The Plan

I am in the throes of NaNo-Envy, but I am still happy not to be doing NaNo. Yes, a contradiction, but I love the social energy this month brings in what is often such a solitary activity. OTOH, I am feeling under the weather, and I finished the first draft of my novel last Sunday, so… not great timing for me this year.

But I am in earnest planning mode on the second draft and the general outline for the trilogy of novels that is going to emerge from my first draft. I’ve actually been thinking of turning the novel into a series for a while now, because I see a lot of possibilities and stories in the world I am building (still building. I think my story-world was a bit thin in the first draft).

Back in July, I came across an online writing school, the bill-paying day-job of author Holly Lisle, http://novelwritingschool.com/. Other than a one-on-one writing coach and writer’s workshops, I have not taken any “writing classes” in the sense of instruction since I was a teenager/twenty-something. At that age, I was obsessed with learning “how to write fiction” and so never did any actual writing. Experience is the best teacher, IMO. I learned more from writing my first novel, Dis/inhibition, and The Destroyer series than I could have learned in a hundred writing classes. But I figured Lisle’s “How To Write A Series” course might have a few pointers.

I got through the first two of four lessons in July, then RL got in the way. The lesson videos and exercises guide you through the process of identifying what kind of series you will write, planning how it will unfold, etc (although I must say the video transcripts included are FULL of typos….)

So finishing that course is one goal I have set for my post-novel time. I also plan to work through The Plot Whisperer Workbook. Both of these are merely tools to help me focus on plotting and locating strong and weak story elements for the purpose of revision and expansion.

I reviewed the first two lessons of Lisle’s course this week, and realized quickly that a lot of the course exercises could benefit from me gathering together all the “future draft” notes I tucked away while working on the first draft–changes to plot points and characters I envisioned, ideas for expansion. So that is what I am working on now. I’ve got some good ideas brewing, and a LOT of research work ahead of me in physics, mythology, and random bits.

In defense of fan fiction

Earlier this week, I sent my website designer the content for my new author website. It contained a lot of things about me: my published novel, my current writing projects, my past projects. One of the things it contained was a blurb about and link to my fan fiction story, The Destroyer. I figured, why not, I worked hard on that story and readers liked it. It is an example of my SFF writing and series writing skills.

I think I forgot how few people out in the webosphere really understand what fan fiction is and why it can be a legitimate art form–an engagement with and reinterpretation of an existing text that can entertain us by continuing its story (or expanding the existing story), or shed critical light on aspects of that story the author might not have realized were in it.

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Unamused

Main characters are my muses, the spark that drives my desire to write a story. One reason I have such difficult time starting a new story is I don’t know my main character well enough to feel that necessary passion for them, yet. It’s a catch-22, because you can’t feel passion for them until you start writing, and write long enough to find something in them that sparks your passion, but if you can’t write until you feel passion, well…. That’s why I have to find other ways to motivate myself to write until that passion can take over. In the case of my old novel, my early writing was simply a way to distract myself from my doctoral dissertation. That story started out as a big, fluffy soap opera with no particular plot or lead character. And then, gradually, one of the characters emerged as someone who could carry my interest in the story herself.

Different case with my fan fiction epic. I developed a passion for the character while watching a television show–an unanalyzable fascination and emotional investment that demanded I continue to tell his story when there was no more television show to tell it.

The issue with my new story is that I don’t have a muse yet to motivate me. So I rely instead on the obligation to do these weekly updates and to send them to my writing coach, whom I am paying, to be a substitute motivation. And of course, there’s also that deep down hope that I will reach a place where I am writing with passion, and the belief that I can get there if I keep pounding at it long enough.

But so far, I am un-aMused. I have all these characters, and none yet is emerging as the character that sustains my interest in the story. I suppose that, so far, none of them is emotionally screwed-up enough to be interesting. Not that I think that’s the definition of “interesting.” It’s just, looking at my own track record, that’s the sort of character that gets under my skin–infinitely vulnerable, emotionally volatile, angry, and with major parental issues. Don’t ask me why. Those are not words that describe me, just what I’m drawn to. Which…okay, let’s just skip past the psychoanalysis of yours truly.

Original fiction project – week of 04/11/2010

Another big-picture planning week, in which I tried my hand at something that I am not as good at as I’d like to think I am: plotting. Plots are important. Plots make the story. How many great premises with great characters end up suxx0ring due to weak plots? Too many to count, as we all know.

As I well know. And yet, I have difficulty with plots, one of the most obvious being that when I’m writing the first draft of a story, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next. I want it to “come to me”, and then I write it, and then wait again.

And before anyone starts wagging a finger at me for this, let me just say that this has been successful for me. This is not a pie-in-the-sky style of writing for me. The plain fact is, my right brain has better ideas than my left brain. My left brain is the top-down, before-hand plotting organizer, my right brain is the “let me stew on that, and I’ll get back to you when you’re in the shower covered in soap.” And almost invariably, the ideas I set out before hand are not as good as the stew-and-soap ones, because those come from somewhere deeper, the part of me that actual yearns to write.So I’ve always written this way, at least during the years when actual words got written, as opposed to the years where I just planned out stories and never wrote them.

So there’s that. The other thing is, when I sit down to draw out a general outline, a fuzzy watercolor version of my story, I can never think of anything. I do my best, but….

One of the things that was helpful to me when I was working on The Destroyer, where story-telling with an active audience demanded I have some CLUE where I was going, was to borrow from the classics in plotting out a seasonal arc. Season 1 of The Destroyer, for example, was a retelling of the myth of Odysseus, except from Telemachus’ (Connor’s) POV, rather than Odysseus (Angel). The bad guys of the season–Penelope’s (Faith’s) “suitors”–were demons trying to take over L.A. in Angel’s absence, which I renamed the Syndicate. Having the basic outline of Telemachus’ attempt to find his lost father and Penelope’s struggle against the Suitors gave me the basic idea for the season, including its climax, and the details could be made up by me as I went along, which worked well.

Similarly, season 2 was based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and I used the different phases of that journey to plot out various episodes.

I picked the stories I picked for those two seasons based on what I wanted to go with Connor. In season 1, I needed him to fully reconcile and develop a relationship with his father. And I did that by giving him a mission to find his lost father, who was in hell after the battle in the alley in NFA. In season 2, I needed to turn a young man who was still traumatized by his early years and overly-enamored with “being normal” (as a result of his implanted memories) into a hero.

So I am doing something similar with my original characters. Figuring out who they are and what their basic situation is was something I had to do through writing. I wrote as much as could of the actual story before it stalled out due to a lack of a plot, and now I am revisiting the stories that I love, seeing if I can borrow from them to give an actual spine to character journeys I am writing now.

The Destroyer, pt. deux

starryniteshade has been doing fascinating reviews/analyses of my fic, The Destroyer, that concentrates on how the fic reveals aspects of those characters we all know and love from AtS. He comes at them from his own unique perspective, which includes Native American psychological perspectives and similar ideas.

His latest analysis is of my season 1 ep, “The Life of Reilly“. I have my own commentary on the episode in the comments. Worth reading if you’re into AtS, Connor, Angel, Faith, etc., even if you don’t read the fic.

I have indexed the rest of his reviews here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=masqthephlsphr&keyword=Starryniteshade%27s+TD+reviews&filter=all

Phew!

(This was supposed to be a couple sentences of the happy and turned into a TD 210 commentary. Hmmm.)

I finally got a bit of feedback on the new TD episode. It sat there for over a day with crickets chirping, and I started to seriously second-guess myself. m3sektet challenged me to do a comedy episode, and comedy just isn’t my strong suit. In addition, I started to realize as I was writing it that my idea of “funny” is very visual and physical, and that’s hard to get across in writing, even when you’re writing what’s supposed to be a “television show.”

Also, a lot of my jokes were pretty “inside”–as in maybe funny only to me. TD 210 spoilers