Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Harder than I thought

Writing this novel is proving much harder than I thought.

First there is the time constraint I set for myself. Three weeks left to revise my entire novel into Tweets? Insane.

Next is the plot. I have switched some entries around from the original. I hope the story still holds up.

Last is the fact that on high energy days, I may be tweeting an entire page of posts, which violates my no more than 6 rule, big time.

The bottom line is, it's a novel, for better or worse. Besides, who's going to follow me anyway?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tweeting a twovel

As it turns out, quite a few people have tried to publish Twitter-style novels. There's even an entire web site that allows people to publish their novels to the site via email or text messaging.

It's almost time to start my novel. As I'm editing my work, I've come up with a series of rules I plan to follow as I'm tweeting away this summer. Rules are good. They improve consistency in a piece of writing. I wrote my last novel with the rule that I couldn't use ordinary colours. Under this rule, I had to use "crimson" instead of "red" and "pumpkin" instead of "orange", for example.

Back to the rules that will govern my Twitter novel:
  1. Write in first person. Most twovels are written in third person, which may make for a good novel, but makes for clunky Twitter postings. Twitter is about social-networking, keeping your friends posted as to your whereabouts and goings-on in your life. The average person posts in first person and not third. Having my character be the one to post my tweets instead of posting them myself takes advantage of the true flavour of the medium.
  2. Avoid posting dialogue. See rule 1. Most people post in the first person about themselves. No dialogue allowed.
  3. Write in the past tense. Molly concentrates on her digging as she digs. She tweets when she's on a break. It makes sense to tweet in the past as it is unlikely someone is going to tweet as the action unfolds.
  4. Aim for an average of 5 or 6 tweets a day. Most online sources recommend a maximum of 5 tweets per day. Depending on what happens in the course of a day, 5 or less tweets may be enough. High action days might require more tweets. Narrative might also require more tweets as establishing character and backstory are also the tweets that are heavily descriptive.
  5. Maintain proper spelling and grammar conventions whenever possible. Sometimes, in order to save 3 - 5 characters, it is okay to replace "to" with "2", "and" with "&", "at" with "@", etc., but only as a last resort. Spaces after punctuation and commas may also be omitted if it benefits the narrative.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Challenge

The challenge in this project is to see if I can express the story in 140 character bites in real time. I must make Molly believable as a person. My readers should be caught up in the story of an archaeologist as she tries to piece together the site story (no matter how wild), and not in a science fiction novel.

This poses a number of frustrations for me, namely in the amount of detail I can include, which is not much if I am limited to only 5 tweets a day (as one web site suggested). Dialogue must also be omitted. What is left is essentially Molly's blog as her summer progresses. The reader should feel her struggle with residual feelings for Gabe, her aggravation at Clint's childish antics, her love for Palmer, and her fear as she channels the spirit of John Harcourt, the previous Guardian of the artifact she and her crew uncovers.

To make Molly seem more real, I created a generic Twitter ID for her in RKLOGYprof, and refer to all players by pseudonyms: "Hubby" for Palmer, her husband; "Glyphy" for Clinton Johns who studies petroglyphs; "XBF" for Gabriel Sykes, the ex-boyfriend; "TA" for Bethany, Molly's teaching assistant; and "DCMike" for Detective Constable Michael Crestwood. My rationale is that Molly is a professional. Though she feels she has this story to tell--a story that needs to be told, given the way the novel ends--in order to post honestly, her true identity cannot be found out. Her students, colleagues, even her husband, cannot know what she is doing, lest her credibility be affected.

Though I would be the first to admit that there are problems with the writing of The Guardian and it needs more work before it even approaches the calibre of writing in Phase Shift (my second novel), there are nevertheless parts of The Guardian of which I am proud and that need to be included to enhance the story and the plot. These bits include something in first-person from Clint's point of view, and the description of what digging means to Molly. Parts of the novel are integral to the plot and its development, such as the prologue, the journals, and the letters, so much so that I cannot cut them out and consequently have decided to include them as appendices on my web page.

The countdown has begun. Tweeting begins 8 Jun 10, less than a month from now!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jonesing for time

I love to write. When I write, it's magical. Worries and stress slough away. In my mind I am Molly McBride, Archaeologist extraordinare. No more hum drum 8:40 to 2:55 struggle to enlighten students in an atmosphere where it feels the teachers are the only ones working, no more joint pain, weight struggle, lesson planning, exahustion, just relief. When I write, it doesn't matter if my work never gets published. What does matter is that I write.

Once I find the time to write, it's always there with me. I catch glimpses of the places Molly has been, as if true memories. I hear snippets of Molly's conversations. She whispers to me, distracting me, beckoning me to put away the marking, forget the email, and finish writing her story the way she wants it to be written.

My Twitter novel will be based on my first novel, The Guardian. Admittedly, I hate The Guardian. I have picked it up and dusted it off and discarded it in digust enough times in the past almost-decade that it feels like the manuscript mocks me. And yet picking through the bones of the story, paring it down in order to fit the length of a Tweet, is fascinating, incredibly hard, and fun. I can't wait to begin Tweeting. The month or so between now and then seems like forever.

I have begun the planning. If all goes well, I should have enough time to plan the Tweets and go back and revise, at least once. Revision: the soul-sucker of the writing process. The more I read the manuscript, the more I both loathe and love it. My only hope is that people begin to follow me and then I can use that as a selling point for publishing Phase Shift, the next novel.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dreaming the cast

As I said before, most of my writing takes place in my head, when I'm driving in the car or waiting to fall asleep at night. In order to properly visualize the idea, I spend a lot of time casting my characters. The idea for The Guardian was formulated about 25 years ago. I was a student of Anthropology, dreaming of becoming an Archaeologist at the time. One of my favourite shows was Stingray, a show about a James Bondsy character that went around doing good deeds for the price of a return favour. Starring in the show was local boy Nick Mancuso. I became a fan of Nick's several years earlier when I first saw him in a movie called Ticket to Heaven, and sort of followed his career. In one of the Stingray episodes, Nick's character was called in to save an Indian burial ground that had been desecrated (at least that's how I remember it). I saw obvious ties to Archaeology and invented a female Archaeologist and her partner who were involved in a dig. The rest of the story evolved over the next twenty or so years.

I took a number of specialty English courses at university, mainly because I liked the exuberant teaching style of the professor that taught the courses. One of the courses was in Science Fiction English in which I was introduced to many classic and contemporary Sci-fi works. We were given a choice as to what we could do for the culminating activity project, and I chose to write a Sci-fi story. I wrote about Archaeologists once more. Obviously influenced by Simon and Simon, another of my favourites on the air at that time, I cast Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker as a pair of rival Archaeologists/Anthropologists who have to come together in order to solve a mystery. I got an A+.

Gerald McRaney, an actor that I love (and, based on Internet research, seems like an admirable and genuine person), was later cast in a similar character as Clinton Johns, Palmer Richardson's ex-friend and rival.

For years, I had cast Chris Noth as Gabriel Sykes and later re-cast the part with Joe Flannigan because I liked him as Sheppard in Stargate: Atlantis (I still love Chris Noth, by the way). I liked his boyish strength. I have seen him since, playing the nice boyfriend type. Though I would like to see him play a villian, I have once more cast him as the nice boyfriend type.

Michael Ironside is cast as Detective Constable Michael Crestwood, Palmer's policeman friend and department contact, because I like that he comes off as a bad ass, but can also play the nice guy, which describes Crestwood to a T. His gruff exterior is all for show. He is really a good guy at heart.

Guys are easy to cast. I'm still searching for the perfect actress to play Meagan, Molly's T.A.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'm a writer

I've written most of my life. My rendition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves won me an award in grade 2. I always carried a notebook in which I wrote "My Novel", which, to this day, remains unfinished. Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my ability and stopped writing, at least on paper. I never stopped imagining my stories. They kept me occupied when I was bored, or unable to fall asleep.

I began writing seriously about ten years ago. I had just switched school boards and was given a Writers' Craft course to teach. In order to teach it, I had to do quite a bit of research into writing and the writing process so I could break it down and teach it, and then everything gelled. The words seemed to flow onto the page. I had found my voice. I was, once again, a writer.

To date I have completed 2 as of yet unpublished novels, the second of which I'm still trying to market. The first one, The Guardian, has sat on my hard drive collecting virtual dust for about 5 years now. I take it down every once in a while, read part of it, try to revise it, and get frustrated. The problem is that my style of writing has changed so much between writing it and Phase Shift, my second novel, and I don't have the patience to rip it apart, as if it were partially knit sweater with a dropped stitch, and re-do it.

A few weeks ago, some friends of mine were discussing Twitter and how they were using it for business purposes and that got me thinking. And then I had a revelation, a completely unique idea, something no one had thought of ever before: why don't I tweet my way through my first novel? It could be in first person, as that's the point of view of most tweets on Twitter.

And so I began. I tweeted for about a week and then I realized: I could never have the novel play out over the month of May. I had to work. and I couldn't tweet during work. I moved the virtual site back a month. But I couldn't tweet during the month of June either.

I started to do research into Twitter novels and found that others had the same original thought as did I. Others had attempted to write Twitter novels with little success. Someone was using the idea as an assignment in her writing class! That settled it. I decided to take it all down, re-think my strategy and re-post over July and August. That way the plot could unfold in real time (or close to it) and I could post any time of day or night and I could make it work.

And now the waiting begins.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Molly's World

Almost 4 years ago now I went to a detective fiction convention. I was able to get an exclusive interview with an agent during the convention, with the hope of being "discovered". Unfortunately, they matched me with an agent who admittedly didn't like science fiction. This put me at a disadvantage to say the least.

The next day there was an agents' panel. I listened to one of the agents speak of how she was interested in archaeology (I was an archaeologist), and wanted to be a Forensic Anthropologist when she was younger (one of my characters is a Forensic Anthropologist). I mustered up enough courage to approach her after the panel and tell her about Molly and Palmer (my main characters). She was interested and said I should send her my work once I was done the revisions.

Flash forward to almost two years after that and I finish "Phase Shift", my second Molly novel. I send her the chapter that got me past the first round of eliminations in that year's Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Awards (ABNA) Contest and waited. Almost 2 months of nail-biting suspense later and I finally got her response:

"...while you're a good writer, I was not sufficiently enthusiastic to feel that I would be the best advocate for your work."

I hate this part. Searching for publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts (i.e., without an agent), making copy after copy and securing enough postage for the package of 300 plus pages to travel to and fro (no mean feat finding US stamps in Canada, by the way) - it gets so costly after a while.

With my Twitter novel, I'm banking on the "if you build it they will come" axiom, that people will want to follow me, I'll get read, and prove to the next publisher that my work really does have an audience.