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Archive for November, 2017

Adding Chapters

Last time I said I’d probably have to break the section I was working on into two chapters. I was right.

I’m not an outliner, but I do  set up a road map as I work, at least on novel-length stories. For my rare short stories, I’m usually willing just to jump off the ledge and let the story lead me where it wants to go. After all, a short story is only about 1/20th the length of a novel. Much less risk if it ends up not leading anywhere.

This road map takes different forms. Sometimes it’s just a few paragraphs describing the story–almost like the dreaded synopsis. Sometimes, it’s a little more like an outline. This may be only for a few chapters ahead or provide a skeleton framework for the whole story.

For BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, it takes the form of chapter headings through the end of this book. With, perhaps, one or two lines about what should happen or maybe a snatch of dialog.

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Well, that wasn’t quite sufficient for this particular part of the story. Plotwise, nothing much is advancing here. But what is happening is the stakes for my main character are rising dramatically–right before everything crashes for him. It’s important and it needs to be fully developed or that fall won’t have the weight it needs to have.

And it’s not just a question of length–although I generally dislike writing chapters that are too long. It’s also a question of elapsed time. If enough time has passed for my characters, then it probably deserves a chapter break.

So, that’s the chapter I’ve been working on–almost finished, actually. And then I go on to that pivotal chapter where everything goes boom. After that, I hope to be able to make better progress through to THE END.

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I had a really good weekend last week working on the first draft of BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING.

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Things slowed down a bit during the week–which should not be unexpected. I’m still not up to that level of progress this weekend, but I think I know why.

The chapter I’m currently writing is one that . . . doesn’t so much raise the stakes for my main character as make them painfully clear. Painfully, because the very next chapter is the one that’s going to change everything. This chapter needs to really paint that picture clearly, even while not all that much, plotwise, is actually going on. It’s a still place, the calm before the storm.

I’m quite sure I’m not getting all the emotion that needs to be in these scenes in. I’m fairly sure I’m eventually going to have to break this into two chapters. I’m reminding myself of that Shannon Hale quote about shoveling sand into a box in preparation of building castles later. And I’m trying to gather myself for that next chapter which is going to rip everything apart and, basically, force my main character to start from . . . not even from the beginning. Farther down than that.

Authors are supposed to torture their characters for the good of the story. That doesn’t mean it’s always an easy thing to do.

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I’ve had a few very good days on this NaNoWriMo experiment. Over 2,800 words on Sunday alone–and that included a fight scene. Still probably not going to make it to 50,000 words, but that’s not really the point. At least not for me.

BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING is still 12,500 words closer to being done already.

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And a pivotal scene coming up in just over a chapter.

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I’m still not on the NaNoWriMo pace of over 1600 words a day and I likely won’t make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month. I’ve written about 6500 words so far when the pace would be about 14,800 words. I actually had negative words one day when I went back to fix something that was going to lead down the wrong rabbit trail. But I am making good, solid progress on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING.

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And I’m fast approaching places where the writing may go more quickly. Or not. Sometimes those exciting bits, while they’re fun to plot, are actually harder write–and get right.

Still, I’m happy with my progress so far. I’m really happy with what I’ve written so far. And that’s what counts the most.

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I’m still well off the pace of writing 50,000 words on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING this month.

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That’s okay. I have a three-day weekend coming up. I may make up some ground then.

But even if I don’t, I’ll still count this experiment as a win. I’ve written every day, so far. Even if some of it was going back and altering what I’d already done. And I’m generating new ideas–which is making me more excited about this story again.

Forward!

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Well, so far I haven’t achieved either the daily goal of NaNoWriMo–1,667 words a day–or my personal goal of a chapter a day. More like a scene a day. But that is still making more progress on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING than I have been lately.

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I have excuses, but, except for Thursday, which really was too busy to get much writing done, they are just that–excuses. Except for one.

One of the issues I have always had with arbitrary goals of the form x number of words a day, especially when embedded in the competitiveness of something like National Novel Writing Month, is that it encourages just getting words down whether they’re the right words or not. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing with a first draft. I love Shannon Hale’s quote on this:

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.

However, there’s one time when “just keep writing” is very bad advice: when it’s taking you down the wrong rabbit trail. (Not a problem outliners are as susceptible to as discovery writers, like me.) Then, “just keep writing” can make it much harder to come back and fix the story in the revisions.

And I think I just dodged a rabbit trail. You see, where I am right now in this story, my characters are on a sort of Grand Tour, visiting the rulers of all the neighboring countries.

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They start out from Juturna, which is their home–well, home to two of them. They pick up a third on their first stop in Versenna. That trip through the forest and what happens once they reach Versenna is absolutely critical to the rest of the story. Then they go over the mountains to Khatar. I have a few interesting things happen in the mountains and Khatar will be important later in the story. Fine, so far. And I was reasonably close to my NaNo goals that far.

But then they have to go south to Farea and Idun and finally back to Juturna. Um. Boring. Nothing very important was going to happen there. And if I’m bored there’s no chance of keeping a reader’s attention.

So, I can either skip over that and just pick them up arriving back in Juturna, where my main character expects to face some consequences for his decisions back in Versenna. And I could do that, but it feels wrong.

Or, I can make that part of the trip more interesting. And early this morning, my subconscious bubbled up the way to do that. It means I have to go back and change what I wrote yesterday–which won’t add to my word count. But it will mean the story is more interesting and add a complication/obstacle that could well turn up again later. I like it, so I’m going with it.

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NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month, that is. I’ve never formally done NaNoWriMo. Partly because I already know that, under the right circumstances, I can write that fast or close to it. And I’m not doing NaNo this year either. However, what I am going to do is try to use this month to change a few habits, get rid of or at least reduce some distractions, get a little more disciplined about my writing time than I’ve been lately.

So, I will be continuing to work on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING,

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not starting something new. (Anyway, the next thing currently on my list isn’t new either. It’s a rewrite of MAGE STORM.)

If I can come anywhere close to the 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo, I should be able to just about finish this first draft by the end of the month. Fifty thousand words in thirty days comes out to an average of 1667 words a day. For me, that’s about an average chapter, or a little less. So, rather than count daily words, I’m going to focus on writing about a chapter a day. We’ll see how that goes.

I haven’t exactly started off with a bang, so far. But then, the day isn’t over yet. And nobody ever claimed that changing bad habits was easy.

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