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Happy NaNo’s Eve!

One more day until NaNoWriMo, folks! Other than purchasing your newest version of Scrivener, what else are you doing to prepare for the marathon that will ensue? Are you gutting your work space to make room for new writing supplies? Have you put together the playlist for the long hours you will end up sitting at your desk? Do you have a month’s supply of your favorite beverage? How about them Cadbury’s eggs left over from Easter this year?

I personally don’t have any Cadbury’s eggs left over from Easter (I have no self control in that area), but I, too am working through my own initiation sequences.

For starters, I’m stocking up on paper. This is going to sound like writing suicide, but I’m going to draft in notebooks this year. I’ve always found it easier for me to generate crappy writing when I’m holding the good ol’ trusty pen. It’s almost like that one friend who doesn’t judge you for your mistakes.

I’m also psyching myself into it. In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she mentions a tool for motivation called affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements about oneself like “I am an amazing writer”, or “I can write a novel in a month”. Find that affirmation that works for you. I’ve been telling myself, “It will only take an hour to write 2,000 words a night” and “You can do this” for the past three weeks now, and I’m starting to believe it.

I’m currently writing up a synopsis of where I want to visit over the course of the month. For me, writing an outline gives me a good idea what sites I would like to visit and what scenes I feel would be appropriate. Usually, I write by the seat of my pants, but I tend to get stuck when I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I can type/write a little faster this way. Note benne: Outlines are not set in stone. They are meant to be slashed apart and loosely followed. As Captain Barbossa says: “[They are] more of what you would call “guidelines” than actual rules.”

To go along with the outline, I’ve also begun sculpting my characters. I realize this sounds a little weird, but for one, it is very therapeutic to massage clay, and by creating my characters I am being productive. Plus, it helps assist in visualization. Plus, plus, if you use the polymer baking clay–KABAM. Homemade action figures to act out scenes with. I’ve found that this exercise gets me all excited to write about the characters and brings them to life, in a sense.

For the past month, I’ve been putting together a playlist of songs that I consider to be the soundtrack to the story. It’s actually been quite fun. I ended up reopening my Pandora account and started a station including the genre of music I needed. I gave the generator a couple artists that I knew fit the tone and as the station gave me new songs to listen to I liked, disliked and added new artists to the station as I discovered them. The result? A working soundtrack. I’m at the point where I’ve begun purchasing songs on iTunes and adding the clear winners to a Youtube playlist for when WiFi is available in my writing environment.

The last thing I’m doing is creating a game plan for writing. My goal is to write 2,000 words per day, and having two jobs and full time school takes up a lot of my time. I mapped out my schedule in Google Calendars so I can visualize exactly how many hours out of 24 I can dedicate to drafting.

Well, that about sums it up for me. It’s time for me to hit that outline again and see if I can get it finished!

Live long and write happy!

ACE

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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo: Week 2

The second week of NaNoWriMo is upon us! Now that the first week push is totally over (and motivation is waning, might I add), it’s time to bring it back home and address all the things that currently might be standing in our way.

I, for one, have started out pretty droopy. Even though I am trying to use NaNo as fuel to get me to the end of Disconnect, I am finding myself still getting stuck in the mud of discouragement, writer’s block and misty character motivation. My plot that I thought had all figured out decided to take a small twist, giving me whiplash and leaving me feeling disoriented for a few days, I did manage to hurtle the initial writer’s block I was experiencing before Camp started only to faceplant into the one only a few feet behind it, leaving me with should-I-keep-this-character musings that I would much rather not deal with.

But enough kvetching about my week one woes. It’s time to talk about the solving of them.

Discouragement is a horrible thing to encounter. If you are anything like me, outputting an enormous amount of words in one day is like trying to lift a 1,666 lb angry cat with one hand and no glove. In other words, it hurts and you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. 

The solution is simple: Do what you can do. Don’t hurt yourself trying to kick the angry cat’s butt, go kick the butt of the weight machine first, and maybe go shopping for body armor. Work up to that 1,666 words per day. Sure it gets you behind, but after sitting on the couch your whole life, you aren’t going to one day be able to stand up and say “Hey! I’m going to run a marathon today!” You need to begin training. If the word count you can pull of in your best day is only a few hundred words, then great! Try to add another hundred to that the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, even if you have to carve an extra three hours out of your day to do it. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about finishing off a novel, but also pushing yourself to do your best and reach a goal.

The next thing to address is the bane of every writer’s existence: Writer’s Block. Having been wrestling with my own sever case of WHY-ISN’T-THIS-WORKING, I discovered that you can’t take the inspiration train to happy land through a wall of death. It’s one of those things you need to get up, face and start knocking your forehead against until you see the light peeping through tiny cracks and make them big enough to shove through. Writer’s block is work, and you have to keep clocking in and force yourself through slogs of nasty, cheesy dialogue, bumpy prose and embarrassing cliches.

The directors at NaNo recommend throwing in something unexpected like ninjas (my personal favorite) or stampeding elephants and seeing how your characters react from there. Even though you’ll probably have to delete the scene in later drafts, at least you learn things about your characters like how they react to absurdity, or what their fighting skills are like, maybe even who would throw who under the bus in times of life and death. Who knows? You could uncover a plot gem! A new twist! A sub plot! The possibilities are endless.

Something that seems to be working the best for me in times of writing block is switching mediums and the occasional environment. For example, I since summer started I started going to sit outside on the deck with my laptop perched on the bistro table, watching the hummingbirds divebomb each other while the sun rises. For me, the change from my desk to outside in the cool morning helped a lot. When I’m super blocked, I resort to the good ol’ writing journal and handwrite it out. This allows me to get over the mentality that everything has to be perfect and that I’m allowed to make mistakes. A lot of times I’ll write out the same scene several different times in my journal to help me figure out what I want to accomplish.

But probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself with a block is continue writing. Those walls slow you down and bring all the fun to a stop. Don’t let that happen, and a lot of the time, everything will work itself out. You’ll be back on track and getting things done before you know it.

The last thing I’d like to quickly address is  busting your way through character motivation. This first week, a scene occurred to me that didn’t really seem congruent with the rest of what I had written. I really liked it, and my IR said it was one of her favorite scenes I’d done yet. My only issue I had a character take a full 360 turn for about 2 pages then reverting back to the original personality I had given them. I couldn’t figure out if this was a part of the character I didn’t know about yet, or if I was just tailoring things to go my protagonist’s way for the sake of building his character. There are really only two bits of advice I can think of to give in situations like these.

The first mirrors what I said about writer’s block. Try journalizing about it. Write different scenes with them. Try some choppy pieces of dialogue with them. Introduce them to ninjas. Do something away from your manuscript to try and figure out who they are and why they act certain ways.

The next involves interviewing your character. I’ve only done this a couple times, and not with this particular storyline, but it works, and I enjoy it a lot. Having a back and forth or even an arguement with the character as an author lets you know a ton about motivations, especially if the characters are open enough with you to come out and say it. I’ll admit, it’s a little eerie when that happens, but totally worth it.

Well fellow NaNoers and non-Nanoers alike, this post has run long enough, and I hope it helped at least someone out there struggling with their own week one woes; I know it’s certainly helped me!

Time to get back to that manuscript! Stay strong and write on!

ACE

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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The Ideal Reader

In honor of my wonderful Ideal Reader’s birthday this past week, today’s post is going to be about the Ideal Reader–probably one of my most favorite people to deal with in the writing universe.

In Stephen King’s On Writing, he said the “Ideal Reader is also the best way for you to gauge whether or not your story is paced correctly and if you’ve handled the backstory in a satisfactory fashion.” I believe this is true. Your Ideal Reader, as a definition, is that person that you write for. They represent your audience. They are the type of people you are writing for, and having a representative of them can be your greatest asset.

There are two main take home points King brings up when dealing with your IR:

  1. Watch your IR when they are reading your work. I realize this sounds sorta creepy and maybe unnerving, but you can gather a lot of helpful information by doing so. Be looking for certain reactions: when they laugh, when they are able to put your manuscript down and work on some other activity. These reactions can help you figure out where the story needs to pick up pace and where you are accomplishing the effect you are looking for.
  2. Listen carefully to where your IR didn’t understand. Your IR is similar to a search dog. They can sniff out those passages that just don’t make sense. It’s very likely that those places they didn’t understand, you probably don’t understand yourself*. Ask them what exactly they are confused about and try to pinpoint what areas need fleshing and/or clarification. Some areas that tend to have problems include backstory, description and character motivation, so keep your eyes peeled for those aspects as you write.

*Note: I have found that if the writer doesn’t fully understand the motivations of a character or how things work in their world, it shows in their writing. I’ve noticed it in my own work. I tend to get very vague and wishy washy about what I want to say in regard to the scene or event I’m working on.

When I work with my IR I do things a little bit differently. My IR has a lot more involvement in my writing process than King’s does in his. Rather than locking her out entirely as I’m drafting, I tend to use my her as a sounding board. Lucky for me, I work with her almost every day, and I’m able to bounce things off of her whenever I want, and I’ve found it helps me flesh out the world more completely. She asks me questions that make me really think about what I’m writing. How things work, why things happen the way they do, stuff like that. Numerous times she’s helped me out of literary jams and writer’s blocks, and provides the occasional encouragement that every writer needs.

In the selection of IR’s, I would highly recommend you find someone close to you that you could trust with babysitting your first born child, because that’s what your work is, right? I pick from those that I have known the longest and have been with me from the very beginning of all beginnings. I’ve known my IR since the beginning of my first book, True Heir to Freedom’s Throne, when I was 13, but I didn’t realize that she was my Ideal Reader until I reconnected with her after high school at my current job. The moment I figured this out was the best day of my life, might I add, because I got a better idea of who my target audience is. It really improved my writing a lot, and I am so grateful for her.

Oh, and one more thing:

Happy Birthday Jess. I freakin’ love your guts. ❤

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in On Writing

 

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