Monday, June 28, 2010

Works In Progress

So this is our first official "writing Monday", so I thought I would talk a little bit about my WIPs (Works in Progress). This way, you guys can relate better to some of the things I'm talking about and why I'm going through a sudden rash of YA & MG books.

So I currently have four projects. I'm only allowing myself to work on these four projects and no others. Some people may not like to work on so many projects, but it really helps me to keep my ADD in line.

No, I'm not really ADD, but when it comes to story ideas, my brain is uber ADD. If I let it, my brain would think of a million stories and we would never write any of them down. This doesn't mean I don't let my brain come up with new ideas. I just record them and let them mull. I don't focus on them or work on them.

So four projects, each in a slightly different phase of incompleteness.

Project 1:
This story is a MG high fantasy novel. It's complete at about 52,000 words. I'm working on revising it and cutting down the word count a little. I've found some discrepancies from agents about what word count is acceptable for a MG high fantasy book, so I think somewhere in the 40,000s (I'm aiming for 48,000) will be completely acceptable.

My revision is basically a complete re-write. I took a class last fall on writing and the teacher there (AC Crispin, not to name drop or anything...) gave me some really good advice. She said that in a story the situation should always get worse for the MC (right up until the very end) and in my book, it seemed things only got better from the beginning. Part of that feeling can't be helped, but I am adding in situations where it seems that the MC's new life isn't all its cracked up to be and even if it was lots of people threaten to jeopardize it.

Reading through the story myself, I decided the story need a more tangible bad guy. The truth of the matter is the bad guy is really society and the MC. She is fighting against how society views her and how society has made her view herself. Society thinks she is worthless, dirty, and unclean, and she has to get over that - to accept who she is - in order to meet the tasks demanded by the plot. However, this is a MG book and I understand that not all upper elementary kids and middle schoolers aren't quite as sharp as me and my friends were back then. So, I've decided to create a character who basically embodies all those awful aspects of the MC's society and becomes the antagonist of the story.

I find revising to be really difficult, mainly when it comes to what to cut and what not to cut, but the more I do the easier it comes. And it helps to be watching Doctor Who or Firefly in the background.

Project 2:
This WIP is a YA paranormal fantasy. Please don't cringe and think I've gone off the deep end. This story is not about vampires. I'm sure I've mentioned on this blog before my feelings about vampires. For reminding: I don't like them. I avoid vampire books like they've got the plague. It's about a high-school wizard, living in modern day Orlando. The paranormal label really bothers me...maybe urban fantasy is the better label? It's hard to tell. I feel like one is pretty much the other, so if you have any insight or opinions on that matter please share.

This story is very much a work in progress. I'm just finished chapter five (draft 1) and its going to have lots more chapters than that.

What I've been doing is sending each new chapter to a few of my friends to critique. They look over it - tell me what they don't like - what doesn't make sense, and what they're thinking at each point in the story. It helps me to know if the reader is thinking what I think they should be thinking at each point. It also helps me to know if my descriptions are doing their job or if the story is lagging. If someone reads a new chapter and is bored, they usually tell me. I've found this to be an extremely helpful experience. My critters are great.

It also helps to keep my writing. I have a serious problem of starting manuscripts and never finishing them. So having people who are bugging me about the next installment is really usefule to motivate me.

Project 3:
This is an adult high fantasy novel that I have plotted out but not actually written. I've been adding to the story Bible, creating myths for the land, and fleshing out ideas about the characters and story line. This story is probably more ready to write than my project 2. It just has one serious problem in the way.

I don't know where to start it.

I know where I want the story to start - but stories have to start with action, they have to start with where the plot starts. Like in Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, where the story starts with the prince discovering he's changed. It's a big thing. It's shocking. It's what changed the lives of everyone in the story from the get go.

I know what this moment is in this story too. It's the moment all my MCs (there are 3) learn that the king has died. However, there is just so much back story to get there. I don't want to have any info dumps, and I don't know how to just jump in the story there. It's very frustrating. I basically have this story, that's begging for me to write it, I just have no idea how to start it.

Usually once I can get that first page, the ball rolls pretty well and the rest comes. This is the first time this particular problem has ever struck me, so its quite mind boggling.

This WIP is pretty much on my backburner, stewing in the back of my mind, taking in everything from the other projects I'm working on and the books I'm reading so I can find a solution to this problem.

Project 4:
This project started as a MG science fiction (SF) novel. I might still go back to that idea as an additional project to this new one, basically the MG novel would take place in the same universe. The WIP has evolved, however, into an adult science fiction novel.

This novel is set in the distant future, and its currently in a story Bible phase. I've got a notebook divided into six distinct sections: History, Society, Geography, Characters, Story Ideas, and Miscellaneous.

Characters and basic plot ideas come easy to me. It's usually where I start with any story. This particular story (not the MG one) started with the idea of a young, mourning widow and the circumstances of her husbands death. From there ideas for a greater plot sprung to my mind. But when a SF story that's being set in the distant distant future, you've got to think through the history that got them there. I want to create a futuristic society that got to where it is through a realistic and logical process (well as logical as history can be).

So all my brainstorming for the past week has been focused on writing "a short history of the universe". It's funny, because whenever I write something like this, I write it like a textbook. When I read it back, I kind of giggle because I use the same tone as my high school history books.

My history is pretty much now complete. I need to line up the events I detailed with some centuries so I have an idea of exactly how far in the future I am, but other than that, the history is pretty much done. Next I want to start thinking about society and geography. These are closely related since in the story people live on many different planets, each with different societies.

I don't often plan out histories and the like this detailed, but I think for a SF novel on the epic scale I'm thinking, its necessary.

So that's what I'm working on. Hope this post didn't seem too terrible long, and I hope it gave you a little insight into my brain and processes when it comes to writing.

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