Embracing Change in Your Style

When I first started writing, I knew I was a discovery writer.  I listened to a Writing Excuses episode, and somebody, I don’t even remember who, made a comment about how writers should try both discovery writing and outlining/planning.  I don’t remember the exact reason he said, but I’m sure I could figure it out—they’re two different writing techniques, and sometimes, you can learn from both.  Or maybe that you’ll discover you’re not the one you think you are.  Or, really, it’s just a good thing to try new things, and trying the opposite of what you always do is definitely a new thing, right?  I scoffed, thinking that I wasn’t a planner, and I’d never ever be a planner, and I didn’t need to try being a planner.

Guess what?

I’m a planner.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh.  I’m already laughing.  But you wanna hear something even funnier?  When I was little, I wanted to be one of those artists who can draw something, and then people would go, “Wait, that isn’t a photograph?”  I wanted perfect realism.  I wanted to draw something that really would look like a photograph and people would have to take a second—and third and fourth—look before they realized it wasn’t.

Guess what I draw now?

I really have no idea, but it isn’t realism.

Here’s a lesson for you all, right from my own experience.

Don’t be afraid to explore.  Exploration makes you better at what you do.

Somewhere along the lines, I somehow started planning one of my novels.  I don’t really remember how or why I did it, but I did, and my writing turned out better.  It made me stop and think… Hmm.  Maybe I’m not a pantser after all.

I ended up writing more things that were pantsed and more things that were planned, before I finally realized that, yeah, I’m a planner.  I do discovery write somewhat, and I do enjoy it.  But I plan more often than not lately, because when I plan, I’m more likely to end with not only a slightly better written and less plot-hole-y first draft, but an actually finished first draft (which was a hard thing for me, for a while).

The truth is, if I hadn’t explored the idea of planning, and if I had just stuck with discovery writing, I probably would not be where I am right now.  I would have more half-finished projects where right now they are finished, and I’d probably be a lot more frustrated and discouraged simply because of that fact.  That sounds like fun, right?  Everybody wants to be discouraged.

Explore.

You can’t succeed at something if you don’t try it, right?  Well, try it, and then fail or succeed.  Learn what works.  Learn what doesn’t work.  Are you a planner or a pantser?  Or are you right smack dab in the middle? Do you use elements of both?  Do you outline extensively, or do you have a loose outline?  Do you write an outline, and then defenestrate the outline at the first change you have?

What seems to work best for me is to have a loose outline, just enough that it tells me the general events and plot, and I get to know my characters a little (but not even extensively), and then I discovery write all the rest.  I even discovery write the emotions, strange as that sounds.  I may know of an event that will greatly affect a character, but I don’t even know for sure how it’ll affect them, until I start writing it, and they take it in the direction that’s best for them, and I learn something new about them at the same time.

Even if, in the end, you discover that you’re writing style is exactly what you thought it was to begin with, you’ll still have learned new things and, more importantly, you should have had fun.  (Writing is all fun and games, right?  Riiiiight?)

Don’t resist the change when it finds you.

One of the hardest things I had to accept at first was that…I was wrong.  I had been so completely and totally wrong about myself.  Hard hit to the pride, for one.  I didn’t want to accept I had been wrong, and I didn’t want to give up what I’d been doing before, and I didn’t want to be a planner.  Planners are so boring.  They know their stories in advance and they don’t discover anything and that’s so boring.

(That’s a huge lie, by the way.  Even if you do outline the story to death, perhaps through the Snowflake Method, if it was that boring, nobody would do it.  [And considering the Snowflake Method exists in the first place, well… you see.])

I think in probably all aspects of life, accepting change is hard.  I had the same issues with realizing that I really didn’t want to draw realism (or at least exclusively realism), too.  But change is important.  Change is what allows growth and improvement.

I mean, think about it.  Improvement is change.  If you improve…you’re changing, aren’t you?  You’re changing from bad or mediocre or even good to better.  So if you don’t change, you don’t improve.  Simple as that.

Change wants to be your friend.

Sometimes.

Now go do what works best for you.

Well, that says it all, mostly.  Go do it.  And remember, finding change, seeing change, embracing change—it’s the key to improvement.

So go improve.

And because GIFs make everything better, here’s Ten basically summing up the essence of discovery writing.

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A Mishmash Post of Plot Holes, World-building, and a New Project

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I was rereading my NaNo novel, and taking notes/asking questions, as if I was my own “alpha reader”.  I’m finished with that now, and I can say, it worked as well as I had hoped it would.  Since I took a break from the novel for a month before I did this, I was fairly well distanced from the novel, and I could look at it from the perspective of a reader, of sorts.

That was encouraging.  I was looking for problems to fix, and I certainly found plenty of them.  However, I found more problems with the story, rather than problems with the writing, and that is hugely encouraging, at least for me.  See, I wrote this novel in a single month.  Thirty days.  I did some world building and some character development, but no actual planning, and I had no clue what the plot was until, well, I got there.

So, I expected lots of problems.  Plot holes, and inconsistencies, and flat characters, and things that just don’t make sense, and all things of that sort.  Did I find them?  You bet.  But what I didn’t find were issues with my writing style itself.

I mean, there are issues.  I have more mistyped-words and typos than real words, and there’s plenty of things like info-dumps and blank descriptions and whatnot.  However, the thing is, my writing could be improved, and it wasn’t really good, but it didn’t strike me as being oh-my-goodness-that’s-horrible-how-could-I-ever-have-written-that kind of bad.

Does that even make any sense?  I guess my point is, while the novel had it’s fair share of issues—and then some—I know that all of those issues are ones I can fix, and I know I can get this novel into a readable state.  It’s not like my ’12 NaNo novel, that I don’t think I’ll ever touch again.

So, I’m encouraged.

On a different note, one thing I found through this reading process was that I didn’t have nearly enough world-building.  I hardly knew that world at all when I wrote about it.  So, before I really start editing, I have to fill in that world-building.  (That’s why the little editing bar on the right of the page has been staying consistently low, even while the other two bars go up.)

World-building is, in a word…odd.  I’ve never done much of it in-depth before, not to this extent, and it’s kind of overwhelming.  I realized, though, that the more I got to know about the world, the more I began to really, really love the world, and then the more fun the world-building became.  I now understand why people get world builder’s disease.  Hopefully I won’t end up that far down, though.

Anyway!  On unrelated things… The writing’s been good, as you can probably tell by the lower two word-count bars on the right.  I’ve been able to consistently write every single day, though there was one day where I’m not completely sure I met my 200 word goal.  It might have only been 100 or so, but I think there were other things going on that day and I couldn’t do more than that.  So, I counted it anyway.

Also, for that one novel, the progress is coming along nicely.  I hope I’m about half way through the novel, though since I’m mostly pantsing this one, it’s hard to tell.

Unsurprisingly, with my multi-projects-at-once self, those two novels aren’t my only projects. I recently started another novel, and I’m only about 3k into that one.  I know I probably shouldn’t let myself multitask so much, but I’ve kind of learned that it’s really hard to not do it, so I’m letting myself for now.  I don’t think this new novel will take me very far before I get stuck and will need to sit back and figure out where I’m going, in which case I can step back and go back to solely working on my other projects.  That’s why I’m not bothering to put a bar up for it in the side, even if I am working on it as well.

So…I think that’s it.  This is kind of a mishmash post, isn’t it?  Heh heh, oh well.

Untitled

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been avoiding my blog.  Why?  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure.  I guess because I’ve felt I had nothing worth saying.  So…bear with me if all of rest of this post is rather uninteresting.

Anyway.  Most of my previous posts mentioned NaNoWriMo and how I was planning for it (and excited for it), so I guess I need to mention that.  Well.  I’m doing NaNoWriMo!

As of this very moment, my word-count is just over forty-nine thousand words—though I suppose you can see that in the little word-tracker bar in the corner.  I hope to have fifty thousand words before I go to bed tonight, but we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I’m rather enjoying the story.  It has problems—in fact, the first twenty thousand words or so are all a problem in and of itself—but I like most of the characters and the plot is…not going where I expected.  Then again, I was after all basically doing an experiment with this novel.  I developed my characters and I built my world, but I didn’t figure out my plot.  That way, I’d know about the story, but I’d still be free to discovery-write it as much as I wished.

So far, that’s going fairly okay.  I mean, there have been spots where not knowing what my plot was did kind of screw me up or slow me down, but I am having fun with it.  I know there’ll be a lot of editing when I’m finished, however.

And that is about all I have to say.  How’s the writing going for everyone else?

Percolation

I am a horrible blogger.  I haven’t so much as looked at my blog in three weeks.  Part of that is because I unexpectedly went to summer camp for a week (and we kind of didn’t have wifi), but otherwise, I honestly have no clue why I’ve avoided it.

But I’m back now!

And still writing.  I won Camp NaNo with a total of 28,288 words.  (What a fun number.  It was entirely incidental, believe it or not.)  Unfortunately, I also got bored of the story in the process, and so even though the story clearly isn’t finished at that amount, I probably won’t be continuing it this August.  Or…the rest of July.

Boy.  I really have a pattern going for getting bored of stories during Camp NaNo.  However, I’m beginning to think it’s due to my lack of planning.

See, when I don’t plan, I don’t plan at all.  Then I get part way into the story, lose my momentum, and I’m more lost than…well, really, really lost.   And when I do plan, I try to write a fairly extensive, chapter-by-chapter outline.  But I’ve never tried anything in the middle.  You can plan and not have an outline, can’t you?  I mean, okay, maybe that doesn’t make so much sense.

So, I’ll say this.  I’m planning my November novel right now.  Yes.  It’s not even August yet.  I have four months.  But, hey, that means I’ll be better off than those people who like to save it until right before November, right?

I’m not actually going to write an outline.  I’m bored of outlining, and I really want to discovery write.  Like, really discovery write, and not this…whatever it is I’ve been doing lately.  So in the next four months, I’m developing my protagonists and my antagonists, and also secondary characters (hey, has anybody thought of having a huge list of pre-developed characters to throw in when you lose momentum during NaNo?), and doing as much world-building as possible.

I’m thinking, if I have a world that I know almost inside and out, and characters that actually have depth to them, then maybe I can do better with this.  I hope.  But boy, world-building is hard.  And characters take a while to develop.  I almost wonder if four months will be long enough.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing.  How’s everybody else’s writing going?  Does anybody else know what they’re doing in November yet?

Percolating Snowflakes and Other Strange Things

So.  As some of you might have noticed, I haven’t exactly been absent from WordPress.  Not as much as I’d wanted to be.  So, right, so much for a break.  I didn’t see a point in continuing my half-break, so here I am again.

Long time no see.

Anyhow, in the week since I’ve posted, I’ve decided to change things around a little.  For one, as you can probably tell by the fact that my bar on the right is still at 31 days, I haven’t written in that particular story in about a week.  I won’t go into why because that frustrated rant isn’t necessary here, but I more or less stopped.  I plan on trying to finish it anyway, at some point (in fact, if anyone’s willing to do any word wars at any point, that’d probably help a lot), but now my focus is on a newer story.

Yeah, yeah, a new one?  Anybody who’s really listened to me rant much knows that I can’t keep my concentration on one story very well, so it’s not a big surprise that I came up with a brand-new story to write on.  But that’s one of the things I decided to change up a little.

For two years, I’ve always thought I was a discovery writer and I abhorred the very idea of outlining ahead of time.  I thought, but then I’d know everything that happened before I wrote it!  It’d be no fun.  I wouldn’t be able to discover plot twists right as they happen anymore…  How could anybody want to outline?

As you can probably tell, I’ve changed my mind.  Discovery writing is fun, but I’ve found I can’t write any form of beginning without an outline (you can probably see how that might be problematic as a pantser), and my stories always end up with about half a million plots running through them because I can’t decide which one I want to actually work with.  That is the main reason the story that first started me writing still hasn’t been written yet.  So, I think I need to try outlining.  But instead of just the half-outlining I’ve been doing the past few months, I decided I’m going to try some really heavy outlining.

Ta-da!  I’m doing the Snowflake Method.  It’s the most in-depth outlining method I’ve ever seen (not that I know of very many), but I like how it works.  In case nobody’s ever heard of it and is too lazy to click on the link, it’s basically an outlining that starts with the very basics and slowly builds upon it.  Like taking a very simple triangle and adding to it until you have a complex snowflake (hence the name).

I’m on step…five at the moment, I think.  Yeah, step five.  I’m actually having two issues with it so far, both of which are entirely my own fault.  The first is that I’m not outlining just one book, I’m more or less outlining an entire trilogy at once.  (Is it bad that every time I say the word trilogy, I’m thinking of this post and wondering if I should find another format for it? Liam, you’ve screwed up my trilogy already and I haven’t even written it yet!)  Mostly, I’m doing it this painful way because the idea I had for the story was an idea for the entire series, not for the first book.  I’m not even a 100% sure how I’ll break it up into separate books yet, but I’m trying to basically outline and figure out the structure for four things at once.  The three books, and then the series itself.  (I love it when series have a big over-hanging story and yet each individual book has a smaller plot on its own that still fits.  That was one of the things I liked about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.)

The other problem I pulled on myself was I started too early.  I haven’t let this story sit and brew in my head, so I barely know anything about it or the characters yet.  This also brought on the realization that I haven’t really let any story of mine sit there in my subconscious for a while before I start writing it in…oh, six months?  I seem to have found a lot of issues of things I’ve been doing/not doing the past six months (but I’m pretty sure this particular one isn’t imaginary).  I think somebody stole my percolator.  It took me forever to find one that doesn’t brew coffee.

If anybody happens to see it (or run into it, since it has a tendency to turn invisible), please kindly call the following number and ask for Shim.  [Insert random phone number here.]

Anyway.  This post is getting awfully long, so I’ll stop it hereabouts.  Or so.  Anybody do anything exciting while I was sort-of gone?

Little Sisters and a Little Bit of Stress

So.  Way back in November, I decided to write a novel.  Y’know, for NaNoWriMo.  I actually didn’t end up writing said novel, instead writing an outline for a different novel, but that’s not important.  The important part is, I decided to drag my younger siblings in with me on the wonderful craziness of NaNo.  One brother decided to write a Minecraft fan-fiction, while the other made up a story about a can and a ghost who ran away from their home and the cat’s cruel master.  Neither finished their story, but considering their age, I think they both wrote a decent amount and I was very proud of the fact that they at least tried.  (I’m also happy to hear that one of them plans to finish his novel this up and coming November.)

Then came my little sister.  She’s younger than the two boys, yet she’s always loved telling stories.  Never written them down, but certainly told them verbally enough to practically be an expert.  Or, well, as close to expert as an eight year old gets.  I convinced her into joining NaNoWriMo as well, and she wrote a story about a dragon who got lost and has to find her way home, with the help of a friendly cat.  (It amused me greatly that two of my siblings’ stories had cats in them as one of the protagonists…now I’m tempted to add a cat into one of my own stories, just for the fun of it.)

She completed her goal of a thousand words and finished the story, on about the 24th of November.  The story was awesome.

As you can probably guess, considering it’s like the opposite time of year as November, I just helped her finish editing it.  It’s even more awesome now.  I love it.  She had quite a few spelling and grammar errors (including switching back and forth between present and past tense, using comma splices, and so on), but she is only eight, so I helped her fix them up.

Now it’s pretty much finished and she’s even illustrating it with little sketches of some of the scenes.

I’m the proudest older sister there ever was.  And also…one who’s kind of discouraged in herself.

I haven’t finished a project since last May.  That’s nearly an entire year ago.  That was a story I believe I mentioned in an earlier post about my lack of motivation, which is now back in the outlining/figuring-out-what-in-the-world-is-going-on-here stage.  Or, er, the drawing board, I guess.  I’ve got so many plots holes…

But that’s for another rant.  Anyhow, there are a few excuses for my lack of finishing anything.  I lost both my uncle and my grandmother in June, and since then, there’s been enough family drama to, well, fill an entire soap opera.  Or three.  But right now?  After all, that was way back in June.

I’m…not really sure.  I just feel stressed.  I’d like to blame school, but we’ve actually figured all of that stuff out.  I know what I’m doing the next two years of highschool and maybe even a vague idea of what comes afterwards.  No need to be stressed.  Yet…I keep feeling stressed out.

It finally occurred me that it’s really the writing itself that’s the problem.  I can still do most of my creative process.  I can outline, I can brainstorm, I can even do some world-building and some sort of character development (I’m not very good with that part yet, unfortunately, without doing discovery-writing….which is weird, since I’m more or less an outliner at this point…hmm.).  But  whenever I sit down to write, that’s when I get stuck.

Turns out, I can’t seem to get into the story.  Any story.  I’ve got five of them, after all.  (Or was it six?)  I’ve found I can still, occasionally, write random scenes here and there, but nothing important and nothing that actually goes anywhere.  I tried writing a new short story, too, and that didn’t work either.  I tried just sitting and writing nothing, I tried switching to a notebook, and I even tried taking a break from writing altogether and coming back later.  No matter what I do, no matter how I try, no matter even which story I work on, I can’t seem to lose myself into my writing anymore.

So that’s what the problem is.  That’s why I’m completely stressed out about any of my writing and avoiding it.

I also…have no clue why this is the case and what in the world to do about it.

Gah, so this post turned out far more complain-y than I intended…I had really just wanted to talk about how proud I was of my sister. Heh.  So, yeah, there it is.  Anyone have any suggestions of what to try?   And anyone else have awesome little sisters?

Getting Back Into Writing…

It’s been a little over two weeks since I decided to stop writing.  And… it’s worked.  I’ll admit, I haven’t really stopped writing; I’ve just stopped forcing myself to write.  If I was inspired for something, I wrote it down.  Otherwise, I didn’t do anything related to writing.

A part of me feels slightly guilty about not writing every day, but, overall, I feel a lot better.  Two of my stories still have frustrating elements to them (mostly, plot holes), so they’re pushed onto the back-burner, to be dealt with later.  For now, I’m working on a story that really is being made up in my head as I’m writing it—but I’m rather inspired to write it, so that’s good.  I think.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to branch away from my normal fantasy in my reading list, and so currently, my mom and I are reading the complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I’ll admit, the biggest (only) reason I’m reading that is because I’m a big fan of BBC’s TV show, Sherlock.  Still, three chapters into the first book, A Study in Scarlett, I’m definitely intrigued and going to read more.

The Middle….Ugh.

Right now, I find myself facing the middle of my novel. I think this is the spot where I shift from my villain going after the main characters to the main characters going after the villain. Problem is, I just swept out my villain’s motivation from under her feet. All of a sudden, she’s got nothing to do….and no reason to do anything.

Hmm. I have plenty for my main characters to do, but I’m not sure I can really let them do anything until my villain starts doing something again, but even if I find something for her to do, she has no motivation for anything anymore! She’s useless!

This is one of those problems, I think, where outlininers tell discovery-writers, “This is why I outline. So I don’t run into plot holes like that.” And it’s true. If I had fully outlined, (instead of just outlining the first two chapters), then I wouldn’t be having this problem. Things probably would have turned out far different, so there wouldn’t be a plot hole. Hmm.

But, I didn’t outline. I’m a seat-of-your-pants writer and I did that—pantsed. And so here I am, facing that ginormous plot hole in the wall. Or ceiling. Or both.

At the moment, the only thing I can think of to solve this is to bring in another villain, to steal the show for a little until my main villain can pull herself back together. Problem is, I’m not very good at creating villains… They’re always hard. I love writing them, but creating them always seems to be a pain.

Well. Guess I’ll have to figure something out. Especially since I didn’t get a chance to write anything yesterday, so I’m going to end up falling behind if I don’t write.

Preparation for Camp NaNo—July!

After my attempt at writing a novel for Camp NaNo in April failed miserably, I decided to try again for July—through a different route. I pantsed my way through April, so I decided to outline for July. I started mostly from scratch for April, so I decided to work on a WIP where I already had an idea where the story was going.

Then…

Then I realized I wasn’t excited. I mean, I’m excited for Camp, but I wasn’t excited for my novel. I like the characters and the plot and everything, but more in an off-hand way. I realized I don’t want to write that book right now. Later, yes. Now, no.

A bit later, I found the coolest idea ever*, from a fellow NaNoer, on how to come up with an amusing plot, almost on the spot. I followed his/her steps out of boredom and came up with a fairly interesting idea.

Even as I tried to force myself to prepare for Camp, this new idea started to develop itself in my mind. Already it had a fun main character and an interesting plot. Very underdeveloped still, but full of potential.

Long story short, I gave in. I’ve switched NaNo projects less than a week before July. But I am sooo glad I did. I’m using a different style of outlining, which isn’t as tedious as my original method, and the characters are already coming alive in my head. THe plot will still take a lot of work, but hey! I have a week before July starts, and who says the outline has to be entirely finished before Camp starts?

I am really excited and happy about it now. I can’t wait for camp to start! Really, I almost want to start writing right now. In fact, the biggest thing that’s keeping me back from starting now is that I’m not yet sure if I’ll write the story in first person or third person. I’ve done both and both are equally fun to write. I think it depends on what kind of emotion I want the story as a whole to convey, which I haven’t entirely figured out yet.

Anyway, I already have a title and a rough-draft pitch, which is…. Magic’s Artist: Cy, a ten year old art prodigy, has a secret—his art is not his own. Really, he can’t even draw a stick figure, let alone an award-winning painting of a girl, without the help of his magic.

How’s that sound?

Awesome, right? Actually, I have no clue if it sounds awesome or not. It does to me, and that’s all that really matters right now, yes?

I know I’m not the greatest at writing pitches, and that doesn’t even really get into the conflict of the story, but for now, it serves my purposes. After I’ve really discovered the conflict myself, I’ll probably write a new one.

Now. Back to writing that outline.


* original link here

Newest Work Intro

So my newest novel, is *drumroll* a prequel to the novel I’m supposed to be editing, Life Bound. Currently I’m calling this new novel, Lacing up the Dress. Here’s a summary.

 

Renni’s life used to be amazing. Three years ago, she was a sort of “back-up” maid. She didn’t exactly have anything to do, so she spent most of her days talking with others, spending time in the garden, and waiting for someone to find a way to use her. One year ago, she was the personal maid and assistant to the beautiful princess, Shallina, or, as she prefers, Shinna. Now, she doesn’t know who she is.

Conflict has arisen between the kingdoms of her land. The king is killed in an attack in the middle of the night, and the young prince and his pregnant wife, Shinna, take the throne. But things only grow worse. Attacks hit the castle nearly every night, trying to take the rulers’ lives, servants are fleeing and rebelling, and the new queen is trying to avoid stress to keep from harming her unborn child. Renni becomes one of the only loyal servants, and the queen relies on her heavily.

But Renni begins to wonder. What is the right thing to do? Who is she supposed to help—the king and queen, or the rebels? And if she can manage to decide—is there a way she can help? Or will she once again become the “back-up”; the person others go to if there are absolutely no other options?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Hehe, don’t answer that. It probably won’t be—at least, before revisions. After them….well, we can certainly hope, can’t we? Anyways, here’s a cover a fellow Nano-er made for me.

312y8lh

 

And, I believe that should be all for tonight! I have to get off my computer now, anyways. Night, all!