Bad Ass Writing Blunders

Creating my first novel, Learning Levitation, was a fascinating process and a hell of a lot of work.

Writing Lies and Legends will be different. Sure, unknown BABs await but, honestly, I can’t wait to get started. My new characters are knocking at the door. I have exciting things in store for them – and I know they have secrets and wonders to show me, too.

I did learn a lot,  and I’d like to share it with you in only 500 + words.

Write a synopsis first unless you want to make up the story as you go along. For a disorganized thinker like me panstering just won’t work. Because I didn’t know to write the synopsis first, I fell into the following pits of festering words:frustration-was-threesixtyfive-day-244-8_l

1. Bad Ass Blunder numero uno: Leaving major elements out of your plot. In the heat of writing things get lost. It wasn’t until my beta readers were half way through LL that I realized  I’d omitted crucial information about challenges facing the characters. So, paste the following sentence on your monitor: MY NOVEL IS ABOUT — YOU FILL IN THE REST.

2. Make a second sentence for the theme. Your novel isn’t limited to action, love story, and fascinating off world concepts. It needs a message, and if it doesn’t have one, get one.

3.  Don’t make your chapters separate files. What bonehead would do that, you ask. See me blushing? If you’re using Word, you can start and finish your book in one ginormous file. (In the old days one big file in Word would crash your computer.) This way  you always know how many words you have at any moment.

4. Which brings us to word count. Decide total count first. I’ve decided to estimate chapter word count also. Anal but necessary for me.

5. All of the steps above prevent a truly terrifying problem. I ended up with 120,000 words, too much for a first novel. I had to cut over 18,000 words. Yikes. I took out some great scenes which, btw, I will resurrect in my second novel.

6. How long is the story time span? My action took place over six months – ok for Game of Thrones but way too long for an adventure/romance novel. This time ten days max.

7. Plan your scenes carefully. Again, this may be too rigid for some writers, but precision keeps me writing.

9. If you are (like me) a careless typist, a lousy speller, and somewhat lacking in punctuation skills, proofread each chapter as you go. You’ll have to do it again when your book is completed, but this extra bit of effort will keep you from banging your head against the keyboard later. thinking-in-mirror-image

10. Spend serious time on character sketches. I knew my characters well, but my readers didn’t. My people turned out one-dimensional, and I had to tweak them until they screamed for mercy. I’m using http://www.eclectics.com/articles/character.html. Five pages per character, but worth the work.

Does this sound like the accumulated knowledge of a complete revision of a completed novel? It is. Thanks to Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course, I made it!

stars-thWhat have you learned writing your novel? Are you ready to start another one?

Photos from http://www.foter.com

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Synopsis Magic Wand

Quick update:

Where is the synopsis fairy when I need her? She must wave her wand and write this thing for me!

Just when I thought I was armed and ready to query this tiny little problem popped up. I researched the list of agents who welcome science-fiction and most of them want your synopsis submitted with your query. And guess who hasn’t written her synopsis? Honestly, kids, the synopsis is a monster challenge that kicks your butt until you kick back. I thought a query letter was difficult, but this synopsis thing is astronomically more daunting. Something happens as you examine your novel from beginning to end in 600 hundred words or less.lilac-pen-orange-writing-th Under this close focus, this paring down to bone, your novel weakens or strengthens. Oh dear.  There’s no escaping the moment when you’ve written your draft and you realize your novel doesn’t come across as the amusing intelligent story you know it is. So, I have to draw the line in the sand, the sell it now or never line.

 Good writing  doesn’t always go hand in hand with good salesmanship  but, in this case, it has to. So, I’m forging ahead, fearlessly. Sort of.

This situation definitely goes on my list of mistakes I won’t make on my second novel. Don’t wait until the novel’s completed to write the synopsis. Write it first.

How will you handle the synopsis when the time comes?

Do you have any secrets you want to share? Any pats on the head as I continue to whine my way through this process?

Backasswards

Lesson 17 DONE. Those of you who are doing How To Revise Your Novel know what this means. Months and months and months of hard work revising your first novel, the novel you wrote backasswards. This is the novel you picked through, struggled with, discussed with your family and fretted over for hours, days, forever. The beast is revised now. All that remains is style check, continuity, and my personal favorite – punctuation and spelling. Yes, there is still a lot to do. But, the story itself is written. I won’t say more tonight, I’m just too tired. I feel good about coming in only five days over my deadline. Deadlines do work. Thanks  to my husband, Rick,  my military advisor and biggest fan, to Lynette for setting my timeframe, and to Texanne for compassionate advice.

COSMIC AHA!

 

I don’t know about your muse, but mine arrives at the damnedest times.

Sometimes, he gives me brain-bursting ideas while I’m hurtling down I-25. I have been known to pull over to record these ideas on my iPod as people blaze past me at 90 miles per hour. What I do for love.

Or, he visits me as I’m falling asleep. He teases me with a lyrical idea guaranteed to make my novel a best seller. I frantically memorize it before I fall asleep but, in the morning, I only remember it if I’m lucky. Most times, I wake knowing there is a great concept in my brain-somewhere.

And, he interrupts me during important projects at work. At least, at work I usually have a paper and pencil nearby.

Signaling my muse is a last resort, because he likes to toy with me. Like my cat, he refuses to appear just because I called. When he does show up he always looks slightly annoyed. Oh, come on, stop whining, he tells me. I have a billion stops to make today, so use what I’m giving you and write it like you love it.

I visualize my muse clearly, as easily as I see the folks in my novel. Arrogant and articulate, my muse is an ageless smart-ass.  (OK, he is one of my characters.) He fills my head with exit strategies from the tangled word messes I make. When he leaves, it’s ok. I never have to worry because, the next time I need him, he’ll have my back. I can count on my muse, as long as I’m patient.

Is your muse a whisper in your mind’s ear or a brush of inspiration from a well-loved outside source? Does your muse take a recognizable form? What does the cosmic aha feel like for you?

Novel Writing Right on Time

Solstice Lavender

Yesterday, Earth tilted into another summer solstice, and I began year two with HTRYN. Wow!

Chapter 22 is poised for the grinder (Lesson Seventeen) and, while I know there is lots of work left, I’m moving through the tunnel of hard-core revision toward the bright light of almost finished land.

However, I’m not sneaking up on this goal alone. My husband, friends, and  writer’s group continue to shower me with enthusiasm for my novel even when I drag my feet, whine, and procrastinate.

A novel is a tremendous project, and  I was beginning to think I was taking too long until  I went to a talk given by author C.J. Box. When someone asked him the how long it took to write his first novel he gave us an ah, shucks ma’am grin and said, “Four years.” I heard my reader’s group gasp in dismay, but I was happy.

 I knew I was right on schedule.:)

Onward!

PITCHED BATTLE WITH REVISION CONTINUES

What a week!

I  word counted my novel, and I have too many words! I never thought I’d end up with more than 120,000 of the little buggers. Uh-oh.

What should I cut? What are the parameters for cutting? (Back to HTRYN directions.) How long should a debut space opera novel be, anyway? Should I play the game in my query letter and follow the rules set by publishers? Could I divide my monster into two books? Is self-publishing an option?

Honestly, I did think about all this when I started the novel, I really did.  According to my plan, I estimated I’d barely make 100,000. Because my writing is so lean, I sold myself short. Keeping the balls in the air, chapter to chapter, page to page, and scene to scene obliterated all but the most immediate problems from my frazzled mind.

Panic overwhelmed me, but TX from the HTRYN forum  comforted me with an upbeat and encouraging discussion about agents, editors, and publishers. I’ve made my decision, and now I’m working revision again. Turns out it’s not as bad as I thought, and there’s something reassuring about writing tight and struggling to cut. I’m telling the story with grace and clarity. I am where I want to be as a rookie writer.

Sort of.

How about you, fellow Word Wizards? Are you over or under, or do you care?