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First of all, the good news. I managed 16,500 on Dry Boiled, give or take a few words, for the March Madness (MM) challenge at Forward Motion. I’ve found challenges are a good way to jump start a novel and get me rolling so I can keep up a reasonable pace all the way to the end…not that the 6k a day I’d been planning for MM was at all reasonable. The just over 2k average is much more so, but in general I go for 1k a day average when I’m not in a challenge.


The story is an interesting one for me to write, mainly because of the point of view. A flip comment from a friend when I was talking about how this voice is a new one for me (neither serious nor sweet) led me to start out in first person, and even more than that, first person present tense, something I’ve never done in a novel before. So far, this is working out quite well. My main character has a strong personality that she throws around the page with a delightful effect, at least I think so. Which is to say, I am enjoying the novel quite a bit as it comes together…or at last I was until an epiphany last night.

(more…)

Dry Boiled

Mar. 13th, 2010 11:09 pm
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I know it’s been a while since I posted something about my writing. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, editing, outlining, planning, submitting, etc. It’s that those activities are standard fair and so provoke little comment.


However, I am currently outlining a new story, and I’m watching it change as the story unfolds. I thought this might prove of interest to some of you.


Those who took my workshop Idea to Outline should find some of this familiar, but for the rest of you, my process goes in stages from idea, to initial synopsis, to breaking down that synopsis into scenes, to filling in the holes, at which point I’m ready to write.


Dry Boiled came to me as a voice, one I don’t normally do, but one perfect for the genre it seemed to be. (more…)

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Hi everyone. Wow, I didn't realize I'd neglected this blog so much. Trouble is that my focus has been largely on critting and non-fiction writing, so I didn't have much to say on the fiction writing world.

So, a quick catch-up:

1) I've redone my website so it now is a pure writing focus. (I mentioned this regarding the image at the top, but I've done a bit of polishing.)

2) I sold a short story that's available online so if you've been curious about reading something of mine, just go to the "For Readers" page of my website. Also, while you're there, check the "Latest News" page for additional happenings.

3) I should have been doing a crossover post all along, but I've started a new tradition on my Stray Thoughts blog called Friday's Interesting Links. Since these links have a heavy writing/publishing focus, they should be of interest to anyone here who does not also follow that blog. Check out this week's here: http://marfisk.blogspot.com/2009/10/fridays-interesting-links.html

4) The outlines:

--The Princess in the Tower is the closest to done of all three outlines, but it still needs some work.

--The Farmer Boy is the farthest from being done as I only did the examples necessary for my class and haven't gone back.

--Let Me Tell You All About Myself is probably about halfway done. The concepts are all there, but the threads to pull it all together need fleshing.

5) NaNo - yes, I'm planning to do NaNo this year, the first planned event since my second year doing it back in 2004 (note I've done NaNo every year regardless :p). However, I have yet to settle on a project, so things are still up in the air.

6) This month I'm going to both Muse Online and World Fantasy. Hope to see/meet in person some of you there.

7) And I've finally started working on a fiction project again...Selkie. I'm in the process of re-outlining based on the feedback, after which I plan to retype the whole thing because so many of the edits are a word here, a phrase there, that will change the meaning significantly. I find retyping allows me to integrate them better.

I think that's about it :). Any questions?
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I, Margaret the Magnificent, will now perform the amazing, death-defying act of writing three novel outlines simultaneously before your very eyes. If my attention slips, if I falter, my brains will begin to leak from my ears, but I scoff in the face of danger and dive into the challenge without the least tremble. See how steady my hands are as they pound against the keyboard, how my eyes crinkle with concentration, how my teeth grit as I attempt this task? Watch carefully as the scenes bloom under your very eyes...

Okay, not really, but that's how it feels at times. I am doing something I have never done before.

I've written, edited, and prepared three different novels, I've even actively written two WIPs at the same time, but I have never tried to wrap my mind around three different worlds simultaneously.

You nod your heads sagely and say that this explains the sudden silence on my writing blog. You might even wonder if you can see a hint of red behind these black letters as blood vessels pop in my forehead, but I swear I have a logical explanation for my latest insanity.

If you recall, I mentioned I was teaching a class on outlining. And you might also recall I mentioned a sudden inspiration out of nowhere.

These seemingly unrelated events are actually behind this situation I now balance precariously.

I've learned from the other classes I have taught that it helps students if I perform the same tasks they do, live and with possible hiccups. So I had planned to work on an idea for the class long before that little inspiration dropped in my lap.

Then, when I started on the fairytale example (to use a fairytale is part of the class), I started seeing double, one a true telling and one a modern retelling.

Since my students were welcome to do the same, a true telling or an adaptation, I went ahead and built both as examples. Not only that, but I specifically chose a fairytale that would challenge me to work on one aspect of my fiction writing I find weak--writing humor.

Then, round about week three of the class, the outline marathon begins on Forward Motion in preparation for the 10-day Labor of Love writing challenge I usually participate in but was not planning to this year. I couldn't very well leap ahead of the class and outline my new stories because it would encourage my students to do the same. So instead, I wrote only what I needed for the next lesson (5 scenes each) and pulled out that inspiration to get another 20 scenes.

And there I found myself outlining three stories. It happened almost without my conscious knowledge, or at least without my acceptance.

If you're curious as to what happens next, join the club. For the time being, I'm working on each of the outlines separately and with different levels of focus. During the outline marathon, I focused mainly on the inspired idea because of where we were in the class. Since then, I've worked on both of the class outlines (as well as starters for at least three additional outlines as extra examples in the class) and the modern-day retelling is winning at the moment, though the inspiration, Let Me Tell You All About Myself, is still the one with the most scenes with 20. The Princess in the Tower has sixteen, and The Laughing Farmer Boy stands at only 6.

Ideally, all three will be fleshed out in time for the big decision as to which gets written for NaNo. If, as I suspect, The Laughing Farmer Boy turns into a young YA or middle grade, it won't be long enough for NaNo. The Princess in the Tower is sure to be YA so between 50k and 60k most likely, while Let Me Tell You is a complicated mature novel that would best fit in women's fiction if it didn't focus on a male MC. What do you want to bet I do both the fairytale inspired ones? Sigh.
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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):

http://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topics&forum=465

Hope to see some of you there.
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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 (http://howtothinksideways.com/members/?rid=190).  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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Today signals the end of the first edit pass on But a Pretty Bauble.  All told, it was pretty easy, though I do have doubts about the overall, and about the ending in specific.

Am I ready to release it to critters? No.

I have a couple steps still to do:

1) I have one note of something I need to seed better in the beginning because it becomes crucial.
2) I have 7 continuity elements to check from the time it takes them to get to the mine and back to whether the dragonkind ever refer to themselves as nomads, to an overuse of the word "then."  Those will be fun to squirrel out :p.

Honestly, considering it was a raw rough draft, that's not a heck of a lot.  I added less than 5k in new text as I edited, though, and some sections were rewritten from scratch.

The oddest part of this was the outline.  Often I'll update things that change, but there were many scenes that when I read the outline blurb, I expected a continuity nightmare.  The writing didn't reflect this at all, but the difference between the writing and the blurb gave an interesting peek into just how the story had changed.

Anyway, the point is that it has moved to the next level.  It'll be interesting to see the reactions.

And stats:
Edited Today: 2,497 words
29 Chapters complete - 105% of the novel
0 Chapters remain
-3,891 Remaining word count
79,483 Current Total
75,592 Original Total
 

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The weakest point in my NaNo was the outline, as I've mentioned before.  So this weekend I signed up for a word count marathon on Forward Motion that allows me to count both novel words and world building, unlike NaNo.  I did get a decent jump on my novel, not the 50k I was hoping for, but more than the minimum for sure.

So, Coma Wedding now stands at 44,301 words.  The first act is coming to a close, this piece which sets up the rest of the novel and so is the largest.  It's an odd case because though this is a paranormal, time travel novel, there has been almost nothing to distinguish this from a contemporary...okay, one set in 1977.  Is it working?  I don't know.  But the characters seem likable and their stresses are stressy.  We'll see what it comes out to be in the end, but for the time being, my job is just to write.

The outline has reached almost 17,000 words and takes my characters up to the final step.  I could have written the actual ending today (in the outline at least) but my outline is estimated at 86k already.  The notes I have in the synopsis add a last little twist in that I think is interesting, but at the same time will add word count, though I don't know how much.  I haven't decided whether to leave it in or cut it out, so I didn't put in the final scenes.  I think 86k is enough to get me through NaNo and beyond, so I can make that call when I'm a bit closer to it :).

My current statistics are:

66 scenes
34 complete - 52% of the novel
32 Scenes remain
41695 Remaining word count
85996 Estimated length - with an average of 1303 words per scene.
44301 Current Total

Note that my average words per scene has dropped.  I had a couple scenes come in at 800 rather than 1,400 words.  On the other hand, I still haven't reached the ones I think will run long, so the estimate is a fluid number right now.  Thank goodness for the autocalculator on my spreadsheet :).
 

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Reason 2002 for completing the outline BEFORE you start to write:

There is nothing more effective against forward progress than the dreaded "something must go here" scene, especially if you're a linear writer who gets bogged if you continue past something that needs to be done in detail. I don't function well with the inline notes saying to [explain X] or [Sally meets Brian here]. It's been a while since I ran across this particular problem because I haven't written with this spare an outline in many years.

Here's my normal process (in sketch):

1) Write a rough synopsis of the whole plot from beginning to end (because synopses always include the end :)).
2) Write a jumble of notes, some of which are scenes, some of which are partial scenes, some of which are multiple scenes.
3) Put them into linear order.
4) Review them for timeline or story tension issues
5) Polish them to make sure the scenes cover what needs to be said in the way it needs to be said.

Okay, that's a very high level take, but mixed in there is "identify all the places where for timeline, pacing, or tension, I need to add transition scenes. Scope out the shape of them."

Sometimes those "scopes" still give me trouble when I get to them, but I can see the scene notes, and if I think around it for a while, I can find an entry point. It helps to know it's coming because I can start nudging around for that entry point while writing the previous scenes.

So imagine my dismay when I glanced ahead this morning and realized that coming off a highly emotional scene, I then jumped some 20 days into the next kicker. Umm, no. I don't care about all the rules that say to "skip the boring parts." You don't hop, skip, and jump your reader through the story. That ends up making them feel like they're on a pogo stick rather than driving a fast car. While both can be thrilling, the first leaves you feeling a little jounced around and dislocated.

So what did I do? I stole from Peter to pay Paul. I took some of the substance out of the next upcoming scene and pushed it into a midstream transition scene that gives (I hope) a sense of how things have been going while also cranking up the tension about what's going to happen next. My heroine is now divided between what she wants and what she thinks she should do, made more complicated by the fact that the situation isn't really in her control anyway.

Or rather that's what I did after I found the entry point. Wasting a whole day trying to figure my way into a scene that I didn't realize was needed until too late was no fun. It makes me even more nervous about the state of my outline, though I've still got a good nine or so scenes before it gets really shaky. What if there are more transition scenes I've missed? What if I'm faced with a point where the entry takes another whole day to discover? And how do I keep from letting the fact that I know some 14k from now I'm going to fall off the end of the Earth (okay the outline) into no man's land result in writer's block, or at least writer's slow as I try not to get there?

The answers are varied:

1) I swear never to do this to myself again (yeah right, but it sounds good and reassuring).
2) I plan to spend a good portion of the weekend strengthening that outline, getting it fleshed out through all the way to the end.
3) Take a deep breath and know that some 10-15 scenes from now, the book will meet the NaNo standards for a win. If I have to stop dead and redo the outline with no forward motion at all, I will still have laid claim to my purple bar. For that, I only need to add one more scene and maintain the current word count per scene average. Since I know some of the scenes coming up are likely to run long--and may actually break into more than one scene--I'm on pretty firm ground where the 50k is concerned.

And yes, I'm watching in the back of my head so I can put together that workshop on initial outlines a handful of FMers, and others, have requested. Maybe it'll give me the opportunity to get ahead so next NaNo I can choose one of my completed outlines to do...assuming the Muse Conference doesn't slam another brand new idea right up to the front line that is :p.

And stats:
35 scenes
25 complete - 71% of the novel
24 Scenes remain
14,183 Remaining word count
49,641 Estimated length - with an average of 1,418 words per scene.
35,458 Current total
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We're almost done with the second week of NaNo, and it has been going very well. My outline has grown hardly at all, now totaling 10,410 with 34 scenes (only two more than a week ago). I've been sitting on my laurels where that's concerned and only the average scene length has improved my estimate which will (assuming scenes meet the average) take me to 49k. Obviously I still have some outline work to do.

Now you'd think I have all the time in the world to work on that outline. After all, it's only the 13th so I've got lots of time to get to 50k. Well, that's true, but it doesn't reflect my current reality. I'm averaging about 2000-2200 a day, and I'm heading into a marathon for the weekend (Forward Motion runs word count marathons every weekend throughout November). My current count is 33,197 words. That means I have 15,877 words left in the scenes in my outline, and I could easily put away that many words between now and Tuesday if things go well.

At least this weekend's marathon is the standard one, so though my outline words don't count for NaNo, I can still get marathon credit to encourage me to flesh out a bit more. It would be nice to have an outline that goes all the way to the end of the book since my progress is such that I might actually make it. I'm not counting on such an explosion however.

The good news is that the second section of the book is one for which I have more scenes (albeit rough ones) already. The third section, however, is hardly scoped at all beyond the very general synopsis.

Regardless, I jumped into NaNo with a fresh idea from about October 18th, a self-imposed edit deadline that had to be met before I could start NaNo so no time to outline, and a year of having written almost nothing. I could so easily have crashed and burned. To be honest, I'm feeling a little draggy as it is, another reason to front load so if I crash halfway, I'll already have my purple bar (it's all about the purple :)). With all that going against me, my progress is phenomenal and I'm happy with it.

That's not to say I haven't had my moments. I've pushed through them so far, and am working under the pressure of pure gumption rather than being drawn to write a lot of the time, but ultimately when I can get myself to focus, the words do come. I've got a very tight knit group of three characters who are recovering, growing, and learning about each other quite nicely. Whether or not this will be some grand opus, whether or not it lingers in my "to edit" pile for much too long, there's no question that I'm producing a novel here :).

Now if only I had a remotely reasonable title :P. If it hadn't been almost the same as a movie, the right title would be While I Was Sleeping, but that's taken so...
 

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"Thank you, everyone, for your kind welcome. I've struggled with this fact for several years now, and finally have to admit. I have a NaNo addiction."

*sighs*

"Yes. You're right. It does feel better getting it all out. I can give myself excuses, point to the benefits of getting an extra novel written each year, of practicing writing to a deadline, of darn well having fun, but none of that changes the facts.

Every year, right around this time, whether or not I've committed to doing NaNo--and often when I've adamantly said it's not in the cards--I suddenly drop everything to create or polish my outline. There's no other explanation for it than addiction. Rational thought comes into it only so far as to provide rationalizations. I am an addict."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This year's project is lovingly titled "Coma Marriage," even after I nixed the marriage from the synopsis this morning ;). It was inspired by an exercise one of my Muse Online Conference workshop participants completed. This novel has, in the course of two or three days, sprung into form through providing feedback to the participant, two on-the-edge-of-sleep moments, and discussing the thought with Valerie Comer. And up until yesterday morning, I was still kicking and screaming about actually writing this novel.

Oh, and it will be my first completed entry into the adult paranormal romance category (since Sorcery and the Perfect Dress (last year's NaNo) is a young adult paranormal romance).
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I know...I'm behind in blogging. It's been crazy on both the writing and the personal front. However, I am slowly but surely making progress on Shadows of the Sun. I set myself a deadline of 3/31 to get the new outline done, and I was up until 11:30 that last night, but I finished. The outline I had used previously was some versions out of date, and in going through each scene again to write the blurb, I could mentally churn through my solutions and decide if they were actually what the book needed.

Ultimately, some fix plans grew stronger, some stayed the same, some changed entirely, and some were round filed as trying too hard :). I think I'm relatively well grounded in what I need to do, but this edit is going to be just as difficult as I imagined.

I have started working on the initial chapter, which has been rewritten more times than I can remember. This time, I've split it in half, added a new 1st scene and made serious changes to every single scene afterward :p. Four scenes complete so far. The first is new, the second changes the introduction of not one but two characters, in both cases to make positions and personalities clear. It's rather sad when you know exactly what the characters are like but your readers tell you one is whiny and worthless and the other should be shot. I mean, I'm fine with shooting characters who deserve it, but these guys are the good guys!

So I hope I've done a better job on their introduction, and in doing that, made the reason another crucial plot moment occurred obvious rather than sloppy. I think I have, but I know these characters too well to say for sure, because I thought I had before too ;).

The bad part is that the book is already long. In fixing these bits, I've only made it longer. At this point I'm looking at shaving off 7k-8k in order to get to the overly long 125k. Sadly, I think this is going to be on the heavy side, but better a strong book than one that fits nicely in a word count slot. That's not to say I don't plan on one last pass for the sole purpose of shaving word count. If I can take a 5000+ short story down to 3500 for a contest, I can fix this. Now I ended up breaking the story rather significantly when I did that...something that luckily only required a four word fix...but at least I know I can do it.

In the new outline, there are only 2 brand new scenes to be added, though with all the other changes (most of them adding not cutting) I've got my work...umm...cut out for me :).

So, time to sleep so I can get some work done tomorrow.

And stats:
Edited Today: 2.282 words
2 Chapters complete - 5% of the novel
32 Chapters remain
126,236 Remaining word count
5,958 Current Total
132,838 Predicted Total
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Hi everyone,

Sorry for the late notice, but I just realized I should mention my workshop on my blogs in case anyone is interested. The workshop is an expansion of part of my Muse Online 2007 presentation with a whole month to complete the work and, I hope, a lot of enthusiastic fellow workshoppers to provide dynamic feedback.

The program is a hands-on exploration of how an outline can help in the edit phase whether you're an outliner or a pure organic. This is the first in a series of workshops designed not only to teach the techniques but give participants experience with them both through completing the exercises and through commenting on others' offerings.

Anyone who is interested is welcome. To take the course you must join Forward Motion, but membership is free. We have to do that to protect first electronic publication rights as we will be sharing portions of our work to get help.

Join using the "Join" link:
http://www.fmwriters.com/

Here's the link to the class board once you're logged in:
http://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topics&forum=418

The first exercise is posted so hope to see you there. Oh, and a warning from the person who helped me edit the class...come expecting to work for your learning ;).

I'll be posting the second exercise in the next couple of days, but it's a forum-based workshop so coming in late is fine. If you think this might be useful, please come check it out.

Cheers,
Margaret
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Okay, so I completely flubbed the outline marathon on Forward Motion by starting a day early and getting the most scenes on that day, but I now have a workable outline for Sorcery and the Perfect Dress even if it doesn't have that many scenes. The title is less important now because it's not about prom and it's not really about the dress, though the concept is in there. I'm liking the story a lot. Whether it'll work is a whole 'nother question but it'll get written at least :).

As the outline stands now, there are 36 scenes and an estimated length of 54,000 based on an average of 1500 words per scene.

So, I have this grand plan for NaNo...

But first, a funny story.

My husband and I usually take a walk at night to get a smidge of exercise and some quiet time to talk about our days without the boys bouncing around distracting us.

There we are, walking along, and I'm telling him about my grand plan for NaNo. I've had a horrible year and at the same time done a lot of writing, my therapy, so I said I don't really need another book this year.

He jerks to a halt and stares, wild-eyed, at me. I'm like, What? He just waves me to continue and I explain how I plan to do a normal NaNo rather than go for a full book. He sighs with relief. He'd been having visions of me panicking on the 11th, charging out to write 10k+ a day all the way through Thanksgiving (when my parents are coming for a visit) and being stressed and awful the rest of the month.

He failed to realize I'm smarter than that now. There's no point in even pretending I won't do NaNo...otherwise his scenario is all too likely.

But my grand plan is this. First of all, Sorcery is currently predicted to be only 54k. In previous years when something has come in that low, I've started a second book, but I'm not doing that this year. This year, I will get my 1667 a day with the exception of write-ins and then move on to my editing tasks that have been sorely neglected this year. If all goes well, I'll complete NaNo with at least one of my editing projects also in the bag. Even if all I get is progress on the editing, it'll be an improvement on my present state, right?

And the writing note of interest:

Holly Lisle, a favorite author of mine and one who does a lot to help other writers, is offering a teleseminar and a writing newsletter with writing prompts and the like. I'm part of her affiliate program and so she told us about this a little early. Anyway, if you're interested in checking out either the teleseminar or the newsletter, you can use the below links. In the interests of full disclosure :), they are tied into my affiliate program, but they'll get you where you need to be to learn about these new offerings.

The Teleseminar:

http://shop.hollylisle.com/jamaffiliates/jrox.php?id=134_1_tlid_25_NOVELAPP

The Newsletter:

http://shop.hollylisle.com/jamaffiliates/jrox.php?id=134_1_tlid_26_MAILINGLST


Enjoy.

NaNo 2007

Oct. 22nd, 2007 09:26 pm
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New story -- brand new. And now planned for NaNo because I really am insane. You'd think Con Shirt would have protected me from this, but there you go. I guess this year has been so crazy that I need a LOT of writing to compensate.

The first title was Sorcery and the Perfect Prom Dress. That can't be the title anymore because oddly there's no football with cheerleaders in spring. So not prom. Oh and it was supposed to be funny. Not working out that way so far. Gone from humorous to sweet romance. At least it's still a romance. Oh, and now it's a paranormal, actually it was from the beginning but it took me some 26 scenes to figure out that, hey, demon? That's paranormal.

Sigh. I'm just hoping the story comes together in a tight package in time for NaNo. It's that or I pull out one of my other outlines. I've given up on trying not to do NaNo. Every time that's been the plan, the weekend before I grab an existing outline and run for it.

So this is the plan right now. We'll see what comes of it after this story achieves full outline...and even what type of story it ends up.


And stats:
26 scenes
39,000 Estimated length
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I did something on this outline that I've never done on this scale before and it's killing me. I had an interesting discussion with a friend who was trying to use me as an example of how to outline. She made me come to the conclusion that I'm a fake, a fraud, not really a logical thinker at all :). Okay, this is a kind of crosswise concept, but when have I ever done anything in a straightforward manner. I've been planning to discuss this bit of my process for some time but never got around to it. So here we go.

I am an outliner. I like them because they enable me to work on nuance (yep, that word again) when I'm writing rather than figuring out the overall plot stuff. They also allow me to encapsulate an idea in a format that I can use at the drop of a hat if, for example, I get this crazy idea that I won't do the National Novel Month challenge until, say, a week before day one (Demon Rules came about this way).

So my friend asks me for some good examples, which turned out not to fit her criteria at all. She's asking me where I track the emotional evolution of the character, the character and plot arcs, etc. Me? I'm just telling a story. All that is an integrated part of the story, so it'll be there when I need it.

She declared me an evolved organic.

I've thought for quite some time that my outlines, clocking in between 10k and 20k are actually more like an organic's first draft split along POV lines than what is traditionally considered a writing outline. When pressed, I came up with this grand description: my scene blurbs contain whatever's necessary to draw me back into the scene I saw in my head when I wrote the outline. They have bits of character emotion, scenery, scents, frustrations, physical movement, objects that need to have a place... What they don't have is a classification of any of the traditional elements. They don't point out character arcs, they don't express plot points, though they may reference them if, for example, this scene has the character realize the truth about something 20 scenes ago. They're pure narrative, more like mini synopses than anything analytical. But the trick is that they work for me. Go back to the top where I said what I wanted out of my outlines. They give me the freedom to absorb myself in the story while secure in the knowledge that it knows where to go and where to end up.

Which brings me back to what I've spent over 3 hours working on and am now going to quit for the night.

Armed with the above realization, scene order didn't seem as essential. I know how to reorder scenes. I'm actually teaching a class with that as one of the elements in the Muse Online Conference in October. I've recommended scene reordering to increase tension and had to undergo that horrible exercise in my own works as well. But it's always been with the bulk of something in a fixed state. Let me tell you that writing scenes out of order in my initial outline is insane! Each time I think I've reordered something correctly, I realize that f) can't happen before b) and I have to start again. This whole process is complicated by the fact that I have two plot threads that interact without ever touching. Something happening in the MC's thread sets off something in the villain's thread so those must occur in order at the same time as several things must happen in the main thread's subthreads that are not directly related but which build on each other.

To be honest, I'm confident in the placement of the first 3-4 scenes and the last 3-4 scenes. Pretty much the rest of the 44 scenes are up in the air and must be nailed down before Labor of Love starts on the 31st. My head aches already :p.

Oh, and the current estimate for length is 66,000. That's actually not too bad as the market average is around 90k or so and I will probably add more when writing and then again when editing. It's odd for me to have such a short novel though.

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Margaret McGaffey Fisk

April 2017

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