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If you've been reading this blog for a while, you will have seen me take all sorts of ideas through their paces. If you're curious as to how I get rolling, I'm teaching a workshop on Forward Motion through August and into September that takes you through my process one step at a time. This is outlining for organic thinkers, though the methodology works on both inspired and crafted works (as not all my ideas come dressed for the party).

Anyway, if you are interested, here's the specifics for the six-week workshop.

From Ideas to Outline will introduce a series of techniques to convert an idea into a workable, non-constricting outline. Come prepared to work hard as you will be asked to perform each technique yourself so that you can judge whether it works for you or not.
Begins Monday, August Third. Facilitator: Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Note that theses workshops are free but do require that you become a Forward Motion member (which is also free). Once you are logged in, click the below link to go straight to the right section (note the Learning Center 2009 link is available from the header on any forum page):

Hope to see some of you there.
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Gak! I have been attacked, sneak attacked at that.

I've been pushing on so many things that my life has come to resemble a tornado, touching down on one project just long enough to leave disaster in its wake before bouncing off to find another victim. To counter this, and give me space to do what I need to teach a class starting August 3rd that'll run for 6 weeks...I declared once I finish Molly, that's it. I'm not starting another novel (meaning writing, not prep work) until NaNo. This is a blessing because it means I won't be scrambling to finish a novel before November 1st, especially since after the class, I'm teaching another at Muse Online (remember registration closes on August 1st) and going down to World Fantasy 2009 in San Jose (meaning I won't even be here for the start of NaNo).

And those are just the big external things. I'm currently critting a novel with another in the queue, I let my Selkie edit fall to the wayside when I got overwhelmed, and I'm supposed to be editing and submitting short stories which means getting and receiving crits...and acting on them.

Do I sound frantic enough? And that's not even considering my computer work, my kids, my hubby, and plans to go on vacation a lot in the remaining days of summer.

The last thing I needed was an article on self-publishing and the concept of having to explain your life's story on a first date to cross my plate.

What do these two things have in common? Well, absolutely nothing to any reasonable person. But when have I ever claimed to be reasonable.

Enter Let Me Tell You All About Myself.

The idea crossed my mind early this morning. I wanted to pass it to a friend because it was funny, but she wasn't around. I figured I'd have forgotten it by the time she got back, and went about my business. Bad move.

That gave the story a hook into my memory because I wanted to tell it to someone. And with that hook, it wiggled its way through the barriers to that swamp I call my idea generator and started shuffling through the mud, stirring up an unholy mess.

No, this isn't an urban fantasy, science fiction, or even a romance. I can't even claim this as a crossover mainstream like Coma Wedding. Let Me Tell is a psychological mainstream novel about expectation and delusion. About building up an image that becomes so real that you start to question whether reality can compete. (Okay, I forgot about the article talking about a man whose girlfriend is a body pillow stamped with an anime character, which might have had a slight hand in this mess too.)

The closest genre to something I've completed before is a romance, but it's certainly not conforming to the genre requirements since we only meet her through her self-published autobiography. However, because of that, I'll need to come up with entries that are sweet, funny, endearing, and positively wonderful (oh and I don't do funny well :p). But mainly it's the story of a guy who finds his perfect mate between the covers of a book, and the struggle between wanting to find the reality and fearing it won't measure up.

And to make matters oh so much better (not :p), because the idea burst in upon me with such weight, it already has an almost complete initial synopsis and a handful of scene suggestions. This makes it worthless as my "work alongside" idea for the August workshop, which is From Ideas to Outline. I still have to find an idea for that...but maybe I shouldn't look too hard until the 1st has come and gone :p.
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I'll bet some of you thought you'd get an update on March Madness when it was over, hmm?  Well, the week kind of got away from me so here it is a bit late.

I managed 9,672 words on Molly for March Madness.  If you remember back to my last post, this is just over 4,000 shy of where I wanted to be.  While that is a sad thing, it's not as bad as it might sound.

Last year, in the midst of my medical disasters, I wrote about 9,550 words for March Madness.  I was determined to do better this year, and I just over 100 words.  While this was not the margin I'd hoped for, there's another side to this story that is the much more important one.

After the 2008 March Madness, I put down the novel with an exhausted sigh...and still haven't picked it up again.  Karth's Story is currently moldering in the corner, marking the first unfinished novel I've written since possibly 1995 or even earlier.  That said, I do have plans to jump back in and finish it up at some point, but I'm avoiding it for the time being.

What's different about this most recent March Madness is that Molly has already gained three more scenes and stands at 12,340.

For me, this is a creeping pace, and it's very rough going, but there are reasons for that which do not involve failure on my part.

Molly is an experiment, a novel being written using another writer's methodology.  As you might remember, I'm taking Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways course right now.  I've found some parts of it click into holes in my process with a smooth glide while others it is like jamming a puzzle piece into the almost appropriate opposite.

Now I'm not your typical Thinking Sideways candidate, especially on the writing side, because I already have a serious pile of finished first drafts.  This has led to a disconnect with some of her lessons where I have already developed a system that works for me, sometimes similar, sometimes taking things a step further, and sometimes completely on another plane.  None of which negates the value of the class.

As a writer, I feel I should be constantly open to exploring new methods, new avenues.  Even if I have something that works perfectly, by expanding my horizons, I may discover a way to grow as a writer that my old method was obscuring.  And stagnation is something I oppose with every atom in my body.

Besides that, in the areas where my process is still mutating, having solid advice from an experienced writer who is able to communicate her methodology in ways that allow other writers, especially newer ones, to understand is never a bad thing.

However, speaking specifically on the process of preparing a story to fly, I'm too organic for her methodology.  While hers is valuable as a companion tool to recognize which scenes are solid and which scenes are likely to end up on the cutting room floor, it does not click me into the story enough so that I am living and breathing it.  I still need to make one of my style of outlines to achieve that, something it's too late in my process to do at this point for Molly.

So, my plan now is just to struggle through and recognize I've got a serious editing project ahead of me.

Oddly, this is a good thing because my editing process is still under development.  I've completed quite a few edits I think are successful, but the process is more cumbersome than I appreciate.  If Molly's first draft came through mostly clean, it would make a poor learning manuscript for the editing phase of the class.  We learn more when things are broken and going rough than when we can just skate, whether talking writing, academics, programming, or what have you.

Ultimately, Molly's in for a hard ride, but if she can come out gleaming, not only will I have learned a thing or two, but I think she'll have a nice run at the YA market.

And stats:
New Words: 721 words
44 scenes
14 complete - 32% of the novel
30 Scenes remain
26,443 Remaining word count
38,783 Estimated length - with an average of 881 words per scene.
12,340 Current Total


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March Madness is drawing near (only one sleep away) and the novel for this challenge is Molly, the Asteroid Miner's Daughter.  This is one of my ideas generated during Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways class (  I'm tracking its progress in detail through the Thinking Sideways forums and my related blog, but I thought I'd drop a mention here as well.

It's difficult when you have established, successful processes to tackle learning a new one, but I've found that resting on any particular process is dangerous as you may run into a particular novel or circumstance that bucks your previous patterns and demands skill sets you have to discover if you haven't broadened your base.  That doesn't mean learning something new is easy, but it's definitely worth the trip if only to know what doesn't work for you.

Honestly, it's the other parts of Holly's class that appeal more, the insider tips for managing publishing contracts and making things happen in an organized fashion rather than a mad scramble.  I'm on the cusp of entering that lifestyle, and I need all the help I can get so I don't dissolve into the chaos that draws me :).

So, we'll see how it goes.  I have created (and finally sorted) a 41 scene outline for which most scenes have been verified using Holly's techniques.  I'd hoped for all of them, but a huge project for the boys' school sucked up all my time.  I'll have to verify as I go, but I have some 19+ verified so I've got a bit of room.

Oh, my goal for this March Madness (a mad dash for words from 7k to 40k and a finished book in a week through Forward Motion) is to achieve at least 14k.  I had enough problems with last year that I managed a mere 9k, and I plan to do better, darn it.

And stats:
New Words: 0 words
41 scenes
0 complete - 0% of the novel
41 Scenes remain
61500 Estimated length - with an average of 1500 words per scene.
0 Current Total

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I know I owe you all a real post, and I apologize for dropping off the map after NaNo, but I plan to try harder. Still, I didn't want to sit on these announcements, especially since the second, my class, starts on Monday.

A quick update (sadly very quick):

I did manage to start writing on Coma Wedding again in December to the tune of about 2,700 words. Since then my only writing has been non-fiction for classes, but between all the trips and planning for the holidays that happened last month, that's not too bad actually. I hope to see things improve starting this month, and more specifically on Monday, but we'll have to see.

First of all, as some of you know, I edit the review section and write a couple columns for Vision: A Resource for Writers. This is a wonderful online magazine that provides articles on markets, writing techniques, resources useful to writers, and interviews among other elements. It is also a market for beginning non-fiction writers, and pulls on a wide variety of experienced writers for articles and interviews. Most of the content focuses on fiction writing of any genre, but articles on non-fiction topics do appear and are welcome. If you haven't checked it out before, please do. And if you have, you'll be happy to hear the new issue has been posted.


The second item is primarily for fiction writers. I am teaching an online workshop on non-verbal communication: how to become conscious of its influence and how to use it in your writing. The course does require membership in Forward Motion (a wonderful writing community), but membership is free. This requirement is to preserve rights for any work you might complete during the class.

I give fair warning that my workshops are intensive, but the more work you put in, the more you get out of the workshops.

Please come and check it out at After you log in, click on the Learning Center 2009 link in the header and then go to the Workshops 2009 folder.

The workshop begins on January 5th and the class will run 6 weeks.

Hope to see you there.


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Margaret McGaffey Fisk

April 2017

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