to the synopsis as I go. I've queried two books before and I've learned it's a hell of a lot easier for me if I know where I'm going and just have to revise a synopsis rather than write one after. After a slew of rejections, it also allows me to test market my ideas. I don't write stuff I don't think will sell, period.

I also have learned to plot my short stories because I don't finish them unless I know where I'm headed.

These mechanisms seem to leave plenty of room for maneuvering and adjustment later. But it's not easy, doing so much thought ahead when what I really want to do is jump into the meat of the story.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi SS@S,

See, that's the organized method I was talking about! I've critted and talked with a lot of writers who use similiar approaches - I wish it worked for me, because it sounds like it saves a lot of time and keeps you on focus.

Demon Hunter said...

My writing is very slow until I get married. Planning is kicking my butt. Although I did finish my movie script and a few flash fiction pieces. :-)

I hope you and Precie meet your goals. :-)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Demon Hunter,

I can see that - I don't think I wrote anything while I was planning my wedding... and the months leading up to having my kids, either, I was too busy with other things.

Enjoy the time, and the wedding. You can always jump back to the writing grind after the honeymoon.

Josephine Damian said...

Merry: I spent my B-day putting the finishing touches on my thesis. I'll make one more pass for typos, then send it to the advisor. Still have a term paper to write, but the end of grad school is near!

I got so excited when you wrote:

"I would try to write in a more organized way. I would be the type of writer who outlines – sha-zahhh, therefore saving myself tons and tons of revision time... I would be the type of writer who writes out the pitch first and follows it through in the writing... yep, one of them."

And then I read this part.....

"Okay, I tried it. It doesn’t work for me. It’s great that it works for some of you, but not me. I tried. Never again."

Ah me.

This is where I tell you that I'm taking a two week intensive online workshop on ADVANCED synopsis/outline writing.

As soon as school's over I'll hit the ground running on my WIP - with that outline to show me the FAST way.....

Have you recovered from the flood? Figured that more than anything would put a damper (ha!) on the writing, pantster or not.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Josie,

Yay, you!!! Congratulations on nearing completion... plus, you know, I can't wait to read your wip, both the one you were working on in blog crits and the new one I noticed attached to your blog - that one looks fantastic...great premise.

Have you recovered from the flood? Figured that more than anything would put a damper (ha!) on the writing, pantster or not.

Actually, the writing gods, or the gods in general, or possibly just God for such blasphemies as joking about multiple gods, have thrown about every problem imaginable at me since the flippin' flood...

Still writing every day, that's all I can do.