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Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Brain Hurts

This is my second Sunday update, and I've had a semi-productive week. I'm on page 228, so well over halfway, but I didn't meet my quota every day this week because of some teacher training days that I attended for my teaching job. That stuff stimulates my brain in a totally different way, so it's been rather difficult to pull myself back to storytelling mindset following that. Combine that with the very tricky point of the story I am at (over halfway, wondering if the pace is too slow, figuring out what all needs to happen between now and the climax, etc...) and I just don't feel as though the story is flowing as well as I would like. I have some "dead space" to fill at the moment while the characters are travelling, and I hate that because I don't believe that anything in a well-crafted story should be random, so I'm back to the drawing board for a few meaningful scenes that progress my characters toward the climax while also addressing some of the many subplots that I have going on (all of which have to ultimately lead to THE END). I'm also back to the drawing board for a few intermediary scenes because of this ring composition that I am attempting in which every chapter of the second half of the book should mirror the corresponding chapter in the first half of the book in some way. I spent half my writing time this afternoon just putting all my chapters into a ring composition chart and trying to figure out some of this mirroring. I hope that it produces a good story in the end. Overall, my brain hurts. I'm looking forward to getting past this point. I'll probably be happier in a week.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Camera on Her Shoulder

I had to choose very early on what voice I would be using to tell my stories, and I hadn't given it much thought for a long time until recently. I have since come to believe that point of view in a story is wildly important to its overall success. Let's take two worldwide bestsellers: Harry Potter and Twilight. With a few exceptions, J. K. Rowling sticks to 3rd person limited in telling the story of Harry Potter. Hogwarts Professor John Granger describes this as like to having a camera on Harry's shoulder through which you, the reader, are viewing the story, but that camera can also look inside of Harry's head. Using this perspective, the reader never gets outside of Harry's own experience (again, with a few exceptions) and therefore empathizes with Harry as they see what Harry sees, feels what he feels, and senses what he senses. This works very successfully for the Harry Potter stories because of the elements of mystery within them. We only feel and think what Harry feels and thinks, and we only see whatever is in his immediate periphery, and that limits our perspective and prolongs the mystery. Twilight is written in 1st person limited. This means that the narrator's voice IS Bella Swan and the reader only gets Bella's perspective, but in a much narrower sense than in Harry Potter. This also causes Stephenie Meyer's target audience (young woman) to feel as though they ARE Bella as they read.... Do I even need to elaborate on how this was successful for her romance driven series? Both of these voices are very successful, although I prefer 3rd limited. I am telling my stories similar to Harry Potter in that there is a "camera" on Darcy's shoulder usually looking out, but sometimes looking into her head. I love telling the story this way. It simplifies the process for me and allows me to limit what the reader is aware of. Readers typically come to trust certain characters and distrust others. When you tell a story that is limited in some way to one character's perspective, you can manipulate that trust or distrust. For example, if you tend to distrust Darcy's opinion because of the bad decisions she's made, I could, hypothetically, throw you a curve ball and have Darcy be the voice of wisdom in a future book, causing there to be a twist at the end when you realize that her opinion was actually right for once! Hypothetically I could do that, I'm not saying that I WILL.

Because this blog post is already quite long, I might as well tell you the point of view that I seriously dislike reading. I hate reading books in 1st person present tense. That means that the story is told how I am writing this blog. "I am sad. I open the door and walk to the store. As the sun shines down on me, I think what a nice day it is. I meet a friend and we have a conversation. Etc..." This type of perspective works well for, well, a blog, but when used to write a story, it feels too abrupt and too much like stream of conscience. If I find that a book is written in this manner, sometimes I won't even buy it because I find the voice so distracting! For example, I really enjoyed the movie I Am Number Four, so I looked into the book, but sure enough! First person present tense. Yuck. Plus which, it must be so difficult to write a book like that! But now I'm just ranting. I should get back to work. I'm over 200 pages and over half way!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Update

I missed my third Friday update because I was at a work conference, so this Sunday update is taking the place of that. I also didn't get my promised post completed concerning voice/p.o.v. in a story because of the same conference, so I hope to make good on that promise this week instead. The good news is, however, that I got more writing done than I had anticipated for being out of town and working, and I also had a fabulous time and met a few people associated with a publishing house. We'll see if that connection takes me anywhere!

Just out of curiosity, I checked my blog from a year ago to see where I was at in my page count at this point in the summer when I was writing The Oracle. Much to my surprise, I found that I am over a hundred pages ahead of where I was last year at this time. That makes me feel much more relaxed about my progress! I am on page 168 currently and about to make an attempt to write a few more pages before bed. Wow. That just hit me. Page 168! I feel as though I just started writing this book. I have a feeling that this installment is going to turn out to be longer than the previous two. I don't want to have to charge more for it, though, so we'll see.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Second Friday Update

I have another good week of solid writing behind me, but I can't shake this sense of urgency! Gotta get it done, gotta get it done, gotta get it done! I have a lot of work to do to prepare for the classes I will be teaching next year, and that's hanging over my shoulder making me feel as though I can't relax into the writing process. That being said, I do believe that what I've produced so far is good. So I guess that feeling stressed is not actually hindering the creative process (although all of you will be the ultimate judge of that when the book comes out). I really, in particular, like the chapter that I wrote yesterday (which was chapter 8, but I'm not going to reveal the title). I always enjoy writing scenes that contain a lot of emotion and a lot of energy. It also has a bit of a twist ending that might be unexpected, so that was fun to write. What made it most enjoyable to write, however, was that it just flowed from me. I knew exactly what I wanted each character to say and where I wanted all the action to take place without it being forced. I could picture it very clearly in my mind, as well, which is also important. Of course, I always imagine my books as movies, so each scene appears in my mind as I conceive it and put it to paper, but when I can picture what the characters are doing and how they are acting, emoting, etc. before I even begin blocking it out, that's a good sign! Anyhow, perhaps I have belabored this. I am on page 112, so that puts me on pace with where I was last week (a little ahead, actually, as chapter 1 doesn't begin until page 6 or 7). I hope to have a post about voice early next week.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Some Thoughts on Planning

It is at this point in the writing process that I begin to seriously reflect back on all the planning that I did to prepare for writing this installment of the series. I am a major believer in planning when it comes to novel writing! I didn't used to be because I thought that it constricted the writer and the creative process, but I now realize that it actually gives the writer greater freedom. Just because I have crafted an outline ahead of time doesn't mean that I have to stick to it to the letter, but it gives me a base to come back to if a spontaneous thread takes me off in a different direction for a while. Plus which, especially when writing a series of books that all have to work as a coherent and consistent story at the end of all things, if you don't know where you are going before you start writing, how on earth can you know how to get there? I have already added two new chapters that were not on my outline, but always I come back to that outline, saying to myself, "okay, I need to bring it back to this point, and this needs to come somewhere after that," etc... Yes, I will have to do a little reinventing of the structure of a few things along the way, but at least I have a framework from which to work and to which I can always return. I've been reading the book Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures by John Granger, and in it, he quotes J. K. Rowling on this topic. She said in an interview with the South Australia Advertiser, "I do a plan. I plan, I really plan quite meticulously. I know it is sometimes quite boring because when people say to me, 'I write stories at school and what advice would you give me to make my stories better?' And I always say and people's faces often fall when I say, 'You have to plan,' and they say, 'Oh, I prefer just writing and seeing where it takes me.' Sometimes writing and seeing where it takes you will lead you to some really good ideas but I would say nearly  always it won't be as good as if you sat down first and thought: Where do I want to go, what end am I working toward, what would be good, a good start?" (Qtd. on p. 61) Sounds like pretty good advice to me!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Update

After my first full week of writing, I am on page 55 of The White Thread. I feel okay about that page count - good, but not spectacular. It's perfectly on schedule, I just think that I can do better. I seem to stall out after every couple paragraphs and sit and stare at the computer for a few minutes mulling over how to word the next section. Usually things flow a little bit easier than that for me, so I just don't feel as though I'm completely on my game. That being said, when I go back and reread what I've written so far, I actually feel pretty good about it! So... we'll see how it all turns out. I'm currently in the middle of chapter 5, which is an add on chapter that wasn't in my original outline. Sometimes that happens when you are writing; you suddenly realize that you need more transition from A to B. Anyhow, there's a scene in chapter 5 that I think needs to be there to help set up/remind the reader of the nature of magic in Alitheia. I've already gotten them back to Alitheia, which is good because it gives me a lot of pages in which to develop the conflict there (or, I should say, continue the conflict that was set up in The Oracle). The setting of this book is going to be (largely) more contained than the previous two, which gives me a chance to work on the relationships between various characters. (Any of my students who will be reading this for outside reading should be taking notes! Relationships in The White Thread = important! And I don't just mean romantic relationships.) My brain is, for now, however, somewhat dead. I've been staying up into the wee hours of the morning writing, and I don't think I'm going to be able to burn the midnight oil tonight. Maybe... I don't know... We'll see.