More Delays

So it’s well past due that I gave an update but I’m afraid it’s all bad news. My work machine’s monitor is dead, so I can’t use it to work on the novel at all. My laptop which I usually use for editing, revisions, marketing and backup, is having harddrive failure punctuated by rolling BSOD’s that always seem to come at the worst possible time usually taking giant chunks out of whatever work I had managed to do in the process.

Basically all work has stopped on everything right now.

I’m reduced to pen and paper writing and it’s a slow ponderous hell that I had hoped never to return to. So yeah stuff is still coming out of my head but it’s not complete and I lose half as much as i gain again simply by virtue of it being on paper and easy to misplace, spill coffee on, rip to shreds, etc.

Until I can get my machines repaired/replaced there will be few blog posts and little progress updates as well. I’m so sorry to anyone that’s been anxiously awaiting “Tasting Ash” but there’s just no funds to run out to the store and buy replacement parts right now. Trust me I’m more pissed off about the delay than you will ever be.

Scrivener Series: Re-outline, Reorder, Rewrite

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fifth installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener  write entire novel series. Be sure to check out my writing process post for quick links to the currently published posts and a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

By now I’ve been writing up a storm in the universe of my novel. It’s still a very random storm but it’s starting to coalesce into something nice and terrifying, a molten doom planet of madness.

At this point in the process things are really humming along. I’ve stopped writing random scenes, finished digging up facts and compiling them for easy reference while I write and finished my first chapter, second chapter, maybe my third and fourth. By now I’ve got a pretty sizable word count (say around about 50k) on my hands and I should be sitting on cloud nine knowing that all is write with my world.

But I’m not.

Something is wrong – very, very wrong – with each paragraph, no, with each and every word, the certainty grows. Wrong, all wrong and getting worse fast. Part of me screams that I’m in too deep! There’s no turning back now! If it’s that wrong I’ll have to toss more than half of the book! Despair overwhelms me and my head hits the desk. Repeatedly.

But there’s hope, thanks to Scrivener!

Re-outline

When I wrote my first novel and came to the point where I realized it all just didn’t work, things weren’t flowing properly the pace was stagnant and dead and I couldn’t figure out how to write myself out of the muck I’d made for myself – I tossed the whole thing in a drawer and left it there, for five years. I’d have thrown it out entirely (that came later to my second novel when it hit a similar sticking point) but I still thought that maybe somewhere in the future, maybe when novels were written entirely with software linked directly to our brains, it could be saved. Eventually I came back to it, printed the whole thing out, marked up each page with notes and created a separate document for an entirely new outline while I ripped it apart and tried to put the pieces back together in a way that made more sense than the original. It was a mess, painful, frustrating process that involved many paper cuts and printer ink refills before I was ready to continue with the story again.

I don’t recommend it. All told, from start to finish, that novel (“The Uncertainty of Death”) took seven bloody years to complete. Not nearly fast enough to come close to earning a living as a writer. My second novel (a horror novel I might start again someday) went straight into the trash and when my third (“Ash of Ambitions”) hit a similar, though slightly less throat-slitty, wall I was kind of beside myself with frustration and self loathing.

I began using Scrivener with “In the Absence of Famine” and didn’t hit quite the same wall but with “Toxic Ash” I didn’t just hit it – it fell on me. There was a moment of black panic as the weight of the thousands and thousands of words I’d already written slammed down on me. Then the dust settled and I was able to realize I could fix it, starting with the outline and working my way out.

Old-OutlineFinal-Outline

Pictured above are side by side screens of my outline before the wall and after. Just the first few sections as I rearranged things mostly by manually copy/pasting from one section of my Scrivener document to the other. Sometimes adding in connections that were missing or deleting connections that were present in the previous. The evolution of the outline is obvious though it’s hard to really get a feeling for the flow seeing it this way but these first few sections were also the most heavily reordered. Again, this part was the only manual copy/pasting I really had to do largely thanks to the next section.

Reorder

I believe I’ve covered Scrivener’s handy dandy ability to move notes, scenes and even entire chapters around with a mouse click before. This is only one of many moments where it really shines. My novel’s Scrivener structure is pretty basic: each novel is a folder, with that folder each chapter is another folder, within those folders each scene is a document. In my outlines it averages out that each numbered section is about a chapter and the subsections are scenes (more or less, remember it’s an imprecise map).

So once I’ve edited my outline/map it’s a simple thing to move around the scene/chapters to match. Pretty much click and drag. A far cry from my days with a dozen pens, hundreds of papers and paperclips and a million paper cut/migraine combos.

Since this was my first time trying this method (just encase I decided later that I wanted to go back to the beginning again) I copied everything I had done so far and moved them all to temporary folders within each chapter, then copied those sections so I could play with the order without losing the old order. Not strictly necessary but gives me an easy backup point if I need it. That just leaves one more step.

 Rewrite

This is probably the hardest part. Reading through your reordered chapters and scenes, making connections and transitions, checking for plot holes, sometimes rewriting entirely from scratch. There really isn’t much I can say about this slog except that at least it’s better than editing!

Now you’ve got the most drastic rewrite out of the way and it’s been hard, very hard, but it hasn’t been turn your eyes away from writing for years and years and hate yourself and your work and the gods and anyone else that looks at you cross eyed and asks about that “book” you were “writing” kind of hard. Which is actually almost easy by comparison. So we’ll call it “easy” and wink when we say it.

Next up on my Scrivener Series: exporting the draft!

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Scrivener Series: Final Outline

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fifth installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

At this point I’ve got timelines for everyone new, I know when they were born and what shaped them into the horrible horrible people I know and want my readers to love; I’ve also given every major character and the antagonists in the novel their own outlines for the book. So you’d think I had a pretty good idea of what’s gonna happen when and could just get to writing the thing.

Nothing is ever that simple.

Final Outline

Outline

I’ve said before that the Final Outline is a map of the novel but there’s still room for plenty exploration and getting lost along the way. Before I can even get to the final outline however, I’ve got to get all these headstrong characters’ actions and reactions to merge in a single continuous timeline – and of course they have other ideas.

With “Toxic Ash” whose final outline is pictured above, I came to the final outline with five individual outlines (Ash, Buddy Jenkins, Caliban & Caine, Helen) and while the main points line up somewhat in each individual outline, timing, reaction, action and when each individual character wants something to happen – don’t line up at all. Usually it’s close. Very very close. Close enough that I’m often tempted to just merge them together like shuffling a deck of cards and trust it’ll all work out.

Unfortunately it’s more like shuffling several different decks of tarot cards, one for each character outline, and that means you’re going to end up with one heck of a muddled reading. Two or more Death cards will appear, two or more Devils, Lovers and Fools; not together probably just far enough out of sync to make deciphering the resultant mess a real headache.

So you start over. From the very first scene, letting the characters outlines inform their actions in each scene (a headache and also a big help, especially in the Eldritch Elysium series which is all mostly from one characters POV). As you go you add other elements from your notes (I keep a color key to remind me to put science fiction elements here, romantic elements there, tie ins from previous books here and a foreshadow of the next there) so all of that time consuming research doesn’t go to waste.

All of that is made easier by being able to keep all my notes and elements open in the same document as I work. Need to see what Caliban gave Ash at the end of book one, it’s a few tabs up, that bit of research on Shub-Niggurath, two tabs down, information on the rest of Helen’s illustrious family, over there highlighted in purple. So much easier than trying to find all the documents and notes I scrawled on bits of paper and tucked into various folders on my various computers! Allowing for ever richer, more complex, stories.

You can also see from the image above how simply I’ve sketched out each scene and chapter. Partial sentences, sometimes just a single word give me a sense of where I’m going but don’t even come close to taking away from the joy of pantsing it – just makes sure I end up lost without a shirt a good deal less likely.

Hopefully some of that will be helpful. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing, Timelines & Outlines) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

And don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and go straight to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

I’m Back?

Bit nervous to actually say that I’m back to writing and Mom is doing well, seems like every time I do that she ends up right back in the hospital and I face a writing block to end all writing blocks. Hopefully this time she really is doing better but I am experiencing the hell of nothing that is popularly called writers block and which I’d normally swear doesn’t exist.

Since Mom’s last exit from the hospital I’ve settled down at my computer every day and opened up my Scrivener document for the next installment in the Eldritch Elysium series which I’d just decided to name “Tasting Ash” before the last round of hospitals. I open it up and I stare, stare, stare. I stare till it’s about 10 pm and then I give up for the night.

If I remember correctly I was just about ready to start working on the outline before the heart attack but after all my notes make absolutely no sense and my characters won’t let me get back in. Worse, some of them have been laughing at me. Tried writing something else, anything else and it’s gotten a bit better though the nightmares are actually getting worse.

It feels like I’ve forgotten how to do the thing. You know the thing. That wonderful thing that’s part way between magic and skill where you slip sideways through reality and words flow from your fingertips, if not well at least on demand.

This – lack of words – more than anything else seems to mean I’ll be lucky to make my usual deadline for release of the next book. I will, of course, keep beating my head on this brick wall till something comes out. Anything (please gods anything).

In Out and Back In Again

I keep wanting to update the blog with excellent news that Mom’s out of the hospital and recovering well – except every time I start to type that out she ends up back in. It’s a series of diminishing problems, we started with a heart attack so this is still progress, I just wish she was recovering more properly on her own now though even when she’s out she requires a near constant level of care so I’m always busily buzzing about.

Well here’s hoping this is the last of the big steps towards her recovery.

 

And We’re Back! Sorta…

So Mom’s been out of the hospital for about a week now. Surgery went ridiculously well and they even managed to not replace one of her valves but it took her about two weeks to finally be released home. In the meantime I was running back and forth from our home-base in back-end of beyond middle Georgia running errands and trying to make sure we had a life to come back to.

Somehow I managed to get an awesome tan, keep the cats alive and the garden.

Turns out, after the hospital is the hard part. While Mom’s pain is steadily increasing we find ourselves with less resources to meet them with. Still it’s so nice to be home! You don’t know what heaven is until it’s the middle of summer and you just want to roll out of bed and spend the day basking in the warmth without pants.

I’m ridiculously happy to be home again with Mom and that everyone is alive and relatively well. There’s still a long, long, long road ahead of us and I’m not seeing this as being great for my writing but I’ll do my best. Thanks to everyone for all the support, I send all the well wishes straight to Mom and even in the grip of terrible pain they make her smile for a moment – so keep ‘em coming!

That Other Thing I Do

When I’m not working on my latest novel I’m a full time, live in, caregiver for my mother who broke her back (literally) as a nurse for the state of Georgia five years ago. Most of the time it doesn’t interfere with my work so I’ve managed to get by without mentioning it.

Unfortunately last Wednesday I had to take my mother to the ER and we’ve been in the hospital since then. The situation is – not great. We’re expecting to have to remain at the hospital at least until sometime next week but even in the best case scenario I have no idea how long it will end up being before I am able to update the blog or anything else. Please bear with me and any good thoughts you can send in my mother’s direction, would be greatly appreciated.