Problem: Not Enough Noro means I have to use a fill-in yarn
SOLVED: On November 3rd, I finished my Stained Glass Sweater, a project I’d been working on in small pieces since August 18th.
Problem: About two weeks ago (late in the actual season), I discovered that the Diablo 3 season had something I wanted. A Disembodied Hand pet.
SOLVED: Sunday night,I got my Disembodied Hand by finishing the first four challenge levels of the current season of Diablo 3.
Problem: Can I show my readers enough of who the Owner is to actually have them care what happens to him?
SOLVED: Yesterday the comments from my Bug Hunters for The Owner’s Tale, the concluding episode of Tales from the Longview, started coming in. And they cared.
And it suddenly occurred to me that:
- knitting a sweater,
- playing a Season in Diablo,
- and writing a novel…
have an astonishing amount in common.
My bet here is that you’re going to think I’m nuts. But watch this…
The Common Ground of Knitting, Diablo 3 Seasons, and Novel Writing
They all require grinding.
Not familiar with the concept of grinding?
When you grind, you have a set series of achievable objectives before you that, if you complete them, will give you a reward.
Grinding always includes easier objectives and tougher objectives, and if you’re smart, you do the easiest stuff first and work your way into the more difficult bits, gaining skills and technical prowess (and better armor and weapons, or tools and techniques) as you go so that you can conquer the bigger battles without getting your ass handed to you too often.
The first objective is always simply this… Figure out exactly and specifically what it is that you want to accomplish.
In Diablo, I wanted to win the pet — the disembodied hand that runs around while you’re playing and picks picks up of all your gold so you don’t have to. I love Diablo’s weird pets, and the idea of that hand made me laugh.
With The Owner’s Tale, my objective was to wrap up the entire series and answer the final mysteries, whilepresenting the Owner and having his story and his life matter to readers.
With the sweater, it was to figure out how to use some gorgeous Noro Taiyo yarn in a colorway that was no longer available, and which I didn’t have enough of to make an entire sweater for myself. On August 18th, I came up with the little swatch below, and liked it enough that I didn’t tear it apart to try something else.
August 18: Interesting, workable sweater concept, with Rowan wool worsted to use to fill out the Noro I didn’t have enough of.
Well-chosen objectives are understandable.
With Diablo, I picked a Demon Hunter (had never played one of those before), and just started playing in the evenings when Matt was playing his stuff. My objective? Finish the Season, earn the Disembodied Hand pet and maybe some of the armor.
With The Owner’s Tale, I identified as my objective that when I’d finished my story, my readers would actually meet the owner — from his own point of view, which I had kept them away from up to this point. And Keyr would show them who he was, why he did what he did, and would wrap of the biggest mystery that has run since Episode 1 — what’s really going on in the Longview? And if I did it right, when they reached the end, they would care what happened to him.
With the sweater, I located a second yarn that went nicely with my bright Noro Taiyo, a nice, slightly flecky Rowan worsted wool that wasn’t quite black, but was almost.
And my test swatch looked like stained glass to me, and reminded me of windows my father built for churches and homes. I thought, yeah, that’ll work. And set my objective as making a sweater for myself kind of like the one I’d made for Becky, only different.
Well-chosen objectives are always recognizable.
When you finish an objective, you have to know you’ve finish it.
Diablo is great for this. The game has little icons that show up on the bottom of the screen, all gilt-edged and shiny, that tell you, Hey, you did SOMETHING good.
Knitting has stitch markers if you’re working with really big pieces. If you’re knitting modularly (in little shapes that you then knit together into bigger shapes), you just count modules.
August 22nd: One Back Panel
In writing, you count words and scenes, and you write toward discovering your story’s best ending, which is rarely the first one you think up.
Well-chosen objectives have a clear waypoints.
Diablo 3 is excellent at setting this up for the player. You have a series of four groups of objectives that move you to the first big reward. You’ll end up doing the first groups of stuff by accident—just by playing the game. As you clear each objective, you get a bright red badge beside it, so you can see clearly how many you’ve done, and how many you have yet to do.
You get a nice sense of progression, and you get absorbed in going deeper (occasionally looking things up on the Internet) so you can find and conquer the more obscure challenges and earn the remaining, more difficult progress markers.
With knitting, you’re building pieces of a whole, and you try them on as you knit them to make sure what you’re making fits.
August 24th: Progress on Second Back Panel
August 28th: Finished Back (stained class portion only)
September 14: Final MSU (Making Shit Up) workable idea for front pockets
MSU — Making Shit Up — is a technique I use in problem-solving for both knitting and writing fiction. This requires a moment of explanation, and I’m going to discuss this from the knitting perspective.
I don’t do pockets often. I’m sure lots of folks have come up with this way of making pockets in a modular sweater, but I didn’t research “How to make pockets.”
Instead, I thought about what I wanted them to look like, and how I wanted them to work, and then I tried different approaches until I came up with this one, in which the opening for the pocket is created by not joining the modules.
September 21st: Knitting in the pocket liner
And then by knitting in the pocket liner so nothing is sewn, and so the pocket will be sturdy. I’m sure lots of folks do this — but I get to claim this as my method (what Elizabeth Zimmerman would have called unventing) because even though a ton of other people have probably figured this out on their own, I figured it out on MY own. I invented this process for myself. This is what you do when you like your brain and want to keep it working. You push it to solve complicated problems every day.
As for writing fiction, Making Shit Up is one of my favorite methods for Avoiding Research. If you build the world, build the physics, build the languages, build the history, you don’t have to research the world. At its best, Making Shit Up is figuring out what you want something to do, and how you want it to work, and then experimenting until you get that.
Well-chosen objectives have achievable rewards.
Achievable means “If you do the work, you will get the reward.”
This is where Destiny and Destiny 2 are very bad games, and Diablo 3 is a very good game.
If you do the objectives in Destiny or Destiny 2, RNG (random number generation) decides whether or not you will get the rewards, and absolutely nothing you do can ensure that you will get the thing you want. Ever.
Which is why I finally quit playing Destiny.
I’m willing to grind like hell to get something, but I don’t like to have bait dangled over my head with “Yeah, you did all the stuff, but you still can’t have the thing you wanted.” Destiny is like a shitty boss who says, “Guess what? You didn’t get paid this week. But keep working. Maybe I’ll pay you next week. Or never. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Screw that. My time matters to me.
With Diablo 3, you know exactly what you’ll get if you do the specific tasks,and when you complete the last of those tasks, you get the stuff.
But you have to be persistent, because there are a LOT of tasks, and you’re starting out with a brand new, unleveled character that you have to take through the whole campaign first before moving on to doing bounties and other higher-level stuff. But if you play a little every evening (and maybe binge a bit on the weekends), you’ll get your goofy pet.
Then you have more tasks you can play through to get more stuff. I’m willing to work really hard for cool stuff, but I do require getting paid for that work. Diablo 3 pays on time and in full.
In knitting, you have to be persistent, because knitting is slow, and finicky, and you have to do a lot of ripping back and trying new things if you don’t use patterns (I never use patterns — I always just make shit up). But if you stick with it, and knit a little every day, you’ll eventually finish your sweater. And then you have something cool that you wanted.
October 17th: It took me seven tries to figure out
a way to do the sleeves that I didn’t hate,
but with this, I finally came up with something I liked.
October 23: Here you can see the sleeves coming together…
With writing, you have to be persistent. It, too, is something big made up of bunches of small parts. Tens or hundreds of thousands of words, dozens to hundreds of scenes, possibly dozens of chapters.
And if you show up regularly and do the work, you’ll create the small pieces that make the bigger parts that eventually finish the whole.
You do “X number of words per day” and you make that a number small enough that you CAN hit it every day you write. You don’t keep raising the number. You can write more on any give day, but your low, achievable number is your success number. So that on SHITTY days (and you will have them), you can still hit the low number, can still have a successful day, and can then go curl up on the couch with a good book and a cup of coffee and make Real Life go away for a bit.
Well-chosen objectives have to end with guaranteed success.
You set a goal you can reach, and you work to that goal.
I have my Disembodied Hand, and I get a kick out of watching it skitter around the screen picking up gold off the ground.
I have my oversized, warm, pockety sweater. All the ends are sewn in, the buttons are on, the button band came together perfectly, the Kitchener stitching on the waistband, collar, and cuffs turned out beautifully, and it’s as bright and pretty as I hoped it would be. Now I just need some cold weather so I can wear it.
November 3rd: Finished the Stained Glass Sweater
With The Owner’s Tale, I finished the story. I finished the revision. I finished the series. I made the owner of the Longview someone understandable and in some ways sympathetic. I wrote the story I wanted and needed to write, and in that, I succeeded.
Everything beyond that is out of my control, so nothing beyond that can be an objective for me.
I cannot make the story sell well. I cannot get it listed on best-seller lists. I cannot make it matter to anyone but myself. But it matters to me.
Well-chosen objectives have to matter to you.
I really wanted that hand. It’s gross, but it’s funny.
I really wanted that sweater. The more I worked on it, the more I could see what it could become if I did it right, and I wanted to wear it, to have that little tribute to the part of my father that I liked and respected, and to have something that was just that bright and cheerful and pretty.
With The Owner’s Tale, I could feel the power of the story building as I discovered the owner’s life before he started rescuing slaves on the Longview. I needed to know more about him, needed to discover why he gave a shit, needed to know why, when he got filthy rich, he didn’t just take his money and make himself a god. And I wrote the story I needed to read.
That’s what you’re looking for when you set objectives.
What you need in your life, step by step, with the end result that your life is better in big or little ways.
You cannot do everything. Cannot have everything.
But if you can identify achievements that matter to you, and can build out the steps that you can take to reach goals you can achieve on your own, and if you’re willing to then grind— to do the work, to show up in your own life and put in the effort and the focus — you can have that.
This is the first revision I’ve ever done that didn’t even require the fixing of a typo on the first twenty-four pages, and had only the addition of a hyphen on page twenty-five.
This is the lightest revision of a first draft I have ever done.
And it’s making me a little crazy that I don’t know why.
I love the way this story came out. Made myself cry twice reading the print-out at things I wrote when I was so deep into the story I don’t remember writing them, and that took me by surprise.
This is the ending that I wanted for the entire Longviewseries, and from my perspective, I got it in the first draft, with some very minor revisions, not a single added scene, not a single added page.
This is writing in a whole different place for me, and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been writing to find this ending for so long — for years — or because I’ve made some sort of breakthrough in my writing…
… Or because I’ve lost my objectivity toward my work. That last one will get tested after I get my type-in finished and put this story in front of Matt.
But type-in will be fast. Will probably be done in a couple hours tomorrow, and that’s just with me being extra finicky and paranoid because I’ve NEVER had a first draft that looked this clean when I was done with it.
I am my own toughest critic. I am deeply suspicious first-draft pages that pass through my brutal revision process without coming out the other end battle-scarred by massive changes.
Still — it DID come through, and as far as I can tell, I was being as brutal as usual.
So what comes next?
Short-term,when I get Matt’s edit back:
- I’ll do my editor’s revision.
- I’ll request bug-hunters and will do the typesetting from the bugs they find.
- Will put the story on sale in single episode version.
- And will then go through and put together the six-story bundle, because The Owner’s Taleends the Longviewseries.
I figure that along with writing lessons for How to Write a Novel, writing the parts of my Demo Novel (Dead Man’s Party), anddoing the Alone in a Room with Invisible People podcast, that will keep me pretty busy through Christmas.
Once I have the complete Longviewseries available, however, my next step is to reread the first two novels in the Moon & Sun series and get the series voice back in my head, and find the various toys I left on the floor in the first two books. Pick those up, figure out how I want to use them in the final book in the series.
By New Year’s day, 2019, I want to be in a position to start writing The Emerald Sun.I’ll be plotting that out concurrently with writing the first draft of Dead Man’s Party.
And then might find myself writing two novels simultaneously for a couple months. Not optimal, but not the first time I’ve done this, either.
I would like to finish The Emerald Sunand the Moon & Sun series next year — writing, revision, editing, and publication. And get all three books back into print with new covers. Folks have waited way to long to find out how that story ends. As have I.
It’s time to get back to the kids, the cat, and the mystery of the Moonroads, and what went wrong, and how to make it right.
So. Just now the first draft of The Owners Tale, the LAST episode in Tales from the Longview.
Wrote the final thousand-ish words this morning and part of this afternoon, and for now, at least, I like the ending.
I’ve printed off the manuscript (in 12 point Courier, double-spaced and with large margins, of course) where it will sit on my desk for at least one week to cool off.
I like a lot of stuff when it’s still hot that I can see problems with once it’s cooled off.
After it’s cooled for at least a week, I’ll go in, do a read through and a revision, and then hand off to Matt, who will do my content edit. I want to wow him. He already figured out a part of how it will end (he’s just that good).
But he doesn’t yet know why. That is where I want to really bring this home.
This is a story I’ve been working towards for a long time, through a lot of books. This is the story I’ve pulled from dark corners and bad spots in my own life, from the lives of family, from the lives of other people who have not always had things easy. It’s not personal, not any sort of roman á clef.
But through the fiction of the characters, I did manage to hit some things I’ve never been able to work into fiction before.
So here’s the process once I get through the revision.
I hand off to Matt.
Matt points out all the places where I got it wrong, where I missed what I was going for, where I failed to give the characters the proper respect.
I go in and to an editor’s revision.
I ask for a few folks to bug hunt THAT version.
I make corrections from the bug hunt.
I publish the final episode.
And then I start into Moon & Sun 3: The Emerald Sun.
I’m not going to rush through writing the final book in the series. In the episode of Alone in a Room with Invisible People that Rebecca and I taped yesterday (Episode 13: Plotting VS. Pantsing, which will go live TOMORROW — Tuesday, Oct. 16th) I talk a little bit about why.
I remembered to mention:
- Currently writing my How to Write a Novel class demo novel, Dead Man’s Party
- Whiles also writing the first draft of the How to Write a Novel class
- Brainstorming and doing the weekly podcast with Rebecca
- Doing the other stuff that has to fit in with these major activities, like spending time with my guys, answering emails, paying bills, talking with folks on the forums, and doing the still-less-frequent-than-I’d-hoped blog posts
But the biggest thing about getting back to the series is this:
I haven’t read the first two books in years, and I have to step back into that world. I’m a visceral writing. I write from inside my characters, doing my best to become them while I’m writing.
So I have reacquaint myself with the nuances of these folks, both good and bad. Walk through the concept map I drew for Book 3. Remember how to step back inside those characters, and become again the girl at the end of childhood who has had the weight of her world land on her shoulders, and who, with a brother she sometimes fights with, friends who aren’t as reliable as one would hope, and a cat who’s lying through his teeth about who he really is, has to save her people from destruction.
If she doesn’t do it, no one will.
I’m hoping to be able to announce the start of the novel around or shortly after Christmas of this year.
I expect that I’ll need about a year to write and revise it. I cannot GUARANTEE that’s what I’ll need, because I’m not just doing one book these days. I’m doing a book, classes, forums, and other things that are possible with the Internet.
Life was simpler in the days of just print publishers and just answering snail mail letters from fans a few times a year.
But cooking on a wood stove and dumping a honey-bucket in the midden downriver from your house were simpler, too. Been there, done that.
Simpler is not always better. Vive la Internet!
I loved Apple computers for a long time.
Frankly, I still love the two I have: A late 2013 iMac, and an even older MacBook Pro.
But Apple has definitely been embracing the Dark Side since Steve Jobs died, and its walled garden, along with its pressure to push users into the Apple store and to make getting software from independent developers outside of its store (because in its store, of course, it gets a cut of everything created) is a giant, tedious pain in the ass.
And then there’s the fact that everything it’s doing right now is designed to FORCE people who love its hardware into an “Apple way or the Highway” scenario, which is simply ugly.
Awesome way to get folks to quit loving them is to FORCE them to do things they don’t want to do. And I’ve spent enough time on the “highway” to prefer it to the way things are going.
So here’s the latest ugliness:
At the point where I can no longer use my current computers, I have no interest in going to Windows. But Linux remains a possibility, one I’m now investigating.
This has to be quick, because I still have to do my OWN worksheets before the show so I can discuss how I got the idea I got. Since I don’t yet HAVE the idea… you see the problem.
Download your worksheets here: https://www.alonewithinvisiblepeople.com/downloads/#youtube1
The workshop is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etaIXTw7BbM
Starts at 1:00 PM, I may open a couple minutes early to test sound and make sure Becca and I have the process for getting questions from the workshop to me organized.
We’ll run for about an hour. Maybe a little longer, but not much, because this is planned to be short, focused, and to help you understand what goes into creating a novel idea. And what doesn’t.
I have launch going on. Not going to talk about it, because that’s not why you’re here.
BUT we had an interesting (in the “may you live in interesting times” curse sense of the word) bug that popped up this morning when so many folks hit the page that they broke a part of the software.
This bug affected everyone who bought with a PayPal subscription. We’ve manually added all those folks to class, and Dan is fixing the software (and making it more robust).
Everyone who bought the class is now in class, and the folks who are buying the class are being put in manually by Becca and me as fast as we can add them.
HOWEVER (and this is why you ARE getting this email)…
A lot of folks who bought the class are NOT on the launch list. Are not previous students. We had a surprise number of brand new members come in, and I don’t know where they came from.
But I KNOW they didn’t get their login instructions.
So if you bought the class and did not get your login instructions:
- You have the class
- It’s in your account
- Here’s how you get to it.
Go to https://hollyswritingclasses.com and click the Login button
Add the email and password you created when you bought the class.
If you CAN login, AWESOME. You’ll find your class on the classroom hub page, which is where the login takes you. Look for the green How to Write a Novel button. You’ll find your instructions and a bunch of other stuff in there, including your first lesson. To get past the introduction and sign-up to your lesson, use the Drop Down Lesson Menu on the top left corner of the page.
If you CANNOT log in, breathe. We got this. Your class is waiting for you, and we will get you to it.
Create a help desk ticket here: https://novelwritingschool.com/support/
Titled your ticket PURCHASED: CAN’T LOG IN.
To get you in, we’ll need to do a manual confirmation of your account, and give you a new temporary password, which you can change immediately inside the member area.
For everyone to whom this does not apply, I apologize for the extra email.
I have to know that my folks get what they paid for, and this is the only way I can do that.
A LOT of folks bought in the first hour. Far more than I expected.
Stripe (our credit card processor) held up under the strain.
PayPal single payment processing held up under the strain.
Our PayPal subscriptions option, which got hit the heaviest, broke.
Payments went through, but so many sub setups were hitting at the same time that that the process of adding folks into the classroom went CLUNK.
Dan is fixing this now so that it will go back to being automatic, and making it more robust.
MEANWHILE, Rebecca and I are manually adding all folks with subs into the classroom.
So if you buy via subscription, until Dan gets this fixed, you won’t be starting your first lesson in five minutes, but we’re getting PRETTY close to clearing all the folks who’ve already purchased, and doing this manually, we’ll stick as close to that as we can manage.
And this is what happens during launches. You test everything you can test, and then the thing you CAN’T test — massive traffic — is what hits you on the head with a brick.
S’okay. We’ll get through this.
So I’m plugging along trying to get everything set up before the How to Write a Novel Super Early Bird class launch goes live, and Matt comes in.
“Make sure you let them know that folks who already have novels written do not have to wait to finish their class projectto have me edit for them. If they’d like to have me do something for them now, I’ll do one of their existing novels.
“As long as they’re paid in full on the class BEFORE they schedule and know there are no refunds once I’ve received their manuscript, I’m happy to work on whatever they’d like me to work on.”
Like this should have been obvious.
And this is going to be a big deal for a few folks.
So I’m sending out an email on this to the folks on the launch list, but there might be some folks who aren’t ON the launch list who would like to get a content edit from Matt for a price I had to double-check on because I wasn’t sure I heard him right.
So here’s the offer. One full novel content edit, $197.
- This offer is only for the folks who buy during theFIRST (Super Early Bird) launch of How to Write a Novel.
- The offer ends the minute this launch closes.
- It will NEVER be offered again to any class.
- The offer is a comprehensive content edit by Matt (who has been my content editor since 1995) of ONE complete novel manuscript revised to the author’s best ability before sending.
- Maximum word limit 100,000 words. Not a word over, and the price does not scale. No exceptions.
- When you schedule your edit, you state that you understand that by scheduling your edit and sending your manuscript, you agree that the How to Write a Novel class you purchased (which got you the massive discount) is nonrefundable, and the edit price is nonrefundable.
- Edits are First Scheduled, First Served, and we only take payments two weeks in advance. There will probably be a waiting list. To be ON the waiting list, you have to have your receipt.
When you schedule your edit, you’ll have to include your receipt (or receipts) as proof of paid-in-full purchase, and you’ll need to include the following statement in your scheduling ticket:
I understand that by scheduling my content edit on my novel for the price of $197, the purchase of the class that gave me this discount becomes nonrefundable, along with the purchase price of the content edit, which is a physical product requiring one week of work by the editor, and I agree to these terms.
As long as you’re good with that, he’ll start work for you as soon as we can get you onto the schedule.
At 1:30 PM ET, Thursday. September 6th, I’m going to be taking questions on my upcoming How to Write a Novel class.
If you’d like to download the lesson list and descriptions (35 lessons at the moment), you can do that from https://HowToWriteANovelClass.com
If you want to show up tomorrow to hang out, ask questions, and chat, join me here:
If folks show up (I’m not presuming), I’ll stick around as long as there are questions (up to two hours).
If not? Well, it’s going to be a very short live broadcast, because I’m just going in to talk to folks.
I’m going to do a live YouTube chat on Thursday, September 6 at 1:30 PM ET, and will be sending out a reminder email for folks who want to come. I’ll be answering questions about the upcoming class during the chat, and making sure I’ve covered everything folks need to know.
So you’ll know what I’m planning on covering, you can download the PDF I put together about how I’m currently planning to present the class. My planned lessons are subject to possible additions if folks ask questions that I don’t have covered AND that are essential to helping you get your novel written.
Download your PDF of the current Class Lesson Outline
If you have questions about writing a novel and DON’T see the answer to your question, come to the chat on Thursday and ask there. This is a provisional lesson. I’m not removing any lessons, but I am open to adding a few more if the questions hit something you need to know about novel writing that no one else asked.
- Important: This class will cover novel writing.
- It will NOT cover revision, marketing, or publishing, which are enormous subjects on their own.