November 15, 2005

So Much For That

Well, I was going like gangbusters. Then I started thinking about what I'd been filling those pages with. Urk. Aside from my prologue, I pretty much hated everything there. So, out it went. Even the prologue on closer look had huge holes in it. I sat down and rewrote it, taking two hours to end up adding just a couple hundred words. But when I was done, it was something I was actually proud to have written. I haven't had anything like that for a while.

I proceeded to take several days to retool my story; throwing out the plot, retrieving the plot, mutating the plot (you get the idea). I even tried the old index card approach (one scene per card, spread them out on a table and rearrange until you have a masterpiece). Ate up a couple days and way too many trees with that one. Finally, when nothing seemed to be working, I read something on Absolute Write which got me thinking. By some fluke or kismet in the ether, there was a discussion going on there about whether to "plan or wing it". There were a lot of good opinions and ideas in there, but the one that resonated the most with me was that even when people are "winging it", there's more going on than just stream-of-consciousness typing. Either you're aware of structure or you're not, was the point being made. Regardless of how you assembled your book.

This got me thinking.

On reflection, I realized I had never written anything that was planned out. I just sort of sat down and wrote. There was obviously all kinds of nifty things going on below the surface there, but I didn't bother my conscious mind with that blather...I just wrote my story. Whenever I've tried to block out a story before writing it (as I did with the novel attempt I just tossed) I always felt like I'd already written the story, so why bother with it? The excitement or growing of my characters, situations and themes was gone. I'd get bored and wander downstairs to see what was on the tube.

And again, this got me thinking.

What this meant was something I suppose I've always known: I have an innate understanding of structure. I'd have to for any of those early stories to have a beginning, middle and end when I had no idea what I was doing. But something happened a half dozen years ago that torpedoed my confidence in this fact. I'm still not sure what "it" was. A fairly astute friend of mine pointed out that this loss of confidence coincided almost exactly with the birth of my daughter. There may be something to that. It certainly is true that before you have children, you think you know everything; and afterwards, you realize you know absolutely nothing. My friend also pointed out that until you have children, you really have no idea what real fear is. I'd have to agree with her there. Despite having written mostly horror for years, I recently found myself uneasy about watching horror movies or reading horror stories. How that plays into the fatherhood thing, I haven't figured out yet. But I'm pretty sure it does.

Anyways, it would appear that what I need to do is learn to trust myself again. Get my confidence back. This isn't something you can do overnight or even with a single project. But at least now I know where I want to go.

So, using the basic structure of my original novel, and the prologue that survived my unprejudiced editor's blade, I layed out what I think is a better backstory and a few high points I want to hit. And that's all the conscious planning I'm going to do. Now I'm just going to sit down and write. I have no idea where this is going to take me. All I know is I'm going there. If you'd like, you can come along with me. Please ignore the screaming and the tears. That's just me.


November 8, 2005

Wrong Turn Ate My Wordcount

Day 8: Not a very good night. I actually wrote close to my target number of words, but I realized after 1,200 words that I'd taken a wrong turn. Wrote myself into a corner, as they say. I tried valiantly to retool my plot to accommodate the veer, but in the end I was trapped. So, reluctantly I archived Chapter 8 and started over. No doubts about it, that sucked. It also gave my confidence a pretty good whack, but I think I'm still okay. We'll have to see how tonight goes.

Someone on one of the writing boards was asking about dialog tags last night. They were worried about using "said" too much.

Said is one of those invisible words. You can use it for almost every dialog attribution and your reader won't notice it at all. (You will, of course, since you'll be looking for it.) If your conversation makes it obvious who is speaking, then by all means only use tags intermittently. Just be sure it's obvious. Nothing is more infuriating in a novel than to have to reread a section to see who was talking or what was meant. And NEVER write phonetic dialog. It's fine to use regional affectations (y'all, youse, I reckon, etc.), but if you write a bunch of dialog filled with apostrophes and colloquialisms which makes your reader, again, have to go over the line several times, your book is going to be airborne fast. Read some John D. MacDonald or Donald Westlake. These guys were/are geniuses with dialog.


November 7, 2005

Plugging Along

Day 7 and things are going well. I'm only about 200 words behind where I should be by this time, which for me is amazing. One thing I did learn is, I can't skip a day. I was tired on Friday, so I figured I'd just kick back and zone in front of the tube. Bad idea. With what I was behind before and nothing written on Friday, I had to kill myself on the weekend just to get where I am.

The story is really coming together nicely. I've allowed it to go where it wants, and I'm in a place I hadn't foreseen. Pretty cool place, too. And strangely, a character that I had tagged for an early death got really uncooperative about stepping in front of a bullet. But I think it's for the best. Who knows, maybe I'll tire of him tonight and send an out of control hotdog cart after him.

If things continue going well, I'll post an excerpt here, soon.


November 4, 2005

Uh Oh

Well, four days into Nano and I'm behind already. As a minimum, to make 50,000 in the 30 days November offers, you need to write 1,667 words per day. This will give you a bountiful 10 words extra to play with. (Actually, due to the quirks of various word counters, it's probably safer to assume you have to write about 52,000 words...which works out to 1,734 words per day...but lets not get crazy.)

I have been writing every day so far and I quite like most of it. But I'm about 800 words behind where I should be. Hopefully I can rectify that this weekend. I'm going to flesh out my characters a bit more and plot out the next 5 or 10 chapters I want to write. This should make the writing go faster. (I keep finding myself on when I should be writing. And I do have a "high point" outline of what I want to do with the book, I just need to get a little more granular with my framework...I hope.)

I am a couple of hundred words ahead of some friends who are doing Nano with me, but they're closing fast and -- uh oh...footsteps. Oh no!

November 3, 2005

New Book Started

Just a quick post to say I'm still here, writing and I'll try and post more. This year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) competition has started again. After a lot of promises through the year, I finally started a new novel yesterday with the working title: Deadly Sequence. To get things rolling, I'll be trying to get 50,000 words of it written by November 30th so I can "win" Nano. But my further goal is to finish the full first draft (which should come in well over 100,000 words) by the end of the year.

In any case, watch this space for more posts about my progress. The Nano bar meter on the right sidebar of this page will tell you instantly where I am. Once Nano's done (assuming I'm successful on that point) we'll think of some other way to track things here.

BTW, if you want more information on Nano, or you'd like to join in (it's not too late!), check out their site at My username over there is MartyDaScribbler.

See ya!