Casey asked (and asked and asked):
Writing process! I’d like to go over the writing process. I realize this is tackled a lot and by varying degrees from many different people, but I still haven’t found my sweet spot. Pantser vs. Plotter, some variation thereof? I’d love to hear about the process of taking an idea to a full-on novel. Maybe using one of your past books as a guide from conception to finished product?
Uh, that would be a book length answer. The short version:
Do your discovery draft where you just write what comes to mind, anything goes, nobody sees it but you.
Read through the discovery draft and break it down into acts and turning points, looking for escalation, moving stuff around as needed until you have a coherent narrative.
Step back and ask yourself what the book is about. What kind of book is it, what’s the theme, where are the character arcs and what do they mean. Revise again to sharpen all of that.
When it’s a good as you can make it, send it to beta readers you trust and ask what doesn’t work and what must be kept.
Maintaining continuity throughout a book. How do you accomplish that task through 300+ pages? Do you use a special tool? Is it done during the editing process?
During the discovery process, I don’t worry about it.
During the rewrite process, I make notes about it.
During the final rewrite before the betas, I run through and make sure I’ve fixed any glitches in continuity, including language specific to characters (Button says “Crap,” Nita doesn’t; Nita says “Asshat” Button doesn’t, until midway through the book when they start picking up each other’s language.)
I also go through and read the book in the PoV of any major character to make sure each one is on the page with his or her own goals and personality. That is, I read through as Button so that even in the scenes in somebody else’s PoV, she still sounds and acts like Button. It’s also a good way to see who you’ve dropped; if you have to skim a hundred pages until that character shows up again, what has she or he been doing? What happened.
Basically, you fix continuity in the rewrite.
Software! I’ve gotten THE BEST software recommendations from this blog. I’d love to hear about any new stuff you’ve found that has been a life changer or that anyone else on Argh is using, too. Having said that, I’m also interested to hear your thoughts on when software is helpful and when it gets in the way of the writing.
This is probably heresy, but I cannot make Scrivener work for me. I don’t know why. My go-tos are Word and Curio (for collage and mapping) and VooDoo Pad (for wikis and organizing info). I would love to master a good timeline program, but I’ve never taken the time needed to do it. For graphics, I love Acorn. But that’s it: Word, Curio, VooDoo Pad, Acorn, and if I ever figure it out, Aeon Timeline (I’m using Word tables for timelines at the moment).
Finishing. This is, perhaps, my biggest problem. I’m easily distracted by the shiny. How do you keep yourself focused on a single story through to fruition? Do you let some shiny in throughout to get it out of your system and then return to your main project? How do you refocus on the main project after a hiatus?
You’re asking a woman who hadn’t finished a book in ten years.
I am SO CURIOUS about serials and can’t seem to find some really good information on what the deal is with these nowadays. I know that they’ve gotten big again since the influx of eBooks, but that’s, unfortunately, all I know. Are serials being rebranded as short stories? Are they still popular after the initial boom of readily available eReading material? And along that vein, what about short stories? Amazon markets them based on the time that it will take you to read it, so the length is all over the place where short stories are concerned. Are they the new serial? What’s their appeal? Are they appealing?
On series (not serials), three words: Worlds, communities, and characters. Readers who really loved spending time in a book want that book again, only different. Series give them a new story in the same world.
Short stories: very difficult to write (much harder than novels) and very difficult to make satisfying. I would imagine their appeal is that they don’t take long to read, so if they’re well written they give you the satisfaction of a novel in half an hour. I’ve written them, but they take forever to get right, and my natural length is the novel, so I haven’t really looked into them. No idea what’s happening with them right now on Amazon, but somebody in the comments will know. Argh people know everything.
And to coincide with all of that — because I realize those are somewhat more along publishing questions and not necessarily writing questions — what elements make a really good serial? How is writing a serial, a short story, or both different from writing a full novel? What elements — particularly in the romance genre — go into making quality written serials, short stories, or both?
You’re asking about two different things, I think, unless I’m misunderstanding your use of “serials.” Are they really publishing serials now? That is stories told in parts, only releasing one part at a time, like a mini-series? If so, I know nothing about that. Sorry. If a serial is just a novel released in parts, then there’s probably no difference in writing them and novels, aside from needing a hook/turning point at the end of each section to keep people reading (but you need that in a novel, too, so . . .).
The difference between short stories and novels is a simple one: length. But that leads to bigger differences because you have very little real estate to build on in a short story, so it has to be extremely focused and extremely well structured. There’s no room for error in a short story. You don’t have acts, at most you have scene sequences and you probably don’t even have that; the whole story is probably a scene sequence or even just a scene. And yet you still have to deliver that punch, that pay-off, you still have to make the reader sit back and think and then want to read again. They’re very difficult to write well, the high wire act of fiction writing.
The habits of a productive writer. What are they? Realizing this is different for everyone, maybe sharing yours and then getting Argh’s collective habits in the comments?
You’re asking me? Ask a productive writer. The Argh people will undoubtedly speak to this in the comments.