The Writer’s Life According to Wallace and Gromit

We’re going way back with this installment. But hey, we’re just crackers about cheese, so it’s all good!

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When your book gets a bad review.
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Trying to keep up with NaNoWriMo.
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What you imagine your first book signing will be like.
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When the perfect writing weather strikes.
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Trying to decide what writing beverage to grab.
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When the words just aren’t happening.
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When the research starts to get weird.
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Trying to keep the plot bunnies under control.
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When you realize nothing good in your story will ever be safe from you.

As usual, none of these gifs belong to me or were created by me. Let’s be real…you know this by now. Have a great day, everyone!

#NaNoWriMo Week 1 – Already Behind Schedule

The first full week of #NaNoWriMo 2016 is drawing to a close. This has been my first experience with NaNoWriMo (referred to hereafter as NaNo because I’m lazy), and I’ve seen a bit of everything.

I’ve seen people faithfully update their word count and stay par. I’ve seen people plow ahead and leave their daily word quota in the dust. I’ve even seen a few cheeky writers claiming to have finished the 50k words already (I mean, I guess it’s possible, but I worry for their health).

And then there’s me. The guy who managed to fall almost 2k words behind schedule in fewer than seven days. Am I super worried? No, because I know I can make up for lost ground in a few days. But it’s been interesting to observe things play out in different ways for different writers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of my first week of NaNo:

The writing

As of this morning (Monday the 7th), I’m sitting at 8705 words, which, as I’ve already stated, is under par. By the end of today, I’ll have crossed the 10k checkpoint, and with a bit of extra work I’ll get back to par at 11,700 words.

Despite being a bit behind, I’m having loads of fun with the story. As many of you know, I’m writing the sequel to Where the Woods Grow Wild, and I’m super excited to get deeper into this project.

The challenges

The challenges I’ve faced during the first week of NaNo have been, primarily, two: finding time to write every day, and finding energy to write every day. There are days when I don’t get home from work until 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., and by that time, I’m pretty worn out. I know everyone’s in the same boat, because life keeps us on our toes, right?

The rewards

I love the NaNo community. You guys on Twitter are fantastic at encouraging and motivating each other, and it’s so awesome to see all these random writers working together towards a common goal. NaNo isn’t a contest. It’s not a race. It’s a collective endeavor, and the writing community truly reflects that. Keep it up!

Reminders and tips (for myself) for week 2

  • Discipline trumps inspiration (duh)
  • Don’t put off writing for the end of the day, if possible
  • Use the NaNo progress chart to stay motivated
  • Don’t worry about other writers’ progress
  • Value the ‘forced’ productivity
  • Drink more coffee

How is NaNoWriMo treating you so far? How much progress have you made? What sort of changes or objectives will you set for week 2? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day.

5 Signs a Character Might Die

Killing off characters is a facet of storytelling that writers look forward to with glee treat carefully. A character death can pack such an emotional punch, and a lot of the time we plan ahead exactly how, when, and where a given character will kick the proverbial bucket. We try our best to keep those character deaths a surprise until the time is right.

There are, however, certain trends I’ve noticed that potentially give away which character will die next. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but next time you see a character exhibit some of these signs…well, don’t get too attached to them, just in case.

They talk wistfully about home

Ironically, the characters that talk or reminisce the most about the home and family they left behind to go on their quest are the ones who seldom make it back. Here are some key phrases to look out for:

  • “When all this is done, I’ll go home to…”
  • “Right before I set off, my wife told me…”
  • “I long to return home and meet my newborn son…”
  • “I miss […] but I’ll be there again soon.”

They get married

Characters who get married  just before or during the main conflict will probably leave their spouse in a lonely conundrum. Writers are just cruel like that. Happiness is for the single.

They have humble dreams and goals

If a character starts to talk a lot about their dream of owning a farm, or of visiting a certain place, or of witnessing a certain event…yeah, not gonna happen. Their lowly-yet-relatable ambitions make them the perfect candidates for a sacrificial and emotional end.

They dislike the protagonist at first

Ah, this guy/gal. The ally that spends the first two-thirds of the book hating our hero for questionable (if any) reasons, then makes a sudden change right around the start of Act III. You know what’s coming: they take the ultimate redemptive step by sacrificing themselves for the hero or the hero’s cause.

They embrace the concept of death

I mean, it’s kind of fitting, I guess. The character that views death as ‘the start of another journey’ or ‘not the end, just the beginning’ is, in fact, the first to get their ticket punched. Hey, at least they got a head start on that journey, right?


What are some of the clues you’ve noticed that might (or might not) give away which characters have their days numbered? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day!

Diving into NaNoWriMo Preparations!

As many of you have seen on Twitter, I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. In case you don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event in which tons of writers try to reach 50k words (usually) in one month. That averages about 1667 words each day for thirty days straight.

Sound crazy? Yeah, I think so too. But hey, it’s a challenge.

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo before, but when I asked about it on Twitter, you guys practically exploded with all kinds of reasons why I should join, so I decided to give it a go!

That was a few days ago, and since then I’ve been getting the hang of the website (www.nanowrimo.org) and planning some preparations for the month of October (since the event doesn’t start until November).

Now, I like to plan everything in advance, even preparations for a plan, so I decided to share what I’ll be doing to get ready for NaNoWriMo 2016. Keep in mind, this is my first year participating. If you’re looking for a Top 10 Strategies To Guarantee NaNoWriMo Success, I’m not the guy to ask. I’m simply sharing some of the fun stuff I (and others) will be doing to be as ready as we can!

1. I’m writing a sequel

Cheating? Maybe. Sort of. I don’t think so. As many of you know, Where the Woods Grow Wild is coming out later this fall, so NaNoWriMo is the perfect chance to knock out a huge chunk of the sequel, Where the Trees Grow Taller (temporary title).

The benefit of a sequel is that all the returning characters are good to go, so I won’t have to spend a lot of time starting character development from scratch. It also means the story world and a plot premise are in place for me as well.

2. Outlines. Outlines everywhere

I love me some outlines! I firmly believe in letting my story grow and change organically, so my finished products rarely look much like my outlines start out as, but I still map everything out before I start writing no matter what project I’m working on.

Nothing against you pantsers out there, but it’s just not for me. Personally, I need to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there before I walk out the door. Besides, I think outlining ahead of time will save me quite a few headaches during NaNoWriMo…right? *nervous gulp*

3. Pinterest boards

I’m a visual person. I understand and work with concepts better if I have a physical reference to look at. In other words, by the end of October, I’ll have a Pinterest board full of character references, location inspirations, random information graphs, etc. I’m keeping this board secret, of course.

4. Spotify playlist

I know this one’s pretty popular, but I’m creating a whole new playlist for my sequel. Where the Woods Grow Wild got its own soundtrack, but I want to start with fresh music for this project. Though, on second thought, I’ll probably have to shell out change for a premium account to dodge those aggravating reggae adds.

5. Assorted notes, charts, etc.

I have a whiteboard in my writing shed and oodles of sticky notes and notebook sheets. I guarantee they will all be full of CSI level tracking boards by the time NaNoWriMo rolls around. Anything that’s not an official outline will join the stack! Again, I like to plan. A lot. And I’m visual. So…yeah, it’s gonna get messy.

6. Coffee

Lots of it.


Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2016? How are you getting ready for this year? Have you participated in previous years? What was it like for you? Any tips for a first-timer? Talk to me in the comments, friends!

And in the meantime, have a great day.

7 Types of Writing Days

Disciplined productivity days

Inspiration is for the weak. You get up early, set a goal, and achieve it. Interruptions, discomfort, or fatigue aren’t roadblocks – they’re hurdles, and you’re trained enough to clear them with ease and keep on writing.

days3.gif

Panicked productivity days

Keyword: deadlines. You thought you’d have plenty of time. You were wrong…again. Dang it, Youtube! Time to sit down in a frenzy and churn out words like there’s no tomorrow. Which, for you, is pretty much the case.

days1.gif

Chaotic cosmic intervention days

The universe has a grudge against you today. Anything that could go wrong does go wrong. The powers that be hurl everything your way: interruptions and distractions knock on your door (sometimes literally) on a rush-hour schedule. You really wanted to get work done, but life has other plans, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

days4.gif

Benefic cosmic intervention days

The universe has blessed you today. You had your doubts when you got up in the morning, but all the pieces fall into place quite nicely. Your tea doesn’t spill, no one interrupts you all morning, and your characters pull through once again. You cross your fingers and hope for the same tomorrow.

days5.gif

“This muse is on fire!” days

You didn’t think it was possible for words to come out of your fingertips so fast. Distractions don’t even tempt you today, and if someone’s banging on your door, you won’t hear them over the sound of your muse, who sings inspiration at the top of her lungs. If all days were like today, you wouldn’t even need discipline! If only…

days2.gif

Canned vegetable days

In which your brain takes on the form of the titular preserved greens, and becomes cold, lumpy, and impossible to crack open. Your word count and your energy levels are about the same: zero. And it’s not even lunchtime yet.

days6.gif

“It’s going to be a long night” days

The causes of this day type are varied: inspiration, fatigue, procrastination, or deadlines can all be blamed at one time or another. Regardless, one truth remains anchored in your mind: it is indeed going to be a very late night. You go make tea. Lots of tea.

days7


I hope today is a good day for you. Even if it’s not, remember that tomorrow will be better (probably…maybe).

 

5 Ways Writing Teaches Humility

Writing is a career for the humble. Or, as the case may be for some, writing as a career teaches humility. Here are a few of the reasons why this is true:

You will make mistakes

Mistakes are an inevitable part of writing. Whether it’s a minor plot hole in your published book or a typo in your latest tweet, mistakes remind us that nobody creates flawless art.

There is always more to learn

No matter how many books we write, our next work will be better. Improvement is a blessing and a goal, but it also keeps us from getting too smug about our current skills (at least in retrospect).

Someone will always disagree with you

That bad review will come. That upset tweet reply will come. That offended email will come. It’s only a matter of time. Writers can’t please everyone, nor should we try. At the same time, these responses can be a reality check to remind us that we’re not on top of the world yet.

The bulk of your work goes unnoticed

Perhaps the most humbling truth of all is that 90% of the work you do will never be seen, applauded, or even acknowledged most of the time. People don’t see the months and years of toil at a lonely desk. They only see the finished product, and even that gets taken for granted sometimes.

Rewards aren’t guaranteed

Even after all the work we put into our craft, writers aren’t guaranteed sales, income, recognition, or success in any measure. It’s out there, for sure, and we can take it if we’re good (and lucky) enough, but I have yet to meet a writer who chose that path out of a desire for financial or social success.


Keep your chin up, writer, and be proud of who you are and what you do. Just be ready for your own work to pull the pride-rug out from under you now and then. And remember, humility is a virtue, not a flaw. Embrace it.

In the meantime, have a great day!

The Writer’s Dictionary: An Alphabetical Sample

Amwriting (v): a hashtag commonly used on social media to indicate when a writer is most distracted.

Book (n): the physical manifestation of the writer’s soul. Not to be confused with horcrux.

Creativity (n): a nutrient absorbed from caffeine.

Dialogue (v): to argue with one’s characters.

Editor (n): a medieval torture device.

Fan (n): 1. a device used to blow papers off a desk; 2. one who habitually smells books.

Grammar (n): a semi-transparent layer of red ink applied to a manuscript.

Heroism (n): a disease contracted upon excessive exposure to destiny.

Inciting [event] (n): the first character death.

Jail (n): the result of online search history.

Kill (v): 1. to take out frustration on a character; 2. to display power and authority over one or more character(s), a common intimidation strategy.

Love (n): 1. a three-sided geometrical shape; 2. a one-sided geometrical shape.

Mentor (n): a disposable cutout figure commonly found in cereal boxes.

Notebook (n): a detachable extension of the brain.

One (n): the hardest page.

Publisher (n): an elusive deity associated with Traditionalism.

Query (v): 1. to beg; 2. to believe in Santa Claus.

Research (n): a pseudo-productive variant of procrastination.

Subplot (n): an excuse to make two incompatible characters kiss.

Typo (n): a bacteria most visible five minutes after publication.

Uninterrupted (adj): a spiritual state of being only achieved in the afterlife.

Verbosity (n): a description of weather or scenery.

Write (v): 1. to convert sleep deprivation into ink squiggles; 2. to cry.

X (n): a red symbol applied by editors to express hopelessness.

Yarn (n): a tool invented to lure cats off keyboards.

Zebra (n): a placeholder noun commonly used in alphabetical blog posts.

 

 

 

The Writer’s Life According To Willy Wonka

It’s been some time since we last had one of these posts. Today, it only seems appropriate to explore the writer’s life from the eyes Willy Wonka himself in memory of the legendary Gene Wilder.

I didn’t plan it this way, but this is the 100th post on You Write Fiction. So…confetti!


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Letting your characters loose in the story world for the first time.
2
Writers can’t take themselves too seriously all the time, can they?
4
When you start a draft with no outline.
5
When your synopsis is a bit too concise.
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Swords and guns are overrated.
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When your brain flies down the tunnel of ideas.
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When your protagonist is heading for trouble.
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When your protagonist is IN trouble.
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“You’re a writer? Oh, I get it. Sounds like a nice hobby.”
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No explanation needed. We’ll miss you, Gene Wilder.

Note: none of these gifs or characters belong to me. All gifs can be found at giphy.com. 


Have a great day, everyone.

10 More Incorrect Assumptions About Writers

This post is a somewhat snarky continuation of last month’s 10 Incorrect Assumptions About Writers article.

#11 Writers don’t actually work that much

Grab a notebook and a pencil and people admire your dedication. Crack open a laptop and everyone assumes you’re playing games. Granted, all the Netflix jokes we make don’t help our case, but still. We writers take our work pretty seriously.

I’ve had people watch me type away for a bit and then say something like, “So…is that work stuff, or are you just goofing off?” I know they’re probably joking, but how would it look if I walked up to a busy firefighter and said, “So…are you putting that out, or just toasting marshmallows?”

#12 Writers are always available for language-related favors

I think every writer in existence has experienced this at least once. Your classmates need a paper proofread, and it’s due in an hour, and you’re not busy so you can do it for free, right? Well…no. Not right. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind lending a hand (and I did all throughout college). I’ll be glad to look over your paper. If I can do it when it fits my schedule, and if it’s only a few pages, and if I don’t have paying work to finish first. Because, believe it or not, I do occasionally get paid to do just that. Wait in line.

#13 Writers need English and/or Creative Writing degrees

Did I take creative writing classes in college? Yes. Did I graduate with a degree in English? Yes. Did it revolutionize the way I write fiction? No. Most of what I’ve learned about writing has been through my own writing and reading. I know of writers who got all the degrees and drastically improved because of them, but degrees don’t grant you innate skill, nor do they guarantee success.

[Note: my classes, teachers, and studies were fantastic. I’m not degrading any of them. I did learn stuff about literature, grammar, history, etc (go to college, kids!). But I didn’t learn anything about creating a story from nothing and putting it into writing that I didn’t already know (or would come to know in the future) from experience and self-teaching.]

#14 Writers always stay indoors

We stay inside a lot because that’s where our work is, and we love our work. But that doesn’t mean we’ll burst into flames if we walk out the front door (well, most of us won’t). Writers love walks, nature, cities, fresh air, sunshine/rain as much as anyone else (Pokemon Go, anyone?). If anything we wish we could be out more, but, you know, laptops have a limited battery life.

#15 Writers lack social skills

Again, we joke about this a lot. But most of the time it’s just not true. A lot of writers are introverts, and a lot of introverts are shy (there is a difference, people), but we can still go out, smile, shake hands, meet people, converse, and interact with society when we want to. Maybe we just tend to want to a little less than others.

#16 Writers hate editing

Editing, the great evil torture process that stifles creativity and drags writers down into the mire of technicalities. Actually, there’s just as much creativity in rewrites and edits as there is in first draft writing. I know a lot of writers (myself included) who enjoy the second and third draft process just as much as the first draft. Now, proofreading? That’s a different story…

#17 Writers want to be just like famous authors

“Oh, you write fantasy? So you wanna be the next Tolkien/Rowling/Martin, I guess.”

No, actually, I don’t. Tolkien, Rowling, and Martin were/are talented, successful authors that a lot of people look up to. But Tolkien gets boring, Rowling spams plot holes, and Martin needs to get his moral compass checked for signs of life (my opinions, calm down).

My point is, I don’t want to be them, or even like them. I want to achieve what they achieved, yes, but in my own way, with my own voice, and my own stories.

#18 Writers disregard basic and routine activities

“You’re a writer, huh? Must be nice to work from home. You don’t have to get up early, shower, or follow meal schedules like the rest of us. You don’t even have to get dressed if you don’t want.”

Bottom line: that’s a bunch of garbage. We work hard. Most of us have other jobs. We follow routines. We have self-respect and a sense of hygiene.

Writer does not mean slob.

#19 Writers need to work with major publishers

Would I love to have one of my books eventually published by one of the big names? Of course. Are my career as a writer and my love for storytelling defined by that factor? Absolutely not. Mainstream publishing houses have competition in the form of indie-publishers, self-publishing, etc. I don’t need a six-figure deal to be a good writer.

If anyone’s reading this that wants to offer me a six-figure deal, I graciously accept. 

#20 Writers thrive in coffee shops

This is true for some writers, but not for all. I’m jealous of the people who a.) have access to coffee shops nearby, and b.) look super sophisticated with their million dollar Apple devices while still getting chapters done by the refill.

I’m not that guy. For instance, I’ve been into Starbucks three times in my life. Once as part of a group. I didn’t order anything. The second time was in February in Chicago. I panicked and ordered a slushy. The third time, I tried to order coffee. Emphasis on tried. Turns out you need a degree in Latin just to get a napkin in that hipster nest.

Starbucks is the worst. That’s really all I’m getting at in this whole post.


Take this post with a grain of salt and a pinch of humor. If you’re guilty of making any of these assumptions, ultimate shame on you. Now, you’ll have to excuse me. It’s almost 2:00 in the afternoon. Time for me to get dressed.

A Writer’s Seven Deadly Sins

Today’s brief post is brought to you by the morning grumpies and perhaps a pinch of tough reality.

Procrastination

The punchline of many writerly jokes on social media, procrastination is the subtle, seemingly harmless force that keeps masterpieces unpublished.

Perfectionism

Thoroughness is your friend, but at some point you have to let go of your manuscript and accept it the way it is. No story will ever be completely flawless no matter how much you fret over it.

Haste

Then again, rushing things is the quickest way to kill your book. Trust me, I know. Writing takes time. Editing takes more time. To hurry is to miss a glaring plot hole or typo.

People-Pleasing

Everybody thinks their opinion is the One To Rule Them All. Be teachable, but make your own decisions and stick to them. Your story offended that one lady at Walmart? Be polite, but at the same time…who cares?

Mediocrity

The more people climb above the standard, the more the standard will rise, and at the end of the day we might actually start to drain the waste out of this saturated market.

Emulation

Respect, learn from, and admire your favorite authors, but don’t try to be like them or sound like them. Find your own voice, develop it, and make it shine.

Inactivity

Inactivity is procrastination’s older sibling. If you sit around watching Youtube videos while waiting for ‘inspiration’ to hit, you’re doing it wrong. Inspiration gives you ideas, but it won’t finish a draft for you. Only discipline can do that. Not only that, but the longer you go without working your writing muscles, the harder it’ll be to sharpen your mind when you try to get back into it.


Thanks for stopping by. Go forth, confess your sins, and write stuff. Catch ya next time.