Outline is Finished!

The exhaustion is really hitting hard right now. This past week I've had to use a lot of will-power to force my way through a day. I always have this exhaustion, but it's definitely been worse lately. Tonight, my eyes are having the annoying habit of trying to close all on their own. Definitely a night to head to bed early.

But first, an update on the NaNoWriMo novel: The outline was finished this weekend, topping out at 11,008 words. I've put it to the side now, and later this week I will look through it again with fresh eyes to make sure, one last time, that all the key plot elements are in the right order and that it makes sense.

Seems like a long outline, but it really isn't. The basic premise of this novel is simple, but like a mystery, certain things have to happen in a certain sequence. I plotted out 10+ separate plot-threads, all of which needed to be kept track of.

And now to get something off my chest:

/rant mode on/

Upon hearing how long my outline was, a fellow writer began saying it was ridiculous, that's too much, a story should be a journey of discovery for the writer as well as the reader. The whole idea is to start off with no or only a small idea on where you are going, and just see what happens.I believe the analogy involved driving down a road on a dark and stormy night where you can only see as far as the headlights. All else is a mystery.

First: If I'm out in such a dark and stormy night, you better believe I would have a destination in mind, even if it's just to get to the next town to pull off until the storm passed.

Second: I'm the AUTHOR of this. If I have no clue what the heck is going on or where it's heading, why should a reader trust me to take them for a ride?

Third: I only have so much energy to do anything. If I decide I'm going to write something, I'm not going to waste my time writing something that has a much greater likelihood of never being finished, and therefore a colossal waste of my time. My time and energy are far too valuable to do that. (Oh, how I envy people who have normal energy levels)

I view an outline as a roadmap: I know the destination, and there are all these lovely ways to get there. In the outline I have chosen one. Does that mean I have to follow that one path all the time, in order to get to that destination? Absolutely not! But I do know that in so many miles I need to fuel the car, in a few more I need to eat, a few more I'll need a nap, a few more I'll need to stop for the night. Those won't change, no matter what direction I take to get to the destination.

Along the way, I may see a roadside attraction that will make the journey much more interesting. Will I take it? Absolutely! I'm flexible! But since I still know the stops I need to make along the way, I'll still get to the final destination. And yes, the destination can change, too. Perhaps it ends in the suburbs instead of the middle of the city, but the first destination was still needed in order to find that new destination.

As detailed as this outline is, there is still a great flexibility and room for expansion, change and discovery. But, I'm much more comfortable to find those things now that I know that I have the basics down well enough that the book isn't going to completely fall apart shy of a finale.

Time and again, the advice comes back for writers to find a way that works for the individual author. No one way is THE right way. Don't come down on someone who likes using a roadmap, whether it be large or small, to help them. Quoting author after famous author who refuse to use outlines does not help your case, because there is author after famous author to contradict it. If you want to start on your journey without any guide, meander all around and HOPE you find a destination, fine, then do it. As a different author than you, I reserve the right NOT to do it that way.

/rant mode off/

By the way, I also read instruction, am willing to ask for help and am not afraid to ask someone for directions if I'm lost. Yes, that means I'm obviously not a man and am somewhat of a geek. 😉

Perhaps I should have said a Nerd. I took this test this weekend, and yes, my suspicions are now proven true. I am a true Nerd. Might as well carry the title proudly!

Outline is Finished!

Time for bed now….zzzzzzzzzzz

Naming Dillema

Another week of plot-planning, and another weekend of fixing problems. What problems? Glad you asked!

As the plot planning progressed, Megan Hale's personality was becoming more and more defined and refined by her deeds, actions and reactions, not to mention the inter-relationships she was have with various characters.

Around Wednesday I became suspicious that the main heroine's name wasn't quite right. By Thursday the feeling was even stronger. Megan was just too soft of a name for this heroine. By Friday morning, I knew the worst: the name had to change.

This was rather depressing. The time it takes to find a name for a main character is usually very time-consuming. Rarely does it come fast and easy. It took almost 2 days of research to come up with the name of Megan.

So, instead of continuing on the plot-planning, Friday night and most of Saturday were spent going back to the research, hoping to find a new name. Gobs of baby-naming websites, looking at books and articles on character naming (which only gave me advice I already knew), and lists and lists of potential names.

Then one jumped out, and even though I continued making lists of potential names, this one kept rising to the top…

So, goodbye Megan Hale!

Hello Kelsey Hale! Nice to know you! Welcome aboard! Have a look at the plot…

…Why do I get the feeling Kelsey might not be so glad to be on board after reading it? 😉

Hours spent in researching names: 10-12 estimated
Word count (actual writing on the plot, mostly accomplished Saturday night): 4,200 Words

The Plotting Weekend…

Friday night:
Okay, time to get this mess organized! The goal this weekend: to work up the entire series in this ‘universe’ so that I could be sure of what details needed to be in the first book that I plan on writing in November for NaNo. THEN I could finish the plotting outline for this first book.
As I worked Friday night I realized several problems as I was typing my week’s worth of sticky-notes and odd notes on scraps of paper:
First big problem: I had no idea how long this series needed to be. All I knew was that it needed to be more than 2 books. This is a serious problem as I have no clue when certain plot points need to be introduced.
Second big problem: As there are several mysteries running through the storyline, I needed a way to keep track of each and make sure each are wrapped up appropriately by the end.
Third big problem: I knew that if I didn’t solve all this now, I risked making some huge mistakes in following books, knowing that many later plot points inspire earlier ones as foreshadowing and set-up.
It looks like I need a template to help organize this mess into something cohesive. Friday night I went to bed thinking about all this and making notes on what this mysterious template needed to include.
Saturday morning:
No alarm, this is my day off! Fortunately, I really didn’t sleep in too badly. J The moment I was awake, I jumped up and immediately started research. First off: the template…
….and I quickly came to the conclusion that there are very few templates out there in books or on the ‘net that are designed to be used for planning series!
By Saturday night I found one: a template posted at Forward Motion by Sheila. She has some lovely templates, but as any writer knows, every writer works differently. Not long after I started using it, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t working for me. The details were spread out in a way that was driving me nuts, and too many times I found myself putting the same info, only with a slight deviation, in answer to too many of the questions. It also wasn’t helping me plan out where the subplots and details to the mysteries needed to go in a way that I could see very quickly visually. That last part is very important as I’m a very visual person.
Saturday night: After starting to fill out Sheila’s template I’m guessing the series needs to be about 6 books. Right before I slip into sleep, I’m thinking maybe 2 books need to be combined and it will turn into a 5 book series.
Sunday Morning:
Time to get up and solve this template problem! Bringing out my first ideas for a template and then using Sheila’s template to be inspired with, I started putting together a new template.
By late Sunday morning it was a success! Sunday afternoon and evening all the little notes I had were transferred into the new template, and guess what?
The silly thing wanted to be a 7 book series!
Personally I think it just wants the extra attention. 😉
P.S. Thanks to everyone in the Forward Motion chat room who had advice on all this!

New Habits

This week has been all about new habits. For one, Mother Hen and I just started a Candida diet. That means no yeast, no sugars (or at least, as much as you can). It's been challenging, to say the least. Yeast is in so many things you wouldn't think it would belong in. This is a hard diet to stick to and since Mother Hen needs to go on it, it's easier to do it with a buddy. Besides, I did have it myself a little over 15 years ago and I just went through an antibiotic run, which can re-trigger it. It could also be part of the cause of so much exhaustion lately…

Which, ironically brings us to the other habit…

I'm now getting up about 20 minutes earlier than before. This gives me 20-30 minutes of writing time before going to work, depending on how slow I'm moving and how many walls and doors I ricochet off of. It has been difficult to get used to, and some mornings I'm rather tired, but I've been impressed on how much planning and plotting I've been able to get done in that short amount of time:

Monday: Had day off and wrote about 4,500 words
Tuesday: 700 words
Wednesday: 625 words
Thursday: 725 words
Friday: 900 words

Not bad for still being half asleep. It's funny how coherent and creative the results have been, too! I'm wondering if by getting up that early the internal editor is still asleep. What a nice bonus! Although I'm a little jealous of the little bugger, getting to sleep in while I'm hard at work…

As November comes closer I intend to expand that morning time by another 20-30 minutes. For now, though, this is enough of a jump to get used to. I didn't want to put my whole body into shock by suddenly getting up 40 minutes or more earlier than usual. I'm not a morning person!

Upshot of this is that this week has been a break-through in several areas including the emotions of the heroine at various stages of the novel, her relationship with Ariana (not always pleasant) and a key phrase that I knew needed to be near the beginning but until today had no idea what it was. Kinda like George Lucas not knowing exactly what Darth Vader needed to say to set Luke off until the last moment.

Plot outline and universe/character workups now stand at a little over 17,000.

Heh, and this doesn't even include a fanfic I started editing while on my breaks at work. Yep, I think the 'writing muscle' in me is stretching and coming awake.


We have a Title!!!

Geez, it took long enough! I've noticed that either the titles come fast and easy, or they are agonizing and painful. This one definitely qualified under the later. After a few hours with my nose in several thesaurus and reviewing the plot notes so far, the title slowly began to form.

So here, with much trumpeting and fanfare…and great relief…

The Phoenix Enigma: The String Weavers

The first part of the title is for all the books in this series (yes, I already know it's going to be 4 or more books). The latter part is the title of the first book that will be written in November. All subject to change, of course, but I'm pretty happy with the title. 🙂

I've been putting together a Novel Profile and here is what I have so far:

Summary of plot: Megan Hale thinks she’s just a typical mixed up teenager who doesn’t know what to do with her life. Everyone feels that way, her teachers assure her. Yet, strange things happen to her, like food that disappears before she can eat it and hearing music no one around her seems to be able to hear. Then a giant flaming bird arrives and drops an alien at her and her Fathers feet. Well, good grief, how can you ignore something like that? Soon afterwards a group arrive at their house that includes 2 other aliens who then proceed to take them captive. Soon Megan finds herself lost on an alien world hoping to survive as well as find a way to rescue her Father without becoming a captive again herself.

Tagline (a one-sentence slogan that sums up the tone and premise of your novel): Megan always thought of herself as a typical don’t-fit-anywhere teenager with no ideas about the direction of her future, until she found out that the truth about herself was stranger than she could ever imagine.

This weekend I had a 3 day weekend, and it was wonderful! All notes from the previous week have been sorted, organized and typed in. In all I typed in about 6000 words. Right now the planning notes sit at 14, 007 and that's after deleting a whole bunch of old stuff that no longer applies. We are definitely making progress!

Yep, definitely a productive weekend. May get a little more plotting done tomorrow night, but first I'll be posting the new page of the webcomic Dreamers Cove.