Week 4 recap

Technically I guess it’s week 1, since I only wrote my resolutions last week, but I decided to go with the calendar, so week 4 it is. I’m not sure I’ll do recaps every week, and I’ll probably try to do them on Sundays or Mondays, but we will see.

The week started miserably, at least when it comes to actual output. The wheels were turning in my head though, trying to work out the best plot, but words? Nah.

Last Friday I visited Cicilie for what was supposed to be a write-in. Instead we spent the time eating good food, cuddling with her dog and discussing our stories. Each day I feel I am one step closer to a workable plot, but I keep doubting.

Technically I guess I did work quite a bit on my book if you count the back-and-forth plotting and plot discussions. I met a writer friend on Tuesday for a trip to IKEA, and went on a social visit to another writer friend on Saturday (turns out I have a few of those!), and both days I felt slightly closer to untangling the great plot knot. There are details to work out, but still.

Then… on Sunday I actually did something. But it wasn’t writing. I keep getting frustrated with all my timelines (particularly all the versions), and since I have to make a new timeline for Rogue Sorcery in my shiny new Aeon Timeline 2, I decided to just put in everything I’ve planned for that setting into the same timeline. It has quite good filtering options, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s full of things.

But of course it took more time than I had expected. Whenever does it not? I would perhaps have been more efficient if I hadn’t watched Doctor Who in the background, but I had a lot to catch up with. I ended up watching an entire season in less than 48 hours. I also somehow managed to finish the timeline up to the point where Rogue Sorcery begins.

It might seem like a waste of time, to plot so much that isn’t technically book plot. But it’s still relevant. The plot of RS is tied into the situation in the empire, and then you will need to know what the situation is like. Which general has been there the longest, which areas are the newest, just how much drama went down behind the scenes before the story starts?

Turns out quite a lot. There’s a lot of story material there, I think. I still really want to write about the emperor’s childhood and upbringing, but it would be a dark, dark story. Magic, murder and mayhem – kind of catchy, actually.

Anyway, I’m hoping to get some actual writing done the next few days. Cicilie and I planned to exchange drafts in what is less than a week away, and currently I’ve got nothing. Except one chapter that she’s read before. I had initially written four more chapters, but things have now changed so much that they’re out the window. Oooops?

Writerly resolutions

January is the time of the month where plans are made, and you enter the new year full of determination and drive. Well, unless you start the year with mental and work-related chaos and can’t see the point in planning anything. However, while it might be refreshing to work without a deadline, I absolutely suck at it. I need deadlines. But if there’s one thing my stress levels don’t need, it’s more deadlines. On the other hand… I’m getting increasingly sick of being just as far away from my dream as I was last year, or the year before. Aaand it turns out that not having a project to work on, a goal to aim for, is really bad for my mental health. How on earth do you combine all these things?

The answer might be obvious to most other people, but for overachiever and burnout-prone me it’s definitely not. Realistic goals, what’s that? Cutting out something to make time for this new thing I want to do, is that possible? Wow.

Frankly, what do I find more rewarding? Writing, or spending my precious spare time watching mind-numbing stuff on Youtube? I’m sure I can live without watching the latest Buzzfeed video on people testing something that’s not even remotely relevant to me. Maybe.

I could start by having a deadline for the next revision of Rogue Sorcery, or for the plot revisions and the timeline file for the updated plot, but I’m not sure. There’s been so many deadlines for the past year, and while it works well for NaNoWriMo, it hasn’t worked at all for the remainder of the year.

I think I’ve realised why. While the end goal is 50k (or more, in my case) for NaNoWriMo, it’s not what I focus on. What I focus on is my daily goal. Your 1667 words per day, or 3334, or 5000. That’s what I look at in the NaNoWriMo stats, in my spreadsheets. It’s making that particular day green in my wordcount file, not red. Because I know that if I reach or even surpass this target most days, I will reach 50k, or 100k, or 150k. There’s no need to worry about it. Finishing a draft is a completely different beast.

So I’ve decided to make a new type of goal. It might be what everyone has been doing for ages, but it’s new to me. It’s inspired by what you often hear in fitness and/or weight loss circles: Focus on the process, not the goal. Sometimes things happen despite the best of intentions, and you can’t control the outcome nearly as much as you’d like. But you can control what you do on a regular basis to influence the outcome.

I have made the following little set of rules, or perhaps “steps” is a better word. My main idea is to turn one into a habit before I start on the next one, until I get used to making time for writing:

  1. Write something every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t care if it’s just a sentence, a 5-minute sprint, something you’ll never look at again, write something on any kind of story.
  2. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes writing (actual writing, not plotting or planning) every Tuesday and Wednesday, an hour every Saturday and Sunday. Some of this hour can be used for plotting and/or planning, but minimum 30 minutes are reserved for actual writing. This equals two and a half hours every week, which is the main goal.
  3. Write at least 10k every week. This should be doable within the allotted time periods with my max writing speed, but most days it might require more time.
  4. Resist the urge to increase the word count goal (even if it’s fine to actually write more – it just shouldn’t be a must).

I admit it’s tempting to plan on writing every single day of the week, but frankly, with my timetable, mental health and other projects, it’s just not feasible. For example, on Thursdays I usually don’t even have time to make dinner before I have to go to bed. Insisting on writing on those days anyway would be asking for a disaster.

So there it is. My new 4-step program to actually getting the book (and my other projects) written. Do you have a plan for your writing this year?

NaNo Prep, a.k.a. WHAT?!? Only five days until November?

As you can probably tell from the title, I am not prepared. I am not even less prepared than I usually am and less than I planned (which is par for the course, really), I’m spectacularly unprepared. I don’t have a story that I can rewrite that’s not either already rewritten and being edited, waiting for the previous novel in the series to be edited, or postponed indefinitely. Well, unless you count Underhanded Deals, but I haven’t been able to sort out the huge, enormous problem that is the plot. It’s the kind of story where you need to know where it’s going, or you’ll end up with a huge mess, which I have already tried. Twice.

Ignoring the option of rewriting something for now (not editing, by the way), I usually have at least a few new ideas that I would like to try out, except that this year I don’t. I have what I think of as the Kitchen Sink story, where I throw in pretty much everything I think is cool, but I haven’t got a plot yet. Not sure I can get one in so few days, when I only have a very vague idea of the setting and barely any characters. I do have some other ideas, but I tend to get stuck after just a few thousand words, so I need to work on them some more before I attempt to write them.

So that’s basically it. One story I need to work on before I can write it without getting stuck, and one idea I really need to flesh out before I start writing. In other words: I’ve got some work to do in these five days. Or three, since I’m busy all day today and tomorrow. And half of Saturday. And most of Monday. Let’s try again: I have a LOT of work to do on Sunday. I guess tidying and cleaning my apartment before NaNoWriMo just went out the window. The annoying thing is of course that I will probably have to plot both, just in case. I am aiming for 100k this year, maaaaybe 150k if I reach 100k very early, so I might very well need to write more than one story. This year I won’t have time to plot as I go either.

The reason I’m not pantsing this year is because I have so little time. Not only do I have a new job with slightly longer work hours, but it’s also a full time job, so I’ve lost an entire writing day all of a sudden. I don’t have my usual November vacation. I can’t skip dance classes as I’m one of the instructors now. I work out a lot more. In other words, if I am to write lots of words, I need to be able to make the most out of what little writing time I do have. That means spending as little time as possible thinking about what needs to happen, and knowing what comes next every time I sit down to write.

I guess I technically could have lowered my goal, but where’s the fun in that? At least I have the sense not to try to beat my personal best from last year, which was 211k. At least not yet…

Hopefully I can figure out a plot for my Kitchen Sink novel. If any story’s fun to write, I think that would be it. It has vampires, werewolves, sinister and not-so-sinister sorcerers, creepy old mansions, a bit of romance, a bit of everything, really. Hence the name. Basically, the only thing it doesn’t have is a plot. But I think I’m going to find one of my trusty writing books (I’ve read a few lately) and simply pick a method and follow it to create the plot. Or find my own method. Who knows, it might be fun!

Are you prepared for NaNoWriMo, or are you flailing like a headless chicken like I am?

 

Wherein plans are changed

Cicilie and I have been reasonable for once – more incredible for me than for her, frankly – and adjusted the original deadlines for our spring projects. Not only does it allow us to have a finished story to post on Wattpad sooner, but it will give us more time to edit our novels (RS in my case) before exchanging manuscripts again. That last point is particularly important since I am a part-time student now, and have to study for exams in the first half of May. I can’t use my regular strategy of bullshitting my way through it either, since it’s business finance and I have to know stuff. Anyway, the new and updated plan (let’s all just pretend that I don’t actually love revising plans just as much as I love making them, which is a lot) is below:

April

  • Write the short Wattpad story, somewhere around 5k. (It’s fully plotted though! Yay!)
  • Edit the short Wattpad story, and actually post it (deadline 30th of April)
  • Enter the new ending for RS into the timeline in Aeon
  • Edit at least 10 chapters of RS

May

  • Edit the rest of RS (deadline 29th of May)
  • Re-read again
  • Finish the plot of the Wattpad novel

June

  • Write the Wattpad novel
  • Revise/edit the Wattpad novel (deadline 30th of June)

In the original plan I had some painting goals as well – they remain the same, so I won’t repeat them here. Except with the caveat that I’m not allowed to, you know, overwork myself, so I’m only going to do two of the six goals. One of them must be the goal of making a map of Wirun, since I need that for RS, but apart from that, as long as I finish one other painting goal, I’m happy.

So there it is!

Revised editing plan

Apparently I am more fond of making plans than I am of following them. On the other hand, planning can be done everywhere, and writing… cannot. Plus I haven’t had the necessary brain power, energy, focus or anything, really, to write for the past few weeks. Busy doesn’t even cover it. (Somehow we started talking about the number of jobs that I have, followed by a discussion of whether homework is good or bad, in my German class today, which led to this gem from one of my students: “If Catrine can survive everything, we can handle a bit of homework.” It was amusing.)

Aaaanyway. It’s clearly not just that class that was filled with digressions today…

I have made a new editing plan! This time I have even done some research! (Wow.) Also, I have edited. A little bit. Most of my research comes from the eminent blog of Rachel Aaron/Bach at Pretentious Title, who both writes books that I love, AND has perhaps the most useful writing blog I have ever encountered. There is something to be said about taking advice from people who write the kind of books you like to read, I think… Also I got some advice from Holly Lisle, whose advice I have read for years now and who has a blog post about one-pass editing. Perhaps the most useful advice from these two was that there is no editing process that works for everyone, and because of that, I have picked a little bit from both.

The magnificent plan, v. 4 (or something)

  1. Take the timeline and write down all the new stuff (that you know of), both big and small. DONE
  2. Find the old scene overview. DONE.
  3. Make a new scene map over the current story after the changes. DONE.
  4. Note down theme and a short summary of the story. DONE… sort of. Will probably have to do again.
  5. Write down everything you can think of that you need to fix, round 1. DONE. (But will need to be updated as I think of more things)
  6. Split up the Scrivener file by scene (currently the entire chapters are together) in chapter folders, to make it easier to move scenes around.
  7. Write the new scenes that are missing from the current draft. I have actually written one of these!
  8. Triple check that the ending works – something bugs me about it.
  9. Go through what the generals are doing this whole time, when they’re not shown in the story. Make sure they seem like they normally know what they’re doing…
  10. Write down the questions that need answering, and answer them. Does everything make sense?
  11. Plot routes and cities on map to check that they’re not using two days to a place to which it takes two weeks or months to travel to, or vice versa.
  12. Write the next draft.
  13. Read through and write down everything you see that needs to be fixed.
  14. Rewrite again
  15. Repeat the last two as needed.

As usual the “just a few” steps turned into quite a few, but I am more optimistic about this plan than the previous ones. It took me a few rounds to find something I think will work and which fits the way I work (without necessarily doing everything chronologically).

We will see! Considering I have already done a few steps on it, I think it is promising.

Plotting time!

image

OK, I just had to test if posting from my mobile phone actually works. (What evidently didn’t work was to remove myself from the computer in the hope of removing distractions. Hello, phone! So far I’ve read about how to brew tea in a teapot (yes, I had to Google it), made myself a cup of coffee and written one line.)

Anyway, I decided to share a little photo of my plotting process. Here I have the original timeline, recently printed in list format from Aeon timeline, the actual scenes from the latest draft written down in keyword format by hand, my notebook, and a printout of the feedback I got from Cicilie. I have to admit that I feel a little intimidated by having to coordinate them, but it must be done. There were some huge changes in the last draft, and it skews the entire timeline. Part of me just wants to get on with it and start writing, but we’ve tried that before. Making the changes in advance is far less work, actually.

This timeline process of the last week has made one thing clear to me: I need a second computer monitor. Yes, my monitor at home is wide-screen, but still. Perhaps I should simply use my work computer for this (after work, of course), as it does have two monitors. Which is perhaps why I feel like I need it. Besides, I can’t afford a second one at the moment anyway.

Well, enough procrastination – back to work. It’s not like the whole thing needs to be redone after all… Just the middle. It’s always the middle though, isn’t it?

EDIT:

You know what, screw this. I had planned far too many steps and I cannot find the motivation to do them. I’ve revised the timeline and know what goes where. I have my notes on what I need to flesh out more. I’m not convinced that, at this stage, working endlessly on re-plotting the scenes is necessarily a good idea anymore. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. If I encounter a problem when writing the next draft, I can take the time to stop and plan that part. Frankly I just want to write the thing while the changes are fresh in my mind. My gut feeling tells me to skip all those extra steps and start writing. It’s not like the next draft will be the last anyway, and if there’s some worldbuilding missing or something that’s not quite right, I’ll discover it just as well when writing as if I’m plotting. I also think it’s a good idea to start writing while I remember the new scenes.

This, of course, brings me drastically ahead of schedule. I didn’t plan to start the third draft (or second?) before around the second week of April, but now it’s the second week of February. The good thing about this is of course that it gives me some time to edit another story of mine as well.

Nano Prep part II

This is where the “oh my God NaNoWriMo is only three days away” panic is about to take me. I’ve done what I can to prepare for it this year, but there are only so many hours in a day, and with a busy life… well. Learning my lessons from last year I’ve tried to make sure that I don’t burn myself out before NaNoWriMo has even begun, which is why I did absolutely nothing useful yesterday. (Well, that’s not quite true. I made a healthy dinner, and I worked out for an hour. I also looked at my mandatory assignment (in the most literal sense of the word) and decided I still don’t understand a thing, so there’s that).

Below is, quite simply, the far-too-long list of things that remain to do before NaNoWriMo begins. And if that wasn’t enough… I’ve evidently decided to attempt a 50kDayOne, since it’s the first time in years I don’t work all day on the 1st of November.

  1. Make lesson plans for the two next chapters in my German class (I’m going away for a conference just as we’re starting the next chapter, so I’d like my students to know exactly what they need to do even if they have a substitute teacher)
  2. Make grammar help guides and glossary lists for my German class. Not strictly speaking necessary, but they’re a bit shaky on the grammar.
  3. Make lesson plans for my English class (far easier, thankfully)
  4. Send in the student card application (as soon as I find my passport photo)
  5. Finish plotting The Revenge (working title) – the basics are fleshed out, but I need the hows and whys
  6. Finish the mandatory assignment
  7. Clean the apartment somewhat
  8. Revise some chapters

…Yeah, I don’t think I’ll manage to finish it all… BUT I can try. Number 1, 2, 3 and 6 are the most important, the rest aren’t that critical.

NaNo Prep, part 1!

There was no Worldbuilding Wednesday post yesterday, because, well, stuff. Had to help out a friend of mine with something, had a translation to do and had to work a little on a mandatory assignment for my studies. The headache didn’t exactly help either.

The main reason, however, is a good one. For once in my life I’m actually prepping for NaNoWriMo beyond deciding what story/stories to write. Not that that’s not quite a bit of work in itself – I tend to write more than 50k and also tend to need more than one story – but, well, with this crazy November and a wordcount goal of 200k I need all the prepping I can get.

Story 1 will be the second draft of Rogue Sorcery. It will be a complete rewrite (only a tiny bit will be left from the first draft, as the plot is wildly different), so I don’t feel bad about including it.

Story 2 will be a story I’ve tried to write twice before, but I have never been able to find the right plot. I had the premise and the characters, but nothing more, until last weekend. I’ve planned the main points of the plot, but hopefully I’ll have time to revise and flesh it out a little before November starts.

Story 3, the reserve story, is also a story I’ve tried to write several times before. I have six or seven versions of the beginning in my files, and I also posted it as my Saturday Snippet on the 8th of August. The plot has changed a bit – it was originally about the youngest son of the farmer’s family, who had his head in the clouds and headed off to adventure once he was told to get the dragon away from the village. Now it’s about his rational, steadfast brother instead, who is dragged along in order to keep his brother from harm. It will also feature a character I’ve been dying to use in a story for years now, after his own story fell through.

In other words, I have plenty to do before November, but I’m looking forward to it. Now I’ll just have to work hard on finishing the plots, and then finish all the other things that need to be done so I won’t have to think about them in November. We’ll see how it goes!

Plotting, worldbuilding and books on writing

I am finally doing it. After putting it off for so long, I have finally revised the plot for Rogue Sorcery. I wrote everything onto flash cards (initially wrote “slash cards” – that brought up quite a different set of associations) so that I could move them around afterwards. It took its time, of course, but paired with watching “Buffy” on Netflix it was quite alright. I could do it on the computer, of course, but I can visualise far better where each scene should go when I have actual pieces of paper in front of me. I was surprised by how little I needed to fix, but then I had done a rather thorough job last time around. Now I just need to re-enter it into Aeon Timeline and decide how the changes affect the timeline, and then I think I have fixed it as much as I need to do before the second draft. There are probably still problems left, but things tend to change rather dramatically when I write them anyway and I cannot really see any of them at the moment.

Before I start writing I have some worldbuilding left to do. Several systems of government, three cities, some local history and a couple of timelines, as well as fleshing out some of the characters more. And making city maps, which is in the “cannot wait to do” category. I absolutely love drawing maps. I’m not overly good at city maps, really, but I think I’m better than last time I tried, and honestly, it will be fun. The last item on that list is to figure out where the various plot-related places are in the respective cities.

Talking about plot and editing, there is one tool that has been utterly indispensable for me for the past few days. It’s a book called 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron (one of my favourite authors), and while it is really a book on how to write faster, it has been so useful I cannot even begin to describe it. Particularly the chapter on editing for people who hate editing – it was like it was written specifically for me. But also things like story and scene progression, editing and planning, characters, and sprinkled in between there is a lot of advice on how to think so that you don’t make things impossible for myself. I really recommend that you get it; it is very, very cheap on Kindle (if you don’t have a Kindle, you can use the Kindle app). I believe it was only 0.99 or 1.99 USD or some ridiculously low amount. And it is SO good! I have vague plans of using it to actually plan an entire novel before I write it this NaNoWriMo. Perhaps that’s the key to reaching the glorious 250k (which I failed to do last year. Still, I think 175k as a pantser is very good, if I’m to say it myself) this year?

Lastly, there was a personality test going around a while ago, based on how you write (word choices and frequency, I presume). It turned out to be a great argument against putting too much faith in such tests – according to it, I haven’t got a creative bone in my body, and it stated that I do not have any patience for art. In fact I scored 0% on being artistic. Clearly writing novels, painting, drawing, composing songs, worldbuilding, making up languages and doing photography are neither creative nor artistic! Such tests cannot take every single variable into account, even those that don’t automatically assume that just because you prefer that things are logical and systematic, you cannot also be creative. Much like my high school teachers who were surprised that I liked – and was good at – both science and languages/art. Just goes to show you should not let anything or anyone dictate your own perception of yourself…

Had it judged the quality of the writing, on the other hand, I suspect it might be a different story. My dislike of editing also extends to blog posts…

Plot breakthroughs

If there’s one thing I have been thinking about lately, it’s my trilogy (the Sorcery Cycle). The main source of frustration is the fact that it doesn’t feel like a trilogy. While some parts of the third book are related to the previous two, there is a very large time gap between them, and after book two it would just be a huge anti-climax. It is not really part of the main story arc of the series; I have just thought so because it follows the personal story arc of one of the important characters.

The trilogy, which consists of Rogue Sorcery (RS), Forgotten Sorcery (FS) and Natural Sorcery (NS), is the first in a longer series, if you can call it that. The series does not have a continuous plot, nor does it necessarily feature the same characters (or even the same world(s)). Some characters and places are recurring, others not.

RS and FS is, in reality, more closely tied to a fourth story, The Madness, which in many ways is the conclusion (though sort of indirectly) to one of the main plotlines. However, they have no characters in common except a minor one, do not occur at the same place or time, and feel quite different from each other. NS is more the personal story of Ceredi as he battles the demons of his past.

So after agonizing over everything that is wrong for quite a while now, I’ve come to the realisation that it’s actually not a trilogy. The one part that relates to the story of RS/FS and/or The Madness can be reworked quite neatly into RS. This way NS can be it’s own thing, and get a new and not-so-misleading name.

So now I am working through the story arcs, deciding which stories and subplots will be included, and what the plot of the actual duology will be. I think I am getting closer. I fear I have a lot of work in front of me, but I am convinced that the series will be better for it. I have certainly gotten back my enthusiasm for it!