Writing Process: The Project Bible – Discovering My Process

Last week I mentioned that I was planning to write about “background notes and research and my ‘Project Bible'”.  This is the post to which I was referring.

I’ve been writing a lot lately (although, this week is looking a little slim on the wordcount front) – but when it comes to my current novel project, “The Book of M” I haven’t been writing quite so much of the actual book itself.  Actually, I haven’t yet written a word of readable draft.  So far, everything has been background notes, all of which ends up in my “Project Bible”.  I thought, then, that there might be a little interest in what goes into my Project Bible, and what it looks like.

I wanted to start this discussion by pointing out – as is likely already known by most writers – that there’s no right or wrong way to go about writing a book.  The classical and accepted wisdom is that writers fall somewhere on a spectrum between “Planners” and “Pantsers”, or between “Architects” and “Gardeners”.  (It is my goal, one day, to add a second dimension to that schema, allowing future writers to peg themselves somewhere into one of four quadrants; first I’ll have to figure out what that second dimension might be.  But that’s neither here nor there, is it?) 

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what kind of writer I am, exactly.  When I was younger, I didn’t even know there was more than one way to write.  I just figured you start at the beginning and you write until you reach the end.  And, you had to have some idea of what the ending would be or you wouldn’t know when you were done.  As I grew older – and especially when I started college – my writing process began to change.  That’s when I first started keeping an “Idea Journal”, which even then was filled almost exclusively with notes and ideas I’d come up with for my ever-unfinished writing project.  After a few years, I started looking for ways to turn my handwritten notes into a searchable electronic format. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending June 25, 2011

I had a fine week of writing last week.  Here are the details:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 1,944
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 4,499 words

Grand Total: 6,443 words

Awesome! My best writing week yet, since I’ve been tracking these things.  “Story of G” is now well past what I expect to be the halfway point.  I’ve introduced all the characters, and the central conflict is chugging along.  What remains to be resolved: the story is supposed to culminate in a “big reveal”: sort of a twist-ending, I guess.  I’m not sure yet, how to build from here to the big reveal. 

“Book of M”, meanwhile, is slowly, slowly, slowly starting to take shape.  I came to the realization that my timeline for completing a first draft on “Book of M” was too aggressive (and alternately, my timeline for completing a first draft of “Story of G” was too lenient).  So, I reset my “Book of M” deadline from April of 2012 to July of 2012.  We’ll see if the extra three months is sufficient.  And I pushed up “Story of G” from October 2011 to August of 2011.  I think I’ll still beat it.  One or two more writing weeks like this one and it’ll be done. Continue reading

Why Pixar Works: A Funny Review of Cars II

So, this weekend past, the only Pixar movie which I actually intend to actively avoid came out: “Cars 2”.  I mentioned before that I was rather underwhelmed by the first “Cars” movie – the only Pixar movie I didn’t enjoy – and that this was the reason I don’t intend to see the sequel.

But I did read a review of the new Pixar movie that had a very amusing line that highlights why Pixar movies are so, well, awesome (and further serves to highlight why “Cars” was an aberration from their normal record), and I wanted to share it, since I’d written a few times about Pixar in the past.

In contrasting Pixar’s “Cars” to other Pixar movies, reviewer Glen Kenny talks about how, comparatively, “Cars” lacked the depth of characterization and theme that ran so strongly in through other Pixar hits, which may have led some (myself included in that number) to be disappointed that they chose “Cars” for the sequel treatment over some of their other, harder-hitting movies.  And then he said this:

But like I said: I’m relieved. Don’t get me wrong, I adored “Toy Story 3,” but the damn thing absolutely traumatized me (and my poor wife, who unlike myself does not deserve to be traumatized). So what I want right about now is a Pixar movie that IS NOT going to make me cringe and cry like a 3-year-old who’s convinced that Mommy just isn’t coming back. And “Cars 2” is that movie.

Yep.  That about sums up the Pixar oevre, “Cars” notwithstanding.  These are movies that make you feel something.  I mean, they are absolutely heavy with real emotions.  And not the typical, sappy, Hollywood-style formulaic attempts at substituting-good-looking-actors/actresses-on-screen-for-emotion.  Pixar stuff is real, it’s raw, and it hits you right in that pulpy little organ where you keep your real emotions.

That’s why Pixar movies work, and that’s what makes them so good.  And as for me, I like a movie – or a book, for that matter – that can make me feel something, authentically.

And that’s all I wanted to say about that.  Carry on.

Writing Process & Pottermore: The Unpublished Underbelly of the Story

So, if you’re a serious, hard-core fan of Harry Potter – or, alternately, if you’re such a SF&F nerd that you actively seek out any and all news on the SF&F industry (and maybe, also, happen to be a fan of Harry Potter, which is clearly a related condition) – then you may have heard about the announcement of Pottermore yesterday.

For those who haven’t, despite ascribing to either of the above-listed conditions, a short primer: Pottermore is basically the official release of the ebook editions of the wildly popular Harry Potter series made concurrent with a fan-community/facebook/online HP-encyclopedia.  You read through the e-editions of the Potter books – which will only be available on Pottermore.com – while also playing games, maybe sharing your family-friendly fanfiction (this is unclear from the announcement, but hinted at), and otherwise interact with other fans together online… as if you couldn’t already do almost all of that online except read the books on your e-reader.  Regardless, it seems like an interesting idea – and almost certainly a keen marketing coup that should drum up interest in the impending release of the ebooks.  If I had an e-reader, I’d definitely be interested… and even so, without one, I’m at least a little curious to see what it’s really all about.

But what caught my attention about this announcement is a line I read here that touches on some of Rowling’s background notes related to the Harry Potter universe.  I was already thinking about writing this week about background notes and research and my “Project Bible”, so this confluence struck me as a good way to open the discussion.  Here is what was said about the previously unpublished material:

Though fans of Harry Potter expecting another book from the author set in the wizarding universe will be disappointed to hear that Rowling has “no plans to write another novel,” hopefully they’ll take solace in knowing that later this year Pottermore will unveil of 18,000 unpublished words about characters, places, objects and more from the world of Harry Potter. For example, there’s material on a certain romance between Professor McGonagall and a Muggle when she was a young woman, how Vernon & Petunia Dursley met each other, more extensive information on Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff houses (we know quite a bit on Gryffindor already) and plenty more.

Continue reading

You Vote: NPR’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy

So, you may have already heard, but NPR is taking nominations for an upcoming Top-100 list of the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy books.

They have a few rules: no YA fantasy or science fiction (which cuts out Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and my personal childhood favorite, the Prydain Chronicles), no horror and no Paranormal Romance (which means no Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer) – although that last rule seems, to me, to be a bit unclear, because the line between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy is pretty thin and fuzzy, and the latter is definitely SF&F…

Anyway, the excluded genres and subgenres they intend to cover in later Best-1oo lists, so they say that’s why.

If you haven’t already, you can go and nominate your five favorites in the comments here.

Father’s Day Fun: A Post-Mortem

So for Father’s Day this year Dear Wife and B.T. put their heads together to come up with ideas, and thought it would be fun to take to a restaurant the likes of which I have never been to before.

Before I go on, I should mention in the interest of full disclosure that I am a fan of eating meat.  So if you are of such a persuasion as eating meat may offend your diet sensibilities, I fear this post may make you a tad queasy – but in words only for I did not think to take pictures.

So, with a huge assist from Dear Wife, B.T. decided it would be a brilliant idea to take me to a Brazilian Steakhouse for Father’s Day, because in fact I had never been to such a restaurant before.  More to the point, I didn’t even recall what a Brazilian Steakhouse even was

The proper term, apparently, is churrascaria, but the restaurant concept stateside seems to go by the moniker of “Brazilian Steakhouse”, and I think there’s a subtle difference between the two: a churrascaria is simply a restaurant serving South American-style rotisserie barbecue.  That, by itself, would have been fine and undoubtedly delicious.  But “Brazilian Steakhouse” seems to refer to a style of service.  I will shortly elaborate. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending June 18, 2011

Another week of writing come and gone.  Here’s how it went down…

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 0
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,485 words

Grand Total: 1,485 words

Whoa.  Compared to the revised total from last week of 3,242 words, this is way off my game (though, to be fair, well in-line with the week prior to that).  What happened?

Well, I’ve learned over the past few weeks of trying to be consistent about writing that I have a few genuinely productive days each week.  Weekends are pretty much a goner: that’s family time during the day and one-on-one time with Dear Wife in the evenings, and Sunday, in particular, is the traditional day-of-going-to-church, so it’s hard to get much writing done those days.  And, well, the weekend begins on Friday evening, so we’re back to family time and Dear Wife time on many Fridays.  That leaves Monday through Thursday as writing days. Continue reading

Towers of Midnight: Victory Is Mine

I might be the last Wheel of Time fan to finish it, but no matter: I was undaunted.

And at last, I have achieved my victory.  I’ve finished this book (behemoth that it was).

After that, I’m going to take a short hiatus on reading books for a week or two, to focus more on my writing and get myself up to speed.  Then, I’ll probably go back to A Clash of Kings, the second book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.  As I mentioned in comments on my blog: that series is good, but I can’t relate to any of its characters, and as a result despite being very well-written these books just haven’t been terribly compelling for me.  I stopped A Game of Thrones half-way through to read The Gathering Storm, and then I stopped Kings about a third of the way through in favor of Towers.  “The Wheel of Time” just trumps “Ice and Fire” for me.

So, with that bit of preamble out of the way, I’m going to do something I don’t do on my blog: I’m going to go all spoilery on you and commiserate with any Wheel of Time fans who happen across the blog about the ending of The Towers of Midnight.  Don’t worry… it’s all below the cut (you have to click “Read More”), so you won’t see it unless you click through.   I have to do it because… well… the ending of Towers left me with a feeling of “Are you kidding!  You can’t do that!  You’re telling me I have to wait how long for the next book?  I don’t think I can handle this!  The anxiety is killing me!”  You’ve been warned… Continue reading

Beginning with a Map

I mentioned in my weekly report, yesterday, that I’d drawn a map for my current novel project, The Book of M.  I’ve written about mapmaking on my blog before, but seeing as it’s been over a year, I figure the statute of limitations are up on that one.  I said this, previously:

Maps have always been one of my favorite parts of fantasy novels.  When provided, I refer to them frequently throughout reading a novel.  Maps give the world a sense of place, a sense of being real in a way that words alone cannot.  The words and the map together make the world what it is, making the characters who interact in it all the more real.

I think what I said then is still an eloquent observation, so I share it again. 

When last I talked about maps in the context of writing a fantasy novel, I was relating the tale of how I had embarked on a new, computer-assisted mapping project for the world of my “Project SOA” books using The Gimp.  Ultimately, however, my little laptop proved insufficiently powerful to handle the map I was then creating.  (I’ll share an image of what I had done, so far, down below.)

The Map of the Book of M

My hand-drawn map of the world of the Book of M, with the few named locations conveniently removed to protect the as-yet innocent.

Now, I’m working on “Book of M”.  And last week, I realized I’d reached the point where I needed a map.  But, this time I don’t have time to waste wrangling with GIMP on a machine that was never meant to run the GIMP.  So, for now at least, it’s back to my old, tried-and-true mapmaking tools: pencil and paper.  And of course, why not make use of the gloriously blank pages of my Hot New Writer’s Journal?  So that’s just what I did.  Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending June 11, 2011

Yep, still writing.  Although, this week largely failed, in the face of the challenge I face, alluded to here and here.  Soon… that will no longer be a problem.  (I’m in the home stretch!)

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 0
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,642

Project SOA:  (Yes, that’s right.  It’s not in active development, but that doesn’t mean I don’t write stuff about it when good ideas occur to me.)

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 478

Idea Notebook: (New ideas often go here, first, before they become a full-fledged project; alternately, I’ll write something in one of the above projects here, and count it as “Idea Notebook” wordcount until I transfer it to an electronic format, in which case I’ll reclassify at that time.)

  • Wordcount: 994

Grand Total: 3,114 words

Well, that’s not so bad.  Compared to last week’s 1,700 words.  And compared to drowning in a book I can’t put down.  I can’t complain.

Add to that something my wordcount tracker can’t track, but which is just as important a milestone in my writing development: I drew a map for “Book of M” of the region the story takes place in (actually of the whole continent).  It’s not a finished map, in the sense that there’s only a few places named on the map – but then again, those are the main locations in the story, so that’s still a pretty good job.

Still… I had a sobering moment in all this as well.  Using my Writing Project Progress Wordcount Tracker (the problem with which I fixed, incidentally, but haven’t uploaded yet), I got this little gem, regarding the Book of M: “At this rate, it looks like you will finish your draft around February 24, 2019.”  Really?  Gee, thanks.  That’s…. encouraging.  The truth is, though, I’m putting out an average of about 100 words per day (up to almost 300 this past week) on this project… whereas I need to be writing almost a thousand words per day if I want to finish this project by April of 2012.  Methinks I may need to set a slightly more realistic goal… and methinks I also need to be writing a little more vigorously.

So, how was your writing week?