Tag Archives: writing

Make Your Last Day Count

Make Your Last Day Count

There are planned pep talks and then there are those thoughts that come to you while driving home at one in the morning because you didn’t want to stop typing at your parents house when it was a half hour to midnight because you’ve still got 5,000 words to write before the final midnight.

All of you who have already validated can go plot what you’re bringing to the potluck at the TGIO party. I love you, but I’m not talking to you right now. Really. This is the last time you’ll hear a peep from me until tonight’s Last Blast To Get Your Words In or I’ve validated myself. Whichever comes first.

For those of you still reading, I want to take a moment to encourage you to keep writing. As I have been working on catching up with the 12,000 words I need to get in these few days, I could not help but think a quote attributed to Red Smith about the difficulty of writing that goes “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

We may not use typewriters anymore (at least the vast majority of us), but sometimes these last days of writing feel like bleeding, like the marathoner who didn’t quite break in their shoes enough before beginning the race.

Life happened. Writer’s block got you. Doubts started eating away at your confidence. The characters ran amuck. Whatever it is that happened in the last 29 days, I want to encourage you to keep writing today… and tomorrow and the next day. Maybe you don’t reach that 50,000. Maybe you do. Whatever happens take heart in the words of Ray Bradbury – “You fail only if you stop writing.”

Don’t let worry slow you down. Follow Walt Disney’s advice – “Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.” 

I like quotes, so here are a few more that you can take heart in if the craziness of this all seems to have grown since you first started on this journey.

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” – Edwin Land

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – F. Nietzsche

“Normality is a paved road. It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Anybody remotely interesting is mad in some way or another.” – Doctor Who

“We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemist’s eyes to notice.” – Jacob Nordby

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” – unknown

“Never, ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Prove the cynics wrong. Pity them for they have no imagination. The sky’s the limit. Your sky. Your limit. Now. Let’s dance.” – Tom Hiddleston

“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” – Mary Kay Ash, founder of May Kay cosmetics

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

I could go on and on, but I have some writing of my own to do. Hopefully one or more of these gives you something to hold onto as you continue in your writing journey.

Whatever comes at midnight, I’ll borrow from lyrics of The Wanted to share my own feelings towards you all -:

“The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came
I’m glad you came”

Write on, my friends. We’ll see you again soon.

Alaina aka A_Rachelle
Your co-captain of the Airship NaNoLansing Sojourner aka co-Municipal Liaison for USA::Michigan::Lansing

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Week One: When 'What If' meets 'Yes, and…'

Week One: When 'What If' meets 'Yes, and…'

Ah, week one. You learn a lot about your novel in week one. You may have discovered that you hate your plot and changed it or had your first character rebellion. You may have fallen in love with a place or gotten side-tracked on a detail. One week end the world is full of possibilities. Don’t be afraid of them.

This year we took one look at the artwork from the Office of Letters and Light and knew that steampunk would be the theme for our region, but what, you may ask, is steampunk? The term appears to have originated in a letter written by K.W. Jeter to Locus magazine in the mid-80s, but its influences reach back into the Victorian where steam ruled and the scientific romances of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells came into being. More recently it can be found in the work of authors like Cassandra Clare (City of Bones) and Raven Dane (Cyrus Darian And The Technomicron).

Steampunk is an amazingly versatile genre. Authors have taken the feel and technology of the Victorian era and asked themselves the question ‘What if?’. What if there was magic? What if instead of futuristic cyborgs, people were augmented with clockwork parts? What if combustion engines didn’t overtake steam as an energy source? Then they ran with it.

In the world of theatre we have an improv game called ‘Yes, and…”. It’s our equivalent of committing to ‘what ifs’ in our storytelling. While playing the game you are not allowed to say no. It doesn’t matter what the previous person threw at you, you have to accept it and go. Beavers may be bowling or aliens kidnapped you in the middle of a lovely date. You can’t change where the story has taken you, you can only take the ‘what if’ you’ve been given, follow it with a ‘Yes,’ and run with it.

As we head into our second week, that is what I encourage each and every one of you to do. When you hit writers block take an idea that is totally outside of your novel and ask ‘what if’. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it. Make ‘Yes, and…’ a regular part of your writing experience. Bring in an element of sci-fi to your literary fiction or horror into your fantasy. It may not live past December 1st, but it also may open you up to ideas that you never would have thought of otherwise.

Not sure where to get a crazy what-if? Here are a few places to find them:

  • Ask your friends and fellow writers
  • Visit the Adoption Society or Plot Doctoring forum threads
  • Use a plot generator (Here’s one, but there are a ton out there)
  • Browse a library, bookstore, Amazon, or your own bookshelves

Whatever you do, remember that NaNo isn’t just an opportunity to write a novel with a bunch of other somewhat crazy fellow writers, it’s an opportunity to explore. So just like those authors that started this whole steampunk culture, and in the immortal words of Nike, just do it.

I mean now. There are three weeks left, but I promise they will fly, so write like the wind, my wrimos.

Alaina aka A_Rachelle
Co-Municipal Liaison, USA::Michigan::Lansing

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Crafting Believable Dialogue

Crafting Believable Dialogue

Dialogue is a tool used to further the action, to give us a sense of characterization and to ultimately drive the story along.
Roger Colby

“Show” don’t tell

A lot of our communication happens through body language and tone. Instead of using adverbs to get a point across, let the actions of the character speak for them.

Example 1a*

“I don’t want to dance,” she said pensively. “I just want to stand here.”
“Give me a break,” he huffed angrily. “I only wanted to hold your hand.”

Example 1b*

Everyone danced, their bodies swaying slowly to the beat of “Makin’ Love Out of Nothing at All”.
As Rick reached for her hand, Judy’s face drew down, a perfect scowl.
“I… I just don’t feel like dancing,” she whispered, then said again louder over the din. “I just don’t feel like dancing.”
Rick’s eyes watered slightly, his hand going to his nose as if to stifle a sneeze.
“I only wanted to hold your hand.”

Develop a unique voice for your characters

Your characters personality, history, time period and location should all influence the way they talk.

Are they gruff or taciturn? Use short clipped words.
Are they bubbly and talkative? Long bright fountains of words.
Do they come from a place with a distinct colloquial sound? Use it, but don’t abuse it. A little goes a long way.

Also, remember your time period. If you’re writing historic fiction don’t use modern slang unless there are time travelers involved.

We don’t speak with proper grammar

Very few characters speak with proper grammar – and those who do should stick out because of it. We use contractions and can be awkward, fumbling fools of speakers. Don’t be glib. Don’t be too correct. Do use the proper writing grammar to let your characters know what they’re reading. Reading your dialog aloud will help to identify potentially stilted sections.

Avoid “he said/she said”

Those arguments are trying enough in real life. Don’t force them upon your readers. Interspersing actions with your dialogue can go a long way to helping this, and remembering that every bit of dialog doesn’t necessarily need to call out the speaker – especially if you’ve developed unique voices for your characters

Remember pace

The tone of your dialog can set the pace for the scene, so use it.

Example 2

Turner took a long draw on his cigarette and blew out small circles of smoke, “We should leave soon.”

Example 3

“Go! Go! Go!” Excitement practically vibrated off of Maria as she bounced in the confined space of the bleachers.

Use the ‘layered’ approach**

Write first draft in a way that feels natural then fix the dialogue/action-description ratio in your editing

Exercises

Break It Up

Write a conversation using this format to break apart your dialog and actions

Character name: Single colon if talking immediately
Character name:: if there is an action, thought, or other information before speaking :: Hi! With that second double colon I am now speaking :: but I can go back to description at any time ::

Here’s an example:

Gideon:: received his message and being out and about was closer to Sean’s office then his rooms and decides it’d be easier to just drop in instead of sending a message. Reaching the room instead of knocking he just opens the door and is surprised to find that Sean is not there. He should be waiting for a response to his message. Sees Carma on the couch and crouches down next to her, touches her shoulder lightly :: Carma
Carma:: Opens her eyes. Then seeing Gideon smiles slightly. She likes him a lot. He reminds her of Tony :: Is mom here yet?
Gideon:: brushes a hair off her forehead, shakes his head :: I wish she were. I was hoping Sean might be able to give me some news. Do you know where he went?

Now pick two or three characters of your own and write a short scene where they meet a new friend or enemy. Include any descriptions that come to mind. Any extraneous information can be removed later.

Characterize Your Protagonist/Antagonist

Describe their personality

Abrupt or Long-Winded?

Do they have an accent?

Do they use colloquialisms (If so, which ones)?

Do they mumble or speak clearly?

What is their favorite explicative?

What is their level of education?

Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

What are their beliefs?

Does the way they speak change in relation to another character or where they are in the story?

Are there psychological influences?

What are their goals when speaking?

Parental/family influence

Favorite part of speech (noun/verb or lots of adjectives)?

What are their speaking tics?

How complex is their speech?

References

*Writing is Hard Work: Writing Believable Dialog
Writing is Hard Work: The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue
Writing is Hard Work: Emotive Dialog
Wordserve Watercooler: Writing Believable Dialog
Woosh Editing: Writing Believable Dialog
Novel Bootcamp: Writing Believable Dialog
**Laura Howard: Writing Believable Dialog