Hitting Milestones

So last night I crossed 50,000 words in The Veil.

Depending on what guidelines you follow, that means I’ve officially crossed into novel length territory.

When I launched this blog in April of 2010, I had written 9,000 words. I admit, there’s been times when I wondered if my idea would actually amount to a novel. There were days whenย  the ideas weren’t flowing and I thought it was hopeless. I figured The Veil was bound to be another file in my “Failed Attempts” folder.

But last night I crossed over into novel territory. And what’s even better, there’s still eight planned out chapters. At this rate, I think The Veil will easily weigh in at more than 70,000 words.

It’s funny how a weight feels lifted. This is the furthest I’ve ever taken a story. At this point, the question is no longer will I be able to make it, but rather, how long till I finish it?

So it’s a happy day. I’ll be even happier when I make it to 60,000. That’s the goal I set for myself as that’s considered a lower end Young Adult novel.

My goal is to have the first draft done by this blog’s anniversary. Wish me luck!

Writing Software Changed My Life – For the Better

I’ll admit it, I’m not an organised person. My “office” is a chaotic storeroom of books, bills, important documents, and an assortment of other baubles. To be honest, it’s hard to move in here.

So it’s a tad ironic that when it comes to writing, I crave organisation. I hate having to have multiple Word files. I despise writing ahead because it means putting the scene in another Word file or constantly bumping it down while I write ahead of it. But what if I have multiple scenes that take place later in the book? Ugh.

Because of this, I never really planned out my books, I always wrote in a linear fashion and if I had a great idea for a scene, I would scribble on a piece of paper or just hope I remembered it when I got there.

Writing software has changed all that.

I started with yWriter5. There were two reasons.

  1. It was free.
  2. It was compatible with Windows.

I didn’t mind yWriter. Every chapter was its own file, so I could create a number of chapters and add data to them so I knew what I had planned for that chapter. If I had an idea for a scene in a chapter later than the one I was working on, I just hopped over to that chapter and added it.

There was a place for adding character information, scene information and so much more. And it had an export feature so I could fire it off to Word as a single compiled document when I was done.

The things I disliked about yWriter though were

  • Pop-up windows for writing.
  • The in-program spell check wasn’t user friendly
  • It felt like I was jumping through numerous tabs to find things I wanted.

For me, yWriter wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was vastly superior to Word. yWriter allowed me to be a bit chaotic and free flowing in my writing, yet provided me with enough structure that I could still see where the myriad of pieces fit.

A few weeks back, I saw a tweet about a Windows version of Scrivener.

I’d been anxious to try Scrivener because I’d heard great things about it and some of my favourite authors were using it. So I went ahead and downloaded the free Beta version.

I’m in love ๐Ÿ™‚

Scrivener does all the things yWriter does, only it doesn’t have any of the issues I had with yWriter. There’s no pop-ups, spelling is handled much like my WordPress blog and all my info is handy on the left-hand side of the screen. I also appreciate that Scrivener has some built-in templates for characters and locations. Overall, it’s clear why yWriter is free and Scrivener is a paid for product; Scrivener just has more polish. I find I don’t flip from one tab to another because I can lay out my screen with all the info I need.

About the only issue I have with Scrivener is that the Windows version doesn’t have the capabilities of the newest version of Scrivener for Mac (which includes compiling straight to eBook formats!).

Regardless of which you choose (or if you know of another similar product), writing software allows so much more freedom and organisation of materials. I noticed a marked increase in output when I switched. Do you think it could help you too?

The Late-Night Habits of a Wannabe Writer

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous KilljoysIt’s 11:58pm as I write this.

I’m sitting in bed, propped with my back against the wall. My laptop is sitting on a breakfast-in-bed tray and my wife is sleeping next to me (she has a cold). I’m wearing headphones which have just finished pumping out My Chemical Romance’s newest album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, and have now moved on to Neon Trees’ album, Habits.

My intent was to power through a ton of words on The Veil. Instead, I’ve read Neon Trees - Habitsthrough a number of posts on Twitter, signed an Internet petition (which you should do as well if you’re in Canada & don’t want to see us gouged further for Internet use http://openmedia.ca/meter). Also through Twitter, I went over to Regan Leigh’s blog to check out a guest post on writing book reviews when you want to be a writer. Great post with some decent insights to keep in mind. I left a comment stating my overall love of the article & then finally opened The Veil.

I’ve written maybe 100 words of actual story. However, I’ve also written a number of editing notes on the earlier chapters.

I’m not prepared to let myself edit The Veil until I’ve finished it. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had ideas as to how I want to change some of the earlier chapters. So I’m taking advantage of my writing software and leaving notes on the chapters as to the edits and new scenes I’m thinking about.

Now I’m here at the blog. Writing an entry that really is just blathering about how I spend my time when I sit down with my laptop to write. And probably explaining why it’s taken me so long to only get 76% of the way to a complete first draft.

So don’t be like me. Stop wasting more time on the Internet. Go write. Now. Like I’m going to try and do.

Clock says it’s 12:14am. Hoping to remain conscious until 1am to at least crank out another 300-500 words.

TTYL

The Decepticon Shockwave

Shockwave toy from Transformers Dark of the MoonIf you’re an old-school transformers fan such as myself, then you had to be a little excited when it was announced Shockwave would be the main big bad in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

While Shockwave in the cartoon didn’t do too much for me, his comic book iteration was badass. I mean, this is the guy who burst in at the end of issue four of the classic Marvel run and by issue five had iced every Autobot and had Optimus Prime’s head, literally! Shockwave was this large and incredible menace that for many issues stood at the head of the Decepticon army. Too bad Ratchet and those pesky Dinobots had to mess everything up ๐Ÿ™‚

The question remains, will this third Transformers film manage to deliver, or will it be the crude comedy, racial sterotype, lack of plot piece of crap the second film was.

Based on the two toys we’ve seen so far, it at least looks like the visuals are going in the right direction. I mean, Shockwave is PURPLE!! How awesome is that?

Please, please Michael Bay, don’t make this film suck.

Visit Tomopop for more images

The Process of Creation – Concepts – Themes

The last foundation for a “concept” novel is the Theme.

Now, this is going to encompass a larger discussion, because theme isn’t just about how a story starts. It’s an important, if not integral, aspect of virtually every story written.

But let’s address the main point of these articles, theme as the genesis point for a story.

This type of story is all about a message. It could be as simple as “I want to write a book about good versus evil and how good always wins through perseverance.” On the other hand, it might be as obscure as, “I’m going to write a story about how it’s important to have a balanced diet.”

In the end, what is most important to the author starting this way is that their message is conveyed and in the light they want. I mean, it’s a pretty epic failure if the author wants to tell how good triumphs over evil and all the readers walk away thinking they should join the dark side.

I have to say, I think this is the hardest way to start a story. I mean, we were all challenged to write a short story this way in school (well, maybe not everyone, but I was) and it was painful! Why? Well, let’s look at where we’ve been previously;

The Character start gave us an engaging and interesting character to ask questions of and to find out about their story from.

The World Concept gave us a world to explore. I mean, there’s tons of stories in a whole world, it’s just finding them.

Even the Scene Concept gave us something. We had a smattering of character and world, so there was some foothold.

But this? Who do we talk to? I mean, do you notice how in every story start I get around to the point of us asking questions? Ages ago, I wrote a post here, and you know what I had discovered? The most important question is Why?

What do you ask a theme other than ‘what am I going to write’?

To my way of writing, there isn’t a strong enough anchor to really get started.

Yet I said earlier that theme was important, integral even.

Yes, yes I did.

See, when you meet a character, you try to get to know them. You interview them, have some coffee. You look for the part of their life that is an interesting story. Very often, the part of their life that gives you your story does so because there’s a theme or lesson in it. In the end, there’s a point.

Take a look at my articles on the Hero’s Journey. You could jam pack those full of themes, but the one that holds throughout every iteration of the Hero’s Journey is personal development. The Hero’s Journey, at its core, is about growth. Can we have a journey tale without the hero growing? I suppose you could try, but I promise you it will feel empty and will leave your audience feeling cold.

That’s why we gravitate toward the Hero’s Journey, because we all share the same theme. Every person grows and develops. Whether the hero is navigating the difficulties of high school or first romance, we’ve been there. Heck, even the hero fighting monsters to protect his family can be related to. Unless you don’t care about your family. Ummm, ok, awkward….

In many ways, theme is a naturally occurring entity in writing. Even if we don’t initially set out to tell one, it almost always finds its way in. The question is, and why this type of concept story exists, how much do you want to control your reader’s perception of the theme?

Maybe you just want to write an epic Hero’s Journey. Great, go for it. There will be a theme. But what if you want to put something else in there?

Let’s look at Harry Potter.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Harry follows a Hero’s Journey. When we meet him, he is in an ordinary world. He plunges into the other world and has to triumph over evil in order to free both the ordinary world and the other world that he has grown to love. We watch Harry grow and mature. We follow him through his awkward tween years to the point where at the end, we meet him as a man. We see his rebellion, his first attempts at love, his gain, loss, and gain of family and friends.

Harry Potter is a hero that exemplifies the theme of personal growth. But there’s so much else.

How does Harry win? Time and again, it’s because of his friends. So the themes of friendship, loyalty, honesty and so much more get packed in there.

Does JK Rowling want you to know she values the theme of friendship? I’d have to say yes. I mean, it’s all over the place. She has carefully crafted characters for Harry to be friends with. She’s made them integral to his life and success.

So as you write your story, or more so, when you edit your story, you need to think about what messages are coming across. Are they intentional? Are they the messages you want to deliver?

Theme, as far as I’m concerned, is a lousy way to start a story. But in the end, it will make or break your story. Tricky little devil.

Twitter – Time to get Social

First, a little disclosure.

  1. I am not a master of social media.
  2. I have made no money from Twitter.
  3. I have not sold a book via Twitter.
  4. I have a small number of followers (approx 300).

So, I’m not going to give you keys to the kingdom or anything; which is fine because that’s not what this article is about.

Instead, I want to talk about some things I notice as a Twitter user. Will they help you succeed in whatever endeavors you have? Maybe. At the very least, it should help you have more fun and see more value from Twitter.

Say Something

First off, Twitter is a social network. So why not get social? There are some amazing people on Twitter who are very giving, supportive and willing to go an extra mile for complete strangers. There’s people on Twitter that I’ve never met in the flesh, but I would trust their opinions when it comes to critiquing The Veil. If all you’re going to do is lurk about, you’ll never gain the full benefits of Twitter.

Are there great people on Twitter that you can just sit back and listen to? Yup. I’ve learned a ton from following people who have never actually spoken to me. But those who have really helped me, the ones I hope and pray will one day make the Veil a book worth reading, are the ones I speak to frequently. So for goodness sake, don’t just sit there, speak to people!

Fill In Your Bio

Another piece of advice, take advantage of the bio section of your profile. You don’t need to chronicle your life or anything, just say who you are and what you do. If someone new follows me and they say they are a writer, I automatically follow back. Not everyone does, but I do because I figure we have our writing in common and I might learn something from them.

On the other hand, if someone follows me and they have no bio, I don’t follow back. I know it may be some old school type of paranoia, but what do you have to hide? Are you so lazy you couldn’t take ten minutes to tell us about yourself? Heck, Neil Gaiman and his kin are uber famous, and all of them have a bio.

In regards to the bio, understand if your bio says you are a marketing type person and you follow me, I won’t automatically follow you back. Now if you start talking to me and I realise your focus is on book marketing, I’m your new friend! Like I said, get social.

Profile Picture

I know, not everyone wants their mug thrown on the internet for all the world to see. If you’re one of those people, do something creative. Use one of those “Create an Avatar” sites to make an anime version of yourself. Or take a picture where you use crafty methods to hide part of your face. In either case, having a profile picture that is original goes a long way toward me thinking you’re here for a good reason. Default pictures are all too often the domain of the Spambot.

Content

You’re going to read different opinions everywhere on the net. So here’s my opinion of what I, a normal average guy, like to see. Feel free to post personal stuff, to an extent. If there’s some movie you love, or even food you like to eat, I’m good with that. I don’t need to know where you are every second of the day.

Feel free to write about the things that influence your writing. Feel free to write about the books you’re reading. Please write about your trials and tribulations as you work on your Work in Progress. If you find something useful or interesting on the net, say so.

In short, let me get to know you, as a person and a writer. That’s part of being social.

Twitter does not have to be solely about building a money generating machine. In fact, if that’s all you’re doing, I’m unsubscribing.

Twitter can be a great tool to learn, network and get suggestions. In order to do all those things, you need to be honest, yourself, and put forth some effort. All good relationships need those things.

The Process of Creation – Concepts – Scenes

In this, my third article about the genesis of stories, I’m talking about a Concept related start that links between the World Concept, and starting with Characters. That is the Scene Concept.

Ever had a dream that you couldn’t shake? One where you watched something unfold between one or more people you didn’t know, but felt oddly drawn to? Or maybe you were listening to some music and an image popped into your head? All of these flashes of inspiration are usual sources for Scene Concepts. It might even be something you overheard at another table in a restaurant.

The fact is, we are constantly surrounded by potential scenes or interesting moments. The question is, do we see them?

While I wish I could impart some kind of wisdom in regards to how to recognize these moments, for now take comfort that it’s probably best to just wait and stick with the ones that hit you in the gut.

I do highly recommend you keep writing utensils near your bed. I’ve had more than one idea come to me in dreams.

But I digress…

I said at the start the Scene Concept is a bridge between the World Concept and the Character inspired story. Why? Because a scene gives us bits of both things. A scene can suggest rules and a world, but not to the extent of a World Concept. It also gives some characters and maybe a little of who they are, but nowhere near the fully fleshed Characters that become the basis of a story on their own.

Has anyone even done this? Sure. One of the most famous examples is the author of the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer. She stated that Twilight originated as a dream she had of Bella and Edward lying in a field. At the time, she didn’t know their names, she didn’t know he was a vampire, and she didn’t know why they were in the field. But the scene was so strong in her mind, she plotted out the entire first book based on what brought them to that scene and what happened afterward.

Even if this type of inspiration hasn’t driven you to start a story, chances are it has driven you to the keyboard while your story has been in progress.

I’ve never found a scene inspired an entire story with me, but while I’ve been working on a story a scene I’ve thought of helps to drive the story forward, or maybe changes the nature of the story I was telling. Scenes are the building blocks of tales, and it’s not overly surprising that they could inspire an entire story.

Pitfalls? Same as the previous two, but deadlier because it suffers from the potential of both problems; thin plot and thin characters.

In the same way that being inspired by a scene can give you samples of the previous two inspiration types, it doesn’t flesh either out as strong. So it’s possible that both your plot and characters will suffer.

How do you avoid that?

Well, you have a bit of work ahead of you. The author who has a character needs to get to know that character to try and find the story. The author who has a World concept needs to find their story in that world.

If your inspiration is a scene, you need to find out both. Who are the people in your scene? Why are they there? What kind of world is this? And so on.

While having an inspiration for a scene set in a world I’ve already created, with characters I already know, is an exciting event, having it as the sole thing to go on for a story feels thin.

What do you think? Every had a story born from a single scene?