November Wrap-up & Plans for December

 

Did anyone else’s November just pass by without so much as a “hello”?

… apart from Adele’s album release that is…

Mine sure has. Then again, I spent most of the month inside a fictional world where the characters were throwing all the things at me all the time.

So I guess that’s a good enough place to start as any with this wrap-up… THE MANUSCRIPT!

For NaNoWriMo this year, I decided to vomit out a draft of book 3 of the YA Fantasy series I’m working on. There are still scenes that need written and stuff that needs to be fleshed out, but I now have a skeleton draft of a story that has been clawing for my attention since the conceptualization of the series.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing this story. There were things that popped up that not only challenged the MC but also challenged me. The biggest hurdle I had to get over during this draft was allowing Meredith (the MC) to take each hit. She is not the warrior Kjersten of Book 1 is; she does not have the training nor the strength to defend herself physically. But dear lord can she take a hit.

Meredith managed to find herself in the most mentally and physically painful situations possible in this book and all I could do was sit there and watch it happen. BUT despite everything she goes through, everything she loses, she still fights to survive. She digs up whatever token of strength she can and holds onto it, determined to move forward. Always forward.

SIDE NOTE: After I wrote that last bit, I realized that it was my company’s motto during military training. SMH. Crazy what seeps into your subconscious.

This book also provided some of the world building answers I’d been looking for for a while. It just took seeing the alternate dimension through Mer’s eyes to find them. (She can manipulate time and space.)

GAH! I could gush about this story and the characters ALL DAY! The more time I spend working on this series, the more excited I am to [hopefully] share it with the world some day.

Looks dreamily off into the distance.

Anyhoo, that was pretty much the gist of my November. I did get to meet my long-time CP Lynanne for the first time, which was AWESOME! I took a weekend, drove up to see her, and spent the weekend writing, laughing, and procrastinating by way of THE MUMMY. But seeming as how Ardeth Bay is the inspiration for the father of one of my characters, I’m choosing to think of said procrastination as inspirational material. Totally legit. *cough cough*

Again, I apologize for my radio silence on the blog and on social media. I guess I can’t multitask when I’m in the rough-draft stage. SORRY!

Now onto plans for this month…

I should be back on my normal posting schedule (MWF). Might be discussing some writerly things like handling character deaths and other emotionally complex issues (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit miffed by that PW article. I mean seriously?! YA isn’t emotionally complex. Here, let me throw a bookshelf at you.). If you have a writing topic you want to discuss, PLEASE leave it in the comments below!

But the big To-Do in December: Get Book 1’s MS ready for querying. I’m so close, SO CLOSE! And I’m so excited to see what it looks like in a couple drafts. Hopefully, it’ll look somewhat like a representable manuscript. *fingers crossed*

What about y’all? What did you do this past month? What are your plans going forward?

Happy Writing!

 

 

Last Minute Plotting: Because I’m a wimp & can’t pants.

Alright, so I thought I was going to have to pants this year’s NaNoWriMo. My MC had only given me bits and pieces of the story, so when the calendar kindly reminded me that I had less than a week before the challenge started, I began to freak out about the in-between scenes (the stuff between the major plot points).

Here’s the thing, I am a plotter through and through. I like having a plan/map to guide me through a draft because I have an awful habit of writing non-linearly, which is a fancy way of saying I like to jump around. Last year, I wrote all my fight scenes within a week (I had a lot of tension to work out I guess). And the idea of not having that freedom scared me into finishing my beat sheet for my NaNo project.

For information on the beat sheet, you can check out my post on outlines here. And if you’d like to see what fresh hell I’ve cooked up for myself for next month, you can check out my NaNo Q&A here.

I know plotting isn’t for everyone. Some writers can just start writing and come out the other side with a finished, coherent MS. I am not one of those people, so I’ll be taking my beat sheet and expanding it to a heftier outline between now and November 1st. I know, I’m working at the last minute, but characters don’t always like to reveal their secrets. Side-glances at MC

But regardless of my inability to pants a novel (pants: write a story by the seat of your pants without any outline or plan), I’ve learned how incredibly useful having a MS’s blueprint is post-drafting.

In the past year, I wrote what is now book 1 of a [slated] 5-book series, revised it, sent it to beta-readers, demolished it then rebuilt it. During that demolition/rebuilding stage, I was able to look at my previous outline and build over it with something that may [hopefully one day] be worth reading. Having that reference point kept me anchored during the process, so I didn’t go off into crazy, hair-pulling, head:desking la la land.

Basically, this…

giphy

So instead of driving myself to insanity later (basically the equivalent of running away from cannibals), I will be last-minute outlining between now and November 1st, like that habitual little plotter that I am.

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, add me as a writing buddy here!

Happy Writing!

Timey-Wimey Snarkitude: My 2015 NaNoWriMo Novel

Okay, so that’s not the actual working title of my NaNo WIP this year, but it is pretty much the gist of the piece.

This post is brought to you by the incredible link-up, Beautiful Books, created by Sky of Further Up, Further In and Cait of Paper Fury. For more information on the link-up, check out the original post, here.

Below are ten Q&A’s about my upcoming NaNoWriMo project. I’m so excited about this project, guys! The story and characters have been lingering in my head for years, but it’s the third book in my series so it had to wait… :,(

BUT NOT ANYMORE! MUAHAHAHAHA (Did I mention I was excited?)

No. 1 – How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
When I was developing the series as a whole a few years ago, I mapped out all the different elements of nature that I wanted to play with for each protagonist. I had physical elements like water, earth, air, and fire, but I also wanted to bring human nature and the encompassing universal elements like time and space in as well.

So book 3’s protagonist Meredith was assigned the ability to manipulate Time & Space, which of course is never as easy as it sounds. I mean even The Doctor has trouble with it sometimes. (Fun fact: I developed this idea before becoming a Whovian… my fangirl game used to be super lame, but that’s since been rectified.)

I also knew that I wanted to write a character with the same brash intelligence and humor as Wesley from the Princess Bride, so Mer inherited that as well. After those two pieces were decided, the story and other characters began filling themselves in. My story-development brain basically works like an avalanche: starts off with one snowball then everything falls off the side of the mountain.

giphy (7)

No. 2 – Why are you excited to write this novel?
Time-Wimey-Wibbly-Wobbly Awesomeness and Snark… What’s not to be excited about?

giphy (8)

But seriously, this story has so many twists and turns and is harboring so much set-up for the last two books in the series that I NEED IT TO BE A DRAFT ALREADY! Plus it’s the first time that one of my protagonists gets to spend any time in a world that isn’t our own. So that’s exciting for me.

No. 3 – What is your novel about, and what is the title?
The working title is Enveloped, and the really shabby synopsis on my NaNo profile is:

Meredith Wilson hasn’t seen her home in four years. Instead she’s been shuffled around from boarding school to boarding school, never staying anywhere for very long, never hearing from her mother, never getting any explanation for her ability to manipulate time.

And so she makes use of it by keeping herself out of trouble. And getting into some.

All she has to do is finish this last semester of school before she can travel where she will, but this latest destination, Duluth, MN, offers love and friendship. And answers.

No. 4 – Sum up your characters in one word each.
Mind you this is at the beginning of the novel. Some of these change as soon as the midpoint… Did I mention this plot is twisty? *cue maniacal laughter*

Meredith – Snark

Wyatt – Badass

Peter – Chivalrous

Lena – Smart

Chuck – Adorable

No. 5 – Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write? Tell us about them!
Mer. Definitely. She’s smart and spunky and isn’t afraid to let people know what she thinks of them. Think Veronica Mars, but without the need to solve murders and such.

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No. 6 – What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?
Mer wants to be able to find “her place” in the world. Not in the “who am I?” sort of way, but an actual physical place where she can finally lay roots and make friends without the fear of being shipped off to the next boarding school the moment she’s settled in.

This is her final semester before she turns eighteen and no longer has to obey her mom’s orders. Unfortunately, Mer finds out that all that moving around was for a reason: to avoid being abducted by the Council and used to tear open the veil between the magical and human worlds.

Of course it wouldn’t really be a story if her mother’s plan succeeded. Oh no, the Council finds her and Mer’s life – as fragile as it was – is dumped upside down.

No. 7 – Where is your novel set?
DULUTH, MN. It’s gorgeous up there, guys. So green and the air is so clean… it’s also right on Lake Superior, which is also quite lovely. 🙂

No. 8 – What is the most important relationship your character has?
Her relationship with Wyatt. They balance each other out and he’s the first friend that Mer can count on for the long haul.

No. 9 – How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Good question… I mean she lets go of a lot of the anger she had toward her mom. She also finds “her place” in world, even though it doesn’t end up being a specific place, but a close-knit group of friends.

No. 10 – What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?
Themes… So I’m bad at this one because I don’t really go into the first draft thinking remotely of what “themes” are supposed to be picked up on. My concern is more about the MC’s journey and what’s needed for the plot to move forward.

As for how I want my readers to feel when the story is over: emotionally exhausted. Like they just went on an epic, nonsensical rollercoaster of heartbreak and feels that they “can’t even.”

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If this series ever does get published and makes it to book 3, I’m looking forward to the responses to a specific scene in the MS where I’m sure more than one reader will chuck the book across the room. Again, *cue maniacal laughter*.

BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.
1. Just keep writing.
It doesn’t matter if you get in your 1700 words for that day in description, just make the time to write those words.

2. Don’t worry about the quality. This is a pretty common piece of advice for NaNo, but don’t worry so much on the eloquence of a metaphor, just get down the meaning you’re aiming for then move on. Editing is for later.

3. Don’t be afraid to go off the rails. If you lock yourself in a little box, saying that you’re only going to write in sequential order, you have a higher likelihood to fail. So if one day, you look at your outline and feel like writing a scene a few chapters ahead of your current spot, do it! Enjoy what you do and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding burnout.

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Join the link up and tell us about your NaNo project!

The Try-Fail Cycle: What makes an ending epic.

One of my favorite podcasts, Writing Excuses, introduced me to the idea of the Try-Fail Cycle a while ago, and as someone whose WIP revolves around someone’s competency, it hit pretty close to home.

Summed up, the Try-Fail Cycle is the progression of attempts a character makes toward their goal before achieving it in the end. It’s those failures that keep us rooting for the character and what makes that final win so epic.

This cycle applies to both character and plot development, and when they intersect, it’s this incredible hodge-podge of feels and goosebumps.

Let’s look at last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. Each of our heroes fails individually as well as a team prior to them coming together to kick total ass in the end. The way the film is plotted, we see that each character has their own issue to overcome because we see them fail as a result. If it weren’t for those fails, the epic ending would feel more like a plot device (looking at you, 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot).

But beyond how useful this concept is in developing our works in progress, I think it also relates to the writing process in general.

We try to write a book >> That first draft isn’t great.

We revise, send to beta readers >> Need to rework some things.

Have a new version of the MS post-beta >> Still need to flesh out and polish.

The glory of the Try-Fail Cycle is that the protagonist usually finds their win in the end. So don’t let your massive revision to-do list intimidate you. It’s just power for the course.

Happy writing!


For more information on the Try-Fail Cycle, check out Writing Excuses, Season 10, Episode 29: Why Should My Characters Fail Spectacularly?. Available on iTunes or their website, www.writingexcuses.com.

Don’t be afraid to let your characters be dark.

So there are a few times during the writing process when my characters do something unexpected. Or they do something expected, but in a completely different way, usually making them WAAAAY darker than I thought they were.

And this isn’t a bad thing.

We all know that a great story begins and ends with a well-developed, fully rounded character. Sometimes, we feel the urge to downplay their flaws and their demons. DON’T!

I recently read the first four books of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and her MC, Celaena Sardothien, is far from being a perfect human being. In fact, Celaena has some of the darkest-rooted demons of any MC I’ve read to date and that’s what makes her so terrifyingly awesome.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Throne of Glass is about a teenage assassin who is brought out of slavery to work for a corrupt king, thrusting her into the middle of a conspiracy that could tear the kingdom and her world apart.

There are distinct moments where Maas lets Celaena loose on the people who have harmed her or her loved ones, and each one is darker and more terrifying than the last. Which makes sense, because Celaena is a freaking ASSASSIN (also so many other things, but I refuse to spoil it for you).

Maas offsets Celaena’s demons with how fiercely she loves and how deeply she feels the repercussions of her own actions.

It’s okay that your characters are dark. It’s okay that your characters do things that terrify you. Just be sure that everything each character does derives from his/her core. Terrifying moments of character darkness shouldn’t be there for shock value, but should be a pivotal and necessary moment in that character’s development.

Happy Writing!

If you haven’t started the Throne of Glass series, DO IT! Then email me and we’ll discuss. 🙂 It’s my new favorite series and there’s still two books left! I’m dying in anticipation, but we’re still at least two years from a resolution. Sigh.