Storylines: Many Forks, One Meal

As many of you know, I am about 50% Plotter and 50% Pantser because I like to create a framework for a story and then dive in and play within that structure.  I find that combination to be flexible enough to tell a good tale and not burn myself out when a plot goes off-road on me.

The thing is that the initial story idea goes through many evolutions before the finished story is ready to put out there.  We work diligently to interpret and write down the images that hang out inside our minds and that translation process involves an infinite number of mental filters as it grows and prospers.  For example, you’re working on a scene where two characters are having a conversation.  On the surface, describing a conversation is fairly straightforward.

But…

What are circumstances behind the conversation? Is it angry? Are the two characters dealing with an interpersonal issue?  Where are they? Is anything else going on around them?

Each of these questions open new paths that potentially take the story in a new and often unexpected directions depending on the type of story we are telling.  That is both the fun and the pain of it.  I don’t always welcome such forks in the road but I’ve learned that it’s better to explore the alternatives because everything can be edited out later.

In other news, I am still chewing on the elephant that is Lights and Shadows but I see its completion date slipping into Limbo, which was totally unexpected when I started working on it in 2015.  Thankfully, I only planned one book for 2016 so there is still time to get it out there before I turn my attention back to Parallax’s Sequels.

Well, that’s it for today. I should have a Lights and Shadows Update done soon so stay tuned and Happy Writing to you all. 🙂

Nuts and Bolts

It costs little to nothing to write a good story.  That’s a fact.  We think it, we write it…bang zoom…it’s out there.  We do it out of a love of storytelling and the satisfaction of taking a vague idea and giving it life.  That’s the point of it all.

However, when we take those finished stories and shop them around, money enters the scene.  We pay for office supplies (we do anyway but still), postage, mailing materials, etc, to put our babies in the hands of literary agents and prospective publishers.  It’s how the Traditional Publishing Game is played and there’s no way around it that I have found and I’ve been taking bites out of this particular elephant for a long time.

Self-Publishing incurs many of the same costs with the added joy of having to shop around for a good cover designer, editor, and if you are so inclined someone to assist in promoting your work to the masses. This particular batch of trail mix has an exceeding amount of nuts in it and though you can keep the costs down by doing them yourself, eventually a realization sets in after that first great cover reveal that going back to using the “free” services isn’t an attractive option.

I’ll admit here that I’ve had some Writer’s Anxiety of late concerning Lights and Shadows.  I sit down, stare at the manuscript in Scrivener for several minutes, and then practically dive out of my desk chair.  There’s nothing wrong with the story itself.  It’s as solid as the day I first did the outline. So then why?  I’ve pinpointed my particular dose of anxiety with the cost of a new book cover and a dearth of funds available to purchase said cover.  I’ve since solved that particular issue due to revising my writing budget, but I find it interesting that I would be delayed by something that most wouldn’t consider part of the creative process.  Sadly, when we move our pastime into the realm of income producer, new considerations come into play.

Personally, I’d rather have Writer’s Block…

A Random Literary Thought

Every so often while I’m writing, a stray thought pops into my head and I have to stop and ponder its significance.  Most stray thoughts drift out whence they came and some stick around long enough to get written down. I guess that’s how it works.

Today’s random thought involves retooling Lights and Shadows so that I can fold it into The Parallax Universe as the lead book in a new series that will pick up where The Parallax Trilogy ends.  Of course, that means changing a bunch of stuff (timeline, some characters, etc) to line it all up with the events I’m currently leading up to.  That also means a delay of sorts since Parallax: Genesis and Darkfall haven’t been written yet.  Lights and Shadows was originally intended to be a spinoff set within the same story universe but about seven years into the story future.

Yes, I know that since it’s my story, I can do whatever I want with it.  Yes, I know that retooling L&S has the potential to put it on hold in favor of the Parallax Sequels.  Yes, I know that delays may push the release date way past the end of September and despite the hordes of voracious villagers assembling with pitchforks and torches, I would rather delay a release in favor of a better end result.

My inner voice tells me to consider very carefully before committing to an action like this because internal consistency is very important.

Speaking for Myself

I know it’s been a while since my last post but I’ve been on the horns of a dilemma for the past few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing stories. Love em, love em, love em… I like to think of each story as a potential pilot for a new series.

On my computer, I have an Excel Spreadsheet that outlines the writing projects that I want to work on. It’s not easy for me to work on a schedule so when my inner rebel starts acting up, creativity tends to lag. I’m not making excuses, merely telling it like it is.

During a relatively sleepless night this past evening, I took advantage of the time to do a little self-analysis and I came to the conclusion that I have a bad habit of creating routines that aren’t sustainable over the long term. Lights and Shadows is moving along at a snail’s pace and while I have faith in its potential, I feel the pull of the Parallax Sequels.

In retrospect, I believe that I didn’t take enough time off between projects and because I made a personal commitment to Lights and Shadows, I’ve been feeling a little stuck. Down Time is important whether we realize it or not and while finishing by September is certainly attainable, creating new story worlds and characters for each and every individual story from scratch gets a little tedious after a time. However, the process is as it is and no amount of complaining on my part will change that. It feels good to vent a little though…hehe.

Lights and Shadows: Adventures in Outlining

Stories evolve…

Stories that are works in progress are subject to unexpected changes. That’s a fact of creative life. We work on a scene, we get new ideas, we try to put them in place and suddenly everything that comes after doesn’t have the same feel that it did beforehand.

So we make changes to the outline….and then more changes…and still more changes…

This was brought home to me while working on Lights and Shadows. I reached a point in the plot where the storyline appeared to be running out of steam. Pacing is important to a story’s flow, so I spent some extra time coming up with new ideas to jazz things up. However, as I started to put some new changes in place I realized that my original outline’s events made less and less sense after what I planned for Chapter 13 and beyond. This is where Plot Evolution came into play. Was the story moving away from my original vision or simply becoming a huge pain in the backside? Well, to be honest, the answer was almost yes to both unless I could modify the rest of my outline to accommodate the new ideas that I wanted to use. The great thing about writing is that you can change anything you want and any limitations that exist are the ones you place upon yourself and your story.

Thankfully, the changes that I ended up making to my outline ended up being small in nature and I could resume writing scenes and moving my plot forward. The plot is still following my original vision and though I’m a little behind (in my opinion), I’m still making progress.

What adventures in outlining have you encountered?