Daily Writing Check-in: February 9, 2016

Words/Time:  1 hour working on “Pursuit of Power.” Most of that time was spent copying & pasting the entire story into Scrivener, one scene at a time. My next revision task has been trying to figure out how to get an important plot to start sooner. In the image below, the red is the main plot. The blue, though is an important plot line that will carry into the sequel to this novel. It’s also the catalyst that makes the red plot go where it needs to go. But there’s a lot of red at the beginning (which is mostly just my protagonist growing up and being positioned where he needs to be when the blue plot starts).Scrivener scenes PoP
I have two ideas for how to go about getting that blue to come in sooner, and I’ll probably have to incorporate both of them. I’ve already taken the first 3 or 4 blue scenes and spread them amongst the early red. And I may try to condense some of what happens in the red. It may not all be vital to the story, though so far, it seems vital enough that I can’t condense it much. But that’s always the problem with revising your own story.

Daily Writing Check-in: January 27, 2016

Words/Time:  1 hour, 15 minutes listing out the rest of the scenes in “Pursuit of Power” in Scrivener. While doing that, I realized my timeline wasn’t entirely accurate in some areas. I hadn’t referenced the timeline while writing, apparently, and I’d made the first part of the timeline many months before writing the first draft. I had to make some decisions about whether to change the dates in the timeline or to change it in the story. I could have saved that work for when I start reading soon, but it was bothering me.

Scrivener scenes PoP

This is my novel in a very boiled down, zoomed out, and color-coded sense. The different colors are different plot lines. The red is the main plot. The purple is the one I need to work on most. It may seem unimportant and worth deleting entirely, but it’s the personal life of the secondary main character. I always found it difficult to remember to include what was going on in her life throughout the story, and when I did, it seemed like a waste of time. So I need to spend some time figuring out what about her life is important enough to include, and the best way to slip that in here and there.

Daily Writing Check-in: January 26, 2016

Words/Time:  45 minutes revising “Pursuit of Power” during the writing group meeting at the library. To start the real revision, I’m writing out a list of scenes and color coding them by plot line. I’m also tagging them with the characters who are involved, and may add setting to it later. Hopefully this will help me to make sure my subplots are tight (and worth including) and that there aren’t random plot strands that shouldn’t be in the story.  It’s also giving me a chance to re-familiarize myself with the story as a whole before starting to read.

I was going to do this on paper with a pen, and then highlight different plot lines with different color highlighters (I got the idea for this here, but the rest of the process I do in a different order or a different way). But at the library, I didn’t have a pen, only a pencil (which wouldn’t work well with highlighter). So I figured I’d see how it worked in Scrivener. Once I figured out how to color code it and how to add characters to each scene that could be grouped later, it went pretty well. And I can see the whole story board at once, which is nice. I got through about half the story today, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to finish it tomorrow.

Daily Writing Check-in: December 12, 2015

Words/Time: 1.5 hours breaking “Pithea,” into chapters in Scrivener, then compiling the finished draft, and formatting the manuscript so that it’s more readable by everyday people (since Scrivener formats it for publishing companies, at least so they say).

Then while we were at a Christmas get-together today, during some downtime, I started reading through “The Triangle,” looking for any small edits I want to make before I try to self-publish it. It’s been years since I wrote it, and at least a year since I last read over it. I’ve grown as a writer even in that time, plus I’ll have very fresh eyes, so hopefully I’ll get it into a decent shape.

But I think “Pithea” is still going to be coming first, so “The Triangle” will be left to work on only when I’m not in the best position to work on “Pithea,” or when I need a short break from “Pithea.”

Daily Writing Check-in: December 11, 2015

Words/Time: Almost 2 hours inserting chapters into “Pithea,” in Scrivener, after finishing breaking it into scenes. I’m 3/4 of the way through the story, so I’ll be done soon, and then I can finally proceed with reading through it again. This weekend, my family has enough Christmas-related plans that I may not get much done. And I won’t stress over making sure to do some work every day, if I’m tired in the evening or something. Though I’ll probably finish this chapter thing before I go to bed tonight.

Daily Writing Check-in: December 10, 2015

Words/Time: 1 hour transferring “Pithea,” one scene at a time, into Scrivener. I’m not sure why it took me an hour to only get 2/3 of it done, but it did. I guess there’s more to it than that, as I did a few other things at the same time, like figure out how many words part 1 is, and how many chapters it would be if I averaged 5000 words per chapter.

Either later tonight or tomorrow night, I will finish this and divide the chapters. Then I’ll bug a few people to read it while I also start into reading it again.

Or maybe I’ll go give “The Triangle” another read-through. That’s one I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on this blog. It’s a novelette-length story, which I hope to self-publish soon. More on that later, maybe.

Daily Writing Check-in: December 9, 2015

Words/Time: 30 minutes revising “Pithea.” I put the finishing touches on the draft that I did declare done a few days ago, but I neglected to remember the few more edits I needed to make. Tonight I call it done. And now I have remembered that I haven’t finished laying out the scenes in order to find the best chapter breaks. I was using Scrivener for that, which was the free trial at the time. I can use my code for winning NaNo to purchase the full version, but I don’t know if I want the Mac or PC version. (My husband just acquired a MacBook, which is our household’s first Mac. And since Scrivener was originally made for the Mac, it has features on that version that it doesn’t on the PC.)

Tomorrow I’ll see about downloading the trial version on the MacBook and work on the chapters there, while also trying to decide which full version I want to buy. I am almost ready to share my novel with some close friends and relatives who I know are wanting, or at least willing, to read it before it’s finalized and/or published, but I feel like chapters would be good first.

 

My NaNo Survival Kit

I figured with NaNoWriMo drawing ever closer, I’d share my own list of items that I’m collecting for my November survival kit. Some are ready to go, some I still need to get ready.

1. Laptop – Though this one seems easy, I’ve been using a temporary replacement for my good laptop, because the good one needed a new keyboard. It’s been fixed and ready for a week now, but I haven’t taken the time to swap out the temp one yet. The keyboard was down for a month or so, so I need to set up the good laptop and make sure it’s ready to go for November.

2. Outline – I haven’t even started on this yet. I’ve got a partial timeline done, some character work done, and a decent synopsis. Plus lots of notes on dialog and minor events that will shape the setting. I plan to do nothing but outline during my writing time until either the outline is done or November starts.

3. Notebook, pencil, & eraser
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Though I prefer to write longhand, I learned years ago that there was no time for that during NaNoWriMo. In fact, I rarely write anything longer than writing practice by hand anymore, even outside of NaNo. Still, having a notebook or two available during NaNo is only smart. For those times when I’m out and can’t bring my laptop, but still have a little time to write (Thanksgiving events being the most prominent example). Or for the possibility, however unlikely, that my laptop crashes.

4. Soft, fuzzy robe & slippers – November gets cold where I live, and we keep our thermostat a little low to save money. So we tend to wear sweaters, socks, and slippers around here to stay warm. It’s nice and cozy for settling in and writing, especially since I recently got a long, super soft robe to wear.

5. Leftover Halloween candy & other snacks – This is still on the horizon, obviously, because Halloween is still ahead of us. My husband and I have grand plans to go out on Sunday afternoon and see what we can find. I learned recently that (in my town, at least) Walgreens and CVS are more likely to have good, name-brand candy in after-holiday sales than the area grocery stores, so we’re heading there first. I’ll be getting others snacks here and there, like fruit or chips, but I’m mostly a chocolate girl.

6. Full stock of coffee
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This is the first year this particular item has been on my list. I despise coffee normally. I like powdered cappuccino drinks, but couldn’t ever enjoy coffee. However, my husband got me a k-cup machine for my last birthday, and I quickly discovered that I like flavored coffee (with cream in it). In fact, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with coffee now (but again, only flavored). I discovered that one can buy variety packs of flavored coffee on Amazon, and tried it out months ago. It worked out well enough that I ordered a new box for November. I also pick up regular boxes of various flavors that strike my fancy now and then, and have some I’m looking forward to opening throughout the month. So this NaNo, I will join the majority of Wrimos who drink copious amounts of coffee.

(I’ll probably drink a lot of pop too, but it’s not as fun to stock up on in advance as the coffee.)

7. Free trial of Scrivener that will last until the end of NaNo – I’ve been trying Scrivener since May. With a 30-day trial that only takes a day away for days you actually open the program, I still have half the month left. I’ve yet to decide if it’s worth buying, but I’m going to try out using it for both outlining, and writing from said outline, this month. The time I have left on my trial wouldn’t have lasted through NaNo, since I’d be using it every day. Fortunately, there is a trial version that lasts until December 7th, specifically for Wrimos. I downloaded that, and will be using it to make the aforementioned outline the rest of this week.

8. Thumb drive – This one I still have to get. I have several thumb drives, but right now, I can only seem to find one. And it’s completely full with backed-up files. I’ll keep looking for the others (most of which are still in the original packaging and must be floating around together somewhere), but if I can’t find one, I guess I’ll borrow one. I can back up my novel to Google drive, but I want to have it on a thumb drive so it’s more easily accessible between my laptop and desktop.

9. Coloring books & colored pencils
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I was never much for coloring when I was younger, not like my sisters. A few years ago, I read advice along the lines of having something on hand to do during NaNo’s dreaded week two (or any other time during the month), when inspiration and motivation were low. Something creative, but in a different way. Painting, drawing, singing, dancing, etc. I planned to work on some scrapbooking if the need arose, though it never did. I still have scrapbooking material and could do that, but frankly, it takes a lot of time and effort to do much in that vein (and I’m not even the type to be super fancy with a scrapbook page, or to decorate a whole page just for one or two pics…I usually fit as many pics on the page as I can and do a little decorating around or between them).

A week or two ago, though, I read a blog post that mentioned coloring in adult coloring books during NaNo. I latched on to that idea pretty quickly. The idea of making colorful pictures with no real plan, no goal, just…coloring, when the stress of word counts started to get a little overwhelming really appealed to me. Or even just as a way to unwind after I was done writing for the day.

I’m not an artist, and I don’t care about blending or matching colors or making the page fancy at all. I just want to color. I bought one coloring book on Amazon, with another on its way (the tracking says it will arrive anywhere from Oct 30-Nov 17, so it’s good the other one came quickly). My husband, who never for a moment thought I was silly when I told him I wanted to get some coloring books for me (even I thought I was silly), bought me a brand new pack of 36 colored pencils, so I don’t have to use my daughter’s, which are mixed and matched from 4 different packs.

Anyway, that last item on the list got a little lengthy with its explanation. Sorry about that. I’m pretty sure this is everything, but it wouldn’t be the first time I forgot something until after I posted.

What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Are you prepared for November 1st?

Outlining for NaNoWriMo

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbIf you’re just coming across this now, at the beginning of October, there’s still plenty of time to plan a story from scratch. Here is a list of posts I’ve made about NaNo, which includes starting with story seeds and beginning to develop a plot. I’m not finished with that series of posts, as I wanted to give people time to work on the various steps. Personally, I’m still in the “take a nugget of a plot and see what you can flesh out of it” stage myself. However, I think this is a good time to talk about outlining, in case anyone is ready for that step.

The Great Debate

This isn’t a new topic. Even I have discussed the debate between panters and planners more than once before. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about others’ NaNo prep on WordPress in the last month, and have come to a few conclusions about pantsing and planning: Most pantsers actually do some planning, but not enough to consider themselves planners. Most planners leave room to pants along the way, but still find that they need to have a certain amount of stuff planned in advance.

So basically, there are extreme panters–all they know at the beginning of NaNo is a basic idea like, “It’s set on Mars and involves werewolves.” Or more of a plot point like, “Everywhere she goes, Sarah hears voices. She thinks she’s schizophrenic until the things the voices say start coming true.” With no more than that basic idea, they start writing on November 1st and just let the words flow out of them.

There are extreme planners–they have a 10,000-word outline, detailed character sheets for everyone down to the MC’s hairdresser, and a notebook full of notes about the world they’ve built.

Most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes–plan a little and wing most of it, or plan a lot but still let the story change itself. And I’ve noticed that many panters think that having an outline before starting to write the story means you’re locked into what is in that outline.

The Case for Outlining

Let me just say right now that most planners do give themselves room to follow the story or characters in unexpected directions. Sometimes, I write 2/3 of an outline, then start writing, knowing that I’ll veer off the outline before I get to the end anyway. Or I’ll change the outline to suit the new direction, or throw it out completely. Not too long ago I took a little offense at a blogger who implied that pantsing was creative, and writing from an outline wasn’t. Don’t take my tone to be too severe here, but I’d just like to state that writing fiction is creating, no matter what way you go about it. Simply because I do more of my creating before I start the actual writing by no means makes it less creative.

And let me just put this out there–the more you plan before you write, the more intricate your story can be. You can weave subplots together, work in foreshadowing more easily, and find plot holes before you’ve written them into the story. Outlining doesn’t make your story perfect, but I do believe it adds more potential for depth.

One more reason that I find planning to be important is that if I don’t write down ideas as I have them, and get them into place in the story, I will simply forget them. Even for this post, when I was falling asleep last night, I had an idea for a random plot point for the example up above. I really liked it, even if it was just an illustration. By this evening, I’d forgotten it completely.

Types of Outlines

1.) Perhaps the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word “outline” is the formal outline. You know the kind–with the roman numerals and indentation and such. outlineThey provide some scene organization and truly, if this works for you, great! Though they always made writing research projects easier, I still disliked making these in school. And a few years ago, I tried to make one for my NaNo project anyway. About 1/4 of the way through the outline, I decided it was more difficult than it was worth and switched to my normal way of outlining.

outline2.) My outlines usually look like this. Actually, they’re normally handwritten, but this one I typed was easier to share. I simply write plot point after plot point, events as I want them to happen. Sometimes a single line in the outline is so broad that it takes several pages to write that plot point. Sometimes the story flows quickly through several pages of outline. The important thing is that I’m getting down, in order, what I want the story to look like. And sometimes the details don’t require much extra thought during the writing (which, by the way, can be really helpful during NaNo…less slowing down to think of what else should happen means I get the words out faster). But sometimes the outline only tells me that “MC grows up after the important thing happens at the beginning of the story,” and I end up spending several thousand words making up things that happened to him while he was growing up.

3.) I recently learned about worksheets and templates for outlining. I knew of them for characters, so it makes sense that they’d exist for outlining too. If you think you’d benefit from having a template, you may try doing a web search for one that works for you. From what I can tell, there are those that give you lines to fill in an introduction, several plot points with supporting material, a climax, and a conclusion. Or there are some that show the image of a story (sort of like a mountain) and tell you to fill in the points along the way. If you’re new to fiction writing or even just new to outlining, perhaps the structure would help.

4.) Another way of outlining or plotting I have heard of, but never tried, is making a plot board. Some sort of board on which you place individual cards, post-its, whatever, each one of which is a different plot point or detail. You can color code it (which to my thinking would come in handy to show different subplots), see it all at a glance, and move points around as you need to. Something like this can probably be done on different mediums, and there are probably online that you can find better information on this than I can provide.

I personally plan to try outlining in Scrivener this year. I still have the free trial, though it won’t last all through November. But I’m still testing out different aspects of the program to decide if it’s worth buying. Since you can create a new scene for each outline point and then write directly into the scene space, thus organizing your story as you write, it seems like a nice tool…I’m just not sure how it will work for me in practice.

During October

Wherever you may be in your NaNo prep, I strongly advise that you start gearing up for NaNo now (if you haven’t already been). It’s not that it’s impossible to dive right in on Nov. 1 and win, but there are certainly ways to make it easier. As I’ve mentioned before, making writing part of every day now will make needing to do that in November easier. Even if you only spend 15 minutes per day free writing or working on novel planning, you can start building the habit now.

Are you gearing up for NaNo too? Do you have a different style of outlining?

Tools for NaNoWriMo: Scapple

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I always say I learn something new every year of doing NaNoWriMo–something about myself as a writer, something about writing in general, or new tips or strategies for NaNoWriMo. This year, I’m already learning, and November hasn’t even arrived.

If you’ve been following my steps for preparing a story for NaNoWriMo from scratch, you may be doing the same thing I’m doing right now–trying to pull a plot together. I’m still in the early stages of that, and to be honest, I’m not sure that what I’m working on is going to be for NaNoWriMo.

I have maybe 2/3 of a completed outline for a story I was planning to write this year. But when I posted the first list of story seeds, I started thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve started a story from scratch. There can be a lot of joy in the discovery, and that’s something I haven’t had much lately. My current writing projects are all stories I started crafting years ago. Of course they’ve changed shape along the way, and plenty of new elements have been added recently. But that’s not quite the same as starting from scratch. Also, because I have two novels already written in the aforementioned story world, and both are still in revision stages, I figured there was no need to add another story that will just sit on the shelf for years while I finish the first two.

So I decided to take my own advice and do the activities in my own story seed posts, free writing in the hopes that a new idea would spark. After a few days of doing a few of those activities during my writing time, I realized that it was difficult to use my imagination on certain pictures in which I knew what was happening or who the people were. I still did my best, but I’m not sure it was as effective as it could have been. However, because of this issue, I went such an odd direction with one of the pictures that it just may have turned into something for me.

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This is the picture in question…all because I was trying not to make it about the storm that actually caused that.

But where I had hoped to come up with ideas for a story that isn’t even in the same world as my others, this one really just ended up being an idea for events that would happen 1000ish years before my other stories. I really don’t seem to be able to get away from Pithea and its world (not that I mind too much).

So back to my original point, before I lose anyone, I discovered a new tool yesterday that has come in handy during this early stage. I have all sorts of ideas that have started to flow out of me since writing about the picture above. So I decided to give Scapple a try. It’s a free-form idea mapping program made by the same people behind Scrivener. I started putting my thoughts into it, and I really liked it.

So in my last NaNo post, I said that I thought the laying out of ideas and starting to form them into something coherent was best done on paper. Now, only a few days later, I’m suggesting that people download the free trial of Scapple and try it that way. It’s not that you can’t do everything on paper that you can do in Scapple, but…well, putting notes into the computer has its advantages too. (For one thing, I’ve already had to move notes around a lot and connect them differently after putting them in, so in that way, Scapple is better than doing it by hand.)

Here is a screenshot of Scapple in use:

Scapple example

This is a slightly altered version of what I’ve been working on, with some things removed or changed to avoid spoilers.

How about you? Have you ever used Scapple before? Do you have other programs you use for organizing notes? Tools and tips are always helpful for writing in general, and NaNo in particular. Feel free to share your own.