Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

Write a scene from this picture:


(Picture from Story World: Christmas Tales)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Weekly Writing Update: December Week 2

Last Sunday, I listed 3 goals to be working on. In the week since then, I finished 2, plus another task that I decided needed doing, and have just started into the 3rd:

1. Remove NaNo fodder from 2019 NaNoNovel – This took a couple of days, but it’s finished, and now this draft can be filed away for a while.

2. Update Kindle version of “Pithea”, upload it to KDP, add Kindle version to Goodreads – This also took a couple of days, and now I have very little left to prepare for publishing my first novel! (Read the first chapter here!)

At this point, I decided that I needed to make a minor edit (which of course turned out to be some major work) to the paperback cover, which took about 45 minutes, but the cover should be set now.

3. Finish first revision of “Outcast” (book #2) – This particular goal is going to take a bit longer than the others. I’m already about 90% of the way through the revision, according to the math I did for a post back in August when I was last working on this revision. However, I hit on an idea some time in the last month for a way to cut out a character that I’ve realized isn’t very important to the story by giving the little bit that he does do that’s important to a bigger character, so I’m making that change before I go back to the rest of the revision. This is what I will be continuing with for the next week.

Writing Wednesday: IWSG Dec 2019

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The optional question for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post is quite timely for me, and very close to the topic I was considering writing this post about anyway. Here is the question posed for today’s IWSG post:
Let’s play a game. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream?

With the impending release of my first full-length novel, I have started to dip my toe into marketing. I am the absolute worst person to be self-publishing, as I have 0 social skills and don’t know how to carry a normal conversation even in everyday life. Add to that a very small budget and every common writer insecurity, and well, all I can do is the best that I can.

Last Saturday, I took part in a Local Author Book Sale at the library in a nearby city. It was part of a holiday shopping extravaganza downtown. To participate, you basically have to have a book you can sell, so I qualified with The Triangle. I took some copies to sell and some items with which to promote my future novel “Pithea” in advance of its release.

I did hand out some promotional bookmarks and talk to some people who showed interest. But I think the biggest thing I got out of this event is an understanding of what to do better/differently next time.

There was a man at the table next to me, younger than me, who had something like 6 books to sell (mostly novella-length from the look of them). When he arrived and started setting up, he lamented how many things he had forgotten to bring (we loaned him our masking tape). He said he used to do events like this all the time, but has gotten busy with school recently and didn’t take much time to prepare for this.

With him as an example, as well as other authors I met or studied during the event, I commented to my husband that someday I’d like to be as confident as he was with the people walking by his table (though I’ll never be the talker he is), but that I’d never want to get to the point where going to an event like this is so run-of-the-mill or unimportant that I don’t still do my best to prepare for it and make it a great event.

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That’s me at my table with my pitifully meager display compared to most of the others. My husband insisted on the banner, which was a splurge for our tiny budget, but was well-received. I was dealing with imposter syndrome pretty heavily the whole day, and questioning why they even let me come to this event. But I was really glad I did. It was a huge step up from the only other event like this I’ve been part of, and yet, still small enough to give someone like me a chance to attend and learn.

All of that said, I don’t want to end this post without saying that I am not as disheartened as I may sound. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m definitely just starting out. I may never get to the point that I’d like to, regarding confidence and self-promotion, but I do know that I’ll get better than I currently am with practice. And if along the way, I can find an audience of whatever size for my books, people who enjoy the characters and their stories and want to know what happens next as much as I do, then I’ll be pretty happy.

For my fellow writers, what does your future writer life look like?

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Weekly Writing Update: December Week 1 (NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up)

(Before I get into this long update, one last time for 2018, be sure to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2019 – December 1st It’s also the very last NaNoToon ever!)

NaNoWriMo is over, and boy what a month it was. I spent pretty much all of my free time in November either writing for NaNoWriMo or working on “Pithea” for its upcoming release. Still, I came out on the other side with 82,750 words and, more importantly, a finished draft! This book will most likely be book #8 in the Pithea Series. But since I’m just about to publish book #1, and all of the books between here and #8 still need a lot of work, who knows what could happen by the time I get there.

I had some highs and lows during NaNo, but was more happy than not with what I was writing. I had some “Aha!” moments, which I absolutely love, even though they were mostly minor. Still exciting! I already know a lot of places that need work, but it will be a long time before I get back to it for revision.

I had hoped to leave myself with little to work on for publishing “Pithea” during November, so I could focus on NaNo, but being that this is the first novel I’ve ever published, I can say now how silly it was for me to think that would be the case. I managed to find a balance, though, and now I have only small details left to work on.

I now have a finished cover, the paperback interior is completely ready, and the digital file just needs updated to minor changes I made when finalizing the paperback interior. I’ve added the book to Goodreads (just the paperback for now until I finish the digital file), added it to Reedsy (read the first chapter here!), and the ebook will be available for pre-order on Amazon soon!

So with NaNo over and my attention turning not only to final publishing details, but also to working on book #2 so that it can be released in a timely fashion after book #1, I have a new list of writing goals, related to all of these things:

1. Remove NaNo fodder from 2019 NaNoNovel – Sometimes I’ll spend the first few days after November ends doing a quick clean-up of what I wrote–mostly removing things I marked as NaNo fodder and at least doing a quick spell check. This is usually better to do while the story is still fresh, and then it’s good to let it sit for some time. It shouldn’t take long, and is better done now than later (I know that from experience).

2. Update Kindle version of “Pithea” – As part of this goal, after updating it, I’ll need to upload the final version to KDP, proof it, and decide on when the pre-order should be available. And add the Kindle version to Goodreads.

3. Finish first revision of “Outcast” (book #2) – Going by what is widely understood to be acceptable word count lengths for books of its type, “Outcast” is currently quite a bit too short. However, the amount I’d have to add would basically be entire new story arc. Rather than stress about how to lengthen it right now, I’m going to finish with the revision of what is already there, and then send it to 3 people who were most helpful with revision of “Pithea” and ask them to read it and tell me what they think–if they think there’s a lot that could be expanded on, plot threads they’d like to see followed, etc. And then I’ll go from there.

Writing Wednesday: IWSG Nov 2019

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For this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’m keeping my post short and simply answering the question posed on the IWSG site. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve got a novel draft to write, but I also have an interesting answer to the question.

Here is the question posed for today’s IWSG post:
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled in researching a story?

In my early writing days, I looked up how long it takes for a dead body to start to smell. I thought that was pretty strange at the time. I’ll bet it’s actually fairly run-of-the-mill though.

I topped it in 2015, when working on prep for my NaNoNovel that year. For the climax of the story I was outlining, I looked up what red-hot metal would do if stabbed into a body. It was a difficult topic to research, but led me down some really interesting rabbit trails that were not necessarily helpful for my novel (like common Hollywood misconceptions about how blades are made).

Nowadays, most of my research involves getting an accurate idea of weather during a certain time of year in areas that my books are set in or near, or distance between certain locations (like Alaska and Maine). Not nearly as interesting, but necessary to make sure my novels have a real feel to them.

So what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for a story?

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Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

Combine the following 3 elements into a scene, short story, story synopsis, etc:
prisoner of war
cashier at a dollar store
bid for immortality

(These elements were 3 randomly drawn cards from my Storymatic deck.)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

He/she is worth fighting for.

(Today’s prompt is the subtitle of the book I’m currently reading, Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone.)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

You’re avoiding yourself.

(Today’s prompt is a quote from the book Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren.)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Writing Wednesday: Character Interviews

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This is my first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, and I’m very excited! It is also a post for my own weekly feature that I call Writing Wednesday. So let’s get to it!

WW

In my writing past, I remember hearing other writers talk about their characters haranguing them. Complaining about their lack of page time, about unpleasant things that happened to them, or about who knows what else…but they always seemed to be complaining. I remember always being a mixture of jealous and certain that those writers were making it all up. While I didn’t believe that it was very likely that their characters just jumped into their thoughts out of nowhere to start talking to them, now I can see the plausibility—the writer might have been thinking about their story at that time, or just letting their mind wander in general. And now, I have seen the amazing benefits of talking to my characters.

There are likely many different ways people refer to this phenomenon. For me, it usually involves a discussion that is led along by me asking questions of my characters. Thus, I use the term “character interview.” And understand that the way I go about having these discussions with my characters are by no means the only way to do it. It is what works best for me, and you should definitely figure out what works for you (if this method works for you at all).

I will dispense with the history of how I came to utilize this technique in my writing, and just explain how helpful it can be. In the different stages of writing (which I would break down into dreaming, planning, writing, and revising), character interviews have been most useful to me during planning and revising stages. During the dreaming phase, you likely wouldn’t even have characters very clearly in mind. If you have enough to start talking to your characters about, you might be more in the planning stage. During the writing stage, well…you’re writing. Unless you run into a block and decide to stop and hash it out, you won’t likely be stopping the prose to have a chat.

So now you may be wondering how to start. Or what kinds of things to talk to or ask your characters about. Usually at the point that I decide it’s time to start one of these discussions, I am struggling with some kind of plot hole, or a question about how to proceed in a scene, how to get something to happen that I really want to see happen in the story, how to fill out a story, or even which character should actually be the protagonist or main character in a story. And then I literally just pose these questions to the characters I think can help me the most, and go from there.

The next question might be how you know which character(s) would be the best to talk to for the questions you have in mind. Sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes it requires thinking outside the box. Earlier this year, I was struggling to rework the plot of one of my books, which has a murder-mystery element to it, and when I wrote the first draft, it came out incredibly weak. I had a long conversation with the main character of that book, but still couldn’t figure out what I was missing in the middle of that story. I was considering setting it aside for a while, but decided to talk to a different character instead first—the antagonist. By the time I was done (a week and a half later), I had not only filled in that saggy middle, but realized that this person was not the main antagonist. Such a productive interview!

Now for the tangible question—where/how to conduct the interview. I’ve done them multiple ways—all in my head, recording myself audibly in some way, typing the conversation on a computer or my Neo, and writing it in a notebook. I don’t recommend doing it only in your head unless you have a great memory; I prefer to be able to look back on it somehow later. I recorded myself with a headset and Audacity one time, but decided that listening to the conversation later was just too weird, so I’m not doing that again. Typing it out works, as long as you make sure to clearly designate who is saying what. My preferred method is to write the conversations out longhand, though, and even a step further, I like to use a different color pen for each person talking (including myself). It makes it so much easier to read over again later, which I do a lot. Plus, I really like the tactile element of writing by hand.

A few more tips about conducting these interviews:

  • Give yourself the freedom to explore without worrying about accuracy. I have had interviews where, by the time I got to the end, things we discussed at the beginning were obsolete, because the plot took a turn during the discussion. That’s okay.
  • I use the term “interview,” but often I don’t ask questions for a while, instead just carrying on an actual conversation. But since the basic idea behind this (for me, at least) is that the characters know more about their story than I do, because it’s their story, I am generally coaxing the truth out of them.
  • If you have more than one character involved, they might start talking to each other, instead of you, and that’s okay too.
  • Don’t get too caught up in the nebulous world your characters are inhabiting for these interviews. They are outside of the time and space bubble of their stories. And yet, I find that it helps me to think of the times that I interact with them as a continuation of time in itself, and even reference back to previous discussions (like having one character say I’d just yell at him again if he told me his theory about something in particular, because yes, I’d gotten frustrated with him in a previous interview).
  • It might feel weird at first to do this, because of course you know these characters aren’t real, but they really can feel real. And in truth, if you don’t think of your characters as their own people (rather than just part of you), then maybe they won’t come across as real to the reader.

If you think talking to your characters might help you with your own writing, but still aren’t sure how to start, pick a character that you think might have some helpful insight, and just start out by asking, “What do you think of the story so far?” or “What would you change if you could?” You might be surprised what comes out.

In case anyone is interested in what most of my interviews looks like, below is a picture of the beginning of one of them, the one I mentioned above with the antagonist of the murder-mystery story (and an example of one where what I wrote at the beginning became incorrect by the time I was done). Purple is me, red is the antagonist. It took me to the end of the page to get past her refusal to help (which was totally true to her character), but after that, I immediately started to gain insight into the story. I’ve blocked out a few spots due to possible spoilers. Also, I use erasable pens, which are just amazing!

character interview

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