Tag Archives: the novel in progress

Storyboard, Aug 3

This is what my storyboard for book two looked like two days ago. (The part with the green background.)

It had three cards on it when I started writing book one.  While writing book one, I occasionally slapped new cards up on books two and three when I had ideas, in the general area of the books where I thought something would happen or be important. [Book three is on top, but most of its cards are in the first part of the book so not in this pic.]  Post-its tend to fall off eventually but I did have some, and some scribbled notes and some printed.  Now I’m looking at what I have, figuring out what else I need, eliminating those ideas that probably won’t fit.

I am very disorganized. Any kind of analysis requires this kind of thought process is a real shift in gears for me.  So having these physical elements to work with–so fluid and easy to move around, remove, put back–has made all the difference in the world in my ability to visualize and control my story.

I’ve never done this detailed kind of outlining and plotting before, but for this trilogy it’s absolutely necessary.

The storyboard technique is from the aforementioned screenwriting book, Save The Cat, and I wish I’d learned it earlier.  I’d used scene cards before, but never in this way.

I have used color to represent things like “not sure about this” or “R’s pov” but when I have a plot that is getting close to solid, I will make all of this neat and print it out in proper scene cards and then use it to write from.

Also, I had a major spoiler on the board. Not that anybody ever actually reads it but me but… I have removed that spoiler and rewritten so that it is no longer spoilery. (wink)


Filed under Analog, Index Cards, Novels, Office, Organizing, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing

And behind door number three…

If you’re not interested in the creative process and how I get from “idea” to “book,” you’ll want to skip this one.

So.  I have had a storyboard on the wall for book two in my trilogy for, maybe 18 months, maybe longer. It started off with only three cards, but as I thought of stuff, I would pin it up there to deal with later (when I was smart) instead of writing it down somewhere to lose (when I was dumb), or more likely, assuming I’d remember it (when I was flat-out stupid).

That’s just a small portion of the board, but it shows that some of them are scribbled by hand, some printed, some on colored cards (meaning I am not sure about them, but maybe they will take me somewhere), and post-its show up there, too, although they sometimes get knocked off so I really prefer cards with push pins.

Still, not enough cards to write a book, or even a brief synopsis, because they are isolated scenes with no connective tissue, no major mile markers to guide me, just a general idea that this scene probably will fall in this part of the book (beginning, middle or end).

The time has finally come to build this story.

But I couldn’t find the spine of the story.  What kind of story is it?  I know what happens in it, and the big huge revelations that explode everything to hell and back, but in Blake Snyder terms, I couldn’t figure out if it was door number one, a Golden Fleece or door number two, a Whydunit.  And from my experience plotting the first book in the trilogy, I knew that as soon as I understood what kind of story it was, at least some of the pieces would suddenly start falling into place.

I kept reading/skimming story breakdowns in Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies and could see elements in both Golden Fleece and Whydunit that fit my story, but neither was a clear winner.  So, I whipped out the colored index cards and decided to put the story elements that fit Golden Fleece on pink cards and story elements that fit Whydunit on blue.

And it still felt kind of murky. (See?  It even looks murky there, and that’s not because I adjusted the settings in iPhoto to make it look murky.  Okay, it is because of that. Sue me.) Anyway.  This tried and true process still wasn’t giving me answers.

BACKSTORY: I might point out that when I was looking for the structure of the first book I read through every Snyder-genre in Save the Cat Goes to the Movies, and dipped back into Save the Cat, too. (I say Snyder-genre because he redefines genre in a way that is amazing and is what truly opened my eyes to structure, but honestly he should have used a different term because genre is something tangible and defined.  His interpretation is something new and not really “genre” at all, and if I just left “genre” hanging out there, you’d wonder if I’m totally insane, not knowing if I’m writing a romantic comedy or a horror or a science fiction novel, right? What Snyder actually isolated is about structure and elements of plot that certain story-types have in common, not truly genre.)

Okay, so I was almost to the end of his book thinking, “This doesn’t work. I thought it worked; I thought he was brilliant; this doesn’t work for my new story.”  And then I hit the last section–Superhero–and like a flash of Hollywood dazzle and special effects, the elements were there, this was the story I was writing.  What’s more, as soon as I recognized that, many other story pieces made sense.  Ideas and scenes I already knew I was going to write were right there in the superhero structure Snyder outlined, and suddenly they were fleshing out and I was able to connect them better and the whole thing started taking shape.

Which doesn’t mean it got easy.  It just means it finally started revealing itself to me with logic behind it, not just floating in the primordial ooze that my muse hands me. /BACKSTORY

Okay, then.

So, here I was again, struggling to find the right Snyder-genre, waiting for the pieces to suddenly click into place, and it was staying vague and if-ish and maybe this and maybe that and, haven’t I been here before?

Oh yes.  I have. Indeed I have.

Exactly here before.

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, the answer was right in front of my nose.  Intellectually I had already decided I knew what this story was not. It wasn’t another superhero story, because, duh, I didn’t want two books in a row to have so much structural in common, plus, we’d already established that part of the bigger three-book arc, plus–

I was wrong.

And as soon as I recognized I was wrong, look what happened.

Behind door number three–

Answers started coming faster than I could write them down.  Yellow cards started piling up. Until now I feel like I just was dealt the winning hand in the championship round of Texas Hold ‘Em.  Read ’em and weep, boys.  Read ’em and weep.  (Okay, nobody can read my handwriting including me, but still.)

Which doesn’t mean it will be easy.

But it just got fun.


Filed under Analog, Index Cards, research, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing, Writing Process

This is not the new post I promised.

Not exactly. That will require the finding of the camera.

But as an experiment, I attempted to recreate the photo here using the camera on my MacBook.

Erm, not so successful.

But, anyway, a few notes and a picture to hold this space until I put the real post together.

Blood? Check. Fountain pen? Check. Novel-in-progress on Kindle? Check. Notes in Moleskine? Check.

Picture backwards… Okay, that?  I have no clue.

[Note: And don’t think I’m not going to blog the Dallas Cowboys being the best, and Hollywood proves it, anyway. Ahem.]


Filed under Dallas Cowboys, Fountain Pens, Kindle, Moleskine, Office gear, Writers, Writing

Is it time to push, yet?

Is it aways this hard?

I think the answer is yes.

When I finish a book or script, I usually really, really like the ending.  And because I look back at them and think, “I like how I did that,” I tend to forget how hard they are.

Well, right now. I’m writing the last chapter in the epic-that-ate-Detroit-and-suburbs. I want it to be wonderful. So far, not so much.

This is hard, and maybe it always is, even if I don’t remember it.

Kind of like childbirth.

The reality fades once the results are in your arms.

I’m ready for results, k?

Now would be nice.


Filed under Books, Novels, Writing

Stupid writer tricks.

No, I don’t really think these are stupid. But I called them that because, well, whatev.  I just did.

The first time I sold a novel, I wrote it with a certain voice in my head, a voice that ran on and on in endless sentences.  (Well, okay, that voice is still there.)  Sometimes I’m not even sure the sentences had verbs. Somehow that book sold.  It was a pretty good story.  The story, adapted, won me my Nicholl.  (I make that point because talking about my endless sentences-maybe-without-verbs might make you wonder.)

And when I got the galleys–the page proofs that look like the book will look, because it has been typeset and now all we’re looking for are typos and such–I suddenly heard the book in a different voice.  It was no longer the voice that crooned the story into my ear with dulcet siren tones.  It was a crisp, professional voice that made every little odd quirk stand out and scream “unprofessional” to my ears. It was a wakeup call and a learning experience. (I hope.)

From that point forward I played games with myself, trying to trick the voice in my ear.  I have printed out my completed manuscripts on colored paper (pretty purple, guess what color I’m buying next!) and using a different font so that it looks totally different, and that really helps.  It rattles the voice a little, and makes it easier to spot problems. When I first started writing the current novel, I printed the opening chapters in a pretty copperplate, just to get a historical voice in my head when I was reading. And these stupid writer tricks help me, help me a lot.

But my Kindle.

Oh, my Kindle.

My Kindle has opened up new avenues of voice-trickery.

I routinely convert documents to pdf files, then import them into calibre (a free conversion program) which in turn, converts them to mobi and loads them onto my Kindle.

And… wow.  This is like getting galleys for myself.  Seeing the book all looking book-like on my Kindle screen. It’s like holding the published book in my hands.

The voice, she is different when I read this way.

Oddly, I’ve gotten so hard on myself, the book sometimes looks better on the Kindle, reassures me that it actually is working.  Other times it makes problems stick out. I can highlight and make notes with the Kindle if I want, or just keep a moleskine handy to scribble on. (And by the way, that moleskine? The large with lines? Is impossible to find any more. I looked in various local stores and finally had to order from Amazon.)

But today.

Today I learned a new Kindle trick.  I mean, I already knew it. Text-to-speech. Yes, it’s a computer voice, but the male voice isn’t awful. (The female is.)

It has taken me a while to write the last 25,000-ish words, and somehow going back to reread felt like scraping my fingernails on a chalkboard. So I loaded them into the Kindle, and let the Kindle read to me.

It was astounding. Computer voice, yes, but that meant it didn’t rise and swell and dip and whisper with emotion or rhythm, just spit out the words. And listening to the words… helped.  Helped in new ways.

I know people who read their work aloud and swear by it. That doesn’t help me. I hate my voice, and when I read aloud I hate that words that are being spoken by an English girl in 1811 sound ridiculous when spoken by a middle-aged Texan. Stilted and awkward in a way they don’t when read silently. Somehow, listening to the computer voice doesn’t bother me as much. Don’t ask me why. I can’t explain.

But more to the point, when I read, I see individual words and remember the struggle to find the right word, and does this one really work, and I get caught up in word-by-word reading.

When the Kindle reads to me, the words simply flow. The story flows. I hear the big picture flowing over me, without pausing to ponder, worry, re-edit.

Tell me a story…

My Kindle was telling me a story, and to my wondrous ears I realized… I love it. I love this story as much now as when I started it. And more importantly, things that I struggled for weeks to get right with all sorts of tweaking and massaging and slicing and dicing and suddenly thinking of a description that might improve things and sticking it into a scene I wrote last month and–

Yeah. I did mention the runon sentences, didn’t I?

Instead of seeing all that on the page, I simply hear a story read into my ears.

It’s magic.

I love my Kindle.

I love my story.

And right now? I love writing.

Ask me again tomorrow.


Filed under amazon, Kindle, Moleskine, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Writing