Follow The Tracks


Okay, maybe that was a little excessive… But it was totally earned and deserved. Yeah, I’m back on track with Unmasked.

I had a feeling that things would smooth out and run free again if I could just get through the part I was in the middle of when I ran into the wall. It really felt like a localized problem. Was I ever right. I figured it out after a false start. Even the false start served a purpose, getting me a bit closer to where I needed to be. With that and what I wrote yesterday, I’m passed the difficult part and have now gone racing ahead into the next part of the scene. And I do mean racing. I wrote 4,206 words yesterday.

The feeling of having gotten through this is amazing. I sort of remember feeling the same when I looked through the rewrite of Bound, but I think this is more intense than that time, though I’m not sure why.Maybe because this took so many tries to get through this wall. Maybe it’s because of how much trouble I’ve had with Cayle. In some ways, he’s very cooperative and in other ways, not so much. Everything goes great when I get things right. The problem is when I get things wrong. Cayle won’t talk to me when that happens. Tavis and Devan were helpful when I got a bit lost, often from running too hard, too fast, for too long. Not Cayle. I swear, I can hear him sulking at the first wrong note. And he’s not usually prone to sulking! So there I am, trying to figure out what went wrong through trial and error.

The thing about working with outlines is that you can’t bee too rigid with them. You may not have gotten the story exactly right, or something might come out in the writing that wasn’t in the outline, something important you didn’t consider because you didn’t know it was there. Yes, even a hardcore plotter like me can be surprised by her own characters. Tavis certainly did so, more than once, and so did Devan, to a lesser extent. So Cayle decided to join in the fun, and with a lot of enthusiasm. About a quarter of the way through the book, the story began deviating from the outline in a very small way. I let it, because the change felt like it fit very well, that it made the story better. To me, that’s the yardstick. If it makes the story better, at least see where it leads you. All you have to lose is words, and we writers always have more where that came from. True, the time to make them isn’t unlimited, but if you want a reward, you have to be willing to risk losing.

So I was happy with these small deviations, but the thing about small deviations is that they amplify over time and tend to clump together into larger ones. The next thing I knew, I arrived at the spot that gave me so much trouble to find that the outline I had for it was, by and large, entirely useless. It no longer fit the way the story had evolved. At first, I tried to apply it a bit, adjusting for the changes. That obviously didn’t work, so I stopped to scratch my head. I decided to try pantsing that section. That worked even more poorly, though it did produce 300 words or so that got kept and helped nudge me into the right direction. I stopped again, took a long breather, walked away and let my brain do other things (See previous post. Also, I love Fringe). Then I had an idea. I made a bunch of notes in my handy steno pad and figured out the general path. Then I went back and did up my usual detailed chapter outline, scrubbing the one I’d made initially. It worked. Oh how amazingly well it worked. The new scene is incredibly potent, between Cayle and someone else equally strong-willed. Both refuse to back down from their opinion and demands. I’m not done the scene and, in a way, things are about to get messier for both of them, which is delightful. It’s a major confrontation though and I’m so glad to have found a way through it.

Of course, this means that the book is nearly done. I only have about 3-4 chapters left, plus the end of the one I’m still in the middle of. I’m nearly there. The past three weeks have been a blur of words, but the couple of times I’ve had to go back through earlier parts for reference and continuity, I’ve been happy to see the draft is fairly good, for a first. I think I will have something solid to work with when I’m done with this. Of course, it’ll still go in the drawer for a bit, but I’m optimistic about what I’ll think when I pull it back out.

Once I’m done this, I have a short story I have to outline at write (5-8k words) for another project I’ve been invited to participate. I’m so excited about it. Yes, I’m purposely being vague and teasing. Trust me, you’ll find out when it’s time. After that, though, I’ll be hitting a serious edit streak. First task, the novella I wrote last month, Through Windows and Hearts. I have a test reader who’s looking forward to that. After that, I need to do another pass on All Stitched Up, the first pass on Still They Watch and a few of my shorts. And I have to decide what I want to do with those shorts. I’m still not sure. Too many thoughts and options, many of which seem like a good idea.

Oh, and of course, I have to build Book 2 of Masques somewhere in there, as I’ll probably try to get to that around the end of February. I want to have it written and wrapped by the last weekend of March, as I’ll be doing something else big and scary at that point. I’m going to Norwescon in Seattle.  Omg, shy person at a convention… This is going to be, um, interesting. More on this another time.

About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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7 Responses to Follow The Tracks

  1. Pete Denton says:

    I think you have a good attitude there. Planning is good, I’m with you on that front, but nothing wrong with letting the characters do their own thing and if it works great. If not you can re-write again.

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    I think the writing could get stale if our characters didn’t find a way to “mix things up” while we’re writing. 😉

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