Archive for the “writing” Category
Good morning everyone! Here’s a post to continue my last one about Writing About Writing. This time, we’ll be talking about outlining.
There are a bunch of different ways to go about doing this. I’ve experimented with quite a few of them. Here are a couple of methods that I’ve tried:
No Outline: Also known as “pantsing”, aka, you’re “flying by the seat of your pants”. This is the classic NaNoWriMo scenario: you have, at most, a vague idea of what you want to write about and you’re making it up as you go along. I wrote “Windshifter” this way. The upside was that I got very, very emotionally invested in my story because it was so raw and new to me. The downside is that the flow wasn’t very natural, and as such, editing took forever.
No, really... FOREVER.
A Big Ol’ Paragraph: Most of the plot for “Cricket Song”, the book I am currently editing, came to me in a dream. I woke up, stumbled over to the computer, and pounded a long, rambly synopsis out into a text file. The final first draft followed this text file very closely (although not exactly.) Pros include a largely very tight and cohesive story which won’t require quite as much editing as a “pantsed” draft. Cons include losing that exciting feeling of throwing yourself into the unknown, and also the fact that you still might get stuck at a few points where you haven’t elaborated in your synopsis.
Chapter by Chapter: “Windshifter” actually isn’t my first novel. I wrote three or four of them when I was in high school. Writing a chapter-by-chapter outline was my modus operandi back then, and I’ve gotta say, it worked pretty well. Basically I decided in advance how many chapters I wanted my novel to be (say twenty), then I looked at what my page limit was (back then I was writing by hand in notebooks, so a 240 page notebook would turn into a 240-page book), and then I divided the number of pages by the number of chapters and gave myself that amount of pages, plus or minus a few, to write a chapter. I gave each chapter its own synopsis, so each one became its own little self-contained unit. Pros included a very tight outline and never having to worry about what, exactly, I was writing next. Cons included the fact that sometimes sections of the plot would just drag on forever because I wanted to fill my chapter up.
FUN FACT: Two of my novels back then were about my toys coming to life and declaring war on each other. No, really.
Using Tools: Lots of people use writing software to organize their thoughts and book ideas. Scriviner is a popular and widely lauded example; it comes with all sorts of neat tools to help you organize in the way you feel most comfortable with. It does cost money, though. I’m cheap and, in the past, have used a free software product called Kabikaboo, which doesn’t have half the options of something like Scriviner but allows you to make a “tree”-like outline, of sorts, which you can branch off into other thoughts. The pros to using these products are that they’re often very, very helpful for helping you get organized and keep things together. The cons are that sometimes you need to “re-wire” yourself for using these instead of just going the traditional route, which involves a bunch of text files in a folder. Still, a great many writers swear by these once they get them all figured out.
Outlining is one of those things that you should experiment with and figure out which option works the best for you. Hopefully, by giving you a few examples of methods I’ve tried in the past, you’ll be able to try some of these out for yourself and find out what you like.
Next time we launch into the actual writing process itself!
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Hi everyone! Pike here. I’ve decided to try something; specifically, I would like to write a series about my own adventures in writing, editing, and self-publishing. I know a lot of people out there are interested in this process and I thought some of my own thoughts on it might be helpful and/or interesting to people. So here we go!
So you want to write a book
Congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will probably take years (and I know what you’re thinking, which is that you can do it faster. Well– we’ll see when you get there ;3 ), and which will teach you much about yourself. Of course, before you start, you need…
Ideas can come from anywhere and strike at pretty much any time. I’ve had ideas that have turned into full-fledged books while driving, while in the shower, while at work, and even while dreaming. An idea can be very simple. My idea for Windshifter, for example, was “I want to take a bunch of old characters I invented when I was a kid and have fun with a steampunk-inspired fantasy world.”
Good ideas can’t be rushed. You let them come to you.
Now, you can’t write a book on an idea alone. You also need a plot, some concepts, and an emotional hook.
Plot is pretty easy. It’s what your English (or whatever language you speak) teacher taught you back in the day. It’s a few lines describing what happens in your book. What the action is, what the conflict is, and how the characters resolve it.
Concepts are ideas and themes that you want to explore in your book. My Idea for Windshifter was to write a fun steampunky book with airships and clockwork. My Concepts included things like touching on the ideals of open source/free software, and talking about the nature of technology and science and our place in a world where both are more important than ever. Often one of those Concepts will sift away from the others, like gold from sand, and shine and glint more brightly than the others. And suddenly you will realize with a jolt that that particular Concept is your…
Every good story needs an emotional hook. You could have interesting characters, a great plot, and some neat concepts, but if your readers aren’t emotionally invested in your story, then they won’t care. Ideally your emotional hook is something that most (if not all) of your readers will be able to relate to– the characters can relate to it in a specific way, but everyone can feel those feelings.
With “Windshifter”, the emotional hook is loss. Several of the characters have lost something and are dealing with it in different ways. Heck, the dragon race as a whole lost something and is dealing with it in different ways.
I don’t know how it is with other writers, but for me, Emotional Hooks are often the very last thing to come to me when I’m planning a story, and it usually hits me like a lightning bolt triggered by personal experience. I wrote a book a couple years back called “Cricket Song” which I am currently in the process of editing. “Cricket Song” was born from the Idea “I want to explore a story about a girl and her imaginary friend.” This Idea was kicked around in my head for a good few months while I hemmed and hawwed over how to best go about publishing “Windshifter”, and I was really starting to feel rather overwhelmed with this, and it was in the midst of it all that the Emotional Hook of “Cricket Song” came clear: “What it means to do what you’re good at when everyone else is good at it too.” And suddenly, just like that, I had a story.
A quick note on characters: You’ll notice I don’t have a specific spot on the list for characters. Personally I think that characters are “born” from things like plot and concepts and emotional hooks. Or maybe you’ve just had a character in your head for a while. Who knows! But I tend to come up with them at the same time as I’m coming up with the other story elements.
How it all gels together
When I was in film school, one of the professors’ favorite examples for, well… pretty much anything was Finding Nemo, because it’s such a solid film and because Pixar is a storytelling genius.
With the disclaimer that I don’t know exactly how Pixar cooked up this film intact, let me tell you how it would have gone if I’d made it:
Idea: I want to make a story about fish and sea creatures lost in a big ocean.
Plot: A young fish is captured by a diver and put into an aquarium, and his father rushes off to find him. Along the way they meet a lot of interesting characters and learn a lot about themselves and each other.
Concepts: Disabilities, anxiety, family, friendship
Emotional Hook: What it means to “let go” of your comfort zone.
I said earlier that Pixar is a storytelling genius and I meant it. If you watch Finding Nemo you will see just how expertly they weave that Emotional Hook into the fabric of the story, which beautifully peaks as Dory tells Marlin “it’s time to let go!” when they’re stuck inside the whale that swallowed them. It’s subtle, but not too subtle. It’s comforting. It’s emotional and raw. And people love it.
A final word on all of this stuff: Don’t rush it. Let it come to you. You can have a good Idea without an Emotional Hook (or vice versa). You can have Concepts or Plots without a home. Let them all float around in your head, mess with them a little, play with them, put them together and take them apart like legos, and see what you can make. Once you find something you think you can make into a book, it’s time to jump into the next step… which we’ll talk about next time!
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Been wanting to read my book “Windshifter” and not wanting (or able) to read it on your computer or an ebook device? Well fret not! Your problem is now solved: You can order a high-quality, 6″x9″, 338 page paperback version for $12.99 USD!
You can buy it now from either Amazon or CreateSpace.
CreateSpace will net me more royalties but please order through the website that you prefer to use.
If you like the book, please tell your friends and family about it and review it either on Amazon or on GoodReads. That would mean the world to me!
Help me sell 100 copies, guys!
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Exactly two years ago to the day, I sat down and decided, spur of the moment, to participate in NaNoWriMo and started making up a story on the spot.
After no less than nine drafts and several false starts, that book is now ready to go!
To read the prologue for free, click HERE.
For FAQs and a briefing about the book, click HERE.
- Amazon (Kindle): US, UK, DE, FR
- Barnes and Noble (Nook): Here
- Lulu (ePub): Here
- Lulu (PDF): Here – Note that the Lulu versions are $1.99 because I was having problems getting it to accept $0.99. I apologize for any inconvenience!
A print-on-demand version is being looked into and will be announced as soon as I can.
Other versions (PDF, etc.) will be looked into if there is enough demand.
Oh, and I have also been added to GoodReads!
What I’m Looking For Now… If you read the book and enjoy it, please tell your friends or (honestly) review it! Lend it to people– all versions of the book are DRM-free so you should be able to.
This has been a fun little ride and no matter what happens now, I’m happy. This euphoria could last a week and then the book could fade away into obscurity and I’d still be happy, because I accomplished my goal, which was to prove that I could make a book from start to finish. I never went into this with any sort of loftier goal, so yes… no matter what happens, I’m happy.
But I can always dream, of course…
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Hey. Hey guys. That book I’ve been working on for two years now?
Yeah. I think it’s done. FINALLY. I’ve passed it along to my dear boy, Mister Adequate, to give the whole thing a final proofread and then I’m going to e-publish it. And link to it here (and everywhere, I’m sure), of course! So, consider this your official heads-up!
And now to answer some FAQs:
What Is It?: The title of the book is Windshifter. Although I’ve had a couple of the characters and concepts knocking around inside my head for years, 98% of this thing was something I made up on the spot for NaNoWriMo 2009. I surprised myself by turning it into a halfway decent draft, and I’d like to think I’ve carved a nice little story out of it since then. At least, I think it’s nice for a first effort!
What Is It About?: It doesn’t really fall nicely into any set genre. I tend to tell people that it’s a “steampunk-inspired alternate universe” story. I think it also skews a bit “young adult”, although ultimately I wanted to make a story for all ages to enjoy– think Redwall or something. Speaking of Redwall, this is kind of similar. There are a lot of fuzzy creatures, and a race of people descended from dragons. But they have guns and airships and things. So basically, think steampunk Redwall and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
What Else is it Similar To, Besides Redwall?: I had test readers compare it to everything from Final Fantasy to The Golden Compass/His Dark Materials to various Disney movies (The Great Mouse Detective, for example), and honestly that’s a good selection of the sort of thing that inspired me. I was going for a fun romp through an unusual new world. I’m glad my beta readers seemed to pick up on that!
When Will It Be Available?: I’m shooting for “by the end of October” but that’s closing in rather fast. Still, I’m really hoping this will be ready within a few weeks.
How/Where Will It Be Available?: I’m thinking I’ll start with Amazon (Kindle), B&N PubIt (Nook), and also through myself as a pure PDF file. If there is enough interest in other outlets or in a physical copy (via Lulu or something) then it’s something I’ll definitely look into right away.
How Much Will It Cost?: Probably $0.99.
That’s It? Don’t You Think Your Writing is Worth More?: Trust me when I say that this is something I’ve been looking into for months, and I’ve read all sorts of very long and thorough arguments both for and against the 99-cent price point, and after studying all of that I find myself leaning “for” it. I might change my mind if I see something very convincing in the next week or two but it’s still going to be very cheap. Less than a few bucks. I want everyone to be able to afford my story. If there’s enough demand for it I might set up my PayPal so that you can pay-what-you-want for the PDF. And obviously a physical copy, if I offer one, will cost more.
Why Aren’t You Traditionally Publishing?: Partially because I want to get the story out there faster instead of waiting around for years– I know a lot of you have been really waiting patiently for this. Partially because I like the idea of eBooks and e-publishing. I’ve always had a lot of admiration for, say, indie game devs and I see this as being similar. And partially because I sort of consider this story to be a big warm-up exercise more than anything, so I figure I’ll go ahead and use this as an experiment to see what sort of bites I get.
Okay, I think that about covers it. Any more questions? Just ask! And wish me luck!
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As you may know if you’ve been following me for a while– for months I’ve been sitting on a book, wondering how to go about publishing it. I’ve had a lot of people telling me I should e-publish for various reasons, and then I’ve also had a lot of people telling me that I shouldn’t and that doing so would be shooting myself in the foot. And so, for at least six months now, I’ve been sitting here trying to weigh the pros and cons and decide which option would be the best for me.
Then, two things happened. First, I saw this, and second, I realized that if I continue to sit around trying to decide how to publish it, it’s never going to get published. So, I’ve decided to commit to e-publishing. Here are just a few reasons for my decision:
Rainbow Dash talks almost as much as I do.
Now, I know there are a lot of downsides. Believe me, I know, because I’ve been agonizing over this decision for months. I realize this is a risk I’m taking, a big leap of faith that requires me to be a little brave, a little hopeful, and just a little bit conceited– and that last one there is probably the hardest for me. But if I don’t try, then I’ll never know!
So, that is that. Once I do actually have the thing online, I’ll link to it pretty much everywhere, so I’m sure you’ll see it. It may not be for a few months, because I want to give the manuscript some final edits, but I’m pretty committed to all of this actually happening. We’ll see how it goes, eh?
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Occasionally I get comments or e-mails from people who want to know why this fabled “book” I’ve been talking about for years hasn’t yet materialized. It flatters me that people would actually want to read the book so much that they ask me these sorts of questions, so I feel that an explanation is owed and in order.
Here’s the truth, then: Writing is the easiest part.
Forcing yourself to go back and read through your drivel and edit it is hard.
Deleting or changing scenes or characters that you loved in the name of plot or story flow is hard.
Staying motivated on your project when you’ve got so many other things vying for your attention is hard.
Working on a creative or artistic project when you’re not in the right mood is harder than any non-artist could ever imagine.
Gathering up the courage to talk to an agent is hard.
Heck, thinking about agents is hard because it reminds you how difficult this whole thing is going to be.
Realizing and coming to grips with the fact that thousands or tens of thousands of people out there are just as talented as you are, if not more so, and also trying to do what you are doing, is hard.
Rejection is hard.
Feeling pulled every which way by friends and beta-readers giving you conflicting advice is hard.
Trying not to be scared about making the wrong move in this whole process is hard.
You see, the past couple of years have been a mind-opening experience for me in terms of this whole writing thing. I always used to figure that getting published was easy. You just had to sit down, write your story, toss it at the nearest publisher, and then POOF, you’d be set. In short, I always assumed that writing was the hardest part.
But it’s not.
Getting the story out of my head and onto paper was the easiest part of this journey so far. And, guys, that wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.
So bear with me while I get this all sorted out. You’ll have your book, I promise. Heck, you’ll have more than one. Writing more stories is, after all, the easiest part. So I guess that’s the upside to all of this!
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Wow, I stink at updating this blog, don’t I? I’ll admit, I kind of fell out of it for a couple of weeks. As such, I also owe you all lots of Classic Video Game Mondays. Derp.
Exciting news, though, if you are one of the two people who haven’t heard yet because I’ve posted/shouted this everywhere. A publisher… a real, live publisher… has the manuscript to that novel I wrote a year or so back. Yes, they liked the query letter and synopsis I sent them and now they’re reading my book. It’s got me terrified and it’s giving me the weirdest nightmares about sudden random major errors in my book that I forgot to fix.
ANYWAYS, if everything goes well, they’ll like what they read, and hopefully this will eventually lead to physical copies of this mythical Pike Project that I’ve been dropping hints about for so long.
Oh, and my apologies if this turns into a Writing Blog for a while. I was attempting to dump all of my Writing Rambles in one spot, namely another blog that no one reads– which is fine, since a lot of my rambling is for my own benefit more than anything– but sometimes I get that itching for feedback, so you might see some stuff here, as well.
TODAY’S WRITING RAMBLE: Writing down a story is like pulling a tooth. It just sits there and bothers you until you go through the painful process of pulling it out, which sucks, but then it feels a lot better when it’s out.
(“Weird Metaphors” is my middle name.)
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You know, when I was in film school, it was all about being super deep. Everyone worshipped “Memento” and “Fight Club”. David Lynch was viewed as some sort of deity.
But you know what, there’s a reason why “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie of all time. And it’s not just because of 3D or because James Cameron has more money than God.
No, it’s because he took a bunch of familiar character tropes, mixed them up in a blender with “Dances With Wolves”, made a very tantalizing dish out of it and served it to an audience hungry for exactly that sort of thing.
…why is that bad?
Hint: it’s not.
We live in a world where there is much emphasis on absolute originality in creative pursuits. If you make a story and some character or plotline has already been done, everyone sees it as some sort of grave unfortunate error. But the truth is that that’s how stories work.
As a storyteller my job is first to entertain you and secondly to hopefully teach you something. Both of these things are best done by allegories, fables, and parables. By the familiar hero that is almost like us, if maybe we were just a little more brave. By the familiar character arc that is almost like our own, if we had been born a little different. In that world that is almost like our own, if you hold a funhouse mirror up to it. That’s where you make emotional connections and that’s where you tell the best stories.
Yesterday I watched “Elf“. It was completely unoriginal. But it was thoroughly entertaining, it made me laugh, the ending made me go “awww”, and I loved every minute of it. That’s what movies and stories are supposed to do.
Guys, if you’re a writer or a dreamer or an artist or what-have-you, and your goal isn’t to make the next “Ulysses” but to make the next “Warcraft: The Last Guardian”, then stand up and be proud. Who cares if you’re not super hardcore or deep? Who cares that students won’t have to BS their way through long papers about your work sometime in the far future? You made someone’s day a little better.
I would rather make the next “Elf” than the next “Apocalypse Now”. And I’m not afraid to admit it.
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Posted by Pike in writing, tags: writing
Dear NaNo Graph,
I hate you for sucking up all my free time.
For tying me to the shackles of an enticing statistic. “Your daily wordcount average is dropping! OMG, get your butt over here and write before it’s TOO LATE.”
For making me write piles of crap when I couldn’t think of anything else to write.
For making me look at my story that I loved at the beginning of the month and hate it for all its flaws. …well, okay, dislike it. Dislike myself for coming up with it and for not being prepared to fix the flaws and for putting my characters into such a trainwreck.
For making me keep writing anyway when I wanted to stop and do something else,
for forcing me to solve problems,
and making sure I didn’t quit because then how embarrassing would the graph look?
And that, NaNo Graph…
…that is why I love you.
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