Category: Book 1 (Magic)

Camp Tip #18 – Roads Not Taken

Plotter or Pantser?

We all started camps with a bit of excitement, a whole bunch of hope, and I think in most cases an idea of what we would be working on during camp. Some of us had pages long outlines detailing huge portions of our books. Others, had the idea and that’s it. I was firmly in the plotted region. I use note cards to summaries my chapters. I have every chapter in the book on its own note card. When I start writing for the day, I read the note card from the previous chapter, as well as the note card for the current and next chapter. However, sometimes things change. I recently started a chapter off differently than I planned and ended up not using my original plan for that chapter. Then in another chapter I used something from a future chapter. When I got to that future chapter, I had no idea what I was going to write. So I again stole something from a future chapter and the original thing that I ended up not using because the chapter had gone in a different direction, suddenly had a new place that it could appear. Basically I shuffle these cards up good, but it worked out. Whether we are pantsers or plotters,  its a good idea to follow paths less traveled.

Subplots. 

Following these paths is not always an easy thing to do. After all, some things have to happen in an order, or maybe you’d just prefer them to. But, what this works best for, are subplots, setting up character arcs, and side problems differently can add so many different dimensions to a story or character development. It’s worth trying if you are struggling with getting words. Think of alternative things that can be occurring. Even if you decide not to use what you think up in the part you are at, its nice to have a cache of potential scenes for that day when you’re staring down a blank page.

Little gems. 

One thing that’s really nice about taking unusual turns in you’re story, is that you give your characters a chance to live and reacted with your decisions. This gives you a chance to see them under pressure, or maybe see how they are when left in a room all alone. These little things can have a huge impact if you let your characters be free. Sometimes what you want your characters to do, and what they actually do, is not as similar as you would hope. So when you see a moment where maybe they say something they shouldn’t, and that you didn’t plan for them to say, let them speak and see where it takes you.

 

Progress as of this post:  16,711

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Camp Tip #17 – Visualize

May 1st. 

On of the hardest things about writing a book, script, or whatever your working on this month during camp, is the long journey you have from where you started to where you want to be. Sometimes when I think about the 30,000 more words I have to write to get to the halfway point in my book and the 75,000 words that I still need to write to get to finish the book, it seems daunting and frankly, impossible. But, sometimes I think about the day after camp, and in those daydreams I’ve worked hard, and came back from being terribly behind, and I’ve hit my goal. On May 1st I’m halfway done with my book, and that much closer to finishing my book, and getting it published. It’s that much closer to being in the hands of my readers.

 

Why this matters. 

When I started writing as a teen, I did it, because it was fun, and I loved stories, and I wanted to create my own story. To this day, coming up with stories and getting them down on paper(typing them up) is still my favorite thing to do.  However, now because I want more than to just have stories that I’ve made, I want to share them, there is a pressure that I didn’t always have. It’s good, because without that pressure, I would push myself and strive to be better day. I would bother to finish novels, and come up with new ideas. No matter how daunting thousands of words can be, and hundreds of thousands of word are if you’re thinking about all the books you may one day write, there is nothing like the feeling of sharing your stories with someone else. Holding on to that feeling is what will push you forward when you want a break. It will drive you when your lost. Best of all, it will be reality, if you just keep chasing that feeling. Its the only drug worth being addicted to.

 

Tomorrow. 

But, may, and next year, and years down the road are very far away. Instead, focus on tomorrow. Where could you be tomorrow? Where do you want to be? What can you do today, to help you achieve what you want for tomorrow. I know that I’m tired today, and I hadn’t planned to write anymore today, but you know what, maybe I’ll just write 100 more words. A paragraph or two. A page.  Because tomorrow, I want to be closer to my goal than I am right now, and I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to achieve that. I can do it today, right now, and then keep working on it tomorrow.

 

Progress as of this post:  16,711

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Camp Tip #19 – Candy Bars

The tasty stuff. 

In writing, there are parts that are just the most fun to write, or maybe not fun, but the most intense. These are the scenes or chapters where you get to do neat stuff. It can be anything depending on your genre and preferences. For me, I love moments were I can foreshadow something in a subtle way. Especially when I’m foreshadowing things that are going to be huge. Sometimes that’s a earth shattering revelation, or a tragedy to come. Let’s be real, that’s mostly ones I get excited about. These scenes break up the work from transitional scenes, or more quiet scenes. I also love to torture my characters or bring them joy. It depends on my mood. But I love taking them out of their norm. Those are my candy bar scene. The ones I just can’t wait to write. These are also, they ones that usually have readers gripping there books(e-readers) with white knuckles and bated breath. And this doesn’t have to be life or death, or a steamy scene between two lovers. It can be just about anything.

Moderation. 

These parts, while fun, do need to be spread out a bit though. You need to think of it like this, if every day is a great day, how is it any different from an ordinary day. Now, I’m not saying to make the rest of the book boring or bland, but not ever scene needs to be a battle, not every scene can have new crucial information. Some scenes need to deal with the fall out of those scenes. Some need to show the characters growth. A book should have an ebb and flow. Imagine riding a roller coaster. You get started with the ticking climb, it builds anticipation, and for a moment, you sit at the highest point, ready, but never prepared for the fall. You plummet and probably scream, I do, and at the end you laugh. But, if its all a gut wrenching, white knuckled ride, eventually all your going to want, is off the ride. You need the anticipation so that the pay off is nice release.

 

Progress as of this post:  16,711

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Camp Tip #16 – Keep Going

Fun stuff. 

I got to write a chapter that I’ve been excited about for some time now. There are parts of it I love, and part that I may have to tweak in revision, but overall I’m really happy that I got to that chapter. My characters are really starting to form, and it moments like these that make me love writing and make it so much easier to stay on task. Camp is still moving forward, and so am I. There have been some times that I’ve wanted to quit camp this month, but I’ve manage to stay with it, and I’m glad that I did. Each day I get a bit closer to my goal, and it makes me so happy. I’m hoping that all of you are having a good time writing, and for those of you who have struggled as I have this time around. Remember that the best thing you can do, is keep writing, and stay in this. It’s easy to stop. It’s easy to give up. It’s a lot harder to work on this, and get something done everyday. Don’t take the easy way out.

Hard stuff.

The one thing that can really make it a lot harder do well and stay in it during Nano, is when things run of the rails as they sometimes do. I’m currently writing a chapter that is somewhat of a transitional part, and I’m stalled out badly. I don’t know how I’m going to push forward with this chapter, so for tonight, I’m going to sleep on in, and while I’m working tomorrow, I’m going to try and figure out what I can do to spice up this chapter and make it more exciting to write.

Sticking with it. 

That’s one of the tricks I like to utilize when I’m blocked. If you have to go to bed and work, and do chores, use that time to take a trouble part of the book and dissect it. That way when you come back to the story, you’ll have an easier time trying to get into the flow of the story. It can make a huge difference also, just being somewhere else while you’re working on the problem. When you’re sitting at a desk, with the cursor blinking at you, there is a bunch of pressure for you to solve the problem right then and there, and move on. However, when you take the cursor out of the equation you can take your time with the problem, and find a solution more organically, and often times you can find a better solution than just trying to power through the problem. Hang in there. Camp is over in two more weeks, and then you can take a break, but for now,  keep getting words.

 

Progress as of this post:  16,025

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Camp Tip #15 – Middles

Why are they so hard?

Depending on the length of what you’re writing, and you’re goal, you could still be in the beginning of your story, or smack in the middle of it. I’m really excited for this week, as I’m edging out of the beginning of the book. Some really exciting things happen in the beginning of my book, but as I get closer, I find myself having a harder time figuring out exactly what I want to say next. In the beginning its easier because its more structured. You set up your characters. You lay out your world. You delve into the core of the story. However, once you do that it can be challenging to decide what comes next. Do you develop the relationships between your characters, or do you amp up the stakes? Do you sprinkle in a bit more backstory or  do you dive into a subplot? It all depends, but any of those could be the right answer.

 

How to get through them. 

 

Middles can be hard, but they can also be so rewarding. When you’re in the middle of a book, you usually have some rapport with your characters, and are right in the thick of your story problem. However, this is where stray characters, or unclear direction can send you and your characters scrambling for what comes next. The thing to remember and focus on is developing the elements already established. As your characters enter the middle of the book, their relationships, ideals, and understanding of what’s to come should be deepening or decaying. Look at where you characters are physically, emotionally, or mentally in comparison from where they were at the beginning of the book. The same is true for your plot. How have things developed? What obstacles have emerged? Those are the things that are going to give this part of the book something  memorable. The beginning should have started with a bang, and the end should have something that lets it echo with your reader even after the last word is read, but the middle if not crafted well can fade away. So you need to make sure that the ebbs and flows of the middle make the reader want to wade in, and  then it keeps pulling them further and further

Preparing for what comes next. 

Middles do come to an end. Before they do, you need to make sure that the key elements are in place. You also need to make sure that the stake are fully set up. I was watching something recently. It was a superhero tv show, and as the story progressed I realized that I loved the characters, and I loved the story trajectory, but I just didn’t quiet feel the weight of the conflict. It took me a while to realize that the problem was that I didn’t believe the antagonist could beat the protagonist. Which is not what I wanted. I want the superhero to win, but as the audience I want to believe that the hero might lose, so that when they win I can justifiably cheer for them. There was a point where one of the other antagonist mention an alternative method of dealing with the hero. It wasn’t until that moment that happened that I believed that the hero of the story might lose, but once I did, everything that happened afterward took on more urgency. The best thing you can do for a character or a story is to make sure that the antagonist, whatever it is, seems like it could win. The greatest stories are always about protagonist overcoming great obstacles whatever they may be. This starts with you problem, evolves through your obstacles,  and culminates in your ending. Until next time, keep writing.

Progress as of this post:  12,295

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Camp Tip #14 – Week Two

How am I doing?

I’m ridiculously behind. by tens of thousands of words, so I lowered my goal, because I really want to win, but also, because the goal with campnano is to make writing a habit, and get words on the page. I have been doing that, but everyday I was getting more and more behind, which was demotivating me and in a way, trivializing the progress that I had made. I want to win, and I want to celebrate my success, but to feel succesful I needed to catch up, even if I didn’t catch up. I know I can hit this new lower goal of 25k but the way I’m going to hit it is by aiming for my elusive 45k original goal. I’ve done the math, and even with modest writing on the days that I work, I should be able to make some progress on the 4 remaining days off I have for the month. So that’s my new revised plan. It really is a sigh of relief because now that I feel less behind, I am more motivated to hit my goal and surpass it.

How are you doing?

That’s enough about me. As we end week two, the question I wonder is how everyone else is doing. Are you doing well, or falling behind? Have you been having fun? Are you still in this? Often when I have done Nano, either here in camp or during November if I was going to drop out, It was usually around this time, when I felt defeated and overwhelmed, tired and stuck. I’m hope that no matter what is going on that you are staying in the game because whether you hit your goal or not, the only way you lose for real is if you don’t try. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s important and needs to be remembered.

Please remember. 

So with that in mind, also know that until winning officially begins you can still adjust your goal. There is nothing wrong with aiming for a target that you know you can hit. Aim for it, let it help you build confidence, and then aim further and further. Good luck to everyone one of you. People like you who want something and are willing to work for it are the kind of people who inspire me to write. Thank you all and never forget. You. Can. Do. This.

Progress as of this post: 12,295  /15,000

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Camp Tips #13 – Sparking Joy

Konmari. 

Sometime last year, I was cleaning up my messy disorganized room, again, yearning for the day when my room could be clutter free, and clean all the time without having to spend hours reorganizing it every so often. I learned around that time about a book called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I watched some YouTube videos, and thought maybe next year when I move, I’ll do that. Then, I realized that waiting to do what I want’ makes no sense. So, I bought the book, and immediately started the process in the book referred to as the Konmari method.  It basically helps you find the best way to declutter and get rid of items that don’t spark joy. That is a weird thing to think about with inanimate objects, and yet it really worked. Why did this work? Because whether it was  neat shirt, or a fun pencil holder, or my favorite books, the things I kept were things I was actually happy to have. So often, people hang on to items that they really don’t need, they don’t want, and it only keeps them from having and cherishing the things they do.

 

Does it give you joy?

You might be wondering how this applies to writing, don’t worry, I’m getting to that right now. Just like the Konmari Method suggest, the things we keep should bring us joy, and this is true in your writing as well. With writing, there is so much information out there about how you should write a book, what to do, what not to do, what’s cliche, and what’s supersaturated, and overdone. There is a lot of noise. The tips and tricks on writing you’ve learned about should bring you joy, and the rest you should discard. Furthermore, the things you write should also bring you joy. If you are writing a scene or a chapter because you think you need it, or everyone says it should be there, what you need to do is ask if it’s bringing you joy. If it’s not, maybe there is a specific part of it you don’t like, or maybe its the method in which you are writing that portion that you’re not liking. If so, maybe just throw out the rules that are constraining you or making this portion feel like a chore. Writing isn’t always easy, but it should be bringing you joy. Maybe not every time you write, maybe not everything that you write, but there should be some joy.

 

How to know. 

If your story is bringing you joy, you should be happy when you think of it in general. It should randomly pop into your mind. When you sit down to write, and maybe not every time, I’ve come back to some writer’s block inducing scenes that just leave me groaning, but most the time when I sit down to write, there’s a bit of a thrill, an flutter of happiness, like seeing a friend after a long absence, or meeting a fun and exciting person for the first time. Sometimes, we lose what we love about our stories. That can happen for many reasons. Maybe we are at a hard part, or maybe we have led our characters astray, or maybe we have forgotten why we loved the story. In times like these, what I recommend is step back a bit, find a part in the story that you adored, and reread that. Rediscover the thrill again, and see if that thrill is lost or just hiding and try to find a way to inject a bit of that thrill back in if you can. If not, find out where and why it’s disappeared and see if it’s something you can eventually get back to. As always, keep writing, and do so with joy.

Progress as of this post: 10,013 /21,000

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Camp Tip #12 – Plot Holes

What did you miss?

We’ve all been there while writing. We threw in something completely unnecessary, or forget about a character we introduced. Maybe you forgot to mention the super important thingy that the hero needs in you chapter right now. Plot holes happen, and if left unchecked they can break your novel. They can make it unreadable if left that way. However, in camp, this is just a rough draft and its not the end of the world.  If your realizing that you have major plot holes that will have to fix, what I suggest for now is ignoring it. Write it down of course, and put that note where ever you keep your most important story notes at. However, if you try to go back and fix this, and tweak that to correct the plot hole that you made, you could end up wasting precious time on that, which should be spent writing on your camp project. Write down what you need to fix and maybe how to fix it, then pretend as if you already have fixed it and keep writing. There’s only one time I wouldn’t advise this method.

Maybe you can still fix it. 

When you have a plot hole, you don’t always have to go backward to fix it. An author I really like once wrote about a mystical book in one of her novels, forgot about the book, and turned it into a major part of another novel. Depending on the plot hole, you may be able to fix what you broke where you are. It could be that you forgot a character way back, maybe there was a reason that the character wasn’t present. Maybe that thingy you forgot, you’re character realizes they forgot too, and now have to find an alternative way to deal with their problem, or go back for it. Using your plot holes if you can, may add an interesting, and real aspect to you novel that people may think happened on purpose, if you do it right. So if you’re looking at the hole, and you see a handy shovel and dirt right in your path, use it, and fix your hole while moving the plot forward.

Does it really matter?

Maybe the plot hole you have is a hole because it wasn’t suppose to be in the book in the first place. It may need to just be removed when you go back to edit. If this is the case, then don’t feel like you need to rip it out in the middle of camp and lose those words for your word count. Changing, and even deleting stuff is all part of the revision process, and part of the writing process. Maybe what happened at the beginning of the book, or  a few chapters ago, isn’t right for the book anymore. That doesn’t matter. At the time it was relevant, at the time it helped you get words, and at the time, it helped you create the consistent habit of writing. So maybe those weren’t the right words, they still count and take credit for the work you put in. you can always fix it later, and maybe once you get a bit further in your story, you will find a way to implement one of the other two stratagies of dealing with plot holes. For today though, focus on getting your words written.

Progress as of this post:  10,013/19,500

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