Category Archives: Genre

The Circus Won’t Have Me (I Can’t Juggle).

Ahem! So it’s July. My last entry was in May. Glad to see I’m keeping on top of this blog thing!
The good news about the delay between posts is that I’ve been writing, and I’ve learned something.

There are writers out there who can write multiple stories at the same time, and there are those who can’t. At present I firmly reside in the realm of Nope! Can’t do it! I’ve tried and it’s been an ongoing disaster that I’ve only recently started to dig myself out of.

Now, when I say “write” I do mean exactly that. I have no trouble writing one story and revising or outlining another. But if I try to actually write two stories at once? Catastrophe! Disaster! Calamity! Cataclysm! Armageddon! You get the picture. We’re talking problems of the Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Steve Buscemi together on a rocket ship proportions.

I’ve been writing an Alt History/Fantasy since October of last year. I continued working on it, albeit at a slower pace, through Pitch Madness, without a hitch. I discussed where things started to get out of hand in April. Since that time I’ve actually been writing fairly consistently at least 300 words a day, 5 days a week. Not a great pace, but the habit is back, and that’s great.

I’ve had a few incredible story ideas sneak up on me, as they tend to, while I got my groove back. That’s great right? Awesome story ideas that just keep coming? What’s there to complain about? Well, Writer’s Block has never been a worry for me. I doubt I’ll ever have a shortage of ideas. I worry more about a shortage of time. If they keep coming I may never have enough time to write them all in the manner they deserve.

So, those incredible story ideas. Yeah. I couldn’t wait. I dug into one pretty heavily (a sci-fi, a genre I love and have wanted to sink my teeth into), and it consumed me. I wrote a barebones outline, then dug into a few test scenes and character spots. I really love the feel and scope of it. I was really rolling with it, at least until I hit the first plot hole in the outline.

I can handle that just fine normally by digging in and getting my hands dirty in the muck. But I had another story sitting around 40K words in that I could just jump over to and work on right? Lots of writers do it! It couldn’t be that hard… What’s the worst that could happen?

Well. I can tell you what the worst that could happen was: I’d lost the feel of the Alt History/Fantasy and couldn’t keep the headspace required for the sci-fi and a new cast of vastly different characters. I hit a hard wall and lost momentum on TWO stories.

 It was a long slow road to sort myself out. I went back to the beginning of the story and worked through what I’d written from the start. Performing a mini-revision on a third of a story isn’t something I ever wanted to do (especially considering the mental anguish dwelling on my early drafts causes me), but it was exactly what I needed.

So, for the time being I’m writing exclusively on the Alt History/Fantasy and only jotting outline notes on anything else.

I know writing multiple stories at once is certainly possible, and I might be able to do it someday. I’m nowhere near there yet.

Lesson learned.

– Alex


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Filed under Ego, Genre, Learning, Outline Writing, Revision, Voice

Happy New Year 2013

For so many of us today is the first day of a new year, and a time for new beginnings and the putting away of old things. For some, it’s just Tuesday, and in some cases, it’s a Tuesday with a wicked headache and a desire to watch the world burn.

Every year many people make no resolution or plans for the coming year. I used to be one of those people, but I realized that there was no harm in making plans for the future and planning to have a future gives its own sort of hope and drive.

We do these things on January 1st, but it doesn’t have to be done on any particular day. You can make a resolution any hour of any day as long as you have the drive to stick to a commitment.

2 years ago at the end of February I resolved to get myself in better shape by going to the gym. I’d hit a plateau in getting healthier that changing my eating habits wouldn’t get past and I needed to kick things up a bit. 2 years into that resolution I’m still going to the gym at least 4 days a week and still improving (albeit slower than I would like). It wasn’t a New Years resolution, but it was a new ME resolution.

I started making resolutions after a long hiatus last January 1st. Succeeding in the gym and changing from the 104kg (230lb) blob that I was to the 69kg (152lb) man that I see in the mirror convinced me that I could do things when I set my mind to it.

January 1st 2012 I resolved to write a novel from start to finish. I’ve wanted to be a writer (or a master thief) since I was a child and it certainly seemed like an attainable goal. I did it. Crow’s Blood is currently in revision at 103,000 words and it’s been a blast.

This year I’m getting a little more detailed in my resolutions, but I will still strive to meet every one.

First and foremost, the writerly side of things.

I do not resolve to get an agent or get published in 2013. That will happen when it happens and I won’t let its lack stop me from writing and working my hardest to improve my craft.

I resolve to:

  • Write good stories. Be they short or long, I will write them to the best of my ability.
  • Work out how to get the humour and wit into my stories that I find so effortless in conversation. For some reason it disappears when I’m following a plot.
  • Get better at revision, because right now it’s kicking my ass and making me feel that my writing is all manner of suck.
  • Revise Crow’s Blood (BookB) enough to get it out to some Critique Partners, who’s advice I will use to better my craft.
  • Work better with my Alpha Readers. They’re doing this for me and getting little more than gratitude in return. Make it easier for them.
  • Refine my Pitch, Synopsis and Queries and the processes that generate them.
  • Submit Queries to Agents and learn from each rejection.
  • Write at least two more Zero-Draft books in 2013.
  • Read more. I’ve broadened the genres and catagories that I read in 2012, I’m going to do MORE of that in 2013.

Now on the personal side of things.
I resolve to:

  • Continue trying to be the best Husband and Father that I can be. I’m far from perfect and I’ll never be perfect, but I can always try to be better.
  • Continue to advance and put out the best work I can at my day job. Something has to pay the bills until I have a few best-sellers under my belt 😉
  • Be a good friend. I know this writing thing I’m doing has isolated me a bit from the people I used to hang out with and talk to every day. I want to keep those connections alive and some of them are in pretty bad shape.
  • Eat even better than I did in 2012. It helps that every time I’ve gotten into junk food over the holidays I’ve felt truly dreadful afterwards.
  • Push myself even further in the gym. Not only do I want to work harder, I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can and doing it right.
  • Face at least one fear and overcome it. I don’t know what this is yet, whether it will be writing related or otherwise, but I will overcome at least one fear I have in 2013.
  • Watch lots of movies!
  • Have fun!
That’s about it. It’s an extensive list in a public place. 2013? Bring it on.

P.S. I’ve updated the Movie List with last night’s movies.

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Filed under Agent, Alpha Readers, BookB, Ego, family, Genre, Id, Learning, Motivation, Pitch, Real Life™

Full Steam Ahead (and Sideways)

I slept poorly last night and it’s my own damned fault.

I can’t get over how much anxiety I’ve felt over my word count being so out of line with my goal.  I kept trying to think of solutions and items I could edit out to make the story cleaner and stronger.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen a tweet by me earlier stating that I’d found a solution and so far it’s working.

I’m cutting my book to a single Viewpoint Character.  Not altogether mind you, there will still be a few short stints in other viewpoints, and it’s still going to be Third Person Limited.  My target for this book is Young Adult, a category of books where a single viewpoint isn’t only a regular occurrence, it’s actually the norm.  So that’s a big load off my chest.  Of course, it means I have a lot of work to do on this revision as I have a number of scenes where I’ve switched viewpoints.

What I’ve done to start is go back to my outline and give myself a budget.  My average chapter length is ~2000 words, some are as much as 3000, a few (the rare exception) are as short as 1000, so that gives me about 50 chapters to work with.

I took the major beats of the story and set them out, then I placed important plot points in between, trying to keep things relatively evenly spaced for pacing and progression.  A few plot points are being juggled, one of the sub-plots is being dropped altogether, and I’m still trying to find ways to work in an important plot thread that primarily followed one of my other characters.  It’s not integral to this particular book, so it may get shifted to a second book.

All that said, my word count tonight actually slips back about 3K words, even though I wrote somewhere close to 3000 tonight filling some of the earlier gaps.

The next few nights I’m going to divide my focus, editing one of the earlier chapters to fit the new single viewpoint and tightened plot, and writing out one new chapter to keep the story moving forward.

This approach should help make the next revision pass a little faster, and help bring more depth and clarity to my main viewpoint character and their relationships with those around them as I can no longer rely on those characters to pull their weight.  It should also help me sleep better at night (I hope).

I’ll keep you all posted.

– Grimm

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Filed under BookB, Character, Editor, Genre, Learning, Real Life™, Story Elements, Twitter, Viewpoint, Word Count

I’m 33%

Today I turn 33…  That’s 33% of the way to 100, the age I figure I’ll begin my mid-life crisis.  It’s a goal I have, I’ll get to more of those in a bit.

At 33, I don’t feel a day over 32.  I’m in better physical and mental health than I was at 23.  I eat well, healthy and without cutting out foods I love, exercise regularly, and sometimes even get a full night’s sleep.  I have a family that loves me, and that I love dearly,  Manda, Dana, and Natalie are my world, the very centre of my universe.

I’m quite certain I’m not the easiest person to live with, or even get along with all the time, but everyone has to have something to work towards.

I have goals too, which is where this ties into this blog. I want to finish writing, and re-writing, and re-writing again, BookB, the Fantasy/Mystery/Heist book that I’ve been working on semi-regularly for the past year.  I’ve made a fair bit of progress on that one, some 230+ pages (thanks in large part to NaNoWriMo), that will have to be drastically rewritten and backfilled before it’s presentable.

I’ve also had some pretty strong thoughts about the structure and direction of BookA, the Sci-Fi book, but I’m doing my best to stay focused on one at a time, so those thoughts have manifested only as additional notes so far.

I’m rewriting and restructuring a bit of that outline right now, mostly to make it flow better, and to add some seriously-needed depth to the characters.  I’d much rather have a story with compelling characters driving, than to just have shallow characters as pawns for the plot, so, a rework is in order, to give the characters more time to develop.  I also need to add a few more tent-pole, or candy-bar moments and sort out the pacing.  As I said, a lot of work needs to be done before it’s presentable.

I’ve put together a list of personal goals for this 33rd year of my life, as a method of further self-motivation, and I’m going to share it with you, my dedicated 8 readers, and anyone else who falls into this blog by accident.  On with the list!

1. Be a better father and man (I know, not too much room for improvement, but there’s always some) 😉
2. Write!  More specifically, finish a full draft and at least one revision pass of BookB.
3. Break the 18% barrier (it’s a fitness thing).
4. Be humble (there always has to be one unrealistic goal that you don’t meet, to prove you’re not perfect).
5. Read a lot of books (this is that obligatory impossible-to-fail entry on the list).
6. Share what I’ve written with others for review and feedback.
7. Update my blog more!
8. Watch more movies (because I can).
9. Find 1 more goal to achieve!

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Filed under BookB, family, Genre, Health/Fitness, Motivation, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Real Life™, Story Elements

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.

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

Concerning the Rules of Magic

There are a few ways to do Magic in a Fantasy story, you can either have it fundamentally limitless, so it can do literally anything and solve any problem with no real rules, or you can create a system of rules.

A limitless system can be observed in the worlds of Harry Potter, and as far as I can tell, Lord of the Rings, where there isn’t really any discernable cost to the use of magic other than some willpower and the desire to learn. Though I’m sure Tolkien had some sort of rules in mind to prevent Gandalf from just whisking the One Ring away and doing his thing with it.
Rules to me imply a system of checks and balances to ensure that I can’t just MacGuffin my way out of a corner and cheat the characters through any tricky spots. I’m not sure how to write a good story with a limitless magic system such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings without taking the opportunity to cheat, so I’ve been reworking BookB’s magic system to be more solidly based in rules, with costs and clear definitions of what can and can’t be done within those rules.

The trick of course will be to avoid the system feeling “Gamey”, the last thing I want to do is put in a whole bunch of math that doesn’t fit and distracts from the story.
So I’ve spent the last few hours reworking the basics of one portion of my magic system to lay the groundwork of a set of rules. It’ll keep me honest, and hopefully make the whole process and resulting story a better read.
2 Blog posts and a good 3 hours worth of writing work done today. Not bad.


Filed under BookB, Genre, Learning, Story Elements

A slight problem with 2 books at once.

It’s been a bit since I’ve blogged. I’ve been pretty busy with work and play. I’ve still done a fair bit more writing though. The catch being that most of it has been on BookB, including ~1000 words added to the worldbuilding outline and details this afternoon.

That’s the problem I’m running into with having 2 books on the go at once. I’m flip-flopping between them at this stage far too often. I’m going to have to limit one to just notes, while pouring actual work into the other. With my recent inclination to work on BookB and the feel I’ve had for the characters, it’s going into Primary mode for the next little while. We’ll see how far I get.
Thankfully I’ve been keeping any sleep-interrupting work to point form notes. Oddly those notes seem to be more coherent when reviewed during waking hours than any “fully formed” ideas I’d written previously during those early morning sessions.
I’m trying a few writing exercises to try and put some sense of productivity into my what little writing time I have. More than anything, I’m spending the time writing, whether I feel particularly inspired or not, just to get myself into the habit of it. Some of it actually turns out well enough and may be usable, the rest I’ll just consider time well spent increasing my typing speed and thought processes.
I’ve been informed that a good rule of thumb for your first submission to an editor or publisher should be over 150,000 and under 300,000 words. 300,000! Three Hundred Thousand! Bloody hell that’s a lot of words! Here I am happy pushing out about 2500 a day, and not even achieving that every day.
It’s going to take some really inspired writing to have to worry about going over the limit. I’ll just focus on being over the minimum without cheap filler for the time being.

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Filed under BookB, Genre, Word Count, World Building