For some time now, I’ve been stuck on P&PP. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts. There are issues with the middle of the story, and its pacing. I have subplots I want to incorporate, but haven’t even been plotted out. Because I haven’t been able to conceptualize the ending, I’ve focused on world building, character creation, and backstory. It feels like I’m going in circles with this story instead of moving forward in developing it.
I can, metaphorically speaking, see the destination, just not reach it. I go around, and around in circles, and with each pass, I get a little closer to the understanding I need to make the story work. It’s frustrating to realize, but sometimes the way forward is a path that spirals inward. There is an understanding I don’t have with regards to storytelling, and this process is opening me up to that understanding. It’s impossible to define what is being learned as it is being learned; you can’t know what it is you don’t know until you know it. I’ve seen other writers go through this process, and I’m certain I have before. Now, though, I’m hyper-aware of this frustrating process.
There have been more than a few “helpful” distractions along the way. Well-intentioned writing advice and apps designed to make writing easy (as if that were possible) along with podcasts or articles on some aspect or element of writing which doesn’t remotely relate to what I should be focusing on. The study of craft and the use of tools are meant to supplement and support to the process of writing, not serve as as a substitute for putting pen to paper. These distractions have proven to be temptations to step out of this difficult spiraling path because it’s easy to convince myself these things will help me make progress. They won’t. Painful as these retreads are, they are necessary.
Though the path from point A to point B might be a spiral rather than a straight line, there is progress in going back over the creative choices I’ve previously made to ensure they were the correct choices for the story. So, while backstory and world building have felt like a substitute for productive writing, I suspect they will prove critical to development. Both of the conclusion of P&PP and of myself as a writer. To find the way forward, I’m creating retro-outline of the story as it is so far. The aim has been to discover the shape of the story, and it’s theme. The hope is that with these critical pieces of information, I can map a path to the conclusion, one that doesn’t have me going in circles.
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Symposium you’ve never heard of.
I recently had the opportunity to attend LTUE, an annual writing symposium that takes place in Provo, UT. The focus of the symposium is science fiction and fantasy writing, with a little horror and romance thrown in for good measure. It’s small in scope, with hundreds of attendees rather than thousands. After attending only a handful of panels, faces became familiar with smiles and waves of recognition warming the atmosphere to friendly. Most attendees were Utah natives, though a few, like myself, had traveled in from out of state. Everyone proved as interested in sharing their projects, as they were in hearing about the work others were doing.
The panelists, all professionals, were knowledgeable and approachable. Between panels, it was possible, even encouraged, to strike up a polite conversation, and get your questions answered. I occasionally did this, and was rewarded with additional insight on topics such as voice, plotting and theme. Pros such Kelly Barnhill, Brian McClellan, Janci Patterson, and…really just too many to list out here, shared their best tips and tricks on the craft of writing, the business of writing, and encouraged attendees to press on in the pursuit of their writing career. While I learned a lot, mostly, I learned what I still have to learn about the art and craft of writing a novel.
The dealer’s room for this convention felt intimate, with perhaps, the smallest dealers room of any con I’ve attended. Everything that was to be seen could be seen in a twenty minute stroll. Offerings were primarily the books of the pro-authors also attending as panelists, but not exclusively. Authors and a few cover artists were available for signings on the spot. An art show allowed cover and graphic artists to display larger images throughout the symposium, while Artist’s Alley provided attendees the opportunity to meet with many of those artists.
While I came away from LTUE with a generally positive feeling about the amazing teaching offered at the symposium, I did discover a few treasures I’m especially excited about. The first is a bit of software known as Plottr.
Plottr is a no frills story plotting app (available for Windows & Mac, as an iPhone app with apps for iPad & Andoid in the works ) that streamlines the process of structuring a story. The program is intuitive with almost no learning curve. Once the plot has been structured, it can be exported to other programs like Scrivner or Word for the actual writing of the story. Incredibly affordable with exciting updates planned, I immediately put the program to use as soon as I got home.
In addition to Plottr, I discovered a source of additional teaching. Maxwell Alexander Drake presented a panel entitled “Dynamic Story Creation” which absolutely blew my mind. This author and creative writing teacher condensed a six-hour class into a two hour panel, which detailed the heart of storytelling and absolutely sold me on his ability to teach creative writing. He makes additional teaching available via his website, Drake U.com. Be warned, though: Drake’s blunt, “tell-it-like-it-is” brutal teaching style may not be for everyone.
Finally, I had an opportunity to connect with a few members of my tribe. That is to say, I attended a meet and greet with other Young Adult fiction writers and editors. The twenty of us or so congregated, presented a bit about our history as writers, the projects we are working on. Many of us were looking for writing groups to be a part of, even if that group met online via skype. As the years pass, it is going to be a treasure to watch how each of these writer’s careers develop.
As it is, I do not know if I will ever be able to attend LTUE again. I would like to, as it proved both instructive and invigorating. Anyone looking to grow as a writer, particularly a genre fiction writer, should definitely put LTUE on their “Must-Do” list.
As a creative writer, I am always looking for tools that help with the trade. My search for these tools has taken the shape of a Livebinder which I dubbed Whisperwood.
Whisperwood is a sweet forest of the imagination, where sprites and fairies play hide and seek all the day long…Catch sight of one out of the corner of your eye, turn to look for them, and they are already gone, leaving only a tinkling hint of laughter in their wake.
The winds rustle the leafy green canopy overhead, The woods whispers softly, supplying a steady stream of inspiration to fuel the writer’s imagination. It is a place of peace, of respite, of hope, and of natural beauty. Find a soft mossy space near the brook, with pen and paper close at hand, then set the words inside you free.
Welcome to Whisperwood
There are still no new words…but there is movement on the project. By taking the time to step back, and re-assess what is in the written content, I’ve identified a few sticking places in the story. These sticking places have to do with some magical tech I introduced into the story. It created a fundamental logic flaw. Fixing the flaw means re-writing some very beloved scenes. I have some darlings, and now, it looks like I will need to murder them. Or, at the very least, put them in a straight jacket and lock them in a padded cell. Continue reading “Learning and Relearning”
So…. there have been no new words. There have been no new words in quiet a while. There has been some new developments. This is to say the words I’ve put to paper on my project have been in response to feedback I’ve received at writing workshops. The feedback on the portion of the project I submitted has been very helpful. So much so, I burned myself out re-crafting portions of the story based on that feedback.
This has made the project feel uneven overall. I know there are a lot of things that need to be re-written. It isn’t just a matter of getting the final 30,000 words on the page. When those words hit the page, I will then have to revise the remainder of the draft up to the level of the workshopped, re-drafted portions. It’s a daunting thought. It’s sent me to reviewing the story overall; not making changes, but making plans to make changes to the draft. I want to make sure I can gather the lose ends of the story as I head into the story conclusion, then wrap my mind around the conclusion once more. To say that the story has evolved and changed since I began is an understatement. I like the life the story has taken on, but it also feels as though it’s gotten away from me a little bit.
I don’t know exactly what this story will be, but I like the idea of the Prince and the Pirate Princess. I don’t want to give up on these characters. They are just so much fun. The story, itself, is one with a lot of heart.
This novel may not get published. None of my writing may ever get published, but I don’t want it to be because I haven’t finished the manuscript. This is exceptionally frustrating. Do I finish, then fix everything? Do I review everything, then finish? My inclination is the later. I am inclined to believe that by putting on my reader hat at this point, it will make me less prone to making structural mistakes with the last third of the novel. There’s no guarantee of this, just an increase in the odds. And really, can a person be their own beta reader?
As it is, I’m thinking of committing to NanoWrimo, so I can finish the story. In the strictest sense, the rules make P & PP ineligible for NanoWrimo. I know some professional authors ignore that, and continue work on their projects. I see no reason not to immitate that. NanoWrimo is a tool, and the best tools are highly hackable. At this point, the plan is to have a review of the words already written, then begin the ending in earnest in November.
That plan will likely change.