Posted in Fantasy Fiction, Fiction Writing, Writing

April Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 & Writer’s Nerves

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Tomorrow is the first of April (beware April Fool’s Day), and also the first day of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo for 2015.

What is NaNoWriMo?

For anyone who hasn’t heard about NaNoWriMo, this stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is held every November, and challenges writers to join a community with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel within 30 days.

The first time I heard about it, I thought it was nuts and that I was nuts for signing up for it. But not only did I manage to write over 50K words my first NaNoWriMo of 2002, but I went on to win the challenge for 11 years total. During that time, I completed a four-novel fantasy series, Dreigiau, and started on my shorter form loose fiction, Runne.

It took me this many years of 50K to finish all of Dreigiau.
It took me this many years of 50K to finish all of Dreigiau.

I wrote a good deal of that back when I was in college, but once I started working full time, trying to swing a NaNoWriMo, especially during a crazy November month, became more difficult. When I heard about Camp NaNoWriMo, which has much more lax rules, and is held during spring and summer months, I decided to switch to writing during these events instead.

I like that you can set your own word count – I choose to do 25K words, but to do it twice a year for a total of 50K words. You also get assigned to your own little cabin – a group of writers who are also taking the challenge, often put together based on a common writing interest (mine are fantasy writers, for example). During the month, your cabin mates are there to discuss progress, encourage each other, and work as a sounding board through frustrating times.

And while this is geared towards fiction writing, you could take this challenge for any kind of writing, I’m sure. So if you’re interested in taking part and challenging yourself, there’s still time to sign up at the site! If you miss it in April, there’s another in July.

Chances are, since I’m participating, I’ll probably be blogging a good bit less during April. Unless it inspires me to write more about the process, somehow. XD

This Year…

 

Camp-Participant-2015-Square-ButtonI’m a little on the nervous side to be writing fiction again, especially since I haven’t visited my story, Runne, for way over a year. Last year, I skipped writing for Runne because I was stuck at a plot point that I didn’t know how to overcome. Over the past Christmas holiday, Syn and I brainstormed a ton of great ideas. I just have to figure out how to move the stopping point from the last chapter I wrote to mesh with these ideas, and that has me a little frazzled.

But I always get the nerves right before a NaNo event. Then, once I’m in there and writing, things somehow seem to work themselves out in unforeseen ways…

Is anyone else writing this year? If so, good luck! 

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2013 was my last official November NaNoWriMo. I’ve done Camp NaNo since last year.

 

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing

Never Write a Boring Chapter: Tapping into Your Noob Characters

There’s something about that noob character that can turn a mundane, boring chapter into a wonder-fest. They approach a situation that may seem completely normal with the wide-eyed perspective of new-ness and awe. Because of this, they’re a great tool for a writer to use when approaching a hard-to-write “boring” chapter.

Make it All New Again

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Bilbo from The Hobbit

Are you or your characters completely uninspired by a specific situation or location? Do you need to write a boring meeting chapter? Maybe you DO feel inspired about a setting or situation, and you want the reader to connect to it the same way that you do.

Writing from the perspective of someone who has never been to a place or experienced a situation is a perfect way to drum up a sense of wonder, even for things that are already normal to you or other characters. When you put yourself into the shoes of a noob character, you can tap into the feeling someone gets when they first see the great sprawling city, the mysterious magic school, the sailing (or flying) ships, or the strange creatures or races that inhabit your world.

If you choose to write from the point of view of a child or child-like character, the character may also provide details and thoughts that wouldn’t occur to you when writing from a more experienced point of view. These types of characters also tend to provide a sense of honesty, sometimes being absolutely forthright with what’s good or bad about a situation.

Connecting with your Reader

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Bilbo from The Hobbit

There’s a reason that The Hobbit was written from the point of view of Bilbo instead of Thorin or Gandalf. The reader, much like Bilbo, has probably never been on a journey across Middle Earth, through Mirkwood to challenge a dragon at the Lonely Mountain. Because of that, the reader can better connect to the less experienced character, since the reader has just as much to learn about Middle Earth as Bilbo does.

In the same way, choosing a less experienced character for certain scenes can turn what might have been a ho-hum narrative from your grizzled veteran into an exploration of delight and curiosity for the reader. It gives the reader a common ground with the the noob character in your tale.

Likewise, it also makes it easier for you, as a writer, to explore, imagine and become excited with a chapter that you may have previously expected to be dull.

Ben’s Arrival on the Blue Planet

Ben is a character I developed who has a child-like fascination with everything around him, especially in the earlier days. That’s something I try to capture and hold on to, even as he’s developed and matured over the years.

It’s a lot of fun for me to jump into his shoes and try to see the human world from his perspective. Ben makes a lot of observations about the human race, often pointing out what is very normal for you and I with a note of curiosity or a sigh. It’s a great way to develop his personality while filling the reader in on the setting and the world’s culture.

For example, when Ben arrives on the Blue Planet for the first time in Chapter 1 of Darkstar, what was a normal, sunny day for us was an explosion of life, energy and song for Ben.

Grass spread its carpet at his feet. Trees shot up around him, looming tall over his head. A distant symphony played on the newly-budded spring leaves. A vast dome of blue sky sparkled further above. Soft drifts of powdered white meandered idly upon its face, leaving trails of mystery across his sight.

As his feet touched the solid earth, a song rose within his ears. A sense of familiarity drove his memory back to its origins. He found himself unable to do anything more than stare into the yawning heavens.

There was nothing magical happening here. He’s simply observing his homeworld for the first time in many years. But to his senses, which tap into the life-flow of everything around him, it was like a symphony of color, light and feeling.

So whenever you’re faced with what seems to be a “boring” chapter, see if you can’t get some help from your noob characters. This allows you find a sense of wonder that you may not even realize is there — because your world, cultures and people are beautiful and new to someone (including the reader).

Do you have any noob characters in your story? Do they help you write by lending you their perspective? Do you forget to tap into them and use their point of view as an opportunity? 

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing

Never Write a Boring Chapter: Let the Character Take Control

In previous posts, I explored tackling those “boring chapters” that pop up in your story by either skipping or pushing through them. In this series, I want to argue that you can change what seems like a boring chapter into something that’s fresh, maybe even exciting, depending on how you change your own outlook and approach to it.

I’ve Never Met a Boring Chapter

Let me pose a question. If a chapter is indeed so boring that you can’t bring yourself to write it, does it really need to be written? I mean, if you’re completely bored with it, and you’re the one creating it, chances are, it’s going to bore your readers, too.

So what can you do about this? Well, first analyze the chapter and determine if you should write it at all. Is it something you can summarize without effecting the story flow? If so, cut it and move on. However, if you deem it important enough to write, it’s time to change your mind about the chapter to make it something more exciting for you and your reader.

How do you do this? Stay tuned as this series provides several options, starting with the most basic: character building!

Character Building

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SoYa and AsaHi from Runne

Do you have a lull in your story’s action? A looming chapter with the chance of boredom? It’s a perfect time to build character!

 

This is not something you want to spend the whole chapter doing. But if, for example, your character is walking down the street, and you want to give the impression of time passing, you can take the opportunity to get in the character’s head for a little while.

I suggest a bit of free writing at this point. Leave your expectations at the door, and just let your character think and observe and mull over his feelings for a while. This offers the chance for you to learn more about your character, and even gives the reader a glimpse inside as well. I find some of my most unexpected plot turns hinge on moments when I allowed my characters to talk to me a little while.

SoYa: An Example

When I first started writing my fantasy series, Dreigiau, I didn’t know a lot about one of the main characters, SoYa. I didn’t spend time developing him before I started writing. I had a sense of his basic starting personality — I knew he was somewhat timid, but he took his responsibilities seriously, and had the potential to be much more than he allowed himself to be. I didn’t understand what held him back. I didn’t even know he was a mind mage at that point! Once I did discover this fact, his character suddenly unfolded in front of me in so many unexpected directions.

SoYa revealed this to me in what is now Dreigiau Book 1, Chapter 2o. This was actually a much earlier chapter in the original version, but was moved to be mid-book in the newest revision.

I was writing a chapter where SoYa just returned to his home town, excited to tell his brother his newest discovery. His brother wasn’t home, so he spent some time walking through the town searching for him.

Rather than just skip this part completely, I allowed SoYa the freedom to look for his brother in the method he’d choose. To my surprise, he quickly displayed his ability to use mind magic for the first time by using a small spell that scanned the city to find the mind-feel of his brother’s location.

What followed went something like this…

Me: Wait. You’re a mind mage?

SoYa: Yeah.

Me: Why didn’t you tell me before?

SoYa: Because I don’t tell anyone about it. It’s a secret.

Me: How come?

SoYa: Well, people are scared of mind mages in this world — they’re considered to be a bad thing. My father told me to keep my power a secret, no matter what.

Me: So… is this part of what’s holding you back from claiming your rightful place as leader?

SoYa: It’s a big part of it, yes. People don’t realize what I can really do — they just think I’m a miserable healer. I guess I’m a disappointment to those who expected me to be a powerful warrior-mage like my father.

Me: But you COULD be a powerful mage!

SoYa: Yes. Maybe. I can’t let THEM know that, though.

So, within the space of a few paragraphs, I suddenly had a character who opened up a whole new dimension to his struggle, personality and motivations. This was all because I took what might have been a boring chapter, and let the character have control for a while.

So next time your character needs to do something mundane like fold clothes, walk down the street or fix dinner, see what’s going on in his head. You might be surprised what will come of it.

Have you ever just let your character take control of a chapter? What happened when you did? Did you learn something?

Important Note: This doesn’t mean I encourage you to let your entire chapter ramble with all kinds of character internal spew. Free write for a while, but make sure you return to this chapter and edit out what you don’t need. Remember, in rough drafts, you can leave notes to yourself and explore. But not all exploration should make it to the final draft!

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing

The Write Order: Should You Write the Boring Chapters?

In the previous article, I discussed the pros and cons of skipping the “boring” chapters in order to get straight to writing the chapters that really interest you. Here, I want to talk about what I tend to do, pushing through the boring chapters and writing everything in plot order.

Writing Linear Plot

Pro: Consistency is the Key

You’re much less likely to forget about an important plot element or mess up consistency if you write in order.

Pro: Smoother Character Development

When you write chapters in order, you’ll have smoother character development. When you jump around and skip through time, character development won’t be as organic and smooth as it would be if you stuck it out and moved forward chapter by chapter.

boredcatPro: Carrot on a Stick 

I tend to use those chapters I really want to write as an incentive to write the chapters that are less interesting to me.

Pro: Discovery Along the Journey 

Sometimes if you put yourself to the task of writing what you think is a less interesting chapter, the characters will come along and spice it up with something you wouldn’t have expected. This takes the story off into uncharted territories, and might even change the outcome of those chapters you want to write. You might not get this effect if all you’re doing is filling in the plot holes between chapters you’ve already written.

Con: Production Slowdown

Man… this chapter is so boring. Do I really want to sit here and force myself to write it? I’m just not in the mood for it. Let’s see what’s new on Netflix…

Con: Complete Block, Project Setback 

I just can’t do it. I can’t write this chapter. I’ve tried everything! Maybe I should just put this project down for now. (Three years later, it’s still not done.)

Final Thoughts

Is there a correct method? Is one better than the other?

Only you can weigh the pros and cons between the two and decide for yourself. If you don’t think you’ll have an issue keeping plot events in mind while you skip through chapters, and it gets you out of a plot block, give it a shot. There’s always editing.

However, the better solution is to ensure that no chapter is a boring chapter! That’s right, you heard me! Next time I’m going to talk about what you can to do change your perspective on the so-called boring filler chapters, and different ways to approach that chapter that just doesn’t want to be written.