Outlines

April 18, 2011

O is for…

For a lot of years, I was very much a ‘Pantser’ in terms of my writing, and have the very long and rambling Roswell fanfic manuscripts to prove it. Recently, I’ve tried to outline in more formal ways, including trying the snowflake method with Nanowrimo last year, and the Blake Snyder beat board with Script Frenzy, which is working out quite well.

I used to think of my usual ‘writing by the seat of my pants’ approach as a way of taking a journey – whether walking or driving, but trying to get to a particular destination, and possibly visit certain landmarks along the way, but without a map or a planned out route, just a vague notion of which direction I’d find my goals in.

Outlining, so far, isn’t like scouting out the path ‘boots on the ground’ beforehand – it doesn’t have that same sense of immediacy that actually writing does. But, depending on how I approach the outline, it might be like working out a plan with a map, or on Google Maps, or even scouting out the territory in a helicopter ahead of time.

I haven’t made up my mind whether it’s always better to outline in a structured way, like with the snowflake method or the Blake Snyder approach, or more intuitively, just trying to write the storyline out in bullet points, (perhaps working back from the ending.) Maybe both approaches have their points, depending on the situation.

Either way, outlining is a pretty cool way to prepare for a writing trip, and I think that I’m going to keep experimenting with it, in more detail and trying out more approaches.

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Blogosphere Monday Incoming special – Catch-up for Crusaders.

February 21, 2011

Okay, the Platform-Building Crusade is off with a bang, and I’ve been having a great time getting to know the other members of group 14 and the other crusaders who’ve dropped in to comment. I’ve also gotten a very warm and fuzzy feeling seeing my subscriber count and daily hits go up!

So, first off, I’ve got a stupid question that I hope somebody can help me with, and then, I’m going to steal a really good idea that I saw on another Crusader Blog to catch you up on what I’ve been doing lately.

EDITED – stupid question has been answered! To see the updates from blogspot sites that I’m following, all I need to do is go to http://www.blogger.com – that’s the step that I was missing! (Full question ramble has been moved to the end of this post.)

The really good idea that I’m stealing, is to do a fairly quick catchup of some of the cool stuff I’ve been doing on my blog lately, along with links, so that if you happen to see something and think ‘Oh, that sounds really interesting, I should check that out!’ you’ll be able to do that easily and without much fuss. So – the Top Ten List of fun stuff I’ve done on my blog in the last six months…

10. Blogosphere spotlights. I tend to get a little too focused on what’s going on with myself and lose sight of the way blogging can be a social activity, so Blogosphere spotlights are a way of reminding myself to give shoutouts to other bloggers or fun blogging events that I run into – I often put my blogfest entries under the Blogosphere tag, or introduce things like the Crusade itself.

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Nanowrimo Day 20 – Ran out of Snowflake

November 20, 2010

Forty six thousand, eight hundred and forty three words.

Thirty-one hundred and fifty seven short of the target.

And I’ve gotten pretty much to the end of my snowflake outline. The bad’un has been defeated, the hero and heroine have sorted out their issues and found happily ever after, the whole kit and caboodle. So what do I do now?

I could try to write a little epilogue and describe a little of their happily ever after, maybe the start of the hero’s next mission. I could go back and look for places where I can insert or expand new words.

I suspect that maybe I’ll need to do both in order to get where I need to be.

Wish me luck! And many thanks to the San Fran natives who welcomed me to the write-in this morning at Reader’s cafe.


Nanowrimo: Just around the corner!

October 28, 2010

There’s only three days and a few-odd hours left until November starts, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month.

Even though October feels like it’s flown by, (and many of the items on my creative to-do list will remain unfinished,) I’m very excited. It’ll be great to see all my Nano-er friends at write-ins, I’ll be going back to San Fran for the Night of Writing Dangerously, (and staying in the Bay area for nearly two weeks this time!) and I just always love the creative boost that I get from going onto the Nanowrimo site during November.

There’s also my birthday somewhere in there.

I shared some of my snowflake notes with the Hamilton Writers group this week. Got some very excited and enthusiastic feedback, and some good suggestions, including plenty of ideas about how to make the fact that my main character is a dead person sent back to Earth by the angels in the body of another man into a HUGE surprise reveal nearly half-way through.

However, it seems like I need to come up with a catchy word to describe the concept of ‘a dead person sent back to Earth by the angels to complete a mission in the body of another person.’

Any ideas or suggestions? Also, if you’re going to be doing Nano this year – how ready are you?


Going down the Snowflake, part Four

October 18, 2010

Okay, so Project Snowflake Nanowrimo is continuing to go fairly well, I’ve pretty much finished with step 5, which is more in-depth character profiles. This did cause me a bit of trouble at first, partly because of the way it was phrased:

Take a day or two and write up a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters. These “character synopses” should tell the story from the point of view of each character.

For one thing, I’m a little tired of rewriting the story from different points of view, I feel like I did enough of that in step 3. And without that, I wasn’t quite sure what to put in these longer descriptions. I tried pulling out my usual character questionnaire and hit some trouble with that too, since a lot of the questions weren’t really that applicable to Richard.

What I ended up doing, was a bit more of a free-form interview, with myself asking different questions for each character, inspired by what I thought would help me write them, and then doing the answer in that character’s voice. It worked pretty well… except for one character, who I’ll talk about further down.

Here’s the interview for Perry:

Perry
– Have you ever blacked out in a church before?
Well, once, but I was very hung over and didn’t think of it as anything unusual at the time. And I only lost a few hours.
– Okay. Where were you born?
I’m practically a local, from a town just west of Rochester, actually.
– What do you think about Jessie, really?
Well, I like her, she’s cute and funny and kinda sexy. Wouldn’t object to getting to know her a bit better in general, but right now, figuring out what she knows about me, if anything, is more important.
– Have you had a lot of girlfriends before?
I’m not sure about lots – at least my fair share. After Heather Millen drove me crazy enough with jealous questions that I felt I had to cut her loose, I’ve avoided trying to find anybody else on account of the trip to Haiti already being arranged by then.
– Have you thought about the possibility that whatever it was in your missing days, you really don’t want to know it?
Yeah, but – come on, it’s my life. Don’t I really have a right to know where it’s taken me?
– What’s your favorite way of spending downtime?
Either exercising or playing old video games.
– Who would you say is your closest friend?
Probably Ace. He’s a crazy goof, but always fun to be around, and I know that he’s got my back – though he might accidentally whack it with an elbow if he’s not looking the right way.

The one character I’m still having problems with is the antagonist, Rhona… no matter what I try, I feel like I still don’t have a handle on her or her motivations. I’ve put together a request for help over at the NaNoWriMo forum, so we’ll see how that goes.

And I’ll try to keep you all posted!


Going down the Snowflake, part Three.

October 15, 2010

Had a really good day! (Less good evening, but that’s another story, as it were…)

I think I’ve finished step 4 of the snowflake method, which is expanding into a five paragraph summary, approximately a page. I think that it’s on the long side, actually. Here’s a look at the first paragraph:
Richard finds himself in church, somewhat disoriented, but with a sense that there’s something that he needs to do. He wanders the short distance to the UB campus, noticing that he can see auras and troubled by memories of an explosion. Once there, he starts to notice signs and other details that apparently mean something to him, leading him to the chemistry building, where he meets Katie and Jessie. Jessie is busy at first, while Katie sits with him and talks with Richard while he recovers some of his memory. Based on a dream-like memory, Richard goes into the chemical supply rooms and finds Jessie to ask her some questions. They realize that explosive compounds are being stored unsafely and Jessie reports this to someone who takes it seriously.

 

It’s still kind of amazing to me how well this is flowing – though I guess it remains to be seen what November will be like once I actually start writing!


Going down the Snowflake, part Two.

October 14, 2010

The snowflake continues on!

For the past two days, I’ve been working step 3 of the snowflake method, which is introductory character sketches. I’ve done the sketches for five main characters so far:

  1. Richard, my male lead.
  2. Jessie, the female lead.
  3. James, Richard’s angel boss
  4. Perry, the guy whose body Richard is borrowing at the start of the book, and a possible foil and love interest for Jessie
  5. Katie, Jessie’s straight laced best friend.

I think that there might be another significant character, the villainness who wants the chemical explosion to happen, but I’m not really seeing who she is or where she fits into the rest, so I’ll delay doing her character sketch yet.

It’s been an interesting process, working on a planning method that’s so formal and yet encourages creativity at the same time. Already the characters are surprising me somewhat – when I was starting the entry for Perry I was feeling vaguely uneasy about what his goal was, and then, when I got to the right spot, it just popped out – he’s lost several days of his life and more than anything, he wants to know what happened to him! So natural, and yet it gives a nice sideways kick to Jessie’s possible crush on him and Richard’s reaction to that.

As a sample, here’s my sketch for Katie at the moment…

Katie Hiatt
Katie’s always been more grounded and realistic than her best friend Jessie. When Jessie runs away from school and starts hanging out with strange men, is it Katie’s job to talk her back down to earth?
Motivation: Get a good education, keep good friends, have a little friend.
Goal: Get Jessie agree to go out on a double date, and stop talking about angels and dead boys and explosions.
Conflict: Well, Jessie’s kind of irrepressible when she gets a notion in her head.
Epiphany: A grounded life isn’t the only one worth living, and your friends don’t have to be like you.
Sheesh, does Katie have to make everything about herself? First she starts running around with this guy Richard when he first shows up, askind weird questions. Then Katie takes off, missing Friday classes, and comes back days later, hanging around Richard, but calling him Perry, and ‘Perry’ plays along, pretending not to know who Richard is. And there’s this creepy older guy James hanging around her too. Finally another boy shows up, (less cute,) pretending to be Richard. Maybe she just wants more drama than my boyfriend’s best friend can offer her!


Developing a novel idea.

August 23, 2010

So – I was surprised by a plot bunny, or possibly a small pack of them, walking home from work last week. Well, I don’t walk all the way home – I walk about two and a half kilometers into downtown Burlington, and catch the Hamilton number eleven bus from there, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the idea.

And possibly I shouldn’t even call this bunny a ‘plot bunny’, though that’s the usual term in some of my writing circles, because the idea that I’ve got a the moment – well, there are a few plot elements, but mostly what I’ve got is the beginning of a sci-fi world setting, and a few character notions, and how an adventure for them begins, and the vaguest idea of where it might take them.

So, out of this – I’m not quite sure where go next to flesh the idea out before I start writing – though I’m sure I do want to put a bit more thought into it before I start. This is a part of the process that I’ve never really thought about in much detail before – I suppose I keep the notion on ‘the back burner’ of my head for a little while to see what develops next. It would be interesting to try to structure this into an outline in a more formal way, though, but I’m not sure where to start.

Do I start with the characters I already know about, interviewing them with questionnaires, and trying to figure out who else might be a person of interest in the story? Worldbuild like crazy? (Especially important since the idea involves several alternate Earths.) Try to segment the plot, breaking it up into beginning middle and end, or come up with a plot structure like the Beat sheet and fill in the blanks?

If you have any thoughts or especially useful links on this topic, please comment away! I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.


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