Though I’ve been writing for the last year, my blogging has fallen off. I’m going to be using it over the next month as a way to stave off my urge to use social media throughout the day. I’ll be saving up the the things I want to say to put into one long post, rather than doing fifteen short ones scattered throughout the day. I’ll just make notes of them as they come to me, rather than getting on Twitter or Facebook which turns a five second post into a forty five minute scan of cat videos and cute baby pics and TV show spoilers.
I spent a couple of days last week setting up a table so I can work away from online distraction, and so far, it’s proved to be very productive. NaNoWriMo will really put my plan to the test. Wish me luck!
My office has become a really comfortable space, and I truly love my ever-growing library. When I moved back from Saint Louis last spring, I had twenty eight big paper boxes full of books (the equivalent of about 5000 volumes), and at last I have all of the books put in order. There is even room for my collection to grow, which I haven’t had in…well…ever. I’ve always had bookshelves that were overflowing. This is a new era in my life. Eventually, I plan to repurpose my garage into a giant office (This room is the smallest of the guestrooms in the house.), but that change is at least a year away, so in the meantime, I’m making this space as functional and useful as possible.
There’s a little spaceheater that looks like a fireplace, and I’m looking forward to keeping this room cozy throughout the long winter days and nights.
In order to keep myself on task, I’ve set up a whiteboard near the door, and I’m going to keep track of my word counts throughout NaNoWriMo. My hope is to finish the last of the additions to Book One by the end of October, then spend November completing Book Two and setting to work on Book Three. In a perfect world, with no distractions or problems, all three novels in the series would be completed by the end of December.
In addition, I’ve begun using Toggl.com as a way to keep track of my time on various tasks and to help me with time management. For instance, so far, I’ve spent forty minutes writing this blog entry. Somehow, if I can see the timer spinning off the minutes and seconds, I stay focused better, and it forces me to be more efficient in my use of time.
I’ll also be using my Scrivener to keep word counts, then recording my progress on NaNoWriMo’s website.
To keep myself from scanning relevant and interesting articles all day long, I’m using Klout.com as an aggregator and to schedule my posts, spacing them out throughout the day, rather than being online all day long or, conversely, dumping them all in a short span of time and overwhelming people with a bunch of links at once. I’ve used Klout in the past, and I find it really helpful. I scan the articles under my chosen topics when I have free time, then let the site take care of the rest. That’s a much better use of my time, and I really like it for that purpose. If I can ever afford to hire an assistant, they can take over some of that sort of work for me, but in the meantime, Klout is the next best thing.
Things I found and posted in the last twenty four hours, include:
- How Many Stars are in the Universe?
- What Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses Tell Us About American History
My friend Kari Kilgore’s new novel is out, and I highly recommend it!
Also, my friend Jeff Chacon also has a new book coming out. The second installment in his Zombie series is due out next month, but the first novel, American Badass, is out now and being made into a film. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s a great read!
In the early summer, I made some revisions to Book One based on suggestions from beta readers, and I’m very pleased with that work.
I’ve made some major changes to my overall outline for Books Two and Three (and maybe even Four), based on where the characters have lead me, and those changes are going to be truly fun to write.
To prepare for the scenes I need to write, I’ve been doing a lot of research, and books are arriving daily to give me inspiration. I’ve also surrounded myself with items that will help me when I get fidgety, including more action figures. I now have a Casanova action figure with Carnival mask action to stand next to my beheadable Marie Antoinette. It seemed appropriate since part of the action in Book Two takes place in Venice.
I’ve got a lot to read, but I’m not going to let that bog down my draft. I can always come back and add more details in the revision process. What’s important is to let the story unfold and give life to the characters. I’m letting myself become immersed in their world, and I can’t wait for what happens next.
It’s all right there in my head.
In addition to my vampire series, I have ideas for a few other novels as well. One that’s a collaboration with another writer, and I’m looking forward to seeing that happen.
Exciting things are coming!
Tell me in the comments:
- What are your upcoming projects? Do you plan to do NaNoWriMo?
- Do you have books/stories that you recommend or that you’ve recently published?
- What do you do to balance writing and social media time?
- How do you keep track of your word counts?
I finished this blog post in an hour and fifteen minutes. Thanks Toggl.com!
People have asked me how much research I do when I’m working on a story. It’s hard to quantify something like that.
For me, research is useful, but I don’t like to be tied to what I’ve read. For example, some of my characters are based on real people. Do I read their biographies before I write? Yes. I read everything I can get my hands on, especially first hand accounts. Letters and journals. Biographical accounts from contemporaries. If the character is an author, I will read everything that person wrote. I immerse myself in the music, art, and culture of the society of the time. It’s important to me to make the character believable.
However, I don’t like feeling tied to those facts as I create my story. I use that biographical information to help me understand their personalities, their quirks, their motivations. But I always keep in mind that I am not writing non-fiction. My story is just that. A story. It’s fiction. I am using that real person to add verisimilitude to the tale. The appearance of reality, not the absolute truth.
Character is key. I want to understand the person in as much depth as possible.
If I am doing my job well, the reader will be swept along into a believable storyworld inhabited by realistic, fascinating, and relatable characters who seem like people the reader could meet and recognize on the street.
John Keats once said “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us,” and I think that sentiment is equally true for fiction. I never want my fiction to feel like a history lesson. Instead, I strive to use that historical background to add richness and depth to the story and its characters, rather than to teach the reader about this or that historical figure.
So, yes. I do a great deal of research to prepare for my writing, but I don’t leave the books open and refer to them constantly as I go.
My method once I’ve decided on a subject I want to explore in my story is to read and absorb as much as I can on the topic. I’ve taken a forensic course in order to understand more about crime scenes and forensic procedures, for example. I’ve read through medical textbooks and read through books on folklore and history. I’ve traveled to the locations I know I’m going to describe. I’ve even used Google maps’ street view to check my understanding of the environment I’ll use as my setting. Once I’ve finished my research, I close the books and set them aside on my desk. They are there for reference if I need to add a specific date or name or detail, but otherwise I allow my mind to extrapolate and expand on the facts I have gleaned from my study. I fictionalize where the story requires it.
I try to avoid long passages of factual infodumping. Instead, I layer the facts into the story as it becomes relevant. And I try very hard to reveal information about my characters’ history in much the same way we get to know the real people in our lives. No one comes into our lives and blurts out his or her entire personal history in one go upon first being introduced, and we would be bored to tears if someone tried to. It’s much more interesting, both in real life and in fiction, to keep learning new things that add to our understanding. It keeps us fascinated and engaged, always wanting to know more.
If you want to be taken seriously, be consistent.”
I saw this quote yesterday on a friend’s page, and though she was referring to her fitness regimen, it spoke to my beliefs about writing too.
Some of the people in my life, when they heard that I had sent my book off to an agent, said “Oh good! Now you can have your free time back.” And I realized that they saw my writing as a chore, something I undertook as a project, and now the first manuscript is finished, they saw the chore as something I could tick off my to-do list and finally have time for “fun.”
But the thing is that writing IS fun for me. It’s not a chore. Well, okay, there are days when it’s easier than others. Still, writing is something I enjoy. And it’s an ongoing thing. I’m a writer, and that word encompasses the ongoing nature of the action. For me, it’s not something I do once and then I’m finished. It’s part of who I am. It’s something that’s integral to my nature. I’ve always done it. The difference is that in the past it was something I hid from others. It was a private activity that I did late at night after everyone else was asleep. I had this feeling that I wasn’t allowed to be serious about it. I had to have a full-time job and there were responsibilities and obligations and to-do lists of chores. So my writing became like an indulgence. Something I allowed myself to do as a privilege whenever I finished everything else. It was a luxury the way other women dream of bubble baths and manicures and trips to the spa. And I was able to indulge that luxury about as often as most women get to have those other things.
It’s amazing to me that, given the sidelining of my dreams, I still managed to write anything at all. And yet, I have amassed a great deal of writing in spite of all that. I dreamed of being a writer since I was a little girl, but I allowed that dream to shrink while other things took control of my time.
This last year was the first time that I decided to stop relegating my writing to the margins of my life. I feel as though I finally allowed my true self to step forward and reclaim the importance it deserves. It’s the first time that I let myself think of writing as a true vocation.
I’ve been writing my whole life. People just never saw it before now. But I’m through hiding it. This is my new normal. I’m not apologizing for it.
“If you want to be taken seriously, be consistent.” That means setting a schedule. Following through on what I plan. Writing every day not as an afterthought or a late night indulgence but as a priority.
Here at the beginning stages of Book 2, I have some research to do to prepare for the world I’m creating. I’m not sure yet how much of that research will yield rules I will incorporate vs. those I’ll deliberately break, but I think it’s important that I remind myself what the traditional rules have been before I go making new ones of my own.
These are a couple of the books I’m looking through.
I also found some very interesting information from my History of Magic and Experimental Science books (mentioned before here) regarding vampire lore, spanning back to the Greeks and Romans. Fascinating stuff! One passage refers to the Lamias, female vampiric figures I’ve studied before.
I’m thoroughly enjoying the research, and I’m certain that the information will be useful.
One of the improvements I’ve made since I began work on this series a year ago is the use of Evernote to collect my notes, inspiration, and scraps of ideas for future reference. Evernote allows me to keep all of my ideas together and share them from my desktop to my iPad to my phone seamlessly. I can use tags to make searching for data simple, and so far it’s really helped me organize my work. Often, I’ll be walking to work and think of something that I might add to my book somehow. With Evernote, I can save it all in one place, and those ideas are never lost. Research, character notes, photos, links…all collected for me. I love it.