Tag Archives: outline

Planning Problems

Some of you might be wondering if this blog is about running into problems while planning for my new book, or whether it is about planning the problems that my characters will be running into. Honestly, I’m not sure there is a difference.

First off, let me say that I am disappointed in all of you for not leaving a comment on last week’s post. I was looking for some feedback on my story outline because I am suffering from low self-esteem and kind of think that it might suck. I don’t want to write something that sucks. I want to write something special that people will appreciate and enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the story idea I had is fairly tenable, but I also believe that it could be better. Possibly a lot better. But I’m having trouble figuring out how to fill in the holes and kick it up a notch. So if any of you have any ideas you would like to share with me, please do so ASAP. Thanks.

All right, now that I have that off my chest, let’s get on to where I am in my plans.

I actually haven’t gotten much more done since last week. I tried plotting out the individual scenes that I want to include in the different parts of my book, using a three act structure, but my inspiration ran into a wall as I neared the midpoint and I couldn’t work out what happened next. I’ve got an idea of what is supposed to happen at the midpoint, as well as the ending, but I’m starting to think that that is where my plot falls apart and starts to suck, so I’m having trouble working out the scenes for it.

So instead of planning scenes for the last half of the book, I started writing the first scene. I figured that doing some actual writing might give me some inspiration for filling in the holes in the outline. I’m not sure if it worked, but I did manage to get some words on the page, which led me to working out some of the character details for some of the other people in the story.

The first scene was supposed to be similar to the scene in the Lethal Weapon movie, where Martin Riggs takes out his pistol and considers eating a bullet. I wanted that pain to be one of the first things you see about my hero. But I also wanted there to be some background to it, so I thought I would start with a nightmare that triggered those suicidal thoughts. The nightmare turned into my first scene, and the gun was the second scene. I also decided to watch the movie again to get a better idea of how to write a scene like that, as well as for inspiration about how the loss of a loved one could trigger that kind of death wish. Seeing the film again really helped, and I have a bit of editing to do to tighten up that scene and make it hit even harder. It also made me wonder whether or not I should cut out the nightmare sequence, or at least move it to later in the book. Maybe less is more, and would help make the readers more likely to keep reading so they can find out why he is thinking of killing himself.

As I mentioned, another thing that came out of writing those scenes was the need to fill in some more character details. For instance, I had to come up with a name for Alexander’s dead wife. Once I had that, I filled in some of her history and personality, to help define why he was so in love with her that he can barely manage to function now that she is gone. Once that was done, I also worked out some of the details of the young mother that is going to come into his life now. I decided that one of the reasons that he decides he has to help her is because she reminds him of his dead wife. Not necessarily physically, but in her personality and the way she confronts him. She is the daughter he could have had “if only….”

I expect I’ll keep writing and planning together for a while, filling in the holes and working out the details. But I’m probably not going to be writing every day. I broke my 227 day writing streak on Friday, and I didn’t write anything yesterday either. But this year isn’t going to be focused on how many words I write every day(Sorry, Magic Spreadsheet!), just at writing the best book I possibly can.

We’ll see how it goes, and you can keep up with the word count of my manuscript by following my word count meter here. Otherwise, I’ll be back next week for another update. See you then!

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

New Year, New Novel

As promised, today I’m going to give you an update on how the planning for my new novel is going. I have to warn you though. I have been busy, so this post is going to be a long one.

The working title is The Reluctant Hero, as you can see by my new Word Meter on the right. I’ll probably leave the Dirty Little Freaks meter there for a while just because I am proud of having finished it. I did get that last story done before the end of the year, and it wasn’t too terrible. It was about a woman who was lost and stumbled across a secret laboratory. She was taken prisoner and injected with a serum that turned her into a superhero. That’s about it. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the story, like how did she get lost in the first place, who was running the secret lab, and where they all went while the serum was doing its work. If I ever figure out the answers to those questions I might revisit that story, but meanwhile at least it served its purpose as a writing exercise.

Now, back to what you are all waiting for. The new novel!

All right, so the first thing I had to do was decide what I wanted to write about. As I told you last week, my only real idea was to write a story using the old theme of the reluctant hero. Someone who was pulled into a dangerous situation and forced to step up in order to save not only himself, but the whole world. Or at least more of it than would normally fit in his pajamas. So the first thing I needed to do was figure out who this guy was.

I started with a character sketch. I don’t mean a picture, although that will probably come in at some point. No, I mean a description of the character, including name, age, general appearance, and most importantly, his history and personality.

My main character is named Alexander Lunde. I chose the first name because it actually means “defender of mankind” in some languages. Or, at least, that’s what my Scrivener name generator told me. The last name is pretty much just random, except that I thought he should be of Norwegian descent. Just because.

I won’t get into his height and weight, eye and hair color. The important details are that he is a widower. His wife died in “the disaster” and he blames himself, so he lives alone, cutting himself off as much as possible from everyone else. If you want to get into the psychobabble, I suppose that he has low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like he deserves to live among other people. Another reason for his life as a hermit could be that he can’t stand the thought of losing someone else close to him. So he pushes people away, and generally comes across as a grumpy old man.

So that’s where I started. Now, you might have noticed a couple words in quotes in the description above. That was my next step in figuring out where I was going with this story. What, exactly, is “the disaster”?

Well, I decided that I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic tale. That meant that there should be at least the remains of technology available in the ruins of civilization that were still left standing. However, I also like the ideas of magic and monsters. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are high on my reading lists. So what kind of disaster could I come up with that had both science AND magic?

And, if at all possible, dragons.

My brain struggled over this for a while, and finally, out of the storm came this little gem. A comet passed extremely close to Earth, and billions of people went outside to watch as it neared the closest point. Unfortunately, those were the people who died. The comet gave off a strange form of radiation that killed everyone that saw it. The radiation also triggered a reaction deep in the Earth’s core that rekindled a magical force that had been largely depleted over the centuries of humanity’s history. After all, the legends of gods and fairy tales had to come from somewhere, right?

So now I’ve got a man with a past. What about the world of the present?

My next step was to figure out what was going on right now. I had to determine what the world was like in order to figure out how my story would fit in to it. After all, if my reluctant hero was going to have to save humanity, I had to at least find out what he was saving them from.

I already knew it was going to be post-apocalyptic, so that gave me a start. Few people, primarily gathered into small communities, largely either living off the land or scavenging through the ruins. With the magic influence, I decided that along with the bandits that would undoubtedly threaten any travelers, as well as established communities, there would also be fantastical monsters. Goblins, ogres, creatures of both dreams and nightmares, and, most importantly, dragons.

Another thing I had to decide was where it was going to be set. Of course, like most of my books, I decided to set it close to home. Personally, I think that Madison, Wisconsin, would be a fine place to live if most of the people were gone. Especially the idiots in that fancy domed building downtown. There are also plenty of farms and wooded areas around the city that would be excellent places for the survivors to use to start over and support themselves. There are even a few state parks where my hero could live without being bothered.

And there is also the UW campus. Let’s face it, if magic came back into the world, can you think of anywhere better to set up a school of wizardry than the research facilities of a major metropolitan university? It was a perfect place for people to gather together to start researching how to use the new forces of magic that were now available to all.

And that gave me the idea for the plot. These new wizards, just figuring out the “science” of magic, could easily cross one of those lines that are better left uncrossed. In the fantasy books I have read, one of the biggest dangers of using magic is summoning a demon. When dealing with evil creatures from another plane, not only does your spell have to be perfect, but you also have to have an iron will in order to keep body and soul together. Otherwise, what you end up with as a monster terrorizing the neighborhood while bloody chunks drip down the walls of the summoning chamber. Not good.

So I have a hero, a setting, and a climax. Now, how was I going to get Alexander from being a hermit to saving the world from a demonic invasion? And where were the dragons going to come in?

The answer, of course, is to bring in other people. I had to force him to spend time with others in order to be in a position where he had no choice but to be a hero. And who better to transform a grumpy old man into a loving “grandfather” than a little boy (or girl)?

Here’s the rough outline of the plot that I came up with:

Alexander is out hunting and finds a small family en route to the campus that is being attacked by bandits. He saves the family, but the father is injured and the bandits got away with most of their supplies. He reluctantly takes them in while the father recovers, which gives them time to bond with him, despite his efforts to push them away.

After the father recovers, the two of them go into the local town to restock the family’s supplies so they can continue their journey. On the way, they find a dragon’s egg, which they pick up and bring into town. Unfortunately, the dragon tracks them there and attacks the town, killing the young father before it, too is killed.

Alexander goes back to his house and breaks the news to the young wife. She is upset, and Alexander feels really bad. After she calms down, she tells him that she still wants to continue her journey, and she makes him promise to take her. He still has the dragon egg, and decides to take it with them so the people there can study it.

This part needs a bit of work. They get to campus and he sticks around while the girl gets settled with her family. At some point he discovers that the wizards are experimenting with summoning spells. He goes to watch and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Demons start flooding through the portal, and Alexander is hurt badly while trying to fight them off.

The ghost of Alexander’s dead wife then appears to him and tells him that it isn’t his time to die and that he needs to keep fighting or the young mother and her children will die. Her spirit then takes over the unborn dragon egg, which then hatches and helps Alexander fight off the demons and close the portal.

In the end, Alexander, the baby dragon, and the little family go back to his cabin in the woods and live happily ever after.

It’s pretty rough, and as I mentioned, I know there are some problems with the plot, but at least it is a starting point. I welcome any comments, criticism, or suggestions that will help me make it better.

That’s it for today (whew!). I’ll see you next week with another update on my planning. I hope to be able to work out some of the weak spots in this outline and fill in some gaps with a list of the scenes I’ll need to use in order to make this a decent novel. Later!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

This week I reached the end of my Dirty Little Freaks collection of short stories. The last one was titled The End, but I may change that after editing. The plot, in a nutshell, was about a young man telling about a day that was both the best and worst day of his life. It started out nicely enough, with great weather on a late spring day. He took his girlfriend to a secluded picnic spot on the lake that only he knew about. They swam for a while, then went back to shore to rest. Since it was such a nice day, he fell asleep, and when he woke up his girlfriend was being abducted by three dwarves. He chased them and caught up to them just before they entered the cave that was their lair. He managed to get her out of their clutches and she hailed him as her hero. They both thought it was over, but as they walked away he fell into a pit and a dwarf crushed his skull.

Not my best work, but it wasn’t too bad for something off the top of my head. A lot like most of the stories I wrote over the last year. Most of them only suck because they weren’t thought through before I started writing. They all contain a kernel of a good idea that just needs a little nurturing in order to become great.

So now what?

I’m glad you asked. Over the next few days I think I’ll work on finishing one of the in-between stories that I started when I was ahead of schedule one week. I’ll also be starting to brainstorm some ideas for the novel I plan on writing next year. I would like to have some of the highlights of the new book down on paper before I start writing. It would be a welcome change for me to know a little bit about my characters and where the story is going before I shoot off into another dead-end.

My character idea so far is a reluctant hero. Someone who would rather just be left alone, but circumstances beyond his control drag him out into the world and make him the center of attention. He has to learn how to deal with other people and their problems in order to solve his own.

As far as the plot goes, I have no ideas. I know that it will need to fit in with my intended character arc, but other than that it could be anything. Fantasy, science fiction, horror. Maybe a mix of all three. I might even throw some romance in there if I can figure out how to make it work with the character.

Thanks for sticking with me over the last year as I wrote my stories. I ended up with over 136,000 words and 57 first drafts. And like I said at the beginning of this post, each of them is an idea which can be used to write something better. And maybe someday I will.

That’s it for today. I’ll see you next week to let you know how the planning for the new novel is going. TTFN!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

Running Out of Steam

I have to say that after a year of writing short stories I am finding it a little hard to find inspiration. I have covered so many different things over the last fifty weeks that finding something new to write is becoming an issue.

Or maybe the problem is just that I am getting tired of doing this over and over again.

Last week’s story was about a party hosted by social vampires. They enticed people into their lair and drained them dry, making them pay for food and drinks and subjecting them to all sorts of depravities, leaving them broke and broken and willing to do anything to get back in. It actually wasn’t much of a story, more of a lecture about how the party started and one man’s efforts to fight back by using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to warn people to stay away. But it could be an interesting premise to write an actual story about. All I would have to do is find the right characters to write about and put them in the thick of things.

I think that maybe this week I’ll take my inspiration from Twitter. I can read a bunch of posts and see if I can find something that inspires me with a “what if?” thought. Otherwise I have no idea what I will be writing this week.

As the year of the Dirty Little Freaks winds down, however, my mind is pushing ahead to next year. Although I hit 200 days on my chain on the Magic Spreadsheet, I think I’m going to stop using it next year. I’ve done what I needed to do and I really don’t have any more to prove. I just want to focus on writing a good novel next year, which means planning it out so that it will be the best story I can write. No more freestyle writing where I have no idea what is going to come out of my mind and onto the page. No more discovering the story as I write it. I want to know what the story is about ahead of time in order to decide whether or not it is worth writing in the first place.

I also want to get some reading done. I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading this last year, and I have an awful lot of books on my shelves that are gathering dust, and I haven’t even cracked their covers yet. I’m talking physical books here, not e-books. Don’t even ask about how many unread books are on my Kindle. It’s obscene.

That’s about it for this week. As always, I’ll fill you in next Sunday on my latest story. And if I’m lucky I’ll have found the inspiration for next year’s novel. See you then!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

Kill Your Darlings

Have you heard of this yet? New authors are frequently told that they have to be able to kill their darlings. This is supposed to mean that they need to be able to cut even their most favorite parts of their writing if it doesn’t significantly add to the whole. It also means that no matter how much they may love their characters, sometimes they just don’t belong in the story. Another way that editing is compared to parenting is the saying that when looking for critiques, you need to go to someone who will tell you that your baby is ugly.

Parenting is a tough job. And so is editing. I’ve been a parent, and the hardest thing I ever had to do was to let my babies go. When they were born, I wanted to look after them constantly and make sure that they never got hurt. The problem with that is that I ended up grumpy because I didn’t get enough time for myself, and they weren’t developing the skills they needed to be independent. I had good intentions, but they end result sucked for both of us.

I’m still working on learning how to edit. I’ve made revisions before to some of my short stories, and I’ve started editing one or two of my novels, but I have to admit that I gave up after a couple of weeks. The problem that I have with editing the longer works is that I feel that I need to tear the whole thing apart and figure out what the story is before I can make it better. Most of my novels were done as discovery writing. What that means is that I started either without an outline, or with only a partial outline. I discovered my characters and my stories as I wrote. That can lead to all sorts of fun things, but in the end, most of it sucks.

So one of these days I’m going to run my stories through a shredder and see if I can’t piece them back together into something worthwhile, or simply toss the bag into the rubbish and work on something worthwhile. That’s why I have given copies of my January stories to my critique group. Not so they can give me tips on editing them, but to simply let me know if they are worth the effort. Otherwise, they will be used for kindling on my next camping trip.

Those are my thoughts on writing for the day. The year is swiftly passing and the Dirty Little Freaks are continuing to spew out of my head and onto the page. Sometimes I wonder how I can be a functioning member of society with the dark and dreadful things that come out when I write. But I suppose it’s as Shrek says, “Better out than in!”

I’ll be back on Wednesday for another update. See you then!

3 Comments

Filed under About Me, The Writing Experience

Meet My New Friend

As you should remember from my last post, last week I finished my story early. That gave me time to mull over what I would write this week. I’m not sure how well I did with that, but I did get an inspiration that I think will work nicely.

As usual, my inspiration came in the form of a dream. I don’t remember all the details, but the meat of the dream was centered around a sort of prison, or maybe a secret government lab, where several mutants were being held captive and experimented on. I don’t recall if the dream me was there as a prisoner, a rescuer, or a lab tech, but my main concern was with one of the inmates in particular.

My new friend is a boy of undetermined age who is able to absorb and manipulate matter with his touch. And by matter I mean down to the atomic level. He can literally locate specific atoms and pull them into himself just by touching his subject. And once he has them he can use them however he wants.

I think this guy could probably have a full-length novel, detailing how he wound up in this place and what he does to escape. But for now I think I will start with a short story that explains how he got his powers. I might make it into a series, working up to his capture. That would definitely help me develop the character in preparation for a novel.

So that’s the plan for this week. Write a short story about a boy who thought he was normal, but turned out to be a little bit more. It’s probably not going to be a long story, so I might be able to finish early again this week. If I do, I might use the time to plot out some more stories using this character, and maybe even get a head start on planning for the novel.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with another update. See you then!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

Why Does This Keep Happening?

So, what do we want to talk about today? Politics or writing? How about the fact that no matter how hard I try to write a nice, PG-rated story, somehow everything turns into a creepy horror-fest.

Is there something wrong with my brain? Have I got some strange kind of disorder that wants to color everything with Crayons from the Dark Side? Or have I just been watching too many zombie movies? (Is there such a thing as too much zombies?)

I do try to keep things from circling down the abattoir to Hell, but it isn’t easy. Take my last story, for example.

It started as a chase, with two people running from a group of soldiers. They came to a field, one where the hero apparently had some prior experience. He led the soldiers into the field, despite the fact that he knew he was in almost as much danger as they were. But he got lucky. He wasn’t eaten alive by the intelligent, land-based piranha people who lived there. Instead, their leader talked to him and somehow it turned into an impromptu wedding to the girl who was with him.

I’m still not quite sure how I turned a horror story into a romance, and it may not really work the way it is, but I’m counting that as a win for the side of goodness and light.

I don’t know what it’s going to take for me to write something that doesn’t require parental supervision to read. Maybe I need to be more careful about plotting out my story. Maybe I need to start watching and reading more romances. Or maybe I need to start hanging around with kids (come here little girl, I’ve got candy!).

Maybe not.

Maybe all I need to do is embrace my dark side and see if I can become the next Stephen King. Because if there’s one thing I have learned in my forty-plus years on this planet, it’s that life is hard and darkness is everywhere.

Depressing thoughts for a Sunday morning. I’ll see if I can do better on Wednesday. Wish me luck on my story for this week! (I wonder what it will be…)

2 Comments

Filed under The Writing Experience

Another NaNoWriMo Win!

Sorry for the late post. I have been relaxing after the hectic pace of November. I haven’t done any writing in the last two days, and to be honest, it feels weird.

As you can see from my little sticker on the right, I have won another NaNoWriMo. That’s three years in a row I have managed to write 50,000 words in the month of November. This year I actually made it to 61,322 words, a personal best for me.

But the story isn’t finished yet, and to tell you the truth, it’s not even close. I am trying to decide whether to keep writing, or to take a break and do some more outlining work before I start up again. It would probably be a bad idea to keep going without knowing where the story is headed, but I think I can eke out a few more days worth of writing before I will have to stop.

I’m going to keep thinking about it, and maybe I’ll do a little more writing tomorrow. But not tonight.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with another update. I hope you all had a good November, and I wish you the best in this holiday season. See you soon!

2 Comments

Filed under NaNoWriMo, The Writing Experience

Still Writing

As you can see by my nifty NaNoWriMo word count meter, I’m still writing. As of Wednesday evening I have over 56,000 words written for this novel. I also think I might have an idea on how I can end the book. Or at the very least a good cliffhanger.

When I was planning this story, I simply could not comprehend how the Republican party had turned so fully against common sense. It seemed that everything they were doing was an attack on the American people. And so, like any good Christian, I assumed that they had been possessed by demons. That was a basic premise of my idea.

However, after I started writing it, I found it more focused on my heroes and less on the demons. Even with all of these words written, the demons are only mentioned a few times and never actually seen. There is no proof of any kind of demonic influence, only a statement by one of the Norns (from the Norse mythology, a little like the classic Greek Fates).

Today I was working on planning a raid by the rebel forces. I decided to attack the Dane County Coliseum, and I had to decide why. What I came up with was that the wealthy people in power have converted into something like the ancient Roman Coliseum, where gladiatorial and sexual events are held on a regular basis to entertain the elite. After the recent laws regarding the Castle Doctrine and the Republican war on women, I figured that kind of perversion would be something that many of them approve of if they had the power to enact it.

The rebels want to attack for two reasons. First, to take out some of the sick idiots running the place. They expect the Governor (who I hope will be indicted soon in real life) to be there along with several other political figures. Secondly, they want to film the depravities being conducted there and broadcast them to the public, hoping to incite outrage in the people and get more of them on their side.

My idea is that when they attack they will find more than they bargained for. They will find that after the fights and orgies are over, the demons come in to “clean up” by eating any surviving prisoners. No witnesses, right?

I think that might be a good way to end this book. I would have the big reveal of the truth behind the devastation of America, and the promise of more battles to come in the next book.

The other option, of course, is to do the reveal and then just keep writing. I could just keep going until the whole story is done, then break it up into sections for publishing, like Tolkien did with the Lord of the Rings.

I guess I’ll have to keep thinking about that. In the meantime, I’m going to try to keep up my pace until Friday, the end of November. Then I’ll verify my word count on the NaNoWriMo website to become an official winner. What comes after that, I’m not sure. I’ll probably need a break, because I’m running out of my pre-planned outline, and the story has changed so much from that anyway that I should probably take at least a few days to plan out the next phase of the story.

That’s all I’ve got for tonight. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo I hope you have either finished or are almost done. And if you didn’t join me in this month-long adventure in writing, there’s always next year!

See you again on Sunday. Good night!

PS: Now go write!

Leave a comment

Filed under NaNoWriMo, Politics, The Writing Experience

Achievement Unlocked!

Yes, I hit the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words today. I am technically a winner.

However, that doesn’t mean I am done. Far from it. This story just keeps going on and on, which means I have to keep writing until I get to the end. Or at least until November 30.

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the fact that I had such a good idea of where the story was going to go when I started. Or maybe it’s because when I was planning it I was thinking that the idea was too big for just one book. Or maybe it’s just because I’m a better writer than I was for my first NaNoWriMo two years ago.

Whatever the reason, I feel that my writing has improved, and I am finding things in this story that I never planned for. Things that build it up into a stronger story. Things that make it longer than expected.

The longest story I have written so far was just over 60,000 words. At the rate this one is going it may hit 100,000. Let me give you an example.

When I wrote my last post my main concern for the following day was to get my hero out into the world and introduce him to someone who could train him. I thought it would happen right away.

I was wrong.

Instead, he got up in the middle of the night and met a young mother with a crying baby. He helped with the baby, reminisced about his own kids, and realized that the real reason he needed to be part of the rebel group was so the baby would have a future.

The next day, I wrote about what he had for breakfast, and the people who served it to him.

The day after that, I introduced him to his trainer, but then took the rest of the time traveling to a spot where they could train and getting him to see the magical world around him.

It wasn’t until today when he finally actually used the magic. At the very end of today’s scene.

That’s an awful lot of words written, and a lot of it is probably irrelevant, and will get cut in the editing. But then again, maybe not. As I said, the first scene with the baby gives him some motivation. The second scene with the breakfast introduces a secondary character that could become important if I want to introduce a little bit of romance. Or humor. The third scene was a good way to set up the way that magic works. And a big portion of today’s scene throws in some spiritual conflict, as well as a problem regarding the use of power.

So, lots of good stuff, even if it seemed to drag on when all I really wanted to do was to get to the magic training.

As I mentioned, even though I have hit the goal for November, I am going to continue to write, at the same level that I have been (daily goal of 1667 words per day). However, I’m not sure what I will do when I finish the month. I may continue to write, if the mood is right and the muse is there. If things stall out, though, I’ll probably take a break and review what I have done to see where I may have gotten off track and plan where I need to go next.

I’ll check in again on Wednesday. Keep your word count up! Now go write!

1 Comment

Filed under NaNoWriMo, The Writing Experience