Novel Progress #3 (Progress on the Hook)

I struggled with how to write this week’s Novel Progress and what I wanted to share. This post honestly could have been upwards of 2,000 words, but I didn’t know who would benefit from that. So I ended up trying to be concise here and share things unrelated to my novel in other posts scattered across this week which I hope you’ve seen and liked.

Unlike last week, when I didn’t have much progress to report on so I talked about deadlines (see: Novel Progress #3 (On Deadlines)), this week’s post is entirely to do with my story which I hope you enjoy and find motivating. This is definitely the direction I want to see these posts take as I get deeper into my writing!

Progress Made

I’ve made a lot of progress on my story over the last week. I’ve only written about 3,000 words of the actual story (consisting of two scenes and one setting “info dump”), but I’ve made a lot of progress in world-building, discovering the direction I want the story to take, and how I want to continue writing from here on out.

World-Building

Last weekend I decided I needed to make a map so that I could have a better sense of the world in which I have chosen to write. I wanted to know cities and geography and wanted these places to have names to which I could refer. So I did that and it opened up a world of possibilities for me. Nothing is quite set in stone and I don’t think many of the places with feature within the overall story, but it has been so helpful in helping me visualize the world with boundaries.

Story Direction

Last week I was really stuck, wondering how the story was going to beginning. I felt like I needed to know how the story was going to begin before I could do much else and I knew I wanted the story to start off with a big bang. What I had been imagining early on was something very simple and low-key, but then I thought about all the books that I’ve loved and realized they start off in a really exciting place. So I knew there was something missing from my story, until I realized it was what I’ve been calling a “Big Day.”

So I did some brainstorming and realized what my protagonist’s “big day” could be and realized that it could also actually provide an opportunity to introduce the villains and the world conflict at the time. So that’s what I’ve been working on for the past few days, trying to get a feel the setting and characters. As well as decide specifically is going to happen, because I want to carefully orchestrate these opening scenes to hint at what will happen at the end of the story and possibly even future sequels.

Shifting Points-of-View

I have not been happy with the way I’ve been writing, I’m writing from the third-person omniscient, but I feel like my narrative voice at the moment is kind of…removed…from the story. And I really want readers to be able to connect with the characters or at least become immediately invested in the story, so it needs to be stronger.

I realize I could change the point-of-view later on in future drafts, but I think I’ve decided to go back-and-forth as needed in this draft between first- and third-person. I’m also jumping between characters and writing a lot of things that I’m not sure I will want to end up in the final version of this first novel, but I need to write them to understand the characters better. So I think doing first-person writing will really help there.

Goals for the Week

I am actually going to be pretty busy this week with reading for Bookentine and completing my Twine-powered adaption of the myth of Persephone & Hades for my Multimedia Portfolio which is due next Monday. But I still have a goal I want to achieve before next Wednesday.

I would like to reach 10,000 words in my novel or finish writing the Hook of my story, whichever comes first. We are almost half-way through February and I’d like feel like I’m half-way through my novel by the 29th, so I really do need to start writing more. Now that I have a map and ideas for how I want the Hook to foreshadow the rest of the novel, I’m hoping the rest of this story will be easier to complete.

End Note

I hope you’ve enjoy this week’s installment of Novel Progress! I actually had two previous versions of this post, as I take notes throughout the week and try to write these posts throughout the week so I don’t forget anything. But I ultimately decided to scale back and stick to reporting on what I accomplished and my plans for future writing. I’m hoping to do the same next week and have even more to talk about.

If you want to hear more about my writing that’s not novel-related, earlier this week I shared my post about my new project Persephone & Hades | Multimedia Portfolio and shared my thoughts on Twine | Text Tool Review. I also have two more writing-related posts going up this week. Thursday I’m going to share some thoughts and ideas about fanfiction. And Friday I’ll be sharing some news about my potential use of Wattpad in the near future! I hope you enjoy!

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Twine | Text Tool Review

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Last week I explained that for my Digital Textuality class I had to prepare two text tool reviews to help expose my classmates to available tools that could be used to create our first digital text assignment. I decided to share these (revised) reviews here, because I’m proud of my work and think a lot of my readers might also be writers and find the tools as exciting as I do.

If you’d like to see the first tool review about the community-based writing platform Wattpad, I encourage you to check it out. This week’s tool is Twine, which I talked about a lot on my old blog so if you followed me from there it might ring a bell! I hope this review helps you get a better picture of this tool and what it makes possible. I’ll definitely be mentioning it more in the future!

Description  

Twine is a free and open-source software you may download for Windows, OS, or Linux and/or use in an open browser. It is great for non-linear storytelling and interactive narratives such as Choose Your Own Adventure games. As result, Twine can result in products that give readers/players much more agency in the story being told. With Twine you can use HTML/CSS and JavaScript, and you can insert images, variables, and conditional logic with very little technical expertise required. When you are finished, Twine publishes directly to HTML format.

Access

Twine is free to use and may be downloaded at Twinery.org. You may also use it online where everything you create is automatically saved within your browser. You do not need to sign up for an account.

Sample Usage

The screenshots below reference a short Twine project that I created for my Digital Textuality class. These screenshots show you what Twine looks like from the back-end, and I’ve included some pink annotations which will help you get make sense of Twine 2.0’s interface.

The first screenshot directly below shows the blue grid view of Twine 2.0. The space is presumable infinite, you can scroll and scroll and scroll and not run out of space (in theory). Each square of text represents a passage which you can create with the green button at the bottom right of the screen or from within a preexisting passage (instructions in the second screenshot). In this grid view, you can click and drag each unit as you please, which helps make room and keep this view tidy as you add more passages.

The screenshot directly below shows what the interface looks like when you create/edit a passage. The default title is “Untitled Passage” and the default text in the body field is “Double-click this passage to edit it.” In the screenshot below, I have deleted that default body text to show this view of tips on how to achieve specific style effects, including bolding and italicizing. Note that it is not like HTML.

When you have finished your Twine project and want to publish it for sharing, click the ‘Publish to File’ selection shown at the bottom of the first screenshot. An HTML file should automatically download to your computer and you can send it to someone or upload it to a webpage.

What the Tool Does Well

Twine helps to see the skeleton, or outline, of a story. Because the passages can be arranged to lead to and from multiple locations, it allows the user to create and organize a story as if each piece is notecard on a cork board. Nothing is set in stone. The menu choices are not extensive, which makes the creation of the story uncomplicated. It’s a fun and easy tool to create an unconventional story with twists and turns. Stories created with Twine provide more interaction opportunities for readers/players to shape the story they experience.

Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials

Twine is not easy to the first-time user who may stumble upon the software with no prior instruction, but it is simple once you get the hang of it. Twine has changed a lot since it was first launched, but developers have made it easy to learn how to use Twine and make the most of it. For the official resources see: the Wiki and Forum. Below I have listed some tips things I think you might find helpful if you choose to work with Twine.

Sharing your project

To share your Twine project with others, you are either going to have to have a place (like a domain) where you can publish the file so you can link it to readers with an internet connection. OR you will need to explain to people how to download your file, direct them into Twine (which they will need to open the file), and explain how to upload the file so they can see it.

I have recently discovered that if you use WordPress, you can upload a Twine HTML file through the ‘Add Media’ button! It will link to text that will allow readers to directly start the interactive narrative experience! (This is how I will be linking to my Twine project on Persephone & Hades.)

Linking passages

Linking passages depends on you knowing the names of the passages to which you want another passage to lead. There’s no quick an easy way to indicate a link without identifying the passage directly in the text fields. So if you want to link a new passage to an existing one you also need to remember to spell it correctly or you will create a completely new, different passage. Twine does have a drop-down menu that will help you find the title, so that helps a little.

What it Does Poorly
  • Twine will struggle to cooperate quickly when a story gets very big.
  • Twine can handle multiple links to the outside world of the internet, but it is hard to link to from other places. You’ll have trouble sharing a Twine project via social media platforms like Twitter, for instance, unless you’ve uploaded the Twine project somewhere that will make the HTML file launch as it is meant to.
  • Also, you can’t really link to specific passages in a project. Readers generally have to start at the beginning and make their way properly through a project to get to the specific destination.

End Note

I hope you found this text tool review useful! I really like Twine and would like to use it more in the future. I see interactive narratives becoming more and more prevalent in the future of digital media so it’s great that such a user-friendly tool like Twine already exists to help writers experiment with new modes of storytelling.

In case you missed it, yesterday I published Persephone & Hades | Multimedia Portfolio about my latest creative writing project that I will be creating with Twine. And tomorrow expect the next Novel Progress #3 installment in which I share about all my writing progress over the past week!

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Persephone & Hades | Multimedia Portfolio

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The major project for my Digital Textuality class is a Multimedia Portfolio which will consist of a text, image, sound, and moving image object that are all an adaption of the same story or argument (for more information see my Portfolio page). The first digital media object is text, so I have needed to choose a story I would like to work on all semester. The one I have chosen is the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades.

One of the main reasons I was interested in choosing to adapting this myth is because of Sarah J. Maas’ upcoming sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses. A Court of Mist and Fury is supposedly to be based on Persephone and Hades and I can’t wait to see how it’s done! I’ve decided I’d like to work with the source inspiration material myself and see what kind of adaption I come up with. I also just love fairytale retellings and as Persephone and Hades’ story is so compelling, I’m really excited to see what I can come up with.

I have a few options for how to do this assignment. The only real requirement is that text object must be between 900-1,200 words. So the exact medium I use is completely my choice. I had three ideas which I was originally debating:

  • Twine. To tell the story within interactive format that allows readers to play a part in how the story unfolds.
  • Storify. To compile related text items that when looked at as a whole conveys a narrative.
  • TweetDeck. To schedule posts that could tell the story from a specific character’s POV.

These all sounded like a lot a lot of fun to do, but ultimately I think I’ve decided to pursue my Twine idea. I’ve been really intrigued by how interactive narratives give readers agency in the story and the possibilities of Twine stories in the future and think this assignment would be an excellent opportunity to experiment with how to tell an old story embedded with choices that feel authentic and allow the reader to tailor the story they consume.

End Note

The first version of this text object is due next Monday, February 15, 2016, so I am hoping I’ll be able to share it here on my blog at that time! It will be awesome to finally share some of my written work of which I’m truly proud. For more information on Twine, stay tuned for my text tool review of the free and open-source software tomorrow on Ink Keys and Other Things!

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Novel Progress #2 (On Deadlines)

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It was very difficult making the time to sit down and write or even think about my story this past week, which might not be a surprise if you read my Week in Rewind #1, in which I talk about everything I did last week. My biggest personal priority was finishing a dense novel (Six of Crows) I had to return to the library last Friday that I had barely even started. Which gave me a book hangover because IT WAS AMAZING! Then I was preoccupied with homework I was trying to get done early so that I could focus entirely upon my first presentation of the semester.

Despite my busy-ness, I had decided writing would be a priority this year. So I managed to make sure I was thinking about my story throughout the week and did a little bit of work on it here and there. And I did in fact manage to start writing some real words too; words I will not try not delete until I reach the editing stage.

In this post, as I don’t have much progress to share, I wanted to talk about my thoughts on writing deadlines and the specific deadline I have given myself to complete the first draft of EMatST.

Deadlines

In my experience, setting myself deadlines could be either really motivating or really soul-crushing. I think which way the deadline ultimately ends up affecting me has depended on how determined I am when I first set my deadline. This January I realized how serious I am about my goal to write a novel this year, so I’ve decided to up the ante and set myself a deadline for when I’d like to complete my first draft.

What’s the hurry? You might be wondering. Well, I don’t really have the best reason. I just feel like everyone around me is editing and I want to get to that stage too! It seems like a lot more fun. And I feel like if I don’t push myself, I’ll never stop worrying about getting every little detail right. I’ve already noticed myself beginning to procrastinate from actual writing by telling myself I need to figure out more story specifics first. But I’ve realized that not knowing everything yet doesn’t mean I shouldn’t start writing yet.

It’s very disheartening reading advice from published authors that often major chunks of their first drafts get cut out completely. It should be a bit freeing. But for me it is daunting and has led to a tendency for me to put off writing in the hopes if I know more about the story from the outset less words will be useless in the end.

Anyway, so I decided to set myself a deadline of:

April 1st

That gives me two months to complete my first draft of EMatST. I don’t know how many words that will be, but I’m hoping it will mean more than 50,000. I thought about trying to pretending February is NaNoWriMo (NaFeWriMo ^_^), but I realized I’m not in such a rush to finish this novel that I’m willing to potentially sacrifice my performance in school. So two months seems like it should be more than enough time if I remain diligent.

End Note

I hope to have more to share about my novel’s progress in next week’s Novel Progress installment. I have an impending deadline to create my first Multimedia Portfolio piece on the 15th, so I might share something about that next week as well. In the meanwhile, I hope you found this post helpful in thinking about deadlines and whether they might be right for you, now or in the future.

I’d like to do more of these conversation-based writing posts in the future. If you have a topic idea you’d like me to explore and report back on, let me know in the comments! Also let me know whether you’ve found success or failure in setting yourself writing deadlines.

Thank you for reading!
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Novel Progress #1 (Working Title & Plotting)

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As I stated in Writing Goals for 2016., I am trying to make 2016 the year I finally write my first official novel. The first decent draft of a novel, anyway. I’ve actually been working on a variation of this 2016 novel on since 2013. But this is the first time I’ve ever been so close to feeling like this is it; I’ve discovered my protagonist’s story.

I’ve always been a discovery writer, more than an outliner. And that’s been was taken me in so many different directions with this one story. On one hand, it’s been helpful in allowing me to explore different directions. But it’s not been helpful in having confidence that the story can exist outside of me one day, which is what I want. I’d love to be published one day, even if it ends up being in a less conventional way. I want people to be able to read what I write and feel the way I’ve felt after reading my favorite books.

On my old blog, Books o’ the Wisp (soon-to-be defunct), I blogged a lot about writing in the months leading up to November. I’d like to start doing that here. I want to update you all on my progress through my writing goals for the year, and also share any writing tips or advice I find along the way. My aim is not to tell you how to write but to describe how I write in the hopes that it’s helpful or even inspires you to get to working on your great novel.

The details of my story will be revealed only on a need-to-know basis not just to protect against idea theft but also because it doesn’t feel like a lot of details are set in stone. While I’m working on this story, I don’t want to feel vulnerable about how much I’m sharing of I’m writing.

Working Title

I don’t know how many others have this problem but I struggle with what to call the novels I work on. Although I’ve been working on a variation of the same story for years now, I’ve always felt the need to rename the story every time it took a drastically different turn. Obviously a title is not something a writer need concern themselves with until near the end of the novel-writing process, but it does help to be able to call it something.

As my story is still in the early development stages, I’m not 100% set on the title I’ve labelled by Scrivener document. But I’m just going to go with it for now. I’m not going to tell you the full title, but the acronyms: EMatST. From here on out, I’ll be calling my novel project EMatST. As you might able to gather, it’s a bit wordy. But I’m a fan of descriptive titles.

Plotting

Ah, the fun stuff. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not a natural outliner. But over the past year, I’ve seen the light, if you will, and I find it much more comforting to enjoy my discovery writing process when I know when I have boundaries and plot targets for which to aim. It’s also supposed to help with the editing process further down the road.

In the past, I tried using a very strict writing structure to help envision my novel: the Three-Act Structure, made famous (to me) by the BookTuber Katytastic. In the three-act structure, there are three acts/9 blocks/27 chapters, organized so that a cycle of [set up -> conflict -> resolution] is consistent throughout the novel. For more information if such a structure appeals to you, see the video How I Outline! by Katytastic.

I’ve personally learned since then that this story structure does not help me. It makes my stories feel overly formulaic and not at all natural to who I am as a writer. I think I might find it more useful to try and apply to a first draft of a novel in which I know exactly what I want to happen already. But I’ve never gotten that far! And I don’t like working within such a strict format at such an early stage in my writing.

The outlining structure I’ve found works best from me actually came from my writing mentor Karen Bovenmeyer. It’s a seven-point plot structure that combines the strengths of discovery and outline writing. The way we think about the seven points is through “lights in the swamp” metaphor. The plot points are dots we need to connect as we write our novels, providing direction through the murky waters of discovery writing. I love it.

I’d love to do a whole separate post on this outlining structure, but I can’t remember who Karen cited as the main “creator” of this method and I wonder about permissions. It’ll probably be all right. I also think I’ve put my own spin on some of it, anyway, so expect that post at a later date.

So the seven plot points are:

  1. Hook: Hero introduced
  2. Plot turn 1: Hero accepts/gets locked into quest
  3. Pinch 1: Hero realizes/is exposed to high stakes
  4. Midpoint: Hero becomes resolved to do something
  5. Plot turn 2: Hero learns what needs to be done to complete quest
  6. Pinch 2: Hero near defeat “finds the power within”
  7. Resolution: Hero does what she resolved to do

While this is the order in which the story should unfold as it is read, this is not necessarily the way in which it’s been recommended that you work on developing a plot. The way I’ve learned to start plotting is start with the resolution. Because if you know what you want to happen at the end, you should be better equipped to work backwards to figure out how to get there. As opposed to starting at the beginning are working your way forward without a end game in mind.

So I essentially organized a long summary of brainstormed story content in a Word document within this seven-point framework. It helped me realize where important plot points were missing (usually the pinches) and how to think about how each point contributed to the character development of my protagonist. I don’t have all the details I need quite yet (particularly at the beginning), but I have a good start that’s allowed me to formulate questions that tell me what I need to work on next.

For instance, I knew immediately that I would need to work on world-building and setting to help me better ground each plot point with a awareness of place, and the affordances of each place for the action that will occur. Sounds like fun and not at all scary!

End Note

If you want to know more about EMatST, I provided a bit more details on genre and the world in my previous writing-related post Writing Goals for 2016. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about my writing throughout the year. I know I love to read blogs of other writing because it inspires me and gets me pumped! If there’s any specific you’d like me to talk about in the future, let me know in the comments!

And in case you’re wondering, I’m thinking I’ll do a new “Novel Progress” update every Wednesday!

Thank you for reading!
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Writing Goals for 2016.

In my post about My New Year’s Resolutions for 2016, I touched briefly on what I hope to accomplish with regards to writing this year: to write one full novel and 12 short stories (one per month). As I’ve never talked writing on Ink, Keys, and Other Things before, I thought I’d introduce my major work-in-progress. I don’t intend to go into too much detail about my novel yet, but share some of what I have gotten done so far.

The novel I am writing is a YA steampunk fantasy set in a time period similar to the U.S. in the early twentieth century. But the world is a steampunk alternative universe in which magic abounds. The main character is a thirteen-year-old girl (let’s call her Jane) who becomes an important piece of a complicated puzzle to restore peace in her country. The world I imagine as kind of a mix between that of InuYasha and Howl’s Moving Castle. I see elements of a lot of different books and films in the rough plot I have established, but I’m hoping as I begin to write it that I’m able to craft a story that feels entirely my own.

There are a lot of moving parts in my story and world, parts that I see myself expanding in future books, as I would like this novel to be the first in a series. I’ve often worried about scope as a person who identifies perpetually as a writing n00b, but I’m trying not be daunted by the process. I keep telling myself that all the extra seeds of possibilities are important to keep the writing fun.

Writing Process

The hardest thing I find about writing is the part where I sit down and actually start writing. I can think of every possible reason to avoid actually writing. Whether it be homework or chores, or simply the fact that my eyes are tired and I’d rather go to sleep and start writing after I’ve woken up.  I realize this is a problem having to do with discipline, so I’m going to try and set myself achievable goals for the semester to help me write a decent first draft of my novel before the end of the year.

My major goal is to write 500 words per day at minimum. I feel like I need to have a word count goal for the day to just to have something tangible to meet and appraise whether I’ve spend a commendable amount of time thinking about my story. It is also a good word count to meet because I don’t want to feel obligated to write too many words I hate just for the sake of getting an arbitrary number of words on the page.

Another goal for myself is to not worry that I’m writing complete and utter crap. I have real fear that I am not good enough to write my own novels. I feel confident in my ability to critique other’s work, but when it comes to producing something myself, I’m paralyzed with self-doubt. I realize that it’s impossible to write a perfect first draft and getting started is often the hardest part to doing anything worth doing, but I still struggle.

Right now, I have very clear idea of the major story arc of this novel and some idea of smaller subplots and other significant plot points I want to include. So I’m just going to try and throw myself into the deep end and sink or swim, hopefully swim.

I’ll be writing in a single Word document for the time being, possibly jumping around as I follow my interests. Once I have most of the story written, I’ll start to make a table of contents with internal links to chapters I have mostly set in stone. I’m not sure how long this will take. Hopefully by summer I’ll be able to jump into revising.

The Short Stories

My idea is for the short stories to be fairytales, myths, and legends from the world in which my novel is set. I’ve been loving novels set in worlds with rich origin stories (like in The Queen of the Tearling and Throne of Glass series) so I imagine these short stories might eventually become important parts of the overall story in future novels. But even if they don’t, I like to think they’ll at least help me have a frame of mind as I write.

If at all possible, I might try and see if I can get some of my short stories published. I think it’d be a cool way to get my foot in the door of publishing and potentially build anticipation for an eventual novel. So hopefully I’ll be able to edit these stories well enough so that they are satisfying stand-alone pieces.

Thank you for reading!
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