Back to Work

Some days my brain just can’t keep up.  Maybe it’s too early, even though it’s a quarter to noon, or maybe there just isn’t enough caffeine in my system yet. But my brain definitely doesn’t want to be sitting at Starbucks, staring at the computer screen.

Too bad.

I don’t work until 5pm, which is later than usual. Definitely thought I started at 3:30 or 4. But, the optimist in me reminds that I just have that much more time to get good work done.

Ok. Good point.

And yes, I plan on getting some solid writing in today. But, I’m definitely going to need a double tall something or other, and some form of breakfast first.

The snow is pretty much all gone. There are some last remnants clinging to hillsides and ditches. You know, places where the snow has been undisturbed. But, the rain and human interference has pretty much cleared all roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks. Now we’re back to rain. And lots of it.

But the temperature is sitting at about 52 degrees already today, so that’s exciting. Maybe spring is finally on its way!

Yeah, right.

But, I’m planning on getting my hair trimmed at the end of this month, and I think that’s when I’ll start tanning! So excited for sunshine! Even if it’s artificial.

My piercing is mostly healed on the outside, meaning that it’s not so tender to the touch. I can sleep on my left side with almost no problem, which is a relief. Also, that’s how your cartilage heals, from the outside in. Isn’t that wild?

So, bringing my thoughts back to the work at hand. What’s on the docket for today?

I’ll re-read what I wrote last time. That would be chapter 2. I’ll read it solely to get a feel for where the story is going next and the tone and yadda yadda. I will not edit it at all. That’s a big no-no. I’ll probably read it as I munch on breakfast and inhale my beverage, and then finish up the meal before launching into chapter 3.

It’s weird to think I’m on chapter 3 of my second novel. Also, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to start editing ‘Vessels’ sometime in March. I’ll come up with a sort of schedule to work with, like a chapter a week, so that I can take my time with it and continue to work on ‘Cards’.

It’s still weird to think about.

Anyway, I’m just dilly-dallying at this point. Time to get to the food and drink so I can get to the writing.

I’ll post an update on my Facebook page about the progress made today, if you’re interested.

Thanks, Blogland!

 

BZ

Mid-Winter Meh’s.

My brain is jumpy today.

One moment I’m considering a trip to the gym, the next I’m munching carrots in my Starbucks lobby, going over the last segment of chapter two.

I like where it’s going, but it still feels incredibly slow. But, this isn’t writing short fiction anymore. Chapters are long. Hell, the chapters I’m writing now are longer than most of my short fiction. So, I can’t tell if the scenes are in fact slow, or if I’m just letting my short story writer show.

This past weekend was gorgeous. Sunshine and blue skies and a temperature hanging in the high 40s. Not bad for January. But this week Oregon is back, reminding all of us just who’s in charge here.

Dense mercury clouds spit rain against my window as a brisk wind tears at the barren trees across the street.

Is it summer yet?

I’m feeling cold and a little stir-crazy. Cooped-up. I want to go tanning, to absorb more than my fair share of UV, but with my new cartilage piercing, it’s just not a good idea. Maybe in a couple of weeks.

I feel like nothing is ever quite enough. I’m never warm enough. The music is never loud enough. I never get enough hours at work, but I never have enough time off. I don’t write enough, and that one’s true. I’m in a constant state of quandary.

But, this seems to be normal for this time of year. It’s just my mid-winter blues. Though I’m not really blue. Not sad at all, just tired and irritable. Frustrated. For no other reason than there isn’t enough sunshine.

But, I’m here today, and I’m looking forward to finishing this chapter. Over 1,000 words to go  to make that happen, but I have about three hours to do it. If I’m good, and I focus, it should happen.

Plus, the next scene is where the ball really gets rolling. A new murder to add to the string Whit’s investigating, and this one right under his nose!

Right after I nom on a Spinach Feta Wrap.

Later Blogland,

 

BZ

Surviving the Holidays

The day after Christmas… Otherwise known at Starbucks as ‘Christmas 2.0’. This is the day that people decide to return things without receipts and spend every dime on their Starbucks gift cards that they got in their stockings the day before. This is the weekend we have to get through. If we can just make it to Monday everything will slow down. Monday seems a mirage on the schedule. A fabled date promising a return to normal, when tasks that for the last month have been deemed impossible will actually get done with some regularity.

And so I’m sitting in the lobby as usual, telling myself that I’m actually accomplishing something. I mean, I re-read what I have so far, and I like it. But chapter two is still a long way from completion. So as I’m clacking away at this blog the back of mind is thinking about Whit. He’s poised in front of the mirror, wondering how he let things get that bad. And, after careful consideration, he’ll decide that he doesn’t have the energy to shave, so he’ll comb his hair back as usual and head out the door.

And then what?

I have the answers, but they’re general. He’ll go to work. But there are interactions and world building that will happen, that need to happen to help the story grow into more than a conglomeration of loosely linked scenes.

But, my head hurts, and there’s a long day a head of me. Do I really want to put in the effort? My initial answer is no. But there’s a sense of guilt lingering in the back of my mind, and I know that there’s energy for this story back there, waiting. If I could just unleash it…

I hope everyone’s Holidays went well. Mine was quite bi-polar. At work it was hectic and incredibly busy, and then the time spent with family was low-key and relaxing. Probably the best combo ever.

Anyway, I’m going to stop wasting writing time over here and try and get some writing in on chapter 2.

Happy Holidays, Blogland.

 

BZ

An Introduction to the New Novel

Trevor’s putting in some overtime today, so I find myself sitting at work on my day off, trying to make up for lost time.

I just typed up the intro to chapter 2. I knew it wasn’t much but it ended at 320 words, bringing the new manuscript up to 3,091 words. It’s crazy to think that I really am doing this all over again. All the time and emotion.

Writing the last novel was a completely new experience, and looking back it’s a complete blur. A haze of days and nights, some lost in the fervor of creation, and others spent staring at blank screens wondering what in the hell I think I’m doing. Playing at little miss author, faking it until I make it.

But, I did it. That manuscript is done. Just over 47,000 words. Short, I know, but for a YA that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And I do intend to add to the story in order to smooth some things out. It’ll probably just break 50k when it’s finally done.

But, enough about ‘Vessels’.

‘Cards’, the working title for the new novel is a different animal. Instead of a teenage girl  I’m writing about a middle-aged Widower, and now single father. Powerless in a world of hidden magic, Whit discovers a string of murders that no one wants to pursue, and while hunting down the killer his three year old daughter is taken for ransom. The climax will push Whit to find out just how much he’s willing to give up to save his daughter.

There. A little synopsis for you.

The major difference with this book so far is that I actually know where it’s going. I have a rough outline with key points, acting as a sort of map. With ‘Vessels’ it was like writing in the dark. I’d turn on the computer and get sucked into a world with so many opportunities for adventure that I was never really sure what would happen on any particular day. But, that was sort of Val’s personality, so it made sense.

‘Cards’ is very direct. At least so far. There’s a main storyline that is determined to be told. And I’m so excited to see how it grows.

As the outline sits right now this novel is the first in a potential series. Not sure how I feel about that. We’ll see when we get there. The book is still entirely stand alone, and who knows, by the end of this journey I might just decide to go big or go home.

When I read the outline I get excited. This book has so many subplots built in to it. Whit’s relationship with his daughter, with his Brother-in-Law, with his live-in nanny/potential love interest.

But, with my current schedule, it’s going to be much slower going. Although I did get to work almost an hour early the other day in order to write the outline. I was supposed to work at 8:30am, and rolled in at 7:30am. If that’s not writing commitment, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, I’m going to stop blathering here, wasting time. I’ve got another novel to write!

BZ

The (Triumphant?) Return!

Sorry about the gap between posts. Holidays at Starbucks can be a bit all-consuming. Here’s the skinny on the last month or so.

I celebrated my 24th birthday by getting a new tattoo, Doctor Who themed for you curious types.

I stopped biting my nails, a habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Let me tell you, having nails makes simple things difficult. Like typing. I feel as if I’ve had to learn how to type all over again, and I’m not doing so well. Also, now I understand why some people sound as if they’re mashing a keyboard; their nails force them to. Also, opening anything with a pull tab is damn near impossible.

I visited Arizona. And while it was a good trip, it reminded me of why we moved in the first place. After being away for over a year I’d begun to romanticize it. I longed for palm trees and sunshine, and a place where people weren’t quite so nice. But after only a day back in the AZ I was missing my small section of the world. I realized all the wonderful things I love about Salem. People native to the town will fight me tooth and nail on this one, but Salem really does have a lot to offer. Firstly, let me start by saying that there is only ONE Olive Garden here. Same with Red Lobster. No Chili’s, no TGIF’s. But, there are a ton of local spots, and more popping up every day. Small and local is alive and well in Salem.

If you like beer, there are four local breweries. Yes, they’re small. But they’re growing, and quick. And this town knows its beer. Also, Trevor and I really like our beer.

Salem is a fairly quiet town. It’s the capitol, so there are a lot of government jobs, and state police are all over town. The locals claim there’s gang activity, but when you’ve grown up in a place where a certain color t-shirt can get you in a fight, you tend not to take Salem’s gangs too seriously. Also, where I live, the crime rate is pretty low. I can’t say the same thing for where I work, but I’ve yet to have a problem in over a year.

The schools are decent. Better than AZ’s, which isn’t hard to do.

And let us not forget the proximity to EVERYTHING. Less than two hours to the coast. Less than an hour to Portland. About and hour or so to Mt. Hood. What more can you ask for? Salem is a decent home base, and going home helped me remember that.

Basically been working my ass off. Just fought a losing battle with a cold going around work, though I think I got the condensed version. Almost back in top shape after a rough three days.

I made a feeble attempt at NaNoWriMo. Wrote less than 2,000 words and my brain screamed for me to stop. ‘Vessels’ is still alive and kicking up in my head. There probably isn’t a day where I don’t think of a scene or character from the book. So, in order to let the manuscript sleep I let my brain take a couple months off. Played a lot of Pokemon and Assassin’s Creed, and reconnected with a lot of music.

And then, last week, my brain started to think about something else. The new novel, the one I wrote that intro to ages ago. There’d been a time when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever come around to it. After finishing the rough draft of ‘Vessels’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another novel. Over six months of my life were poured into a computer, toiled away to create a world that may never see the light of day. I worried, fussed, stressed, might have even cried at one point, for a piece of fiction that may ultimately come to nothing.

Could I really put myself through it all again?

And for those two months, I didn’t have an answer.

And I didn’t force myself to come up with one. I trusted that, if this were really my thing, if I really am a writer, I would come back to it in my own time. And then I woke up Thursday morning and knew. My brain hummed with ideas and visions. That transition I didn’t know how to handle? The answer was there, in my head. I knew it. All I had to do was go to work early, plug in the laptop, and type.

And that’s exactly what I did. And the entire chapter followed. Almost 3,000 words. And it ended so well, so much differently than I had planned. And then Saturday night, on the dark, lonely drive home at nearly 1 in the morning, I wrote the beginning of chapter 2 in my head. As soon as I got home I found a notebook and wrote it out. I couldn’t fall asleep and not write it down. What if I lost it?

And that’s where I’m at. I don’t know how many words the chapter two intro is, I still haven’t put it in the computer, but I’m excited. And a bit pent up. I’m used to closing at work, which gives me over 4+ hours a day to write, uninterrupted. But, now, I’m working Mid-Shifts. You know, the day job. Anywhere from 7a-5p. By then Trevor’s home and we’re making dinner. I never liked to write on my days off, and I don’t usually like to write at home. But after an 8 hour shift, the last thing I want to do is camp out at work when I could be at home with my man.

So now I’m faced with the struggle of coming up with a new writing schedule. The hours I maintained while writing ‘Vessels’ were so natural. When else would I write? So, when can I write now? Not during the day, I’m making lattes then. Not in the evening, I’m making dinner and trying to have a normal life. So, in the wee hours when I should be sleeping? I mean, sure, I can do that. But, it doesn’t thrill me, and I don’t think the words that come out of me at 2 in the morning are my best work. This blog not included, haha.

I have Mondays off, and Trevor works during the day, so yeah, that works. But, can I bust out a chapter a week with only ONE scheduled day to write? I highly doubt it. There will be weeks where I can, of course. When the fire is lit and I’m really cooking my way through scenes. But not every week can be that way, in fact, most of them won’t be.

So, maybe I’ll just start carrying a notebook with me again. Every day, when I have spare time, like before my shift, or on my lunch, I could write. And then on Mondays put it in the computer and then work on what’s next. It’s doable. Not ideal, but it could get the job done, if slowly.

I’ll have to play around with it, and really start listening to myself. I know there have been days when my inner writer has piped up and suggested softly that we should put some work in. But when there’s dinner cooking, or video games to be played, she’s easy to dissuade. With my sudden crimp on time, I’m going to have to pay attention to her. She knows when it’s time, and if I ignore her, we’ll never get anything done.

Now then, I’m starting to sound a bit crazy so it must be time for bed. At least it feels that way. I’m sorry this was so long in coming, but my brain needed some space for a while. But, I’m back. I’m working on something new, and as the Holidays wind down there will be more and more time for writing.

As ever, thanks Blogland. I’ll see you next time.

BZ

Fighting off the Black Plague with a Nice Cuppa

I may have mentioned it before, but I hate tea. I am a coffee gal, through and through. I’ve tried, time and again, to like tea. I keep telling myself that it’s like coffee and beer; you have to develop a palate. Drink enough of it until you find it enjoyable. But, it hasn’t worked. It’s just dirty water. Or, as Zuko said, ‘just tea leaf juice.’

That’s an Avatar: The Last Airbender reference. The show, not the dreadful movie.

Anyway, last night at work, my throat felt as if it were lined with razorblades. Let me preface this with the fact that I don’t really get sick. Haven’t been sick in over 2 years. But last night, a coworker and myself were both miserable. And apparently a customer had the following to say on the virus:

“It just started as a tickle. Scratchy throat. No big deal. Then the next morning I thought I had the Black Plague.”

Don’t start hauling me out to the street just yet! I awoke quite miserable. Headache, sinus drainage, achey face, and a throat coated in sandpaper. But, I imagine the Black Plague would be much worse.

I tossed around the idea of just laying in bed until 2pm. Just lounge in my misery, reading ‘1408’ and feeling sorry for myself. Writer’s can have sick days, right? And then I imagined a steaming hot shower, mirror fogged over, and myself with a cup of tea at Starbucks.

Say what?

But, here I sit, generally feeling better. My hair dangles in a wet braid to rest just above my shoulder blades, the plate that bore the Bacon breakfast sandwich sits barren on the table, but my belly is full. And, just to the right of the MacBook is a piping, half-empty mug of tea.

For you Starbucks junkies, it’s a grande, 1 teabag Refresh, 1 teabag Calm with 2 honeys.

And, as much as I don’t like tea, I really am enjoying this mug. The Refresh (Starbucks lingo for Mint) leaves a pleasant tingle on my tongue and lips, and the honey leaves a nice coating of peace on my aching throat. I’m probably going to have another mug before work starts.

So, I didn’t call in sick to my writing. But, I will admit that my mind doesn’t want to focus. My ears feel full. Need to pop. I’ve got one nostril that seems to be determined to run, and a stiff and creaky back and shoulders. Add to it, a head heavy with I don’t-want-to-know-how much-mucus.

But, I brought my binder full of stories. I brought ‘Everything’s Eventual’. I fully intend to at least give ‘The Portrait of Sterling Madison’ a good once over today. And then potentially pass out at this table.

But, I’m here. I’m trying. And hopefully I don’t keel over halfway through my shift at the Bux tonight.

 

BZ

In Response to the Jimmy John’s Delivery Guy

I’m about to take y’all on a trip. Follow along, if you dare!

So, I’m working on a horror piece about a portrait that moves and takes on a consciousness of its own. I don’t read a lot of Horror. At least, not since I started reading fiction with a writer’s eye. In high school I read Anne Rice with fervor, and I’ve always loved King’s shorter works, though I’ve yet to read a full-length novel from the man.

So yesterday, I’m sitting in my Starbucks with my nose stuck in King’s ‘Everything’s Eventual’ after a losing battle with the free WiFi. So, I’m reading and underlining, and taking all sorts of mental notes because the story I was reading was ‘The Road Virus Heads North’, which is a story about a painting that moves.

One of my regulars comes in, a nice guy who I know due to his job at my local gourmet sub delivery joint. They happen to have Freaky Fast Delivery, and I order from them far too often.

Anyway, he sees me underlining and taking notes and asks, “Book report time?”

On a side note, I find it irritating that just because I read a lot and type away on a computer I must be a college student. It’s frustrating to keep answering the same questions over and over. Anyway.

I tell him that I’m doing a different kind of study for a horror piece I’m writing. To which he responds:

“Why write Horror? Isn’t the world dark enough?”

This rocked me. Not because I thought it was rude, or unwelcome, but because it’s a valid question. It immediately sent my mind spinning. I could tell that, somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I had an answer. But I needed time to research and compose myself.

I think he noticed my sudden pensiveness, and he felt bad. He looked at me, “I’m sorry, Brittany. I didn’t mean to be discouraging.”

I laughed. I laughed and told him that he wasn’t discouraging at all. “I’m a writer,” I said. “I’m a special brand of discouragement, all my own.”

But, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake the question. And not just in terms of myself, but on a much larger scale. Why do we write horror? Why do we like being scared?

So, Mr. Delivery Man, I’ve thought up a response. It’s not quite Horror Lit & Film Essay worthy, but there are some nuggets of truth in it.

So, let’s start with the idea that Art Imitates Life. Some people might have a hard time agreeing with this sentiment when it comes to genre fiction, but think about it. Ultimately, you like a story because you can relate to characters and scenarios. A mixture of the familiar and the strange, to quote Brandon Sanderson. So, we like horror because it hints at what we’re capable of, and we write horror for the same reason. An idea has struck us, and we want to illicit a physical response in people, whether our characters or our readers.

But, this is the weakest argument I have for writing Horror.

“Isn’t the world dark enough?”

Yes, it is. And honestly, it’s too dark. So many atrocious things happen on a daily basis. Things that, if you let yourself stop and think about it, shake you to your core. The Sandy Hook shooting did this to me. I felt physically ill if I thought about it too long. Outraged. Heartbroken.

I think Horror fiction helps us cope. We can read about how other people react to horrible things that happen around them. And it allows us to experience fear and pain from the safety of a book.

There will always be Horror junkies. The kids who read Lovecraft and Moorcock, with their long hair and Megadeath shirts, who worship the Evil Dead. But, horror, just like any other literature, is a reaction to the world around us. A side effect of the internalization of the things we see, eat, breathe, and understand in our daily lives.

So, why write horror?

Because, a long time ago, I read stories that scared me. I had physical reactions, and my imagination knew no bounds. Anything is possible in a King story. Anything at all. And one day, a few years ago, I had an idea for a story that startled me. Shook me. And I’ve been waiting to write it all these years.

For more great insight into this topic, check out Author Sarah Langan’s essay on HarperCollin’s website.

Thanks for reading, Blogland.

 

BZ

Waking Up

Holy hell, Blogland, have I made a mistake…

I congratulated myself too soon, and let external pressures convince me that taking a break would be a good thing.

It was a very, very bad thing.

I’ve spent the last two-ish weeks absorbed in the world of Mass Effect. Again. Instead of finishing my novel. I only need to write two more chapters… it could have been done by now if I hadn’t stopped to save the galaxy for the third time!

And so, I’m really mad at myself. Frustrated that I let one tense week at work derail all the hard writing I’ve done. Upset that I was so easily persuaded to abandon the schedule I created for myself. And to make it worse, I am now two lectures behind in Write About Dragons!

But, I will say this for myself: I’ve felt wrong these last two weeks. Sure, I’ve been completely relaxed. I will be the first to admit that plugging in 6+ hours into Mass Effect is probably the best way for me to unwind. But, when Trevor comes home from work, I feel as if I’ve been interrupted. How dare he want to spend time with me? The Reapers are invading!

And that’s not fair. Our schedules have changed, and we don’t have weekends off together anymore. So, naturally he wants to spend time with me when he gets home. And Mass Effect keeps me from wanting to do the same.

I want to take the space now to say that this is not a reflection on our relationship. This is me doing what is called hyper-focusing, a common behavior for those with ADD. And, usually, I’m always hyper-focusing on something. Music, writing, a good book, and often video games.

The problem is, I am already obsessive when it comes to Mass Effect, which you already know if you’re a long time reader, so add in a bizarre ability to ignore the world around me for days on end, and it just spells trouble.

So, even though he’ll never read this, I wanted to thank Trevor. He’s put up with my crazy, ADD, obsessive weirdness for almost six years now. He knows it’ll pass, and he treats me with more patience and understanding than I deserve by far.

It feels like waking up. Piece by piece the world of Mass Effect is falling off my shoulders, like roof shingles that have long needed replaced. My eyes feel clearer, and my senses feel sharper. I’ve been so plugged into a fictional world that I haven’t been a full participant in my own. Now, if this were due to a book, it would be different and wonderful. But somehow, when it’s a videogame, it doesn’t feel good. It feels like waking up from long night of partying.

And it’s a shame, because as stories go, Mass Effect is one of the best. But, I need to give it up for now, or only play with Trevor. No more solo missions for me, at least not until the novel is done.

So, the novel. Where am I? What needs doing? How do I get back at it?

Manuscript Word Count: 42,848
Chapter 19 finished Sept. 9th at 2,140 words.

That makes me feel a little better. It’s only been 9 days since I worked on the novel. But, after working on it five days a week for 3 months, those 9 days felt like an eternity.

So, in the novel, Val is about to face the final showdown. It’s the big moment in the book, and I’m a little intimidated by it. That could be part of why I looked for something else to do. But, I refuse to let this ending beat me. I’m finishing this novel THIS month.

I wrote the intro to Chapter 20 in the purple notebook on Monday while I waited for our shift meeting to start, but it’s admittedly bad. I couldn’t focus. My handwriting was complete crap because I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. I ended up doing some free writing and doodling to clear up the clutter in my mind. Today’s feeling much better though.

I will say this, my handwriting looks kind of awesome when my creative energy is all pent up.

photo-10

 

That’s a lot bigger than I anticipated… Enjoy really crappy, handwritten, first draft writing guys!

Anyway, I’m back. I’m not giving up. I’ll see you all soon!

 

BZ

Incremental Progress… And Bacon Fried Bacon

I’m having a weird brain day. I slept well. I mean, well. I don’t remember the last time I slept that soundly. And it is an evil God that can let a person sleep that well and wake up feeling like microwaved dog turds.

My entire body is stiff. Achy. My head thumps none too subtly just above my right eye, making me grateful for the clouds today. If it were bright out I think I would have just rolled over and never left my bed. And even with the clouds it’s still just a touch too bright.

And I’m supposed to write today? And then go to work? This isn’t shaping up to be a good day.

Yesterday was pretty intense because we had to send a girl home sick, so we ran the store a person short most of the day. Also, the state fair is in town so Salem is full to bursting with travelers here to enjoy bacon fried bacon. Or something like that.

More or less, we were really busy and a person short yesterday. So my day was spent barring. This is what baristas call making drinks. Now, I’m a supervisor, so I don’t spend much of my time barring any more. Mostly directing coworkers and helping them bar effectively. But, being short staffed and all, I pretty much barred the entire day.

And it was busy. Short staffed and busy. I’m not the best bar person in our store, but I’m not bad. I am good at barring, and some days are better than others. Yesterday was a great bar day for me. I moved quickly and efficiently. I felt like a rockstar. Until I looked up at the screen, saw I was at eight minute wait times, and knew there was nothing I could do about it.

That lasted for two hours straight.

If you think being a barista is easy, please, come bar the Sunday morning rush on the last day of the Oregon State Fair for about five hours.

I think I know why my body aches now. And tonight is probably going to be more of the same. With the holiday everyone will be returning from their various weekend endeavors and of course they’ll need coffee.

And we will be there to sell it to them.

Anyway, now that my gripe-fest is over, I’ve come to share some accomplishments.

I started writing Vessels back in February. I made good progress, and reached chapter 10 by mid-April. And then stopped. I didn’t touch it again until the last week of June and have been writing more or less non-stop since then.

In about 2 months I have written almost 22,000 words. Now, for some people this is nothing. Brandon Sanderson supposedly writes about 30k words a week on average. I find that to be insane. But, that’s his job. He gets to write full time. I work full time at Starbucks because I’ve yet to get paid for my writing.

So, my writing schedule looks like this:

10:30am – Wake up
12:00pm – Plug in @ sbux
3:00pm – get dressed for work
3:30pm – work
12:30am – get home
2:30am – sleep

Lather, rinse, repeat five days a week. The other two are my days off, and I only write if I’m really absorbed in a scene or something. So, I’m writing about 15 hours a week, and that includes blogging. That’s decent part time work. I just did the math, and 22k divided by 40 is about 500 words a day. Not great sounding, but it’s the consistency that matters.

I am here, every day I’m scheduled to close. Maybe the writing is hard that day, but I’m here. I’m plugged in. I’m involved on my Facebook page and blog. I am writing five days a week.

That’s awesome. And I really just wanted to take a moment to pat myself on the back, because every now and then you need to realize that you’re doing good work.

This novel will be done this month. I’m actually a little nervous. I’ve never finished a novel before, and I know that this one needs a lot of work. The writing isn’t bad, I’ve had enough people tell me that. It’s not grammar or spelling that will be getting revised. It’s plot and character development and all that. It’s intimidating! Here I thought writing the thing would be the hard part, but there seems so much left to be done…

And that’s why I’m not going to start editing right away. I’m gonna work on shorter projects until my brain is ready to dive back in to Vessels.

But, the longer I type here, the less typing is happening on the novel, so I’m going to wrap this up. Thanks again, Blogland. Have a good Labor Day!

 

BZ

Week 8 Summary

The Purple Pen Lives!

My tan however is slowly fading as the summer months start to dissolve into falling leaves and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

What the hell happened to my summer? The camping trips we wanted to take, the rivers we were going to swim in? The coast?! None of it. Instead of a summer of adventure, I sat and whiled away the months in my Starbucks lobby typing furiously on a novel that ultimately will probably only be read by my closest friends and family.

And I don’t regret it.

This has been the most successful year for my writing that I have had, ever. Yes, I’ve had short stories published before. But, I have never written this consistently. Even when in school I only wrote to meet deadlines. This summer, as I’m looking back, was magical. I spent it in a world only I know, in a world I created. With characters who were born and grew inside my brain. It’s a rush and pride that only a writer can know. To see the fervor of creation blossom into determination and sheer force of will. And to come out the winner, having finished the piece.

Ok, I haven’t finished it yet. But, chapter 18 is just short of 1,000 words, the manuscript poised just below 40k. And it sends a thrill through my veins knowing that I will finish a novel in the coming weeks. Its a high. I finally understand that.

Anyway, on to Lecture 8!

As I mentioned yesterday, this week’s lecture was on Plot. So let’s get to it!

A Novel’s Capital P Plot

Brandon starts by telling us that our writing groups, and even himself, are not going to be very effective in judging plot. Reading in segments makes judging plot and pacing difficult. So Brandon suggests having Alpha and Beta readers to let you know how your plot is doing.

I will say that I have been sending each chapter to my mom and she’s been reading it much faster than I’m writing it. She’s patient and the perfect first reader. She would never say something to deflate me. If she has questions she’ll ask them innocently, with no pretension. Also, how do I put this…? My mom reads stories that she likes. She reads for characters and plots. She doesn’t analyze for style and symbolism, because that’s not what it’s about for her. And that’s exactly what my first draft needs. She loves it just the way it is, and assures me that my first draft writing is better than a lot of the self-published eBooks she’s been reading on her Nook.

Basically, she’s my ego boost when I feel like a total crap writer. She’s been invaluable these last six months.

That said, I think waiting until the rough draft has been edited once before sending it to Alpha and Beta readers would be a good idea. So far, everyone from Write About Dragons that’s commented on my posts has told me things I already know. They tell me that the plot isn’t hinted at early enough. There’s not enough tension. I know all that. That’s why there’s a ton of notes in the sidebar of Scrivener for each chapter, reminding myself of ideas to fix those exact problems when I return to edit. So, I think sending a second or third draft would be much more beneficial, because all the stupid little stuff has been sorted out.

Also on this note, Brandon mentions that plot can be pretty loose on the first draft, especially for Discovery writers. DING DING DING.

As a Discovery writer I can say that, I didn’t really have a grasp on the full extent of my plot until about 2 weeks ago. I’ve been writing this novel for almost six months. Obviously, there are things happening in earlier chapters that aren’t going to make sense or really jive with where the novel actually goes. So, when editing time rolls around, there will be cutting and adding of scenes and lines to sharpen that plot, and make the piece more cohesive.

He also mentions that, until you’ve finished a lot of stories, you won’t know how to build a good plot. So far, I agree.

So, what is Capital P Plot? It’s the major thing the story’s about. Think of a plot pitch. When someone asks what your story is about, what do you tell them? That’s the Capital P Plot.

But, there’s also Lower Case P plot. This is plot that goes from chapter to chapter. Subplots. The thing that gets people to turn the page. What brings reader back after they’ve set the book down? Often it’s not the major plot, it’s smaller plots between characters, or something similar. Little P plots tend to be a bit more immediate and so offer more immediate satisfaction.

There’s something that needs to be said here. People kept asking about plotting over a series, which Brandon is insanely good at. But, he had this to say: Finish a great book, then worry about a series.

I wish more new writers would take this advice. Especially beginning Fantasy writers. We all read these epic fantasies that span hundreds of pages, over a multitude of books. We all want to write something that awesome. But, writing one novel is hard enough. Why would you want to outline and plot a five book series your first go? It is a sad form of sabotage, and I’ve watched it in action. Don’t do it! Write one book, then go from there!

Promises and a Sense of Progression

So, this is the bulk of the lecture, and I felt like I learned a lot from it. At the same time, I feel like I already knew this, I just never actively thought about it before. I’m glad to say that I’ve already done a bit of this subconsciously, but am looking forward to injecting more in the coming drafts.

Ok, enough ambiguity, let’s dive in.

You need to make Promises and then fulfill them incrementally to give a sense of Progression.

So, we’ve talked about making promises in previous posts, but basically, you hint at, or ‘hang a lantern on’ an event or something in your story. You need to fulfill that promise. And you want to do it in bits and pieces so that it takes time, both in the story and for the reader. It’s more satisfying that way.

Your first couple chapters are a promise of what the story is about. 

This was the point in the lecture where I had a huge epiphany about a problem in my story. I had to pause the lecture in order to write in enormous capital letters “HOLY SH*T”, with the solution scrawled beneath it. It takes up about half the page, not due to length, but sheer size… I was very excited.

Ok, back on topic, how do you fulfill promises incrementally? Brandon gives a few examples.

If you have a mystery story, what you really have is an information plot. You make good on promises by doling out information. And, of course, it’s going to be cool.

Then there are Relationship (Romance) and Big Problem Plots.

So, in most romances, the characters don’t get a long initially. You spend a good bit of the story learning how they are 100% wrong for each other, and then as the story unfolds you realize that their differences make them perfect for each other.

Pride and Prejudice, anyone?

But there’s also the Romance where they do get along. Brandon references Austin’s Emma, but I’ve never read it. I call this plot ‘Escaping the Friend-Zone’. They get along, are usually good friends, and don’t realize that what they’re looking for has been right in front of them the entire time.

So, how do you fulfill those promises? By showing them interacting together over time. I just keep coming back to Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth talks crap about Darcy, but is continually shown that he’s not what she thinks, until she realizes she’s been a total b*tch about the whole thing. Admittedly, he’s not without fault and was an asshole just as often as not. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Then there are Big Problem Plots. These feel a bit more straight forward, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You solve big problems by acting. I know it seems too simple, but it’s true. What you need to remember is that there are usually more than one plot in a story.

Brandon references Mistborn, and since I’ve read it twice and have completely internalized it, I’ll put it in here.

In Mistborn, Brandon did what he calls ‘nesting’. It’s a series of brackets.

The largest bracket is the Big Problem. In this case the Enslavement of the Skaa. Nested within that is a slightly smaller bracket, labelled ‘Heist’. This is the plot that the character Kelsier brings forward, about stealing from the Lord Ruler himself. This is an exciting plot and keeps you reading, instead of the Big Problem being the focus.

Nested within the Heist is a smaller bracket labelled ‘Train’. Brandon goes on to explain that this is a plot type all its own. Think Karate Kid. You make good on promises by showing them at various levels of expertise. But, in Mistborn this is where we follow Val’s training as a Mistborn. And then, nested inside ‘Train’ is the smallest plot, Romance. This is where Val meets and falls in love with Elend.

There’s also Time Bomb/Travelogue plots. These are usually journey stories. You show progress by showing stops along the way. These plots add a sense of structure, and usually include some sort of critical deadline.

Brandon finally confronts the series question due to one persistent student who asked, ‘how do you include hints of plot in later books in opening sequences of the first book?’ Brandon answered honestly, ‘write the whole book, plot the series, and then go back and put it in.’

We all laughed, but it’s true.

The Danger of Not Delivering on Promises

If you make promises, and then don’t deliver on them, people are generally going to hate your book. He used an example of a book he read part of. It was a book that followed all the tropes of the epic quest, with knights and elves and yadda yadda. Well, Brandon got bored and put it down. Turns out, about 3/4 through, the book takes an unexpected twist and becomes a modern fantasy, turning all the tropes on their heads. But, it wasn’t successful.

It more or less failed because two things happened. The first part of the book promised an classical epic fantasy. Fans of that genre picked it up, got to the end and were pissed. And fans of the more modern fantasy never got to the end because they were too bored by the classic journey.

Basically the author made promises and either didn’t fulfill them at all, or didn’t subvert them quickly enough. You have to walk a fine line to make twists work well.

Brandon adds that having your protagonist fail isn’t a twist. You can definitely write that story, but don’t think it’s a plot twist.

Ways of Structuring Plot

We’re almost done guys, I promise. Ha! Promise… that’s funny because we’re talking about promises… haha.

1. Points on the Map: Imagine powerful scenes, and then write from point to point until you reach the end. It looks a lot like a graph, but if you’re a more visual writer this could definitely work. I really want to try it.

2. 3 Act Structure: So, you have your introduction which usually ends with some sort of call to action. This is Act 1. Then you have the protagonist trying to solve the problem, but generally things just get worse. That’s Act 2, it’s usually the biggest chunk of the story and ends when the main character hits their lowest point. And then there’s Act 3, where the problems get solved and the story concludes. Act 3 tends to be the shortest. Personally, I am not a fan of the 3 Act Structure. I have a hard time thinking visually, and this really fits for screenplays and more movie-like stories.

If you’ve beed reading long enough, you know I hate writing screenplays…

And, that’s all we talked about. Sanderson hinted at Orson Scott Card’s MICE. Not sure what that is. Google it. And he talked about Try/Fail which we’ve discussed before.

Holy hell. 2,000 words. I really should start calling these Recaps instead of Summaries… Sorry guys. Have a good Labor Day weekend. I’ll see y’all next week!

BZ