In Preparation for November.

November is National Novel writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. I don’t know why they still call it that, seeing as how it is well and truly international now. Maybe it should be InNoWriMo?

The idea is this: write 50,000 words in the month of November. The prize? You win 50,000 words that you would not have written if you hadn’t bothered to participate in NaNoWriMo.

Before I begin.

I think that some people spend time before November plotting out their story and planning their characters. I don’t want to do that. I want to see if I can put the whole process into the one month. There are, however, two steps that I have taken in preparation for the novel: one for the, and one for process.

Story.

When creating a setting, I don’t enjoy sitting down and figuring out things like the way that the spacecraft move through space or politics or anything like that. I like to discover that stuff while drafting, and then go back and flesh it out later.

So in preparation for November, I’ve written a short story set in the same universe that the novel will take place. I think the characters from the short might have minor roles in the novel, though I don’t know for sure yet. Anyway, I always prefer world building by actually writing stories in the world and exploring it through the characters, instead of sitting down and trying to figure out how everything works.

Process.

To prepare my process, I read Rock Your Plot and Rock Your Revisions by Cathy Yardley. Plotting and planning is an area that I need to strengthen, and these two books teach some fundamental concepts in those two areas.

To this day, I have struggled with editing. I never really had that much of a plan laid out. When it came time to edit, I would just get stuck in from page one and start editing everything. It was almost impossible for me to take a step back and look and the bigger picture to see the problems with my story. And that is where these two books come in. My NaNo novel is going to be tightly plotted, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this affects my drafting and editing.

Drafting I’m confident with. Remember, the one unbreakable rule that I have is that my first draft (or Zero draft) is never to be viewed by anyone other than me. This is what allows me to write so fast; changing that will drastically change my process and slow me down. The point is, I can’t just sit down and bust out 50,000 words then post it up and say “job’s done!” I want to be able to have at least 50,000 words I can share by the end of November.

The rough plan.

First two days: Plotting and planning. Writing out plot outline and character sheets. Checking over everything to make sure it all makes sense. Filling in scene plans and information.

Third day: Optional planning if needed. Otherwise, drafting begins!

Up to the 20th November: Drafting. By that date, I want to have drafted at least 60,000 words, assuming I’m going to lose 10% to editing. This timeframe is based on a few things. 1) I can confidently write 5000 words a day. 2) I don’t know how busy I’ll be with my day job over that period, so I may have a few days when I can’t write.

10% might not seem like much to lose to editing, but I’m assuming my drafting will be tighter due to the plot outline I will have written.

That leaves me ten days to edit. Again, I’m assuming that the editing process will be faster due to the tighter draft and tighter plot. We’ll see, I guess!!

Having deadlines makes me more motivated.

In the past, when people have asked me when I’ll have finished drafting something or editing something, or have something available for them to buy. I’ve always just shrugged and said “soon” or “when it’s ready.” Even though these numbers and dates aren’t really based on any hard experience, it feels better to actually put a deadline on things and work towards them.

 


Discovering Public Spaces

I’ll never be able to work from home.

I love the idea of being able to sit on the couch in my dressing gown and get a whole lot of work done. Maybe never is too strong a word. But at the moment, I can’t do it.

At home, there are too many distractions. The fridge is filled with the food I like. My favourite cafe’s are just down the road (which are also filled with the food I like). Netflix. Computer games. In-fact, let’s just say ‘unlimited internet access.’ They’re all there.

Changing the setting.

So I recently bought a laptop and moved my writing space to a public library. And it’s made a huge difference to my productivity. Getting up, getting dressed and commuting to somewhere makes me treat writing like a real job. I have to get there early to get a good seat, and once I’ve got that seat I don’t want to leave it in case I lose it.

And that, I suppose, is the trick. Getting to know yourself and being able to admit what your limitations are, and what you can do to overcome them. I would love to be able to sit around on the couch and get things done, but I’m just not there yet. Sometimes it goes against your instincts. In fact, I had to fight myself to get out the door the first few times. My mind told me that I’ll be fine writing from home! Don’t waste all that time commuting! The problem with that was every time I had listened to that voice, I would manage to find other things to do at home, to the point where I was doing very little (if any) writing at all.

Finding new ways to overcome resistance.

This, to me, is what Steven Pressfield is referring to as resistance in his book The War of Art . The concept is that there is this force that you have to overcome if you want to do anything creative. I think that as soon as you recognise it you can use it as a sort of internal compass: it shows you your true north by trying to pull you south. All you have to do is pull in the other direction, and you’ll become that thing you want to be. So when I feel the urge to stay home, I know it’s time for me to get out.

Which can be hard, but that’s the point. And besides, I prefer being around people anyway.

Seeing Through the Fog

Creating a World.

The fantasy setting that I’m currently writing in sprung up around the story that was in my head. At first I just needed locations for characters to go to, and then I filled in the blanks. There were also some basic ideas that I knew about the world before starting the draft:

1) Magic is real, in the sense that there are wizards that can command the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. The afterlife and the existence of a spirit is just as unknown as it is in our world, today.

2) That gods were a real and active part of the lives of the people, and that prayer had measurable, tangible results. The gods were, however, silent on the matter of an afterlife.

3) Elves were in there somewhere but they weren’t really known to humans (though I didn’t know why at that point).

Into that world I wanted to put a group of skeptics that go around exposing fake psychics and spirit mediums.

Learning as I go.

As I sat down to write the draft, the fantasy setting became fleshed out through character conversation and from just writing what the characters were seeing. For example, at one point  Continue reading “Seeing Through the Fog”

A Whole New World

I am creating the setting of my fantasy story, every day, when I sit down to write my drafts. To be honest, one of the things I like about writing fantasy is not having to do any research. I knew that, for my first story or two, I wanted to write my own rules.  
I did think that I would spend a lot of time writing out the setting first before writing the story. But you know what? I found that’s the worst way to do it. Well, not the worst way for everyone, but it is for me. And the biggest motivation for me was talking to authors who were doing it this way. 

Another reason to not write. 

Almost anyone who spends their time following any creative pursuit will tell you that it isn’t the doing that’s the hard part. It’s the showing up. Writing isn’t hard. Sitting down to write is. 
I’ve spoken to a few people now who, after learning that I’m writing a fantasy story, say something like “oh yeah, I have a fantasy story that I want to write. I’m just working on the setting, getting that right, before I write the story.”
“Really?” I ask. “What do you mean.?”
“Oh, you know,” comes the answer. “I need to get the world right before I can start writing the story.”
No, you really don’t.
Continue reading “A Whole New World”

A Slight Change in the Process.

Since speaking to most of my beta readers, I’ve realised that I need to change how I’m going to produce this fantasy series.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m releasing the story in serialised form. The term ‘episode’ referrs to a single book. The term ‘season’ refers to the five books together (yes, it’s five books now instead of six. More on that later).

One of the main benefits of Beta readers is they give you feedback on plot and characters. The most frustrating thing about this process has been not being able to answer some of the questions that the readers have had. Most of the information gets revealed later on in the story. I can’t wait to hear what people think about the entire storyline, but I can’t find that out until they’ve read the entire series.

The plan was to get Episode one out as soon as possible, releasing the first one while I’m still  Continue reading “A Slight Change in the Process.”

Book 2 – Draft complete!

And I do mean complete this time: what I handed to Ellie was more polished than the draft I gave her of episode one.

So I thought that I’d make first Process article about the beginning of my process – how I use my notebook.

All my initial story ideas get written by hand in a notebook. Character ideas, plot points, the way the story will end. I have to be careful with my hand writing because if I write too fast I can’t understand what I’ve written. Writing in a notebook forces me to slow down and make sure my writing is legible. This is the part where I need to listen to what my mind has to say, and so this Continue reading “Book 2 – Draft complete!”