Preptober #1 | How To Get Started With Your NaNo Project

“Preptober” is a term that some writers who partake in November use to describe the month of October, where we’re all deciding what to write and laying out plot, characters, setting etc. In these blog posts, I want to help you along your own Preptober journey! But, before we continue on… what is NaNoWriMo, exactly? To put it simply, it’s a 30-day challenge with hundreds of thousands of other writers around the world, where you attempt to write 50,000 words – or the threshold of a novel – in a month. You can find out more on the website.

preptober 1

I would say that, at this point, I am a NaNoWriMo veteran. This year will be my 6th year attempting NaNoWriMo, which is so exciting and scary!

As of now, I have a few ideas milling about my head. One of them, that I’m actually leaning towards, is simply this: “a contemporary romance”.

Yup, that’s it.

Continue reading “Preptober #1 | How To Get Started With Your NaNo Project”

Dammit Procrastination!

Ugh, I hate it when you’re avoiding doing what you want to be doing. Right?

First of all, procrastination makes no sense. Sure, if it’s something you don’t want to be doing, I understand. But I want to be writing; I want to tell my character’s stories. So why can’t I – and why can’t you?

  • Can’t be arsed. Basically, what it says on the tin. When you’ve had a long day, and you just don’t want to.
  • Written yourself into a plot hole. Those little plot bunnies burrow their way into your work and then undermine all your lovely plans. They’re terrible, I know.
  • Something else is distracting you. A looming deadline, screaming kids, the moon being too bright. The usual.
  • You don’t want to do it. Is it an article that you’ve been putting off because the subject makes you yawn?
  • The deadline is looming. Funnily enough, I work brilliantly under pressure – just ask my GCSE grades. But some people – most people, probably – don’t. Like, at all. And when a deadline is coming up, especially if you know this could make or break your career, it just seems to oddly give you more of a reason to avoid it.

Procrastination affects most people in their lives. Be it for a college application, picking the kids up from school (writing, kids, writing, kids…) or even going to bed, it’s there.

So, what can you do about procrastination?

  • Make yourself be bothered. I normally devise a punishment for myself if I don’t do it. I want to lose weight this year, and if I don’t hit my goal, I’m having a cold shower. May I remind you that by this time it will be December and our house freezes.
  • Look back over stuff you’ve written, and see if you can figure yourself out of what ever hole you’ve written yourself into. Maybe you forgot something and it made you take a completely different path to the one you had thought out. Sure, it may mean you have a rewrite a lot of it, but it’s better than finishing and your manuscript being a mess.
  • Get rid of distractions. Some people tidy their rooms if their procrastinating. Tidy them before you try to start work. Hell, lock yourself in a box (without WiFi, phones or a book) and make yourself write.
  • If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it (NOTE: this doesn’t apply to homework). Also note that this applies only if you don’t need the money… That article you don’t want to do? Don’t do it! If you have to, then yes, by all means, do it. But if you really really don’t want to do it, it’s making you miserable and you just can’t even bare thinking about it…don’t do it.
  • If you can, move the deadline to a later period. If you can’t, get your butt into gear. Sometimes, you just have to give up and do it. I want to start writing in 10 minutes, working on my novella – hence, I’ve got my butt into gear and written this article!

Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. Have fun with doing it. If it’s making you unhappy, get yourself another hobby (if it’s your job, find a new job!).

But just because I’ve said that doesn’t mean that some days you just don’t want to write. And that’s okay.

Procrastination is basically just an annoying kitten that won’t leave you alone. Sometimes you just have to give it some attention and play along before it goes off to sleep.

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

PS Sorry this post may be a bit scattered. I’m tired, all right?! 😛

Strip Off!

keep-calm-and-strip-off-not-literally

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to walk around naked. And, I’m assuming, neither do your characters.

Characters need clothes (duh). But not all characters dress the same.

Let’s take a historical period – Tudors. Women would wear long dresses, platform shoes if they were out, and often something on their head, like a bonnet or headdress. Men would wear big hats, long coats, shirts and those funny poofy trousers.

But that’s not all. There were jesters (I’m sure you all know what they look like), peasants in cloths and children would often just wear one full dress, especially if they were babies.

Nowadays, there’s a whole array of fashion. Crop tops, jumpers, jackets, t-shirts, long shirts, three-quarter length shirts, shirts with collars, button up shirts, pull over shirts. And that’s just tops.

You have shoes to think about, trousers (or ‘pants’ as Americans like to call them – actually, speaking of pants, you have underwear as well! Are your characters thong people?(!)), head wear, like a motorbike helmet, glasses, scarves, bags…

So when you dress your characters, keep in mind that they don’t all wear the same. One character might be a ‘chav’ – wear jogging bottoms, hooped earrings, cropped t-shirts. Another might be a more casual dresser, and wear jeans, a t-shirt and trainers. Another might be a cosplayer – seriously, imagine how much fun you’d have with that!

Even in historical contexts, not all characters dress the same. They might wear a different colour, have a headband whereas another does not, or have a different trim of lace.

The biggest difference between character’s wear is men and women – traditionally, the trousers vs. dress argument. Keep this in mind when you’re writing. If you’re going for a Mulan-like story, sure, your female character can wear trousers. But, more often than not, this wouldn’t happen. If you’re going for a real-life example, the only crime Joan of Arc was convicted of was wearing men’s clothing.

People don’t wear the same, so characters don’t either. In the novella I’m writing at the moment, one of my characters is going through a phase of wearing long, Lord of the Rings style dresses. Another just wears jeans and a t-shirt. Another likes shirts with collars. Another likes darker coloured clothing.

So mix-and-match with your characters clothing, and make them stand out.

More importantly, make them real.

Top tip: use a website like Doll Divine to have fun at creating different outfits. Sure, it seems childish, but it’s actually strangely addictive…

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

Inspirenza

I didn’t know what to write about today. So, I Googled ‘writing advice’, and a quote from Jack London came up:

Jack London Inspiration

Many people – not just writers; artists, even teachers looking for entertaining ways to teach their urchins – suffer from severe case of what I like to call inspirenza.

Are you a sufferer? There’s some ways to tell:

  • When you sit down to write/draw/teach your mind goes blank and you have no idea what to say.
  • You catch yourself browsing social media for ideas. Yes…even Twitter.
  • The outside is scarily looking welcoming.
  • You think you’d rather have a job where you know what you’re doing and it requires little-to-no work for your brain.

So if you’ve caught inspirenza, what can you do about it? Well, let me tell you now, antibiotics aren’t an option and plagarisation will get you sued. You’re on your own (well, apart from the entirety of the writing community willing to help you out).

As Jack London said, you have to go after your inspiration with a club. IE: you have to drive out that inspirenza yourself. So. Cures.

  • Google. Google is life, everyone knows that. Google random words, prompts, whatever. Have fun.
  • Walkies! Take the dog, or if you don’t have a dog, the cat, turtle, even the goldfish (ok maybe not the goldfish) and have a walk. Don’t listen to music – instead, listen to the sounds of the outdoors. Eavesdrop carefully and steal conversations. Look at the flowers and the trees, the people, interactions, buildings.
  • If the hint of an idea comes to you WRITE IT DOWN. The thing with inspirenza is that it can take an instant to recover from, but you can relapse just as easily. Don’t let those ideas get away from you!
  • Ask friends and family. Scary idea, but they can really help. Bounce ideas around (unless you’re JKR who says that that kills them for her). Ask if they have any ideas.
  • If all else fails, grab a club and go caveman style. I don’t mean killing buffalo and going after your PE teacher (as hard as it is to differentiate, they’re not a Neanderthal). I mean just think of something. Just get some words, any words, your thoughts on the page. Set the timer for a minute, 5 minutes. Write. Just write.

Inspirenza is curable. Honest. If it can take a hold of you, you can shake it off. It may seem dark and dreary when it’s hovering over your shoulders like a mouldy blanket you can’t bear to wash, but as soon as you scrub it clean things will be better on the other side.

If you want a real life example, look at me right now: I had no idea what to write about, and I’ve just invented a new word. Anything is possible.

Everybody has days when inspirenza strikes. Sometimes you just have a mind blank. And then you have to fight it off. Go on, try it now! Otherwise this guy will be after you and he looks pretty frickin’ angry.

AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

Rules of Speech #2

Hey, folks. So, on November 15th, I did a post on the Rules of Speech (basically, grammar when writing dialogue). But, I realised I missed some stuff out, so here I am for mark 2!

For other info, please read the other article, linked above. I’ll be doing stuff today about separate sentences, and verbs splitting up speech.

Firstly, if you do a line of speech, and then the next line isn’t connected, it finishes in a full stop, and the next sentence starts with a capital letter. Example:

“You’ll be one of us soon, don’t worry.” Alice passed him a rubber duck.

Likewise, it works the other way. Example:

Alice passed him a rubber duck. “You’ll be one of us soon, don’t worry.” 

If the verb/s (eg ‘said’) describes the speech, it has commas. Read the article linked above for this info. 🙂

If a verb splits up a line of speech, but the whole bit of speech is one sentence, it’s all commas and lowercase letters. Example:

“You’ll be one of us soon,” she said, “don’t worry.”

If a verb splits up a line of speech, but they’re two separate sentences, it’s a comma, full stop and capital letter (in that order). Example:

“You’ll be one of us soon,” she said. “Don’t you worry.” 

If a word splits up a line of speech, but isn’t related to the way it’s spoken, it’s all full stops and capital letters. Example:

“You’ll be one of us soon.” She passed him a rubber duck. “Don’t you worry.”

So yeah, that’s basically it! Any other info? Feel free to ask! 🙂

And please, please, please read the other article for extra information about rules of speech. Look, I’ll even link it again!

– Hannah 🙂

We’re History…

Historical fiction has always been around, since…well, since history began! For example, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, although a romance, is also historical fiction! But how do you write a good historical fictional story?

Well, like any story, you need a plot, interesting characters, and a setting. I’ll put up a basic idea to use for the purpose of this post – how about a story about a girl who finds out that she can make the worlds in her mind become real, but there are dark forces trying to stop her (aka the plot of The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin by Alan Shea. Hey, I never said it was my idea!). We’ll start with setting.

This is historical fiction, so you need to write about a historical time: in this case, it about ten year after WWII, so about the mid-1950s. Alice lives in London, so obviously it’s still pretty wrecked from the Blitz – in fact, one of the main settings is an old bomb shelter. Furthermore, the places are put together so well that you can create a map in your head!

But also with the setting, you need to have the ‘setting’ of the time. For example, the clothes of the time, or the slang – Alice and her friends use 50s slang when they talk.

For the setting, you have to do a shed load of research. Get yourself a notebook, and use a variety of sources. For other info on research, check out this post. Use a variety of sources for this one, though – perhaps even speak to a historian?

Next up: PLOT! Now, you can tell a real history story, or you can make up one on your own. Alice’s story is fictional, but it is so well put together it seems real. Whereas, there’s a story called Bucephalus that I read years ago, about Alexander the Great’s horse – it follows his story, so, although it is fictional, it is historically accurate.

If you’re making up your own plot, the same applies as that from setting – do your research. If you write about a real event, then you really have to do your research. You can’t afford to get things wrong with the plot if it’s about a real event. If it is a real event, then also make sure you keep with the settings as accurately as possible, otherwise, even if the plot is realistic, the entire story won’t seem realistic altogether.

Finally, characters! Like with plot, you can go two ways with this – one, you can make up your own main character, such as Alice. Or, you can use a character that really existed, such as Bucephalus. If you’re using a character from your own imagination, then yay for you – free will! Just make sure that they stick with the time. But, if you’re using a character from history’s mitts, then you have to make sure you know that person as well as possible. Research on the internet; look up myths surrounding them; read as many biographies – or autobiographies, if possible – as you can; make sure you know them inside out upside down.

If you want another source for info about history, then try CBBC’s Horrible Histories. If you don’t want to watch it, then you can always read the books!

Questions? Shoot! 😀 And sorry that it was late…

Awesome Alliteration

So, shall we see how skillfully I can slip in some stupendous, superb (s)alliteration?

Or, let’s not.

But alliteration is a brilliant device to use in writing. But, what is it, first of all – well, according to Google, the definition is:

“The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.”

So, basically, the first letter is the same of each word or words that are close to each other start with the same letter – such as my first sentence of this article.

Alliteration is useful to change tone to your story, especially as it makes it more vivid. Furthermore, it gives a more poetic style and ‘mimics the natural rhythm of the rain’. People read it more fluently, and it also makes a greater impact on the the reader’s memory – this means that they are more likely to remember your story if you have good alliteration! Also, alliteration gives dramatic effect – so, for example, if there is a huge action scene, or a scene where your character meets your true love, the alliteration makes the reader feel more for the story and the characters; exactly what you want.

However, you can’t over use alliteration. It gets too repetitive, and it makes the reader almost choke on the words. The readers are likely to stop reading, because they wouldn’t be able to get the words out in their head, either, so they won’t be able to do it if they’re reading aloud especially – exactly what you don’t want.

But you know something that’s perfect for alliteration?

Titles!

Titles are superb for alliteration. For example, one of the best known classics is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – which uses two ‘p’s – alliteration. Another one is John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men – two ‘m’s. It helps the reader remember them, and it can be shortened easily, without hopefully making it look bad – for example, Pride and Prejudice can become P&P (…although that can also stand for post and packaging…).

So yeah, I hope I reminded you about the awesomeness of alliteration. Challenge of the week: put some into your writing!

Any topics wanted for next time? Questions, tips? Shoot! 🙂

Sources:
Google
YAHOO! Answers
bbc.co.uk/bitesize

I’m Pretty Sure I’m Real…

Real in the eye of the beholder, that is. This week, I’ve been asked to write a post on how to create 3D characters – so here goes!

When reading a story, characters are either 2D or 3D: They either are not real to the reader, or real to the reader. Ideally, you want your characters to be that 3D person, but sometimes they fall flat (aah, puns). So how to you make them pop up and make your reader feel like they really know them? Here’s a few tips:

  • Give them a solid back story. Everyone you meet, even a newborn baby, will have a back story. Maybe they’re adopted, or they are mainly normal but get abnormally good grades. You can even create a timeline for your characters, from their birth to their death, and fill in what happens in all the years of their life. If you click the link just above, it’ll take you to an example I found that you can use!
  • Make them have flaws – and make these flaws matter. No, not the flaws like ‘stubborn’. Well, I guess you can have those flaws, but make them have more flaws than that! Maybe they’re bad at school subjects? Maybe they act first, think later? What you also need to do with these flaws is make them matter to the story. For example, in the book I’m writing, my MC is terrified to riding – but to save a horse from going to the knackers yard, she has to overcome those fears and ride him in an event (cliche, I know). There’s no point in their flaw being ‘act first, think later’ if everything always works out fine!
  • Make them have quirks. Everyone has quirks. Maybe your character is superstitious and throws salt over their shoulder if they spill any. Maybe they salute magpies. One of my characters, Cal, always bites his lip and Alice tells him off for it. Make these quirks continuous throughout the book, if they’re going to be – or, if they have a dramatic character development, maybe they realise that they have to get rid of these quirks. Maybe they develop as a nervous tick. If you can’t think of any quirks, sit in a busy coffee shop, with a notebook and pen, and just people watch. You’ll be amazed.
  • Make them develop as a character. There’s no point in a book where the MC stays continuous all the way throughout. They change because what’s happening around them means they have to. Make sure that your story flows with these changes, too.
  • Make your descriptions of a character strong enough that the reader can easily paint a picture of them in their minds. Have them toss a strand of brown hair over their shoulder. Maybe they feel sweat on pale palms. They wipe a red, cold nose. They hit their head on the top of the bus, or can’t fit in the bus seats. For your reader to emphasis with someone, they have to have an image of them in their minds – and if you don’t make it, they will, and, to you, what they make might be wrong to how they actually are. For more info, click here!
  • Make their personality differ from others. That’s what makes your character stand out, and, if you look around, you’ll see that real life people have different personalities from their friends, too; their likes, dislikes, etc.
  • Eating, sleeping and pooping. I’m pretty sure I’ve done a post on this before – ah, yes, here it is. Just make sure you keep this one in mind.
  • Don’t rule out religions and other races. For example, a Satanic character. Or a character that is a black male, but isn’t as buff as most stereotypical books say. Don’t be afraid to research stuff like this, or ask about it. If you go to school/college, there’s bound to be an RE teacher that you can ask about religions!
  • Keep their actions human. If they’ve just broken up with someone they love, or someone they love has dumped them for no reason, they’re bound to be upset, for a few hours at the very least. If someone’s died, they are going to mourn. You want your characters to appear human, they have to act human. If they’ve just been sick, they aren’t going to be stuffing their faces in the next minute.
  • Make sure that they have a motive. And no, I’m not just talking about the bad guy here. Sometimes the good guys need a motive – if they think that there’s a high chance of dying shortly, are they really going to go to that war? Do they need someone to give them a push? *Cough*Coulson*Cough*.

I cannot really think of any more. If you need any more tips, look at your friends or family. What makes them seem real (apart from the fact that they are)? Do they try and do a good turn every day? Do they say a prayer each night? Carry around a notebook and jot down anything that you could put with a character to make them seem more real to your readers – because isn’t that just what you want?

Hope that helped!

Questions, hints, thoughts? Shoot. 😀

Climatic Climax

Your character is just about to find the bad guy/go in for that test/find the hidden key to return to the modern world.

And that thing – the big thing – happens. The Climax.

The climax is one of the biggest parts of the story, so you need to make it good, and is the bit that the entire rest of the book has been leading up to – the build up (obviously), all the little climaxes (or ‘crises’). 

Look at this picture of a story arc below:

story-arc-1

Lovely, isn’t it? Anyway.

Your story needs to build up to the climax steadily (but not too steadily, you want your readers to finish the book eventually!). Have little climaxes all the way throughout, so that your reader doesn’t get bored (see image: the four little bumpy things before the big bumpy thing). Here, I’ll use ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ as an example.

Obviously, the climax in this book is Harry defeating Prof. Quirrell by the Mirror of Erised. However, there are little climaxes leading up to it: for example, as a punishment, Harry is sent into the Forbidden Forest, and sees a) the Voldy/Quirrell combo drinking a unicorn’s blood, and b) a centaur for the first time. Boom: little climax.

Leading up the main climax, you need to do a thing called ‘foreshadowing’ (should I do an extra article on this?). This means dropping little hints all the way throughout, leading up to the climax. For example, your character might talk about death a lot, and end up dying. Don’t do this too much, though, you don’t want to make it too obvious: what you are really aiming for is for the readers to, when they read over your work again afterwards or get to the climax, go ‘Ooooh, now I get it!’ – not ‘Whoa, when did that happen?’, because they didn’t understand how it built up, which leads me on to…

You need to make sure it makes sense in the book. You can’t have a story that’s about something like a murder, and that is what it is about (eg solving it) and then the climax is a huge horse riding competition for the MC. It just doesn’t make sense, and the reader will know that, too. They’ll probably get confused, stop reading, and throw the book at your head.

Finally, after the climax comes the ending of the book, so dropping hints to the end of it and make sure that your book doesn’t end at the climax is a must. You need to be able to wrap up your story fairly rapidly after the climax; oh, but, that’s for another day!

So, to recap:

  • Use the build up and little climaxes to your advantage.
  • Foreshadow like hell.
  • Don’t have a really random climax (as in, out of context in your novel).
  • Make sure that you pave the way for you to finish your book – or, indeed, leave a cliffhanger for the sequel!

Hope that helps with your climaxes! Questions? Shoot!

How To Research

Apologies for not updating – my grandpa died recently, and I haven’t been coping very well. Also, apologies for the title. I couldn’t think of anything funny. It’s rather annoying.

Anyway. Last week, well actually I don’t know when, I made a point on why you should research. Now, I think I should tell you how.

#1 – make sure you have the materials to do so. 

As I mentioned this last week, I shall not go into so much detail about it here. Just remember to have something to write with and something to write on.

#2 – get into the right frame of mind.

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to research, you won’t be able to retain much of the stuff you learn – and, although you have it there, it’s a lot easier to have most of it in your mind. Also, if you’re not in the right frame of mind, you might not find the right stuff, the stuff you’re looking for, or you might miss the most important stuff.

#3 – when you are actually researching, make sure that you…

First offs, read the whole thing – for example, the webpage, or page of a book – first. This way, if it’s complete and utter codswallop, you haven’t recorded it unnecessarily. Make sure you record it clearly and concisely. Make sure you understand what you are writing, so when you come back to it later, you don’t have to try and decode it. And when you do record it, make sure you record everything. And yes, I mean everything. Even if you don’t think it’s relevant, it may be lter.

#4 – if you’re using just the internet, make sure you use a variety of websites.

And make sure you record everywhere you get them from, especially if it’s a big project (like, make a bibliography). This means that if you write something, and, perhaps, post it online and someone disagrees, you can refer them to the source (or if you need to, blame the source for the mistake!). Also, some websites, such as Wikipedia, anyone can edit, so there can be a lot of made up stuff on there. Make sure you always check it up against other sources! And remember: only use the information if they all agree on it, especially for things like History. Finally, if possible, get visible proof, such as a YouTube video.

#5 – if possible, use a library.

Yes, this mystical places still exist! Wow! And, yes, although they have definitely – unfortunately – declined in standard, they are still marvellous places to go for research, especially for history (just beware that new things may have been discovered in between the time they were written and the time you were reading it). Take a notebook and pen and sit down, have a good read and a browse. Some books are absolute gems, and they’ll help you more than the internet.

#6 – if even more possible, talk to someone.

When I say this, I mean someone that was there, or is an expert on the subject, like a Geography teacher or History professor. Or, as aforementioned, get someone who experienced it! For example, I spoke to my Granddad about WWII, as he was in London during the Blitz. And, believe me, I found it much more useful than looking at some old webpage about someone I don’t really know, because I could see the emotion on his face! Remember, if you are talking to someone, ask them if it’s ok to take notes (because otherwise it may look a tad rude) or use a dictaphone or a voice reminder thingy on your phone so you can listen to it back and perhaps make a transcript.

I’m not sure what else to write about research, apart from the fact that it is vital, but if you do require any more help, then please, feel free to comment below. 🙂

Also, would anyone mind if I posted some of my own writing in the future, or should I create a new blog? Thanks, guys!

And yes, I will try and do some more posts. 🙂