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Thoughts on Writing – Outlining Challenge (Cyberpunk Snow White)

Warning: This is a really long post. But I wanted to include everything in one place rather than trying to split it up.

A while back, in the November Infinitas Publishing status report, I mentioned that, for my NaNoWriMo project, I had a goal of reaching 50,000-65,000 words in 12 days, writing in a world I hadn’t written before. I achieved that goal (completed at 50,316 words), and today I want to go a little more in depth about that progress.

(I’d been meaning to get this blog written for a while, but as you can probably tell, it’s been a hectic couple of months).

A Bit of Background

I have used loose outlines before, but I haven’t really tried a heavy-duty outline for a world I haven’t written in. My most detailed outline was for Messenger of Gaia (rough draft completed, but not yet edited), a novel that clocked in at 77,000 words and was written during Camp NaNo. That one, however, was based on a role-play that my husband ran, so I already knew the basic story and how everything fit together, and I put together a summary outline that reminded me of each scene. This was the process I wanted to emulate, but I wanted to try it with a completely new story.

The New Project

I’ve had an idea percolating in my head for a while regarding a fairy tale retelling in space, but as the time came closer to November, I wanted to figure out how that world got to where it was, so I could better set up the factions and character motivations. The result ended up being a completely different, cyberpunk fairy tale… a retelling of “Snow White,” but from the point of view of the huntsman (or, in this case, the huntress).

There are a few books I credit with how I developed the outline for this project (Click the links to see my Goodreads reviews of the books):

Janice Hardy’s Planning Your Novel, which helped me develop the Three Act Structure for this story, and further developing the main characters.

Libbie Hawker’s Gotta Read It!, a short ebook explaining pitches, which is excellent for crafting the basic concept of your novel so that you can keep it on task when developing an outline.

Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants, which further explains concepts from Gotta Read It! and gives another form of outline to work from, as well as explains the idea of the “ally” character, and puts a strong emphasis on the greatest weakness of your main character. It is this “greatest weakness” aspect that I found to be extremely helpful when crafting the outline for this particular story.

Developing the Main Characters (Using the Take Off Your Pants Method)

To start with, I tried to develop a sense of the main character. (Note that this is just my initial concept, and I changed some of the main pieces once I started outlining.) While writing this, I made notes to myself of anything I would want to check or explore later, and at this point, I haven’t actually named the Huntress or the Queen (other than knowing her last name will be Konigin).

The main character is Huntress, a loyal bounty hunter for Konigin Corp. She sees the advantage of a nanite-enhanced society, especially since her parents were killed when a plague spread through the metropolis and killed both her parents at a young age. She was taken in by Konigin Corp, who provided funds to take in the numerous children left homeless. (Why were healthy adults targeted?) However, as one of the most loyal to the company, she is privy to information that others are not. She knows that the plague was the result of another company (ZiTech–check to see if that name already exists) messing with a virus and accidentally infecting their scientists with a dormant virus, which then spread. Konigin Corp stopped it from being a worse disaster, but she understands how a balance between nature and science is necessary for their survival. She hopes to gain a say in company matters (and the increasing tensions between progressionists and technologists) by getting closer to Queen.

Looking back at this, after having written the rough draft, I can already say that the plague of the past plays a much smaller role, and only warrants a brief mention. It may end up being cut altogether if I find a stronger explanation of her backstory. The important part was that the main character sees the “queen” as a mother figure, but also understands the concept of balance between nature and technology.

Per Take Off Your Pants, I also jotted down the external goal of the main character.

Do favors for Queen in order to gain more power for herself (become the Queen’s ear), so she can rise in the ranks of Konigin Corp and eventually influence internal company politics and avoid some of their “nastier” practices.

Next, I have the Antagonist listed. (Note: the order I’m talking about these elements is not necessarily the order of development that I came up with the ideas, just how they’re presented in the long run. I highly recommend reading Take Off Your Pants for more details about how to develop each of these elements.)

Queen – the founder of Konigin Corp.  Vain, she sees beauty as the ultimate sign of perfection and healthiness. She uses nanites to enhance her beauty, and is furious that Snow maintains her beauty without any augmentation. Augmentation and uplifts (sapient animals… check to see if I can use that term) are the only way she sees humanity surviving against the constant threat of war, environmental disaster, and disease. She wants all her “daughters” (company workers) to be augmented.

Snow –  Queen’s half-daughter. Her father broke up with Queen when she insisted on augmenting their child shortly after birth. After the divorce, Snow was raised to see augmentations as a danger to humanity. (Progressionist Lobbyists). Technologists threaten to remove everything that makes them human and upset the natural order of things. She is a favorite ambassador candidate of The Society for Natural Progression, (The SNP, or Natural Progressionists). She has a beautiful singing voice, and is known for her sheer (natural) beauty.

I’ve included both of these characters as antagonists, though which one is the primary antagonists switches as the story progresses.

Then, per the Take Off Your Pants method, I wrote a basic concept of what The End should be.

Huntress must betray Queen’s loyalty and reveal Queen’s secret practices and upset the line of power she’s fought so long to control, thus allowing Snow to assume the corporate throne. She gains Snow’s love, and Snow’s ear. She is able to act as a voice of reason, suggesting they allow Queen to leave Earth for a colony planet with her uplifted army, rather than executing her for her crimes.

This is what I originally envisioned. However, by the time I finished writing out a fleshed out outline, the ending was very different.

The Queen never leaves for a colony planet. She has a different (ironic) fate, though we do see the Huntress try at the very last to give her a chance to redeem herself. Also, whether or not Snow and Huntress actually get together is left vague (Due to some of the atrocities that Huntress commits in the Queen’s name, I haven’t decided if Snow would ever truly feel comfortable around Huntress), though it is clear that Snow now respects Huntress, and there is a chance for a happily ever after. (Because me trying to write a romance? Well… it looks like that challenge has not yet been successful).

Lastly, I decided on these three pieces of information to keep in mind while developing the outline:

Flaw: The huntress is loyal to Queen, even when Queen is obviously in the wrong.

Ally: An uplifted wolf? A hunter for a different corporation (Something??? Inc.), he represents balance between the technologists and the progressionists.

Theme: Balance is important (All things in moderation)

Once this was complete, I diverged a bit from the Take Off Your Pants method and started first with creating an outline from the Three Act structure, so that I could easily see the overall arc of the story.

Now, this is not the final story. I did make a few changes as I created the outline and progressed with the rough draft, so I don’t mind sharing this (since it’s not exactly as spoilery as you might expect).

Opening Scene: Huntress is fulfilling a contract, dragging in a progressionist. She suspects the man is innocent, but turns her back on him and his being experimented on due to her loyalty to Queen.

Inciting Incident: Queen learns that Snow has just been voted the most beautiful, despite her daughters all being healthy and gorgeous (and augmented). Queen orders Huntress to leave Snow with a scar that can only be fixed if she accepts augmentation.

Act One Problem: Snow reveals herself to camera with scar, refuses to get the augmentation, and people still see her as beautiful (she has poise and determination). Queen furious.

 

Act Two Choice: Huntress seeks way to bridge gap because she realizes she’s falling in love with Snow, but wants to remain loyal to Queen, who raised her. She has secret meeting with Snow, and begins to investigate Konigin Corp’s secret practices (mind-wipe tech, to be used on criminals).

Midpoint Reversal: Queen orders Snow to be killed, and for her lungs and liver to be removed, so she can regrow a version of Snow for her own purposes, a daughter she can train as her own. Huntress suspects that Queen is going too far, but following her orders is the only way to rise in power. (She attempts to bend Queen’s ear, but it fails).

Act Two Problem (Dark Moment):  She tries to kill Snow, but fails when she hears Snow’s singing voice and her passion for her philosophy. Huntress questions if she’s as loyal as she should be (and if that’s even a good thing)

 

Act Three Plan: Plans to face Queen and try to convince her to give up her secret experiments and help her bridge gap… which she has the power to do. She argues with Snow for Queen’s exile, rather than execution, which Snow reluctantly agrees they can try.

Climax:. Queen refuses and sends her hordes of uplifted/augmented armies to attack Huntress and Snow’s men.

Resolution: Huntress reveals to the armies the treacheries Queen has caused, but instead of working with her, they turn against Queen and kill her (using the mind-wiping tech Huntress discovers earlier). Though disappointed, she is able to be with Snow, and argue for some measure of balance, and she is appointed as the new leader of Konigin Corp.

Next, I took my three act structure and filled in the gaps with a short description of every scene that was intended to take place in the story.

At times, I ended up adding new scene while writing the rough draft, because something would feel natural or because I felt like something was missing, but this is what I referenced whenever I continued writing the rough draft.

These are my notes from Act I. (Note: Verdi is the Huntress, and words in all caps were stand-ins until I came up with name for them.)

*Verdi stalks a man from the shadows. He is passing information to another informant… at least, that’s what she’s been told. She suspects he is just trying to get extra food, since food is scarce. But before he can complete his contract, we see her attack the other man using some kind of modified weapon tech, and then capture the innocent man. She will do her duty to Miss Konigin.

*Verdi drops off man at an underground station. Heavily modified workers take him in. He begs her to let her go, screaming that all this is unnatural, but she ignores him. (Complains he’s not accepting the gift Konigin has given them). As she heads down a secret labrynth of halls, she overhears a pair of scientists discussing the miner-protocol mind wipe, and she hurries past the area where she knows special bodies are being grown/built for the mining procedures. This is a necessary part of Miss Konigin’s plans. For now, anyway.

*Queen is pleased with Verdi’s progress. Invites Verdi to one of the company meetings as her personal bodyguard. Verdi is delighted. This is one of the few times she’s been invited in directly. If the other corporate leaders get used to seeing her, maybe they’ll begin accepting her thoughts and opinions.

*However, when one of them suggests stepping up the capture of SNP members, she is immediately shushed when she tries to point out that capturing innocent people is liable to hurt them. She is chastised. Perhaps it is for the best. Konigin knew what was best when the SOMETHING plague went around, anyway.

*Standing guard within Konigin’s personal quarters (which she is familiar with, and has memories from as a child), Konigin reminds her of just how important technology is to them. How they mustn’t give in to the lure of a natural, Darwinian “only the strongest survive world.” Besides… this world is so much more beautiful. Verdi is beautiful, and Konigin seems very pleased with her. Verdi agrees, though she thinks Miss Konigin is the most beautiful of all. Konigin laughs, good-natured, and says they shall see tonight, when the results of a  POPULAR MAGAZINE comes in with the votes of the people. She suggests “that one of her other “daughters” (her company workers… all “beautiful”) may manage to beat her out this time.

*They are eating dinner with distinguished guests. Verdi stands watch in the corner. Konigin is horrified when the newscaster reports that  SNP candidate, Maria Snow, has been voted the fairest of them all by the people. Verdi is stunned, because she thinks Maria is indeed very beautiful, but Konigin storms out of the room, ranting about the blindness of the people.

*Verdi hurries to follow her, afraid she might do something rash. But, in the silence of her private quarters, Konigin gives her a new mission. She must leave Snow with a scar that can only be fixed if she accepts the augmentation of Konigin’s nanites. She gives Verdi some kind of acid weapon and orders her to leave that night, and not return until the deed is done.

And that’s the first act. My total outline was 3,200 words.

Finally, here is a scene that was spawned from that outline. In specific, it’s the one where the Queen invites Verdi to a board meeting. (Note: This is the rough draft, unedited.)

A soft buzzer sounds from the door. I pause in the middle of stretching. “Agnes?”

President Konigen is here to see you. Should I let her enter?

My eyes widen, and I quickly straighten the black robes I’m wearing. I should have worn something a little more colorful. Black is striking, but there are more beautiful options in my wardrobe. “Of course! Please, let her in.”

As you wish, Veridian.

I smile brightly as the door lock whirs and then the door swings open. President Konigen stands in the doorway, poised with her chin up and her shoulders back, and she is, as always, gorgeous. Her long, wavy black hair has been pinned back at the nape of her neck, likely with a gold barrette. Her skin is pale, almost white, her lips as red as cherries, her cheeks rosy. Her eyes are a bright blue. She wears no makeup, but she doesn’t need to. That’s what she has technology for.

I quickly bow at the waist, and gesture for her to enter. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

President Konigen comes in and laughs, her eyes twinkling. “You don’t have to have such formalities around me, Verdi.”

I pop back up, self-conscious. “I know, but you deserve them.”

She chuckles and shakes her head, amused. “Always so polite.” She sits on the edge of my bed, still poised gracefully.

“That’s how you raised me,” I say, my heart skipping a beat. She’s not my biological mother, but she took me in as a child when one of ZiTech’s products took a downhill spiral and went from a well-planned product to a deadly virus. Konigen managed to find a cure, but not before the damage was done. That’s why the lower city is so sparse. There used to be more people living there. Though the virus is no longer contagious, few want to visit the area.

But Konigen had recently lost her own daughter, so she took a few of the orphans in and raised them herself. She made sure we were healthy. She ensured we were beautiful.

She smiles at me. “Then I must have done well.”

Heat rushes to my cheeks. Everything I do, I do for her. I owe her my life. If it wasn’t for her, I might be living in the streets, unaugmented, afraid of technology just because of one company’s mistake. Or I might not even be alive. I might never have received the vaccination which prevented further outbreaks.

“Thank you, President Konigen.”

Though I long to call her mother, and though she raised me as her own, I don’t dare call her such. She’s more than that, and I can’t delude myself into thinking that she is as base as the people who died on me, the people who refused to augment themselves against the virus. She is… President.

President Konigen straightens her knee-length skirt—a lovely forest green that shimmers under my bright bedroom lights. “Verdi, I just wanted to say how proud I am of your recent accomplishments. You have brought in far more of my corporation’s threats than any of the other huntresses, and I hope to see your work continue.”

I puff out my chest with pride. “Thank you, President Konigen.”

She claps her hands together, then presses the tips of her fingers to her rosy lips. “As a reward, I would like you to accompany me to tonight’s board meeting. We will be discussing the future of Konigen Corp’s operations, and hearing tonight’s matters might benefit you going forward.”

My jaw drops. “Seriously?” She’s never invited me to one of the meetings before. I’ve stood outside the room, keeping watch, but she’s always had a senior hunter or huntress accompany her within the room. It’s a critical job. If one of the members turns out to be a traitor, we have to be ready at a moment’s notice to protect her. “I’d love to! Yes, thank you.” I bow again.

Beyond the honor of being to the meetings, if the other board members get accustomed to seeing me with President Konigen, they’ll begin to trust me. I’ll have their ear. Maybe, finally, it’s not just what I do that will be important to them. What I say will be important to them, too.

“Good.” President Konigen nods curtly. “Be ready in half an hour, and make sure you’re wearing your finest. Let’s make a good impression on them with your debut, shall we?”

“Yes, President.” I smile, my stomach doing back-flips. I have to decide what to wear…

It needs to be practical, but stylish. Strong, but not scary.

Beautiful?

Always.

All that’s left is the regular editing and revising process, which might be a while since I have several other projects ahead of this one.

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I hope that this helps explain a bit more of my process, and is helpful to those of you considering writing from an outline.

Have you tried creating a detailed outline for your stories? If so, how did it go?

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Infinitas Publishing – Status Report

Wow… busy month. Not a lot of writing done, but progress has certainly been made. As such, it’s time for the monthly Infinitas Publishing status report!

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Glitch: (Spin-off series following Tim from the Distant Horizon series). Read-aloud proofing for Whispers in the Code and Ghost of a Memory complete. Proofreading and formatting for Whispers in the code complete–and it’s now up for pre-order!

It’s official. Whispers in the Code (the first book in the mini-series) will be released on February 8th, 2018! Yay! (Though you can read it now, for free, if you sign up for the Distant Horizon Universe mailing list).

For the second book in the series I still need to finish fixing typos found while proofreading, and Isaac and I still need to do the read-aloud proofing of the third book, For We Are Many (tentative title). The plan is to release each of these books about a month apart, so there shouldn’t be too long of a wait between each story. Progress made!

Fractured Skies: (Book 2 of the Distant Horizon series). Currently out to beta-readers.

Distant Horizon: The new cover is now up! Check it out here if you haven’t seen it yet.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold.

Little One: On hold until Isaac has a chance to read it and make notes.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade Series: Isaac has finished reading through my current draft, and one of my next big projects will be reviewing his notes and making revisions. After that, I’ll be sending this out to beta-readers.

Stone and String 2: I just finished polishing the current draft and it is now ready for beta-readers! Its working title is “Wind and Words,” but we’ll see if that sticks. (In my fictional Cantingen language, that would be “Van si casime,” which usually gets used as an expression stated in exasperation or shock, and references the god of language and wind, Ruetravahn).

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Plugging along. Got a couple book covers done and started work on a logo concept.

Game Development: On hold while Isaac’s focused on his PhD… though I’ve been delving more into the LitRPG/GameLit genre. More on that in a moment.

Marketing: The Distant Horizon Universe website is complete! While it’s still sparse, I’ll be updating this as new books in that universe come out. In the meantime, I also figured out how to do automation with Mailchimp’s newsletter service, and I’ve set up reader magnets (Glitch: Whispers in the Code) to draw attention to our new Distant Horizon Universe newsletter! (Alternatively, you can get the first half of Distant Horizon for free by using this link… but I haven’t set it up yet to where you can get both Whispers in the Code and the free sample of Distant Horizon. I do plan to make both available to anyone who subscribes to that newsletter, but I haven’t gotten that part set up yet. In the meantime, I’ve signed up for Book Funnel and plan to do the trial month of Instafreebie, so I’ll be participating in a few joint book promotions soon.

Cyberpunk/Dystopian Snow White Story: On temporary hold, since I’m primarily focusing on getting Glitch published and I plan to make revisions to the third Wishing Blade book (I’ve really got to come up with a title). But it’s on my to-do list, and I’ve been thinking of possible ways to continue the series, all very loose ideas at the moment.

New Story Idea: So… I’ve become fascinated with LitRPG/GameLit, and I’m currently reading books in the genre. Of course, that doesn’t come without story ideas and plotting, and a couple days ago I finished a detailed outline for what might become my first book in a GameLit series. (By “detailed outline” I mean that it contains every major event, has occasional moments of character dialogue, notes about what clues need to be planted where, and which game mechanics need to be involved. The outline clocked in at a lovely 10,000 words, a short story unto itself).

I’m not sure if I’m going to proceed with this idea yet, especially since I want to read more books in the genre before publication, and I’m not sure yet whether I’ll publish this under Infinitas Publishing with the rest of my books, in order to focus on targeting a specific audience, but it’s a project I’ve been working on in the background to feed my creativity while working on all the formatting/marketing/proofreading stuff for Glitch.

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Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with our latest book releases and promotions, sign up for our Infinitas Publishing Newsletter! Now that we’ve created the Distant Horizon Universe newsletter, the Infinitas Publishing newsletter will primarily be used to announce when a new book is coming out, rather than give sneak peeks into the different books. But you can be on both lists if you want. Enjoy!

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Infinitas Publishing Status Report – November 2017

All right, this time I’m actually going to get the status report done early in the month…

Does mid-month count?

Anyway, October was busy, and the beginning of November was even busier, so I’ve got a lot to cover. Either way, it’s that time again–time for a status report! 😀

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

Pre-Writing Workshop at the CCCAC: I mentioned in the last status report that I was teaching a set of classes at the Copper Country Community Arts Center. I think it went well. My students all had great ideas they were fleshing out. I just wanted to give a shout-out to them and say, “Good luck with your novels!” 🙂

Glitch: I’ve gotten feedback from my second beta-reader, and today I start the process of incorporating that feedback into the final version of the mini-series. Once those tweaks are complete, it’ll be time to do the read-aloud (where Isaac and I try to catch awkward sounding sentences and anything we might have missed in the previous read-throughs).

After that, all that’s left is to prepare Glitch for publication. Formatting, finalizing book covers and blurbs… It’s just about done. Yay!

Fractured Skies: The huge overhaul of this manuscript has a been completed, adding in a whopping 40,000 words. The novel was 114,000 words before, and now sits around 155,000 words. That’s not including the scenes that we outright cut because they weren’t adding what we wanted. I think this version sounds a whole lot better. It fleshes out characters and goes a bit more in-depth as to what’s going on, and it connects the various plot pieces better.

Once I finish edits to Glitch, I’ll be re-reading through the revisions I made to Fractured Skies to make sure I like the changes and to see if there’s anything I can cut before I send it to beta-readers.

Distant Horizon: Like I mentioned last time, there’s a new cover in the works. Not much to update here, since I’ve been focusing on revisions of other books. I intend to have the new cover up before publishing Glitch.

The Multiverse Chronicles: On hold. I’m hoping to edit the various episodes during breaks between projects. Progress is slow, but hasn’t come to a complete halt.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade Series: I still haven’t come up with a name for this one. However, I’ve finished tightening the manuscript, so it’s ready for Isaac to read  once he has a break from his classwork.

I still need to outline book four, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of where it’s going. I just need to work out the details of how it’s going to get there.

Stone and String 2: I haven’t named this short story yet, but a little while back I started writing a rough draft for the sequel of “Stone and String.” I had to put it aside to work on other projects, but I’m now in the process of making revisions to what I’d already written. Once that’s complete, I intend to outline the rest of the story and complete the rest of the rough draft by the end of the month.

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: A book cover here… a book cover there…

Game Development: On hold while Isaac is busy with his classes.

Marketing: This is a new category for my reports, but I thought it warranted a mention. I’ve been reading up various marketing strategies that are intended to help authors promote their books, and I’m hoping to develop a different newsletter for each of the different genres I write in (I’m currently thinking of having one newsletter for fantasy works, such as The Wishing Blade Series, and one for dystopian science fiction, which would encompass the Distant Horizon series and Glitch, and possibly the latest project I’ve been working on). That’s a development that’s still in progress, though, and I haven’t solidified these plans yet. (Though if you want to stay up-to-date with our latest book releases and promotions, we still have our overarching Infinitas Publishing Newsletter.)

NaNoWriMo Project: I mentioned in my most recent blog post about the Magic’s Stealing promotion that I had an all-new project I was working on for NaNoWriMo. My goal was to achieve 50,000-65,000 words in 12 days, writing in a world I hadn’t written before. Well, that’s been completed! (I’m hoping to have a more detailed post on that challenge soon).

General info… the novel (50,300 words) is a cyberpunk/dystopian retelling of Snow White from the point of view of the huntress (instead of the huntsman). The accompanying short story (11,600 words) is a cyberpunk retelling of Red Riding Hood.

I had fun writing it, and I’m hoping to start edits in December (after I finish editing these other projects). I’m hoping to write at least one more novel-length story in that series before releasing them.

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Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with our latest book releases and promotions, sign up for our Infinitas Publishing Newsletter!

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That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post! 😀

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Thoughts on Writing – Writing a Rough Draft, One Character at a Time

I recently finished the main draft for book three of The Wishing Blade series (the main draft, in this case, being a little bit more polished than a rough draft, but not quite ready for beta-readers). The process I took for writing this one was a bit different than some of my other books, so I thought I would take a moment to discuss the process.

Normally,  when I write, I write semi-chronologically… for the whole plot. I may skip around at times to write scenes that I feel particularly enthused about, or to bypass scenes that are giving me difficulty until the rest of the rough draft has been written, but I write in plot order.

This time, however, I focused on writing one point of view at a time. The third book (currently untitled) has four points of view, compared to the two in Magic’s Stealing (Toranih, with a few short scenes from Shevanlagiy), the three in The Shadow War (Daernan, Toranih, a few scenes with Shevanlagiy… and technically there’s four POVs because there’s a single scene with Siklana). Distant Horizon and Glitch each have only one point of view (Jenna and Tim, respectively). There’s also Little One, which has three primary points of view and several brief scenes with a bunch of other characters, but I was jumping all over the place when writing that one.

General consensus?

The process for writing each book is going to be different.

That’s okay. Some books are harder, some are easier.

But let’s take a closer look at my most recent experiment… writing one point of view at a time. While I haven’t sent book three out to beta-readers yet, and there may be other advantages and pitfalls that I’ve missed, I have already noticed a few key aspects of the process.

Advantages:

  1. Character goals and motivations are easier to keep track of.
    • Since you’re writing one point of view all at once, you aren’t distracted by the other characters’ motivations. You’re focusing entirely on one character and what that one character wants. Thus…
  2. Character arcs are smoother.
    • Their emotions are easier to follow. You can see when their emotions are shifting, and they aren’t reacting to what the previous point of view character was feeling. It’s easier to isolate them, thus…
  3. This allows you to clearly see what major players are doing.
    • Each character feels more fleshed out because he has his own wants and needs, and is acting with an individual character arc.

However, this particular character-oriented process comes with a few pitfalls.

Disadvantages:

  1. Occasional lapses in timeline.
    • When you’re writing these different characters, you may find that something that needs to happen in the morning happens in the afternoon, or days before or after an event should occur. Having a general outline that shows what each character should be doing, and when, can help alleviate this issue, as can leaving some time frames in which the events’ timing is not solidified to one point on the plot. I was pleasantly surprised at how all four POVs managed to come together for book three… and that was probably because I had a rough outline, which I wrote after one character’s POV was already completely written.
  2. Story flow may not be as smooth.
    • When writing the plot in a linear fashion, it may be easier to see the ups and downs for the reader, not just the character. You may run into problems where the scenes are jarring, with one character coming out of an extremely tense situation into a scene where other characters are in absolute calm. To counter this phenomenon, you may want to look for moments of irony. If one character believes one thing and the opposite is true, this may work in your favor. You can also play with parallels, in which we see how events are lining up between characters more than they know. You can place alternating POVs in such a way as to create moments of tension, in which one of the characters has discovered a great danger to another character (or is the great danger), and we know that the character’s POV that we just shifted into is under a threat they don’t suspect.
  3. Story plot might be forgotten.
    • When focusing on the character, rather than the plot, you may find that the characters have decided to go an entirely different direction than you had planned. This can be good… it provides twists the reader might not expect, but it can also be bad… (On hearing my plans for the plot of book three, my husband asked, “But where’s the Shadow War?” Needless to say, I’ve made a few notes which will need to be addressed in the next round of revisions). You may find that the external plot has shifted away from what your reader expects to read. This can sometimes be prevented by having an outline, or it can be adjusted scene-by-scene once you have the rough draft written.
  4. Your story might get bogged down with subplots.
    • You may find that writing all of the scenes from a single point of view means that you place more importance on a character than you necessarily should. These subplots decide to take over the story and run away like the horses of a wagon in a gold heist… (sorry… my mind is stuck on “frontier” and “mining” at the moment). Once you place them in the story with the other characters’ POVs, you might quickly realize which scenes are bogging down the plot and which ones need to be moved. Beta-readers may also be helpful here, if you’re having a hard time picking out the problem spots.

Overall, though, I found doing each character arc individually to be an effective method for writing multiple points of views when each of the points of views were largely separate from the other. The characters are contributing to the main plot, but what they do doesn’t directly affect the others… yet. Still, readers can see that a larger scheme is unfolding, and what each of the characters are learning should create tension for the other characters, especially as the web of the plot slowly weaves them back together.

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

Have you ever tried writing a story from each individual point of view before placing everything together into one, mostly-cohesive draft?

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Thoughts on Writing – Using Music for Plotting (The Wishing Blade series)

When writing and plotting stories, I like listening to music. (Not so much when editing… then I prefer to see how the story is speaking for itself). Listening to music helps me set the tone of the scene, and it provides inspiration while I’m plotting, whether I’m stuck in a scene, or just want something to help convey the tone. Another benefit I’ve found is that if I listen to music while plotting, then listen to the same song again later when writing, I can reintroduce that feeling, that mood I was in when I originally crafted the story. (For this, playlists are extremely helpful).

For example, I’ve used music constantly while writing and plotting The Wishing Blade series. There are certain songs I listen to when I want to be reminded of specific characters and their motives. For example, “The Other Side” by Blackmore’s Night is one I’ve recently found useful when I want to think of Shevanlagiy’s character arc (since there’s a particular character she’s trying to keep from dying again that drives her motives).

As for influences on the world of the story in general, “Shadows” by Gordon Lightfoot, and “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie (I must admit that I’m not a fan of the original recording; I heard a different version of it when I was taking singing lessons that I became a fan of), both influenced the world. “Shadows” inspired some of the longing of Daernan’s character in The Shadow War, who sees that the world is no longer what it appeared, and it influenced how he sees the war affecting Toranih. “Rainbow Connection” pushed me toward the original idea of the Wishing Blade and more importantly toward the idea of there being some unnatural call (in this case, Magic’s Lure) pulling characters in directions they hadn’t expected (though the call in the story is a bit more sinister than that of the song).

But not all of the songs that influence the story and character arcs are ones I listened to in the early stages of writing. Aside from “The Other Side,” which was a fairly recent discovery, I enjoy several versions of “Luna’s Future” that fans have covered from the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV series. When I listen to the song, I enjoy picturing it as a dialogue between Madiya and Shevanlagiy (minus the names of the ponies involved, since neither characters would wish to be caught in a musical, or as their equine counterparts…). I also enjoy “Elf Glade” by Meg Davis, which I picture as a dialogue between young Lord Menchtoteale and Shevanlagiy… despite the fact that there are no elves in the story, and that I can’t go into too much detail about why I see this song with those characters without giving potential spoilers.

If you listen to music while plotting, consider the reasons for it. Does it inspire a certain mood for you? Help you picture scenarios between characters you hadn’t pictured before? If you’re stuck on a certain plot point, try putting together a list of songs that have influenced your story, or look for new ones in a similar vein to help inspire you. (Just don’t do like I do and discover that a couple hours have passed with nothing written, but with a host of new songs added to the playlist).

Another joy of plotting while listening to music is misinterpreting lyrics. The first time I heard “The Skye Boat Song,” I heard “Carry the lad that’s born to be king, over the sea to die” rather than “over the sea to Skye.” Though the plot arc that resulted hasn’t appeared in the current version of The Wishing Blade series, it led to a concept that played in the original draft, where a young boy who was stillborn was brought back to life by the high god so that he would later become king. There was no sea involved in the plot, but the character played a large role in the original story. (And who knows… he may later play a role in the world of Cirena, even if he doesn’t appear in The Wishing Blade series). Likewise, “Kingsword” by Heather Dale also makes me think of that particular story arc.

Have you found any songs to have given you story ideas because you didn’t quite hear what was being said? Or because there are variations on the song?

There were certainly other songs that influenced the world of The Wishing Blade and helped shape it into what it is today. Most of the stories I write have been influenced in one way or another by the songs I listen to (and the songs I listen to have been influenced by what I write).

If anyone’s interested, I’m considering looking at how music has influenced the other stories I’ve written and that I’m working on. But, for now, do you listen to music while you plot, and have you found any songs to be helpful in writing a particular story? 🙂

 

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Thoughts on Writing – Originality in Writing

As writers, we constantly try to write something original, or something with a unique twist. But how often do we come up with a super cool idea, only to discover there are already dozens of similar ideas out there already? (Looking at you, Marvel. Every time Isaac and I think we have a unique story idea, your next movie covers something really similar. All I need to say is “dancing baby tree.” *Sigh.*)

It can be depressing.

But here’s the thing: having similar ideas is okay.

That’s why genres and sub-genres exist. That’s why certain tropes show over and over again. We enjoy them. We like being able to follow patterns, and we’re delighted when those patterns fulfill their promises in unexpected ways.

For example, readers of romance know that the stories they reading will have a happy-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, no matter how dire things may seem at the moment. They enjoy seeing how the two characters finally get together, despite the odds.

Readers of horror know to expect chills and moments of tenseness… and that the little kid down the road might very well not be a little kid. But the joy comes in seeing how the characters succeed or fail to tackle the issue, and what kind of monster is really lurking in the dark, not quite seen.

These tropes and ideas play into reader expectations, and if you know how to play your genre cards right, you can use those cards to add a new twist on an old idea.

Readers enjoy the familiar. Why else do we read hoards of dystopian books, or try to get our hands on every thriller we can find?

It’s after you consider genre conventions that you want to add a new twist, a new environment, or a new type of character to an old arc to see what might make it different.

This is the reason there are so many takes on different fairy tales. For example, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, puts the classic Cinderella tale in a space-age environment with robots.

You’ll find all the classic plot elements, but in a new setting, the old story takes on new life.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that nothing is ever completely original, and that really, the best we can do is know (to the best of our ability) what is already out there, so we can play on what exists and make something even better, or more unique, just a little bit different.

Have you ever watched a movie and wished it had turned out a bit differently?

What twist would you have added? What direction would it have gone?

(For Distant Horizon, one of the major changes of typical superhero stories was the idea that the supervillains won the day during the age of superheroes, and now the villains are secretly in charge of what otherwise seems like a perfectly functional society).

We enjoy the familiar, but we enjoy seeing how a different author spins the tale.

A while back I was reading a superhero book, Elevated by Daniel Solomon Kaplan (a fun book–I recommend it if you like YA superhero stories) in which the main character is in school (high school), preparing for a potentially life-changing event (getting her superpower–or choosing not to), and then she goes to a history lesson (which benefits us readers into knowing what’s going on in the world and how she feels about it), before moving on to the day of the big event.

At the time, it got me to thinking about the book I coauthored, Distant Horizon. The main character is in school (college), panicking about a potentially life-changing event (testing to see if she has a hallucinogenic disease… but the event secretly tests for super powers), and then she goes to a history class (which shows a little about the world so the reader knows what’s going on), before moving on to the day of the big event.

At first I was discouraged by the similarities, but when I started thinking about it, I realized that those similarities weren’t a bad thing. They help the reader get their bearings before going two completely different plot directions. Those starting events are tropes of the genre. Even the similarities were different (example: both characters have an interest in plants, but the difference is that the main character gets plant powers in Distant Horizon, whereas in Elevated, the main character gets a completely unrelated (but interesting) ability (I’m not going to spoil the book for you).

In Distant Horizon, the big day is secretly testing for superpowers in a world where people don’t know superpowers exist. In Elevated, the big day is a rite of passage where people are zapped for powers in a “Russian Roulette” of sorts (which is instantly different, and automatically leads to different plot twists). In Distant Horizon, powers are genetic. If a parent has a specific power, the odds significantly increase that the child will, too. In Elevated, the powers are random (though the book hints that there may be an unseen pattern). Both stories involve radiation in the explanation of powers, but hey… so do quite a few other superhero stories.

Where does this lead us?

Both stories have a similar start (albeit in different locations–Distant Horizon is dystopian, Elevated feels more near-modern day). It’s a result of both having superhero elements. But those similarities are what drew my interest into reading Elevated in the first place (which I again recommend reading if you like superheroes and young adult fiction. It’s a fast, entertaining read). These similarities are why I read other similar books in the genre, like Minder by Kate Kaynak, though it has a much heavier romance plot.

Do writers often have similar ideas at the same time? Certainly. Do writer’s absorb ideas from other books they’ve read and movies they’ve seen, then delve into them with their own twists? Yep.

Try not to be discouraged if you read something that reminds you of something you’ve written or plan to write. Look to see if the differences are great enough to constitute being their own story. If so, you’re good. (And beta-readers can help you here).

How about you? Have you read something that reminded you of something you’re working on? 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – Speaking on Panels

In my previous blog post I mentioned that I was going to be on a few panels at ConQuest, and I had a blast! It was a lot of fun getting to speak on panels, connecting with other authors, and sharing writing tips and knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to moderate a panel on creating languages (because creating languages is a lot of fun), and I hope to do so again in the future. Of course, I still have a lot to work on in order to be a better panelist and moderator, but I felt like this was a good start. (I’ve done a couple smaller panels before, but this was the first one focused solely on writing that was pre-planned).

If you haven’t spoken on a panel before and are looking for advice, I highly recommend listening to Writing Excuses’ podcast, Season 10: Episode 37. It had excellent tips on how to be a good panelist and moderator. Those tips helped me feel a lot more prepared–and thus more comfortable, on the panels.

Number one tip from the podcast: Allow panels to be conversations (build on what other authors have said rather than “waiting to speak,” and don’t hog all the talking time).

The second tip was preparation. For each panel I was on, I went through and read the description, then made a list of notes that I thought might be interesting to bring up or ask questions about, as well as relevant information. In a couple cases, I had to go do a short bit of research so I could remember the exact details. Having a few of the processes and rules written down made it easier for me to look back during the panel and make an exact quote, rather than stumble over something I suddenly can’t remember. And even though I really didn’t reference the notes often during the panel, it was a great refresher to read through before the panel started.

This was especially helpful for being a moderator, since I was able to form a list of questions that I could use if there was a dead beat… and also to segue conversations and go deeper into a topic once a panelist brought it up in the natural course of things.

Plus, I now have a whole set of notes of things I want to write blog posts about, and how I’d like to connect them back to my own writings (since using examples makes it a lot easier to understand).

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun both being on panels and listening to them. But now that the convention is over, it’s time to get back to writing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. 🙂

Have you had any experience being on panels, and if so, do you have any tips for authors who want to be panelists?

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