Writing

The Writing Process

The more time I spend writing, the more I learn about myself as a writer and what works for me. I’ve been working on the first draft of Fool Me Twice since August 18, a little under a month. In that time, I’ve written about 25,000 words. I had around 5k when I started based on the sample first chapter I wrote for the poll. That’s actually pretty good considering I started a new full-time job and I’ve been sick a bit.

But for this story, the linear way I usually approach my drafts hasn’t worked as well. I haven’t really gotten into the groove, turning out 4k without blinking (that’s how both books of Mad World were mostly completed in July Camp NaNoWriMo projects). But I sit down every day, pick at least once scene to write no matter where it is in the story and get a first draft done. My progress is maybe slower than I like, but every scene brings me closer to a finished draft.

I’m not really sure why that works for me right now. Typically, I prefer to straight forward because writing my scenes in chronological order allows me to build tension and explore characters and subplots. If something comes up in a scene that I need to add scenes for or change another one, I can make a quick synopsis note in Scrivener and keep it in mind when I get to the next one.

When I first started seriously trying to write in high school, one of the books I found in the library was The Weekened Novelist by Robert J. Ray, first published in 1993. I would have checked it out in 1996 or 1997. That method asked you to spend a weekend working on your key scenes — like inciting incident, turning point, climax, etc. That method has literally never really worked for me, but I’ve always found it interesting.

A lot of writing advice suggests you at least identify these scenes, whether you do it in discovery, drafting, or revision. I generally write extensive plot sketches and then create blank Scriv documents for every scene I think I’ll need. I always make a list of my seven anchor scenes (vocabulary learned from the incredible Lani Diane Rich and her How Story Works podcast) to at least make sure my pacing is structured well.

But that’s a hard approach to bring to soap opera fanfiction which, at least the way I write it, is hard to write beginning, middle, and ends for. Soap operas are designed to continue. Even a story that has a climax is supposed to do double duty and launch the next storyline for that character. I also almost always write more ensemble-based stories. Yes, Jason and Elizabeth tend to lead the stories but that’s because, A, that’s the fanbase where I found my audience so I’m kind of constrained by that, and B, I think these are characters and a couple that would do very well leading stories on GH.

So Fool Me Twice is a bit of a departure from my work up to date. It’s similar to Damaged, in that I’m really trying to write several leads and weave together complex storylines. Even in Mad World which has characters we’re following like Ned, Lucky, Taggert, Sonny, Carly, and the teens, it’s still very much Jason and Elizabeth’s story. And probably–it’s more Elizabeth’s story.

But FMT is supposed to be Jason, Drew, Sam, and Elizabeth’s story. The reaction of this group of four people to Jason’s return, and the fallout of their complicated relationships. I’m weaving together strands of relationships where all of these people have been in each other’s lives, loved one another, hurt one another–and doing all the couple options justice. Even as a Liason fan who is intending for this to be endgame Liason, I want to do the Jason and Sam relationship more justice. I want to write a more realistic Drew and Sam. And I even want to have a more nuanced Drew and Elizabeth, post-reveal.

I’m also juggling those relationships with everything else that SHOULD have come with the reveal. I still have Kim and Oscar, but I’ve changed the nature of their relationship to Drew. Kim and Drew were married in 2012 when he went missing–Drew raised Oscar from birth. That makes, IMO, a more fraught story for Kim to walk into. I also want to write a better version of what happens when Franco lies to Elizabeth over and over again and is emotionally abusive (which he is, but the show decides to ignore). I want to have an Elizabeth who is actually the heart and soul of General, and not saying the same lines over and over again.

It’s three main storylines and seven subplots. And I’m almost sure I’ve bitten off too much. I may not meet my October 31 finish drafting date. But every day, I write another scene. And hope I can get closer to finding the right approach to really start banking word.s

Writing

Figuring Out How To Recharge

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Writing 2019

Last summer, when I wrote 77,000 words of Mad World in three weeks, I was also working on the Summer Reading project — I read about 25 books at the same time. I think that’s probably not a coincidence.

My plan when I finished my coursework a few weeks ago was to get right into writing but then I got derailed — I caught a cold, then a sinus infection, and then this week, I had a stomach virus. It’s like all the illnesses that my immune system suppressed during the final weeks of the semester hit at once. Plus, I had to double my work hours to make enough money to get through the summer with. With all of that, I haven’t been able to finish cleaning out my room from the end of the semester and ugh–my computer is starting to fail.

Anyway. I have been writing — two chapters of Mad World and plot sketches for Signs of Life are coming along nicely. I’m having trouble nailing down an ending for Signs and how far I want to go with certain aspects, but I’m hoping to finalize at least a preliminary outline so I can put into development. I really want a more low-key story to write along with Mad World to give my psyche a break.

I’m also going to make reading more of a priority. I’ve really fallen apart on this so far this year. I don’t know if it’s the books I’m read or the stressful semester, but it’s just been really hard to lose myself in a good book. Still, I did manage 5 books and almost 8000 words in May, so that’s not nothing.

I’m still leaning towards June 30 as my deadline for Mad World to be finished. At the end of this week, I’ll know whether or not that’s realistic.

Writing

First Week of Writing

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Writing 2019

I’m not going to number this by days any more because I’m not entirely sure I need to check in daily.  So, starting Monday, I really applied myself to making room in my schedule every day for some kind of writing. This week I wrote about 6000 words for Mad World, finishing Chapter 28 and getting halfway through Chapter 29 as well as working on the outlines and discovery drafts of For the Broken Girl, the next project.

One of the reasons I decided to work on Broken Girl is just a matter of convenience. Last week, I started going back to work as a substitute an extra day or two week. Throughout the semester, I only did maybe one or two days a week and since the beginning of May, I’ve been going 2-3 days. Last week, I decided to make sure it’s at least three days if possible.

But working more over the next few weeks before the school year lets out means I have to manage my expectations. Book 2 is really demanding on my energy and it’s just not something I can write a lot of during my work day, even on breaks and or lunch. So I decided to do some peripheral writing — working on plot breakdowns, cleaning up my files and sorting through all the mess my documents fell into during graduate school, and then working on Book 2 either at night or on my days off.

So far this week, that worked out pretty well and I feel good about this new approach. My goal is really to set good expectations for myself, and there are only about 2-3 weeks left in which I can get decent sub jobs.

Hoping to get to a flash fiction post tonight!

Writing

Day 1: Short Delay

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Writing 2019

So a lot of things kept me from writing every day last week.  I got sick and then my computer decided it would literally not open any programs. I could click on the shortcut as much as I wanted to and nada. I spent three days backing up and resetting my entire computer. Oy. Now I have to reinstall everything. It’s a giant pain.

But today, I’m mostly feeling better and my computer is back on its way to decent health. It’s almost six years old, and I really need it to last at least another year before I can invest in a new one. I’ve been working on a few things. I’m working on the basic outline for Kismet, the chapter breakdown of Mad World, Book 2, and the timeline for For The Broken Girl.

There’s a few minor details I’m still working out for Book 2, mostly because I’m taking on a couple of more stories. I know some readers were probably a little worried when I said Book 2 would be more of an ensemble but there’s actually nothing that’s happening in Book 2 that I didn’t already introduce in Book 1. The PCPD, the Quartermaines, and the teens were all in there. I even introduced the serial rapist storyline in that book.

What makes Book 2 more of an ensemble than Book 1 is the central narrative. In Book 1, it’s Carly’s kidnapping. I showed how that effected the people in Port Charles: the police, her family, and those on the periphery. Because Jason and Elizabeth were so crucial to the search and resolution, and it was Elizabeth’s story, she and Jason seemed like the central narrative.  Book 2 still has a lot to do with them. They’re in every chapter. They’re just not going to drive the story the way they did in Book 1. It’s going to be fine, I promise 😛

I’ve written Chapters 20-27 already and my goal this week is to get through Chapter 30, which will get me 30% of the way through the planned chapters. If everything goes the way I want it to, I’m hoping to be finished Book 2 by the end of June.  I feel like giving myself six weeks to write 20 chapters is a realistic deadline. If I get into a groove, writing a chapter a day, I could be done in three weeks but I think it’s better if I give myself more time.

I’ll check back in tomorrow, hopefully with some good news 🙂

 

Writing

Day 0: Back To Writing

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Writing 2019

On Monday, May 13, I officially completed the course work for my graduate degree, which means for the first time since I started writing again 2014, I’m not studying for anything. I started writing again while in London, studying for my masters. Then I was studying math for my Praxis, and then I was studying for my teaching certification and second master’s degree. I’m free.

I also don’t have a job lined up for next year so far, so it looks like I’ll be substituting. For the next three and a half months, I have nothing pulling on my time. I still work as a substitute now but I’m not trying to study during the day and rushing to a second job at night. I’m just…completely free.

So I’m going back to writing full-time basically which makes me incredibly happy. I have so many projects I want to work on, and a few I know my readers are looking forward to.  I’m going to blog about it the way I did NaNoWriMo last November because I felt like that really helped to keep me focused.

I haven’t quite decided what project I want to start first. I have a few that I’m looking at — Counting Stars, For the Broken Girl, and of course the next installment of Mad World. I was looking back at Counting Stars and while there’s material in there I really like, I think I’m going to end up sticking with my conclusion then: I like the plot but it needs to be more than a simple Liason story. I need to open up the world to make the character motivations work. It’s still on my list of things I want to tackle, but there’s just a lot that needs to happen first.

I finished the breakdown for Mad World Book 2, so that’s probably going to happen first, but I’m concerned with the fact that the two projects I’ve picked to focus on first are extremely emotionally draining and I wonder if maybe I want to have a back up project to play with in my spare time that’s less than demanding. That’s kind of how I got through The Best Thing — I worked on All We Are in the background, which took less emotional labor if that makes sense.

So I think I want to pick two projects — one longer novel and then one shorter, more fun story. I’m looking at my development list. Kismet or These Small Hours are probably good candidates, but neither of them are outlined or developed enough. I don’t know. I’m still playing with this idea and maybe the second story is something I haven’t really thought through yet. I’m excited to get back into writing though.

Writing

Nanowrimo November 2018: Day 28

This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series NaNoWriMo

So Nanowrimo was a bust this year. I managed around 24,000 words but, honestly, none of it is all that great, and the story is going in the discard pile for me. I’m going to try to figure out why this didn’t work out and what I learned in this process so I can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Development Hell

Counting Stars is a story idea that I’ve been playing around with for a long time. If I go back into the archives of my story status posts at Crimson Glass, it first showed up on my radar around March 2014. This means I’ve literally been thinking about this idea as long as I’ve been back writing.

My first note about it was that I had mostly storyboarded (meaning I had laid out the scenes) the plot, and I would probably be writing it in my free time since it wasn’t going to be very long. Then I wrote that it would be going back to outlining because I felt like it would be too superficial.

It remained in what I call “development hell” for four years. That should really tell you something. I have a bunch of projects that have been hanging out there almost as long, but most of them are outlined and I just haven’t gotten to them yet since I spent most of 2016 not writing at all.

Story ideas that I keep outlining, hoping for something to change, usually end up in the discard pile, and that’s where Counting Stars is going to go. Why?

The Story

Let’s look at what the plot was. Here’s the synopsis I posted for the Nanowrimo Poll:

Set in April 2000

When Jason Morgan left Port Charles in January 2000, he left to protect himself from the machinations of ex-lover and current sister-in-law, Carly Quartermaine. He also left to protect Elizabeth Webber, a close friend who saved his life and put her own at risk for their friendship—and because he knew their relationship was changing in ways they weren’t ready for.

Several months after his departure, Elizabeth has tried to keep her secret hoping he would contact her or even come back. But it becomes impossible to hide anymore, and she goes to Sonny Corinthos in hopes of contacting Jason. Sonny, however, and Jason weren’t on great terms when Jason left town, and he’s only heard from his friend a few times. He promises to get in touch as soon as he does hear.

Luke Spencer, worried about Elizabeth, decides to track down Jason on his own and convince him to return. He finds Jason who seems interested in coming back—but then Jason is nowhere to be found when it’s time to return to Port Charles. Has he run away to avoid Elizabeth? Or is something else more sinister preventing his return to Port Charles?

The answer to that question is yes, there is foul play, and it was Nikolas. Nikolas kidnaps Jason, holds him hostage until Luke and Alexis rescue him. Spoiler alert.

The Epic Fail

Okay, let’s talk about why this didn’t work.

I’m not saying the plot itself couldn’t work. I absolutely think that with time and patience, I could have written a story where this plot fits into a larger Cassadine v Spencer war, and I’m not ruling that out. One of my ideas that still sits in the idea pile is rewriting the 2001 Spencer/Cassadine war that didn’t last long because some of the story elements veered too close to the anthrax scare of 2001.

I just don’t want to write it right now. It requires A LOT more time and research than I have right now. That’s from a GH time before Youtube and DVRs so a lot of those episodes I saw once, if that. I don’t know the characters, I don’t know their voices, and it just isn’t something I can do right now.

And that’s honestly why this story doesn’t work. Without a longer buildup, Nikolas’s decision to kidnap Jason feels out of character to me. And I *know* I have readers who do not give a damn about those kinds of things because I’ve read other writers who do completely bonker things with the characters, and people lap it up. That’s not a read, it’s just a fact. For me, I need my characters to be motivated properly, and I would need to do a lot more with Nikolas and the Cassadine side of things.

I also think this kind of story doesn’t work just as a Liason story, which means my audience would be limited. As originally plotted, Jason is basically off screen after the first chapter until the final scenes. I write ensemble stories, but my readership is the Liason fanbase. I know that.

I also didn’t have a great ending for the story. Basically, Jason was going to be set free, work things out, go home to Liz, await the birth of the baby (who I never ended up naming) and Nikolas was going to be left behind in Greece to be let out of the cell by Helena who would show him Lucky (in my version Lucky didn’t come back in the winter of 2000).  That’s just not a satisfying ending to me, but anything else required a lot more outlining.

What I ended up with was a plot bunny that probably should go into a larger story. It’s not just not feasible to stand on its own and be up to standards I hold myself to.

But I learned a lot about what stories I should be putting in the poll. No more crossing my fingers and hoping it will work out. 😛

Writing

Nanowrimo November 2018: Day 21

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series NaNoWriMo

Today was the first day I dug into the second draft of Counting Stars and so far it’s working for me. I wrote five scenes and 4,005 words. This brings my total word count to 24,750. If I can write 2500 words for the next nine days, I’ll be eligible to “win” for the month. My hope is to write 5 scenes a day and not worry so much about the word count — if I can manage that, then the story will be finished which is what I really wanted for this month.

I said in the last post that I had changed the story structure from a typical novel to my short story format of First Do No Harm, Shadows, If I Don’t Try With You, etc., and I wanted to expand on what that means.

These are the stories I write with scene numbers. I can’t remember why I started writing that way, only that I did it with First Do No Harm in 2007.

I approach those scenes slightly differently — they’re usually more brief (less than a thousand words) and the story ends up being more like snippets from a life than a full-fledged story. These are good for plots that don’t lend themselves either to a full All We Are story or even a short story like Other People’s Truths. It also takes pressure off me because I don’t do a lot of world building in those stories. I jump into a timeline, don’t change much, etc.

I’m feeling good about this change. I hope you guys feel good about it, too.

Writing

Nanowrimo November 2018: Day 19

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series NaNoWriMo

All right, so yesterday, I re-outlined the story and today, I did the storyboard (I laid out the scenes to see how best to structure it.) It looks like I have roughly 47 scenes. Now, that’s about 11 chapters if I were to my traditional 4-5 chapter structure. What I’ve decided to do is to write it in the style like Shadows, First Do No Harm, and If I Don’t Try With You which were all pretty long but didn’t quite fit into natural chapters.

I don’t know if it’ll be 2 parts or 4 parts. It will depend on how long the scenes are once I actually start writing. So what does my writing schedule look like going forward?  With the reoutlining and storyboarding, I brought my word count total to 20,744 words. The NaNo site tells me I have to write about 2500 words to finish on time which is completely within my range of skills.

The only thing that slightly worries me is that I have a 20 page paper due next Thursday and I’m planning to spend most of next weekend tackling that. The hope is that I’ll be able to double up a few writing days on both projects and basically ignore everything else in my life for about a week.

I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m not giving up 😛

Writing

Nanowrimo November 2018: Day 18 (Mea Culpa)

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series NaNoWriMo

I think one of the most important traits a writer can have is the ability to stop and admit that it’s okay that what you’re writing is not going well. Every time I write a story, I learn more about my own process and hopefully what mistakes to avoid in the future.

When I planned NaNo for this November, I had a lot of projects in my head and I couldn’t decide exactly which ones to put in the poll, so I put them all in there — including projects I hadn’t really outlined.

If I had outlined Counting Stars from beginning to end rather than just having a simple plot sketch, I would have quickly seen I didn’t have enough for a full-size novel. By the time I realized it, it had already won the poll and so I felt like I had to pursue it and figure out how to make it a bigger story.

And that was obviously insane, because I don’t think my readers would have been annoyed if I said, hey, on second thought — there’s not enough here to even write 50,000 words. Let’s do a quick 24 hour poll with projects that are more suitable.

So instead, I went into the outlining process trying to make my story longer and more ensemble like which has made writing it actually a lot more annoying. I’ve had some real life issues keeping me from really writing as much or as well as I’d wanted, but you can usually tell when you’re forcing it. I added subplots and characters that I’m not really interested in writing.

So eighteen days into NaNo, I don’t think my project is worth completing in its current form. Does that mean I give up entirely?

Actually, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. A few years ago, I was writing Mad World in July. I had started it with my old outline (based on the version I started in 2004) with Sam/Sonny baby, the Ric/Alexis/Kristina situation, etc. My Liason version was Jason and Liz in a secret relationship about Cameron, etc.

I got about ten days in and just–nothing was working. So I stopped, rewrote the outline, and made the decision to move the entire story a year earlier. What I wrote that summer ended up being what I worked on in the fall as well. I ended up rewriting Mad World again, but that was a super important to step to getting the version that you’re currently reading.

So I’m going to stop, think about the story I really want to tell and let the length be as long as it needs to be. Am I going to end up with the 33,000 words I need to win Nano? Maybe. The great thing about NaNo is that everything you write this month counts as work towards the novel, reoutlining is going to let me boost the word count as well.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to regroup, refocus, and report back to you guys tomorrow how this is going.

Writing

Nanowrimo November 2018: Day 15 (Part 2)

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series NaNoWriMo

I did it! I came home and had myself a second session so I could finish up Chapter 4. I added another 1663 words, bringing today’s total to 3707 words, and overall is now 16842. That’s about 9000 words under par but if I keep writing 3000 words over the next five days, I’ll be caught up.

That’s actually doable now that I’m on Thanksgiving break. I don’t have to do a ton of studying outside of my research paper, which I an only stand to work on for a few hours at a time, and I don’t have a crazy work schedule. I might even be able to punch it to 4000 words a day which would be awesome.

I wrote a Sonny/Alexis scene, and another Elizabeth scene. I’m finished Act I, the set up, and now we’re getting into Act 2. The next two chapters are kind of a stalling pattern, so I’m going to be doing a lot of character work. One of the things I want to do in revision is really punch up the supporting characters. I’m trying to tap into the Luke of the late 90s who was a VERY different animal than post-Lucky resurrection Luke, so I’ll have to watch some clips.

We’re making progress 😛