April 29, 2015

The Layers of Hell that Dante Forgot

We've all been there - you're going along beautifully, creating the best written thing known to mankind when your computer crashes, the program falters, and you have that moment (or hours or days) of panic because even though everyone tells you to back up your manuscript it's been (a week? a month?) since you have.

This anguish (followed by the purgation of reformatting your computer) are the layers of Hell that Dante forgot to write about (that is, writer's hell).

You probably hear it often but I'll tell you once more. Don't be a fool. Back your work up. Create a system and stick to it.

If you're like me and you replace your computer every few years, you'll be thankful for this. Of if you're like me and you have a habit of buying cheap computers because the promise of a mail-in rebate is enticing (darn you marketing ploys you know me so well!) then you might find that when it breaks you're unable to retrieve your files. I lost tons of my music and ebooks that weren't saved elsewhere- not to fret - most of it was public domain and easy to find online but some of it was indie  and is no longer available on the internet. Learn from my mistakes. Invest in an external drive or use your cloud. Do what you have to do just make sure you save your projects in more than one place.

The moral of the story is- if it is digital and you don't want to lose it, back it up or there will be Hell to pay. 

April 16, 2015

Crafting Characters Like Clay

Image from Creative Commons
In biblical times there was a common Near Eastern image of the gods crafting humans with clay. There's also the fact that my sisters have been watching Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (where the villains and monsters are made of clay and are sent to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting teens). Anyway, I haven't been able to get this image out of my head and every time I sit to write the image is there- crafting characters from clay.

Being a writer is like being a potter. Like the gods of old, we craft our characters by hand, pushing and prodding at them until they take the form we want them to. We sit, silently, before them watching as they begin to transform under the guidance of our gentle touch. It can be a messy thing sometimes, at least, it is if you struggle with organization like I do. And when you finish, it must be put through the kiln. In the same way, our characters must be tried by fire.

Something many writers struggle with is "being a jerk" to their characters. That is, providing a deluge of problems that the character must wade through in order to emerge triumphant. But the more bitter his struggles, the more sweet his triumph will be. My recommendation is to not hold back. Be rude to your characters. Be a jerk. Be mean and torture them. Put your characters through Hell. It makes them stronger and without it your character is incomplete.

It is not enough to just create a great character - without their struggles and interactions with others they are incomplete. They must be put to the test, given time and subjected to the flames of trial and tribulation. Only then is the character, like your earthenware, finished.

HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors has an excellent article on crafting character arcs that I highly recommend.

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April 1, 2015

Writing Camp: A Nerd's Paradise

I've restructured the book and decided to begin in a different place
 (before the initial revolution) so the blurb is just a little off.
This is generally what I was thinking for the cover. Any thoughts?
April is upon us which means it is finally time for Camp Nano! For the last month or so I had planned on using this time to finish up the end of the (the first draft) for Book 1 and amp up the volume of Book 2 in my Fantasy series but as the date drew near I changed my mind. After a month or two of solid work on The Western Woman I decided that I needed a change of pace. Writing a massive series can be overwhelming and when the pressure becomes unbearable I try to switch to a different project to resist giving up on writing altogether.

This month, I've set a goal of 40,000 words for myself. I plan to write for one or two days then take a day to edit. Hopefully my end product will be better that way.

I'm taking a very different approach to In Hiding  with a more scene-based structure rather than my usual A.D.D. fluff that's all over the place. It's going a little slower but (so far) I think it has more potential than some of my previous projects. If I can keep with this structure (3-4 scenes per chapter with 1,000 - 2,000 words each scene) I will hopefully have a solid manuscript in need of minimal revision.

Another thing I've been working on has been to push through the scenes that I don't necessarily want to. I have a tendency to skip around and write a bit in the middle, a bit in the beginning, then back to the middle, to the end, back to the beginning, and so on and so forth. I have a loose idea of where I'm headed and though I do have some of the middle bits already written it should not be a huge issue getting from point A to point B.

Something I have found helpful is writing an outline of the next chapter (and scenes) before writing them. Rather than just saying everything exactly as it needs to be, I try to give myself options along the way (either they fight about this then she storms out or she leaves without noticing, comes back later and they fight, etc.)

I'm feeling more confident about this piece than I have about my previous pieces (not that I don't like my other writing, this piece just has a more commercial feel to it and I can see it being received much better than the other two).

I'll try to edit a few pieces and post some (perhaps next week).

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