Posted in General

Converting Notes

Spring is starting the last preparations for its summer leave, which means this is one of the last few opportunities to do some spring cleaning. For me, that includes reorganizing my notes. More specifically, it’s been going through old story notes to see what I still need and what can go.

Unfortunately, that’s a lot of notes, some of which while still useful, need updates and new additions made. Being that these are all hard copies, there’s no easy way to find and replace things like old names. And, when I do need to consult on a note, I have to manually flip through the notes to find the one I need. That alone can take chunks of time away when I’m working on a project.

Which is why part of my spring-cleaning to do is converting all of my hardcopy notes into digital copies. Because I want to make sure they’re both searchable and easily updated, scanning the majority in isn’t a great option (there are some sketches and maps that can be converted easily).

Laid out to sort and count.
Most of the sketches will scan in with no problem.

The biggest hurdle I’m seeing however is that I have a lot of hardcopy notes owing to the fact I think best when handwriting something. For me, that’s an easy fix, since I have a graphics tablet with Windows Ink functionality—I can continue handwriting my notes and have it corrected into typed word. That makes it both readable for later, and lets me preserve a method that works best for me.

Because most of my notes are contained in setting-defined binders, I’m going through them alphabetically. In total, I have thirteen binders to convert. Once I’ve emptied them, I’m planning on donating any that are still in good condition and recycling the ones that have gotten torn up and damaged from use.

 This is going to be a long process, but I’m excited to get through it. I’m also curious. How do you keep your notes? What solutions do you have for organization? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted in General, writing

Creating Titles

This post is an update to one published March 8, 2018.

Titles and first lines are two of the hardest things to come up with in writing. Titles can be the easiest things to come up with, and other times a good title evades us for months on end.

There’s a good reason for that as well. Titles, like your first line, have to hook the reader. Unlike first lines, your title stands alone, without the potential for readers to try just one or two more lines. Your title has to catch your reader’s attention in a sea of other disconnected titles. Essentially, a title is your most basic (and important) piece of marketing. After all, you can’t tell your friends about a book with a title, so how can your readers?

A title has three main functions. Firstly, it catches attention. This is it’s first and foremost function—again, not unlike the first line. The idea is to give your reader enough of a hook that they’re at least interested enough to read the blurb.

Secondly, a title helps your readers predict the content. Don’t think this is a bad thing either—if you’re looking for a light historical fiction romance, you’re not going to be looking at titles that indicate a lot of heartache and blood, or even titles that indicate you’re dealing with the factual accounting of Henry VIII’s sordid affairs.  

Third and final, your title is an identifier for your story. This sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Going back a little earlier…you can’t recommend a book without a title, how can your readers? A title identifies your book, and gives you a basic place to start your marketing.  

The good news is that your title may end up changing up until publication. This might occur during edits, or as you’re working on marketing materials. Depending on the route you go to publication, it might happen because of something your editor or early readers suggest. While searching for a title, it might help to have a working title on hand—that is, something you plan on changing later.

Your main character’s name might very well step up for the title, a la Jane Eyre or Harry Potter. There are entire series which are known by the name of the main character. Think Anita Blake or Sherlock Holmes. This also applies to locations. Think something like Bridge to Terabithia.  

Alternately, theme might give you a good place to look. Think not only Sense and Sensibility or Eat Pray Love but also things like the Fast and Furious franchise. This gives you a chance to pinpoint what your story should feel like and what it’s going to focus on.

Playing off theme, you can also use key or symbolic items. This might give you something like Blood and Chocolate. It’s an easy option that can help you earmark other points of metaphor in the story. If your story features a MacGuffin, you’ve got a ready-made option here.

Finally, use your main concept as your title. Star Wars springs to mind easily. The basic idea behind the story has a lot of unexpected power. Concept titles tap into that.

Remember that you can mix and match titles as well. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix does just that: uses both the main character’s name, and the main concept. Try mixing and matching a couple of different options.  

As an exercise: To give yourself a little material to work with, try to come up with a list of at least ten different titles (hint, come up with two from each of the above categories, plus another two mix-and-match options). Following that, try to find ten lines or phrases in your manuscript that resonate with the story as a whole. You should end up with roughly twenty titles, all of which you can now tweak and play with.

Posted in General, writing

Adventures in Editing

Now that we’re out of Camp NaNo, I’m turning my attention back to the excessively long list of projects I want to work on. Ultimately, I decided on tackling one of my more unwieldy projects.

I say unwieldy largely because it rapidly outgrew the initial portal fantasy idea I had for it, bloomed well into a hundred thousand words around the halfway mark and keeps growing. At the moment the working title is Casters. It’s still in the fantasy genre, but at this point anything else is fair game.

As with everything else, I tend to write in rough chapter segments. To start getting Casters lined up, I opted to start with a one to two sentence summary of each segment, which highlighted a couple of interesting facets:

  • Several of the major characters had prominent and strong arcs, more than enough to warrant a story of their own.
  • Two ‘minor’ obstacles had a lot of potential to develop even further.
  • I’d completely forgotten that my initial main conflict had intended to be, somehow, larger.

Obviously getting everything down in one book would be an undertaking the size of Lord of the Rings. Knowing that my earliest drafts tend to be a little short, I’m already expecting the already oversized wordcount to expand once I get later into editing.  

With a series on my hands, the next step was to try and organize each character arc and figure out a rough order.  That turned out to be easier than I’d thought it would be, resulting in five smaller arcs that loop through each other and should carry through at least the first half of the main conflict.

For right now, I’m starting at the top, writing and rewriting each segment to bring everything more-or-less in line with itself. I’m also working my sway slowly through individual titles for each segment.

It’s a lot of work, but I’m enjoying the process.

What are some of the adventures you’re having in editing?