Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 3 - Great Strides and Positive Reinforcement

Today has been productive in both areas, writing and publishing.

  • I digitized my story board. The bulletin board was a great tool in letting me handle my scenes in a physical sense, but it's not practical to lug around everywhere. 
  • I made three chapters available to family and friends via shared Google Document, looking for cold readers.
  • I perused my publishing sources, and was encouraged in my desire to self-publish. I think it makes a difference when an author purposely plans to self-publish vs. falls back on self-publishing because they couldn't secure an agent or publisher.
  • I laughed thanks to Mr. Massimo Vignelli and skimmed his Canon. I am learning about typography before I get too far in working on placing completed chapters into the final manuscript.

Digitizing My Storyboard

Using a table in, a simple grid 8 x 5, I made an electronic version of my story board. It prints out on three pages, but that's okay, I don't mind flipping through. It's a very handy resource and in my writing folder, along with other references I need for my story world.

Part of this process is learning my paradigm for writing. Turns out, I am a combination writer :) I like to begin with a few visceral, emotive scenes that are important to my story. I started out with a significantly different version of my first scene at the bar where my main character meets his one-night stand. From there, I wrote the last disaster of the book. Then, I wrote a little more of the beginning, and was woken up one night compelled to write the climax of the story that makes my main character choose his direction. Finally, I wrote out my second disaster. I then decided I needed more of an idea of how I get to all of these seemingly disconnected points in my storyline. This took a few weeks of tweaking, and only this week did my ending radically change. However, it feels fully baked now, and ready for icing and decoration!

I'm debating on whether or not I need to make character cards. Here's why: They are already so real to me, I just listen to their side of the story and write. I'm afraid making elaborate character sheets would quiet their voices. This is just a me thing. I will move forward and see what happens. If I find my characters falling flat, I will reassess.

Looking for Cold Readers

My publisher hat back on, I decided to start looking for cold readers. People willing to read as I write and say "This part confused me. I loved this. I didn't care for that."  Before making my first three chapters available, I slashed a great deal of narrative out of my first three chapters because I learned head-hopping in a scene is bad. Amateurish. ::Gasp!::

Johnathan Michaels is my POV character for those first few chapters; I can't start saying what the other characters are all thinking and feeling. Instead, and this is hard, I have to translate those internal thoughts and feelings into actions. When I say this is hard, I mean I deleted four paragraphs because it was all Alex's internal thoughts and a mind dump of how the three of them met. I didn't lament the words, they were crap. It was boring even to me. It slowed down the action. I was sad to see the work go. Those details aren't gone; they will come out more organically later when something ties them to the action going on. All of them are details that can't help but come out. My favorite casualty is the singing Christmas snowman Eric and Johnathan gave an updated sound card to sing the corniest pick up lines when the motion sensor was activated. He will be back, in all of his top hat tipping glory!

Positive Reinforcement

People want to read more of the story. That is a godsend. I was so afraid my story premise wasn't catchy. Turns out it is. Hopefully this will help my novel spread. I already have a new character named Jill who introduced herself to me today and started to tell me her story (she's not in this story, but she's a nurse with $90,000 in student loan debt and her relationship is derailed, she started to whisper gambling issue, but I stopped her right there and told her to wait her turn. she's safely tucked away in a file now.) But, it gives me a new project to be excited about once Imperfect Timing is published.

Also, the latest post on PubRants made me feel more confident in my quest to self-publish. Apparently, a significant publisher, Dorchester, is so broke, they can't pay back royalties to authors they owe who have jumped ship, and are struggling to pay those currently writing for them. Hmmm. If Amazon goes down, half of the writing world is dust. Or electronic buzzing? What is the e-world's equivalent of dust? So I think I'm betting on a good pony (no Jill isn't me. I don't gamble. It's a tax on stupid people who can't do math).

The Fantastic Mr. Massimo Vignelli

If you've read this far, don't worry, you're about to be rewarded. When I say I am self-publishing, I don't mean I am slapping a story together, running spell check, and throwing it up as an e-book. No. I want my paperback and ebook to be indistinguishable from professionally published titles. This is in regards to not just the writing craft, but the technical execution of the book. The layout. The typography, a new word I learned today. Yeah, yesterday I would have said "OH, you mean the font!" Yeah, no.

Massimo Vignelli's book Canon helped me understand there is an aesthetic to the printed words on a page. He introduces his book "This little book reveals our guidelines - those set by ourselves for ourselves." Alright, I can get behind that. Ars gratias artis and all that. If nothing else, this 50 page PDF is remarkable for the tone of narration. The phrasing is literally snooty, but you want the narrator to accept you into his exclusive club!

The man attacks our paper dimensions! I never knew what "A" sized paper was in the drop down box of my word processor, I'd never seen any. Here's why: "The international Standard paper sizes, called the
A series, is based on a golden rectangle, the divine proportion. It is extremely handsome and practical
as well....The United States uses a basic letter size (8 1/2 x 11”) of ugly proportions, and results
in complete chaos with an endless amount of paper sizes. It is a by-product of the culture of free
enterprise, competition and waste. Just another example of the misinterpretations of freedom." (his section on paper sizes, first paragraph)

Did you know there was an issue with our ugly paper size? I didn't. But I get now why books aren't published in 8.5 x 11. It's not based on the golden rectangle. LOL.

But all kidding aside, the book is fascinating for me--someone wanting to learn more about graphical arts and typography. I don't intend to draw my own cover, but at least speaking the language and understanding what it all means will make it easier to discuss my ideas with my cover artist (My first book will be a value priced book cover, for sure. But my dreams are big, and I hope to one day afford the cover art I envision). Plus, he cracks me up!

Finally, and this is important so I will probably put this in a Resources Page or something one day for other self-publishing authors. I have finally learned the difference between serif and sans-serif. It is night and day when it comes to readability. Compare. The above is a sans-serif font.

The rest of this post is a serif font, like Helvetica and Trebuchet,  making larger blocks of text are easier to read on a digital screen. I would argue it's easier to read in general. By changing to a serif font in my manuscript, I was able to cut the 1.5 line spacing and keep my readability. This cut my total pages down, which in turn cuts down my costs to produce, meaning I can lower my list price! Very good news, indeed.

Time to log those hours and head to bed. This writing shop closes promptly at 10:30 PM.

"Imperfect Timing" arriving Fall 2011. Johnathan Michaels, a robotics engineer, jeopardizes his engagement with his business partner when a previous one-night stand surfaces, carrying his child.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 2 - Story Board complete

It's pretty. I love the splashes of neon note cards. Pink represents my three major disasters. Orange are "point of no return" scenes, so I know this is a big turning point for my characters. For example: the night two of my main characters hook up in the hotel room above the benefit dinner they're attending (just found out tonight they steal 2 bottles of champagne from the event O.o.O it's fantastic when the characters whisper in your ears as you're planning stuff out). Yellow and green represent two separate subplots that fuel the main plot. The yellow is the sub plot that ultimately helps Johnathan make the decision about what kind of father he's going to be to his unborn child, and the green leads him to the lifestyle he ends up in.

I love having the road map made out of office supplies. Something about using office supplies like a bulletin board, multicolored push pins and note cards. I tried using a spreadsheet like it was suggested in Writing Fiction for Dummies, but it felt too cold. Writing each notecard out made me feel like I was touching my story, giving care to each little scene, making sure it fit in the right spot. There were a few casualties. I cut an extra romantic weekend (I think one per novel is sufficient), and some things were demoted to honorable mentions in more important scenes.

I didn't forget about my publisher work today. I'm lurking on a number of indie author blogs and getting a feel for the community. I have solved the dilemma of "genre" finally. This novel is a Romance --> Contemporary. Since my stepson told me last week that I had make sure my main character Johnathan have someone he's with at the end of the book. When I asked him why, he said "Because the baby needs a Mommy." He's so cute! So the ending changed quite a bit, and now it's fairly happy, I don't have to worry about failing the formula. Instead, I just tweak it a bit in that my main character is male! and it's a toss up until the end which female lead he ends up with! Even then, everything isn't perfectly, sappily resolved and I don't think it really can be given the storyline.

I'm about 98% sure my storyline is in place. I give myself 2% chance of something happening as I'm writing it out. I know I should write a synopsis now, but instead I'm going to charge into writing copy. I already have rather large chunks completed in various parts of the story (mainly pink and orange cards) but they need editing and tailoring to the rest of the story.

In performing the checks listed for "Is your storyline solid?" the results made me feel more confident in my ability to design a storyline. For every single main character (I have 3 major characters, 4 mid-level characters, and 3 or 4 pop ins) the major and mid-level, there is a clear story arc with a dilemma goal and story question. I didn't even plan this, it just happened as the story developed. For example, there is a clear point when Johnathan decides to propose, when Alex resolves her freak out over the baby by trying to take control of the situation, the point where Anna (the stepmother of Johnathan) realizes she needs to own up to the past about Johnathan's father and he tells her he's too busy right now with his own drama, it doesn't matter what happened twenty years ago (oh, but it does.....).

So tomorrow? Character dossiers (which I'm NOT particularly excited about...we'll see how that goes). I think I'm going to work on a scene or two tonight so I can throw it in the "raw material EDIT" folder.

"Imperfect Timing" arriving Fall 2011. Johnathan Michaels, a robotics engineer, jeopardizes his engagement with his business partner when a previous one-night stand surfaces, carrying his child.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 1 of Being a One Author Revolution

I am annoying my close friends and family with my excitement about self-publishing. Amazon's service revolutionized my plan for my novel, including lighting a fire under my butt to move up my publishing timeline. Originally, I planned to write my book and do the submittal route to an agent. While I think one day I will need an agent ( I better!), right now I want to stand on my own two feet.

This changes things.

Every Story Has A Beginning....

Currently, my novel is missing a middle. I have a strong beginning, I have a killer crisis fading to denouement, but rising action? Nada. I have ideas, but so far not a single scene is screaming in my head, "Write me! Write me!" Until that happens, it can continue to churn.

So about me, ba-da-da-dum (fellow Beekeepers know that sound). Ah, yes. I have one of those pieces of paper that left me with $20,000 in debt. It says I am proficient in my knowledge and understanding of the Political Arts. I often say I minored in English Literature, because it's an easier explanation than the truth. The truth is I was so burned out on traditional education, I blew off my minor with only one more class to go but would have meant staying another semester, and calculated my grade for my last literature class to a perfect 70 without ever writing the capstone 20-page critique of Don Quixote.