Printspiration

Just a short—and late!—post from me this time.

The process of writing a novel is a long, difficult and tiresome thing. It can be very easy to lose inspiration, especially when life outside your writing is hard. There are a few little things that I find are great for injecting a little of that passion back and there was a particular one that I was reminded of today.

It can often feel like all this time I spend pounding away at the keyboard doesn’t produce anything. I don’t end up with anything tangible after and sometimes when things are tough that can make it easy to forget the final product.

Today though, in preparation to start my final phase of Through the Black edits, I printed that sucker out. I very rarely actually print my work, partly because nothing ever feels finished enough to waste the paper on and partly because I’m convinced that all printers are out to get me. I was reminded of just how amazing it feels to hold that work in your hand, to flick through the pages you’ve worked so hard on all these years. Even just a print out for scrawling across can be enough to remind me both what I’m working towards and what it’s come from.

So if you’re feeling a little disillusioned with your writing, maybe try printing out a chapter or two and have a read. Touch the words, smell the paper. It might just give you that little boost you’re looking for.

nor

Advertisements

Character Profile: Sharneth

 

Sharneth With Background 2

Portrait of Sharneth Vix’sear

Story: Twyned Earth series, first appearance in Through the Black.

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist

Name: Sharneth Vix’sear

Age: 48

County of Origin: Thikrek

Occupation: First Voice of the Vix’sears

Loyalties: Those who have proven their worth

Goal: To preserve peace

Morals: The needs of the many matter most. Often dark things must be done in the name of what is right.

While exploring a suspicious rock formation, Sharneth and her mate discover that someone is trying to shatter the thousand-year long treaty that has protected her people from the horrors of the past. Thrust into an alien world unlike anything she ever imagined, her mate wounded and the shadows of war gathering, she must unlearn all her prejudices and side with some of the very creatures she fears in order to stop the worst period in her people’s history from repeating itself.

And strange, strange creatures they are.

 

 

 

World Building Notes, or Lack Thereof

World building is a hugely important part of any story. Whether you’re writing in the real world or creating somewhere completely new and fantastical, a writer needs to be able to paint a picture of the setting they are writing in. The places need to be deep, vibrant and—perhaps most importantly—consistent. Even subtle discrepancies can pull a reader out of the moment and detract their enjoyment from the world you have created and the story you are weaving.

When it comes to creating a new world some people like to create whole worlds and detail things that may not ever make it into a story, where as others create the world as they go, only constructing the pieces of the world necessary for the story being told. Personally, I use a combination of both. Certain parts of my worlds are fleshed out beyond all necessary detail where as other entire continents are just a single word scrawled in a notebook somewhere. Which brings me to my point.

Notes are important for continuity. Especially when writing several different stories all in the same world, as I plan to do with Twyned Earth. Up until I started packing to move, I thought I’d been pretty good at making my notes on the Twyned Earth. I. Was. Wrong.

I had notes. Quite a lot of them. All scattered throughout a multitude of different notebooks and in different states of completion. I had notes on elves on no less than seven books, in photographs of my whiteboard that had been mixed in with cat pictures and in piles of loose leaves of paper, all of varying sizes. There was unique information about them on pages that were scene plans. And that was just elves. The system was… less than ideal. I decided that this would be a good time to start collating everything properly and bringing all my information together. It was while doing this that I made an even more worrying discovery.

A lot of my meticulous world building had never even been written down. Ever.

That’s right. I’d apparently been trusting my years of crafting this world with nothing but my brain. The same brain that makes me walk into a room three times before I remember why I went in there. Needless to say, I was a little spooked. All those ideas that I’d thought about on those long, slow days at work, those great little details I’d come up with in the shower, all those things that I was certain that I’d written down somewhere, I hadn’t. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite so inspirational as discovering you’re an absolute muppet.

Operation: Write Fricken Everything Down And Put It In This One Folder commenced immediately and shall be continuing for quite some time. My writing time now includes updating these notes as I go. So I guess this post is a bit of a reminder or a suggestion. Maybe go and check on your important notes. Some of them might not be as great as you remember them.

For the sake of continuity I’m going to be forcing myself to keep this folder up to date. I love fancy notebooks but it’s time I get all of this information organised and together. Also written down. At lot of the things about Twyned Earth I just know. Let’s face it, I probably spend more time thinking about TE than just E. However, my memory is far from perfect. Far, far from it. Which is why I seriously need a complete set of hard copy notes of my world building. From now on, nothing will be going into an MS without it going into the folder at the same time – or preferably before.

Have you experienced a similar scare? How do you organise your writing notes?

Unrealistic Characters

I’ve read stories in the past where I’ve had major problems with the believability of certain characters – especially characters who are super confrontational or like to stir trouble and cause problems for no reason. They’ve always bothered me. No one in real life deliberately goes around causing trouble and drama and fights just because. There’s no motive, nothing to gain, no reason whatsoever.

Or so I thought.

The problem is that people really don’t make sense. Also that I’ve been very fortunate with workmates in the past, it seems. Obviously I’ve known confrontational people, but there have always been reasons—however poor—behind their actions. In recent months though, I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with someone who just loved causing tension. They had no apparent motives, no reasons I could define. No specific targets. Anyone was fair game. It seemed as though they just weren’t satisfied when everything was happy and peaceful. They thrived on confrontation and I still can’t wrap my head around it.

The real world truly is a strange place. Quite often character interactions in novels can be written off as badly motivated and contradictory. The problem is that people can be like that. How do we work with this in fiction? How do we paint perfectly real characters who can easily get written off as unrealistic? Mark Twain nailed it with his familiar quote: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

I’ve fallen into it myself. I have this issue with one of my characters in Through the Black. He hasn’t been called “unrealistic” yet but his motivations and attitude switches have been questioned. These are things I need to look at carefully because, while these things make sense for him, it’s very difficult to show when he isn’t a POV character why they should make sense. Some beta readers got him, others didn’t. It’s definitely something I need to poke at a bit to figure out how to solve but also highlights the other side of the coin for me. This character makes perfect sense to me, while these randomly confrontational characters didn’t before (and in all honesty, still don’t). I guess I need to look harder at my own perceptions of people and personalities in general.

I also need to remember while reading that people are really, really weird.

Organisationing

Today I’m going to talk about organising projects. Now, if you’ve ever looked over at my Other Projects page, you’ll see that I’m terrible at sticking to one thing. I get all these shiny ideas and run off plotting them. Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of half written, half edited manuscripts laying all over the place! Y’know, figuratively.

In the computer

It was for this reason (and nothing to do with the fact that I have a massive deadline a week from today that I’m avoiding) that I decided to make a spreadsheet. I started by trawling through my writing folding, ditching the half baked ideas that were terrible and I no longer have any interest in, and sticking all the rest into a list.

Next, they have to be organised and prioritised. I decided to come up with three groups: Active, Queued and Not Active. Only a certain number of projects can be Active or Queued, and the only way to move up a priority is dead man’s boots. Or, stage completed man’s boots. That sounds less perilous though. Anyway, once a project has been moved into “Active,” it stays there until the stage it is currently in is completed (or goes up a level, eg first draft –> second draft). I’ve given myself three Active slots, so that I don’t burn myself out on a single work, though one of those slots will ALWAYS be Twyned Earth, until they are done. And as you can see, I only have two at the moment, until after the 28th!

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

The reason I’ve chosen multiple Active slots is because sometimes project hopping is good for you.

Sometimes you just don’t have the inspiration for a certain project. You have the desire to write, but can’t even look at the story you’re supposed to be working on. The advice online quite often tells you to just fight through it, sit down and power on. I’ve done it and sometimes it works. When I’ve got a deadline, or it’s a NaNoWriMo project, I just sit down and force myself on that project. The thing is though, I’ve found that if I’ve hit a block, stepping back and looking at a different story entirely can help lift that. I know I have a problem as a serial project cheat, but instead of letting it be a problem, I’m letting it be a solution. Sometimes the brain needs a reboot, and what better way than focusing on something else for a while? Similar to how other hobbies are good, for people like myself other projects can help kick writer’s block to the kerb.

I’m taking control of my constant hopping, but at the same time giving myself room for flexibility, because without it I don’t know how much joy I would find in writing. And without that, what’s the point? I’m narrowing my hopping down because I’ve gone too long without finishing anything, but I’ll never give up totally. I love all my stories and they will all receive love!

What about you guys? Are you a project hopper? How do you keep it under control?

Reasons To Write Often

You may recall me mentioning NaNoEdiMo, during which I set myself the goal of editing 1k a day. It’s the 1st of February today, and while I didn’t quite manage 1k every single day, I did manage well over the total 31k that I was aiming for. Success! As a result I am currently still on track to have this badboy ready by deadline day – the 28th. Eeep!

This novel has changed one hell of a lot. It was originally a NaNoWriMo project, my first one actually, though technically it was a camp project (camp of August, 2012! Wooo!). I finished it just in the nick of time at a measly 53k, with virtually no characterisation or description. It was all dialogue or action, and in the grand scheme of things there wasn’t even much action. It had characters who became besties at the drop of a hat and the ending of a popular action film that came out three days after I finished writing it. (No really, remember this post?)

Two years later and it has grown into 90k of misadventures and (hopefully) interesting characters who spend half the time fighting with each other. There’s now a tangible villain to distract from the fact that the big bad is off screen until books 2 and 3 (the curse of the first person novel). There’s still that ill fated ending, but I’m now on the last two chapters, so that’ll be gone soon too. A lot has changed, but that’s only made it more like the book it was supposed to be when I first wrote it.

Y’know, when I had been out of practice writing for a good five years. I’ve written approximately 456,000 words of fiction since then (not including the original 56,000 of the Deconstructor that was redone NaNo14). Damn. That feels like a lot for two and a bit years. It works out at approximately 14,250 a month. I’m happy with that. Really happy. But it’s time to slow down and start editing some of this. Currently, it’s 456,000 words that no one in the world is allowed to read. I should probably work on that.

Rereading my old August 2012 stuff, it’s a bit cringe worthy. That’s good though. It reminds myself that writing is about work. Not just “you’ve got to sit down and write this sucker” but “you’ve got to practice your ass off.” I wrote a lot before I went off to university. A lot. And I lost it. All the structure, the voice, the world building. I lost it. Writing is about hard work, and it’s a skill you need to keep up, to practice, to maintain. Some people might be lucky enough to just sit down and puke out perfect prose. I am not one of those people. I’ve gotta work, and I’ve gotta keep at it.

What I think I’m trying to say in my own and slightly verbose way, is that it gets better. I’m not saying that you’ll stop thinking you suck. I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. You might however, rather like myself, realise you’re sucking less. Read something recent you’ve done, then read something old. You’ll see it. Use it as inspiration to keep going. Write, write, write. You’ll never improve if you don’t and you can only get better if you do.