Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Month of Dangerous Writing

Yes, it's that time of year again!  The air is crisp (even here in San Diego- FINALLY), the are days shorter, and there's fun and madness everywhere-

IT'S NANOWRIMO TIME!!! *Cue a bunch of writers dressed in hammer pants dancing in sync*

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo (or just NaNo which is easier ;)), is a world wide event where crazy writers join forces and agree to write 50,000 words (about 170 pages for me) in the month of November.  

That is a hell of a lot of word slinging!

Why do we do it?  Hello?  "Crazy"?  ;)  But there are some great benefits too.

1) It really pushes you and challenges that don't kill you make you stronger.

2) You get to commune with other crazy writers through forums that are local or based on your genre- I have some great writer friends I met through NaNo a few years ago- locals I never would have known otherwise!

3) It will send that pesky internal editor to an early grave.  Or at least a month long vacation.  You need 1,667 words a day to hit the goal (and no- I don't recommend counting on doing huge counts later in the month to make up ;)- keep things as steady as you can!) At that pace you CANNOT edit.  

4) Awesome bragging rights.  Ok, so many folks will look at you and say, "You did what again?"  But deep inside they are filled with awe for your mad writer skills and determination!

So those are just a few reasons why you want to do this, here are a few tips:

1)  This is FUN- keep that in mind at all times.

2) Pretty sure the household can survive with less you for a month- make your family your support crew so they don't resent NaNo or forget who you are.

3) You will want a support crew-LOL.  Grab friends, family (see above) or new folks you meet on the forums- but don't do this alone!

4)  Check out other sites for planning and strategies- one of the best I think is Alexandra Sokoloff's blog :  http://www.screenwritingtricks.com/2014/10/nanowrimo-prep-whats-plan.html

5) Reward yourself!  Food and booze is fine, but you don't want to be drunk and trying to write, nor in a sugar coma.

6) Never, EVER, delete words in your WIP.  If you really hate some little devils, change the font to white.  You won't see them, but they will still be in your word count- trust me, around Thanksgiving time you will need them.

Ok- so what about you folks- anyone who has done NaNo have some more tips?  Questions newbies joining for the first year? 

Come join us!  Or at least check it out ;)

By the way- that blue block in the right corner of the blog?  That's a NaNo word war with me and some friends (yeah- I'm mandreas- hard to figure out, right?  ;)).  This will update our word counts as NaNo progresses- so come back often and see how we're doing!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Becoming a Time Lord

Ok, not the Whovian style- I don’t think you can just sign up for that. (Not that being a Time lord in that sense wouldn't be fun, I really do want my own Tardis ;)).

 But I’m talking about becoming the Master (using it gender neutral here, folks) of your time.

As writers, we never seem to have enough time.  Some of us have evil day jobs (or even not so evil ones), some have families, some both.  Whatever the case, writing takes A LOT of time, and there never seems to be enough to go around.

Recently, I started getting up earlier (5am) which gives me two and a half hours to do all the usual morning tasks and extras before I leave for EDJ (evil day job ;)). I’m a morning person, so earlier is better, but it does take some getting used to to develop the habit. I have noticed that I like getting things off my plate before work- makes the start of the day less hectic and gets some stuff off the to do list.

Now, my first two of weeks doing this, I wasn’t doing my writing.  I would do blogs, other things related to it, but not writing.  For me this worked well since I first needed to get back in the habit of 5 am –then get into writing before work.

But last week and this week, I've been writing.  Usually hitting 500 words a morning, I keep track of my daily goal (1000 or more) on a spreadsheet where I can put in my current word count at any point and see how many words I've done and how many to go for my daily goal.  It may be silly, but that little Excel sheet keeps me moving (just 86 more words!  Almost there!).

Getting up early seems to be helping me control my time better.  I don't have a choice about when I go into my EDJ, but I do have control of the time around it. By building in time to get something done early, I’ve freed my mind from worrying about my evening goal.  I still have one, but it’s reduced and less scary ;).

Another thing I'm doing to get more out of my time, is trying only to watch recorded TV shows and limit myself to two per night.  I can easily slip into TV junkie land, so I need to make sure I’m watching what I really want to watch and not just surfing through re-runs. Besides, if they are recorded I can miss all the commercials ;).

I've also found that telling myself what I will be doing for the day/week and keep reminding myself helps.  I’ve found that if I commit to myself, “Tonight, I’m making muffins for work”, or  “Tonight, I’m getting in an extra 500 words”, I’m more likely to finish the task.  In my head it is a done deal, a reality. When I plan things out more I suddenly seem to have more time, since I’m spending less time puttering around thinking about what I should do ;).

Now that I’m on the TimeLord train, I’m looking for more ways to save it and find it- please post your best time tricks!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Birthdays and Celebrations!

When we create worlds and people to man them, we're creating ENTIRE worlds. Every little aspect is new to our specific world view--even if it's something we see everyday. Now granted, people who are working with our world, or variations of it, do have a nice base to work from, but they still have to build in what aspects to accent and show.

But for us building new worlds completely from scratch, we have a lot to deal with.

World building can be fun, painful, or somewhere in-between.  Some writers spend YEARS (I kid you not- they scare me) building their worlds before they write one word of the story.  I do wonder if, at that point, the world building has become the story.  Other folks are more like me at the pantser end of the gene pool--even world building is more of a "as you go" project. We have ideas, more of a feel for a world than hard and fast definitions of everything.  As the book progresses more rules fall into place.  (I know that is making all you plotters squirm ;)).

New worlds will have new holidays and celebrations too.  What do the people in this world you've created celebrate?  Harvest? Spring?  The coming of the cool season?  Birthdays?  How do they celebrate them?

Today is my birthday and that's what got me thinking about all of my worlds and my characters.  I haven't built in a single birthing day reference, celebration, ceremony, or hootenanny to celebrate any of their birthdays.  If they celebrate them. Some cultures may not count the birthday, but another day years down the line.  Maybe it's bad luck to celebrate a birthday.  The options are pretty open.  But somehow my characters ended up without anything.

It wasn't conscious, just something that I didn't do. But it's wasting a great chance to show insight into my characters and their worlds.  What events are celebrated, and how, says a lot about a culture and individuals.  While it shouldn't take over a major plot point, or even a secondary one, it could add some depth.

So, I'm going to be looking for celebrations in my books from here on out- maybe even give some characters some suitably dramatic birthdays ;).

Thanks for coming by!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It's all about making people dance....

Actually, it's about manipulation.

All art, whether it be writing, acting, music, film, painting, drawing, etc, is created with the idea to manipulate the recipient in some way.

We want to make them feel something, evoke an emotional response that is directly the reaction of their psyche to our work.  And as consumers of art, know we are being manipulated.  We listen to a favorite song because it lifts our spirits.  We have "Comfort" books and movies that we read or watch on a regular basis because they bring out positive feelings. We watch a scary movie at Halloween to get into the spirit.

That is all well and good and the nature of art. It's why we do what we do and why we listen to music, watch movies, and read books. Where it gets sticky is when the creator manipulates with a sledge hammer.

This can happen in any format, and is often the result of the creator not being confident in their work, or in the case of a long time series or TV show, feeling they need to "shake things up".   TV even has a nice little term for it- jumping the shark.  Came around when the show Happy Days decided to liven things up late in their run by having The Fonz jump a shark.

It didn't liven them up, but did make them a catch phrase (and not in a good way).

More recently TV shows are doing this by killing established characters.  The actor wants off, or someone else wants them off, so they ratchet up the emotional  level, then kill them.  See my previous post on killing- if it's not essential to the story, and there was another more logical way to complete said story- don't do it. Don't let me as the reader see the strings being pulled.

I know I am being manipulated in my emotional reaction to what I read, watch, and listen to, but I want it to be subtle.  When it's done with a light touch, the reader gets pulled in and easily finds themselves reacting to the work appropriately- aka they dance the way you want them to. But when things are too over the top, too much for shock, or you find yourself wondering how to get that character on the water skis to jump that shark, there's a problem.  When people see the manipulation, the "man behind the curtain" it ruins the magic.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG: Fearless Writing

Welcome, yet again, to another chapter in the Insecure Writer's Support Group saga!  For those of you yet unawares of this group- it's a monthly chance for writers from all over to gather and share our hopes, dreams and fears.

Join us!  http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Today is about fear and loathing ...

Fear is helpful when you are running for your life from a crazed wild animal or ax wielding lunatic.

It's not so helpful when you are trying to write a book.  Or a series.  Or launch a writing career.

First I suppose we should define fear:

  1. 1.
    an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The definition doesn't sound like something that should affect writers.  We're sitting in our own space, most likely not under threat of bodily harm, yet we all most all experience some type of fear about our writing.

Even though we are clearly not under physical threat--as used the in definition above--we could be said to be operating under mental threat.  What will happen to our livelihoods when we fail?  Or, if we're still holding our day jobs, what will happen to our sense of self when we fail?

Note I say WHEN we fail.  We will fail, it's the nature of what we do.  If we approach our writing fearing that we'll fail, we're already making things worse.  Accept it.  You will fail.  I will fail.  If we've been at this a while, we've already failed many times.

But fear can cripple a writer. And not just fear of failure- but fear of success.  Perverse as the human mind is, we can even fear both at the same time.  These fears can stop us from writing or can make us find so many folks to get feedback from that we kill our work.

So how do we move beyond fear when we write?

First, like I said above- accept it, embrace it, make buddies with it.  Maybe make a little fear doll to sit next to you when you write.  Acknowledge it every day. YOU control it- not the other way around.

Second, make notes of what scares you at that point.  This will probably change at different parts of the process- so acknowledge each one during its time.

Third, follow that fear to the ground.  What would be the worse thing that could happen if what you fear is true- comes about?  Now go over the top with it.  Will the world still stand?  Friends and family still love you?  WILL IT STOP YOU FROM WRITING?

Fourth, tell your fear you are doing it anyway- and get back to writing, editing, pitching, or selling- whatever stage you are at- hug your fear, and move on.

The only way to be fearless is to embrace your fears and let them make you stronger.