the tale of the self-imposed deadline

Once upon a time, Christine really needed a deadline. For writers that don’t have book contracts, it can be hard sometimes to stick to goals. Even when I am in the most motivated of moods, I still need a goal in mind. After attending BookCon a few weeks ago, my inspiration levels were at an all time high. With that, came a determined Christine, ready to give herself a self-imposed deadline, and talk in third person a lot. (You can read about how I calculated my daily word count goal here.)

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I’m here to report that it is going FANTASTIC. I feel more alive than I have ever felt and am currently 100% supportive of the self-imposed deadline. I’m hoping that my high levels of inspiration last. As always, #5amWritersClub on Twitter has been a huge support. Writing before coming to my day job makes a big difference in my day.

 

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

bits of writing advice from bookcon 2018

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to dive into the world of books in a different way than I normally do. I attended BookCon in NYC. BookCon is basically a giant convention complete with publishers, fandom, best-selling authors and all the things a bookworm would love. This was my first time attending BookCon. While I had attended Book Expo America a few years ago in the same location, I felt that the vibe of BookCon was way more fan-based (in a good way.)

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For this week’s blog post I thought it would be interesting to share some bits of writing advice that I scribbled down while sitting through many different panels. Basically, they were little moments that stuck with me and inspired me. How could I not share them with you?

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Cassandra Clare is the best-selling author of The Mortal Instruments, The Dark Artifices, and more. When asked about how a writer incorporates personal experience into their own writing, she shared:

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“You may not pull the real life actions, but you will pull the emotions. It has to feel real.” –

That last bit there, “it has to feel real,” that’s the bit that stuck with me. Sometimes I think we get really caught up in what our characters are going through and try and get the difficult scene down on the page without thinking about how an outside reader will actually feel when reading it. That advice came at the right time for me as I was working on a very emotional scene in my WIP.

Cassandra also discussed villains and what makes them well-written. One of the things she brought up that I found fascinating was a point about minions that follow a villain. Why do these minions follow the evil character with the horrid plans? What is their motivation and what makes it something worth supporting? Funnily enough, that advice was also fitting for the scene in my WIP. Don’t forget about the details of your villain.

Brandon Sanderson is the best-selling author of many high fantasy novels that take place in the Cosmere universe. When asked about writing a character with magical powers, Sanderson commented:

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“’What can’t the magic do?’ is always the more interesting question. What are the flaws of these powers?” – 

I scribbled fast for this one. It is important to not only focus on how wonderful magic can be, but what are the cons that come with it? What are the limitations? When I worked on a young adult fantasy novel many years ago, I gifted a character with fantastic fire powers. They had absolutely no consequences or limitations to them. I was just an excited, new writer who wanted to write a fantasy novel. Years later, I now see that is one of the many reasons why that novel didn’t work out.

Victoria Aveyard is the best-selling author of the Red Queen novels and I will say that many of the fans cheered extra loud for her when she walked on the stage. I always enjoy fan questions as opposed to the commentator’s questions because they are usually amusing. One 15-year old fan asked, “What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?” Aveyard answered:

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“What makes you weird now is going to be what makes you successful later.” –

I think as writers, it’s sometimes easy to forget how important it is to celebrate our unique qualities. We should all celebrate our weirdness, follow our passions, and write about what makes our heart race! Don’t you agree?

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I hope that some of these bits of writing advice resonate with you on some level. For me, hearing writers talk about writing is one of the things that fills my inspiration meter.

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

5 writing books I love

It’s safe to assume that if you are a writer you are going to purchase books about writing. I don’t think I know a writer that doesn’t have at least one! Sure, some writers may take it a bit too far and stop reading other genre books, but for the most part I think certain books on writing can be a helpful resource to turn to. I do believe that if you really want to strengthen your writing, it’s a good idea to dive into a big pile of books written in the genre of your project. However, there needs to be balance and we just love reading everything anyway, right?

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For today’s post I thought it would be fun to show you five writing books that I absolutely love and give you some reasons why. Take a look!

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Reading Like a Writer 

by Francine Prose

This is a book that I bought many years ago after taking a fiction writing workshop. Since then, I’ve read it a few times. Prose draws on the writing and experience of many familiar authors you may know like Austen, Dickens, and Wolff. It’s a great book to keep on your nightstand or in your purse to flip through from time to time.

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The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression 

by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Oh, I can’t say enough about this series of books. Yes, it is a series and there are all types of emotions covered. This is the first one out of the series that I bought and I think that’s why it’s my favorite. You know when you’re writing and you keep using lame adjectives? This is a great book to turn to. Pick a feeling and there are tons of ways to express it right there in front of you.

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First Draft in 30 Days 

by Karen S. Wiesner

Ever tried NaNoWriMo? I guess it was about five years ago when I tried it for the first time. Faced with the task of writing 50,000 words in one month, a friend of mine told me to buy this book. I would describe it as a very helpful, detailed guide on how to write an amazing outline. I remember utilizing parts of the book (which I still use today) and it helped my novel flow.

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What Would Your Character Do? 

by Eric Maisel and Ann Maisel

This is my oldest book on writing for sure. It was one of the first writing books I ever purchased when I was just daydreaming about what it would be like to call myself a writer. What’s so cool about this book is, it forces you to take your characters out of their comfort zone. It has tons of different scenarios to put your characters in, questions to ask, and what it all might mean.

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Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft 

by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

This is my most expensive and recent writing book purchase. After completing the Frost Place Poetry Seminar workshop, this book was recommended to me based on my interest in novel writing. The reason it was so expensive was because it is technically a textbook that is used in many current MFA programs and I felt compelled to buy a brand new one. So far, I’m not sorry. It’s proven to be worth the money. Sometimes you need to feel like a student again and turning to a textbook forces you to think that way. Each chapter has exercises at the end to reinforce the content you just read. I highly recommend it.

So, there they are…in no particular order…5 writing books I love. You can follow the links attached to each title to grab a copy. I hope that at least one of these books has peaked your interest. What are some of your favorite books on writing?

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Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

 

 

 

 

is an outline right for your novel?

There are so many different ways to be a writer. Each one of us is unique in our processes. Sometimes the things that you’ve been doing forever work well, and other times everything falls flat. Today I found myself pressured by my upcoming deadline. I have a self-made goal of finishing the first draft of my novel by July 15th. With that, comes a word count goal of 60,000 words. Normally, I attempt to not get bogged down by word count goals, but they exist and are necessary.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been making very little progress on my novel. While I love to say the phrase “progress is progress,” and move on with my life, it’s not going to work with my current goal. As of today, I have 42 days left to achieve my goal if I take weekends off. (I’m a firm believer in having days off to recharge.) That leaves me with a daily word count goal of approx. 670 words. Manageable? Yes. However, I need a plan of attack.

That brings me to my topic today: to outline or to not outline? I will admit that a rough outline of the first half of my novel already exists, but what lies ahead is mostly a mystery to me. For a lot of people, it’s nice to sit down to the page and just go with it.

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That wonderful feeling of unveiling points in your novel right along with the characters can be thrilling. However, sometimes we hit walls. I think with a lot of fantasy novels, it is important to do a certain amount of planning. Now I am faced with the question of whether or not an outline is right for me. For some writers it works really well and other writers despise them. I land somewhere in the middle of it all. I am not a fan of super detailed outlines.

I like general points, organized. If you keep it simple, it will work. If you don’t, it turns into an additional project. Something like this:

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method to my madness:

-The setting of my novel changes a lot. It’s good to keep track.

-Having 2-3 plot points helps me to keep the flow going when my mind wanders.

-I don’t always use the note section, but if I introduce a new character to the story or something happens that I absolutely must remember to go back to, I put it there.

So, there you have it. Starting tomorrow I will be working on the outline for the rest of my novel. Hopefully it will help!

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How do you feel about outlines? To outline? To not outline?

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

how to track character emotions

Many years ago, I finished a young adult, paranormal-romance novel. It was my first completed manuscript and I was pretty new to that level of the writing world. When it came time to start editing, I felt a little lost. Unsure of how to tackle such a task, I turned to some writing books. In doing so, I found many instances where the importance of character development was brought up. I thought, “Duh. Of course there is character development in my story.” How could there not be?

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Just to be safe, I decided I would map out some details about my character chapter by chapter. Boy, was I surprised. Suddenly, it dawned on me. While my character made changes and evolved, there were certain details that weren’t quite consistent. Now, before I continue I will admit that the novel I speak of wasn’t very good and I did ultimately end up shelving it after many rejections. My personal life got in the way of the book and now it’s in a drawer somewhere. Since then, I’ve worked on many other projects and I’ve taken my experience with tracking character development with me.

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I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy novel and I absolutely adore my main character. Last week, I took a moment to consider my progress with her. As I contemplated a blog topic to cover for this week, I realized that my character development exercise is one that comes at a perfect time. What I’d like to share with you today is my emotion tracker for the characters in your W.I.P.!

Character emotions are an important part of character development. As you read a novel, you want a character who is progressing in one way or another. You definitely don’t want one who is happy one second and miserable the next for no good reason. Emotions can be unstable, but need to be monitored. For some writers, this may come naturally. Let’s just put it this way…it doesn’t hurt to check. I would rather double and triple check my manuscript before I find out that’s the reason an agent rejected me.

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Here is my simple method for tracking character’s emotions chapter by chapter:

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For each chapter, write one emotion that your character is feeling at the beginning, middle, and end. See what that progression looks like. Is your character consistently flat? Is your character too happy in dire situations?

This is a great exercise to build into your outlines too. I am currently finding it to be very helpful as I navigate my main character through a very tricky situation. I have found that I often make her overly anxious. She’s constantly in a state of panic or heartache. While it is fitting, now that I’ve tracked his pattern, I can expand her scope of emotions and play around with her inner thoughts in a different way.

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay.

Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

writer’s block emergency kit

We all talk about it…that thing that most people see as an excuse. That thing that many suffer from. That demon that whispers distractions in your head. That feeling when the words are just…not…coming. I’m talking about writer’s block.

I’m here today to tell you that I believe it is very real. I am currently in a pre-writer’s block phase with my novel. I’ve been working on a big fight scene for three days now. The words are coming slow, but they are coming! Normally, at this point, I may confuse the slow speed of ideas with writer’s block and throw myself into a full blown attack of, “I’m an awful writer.” Instead, I’m using this weeks post to be productive about it. I’ve come to learn that having writer’s block is an inevitable part of the writing life. The sea of inspiration inside of us ebbs and flows. Some days are great. Some days are terrible. A lot of days are in between. So, I got to thinking. What if I had a method to turn to that could assist me when I’m feeling blocked? Notice how I used the word, “assist.” I’m not going to lie to you and write that this is a cure. That wouldn’t be fair…and besides, I like you.

I present to you my 5-Step Recharge plan. I’ve used this exercise in my creative writing workshops a few times and the attendees seemed to respond well. It has personally helped me through some rough writing blocks. I hope that it can also assist you.

The idea is to answer all five questions and create a writer’s block emergency kit of sorts. That way, when you feel blocked you can turn to these answers and combine a few. For example, I mentioned that I’m in a pre-writer’s block phase. So, I’m going to take extra care and maybe light my favorite candle, listen to a few classical music pieces that I like, and make a fresh cup of coffee before my next writing session.

I want to take a moment to talk about Step 2. I often find myself blocked by my number one writing demon. You might know him…his name is Fear. He always says, “What will people think of you if they read this?” Sound familiar? Sometimes all it takes is acknowledging your demons. When I turn back to my list, I ask myself if I’m letting fear hold me back. If the answer is yes, it usually helps me to acknowledge that, release it, and move on.

Remember, no matter how hard your writing journey has been, you’re enough. Keep moving forward no matter what. Celebrate your passion.

Until next time,

Christine

breaking bad writing habits

Sometimes it’s hard to admit, but we all have them. I’m talking about bad writing habits. Have you ever noticed something in your writing through editing or perhaps a critique group that made your head spin? Recently, I was lucky enough to join a critique group. Joining alone was enough to boost my inspiration, but as the first meeting approached I was ready for it all. I wanted to hear the good, bad, and ugly about my current project.

Well, I got exactly what I wished for and a little more when a very embarrassing error was brought to my attention.

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Do you see that word? Somehow, my brain had programmed itself to type that version in every occurrence. I had completely stopped using “its” and only used “it’s,” which is incredibly embarrassing. Obviously, I got over that embarrassment since I’m sharing it with all of you now, but for my first session in a new critique group? It wasn’t inspiring.

Over the next few days I caught myself doing it several times while writing. I’d be peacefully writing and then…

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I needed to do something to make it stop.

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Well, I’m here to report a few ways that have helped me break this habit:

  1. Become hyper aware of the error. I put a giant sticky note next to my computer that said, “IT IS Christine!!!!”
  2. Use that handy “Find & Replace” tool on Microsoft Word. If your mind slips, it will save you.
  3. Be kind to yourself and keep writing. We all make mistakes. You will evolve if you try.

Here’s hoping the advice I gave myself, helps you too! What type of bad writing habits do you have? How did you break them?

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine