30 May, 2016

On outlines and plantsing

I tell you what: Comedy of Rain has been a bear to wrestle with, and I'm not talking about Hipólito.

Before Tragedy of Ice was anything more than one book, I'd had only stray ideas about what the characters' lives were going to be like after the fact. Nothing truly solid to make another story with, but thoughts of "Oh, that's how ___ is going to happen" or "Oh, now that'll be interesting if they ____ when ____". And then my favourite muse finished reading Tragedy of Ice and said, "You know what? Their story's not done. You need another book."

And another book became three more books. The Europan Theatre is what I've coined as the series name (finally!), and it's slated to be a tetralogy. Now that could change as I go along, but I can't speak to that until I reach that point in the road.

But the muse spoke, and I listened, so back in . . . we'll say October, I scripted an outline for Comedy of Rain so I could have my ducks in a row for NaNoWriMo 2015. Following the same format as Tragedy of Ice, I scripted one prologue, 34 chapters, and an epilogue, with the only difference this time being that Hipólito had POV chapters. And that was fine. Mostly. Sorta. Kinda.

Not really.

The prologue went according to plan, but being NaNoWriMo, I recapped Tragedy of Ice so much that it inflated to probably 5,000 words past its necessary word count. Then chapter 1 introduced a character who wasn't supposed to show up until chapter 5, and that was okay. I could work with that. Chapter 2 had that character show up again, and I'm thinking, "Oh, crap, he's gonna have a bigger role, isn't he?"

Naturally, this was the point where all planners start to reconsider their outline, but being NaNoWriMo, I had to soldier on. So by chapter 5, a whole new subplot arose, and that was that. I had to wing it all the way through NaNo, using my outline as a general target while adapting to where the plot rivers took me. And, boy oh boy, were there some interesting rapids that got thrown in my way.

Flash forward to the end of NaNo, and I thought I only had less than ten chapters left to write. I was wrong. I brought Comedy of Rain back out to work on for April's Camp NaNoWriMo, and all those rapids that'd come up before only got more treacherous as I went. Suffice to say, I busted my outline and—while I did get the occasional bit from my originally scripted chapters—I ended up having to fly by the seat of my pants.

Which was not a fun experience.

Kadiza, Franklin, and Hipólito were facing new obstacles, and I was drawing blanks on how to get them to solve them. I did the best I could, and while I reached my goal for Camp NaNo, I was left with a still yet unfinished manuscript. Now I'm all the way through May, and I've been taking my time, slogging on through the difficult parts, and avoiding writer's block (gasp!) by reminding myself that all the things I don't like about Comedy of Rain right now can all be fixed during the revisions. I won't allow myself to go back and begin revisions yet, especially since I still haven't finished the story.

What I am doing is allowing myself to make notes and revisit my outline. Sort of like creating "stage direction", I've got my new outline that's accounting for all the changes made to date, plus what's left to write tentatively annotated on the outline. The ending hasn't really changed, but the next several chapters could end up going directions I never expected. And if that happens, yes, I'll have to redo my outline, but at least at that point I'll know the fate of certain characters, as well as what I need to do when I go back to actually revise and start weaving in the new threads properly. Or "tightening the shoelaces", as I like to call it. Everything's essentially there now, so it just needs better allusions and foreshadowing so that the setup rings true with the reveals. And, as always, the iceberg knowledge of what's been going on in the background so that I can pull from that info and write the best story I can.

15 May, 2016

"The Faraday Cage": Behind the scenes of a launch party

A Steampunk anthology.
Hallo, folks!

I know: I'm late. Camp NaNoWriMo has mostly given me back my soul (I still have the last several chapters and epilogue of Comedy of Rain to complete), but I will be back on my every-15-days posting schedule now.

I had the wonderful opportunity recently to participate in an online launch party as host, and with the authors' permission, I'd like to talk about our behind-the-scenes preparation and experience.

My good friend, Virginia Marybury, asked me two months ago if I would be willing to host the Facebook launch party for The Faraday Cage anthology, which she had been asked to write for by author/editor Steve Turnbull.

I'll admit: I was nervous. I'm glad I was asked two months ahead of time, because it took me the better part of a month to build up my courage. I was being asked to host someone else's launch party. Something I had never done before. No easy feat when I'd only participated in a single previous launch party, and that was as a member of the audience.

But I'm glad I decided to accept the challenge of hosting. It was a wonderful experience, and Steve and the others were great to work with.

We led up to the event with an "exponential growth" of communication, and since we had over a month to plan (and also because I was intensely focused on Camp NaNo), Steve and I played a bit of Facebook tag, sharing pre-planning ideas.

One thing I want to make clear here: I was completely open and honest with Steve from the get-go about my lack of experience with hosting such an event, and he assured me right back that we'd all be in it together because none of them had been on the host side of a launch party before, either. That openness made for a great behind-the-scenes development team, as everyone was involved in preparing for the launch.

Steve set up a private organization group on Facebook for myself and the authors, and as we got closer to the event and everyone had a better idea for their schedules, we made preparations accordingly. Katy O'Dowd knew for certain that she wouldn't be available for the launch, so she scripted some Q&As for us to have on hand in her stead. I'm so grateful she did this, as it made us think to have the other authors script Q&As, too (turns out we needed it, as three of the five were unable to make the launch in the end, so "Yay!" for building a script).

Now, before I ever got involved, Steve and the others had everything for their anthology worked out – including a magnificent piece of cover art for the book, as well as custom interior black and whites for each author's story. Those black and whites came in handy: since I wanted to take the time to spotlight each author, I was able to make those spotlights more visible during the event by having each paired with its applicable artwork. Add to it that the Q&As were posted for each particular author under their spotlight, and we were able to keep the event posts condensed, clean cut, and organized.

Something I did once we had everything collected for the trivia, spotlights (story title, author, short-form blurb, and 1-sentence author bio), and Q&As was put it all together in a timetable. I composed an event kickoff note, then staggered events on my timeline by 5-minute increments. Including two reminders about how trivia winners would be announced and what prizes were available, I was only able to cover an hour and a half of our two-hour event. But that was okay. The last 30 minutes gave us a buffer window in case we got busy or had hiccups (miraculously, no real hiccups aside from Facebook switching Steve and me back to our private account names instead of our author accounts a couple of times), and with the way we got busy, that 1.5-hour schedule stretched the entirety of our party. Steve then, of course, closed us out with Thank Yous and winner announcements.

Oh, and before I forget: about 15 minutes prior to kickoff, we shared the event page to several large Indie Author groups on Facebook to maximize exposure. There were several participants who none of us recognized, and I can only attribute them to those Indie Author groups. Not bad for what was a last-minute decision in the hour leading up to launch!

If all of that seems disorganized, then rightfully so. We were flying by the seat of our pants with limited experience, but we pulled it off through great communication via a behind-the-scenes group chat so that we could navigate in real time what we were posting next. As such, I'd like to now streamline this for the bullet-point folks who would prefer to see our practice put into a practical model form:

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Ash Litton

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, Comeuppance, and Cabover Cabaret, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she's not writing, she's drawing, and when she's not doing either of those, she's dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.