Tag Archives: urban fantasy

How writer brains work

So just a quick post – sort of gushing about another “Ah ha!” moment, while also to show how your brain comes up with shit that will work if you don’t hamstring it.

I’m trying to finish all remaining rewrites (a.k.a. draft 2) on the urban fantasy project by end of June, plan being to send CPs/Betas the first half by end of May.  Which meant starting from the beginning. I rewrote chapter 1 and the first scene of chapter 2 in February or March at some point, then dropped them. Because the second scene in chapter 2 just wouldn’t work.

Can’t exactly avoid it any more, though. It has to get done or other goals this year *coughPitchWarscough* won’t happen.

I was supposed to finish it yesterday. Didn’t happen. The new words sounded just as boring and overdrawn as the first set. To bypass some of the stress and anxiety of missing yet another deadline, I decided to plow ahead to chapter 3 and come back. As I started jotting out the first scene in chapter 3, this is what happened:

“Okay, where exactly are all these things in this container?”

*Tries to sketch out how it’s laid out. Looks up cargo container packing pictures.*

“How is there any room for her to move in there? And why would they pack the stuff that they need to unload and hide IN THE BACK?”

Brain – What about making it a pirate ship instead?

“Don’t be silly, there can’t be any pirate ships in this thing. That makes no sense-”

*Googles old merchant ship holds.*

“How can I make this fit the rest of the world? How can a pirate ship fit in an alternate, modern Charleston?”

Brain – Here’s all you need to know to tie it into this moment and recent past.  *Dumps out ideas and possible subplot threads.*

“…NOW CHAPTER TWO WILL BE SO MUCH MORE FUN!”

 

And now (well not right now) I can go back to chapter two and give it the oomph it deserves. It won’t be pirate ships… exactly.  Mwahahah.

Moral of the story: don’t quash the little voice that offers up what sounds, at first, like an outlandish idea. It might be the solution you’ve been banging your head on the keyboard for.

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Over the middle and through the words…

March is halfway over now, which by association also means I’m on the downward part of the NaNoEdMo hill. In 17 days I’ve rewritten around 6 scenes. I say around because the final fight isn’t cut into neat sections.

Six-ish scenes in almost 28 hours of work.

It doesn’t look like a lot when you compare the numbers, but it is. I’m rewriting pretty much every chapter in this draft. And if I’m going to rewrite a chapter to fix voice, I might as well widen the stroke to fix other major issues. Plot beats and structure are being hit too. The foundations for setting, world, and secondary characters are getting reinforced.

When I *tried* to start revising in February and wanted to bang my head on the keyboard, two of my friends suggested to try approaching it as another first draft. I had no idea what they meant at the time.  Now I do: give myself permission to write complete shit, AGAIN.

The funny thing, though, is that it’s less shitty the second time around. Maybe it’s been given a pat on the back and upgraded to crappy. I’m still way over-writing scenes and struggling to find the POV heroine’s voice, but there’s a bit of light poking holes in the angry revision cloud of doom.

Obviously I’m not going to finish draft two within 22 more hours of work. Or even by the end of the month. If I can find a revision process, and lowering the amount of time it takes to rewrite a scene or chapter, I’ll be ecstatic.

 

I actually decided to update my writing schedule a.k.a. goals. Clearly I am crazy because, again, I’ve only rewritten 6 out of god knows how many scenes for this freakin book. This is what I’m talking about:

 

  • March thru April (…June): finish draft 2 of UF #1, send to betas; write query, synopsis, and pitches for Twitter
    • April 23 – 24 = DFWCon (not planning to pitch or consult w/ any agent)
  • June thru July: outline & flesh out DF idea
    • June 9 = Pitmad for UF  #1
    • June ?? = SFFPit for UF #1
  • July: Draft DF book for CampNaNo
    • start prepping PitchWars submission
  • August thru September: complete draft 3 of UF #1; work on query, synopsis, blurb, etc.
    • August 3 = PitchWars subs open (!)
  • September thru October: complete draft 3 of UF #1  if not finished, send to CPs/NTSFW; additional plotting/planning for UF #2
    • PitchWars revisions (if picked)
  • November: finish draft of UF #2 for NaNoWriMo; work on query, synopsis, Twitter pitches, etc. for UF #1
  • December: finish draft of DF; work on draft 4 for UF #1
    • December 1 = Pitmad for UF #1
    • December ? = SFFPit for UF #1

 

So yeah. Wouldn’t that be nice if all those things got done? I’d probably hate myself next Feb. with all the revisions I’d have to look forward to. But it’d be so worth it.

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Finished (first) draft stats

Draft one/book one of the UF project is done. It’s not perfect; the plot has little tears in its seams, and the main character continues to feel not quite right. But it’s done! The long slog to draft two (and three, and … however many more it takes) will follow after NaNoWriMo.

For now, though: STATS!

 

Word tallies:

  • NaNoWriMo 2014: 50,017 words
  • personal FebNoWriMo = 36,947 words
  • CampNoWriMo June = 12,131 words (this is what I actually logged on the site, but the file itself and the count sheet I used both have a decent variance from this number)
    Final count: *113k words

*About 5k worth of bonus scenes aren’t included in the total, and another couple thousand scenes’ worth were taken out that will be moved to book two.

 

Timeline:

  • conceptualized – Oct 2013
  • CH1 written/submitted to NTSFW in Feb 2014
  • made NaNoWriMo goal 2014 (50k words)
  • came up short of secondary NaNo goal (goal was 40k in February)
  • made CampNaNoWriMo goal (12k words)
  • wrote another 20kish July – September
  • 1st draft finish Sept. 24, 2015
  • concept –> 1st draft = less than 2 years
  • actual “drafting” phase (NaNo) –> 1st draft = less than 1 year

 

Just a refresher, it took ten (that’s right, TEN) years to finish the first draft of my epic fantasy, which weighed in at 128k words. That the UF took less than a year (depending on how you look at it) to draft, and is only 15k words short from that is kind of mind-boggling. If you had told me two or three years ago that I could draft a full novel in a year or less, I would have smiled and nodded, but inwardly been like Yeah right, there’s no way I can write that much in a year!

Finding a process that works to get the words down on the page makes all the difference.

 

Any burning questions about the drafting stage of this project? Any other numbers or stats you’d like to see? Want to know what song I played on repeat the most during this endeavor? Ask away!

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Charleston

I got back from Charleston last week and all I can say is, wow! I had done some research beforehand on the historic downtown area, good eateries and the like, but I’m still just kind of amazed. Looking at a few houses on Google maps does not prepare you for just how many old homes there are, not to mention all of the different architectural styles.

A Charleston house with piazza and all!

A Charleston house with piazza and all!

Naturally, I fell in love. I don’t want to go into a whole giant spiel about why you SHOULD visit (I could, trust me), but if you do go, here are three things I would recommend seeing/doing:

 

1) Carriage Tour – I did this on my first day there, and it was well worth the money. The tour guides/drivers are all certified, and the city tests them every three years or so to make sure they know their stuff. On a carriage tour, you’ll go to one of three “zones” that the historic downtown is divided into – West, East, or South. You don’t get a choice, this is determined by a city official with a bingo ball. I don’t really think it matters which zone you end up in, because you’ll probably get a dose of Charleston’s history in with the highlights of the tour zone.

Palmetto Carriage, one of the carriage tour companies.

Palmetto Carriage, one of the carriage tour companies.

 

There are a number of companies doing these tours. They all have the city license to operate and whatnot, so just do a little research and see which one might be a good fit for you. There are also walking tours for both the downtown area and special topics (pirates, ghosts, naval, etc.).

 

2) She-Crab Soup – Just to preface, I don’t really like crab. It’s too sweet, and too expensive for the little bit of meal that you get from it. In doing my pre-trip research, though, a looooooot of people were talking about She-Crab Soup from one restaurant or another. Since I ended up going during restaurant week, when a lot of restaurants have a three-course meal for $30 or $40, and a couple had this soup on the menu, I thought I might as well try it. More because I like soup, than because I like crab.

Poogan's Porch, a restaurant on Queen St. in Charleston.

Poogan’s Porch, a restaurant on Queen St. in Charleston.

 

Oh boy, was it good. I had a cup at both Poogan’s Porch and 82 Queen, and I honestly don’t know that I can say one is better than the other. Poogan’s version was a little less dense, and had a spicy kick to it. At 82 Queen, the soup was a bit heavier and creamier. The sweetness of the crab came out more, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

One of the only times I've ever eaten gravy willingly.

One of the only times I’ve ever eaten gravy willingly.

 

There is a plethora of fantastic food in Charleston, but definitely try the She-Crab Soup.

 

3. White Point Gardens/Waterfront Park – After you’ve been walking around for a whole day (or two, or three…), take a bench in either of these parks and let it all sink in. Revel in the city’s past and present. Watch the sailboats and frigates gliding through the Cooper River. You might even see a cruise ship, or at least the behemoth tail thing of one. You’ll also see people walking their dogs, or running around the Battery. No one will bother you, probably.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park

(I prefer Waterfront Park simply because it felt more symmetrical. White Point felt unbalanced, because all of the statues/memorials were on one side of it. )

 

White Point Gardens, west side.

White Point Gardens, west side.

 

All in all, I came away with less, and in some cases more, than what I expected from the trip. I ended up with notes on just about all the primary characters, and some ideas on how to tweak the city for the setting. I’ll probably end up twisting some of the history and architecture for my needs, but I still haven’t decided how far I want to go down that hole.

My main concern was learning more about my main character, which didn’t pan out very well. She didn’t reveal herself. My next step will probably be practice scenes, which I’ve never done before. First time for everything, right?

 

In closing, Charleston is beautiful. If you’re not going to go, find some way to send me back!  =)

 

 

Last night in Charleston, treated to a gorgeous sunset-sky!

 

 

 

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Building a new world

The time’s running away from me, but I still want to address emotional response that I mentioned in the DFWCon recap post.

To sum up, one of the author/agent duos suggested, when submitting or querying, to be prepared for rejection and when it does happen, not to make your response from an emotional place.  Don’t go throwin’ ‘bows because they didn’t understand your character, or said your premise wasn’t exciting. If your comeback snarky and rude, why would that person (be it an agent, editor, publisher, critique partner, etc.) want to work with you in the future? If you aren’t open to at least considering change or opening your eyes to what the flaws are in your work, it’s going to be difficult to move forward.

After the conference ended I hit upon an epiphany — reigning in our emotions, and how we respond to what we’ve written (or someone’s feedback on our work), goes hand in hand with our entire writing process.  We need to breathe through the sentences that don’t work, and the characters who act in opposition of their nature. We need to remind ourselves that what we’ve written may not be perfect, but we’re moving in the right direction. Every word is another step towards establishing our voice, and learning what works. We need to stop letting our emotions run the show, and instead remind ourselves of what we have accomplished. We all have bad days where we look at what we’ve written, and our inner critic just won’t shut up. We just have to remember that we’re human, we make mistakes, life gets in the way, but the writing will get better if we can push past the self-doubt and put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard).

There are numerous other writers who have discussed dealing with self-doubt and guilt, but these are three of my favorites:  Rachel Aaron – Don’t Stomp on My Cake!  ;  Kristen Lamb – Writer Victory series  ;  Lauren Sapala – Self Doubt: The Writer’s Constant Companion

 

I tried revising my epic fantasy first draft from May to July. To say revisions didn’t pan out in those three months would be a massive understatement. The more I looked at it and tried to start fixing it, the more deprecating my thoughts became. In preservation of my sanity, I’ve shelved it. I’ll bring it back out in a year or two, but I’m just not ready to deal with it. Hell, maybe it’s not ready to deal with me. But that’s not necessarily bad, because I’m better off moving on to something that makes me excited to write, than to sit and stare at the monitor waiting for brilliant inspiration on how to fix a broken story.

 

Tomorrow I’m flying to Charleston, SC to fully immerse myself in a new project. For three and a half glorious days I’ll be sightseeing and eating my way through historic downtown, while filling in the gaps of an urban fantasy world that has waited patiently for its time in the spotlight. Now that the EF is out of the way, it’s all magic and technology and a different species of shifters from here!

 

 

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