June 30, 2009

How I Created A Much Better Villain

I made up all my lost words yesterday, and though I'm a day behind schedule, I must say I’m very pleased. The conflict is much tighter and my villain's motivation is much clearer.

This guy is more sympathetic, and yet more abominable than he could have been if I had done it the way I had planned. There’s a lot more tension, too.

Rachel’s doing some crazy stuff to protect the people she loves, which will help me with my ending. Her main concern is Nathan at this point, but we’ve seen that she cares deeply for her mother's safety (and her mom’s boyfriend) as well. She’s not always acting logically, but she’s acting valiantly and is learning from her mistakes.

This is very exciting. I can’t wait to see the finished product!

Side Note: I once asked 'What makes a Villain a Villain?'. My favorite answer came from Raquelle who said: "the best villain is one who convinces others that he is no villain at all."

June 29, 2009

Pay Attention to ALL Your Characters

I just deleted over 2,000 words. Why would I do this when I’m having trouble getting enough words as it is? Because I messed up. Big time.

You see, when I get started writing, I just go with it. I get in the head of my POV character and I fly. It usually works out. I know the general direction the story needs to take and I have a (albeit vague) idea of what I want to accomplish in each scene (in my defense, I go back and make the scene tighter). My muse likes freedom and when I give it to her, I’m usually rewarded with some neat twists that I hadn't been expecting.

But there are some minuses. Aside from the aforementioned wandering that I sometimes catch myself doing, I don't frequently get in the heads of my other characters. I figure out each character at the beginning--discover their motives, needs, personality--but rarely do I stop and think, "How wil so-in-so react to this?"

And today it cost me 2,000 words and about 2 hours of writing and planning. Maybe more. Chapter 12 has been demolished and I’m having to start from ground zero. All because I didn’t use my villain to his full potential. He was being way too nice, only attacking when convenient and never really threatening anyone, just trying to be scary.

Now, he has an army waiting outside my heroine's home, ready to attack her mom as soon as she steps over the protective threshold of her home. And she won’t even see it coming.

For a brief synopsis, see my earlier post: My Current Project

June 28, 2009

A Problem and a Challenging Solution

Okay, so I've got an interesting problem to deal with. I'm almost done with my first draft. I've got two very short scenes, one really long scene (the final battle!) and then another quick one to wrap it up. Only problem is, this was supposed to be a 60,000-word novel and I'm only at 32k!

A little tip for other writers: filler is bad. I don't want to use filler.

So what do I do?

Fortunately, I've already planned to go back and insert entire chapters from Nathan (my hero's) point of view. This will add depth to my love story, a new voice, maybe a little history (because he is a ghost after all), and we can see the heroine from another perspective.

(I expect the unexpected to happen when I do this. My muse likes the throw some cool stuff on the page when I do stuff like this. )

And then I'll add a romance for poor Lisa, who has desperately wanted a boyfriend since chapter 1.

I'll also rewrite some of my current scenes from his perspective and see which is better. Then, I'll go back to the beginning and add rich detail, a LOT more conflict (I've decided life's been way too easy for Rachel), and a ton of showing (vs. telling).

I should get my words in, but this is going to take a lot of planning.

First of all, when I finish the first draft I'm taking a break! Maybe two weeks. I'll work on my phantom project, maybe catch up on my reading, stuff like that. Then I'll go through what I have and write out what I'm hoping to get out of each scene. What do I want to tell the reader? How do I show it instead? What's the conflict? What could make it worse? How would EACH character (present or not) react? What are my characters seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting, thinking, doing, and saying? What do they want to hide from the other characters? What other motivation might they have?

Yeah, it's a long process, but the product that comes from it is more than worth it!
Then, I read through a hard copy of my book, writing in comments, suggestions, thoughts, and nit-picky edits. THEN I go through a soft copy and actually MAKE all those edits. (By now I'll be exhausted.)

I'd like to get all of this done by October 1st. (I know, good luck, right?) That way I'll have a full month to plan my phantom project in time for NaNoWriMo.

Think I can do it?

We'll see.

By the way, the Writing Tip of the Day is:
Never resist editing, because your writing isn't etched in stone and can always be improved for the reader.

How appropriate.

Another Crash Test!

Another one of my segments made it as a Writer's Crash Test. Here's a link in case you missed the first one. Helpful stuff, though I really got an ear full from other followers about my character's methods.

Holly Lisle and the Case of the Subtle Secret

June 27, 2009

Helpful Software for Writers

Okay, I have scoured the internet and I think I have a pretty good list of helpful software for writers. A special thanks to Sue on the How to Think Sideways message boards. She posted a majority of these links on our writer's forum. (Click to read How Think Sideways has helped me with my writing.)

First, the free stuff:

Bubbl.us web-based mind-mapping software. Good for brainstorming.
Google Notebook - a simple, but effective processor that you can access online and export onto any computer.
Dark Room: much like the mac's White Room, this is a simple processor that eliminates distractions.
Evernote - take a picture of something on your iPhone or Blackberry and sync it with your computer and the web. Pretty cool software.
Journler - journal and organizer (includes audio and video capabilities) (for Mac)

Langmaker - helps with language building (only works on Windows XP or under.)
Lotus Symphony: a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation application.
Page Four - a simple but intuitive word processor. It's like Word, but for writers. Nice little tools and other additions make this worth a look. In my opinion, this is the best out of the free stuff.(for the full version: $34.95, but the free version includes a lot.)
Q10 - saves in a plain text format and comes with a timer. (Windows only)
Rough Draft
Scripped and Zhura - for script writing (This is a link to a blog that talks about it.)

Storybase Online
Write Sparks ($0 - $77)
Write This
yWriter 4
Writer's Café - has multiple tools including plotcards that you can move around. Great organizational tool. Works on Linux, too. ($45.00 for full version)
Writertopia - has Work in Progress meters you can use for blogs and other websites so others can follow your progress (see my widget).

Microsoft Office Suite has a program called OneNote. It isn't free, but you may find that you already have it on your computer. It's quite nice. You can get a 60 day free trial here, or if you're a student or teacher, you can get it at a discount here.
MacJournal may be on your computer right now, if you're a Mac user.

Now the less-than-free-but-good products:

Book Writer 5.01 ($89.95)
Dramatica Pro ($244.00)
Dramatica Writers DreamKit ($49.95)
IdeaWeaver ($49.95)
Jarte Plus ($19.00)
Liquid Story Binder XE - best creative writing software on the market (for Windows). See my post about it here. ($49.95)
New Novelist ($54.99)
Novel Writer ($61.00)
Power Structure ($179.00)
Power Writer ($129.95)

Story Wizard ($54.99)
Storybase Software ($99.00)
StoryView ($179.95)
StoryWeaver ($29.95)
SuperNoteCard ($29.00)
Text Block Author ($49.97)
Typing Chimp's Character Pro ($69.99)
Typing Chimp's Character Writer 2 ($39.99)
Typing Chimp's QuickStory ($49.99)
WriteItNow ($49.95)
Writers Blocks - great for note card plotting, among other things ($149.00)
WriteWay ($79.00)

And of course, Holly has tons of excellent classes, workshops and clinics! See my review of those here.

June 26, 2009

Liquid Story Binder Software Discount

I found out through the Think Sideways forum that Liquid Story Binder is going on sale! Liquid Story Binder Software at 50% Discount will make the difference for me. The discount is only available on Tuesday, though. Otherwise, it's full price at $45-$55.
Liquid Story Binder is software for writers. It's like Scrivener, but can be used on Windows. It has it all--planning tools, story boards, timelines, images, character creating, journals, goal-setting... the list goes on. I decided to download a 30 free trial to see if I liked it. I'd heard it wasn't intuitive, but had everything you could possibly want in writing software. The people I talked to said you just need to get started and you'll discover new tools as you find a need for them.
I did take advantage of the journal. I wrote down some things as I explored:

I’m doodling around, trying to understand LSB. It’s complicated, and not exactly intuitive. I don't like the color scheme but-- wait! I read somewhere that you can change it! Score!
Most of the things I don’t like are minor. I can deal with it. But yeah, it's definitely not intuitive. I hate having to click on everything, although I'll bet there are shortcut keys. I was told this would take some getting used to. I can't expect to understand everything the first day.
I still don’t know if I want to move Shadows to LSB, or just start with planning Phantom. Hmmm... Not sure.
It’s hard to plan out something that’s already planned, but I’ll need to edit. It beats writing it all out on note cards. That would be silly, come to think of it. I’ll probably just start with my second draft.

I just I just discovered the typewriter feature. It's a full screen mode that doesn’t let you erase. This is a great way to do free association! My problem is that my right-brain feels more free when I type, but my left-brain likes to edit and censor.

Okay, I changed the template. Most of the color scheme choices are awful! They’re bright and gaudy and would hurt my eyes if I started at them for too long. The only decent options were Pale Horse, Baltic Sea, and Faded Pastel. I wound up creating my own color scheme which I appropriately titled ‘Rose’. I’m very pleased. It makes me want to write.

So there you have it, my first hour on Liquid Story Binder. I also like that it times your sessions and keeps an automatic word count so you can see how long it takes you to write a thousand words, or meet your goal, or how much time you waste. :)

If you decide purchasing software is not for you, I'll post a list of free software options sometime. But I've tried a bunch and none of them (with the exception of Scrivener) has as many useful features in one place.

June 25, 2009

A Helpful Loss

Well, I didn't win Query Tracker's Elevator Pitch Contest, which is a disappointment BUT I did notice something that may help me. One of the winners wote a pitch for a YA novel about a girl who has a crush on a ghost! It's so similar to mine that I don't feel quite so bad.

I looked at the pitch itself to try to figure out why it had won rather than mine. The thing that hit me the most was the voice. This author, though she used only one or two sentences, sounded like a teenager.

I never realized it before, but I think my word choice and tone are a little mature for Young Adult. My main character in Shadows is pretty mature for a high school senior, come to think of it. I always told myself that she'd have to be if she were facing the things I'm throwing at her!

Still, I may be hurting myself. I think this is something I need to work on.

Too Many Ideas!

I don't recommend juggling more than one project at a time.
My current WIP is Shadow Bound. I'm a little over halfway done with the first draft and hopefully I'll have that done the first week in August.

Then I'll take a few steps back and leave it alone for a couple of weeks so I can come at it fresh. In the meantime, I'll do a lot more planning on my next novel, code named: Phantom. Not a very clever code name, but oh well. This is the project I've been working on in Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways course, since most of the planning for Shadows is already done. (How Think Sideways has helped me.)

So on the days I'm following along in the course and doing my lessons, I don't get much (if any) writing done for Shadows. The problem is, I'm at a point now where I really need to focus on Shadows because I need I nice tight ending. This is the hardest part of writing a first draft for me--keeping all the details and twists in my head while plotting an ending that's both exciting and satisfying. All while maintaining voice and character and grammar and setting...

I should probably set Phantom aside, but these thoughts keep popping into my head: "Ask John about musicals!" and "Ask Jenny about music schools!" and "Ooh, do a dot and line exercise for the hero!" It's like I have a little girl prancing around in a candy shop, trying to sample everything.

Just stop. Breathe. And Focus!

June 14, 2009

Uncharted Territory

I reached the 25k mark in my novel yesterday (happy dance!!), but now I'm a little nervous. I know how the book needs to end. However, I don't have ANY future scenes in my head. I know logically what needs to happen in order to get to point B, but there are so many paths to it and so many stops I have to make along the way.

This is going to take some pondering.

June 12, 2009

Doesn't it feel so good to get things done?

I just plowed through a difficult scene and hit the one-thousand word mark for the day! This is the point where I say, good job Emily! Three of the last four days have earned me this self-appreciation. (The 2000 mark is the kick-butt mark, which I rarely hit.)

This brings my total word count to just over 23,000 or 38% of the projected length of this novel. (I love spreadsheets! I have one that calculates a whole bunch of nombers and updates charts every time I put my current word count in. I'll say it again: I love spreadsheets!) (Said in the voice of Goob from Meet the Robinsons.)

Edit (Saturday, June 13, 2009)
I did it again! Over a thousand words today and they're good!

June 2, 2009

My Opening Scene's Crash Test

Let me briefly get you up to speed, in case you don't religiously follow my posts:
Holly Lisle is an author who has published over 30 novels. She makes a living doing it and she is amazing! She also happens to be a great teacher and devotes her time (in between novel writing) to teaching writers how to be better writers. I've mentioned her Clinics and course How to Think Sideways, but she also does Crash Tests.
A crash test is where she takes a few paragraphs of fiction from one of her students (and there are a TON of us) and she picks them apart piece by piece, showing what's good, what went wrong, and how to fix it. She just posted her fourth crash test AND IT'S MINE!!! Holy cow!

It's very helpful. I knew there were things wrong with it, but didn't know how to fix them. Anyway, here's the link to Holly Lisle and the Case of the Ghostly Girls.
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