Monday, September 18, 2017

First Drafting, Part 8: Writer's Block

First off, I don't believe in writer's block.  I believe in writer's stump: when we stare at the screen and are simply stumped with what to do next.  I don't think we can be blocked, because there's always something we can do, or something we could have done to avoid getting trapped in the story.

But that being said, whatever you want to call it, we all get it at times.  We just don't know where to take the story next.  Sometimes we just don't know what should happen next in the story; sometimes we know what should happen, but not how to write it in a logical sense; and sometimes we know where the story needs to go but can't figure out how to nudge the characters in that direction.

So when you are stumped...what do you do?





Find Out How You Write

I cannot stress this enough!  Find out how you writeIt's so simple, and yet really hard. 

You may have to take a writing break and try a few different methods.  But I promise, it's worth it.

Story Time! 
 
A few years ago, I went on this journey myself.  I had been writing stories for years without an outline (or a plot, as was often the case).  I would simply get an idea and start writing.  And, sooner or later, I would get stuck with no idea where to take the story.
 
So I started rigorously planning.  I did character sheets and journals.  I wrote out my main plot and side plots.  I did a chapter-by-chapter outline.  And boom!  I finished two books, and got halfway through a third.  I was no longer getting stuck.
 
Sounds great, right?  Should I continue being a Planner?
 
No.  I didn't enjoy the writing at all.  Each chapter was short and to-the-point.  I strictly followed my outline and moved on, never stopping to just enjoy the characters.  My writing voice sounded forced (and it was). 
 
So I tried a mix of planning and pantster. I wrote a synopsis of everything that I knew about the story (what started the character on her journey, a few things that pushed her on and gave her a hard time, and how it all ended). Then I wrote a page for the MC (and some side characters) in their POV.  Then I unleashed myself to write the story however I wanted, having a synopsis to keep me more or less on the right track. 
 
A number of enjoyable, easily finished drafts prove that this method works for me.

This method may not work for you.  That is perfectly fine.  I can't use an outline, but my best friend does, and it works great for her.

I do, however, encourage you to try out different things.  Try writing an outline.  Try not writing an outline.  Try a different outlining method.  Try journaling.  Try sketches.  Try writing nothing at all.  Try planning out every detail.

This may take some time, but just keep writing.  After all, the trick to getting better at writing is to keep writing.

Knowing how you operate is key to getting a draft finished.

Start A Fight

Question: What do you do when you really are stuck, and just don't know what to do? 
My favorite answer: start a fight.

I can't tell you how many times I've used this.  Even with my synopsis outline, I can get stumped.  I don't write every single detail down (I like to give myself some freedom to figure things out as I go).  So every so often, I'll stare at the screen and ask, "how do I get from where I am to what happens next in the story?"

If I can't figure it out in five minutes or so, I just start typing.  Usually I start a fight.  Someone accidently elbows another person.  A horse gets startled by something.  A spy jumps out of the shadows with a drawn sword.

If you don't know what happens, just do something random and go from there.  Ask yourself, "what's something that'll really ruin things for a character?" and then do it.  Ruin their lives a little.  They'll get over it.  :)

Just remember, I can take all that out later or fix it during editing.  But I need to keep the story moving along and get it finished so I can edit.

The Enter Key

A couple times, when I was stumped, I just hit the enter button a few times and picked up where I knew what to write.  This is a last resort for me, and I only do it when I am having trouble with a scene (not the entire plot).  It may be considered cheating, or you may find yourself doing it too often, so use with caution.  But you can always go back and stick in more details later, once you know the story better and know what should go there.

So what to y'all think?  Was that helpful?  Do you know how you write?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Call for Bloggers and Writers - Shared WIP Tag

So I'm organizing a thing. 

A tag, to be more specific.

And it's a little different.  Maybe.  I don't know.  Perhaps someone else has already done something like this. 

Anyway...

~~  ANNOUNCEMENT  ~~

I am looking for other bloggers who are also writers and would love the excuse to share a little more information about their WIPs through a Shared Tag!

Personally, I love learning about what new books are in the works, and knowing that there are people who think my story sounds exciting encourages me to keep working on it.

~~  HOW  ~~

So there are four sets of ten questions, and all participants will answer the first set of questions via blog post (or vlog, if they want), and all on the same day.

This will happen one day a week, during the month of October, for four weeks.  If you want to participate, but can't do it on the same day, that is perfectly fine (I just thought it would be neat to storm the blogging world with information on our WIPs all on the same day)! 

The four parts to the tag:

Story
Basic questions and facts, such as a brief explanation of plot, a favorite scene, why you think people will enjoy reading your WIP
Characters
Questions such as who is the funniest/scariest/quirkiest character, what is a possession the MC holds dear, and what is the villain's goal
Storyworld
Questions and facts such as something dangerous and something delightful in the storyworld, and what makes it unique
Writing
Questions such as how are you going about writing this story, do you write glossaries or draw art for the story, or what you do to get in the mood

I have everything set up via Google Docs so participants can view the questions, add their own, or else discuss ways to make this better.

If you would like to take a part, please contact me via the blog (I should have a contact form on the right sidebar - if it's not there, comment and let me know!!) and I can invite you to view the document where the questions and publish dates are.

If you want to participate on just one (or two, or three) of the parts, that's fine!! 

~~  PROCESS  ~~

First Step
We agree on the questions we're going to answer (I already have some planned; if anyone doesn't like them, or has suggestions of their own, they can be changed)

Second Step
We agree on a day in which we all can post (doesn't have to be same time, just same day)

Third Step
We answer the first tirade of questions and tag other bloggers to do the same

Fourth Step
Repeat first three steps until all four parts of the tag are complete

Nuances/Things to Work Out

~I put the first four Wednesdays of October, but really, whatever works best for everyone else.  Once I get a number of bloggers doing this, we can agree on the best day.  (Or should it just be whenever you want during that week??)

~Should we tag others at the end?  Leave it an open tag?  No tags at all/just us only doing it?

~If anyone is good with images, they are welcome to create banners or such for it.

~If anyone wants to take this a step further or make it longer or fancier or shorter or more simple, I'm open to discussion!

To Recap: If anyone wants an excuse to talk about their WIP and get other readers, writers, and bloggers excited about it, or would like to help start a new tag, let me know and join in on a fancy WIP tag!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dream Blogger Party Tag

So apparently this is a tag created by Abigail Lennah, though Ivie tagged me.  Basically, if I was to host a part for all these wonderful bloggers and writers who I know, what would it be like?

Because getting together and riding horses is my main idea of a party...


The Venue

I thought I would have a hard time deciding where this would be, but as soon as I thought of Brown County State Park, I knew my searching was over.  My family went there a few years back for a church event and it was really cool.  You can hike, ride bikes, rent or bring your own horses...there are meeting rooms, a nature center, an indoor pool (with a slide!), a playground, fields for games...and they've got tent camping, rv camping, cabins, and a hotel-style building as well.  And just away from the park, about ten minutes drive, is a lovely little downtown for shopping.  Perfect!

The Food

I would probably go with a potluck.  I love seeing a table with all sorts of different foods on it, be it store-bought or home-cooked.  And then a drinks table (with root beer, hot tea, and ice water).  And a desert table. 

So I was supposed to pick three things.  Do three separate tables count?  lol

The Music

I'm supposed to pick five artists or bands, but, in reality, I think we could just all bring our own instruments and try to play together.  Those who don't play can still watch and enjoy the music. 

We all may be having too much fun talking about our books and blogs to listen to music anyway.  :D

The Activities

So the three main things we would all do:

~Get to know each other/stand around talking
~Probably go for a hike and play some games, ride horses, check out the nature center and/or the pool
~Create havoc (because if you get a bunch of writers and fangirls in one arena...there will be consequences...)

The Post

I don't know if we'd do a collaborative post (complete with pictures and video), since some of us like to remain anonymous, but I'm sure we would all eventually do a post on our own personal blogs about how much fun we had.  Maybe post pictures of the place (maybe with people who don't mind being shown on the internet).  Talk about the conversations that were had, and the encouragement that was received and given.

The People

A number of us writers seem to be introverts (not me!!!), but when you get anyone talking about their favorite subject, they often readily open up.  So we're going to get a lot of people who will be getting a chance to talk about their favorite things: books, writing, blogging.  So yeah...it'll be crazy...lots of talking...lots of raised voices...lots of laughter.  But I would love to get all these lovely bloggers and writers in one place and see them interact with each other. 

The Re-Tag

If you love to talk about writing, books, or blogs....consider yourself tagged!

Monday, September 11, 2017

First Drafting, Part 7: Discomfort

I have intermittent wrist problems.  There can be weeks where I don't have a single bit of pain.  But then it hits.  I might have tried to do pushups or something else that strained them.  I could have pushed myself up and out of bed without being careful.  Maybe I wrote too fast or gripped the pen too hard while taking notes on Sunday.  Maybe it's NaNo, and I just wrote too much at one time and didn't give myself a break.

But now writing hurts.  The last two fingers on my left hand tingle.  My typing speed has slowed.  And now I need to take "breathers" because one or both wrists hurt.

What do I do?



Take a Day Off

Sometimes I'll just take the day off from writing.  I like to take a break now and then, just to keep myself from getting burnt out, and also give myself a chance to do a few other tasks that have been hanging over my head.  This is usually a good excuse.

Or perhaps I'll find a way to do something story related without much typing involved.  I'll do a bit of editing or typo-catching, maybe organize the story folders, or perhaps even re-read the story and just enjoy it without being nitpicky. 

Push Through the Pain

If it's during a NaNo event, or when I'm hit hard with the inspiration bug, I'll often just push through the pain.  I know that my wrists are just a little strained, and while it hurts, it won't kill me.  It may make the pain last for an extra day, but at this point, I care more about getting the story finished than my own comfort.

Disclaimer: I'm not telling you to "stop being such a wimp" and whenever you have some kind of pain just to keep writing through it.  But I'm saying it is an option.  If you want to do it, you canJust know that there may be consequences.

Don't Stress

Things like this happen, so don't worry about not getting as much done. as you wanted.  Take care of yourself first.  Take a bit of medicine.  Go for a walk.  Get a brace.  And relax.  A day of no writing is better than a few days of not getting much done because of pain.

Prepare

Before you start writing, get a snack and a drink and keep them nearby, just in case they're needed.  Find a comfortable place to sit.  Get some cushions, pillows, blankets, whatever it takes to keep you comfortable during your writing time.  Play some music in the background, get situated, and write!

I'm sorry that was a bit short.  I typed most of this up last week, but then I went on a quick trip to visit some friends, and the hurricane kinda happened...

Monday, September 04, 2017

First Drafting, Part 6: Perfectionism

When I first started writing, I would frequently re-start stories because the beginning wasn’t “quite right” in my beginners opinion.  I was always going back and deleting paragraphs, sentences, entire chapters.  I was getting nowhere, because in my mind, I had to get everything exactly right.  The first time.
 
Does anyone else feel the need to make your story perfect?  Does anyone else tend to go backwards as much as they go forwards?  Does your word count stay the same even after you spend time changing things?

 
 
Today I have three short and (hopefully) easy to remember rules.  If you abide by them, they may just help you get that draft finished in no time.
 
Don’t Stop Writing
 
Seriously.  Don’t stop.  Simple as that.
 
If you realize that you made a mistake – don’t go back and fix it.  If you change a character’s name or gender – don’t go back and fix it.  If you completely change, remove, or add a side plot – don’t go back and start over.
 
Just keep writing.  And keep writing with the new change, the new name, the new character, as if that’s how the story had been all along.
 
You will always find reasons to start over, and if you let yourself continue to go back and rewrite, you’ll get stuck in an endless loophole.
 
So what can you do with those things that need to be changed?
 
First Draft Notes
 
Start a new document/small notebook/your choice to use for your first draft notes (or FDN).  I find this really helpful to keep track changes I made or want to make, and it’s also a great starting point for editing.
 
If you remember you neglected to mention an important clue or write a particular conversation a chapter or so back, instead of going back to fix it, just make a note in your FDN and keep going forward.
 
Changed a name?  Make a note about it.  Changed the plot?  Make notes so you know where you started with the new plot.  Have ideas about how to edit things?  Make extensive notes, and just keep pushing through that first draft.
 
By the time you are done, you will have a finished draft, and lots of notes to help you through editing.
 
Pick Your Changes
 
Typos.  You can go and change them, or you can leave them.  If there are only a couple, chance them.  If you won’t remember the word you meant, change it.  If you’re in the middle of a word war, leave it.
 
Minor details.  If it’ll take you a few minutes to go back and correct, feel free to go for it.  Just make sure you don’t get sidetracked.
 
Things you strongly feel you need to change now.  If you really think they should be changed now, then go ahead and change it.  Or maybe this is why you’re not finishing, and you should restrain yourself.  You know who you are, and I don’t.  Use wisdom.
 
And remember this above all: this is a first draft.  You are still figuring out the story.  You are not going to send it to the publishers as soon as you type “the end.”  Edits exist for a reason, but you need something to edit before you can start them.
 
It may be rough at times.  Awkward at others.  Beautiful.  Enjoyable.  Hard.  Cringe-worthy.  Funny.  But just keep writing, and don’t stop!

Friday, September 01, 2017

August Highlights

Wow.  Just wowowow.  This month has gone by so fast!!  I think I blinked a few times...

Writing

Well, I spent the first half of the month re-outlining Words of Gold.  After talking with Sarah, Bard, and Pup, I decided to change a number of things, and that eventually went on to differences in the next two books... *grabs fistfuls of hair* ...but these things needed to be done, and they'll make everything better, so why should I complain about the work?

After getting that fixed up, I did another go-around on the first three chapters of Words of Gold.  I'm polishing those babies up until they're all just how I want them!

Blogging

Obviously, I've been changing the look of this place...and I also finished the first five parts to my series on finishing a first draft!

Part 1: Problems
Part 2: Time
Part 3: Distractions
Part 4: Procrastination
Part 5: Boredom

And elsewhere in the blogging world...

Sarah talked about Editing a First Ever Novel
Grey posted some tips about Making an Unforgettable Villain
Melissa gave some great questions for Creating Fictional Histories.
Ivie finished up her Politcal and Social Series.
Hannah talked about making Scenes Emotionally Gripping.

These guys are great; seriously, go check them out!  Other people wrote other amazing things, but these are the things that I really found helpful to myself at the moment.

Life

Sarah, Evangeline and I all went to a church conference at the beginning of the month, which was lots of fun!  We spent a lot of down time working on our outlines and just helping each other work out some story issues. 

I also uploaded a song to SoundCloud.  Sarah wrote it as a sort of "end credit" song for her trilogy, and as a surprise, I put it to music, recorded a guitar track, and got a fellow member of Order of the Pen to sing it.  Then we surprised Sarah with it.  The results were worth it all!

On the farm, we did some pasture maintenance, and got the back (and largest) pasture all trimmed up and in good shape.  I also got some good, long rides in with the horses, and then also went to VA for an long-distance event with Sarah.  Came in second place, which was awesome!!

This was taken very early in the morning, so it's very foggy out and the quality isn't that great.
Riding through the rangelands (cow pastures) of VA.
Plans

So what am I doing in September?  Celebrating Sarah's birthday with her.  Training for another horse race.  Beating to death and burning alive these first couple chapters of Words of Gold.  And trying to get a lot of reading done, because I did hardly any of that over the first half of the year.

So what are y'all up to?  Did you have a good August, or did it fly by as if on the wings of teleporting Eagles?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Problems

Ah, the life on a farm!  It certainly is one of excitement.  Nothing is ever boring, and something always goes wrong.  Guaranteed. 

It's like a predator.  Once one sneaky critter realizes it can stick around and cause problems, word gets around, and more start coming.  It could be just a small little detail, but it often leads up to a whole chain of predators, er, problems (or problems in the form of actual predators).

An example from over this past winter is proof enough. 

Situation:  The horses need to eat something.
Problem:  It is mid-winter, and all the grass is dead.
Solution:  Feed them hay.

Problem:  Because of the bad hay year, our hay farmer doesn't have a lot of square bales.
Another problem:  We're running out of the load of square bales we were able to buy.
Solution:  A local friend gives us the number of a guy with nice round bales.

Problem:  We have never done round bales before.
Solution:  We'll figure it out.  Can't be that much harder that square bales, right?

Admittance:  We were wrong.

Situation:  We have one round bale in the bed of the truck, and four more on the flat-bed trailer.
Problem:  We don't have a place to store such big bales of hay. 
Another Problem:  It's starting to rain.
Solution:  Park beside long driveway and cover the hay with a tarp.

Restatement of Previous Problem:  The horses are still hungry.

Situation:  We need to move these huge round bales from the trailer to the pasture so the horses can eat them.
Problem:  These things weigh a good couple hundred pounds.  We're not picking them up and moving them anywhere.
Solution:  Buy a hay spike for the tractor at the farm store.

Current Plan:  Drive the tractor to the garage, attach hay spike, carry round bale to pasture.

Problem:  The battery for the tractor is dead.  We're not driving it anywhere.
Another problem:  There is no light in the basement, so we can't see the battery well enough to remove it.
Solution:  A chicken heat lamp from the chick stuff in the basement.  Plug it in, and light!

Problem:  There's no light bulb in the heat lamp.
Solution:  Run panicking around the property searching in every single place we store farm stuff, looking for a light bulb.  It is finally found with the home supply stuff in the basement right beside the tractor.

Problem:  The light bulb does not fit the heat lamp socket.
Solution:  Remove the broken shards of previous light bulb from the lamp socket; replace with new, complete and working one.

Problem:  Acid from the battery is spilling on pants, burning holes in the jeans. 
Solution:  Remain completely clueless of situation until bedtime, and casually prepare to remove battery with a socket set. 

Problem:  Socket set is at the shop.
Solution:  Gather number of siblings, drive to shop, and grab socket set and the battery charger. 

Brief Victory:  Remove battery, and charge it.

Situation:  The tractor is now in working order and is at the garage so we can put on the hay spike.
Problem:  There is no place to install the hay spike.
Solution:  Drill a hole in the bucket.

Problem:  The drill is at the shop.
Solution:  Everyone piles into the truck and drives off to get the drill.

Problem:  There is not a drill bit the correct size for the needed hole.
Solution:  Ransack the garage, looking for something close to the correct size, until I find the perfect one hiding in a pile of chains and other old historic stuff from my father's grandpa.

Situation:  The hay spike is finally on the tractor, and now we're going to pick up the first round bale and take it to the barn on the gator.
Problem:  The hay spike will not penetrate the tightly packed bales.
Solution:  Spray cooking spray on the spike. 
Statement of Defense:  That's what the guy we bought the bales from told us to do in the event of spike not penetrating.

Problem:  The spray is not working.
Solution:  John will push on one side, Father and the tractor on the other, and we'll eventually get it on.

Mathematical Equation:  Because John < Round Bale, and Tractor > John what you end up with is a -John.
Solution:  We decide to forget being perfect, and accept a round bale half-mounted on the hay spike.

Current Plan:  Hurriedly transport round bale from tractor spike to back of gator so we can drive to pasture without dropping said hay bale.

Problem:  The gator battery is also dead.
Solution:  Dump the round bale in the truck bed to drive around to the barn, as we've had enough problems for the day.

Problem:  The round bale is right at the weight limit for the tractor.
End result:  Barely make it to the truck, dump the round bale in the bed, drop it off at the barn.
Complete end result:  Happy horses, and a number of tired humans who never want to see a round bale again.

For the record, we now have a better way of handling round bales.  But our first experience with them was obviously not the best.  :)  Hope you enjoyed!