Writing the Muddle

We’ve reached the second week of November which also makes it the second week of NaNoWriMo. So far, I have met my daily writing goals every day. I must admit there were times when I was typing up words just to increase my word count when a few words sufficed. Needless to say, Clan of Blood (the current title) is going to have a lot of edits.

Currently, I have written past any scenes that I had planned out before hand. There are two events that I know I can write next. However, I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen after those two scenes. A part of me feels like I’m dragging this story out because I’m more focused on the word count than the actual plot. Yet, another part reminds me that there’s still plenty of days and words left to finish writing Clan of Blood.

While writing the entire book is my goal for this NaNoWriMo, I’m not going to force myself on this path. I don’t want to restrict myself on adding anything or skipping over a scene because I’m only focusing on the end – that I need to reach the end of the novel by November 30th.

As I write this, I realize that I’m having trouble writing the middle. Or how I’ve heard it referred to ‘the muddle’.  I find the middle hard to write. Maybe it’s because the plot isn’t quite working or I haven’t planned it out correctly. Or maybe it’s got nothing to do with any of that. I’m having trouble mostly because the ending isn’t clear to me just yet. Granted, I haven’t really thought about it and that should be (and is) the next step for me.

However, I’ve written other novels, and with those, I’ve learned a few tricks. I tend to ask myself. ‘How can I make the characters struggle a bit more?’ I can’t make it too easy because otherwise there wouldn’t be interesting. Life is a struggle even on the page.

I also think about how to raise the tension which also comes hand in hand with conflict. With dynamic characters that have opposite goals and/or contradicting view points, having conflict isn’t that difficult. One person wants to use the amulet to seal a demon portal. The other person wants to use the amulet to remove a curse and the amulet only has one usage.

The middle could also be used to add subplots, include obstacles, etc. The one thing that I tend to keep in mind is how to get to the end. I want the scenes in the book to matter. They have to all lead to the end. Even though they may twist and turn, everything must count because what’s the use of adding something if it doesn’t play into the story? Every scene has to move the story forward. Otherwise, the story stops and it doesn’t go anywhere. I like to avoid that at all cost. If I’m not interested in writing and it gets boring for me then why would my readers want to read it? At least, that’s what I think.

And ultimately, it’s a rough draft. It can be a very rough first draft and that’s okay. Things can be changed later, they can be deleted, other things can be added, that’s the beauty (and horror) of editing. Just write. And worry about everything else later.

 

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NaNoWriMo – Skipping Scenes

Day three and 5k words down, 45k to go. For some reason, it’s getting harder and harder to write those 1,600 or so words each day. It probably has to do with the fact that I don’t usually write the same amount of words each day. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m still working on rewriting Crimson Queen through the month of November or that I’m updating my Wattpad story on a weekly basis. I seem to have put too much on my plate. What can I say? I’m an overachiever at times.

I almost want to count my word count of those stories but I won’t. Personally, I think that would be cheating on my part. It’s just this mentality that I have where all 50k words must be part of one story as oppose to other projects. It’s just my way of thinking. For better or worse, I’m going to keep doing this until I can’t anymore.

Today, however, I will say that I was surprised by my story. Let me explain. As I struggled to continue the story from where I stop yesterday, a different and unrelated scene came to my head. It had nothing to do with the main story. I still don’t know if I’ll include it in the final draft but I’m not worried about that. I just knew that my mind wasn’t as exhausted after a long work week as I thought it would be and proved to me that there were still some creative juices up there. I put these creative juices to good use.

Writing a story doesn’t have to be linear. It is okay to skip around or take a break from the main story. When a story becomes painful to write and pulling out air is the next stage, something has to change. I’ve had this happened to me many times. I’ve gotten so stressed out about continuing the story that I don’t give myself a chance to take a deep breath and step back. Today, however, it was different.

For the second half of my daily writing goal, I typed up an emotionally charged scene between my two main characters. My fingers flew across the keyboard and my wrists started to hurt but I didn’t stop. This scene was important to me and my characters. I had to put it on ‘paper’ before I forgot. While the story didn’t progress much, I got to try an extra seven hundred words just for writing an unplanned scene. The words just poured out of me and I didn’t care if it related to the main story or not. I was skipping scenes and that was fine.

If writing unplanned scenes is something that gets me to write and discover my characters and more of my plot then so be it because eventually, those scenes can link together to become a cohesive story.  Some scenes may not be used but at least I wrote something. I gave the writer and creator inside me an opportunity to create and step away from the story that had started to ‘bog’ me down.

It works with writer’s block too. You’re not sure how the story will progress so why not put your characters in another situation, in another scene, and see what happens? It doesn’t even have to be part of the story. Not really. What if they would have done something completely different at the beginning of the story? Where would they be now? How would the rest of the story work out? Not only do you get distance from the current story and give your mind a break, but it might just help get those creative juices flowing again.

You’re still writing. You’re using those characters and world. Nothing has changed. Not really. It almost feels like writing fanfiction. Almost.

In the end, different methods work for different people. One way may work better for one person than another. It’s all a matter of how you write. Will I be using these extra words towards my daily word count? Yes I will.

Eve of NaNoWriMo

If someone were to ask me if I was ready for NaNoWriMo, I would say no. It doesn’t matter if this was my first time or ten times. I don’t think I would ever be ready to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve done before in the past but it hasn’t been easy. My spare time goes to typing up the daily goal and if I’m lucky, I’ll have enough time in the day to relax before going to bed and getting ready for the next day and all the responsibilities that require my attention.

Thinking back to all my previous attempts of NaNoWriMo (including Camp NaNoWriMo), I have never really written a novel. Not really. I’ve written 50,000 words towards an idea that I really wanted to develop. It’s not a novel until I go in there and try to salvage whatever I can from it. Sometimes, I have to start from scratch. Even though I plan to write the second installation of the Half-Blood series, I won’t be writing a novel. In those 50,000 words, I’m going to try to write something that I can salvage at the end of it all.

While I have experience in writing 50k words in a month, there are some tips that I’ve come to learn that work for me.

  1. Carrying spare paper/notebook. 

I don’t like to limit myself to working on my daily goal only on a computer/laptop. When I get a few moments, I’d like to jot down a couple of sentences here and there. Personally, I like to think about the direction I want the story to go and imagine possible scenes in my head. If end up thinking of a really good scene, I write down a summary of the scene and the key points I want to include just so I won’t forget anything.

2. Time Frame

Choosing a time that I can write is very helpful because I am able to only focus on writing. I’ve never really had to turn my WiFi off but if I had to, I would find an online app that shuts off my internet access until I hit my daily goal. Most importantly, don’t let anyone interrupt your writing time. Once it happens, the ‘golden time’ is subject to change at a moment’s notice. This has happened to me before and I have fallen behind on multiple accounts. Catching up is brutal.

3. Notecards

There are times when I have no idea how the story is going to progress. Writing scenes on notecards have steered me away from writer’s block. I rather have a scene to write than to have nothing. Notecards give me a visual tool to let me rearrange the story as many times as I need without changing anything in the document.

4. Keep Writing

There have been times when I have had no motivation to write. I’ve had to force myself to write. Even if everything made no sense and nothing was coming out like I wanted it to, I kept writing. The goal is to write 50k words. The goal is not to have anything make sense. That comes later. It’s not something you need to worry about now.

5. No Editing

Say no to the voice in your head. Now is the time for creativitity not editing. It’s going to take a few days getting used to it. Even for me but it can be done.

Lastly, for anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure going to need it.

Writing A Sequel for NaNoWriMo

Tips and thoughts on writing the second installation in a series.

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I still haven’t gotten ready for it. I will say that I have decided to work on the second installation of the Half-Blood series simply because the second book needs to be written and I really want to go back to that world. Plus, it helps that I really enjoy making my character’s lives miserable and difficult.

Now, writing a book in a series can be tricky. One piece of advice I read long ago said that the second book needs to be able to stand alone. I took this as meaning that the book has to have its own plot and the story can still work even if someone hadn’t read the first book. K.M. Weiland has a fantastic article about how to write a sequel that’s better than the first.

One of the points the article makes is whether or not there is enough content for a second story. This also includes having new ideas so the second book is entirely different from the first. Without much content to go on or new ideas, writing can be difficult. I often come across this problem when I haven’t developed an idea well enough. Ultimately, that is what it is, an idea.

When I wrote the first book, I didn’t plan to write a series. However, as I revised the first draft and the second draft, and even the third draft, that is when I began to make the world deeper and richer with lore. I can’t really say how it all came together. All I can say is that when I thought of the ending to the series it made perfect sense. I won’t include any spoilers but I can say that I began to think of what needed to happen to get to that ending. As I developed this idea, new content sprung up. I knew I needed to leave some loose-ends in the first story.

Granted, having a story bible really helped out because that way, I could keep track of all the little tidbits of information that I could expand upon at a later time. It did take some planning on my part. I doubt I could add such complexity to the plot without planning it out first.

Another point the article makes: what are the consequences? Loose-ends are rarely tied in a perfect bow. Personally, I find a story more interesting if they are questions left, and as long as they are answered in the second book or down the line, that is fine by me. Since I left loose-ends in the first book and didn’t quite explain too much on something, it left me with the opportunity to expand on it in this book. Plus, thanks to the events of the first book, there are a lot of consequences and domino effects that I have to work with. The one thing I like to keep in mind is that an action has a reaction and that can be said for anything.

Lastly, let’s not forget character arcs. By the end of the first book, one of my main characters, Alastair, has gone through a change but that’s not the end of his character arc. Renelle, my other main characters, also undergo changes but it hasn’t come full circle just yet. Of course, I still have to do a lot to do for other character’s and their arcs.

However, when it has been all said and done, if the first book doesn’t get picked up then writing the second installment could be seen as a waste of time and effort. With this in mind, maybe writing another book is the better idea but even so, I feel that the Half-Blood series needs to be written. It’s begging to be told which is why I will continue to write the series even if it takes a while for the story to be picked up or even if it never does. Luckily for me, I have plenty of novel ideas I can work with.

 

NaNoWriMo Approaches and a Few Updates

There’s only a week and a half left before NaNoWriMo and I still haven’t started planning and plotting out my story yet. Before, I wanted to write the second installation of the Half-Blood series (I’m trying to publish the first one) but now, I’m not so sure. Mostly it’s because I have another story I’m working on and continuing to work on that one through November seems like a really good idea. Then again, knowing myself, I’ll probably be working on two stories at a time.

I have a problem. I want to do too much at a time. That’s my flaw as a writer. And you know what they say, the first step is to realize you have a problem. Saying that I will focus on the second installation of the Half-Blood series. Luckily for me, I do have some part of the book planned out and I know where the book is headed. Granted, I don’t know how it’s going to end but  – actually, as I type this I just figured out how the second book is going to end – it shouldn’t be a problem. Am I going to say what it is? No. I am not. That scene can change and I don’t want to be restrained to only one possibility.

On another note, there are a few exciting things that have happened. Well, one isn’t entirely exciting. I got another response to a query I sent out . . . my manuscript was rejected. I’m not exactly discouraged but I can’t help but question my ability as a writer. I’m not the greatest and I strive to improve because that’s all I can do.

All I have to do is keep finding other agents and go back to my manuscript. Sure, I thought about the possibility that I might have to abandon this story and query something else. Yet, I want to be stubborn and continue to send out queries.

I’ve been working with Sarah Pesce and I’ve gotten really helpful comments on the first twenty pages of my manuscript. I still have those 8k words to send her and maybe I’ll even have her take a look at the entire manuscript. There are possibilities. At this point, all I have to do is keep pushing forward and hope for the best.