Sunday, May 7, 2017

I almost died

...but 3k/words/day for the last 10 days of April later, and I proudly earned myself a sasquatch sticker.


Here it is. 

See, see?

Pretty.



Final thoughts: 50k words in April is a lot harder than in Nov.

Write on,
Mary

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Writing Addictive Characters

In some recent feedback, I was told my protagonist wasn’t sympathetic. It was eye opening for me and, though I had a few ideas, I wasn’t sure what I was doing as I tried to remedy the problem.

In the past, I’ve gotten lucky with exactly two characters (in a few different drafts). Enough to make a couple of my close readers put up with pages (talking 600+) of blooming awful everything in order to follow that characters journey. Seriously, only redeemable quality about those early drafts, since every other mistake was made and that one was luck.

As a reader, I’m a firm believer in character first. As a writer, I’ve been studying what it is about certain characters that make you lose a night of sleep for them.

A good article I found recently helped me break down exactly what it is that gives a character that addictive quality. Read that article, but I’m also going to offer the pointers here with examples I’ve noticed.


1. Sympathy.


Humans are sympathetic creatures. If someone kicks a puppy, we instantly feel for the poor thing. Most books and movies start with a bullied character. It doesn’t matter if they’re late for work or had a slushy spill on their lap. The orphan trope is often overdone for this reason, whether he/she’s living under the stairs, with their evil Step Mother, or Aunt Mae, the victim character is a fast tug for the reader’s heartstrings.





2. Relate-ability.


The setting: broken family, oppressive society, crabby authoritative figures. We aren’t likely to relate with Harry Potter’s lightening scar or spell casting abilities, but obnoxious relatives? Getting homework done on time? (even if it’s cool homework). Totally relate-able.

 

3. Likability.


You can still root for an a**hole character. Exactly how? They’re funny, smart, or simply good at what they do. In Six of Crows, Kaz scared the bleepity out of me, but I couldn’t help rooting for him. I mean, the kid was an orphaned genius. Sympathy didn’t cut it, it was more like an 'I-can’t-look-away’ fascination. Obviously, a puppy-rescuing, goodhearted character is easily likable too. Right now, I’m reading my youngest sister the Ascendance trilogy and she’s completely in love with Jaron. He’s witty, good to a fault, and brilliant at what he does. All three attributes = instant likability.



4. The Arc.


Even the nicest human can experience growth. We can’t root for someone who isn’t being challenged at a personal level. Whether its the villain feeling love for the first time or the protagonist asked to give up their thirst for vengeance. A steady character is an uninteresting one, we want to see them challenged at the core beliefs that make-up their character.

 

5. Jeopardy.


This is a trick that beginner writers (*slowly raises hand*) often try to utilize too soon. Pacing is key. If the story opens with a character hanging off a cliff, while the bad guy shoots at him, with scorpions falling down his shirt, I won't care. The character is a total stranger. Unless other addictive traits are tactfully included (humorous voice, ingenious quick thinking, etc.) Overall, this is a tricky character hook to use right away and it's best saved for once the reader is already invested in the character.


 

6. Active.


Luke Skywalker didn’t just sit in that room and wait for Obi Wan to disable the Death Star’s magnetic field, or stay safely at the rebel base while the Xwing fighters went to blow up said Death Star. If he did, nobody would like him. Even if your character is mostly active, chances are you can find more ways to make their roles bigger. If your character escapes from jail, it should be more than the guard accidentally leaving the keys too close to the door. Your character should do whatever s/he does best, whether it's smooth talking, kung fu, being clever or being a jerk.
Again, learn from my mistakes: I promise a passive protagonist is positively poopy. 



Chances are, you’ve utilized some of these tricks intuitively. Perhaps you got lucky like I did, but the moral of this is: don’t be like me. Know what you’re doing. Go through your WIP and identify all the areas where your character is likable and why. Also identify where they aren’t likable. Make both intentional, and bigger. Use as many tricks as you can get away, but give them reason: maybe your character is funny because he’s burying a past hurt, or a kick-a** fighter because she was tired of getting bullied. Even (especially!) the villains need this dimensional quality.


Hope this was helpful. Good luck, and may the words be with you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

NaNo Project Update

So I won NaNo. (Yippee me, another freakish mountain of words to untangle!*)

*I am happy to have won again.

Status: Still Untitled. 240 pages. 83,350 words. Entering the dreaded climax...


I paused over the holidays for a short story, which I signed up to do through my writing forum. I was impressed with my frazzled brain to have pantsed the whole thing in three days, and I may or may not have just tempted fate by trying to repeat the process (??? fate, I'm sorry!) when I really should just be working on this dreaded climax.

(%*D*A(&969*%#$$$D{:"(Where's my command: awesome epic climax button on this keyboard?))


Here's to getting something published in 2017!
(Yup, that's the resolution. And I'm so together that I just decided.)

Come on 2017, let's capture some words!
Mary Love

Untitled - 2016 NaNo Draft

Why, why, whyyyyyyy am I doing this to myself?

Erp. Okay. Here goes another first draft attempt! (Kindly disregard the other five.)

Thing is, a crater-sized plot hole in the hull of last year's NaNo ship sunk that project faster than the titanic, and, despite all my best intentions at fixing it, my imagination is so far not stretchy enough to cover a portal of that size.

I'm naively praying that if I just keep doing this, I'll get a first draft that---at least--has the potential to be edited!

With that overwhelming amount of hope and confidence, may I present 2016's NaNo project:


Untitled


Synopsis:

A price fights to take back what was stolen from his family, only to uncover that conquerors aren't all evil and victims aren't all innocent.








That's it! Stunning, I know. But plot bunnies can be cultivated into giant rabbits with the right care!

Some days feels like I'm running amuck on a rabbit breeding farm...



Best of luck fellow Nano'ers!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

One Writer's Resolutions


First of all, Happy New Year, Auld Lang Syne (whatever that means) and all that. 


I almost can't believe it, but 2015 saw my first draft finished-ish! 


Never mind the "ish" part and the fact that it's crummier than our bowl of leftover Christmas cookies--I'm raising a toast to the 465 pages I wrote in under three months! 


The big question?

now

wut.

 

 I had plans to start a complete rewrite on the 1st, but after spending my Christmas break working on plot issues and new outline, I've determined I'm not ready to return to that crumb bowl just yet. 


Right now, my strongest desire is both broader and vaguer (vaguer? more vague?):

I want to improve my writing.


I've come up with ideas and made my News Years resolutions (or rustytutions as Tigger calls them)  
based on those ideas.
  • Write a scene a day, where both character and writing are (verymuchso) active. 
  • Portray unique, different characters each time.  
  • Write for an hour a day (fifteen minute chunks)
  • Keep up two thousand words a day (five hundred words in fifteen minutes).
  • Look for an online writing coach (yes, I'm ready to spend money on this 'hobby').
  • Keep up a daily longhand journal for recording scenes or funnies that happen in daily life, but write them in my own storyified, writerly, glory.

That's it!


And yes, all my resolutions are writerly focused. 

Why?
Do you think they should be anything else?
;)



Follow me on facebook to see how long these goals last. 

Happy New Year!
Drink one for writerly goals! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Bookish Day (omg, what even is my life?!?!!)

Last Tuesday started much like any other: shower, breakfast, coffee, internet.

Then BAM, this shows up in my fb feed:


It's happened and I totally wasn't ready for it.
James Riley (a super nice author who's chatted with me every time I've written him with my younger sibling's assessment of his novels) combined his two fabulous worlds in this seven page short story
 I was excited as the younger kids to read the cross over.

Story Thieves was the first book to capture 6yr old Donna's attention.
Book 2, the Stolen Chapters, comes out Jan 19th, and we can barely wait!


Next, with a ding of the doorbell (that's a lie, we don't have a doorbell), the nice UPS man delivered my early Christmas gift to me, maybe my favorite books of all time:
I licked the covers and cuddled these books for a long time...
(no, not really! Gosh, how weird do you think I am?)
 Can you believe that's the first time I've ever bought books for myself?
Me neither.
That's some amazing self control right there.

 Then, I brought kids into town for their skating lessons and swung by the library.
My book was in!
The Novice by Taran Matharu. 
It's fun to read (and critique) a debut by another young author. (Don't worry Taran, I'm enjoying it so far!)
 
While I was there, I also picked up this book again. I'm in revision stages with my story, and looking for help. This book is so good. Maybe I'll buy it someday. :)


 When I got home, I went back to my amazon cart and hovered the mouse over the "buy now" button on these books. Instead, I read more rave reviews, drooled a little, and then went on my way. I mean, I just bought four books. (For fun though, and these are like, educational, right? My wallet disagreed.)
While revisiting K.M. Weiland's helpful writing blog, I uncovered a path through cyberspace, that involved signing up to a writerly newsletter, getting emailed top secret codes and whatnot and, boring story short, I uncovered both these two 350pg. books for free download in a one time giveaway!
Bless my lucky stars.

I was still reveling in my victory, reading the first chapter of Structuring Your Novel, when another email pops up.

From...

....Whaaa?

No. It can't be.

This writerly God in my favorite fiction world wrote me an email?
I was in so much disbelief, seeing her name on the bottom of the email, that I barely comprehended what she was saying.

Congrats? Address? Sign? Where? Who?

And then my fangirl-fuzzy brain comprehended the words: "you won".

The beautiful, the brand new, the book that won't even be out until Jan 26th, and I am getting it this week signed by THE Jennifer A, Nielsen, (creator of the amazing Jaron, thief/prince, Ascendance trilogy books.)



And I'm just like... what even is my life?

Now, a few days later, I'm tempted to go back and reread my response, but I'm too afraid to actually do it. Not because I fangirled so hard she probably thinks I'm 14, but... I don't remember proofing my response. The spelling is probably worse than a second grader.
*Oh gawd*

 Incidentally, younger sis has just finished reading Mark of the Thief (bk 1) and was asking  about the next book. She's been talking up the awesomeness of Nic (main character from bk 1).
Yup.

Jennifer has the ability to create amazing characters. 

And after that incredible bookish day, I'm convinced anything can happen, so I'm just gonna ask:  

Santa, if you do exist, all I want for Christmas is that ability. 

Please.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

Where Am I?

In regards to writing, I don't know if there's a category for where I'm at. 

Despite 465 pages, I didn't officially finish draft one, yet I'm done writing it.

I read it over in one fowl sweep, which was a roller coaster for sure. I came away deciding there's not much to salvage there (ouch!).


  I'm oddly determined nonetheless.

I've gotten busy with Christmas rush now, but in the back of my mind, there's a weak drizzle of brainstorming happening. I'm doing all I can to feed that weak storm, because I hope to have my new plan and outline ready by Jan 1st to start a complete rewrite.

As overwhelming as that is, I'm actually excited about all that I'm learning about writing active prose, the emotional character arc, staying in deep in POV, and so much more. 


Basically, I didn't get anything right in my first draft, in character, writing or plot, and realized it all needs to be redone and I'm still enthusiastic. 

I must be brain whacked.