None Down, Nineteen To Go

Recently I decided to split my big massive novel into shorter stories and try and tell the same tale as a series of stories rather than as a single long one. I expected to have twelve stories for the main tale and then a few extra as flashbacks and fillers.

I’m now done with the first preliminary outline and I’m up to nineteen stories – including one flashback that I believe is necessary to explain what drives one of the main characters.

That’s a lot of stories to write, and I should get started. Today. Now.

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That was yesterday, or the day before.

It’s really big though. Starting is difficult. Always is.

So I’m writing this blog post instead. A little update on where I am and what I’m doing.

The plan for now is to start doing detailed outlines of the stories. I’ve got rough outlines for what’s happening in all of them. I need to start making decisions about details. Instead of my outline saying something like “Roy and Alene have an argument and get very upset with each other” I need to define what the argument is about, what positions Roy and Alene have, and why they get upset with each other.

At least I think that’s what I need to do. It makes sense to me to do it like that. Then once I’ve done that, I’ll move on to the next story and once I’m done with all of them I’ll start writing actual prose.

But right now, maybe I’ll just sit here for a little longer. It’s warmer than I’m used to. I’m tired and a little bit hungry. I’m low on energy. I miss winter, and autumn, and early spring. Once they come around, I’ll miss summer again.

I guess I’ll read the outline of the first story and see what I need to consider for it. I’ve gotta start sometime.

None Down, Nineteen To Go

A Few First Sentences

You’ve probably heard that when writing a story it is important to hook the reader from the start. The first page, the first paragraph, the first sentence, are all extremely important. Books have been written about that alone – or so I’ve heard, I haven’t actually read any of them.

Anyway, the beginning is important.

At the moment I’m drawing up outlines for a number of short stories, and while they’re not all done yet, it’s going pretty well (except I’m currently stuck, but I’ll sort that out). The stories are coming along, and they look like they’ll be able to fit what I had in mind for them – short, simple, and straight forward. Nothing fancy.

As I’m doing this I’m entertaining myself with coming up with potential options for the first sentence of each story, and I figured I’d share some of what I’ve come up with so far. So, here goes:

  1. “Yes Mr. van Waldenberger, the syndicate believes it would be in everyone’s best interest if you lost this match,” said the man in the dark suit.
  2. Roy stared at the phone, and the world spun around him. This changed everything.
  3. “I’m sorry miss. You know what the regulations say. I can’t give you any new shifts this close to the full moon.”
  4. Alene was out of the woods, technically. In practice she was still lost in the jungle with no idea how to get back, but at least no one was trying to kill her anymore.
  5. Paivi woke up with a raging hangover, groaned, and remembered that her sister had come back from the dead.

It’s more than one sentence in most of the cases, but I can live with that. It gives a wee bit more context, even if it may just be me seeing it.

Now, I can’t claim to be an expert on first sentences, but I feel these show some promise. They’re not final versions, but it’s what I have in mind, and hopefully it’s the kind of thing that’ll pull the reader in and make them want to read on the rest of the first paragraph.

Progress Update

I was originally planning on splitting my novel into twelve short stories. So far I’ve done outlines for seven of those. The eighth one that I’m working on at the moment will have to be split into three or four shorts – of which I’m done with two and working on the third.

From the list of stories I wanted to outline I have eight left that I still haven’t started on yet.

As expected, the project grows. I’m not too fussed with it. Setting up these shorts is turning out to be quite interesting and I feel like I’m unearthing little nuggets of knowledge here and there as I go. All things considered, I’m happy with my progress.

A Few First Sentences

Room For Misinterpretation

I’m a little bit nervous.

For a few years I’ve been part of the article team on Mythic Scribes. It’s been good fun and I’ve learned a whole lot writing for the site. At first I was a bit nervous about people not liking what I wrote, or that they’d think it was stupid, or that I’d turn out to be wrong about something. That’s probably natural, and with time I got over it.

This time it’s different.

Previously, I’ve been writing articles about how I believe things work, and about how I do things when it comes to writing. It’s been quite factual, even if at a basic level. What I’m doing this time is much more personal. I’m writing about myself, and my goals and ambitions as a writer.

EDIT: The article in question is now live here.

When the topic comes up on the forums it always causes a bit of discussion – sometimes heated. The reasons people write are probably as many as there are writers, just as the way they do it. That doesn’t prevent people from having opinions about what ought to motivate others, and what oughtn’t.

It’s the art thing.

Why do you make art? What’s your reason? Who do you make art for? What do you want to say?

My concern with this article, and what I’m nervous about is that it’ll set off a discussion along those lines. Someone’s going to get the notion that my priority is to sell books, or that I think I’m not good enough, or that I should just follow my heart and write any way I damn well please.

So, to set things straight…

  1. My priority isn’t to sell books. My priority is to learn to write stories that people will enjoy reading. This goes hand in hand with a desire to sell books, but it’s not the same thing.
  2. I don’t think that I’m not good enough. I think that I’m not as good as I could be if I knew what I was doing.
  3. I am following my heart. This is what I want to do, and that is why I’m doing it.

That’s it really. I don’t feel like I’m flailing about blindly grasping at straws. I feel like I’ve set out to do something that I want to do, and like I understand the consequences and implications. I have a goal, I want to reach it, and I will.

And, well, that’s really all there is to it.

…it’ll probably take a lot longer than I want to though, but that’s another story.

 

 

Room For Misinterpretation

The Music Does Its Job

One of my rituals for writing is that with every new story I start I create a playlist with music that I think I may want to listen to while writing. I try to pick songs I enjoy and that feel like they will fit with the mood/theme/character of my story. It’s usually a fun little project and it helps me get in the mood for the writing.

I’ve not been too sure about how well it works though. The theory is sound, and I think it works in practice, but I don’t really know for certain.

Just now though, I got a little bit of empirical evidence that it really does help. One of the signature songs of my character Toini came on, and I was instantly transported back to her story. I got the same feeling I had when I was writing it, and my mind conjured up the images of what I described in the story. It really did work, and it made me really happy, and now I want to get back to that story again – even though it’s basically finished and I told myself I wouldn’t do any more with it.

Also, here’s the song:

The Music Does Its Job

Feedback Received

Recently, about two weeks ago, I sent out the latest version of Emma’s Story for test reading. I sent it to five different people, and expected to hear back from two of them. The only ones I haven’t heard back from now are those two. I still think I’ll hear back from the eventually, it’ll just take some time.

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Picture unrelated to text. Included to add some colour to the page. Then again, a cozy little fireplace is kind of in the spirit of the story.

Overall, the feedback has been good. All three of them agree on a few different things, but have wildly different takes on others. The most “controversial” issue is probably the writing style. One of my readers felt that it was confusing and condescending, while another called it a stroke of genius. The third reader found it interesting, but felt that it lost a bit of its novelty towards the end.

My take on that is that it’s the kind of thing that will appeal to some people, but not to others, and I won’t change it. Admittedly, changing it would require me to rewrite the entire story, and that’s just not an option anymore. I feel like I’m close to finishing this story, and there’s a limit to how long I can keep tweaking and fiddling with it – especially if there are people who like the things I would be changing.

What all three readers agree on is an incident near the end. My main characters behaviour in face of what they’re up against just doesn’t seem to match anyone’s expectations. This is something that was pointed out to me previously, and I tried fixing it but I misunderstood the issue and changed the wrong thing.

I now have a better understanding of what the issue is, and with a bit of time I should be able to figure out a resolution for it. I already have one idea, and with that as a start I can come up with others. Unfortunately I may have to remove an event I’m really fond of, but if that’s what it takes to make the story as a whole better, then so be it. I’ll try to see if I can find a way to avoid that though.

Feedback Received

I Have A Plan

Okay, so I’ve officially started the rewrite of Enar’s Vacation. Turns out I already rewrote it once shortly after I finished the first draft (there’s a folder on my HD named Enar’s Vacation – Rewrite 1) so this will be the second rewrite.

This time it’s going to be a more extensive rewrite though, and I think I have a better idea of what I’m doing this time – or at least of what I want to do.

To begin with, I’ve made a plan. I created a To Do list for this project. It goes like this:

To do:

  1. Sum up every chapter in a few sentences to see what they’re about.
  2. Review all of the summaries to determine what story arcs are involved.
  3. Write down all of the different story arcs to identify what they’re really about.
  4. Decide which story arcs, if any, can be removed.
  5. Review every scene to see what story arcs are present and how the scene contributes to further the arc (plot, character, setting, theme)
  6. Remove/redesign scenes as needed.
  7. Extract conversation outlines from original scenes.
  8. Create story outline based on new scenes.
  9. Write the story.

I still haven’t started on the first step just yet, and I probably won’t do that for real until Monday, or maybe tomorrow if I’ve got time to spare. I have a plan though, and that’s a start.

Go me!

I Have A Plan

Decision Made

I guess technically I already made the decision, but I had my doubts about it. No more. Okay, well, I still have some doubts, but they’re a lot fewer than they were – to the point where they no longer count.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’ll be rewriting Enar’s Vacation.

Now, rewriting seems to mean different things to different people, so I’ll try and clarify a bit. What I’ll do is I’ll start with the previous version of the story as the outline, and then begin from there.

  1. Read through the story (almost done already) to get up to scratch with it again, and to get an idea about what state it’s in.
  2. Decide which parts to cut out.
  3. Go through the remaining parts to see what they contribute to the story and if they do it in the “right” way.
  4. Adjust the parts that don’t work as they should.
  5. Write the story.

I have a good idea of which parts to cut, and I think I know what parts don’t quite work. Most changes will likely be in the first third of the story, where the main character and the setting is introduced. A big issue with the story is that it doesn’t set up expectations for the reader very well.

It’s all nice and pleasant, but there’s no clear indication what kind of story it will be. Will it be an exciting action adventure, or a psychological thriller, or supernatural erotic escapade? It’s none of those, and it’s really just a low key story about a guy going on vacation and meeting a nice girl.

That’s hardly the norm for fantasy fiction though, and readers will be wondering when the adventure will begin, or what the threat is – or something like that.

Apart from that, there are some issues with characterization and world building that needs adjusting. I got some feedback that I was using too many cliche gender stereotypes, and while that wasn’t my intention I can see where that critique is coming from. It’ll try and sort that out.

There are also a few scenes that don’t add enough to the story. For example, readers don’t really have to know how to go about fixing a roof in a gazebo at the detail its described in the chapter where that’s happening. There are a few other similar cases, but that’s the biggest one.

The difficulty here is to not cut too much. The richness of the setting is a big part of what’s enjoyable with the story, and that’s how I want it to be. I don’t want to take away too much of that.

The rest – especially the later bits are actually pretty good. There are issues with voice and with punctuation, but other than that I’m really quite pleased with it. It shouldn’t take too much effort getting those parts up to scratch once I get there.

Decision Made