Archive for December, 2014

PBWQ14 Wrap Up

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Although there's still officially more than a week left of this year's effort, I'm planning on spending that week eating and sleeping. So I might as well wrap things up now before I slip into a Chex Mix coma.

I'll keep this short and sweet: this was hands down the best PBWQ season to date. Here's why:

  • The R&D period in October went very well.
  • I officially brought two of my works-in-progress into the same universe.
  • The book has a good beginning, middle, and end.
  • My 50,000 word synopsis is complete.
  • And editing, though going very slowly, is progressing.

My main fear now is just completely getting out of the groove. But, then again, sometimes you just have to get out of the groove for a while. It can make for a much better groove next time.

So, bye for now. See you in 2015. Or as I like to call it, "The Year I Really, Truly, Actually, Finally Write a Complete and Finished Draft of a Book." Hey, the 23rd try's a charm, right?

Posted in Progress |

PBWQ14 Week Ten Update

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

I'm still struggling with that Level of Detail problem. In that I'm "finalizing" too much on this second pass and not doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

"Supposed to" is defined by these three definitions:

  1. Draft Zero: As an author, tell yourself the story.
  2. First Draft: Fix the story.
  3. Second Draft: Fix the language.
  4. Final Draft: Paint the trim.

But I'm kind of doing all three bullet points on what's supposed to just be me fixing the story right now. Because Draft Zero, while a complete story, was in heavy need of some work. And trying to fix too much at once is definitely slowing me down.

And if you thought that was the worst of it, think again. Writing in First Person is proving to be far more of a challenge than I thought. But that's the topic of another post.

Posted in Progress |

PBWQ14 Week Eight Update

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

The way I like to write (and the way I believe books should be written, in spite of the fact that I'm no authority on this whatsoever) is to build the book up in layers with increasing levels of detail.

The concept of "level of detail" (or LOD for short) comes from the computer graphics industry. In the words of the great and wise philosopher Wick E. Pedia, it "involves decreasing the complexity of a 3D object representation as it moves away from the viewer or according to other metrics such as object importance, viewpoint-relative speed or position."

And here is a graphical representation:

Level of detail visual example

In short: if you can't appreciate the detail, don't waste time and resources creating the detail.

Same thing with a story. Start with a synopsis or an outline. Don't start with a finished manuscript. If you begin with a short version of your complete story then you can see if it's going to be worth spending any more time on. In a thousand words or so, can you see your beginning, middle, and the all-important end? Are your protagonist's motivations clear and believable? Is your antagonist the perfect foil? Do you have conflict? A good climax, twist or reveal to reward your faithful readers for their time invested?

If you don't have all that in the synopsis, it's very unlikely your completed manuscript will magically have them.

So that's what I attempted to do this time. Except instead of writing a one-thousand word synopsis, I wrote a fifty-thousand word synopsis. But it only took ten days, and in truth, the one-thousand word version would have taken about the same amount of time.

But when I started on that second LOD pass, I jumped right to the 60,000 polygon version of Beethoven. I lied to myself saying, "No, this is important. I just have to nail this first chapter in full detail, to properly set the manuscript in motion." And in hindsight, I was both right and wrong. I'm happy I did that, but no, it wasn't necessary.

That being said, I was able to nail down one very, very important decision: the point of view. I began writing the story in third-person limited point of view. However, I finished the last 16,000 words or so in first person. This was a NaNo-related device to help me zoom to the end of the story more quickly. I called it "campfire mode", in that the protagonist, now hypothetically old and sitting around a campfire, recounts her story to a gathering.

Then I realized: I like that. So I experimented by writing two versions of the opening chapter, one in first person, the other in third. At first, first person view slightly edged out third person. But then something struck me I didn't see coming: a prologue. It sat outside the story, in the form of a letter written by the protagonist in her later years, but then it hit me: this was the perfect "cover letter" accompanying a memoir. That sealed the deal: first person it was.

And with that, PBWQ 2014 is now two-thirds done. October went well. November went even better. And, as silly and pointless as it may be, I'm going to post this anyway:

NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner Banner

Posted in Progress |

How To Write a Novel in Thirty Days: A NaNoWriMo Guide

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Some people find it hard to believe that anyone could write an entire novel from start to finish in just thirty days. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not only possible, but to show you exactly how it's done in just twelve easy steps.

  1. Write your query letter first. Seriously. Because if you can't succinctly describe and sell the book you're about to write now, you're not ready to write a book. You might learn a lot about yourself at this stage and save yourself a lot of revision time later.
  2. Before November begins, spend anywhere between one and one hundred and twenty months preparing. Plan your book and make sure you know enough about your subject matter to make your writing believable.
  3. During November, write like the wind. This is "Draft Zero", the stage where you tell yourself the story. Concentrate on the story, not the storytelling. Does it have legs? Is it going anywhere? That's exactly what you're going to find out this month.
  4. When the story is done, walk away from it. At least a week, but if you can, just enjoy December and pick it up next year.
  5. In January, print it out and read it. Mark what you liked and what you didn't like. Make detailed notes about what worked and what didn't.
  6. By February you should be able to begin the actual manuscript. We'll call this one the first draft.
  7. Spend two or three months on it. Feel free to self-edit along the way. You might be surprised what hits you now that didn't even occur to you in Draft Zero.
  8. Now it's ready for your first readers. Hand it to them and say, "Please read my book and tell me what you think." Be patient and don't pester them. They have lives too.
  9. When they tell you what they think, listen to them. Don't pout like a baby. Woman up about it. And definitely do not tell them in great detail why their opinion is wrong unless you've somehow also worked out a way for you to visit all ten thousand people who eventually buy your book and personally explain to them why they were wrong about why they didn't like your favorite scene.
  10. Take all feedback (including your own) and start the next draft.
  11. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
  12. When you're absolutely positive you're done, crack open that query letter, freshen it up, and send it off.

And you thought it couldn't be done.

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