News of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Wow, a month and a half since my last post. You’d think I’d forgotten this blog existed.

Truth be told, I just haven’t had much to share with the world. The Veil has stalled in edits. I mean, it’s getting there, just a lot slower than I had hoped. But with all things The Veil, I shouldn’t be surprised. That book has always taken longer than I hoped. And perhaps the reason is that I’m not ready for it.

I had a lengthy discussion via email with a fellow writer named Regan Leigh. We were comparing notes on the YA series we had in progress. As I outlined the scope of The Veil, I realised that this thing is big. Maybe too big. With every edit and passing day, I seem to throw more into it. At present, I have 1 book written, another book started & plotted, and two more books with very rough outlines. And that doesn’t even end the blasted thing!

It dawned on me that if I self-published The Veil Book One, I’d be making a deal with my readers that the series would be completed and done so in a timely fashion. Am I ready to dedicate myself to seven years or more on one series? If I’m honest, I’m not. Regan gave me some sage advice; Set aside The Veil until I learn to manage my writing time more efficiently. Stick to more standalone stories until I’m more proficient at organising my thoughts and then I’ll be able to write the Veil series.

It made sense, but was scary at the same time. Because writing a book, it’s like nurturing a child. And when you’ve finally got it to a point where it can walk, stand and think on its own, it’s hard to let go. But I know I need to do that. I’m just not ready to tell that story yet.

Which is not to say writing it was a waste of time. I’ve learned a great deal from it. I’ve also gained the confidence that comes from knowing that I have finished a novel.

In a convenient twist, an idea for a book struck me the other day and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a fantasy. I’ll be doing some world building and telling a single story in the one book.

And to push myself to the limit, I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo.

If you’re not familiar with it, that’s National Novel Writing Month, which is in November. The idea is to write a first draft of a novel equaling at least 50,000 words within the month’s time. That works out to approx. 1,667 words a day. Which is a lot more than I’m used to.

To get ready, I’m planning ahead. That’s right, the pantser/write-like-it’s-chess boy is planning ahead! Because that’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from The Veil. The better I had planned a chapter, the faster it was to write. I did have days where I hammered out 2,000 words in a single session. If I plan a whole novel, I’m hoping I can do the same.

During Nanowrimo I’ll be doing more frequent updates here on the blog. Yes, I do intend to breathe some new life into this poor, neglected corner of the web.

I feel great about this new book. It feels like a winner. Hopefully I still feel that way by the end of November.

Is It Too Complex?

I was out in the car today with my wife, babbling about The Veil.

I told her I’m having serious difficulty writing the final four chapters. Simply put, they need to be planned in an in depth fashion. I’ve been lucky so far, my “Chess” approach has worked well and brought me into novel length territory.

But this is the end.

If I don’t get some kind of ending written that has the foundation of being kick-ass, I’m sunk.

So now I feel challenged.

In the midst of telling her this, I started to relay some of the numerous ideas and influences that exist in The Veil. When I was done, she looked at me and said, “Now, I’d have to read it, but something has me a little worried… It sounds kinda complicated.”

And she’s right.

The Veil is a mish mash of various story ideas I’ve had over the past couple years. It incorporates science, religion, myth, conspiracy and so much more, it threatens to spiral out of control. But it’s meant to be several books.

Yes, I know all the weird and complicated maneuvers that are going on behind the scenes, but I don’t intend to show all my cards to the reader in book one. Nope, I want them in for the long haul.

This presents a conundrum. How much do I reveal in Book One?

I need to present some smattering of all the themes and ideas, or I’ll get to book two or three and something will just hit the reader out of nowhere. To me, it’ll be obvious, but the reader is going to shake their fist and scream “Bullsh!t.”

This is where editing is going to be crucial.

I believe I’m not the only writer to do this. To be honest, I’m positive there’s a boatload of writers in the exact same situation.

I’m sure you’ve all read the writing advice that as an author, you should know all the back story; but you shouldn’t feel the need to info dump all of it.

Honestly, some things are useful to build a character’s identity in our mind, but are unnecessary to state explicitly for the reader.

But what if the whole series hinges on that information?

Do you remember the fifth book of Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix? It finally revealed why Voldemort went after Harry and his parents. Thing was, the prophecy was mundane. I mean, Duh, any astute reader had that prophecy already figured out. It felt like we’d been baited with something earth shattering, only to have a deflated feeling when it turned out to be the same old “the boy & monster will meet, and one will defeat the other.”

While the actual prophecy was a bit of a let down, it served to explain why it had been so important to Voldemort to find and eliminate the Potters. It answered a question that had been nagging for a number of books.

On the flip side, the reveal of the master wand in book seven seemed forced. There was an article I read on the web that asked a very good question; Why the hell didn’t Voldemort just take everyone out at the end of book six? Well, because it would have been a suck ending. The introduction of the master wand and its ilk tried to a) answer why Voldemort remained in the shadows and b) provide a way for Harry, who hadn’t been the most powerful wizard in the world, to defeat Voldemort. While it was thrilling, it felt forced.

Don’t get me wrong, Harry Potter is brilliant. If I could write a series half as good, I’d consider myself blessed. My point is, if you have an invisibility cloak early on in the series that is part of this mystical triad of items that are integral to the end of the series, couldn’t you have mentioned something about it earlier? Reading the books, I have no doubt JK Rowling knew all about the wand and company early on. She just didn’t let us in on it until the last book.

Given the complexity of plots and themes in The Veil, I need to avoid this. First off, I need to do so because people aren’t going to be as forgiving of me as they are JK Rowling. Secondly, because people really will call me on using big twists out of nowhere.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with big, complex ideas. In fact, I thrive on things like that, which is why my book is filled with them. The key is finding a way to make them feel organic. Book one needs to lay the ground rules. If a stepping stone doesn’t exist in book one, that’s a path I won’t be able to follow.

Editing this thing is going to be a beast. I know that, and I’m not even there yet.

What do you think? Can you get away with omitting some ideas from book one as long as they get put into book two? Or should the whole path be present in book one, even if left obscure?

Or am I making a huge mistake from the start, having it clear in my head that this story is going to require several books to tell?

Of course, it’s too late to stop now 🙂

Hitting Milestones

So last night I crossed 50,000 words in The Veil.

Depending on what guidelines you follow, that means I’ve officially crossed into novel length territory.

When I launched this blog in April of 2010, I had written 9,000 words. I admit, there’s been times when I wondered if my idea would actually amount to a novel. There were days when  the ideas weren’t flowing and I thought it was hopeless. I figured The Veil was bound to be another file in my “Failed Attempts” folder.

But last night I crossed over into novel territory. And what’s even better, there’s still eight planned out chapters. At this rate, I think The Veil will easily weigh in at more than 70,000 words.

It’s funny how a weight feels lifted. This is the furthest I’ve ever taken a story. At this point, the question is no longer will I be able to make it, but rather, how long till I finish it?

So it’s a happy day. I’ll be even happier when I make it to 60,000. That’s the goal I set for myself as that’s considered a lower end Young Adult novel.

My goal is to have the first draft done by this blog’s anniversary. Wish me luck!

The Late-Night Habits of a Wannabe Writer

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous KilljoysIt’s 11:58pm as I write this.

I’m sitting in bed, propped with my back against the wall. My laptop is sitting on a breakfast-in-bed tray and my wife is sleeping next to me (she has a cold). I’m wearing headphones which have just finished pumping out My Chemical Romance’s newest album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, and have now moved on to Neon Trees’ album, Habits.

My intent was to power through a ton of words on The Veil. Instead, I’ve read Neon Trees - Habitsthrough a number of posts on Twitter, signed an Internet petition (which you should do as well if you’re in Canada & don’t want to see us gouged further for Internet use http://openmedia.ca/meter). Also through Twitter, I went over to Regan Leigh’s blog to check out a guest post on writing book reviews when you want to be a writer. Great post with some decent insights to keep in mind. I left a comment stating my overall love of the article & then finally opened The Veil.

I’ve written maybe 100 words of actual story. However, I’ve also written a number of editing notes on the earlier chapters.

I’m not prepared to let myself edit The Veil until I’ve finished it. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had ideas as to how I want to change some of the earlier chapters. So I’m taking advantage of my writing software and leaving notes on the chapters as to the edits and new scenes I’m thinking about.

Now I’m here at the blog. Writing an entry that really is just blathering about how I spend my time when I sit down with my laptop to write. And probably explaining why it’s taken me so long to only get 76% of the way to a complete first draft.

So don’t be like me. Stop wasting more time on the Internet. Go write. Now. Like I’m going to try and do.

Clock says it’s 12:14am. Hoping to remain conscious until 1am to at least crank out another 300-500 words.

TTYL

Happy New Year

So we have survived another year.

What will 2010 be remembered for? Recessions? Job Loss? History will one day tell us, but I don’t think we need to wait to say people are eager to leave 2010 behind and greet the new year.

With New Year’s eve comes the inevitable question of a resolution.

What is it that we want to accomplish in the new year? What challenges do we want to set for ourselves.

This usually results in the banal answers of “lose weight,” “exercise more,” “eat a healthier diet,” etc.

Like most other authors, my goal this year is to write better, to increase my writing output and complete my novel.

But I also want to do something different.

So here’s my plan. I will finish the first draft of The Veil by the end of February. My edits on The Veil will be completed by the end of August.

But during the editing phase, I want to work on something new and different. I want to create more of a multimedia work, something that combines words and imagery. Do I know what it will be? Nope. I just have the desire to branch out and do something different. My intention is to also use this website as the place where that work is published.

Of course, I have all the other resolutions to do as well. I need to lose weight, eat better and get exercising.

What are some of your resolutions?

What do you hope 2011 has to offer you?

And most importantly, do you think you’ll accomplish your resolutions?

Reading is the greatest teacher

I started reading a book two weeks ago, Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  It’s the first book I’ve read in several months. Unusual for me, as I’ve usually managed to read a book every two weeks for the past couple years.  Truth is, I’ve been too focused on my own words to allow someone else to take up my free time.  I realise now that has been a considerable mistake.

You see the advice everywhere; If you want to be a writer, you need to read.  I’ve taken this to heart in the past, but I don’t think the truth of it has impacted me until this past week.

First off, let me say The Passage is quickly becoming one of my favourite books.  I’m about 200 pages from the end, and the first 500+ pages have been incredible.  It’s been inspiring reading this book, following its twists and turns, watching how relationships have been built and how shifting point of view helps to build the tension and add substance to the world.

Which is exactly what I needed, because The Veil had become stagnant.  I’ve had that little work in progress at a standstill for several weeks; partly due to family things, mainly because I just didn’t feel excited about it.  I wondered how I would fill the pages.  Now I’ve had a number of ideas.  The structure is making more sense to me.  I’ve seen how I can use and develop other characters in a manner that will not only deepen the world I’ve created, but also the story in general.  All because I decided to take a break and read something else.

Learning by doing is often my preferred manner of doing things.  But in this case, learning by having an example is doing wonders.

So if you’re like me, writing but feeling like you’re getting nowhere, watching as pages fill, but being overwhelmed by how many more remain, take a break.  Stop. Read a good book.

Formulating a Plot

If you happen to follow the “Current Work In Progress” meter to the right, you might notice a drastic change.  It’s not an illusion or a joke, my work in progress has fallen from 25% done at 15,000+ words to just above 10,000 words.  Maybe you’re scratching your head wondering, why?  Today I chronicle the tough decision I felt forced to make, and what I have been spending the last few days doing about it.

First off, why chop a third of my work in progress?  The simple answer is, I had painted myself into a corner.  I hated it.  When I first started The Veil, I had a vision of it focusing very closely on the main character.  The cast would only expand  if the story became a series.  I already had characters in mind and how they fit into what would become a team setting.  The first book, however, was about finding yourself.  Where I had taken the story, characters appeared far quicker than I had anticipated.  My story about a young man finding himself turned into more of a super-team book.  Not what I wanted.  So I retraced my steps and asked where I went wrong.  The point I decided on meant a third of the work got intimate with the delete button.

So where do I go now?

As discussed in previous posts, writing wildly ahead without a plan or direction is the wrong approach for me.  Like a stubborn fool, I continued to do just that and got myself into trouble.  So I decided to make a plan.

I asked the Twitter gods if there was some sort of form for a plot outline.  I enjoy filling in forms.  Having some structure gives me security.  Unfortunately, the Twitter gods decided to ignore me that day.  Or perhaps were too busy preparing for the Lost finale.  Regardless, I was on my own.

First thing I did was look at Martina Boone’s Plotting Made Easy – The Complications Worksheet.  This gave me some idea of what I should accomplish in each section of the story.

Secondly, I thought long and hard about the Hero’s Journey.  My character’s arc fit the hero journey, so I gave close consideration to the various components.

Third, I allowed my idea to run free.  I said, “If this is the world I’ve created, what’s possible?”  The more I asked what could happen, the more did happen.  I started having some pretty wild ideas.  They worked.  They fit together.  My story excited me again.

With these new ideas, I wrote a synopsis of the story.  It was dirty.  It had holes in it.  I would never give it to anyone if I wanted them to read my book.  But it gave me a framework to pin things on.

Then, I created a space that I called Themes & Ideas.  I used this space just to write words and random sentences.  Some were about mood, others about deeper themes and meanings.  I used it as a space to brainstorm with no restrictions.

Out of those random thoughts, I was able to return to my synopsis and start plugging holes and touching up the paint.

Last night, I started putting together scenes.  For each scene I asked;

  • Scene – [Title]
  • What’s the Purpose of the Scene:
  • What Action Happens:
  • What Do We Learn That’s New:

Making sure that every scene answered these points fleshed out the story.  It was more cohesive.  No scene could be a throw-away, I forced myself to justify their existence.  I didn’t worry about order, I just wrote scenes. As their number expanded, I saw where they fit together.  When I have more, I will create a new file and copy the scenes in their proper order.  When that’s complete, I’ll have my plot map.  Then the fun starts!

While it was hard to kill a lot of work, this new direction is far more exciting and satisfying.  It stays truer to the original vision I had while still managing to provide surprises.

This process is frustrating to a “I want it done now” kind of person.  Which I confess, I am.  Truth, though, cannot be denied.  This is the only way this book is getting written.