Friday, 29 July 2011

Fears

Everyone is scared of something; it’s what makes us human. Our characters should be no different – their fears show the readers that the characters are flawed humans, just like you and I.

I think that while it may be an initially simple thing to do – just choose a fear and your character is all good to go, a realistic character’s fears should be more in depth. Why do they fear what they do? Have they had a bad experience? Or is it just something about the fear that’s creepy?

My own character has a fear of spiders. She’s absolutely petrified of them, which is problematic for her, considering all the time she spends in musty old tombs, caves, and other spider breeding grounds.

Her fear stems from my own fear of spiders. Why am I scared of fears? This is why.

Look at it. I had to find this picture. Who said being a writer was easy?


According to Wikipedia, these bad boys live in tropical areas, including… well, a map shows they live pretty much everywhere where it isn’t cold. Wikipedia says that Huntsmen spiders can be “beneficial” because they feed on insects and most Australians release rather than kill. (Not me. If I face off with a Huntsman, the encounter ends with the Huntsman’s mouth filled with insect repellent or with a heavy object in its brain.)

Ahem.

Anyway, all characters need fears. They can directly relate to the plot (I don’t have an example), but they don’t have to. Take Indiana Jones’s fear of snakes. It doesn’t directly relate to the plots of any of the films, but he seems to encounter them often anyway.

That’s all I’ve got on fears today, so for the comments, what are you scared of? What about your characters, and why? Also, if you know of any spider-killing methods that don’t require me to be in the same room as the spider, let me know.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lesson to Writing #4 You Need to Know The Rules before You can Break the Rules

Although I may not feel it, I’ve been writing for six years now, and over that time, I’ve picked up bits of knowledge. In the following Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing those bits of knowledge in my series: Six Lessons to Writing. Today, I’m continuing the series with Lesson #4: You Need to Know The Rules before You can Break The Rules:

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"You need to know The Rules before you can break The Rules."

We’ve all heard that saying before. I believe that what it really means is that you have to understand what The Rules are about before you break them. You need to understand why The Rules are rules so that you can break The Rules and get away with it.

Take, for example, writing a prologue. Prologues are regarded as being big no-no’s in writing. Yet, some authors do… and they get away with it! My last WIP had a prologue in it even though I knew it was breaking one of The Rules. I eventually cut it from the WIP and my story was better off without it.

The reason some writers can get away have a prologue is because they know what The Rules are regarding prologues, they understand why The Rules are there, and so they know how to break The Rules and write an effective prologue.
 
That’s the gist of this post: it’s important for writers to understand why The Rules are there so that they can ensure they don’t make a major no-no.

For the comments, what are your thoughts on this? What have your experiences been with The Rules, and what Rules have you broken?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Just a Little Bit More

As of today (Monday), I’m half way through the ‘5000 words in 5 days’ marathon and powering along. At first I thought it would be impossible for me to complete, because 5000 words in 5 days is 1000 words a day (duh, Captain Obvious), and 1000 words a day is lot more than I’m accustomed to. But I think I’m doing quite well. I’ll share my stats with you after the marathon is complete (or you can go here and snoop around for my word counts, whatever you like).

Today I wanted to tell you how I push myself into getting the word count up. As you know, I aim to write 300 words a day, and I keep track by marking the spot I’m up to. This way, I have two word counts going: my daily word count, and the total word count for the day.

Whenever I’m writing and want to finish up, I push myself just a little bit harder by playing the two word counts off against each other. I’ll tell myself I can finish once I get my daily word count to a nice even number. So then I keep writing until suddenly, I’ve gone past that nice round number and have to keep going until I get to the next round number.

If I do meet that round number, I play that word count off against the total word count for the document – I make myself keep writing until the total word count is at a nice round number.

I’ve been able to make myself write hundreds of extra words by doing this and quite often doing this pushes me through any hard part which is making me want to stop!

Another thing I do is break down the word count. I tell myself to write just 100 more words. Just 100. 100 tiny little words… A few paragraphs, that’s all.

For the comments, how do you push yourself to write just that little bit more? Let me know!

Friday, 22 July 2011

100x100: Day 25

As you may know, I’m participating in Merrilee Faber’s ‘100 Words for 100 Days’ challenge, where I have to write at least 100 words a day, for 100 days. It’s a motivational challenge, and as I posted a while ago, it’s really keeping me accountable. There have been a few days where I really didn’t want to write, but because of the challenge, I have.

I have a personal goal of 300 words a day, and if I miss it, then I have to catch up as soon as possible. I’ve tried to get my 300 words a day down, but I’ve had quite a few misses. (I’ve caught up though!)

Thursday was Day 25, a quarter of the way there! I thought I’d share with you some statistics.

Total Words Written: 10,021
Average per Day: 400.8
Most Written in a Day: 2,028 on 18 July
Least Written in a Day (excluding 0 words counts): 104 on 13 July
Days Missed (0 word count): 3

As you can see, I’m averaging roughly 400 words a day, which is excellent. I ran the figures without the 2K, and only got 330 words, which is still above my 300 words a day total. If I keep going the way I am, I should have 40K on my WIP by the time this challenge is finished!

We participants are also going to do a mini challenge: 5,000 words in 5 days. We’re going to start on Saturday, and aim to have 5,000 words by Wednesday. This challenge seems a little beyond my reach, but I’m certainly going to try!

For the comments: how is your writing going?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lesson to Writing #3 Planning is Important

Although I may not feel it, I’ve been writing for six years now, and over that time, I’ve picked up bits of knowledge. In the following Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing those bits of knowledge in my series: Six Lessons to Writing. Today, I’m continuing the series with Lesson #3: Planning is Important:

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My second novel: Awesome plot. Mysterious subplots. Love interest with a history. Unique antagonist. It’s got potential.

I loved working on my second novel, but ultimately, there was so much wrong with it, I had to put it away. There were massive plot holes, continuity was wrong, characters didn’t belong.

Why?

Because I didn’t do the planning.

When I started that novel back in 2009 (wow, was it really that long ago?) I was so eager to start writing I didn’t do all the background research on Atlantis. I didn’t check to make sure there were no plot holes or weak links. I didn’t make sure I had all my facts present.

There was so much that I didn’t do, and I paid for it in the long run. I paid for it dearly. Even during the rough draft, I was backtracking and ripping out chapters, altering the story outline, changing the role of characters. When it came time to edit, I saw all these problems and within a few months realised I’d made a huge mess.

I didn’t do the planning.

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantster is irrelevant. We all need to do some form of planning before we can start writing. Obviously, plotters would have a lot more planning to do, put pantsters still need to plan – they can’t just sit down and start writing.

So, what are your thoughts?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Come Here to Go Somewhere Else

I’ve been fortunate enough to come across some really good things in the past week, and I wanted to share them with you.

KM Weiland blogs about writing characters of the opposite gender. She pretty much sums up my main character with “…female characters, left to the mercy of male authors, turn into hard-case warrior chicks of effortless beauty.” Dammit.

KM Weiland has also blogged about Dues Ex Machina, which, as she says, pretty much translates to “Don’t do this in your story”.

Beth Revis has dubbed last Friday to be Harry Potter Day and she’s posted some very funny Harry Potter Youtube videos.

And lastly, if you read Kiersten White’s blog, than you’ve probably already seen this. But for those of you who haven’t, you need to watch it. It’s awesome. Go. Watch. Laugh.

What are you still doing here? Go! (But don't forget to come back later!)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How to Survive a Midnight Screening of Harry Potter

Don’t bother having a nap in the afternoon. Strangely, you’ll feel more tired than you would normally feel at three in the afternoon, but you won’t be able to get any sleep.

Buy Lots of Energy Drinks. Don’t just buy two, because your friends will drink some. Drink your energy drinks before Part 2 begins.

Bring Wizard Food. Freddo Frogs? No, they’re actually Chocolate Frogs with the enchantments taken off. Also buy a packet of jelly beans Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to take and stick them in a container. Don’t forget to label the container so all the Muggles know how cool you are.

Dress Up. If you don’t, you’ll feel like an underdressed Squib. Alternatively, sit next to three girls who have dressed up. Get your picture taken with them.

Somehow, end up at the FRONT OF THE LINE to get into the theatre. You won’t know how you made it there, you just did. You will therefore end up with what are possibly the best seats in the entire cinema.

Shoot dirty looks at the people who are coming out of the cinema reeeeaaalllly slowly. Then, shoot dirtier looks at the theatre attendant who tells you that they need to clean the cinema before you go in. If you want, you can give dirty looks to the attendant who tells everyone 50 billion times to ‘Move back two steps.’

Snigger at the illiterate Muggles who cry when Harry goes to the Forbidden Forest to meet Voldemort. Clearly they didn’t read the books.

Stay the end of the end-credits. Some of your friends won’t want to do this… but you have a car, so you win.

Monday, 11 July 2011

What JK Rowling Teaches Us About Writing

To celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2, I’m dubbing this week HARRY POTTER WEEK! All week I’ll be posting about Harry Potter. I’ve read and reread all the Harry Potter books, so I know how the series ends. But if you haven’t read the books, and therefore don’t know how the final film ends, be aware that there may be spoilers in this post.

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JK Rowling is a literary genius. No, even better than that. She’s a writing goddess in human form. We can learn several things from reading her work:

Death is Powerful: Several people die throughout the course of the series, particularly in the final book. Dumbledore, Sirius, Tonks and Lupin, Fred (or was it George?), Dobby, even Hedwig. After Deathly Hallows pt 1 was released as a movie, fans grieved on Facebook for Dobby. I was sad, but even more so when Hedwig died. An owl. A minor character (if you’d even call her that). To me, Hedwig’s death was absolutely pointless. But when I reread the books, I realised that Hedwig’s death showed that no one was safe, even Harry himself. Hedwig’s death showed to me that each death shocked and impacted on me. It was powerful. Other writers kill of characters, but none as powerfully as Rowling. Each character, from Dumbledore and Snape to Hedwig and Dobby, were so lifelike, it was a personal loss each time Rowling killed one of them off.

Planning is Important: In Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone for the North American readers), Harry’s first Quidditch match ends with Harry catching the Snitch with his mouth and swallows it. While it may seem like a humorous end to the match for readers, it later becomes a key plot point, with Harry needing to touch the Snitch with his mouth to open it. Tiny details released in passing become plot points in later books: the bezoar mentioned in Philosopher’s Stone saves Ron in Half-Blood Prince; the reason for Dumbledore having James Potter’s invisibility cloak in Philosopher’s Stone is revealed in Deathly Hallows; and Sirius Black is only mentioned in passing in Philosopher’s Stone, but becomes a major character from Prisoner of Azkaban onwards. None of this could have been achieved with such success without the use of planning. I’m not saying that planning is for everyone, but if you want major success in a closely linked series then you need a detailed plan.

Complex Characters: All of Rowling’s characters were extremely complex and as such were very lifelike. Each character had flaws, strengths, motivations. For example: Snape. In my opinion, Snape was one of the most detailed and complex characters in the entire series. While he seems to be “just a background character who hates Harry” in the early novels, he is given a larger role in later books, and is subsequently fleshed out. But it’s not until the final scenes of Deathly Hallows that it is revealed that Snape is truly a good character, and readers get to see so much more of who he really is.

For the comments: what have you learnt from reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series?