i (re)discovered destiny!

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So I worked out probably my biggest problem with Destiny’s Story.

I had too much material.

I had the brainstorm the other day to do another notebook. I’ve not done a physical notebook (binder) for any story since … oh about three or four back, honestly. Doing this helped me see what I had – and what I had was a lot. So I sat down with printed sheets, dividers, pens, and markers.

Turns out I have enough material for three books.

Since then, I’ve been working on breaking up what needs to go into which book, updating notes, separating sections, answering questions, setting up various pages and notes I need/use in OneNote. Kind of, in a way, starting this whole project from scratch. Yesterday, I printed off four pages of questions I need to answer. Today, I spent a bit of time answering them. Tomorrow, I need to get the timelines for all three books set up.

After that – I should be ready to write again. Finally.

Which is good because I have some of this material up for the WriteOnCon and need to get it all switched around and redone before the actual con starts next week!

I also finished one editing project (remember the one with all the commas?) and got it turned in. I’ve got a piece to read before Thursday evening, to turn it back in to my critique group. And I still have one editing project in progress.

During all this, I’m sitting here thinking – maybe I need to break the Midnight sequel into two books, too … But I’m not ready to tackle that yet. I need to clear what’s right in front of me first. (must stop piling on more and more and not getting things done!)

got myself disentangled

This made me happy!

I’ve known for some time that Destiny’s Story just wasn’t working the way I wanted it to, but I couldn’t figure out why. I thought maybe, at first, the format I had chosen just wasn’t working. I wanted my 15 year old FMC to write journal entries.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this story since my father-in-law passed last month. It’s funny what gets a writer’s mind working toward the right direction. Anyway, I’d been trying to decipher the problem and find a solution. Of course, you can’t prescribe a fix without a diagnosis, so for a while there, I just went around in circles. As if my ADHD brain doesn’t need more circles to navigate.

The problem is two-fold.

  1. I started the story entirely too early
  2. The narrative needs divided into months — such as what I did with the Midnight stories — not diary entries

So now, I get to sit down with the new starting point and get on from there.

writing ya lit

Re: A YA’s Guide to Writing YA

Don’t assume young adults are some incomprehensible alien race (I see that on some forums).

Don’t assume that people are mentally five years old until they hit the age you think is ‘adult.’

PLEASE don’t do fashion, tech, pop culture, etc. unless you KNOW what’s going on now.

Don’t think you can write a $#%&&* book because it’s ‘just’ YA.

~ Writing advice from a YA in the NaNo fora. (used with permission)

how i organize with onenote

About this time last year I made the switch from Evernote, which I’d used since it came out, to Microsoft OneNote, which is an integrated part of my Office software. After making a ‘trial run’ of OneNote to see how I could organize everything, I knew this was the better program for me. I hated to let Evernote go – they’ve been very good to me! But I just needed more than what their program offers.

imho, the worst thing about OneNote is that there aren’t a lot of templates available (although I’ve found they’re easy made), and there doesn’t seem to be much support / tips’n tricks available.

The biggest plus is that it integrates with the other Office programs – you can “print” to or from OneNote and share in the Office cloud (though I don’t use Skydrive – does anyone?). I keep my OneNote files inside my Dropbox folder – so it backs up its own backups, essentially. The program is largely intuitive. It’s easy to figure out what does what and what you can and can’t do with it. As for the lack of support et al, googling OneNote turns up what I’m looking for. I like that I can customize the interface, too. In the quickview bar, I have only the tools I use most often; everything else is tucked into the ribbon.

I have ADHD (leaning toward the Inattentive/Distractive side), so the way I organize things drives people straight up a wall. For them, it’s not intuitive or organized. For me it makes perfect sense. (I have friends who don’t like using my laptop because they never can find anything – but to me, its organization makes perfect sense)

From this article:

OneNote is designed to mimic a collection of spiral notebooks, with metaphors of tabs and pages. It has six total levels of organization–notebooks, sections, subsections, pages, and two levels of subpages. OneNote also has a system of links that allow notes to contain links to other notes, or to a Web page, a Word document, or a PowerPoint presentation.

I have three notebooks. One is for all my personal stuff, one is for all my blogging stuff, and the third is for all my writing stuff. I could break the writing notebook down into three notebooks, really: writing advice, adult stuff, young adult stuff. And I might if it keeps getting more crowded in there.

Another thing about OneNote is that you can size and position the sidepanels. You can put them on the right or the left and collapse them or widen them as large as you need them to be. When you open a notebook, tabs open across the top of the display, so really you can collapse the notebook pane entirely to give yourself more workspace. As well, you can minimize the pages panel. You can also color the notebooks and individual tabs any color you like, just like a physical notebook, to help sort this into that. “Oh, that’s in the green tab.” Click! Very handy if you’re as visual as I am. One thing I don’t like is that each page and subpage (and sub subpage and sub sub subpage, ad nauseum) under a given tab is the same color as that tab. I’d like to be able to color the individual pages – that’d be awesome!

Like I said, I prefer OneNote over Evernote; it’s what works for me. OneNote gives me so many more organizing / sorting / filing options. Also, the workspace is more user-friendly – I can make everything else smaller in order to view what I need to see / work on. OneNote pastes text into blocks (similar to a text block in Word) that you can click and drag around to reposition where you’d like. If you have a lot of small elements (small text bits / pictures) on a page, this comes in handy; it allows you to put things where they’re more available to you.

Since I started using OneNote last year, I’ve dumped almost all of my writing notes into the program. Some stuff still remains on my hard drive, but bit by bit, I’m moving it all into notebooks. This is so much better to (and for) me than having endless folders with endless streams of documents. Click FAQ tab, and voila, there’s everything in a neat little row for me to pick and choose from. Even with descriptive file names, I’d find myself sitting here thinking, “Is this the file I need? Or is it this one?” I don’t have to do that any more. Less muss, less fuss – I’m all for that!

whiny teens in ya literature

Today’s post is a guest post via Zoe E:

Zoe E. lives in Milan with her husband Luciano. When she is not writing, she spends time reading, gardening, practicing guitar, singing, playing video games, or otherwise touching her nerd roots. She used to be a crazy cat lady, but is still waiting delivery of her new cats.

Last night I read this post from Amy Sundberg about whiny teens in YA that hits on one of my major complaints with some of the commercial YA I’ve read. I got on a bit of a Twitter rant about it, and Mari asked me if I felt like doing a guest blog for her. So, here I am.

I’ve also read some indie YA as well, and I can say that some of their stuff is still using the same formulas, but not all of it. Indie is like that though, as you can’t lump it all into one broad category. But the author got me into talking again about my problems with Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. But my beef nowadays isn’t so much with her, or the writer. Rather, my problem lies with the adult readers of YA who came up with a stunning defense to my statements that Katniss was self-centered and incompetent. They said: “But aren’t ALL TEENAGERS self-centered?”

Ladies and gentlemen, the defense of a stereotyped character in fiction with an even worse stereotype. It’s like if I said, “I don’t like this character on TV because he’s a black drug dealer, and he’s always abusive to women,” and someone defended with, “But aren’t all black guys like that?” Obviously no, not all black guys are drug dealers or abusive. No one in his right mind would make that defense…but rational, seemingly sane adults HAVE lumped all teenagers together into one big ass stereotype, “you’re all self-centered!”

It’s a defense that should be insulting to the teen readers of the market, the people who are supposedly meant to be reading these stories. I’ve read a number of stories that make me wonder, do these writers just hate teenagers and have low opinions of them? And, I can now tell you from personal experience, some of them do. I’ve been following a few on Twitter, and I watch them complain about the music today’s teens listen to or about their culture or their sexuality. Then they turn around and put out a link to their YA story, and I go read it, and I hate their teens because I wasn’t their kind of proper “good” teen.

I’m sure there are teens out there who do buy the story and “feel it.” But I don’t think they know how much the writer hates teen culture, and they’re just writing in the market because it’s lucrative. It’s not about art, and all their claims that it is are crap. They rely on cheap stereotypes in their work, making harmful statements about whole groups of people because it’s easier than writing the story out with more flesh on its anorexic and snarky bones. If this is art, it’s the equivalent of cutting out other peoples’ pictures from a comic book and adding in new bits of dialogue. And even then, the words are cut out from magazines and pasted in.

But beyond the writers who seem to hate teens, what is up with the adult readers who think all teenagers are self-centered? I’ve met a few teens during my teens, and in my adult life I’ve ended up following a few online at various social sites. Although I’ve seen a few teens who probably do fit the stereotype, I rarely follow someone who gives off a 100% me-me-me vibe…except for teen authors. But with them it’s okay, since all adult authors also do the same thing…oh, wait, what was that? Did I just use a stereotype that made your mouse finger twitch? Well that was sarcasm, so ease off the reply button just yet.

And that’s my whole point about this view that ALL teens are self-centered. I get that there are a lot of people who dug Katniss and her story. I didn’t. I hated her right from the start, and every other blunder in the book became that much worse because I hated the narrator. And later, I came to dislike the writer for her lack of concern for trying to present a better story. To me, it feels like she thinks teens are stupid, and just any old thing is good enough for them. And, a lot of people ate that stupid story up and thought it was JUST SUPER.

Great, but the book was insulting to me, and while I don’t expect anyone to agree with my views, I would hope that no adult would make a rebuttal by further insulting real teens with a broad brush negative stereotype.

The Hunger Games is just one of many stories that I’ve read in commercial YA where the main character rubs me the wrong way right from the introduction. During a reading of one writer’s latest YA efforts, the main character blows off describing a rival character by saying’ “but you know the type. Hey, stereotypes exist for a reason.” Yes, they exist so people don’t have to think. The writer doesn’t have to think of a character anymore, she just has to pen some lines that feel appropriate to the stereotype. And boy, does she ever. Which is why I gave up on her story a few minutes later when she resorted to yet more stereotypes instead of actual descriptions.

Yes, I get that there are teenagers out there who are reading my post and are like, “Meh, whatever, lady. I just liked the story, and I didn’t think too much about the characters.” Right, you’re apparently the self-centered teens that everyone else is talking about. And kids, I’ve got nothing against you being self-centered. It’s a great big world, and for this time in your life, you HAVE to do a lot of inner inspection to decide where you want to go in it and what you want to do. Some of you still have to do decide who you want to present to the world, or even to your parents. So if you become a bit too self-centered to notice someone’s utter contempt for you and your culture through his writing, that’s okay. I’m cool with you, and I’m cool with you wanting to read whatever you like.

But, doesn’t it piss you off just a little bit that adult readers rise to the defense of your books by putting you down? Even if you are genuinely self-centered, doesn’t it bug you that someone else thinks that you’re the way all teens are, everywhere? You’ve become a bad stereotype that’s also popular at the same time. You’re like individual Kurt Cobains, targets for adult contempt just by right of your inability to tune into the adult world when adults need attention and coddling.

I know not all YA is like this. I’ve read plenty of YA that isn’t, so don’t think I’m going to whip out another stereotype to fight a stereotype. I’m not saying the YA written this way needs to change. The writers and publishers find success with it, so more power to them. But I’d like to see writers of next year’s crop of YA titles use a few less easy stereotypes in their narration and act like they love their craft instead of trying to get something out that’s fast-paced, but nasty to everyone outside a tightly focused target market and harmful to many other groups without meaning to be.

realistic character development

Avoid the usual stereotypes

  • the doubtful Catholic priest
  • the tortured main character
  • the virgin heroine
  • the disbelieving police chief
  • the good/bad twin

Give your characters quirks

  • did he have an affair
  • use colloquialisms in speech
  • did they (she/he) give a baby up for adoption?
  • had a divorce
  • got married
  • sings off-key in the shower
  • first car
  • first love
  • first kiss
  • favorite food
  • childhood pets
  • what is your character passionate about? – politics, romance, the ocean, global warming, etc
  • 5 most wonderful moments of his life
  • 5 most painful moments of her life

The character is what you do when no one is watching.

How do you feel when someone disappoints you?

What scares you? What are you the most afraid of?

What would you do in this situation?

Read the obituaries. Real people have interesting histories.

Real characters have weaknesses and make mistakes. But if your character is going to do something stupid, give him a good reason for doing it!

Read a telephone book.

metrics: thursday may 19

Midnight’s Heir [draft #5]

yearly words: 26,239

current music: (movie on in background)

opening line: Her knees knocked together despite her position on the sofa.

closing line: His ebony eyes narrowed into slits. “If I was home right now, I’d beat him up myself.”

reason for stopping: end of chapter

favorite phrase: She hadn’t known time could be so lethargic.

left to write: oh, so much to edit!

commentary: I don’t like the beginning of this story now. I’m going to do to it basically what I did to Midnight several years ago: chop off so much of the beginning and just start over from scratch.

metrics: friday, may 6

opening count: 10,495
daily count: 4,224

current music: singing birds

opening line: Adam said, “Yes, sir.”

closing line: As her blood flowed into his mouth, he groaned.

reason for stopping: I would have kept going, but I was wiped out – and it was midnight! way time for bed.

favorite phrase: “You don’t know what you’re asking me to do.”

oy vey phrase: The night of the party, he paced his bedroom floor.

left to write: until I’m finished. I just don’t know where this is going yet.

commentary: I don’t expect to write one of these every day. Mostly because I don’t expect to write every day, and I don’t want my blog / my website to become nothing but a long list of metrics that no one else but me is interested in.

I’m just happy to be writing again. Two years of piddling and nothing is entirely too long! I woke up yesterday morning, and it was like the dam that started in my head in mid-2009 had been broken wide open. I couldn’t wait to pick up my pen and get going.

It’s wonderful to get the words, any words, flowing and down on paper again. I’m never quite me when I’m not able to write. I missing my writing group last night after telling them, yes, that would be my first night back after a short absence. I warned a couple of members early in the day that I was writing and didn’t want to stop until I had to. Thankfully, they’re an understanding bunch.

At the time I’m writing this, I already have 4224 words for today (this post wraps up my yesterday). But I’m not finished, so I continue on!

organizing writing and research

This picture is an example of how I organize my writing and research files:

In the top directory, you’ll see a folder titled ‘FAQs’ – that is absent in the rest of the directories. That’s because I don’t use that folder any more. While Evernote was still in beta, I started using it, and now that’s where my writing/research notes go. Tremendous help – it allows the notes to be sorted/organized/tagged, and I don’t have to worry about losing anything if my computer decides to go belly up.

The “in progress” folders house each story by chapter. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t write in order. I write totally out of order. I write by scene, not necessarily by chapter. If a scene comes to mind, I write it down, or at least take notes. Everything gets pieced together much, much later. Some scenes get dumped into the ‘unused’ folder while others get reworked, redrafted, and added in where they belong – and sometimes are moved elsewhere in the story. Each story gets its own ‘unused’ bin until I get far enough along that I don’t need it any more – then those unused pieces go into the main ‘unused scenes’ folder.

‘News’ folders hold my templates – such as the notes I send out to readers, the contracts I use for permission to use my friends’ stuff, etc – reviews and notes from my readers, and anything related. ‘Pictures’ hold just that. Pictures. I have floorplans I’ve drawn, mock-ups of the new high school in Harlan County, maps and directions, etc. For Eventide, for example, I have a folder that includes pictures of downtown Harlan and Corbin from the 1930s to the 1960s as well as pictures of what homes would have been furnished with back then, what people wore, etc.

And that really is pretty much how I work. I used to work like this:

Then I got a laptop, and it started looking more like this:

That purple binder is my Harlan County Bible. (what’s a series bible?) That’s where I keep all of my working notes, timelines, calendars, Harlan brochures, the L&N Railroad passenger train schedule / menu I found, physical maps, and all that other stuff that won’t scan into Evernote. (I’m not going to take the time to scan a 3 foot by 3 foot map of downtown Harlan, for example; that would be suicide and counterproductive aside.) One thing I don’t have in that book are all the notes, etc, etc, from when I first started writing Midnight. I kept nothing. I tossed it all out. I regret that! All I have of that are the bits and pieces I did manage to save somehow.

I went psychotic last month and took my entire Devon Family Tree and plugged it into FamilyTree Maker. That was a chore. But now I can easily see who’s who and where and how everyone is related to everyone else – without having to scroll / flip through thirty pages of screen / paper. This proved a much saner way of dealing with it.

And I think that’s it, really. Questions? Answers? Beer?