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November 28th, 2009

Finding My New Groove

I've been working on the mental transition between "web cartoonist" to "writer" over the past week or two, with varying degrees of success. Some of it has been getting my tools up to speed -- clicky keyboard, updated version of WordPerfect[1], that kind of thing. The rest of it has been trying to train my mind to get back in the habit of thinking in terms of long-format fiction.

The Fictionlets have been a lot of fun and great use for keeping my prose muscles loose and active, but they are by their nature very different from working on a novel. Granted, if you string enough of them together, they'd be novel length, but 80,000 words of 500-word micro-stories is a very different beast from a single 80,000-word story.

So as I've been bending my mind towards writing as a more primary part of my life, I've been trying to come up with ideas large enough to sustain a novel -- and I don't mind telling you, it's hard! I've come up with a couple dozen premises that would be great for short stories (and writing them down, I never throw a good idea away), but a novel requires a much deeper framework than "cellphone found embedded in 5,000-year-old volcanic rock." You need a cast, a setting, two or three meaty subplots and a theme -- and you need a plot with enough actual plot in it to fill a book.

And it's that last part is the tricky bit, for me. Sometimes I can sit down and just start banging out something and a plot will unfold in my mind, but more often than not, after having established character and setting, I then go "Uh ... then what?" and get stuck. I'm pretty solid on writing entertaining-to-read prose, but that's just the icing. I need to come up with a proper cake to put under it, and that's where the hard part of writing is, for me.

-The Gneech

[1] Yes, OpenOffice is free, and so is that one from Google; but whether it's because WordPerfect is what I got my start in, or it's just a superior product, I'll leave for others to debate. I need to be working in WordPerfect to work comfortably, so Corel gets a bit more money from me. Le sigh!

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