Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Word Wednesday Dec. 21/11

This week I wanted to just offer a quick tidbit about a word you should avoid using. I've been writing and proofreading essays for the past couple of weeks and my biggest complaint is the use of the word "thing". The word "thing" doesn't help me understand anything. For example:

Her father loved her more than all of his things.

This does tell me that her father loved her, but isn't it much more convincing when you tell me what those "things" are? For example:

Her father loved her more than all of his antique books, his job, his electronics, and all of his precious stones.

Sometimes it's harder to replace than that, but I encourage you to avoid using the word "thing" when writing. There is always a better way to describe an idea or object (I was about to say "something" instead of idea or object!) than using the word "thing".

Hope that helps and have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Writing Projects


Today, I wanted to write about some fun writing projects to take on around Christmas. Sometimes I get so caught up in my stories, that I never pause to put my writing skills to use for other people or do side projects. However, last year I was introduced to a whole new world of writing around Christmas. It was just so much fun, so I've made up a list of some of the best ways to put your writing skills to use in the festive season for your listening...er reading enjoyment.

1. Present Letters
This is a personal favourite that is a little bit kooky, but tons of fun. Here's what you do. You look at a present you intend to give to someone and write them a letter to go with it, taking on the persona of someone relevant to the gift you're giving. For example, last year we gave my grandma a new telephone, so I wrote her a letter from Alexander Graham Bell and taped it onto the box.

2. Short Story Gifts
Write a short story (preferably about Christmas), format it nicely, and then give it to someone. Either make one up, or transform a treasured memory into a story. The options are endless. Share your imagination with someone this year! Does that sound corny...? Ah well, it's Christmas.

3. Christmas Cards
Now, this is a pretty common one, but the uncommon thing that I'm suggesting is to write something truly meaningful in the card. You may already do this (if so good on you!), but most cards our family gets just have our names written in the card and a signature. Think about what makes you love the recipient of the card and tell them. It's okay to fill up the blank side of the card. Being a writer, words come easier to you then others so make use of that talent.

4. Poetry
Come up with some personal poetry to put in your Christmas cards. I for one am not a poet, and my skills pretty much begin and end with "Roses are red, violets are blue..." and I still struggle to fill that in! Anyways, if you are a gifted poet then get those blank cards and add your own Christmas poem in them.

5. Write a family memoir
Take a look over the past year and write about what you as a family did, things you learned, how God worked in your family etc. Start off lighthearted, and end with a serious reflection on the year. Make it as long as you wish, format it nicely, and give out to members of your family.


There is my short list of ways to use your writing skills at Christmas. These ones are on the more serious side of things, but you can do things that are purely fun (like making up new words for traditional carols). Like I said earlier, the possibilities are endless. Honestly, I've found that people genuinely treasure these personal creative touches. It trumps any gift you could buy. Have fun, and have a very Merry Christmas (it's the best time of the year)!

P.S. Let me know of any ideas you come up with in the comment section or if you do any of these ones I mentioned. I love hearing about other's Christmas writing projects!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Right Brain vs. Left Brain and How it Applies to Writing


I've mentioned it earlier that I've been reading You First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb. I've been sifting through the pages looking for tidbits of information on and off for weeks now. Speaking of which, I need to go renew it (I've probably racked up an unreasonable amount of fines at our local library from it).
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Alright, back. Now that that's taken care of let me get on with what I want to say. Today, I wanted to talk about something that the aforementioned book talks about. You guessed it, the right and left side of the brain. In layman's terms the right side of the brain is the creative side and the left side of the brain is the logical side of the brain. Some people like to think of it as the writer (right) and the editor (left), or the artist (right) and the critic (left). You get the picture.

Personally, I think balancing the two sides of your brain (picture that!) is a huge struggle for any writer, teen or adult. It's a constant battle, with me at least, between being "inspired" and being discouraged and overwhelmed with what I am doing. This blog is a prime example. A Splash of Ink has been dormant for a couple of weeks. Here was my thought process:

Right: OOOO! I should write about the two sides of the brain! Yeah, I'll even take some notes from Your First Novel! It's going to be great!
Left: Is it really worth it? You don't have THAT many followers. Besides, you're "busy".
Right: But...it would be fun...
Left: No, it really wouldn't. You're accomplishing nothing by keeping a blog
Right: Oh, okay I suppose

And so on and so forth. Finally I came to the point where I just sat down and wrote this post regardless of who was going to read it. Looking back at the book, I realized that I should probably implement some of the exercises and warm ups that it recommends to satisfy both sides of the brain. I figured I'd share some of them with all of you writers to help you along with balancing the universal writer vs. editor that lives in every writer.

Reading- reading is good for both sides of the brain
Right: It grows spirit and gives us hope for where we want to be.
Left: It's research and analysis.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when reading:
-What do I like/dislike about the characters?
-What would I change to make it better?
-How does the author make use of *insert literary device*
-What makes the book stand out, or what makes it make me want to bury it on the shelf?
Other tips:
-Give yourself permission to stop in the middle if it isn't very good
-Read the best books of the genre you want to write
-Listen to audio books as well, to "read" when reading isn't possible (taking the bus, walking somewhere, working out etc.)

Timed Writing Sessions- this is for the left brain, but satisfies the right brain as well
Left: It provides a workout and practice session to improve on writing.
Right: It provides opportunity to create.
Other tips:
-Put on an egg timer or an alarm that isn't in plain sight so you don't get distracted
-Don't reread or scratch things out

Back Reading- again, this is for the left brain but satisfies the right as well
Left: Refresher for writing the coming section. It eliminates irregularities in plot.
Right: You can "inspire" yourself with the beauty of what you written earlier, and see how you've improved.
Other tips:
-Read what you've written earlier in the story

Positive Feedback- this is a right brain exercise
Right: It's encouraging and gives confidence
Other tips:
-Mark up your work with encouraging words like "Bravo, excellent, superb"
-Write positive reviews for yourself like "Characters were deep and emotional"
-It might sound silly, but give it a try.
- Don't let your left brain shut it down for you!

Look at where your book will be on the shelf at a book store- this is a right brain exercise
Right: Again, it helps visualize success and gives confidence. Helps solidify genre choices.
Other tips:
-Pick an exact spot. This will help you write with an audience in mind


That's my short list of exercises that I took from Your First Novel. Hopefully they help you get in the mindset to write. All that being said, it is important that you don't spend all your time doing exercises and warm up. The point of these are to get you to write. In order to make that happen, I find it helpful to set an allotted time for warm ups, and then when its over I get down to my writing project.

Good luck and happy writing!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are Teenagers Too Young to Write Good Fiction?


Found this lovely article that is completely down to earth and encouraging. It's a quick read, but a good one!

Check it out here

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing Warm-ups: The List

I've been reading a really wonderful book on writing called Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb. Within the first couple of pages it talks about different exercises to warm up the creative side of your brain for writing. The one that stood out to me was entitled the list. The book suggests to make a list of one hundred things that you love, enjoy, or have a general fondness for. So I thought I'd do some warm up and share my one hundred things with you, as well as invite you to share your one hundred things on your blog. Just leave a comment with a link to your post!
Here goes nothing:

One more thing, the list is in no particular order.

1. Listening to Switchfoot while working
2. Reading Steampunk, Fantasy and corny fairytales
3. Reading the newspaper and feeling GOOD about our world, not depressed
4. Reading new books that look bad but turn out to be great
5. Eavesdropping on people's phone conversations on the bus
6. When people are wearing fun costumes in public for no particular reason
7. Writing late into the night

8. Cheesecake
9. Sleeping in and not feeling guilty about it
10. Singing in the shower and remembering all the lyrics
11. Going to youth group and seeing all my unofficial family
12. Being praised for something I take pride in
13. Meeting new people who are friendly
14. Having conversations with people you see all the time but never talk to
15. Spending time in the Local History Room at the library

16. Bookshelves that go all the way to the ceiling
17. Performing a song perfectly and better than in practise
18. Family
19. Inside jokes
20. Hearing laughter from another room
21. Live music
22. Watching So You Think You Can Dance with my family, secretly wishing to be a dancer for a brief moment
23. Inspiring someone else
24. Being accepted
25. Cozy rooms
26. Clean and organized rooms
27. Painting watercolours without feeling the need to be perfect
28. Reading and ENJOYING a classic novel
29. Being a pleasant surprise to someone
30. Being interesting
31. Winning a debate
32. Being able to best an arrogant person
33. God and his unending forgiveness
34. Whiteboards and Cork boards
35. Art
36. Scrapbooking and not having to clean up
37. Introducing someone to something they end up loving
38. Saving mementos to put in a memory book
39. Sad movies that make me want to write
40. Historical dramas
41. Finding out a friend has a similar interest or opinion that not many people have
42. Finding new blogs
43. Home design
44. Photography
45. Staring at pictures on flickr that you can only try to imitate
46. Free workshops and seminars
47. Jazz
48. The title Blue like Jazz
49. Seeing friends grow and better themselves
50. Being surrounded by smart people who aren't snobs about it
51. Being with people who care about me
52. Being appreciated
53. Being challenged
54. A friend surprising me with a quality or trait I didn't realize they had
55. Taking the bus
56. Rainstorms
57. Dancing in a warm rain shower
58. Getting rid of inhibitions
59. Confidence
60. Cliffhangers
61. Prison Break
62. Castle
63. The way Merlin has become so funny
64. The library
65. Finding out new things about the library and what it has to offer
66. Self Help books for writers
67. The Bible and lessons that talk about how the translation from Hebrew effects it
68. Spending time with my friends
69. Photo shoots
70. The feeling after a performance, or presentation is done and I've nailed it
71. Insanely complicated plots that leave me shell shocked
72. Characters I love to hate
73. Big windows facing the sun
74. Band
75. The chatter of voices
76. Tacos
77. Grand pianos
78. Grandparents
79. Old people friends with young people
80. Romance between seniors
81. Nursing Homes
82. Mentors
83. Creativity

84. Painting banners
85. Someone who has more confidence in me than I do
86. Intelligence
87. Community events
89. Feeling at home and united with the people around me
90. Warm covers on a cold day
91. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys
92. Jane Eyre
93. Bollywood dancing
94. Having discussions with people who care about the topic
95. Love interests
96. The word "angst"
97. Youtube channels that are hilarious (Julian Smith, Dear Jeffery)
98. Crying at a movie or book in private
99. The idea of reading a book in a bubble bath
100. Harry Potter
101. Epic endings

I made it 101 things, oh well, I'm allowed it's my blog!:) I'm curious to see what your 100 things are, so please post about it and leave a link. I truly do feel ready to write, it was a good warm up. Happy writing!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word Wednesday November 2/11

This is a link that I found very interesting. It talks about a study that was done to tell psychopaths from average criminals by the way they speak. It was a quick and valuable resource for writing dialogue for that villain you're trying to get right. Anyways, check it out here

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Links for the Start of NaNoWriMo


Since I have plunged into the crazy world of NaNoWriMo, and I know a ton of others out there have to I decided to share a few links that might help you out with starting off a new story.

Oh, and for those like me who need a deadline everyday, if you write aprox. 1700 words a day you should hit 50 00o by the end of November.

Now onto the links!


There are five links that I thought would be helpful, especially if you're starting a new story. You can also look at some other posts that I've written on story beginnings in the topic section in the sidebar, and you can check out more links under the "Helpful Links" tab at the top.

I wish you all luck in your NaNoWriMo adventures and encourage you to embrace the challenge!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Word Wednesday October 26/11

This week I wanted to talk about proper capitalization for people's titles (mom, dad, teacher etc.). This always gave me hesitation, until I finally learned the correct way of doing it.

When to capitalize them:
You only give them a capital if the title replaces their actual name. For example:

When is Mom coming home?
When is Rita coming home?

In this case the word "Mom" replaces the mother's name, Rita.

When not to capitalize:
When you are placing an article or pronoun before the title. A good way to see if the title needs a capital is to insert their name and see if it makes sense. For example:

When is your mother coming home?
When is your Rita coming home?

Is the teacher here yet?
Is the Mrs. B here yet?

The second parts of each example don't make sense, so I know that the titles shouldn't be capitalized.

Hopefully that makes sense. If you have any questions or think I might have missed something, please feel free to comment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Co-authorship and Me


Co-authorship, good idea or bad? This a question that I've been thinking about for a little bit now, and I have formed an opinion (of course). This is pretty much just my thoughts on it, and I'm almost positive that at least some one who reads this will disagree with me. If that's you, then please feel free to comment with your ideas. So here's what I think.

Writing a book with someone, whoever it may be, is a lovely idea. Emphasis on idea. "We'll bond so much!" or "They helped me come up with the idea, it's only fair to let them help me write it," are things that we often tell ourselves when we make the decision to co-author. Sometimes we don't even think about it, it just sort of happens. This is more like what happened to me; I was just chatting away with my sister and a story came out.

And so it began. I grabbed a dog eared sketch book (I know, it's a perfect medium) and started scrawling down the opening scene. Every few pages we'd trade off when the other got a burst of inspiration. Our miserable attempt at writing (we were younger then) worked for awhile. Eventually though we got busy and some how the trading off got lost. I wanted to work on it, but my sister didn't care to. So soon it became my story. There was no hard feelings between us about it, and honestly, I think it's been better this way. She knew the back round and understood my story, so she could listen to my rants and try to help me out when I hit snags. But, we were no longer writing it together.

I've written stories with my friends and its great fun, but we know deep down that our story will never get published. If you write simply for a good time, then co-authorship might improve your levels of fun, but if we are truly honest with ourselves I think most of us harbor that tiny spark of hope that someday our stories will be on the shelves at Chapters. Anyways, when writing with other people I find that commitment levels are different (one person wants to write all the time, the other does not. This can be frustrating.), both writers have different ideas of where the story should go, and if both of the writers don't have excellent communication skills then it's easy for the story to get left in a musty email inbox.

All of that being said, I feel like co-authorship can lead to an excellent relationship where the two writers push each other creating something wonderful. However, as a teen I don't think I have that sort of maturity and commitment to do that, especially since writing is not my full time career. Besides, I'm a bit of a control freak; I don't think I could handle writing with someone else, haha.

Co-authorship? Maybe later.

So that's my opinion. How about you? Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Making it to the Top Shelf


Since I am quite busy, and not to mention a tad bit lazy, I thought that today instead of a normal Word Wednesday I'd share with you the essay I've been working on for English. It does talk about a few of the things I normally post about, but I thought you guys might enjoy it anyhow.

Making it to The Top Shelf

The other day my sister bought a new bookshelf. Being the big readers we are, our shelves were overflowing dog-eared copies of our beloved novels, so it was time to get a bigger shelf. We headed off to Ikea, came back toting a beautiful wooden shelf, and a couple hundred dollars poorer. After helping her assemble the “easy” DIY bookshelf, I took her ratty old shelf off her hands. With a good cleaning and a lick of paint, the shelf was as good as new. Eager, I unloaded the boxes that had been sitting stagnantly in my room since we moved. I was overwhelmed by emotions as I pulled out the cheap paperbacks that I had begged my mother to get me from the book order back in grade school. I had loved those books like they were part of my family. Needless to say, the shelves quickly filled up, but I saved the glorious top shelf for my favourites. After proudly displaying books like Harry Potter, Little Women, and the numerous Nancy Drew mysteries, I surveyed my selections wondering why I loved these books so.

Picture your favourite novel. Do you see it? Maybe it’s a worn leather covered classic. Maybe it’s a shiny new book you picked up from the nearest Chapters with the “new book” smell still lingering among the pages. Now, think about why you like it. Why do we find ourselves drawn to these top shelf books like Winnie the Pooh to honey? Well, I am convinced that good novels, the top shelvers, have three elements that have to be well: characters, plot, and writing.

Characters in a novel need to be well crafted and developed if an author wants to write a novel worthy of reading. Characters have to demand attention and emotions from the reader. A good character will reach through the pages and latch onto the readers’ hearts and make them care about where their fictional life ends up. They will also be relatable and entertaining. People read to escape the realities of this world and want to live vicariously through bold and fun characters. Take the popular (and not to mention wildly successful) Harry Potter series, those books are full of strong characters. You have Harry, the main character, who immediately draws on the reader’s emotions by being oppressed and parentless, and then you have the lovable Weasley twins that give us much needed comic relief. Readers invest in these characters and by book seven can’t wait to find out what happens to the magical crew. Top-shelf characters become our friends or enemies; either way they force us to turn the pages of their story and make us love them and dread the end of their tale.

Characters are nothing without plot, another aspect that must be there in order for a book to make it to the top shelf. Recently, I read a novel that had excellent characters, but the plot was non-existent. It had potential to be a favourite but because nothing actually happened it was a major flop. A great novel must have an inciting incident that grabs the reader’s attention and interesting rising action that leads to an amazing climax that no would see coming. For example, the classic Brontë novel, Jane Eyre, has a brilliant climax; the reader finds out that the love interest is hiding a deranged wife in the closet. Nobody would expect that! These types of plot twists are what we remember and what we love about our top-shelvers. Overall, a good novel needs a plot that can keep a reader involved. The actual mechanics of the written word and diction are often elements of top-shelf books that are overlooked, but contribute a great deal to a reader’s liking of a book.

EDIT: Haha, what a fail! I actually forgot to put the last paragraph in. So here it is:

We all have those favourite novels that we proudly display on our top-shelves, and we all love them for different reasons, but the staples of a good book (whether we realize it or not) are characters that tickle funny bones or make a home in a reader’s heart, plots that have readers sitting on the edge of their seats, and impeccable writing. So, once again I find myself where I started, admiring my bookshelf. Before I know it, the voices of Nancy Drew and Jo March are echoing in my ears, making me marvel at the quality of these top-shelf natives. I still wonder how these authors manage it, and then I realize that it is only when these three elements gel together with a perfect consistency that a wonderful novel is penned. And that, my friend, is easier said than done.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Word Wednesday Sept. 27/11

Since I know that many of teen writer's write fantasy and adventure novels I thought I would share some nautical terms that may be of aid to you.


Act of Pardon, Act of Grace – A letter from a state or power authorising action by a privateer. Also see Letter of Marque


Absentee pennant – Special pennant flown to indicate absence of commanding officer, admiral, his chief of staff, or officer whose flag is flying


Advance note – A note for one month's wages issued to sailors on their signing a ship's articles.


Aground – Resting on or touching the ground or bottom (usually involuntarily).


Avast – Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done


Belay –
1. To make fast a line around a fitting, usually a cleat or belaying pin.
2. To secure a climbing person in a similar manner.
3. An order to halt a current activity or countermand an order prior to execution


Bilge– The compartment at the bottom of the hull of a ship or boat where water collects and must be pumped out of the vessel.


Bonnet – A strip of canvas secured to the foot of the course (square sail) to increase sail area in light airs.


Bulkhead – An upright wall within the hull of a ship. Particularly a watertight, load-bearing wall.


Cut and run — When wanting to make a quick escape, a ship might cut lashings to sails or cables for anchors, causing damage to the rigging, or losing an anchor, but shortening the time needed to make ready by bypassing the proper procedures.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Spark



Recently, I've lost my spark. I think about my story and don't feel that familiar urge to drop everything and write. I don't get excited. In a way, I feel like I've lost a dear friend. Call me melodramatic, but when something that has been dancing around the murky recesses of my mind for so long, always present and growing, slowly gets buried...it hurts. It hurts like when you see a friend travel blindly down a road that leads to destruction, with each step growing farther and farther apart until all you can see is their faded silhouette.

I blame it on school (particularly Co-op), band, music lessons, and a whole host of other things. But all along I've known in the back of my mind that my spark has dimmed due to me. It's me who decided not to write, and drop the normal routine. Not school or anything else.

Oddly, I'm coming to terms with it. All writers go through a time when they lose their spark, that intangible thing that pushes them into late nights clacking away at a keyboard or hours of pen smeared writing. It's normal. I've gotten over the initial guilt of not even opening my story document as I've written this post, and now I am looking towards the future (in true motivational speaker fashion).

After all, it doesn't matter so much if you fall, so long as you get back up.

So, I'm pushing myself off the hard ground of defeat with a still fighting spirit. It sounds so much prettier in the written word, but in real life getting back on my feet means a plan to change what isn't working. My plan is this:

Step 1
Figure out the reason that you don't care to write. I'm willing to bet that 90% of the time it's boredom. In my predicament, my story doesn't hold my interest currently. Characters are sitting around passing time waiting for something that makes no sense to happen.

Step 2
Address the reason. For me it's boredom. The solution? Flesh out the plot. Add a subplot, take another look at reasoning behind character's actions, make the plot flow better, make it exciting! I've said it before and I'm probably say it again, if the writer doesn't find it interesting then the reader won't either.


There you have it. My brilliant plan for success. Dare I say my spark has begun to burn ever so slightly once again? I believe it has. What about you, do you find yourself losing your spark? If so what do you do to remedy it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word Wednesday Sept. 21/11

Today, I thought I'd share with you a word game that I am addicted to currently. Check it out here.

Have a good rest of the week!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good Premise, Bad Plot


This is something that has be bothering me over the past few weeks, and I was finally pushed off the edge by reading Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink. Now what could be the cause of my annoyance? Something that I like to call:


Good premise, bad plot.


Allow me to explain. I'm going to use the book I have just finished, as previously mentioned, as an example. Anyways, this book is about two sisters who are part of a prophecy where one sister is the gate, and one sister is the guardian. The gate sister has the potential to allow the evil souls from the Other Worlds (there's seven of them) to come into our world, and the other sister, the guardian, is supposed to make sure that doesn't happen. However if the gate sister so wishes she can find the 'keys' that will enable her to stop the prophecy forever.

Sounds good, right? It did to me, then I started reading it. It is quite boring, as for the first half of the book the gate sister is finding out all the info I just shared with you up there. The plot consists of Lia, the gate sister, going to town learning something, going home, having some "Now-we're-enemies-I'm-going-to-try-to-intimidate-you-first" conversation with her guardian sister, then she talks with two of her friends who share the same mysterious mark, wash rinse repeat. Basically, the whole book is the reader learning about the prophecy, and Lia figuring out who the keys are. Not to mention that as soon as the plot begins to pick up, the book is done. This book has a case of Good Premise, Bad Plot.


GPBP (Good Premise, Bad Plot) is basically when the writer has a good idea, but the execution fails. Personally, I think the idea for Prophecy of the Sisters is brilliant, but like I said the execution is bad. Now, what would I do to make it better?


Tip #1

Don't stretch out your story longer then it needs to go. Sometimes less is more. If you are going to write a trilogy/series, then make sure that each book has a separate goal (eg. Harry Potter, each book has a different "mission", but he doesn't have the final showdown with the antagonist until the final book). The book I'm reading is the first in the trilogy, and, according to a friend of mine, it is a set up book for the rest of the series. Now, this isn't necessarily wrong, but it's important to remember that if the first book is boring, then the reader probably won't even want to read the book that you've set up for.


Tip #2

Don't overload the reader with information. It's great if you know the history of the protagonists family or the history of the world they're in, in fact I recommend it, but you should only tell the reader if it's important to the story. When I first started writing I struggled with explaining the layout of the world my characters were in to the reader, but when it really came down to wire, it didn't matter if the reader knew that almost everyone one in Melodea was a goat farmer. It's good for the writer to know in order to write with greater understanding of the world/character, but somethings are better left unsaid.


Tip #3


The third idea that I had in order to ward off GPBP is to add subplots. In the book Prophecy of the Sisters there are hardly any subplots. The one subplot (a love interest) that is included is poorly developed, so when *SPOILER* Lia dumped him I didn't even feel the slightest bit sad. Adding subplots is an excellent way to add layers to your story, which in turn will make it a more interesting read. Let me give you an example:


Bad:
The knight searching for the princess.
He brings along his fellow knight friend to help him.
They battle many fearsome monsters, and eventually reach the princess.


Good:
The knight searching for the princess.
He brings along his fellow knight friend to help him.
His knight friend really turns out to be working for the evil guy who's imprisoning the princess.
The knight and the friend have a falling out, so the knight decides to leave his friend behind.
The knight stays at a tavern where he meets a servant girl and falls madly in love.
The servant girl turns out to be a slave, so the knight has to buy her freedom.
The knight doesn't forget his original mission so brings the servant along with him to rescue the princess.
The servant girl finds out his true mission, and leaves him, but eventually comes back.
They rescue the princess, and the knight must choose between the two girls.


Now, that plot is really quite cliche, but for the purpose of this, it'll do. Do you see the subplots I put in the good example? In case you're reading this at an unreasonable hour of the morning (like I tend to find myself doing sometimes) I'll list them.
Main plot: knight tries to find princess
Subplots: knight-friend, knight-servant girl, friend-evil guy

I don't want to say too much about subplots, as that is a post for another time, so here is a link if you wish to read more on the topic.


Now, back to our original example of the Prophecy of the Sisters, it had all the ingredients for a good novel (good characters, good premise, good setting), but the execution fell short. We don't want this to happen in our stories, so we must employ some of these tips that I've shared with you. Of course, there are more ways to make sure the execution goes well, but for my time and yours I didn't list them above. If you have any other ideas feel free to share in the comments section!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Word Wednesday Sept. 7/11

I'm taking it back to the way I first started Word Wednesdays, so here a three words that have sent me to my dictionary.

Manifesto   
[man-uh-fes-toh]
noun,

a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

Eschew   
[es-choo]
verb (used with object)

to abstain or keep away from; shun; avoid: to eschew evil.

Equestrian 
[ih-kwes-tree-uhn]
adjective
1.
of or pertaining to horseback riding or horseback riders: equestrian skill.
2.
mounted on horseback: equestrian knights.
3.
representing a person mounted on a horse: an equestrian statue.
4.
pertaining to or composed of knights or mounted warriors: an equestrian code of honor.
5.
of or pertaining to the ancient Roman equites.

Haha, equestrian, Heartland anyone? Season Premiere Sept. 18! Woot!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Can You Guess the Genre?



I came across this video on another blog, and couldn't resist sharing. So, it may be a little corny, but it made me laugh. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Word Wednesday August 30/11

So this week I thought I'd give you all a link to how to properly use commas. This is my personal writing demon as I'm sure you know if you've read some of my previous posts. I simply cannot remember when I put a comma before "and" and when not to. Anyways, this has helped me, and I hope it helps you as well.


P.S. My posting is going to be kind of out of wack because school's starting next week, and my laptop cord is dead and gone, so I'm on limited computer access. Have a nice week!



Monday, August 22, 2011

Liebster Blog Award!


Today I got awarded with the Liebster Blog Award. I've seen it popping up here and there on some blogs that I follow, and I never really thought about it that much (ok that's a bit of a lie, I might have been the tinsy bit envious). Anyways, I never really thought about what "Liebster" meant, so when I was awarded by Megan Rae Lollman (Thanks so much!) I hopped over to my favourite search engine, Google, to check it out. It turns out that "Liebster" is German for "favourite". So, there's a bit of useless knowledge for all you non-Germans out there!

Now for the important stuff!

I quote:

The goal of the Liebster Blog Award is to showcase up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. The rules:
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who bestowed the award on you
  2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog
  4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love
  5. Have bloggity-blog fun!
Now for my selections! Drum roll please!


Dakota Densmore @ Super Hyper Human Beings This is actually a joint blog between me, Destiny, and Kota, but Dakota has some of the funniest things to say. Therefore, she deserves mention. Check out some of her posts here, here, and here. Be sure the take note of the author section at the bottom of the posts.




There you have it! Wow, that took a whole lot longer then I thought it would, lol.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Word Wednesday August 17/11


This week, I'm simply to busy (and not to mention lazy) to write up an actual post, so I decided to share this picture that I just love. I'm not really sure why I like it, and I'm pretty sure some people might think it's creepy, but hey. Enjoy:)


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Listening to Dialogue


This week I'm super excited (and not to mention busy), because my church is doing VBS (Vacation Bible School). We've been in the Big Apple, and having a great time, with the occasional spill, and screaming child. During these last two weeks -last week was prep week- all of us leaders, and helpers have been living and breathing VBS. In fact, I'm listening to a song that I've got to learn for Worship tomorrow as I'm writing this. During this week, so far, I've listened to a lot of conversations. Some forced ones between parents, some hardly intelligible ones between kids, some frantic ones with leaders, some that weren't even in English, and some I've participated in myself (I don't spend ALL my time eavesdropping). All that being said, I've been inspired to write this week's post on listening to people.

No, I'm not talking about HOW one should listen, but why writers should listen extra hard. I'm talking about dialogue (no pun intended). Personally, unrealistic dialogue is one of the key elements that will turn me away from a story. If I can't hear the character talking as I read the story, then I probably won't believe in your character. Nobody likes flat characters. So, it's important to listen to the way people phrase their words, and how they talk to add the realism that one needs in their story.

Things to listen for:
-Amount/placement of words. Eg.
We might write: "Could you please get me the milk from the refrigerator?"
Whereas it's more likely for someone to say: "Get me the milk please. It's in the fridge."

-Contractions. Eg.
We might write: "They did not come."
Whereas it's more likely for someone to say: "They didn't come."
People only separate contractions for emphasis. See the difference:
"Johnny, you aren't allowed to do that!"
"Johnny, you are not allowed to do that!"

-Slang. Eg.
We might write: "Give me a tissue."
Whereas it's more likely for someone to say: "Give me a Kleenex."

-Pace. Eg.
We might write: "Well, I guess I'll come," Fred said.
Whereas it's more likely for someone to say: "Well," Fred said, "I guess I'll come."
It's more natural for a pause after 'Well', and even though I didn't outright say that there was a pause, it was implied by interrupting the sentence with 'Fred said'.


There are many other things to listen for, but those are the main ones I came up with. Feel free to comment with other ideas. Basically, it's important to listen to how certain types of people talk and apply it to similar characters. For example, you wouldn't write a high society lady's dialogue based off of what you've heard from your teen friends, or a kid's dialogue based off something you heard from your teacher. However, you would listen to a child's talking, as I am doing this week, and apply it to a child character in your story. I think you get the picture. So, this week listen to the way people are talking, and apply it to your dialogue.

Have an excellent rest of the week! I'm off to the Big Apple once again!

P.S. I came back to add this a little bit after it was published, because I forgot earlier, haha. Don't worry about proper grammar for dialogue. Obviously, use the proper commas, periods, quotation marks etc., but don't worry about fragment sentences, or not 'proper' arrangement of words. People often don't speak with proper grammar, and that's okay to show in dialogue.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fanfiction

This is completely random, and totally off my usual routine, but I could not resist sharing. The other day I was just surfing the web, procrastinating (ie. not writing), and I came across this really lovely Harry Potter fanfiction. In general, I don't go for fanfic, but this one stood out among the crowd. If you're a HP fan, you'll love this. It brought a tear to my eye, and gave a nice finish to the series. Check it out here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Wednesday August 10/11

This week I decided, on common opinion, that I was going to change it up a bit. I posted a video below called "The History of English". Its the first in a series of ten videos that are about a minute long that talk about how the English language was created, and it's transformation until the modern day. I thought they were pretty funny.

P.S. I think the videos are pretty clean, but there may be a few things. Anyways, enjoy!


If you care to watch the other videos, just follow the YouTube link in the video.



Monday, August 8, 2011

Anglo-Saxon vs. Latinate

Often times in writing, I talk about content, content, and more content. How to foreshadow, how to create believable characters, plotting etc. etc. However, I rarely talk about the finer mechanics of writing and words in general. For a few reasons, the most prominent being that its intimidating. I don't know everything when it comes to grammar, or when it comes to sentence structure. However, this week, I have decided to venture into some lesser known territory. I wanted to discuss word usage. In particular, using Ango-Saxon words vs. using Latinate words.

Basically, after the Romans left Britain in 410 AD, Germanic tribes started to populate Britain. A few of the main tribes were the Anglos, and the Saxons, which gave historians the name Anglo-Saxon. Along with themselves, they brought their vocabulary (Anglo-Saxon words), words like house, send, or stop.

Latinate words come from, you guessed it, Latin. In 591, Christian missionaries brought Latin to Britain, and so from the Latin, many English words were derived. Latinate words have Latin roots, such as, aquarium (aqua in Latin means water).

Now that the little history lesson is taken care of (hopefully I got the facts right, if not let me know!), onto how it matters to you as a writer. Let's start by identifying the different characteristics of each type of word.

Anglo-Saxon words:
-Usually less formal
-Often single syllables
-Can be more forceful, shocking, and harsher. For example, some profanities are of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Some examples of Anglo-Saxon words: send, build, stop, hearty, mock, the s-word, the f-word (I use those short forms to be sensitive.)

Latinate words:
-Usually more formal
-Often polysyllabic
-Have a more "high society"/proper feel
-Stress is often on the second syllable
-Often turn into euphemisms for blunter Anglo-Saxon words
Some examples of Latinate words (see how they contrast to Anglo-Saxon words): transmit, construct, resist, cordial, imitate, excrement, intercourse

The major thing about knowing about these two types of words is that a writer needs to understand how to use them together. If a writer uses to many Latinate words then that will lead to stuffy prose. On the flip side, if a writer uses too many Anglo-Saxon words it will lead to plain prose. Although, using more Anglo-Saxon words is generally a better idea, it's important to know how to use Latinate words. I find, that the trick to using Latinate words the best way, is to have them contrasting with Anglo-Saxon words. Such as, "The woman was the opposite of stale, and unprofitable." The word 'stale' being the Anglo-Saxon word, and 'unprofitable' being the Latinate word. It's important to use the Latinate words among Anglo-Saxon words to create interesting prose, so long as you don't get carried away with overly formal Latinate words.

Alright, so this post is bordering on confusing, so to sum everything up. It's important to be aware of the different types of words, and the effects they have on your writing. It really is a judgement call as to whether you have too many Latinate words, or not enough in your writing. Good luck!

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Comes Email Exchange, Then Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...: Part 2

This post is a continuation of the post from two weeks ago (I was in cottage country last week!) on foreshadowing, so if you haven't read that yet, I would highly recommend that you do. Read it here. To recap a few points I mentioned in last week's post:

-Foreshadowing is suggesting in advance that something will happen.
-Foreshadowing engages a reader, and lets them know that something will be happening.
-You can foreshadow by telling the reader, writing a pre-scene, and giving character's irrational emotions.

Now, onto the new stuff! I'll continue with writing the different ways that one can foreshadow.

Writing a "loaded gun".
You've probably heard of the expression that if you show a gun hanging on the wall in act one it has to be fired by act three. In this type of foreshadowing, that is a very key concept to remember. When writing the "loaded gun" type of foreshadowing you show the reader something/someone that will have to be used later in the novel, and thus get them wondering about it. For example:

Judy turned sideways to slither between two cars of despicable taste. One was still running, and the other had a set of keys sitting on the hood.

OR

Sarah reached into her purse, and realized that her pepper spray was missing.

In the second example, it twisted the "loaded gun" method, but still the same concept. This concept is where you show the reader something/someone (or the lack or something/someone) that will come into play later in the novel.

Giving a character an opinion.
This method of foreshadowing is one of the more overt ones. In this way, a character has an opinion of what is to come, and 'promises' the reader something. In real life, people have opinions about what is to come all the time that are wrong. However, a reader has the tendency to believe what character's say especially if they're one of the main characters. For example:

I already knew that the day would be long and boring before we even got to the shoe store.

This statement 'promises' the reader a day that is going to be long, and boring. The reader will want to continue to see how it turns out. I say 'promises' in quotations, because foreshadowing can be effectively used to foreshadow the opposite of what it suggests. For example, the day could be exciting, and fun. More on that later.

Have a prophecy.
Again, this is another more obvious one. It's pretty straight forward, so I won't spend to long on it. By having some prophecy surrounding a character, is another way to get the reader interested. If you have your main character prophesied to kill off the antagonist then it will grab the reader's interest making them want to find out how, and what happens when the main character eventually has to battle the antagonist (ex. Harry Potter prophesied to kill Voldemort).

Having Symbolism
Symbolism can be a tricky business, as it is one of the softer ways to foreshadow. When you foreshadow through symbolism you show the reader something, and depend on the connotation that surround the object of the symbolism. Again, in real life we don't normally take stormy weather, or walking under a ladder that seriously, but in fiction everything has a meaning. For example,

The necklace her mother had given her when she married was lying in pieces in the drawer.

This particular statement would seemingly elude to the marriage failing, because the necklace broke. As a reader, that's what I would expect, and that's why I would keep reading. When using symbolism it's important not to be too abstract, and use something that has a connotation that most people aren't familiar with. Here's two examples of symbolism people would recognize, and symbolism people wouldn't recognize.

Would:
Roses symbolizing love.

Wouldn't:
Hydrangeas symbolizing boastfulness.

Most people associate roses with love, but hydrangeas? I wouldn't associate them with boastfulness, although that is what they represent according to Google. An author may think they're being clever by using something abstract, but honestly, that's just annoys, and confuses to the reader. Overall, using symbolism is a very broad topic, and can be employed in many different ways.



I have two main cautions when foreshadowing. Don't be corny, and follow through with your 'promises'. The first caution is fairly obvious, and hard to pin point, but most people know it when they see it. Following through is much easier to discuss. Basically if you say the gun is going to be fired, it better be fired. If you never mention that loaded gun again, then the readers will feel cheated. I'm not saying that you have to do exactly what you promise, quite the contrary really, but you have to do something with it. I can't think of a better way to explain this then to quote the article I used to write this:

"Foreshadow that the gun will be fired. Imply that Character A will use it to kill Character B. But actually, in the end, Character A uses it to kill himself."

In conclusion, this list I've shared which I learned from this article is just a few ways to foreshadow. There are endless possibilities waiting to be explored. The only thing that really matters is that you, the author, is suggesting events of the plot to the reader in advance.

Anyways, have a great rest of the summer filled with many many words!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Word Wednesday July 20/11

Guess what? I remembered to do Word Wednesday this week! Lately I've slacked off a bit in this regard, but never fear it's back! I'm also wondering what everybody's thoughts are on WW. Should I keep on doing definitions, or should I also include other interesting facts to do with words (word history, usage etc.)? Maybe I'm being nerdy, but I personally find that sort of trivia interesting. Maybe I'm not the only one? Haha, let me know your thoughts in a comment, or vote in the pole.

Anyways! Onto the words...


Frequent
[ free-kwuhnt]
adj.

1.
happening or occurring at short intervals: to make frequent trips to Tokyo.
2.
constant, habitual, or regular: a frequent guest.
3.
located at short distances apart: frequent towns along the shore.

Redundant
[ri-duhn-duhnt]
adj.

1.
characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas; prolix: a redundant style.
2.
being in excess; exceeding what is usual or natural: a redundant part.
3.
having some unusual or extra part or feature.

Supercilious
[soop-er-sil-ee-uhs]
adj.

1.
displaying arrogant pride, scorn, or indifference.




All definitions compliments of Dictionary.com



Monday, July 18, 2011

First Comes Email Exchange, Then Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...: Part 1

Originally, I had planned to write about using Anglo-Saxon words vs. using Latinate words, however, I had a burst of inspiration. This past weekend my family and I traveled up into cottage country for a weekend ripe with romance, and fancy clothing, aka my cousin's wedding. Being that the drive was four hours, I brought along my newest how-to-write book that I am simply in love with. I was reading about foreshadowing, and the gun-on-the-wall principle, so that was fresh in my mind. So when I was sitting in my cousin's wedding listening to their vows, and their talk about when they first met each other the idea for writing a post on foreshadowing came to me.

Allow me to explain. When my cousin, Elizabeth, was reading her vows she mentioned that her and Tim, her new hubby, had been introduced by her grandfather. After eating dinner with her family, and Tim's, who were visiting, they exchanged emails. If this was a novel, that would be foreshadowing for what was to come, the wedding.

Foreshadowing is where you "suggest in advance" (thank you Dictionary.com!) what is going to happen. I could go into a long drawn out debate about why foreshadowing is good for our writing, but I'll put it plainly. Foreshadowing tells that reader that something is going to happen, which engages your reader, and keeps them turning the pages of your story. You might not think about it when you're reading, I know I don't, but often times the books you return to the library without finishing are lacking in foreshadowing. There is no indication of something to read for, so you simply stop reading.

Anything can be foreshadowed, whether it be a small event like missing the bus, or a large event like the death of a character. There are a ton of ways to foreshadow, but here are the few ways that I came up with with the aid of a few different books and websites.

Tell the reader it will happen.
This is one of the more overt ways to foreshadow, but it keeps the reader reading. If you start off a scene with this:

Martha got up in the morning, and had her morning coffee. Without a doubt she knew it was going to be a day filled with romance.

OR

Martha got up in the morning, and had her morning coffee. She could hardly wait till tonight when she went on her first date with the smart and equally handsome Mr. Summers.

In both examples, the writer tells the reader that something is going to happen. In the first instance the writer tells the reader that Martha will have a romantic encounter, and in the second, the writer tells the reader that Martha is excited to go on a date. By telling the reader that something is going to happen, it immediately plants an interest in the reader. What's going to happen that's so romantic? Who's Mr. Summers? How is Mr. Summers so smart? You get the point. Although this is not the most subtle form of foreshadowing it does the trick.

I do recommend that a writer is wary of using this to too much of an extreme, because you don't want to give away the ending, and prevent the reader from reading on. One major example of using this badly (in my opinion) that comes to mind right away is in Little House on the Prairie, the TV show, when Laura first meets Almanzo. She says something along the lines of, "I didn't know it then, but he was the man I was going to marry." This gives away to much, and takes away the whole advantage of interesting the reader. Now, if she would have said something like, "This man would be a significant part of my future." that would have been much better, as it makes the viewer ask question in order to keep watching the show.

Write a Pre-scene.
This is the type of foreshadowing that I mentioned earlier in regards to Elizabeth's wedding. The pre-scene would have been the dinner, and exchanging of emails. It would have promised something exciting to come within the novel. I would have kept reading the novel to see what becomes of the email exchange. Are they going to email each other? Do they fall in love? etc. etc. A pre-scene alludes to what is to come. I would even go as far as to say you need to have these scenes to make improve your writing. For example, as a reader, I would be extremely confused and unhappy if Elizabeth and Tim decided to get married out of the blue (again if their lives were a novel) with no foreshadowing pre-scene. There must be pre-scenes in order to keep the reader interested, and satisfied.

Write irrational emotions.
By giving character's emotions that aren't normal you tell the reader that something will come of those emotions. Now, in real life people have irrational feelings all the time and nothing comes of it, but in fiction every emotion means something to the reader. After all why mention it if it means nothing? For example, you might make a student afraid of going to school. This makes the reader wonder why they're so afraid, so they will read on to find out. You could also have a mother worry about leaving her child in daycare, and that could foreshadow a kidnapping. Giving your characters emotions that aren't "normal" will add to the foreshadowing effect.

I had planned to write this as one post, but quite frankly, this is getting much too long. Stay tuned for these sub-topics of foreshadowing:
-Four more ways to show foreshadowing
-Tips and cautions

Hope this helped! Happy foreshadowing! For now....




Sunday, July 10, 2011

Attack of the Adverbs!

Show don't tell.
Adverbs tell, actions show.

Applying this concept is a huge way to improve your writing. My first reaction to this was denial. It didn't seem like using adverbs inhibited my writing too much, but then I saw the light (so to speak).

First off, a little reminder what an adverb is.
Adverb: a word or group of words that serves to modify a whole sentence, a verb, another adverb, or an adjective; for example, probably, easily, very, and happily respectively in the sentence.

So basically, an adverb is any word that ends in "-ly".


The whole point of writing is to engage your reader to tell a story, thus entertaining them, and possibly teaching them something along the way. In order to engage your reader your words have to paint a mental picture, and make your reader feel like they're standing in the room with your characters. In order for this to happen you must leave the safety, and ease behind that comes with using adverbs.

Adverbs are commonly used after a dialogue tag, but are certainly not limited to that. Here's an example I took from some old drafts of mine of a adverb following a dialogue tag:

“He wants to take you hostage,” Stephan said hopelessly.

Now, I believed that I had showed this character, and how he felt pretty well. However, what does "hopelessly" really show me? It tells me how he feels, but I don't know how he looks or what he's doing. You should never modify "said" with an adverb. "Hopelessly" doesn't give me any mental picture, and therefore would fail to engage a reader.

Here's how I would do the rewrite to show how Stephan feels:

"He wants to take you hostage," Stephan said with a sigh. His body seemed to lose any willingness to stand up straight as he slumped into a rickety chair. Shoulders drooping like a wilted flower, he rested his chin in his hands and stared with glossed over eyes at the floor.

Now this certainly isn't perfect, and is a little melodramatic, but you see the difference between the two passages. You get a much better image, and his feeling of hopelessness from how he acts instead of me telling you that he simply feels hopeless.

That pretty much covers adverbs in dialogue, but what about adverbs in sentences?
Again, adverbs should be avoided within sentences also. Adverbs tell reader how events are being played out, as opposed to showing which is want we want to do. I'd like to show you another example of the difference between showing and telling, but this time with an adverb that modifies an action.

Again, this is an example I choose from an old draft of mine:

I struggled anxiously with the buttons at the back of my fancy dress.

As you can see, I used the adverb "anxiously" in this sentence, which doesn't show the reader what's going on, it tells. I've already explained why telling is a bad thing, so avoid being redundant, I'm going to get right into the rewrite.

My palms were sweating as I reached for the line of buttons up the back of my dress. My roaming fingers found there mark, but slipped off the tiny button in my haste to unfasten it. Biting my lip, I tried again. I grasped the button and shoved it through the tiny hole then moved onto the next one. Tapping my foot at a steady rhythm I hurried through the row until I was finally freed from the constraining grip of the gown.

Again, the second passage shows the reader the character's anxiety much better than just straight out telling it. As a side note, I do realize that "finally" is considered an adverb. However, using adverbs isn't against the "law" of writing, they just shouldn't be used frequently.

In conclusion, the main points that I'm trying to get across are these:
-Showing is better than telling, because showing creates a mental picture
-Adverbs tell
-You should never modify "said" or any other dialogue tag with an adverb
-Use adverbs very rarely if at all in writing

That pretty much sums it up! Although, I'm curious, how often do use adverbs in your writing? And are you planning to edit them out? Feel free to comment (if you're shy you can comment anonymously) or vote in the pole with your answers!

P.S. To give credit where credit is due, this post is basically a rehashing (with some of my own ideas added) of this post.

P.P.S. I also used the Bookshelf Muse's emotional thesaurus which lists things people do when they feel x emotion. Check it out it's awesome! It's in the sidebar on the right had side.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Word Wednesday July 6/11

After a long break from this Wednesday tradition, I'm back with three new words!

Fetish
[fet-ish, fee-tish]
–noun
1.
an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency.
2.
any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades.
3.
Psychology . any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.


Vocation
[voh-key-shuhn]
–noun
1.
a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2.
a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3.
a divine call to God's service or to the Christian life.

Bedraggled
[bih-drag-uhld]
— adjective
(of hair, clothing, etc) limp, untidy, or dirty, as with rain or mud



All definitions compliments of Dictionary.com

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Get Out Your GOALie Gear

Something really important to any writer is goals. I find that if I don't have any sort of accountability with my writing then it simply doesn't get finished. It becomes one of those "Oh right, writing. I should do that" as I go off and watch an episode of Smallville. I need to have goals, and rewards in order to get my work done. I know that I love what I'm working on, but I just need that shove to get myself back in the game. There are four important aspects to think about when it comes to goals: long term goals, short term goals, assessments, and rewards.

Long term goals are well goals that are long term. That means goals that a set in place to be accomplished over a period of time. For example, "I'll write 25 000 words before the year is up in my story", "I'll write two hundred blog posts by the end of summer", or "I'll finish my revisions before Christmas". These are the goals that, in my opinion, are the hardest. I find them hard, because they aren't something you can just finish in an hour like a short term goal. They take a long time, and a lot of work. Frankly, they can be intimidating, and scary. Now that I've listed all the cons, let me explain why they're a good idea. Long term goals provide an ending to your project. If we don't set a specific time for a story, for example, to be finished then it has the potential to drag on and on, and never get finished. Long term goals, also force you to work, but still allow some wiggle room. For example, if you say I'm going to finish my first draft before summer ends it's not like you have to work on it everyday, you just have to finish it before summer is over. Overall, LT goals are very important to finishing writing projects, and are something every writer needs to have.

I like to think of short term goals as the building blocks to achieving long term goals. Short term goals are goals you set for yourself over a short period of time, like an hour, that contribute to achieving your long term goal. Some examples of short term goals are "I'm going to finish this scene before I go to bed", "I'm going to write a page a day", or "I'm going to write a blog post before I watch Merlin". When you set short term goals it makes it so much easier to achieve your long term goal. When you just have a long term goal, it becomes something distant that creeps up on you, and before you know it you haven't achieved your long term goal. Short term goals can sometimes be a tad scary, but the good thing about short term goals is that you get to set them in the moment. You know how you're feeling, and what you are capable of accomplishing, so you can set your short term goal accordingly.

Assessments. They are a part of the goals equation that I too often forget. Assessments are something that need to happen when dealing with long term goals. When you assess your goal you are basically taking another look at it, and seeing if it's still manageable and realistic. When we set long term goals we can't foresee the future (well at least I can't!), and sometimes life happens. There's a family crisis, or a surprise vacation, or you get sick etc. etc. All of that stuff prevents you from writing, which will effect the probability of meeting your long term goal. That's when you need to assess your goal and alter it accordingly. Don't be afraid to do this, because you'll just cause more harm to your moral when you don't meet your goal, than changing it half way. Sometimes we just don't write for whatever reason, and we have to get over that guilt that we feel and alter the long term goal also. For example, if you know that you write about two pages a week, then you should be setting your goal with that in mind. Your story might have the potential to be about two hundred pages, and at two pages a week, that's a hundred weeks. Now, you have to use your esteemed judgement in whether or not you are altering a goal because you're being lazy. That would be completely missing the point of setting goals. Ultimately, assessments are key to achieving your goal, because not achieving a goal does a whole lot of damage to a writer's moral which leads to writer's block.

Now for rewards, the fun part! Reward yourself when you meet your goals, short term or long term. When you set rewards for achieving goals then it provides an incentive to write. Let's face it, we all like to think that the idea of finishing the story is incentive enough, but its not. So reward yourself! I know that I have a little reward going on with a friend of mine. If we finish our drafts before the summer is over then we're going out for ice cream. The example I gave is a reward for a long term goal, but short term goals deserve to be rewarded also. Watch some tv when you finish your blog post, or have a few cookies when you finish writing that scene. Rewards provide excellent incentive to achieving our goals.

In conclusion, I can't stress enough how important setting goals is. My final warnings:
-don't set goals that are unrealistic and don't line up with your working patterns
-don't be afraid of assessing your goals
-embrace the reward system
Hopefully, this has spurred you onto setting some of your own goals! Also, I'd like to know if people agree with this system. Should we set times to finish a story? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below, or vote in the pole!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Story Starters

It's the beginning of summer, at least for me, and I'm hopping back into the blog world after finishing up my last exams. I don't know about you, but summer always seems to hold some sort of "newness", if you will, to it for me. It's that time of the year when you say "I'm going to try something new!","I'm going to finish my story!", "I'm going to write everyday!" etc etc you get the point. It's a bit like New Years resolutions, but that's not the point, and I'm starting to ramble. The point of this post is to offer you some story starters, because like I said summer's the time for new projects and commitments!

So the first starter is a dialogue. Take these snippets of dialogue and form a scene around it, and maybe it will lead to a story idea! I left all punctuation off, so you can add that yourself.

"I didn't think you were coming"
"Give it to me"
"Wait"
"Leave me alone"

See what you can create from that, and feel free to share what you come up with in the comments section!

The next starter is a few words that you can take and form into a story.

Cake
Superheros
Willow trees
Grandfather Clocks


The next starter is a "finish the sentence and see where it goes.

The man stood with dignity, as...


The last starter is more of a question that you can write a story about.

What would happen if we all had to record everything we did in a day? Everything we thought about?


There they are! You don't have to stick to exactly what I suggested, because what would be the fun in that? These starters are meant to inspire a story, or a new scene in the story you're writing. Overall, it doesn't really matter how or even if you use them, as long as it gets the cogs in your writer's brain spinning! Have an excellent summer filled with literary accomplishments!

P.S. Check out the Helpful Links page where there a few links to sites that have more story starters on them!

P.P.S Feel free to comment with ideas that you came up with!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Good Grief! Examining the Five Stages of Grief

The five stages of grief is a concept that I never really thought about, until a fellow writer mentioned it briefly in a conversation we were having. So being the info junkie that I am, I quick did a Google search. What I found was immensely intriguing, and an invaluable resource.

I personally think most good novels have a character die at some point, or some other event where a character has to deal with grief (eg. a breakup, someone moving away, divorce ect.). Now, I've never had a close family member die or encountered a major situation where I've been grieving, so I don't really understand the process of grief. That's where the formula of the five stages of grief comes in. I've found that having a believable process for how my characters grieve has given me a little more confidence in writing the more melancholic parts of my stories. Hopefully it will help you as well!

The Five Stages of Grief

1. Denial
Characters might do/think these things (in parentheses I've put the situation of the grief):
-"This can't be happening to me" (anything)
-Setting the table for an absent character that they're grieving for (divorce, someone moving away, death)
-Laying out clothes for their son/daughter (death of a young child, giving a child up for adoption)
-Putting food bowl/litter box (death of a pet)
-Keeping the absent character's room furnished, or continuing to furnish it (death, miscarriage, someone moving away)
-Acting like the absent character is still there, just away or on vacation (death, divorce)
-Not crying or acknowledging the loss (anything)
-Feeling numbness (anything)
-Trying to do physical activities that the character could do before, but can't (loss of a limb)
-"I feel fine" (loss of a limb, terminal illness)

These are a few that I came up with, but you have to judge what your character would and wouldn't do. This stage of grief is a temporary defense mechanism. This stage can last for a moment, or much longer. A character drawing away from other characters is another common reaction in this phase of grief.

2. Anger
Characters might do/think these things (in parentheses I've put the situation of the grief):
-"Why me?!" (anything)
-Wanting to "get back" at the cause for the issue (anything)
-Feeling angry with subject of grief (someone moving away, divorce)
-Getting angry with God, the world, or other deity (anything)
-Blaming them for leaving (divorce)
-Angry with themselves for letting it happen, even if they couldn't prevent it (anything)
-"It's not fair!" (anything)

Again, use your judgement for what your character would do. For example, not everyone would seek revenge, or get angry with God. Guilt also stems from this stage, like I mentioned in the point about a character blaming themselves. During this stage, the character can be very hard to deal with due to the misplaced emotions.

3. Bargaining
Characters might do/think these things (in parentheses I've put the situation of the grief):
-Making deals with God. Eg. "I'll be good forever if you promise to make this better" (anything)
-Making deals with a character who's leaving to try to get them to stay (divorce, someone moving away)
-"If I only live to see my children graduate..." (terminal illness)
-Wishing/praying the subject of the grief would come back (anything)

This stage is when the character has accepted that what they are grieving for is gone (or going), but they want to change it.

4. Depression
Characters might do/think these things (in parentheses I've put the situation of the grief):
-"What's the point of living?" (anything)
-Feelings of self pity, hopelessness, and bitterness (anything)
-Mourning the subject of grief (anything)
-Becoming disconnected from other characters (anything)
-Mourning dreams, and plans for the future (death, terminal illness)
-Feeling lack of control (anything)
-Sometimes feeling suicidal (anything)
-Crying (anything)
-Not talk a lot (anything)
-Not wanting to do things they enjoy (anything)
-Spending more time in bars/pubs (anything)
-Overeating (anything)

This is the stage where the character has realized that they can't change things, and don't see the point of anything. It is also recommended that other characters not try to cheer them up, because the character grieving needs time to process it.

5. Acceptance
Characters might do/think these things (in parentheses I've put the situation of the grief):
-"It's going to be alright" (anything)
-Makes the best of time they have left (terminal illness)
-Prepares for death, and gets their affairs in order (terminal illness)
-Realizes that life can go on without subject of grief (anything)
-Finds new things that they can do (lose of limb)
-Starts looking for a new mate (divorce, death of spouse)
-Gets rid of the subject of grief's belongings (death, gave up child for adoption, miscarriage, someone moving away, death of a pet)
-Reconnects with other characters (anything)
-Realizing that it isn't the their fault (anything)
-Seeing the sliver lining (anything)
-Remembering the good memories of the subject of grief (anything)
-Finding comfort, and healing (anything)
-Adjusts to life without the subject of grief (anything)
-Becoming thankful for things they have (anything)

Overall, these stages are very general, and it's good to remember that each character will deal with grief differently. Characters will also respond with more severity depending on the situation. For example, characters will have begun to grieve before the loss of the subject of grief if it was expected (eg. terminal illness), but if the loss is sudden then the character will grieve much more (eg. murder). Other factors that will influence the length and severity of grieving will include: relation to subject, type/amount of support, and the character's personality.

One last thought.
I'm not going to lie, this post has been a little bit difficult to write. Dealing with the loss of something or someone, or watching another deal with it is hard. However, this is what touches a reader's heart, and makes them fall in love with your writing. Writing a character's grief well is what gains sympathy from a reader which attaches them emotionally to your story. Having elements like grief in you story will enrich it a great deal.

P.S. I added the webpages I used to write this, and some other pages dealing with different types of grief to the "Helpful Links" page.
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