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I have always been a pantser. When I get an idea it generally has an opening scene and one or more great characters. The story flows naturally from there. At most I would jot down the major points and a few scenes ahead but I figured the story might shift drastically so I thought that loose was better. It worked for me and the drafts that resulted seemed pretty solid.

Back in June I finished a first draft that I considered worthy of editing. It was wonderful, it was awesome and it was also an unholy mess that would need pain and blood and tears to turn into a “real book”. In other words it was a first draft and much as I loved it I needed a break. I backed it up in triplicate, closed the file and put it from my mind.

What to do in the meantime? All through writing that other draft I’d had a few stories try to tempt me away. I had been good, giving them no more than a few pages each just to make sure I recorded the idea completely. Now I was free to do more.

I decided to experiment with an outline. I figured, this isn’t my REAL book so I’m free to use it to learn new things. The outline took ages longer than the time I allotted it. Then just as I was ready to begin writing I realized I had pages of character outlining to do as well. It took as long to get to the writing as I had allotted for the entire project!

Once I began writing the going was slower than I anticipated. Slower than my last project in fact. And yet it was steady progress. Most importantly I was producing a cleaner draft than I ever thought possible. There might even be passages that could make into a final draft with little or no revision. Whoa.

What I have learned from this is the value of an outline in ensuring that my first draft is a clean and concise vision of what my eventual novel should look like and I guarantee that the amount of editing that will be necessary on this book is far less than that REAL novel I wrote (and still plan to return to). I have a new tool that saves me time and is making me a better writer. Shiny! I won’t be going back. I’m just too lazy not to put in that extra work in the beginning.

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I’ve set very lofty goals in writers group the last two weeks and so far it has been excellent. Ok, so I didn’t actually meet the first goal and I may not meet this week’s goal but what I have done is write consistently and long. It’s paying off too. The end of my novel is in sight soon I will have a shiny first draft and it will be glorious.

I’ve had this grace period between school and summer job where I’ve been able to just write. My plan is to use what’s left of this little window to finish up the first draft and then put it aside for a little while, though not too long. I’ll spend a week or so fleshing out the next two installments and then go back and start The Great Rewrite.

And it will be great, also long and probably arduous. The draft I have now is not so much a first draft as a long and exceptionally detailed outline in severe need of revision. I will likely rewrite the first 20 – 30K altogether. That’s okay, they were done in two weeks worth of Nanowrimo frenzy and they laid the foundation for what came after.

What is most exciting during this last stretch of writing is that at no time during the writing of this novel have I gotten tired of either the story or the characters. They evolved in wonderful ways that I didn’t always predict.  It’s been so much fun to play in this world and enjoy what it shapes into. Soon I will finish my first draft and then my job will be turning into a real story, one that is good enough to show everyone else the awesome world I’ve played in all along.

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Infidelity

I am being tempted.

It has come. Curse of the writer mired by the tribulations of a difficult Work in Progress. I struggle and sweat to get through so many difficult little scenes and it is hard to keep going. I’ve done this twice before, I know I’ll get through. Probably.

Then tonight I was diligently slogging away, knowing intellectually that soon I would break past the wall and the story would flow for me again. I have my outline and I know soon I will love my novel effortlessly, like a mother at her child’s birth instead of the mother of a teenager who is argumentative, sullen and prone to shrieking profanities while slamming doors. You still love them but… you have to work at it a little.

And then this little idea sauntered past with a come hither gaze and a saucy wink.

Just a little idea, nothing to be afraid of. So I wrote it down. Surely there’s no harm in keeping a good idea for when I have the time? A moment later I knew my hook. From that came the easiest elevator pitch I’ve ever written. Then I couldn’t stop, I wrote a perfect back cover blurb in one go. Then I outlined a little and I knew how it would begin and how it would end. (So touching! So poignant! So heart breaking!) The two main characters told me their names and they provided me all the information I would need to breathe life into them. They came alive like a single brush stroke on crisp linen paper. Simple. Elegant. Perfect.

Then their world started nudging its way on to the page. A detail here, a factoid there. Just a bit of world building, no harm in it. I tried to tell myself that it was just enough to keep all the details fresh for when I come back to it.

“Come back? How can you leave me when I am so new and shiny?” asked the idea.

And so begin the seeds of infidelity. I love the novel I have but it is hard, so HARD! I work and I toil and it only demands more of me. I know deep down that the new idea will grow and live on my attention and love until it is just as demanding as my current work in progress but it’s still new and full of easy promise. Its characters are smooth as polished glass, it’s plot threads yet to be tangled.

I’ve been tempted before, even done a little outlining. Temptation will come again, sure as I’ll wake up tomorrow to a hungry/angry cat pawing at my head. Infidelity is a risk of being a writer. I’ll resist. I’ll save the file and leave the idea for another day.

It’s just harder than usual today.

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I’ve been working on a full update of all of my creative goals but it’s actually a bit daunting to sort it all out. I have so many interests that at times I get bogged down and nothing gets done on any of them. So I’m going to use the goals update to really look at where I want to put my limited personal resources.

In the meantime here’s a shorter update of my most recent accomplishments:

  1. I’ve officially signed up for Scriptfrenzy on the website. I’m looking forward to spending a month just working on dialogue and by extension human interaction.
  2. I wrote and have half edited a flash fiction. The working title is Ape Dreams until I think of something clever. I have a strong belief that flash fictions must have clever titles.
  3. I wrote 5000 words on my Novel!! Woo! The dry spell is over! After two months of opening my novel and looking at it, pecking out a few words and trying to catch that thread I had lost, I’ve finally found my way back into it. Granted I started with a scene that was pretty easy and from the point of view of my favorite character to write at the moment but I’ve got the momentum now to keep going on those harder parts and trickier characters. Such a relief.
  4. I’ve written several synopses for short film scripts I want to write for Scriptfrenzy. Including a longer one that has really caught my attention.

After all the work I’ve put into the Monster-Post-of-My-Many-Goals it’s really good to be able to look at this list and see the things I’ve accomplished rather than all the things I’m not getting done.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The optimist says the glass is half full. The scientist says the glass is full, half with water and half with air. I don’t know who coined that last part but I like it. My glass is half full of the things I’ve accomplished and half-full of the things I’m going to do. It’s going to be great!

 

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Today I was doing research for a story I want to write about genetically modified foods.  I thought it would be a fun project for nanowrimo 2009.  I’m interested in health but I didn’t have an agenda.  I wanted to write an engaging story, not propaganda.  My choice of topic was something I peripherally knew to be a hot issue.  I grew up with food-wise hippie parents and I thought I knew the basics behind the arguments and research would only yield necessary details to build a realistic framework.

I may never eat corn or canola oil again.   The truth is already so much more evil than what I had concocted.

The current situation provides a framework that perfectly supports the dystopic future I am envisioning.  The nightmare scenarios I have envisioned for my fictional novel seem like potential prophecy.  Do I really want to give these corporations more ideas?

I am somewhere between being desperately excited that I have a brilliant idea for an engaging and believable novel that taps into a a very real fear in our society and should act on it now and wanting to crawl into a hole and hide from the terrible truth.

(Obviously I’m going to choose the option where I write.)

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