Ripped Pages Strewn Across My Floor

I’ve been working on Book 3 (which isn’t really the third book of any series, nor is it the third book I will have written, but Book 3 works fine for a title for now) for a little over a month now. Like all projects that hook me, the beginning of the work rushed by and flowed out of my fingers like the creamy center of a Cadbury Egg (they have creamy centers, right? It’s been a while since I had one).

Then, like all projects that hook me, things slowed down. I had a conversation with myself that went something like this.

“Oh, so now that you’ve created a world, you expect to have a fully-conceived story to put in it? Complete with three-dimensional characters, plot twists, some sort of theme, and lots of your usual silliness?”

“Uhm… yes?”

“Right. I’ll get back to you.”

I sat back, looked at my fledgling baby, poked it, prodded it, and came up with a complete story idea. I wrote some notes on a Google Doc and dove back in.

Then I had a cool idea, so I had to go back and add it and that changed some things so I needed to go back again and fix them and then I changed some other things and had to go back to the start to make sure I set them up and then… well then the notes on my Google Doc didn’t make any sense.

I forged ahead, as writers with an inflated sense of ability are wont to do. Things bogged down. Like, trying to walk through a vat of kindergarten paste while wearing Uggs. I went from 1,500 or 2,000 words a day to 300 or 400. The next day I’d go back and rewrite 200 of those 400 and call it a day.

The project stalled.

I cried. I wailed. I berated fate. I watched some TV. And inspiration came to me–though not from watching TV, that was a total waste of time.

I got out on old, blank notebook. A nice one with slightly-thick paper. I opened up to a blank page and wrote the concept for one scene I knew I wanted in the book. Then I ripped the page out of the notebook and placed it on the floor. I wrote another scene concept on another blank page. Ripped it out. Set it down.

Rinse, repeat.

Soon enough, I had about eight pieces of paper on my floor. I arranged them in chronological order. I saw where there were holes and forced myself to write something on a new page, rip it out, and use it to fill the hole. I got interested in the very end of the book, and wrote a number of pages and ripped them all out, placing them in order. Saw another hole, wrote a new page. Got an idea, wrote a new page, set it down to replace an earlier page I’d ripped out. Crumbled up the earlier page–I wouldn’t be using it.

When my family finally came home (what, you think I’d be able to litter the living room floor with scraps of paper if they were around?) they found me sitting criss-cross applesauce on the living room rug surrounded by a large semi-circle of torn pages.

It is a testament to their ability to excuse and overlook (as well as a testament to my habits in general) that they did not strap me into a straight jacket then and there and have me hauled away.

Luckily for me, I had pretty much finished my task. Around me were 26 pages torn from a notebook (remember, a nice one) that told the story of Book 3 from where I was currently stuck all the way to the end. I’d gone and outlined my novel. And I liked it. Some of it made me giggle. Some of those giggles weren’t the deranged giggles of a mad man.

So today I impart upon The Next Bit of the the journey of Book 3, this time armed with 26 ripped pieces of nice-ish paper to guide my way.

And you thought writing was boring.

We Need More Silly!

So I maybe, possibly, perhaps have my next book in mind.

Like many projects that eventually find their way out of the logjam that is my imagination, it is a mash-up of a bunch of other concepts and ideas I’ve tinkered with over time. The other day, a few of those crashed up against one another the way random electrons do when circling an atom and this time the resulting brand new element caught my attention.

So I wrote a first chapter. Then I wrote a second chapter. Then I went in and outlined the entire story. Then I went back and erased the first two chapters and started over. Then I wrote the first chapter. Again. Then I sat back and smiled.

This just might work.

The thing about my particular writing process is that it tends to be plot-based. I will generally start with the concept. Something like “What if there was this big, natural disaster that turned all the walleye against humanity?” Then I carve out a series of events. First, we show the disaster that turns the walleye against us. Then they start their war. Some people die. Mankind finally understands the nature of the threat and fights back. More people die. Then… cool stuff happens and we get to the end. Or something like that.

Then I need to go back into it and find out who the characters are. Maybe the hero is a waste disposal expert who takes an interest in the walleye. Maybe one of the walleye is actually the hero. It could go either way. When you think about it, a concept like this pretty much writes itself, right?

So back to my possible third book. I like it. It feels right. The story is there. And more importantly, the options for multiple stories is there so that when it becomes a huge hit I can keep churning them out. The problem for me was that it wasn’t writing itself. It was slow going. I knew what I wanted to happen. I knew who I wanted the events to happen to. I knew where I wanted them to go. But the execution–putting the words down on the screen that will take us on the journey–was excruciatingly slow, like I was churning molasses or something.

I didn’t know what the problem was, and I wasn’t about to give up. So I’d braced myself for a fight and was ready to hunker down when it struck me.

It wasn’t silly enough.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the plot or the characters, I forget to bring my special brand of silliness to the table. Without it, the book may as well have been written by somebody else. That was why it wasn’t flying out of my fingers at light speed, it was just another cool story.┬áSo I went back to that first chapter and upped the silly.

And the story started singing.

No guarantee that this will ultimately catch fire and I’ve found that elusive third book, but suddenly it reads like it was written by me. And that’s a good thing.

Because I wrote it. Am writing it. Will be writing it.

Whatever.

On the Writing Road Again

Not that I’m travelling, just can’t get the song out of my head.

I’m burning the candles to get through my second book (well, third, but second that will be published). This has been harder than any of the others, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m finally in the third act.

Finishing the second act felt great, but then the third act punched me in the face and I was on the ground in tears (manly tears!). But today I am all smiles. Yesterday, I sat down with my third act and outlined the living $#%& out of it. Chapter by chapter. No more mister nice guy. It was some serious tough love, but when the day was over, I stood standing over a fully-outlined third act that didn’t suck.

Today I took that outline for a test drive, writing the first of eight final chapters. Imagine my surprise when I completed the chapter exactly where I had hoped, and it was neither way too short nor a billion pages long. It was just fight. The Goldilocks of chapters. And now I feel the juices flowing. Departed on the next chapter, and it felt good, too. Real good. Like ‘dang! I’m a writer!’ good.

So consider this an official countdown. Seven chapters to go until the first rough draft is complete.

Then the rewrites begin…