Thursday, October 31, 2013

Being Flexible is the Key

It wasn’t my idea, it really wasn’t, but I’m doing it anyway… NaNoWriMo that is. Ever heard of it? 50,000 words written in one month--November. My good friend and Critiki member, Heather Clark, said she was doing it and asked if anyone wanted to join in. My first reaction? No way Jose! I don’t have the time or the motivation to write a whole novel in one month, especially November. Who was the crazy person that set it during the busiest time of year? Second reaction? Well, maybe it would help me get this story I’ve been thinking about out of my head. Heck, why not?
I  still didn’t want to say the words, to commit to it, but the question was looming. If you know anything about me, once I make a decision there’s no going back, you can count on me.  This storyin  has to be written, I might as well do it quick, so I said the words, “I’ll do it!” So there you have it, I am doing NaNoWriMo.
For two weeks I’ve been focusing on outlining, brainstorming characters and relationships, getting down to minor details, and prepping for this major goal. I have never written anything close to this many words in such a short period of time, but my heart is in it. I feel prepared and now I’m just itching for tomorrow morning to start the first scene of this novel or perhaps the third chapter, which brings me to my point.
The thing that has helped me the most with this huge goal is remembering that I need to be flexible. I can allow myself to write badly, as long as the concept is on the page. This book is not going to be perfect when I get to the end. The language will not be consistent from start to finish. The character’s voices won’t be completely defined. It’s basically brainstorming on paper, but it WILL BE ON PAPER. I may make changes to characters or settings as I write, but I will continue to write and mark with an asterisk things that change. If I need to brainstorm more or find something better to fill a scene, I will mark it with a comment and plow forward to the end. Of course having a great support system helps. That’s where my husband, crock pot, washing machine, and critique group come in.

This isn’t my first time shooting for a big goal. When working for a promotion in Mary Kay I knew it would take more focused work to get to where I wanted to be, but it was always for a short time. “Short term sacrifice for a long term gain.” Big goals push us, they motivate us, and they can be the very things that turn our careers around. So I’m doing it! Will you join me? Nanowrimo starts tomorrow morning! I’d love to be your buddy, look me up: janelley33.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Discovering Characters: A Proper Introduction

I’ve mentioned before that I have been having difficulty with my current middle grade project. I’ve realized that my stopping point boils down to, “Now what would that character say?” or “What else would this character do?” But I don’t have any good answers. I’ve re-written and brainstormed and re-written again only to figure out that I don’t know my characters well enough. I’ve read books, attended conferences, looked online and read in my genre. I’ve filled out character questionnaires and done character interviews, but even then I ask myself, “Well, how am I supposed to know what my character has in his pocket?” or “I have no idea what she would say about her best friend.” Every answer I come up with feels forced and doesn’t help me get any closer to understanding my character.
Recently a friend of mine and member of my critique group, Heather Clark, attended WIFYR and went to a class taught by Martine Leavitt that changed her life and as a result, mine. You absolutely have to read her recent blog about it on Real Writer’s Write. In using the “Mechanics of Desire.” I’ve finally grasped the question that has alluded me for years: How do I develop my character?  
In recent brainstorming sessions I’ve started with a miniscule idea of who my characters are (on both sides of the coin--protagonist and antagonist). Then to flesh them out I’ve started a document for each main character. I write a separate line for each aspect of my character and fill in:
Emotional Desire
Concrete Desire
Controlling Beliefs
Announced Strategies
By doing this I really get into the character’s head. I understand who they are and why. From here, any quirks they have, skills they have, or objects in their pockets only make the character that much deeper. By understanding my characters desires and motivations, I can easily go from one scene to the next, which is where my other plotting resources (Dan Well’s Seven Point Plot Structure and Craig Nybo’s “How to Write a Novel”) will come in handy.

I have come farther in brainstorming this particular version of my story than I have ever been before, just through fleshing out the characters. I think that once I’m done figuring out my main characters the rest will come. I can’t wait to write “The End” on this first version of my story and get back into editing. Have fun discovering your characters and bringing them to life. I know I will!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Writer's Block

     I've been working on a middle grade novel for almost a year now and am still on chapter five. Not that I haven't been writing, but because I keep re-working the same chapters over and over. I have had other people read what I've written and they like what they've read. However they've raised concerns that have halted my progress with completely finishing the book. Things like, "If you keep writing this story, what is the consequence if she doesn't escape her situation?" My answer, "She'll get eaten." Their reply, "Isn't that a little gross for a middle grade novel?" Even though I love my setting, after months of trying to make it work, I had to concede--on more fronts than just that one. My total premise was off. I've re-thought what I'm going to write, but I had to work through what I want to have happen with the story and what will actually work. I'm starting to work through my writer's block and I know the story I'm currently writing will be better than the one I originally thought of. The key is to stick with it and don't give up (an don't let anyone read it until you're done with the rough draft)!