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.

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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. 😀

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.

 

 

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

Note: This post is rather long and very rambly. Enjoy at your leisure (and at your own risk).

I recently (as in a few minutes ago) realized that today is New Year’s Eve Eve. For some reason, I thought it was farther away, but here it is, almost 2016. Since I’ll probably be spending tomorrow writing this short story thing (see here), as well as the usual New Year’s Eve traditions, I decided I’d write my end of the year post today. In which, I shall be writing about some of my accomplishments from this past year, as well as my goals and resolutions for next year (most of them being centered around writing).

Goodbye, 2015.

This has been a good year for me, and I’m sad to see it go. There were some sad spots and some stressed spots, but overall, looking back on it, it’s been a good year. I feel like I’ve come leaps and bounds in my writing since January, despite that the year felt so short. So, some of my accomplishments.

1. The 365K challenge. I accepted this challenge in late 2014, and it was to write 1,000 words every day for a whole year, thus resulting in 365,000 words. I didn’t write that much, but ultimately, taking this challenge changed my writing drastically.

Though I started NaNoWriMo and writing novels in 2013, I didn’t really do much in between NaNo sessions. I would write in April, July, and November, sparing a little bit of time in the middle to work on my novels, but never writing much more outside of those three months.

365K changed that. I started writing nearly every day, if not daily. It became a habit. It became part of who I was.

Now that I look back on it, remembering that there was once a day when writing didn’t mean so much to me is like trying to remember a strange dream, I’ve changed so much since then. It’s not just a hobby anymore, it’s now ingrained into my life. I don’t know if I could ever go back to the way I was before.

Though I won’t be doing 365K in 2016, due to that I should (hopefully) be doing some revising instead of writing, I’m so glad that I decided to do it this year. In total, I wrote 336,587 words, and in the end was only 28,413 words behind. I’m proud of myself for that.

2. NaNoWriMo. I love NaNoWriMo (a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month, if you haven’t heard of it). It was what first truly showed me my love of writing. I’ve been writing since as long as I can remember, but NaNoWriMo was what really got me started. So, of course, I’ve continued doing it.

In April, I participated in the first Camp NaNo of this year. I wrote 130 more words than my goal of 40,000 in a fantasy novel I tentatively titled The Blade, though I just call it my Riven novel, since the MC was a girl named Riven. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s in the works.

In July, I participated in the second Camp NaNo of this year. I finally came to my senses and realized I had way too many unfinished novels that needed attending to, so I started a project called A Thousand a Day, coinciding with the 365K challenge. I had a goal of 31,000 (a thousand a day), and had a total of 32,323 by the end of the month. I don’t know if it really helped all that much, but it helped some, at least.

In November, I wrote in the official NaNoWriMo and the YWP NaNoWriMo, writing an urban fantasy that was called Behind the Closet Door but shouldn’t be called that now, as that name doesn’t fit. However, I do still call it BCD when I refer to it. I wrote 53,016 words in it (or 53,017, depending on which site you look on), but haven’t touched it since.

Overall, NaNo was kind of crazy and I don’t know that my writing was even that good during it, but I love doing it anyway. It encourages me to write more, try harder, and also gives a sense of community that you don’t get when writing on your own. Besides, all rough drafts are bad, so who cares, anyway?

3. Finishing novels. I’ll tell you right off the bat, I’m not good at finishing novels. I like to chase after random plot bunnies, and I’m not the kind of person who can work on one thing at a time. I always have tons of writing projects going on at the same time, and, in short, I am a procrastinator.

However, this year I managed to actually finish two of my novels. Rough drafts, of course, but they are finished, and I’m pleased with that. In the two years before, I’d finished three novels (all of them shorter than these two), so this was a good improvement.

I first finished DotW, which is short for Daughter of the Wind. (I give all of my novels nicknames, so…be warned. For something. Something evil author-y, obviously.) I started writing that novel for NaNoWriMo in 2014, and finally finished that this June. I have to say, it was really, really nice to not have that hanging over my head anymore. I may revise it at one point, but it’s a mess. It involved time travel and I also didn’t plan much for it, so it did turn out really messy, heh. But it’s finally finished, so yay!

I also finished KT, which doesn’t actually have a title, but its two MCs are named Kai and Taira, which is why it has that nickname. I started this last December, and I wrote it in between NaNos. I wanted to finish it before this November’s NaNoWriMo, and I did — I finished it on Halloween. I’m not really sure what genre it is, somewhere between sci-fi and dystopia, but I liked writing it a lot, and I do have plans for it in the future.

While I didn’t actually finish any other novels, I came a lot closer to finishing some of them, like Riven. Of course, I did start several, but I promise I fought off as many plot bunnies as I could. (I won’t pinkie promise, though…)


I don’t know how well it showed up in all of that rambling, but I did progress a lot this year. I wrote more than I did before, finished more than I did before, and my writing improved a lot. So, yes, I am very satisfied with 2015, but I am also excited for 2016.

Hello, 2016.

I have a few writing goals for this new year, and thinking of all of them makes me feel very professional, hehe. (However, it probably fills you with dread for how much longer this post will go on. Too bad. The post must go on!)

1. Zel novel. This is a plot bunny idea I had just a few weeks ago and have been trying to nurture into health. And novel-ness. It’s a retelling of Rapunzel, beginning with Rapunzel La’arenal (a.k.a. Zel) as a foreign criminal, captured and kept in Davacas’s castle tower as her cell before she is to be executed for her crimes. When she escapes, however, Crennan Torvyr (a.k.a. Cren), a Davac soldier, chases after her in order to capture and bring her back to her cell, and to her death.

Well, that’s the premise, anyway. I’ve done a little bit of planning on the plot, but mostly I’ve been working on the world building (as well as a bit of character development). I’m planning to start work on the rough draft of this novel in early January, and I’ll probably be rambling about it a lot. I’m excited to write this draft, and we’ll see how it goes.

2. Revision of KT. You know that novel I finished up this year? That weird, half sci-fi, half dystopia one? Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to revise/rewrite it this year. I’ve never actually revised one of my novels before, so this will be exciting. Despite my inexperience, I do have a few things I already know can be changed, and I really am excited to change this rough draft into a much better second draft. I’ll probably be blogging about this quite a bit when I do it too, so be ready.

3. KT 2. Which is the best nickname I’ve been able to come up for KT’s sequel. After all, it’s still about Kai and Taira, and considering neither have an actual title, I’m calling it KT 2 right now. Anyhow, I’m planning on writing the sequel to KT, if you hadn’t already figured that out from the above sentences, and I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be about, but I’m going to write it anyway. (Okay, so I have a few ideas, but not many.)

This will actually be the first sequel I’ve written (aside from the sequel to my first novel ever, both of which were pretty horribly written), so this will be interesting. I’m glad I feel excited enough about one of my novels to actually write a sequel to them, and that gives me hope for the future of KT.

4. NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do NaNo again. Yup.

5. Finishing novels. Again, this is going to be a priority for me. I want to finish some of the novels I’ve started, like Riven and AAA and ICS. And some others, of course. There are always more novels that I can finish…


Yep, I have some plans for 2016. Hopefully I can get even more done than that, but so far, that’s what I have, and I’ll do my best to reach those goals.

I now formally welcome in 2016. *drones on in long speech, finishing in a ritual that involves good food, music, and some magical words that sound like they’re in another language which also sounds kinda like pig latin.

“Elcomeway ootay uhthay oonay earyay!”


Utway areay oaryay oonay earsyay esolutionsray anday oaryay olday earsyay achievementsay?