3 Curious Ways to Build Character: Wisdom from the Writer’s Journal #writingtips #amwriting

When you build a character, you are really fueled by curiosity not answers. ~Andre Dubus III

I believe Andre Dubus III put the art of building characters in perfect perspective. We as writers are indeed driven by curiosity. It is our ‘watching’ of the world, and those around us, that constructs who our characters are and ultimately become. Even in our minds, we watch them, the characters who live in our imaginations.

WatchingWhen we allow the stories in our heads to tell themselves with an organic voice, we become witnesses, and thus stenographers if you will. We find our characters behaving naturally in their environments, shocking us with the choices they make, the thoughts they have, the people they connect with, their mannerisms.

Curiously, we keep our eyes on them, jotting down every detail. We watch. We build. It becomes like a game of Jeopardy. We have the answers to who and why. The story that we write around these ‘answers’ is where the questions come from.

The stories themselves are actually the questions.

HERE ARE 3 PRACTICES TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN BUILDING CHARACTERS

  1. WATCH: Take the time to watch your characters perform within your imagination. This doesn’t require actual writing but focused observation. Feel free to jot down notes from what you see but not so much to work your story (unless it is a scene that belongs in the story). What you are witnessing is getting you familiar with the nuances of each character’s personality.
  2. LISTEN: Pay close attention to what your characters are saying during these moments of focused concentration. The tone they use with the server at a restaurant does give you a clue as to how they would or would not respond to their ex if they called out of the blue.
  3. BUILD: Take what you’ve seen and heard during these moments and use them as tools for while you are writing. You build with knowledge. You gain knowledge from learning to understand, and understanding comes from watching and listening.

For some more tips on character building, and character watching,  read my article and writing exercise titled, Coffee with Character…or Tea.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

5 Crucial Things to Remember While Writing Your First Draft: #AmWriting #WritingWisdom #writingtips

 

First Draft.

Those two words wield a whole lot of power, evoking emotions from giddy excitement to brain numbing dread.

Some writers stand strong on the side of excitement, ready to throw down words and metaphors like hot fire, while others battle cold sweats and nausea at the single thought of how many words it’s going to take to bring their creative vision to life.

365-day-writing-challengeI digress for just a moment. If you are one of those who struggles with where to begin with your novel-writing-journey, give this writing prompt I created a try. It’s called Write Your Novel in 365 Days. 

With as few as 200 words a day, guided by a single word of the day to inspire you, you can have a complete novel written from start to finish in 365 days!

And just remember, your 365 day writing year starts on the day you begin. It could even be today!

Back to the original point.

No matter where you stand on the first-draft-spectrum, you will more often than not, run into those familiar feelings that try to convince you that what you are doing, or what you’ve done thus far just isn’t good enough in comparison to your original vision! (For some specific encouragement about that issue, read, 3 Reasons to Keep Creating.)

Your first draft is similar to a preliminary sketch in an artist’s sketchbook.

The point is, those thoughts you are having aren’t necessarily as untrue as they are irrelevant at the moment.

Now, let me explain my meaning before you leave this posting.

You are writing a first draft. Your first draft is similar to a preliminary sketch in an artist’s sketchbook. Sketches are lovely in their own right, but they are nothing compared to the polished finished piece.

The finished piece will have more color, more contrast, more depth. More care and focus is given to the finished piece.

This is the truth of your first written draft. It is a sketch. It’s good enough now as a ‘sketch’, but prepare yourself to make it even better as a final draft. . . and you will!

With that being said, here are 5 Crucial Things to Remember about your first draft to encourage you as you continue on this writing journey:

  1. Just keep writing: First drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to BE in order to be worked into something incredible. Keep building your story’s foundation with this first round of word-slinging.
  2. Don’t make the story into something that it is not: There is a saying in the visual art world that is, “Create what you see, not what you think you see.” In the case of writing, “Write what you see, not what you wish to see for convenience.” If you want to derail your stories authenticity and originality, try to fit it into a mold that makes you “comfortable,” but totally contradicts what the characters in your piece are laying out for you.
  3. TRUST THE PLOT TO WORK ITSELF OUT!: If your story seems to have a conflict that has you uncertain about how it is going to resolve itself, don’t worry. If you follow your muse and honor point #2 the resolution will reveal itself at the appropriate time. For more on this read my post called, “The Hydra Effect: 3 Ways to Manage Multiple Plot Conflicts”.
  4. Don’t mind the word count…too much: (Obviously, 200k is a lot to manage for a reader and even a writer at times.) Just write what the story is telling you in ALL the words that it tells you the first time around. You can trim and polish later.
  5. Just have fun: What other reason is there for writing fiction besides to have fun?

So keep writing, my friends. Make those ugly word messes in your first draft. Create those run-ons and those dead end plot twists. All of this is part of the glory of writing a story!

*These 5 points were taken from my post called, Never Judge a First Draft By It’s Word Count: The Fun of Novel Writing,” published on May 21, 2015.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

How Writing is much like Farming: Words to Creatives #Amwriting #writinglife #writingtip #writing

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“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” ~Thomas A. Edison

I was going through some quotes by Mr. Thomas A. Edison when I came across the one and thought of you, my fellow creatives. I thought about how down in our spirits we as aspiring authors and artist can get over our novels and creations when they seem to not be going the way we’d hoped and imagined, and for that reason, I  wanted to encourage you.

Let’s face it, as beautiful and exhilarating it is to write a book from start to finish–or to create any form of art–it is still a lot of hard work.

We as the creators often see how grand it is in its fledgling form because we see more than our words initially show in the first round of writing.

To see this way is great but we have to keep the truth in mind that our readers can’t see everything we see within our first expressions of our ideas.

They need a bit more showing and telling to gain the excitement we have about the piece and that doesn’t usually come with our first drafts or even with the first novel we set out to write.

Some people say not to be married to your first draft. Well, I would say not to make a deep commitment until draft 2 and not to get married until maybe draft 4 or 5.

Each draft is its own idea. Some are better than others. Some will take our novels and spin them into completely different concepts than we first began with.

But what began as a clutter of thoughts and ideas ends with something spectacular if we stick to it.

The key is to never give up, to remember that practice does indeed make perfect or it gets us pretty close to perfect. So keep sticking to your craft and your drafts and know that eventually, once polished enough, your gift will make room for you (Proverbs 18:16).

It is a joy to write, it is a privilege to be creative, but it is also hard work. We have to commit to the truth and adage that “for every ounce of gold we are going to have to move a ton of dirt.”

Like farming, you are going to sow a lot of seeds, some are going to produce great harvests while others are going to fall by the wayside. Still, farming is a good idea if you want to eat, right?

It’s the same way pressing through the dark patches of your craft is a good idea. Eventually, the light will come and you will enjoy the fruits of your labor.

What your stories are meant to be, what your art is meant to be, they will become…in time…if you don’t give up.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~Thomas A. Edison

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!
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Writing Guidelines…What you do with what you learn

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One of the wisest things a writer can do to better their craft and navigate the path to their desired literary success is to realize that they, in fact, don’t know everything but have room to learn just about anything.

One of the best things we can do to better gain wisdom is to learn from those who have gained the success that mirrors or resembles that which we are aiming for.

A few years back my eldest sister created a creative writing workshop book while she was on sabbatical from teaching at the University level. I had the privilege of being her guinea pig for the project, using the workbook from start to finish.

Out of the many writing exercises that she cleverly produced, the one that I enjoyed and affected me the most had to do with gleaning wisdom from the authors that I most read and/or admired.

I was tasked with:

  • Making a list of 4 of my favorite authors
  • Find a quote of theirs that spoke about their writing process (and from there)
  • Come up with 4 guidelines that I could follow to help me in my creative process

The 4 authors that I chose (in no particular order of popularity) were: Garth Nix, Frank Peretti, Tamora Peirce, and of course, Octavia E. Butler. Below are their quotes and following are the guidelines that I created from what each author had to say.

1. Octavia E. Butler:

    Genre: Sci/Fi

(This quote is in regard to a bad sci-fi movie she had seen when she was twelve.)

“Geez, I can write a better story than that.” So I got busy writing what I thought of as Science Fiction.””

*What a learned from her statement is that sometimes noticing a lack in the craft of others can lead you to find the strength within your own.

2. Garth Nix:

Genre: Young Adult Sci/Fi

I am the audience and I try and write a book that I would like now as a mature adult and that I would have enjoyed at thirteen or fourteen and upwards.”

*What I learned from Garth Nix is in order to write a convincing piece, I have to write it selfishly, as unto myself. But I have to write in a way that others can latch on to it as well.

3.Frank Peretti: (I have two quotes for him actually, but only one birthed a guideline.)

Genre: Horror/Christian/ Supernatural Fiction/ Young Adult

The best way to convey a spiritual truth is by telling a story because stories work.”

And

Don’t try to find truth by looking within yourself; you’re the one who’s confused.”

(The last quote just needed to be shared 😉 )

*What I learned from Frank Perretti (who holds the trophy for being the first author to get me to read a book all the way through for leisure. The book was the Oath. LOVED IT! It starts off with a knife, and blood and a woman running through the woods…curious aren’t you;) ) is that the truth is people like or are more comfortable by the imaginary. They become characters and make the story personal. They live the prose out in their minds as if they were their own memories, and can often glean strength to face their reality.

4. Tamora Peirce.

Genre: Fantasy/ Young Adult

(About getting ideas for her books…)

Some, I stumble across watching in nature programs…watching my mother and sister produce blankets from balls of yarn and crochet hooks. I thought of it as a kind of magic and wondered what all could be done with thread and magic.”

*What I learned is that everyday life is more than enough inspiration. The Lord God Yeshua Jesus gave us all we need to make masterpieces of our own.

Bonus: Victoria Osteen

Let peace be your umpire.”

So above are the things that I have learned. Below are my guidelines based off of the quotes I’ve gleaned from. You will notice that they are not exact to the quotes or what I have learned from the quotes. They are more the children born out of the marriage of the two:

MY WRITING GUIDELINES:

  • There is always room for your work if it is well thought out and concise.
  • Write what pleases you, but what others can connect to as well.
  • Stories are necessary for telling truths. Tell the truth.
  • You have all you need for you masterpiece so make it happen.
  • With everything I do, do it with peace as my ultimate guage and guide.

For me, these guidelines are freeing and very encouraging, like Chopsticks.

NOW YOU GIVE THIS A TRY:

  1. Take some time, look up some quotes from your favorite authors.
  2. Jot down what you glean from it  upon your first read (or after ruminating over it.)
  3. Come up with some guidelines of your own based off of the quotes you have read and what you have learned.
  4. Find an inspirational quote from a non-writer that inspires you.
  5. Put them into practice and then let me know how they worked for you.

Want to see my guidelines in action? Click and follow my Author Page at www.candicecoates.wordpress.com

Writer's Table

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

New Year, New Chapters, New Novel in 365 Days: Novel Writing Challenge 2017

Welcome to 2017! This is a new year for resolutions, clean slates, and fresh journals, which leads us to the 365-day novel writing challenge.

This challenge was inspired by a quote I came across on Facebook, by Brad Paisley. I’m certain what he said was not meant to be taken literally but I figured, hey, why not?

Tomorrow is the first blank page of 365 page book.Write a good one. ~Brad Paisley

When I read the quote, I thought, what would it really take to write a book in 365 days besides sitting down and writing one?

Then I saw another shareable moment that read:

12 new chapters. 365 new chances.~Unknown

Within the span of twenty minutes this challenge was born, one that I am giving to myself and offering to you as well.

SO WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 365 DAYS?:

A novel (Young Adult, New Adult, General Adult) will contain roughly 50,000 for YA, 70,000 to 90,000 words for Adult, depending on the genre. Genres like thrillers and science fiction run around 90,000 to 120,000 words, while middle-grade manuscripts require a lesser tome of roughly 20,000.

To get a bit more information about word count you can check out the blog, “Ask the Agent” by clicking the link.

Putting things down to daily requirements for word count within the 365-day challenge, here it goes:

  • 20k Novel: 54 words PER DAY
  • 50k Novel: 137 words PER DAY
  • 70k-90k Novel: 192 to 245 words PER DAY
  • 90k-120k Novel: 245 to 329 words PER DAY

Not very many words, huh? But this is a challenge after all, and I want to give you a little something to work with.

First, let me give you the rules or guidelines.

365-DAY CHALLENGE RULES:

  1. Choose a Genre and Demographic you’d like to write your novel for.
  2. Decide which bracket of word count you are in.
  3. THE RANDOM WORD OF THE DAY-Using a word each day chosen from the random. word list, fulfill your word count requirement by weaving the direction of your narrative around the given word. ( A list of words is at the bottom of this post. You can also do a Google search for random word engines and create your own list of 365 words.)
  4.  How to create Chapters: 52 chapters or 12 chapters in all:
    • EXAMPLE for a book with 80k words-  You will have roughly 1,600 words a week, the length of a chapter. Create 52 chapters (one for each week)
  5. Write for 365 days!

And that is it in a nutshell..mostly. This challenge is about having fun but there are going to be days this year where you just don’t have even five minutes to set aside for fun. Life does happen. Here are some things to keep in mind should you decide to take this challenge:

  • For days that you can’t write, double up on the days that you can. Grab the words assigned for the given day and write.
  • Feel free to follow your creativity: If you are feeling like you have more than 250 words for the day, GIVE MORE! Again, double or even triple up your writing goal for the days when the juices are flowing.
  • Have fun!

RANDOM WORD LIST WILL APPEAR ON THE NEXT PAGE. CLICK THE NEXT PAGE BUTTON BELOW THE ADDS, LIKES, & SHARE THIS TABS.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

Voice of Description: A Writing Exercise

I am certainly not the best at description but like most of us who strive to be the very best writing versions of ourselves, I am a work in progress.

Today, for Wisdom from the Writer’s Journal, I want to do an exercise of Description.

Writer's Table‘Description’ is everything when it comes to writing. We as writers do not have the same ‘advantages’ as those who create physical visual art. We do not paint with oils on canvas, we paint with words on the canvas of our reader’s minds.

We don’t have the bonus of background music to lead our scenes, letting our readers know the monster is coming around the corner or that the brooding man is about to kiss his love interest.

Nope. What we have are words to translate the vibrancy, heart and soul of our stories, and boy can they be the most powerful tool of all especially if they are wielded in the right way.

In order for our work to translate with the vibrancy, we intend it to we need to master the art of creating imagery through proper description. This is done through practice and exercise.

After all, you don’t want your action thriller to be mistaken for chick-lit, having sweet violins playing with the crescendo of mezzopiano while your hero is caught up in a shoot-out that may lead him or her to death’s door…

That is unless you are writing a chick-lit action thriller which is totally possible. Still, the sweet stringed music created by your description wouldn’t work there.

So with that in mind, here is an exercise to help you stay on descriptive track.

EXERCISE:

  1. Using the image below, write the first ‘novel-style’ description that comes to mind. This would be your ‘usual’ writer’s voice. (Example: If romance is your jam, describe with romance in mind. Get those violins playing!)
  2. Next, using the same image, write a second paragraph describing the character from a specifically from a woman’s point of view. (Note: How characters see each other also sets the tone of your story. Gender also affects this.)
  3. Do this now from a man’s point of view. (If you hadn’t already.)
  4. See which of your descriptions works best for these different Genres
    • Action-Thriller
    • Romance
    • Drama
    • Comedy
    • ETC
  5. Now, take the time to decide why you feel this way. Jot down your reasons.
  6. Keep these things in mind for the future.

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Voice is everything, the voice behind the voice especially. Don’t just live in a creative comfort zone. Stretch yourself on purpose, with purpose and take your stories to a whole other level. Be able to write in several ranges.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

What Did You Say?: 4 Steps to Building Up Your Craft with Words

We’ve all done it, said ugly things about our art, found the faults in our craft so much so that we alone have brought ourselves down into the very depths of discouragement’s dumps. (Take a look at Artful Aggression for more on that.)

It’s an easy thing to do, really, to see what is wrong with what we’ve created. And let’s face it, nothing is ever really perfect not even your final draft. But even with that being the case there has to be something worth praising in the work that you have accomplished in its pre-polished form.

So as an exercise, I am challenging you to create a list to combat all the negatives that you’ve said about your work in the past while giving you some keys to keep you positive in your creative future.

STEP ONE:

  • Identify your familiar negatives, the ones you say the most about your work.

STEP TWO:

  • For each familiar negative, create a positive response.

Here, I’ll share my own top 3 negatives and do some positive combating as an example catching myself within a downward spiral of creative discouragement is what prompted this posting in the first place.

Negative #1: My stories are far too long.

Positive #1: Length in most cases is relative and the fact I can muster so many words is a strength for storytelling.

Negative #2: My words are weak, the flow of them is stagnant.

Positive #2: What I have is a very good start. Now that I see where I can improve I can take what is weak and carry it to the next level. I have something good to build from.

Negative #3: Nobody cares about this story. Critics are going to tear this apart.

Positive # 3: Every story has its audience and those for which this story is written will love it and share it with others. Even if only one person finds joy having read your my they were worth writing for.

STEP 3:

  • Combine your positives into one encouraging statement.

Here is what all three positives read like together:

Length in most cases is relative and the fact I can muster so many words is a strength for storytelling. What I have is a very good start. Now that I see where I can improve I can take what is weak and carry it to the next level. I have something good to build from. Every story has its audience and those for which this story is written will love it and share it with others. Even if only one person finds joy having read my work they were worth writing for.

Doesn’t that just put an encouraging smile on your face? It does mine and hey it even makes me want to get back to work on my stories.

STEP 4: Now you give it a shot!

  1. Write down your top self-discouraging statements about your craft (3 to 5 is good.)
  2. For each negative immediately write a positive.
  3. Create a statement of heroic encouragement by combining all of your Positives.
  4. Print it out and post it in your creative space to look at each time you are feeling discouraged.
  5. BONUS: Remember that you are always growing and always learning and there is never any negative to combat that!

Writer's Table

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!