Zel Update: Dedication Revelation

You’ve seen those people. Maybe you even are one of those people. The ones who have a passion and work toward bringing that passion to other people, often sharing their progress through blogs or social media or other things that you stalk, watching as it just seems so easy for them to get so much done.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people–the people that are so dedicated to what they do. But it seems like I never reach that point with my writing, or, really, with anything else. In fact, most of the time, I don’t even want to open up my novel, let alone write in it.

Well, on Monday I had a little revelation on how they do it. You see, lately I’ve been having troubles writing in my Zel novel. I hardly write in it, and when I do, I’m forcing myself through until I can say, “I’ve written x amount of words, now I can be done.”

And on Monday, it just came to me: the reason behind why those people can be so dedicated, and why I didn’t want to write in my novel. I started writing when I had this thought, and here is what I wrote about it.

The key to being productive is not in words or time or amounts or how well something is written.

It’s in how well you enjoy it. It’s in those silly scenes that have no purpose but make you laugh, and those deep, emotional scenes where you touch a part of your characters’ hearts that you’ve never seen before. It’s in that love that makes you come back to the story again and again and again.

So don’t box yourselves in with rules and thoughts that your writing has to be good. It doesn’t! It has to be you, and if it’s pure you, it will be good, because you are good. It will be unique, because you are unique. And it’ll be just the slightest bit weird, because aren’t we all a little bit weird?

But that weirdness, that quirkiness, that’s what draws us in and makes us relate. That’s where our love of the story comes in, our love of the characters and the plot and all the aspects of the book — from an original love of writing it.

So love it. Don’t say it has to be good, say it has to be you, because you are the best thing that could ever happen to your novel. You’re the only one who can write it your way.

Throw away anything you don’t like. If it doesn’t make you excited, or make you itch to write the story, throw it out! Make something new up and replace it with excitement and happiness.

Yes, your novel will be a tangled mess of plot strings and holes and half-finished characters, but it’ll be a tangled mess that you will love.

And that is the most important thing.

That’s the secret–love! So simple, so pure, and yet…somehow not so easy. I’ve been losing sight of loving my novel, instead worrying about needing to write enough words every day, or making sure my characters are portrayed right, or making sure it’s actually good.

I’ve stopped focusing on love, and so instead of growing to love this novel, I think I’ve grown away from loving it. Loving someone, or something, is a choice more than a reaction. You don’t just love someone automatically, you have to spend a lot of time trying to get to know them and befriend them before love can be cultivated. I’m sorry to break it to you, all you Disney fans, but love at first sight desn’t actually exist.

Because of my lack of effort on trying to love my Zel novel, right now I honestly don’t love it. For some reason, even though I’ve written things that when I look back on them are really good, I didn’t end up loving them. I still don’t really love Zel and Cren very much. I don’t love the setting or the plot or the characters. It’s all just me trying to remember why I loved writing so much.

Bu the great thing is that it’s not to late for me to learn how to love this novel. I only have 30,000 words written, so there’s at least 50,000 words to go. I have time to become so infatuated with this novel that I can’t help but tell everyone about it.

On Monday, after I realized this, I went to my Zel novel and wrote a scene. A really silly, short scene, with a conversation between Zel and Cren that really amused me. One of the lines nearly made me giggle out loud (and I would’ve, if there weren’t other people in the room), and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed while writing. Maybe a snicker once or twice to myself, but never this urge to giggle because I thought something was actually funny.

I may not use it later on, but it’s the embodiment of the point I’m trying to get across. It was my writing and my really bad humor, and I enjoyed it so much. Because of that, I now truly love that scene.

So now it’s time for me to stop worrying about all the things my Zel novel needs to be, and just write it for what it isand for it wants to become. I think the final result will be well worth my effort.


Zel Update: Getting Unstuck

First of all, the Mini NaNo. Yeah. Heh. Well, I didn’t get to my goal on it, so I guess that kind of failed, but I still wrote 7,000 words in one week, which is more than I was writing before, so it sort of did accomplish my goal.

During the middle of the Mini NaNo, I had a bit of writer’s block. Or maybe something else–whatever you want to call it, I just couldn’t write the scene I was working on. I couldn’t really write anything.

I’ve been stuck before in my writing, and usually I just keep writing random stuff until I get to a point where I feel unstuck again, but this time I didn’t feel like that would work.  Either that, or I didn’t want to continue slogging through this sludgy writing.

So I became unstuck. It took a little over an hour of rambling to some friends, but it was really quite simple to fix. It followed this simple formula:

  1. Find out the problem or inconsistency.
  2. Understand how to make the problem or inconsistency correct again.
  3. Go back and begin writing where the problem began, this time using the correct way you developed in step 2.

So, it seems simple, but how does one go about doing this? Well, here’s how I began. As I was rambling to my friends, I started by listing some things that seemed to be off about my writing, even if I wasn’t so sure why they were off.

Take a wild guess at who happened to be off? Yup, it was Cren. *glares fondly* is glaring fondly possible? Okay, Zel was being problematic too, I guess, but I enjoy glaring at Cren. Actually, *glares at both of them*.

Right. So after I did some glaring at my characters, I decided to ramble a bit about what I felt was wrong with them at the moment. First I talked about Zel, and then I talked about Cren for a while, exploring what I knew about their personalities and how they were acting now.

The problem was that they were both acting way too nice to each other.

I’d already decided that Cren was judgmental, so he wouldn’t suddenly start being nice to Zel, who he’s only known as a murderer. And Zel is so determined to further her own purposes that the only reason she’d be nice to Cren is if she wanted something from him.

Next, I followed step 2: how to make the problem right again. Pretty much, the answer was to express their true views of each other better by having their words, thoughts, and actions be not quite so nice, since that’s what they’d normally do.

Most of step 2 I kind of skipped until I was actually writing again, but just getting into my characters’ skins and thinking about how they think and act helped me do this.

And step 3. That was problematic, because while the problem had worsened over the last 1000 words, this odd niceness had been going on for chapters. And this was a first draft–one of those things you’re supposed to write as quickly as you can to get the story out before even thinking about making it nice.

Going back several chapters and starting writing again from there was not going to work, not if I wanted to finish by April (which is hopefully still happening, but aahahhh I’m not sure on that).

Instead, I wrote a note to myself, explaining that when I revised those past few chapters I would need to use Cren and Zel’s correct personalities, and from now on I would be. And then I tried to write, pretending I’d fixed it.

That was kind of hard for me, since I write very chronologically, and a lot of what I write in later chapters is based on or has references to earlier chapters, so just pretending that I wrote an entire section seemed difficult when it hadn’t actually happened and I had no real material to draw from when I continued writing.

So I switched a few things, though only a few. I did decide to restart the chapter I was on instead of continuing with the horrible few hundred I’d already written, and I did change from Zel’s POV to Cren’s POV, since it seemed to fit better.

But once I started writing, it worked out really, really well. Zel and Cren’s conversation (or I should say “argument”) flowed together way better than they had before, and the chapter was overall much easier to write.

I think the hour that I spent following that formula was more productive than spending two hours or more continuing to write in false personalities for my characters. Taking the time to think about who my characters really were helped me write better, and I recommend the formula for anyone who is feeling stuck in writing. It really does help.

Oh, and one more Zel update for those of you who are more romantically-minded. I was writing on my google doc, and wrote a sentence that started with, “Walking over to Cren, Zel…”

“Cren, Zel” got underlined with red. When I clicked to see what the suggestion was, it gave me “Crenzel”, but when I looked to see if there was a definition for that, there wasn’t one.

It’s meant to be…even Google wants “Crenzel” to be their ship name. 😀

Instituting the Mini NaNo

First off, my apologies for not posting earlier. I’ve been kind of busy, but I’m back now! Secondly, for those who tagged me for the Infinity Dreams post, I will get to that soon, I just wanted to post this first. And now, onto the post.

Along with not writing blog posts, I also really haven’t been doing well at writing in my Zel novel. Yeah, woohoo, 14,000 words in 4-5 weeks. Yayyyy. I know I can pound out 50,000 words or more in that amount of time, so I haven’t really been satisfied.

So I decided to do a Mini NaNo.

First, you should know what NaNo is. It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, where you…write a novel/50,000 words in a month, usually November. It’s pretty much a challenge against yourself to get your first draft done as quickly as you can, and then go back and revise it later. (Not that I’ve ever really done the revising thing before, but I will. Soon.) You can learn more about it here, or here if you’re under 18.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for three years now, as well as Camp NaNoWriMo which takes place in April and July. It is fantastic for getting your first draft done and I love it, but usually after the first week, I get a little tired of my story.

So I decided, why not challenge myself to a shorter NaNo where I wouldn’t get tired of my story–it being only a week long? And thus came to be the Mini NaNo.

Originally, I planned on calling it “7 Days of NaNo”, and I even made a little picture thingy for it.

7 Days of NaNo

But Mini NaNo was easier to say, so I just went with that.

So what are the terms of Mini NaNo? Well, the default is 7 days, 10,000 words in one novel. Of course, depending on writing speed/rate of story boredom/other factors, the WCG (word count goal) and the length can change.

Anyway, it’s a fun little way to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time, and I’ve done it a few times already, so I decided to do it for my Zel novel. I started yesterday, and as you can see on the sidebar of the blog, I’ve already written over 3,000 words! *pats self on back*

The best part was that while I was writing yesterday, some really exciting stuff happened, and it was a super fun chapter to write. I’m really glad this Mini NaNo is off to a great start, and I’m looking forward to lots more words in my Zel novel to come.

Also, if any of y’all would want to do a Mini NaNo this week as well, I’d love some company… *hinthint*

Zel Update: Entering the Unknown

Lately I’ve been procrastinating from my Zel novel, which is a problem. While I’ve written just over 7,000 words already, and I’m really proud of those three chapters, over the past few days, I just haven’t been able to get myself to start writing Chapter Four.

It’s in part because I have no idea what’s going to happen next. But that’s never stopped me before. I’ve written plenty of words and chapters and scenes that are absolutely meaningless because I didn’t have a single idea about what to do next.

The other part of my problem is that my first three chapters turned out great. I planned them, and they actually turned out well. And that’s set a precedent for the rest of my chapters, when that’s not what I should be worried about.

What I really should be worried about is just writing down some “first draft bilge”, as my dad calls it.

Yes, it’s good to have high goals. But it’s not good to have goals that are so high you can’t ever achieve them, or that you’ll feel like a complete and utter failure if you don’t reach them.

It’s like my grades at school. I’m a straight A student, and that’s what’s expected from me. Not just from other people, but most of all from myself. I’ve told myself over and over again that I’m an A student, and the sad thing is that I would probably go way overboard with emotional stuff if I got a B in a class.

But it goes beyond just the grades. I can’t turn an assignment in late–I just can’t. So even on projects when I have absolutely no time to get anything done because of this and that going on, as well as my procrastination, and so on and so forth, I have to finish them the night before. So I stay up late and work as hard as I can just so that I can know it’s in on time, even in classes where late work is accepted.

Tests, oral reports, quizzes, whatever it is, I worry and stress over it way more than is needed. Yeah, grades are important, school is good, but it shouldn’t completely take over my life.

My writing of this novel is starting to go in that direction. I’m starting to feel like this chapter has to be good, and that thought has stopped me from writing it. I don’t want to mess up what I’ve already done and make the story terrible.

But what good is a story that isn’t told?

Everyone makes mistakes, in every aspect of life. It’s not something we can stop or change, and it extends even to writing.

I’m going to write Chapter Four, even if I have absolutely no idea what to write it about, because I don’t want to get stuck in this thought process that it all has to be good. Maybe it’ll turn out bland, but that’s okay. I’m supposed to enjoy and love this experience of writing, and I want to tell this story.

So I will.

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

I think I’ve finished the prep for my Zel novel. Over 50 pages of handwritten notes, plus 20 typed, as well as many rambles written to my friends on the YWP site. Worldbuilding, characterization, a few preliminary scenes here and there, and a very basic plot.

Okay, so maybe the plot could still use some more work, but I don’t want to wait while claiming “I’m not ready” if I’ll never be ready. I’ve already found things that need more development, and I haven’t even started yet. I could take ages working on the prep for this novel, with meticulous world building and fully developed characters, and still never get to a point where I felt ready to begin.

Of course, most of us do need to prep, to a point. I’ve written plenty of novels where I haven’t done any prep at all, and to be honest, they didn’t turn out as well as they could have, if I had just planned a little bit more.

But, at the same time, we can’t stay prepping forever. I’ve heard that there’s a fine line between editing your novel and just procrastinating doing anything with it, and I think this applies well to novel prep as well. Once you’ve reached a certain point, you just have to dive in instead of testing the waters with your toe.

I’m not sure where that fine line is for me. Maybe I could continue prepping a little longer and then begin, but I’d rather err on the side of having a little bit more revision to do than on the side of procrastination.

So I’m going to start writing the first draft. And if this one doesn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, there’ll be room for a second draft, and a third, and a fourth, and as many drafts as are needed to fix it up and make it right.

I’ve decided I’m finished counting down. So, ready or not, here I come!

Ogres Are Like Onions, and so Are Our Characters

If there’s one scene I remember from Shrek, it’s the one where they’re walking through the onion patch and Shrek says that ogres are like onions. (I mostly remember that because I was amused by the donkey talking about parfaits right afterward.) Why, exactly, are ogres like onions? Well, because they have layers.

Recently, I’ve been trying to get some background info on my Zel novel before I start it, and over the past few days, I’ve been working on my character creation and development.

Now, I’m not one to fill out endless charts of character sheets before I write a novel. In fact, most of my characters’ personalities are exactly the same in each novel due to my lack of planning. Most of my novels also take place in white rooms where I make up the plot as I go along.

Okay, so I’m still making up the plot as I go along, but I have done a lot of world building, and some character development, though Cren refused to cooperate for a little while.

Zel was easy to figure out. She’s a criminal, but not only that, she knows how to lie and manipulate people, showing a different face to everyone she meets in order to gain what she wants. Trying to pinpoint her true personality was a little bit difficult, but after a little bit of backstory planning, I figured out that she’s actually introverted and loves learning. Who knew, right? Frying pans! Who knew, right?

Cren, my other MC, was much, much more stubborn. I couldn’t figure him out for a long time. (Actually, whether or not I’ve figured him out yet is a point left up to debate.) From the two scenes I’d written, as well as the ones I’d imagined in my mind, there were so many different qualities he could have, and I couldn’t figure out which ones he actually was. I wasn’t sure if he could be prejudiced and still be kind. Could he be prideful and still respect other people?

So instead of figuring out who on earth Cren really was, I decided to read my Brandon Sanderson book. (One day, I’m going to have to do a blog post on Sanderson. He’s awesome.) Cren was in the back of my mind while I was reading, and, don’t ask me how, but somehow Words of Radiance made me realize something: people have layers too.

Okay, also don’t ask me how I didn’t figure this out before, but I finally realized that Cren could be all of those things. After all, we’re different around different people. Human beings are so complex. Cren is jealous of others, but still has a good heart, and is honest. He’s confident, maybe overly so, and stubborn, but he will accept that he was wrong after some time to think about it.

I still had to do more thinking, and interview my characters some, before I really figured out who Cren was, but what came first was dispelling my strange belief that characters could only be one thing or the other, not both.

Of course, I still have a long ways to go in learning how to create realistic characters, but this was definitely a learning point for me. My characters don’t have to be onion clones of each other–or of other characters from other books! What a revelation, heh. Now I’m imagining the Clone Wars with onions…

From now on out, I’m going to do better with developing my characters and making them real, layered, and onion-y.