Writing News

Stress, Real Life, and Writing Woes

Good morning,

Unfortunately due to unforeseen events, I will not be able to update my blog this morning. I do apologize. I’m hoping to be able to update on a different day this week. If that does not occur, I will return next Saturday on my usual schedule.

Thank you for your understanding.

Writing Tips

Pacing: Writing Travel from Point A to Point B

Pacing is one of the more important pieces to the puzzle when writing, but it can also be tricky. You want your story to flow well and you also want it to be believable.

In my opinion, one of the hardest times to accomplish this delicate balance is while your characters are making a long journey. Your pacing not only depends on the time you spend with your characters, but keeping the story on track with a believable timeline dependent on their mode of transportation. It will take far longer for your characters to walk compared to those who have access to car, for example.

I have a tendency to send my characters off on these adventures and I’m starting to believe I enjoy torturing myself. Understanding travel time has become much easier as I’ve grown older. After years of driving I now know that traveling 30 miles can take as few as fifteen minutes depending on your speed. When I was a teenager that wasn’t the case.

This is an area where research can be useful. I’m grateful for the internet in this regard. I have very little experience riding horses and flying in helicopters, but I can learn from others. When I first started writing Book One I didn’t have access to the internet. I was young and naive about the world. I attempted to force my characters to travel far longer than was necessary to achieve unrealistic timelines.

If you’re one of those organized people who enjoys using an outline to write, setting up your timeline is easy. If your a disorganized person like me, it just takes  practice and mindfulness of reality. Once you understand that it won’t take eight hours to drive twenty miles from point A to point B, that is when pacing the story in between comes in.

Readers want action. Travel is one of those places where a story can collect too much fluff and not enough substance. Putting one foot in front of the other, staring out at the endless highway, or watching the waves as they roll away from a ship are only interesting if something else is happening at the same time. Knowing when to jump ahead and return to your traveler helps move things along.

Pacing is learned by practice. You may have learned about pacing in college. Maybe you’ve been told by someone reading your work that the pacing is too slow or too fast. In the end, I find that pacing requires practice. Reading with the intent of learning can be part of that practice. Also, watching movies and television can help with this as well. That may surprise you, but film also requires pacing to hold their audience. Reading public reviews of something you’ve watched or read can be a learning tool. Reviewers will point out when they felt the story was moving too slowly could point out similarities in your own plot.

In the end, stories often require travel. I doubt my characters will all become homebodies sipping tea while they converse in passive aggressive tones. If there are any situations your characters end up in that frustrate or delight you, please feel free to share them. Also if you have tips on pacing and timelines post them in the comments.

Thank you for reading!

Writing Tips

Writer’s Block: Hitting the Wall

Every writer experiences the dreaded writer’s block once in a while. I happen to experience it quite often. In my case, writer’s block doesn’t involve not having any ideas, but instead having too many. Another aspect of my block is that my brain tries to jump ahead too far in a story. I just want to get to the good part.

This isn’t productive. Setting up a deadline helps, but also it can cause me to panic as the deadline draws near.

Right now I’m experiencing such a block and I need to get past it as soon as possible. What’s interesting about this block is I’m experiencing it despite the fact that the rough draft is complete. As usual my brain wants to jump ahead. Although I’m editing I’m also retooling the original novel into a trilogy, which has required adding material even as I take unnecessary pieces away.

It would seem logical to allow myself to write the part of the story that my brain is interested in. I’ve tried this in the past and it actually makes things worse. At that point it is easy to move forward from where I jumped to, but it becomes even more difficult to go back to the spot where I was stuck.

Instead I’m going to try some other tactics.

One: Music.

Music is a fabulous tool for writers. I prefer epic instrumental pieces that fit the tone of the story over anything with lyrics. This prevents me from singing along instead of focusing.

I use music often to help me concentrate. Writing in a noisy environment, (which is a result of my home life,) can make it difficult to hold the thread of a story. Music helps me keep everything together in my mind.

Two: Amazing Images

I’m a visual learner. Searching for images that fit my story subject can bring new ideas or shake free the ideas that are just starting to bloom. Even if the images aren’t exactly in line with my ideas they can help me remember what I’m trying to accomplish.

Three: Going Back to the Original Inspiration

This is a strategy I’ve tried before with varied results. Sometimes your muse returns and sometimes it doesn’t. Despite that, it’s worth a try.

Four: Feedback

Receiving feedback from others can be very motivating, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Either it will drive me to keep going or to step back and improve what is already done. I’ve already lined up some people to help me with this phase.

Unfortunately, this block is going to delay my release date. Right now I’m hoping to have Book One ready by September 15th. I’ve added a writing timeline page to update with changes to the blog. You can find the link at the top of the page labeled Writing Timeline.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share any ideas or experiences with writer’s block in the comments!

Writing Tips

Characterization: Villains

When I was young I wanted to tell fantastic tales of magic and mystery that filled readers with awe. Breathtaking landscapes, mystical creatures, and the ultimate battles of good versus evil. Setting up a good scene is an important part of storytelling, and one that worked very hard at achieving. I would not only create the moment but the historical significance of why the world worked the way it did and how things had come to that point.

What I didn’t understand was that stories aren’t about scenes, they are about characters. The scene is important, but how the characters respond in that scene is even more important. The human element, (even if those humans are fairies or aliens or animals,) is what connects the fictional world to the reader. Because of this, getting to know your characters is the key to making them believable.

As I’ve grown as a writer I’ve also learned to make my characters alive instead of props to the action around them. I like to imagine creating a new character is a lot like getting to know a stranger. Having conversations with my characters brings them to life in my mind. More than just hair, eye, and skin tone but what really makes them tick. What is their favorite color? How to they hold their hands when they speak? Are they expressive, dull, or moody? What is the thing they like about themselves? What do they wish was different? There are so many aspects of a character that make them feel realistic.

This is especially important for the primary players. The protagonist is the person with whom the audience is going to spend the most time, and making them believable is important. However; I believe it is even more important for the antagonist. Protagonists in a good versus evil world are easy to write. They are the “hero” or the “good guy,” Their motivation is easy because that is the point of the story. When it comes to the villain, however; it isn’t quite so clear cut.

The biggest question I ask myself when creating my villains is: why? If I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation, or can only respond “Because (s)he is evil,” that’s not a good enough answer. Villains are people, too. They have vision, dreams, and motivations just like everyone else. They may not even realize that they are the villain depending on their view of the world. Understanding that view is what will make a villain believable or cliché.

Another way I’ve come to look at it is that I’m the villain. I’m the one pitting my heroes against obstacles, putting them in danger, and threatening them at every turn. Why would I be doing this to characters that I have created and given voice? Because a story about how Tim and Sue went to the market isn’t that interested unless a believable conflict occurs.  I merely pass that onto the character who will act as my emissary in being the epicenter of the struggle on the page.

In the end, being a writer is about waging wars within yourself until you can determine the most interesting outcome.

I enjoy writing villains far more than heroes. It is especially fun to write villains who are not as clearly defined as such. Evil often succeeds in festering because it is masked by the many faces of the human experience. When the problem makes sense, bringing the hero in to solve it becomes a much easier process of action and reaction.

What are your favorite types of characters? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

Publishing Tips, Writing News, Writing Tips

Book Covers: Fun With Images

I may be a disorganized person but I still like to plan as I go. When I decided that Book One was going to be edited and put on Amazon, I was worried the cover would be a hurdle. I started researching right away. I had no idea what  tangled mess of legality of using fonts and images. Luckily, one of my good friends is a graphic artist and she was able to explain much of it to be before I even started looking.

I started out thinking I could probably use a stock photo. I don’t have the largest budget to work with, in fact I have barely any budget at all. I’m sure that this is a reality for many writers, especially at the beginning. As I began researching images and licencing of stock photos, I come across blogs stating that you can purchase images for just a few dollars. In my mind, “a few dollars” is under ten. When you actually look at the pricing of on these sites for licensing for commercial use, even purchasing credits is in the one-hundred dollar range depending on the image.

Everyone’s idea of inexpensive is different. To some, that may be a bargain. To me, that’s a lot of money.

I then learned about creative commons images and public domain. This is a rout that is possible, if I can find something that works. I’ve found many of these photos look like that roll of film someone took at random events and then forgot to pick them up from the developer. If I can find the right one, with the right legal licensing, it’s a possible place to find my image. I haven’t had luck so far.

Of course, Amazon has a cover creator. I created a mock book just to test it out. Similar to the creative commons pictures, I haven’t found an image I can work with. I’m looking for dark, mysterious, and dystopian. The images on Amazon are too generic yet cheerful. Going without an image is an option, but it feels like a last resort.

I also looked at Canva. The price is fine but once again the images are the same as on Amazon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the same images on both sites.

I’m going to continue browsing all of these resources, of course, but I have little hope of finding what I need.

I’d rather use my own image. Not only would I not be settling for something that only vaguely represents my story, I’d also have fully rights to it and never have to worry.

I consider myself to be a fairly artistic person. My family is full of artists. I understand color, design, and negative space. I can see images clearly in my head, and how they should curve and form and connect to create that image line by line. For some reason, that doesn’t transfer to my hands and I draw at the level of a semi-talented pre-teen.

That’s why I’m a writer and not a painter.

I’ve thought about taking a photograph myself. My only camera is my phone, but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. With the right enhancements and filtering I could possibly make something that would work. Of course, even there you have to be careful. Recognizable places also have legal rights, just like people’s images.

Although it’s been a frustrating few weeks of searching through images and learning about the legal walls, I am glad I researched this topic in advance. It would be horrible to be ready to suddenly learn all of this when my deadline is up. Whether I take the picture myself, miraculously draw something suitable, or find a photo I can reasonably afford, in the end I’ll know it will get done.

If you have any tips or ideas for creating book covers, or want to share your own ideas, feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.