My entire body of fiction progress today has been 19 Story Sentences. In raw word count, that’s (at max) 570 words (and I know a few of the  Sentences came in a word or two under 30).

But each of those Sentences has been tough to get — each includes the protagonist, antagonist, conflict, setting, and twist for the critical action of one chapter of the novel.

In other words, I figured out just under two thirds of the structure for the fourth book in one sitting — which is pretty good.

Tomorrow, I’ll have eleven more Sentences to go, including the last one… which has to both end the story and foreshadow the primary conflict in Book 5.

I know what that conflict needs to be. Have NO CLUE how I’m going to work that into the end of Four, though.

So tomorrow should be a lot of fun.


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All supporters are thanked by name (withheld by request) in each book’s acknowledgements.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I outline. One 30-word sentence per chapter (knowing even as I do it that I will write extra, unexpected scenes; will write AGAINST some planned, outlined scenes; and will come up with some shit out of nowhere that suddenly has to be in the book, and that changes everything).

Mine is a messy, gory, grubby process that leaves a lot of bent and broken stuff in its wake — which is why I am the Small God of ferocious One Pass Revision.

But first, I outline. 

And today I finished the Book 3 outline, and got three GOOD scenes into book 4.

Things are twisting, shifty, getting messy and scary and grim in the main storyline — and the funny stuff never appears in the outline. The funny stuff only happens when I’m actually writing, when my Node Of Perversity observes that one character has a bad addiction… and then follows another character unknowingly feeding that character’s addiction to its logical conclusion.  

Which made me laugh my ass off, and made Matt, my editor (and husband), laugh so hard he snorted. That almost never happens, so it was a huge win.

But that’s all shit I can’t plan.

The PLAN is dark, and twisty, and dangerous, and filled with people I love getting deeper into muck they’re going to have a helluva time surviving.

I just have faith that Smartass Holly will show up while I’m writing that stuff, and make all the rest of us laugh.

 

No word count. It’s pointless in outlining. But finishing Outline 3 and getting partway into Outline 3 is GOOD progress.


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GOOD, GOOD WRITING DAY!

To start with, I came up with the overall story sentences for the last three books in the series. These are broad, general sentences (no more than 30 words apiece) that just include both the good guys , the ambivalent guys, and the bad guys, and the big issue between them in each of the three remaining books.

Got that completely finished.

Next I started the detail outlining of Book 3 — first coming up with an overall concept for what the action of the middle book needs to be, and then outlining with 30-words-or-fewer sentences for each chapter. These sentences let me understand the single most important thing that needs to happen in that part of the book.

I’m shortcutting a bit, doing just one sentence per chapter, because while I almost always have two or even three scenes in a chapter, I’ve discovered that some of the very best scenes I get come spontaneous follow-ups in-chapter to the planned scenes.

I write best when I give myself a fair amount of elbow room. An absolute maximum of thirty words per chapter gives me that.

When I’m done with the Line-For-Chapter outline for book three, I’ll start writing the third novel… because…

I know there is absolutely no point in outlining (even provisionally) for books 4 and 5, because my very best stuff in each novel arises from my spontaneous fighting against the outline, and no matter what I planned for 4 and 4, by the time I’ve written 3, I’ll be able to do something better.

So, that was my writing day. Off to do all the rest of the stuff.

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Following up: To Merch, or not to Merch…

I got some truly excellent feedback on offering merchandise for the Ohio Novels ahead of publishing them.

Some of it was answering the “What kind of merch do you like?” question, and the answers gave me some great ideas.

Some of it was answering “Who is the real audience for merch?” and the answer was, Fans of the series. Of which there are none yet, because the books aren’t out there yet.

And some of it was: You know, I’m a writer and I really miss the HollysWritingClasses.com merch.

To which I reply — Yeah. Me, too. I loved my HWC t-shirts, and they’re about worn to death.

So for now, I’m going to bring back the HollysWritingClasses.com merch for writers. I’ll do spiffy products through a shop on my Ko-fi page so they’ll be easy to find.

The Ohio Novel merch will have to wait until the books are in print — at which point, I have some great ideas for what to offer, thanks to you guys.

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Today and for the next few days, I’m going to be writing five provisional synopses. 

What are these, and why would I write them?

The way I write, I have an outline — but it’s very, very light.

Each chapter (which can include multiple scenes) receives one sentence of no more than 30 words to cover the movement of characters through conflict in that part of the story, following the PACTS formula.

PROTAGONIST

ANTAGONIST

CONFLICT

TWIST

SETTING

Or, in story sentence form, Protagonist versus antagonist in a setting with a twist.

This is great in that it allows me to never write a scene in which a character is sitting at a table thinking (frequently whining) about how shit life is.

This is bad in that my characters, in the heat of engaging in interesting action in exciting places, frequently decide to take the story into their own hands, and do things I didn’t plan — and because my characters are both fragments of me, and fragments of things they pull out of the damned ether, their actions can sometimes shock the hell out of me while being worlds better than what I’d planned.

(Occasionally, they kill off someone I love… but I’ve already told that story.)

But back to the Story Sentence process, and two necessarily vague examples of how fighting my Line-for-Scene is making things challenging for Book 3.

1) My MC (main character) and her cat went out to meet with an adorable live teddy bear who was supposed to be important later. The teddy bear was lying to me about what he was doing there, however. My main character saw through his lies, and dealt with him based on who he really was rather than who I’d believed him to be, and a major plot point to a part of the world I thought I understood went sideways.

2) In the very first scene of the first chapter, I’m suddenly writing about trying to save a guy I really didn’t like when I first met him. It was a good scene, and I was happy with it. Then Mr. Unlikable showed me who he really was, and the price he’d paid to become that guy, and all of a sudden I fell in love with the little bastard. Was sitting there with tears running down my cheeks, knowing that he isn’t a throwaway. Instead, he’s a primary character throughout the series — and one of the most unlikely heroes I’ve ever written. So right at the midpoint of the novel where I met the real him, (and where — in general — you known what the story is about for 45,000 words or so) the ENTIRE focus of the second book changed from being about a different character to being about him. So all the shit I’d planned for that OTHER character is being moved around, and will have to be spread in pieces through the entire five books.

I will note that it’s entirely possible to write to a strict outline and follow it.

I will also note that I have never successfully done this.

I’ve always fought against the outline, because if I already know what’s going to happen as I’m writing, in the back of my mind where the fiction lives, that story has already been told and there’s no point telling it again. 

However… I do have to have some big, planned events in place. Stuff that the rest of the story can build around.

For the rest of this week, and maybe some of next week, I’ll be going through and building summaries of what I’ve done in the first two books, picking out those big planned events and deciding how to use them in the next three books so that they fit…

Writing rough 200-word synopses for the next three books (with the understanding that this process is usually as effective as herding cats…

And then, when I think I sort of know where I might be going, I’ll write 30 PACTS sentences (one for each chapter) into the line-for-chapter outline for Book 3.

There is NO DAMN REASON to try this process yet for Books 4 and 5.

Because Book 3, like Books 1 and 2, will turn out to be almost nothing like what I’d planned — but will be all the better for me having to fight the outline to come to the better fictional truth that’s living inside it.

And SOME TECHIE STUFF for FICTION WRITERS

I use Freeter Pro to keep my projects where I can find them. The screenshot below is the current state of the Ohio Novels.

Freeter Pro setup for OHIO SERIES books 1 through 5

The two books at the top are Ohio 1 and 2, which are currently in Complete Unrevised First-Draft State.

With a series like the one I’m writing (which is unlike any series I’ve written before) I discovered that revising each book as I finished it was pointless. I’ll have to know the ending before I can revise the beginning.

In this project, I’m essentially living in the non-magic version of the world, so I don’t have to draw maps — but I’m discovering the physics of the alternate universe as I go — and while I know the magic rules for the story, and a lot of the critters, and some important characters, each of these is bringing new parts of the universe to me as I write.

I just met Crazy Tree yesterday. That was a shock, lemme tell you.

Having Freeter, however, lets me keep this whole project and all its interconnected pieces carefully labeled, and just one click away.

If you’re a writer dealing with dozens of different projects, and you need to be able to find each of them (or each part of them) with one click, this is my favorite piece of software ever. $29 bucks, no subscription. New version updates will require payment, but there hasn’t been one yet. I love this, and recommend it: https://freeter.io/ (NOT AN AFFILIATE LINK).


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Today’s words went well. I love the ending I got.

I already know the revision on this one is going to be big — but everything in it now can wait until all five books are done in first draft.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to begin outlining the third book, using the process I’ve used for the first two — something that, once I’ve done five books with it, I’ll be adding in as an advanced level for How to Write a Novel. (Gotta figure out what the bugs are before I suggest anyone else try this…)

Today, though?

Today I got the right ending.

I saved the cat.

I made myself laugh.

And my little Ohio town just got a bit weirder.

THAT? That is an awesome writing day.


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I ended up pulling out a lot of words today, but still came up with a net gain of 438.

And tomorrow’s chapter, the last one in the book (I think) is already written. It was, in fact, the first chapter that I wrote. And then I realized that the whole point of this second book was in that one chapter. And that while those events at the beginning of the novel was fun, it dropped a huge part of my little weasel character’s poignant past — which I didn’t even suspect until I wrote that first chapter, and the asked myself, who would go to all that trouble to get HIM? 

Asking that question made me love him, and broke my heart a little, and the deeper I followed where that question led, the better I understood my MC, her past, her family’s past… and her very messy near future.

I would have lost a whole LOT of wonderful stuff by leaving that chapter at the beginning.

So I bumped the first-chapter event back about two weeks, and made it the last chapter.

I guess the finally book will be around 93,000 words, and could very well be finished in first draft tomorrow.

But for today, I’m done.


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Over on my Ko-Fi page, I’ve opened up the idea of early-access Ohio Novel merchandise (link opens in new tab) — stuff like T-shirts or coffee cups or other things that would help fund my weekly fiction writing hours, while at the same time giving potential urban fantasy readers some tiny peeks into the world I’m writing.

The merch will be sold exclusively through my Ko-Fi page, and will help with the funding of my fiction-writing time. So if you came here first, head over to my Ko-Fi page to get the details. 

But THIS is the place to ask questions, brainstorm ideas, and let me know what you’d love to see (or wear, or drink out of) in the replies below.

I think this could be fun. Weird. But fun.

So here are the two questions I’m asking:

  • What do you think of the merch idea?
  • What would make cool merch?


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I bumped up my projected word-count to 95,000 words so that I could still have the progress bar show what I’ve done. I got 888 words in spite of deleting a bunch. While writing today was liking rollerskating uphill against a headwind, but I still got words.

Here’s hoping tomorrow will be less of a pain.


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