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?

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Are there still writers just in it for the fame/money?

October 25, 2011

I was listening to Storywonk Daily‘s 200th episode this morning. Lani and Alastair read an email that they’d received calling them out for taking potshots at ‘literary fiction’, and they apologized for taking out their frustration on a few snobby critics who consider anything not literary as ‘trash’ out on the whole genre. Alastair gave shoutouts to some of his favorite literary authors, and Lani said that whoever was passionate about literary fiction and inspired to write it, or loved to read it, they were a Storywonk at heart and that she’d avoid saying mean things in the future. It was all very sweet.

But something was nagging at me as I listened, and it took me a few minutes to figure out what I was thinking about. From a few places, including an article of Douglas Adams that was in ‘The Salmon of Doubt’, I’ve absorbed this meme of the literary author, (certainly not representing EVERY literary author,) who isn’t really passionate or inspired about the stories that can be told in that genre, but full of himself and just wanting to create a piece of “Literature.” (Douglas said in the article that he aspired to be literate, not literary.)

I have to admit, I’ve never really known another writer personally who I’d put into that category. And the broader bucket of ‘writers who are motivated more to be successful than by passion’ wouldn’t be unique to Lit fic – in other genres, considering the scarcity of artistic accolades, the equivalent would be someone who just wants to have written a successful blockbuster and get rich from it, instead of actually being inspired to write. I’m not sure I know anyone like that either.

Do writers like that actually exist, or are they just a cultural meme that sprang up from writers in one genre taking potshots at another?


Narratives from the real world.

September 19, 2011

I was listening to a Storywonk podcast today, more than a month behind as usual. This time, Lani and Alastair were talking about reality television, and some of the ways producers set up the shows so that no matter what the participants do or who wins, some kind of a natural narrative will flow naturally. They also mentioned that professional sports are set up in somewhat the same way, which naturally made me think of this cartoon:

Original Alt text by Randall Munroe: Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.

Read the rest of this entry »


August to-do list results

August 31, 2011

Well, August is really almost up now, so I guess it’s time to see how I did on some of the goals that I set myself 31 days ago:

  • Revising “The Way Back Home” – partially complete. This was one of those projects that turned out to be completely different than I thought. That’s mostly because of Lani and the Storywonk class – I had an epiphany or two and made some progress in figuring out what the book is supposed to be, maybe, but didn’t make as much tangible and measurable progress as I’d hoped.
  • Cleaning the apartment – partially complete. Tidying up the kitchen went well, but the living room table just sneered at my efforts. I’ll have to prepare much more carefully to tackle it again, hopefully before it actually begins to lurk in the middle of the room. (Yes, that’s a “Long dark tea-time of the soul” reference.)
  • Rewriting “How to talk to Earthlings” – DONE!
  • Submitting a story for publication – failed.
  • Writing a list-based smartphone app – DONE!
  • Continuing fanfic works in progress – Exceeded expectations, with 2 and a half chapters complete!
  • Posting old fanfic to fanfiction.net – met quota!
  • Blogosphere participation stuff – exceeded quota!
  • Fan expo stuff – Done!

So – not too bad, all things considered. Didn’t achieve everything I wanted to, but I certainly kept busy.

Did you have a goals list for August? How did it work out?


Novel revision: Structure and conflict

August 21, 2011

Well, I had my final class session for the Storywonk revision class this afternoon, and overall the class wasn’t really what I was expecting.

I learned quite a lot, but I guess I thought that the manuscripts that I had were ready to the point where they just needed some fairly small changes made to them and they’d be ready to get queried.

Now, I don’t think that anymore. Most of the class wasn’t about the small-changes stuff, though Lani did cover that in ‘The paper edit’, which was today’s topic, actually.

But everything up to this point has been on more fundamental stuff – the structure of the book, the conflict, the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist, the role of the major supporting characters – and I’ve started to see that I have a lot of work to do here. I think I’m nearly finished rewriting the basic structure of “The way back home” to up the stakes of the conflict between Naveli and Merlik, but I’ll have a lot of rewriting to do to match things up to that structure.

Which in a way, should be exciting. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m terrified or just disappointed.

So, here’s the first part of my structure – what do you think, does it sound like a story that you’d want to read? Are the stakes high from the beginning? Do things keep on getting worse?

Opening scene: While having fun with her friends at the Royal Jubilee, Princess Naveli is taken prisoner by rebel agents, along with her pet ferret Ereyu, her friend and bodyguard Tuma – and her possibly-crush, the Lady Jenna.

Things get worse: At the rebel fortress, Naveli meets Merlik (change name?) the warlock who arranged for her capture. He scoffs at her references to ransom, and tortures Tuma and Jenna in front of her to try and break her spirit. Naveli tries to use magik to escape, but the rebels have taken precautions against the few elementary wind magik spells that she knows.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thoughts on rewriting a plot structure.

August 14, 2011

I’ve been working for about a week now on revising the plot structure of my manuscript “The Way Back Home”, as part of my participation in Lani Diane Rich’s Storywonk Revision class.

It’s been tough, partly just from coming to terms with Lani’s critique of the structure outline that I submitted and facing the idea that the book that I’ve spent several years doing cosmetic surgery on has bigger and deeper problems that need to be worked on.

I fell in love with bits that came out of me during Nano, and those are the toughest things to let go of, to admit to myself that they don’t really serve the storyline I want, at the end of the day (year? decade??) to tell. Merlik, the bad guy who I showed you a bit of in the I hate you Blogfest, is kinduv a good example of that. Not that Merlik’s character is bad in general, he’s essentially a powerful antagonist, but I hadn’t met him yet when I started to tell the story. He was first mentioned in stories told to my main characters around halfway through the book, and then finally appeared in that little showdown with Naveli.

So there were some things that had ultimately to be folded into his plan that weren’t really Merlik’s style, and most of all, I had to come up with a way for my heroine to get out of things alive. So I had Merlik spout some mysterious nonsense suggesting that it was his plan that Naveli had escaped, that he wanted her to see the world without her family’s agenda, and that was all.

And I still like that motivation for Merlik, but I’m not sure that I can really sell it and tell a good story, because it’s not a motivation that really puts him into conflict with Naveli. So I’ve been working on revising his motives to make him a badder bad guy, and of course that changes just about everything – it’s a good change, but it means that I’ll have to let go of most of the specifics and start rewriting most of the scenes from scratch.

I’m a little scared about that, but also excited.


Revision on the brain.

July 25, 2011

So, I had my first live Revision class for Storywonk yesterday – it was the second class in the course, but I joined late because of the Polaris craziness and caught up on that class with the on-demand replay, which isn’t as fun as being in chat live and getting to answer questions.

But I’ve got all kinds of things running through my head with all the stuff that Lucy’s covered in class so far, and other things that I’m just thinking of because of tangents. I think I’ve got a good idea for the opening scene, but it’s going to be a big rewrite – partly because, as Lucy points out, the opening scene has a lot that it needs to do.

But I’m also starting to think about ‘the trouble’ from the bad guy’s point of view. My antagonist is really resourceful and clever, and when he decides to take a Princess prisoner, he’s not going to do it by sending armed soldiers into the festival. I think I’ve managed to come up with a much more clever scheme that does him justice, involving poisoning and food vans. Now I just need to figure out how to tell it from the POV of my protagonist, and let her stand up for herself just a little but still end up in the really hot water.

I’ve also got a new beat breakdown up on my corkboard – this one is for my current draft of ‘The Long Way Home’:

Each card is a scene, with the sequence of scenes in the book going ‘Summer Glau style‘ back and forth from the top left down to the bottom left. Some types of scenes are color coded:

  • Yellow – ‘anchor scene’ candidates, as per Lucy’s structure
  • Pink – key scenes for Ereyu the ferret
  • Green – scenes involving my antagonist, Merlik, or where his influence is felt.
  • Blue – flashbacks.

So, I guess I’ll leave it at that for now, except to ask – if you’re not doing revision, then what have you been up to for July?


Blake Snyder Beat Sheet for Dodgeball

July 23, 2011

“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

I was assigned watching this movie as homework for the Storywonk novel revision workshop, and we’re probably going to be talking about the plot in terms of Lucy’s own structure diagram tomorrow, but I thought that I’d do a Blake Snyder outline for it. It’s really very well written.

Opening image – Peter asleep, the dog nuzzling at his crotch, while the Globo-Gym ad plays on the TV.

Theme stated – I think that it’s stated in the negative, in the Globo-gym ad: “We’re better than you, and we know it!”

Setup – Peter goes to work at Average Joe’s, and we meet all the regulars and hear a bit of their story as Peter talks with them.

Catalyst – Kate is waiting for Peter in his office, and tells him that the gym is in foreclosure. which sends him over to Globo-gym to talk to White and find out that White is looking forward to putting up a new parking garage.

Debate – Can the Average Joes find a way to save their gym? With a car wash? Of course not! But there’s this ad about the dodgeball tournament in Vegas…

Break into two – In the qualifiers with the girl scouts, when Peter actually starts to play it hard. They don’t actually win, but they qualify anyway.

B story – the complex plotline involving Peter, Kate, and White.

Fun and games – The training sequence with Patches, and the first few tournament games.

Midpoint – I’m not sure, but I think the scene where Kate signs on with the Average Joe’s team is a midpoint beat. Nothing is going to be the same from there on, better or worse.

Bad guys close in – The Globo-gym team has made it to the finals before Average Joe’s.

All is lost – Patches dies, crushed by an ironic ‘Luck of the Irish’ sign, and Peter loses his confidence and lets White get to him. White offers to buy Peter out for 100 grand, and we don’t know what he decided. But Peter tells the team that they’re probably going to lose and that they should be ready for it. He even tells Steve that he’s not a pirate.

Dark night of the soul – The team is one player short. Peter ends up in a casino bar. And Lance Armstrong shows up, just to rub it in a little about being a quitter.

Break into three – Peter gets there just as the Joes have officially forfeited, but Gordon finds the appeals rule, and Chuck Norris casts the deciding vote to let them play in the finals!

Finale – Sudden death with blindfolds! Not only that, but Peter took White’s 100 grand, used it to bet on the Joes, and has 5 million to buy out a controlling share of Globo-gym! And Steve is a Pirate again.

Final image – White watching Peter’s big ad for Average Joe’s gym – ‘You’re great just the way you are.’


May goals update! Much accomplished!

May 31, 2011

So, checking in on my list of creative to-do items for May, I feel like I’ve really done very well:

  • Finished all three fanfic chapters I wanted to write. The new installment of “Un-brotherly love’ is a little shorter than I had planned, but it came to a good chapter break point.
  • I added four titles to my master fanfic tracker spreadsheet, which was enough to figure out that it wasn’t all that hard.
  • I submitted four stories for magazine publication!
  • I’ve finished reading and critiquing a novel manuscript from critters.org
  • I’ve visited a lot of cool blogs.
  • I had a great time with the Storywonk workshop, and posted all of the ‘homework assignments’ on the private forum.
  • I’ve completed tracking spreadsheets for all of the critters comments I got for ‘The Landing’ and ‘Harry and Mars’

This, in addition to other cool but unplanned stuff like getting into the CSSF workshop, and getting the air conditioner repaired.

I’ve started on the list of June goals to accomplish, as follows:

  1. Read the rest of this entry »

Workshop homework

May 19, 2011

I’ve been putting off my homework for the Storywonk Discovery writing workshop. It’s been that kind of crazy week, especially with CSSF and Dragoncon to plan for.

But the class on Sunday afternoon was really good – the first half was about voice, and the second about characters. There’s a homework assignment for each part.

Voice assignment: take an excerpt from your private writing, to someone who you feel very comfortable expressing yourself with, a situation where you’re not tap-dancing, trying to appear clever, or writing for a public audience. Study that passage for the details of its style; look at the length of the sentences, whether the language is flowery or simple, funny or serious, formal or casual.

Then you try to write a very short story in the same voice and style as that, take a similar excerpt from something that you’ve written before, and compare the two fiction pieces.

Character exercise: Think of a scene for your book in your main character’s POV. Outline it in your head, and start to look at your character’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Then write the scene, highlighting those aspects of his or her character.

So – I’m looking forward to getting into these, but I guess I haven’t taken the time for it. I really should put in a good hour tonight, and maybe post some comments to the class forum if I’m having problems.


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