Thursday, 14 December 2017

NaNoWriMo musings...

I live!

NaNoWriMo has officially ended! TWO WEEKS AGO!


...Oh dear...

Anyway, back to the subject of NaNoWriMo! It's over. YAY!

Which begs to question...did I actually succeed?

This seems way more difficult to answer than it should be, but I don't know if I actually 'succeeded' with my first NaNoWriMo.


Well, I made the 50,000 word mark for November 30. (55,514 words, actually, as of November 30.) So, I succeeded in the overall goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.

However, I do not have a completed first draft. I am in the third act of the draft, yes, but it is not completed.

And I can already see structural issues that will be fixed in revision.

And there are scenes that need to be inserted and removed. (Again, something that is usually fixed in revision).

But, even so, I do not have a complete first draft, which was my personal goal.

So, did I succeed at NaNoWriMo?

Well, in some regards, I didn't.

In other regards, I think I did. I went into this as a learning exercise, as a way to learn more about how I write, how to write faster, and what my process is.

(Part of why I'm really noticing this kind of thing after NaNoWriMo is that I haven't actually written a brand new first draft of a story in...quite a while. I've been mostly working on really heavy revisions on two other books that DESPERATELY needed pretty much a full rewrite to make them work. So it's been a while since I've actually written a first draft of a book. I'm still kind of in revision mode...)


Anyway...back on topic...

I'm going to focus on the positive side of this.

Here's what I learned from my first NaNoWriMo experience. I know this is just for my own personal writing style, but maybe it would be helpful for other people to see different writing processes. Maybe someone else writes like this, too.

Or maybe I'm just weird. Who knows?

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The November Monster...

Happy Halloween, readers.

Today, I'm not focussing on candy and ghouls and all things in between. I'm thinking of something else. A different kind of monster.

Tomorrow is November First, and with it comes NaNoWriMo!

For those who don't know, that is National Novel Writing Month, the event in which people set out to write a novel from start to finish in the month of November. By the technical definition of the term 'novel', that is 50,000 words. There are contests, goals, the whole shabang.

This is also my first year where things have lined up so I can actually participate! Yay!

What, though, is the actual goal of NaNoWriMo?

I recently read an article that was bluntly against the idea of NaNoWriMo, saying that all it did was create crappy novels and bad book proposals, and that people shouldn't bother with it at all. Basically, it was saying that the whole idea of the event was just fostering an idea of quantity over quality in words, since it focusses so heavily on word count. That NaNoWriMo, in spite of starting with good intentions, had devolved into making bad writing acceptable.

In some ways, this can be seen as true. Unless people do NaNoWriMo properly and actually treat this as a first draft and do a solid revision and edit through the next months before claiming it to be publication ready.

The way I see it, NaNoWriMo is similar to an art challenge that has been going around called the 'Sketchbook Slam Challenge'. The concept of Sketchbook Slam is similar to that of NaNoWriMo, but for artists. Basically, the artist has a 300 page sketchbook that they have to fill in one month, both sides of the page, essentially making it a 600 page sketchbook.

That's 20 full pages of sketches every day for a month.

This challenge, obviously, isn't for everyone. However, the purpose of it is to foster a habit of sketching, and teach how to draw quickly. Even if the art is bad, even if the sketches are messy and strange and have plenty of issues, the artist has no time to dally on a single drawing, and has to keep going, forcing them to learn and adapt.

NaNoWriMo works in a similar way.

To complete the challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days, one must write and average of 1,666 words every day. Some people will write considerably more on some days, while others will write less, but the point is that people are writing, and are trying to reach a goal.

They are making a work habit, and learning how to get past the first chapter and actually complete a first draft without being hung up on edits, because they have that word count that they want to achieve.

The words being put to page might not be good, just as the sketches being put to page might not be good.

But the point isn't about writing the prettiest words or drawing the prettiest picture.

The good words and good artwork is hidden behind thousands of words and sketches.

The not so good words and sketches need to get out first.

My personal goal with NaNoWriMo is to become faster at completing a book, and to actually write a standalone story (everything I've been working on for the past several years has been a connected series, so I want to have practice at tying the threads of a story.)

The book I plan on writing is a story that has been lurking in my head for a very long time, and it's about time that I give these characters and this world the time that it deserves, and actually finish a story for them.

Another personal goal I have is to not just write 50k words in this book, but to actually complete the first draft. Considering that my estimate for this book's length is about 100k, that will mean writing 3,333 words on average per day to get it completed.

Whether or not I will successful in this is...questionable, but here's hoping for the best.

Anyway, that's my spiel. Probably going to be blogging a bit on the writing process as I go. That kinda thing.

On that note, happy NaNoWriMo! Enjoy the process, get lots of writing done, and have fun!

Time to get writing!

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Defeat Your Villain Deserves

There's a villain on the loose!

Oh no!

Stop the villain!

How are you going to do it?

...and the silence drops.

This is a problem that I hope isn't personal to just being my writing problem, but I'm going to talk about it anyway. So you make an awesome villain. Check! You give them terrifying powers. Check! They seem unbeatable, a perfect challenge. Check!

This villain is UNIQUE to your story.

Well, now what? You need to beat the villain somehow.

What do you do?

There are many options: just kill them, find a kryptonite, banish them, send them to jail.

For Fantasy and Sci-Fi in particular, the possibilities are endless. Is there magic in the world? Are there downfalls to the magic that can be exploited? What kind of weaknesses can be brought about by their strengths in their respective worlds?

As much as I love a great fight scene as an ending, sometimes a simple fist or sword fight can become tiring if it's done too often. For a climax in particular, there is also the added pressure of it being the FINAL FIGHT, meaning that it needs to stand out from all the others. In an action-packed story, to just have another run-of-the-mill fight as the finale comes off as underwhelming.

So how do you make your final battle interesting? How do you make the defeat of your big baddie feel fresh within the confines of your own story and within the confines of the genre?

Friday, 13 October 2017

The 13 Types of Villains You Will Find in the Wild

Attention villain hunters!

On your forays into fiction, you will encounter many kinds of adversaries. It is a dangerous road, and dangerous to go alone, and particularly dangerous to go unarmed!

Therefore, one must arm themselves with the most valuable weapon of all: Knowledge!

Knowledge is Power!

Power Corrupts!

Study evil?

Oooooh...don't do that. Just arm yourself enough to make it in the crazy worlds of fiction, please. We don't need another entry on the list. Not yet.

Anyway, it's Friday the 13th, and so I would like to arm you with some villainous knowledge.

Here are thirteen varieties of villains that you may encounter in your fictional travels.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Makings of Darkness: The Relationship Between Heroes and Villains

Ah, October. The month of warm colours, Thanksgiving (if you live in Canada), bountiful squash, and Halloween.

It seems as good a month as any to keep the subject a little...dark. And so, let's talk about villains.

I love a good villain. To me, a villain is what makes a hero. The stronger and more interesting the antagonist is, the stronger and more interesting the protagonist must be and must become. Comic books are a good example of this. Without villains like Joker, Riddler, and Penguin, then how strong is Batman? How else does he actually grow as a superhero and prove himself as a genius, unless his villains are on par with – or further ahead than – him?

There are, of course, many great examples of heroes and their respective famous villains and rivals. Sherlock Holmes has Professor Moriarty. The Doctor has The Master. Van Helsing has Dracula. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. The list of memorable and fascinating villains goes on and on.

Some of the most famous villains go all the way back to one of the earliest forms of fantasy, which are the classical fairy tales. The Evil Queen archetype, the Big Bad Wolf (or, just plainly, the Wolf), the Evil Stepmother...

Apparently the old fairy tale writers had a thing for evil women. Good women too, considering that the protagonists are frequently girls (as I recently discovered, sometimes very young girls. Snow White in the original Brothers Grimm story was deemed too hot to live at the ripe old age of SEVEN YEARS OLD.)

Anyway. Back to awesome villains.

As much as there are villains that I love, I have also run into villains that are...lame. Very lame. Pathetic, really. They leave no real sense of danger for me (personally). They just don' as a villain. They don't strike me as being particularly great or scary.

I'm sure that you also have villains like this. Villains that feel more like slapped-on afterthoughts than actual threats. Or villains that are built up as dangerous and epic but when they finally show up they're just...well...lame.

So what makes a villain interesting? What makes a good villain into a good villain?

My personal theory and preference in what makes a good villain can be summed up in one simple word: Relationship.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Writing Cultures #2: Belief Systems

This is part two of a blog set about writing culture. If you haven't read part one, which is on settings, I recommend checking it out first over here: Writing Cultures #1

You now have an awesome setting for your book and culture. So what's next?

Let's talk about belief systems.

Belief Systems are really one of the most important things when it comes to defining a culture. Religion and faith is what outlines a culture's morals, their celebrations, their principles, their architecture, mythos, etc; Even if it isn't a religion, strictly, every culture has an outlining set of morals that is seen as common sense and courtesy.

Which is why I'm bundling them all into the label of Belief Systems. Just for ease of clarity.

So for a fantasy world and culture, how on earth do we make a belief system that feels realistic, deep, interesting, and sensible?

Let's look at some different types of belief systems in fantasy series, and see what they do both the same, and differently.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

THE SKY IS FALLING! - Writing Descriptions

I was planning on doing part two of the cultural series as my next blog, but a certain event changed my mind.

I woke up the other morning to it raining. It was the drumming kind of rain, a heavy downpour that made a steady roar on the rooftop above me.
It was quite lovely, and expected.
Then something else happened. Something very unexpected.

It started to snow.
Let me repeat that. It was September 19th. It was snowing.

Yes, yes, I do live in Canada. Northern Alberta, no less. To people who don't know, I'm sure this comes as no surprise. Had this snow come near the end of the month, I wouldn't have been surprised.
But this was September 19th. It was barely out of Summer.
And yet, here I was, staring forlornly out of the window as freezing white flakes drifted down from the sky, making the fields and roof a horrifying white. For several hours the sky's dandruff continued, moving between tiny specks to massive clumps, painting a picture that fully revealed that yes, summer has ended and a Canadian winter is on its way.

Thankfully, the snowfall was light enough and it was still warm enough that the snow was completely gone within an hour or so after it stopped falling, so there's no need to panic.

Where am I going with this?

Two things: 1) Summer is over, and this is a sad event. 2) Let's talk about description.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Writing Cultures #1: Location, Location, Location!

So, you want to write a Fantasy or Science Fiction book. You want to do something new, something exciting, something that sets your worldbuilding apart from everyone else's.

You need a unique culture for your unique world!

But, how to write it? If you haven't been able to experience a culture different from your own, how do you know what to do to make a culture that isn't like every other fantasy culture, feels realistic, and feels unique?

This is a problem I ran into when trying to add a unique culture to my fantasy series. I looked for advice, but nothing seemed to help. I could see the unique cultures in other series, and I understood how they worked and, to some degree, even how the author made their choices in creating the culture. However, when it came to writing my own culture...I was stuck. I had no idea where to start.

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Cambodia for two weeks. Two weeks isn't a particularly long time, but through those two weeks I learned what truly makes a culture, even though I only managed to scratch the surface of Cambodia. I learned more in those two weeks than I had in what felt like endless research into how to write cultures.

So, I wanted to share what I learned so help answer some of the questions that I had problems finding clarification and answers on.

There's a lot to go through, so it will be broken up into segments. I hope that it helps answer some questions.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

So Many Subgenres, So Little Time!

So you're interested in fantasy. Well, there's a whole lot of fantasy out there, and looking into the waters can be...well...let's just say they can be intimidating.

What do I mean? I mean SUBGENRES!

Man. Even the word looks intimidating, doesn't it?

No worries. Subgenres are simply a way to define a storytelling trend in a book. Genres in general are used for marketing purposes. It's much easier for a person who is looking for a mystery novel to have an entire section of a book store dedicated to what might interest them than to need to read the back of EVERY book and search through EVERY shelf just to find something that they might find interesting.

Yes, genre can be quite handy for the book-consumer, and for those who need to sell said books to said consumers. Genre simplifies things, so that a person in search of a cozy romance doesn't accidentally buy an H.P. Lovecraft anthology.

It looks so simple. Then you get into subgenres.

Oh, dear. What are those?

It's quite simple. Subgenres are the genres within the genres.

On a single horror shelf, you might find a slasher horror, a psychological horror, a supernatural horror, a Lovecraftian horror, the list goes on and on.

A fantasy shelf can be just as convoluted.

So, if you're new to the subgenre game, here are some of the more common subgenres in fantasy, and the basics of what they mean.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Intro: Why Am I Here?

Hello there! My name is Nicole, and welcome to my blog!

To get what I'm here for out of the way, here's what I'm planning to blog about:
I am a bookworm and writer, so this blog is going to be writing and book related.

What kind of writing and book-related content, you may ask?

In particular, I write fantasy. I am not yet published (at the time of writing this), but I have been writing consistently for the past decade. In recent years in particular I have been doing a lot of research into writing, and I'm constantly trying to improve my craft.

I'm a self-taught writer. The extent of my writing education is through searching the internet for lectures, going to conferences, and studying the way that the books I read are written. And, to be honest, there are some subjects that, in spite of searching, I still struggled to find answers for. Different techniques that, the deeper I searched, the more confusing things seemed. I could read and listen to everything I wanted on subjects like culture and worldbuilding and magic and character, but sometimes the answers I found didn', for lack of a better term. I could understand what was being said, but I still struggled to make what I learned work in a story. I had the pieces, but for a long time I was struggling to put them together.

Which brings me here.

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to hear it from a different point of view, and I figured that maybe my point of view could be helpful to someone else who is in search of answers.

I know that I'm still learning, and I am by no means an expert in writing. Then again, there isn't a single writer out there who knows everything there is to know about the craft. Learning is a constant thing, and I'm excited to learn more through this blog as well.

So, once again, welcome to my blog, and thanks for stopping by!