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    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

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Plotter verses Pantser

autumn-sky

Some writers plot out each detail of their books long before they’ve even started writing. Other writers don’t plot a thing. They just let their characters guide the story. Still others, like myself, are somewhere in the middle. I’ll share the way I typically write my stories:

  1. I come up with an idea and type up a brief summary.
  2. Immediately, I start writing the first chapter.
  3. Usually I get a few chapters in before I realize I need more guidance.
  4. I go and expand my summary and create sections about the “world” of my novel and the “people” in my novel.
  5. Next, I go and write down the names of each character, find a picture that suits them from the internet, describe their personalities and their physical aspects.
  6. Then, I continue writing.
  7. I usually get a few more chapters in before I realize I need to do a short summary of each chapter.
  8. And that’s it! I keep writing, expanding on the document about my book, so I have it for reference.

Important things I’ve realized:

  • If I plot things out too much, I don’t enjoy writing the story.
  • If I don’t plot out anything, I end up wasting a lot more time.
  • I HAVE to have a word document specifically dedicated to important information about the world I’ve built and the people in it.

So I think I’m somewhere in-between a plotter and a pantser. What kind of a writer are you?

Ideaifying Pt 5: Concatenating

This week I promised to take the last few weeks of posts and re-iterate what we have come up with. So here we go!

We started with the word Evanesce.

I then ruminated on what that word meant to me, and came up with a few phrases and other definitions that resonated with me:

Fade Away

Angels

Screaming Masses

Which led to this singular phrase:

Mass of Angels, screaming as they fade into nothing.

This really felt right to me, and has been the phrase I come back to when I think about this world.

We then started with a character, given the angels motif we named him Peter. Then we started brainstorming.

Here are all the things I liked about the brainstorming:

Peter can see angels. The angels help people. They save lives. Unseen heroes.

When he was 15, these angels disappeared. Without their protective detail, crime has increased, death rates by accidents have skyrocketed, disease spreads much more virulently. Social order has taken a hit.

Peter is now twenty years old. He sees himself as the Black Angel. He is trying to fill the void left behind with the angels no longer around to protect humanity.

Peter also still sees angels, but they are just out of his peripheral vision. And they scream. They scream all the time.

One day Peter meets Celeste. Celeste is a little younger than Peter. While he’s around her, the screaming stops. Celeste can also see angels, but they are calm. They don’t scream. When she’s around him, the angels scream.

Both our heroes have “powers”. In addition to being able to see the angels just outside their vision, they have slight precognition to keep them out of trouble, faster reflexes than an average human, and don’t tire as easily.

Turns out Peter and Celeste are Nephilim, as mentioned in Genesis 6:4. They are two halves of a whole. Peter is the demi-spawn of a demon and human, while Celeste is Angel-Human.

Demons, after being cast from heaven have always lacked corporeal bodies, being relegated to spirits. Other than possession, they have never managed to truly own a body here on Earth.

There is one such demon here now known as Bael, who is related to why the angels suddenly went missing.

Peter and Celeste need to go on a mission to kill/banish him, and hopefully bring the angels back to earth to help restore balance.

So there we are! All the details that our brainstorming has come up with, all in one place. Now I have a lot more brainstorming to do, but I’ll do that off-screen from now on, unless my readers really want to see my brain-dumps.

What we need to do here though, now that we have our main characters, and the main “goal” of the story, is to start fleshing out, well, everything. Some people are outliners, some are free-writers (aka pantsers), I’m somewhere in the middle. I come up with ideas by free-writing. I then take a break and put it into a basic outline, which I call a proto-outline. It’s basically a brainstorming exercise in the form of a story start-to-finish. But before we get that far, there are a lot of details that need to be figured out:

These are: the magic, the world, Bael himself, Peter and Celeste and how they fit into this plot, and specifically how their opposite nature makes them the two best suited, or solely suited to resolving this problem.

That’s it for now. Do you have any specific questions you want addressed while we finish up brainstorming? Anything you want to see added to the story, anything you don’t like?

Till next week!

On writing Fast

Near the end of last week’s blog post, I alluded to the fact that you should be writing 1000 words an hour, and I stand behind that number. In fact, I double it, fold my arms, and stare you down into your side of the room because of my moral superiority.

2000 words an hour? That’s right, and you could technically do more if you put your mind to it. Or don’t put your mind to it, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m a busy man. I work for a living, IT, which frequently involves off-hour work, on-call schedules, patching, and myriad of other things. 60 hour work weeks are pretty normal. I have a wife. I have children, with lots of homework each night. I enjoy playing video games. I have a couple of my favorite shows I can’t miss, you know—normal person stuff. I don’t have a lot of time for writing each day, so I have to make the most of what time I do have.

My daughter, 16, is also doing NaNoWriMo with me this year. On weekends when we finally have some time to write together, she comments that I type quickly.

I asked her how fast she typed. Being of a generation that doesn’t take typing classes in school, she had never figured it out, so I challenged her. We found an online typing test and we took the test at the same time. She was around 60 words a minute, I came in a little higher at 70, but for the sake of this argument, let’s stick with 60 wpm.

I told her 60 wpm means if you typed for a solid hour with no breaks, you could reach 3600 words.

I usually write in 45 minute sprints then take 15 minutes to get a drink, take a short walk, refocus my eyes and what not. (You should be taking breaks from the computer).

60 wpm times 45 minutes is 2700 words per hour. See? 2000 words an hour, easily.

“But Tom!” You say.

And I fold my arms even harder and glare at you.

I know, I know. It’s hard to write at one word per second for a solid hour. I get it. It’s not impossible though.

There are three major things I do to help:

1. Plan ahead. Do some outlining, even if it’s a single paragraph telling you what will happen to the character that chapter. Something so you know where you are going with your story when sit down. I personally outline more than that, usually 3 paragraphs per chapter, and I also read the outline each day before I sit down to write so I know where I’m going today.

2. Re-read what you wrote the day before. This is something new I’ve done recently. It gets you focused on where your immediate story has been, so your mind is in the zone for what you need to write right now.

Advanced tip: take notes on a separate piece of paper, note issues you have or anything you already know you want to change. When you start writing you’ll keep the revised notes in your head and you can write like you had already edited the previous day’s content.

3. Write non-stop. This is the tough part, I know, but it is possible. Remember when I said don’t put your mind to it? That’s one of the tricks here. Fix it all in editing phase. Treat your daily writing sprint like it’s NaNoWriMo. Spew the words down on the page, you can always fix it later.

So does this work all the time?

Of course not. But I can get over 1000 words an hour most days. 2000 a couple times a week. I’ve even hit 3800 one time when I was really ‘in the zone’.

I have days where each word is a struggle too, where I’m lucky to hit 200 words. I will blog about tricks to get yourself writing next week.

The point of all this rambling math was to put words per hour into perspective. We all type much faster than we need to because our brains rarely keep up with our fingers. It’s important to realize that, if you turn off your internal editor and just let your fingers do the typing, it’s quite possible to attain 2000 in an hour.

For now though, I should be writing because *ahem* I’m behind on my NaNoWriMo word count for the month.

Got Plot? #AmWriting #AmPlotting

Business man writing plan ABC
When I first decided to try to make a living doing this thing I love called writing, my first step was to learn as much as I could about anything writing or publishing.

One of the biggest helps  when I was starting out were the online workshop/classes hosted by RWA, among others. Authors teaching authors. This community is kind, helpful and always willing to share knowledge 😀

After a ton of blog reading, I settled on my first topic to study and improve.

Plotting.

I still enjoy the book, 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (I have the 2003 edition, there’s a new 2012 edition now). Even Tobias states, though, that no one knows how many types of master plots there are (his guess is not 20, he only gives you an overview of different plots such as Revenge, The Quest, Adventure, Love, ect.)

Okay, I thought. *I think* I can work with that, LOL.

 

Next step, plot elements.

Free Rollercoaster Track Royalty Free Stock Photography - 6322557And this is where it got really interesting.

 

3 Act Structure

5 Act Structure

 I even heard of doing an 8 Act once.

 Spider web plotting

Storyboarding

Snowflake plotting, and on and on.

 

Yup. I read books and/or took classes on them all.

Guess how many worked perfectly for me?

ZERO

 

But it was definitely worth it. Because I took away so much information from each and every step, that I was able to form a mutt-mix bastardization method of elements from them all into my own questionable path to plotting.

Since I’m at the beginning of creating a new world and series for the first time in a couple years, I decided to revisit some of them.

It’s always interesting what new information I find, now that I have more writing under my belt.

 

So, my Q4U: How do you plot? Or, how do you pants it (no pre-story/outline writing)?

 And, how did you learn or decide on your method?

Character or plot?

I’m a plotter, I can admit that fully. I like my little road map laid out before I begin writing, even though I know full well that at the end, the book probably won’t look much like my initial outline.

That’s because as I write, my characters take on their own personalities and decide from there on out where they’re damn well going to go.

But being a plotter, I still need to know quite a bit about my characters before I can start that initial outline.

I recently sat down to plot book 5 in my Heart of a Vampire series. I wrote two pages of outline before my heart sank and I showed it to Wicked.

She laughed.

My characters were wimps and the story was going nowhere.

Which is when I finally realized I didn’t know nearly enough about my characters to even begin plotting.

 

So, my Q4U: Writers – how well do you need to know your characters before you begin to write?

Readers – Are you drawn to books with more action oriented plots, or by great characters (or both)?

Prepping for NaNo…

Welcome back, Swamp visitors!  I hope you enjoyed last week’s jaunt into the wonderful world of new writers.  I hope you found something wickedly cool to add to your reading lists! 

In honor of the looming presence of NaNo, I thought I’d share a bit of my prep experience for this year with you.  Yes, I know, a pantser who preps? What an oxymoron.  Except I’m finding it necessary before I dive head long into the roaring abyss of NaNo next week. 

Writing by the seat of your pants is not only a creative whirlwind, but it’s terrifying.  Here’s why:  when you get stuck, you get stuck and sometimes you can’t tell up from down and start digging deeper into the mire of fragmented concepts and useless plot points. I call myself a pantser, but in actuality, I cheat because I do plot out the major plot points.  You know the ones, this happens in the first third to start the ball rolling, this happens in the second third because this is where everything is going to change for the characters, and this has to happen in the last third because now that my characters have a new reality, this is how it will solve the problem.

Since I’m stuck just past the first third of Shadow’s Moon, I have been paying attention to various blogs about structure and plot and planning.  I know, I know, I can hear the screams of denial from my fellow pantsers–but really, what else can you do if you want your story to work?

As I continue to write and improve my craft, I’m discovering that the OCD that rules my life in every other aspect, is starting to bleed over.  Not as much as it can, but enough so that yes, I am preparing for NaNo to make sure I can get unstuck and tuck Shadow’s Moon under the “completed” section of my writing checklist.   I am going back to make sure that I have down my characters’ motivations, what’s driving my protagonist and why, where is the central conflict (romance or mystery?), what other conflict layers are there (and there are more than one!), what are my three major turning point that change my characters’ goals/motivations, drive their darkest moments, and then enable them to beat the bad guy. 

Do you see how the picture is starting to form.  Not really an outline per se, but more of road map.  I’m hoping it will allow me to keep my pantser identity, but I have a feeling no successful writer is really a true pantser, because at some point we all have to plot.

Because I’ll be swimming with the NaNo sharks all of November, my blogs will just be a word count with maybe one or two sentences (if I can form them) on what’s happening.  Keep your fingers crossed I survive NaNo and bring forth some awesome habits and new writing skills! 

Now onto NaNo!

PS: If you want to add me to your NaNo buddy list, feel free! I’m at NaNo Wrimo under Jami Gray!

–Wicked

My Evil Plot

Okay, it’s probably not evil, but for me plotting is evil. I am a panster at heart and I find it very difficult to force myself to have a cohesive plan. But after last week’s revelation I decided I needed to try something different. Now that I have Scrivener (plotters personal holy grail) I have no reason not to give it a go. For those of you not familiar with Scriviner it has a side bar where you can can put various chapters/scenes/notes/research all in a cohesive manner. This is difficult to explain so I highly recommend checking out a Youtube video or going to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ to browse a bit. 

I also decided I needed to analyze my characters more and decided to see what the web had to offer me. I found this character worksheet http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/p/character-worksheet.html and have begun the process of psychoanalyzing my characters which is both fun and tedious. I have to admit I am learning a lot about my characters. For instance I had no idea that Peg’s favorite color was orange or that she was a big Stephen King fan. She also collects tea cups (fun fact for all of you). 

So far this journey has been fun and I have to admit my favorite part is finding all of these wonderful tools online. Writer’s are truly fortunate these days because we have so much information at our finger tips. That is if we have access to the internet (I’m going to assume that you do if your reading my post). I have found a lot of things this past week that I believe will make my novel rock my socks off and hopefully one day a larger audience. 

#Amwriting ~ Crows and plotting and brick walls

Well, thank goodness Mischievous is finally back. Although I must admit, I was looking forward to making me some crocodile skin boots.

Now that I mention it, though, I might just be able to…

Erm. Well, anyway. Welcome back Mischievous. I hope your captivity wasn’t too harsh… for the poor people who had you. I mean, come on. Kids couldn’t stand up to that crow’s mouth.

Anyway, I’ve finished the first book in my soon-coming Vampire series. It’s out to the wonderful Dwarves (and edits are already coming back).

The good news is, the book isn’t bad, LOL. I’ll be digging back into edits soon.

But I’m currently trying to write book 2.

I’m a plotter, I fully admit it. When I sat down and sketched outlines for the first three books, I was raring to go. Now that I’m actually writing book two, I realize I just can’t write with a sketch. I need an actual outline.

So, I hit the brick wall. (Don’t worry, I did more damage to it than it did to me.)

I fixed the first few chapters (for now) and am stuck again.

I was planning on trying to smash the wall, but since I have a sick kiddo home today, my well-laid plans have gone awry. The brick wall is safe.

Instead, I’m going to sit down and actually plot out the book. I use skimpy outlines, with a sentence or two telling me what should happen in each scene/chapter. I know we have flying pants writers in this group. And you know what? Awesome. It works for them.

Me? If I don’t have the bare bones of my plot written down, that brick wall just jumps right in front of me.

So, happy writing to ya’ll. Today, I’m gonna plot.

~ Snarky

Pantsing vs. Plotting – Good to have both

When I first began writing, (and didn’t really know anything–but just HAD to get the story out), I was a pantser. Big time. I wrote feverishly with little focus on detail, possible plot issues or character inconsistencies. It was a free-for-all. Writing, just for the sake of writing. It was beautiful and wonderful, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Then came the revisions. The edits. Followed by alternating moments of uncontrollable laughter and free-flowing tears. A time or two, blood was even spilled. And I cried over that, too.

The learning curve had begun.

From that point on, I did start to weave some plotting into everything I did. (even if my plotting lacked a strong spine and a beating heart). I secretly still longed for pantsing-monogamy and felt like I was cheating on my first love, Mr. Writing-with-Uncontrolled-Abandon.

Luckily, over time, I have found a way to bring both into the picture and create a symbiotic relationship that has lasted to this day. (aside from the occasional jealousy felt by Mr. I’m-Detailed-and-Well-Organized.)

Plotting gives my stories meat, direction, and details that pantsing might otherwise miss. Pantsing sparks creativity, flow and passion for writing–something plotting can’t come close to helping me create. To me, they are necessary partners in the process. Each contributing something important and vital. I respect them both.

In the future, though I strive to be more a Plotting-Pantser instead of a Pantser-Plotter. I think my writing will only be better for it. Only time will tell.

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