Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NaNoWriMo Is Fast Approaching!

NaNoWriMo is coming up quickly! So is my baby's due date! With so much going on I'm trying to keep my "baby brain" from keeping me back from doing everything I need to do. I have a short to-do list but the thing that's been weighing on my mind has been what I'm going to write for the month of November.

For the past few NaNo events I've been working on trying to finish other projects. That's been fine but I've been worried that maybe I'm spending too much time with them, you know? Fortunately I've had a couple of projects that I haven't written much on beyond a synopsis and yet another idea that's been rattling around in my head but hasn't quite seemed right. The pieces for the last idea have fallen into place and, barring any weird happenings, I'm thinking that a fresh project will take me through to the finish line. Here's the little blurb and the cover I made up for the NaNo website...maybe a banner will follow...

"An Embarrassment of Magic" by C. E. Daniel

When a well dressed noble crashes into her garden Senna is annoyed. When shadow hounds try to enter as well, it's outside of enough. Saving a noble doesn't interest her and his idea of gratitude irritates her more. What can a single woman do though when she finds out that this nobleman isn't your average pompous idiot?

Cover photo: Witches Dwell by wyldraven on

I'm not sure where it will go yet beyond the opening and the two main characters but I'm working on it! the next thing will be to come up with a few more characters and some "candy bar" scenes. I'm not sure what will happen. Maybe this idea will stick or not but we'll see!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Research...Too Much or Just Enough?

So the theme for this month is investigation. More specifically: research. Every writer worth their salt does a lot of research. Whether we're creating worlds from scratch or trying to get the correct terms for a particular occupation to get things just right, we do a lot of research.

I once had a teacher (believe this or not) say that there was such a thing as too much research. Initially I thought, "what rubbish," but now I can honestly say that when it comes to certain things, yes, there can be too much research. Research for it's own sake is good I think. Never stop learning and expanding your knowledge base are two things that I feel are important to a writer. What makes it into your story is where your inner editor kicks in. Just because you've learned all the lingo or terms for a particular occupation of a character, it doesn't mean that they should be used exclusively or at every opportunity. I've found that I personally can fall into the trap of using a word and simply assuming that others will know what I mean though context. I find things like that when I edit. It's especially true once I've been working with a particular work for a while and intensively. I get so into it, you know?

Since my opinion of research has been somewhat concise I'm going to talk about organization. Of course as we collect our copious amounts of research we have to put it somewhere. There are lots of methods from the simple to the downright extreme. I used to print pages and assemble them into a binder or folder. I know some people that are fond of post-its and plastering a wall of their favorite writing spot at home. Then, of course, there are dozens of writing and organizational-type pieces of software that allow a writer to combine their research and their writing all in one place. Microsoft One Note and Evernote are two programs that are geared to note taking alone though many writers swear by these when they prefer simple word processor applications like Microsoft Word, Notepad, or Open Office Writer. I've heard that the One Note program is really awesome when paired with a tablet since you can write in it like a notebook. Evernote has stepped up its game and paired with Molskine (my notebook of choice for everything) to bring a notebook that can be photographed with Evernote's Page Camera and become digital information in seconds. I haven't had the opportunity to try this myself but I think that once I fill my current notebook I will definitely give a try! I would love to have digital copies of my notes if only for backup!

Then, of course, there are the many kinds of writing software. Some people still love to write by hand. Yes, I mean with a pen or pencil on paper. While that's fine I'm indefinitely faster at typing to get my thoughts out on paper. There are times that I just have to write on paper though. It's like an itch. There's something extremely gratifying about putting a pen to paper and feeling the ink glide across the paper. That being said, I'll turn back to the software issue. There are very popular applications such as Scrivner, Storyist, and yWriter that will contain pretty much any kind of research you want as well as your story-in-progress. I have fiddled with all three and I prefer yWriter. For me it's a blend of a desirable interface and the perfect price. It's free! There is no "right" or "wrong" way to organize research. It's all what works best for the individual.

I think that covers just about everything (and then some, I'm sure) of my thoughts on research. It's a rambling account so I apologize and hope that my two cents are worth something to someone out there!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stay Calm and Be Motivated

Staying motivated as a writer can be decidedly difficult. Writer's block, plot bunnies, and real life all tend to make our best laid plans go right down the tubes. With all of the natural pitfalls that come with writing it's really no wonder that it can be hard to stay calm and stay motivated.

Personally, I find that I really have to push myself on some days to write. The writing isn't always award winning (more like rubbish) but at least I am writing. I'm a little ADD when it comes to writing anyways so I try to write what I'm driven to write on a particular day. I have no less than three separate stories that I'm working on plus three blogs to maintain. They are all quite different from each other so in that way I'm providing myself with options. Options are good, at least for me, when I'm finding myself low on motivation. I find motivation can also be given. Not so much by pep talks and such but more through the interaction with other writers.

I find my most productive months to be be during NaNoWriMo and the various camp sessions. Why? Partially it's because I know that so many others are trying to accomplish the same thing. The word counters help and for me it makes it a bit of a competition. (That's not always a bad thing.) Also during those times I have been able to just shut off my inner editor. I can't always do that when I know that I don't have as strict a deadline during the other months of the year. Odd isn't it? In any case during those months not only have I been able to reach my target word count goals (usually 50K) but I also manage to keep up with my blogs and such as well. I have to admit to being rather impressed with myself. At the end of the month I look back and feel very accomplished. The problem of course is to continue that motivation throughout the year.

I have few tricks try to keep myself motivated. They don't always work but at least I have some recourse on those days when I feel like my motivation is particularly lacking. My tricks?

  1. Make sure I'm listening to the right music. Yep, this is important. Music to slow will make me sleepy and disinterested. That's what I've found. Music that's too fast and racuous and I'll be driven to distraction. My usual listening preferences are big band swing type stuff or upbeat Celtic music. Occasionally I'll listen to my guilty pleasure - a mix of Phil Collins, Sting, David Bowie, etc.
  2. Have a plot point or "candy bar" scene that I want to write. I have to have a goal or point to work to. I need to know where I am and where I next need to be. I'm a "pantser" (meaning I don't plan much if at all) but I do like to have a few key scenes in my head to write about. Scenes that I know need to happen in order for my story to progress. Keeping these in mind I can be quite productive, usually. 
  3. Review my character and location sketches. A lot of times just going over my character and place notes give me ideas for new scenes and interactions. New ideas are always a great source of motivation for me.
  4. When all else fails - I watch my pets and son. Sounds crazy right? It's really not. Some of the best character traits I've developed have come from watching my family. Some of the situations that they get themselves into and some of the things that a  three year old says are just so extraordinary that it sparks something in my brain and puts motivation in me like nothing else.
My tricks aren't anything special or spectacular but they are things that work well for me. I usually add a good beverage (iced chai, hot tea, hot cocoa) and a tasty treat (usually something sweet) to fuel my brain as well. Having motivation is important but being able to motivate yourself is just as important, if not more so. My advice to writers who feel particularly unmotivated is to sit and try out different tricks. Find things that motivate you and always make time to write! You never know, a bad day of no motivation may have you crank out your best scene yet!