Changing the beginning of your novel can be like deciding on a new hairstyle mid-cut. 

I'm making some major changes to my novel, and I am kind of blown away by all the cascades that decision has caused.  The beginning was too long and complicated, and so I have consolidated and streamlined a bit.  It is good, but I wasn't really ready for all the havoc this would cause downstream. 

I'm sticking with my core story:  grieving father attempts to prevent his daughter's death.  That is solid, but most everything else is up in the air.  Ugh!  It is good, because I have the chance to turn this idea into something special.  I am starting over, though, and that can be a little hard some days. 
 
 
My friend Laura suggested a product call Scrivner (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/index.php) for organizing my novel, and I decided today to give it a try.  She made this suggestion about two years ago, but at that time, the product was only available for Macinstosh.

Like many writers, I've been using MS Word for writing my manuscript, and Excel for organizing it.  The MS Office suite is relatively inexpensive, many people use it, and the tools are nice.  However, I've found that I've been making huge changes to my book since July, and things have gotten a bit out of hand.  My spreadsheets are usually out of synch with whatever version of the book I am on, so I am constantly stopping to re-outline and update my notes.  I have even updated the wrong spreadsheet once or twice, which is maddening.

I am impressed with Scrivner so far.  My book is organized into a 'project', which consists of:
- chapters
- characters
- notes

The tool is very modular.  Each chapter is its own self-contained section, which can later be compiled into a complete work.  The body and notes can be moved from place to place, or even taken off line.

I am pleased so far, but I would be curious to know what tools other writers rely on.  MS Office?  Some other word processor? 

 
 
I had a pretty good weekend working on my book.  Last week was a complete wipeout, so I was really pleased to make some progress the past few days.

I've changed the main theme from 'isolation' to 'playing god' ('playing goddess', actually).  Getting the themes established is very energizing, and I'm ready to crunch out some content. 
 
 
Man, I've got absoluting nothing lately.  I'm trying to move on with 'version 2' of my book, and it is just not working for me.  Version 2 would be shorter and more focused on my main character, Tess.  I like the ideas I have around version 2, and I think that a smaller, more descriptive book would ultimately be better.  Ugh! Not sure what to do here.  Give it a rest for a couple of months?  Plow forward and see what happens?  Or just dump version 2 and stick with what I have?  Lots and lots to think about. 
 
 
We just got back from a wonderful vacation, and I'm a little behind on my writing.  I've started a few posts but haven't finished any (hopefully I get this one done!)

I'm contemplating a direction change for my novel, and this has consumed most of my mental cycles lately.  The central conflict is a bit weak, so I've toyed with the idea of making big changes to the first five chapters.  This would lead to quite a few changes downstream.  I'm anxious to get rolling, but it doesn't feel right.  Hard to explain.  I've followed my instincts so far, and right now they are screaming. 

I will have to think on this a bit.  More to come.

 
 
My friend Jennifer once told me that the first thing she does when proofreading is to remove all the adverbs.  I personally like a good adverb now and then, but I do try to use them sparingly. (Whoops!)  But what about adjectives?  My sister-in-law recently read my book, and she pointed out that I was using very weak, strung-together adjectives to describe my characters.  I read some sections and found a few phrases like 'the tall, blond-haired man', or 'the short, dark-haired woman'.  So what weakens the narrative more:  too many adverbs, or too many adjectives?

June Casagrande, author of It Was the Best of Sentences, it Was the Worst of Sentences, suggests rooting out the adverbs that are not necessary.  Sounds kind of obvious, but extra words can be difficult to spot.  For example, in the sentence 'He formerly worked for the CIA.', the adverb 'formerly' is not needed.  (I wish I could take credit for that example, but that one belongs to June.)  Is there a similar rule for adjectives?  Or is the trick to use the right adjectives?

My friend Laura, who is perhaps the best writer I know, is a master at crafting interesting and descriptive adjectives.  I read a piece of hers recently where she used 'grandmotherly' as an adjective.  I thought this was brilliant!  Grandmotherly conjures up quite a few images and goes way beyond tall or short.

What do you prefer in your writing?  Lots of adjectives?  Pile on the adverbs?  Sparse descriptions, or extravagant, detailed, multi-word phrases? 

 
 
I tend to rely on out-of-the-blue inspirations (maybe too much, in all honesty), and my most recent revelation was to look through stock photos until I found my main characters.  This may sound kind of lame, but I really did not have a precise vision of Tess, James, Emma, and Oscar.  I had a good idea of what each character looked like, but seeing the photos really made a big difference for me.

There are quite a few stock photo sites out there, and I went with FotoSearch and 123RF.  It was kind of fun search through the pictures, and it was great when I found the right ones.

Is it necessary to see your main characters?  Am I doing this backwards? 

 
 
I need to know my characters a little better.

After getting some feedback from two of my loyal readers, I realized that my characters do not have enough depth.  Most of them go through some transformation, which is consistent with the theme of the book, but that by itself does not make them real.

I've decided to try two things:

1.  Interview my main characters, a technique suggested by a writer named Tina Morgan.  I read an article she posted on the 'FictionFactor' website.
2.  Assign a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to each of my main characters.  The Myers-Briggs types categorize people on four dynamics (introvert or extrovert, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, judging or perceptive).

This is going to take some time, but I think it will be worth it. 

How do you gauge characters in fiction?  What makes them real to you?


 
 
I realized this week that I have a lot more work to do on my book.  Kind of a bummer, but I am committed to doing this right.  More to come.
 
 
Wow!  After 33 month, two computers, and countless reams of paper, I have finally reached the end!  I completed my final proofing a few days ago and will start my last read-through next week.  Never thought I would get here!  Well, now it's on to Book 2!  (That one should go a little quicker!)
 

UA-32813472-1