New toys

Well it turns out a wiki is kind of a perfect storybuilding tool for me. I develop a lot of junk while I’m writing and though I try to keep track of it, it often gets lost with nowhere to keep track of it.

This morning I woke up around 4 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I installed a wiki on my web server and started playing. Oh my god. I might even be kinda sorta outlining that sf story…!!! While also fleshing out the characters, world, species, etc… Love it.

I have to laugh though because my written-down outline pretty much has the same problem as when I don’t use one and just go by the seat of my pants. Strong beginning, then I get to the middle section and it’s “then some stuff happens…” and then a strong ending.

I hate pinning that stuff down because I feel like it should grow out of each even that happens, and that is how I write it. The few times I’ve written or tried to write from an outline that’s where I’m most likely to go COMPLETELY off the reservation or to decide to throw out the outline completely. When I’ve tried to be faithful, I’ve tended to produce passionless scenes I throw out anyway.

But this time I am going to give it a good faith effort and just pick like, three key points. Not get too fussy so I feel like I have room to change and grow. Just to help guide me, so I don’t (as I often do) sit there wondering what the heck Main Character would do next…

Also I have a tendency to feel like if a story is told (or “solved” in my mind) I never want to write it, so I must not fully “solve” it…

Repeat battle

I’ve been struggling again with that question of whether or not I should force myself to use an outline. Sure, Stephen King doesn’t use one, but I’m not that good, and never will be. I think the main reason I use him as a defense is because the way he describes his writing process is so very, very close to mine. The way he gets and approaches ideas, the way he pursues them and sees them through.

Though I don’t use an outline, doesn’t mean I don’t think about structure. I think about it a whole lot, and I study similar works for their structure and to learn how mine might come together. I keep it in my head and when I can, I jot down notes at least two or three scenes ahead to keep myself on a path.

The Red Box‘s structure isn’t anything new or experimental. It’s very much the Three Act Play structure described on this page, and in fact it’s quite helpful to read it spelled out like this because it helps me name two points where I worry the story is lacking: “The Explosive Incident” and “The Culminating Crisis.” Possibly also the “Midpoint solution,” though I’m not sure. And yes I realize that it’s bad that those two major turning points feel the weakest to me… stuff to work on. They’re both issues I kept thinking I had solved, but that never actually seemed to come together right after I put them in the scene.

And that’s my last quarrel with outlines. What seems to make sense in an abstract may not (and for me, often seems to not) make sense once all the pieces are actually in play. When I write a scene, when I’m really writing a scene and I’m in the moment it’s like I am the lead character and I’m seeing everything and I’m also the director and I’m viewing the scene and I’m also the narrator and hearing the scene and it’s… yeah.

But I’m a beginning novelist. Not a beginning writer though yeah, a finally-trying-to-get-serious writer. So maybe I need to keep trying the method that drives me crazy, that to me, threatens to suck the passion and heart and the excitement and that just-plain-seat-of-your-pants, gut, in the motherfucking moment thrill of it. Maybe if I keep it very open and vague. Just the major plot points. No details, let those work them out. Maybe even just prompts to provoke myself into feeling something for that scene?

We’ll see. I’m awfully stubborn, even when it’s hurting me more than helping me.

Perseverance

Stumbled over this post today and it’s both inspiring and terrifying. So inspiring to hear that after all that hard work, at last this author saw success. And terrifying to think how easy it’d be to give up, walk away.

I’ve got three stalled novels and have only just now finished my first. I can’t imagine having to “trunk” one, then rewrite a second from scratch. It seems so huge… and yet, it’s amazing to think that in the end all that perseverance paid off.

I admit that’s one of my fears. I have a hard time not being perfect… even though I’m far far from it. I do have a tendency to give up when I feel I’m just not good enough.

I admire this woman and hope I can learn from her experience, if and when I have to endure similar things or worse things!

Feast/famine

Well last weekend was a complete failure of creativity, but this weekend has turned out more productive. I sat down again and hammered out another short story, startling me–I really only meant to start it. This one I’m still unsure of, may need some heavy reworking and expanding, but it is another idea that’s been kicking around my head for a while.

Also finished a short story I was writing as a gift, so I’m feeling a little better on the writing front. I’d like to start tackling that bingo card prompt list, and maybe do some fifteen minute stories.

Sometime last year before things went kablooey for a while I joined a spec fic meetup. Went to one strange meeting and never went back. But they have twice-monthly crit sessions and I wonder if I should try to do one. Trouble is, you’re required to crit in person and I’ve never been good at that. (Giving the crit; taking it in person I’m fine with) But I am trying to speak up more in groups anyway. I don’t know. Maybe when I’m feeling more confident in my writing again.

Prêt-à- … écrire?

So, though I’m well aware it’s not perfect, I’ve packaged up the first draft of The Red Box and sent it off to C., who has very kindly been reading through my first-ish draft(s). I was trying to polish up the second half, since the first half of the story can’t really be called “first draft”–it’s really been revised at least three times, if not more for some sections. The second half, though, is definitely a first draft. Much of it is still as it came from my fingers, and I’m already aware of some places where the pacing feels off, where I’m not trusting myself, or not sure if a scene belongs or not.

So why send it off? Well, partly because I’m sick of looking at it–it’s definitely drawer time; and partly because C. has been so encouraging and insightful and motivating that I would appreciate her insight into the “less good” parts.

Which leaves me… still wanting to write, but not sure what to write. There’s an idea that’s nibbling on the back of my brain, but it’s largely unformed as of yet, and to be honest, it’s mostly driven by my current game-infatuation. I know the beginning premise: a woman captain (or other commanding officer) who returns from some great accomplishment (a drastic mission? a search-and-rescue? a great discovery?) unfulfilled, both on a personal and professional level. She drifts away from her previous position for whatever reason (she retires because of her discontent, she saw something that soured her, she feels distanced from her crew, she was driven out by politics) and now does her daily due on the way to retirement. But then an old friend from her past calls…

I could also work on a short story, as the previous idea feels like a novella at least. I’ve got lots of poor, aborted short story ideas lingering: the “zombie” older lady who meets and has a fling with a younger man and all that ensues; the diary livejournal of a teenage werewolf; the spaceman who falls in love with a distant “voice” only to discover not what he expects on the other end. I’ve also got lots of stalled novels: The King of Salem, Under a Dreaming Sky, The Color of Amber… But all those stories have male leads and I wonder if I’m not in the mood to write a female lead for a while.

Or I’ve got a list of prompts from an “original fic bingo card” that I signed up for. Maybe it’s time to just jot out a bunch of short fiction for a while. I did, after all, have a pretty fun time writing a recent Re-Vamp werewolf story…