Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Happy December, everybody. Happy Thanksgiving, happy winter, happy end-of-Nano. Yeah, I did Nano this year. Yeah, I gave up about halfway through. Yeah, I lost.

Yeah, I’m rather ashamed. I mean, I wrote 73,000 words the first time I even attempted Nano. (Of course, back then I was young and unafraid. And dreams were made and used and WASTED.) This year I only wrote a meager 24,000 words before my mind dried up and my ideas fell into the sewer of abandonment. So yes, I’m rather ashamed. But, the thing is, I’m not nearly as angry as I might have been in previous years. See, this year I decided to take a more relaxed approach to Nano (er, well, actually, I meant to plan for Nano a lot earlier, but stuff kept getting in my way. The internet, for example?) So I ended up barely figuring out my plot and a few characters before November 1st arrived. Oh, and a calendar. I made a calendar for myself, which took up most of the time I would have been otherwise planning. I’m very good at distracting myself when I feel like it. The problem is, though, I’m more of a planner by nature, really, at least in the realm of noveling. So I was a little bit lost, but still trudged ahead, determined to write every day until the word count bar read 50,000.

That worked for the first bit of November, but it became increasingly harder to reach my daily word count goal. Every day I would fall a little more behind, and then a little bit more, and soon I was looking at about 5,000 words that I needed to write in one day. It was about then that I threw in the towel, which is evident by my stats:

NaNo Stats 2013

 

It probably didn’t help that every night instead of diligently writing my 1667 words, I kept getting distracted by things like my friends (thanks, guys), Candy Crush, and other various pursuits. Or at least that’s what I told myself. In reality, I was sort of just using those things as an excuse for my not writing. This Nano, it was just plain difficult to get the words out. I dug myself holes and didn’t feel like getting out of them.

Writing is like a muscle. I’ve heard that more times than I can count on both my hands. To become a better writer, you have to write regularly. Otherwise, your little writing muscle gets old and stiff and doesn’t work very well anymore. That’s common sense, more or less. I know this. I just never put it into practice, because I don’t have much motivation.

Nano is a good remedy for my lazy writer syndrome, or at least it was, until this year. This year my un-motivation seeped into the days of Nano, and soon I didn’t feel like putting the effort in to write more words. Like, what’s the point?

That’s basically how I lost both Nano and my dignity at the same time.

I haven’t yet figured out a cure for my lack of motivation. Lately, I haven’t been motivating myself to do anything at all, which is a little frightening. I haven’t been doing the things which I love–writing, reading, photography, photo editing, the list goes on–in fact, I haven’t been doing much at all. And now that snow has started falling (on my blog, too! Aren’t the little flakes pretty?) and the daylight hours are shorter and the temperatures are dropping consistently, my motivation hasn’t exactly been increasing. Winter is pretty, fo sho. But it’s dark and stuff. And cold. I don’t like cold. So winter sort of just makes me want to wrap up in a couple thousand blankets and fall asleep for a couple thousand years. It certainly doesn’t make me want to do anything of value.

NEVERTHELESS. I’m gonna try. I’m gonna try reallllllly hard to start being a Person Who Does Things. Perhaps not primarily writing, though I do want to start writing again for reals. But I want to start taking advantage of the free time I get, and using it to do stuff that makes me happy. Because I don’t want my entire freaking life to end up like this year’s Nano did–abandoned in favor of doing nothing. I really don’t want to live like that. So, CHANGE. MOTIVATION. HAPPINESS. Or the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, rather.

Wish me luck, friends. Wish me lots of luck.

Onnnnnnn a side note…IT’S MY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY TODAY, PEEPS.

One year ago today, I started this weird little blog. And while I haven’t been a diligent poster (especially as of late), I’ve managed not to abandon it. That’s a big thing. Soooooooo happy anniversary to me and also this blog. Yayz.

In honor of this momentous milestone, I’ve decided to change up my blog a little bit. Hitherto this day, I’ve written about a fair amount of subjects. Mainly, however, I’ve focused on stuff like books and writing and movies. While I love all three of those, of late I really haven’t been hit by inspiration on any of those fronts. So I’m just going to start writing stuff. Thoughts, and crap like that. Because A) it might help me on the posting-more front (but no promises, as always) and B) I have lots of thoughts, and writing has always been a good way for me to express my thoughts in a coherent manner. This isn’t a huge change, but the spectrum of my blogging topics will be probably expanding in the future. Just so ya know.

If you’ve made it this far…Wow. You rock. No seriously, dude, I like you. And now I’m too tired and hungry to proofread this post, so I’m sure it’s very confusing. Props to you, anyhow.

See you when I see you.

The other day I decided to write a poem. I was in a weird mood, and so the poem is weird, but I like it, so I’m posting it here. It’s written in free verse, so if that isn’t your thing…That’s fine, too. :)

Also, please don’t make any assumptions/rash judgments until you reach the end. Thank you kindly.

Oh, and all rights reserved. And all that.

I Am Not a Psychopath

I am not a psychopath.

I kill people most violently

I dream of ways to poison a man

I make everyone’s life as miserable as I can

I manipulate people’s emotions

I turn sister on brother

Friend on friend

Villain on sidekick

I revel in anger

Abandonment

Bitterness

And most of all

Tragic backstories

I can’t help but imagine every way a situation can go wrong

I’m like a walking Murphy’s Law

No, I am not a psychopath

I’m just a writer.

(the end)

So, there you go. I hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t, please go away.

Anyways, uh…

HUGH JACKMAN MOMENT.

The Wolverine poster_1

Admit it, you’re excited about The Wolverine. Also, I’m thinking of starting A Thing where I post pictures of Hugh Jackman on a weekly basis. Why, you ask? Well, the answer is self-explanatory, I think. Hugh Jackman is a wonderful human being and ought to be blogged about. So anyways, that might be A Thing. Now you’re forewarned of the possible awesomeness to come.

Ahem.

See you when I see yoooooouuuu!

This morning I went on a bike ride. A bike ride that, in any other circumstances, would have been harmless. Unfortunately, today it was 50°Fahrenheit and raining. And I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

Needless to say, it was rather trying. However, I knew that I couldn’t turn back. Why? Two reasons:

  1. I am brave, unafraid, and willing to face any conditions in the name of exercise.
  2. I live in the middle of the country, had no phone on my person, and was surrounded by either trees or bars.

(But that’s irrelevant.)

The point is, even though I was entirely numb and freezing and feeling crappy, I continued. I didn’t really have a choice, of course, which makes this whole scenario a little less noble, but the point is that I continued biking through the rain for a whole hour.

Writers face the same sort of challenge.

First drafts are beasts for almost anybody. Everyone likes the notion of pounding out a first draft. Everyone wants to be able to say, “Well, you know, I’ve finished writing a novel…” But we all find out that it isn’t as easy as that. I’ve started countless stories and have hit the 20-page mark only to let them fizzle out and die. And while the idea of Finishing A Novel is certainly attractive, I usually end up procrastinating anyway. Conversations like these are not uncommon in my mind:

“I should write something today.”

“But I don’t want to!”

“How will I ever finish my draft if I don’t?”

“You can write another time. You should check your email like you’re OCD instead.”

“But…”

“JUST SHUT UP OKAY YOU DON’T NEED TO WRITE TODAY. GEEZ.”

My Inner Distraction is very persuasive sometimes. Most of the time, actually. And I’m sure that lots of people suffer from the nasty procrastination virus, as well. But knowing that other people are lazy writers doesn’t really help.

So…what does help?

Well, I could prescribe a bunch of supposed writer’s block remedies, including NaNoWriMo, Write or Die, word wars, and lots more. And while these certainly help (NaNo in particular), none of them are particularly tried-and-true. Having word wars doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to finish your first draft in a month. Going to Write or Die may not increase your daily word sum. In fact, it could move you to throw your computer out your window in a fit of anger. And while NaNoWriMo certainly helps me write a lot for the month of November, it doesn’t help for the 11 other months in the year. So, really, there’s only one simple solution:

Sometimes, you just need to sit down and write.

Don’t waste time trying to find the special cure to writer’s block, because the only cure to writer’s block is writing. Duh, guys. And in order to write, you kind of have to…write. Plop down in front of your computer or notebook, and write. Maybe you don’t feel like plodding forward in your first draft. In that case, write a random excerpt. It may even give you inspiration to write in your regular novel. Who knows? But in order to get inspiration, you need to start writing. Anything. Everything. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS, PEEPS. JUST WRITE.

I’m sure some or most of you have heard that writing is like a muscle. You need to exercise it regularly in order to get better at it. And while this simile is a little overused at times, it couldn’t be truer. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. And the more you do it, the easier it will be to just sit down randomly and write. Take that, writer’s block.

And yes, this is a simple, somewhat overused writing tip. But it will never get old, so why not reiterate it?

Sometimes you just need to sit down and write.

So…go write something.

(Afterthought: While it’s true that the aforementioned writing tip helps most of the time, sometimes other techniques can help, as well. I find it particularly helpful to think of Hugh Jackman.)

Hugh Jackman1

You have to admit it. Villains love to talk.

They don’t mean to be so talkative. Villains are supposed to be cool, dangerous people who don’t say anything and just nod at their ax man to chop off people’s heads. But a lot of authors end up making their villains talkative, and therefore giving the hero plenty of information to defeat the villain with.

For instance: Let’s say Joe is the villain, and Sam is the hero. Sam is just going along, la-dee-da, and gets caught by Joe’s henchmen. OH NO. So Sam is being all brave and stuff, struggling against his handcuffs, whatever, and stares up at Joe insolently as Joe paces back and forth in front of him. Joe clasps his hands behind his back, looking for all the world strong and lethal and all that good villain stuff.

And then Joe begins to talk.

Actually, first Joe laughs his evil, maniacal laugh. (That’s a whole separate post in and of itself.) And then he begins to talk. Usually it goes something like this:

“Oh, dear Sam, why struggle? Your strength is no match for my evil awesomeness. In a little while, I will have you sent to my chambers of doom where you will be killed very slowly and very painfully. After you are dead, I will use my minions and my secret ninja power which no one knows about (SHHHH!) to take over the world. First I will attack New York, zeroing in on the Empire State Building. Then I will move onto the other larger cities, et cetera, et cetera. You shall be helpless to my incredible power! Because you will be dead! MWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!”

In doing so, Joe has effectively told Sam everything he needs to know. So if Sam escapes (which he will, because he’s the hero, and, sadly, heroes tend to have superhuman survival powers), he’ll know exactly how Joe will take over the world, and will be able to thwart him easily.

This makes the villain seem dumb.

Villains are not supposed to be dumb.

See, villains are supposed to be smart. They have to be incredibly smart to take over the world. Duh. But it always seems that the villain’s smartness completely fails him once he has the hero under his power. Once that’s accomplished, it’s perfectly fine to reveal his nefarious plots of doom, because of course the hero won’t escape. You would think after alllll of those stories of hero-survival, villains would pick up the hint that maybe it isn’t okay to tell your worst enemy everything they need to know to defeat you.

Of course, the villain could be so full of himself that he really believes the hero won’t escape. In this case, why does it matter if the hero knows what’s up or not? He’ll be dead anyway. No matter what the villain thinks will happen to the hero, there is no scenario in which it would be good to keep him so informed. It’s just DUMB.

I recently finished reading the Percy Jackson series (mini-celebration! I’ve completed the first goal on my 2013 reading challenge!), and while I really enjoyed the books, Rick Riordan fell into this trap occasionally (okay…pretty often). As the series progressed, he didn’t do it as much, but in the beginning of the series, he let his villains talk. And that was how Percy could escape them all (most of the time…all of the other times Percy just used his wits, of course. Or Annabeth’s. ‘Cuz she’s the smartest. Or they didn’t escape at all and died. I’m kidding. Maybe). While this talkative-villain alternative is definitely convenient for the author, it’s really annoying to read it. I have to suppress an urge to roll my eyes and/or throw the book down in irritation when I come across this kind of scenario. It just gets old. And boring. And also, the reader can tell that the author didn’t really want to put much effort into this part, because otherwise the hero would find everything out using his brain.

But as an author, this option can be…very tempting. Why go to all the trouble of writing extra scenes when you can dole out all of the information in one? From a length perspective, this looks very appealing. You know you’ll have to cut thousands of words from your novel anyway; why ramble when you know you’ll just cut it? Well, I can assure you that while going to the trouble of making your hero find things out the hard way is irritating at best and downright frustrating at worst, this option is a lot better than just handing the information over with a cherry on top.

In other words, if your villain ever feels like going on a spiel about his plans to your hero, it’s time to get out the duct tape. For the good of the story. And the world.

Meet Mary-Sue

Posted: December 18, 2012 in Writing
Tags: ,

Hello there.

Yes, I am two days late in blogging. *gasp* Mad Christmas preparations possibly involving cookie dough and random dancing was the cause of this very slight delay in posting. However, now I’m here. YAY.

Anyways, onto the topic of this post. The topic I am about to address is a thing all writers fear…it is a syndrome exceedingly difficult to elude…it has immense destructive powers that can slaughter your novel in a single chapter…

The dreaded Mary-Sue Disease.

Perhaps you are thinking, “What the heck is a Mary-Sue?” Well, a Mary-Sue is a character [a female character in this case; if the character is male the term is switched to Gary-Stu in order to be gender appropriate] who is simply too virtuous, too talented, and too good to be true. A Mary-Sue character is pretty much a perfect person, in a way. You can read more about it here.

But I am not writing this post in order to just explain what a Mary-Sue is. I am writing it to assist in the fierce, constant battle against the Mary-Sues that invade novels today. There are many novels which I have read in which the protagonist (or a love interest; this is also very common) is, well, a Mary-Sue. And let me tell you, reading about that character is like intentionally torturing myself. I often feel like destroying the character–who cares that they aren’t real?!–before the end of the novel.

As I write, I try to avoid creating Mary-Sueish characters. I truly do. Before I begin writing a new novel, I typically fill out a simple character questionnaire for each major character and make sure that they don’t have any Mary-Sue qualities. Some of these qualities are difficult to avoid, and I don’t believe that it’s a bad thing to use them in a character, as long as it isn’t superbly overdone and makes the character annoying/unbearable. For example, let’s say you have a character who has been raised in extreme poverty. While this can be a Mary-Sue quality, I really don’t think that such a thing cannot occur in good fiction. If your character, along with being raised in extreme poverty, has ALSO been abandoned by his/her caregivers, has ALSO been chosen as ‘The One’ in a major prophecy, ALSO manages to completely reform the villain by the end of the story, ALSO is incredibly beautiful/handsome, ALSO has every essential magical power, and ALSO angsts constantly about everything, then yes, I would consider that character to be a Mary-Sue. But if your character is raised in extreme poverty and is The Chosen One (though this smells faintly of Harry Potter–though he wasn’t exactly raised in extreme poverty), then I wouldn’t really think of that character as a Mary-Sue. Especially if the story is executed well.

What I’m trying to say is that Mary-Sues are terrible. But qualities attributed to Mary-Sues shouldn’t always be treated like the plague, as in the example above.

Okay. That was my optimistic side. Time for my pessimistic/cynical side on the matter.

To begin with, nobody–I repeat, nobody–likes a Mary-Sue. And if some person in the world indeed does like Mary-Sues, then, well…that’s your problem, not mine. But I think I can speak for the majority of readers when I say that Mary-Sues are a big turn-off.

For us authors, though, sometimes writing a non-Mary-Sue can be challenging. Sometimes I’ll be writing away, la dee dah, and then my character is in a tight situation and all that comes to my mind is, “No! She has to survive so that she can save so-and-so! Uh…Let’s just say that she’s talented with throwing knives.” And then my character gets out of the situation and all is fine.

But it isn’t.

Because in that instant, what I think is a harmless decision could begin the transformation of my character from a well-rounded individual to a…Mary-Sue. That one decision in an of itself doesn’t ruin the character, not by any means, but if I continue to give my character these handy little traits for when she needs them, soon my character will start to resemble Superman, in that she can do pretty much anything to  help herself and others out of bad situations.

What I try to do in these moments of temptation–the moments where I feel an urge to make that one little upgrade to my character, and thereby embarking on the road to Mary-Suehood–is ask myself if my character really needs this quality, or if I’m just trying to find an easy way out of an undesirable moment that the character might be in. More often than not, it is the latter case. If it turns out to be the former, then I have the motivation to go throughout the rest of the novel and add that quality to my character. If I don’t, then readers will certainly feel like the author just pulled a nice trait out of a hat and plopped it in the story. Which isn’t a good thing.

Another Mary-Sue case that I’ve read much too frequently, and am guilty of it myself, is the Mary-Sue romance. In which one person in the couple is instantly attracted to the other, who may not be quite as interested but quickly falls in love. I am always, ALWAYS tempted to do this in my stories. I never feel like waiting, I want my characters to stop fooling around and acknowledge the fact that they’re perfect for each other.

The thing is, I have read many novels which employ this scenario, and I hate it every time I read of a new couple entrapped by the Mary-Sue romance snare. And every time I make a private vow never to do that in any of my own novels. Yet I always have that urge to speed it up, make the two characters so attracted to the other that when their eyes meet it’s like LIGHTNING STRUCK THE AIR BETWEEN THEM.

This is not good.

So what do I do about it? Well, to be frank, I haven’t quite mastered this problem of mine. I’m still in the process of doing so. But really, all I can do is just force myself to take a deep breath, and think about how real the romance is. I imagine what it would be like if these characters were real people and they were in love in real life. And I often come to the conclusion that anybody, upon hearing their story of romance, would be highly skeptical. The truth is, no matter what genre you are writing in, every romance has to be real. Unless you are writing about otherworldly aliens who fall in love at five times the rate humans do. In that case, you are free to pace the romance however you please. But when we’re talking about humans, people don’t just fall in love in two seconds. That’s just not how it happens. So, I always try to think of my character’s romance as a real thing. And when I use that strategy, I can usually begin to remedy my love-at-first-glance urges.

In conclusion, I will share with you all a link to a Mary-Sue test that you can take for your characters, if you so please. I usually take it for my main character and the love interest, if there is one in my novel. Perhaps you will find it useful, too!

On a side note, I’ve made the so very important decision that in addition to blogging weekly (every Sunday; I’ll keep that up unless a better day of the week works better), I’ll blog whenever I feel like it, too. Because I often feel the urge to write long spiels on random nonsense and publish it for the world to see. Right.

Anyways, see you on Sunday! Between now and then, however, remember to watch out for strains of the Mary-Sue disease that could pop up in your writing. If you spot any of the symptoms–including but not limited to characters you know people would be irritated by, unhealthy romance, or a rash on your fingers after typing in your novel–call 1-800-627-9783 to receive your official medical diagnosis, or visit www.marysueprevention.org for more details on this disease and how to combat it.

Writing Through the Snow

Posted: December 10, 2012 in NaNoWriMo, Writing
Tags: , ,

Look! Drifting down through the little pixels! It’s snow! Which means that the time is near to celebrate that wonderful holiday of Christmas! I don’t know about you, but in my house the Christmas tree hasn’t even been brought up from the shadows of the basement yet. As such, I’m not feeling very Christmas-y. Ah, well. There’s always next week for those mundane trivialities.

Because of the Christmas festivities, I haven’t been doing much writing. However, in November the case was severely different. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, details of which you can access right here. I really don’t feel like explaining the whole ordeal, so if you want specifics, LOOK ELSEWHERE. Basically, you try to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This year was my second year, and I just barely reached 50K by November 30th. I still haven’t finished writing the novel itself–I’m nowhere near that point, in fact; I would estimate myself to be about halfway through–and I am beginning to wonder if I ever shall do so. However, I would still like to share a bit about the novel with you lovely people in the blogverse. Oh, dear. That sounded truly foolish…”I’m going to SHARE my novel!” Er. Note to self, Andrea: You are not blogging to a group of first graders.

Anyways. This novel is titled Cross Dimension and is in the science fiction genre (which you would very probably gather from the summary, but I figured I’d let you know this anyway.). My typical genre is fantasy; it’s my favorite to read and my favorite to write. But this year, the idea literally sprang into my head and there was nothing I could do about it. However, now that I’m well into my genre-switching venture, I still greatly prefer writing fantasy over science fiction.

ANYWAYS. The summary. Right. *hastily activates clapping machine* *clapping machine is broken* *weakly claps alone*

………………..

Cross Dimension, a summary

What would you do if you were singled out to incite a war? Futuristic America seems to be a smooth-running operation. The numerous alternate dimensions existing alongside Earth have caused no trouble to anyone thus far—but a war is brewing between the dictatorial ruler of the dimensions and Earth. When Arialle is brought to a government laboratory, she has no idea what to expect. She soon learns that she alone is the one who can unlock seven data keys that will, in turn, grant Earth access to supernatural weaponry that will no doubt tip the scales of the impending war in their favor. To unlock the keys, Arialle must journey to various dimensions, under guise of differing bodies, and find the people who, unbeknownst to them, hold the data keys locked in their minds. Accompanying Arialle is Rin, a harsh, austere man, one of few anomalies who can travel between dimensions unharmed. During their journeying, Arialle and Rin will face ghastly otherworldly creations, a ruler with a slipping grasp on her domain, and their own pasts. But the most difficult task of all will be answering to their consciences…and deciding where their loyalties truly lie.

………………..

Along with this shiny little summary, I would like to show you the cover I created using my own photography and online photo editing sites. I mainly used PicMonkey and Pixlr Express (both of which are excellent sites and should be universally used!) for this cover.

And…here it is!

Cross Dimension Nano

During November while I was actively writing Cross Dimension, I was so excited about it. Unlike the previous year’s novel, I really enjoyed writing Cross Dimension and didn’t get sick of it.

Now that November has come and gone, however, I’m starting to feel the first draft blues. And I haven’t even finished the first draft. How pathetic is that? Nonetheless, once a few weeks have elapsed (and once the Christmas season has died down), I intend to return to Arialle and Rin and force them to pump out a first draft.

The problem is, I am a semi-perfectionist. NaNoWriMo forces me to write without worrying about clunky sentences and meaningless dialogue, but once November ends, that irritating little Inner Editor comes out of his month-long coma. This isn’t a bad thing, really. I personally don’t think that we should all write like it’s NaNoWriMo time; never worrying about proper spelling or grammar, not once taking the time to create well-formed characters or develop strong plot arcs. I think that the editor inside all of us can help to hone our writing into what we truly want it to be. But there comes a time when it’s just too much. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself; that feeling that no matter what you write, you’re always compelled to go back and change a tiny detail. I know that I certainly feel a need to make every sentence perfect, every snippet of dialogue realistic but at the same time adding meaning to the story.

This trait of mine–or curse, rather–is the practically OCD, perfectionist part of my mind that refuses to let any piece of writing be less than perfect.

The truth is, though, that no first draft will ever be the final draft. Simply put, such a thing is impossible. You shouldn’t feel bad if your first draft is a piece of crap (I can assure you, so are mine). That isn’t a sign of mediocrity; it’s normal.

Revisions are always necessary. Even the greatest of novels were not written merely in one draft.

In conclusion. The happy medium is your bestest friend here. It isn’t healthy to feel terrible about your first draft…nor is it healthy to believe that your first draft is your final draft. Find the medium between the two; knowing that your novel is not the best it could be, yet realizing that you have the ninja power within you to fix up the crappy parts and make your novel shine.

Oh, dear. Now I’m starting to become all sentimental. “Be yourself!” “You’re perfect just the way you are!” Nope. Happy medium, remember? I’ll leave the sappy, honeyed words to One Direction, as they’re great at coming up with slews of feel-good phrases with lots of cheesy sauce on top.

So. After that heart-wrenching, tear-cranking, thought-provoking post, all I really have to say is…Merry Christmas. Enjoy the pretty (and sometimes blinding/dizzying) snow. And if you live in an area in which it does not snow, then enjoy the pretty (and not blinding/dizzying) snowfall on my blog!

See you in a week! [Or sooner. Or later. Or never. You never know, I could be captured by the RTA (The RTA is in and of itself an absolutely confidential matter, so don’t be surprised if you have no idea what I mean.), tortured day after day, and finally slain in a noble and possibly heroic manner. Perhaps saving a loved one. Or the entire world. You never know when these things might happen…]