Tag Archives: plotting

Some parts are more difficult

I’m still on my hiatus from drafting new material. The Muse sent me a bunch of future material and that’s been going great. I have two decent storyboards for stand alone tales. I also have three for stories about Lizzie and the hat.

The concluding story of Lanternfish still needs some work. Dealing with con men is harder that you might think. It requires a kind of mind game with the readers as well as the characters in the story.

I’m not sweating this yet and if I don’t start drafting something before December, I can live with that.

What is coming harder is any kind of comedy. I have faith in myself, but that will only get me so far. A lot of it comes to me as I write, but I usually have some antics in mind long before I start. Right now, I’ve got nothing.

This involves the relationship between Lizzie and the hat, but also the root monsters. As a buddy story, Lizzie and the hat will be easier to deal with. I have three reasonable plots and if I started writing today, they would be fine.

People love the root monsters from Lanternfish, and they need to shine as the trilogy comes to an end. I really hope I haven’t revealed all their tricks yet. I have a neat denouement in store for them, but that only helps at the end. They need purpose and humor as the tale unwinds.

One thing I’m toying with is to give them a tiny character arc. Instead of being told what to do, maybe they can start grasping what is happening and make some choices on their own. I’m not married to this idea, and as comedy relief, it kind of goes against all the rules.

What I really need are some root monster vignettes that sometimes come to me in dreams. Then I can sort through those and decide what could work in the story. I’m on the verge of reading HMS Lanternfish from start to finish as part of my editing process. That could spark some things, and you can bet I’ll have a notes app handy.

I’m 80% of the way through the book I’ve been reading, and that will signal time for editing. I might even do my traditional word searches in the evenings while Old What’s Her Face is watching television. I find that not focusing makes that go better. I miss common spelling errors when I get wrapped up in the story.

I sound like I have a plan, but I really don’t. I just know that I want Lanternfish out this summer, before it gets swallowed up with promotion for my Halloween oriented tale.

I hope everyone out there is being safe, and getting to enjoy some of the things you like.

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Shifting gears.

It wasn’t part of my long term plans, but I’m going to take a kind of break. This doesn’t mean I’m not writing, It just means I won’t be drafting new stories right now.

This morning I finished the draft for The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. I’m debating a couple more paragraphs, but don’t know if they’re necessary.

This story involves Lizzie and the hat in pursuit of a pair of rodeo cowboys. These guys are now members of the undead. This allows the band, Lizzie and the Pythons, to explore country music as part of catching the bad guys. Made for some cool outfits and hat styles, too.

Lizzie has a small melt-down over the music. At the end she returns to more familiar ground. I could add a couple of paragraphs to show how they weave in some country songs without compromising what they like. Or I could leave it out.

I’m calling it finished, regardless of what I decide. I need to work up some blog ideas for the books, work with my cover artist, decide if I’m spending any promo money, but I doubt it. Think about formatting. Oh yeah, I’m going to need some of those silly graphics to put in Mrs. Molony so as to keep with the theme.

I’m going to be storyboarding, too. The final Lanternfish is going to require a storyboard. I have two novels full of information that I have to stay faithful to. There are a bunch of loose ideas for the finale. A board helps me mold all that into a decent story.

I think next year’s Hat story could benefit from a storyboard, too. I want this one to be more grim with an undertone of sadness, while still keeping the humor going. Not an easy task. It’s my intention to break Lizzie mentally toward the end of the next one. That will lead into another one that has a lot going on including a revisit with the witching community.

Aside from that, I have some stand alone novels that are already in the early phases of storyboards. I should probably hold off on these until Lanternfish is complete.

There’s also reading. I haven’t taken a serious reading break for a long time and there is a lot I want to catch up on. I also have a bit of a blog makeover in mind.

Honestly, if I can get Lanternfish out this summer, then Mrs. Molony for the Halloween season, I will have met my yearly goals. If I don’t write another word this year, I’m in pretty good shape.

Just because I’m not working on a draft does not mean I’m not working. We’re going camping this weekend. I’ll probably do some reading while I’m up there.

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How do you like your apocalypse?

I have a question for all of you. I have a storyboard going, and it’s been growing like crazy. It’s probably going to get bumped up on my list.

Right now it’s just a loose collection of index cards with cool ideas to use in the story. There is a plot, and a smidgen of character arc. I also have a Pinterest board that I’ve been saving visuals in.

The story is going to be post-apocalyptic fiction. As I dwell on my setting, I have a lot of ways to take this, so: How do you like your apocalypse?

The question is two-fold. There is a when factor as well as a why factor. I’ll take them in that order.

When?:

• During

• Right after

• Moderately after

• Generations after

There are advantages and disadvantages here. During gives you all the madness as an obstacle to deal with. That can also be a disadvantage, because maybe your plot doesn’t involve the zombie horde. I’ve also already published something that had a “far after” vibe to it, so that isn’t likely to happen again. (Ref: The Yak Guy Project.)

I’m leaning toward moderately after. The disaster is over, looting has already happened, but some gleaning of items is still possible. Any gangs of looters have long since shot each other. Doesn’t mean criminals aren’t around, but not the mob mentality of the initial disaster.

Still, the question is for you as I talk my way through this. Consider the timeframe in your suggestions.

Why?

• Disease

• Zombies

• War

• Pollution

• Asteroid impact

• Evolution

• Climate change

• Famine

• AI takeover

• Aliens

• Who cares?

I won’t break these down individually for the sake of space. Suffice it to say, while I love zombies, I’ve kind of walked that path. I’m leaning toward the “Who Cares” option and just plunking the story down in the leftover environment. Readers would probably get pissed if I didn’t glance off the cause in some fashion.

Again, the question is for you today. Consider why in your responses.

I have the whole concept set in swamp country. (Haven’t seen anyone do that yet.) I want to have some scrounging possible, but also bartering, and shops where the better scrounged goods can be purchased. I’m looking for a return to horse power, and I mean the kind with hooves. This probably eliminates robots and aliens from the mix.

I’ve already researched the possibility of naturalized species, invasive species, native species, and more. Alligators and rattlesnakes are a cinch for this tale. Add in the python problem, a few wild hogs, and it sounds like a great place to drop a story. Then there are the crazy weather disasters along the southern coast, and I have plans for some of that, too.

Back to the question of the day: How do you like your apocalypse?

In other news, I dabbled on my task list today. Trimmed the peach tree until the battery died on the Sawsall, finish it tomorrow. Bought the book I want to read, and worked my way through the formatting of Viral Blues. Sent an email detailing issues. I never cracked HMS Lanternfish, and I regret that. I kind of got sidetracked by this post.

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It’s a goof off weekend

Old What’s Her Face is off Saturday and Sunday. While this is great, it also prevents me from doing some things.

I sent off a big portion Serang to my critique partners. One has already trickled back, and I’m sure the others will in the next few days. It’s a good time to pause this one. She and her master wandered to the high desert, far from the Emperor’s focus. There are soldiers here, but the main focus is along the Northern Coast.

There is a thieves market here, and I want Serang to change her viewpoint toward them. Right now, she thinks they should all be hanged. If she’s going to become a pirate, this is where her attitude must change.

The vendors all have something similar to a Tibetan mastiff protecting their shops. This is a bit of scene setting for something I need to explain explain from Lanternfish.

I’ve come across several places like this in the story. Because it is a prequel, I have to live with everything that’s come before. I’m really enjoying the challenge. Right now, it’s a good time to pause and think.

I made a loaf of very good sourdough, but it’s gone now. Today I started a new batch of experimental bread. This time I added sesame seeds, sesame oil, and a big scoop of chili-garlic sauce. Might be a disaster, might be pretty good. I wish I had a scoop of leftover rice, but such is life.

We watched a bunch of movies, and with the crappy weather it’s a good plan. Watched Silverado. Odd cast for a cowboy movie, but it’s a great film. I actually based a character in Panama around Linda Hunt from this film.

Several Clint Eastwood films filled out the bulk of the day, plus Deadpool 2. Right now, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is on. I know everyone is down on Nicholas Cage, but I always liked him.

While the bread is rising, we’ll probably watch movies all day. That, and I need to sew a button on a favorite shirt. The damned thing broke in half. I’ve never seen that before.

I get the holiday off tomorrow. I need to read back a couple chapters, but I do that every writing day. If my luck holds, I’ll move the team-up project ahead. They’re getting closer to the paranormal bad guy, but not just yet. They have a red herring they need to chase, and might get to chase it tomorrow.

Hope all of you are enjoying your weekend. Tell me about it in the comments.

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Time to stop researching

I looked up from my iPad and watched a pair of flamingos wing overhead. The smell of a distant brushfire faded and was replaced with a delicious smell from the cook tent. Lisa* popped outside and placed the folding table in the shade.

“Your lunch is about ready. I still can’t believe you shot that gazelle,” she said.

“I couldn’t eat another can of that Dwarven scrapple. I know you’re an animal lover, but a man has to eat. Besides, all you need is recharging.” I moved to the table, and refilled my coffee.

“What’s on the agenda today? Watch the rhinos in the mud again? Maybe watch the elephants water again?”

“Nope. I think it’s time to go home. I’ve gathered enough research, now I need to figure out what to do with it all. I’m still making everything up, but it’s nice to have some points to ground my stories. Besides, I’ll bet you miss Bunny.”

Lisa sat down my plate and turned away. “I’ll get started packing. Do we have to break down these tents?”

“The service will do everything. Load our gear, gas up, and we’re out of here.” I tucked into my lunch.

Lisa loaded her trunk, and my few meager items. She used the hand pump to fill the Landrover, then lifted the rear of the vehicle so the differential sat on a rock with the tires off the ground. “I still think we should have ordered a new starter.”

“It’s an old car, and getting one clear out here isn’t easy. We’ll order one back at the writing cabin. Besides, you’re a good starter.”

She muttered, “Yup, that’s me. Girl Friday, auto mechanic, cook, and laundry.” She placed the transmission in gear, and wrapped the right rear tire with a length of rope.

“Don’t forget spokes model, and main character too.”

“Hmph!” She grabbed the end of the rope and gave it a mighty pull. The rope spun the tire, and the Landrover engine coughed to life. Once she had the car out of gear, she lifted it off the rock, climbed behind the wheel, and backed over to where I sat.

I walked across the compound and coiled up the rope. “We’d better take this, just in case. We can pay the service for it when we get home.”

I crawled in beside Lisa and we got underway. A huge dust cloud formed behind us and I had a hard time looking back at Camp Research.

“So are you ready to choose your next novel?” She asked.

“No. I have two outlines that are into act two, a third one that’s almost there, and one that’s languishing.”

“Lorelei** is getting impatient.”

“I know, but I need to get back to the writing cabin and use the Internet.”

“Oh sure, I need the Internet and it’s no big deal. You need it, and it’s worth breaking camp over.”

“Well, I am the writer, and you’re the fictional assistant.”

She backhanded me across the chest. “Does that feel fictional?”

“No!” I nearly blacked out and spent a minute catching my breath. “For whatever reasons, I need the Internet, and I have an assignment for you.”

“I’m not leaving Bunny again so soon.”

“It’s a day job, I promise. You’re posing for Sean Harrington again. We need some new blog art to promote The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack, and The Playground.”

“I hope it isn’t for a few days. I’m going to need that long to wash Camp Research out of my hair.”

The savanna faded into higher grasslands, and eventually timber. The African animals were replaced by more ice age fauna typical of the area near the writing cabin. Lisa handed me a gazelle sandwich with horseradish as the shadows grew longer.

We slowed for a unicorn in the road, and Lisa blew right by the turn to pick up Bunny. I waived at the road in confusion.

“I’ve got a great WiFi signal here. Faith said she’ll drop him off at the cabin for me.”

Lisa drove to the lower driveway and opened the garage door. She didn’t want to stop and risk having to pull start the vehicle again. Once she parked, she turned off the engine and ran up the stairs for her beloved pet.

*Lisa Burton is the robotic main character in Wild Concept. She also has a new short story in my Experimental Notebook. You can get a free set of Lisa paper dolls here.

**Lorelei is my Muse. She didn’t appear in this story, but since we talked about her, I thought I should define who she is.

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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 Act Three

My regulars know that I usually don’t post on Thursdays. I’m excited to get this post out there because the next post is where I show you how to bring a storyboard to life. I’m looking forward to that one.

Here is my reminder for act three of the story:

This is the big boss battle. Everything you’ve been building up to happens here. Love triangles are broken, ships are sunk, throats are cut, revenge is taken. Any reward you have planned gets issued, and you drop the curtain.

I don’t even use a card for the ending. I made one, but it’s not worth displaying. The story ends. Act Three is usually the shortest act, so it deserves the shortest post.

All the structure part of this series is to show you what I personally do. You can glean the interesting stuff and leave the rest, but check back tomorrow.

If you only fill out these important points in your planning, you already have a decent outline. Maybe you prefer a few lines in a notebook instead of a board. That’s cool too, just write between the important points.

I like to use movie examples, because more people are likely to have seen a film. Here are some examples of the big changes these cards represent:

  • Sheriff Brody says, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • Wyatt Earp stands in a downpour and it washes his dead brother’s blood from his shirt. Part of his soul washes away too.
  • A dying cop, (played by Sean Connery) grabs Elliot Ness by the shirt and says, “What are you prepared to do?”
  • Harry Potter walks into Hogwarts for the first time.
  • Davy Jones asks, “Do you fear death?”

Maybe you prefer a different story structure. Your cards might say:

  1. Put the character up a tree.
  2. Throw rocks at him.
  3. Get the character out of the tree.
Maybe your cards follow the Pixar method:

1.) Once Upon a Time __________

2.) And every day ______________

3.) Until one day _______________

4.) And because of this __________

5.) And because of this __________

6.) Until finally _________________

7.) And ever since that day _______

I like three act structure. I make extra cards to go between the important parts. I might have seven cards in Act One, but the first one starts me off. I don’t make the cards in order either. I may have two cards for Act Three while I’m working on Act one.

I move the cards around. Sometimes they just fit the story better in another place. I don’t have to scratch out my notes and try again. I just drag the card to a new location. Sometimes I drag it back.

Early in the game, my cards are only a word or two. I go back and add info as it occurs to me.

I’m about to start outlining four potential stories. I’m going to add a card here and there until one of them demands to be written.

Tomorrow is all about the cool things you can do with a storyboard, beyond index cards.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Four here.

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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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One of those days.

It's my son and daughter-in-law's anniversary today. Regular readers know what this means for grandma and grandpa.

I never got any writing done at all. I work ten hour days, and wound up tired at the end of the week. I slept in – it happens.

We wound up taking the kids to the Boise zoo. I really didn't want to bring them home, but Grandma didn't think the zoo would keep them. (But honey, we'll never know if we don't ask?)

Our zoo is very good for its size. They don't have any mega fauna, or apes larger than gibbons. They do a good job with what they have. I always enjoy it, and may go back alone one day.

When you take little kids it's fun, but a different kind of fun. They need to hit every snack bar, and all the playground equipment.

The littlest one had to climb on every bridge, fence, or landscape rock they placed. For a while our stroll involved take three steps, the little one fell off something. Cry and scream, dust off, three more steps and repeat. Still, we forged along.

My favorites are always the Siberian tigers. These days they are Amur tigers. I have no idea why, but same thing. They didn't cooperate today. Only one was out, and she soaked up the sun at the far side of her enclosure.

The lions were much more accommodating.

I still have that young couple in Africa in mind. They are great characters in search of a plot. It has to be one of my kind of plots, but I'm still thinking of them. Maybe I should create an outline and see where it takes me.

I'm sorely tempted to take my iPad to the zoo early and have this old gal help me outline it. It was late afternoon, and something tells me she's a morning person.

 

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The writing vacation

I just stopped writing for the day. At least on the novel, I did. I may return to my short story later on. I’ve been off since last Saturday, using my vacation time to write. During that time, I worked on the novel and wrote some short stories.

I also updated this blog every day, and that’s unusual for me. I usually take Tuesdays and Thursdays off when it comes to blogging.

I wasn’t a complete shut in. I managed to go out with Old What’s Her Face* a couple of times. We even bought a new lawnmower. (She had to take selfies with it to send to family members.) I went fishing with my son and his family. Tomorrow everyone is coming over for Easter dinner.

II managed to watch the last three innings of a Diamonbacks/White Socks spring training game. It was a big win for Arizona, but if that’s an indication of their pitching staff it’s going to be a long year.

I always feel inadequate about my efforts. Maybe if I’d forced things it would be different. I wanted to finish my novel, but fell far short. The rough tally looks like I added about 9000 new words in the whole time I was off.

Those of you who get your thousand words per day can say “neener neener” at this time. I feel bad about it. I am the guy who put down ten thousand word in one day. This was writing The Cock of the South. I had a much tighter outline, but the genre also helped. Fantasy requires plenty of research, but The Playground is in a real world setting. I’ve spent plenty of time on Google maps, even going so far as looking up the menus of restaurants in the right areas.

The Playground starts in a fake city similar to St. Louis. That part flowed well, because I made up the locations as I needed them. Then it moved to actual New Orleans, and that required more research. Thank God they’ll be moving back soon.

I suppose I could do more of this research up front and add it to my outline. It really doesn’t work that way for me though. My outlines are more like mile markers, and I like it that way. If I need to get from one to two, how I do it is still by the seat of my pants. Once it’s right, I’ll aim toward marker number three.

Still, I figured out the minutia of how whole thing is going to go down and moved the characters into position. I returned to my victim, and spent a considerable amount of time detailing her new problems. Today my heroine and anti-hero are within two blocks of each other. The maguffin is there too. Shit’s about to hit the fan.

I’m at a point where I need time to think. My mind dwells on the order of all the little things I want to happen, and I will figure it out. There are distractions too. These come from my own mind, and sometimes I need to make notes for future stories. It’s that open mind part of the game, that allows other things inside too.

I kind of want it all to go down during a hurricane. Why give my characters a few problems to deal with when they could have ten? I won’t, because the time of year is wrong, but it would be cool.

All in all, it wasn’t a great writing vacation from a volume standpoint. The stuff I got down was pretty good though. I’m only focusing on the novel here, there were many more words if I look at it that way.

I’m half way through my critique work, and will finish that sometime today. I’ll be ready for the group come Thursday. Tomorrow may offer some time too. Maybe I’ll consult with Lorelei** about my next steps.

* Not my wife’s given name.

* Lorelei is my Muse.

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