Update!

Thought I’d give you all a brief update on the status/progress of my latest Shiny New Idea:

I’ve been busily outlining via the Snowflake Method all week, and as of yesterday afternoon (exactly a week following the initial Niagara Falls gushing of inspiration, for those keeping track), I’m a couple of chapters into step eight, the invaluable List o’ Scenes. Still going well, still totally in love with the idea, and already have almost a whole page of notes regarding the SEQUEL. 0_o I think my brain has gone into overdrive or something. Not that I’m complaining!

Let’s see, stuff I can tell you…

  • One of my MCs is blind
  • The government is evil (though I guess that’s redundant, isn’t it. ;-))
  • It’s a mixture of science fiction and fantasy, a genre BFF and I have dubbed “sci-fantasy,” though in future query letters I suppose I’ll just have to label it sci-fi *grumble*
  • I am already thinking about writing query letters. But not to worry, I adhere to the don’t-even-think-about-querying-before-your-manuscript-is-completely-written-revised-and-polished rule.
  • There are air-ships (well, at least one), glass and metal lifts (yes, “lifts.” Sounds so much cooler than elevators, and hey, I’m an Anglophile from way back. BFF: Can everybody in this world be British? Me: I’ll think about it.), and electricity that’s not electricity but something rather more nefarious (duh duh DUHhhhhh).
  • I feel like this is a weirdly convoluted (but awesome) cross between Hunger Games  and The Bartimaeus Trilogy

And I’ll leave you with this brilliant little exchange from yesterday:

Me: So I guess what I want is six or so of these kids to one governess person who’s teaching them, you know, basic, rudimentary stuff. Like shapes and numbers and language building and so on.

BFF: You mean like a preschool?

Me: Yes. That.

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Lightning Struck My Brain!

Several weeks ago (December 23rd, to be exact—I just looked up the date in my handy dandy Molskine idea notebook :-)), I had this random idea for a story concept I thought was pretty intriguing. I actually have no idea what triggered it. As you may have gathered from my previous post, I’ve been experiencing some pretty hefty creative BLOCK lately, and was beginning to despair of ever writing anything again. But this past week I was really wanting to WRITE something, and thought maybe I should dabble in some short stories.

So Thursday afternoon I took notebook and pen to White August Tea to brainstorm on three different ideas I’d had semi-recently, including the one from December 23rd. I jotted down the three ideas. I wrote a paragraph on one of them, turned the page, and proceeded to do the same with the December 23rd Idea. I wrote a paragraph, and then another paragraph, and pretty soon I’d written several pages and had three-quarters of a plot and the definite feeling that this was Absolutely Not a short story. It was a novel. I was hearing character voices in my head, seeing their surroundings, getting scene ideas, discovering back story, and so on and so on and so on. Basically ideas were gushing out of my brain, Niagara Falls-style. By Friday I’d pretty much figured out what happens in the end, and even decided that there might be sequels (which is a huge tip-off that I’m not planning on killing anyone important, haha).

Friday evening I started Snowflaking, after briefly considering plunging head-first into writing the novel sans outline. As of right now, late Sunday afternoon, I’m halfway through Step Five of the Snowflake, with only three and a half steps left to go. The story is still exciting me, and ideas are still pouring out of my brain, and I am totally going to plunge into writing the first draft as soon as I finish my outline. I am so, so, so, SO excited!

The novel has a title (which literally popped into my head thirty seconds after jotting down the original brainstorming paragraph) that I’m not going to share just yet, and I’m not telling you what the idea is, either (sorry; I will as I get further along in the writing process, promise :-)), so I’ll just leave it at: a sort-of sci-fi-fantasy-dystopian-possibly-steampunk-young-adult-romance novel. Don’t worry. I won’t put that in the query letter. 🙂 🙂

Excited to be excited again,

Joanna

Who’s Been Outlining? This Gal!!

So I’ve actually been outlining, and I’m getting super excited about my novel. Go figure. 🙂

I gave up wrestling with my ending (for now) and have started Step Eight of the Snowflake Method, which is the one, the only, the invaluable List O’ Scenes. This is absolutely the most useful step of the Snowflake, in my opinion, as it’s where you get to take grand sweeping statements (like, for instance, “They fall in love”) and figure out specific scenes that put your beautifully vague ideas into a format you can actually use. This saves SUCH a lot of headache time during the actual writing of the first draft. I love knowing exactly what’s coming next so I can just focus on the scene I’m writing and not worry about it.

Of course sometimes your characters/plot/storyline/whatever decide to do their own thing regardless of the outline, but it generally turns out all right anyway. I often have a hard time getting my characters to talk about what they’re supposed to (I have no idea why, but if I leave two characters alone for an extended period of time they tend to wind up discussing Deep Philosophical Truths), but eventually I force them to behave. Well, usually.

But anyways. Where was I?

Oh yeah, Step Eight. I’m currently in the middle of outlining scenes for Chapter Six of The Last Garden. It’s all about mermaids, and evil Worms, so basically it’s gonna rock. 😉

I have sixteen-ish chapters planned, which leads me to this Very Exciting Hope:

I really think I can write the entire novel during NaNoWriMo. It’s a pretty straightforward storyline (well, as straightforward as you can get when your plot revolves around ten different worlds), and only follows a few characters. Last year I had multiple storylines, six main-ish characters, and lots of (badly written) political drama. The year before it took me the entirety of November and 100,000 words just to get my two main characters into the same universe so they could meet each other.

So it’s really looking good.

I think.

Successfully puting off outlining to write this blog,

Joanna
also known as
Guardian of the Doors between Worlds

Process

So if I’ve gone about it properly, this post will appear in the future. But I’m writing it from the past. Weird, huh. Wibbly woblly. Timey-wimey. You know.

Anyways, I thought I’d spew some randomness on the process of novel writing as seen by me. So here goes:

The Process of Novel Writing as Seen by Me
(a not-very-scholarly collection of thoughts)

Stage One: The Random Idea

I love random ideas. I have a Molskine notebook specifically meant for them, and I carry it around with me everywhere—one never knows when inspiration might strike. The weirdest things spark ideas: a mis-heard song lyric, a pattern on a plate that happens to look like a whale, a brief conversation with friends about the relative merits of cupbearers… Some ideas suck. And some turn into novels. That’s why they’re so much fun. I do think if a random stranger were to read through my Molskine they would definitely assume I was mentally unhinged. But you’ll have that.

(There’s sort of a half-stage that comes after Random Ideas and before Brainstorming, but I’m not sure the phenomena known as rattling-around-in-the-subconscious can be very clearly defined, so we’ll just move on.)

Stage Two: Brainstorming

I’m currently brainstorming for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel (I know I’m starting early. Shut up, you’re just jealous) and I love it. I start a notebook for every novel I write, which is great because it 1) Gives me an excuse to buy notebooks, and 2) Gives me a place to jot down ideas without cluttering up the aforementioned Moleskine.

This is where I figure out basic storyline, characters, and world-building, and usually get ideas for a few scenes as well. This stage is fun because of all the POSSIBILITIES!! They’re endless. The world is your oyster. And dang it if it isn’t going to be the most amazing novel ever written!! 🙂

Stage Three: Outlining

I never used to outline beyond your basic Beginning-Middle-Ending type of thing, which inevitably left me with a heck of a lot of head-scratching and getting into plot difficulties I didn’t know how to get out of.

Then I discovered the one, the only, the amazing SNOWFLAKE METHOD and was immediately converted. (I know I’ve mentioned it on here before, but it’s been a while and bears repeating). I really like this method of outlining, as it allows you to grow your story and your characters without it seeming forced or false. It’s also super fun, at least most of the time. Oh, and I never go past Step Eight.

Stage Four: First Draft

Way back in the summer of 2005, I discovered the awesome that is NaNoWriMo, and despairing of the fact that Novemeber was months away, I did my own finish-it-or-bust challenge with my current work in progress, a novel then titled Connor’s Journey. Apart from a book I’d completed pre-college that’s not quite long enough to technically be called a novel and is way too embarrassingly cliché to actually talk about in public anways, Connor’s Journey was my first novel. I’d been floundering in the first quarter of it for quite a long time, and decided I wanted to finish it. So I did. It felt amazing. And in the process I learned something: first drafts are fun, especially if written at high speed with a deadline hanging over your head.

It goes without saying that I adored NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it four times now, and am gearing up for a fifth. I love love love love love the amazing process of writing, especially on those days where you can’t seem to type fast enough to keep up with your brain. Yeah, you hit slow days, but it only makes the non-slow days that much more awesome. And I love the freedom of a first draft. Doesn’t have to be perfect. There just has to be words on the page.

Oh first drafts, how I love thee.

Stage Five: Revision

Oh revision, how I loathe thee.

Okay, maybe not loathe, but it’s certainly a love/hate kind of relationship. Revision is just so painful, and it takes such a looooong time. Nowhere near as much fun (or as quick!) as those glorious first drafts. It’s always rough when you’re forced to admit to yourself that the perfect novel you churned out in November ain’t so perfect. Blech.

At any rate, for me revision generally includes a heck of a lot of deletion/rearrangement/addition/restructuring/reworking of characters/list making. Figuring out what’s wrong with the novel and exactly how I want to fix it is sometimes half the battle. Once I figure it out, I start over from page one and re-key the whole thing. Cringe-worthy, I know, but it forces you to consider every single word in a way that you don’t really do if you’re just changing a sentence or two here and there. It also helps you to get back into the groove of the story and lets your new scenes match the style and feel of the old ones.

In the event that I ever make it to line-editing (debating for five minutes whether this word or that one would be better, and you know I think this sentence needs a semi-colon), I’m always deleriously happy!!

I’ve only thus far wrangled two of my novels through the horrible revision process, and am back revising one of them (the 2005 nano) again—though it won’t be near as extensive as the first time.

Stage Six: World-Wide Fame

Just kidding. 🙂

So that’s the noveling process as seen by me. If you actually read through all of that, you are amazing.

Cheers from the future (or is it the past? I don’t know. I’m confused).

See you on the other side of Kansas!