Tag Archives: Outline

Did it anyway…

Today, I started off calling my parents, like any other Sunday. They’re planning to visit in a couple of weeks, and that should be fun.

After that, I had decisions to make. I could start another complete reread of Lanternfish. I could read some fiction I’m sorely behind on. I could read a craft book I’ve been chipping away at.

I decided to work on my new WIP instead. I find editing to be mind numbing. It has to be done, but not as a kind of death march. It just needs to be finished before publication. I’m still about a month and a half out from having all my promotional artwork.

The first thing I did was to delete 1000 to 1500 words I already had written. Then I added 3500 new words. Beginnings are tough, and there are some boxes I need to check off. I’m much happier with this version. All the characters have been introduced, and both the big picture and a secondary problem are on the table.

Oddly enough for me, this is where I’m going to start my outline. This isn’t how I typically do things, but it feels right in this case. With everything I have going on during October, I may not add new words for several weeks. I have some work related travel, the visit from my parents, and more going on. I’m okay with that. It’s a workable starting point, and a bit of daydreaming time will improve the final product.

A bit of theory is that editing can fill in the corners I’m left with. I’m also good at reading on airplanes. My storyboard app goes everywhere I do, so I can add index cards or sticky notes as things occur to me.

I mentioned last night that I built a storyboard for a subsequent project. I really like having even partial storyboards prepared ahead of time. It cuts down on that problem of wondering what I’ll write next.

Baseball ended without a whimper today. My team really stunk up the second half, and gets to watch the playoffs from a beach somewhere. I’m watching some football right now, and hope they deliver a better season than my baseball team did.

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Storyboards and Living Documents

Hey everyone, I made a guest appearance over at Sue Coletta’s place today. She’s an awesome blogger, and has been very supportive of my work. If you aren’t following her, you really should be.

Crime Fiction Writer Sue Coletta

Things are crazy right now for me, working with my editor and setting up a new computer — all these foreign keys make me feel like I’ve never used a computer before — but I didn’t want to leave you flat. Hearing my tales of woe, friend and fellow writer Craig Boyack sprang into action. Some of you are familiar with his site Entertaining Stories, where he shares some of the best short stories and flash fiction I’ve ever read, along with various other topics. If you get a chance stop by and say hello. While you’re there browse his Idea Mill — great fodder for creativity.

All yours, Craig!

When Sue asked me if I’d do a guest post I was ecstatic. Then it dawned on me that many of her readers are probably crime writers. I write speculative fiction; what the heck can I bring to crime writers?

Crime happens…

View original post 773 more words

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Planning your novel, part four

I’ve given everyone a pretty good idea of how I set up my board, and how I move my cards around to get between the cornerstones of a story. I’ve also explained how you might use a different style and still benefit from a storyboard. Today is all about the bells and whistles that really help me with a story.

My app comes with a drawer that holds things in addition to index cards. Some of these are very handy, others not so much. I have no need to put a contact card in my outline. (Maybe a pizza place that delivers?)

Note: if you want to try a physical storyboard, you can do all the same things.

I want to start off with the checklist option. There are certain things that you want your character to do. Why not make a checklist and include it in your outline. This is a good way to keep from getting out of logical order. Here’s a decent example:

The stages of grieving

 

We put our characters through a lot. It’s more realistic to have them experience a loss by following the stages of grieving. In a novel you might be able to skip a step, but it details how most folks would act in the event of a loss. This is one example. You can use a checklist for all kinds of things.

My app comes with some cool little arrows. Since I can change the colors, I can coordinate what they mean with the key elements of a story.

In this example, I might add yellow arrows to take my main character from Ron Weasley all the way to Gandalf.

I’m an old guy. I don’t always remember minutia from day to day. When writing a novel it could be month to month.

If I know I’m going to use the old falling anvil trick in Act Three, I need to hoist the anvil somewhere in Act One or Two. The pink arrows can really help with that.

I don’t always follow this advice in my outline, but when I have, it makes everything much easier. There are still plenty of times I’ll have to go back and modify chapter three while I’m working on chapter 29, but it still helps.

I don’t color coordinate anything, but the potential is there. I did it for the purposes of this post. I use a lot of sticky notes. Again, my memory is still there, it just isn’t as fast as it used to be. Sometimes, at the end of a writing day, I’ll add a note about some idea I want to use in the next writing session. I call them “Hey Dummy” notes. It helps when the next writing session is fourteen days away. Here are some ideas for sticky notes:

When I finally get back to writing, I review my “Hey Dummy” notes and delete them.

I also read back and forward a bit. The story always deviates from the outline, and there is no law that says it can’t.

I’ve even been known to change the outline, because I’ve come up with some brilliant idea while writing.

Of course, I’ve also abandoned the outline completely on occasion. At least it got me started on the right foot. The cornerstones of three act structure were still useful to keep my story on track.

Its more typical for me to start writing before the outline is finished. I usually pay the price and have to go back, update the outline, and plan out the rest of the story.

One of the best things about a storyboard is pictures. Pictures really help with descriptions. I add them to my board at key places. Since this is the private part of your work, you can grab anything you like off the internet. No need to worry about copyright. Here’s an example from Arson:

Everyone’s favorite pyrophilliac has a distinct hairstyle. (Maybe she’s just my favorite.) She would never wear that horrible bow thing.

She also has some unique items she uses for work, and to decorate her office.

I find pictures to be extremely helpful. If your character has a unique style, you can pin some clothing or other bits to your board.

Maybe you want some actual crime scene photos to remind you to include specific details like pin flags or number markers.

 

True story time. When I was writing Arson, I was also outlining The Cock of the South.

Outlining is something I can do while my wife plays her music or watches American Idol. It doesn’t take quite the concentration that writing does.

I decided to completely outline the whole story. It was one of those personal challenges I talk about on occasion. I learn by trying new things, and this needed to be tested.

My app lets me seat a board within a board. I filled this storyboard with pictures and character arch reminders. I wound up with a board for each section.

The payoff was writing the whole novel in three months. Remember, I have a family and a full time job. I only get to write on Saturday mornings and one rotating day per week. Researching during the writing process was kept to a minimum. It was just writing. It was almost as if the only thing I had to concentrate on was making sure my cast of characters stayed unique and engaging. The image is how the links to the subsequent boards are displayed.

I’ve never taken it to this level since then. I should, but I always get too excited and want to start writing. My next challenge is to outline multiple projects and make them fight for my writing time. The losers will still be around, and may get a chance later. Here is a section of the board from The Playground. It shows some of the bells and whistles together on an actual storyboard.

My boards don’t start out this way. Most of them are a collection of loose notes. I won’t even fill out the premise or important act points until later.

Lorelei, my Muse, has been haunting me again blessing me with her presence. She’s been giving me ideas about all my potential stories. I decided to start a board last night so I could share one here.

This story doesn’t even have a title yet. The premise and act cards are still untouched. None of the cards are anything more than random ideas. My sticky notes are all about things I need to research. They aren’t even in columns right now.

I’ll move them into columns when the time comes. The research stickies will get discarded and replaced with data. If you want to expand the picture, there might be a spoiler or two, or everything could change. I might not let this one off the island. It’s a fair enough example for this post.

I’m a little hesitant to return to a paranormal story right away. I’ve written two, back to back. Since this one is set in history, it doesn’t lend itself easily to fantasy or science fiction. It will have to compete for its writing time.

Storyboards provide a nice visual. It’s easy to see when you don’t have enough material in one of the acts. It’s usually Act Two. The beginning and ending are easier to come up with, because they’re more exciting. One glance can show you the problem.

Read Part Three here.

Let’s call it. This was my sequence on story boarding. I’ve learned so much from other writers that I thought it was time to share. My process formed by grabbing bits and pieces from other writers. Are you going to attempt a storyboard? Did you gain a nugget to add to your own style? Is it all bullshit that stifles creativity? Is storyboarding a mental version of water boarding in your mind? Could it be useful under some circumstances, but not others? Maybe you have a tip to offer? Let me hear from you.

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Planning your novel

We’re going to do another sequence of posts. I haven’t been real lucky with sequences, but I’m a glutton for punishment. I have a few disclaimers to make before we start:

First, I don’t want to come across like a pretentious douche. I’ve benefitted from everyone else’s methods, and I simply want to share mine.

Second, the best method is the one that works for you. I’m not saying I have the secret to anything.

Third, I don’t always follow my own advice. I try new things too. I used “bookend” outlines when I wrote Panama. One to get me started, and another one to help me tie up loose ends in the final parts.

Third, I called it “planning” on purpose. I want seat of the pants writers to read along too, but it’s secretly an outlining series. I wrote my first few novels by the seat of my pants. If I can open my mind to something new, so can you. You can croak the entire idea after you’ve given it some consideration. I won’t be offended.

I use a cork board app called Corkulous Pro. They haven’t updated it in years, and it’s getting a little strange on iOS8. I heard there is something similar in Scrivner. I’m open to other suggestions for apps. I’d kind of like some pushpins and strings to help with plants and payoffs.

When we talk about outlining, most people think of the formal outlining method they tried to teach us in high school. This is unhelpful, and even detrimental to the creative process.

Kill this with fire!

My method is a storyboard style, using a three act structure. This can be as detailed as you like, but mine aren’t. Some people like all the detail, but I still like to leave my characters a bit of control. What I’m looking for are more like mile markers.

In the USA, highways have mile markers along all the route. The idea is that you can’t go from one to three without passing two. They are also helpful in the event of an emergency. You can tell the dispatcher you’re in trouble at mile marker 141 so someone can find you faster. Bear with me folks, not all my readers are in the USA.

My outline markers serve the same purposes. They keep me moving in the right direction, and give me help if I crash. With the big exception that I can move them around if I want. Sometimes an event you planned out simply works better in another location. That’s one of the big tricks, don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan. Look at the storyboard and make sure you really want to change things before you write through it.

Let’s look at a blank board to get started. I’m going to be outlining several stories in the near future, and this is how I’ll start.

Notice the open drawer at the bottom of the app. This holds index cards, sticky notes, and quite a few other goodies.

Today, we’re going to talk about the blue card, and the two cards on the left side of the board. I can use any color, and made the one blue just so it would stand out.

Kristen Lamb had a great post today about a one sentence pitch for your novel. Her suggestion was to create it before you start writing. This is a great idea, and one I believe in. I’m just a little less formal about it.

I usually just include a blank card, so here’s one I used when I wrote Arson. I’m not afraid to use two or three lines.

I’m also not afraid to rewrite it part way through my draft. Remember, I said this wasn’t a rigid process. You know how it goes, characters develop and things change along the way. Change things if you want to.

Think of this like a set of tools, and not a rigid chemical formula that you absolutely must duplicate.

I’m going to stop after Act one today so I don’t swamp you with information.

 

In case you can’t read the photo, Act One is all about introducing the characters, the situations (genre), and the stakes.

I always type over this card with my individual introduction. There isn’t much on the first card.

We’re only detailing the major cards in this series. Think of them like mile markers for the outline. They will help you place the other mile markers.

I’ll go ahead and show you one I used in The Cock of the South.

 

 

That’s all it says. This is Cobby’s introduction to the reader, and will show a little bit of genre. There’s a lot of prejudice in this story, so I introduced a bunch of it right away. Now let’s move to the end of Act One. You kind of have my format down by now so here are the screen shots.

It’s simply a question. Are all of the stakes, characters, and themes present? All of them have to have made a choice from which there is no return.

At this point in Will O’ the Wisp there have been a couple of deaths that all seem to tie together. Patty has a plan to sneak off for some research. The story changed slightly by this point, and the card isn’t a perfect match for the final story. Because you can change things up, that’s why.

You can add even more detail at this point if you’re of a mind. You can write a target word count on this card. 25-30K seems like a good target. I stopped doing that.

You can also plan out chapters if you want. What I do is add cards between the beginning and end of Act One. I like one of the traditional story structures, and I’ll even mix and match them. Maybe you need a herald character, or a mentor. Maybe you want some scenes for your villain. Make a card and describe what you want to happen.

Do you have a cool scene you like. Make a card for it. Move them around, maybe they work better in a different order. You can have as many or few as you like.

I’m not in love with outlining chapters. I usually make a new chapter after ten pages. That seems about right for a 21st century attention span. When I write the story, I use my cards like mile markers. If something isn’t working, I go back to my storyboard.

This works for me, because I’m a very lineal writer. I actually write my stories from Once Upon a Time all the way to Happily Ever After. If you like to bounce around, knock yourself out. I still think a storyboard is helpful.

We’ll dive into Act Two next time. I figure another post for Act Three, then one about all the bells and whistles that make a storyboard so handy. Stick with me folks, the bells and whistles are pretty cool, and really bring your board to life.

So what do you think? Is anyone out there willing to try this out? Does anyone have a better app to suggest? Am I out of my mind for quashing your creative process?

Read Part Two here.

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What will I do this weekend

I had to work today. Old What’s Her Face* was off today and got to sleep in. She called me about 10:00 and said she decided to go visit the grandkids.

That leaves me a house to myself until Sunday afternoon. I’m going to try being productive, but I’m not going to set an arbitrary goal. I don’t even have to go shopping. There are mountains of Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator.

I made a turkey sandwich on one of my Parmesan garlic rolls, then cut a huge piece of pumpkin pie.

I organized my critique papers after supper. We meet again next week, and I’ll probably mark them up tomorrow morning.

Iris**, the fairy and I have to work on our top secret project in the afternoon. I’ll tell you guys all about it once I get the green light. It has to do with The Cock of the South.

I may dive back into my outline for The Playground. This is my neglected work in progress. I have some fairly cool ideas to get through the next portion. I’m kind of excited, because Act II is always the toughest. I know how it’s going to end, but I have to move everyone into place. I also have to keep making things worse for my victim character. I doubt I’ll get any new words on paper, but you never know.

That leaves tonight. I have a new book I want to start reading. I think I’ll read until my eyes give out and call it a night.

* Not the name on her birth certificate.

** Iris is a supporting character from The Cock of the South. She’s a fairy, and is staying at the writing cabin until her wing is strong enough to fly home.

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An actual day off

Holy cow! It’s cold here. I’m writing this at 4:00 PM and it’s a sweltering 18 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

I’ve been following a blog from New York State, and she has five feet of snow in her yard. They have another two feet predicted. I guess I’ll quit complaining. I had to shovel my father’s roof for him years ago to keep the house from collapsing. (My own roof was steeper and shed the snow.) When I finished I actually walked off the roof without the aid of a ladder. The roof snow plus the ground snow was high enough.

I suppose I’ll quit complaining about my weather, but snow and temperature are not the same thing. On the plus side, I have a beer mug outside that I keep hitting with a mist bottle. Frosted beer mug for me tonight.

Today was a day of bouncing. I have a top secret project I’m writing something for, so I centered my time around that. I write for a bit, then read two chapters of a book I’m engrossed in. I’ll probably make one more lap through both before calling it quits today. This way both things are getting done.

I spent a little time on positive daydreaming. I have a plot issue to sort out, and this is actually my method. No notes, lots of daydreaming, and exchange emails with my writing buddy. I’m almost there, but it might take another week. Then I have to modify my outline/storyboard.

Things are getting accomplished in bits and pieces. When payday comes around I need to pay an invoice for cover art. When I get around to editing it, Will ‘O the Wisp is going to have an awesome cover.

It sounds like a lot, but it’s all fun. If I had my way this is what I’d be doing for a living. Alas, I still need a paycheck job and all the benefits that come with it. Tomorrow is another work day.

With all this inclement weather it’s time to curl up with a good book. That’s what I’m doing on lap two tonight. If you need a book, I could make a suggestion or two.

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A working bachelor

I spent a major portion of my time finishing a book for a friend. I sent some remarks that might be helpful, and got a positive response back, i.e. we’re still friends. (It’s a great story.)

I looked at the answers to my blog question and everyone seemed to like the vignette posts. I took the time to make a new category called Short Stories & Vignettes. Then I added the category to three old posts. I also updated my “about me” page to explain the new category. It was time to shake things up around here. These will probably never outnumber the Muse posts, but I think they’re fun. I’m trying to work up some creepy Halloween shorts to post during October. They will go in the new category. (Covertly, I have a place to remind myself of my good ideas.)

After that, I started on a new story called The Playground. This one is about a creepy social network for kids. It’s going to be somewhere between science fiction and paranormal. I need some technology, and some boogie men both.

It’s easy to write while I have an outline. I haven’t outlined Act II yet. This story requires me to get a feel for the characters and let the plot free flow. When I finish Act I, I’ll probably come to a screeching halt. Today I managed 1592 words. This isn’t very good by my standards when I have an outline, but I only had a half day. Without an outline, I have a hard time managing 500. Maybe that will get the Muse off my back for a little while.

It feels good to be writing again, even if most of it turns out to be crap. That’s what rewrites are for.

Meanwhile my editing has been completely abandoned. The dwarves and centaurs are sitting around picking their noses. I may give them an hour of my time before bed. Maybe I can get through a chapter or two. I entered into a conversation with a cover artist, but we haven’t decided on anything yet. I’ll keep you posted on this.

Someone finally used Amazon Unlimited to download one of my books, (Arson). After I finished my happy dance, I said a little prayer that they will read 10% of it so I can see how the rest of the system works. Who am I kidding, I want them to read it all and enjoy it too. Thank you whoever you are. You’re about to learn how to start nefarious fires, and how Spanks underwear work. It’s a great combination; enjoy.

I think Amazon Unlimited is a great setup for voracious readers. At ten bucks per month you can download up to ten books per month. That’s a lot of reading if you choose 99¢ books. If you choose something from one of the big five, you might see savings on the first book. Best of all, the authors get paid. They just need to get off the stick and make it available internationally. People like Karen read and review a ton of books, it’s a benefit to Amazon to make it available to these international readers.

“Alright, get off your asses you dwarves. It’s time for some serious work.” Catch you bloggers later.

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Something tells me I’m due for a visit

Today was kind of a slow blog day. Not too many new things in my Reader. Only one blog visit from some lucky visitor from Italy. It looks like many of the bloggers have a real life and better things to do today.

It also looks like I need to post something today.

Old What’s Her Face* bought me a new bottle of Angry Orchard Cider when she went shopping. It’s a new kind to me, and it’s absolutely awesome. Look what it’s called though.

image

Something tells me I’m going to have a visit from Lorelei** very soon. Maybe I’d better start my outline before she shows up.

Later bloggers. I’ve got hard cider to drink.

* Not my wife’s actual name.

** Lorelei is my Muse. She expects me to start writing again soon.

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My Stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour

This particular blog tour has been awesome. I’ve read dozens and dozens of these and enjoyed all of them. It’s helpful to know that we all go about things differently, and yet aim for the same goals.

I was invited by two different bloggers to participate, and I’m thrilled. These are both blogs I really enjoy.

The first one is Karen over at My Train of Thoughts On and In a Small Compass. She’s been very helpful to me, and I can’t say enough nice things about her. Please visit her blogs and give a thought to following her.

The other invite came from Michelle Joelle over at Soliloquies. When she invited me she called Entertaining Stories, “One of the most fun writing blogs I’ve ever found.” She’s obviously a genius. Please visit her blog and give her a follow too. You can learn a lot from a genius.

Now it’s time for the tour questions:

What am I working on?  I knew almost two years ago that I wanted to self publish some of my old stories. I put it off for a long time, because writing new material is just so much fun. The self publishing part, well it isn’t, to put it bluntly. I started this blog to do a bit of self promotion and to learn from others. The blog took on a life of its own, and has been the best part so far.

I’ve been putting all my efforts into getting the older work out there. I have a new idea that’s begging me to start, but sometimes you have to pick a lane and drive in it.

I’ve met some amazing cover artists, learned what it takes to get permission from a Copyright holder, struggled to write blurbs, and studied Amazon’s promotional tools until my brain hurts. I’ll get to a point where all the old material is posted one day. After that, the smarter Craig won’t have much trouble forging ahead.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I’m a little bit pragmatic here. I’m of the school where every story has already been told. What makes any of our stories different is what we bring to the table.

Nobody has lived my life. My experiences are unique, and I try to include a bit of that in my tales. I grew up in a very small town that was isolated by distance from the rest of the world. There are still places in my home county where you can get a hundred miles from the nearest house. My every day world was a page from an earlier era, and I try to include some of that when it’s appropriate.

Why do I write what I do? I try to write the kind of stories I want to read. I get tired of the evening news, celebrity gossip, and reality shows. My work is escapist. If that’s a bad thing, so be it.

I like stories where the little guy overcomes the odds. This isn’t saying it’s going to be easy for my character. I like stories that end a bit differently. They might not be the standard “happily ever after”, but I think they work.

I always write about a world we don’t have access to otherwise. My wheelhouse is science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. If you enjoy stories like that, I’ve got a couple of books to tell you about.

Then there’s my blog, which has become a writing project all on its own. My characters never really leave me when the story ends. They show up in my blog from time to time, like old friends coming to visit. I don’t believe in posting random chapters of work, because those who miss chapter one have no reason to read anything else. So I create new bits of fiction using my characters in hopes that you’ll want to read their novels.

How does my writing process work? (Process? There has to be a process?) I have random thoughts all the time. I enter these into the Notes app on my iPhone, because it’s always with me. When one of these ideas sprouts like a seed, I make some notes with my fountain pen into a notebook for just that purpose.

I dwell on notebook items until a story creates itself. Then I outline it. I use a storyboard app and move index cards around while paying attention to three act structure. While I could make a card per chapter, I don’t. I add in what has to happen between the important parts to set up each section. This is when I start writing. This let’s me free flow as the characters take over. If I have to, I change the outline.

Other than that, it’s setting an alarm to get up early, add a quart or so of black coffee, and forge ahead. I don’t set daily goals, and am satisfied with forward motion of any kind.

I always read my last chapter before typing the first word. Some folks recommend not doing this, but I prefer it. I’m a weekend warrior with a full time job. I’m simply not able to write every day. I like to remember whether it’s mid day heat, evening snow, windy, and other details before I start.

I’m not afraid to stop mid sentence and go online for research. Sometimes you just need to know a few details about crossroads magic or how to shrink a head. I never have a problem returning to the writing.

The self promotion part: This is still one of my weaker areas. I just don’t like being in your face about it all the time. I’ll simply tell you what I have available today, and wilt if you don’t check it out.

Wild Concept is a science fiction tale about robotics. Atlantic Robotics borrowed a page from the auto industry and decided to build a concept robot. They crammed all the newest cutting edge technology into it and watched as it learned and grew. The robot, Lisa, was debuted as a spokes model for the company. When they decide to tear her down at the end of her experiment, she has different ideas. The cover is off to the right, and I’d appreciate it if you’d click on it and check it out.

Panama is set during the building of the Panama Canal. It’s a paranormal story where people from all over the world converge on Panama to build the canal. This means magic from all over the world converged on the canal too. Ethan and Coop are sent to deal with a problem plaguing the construction workers. What they find is the Panamanian bid for independence, a Colombian army, and a Carlist zealot who wants to replace the King of Spain and reclaim all the Spanish territories in the New World. There’s witchcraft, a demon, deadly wildlife, voodoo, shamanism, yellow fever, prejudice, and cowboys. Literally fun for everyone. The cover off to the right is a link. Click on it, all the cool kids are doing it.

Passing the torch:

I have to pass this blog hop on to two other amazing bloggers for next weekend. It’s been fun, but these people are fun too. I really encourage you to check out their blogs and give them a follow.

Michael J. McDonagh is a wealth of information. I’ve learned a lot about Copyright and other deep subjects from him. He lives in Boise, just like me. He’s also a fisherman, a sourdough, and all around good guy. I believe he’s a recovering attorney, but I won’t hold that against him. Please give him a visit, and watch for his Writing Process next weekend.

Sarah J Carlson is an American living in Singapore. How is that not cool? She is a great resource for cultural melting pot ideas. She’s already done the blog tour once, and generously offered to do it again when I asked. Anyone with that much enthusiasm for writing has to be interesting. Check her out too. I think you’ll find her interesting.

Thank you to the wonderful bloggers who passed me the torch. Thank you to the wonderful people who accepted the torch from me. Make sure to check out their blogs, and give a thought to following them.

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Word Count has Meaning

Word count seems to have meaning in my writing. It went kind of like this today.

I got to the writing cabin at about 5:30 AM. Lisa* was still getting ready, so I grabbed coffee and headed into the office I’m using for this story.

Doubt** was still asleep with the time change, and I was thankful. Today was dedicated to new words and I didn’t need his grumbling to slow me down.

I still spent an hour going back over the last section I’d written. This is my normal routine, and it keeps me on track for the next section. I always like to refresh myself as to whether something happened on a Monday or a Friday. It helps me avoid problems later on. I don’t know why I need a raven of doubt to slow me down anyway. I always had enought doubts on my own.

I wound up deleting a few paragraphs and replacing them with better paragraphs. One quick glance at the outline, and I was off and running.

I remember Lisa drifting through in her mad scientist getup. She had a lab coat with bloody pawprints on over a skull tee shirt with tights and boots. A pair of leather goggles served as a headband. She topped off my coffee and disappeared.

I spent a long time moving my characters around to set up the first scene. Teenagers don’t always have access to a car, and this had to be set up. When I was ready, I deviated from the outline. I’ve not discussed this very much, but deviating from the outline is fairly regular.

Sometimes, I have to go back and work on the outline again. This may be one of those times. I wasn’t about to stop today though.

“Lisa, come in here. I need some help,” I yelled.

She brought the coffee pot and trotted down the stairs. “What’s up, Boss?”

“Set that down. I need your help. If I were to grab your ear and threaten you, how would you react?”

“I’d probably punch your throat out and kick you in the balls.”

“Wow, really?”

“That’s my training. Why?”

“Okay, a teenage girl–

“Patty?”

“Yeah, Patty. She’s in trouble, but her life isn’t threatened. It’s a different kind of trouble. What would she do?”

“How far along her journey have you come?”

“Pretty far. She’s matured a little.”

“Okay. I take it you want a milder reaction. Could she scream for help?”

“There’s no one else around, and she knows that.”

Lisa cupped her hand around her chin and paced. “Okay, grab my ear and let’s walk through it.”

I don’t know why I listened, but I grabbed her ear, and threatened to call her parents.

“Wait, what’s my motivation here?”

“Patty hasn’t done what the guy thinks she has, but he’s going to call her parents and tell them anyway. She’s on her lunch break and if she doesn’t get back to school, she’s going to get into trouble.”

“Got it. Try again.”

I grabbed her ear and threatened to call her parents.

Lisa stomped down so hard on my foot that I fell head forward into the couch. Then she kicked hard, but stopped at the surface of my ribs.

“How’s that?” she asked.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I pressed my face into the sofa cushion. “That should work.”

“Thanks. So, do I get credit in your book?”

“No. You don’t have any lines.”

“Fine. Here’s your coffee.” She stomped off into the lobby.

Doubt, the raven woke up and made some of his raven sounds. I swear it sounded like laughing.

I limped back to the desk and kept going.

I managed three pretty good scenes before my battery wanted to die. My word count is up to 52,870. That makes 3203 for this writing session.

My writing always starts with a pretty decent word count. It lags when I get to the middle, but picks back up again when I get near the end. I know I’m getting away from the middle, and my word count is just as expected.

I have about four big things before I get to the end, and I’m worrying about coming up short. There’s probably a fifth bit involving a denoument right at the end.

I’m also concerned about who this might be for. I see it as suitable for kids, but there’s some swearing and violence in it. The twelve year old of today is different than the twelve year old of my day. I think they can handle more today. I also don’t think they would like something all sugary and sweet.

I’m of the mind to write my story and figure it all out later. I’d like to know what other writers think though. Let me hear it in the comments.

I called Lisa back. I don’t like hurting her feelings, and she’s been one of my strongest supporters.

“What do you need, now?” she asked.

“I just want to visit. I’m about done for the day, and we’ve been hitting it pretty hard.”

She sat down and crossed her legs. “We ought to think about taking the skis off your gyrocopter pretty soon. It’s going to get muddy any day now.”

“What then? Will the tires work?”

“Not too sure. The little runway is grassy. If you come early it will still be frozen. Landing is the hardest part. You could even take off on the highway. I can carry the ‘copter out there for you if we have too.”

“What if you used the tractor while it’s frozen and added snow to the runway?”

“Maybe, but you’re going to have to let it thaw eventually. You look tired, do you want a sandwich and a nap?”

“That sounds great.”

* Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She works as my assistant these days, and is a robot.

** Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse.

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