Wednesday, April 29, 2015

May Writing Challenge - Write a Book in 2-ish Weeks

I am scrambling to wrap up the outline on Covet Thy Neighbor, but it's actually ready enough that it probably won't slow me down. Still, because I am challenging myself to write a book so fast, I want to get every bit of work out of the way possible first.

I'll update on the overall progress of the April Outlining Challenge tomorrow. (Summary: didn't quite do what I wanted, but managed what I needed.)  I'm posting this ahead of that, because I want to give people warning about doing their own challenges.

The Challenge To You (as always): Find the thing you most want to actually accomplish this month, and announce it.

 It doesn't have to be ambitious or new or anything. Just look at all the writing tasks you have and pick something to put the priority on for the month.  Easy Peasy.

The Challenge to Me: Write the novel I just outlined in a couple of weeks

I am under the foolish impression that I don't have too much on my plate for the first 2-3 weeks of May.  This in spite of the fact that May starts with the opening of the next Avengers movie.  Also I have a couple of appointments that may take up time (one of which is an eye appointment, so I may not be able to work for a while after it either).

Ha!  I say to these obstacles.  Ha ha ha!

The challenge to write this isn't actually in quite two weeks. The challenge is to see if using this outline allows me to write at least 5000 words a day, on ordinary days.  I expect to take a few days off in there.  But a 60,000 word novel at 5k a day, should take, what, 12 days?  Is my math faulty or is that so?  That's less than three work weeks.  Less than two if I work weekends.

I don't, however, know if this is a 60k novel.  I think it is, but I'm not sure.

And I don't know if the level of planning I've done on the outline will allow me to write 5k a day -- or maybe even more -- from start to end.  I think it will, but I'm not sure.

I also don't know if the detailed outline will actually be finished, to my satisfaction, on Thursday night.  Therefore, Friday is a flex day.  If the outline isn't quite ready by the time I get home from the movies and dinner, I'll work on it that night and start the writing on Saturday.

To The Future and Beyond!

My overall fiendish plan is to write three short novels this way (the three "game generated" stories I was outlining this month).  Do not publish any until I'm done with all three.  Then do editing, cover, audiobook, and maybe a print version (the print version is optional) and publish them this fall, maybe as a group, or maybe a few weeks apart.

Under a pseudonym.

Which will be a pen name I chose for the typographic possibilities.  (Something involving the initials V and A, most likely.)  The pen name won't be a secret, just an identifier for a series which should be very consistent.

The other part of my fiendish plan is to see if I like the method, and if it works for me, to use it for my regular books under my own name.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Xtreme Outline Project - Chapter 1 Sample

Got work to do on the podcast, but I thought I'd give a quick little update since the month is zipping by fast:

Very good progress on Covet Thy Neighbor. Had to tear out and redo earlier passages as the end developed -- exactly as expected.  This, of course, left a couple of messy or jumpy places in the notes, so I have decided that as the last pass, I need to type through the whole outline.

The numbers for the status are:
  • Act 1: 4.0
  • Act 2: 4.0
  • Act 3: 3.7
  • Act 4: 3.2

(The scale is 1-4, with 4 being that all the scenes have their beats sorted out.  As described here.)

I'm doing it in the form of a "long pitch" -- the opposite of an elevator pitch -- where you tell the whole story in detail.  So I thought I'd give you the Xtreme Outline for the first chapter:

Chapter 1

Scene 1.) Amy driving to her new job. She's got her whole life packed in the car, except for a few things of her mother's which are in storage.  A summer of writing in a beautiful location -- all thanks to a job helping an elderly man write his memoirs.

She is almost there, when she sees an accident developing ahead. Someone passes her, going too fast, at the top of a hill, and can't stop when a car pulls out of a blind corner at the bottom.  The truck coming behind Amy is also going too fast, Amy can't quite stop, so she slows as much as she can and swerves into an empty gravel parking lot near the corner.  She hears the truck run into the accident.  She is shaken, and fumbles for her phone, but others have already come to help.

She is in the weed strewn lot of an abandoned restaurant (which is right on the corner) but there is another restaurant right next door. There is a big sign on the corner directing customers to the "live" restaurant - Fedler's Home Cooking and Quick Stop.

She leaves a note on her car for the police, saying that: she is a witness, but she felt sick so she has gone into the restaurant.

Scene 2.) Inside she gets sympathy from the staff and takes a seat near the front.  Has some soup and hot rolls.  Comfort food. They may give her more than she orders.  (Some discussion overheard among staff as to whether to send out something the people at the accident.  Fedler would approve -- good for the restaurant's rep -- but Mrs. F might object, and she's the one in charge while Felder is off working on preparations for the town shindig.)

Amy asks about how to find Topline Road, and the waitress comments about how Mr. Fedler lives up there, does she know him?  Or is she there to visit the Blackwells?  When Amy gives Adam's name, the waitress reacts with a little upper midwest condescension.  Oh, Adam?  Oh, he's a sweet old guy.  Yah.  Well, you know, one of those creative types.  Amy reads between the lines.  Adam, her new boss, is known to be gay. But she already knew that.

Scene 3.) Before the waitress can give directions, the chief of police arrives.  A woman in her 40's.  Getting a little broad in the middle.  She's friendly, but it's that "evaluating the witness" kind of friendliness: asking about where Amy was headed, how fast she was going, whether she was wearing her seat belt.  Plodding, methodical, but also calming.

Part of the calming is asking her about what she's doing. Maybe asking about Adam and the job.  (The waitress is hovering, and definitely overhears Amy describe herself as a writer, come to write something about Adam.)  Amy assumes the cop knows Adam. "I suppose everybody knows everybody around here," says Amy.  The cop, however, demurs. She hasn't been around long enough to know everybody, but she knows places.

At the end, the cop gives Amy directions on how to get to Topline Road.  Maybe cap it off with waitress asking about whether she's a reporter or something.  Amy is a little shy of what to say, so she doesn't actually answer that. Just says, "well, I write books."

I would normally have used an outline that says:

Driving to her new job, she nearly has accident like the one in the back story.  She pauses to settle her nerves and asks directions at a gas station. (Good place for more background on the job.)

And that's it.  Then later I might realize that this is actually the ideal place to introduce some locations and characters, and also seed the fact that gossip will spread the word about her arrival.

And because I'd only discover this after having written quite a lot, I'd have to toss out or seriously revise whole large sections of scene, or just muddle through with a less effective introduction. (Which is never as viable as it seems.)

Plus in this case, it wasn't until I was nearly done with the story that I realized I had to find a place to introduce the cop character earlier.  This opening is the perfect place.  Furthermore, I have a very good idea, now after developing the whole story, where I want certain facts to come out. Therefore I know what to hold back on, what to lay the groundwork for.

Did this process take the fun out of the scene?

No way.  It only makes me look forward to it more.  I have lots of rich and interesting and resonant details to play with and some lovely characters to illuminate, along with their attitudes and styles.

And I get to see Amy discover these people, and they discover her.  That brings a lot of freshness to everything.

So, I'm looking forward to next month when I write this.

In the meantime, I may once again be slightly late in posting the podcast -- early afternoon rather than early morning -- but we'll see. I'm having fun editing the sound, and I did the story music myself.  You'll hear from me about this on Tuesday.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Xtreme Outlining Update -- Artistry

Just got the first outline -- for Covet Thy Neighbor -- to complete (if not actually done).  Of my four stage outline meter that I talked about earlier, all acts are at 3.5 or more.  Since the challenge goes to the end of the month, I'm going to top off my notes tonight and give it a little rest while I work on other outlines. 

Now, at this point, the story is more thoroughly plotted than any outline I've ever done, but I haven't gone far enough for the things I hope to do with it.

And one of those things I hope to accomplish is something I haven't mentioned yet -- mainly because it was too ironic for words:


Seriously, I'm writing these stories generated by random rolls of dice from a story generator which uses basic concepts from an outdated, excessively formulaic genre.

And I'm looking for artistry out of that -- I'm looking to improve my level of artistry from it?

Uh... yeah.

I happen to be very fond of irony.

There is a kind of artistry that comes from excessive planning.  It's certainly not the only kind of artistry.  And not necessarily the most effective kind of artistry -- very often it's the kind of artistry that is only noticed and appreciated by aficionados (mainly other artists). It can even actively interfere with the appreciation of others.

But as an aficionado myself, I happen to love certain flavors of artistry.  When I talk about the storytelling techniques of various movies -- characters, plot structures -- that's really what I'm talking about.  Because, compared to books, movies are excessively planned.  Even the most improvisational directors (like Robert Altman, who I'll talk about later) have to do a crap-load of planning to get to the improvisational parts.

I assumed that my love of this comes from movies, and maybe also from mystery, especially Agatha Christie, who (whether she planned or not) displayed incredible artistry of this certain type I love.

But I realized today that this also comes from the fact that I started my college career doing animation.  Animation is this very very weird thing where you have to plan out every single solitary frame -- and everything IN the frame even the incidental boring things like clouds and trees and grass -- ahead of time.  You don't have much flexibility on that.
And then, after it's all planned out, you have a very long long long long, slow, repetitious process of actually bringing your vision to life. (Even doing it the easy way, with pixelation rather than drawing, you move your object, click, move it again, click, move it again, click, move it again, click.)

The result of this strange process where you plan everything meticulously, and then get really really really bored carrying the plan out... is  a kind of mad creativity in the details. You have all this time, and you know the story inside out, and you start to come up with odd little details to enrich the story.  Just to save yourself from utter boredom.  A little mouse hanging out in the background, reacting to what the front characters are saying and doing.  Odd things to be written on the sign on the wall.

Now days, we tend to call some of this kind of thing "Easter eggs" -- because they are little treats and meta references hidden in the story.

But there's really more to it than Easter eggs and creative details.  There is also a lot of substance to the artistry that comes from looking deeply at the story.

For instance, to the mystery writer, Easter eggs are called "clues."

Clues, Themes and Foreshadowing

As mystery writers, and readers, we tend to think of clues as evidence. And it takes a lot of planning to do it right, because a mystery is more than just clues and suspense.  It's a game between the writer and the reader.  Everything is a clue to a reader -- because they don't know what is relevant and what isn't.  Furthermore, because it is a game between reader and writer, there is a whole other level of clues -- ones that have nothing to do with the game between the killer and detective.

If you are a mystery reader (or watcher) you have undoubtedly picked the killer based on non-evidence clues before.  "I know it's the gardener because he has a perfect alibi and he's the only non-obvious suspect who appeared in the first act."

If your reader can pick the killer without actually knowing the story, that's not good -- that's NOT artistry.  But taking the time to handle those things -- understanding how your reader reacts to them and using them to lead the reader further astray, that is artistry. Especially if you can make them believe they already know, but still promise them enough surprise to keep them reading.

Foreshadowing is a kind of clue too, but instead of being about "whodunnit" it's about where the story is going.  And it's, in some ways, the opposite of the hidden clue, because the purpose is to create anticipation -- to give the reader a glimpse of where the story is going, so they can rub their hands together with glee.

It is, in a sense, a promise.

I'll use for an example something from Alfred Hitchcock -- a true master of artistry.

At the beginning of North By Northwest, we meet ad-man Roger Thornhill.  His life is completely ordinary for a Manhattan advertising executive and he's in his element, and master of his universe.  What we see of him is clearly all very Usual for him.  But as he walks into a hotel lobby, on his way to an ordinary lunch meeting, what is the music played by the string quartet?

It's a Most Unusual Day.

Now, if you don't know the song, or you are paying attention to Cary Grant's incredible tan and didn't notice it... it doesn't matter. You can watch this movie with complete enjoyment without missing a thing.

But the fact that it's there is delightful.  If you notice, you get a zing of anticipation.  And if you didn't notice it the first time, it's one of MANY things in that movie that will make watching it again and again an always new and fresh experience.

And that, maybe, is my first definition of "artistry" -- it's something extra. Something the story can do without, but it raises the story to another level when it's there.

And it's not always small details. Sometimes it's how the story is put together.  Structure and plot, in and of themselves, aren't something "extra."  They are essential basics.  But how you structure various elements of a story can change the underlying meaning of it -- the theme -- and give it depth. 

The Truth Behind Zenda

Both the book and movies of The Prisoner of Zenda uses character structure to give the story more meaning. The structure behind the good guys and the bad guys are mirrored so that they contrast with one another.  There is the unworthy legitimate king and his rival, and each has a more worthy -- and romantic -- champion to do the dirty work.

This all by itself highlights part of the meaning of the story: ideals vs reality.  Those unworthy leaders are  exactly like what we're stuck with in real life.  They are what's wrong with real life -- they are dissipated or corrupt, and fuzzy on right and wrong.  Also, boring.

The sidekicks, however, who are both barred form the throne, are what we like to think of as a worthy leader.  THey are smart, and quick and skilled and competent.  And they are not wishy washy.  They act out for us what good and evil really are.

And the women on each side of this mirror give us even more on that front. In some ways, they are tests of worthiness.  The hero loves the princess, and bows to her will.  She loves him but chooses to be responsible (as he has) and take her place as a ruler of her people, even if it means marrying king she doesn't much like.  On the other side, the woman in black loves the lead villain, but he takes her for granted (a sign of his unworthiness).  The secondary villain, on the other hand, appreciates her fully -- flirts and courts -- but he is a psychopath, and she wants nothing to do with him.  In the end, he tries to rape her (more obvious in the book than the movie). Proof he is a villain and not a gentleman, as he puts it.  He takes what he wants, while the hero respects and protects the rights of others.

Now it might seem that this is not mere artistry, bu the story has been remade a million times -- often without this character structure.  The story still works.  I means something different, and imho, often means less -- it's just a love story, and not as much about our longing for reality to change, or about what makes worthiness.

The characters, in that case, become clues to what the story is about, just as the gardener's alibi (or lack of one) is a clue to his part in the mystery, and the music playing in the background is a guidepost to your anticipation (or an Easter egg to be enjoyed).

All Writers Use This Artistry

All writers put some of this stuff in there -- even if it isn't actually necessary.  We all want our readers to feel anticipation, follow clues and for the story to have some meaning that makes it matter.  But most stories stop at "enough."  Why waste the time and effort?  Especially if the audience isn't even going to notice a lot of it?

This is a lesson learned by Levinson and Link - the creators of Columbo and the Ellery Queen tv show and Murder, She Wrote.  They put a ton of extra artistry into Ellery Queen, and it only lasted one season.  They slacked off on Murder, She Wrote and it went on for years and years.

But still... I don't have a lot of interest in rewatching Murder She Wrote, but I own the DVD of Ellery Queen.

Some kinds of stories do this sort of layering more deeply than others (just as some stories have more action or more dialog or more adverbs or more sex).

And... I love this kind of storytelling. Give me a well woven, deeply layered story of clues and deceptions, and I'll put up with a lot of other flaws.

I started this experiment in "xtreme" outlining to help me deal with certain frustrations in writing.  I realize that many of those frustrations are related to the fact that I want to go further with the weaving and layering within my stories.

Even in what otherwise is pretty formulaic fiction.

And I don't even expect that this will turn those stories into classics, either.  I'm inspired by HItchcock's virtuosity at this -- but his movies are classics for more than that: they also had his chutzpah and his amazing sense of the dramatic.  At the same time, Frances and Richard Lockridge books are less classic -- they are more dated, more formulaic -- but they still give me a great deal of pleasure to re-read, because of some of this artistry. (Maybe not the level of Hitch, but still, it's fun to watch the game played between writer and reader.)

I don't know if the outlining is going to actually make me better at this, but I can already see that it makes what I'm doing with it now much easier.  I can lay in another thread without rewriting anything.  I can push and tug and get it right.  I can lay the Easter eggs in there before I start the writing.

And... well, I'm going to cut off here, but I was thinking about Robert Altman, who, after all the planning and work -- as much as any director -- still used a ton of improvisation when the time came to film the story.  This is what I hope the writing will be like.  But I'm going to start that next month, so perhaps I'll tell you about his techniques then.

(In the meantime here is a sample of what I'm doing with the First Chapter Xtreme Outline.)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Quick Update

Things did not go well this week.  We had to euthanize an elderly cat this weekend, and that kinda took the wind out of my sails.

I did manage to get the podcast up. (Give it a listen!  I read an excerpt from Kyra Halland's Beneath the Canyons -- a mix of fantasy and western.)

Since my progress on everything else was hit or miss, I decided not to write an update. I was going to talk about a writing discovery I made.  However, it turned out to be more interesting and complex than I thought, so I'm saving it for a rewrite.

I was looking through old pulp children's books at Project Gutenberg.  Precursors and competitors to syndicated series like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.  I have a hate/love relationship with these books.  As a kid I really wanted to love these books (including Nancy Drew) but I found that I had to be truly bored before I could abide them at all.

And last night I realized why. It has to do with banality.  And that's a problem I have with a lot of modern books in my favorite genres as well. I happened across and opening for a book which gave me some insight into what I'm looking for, what I did right in one book, and what I might consciously want to do with some future books.

But that's for later.

For now, I'll just say farewell to Miss Rita, who waltzed into our lives about seventeen years ago, became fat and sassy and loud. (Very very loud.)  But in later years she shrunk down to a fragile pile of bones.  Let's hope she's somewhere that's like the words of a song Garrison Keillor wrote:  Where the mice are slow and the birds fly low, and cream runs in a fountain.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Xtreme Outlining - How do you measure it?

It's great when you have goals that involve word count, because word counts are easy. You get your software to count the words.  Voila.  Done. 

And before software, when we used typewriters, we counted words by page and by line. (This is why we used a monospaced font.)  So it was still pretty easy.

But it's a lot harder to measure progress on rewrites and outlines.  You can use time spent.  Or, I know someone who uses the concept of "antiwords" (which consume the word they come in contact with -- i.e. stuff you edit out).

Given that I have a specific rule in this challenge that I can't start writing until the Xtreme Outline is done... I really do need an explicit way of measuring when it's done.  And this week I figured it out.

The Four Stages of Story Development

My definition of an Xtreme Outline is that it's like a rough draft, so when I think about that, I do know when it's "done" -- when all the scenes and transitions are developed and beaten out.  But unlike with writing, that doesn't happen in anywhere near one pass.

So in looking at the work in progress, and all I've done so far, I came up with four stages of progression for each section of the outline.

Stage #1: Notes and Brainstorming

This stage really is just a mess of notes and lists and background and facts and ideas -- organized roughly by where you think it belongs in the story. Sort of.  It also includes backstory, and other off-screen explanations -- the sort of thing that isn't IN the outline, but until you see where you're going, you have to know. (As the story develops, those things will be cut and pasted into a "background" or "story bible" document, or maybe turned into foot notes at the end.)

Stage #2: Plot Structure

Set the ideas in general order, with a sense of story and drama flow, but still full of gaps and questions.  Identify the likely major plot turns.  If you are using a plot format, this is where you start pinning down events that fit your format.

Stage #3: The Unholy Mess

This involves pulling things apart and putting them together again multiple times to turn it from an outline to a story.  This is about dramatic flow, AND its about emotional trajectory.   A lot of this involves "dreaming" through the story -- letting it play out in my head to see if it works.  This not only finds blank spots I didn't realize I skipped over, it also finds false moments.  This character just came from this experience, why would she behave like THAT? What's she thinking?

Even though you are working on more specific things, this really is about roughly getting scenes in order and identifying what kind of things have to happen in each scene or sequence -- but not the actual moment-to-moment flow. 

Stage #4: Beating out the scenes across whole sequences

Normally you will save this for the writing.  This is the moment to moment flow.  In the previous section you might have noted that a certain scene is the best place for Bernice to tell Elliot about the dog, and also a certain fact will bring up the subject of the kumquats.  But in THIS section, you will actually think about the flow of the conversation. How are these characters going to start their conversation, how is that going to lead to the dog and how in the heck is that going to lead to the kumquats?

I think about that in Stage 3, but I find out what's wrong in Stage 4 -- I make it work in Stage 4.

But It Ain't Over Til It's Over

Even though a sequence may be "done" when it reaches Stage 4, it's not really done until the whole story has reached Stage 4, and it all works together.  The fact is, as you work on other sequences, you find that you have to make changes in finished sequences.

Which is much easier to do in an outline than in written text.  Which is why I'm trying this out.

Using This to Track Progress

I am dividing these stories into four acts, approximately, and measuring them by which stage each act is at.  Obviously, in one act, some scenes will be more complete than others.  So I'm suing the lowest level to measure the thing as a whole, and adding a "0.5" to indicate how much of the story has progressed beyond that point.  So....

Covet Thy Neighbor -- Where it was on Sunday:

Act 1 - Started at Level 3.5... now at 4 (done)
Act 2 - Started at Level 3... now at 3.5
Act 3 - Started at Level 1... now at 2
Act 4 - Started at Level 1... now at 1.5

So, four acts with four stages is a total of 16 stages to accomplish.  I have made it through 2.5 in the first half of this week, with about 5 more to go.  I think I'm on course to finish this and the partially done In Flight before the end of the month.

Maybe soon I'll talk a little more about the difference between these stages, with examples from the opening of Covet Thy Neighbor.  (In the meantime, here is a link to next Outlining Post: Artistry and Outlining.)

But for now, I need to get to bed.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Challenge to Me And You

I changed my mind about doing A Round of Words in 80 Days.  I would really like to do it, and I recommend it, but I realize that I really need to be oriented to Monthly goals, not quarterly.  And I am only vaguely following rules of ROW80, if at all. (Not really posting a measurable goal, not updating on their schedule.)
The truth is, I prefer to have less frequent "scheduled" posts.  (Call them, also, "duty" posts, which run the risk of being boring.)  I like to post other things in clumps.  And at the start of, say, a writing experiment or challenge like this, I like to post more frequently at the beginning, then back off for a while.

So, I'm going to start each month with a challenge -- what I want to accomplish that month. 

Not everything I intend to accomplish.  Just the things that I also want to talk about on the blog.  I have a bazillion projects going at once.  What I'll likely do is highlight one or another each month.


This is a Challenge To You All.

Pick a project, something you want to accomplish this month.  It can be your main project, or a minor thing you are doing in the background and don't want to forget about.  It can also be a part of a larger challenge like ROW80 or that NaNoWriMo camp thing.

Write a blog or tumblr post about it, and then tweet about it with the hashtag #daringwriters. (You can also post a link in the comments here.)

Camille's April Challenge

I have several larger goals that are nibbling at me, and I think this month's project brings them together.

Goal 1: to try out my Xtreme Outlining idea and see if it works for me. (More about this below.)

Goal 2: to continue the fun of the Story Game.

Goal 3: to develop the best method for writing a novel in fits and starts.  All writers have to deal with projects that get put on the back burner sometimes.  And those who have to -- or choose to -- devote most of their time to something else (such as a day job or child rearing, or health issues) must deal with constant distraction and a low priority on their writing.

To that end, April's Goal is:

To write an outrageously detailed outline for two of my Situation Game books: Covet Thy Neighbor, and In Flight.  Also, to do strictly limited work on a third outline for a third book, Death of a Plain Girl.

That "strictly limited" work on the third book is an attempt to mimic what it's like to write when working full time and taking care of kids.  So a couple hours a week at most on that book.

Ironically, if something goes nuts in my life and I am unable to work on the first two books, I'll probably keep working on that third one, because then I won't have to mimic real life!

Now, as to what I mean by outrageously detailed outline, or what I call....

Xtreme Outlining

I am neither a pantser or a plotter -- or perhaps you could say I am both.  I move back and forth as the story needs.  I often think of outlining as like when you're swimming underwater and then you surface to take a sighting of stars or landmarks to see where you are.

I enjoy the creative process of outlining, which I treat as a sort of brainstorming activity. But I do tend to dive into the story as soon as I feel "ready" and not when the outline is done.

Many people complain about how outlining takes the fun out of writing.  It's laborious or boring.  Often the outline doesn't make sense later on, or it's completely lifeless.  And it always changes as you write anyway. Always.  So why put more effort into it than necessary?

This winter, though, I came up with the goofy idea that maybe the problem with outlines is that we don't go far enough.  That we are so eager to jump into the story, that we never actually find the true benefit.

Maybe if I didn't jump straight into writing as soon as I could -- if I resisted that urge to write -- the outline could be a kind of painless first draft.

Not just an exercise in plotting, but a vibrant, exciting storytelling session, that lets me take many paths, and try all my ideas out, and weave together the best ideas, and work out all those problems and small details that stall me later one.

Maybe if I really worked out the whole story ahead of time, every bit of it, then the writing would be like reading it.  I could focus on voice and language and stuff like that.


This sounds like pie in the sky.  It could be a complete and utter disaster, where I waste a whole lot of time, and then get bored and abandon the story altogether.

At the same time, some small part of me says "Hey, this could be a method for those stories you keep abandoning and reviving.  Maybe it's right for part-time, hobby writing.... LET'S TRY IT!"

The Rules For Outline April

RULE 1: Absolutely no writing on the project until the Xtreme Outline is done. 

This rule is actually the only rule.  The whole experiment is founded on the idea of not jumping in and writing too soon.  And also on putting all of my storytelling energy into this outline, which is to be the whole story.  Of course, I can nail down the phrasing of a line or something that is critical to the plot.  Also, if I must, I can write on other projects not involved in the outline project.

Now, I will note that one of the stories I'm working on, In Flight, is partially written -- but stuck.  So in that story's case, this is a test of whether this method can "cure" the story.  I've also written the first quarter or so of the outline on Covet Thy Neighbor, which has already given me some insight into the process.

I'll talk about each of the projects, and why I think this might be a good idea in subsequent update posts. (Link to next Outlining Post: How To Measure Progress.)

In the meantime....

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Return of the Blog!

I am deeply focused on several projects and aspects of writing right now, and that means whenever I sit down to write a blog post, I blather uselessly. 

No, seriously, I sit down to write something simple, and 3000 words later I'm on a completely different topic, and I think "Ah, that's what I meant to write about..." and I blather on for another 3000 incoherent words.

I think the problem is that I have two modes when I blog: there is the chatty "update" post about what's going on in my writing life, and then there is the useful/interesting but more impersonal essay.  They require different mindsets, and I can't seem to keep them straight right now.

Because my mind is busy right now.  And I am preoccupied with things I'm learning, which means that I am not an expert in it and not qualified to write that useful/interesting essay, but it's my smart  essay-writing brain that is all wrapped up in it.

So I blather on for thousands of words trying to make a higher sense out of something I don't know yet.

Does the above make sense?  (Hey, at least I didn't go on for 3000 words to not even say it.)

What I'm Up To Right Now


I have slowed the production on my podcast to every other week (or actually, twice a month), but I am also wrapped up in doing audiobooks, so it's still taking a lot of time.

But at last I have the microphone I need, etc.  I am getting better at reading, but I need to get better yet, because I'm still taking too much time in the editing phase.

In the meantime: check out the new episode of Reading in the Attic -- featuring "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov. A classic, and a bit of a psychological thriller.

And in two weeks, I'll be reading an excerpt from Kyra Halland's Beneath the Canyons on the podcast.  This is a mix of high fantasy and classic western -- two genres that mix really well.  Like they're made for each other.  What's up with that?

*Experiment in Xtreme Outlining

My current experiment/project is called "Xtreme Outlining," and I've decided that it is an extension of the Story Game project. I'll be talking about it a lot in the coming days -- but rather than blathering incoherently all at once about it, I've decided to rejoin ROW80 (A Round of Words in Eighty Days Challenge).

Since you have to post regular updates with that challenge, I might as well save the blather and explanations for those weekly posts. (We're supposed to post twice a week, but I'm not sure I want to fill up my blog with updates, so I'll probably post mainly on Wednesdays.)

Sunday is the day to announce ROW80 goals and intentions, and I'll go into that more then.

*A Writer in the Jury Box - a Blog Series

Meanwhile, the trial I was on was rich in information and experience for a writer.  I have a lot of little essays and stories and bits and pieces to write about -- so I will be posting them off and on, probably on Thursdays (but not every Thursday).  I'm not sure exactly which Thursday I will start with.

Plus I have a few general writing and publishing posts coming up.

AND... I'm having some interesting adventures in tracking down just who owns the rights to one of my favorite mystery series -- books which appear to be in copyright purgatory.  The authors had no children, and the bank which was the executor has merged and split and reorganized, and has no interest in helping me track down what's happened to the rights.

If it comes to anything, I'll write about my journey here.

So, I'm back more or less.  I probably won't be posting more than twice a week, unless I get too excited about something.

See you in the funny papers.