Gearing up

Ah, the crisp air, the turning of the leaves – it must be Autumn, which means it must be about time to do some serious #nanowrimo again. Mind you, here in Virginia, the crisp air keeps getting replaced by 70 degree (F) days, but thats a minor point. So before the contest starts this year, I thought I’d try and get some things done to help me when it comes time to put up or shut up. Working on my post #nanowrimo novel this year, The Dreaming Pools, I quickly discovered the advantages of having an outline prepared – in part because when my outline faded out, so did my story, resulting in a mere 70+k story with the inappropriate ending of “Thus ends Book One…” Ouch.

So this year I had a few things I wanted to do ahead of time. I wanted to run through the snowflake method, develop an outline, and prep myself with as much research and tool gathering ahead of time as I could so that I wouldn’t find myself making excuses not to write when November first hit. Alas.

  • Snowflake. I wanted to do this, badly, but every time I sat down to try I realized something: I know my story, but I don’t know the details of it yet. Sure, the snowflake method is intended to help you figure that out, but even so it presupposes a few things, like the notion that you already have established your cast. I haven’t. I still haven’t.
  • Notes. This I did accomplish, more than I would have expected, actually. I have background research, references, and a slew of reminders for when I do start writing to help guide me. Now that sounds a lot like…
  • An Outline. Alas, no outline has yet been produced. Don’t blame me, blame the lack of cohesive software out there! Which is to say I have yet to find a piece of software that lets me do both a linear, old fashioned ordered outline (1, 1a, 2, 2a, 2b, 3, etc), as well as a three dimensional flow chart, all in one pass (and on my non existent budget). “Wait”, you say, “3-D? Whatever in the world for?” Well, let me tell you, the story as it persists in my head is a tapestry of interweaving story threads, most of which converge, if tangentially, to form a complete [space] operatic roller coaster. But a straight linear outline will fail to show the near misses of character paths as they pass each other in the night, affecting each other’s destiny. But having that visually as I plot would be extremely beneficial. I got close using Vue (I’ve tried mindmap, but the whole starting with a central point fails for me), but in the end its been mostly yellow legal pads and pens to get the job done.
  • Ideas. Yes, I have those aplenty. Its true, as I’ve blogged before, I seem to be stuck in the same rut I generated ten years ago, this time for Sci-Fi. I’m hoping that doesn’t hamper me as I strike out using the tools and Universe I’ve (lovingly) developed to weave a new story.

OK, so that covers what I’ve done (or not) so far. What’s to come in the next month?

  • More blogging during #nanowrimo. Before I switched jobs, I was becoming a rabid twitter and blogger. The appeal of twitter has been its ideal for the short posts, something I don’t generally like doing on a blog. If you’re taking the time to read a post, then I want to give you something worth reading. Then I switched jobs and even that stopped happening. Why? Because I’ve been more busy! I’m spending a lot more time working these days (not a bad thing), and have less free to just tweet/blog. But for #nanowrimo this year, I’d like to make it one of my goals to blog – even something short – every day. Sure, you’ll get tired of the updates, just like last year, but for me it will be a spur to have something I have to do each day. You can’t ignore a string of excuses on why you haven’t written this week when they consume the bulk of your blog entries. I think. I hope. Just in case, sorry folks.
  • The shaveless wonder! That’s right, fellow denizens of Earth, at the start of #nanowrimo my face will not receive a single stroke of twin bladed mercy until I finish at least the first 50k goal. Sound odd? Consider, my furry companions, that I can lose up to ten minutes a day just with the act of shaving (as with all things in the morning, I am slow to move). That’s ten minutes that could be generating a hundred words or more towards my goal. Speaking of which…
  • My goal is to write 2500 words a day. I’ll likely miss that mark occasionally, but at 2500 words a day, that means I only have to write for twenty days of the month. That buys me a few days off for random acts of pathogen, life, and other interruptions. As my friend Jamie points out in his HowNotToWrite blog, though, the first 10,000 (I say 20,000) are the easiest to write. You’re full of vigor and Passion, and you have to take muscle relaxers just to keep your fingers from cramping up as the words tumble from your nubile mind to the medium before you. Then the reality of it all sets in, and you find yourself painted into a corner, walled in by a universe of your own creation with no visible path out. You can’t start over, you’ve lost that time already. You despair. You start to procrastinate. So the challenge becomes how to make it past those first 10-20,000 words and keep going.

Now, like any good procrastinator, I distract myself by looking for the “right” tool to use. This year I’ve circumnavigated that death trap by finding the tools ahead of time. My platform this year will be the very stylish MacBook Pro, which thanks to work goes with me both home and to the office. I will be composing in Scrivener, with sidenote and Anxiety to keep me company. I’ve already created a few smart playlists in itunes from my music collection to act as a soundtrack, so I think I’m all set on that front.

Now, I have one last thing to talk about in today’s mammoth post, and that’s my wife. You’ve heard me adore her; you’ve read me extoll her virtues. But have I ever mentioned her understanding, loving, support? Because if not, here you go. Kim is responsible for such great things in our lives like my getting into IT, my continued attempts at writing, and the general euphoric sense that makes me think I have the perfect life these days. More than a spouse, friend, or compatriot, she is The Awesome.

She is also aware that November 1st is fast approaching, and that that means for a month I will be spending a lot of free time writing. It was thanks to Kim’s support that I made it to the end last year, and I just want to go ahead and throw out there a “thank you” now. (cover your eyes kids)Love you, babe(ok, open again).


Ack! I almost forgot to add this when mentioning tools, but check out this blog entry by Tobias Buckell as well as the comments below if you are looking for a nifty Excel sheet prebuilt that you can use for word count tracking. Down in comment numero uno (#1), Natasha Fondren offers another Excel sheet for multibooks that I’m rather smitten with (I honestly never knew Excel could do these kinds of fancy graphs on the fly).

5 thoughts on “Gearing up”

  1. “Alas, no outline has yet been produced. Don’t blame me, blame the lack of cohesive software out there! Which is to say I have yet to find a piece of software that lets me do both a linear, old fashioned ordered outline (1, 1a, 2, 2a, 2b, 3, etc), as well as a three dimensional flow chart, all in one pass (and on my non existent budget). ”

    When you have a budget again, the software that does this is Omni Graffle:

  2. “woof!” on the $100, but you’re right, that’s exactly what I was looking for! Now to stop the griping and long blog posting and do something about it 🙂

  3. PS: Writer’s Cafe isn’t free, but it does allow you to put notecards on different plot lines. Then you can see just the plot line, or you can see it all laid flat in the “Master Storyline.” In addition, it takes that info and makes an outline.

    I’m not sure it’s a good enough outline, though. For free, without quite as much function (but I tweak the colors to make it work), you can also try Super Notecard. 🙂

  4. Unfortunately, Toby hit the nail on the head – omnigraffle does that flow chart to ordered list and back again (and at $100 for outlining software, I would expect no less!). Scrivener does a fair shake at the notecards too, and there is currently a “nanowrimo” edition good through Dec 7 (I think it was the seventh, definitely into December).

    And in the end, I think this falls under procrastination and finding any excuse to be a good excuse not to write. Which may not be too far afield. Hence the rabid attention to nanowrimo, where there’s a hard deadline. Bah

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