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Pick it up again. Continue counting.

In the last few posts, I took you on the long and meandering journey that has led me to NaNoWriMo this year.

I had a first draft, rougher than sandpaper over volcanoes, but 50.000 words long.
I had a broken premise, and fifteen expert opinions on how to fix it.
I had two excellent classes in September and October.

The classes were Lani Diane Rich’s Making Magic and Discovery classes, and quite apart from the fact that she is a brilliant teacher, I took a bag of money and eight whole weeks worth of time to my book. The money meant that I was now morally obliged to invest the time I needed.

The weeks were spent learning a lot, playing a lot, and having loads of fun and epiphanies. I like them mixed! I will talk about my writing related fun and epiphanies on this blog, but for now, suffice it to say it was worth every penny of it.

Now I had what I needed to pick up my manuscript again in time for…

NaNoWriMo 2011: Spinning Purple into Gold

10) You need magic!
What has Science ever done for you, I ask you? Magic is your friend! You dumped the dumb purple idea, which is a relief to everyone, but now that you finally succumbed to magic, you can explain anything and everything from why the moles are bigger than grizzlies to how they ever managed to build that fricken city into solid rock three hundred years ago. Also you can include glowspitting lindworms in your backstory! Everybody wins!

11) Plot.
This whole endeavour showed me that I am a plotter not a pantser.
I have spent my youth and adulthood reading, I have absorbed all twenty eight seasons and eleven movies of Star Trek, and I know a good plot when I see one. I have spent enough time listening to other writers to know how to tweak plots that I don‘t like, and I‘ve practised it with my favourite writer friend (who also happens to be my twin sister).
So I took some time to plot.

12) Plan to Rewrite.
Since the premise was so weak and I threw it out completely, since Lani and Alastair told me about opening chapters and the many ways in which mine was broken, and since I remodelled two of six main characters, I planned to completely throw out my first draft and start from scratch.

13) Edit your way through NaNoWriMo 2011
Of course, I didn‘t actually delete a single word of my old draft. I‘m a writer, not an arsonist! I kept it all safe, and once my new and improved opening scene was over, I realised that I could reuse most of my old scenes. Sure, I have to scrap every reference to purple, and there are many, but the rest is solid and I can reuse almost all of it. I just have to edit it, and then fill in all the missing scenes that need to fatten my new plot so it can grow… Okay, I promise to stop this metaphor here.

Though really, editing takes twice as much time as writing new scenes, and I only copy/paste one or two pages at a time, so I don‘t even know if I‘ll meet my 50.000 during November.

I do know that my book is going to be about twice as thick, and that I want to finish my second draft this year.

The Aftermath of NaNoWriMo 2010

Okay, where were we? Ah yes…

6) Pick the book up again after a few months.
Realise it’s good. Focus on your strengths, the awesome characters, the snappy dialogue, the solid world building, the strong voice. Realise it’s good.

7) Focus on your main weakness.
Plot. Nils, I regret to inform you that your book has the dreaded Phenomenally Weak Premise. So yes, your main weakness is plot.
Do your homework. Read books, read blogs, listen to podcasts. Book a class or two. Get help. It’s out there. No one has to suffer from Phenomenally Weak Premise alone in these modern times. Science will helb you!

8) Focus on the shiny.
This is very overwhelming. Convalescence takes a lot out of a person, so relax and do something nice. Re-read your favourite books, or better yet, let someone famous read them to you via audiobook. Stephen Fry does an excellent job with the Harry Potter series, and I know those books nearly by heart now.

9) Just fix that broken premise.
It doesn‘t fit your book anyways. Yes, it means you have to murder a lot of darlings, i.e. you have to erase some of your favourite scenes because they hinge on this stupid purple idea. Do it anyway, your book needs you to be strong now.

NaNoWriMo 2010: Painting a Purple World

So last year, I wrote 50.000 words about two people who can see purple in a world where no one else can.

That was difficult, but I managed it thusly:

1) Make purple invisibility your main plot point.
I made my villains exploit the fact that no one can see purple and anything of that colour turns invisible.
They have no idea of my main characters‘ super powers!

2) Create main characters who can see purple.
This is how Aaron and Win were born, though Win was Jack or Max back then and preferred male pronouns. She changed the most. Win used to be an extremely butch genderqueer riotgrrrl, and is now a very femme, polkadotted riotgirl. Her amount of awesome has only increased.
Aaron changed, too, but at least his name and pronouns stayed the same. He’s transgender and probably bi, because I wanted a bit more variety than the usual white straight cis male protagonists. He’s also black now, but started out white in my head. He’s the main viewpoint character, because he’s introvert.

3) Create a world where no one can see purple.
There’s a city underground, and I can explain exactly what they breathe and eat there, how they plant fern and plancton for oxygen, and algae for food and clothing, and bioluminescent light, and how they fish, and train giant moles, and more about their waste recycling system than you care to know.

Also for some reason I start to mumble because I have no idea why purple would be invisible underground, much less why it would make objects see-through invisible instead of just murky grey. Science is my eneby.

4) Write 50.000 words.
I finished NaNoWriMo 2010. I loved it and it was fun, but also frustrating because I need to have everything orderly and sensical, and the purple started to annoy the heck out of me. But well, I finished and had a few blissful days of euphoria over my finished masterpiece.

5) Give up.
Realise it’s not a masterpiece and nowhere near finished. Give it up as a bad job.
Yep. The purple idea is just too dumb. Nothing can fix that in a book that’s geared towards science-conscious teens and young adults.

Scheming words and plotting NaNoWriMo

Let me tell you a little tale about NaNoWriMo.

This is my second year, but last year, I started a week late. I had heard of National Novel Writing Month before, but not planned to participate, ever. For those not in the know, it’s an internet challenge where you write a novel during November whilst having as much fun as humanly possible.

I thought I was a ‚real‘ old school European writer, and this was something for the American Way of Fast Food and Decadence. Girl was I wrong.

I suffered from depression last November and decided to do this silly, frivolous thing to cheer myself up, also because I thought I could trick myself into writing a ‚real‘ novel after writing 50.000 words worth of ‚drivel‘.
So I started NaNoWriMo 2010 on the seventh of November.

Okay, tale’s over. Now comes the advice I can give.

Fist off, losing a week, yes a whole seven days, is no reason to despair. I wrote 50.000 words of fine if disjointed prose that month, and finished on time.

Second, NaNo is worth every minute of it. You get to spend a whole month fretting over words! It’s so much fun you won‘t even notice the rich golden prose amongst all the purple you create to reach your daily goal of 1667 words. But once the month is over and you let it all simmer on your hard drive for a few weeks, you will notice all the gold nuggets.

You have to filter out all the purple, but it’s worth it. Trust me on this.

My peculular ways of NaNo.

So I started on the seventh, without any semblance of plot or story idea or characters. I deliberately wiped the plate clean because I didn‘t want to ’soil‘ any of my ’serious‘ endeavours.

Nice try. Only means I have one more book to write in my life.

I have written since I was fourteen and have a pretty solid, strong voice. So my actual prose was satisfactorily and to my joy, only the plot… I have always struggled with plot, and telling myself to do something deliberately whacky and nonsensical didn‘t help. I started with the silliest premise I could come up with – My hero_ines‘ super power is the ability to see purple in a world where no one else can.

This shot me in the knee, but that is another story and shall be told another time.

Eventually I realised that I needed a solid plot in order for my writing to work. You may be a pantser and not need one; I‘m a heavy plotter, and I do. I struggled to inject some sense into the utterishness of my premise, and pravely worked on.

Next up: How the tale continues during NaNo 2011!!

The City of Freesberg

This is an excerpt from the book I am currently writing, Dogs Underground. Aaron and Win, our sixteen year old hero_ines have just stumbled into a city. Underground. May or may not contain their missing dog.

When they emerged from the lift, they stood on a smooth stone ledge overlooking a marvelous sight: A shining sky over a gleaming city.
They had entered a vast open space, so vast that at first they didn‘t realise that they were still underground. It took them a while to take in that this was indeed a cavern so huge that it had room for a small city. The buildings became higher nearer to the gently sloping walls. Where the ground turned upwards and it became too steep for conventional buildings, there where unconventional ones built directly into the walls, connected with rickety metal stairs and a maze of balconies. There where narrow stone ledges and an abundance of galleries protruding from the rocks all the way up until the walls started to slope inwards to form the ceiling. Huge bundles of fern grew out of every nook and cranny, cascading down into the city like so many green waterfalls.

The city had no roofs. In a rainless world, every available space was green with ferns and gardens.
At the far end of the cavern, a gigantic stream of water gushed out of a big opening and cascaded down the wall, crashing into a lake and meandering in great curves and circles around the city until it reached the other side of the cave, down and to the right of the ledge they were standing on. Here it vanished foaming and roaring into an opening that seemed to lead downwards.

A hundred bright glass orbs where hanging from the ceiling, all in different sizes ranging from football-sized to two meters in diameter. They were arranged in concentric circles, with the bigger ones concentrated in the middle, the suns of the domed ceiling.

The orbs were all interconnected by thin, opaque strands of tubing, reminding Aaron of a gigantic spider’s web laced in dew on a crisp winter morning. He also noticed that these were much brighter and emitted a clear light rather than a greyish turbid shimmering. The tubing ran together, forming a dozen or so thick strands that ran down the sides and to the ground; one very near where they stood. Aaron could see little flakes glowing and bubbling up in the tree-sized strand.

The ceiling as well as what little wall was visible behind the climbing city shined like the inside of a pearl. It was this reflection of light that created an illusion of openness, of sky.