Category Archives: Viewpoint

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

Doing My Homework

I have 3 full critiques back on CROW’S BLOOD, for which I must give heartfelt “Thank you!” to my Epic Critique Partners: Colton Hibbs, Clare Mitchell, and Rachel Russell.

Not only did each of you trudge your way through my last revision, you took the time and effort to provide me with detailed and insightful criticism. Some of it is so obvious now that you’ve pointed it out that I don’t know how I didn’t get it right the first time. Your notes will make my work better (if I’m up to the task), and that’s awesome!

All of them (and the partial Critique I received from the lovely and talented Kat Ellis) highlighted one pretty major problem: It takes far too long to connect with my main character Flynn (and even longer in some cases to like him at any level). As he’s the main POV, that’s… awful.

Here’s the thing: I know these characters, every one of them. You can ask me a question and I can quickly tell you how each one would answer it. What sort of things they would like and dislike. How they would react under certain circumstances. I can even describe the mannerisms, idioms, and rhythms of their speech. From my main character, down the the smallest side character, (yes, even to the one guard that sucker punches my POV character).

I can’t tell you what they had for breakfast (unless it’s relevant), but I can get inside their heads if the need arises.  I didn’t do this by building out detailed character sheets or writing throw-away scenes with them (though I did that for some more prominent characters).

It’s just something I do whenever a new character is created. I put myself in their shoes/boots/socks/sandals and work my way through them. What motivates them. What are their goals in life. It usually comes pretty quickly.

Problem is: It wasn’t coming across on the page. So what was wrong?

That’s where the homework came in. I’ve spent the better part of my evenings reading, and doing exercises from a workbook on Deep POV, while it’s not perfect, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything in there. It’s written by a professional who certainly seems to know what they’re doing (at least considerably better than I do).

The best part is the exercises. I’ve read plenty of websites describing and giving examples of how to give good character, and great POV, but none of them went so far as to give relevant exercises in a work-book format. Something about it all just “clicked” (I think).

So I went through that workbook (it’s only 60 or so pages), did all the exercises, and took a look at my own Work In Progress. What. A. Mess. I have “tells” everywhere (something I tried desperately to avoid and clean up last pass), narrative separation/distance, and my POV character does indeed seem flat and voiceless (he’s NOT like that in my head). I have my work cut out for me to reel this sucker in to a deep POV.

Needless to say, it’s going to take a while for me to hit my stride on this revision pass, and I may reach out to some of my CPs earlier on (if they’re amenable to looking over some small chunks) to see if I’m on the right track, or ruining what good I had. I’ve spent most of this evening (my first night back at revising my own work) and have only worked through the first 5 or 6 paragraphs.

Like I said, slow going. But I’m trying to be careful with my new powers, to ensure that I employ them for the forces of good.

As for copy edits, and Canadian (not “British”) spelling vs. American spelling, and my blatant and continued misuse of commas… I’ll get to them, once I’ve sorted out my critical character issues.

– Alex

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Filed under Alpha Readers, BookB, Character, Critique, Editor, Ego, Grammar/Spelling, Id, Learning, Revision, Viewpoint, Voice

7 words (more or less)

No, not those words.  Besides, Carlin’s list is outdated. Now you can say most of them on television.

NaNoWriMo is on the horizon, and I’m getting in good shape for it. 1910 words written tonight.

I finished off a chapter I left off on last night, leaving me a scant 7 words short of 45K.  Oh sure, I could have pushed out 7 more words, but that would have given me a perfectly even number, and that always looks fishy.

All my writing tonight was from a new viewpoint.  It was interesting to get into the head space of a character unlike any of the others I’ve written in this book.

I suppose that doesn’t say much, but seeing as I have a single viewpoint except for the odd vignette chapter it was a good exercise.  I can’t give away much more without big massive spoilers.  I’ve come to understand that you don’t spoil best selling books on your blog, it makes people cranky and they let you know in the comments. 😛

Exploring new characters is one of the reasons I started writing when I was a kid.   They let me be something, someone that I wasn’t, and to go places that were too fantastic or simply too far away to visit for real as a child.  Basically the same reason most people read, watch TV, and play video games.

I was also the geeky know-it-all in school. That bespectacled kid that annoyed other students and eventually teachers once it wasn’t “cute” any more (I know, shocking right?).

It’s a bit of “chicken vs. egg” when it comes to whether I read a lot and became an ostracized know-it-all from what I’d read, or whether I read so much because I’d been ostracized for being a know-it-all.  Either way, I’ve loved to read and have been a voracious reader for as long as I can recall.  When I’d read through everything we had as a child and couldn’t get my hands on something new to read fast enough I’d write.

I needed to write tonight with some of the car/people trouble I’ve had this past week coming to a head.  Needless to say I’ve learned that doing the right thing and being a decent human being doesn’t guarantee that you will receive the same in return.  Of course, I’ll likely just continue right on doing the right thing and being decent.  It’s a fault I suppose, a lapse in my ability to adapt and adjust.

Actually, I’m finding that writing is one of my best escapes of late, it’s my peace and quiet (with loud music), and I think it’s a healthy hobby.

See, I used to play video games pretty heavily.  MMOs. Primarily World of Warcraft, which I played excessively from Beta (early 2004) to last November (almost 8 years!).

That’s when NaNoWriMo and my strong desire to get off my butt and actually DO this writing thing instead of just talking about it and throwing around “big plot ideas” helped me kick the habit.

I still game, I’ve played through Mass Effect 3 most recently, and Diablo 3 and I’m looking forward to Assassin’s Creed 3 (which I will have to wait to play).  I don’t think gaming is evil or reprehensible, or unhealthy (when done in moderation, like all things).  I simply don’t let it take my writing time.  I’m less grumpy when I write, and tonight that’s exactly what I needed.

I want to be a professional, published writer.  Like many other aspiring writers I want to see my name on the jacket of a book in a bookstore, and to know that someone out there actually READS these stories I want to tell.  That takes a lot of work, which I’m more than prepared to put in.

So I leave you, my faithful readers with the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard:

“Don’t talk about it; write” – Ray Bradbury

I’m doing my best Ray. Though I am guilty of blogging about it, which technically isn’t talking about it, I hope he’ll forgive me.

– Grimm

P.S. #HLandS is rocking Round 3 over at Kat Ellis’ Blog (YA), Dee’s Blog (MG), and Fizzygrrl’s Blog (Adult) where some of the submissions have already received Agent Requests!  I’m absolutely loving it and wishing my Draft was in a ready state to participate.

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Filed under BookB, Character, Contest, music, NaNoWriMo, Video Games, Viewpoint, Word Count

Draft Progress and… Destilting?

I’m going to keep this blog entry short, as I’m completely bagged and need to get to bed.

I mentioned in my last blog entry that I was moving to a single Main Viewpoint Character, and that I was going to have to drop a few sub-plots.

There was one particular subplot that I really wanted to keep, as it punches up the story and really adds a level of individual conflict for a particular important character.  I think I’ve found a way to bring that back in and hopefully make it fantastic.  We’ll see.

I know one area I’m going to have to do extensive work on after this draft is polishing my dialog.  The chapter I’m working on currently is pretty dialog heavy and I’m trying to keep it tight, but I know some of it is going to look like a train wreck in a day or two.  I don’t think it’s horrible, but it could certainly use sprucing up and “destilting” (despite spellcheck that is a real word, Google it).  I intend to finish this pass on the draft and use the age-old method of reading it aloud to see where it goes off the rails.

I’m nearly back up to 40K words after reworking my outline and slashing and burning a few chapters worth of material.  I still have a LOT of editing to do to the chapters that are there to clean up the story and get it all on the new track.  It’ll be worth every silent little scream.

I’m setting a deadline for this draft to be done in late December or (paying job workload dependant) early January.  Then I’ll do some cleanup and get it out to my Alpha Readers as a more complete book.

That’s all for tonight.

– Grimm

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Filed under Alpha Readers, BookB, deadlines, dialog, Editor, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, Outline Writing, Real Life™, Revision, Viewpoint, Word Count

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

Viewpoint Characters and Word Count Worries

First, 40K words on this Revision!  Not bad, 2K words tonight (2093 actually), not a bad little writing stint once my littlest was bathed and in bed.

On the subject of Viewpoint Characters:
First, for those of you not familiar with the term (i.e. the few people who follow this blog because they have the good fortune to know me and bask in my presence regularly, but aren’t necessarily writers or of “the craft”) a Viewpoint Character is someone inside the story the writer uses to tell the story directly.  They’re generally the only people in the story you get inside the head of, the people who give a story its voice and feel.

In the first person perspective, it’s the narrator.  In third person limited (which I’m writing this book in) it’s a select group of characters.  The VCs are generally the characters you get to know best (if the writer is doing their job), and you either love them or hate them.  If a writer really does their job, you name your children after them.

My book currently has 3 main viewpoint characters, and yesterday, while preparing to have my family over for a late Thanksgiving (for Canada), I had the crazy idea to pare it down to 2 VCs, turning one of them into a secondary character (mostly for Word Count worries).  Looking at my Outline today, that doesn’t seem overly feasible at present, there’s too much story that’s reliant on each of them to get told.

Once I’ve started fleshing out my second VC by writing out their strand of the plot, maybe I’ll revisit it. Or perhaps when I get my first rejection letter that suggests the idea of dropping a VC to strengthen the other two (shouldn’t happen!).  We’ll see, when the time comes.

My other concern, which is what led me to the thought of possibly cutting out a Viewpoint Character is word count.  Word on the street (and in just about every submission guideline I see) is that first time writers should shoot for their book to be under 100K words.  It’s a matter of publishing costs vs. risk on an unknown author and audience.  I get that completely, and it worries me.

As you can see from the word count and the first line of this post, I’ve just broken 40K words, and I’m not even done my first viewpoint…  If I already had an Agent or an Editor they’d probably point me in the direction of slashing and burning a healthy portion of the story to get in under (or just over) the wire.  Of course, they’d have a good idea of WHAT to cut, and simply put, at the moment I haven’t a clue.

So, I’m going to stay the course, finish this Revision/Re-Write and go from there.  Once this draft is done I’ll do what I hope is a lighter editing pass and do my own cutting and cleaning.  Then I’ll hand it to my Alpha Readers and see what they say, and possibly cut some more (please don’t make me add more!).  Then we’ll see.

You always hear about writers getting writers block, what about writers that have the opposite problem?

– Grimm

P.S. Hook Line and Sinker’s submission windows may be closed, but it’s still making for some fascinating reading.  I’m learning a great deal from other people’s pitches and the comments that are coming out of them.  You should check it all out on the respective blogs that are involved: Kat Ellis (@el_kat) is covering YA, Fizzygrrl (@fizzygrrl) is covering Adult, and Dee (@writeforapples) is covering MG.

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Filed under Agent, Alpha Readers, BookB, Character, Editor, Revision, Viewpoint, Word Count

About that Character Building

Yeah, so normally if a scene doesn’t have action or something “cool” going on, I find it feels a lot like work to get it done.  That scene I’ve been working on, the Character scene, would generally fit that bill perfectly.

Somehow it didn’t, and I got seriously carried away.  So carried away in fact that it ended up doing TOO much all at once and moved certain relationships further along at far too early a point in the plot.  Not to mention that it ended up six times the average length of a chapter so far O.o

It’s supposed to be taboo to edit before you’re done writing, but anyone who’s followed or read back in this blog will know that I do so regularly (though admittedly far less now than I used to).  Despite that, I got the scissors out and excised some of the character building chapter for re-use later and cleaned up a bit more of it, ensuring that one of the characters would act more in line with where their arc would be at that point.  This writing thing can be hard when you get carried away.

I spent a fair bit of my writing time this evening cleaning up and closing gaps in the outline, fleshing out some of the side story and side characters so they wouldn’t feel too flat.  I think that part of it is coming along nicely.  However, I’m trying to keep the number of main viewpoint characters to 3 (because I am most definitely NOT George R. R. Martin) and parts of my outline weren’t reflecting that very clearly.  That’s been tidied up and will no longer be a problem.

The Word Counter is being kept up to date even on days where I don’t update my blog.  I’m still trying to write every day, even if it’s just touching up the Outline or squeezing in a few paragraphs or minor thought tangents between meetings at work.

While I’m currently not banging out 2K words a day, I am forever creeping forward.

– Grimm

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Filed under BookB, Character, Editor, Outline Writing, Revision, Viewpoint, Word Count