April #CampNaNoWinner2017 – Complete! #amwriting 

I did the Thing! That thing I said I’d do!

Three thousand and one minutes of work in April.

So far. And that’s only what I’ve recorded—when I’ve been working on my iPad, and lost track of time, and come out of the 1880 London fog to say, “Oh. Yeah. Gotta record some time…” I’ve been conservative on how much time I’ve spent.

Where am I in the process? I’ve actually started writing draft again after working through Chapter 9 in Story Genius. I’m on the Opening Scene (chapter to me), and am reworking the opening I’d originally written. Next is the “Aha! Moment” and after that I’m grinding through the first draft.

It feels good—it feels like I have direction now, where I didn’t before. I’ll want to refine this process later, but for now I’m happy to be slogging along a path that leads to the book I want to have written.



April #CampNaNoWriMo – Attack of the Block Ness Monster #amwriting

How can something this big sneak up on anyone?

I’ve got my backstory prepped! Yay!

Now I’ve got to actually plot my story. Bummer.

“Scene” cards from Story Genius by Lisa Cron are what I’ll be using—they’ve been a bit difficult to wrap my head around. You see, what Ms. Cron calls a “scene” is what I call a chapter. To me, a scene is a block of action (yes, my screenwriting training shows here) that is continuous both in location and in duration—one “master shot.” In other words, you can set up the cameras and let ’em roll. If you have to move to a different location, change the lighting, change the actors, change the costumes, or change the set decoration—well, that’s a different scene.

The examples that Ms Cron uses, though, are what I call chapters—one or more scene(s) that represent a complete dramatic thought. My chapters are about three thousand to four thousand words long, and can contain anything from one to five scenes, depending on how much action is in.

In other words, I’ve been trying to outline at the scene level all this time, when I really needed to be outlining (or “blueprinting” as Ms. Cron calls it) at the chapter level.

That explains a lot. Aside from the fact that I’ve just been thinking of scenes that might happen without any real way to make them into a coherent chapter, let alone a novel… I was taking my outline way too fine for novel writing. At least, for me.

But I’m working, and that’s the important bit. Back to it…

April #CampNaNoWriMo—Light Dawns Over Marble Head #amwriting

Because I could not stop for the Darewolf, he kindly stopped for me (with apologies to the ghost of Emily Dickinson)

Story saved my life.

I’m in one of those recovery programs—you know the ones: similar to the one in Days of Wine and Roses. And the simple story in every member’s speech—“what we were like, what happened, and what we’re like now”—gave me hope and taught me what I needed to know to trudge that long road back from the brink of death. In the course of that journey I learned to tell my own story in such a way as to fascinate two hundred crazy people for an hour. What I was like, what happened, and what I’m like now.

In that process I learned that if I spent too much time in the “establishing shot” I’d lose my audience. If I spent too much time describing my insanity in full bloom, I’d lose my audience. I needed to allow time to describe exactly what I’d done to recover. And I needed to describe “what I’m like now” so that it clearly showed how what I had achieved was infinitely better than what I’d had before. But that timing didn’t come naturally—I had to learn it. Some recovering folks never do.

OK, then. Silver Dragon’s big astonishing epiphany for today: It works just the same in writing. All this stuff I’m learning in Story Genius and Save the Cat and all the other books I’ve bought is… the same stuff I use to tell my recovery story. Duh.

I just have to apply that to my writing. And all the books about story structure, outlining, beats, Goal and Motivation, etc. ad infinitum—are about how to tell “what my protagonist was like, what happened, and what he’s like now…” in such a way as to keep readers engaged.

Who knew?

April #CampNaNoWriMo—Moving Along

In pursuit of the elusive StorySquatch

I’m beefing up my backstory, based on Lisa Cron’s guidelines in Story Genius. It’s going faster than it was. In particular, I’ve worked out how I want to integrate her story card system into my Scrivener project. Since my project will contain all the episodes of my series, it’s just a bit more complicated than the single-novel example Ms. Cron provides (and more complex than Gwen Hernandez allows for in her Scrivener template.) And I am finding out all sorts of stuff about my protagonist, Spencer—including why certain scenes just felt off.

As of yesterday, I was 173 minutes (or nearly two days) ahead of “par” on my month’s goal of 3,000 minutes (fifty hours.) A new purchase is fueling my progress, as well—trust me to want to use a new toy, a Jot Pixel stylus, instead of typing.

Hey, if it gets me writing… who cares if using it for handwriting recognition is slower than typing? ANY words per minute are better than zero.

April #CampNaNoWriMo—Yes, I’m Participating

Let the jackalopes—er, Plot Bunnies, multiply

I apologise for posting so infrequently. I’ve been struggling with structure. I’ve re-read Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and even picked up and read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (which actually describes the same phenomenon from the opposite end of the telescope, as it were.) I’ve also dealt with a nasty case of the flu. Writing has been happening very little, I’m afraid. I know I’m not alone in the fear of Doing It Wrong, but it’s been debilitating lately.

I know when I pick up the Ulysses app demo and try once again to see if I wouldn’t like writing with it better than I do with Scrivener (answer: no, I wouldn’t), that I’m lost in the Procrastination Archipelago.

Well, that’s what NaNoWriMo is for, in all its variants—getting writers out of procrastination. So here I am, determined to meet my goal of fifty hours of structuring and writing for the month. With any luck, I’ll do a lot more. You can follow my stats on the Camp NaNoWriMo site. See you in the Land of the Storysquatch.

The nine stages of editing your book – with cats

That’s what I need in order to be able to edit: Another cat!

Milly Schmidt

When most peoplefinish their first draft they have no idea of the mind-numbing and heroic journey they are about to embark on. Finishing the first draft is only the beginning… as editing may be one of the hardest f—— things you’ll ever do.

Here are the nine stages of editing your novel (with cats of course!)

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Outlining, At Last? #amwriting @ScrivenerApp

Story Genius, by Lisa Cron

Story Genius, by Lisa Cron is the Unified Field Theory of storytelling.

Those of you who have been watching me struggle with Pantsing v. Plotting (iThoughts and the Dreaded Outline, Movin’ On Down the Productivity Highway, Back To Work, Or NaNoWriMo Waits For No One, et. al.) know that I’ve blogged several “breakthroughs” about outlining that, well, have come to almost nothing. There’s always been something “wrong” with the systems I’ve looked at—Too rigid. Too much information to fill out that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with my story. Terminology straight out of an MFA program that doesn’t mean anything to me—even after I look it up. Directions to not let the outline be a straitjacket—but then I can’t let go of treating it like an engineering specification. Something. Always. Doesn’t. Work.

Well, if I can’t use Story Genius, by Lisa Cron to plan a novel, I’ll—strongly consider giving up writing and starting a knitting blog.

Ms. Cron explains why just sitting down and writing doesn’t work. She explains why plotting doesn’t work. She explains why most character bios are bunk. Instead, her thesis is that a story is NOT a series of things that happen (plot), not even if it has some interesting characters. Rather, it is a series of events that force its protagonist to change, to learn some specific lesson in some specific way. Every story. Yes, that one. That other one, too. Even “Grog Survived Being Almost Eaten By A Cave Lion.” Her list of academic references are impressive. Her system is—a lot of hard work.

But it’s work I need to do.

Ms Cron suggests that a would-be author (me) needs to select the lesson that the protagonist will learn in the course of the novel, and create very specific backstory that will make it absolutely necessary for the protagonist to learn that lesson. This creates a coherent focus on the specific theme I choose for the novel.

What? Me, focus? (Laughs derisively.)

Exactly. The world of Fane of Air and Darkness (FOAAD), The Bully Trap, and several other partly-finished stories, is one I’ve been thinking about, building, and creating a history regarding, for more than five years. That’s a lot of backstory, most of it sloshing around in my head. Following Ms Cron’s “blueprinting” process is forcing me to narrow my focus to only those backstory elements that have to do with FOAAD, and to write them down in sufficient detail to build a story with them. It forces me to look at contradictions. It forces me to put certain aspects of the Fraser and Spencer universe aside, as they will confuse the issue of FOAAD.

It’s slow going. Things that have nothing to do with FOAAD keep wanting to take over my brain and my keyboard. There are things that I know I’m going to have to cut from what I’ve already written. There are things I’m resolutely going to have to decide to, well, explore in a sequel. And of course, I’ve spent far more hours than I probably ought to have done, re-structuring my Scrivener project to accommodate this new method. (If you’re interested, Gwen Hernandez wrote an excellent article on this, Using Scrivener with Story Genius and included her Scrivener template which I’ve shamelessly perverted to my nefarious purposes.)


I want to shove it all in, and it’s hard work building a dam to keep irrelevant (for now) stuff out. But already I can feel the urgency building in my backstory—which is going to explode on the page in the story itself.

Ok, if writing a novel were easy everyone would do it. But keeping cats out of my knitting is much more soothing.

“The Bully Trap” (http://bit.ly/SWBully) is FREE during #ebookweek17 at #smashwords !

The Bully Trap is FREE during #ebookweek17 at #smashwords !

The Bully Trap is FREE during #ebookweek17 at #smashwords !

We interrupt your normal blog for a brief commercial message:

The 9th annual Smashwords “Read an Ebook Week” kicks off this Sunday, March 5, and runs through end of day March 11.

My book The Bully Trap will be free during Read an Ebook Week! Just use coupon code SFREE at Smashwords.

Thousands of other indie authors will also be offering free and discounted books. Browse www.smashwords.com/ebookweek and find an exciting new author!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

I’m Not Giving Up—But I Am Backing Off #amwriting

Time to advance to the rear (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Time to advance to the rear (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Well, I’ve injured my foot.

That makes it rather tough to keep up with my exercise goals—which in turn impact my other health goals. My health goals, in turn, impact my ability to focus, which means that my entire Beeminder-driven writing goal structure is in jeopardy.


For a change, I’ve decided to do something sane—I have taken every single health goal I have in Beeminder and added a week of flat spot. This means that while I don’t NEED to make progress to avoid a Beeminder payment, I do need to not slip backwards. And I haven’t given myself any slack on my writing or business goals.

With any good fortune, I’ll be back chugging on my step and weight goals in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I have no excuse to stop chugging ahead on my book.

And April Camp Nanowrimo is just around the corner. I think I’ll have a continuation/editing goal rather than a new project this time.

There Are Times I Want to Freaking Give Up #amwriting

It doesn't get easier.

Image courtesy of africa at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now is one of those times.

I haven’t posted to this blog since January. I have no excuse. I’m just discouraged.

While there is a lot going on, it’s the writing that’s the thing that really gets me down. I promised myself a look at new “how to organise writing” books. Before March. I’ve found a winner: Story Genius, by Lisa Cron. My son has seized on it and is having a great burst of productivity. I’ve started using it, and while I’m making some progress—it’s very hard to put aside all I’ve written for Episode Two of my series and start with creating my “blueprint”, as Ms. Cron refers to it. Hard, but necessary. This is the first book I’ve found that puts story organisation into terms that even an engineer can understand. Nothing is by rote; there are no shortcuts. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a description of exactly what backstory is needed for a novel and in how much detail—in terms that make sense. Other guides I’ve read did discuss backstory, but left “how much and what” at “just enough and only what you need” without defining the terms “just enough” and “only what you need.” Ms. Cron defines her terms and explains why her definitions work.

Even better, they make sense in terms of the empirical learning I’ve done over the last eleven years in NaNoWriMo. I’d write something, look at it, and say, “Nope. Not a good story.” Next year, “Not that one, either.” In Camp NaNoWriMo, “Still not story…” When I finally had something (The Bully Trap) that looked like a story, I published it. I’m glad to see that according to Ms. Cron I was right.

The good news is that I have a lot of this background stuff already written down. The bad news is that I need to flesh it out and organise it differently. (There’s also stuff I need not have written yet. Pooh.) And yes, there are large sections of backstory that I still need to write. They’re in my head, but as I’ve already complained, they do me little good there. A novel is too blasted big for that, let alone a series.

Foo. You mean there’s no magic button that will take the beautiful story in my head and put it into Scrivener for me in a form that readers will love—without me having to work, and work hard? Now, that’s discouraging. But it looks like there’s no help for it. I suppose I had best get on with it, then.