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Plotting with Notecards

My only MayNoWriMo goal this year was to get a synopsis written for Maya #2.  The only catch:  I haven’t written the book yet.

While I haven’t had as much time to work on detailed plotting as I hoped, I have made some interesting discoveries.  The main color scheme for this book has been purple and blue (every book has a color scheme–The Bloodgate Guardian was orange and green).  No theme song yet.

I spent a lot of time developing Quinn and Tara.  I researched more about Ix Chel and Yum Cimil.  I had several scenes from an earlier draft of BGG, but I wasn’t sure if I could still use them.

The more cards I wrote up for the beginning sections, the more confused I got.  I couldn’t figure out how the new stuff I’d developed still fit with the old things I really wanted to keep.  I was getting bogged down in details, little scenes at the beginning that hid the main path.

The trick (this time) was concentrating only on the hero’s journey.  I wrote up the main event cards for each character without worrying about the other’s hero journey — and then I was finally able to figure out how they fit together.  I made cards for the key turning points/journey events in their own color — and then filled the character-specific stuff around them.  MUCH EASIER!

Tonight, I sat down with hot pink notecards and did the same general thing for the romance journey.  Instead of inciting incident — I have first meet.  I still need to work on these cards a bit more, but it’s really helping me figure out the arcs.

When I’m all finished, I’ll take a few pictures.

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Victor is Almost Ready…

One of the joys of having a dog that we can’t trust to last more than 8 hours without a mess is getting up before 8 AM on a Saturday with 6+ inches of snow on the ground so she can go potty.  The house was quiet another hour before the sleepy-head monsters got up (they were out of school yesterday and stayed up later than usual), so I worked frantically on Victor’s synopsis.

I already had several ideas jotted on notecards, but I hadn’t been able to piece them together in a coherent way yet.  Thankfully, the pieces fell together this morning and I’ve got both a blurb and synopsis (I typically do both at the same time) drafted that I really like.  I’ll let it sit another day or so — I can’t help but tweak here and tweak there, add a word, change this phrase. 

Sherrialready provided incredible feedback and gave me one little thread to mull over.  Writing the synopsis also helped me realize I needed to add a couple of paragraphs to the scene with Mama Connagher.  Otherwise, I think I’m *this close* to kicking Victor out the door. 

If you’re curious, this is the blurb I worked up this morning.  Does it make you want to buy it and read more?

Reluctant Dom Victor Connnagher has been hiding the truth for years: he’s the meanest sadist in Dallas. As the CEO of a risque cable channel, he supports the BDSM community but doesn’t trust himself to participate. Not after he hurt his submissive fiancee [changed per Nicole’s suggestion] so badly that she dumped him.

Saucy and confident despite being submissive, Shiloh Holmes needs pain and a man who’s not afraid to give it. She suspects her boss is a Master with a capital M, so she creates a BDSM reality show for his channel in order to gain his attention.

On America’s Next Top sub, Shiloh will prove once and for all that she can please Master V. In any way he wishes.

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The Best Damned Story I Can Write…Today

This morning, I reached a place in this writing journey that I’ve never been before.

Awhile back there was some blog storm about when a story should be submitted.  Jessica Faust at BookEnds wrote that Good Enough is Never Enough, and obsessive-compulsive writers everywhere panicked.  At the time, I totally agreed with Jessica.  I would never send out less than PERFECT work, but I also realize that perfect today is not what I will be able to write in a year or more. 

Heh, at one time I was perfectly happy with a little story titled “My Beloved Barbarian” and proudly sent it off to an RWA contest, only to be mortified when the judge sheets came back.  Head hopping?  What’s that?  You mean, the horse can’t have its own point of view?  *wails*


Personally, I’m always driven.  I’m in a rush to finish, and submit.  Now, not yesterday.  NOW! Go go GO!  However, I’m also painfully obsessive about making sure the work is my best. 

If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I’ve been struggling with the Maya story.  I’ve already detailed its long painful history, but suffice it to say that I just couldn’t get the blasted thing RIGHT.  Every time I thought it was done, I decided it needed yet another revision pass.  I’ve spent months in Revision Xibalba since the first draft in 2007, toiling over massive, painful revisions or struggling to whip out a synopsis that captured the spirit of the story.  I felt trapped in Xibalba myself — constantly drowning in this imperfect project that I simply couldn’t get off my back. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love this story, absolutely.  It’s a total heart-wrencher and satisfies my personal craving for Story and Mythology; however, even though it’s one of the most complex and rich stories I’ve written, I could not get it to a place where I felt like I could really say I was finished.

After at least four major revision passes and four different attempts at a synopsis, I made my declaration yesterday:  Synopsis or Death!  I wrote out that synopsis in painful, brutal detail, refusing to go to bed until a cohesive draft was prepared.  Nearly two full packs of index cards met their death in the attempt.

Braced for the worst, I re-read my synopsis this morning.  I made a few slight changes.

And then I kicked that blasted submission package out of the nest with the first query.

Yes, friends, I reached a point where I was so sick of a story that I knew it was time to let it fly, or crash and burn.  If I polish the manuscript one more time, I think its obsidian-mirrored shine will simply rub off.  If I dink around with the synopsis again, I’m going to cut out my own heart and offer it as bloody sacrifice at the peak of the pyramid.

It’s the best damned story I can write today, and so, farewell blithe spirit.  I wish thee safe travels out in the scary wilds of Queryland.  May your hunt for Agent be fruitful.

It’s time for me to move on.

Victor, here’s fair warning that Gregar and I are coming.  We’re coming for YOU.

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Synopsis or Death: Update

So here’s how I tackled the synopsis from Xibalba today.

First, I jotted all my misc. notes onto the index cards.  I also read each of the previous synopses and wrote down the key phrases I wanted to keep onto cards.  I had two really shitty drafts completed, and one partial.  Each one I’ve really struggled with, and they’re definitely not fit to send out. 

Even if I ended up with duplicate information, I went ahead and wrote the best pieces down, trying to keep each idea short and sweet so it fit on the card.  With this pass, I ended up with 51 cards in no particular order.

For the second pass, I started going through the cards to consolidate or eliminate as I went.  They naturally began to fall into a semblance of order.  I rewrote the ideas card by card, tossing each attempt until it read almost exactly how I’d want the synopsis to read.  I concentrated on the opening first, and ended up with about 10 cards.  Then I tackled the next chunk and smoothed, revised, etc. until I had about 20 cards.  Repeat.  Until I finally had 52 cards in order.  As I went, the three story threads began weaving together, just as they did in the main story.

Yeah, I added cards at this point, but I decided not to stress about it.  I just wanted a complete and cohesive picture of all three story threads, start to finish, with all the necessary emotion and motivations I wanted to convey.

For the third pass, I concentrated more on elimination and streamlining.  I rewrote most of the cards, fine tuning and working to get down to 42 cards.  That’s still way more than I expected to have, but I felt that each card was pretty important.  I had to open the second pack of index cards because I’d tossed so many.

Finally, about 9:30 PM (after the monsters went to bed) I began typing up all my notes.  It ended up complete at 2,151 words.  Is it just another shitty synopsis that I’ll have to throw out?  Lord, I hope not.  My fingers and hands are KILLING me from all this hand writing and then frantic typing!

But I’m finally done.  At least for now.

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Synopsis or Death!

Give me synopsis, or give me death!  My apologies to Patrick Henry, but one way or the other, I’m going to finish a draft of the Maya synopsis.  TODAY. 

I actually made some decent progress using post-it notes a few days ago, but they’re expensive enough that I didn’t let myself really get in there and mess up–like I need to–in order to find the right words.  With school supplies lining the halls at Wal-Mart — ironically, I still had to make three loops through the store to find everything the monsters needed — I bought a bunch of cheap index cards.  So cheap that I can write down trite crap and wad it up without feeling guilty.

Sometimes you just have to write down the crap to find the good stuff.

I’ll report back in tonight with how I did.

I have two brand new packs of index cards, and I’m not afraid to use them.

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Synopsis Hell

If I can just get this blasted synopsis written, then The Bloodgate Codex is ready and waiting to go out and face the cold, cruel world once more.  I’ve never enjoyed the synopsis, but this one is proving harder than usual.

Maybe because I’m still iffy in my head about what genre this story actually is.  You would laugh, seriously.  I set out to write an Urban Fantasy. Nope, didn’t make it.  Since I’ve gotten rather tired of the kick-ass heroine, vamp, werewolf triangle–or some permutation there in with demons, witches, whatever–I tried to change it more for my personal reading taste–and ended up a long ways from UF.

So then I started calling this story a Paranormal Romance.  Nope, BGC ends on a cliffhanger, and although it’s a very romantic, heart-wrenching act, it is not “happily ever after.”  Plus, the book just isn’t as steamy as what I typically write.  Only one big O scene, if you know what I mean, and only after at least 250 pages.  [I think all will eventually end well, never fear; it just won’t happen in this book.  I’m too much of a sap not to give the good guys a happy ending.  Eventually.]

So then I thought, what the hell did I write?  Contemporary Fantasy? It’s strong  in fantasy, yes.  Tons of Maya mythology.  But it doesn’t exactly feel like a fantasy.  It sort of feels like Science Fiction (the original inspiration was Stargate), but it’s definitely MAGIC that powers the world, not SCIENCE.

May suggested Thriller.  *I always hear Michael Jackson’s Thriller when I type that*  I was like, huh?  Seriously?  Yeah, I balked, until she reminded me of some of the Preston/Childs books I’d read and enjoyed.  I could see some similarities there.  So I punted and agreed.  However, I didn’t think about “suspense” so much when I wrote the book, so that required another revision pass to try and make it as tense and thriller-like as possible.

It’s got a rather large cast, three major plot lines not counting the romantic thread, lots of bad guys, and even Melville references.  [I’m sure I’ll take a hit on that one but he’s not a professor this time!  No Shakespeare.] The plot stretches across Texas, Guatemala, and the Yucatan.  Ironically, it’s all in the same time zone.  (You laugh, but I had it in my silly little head that surely Guatemala was in a different time zone than Dallas, TX.  Nope.)

Because this really isn’t a romance, my normal synopsis methodology isn’t working for me.  I can’t describe one plot line without bringing in the other two threads, which means introducing those POV characters, which complicates everything exponentially.  It’s so much easier in a romance to introduce the heroine/hero and maybe the antagonist and that’s it!  I can’t even easily introduce the antagonist because there are so many LAYERS of bad guys.  Let me count:  1 cursed warrior with no heart, 2 betrayers, 3 demons loose,  more demons trapped in hell and dying to get out, one crazy cancer patient, and his wealthy powerful friend determined to save him at any cost.  Did I miss anybody?

Crazy, I know, complicated, messy and yet…..I found myself reading it eagerly last night, savoring the twists and complexities.  I haven’t written anything quite like it before.  Which I know is bad in a whole different way, but this book PUSHED me.  In a good way.  I have the spreadsheets and diagrams to prove it.  :shock:

So I’m trying a new synopsis method outlined here, only I think I’ll have to introduce the two other POV characters and highlight their plot threads too, or the final resolution makes no sense whatsoever.  Yes, this calls for index cards, colored pens, and maybe Post-It Notes.  Be very afraid.

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Synopsis Suckage

I’ve almost come to believe that the synopsis serves as a “Gatekeeper.”  A finished story in hand isn’t usually enough.  It doesn’t matter how polished the story is.  If I can’t summarize the story in a concise query and synopsis, then I probably don’t know what my story is about.  Philosophically I know this and even buy into it…until I begin to struggle, and then I just want to whine and play the latest Diner Dash game.

I’ve written two versions of the Maya story synopsis and they both suck bracken swamp water.  Choppy, awkward, trite, boring as hell, you name it.  I’ve tried on paper, in a file, starting a new file, jotting more on paper.  Nothing is working.

And then I realized that I haven’t been listening to my own process.  Remember when Dr. Connagher helped me with his synopsis?  For whatever stupid reason, I forgot his lesson.  *headdesk*  So I started over again and I’m writing one paragraph at a time.  I didn’t get far tonight–too tired after long Evil Day Job (quarter-end deadlines on top of everything else).  Everything’s stacking up on me and the stress is really taking a toll.  Hopefully I’ll hit the sack soon, get about 10 hours of sleep, and then work on the synopsis first thing in the morning before anyone else is up.  That’s my plan.

With lots of coffee, peanut butter cookies, Clive Owen, the Rock, and scrap paper, I hope to churn out a good–hell, I’ll even take decent–synopsis.  I can make decent better.  Crap just has to be taken to the curb.