It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep this blog up to date. Not because I don't want to update it, but because free time is becoming a rarity! Inkspill Magazine is closing to submissions for Issue 2 tomorrow and I've got a lot of subs to read. Work has been hectic, with one of the editors I work for changing roles in the company. I'm off to Portugal next Sunday for a few days to attend a business conference. At the moment I'm still a little deaf from my trip into London to see The Frayed Laces. And on top of all that, I'm flat-hunting with my other half.
I've not managed to write another word of my novel over the past few weeks. BUT I have been making progress. I have been brainstorming and outlining like crazy. I've been trying to figure out how to weave all the history and past events of my novel's foundation into the present, without having to do lots of flashbacks. That's quite a challenge, but I'm getting there. It's hard to 'let go' of so much work, but I've realised that an awful lot of the foundations I've created are for my head only, and not necessarily for the readers' eyes.
I've been dipping in and out of a few books on novel writing, as I've never completed a novel before. An online friend, Bob Jacobs, recommended these books when he started writing his own novel. (I even won a signed copy of the third book through his blog!) The three I've been using are:
1. First Draft in 30 Days, by Karen S. Wiesner - This is a step-by-step walk through of how to build up a complete draft from scratch using worksheets in the back of the text. Interesting and relevant, but a bit too 'hand-holding' for me in parts. I feel like I can get lost in planning TOO much detail. Though the plot-building sections are the most useful.
2. Novel Writing, 16 Steps to Success by Evan Marshall - I've only skimmed about the first third of this, but it looks a bit too basic for me so far. It looks like it has a few interesting sections later on in the book, to do with submitting to publishers. Has some interesting ideas on 'sections', which brings me nicely to...
3. Make a Scene, Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, by Jordan E. Rosenfeld - This has been a very handy book. I'm still working my way through it, but it has helped me understand the foundations of a good plot is created through building a story scene by scene. It describes how different scenes work and how they fit together... This type of theory is what I've been finding most useful from the other two books, too.
Today I've been planning my plot further by thinking up scenes and writing them on sticky notes and sticking them on a big piece of cardboard. Very old-school. Then I remembered recently reading a blog post by Sandra Patterson about a piece of novel-writing software called Scrivener. It looked pretty damn cool, but I was gutted to learn it was just for Macs (I'm increasingly regretting buying another PC laptop instead of spending an extra £500 on a MacBook).
So I had a little hunt round the internet for alternatives. There are an awful lot. So many of them looked pretty crap, though. Then I stumbled across Liquid Story Binder XE by Black Obelisk Software, which looked pretty swanky. I've downloaded the 30-day free trial ($45 dollars for an access code if you want to keep it permanently) and I'm having a play around. Will let you know how I get on with it.
How do you go about planning and writing your novels? Have you ready any 'how-to' books that have really helped? What works best for you?