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The Early Writing Tag

(The First Draft post should have been published on Monday, and this one today.  But life happened, and now you have two posts today!!)

Ivie over at Ivie Writes tagged me (thanks girl!).  As I told her, this is what I get for having "wish I could take part in these tag things too!" thoughts.  Guess this is the blogging world.

So for the Early Writing Tag, I only have to answer two questions this time.  (Not bad.)

What horrendous books did you write as a child?
 
My main horrendous book that comes to mind is one of the first things I wrote when I first got my laptop.  The title was Adventures on the Daventry Farm and it basically is about my family holding a summer camp (what???  why???) at our farm, and this cliché, stuck-up, whiny city slicker girl came with her cousin.  And I basically was super-cool and awesome and they just quaked in fear of my epicness.  My sister was run-of-the-mill boring, and all the horses could talk.  *blushes*
 
What did you learn from them?

It annoys my dear sister when I write books like that.

My family is never going to have a summer camp.

I am not calm nor secretive nor do I drive a landspeeder from Star Wars.

Horses do not talk.

Nor do they really care about making me look cool, either.



BUT I also learned:

Typing stories is actually fun.

Why don't I keep writing?

Except I should not put me in the story.

Because I am not cool.

What's cool?

Fantasy!

(And so I moved on to write fantasy, and have never looked back.)

The Re-Tag

I'm supposed to tag five people (oy!) so I'll give it a try...

Sarah, at Pen of a Ready Writer (my tag fallback)
Melissa over at Quill Pen Writer (if she wants to do this; I dunno)
Andrea (hopefully she won't mind me tagging her) at a Surge of Thunder
and.....
The first two person to comment who are not on this list!  (cackles)

First Drafting, Part 1: Problems

In celebration of my sixteenth completed first draft (finished Rauladin as of July 22nd), I am beginning a multi-post series about writing first drafts.  I hope that folks may learn from it, be encouraged by it, and will help me along and post suggestions, as I myself struggle with this as well (who doesn't?). 

In this first post, I'm going to list common problems for unfinished first drafts. In the following posts, I’ll cover some suggestions and instructions for defeating said problems.  Lastly, I’ll wrap up with some my own time-tested tricks that can make reaching “the end” of your first draft easier.


I'm really paranoid about copyright issues...so I'm going to try to post only my own pictures, which means they aren't as flashy or great.  But now people can't demand money for them in return.  :)


First off, let’s identify WHY you can’t finish your first draft.  After all, the first step to resolving a problem is to find out what exactly is the root of the problem.

Time

This is often a biggie, and so I’m putting it first.  School, work, sports, family, and chores can take up every spare minute of your time, or, at the very least, leave you too tired to write.  You might be able to get a bit of writing in on the weekends, or right before bed, but it's hard.  And getting extra sleep often sounds like a better idea.

Distraction

(Sometimes this is one of the reasons you have no time, but it can also be a big problem for people who have loads of time.)  Pinterest.  FaceBook.  Instagram.  Emails.  Your cat.  An unfinished text conversation.  Blog articles.  Funny YouTube videos.  You are totally not procrastinating from writing – you just need to do this one quick thing before you write...

Procrastination

(You can use various Distractions to help you put off writing.)  But you tell yourself you need to write.  And then Procrastination says “Hey, why don’t you go play some guitar, or go clean out that junk drawer.”  And so off you go to do something...but not to write.
 
Lack of Interest

You get to chapter three, and the spark of inspiration dies.  The MC is no longer is fun to write, and the plot is boring.  So you push it aside and start another story, only to get bored with that one, too.  And then you start another....and another....the circle keeps on going.

Perfectionism

You finish the first chapter.  Yay!  Then, while beginning the second, you realize the first chapter is boring.  There's totally a better way to introduce the MC.  And how about adding a tornado??  So you start over.  And over.  And over. 
Or perhaps you are constantly changing things as you write.  That backspace button gets a lot of use, and the word count barely gets higher.  No, there's a better way to do this.  *backspace*  Wait, that shouldn't have happened.  *backspace*  Hang it all, what's going on here?  *backspace*

Discomfort

Hand cramps.  Carpel tunnel.  No chair cushions.  Blunt pencils.  Too hot.  Too cold.  Thirsty.  Hungry.  Ahh!!!

Road Block

This often is a problem for people who don’t plan their story ahead of time, but it can happen to dedicated outliners, as well.  You simply have no clue what should happen next.  How did they get in this predicament?  How do I get them out?  How do they get where they need to go?  What is the end of the story, anyway??  *throws hands in the air*  What to do??
 
Depression

No one will want to read your story, anyway.  The plot is dumb.  The theme is lame.  And the MC is stupid.  Why keep writing?  It’s just a waste of time.  So you grab some ice cream and watch a movie.
 
Research

For those of us writing historical fiction, or even modern-day stories, there's always the problem of researching things.  What is it like dealing with an autistic child?  Where is the closest police station from the Washington Monument??  And what in the world did the Pilgrim's really eat at the first Thanksgiving, anyway???

Multiple Stories

Maybe you’re doing two stories at the same time.  Or twenty-two.  In any case, good for you!  But things are going to go a whole...lot...slower.... 


You could be struggling with one of these.  Or a couple.  Or all of them.  Or maybe something that I forgot.  (If you have a problem that I haven’t mentioned, please comment, and I’ll try to incorporate it in!!)

But now I challenge you to sit down with a piece of paper and write down why exactly are you unable to finish your first draft.  You’re welcome to share your problems or keep them to yourself.  But I mostly just want to get you thinking...why is my story not finished yet?
And don't fear: we'll start breaking down these problems throughout the next few weeks.  If anyone wants to stick in a suggestion or pitch up, by all means, let me know.  I am not the Master of this subject, just a fellow writer trying to share her thoughts and personal ways of getting out of these problems.

Also: keep an eye out for a post or two about my newest finished draft, Rauladin.  I might give out some sneak peaks...  :D

Of Cookies and Books

So, I was reading Scattered Scribblings, and got to Savannah's Of Cookies and Books tag post.  (Apparently this tag just got (re?)started by a certain Elf Maid over at Sunshine and Scribblings.)  At the end her post, Savannah tagged "anyone who has eaten a cookie in the month of July" and I considered myself tagged, thanks to some homemade Snickerdoodles. 

It was hard to narrow some books down, and others came instantly to me.  My two youngest siblings helped me take the pictures.  :)  Here's how the tag works: there are eight different cookies, and for each cookie, I have to pick a book to match the description (whoop de doo).

Chocolate Chip (A book that never gets old)


 

The Silmarillion, by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Yes, I love reading Tolkien, and this one especially.  The small copy (the one missing the cover), I take on every trip, as it fits so well in my purse, and I can just read a brief portion and then go back to staring out the window and listening to music for a while.  Tolkien is a master storyteller, and I especially enjoy the tale of Beren and Luthien, and have a love/hate readership with Feanor.  :) 

Dutch Snowballs (A book that gave you an unexpected surprise)

 

How They Kept the Faith, by Grace Raymond. 

My Dad got me this book, and honestly, when I first started it, I wasn't really expecting anything great.  Just the usual "martyr's tale"....they follow Christ....get persecuted...valiantly stand for Him...then the sad, moving death.  I thought I would read it, enjoy it, and then never read it again.  Ha, I was wrong!  This book had love triangles, heroics, fallings away, sticky situations, scenes that made me cry, and a surprise ending!  I have re-read this a number of times, and have found it to be just a wonderful story!

So I picked this one because it really surprised me in two ways (because it was more enthralling than I expected, and the ending).

It's on my top list of favorite books, too.  :)

Molasses (A book with a character that gets in a sticky situation)

 

North or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson. 

Okay, so I could have put the entire saga in here, but I just picked one book.  Mr. Peterson is amazing at getting his characters into situations where you just sit and think "how in this world are they going to get out of here?????"  And then they get out in some amazing way...and go right back into another sticky spot. 

Oreo (A book dealing with the light and the darkness)

 

The Mirror Poole, by Timothy Fowler. 

This is just a little self-published book I heard about, and while I don't agree with the theology (I'm a good Calvinist), I enjoyed it.  But what made this book instantly pop into my head, was the people in the little village.  They wear white lace...and the bad people wear black lace.  And the better (or worse) they are, the more white (or black) lace they wear.  So when I was thinking "dealing with light and darkness" this one came up first.

Sugar (A book with a sugary sweet villain)

 

Inkdeath, by Cornelia Funke

I hate him.  I hate him to pieces.  Orpheus.  I can't stand him.  He pretends to be so good...so helpful...with his sweet as honey words.  And the ending he gets??  *screams* 

Okay, so yes, the picture is the first book.  And he's in the second and third ones.  But I just love this cover the best, and also just happened to not be thinking when I took the picture, and now I'm too lazy to take another one.  :)  Not to mention that he kind of ruins the other two books for me - this one is Orpheus free!

Monster (A book that confused your emotions)

 

The Fiddler's Green, by A. S. Peterson.

(Yes, that is my little "model" ship in front...)  I really enjoyed the first book, The Fiddler's Gun.  Except my favorite character died.  So I went into the second one with a depressed sort of attitude.  Because how could I enjoy it when *name withheld for fear of spoilers* wasn't in it?  And well, I liked the new characters, and enjoyed sailing with Fin and her crew again.  But the ending had me, well...mixed.  It was a cute ending.  But a sad ending.  A happy ending.  A lame ending.  I just could not make up my mind.  Do I cry?  Laugh?  Throw the book across the room?

So if anyone has read it, I'd love to hear your opinion!  (And for those who now are going to read the two books, I will make a note: there is some language, and some "pirate things."  So a heads up.)

Snickerdoodle (A book that made you laugh)

 

Anything by Patrick F. McManus, really.  But The Grasshopper Trap is what the aforementioned little sisters handed me for the photograph.  He is an outdoor humor writer, and so for someone who has not grown up in the backwoods, running around barefoot, hunting deer, and fishing, they may not be as funny.  But I laugh so many times while reading his books!  My family usually takes a book or two on adventures and read a story or two aloud for fun.  (Disclaimer: some language and occasional innuendos.)

Peanut Butter (A book with a nutty character)

 

Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue.  Ganoaf is one of my favorite characters in the entire Arrethtrae series.  He's a rather tall man, yet with simple(ton) understanding, and rather childish ways.  But he's wonderful.  Just wonderful.  :)  Even though he acts kind of stupid at times.

The Re-Tag

And I tag Sarah at Pen of a Ready Writer, Kalan at Kalan Olivia, and Jem at Jem Jones, Writer.  I can't wait to see what their book selections are!

Have y'all read any of these books?  Or do you have them on your "To Read" list now?

#voicesofYA

I have been tagged, for the first time ever.  (Okay, so in the blogging world, anyway...I have played lots of "running-around-in-the-backyard" games before.)
It was by my lovely Aussie friend Jem, from her blog Jem Jones, Writer.  Feel free to check her out - she's super nice, very friendly, and her blog is amazing.  Seriously.
The tag is the #voicesofYA
And I (as aforementioned) have never done this before, so hopefully I do this correctly.  You just copy the questions that have been circulating around?  Okay, here goes...
What draws you to YA?
Mostly because I am writing for young adults/late teens like myself, who are looking for good books out there to read, and have to choose between content we don't approve of, or else reading way below our level (or re-reading and re-reading the same books) to avoid such content.

Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?


First, I get hit with a story idea.  Sometimes just a simple sentence (like "a girl discovers she has a twin brother who was given up for adoption"), and sometimes it covers entire pages (like my idea for Rauladin, my Camp NaNo WIP), and sometimes I just have a few paragraphs, or a character idea.

Second, I jot the idea(s) in my story notes, and I let it sit.  (Betrayal and Bravery sat for a few months; Rauladin over an entire year.)  And while it sits, I think things over.  I add things.  Tweak the plot.  Add a character.  Sometimes, however, the story idea just sits, and I might even loose interest.  (Like my one-liner about the twin brother.  I haven't added a thing to it yet - good thing I didn't start writing, or I would have been stuck after a chapter or two!)

Once I have a decent-enough idea of the story, and I know that I still want to write it, I do a synopsis covering everything that I know of so far.  In my waiting period, I usually have figured out most of the main characters, and what the end results of the story will be.  (Words of Gold started with a 521 word synopsis split into three paragraphs, for beginning, middle, and ending.  My first draft ended up being over 80,000 words.)  I don't write a chapter-by-chapter outline (because then it gets plain annoying; I can't write that way at all), and I often have only hazy ideas of the middle/ending should go.  But I know what happens.

Lastly, before I start writing, I do a few brief character sketches.  I'll pick one scene (sometimes from a scene from the actual story outline, sometimes I'll just put them all in the same place) and write a page or two from each character's POV.  It'll give me a quick insight into their personalities and the way they see things.

Then, with a synopsis outline, and some character sketches, I loose myself into the first draft.  (I may post on how to finish first drafts sometime soon.)  If something happens and I need to change something, I make a note of it and keep writing as if that change had been there from the beginning (gender/name change, new character, character removed) .  I do whatever it takes to get the draft finished (once, some characters were in middle of an important meeting and I came to the realization that they really would not have done so, and really should have just started fighting - so I was like....*hits enter button a couple times*....*starts making them fight*....).

After a month or so, I have a finished draft!!  Then I start the editing process.  Which I will not describe here, because I've probably already gone on for too long.

How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?

I've been writing seriously (actually trying to do a good job, and with publishing ambitions) for three years.  I've been typing stories on a laptop for four years before that happened.  I've been writing in notebooks for eleven years before I got a laptop (okay, I'm kind of counting little doodles I did when I was five or something).  So basically, I've always been in love with making up stories.

Right now, I have a number of finished drafts under my belt (I think I counted 15+ or something??  I can't remember what I ended up with when I did a count).  But nothing is published yet.

What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?

A laptop (really nasty carpel tunnel issues if I write with a pen/pencil for too long)(and with either hand, so that really makes things harder) and my flash drive.  I don't need music, but I usually listen to some soundtrack or instrumentals (if I listen to something with words, I'll start paying more attention to the song than my writing).  If I need to focus, I'll turn the music off.

And that's it.  I'm fairly low maintenance.

If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer, (OTHER THAN "don't give up"), what would it be?

Get that first draft finished, and do that by forcing yourself not to edit and re-start and not start something new.  Don't get stuck in the loop-hole of starting something (whether a different beginning or a new story altogether) every few days.  Find a system that works for you and push yourself to keep writing until that draft is done.  It will encourage you, and you will learn a lot from it.

What book still has you reeling from its plot twist?
The Warden and the Wolf King, by Andrew Peterson.  The ending still has me going "whoa....wait....no....please....no....but....why...."

What books are you most anticipating for this year?

I wish I could say mine....but alas, the trilogy is not finished with editing yet....but now that Wingfeather Tales is finally out and on my bookshelf, I'm going to have to find something else to wait for.

In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?

The Girl Who Could See, by Kara Swanson.  Imaginary friends?  Connections to another universe?  Coolio!

What is your all-time favourite quote from YA?

Don't ask my why, but this is what jumped to my mind first, so I'm going with it...

"What do you think you'll do?"
"About Leifer?  Knock his head and listen for the hollow thunk."
                 -From Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale. 

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaptation?
My personal copies - the covers are so pretty!

The Books of Bayern, by Shannon Hale.  The characters are so vivid, and Hale's storyworld is amazing.  The languages of everything put an interesting twist to the plot, and the humor is really good.  Plus, I read these to my younger sister (and my brother listened in for most of it, ha ha), so these hold a special place in my heart.  (Not to mention I was introduced to them by my Grandfather buying me the fourth one for my birthday, and I had no clue it was the fourth one, so I read it and ruined the ending, but I still love these books!)  (And if that's not a good example on how my family works, than I don't know what is.)

The Re-Tag

Seems like everyone I know has already done this, but I tag Evangeline Diasimah, over at Tumblr.  She's a fellow member of the writing group The Order of the Pen.  She said she can do blog-like posts on Tumblr (which I know nothing about), so I thought I'd give it a try and tag her...

Anyone else read them?  Any comments?  Criticisms?  Should I have used more gifs or pictures (or less)(I never know what's too many or what's too boring)?

Characters

Characters are crucial to your story.  You can have a super great plot, amazing voice, and even a beautiful cover, but if the readers don’t care about any of the characters, they won’t read or enjoy the book.  They'll go through it once, and then put it on the shelf to never be touched again. 

Readers need someone to follow, a character that catches their attention, that they will fall in love with, and so therefore love the story world that he/she lives in.

But how does one create such a lovable character?  I have a few little tricks...

Give Them Problems

 

No one is perfect, and we all know that we aren’t perfect, which is why perfect characters are the worst.  Who wants to read about a character that always does the right thing and never struggles against sin?  It’s boring and we can’t relate to them in the least.  You almost want them to make mistakes...

So give your characters a dark side.  Perhaps they struggle with pride or greediness.  Perhaps they are afraid of something.  Perhaps they believe a lie or want something they can’t (or shouldn’t) have.

Give them struggles.  Even a hero can have a moment of “I don’t want to do this.  I might die, and I just want to run the other way.”  What makes the hero a real hero is having those thoughts of turning aside and still pushing past them to save the day.

And give your characters problems, sins, or dark sides.  And then show them fighting against these, and eventually making better, wiser choices, and striving to do better. 

The readers will thank you as they read the story, hoping that the character comes out alright in the end, relating to the mistakes, and being encouraged to keep fighting their own battles.

Make Them Stand Out
 

People are different, and not just in looks.  There are 16 personality types on the Myers Briggs for a reason.  God had made us wonderfully unique.  We all have our own thought process, quirks, habits (good and bad), and ways we see and react to things.

Characters should be no different, so strike out a brush and polish them up until they shine!  Do they walk with a swagger?  Chew on their fingernails?  Always say hello to strangers?  Bounce around when excited?  Slur their words?  Use colorful expressions?  Prefer to sit in a corner and read?  Be sure to describe their actions, clothing choices, and facial expressions in a way that defines each and every character and sets them apart from the others.

What kind of things do your characters do?  I’d love to hear about their habits, funny little gestures, or quirky personalities!

Make Them Relatable
 

This kind of goes with the whole “give them problems” trick.  No one is perfect, and so no one can relate to a perfect character.  Rather, we relate to ones that are scared of heights, spiders, or germs, or perhaps often bump into things, or are awkward when talking to new people or people they want to make good appearances before.

But I'm not talking just about personality or appearance.  We also can relate to their journey.  Now, I’m sure no one here has simply walked into Mordor, but we can still relate to Frodo’s journey.  We know what it’s like to be very tired, very thirsty, or carrying something very heavy.  We know what it’s like to make a tough decision to do something, even if we’re not sure we can complete the task.  We know what it’s like to have something you love that you know is bad, and have to struggle with destroying it.  So when Frodo finally makes it to the volcano and tosses the ring in, we can be encouraged in our own struggles, journeys, and general life.

So be sure that your hero (and maybe even some of the side characters) grow throughout the book.  They step out of their comfort zone and give a rousing talk in front of a whole room of people.  They push past their fear and go on to climb the great height they were scared of.  They give up their secret sins and strive to be a better person.

Encourage your readers by seeing characters being victorious.

Depict Them Well
 

You can have the most amazing character, but if you can’t convey everything about him/her to your readers, it’s pretty much pointless.  So while writing (or editing) ,watch your descriptive paragraphs.  Is there too much at once – an information dump?  Or do you even describe your character at all – does the reader have to look for clues as to the character’s appearance and personality?  Beware both sides of the spectrum.  Check out other books in your genre as well.  Depending on the type of book you’re writing, you might put more information up front (perhaps even stating facts), or perhaps reveal more information through the first few chapters.

But also remember that there are other ways to describe a character then just by stating facts.  You can show a reader (instead of telling) that a character is tall, by describing how his/her pants are always an inch too short, of how they don’t like looking down at all their friends, or how someone always jokes “how’s the view from up there?”  A character is shy by tucking into herself as she sits at the bus stop and doesn’t make eye contact.  A redhead is always getting called “sparks” or “carrot-top.”

Anyway, I hope this encourages you to create, love, and enjoy writing your characters!  Feel free to rant, fangirl, or describe your own (or your favorite) characters in the comments!

Doing Your Part

Last weekend, we had lots of company over (over six families), and, as we like to do with guests, we all gathered in the den and spent some time singing the Psalms together (we sing acapella from the Scottish Metrical Psalter of 1650). 

Now my family is fairly musical, and my father, brother and I, all have good voices, but I am unable to sing the "other parts."  I can sing the regular tune, and that's it.  On a normal day, I don't care.  I'm quite happy to sing the soprano part with everyone else.  And I love it.

But.

When company comes over, and they're very musical, then I get a little jealous of them.  I want to sing the alto (or even the men's parts) too!  Everyone starts off on their harmony, and I feel left out, like someone who is trying to play a song in a jam session but doesn't know the chords.  It's not that the singers are rude (they are the complete opposite of that, and I love them to pieces!!) but they're just doing their own thing, and I want to do it too, but I don't know how!!

So normally I wallow in self-misery, but over this weekend, I realized something.

Someone needs to carry the regular tune.  Someone has to belt it out with as much vigor and worshipfulness as these amazing singers do to their harmonies.

Why?  Because without the regular tune, the harmonies just don't sound right.  It's called four-part harmony for a reason.  And who's going to do the fourth part?

The people who are just learning the tune?
The people who are more self-conscious and don't sing very loudly?
The people who just can't sing very well?
The children?

Nope.

Me.

(Also, this is the singing of God's Word.  The point of singing it is not to sound beautiful, but rather to give praise to Him.  I really should not be sitting there pouting about the melody, but should rather be focusing on the words and the great things they speak of.)

So that was just something I thought I would share.  I've been thinking about that a lot - doing things that you think is boring or worthless, but is really important when you get right down to it.  Like doing the dishes or vacuuming.


July Plans

Ah, July!  The month of fireworks, camping out, and doing all things summer.  And what will I be doing?

Camp NaNoWriMo

I'm first-drafting a story that has been sitting on the backburner for over a year.  I got the idea for it during a half-marathon in February of 2016, and let it sit until I wrote the first half for Camp in April.  Here's a quick little blurb:
 
Muirn only has a few steps left before his plan is complete, and he not only gets to rule the coveted Hayalin Clan, but live in the Castle Rodulyn itself.  He just has one problem: the Princess of the Hayalin Clan (whom he must marry in order to lead the Clan) has disappeared.  And even more of a problem, the Princess is traveling with the best bodyguard in Havendenara.  Most worrisome of all, they were in company with the Rauladin, the only one who leads warriors capable of defeating Muirn's army.  It might be a simple crossing-of-paths, but to be on the safe side, Muirn sends out a spy to learn the truth.  Will they try to stop him from getting what he wants?  Or will they easily be pushed aside?

No, the book is not (entirely) written from the villain's POV, I just was thinking upside-down on how to explain the plot.  My goal is to get another 30,000 words into the story.  That may or may not get me to the end of the book.

I really have no plans for this book beyond Camp.  It may get a sequel.  It may reach 100,000 words and turn into an epic adventure.  It may get to 60,000 and be wrapped up.  But I'm enjoying it.  And, most importantly, it's giving me a quick break from Betrayal and Bravery, so I can return with fresh eyes and new vigor.

Is anyone else doing Camp NaNo?