Posted in Writing

How To Get Through NaNoWriMo Despite The Hell Fires of High School

nano-2017-participant-badgeA couple years back somebody over on NaNo’ asked me how I manage to meet my word goal of 50,000 every November without falling behind in school. At the time I felt almost sorry to tell them that I was home schooled and living on the side of a mountain in a remote town of South Asia. No one was around to bother me and I wasn’t going to school (granted, Woodstock was next door but as someone from a family of prols we couldn’t afford to attend) so the answer was simple. I was able to meet my word goal every year because I had literally nothing else to do. I would go well past my goal each year, spending every waking moment channeling Alexander Hamilton’s fiery will to write.

I moved back to America soon afterward and am now in my second year of public high school. I think I’m finally ready to give a helpful answer to that question.

MAKING WINNING EASY (the do’s)

  1. I’m going to say this and you’re going to hate it, but do your schoolwork first. Homework, projects and studying should not be put off until the last moment. Not only will it stress you out to have lowering grades and work constantly hovering over your head, but it’s just better for you all around if you get that pesky school stuff out of the way first. Responsibility sucks and so does school 95% of the time, but it’ll keep you, your teachers and your parents happy. Even more so if your parents are the type that like to take your electronics (AKA: your NaNo’) when your grades drop.
  2. Write whenever you have the time. Twenty spare minutes until you need to go to school? Write. Sitting around the house for forty minutes until you promised someone you’d hang out? Write. Need to take a shower but someone else is in there? Write.
  3. Keep a little notebook that you can jot ideas in whenever you’re unable to write. You’d be amazed at how many of those ideas will be forgotten as soon as you get time to write.
  4. Write wherever. Those 50,000 words don’t care where you are, they still need you. I’ve written in the car, on the train, in school, at my dad’s college, in cafes, at my grandma’s house, on a four-day-long slumber party and the list goes on. Laptops are portable computers for a reason. Can’t bring your laptop to school, or only have an ancient desktop computer that sits in your dad’s office? There are school computers. Make sure your book is backed up somewhere like Google Drive so you can write from wherever by simply signing in to your Google. (Also, make sure to sign back out when you’re done! The world is full of snoops.) I had a graphic design class last year that gave me a lot of free time, so I would start writing once I was done with my current project.
  5. Stay caffeinated. Don’t mix Redbull with coffee or anything crazy like that, but if you seriously don’t have time to write until late at night, try to keep yourself awake enough to write coherent sentences. I can always go back through my writing and tell when I wrote it. 2:00 PM: “The dog shook its fur free, slinging water all over the kitchen.” 2:00 AM: “Teh ogd slkunged water from its fur all over theh kitchen getting everyhtgin wet. Bad dog.”
  6. Word sprints. They’re the cheer leaders to your novel, motivating you to keep going. On the NaNo’ website hover over ‘My NaNoWriMo’ and click ‘My Word Sprints’ from the drop down menu. From there you can set a timer and try to write as much as you can before it goes off. There’s even a ‘Dare Me’ button beneath the timer that will throw random ideas at you.
  7. Attend a local Write In. (Regions < Come Write In) If you can’t attend a Write In, read the pep talks NaNo’ sends you. There’s also public chat rooms on NaNo’ where you can talk with other writers from your region. If you aren’t up to that or can’t find one, the forums are your best friend. The forums have everything from prompts to character games to how exactly a character can be killed off with a bread tie. Every question you will ever have can be answered by someone in the forums, so don’t be afraid to post there! The NaNo’ website is a great source of inspiration. Even if you’re the most introverted hermit in the world, talking with other authors about writing can do you a world of good.

WHERE WINNING GETS HARD (the don’ts)

  1. NaNoWriMo is basically a 30-day case of verbal diarrhea. Words are spewed out in gross amounts until your story is lost somewhere in between. While descriptions are great, try to keep them to an amount that won’t make readers skip a few lines. For instance, if a character walks into a beautiful meadow, don’t describe the meadow in intense detail unless it is vital to the plot in some way. If a character picks up a sword that’s significant to them (it was passed down to them by their ancestors, they activated its magical energy, they pulled it out of a stone, etc)  then take the time to describe it. This sword is important to the character or the plot somehow so the readers should have a solid image in their heads. But if it’s just some random weapon the character picks up to defend themselves, it isn’t necessary to write a sonnet about it. Yes, chucking an entire dictionary at your characters will help you meet your word goal. But it will also give them a concussion and turn your story into the modern rendition of Les Misérables. Don’t abuse the power of word sprints. Please, your readers are begging you.
  2. Remember how I said that caffeine is great for late night noveling? Well, that’s true. However caffeine can quickly be used against you if you have school or work the next morning. Don’t overdo it. Coffee, tea and whatever else is awesome as long as you’re still getting a healthy amount of sleep so you can actually focus in school and don’t end up exhausted with a headache by 12:00 PM. The more efficiently you get your work done the more efficiently you can write. It’s a vicious circle of: “Who’s more bitter? Me or coffee?”
  3. Writing whenever and wherever is great, but remember that other people exist and have feelings. It’s true that I had to write 1,667 words everyday during a four-day sleepover with my friend. However, I wasn’t ignoring her. She understood how much NaNo’ meant to me so we scheduled times to do this. While she straightened her hair and listened to music, I wrote. While she took a shower, I wrote. While she worked on schoolwork and studied, I wrote. I never wrote while we were talking or watching movies together. My characters are very important to me but my friends are even more important, because friends are real people who notice if they’re being neglected. Basically don’t be a butt hole hipster by pulling out your laptop and writing at inappropriate times.
  4. Keeping a little idea notebook is awesome, but don’t leave it on a train. I left mine on a train two years ago and sometimes when I’m laying in bed trying to fall asleep I still wonder if anyone read it. My opening page said “Kill the cute one” in red ink so I’m honestly hoping no one got the wrong idea. Just a tip for you.

That’s all for now! I may update this later, but until then I hope this comes in handy to all of the students out there participating in NaNo’!

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Posted in Writing

Why I Started Reading (and Writing)

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My blog has been dead for years now, but every once in awhile I get into this, “I’ve got to post again, I just can’t drop it for forever,” mood. I’ve finally found something to post about. No promises but maybe, just maybe I’ll start posting more than once a year.

I’m a reader and a writer.

Nowadays I’m primarily the latter, but as a kid (when I started this blog, yikes) I was the perfect specimen of an avid reader. I never went anywhere without a book and I finished each one within mere milliseconds of seeing the cover for the first time. The local librarians always raised a brow at how many I checked out at a time, thinking surely this pixie of a girl isn’t about to read all of these within such a short time. Little did they know that the reason I was (and still am) a shrimpy kid was because I spent all my time reading, writing and drawing rather than wrestling bears or climbing mountains or whatever it is people do outside. In summary: I read a lot.

But no one is born knowing how to read just as no one is born with a pen in their hand. Except Victor Hugo, whose book Les Miserables was 1,900 pages (and that was only one of his books).

This is the story of why I started reading and writing. Spoiler alert: I’m not as cool as Victor Hugo.

When I was in Kindergarten my school was the definition of underpaid Californian public education, so my parents pulled me out to home school me. My mom started teaching me to read and I hated it right off the bat. I caught on quickly and could read anything she gave me, but I was (and still am) a stubborn kid so I didn’t like being made to do things. That was my sole reason for disliking it.

This continued until one day I heard my mom talking to her friend about how she wanted me to read Shel Silverstein’s poems, but didn’t believe I was ready to start reading something that advanced. I didn’t know who Shel Silverstein was but hearing someone say that I wasn’t advanced enough to do something… Again, I was a stubborn kid.
The next morning I woke up early, got a book of Shel Silverstein’s poems (possibly Falling Up), sat in my chair and began to read while I waited for her to wake up. When she walked downstairs I tried to play it cool by saying something along the lines of: “Oh I just found this on the bookshelf. It’s pretty good so far, have you read it?” From there I began to read everything I could get my hands on.

I started writing stories in the 1st(?) grade for essentially the same reason. My mom said “You can’t be a wild mustang tamer”, but I heard, “Go write endlessly about horses to prove that you can be a wild mustang tamer.” That impossible dream of mine actually turned into a slightly less impossible dream: publish a book.

By the time I was ten I finished reading the Harry Potter series and was completely infatuated with the idea of becoming a world renowned author like our lord and master JK Rowling. An ambitious dream if there ever was one, but still one I like to toy with to this day.

Nowadays I still write, but my goal is just to find personal happiness within the book I’ve spent the past two (going on three) years writing. If that book is published one day, good for it! But for now the writing is what’s important.

How’s that for a return?

For those of you interested, my email is in my ‘About’ section, but I’m most active on my DeviantArt, Clockwork-Jack! I post my art and (some) writing there, since it’s become a substitute for my blog over the years. If you have any questions about writing (or anything?) shoot me a message via either of those!

Posted in Writing

Tip For Story-Tellers Of All Kinds

Whether you’re a writer, comic artist, script writer, or anything that involves creating characters and putting down story–this is a tip that I recommend you all take to heart. (I can’t remember if I’ve posted this before, so I’m doing it now. I can’t stress this enough.)

When you create a character, you may find that over time it becomes boring to work with that same character in the same environment, over and over and over. (I’ll use the story I’m writing as an example.)

For me, with Barnaby (character of mine), I sometimes find myself growing bored of just writing about him being on a deserted island. It’s still fun, but I have to throw new elements in there once in awhile, otherwise I begin to grow bored with my own story. This keeps the story going–which is great–but it also makes it more enjoyable for me to write. I actually have a separate document of just side notes and to-dos for the story. So that if I ever don’t know where to go next, I can open up that document, look at the ideas I’ve written down, and pick one that seems fun.

However, it is a really good idea to take a break from writing, to draw. Or crochet, or sing–or do anything else, so that the writing side of you is always getting new inspiration, and never tiring (at least, not as often) of writing. Writing for hours on end is great, if you’re getting stuff done–but you also need to take a break, to do anything else. Take a walk, sit outside with a cup of tea, read a book. Literally anything that isn’t writing, for a little while, often. Because otherwise, you will run dry of valuable inspiration, and you won’t want to keep working on your book if you’re going at it 24/7.

One thing I love to do, is take a break everyday (for me, in the evening) to traditionally sketch some character concepts. It’s sketching. It’s free, no critiques needed, accepted or wanted. Draw your characters doing anything. The artist side of me goes crazy over character designs, so I often draw my characters as all sorts of different things. This really helps me experiment with how they look, probe into new ideas for the characters, and glean some inspiration for my book.

I’ve drawn Barnaby as a sonic character, Anime, realism, general Western cartoon style, Chibi, sort-of-a-stick-figure, in all sorts of poses that he would never actually make (ballerina ones are my favorite). I’ve drawn him as a humanoid dog, fox, cat, an actual dog wearing an aviator jacket and helmet, the opposite gender–anything and everything that I could think of. It was all in good fun, none of it serious, and helped me a lot.

So, that’s my recommendation for you. Explore your story, your characters, in other mediums. Draw the most ridiculous scene, the most awkward poses, and in designs that you know you will never actually use. It’s really, really fun. And clears the mind, to allow more writing inspiration.

Also–you know–take a break from the story every now and then. Think about it, work on it in other mediums when you’re not writing, make an effort to continue it at least a little bit everyday–but make sure to live in-between the words of your book. Or comic–or whatever it is that you’re working on. As enthusiastic as you may be, there are going to be times when–to prevent writers’ block–you should pull away from what you’re doing, and live. Go window shopping, take a long walk, fail to bake cookies, watch a TV show. Sometimes even doing different stuff on the same screen, helps. (Though I recommend that you don’t always go from one screen to another.)

That’s all. Good luck with your projects–keep on working at them–take a breather every now and again–and have fun!

barnaby___rlly_bruh_by_authorjack-d9iylze

 

Posted in Writing

Character Creation And Development – Things To Consider

A friend asked me: “How do you build characters?”

Wow, that’s not a question I can answer in a simple sentence. Not just because I tend to ramble, either. (Speaking of which, brace yourselves.)

This is a subject that I enjoy mulling over, being a creator of countless characters. Many of them go to waste as fun side-projects, never to be written into a story. But that doesn’t mean they were pointless. It’s good practice!

After giving this some further thought, it seems worth posting online. So, buckle your seat-belts, and prepare to take off.

 

Character Creation

Getting right to it–this is the hardest part, for me. Laying the base for your character. Figuring them out. What they’re going to look like, their name, job, ambitions–no development required yet, because the character themselves is in–well–development.

Imagine you’re writing a sketch. Put together a simple reference sheet, on paper, digitally–both–whatever works for you. (For this I’ll be using my NaNo’ character as an example.)

As an artist and a writer, I tend to draw a lot of character concepts, while also writing one out. (It’s wisest to write it first, otherwise they could end up looking veeery different from their–you know–intended character. I’ve seen multiple artists experience this issue.)

Here’s a fleshed out ref’, taken from the notes of this year’s NaNoWriMo book.

 

 

Main Character

Name: Barnaby Hugh Button

Gender: Male

Birthday: Born 1915, January 13th (age: 30)

From: Liverpool, England

Occupation: Airmail Pilot (UK)

Appearance: Curly red hair (different type of curly from Helmut’s—like cousin Zack’s old hair), with blue eyes. Average height, about five ft 4 inches. Healthy, grows stronger and swifter after spending time on the island—but not always the most agile—especially at first, he’s rather dorky.

Fun fact: Puts gross amounts of pomade in his hair, in a desperate attempt to keep his red curls tame. It doesn’t work. Poor guy can’t keep with 1940s fashion.

 

Most of this reference has been added while writing the book, as new ideas spring up that I don’t want to forget. As you can see, there’s some references in there to stuff that… You just can’t get. There’s no way that the reader is going to see ‘like cousin Zack’s old hair’, and understand that. These are my notes, and if I picture his hair as a certain real-life person’s hair, that’s what I’ll note. It really doesn’t matter–don’t be OCD with the sketchy writing. Put a joke in there, reference your cousin’s hair–do whatever that helps you flesh it out. Consider this your character’s 1st draft.

I consider this next part to be important, but understand if you aren’t a big drawer, why you may skip this.

Sketches. Concepts. On paper, no matter the medium, draw that character. Figure their appearance out. You wrote it, now draw it. Or maybe you drew it first, after setting the rest of the base down.

It doesn’t have to be the strictest character drawing. Don’t stress yourself out, it’s called a concept for a reason. Do whatever. Draw them interacting with another character, their world, an animal. Doodle what they’d look like as a dog, the opposite gender, in a different art style–it’s also a great break from writing.

barnaby_button___stubble_faced_by_authorjack-d9hlg1jbarnaby_button___he_a_dog_by_authorjack-d9hlhdgbarnaby_and_brown___stubby_legged_run_by_authorjack-d9hlhqq

For the hardest part? The Dreaded Name. For some reason, this is always the most difficult for me.

Many, many, many, many times I have slapped a generic name onto a character, because I couldn’t make up my mind. But over time I’ve found that the best names, are the ones that have a meaning to me.

This doesn’t have to make any sense to anybody who isn’t you. This name could be special to you for the oddest reason, but it feels great on the character. Make it something from a childhood movie if need be, just as long as you don’t say something like ‘Darth Vader’.

Onto the more interesting part.

 

Character Development

This is important. Vital to the outcome of not just your characters, but your overall story.

If there’s anything I beg that you do not do, it’s create a generic hero. The best, most relatable, interesting characters are the ones with flaws. They’re more like real people. It makes the story more intense, knowing that the character can fail, might fail, and maybe are failing.

My favorite characters–not just my own, but from shows/books/other–are the ones who aren’t perfect. They’re obnoxious, religious, overbearing, disappointing to their families–any number of things. They are no Superman. And that’s great.

Take Sherlock Holmes for example. He’s a butt-hole to everyone he meets (pardon), flaunts his ridiculous intelligence everywhere, smokes/has smoked, is on drugs (at least in the stories), and is often a tad misunderstanding of normal human emotions. But he’s loved by generations of readers, and now watchers. He is not a God among characters, but by being so perfectly imperfect, he is.

Give your character a mental disorder, make them extremely opinionated, stubborn. Make them afraid of dogs because of multiple past experiences. Maybe they’re horrible with children. Perhaps they’re divorced, a crappy dad/mom. A stuttering teacher who hardly knows what he’s/she’s teaching. Or a moody teen who’s set on wearing fifty earrings and making the irresponsible decisions in life.

I’m not saying that it’s your duty to create a self-righteous religious nut (like Javert), but it’s not out of the question, and it’s still more interesting than a perfect, blank slate. Especially if your flawed character does end up making the right choices–it shows more. It’s stronger. Because people are like that. The kid from the bad neighborhood could have better manors and a higher maturity level than the one from the great, wealthy family. Stereotypes aside.

To develop the character, release backstory a little bit a time. Not all at once. Develop them, over the course of the book–or series. You can’t start it off with ‘he’s super depressed and hates goldfish’. Reveal these things as you go. Don’t start off the book with a page about the character’s personality, appearance and attitude. Write these things as they come up–so the reader becomes attached to them in time.

They happen to see themselves in a reflective surface. Describe their appearance. Throw in small details, like saying: “She pushed her frizzy, black waves from eyes and scoffed.” But don’t start the book off describing them in full detail. It just doesn’t work as well.

Have deep conversations with another character. Show their relationship growing. Take a break, crack a joke. Show how your character reacts to jokes–what’s their sense of humor? Put them under stress, show how they react when under pressure. Show them happy–happier than they’ve ever been.

Characters are people on paper. Getting to know a person means seeing them in many different elements, exposing all their sides. An okay or a good friend is the one you see at church once a week. The great friend is the one who you’ve seen go through a lot. Because you’ve witnessed how they act in different situations, with different people, in different settings. Humans are not so simple that you can see them in one mood, and know all about them. Personalities are straaange things.

With that said, go off and write your person! The flawed, interesting thing in development that they are.