Working With (and Around) an Outline

squirrely plot diagram

Why didn’t I ever try a detailed outline before? Live and learn, I suppose.

Things are gliding along in Featherfolk draft IV. Plus, I’m right on track for my 10,000-word November goal!

I regret not one moment of the time I spent outlining. I kept itching to dive in, but I held back and laid the groundwork first. It’s wonderful to have some of the imagination heavy-lifting already taken care of.

Of course, my outline is far from perfect. I already had one scene turn out different than I expected. One of my characters refused to act how I assumed he would. When I realized that, I let him be. I made some mental tweaks to upcoming scenes, and things are going to work out.

I highly reccommend outlining. It may feel like you’re not getting anything done because you aren’t writing, but it’s worth it. I promise.

Happy Yarning!

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Weird Knitting Trick

I discovered something bizzare the other day. I was unraveling another failed attempt at a Tunisian crochet baby sock, when the whole thing suddenly turned into knit stockinette stitch.

It turns out when you pull one of the two strings necessary for Tunisian crochet in the round, it leaves you with a knitted cylinder!

Here’s what mean. Behold the sacrificial Tunisian crochet cylinder.

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You pull the second strand, the one that’s been drawn through two loops over and over. And it leaves this.

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Wacky, right?

I need to keep messing with this and find out how to use this trick. I’m thinking next time I want to knit a hat, I’ll crochet it!

Happy Yarning!

Good Luck NaNoers!

November, National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us!

I however, will not be joining the fun and frenzy as such. My plan is a different sort of challenge. I’ve noticed that whenever I do NaNoWriMo I really burn myself out and spend the next several months not writing at all. So! My plan is to write at least 10,000 words in November, and then 10,000 in December, and so on for the whole next year and beyond. I’m warming up my engines already by writing at least 400 words a day through the end of October.

But to my NaNo-ing friends and colleages–I salute you!

Happy Yarning!

Outlines and Causality

chain

(Photo credit: Anita Pratanti CC)

My friend Annaliese recently told me about some advice she heard at a writing conference she attended. In a synopsis (or outline), it’s important to not only tell a series of events but to link them by actions on the part of your main characters.

Instead of “this happens, and then this other thing happens, and then this other thing happens,” say “this happens, and so she does this, and because of that this other thing happens.”

Notice how the second story sounds more like something you want to read?

As I finish my outline for Featherfolk draft four, I’m paying particular attention to causality and how my main character’s actions shape her story.

Happy Yarning!

Icky Middles

I’m taking the time to carefully outline Featherfolk draft four. I’m a plotter, even though I tend to write by the barest of outlines and the seat of my pants. This inevitably creates problems for me farther down the draft.

Now I’m wrestling with the middle of the story, and I remember why Carol calls middles icky.

That part of my outline needs more flesh on it. I can tell because it’s the part I try so hard to convince myself is just fine with its few flimsy ideas. The part I’m afraid to touch because it might collapse like a card house and bring other chunks of the plot with it.

Miscellaneous Playing Cards
(Photo credit: Philippa Willitts CC)

But this time–

I’m going to poke all those flimsy places until they straighten up and stand. Even if it means re-structuring the plot and sequence of events around them again and again.

It’s worth it.

Happy Yarning!

Adventures with Linen: The Tunic is Trimmed

Ta da! I’ve spent many, many hours on this garment, so I’m glad my husband likes it.

Victory pictures:

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(He offered to model it properly, but first I snapped a few shots of him in his natural habitat.)

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The tablet-woven trim is narrow (only 16 cards), but it does a lot to bring the tunic together.

^_^

Happy Yarning!

And Then That Castle Sank into the Swamp

Bodiam Castle (Photo credit: Mark Seton CC)

I feel like the king from Monty Python who kept building castles in a swamp. The first one sank, so he built a second. That one sank. He built a third, which burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp.

But the fourth one stood up.

I think I’ve been going in the wrong direction with Featherfolk. I recently wrote a few flash fiction pieces and pared them down to their essence so they could squeeze into the 150 word limit. (Like playing limbo: “How low can you go? How low can you go?”)

Those experiences helped me realize I’m losing the essence of the story I really want to tell in Featherfolk. It’s getting buried. I want to pull it out into the light where it can shine. I still love it and think it’s an important story.

This of course will require starting over. Again. I’ve brainstormed and jotted notes and mulled it over for a week or so. My fingers want to get typing, but now I’m jittery.

Should I start it yet? Should I wait until I pin down all the details?

If I don’t lay all the groundwork, will it just sink into the swamp again?

Is that why it sank before–because I started writing too early?

Even if I lay all the groundwork, will it sink anyway?

Jitter jitter jitter.

What do you do when you begin a new draft/new project? How much do you plot and plan and write notes? What’s your process? I need some advice here.

Happy Yarning!

Adventures With Linen: Waste and Want

I never feel “Waste not; want not” so keenly as when sewing with thread that I spun. When I sew with store-bought thread, I waste it all over the place. It’s cheap.

My linen thread has a cheap price tag, too. It comes with the fabric. But it costs time.

So I don’t waste an inch, because if I did I might be an inch short later and have to spin some more.

Handicrafts like this are humbling projects and give me great respect for my ancestors.

Here’s the tunic–only two more hems and the trimmings left!

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Happy Yarning.

Crafting Progress

My husband’s new linen tunic is mostly sewn! I’ve been sewing by hand and using “free” linen thread again, so I have to keep pausing to spin more whenever I run out.

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The band for the collar, cuffs, and hem is coming along nicely after a big hiccup during warping. I’m more than halfway through, although I’ll probably need to warp up another shorter piece after this one.

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On the writing side of things, I’ve got an idea for a new novel that’s very different from my usual fare, but I’m going to be good and stick with Featherfolk for now. Maybe I’ll go for it during NaNoWriMo or condense the idea into an entry for next year’s Mormon Lit Blitz. Or both!

We’ll see.

Happy Yarning.

150 Words is a Small Sandbox

First, a moment of silence for the lives lost in the attack on the Twin Towers 14 years ago.

I was in elementary school. I still have an irrational fear every time an airplane flies loudly over that it will fall from the sky and smash into my dwelling.

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I’ve been wrestling with my entries for Leading Edge Magazine’s flash fiction contest. The word limit: 150.

It’s like trying to build a castle in a tiny desk-top zen garden. *Frantically tears out hair.*

From my experiences so far, I have three tips for tackling radically short stories.

1) Play to tropes

The more the reader can assume about the setting or characters, the better. Think of how much information these two words conjure up: “glass slippers.” Or these: “starship bridge.”

2) Cool vs. essential

There is only room for one plot. Leave out everything tangential. This is not the place for exploring characters deeply. I love cool details. I love fleshing out a setting. This is not the place. Flash fiction is all about paring down to the essence of a story. If your story has a cool essence, it’ll be enough.

3) It’s all about the punchline

The last line has so much power! Use the final line to put a twist on everything that came before, or to cement it in a tear-jerking way. Make your reader want to read it again with that punchline ringing in his or her head.

There’s my three cents on the topic.

Happy Yarning!