Organizing My Thoughts

I write. Sometimes I write a lot. When my inspiration is running high, like during a NaNo challenge, I run 2000 draft words a day. That is a respectable pace, so I’m happy with that.  I used to do more before health issues interfered, but that 2k a day is as much as I can physically manage on a steady basis.

Some things, like most fanfic, I only do light editing or fill in missing facts, like the name of a specific space station in the setting.  Some fanfic requires more work to check on continuity in the 100k project. Fun stuff and parodies like a Gilligan’s Island piece go up faster.  But original work, especially heavy world-building make for a whole other kettle of fish. I feel fairly confident in my core ideas, my lead characters, and my overall plot. It’s the rest that I’m kind of wobbly on. I know theme and secondary characters are weaker.

So it’s revision for original works are my problem area, especially as I can’t afford an editor. So I want to have something top notch before I send them out.  A second opinion and noting brain-farts is more important than spelling and grammar at this point. Finding that honest opinion without giving away the cow is an issue. I have two original novel drafts, and I’m reluctant to start another novel until I figure out a better way to revise and finish those novels. I still want a thumbs up or down before I decide whether to seek a real publisher.

globe clear light bulb

old style light bulb, from pxhere

I’m still looking after ten years for a method better for editing than flailing about and running through a piece until the thought of one more pass makes me want more to shoot myself than look at it one more time. I’ve read articles and done classes, and I’m actually happy with a major revision I did last month. That is the exception, and the longer the work, the lower the confidence.

Sadly, several instructors I’ve found who seem compatable, are still in the 20th century, where piles of dead tree pages and huddling over a dining room table chaos is part of the writing package. People today, are more mobile, moving from place to place, and in between meals don’t have that luxury of spreading out and static resources.  Why can’t I apply digital analysis and tools to my work? This is organization and analysis if my work, not the raw rush of creation.  (Yes, I looked at Scrivener and yWriter but the latter just got in the way)  I want a tool that I can drop my finished draft in and let me organize and note things easily. Maybe  notice oopsies like the best friend only has 20 lines but a minor villain was featured for twenty pages.

I think something that lets me tag sentences, paragraphs and scenes with characters/roles/themes with checkboxes, and like a good modular code inherits from the higher level.  I may have to design my own database. It’s been a long time since my last and I am not looking forward to the timesuck. But I really want a better way to revise and work without scattered piles of dead tree pages.

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Damp times…

You know your story is onto something if your throat is sore and you’re trying not to weep as you write it before Real Life drags you away.

**finished my Camp NaNo project**  Waiting to see if my beta approves…

Your Focus is Your Reality

I’ve been writing since ’07. I probably could have started writing before that, especially if you considered the thousands of books in my household and the writers’ track panels I thought a hoot at SF conventions.  But I hadn’t.

I didn’t like writing even short fiction in high school. Family lore says there was an elementary mocking incident, but I don’t remember it. I do remember hating any kind of writing, and perpetually tardy at best for any assignment. I got reconciled a little by high school when I wrote a 30+ page paper on mass drivers as a potential replacement for rockets to orbit. They now are used as rail gun ans amusement rides. I wrote a couple short stories for a friend desperate for material for a college SF magazine… I really do not want to dig those copies out, even if  one was my first fanfic snippet. I enjoyed the griping and successes of writers, cover artists, and editors at SF cons. I highly recommend the ’98 Buccaneer Liar’s Panel audio if you can find it, I didn’t get at the time that a missed meal would have been better than missing the recording.

That snippet was the last non-academic, non business writing for over twenty years. I still had creative outlets in crafts and RPGs, along with a serious reading addiction. I’d sit at the breakfast and read the box. Sometimes I’d even read the fine print for OTC meds. I’d read during commercial breaks and while waiting in lines. Then came a weird skin infection or two, and new books dried up and gas to visit the library was tight too.

I missed new books by favorite authors and decided to boot a game that had been sitting on a shelf for a couple months. I reached the end, outraged that the writers cheated, for blatant meta reasons. Clearly they wanted to clear the deck to have a tabula rasa for a sequel.  There were no convincing reasons in-world for that obnoxious ending.

I could do better.

grains falling through hourglass

In Search of Lost Time by Alexander Boden on flickr, without changes, per Creative Commons.

So went my first fanfic plot, first chaptered story, first novel-length story, first NaNo attempt, and first time my characters grabbed control. (they rarely do anymore, and I’m not sure that’s good or bad)

But after a time creating new adventures with existing universes, I started wanting to do my own and maybe get a half cheese sandwich on occasion. So I’m coming at learning the craft very late and in a hit or miss manner. Some techniques for writing do not help, they strangle my muse. But I keep looking, as I have the most trouble with finishing the story, revisions to pull it all  together.

I backtracked into fanfic, due to RL reasons, but I’m not sure why I almost seem to have a block about writing original stuff again. I should work on two stuck novels, but I spent so much fiddling with them to the point of pain, that going back makes me nauseous. I still believe in the concepts, but… Flash stories dried up too. I do file new story ideas, but have no urge to type.

So I want to finish one of two active fanfics, and use that time for original works. Post more here too, to remind me of that goal. Fanfic is seductive, as you get rapid and sometimes spirited feedback, and this new writer gets very few cheese sandwiches and no feedback. It does affect your motivations. I really need to focus on original stories more.

Coming up with new topics for this blog is another challenge. Today I found an essay collection by R L Stevenson on writing. Whether inspirational or neolithic, it may be useful… Coming Soon.

old metal gears

Sparkles and Fruit of Inspiration

Inspiration can be fickle. I frequently get ideas. I have files and files of ideas. Some are for original fiction, even more are for fan fiction. Even keeping the ideas grouped together becomes an exercise in organization. Some ideas cannot work in some story environments, an insight on FTL communication is irrelevant to a sword and sorcery mood.

So I squirrel them away, like nuts for the winter, awaiting a time when my muse wants to write a romantic horror or expand on a plot hole in a fannish-universe. I have files with additional ideas for my own series, ideas for specific universes, folders with images or links to an article that held the germ of a story. I even have alternate ideas for stories already written, but it starts getting recursive, like “Groundhog Day.”

But I already have too many stories unfinished. Most are just these seed ideas, as I have been recording them since I realized I have a problem. Some have been partly written or even partly posted. Some even have at least one fairly full draft, awaiting an editor/beta, or even a second opinion.

(That is one of the advantages of fanfic, it has a lower standard so you do not get blocked by editing issues like I do.  Sometimes shockingly lower… and errors appear in too many small press and even major imprints today. I get close to crying when I see yet another use of ‘loose’ when character are afraid if they will ‘lose’ a fight. But the lower standard means the writers get offended if their prose was confusing and should be tweaked. But that makes them and their story look worse than the idea deserves. It takes a cool down, but I have taken and updated for questions on my works, but few bother even if I wish to improve my writing. But for me, a softer standard means I can put out stories without too much angst for my lack of a beta or editor) Original works are a different kettle of fish.  Physical prints can’t be updated. And I believe updates make the author look bad.  Updates to fix important errors or missing sections make software companies look unprofessional and incompetent too, but that boat seems to have sailed too long ago. There’s no good reason to copy the software companies.

But the shortage of even second opinions or beta, make editing my NaNos into monoliths of grinding through issues until I hated my original novels. Intellectually, I’m sure they’re decent ideas, but even looking at them another time makes me want to scream.  I guess you could call it block, but the story is already there.  This makes shorter works, especially fanfic ideas more tempting.

And as fanfic ideas reach fruition, and I get feedback if not money, my muse is far more tempted by non-original universes. A description of episodes from a single-season show from the fifties holds story kernels starts the sparkles flowing, enough to feed a score of chapters or episodes.

But I can’t write that fast anymore, and I resist adding yet another writing project to the ten to twenty unfinished works I already have in various stages of block.  I have three active stories, and handful awaiting attention, and I am trying to not start new works    So the more than one idea today got a write-up in one of my idea files… maybe for Nano.

Despite my good intentions, I wrote a humor flashfic this morning and posted it, getting reviews right away.

 

It’s kind of Block…

I’m working on a little serial story, well actually I have several in different stages. But this one story is kind of stuck. I didn’t think much of it for a while, as I swap working on different stories depending on what interests my muse that day. And a slightly darker one was more interesting for a week or three.

The problem one was an epistolary coming if age, and its conclusion. I stopped writing midscene where the writing character is commenting in the letter that they should have been warned by the humor in the other character’s eyes.

I cannot remember what the joker was going to say.

Oh, I know roughly what the rest of the story is going to be: adventure embarrassing for the lead and then a happy thing they were not expecting.  But the joke was to tie into an issue from earlier chapters.  It ties what is about to happen into earlier events and the lead’s flaw. This bit of dialogue is important. It sets up the climax of the story.

But I just cannot remember the punchline for the dialogue.

Nano Scorecard

swirlsof neon light

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

Well, NaNoWriMo 2017 is over, and I’ve caught up on a little sleep. Between Thanksgiving and an HMO issue, this year was unusually challenging. Oh, I put out 51k of writing, but focus was an issue. The words flew out at times, but too many of those were were ideas that belonged in side stories or a much darker and bleak story.

Health issues during Nano cannot be ignored and don’t care that I am on a deadline.

I wrote a very nice scene for my lead and a character they never met because they died five years ago. Writing was easy that day. I heard a song on the radio and wanted oh so badly to write a songfic, but that would break plausibility so badly, I might as well have written a chapter from Hogwarts. But once the muse grabbed me, the I could not go back to my sketchy outline or notes. So my 51k was fractured, and today I attempted to see how much of my intended story got written and where it ended up.

Identifiable chunks of the 51k:

  • Original story intended +20k. On the good side I got through a section I’d been having problems with for months and have snippets that will be easily expnded later.
  • side story +5k. This feeds my fondness for redemption arcs and gradual/non-miracle change.
  • coming of age story +4k
  • Just plain breaks something A +5k  Might be salvageable for main story but is perhaps six months later in story-line.
  • Just plain breaks something B +2k  Cannot use, as there’s no vampires or staffs of resurrection. I did write a nice insight of a major character so that bit will be recycled.
  • Just plain breaks something C 11k. An AU of the original story. This one has some plot conflict that only needs minor revisions to serve as part of the original story’s climax. It also made a nice character dev event that got similar request from an early reader. That bit will be nearly perfect for the original as well.

For the last three I need to link these snippets into the original’s notes so I don’t forget them. Let’s see, that’s about 47k of my Nano efforts. The rest is notes, ideas, babbling that could not be salvageed into actual prose.

Next year I am not letting other stories jump on my muse.

NaNo ghost

I’m busy pruning back my activity to give me enough time for typing. I’m hoping to finish the story I wrote 50k of last November. I’d written further but kept stalling when I hit combat or other problematic scenes.

Restarting where I’d stopped wasn’t helping on the first, but I decided to start skipping forward. I can write summaries for the parts I’m stuck on and still write thousands of words to continue the story…

Maybe I can get a ghost writer for combat?