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’!

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.

Posted in The Going Ons Of Thegirlnamedjack's Life

Devices End, Stories Don’t?

The day before last, I got a phone! My first phone, used, pretty cheap—thanks to these non-American prices—and much faster than my iPod.

The iPod was last year’s birthday gift, and by far the most expensive gift I’d/I’ve ever received. It was a refurbished device, a couple generations old, but worked well. However, about a month or so after I got, Apple released some new iOS thing, which didn’t allow the older iPods to download… Er… Anything. Anymore.

But despite not being able to get anything useful, it worked great! Until several months ago, when it started to… Visibly die? Battery draining really fast, texts not sending or receiving half the time, taking forever to load anything, freezing, unable to turn off, etc. Which is pretty upsetting, because I made sure to be very careful with it. I never cracked it, never dropped it in water, you name any other disaster that could have befallen it, and it was prevented.

But that’s Apple devices for you. Now with my newer and clearly superior device, I can have an Instagram. I have gone through the right of passage, to become a real man teenager. (Speaking of which, I’m ‘thegirlnamedjack’ on there. Promise I post scenery more than selfies.)

Personal update and mini rant aside, onto more interesting things.

NaNoWriMo, this year, has probably been more fun for me than it has been any other year. Disregarding last year, because I didn’t really “compete” in 2014… I don’t remember what happened last year, but I just didn’t have the drive to write.

But since my first few NaNos’, I’ve grown better as a writer, character-creator and just story-comer-upper in general. So I’ve found myself enjoying the story almost as if I were reading it myself. And thanks to being a full-fledged teen, I cried during a death scene. And the following funeral scene. But it was fun.

And if I can write something so sad that the reader cries and not the teenage girl writing it, than that’ll be an accomplishment. Perhaps mean. But in a twisted way, a compliment to the author.

As for the book itself, my problem right now is that it doesn’t look like the end of November will be the end of the book. It’s going very well right now, but there’s still a lot more to write. (This was the first NaNo’ that I actually planned beforehand. I loosely planned the story, studied my facts, studied some more, took notes, took more notes… Fell asleep… Woke up some time around November. I hibernated early this year so that I could stay awake this month.)

Continuing isn’t hard! I’m on chapter seven, page fifty-seven—which is more words than I’ve ever written in this amount of time. Considering this is the first year I’m aiming for that big 50,000, that looks encouraging!

Ending it, though… How do I end it.

*Screams of anguish*

My user on NaNoWriMo.org is Sticky Computer Keys. Feel free to add me as a buddy!

Barnaby Hugh Button (this year’s main character), stalked by a wildcat. (Art by me, please don’t use without my permission.)

Posted in The Going Ons Of Thegirlnamedjack's Life

Halloween, and No NaNo’

As Halloween drew closer and closer this year, I became more reluctant to dress up and go trick-or-treating. I’ve always loved dressing up as a character or animal and getting candy, but even when I was younger I was always nervous about walking up to a stranger’s house and asking for candy. And as each year passes, I’ve grown less and less excited about holidays. I don’t start planning my birthday three months beforehand, for one.

So, this year I kept saying that ‘I wasn’t going to go trick-or-treating, because I don’t want to’. Of course, I did end up going. 😛 There were two big reasons as to why I didn’t want to go.

1. We have no costumes. We haven’t had costumes for awhile.

2. Now that I’m older, I feel like I’m that creepy teenager who’s still trying to act like a kid. I do not want to be that. Also teenagers are just kind of looked at in a very: “What are you doing?” way. I understand why, but it’s annoying when someone doesn’t seem to trust me just because of my age.

But then, DUNDUNDUNNN, I got a costume. I was… Drum-roll please… The one, the only, the dorky…

Napoleon Dynamite. And while at a Halloween party, somebody from church was Kip.

Happy Halloween!

 

Aaand on to NaNoWriMo. This would be my fourth year participating in NaNo’, but this year I haven’t been nearly as excited for the yearly writing exercise. It actually struck November 1st and I didn’t realize until much later in the day. I’m already working on a comic, plotting it out, designing characters, back stories, etc. And finally, after about four years of writing, I’m really trying to work persistently on a story. Instead of my usual routine. Getting excited over it, and then coming up with a new idea and ditching the previous project that I made such a big deal out of. And it’s about time too! This is the story that I’m actually planning beforehand, and what’s more–it’s a graphic novel. So both my love for writing and drawing will clash. 😀

 

That’s all for now. 😉

Posted in Books

NaNoWriMo Tips Part 2: Author Perks

Author Perks

If you’ve ever tried to write a book before, or do almost anything, really.  Then you probably figured out real quick that if you push yourself too hard for too long, you’ll burn up all of your fuel.  Sometimes you can prevent this from happening, though.  🙂

What helps to prevent this?  Think about it.

Setting:  Where would be the best place for you to write?  At the dining room table?  In your room?  On the back porch?  Do you have a guest room that you could work in, or perhaps an office?  In the living room, in front of the TV?  (I know some people who find that just having the TV on is comforting.)  Well, wherever it is, you should probably try to write there.  If you’re going to finish the first draft of a book in one month, than I would suggest not stressing yourself out too hard by trying to work in distracting settings.  If there is a better place to work and if it won’t cause any problems, than that’s probably the place to go.

Music What about music?  Sometimes music can make all the difference.  Let’s say that you’re writing a dramatic battle scene, but you’re just not quite there.  Well, why not look up some dramatic music?  There are plenty of movie Soundtracks and other songs that can help you.  Sad songs, happy songs, dramatic songs, songs that talk about the different times of year, etc.  There’s pretty much a song to fit every mood.  And–lucky you–almost any song that you could ever want to listen to, can be found on YouTube!

Also, if you just Google ‘Good Music to Write By’, you’ll probably get a YouTube playlist of cool songs.  I mean…  it’s Google.

And the song doesn’t necessarily have to have lyrics saying what it’s about, to have that feeling of–well–whatever it is that the song is expressing.  I, personally, find most songs with lyrics to be distracting while I’m writing.  It’s like I’m trying to focus on the words of the song and the words that I’m writing, at the same time; and it can get confusing.

Here’s a song that I would suggest if you’re writing a battle scene, or some kind of epic journey tale.  (Although I guess that it really depends in your taste on music.  You may interpret it differently.)

But that’s just me.  What about you?

Those Random Little ThingsEverybody has ‘those random little things’ that helps them.  More likely than not, you have them too.  It differs from person-to-person, though.

For me, it’s a cup of tea while I write.  For some people it could be–I don’t know–holding a pillow while they write.  I can’t say much here, since I’m not you.

But think about something that helps you think, or feel inspired.  I mean, something besides chocolate.  Like, seriously don’t go spoiling yourself by eating chocolate a whole bunch.  Chocolate is awesome, but I would highly recommend that you don’t eat a ton of candy for your inspiration.  (Because, Number 1:  Your story will sound like somebody hyped-up on sugar wrote it.  Which will be exactly what happened.  And Number 2:  All of your characters will gradually gain weight throughout the story.)

So pretend that I never said anything about candy, and start thinking about other ‘Random Little Things’ that will actually help.

Take Breaks:  Even though you’re goal is to finish the first draft of a book by the end of the month, you still need to take breaks now and then.  Because even whales have to come up for air.

Take a break from your book and go spend time doing something else.  Bake cookies, draw something, sing a song.  If you have a pet like a dog or a cat, then go spend time with your pet.  If your pet is a snake, than I would not recommend this quite as much.  Try to say ‘NaNoWriMo’ ten-times fast.  Or–go spend time with other people.  Run around with your brothers or sisters, or hang out with some friends for awhile.

Or, you know.  You could take a break and play video games/watch TV.

I suppose that’s it.  Or at least, all that I can think of.  Maybe you can think of something else–being you, after all.

😉

Posted in Books

NaNoWriMo Tips: Part 1

Writing

I just thought that I would post some ‘beginners tips’ for the folks who are going through their first year of NaNoWriMo.

So, here we go…

Step 1:  Do you have a plot written down?  Even if it’s full of plot-holes, it’s always a really good idea to write down things.  This is NaNoWriMo, after all!  Things like the general plot for your book, and the character descriptions are all things that should be written down–whether it be in a notebook, or on the computer.  Even if you think that you will remember everything about your story (because–hey–it’s your story, right?) chances are that you probably won’t.  Plus it helps to feel more organized and complete with your story, if you have things safely written down.

For the plot, you pretty much just write down what the ultimate goal of your story will be about.  Whether it be a grueling tale about two enemies who have to side with one another to save the world, or a more lighthearted tale about something a little bit less painful.  Like a sleepover that’s gone wrong.  It could even be a more creepy–or even a horror story–depending on what you like.

But whatever your book may be about, it has to have a plot.  Because–does anybody want to read a story where things that were never mentioned or even hinted at, suddenly pop in and save the day?  Or a story where everything is all happiness and gumdrops, with no actual point?

Nope.  I’m afraid that nobody wants to read those kinds of stories, and that they won’t even be as fun to write.

“But that’s too much work!”  You might say.  “I like coming up with my stories on my own, at the spur of the moment!  When I can just let my imagination poor out onto paper!”

I completely understand.  A lot of the times, it feels really good to just let your imagination and feelings poor out into written-down words.  But if you do that…  Well…  Chances are that book isn’t going to look too good.  :/

If you organize the plot beforehand, then I’d say that you have more of a chance of actually finishing the book.  And not just finishing the book–but finishing a good, enjoyable book.  Or, if you’re stubborn about it (like I have been for the past few years) you’ll just go ahead and do your book the way that you want it, with zero planning.  Because how bad can it be?  (Pretty bad.  I would know.  I thought that I was this totally awesome writer during my first year of NaNoWriMo, but by now–I’m rather disgusted at the things that I wrote that year.  😦 )

But don’t worry!  Just because you have to actually work to plan your book, doesn’t mean that it won’t be fun!  Try to throw some plot twists in there that you’re readers will only be hinted at.  😀

Also, if you think that you’re, like, the worst author ever.  Then it’s OK.  Chances are, that you just need a little bit of work.  Which just means you should write more often, and practice writing from different angles.  You may find which genre and (or) perspective that you like to write about/from most.  😀  But if you think that you are an awesome writer already, and that you will totally ace this whole thing.  Then good for you!  Keep up the confidence!

However, the older that you get, the more you see mistakes in your past writing, and the more you see ways to improve your current writing.

Step 2:  Character sheets!  Character descriptions!  Characters!

Do you know what a character sheet is?  It’s simple, really.  (And, it’s probably my favorite part.  8D  )

It doesn’t have to look fancy or sound fancy, and you don’t have to show it–along with any of your book planning–to anyone if you don’t want to.  But it’s something that you probably should do.

Every book needs characters.  Every character needs a personality, and his/her own look.  Just like people in real life.  Look around you…  Does everybody look the same?  No!  There are all types of people in the world.

Black-haired, ginger-haired, blondes, brunettes, shaved-heads, etc.  Brown eyes, green eyes, blue eyes, brown-eyes-that-are-so-dark-they-could-be-described-as-black, etc.  Tall people, short people, medium-sized people, stocky people, skinny-to-the-point-that-you-can-see-their-ribs people, fat people, etc.  Some people wear T-shirts and shorts, some people wear robes.  Some people wear turbans, some people wear stetsons.  There’s hardly an end to how your character can look.

If you’re character is an animal–it goes the same way.  There are all types of animals in the world.

Is your character from a made-up land?  You could even make up something new for them!

But like you probably already know.  There’s more to someone then just how they look.  What about how they think, their perspective, the way that their mind works?  What personality type are they?  Are they Left-handed or Right-handed?  And so on.

Here’s an example of a character sheet that I would write:

Name (Main Character):  Rostak.

Gender:  Male.

Personality:  Clever and observant, Rostak is a good tracker.  He is somewhat sharp-tongued and rude when disturbed, but is completely silent for most of the time.  Preferring not to attract attention, he keeps to himself; usually only leaving the house when he has been summoned for a tracking-mission, or is going to the library.

Appearance:  Tall and nimble, he is strong without really boasting it.  Rostak is dark-skinned with dark-brown eyes.  He wears a cloth over his face when it is cold, and a lighter cloth in the Summer, to protect him from the sun.  He wears traveling-boots that go up to a little ways below his knee, and long, baggy-brown pants that tuck into his boots.  Plus a tan-ish colored shirt that he tucks into his pants.

Jobs/Hobbies/Goals:  Rostak’s job is to track down missing prisoners and (or) runaways.  His hobbies are collecting different rocks and feathers.  His goal is to serve his king well and hard, but to someday move out onto the Plains, where he can be truly alone.

You see?  It’s fun to describe your own characters.  🙂

It’s basically your own kingdom (or spaceship, if you’re going for the Sci-Fi thing) where your are the leader.  What will you do with your people?  (Try not to kill too many of them, for one.  You only need so many deaths in one book.  :P)

What will you do with your book?

😉

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of ‘NaNoWriMo Tips’!