Tags: new ideas, random, Writing
Many people like to write a plan before starting a novel. This has its many benefits, like you have less chance of ending up with untied ends and confusion in plot muddling. There are, however, some more rebellious subjects among the writing nation (including moi) who are either too impatient (me), work better without a plan, or just like to ‘go with the flow’. Many who have gone without a plan know that it most probably will take more drafts to create a flawless draft this way.
However, there are more extreme aspects than just ‘winging it’ altogether. How about if you went through a whole novel never knowing what the ending would be, what would happen in the middle or who the person in question would meet along their journey? I know – it sounds über-scary to me, too, but wouldn’t it just be darn awesome to see what it would end up like?
That is why I propose an idea for the whole concept of novel writing altogether, or just as a writing excercise: forget the page-by-page-plan, forget the random musings you thought would be a good idea earlier, forget that you have an urge to give a character a shiny new Mini Cooper. Start not knowing anything at all.
What I think would be a good idea is that, before writing a novel, you get so many people to write down characters/plot points, or just even single nouns on their own. If everyone writes an idea down on a slip of paper, you can pick a piece out one-by-one, and include each point as they are chosen.
The outcome? Well, it could go either way:you could end up with a best-selling, most unique novel of all time, or you could end up with a load of garbage. The main point is that it breaks you out of a routine – it makes you broaden your horizons to new ideas.
So, bloggers – are you ready for the Spontaneous Novel challenge?
Tags: typing, Writing
We’re living in the technological age, where everything is computerised and everything pretty much grinds to a halt if that technology fails or there’s a power cut. It seems technology has become a big part of the publishing world, too: e-books, agent blogs, facebook and twitter, writing forums. But when it comes to the actual writing – BIC (Butt In Chair), pounding out the words – time, what do you prefer? Typing your masterpiece, or sitting down old-style with a pad of paper and pen?
I’m really interested. Are teens more likely to use the computer, or does it depend on personal preference? Personally, I think it’s all about what works best for you. For me, typing is almost always my preference. I type faster than I handwrite most of the time, and I can barely read my own handwriting at the best of times. I also find the words flow much better when I sit in front of my laptop. Sure, the temptation to self-edit is always there, but I just have to make sure I don’t angrily delete any words when it feels like it’s all going wrong. There’s also the plus that it’s easier to edit once you’re done if it’s typed, and easier to print or email to betas/agents/publishers/random friends who bug you for excerpts etc.
I can see the benefits to handwriting novels too, though – although if you handwrite the whole novel you’re almost definitely going to have to type it all up at some point, which adds time onto the whole process. Handwriting is great for focused, no-distractions writing – the problem with using a computer is that old evil The Internet. It’s ever-so-tempting to just check up on facebook/twitter/absolute write/wordpress etc – I’m definitely living proof of that. With a pen and paper it’s much harder to be distracted. It’s also often more versatile – it’s easier to take a pen and paper on a train, to write on it during your lunch break, to take it on long car journeys (those where you’re a passenger, not the driver, of course.)
So, those are generally the two options for those who are crazy enough to decide to write a novel. (I’m going to class using a typewriter as being typed…although it’s kind of like handwriting since the temptation of the internet isn’t there.) But which do you prefer – and what are your reasons? I’m sure I haven’t covered them all in this rambling post – which, for the record, I typed rather than handwrote – so maybe comment and let us all know. You never know, you might persuade someone to try the other method!
Tags: advice, conflict, plot movement, Writing
So I asked on Facebook for suggestions for my next article and got this:
how to develop characters? how to move the plot along….hmm something like that. have fun :)
Thanks for the suggestion, Saira! I decided to go with the bolded section. I’ll do something on developing characters in another article. Maybe the next one? Anyway, today’s post is all about moving the plot along and how you do that.
I’m sure every writer has faced this dilemma a number of times when writing. You get an SNI (shiny new idea) or not so shiny new idea and start writing. But eventually, you run out of steam or your story stalls and you think, “Where the heck do I go from here?” You know where you want to end up but you have no idea how to get there. I’m not claiming to be an expert (far from it) but over the years (which aren’t too many) I’ve read about and used a number of methods which have proven successful for myself and others.
The Motive: This is really the core of your story. The motive of your main characters pushes everything along. It’s the reason why Harry Potter is determined to defeat Voldermort, why Buffy slays vampires and why Gossip Girl writes her gossip. If your characters don’t have a motive, you, dear writer, have no story. What you do have are a bunch of people floating around in your mind doing random stuff that may or may not make sense. So ask yourself, why is Agatha trying to find the golden goblet? Why is Mindy trying to ruin Veronica’s reputation? If you can answer these questions (or whatever ‘why’ questions pertain to your story) you are on your way to making sure your story doesn’t stall! :)
The Stakes: This ties in with ‘The Motive’. Actually, it’s a very big contributing factor to it. The stakes are what your character(s) have to lose. For instance, if Mindy doesn’t ruin Veronica’s reputation she won’t get the guy and won’t be prom queen. If Agatha doesn’t find the golden goblet the world will burst into flames, claiming her life as well as everyone else’s. Everyone has something to lose. Everyone.
Conflict: This is a crucial way to keep your plot moving. Every good story needs conflict. It pushes the stakes, motivates the characters and its what you resolve at the end of the story. Conflict keeps your reader reading and your pages turning. Seriously. What would Harry Potter be without the conflict. Harry versus Draco. Harry versus Ron. Harry versus Snape. Harry versus the World. Harry Potter would not be as cool or interesting if he didn’t have so many problems. And problems equal conflict.
So, how do you make these things work for you? How do you work them into your story? The proven suggestion is to outline, outline, outline. You can outline in your head or outline on paper – but having a working idea of what you want to happen, why it’s supposed to happened, to who its going to happen and when its going to happen is a good idea. I’ve come across a few of suggestions – it’s up to you to see which will work best for you.
The List: This is the loosest way to go, as far as I can figure and allows the most creative leeway later on in the writing process. Simply list the major events of your story. Once you’ve listed them, go back and add meat. This means emotions, motivation, who is there when the event happens, etc.
Scene Chart: This is what I’ve started to do and is a variation of the above – only much, much more specific. It works for me, but might not work for everyone. List all the scenes that will happen in your story – all of them. Then, go back and answer why they need to happen. If you can’t answer why, scrap the scene and move on. When you go into the writing stage, add the meat. It’s liberating and constraining at the same time – for me, the scene chart makes sure that I stick to the plot and the story doesn’t become a monster (as mine are wont to do) but I also know exactly where I’m going and why. If the story changes I just go back to the scene chart, and rework it. Excel is a really good tool for this.
The Snowflake Method: This is what I first used when I started working on my novel and its really helpful all around. The Snowflake method makes you flush out characters, events, etc. It forces you to understand your characters, their motivations, how the plot molds them and how they mold the plot. If you’re just starting out and the idea of writing a novel is freaking you out – the Snowflake Method might be the way to go. Stick it in google and Randy Ingermanson’s ‘The Snowflake Method’ should come up.
So I hope I’ve given you some tools to help you keep that plot moving! :) As always, comments are appreciated – and any suggestions you may have for future posts are welcome.
(Cross-posted to The Raven Desk @ WordPress)
Tags: characters, Writing
We’ve all done it.
We can’t deny it.
Sometimes, we’re even pretty outspoken about it.
That’s right. I’m talking about saying that one phrase. That one sentence every avid reader has uttered at some point in there life. Sometimes in shameful whispers and others with booming, harsh voices.
“This character is just so boring!”
It can happen to the best of writers. The unintentionally boring character is like the flu. Everyone gets it sometime, but you want to do all you can to fight it off.
So what makes characters boring?
A lot of things. A lack of action. No interesting dialogue. Yada yada yada. But there is one sure, quick way to make a character dull as a TV on CSPAN. And that method of self distruction happens to be perfection.
Yes, it’s strange, I know. But perfection leads to incredible amounts of imperfection. Why? Because flawed people are interesting. Flawed people are human and therefore relatable. Flawed people keep us on the edge of our seat, wondering what on Earth they could get into next! And perfect people…well, they’re just plain boring.
So are you having trouble with that pesky perfect person? Well, here is a checklist of things you might try in order to spice up that character’s life.
1. Annoying habits – yeah, some annoying habits, like stuttering, talking too much, and rambling thoughts are going to annoy the reader a bit, but don’t we all get annoyed with our friends? And isn’t the goal to make the reader fall in love with our characters? So, in theory, by making them annoying you are making them more realistic.
2. A warped sense of thought – Characters who think along the same lines as every other human being are forgettable. The characters who think about life and the world in a totally abstract way stick with the reader longer. Even if their thought process is dangerous, sick, and utterly unpleasant, it will still get the reader thinking. And invoking thought is always good.
3. Physical flaws are not enough – Physical flaws, like a strange appearance or uncontrollable clumsiness, are simply not enough. Yes, they are often entertaining, but by themselves phyical flaws do not create an interesting character.
4. Dark pasts – Okay, so maybe the dark past trick is a little cliche, but it is a cliche for a reason, my friend. Do you know why? Becaue everybody has a past. Everybody lives with regret. And let’s face it. Our memories are a large contributing factor to who we become in life. Damaged characters are interesting. That’s just how it works.
5. Bad decisions – We all make bad decisions. Every one of us. And there is nothing more boring than a character who gets it right every single time. It is often said that Jane Austen’s most dull and unloved character was Fanny, the main character in Mansfield Park. Why? Because she was always right. Always good. And that is boring. While the bad decisions characters make might have a reader throwing a book against the wall, that is still a better reaction that snapping it shut and never opening it again.
It has been my personal experience that flawed characters often gain more affection. Look at Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. To put it plainly, she’s a complete bitch….but we LOVE her! She has flaws and is therefore entertaining. And isn’t that–entertaining the reader–kind of the whole point of all of this?
So, let me sum this up for you with a basic math problem. Don’t worry. No calculator will be needed.
Flaws = Fun
Perfection = Boring
Simple as that. So go screw your characters up! You’ll bad glad you did!
Tags: motivation, Publishing, unsolicited advice, Writing
Time for a pop quiz. Everyone get out your pencils – no peeking at your neighbor’s paper.
Which of the following is a good, healthy, sustainable reason to write a novel?
A. To get an agent and get published
B. To learn more about my craft and enjoy creating a story while I do
What would you be willing to give up in order to get a book deal?
A. A social life, my dignity, and my first born child
B. Time and the occasional TV show
Do you have at least three hobbies that are unrelated to writing?
B. Of course!
If I could tell you with certainty that you would never be published, would you continue to write for fun?
A. …I’m never going to be published? (bursts into tears and burns keyboard)
B. Well, I wouldn’t like it, but I enjoy writing too much to stop
Now obviously there is some middle ground between these options, but if you picked mostly As, we need to have a little talk. Publication is a worthy goal and a great motivator when accompanied by a love of writing – but that love for your story and the process has to be there first. Why? Because after you get that fabulous book deal, your editor will still want to work with you on revisions and your agent will expect you to write another book (you might even be contractually obliged to write another one). If you don’t enjoy the steps you have to take to get to the finished project, life as a published author won’t be a lot of fun. If you are putting aside all hobbies and friends until you get published, you might as well be putting them aside permanently.
My advice (and it’s hard for me to do this myself sometimes) is to step back and really think about why you write and what you want to get out of it. If writing is no longer enjoyable because you are constantly comparing your work (or work ethic) to that of your peers, or because you don’t have an agent, or because you are worried you won’t be published before age 20 – stop. Stop comparing, stop looking for an agent, stop obsessing about publication. Take a day to write something completely unrelated to the almost-query-ready WIP. Pen some fanfiction and have fun doing it. Allow yourself to type without critiquing every word. Tell yourself that if you never get published, it will be okay – no one will think any less of you as a writer or a person. Because that’s the truth.
If you aren’t writing for love first and foremost, why bother doing it at all?
Food for thought,
Tags: average day, bike, bowling, computer, exam, internet, schedule, school, student, teen, teenaged writer, teenager, world of warcraft, writer, Writing
Yeah, so I signed up to do an article today for the blog about, oh a week ago. Then one by one I got to see the topics I was gonna do get snatched up by everyone before me. Thanks guys.
So I picked a topic no one else has done. You get a schedule of my average day. Yes, joy for all, please close the window now and forget about this forever.
Why are you still here? Shoo!
Fine, here we go. The Average Day of the Non-Average Student. I am required by state law to inform you that this may or may not be exaggerated, that it shouldn’t be ingested orally, and to not view this post while operating heavy machinery.
9:00 AM — I woke up to the alarm and promptly backhanded my clock off the nightstand and onto the cat before going to sleep again.
9:15 AM — It occurs to me that I had forgotten to turn off the alarm when it starts beeping incessantly. I grope for it and turn it off before getting up and turning on the computer.
12:00 PM — After several productive hours of World of Warcraft where I stood around Ironforge and did nothing, I put my computer on standby and head out to the local bowling alley on my trusty, squeaks-when-I-pedal, loses-air-faster-than-a-Scientologist-confronted-with-Anonymous, stuck-in-the-fifth-gear, bike.
2:00 PM — I return home with thoroughly sore fingers and legs. The first because I picked a bowling ball with tight enough fingerholes to drag me along for the ride when I threw it. The second because the wind had changed direction from two hours ago and was now gusting Hurricane Andrew in my face all the way home.
2:01 PM — I suddenly remember I hadn’t closed the garage when I came home and begin a half-hour chase of the empty trash can as the wind laughs.
5:00 PM — After several hours of surfing the Internet and Warcraft I head off to Biology. My dad informs the family how it was nice knowing them as I take the keys.
6:00 PM — After determining that I had aced the exam today until proven otherwise, I head off to the computer lab and proceed to surf the Internet more, ignoring the fact that I have a saloon to make in Maya. I did find the recipe for Panda Express orange chicken though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
9:00 PM — Computer lab closes.
9:10 PM — Lab attendees finally succeed in kicking me out after cutting the power then waiting five minutes before I realize my clicking isn’t doing anything.
9:20 PM — Commence more surfage of the Internet. Writing? Pfft, yeah right. I’ve got forums to post on, no time to waste!
10:00 PM — Boredom sets in. Pick up PEGASUS IN FLIGHT by Anne McCafferey and begin reading.
12:00 AM — Quickly read all the webcomics that updated before returning to my spot on the bed, annexed from the cat, with my book.
3:00 AM — Wake up and realize that the light is still on since I fell asleep with my face in the book and an insistent cat who wants the door opened so she can go wander. Open the door, turn out the light, and go to bed. Another busy day ahead of me tomorrow.
~Robert (aka Islaitha Frost)
Tags: book, Dreams, goals, hobby, Priorities, procrastination, teen, teenage writer, teenager, time, Writing, Writing Advice
I love writing – just wanted to get that out there. I also love doing crafts and cooking, but my dream is to write a novel; it’s an obsession of mine. And I probably would write a novel – if I could just put down a book long enough to write my own.
My biggest obsession is reading – I can’t get enough of it. I gobble books down like crazy. It’s somewhat of an addiction for me. I could cuddle up with a book all day, forgetting to eat, drink, do my chores – even write!
We have a problem. I try to stay in reality and prioritize – but there’s always some fantasy realm calling me, distracting me from my own work, encouraging me to drop everything and lose myself in the pages of a great story. I resist – for a time, anyway, but eventually I cave. In fact, I’m about to give in to the urge right now (better write fast!).
So I’m asking for advice; does anyone else have this problem? Know how to cure my serious case of reading mania?
Tags: BIC, book, distractions, draft, forum, goals, inspiration, muse, novel, procrastination, teen, teenage writer, Writing, Writing Advice
Okay, you’ve decided you’re going to write a novel. You’ve got it all planned out, and it’s going to be a bestseller. You’re just about to start writing when you notice someone has emailed you, so you decide to read the message first – it might be important. Then you remember you need to look something up on the internet. Then you get lost in a fascinating blog (like this one… :D). Then someone starts up an MSN conversation with you. An hour later, you’re still finding things you need to do.
The book sits there gathering dust, unwritten. However fantastic the idea is, if you don’t actually put in the hours and dedicate time to it, it will never be finished. And if it isn’t finished, it won’t be a best-seller. And you won’t be famous.
So, it’s all very well to say that you won’t let things distract you, that you won’t procrastinate. If you’re the sort of lucky person who can actually do that, then huge kudos to you, and I look forward to seeing you at the top of the bestsellers chart. If you are the sort of person who gets distracted by anything shiny (like me and the rest of the world), listen up.
First, what is procrastination? Basically, it’s distractions. It’s when you end up doing other things instead of writing, putting it off. It’s bad for obvious reasons – if you don’t write anything, then you aren’t really a writer. If you don’t write anything, you have zero chance of getting published.
Procrastination is especially problematic as a teenager. Friends demand your attention, you need to update your facebook, homework is piling up, you need to tidy your room, parents are nagging. The list goes on. The important thing is to make sure you find distraction-free time for your writing.
There are a variety of different methods for combating procrastination, and you’ve got to figure out which one works for you. The most common incentive is goal-setting. If you say you are going to write 1000 words before bed, before eating, before TV or before you can go on the internet, then you are more likely to push to reach it. That means you might end up with 1000 words instead of 600, or even 1000 words instead of none. You have to set your goals realistically. If you set it too high you’ll give up, too low and you won’t have written much. My advice is to have a daily goal and change it if necessary as you get faster/slower/busier. You could even reward yourself with chocolate or something if you achieve your target.
Another technique used by many writers is stopping in the middle of a sentence or in the middle of the action to help get yourself started next time. If your inner perfectionist will allow this, it can be great. The worst thing is stopping somewhere because you don’t know where to go next – and still having no idea once you come back to it. That’s just a recipe for not getting anything written. Stop in the middle of something exciting, and you’ll be excited to go back and write more of it.
Thanks to our teenaged mood swings, we don’t always feel like writing the same thing every day. Having multiple WIPs can help this, because if you are stuck or don’t feel like working on one, you can just move onto another. However, you do need to be very careful with this method, as you don’t want to end up with two half-finished WIPs instead of a completed one. Once you’ve started a book, you have to dedicate yourself to finishing it, or else it’s unlikely you’ll get it all done. If multiple WIPs sound like too much of a challenge, try having multiple scenes from one WIP on the go at the same time. You don’t always have to write chronologically, and the organic method of hopping from scene to scene can (not always) stimulate your muse. If you don’t feel in the mood for a love scene, write one of the action scenes. This prevents mental blockage but is dependant on you having a rough outline at least.
Joining a forum or getting a group of other writers together to egg you on is also good. This doesn’t have to be in real life (that can be a little daunting) – online is great too. If you have someone chasing you, nagging you to write, and helping you when you’re stuck, then you are more likely to keep writing.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike – that’s just another form of procrastination. Write every day to get into the habit, whether your muse is knocking around or on holiday. Even if you feel like you’re writing total crap, that’s fine. Crap can be edited. If you’ve written absolutely nothing, then you’re further behind than if you’ve written something. Don’t make excuses: let your first draft suck.
One method which is widely accepted as the simplest way to keep writing is the “butt in chair” mantra. BIC means getting yourself to write as often as possible, like it or not. BIC is good thing to remember and has helped many writers get those words on the page.
I hope I helped. Also, just FYI, writing nearly 1000 words on the subject of procrastination is procrastination, too. Just worthwhile procrastination, or so I like to think.
~Poppy (aka Metaphor)