Novel #2 Progress: Milestones and Inspiration

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Overall, it was a very productive week for Novel #2. At the beginning of January, I set a sub-goal of reaching the halfway point of the first draft by the end of the month, thinking that would be a good challenge to push myself (I was at 42% completion on January 1st). Much to my surprise, I crossed the 50% threshold on January 16th. Yay!

Word Count Progress:

Draft #1 Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 35,558
  • End Word Count: 37,696
  • Total: 2,138

Draft #2 Revised Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 36,484
  • End Word Count: 38,614
  • Total: 2,130

My word counts are little low mainly because the progress I made had more to do with making adjustments to the story, voice, and overall flow. I was expecting this as I’ve had a particular section of the novel highlighted for attention since I finished the first draft.

As I watch my numbers, I find it very interesting that they are so close together. Even as I cut large chunks, I find the deletions are making way for much needed expansion in other areas. It’s rather fascinating how the two processes are canceling each other out!

Writing Process Notes:

  • It’s a good thing I wrote a lot in the beginning of the week because by the end I found myself with another cold, (I was down for the count Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Today isn’t looking so great, either.).
  • Before succumbing to yet another virus, I had an interesting experience with my muse. On my way to the mailbox on Wednesday, I was debating whether I should take the night off and let my novel breathe or settle in for another marathon session of revisions. In the mail was a piece of junk mail from National Geographic, which I opened because they always send cool bookmarks. When I saw the image on the enclosed bookmark, I just about died. It was the same image I’ve had stuck in my notebook since I began taking Novel #2 seriously. Dan’s Cave in the Bahamas has served as the ultimate inspiration for the setting of the climax scene in Novel #2, (see Into the Writing Cave) and now the image was once again sitting in my hands. Needles to say, I put the bookmark on my desk and wrote like a lunatic that evening.
My new bookmark!

My new bookmark!

Novel Tidbit:

The Setting:

While there are sections of the story that venture into unknown parts, I chose to stick close to home for the bulk of the novel. I used my neighborhood as the model for Amanda’s home as well as Ian’s, while also utilizing several locations throughout Phoenix, Arizona. At the same time, I added an element of fiction to each and every locale. Mixing a little imagination into the real world is what gives my novel an extra sense of realism, which is an important element in urban fantasy. A few of the locations I included and fictionalized are as follows:

  • Buffalo Ridge Park
    • I work near this park and therefore see it every day. It has a small mountain with a trail that leads to a spectacular view of the horizon. I invented an easier hiking trail and a stone slab large enough for my characters to sit. The location serves as both a metaphor for a step in Ian and Amanda’s relationship, but it’s also a very romantic place where they share something beautiful.
Buffalo Ridge Park

Buffalo Ridge Park

  • Coffe Bean and Tea Leaf (on Cave Creek Road)
    • I’ve only been to this coffee shop once, but the ambience was just what I needed for a particular scene between Amanda, Ian, and another character. It has large windows, (bigger than most Starbucks locations), which is exactly what I needed so the scene could play out as planned. However, I invented table arrangements and specific drinks.
  • Phoenix Art Museum
    • I visited the Phoenix Art Museum in the name of research a couple of years ago when the idea for Novel #2 was taking shape in my head. Art plays a central role in Ian’s life, so I knew I had to learn as much as I could to understand his fascination with sculpture and paint strokes, (his taste in art is very different from my own). In the process, I realized the museum was a perfect setting for a series of key scenes. I ended up creating a traveling exhibit –  a collection derived from bits and pieces I saw at the British Museum – to give Amanda and Ian motivation to go to the museum. Then, I used a real exhibit that is a fixture on the second floor. The moment I stood before that particular exhibit, I knew I had stumbled upon an incredible spot for a critical scene between Ian and Amanda. I actually rearranged my timeline notes to make way for the use of this art installation, (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!).

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c.b.w. 2013

The Notebook That Built My Novel

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When I first got the notion to write a novel, the most daunting part was getting started.  I had the inspiration, a basic story idea, and a main character, but I realized very quickly none of my ideas mattered unless there was a system in place to give them room to grow.  A journal wasn’t big enough for the job and a laptop didn’t offer the tactile experience I needed to connect to my ideas.  What I ended up creating was The Big Notebook.

I went out and bought the largest spiral notebook I could find along with a set of highlighters, my favorite blue pens, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick.  Then I collected catalogs, magazines, and newspapers from around the house.  With these tools, I could start the mad process of brainstorming or what I like to call “extreme outlining.”  The only rule was anything goes if it has even a remote chance of fitting in with the basic inspiration for the story.

Now, I am an extremely organized person who is well known for color-coding and alphabetizing everything.  Initially, I was going to divide the notebook into specific sections for different categories of information, but that plan fell apart almost instantly. Ideas don’t present themselves in any particular order in my head, so it made more sense to let the notebook come together with a more holistic approach.  In effect, I made a giant mess that defied all organizational logic, but at least the ideas were no longer just floating in my head.

Elements of the mess were then classified into a set of categories I’ve listed below. Underneath each category is a brief summary of what I collected and/or scribbled on random pages.  To keep it all straight, I used a system of highlighter color-coding and symbols.

Characters

  • Character cards. Every character got a card that included ideas for names, mini-bios, age, physical traits, quirks, goals, fatal flaws, and saving graces.  As the plot evolved, I continued to add information about their roles in the story.
  • Wardrobe pages.  I went through magazines, catalogs, and clothing store ads to look for clothes my characters might wear.  I cut out an entire wardrobe for all the main characters and pasted it into the notebook.  Each character got a spread and it really helped shape their personalities in a visual sense.

Above: Part of the main character’s wardrobe spread.

  • Personal belongings pages.  Every character has special objects that belong to them – things that define them as individuals.  Through brainstorming I knew what these items were, but I still wanted a strong visual that gave specifics. In the case of the main character, I needed an old camera.  Image searches online, plus a little reading allowed me to track down the perfect camera and a picture to paste in my notebook.

Story

  • I did a lot of free writing to loosen up my imagination, which lead to endless streams of brainstorm bulleting.  If an idea popped into my head, I wrote it down.  The handwriting is atrocious and some thoughts wind all the way around the margins.  Less than half of my rambling was actually used, but the process itself got me to the core of the story.  The brainstorming aspect of writing is probably my favorite step of the process.  Out of all the categories, this one takes up the most space!
  • Sometimes I’d wake up at night with full paragraphs streaming out of my head, so there are multiple pages of complete passages, (many of which have made it to final draft!).

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