Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Lessons Learned This Month

As NaNoWriMo draws to a close, I'm reflecting on the things I have learned this November - my first NaNoWriMo - and why I have actually reached an impressive word count when I have previously not managed more than 20k.

First off, there's one of the mantra of NaNo - write first, ask questions later. This is a concept I didn't fully understand before I put pen to paper. Surely it's good to check things out as you write? As it turns out, first you need to write the damn words. Write as much as you can, make it as good as you can on a first draft, but don't get hung up on it. It's a first draft, and draft is the operative word here. It is not going to be perfect.

That's one of the reasons I'm well on my way to winning. Another is the concept of a daily goal. I'm one of those writers who takes a very long time to write anything. I think my benchmark is around 1,000 words per hour. So, I can't leave it until the last minute and write on November 29, because I'll either go mad or sleep deprived or both. Not a good scenario. NaNoWriMo helps by setting a daily goal of 1,667 words per day. It means you can't miss a day, but if you know something's gonna throw a spanner in the works, as it did on the 24th. Go on, check out my stats. Pretty good, huh? Mind, if there was something I couldn't foresee, I would have had to catch up, and that would have sucked. But that diagonal grey line sure helps put things into perspective.

The next most important thing I have learned is plot developments. It may sound self explanatory, but I really had no idea how to write them before NaNo. Since I have pantsed my novel this year, I have simply written whatever plot developments pop into my head, not what I have planned to happen. I have found that a plot is a complicated, crazy beast in which lots of little things lead to a glorious conclusion. As long as you keep in mind where you want your novel to go, those little plot developments will reach a point you are satisfied with. If they don't, just add another plot development.

This next one I already knew - the first part, at least. Writing is HARD, it really is. That's the bit I already knew, but there's a second part to this sentence I had yet to discover. Writing is hard, but all it takes is imagination and perseverance. I have discovered this month that I have those things in droves. One night I stayed up almost till midnight to get that little extra to reach par. I swear I have never written that fast in my life. I have been thinking all month how easy it would be to give up, and let the plot bunnies eat my novel. But that's not how it works. I must win, even if my novel turns into a raging uncontrollable beast.

One more thing: staying up late is a bad side effect of daily goals. I should by rights finish earlier, but the more pressure, the better I work. I'm a little undisciplined that way.

Less than 10k to go! I'll see you at the finish.

Friday, 23 November 2012


Okay, I'm taking a break from NaNo today, and that means blogging! Nothing better than to use your time to waste precious words on a blog. Jokes... I like blogging, almost as much as I like forums. I could never do twitter though. My thoughts are too big and complex to condense down.

Anyway, now for something more on topic. I've been struggling with the issue of writing romance for a while now, so what do I do but share it with the internet!? Honestly, I think I have a problem here. But I digress. I've made all of the mistakes in the book, plus a few more. So here goes. I've got a little list. (And they'd none of them be missed) Cookies for the reference!

1. Never ever intentionally create a love interest unless you really know what you're doing. I have done this before as a 'newbie' writer, who was just really obsessed with the idea of falling in love. Unless you know your character intimately and their thoughts inside out, chances are that the love will be weak and uninspiring. If you have ever written a love story, you will know what I mean.

2. Do not get your characters together unless they have both plausibly fallen in love. Take Harry Potter, for example. The Ginny/Harry thing, and also the Hermione/Ron thing were building up FOREVER. Because that's what it takes to fall deeply, truly, in love.Now think about Twilight. Why do we hate the love story so much? Because Edward is supposedly 'perfect' and Bella falls in love with him straight off the bat. DO NOT under any circumstances rush this process, unless you intend the love to be shallow and untrue (which I have done). The falling in love is sometimes the most beautiful part.

3. Break the barriers. Get your character to fall in love with the most unlikely/ugliest character in your story. You may just discover that they are perfect for one another.Why is Beauty and the Beast so wonderful? Because their love transcends the boundaries of his beastliness. You may not intend your ugly character to fall in love with your wonderful character, but don't worry. If it happens, embrace it. It's a wonderful plot development.

4. Infatuation =/= love. I think I sort of covered this with point #2, but let's be clear. Infatuation can be a wonderful plot point, but it is not a solid basis for a lasting relationship.

5. Last point. If unsure, drag it out. I know some readers would scream at me for this, but if you're not sure what point the relationship between your characters is at, leave it be. You'll probably know when they're finally ready to get together.

Adios, amigos! 6 days of WriMo-ing left to go.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

It's all been done before

Okay, so today's post is about something that I used to worry about an awful lot: originality. Because you want your novel to stand out, don't you? So I thought, what's a story idea that nobody else has used, that will give me a really original premise for my plot? The answer, as I later learned, is there isn't one. I'll explain.

Right, first, an exercise in thinking up ideas. So, what's the most original idea you can come up with, that you would actually want to write (Comments, guys)? I'll give you some of my scrapped ones. A civilisation of flying people, that the world at large doesn't know about. A story set in the future where an assassin refuses to kill a child. A nerdy teenager who is really a vampire and uses his powers for good during the night. Sounding alright? Well, let's think about this further.

None of these projects got off the ground, mostly because I was lazy. But anyway, how original are these ideas? When you think about it, my flying people idea was simply an isolated minority that the world at large doesn't know about. Not so original now, is it? An assassin refusing to do their duty is pretty unoriginal too. And my vampire one, which I never got past planning, features him accidentally biting a girl and subsequently teaching her how to save the world at night.

You got the idea? Let's say you choose a plotline like, an elephant and a giraffe run away from the zoo. That's pretty boring, isn't it? The zoo thing sounds a little too much like Madagascar to me. So, you flesh it out, and you end up with a blind purple elephant befriends a giraffe and they run away from the circus. That's better, right? But would you really wan't to write it?

Okay, so my point is this. Everything's been done before, but that doesn't mean you can't put your own spin on it. Don't think too much about the central idea, just let the words flow. What comes out will be uniquely you, because your novel will be the sum of your ideas and experiences. If what you're doing sounds a bit too much like what someone else did, don't worry about it. Unless you're copying them word for word, you'll end up with something different. And if you're still worried, add a plot development which moves it in a completely different direction. Remember, nothing's set in stone.

And if you do end up writing a vampire romance, at least make sure it's better than Twilight. After all, my blind purple elephant was a better plot than that drivel (apologies to Twi-hards, but you have to admit that her ideas weren't very complex... or maybe you don't).

Until next time, happy writing!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A Fairytale-Lover's Lament

Today's post is to do with Snow White and the Huntsman. I was immensely disappointed with this move for a number of reasons which I shall go in to in a second. And don't worry, it does have something to do with writing! And a warning, this article does contain spoilers.

What ruined this movie most of all was the much hated Kristen Stewart. Though I'm sure she tries her hardest, the Easter Island statues could do a better job. At least they don't think that breathing heavily constitutes emotion. It's the same expression throughout. Now I'm certain that her failure is not the director's fault. Though he also has a lot to answer for, considering he cast her. The other performances were good if not great, notably Charlize Theron and some of the Dwarves. Chris Hemsworth's best scene was the one where he kisses Snow White back to life, and the irony is not lost on me that it's his only scene which she's not in.

The music, I have to say, was wonderful, especially the Florence and the Machine song at the end (for the record, I'm not usually a Florence and the Machine kind of girl). The costumes were lovely, and the scenery and CGI was very believable.

But there's another area in which this movie falls down. It is the scripting, and there's a very good reason why. There are a couple of scenes/lines in this movie which don't advance the story at all. Two notable examples are the scene in which one of the dwarves dies and the fact that Snow White says she 'sees' what's in the Queen's head while she's 'dead' (which has absolutely nothing to do with how she kills her). I could have done with a few more scenes reinforcing the relationship between the Huntsman and Snow White. All due respect to Chris Hemsworth, the first I realized that they liked one another, he was kissing her. There was also an unrequited love plot line with William which went absolutely nowhere.

So, how does this relate to writing? It's simple. Don't put things in your novel which don't advance the plot line or the relationships (the best things are the ones that advance both). If there's a specific event that you want to include, make it relevant. Change the plot if you have to.You never know, it might make it more interesting. but whatever you do, don't make a good plot into a mediocre one by adding unnecessary scenes. They'll just clutter up the reader's head with useless information, unless they have something to do with the journey your characters take (more on  emotional journeys in a later post).

That's it, dear reader. Ciao!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fanfiction's Unavoidable Mistress

If you've been reading any amount of fanfiction (or doing some writing yourself), she will definitely seem familiar to you. She is Mary Sue. For those of you unfamiliar with the term (or anyone else, for that matter), take a look at this article. It will tell you all you ever need to know.

However, that isn't the real reason I'm writing this. No, this blog post it devoted to that much-asked question - Is Bella Swan really a Mary Sue or not? Now this may also seem like a much-answered question, but I'd like to break with the rest of the field and really put it to the test. A Litmus Test. This one, in fact.

Right, now let's go through the questions. First, is the character named after you? A quick google search tells me no. Though, quite interestingly, four of her five siblings are called Seth, Emily, Jacob and Paul. Sound familiar, anyone? This woman really isn't very inventive.

Okay, I'll tackle the next ones together. Unusual spelling, uncommon, unnecessary punctuation, and more than one first, middle or last name can all be crossed off. But, is it a name she really likes. One must assume so, since she did pick it for her main character. There are two more ticks in this section, for describing her personality (a bit of a stretch, I know, but Bella does mean beautiful) and for her having a nickname.

Now for appearance, and I'll be damned if I read them all out. If you must know every single question, do it yourself, reader. I picked four ticks in this section: one for exceptional beauty, a second for many characters being attracted to her, a third for an otherwise chaste/stoic character being attracted to her (hello, Edward) and a fourth for eyes that reflect hidden depths. The last one I got from reading the incomplete draft of Midnight Sun (forgive me, readers! Curiousity, as you know, killed the cat).

Five ticks in character, and I'll confess I'm learning something about all of the different elements of a Mary Sue. Bella Swan is of above average intelligence (she reads Wuthering Heights when she's bored), she has angst (about Edward), she has been abducted and also physically abused (another stretch, because she kind of gave herself to the kidnapper), and she ran away from home. Next.

Furthermore, she is kind of physically handicapped (the way Meyer describes her clumsiness, she would have to be). A physical 'flaw would be that her "lips are too full for her face". She remains in a relationship and has a child (though it's kind of half-vampire, which is weird). Lastly, she is selfishly manipulative. I mean, she got Jacob to mend a bike for her just so she could 'hear' Edward again.

I'm gonna say that Bella's 'superpower' is invulnerability, though it's really invulnerability to other vampires' powers. But it's a power, and that's what's important. Though it's really just a guess, I'm saying Bella has the same taste in books and music as her creator. Let me know if you disagree.

She's a vampire. Next.

Top of her class... maybe. The way S Meyer talks about it, you'd think there was a genius hiding under those brown waves and 'deep', rather, deeply expressionless eyes. So that gets a tick. Oh wait a moment, she top of the class in Biology! Definite tick. She has her own disposable income, as of Eclipse.

Okay, the Plot, and this is where it gets really Sue-ish. Everyone significant has heard of and likes her (because Bella's school friends apparently don't matter). She (almost) suffers punishment for a crime she didn't commit, that is for having made an immortal child. She falls in love with and has sex with a character Stepehnie Meyer would presumably find attractive. Edward nurses her back to health in the first book, and she 'dies' a romantic death in his arms in the last book (only to be resurrected).

Finally. I'll leave the last section blank, because I'm not Stephenie Meyer. I wonder if anyone would be able to trick her in to doing the test? That would certainly be interesting, as long as she was honest.

Results time. 48 points! (even without Meyer's answers)

Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don't give up.

Yeah, right. I think this should have answered the question once and for all. I don't think she's believable either. Until next time my dear readers, Adieu.

Hello, dear reader.

Welcome to my blog!

My name is Laura, and I hope to share my blogging, writing, and crafting adventures with you, my dear reader. First, however, let me tell you a story.

There was once a girl who thought much but said little. Her parents worried about her because she was so introverted and, in general, she found little that was worth saying. As she grew up and grew in turn more confident, she began asking herself the question: Would anyone want to hear what I have to say. But she kept quiet for many years before the urge came to express herself to a wide audience.

I'm entering university next year, so it's time I started to make an impact. And that starts here: with fiction. I know, it's not much of a goal, but if people gain enjoyment from what I write, I know I'll enjoy the experience immensely as well.

So, explore further, don't eat earwigs (brownie points to the person who gets the reference), and above all, keep writing.

Peace out.