Tag Archives: storyboard

Technological nightmares and extra work

I’ve been working on my storyboards in drips and drabs. Right now I have six in various stages of completion, and some are nearly complete.

There are two stand alone novels, the finale of the Lanternfish trilogy, and three future stories for Lizzie and the hat. I was feeling pretty good about the process. That’s when everything started failing.

The app I’ve been using is called Pinnic. It randomly erased one of my ledger cards. I tried opening and closing, even a reboot. That’s when I discovered another board had the same thing happen to it. Then it started throwing out a random index card that could not be edited or deleted. It also covered another card I would really like to read.

What happens is these developers stop updating their apps. It’s happened before. I used to use an app I really liked, but the developers stopped updating and eventually it became unusable. This one was so long ago that I don’t even remember its name. That’s when I switched to Corkulous Pro.

Corkulous Pro also went the way of the dinosaurs and I downloaded Pinnic. They haven’t had an update for a long time, but Apple has had many. You can see where this is going.

Lo and behold, a new developer bought Corkulous Pro about a year ago and resurrected it. It became a subscription based app. It’s like $1.99 per month, but half that for a year at a time. In theory, this is to allow them to keep it updated and trot out some new features on occasion.

Oddly enough, they refuse to tell you what the subscription fee will be in the App Store. I would kind of like that data prior to committing and it seems like the ethical thing to do. I even tried googling it to no avail.

Ultimately, I decided to download the free app and hoped to learn what the fee was. This worked, but I thought it might just be a blank check of some kind.

Something is lost and hopefully something is gained. I had a bunch of old storyboards on Pinnic that will be abandoned. I really don’t need them for books that have been published, but things like Yak Guy, Serang, and Grinders were in there. I see no reason to recreate them now.

I spent part of last night and all of this morning recreating the next six storyboards by hand in Corkulous. The split-screen feature in my iPad helped, but I was using two different apps with different controlling actions to accomplish that. There were many times I used action A on app B and it slowed down the process.

None of this involved a drag & drop, or a copy & paste, because they are different apps. It involved retyping everything I had.

I always got along well with Corkulous. There were features in other apps that it does not have. It has features the others don’t. Honestly, I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Give me some index cards, a few sticky notes, and I’m golden. It will allow me to attach images and I like to do that on occasion. My old images were sacrificed, but I may spend some time dropping a few into the new boards.

The downside is losing the time. I was supposed to be reading the next Lanternfish on an editing pass. I still haven’t started that task. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.

On the plus side, I have six storyboards that are pretty close to ready. I may have an app they will keep updated to the new operating systems. Does anyone else have problems like this, or am I the only one who uses apps when I create things?

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Still on break

In some ways, I don’t know what to do with myself, but I’m falling into the routine a little more each weekend. I have two of three critiques back for the ending of The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. Once the last one arrives I’ll address those.

After the critiques, it will be time to read HMS Lanternfish. I haven’t looked at it for a month, so there are bound to be things to repair. I can also do my word searches for corrections that I always seem to need.

After Lorelei the Muse visited, my head is full of ideas, but they aren’t immediately helpful. I’m really excited about The Hat books five and six. However, it’s book four I need to storyboard properly. I know that story, but it needs more structure than the others. It’s going to involve an event that will shape the future of these stories. It needs to have an emotional tug to it. That might sound funny for a series that’s dedicated to dark and snarky humor, but it works within the framework I’ve established.

I also added some fun ideas to a couple of storyboards for some stand alone novels I want to write. There is also an outer space related story bouncing around in my head, but it hasn’t earned a storyboard yet. Muses are great, but more pertinent help would have been better.

If nothing else, once I figure out the issues with my next two books, Lanternfish and Hat #4, I will be ready to scream along on future tales.

In other news, I worked on one of my cowboy hats a bit. Long term readers might remember when Old What’s Her Face and I went to Jackson Hole. There used to be a wonderful hat shop there, and I bought a nice beaver hat. I posted about cutting the brim down, steaming & shaping the brim and crown. Then I used a stitch puller to remove the hatband.

After that, I had my brother make me a copper hatband. This has worked well for years, and it’s my go-to outdoors hat. The band is held on by friction, but it will come off when doing some hat related chores, like fanning the campfire to get it going.

Today, I took some tin snips and some copper pipe and made a couple of staples. It took some effort to get them placed and puncture the hat body, but I don’t think my hatband will be coming off any time soon. Oddly enough, closing the stables was the hardest part. Not a lot of room to swing a hammer inside the crown of a hat.

I’m sure the staple will age and patina to catch up with the rest of the copper eventually.

I also broke down and ordered a new hat. I doubt the cowboy hat will be retired, but I wanted a campaign hat. This will be the third one I’ve owned over the years. The first one was cheap wool, and wore out back in my survey days. I allowed a bar tender to hang it on the wall in a tiny little place called Midas, Nevada. (Hope it’s still there.) The second one got borrowed by one of my son’s friends when they were in high school. They were a bunch of druggies, and once he gave it back I threw it away. Lice happen and I wasn’t about to take a chance.

This campaign hat is slouch style, and made of much better rabbit fur. It will come with the cavalry style acorn band, but I got the officer’s version with gold and black since it was an option. (I already have a hat with gold acorns.)

Years ago, in my part of the world, cowboy hats were everywhere. I’d kind of like to pick up a decent used one to experiment on. I can’t believe how difficult and expensive that process has become. I used to see such things at yard sales, but no more. I’ve learned how to sterilize and clean them up, and have a couple of experiments I’d like to try.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

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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Make a plan, work the plan

This post poses a conundrum for me, because it could fit into Story Empire, too. It winds up here, because it’s partially about my vacation plans. This one is another stay-cation for me. I want to write and just get some down time.

I’ve gotten to a place in writing where I can get a lot done, and there are a few tricks involved. These take time to farm, but harvesting them really speeds things up. First, I have about six storyboards going at all times. This doesn’t leave me pondering what I might write next. This is a common problem among fiction writers. Think of this like a farm, because it’s a long term project. Some boards are complete, others are partially complete, and some are just a collection of loose notes on index cards. Whenever a decent idea hits me, I make an index card and add it to the appropriate board. (Or start a new one.) Today, when I finish one project, I can dive right into the next one.

Next is my Pinterest app. I don’t know too many authors who use Pinterest, because all of the focus is on promotion. I don’t tend to use it like that. I have character boards, setting boards, and more specific ones like Pirates, or The Hat. When I surf through them, I get a lot of inspiration for my stories. It’s nice to refer to when describing a visual aspect of a tale.

Third is my new concept of more than one story at a time. I’m learning that it’s possible, and super productive. My current theory is to make them very different stories. Character traits don’t seem to bleed over this way, and character arcs don’t get muddled because the stories are so different.

My vacation starts tomorrow, and won’t return me to the office until next Thursday. Now I need some kind of plan.

  • I need to cut down a significant portion of my peach tree. This isn’t productive on the writing front, but works well on the staying married front.
  • Hauling the tree residue away has to be part of this mix, and is a chore in itself.
  • I need to buy and read one book. This one is a short read, and ought to work well for me. Then there are reviews to post on multiple fronts, too. Copy and paste helps here.
  • HMS Lanternfish hasn’t even set sail yet. It’s time to stock her with pirates and supplies, then hit the open sea. I’d love to get 30,000 words down, but 20K might be more realistic.
  • I need to get some blog posts written for The Viral Blues. It will be release time before I know it, and I want to be ready. Might hit up some of my favorite hosts to check their availability during my break, too.
  • There is a loose plan for some group promo at Story Empire. I need to dedicate some thought to that, and see what kind of posts I might need.
  • I have the formatted manuscript for Viral Blues in hand. I need to check it on every program I have. Stories about Lizzie and the hat have a few silly graphics as part of the shtick. These can be a nightmare formatting wise. Again, I want to be ready. I won’t know for sure until I push it through Amazon’s machinery, but any errors I can identify now will make that part easier.
  • Blurb writing. (La la la. I can’t hear you.)

I’m probably leaving stuff out, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I’m hoping to take full advantage of the Halloween season for Viral Blues. I’m still waiting on a couple of Lisa Burton promo posters, and should have the last ones in time. This means the easy link for The Yak Guy Project will be replaced by one for Viral Blues. If you haven’t read Yak Guy, all you have to do is click that cover image in the sidebar. He’ll live forever on Amazon, but you’ll have to go looking for him.

I’m still considering a pre-release for Viral Blues. My results with these have been mixed. What is the current consensus with you guys? Do pre-release books gain your attention, or just annoy you?

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Filed under Blogging, Writing

Pretty good flex day

This is my last flex day of 2018. On holidays, we work eight hour days, because so many people want time off. I only have Christmas Day off next week, and New Year’s Day off the next one.

I wanted to accomplish some things today, and feel like I’ve done that. I started off by opening a can of chicory coffee and making some. It’s kind of a treat, and not what I usually buy. I like to get a small can once in a while, like today.

Social media is always my first stop, so I worked through email and such. Then I turned my attention to some critiques I received. Working through this section a couple of times served the same purpose as reading my last chapter, so I figured to give it a go.

I wound up with 2600 words, and that makes for a nice day for me. My characters, argued, chased two different kinds of monsters around, and shot the crap out of things. I think they had fun too.

Confession time here. I don’t have a detailed storyboard for this one, and I’m struggling with word count again. I may have to give up some writing time, and make a board for the portions that are left. This one is extremely character driven, so the plot doesn’t have to be quite as heavy. I still need one though, and the characters ought to be moving it along.

Second confession time. I’m writing two books at once. This is almost always a problem, but I’m doing it again anyway.

Then I turned my attention to Lisa Burton Radio. I have tomorrow’s post all written and scheduled. It promises to be a fun one, so make sure you swing through.

I still have another one to prepare the shtick for, but I normally wouldn’t do that until Saturday. I might still do it this afternoon.

Other duties include the Christmas Eve post at Story Empire. I still have no idea what I’m going to do there, but I’ll come up with something. It probably isn’t the best day to conclude the mini-series about writing small, then medium, then large.

I also think next week might not be the best week to force upon one of Lisa’s guests. I may write something up for myself just to fill the slot.

If I don’t do anything else today, it was a good day. I may just play with the dogs and hang out. Or storyboard. I should be storyboarding.

This is squirrel patrol in the big chair with me. Note Otto’s open and alert eye as he scans the back fence. He couldn’t catch one in a million years, but he enjoys the chase.

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Productive, in its own way

I had today off as a holiday. I’m looking forward to the eight hour shifts next week, as opposed to tens.

My plan was to deal with a bunch of author chores that didn’t involve new fiction. I was moderately successful, if not completely.

There were some blog chores. I traded pages with a few other authors. I got one shtick out the door for an interview, plus I sent an additional questionnaire out.

I finally took the time to work through my own critiqued pages, and that was wonderful. I haven’t had a critique group for a while, and it’s nice to get back to it. These small changes led me to add a couple of lines that really improved my story.

Beyond that, I did a bunch of research on infectious diseases, as one does. I swear, if anyone ever looks at my browsing history I’m in big trouble.

I wanted to at least start on another complete read of Lanternfish. I made some changes and need to re-read it to look at the big picture.

I also wanted to work on a couple of storyboards, but that fell by the wayside.

October is going to be a busy month for me, so these chores may get finished in bits and pieces.

I hope everyone had a nice weekend, and a happy Columbus Day if you got the day off too.

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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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Feeling pretty good about today

This will be another one of my rambling productivity posts. I'll try to ask a question or two to get the comments going. Today was only a flex day, but I feel like I had enough productivity to call it a weekend.

I started out by clearing a couple of tasks before bed last night. I also unwrapped a tea pellet to try it after it aired out for a bit. The tea today was awesome, and I skipped coffee entirely. The fishy taste is completely gone.

My main goal was to work on a beta reading project, and I moved that ahead substantially. If you've never done it, it's different than pleasure reading. I'm expected to deliver some comments and suggestions at the end. Because my memory goes everywhere, I started a document right away. I chose to do a chapter by chapter breakdown. This requires a certain amount of going back and forth. Great progress, fun story.

I took a few social media breaks, as one does. After I felt like I accomplished something, I returned to my outline.

I'm pretty excited about this story. I'm forcing myself not to start writing until I finish a couple of things up. The outline is finished enough to start writing now. I went ahead and added some photographs and reminders to the cork board, but it's ready.

I'll start the other one, and keep working on one for a novel as winter winds down. Which brings me to another point. These two stories are intended to be novella length. I've never really dabbled at that length before.

Some of my short stories may have drifted into novella territory, but realistically, they are short stories. Word counts for the various lengths are all over the place, so I made up my own based upon research, averaging, and what feels appropriate. I have novellas down as being 30,000 to 50,000 words.

So why would I want to create such a monstrosity? Sales dropped off after I stopped my autumn promotions. This is fairly predictable: no promo = no sales. The only things that seem to sell right now are the Experimental Notebooks. There could be all kinds of reasons for this, so let's explore a few.

It's possible that 99¢ books are more attractive to readers. Everyone I've talked to says price doesn't matter if they want to read the book, but my 99¢ books are the ones moving. It's also possible that short fiction is appealing. I love the stuff, because I can read one as I find time. I can make a storybook last for months without losing the plot, because the stories end after a few thousand words. In total honesty, it could also be author friends who want to test drive my writing. It happens, so I'll acknowledge it.

Speaking of the Experimental Notebooks, the first one has been parked at 19 reviews for weeks now. That's such an ugly number. Would anyone like to post a review for the first Experimental Notebook and make it look all pretty? It has a Lisa Burton story.

Novellas would combine some of my theories. They are shorter, and can be finished faster. (Reading and writing, now that I think about it.) They can also be 99¢ books. There is a possibility they could be attractive. That's why I'm planning this all out. Let's face it, self publishing gave short stories a new life, why not novellas? What do you guys think?

If it all works out, I'll go back and forth between two novellas for my summer writing projects. In a perfect world, my novel outline would be ready to start in the fall of 2017.

I'm pretty happy today. It wasn't a bunch of things, but it was bigger progress on a couple of things.

This weekend will be dedicated to The Yak Guy and The Enhanced League, but my slate is fairly clean. We're also taking the grandkids to see Sue the T-Rex at the Discovery Center. (Don't kid yourselves, I want to see it too.) Beyond writing, meaning when my brain says stop, I'll get back to my beta reading.

So how about it? What do you think about novellas? Have you ever been a beta reader? Have you seen Sue the T-Rex? Do you use a storyboard for outlining, or shun outlining all together?

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Productive Holiday

I headed for the writing cabin about 6:30 this morning. It was clear and cold, and apparently determined to stay that way. (Our high temperature today was a blistering nine degrees.)

Lisa* knew I was coming. (She monitors my phone and gyrocopter.) When I walked into the writing cabin, the fireplaces were pushing heat, and the coffee was hot. “What's the plan today, boss?”

“The Yak Guy. We're getting close to the end, and I want to keep making progress. Is the yak still in the basement stable?”

“Sure is.”

I turned toward the staircase, and Lisa stopped me. “Wait. Give him his carrot. I picked up a bunch, and give him one every day.”

“Won't Bunny get jealous?”

“Oh no. He gets some too.”

I grabbed the carrot by the leaves, scooped up some hot coffee, and headed downstairs.

The yak stood in his stall, but the gate was open. “Hey, brought you a carrot.”

“Thanks, but I don't care for them that much,” the yak said.

I glanced back over my shoulder. “You're going to have to eat it. Lisa thinks she's doing something wonderful for you.”

“Fine, but I've had to eat a lot of carrots in the last six months. I don't want to let out my saddle.” He accepted the carrot and started munching.

“I'm heading for the Wheel of Fortune part of the story. Is the Yak Guy ready for it?”

“He isn't too bright, but he seems to be ready when the next event comes along. All you can do is try. I don't know how he's going to react to a decision he has to make with imperfect information. He always wants to know all the answers ahead of time.”

“Don't we all. It seems more prevalent with Yak Guy's generation though. I have a hunch, he'll deal with it if I don't give him any choice.”

“You can always have me gore him in the butt again.”

“Heh, that was fun, but I don't know if we can do it again without it seeming forced.”

“I understand, but there are days I'd like to.”

“Alright, buddy, get your saddle on and I'll have Yak Guy meet you in the meadow.”

I tromped upstairs to my office and kicked Yak Guy off the couch. “Time to get to work.” He begrudgingly left, and headed outside.

Words flowed well, and the Wheel Of Fortune lesson is over. All I have to do is rescue some kids, then find some refugees, and reunite him with the love of his life. I think it's going to hit 80,000 words, and if not I'll have to enhance a couple of places. I have a hard time calling it a novel if I don't get the word count.

The yak led his human into the basement and got him all settled. Lisa asked if that was it for the day.

“I think I can manage a bit more, to be honest. I'm going to try a baseball story.”

“Oh, crap, I never called any of them.”

“No problem, this story is about a barbecue on a day when the players are off. I'm going to explore their feelings about being placed on waivers, and who their competitors are for post-season slots. We'll write it, and interview them all later to make it feel right.”

“Too bad, I would have enjoyed a barbecue and a dinner party. I have this cute little black–“

“Nevermind, let's just write it. Maybe you can put an old game on TV for some atmosphere.”

“Oh sure, no problem.”

That seemed to get Lisa focused, and I cranked out a 1000 word micro-story. I'm enjoying these tales, but I don't know how the world will receive them at large. There are a bunch of stories, and a few recurring characters. It tells the story of a mythical season, but delves behind the scenes and covers a lot of activities off the field too. In a way, it has some similarities to The Playground in the way I'm relaying it. Because there is an overarching story, I can't do the twist endings my short stories are known for. There are some, but not with the frequency an Experimental Notebook would have.

I leaned back in my chair and took a sip of my coffee. “Let's make a couple of storyboards.”

“Are you serious? I didn't thaw out the left side of your brain. I might be able to, but don't want to scorch it again.”

“Don't worry about him. We'll just pin some cards up, and we can make them perfect later on.”

Lisa headed for the basement, and returned with two storyboards, a pile of index cards, some sticky notes, and all the colored pens you could want. What can I say, the girl likes making storyboards.

We made one for a science fiction tale I'm calling Estivation. This is like hybernation, but occurs when things get too hot. It involves a cute young couple who have to spend three months in a survival bunker while a parasite sun passes by their planet. I invented the term parasite sun for a gas giant planet that manages to ignite somehow. When things line up, their own sun plus the parasite sun, makes the surface deadly.

Their bunker is already occupied by a thief, and they all get locked in together. Happiness and merriment ensue. (Not really) They don't have enough food to last three months now. Throwing the bad guy out will expose them all to deadly radiation.

Lisa put that board aside, and we made one for a project called The Hat. This involves a hard working girl, who missed out on the family decision about what to do with grandma's personal possessions. She had to pull an extra shift and missed the meeting by a couple of hours. When she gets to granny's junk shop, her evil uncle decided to sell everything. All the heronine wanted was one of grandma's house plants, but even this was denied her.

When evil uncle's back is turned, she grabs a box and takes it home. Inside the box is an old fedora hat. It wasn't even grandma's, it belonged to the grandfather she never knew. Turns out the hat talks and forms a kind of symbiotic relationship with the wearer. This one is going to become a kind of paranormal superhero type story.

When wearing the hat, my heroine can see through his eyes too. They can communicate without vocalizing their words. She can see behind her, or wherever he is looking. She can also shoot guns while using his vision, while her own vision aims a different direction. On top of that, The Hat, plays an upright bass. She needs to wear him, and he uses her fingers and hands. This part is going to be great for character purposes.

I think my main plot problem is going to involve baby snatchers, and I've decided to include an unhelpful witch in the supporting staff.

The Hat is going to be more of a buddy tale, with my heroine and the hat making up the buddies. They're going to bicker and (hopefully) grow during the tale.

Lisa said, “So The Hat can be any kind of hat she wants, as long as it's a hat? Is that what's going on?”

“Yeah, basically. She can be seen in one thing, round the corner, and it's something else completely. Maybe headphones or something. Might make a reasonable way to avoid the cops.”

“This is so exciting, I'm going to order a small mountain of hats.”

“You party on, Lisa.”

And that's where I called it a day.

*Lisa Burton is my robotic personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories.

If any of you are that interested, you can check out pin boards for The Hat, and Estivation on my Pinterest site.

 

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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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