Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to keep track of facts for a book series?

One thing I have been crunching possibilities on is how to keep track of details so they remain consistent between books in a series.  Sometimes it is as simple as did I spell it with a hyphen or without?  What was Misty's date of birth again?  Is the clump of white hair at her left temple or her right?

I have been using yWriter 5 for organization and word count because it has a section on characters and a place for notes: physical description, alternate names, biography, and the like, as well as the actual chapters.  But I write in a word process and transfer scenes as I go, so I do not always have it open and easy to check my facts.

protect my husband's wall from sticky note infestation
I have considered a notebook, but that is not split-second access ready.  A wall of sticky notes would be a great idea, but I can just hear my husband now indirectly criticizing by pointing out all the little colorful sheets of paper on the wall which detracts from his fine paint job or the ones floating about the floor because I will be working on this for a few years, what with seven books to the series, and some of that sticky on the paper is going to give itself up to variations in mugginess and dry air.  And what about the fact that I am usually working on two or three projects at once in different stages of production:  drafting, redrafting, editing, getting publication ready?  I don't have that many walls available.

I never use spreadsheets (some sort of neurosis holding my back from that) unless there is no avoiding them, i.e., other people have to make them and my job has to require I look at them.

Right now I have a piece of graph paper with a timeline on one side and various scribbles on the other for current important facts I keep needing to confirm.  I think it is buried under a draft of my anthology and a notebook full of poetry.

So can anybody recommend a solution to this issue?  I am interested in hearing novel ideas tried and true or otherwise.  Please keep the spreadsheet recommendations down to a minimum though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday prompt: #5 2013

line in the road of my personal space
I posted this prompt at least a year ago on Twitter as I was posting writing prompts there. But I decided that there were plenty of other groups and individuals doing the same so I quit.  However, I really liked this prompt, so I am posting it here.

He leaned in to me, past the line I draw that says, "You're too close."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Spirit Child by Alison Naomi Holt

Holt's The Spirit Child is the first installment of a series of books that twist Native American spirit guides with feudal manors, strong female characters and realms in degrees of spiritual growth and power.  The storyline includes the involvement of actual walking, talking, and occasionally sarcastic guides in the form of owls, wolves, panthers, badgers, etc., working to maneuver the few spiritually awake humans to safety and teach them to negotiate an increasingly dangerous world due to a darker group of powerful animal spirits.

That sounds a bit like a mishmash of ideas, but it's a mix that had it an aroma would be described as delicious.  Bree Makena, Duchess of Danforth, is the main character, and she is ripe for change.  Heartbroken and determined to be alone and disconnected from society, she is ready to do battle with the first annoying individual she meets, but she is unwilling to watch a girl child be sold into slavery and certainly raped if no one steps in. Makena steps in, and life changes from that moment on.  The child turns out to be capable of seeing any spirit guide, not just her own, but she is as flawed and broken as Makena. The two travel more than just the rough territory of the lands they call home (or want to call home) as they deal with the fear and denial which keeps them from recognizing their guides and learning how to become part of society in ways they have yet to find appealing or even safe.

Makena and the child Kaiti have to not only figure out how to belong to each other but also how to belong to their spirit guides who are not in the least bit uncertain about how things should be going if only those stubborn humans would stop fighting their destinies.  Other characters also carry the story well, from long time friends, healer Becca and bathhouse owner Maura, to tribal leaders and royal families.  There are strong male characters as well and tribal elders who bring depth and meaning to much of the difficulties Makena and Kaiti face. Timur, Makena's dead husband, as the story progresses, is easy to accept as a person Makena might find impossible to face life without.  It is inevitable that one will get attached to several of the individuals Holt breathes into life in her writing as the reader steps smoothly in and out of the thoughts and concerns of a variety of supporting characters as well as the two main characters.

Arriving at the end of this book is a lot like it is in real life: few things are wrapped up in tidy bunches; much is left that needs to play out, and the trouble that was on the horizon is still lurking out there.  The difference is Makena has grown out of some of her troubles which is good because there are several more difficulties building up she is going to have to face if she wants to maintain life's new vision and new hope.

I enjoyed this book and view it as one I will probably reread, especially while I wait for the next book in the series to come out.  My main rule is if I anticipate reading a book again, its worth five stars.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday prompt: #4 2013

MASK, mask
Often people have a persona that covers their true self.  Take that idea of a mask and apply it to a character.  Design them with a strong personality, but beneath it have a second sense of self that is kept hidden. As you design these two sides (interior true self and exterior mask), try to have a few aspects cross between the two.  Both prefer to listen rather than speak first or both like the color blue.  The interior escapes from inside when it fits the exterior persona.

So the tough guy that throws knives so well is crazy about practicing darts before bed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Revisiting linear vs non-linear plots parallel plots

Back on 10/10/12, I wrote about a redraft I was working on for In Times Passed.  I had set up two parallel plots, one linear and one non-linear.  I felt pretty good about the changes, but I was uncertain about if the reader would be able to follow the non-linear plot line.  I had chosen the non-linear scenes to match to the linear flow based on common links in dialogue, which seemed a reasonable approach to connecting the two plot lines.

You know that part of you that syncs together what you write, that manages the pull of imagery, purpose, characterization, depth of character, release of the gathering of facts?  The inner coil that tightens as you develop plot and bothers you when things are not working. Well that place, that wellspring of creativity was giving me muffled bursts of dismay at that non-linear flow, unflow.  Last week, just to check, I moved the pieces about and straightened out the sister plot so they both ran chronologically in line but not in the same time frame (one is set in the future).  That muffled burst of dismay settled down with a contented sigh.  There was no mistaking it. 

I am letting it rest as I line edit and watch out for any more muffled bursts.  My advice, if something in you is protesting, check it out.  Make the changes called for and see if you find creative peace.  You can always revert back to the original draft.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday prompt: #3 2013

Start with something enormous and begin describing by taking your description from the general to the specific, the large to the tiny.  For example, from a mountain to the bobbing wild flower gone to seed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When I have trouble getting the words out

What some might call a mild form of the infamous writer's block.  I have never suffered from the extreme form.  I do have times when a scene I have in mind isn't working, but I don't call that writer's block.  It is more a case of not having worked out the details or I am expecting something from my character that really isn't what he or she would do, or maybe not how that character would do it.

On Goodreads recently a writer was looking for advice on how to overcome her writer's block.  I made some suggestions but they were based on my practices to improve my effort when I felt I was failing to produce something worthwhile.  It has never been a case of not being able to put words on the page, which does sound awful, something I do not want to face.

So these are the things I do when my writing is not up to snuff.
  • I go read someone I think is a great writer and hope his or her ability will rub off or inspire my own (my writer's muse frequently is named Heinlein.  I can't tell you how many times I have read Door into Summer).
  • I lay my self down on the couch, close my eyes and imagine my character in the scene I am working on.  I put in all the details: lighting, decor, emotion, what happened just before, what is going to happen after.  Soon there will be dialogue of either the character talking to me or to some other character. At some point, I find something I simply must start writing, and I am off the couch.
  • Sometimes, convinced I am just tired, I will go to lie down and that will last all of two minutes.  Counter to my intentions, I suddenly have plenty to write.
  • I tell my self to just write anything, summarize what I wanted to cover, write a scene that is needed, dredge up an old hurt my character has, anything, good or bad.  At some point I am warmed up enough that I have something to write worth writing.  I never expect perfection.  I always tell myself, "Hey, you are going to redraft it anyway."
  • When there are times that I cannot write, but I really want to, I record it on the memo app on my phone. Then when I am actually able to write and can't think of the wording, I listen to the recording which always has some key line that I can leap off of, and then I write. 
  • A writer once told me (YA and children's novelist Joan Oppenheimer) never leave your writing finished. Always leave yourself at a point where you know where the plot is going next or what the next issue is, whatever. Make a quick note to yourself about what is next.  Then when I come back, there is my reminder. I don't have to stare at a blank sheet, something is already waiting for me.
  • I review the scenes I know are coming up and see if one seems ready to be written now.  I'll write it and later fill in the missing space that I was having trouble with.  I have the start and now the end point, so filling in the middle won't be so difficult.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday prompt: #2 2013

Today imagine yourself or a character doing a common activity, i.e., washing dishes.  In the process of this activity, have a mythological creature appear.  How would your character or you react to such an event? Write about it.

Spirit of the cave
For example: Let's say you choose dish washing.  Imagine as the water was flowing out of the tap, you (or your character) realized the water was looking just like a foot disappearing down the drain as if a water spirit had flowed out of the tap.  What would happen?  Would you turn the water off or reach for the disposal switch?  Would you back away or grab for the foot.  Write out the scene and find out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Doubling Plan for the Year.

Scheherazade's rice doubling
So last year I reviewed my efforts to publish my first book on Smashwords (first book anywhere, to qualify that), and I viewed a simple download of a sample of my work and the 151 times my blog had been sampled as a positive step forward to being a writer. I talked about my plans to publish my second book in my series Students of Jump, and I wanted to double the number of times my blog had been viewed.  So how did I do and am I still looking forward positively when I still remain undiscovered by a reading public?
  • I unpublished In Times Passed this past September to revamp and reedit as I felt it was incomplete.  I intend to republish before this month is out, and it is now complete and just in need of some review editing.
  • No-Time Like the Present, the second in the series, is not published yet, but is on its last redraft and close to a full-blown edit and first reader run.   It suffered a delay when I pulled book 1 off the line for a revamp and reedit.  I can say book 2 is two to four months away from publication.
  • I did publish an anthology of short stories called Gardens in the Cracks & Other Stories last July.  I chose to hit my publish date for book 2 with this anthology as I hated missing a self-imposed publishing day.  I follow the philosophy that backing down from a promise is just a habit in the making. So this was my way of keeping my promise but not putting a book out before it was ready.  These shorts stories felt ready.
  • So I wanted to double my 151 blogger visits.  That would mean I had to have at least 302 hits for 2012.  I have had 1,726 hits.  Guess I hit that goal a few times.  Sure, I know that is not much when looked at in popular blog numbers, but here I am with a plan to double it again.  So I am off to break 3,456 by next year.
  • I started a Twitter account (@LDarbyGibbs) and had quite a run with it until school started and I had to put my valuable time elsewhere.  I met some great writers, learned to get my point across in 140 spaces or less and found Hootsuite a hoot better than a hollar.  I still visit Twitter every couple of weeks and wish I could do more.  Second semester has always been the easier part of the school year for me, so perhaps I'll be on more in the coming year.
  • I slipped off Goodreads once September came, same excuse applies.  But I read five books in the last week and half while on Christmas break.  So I do have something to talk about.  I might get back on as the new semester gets settled.
  • Book 3 of the Students of Jump is drafted, titled (Time on my Hands), and waiting in the wings.
  • I am still publishing on Smashwords, which is really publishing everywhere else I want to be anyway.  I've sold a total of 18 books which is 18 more than I started with.  I can say I doubled my numbers since last year.  Okay, try not to snigger too loud.  Remember what happened when Scheherazade told the story of doubling the grains of rice just a few times.  I have a tried and true plan here.
  • New goals besides what is stated above:  keep writing, keep reading, keep loving my family and being worthy of their love, make more writer friends, and grow a little wiser in the effort.
So what is your plan for the year 2013 in the making?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tuesday Prompt: #1 2013

Happy New Year prompt:
Write about what you are hoping for in this new year, what a new year might bring to a character's story that you are working on or work on a poem about bringing in a new year.  Speculate as far as you can go.

Just like this kaleidoscope picture, imagine turning the view on the new year and seeing what a small shift in perception or action might bring.