Sorry that this is late. I had an argument with my tablet last night... I lost. I celebrated its victory by crashing the app and deleting my post...*sigh*
But I won the war.... *evil chuckling at the low battery notification*
Okay, back to the topic at hand. Part two... lets make out world messy and nuanced. This post will explore: causes for conflict in your country; the customs that bind people together; and the daily grind that we call life.
Problem Three: Causes of societal conflict
All our worlds have conflict, if they didn't they are either a) a utopia or b) so unrealistic... if you're anything like me you've made the latter. So down the rabbit hole we go...
It seems to be everywhere in YA at the moment. And for good reason, a well thought out oppression can give your world some grit. It can add fuel to your character's fire. It can even add tension to normal daily life. It's pretty sweet when done right. I did not do it right. Here are some things to consider when creating a dystopian society:
The police are always the good guys right... well, no. The laws are there to protect me right... again, no. Let's stack the odds against our characters.
Last but not least, good old human vs human conflict. That nasty decay of attitude, (racism, sexism, ageism, et al.) that is like trying to punch the wind when you fight it. Good times (NB: this is not a good time). Now let's think about how to make some isms:
Problem Four: Customs
Customs are an important part of a society, they are the ways of doing thing that are accepted as normal; that identify a person as a part of that culture. I ignored this part and thus my civilians read like they were westerners stuck living in a fantasy world. There was nothing about how they interacted with the world, or each other, that made them unique. To not have euro-centric societies that are all kind of the same, have a think about the questions below.
Religion is often a feature in worlds; as people try to explain their origin, death and why things happen. If you are anything like me you made a religion but forgot about the customs that go along with worship. Here are some questions to help our more pious characters:
Customs of important events:
Not everyone celebrates birthdays. New Years is celebrated differently in different countries. When creating a culture it is important to look at what is important to them, what they celebrate and how they celebrate.
How do we say hello? Goodbye? A lot of what we do tells others what sort of person we are; if a hand is presented to us and we don't shake it we are seen as rude... kinda weird when you think about it. So what weird stuff do people do in your world?
Problem Five: Daily life
Ah, daily life. How little we think about it. We just slog through it hoping for something fun or interesting to distract us. But in world building, as I discovered, it is very important. Knowing these things will help you make rounded background characters and keep everything feeling... *does a hand joining together motion* ...cohesive.
So that concludes the mistakes I made when world building. Are there any areas that you find challenging that you would like me to write a post about? Comment below.
Next week... very exciting news!! We will be having guest bloggers who will share a little about their writing process and their genres.
Until next time, build the worlds that your characters will fight to save.
It takes some serious courage to create a whole world that is filled
with people, places and stuff happening. When I started my world-
building bible (or Carol as I call her) I did some half-assed research about what should do into it, thinking that I could just make up the
other details as I went along. Please, don’t do this.
*Sigh* I did do this. I figured out some basic races, my magic
system, a class system and even a religion/origin story. I felt on top of the world.
I quickly discovered (NB: Not quickly enough) that I had some massive gaps in my world, it was missing the depth that
makes fantasy so engrossing. Epic fail.
So where did I go wrong? Below are five categories that I should have planned before putting fingers to keyboard.
Problem One: Economic System
I did not think about how money functioned within my world. At all.
I knew what the money was called and that was all I thought I needed. I was wrong. So, so wrong.
To be fair at this point my main character has no money, at all, ever. She lives on the shanty-fringes of the city with her mom, and scavenges from the scraps of the
wealthy to find food. When I started world-building this didn’t seem like a huge
issue. But it was.
People need jobs right? Well in my world-building book, apparently not. I had not thought about this until I was faced with the realization that nobody in my world had a job… nobody. I couldn’t explain the vast wealth of the Nobles or why my
poor were so poor. So back to the drawing board I went.
Some questions to have actual jobs for your characters:
So other countries exist right? And they have different locations and climates? Chances are that they can grow or produce things that your current city/country cannot. This often leads to trade (or war/pillaging depending on your cultures
values). I did not think about this. Instead I created an isolated bubble in which my country lives.
A few questions to answer to not have a sucky bubble-country:
Problem Two: Transport and Technology
Again, as my main character gets around on foot most of the time, I did not think this one through. But transport is vital in a world. It controls
movement, trade, and even communication. Add technology to the mix
and well… I had some serious inconsistencies floating around.
Science and Technology
On Friday I will post part two which covers: Causes of societal conflict; Cultural and
religious customs; and Daily life.
I hope you found this helpful and that you can learn from my mistakes.
Until next time: do whatever keeps you writing.
So... you've come back for more. Or you are reading part two first *shrug* you do you. If you did miss part one, it's right here.
You are ready for writing. You're super organised, you have clear boundaries and maybe a focus App or two. Let's sink our teeth into the next round: planning, goals and writer's block.
I know, planning isn’t everyone's cup of tea. But, hear me out. For me, having a solid outline was a savior. I used to think that I was a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants), it turns out I was very wrong. I am a plotter, a huge one.
Once I figured this out, my outline became my lifeline.
Outlines aren't there to give you the finger when a new idea pops into your mind. They aren't set in stone. I like to think of them as a road trip map. It gives me a detailed list of where I am going and what important people or things to see along the way. But, if I want to make a detour, you had best best that I am going to head off the trail, see the cool thing and join back onto the original road when I can.
Sometimes this isn't feasible, and you'll be able to tell... from your outline. This means that the awesome idea just needs to be jotted down for another story. For the most part, though, they can be pretty accommodating.
In my outline, which is a beast of a Google Sheet, I like to do several things at once:
The thing is a troll. Yes, it does take ages. I know. Say it with me... WRITING IS HARD WORK. Obviously, yours doesn't need to be this intense. I am a sucker for punishing myself. I will say, that when I am stuck - - when the nastiness of writer's block sets in - - this can be the solvent that unsticks my mind-glue.
Having a clear idea of what needs to be discussed and hinted at in each chapter means that there is almost no thinking on your part, you just need to write. It should help minimize plot holes and make sure that you know what you are leading up to. If all else fails, it will let you jump forward in your story to write a less troublesome chapter.
Each time you sit at your desk, or in my case: in my hammock, you will know exactly what you were reaching for the last time you wrote. You wont be stuck waiting for ideas to come to you. Hopefully, you wont need to rewrite several chapters because of a huge plot hole.
(NB: Author has done this. Twice. She thought she didn't need to outline. Twice. She was very wrong.)
On to goals. This is my favorite part. I swear. (NB: Author is lying)
It might not be my favorite but it is the one that pushes me. It stares at me with its unchecked boxes, mocking my laziness. Setting goals is like making promises to yourself, holding yourself accountable. If you have a bunch of goals laying unforgotten - - that's on you and you alone.
It is important to set achievable goals. "I will write and publish a book in six months." is doing no one any favors. Whatever the end result you wont be happy with it. On the flip side a goal without a deadline is just a dream. "I will write and publish a book." Yeah... that will work.
You will need to set up long term, medium term and short term goals. All long term goals will make you feel defeated, you wont be able to check anything off for a long time. All short term goals will feel like there is no end in sight. Balance is key. Give yourself enough that you feel like you are working towards those juicy end goals. Medium term goals are the ones that you really want to give yourself a nice reward for, they will be the ones that keep you slogging through that saggy middle you're* writing. (NB: * I am)
For short term goals, I personally like to have one large weekly goals with a sprinkle of smaller weekly goals.
Medium goals tend to be more about finishing a chunk of writing and less about dates (Breaking my own rule *sigh*). They tend to be more like milestones that I reward myself for achieving.
Long term goals have been trickier for me. This is my first time writing a novel that I am going to publish, so I'm not sure how long the process will take. I have set the deadline for the first draft to be finished and self edited by the end of the year. Beta reading for the first 6 months of 2018. More editing and Betas. Then to the professional editor by the end of 2018. Editing again at the start of 2019. Then the slow death of querying by mid of 2019.
Do you see why small and medium goals are a must???
I need a drink... *adds write about goals to medium term goals*...reward unlocked.
Writer's block... ugh. It makes me curl my lip just writing those two words. It's like a nasty little monkey that repeatedly pokes you in the eye so that you can't think straight. Unfortunately, writer's block affects us all - - you think that it would get the hint that no one wants it around. And because no one likes staring at a blank screen during their allotted writing time (which you totally have scheduled - - right?!?) we each have come up with our own little tips and tricks with combating the little jerk.
Several sites and videos give advice on writer's block, and a lot of them say the same thing. Just push through it, and write. Write utter garbage and clean it up later. For some people, they can do this. I have tried. Bearing down with a gritted teeth, trying to birth unwilling words. It sucks. The writing sucks. Editing the resulting garbage sucks.
So let me offer an few tweaks that I've added to "just keep writing".
For me, the best way to deal with writer's block is to move to something smaller for a short time. My absolute favorite is writing an important moment of a minor character's life. What is the reason for that scar? Why do they have trust issues? Why are they in prison? Doing this gives you space from your story. It gives your minor characters depth and sometimes even solves a problem you were having. Your world seems richer because you have explored it more fully. You have a wider range of voices with their variety of experiences and as such have explored the world better.
Another interesting one: write a letter from a antagonist to the main character. What would they say? In the privacy of a letter what would they share? Would they swear, fling insults or accuse the MC of something? Would they send the letter? This has a similar outcome to the previous one, with the added bonus of changing your writing to first person if you normally write in third. I've done this and then wrote a reply a few weeks later. It keeps you thinking of the characters, the events and the world you've made.
Work on your blog, or author page, or Tumblr... whatever you're working on. Switching writing gears can often get you thinking. BUT... that writing time you just sacrificed, needs to be found again. That time you had ear marked for your blogging or author page just became writing your novel time.
Other options if stringing together a coherent piece of writing isn't working out:
If you can't even:
I do agree that it is important to keep writing. Don't give into the monkey. He wants you to watch YouTube videos about writing when you should be writing. Don't let the monkey win.
Well, that's it from me. Go out there and do some planning, give yourself some goals and flip the bird at that writer's block monkey.
Writing a novel is hard... this is the ever present reality of people who chose to be writers. I have found this out the hard way many times. Through my bumbling and fumbling, I have found a few things that work for me. That get me writing... and keep me writing.
Being organised is one of those words that make you either swoon or groan. I love organizing, the joy of having a place for everything. It makes life easier when everything is where it should be. No hunting for things. And certainly no finding your TV remote in the fridge.
But for someone who loves organizing, who drools over pretty storage boxes and has (more than once) been banned from buying any more desk organizing systems, it was strange that my novel was such a mess.
I don't know about everyone else but I find myself writing on a bunch of different devices. So with my notes and chapters strung across my laptop, my phone and my tablet, I was about to have a meltdown. (Sadly, even with my low level obsession with stationery writing in books never ‘did it’ for me.) I found myself writing things twice, ‘losing’ information and just generally being a grump.
Kicking myself I sat down to figure out a way to streamline my process. They key to my sanity was finding a cloud service that worked for me. Over the years I've tried Box, Dropbox and Evernote. Nothing really felt right. Then… Google Drive strolled into my life, unexpectedly, as a result of my online work.
I fell in love, hard.
Combined with Google Docs and Google Sheets... yass!! Transferring all my files took time. But, it allowed me to find double up, lost pieces and ideas I had forgotten about. Creating all the folders my heart could handle, I finally brought calm to the chaos. Everything was where it should be. I could find the chapters I was working on, all of my inspiration photos had a little nook, my pesky ideas for other novels had a home, and I had a spot to place the chapters that needed editing so I wouldn't make my eyeballs bleed (and waste time) re-reading them. I also could access everything on all of my devices. Even my novel outline on Google Sheets... bliss.
Google Drive may not be your thing, but do invest time and effort into finding something a system that organised your novel.
Find something that works for all of your writing habits, and all of your devices. If you like hand writing and digital, take photos of your writing or print the digital. Either way, find a way to keep it all together. Once it is all neat and adult looking, starting to write will be a dream. Everything you ever need it at your fingertips.
I can hear you shuddering through the screen.... boundaries?!? What are you trying to pull Melissa? I just read a whole thing about organisation... ugh!
Trust me... just keep reading, you might find this more helpful and less rather-stab-my-eye-out-with-a-fork than you think. For my writing process these things really helped.
I really needed this one. Waiting for inspiration to strike, or for some spare time NEVER worked out. Spare time slipped through my fingers, or was twiddled away watching TV, reading a book, or one of the thousand other ways I procrastinate. I am a master of procrastination - - and being able to justify my procrastination. It's an art-form really. Months passed and I had only a few thousand words to show for it. I felt disgruntled and like I wasn't cut out to be a writer... but I was wrong.
My writing wasn't the problem. My priories were.
What I was missing was the dedicated time for my writing. Athletes have intense schedules. They allot time in their week to work on their skill - - because it is important. They want to do the best they possibly can. Why wasn't I doing this with my writing? I wasn't going to write this novel with hopes and dreams. Best intentions weren't going to improve my writing. Only time at the keyboard would do that.
So I sat down and figured out what time I had remaining after all the necessities of life (looking at you work) and then before I could fill those blank spaces with 'reading', 'nap time' and 'working out' (hahaha, that's not on there). I made sure to put a sizable chunk of time aside just for writing. I aim to have at least three hours of writing time each day. For me that falls between 1pm and 4pm, the time that formerly was reserved for napping and playing video games. During this time all I do is write my novel.
I do understand that this isn't for everyone, I am incredibly blessed, I am in a situation where I have a lot of free time and no major obstacles or problems that would stop me from writing. Your schedule should reflect your life. Not mine. Choose an amount per week that is sustainable - - if you don't you'll wind up feeling guilty or resenting the schedule.
On Fridays and Mondays I have 1-2 hours set aside for blogging. When I wake up and before I go to bed I have a 30-60 minute window for social media. And I try VERY hard to stick to it.
Its not easy. My brain does not like this. It hates being told what to do. But it is important to me, so I make it work. When making a new schedule it is important to try and stick to it for three months. Anything done for three months becomes habit. You'll find yourself looking at the clock thinking about your novel, only to find that it is ten minutes until your writing time.
Oh, Twitter... how many more hours will you suck from my life?!? *dramatic hand against forehead*
But seriously; I have whittled away so much time on Twitter during my writing time. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram or one of the million other sites that I am not cool enough to even know about, you need to GET OFF IT! There are so many ways options that help:
Remove the unimportant
Who here has wasted countless hours finding the perfect picture for an aesthetic board, the best music to inspire or a photo that looks like your character?
*waves hand enthusiastically*
Yep. Well, that time suck needs to go. For me its drawing the characters, I love to imagine them and then try to capture the different moods and facial expressions. I have used up so many of my writing hours doing this. I needed to stop. A fellow twitter user BellaRosePope made it very clear in her YouTube video (warning: profanity) that this was just a huge waste of time. Why did I need pictures of characters and a world that didn't exist? Why create a cover for a novel that is no where near ready to sell? Why work on marketing... you have nothing to market?
Well, that was the huge slap in the face I needed.
So, stop doing stuff that you don't need yet! You will have time to commission artists, to create content and market your novel... when it is done!
Research time limit
Maybe you've mastered the schedule.
Perhaps Twitter and social accounts hold no sway over you.
Perchance you have the iron will to ignore the pretty pictures and lure of Pintrest
Lucky you. I am not jealous at all... (NB: Author is extremely jealous)
Maybe your time suck is the stuff you actually need - - like which poison will kill undetected or what it feels like to lick a cactus. Researching for a novel can steal you time quicker than I had ever thought possible. So, I set myself a boundary. If I wanted to research something during my writing time, I had ten minutes to do so. If I couldn't find the answer in ten minutes then the answer could wait to a time outside of my writing time or until I stumbled across the slew of hashes in the editing process.
Facts can, and will, wait. Keep writing, because that is the most productive thing you can do with your writing time.
Thanks for reading along. I hope you found some small part of this helpful. On Friday I'll be posting part two. This will cover planning, goals and writer's block.
Until then... get organised, get boundaries and get writing!
After years of standing in front of classrooms, pubescent children trying desperately not to learn, I still find the blank page the most intimidating creature of all.
Spit-balls, fart jokes and inaccurate genitalia drawings have nothing on the nerve-wracking awkwardness of following a dream. But here I am… Post One. Or as I lovingly refer to it “The time it took 30 minutes to write a sentence.”
I have been writing for as long as I can remember… which to be fair isn’t that impressive of a statement seeing as I have the mind of a pasta strainer. Things that you think are too important to fall through the holes can, and often do, fall through into the gurgling sink of my forgetfulness. But, there are brief memories of writing from when I was younger. Stories of seals, vampires and, well, some fan fiction that never needs to see the light of day. I always enjoyed hearing, reading and creating stories. Even when I went through the too-much-eyeliner phase; writing still had an inescapable grip on me. So when I started this journey, and taking my writing seriously, I thought that I had all I needed:
However, I quickly found that writing is so much more than that. It is knowing what’s going on in the world. It is an opportunity for expression: a chance to say something about the world, highlight its flaws and qualities. It is a community: a network of friends who challenge and support you. It is asking the hard questions about what is important to you. It is revising your work until your eyes bleed, then handing it to others who show you all the things you missed. It is business: marketing, data analysis, trends *shudder*.
It is a lot of work.
That was one of the main things that surprised me about starting on this journey; that is, for something that claims to be an introvert activity, there is a lot of interaction with others.
But fear not. This interaction is the reason I haven’t fled in fear. The community of writers… there is nothing like it. Even in teaching, where collaboration and resource sharing is vital, there isn’t this unreserved desire to build up and share. So, dear reader, if you are thinking of writing: find yourself a community. Twitter, Tumbler, Facebook… there are a number of different avenues to find your community.
In all the classes I attended on creative writing, not one mentioned the benefits of the online community. Since joining I have been pushed to experiment, explain and just plain old write more words.
And don’t freak out if you’re worried about it starting… we all were – and still are.
The community has taught me:
The laughable part is that with the very same minds that we use to harm ourselves, we are building each other up.
So, push through it. You can do it. It might be harder or more complex than you imagined. But..
You. Can. Do. It.
Now, go write. Who knows… in a week we could be Twitter buddies …in a year I might be reading your published work.
Remember: Like wine we all get better with age. What you couldn’t write last year, you might be able to today.
On that note, I’m off to grab a glass of celebratory wine. First blog post written.