Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chapter One Completed

I completed chapter one last night. I removed a scene at the end because the ending to the second to last scene seems right for this chapter. The information I wanted to present from that deleted scene can go somewhere else without the novel suffering. The chapter ended at 3,350 words long, which gives me room to expand. I plan to have chapters average around 4,000 words or so.

I did a quick read of this rough draft and I like what I have so far. I mainly concentrated on the plot and inner conflicts for this draft. I did little to bring out the setting or world yet. I found as I wrote this chapter that I need to do some additional world building since I do not touch much upon the social aspect for these characters. This will become important later, but I did not want to stop the writing for that.

I don't have as good of an outline for chapters two and three but I will work on the scenes that I have and add to the chapters later. I want to try using three point-of-view characters for this book and these chapters are from those points of view. Since this is a new change I have not planned much for them yet. I wanted to dedicate one full chapter to each of them initially and see how things go from there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Taking time to enjoy the writing experience

I've heard recommendations that writers should get their first draft as close to a final draft as possible. This has always intimidated me because my first drafts were far from good. True, I have not been writing as long as some of these authors who believe in this theory, but it still feels like a daunting task. Hopefully someday my writing skills will get to the point where I am more comfortable with my first drafts.

So, this weekend I took one scene from the chapter I am currently writing and slowed down a bit, taking time to get it right the first time. I know that I will need to do some rewriting on that scene in the future, but I wanted to see how it would stand up to my normal writing. I will say that it took longer to complete because I stopped and thought about what descriptions I needed to add (sights, sounds, tastes, mood, etc.), character turmoils to bring out, etc. I usually do not put these into a scene until later.

When I look back to the work I put into that detailed scene and the other scenes of that chapter, I realize why I normally write simply to get a scene competed: time. As an aspiring writer I want to get the book done. I do not take the time to enjoy the characters and the world while I write. Sure, there are times when I do slow down because I get a bit of inspiration, but more often I am more concerned with getting the book done. To be honest, this is a symptom of wanting "to have written" versus wanting "to write." I say I want to write, but I still fall prey to the "to have written" syndrome. My book suffers because of this.

I don't know if other aspiring writers do the same thing or not. I need to think of this as a marathon rather than a sprint. That will be extremely difficult for me. Sure, I want to get published and because of that desire I am rushing my work. What I may try to do on occasion is take a scene and purposely slow down. Then later try that with a whole chapter. With a bit of practice I may be able to do a whole book like that, maybe. In the long run I hope my writing may be better for it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Characterization or Outlining

These last few weeks I have spent working on the characterization for my main character, supporting role character, and antagonist. I have gotten many ideas for the story from the work I have done. However, lately I have had the temptation to start writing again. I also know that the more characterization I do the more story ideas I can get. So, I'm debating what to do now.

Due to the ideas I have now, I decided to write this novel from multiple points of view. Originally I was only going to show the story from the main character's point of view. I want to keep the number of views down in this book, probably only three. Last night I spent a good amount of time working out scenes for this novel's outline. What I may do is work on solidifying the outline of the first quarter of the novel and then start writing that section only. Even when I changed the plot in the past the first quarter of the novel really did not change all that much. I think I have at least that much of this book solidified and I should not have to change it too much if the outline changes.

Although I have not done as much characterization as I wanted I think the temptation to start writing may be too much for me to resist.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Character Driven Plot

When I first started writing many years ago I never truly thought much about my characters. My idea of "characterization" was primarily the characters' history. Where did they grow up? Who were their parents? Although this might be interesting it really did not allow my characters to become memorable. Because of this my stories were driven by the plot alone. That may also be a reason why I like epic fantasy so much. It can be easy to forget about the characters because I am too busy finding ways for them to save the world.

For the first time I decided to give depth to my characters. I had never done this before so I felt I needed to do some research. I found several good websites and a couple books that have helped me develop my characters. One thing these methods had in common was to create characters with inner conflicts (preferably mutually exclusive conflicts). That was what I focused on for the last several weeks. This was not easy because this was the first time I tried this. What I came up with helped not only the characters but the story itself.

I found that these characters helped add to the plot of the story. These inner conflicts help me develop more for the plot than I could have working on the plot by itself. In fact, due to the inner conflicts of one character, I have that character going in a totally different direction. Before this characterization I would never have had that character do anything like what I am having him do. However, these actions are logical based upon these conflicts. Now I am developing a more character driven plot whereas before I struggled to build up the story on plot alone.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

World Building Overload

I finally have a good feeling for the inner conflicts for my main character and the supporting role character. It is often suggested that you create desires (preferably mutually exclusive desires) within your characters which conflict with one another. I've struggled with the mutually exclusive part for some time. So, what I came up with is a strong single desire for each of these characters. However, they both have two mutually exclusive ways to accomplish those desires. I don't know if this will work as well as if I had two specific mutually exclusive desires. I'll have to wait an see.

Another thing I have found with the development (or re-development) of this novel is that I'm trying to plan this project out too much. I am going too deep into the world building and characterization. Right now I have a good understanding of what these characters' desires are but I am not going so deep that I have a complete history about how they became the way they are. I do have some general ideas that has led up to their desires but not too much detail on that history. I can always add to that history later.

For now I will stick with the general characterization that I have and proceed from there. Each author has his or her own way of preparing / writing and I still have not found what is best for me yet. A few steps forward; several steps back. I'm confident that I will eventually make forward progress.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Willingness to Let Go

This project has been with me a very long time, even though I have not written on it for at least ten years. When I returned to this project I was reluctant at first to change much of the plot. I did change some aspects of the story because it was far too dark originally. Those changes forced me to change the main character. However, I still maintained the basic plot for the story, which cause numerous problems as I tried to outline the story based upon the change in history and characterizations I made. The more detailed my characterization became the more difficult it was to modify the outline for this project.

As I worked on the inner conflicts of the main character I developed several ideas on what could be conflicting with this character. However, none of these worked well with the story that I had. I was too stubborn to adjust the story based upon what I developed for the characters. I wanted some strong inner conflicts for the characters but I kept trying to force those into the story as I had it. I never felt any of that worked well for me.

This weekend I thought of a good inner conflict that I could give the main character. When I tried to work it into the story I found that this inner conflict was naturally solved within a few scenes of the book. What good is character conflict if it gets solved quickly? I didn't want to give up on this inner conflict because it was the strongest one I had developed. The two sides of this conflict were mutually exclusive unlike any of the others before. I wanted to keep this conflict if at all possible.

So, I thought about the story and came up with a possible new beginning to the novel. This adjustment could certainly play upon this inner conflict and keep it going for much longer than before. In fact, it could easily become a driving force for this character. However, it meant letting go of a part of this plot that has been around for a long time.

Let's say for a moment that this is a quest story. The original plot would be something simple like someone sending the main character on a quest to accomplish something. Not very exciting by itself. The conflicts were mostly external. However, now the main character is thrown into a situation and must fight to discover what is happening and find a solution. Throw in the fact that the inner conflict forces the character to make a decision to go in one direction or another (and cannot do both, although both are equally desirable).

Even though this new adjustment could be a better than what I had before I had to be willing to cut out what I believed what was "right" for this project. That was not easy to do. I have had this story in my head for so long that it is still difficult to give up any part of it.

I think, in a way, I may have an advantage because in this project I want to "deep outline" before writing anything. Otherwise I would have written several chapters that I would never have used in this book. Some may say that is a good exercise. Perhaps so but I am the type that likes to have a very good idea of where a story is going before writing anything.

Hopefully the new direction this story has taken will work better than what I had previously. What I do know is that the inner conflict works much better now and I can build upon it better than the other conflicts I developed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Main Character Details Coming Together

I have gotten some good insight on my main character and the interaction with my main supporting role character. I still have work to do before I feel comfortable that I have a complete profiles. I am still getting ideas for the conflicts between the main character and this supporting role character. The dynamic I see between them has grown significantly and I hope to bring out that conflict as the story progresses.

I can say that I have enough knowledge of these two characters to begin working on a more detailed outline for the book. Mostly I will focus on the first one-third of the novel. I have a good scene by scene outline on what would be the first 36,000 or so words of this 100,000 word project. The characterization I am working on now will be quite prevalent in this section of the novel. With what I know now I think I can come up with a good start of the character arc of my main character.

If I get more plot details on this first one-third of the novel I may start writing that section and then characterize some of the characters that are introduced in the middle section. I can then flesh out the details of the plot for that section later. I'm eager to begin writing but I want to have a better idea of the character progression before I do so. With the details I have now I could certainly begin writing if I were more of an organic writer but I know I must be patient. All of my previous attempts failed because I didn't put enough efforts into the world building. I don't want to make those mistakes again.