Tag Archives: the big red book

NaNo 11: Scenes

One thing I don’t do when I’m planning, is detail each and every scene. And I do definitely look funny at people who do. You don’t know every single scene up front before you write your book. If you do, what’s the point in writing it?

Okay, enough snark. Yeah, I’m a pantser at heart, despite the planning. I do have a section of my story bible (the big red green book) labelled ‘scenes and ideas’ though. I divide the pages up by halves or thirds and use that space to just jot down scene ideas that pop into my head, or general story arc ideas. It’s for everything that doesn’t go elsewhere in the book. If it relates to a specific character or the relationship between two characters, it doesn’t go there. But scenes, sometimes the seed of a world-buildy idea if it needs more time to percolate but I might forget the seed, yeah, that stuff goes in the back.

100_6319 I’m allowed to make mistakes here. This part is for those times when I’m doing the laundry or the dishes and suddenly a fully formed scene or part of a scene pops into my head. Rather than forgetting it, adding it to the notes app on my phone, or writing it down on a stupid piece of paper that I’m only going to lose anyway, I grab the appropriate book and write it down.

Then I can safely forget it until I’m writing. I’m thinking that before I start writing this will be a section of the book that will need a thorough read through—likely while I’m writing it will need an occasional peruse, too, so I can either confirm that I’m on track with my idea or to completely cross a scene or idea off if it is going to clash with the way the book is going.

This section will also get a lot of use while I’m writing because I’m always looking ahead when I’m part way through a story, getting ideas, seeing how this action is going to effect the outcome, etc.

Are you still with me? OMFG, we now have a big red book story bible! Yeah, it might look a bit sparse now, but there’s still three weeks? till NaNo. That’s heaps of time to fill it up as the ideas and story come. Remember, don’t force it. It won’t kill you to wing it a bit, after all, that’s what NaNoWriMo is about, and I can almost guarantee that if you keep your story bible with you throughout the month it’ll fill up in the process of writing your novel.

This isn’t all you’re going to hear from me on NaNo ‘11. I’ll just keep talking till it starts and then I’ll likely disappear off the face of the earth ;) If you’re signed up at nanowrimo yet, feel free to add me to your writing buddies—I’m vampireisthenewblack over there—and leave your NaNo username in a comment so I can add you :)


NaNo 11: World Building

100_6321  Not all books need world building. Only two of my story bibles have sections for this—my vampire story, and the spec fic I’m doing for NaNo. Contemporary doesn’t need it, but if there are any rules in your world that are different from real life, make sure you have one. Or if you’re writing something with intrigue or mystery or something where you need a timeline…

Oh, fuck it. Leave space for world building anyway ;)

100_6320So, I break my world building section up into stuff like the rules of your world. How vampires are made, or what happened when the clock ticked over into 2000, or the history of the world (there’s generally something pretty huge way back that’s brought the story into being in my brain), and then I just write down whatever has made itself clear so far. Paragraphs, bullet points, whatever.

One thing I don’t do—and I keep repeating myself on this point—is force it. Let the rules and history and the canon of your world develop in your brain before you go squeezing it out on paper. Think about it. Talk about it, to anyone who will listen and feedback and discuss without telling you you’re mad. Avoid those people ;)

Once your world becomes real in your mind you can write it down. If it’s real to you me, it seems to make sense and I don’t have to do as much retconning after the first draft is finished.

And I’ll do almost anything to avoid the dreaded edits O.O

NaNo 11: What I’m Writing in November

So I had a huge list of possibilities for NaNo this year and big red books with characters and plots to prove it. I had a blog post planned where I was gonna ask for input on which story to write in November (and one of those choices was ‘hit a random plot generator at 11.59pm Oct 31st’).

And then it hit me.

I’d just bought another book in which to unload yet another of my brain-dwelling plot bunnies. And I started filling it in. And I started thinking about the story. And I started coming up with more detail to the story. And I started brainstorming with hubby (yes, I’m allowed to do that as long as I keep any slashiness out of the conversation).

I’m doing that story.

So. No ‘what should I write’ poll :( Instead I’m madly scrambling researching cloud computing and mobile technology. My story is set in 2050, in an alternate earth timeline where everything digital went poof on 1/1/00. Yes, it’s m/m, but the romance seems to be a very small part of the story so far.

You know what’s weird? The big red book for this story isn’t even red. It’s green. It was cheaper :D

Oh, and I’m writing by hand, too. Yes, this can be done legally for NaNoWriMo. Yes, it can be validated. Yes, I can win. :D I bought myself a spanking new ring binder the other day for it, with dividers. I figure I can use the dividers between chapters, keep it all nice and tidy. And I’m writing on pre-punched lined paper (we call it refill here). I figured out I will need at least 90 leaves to make my word count for the month. Yes, I’m a little OCD :p

I want new pens. With different coloured inks. I need to print out some of my character pics (yes, I ‘cast’ my characters) and paste them into my story bible (the big red green book). I need to do more research, follow more cloud and mobile geeks on G+ (if you are one, poke me so I can circle you or otherwise pick your brain).

And I’m bouncy-excited!

NaNo 11: Chapters

So, who went out and bought a notebook for their NaNo outline? I know there’s at least one… Any more?

Anyway, if you did, and if you’re playing along at home, grab that book and head up a page for every chapter you plan to write.

Don’t know how many chapters will be in the final book? Doesn’t matter. You’ve got options when you are planning:

  • set aside twice the pages you were going to set aside so if you need more chapters, they can be added
  • what’s your target word count? Divide that by the average number of words you tend to write per chapter
  • I set aside 12 chapters for a novella (25k ish) and 24 for a novel (50k ish) with an extra page for an optional epilogue

When you’re planning, and when you’re writing, chapters are really just a convenient way of breaking up your plot. Once the story is finished, I inevitably start shifting stuff around, breaking in different places, more logical places etc. But when I’m planning, and when I’m writing, it might be ‘such and such series of events happens in this chapter’ or ‘I’m gonna write one chapter today’ (remember I am queen of the 2k chapter).

Just because you plan 2k per chapter, or 4k per chapter, or 10k per chapter, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way later on. Same as if you plan 4, or 6, or 20 scenes per chapter. Or one day per chapter, or one week per chapter.

I base mine on word count (2-3k) and events in the time line of the story.

And I’ve totally gone off on a tangent ;)

So, you have your chapter pages. Look at your Beginning, Middle, End page. Figure out roughly how the chapters will spread over these three parts. I usually end up with 4 chapters per section because I write short stuff. Write in your badnesses in the corresponding chapters. Perhaps use pencil at first ;) Fill in some of the other events that surround your badnesses.

At this point I’m lucky if I have one sentence on each of my chapter pages. That’s fine. You might never expand the chapter outline more than that. I often don’t. But I leave the space regardless.

Oh, yes. Lots of extra space is good.

Friday: Character profiles, yay!

NaNo ’11: Beginning, Middle, and End

100_6323 With a lot of these planning things you feel like you’re repeating yourself. I don’t mind that. Every time I write down the same event it seems to make it stick in my mind better. And because I’m using different formats I often see something different, extra, that I hadn’t seen before (kinda like the other day with my hook and how impossible it was to write because there was something wrong with my idea).

Summarising the beginning, middle and end, is kinda what we do for a blurb or paragraph summary. I take a page in my big red book and put those three headings down the page. It’s a lot more informal than the blurb/paragraph, and I let myself make a mess (see image) if I want/need to. That’s why even tho it comes later in the big red book than the blurb does, I fill it in quite early. Hell, if I don’t have an ending yet, I leave it blank. It’ll come.

Something I’ve picked up along the way, and I’m not sure if it’s referred to in the snowflake method or not, is the three disasters that somehow correspond to ‘acts’. I don’t worry too much about acts—in fact at the moment I’m ignoring them completely in my planning. I think beginning, middle, and end pretty much covers it. What I do do, though, is three badnesses<—yep, that’s vamp-brain for you. I don’t think they have to be complete disasters. Depending on what you are writing, the depth of badness varies. Epic fantasy badness is going to be a lot more epic, for example, than romantic comedy badness.

I format my Beg, Mid, End page like so:






first badness:




second badness:



third badness:





I’ve got a special place to put my badness—because that’s what I’m going to be working towards in each part of my book.

First badness: at the end of the beginning

Second badness: in the middle of the middle

Third badness: at the beginning of the end

I love the way that sounds ;) And it really helps to know when all your build up scenes and reaction scenes are going to fit in around those big events. For some reason it makes the rest of what happens in the different parts of the book so much easier to get my head around when I have those big things planned.

I worry about breaking stuff up into chapters later (and I’ll post about that later on). Friday I’ll post about my subplots and how I wrangle them.

NaNo ‘11: The Basics

Every story has a few little details that don’t require endless description.

Working Title

I don’t worry too much about titles before I write. It’s not something I obsess over. Often it’s a line from a song that inspires me, a concept, or just the way I think of a particular story. At first they sound like Friends episodes. ‘The One With the Three Guys’ or ‘The One with Autoerotic Asphyxiation’ or ‘The One with the Gay Priest’. Yep, those are all stories I have in my head. Sigh. Too many stories, not enough time. They might graduate to the title of or a line from a song that has inspired me. I have one story that was, until very recently, called ‘The Ghost of You’. It’s gone on to a real title now. The story I’m most likely doing for NaNo is currently called ‘Vital Depth II’ because it’s in the same ‘verse as the book I wrote two years ago. It will get it’s own title once I more firmly establish some of the themes within it. Eventually they’ll all develop a final title, but that shit doesn’t matter yet. I like to let it happen organically.

Word Count Target

Just a ballpark figure, really. Of course for NaNo it’s 50k, so that’s what I’ve written down for VDII (yes, that is a terribly unfortunate acronym O.O). Some stories, once I start outlining, I realise there is far less story than would constitute a novel, so I generally mark them 25kers. When I have enough of a story in my head I’m usually pretty good at estimating the final word count—I aimed for 25k on Say Something Else and ended up pretty much bang on.

Point of View

First person or third person (or second, if you are terribly brave and perhaps a little foolhardy. Or if you’re writing a choose-your-own-adventure) point of view, and from which characters POV you are writing from. Pretty basic stuff, but it’s often something I agonise over. Which character is the best one to tell the story? In VDII, I have a human and a vampire. They are a couple, and because VDI was third person, those two had almost equal screen time. They are both important to the story. But I’m writing VDII in first person, so I had to choose (I don’t have to remind you that alternating first person POV is a VERY BAD THING, do I?). I ended up going with Lucas, my human, because I want VDII to be able to stand alone and for the reader to be able to discover the vampire world from a human perspective. Also, my vampire, Billy, is a pain in the ass because he can’t go out in the daytime. Lucas is gonna get to see much more and so readers will be better off seeing through his eyes.


Past or present tense. I write more comfortably in present tense these days, so that’s what I’m going with. You might alternate though, so this might be an important bit of information.

Start Date

For NaNo, that’s 1st November. If I wasn’t nanoing, I’d leave this blank until I started.

Finish Date

For NaNo, 30th November. Coupled with your wordcount, it helps you to figure out how much you need to write per day to get done.


This I only ever start noting once I’m well into the outline or even when I’m writing the story. I have two separate stories, one with ‘Love Conquers All’ as a theme, and one with ‘Love Does Not Conquer All’. I think that’s kinda funny :D Stories can and often do have more than one theme.

These all go on the first page of my shiny red book. They are some of them obvious, especially if you always write in a particular tense or POV, but knowing how it’s envisioned as you outline is very useful, especially if, like me, you outline and plot and brainstorm over often a long period of time and can sometimes forget stuff. There might be other basics you need to note down here, too. Different books have different stuff on that first page (yeah, I’ve got 4 red books going now for 4 different stories, and plans to buy 5 more books. I have too many stories! BTW, these books are fucking brilliant. I’ve laid one out for a half finished novel that has been sitting unloved for more than a year, and it’s helping me to sort out what needs to happen in the story.)

You don’t have to fill in all this stuff at the beginning, either. Some of the stuff you won’t even know till you start outlining, and sometimes even writing. I generally let it all happen organically.

Next time, hooks and blurbs <—the scary stuff.