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Postcards From Camp: Choose Your Own Adventure

Well, gang, I’m about a week into this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo session, and I am way ahead of my word count goal (I’m already over halfway there). But there’s a simple, if odd-sounding explanation for that…

I don’t know what’s supposed to happen.

In my last post, I detailed my writing plan for this month, which was basically to fuse together parts from two rejected plans to create a new possible path to a possible ending of the WIP that refuses to be finished (AKA, Full Circle, AKA Book Three in my fantasy series, The Coileáin Chronicles).

The plan started off pretty well. I had lots and lots of pages of notes to guide me that detailed exactly what I wanted certain scenes to look like, so it was just a matter of writing them out.

But then I came to a place where the detailed planning ended and became more…theoretical, I guess I could say. More specifically, one of my POV characters was left with a choice: retreat & recover or keep going & kick ass.

(Note: There are a lot of details behind those two choices which I am choosing not to divulge, so even though one option may sound waaaaaaay more interesting than the other, they do each come along with their own sets of merits and possibilities. Hence the indecision.)

I have yet to make a decision on which one of these paths is the right choice, so I’ve been writing them both.

What would it look like if she chooses Door #1? What would it look like she chooses Door #2? Where do each of those doors leads? What subsequent choices will she have to make, and where will those choices lead?

All of this has left me feeling like I’m now writing one of those Choose Your Own Adventure stories that were popular when I was a kid (Note: various forms of this storytelling method do still exist today). You know, the kind that allow that reader to decide where the story goes. At the end of a page, there’s a choice. Do you want to do A or B? And you continue through the story, making choices, until you reach one of the book’s possible 1,000,000 (Note: may be a slight exaggeration…) endings.

I assume, at some point, one of these paths will start to feel right to me. That’s how I usually know I’m heading in the right direction with a story—I just feel it in my gut—but, so far, my gut is all…

Once I make a decision, I’ll delete the imposter timeline and focus on the other one. But until then…at least this multi-verse-esque thing I’ve got going on is doing fantastic things for my word count…right?

RIGHT?!?!?!?!?

Camp Stats

Word Count Goal: 20,000

Where my WC should be: 4,515

My current WC: 11,726

Average words per day: 1,954

At this rate, I will reach my goal by: July 10th

How do you decide which path to take? Have you ever written a Choose Your Own Adventure story? Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? If so, how’s it going?

Stay safe and well, all.

The Plan

In my last post, I was trying to decide upon a plan/path for Camp NaNoWriMo, which starts tomorrow.

The following is that plan.

So, here’s the situation: I’m going to focus on Full Circle. My desire to finish that damn WIP has taken over just about everything in my life, so it’s once again getting the nod. It may be a terrible idea—it may be the most horrible idea anyone has ever had in the history of time (I’m pretty sure it’s not, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) and will only lead to me hiding under my desk, crying into a pint of…something before the end of the month—but I’m determined to do it anyway.

But there’s a twist.

And a long rambling tale that goes with it. (But of course there is. I am the one telling this story, after all…)

Right. Okay. Anyway, each installment in my fantasy series, The Coileáin Chronicles, is written in three parts. I don’t know why, really. It just kind of happened that way.

With Full Circle, I’ve been mostly happy (for now) with the first two parts. I know there are things that will need to be addressed and fixed and perhaps outright cut and/or changed, but it’s first draft done and has been for a while now.

The problem is Part Three. I’ve had a plan for the ending but haven’t had any luck with its execution. I think that may be because the original plan involves introducing too many new ideas/characters/whatever too late in the game. Meaning that Part Three has been reading more like the start of a new book, rather than the end of the current one.

As is the case in many things, accepting there is a problem is the first step in dealing with and maybe even solving said problem. So I set out to devise an alternate plan. If the ending was actually a beginning, where did Full Circle actually end?

After some time spent staring at my storyboard, I came up with a possibility. It involved redrawing the lines between the first two parts and the need to write a fourth book in the series, but it was a possibility.

It was also a possibility that survived almost twenty-four hours before I kicked it to the curb, but really, the fact that it made it that long was quite the achievement.

After which, I went back to the original plan. I was all determined to make it work. Because I liked the original plan (and I really didn’t want to write a fourth book…). Which was fine except for one small detail…

It doesn’t work.

But anyway, all of this leads up to the actual, current plan. (You were beginning to think I forgot about that, weren’t you?)

Let me introduce…FrankenWIP.

FrankenWIP is meant to be a (hopefully) successful and happy (well, ‘happy’ being a relative term. No characters will be happy because this is an M.J. Fifield story and she doesn’t do happy, but she herself will be happy if this damn WIP actually gets written) hybrid of the two rejected plans.

I think there are good elements to both of those plans that can be extracted and cut and pasted together into one functional plan. (Hence the name ‘FrankenWIP’ because I’m super clever like that.)

Here’s the process:

First step: Create a new version of the novel for experimentation’s sake. This way, if FrankenWIP is ultimately deemed a failure, nothing is permanently lost. If FrankenWIP is somehow a success, then the original draft will go live at the ‘outdated draft’ farm upstate with all the other outdated drafts.

Second step: Make a massive amount of notes (thirteen pages and counting…) on proposed changes to the plot and character arcs and the domino effect those changes will have on every damn thing in the book. Also note any scenes that can stay as is (I think there may be one so far) or need to be tweaked slightly to reflect the coming avalanche of changes, scenes that could possibly be merged into one new and improved scene, or scenes that need to be outright deleted because their storylines are now obsolete.

Third step: Make a list of all the scenes/dialogue exchanges I would reaaaallllllly like to repurpose for the new Part Three, if I can find a way to pull it off. There are a lot of darlings on the chopping block here. (If they have to go, they have to go, but I will be immensely sad about it.)

Fourth step: Build a new storyboard to reflect the FrankenWIP experiment while keeping the original storyboard intact for reference because I am a visual learner, dammit, and seeing the entire project laid out before me is an integral part of my process. Ignore the significant other when they ask, “How many damn Post-It notes does one person really need?” because the answer is ALL OF THEM.

Fifth step: Delete the now-obsolete scenes (and by ‘delete’, I mean ‘safely store in a separate file, in case this damn thing doesn’t work or I need to strip old scenes for parts to build new scenes’) and don’t freak out when the deleted word count crosses 35,000. Or, rather, don’t freak out too much. Remember that (in theory) those deleted scenes will be replaced with scenes that will lead to the end of this damn WIP. (And a fourth book, apparently, which I’m not psyched about, but that’s a problem for later. Much, much later.)

Sixth step: Start writing those new scenes, following the aforementioned pages upon pages of notes. Typing with my fingers crossed may present a challenge, but I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

Seventh step: Celebrate when the first six steps lead to a completed novel, even if that celebration looks like me taking the world’s longest nap because holy hell, I’m tired.

So that’s the plan. I don’t know if it’ll work. I don’t know if it can work, but I am currently working my way through steps 1-5, so it’s at least giving off the impression of accomplishment, which is…not nothing?

Step six will begin tomorrow.

My goal was pretty arbitrarily set for 20,000 words in 31 days, which averages out to approximately 646 words per day.

I may write more. I may write less. I don’t know. The word goal itself doesn’t particularly matter. The real goal is to finish the WIP. Regardless of how many words that takes. (But I’m pretty sure it’ll be more than 20k. Because of course it will. I’m writing it, after all.)

I really hope this works.

Stay tuned to this channel for updates…

And, as always, thanks for stopping by. Be safe and well, all.

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this July? If you’re looking for buddies, you can find me under the very clever user name M.J. Fifield.

Decisions, Decisions

I don’t think this could possibly be a secret, but I love to participate in NaNoWriMo. I just really like the challenge of setting myself a big, bold goal and seeing if I can achieve it.

There are three sessions each year (April, July, and November). Normally, I only do one, maybe two, as life allows. Back in January, however, I set a goal to participate in all three sessions and even developed a game plan for each.

April’s session was supposed to be devoted to finishing the first draft of Full Circle. July was supposed to be dedicated to finishing the first draft of the Terrible Romance Sequel. November was supposed to be an opportunity to experiment with a shiny new idea.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you may already know how April’s session turned out. I set my goal for 25,000 words because I thought that would be enough to get me to the end of Full Circle.

It was not.

In fact, I wrote 27,000 words, and it still wasn’t enough.

Which has thrown a wrench into my careful planning.

(Something for which I really should have planned, but whatever. It’s all good. I’m not irritated at all. Really. And if you believe that, I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you…)

Now the July session of NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, and I am trying to decide (see…the title did have a point!) what I should do. As I see it, I have three options:

  1. Make yet ANOTHER attempt to finish Full Circle

2. Stick to the original plan and attempt to finish Terrible Romance Sequel

3. Run away to join the circus

What’s a writer to do? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each, shall we?

—Make yet ANOTHER attempt to finish Full Circle

Again, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I’ve been trying and failing to do this for…well, for a while now. At least a year. Probably more. I thought 2021 might be the year I break through because I thought I was tantalizingly close to reaching the end.

Which I may be. I don’t know. I could be sitting right on top of the damn ending and be just too obtuse or whatever to see it. I don’t know. I can’t stress enough how much I don’t know.

But I desperately want to finish this story. There are three people in my life who want to read this book, and I feel worse and worse every day I can’t make that happen. So, though normally, I would stick this WIP in a drawer and leave it there for a while to give my brain a break, I just can’t bring myself to do that this time.

I want to type THE END on that first draft, if for no other reason than when the manuscript ends up being ignored in a metaphorical drawer, there’s a reason for it besides my failure (If you didn’t know, I let manuscripts rest for at least a month in between drafts).

So once again making Full Circle my project of choice is tempting. It is an undeniable truth that my desire to win NaNoWriMo often helps me power through a story and reach that word count goal. Maybe this session will be the session that allows me to drag myself across the finish line.

But…it is also an undeniable truth that I still don’t seem to know how this damn book is supposed to end. Or how I get the characters from where they are now to whatever that ending ends up being. How would I even decide on my word count goal? This book could need 15,000 more words. or 25,000. Or 50,000. Or more. I don’t know. What if the book is, in fact, unfinishable? (At least in my hands…) What do I do then?

Bottom line: If I make Full Circle my project, am I dooming myself to spend 31 days just staring at a blinking cursor?

—Stick to the original plan and attempt to finish Terrible Romance Sequel

I started this story last November (during NaNoWriMo, of course) and finished with 51,309 words. It didn’t have a beginning or an ending and contained only the smallest amount of plot that could possibly be considered plot.

(You may now be asking yourself, “If there’s no beginning or ending or any real plot, how the hell did you end up with 51,309 words?” And I’ll tell you…I don’t know.)

It’s been sitting in a drawer ever since December 1st. I haven’t looked at it—mostly because of the aforementioned push to finish Full Circle—but also because it doesn’t have a beginning or an ending and only the smallest amount of plot that could possibly be considered plot.

But for all the things I don’t know about this book, the Terrible Romance Sequel does have one thing going for it: It’s not Full Circle. I haven’t been trying and failing to finish it for…well, for a long time now. Maybe a fresh(er) project will produce better results because it will seem far shinier and newer to my dumb brain than its ancient counterpart.

But…the truth remains that I don’t know how to finish this story, either. I honestly don’t know if I can. My dumb brain came up with this concept—which I really do like (or did like, when I looked at it last)—but I am quite fearful that it’s not only unfinishable but also unwritable. (At least in my hands…)

Bottom line: If I make Terrible Romance Sequel my project, am I dooming myself to spend 31 days just staring at a blinking cursor?

—Run away to join the circus

Pro: Doesn’t involve me coming up with endings for any story or possibly ever writing anything ever again.

Con: I don’t actually have any skills that might be useful in a circus setting. Also—and I can’t stress this enough—clowns are f&*k!ng terrifying.

So that’s where I am. I have a decision to make with a deadline of 11:59:59pm on June 30th. I really hope to have it made before then, but as a wise man once said, “What you plan and what takes place ain’t ever exactly been similar.”

We’ll see what happens this time around.

Which option do you think should I take? What do you do when you can’t decide? What do you do when you can’t seem to figure out a story’s ending? Or beginning. Or middle? And, most importantly, what do you think of clowns?

June Goals

As you may have gleaned from the title of today’s post, I’m talking about goals.

First up is a recap of last month’s goals…

—Finish the first draft of Full Circle

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah. I totally did this. Except…no, I didn’t.

Because of course I didn’t.

I wrote some words, deleted a hell of a lot more, but ultimately added just over 2,000 words to the manuscript.

But it still isn’t done.

Because of course it isn’t.

—Figure out May’s marketing attempt and, you know, do it

If you stretch the definition of both ‘marketing’ and ‘attempt’, then I totally did this.

Otherwise…not so much.

—Walk at least three miles a day

This, I did. I logged a total of 111 miles in the month of May, for an average of 3.6 miles per day.

Thanks, puppies!

Now let’s talk about June’s goals.

—Finish the first draft of Full Circle

—Attempt to do some sort of marketing something

—Make a plan for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo session

—Walk at least three miles every day

What are your plans/goals for June?

Short Fiction Challenge

Hello, everyone!

Today, author Patricia Josephine is here to talk about the challenges of writing short fiction. It’s all part of the celebration for her latest release, a collection of—you’ve guessed it—short fiction.

The Challenge of Writing Short Fiction

You may think writing a 200-word story isn’t that challenging, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Some writers may actually say it’s harder than writing a full-length novel, and I know a few who don’t write shorter fiction because they can’t wrap their brains around it. Their muse only works in long form.

Writing short fiction is different from a novel. With novels, you have an unlimited number of words you can use to paint a picture for the reader. Short fiction you have restrictions on word count. You may only have 1000 words. You can even have as little as 50. When you have that limit, you are forced to choose more carefully. Your strokes have to be broader instead of going into minute details as you can with a novel.

The way I approach short fiction is similar to my novels. I just start writing. I figure out the story as I go and when I get to the end, I edit. I edit until the story is at the word limit I’ve imposed. That’s done by cutting descriptive words. The sentence doesn’t need the color of someone’s shirt for example. Thoughts the character has might get axed as well. If it doesn’t serve the basic story I want to tell, it can go.

Sometimes that doesn’t always work. Sometimes the story I’m trying to tell needs to be longer. When that happens, I stop worrying about word count and let it end as a novella or novel. I have a zombie apocalypse story I hope to release in the future that I initially intended to be 100 words. It ended at over 10,000!

Writing short fiction is a great exercise. It makes you think about word choices and their importance to the story. I encourage anyone who enjoys writing to give it a shot.

Magic.
Myths.
Fantasy.

We are bewitched by what we can’t see.

Conjure delight with a fantastical collection of tales. Each story is told in exactly 200 words and designed to delight your imagination no matter how busy your day is.

Will you believe?

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

Patricia Josephine is a writer of Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi Romance books. She actually never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she was more interested in art and band in high school and college. Her dreams were of becoming an artist like Picasso. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head for fun. That was the start of her writing journey, and she hasn’t regretted a moment. When she’s not writing, she’s watching Doctor Who or reading about serial killers. She’s an avid knitter. One can never have too much yarn. She writes Young Adult Paranormal, Science Fiction, and Fantasy under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.

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