Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 27: Behind!

Wordcount: 39167

I'm not only behind on this blog, I'm also behind on my novel! Not in too terrible a way, only 6,000 words or so. But look! Word Clouds!

Wordle: Pillars on the Deep

It's written in the first person, so the main character, Elsie, is not very prominent. Carwyn is the sidekick/love interest. Here's a version without him:

Wordle: Pillars II

I like that Elsie is about the same size as her two main enemies, Mr. Caspar and the Danwood family. I notice that the other major words are rather epistemic in nature. Hmm.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 3: doubts

Wordcount: 5493

Today's words were a little slower and harder to come by. I worry that I'm losing the thread of the this character's voice. As the novel is written in the first person, it's tricky to achieve all the needed exposition. I need to work out to whom this story is being told.

The love interest/spy has been introduced. Exciting!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 2

Wordcount: 3,452

Today was a very busy day! But I still met my wordcount obligation. I won't spend too much energy on this blog entry. I just have a few small bits of news to share.

One is that I spent the afternoon and early evening schmoozing with big-shot mathematicians and physicists. I'm not very good at this schmoozing--it's my husband's field, and I usually glaze over and lose track of the conversation pretty quickly unless some special effort is made to include me. On this particular occasion, I met the partner of a particular mathematician, who is an actual big-shot author, Marina Warner. We only spoke briefly before my husband told me she was Somebody and looked her up on Wikipedia using his phone. Anyway, she had heard I was working on writing and expressed a willingness to talk to me, but the shape of the evening didn't, in the end, permit it. This encounter caused me to reflect on how unwilling I am to discuss my writing, and how, despite the bravado I display on this blog, I actually feel very insecure about it. I found myself rehearsing in my head what I would say to her if she asked me a question.

Second, tonight we are staying in a strange huge guest-house with no heat. It is the house that my husband's workplace keeps for out-of-town visitors. We are sleeping in a vast bedroom, where I sat at the desk to write. Opening a cupboard in the desk, I found a copy of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, a charming book that I had completely forgotten about. It's a sweet little story about a rabbit who wants to be one of the five special rabbits that are chosen to be Easter Bunnies. But she gets sidetracked and has twenty-one babies instead. However, through her wise and kind and clever handling of her many children, she proves herself worthy to be an Easter Bunny after all. Grandfather Rabbit gives her a special mission, to bring a fancy hollow diorama egg to a sick child on top of a mountain. She tries her hardest, but fails. But then Grandfather Rabbit appears to give her a pair of magic shoes, in recognition of her special bravery, and she is able to complete the mission. Hugely adorable illustrations of little rabbits wearing clothes. No point here, really, just that I was tickled to find it. The writing style is very carefree and unpretentious. My more jaded grown-up self thinks perhaps Grandfather Rabbit is meant to symbolize God, or something, but I actually don't believe this was the author's intent.

Lastly! I met some nice people at a dinner party the other night, including a fellow who curates this odd little blog: Take a look, maybe you'll learn something

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 1

Wordcount: 2059

Well, it's the end of another November 1st, and so far, things are going swimmingly. I wrote a nice little chunk of words today, and I still feel good about where story is going.

In the absence of reader comments (le sigh!) I went for romance option number 4. I'm glad I brainstormed a few different scenarios instead of just going with the first thing that came into my head. That's a habit I'm trying to get into.

I did indeed come up with a workable outline. It's not deeply developed in terms of scene-by-scene planning, but it carries the story from beginning to end and covers the major points of conflict. I've also got a pretty good volume of supporting notes about the setting and backstory and so on, but I need to develop this further--particularly matters of setting. The magical aspect of the story is especially weak right now. I think the characters and the overall structure of the plot are the strong points.

This story was really easy to plot; I was amazed. I'm not sure if it's because I've gotten better at plotting, or if I've gotten better at coming up with plot-friendly concepts, or if I just got lucky with this particular idea.

I have been studying plot. In addition to James Scott Bell's book, which I reviewed earlier, I went through a book called Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple, by Martha Alderson. This is a slightly schlocky book, very focused on a particular method for charting scene-by-scene action and overall plot arc. The book is partly an advertisement for plotting templates that you can also purchase. I think the ideas on scenes would be more applicable to a first edit than in planning a first draft; indeed, the first step of her method is "make a list of all your scenes." Hmm. But one concept of hers that did stick with me is the idea of scenes that take place "above the line" and "below the line" (named for where you would draw these scenes on the ascending line of the overall plot). "Above the line" scenes are those where the antagonist is in power, and focus is on conflict. "Below the line" scenes are those where the protagonist is in power, resting, or reflecting. There may (and should) still be conflict in below-the-line scenes, but it's more about internal issues. I liked this idea, and I'm trying to consciously move above and below the line as I go along. This makes a nice rhythm, and ensures that the quiet, personal parts of the plot don't get left out (a problem I've struggled with before, especially in last year's NaNo).

But I think the overall concept for this story does lend itself to easy plotting. The original idea came from a short story I wrote about a lonely outlaw airship pilot taking in a little girl who was about to be sold into slavery. There are plenty of inherently dramatic aspects here: if he's an outlaw, then who are his enemies? Why is he a lonely outlaw? Where are the little girl's parents? Why is she being shipped to an uncertain fate in the hands of a smuggler? Also, airships! Slavery! Gasp! Wow! There is definitely drama in this world.