Meeting that deadline xbyfri

This is a miserable process.

The more I study character archetype, the more conflicted I am. (That’s good, conflict!) My goal? Fix the character archetypes to match the standards of whichever system you’re using (there seem to be several, Jungian included).

Doing that requires that I fix the story to meet the requirements of the character arc. The start point of the writing has been changed three times now.  It may get changed again. From my previous post, I had the story start with the navy crew detecting four ships. It was a yawner. Well written, but boring from a plot perspective. [Modestly speaking.]

So I yanked that out. Started it with the Captain getting on the bridge, evaluating the threat, saying alert the marines.

This is still inadequate because it’s not meeting a scene/sequel format.  I believe that the captain scene will also be dropped.

Alternate currently considered beginning: Marines get alert, get ready, load on shuttle, some equipment failures, shuttle launches when ship is in danger and the shuttles make their way back to the planet.  The ship becomes a bookend ship (destroyed in first act).  Obviously, this is moot, writing like this, since there’s no plot.  I’ve abandoned the one I have, so I need to go back and re-do that part.

But first things first! Back to creating a plot.  The one I have isn’t going to work, primarily due to the character arc.  I. Am. Throwing. Clumps. of. Hair. On. The. Floor.

Argh! back to my outline.  Define the character. Surround character with the stereotyped characters. Create goal. Create conflict.  Redo characters. Adjust story to characters. Expand from general short outline to one page on each act, then create scene sequel pairings with specifics: goal, conflict, disaster, recovery, dilemma, (oxford comma ftw) and decision.

This is going to be bloody.  Step back.  I will do this.  There will be a book series. I will prevail.

Get off social media. Write your book. Time marches on, right now

Read this post with this music (Van Halen’s Right Now) going in the background:

Hey! It’s your tomorrow
(Right now)
Come on, it’s everything
(Right now)
Catch your magic moment
Do it right here and now
It means everything

Just a quick note. I’ve been reading a lot of Kristin Lamb lately – she’s very encouraging, while being tough in the sense that you must be. She quotes two writers who essentially say the same thing:

Get off social media. Write your book.

They have a good point. The question is what you want to do. Do you want to be published? Do you?! Do you want to contribute to the great funnel of crap or do you want to publish something awesome and worthy? If your answer is you do want to be published, you have to write your book. If you want it to be awesome, you need to learn how to do it right. (Write?)

Lots of people have advice, and it’s cool, but ultimately with any advice is the application. What are you doing to make your book happen? Are you writing? Or blogging? Or twitting? Or posting cat vids on facebook? Writing makes your book happen. Everything else is fluff.

Application: What are you doing, right now, that is in the way of writing your book? Get focused. Get on the warpath.  Use your time wisely. Tempus fugit. It comes and goes and you will never get those minutes back.

Write your book. Get your warpaint on and hunt that sucker down with a big honkin’ boar spear. Be tenacious. Be focused. Desire your goal and obtain it.  Practice self-discipline and DO NOT LET THE TIME WASTER STOP YOU FROM WRITING YOUR BOOK.

Okay, I’m pumped. I’m ready to go back to character arcs and rewrite my outline. Who’s with me?

My outline is wrong. All wrong. Throw it out, start over.

I’ll bet you never thought that.  Heck, most of you don’t outline. That’s English class stuff, no application to the real world.

It’s okay, I agree. About the English class stuff. Application? Plenty.

How can you write a complex plot unless you have some map?  “It ruins the spontaneity, Pontius,” you say to me plaintively.  “And,” you add snarkily, “you can’t even spell spontaneity without a spellcheck.”  Got me there. But you’re not so clever! I’ve obviously got a spell check.  Strawman Snarky reader: 0. Pontius: 1.  Just in case you missed that.

I think I get what people are sayin’.  See, there’s joy in discovering a story as you go. You write and write and a few thousand words in, the characters are changing the story in a natural direction that feels right. It’s like you’re along for the ride and the story writes itself.

Or so some of the good writers claim. “Got my little fiction ouija board here, and it practically writes itself. I got discipline and creativity coming out of my back pores. I can’t help but write awesomely. Some days, I’m in awe of how the story writes itself. Then it’s down to the bank to cash that day’s royalty checks for a couple grand.”  It’s okay. We can hate them together, and be one with our envy.

So outline it is.  It’s faster.  Better. And because most of us aren’t geniuses, we need a process to outlet our creativity.

I’ve been processing. I thought I had a good outline. Now, I’m not so sure. Scratch that. I’m sure. It’s not good. It’s meh. Indifferent! Poxy and foul! To the scrap heap, and not one more word from you. No, reader, you cannot save it.  I will rebuild. Bigger. Better. Etc.

Pity all the conflict is in me battling my outline.  I’d be better in a story.

Snowflake – structure and editing

I was about 15,000 words into a sci-fi novel and in a discussion with my treasured writer friend. “While I was outlining my story, blah blah blah,” he announced casually to me. “Aroo? Outlining?” I asked.  Because I hadn’t. Outlined. Anything. Just threw it on the screen, like you do.

“Post-it notes, whiteboard, outlining, blah blah blah,” he responded.  Post it notes? This sounded painful. I hate the prep work. Hate. It.  I just want to write.

But that’s stupid. Sure, you can write product for days and weeks and 120 thousand words later, you’ve got a novel but it’s poop because there’s all sorts of stuff in there that, you know, doesn’t advance the plot. It’s pretty. Yeah, pretty pointless. So back to outlining.

I pull out my trusty amazon tab and type in “outlining novels.” Up pops this book by Randy Ingermanson which has a link to a website. Cool, I want to get some nuts and bolts without purchasing anything yet.  I hit up Randy’s site,

There’s steps, concrete steps to take to get your outline done in a few hours/days/weeks and start writing a successful novel. I take copious notes in excel. Then I start grinding.

I hate you, thesis statement. Does ANYONE like those guys? Except English Teachers, and I’m sure they’re just Toe the Line people who have to pretend to like thesis statements Because They Want to Keep a Job.  Yep, all in the name of expediency.  I start with my thesis statement. And it’s hard to boil the whole novel down into one sentence.  Gah!  But this is something that will force me to understand the entire novel and what it’s about… genre-wise, at least.  It’s not a milieu novel, or an idea novel, or a character novel, which leaves E, whatever that is.  (See Orson Scott Card’s MICE system, if you will.)

The paragraph is easier, because I get to type a few more words this time, and you might be able to tell I like typing words.  Thesis statement, one sentence for each act, and a conclusion.  This forces me to write the conclusion.  No wonder I bogged down at 15 K words… no road map.

Then there’s characters. Call me Leo Tolstoy. I got ’em.  That part isn’t hard. I can characterize til I am blue in the face and I’ll still have more.  But the questions — what are the goals of each character? What is the conflict? And so on– those questions force me to examine each character as a person, not just backdrop.  With a group of space marines, it’s tricky, because some of them don’t have goals, or don’t know they have goals, but some of them do.  That guy over there wants to be an officer, and that guy over there is doing it just so he can get off his crummy planet, and that girl is seeking a place to belong, and so on. Right away, I discover that with writing the second character as a foil for the protagonist, that another character is going to die because it’s going to make the scenes following far more conflicted as we see a sub-story: will the NCO be able to function as an officer?

From there, it was a matter of fleshing out each of the sentences in the story paragraph into an entire paragraph detailing the things happening in each act.  And then doing some reworking of the characters because the flow of the story needed some tweaks. I found out at this point that my main POV character was too lowly to be having much conflict, or at least the conflict I wanted to write.  See, there is conflict for a grunt, but it’s manifested as stay alive, don’t let your officers kill you off, and deal with the stupidity of your fellow grunts. Whereas, if the POV character gets a promotion from grunt to fire-team-leader, she’s now responsible for three other characters, has to deal with a second fire team in her squad, and interact with her squad leader, her platoon sergeant, and very rarely the platoon leader.  Maybe even moving her up to squad leader would make her problems come to the fore as the additional responsibility of managing 8 people instead of 3 would be more conflicty.

I haven’t made that final decision yet.

Then I was to write the story paragraphs into full one page summaries.  This part saw me hitting the high level logic of the story and finding more gaps and problems that needed fixing. How do we get from here to there? It was act 3 of the book that was the problem, and on the third re-draft I discovered that the planet the marines end up on has been invaded by another government’s army.

Interesting how that works, isn’t it?

I’ve been finally hitting the scene list, and that went pretty well– I just pulled sentence by sentence from the page summaries.  My Goal was to create the scene list with Scene/Sequel for each of the scenes.

My conflict was that this is not easy to do.  I’m trying to take a story narrative and ram it into S/S format. Ugh.

Disaster! The format of S/S isn’t fitting the narrative. So… I’m back to rewrite stage.  Scene. Sequel. Etc. Argh.