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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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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NaNoWriMo Eve

NaNo handouts

NaNoWriMo starts in 12 hours where I am. This month, known by many as Preptober, was much less full of prep than I planned. This was mostly due to a combination of working on final edits for my first full-novel release that is due out on January 10th and feeling like I could push off the prep work, because I’d already made an outline for my NaNoNovel a few months ago.

I did finally spend some time Monday and Tuesday this week looking over the outline, as well as the outline for the book that precedes it (it’s drafted, but had to be re-outlined due to a lot of changes needed). I re-read character interviews and wrote a new one with some brand new characters.

I am not sure I am 100% ready, and actually hope to look over the outline again at some point today, before midnight. But I do know that, if necessary, I have enough to get started. I’ll be starting right at midnight (known as the midnight sprint). I do that every year, and whether I write 500 words or 3000 words, anything I get done before going to bed is a huge mental jump start on the month!

And fair warning: I will blog every day about my experience doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve done this nearly every year since starting this blog (the only exception was the year that I had just started full-time at a very demanding job, and what I was writing for NaNo that year was a difficult, personal subject, so frankly, I was doing good to even reach 50k that year).

There may be those who are curious about how others get through the month–I know I am, and most days I also spend some time reading blog posts by others about how their writing went that day. I have also found that I really enjoy being able to look back in later years and read about my progress through the month.

I will also share each day’s NaNoToons, which incidentally will be the last year for NaNoToons. (In fact, the first one for this year just went up! I’m so excited!!) And I’ll post episodes from the NaNoMusical throughout the month, because it’s one of the best things to come out of NaNoWriMo ever, and every Wrimo needs to know about it!

I wish my fellow Wrimos well, and hope to hear from some of you during the month! Please feel free to add me as a writing buddy!

Are you ready for NaNo to begin? Do you plan to do the midnight sprint tonight?

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

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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

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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!

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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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Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a trick.

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**

NaNoWriMo Rebels

NaNo handouts

Many people who are new to the world of NaNoWriMo only know it as National Novel Writing Month. And of course, at its heart, that’s what it is. But let me tell you about the wonderful world of NaNo Rebels.

When I first did NaNoWriMo in 2007, the rules were more strict. You write a new piece of lengthy fiction, and if you reach 50,000 words, you win. Though rebelling did happen, I don’t think it was as prevalent or as acknowledged as it is now. In the time since then, the people who run the event have opened their arms to those who want to join in the fun, but don’t necessarily want to (or somehow aren’t able to) write a new, lengthy work of fiction. (And actually, they’ve even changed the standard “rules” to say that continuing a previous story is no longer rebelling, but only new words added in November count.)

So, what can you do as a NaNo Rebel? Almost anything you want to. For example:

  • Write non-fiction
  • Write short stories (though if the stories are related to each other, it’s not rebelling)
  • Write a script or screenplay
  • Revise a previous work

All of these things and more are acceptable for NaNoWriMo. Some of them may require a different way of tracking your work done (for example, for revision, you may track time instead, and equate an hour to 1000 words). If you’re curious about what is or isn’t considered rebelling, you can find more information here.

And if the month of November just really doesn’t work for you, consider participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which takes place during April and July.

**Note: The website & forums have very recently relaunched with a lot of changes, so some things aren’t working quite correctly. I understand kinks are still being worked out, but be aware that what you see now may not entirely be accurate or permanent.

Are you participating in NaNo this year? Will you rebel or stick with the normal format?

For anyone out there who is participating, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)