The Evolution of my Style

I have been a little stuck on my novel writing lately, and I have been struggling to understand why. I have the events of the novel in place both in my mind and in my notes. I have several different writing exercises I use to get un-stuck, and indeed I have written a few pages off that. But I keep coming back to the beginning of my most recent chapter stumped. Upon some reflection, and an HBO Game of Thrones marathon, I came to the conclusion that I am fighting myself on which POV I should be writing in.

This has been a problem from the very first paragraph of my very first draft all the way back in 2008. I started writing the story in a first person narrative. I don’t mind that style, in fact there are several authors that write that way who are very talented. An example would be Janet Evanovitch, author of the Stephanie Plum mysteries. The problem I ran into was that my leading fellow is a bit clueless about what is really going on around him- and if he is clueless then he can’t exactly inform the reader, can he?

So in my third or fourth rewrite I decided to switch to third person. This was going well. I could use small clues to let the reader know my main character missed something, but then there was still the issue of him not always being where the action was.

Enter my latest rewrite.

I have included the POV of two other character to briefly include scenes that the main character is not a part of, but that effect him. Then I even included a very brief prologue that includes imps and changelings that I plan to weave into the rest of the story going forward (you can read that in a previous post).

I thought I had solved my problem; for a while I wrote blissfully un-blocked. But now my over active, day dreaming mind  has created a new problem. I am getting invested in another character, who keeps giving me awesome ideas to expand upon my original story- bits of story that are part of the same world but do not necessarily revolve around the one main character anymore. Thus my current re-block, and my habitual retreat into the living room to watch Television and pout. As it turned out this distraction actually got me thinking.

While watching Game of Thrones I considered how many different people we follow throughout the series, and I found myself wondering if I was limiting myself too much by trying to focus on only one leading character.

The way I figure it, I can go ahead and write the additional chapters with the other characters. When I’m done with all of it I can reorganize it, and/or trim out any pieces that don’t really contribute to the story. That way, I’m not holding myself back, and I can still write the best version of my novel.

 

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Scattered Thoughts: How I Gather Them

For as long as I can remember I have liked storytelling. I live in the clouds, dreaming of all sorts of fantastical, magical, and epic adventures. To add to this whimsical state of mind, I also have a compulsive urge to write it all down. Pen’s and notebooks are never far from me.

I will often get an idea for  things that will happen later in my story while I am trying to write the beginning. Most of the time I know how my story will end before I know how it will begin. Sometimes I get a new story idea while in the middle of writing another. This brings me to today’s topic: How I organize my ideas so I don’t lose them, all while staying on topic. Not an easy thing to do, as I’m sure you know.

I do not profess to be an expert on the topic, as I myself am always learning new things. If you, like me, find your thoughts scattered and are struggling to get that movie in your head onto paper(or a screen), then you need to first map out-at least in part- the pieces of your story.

I read a book a few years ago by Kathy Macias called The Train of thought Writing Method. This book has a lot of good advice for organizing your thoughts. From it I learned to clip my long-winded ideas into concise, piece-by-piece thoughts that could be rearranged and lined up to plot out my story. The first result of this was comical, but very useful. I wrote each even that took place in my story on separate 3×5 note-cards. I was renting a room at the time, so I didn’t have enough floor space to spread these 40 or so note-cards out on the floor and leave them, so instead I taped them to my closet doors.  This was extremely helpful. Each note-card had it’s own even, one step at a time. For example, My character starts out in a bar. The details as I had them so far were written on one card. Then my character leaves the bar, and decided to walk home. She gets lost. This event was on a separate card. She hears a noise, and decided to go in the opposite direction. This is on it’s own card. this goes on until each idea is plotted out and everything you have planned in your head is on paper. Now, since the ideas are on separate cards, you can move the order around as you see fit, or throw ideas out or add new ones in as they come to you. Trust me, when you are looking at the physical manifestation of your ideas, it is much easier to sort it out and start writing.

I did run into a couple of hitches with this method, however.  First, I have a lot of ideas, and I was running out of space for all those cards (I’m a very thorough note-taker). My ideas were spilling from my closet doors onto my walls, and over the top of my family pictures. The mess was a little annoying, even though it was nice to have my thoughts in order.  Second, I looked like an insane conspiracy theorist. When my mother saw them, she kept calling them my Serial Killer notes. Good thing my mom doesn’t really think I’m crazy- But she didn’t like going in my room. It freaked her out. I know I shouldn’t care if people think I’m nuts, but it did bug me. Maybe because I thought it was weird in the first place.

So I took all my notes down, and instead kept them in a drawer. This was not as useful. While my ideas were all written down, I had to look through them one at a time, and I spent more time sorting note cards than actually writing. I put this idea away and left it for a couple of years, going back to my notebook scribbling.

Then, while moving (into my own apartment) I came across a box of old writing. I found the beginning of the novel I am currently working on, which I started back in 2008. The ideas for this particular story all came rushing back, and I began working on it again. I put it aside again when I got married, choosing to focus on my new family life and career. I came across it again when my husband and I moved into a bigger apartment. At this point I had learned that my husband is extremely supportive and exited about my writing, and wanted me to focus on my dream of being a novelist. I took my idea, scrapped what I had, and started over. Twice. My ideas were there, but they were disorganized and I couldn’t quite get what was in my head out right.

Fast forward to about a year ago. A friend suggested I go to a writing group. I took his advice and went. I will forever be grateful to him for this advice, because talking with other writers and getting their take on idea organization helped me come up with the method that works for me now.

Bob White- I mentioned him before as an awesome storyteller- told me he uses Microsoft Excel the way I was using note-cards. Each idea is it’s own cell. Pure genius! I know how to use Excel, but I am more of an expert at Microsoft Word (I am often asked to tutor friends). I scrapped what I had written (again) and started over with my new organized thoughts.  I created text boxes, and used these like the note-cards from before.  An added bonus is I am not wasting paper, the ideas are easy to change or expand, and I can include inspirational images I find on Google. (Images can help you with good description if you find you are stuck). I have included a sample of this for you below. My real notes are a lot more detailed than this, but I wanted to give you an example. I hope this helps you, as so far I am at 5 pages of notes and 16,763 words of my completed, edited final draft just 8 months after starting over.

notes sample pic

Prologue

Hello Reader!

 

I have been working furiously on a poetry project and my novel, and I have neglected my blog a bit. But alas, ’twas a fruitful distraction!

I follow a blogger named Dragonplume, who writes Writers Block. They wrote a blog post that really got me thinking. The post is titled Ch 1 Blunders:Generic settings. Upon reading this article (if you write I strongly recommend you read it as well), I pondered my own novel, and came to the conclusion that I have made the blunder of introducing my genre too late. But how to fix it? It is important to my story that my main character not have any idea magic exists before it explodes into his life. So what do I do about the ch 3 entrance of magic in my story? This introduces my genre to my reader entirely too late, however I don’t want to lose the element of shock to the character I already have.

So I came up with a prologue to my story, which until now it did not have. It sort of explains a bit about magic without introducing it to my leading man too soon. It was well received by my writers group, with several comments of, “this helps me understand the story better”. My one concern is that it throws you too much into a world you don’t understand before there is any character building, or any emotional investment. I am not the best judge, since I know a lot more than I have told the reader even in the later chapters, and I am extremely invested in all of the characters. My writers group is a big help, but they have read the rest of the story so I’m still not sure if this is too confusing of an introduction. I haven’t fully explored how it will weave its way into the rest of my tale, but here it is: The beginning of my novel. Feel free to comment, I would love the feedback.

Prologue

“It doesn’t have any spark. It looks like a sack of meat.” The imp poked the sleeping human child with her pudgy finger.

Her sister rolled her eyes, shoving the baby into a spider silk sack. “Course it don’t spark, it’s human aint it?” When the baby started to fuss, she blew sleepy sand into the bag to knock the baby out. Crying would wake the parents, and that was more aggravation that the scrawny imp felt like dealing with.

“Our babies got life in ’em.” The fat imp patted the bottom of the peacefully sleeping Fay child in her arms. Indeed the baby’s Fay light, the heart of natural magic, glowed faintly.

“Well that’s cuz they Fay babies. Fay babies are better than human ones. That’s how come we got to switch ’em out ‘fore we gives ’em to them trolls. Can’t very well feed our own babies to the trolls now can we?” The skinny imp busied herself with tying a string around the sack.

The fat imp looked around the generic nursery. Its walls were a flat pastel pink. The bassinet where the human baby usually slept was covered in frilly white and pink lace. Other than the glistening portal they opened inside the antique mirror in the corner, everything about the room looked exactly like every other human nursery. She didn’t want to put the Fay child in the ugly bassinet. The lack of plants or animals around to tend to the baby disturbed her. “Why do we leave our babies with the humans to raise all boring like? Don’t make much sense to me.”

“Nobody asked you. And, anyway, rules is rules. It’s just how it’s done is all.” The skinny imp yanked the Fay baby from the fat imp, and lay her in the human’s place. The child’s Fay light dimmed slowly until it was almost gone, but the child had the same magnetic beauty as before.

“Just look at her. She’s beautiful as the day is long. What is she?”

“Leaannan Si.”

The fat fairy barked out a laugh. “Ha! And ha ha! Poor stupid sods. Nobody will ever tell this Fayling no.” She leaned into the cradle, “Will they little lovely? My pretty enchantress, you’ll have everything you want from life. Aint so bad at all, leaving you with the humans then. They got no choice but to love you.”

The skinny imp huffed, shoving her sister out of the way.

“What’s her name? We got’s to tell her her name so she takes the place all propper like. It’s the rules.”

“You and your bloody rules can hang. And anyway it’s on the wall there behind you. Amy, it says.”

“Amy is your name now, little changeling,” the skinny imp said, her face hovering over the baby’s face. “You be a good little human, and break lots of hearts.”

The skinny imp threw the spider silk sack over her shoulder, and unfurled her thin membrane wings. The fat imp looked back at the lovely enchantress-to-be, feeling a pang of guilt at leaving a Fay to grow up in a family empty of magic. The poor little one would go through life being adored, but would have no idea how to wield the power she had over humans. She gave not one thought for the baby in the sack, who’s parent would never even know they had lost a child.  The fat imp had only been doing this job for one day, and already she was questioning the order of things. She also questioned her sisters sanity, having done this job for over a century. She wondered if the Queen knew they were using her kinfolk as changelings.

“Oh, stop thinkin’ on it,” The skinny imp nudged her sister with her elbow. “It’s easier if you don’t think on it. Just follow the rules, and have a nip of Poitin to steady your nerves when you get back to Sidhe.”

The fat imp glanced back one more time, then the pair of them went back through the gate as silently as they came out, sealing it shut behind them.

 

No Peeking

 

Sturdy lock

Ticky tock

Stuck under a pretty rock

 

I don’t know it

I don’t see it

I don’t care much to believe it

 

Without question

Without thought

Not a notion to be bought

 

Top-hat creepers

Bottom feeders

Welcome little govern peepers

 

Close your eyes

Close your ears

Listen closely to your fears

 

You can see them

You can feel them

You can hardly double deal them

 

Doesn’t matter

Pitter patter

Don’t you dare walk under ladder

 

They don’t own you

Just your venue

Paint you over as a loose screw

 

Fall in line

Double time

Pay your taxes, drink your wine

 

Sheepy sheepy

Getting sleepy?

Don’t you go and get all weepy

 

Mental thaw

It’s the law

Courts in session, blah blah blah