Posts Tagged “writing”
Posted by Pike in writing, tags: writing
(You guys won’t mind too terribly if I turn this into a weird writing blog while I NaNo, will you? You won’t? GREAT! <3)
So I've been doing NaNo this year. Before you ask, last year's NaNo is in publishing limbo. You know, where books go to hang out for years and years and years before a great and holy publisher decides to save them from eternal torment. Or something. (Don't worry, if it takes too long I'm gonna get impatient and e-publish).
Well, I've been working on this year's NaNo, tossing words onto pages and in general just trying to get the story out. Here's the weird thing, though: it doesn't really feel like writing. See, I’ve spent the past year editing, so to me editing has sort of become synonymous with writing. Editing is where you chisel out the story. Editing is where, to borrow a phrase from Michelangelo, you set the angel free.
So I’m feeling really awkward about actually writing. I feel like making the outline was kneading the clay, writing is dumping it on the potter’s wheel, and editing is actually shaping something out of that giant, messy lump of clay spinning in front of you.
Of course, the catch is that in pottery, putting the clay on the potter’s wheel takes about half a second, and in NaNo, it takes all month.
It’s a weeeeeird feeling.
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I’ve recently made it a personal goal of mine to write one novel-length book every year for the rest of my life.
…ambitious? Eh. I’m reasonably certain of my abilities to do it. And hey, no one said I was sane about this sort of thing.
(Just between you and me, I have this fantasy of somebody discovering this huge box full of dusty old manuscripts years after I die and it somehow making this big impact on said person’s life, but then again I have weird fantasies.)
Anyways, I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo again, because I’ve found that, for me anyways, there is nothing like a healthy combination of peer pressure and a Daily Word Count graph to get you off of your butt and writing.
Now last year I wrote my book entirely in Open Office, which is a spectacular program by the way. And you know what, Open Office is great for if you’re just making it all up as you go along, which is what I was doing last year.
This year is different. This year I already have a pretty strong outline of the entire story. On top of that, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over this last year of editing, it’s that going into the project with a strong idea of linear progression for every plotline in your book will save you a lot of headache later on down the road.
So, having heard good things about these newfangled “writing programs” that give you a place to sort said plotlines, I went off in search of one.
I downloaded and tried a few. Most were too simple, or too complicated, or didn’t have what I was looking for. A program called “Writer’s Cafe” came pretty close but the trial was pretty limited and I didn’t feel like forking out the cash, especially since I’m still unemployed at the moment. A different program, an open source project called Kabikaboo, also came close, but ultimately it’s an outlining tool more than a writing tool (although to be honest, it’s a pretty dang good outlining tool and I’ll probably be using it as a supplement while I write this year’s book.)
Still, it was looking more and more like I’d be writing in Open Office again when I got Scrivener working in Wine.
See, Scrivener is known as the writing app, and for years it’s been Mac-exclusive. Recently, they released a beta test for Windows, and of course, all us Linux dorks came crawling out of the woodwork on the forums– but I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Basically, the main idea of Scrivener is breaking your writing project down into little manageable chunks, which you can then assign custom tags and re-arrange at your leisure. This makes it easy to move scenes around and organize the aforementioned plotlines.
It’ll look something like this (sneak peek of my upcoming book! Le gasp!):
The "Corkboard" View
...and the Outline View
As you can see, as a way of testing the program, I’ve tossed a bunch of my book’s early scenes into the program, and I’ve been able to sort them and tag them and summarize them, and already I can see how helpful this is going to be for keeping track of all those pesky plotlines.
I’m sure it’s got all sorts of other functionality that I’ve yet to discover, as well.
My only real concern at this point is being able to export the final project out to a different format if needs be; I haven’t yet tested it and while it has an export to .rtf feature I need to see how nicely that will play with Open Office. That’s next up in the Testing Queue.
But lemme tell you what really sold me on Scrivener already.
Remember when I mentioned that all of us crazy Linux folks showed up at the Scrivener forums, helping each other get it working and providing bug reports alongside everyone else?
Well apparently the Scrivener programmers were pleasantly surprised at this and are gonna throw together an (albeit unofficial and unsupported) Linux-native version for us to play with. In their own time.
Wow. Making a version of your software for less than 1% of the desktop market share, just to be nice. I’m so impressed. I mean, you could make the argument that they’re just tossing us a bone to get us out of their hair, but even then NOBODY HAS EVER TOSSED US A BONE BEFORE.
Yeah, I’m pretty stoked.
And that’s why I’m here to tell you about this program. 99% of the time I’m all about the Free and Open Source, and Scrivener is admittedly neither, but I like to make exceptions for good software and good people and so far I’m impressed. If you’re a writer and on Windows (or Linux!), go test the Beta version. If you win NaNo you get 50% off when the final program is actually released. And that’s a pretty good deal.
The penguin gods are pleased today!
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Disclaimer: You may or may not want to listen to me since I may or may not actually know what I’m talking about.
WRITE/DRAW/WHATEVER YOUR THING IS EVERY SINGLE DAY
Guys lemme tell you a story. Once upon I time I was about… 15 years old? And I decided I wanted to be an animator, for Disney. Now you have to understand something very important, and that very important thing is as follows: I COULDN’T DRAW. I wish I knew where my old stuff was so I could scan it in and show it to you to prove it. But I don’t know where it is so I can’t. Regardless, the point remains: I couldn’t draw. Once I decided I wanted to go into animation, I pulled out a sketchbook and tried to draw something. It was **awful**.
So you know what I did?
I started to draw
for months and months that eventually melted into years. I filled up sketchbooks every few months. I spent hours and hours a day drawing.
Slowly, I started to improve. It was a step by step process. I remember learning how to use basic shapes and things like circles to “build” characters from and I remember how much better everything got after that. Even then I still had a long way to go. But I was getting better and better and pretty soon my work was very much improved from how it had been that fateful day when I decided to “learn to draw”.
So by that time (I was about 17 or 18) I figured, what do artists do? They do art school stuff! So I took AP Art in high school. Looking back on it I was woefully unprepared, I’d only been really drawing for a couple of years after all, but I was game and took it anyway. At the end of the year I rounded up what I thought was my best stuff and sent it off to the AP scoring people.
A few months later I got my score: a 1. The lowest score possible.
I was insulted, and bitter.
I mean, really bitter.
So I quit drawing.
Yep, that’s right. Cause I got offended rather than choose to improve.
I didn’t start “really drawing” again for a good few years after that. In that short time since then I’ve seen how much I’ve improved and I wonder how much I would’ve improved if I hadn’t quit the first time.
DON’T FREAKING QUIT
I hate to break it to you but you aren’t going to become a crazy-awesome artist or the next bestselling author or the next chart-topping musician in two years. Probably not even five years. I know we all have fantasies of that sort of thing, heck, I have those fantasies all the time, but it’s just not feasible.
THIS DOESN’T EXCUSE YOU FROM TRYING EVERY DAY AND/OR MAKING A PLAN BECAUSE “OH IT’S JUST GOING TO TAKE TEN YEARS ANYWAY”
It’s really easy to procrastinate this stuff. Guess what: if you keep procrastinating you are never going to get to where you want to be.
If you are a creative person, I mean really truly one of those people who feels like they are going to die if they don’t do that thing they do (you will know what I’m talking about if you are)– well, chances are very good you’re prone to procrastination and/or getting discouraged early, since that seems to walk hand-in-hand with creativity, but you have to realize that this whole thing is just 95% perseverance. 95% realizing that yes, you’re going to have that crappy job for the next ten years but it only has to be ten years if you’re willing to put in the extra-curricular work on plying your craft.
Do I sound like a bad motivational poster yet?
How about now?
Okay, terrible jokes aside, I’ve had tons and tons of creative friends lately who are getting discouraged. I’m not going to tell you “don’t get discouraged” because everyone gets discouraged. I get discouraged. It’s a part of the process.
I am going to say: be careful. Don’t let “being discouraged” turn into “never getting anything done”.
If you believe you have something special to show the world, then you do.
A wise man once said that 80% of people in the creative world quit before “making it”.
To which I have two things to say:
One: Don’t be one of those 80%,
Two: Man, imagine all the cool stuff we’d have right now if they didn’t quit.
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Posted by Pike in writing, tags: writing
So for those who have been following the saga of the book I wrote last year, well– it’s finished. As in, it’s about as polished as I think I’m going to get it. Now I’ve reached the hard part, which is submitting queries to agents and publishers. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And getting rejection letters.
Adjusting to this process and train of thought has been a difficult thing to do. Welcome to a world where you, as a writer, are another brick in a wall. Where the highly personal and creative process that was writing your book has to make way for marketing and pigeonholing and making sure you meet a certain standard so the High and Mighty Publishers might possibly bother to glance in your direction.
(Who me, bitter?)
That’s how it works, though, and you have to live with it. Coming to grips with this was extremely difficult for me to do and I spent a lot of time dwelling on the whole inherent… well, “wrongness of it all” is a strong phrase, but there you go. It best describes my feelings, I suppose. I remember one day at work at the pet store, I was staring into the cricket bin and suddenly I felt a weird kinship with the insects that I was selling as lizard food. Crickets, often glorified in fable as being special by way of possessing the glorious gift of song– here they were, thousands of them in a bin, being sold for quite literally a dime a dozen, with no one giving them a second glance. Suddenly I realized that I knew what it felt like to “be a cricket”.
So one fitful night a few days later I couldn’t sleep for some reason. I would fall asleep for a few moments and then wake up tossing and turning, only to have the process repeat itself. It was a pretty terrible night all around. Something unusual was happening, though: every time I woke up I’d enter that bizarre phase between wakefulness and sleep where your thoughts and dreams all sort of tumble into one big ball of hallucinations, and every time that happened more and more of a new story would vividly appear to me. A new story that took the cricket metaphor and everything else I was feeling at the time and wrapped it up into a neat little package.
I woke up the next morning and after letting the previous night percolate in my brain a little, I went over to my computer and in twenty minutes I’d typed up a complete outline to what is going to be NaNo 2010. The entire story and its themes were, quite honestly, something I’d dreamed up, and yet the whole thing was surprisingly consistent. The things your unconscious self will come up with if you let it, huh?
Since then I’ve polished the story up and added more themes– visiting the Washington coast seemed to add a whole new layer of inspiration– and now I am really excited to write this up. This is a very personal and very quirky story– think Pixar meets Tim Burton meets Where the Wild Things Are– but every time I think about I just start counting down the days til November because gosh, I need to write this story.
Inspiration, it would seem, sometimes comes from the most difficult circumstances and the lowliest critters.
(Just look at his little face!)
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So earlier this week I was thinking, man, I am a Writing-Idea Machine. I have so much to write about. So many ideas. I came up with this crazy plot to participate in NaNoWriMo every year for the rest of my life, because I obviously have 65 books inside of me just waiting to get out. No problem. Right?
So then of course I spend all morning trying to figure out what to blog about.
Face, meet palm.
Anyways, then I thought, I should tell you about some of the crazy crap I used to write about when I was a kid. Cause I wrote a lot back then, too.
1.) Cute Cartoon Bunnies Get Stabbed. I have no idea where this one came from. I made little picture books in spiral bound notebooks, and I had these two recurring rabbit characters named Billy and Mookie. They actually lived in a pretty clever little house filled with cute monsters that provided most of their “technology”. For example, they had a little monster that sat on their windowsill and held up a screen to block out the sun, and when they wanted to open the window they’d pull on his tail and he’d set the screen down.
So obviously one of the picture books involved one bunny coming home to find the other bunny laying on the floor with a dagger in his heart.
Yeah I dunno where I was going with that one.
2.) Cute Cartoon Bunnies Go to Jail: Another time they went to jail. They were innocent, but I guess the justice system in their world isn’t exactly all its cracked up to be.
3.) “The Friendly Candidates”: Back in the days of Clinton/Bush/Perot the TV was nothing but an endless stream of smear tactics. Leave it to me to write a book where U.S. presidential candidates actually liked each other and gave each other encouragement. Ahh, cute lil’ optimistic me.
4.) “Gerbil Adventures”: Gerbils go on crazy adventures throughout the house. These stories actually weren’t too bad.
5.) “My Life”: When I was about eight or ten years old I wrote a fictional autobiography for school. Apparently when I was 8 I thought I was going to grow up to be a vet and also have like, 10 kids. (Mostly because I had fun giving them all interesting names.)
6.) Thomas the Tank Engine Fan Fiction: Yup.
7.) Anthropomorphic Toys: Guys, you have no idea how much I wrote about my toys. See, I managed to convince myself that my toys would come to life when I left the room, Toy Story style (although this was years before Toy Story… I blame the Muppets’ “The Christmas Toy”.) So I gave them all sorts of adventures. First in short stories, and later in two full length novels. Did I mention that I was like… 18 by that point? Who me, Peter Pan?
(If you are, for some bizarre reason, interested in hearing more about said novels, I once rambled about them rather in depth over at my LJ.)
8.) The Tortoise Wins the Race, the Hare Sues Because of Emotional Damage: When I was a freshman in high school one of our assignments was to re-write a fable or fairy tail in a satirical way. I redid the Tortoise and the Hare in a way that I still think was pretty clever, but NO ONE in my class “got it”. Stupid muggles.
9.) Ender’s Game Excerpts Rewritten With the Characters As Furries: I want to say Ender was a squirrel but I can’t remember. P.S. I’m in ur library, ruining ur sci-fi
10.) Yoshi’s Island Novelization: The best part was the super long prologue that went into hilarious unnecessary detail regarding Yoshi culture. (Was possibly influenced by the official “Gremlins” novelization, which went into hilarious unnecessary detail regarding Mogwai culture.)
…ya know, on second thought, maybe we should keep me far away from writing.
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Editing was a difficult beast to wrangle with. I’m not sure if it’s because there was no real National Novel Editing Month graph to ride my butt, or if it actually was simply more difficult, but I’ve basically been locking horns with editing for the last six months. (By contrast, the actual writing process took about a month and a half.)
Now that I’m gearing down on editing and getting ready to actually move on to the scariest part of the writing process– publication– I have compiled a list of things I wish I had known, well, six months ago. By popular demand!
1.) Print It Out
Reading your book on the computer is, on the one hand, very handy because it means if something needs to be changed you can do it right away and eliminate the middleman, so to speak. The drawback to this is that if you change something, and then on the next page realize why you did what you originally did, you have to go back and change it back. (And yes, this happened to me a lot.)
But the main villain here, in my opinion, is distraction. If you are at your computer then you have e-mail and Twitter and everything else sitting right there distracting you. So unless you can turn off the internet or have rock solid willpower, print your book out, put it in a binder, and take it somewhere comfy with some pens and post-its. Speaking of post-its…
2.) Post-It Notes are Awesome
During my first editing pass, I just scribbled my notes and changes in the margins of my printed copy. This seemed to be the logical, straight-forward way to do it, and it worked fairly well. I noticed something interesting, though– namely I started to stumble across more and more writing sites that suggested using something like index cards or Post-It notes during the editing process. I wasn’t sure why they were suggesting it, but it seemed like a legit idea, so I tried it out with my latest editing take.
Pretty much immediately I realized why everyone was making Post-Its such a big deal. Aside from giving you more space to write your ideas down on, the real benefit becomes clear during the actual editing process on your computer, allowing you to quickly and easily flip ahead to the next Post-It, do your change, and then pull it out. No more having to wonder if you already performed a change or not, because your Post-It actually isn’t there anymore if you did. I dunno, I thought it was a great idea.
And everyone loves Post-Its, right?
3.) Your Book Does Not Suck
This syndrome seems to afflict a lot of people who write & edit so I am going to warn you all about it right now. What happens is you see all the problems that your book has, so you convince yourself that you are a horrible writer and have accomplished nothing of worth and it’s the end of the world as you know it and you don’t feel fine.
Okay, well, I suppose there is a possibility that all of the above is true, since I don’t know your writing abilities, nebulous readership, but I like to assume the best, so let’s assume it’s not true. Convincing yourself of this is harder than it would seem. This is what I did to pull myself out of a rather pessimistic slump:
I pulled out one of my favorite books of all time and started reading. Because I was still in hardcore editing mode, I hadn’t hit the bottom of the first page before I found stuff I wanted to change and “fix”. At this point I came to the conclusion: You know what, if I want to scribble in red pen all over one of my favorite books, which got published, by the way, then my own stuff can’t be too bad.
Try it out if you hit your own editing slump. You will be surprised how many books are abandoned and not completed.
4.) Test Readers are Valuable but Not Gospel
This one was difficult for me to balance out. See, you’re riding a fine line here by reading test readers’ comments. Some of their comments are actual things that you should probably change, and some of their comments are opinion, and learning to sort out which is which will probably eventually come down to a.) how many other readers shared said thought, and b.) gut instinct.
Basically, you don’t have to incorporate every suggested change, but you don’t want to ignore them, either. Let new ideas that your readers suggested percolate in your brain for a while. Play with them and see if you can do anything with them. Learn to ignore your initial defense strategy of “I can’t believe they didn’t like [insert element of book here]” and figure out why they possibly didn’t like it and if it would be worth it for you to change it.
Also, remember your demographic. If you are writing a kids’ book, see if you can get actual kids to read it and then put more stock in their feedback.
Another tip: compile all the positive feedback you get into a text file somewhere and read it when you’re feeling down. Works wonders. (Thanks to Tami for this suggestion!)
5.) Don’t Spend Too Much Time Comparing Yourself to Other People
Millions of people want to write the next Harry Potter. We sit around and dream of movie deals and gigantic online fan communities making wikis for our book universe. And you know, it’s a very nice dream and an admirable (if a bit luck-based) goal. But that doesn’t mean you should try to change your book to make it more Harry Potter-ish. Now you’re probably thinking, “of course I wouldn’t do that!” but lemme tell ya, when you’re tired and you’re knee-deep in editing and your frazzled brain just wants this whole nightmare to be over and that dream of being the next J.K. Rowling dangles itself in front of your eyes again, you will be sorely tempted to change your word count or change your demographic or change something to make it more like [insert dream book here]. Because your subconscious figures it’s your best chance to climb out of the editing hellhole.
It is 100% okay to be influenced by your favorite books. It’s 100% okay to include homages to things that inspired you. I went in to my book wanting something that felt like the “His Dark Materials” series, not in plot or character, but in general feel, for lack of a better word. I wanted something that was science-fiction-ish without being afraid to do a few things that veered more toward the fantastic. As such, one of the greatest moments of reader feedback for me was someone who didn’t know that this was my intent, telling me they got a “His Dark Materials” vibe from my book. Gosh, what a rush when I read that. I knew I had succeeded in at least one of my goals.
It’s okay to have a goal like that. You just want to be careful that your desire to emulate your favorite authors doesn’t consume your own creation. If you think back to a lot of the books you like, I bet a lot of them were different. Being different is scary, because you don’t know if the publisher is going to like “different”. But think about something like “Watership Down”. You can bet the publishers were scared to publish “talking rabbits”, but now it’s one of the most popular books ever. And as an aside, has anyone else noticed the deluge of talking-animals-with-their-own-vocabulary-and-mythology books that mysteriously appeared soon after “Watership Down” did? I read a few. None of them were as popular, though, because they didn’t really do their own thing.
Let your story and characters be who they are. Comparison will come later.
And hopefully your comparison does not involve either of these two things.
Well, that’s it for the “Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before [verb-ing] My Book” posts, at least until I get published, at which point I plan on finishing the series. Might, uh, be a few years… don’t hold your breath for the next installment anytime soon… *cough*
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“Write a book” is one of those things that is on most everyone’s list of things they’d like to do at some point in their life, so much so that it’s almost become cliche, itself. Well as most everyone knows by now, I’ve written a few, and while I can’t claim to speak for the professional side of things seeing as I have not yet been published or anything, a lot of people still seem to be interested in the process I’ve gone through because they want to do NaNoWriMo or whatever. So here is my list of five things I wish I’d known beforehand, in the event that it helps anyone else! <3
1.) NaNo/Deadlines are AWESOME
When I was about, oh, 14 years old or so, my parents gave me a watch. It was accompanied by a little ceremonial sort of thing wherein I was informed that the present was because they knew I always made good use of my time. I don’t remember anything about said watch, I don’t recall what it looked like or even where it is now, but it was my first real “grown up” watch and I wore it everywhere, and thus launched both an obsession as well as the terrible feeling of nakedness I have if I am not wearing one.
Going without a wristwatch for a week while waiting for this thing to arrive was utter torture.
I digress, though. The point is that looking back on it I have no idea what my parents were on about when they said I made good use of my time. I really don’t. I mean yeah, I generally have a good idea of what time it is, because I am an incessant clockwatcher, but then I procrastinate… and procrastinate… and procrastinate…
Enter NaNoWriMo, which not only throws a deadline at you, but peer pressure, too. I dunno about you, but for me, this is a dangerously effective combination. NaNoWriMo’s little daily-word-count graph prodded me into writing 50,000 words in 28 days, all while I was working a full time job and trying to keep up with my WoW blog. In contrast, the seed of “Windshifter” had been percolating in my brain for at least a decade, through countless summer vacations before I even had a job. All that time to write, and I didn’t, because I had no motivation.
It’s funny because I had heard of NaNo before but never participated, primarily because I didn’t like the idea of having one’s creativity confined to a timeline. It sort of bothered my inner free-spirit-artist. Never again will I doubt, though.
Now, I will say that NaNo does not work for everyone. I know of some people for whom the deadline is a serious hindrance or distraction. But keep in mind that I felt that way, too, until I actually tried it. Any aspiring writer who has trouble with motivation should give this a shot at least once, in my opinion. If it works for you, the results will be amazing.
2.) Have an Outline
When I wrote my book for NaNo I quite honestly made it up as I went along. While a few of the characters had technically existed in my brain for years, they were completely revamped for this book, as was the entire story and even the setting of the story. The idea of my book when I started writing was very different than how it ended up being.
…somehow it managed to turn out all right (hopefully), but a lot of editing was needed to hammer everything into place. This all would have been a much smoother process if I’d had a basic outline (even just a couple sentences) that I was working off of, instead of just a nebulous concept.
3.) (If you want to be published) Don’t Just Write For “Everyone”
If you are one of those people who is of the mindset that your book is for whoever wants to read it, regardless of age, then congratulations, you are just like me and like tons of respected authors. The trick, though, is that publishers and literary agents don’t see it that way (did you know there are a such thing as “literary agents”? I sure didn’t, until I had actually finished my book. GG, me!)
I have come to the conclusion that you have to sort of balance the belief that your book can be for everyone but can still be marketed to a specific audience, because that latter one there is what the publisher is looking for. This is more complicated than one might expect, because for example, did you know that there is a type of novel known as “middle grade”? Yeah I didn’t know that either, until a couple months ago. From what I understand it’s the type of stuff you read in middle school. Well I look back at the type of stuff I read in middle school (Watership Down, His Dark Materials, etc.) and most of it falls into the “But that was a pretty deep book that I still enjoy as an adult” category, further muddling things up. As you can see, this whole thing can be pretty complicated.
As such, I wish I had known all of this before I started writing. I don’t think it would substantially change my book, but it might have helped to focus it a bit and perhaps given me some inspiration from similar books.
Man, this book is just an allegory for Linux! Pike must've written it.
4.) Your Main Character Needs Some Sort of Tangible Personal Problem/Character Arc
For the first draft of my book I went off of the idea that my main character was sort of a socially awkward geekface, and that would be his character flaw. Unfortunately I got some feedback that this didn’t work very well, because while being a socially awkward geekface is all well and good, it’s not really a tangible flaw, unless he stops being a socially awkward geekface at the end (which he really didn’t.)
Readers don’t really buy it unless the character has an actual flaw that manifests itself throughout the book and which said character learns from or corrects by the end. It sounds pedestrian and like something you’d see on saturday morning cartoons but there is a reason it’s pedestrian, and that’s because that’s really how stories work.
I managed to get away with this problem in the first draft because I had a secondary character (who I think could be argued as the “true” main character of the story) with lots of Emotional Baggage so I think I was able to keep the audience’s interest that way, but that is tricky to pull off and I think it’s best to make the most prominent character of your story have his own character arc.
And so here I am again doing tons of editing with a big ol’ scalpel which could have been prevented if I had planned this from the start!
5.) Ask Your Characters Questions
This is one of those ones that probably sounds either silly or insane, but it is endlessly useful. Learn how to pretend that your characters are real and that you are interviewing or chatting with them. Ask why they are helping your hero, or what their motivation is for doing some plot point that happens seemingly out of nowhere. This will help tons in the long run not only for making realistic characters but also for making your inevitable deus ex machinas seem not quite so deus ex machina-ish.
Welp, I hope that list was of some use to someone out there. NaNoWriMo is coming quick and it’s never too early to get a headstart on thinking about it. Regardless on if you plan on participating or not (and yes, I fully intend on doing it again… I want to make this a yearly thing from here on out, seriously), happy writing! <3
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It’s really weird to think how far we’ve come. How you started as a seed of an idea during middle school roleplaying sessions, went through this crazy metamorphosis last year, and turned into something even I wasn’t expecting. You are sort of what I wanted you to be and sort of not really what I wanted you to be, because at some point you took on a life of your own.
Of course, like any proud parent, I now tote hypothetical photographs of you around in my virtual wallet. Livejournal, Twitter, and the Brass Goggles Forums are, I’m sure, sick of hearing my constant allusions to you. I can’t help it though, really, when you’re always there in the back of my mind, poking me and reminding me that you’re still alive. (And believe me, you are still alive).
Re-reading you over and over and over again is always a bit of an adventure, and sometimes I’m struck by how little of you has changed since I dumped words onto a page for NaNoWriMo– when I mixed up two parts alphabet soup and one part primordial ooze in a blender and then poured it all over Open Office in the hopes that it would somehow sort itself out into something at least halfway interesting– and ya know, you didn’t do too badly when it came to sorting yourself out.
The definition of “What You Are” is rather less straightforward, though, and I’ll confess that the answer isn’t always a positive one. In fact, it usually isn’t. Occasionally I’ll think that you’re not too shabby, but then I read you again and I wonder: who wants to read a mess that came out of the blender of my brain? You are a pile of problems, that’s what you are. Problems that no one would ever want to read.
Of course, then you laugh at me and inform me that All Problems Can Be Solved, and go back to sitting quietly in the back of my head, waiting for me to actually start working on you again.
Those unicorns can't be trusted.
So, Book, we match wits again. You don’t make this easy, but as you like to remind me, you don’t learn anything from a problem that is too easy to solve.
Besides, anything involving airships can’t be all that bad. Right?
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Remember NaNoWriMo? Yeah, you know, the thing that spawned the book I’m still working on six months later?
There’s a version of it in April as well. It’s called Script Frenzy and it’s basically like NaNo, except you write a script/screenplay/graphic novel instead of a book.
So am I planning on participating?
…did you really expect me not to?
This is up my alley like you would not believe. Writing scripts and screenplays is my favorite creative thing in the world. I say this as someone who draws, coughs up electronic music, and writes novels. I am soooo stoked for this.
Unfortunately April is looking like it’s going to be a terribly busy month, filled with things like editing the aforementioned novel (I know, I know, I keep saying I’m going to leave it alone and I keep failing at that…) and also puttering around with some silly Real Life things that need to get done. But there was no way I was going to miss out on this. So I decided to compromise. In November I had a little more time on my hands and was able to get away with inventing a novel on-the-spot (I’m serious, I made the darn thing up as I went), which was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that this time around, considering how much busier I am, so I’m going to go back to a ready-to-go idea that has been kicking around my head for years.
Remember my Chemistry Post on Aspect of the Hare? And remember those anthropomorphic atoms that I mentioned?
This is a story I’ve been working on, on-and-off, since AP Chemistry in 2001/2002. The storyline has gone through several iterations but it has been nothing but fun the entire time and I’m excited to make yet another attempt beginning tomorrow.
My mind’s eye sees this as being a computer-animated movie: doing for chemistry what “Shrek” did for fairy tales. Something that can make science fun and silly and “new”. Hey, I never said I was sane.
I think this will be much more relaxing than NaNo was: really, I’m very visual when it comes to my stories and I’ve always felt that I take to scriptwriting like a fish to water. Plus, there’s no real self-pressure to “OMG GET PUBLISHED!” so I can just post up the finished result for everyone to see at the end of the month!
WE BEGIN AT DAWN! *twirls pistol*
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What most of us refer to as “creative writing” is something I’ve always done. Always. Like breathing. Remember the “breathing” metaphor, it’s gonna come back. (A lot.)
I asked for notebooks for Christmas and my birthday and filled them up with stories. With story ideas. With character ideas. With journals. With poems. Lyrics. Anything.
I was always writing.
Apparently “always writing” as a child is not a common thing. Because everyone was always asking me if I was going to be an author or writer when I grew up.
And I would always look back at them as if they were crazy.
Of course I wasn’t. I was going to be a doctor/firefighter/artist/veterinarian/scientist/astronaut/horse breeder/chemist/animator/whatever I wanted to be at the time.
Asking me if I was going to be a writer when I grew up was like asking me if I was going to breathe when I grew up. If I was going to be someone who sat in a room all day and specialized in breathing. What an incomprehensible idea. Why would I want to do that?
I wrote stories because I had to. Because if I didn’t, I might die. Same as if I stopped breathing.
Didn’t mean I wanted to do it for a living. How absolutely preposterous.
I think my attitude toward writing drove some people nuts. See, I wrote not one, not two, but THREE full-length novels before I turned eighteen. And yet I had no interest in “being a writer”. A lot of people could not comprehend this, and were always asking me when I was going to major in English. Even when I was in college and majoring in film/chemistry/Japanese Studies/film again, people were asking me when I was going to wake up and smell the roses and change my major to English. (It sort of got irritating, actually.)
I laughed those people off. Every time.
Majoring in English was silly. Like majoring in breathing. I took AP English in high school because it was easy 5′s on the AP tests and thus easy college credit. I had no interest in pursuing it further.
So lemme tell ya, this whole NaNo thing where all of a sudden I’ve been introduced to a world of editing and critiquing and advice and “do and do not” lists and blogs and feedback and publishing and agents and proofreading and all this STUFF, is really throwing me for a loop. I’ve never really had to deal with any of this before. I’ve never looked into any of this before. What an utterly bizarre little world to stumble into.
I’m still not quite sure how to digest this whole process. The whole thing feels so absurd, in a way. Not bad absurd. But, “Huh, I need to edit my breathing” absurd. It’s just never even crossed my mind before.
So if over the course of the next few days… or weeks… or months… you see me flailing around here or on Twitter or LJ, babbling nonsense about this mythical novel of mine, please bear with me. My mind is a flurry of strange thoughts and new experiences and impatience and these characters that have been living in my head for the past six months.
“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell…”
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