Hitting the Restart Button
Just a couple of days before leaving for LTUE I finished the accidental novel. I’d set a mental goal of ‘done before the con’ and I was elated to get it finished, and off to beta readers, before I left on the trip. During the trip, beta comments trickled in. I love my readers, and am so appreciative of the time they take to make thoughtful insights that help my work improve. But while I was at the con, I’d get a notification, see it was from the beta reader, and think ‘do I need to see this now?’
Because you never know. They might absolutely hate it and tell you so in no uncertain terms. As it turned out… they liked it. They made some excellent suggestions and I will be doing a rewrite before shipping it off to the final editor. Woohoo! Accidental novel for the win! I meant it to be a short story, maybe a novella, and it kept growing, and growing.
But now: what comes next? I took a week off from my thousand words a day, I’d only intended a few days to do the con and rest from finishing Possum Creek Massacre. However, between travel issues, car troubles, and work demands, I haven’t been able to write until last night I had the time. The problem was not ‘shall I write?’ It was ‘ what do I work on’ because I have at this point, um, four series that need continuations if they are going to make fans happy. It would be really easy to start on a new thing. New things don’t need series bibles and re-reads and…
Series are hard, I am learning. To maintain continuity you need to remember what you wrote three or four years ago, and I cannot do that. I hate re-reading my own work. It’s like listening to a recording of my own voice. Nails on a chalkboard. If I did outlines and plotted out my work it might be easier – I’d have a reference to chart what the story arc of, say, book two of the Tanager series ought to feel like. Since it’s the middle of a planned trilogy, it needs a different plot than the first book, and to set up the next book. But before I can start it off on the right foot, I have to go back and create the outline of the last book.
Hitting the restart button on a paused series is a whole lot harder than just writing the whole dang thing in a go. I did that, more or less, with Pixie Noir and it worked well from what I see of reader responses. It’s been two years since I released – and last touched – Tanager’s Fledglings. I have some rough notes for book two that I made about then, but reading them yesterday just made me scratch my head and wonder what I was thinking.
So that’s what I have to do to press the mental button in my head and start back on the story. I have to basically backtrack and do the outline I didn’t – and couldn’t – do before I wrote the first book. One of the things I saw at LTUE was a piece of software I think will be a great help. It’s called Plottr, and it allows you to set up a color-coded timeline of your book, outline, character sketches, and more. I’m still exploring the possibilities. Not only is the desktop version very reasonably priced at $29, it syncs with Scrivener if you like that sort of thing. And! For me, the writer perpetually on the go, there’s an app version for $2.99. I put that on my phone and am very pleased with what it promises to give me in terms of quick memory aid. Disclaimer: I was not paid or in any way recompensed for this promo, other than meeting a nice young couple and their adorable and very new baby. So cute! Even my dusty ovaries made happy sounds at the newness. But the writer brain wasn’t distracted from the idea that a tool intended for an intensive outliner could be subverted to use for a pantser (not panther, autocorrect! Although there are days I could do with lurking in trees to drop on unsuspecting prey).
As a pantser, I’ve been engaged in this game of cat-and-mouse with my brain. I can’t outline. I’ve tried. It kills the story dead. I can, on the other hand, do loose plotting to encourage the book in certain directions. Like filling in a series arc. So what I need to do today is read, fill in Plottr with scenes, characters, and settings, and then hopefully I can set the mind to sail on the sunlit sea of the imagination until the story starts to come brightly over the horizon.
Or something. See you in the word mines!
(Header Image: ‘Flyover Country’ by Cedar Sanderson)