Category Archives: Lessons/Wisdom

Return

Last year, in January and onward, I was working on a piece that would turn into a project I’d pick up in April and try to work on for the Camp Nanowrimo of that month. I was sluggish and it was difficult to maneuver through it; though I had a general idea of what I was doing, that was pretty much all I had.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, when I’m about to close out the front of it after doing something of an overhaul on it.

I find it kind of funny, really. I’d sort of been on autopilot with it after camp, and then I just kind of faded and stopped working on it. In August, I found new momentum with it. Parts of the whole story that had once been difficult to tell and sculpt together were coming together with ease. I knew how the story got started, I had villains, I was making a stronger novel out of it. A proper one.

A year after going into it somewhat blindly, with only some interest to back me up, I finally found out how to run with it.

It’s sort of odd in its own way. Usually when I find myself interested in writing something, I actually manage to turn out a decent story. Now I wonder if I just plainly wasn’t ready to write this one at the time. It’s a new experience, to deal with this, seeing myself flounder at first and now flying through it with renewed fervor.

Partially, it reminds me of the ideas we have when we’re young. Our first ideas, the less developed ones we’re rapt with in the beginning and then they fade off, and we pick them up and then they fade off until eventually we get our fingers around them again and don’t let go, to the point we finally finish and have a product we’re immensely proud of and were excited to finish in the first place.

I have yet to get to that part, the forever-with-me idea from my youth, turning it into something, but I’ll get there eventually. It being a supernatural story in essence, I fear it’s been done to death.

But other than the undead story that off and on held my attention, I seem to always come back to one genre. I think we all do, really, we have that go-to that speaks to us and finds us better than the others, because we enjoy writing in it and we’re confident with our knowledge.

My go-to genres seem to be sci-fi, but not action, and not horror or thriller or crime (though I have a space opera waiting to be worked on some more), no. It’s drama. The nitty gritty of social gossip and class warfare in the name of romance. Maybe not so much class warfare, but I think you get the idea.

And for having all of these incredible actiony ideas and blow-you-away profoundness, I feel like it makes me come off as frivolous or silly. But I’ve always loved love. Writing erotica this November was like breathing. Nothing felt challenging about it part from working out pace and flow and how it ended and when things were figured out, so nothing to do with the genre. Writing romance is just my passive skillset, I think, and I love it.

One guess as to what this story is from last April that I’m bounding through now. Yeah. No surprise, right?

Which is why I mention coming back to that genre. You always have something you return to, something that feels comfortable, something you know you can push through with ease. And you’re so good at it because it interests you so much, it gets you thinking, it pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

And no matter what it is that brings you back, over and over, don’t ever feel bad about it. Embrace it.

The Novice Wordsmith

PS- One last little mention. Speaking of Camp NaNoWriMo, it is coming up this April and in June of this year as well. It is unlike NaNoWriMo because you can set your own goal, even if it is just revisions. Give it a look-see over at campnanowrimo.org.

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Coming in Fighting

happy_new_year_2016

My mom told me once, years ago, that the way your New Year’s Day went would indicate what your year was going to be like.

Even after knowing it was an old wive’s tale, I tried to see if it was true. Of course it wasn’t, but it never stops me from trying, from seeing what comprises of my first day into the new year. If nothing else, it helps me try to start the year off right.

It’s hard for the year to be measured in a day. You can’t expect to be jobless by the end of one after having one coming into it. Loss can’t be seen from a single day, from the bottom of the hill before you climb up it to see the actual view. All that you can really tell is if that day feels good to you.

But last year, I started it off with writing, after having so much difficulty over the summer and fall. I conquered what blocks and sluggishness held me back, and that was reflected well in my writing that year, doing better than what I had done the one before.

So this year I wanted to start it fighting, and writing, and hopeful, and impossibly optimistic.

And while I know that an old wive’s tale isn’t true, I believe in setting the pace for the year, like it’s a race or a run of some kind. Figuring out how fast you want to go is the key to whatever you do have in your control.

Though, on the other hand, I do encourage taking advantage of nap time. There’s nothing sweeter.

If there is something I have learned from this past year, though, it is the importance of being kind to yourself. If you feel like something is wrong, or you can’t handle something, or you aren’t getting enough chance to fill your lungs with air, examine what’s going on, and what can change. What should change.

Life is already going to put you through hell, you don’t need to help it make you feel worse. You have limits. Listen to them.

Thank you, for those who’ve been watching me this past year. I know my posts have been sparse and erratic at times, but I appreciate you putting up with me and my wisdom whenever it surfaces.

Here’s to another, and hopefully better, year.

Cheers,

The Novice Wordsmith

Crossing the Finish Line

First of all: Holy shit. I just finished my first novel ever.

This past November had rough parts, but overall it has turned out to be not only my most productive, but my most successful as well. I wrote the epilogue and final words to the novel this morning at 4:30 am.

After pushing myself through with the mantra of, “Just get it done, edit later, don’t worry about anything but getting through the chapter, you know what you want to happen,” I reached the finish line, almost a whole month later.

I kept meaning to post about NaNo during Nano, but it never happened. I mean to do so many things for this month that I didn’t get to on the blog. I wanted to keep encouraging everyone and give progress updates and say awesome things and show off things I’d found through the Facebook group for my Wrimo region, there was so much on my mind, but I had just kept diving into the novel further.

Which is the right thing for me to have done anyway, but again I find myself looking back at how I push myself and causing undue stress because of my ambition.

Either way, I muscled my way through to a finished first draft and I couldn’t be happier. I only hit 85k at the end of the month, 5k off from my personal best, but overall this was a much more successful time than any others.

I’m ecstatic that I finally finished something. That I had finally forced myself to stay on task and get through to the finish line like I had written about so many months before. It is an incredible feeling to know you can finish something, like reading a huge book and looking back and saying, “you know what? I did that.”

And I did. And all it takes is to push through. Shove away the thoughts that it’s not good enough. You’ll get to it later, there’s always the chance that you can go back and fix it when the time comes, but what’s most important, always, is to get to the end. Find a first draft. Make mistakes. Screw up. Make epiphanies to new hooks and ideas and go back and work on them later, but do it, at all.

The hardest part will always be getting through the initial stages. Do not work for perfection, just work. Think about the ideas and get to them. “Just so many more chapters or words until I get to this,” and keep setting goals, mini goals, things you can reach for.

It is so satisfying to look back at what I wrote and to know that I managed to get all of my ideas and visuals out on a document.

I remember getting discouraged about Friend pushing past me in a blaze of glory last year and the year before. “I should be hitting 100k too,” or “I should be at what you’re at,” and his response was the same: “I’ve been doing this far longer than you have.”

You aren’t going to get it on the first try, but that does not mean that you are not going to get it at all. It takes crap attempts and bad months and really shitty drafts, but you’ll eventually find what makes it through to the end.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that an erotica was the first thing I finished. It was the first time I had written a novel for that genre, and I enjoyed writing every word of it. Well, almost, some were more boring than others, but it was still an incredibly fun experience for me. Something new and it turned out to be the spark to a fire I hadn’t discovered yet.

But everything takes time. It’ll take time to hone your skills and get better at writing and developing a style. It takes time to learn how you work and how you build characters. You have to figure out how you work and then find something that works with how you do.

Still, I know it’s not as easy as saying just that, but seeing someone say it helps. If you’re like me, not being the best can be discouraging. Just remember to keep your chin up and worry about what’s on your screen, not anyone else’s, and eventually, you’ll get where you need or want to be.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Live vs. Private

When it comes to writing, I know two versions. Writing with an audience while the words flow, live, in the moment, and private, when I do it on my own and go over the lines and dialogue carefully, constructing it to as near perfection as I can.

I’ve been musing over it idly for the past week or so, the differences between the two and how they feel. Some stories are just better when they’re live, when someone sees their development and how they change and taper and what you create on the fly, and you can see their feedback as you feed them written word. They are the stories of the moment. They have a lasting power as being right there.

Other stories, however, are best told, written in private and edited and preened and gone over a dozen times. They’re better when you can hold the full copy in an e-mail or a few pages in a journal somewhere. They read better as a cohesive piece, all at once.

Both have their merits. I like to write at Friend a lot because it helps me shape something while I’m thinking about, and also because I enjoy watching how he reacts. He also has an input, throwing ideas at me while I go. Sometimes it’s just because I’m too impatient to write it all in one piece, and I write faster when it’s at him instead of a full piece for him.

Usually, he’s my only audience. But that’s when private pieces come more in handy, if there’s more than just him that wants to see the piece or that I need to show it to. The traditional, cohesive piece in one place is easy, and reliable to find. It also lets me go back and scrap it if I decide it isn’t what I want.

I’ve had pieces I’ve worked on for days and ended up throwing in my scrap heap because re-reading it showed it just wasn’t working. I could try and try but there was no making it happen.

Then again, I’ve had live pieces I’ve started and had to stop early because it wasn’t coming out right, too. But jumping in on the moment and running with what you have spontaneously, improv-style, free-style, helps develop swiftness, I think. When you put yourself in a spot where you have to come up with something immediately, you get creative.

I don’t think I really prefer one or the other, though maybe there’s a bias toward Live, but they both have their ups and downs. It all depends on mood. But however the mood strikes, let it take you wherever it wants next time.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Stubbornness vs. Rightness

In the past couple of months, I’ve been working a full time job at a very busy veterinary hospital. And when I say hospital, I mean it: it’s 24 hours, there’s urgent care staff on ’round the clock, they have an operating room, they book several surgeries a day ranging from simple (spay, neuter) to complex (mass removals, etc), and they have as many as 20 doctors employed.

It had been a job I wanted for years, literally. When I was unemployed, I applied twice, interviewed twice, and was rejected twice. I loved the idea of being up front and helping people, and being able to reach out and be part of the help they were seeking for their pet.

The problem was, despite the fact that they were so intensely, crushingly busy, and I never reacted well to that, I still took it up eagerly. It was a very quick process that left my head spinning, and my first day there was disastrous, but I was determined to stick with it. And so the second day was better, and the third, and I kept learning and getting better at what I was doing until I was turned loose as an independent part of the system.

And it got worse from there.

It is really hard for me to admit that I am absolutely bad at being under pressure in a constant cycle. I can do it when it happens every so often, I’ve found ways to handle it before, but when it springs up unexpectedly and often, it gets to me. It’s hard to handle, and I make more mistakes because I’m just trying to get through things.

I was not going to let that get in the way. I felt like it was just circumstance, and I’d get better. Even though I would come home, feeling the lack of communication with certain close friends and the huge cut in free time I had, considering moving on to a different job, I stuck it through.

Shit, I even pined for the old job I had some days, but I figured I would be fine. No big deal. It was just me having a bad day.

And then I lost the job.

On top of feeling depressed about the outcome, I felt relieved. I kept finding reasons to be okay with it. I mean, I was still flabbergasted at how out of the blue it was, the final day of my probationary period, and I was getting axed because they could do that still, but part of me was glad for it.

And it came to me yesterday, that the job really wasn’t for me. I came home from the interview (which was a simple observation for two hours) feeling the emotional drain and knowing it might be a bit much for me. The first day was nightmarish. I had been considering not saying yes to it in the beginning, but I went with it anyway because it was an opportunity, it was what I wanted.

But you have to realize that sometimes, what you think you want isn’t always going to be what fits you.

I wanted to write this to impart this wisdom on everyone, as it applies to writing and challenging yourself to genres you aren’t used to or characters you don’t do so well with, or really anything, whether it’s someone else’s suggestion for you and your wish to see it out, or your own thinking that you should be able to do something.

It is 100% okay to not be cut out for something, no matter what it is. 

Just that the hard part is convincing yourself of that, if you’re as stubborn as I am.

If something becomes too much, or it isn’t enough, or it’s just overwhelming, you reserve the right to tell it no and move on to something that feels better. Do not worry.

This pertains as much to NaNo as possible, too, considering you may be trying something new out. If it doesn’t work, find something else and jump on. Shift gears. Get comfy somehow else. You’re allowed to. It’s all part of the learning process, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith

NaNope

I think I had already mentioned that April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was less than thrilling for me. It went “well” but I was having the same problem I had in November. Stuck. Taking too long. Adding more than I needed to. I think I’ve mostly fixed it by now, but I can’t be certain. And that only makes me more worried for November.

This November, which has been creeping up on me and reminding me over and over again that it’s right effing there. That I keep forgetting about. That I feel like I don’t have enough time for anymore. That I’m realizing is a whole hell of a lot closer than I thought it was.

I’m at least more decisive this time. I have two ideas, a thriller and an erotica, both of which I haven’t done before. One is set in Antarctica and the other is another tribal village setup. I started out strong with the erotica, but the thriller’s getting a little bit of my attention. Another’s come up, earlier, inspiration from a History show my dad was watching about the Wild West criminals. Steampunk Wild West, actiony. It lost steam after the erotica showed up in my head.

Anyway, I’m still more worried, despite what I’ve got here, all my inspiration. I want to finish something. I want to get a strong start and forge ahead. I don’t want to fall behind and lose interest. Again.

I’ve found myself wanting to re-write the last year’s NaNo novel though, almost completely from what I made it to be. I remembered that I had wanted it to be a-romantic but because it was easier for me, I went the romance route to try and get better at working on it.

I’m really hoping I have my head straight on my neck this time and that I can give my first win a run for it’s money. But I’m worried that maybe I’m holding myself back because of that win. That I’m making that my sort of end-all be-all without meaning to.

Also, I have a full time job. Having eight hours cut out of five days out of the week is going to hurt my numbers, I think, because I won’t be able to write at work unless I bring a notebook with me and do things on my break. I’ll have to write as much as I can while I have the time, and what if I don’t have the inspiration or the go or the ability or care to really write when I have that in front of me?

It’s a lot of what ifs and maybes and I’m just hoping I can move past it. There’s been a lot of change in the past month and it’s shaking up my routine. Being in unknown territory can unsteady my balance, and I just want to make sure I don’t fall flat on my damn face.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do 92k words again, but at least I’ll get some serious writing done. That’s what NaNoWriMo is about anyway, right?

-The Novice Wordsmith

I see Tropish People

About a month ago, I got a new job. It’s about ten times more exciting, stressful, and emotional than the one I had before. I also cannot write at that one, I’m too busy getting people checked in, checked out, and reuniting people with their pets.

There is a lot more traffic at this place, an animal hospital that I’ve been wanting to work at for years, now.

Whereas before, I used to see inspiration every so often in a few people who came or went, or in the people who lived at the facility, it’s about ten fold now. When traffic is higher, when there’s more going on, there’s more to see and notice and understand.

And I freaking love it!

People watching, as I’ve said before in so many other journals, is one of my favorite past times. It’s how I make new characters, come up with odd new conflicts or find a new novel angle. To see tropes played out in person has a wild effect, a fun one, one that makes me want to write them into a story somehow.

One of my first days was one of my favorites. Big man, with a police chief’s badge on his breast pocket. Frowning, he seemed unapproachable.

Except there was a small bichon frise puppy in his arms and he was making kissy faces at it, wiggling his fingers in front of its nose and teasing it to bite him. He mentioned it was his wife’s dog, but you could tell how attached he was to it.

Then there was the upset businessman who had a conference call at 3 pm and this is why he picked a 2 pm vet visit, so he could make that call. He left in a huff just five minutes to 3.

Or the blue collar couple who came in with their little yorkie, calling her a diva. Small woman with a big attitude, probably a waitress– though she was nice the entire visit– and her husband, the larger, quieter manual worker.

That was just within the first week. I’ve met countless others. It turns my head into a storytelling wonderland. I come up with backgrounds for people I don’t know, little maybes or what ifs depending on their attitude or their language, bodily or verbal. I see the tropes everywhere, and it isn’t hard to imagine what’s behind the front, the same thing you see in every movie or show or novel, but what may be is something wildly different than the norm.

This is definitely a good job for me. Even though the emotions and tensions run high, I really enjoy it. The people, the puppies, the kittens, and the staff all make it worth while.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Putting Pen to Paper…

But not Just Any Pen or Any Paper. This is a lovely article that Friend pointed me in the direction of months ago that I meant to share.

It’s the same message that Natalie Goldberg writes about in Writing Down the Bones, within one of the first chapters. To write anywhere, in any format, with any pen or pencil, is to expand how you write in a unique way. It helps build uniqueness, character, experience. To fill notebooks and journals and anything you find in any way, with scribbles or notes, thoughts, or full stories, because you can, because it’s a way to write.

The message isn’t hard for me to take to heart, and I find myself wondering about buying a new journal to fill, giving myself that challenge, but I have a few already that I’ve been trying to do that with…

I will say that it’s incredibly satisfying to finish a journal from front to back. I am, unfortunately, one of those people who stacks journals, but I don’t fill them very often.

Whether you fill it or not, though, and whether it’s a single page or a stack of them bound together, all adds to the experience.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: A House of Prose, and Don’t be The Lauren

Everyone’s a critic.

When you ask for an opinion from someone on something you’ve done, what you’re secretly asking is ‘do you like this?’ And you secretly want them to like what you’re showing them. It’s the author’s curse; we want to be published, but we need to write something that people can relate to enough to want to buy.

The underpinnings of our society dictate that we have to ‘get along’, ‘be liked’, and ‘hold approval.’ Popular people are who we hear about; unpopular people are spoken about derisively or with hatred sometimes.

Books and writing our expressions of our writer’s soul. It is the innermost child (..or occasional lurking adult) seeking the light of day and the likes of others.

We pick our genre, the one we feel the most at home with, and we decorate the house of our novel home with the things that belong there. A family of characters, or a single person looking out the windows. A bunch of good-natured or mean neighbors to challenge the family. And then there are the things that try and burn the house down or break in and steal their stuff.

I say it’s a house here because the analogy is apt to me; we ‘live’ in the space of our novel when it’s going good, and then when it’s done, we do our best to spruce it up and invite guests to come visit.

I’ve lived in a few places over the years; that first moment when someone new sees my new place they always look around. Form impressions. Some of them look at the things I have on the walls, some of them look at my knickknacks, some of them look at my furniture, and a few of them poke their head in the bedroom.

“Nice place.” they say. Whether they’re being polite or not, I don’t know. But then again, I live in a rental, so it’s not a house I can do a lot of decoration with. I’ve been in a few houses that I’ve said, ‘this is a gorgeous place.’ I have things that I want in my house, so when I see one of those things, I appreciate it.

Now apply that idea back to books again.

Some folks can write an amazing epic tale that grabs you from the get go; some folks write a ramshackle tale that barely holds itself together; you can see the holes in the plot like you notice crayon marks or holes in the walls.

It is not a reflection on the owner/author; it is all about the _everything_ in the house/novel, rather than the bits that you notice that stick out to you.

I’ve got a friend that I’ll call Lauren. She wanted to be a writer, because I was one. She participated in the NaNoWriMo, because I did, and people really liked my first novel.

When she read it, the first thing she asked was, “Is this about you? Is that character there me?”

(The answer was no and no. Because I am not a six foot tall efficiency expert who drives a convertible.)

Then she started poking holes in the novel. Pointing out typos, a half-finished sentence here and there, that sort of thing.

“I know.’ I said, defensively. “It’s a first draft. Thanks.”

When she won NaNo for the first time, she gave me her first effort at writing a full length novel. Asked me what I thought.

It was a pretty good tale, but she got lost in the weeds when she hit Week 3 and there were two very similar characters that I kept getting mixed up, and there was another point where she was missing parts of the description because she was in what I call ‘fugue state’ — you can see the action in your head, and it’s rushing fast, but she didn’t put it all down on the page.

“Did you want me to make edits or did you just want an opinion?”

“Just an opinion. I know my writing sucks.”

“I liked it. It had some good suspense elements, and your heroine is genuinely likable. Your supernatural elements are solid, too. And your writing does not suck.”

“Do you think I could get it published?”

“I think it needs some work before you can get there. There are some elements that need more details, and your ending is a bit rushed. I’d like to see more of the world, too.”

“You hate it.” she said.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s good! It’s a first draft and I like what I see here. That’s the nature of the Nano — nobody ever produces a perfect first draft, but the Nano makes you actually finish that first draft. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have finished it.”

Later, I heard she’d shared it with some of her other friends, with the additional rider comment that she felt I didn’t like it, because I didn’t think it was good enough to get published. Of course, she was giving it to friends who liked her as a person, and since she had predetermined for them that she was looking for praise, not critique, by way of ‘Friend didn’t like it, I’m hoping you will’ — she was told what she wanted to hear, rather than the truth. And when one of her friends, who is usually bluntly honest, said that it was ‘scattered and disorganized’, Lauren was done showing people. The manuscript went somewhere dark and never saw the light of another person’s eyes again, for fear of disapproval.

She tried her hand at writing the sequel the next year, because like many first time successful novelists, they still have a story left to tell. And it’s easier to work within an existing world than it is to spin up a brand new one.

But she got sick the first week, and stopped writing, and because she was a week behind, she gave up. This was the same year I wrote 100K words in the month.

She hasn’t attempted the Nano since.

For me, the NaNoWriMo is one of my life’s passions. I’ve done it every year for the past twelve. I talk about it a lot. Whenever I’m with friends or family, and I bring up the idea of Nano and they like the idea and are impressed with someone who can write that much in that little time, none of them really ask, ‘Yes, but are they good novels?’ If they do, or they ask when I’m getting published, I just grin and say, “I’m still working on that part. It’s a first draft, and a story that needs to be told, and one of these years I’ll like something enough to edit it and try and get it published. But it’s great practice and a grand adventure that I willingly take every year.”

They are invariably encouraging.

Lauren, if she’s also present, frequently jumps into the conversation with the “Hey, I wrote for the Nano too…” (Subtext: I want some of the positive attention you’re getting.)

“Oh cool!” is the response. “What are you writing this year?”

“Oh, I’m not likely to. I did it once about six years ago.” she says. “I have a bunch of good ideas, but I don’t have the time.”

Predictably, that means the focus goes back to me shortly after, because I have Ideas and Advice and Encouragement That You Should Play This Year. Nano is my passion, and I believe everyone should play at least once — if not more than once — because everyone has that lurking story in the back of their heads, triumphs, troubles,tasks, thoughts, tribulations, trout that traversed the trawler’s tail temporarily, those things. Tall tales. Truth, too.

At the end of one of those days, Lauren asked, “How come they never acknowledge me as an author like they do you? Do I suck that badly?”

“You didn’t show them your work.” I said. “You can’t know that they won’t like it until you show them, and the people you showed all liked it.”

“You didn’t like it.” she said.

“I did. I’m sorry you don’t think I liked it because I offered constructive criticism.”

“Well, I’m not a writer anyway.” she said.

Don’t be the Lauren, ladies and gentlemen. Write because you want to. Write because you have an amazing idea that’s half-baked — and understand that it’s okay to write a story that goes awry in the first chapter, as long as you follow the prose wherever it goes.

Don’t write because you need to be loved vicariously through your writing. I’ve written some of my best work when I was miserable, because pain is a crazy good resource to write out of sometimes.

Do write because you have a world you want to share, no matter how big or how small the space is. Do write because you want to finish the story, or at least take it for a spin around the block. Or the galaxy.

You never publish what you never write.

Nobody will ever see the house that you’re afraid to invite them over to visit. And when you decorate the walls with your art, be it imitations of the Masters or kid macaroni art, when you get your furniture of gleaming chrome and exquisite silks, stuff you, personally, might never be able to afford, but your characters can?

Don’t expect everyone who visits to want to move in. It’s your house of prose. You wrote it. You made the installment payments of 50,000 words or more (or occasionally less). Maybe the back rooms aren’t done. Maybe the roof has leaks that you didn’t see. Maybe the patio door is hung upside down. But it’s your home, the home of the tale you had to build from the ground up, and you ought to be proud of it.

You can always redecorate later, but you’ve got to turn the key in the lock and drag the readers in, first.

Build your first story, and you have the beginnings of a homeworld that is uniquely yours.

Basket Weaving for Fun: The Prose and Cons

In many of my posts before, I’ve mentioned character depth and development. Just pick one, there’s likely to be something about it. It’s something I’m constantly writing about it, mostly because there are so many aspects and facets to cover and help bring life to a character that is at first two dimensional.

Among their unforgettable facets, is what they pursue as a hobby. Consider that. Even the most alien of creatures has a hobby, don’t they? Unless they’re a robot with no emotional sensation, there’s bound to be something they want to spend their down time doing.

Whether it’s making art out of an unusual medium (bottle caps, broken claw shavings, old aluminum cans), or just having something to do idly (crochet, collections, coloring), or maybe it requires a lot of focus, getting their mind off of whatever their day held (musical instruments, DIY projects, leather crafting). Come up with your own, to fit the universe, or explore those that already exist.

Characters who go through retirement are twice as likely to have hobbies, just to keep them busy. Maybe they volunteer somewhere, or they’ve taken up pottery, or knife making, or magic. Or, one of my favorites that sneaked over into my life, putting together flower arrangements.

As with every other minor detail, hobbies have a place to come up along the story line. It’s a small mention, usually. Maybe their downtime is being encroached upon by a new responsibility and they’re reflecting on what they’ll lose the ability to do. Their cousin or father could say a word or two in the direction of what they’ve been doing when they aren’t busy with more pressing matters.

There exists the chance of overpowering the story line if you give too much time and energy to explaining what they’re doing, unless it fits with the way it’s going. Maybe a chapter or scene filled with thought and wonder, while their hands move about with a needle or they push off from a balance bar in a complicated dance move.

But let’s tuck away the idea of how to put it into a story first and look instead at how well they do. The usual start is a slow one, steady, bad. “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at it,” are the lovely words of Jake from Adventure Time, and I have to agree. However, there are others who manage to pick something up and are more than halfway decent at it on the first try. (Those people tend get a lot of hate, though, because how dare they be so great so quickly?!)

Think of it as if it were your hobby, in a way. Writing was simply a hobby for me when I was a kid, and I had an off again on again relationship with it for several years before it punched on hard and became more than simply a time-pass. It’s become a cultivated interest.

Watercolor and drawing haven’t had quite the same click with me. I’ve been wanting to be more prolific with them, but it doesn’t come as easily as writing. Painting was a great escape and outlet for me after the passing of my mother, however, and it’s always a wonder to see how colors play together, and to make my own art that I’m proud of.

Our main characters are an extension of life, and they live immortal in written or typed word. Whatever they find enjoyable when there’s nothing else imminent says a lot about them, as it would for us as the authors.

The meticulous and detail-oriented would find refuge in the ship-in-a-bottle. Free-spirits gravitate toward dance or paint or sculpting. Rule-driven may lose hours in the physical, such as running or martial arts. Creativity can abound in any of these, not simply limited to the arts, though there tends to be more room for it there.

I shouldn’t forget that video games are a hobby, too… Seeing as I tend to spend a lot of time doing them myself, and here’s something for every type of person there. An aversion to them, or a pull, still has something to say about the character.

Whatever it is that’s said, muttered, whispered, screamed or giggled, explore it, find it, away from the novel or the story you’re working on if you have to. Dedicate a small scene for it, all its own, independent of anything else, just to see how it fits, to see what they do and how they do it. Feel out the smaller parts of a bigger picture.

-The Novice Wordsmith