Tag: works

what I am writing

Bluehammer Plan

As promised on Friday, here is my plan for Bluehammer in a very similar form to the one for Song.

  1. typo/consistency edit– this is going through my notes on the manuscript, acting on them. It’s going to be a pain because it’s hard enough to work on one thing on the bus, let alone two. Three kinds of edits –
    • typos/text to be deleted – some notes need to be saved for whatever reason. These will go in a separate file.
    • consistency – name changes that shouldn’t, events that occur at different times of day from different POVs, etc
    • scene cutting/reordering – duplicate scenes need to be winnowed, good descriptions from dead scenes need to be harvested.

    Once this is done I can hand it on to my wife for a read through.

  2. improve outline – I already have a broad outline, but I need to sharpen it up a lot to make it the basis for a compelling novel. This will include fixing all the timing issues.
  3. make the text match the outline – since the outline is mostly of existing text, I won’t have that many new bits to write. I will have a lot of tweaks to make in the text to make it match the outline.
  4. hone the text – this is the line craft elements of writing, going over the text for infelicitous phrasing and the like.
  5. make submission materials – synopsis, pitch, hook, and all of that.

So that’s the Bluehammer plan I will be working against. The intent is to get the first two done before I go back to work on Song.

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Song and Dance

I’ve been working on the outline for A Turquoise Song for a few weeks now, and tomorrow I can start reading the manuscript of Bluehammer. I had originally planned to have the outline for Song wrapped up by now.

So what have I got?

Well, I have a plot which I didn’t have three weeks ago, and an ending. I have a bad guy, and a justification for having ninjas in the story. I also have a new string to my process bow* with the index card technique and those kinds of tricks are always worth learning.

What I don’t have is a completed outline, although I have made good progress on making one: the plot is laid out in chapter headings, and the scenes just need to be broken down.

I am therefore going to hold off on reading Bluehammer until the Song outline is at least filled in. It won’t be as polished as originally hoped, but taking a break while I rummage around in Kissiltur instead will probably help me come back fresh in a few weeks.

How are your writing goals proceeding?

Update – I got the outline to a stage where I can put it down for a bit, so I will be starting to read Bluehammer on time after all.

[*] I always wondered what kind of bow it was that had more than one string.

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On Song

Bluehammer is resting, and in the meantime I am working on my 2011 NaNovel, A Turquoise Song.

Song is a story that comes from the title – I dreamed it while I was resting after a yoga session. I knew immediately that it was about synaesthesia, but it was a long time until I knew what the synaesthetes were doing or what the story was about. I don’t remember when I came up with the idea of synaesthetes repairing robots – of synaesthetes being uniquely qualified to make those repairs – but that was the key to the plot.

The writing for this novel when I started it mostly went smoothly. So many questions that I had about the story at the beginning resolved themselves during the process, and I ended up with a manuscript of about eighty thousand words. My wife liked it and I had good feedback on it from a number of friends. The most common remark was that it was really two books: that plots setup in the first half were not resolved, and that the second half plot was introduced without being developed.

Reading the story back, I can only agree. So the plan at the moment is:

  1. To outline what I have
  2. To expand the outline of the first half into a complete story
  3. To work on that outline until the story is good.
  4. To plug in text I can use from Song 2011
  5. To write the new stuff needed to complete the outline
  6. Edit: I missed this one – make submission materials – synopsis, pitch, hook, and all of that.

An expanded version of this plan lives in a project file, and the next action lives in my “next” file.

I will be posting the plan for Bluehammer once I’ve read it back. In the meantime, I am also coming up with interesting novel and series ideas.

Well, better than not having any idea what to write.

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NaNoWriMo 2012: Do We Have a Winner?

It is the last day of November, the last day of National Novel Writing Month.

Well, I won.

I validated my manuscript on Wednesday at 72,454 – about 190 words more than Scrivener told me. I have continued writing since the story is not yet done, and last night I crept past 75,000 words. In theory I could add more words today, but I think I am about done – I have no writing time available this lunchtime and plans for the evening, so I might manage another thousand words or so, but nothing that would get me close to 80k, say.

I have three chapters remaining to write. It’s possible that I can get those done over the weekend, but given how my weekends generally go I expect I will still be working on those early next week.

Once that is done, I will insert this new material into my existing manuscript, then print it all out. That is going to be a slab of paper.

But the main thing is that this gets me writing again.

Congratulations to all those who have participated in NaNoWriMo – it doesn’t matter if you reached the goal or not: if you wrote anything, you now have a few thousand words  that you wouldn’t have written otherwise.

Now, write some more.

Update: in that way the body has of letting go right after a period of stress, I have come down with a cold. So, no writing today at all – my final validated word count stands at 75,229.

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NaNoWriMo 2012: Quantity Surveying FTW!

Five days of November left for NaNoWriMo and I find myself in more or less exactly the position I predicted on the 14th: I have won the NaNoWriMo challenge, but I am going to run out of time.

Thanksgiving was a bit rough on word count – I managed about 700 words on the day itself – but the thing that really slowed me down was switching narratives.

I have three MCs that I am following, and this month has been about writing new material for each narrative around a conspiracy plot line. Coming up to Thanksgiving I was writing the crisis-ridden ending of MC #2’s act two (or thereabouts – I am not big on following formal structures) and that kept me moving through the short day on Thursday. But come the weekend I was jumping into MC #1’s narrative, a brick wall of the aftermath of his act two crisis but that crisis is not being touched. So I am writing the emotional stuff without any connection to this MC’s emotions.

I have a handle on it now, but Saturday and Sunday were rough.

So, let’s see where I am in terms of rates and comparisons.

Rate of word generation

  • day 13 word count = 31.129 = 2,394 words per day.
  • day 25 word count = 60,491 = 2,419 words per day

If I keep writing at that pace, I will reach 72,570 words for November.

I am quite surprised that this rate hasn’t dropped.

Rate of chapter completion

  • day 13 chapter count = 13 chapters = one chapter per day
  • day 25 chapter count = 23.5 chapters = a little less than one chapter per day

What’s happened here is that the chapters have been getting longer. On the plus side, I am not splitting chapters into new ones as often.

If I keep completing chapters at the new pace, I will have 29 chapters – which will leave four to complete in December. That will probably be about another 10k or so.

Projected Word Count

Average word count per completed chapter as of day 25 is 56,757 / 23 = 2,467

Project word count for 33 chapters is therefore 81,433.

However, I may end up with more than that since the incomplete chapter I am working on now is already past 3.5k.

The Plan

In the last article I presented to options for what to do about finishing in November:

  1. keep writing at the same pace and just take the time I need to finish the story I want to write
  2. shorten chapters artificially to ensure that I complete the plot arcs in the time, but that will require adding a lot more content on the edit.

It seems pretty obvious that I am going to go with the first option. As I say above, I will likely have about another 10k to write in December. I think I should be done in a week, but I will not be able to devote the same time to the writing so the basic pace will slacken a bit.

How do you feel about the way November has gone? What do you have left to do?

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NaNoWriMo 2012: Plugging In The Plot

I hope I do not jinx things here, but it seems pretty likely that I will reach the NaNoWriMo word count goal. However this is an unusual year, since I am not only working on an existing manuscript, I am working on only a part of that manuscript: the material I am writing is intended to be inserted in amongst existing text.

This means that my process at the end of the month will be rather different than usual. What I usually do is to type “The End”, then print out the book and hide it away in a drawer for a bit.

But when I finish the last section of text in this work I will first have to integrate the new text in with the old before I make a hard copy.

I want to avoid doing editing – I will be far too close to the material to make good choices – but how I am working on this means that editing should not be too much of  temptation. The chapters I am writing are for the most part either new or simple replacements for existing chapters, so the actual plugging in process should not require me to smooth things out too much – I have a plan that I am following, here, a detailed breakdown of how each scene in the existing outline relates to the new plot concepts. I reckon that will take a couple of solid hours to implement.

Then I can print it out. It should be about 150,000 works or so in total for the draft.

That is something I am rather looking forward to seeing. I will no doubt expend the juice of many red pens when reading it through for the first time.

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NaNoWriMo 2012: Attack of the Plot Amoebas

Almost halfway through the madness of NaNoWriMo – where do I stand?

Well, my chapters keep splitting.

I started with 27 chapter outlines, but a couple of those outlines weren’t covered in one chapter’s text – some of the chapters are longer than the planned for 2k, some some chapters spawn daughter chapters. Some, in point of fact, do both.

The most extreme example is clearly what was originally chapter six and ended up as chapters nine to twelve totalling 11,443 words.

My biggest concern is not reaching the nominal 50,000 word goal of NaNoWriMo – my worry is running out of time to tell the story.

At the end of day 13, I had 31,129 words and 13 of 33 chapters (chapter 13 isn’t really finished, but us say that it is for the sake of argument). Let’s run the numbers on those.

Rate of word generation

As of day 13, I have 31.129 = 2,394 words per day.

If I keep writing at that pace, I will reach 71,820.

The 64 square tracker I made may not be big enough.

Rate of chapter completion

As of day 13, I have 13 chapters = one chapter per day.

If I keep completing chapters at that pace, I will have 30 chapters – which leaves three to complete in December, which I could do but I would rather finish the story in November.

Another way to look at is that I have completed 13/33 chapters = 39.4%, but I have used 13/30 days in November = 43.3%.

So it very much looks like I am going to run off the end of November without finishing the story, even though I should hit the 50k in roughly another eight days at this pace.

The Plan

I have a couple of options here.

  1. keep writing at this pace and just take the time I need to finish the story I want to write
  2. shorten chapters artificially to ensure that I complete the plot arcs in the time, but that will require adding a lot more content on the edit.

Of these, I would prefer to do #1 but that may be too difficult – I would like to maintain this pace out into December, but that seems unlikely.

However, the chapters I have been writing this last few days are all new-ish material, so it is quite possible that future chapters will be less expansive.

Which points to option #3: wait a few more days to make a decision.

So, how are your writing efforts going? Are you running out of story or time?

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NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 1

Words for the Day: 2,106
Total To Date: 2,106
Chapters Written: 0.5 / 27

Bit of a slow start first thing, since this first chapter is another version of a scene I have already written several times but built up a bit of momentum. Writing on the bus went pretty well, but I was planning on writing at lunchtime and that completely blown out by how things went at the paying job.

Still, well setup to finish this first chapter tomorrow.

Did I mention I have two presentations to write for a conference next week?

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Ready for NaNoWriMo?

Are you ready for NaNoWriMo?

Herewith a few observations on where I stand three days before the off:

  • I have a plot. This was not always true. The basic problem with the first Kissiltur novel has always been that there was a good setting and some likeable characters, but that only one of them really had a plot arc that made any sense at all. I’ve now got a plot line that drives the narrative for all the characters. The plot also gives me the title of the book, which is Bluehammer.
  • I have some chapter summaries. I don’t have enough but I haven’t finished working through the plot yet either – I need twenty five, I have twenty. These also don’t really count as the chapter outlines I would prefer, but I will see if I get to those – I have enough familiarity with the world that the key words I have put into the summary should trigger the writing that I need.
  • I have a pitch, or at least the beginnings of one. It’s not quite as tight as I would like, but for five minutes’ work I am pretty pleased with it:

Brinny Hanto is a no-account technologist from a backwater town who got his chance for greatness in Kissiltur, so why does he want to destroy this seat of Empire? Unravelling his story will change three lives: Jenna, the hardline heir to the Crown; Russik, her time-wasting brother, and Reegor the underachieving genius. Between the three of them lies the truth.

  • I have a new maze tracker. It’s an 8×8 square, rather than last year’s 10×10, since I have no intention of getting much past 50k.

Feel free to buddy me on the NaNoWriMo site – my participant name is Dunx. I welcome opportunities for friendly competition and being kept honest.

This blog will continue during November, but I am doubtful that I will be able to keep to the three posts a week schedule for regular content. What I will be posting regularly, nay frequently, are updates on my progress within NaNoWriMo. I shan’t trouble anyone with excerpts of the text, but I will try to mention twists and turns that the narrative makes away from the chapter outlines.

My goals for the next three days are to finish the chapter summaries, and to get some sleep because I tend not to do so well on that the first week or so of November.

May your caffeinated beverage stay at the right temperature and your carpal tunnels remain uninflamed.

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Getting Ready For November

November is looming. I need a plan.

A frequently expressed dichotomy in NaNo Land is between the plotters and the pantsers: an archetypal plotter will outline to the point of absurdity, while a pantser will start the month with nothing more than a blank page and a vague feeling of which characters the story should feature.

I lean towards the plotter nature myself, but I have elements of pantsing (or “discovery writing”) in my method too – if I knew everything about the story before I started writing, then what would be the point?

My needs going into November are chapter summaries for around 25 chapters. If I have that, and I write 2,000 words per chapter then I hit the 50k goal. That also makes for a fairly easy pace – 2,000 words a day of stuff I know what I am writing about is not difficult to maintain for me. Things only really start to go pear-shaped if I am writing into the unknown. I mentioned before that I write early in the morning. That time is productive for me only if I have a good plan of what to write.

The content of a chapter summary is analogous to a use case, and consists of: the characters involved; the start point of the opening scene; the goal conditions of the chapter, and perhaps any points I want to hit on the way (eg character development, foreshadowing). Sometimes the chapter is clear enough that I don’t need that much, sometimes a component of the summary will be missing if it’s not important. For example, if it doesn’t matter who discovers the wrecked spaceship in the graveyard then I won’t specify characters.

I would also look to have character summaries and any ideas for the setting, although a lot of the discovery that I do is for the setting.

So, my plan over the next week or so is to write up the necessary chapter summaries for the 25 or so chapters I will need. I already have all the character and setting notes I need, so no worries there.

Then I’ll make a maze tracker, but more about that another day.

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