Posted in editing, writing

Project Roadmap: Rosekeeper

I tend to switch my projects around fairly frequently, usually from month-to-month. It’s worked out well for me for years. Until recently however, I haven’t been doing much more than choosing a monthly project to work on and sort of diving in wherever felt best. The results of that have been mixed. Sometimes it works out great, and other times I end up staring at the same chapter for days on end. A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested that I try mapping out what I aim to accomplish for each project each month.

Which, for me makes a lot of sense. I tend to work best when I have a goal I can aim towards. While I’m a discovery writer by nature, I also have a love for to-do lists and goals. Having a roadmap checks both those boxes by giving me a list of things I want done, and dates to accomplish them by. In theory, that should mean I can streamline my editing process like I’ve wanted to do for years.

I’m testing that theory with this month’s project: Rosekeeper. If you’ve read my short novella Crimson and Gold or my serial Seventh you’re already familiar with the world of Rosekeeper. With the rough draft clocking in at just over thirty-three thousand words, it should be another novella, albeit longer than Crimson and Gold.

Like its related stories, Rosekeeper takes inspiration from Western fairytales. In this case, the Beauty and the Beast. If you’ve read Under Her Own Power, you’ve actually met one of the main characters of Rosekeeper, Sola.

Because it’s so short, I’m aiming to have a second draft completed by the end of the month. With that, I’ve broken it down into four main tasks. The first of these is completing any necessary editing notes such as outlines and character arcs. The following three are each roughly ten- to eleven-thousand sections of the story itself to be edited. All four have their own deadlines, about one per week, the first of which is to have all my notes done by the fifth.

I’m excited to see how things go now that I’ve got a detailed editing plan in place. What about you? Do you have a roadmap? What does your plan look like? Let me know in the comments below!

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

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?

Posted in writing

Creating a Plot

Plot is often the one element that makes or breaks a story. Essentially, plot is conflict. Even in existentialist stories, the conflict is often hidden in the discussion of what life and existence means. For almost every other story out there, the conflict is easier to see.

Usually the basic plot structure is something along the lines of Character wants something and someone or something is stopping them from getting it. There are several variations of the basic plot premise as well, such as:

  • Character must stop someone or something from happening.
  • Something has happened to change Character’s life and they must adapt.
  • Someone broke something and Character must do something to fix it.
  • Character must complete a task or face severe consequences.

Regardless of your variation, your plot is driven by your conflict. Knowing that makes it easier to create a plot. There’s three simple questions you can use to help find your plot, even if you don’t have a plot structure yet.

  • What is your conflict?
  • Who is trying to resolve the conflict and why?
  • What actions are they taking to resolve it?

For example: the three little pigs. The wolf wants to eat the pigs, which the pigs don’t want. Character (the Wolf) wants something (to eat the pigs) which someone or something (the pigs) is stopping them from getting. Just by looking at that, you already know who’s involved and can take a pretty good guess at why these characters are specifically involved. The wolf is hungry and the pigs want to stay alive. That leaves you just one question to answer.

What actions are they taking to resolve it?

In most forms of the story, the pigs try to protect themselves by building houses. First of straw, then of sticks, then of bricks. Their actions cause the wolf to react, mostly by huffing and puffing to blow the houses down. Depending on the version of your story, the wolf either wears himself into exhaustion and is killed by a hunter or woodsman while the pigs keep their hooves clean, or his efforts to blow the brick house down somehow injure and kill him without anyone else interfering.

However your wolf comes to an end, the actions he takes to reach that end still create your plot. If you’re a planning-type writer, those actions can be plugged directly into your preferred story structure. If you’re finding gaps between those actions, remember that your characters will react to each event.

Back to our example: the first pig reacts to the destruction of his house by running to his brother’s house. The wolf reacts to that by chasing (and potentially getting a two-for-one meal). Upon arriving at another house, he uses the same action that worked the first time, forcing both pigs to react, again by running away.

These actions and reactions create the try-fail cycles which push your plot forward. The pigs tried and failed to protect themselves with simple houses. The wolf tried and nearly succeeded at catching the pigs by blowing their houses down.

Although creating a plot can be work intensive, at it’s base, you’re dealing with conflict. Take a look at your own story and ask yourself the above questions. What is the conflict? Who is trying to resolve the conflict and why? What actions are they taking to resolve it?

Posted in General

Starting in the Middle

Beginnings are under a lot of pressure. They’re incredibly important because that’s where readers start. In general, you have about eight seconds to capture a reader’s attention. That means you have maybe a page to not only catch your reader’s attention, but to keep them invested in your story. For that to happen, your beginning needs to do a lot in those first couple of pages.

Which is why when you first start writing, it might help to take that pressure off the story and just start in the middle. Drop your characters right into the first big crisis and take it from there.

The point of doing this is that you have to start somewhere, but rather than bogging yourself down with setting up the scenes and character descriptions, you’re getting right into the meat of the story. It takes pressure off by ignoring all the things a beginning has to do and focusing instead on the story.

The other benefit of doing this is that when you’ve made it to ‘the end’ you can come back to the beginning with a clearer purpose. You’ll already know what the end is, which makes it easier to decide which details are the most important for the beginning pages.

Jumping into the middle of the story usually works best for earlier drafts and rewrites. It might also help if as your drafts progress you find your beginnings are still lacking—it can help you cut through and realize which parts of exposition can be completely skipped, or help highlight when you’ve started a story too early.  Even if you’re in the later stages of editing, give it a try! It might just be the kick your story needs.