Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Beginnings

So, lately I've been reading LoTR, and I came across an inspiring quote (I know, Tolkien is full of them.)

"It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish."
-The Fellowship of the Ring

So, I'm not going to ramble on just about how to begin your story. I'm going to ramble on about gathering the guts to start writing.

You know that hesitancy you get when you've been writing and rewriting a story forever, and now you think that it would be better to just start a new story altogether? Chances are, if you can't get this story right, it's a good idea to set it on the back burner awhile. This is not just following the Shiny New Idea: this is moving on to new things when the old isn't improving.

I came to this problem in my own writing. I've been working on the first draft - the first few chapters of the first draft - since middle school. That's about 5 years. Now, I think pure stubborn imagination is what keeps me at the keyboard, and that I really should try and see if I can write a full story out of a different idea. But there's this fear that it'll go nowhere, just like the first idea did.

This isn't one of those fears that go away. Don't we all fear that our ideas will fail, and our story become a useless, unfinished mushpile taking up space on our computer, never to see the proverbial light of day? I think the key to starting something special is to both use this fear and prepare yourself against it.

What I mean is, prepare to fortify yourself. When the voice whispers, "you don't even know how to start," then look at the first sentence/chapter of every book within reach, and figure out for yourself how to puzzle the first few sentences together. When it begins to whisper, "this is beyond salvageable, you'd be better off starting anew," remember that nothing is perfect. There is plenty of time to do major revamping when you're done. If the idea truly isn't going anywhere, after months (or years) of trying, then move on and don't forget.

When I say to use this fear, I mean think of your characters. Perhaps you don't benefit from the little nagging voice in your head, but will your characters? Incorporate your fear of starting or failing into your character. What character wants to immediately walk to their death? Hesitation is a normal part of life, and when you draw on your own fear, your characters are more believable.   

My mind works better with lists, so let me summarize:

1. Read the beginnings of other books. Don't copy them, but puzzle together the first few sentences and scenes of your own novel based on what you think works. Want your character to be established before your action? Want the action and the character-building to be intertwined in those first few pages? See how your favorite novels do it. How much is too much, how much is too little?

2. Actually sitting down to write is a major point. Take the gut-wrenching plunge and open a new document. Schedule a little time to get the beginning down. DON'T PROCRASTINATE.

3. Incorporate your fear into the characters. Perhaps your character is on the brink of a decision in the first scene - make sure the fear of starting, failing, or of the consequences is made known. You know how this feels! Your character feels real when their fear is based directly off real fear.

That summarizes my point pretty well. I was going to put a fourth bullet point down, but I don't have one. This post from QueryTracker sums up adversity, and goes along pretty well with this here post on getting over fear.

Have a blessed day and keep writing!

 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plot Pieces

So welcome back readers. Here summer is drawing to a close, the temperatures are still very high, I'm falling behind on the stuff I have to do, and most likely, there's a few of you out there who are working on their plot like me.

I was searching the internet a while ago for a list of plot pieces for the writer not the reader when I came across this: http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline.html It's a plot exercise with all the good stuff you need.

It has eight steps: story goal, consequences, requirements, forewarnings, costs, dividends, prerequisites, and preconditions. All are very important parts of a plot that don't get very much attention.

Just go click the link above and give it a try, it will give you a new perspective on your plot and maybe, if you're like me, help you get over a rough spot in your plot. I would love to hear what you've done with it, so comment away! Good luck and keep writing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Motivation and the Inner Editor

Because I know we all need a little motivation and again. I understand, I need it, you need it, J.K. Rowling needed it, and probably still does. It's natural to feel little down about your story.

We've all reached that point in our stories where you feel like quitting. You're inner editor is screaming bad things about your plot, that you'll never published, and all the other things your inner editor likes to go about. Give up. Quit. Walk away now. You're not cut out for this kind of work.

My inner editor particularly likes to rant about the plot, or rather the lack of one. Sometimes I listen, tie up a few loose ends, do a little house-keeping, but the thing is it just keeps talking. And if I keep listening, it will eventually drown out my character's voices and then comes a whole new wave of horrible.

You are the writer, the goddess/high spirit/dictator of your story and you make the decisions. Don't ever forget that. Yes, sometimes the inner editor is helpful, sometimes that little bit of niggling doubt in the back of your mind is helpful, but (and it's a big shocker here) sometimes it's not. You have to know when to stop listening and you know what? Go ahead and say it. Shut up, inner editor.

You'd be surprised how well that can work. Some people imagine it being locked away or vacationing to Canada, whatever works, but you have to realize that you are the boss, it's you who decides what happens in the end. Do not quit just because someone tells you to, in your head or in real life, but it doesn't matter what they think. The only opinion that counts is yours.

If it means anything to you, I think you can do it. Actually, I know you can do it. You are a writer, you can do anything.

So the point is, yes, you are going to feel doubtful. Yes, you are going to feel down. Yes, your inner editor is going to rant and rave, but no matter what, never, ever give up.





Thursday, July 12, 2012

Currently Reading

Hi all. I haven’t had much time to think about writing (or actually write, boo!). So I’m doing a brief post about the books I’ve been reading! This summer is my last chance to read whatever I want (which means digging into my huge YA pile) before I move for school. Anyway, I promise that the next one or two posts from me will be more writing-oriented.  =)


1) Skylark by Meaghan Spooner

 Summary:For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city. Lark did not expect to become the City’s power supply. For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she’s ever known…or face a fate more unimaginable than death.”  **

This was one of the two titles I actually bought ALA. It is a finished hardcover. The book jacket is gorgeous and shiny! I totally love it. I’m just past part I and am liking it so far. It’s got a futuristic Alice in Wonderland sort of feel (to me anyway): the main character is alone and disoriented, and there are some odd and fantastical elements that she faces. Not really sure where it’s going plot-wise, but I’m curious to see. I believe the official release date is August 1, 2012 and will be available through various online retailers.

Also, the author is hosting a giveaway right now. You can check it out on her website: http://www.meaganspooner.com/the-skys-the-limit-contest-for-skylark/

** [photo & text credit to author and publisher Carolrhoda Lab]

2) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Summary: “Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair… .Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell. Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.”  **

Well, I received a surprise ARC of this in the mail from HarperTeen. It was nice of them to send it without me requesting it! I’m not very far into it, but it sounds good. Although, I’ve never read her previous work, so the writing style and narration are a bit difficult for me to adjust to.

You can visit her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jodilynnandersonbooks) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/jodilynna).

** [photo & text credit to author and publisher HarperTeen. Taken from Goodreads]

What are you reading this week? <3

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oh goodness, It's Wednesday again!

I completely forgot I had a post today. I would say sorry, but this happens often (my posts are generally written between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 pm). But today, I have nothing planned. So I will give you a few quotes and a picture, and try to post something special next week.

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
~Benjamin Franklin

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
~Aldous Huxley

"Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education."
~Chuang-Tzu

"We despise all reverences and objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us."
~Mark Twain



I love these quotes, but now I feel bad that I've neglected to think of my blogging duties. In fairness, though, I was reading The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - you know, the prequel to the Lord of the Rings? Can you blame me for forgetting to blog?

Anyways, here is your picture, courtesy of Tumblr. Have a blessed week and keep writing!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Distractions...

Happy Independance Day, fellow US citizens!


And for any non-US citizens, happy Wednesday! I have a special picture for y'all, too.



This is late - like, 11:00 pm late. I'm sorry.

It's so hard to focus on stuff. In this fast-paced, technological world, it is easy to be distracted by the simplest things. I planned on writing 2,000 words today, and I ended up watching TV and staring at the ceiling. Now I'm rushing through 1,000 words, and I'll fall asleep after. Yet here I am, distracted by blogging.

When you don't have something to focus on (and oftentimes when you DO have more important things to do), your mind will distract itself. Without school, my mind is a blur of "I've got to do this, but really, I never noticed how interesting the ceiling looks. I think I'll google how to paint a ceiling instead." Here are some tips to keep on task with your writing:

1. Never, under any circumstance, tell yourself that "you'll do it later". Because you know you won't.

2. Time your breaks. Obviously, you can't write from the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep. Maybe take an hour after you wake up for breakfast/coffee/reading before you go to write. Maybe take twenty minutes for lunch instead of however long you want it to take. Your mind is easier to keep focused if you have a nice, clear schedule.

3. Don't let your cat sleep on your computer while you're away from it. Or any pets, for that matter. You'll be distracted by the long "sajkhrfeulrgtuigtgdgfskjhjrkejjkkk" and any possible damage to your keyboard. 

4. Don't tempt yourself. Work away from distractions like the TV, or cut off internet access.

This is my meager list of tips. I have a big issue on this particular topic, and while some of these tips may not work for you, it is how I keep my sanity when it comes to writing.

I don't really have much to add on. So have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Character Action

Lately, I picked up a book and knew within a few pages that wasn't going to like it. Usually, it's the storyline or the character has different priorities than I think they should, but this book wasn't the sort. I mean, it had a decent premise and it actually seemed like my kind of book. Action, adventure, a little romance on the side, but I couldn't quite place what I didn't like. And then it hit me.

The character doesn't do anything. 

I mean, yes, tons of these random opportunities fly by them and the characters take them, but they're not deciding for themselves. They aren't going out and searching for these opportunities, fighting to keep them. They're a passive bystander in their own story. 

My problem with this is that you can't just wait around for things to happen, because they won't. How many times do you sit on your couch, waiting for someone to show up and clean your house? I'm not saying your characters are going to be in this situation, but they're going to have to do the things they need to too.

A common problem that writers run into is giving their secondary characters action, but letting their MCs fall short. Maybe because they want their main characters to seem heroic or godly by making them calm. Or maybe they feel more free with the emotions in their minor characters. Whatever it is, secondary characters get more freedom than the story's star, and given its their story after all, it's something we need to change. 

Just remember, your MCs are not perfect. Let them get angry sometimes, or cry, or pull a joke. Go through all of your chapter and make sure they are doing something at least every five paragraphs, and doing something they choose doing, not because it happened and they're just going along. You'll know the difference, if you have to convince yourself its actin, then its not. Measure out the big decsiions. Are they active or passive decisions? You should have a healthy balance of each.

I cannot tell you how far a little character development can go. It should help you with the kinds of decisions that each character would make. For some great stuff on character development, Annie at The Epic, The Awesome, and The Random has some great posts. 

I hope you're stories are better for this post. Have a nice day and keep writing!


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