How to Kill Your Momentum, option one

I want to be really honest from the get go here. I adore NaNoWriMo, because of the community and because it means I get a free pass to tell people how many words I’ve written lately. 
So, when I knew I was going to have a wickedly tricky end of Week Two/Start of Week Three, I had a plan. I did all the words I could think of before the horsemanship clinic on the weekend so I could hang out with my partner on the Friday night, be an excited exhausted wreck on Saturday night, and collapse in a happy, horsey heap on the Sunday night.

Which left me Monday to start writing again, thank you very much. And I can do almost 2k words on the train on the commute so I should be doing it easy.

Unfortunately, I did exactly what I was trying to do.

I wrote everything I had planned and got to the Midpoint Battle, complete with battle! Which will need a reworking because there are actual ship battles, and I am terrible at fight scenes and scared of the ocean. Yeah. Write what you’re scared of people!

When I got to Monday, I had nothing to write. 

I stared at Captain Drake and Abernath the griffin and waited for them to do something. They stared back, and waited for me to tell them what the merfolk were doing. And the merfolk patiently waited for me to tell them how much they knew and how pissed they were at the human interference at a small scared grove.

Not to self: Do not write all you know. Save something to go to for next session. Whenever that maybe. Do it however works for you, but stopping at a good moment to stop may mean your momentum is harder to pick up again next session. Whenever that is.

And I have only just started to get momentum going again. We’re in Week Three proper. Momentum, it matters.

Bridget is getting rather round with the spring grass. Another good example of needing momentum.

Where did that come from? 

Yet again, the month leading up to a Camp NaNowrimo session disappeared into the mist and left me wondering what I had planned. At least it’s a familiar feeling.

This Camp, I am going to actually try and do something from the Deborah Chester book. It’s called Planning. And I am terrified. By which I mean I have drawn on all the help I can to make myself try out the Big Scary that is Planning.

The story is a modern fantasy, set in Melbourne, with a young woman by the name of Emilie as the main character. She seems normal enough, except since she’s the main character clearly she’s not. A sudden ‘promotion’ at work throws her out of her depth and into a world she didn’t realised existed. Which only gets more complicated when a puppy suddenly appears.

Or, as the Deborah Chester method would have me write it according to SPOOC: When she is specifically requested to manage interersonal conflicts for two big charities working towards a combined event (Situation), Emilie (Protagonist) is determined to prove herself capable (Objective) despite the added distraction of a stray puppy claiming her as it’s own. But can she acquite herself with skill and composure when she’s been set up (Opponent), and the people she’s working for are far more dangerous than they appear (Climax).

Okay, I did modify the last bit, because spoilers. But look, it’s got a structure!

I have also done a ‘plot’ breakdown, which I tried to get as a scene/sequel break down. Honestly, I had a lot of trouble with it because I’ve done a bit of script/screen writing and the word ‘scene’ doesn’t mean the same thing in that context. Thankfully, a friend of mine helped me work out what would happen sequentially, and made note of the plot points. That’s what the scenes are, key plot points. They’re the hooks you hang the story on. The sequels are the bits right after that when your characters process what just happened. That made it a whole lot easier.

So, the goal is to follow the outline. If I get 50,000 words then even better, and should I happen to crank out the full draft, hopefully around that magic 95,000 words Chester recommends, that is brilliant. Fingers crossed.

Bring on Camp! I am prepared for procrasti-baking!

My lovely friend made me a recipe book of some brilliant things in there. I am pretty excited to try them out. Once I have words for the day. Words first. Mostly…

And necessary bunny post. Duchess being a shoulder bunny. She’s such a funny floof.

Off Like A Shot!

I managed to get one chapter done, on day one, despite having work and appointments, and needing to sew the snowpeas and stop the lime tree trying to crush the dwarf lemon.

One of the things I realised I hadn’t really thought about was what style I wanted to write in. Which, as fundamental as it sounds, really doesn’t surprise me. There was going to be something important I had forgotten. At least it wasn’t what the name of my characters were, or how to start, or something as important as what the antagonist wants. Those are my usual things to forget, so style is a nice change.

Because I am a terrible mimic, and by that I mean I tend to mimic without meaning to, there was a very real danger that I would end up mixing the modern science fiction style and the more classical style of Pride and Prejudice. Without realising it, most of the small scenes that had been playing out in my head before Camp NaNoWriMo were combining the two different styles until I sat down and the style came out. I am intrigued to see how it plays out over the longer chapters, especially when there are those lovely skimming sections that cover months of things happening. Jane Austen really is a master of that, and I’m listening to Mansfield Park, and the transition of time is handled even more cleverly there than in Pride and Prejudice.

The other thing I am going to ponder in the background while I do other things is what sort of heroine this Lizzy will be. She has to be clever, and witty, and capable. But I have to balance that out with needing Darcy to be able to resolve the disaster before it can truly taint the Bennet family. It’s not about him being the hero, it’s about him doing what he can to prevent her pain, believing he would never see her again. It’s not doing what’s right, or what you’re driven to do for love, it’s something else. I’m still working on what it actually is, why I like that particular ‘rescue’ but others make me a hissy-cat. That’s a Black Jewel reference, because so much of Anne Bishop’s phrasing creeps into my every day use…

But, I have chapters to write, horses to ride, and a garden to stop from crushing itself. At least this is useful procrastination.

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Kale, chives, snowpeas seeds, the big lime, and the little lemon in the blue pot. The start of a garden!

The Night Before

And I am sure I’ve forgotten to pack pretty much everything I need for Camp NaNoWrimo… Like setting, and pertinent world details, and character sheets, and some idea how to get very specific social morality converted into sci-fi appropriate social dilemmas.

But, I shall not be afraid. I will venture into the stellar wilderness aboard one of the generational colony space ships in The Legacy Fleet, and I shall find out what Pride and Prejudice looks like in the far flung future. I’m hoping it turns out much the same as the original, because otherwise I will have done something very, very unexpected and contrary.

I still haven’t managed to work through the Science Fiction Writers of America World Building questions, because I somehow managed to procrastinate around it, so I will be making a lot of it up as I go. Not unusual, but certainly not optimal for me.

Still, onward to Seeking Space, and the quirky nature of people that doesn’t seem to change that much despite increases in technology. After all, it wouldn’t be the same if the characters didn’t laugh at their neighbours and be laughed at in their turn.

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The Backyard! It will be ours!

A Conflict of Theories

I am having a dilemma. And I think it’s one that not only writers who are pantsers or character driven can understand. It involves plot, and the most appropriate way of getting your story idea out into the world so it’s exciting and interesting.

For Seeking Space, my Camp NaNoWriMo project, I am doing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Ambitious? Not really, because I am under no illusions that it will be any good. It certainly isn’t going to magically come out as a perfectly publishable piece that will get me a farm and a pony and all the other nice things that come of winning the writerly luck lottery.

The problem is as follows. In Pride and Prejudice, the story is conveyed in a very different style to modern literature. No surprise, this is a part of the foundation of literature. It’s called a classic for a reason. Which is why the completely sensible and utterly marketable advice in The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester has me rattled.

How am I supposed to do a sci-fi retelling of a story that, when you get right down to it, has a main character we like because of her inner conflict and change rather than her impacts on the world at large? All the small things that escalate do so in part because someone doesn’t act, and then when things are at their worst, it’s not Lizzy who goes to the rescue. It’s Darcy. And yes, I like it because it’s an ‘actions are louder than words’ sort of moment, but it does mean that the main character isn’t the one who solves the issue. Which would not fly in a modern sci-fi. And rightly so. I love Anne McCaffrey‘s works precisely because things get done by the main character, and the small decisions have larger consequences.

Which leads to the point. How do you preserve the essence of a story, without becoming trapped in the nuance of the original? I’ve seen Mercedes Lackey do it time and time again in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series, but they’re all still medieval or fantasy, so similar rules to work within. My original is right out there…

So into the final few days of March I go, the original plot mapped out but my world building still a shambles, and no idea what the whole things is going to look like in my novel. Sounds about like a normal Camp NaNoWriMo, I guess. Lucky I have some practise.

And these cute monsters.

A Moment of Writerliness

Today, I made some time to do some stereotypical writerly things. In fact, because I am preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo I decided to really let myself be clichéd.

I went to a little coffee shop, had a cup of tea, and wrote notes about my project.

Granted, it was a coffee shop in a shopping centre, and the notes are mapping out my inspiration text, but it counts! And I was using it to procrastinate, because grocery shopping is daunting pre-tea, but I still did it!

My Camp NaNoWriMo project also has a title! Seeking SpaceFor which I have to thank a very good writing buddy, because I was terrible at coming up with anything so she helped me and I helped her. Thus goes the cycle of writing buddies, and if you haven’t got some I highly recommend finding a few. It has been the difference between me winning Camp and NaNoWriMo, and not making it through the dreaded Week Two.

But, since I still have to map out the original text so I have the plot in order, and then try and get my head around Deborah Chester’s The Fantasy Fiction Formula, I better get back to it.

If anyone else is doing Camp, I hope your preparation is going well!

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Proof I am doing writing preparation! And that I have terrible handwriting…

Whose Crazy Idea is This? Short Story Challenge.

A friend of mine had the wonderful idea to take on a 52 short story challenge. It’s 52 prompts, and the idea is that you do one a week as a short story. After all, how can you write that many terrible stories with no improvement?

Being an optimist, I decided to join said challenge. I was already a few weeks behind then, and I had no doubt I should be able to catch up. After all, instead of actually writing the stories, I had decided to use the challenge as an exercise in planning. My big writing weakness is that I can’t plan, even in editing. Needless to say, because I can’t use a plan to work out where to put things in, or take them out, editing is a daunting task so I have avoided it as much as possible.

I set out to find some planning tools for short stories. I have never really been good at keeping things concise, and as such fell with ease into the rambling style of vomit copy novels. And National Novel Writing Month has helped me hone that particular skill very well. I can get a vomit copy done quite comfortably now. So I started where I had found most of my information on story structure options lately, Google. And that was a giant, terrifying maze that I didn’t even know how to navigate apart from bookmarking things I would definitely find time to come back to while awake…

After listening to Jim Butcher’s Side Jobs on audio-book, I decided to see if I could find a plan to write short stories like he did. So I went to Karen Woodward’s blog, which has a great list of articles from Jim Butcher’s own blog that makes it easy to find what you need. And then I found more of her articles. Posts? I don’t really know the correct term, article seems too formal and blog too informal… I took a lot of notes, in a new notebook, of course.

What that left me with was the very real, debilitating fear of getting the story ‘right’. My  focus became picking the right story for the right prompt, and making the plot interesting, the characters dynamic, and somehow making it sound like it should be a short story. I became so determined to get it ‘right’ that I’m now another two weeks in and I have nothing even plotted!

Before catching up get too overwhelming, I’m going to head over to the Lester Dent articles again and see if I can make them work for me. They are based on a murder mystery, but the essence of the outline is sound. It’s a series of articles, so I’ll read one at a time and get each section done before moving on to the next. Slow, steady, determined progress will get me through. It has with the ponies, so why not with writing?

To save time and dragging myself through the wringer looking for new characters, I’ll be using one of my handy dandy cast from a previous story. Lili, from The Cat’s Daughter project, is going to help me by being my default main character. After all, if I run out of ideas, I can rope in gods to make things happen. Literally.  It should mean that when I come back to rewriting her actual story, there is more to work with. Fingers crossed.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to see what the Plot Bunnies have in mind.

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Dusty and Duchess preparing for the year ahead. With snuggles. The best way to start the new year.