Category Archives: Discovery Writing

NaNoWriMo 2013 Mid-Way Update.

This is a few days late. It was written on the 15th but I started to fall asleep at the keyboard before publishing (oops). I’ve gone through and updated some of the numbers to match the new publish date of the 17th.

We’re half-way through NaNoWriMo for those of you who are doing it with me. I’m a few hundred words behind pace (Update: I’ve since caught up), which is an achievement considering how quickly I got behind at the beginning of the month.
As I noted in my last blog update, this year’s NaNo is a real experiment for me, and it created some interesting challenges.
First: It’s a totally new story, not another book in the story that I’ve already written. As a result, my outline was sparse and my sense of characters very light. I’ve stated before that I’m an agile outliner, allowing for vast and sweeping changes to a relatively detailed outline. This time around the outline is a bare-bones skeleton, and I’m doing a fair bit more seat-of-the-pants than I’m used to. Revisions should be fun.
Second: It’s a historical urban fantasy in a relatively well-documented place, in a relatively well-documented period, with a protagonist from an incredibly well-documented family. Take all these knowns and start adding in fantasy elements of the secret-history type. It’s a bit of a nightmare and I spent the first week fact-checking everything. That certainly didn’t help my word-count. I’ve learned to let more go and use notes to myself to fill in details later.
Third: I’m writing in first person past tense. Past tense? Easy enough. First person? That was a hell of a learning curve. We speak and live our lives in first person all the time (unless you’re one of those twonks who refers to themselves in third person). It should be easy, but when you’re trying to write a compelling story from the perspective of a person that doesn’t exist outside of your head. Plus there’s a lot of I’s and Me’s and We’s in there and you can’t start every sentence with a first person pronoun or it gets old fast.
All told I’m feeling good about the story and making good time. I still struggle with First Person POV from time to time, and get lost in research over the smallest things (oh, this will just take a minute), but I’m learning, and making good progress.
I have another blog post that I’m working on for the end of the month covering all the various tools (such as Scrivener) and tricks (such as speech-to-text for notes) I’ve used this month, as my toolset is a bit different than the previous two years.
I want to give a shout out to my NaNo Writing Buddies who have already completed NaNo (well ahead of schedule):
Jason Cantrell: 90,913!
Angi Nicole: 63,975!
GypsyLuc: 61,622!
HeatherxMarie: 52,737!
Scarlett9284: 50,282!
And last but not least, my brother Cysec: with 50,355 words, and completed NaNo for the first time this year (and also early).

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Filed under deadlines, Discovery Writing, Learning, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Research, Revision, Scrivener, Viewpoint, Word Count, World Building

Revising Intensely

That’s not to say I’m revising the word “intensely” but my revisions of late have been picking up speed.

After the debacle that was the first week of my 3 week “vacation” I felt a little pressed for time in amongst the holidays and visiting with family. I did what any (in)sane writer would do, once I got the tiniest fraction of time I hunkered down, turned off the outside world (including updating my blog), and revised.

My Alpha Readers have ~32,000 words/14 Chapters revised (sometimes 3 or 4 times) at their disposal for feedback and they get more almost every day. It’s my hope that they’re still captivated by the story and ecstatic about being part of my “process”. So far the feedback I’ve been getting has really helped tighten some things and clean stuff up.

I do have one concern as I’m revising, I’m aiming for 90,000-95,000 words in the polished draft, but my word count, despite cutting aggressively, is going up as I flesh out some of the chapters that were mere skeletons before. It’s sitting at ~101,000 as of this blog post.

So I’ve formed a plan! A devious, dangerous, and cunning (read mundane and boring) plan!

  1. Finish this revision process, cutting and adding as “needed”.
  2. Get it to myself in a “new format” either print it out, throw it on a tablet. Really anything so I can take it to a different “space” and mark it up. My Alpha Readers will get it in various formats as well (electronic, if you want dead trees, be responsible for them yourself)
  3. Merge in changes/cuts/fixes.
  4. Find a Critique Partner or group of said individuals.
Number 4 is where it gets a little dicey, as that will involve not only having my work critiqued by someone who’s actually interested in doing so (scary), but also critiquing their work (terrifying). CPSeek.com should help with the whole “finding people” part, it’s the rest that bothers me.
What if I have several critique partners who don’t like my work? What if I don’t like theres?
I’m not good with confrontation.

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Filed under Discovery Writing, family, Real Life™, Revision, Word Count

Acknowledgement Problems

I read a blog post recently stating that Authors should keep their acknowledgements in their books short and concise. It got me thinking (not that I’m in a position to start thinking about an Acknowledgements Page yet but bear with me). I don’t know about every other aspiring writer but I have a strong need for good information, external validation, and support. How on earth would I pare down the massive list of everyone who’s given me a little (or big) push, or some really key piece of information that inspired or helped me limp through this process called writing?

Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Offline, my main support comes from my lovely wife. She allows me the time to write, which is a pretty big consideration, we have a 3 year old that keeps us busy and a 13 year old in Rep Hockey, so she’s sacrificing her alone-time with me. She also props me up when I have my little personal crises and think that I suck and shouldn’t bother. All in, it probably helps that my writing keeps me out of her hair and makes me far less grumpy on the whole.
We just passed our 16th anniversary together, as I’m only 33 you can do the math and figure out that we’re Highschool sweethearts. I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s a light in my life and a strong foundation I can always turn to.
For information, like most, I tend to go online and I devour anything I can find on the subject of writing. I’m like a writing zombie constantly in search of other people’s brains. There’s a lot of great stuff out there if you look, books, blogs, podcasts, and Twitter people (Tweeple?).

You know what I’ve found along the way? An awful lot of contradiction with a strong core of consistency. Most of that seems to come from the fact that there are really very few keys to becoming a successful and accomplished writer. The rest of it is a matter of personal style and what works for the individual.
It appears the key points to being a halfway decent and possibly successful writer are as follows (in no particular order after the first):
  • Write every day.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Allow yourself to suck (on the first draft at least).
  • Read often (and in the genre you write for).
  • Have a story to tell.
  • Revise (and revise, and revise, and revise, and revise)!
  • Persevere
Other elements such as outlining/architecting vs. pantsing/discovery writing, character vs plot, etc. are all up for debate (on the whole). I myself strongly believe in a combination in both cases. 
I outline my plot and story arcs heavily while allowing both to change drastically if “discovery” strikes or something feels flat. 
When it comes to scenes and characters I have to “write myself” into them, which is most definitely a “discovery writer” thing to do.
Prose, grammar, and spelling are all things to be cleaned and touched up in revision as far as I’m concerned. Yes, I have some inspired moments while writing the first draft, and some of them may even make it into the final manuscript, but I won’t know that until I get there.
That’s what I’ve got so far, and it’s by no means clean or polished and certainly up for debate. Like everything to do with writing, I’m learning as I go. Without the people that I meet online, or the podcasts and blogs that I follow with their myriad of tips and helpful information I wouldn’t be nearly as far along as I am.
It will likely take several more books to streamline and work it out for myself, and that’s a good thing, because it lends to my whole solution to the “Acknowledgements” problem: Write and publish enough books to cover everyone. It’s going to take at least 20-30 books.
– Grimm
P.S. I was originally going to list and link some of the blogs and Twitter folks that I follow but I’ve decided against it in this particular post, as many of the tips and information comes from multiple sources and it would just be a mess. Instead I’m looking to add a people/links bar to the already overcrowded right hand bar once I clean some stuff up.

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Filed under BookB, Character, Discovery Writing, family, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, Outline Writing, Real Life™, Story Elements, Twitter, Validation

Tropes and Cliches in (my) Writing.

Tonight was a pretty good night for writing.  I had a good two hours of dedicated writing time, headsets on, music playing.  Too bad most of it will have to be cut up and rewritten tomorrow.

You see, for the chapter I’m working on currently I only had one short sentence in my outline.  It didn’t exist in the last draft, but it’s very much needed in this one.  That’s right, it’s one of THOSE bits.  The between-the-action-character-relationship-building bits, which I apparently don’t outline that well.  So rather than spend most of my limited time this evening outlining it, I figured I’d take a stab at pantsing it.
When I work from an outline I tend to do a fair bit of research and digging to make sure I’m not getting so wrapped up in layered tropes of a particular genre or stereotyping.  When I’m discovery writing I just let it flow and worry about it afterwards.  
Well, after an hour and a half I took a quick break, then came back and re-read what I’d written.  The voice is fantastic, there’s a bit of humour in there that clicks with the character.  However, it follows a fairly typical trope and has strong potential to run itself in a direction destined for a good deal more.
Tropes are not bad per-se, some are quite enjoyable, but as a new and aspiring writer I’m trying desperately to avoid them.  Otherwise I’ll use them as crutches to cheat my way to the end of my book, which would somewhat defeat the purpose since this first book is meant primarily to be a learning experience.  (That’s not to say that if I’m happy with it I won’t try to solicit it to agents etc.)
So tomorrow it gets surgery.  I’m going to hammer out an outline for the chapter that’s more detailed than the one line I’ve got.  Hopefully I can preserve some of the tone and lose some of the “we’ve been here before and this should happen next” essence.  That’s not to say that more experienced and better hands at writing can’t pull off exactly that sort of trope and get away with it, making it feel fresh and funny and new.  I just don’t think I’m anywhere near there yet.
That said, I think I’ll snip it out and put it in a side document to look over later, to analyze how I got there and why the funny worked.  
Every word I write and every word I delete should teach me something.
– Grimm

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Filed under BookB, Discovery Writing, Learning, Outline Writing, Research, Revision, Tropes/Cliches, Voice

Outline Writing and Discovery Writing

There are two main schools of writing out there, and of course, every other school is really a hybrid of these two: Outline Writing and Discovery Writing. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both have their supporters and detractors, some considerably louder than others.

These two schools are entirely separate from World Building, that’s something almost all Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers do, well, all the good ones anyway. Outline Writers and Discovery Writers both tend to get varying details about their Characters, Setting, Conflicts, and Rules Systems generally figured out before they begin, Outline or no Outline.
Outline Writers build complex, sometimes incredibly detailed outlines of their plot. This allows them to set scenes, character interactions and growth arcs, and general story progression in detail, usually before they put down their first paragraph. Working from a good outline allows them to work from point to point on a relatively clear path, even fleshing out individual scenes or chapters out of order. That first paragraph may in fact be nowhere near the beginning of the book. The Outline Writer is generally very organized and meticulous in their outline. It’s a structured approach to their art.
Discovery Writers take the Characters they create, put them in the Settings, constrained by the Rules, and just follow along, literally discovering the story by seeing how their Characters react to the situations they’re put in. They get to partake in the adventure along with the Characters, being surprised by their actions almost as much as the reader. It can be a gratifying and fulfilling method of writing.
Naturally, most fiction Writers have to fall into one, or a bit of both, of these schools. Myself, I’m finding that I’m 70% Outline Writer, 30% Discovery Writer. Having polished off a 10,000 word outline for BookB, I’ve found there’s still a quite bit of discovery in outline writing, filling in the gaps between major plot points that I want in the story arc, turning the act of writing the outline into a discovery process.
There are other sorts of hybrids that I’m aware of; Discovery Writers that discovery write more than half a book, then outline the rest to ensure that it actually ends up somewhere and Outline Writers that do incredibly basic outlines and discovery write the rest.
Concerning BookB itself, after getting the Rules System sorted out for the magic of the world, a great deal of the previous Outline became either broken or felt weakly constructed. So, with the new tools of the Rules System worked out I set to recreating the Outline of BookB. I still had the same basic premise, same characters, and overall plot, now I had a strong set of building blocks to work with and everything came together much tighter. I’m sure in the actual writing process things will become more refined and cleaner still, though I fully expect there to be several revisions before I’m happy enough to give it to a Reading Group.
Now to dig in and go beyond a few test paragraphs, which I use to help find a Character’s Voice, something I find quite helpful and important, and to build scenery and mood. I’m getting excited to see how this goes. I’ll keep you posted.
-Grimm

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Filed under BookB, Character, Discovery Writing, Genre, Learning, Outline Writing, Story Elements, Voice, Word Count, World Building