Tools of the Trade: Paper for Planning

I typically do a good deal of my actual story planning on paper first. I would probably write a good deal more of my stories longhand too if it didn’t take so long.

In college I was around quite a few engineering majors who had piles of graphing paper. There was something about the way it could be used for notes, designs, and calculations without the sense of imposition that regular lined paper gave.

Then, I heard about bullet journaling and discovered the dot grid notebooks.

Both are now my preferred paper for story plotting and notes.

It gives me just enough to keep me linear if desired, without impeding my sense of freedom (though dot grid is a little better at this than standard graphing paper).


NaNoWriMo 2017

Project: Renegade

My project for NaNoWriMo this year was to work on the rewrite of Renegade, the novella I finished drafting in March of this year.  What had happened was that during my review of the first draft, I discovered that I liked the story better in a completely different POV and that it was a premise that worked far better as a full length novel.

My goal for this rewrite is in the range of 80K-100K words.

While I must confess I started the rewrite prior to November I did not hit the 50K goal for the month of November.

The Takeaway

I made a rather important discovery through all of this: rewrites do not work well for NaNoWriMo.  The entire goal of NaNo is to write a first draft in a month, which truly is a feat in and of itself, but a first draft lends itself to this time constraint, a rewrite does not for the following reasons:

  1. Copious note checking – I was constantly going back and forth between notes in several file locations to ensure I was keeping characters in, well… character.  I know a weak point in my first drafts is consistency as I’m discovering the characters and the plot.  I did not want to deal with the same quantity of this in a rewrite.
  2. See the above
  3. No really, see the above.

Worldbuilding Questions and Writing the Second Draft

I did run into a couple other world building issues that I needed to think about as well.  For instance: Is sitting upright on a flying griffin the best way to fly on a mythological creature?  Am I really using feet and inches as measurements in this completely made up world?

I think you can see why this is taking longer than I had hoped.  And while I know the second draft does not have to be perfect either, I would rather put in the hard work now so that I can get the story out there sooner than later.

In Summary

While I did not “win” NaNoWriMo this year, I did have a fairly reasonable average word count of 713 words per day (though probably closer to 500 given the extra words I added prior to November).

My NaNo lifetime count over the past two years has increased to over 90K.  And Renegade rewrite has come up to 21,000 words.

All in all, I’m a little disappointed, but I am pleased with what I did complete last month.



Writing is like Exercising

A lot of things are like physical exercising.  Playing music requires practice, keeping a house clean requires diligence, learning a new skill requires lots of use and maintenance.

Writing is not any different.

I have always written.  I loved the stories mom would read chapter books to my brother and I. We always wanted her to keep going and would beg her for more at the end of a reading.  When I was 9, I even attempted my own mystery story, it was not my best work of art and I think I may have gotten rid of that old copy (but not before my mom proudly showed it to my teacher).

Since then, I would attempt stories of my own sporadically, though my imagination was running wild 24/7.  In high school, I discovered several web comics that I absolutely loved and started making plans to possibly write my own.  I had character notes and a general idea of the plot but I never really sat down and wrote it (though, my drawing abilities excelled during this time because I was not going to produce a web comic unless I was sure I could make its quality stand out).

It was during this time that the ideas for my trilogy of fantasy books started coming together.

Finally, in 2015 a couple friends and I started our own critique group and for the first time I was writing more rigorously and more often.  I also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and  I went from 16000 total words at the beginning to 180000 in the last two years on various drafts.

And you know what?  With every single second I spend critiquing, writing, and learning from writing masters, I can see my work become better.

I have a philosophy in life that we never really arrive.  Life is a journey and it’s also like a balance beam.  We are constantly improving and we are constantly having to adjust for our balance.  Like our core muscles, the more we consciously work at this balancing act, the less we notice the individual muscles, with every experience we’re strengthened so that the next time, we’re not as sore.

By practicing the basics, we become ready for what comes next.

Just like life, writing is an exercise, grow lax and it takes longer to get back into shape.