Posted in Methods, NaNoWriMo, Writing

Where to Start?

Now that I’ve decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo (some of you may have too), it’s time to decide where to start. This is where the time to decide what project to work on for the month comes in. My project for April is currently ongoing at the moment and I do have a few chapters written. Camp NaNoWriMo will be used to write 50k words of that story. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any planning to do.

For those who don’t have a project in mind, I’ll offer some advice. In my humble opinion, I feel that Camp NaNoWriMo is all about writing (I’ve probably already said this before and I’ll continue to say it). It doesn’t really matter what you write, only that you’re writing. We all have a story inside of us and that doesn’t necessarily mean that this story will or should be share with anyone else. Maybe it’s a story you have to write for yourself.

The story can be anything. If you want to try your hand at fan fiction, go ahead. If it’s mystery, or romance, or science fiction then, go for it. It’s not going to be perfect – it never is – but at least you’re going to try and that’s all that matters.

Most of the writers I’ve met keep an idea journal with them. What’s to stop you from choosing an idea from there? However, in case that you can’t seem to choose something, there are tons of story idea generators out there. A quick search online gives you a lot of websites. Choose ones that interests you.

Once you have a story in mind, what I like to do is to keep a separate notebook or folder for this story. This is where I place all my notes so that I don’t loose anything and they’re easy to find. The method of developing the stories and generating ideas differs from person to person. I tend to think (daydream) scenes with my characters or maybe it’s just a phrases but I take note of everything because I might use it later. The scenes I think about don’t always make it into the writing itself but it is a place to start.

Now, what I won’t go into is naming the characters. It must be done. What I will say is that it’s okay for character names to change. For now, especially for Camp NaNoWriMo, use a name and, if later you don’t like it or doesn’t fit well, change it. The name doens’t have to be perfect right off the bat. I literally used “the Vampire Prince” has a name for almost half of my story on wattpad because I finally figured out a name for the Prince. It can be done.

The next “step” is a little tricky. We have to figure out what’s going to happen at the beginning, middle, and end. Planning is probably the second hardest thing, I believe, when writing. Editing is the first hardest then, writing. So, how are we going to plan?

For starters, there isn’t a correct way. It depends on how you write. Do you need a detail plan or do you just mostly wing it and see where that leads you? This is where having scenes in mind can come in handy. If you have a scene, you can figure out how the characters are going to arrive at that point. Maybe that scene is how the story starts. Planning is a lot of brainstorming and trying to fit it all together.

Lastly, if you’re new to Camp NaNoWriMo and/or writing, try both ways. Write down a sequence of events. It doesn’t have to be too in depth. Rough ideas or scenes help too. I find using flashcards for this helps. With the scenes on each flashcard, you can rearrange them how you like without deleting, copy and pasting, or starting over on a document. You don’t have to be a newbie to do this either. When I’m not too sure on which scene should go first, I take out some flashcards and lay them out in front of me.

Overall, find an idea and try brainstorming about it. The idea might change but the more you think about, the more it can help. April isn’t here yet so, you have time. Be flexible in your thinking and planning.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Posted in Methods, Resources, Writing

Filling in the Blanks

post filling in the blanksRecently, I found a post on Pinterest that I found very interesting. The post goes to say that writing dialogue first makes the scene easier and longer . The author goes to say that this method worked for him/her when he/she wanted to get some work done. Overall, I think that’s some decent advice.

Personally, it hasn’t been something I’ve tried consciously. I’ve done something similar where I write the basic lines of a scene and dialogue and then go back to fill in the blanks. My method made  me feel like I was too lazy to write everything out completely but seeing this post changes that.

Like many, I’ve always tried to put my best work on the page even if that means rewriting the same sentence a few hundred times. It doesn’t help that I know that that’s not how it works but I find myself doing it anyway. I’ve been trying to work on that, and while there has been progress, there are times when I tend to slip.

I (probably) won’t be using this method consciously right off the bat but I’m not going to write if off. It kind of feels like writing an outline more than anything else but that’s just how I feel. In part I believe because I’ve always associated going back and adding things to a manuscript as rewriting or even editing, I can’t immediately jump to using this method.

Overall, I’m always on the look out for advice and tips that will help me become a better writer. I always strive to grow my skills and abilities. Plus, it’s not like I’m opposed to trying new things. If the chance presents itself, I might just end up writing the dialogue first and the filling in the blanks later.

Posted in Writing

Character Creation – part 1

Sometimes a character pops into my head before the actual story. There might be a small scene around the character but nothing is concrete. I don’t plan for this to happen, it just does.

So, what do I do when I have an idea of a character? For starters, I tend to know the character’s sex. I don’t know the character’s gender until way later.

Next, I think about what kind of world would this character live in? Futuristic? Fantasy? Modern day?

Once, I decide that, I look at the situation they are in. Do they struggle to pay for basic essentials? Are they on the run? Are they a gun for hire? Maybe they are a detective/ investigator.

If I can’t think of an answer, I mix and match. Would this character fit in an urban setting? Would it make sense if they were on the run? Nothing is is ever concrete at the beginning. Characters are like clay. They can be modeled as many times as they need to.

As the character takes shape, pieces tend to fall into place. A character now has a sword and a gun. The only place they drink their coffee is from a run down shop on a corner of a not so nice street. For character creation, I think it’s helpful to start with the little things.

What would their room look like? It’s a clean? Messy? Undisturbed? Do they use mouth wash? What snacks do they eat? Do they drink too much coffee? What does a normal day for them look like? What kind of clothes do they wear? Where do they buy their clothes?

There are a lot of character creating questionnaires out there and I’ve found some of them very useful. However, I don’t always need to use them. Sure it’s important to know if your character has any family, siblings, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or a pet, but I found that somethings, character creation gets bog down with those sorts of questions.

At times, it feels like a job to me and it’s no longer fun. The character just slips from my mind and it never goes anywhere. I like to mull it over a bit. Keep it a secret if you will before putting it down on paper.

Posted in Methods, Writing

The Magic System – Part 2

Creating the magic system for you world can be a lot of work. It also takes a lot of time. Personally, I have never created a full magic system for any of my stories that require one. However, I have understood the rules of magic.

What can magic do?

This is an important question I like to answer. Can magic raise the dead? If so, why aren’t zombies roaming around? Is this type of necromancy magic forbidden? What is the penalty of being caught performing such magic? Have a lot of magic users tried?

These question bring to mind a certain character where his family or someone close to him/her has died. if such magic existed, would they go out and find a way to raise the dead or find someone to do it for them? That simple fact – whether or not magic can raise the dead – cane create an entire story for that character. I also think about the popular manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, by Hiromu Arakawa. After failed attempt to resurrect their mother by using alchemy, the boys lose body parts and go on a journey to find a way to restore their bodies.

Can magic turn copper into gold? Or can magic users turn anything in general into gold?

It’s the transmutation question. This questions brings to mind a thief/peddler who is not really good at magic but he does have a small gift to transmute certain things to appear like gold. With the system I created, this is possible. However, I put in place limitations.

The transmuted object will always return to its original form. The effect is not permanent otherwise the economy wouldn’t exactly work.

What does magic require?

For example, if someone tries casting a spell, do they need certain ingredients? Can those ingredients be replaced? Do they need candles? Or perhaps a magic circle? Does it need the person’s willpower? What fuels magic? Does it burn away people’s life-force? Does it need “mana” or other forms of energy?

With this, remaining consistent is key. Otherwise readers might feel like there’s nothing concrete. There’s only so far suspense of disbelief will stretch.

Any limitations on magic?

This questions goes back to the beginning. It’s important to know what magic can’t do. There are times when I need to start backwards. I need to place limitations on what magic can do because otherwise there might be plot holes. Why couldn’t a character do this spell at the end when he could do it at the beginning without any problem?

The rules are up to you to decide. Personally, I like to keep things consistent. It also helps to keep a notebook with all the rules for magic. If I ever need to go back and double check something, I have a place to go for easy access.

Finally, beta readers are a good resource to use. Those who read your story will, hopefully, point out things that don’t make sense.