I can’t even be punctually insecure…

September 7, 2012

Or – I was so excited to tell you guys about Dragon*Con that I forgot about Insecure Writer’s Support Group until today. So sorry about that.

What I’ve been feeling most insecure about lately is storytelling and narrative. I feel that I’ve grown more capable in my use of language over the past year or two, and I’ve never doubted my creativity and imagination. But I’ve also learned that you need to have an instinct for putting together a plot in a way that it’s satisfying to other readers, and I’m despairing a bit of being able to do that, worried that every premise I come up with is cliche, or that every story structure I try to write is broken.

And yet – I keep writing, keep working on the craft, because it’s what I do, and because I know that incredible things can happen if you just keep at it. I’m not sure if I came up with anything actually usable in Camp Nanowrimo this year, but I certainly had fun. And I’m back on Block Revision for ‘Save the Children’ now – and I’m certainly learning good things there, with the HTRYN course.

Are you insecure or secure lately?

Finished with Block Revision – for now…

July 31, 2012

Well, it’s the last day of July, and I’ll be working on a new story for Camp Nanowrimo starting tomorrow. 🙂 Which means that I’m going to put the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course, and my Block Revision, aside until September, even though I’ve only finished 35 scenes out of fifty-seven.

Even though I’m still a little disappointed with my progress, I’m really pleased with the revision so far when I look at what I’ve accomplished in the past few weeks. I’ve rewritten the majority of those scenes in their entirety, because I could see what I wanted, but not find enough of the right words in my first draft. (sigh.) I’ve learned how to edit in pen on paper where the scene was ‘green’ enough to do that, with my own little markup notion of insert scenes from the Alphasmart Dana where needed.

I think that the break will do me good, and I’m looking forward to getting back to Holly Lisle in September… around the 4th or so, because for the first few days of September I’ll be much too busy at Dragon*Con to do any revising! 😉

I still haven’t packed up all the revision stuff on my living room table, (some of which I haven’t really used – the blank typing paper, the scotch tape and pens, most of the post-its, three colors of pens, and the jerky.) It’ll probably get packed up somewhere safe over the next few days.

So – how are your summer projects going. Is anybody else looking forward to Camp?

A little more about my Block Revision process

July 23, 2012

Block Revision is still doing pretty well; I got up to scene 24 at Williams yesterday with Elizabeth Twist, then went back to add on to scene 20 this morning. Sometimes the going seems slow, but that’s probably just because I had the crazy notion that this was something I could plow through in a week just because Holly Lisle put it in one lesson. 😉 It’ll take as long as it takes, and I’m getting lots of great work done.

When I’m not at Williams cafe, though, I’ve been noticing that my way of approaching Block Revision has become very formal and ritualized, and that probably helps me get into the right mindset for it. It starts with the setup – making sure that the big tall lamp in the living room is plugged in. I hook my iphone up to a traveldock speaker, set the timer for 45 minutes or however long I think I have to edit in this session, and start playing the ‘Monastery’ playlist, which is almost all instrumental tunes. If I feel any need, I’ll make sure I have sugar-free koolaid in something with a screw-on lid, and some peanuts in a bowl.

Then I go to the Focus Outline cards that I had printed up from my notes, find my place, and get down to work. After comparing the sentence on the card with the pages indicated, I figure out if I can start by marking up a passage in my printed first draft, or if I need to start with fresh stuff on the Alphasmart Dana. Quite often I start and finish the scene on the Dana, without using anything from the page, just marking ‘Block Scene 22’ or whatever somewhere in the margins in blue pen, updating the page number, and doodling a little red box with an X through it, to indicate that the entire page is to be cut as-is.

I haven’t done anything with cutting and taping so far, or really used the post-it notes, and I only occasionally refer to my consistency laundry list or my worksheet printouts. Maybe I should be leaning on these more, but I’ve got a system that works and that keeps me paying attention to enough things at once already. If I’m making a mistake at this point, I probably won’t figure it out until I’m done the course.

Block Revision progress update!

July 20, 2012

Well, I’ve got fourteen scenes done now, out of fifty-seven, and I’m excited about making more progress over the weekend. A lot of scenes were nearly-complete rewrites on the Alphasmart, which does take longer, and I was starting to get depressed about it. And then I hit three scenes this evening that I could mark up off the first draft, (along with a few inserts on one of them,) and that made me feel better that I can make it through this before the end of the year.

And it still feels good to know that I’ve got this process for tackling the revision, and so many months of prep work that I’ve done to picture the book that I want to have when I’m finished. Exciting stuff, even when I feel a bit bogged down. 🙂

Block Revision is finally underway!

July 14, 2012

It’s been an interesting warm-up week leading to my first revision cuts on “Won’t somebody think of the children” this afternoon. As well as the preparation I told you about before, I spent several hours yesterday evening cutting up the printout of my Focus Outline and taping each scene sentence to a 3*5″ index card… which was kinda fun, especially since I could catch up on some Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice while I worked. And just this morning, it occurred to me that I couldn’t use the spiral-bound copy of my manuscript that I got at Staples last December for Holly’s cut-and-paste technique – because it was double-sided, and so there was no way I could cut two passages that happened to be on opposite sides of the same page into different scenes. So I printed out a new copy of my draft document on the laser printer. (Now I’m wondering if I was possibly a bit hasty, but what’s done is done.)

I’ve done revision on two scenes and part of a third so far – out of 57 in my outline. This is probably not a process that I’m going to finish in a week. I might be lucky if I finish lesson 17, which is the first pass of Block Revision, by the end of July, but I’ll see how it goes. I did scene 1 entirely with pen markup on the original draft pages, and scene 2 was entirely typed into the Alphasmart, because I didn’t see any passages from the original version of the scene that seemed good enough to include with changes. It looks like scene 3 might go the Dana-only route as well; it’s certainly starting off that way.

But I’m having fun, and I think this approach is working fairly well.

That’s a photo of my table laid out for revision – you can see a binder open to one of my worksheet printouts, the pens, post-its, scissors, tape, my pile of to-revise pages, the Focus Outline colored cards, my laundry list of continuity notes, and the Alphasmart sitting on top of the pile of blank typing paper to cut and paste onto. The pile of edited pages is mostly cut off the right edge of the picture. The empty space in the bottom center is where the scene that I’m editing at the time would go. Snacks would be off to the left, beyond the binder.

I never really thought of my living room table as small until I started to lay Holly’s Block Revision process out onto it.

Preparing for Block Revision with Holly Lisle

July 10, 2012

I’ve taken over five weeks off from my Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your novel’ course – heading into June, I decided that I couldn’t manage my Summer of Shorts Camp Nanowrimo project and revising at the same time, which was probably a good choice for my sanity. But Summer of Shorts is over, I’m back from Kansas, and it’s time to dive into Lesson 17 – Block Revision.

Or at least time to dive into preparation, because Block Revision is apparently not something you should dive into without all the right gear. 😉

I’ve got a to-get list set up in my ‘Holly Lisle’ folder, and some of the items are X-ed off:

  • Pages to rewrite, from the spiral-bound revision draft copy I had made at Staples in early December.
  • A break timer – I figure I’ll be using the iPhone for that.
  • Spill-proof cup (Nanowrimo!)
  • Printout of the surgical marks to make on the pages.
  • Laundry list of consistency details to remember.
  • My Alphasmart Dana. (Not from Holly’s Block Revision instructions – more on that later.)
  • Scissors
  • Typing paper, mostly for cut-and-pasting.
  • Pens
  • Sticky notes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Only hours left until camp!

May 31, 2012

The June session of Camp Nanowrimo is set to start on June 1st, which is just under two and a half hours away by my local time. I’m really excited, and not quite sure what to expect.

Because I’m off to Kansas for the last week of June, I didn’t think that I was up to the 50k challenge, and plus, I’ve been wanting to concentrate more on writing short stories than novels. So, my rebel camp challenge is this: Write eight short stories, (that is, first drafts of new short stories,) in June, with a minimum of 2000 words each.

That isn’t a huge word count target – 16k total as opposed to 50k, but writing shorts is harder than getting into the novel groove, so I felt that this was a good place to set my goal. For one thing, it can be harder to be brief than to write at length, and if all of my stories end up stretching to an average of six thousand words – then I’d be at 48k. I’d be a bit frustrated if that happens, but finishing the count is the important thing.

I completed three shorts in May, along with a lot of other goals I was working on, but I was generally pretty focused on a short story if I had one on the go. “Tough Love” was finished over a two-day weekend, while  “A Prayer for Healing” and “Northward Ho” each took four consecutive days – for Northward, they were all weekdays, and ‘Prayer’ ended on a Saturday.

So… if I can manage to finish off a short every three days or so while I’m in Canada, then I’ll be almost finished when I leave for Kansas on the 24th, and will be able to squeeze in just a little time writing in between workshop sessions, or on Saturday the 30th.

Last August, I did the Camp Rebel thing, (and even gathered a group of like-minded rebels into a cabin, as I have done again this year,) but in terms of rebel progress, it was a pretty big failure. Part of it was that I had a very vague goal, “Rewrite this manuscript and change the character of Ereyu in this way…” and the Storywonk revision class that I was taking, although it was great and I learned a lot from it, wasn’t quite concrete enough to get me on the step by step path that I needed – in fact, my head was swimming with all of the stuff I learned but wasn’t quite sure how to put into practice, and it wasn’t until I discovered the other revision course, the Holly Lisle one, that I was able to find that path.

I thought about doing a rebel Camp session for Holly Lisle HTRYN classes, but figured that it might be tempting some bad juju to declare myself a rebel camp editor again – and anyway, I did plenty of that in March for NaNoEdMo. So June is about the journey of short stories.

Are you signed up for Camp Nanowrimo? If not, do you have other goals in mind for June?

Holly Lisle update – the conflict ‘versus’.

January 20, 2012

Well, I haven’t been updating about it in a while because it feels like such a hard slog, but I’m making some progress with the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course. I’m on lesson five now, and – well, parts of it are fun, and all of it’s been informative.

Lesson one was the first big inventory of the novel, marking out lots of different things in pen on the hardcopy and filling out worksheets of what works and what doesn’t.

Lesson two had us learning about promises, and counting details to see how important we were promising certain characters and items were.

Lesson three involved a lot of filling out index cards for each scene, and trying to identify protagonists and antagonists, settings, conflict, and twists.

I haven’t said anything about lesson four, and it didn’t take me too long to get through it. That lesson was about plots, subplots, and the broken sequences that aren’t really plots in your first draft.

Lesson five is focusing on conflict, and it’s starting with the core conflict of the entire book. I wanted to share what I’ve got so far with you guys. I’m not sure if the last part – my ‘versus’ sentence, is a bit too long and unwieldy… of course, I’m not sure if any of you know the HTRYN course, but I’m curious about what you may think as outsiders.

What matters about my story.

It’s about two young parents who come to realize that they’re not going to be able to get their daughter ready for her all life by themselves. They need their community to support them, and the community is apathetic, more interested in the present than the future. They have to find a way to inspire the entire ship with their vision, while Ginny is messing with them because she wants to keep on being the pampered princess.

It’s Tom and Melanie versus the selfish parts of their community.

It’s the two parents-to-be, passionate to teach and prepare their child but unprepared themselves, versus the people in the ship’s community who insist on things always being done the way they always have been, who aren’t going to sacrifice their privileges for the sake of the mission, the future, or the children.


Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Holly Lisle revision course

January 4, 2012

Well, it’s the first Wednesday in January, so this is the first yearly meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. At this point, a lot of my writer’s insecurities center around the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ and scene cards.

Revision courses can be enough to make any novice writer feel insecure, I think. You’re learning a new philosophy about what ingredients go into a great book, and the homework exercises are applying tests to your beloved novel manuscript and forcing you to admit all of the different ways that it’s broken. As I’ve gone through the first few lessons with “Won’t somebody think of the Children,” I’ve found out that:

  • The first person narration absolutely has to go, which means that I’m going to have to rewrite the entire book just to get it into some kind of third person, and proofread it very carefully to make sure that I didn’t accidentally leave an ‘I’ or a ‘we’ in the wrong place.
  • On a related note, I’m very guilty of telling instead of showing.
  • There’s a lot of passages that I honestly don’t care about when I’m reading them myself.
  • My characters personalities are often all over the place, or simply invisible.
  • There’s conversations where two people tell each other things that they already know simply to explain them to the reader.
  • I’ve got scenes that end with whimpers instead of twists or hooks.
  • Important characters are left to be introduced near the end of the book, even though they could add to the first act.
  • In act one, I don’t establish why my characters really want the goal that they’re fighting for.
  • A main character dying at the end comes literally out of the black night of space.
  • I’m putting too much detail into introducing minor characters, and too little for more important supporting characters.
  • I’ve got scenes with no conflict, scenes with no clearly established setting, and scenes that are missing a clearly established antagonist that need one.

Of course, the obvious come-back response is that finding all of this stuff really will help me rock the revision and write a much better draft of the book. I do try to focus on that. But it can be hard to stick to the lessons and avoid procrastinating when it feels like all I’m finding is problems. That’s why it’s important to celebrate all the cool moments that I’ve come across too, the passages that make me smile when I think “I wrote that!”

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