The Length of Rough Drafts

Tuesday, December 29

Sorry for not being able to post yesterday as promised, but I have a valid excuse; I did not have access to a computer. Great, moving on.

I found out something the other day. (As usual, this knowledge seems obvious but it's something I've only recently hammered into my thick head.)
I figured out that the rough draft does not have to be 200 pages.
I've been dissatisfied because my rough draft, my suposedly brilliant beginning, is turning out to be around 30 pages long.
But I finally figured out that it's only a rough draft. It doesn't have to be Leo Toltsky on the first try. This is only the backbone, the skeletal structure. The next drafts will add to it. Karen Cushman put it rather well. She said something to the extent of 'the rough draft is the bullion cube of a book' that she stretches into a full-fledged novel.
So don't worry if the Rough draft isn't the masterpiece you imagined.
They seldom are.


Merry Christmas

Friday, December 25

I know every other blogger is doing the same post practically but, hey, who cares.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy know what, When I say "Merry Christmas," I'm wishing you good times.

Oh, and just to you writers, it's winter break so tackle those rough drafts of yours while you've got time.:)

Merry Christmas.

Picture by Ginsui-rin

Picture by Dream-traveler

 Picture by StudioQube


People Watching

Friday, December 18

People Watching: [pee-puhl wotch-ing] -verb
To sit in a crowded place and watch strangers, silently make inferences about them, creating backgrounds, and/or making up a name for them. A time-honored tradition among dorky writers and bored airplane passengers.
Picture by Matteaton
I've always heard about people watching, but I never tried it out until recently. What I came up with is just a few quick jottings since people are in such a hurry nowadays that they never bother to stay put.

A man with black, lace-up boots hidden under a long pair of faded jeans slouches in his seat. His white, almost silver, hair is buzzed short. A black shirt peeks out of an old gray hoodie. His eyebrows are light brown and almost non-existent.

A girl stares blankly out the window. Her cinnamon hair is in a half ponytail, held back with a silver clip. Her hands are shoved in a black Betty Boop hoodie that's zipped halfway down to reveal a pink Volcom shirt. She wears dark blue capris and clasic black converse. Her feet are on tiptoe, pressing her heels against the bottom of the seat. A backpack sits on her lap and earphones are in her ears.

A young man with a brown fedora hat. his dark brown beard is closely shaved. his feet are planted apart and he slouches low in his seat. he wears a coarse brown pair of long pants, frayed at the bottom. he has faded blue converse.he wears a light blue shirt under a faded black leather jacket. His hands are shoved into his jacket's pockets.

If you're walking through a crowd though it's harder to get details of a person from a single glance.

Girl. Pink highlights. Numerous piercings.

Man. Heavily bearded. Plaid jacket. Looks like Paul Bunyan.

Woman. Dirty blond hair. Wearing a gold, heart-shaped locket. Tired.

Long nose. (I couldn't really focus on anything else like gender or clothes because seriously it was long.)


Pen vs. Pencil

Monday, December 14

For me, what I use to write is somewhat important. If it's a pen, my writing get a little more relaxed and has the fun tone of a freewrite. With pencil I find myself to be a little more stiff and unwilling. (hence my love of pens.
I usually scribble in a notebook when I'm writing a rough draft though, because somehow typing it on a computer makes it seem like I can't change it, like it's set in stone.
However, my muse loves to mess with me, and she'll switch her tastes sometimes to actually prefer writing a rough draft on my laptop.

Writing tastes vary, and if you don't feel the creative juices flowing, try a different writing instrument.

Some writers have a wide collection of pens. They say that each pen gives gives the story a different tone. Me, I have one simple black ballpoint pen that I've had forever and I worry that it will die on me someday.


Writing a Summary

Friday, December 11

I came up with this little fill-in-the-blank summary maker a while back. It's pretty useful if you're trying to figure out a problem or plot.

When 17-year-old (Age/Description) Bella Swan (Character) moves to the sleepy town of Forks (What they do), She (he/she) falls in love with a vampire(What they do). But when other, less self-controlled vampires show up (What happens), Bella's (Character's) life (what) is jeopardized, for Bella (Character) has become the prey of a hunter who will stop at nothing to destroy her (What).

Here's one with just the blank spots.
When ________ ___________________, ___ __________________. But when ___________________, ______'s ____ is jeopardized, for ______ ___________________.


Impossible Scenarios

Monday, December 7

My characters are almost always getting captured and my current RD is no exception. The only problem with that is figuring out how to get them rescued.

I explained my dilemma to a friend and outlined the circumstances of their capture. He raised he eyebrow and said, "That's impossible."
When I think back on it, he's right. There is no possible solution. So I'm going to have to change it up a bit.

"If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts"
~Albert Einstein

I'm gonna try to make his prison a little less, well, indestructible.

But the point of all this is that I've found out that not every scenario is possible. Sometimes you've got to tweak things to make them doable.



Friday, December 4

My current (incomplete) rough draft is chock-full of plot holes, the majority of them being a lack of motive.

Why does the bad guy do what they do?
Why does the protagonist (good guy) go out of his way to attack the antagonist?
Why do the other character's help? Why?

The only thing I can really do at this point is sit around and think up solutions. But this usually leads to more questions.
Do they do it out of guilt?
Because they're angry?
Did the bad guy have a bad childhood?
What's in it for the other characters if they help? Do they do it out of honor? Love?

It's one of those things that only the author can figure out, but hopefully the above questions will get you jump-started if you're stuck (like me).


Beginning, Middle, & End

Monday, November 30

There are three key elements to writing a story; you’ve got to have a beginning, middle, and an end.

Beginning: The character wants something, and gets them into trouble.
Middle: Things get worse.
End: Things get even worse, every attempt to succeed is thwarted, and then finally the character succeeds.
That's the basic plot of every book (every book I know of anyway.) It’s also, strangely enough, the recipe for a trilogy.

If you want to get a little more detailed plot outline, you could follow a plot graph.

Exposition (Beginning): The character wants something, and gets them into trouble.
Rising action: The character takes action to solve their problem and things get worse.
Climax: The most emotional part, where tension is the highest and everything is at stake.
Falling action: The problem is almost solved, but a few loose knots need to be taken care of.
Denouement (Resolution) (End): Everything is solved and the hero rides off into the sunset.


Taking your own advice

Saturday, November 28

I've been trying to finish my rough draft thins week. It's been gooing good until today.
I got Writer's block.
I moped around, wandered through the house eating a cheese sandwich, googled for some inspirational photos, and then I realized that maybe I should actually take my own advice.

So what if you've got Writer's Block story_weaver?
Write whatever random crap comes into you brain. Exercise maybe. Allow yorself to write badly.

I did. And now I've fixed the plot, and I'm ready to write.


Writing Web

Monday, November 23

A few writing websites, whether you're trying to procrastinate finishing a rough draft or you need to get some research done.

Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for writers Funny comics about writing, videos, and other random writing-related tidbits.
Alphabets This website has websites for alphabets from Arabic to Tibetan to Elvish.
Serendipity Generators for random names, random personalities, random settings, to name but a few.
Baby Names This site has one of the largest collection of names I've found, and you can search by meaning, specific letters, popularity, or origin.
Write and Publish Fiction Good, helpful articles for fantasy writers
Freerice You donate to charity while learning random, long, and important-sounding words
Onelook Find rhymes, translations, and words with a specific number of vowels, words that contain other words...
Writing World Despite their 90's looking layout, they've got a lot of helpful articles.
The Costumers Manifesto If you're writing historical fiction, they give in-depth information on how people dressed and what roles they played.


Point of View

Friday, November 20

There are four different angles your story can be told from. Each has both advantages and disadvantages, and for the most part the point of view you choose depends on the character you're trying to reveal.

The narrator tells the story using “I” and plays a part in the story.
This involves slipping into the character's skin and telling it from their perspective. It can make the reader connect with the character easier, but it also makes it difficult if they're of a different gender or age than you. (Though I enjoy the challenge.)

The writer writes using the word "you" and makes the reader in the story.
This kind of POV is seldom used, except in Choose Your Own Adventure Books and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

The story’s told using “he” and “she” and the writer isn’t involved in the action.
The writer is completely focused on one character so they can’t write about anything the character didn’t experience. You can reveal their thoughts and feeling but not the other characters. (Unless the focus character can read minds.)

The story’s told using “he” and “she” and the writer isn’t involved in the action.
In this third person however, the writer can write about scenes the character wasn’t there to experience and can get into other character’s heads. This is a very free way to write, but you must be careful that you don’t jump around too much so that the story’s confusing.


How to snap out of a Writing Coma

Friday, November 13

Have you ever really needed to write but the words wouldn't come? You feel discouraged and frustrated? You're convinced that your writing sucks?

You're not alone.
(Bother. This post is starting to sound like an advertisement.)

One of the best ways I've found to get me out of that deep-blue-funk is to EXERCISE.
The science? Exercise pumps your blood faster, so it gets to your brain faster.

It clears my head and makes me think better, especially if the exercise is rhythmic (like swimming around in a circle or jogging.)
I've unraveled many a difficult plot by just running around like a headless chicken.
You don't need any fancy exercise equipment, a simple jump rope will work. And if you lose a couple pounds and put on some muscle in the process, then that's not a bad thing either.


Observation vs. Logic

Monday, November 9

Two ways to give your book a more realistic feel; OBSERVATION and LOGIC

This entails things you've noticed from the world around you.
The way rain drops follow each other's trails when they go down the window, how sometimes mud has a layer of creamy mud on top, the sound of a broken vacuum, how rainstorms smell, how cats slowly twitch their tails, the way teenage girls walk.

This is based on cause and effect.
For example, if it rains and storms in your book, how does this affect the countryside? If there are rivers they will grow, trees may be knocked down. How does this affect your character?


Writer's Worry Part 2

Friday, November 6

Yesterday I called upon my friend, another writer, to help me fix a plot. The twists are amazing, the plot is thickened, but I'm stuck.

"Are you trying to control the story?" She asked.
"Yes. But I need to write. And I don't know what happens next."
She reminded me that sometimes you can't rein in a story. Sometimes you just need to put pen to paper and let it guide you.

Let's compare it to a horse.
If you know you're destination you're going to steer your horse there. But if, like me, you don't know where you're going, then you've got to sit back in the saddle and drop the reins.

I tried to let the story take me where it wanted. I wrote eveything and anything that spilled from my mind onto the paper.

It worked.

Sometimes you've got to let the story be in charge.



Friday, October 30

To be a writer you need to be able to change easily.
Not yourself, but your habits, your character's names, your book's title.
I recently learned that if I write a book before knowing the main problem, the book dies. Yet I've stubbornly persisted in ignoring that, hoping I'd become one of those instinctive writers that "never know where the story will take them."
So I had to change my preconceived notion of what type of writer I am.
The quicker I can let
go of things (the story I set out to write, the beginning that I thought was
good, the dumb bunny metaphor that I loved) the quicker I'm able to move on and
find something better.
~Todd Mitchell
You must be able to adapt. Don't latch onto that sentence that you're so proud of.
Writers need to have a thick skin, not only for critics, but for yourself.
Letting go is hard. But a lot of times, it's necessary.


The Irony of Blogging

Monday, October 26

While I was on this little break of mine, I got thinking about how much time I spend on Blogger, which, ironically, takes away from my writing time. (And, oh yes, my personal life.)

Therefore, I'm only gonna publish every MONDAY and FRIDAY.(I'll still respond to any comments you guys give.)

I hope you understand, and I'll check back with you Friday. :)



Monday, October 19

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s this marvelous navigation system that tells us if our plot is going in the right the direction or not; it’s enthusiasm

If I don’t feel excited to write a certain scene, then most likely that scene has no place in the story.

Today I attempted to write the scene that I felt no enthusiasm towards. I couldn’t write it. Yet the plot depends heavily on that scene occurring.
So I changed it. I tweaked the setting, how the events occur. I added a couple of conflicts, stirred up some secrecy.

I enjoyed writing it, which signaled to me that I was on the right track.

You should never dread writing something. Pay attention to how excited you are to write. Do your fingers itch to scribble it out or do you procrastinate?


Staying in Character Part 2: Writing in First Person

Saturday, October 17

For some writers (me, for example) it's difficult to have a different voice when writing in first-person.

One of my stories is from a boy's point of view, the other is from a girl's and they sound, if not exactly the same, very similar.
They both sound like me.

So I've been trying lately to create a character completely different from myself and then slip into their skin.

Beforehand, I started writing in first-person before even figuring out who they were. That only resulted in a duplicate of myself every time.
You are looking through their eyes.

What do they think about?
Are they slow and hesitant to make decisions or headstrong and reckless?
Are they optimistic or cynical?
How do they see the world?


Inspiration Part 3

Friday, October 16

Inspiration (stopmotion) from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.


Writing Out of Order

Tuesday, October 13

My preferred way to write lately has been to write out of chronological order. I’ve been jotting down whatever short scenes pop into my head.
It’s proved useful (if mildly confusing) because I tend to have blind spots when looking at how my plot will turn out. I may know what happens next, but I don't know how or why it happened. In other words, I'm missing a few stepping stones.

I’m now attempting to type up what I’ve got so far, trying to figure out how to fill the holes.
I couldn’t really gain any semblance of organization, so I filled out index cards with a short description of each scene and arranged them chronologically.
What resulted was a clear definition of what I need to type. But it also revealed that the skeletal structure of the plot is terribly frail. But that's alright, for a rough draft.

On several of them, I state the scene but then have scribbled how? underneath. I know what happens. But I can't figure HOW. For example, I know they escape from ______ but I don't know how they accomplish that.


Resolutions: Tying up the Loose Ends

Sunday, October 11

While trying to figure out a solution to my book, I remembered two "rules" about resolving conflicts.

1) The character's plan spins them deeper into trouble
2) The character's plan doesn't work out the way they expected, and is revised (usually on the spur of the moment)

I'm trying to get them OUT of trouble for good, so rule #2 is what I need to utilize.

And then BOOM. After a couple hours of brainstorming and recalling these rules, I realized what needed to be done. All that's left now is to write it.

So a tip for other writers out there: brainstorm.

A great way to find new ideas is by having a change of scenery. Seriously, moving away from that computer to a new place seems to open up your mind and let new ideas flow in.
In my case, a quick jaunt to Sonic was all I needed to get the creative juices flowing.



Friday, October 2

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
~Tom Clancy

A lot of readers look for a story they can connect to.
And it's hard to connect to a story if you don't believe it. I'm not talking about delusions, but the way the story makes sense.

The Character’s actions and reactions

I have always groaned in despair when the characters enter a magical world and go “Hey, this is cool.”
In Wings by E.D. Baker the character lives in present times, so it was horribly frustrating when she sees a goblin and says, “That’s creepy. They’re following me,” and doesn’t tell her parents.
Then she sprouts wings. “Oh great, now I’ll be an unpopular freak.”
By the time I got to the part where she enters the magical world going, “Oh no, this is weird. Cool, is that magic?” I slammed the book down and didn’t read another word.
To make it believable, the character’s first thoughts should be “This is a dream, it was a coincidence, they’re lying,” because in reality, people have a marvelous ability to ignore and rationalize for things they see and hear.
If they’re already in a magical world, it’s easy, they’re used to it.

I’ve stumbled upon countless books where people die. To name of few, here are annoyingly inaccurate descriptions of how other characters reacted to it;
“What will I tell his wife?”
“At least the death wasn’t painful.”
“(So-and-so) wouldn’t want us crying over her.”
“Poor (deceased character).”

You need weeping, hollow hearts, deadened senses, minds full of disbelief that they’re gone, anguish. Tug at the reader’s heartstrings.

The Setting
If it’s set in the city, and at night it’s perfectly quiet and you can see the stars, there’s something the matter with reality. If it’s set in a place you’ve lived or visited before it’s easy to make the setting believable. If you’ve never been to a place like that, you have to do (ugh) research.
Sadly enough, a good fraction of my rough drafts have the characters on the sea, on a boat, shouting nautical terms. (What the heck are a bow and a sprit?) I’ve been to the ocean maybe twice in my life, never actually riding in a boat. So it’s a little tough. Research, research, research your topic.

I once wrote a story set in Ancient Egypt. It’s supposedly night yet the character glances at the sundial to see the time. A family member kindly pointed out to me that a sundial shows time by a sun casting a shadow. And there’s no sun. (Don’t laugh at me.)
Another time, a character meets a beautiful girl…who wants to kill him (Before you think that’s sounds insane, she’s royalty and wants to execute him as an example.) A few paragraphs later I realized that I should probably stop him fawning over her, because you’d have to be pretty messed up to have a crush on the person who wants you dead.
Think about logic; if there’s a storm, how does that affect the surrounding countryside? Is there a river nearby? If so, it probably will flood the banks. How does that affect the characters?

Be logical; make the story seem real enough that the reader will be sucked in. Don’t push your reader away like Wings pushed me away.


Sharing Your Work

Monday, September 28

I got a couple comments from readers requesting a look at some of my work. I'm sorry to say that I don't share rough drafts.

It is just human nature (and I'm guilty of this as well) to offer your opinion.

The only problem is that rough drafts 100% of the time are far from perfection. Both beginning writers, and their rough drafts, are terribly venerable.

I will accept constructive critique thankfully. But timing is everything. And critics can quite easily (and unintentionally) kill your book.
That’s how my dead story came to be dead.

Rough drafts cannot withhold a lot of barrage. 2nd drafts, 3rd drafts, ect. are a different story.


Showing Not Telling: Characterization

Saturday, September 26

There are two ways to reveal a character and establish their personality; Directly and Indirectly. By far the most interesting, engaging way is Indirectly.


1. What the character says 
(“I don’t care much for fighting,” he said, backing away.)   
We can tell they dislike fighting.

2.The character’s physical appearance 
(He wiped his calloused hands on his worn burlap jacket.)
His hands tell us he lives a rough, poor life, which is also supported by the worn jacket.
3.Their feelings/thoughts 
(I wish summer would come back. This blasted cold freezes my old bones, he thought.)
Old and hates the cold (What do you know, it rhymes!)

4.What other characters think/say about the character 
(“So serious for someone so young,” she laughed.)
The character is young and serious.

5.How the character acts/reacts 
(Without another thought, he dove into the fray, snarling and biting.) 
Impulsive and reckless


1.The author directly comments on the character   
(The man was quiet and thoughtful, never seeking a fight.)
Um...he's quiet, thoughtful, and hates fighting. (Obvious...and kind of dull.)


Staying In Character Part 1

Sunday, September 20

Over the weekend (by the way, sorry for not posting in so long) I learned a little tidbit about charcters. I kind of split them into sections.

One of the things I find the most annoying when I read, is when the character does something COMPLETELY out of character for the sake of a cool scene.

I wrote a scene a few days ago where the main character got into trouble. The point of the scene was not to get him killed/captured so I had to have him rescued.
Unfortunately, the only person around to save him was a character who hated him.
So I had to mess around with that scene for a while.
Yes, they saved his life. But I got rid of the "Are you okay?" and the "Hey, thanks for saving my life."

I once read a story where the character is completely shy and then suddenly steps forward and becomes a leader. I was left floundering for a split second going, “Um…what just happened?”

Yes, you want character development. (The official literary definition is a dynamic character.)
But you want the character to change in DEGREES, slowly, step by step. Not a big WHOOSH all of a sudden they're no longer shy, no longer bitter, no longer...whatever.

It's also hard to stay in character if you don't even know who your character is. I occasionally use a character sketch when this happens. The best one I've found is R.L. LaFevers's;

Family’s social status/income level - because poverty greatly affect worldview

Any ethnic background or influences?

What is their family dynamics? Parents married, divorced, single? Siblings? Birth order?

What sort of student is the character?

How popular are they at school?
Who is his best friend?

Who is their worst enemy?

Do they have any hobbies? If so, how did they come to those hobbies?

Are they athletic? Good at sports? If so, which ones. If not, how does that affect their life?

What is the character’s most treasured possession?

Do they have any superstitions?

What is their general attitude toward life? Optimist? Pessimist? What went into forming that attitude?

What are they afraid of?

What are his hopes and dreams? Both immediate and long term.

What does he long for?

Does he have any food likes or dislikes?

What about pets?

Is there anything he feels guilty about?

What is his favorite book, TV show, or computer game?

What is his relationship with technology? Do they have four TVs? No computer? A cell phone at age 10? An email account? (in historical or fantasy novels, this question is a whopper as it encompasses the other world you're building into your story.)

What are his character strengths?

What are his character flaws?

What about Quirks?

Does he have any physical weaknesses? Uncoordinated, asthma, small for his age, etc.


Death of a story: What should really be two posts but is combined into one

Saturday, September 12

It's been a little over a month since I finished a rough draft for the first time.
So I broke out the worn notebook and stared at it for a while, trying to figure out how to start the revision process.
But no matter how hard I thought, I couldn't think of a way to fix the plot.
So I started making a tree-looking map of all the possible scenarios that each plot point could lead to.
I got this far before the endless choices scared me and I quit.
I was scared that if I followed one, it'd be, I don't know, the WRONG direction.
And I really don't feel like writing out every possible scene.

I've been a scared little writer for quite some time. Sometimes I began worrying about "WHAT IF I GET IT WRONG?"

There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.
~Somerset Maugham
Though writing rules vary from author to author, Mary Bass's three rules for writng are Be Entertaining, Be true to your story, and BE FEARLESS.
Fearlessnes, ah.
Gonna have to work on that.

But my first shot at revision revealed that the book died a while ago anyway.

I was surprised to realize that it was dead. By "dead", I mean "dead" like a dead language (latin for example.)

I don't know if he (I think of the book as a "he" since the main charcter's a guy) will make a comeback someday in the far future. Maybe someday it'll hit me how to fix the rough draft, but for now, I'm moving on to work on one of my other drafts I still need to finish.


Book Recommendation: FLY BY NIGHT

Wednesday, September 9

I picked up this book by Frances Hardinge in 2005 and have read it four times.
And for me, It's amazing if I ever read a book twice.

Mosca Mye is of the few girls who can read, in a world where printed words are dangerous.
And she loves words.
 ...the words had shapes in her mind. she memorized them, and stroked them in her thoughts like the curved backs of cats.
 To escape the watery town of Chough she helps a smooth-talking con-man escape the stocks.
From there she's tossed headfirst into rivalry between those who rule the land, rule the sea, and those that rule words.
An ill-tempered goose.
A dashing highwayman.
A woman with a snow-white scar.
A duke obbsessed with symmetry.
And the words that catch hold of Mosca and never let go. 
I love this book, not only for its story but for the words.
I’ve always been a sucker for a well-turned Hardinge verse.
~Elizabeth Bird 
Well said Elizabeth.

But it's also how the story is about words, and the power of words.
And so for a writer, I think it makes an excellent book.

Or for anyone who cares to join Mosca in what I think to be one of the best books out there.


The Six Traits: Ideas

Monday, September 7

And now for (what I think) is the most important trait : IDEAS.

No matter how good a writer is, if they write a bland story a reader, won't bother with it..

What makes Twilight so fascinating? A girl falls in love with a dangerous predator. Harry Potter? The idea of a school for magic and the concept of the entire wizarding world in general.

Creativity and Imagination are the cornerstone of most books.
Every writer who ever had any amount of success had at least a teaspoon of creativity.

But let's see what the rubric has to say;
This paper is clear and focused. It holds the reader's attention. Relevant anecdotes and details enrich the central theme.

Turn on some music, work-out, dance-like-no-one-is-watching sort of thing.
Let the Ideas come to you.

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
~Arthur Koestler
It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.
~Edward de Bono


My Soapbox

Saturday, September 5

For you new readers out there (and the older ones) I thought it about time to give you a quick welcome.

Welcome to WRITER SENSE. It's basically my little soapbox to share tips and hints I learn.

Every writer has a few puzzles pieces towards the perfect book-writing process. Not every process works for every writer, mind. I'm just trying to give others a leg-up in return for all the support I've recieved.
“If you are a dreamer,come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer.
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire,
for we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!”
~Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends


Writing Schedule

Friday, September 4

Your writing need a GOAL.

Even if its just "Finish this chapter by Friday," or "Write a novel this year," its a Goal. Your stretching yourself to get something done instead of doodling aimlessly on a sheet of paper.

Do you want to be a published author someday? Someday soon? Short spasms of a few genius pages a month won't get that novel done.
If I waited for inspiration to knock on my door before  I wrote I'd get, say, about five chapters done a year. (Trust me, that's what happened.)

But get this; if you don't achieve the goal, IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. Just give yourself a new due date.

But reward yourself IF and WHEN you accomplish your goal. (Mmmm...chocolate.)

GOALS. Set goals for yourself and push yourself to meet them. Authors don't get anywhere if they're not willing to find the time to write.


Dialogue Part 2

Thursday, September 3

What do you, as readers, prefer in a book; Long winded descriptions of the scenery, of every detail or Dialogue.
Yeah, that's what I thought.
(If you chose scenery you are the most patient reader around.)

Dialogue can not only convey messages about the character's relationships with each other, their background (i.e. slang). Dialogue can also tell the reader about the scenery. For example;

"...five steps, six steps. Six steps long."
"What is?"
"This cell."
"Quit splashing around in the water and sit down."
"Sit down where? Everywhere is wet."
"Well standing by that barred window won't help your health much either."

We can already see that a) they're in a cell, b)it's wet, c) it's small, and d) it has a barred window.
A little more interesting than
The room was wet and cold. It had a barred window. It was small.

Dialogue can also show things happening;

“Duck!” roared Joseph.
“That arrow almost had your name on it.” 
“Speaking of arrows, hand me another; I’m out,” said Marcus. 
“Er, so am I.” 
“Move your backsides soldiers!” roared the captain. “Retreat! RETREAT!”

Instead of:

When Joseph told Marcus to duck, he didn't argue. He was glad he had listened because an arrow missed him. When he asked for more arrows he was dismayed to learn that there wasn't any more. The captain called a retreat.


The Six Traits: Sentence Fluency

Tuesday, September 1

One rule for sentence fluency: READ ALOUD. Read it, hear it, make it better. Does it sound like it flows? Is it lyrical?
Every sentence shouldn't sound the same.
Sentence fluency is what you hear aloud and in your head as you read.
Each should have a different amount of syllables than the previous.
For example;
See Spot run. Spot runs fast. "Good Boy Spot." We love Spot. Hear Spot bark.
Spot ran, his lean legs pulling him forward effortlessly. He skidded to a halt in front of Jack.
Jack patted his head. "Good Boy."
He cocked his head to one side and barked.

The writing has an easy flow, rhythm, and cadence. Sentences are well built, with strong and varied structure that invites expressive oral reading.


The Six Traits: Word Choice

Tuesday, August 25

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
~C. S. Lewis

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
~Mark Twain

When brainstorming today's topic I remembered these quotes from back in June.
Word choice is important. It makes charaters leap off the page, makes action seem real, and adds prose-like quality.
The Number One Rule (and I'm guilty of it myself) is DON'T USE WORDS YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND.
I sometimes use words I've heard that sound long and fancy, even if I have no clue what they mean. Then it usually backfires and makes me sound…well, not as brilliant as I’d hoped.
That lovely thesaurus word isn’t always the right word. Small words have a place in literature. Small words are especially useful when describing something huge and “beyond description.”
Like most of the six traits, you don’t have to worry about word choice during the first, or even the second, draft. It’s more of a polish than a building block.

Words convey the intended message in a precise, interesting, and natural way. The words are powerful and engaging.


Writing Unconsciously

Friday, August 21

I'm one of those people who feel like every time I write, my future reader is peering over my shoulder, clucking their tongue and making remarks. I feel I have to please them in every way.

So far, the only way I've found to work around that is by writing unconsciously.
I'm not talking about yoga or getting yourself into a trance. (But if that helps you take the focus off the 'what-if-I-don't-get-it-right' syndrome then great, do it.)

What I mean is writing the words you want by letting the words carry you.
Let the words carry you like an ocean wave (that sounds so corny.) But if any of you have ever swam in the ocean, you notice how the waves rise you up and down flowing easily and with zero effort.

If you fight the waves, you quickly become exhausted. If you let them carry you, it's very easy, though they'll take you places you may not have planned to go. (Since we're comparing the ocean to your story, that's okay.)

I kind of zone out before writing, maybe do a little free-writing beforehand. I try to focus on my characters when I'm writing, not a nonexistent reader. (Which is pretty ironic since my characters don't exist either.)

LET THE WORDS CARRY YOU. You are a little boat in an ocean of words, be taken places you've never imagined.

Over-thinking can kill creativity.


Why People Write

Tuesday, August 18

I was reading Writing For Your Life by Deena Metzger, and she spoke about the magic of words. Something I'd completely forgotten about.
"Oh Yeah. That magic."

I used to be so adamant about the magic of words, being able to create things where before there was only you and the blank paper.
And then I forgot. And the blank page appeared frightening rather than an invitation to be creative.
But the worst thing that came from forgetting was that I began viewing writing as a chore/desk job.
Back in July I wrote about loving what you do. Why did you want to write to begin with?
I started because I loved words. (If that's not why you started that's fine, don't freak out.)
But it stands to reason, that to love writing you should probably love words.
You are a wordsmith. Words are your trade. Love them and they'll love you back.


Writers' Pride

Friday, August 14

You've just written a chapter that your very proud of. The sentences are lyrical. The action is engaging. It's then you realize that it isn't the direction the story needs to go. But its so good.
Letting it go was one the hardest things I learned to do (and I did a lot of it.) The trick is to not get attached to your writing.
Stephanie Meyer wrote a 700 paged sequel to Twilight called Forever Dawn. She didn't like it so she chucked all 700 pages! (Where does she find time to write 700 pages anyway?)

Sure, be proud of your writing, of what you accomplish. But don't be attached to every word.

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.
~Woody Allen


The Six Traits: Organization

Thursday, August 13

This one's relatively short; organization means that things happen in order. Beginning, middle and end.

Writing out of order is sometimes confusung, but don't worry about putting the puzzle pieces together until you've written the rough draft .


The organization enhances and showcases the central idea or theme. The order, structure, or presentation of information is compelling and moves the reader through the text.


Writer Cliches

Wednesday, August 12

"So, what do you do?" they ask.
"Oh," I say offhand. "I write."
They look at me skeptically, their eyes trying to find the nonexistent book bag on my shoulder, the pencil in my ear, and the notebook that I should be clutching.
"Of course, you obviously don't take it very seriously," their wan smile says.
Think again.
No one seems to believe you're a writer until they've walked in the room and interrupt you scribbling something on a napkin. It's only then that their eyes swell with trust and the sentimentality of ‘wow, a person dedicated to their craft.’ And we're back to the cliche starbucks writing.
For the record, I do more than writing books and blog posts.

 In other news, I've been working on a couple rough drafts I never completed while I've been waiting for the revision deadline. So far it has proved to me that my notebooks are chronologically a mess. I seem to write better when I'm not writing in order.
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.


Dialogue Part 1

Tuesday, August 11

I recently learned a trick while writing dialogue. Have your characters be busy while they talk. (i.e. kneading dough, fixing a car, dancing)
That way, if you need  a  pause you can write more then 'she didn't answer;she was angry.' and say ' she remained silent, glowering at the dough on the counter, her hands punching it as if it was his face.'

This tip does not apply for every conversation. During the quick conversations you can add fidgets, like brushing their hair away from their eyes.


The Six Traits: Conventions

Friday, August 7

Conventions are one of those necessary things that no one much likes.
Spell-check's one my best friends. But best friends can make mistakes. Which means you have to read over your manuscript.

Yeah, the WHOLE THING.
(While your at it, you might as well read it aloud. I've heard that's helpful in the revision process.)

 What to check for:
Grammar: sending a publisher a manuscript with the words "I is a good writer" might not give a terribly good impression.
Spelling: Spell-check can mistake a misspelled word. It's not 100% accurate.
Punctuation: Periods, colons, semi-colons, accents, quotations. All those dotty little things.(Look out for that tricky "it's" and "its")
Paragraphing: Dialogue, change of scenery, different subjects.

Capitalization: Names, beginning of sentences, the works.

If it's any comfort, every writer has to go through that.

What the rubric says:
The writer demonstrates a good grasp of standard writing conventions (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, usage, paragraphing) and uses conventions effectively to enhance readability. Errors tend to be so few that just minor touch-ups would get this piece ready to publish.


The Six Traits: Voice

Thursday, August 6

What I think is one of the most important six traits is Voice.
I'm not talking about your character's voice (though that's still important) I'm talking about yours; the writer's voice.

Take this example from THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahme;

Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver--glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.

That's Kenneth Grahme's voice. I'm sure Stephanie Meyer's description, Hilari Bell's, J.K. Rowlings, and my description would be very different.
How would you describe it?

Voice: The distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Your voice won't be distinct immediately. It takes time to 'discover' it. And the only way to find it is by writing as much as you can. That's the only way to be a better writer. The more you write, the more unique your voice will become.
I can't tell you what your voice is, much as I'd like to make things easier for you. Only you can figure that out.

But according to the Arizona rubric for the six traits, the highest score would need these elements:
The writer speaks directly to the reader in a way that is individual, compelling, and engaging. The writer crafts the writing with an awareness and respect for the audience and the purpose for writing.


How to Write a Gripping Beginning

Wednesday, August 5

Photo from

Well, I'm off the hook. Researched a bit on how to revise and most of them say to put away the rough draft and not look at it for a month. I think I might just follow their advice...

Speaking of hooks, I've been meaning to get around to doing a post on grabbing your reader on the first page. Or 'hooks' as they're usually called.

When I'm skimming through books, I generally read the first page. If it's dull, back it goes the book on the shelf. (And honestly, the whole "don't judge a book by its cover" rule is never obeyed by readers.)
So the first page is important.
Don't get freaked out, those of you who've yet to finish your rough draft. Each time you edit your story the first page changes, so you don't really need to worry about it until the final draft. (The final draft. That seems so far away...)

A few good examples of first lines that make you want to keep reading;

The King killed my canary today.
~Goose Chase, by Patrice Kindl

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news.
~Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz

The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up.
~Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson

And of course;
I'd never given much thought to how I would die...
~Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer

So, what happens when you're at the stage of composing an engaging first page?
For one thing, Once Upon a time is a thing of the past. Never. I forbid it. Unless of course, you're trying to be funny.
One of the best places to begin a book is in the middle of the action. ("I ducked the flashing blade..." that sort of thing.)
Or in the middle of dialogue. ("A spy? Here?" I said doubtfully.)

Begin as close to the end as possible
~Kurt Vonnegut (What a last name)

In Elizabeth Haydon's The Floating Island the story starts with the main character in a jail cell writing out the events that happened to get him there. That made the reader want to read on to find out how he got into such a sticky mess.

Option a) start with catchy dialogue
Option b) start with action
Option c) start in the middle of the muddle


The Truth about Writers

Monday, August 3

Before I began writing, I had this idea in my head that writers were these highly chic, good-looking people, wealthy, and preferably with reading glasses. I imagined them 24/7 sitting at a desk effortlessly pouring forth brilliant words and sending them onward to publishers.

Uh uh. Nope.

Truth be told, they're average people who struggle to figure out the first draft.
My imagination still runs away with popular belief and I picture myself, a full-fledged published author, sitting in Starbucks munching on pastries and "effortlessly pouring out words". How cliche is that?
Believe me, if you're going to write, its not a way to "make money on the side." At least not after a while.
Writing becomes one of the things you think about most. you worry about your characters almost as much as you worry about life.
But I love it. I don't know what else I'd want to do.

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~Sharon O'Brien
P.S. I hadn't noticed the difficulty in commenting until I tried to comment! That's fixed now so no excuses for not giving feedback. :)


Finishing a Rough Draft

Saturday, August 1

I finished my rough draft last night!

True, it isn't a Mona Lisa, but that's what revision's for!
I'm very excited!


Driving the Plot

Thursday, July 30

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." -- E.L. Doctorow

A big misconception is that every book has to have a main character. Believe it or not, it’s possible to write a book without having a main character (be forewarned, this could get a trifle long.)

There are two driving forces; CHARACTER DRIVEN and EVENT DRIVEN.

Character driven just means that the focus is on your main character. They make things worse through his/her actions, they struggle, they struggle, makes it worse again, until he/she finally triumphs at the end. (Example: HARRY POTTER)

Event Driven is a about a series of events that gets worse and worse though various characters’ actions until at the end good wins over evil, or whatever they’re trying to accomplish. (Example: LORD OF THE RINGS)

I started a book once about this boy. I had the hardest time writing about him. And then I realized; I really didn’t like him! I didn’t want to write about him. I tried changing his name and personality but to no avail. Yet, in order to do the book as a character-driven one it was vital to leave him in.  So I did event driven and cut the blasted character out.  True, that story is one of the many rough drafts I never completed. But at least I want to write it. And even if it never does get finished, I learned something… by failing.

1. Who’s the main character?
2. What does he/she do?
3. How does his/her actions get them into trouble?
4. What do they plan to do about it?
5. What forces are working against them? (It can include several smaller problems.)
6. How do they overcome these forces?
7. What happens when they’ve overcome the forces and reached their goal?
8. The End

1. What’s the big problem?
2. How does it affect the majority of the world?
3. Who does it affect in particular?
4. Who wants to help stop it?
5. What happens as they try to stop it?
6. What opposing forces do all of them face?
7. What struggles does each character go through?
8. How do they succeed?
9. Do they fix the big picture, or just protect a good group of people from the problem? (For example, they could help people escape a war.)
10. What happens?
11. The End

Realize that this is not a seamless set of directions but an outline to get you started.


Naming your Character

Wednesday, July 29

I'm a HUGE believer in names and the power of names. Yea, it sounds dumb. But what I mean that I think names help shape your personality.

Finding your character's name can be tough. Some writers say that they wait until the end of the book to name them, so that the names don't affect how they'd imagined him/her.

Me, I name them beforehand for the exact same reason.
I actually enjoy naming. I like finding fierce names for fierce characters and soft names for the meek ones. Unless you're trying to be funny or make a point, you're probably not going to name an evil tyrant CHARITY. But maybe your adding that for a reason.

I choose names mostly on intuition. I have to actually feel like it's the right name before I slap it on them.

YOU are the author. YOU choose the name. What do YOU want them to be named?

As a quick exercise; what would you name the above gargoyle? Is it a boy or a girl? A normal name? A fantasy name? A name that's too hard to pronounce in human speech so he/she just has a nickname? Are they lonely or evil? Daydreaming or plotting? I'm sure whatever name you pick will reflect their personality that YOU think they have.

To sum up, their names reflect they're personalities, unless you're trying to add humor, symbolism, or make a point.


Writing at Night

Tuesday, July 28

I LOVE to sleep.
So why oh why do my creative juices always begin to flow around 9:00pm?
I declare, writers must be the closest thing to vampires this world knows.
We go to bed late scrawling furiously in notebooks and then wake up early, determined to get something done. (Or we're blogging.)

Maybe you're one of the lucky few who have brilliant ideas follow you around and strike in the middle of the day.
But I stayed awake last night writing, ignoring how warm and comfy the bed looked and ignoring its sweet, beckoning whispers.
At least I got something done. And reading what I wrote last night (or rather this morning) makes sleep seem such a small price to pay.


Setting Part 2

Saturday, July 25

So I've explained how setting can create mood and how the setting can add to your story.


If you're creating a setting to form a nonexistent world, is it based on a certain time period? (The middle ages for example?)(Ancient Roman culture?)

Or, is the world itself unique? Is there quicksand (for lack of a better example) every five yards, making it almost impossible to live on?
Does the terrain vary from these sinkholes to more hospitable ground?

One of the most original worlds I've ever come a cross was in Atherton by Patrick Carman. Basically, it's compromised of three stories, one on top of the other. But each story is round, and smaller than the one under it.

When you're creating a world, you shape it to fit your needs.
Patrick carman's world wouldn't make a good setting for any of the books I'm writing.
You can be original, but don't force it. You've got to actually like the world you've created, feel satisfied about it. If you find yourself hating the world you've created, what's stopping you from revising?


If you're writing a story about characters in this world it becomes a little harder. Mainly because *groan* you have to research.
You may like research. I don't.

I've never visited Brazil. I doubt if I wrote a story about a Brazil explorer, it wouldn't be that credible unless I reasearched.

If it's set in this day and age that might make things easier.
Or maybe you'll have to reaserch *shudder* the time period and events.
If you wrote a book about the french revoulution you'd have to look up names, dates, places, and culture.

I am currently writing a story in San Francisco. Never been there. In. My. life.
So I...procrastinate. I write what I think SanFrancisco would look like (and thank heavens for zoomable google maps) and when the second draft comes along, I check my facts and fix my somewhat romantic view of things.

I'll sum it up; research.

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