Monday, March 31, 2008


Haha, this is actually one of my favorite things. So being all caught up in novel 3, I kind of forgot I'd sent some more queries off a few weeks back. Well, today I check my email like usual and boom, two partial requests from agents I'd actually forgotten about querying...

This was just what I needed today. Thank you, fate-type god-people!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

back in the saddle again!

Finally found my third novel after all the false starts and it's going to be awesome.

Everyone's favorite fun time, new novel math!

Goal: 5000 words/week (what I know I can get even when things are bad), 100k total.
Timeline: 100,000/5000 = first draft done in 20 weeks, or the beginning of August (I'm cheating here a little, I actually already have 10k from a previous false start on this novel, but since I'll probably have to rewrite it anyway, I'm going to act like I'm starting from scratch.)

There's a lot going on plotwise in this novel, a lot of information to be packed into a relatively small amount of space. Looking at my notes, I could easily ramble on for 200k. However, 200k is unacceptable, so I'm going to do my best while writing to think "how is this important to the story? Could I do this better elsewhere?" Experience has shown that I am a piss poor editor, so doing more of this thinking during the writing phase of things might just make things easier. ANYTHING to avoid chopping a 200k novel down to 100k. That's just cruel and awful.

My end goal is to really take my time with this one, to get it written, then let it sit and cook while I do other things. Then, when I've forgotten how much I hate it (I hate every book I write for weeks after I finish it, and as soon as I type "The End" my fingers get physically itchy with the urge to go and fix all my mistakes right away. It's like I'm worried they'll become permanent if I let them sit, kind of like wine stains.) Well, not this time! This time I will restrain myself for AT LEAST a month.

I'm not even going to write out a time line for my edit. It'll just get done when it gets done.

Ah, it feels good to be back in the game. Watch the wordmeter, here we go again!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ode to a wiki

My all time favorite world building tool has to be the humble wiki. What other tool lets you spill out ideas, link them to other ideas, edit at will, track changes, keep all your world building notes online, easily accessible from everywhere, and is, best of all, free, simple, and easy to use? (Answer: Nothing)

My favorite at the moment is dokuwiki (linked in the side bar to your left), which I like because it is clean, simple, and PHP based with no database so I can keep it on my cheap hosting plan. Still, dokuwiki is just one of hundreds of free wiki programs out there, and there’s all kinds of awesome, fun things you can do with them.

When I start a world building wiki for a new novel I generally begin with the front page, carving my proto-novel up into neatly labeled divisions: themes, characters, settings, plot, magic systems, whatever I need. Then I just go down the list, clicking on each division to add a list of articles for that area, character names, for instance, or a list of places, anything I want to get to fast. Once I’ve listed everything, I go in and start filling in the blanks. For example, under my characters heading I now have a list of characters. I click on the character name to make a link, go in and start writing. I don’t worry about anything else right then except that character, what they look like, what they want, what their role in the story is, cool scenes where they appear, etc. As I go, I toss in links for important words (other character names, important places, themes, anything that looks good). Then, when I feel like I’ve got a good bit down about the character, I start filling in the new links. For example, if I mention that character A is the son of characters H and G, I’ll click on those new character names and start filling in their stories. This creates a whole new scattering of links, and so I click on THOSE and start filling THEM in, and organically, magically, the world of the story beings to emerge.

Because everything in a wiki is based on relationships, world building in a wiki is also a fantastic way to see where your world is thin. For example, when one of my main characters has a 2000 word write up and tons of links to other characters, places, and plot elements, but my other main character has two paragraphs and no links, it’s pretty obvious where I need to a spend some brain time. But even when everything’s been fleshed out as much as you can stand and it’s time to actually tell the story, the wiki continues to be insanely useful. Once I start writing, I refer to my wikied notes constantly to make sure I’m not forgetting things (or getting things wrong). This in itself is not unique, notes of any kind are made to be looked at, but the real gem of it is when things change.

Say I’m writing along and suddenly, one of the characters does something he’s not supposed to, something that changes the story. Even with the best planning (sometimes because of the best planning) this happens all the freaking time. Now you’ve got a new story with a new twist, and things have to change to survive. Back when I used to world build on paper, this generally meant I was screwed. I’d either have to go back and rewrite things (boring, time-consuming, by this point I want to WRITE, not world build) or just wing it and let my notes become outdated. Of course, if you don’t update your notes to incorporate changes, they become useless by the time you REALLY need them, which is when you have to tie everything back together at the novel’s end. One minute you’re right on track, writing away, then something changes and the next thing you know you’re winging through uncharted plot jungle on a few napkin notes and a prayer. This, to state the obvious, is not a comfortable way to work, and often leads to fumbling the ball, dropping the ball, or losing the ball entirely.

But a wiki saves me from ending panic, because with a wiki I can change my world notes on the fly as the writing changes the story. And not only do you make changes to the notes on the specific incident (e.g., a character does something that changes him from ally to enemy, so you have to go in and revise his part in later plot sections), but the nature of the wiki itself forces you to consider everything that links to the bit that’s different, spreading the changes throughout the work and making the whole world building web stronger.

Because my whole note system can change organically, flowing with the story instead of remaining stationary, fundamental changes become more manageable and your notes stay relevant and, most importantly, correct. What that mean in reality is that by the time I reach the end of the book I’m standing solid on a battle-tested mountain in interlinked, indexed ideas that have been with me through the whole process, and not on a napkin. And, trust me, it’s a much better place to be.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The 10 year plan, revisited

No tremendous news to report on Novel 2 - 2 partials rejected with kind words, one more full requested, but no real dustups on either side of the reject/accept coin.

My 26th birthday is coming up (March 8, actually, send happy thoughts my way!) and this, coupled with my attempts to tame my home office, have sent me into some deep thinking. Many moons ago, when I turned 20, I drew up a ten year plan for myself. This plan has survived 2 hard drive crashes and 3 computers, which is more than I can say for most of my files (Obviously, something in the universe wants me to remember how stupid I was at 20) and it’s pretty funny (not to mention humbling) to look at now.

According to my timeline, my fourth book was supposed to be coming out this month. To put that in a little perspective, I was also supposed to be working for a high powered design firm and living on the west coast. As it is I'm married and living in the same town where I went to college. Marriage wasn't even ON my plan!

So I've fallen just a little bit short of my starry-eyed aspirations, but I didn't miss them entirely. I have written 2 books, each better than the next, and I'm still writing daily, which is more than I could say for myself at 20 (those early years were heavy on the talking about writing and light on the actual writing bit).

The best part of my ten year plan, though, is the finale: "2012: Quit job to work as a novelist full time."

Well, it's not 2012 yet, I've still got time to finish big! But to do that, I've got to actually sell something, which means I have to write something people want to buy, which means I have to write, and I have to write well. There's the catch. Over the last six years I think I’ve proved that anyone with a little discipline can apply butt to chair and write a beginning, middle, and end. But when life is so short, and 20 to 26 passes before you realize it, you being to understand that more is needed. It’s not enough to write a novel, it’s not even enough to write a good novel, I have to create a story that’s worth my time to tell it, a reader’s time to absorb. I didn’t hit that in my first novel. I did better in my second, but there are still plenty of places where I leaned on convention and didn’t offer anything truly new. Maybe by 2012 I’ll have it down, maybe I’ll hit it in the novel I’m working on right now. Who knows? All I can do is keep trying, keep writing, and then, maybe, when I really do reach the end of the obsolete 10 year plan, I’ll be able to look back at my decade of fumbling in the dark and see that, even if I’m not where I though I should be, the view is worth it all the same.