Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post Holiday Haze

I've seen many posts like this one, where the author is trying to get their brain together after the holiday rush. I am no different, except I am still not done with my "holidays". My brother and I's birthday is next week (for those of you confused by that statement, I have a twin brother. I call him Llama face), my best friend's the following, and my dad and sister in law are the last week of January. 

Yes, there are five birthdays in the month of January for me.

 *gives her belly the eye*

And we plan to KEEP it at only five birthdays.

Speaking of the baby, my husband and I got the nursery mostly set up yesterday, which is a giant load off my shoulders. Still there's lots more to do on the account that I am a pack rat. Not quite a hoarder, but it's hard for me to get rid of stuff. When I finally do it's very satisfying. We've already gone through all the closets and my writing stuff, and a few days ago I went through my clothing.

I still have to find a way to organize my desk stuff, egad. It's just bulky things I don't know what to do with until I need it. Stuff like index cards, Sharpies, colored pencils, spare paper, etc. Presently they are stashed in a drawer, but said drawer is getting rather full. 

I have also made a valiant attempt on my book. There are major revisions in my future, but I am slowly figuring out the plot. Let it never be said I don't try new things, because I am basically pantsing this one.

Overall the holidays went well. There was some drama, as there always seems to be, but I had an excellent Christmas, and I am now enjoying the time to work on the house. My plan is to get everything taken care of as early as possible, so then I can just focus on my book. 

So there you go. An update. How did all of your holidays go? Did you get a lot accomplished or are you still wandering around in a haze?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays from ELF

Buddy's reaction to Santa coming? That's pretty much me. Only of course I am actually short enough to be mistaken for an elf. The best part is this year Christmas is coming early. My husband has to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we celebrated Christmas last night with his family and today with mine.

You know what that means?

The presents come early. :D

Okay! Okay. So maybe that's cheating a little. I think sitting on a throne of lies is a little harsh though. My husband has to work, and we didn't want to have to rush through Christmas. My son is still in the womb so I seriously doubt he's going to realize the difference. Stop judging me with your eyes, Buddy. I am still going to spend Christmas day with my family.

I hope all of you enjoy the holiday weekend as much as I plan to. I'll see you all on Monday, as I recover from a sugar coma.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit: Instant Nostalgia

I am sure most of you have seen this trailer already, but if you haven't, take a moment to fulfill your life and watch it.

I must admit, when I first found out they were making a Hobbit movie, I was skeptical. They had done an amazing job with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Better than I had hoped. I remember sitting on the couch and my friend telling me they were making the entire trilogy in live action, and thinking it was going to be terrible. I had first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was in elementary school and fallen in love. Those books are part of the reason why I evolved into a fantasy writer.

By the time the trilogy came out, I was excited, but reserved. My friends and I made a thing of it, and went to see the Fellowship of the Ring opening night. Hours later my mind was blown away. Again, I felt swept away to Middle-earth and longed to go back the minute the movie ended. 

For the next three years I was obsessed. I had the movie posters, the action figures (still safely tucked away in my closet unopened), the soundtracks, the movie guide, and stalked the Internet for news like a lion on the prowl. We saw each movie opening night, and regularly made long weekends of watching all three extended editions back to back.

Now that I've gotten to see the actual trailer for the Hobbit, my hopes are once again raised. The music sounds the same, as is the attention to detail on the setting, not to mention actors reprising their roles.

One last time it seems like we'll be able to view Middle-earth through Peter Jackson's eyes, and I personally cannot wait.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birth of a Novel: Stalled Novel-itis

So the update this week is I was stalled something fierce, but I think I am finally shaking loose. The word-scree is starting to fall. Hopefully I won't be crushed in the subsequent avalanche.

Rather than reenact my panic and dismay, I thought I would share with you what helped me break free of being stalled and make some progress.

And for definition, when I say "stalled" I mean "has absolutely no clue what happens next and no amount of brainstorming has helped". Most people say to just keep going, and this is normally the best advice. But it's hard to keep going when you literally have no idea what's supposed to come next. At least for me, a plotter.  

So here are some tips:

*Remind yourself why you love your book oh so much:
-listen to songs that make you think of your characters
-read poems, excerpts, other novels that remind you why you wanted to write it in the first place
-look through your picture file related to the book
-Make a list of all the things you LOVE about your novel
-if you haven't done any of the above, go ahead and do something now. Make a playlist of songs. Collect a bunch of pictures that capture the mood or look like your characters. 

*Read articles on the subject:
-Jim Butcher The Great Swampy Middle *note You can apply most of these techniques anywhere your novel is stalled.
*Read over the book again. 
Take notes on any new ideas you might have, as well as old ideas and plot threads you've since forgotten about. Review your brainstorming notes.

*Do the opposite. 
If you've outlined it to pieces, throw the note cards out (at least hide them for a while). If you haven't outlined, then make some note cards.

*Skip to the part you DO know about. 
In the end, that's what got me going again. I normally prefer to write in order, but sometimes it can't be helped. If you don't know what scene comes next, but you do know what scene is supposed to come 5 scenes from now, go ahead and skip ahead. You can write yourself a little note about what happens plot wise ( *Sandy and the vampires find the Demon of Doom) and move on. Then you can either keep going forward, or if you have ideas about the space you left, you can go back and fill it in. Whatever floats your boat.

*Work on something else.
Some caveats: If you know you are the type to get Shiny New Idea syndrome and abandon every idea you're working on for a new one, you probably shouldn't try this.

When you work on something else, it should be AFTER you work on the main book. You should always make the current book your primary project. Give yourself a specific word count or time limit that you have to work on your primary project. Then with the other project do the same, only make the word count goal or time frame smaller. Much smaller.

The idea is to take the pressure off of the primary book. Personally, when I get stalled it feels like the end of the world. I know it's not, but somehow my brain doesn't get that. I panic and worry and freak out and just feel miserable. Things Aren't Going Well. By turning my attention to something else for a small portion of the day, the pressure lightens up. Yes, my book is stalled and wonky, but it in fact, is NOT the end of the world. Also I tend to get more ideas for the primary project if I am off thinking about something else.

I guess I am just contrary that way. But again, do not try this unless you've tried everything else, and you know you can maintain the discipline to keep working on your primary book. Otherwise, you'll abandon the book for the new idea, and then when the new idea gets hard, you'll abandon that one for something new, leaving a string of broken books in your wake and never finish anything. Also, you'll probably die cold and alone, without a single book to your name (I made that last part up. Mostly.).

What about you? What gets a stalled novel going again? Besides loads of caffeine and sugar.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just So You Know...Plot Points

Yesterday I was being very good and working on my book. Problem is, I am stalled, big time. I don't know what happens next, and at the moment, I don't really care. It feels stupid, boring, and like hard, hard work. 

I know a big part of this is because I haven't be able to work on my book for about a week and half (you know how I am always going on about writing the first draft as quickly as possible? This is totally why.). But I looked at my outline and make a startling realization.

I had very few plot points. And of those, most weren't even proper plot points.

Here's the thing. You can totally put "learns to accept herself" on your outline. You really can. You can put whatever you want on there. But the reality is this really doesn't help you with your story in a concrete way. I put notes on my outline like that, but only to remind myself of where I want the character to be at that point. It does nothing for me as a plot event. 

Also? Settings do not make good plot points either. "Goes to a club and sees the evil monkey" doesn't really help you. You have the "sees the evil monkey" which is the point of the scene, but "goes to a club" really doesn't help you. I can almost guarantee that you will get to that point in your outline, and wonder what the heck the character is going to DO once they get to the club and see the monkey.

The really sad thing is I know this already. I know better than to jot down "sees largest ball of twine" as a plot point. But a lot of times while I am outlining I jot stuff down and never go back to add details.

Then I get to where I am now, where I have an idea of where I want my character to go, and what sort of emotional journey she experiences, but very little ideas in the way of the actual plot. So here's a friendly reminder for you:

A plot event is a concrete event that moves your character from point A to point b. 

Obviously this is a basic definition, but I want it vague enough that it will apply to different people's writing styles. The important thing to remember is a specific event. Like "Sally fights the zombies that have broken into the secret lab". Or "Jonathan kisses Mabel, and Denise walks in the middle of it."

Something happens. It's usually action oriented, even if it's not guns exploding and kittens being saved from a burning building. 

Hopefully this little reminder will help you guys in your plotting endeavors. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an outline to rip apart.

What litmus test do you use for your outline? Any hard and fast rules or do you just keep everything vague?  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Still Alive

...but just barely. When I said last week was busy, it was the understatement of the year. Just about every day was filled with last minute wedding errands. By the end I was so tired I thought I was going to die. So these last few days I've done a bunch of nothing and tried to get my strength back. 

I am starting to feel like a human being again. 

My apartment is a mess of course, so I am also slowly getting that back under control. Just in time for the holidays! 

I haven't had time to work on my book, nor the energy, but now that I am feeling more human I will be getting back to work today. I have managed to do a lot of thinking about the novel, and sometimes that's better than writing.

I was sort of struggling with the pacing and the character development, and this forced time away was enough time to give me some space to think about what the problem was and how to fix it. So even though I didn't get to write the book, I still managed to work on it. :D

How are you all doing with your book? Your family plans?