Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Accomplishments

In the back of my mind, this was an unsuccessful year for writing. I'm still un-agented and un-published. But when I opened my thoughts to that notion, I realized the error of it. 

This blog post is to help set me straight.
Entered a short story swap. Wrote Kill Curse, a 4750 word story that was beta'd by about ten talented and generous people. I was humbled by the amount of help and amazed by the little turbo boost the experience gave my writing abilities. 

Finished my Nano draft from 2016, which topped out at a ridiculous 129,000. Joined twitter. Started doing a little critiquing for others. 

Rewrote 2015's Nano draft. Managed 50k in April and about 25k in May, but spring work started to interfere. 

No writing. Summer "break" (more like 'work'. My writerly winter's are my breaks.)

Wrote a new ending for the 2015 Nano draft. Topped out at 110k. (Yes, I have a problem.) Kill Curse won an Honorable Mention by the Writers of the Future contest (I need to sub it to more places).

Edited 2016 Nano draft down to 103,000. Peew! Then formatted it, wrote a query and synopsis for it (*shudder*) and submitted it to Author Mentor Match (big shudder!). (Spoiler: My project didn't find a match.) Again, totally blown away/humbled by the generosity of the writing community. Made new writing friends. I also printed it--yay!

Gaaah, the writers month from hell! I love Nano, but this year was super hard. I only had 4 days to outline my idea for a new novel, which is not my normal practice. I was sick for the 2nd week and didn't get much writing done, which put me way behind. But In the end, I eeked past the finish line with a really messy mess of words and have hardly written since. 

I realized I didn't read enough this year and fell headlong into my TBR pile on  goodreads. Sweet spaghetti, I forgot how much I love reading and how important it is for keeping the juices flowing! I critted some other projects, did a bit of outlining, as well as joined the same short story swap that generated Kill Curse. 

In total, I wrote over 200k, producing two 2nd drafts, 50k of a new one, and a short story. But I'm more excited by the writerly people I've met and the experiences I've gained and traded by critting for others and making friends. I hope to do a lot more of that in 2018 as I continue to work on these drafts.

Write on!

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?


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

Write on,

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:



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!