Wednesday, November 15, 2017

They Did WHAT?

I am not going to lie to you. If you did a really good job of developing your character they will take on a life of their own. It makes no difference if you are a planner or pantser at some point this is going to happen to you - if it hasn’t happened already.
As a pantser, this can be great - so long as you keep your end goal in mind when you’re writing. Characters that take over are a blessing if you can stay out of their way long enough to be able to document their adventures. Sometimes you may have to poke them and prod them a bit to keep the story heading more or less in the right directions, but never try to force a character like this to do something that they do not want to do. Generally, if your character has taken on a life of their own then trust them to act in the story’s best interest.
However, you can run into trouble if your characters try to take over, but aren’t well developed enough to really hold their own or they are a Mary Sue. I’ll write more about Mary Sues in a bit.
As a planner, this can be terrifying - especially when you’ve spent all this time plotting out your novel just to have your characters hijack the story and take it somewhere unexpected. If they are behaving (more or less) - congrats! You probably considered who your characters were prior to planning your novels. Of course, that doesn’t prevent any new characters from just popping up and demanding your attention.
If you do have a character trying to derail your novel the most important thing to remember is that sometimes you need to follow that muse. The worst thing that could happen is that you end up with a terrible dead end side story that you can delete when you edit. There is absolutely no reason why you can't go back to the point of derailment and follow the story down a different path this time. These are still words and, better yet, if you are drawn to write this, if it is easy to write that dead end path than do so because those are words you can count. And that best case scenario? You end up writing something even better than you had planned. Chances are, though, you will be somewhere between those two extremes.
What do you do about the Mary Sues?
We all end up with these at some point in our writing career. They do not make for the most interesting reading material, to be honest. If you are halfway through your novel and you are suddenly realizing that one of your main characters just might be a Mary Sue then you’re going to have to do some quick character fixes. (Unless, of course, your story is flowing just fine. Then by all means keep writing and fix that character later).
Keep in mind, that no one is perfect. People have flaws, mental and physical. We struggle, we debate, we worry, we get angry for what seems like no reason. Remember your character isn’t just a character - it’s a person. Make sure that this person you created has failings and flaws. Has things he/she/it struggles with and things that they are good at. Make them round and add a few flaws. If you have, after November, go back and fix that first part. Or if you are really mad at your story and nothing is working out for you there is no reason that you cannot ignore everything you’ve written until now and start back at the beginning with your now, more well-rounded character.
In the end, no matter where you stand, the point here is that sometimes you just have to follow the story, and your characters, where they take you. If you try to fight it you may all too often find yourself blocked in what to write next or just plain uninspired by your own story. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

When in Doubt, Blow Something Up

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we hit a point in our novel where we don’t know what to do next or we find our enthusiasm waning or any of the myriad of things that can happen to slow down our word count. These are the moments where you sit there and stare at the page in horror as the minutes tick by.
So what do you do when you are blocked? When the words just won’t come?
The same solution won’t work for everyone, or even every time, but to help you out here are some of the things that I and others have done to help us get those words going again.
Keep moving. And not just the words. Get up and go for a walk or run. Do any activity that allows your mind to wander. Do the dishes, bake the cookies. Yeah, it may seem like procrastination, but sometimes not thinking about your story is when you do your best thinking. Your brain can just try to work on it in the background without your own thoughts interrupting it.
Or just take a break. You are not a machine. Take a break. Have a bubble bath. Take a shower. Give in to your need for that nap. Sometimes, sometimes all you need is to step away from your story and give your brain a break. After all, you’ve been working really hard.  
Change the view. If you can, take your computer to a new location. I often find that when I write at home, I will write less than if I went to a coffee shop or during my lunch break at the office. Sometimes all you need to do is go somewhere different to get the gears moving again. Not to mention that the people and things in your environment can be added to your story. Snippets of conversation can inspire a page of dialogue.
Blow it up. Not literally. There will always be times when you have no idea what you are going to do next in your story. Something needs to happen, but you don’t know what. If it works with your story, blow something up. Have ninjas or pirates attack or just simply ask yourself ‘what is the worst possible thing that could happen in my story right now?’ and write it. If something needs to happen then make something happen. If need be, kill someone (not literally* - just in your story).
Free write. Just write a whole new scene. It doesn’t have to be a part of your novel. Change the text colour to red or white, but leave it as part of your word count. Free writing is just letting the words flow out of you - they don’t have to be about your story at all. Just start rambling away in text until something pops up and you scream “EUREKA!” because you have finally figured out what you need to write. Or stick your protagonist and antagonist in a room and see what happens. Just get some words out and sometimes you’ll be surprised at what shows up when you aren’t trying to control the flow of your story.
Talk it out. Find a good friend or a family member or another writer and just start talking about your story. Talk about what you want to write next. Talk about how you want the story to end. Talk about that one thing (or more!) that’s really been bothering you about your plot or your characters or anything. Just let it and one of two things will most likely happen - you suddenly realize what you need to do or the person you are talking to will ask you that one question or state that one thing that brings it all together for you.
And if you have no one to talk to? Then write out the conversation. Ask yourself the hard questions. Why did it have to happen this way? What if….?
I am sure there is way more that I could write here, but these are the ones that I find tend to work for most people from published authors to first time writers. Find the ones that work for you and use them. And, of course, if you have a great writer’s block breaking technique that works for you, share it!
*unless you can get away with it, but don't blame me if you get caught. It was your decision after all. I had nothing to do with it. Murder is not a recommended outside fictional, literary worlds..

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Progress not Perfection

I know for many people that blank page can be daunting. It looms before you begging the question - Are my words going to be good enough? Can I tell the story I want to tell?
There is only one piece of advice I can give you - Don’t even worry about it.
An adage in the writing world applies very much to NaNoWriMo. You can’t edit what you haven’t written.What you are starting today isn’t a first draft. Nope. It’s Draft 0. This is where, good or bad, all you are obligated to do is get the story out of your head and onto the paper (or screen).
Bulky prose. Awkward dialogue. Passive voice.
All those things that you want to avoid writing? Write them. This is not about perfection. This isn’t about telling your story in the best way you can. This is just about telling the story in any way you can.
When it’s all said and done, you can go back and edit to your hearts content. Refine the prose, smooth out the dialogue and make the voice active! But that, as I said, is for later. When you are finished and well recovered from the rush of NaNoWriMo..
Sometimes, you may find that you need to make notes to yourself like [technical word for X] or [research this later] and that is fine! Don’t worry about it. These things happen. Make a note, move on. You can research those things later.
There will be times when you just do not have the words to write the scene you want to write You’re stuck. What now? Once again this is about progress, not perfection. No first draft is ever that good and draft 0 is going to be worse than that. So feel free to write. [I am having a hard time writing this scene. I will come back to it later. Here is what happens in this scene].
Do what it takes to keep moving forward. One of the biggest keys to success at this point is to keep moving forward. Keep the words flowing. Just keep writing.
And, never fear, you can fix that later. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Little Steps not Big Leaps

Most of the time when I have a huge task ahead of me, like cleaning my house up for some guests that are coming, if I focus on everything that needs to be done as a whole I will often freeze. I won’t know where to start or even how to get started. It’s too much. I can’t do it.
Sometimes the goal of 50K words can seem like a heck of a lot. How are you supposed to accomplish this lofty goal when you have work, school, kids, etc?
The answer is fairly simple. Don’t look at the big picture. Focus instead on one small aspect. Something simple, something you know you can do. If I am cleaning my house I focus on clearing off my coffee table first. It’s not much, but when it is done everything looks so much better already. With writing it is the same - focus on a small easily accomplished task.
Like the daily goal of 1667 words.
If you type about 30 wpm you can do that in about an hour.  At 20 wpm that is less than 1.5 hrs of writing. At 10 wpm that is 2.5 hrs.
Small goals are what gets the job done. Words turn into sentences. Sentences turn into paragraphs. Paragraphs turn into chapters. Chapters become a novel. What stops so many people from accomplishing that first draft is the fact that they are focussed on the big picture of a first draft, but you can’t have a first draft without a first word, a first paragraph or a first chapter.
Break it down. If you can only write 10 words per minute then break up the time you write. I don’t know about you, but I cannot write for 2.5 hrs straight without a break. Still, what is that? 30 minutes in the morning. 30 minutes over lunch. 30 minutes when you get home from work or school. 30 minutes after dinner. 30 minutes before you go to bed.
It’s really not all that much to do. And most people can type or handwrite more than 10 words in a minute.
Focusing on small, manageable goals can keep you from being overwhelmed at what you are about to do. Focus on what you know you can do and everything else will follow suit. If you have more time then give yourself more time. If you can get one extra word over your goal, then do it.
While your energy is high, while every word feels new, shiny and awesome - write more. If you can, get that buffer of extra words early. Things will happen, some days you might not write as much - and that is okay! Just don’t worry about that big picture until you get there.
Do what you can with what you have. It is truly all any of us can do.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Link issues

In case anyone tried, I had a small issue with the link to my official website. It has now been fixed!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Talks and Tips for NaNo Success - Participation

Once a week, I will be posting tips and pep talks for NaNoWriMo success.Since that will be my main focus for the next month and a bit. These articles were originally written for me to share with the other writers in my region, but I figured that it couldn't hurt to share them with all of you. 
I thought I’d also give you a little background about my history with NaNoWriMo
This is my 10th NaNoWriMo. Over the years I’ve managed to complete anywhere from just barely over 50K to well over 100K words during the month of November. There are years where I have planned novels in intricate detail and years where I have received my writing prompts on October 31 at noon. I’ve run the gamut of NaNoWriMo experiences which is why I want to share those experiences with you. 

First post is below. 

Participation is Success 
I didn’t find the forums until my second year into NaNoWriMo.
I signed up for the first time on October 28. Somehow, I managed to make my 50K. That first year, the closest thing I got to interaction with other participating writers was the two friends from an online discussion group who had encouraged me to “give it a shot”. I was stubborn. I had never really tried to write a novel before, but it was a dream that I had had for a long time. So I pushed through to just over 52K.
I was overjoyed that I had written so much and disappointed when I realized that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to writing a novel. I never finished the story which was my whole goal for even trying this crazy thing in the first place.
So why did I come back?
Well, I got that email that told me that there was more to NaNoWriMo than just writing. Great, I thought, maybe someone can help me figure out where I went wrong last year. So, I homed myself to the Alberta::Elsewhere region and was introduced to a new side of NaNoWriMo.
I enjoyed it even more this time. I didn’t finish the novel again, but I had really just winged the entire thing. That year, I got just over 56K words.
The next year, I was more involved on the forums, I attended my first write-in and did word wars online. I wrote about 120K words that year. And I have never looked back. Other than the year I ran out of story before hitting 50K, that first year was the least amount of words I have ever written for NaNoWriMo.
I am not a fast typer. Ask anyone who has ever attended a write-in with me. My numbers per word war or sprint tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum.
For many people, that interaction helps them to be accountable for their words. Not just to the friends and family that they have told about NaNoWriMo, but to others who are going through the same struggle that they are. People that you can be competitive with, if that’s your thing, people who can help you puzzle out difficult parts of your story when you get stuck, people who can inspire, cheer and celebrate the victories with you.
Now, as an ML with a more than full-time job, it is the interaction with others that keeps the words coming. If it wasn’t for word wars and write-ins there would have been many years that I would have failed completely. I would estimate that about 75% or more of the words I write (typically 65K+ most years) happens at an online or in-person write-in.
Over the years, I have made some of the most incredible friends from around the globe that encourage me to continue to challenge myself and grow in my writing.
And maybe, if you’re reading this, you have discovered or are discovering the same thing. Involvement and participation, not just the writing, are one of the biggest keys to success! Besides, NaNoWriMo has never been about winning or losing - it’s about enjoying the creative process.

Monday, October 9, 2017

One step closer

Unless my incredible, amazing editor determines otherwise, I think I can now say the chapters that she asked me to add to Feathers & Fae are done.
Now all I have to do is give them a good personal editing and ship them off to her. With any luck I'll be sending then off to TOR early in 2018. Don't hold me to that though, you know how us authors are.
And of course, another NaNoWriMo approaches. This means a new WIP has been planned. I'm very excited to see if it turns out as good as I'm hoping it will.
I'm going back to my roots on this one. It's a dark fantasy with a horribly tortured protagonist.  
Working title is 'Blessings of the Damned'.
"Sometimes the only difference between a hero and a villain is what side of the line you're standing on.
There was a time when his name was something whispered with fear and awe; a time when he was one of the most powerful men to walk the earth, but that was long ago. Yet still, people feared him though he did little to justify that fear. He kept to himself and lived a quiet, simple life. Until one day, a young girl from a faraway land knocked on his door and asked of him a favour.
She asked him to kill her."