Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hubs is out of town, and I had very serious plans to celebrate by blowing off everything and going to bed early. I tucked the kids in, told the cat to leave me alone, brushed my teeth, washed my face, shut down my computer, and wrote in my journal. Then I walked past the office and the computer made fun of me, calling me a weakling and a quitter. I replied that I was fine with being a quitter for one night, and it asked me how many more "one nights" I planned on getting away with. I sighed, booted it up again, made myself a quadruple batch of hot chocolate, and set the timer for an hour of BICHOK. (Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.)

I worked from 9:30 to 10:30 and wrote 2,005 words.

Now I'm going to bed.

Outlines are Hard, I Have Too Many Plot Lines, and George and Stinkin' Martha

Outlining is kicking my behind. I can get at most three or four sections plotted before my brain starts to dribble out my fingers and make a big ol' mess all over my outline. This has happened several nights in a row, so it may be a sign that I should only try to outline three or four sections a night and spend the rest of my writing time writing the scenes I outlined on earlier nights.

I've also got a problem with having too many characters and too many mini-plots. By too many, I don't mean more than are good for the novel (I think). I mean more than I, a novice writer, know how to handle effectively. I'm going to have to get some good mystery books and see how they handle a large cast of suspects, each of which is hiding something, just not the thing.

Speaking of getting books, I am sick of having my library privileges held hostage by "George and Martha" or, as my son now thinks it is called, "George and Stinkin' Martha." It wasn't even that great a book, and one day, the day before Thanksgiving. (Yes. Thanksgiving.) it vanished. I renewed it for about three months and then in April we found it! I grabbed it, thanked every deity that may or may not exist in this or any other dimension, and put it in a safe place.

Stinkin' safe place. I haven't seen the book since.

But I've decided that we've reached the point of ridiculousness. (Ridiculum is, Firefox informs me, not a word. It should be.) I'm going to shell out the twelve bucks for "George and Stinkin' Martha" and ransom my library card! Then I will read many, many more books. That will make me write better. It always does.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Was Right! Outlining IS Getting Easier

I seriously wanted to call it a day tonight, but I could not. I didn't want to report that I'd been a quitter tonight.

I outlined 3.5 scenes during my writing hour tonight. I could have finished the final scene, but I wanted to stop while I still knew where I was going. Outlining is getting easier. I hope it's not getting easier because I'm doing a subpar job at it. I hope it's getting easier because I'm starting to understand it better. I'm even managing to work in a romantic subplot, which is impressive because I'm not crazy about them.

I'm going to need more than an hour a night if I want to get anywhere with this whole crazy writing pipe-dream. I have the time--it's not easy, but I can squeeze it out--but I don't have the stamina. By the end of they day, I'm totally wiped. I'd like to say that writing recharges me, and in a way it does recharge me for living and being a full, well-rounded person with lots to offer her job and her family, but it doesn't recharge me for more writing. By the end of an hour, I'm exhausted. I'm hoping that my stamina increases.

Today I was: a writer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Section Outlines and Annotated Bibliographies

As I muddle through scene outlines, I keep thinking about my students and their annotated bibliographies. When I introduce annotated bibliographies, my students are discouraged and, in some cases, despairing. It takes them an entire class period just to understand what they're supposed to do, and then the first annotation they write takes an hour. At the thought of writing fifteen of them, they practically revolt, but I promise them that if they keep trying, they'll a, have an easier time writing their papers and b, find that the annotations become easier and easier until, by annotation fifteen, churning them out becomes second nature. They don't believe me, but as someone who's been through the process, I know that I'm right.

I keep reminding myself of that as I outline. It's incredibly hard. I'm not sure I'm doing it right, and it seems like it will take me ages to complete enough section outlines to actually start writing. I keep reminding myself, however, that just like my students need to trust that the annotations are worth doing and will get easier, I need to trust that the section outlines will help me write better and are worth doing.

Tonight I muddled through some plot arcs and one section outline. I struggled, but tonight I was: a writer.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Plotting is Getting a Little Easier

Last night I was in an abyss of despair because I was certain that my plot was going to reach up through my intestines and strangle me from the inside out. Fortunately, 30 years of emotional overreaction has taught me that I can feel whatever I want, but I should be very careful not to believe or act on overly negative feelings. So, instead of sobbing or deleting files or throwing myself from the highest turret, I watched an episode of Doctor Who and went to bed. I felt a bit better in the morning.

Right before I started writing tonight, I read this article about inciting incidents. I loved it! It specifically answered my question: what if my inciting incident requires setup? Its answer was perfect: give the amount of setup you actually need and then punch the reader with the inciting incident. Then, I started reading Eric James Stone's Unforgettable, and I realized that he's got just such a situation. The inciting incident doesn't happen until about three chapters in because he's got to set up the story in order for the inciting incident to have meaning.

So, keeping those two things in mind, I started plotting again. This time I got through four scene sheets, and I think I'm starting to get the feel of how action and reaction play off each other. One thing that surprises me is how draining plotting is, despite the fact that I feel like I know where the plot is going. I can usually write for a good forty-five minutes before glancing at the clock, but tonight I was checking every five minutes. I'm starting to think that I either need to do my writing at two o'clock in the afternoon or take a serious caffeine jolt at 8 when the kids finally go down.

I've also noticed that reporting on whether I am a writer or a wannabee has a motivating effect. I really wanted to blow off writing tonight, but I couldn't bear the idea of admitting that I was a wannabee today. I did that once, and it sucked.

Tonight I was: a writer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ugh. Plotting. Ugh.

Well, I'm trying Marshall's plan for laying out section sheets. In an hour, I got through two. I'm just not very good at it, and just like I feared, I'm suddenly worried that my whole plot is so riddled with disaster that I'll never be able to do anything with it. I keep telling myself that it can't possibly be that bad and that there's a way to make it work. At least I've learned not to pay too much attention to how I feel about things when I'm tired. I'm usually wrong.

On an up note, I've noticed how crucial plotting is, and Marshall's action, reaction pattern really seems to work, at least based on the fact that I'm curious about how things end in his sample plot outlines.

Also, I notice I'm really tired by the end of the day when I sit down to write, and it affects how well I work. I might need to consider taking a nap, getting up early (though when I tried that, the work was actually much worse than it is now), or maybe eating better so I have more energy. Blah.

Today I was: A writer (though I feel like a wannabee).

Finished Step 4 of Marshall Plan

On Wednesday I told myself that I was too tired to write, which was a lie, and watched "Raising Hope" and "The Event" instead.

On Wednesday I was: a wannabee.

On Thursday, I started writing still high from the adrenaline rush of my son walking into my office with a dying bird in his hand (self, meet ceiling). I thought I'd be able to go for three hours, but as the adrenaline rush faded, I started to flag. I worked from 8:45 to 10:00 pm and finished seven character sheets, completing step 4 of the Marshall Plan.

Thursday I was: a writer.

Tonight I start on the plotting. That has me scared to death because I'm afraid that my plot, which seems decent right now, will fall apart once I try to put it into 48 six-page sections. Heck, maybe the whole Marshall Plan will end up being totally useless, but what do I have to lose by trying it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Marshall Plan Step 3: Character Sheets

Worked from 8:36 to 9:50. Completed steps one and two of the Marshall Plan and started on step three, character sheets. Have written 4 of 12? character sheets. I'm having fun. I find myself learning more about my characters and falling more in love with each of them. If this were my first time writing a novel, I'd start getting excited and thinking that the vividness of each character is a sign that this novel is going to flow from me effortlessly and end up being a masterpiece. Because I've written two novels before, though, I know that this is just the easy honeymoon phase where I get to create characters and back-story. Once I start plotting and actually writing, I'll be hating books and writing and myself for ever thinking I could write. Oh well. The important thing is to not think about that and focus on what I'm accomplishing now.

Today I was: A writer