Monthly Archives: October 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 4 (Final): Outline THIS!

One of the biggest parts of any writing is knowing what you’ll be writing, either by way of post-it notes, corkboard, chalkboard, or whiteboards. Notebooks, on the computer or not, wherever you can get your hands to fly and get your bursting creativity into some kind of writing.

So it makes sense that an important part of NaNoWriMo is to have an outline ready and set for the next 30 days, so you know where to go. There are pantsers, people who write by the seat of their pants without having much of anything prepared, who don’t need the outlines, who are perfectly fine with or seasoned veterans of their whims.

For those of us (me) who feel utterly lost when they don’t have anything planned out, outlines exist. Thank goodness.

Funny enough, I found this guide just a few days ago,  which nearly does my job for me, giving a good explanation of different ways of outlining and examples. It’s a good place to look for what kind of outlining might be best for you, or to see what type you identify with the best.

On the reasons of why to do this, “painting yourself into a corner” is probably one of the best reasons, in my opinion. One year, Friend killed off his MC in the middle of the novel. I know, it’s not terribly exciting, but I love this story, that he issued their death and then went on to finish the novel. He didn’t care for the finished product, but he didn’t stop. Nothing could stop him.

While it’s an awesome story of perseverance, it’s also a bit of a nightmare. Outlining, even if it’s vague and free written, can help you avoid getting stuck. If you know where to go, even just a little bit, you keep away from little plot holes that drag you in and don’t let go.

To know who’s in your main roster list, who they mostly interact with, and to have an idea of where the story is going, is a huge advantage.

I still remember last year when I’d come up with a basic idea of the first few chapters and then froze, unsure of what to do. I just paused and blinked at the screen for a few seconds. Despite having the bigger points and a huge amount of the meat of the story fixed and fleshed out, the beginning area was stumping me. I had months of preparation under my belt last year. At least I learned from that; when you have a big idea, a seriously big novel, sometimes it’s easy to overlook details.

This year I have mercifully made it a much smaller task to finish the novel…

With outlining, you also have a chance to research, which can lead to more ideas and, like the article says, a better flow for creativity, as well as to help with the movement of the plot and conflict. It can change the tone or set of the novel, when it’s just in its first stages of creation.

Any kind of preparation is going to be crucial to the novel and its structure, to how you write it and those terrible moments of brain blanking where you have no idea what you’re going to do next. Where is point A, and where is point B, and how are you going to get there? What is important enough to make it into the grand scheme of things and what’s just filler?

Whatever you put forward is going to help, but if you’re not the type to outline, or you don’t care for it, I invite you to try, even just a little bit. Write out the plot, a couple of characters, and see where it takes you. Free Writing is the best option, usually, for those who aren’t so used to outlining. It helps to just let out a flow of conscious, and you don’t need to be super specific about every little detail going on, save that for the writing come November 1st!

I wanted to squeak in a Happy Halloween to everyone celebrating it, be safe and responsible! And a HUGE good luck to any and everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year, starting midnight tonight, the writing frenzy begins!

My blogging will be reduced by another day or two, or they’ll be shorter. I will try to keep up as best as I can! Happy writing, whether you’re participating or not!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Dare: Collector

Just as much as one character says a lot about you, so too does what your roster look like.

Look at your stable of critters. There’s going to be some repetition in some traits of theirs, though they all treat it differently. Maybe there’s a few that are widowed, or they’ve just gotten out of a bad relationship. Some have children, some are still children, others are elderly.

Take a second to look at what you don’t have. Find something you haven’t done before and challenge yourself to come up with a character who has traits or does things that you haven’t written into before. Don’t hold yourself back from going wild, or, if you’d rather, create someone quiet.

A friend of mine once told me that he got flack for creating a wild and outrageous, and powerful, character, but the follow-up to that was, “if you want a character that’s a bartender or a farmer, that’s your business.”

Go between the spectrum, one extreme to the other, have a strong character, whose life and focus is on power, and have one whose life is less exciting in the violence department. Create a dentist. Or a UFC fighter. Or a brand new wizard whose fireballs only have enough power to knock over lampshades. Or a super soldier who has the best pedigree in the world.

“Add to your collection” of heroes, as it were, round out what you write. Go boldly where you haven’t gone before, whether it’s a library or an explosive war, and don’t let anything hold you back. Go all out. 😉

-The Novice Wordsmith

Out of Sync

Korielle sighed as she leaned back, running a hand through her hair and crossing one long, lean leg over the other in a show of seduction. “I guess I’ll just have to–

Crumple, erase, backspace until it’s gone. Sigh, stare at the screen or paper, purse of the lips. Wait. Think. Try again.

She looked out of the window with a forlorn expression, despite letting the jacket fall off her shoulders and showing long expanses of bare arms. “I’ll find a way,” she said. “I alwa–

“Dammit,” sigh, stand up, walk around, wait. Stare. Think. Wonder.

Being out of sync with your character or story is not only one of the most frustrating things you can encounter, but it’s hard to find where you are on the line that separates, “I should step back and wait,” and, “I need to hunker down and figure this out.” You know something is wrong, but how do you re-align yourself with your hero again to finally see what they really want to do?

Or… Is it more than that? Are they the ones acting out of character? Is there no other way for them to feel for this scene, where they want to jump the bones of another despite your wanting the scenario to go a different direction?

I’ve experienced both, really; where a character runs into a situation head on that I never expected, and it turns into something bigger than I could have imagined, and on the same token, I’ve created bad circumstance simply because I wasn’t so with it on that day. I’ve scrutinized a piece of writing over and over until I’ve felt it was right.

I’m reminded of a small piece of advice I learned, of little mistakes. “Just run with it.” It’s not so easy some times, though, when you have to be conscious of what’s better for the story or not. Smaller things can be passed off, but the bigger things take a lot of consideration, and some days, it’s harder to tell what lines up and what would make a better story.

As I’ve said I don’t know how many times, it’s difficult to take a step back. Forcing things often can make them worse, but letting things alone and just waiting for them to settle can take time and patience that even saints don’t have. Well, maybe not so much patience, but it does take a lot to be able to accept that you need to set your hands down, maybe watch a movie or play a game, do some other work, and just let your head reset for what you’ve been working on.

Seeing that you aren’t writing a character to par can be the first sign of that, too. Doubting yourself makes it worse, and then you keep digging and trying to make something work and it’s just frayed ends and bad wires. Don’t overwork it. Doing too much can make things worse, too.

Sometimes, after being able to find the voice of the character well enough, glancing back at what you were hedging on before might provide you with new ideas and an expansion to the one you had come up with when things weren’t all lined up.

One thing I’ve found that helped me recently was doing practice-writes, putting two characters together and just feeling out the scene without really intending to get anywhere. Such as Friday’s post said, don’t edit anything, no revisions, just write. If you need the practice, if you feel like you’re not getting the voice right, having a quick, easy scenario can sometimes be best for a writing-equivalent rough sketch.

The best part about being out of sync with your slew of characters is that it’s temporary. It just takes time away and some searching, but usually it doesn’t last too long and you’re back in the game. I’ve found that the best is not to force something that isn’t able to go te way you want it to.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Dis-Armed

So probably one of the most unfortunate things just happened at work, not 30 minutes into my shift. I thought I had just simply bumped my elbow into the door handle– no big deal– except it was a big deal because my hand was numbing and there was a lot of swelling on the site.

So I get the rest of the day off, but this means /i need to not work my right arm at all (that’s the injured arm). Likely, I should be okay to work tomorrow, but I’m not sure at the moment what will happen. Bleh. May post tomorrow if the arm is better, we’ll see. In case I don’t, you know why!

For now I get to sleep and keep the arm elevated. yay. I am already itching to write things and I can’t… it is too slow working with just one hand, but i can’t do much with both or the right arm hurts and I have to stop. The doctor mentioned physical therapy as an otpion if it’s gotten too bad, but i really hope it doesn’t come to that. I’m worried it might interfere with my November, but bruising isn’t a fracture, so there’s less worry there, right?

Here’s hoping it goes all right.

-The Novice wordsmith

NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 3: Guest Post: It May be Ugly, but it’s Mine…

Lesson from Friend, all the way from October 5, 2004

Do you remember when you were in grade school, and you had to make finger paint art, or macaroni art, or put together something out of clay? Do you remember how proud you were to give it to your parents, and how much more proud you were when it was given a prominent hanging space on the refrigerator door?

You’re going to close your eyes, shut off the logical part of your brain that says, ‘This sucks!’ and just write your fool head off. You are going to create art — and you are going to like it. Moreover, someone else out there will like it. They will say, ‘Wow, you did that?’

Why? Because to people who haven’t done it themselves, fifty thousand words is a huge number for them. So it will be impressive even before they open the cover. You don’t even have to show them. You can just answer the question, “What’s it about?” and gloss over the fact that you misspelled ‘refrigerator’ in Chapter Seven.

If they do read it, and they do find the misspelling (and oh boy there will be a lot of them, unless you religiously run your spellchecker before shutting down your word processor), you can say, “Oh, thanks! I haven’t edited the thing yet, that’s helpful.”

Kathy Coleman, of the Tai-Pan Project, I believe, was the one that told me that if your story is good enough, the mistakes matter less and less. Proof positive was the 17,800 word story I’d written, where there were more edits in the front half than the back half.

Write for November. Save your editing for December. Or better yet, January. You have all the time in the world to edit, revise, and clean up… but only November to write.

Q: So… like, you don’t revise at all?
A: Okay, I lied. I do revise a little bit. I go back within a day’s work and …get ready for it… ADD bits in order to flesh out a weak bit of the story. If I think a section of story is a little light on the description or emotion, I’ll re-examine what’s going on there, who the speaker is, and where they are in the story and then embellish on them a little bit more. It adds detail — and it adds to my word count. That’s what you call a win-win situation. I also correct spelling mistakes if they jump out and hit me over the head.

However– I NEVER throw out a part once it’s been written. I never trash a scene completely; you can kill scenes after November 30th, but if you just spent a day writing, KEEP IT. It’s word count. It’s stuff that makes up part of your story, or you wouldn’t have written it. It made sense when you first typed it out. And it builds characters.

Greg Connor , who also finished the NaNo with me last year, wrote scenes in non-chronological order. He’d set up an outline of where he wanted to go, and on any given day, he’d hang a chapter number on the bit he wanted to write for the day, and go from there. Mind, he’d also write Chapter 7.5 — proof positive that you can revise into the middle, too. It’s your story. You can always go back and add scenes.

A part of the key of doing the NaNo is that you have to write to a deadline that’s so huge-looking that you don’t have time to second-guess yourself. Your mind starts filling in the blanks just ahead of the next line of text, because our minds are geared to solving puzzles and setting order to the universe.

Dare: Elemental

In both the worlds of the zodiac and magic, everyone has an element that identifies them. Fire is feisty and bold, daring, Water is calm and tranquil, thoughtful, Earth is grounded and level-headed, wise, Air is unpredictable, playful, but soothing.

Go through your roster of characters. Is each one an obvious element, or are some more apparent while others are subtle? Is there a hero that feels like one element but embodies another?

Don’t stop there, consider the elements a little deeper. If you don’t believe in the zodiac, refer to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Other than simply their personality being directed by the sign/element, what is their preference for magic? Do they like being out near the bonfires, turning on the fire place, or would they rather spend the evening out on the balcony watching the rain? Maybe a sprawling forest is more up their alley, or is it when a storm with heavy winds is taking over that they feel most alive?

Or is it darker magic that they would seek out, in the blood and flesh of necromancy? Are they manipulators of nature, or of humanity?

On the other hand, is there more than one element involved, or are they singular? Are they a warrior type void of signs, or do they dabble all over in each element? Let the forces of nature (or flesh) take you on a journey.

-The Novice Wordsmith

“Nothing is Ever Good Enough”

Continuing on the sort of theme I’ve been on the past couple of days, I looked inward for another post. It’s been on my mind for a bit, but I was never sure how to breach the subject in a post.

One thing I see a lot in writing advice from time to time is that you will always find a flaw with your writing. There will never be a point in time where you’re simply finished with being critical of your work and instead entranced by all of what you turn out. Days will come and go where you don’t want to touch some of your writing, because you’re afraid of how bad it’ll turn out instead.

You will hate your work, and you will love it. Some of our best work in the eyes of our audience may be something we personally abhor.

You will turn out chapters and stories you are mystified and have the strongest sense of satisfaction about. You will be in love with the development and the strength of a character or a scene that you described.

The phrase “You are your own worst critic” is true, mostly because you can see the flaws, you can see where you want things to be stronger and better. Where the phrasing should have been different, or a character should have kissed someone instead of slapping them. Where you could have described the scenery better, or changed one word to better fit the situation.

In personal news, I see others play characters of mine, and sometimes, depending on who it is, I feel a pang of, “they’re better at this than I am. Why am I still writing this character? Why don’t I just give it to them?”

Worry, self-conscious thoughts, anxiety. It all ties in. It makes it worse, but I try to remember that I’m the one who created these characters. I’m the one who knows them best. I hold their voices, not someone else. Friends may catch on and see how they are very well, but they aren’t the proprietors, the voice wouldn’t sound the same under someone else’s writing.

The story itself would not be the same from someone else’s hand, either. Even the stories passed down from deceased authors to a new one with be different, sound different, because the same hand isn’t writing it. Everyone is different, style, tone, word choice, it’s all different. You wrote this character, you made the hero or the villain or the group of people or the plot itself with all of its twists and turns, for you, for how you write, and no one else.

So no matter how much you think it sucks, no matter how bad you might think it looks or how bulky or chunky or just unreadable it might be to you, keep going. Don’t stop, don’t hand it off, this is yours. These, every little element and tool and piece of the world, is yours, it’s everything you’ve put together, how many hours and how much effort you’ve gone through to make sure it’s how you envisioned it.

Don’t let anyone, or anything stop you. Least of all yourself.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Competition and Success

For the longest time, I remember being in limbo between being a great writer and being a writer who’s better than all of the others. Reading turns into a pissing match of how you could outperform someone, and how you could get the attention of an audience better than that author. Writing turns into a competition instead of a past time or something you want to do for a living, something you enjoy.

It seems like one of the most fundamental lessons, to see every other writer as a potential teacher instead of someone you’re in a race with. When you take the competition out, it changes completely. You’re more relaxed about your writing, you take it in stride, you bury yourself in it and you do what you feel comfortable with. You’re more able to find your style and run with it than trying to one-up someone else or make a “Style to Rule them All.”

A lot of it came from when I was younger, writing in school and others telling me how well I did. Swollen ego can do that to you, and being around people who have written for longer and can do it better than you is an extremely humbling experience if you have that problem.

I forget what really happened to make me stop and reconsider what I was doing, but I know it happened in the past couple of years. Probably, I’m willing to bet it came from a talk with Friend about writing style. An attack of feeling too self-conscious about how I was doing or not doing, and the all too famous, “but this person, got published, I bet I could do better!”

There are literally several dozen thousands of writers out there, if not millions. Both published authors and unpublished. There will be published authors you read and think your skill is better than theirs, and unpublished ones who baffle the hell out of you when you find out they’ve never been published. It is seriously such a mixed bag, but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Someone will find worth in your writing, if you want to get published. There is an audience out there.

It’s never about who you’re better than, but how you are, and how you do it.

Seeing others as someone to learn from opens new doors for you, to see what might work in your worlds or not, to test your own limits, to add to your vocabulary or your collection of ideas in some association. You go from bitter to supportive, wishing them the best in their endeavors instead of putting them down because you haven’t found your own success.

It’s so much easier for me to be happier for others, and that includes life outside of writing.

And so much nicer, not to get down about things. After coming to the realization that everything happens at different points in life for everyone, it became a lot easier for me to be happier. I know plenty of people think it’s a crock of shit to say that everything happens for a reason, but the phrase has given me a lot of peace of mind, and has made a lot easier to swallow in my life. Just because I’m not married or not popping out kiddos or traveling the world or working for a fortune 500 company or a world-renowned author by now, doesn’t mean I’m failing at life. It just means there are other things in my future.

Of course, it doesn’t mean sit around waiting for something to happen, it means: Make it happen, don’t let an inflated ego or a bruised one keep you down, go for it. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

For those who think that you can’t make your dreams come true, maybe it doesn’t work that easy for you. At least, find something that does, and do it until you can’t stand it anymore.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Taking Advice, or the Difference Between Writers and Non-Writers

Just as there are blogs and posts and pictures and near anything else dedicated to “Tips for Writing” there are as many out there about doing it wrong, what not to do, and generally what to avoid. While nothing is wrong with these, it can be if the person has had no previous experience in what they’re talking about, instead just passing the word.

The best word comes from someone who knows what it means, both through experience and observance.

I was reminded recently of a former friend who, after I had finished November last year, took to badgering me about finishing my work. On several occasions, I got messages with the caps lock on telling me to get to it already. Pushed and bullied, I felt the stress of having to complete something under someone else’s watch, but I never let him force me to do things.

One of the biggest reasons I didn’t take his words to heart  was because he wasn’t a writer like I am. He wrote journals every so often, and mostly he wrote about science fact, but on very rare occasion, he would write about something that related to his situation. Depressing, rather awful tales, that he wouldn’t touch after getting them finished. Which, I won’t judge: if that’s what he felt most like writing, more power to him, that’s fine.

… But when it comes to policing someone on what they should be writing and when, it is a lot better if you know by some experience what they’re going through before you cast judgement or forcefulness. Not that either of those are acceptable to do, either, because everyone goes at their own pace, not yours.

Fiction writers know fiction writers. It’s going to take some time, whether a small amount or a large amount, and we’re all different. We have good days where we can write chapter upon chapter and revise several and then move on to the next and further into our story. Then we have stretches of days or weeks where we just can’t get into things where they’re at (which, if that’s the case, try changing things up with how you see them at that moment).

If anyone is going to pressure you, it should be yourself, but not to a breaking point, and certainly not making you feel like trash until you do it. To make progress, you need to have some kind of confidence in yourself, to feel like you’re making headway instead of just doing something you should have done. While pressure and negativity work to help motivate some, it is not always the case for others.

Really, too, if you’re writing something for yourself, it shouldn’t have a damn lick of pressure to it. It’s yours. This is your story. You write when and how you like.

Your ideas for publishing, too, are your own. Don’t let someone deter you from doing what you want because they “think” that they have a better idea of how to go about it. There have been plenty of singular books published as a first publication of a first time author, the same as there’s been the first in a series, or the first in a trilogy.

I guess part of this I’m writing for myself. After months of being pushed around and chewed on like I don’t know what I’m doing, I want to do my best to prevent it from happening to anyone else. Thankfully, this person no longer corrupts my daily life, but he left a lasting impression that I don’t care for. Not that I really took any of his “lessons” to heart (I have Friend for that, I trust him more), but I still listened to what he had to say.

What bothered me most about him was that he kept shoveling advice at me that I didn’t ask for. “Publish this first,” “work on this, I want to see it, I want to edit, let me edit for you,” “You do too much of this, you shouldn’t,” “don’t do this,” “why would you do that?” “Why don’t you take out the parts you worked on with this person and work on it with me instead?”

Not only did I not ask for it, but from someone who didn’t write like I did, who had no aspirations to do such or even to publish himself, he found himself qualified because he had heard from others who did. A non-writer telling me that I was taking too long was exactly the way to make me want to scream.

I have trust issues with people who dispense unsolicited advice. Even more so when they’re not qualified to give it.

Whatever it is that you decide to do, do it on your terms, do it because you want to. Writing the book is going to take time, series writers can sometimes take years to bring about another book, and getting published can range from fairly easy to ‘holy shit, is this ever going to happen?’ Read advice from people who write what you write. Who know the endless worlds that you get into, who have seen what you want to see. Learn from their experience, not someone who has a lack of it.

– The Novice Wordsmith

( I guess on that note I have some room to talk, but as a writer, I like to think I have some license to it. )