Update: The Project

I am still busy with my project, now approximately 18,000 words into it. Wring have slowed down a bit, but I expected it. For me, the first chapters are always the easiest because my stories are still simple there. Plain. I introduce some characters, give the readers a few things to think about with the main character and introduce a theme which I try to drag through right to the end. My themes have ranged from things like “This character can’t do maths,” to “the dead never leaves us,”. It all depends on my mood really.

I’m pleased with how things are going, but I’m starting to realize that I need to do some serious planning. Or, not planning but mapping certainly. The thing is that, this story is not just about the story. The theme actually plays a very big role in this and I need to accentuate that without repeating myself too much.
At the moment, I’m repeating myself too much.

But, things are flowing. I have a nice set of characters, my main characters are established (sort of) and I have already picked a proverbial scapegoat. Because, my stories won’t be the same without a little bit of unfair treatment.

And, my main character surprises me, which is a pleasant thing. I have worked with the same characters for so long that there are very few surprises for me. This one is different. She has a mind of her own.

It’s good and so far, I hope the writing is as well. 😉

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It was the Week after NaNoWriMo…

And not a word was written.

Or, not a lot anyway.

For someone who had hit 50K words in the first 9 days of NaNo, I found myself at a distinct loss for words. The honest truth was that I’ve drained myself a little bit. Writing takes so much energy that blasting out 140K words in 30 days seemed to have taken most of my reserves. I had anticipated this luckily and hadn’t set out a lot of writing projects for December. I had finished my largest one just before NaNoWriMo and the rest… Well. They could wait for the New Year.

What I’m experiencing isn’t actually all that uncommon. A lot of NaNoWriMo writers don’t indulge in their creative juices again for a full year until the next NaNoWriMo. Projects are abandoned half way, the dreams of becoming a published author sliced with the reality of every day routine. Worlds are left as they were, sometimes never visited again.

I find the latter incredibly sad but not as sad as those writers who abandon their keyboards and stories. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you the ‘oomph’ that you need to start your ‘One Day’ project. The problem with NaNoWriMo is a lot of times it leaves you in the middle of it and because you drained away most of your writing energy in the past 30 days, you can’t make yourself go back to it.

The truth is that although writing is a great hobby, it’s also like work sometimes. It’s certainly become a little bit like work for me, even though I really enjoy it.

And, it’s a discipline, a routine that you need to establish.

To try and get over the NaNoWriMo Blues, I have a few suggestions that I would like you to try out, if you feel that you want to continue writing but can’t make yourself start.

  1. Give yourself time to relax. Make it a set time like 14 days, or 31 days (the whole of December). If you’ve set down a time, stick to it. Turn on your computer directly the day after. If you post pone, you’ll be doing it your whole life.
  2. Set yourself a goal. Don’t make it a ridiculous one – make it easy and achievable. Remember, this is not NaNoWriMo anymore, it’s about your own personal time and your own personal goals. Mine is 7000 words a week which equates to 1000 for every day of the week or 1400 per day if I don’t count weekends (which I don’t write in a lot to give myself a break).
  3. Keep track of your goal. Set up an excel spreadsheet and enter the amount in every day. You laugh? It works! There’s nothing more motivational than seeing what you need and what you have. Some days you can sit back, open a proverbial (or physical!) bottle of red wine and go: I did good. Other times you can brew a cup of coffee and type out that extra couple of lines that you need.
  4. Find a writing buddy. Share your goals and your triumphs. Give each other reports. It helps having someone checking up on you every now and again. Humans are strange like that because we don’t like it if others see our failure. 😉
  5. If you can – join a writer’s group or a writing workshop. An author I know called it ‘author group therapy’. We need people like ourselves to keep encouraging us. No offense to you non writers reading this, but you just don’t always understand. We need that understanding sometimes.
  6. Don’t give up. Ever. Keep on writing, keep on trying, keep on setting goals for yourself. It will pay off in the end.

A good friend of mine, Aheila (who you can find in my links page) did just this. She set up a goal for herself and she’s stuck with it through thick and thin. She’s not published her first short story and I believe that she’s well on her way to becoming a published author. She’s shown me that it can be done, and I would like to hold her up as an example to all of you.

Go to her blog, see what’s she’s done.

Remember that, although writing is patient, some stories aren’t and when you have an idea you need to put it down into paper now.

Otherwise you’ll lose it, and that would be tragic. Like the mass murder of dozens of characters that the world will never know. So, please – continue on writing. If you have the NaNoWriMO Blues – sulk, but then step out of it.

There’s still a whole world out there for you. 😉

Alyss

Sinking the Ship.

I read a book once, giving advice on how to write a good detective story. The theme wasn’t really applicable to me at that stage, being more in a fantasy mood, but the advice the author gave stayed with me long after the author’s name disappeared from my mind.

He said that: Writing a book is like inviting people along on a cruise ship with you. Your first step is getting them onto the boat and making sure that they are still with you when you leave port. You must then take your passengers (readers) on a magnificent journey, showing them wonderful sights that they have never seen before, each experience leaving them begging for more. When they are happy and content and settled into your cruise, you have to take your boat and sink it.

A friend of mine wrote about The Quest for Emotionally Complex Moments, a topic which made me remember this piece of advice. I came to realize that this image of a boat, this idea of telling a story, giving the readers everything that they desire and then sinking the ship, was an approach that I loved to use. I loved the yank the proverbial pond out from underneath the duck. I believe that’s why I can’t really write comedy, why inevitably, angst, drama and desperation, find their way into my work. The fear, the terror and the surprise of a sinking ship is where I get my thrill. The key to this is emotion. Emotion is what drives the ship, what fuels your creativity and what plants the seeds of creativity. Emotion is an untameable force, begging for an outlet and whether it finds its outlet in music, books or movies, you know that if enough emotion is channelled into your story, you will get an explosive, anguish filled, breakingly beautiful journey.

One of my readers from The Touch of Green Fire once said (upon completion of the story):

I don’t know what to say, this story was just incredible, i swear to you that
everyday i was checking with hope of an update for this amazing story, i think
it was a journey and a dawn good one if i may say so, they were ups and downs
and a promise of a uncertain future, just like in real life, i certainly
appreciate very much this story and i can azure you that it has a special
place in my heart and in my knowledges, i will cherish this as long as i can
remember and when i forget i definitely would come back, cause a have learn
many things and i have found some answers…

 

In this review, summarized (and justified) more than a decade of my writing and the reason why I write.

Life.

In writing, I capture a bits of my life, bits of my emotion, bits of the world. The cruise, the travel of the plot, isn’t just an exploration of my character’s lives and their circumstances but also of mine. Their emotions are bits of mine, chiselled and worked in such a way that I can deal with it myself. Their questions are mine, the answers they receive ones that I have discovered through them, and through life sometimes.

The reason for this is because the author of the ‘How to’ book provided me with another piece of advice: When you have left your passengers to flounder around in the water, with no hope of being saved, throw them a life jacket and pull them aboard another vessel. You will have their gratitude, and loyalty forever.

For all the anguish in my stories, all the dark and desperate pain, there is also hope. And absolution, and answers if not the ones that you always want.

Because my friends, that is what I try to capture in my work, through emotion:

Hope. And Life. And inevitably, Love.

A NaSty Outline – Character Grid.

Being a writer can be compared to being a sportsman. Every person has something that he or she is good at, and then – they have something that they struggle with. I like to believe that I’m pretty good with dialogue but, my weakness is number of characters. I never put more than three main characters in a story, and use no more than five as back up cast. It’s therefore quite a new experience to me to write a story that has 10 main characters. After completion of the last two Nasty Pixie Tale chapters, I realized that I was slowly but surely coming apart at the seams. Some characters were falling back and becoming back up characters were as others were threatening to become quite monotonous. I had to stop this immediately and try to pull back what was threatening to become lost.

So, today I did something I have never done before. I started planning and outlining, two words which have never been associated with my writing up until this moment. I’m a fly by night writer, sitting down in front of my computer and just letting the words spill out as they come. It’s worked pretty good up until now, but things were changing. I’ve been rethinking my style and process the past couple of months and it’s become clear that I couldn’t write this way anymore. The length of my fics and the strength and unpredictability of my characters didn’t allow it.

I needed help and luckily, I knew where to get it.

During November, the urban fantasy author Kim Harrison had posted a series of blog posts detailing how she planned her writing and her books. Among her hints, one thing stood out namely her character grid. This concept pulled at me immediately, but at the time I didn’t have any use for it. Now, when I desperately tried to regain order in my story, I realized that it might just be the thing to bring what might be a potential mess in order.

This is what I came up with (click on it for a bigger document):

 

The layout is quite simple. On the far left, you have a list of the characters, alphabetically listed. On the top, you have the location, day and the part of the story which it was posted in. At the bottom, you have a brief description of what’s been happening in the set location. And then, you have the colours.

These are my own initiative with the character grid. I needed a way to see how active the characters have been and this seemed to be the best method. I believe it’s quite simple.

The PURPLE blocks are ‘introduction’ blocks which basically say when the character stepped into the story. BLUE blocks are general blocks. This is when a character doesn’t take up a main conversational role or when all characters are general even in their actions. Blue means balance. Then, the GREEN blocks are ‘absent’ blocks. They count as indicators when a character hardly had any conversation or lines in a part. They are mentioned and might have one line, but in general, they do not hold a conversation. The RED blocks are active blocks. They indicate intense reaction between characters, when their plight/conversation/role in the part becomes the main focus, ie – Mud having a feisty dialogue with Tiffany when they needed to enter the club house.

By using this, I get a very good perspective about what’s going on in my story, and whether I’m maintaining a balance between the characters. I can see through this for instance that two characters, Phil and Marsha, need more main interaction as they are acting mostly like supportive characters than main characters at the moment. Mud’s not there yet, but threatening to slip down to their role. Kylie’s an interesting character, because although she doesn’t take a lot of main action, she’s constantly in the general action, more so than any of the others. She does this through her dialogue and her actions so, although she doesn’t have a lot of red blocks, she’s pretty well settled in the story.

I am pretty pleased with myself as this grid produced the result that I wanted from it. I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll be able to incorporate it into all of my fics. The layout is there, now I just need to use it accordingly.

You can find the original Kim Harrison post here:
http://kimharrison.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/character-grid/