Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Status Report - NaNoWriMo

Not much of a blog today. I'll try to get something else up later in the week about actual writing.

Currently I'm at 45,066 words into my novel and it looks like the finished work will be over the 50,000 mark. I'm heading toward the climax, but I haven't quite hit it's intro yet, so I'm guessing closer to 70,000 for the completed work.

I'm having a pretty good time, only a few bumpy patches so far, but once I hit some plotting ideas, I was able to steamroll over them.

It also looks like my writing plan has kept me on track.

That's it for now, I'll be back later this week with an examination of the dreaded Information Dump!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Piecing Together the Story - NaNoWriMo

When I was thinking about what I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo this year I had a bit of a problem. No real great story ideas were circulating in my mind.

I had finished my long mythological novel, and so I was pretty sure I wanted to steer clear of fantasy. My space opera idea wasn't too appealing at the moment, (my last attempt at working on it was frustrating at best). This left my supernatural thriller ideas that I've been cooking around with for almost fifteen years. This slow and simmering evolution of stories, ideas, characters, settings and themes has been a bit of a pet project - something I'm not sure if I have the guts or skill to pull off. Over the years I've written two novels set in that genre with those characters and a pretty good sized fragment as well. A few of my more sinister short stories also fall in this realm.

The problem was, I didn't know what story I could tell (I've got a huge time line of events and characters, and picking is tough). So while I was rooting around in my hard drive, I came across a whole set of interesting short stories, story notes, and half started fragments. I started to see little hints of a story wanting to be told, but lacking a cohesive idea. Here's what I found.

Several of the fragments and short stories dealt with a man who was suddenly given the ability to see things that others could not see. In some cases it was visions of the future, sometimes it was the true faces of others, sometimes it was something just buried behind our reality.

So he became my protagonist.

I ran into a half finished novella about a cult that abducted a boy because they thought he was their god reborn. His best friend teams up with a group that is trying to stop the cultists. The two kids were just getting old enough to see each other as more than friends. It was an interesting idea that never really went anywhere.

But those cultists were pretty damn creepy, so they became my antagonists.

I also liked the idea about a childhood friend coming to the rescue of my protagonist. So I took that character and fleshed her out a bit (making her older to fit the protagonist's new age [mid twenties or so]).

I also ran into some great scenes that I wondered if I could use. One in particular was a visit to a museum where the paintings were so vivid they caused people who looked at them to react in disturbing ways.

That became my opening scene.

Finally I had a very strange image pop into my head a few years ago. It involved a song by ABBA, the cartoon Sailor Moon, and a synchronized dance number in a club that normally played techno music.

No, I wasn't drunk or high when I thought of that. But if you listen to enough ABBA you can feel drunk and high!

Believe it or not, I've worked all these things (and quite a few more odds and ends) into my NaNoWriMo story so far.

Have you ever tried to create a story from fragments of other work that you never finished? What do you find is the best way to come up with story ideas on the fly? What does the music of ABBA inspire you to do?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wax On, Wax Off - NaNoWriMo

Using my word count goal to write this mythological fantasy novel wasn't as tough as I thought it would be. Sure I ran into times when it was hard to push into that 2,500 words, especially at the very start and in the middle of the novel.

For some reason, starting is always really rough for me. I usually find myself over thinking the opening scenes and finding it difficult to get the flow. In this case I had a great opening scene, right from the classic myth, but after that moment, I wasn’t sure how to tie the rest of the story into it tone-wise. Over thinking! I just wrote and forgot about tone. After the first day or two, I have found the novel's grove and just worked through to the goal pretty easily.

Things went great till around the middle of the novel. Everything seemed to be sagging, and because of the nature of the story (my characters were searching for clues on unexplored islands) I found the whole narrative to be meandering and not much fun to write. It got to be a real struggle for a while to hit the 2,500 word mark. This went on for about a week and a half (and I wonder if I'm going to have to do some serious editing of those lifeless scenes), and then I found a good antagonist to really stir up the pot.
The book moved at a better pace after that (I hit a few bumps but I ended up just plowing over them). In the end, the scope of the book got out of hand and I stopped at what was the first third of the story. It was novel length, but I had lost interest in the characters. I had just put them through a good solid quest, and it set things up for the second stage (and a new quest) but I didn't have the energy or desire to really go into it. I put the whole thing aside with the thought to revisit it later.

Still I had stuck mostly to my schedule. Even when it was difficult, I would hit that 2,500 word mark. On good days I would easily pass it and go over the 3000 word limit. I felt comfortable with the schedule and waited for NaNoWriMo. In the mean time I worked on some more short stories and edited some other things I had around. I found some interesting fragments of ideas...

As NaNoWriMo came around I revisited my writing schedule. I knew that 2,500 words a night wasn't going to cover it, but how much would I have to go? Time for some more math. The big difference was that November had an extra day weekend (outside of what I had originally calculated). Good news! Ok, so with five weekends, how would this work out?

I counted up the potential writing days. I had four full weeks (4 writing days) and a weekend (1 writing day); Total was 17 days. This broke down to 2942 words a day. I could do that. I had done it easily over the summer with the myth novel - the only exception being on days where it was tough. The good thing was that I had plenty of wiggle room, especially with free days on the weekends when I could play catch-up if I needed to.

So I went ambitious - 3000 words a day for 17 days and I'd have the novel and some to spare. That means that by Sunday the 9th I needed to hit 15000 words. I managed to do it (even with some unexpected delays in getting started and my scheduled writing days getting pushed around because of my day job). I feel pretty good about hitting my personal goal.

Have you ever come up with a word count goal for writing long fiction? Was my technique too scientific? Do word count goals work for you? Anyone else have issues with the starting and middles of novels?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time for Some Math - NaNoWriMo

first heard about National Novel Writing Month last year, just as it was heading into full swing. At the time, I was already in the middle of working on a short story and didn't feel good about putting it down to work on something longer. I skipped last year but hatched a cunning plan instead. I would train for next year's event, and be completely prepared for some serious novel writing action.

Sometime in Spring, I was struck with a new mythological fantasy story, and decided to come up with a writing plan that I could use to keep me focused and prepare me for the weeks of NaNoWriMo. It was time for some calculations, 50,000 words divided by four would make up 12,500 words. I picked four because most months have four weeks in them. So if I could reach a goal of 12,500 words a week, I could finish a novel in time for NaNoWriMo.

OK, so the next task is to figure out how much I could write - while focused. I do most of my writing after dinner and before bed with some on the weekends. This means about three hours a night for three nights with about three hours on the weekend. OK, total of 12 hours a week. So to meet my goal of writing 12500 words a week, I would need to write about 1042 words an hour. Meaning each day I should write 3,126 words. Isn't math fun!

Since this was just training, I figured to start off with something a little lighter. and cut it down to 2,500 words a day for a grand total of 10,000 words a week. And with this schedule in mind I started my training montage using my new novel idea (cue: "You're the Best Around" from the "Karate Kid").

I wrote up a page outlining my writing commitments for the novel. The first was for the word count of 2,500 words. The second was for a limit of internet time (since my writing days are also the days I update my blog and do some surfing) to half an hour at the most! I printed this up and put it on the wall to the left of my monitor. It's there staring at me and actually helped me stay focused.

Did it work? Stop by for my next blog to see if I was able to meet my goal and how my first draft turned out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NaNoWriMo - The Adventure Begins

Crazy week! = Short Blog

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up. I'm going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month, and that may cut into my blogging time. I'll still be around so feel free to drop me a message of encouragement or just find out how I'm doing.

Wanna check out my NaNoWriMo page - go here: my NaNoWriMo Page

I might be able to post a blog or two about my experience, but I'm already behind in my scheduled word count, so I'm off to put some more words on the page.

Have a great week!