Tea Leaves

Jan. 5th, 2016 10:23 pm
kilroy: (Default)
There are two times when I really want to get back to writing: when I find a story that's amazing and I want to make more of it, and when I find a story disappointing and think "This could have been so much better. I could have done this better."

This post brought to you by Divergent, for reference, and I'll bet you can figure out which type it was. Maybe I'll resurrect the Rules of Drama. :-P
kilroy: (Default)
I vaguely remember reading/hearing J. Michael Straczynski saying once that Babylon 5 just dropped on his brain all at once, and he had the basic setting and plot worked out in a matter of days.

Well, I suddenly believe him. I just had a nearly complete setting just drop out of the sky on me yesterday-- with a title!-- and I've been scrambling to write it all down. I already have four pages of single-spaced notes on the thing and I feel like I'm just getting started.

This has never happened to me before that I recall, but damn is it cool.
kilroy: (Default)
After three months of absolute silence, my NaNo novel came up to me last night to remind me she's still out there waiting for me. We talked for a long time. My feelings for her have only deepened.

I think it was Mary Stewart that did it. There's an Arthurian thread in my work that I hadn't realized I'd put in, and suddenly I know what--or rather who--the third book is about. I understand the dynamics of the family at the core of the story now, and it's so obvious I can't see how I missed it before. It's gone from the story of two sisters with a side of grandfather to the story of three sisters, a brother, both parents, a grandfather, two lovers, and a child. The second book is going to be basically all female characters. The third book is already making my heart break and I haven't even written a word.

God, but I want to write this story. I don't think I've ever had quite this relationship to the work before, this conviction. I don't have any idea if I can do it justice, but I owe it at least the attempt. I may defer for a while, but I'm not going to let this one get away.

Not that I think she'd let me.
kilroy: (Default)
My Yuletide story ended up being a bit shorter than I intended, but it's still up to code and on time. Hopefully my recipient will enjoy it.

Writing it crystallized something about my particular writing process. The skeletons on which my stories are based are almost always the conversations between the characters rather than the events of the plot. I write the dialogue first and fill in the action and description later, which is probably utterly bizarre to some writers.

I'd probably be a great script writer; I think in conversations.

On notice

Dec. 17th, 2010 01:24 pm
kilroy: (Default)
Real life can get out of the way any time now. Doesn't the universe realize I have fan fiction to write?

Done

Nov. 20th, 2010 11:46 am
kilroy: (Default)
50288 words as of this morning, finishing with two of the hardest scenes in the book.

It's the beginning of a trilogy in my head now. And I really want it to be.
kilroy: (Default)
NaNo should be done by Saturday.

Submitted!

Nov. 17th, 2010 09:38 am
kilroy: (yuletide-silver)
Finally got my thing in for Yuletide this year. There were four needy fandoms that I thought would be a blast, so my list of "I can do these" totally changed.

Now I just get to bounce up and down in anticipation. :-)
kilroy: (Default)
Thought of the inevitable fandom I should have made sure was offered. Ah well, I'll make a note for next year.
kilroy: (Default)
The passages I'm writing are getting easier and longer every day.
kilroy: (Default)
My book is starting to feel like an actual book.

That probably sounds stupid. But I've done NaNo at least five times, and the only other time I've had this feeling was the very first. The rest were... exercises, really. There were interesting things there but I didn't have any real connection to the work.

This time there's something real down there in my subconscious; a story that resonates with me, that I almost need to tell. The characters are starting to make me feel things just by their presence. I want to finish it because I want to spend more time with them, more time in this world. And when it's done I want to show it off like a proud parent.

This one I could fight for.
kilroy: (Default)
Halfway done with NaNo, and still ahead of my accelerated schedule.

And last night my characters surprised me with a fact that changes the whole fabric of the story. And tells me where the next book would go. I wasn't really thinking about a next book.
kilroy: (Default)
I found something real about one of my characters today. She told me a story, and it was true.

NaNo update

Nov. 4th, 2010 03:40 pm
kilroy: (Default)
10108 words so far. If I can manage to keep this pace up, I'll be done by the 20th and have plenty of time for Yuletide.

The quality of the work is terrible of course. But it contains interesting things regardless.
kilroy: (Default)
I'd forgotten how much of a marathon writing 50,000 words is. It's nothing to do with inspiration and everything to do with just forcing yourself to keep writing no matter what. It's discipline and will, not skill; the authorial equivalent of aerobic training. And I've gotten flabby and slow as a writer.

Which is an excellent reason to do it, of course; but it will in fact be a pain in the ass.
kilroy: (Default)
My project for this week is to finish laying the groundwork for my NaNo. It's a fantasy novel this time (my first) with two lead female characters (also a first). In my head it's an adventure story with some serious underlying themes, but when I try to describe the story it turns into a serious book that happens to have some adventuring. We'll see which way it actually turns out.

The universe draws on a lot of things: Gaiman, Mieville, D&D, Haven, Mage, pulp adventure in general, Planetary, the steampunk/futurist aesthetic as applied to fantasy, quantum theory, Wild Cards, Guy Gavriel Kay, Firefly, and other stuff I'm probably not even aware of. It's a thick enough mixture that I don't feel like I'm ripping anyone off, which is my first requisite for good fantasy. As other writers have remarked, the trick isn't to be wholly original--that's almost impossible--but to remix in a new and compelling way. I feel like I have a reasonable chance of that with this idea.

Now I just need to come up with the names of a dozen characters, a castle, at least three kingdoms/nations, two-to-four groups of people, and the story itself. Which will probably occupy a considerable number of hours in the next few days. Still, anything I can do now I won't have to screw around with when the starting gun goes off.

ETA: Chessica Salome Blonwyn Leocadia Delmaris. Yes, that's one name.
kilroy: (Default)
So, I'm just laying this out there to compare with other writers. It's on my mind since I'm working on the bones of my NaNo. This is the structure for longer works; shorter works and roleplaying plots still use the same elements, but usually not all of them.

Step 1: Have the idea. My stories almost always start with one thing that tickles my imagination. Usually this is something small or at least singular; a scene or an image, a concept or a line of dialogue. Whatever it is, it's interesting enough to motivate me. I want to pursue it.

Step 2: Play with the idea. Classic brainstorming. What can I tie to the idea that would be interesting? What are the ramifications of the idea? It's basically just building a big pile of raw materials that could eventually turn into a real story. The vast majority of this stuff will be discarded, and a lot of it is mutually exclusive. I find discussing it with other people to be massively helpful during this stage.

Step 3: Sketch out a basic plot arc. This isn't a scene-by-scene breakdown, just a skeleton of the story. Who are the basic characters, where do they start out, where do they end up, and roughly how do they get there. It focuses me so that I'm not going in the eighteen different directions suggested by Step 2.

Step 4: Build character histories. Once I know what I essentially want the characters to do, I go back and fill in the details on their pasts and families. 90% of this stuff will never make it to the page, but it helps me come to grips with who the characters are. It makes them real to me, which allows me to write them better.

Step 5: Find character personalities and voices. This is trial and error for me, not a deliberate process. I think about the characters. I write intentionally random dialogues between them to see how they play off each other, and monologues to see how they talk about the world. I do this again and again until I start getting that "Yes. That's what she would say." feeling.

Step 6: Start writing the story. At this point I've wandered off from the actual plot far enough that I need to re-anchor myself to it. So I start writing scenes that could actually go in the story. Somewhere in here I write the beginning, but it's not always the first thing I do. I never write the ending at this stage.

Step 7: Brainstorm again. My view of the work is now very, very different from what it was in Step 2, and I need to think about what I can plug into the new framework.

Step 8: Chapter plot breakdown. I go back to the skeleton and start fleshing it out into actual scenes, changing and adding to the original plot to fit my new understanding. There will usually be a lot of gaps ("How do they get from A to B?") even after this step, but they'll get filled in during later repetitions.

Step 9: Write more. I have everything I need now for basic production, so I start producing. A little editing usually happens here as well, but mostly this is just the part where I get words on the page. Order is random; writing from start to finish never works for me. This is the longest part of the process.

Repeat Steps 7-9 as necessary until I have nearly the entire story down.

Step 10: Assemble and re-read. The bits and pieces are way, way out of order at this point, so I put them into story order and read them from front to back, taking notes the whole way.

Step 11: Editing. I will have found a bunch of stuff that needs improving in Step 10, and now I go to fix it. Scenes get thrown out, added, or rewritten entirely, language is changed, discontinuities are smoothed. This step operates on both the macro and micro level simultaneously because I can't separate them out effectively. And it takes a while.

Repeat Steps 10-11 until satisfied. Further cycles of Step 10 probably won't include the entire story again until the final few rounds.

Step 12: Peer review. I like to have someone I trust read my work. I've gotten so far inside it by now that I can't see the forest for the trees, and an outside perspective is invaluable for spotting things that could be improved. This gives me the information I need to do another edit.

Repeat Steps 11-12 until done.

So that's me. Does that sound similar to how you other writers work? What do you do differently?
kilroy: (Default)
So, I want to keep doing my book reading thing through the end of the year. I also want to do Yuletide again. I also would like to get back into NaNo.

The question is, can I write 50,000 unedited words of a novel, read at least two books, and craft half of a good short story in a fandom I may very well have to research... in a month?

It'd be a lot and I would be totally exhausted by Thanksgiving, but I'm sorely tempted to do it anyway. Because it'd be a challenge, and there hasn't been enough of that in my life recently. :-)
kilroy: (Default)
Starting to put together the notes for my NaNoWriMo attempt this year. I'm going to try and get back on the horse. I sure as heck am not going to end up with a novel at the end of it, but I'm going to have forged my ideas a lot more thoroughly. If I can get this thing that's been on my mind for the last two years off it, I'll call it a total win.
kilroy: (Default)
Well, I finished critiquing my friend's novel. There were many pages. I tried to say "You might want to do this" as opposed to "You should do this," and I think I explained almost everything I said so that there were no random dicta. On the whole it still felt pretty negative though, and my friend hasn't gotten back to me yet. Hopefully he won't stop talking to me over this. Or even better, I hope he actually got something useful out of it.