Monday, July 29, 2013

Progress Report 4: The good kind of writer's block

Alas, I realize this report is a little belated. But I am officially 1/3 done with Project Two Moons! I wrestled with a particular issue in my last chapter, a technique I first learned about in my one and only acting class in college: "Blocking." This technique refers to how an actor is positioned in relation to the stage. I try to apply the same principle to my characters. Where exactly are they in their location? (Next to a snarled patch of raspberries that cling to their skirt's hem, standing under the shade of a dusty suit of armor, enduring the icy smack of rain drops sneaking through the hole in the roof's thatching, etc.) Secondly, what are your characters doing, especially while speaking? (Chewing a tooth pick, secretly scratching poems into the cheap underside of a particle board desk, etc.)

I'm not saying you should over-clutter your dialogue with unnecessary character movement. However, it's too easy to fill up a scene with dialogue and leave the rest of the room, or even the character, a "void." One of my favorite quotes from the Tao Te Ching also calls attention to the idea of burgeoning richness within the confines of space: "We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever you want." So don't let the initial "emptiness" of portions of your draft discourage you. Block it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Progress Report 3: Maximize the Minimal

          I'm one fourth done with Project Two Moons. But don't break out the confetti just yet. That's a measly 3 out of 12 chapters on file, which translates into roughly 15k words. (Like I said, hold the hurrahs). Technically, I'm actually one week behind in my ink jot quota . . . However,considering I was afflicted with a grievous cold and a massive case of poison ivy all in the same week, I am forgiving my temporary lapse in brilliancy just this once. I can still finish the draft before the end of August! Hmm, what have I learned so far in my drafting process? The importance of maximizing the impact of minor characters! Don't create flimsy paper dolls blown aside with a page. Weigh them down with motives, mannerisms, manias, the works! Make them memorable. Just be careful not to let them steal the story. For example, a dead emperor in my current WIP is taking up far too much time in a princess's heart. If I'm not careful, I won't leave room for Jack. Bother!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Progress Report 2: Information Overload


              Project Two Moons is running slowly, but I just hit my first 10k mark! Hurrah. Hopefully my mental drive has finished warming up and will kick into high drive now. Today I want to ponder the perils of first chapters. Specifically, the danger of information overload. I frequently catch myself trying to lay out way too much world-building in the first chapters. I have to remind myself that I should be leaving a tantalizing bread crumb trail for my readers, not a spilled cart-load of loaves. However, sometimes I just need to write the idea down even if I know I'm ultimately not going to include it in that particular section. That's what sister files are for! I can always transplant the idea later on in an appropriate passage. First drafts are inherently messy. But that's okay. In fact, it's MORE than okay. It's the reality of writing and I have to accept it if I am going to escape the mire of hyper-analysis and actually string syllables into sentences. Perfection is a process, not an instantaneous imprint! The Greeks got it: their word for perfection meant "complete" or "finished."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Camping on the Iceberg: How to turn an idea into a novel

An incarnadine clue . . . 

         The first week has already evaporated and it's time for my very first progress report on Project Two Moons. I must confess that the first week is always my favorite, because the majority of my ink is dedicated to plotting my brains out! I have a very specific process I follow before I begin writing a manuscript, because there is nothing worse than plunging many thousands of words into a story line only to realize that the plot is a shallow ink stream that meanders off the page into a lethal mire of tiresome cliches. Every writer has their own process, but this is the method that works best for me:

 1. Working Title -a title sets the tone. The words may change, but it is essential to pin down the general ambiance of your book.
 2. Kernel Sentence & Pitch Combo (the big SO WHAT. In other words, why I am writing this? How is it different? What is my golden hook?)
 3. Synopsis - I know it might be tempting to write the synopsis AFTER you have finished your manuscript, but this initial step cannot be skipped, ever. Even if significant details change later on, having a solid idea of the plot's progression and how the characters evolve over the course of your story before you commit major ink time to it is crucial.
 4. Character Profiles (for everyone, major, minor, even animals.)These include the physiology, sociology, and psychology of each character. See my previous post for greater details.
 5. Master World File - The landscape of my world-geological, political, economic, magical, etc. This step outlines all setting details, histories, and important terms, etc. It also establishes the story's boundaries. For example, the consequences of magic systems (I learned this rule when I had the good luck to take a creative writing class from Brandon Sanderson at BYU). Massive power is boring without a clearly defined consequence for using it. Imagine Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood without the Law of Equivalent Exchange!
 6. Chapter Outline - Honestly, this part takes me the longest. Each chapter is its own microcosm of evolving characters and events that must thread seamlessly into the next. Correctly weaving all these shining beads of thought together is a process of trial and error. Mostly error, but eventually, after much random pondering, sounding off ideas with friends and family, and late night scribbling . . . I get it! The working blueprint. A lot of this information won't make it into the actual novel. The reader will only see the tip of the iceberg. The foundation must lie beneath the page, within me. I must admit there is a certain keen satisfaction that comes when I can hold the luminescence of a new world in my head and play grand high creatrix of destiny! My WIP has gone through these initial steps. Now comes the hardest part - fitting ink and syllable to the dream. Time to blast some M83 music to accompany the tap of my keyboard.