Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Posts tagged “craft


As of about 12:30, I wrapped work on my NaNoWriMo draft, The Story of the Story of the Egg. I’ve clocked in at right around 50,750 words, which doesn’t so much blow the finish line away as it does creep across it. And just in time for the holidays! Which I’ll spend editing. I still have to get Likely Fictions uploaded (the first batch of collected fairy tales) and the heavy lifting, which is the re-write of The Sovereign Palace.

The big challenge writing Egg was trying to keep the story from getting too dark. I did my best to channel the Moomins and The Phantom Tollbooth, either of whose company I would be honored to keep. Let’s call that aspirational as well as inspirational.

The main character is Fin, the middle child and only boy, a young story who hasn’t figured out what he wants to be when he grows up other than he’s pretty sure it should be heroic. His older sister Torus is on track to become a Greek Epic and his younger sister, whom Fin has to babysit too often, has so far still refused to hatch from her egg. When the Egg is stolen away, the only thing that Fin’s parents (a Biography and an Entry) will let him do to help is visit the mayor of Story City to let her know what’s happened. In Story City, the streets only look straight when you turn around and look backwards. Forward, they’re a convoluted mess, which is just how the Advertisements selling plot devices like it. Unfortunately for Fin, some of the stories who are taking the greatest interest in the missing Egg are the Tricksters, and they’re making his simple task a lot more complicated.

The next big goal will be to get back on the fairy tale train so that I’m not barely keeping up. So between that, Palace, and Likely Fictions, I’ll have my hands full.

Excerpt, The Story of the Story of the Egg:

“Find what you were looking for?” asked the monkey. Fin saw he was still balanced on his stick. His fur and skin was a strange shade of dirty white, almost a metallic yellow.

“You look like the mayor,” he said instead of answering the question. He didn’t think he wanted to talk to the monkey-story about the details of his journey or what was going on with the Egg. “Sort of.”

“Do I?” asked the monkey. He replaced his foot on the stick with one hand so that he could look upward at his body. “Do you really think so?” The stick shivered at his movements but showed no sign of falling over. That was when Fin realized that the monkey’s fur was very short and almost seemed glued together. In fact, the monkey’s whole body seemed slightly distorted.

“She’s on water and you’re on a stick,” said Fin. It was a loose connection at best, but he didn’t think it was wrong. Other stories were beginning to stream out of City Hall now, many of them apparently set on making it out of the Garden by nightfall.

“Sticks aren’t like water at all,” said the monkey, who apparently agreed with Fin’s silent conclusion that it wasn’t the best parallel. “You’ll never be a good Analogy.”

“Who said I want to be an Analogy?” asked Fin.

“I want to be a Horror!” said Iter.

“You already are!” said the monkey, and laughed with gusto as though he’d made a joke at Iter’s expense. “You’re Torus’s little brother, aren’t you?”

“Why does everybody know who Torus is?” complained Fin.

Iter gave him a look, forgetting completely that the monkey had insulted him. “Seriously? Epics are kind of a big deal. Hey, will you introduce me to her?”

The monkey nodded. “Big deal, yes, indeed, Torus’s little brother. Everyone knows who your sister is. That’s what fame is. Everyone knows who you are.”

“But in all of Story City? I thought it was only in our section of the Stacks that people knew her.”

An extremely round story in a large coat bumped into Fin and nearly knocked him over. He lurched headlong into the monkey’s stick. The monkey leapt into the air and came down on his tail, twirled the stick in one hand, and left it to balance on his head. His head and body waved with the effort of staying upright. “Excuse me, pardon me, fin-fin-finial. Finish. Finland,” said the round story. He doffed his hat and waddled off. “Fin. Fin. Fin-ancial. Fin-gerprint. Fin-agle. Fin-esse.” He looked back at them and laughed hysterically. “Yes! Fin-al. Fin-ito!”

“Why did he pronounce all of those words like he was saying your name?” asked Iter. “That was weird.” He twisted his head back and forth between the hurrying story whose large belly didn’t fit at all with his thin, collie face, and the monkey.

The balancing, strangely colored story smiled and mimed putting on a coat over an oversized belly. “Someone’s been visiting a Dictionary, I expect. Young Torus’s younger brother, you need to look beyond the surface. Your problem is that you don’t know what’s inside.”

“What are you covered with?” asked Iter, who had moved behind the monkey.

Fin was too shocked at the repetition of the Prophecy’s words to follow Iter. “Inside? Inside what?”

“Anything!” said the monkey to him. “Don’t be rude,” he said to Iter. “He doesn’t like it.”

“Who doesn’t?” asked Fin. “What?”

“That white stuff isn’t his normal color! He’s gold!” Iter was pointing at the monkey’s backside. “The yellow is his real color coming through whatever that white stuff is!”

“That’s why you look…” Fin trailed off. Did he not know what was inside the monkey’s covering? Could that be the Prophecy’s meaning?

The monkey scowled. “It’s my narrator, if you must know. His name is Wu Cheng’en.”


On Outlining (4 of 4)

Part 1      Part 2     Part 3

Theory and Practice

I don’t outline the whole book at once – or at least, I didn’t outline A Box of Ink all at once. I shouldn’t talk like I’ve written a library.

Here is what I did do: (more…)

On Outlining (3 of 4)

Pacing and Chapters

Part 1

Part 2

Time for more math. Or, as our British friends insist, “maths.” (more…)

Outlining – Using Plot Points (2 of 4)

To sum up: you’ve broken your manuscript up into four manageable acts, having come up with good beginnings and good endings for each act. More to the point, this is how I’ve done it with A Box of Ink. You can do whatever you want, of course. But it’s NaNoWriMo, and I can cruise through a 2000 word count in a couple of hours no problem with this system.

It’s probably too late in the month for you to apply this method, but whatever.


On Outlining (Part 1 of 4)

I’ve finished the first act of A Box of Ink in its preliminary draft and am now moving on to the second. Given my September-or-so’s series on structure, I thought it would be worth describing how I’m outlining, mainly because I feel like I’ve learned how to do it all over again.

Back in the good old days of elementary school, I learned that outline looked like this:

  • I. Main topic #1
    1. Supporting idea #1
  •                                                i.     Proof or example
  •                                               ii.     Proof or example
  •                                             iii.     And so on
  •         2. Supporting idea #2
  •         3. And so on
  • II. Main topic #2
  •         1. And so on

This is what my outlines look like now. (more…)

Publishers Are Not the Enemy

Then again, they’re not your friend, either.

Last week, Bookshelves of Doom alerted me to the fact that Simon & Schuster is discontinuing Richard Yancey’s Monstrumologist series, the news of which you might be expected to react with “Who? What?”

My background. Until two weeks ago, I’d never heard of Richard Yancey. I was looking for some good YA horror because I’m trying to add a certain level of creepy to Manuscript #2 and I wanted to see how others had done it. Gretchen over at Librarified sent me a list of possible titles (thanks!), Yancey’s was the novel I chose. I wasn’t blown away the way that many fans are (my review here), but it’s a good read and it’s very well told. It’s critically regarded. Here is Yancey’s tweet. (more…)


If I can continue writing at my current pace, I will have finished three books by the end of the calendar year.

It’s not going to happen – it’s already very clear how busy this summer is going to be (or how busy it better be). There’s no way I can continue to produce 3-4k words a day on a good day, or do serious re-writes. It’s just not going to happen.

This is okay. I tell myself that this will be okay, that a timeline is just a timeline. A plan is just a plan. Things can change.

Time is important for my books because everything works together. I’m only on the second one and I’m already jumping back to the first one to see what happened when. By the time I get to book four, my chronology is going to be pretty well locked into place. I spent five months in 2010 outlining so that I had a good sense of what happened in each book and how it impacted every other book. I started with calendar pages, then I shifted to colored notecards.

The vertical axis is time, the horizontal axis is character. I’ve got five main characters, but there are important secondary characters (as you can see by the number of rows visible) that I need to be able to visualize. It took me three days to write out these cards, and another week to finish my next set. Then I went back to outlining. Each card, for what it’s worth, identifies all of the things that a character does (or has done to him/her) over one week. The top row there – white, green, purple, blue – that’s the month of August for the character of Jill.

Not pictured: September through January.

I’m finding in myself a level of patience for this project that I have not had for ones in the past. When I did martial arts in grad school, I became comfortable with the timeline, maybe because it was so predictable (four years + lots of work = black belt; I didn’t make it). When I was teaching I’d hector my students about process, and tried to break up larger projects into smaller bits so that they could see how to develop their work (by and large, this too was a failure). More than anything, though, taking a furniture making class for the past two years really emphasized patience.

You don’t get to the end with no work in advance. I have to respect the process, and let it grow as much as it needs to. Good acting looks effortless. Good writing flows. It’s the problems that catch our eyes, not the successes.

Organizing now feels like writing, because by sorting my ideas I am writing. This is obvious, but it’s not something that I’ve particularly thought about before, or done to this degree as a writer.