Planning

Outlining Your Novel

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Stole the title from K.M. Weiland‘s A-mazing book, Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.

One, because that what this post pertains to. 

Two, because it’s freaking amazing. 

Three, because I’m reading it right now. 

Four, because it taught me a lot about outlining and planning 

 

But what the book taught me wasn’t so much in the words or instructions, though those are helping me a LOT right now, too! One thing, the big thing, that I learned while reading this, is what it means to be a writer. To be a writer is to question. Why do people act the way they do? What makes people tic? (tick?)  In any case, this post is part regular blog post, part book review (even though I’m only half-way through it.) 

Back to being a writer. You must question. Question everything. Question the obscure, the normal, the obvious. Question the way we’ve always done things. Question history, question science. Anything and everything. Nothing is too outlandish. To be a writer, you have to have an unquenchable thirst for questions. Not for answers. We’re not here to provide answers. We, as writers, are here to make readers feel. Now, onto plotting and the book. 

 

Plotting is a thing that is met with either derision, or ever-lasting love. There isn’t much of a middle ground. You either swear by it, or swear it off. I used to swear it off. I hated the idea of plotting or outlining. Now, I hesitate to start anything without giving it a go again. But I wasn’t quite sure where to begin, as I am still in the “discovery” part of Blame the Moon, and didn’t think I knew enough about the novel or the characters or the world to even start planning. So I did some world building. But I stopped, because I am one of those people who could over plan a world to the point where the story would be forced to mold to the world. Instead of the other way around, as it should be. 

So I stopped world building. But then I was stuck, how to start figuring things out? On Twitter a day or so ago, I saw a link to a blog post with another writer talking about her experiences reading Outlining. I’ll admit, I didn’t read the blog post, but I did remember that I had the book on my kindle. So I pulled it up and started reading. 

And let me tell you, it sparked so many ideas for Blame the Moon, you have no idea. The one thing that really kicked it into high gear was the use of “What If?”s and “What’s Expected?” I will leave it at that, but to me, it was revolutionary. 

I highly recommend any writer, plotter or pantser, get this book. Not only for the plotting/outlining itself. But from taking your idea from that first spark to a full-blown novel. I know I am. 

Creating Races

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Creating races is something that we in fantasy and sci-fi tend to do moreso than other genres.

But how do we get past the Tolkien-esque elves and dwarves and hobbits? Or the green/blue skinned aliens that look basically like humans with tentacles on their heads?

How do we come up with something fresh and new, that nonetheless resonates with readers? Or at least doesn’t freak them out so bad that they put down your book and walk away.

We walk a fine line. The line between the familiar and the new. The fantastic and the cliche.

However, before even thinking about creating a new race, you need to ask yourself a few questions first.

Do you NEED a new race?

Can one of the previous mentioned, elves, dwarves, etc work instead? If you’re just recreating elves under a new name, why not just call them elves and get it over with? Sometimes the classics work. If you’re just creating a new race to be “new” and it’s only elves painted green or some-such, then there’s no reason for them.

Now that that decision is out of the way, if you’re still with me, then you’ve decided your race IS unique and you DO need a new one.

What’s different about them?

How are they different from the popular elves, dwarves and hobbits? (Yes, I’m using this example because I write fantasy.)

I will use a race I just created for this example. I started rewriting/working an OLD beginning to a story that I dug out of my closet. (I’m talking old, like from 2005.) Originally, I had the character as an elf. But I tire of elves and use them too much in my stories. So I started talking to a friend of mine. And I described them as “They’d be more reclusive than you see elves nowadays. They’d be more martial, less philosophical.” And then I realized, that they didn’t sound like elves at all.

This is what I came up with.

Mashin

A race even less known than the reclusive Fae, the Mashin resemble a mix of man and ape. Long arms can sometimes drag upon the ground and are well-suited to life among the tall trees of the Elvarde forest.

Standing straight, even the shorter Mashin stands at or above seven feet tall. Their fur covered hide ranges in color from deep browns and blacks to the color of the evergreens. Eye color is generally dark on the verge of black, and the few Mashin with light (generally golden) colored eyes are either cast out as ‘cursed’ or praised and protected as ‘blessed.’

Rumored to have been created originally by magic, there is no proof that any as found to their exact means of creation. The Mashin have a small number of their species that can use magic, and martial prowess is viewed of more import as a direct result. To excel with the sword is to succeed.

Separated into clans, border disputes are common among the powerful, while the smaller are constantly shifting. Combining, splintering, and recombining endlessly. Considered ‘savages’ by the few humans that have encountered them, the Mashin keep to themselves, allowing only few outside merchants and traders into the forest where they thrive.

Mashin names tend to be long, complicated things, oft containing syllables and sounds the human mouth is incapable of reproducing.

As you can see, when I finished, they resembled nothing of the Elves from whence I began.

What is their society like?

What do they praise above all else? Using the Mashin as an example, they focus more on martial prowess. Not art or philosophy. Not magic.

How are they ruled? I touched on it with the Mashin. They have a clan structure. I haven’t flushed it out other then that yet, but it’s a start.

What is their relationship with other species? Very important. Also as important is how the other species view them. The Mashin are very reclusive. Some humans don’t even believe they exist.

Religion. Especially if you’re writing fantasy, knowing the belief systems of your races can be important. Are they polytheistic? Monotheistic? Do they worship the ancestors? Do they have living paragons/god-kings?

 

I am sure there’s much more I am forgetting, but that should give you a solid foundation. But I must caution you once more, be ABSOLUTELY certain that you need a new race before you go about creating one.

Outlining (Again!)

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So I finished my outline for the Mass Effect Big Bang, and…

Well the challenge is to write no less than a 3500 word fic. No problem.

My outline is 500 words long. That’s a bare bone’s outline. No more than the essentials. Also, I know exactly where my fic is going, so I won’t get lost. I think I may start outlining everything from now on.

Figured I’d keep you guys updated (I’m not sure how you’re avoiding the WordPress counter, but I know you’re out there!)

Step One

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Tabs_EekSo if you haven’t been keeping tabs on my Twitter feed or page on Facebook, I finished what I’m calling “Step One” of my editing process. Well, the editing process for The Forsaken. I’ve read/heard that the editing process varies book by book, and at the moment I’m inclined to believe it. Anyway.

Step One, for me, this time, was REplotting, alternatively, replanning.

Sometimes, over the course of writing a novel, certain things change. In the course of The Forsaken there was very little that DIDN’T change. Most characters stayed about the same, though motivations and means may have. Characters crawled out of the woodwork that I didn’t know about before, and other little things that changed what happened up front. So I had to do a complete overhaul of the plot.

That’s done. My scene count it at 80, MANY of them new, or needing to be rewritten. I’ve updated the counter at the top right to reflect that. Right now it’s set at zero, until I figure out how many scenes are being kept as is.

So I guess I can leave you with a lesson I’ve learned. Don’t be afraid of change. Change happens. Maybe you’ve got the story wrong, or characters aren’t being totally honest with you. It happens. If it happens in the middle of a draft, make a note of it and carry on. Don’t go back and change to respond to that, just write on as if it’s already happened. Yes, this means that characters drop off the face of the earth and others react to things that have never happened but draft one and two and three all the way up to the one before line editing are made for mistakes. That’s what they are for. They’re there to for you to get it written, before getting it right.

Have you noticed any oft-repeated cliches coming true over the course of your own writing? Or the flip side, have you noticed any cliches that are obviously false?

My Week in Review

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Thanks to K.R. Green for this idea!

This will normally be posted on Friday’s but I slacked yesterday, and until I find or are suggested a better title, this will be it. BUT! Onto the review.

As you all know, I’m editing The Forsaken (Mortality Book 1).I’ve drawn a map, gotten a few new chapters planned out and learned a thing or two.

One- Devin and Damon got across the map too fast. I didn’t realize how far away they were until I drew the map, but damn. I had to draw that out. Which is great, considering I’m lengthening the novel.

Two- Never forget what’s going on in the background. I had almost completely forgotten about the antagonist (who remains almost completely hidden until book two), until I reached a point where I knew I had to throw something else at them, but didn’t know what. Then it was like “duh, he hasn’t killed her and isn’t going to stop trying.”

My tip?

Don’t forget about what’s going on behind the scenes, even if the readers don’t necessarily see it, something is still happening and it may just affect what the readers do see.

I haven’t gotten any of the new scenes written yet, and there’s quite a few of them. Once I have a count, I’ll update that bar on the right hand corner with the correct number (of scenes or chapters, I haven’t decided yet) and keep you guys updated weekly.

Look forward to the Snippet tomorrow!

Again, if there is anything, anything, you guys would like to see on the site, throw it out there. I’m always listening and always open.

On Writer’s Block

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Today we will be speaking of the myth that is the Writer’s Block.

Now don’t rant and rave at me about how Writer’s Block is real, and you’ve suffered through it. I am not, in fact, saying that Writer’s Block does not exist, but that it is not some intangible, smoke-like substance that clogs the creative mind with no rhyme or reason. There is always at least reason. And a way to break past it.

So what’s your reason?

Stress

Stress is a part of everyone’s life, none perhaps more so than the creative. Writers such as myself, who have never been published, never seen a penny resulting from their endeavors, worry. And we worry incessantly. Is this the right thing? Should I be doing this? Maybe I should put up the pen/keyboard/pencil/paper and get a real job.
These are the thoughts that plague us daily. Those who are not *real* writers will give into them, and will hang up the mantle forever. However, if you are anything like I am, you cannot quit writing for long. You *have* to do it, because if you don’t the voices of the unsung heroes and uncorrupting villian’s in your head will drive you nutty. Well, nuttiER.
Honestly, the easiest way to get through a stress-induce block, for me, has been to just step away from it for awhile. Go do something that needs to be done. Feed the cat, take the dog for a walk, take out the trash that’s been piling up, take a shower, read a book, watch a movie, eat something that doesn’t come in a box ferchristssake. Try coming back to it at another time when you’ve got less on your mind.

Railroading

I use this term for when an author is trying to *force* their characters to do something. In my experience, writing is like a fart, if you have to force it, it’s probably shit.
If you have a plan for your characters and they are just not doing what you tell them to, don’t try to railroad them. Let Chris kiss that girl even though he’s engaged, sell his car, and move in with his best friend. Let them take that dark, scary path in the woods even though it’s clearly marked as dangerous.
This is the easiest block to break, for me. If you want your characters to do A, but you want them to do B, let them do A. Perhaps start another file, or notebook, to keep them separate if you’re not sure. Trust me, if you try to make them do something they don’t want to, most character will rebel and find ways to do what they want to anyway.

Lack of Planning

This is my biggest down fall. I am very much a pantser. Now if you don’t know the word, it’s someone who writes “by the seat of his/her pants”. Or without a plan.
I don’t write outlines. I know many writers do, and it works quite well for them. I, however, cannot. I have tried before and writing an outline is too awkward for me and it takes away the element of surprise when it comes to the writing process. I do, however, start with a clear beginning, and something of a clear ending. Normally I have many possible endings in mind. They get shuffled around and changed as I write.
I have hit this “Lack of Planning” block here recently. I know where the characters are (obviously) and I know where they need to get to. But what happens in the interim? I have slowly been working my way through it, and that’s all you can really do.
Work through it. Keep writing, no matter how much it hurts. To steal words from some author (Idon’trememberwho), “Kill your darlings.” (Maybe it was Stephen King?) Put them through the wringer. I through a werewolf at my vampire and poisoned human. It revealed something of the vampire I didn’t know. And neither did the human. It puts a whole lot into perspective and is something to keep in mind for future reference. So just keep writing.

Fear

To me, this is the easiest, and yet most difficult reason to understand. What do we fear, you ask?
Not getting it right. Finishing. Not being perfect. Not being good enough. Making no sense. Any number of things. It depends on the author.
You know what? STOP BEING AFRAID! It’s *your* book. It’s not going to bite you, it’s not going to run away screaming, no one has to read it until you are one hundred percent happy with it, no one EVER has to read it if you don’t want them to.
I’m going to quote another author here. (AgainIdon’trememberwho, ifyouknowtellme.) “The first draft of anything is shit.” (Was it Stephen King? OrdoIthinkeverythingisSK?) Don’t worry about it not being perfect. I’ll tell you what, I had a problem with this for the longest time. I didn’t want to write anything if it wasn’t perfect.
You know what that got me? An unfinished Work In Progress for eight to ten years. I could have finished it a *long* time ago if I had stopped worrying. So just STOP. And just write it ferchristssake.

Other ways to beat Writer’s Block

Alright, so that’s all the named causes for Writer’s Block I can think of, if you have any, leave a comment below.
I do, however, have means of overcoming writer’s block that do not pertain to anyone type of block, but may help with any or none. Bear with me here, I know this post is long.

Talk to People

Especially, especially, if you are writing fiction/fantasy. Remember, what is fantasy to you, may not be so to someone else.
At work, I recently began asking questions of a gal there, she is a Pagan, and I realized, through the night, that a lot of her beliefs lined up with what I already had in mind or written. And talking to her some more gave me more ideas. So talk to people. Ask them questions, if they’re alright with it.

Google is your friend

This is another side of the same coin. But applies to nonfiction as well.
If you want to know something, google it. Look for forums discussing it. Meet people. Talk to them. Learn from other people, not just the internet.

Anything else

If you’re stuck, and you’re writing nonfiction, pick up a fantasy novel. And vice versa. Go for a walk/jog/run. Take a bubble bath, stand in the shower, talk to the cat/dog/rat/snake. Talk to yourself.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to just do something else. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s true. It works. Sometimes.

Food for thought

What form of Writer’s block do you suffer from the most often? Why?
Do you never suffer from writers block (freak)? Why not?