I’m going to talk, pontificate and/or think aloud some different methodologies going into my work lately. This is another one of those blog posts that has been marinating in my noggin for a good week or two. It’s also one of those ones that needed to marinate for a good week or two in order for my thoughts to really be coherent. Not to mention I still suck at time management. That time management thing will be coming up again later by the way. This is also a blog post in two parts, completely separate but still related. Also, I’m not taking the time to write two whole blog posts in one sitting instead of just writing one.
Part One – Methodology of Writing
If you follow me on ye olde twitter, you’ll have noticed in between all the RTs, that I’ve started writing my next novel. First and foremost, yay writing! That’s what we’re all here for. Or at least that’s what I’m here for. Secondly, what’s the best way to cut down on the nervous jitters of shopping around the first novel? Start on the second. This is the Rhode Island godpunk book I’ve mentioned a couple times before, although originally it was going to be set in Connecticut. Working title is In a Murphy Minute. Usually I just name the file after the main character, the word file for Amity was originally just called Bernadette. This time I just named the file after the protag’s band. It might stay, might not.
I’m taking a lot of lessons from writing Amity and applying them to In a Murphy Minute. First off, ideas in my head rarely stew in my head for less than six months regardless of length. Novels, short stories, flash fiction… they are almost all old ideas by the time I commit them to paper. I can think of one story I’ve ever written where I came up with the whole thing out of the blue on the spot and truly pantsed the whole thing. Minute has been stewing in my head for two years at least. It started rolling around in the front of my head last year when I finished the first draft of Amity and actually let myself think about another book. I still ended up backburnering the whole thing until Amity was buttoned up completely though.
So I’m still handwriting my first draft. Crazy right? It’s the only way I can work on it during my lunch breaks at work and frankly, that’s one of the best times for me to get something done even if it is only a half hour. It gives me something positive to look for during my day. There are two big changes to my writing methodology going on with Minute versus the last book.
First off I outlined the whole entire thing, soup to nuts, before starting. When a story is rolling around in my noggin, I tend to think about the front end way more than the back end. I’m not really sure why this is, it’s just something my brain gravitates to and I just work with it as is. This has been problematic in the past. Unfinished Novel Attempt Number 2 (out of three, Amity was my fourth try at writing a novel, Minute will be the fifth) got up to 25k words before I realized all I did was provide a set up and some worldbuilding and didn’t actually have a plot. When I wrote Amity I had a very detailed outline of the first act that sputtered out into vagueness that I would meat up as I got closer to the specific part of the outline. My notebook was crazy disorganized as a result as I would cross out stuff that wasn’t valid anymore and whatnot. In hindsight, I think it killed my productivity at times. When I made my final push and wrote the last 40% in five weeks, I sat down and outlined straight out to the end before I did it. Helped me focus a lot. I found I still had the space to go off the rails if I needed to. There were single bullet points that would mushroom into entire chapters. There were also two pages that would detail out a single conversation. So I took that level of outlining and applied it to the entirety of Minute. The front end of the outline is still a little more detailed than the back end. And the whole story went a couple places I didn’t expect it to. Which is a good thing. I spent two weeks and it’s nineteen pages long, if I remember right. It’s actually in my car right now and I’m too lazy to get up and get it to count.
I think it’s been two weeks well spent and will cut down on the overall time of writing the novel drastically. I have a target Draft One Day in my head but I’m hesitant to say it out loud in case it drop the ball utterly. It’s waaaay shorter than the [redacted because I don’t want to admit how long I spent writing Amity] I took to write the last book. Like only 10% as long. And I suck at time management so I’m not sure exactly how realistic that is but I need to get more prolific with novels if I ever want to have hope of giving my day job the middle finger…. well… ok I actually give my day job the middle finger every day because I hate it. But I’d like to give it the middle finger while I’m telling it to screw forever.
The other big thing that’s different about this new books is the POV. Minute is going to be written in first person. Holy shit you have to make a lot of different choices that way. The protag has to be present for so much more when you’re plotting because if Cole (Mr. Punk Rock Protag) doesn’t see it, it doesn’t get written. More than a couple times in the outline, I felt my hands were tied with the movements of characters because I’m not used to plotting this way.
But there are a lot of advantages to this I’m finding already. Everything is much more personal, much more immediate. I’m in this guy’s head way more that I’ve been with any other character I’ve written. It’s not always an easy experience because Cole is a fundamentally broken person (another blog post coming up there). In the case of Moment, I think first person is also working to the advantage of the secondary protag too. She’s mysterious to Cole. Because we as readers never get to go into her thoughts either, she’s mysterious to us too. The question of how much to let the audience know is already answered for me. As much as she wants to let Cole know. In Amity, there were scenes that I thought it was a delicate balance. There were three protags and a lot of secrets between them but the audience knew. No issues with that here in Moment. If Cole knows it, the audience knows it. Simple.
The tone of a first person novel is also vastly different than a third. There’s a narrator tone going on with a third person. I rotated POV chapters in Amity so even if all three protags were in a scene, the audience only knew the thoughts of one. And I shifted some of the language I used depended on the POV. The difference in tone for Moment might just be since Cole is so very different than anyone in Amity and wouldn’t get along with any of them. In Amity, I doubt I swore a dozen times. I went a hundred pages or so before the first one even though I swear like a sailor in real life. In Moment I’m dropping eff bombs in the first paragraph. I swore more in the first three pages than in all of Amity. This is a Chuck Wendig Blackbirds level of swearing here. I’m dusting off some of my little use favorites like “shitknickers” and “assmuffin” and my all time personal favorite (coined by an actual sailor I went to high school with), “fuckcock.”
It actually doesn’t come naturally in my writing even though it does when I talk but it’s all part of getting into this character’s head.
Part Two – Methodology on Blogging
This is actually something I’ve been thinking about because the latest kerfluffle in the SF community came up. Seriously, can we go more than two weeks without some god damn issue or other? Especially since half of them are non issues that people turn into issues because some subset is intolerant and assholish. It actually has to do with the reviews I do on this site.
See, I love talking shop. That’s both the writing and the reading. I don’t view them as fundamentally different. If I hadn’t read a crap ton of sci fi and fantasy books since I was a kid, I wouldn’t exactly have a desire to write them now would I? I don’t have a lot of people to talk shop with in real life. Rhode Island isn’t exactly a hotbed of SFF authors. Being a small part of the community motivates me and all that good stuff. It’s why I started this blog almost two years ago. And a majority of my posts have actually been about the books I read.
Because damnit, I like talking about good books. I’ve had authors tell me that tapping out some good words about their book has given them a kick in the motivational pants. I’ve had people specifically seek out the books I’ve raved about and then they enjoyed them. My parents, the crazy well read people who have so many books in the genre that I never had to seriously bother buying my own until I was 20 have found new favorites by reading my blog. I know I’ve sold at least six copies of Wes Chu’s Lives of Tao. There’s an entire Rhode Island Air Guard unit that are Myke Cole fans because I let one borrow my copy and they all passed it around. This kind of stuff makes me happy.
And damnit, I think I’ve gotten good at writing these reviews. When I started they were a bit short and clunky. Now I like to think they’re pretty focused and usually around 1k words.
Therein lays part of the problem though. That’s a thousand words that I’m not applying to my novel. If you go back and look at my posting frequency, I was dropping two or three posts a week during summer of last year. I was reading just as much because it was slow at work and that’s how I roll. My posting frequency dropped like a rock when I made my final push for Amity. Then once I was done my first draft, I had to start doing all my Amity work on the computer at home. So any time I was spending here was eating into time I could spend on my writing. My post frequency is down to two or three times a month. I feel bad about it. The last few review posts I’ve done sat around for a week or two after reading before I had the time to type out the review. I’m feeling like that’s unfair to the book / author I’m reviewing.
The latest kerfluffle in the SFF community between writers and reviews… well frankly I think it’s kind of dumb and boils down to “Some people are being assholes” and “Some other people use the word bully over zealously for whatever ever reason I don’t give a shit enough to psychoanalyze.” But more than anything I kind of see why a lot of published authors don’t touch reviews with a ten foot pole. Which is unfortunate because I think that the ideal of a respectful, constructive dialogue can actually exist. (Search for the Gav Reads blog and Peter Brett for an example)
I actually get a not-insignificant percentage of my traffic to this blog from authors I’ve talked about RTing things on twitter. On my top ten posts, numbers two, three and ten are all review posts. But recently, all the rest of the top ten have become the ones about other stuff. Cons, and writing and genre tropes. A lot of that shop talk I love.
I think I’m going to make a concentrated effort to focus more on the stuff and shop talk kind of posts because they seem to resonate. It’s not like I have a huge audience to lose or anything. Sadly, it’s also more than a little bit of having to prioritize my time. After my family, my kiddo and my horrible day job, I only have X amount of time left in the day and I can’t spend so much of it pounding out thousand word reviews at the expense of other important things I love to do.
I think I will still pontificate about books. Being a fan of books comes first, long before anyone out in the community started writing them. I don’t think any of us should cut out the fan part of us. But I need to find a more efficient way to do it. Maybe I’ll actually use that Goodreads account I opened up back with it was new five… six? years ago. Whatever it is. It thinks I’ve been reading Un Lun Dun since 2008.
So that’s all I got today. I’ve killed 2.2k on this so I’m out of gas in terms of witty conclusion. I’m going to click “Publish” and then finish typing out a short story I want to edit up and shop around.