Friday, April 20, 2012

a pantser turns plotter?

Preamble: First, I'm posting this while watching Austin Powers with the family (remember that flick? still uncomfortably funny after all these years), so imagine the title of this post posed in a Dr. Evil voice.

Second, yeah, playing around with the new Blogger templates again. Like? Hate? Feedback appreciated.

Okay, so the science fair-looking set up to your left is my very first ever plot board for a new WIP. Understand, I have never been a fan of the outline. As I explained to a writer friend the other day, the 3-Act structure feels very contrived to me. The literary equivalent of a Spanx garment--you know, squeezing the goodies into a shape deemed commercially viable? And, you know, having spent the last 22 years in Portland, I'm a free-flowing type. A wither-thou-goest with the goodies.

Well, friends, I'm trying something new. I'm taking my high concept YA idea and plotting the fuck out of it. Every chapter, every scene, in service to rising action and carefully constructed reveal. Those hearts, the pink ones? That would be some sort of crucial interaction between the two main characters. The white hearts are crucial interaction between secondary characters. The stars? Reveals. The main plot point of the chapter. And the sticky notes indicate chapter synopses.

So I'm 100 pages in, which translates to the end of that left-most column under ACT II, and I have to say, I'm not hating it. In fact, I'm sort of like a newly reformed meat-eater with my "I've seen the light and I'm never going back to eating flesh" sort of sanctimonious superiority. Why? Well, to start, there are infinitely less choices, and so the writing goes faster. I'm moving toward something as I tap tap tap my sentences, one following the other in service of the next big thing. As opposed to my usual discovery process, where I wander down the dark hallways of my mind, a blind girl being led by the hand to ... what? A vampire? A witch? An evil stepmother?

It's like having GPS, you know? Those little stars and hearts (I had, in my hand at the store, pony-head post-its, but I put them back. I mean, I had to draw the line somewhere). There's less going on in my head: less chaos, less confusion. Which leads, I hope, to deeper focus in the scene itself.

But I admit, my loving this plot board method could be totally premature. Tap me on the shoulder a month from now, when I'm rereading these crafty passages. I might very well be in self-loathingville. I admit to often being prematurely zealous about this and that. But meanwhile, I've got the Nikes on. I'm just doing it. Fake 'til I make it. Running up that hill. You? Plotters? Pantsers? What say ye? (If you can figure out the comment functionality on this new Blogger template).

P.S. Austin Powers is over, and now it's Hangover on the TV. Disturbingly, my 13-yr-old knows it by heart because he's watched it eight times.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

the metrics

My piles of tax detritus are spread out on the carpet downstairs. Our kitchen is in that temporary state while we work out post-disaster-possible-remodeling scenarios. Soccer tryouts loom, and that's always fun for a soccer mom. And by fun, I mean, bring on the Xanax.

And then there's the writing. I really should banish any activity until I work through this first draft of my new project. The momentum and enthusiasm is there. I'm officially in love with my narrator. I have an outline. I know where I'm going. Plot points, rising action, compelling romance with twists. But I need to figure out a pacing strategy. Not the pacing on the page, but the pacing on my ass. I'm good for 45 minutes at a crack. Just about enough time to render a scene. Then, I have to skedaddle. Get up and throw a load of laundry in the wash. Return emails. Go for a walk. Collect the eggs. Take out the trash. Go to a Pilates class. Re-microwave my mug of coffee. Oh yeah, and, then there's the paid work I need to do each day.

Do I sound like I'm whining? I am. But this is my blog, after all.

I'd like to figure out how to write 3,000 words a day. That's four or five hours of concentrated writing time. How best to break that up? I really want help here, guys... Any strategies, time-management techniques, ideas? Let's discuss.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

spring cleaning

My kitchen on life support.    
Still in the green room with my manuscript (THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES) patiently waiting on editor response, and sinking my teeth into my next project because, that's what you have to do, right? And because I truly want to approach the Empress freshly when next I pop in (hopefully after an editor has fallen in love enough to bite, and sends me editorial notes OR, less hopefully, if the editors pass and I go back in for major overhaul), this new project is quite different than the fantastical historical retelling I've been writing over the past year-and-a-half. I shall leave it at that, for the moment, but suffice it to say, I'm quite engaged with a couple of new characters and am venturing into the world of, dare I say it, High Concept.

A novel that can be boiled down to a compelling sentence. A potboiler, if you will.

In concert with my new project enthusiasm is emergency kitchen surgery. We had a slowly leaking dishwasher which quietly squirted water under the floor which, over time, resulted in a swollen mess. My kitchen has spent the last two days in ICU, and this morning was prepped for asbestos abatement. The floor is being wrenched from the house as I type, and placed in a tube, piece by piece, by a brave crew bedecked in Hazmat couture.

The patient is ready...
If you feel a metaphor coming, you're ding, ding, ding, right! Like my kitchen, I'm aesthetically between one state and another. Ridding myself of vintage bits, in preparation for the latest in market appeal. Think of my next project in terms of sustainable. LEED-cert, even. Travertine tile, bamboo cabinets. Energy wise appliances. New and spare and exciting.

But, unlike my kitchen, I'm not tossing my last project into a toxic waste dumpster. Far from it. No, if anything, when next I return to the Empress, she will be upcycled and glorious. Destined for new life. And I'll be re-engaging with her sitting at a granite counter top, gazing out at the late spring flowers, through tempered accordion glass.