Monday, October 31, 2011

When the Insanity Begins…

In only 1 hour for me the clock will strike midnight marking November 1st and the insanity will begin. What insanity you ask? Why, National Novel Writing Month of course! If you have no idea what I am talking about you can check out a post about it here or the official site here.

It is a tradition for many participants to start writing the moment that clock hits 12 AM. Being the crazy person (or person-ish thing) I am, of course I am going to stay up late! It is one of the most exciting parts of NaNo—counting down those dwindling hours, your fingers itching to begin writing, your characters awaiting with anticipation to come alive, knowing thousands of others are doing the same thing right along with you. Such thrill!!

I’m simply ecstatic!

All that planning and anticipation is about to collide into one month of utter insanity with a loud boom of typewriters, pencils, pens, and keypads working away.

At this point in the NaNo stage NaNo’ers are usually something like-

Excited Tangled GIF

But then, with such rigorous writing and time consumption, near the end of the month we usually look something more like-

Merlin Tired GIF

Despite it, NaNo is an utterly fun experience, no sleep, life wasting, and all!

I am not sure if I will be posting more in order to keep up with my NaNo progress on my blog, or post less because, you know, I’ll be writing like crazy, it could go either way.

Whatever this new month of crazy writing brings, it is going to be fantastic!!

Happy NaNo’ing!!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beautiful People: NaNoWriMo Novel

Beautiful People ButtonThanks to an awesome person I know from the NaNoWriMo site named ZNZ and her fantastic blog (which you should totally check out) Jotting Down Notes, I have discovered something called Beautiful People. Two lovely bloggers, Sky and Georgie, started this some months ago. Every month they give out a list of questions for bloggers to answer about their personal story characters. You can do the same character each month or choose a different one each time. If you would like you can check out the FAQ for more information.

It is such a wonderful idea and I’ve been meaning to do it for months, but am not actually getting around to it until now…

This month will actually be different from their usual questions, because this time instead of asking questions about your character it is about your NaNo novel (or any other novel if you are not participating in NaNoWriMo) since NaNoWriMo is coming up. If you want to join in you can find the questions here or here.

Let’s begin!

1. Sum up your novel in five words, or less.
High fantasy dragon rider novel.

2. Novel title?
More Pink than Sunsets

3. Sum up your main character(s) in one word.
Naidren: Protective.  Nyria: Rambunctious.

4. Advice for newbies in three words?
Forget life. Write.

5. Tell us about your secondary characters, how do they affect the story?
They affect the story quite a bit actually. First you have an uptight king who orders the characters to be kept inside his city and put under watch because he fears they are enemies, thus putting the entire story into motion. Then there is the bitter girl who claims it was their fault her sister died and in the end becomes a major ally. Of course, then you have to have the charismatic boy who probably will sweep the main girl off her feet in the end (but I don’t want to tell him that yet, can’t let him get a big head, now can we?).
Those secondary characters sure can be busy little things, can’t they?

6. Do you plan on staying up till midnight on the 31st?
Absolutely! Who can sleep when your characters are banging your head like an anvil demanding you start writing about them the moment you are allowed to? *glares at Nyria*

7. How many years have you done NaNo?
This shall be my second year.

8. What came first, characters, or plot idea?
This is technically the second book in a series I started last NaNo, so I already had it all planned in my head. But for the first book a single character popped into my head and from there a crazy long series formed itself.

9. How much prep do you do before November?
Lots. You can read all about my planning process on my previous post. Although this year, since it is the second book in a series, I’ve not had to do as much planning as last year.

10. Now be honest, how do you really feel about NaNo?
One word: WHEE!!!! I cannot even express how much fun I had last year and how much I learned doing it. I am exuberantly excited about yet another month of insane writing!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Step by Step Guide to Outlining a Novel

Being as how NaNoWriMo is sneaking upon us, I thought I would write about my personal way of outlining a novel.

In the writing world there are two kinds of people, the Pantsers and the Planners.

Pantser is short for “Seat of the Pantser.” Basically that means one writes by the “seat of their pants” and does not plan a thing.

Planners is a rather obvious term. They are those organized people who actually sit down and plan out their characters and story line.

You must know something, I have always been a Pantser. I have a general idea of a plot in my head, sit down at the computer, and write, having just as much knowledge as a reader would as to what is going to happen next, save for maybe a few scenes vaguely rippling across my brain. So I am sure you are wondering why a Pantser would be writing a post about outlining a novel.

You see, being as how I am a high victim of writer’s block, last year in October I decided I should actually plan out my novel I was to write for my very first NaNoWriMo. This way I would not get writer’s block since the whole point is to write as much as possible in 30 days, which means writer’s block is a very bad thing during NaNo. I literally spent the whole month planning to ridiculous degrees, and actually found it quite fun. Now as far as if I like planning or pantsing better, I could not say. They both have their perks. But this is not about which is better, this is a guide to my style of outlining which I am going to begin now before I get too rambly. (Oh…too late.)

Step 1: Plot Description

First things first, it is a good idea to have some general idea of what your plot is going to be about and write it down. Basically, this would be like a rough draft of the descriptions you see on the back of books. Just a quick description of the general plot. With this written out, you have a guideline to what this story is about which helps with the rest of the planning process.

Step 2: Map Making

As you know of course, I write fantasy, and with fantasy comes different worlds. Though I’ve always had a general idea of what my many different fantasy worlds were like in my head, I had never actually sat down and put it to paper. Not until last NaNo that is.

I decided it was important to start out making the map first, because it is sort of like a guideline to the story, where the characters are from, who is going where, etc. And I found I was right. Once I had an actual map to look at, it made the rest of the planning far less difficult; plus, it gave me inspiration of ideas. As I looked at forests I thought, “Maybe they can meet up with trolls here.” Or, “Oh, I’ll make a castle ruin here that they will explore.” Or things like, “This character can be from a small village in this area.” All sorts of things like that kept happening as I put my map together.

The map can be as simple or complicated as you like. I went into great depths for my NaNo map, but I made a map for another story over the summer that is much more simple. Basically, it is a guideline, so just making the high points of the story on your map works perfectly fine.

For ideas, I typed in “Fantasy Maps” in Google images and found all sorts of neat things which helped a lot being as how I had never made a map before. There are some really great things on the internet, so if you need help with making one, your favorite search engine is your best friend.

Now, if you are not a fantasy writer, Google Maps is an awesome place to see exactly wherever your story takes place. Or if you write historical fiction, don’t forget that the internet is infinite and you can almost always find wonderful resources there.

But whatever you write, I find having an idea of the layout is super helpful to story making.

Step 3: Races and Species

(If you do not write fantasy or fantasy-like things, this part will usually not apply to you.)

After a map was in place, I decided I needed a clear idea of all the different races and species. I knew I was going to have different kind of elves, some dwarves, humans of course, and lots and lots of dragons, but past that I was not sure what other curious inhabitants would make a place upon my pages. I love all the classic races (elves, dwarves, etc.) but it is fun to make some of my own as well. So this step came to place.

What I did was put together a list separated by the different races (the humanoid type) and species (animal kind). On this list I gave information on each kind of race and species.


Appearance: Here I would put a general idea of what they looked like.
Life Span: How long they usually lived. (Ex. 2000 years)
Habitats: The different places in the world they were known to live.

I would make a list like that for each race and species, which helped tremendously while writing the story, especially knowing the many different places each race or species is known to live (which is another reason to make the map first thing).

Step 4: Places

This step is not always really necessary all the time, but for my NaNo story I found it probably more helpful than anything else. Again, this is more for fantasy novels, but it does not have to be completely.

Basically, I put together a list of all the different important places in my fantasy world, using the map as a guideline, and writing out a list (much like the “Races and Species” list) as to what the places are like, the names and races of the rulers there, what the emblem or flag of that land looks like, and so on.


Position: Mid North
Capitol: Vheldrioth
Rulers: King Norvarmen and Queen Issendel Imendor (Humans)
Races: Humans, Elves, Half-elves, High Elves, Dwarves, and Sefral
Species: Dragons, Goblins, Ogres, and Trolls
Main Inhabitant(s): Humans
Flag: A classic sword facing down with a silver shield behind it on a shining red background.
Synopsis: Immengoth is a rather wealthy and respected land. Humans dominate though other races are around here and there. It can be somewhat cold.

And so I would do the same thing for all the main places in the worlds or high points in the story. I found myself going back to my list over and over, seeing what the flags in one land look like, wondering which are the main inhabitants in another, etc. I cannot express how useful this was to me.

Step 5: Character Creation

This is my most favorite step, creating characters. Being as how the characters are the basis of the story, this is probably the most important step of them all, though not always the easiest.

The first thing to do, of course, is figure out what your main characters are like, what their names are, what they look like, where they’re from, all of that. Just like the Races, Species, and Places, I make a list that is usually referred to as a Character Sheet or Character Bio. Mine cover all the important highlights of the characters such as their name, age, personality, and their history or background story.


Name: I usually like to put their full name here and also any nicknames that they might have.
Gender: This one is obvious.
Race: Another just for you fantasy/sci-fi writers (elf, human, dwarf, etc.).
Age: A rather important point I would think.
Appearance: Here I try to be as detailed as possible because I like really clear pictures of my characters. Some might not really go into much detail about their characters’ appearances, so it is really up to you and your style.
Personality: Another thing I attempt to go into detail with. I like to know what my character is like in order to know how the story will flow because of their personality.
History: I have always been big on deep character back stories, so this part usually takes me the longest. I find it very useful to know though once I have started actually writing my story. One more reason why it is nice to have the map, because I usually add where the character is from here.
Weapon(s): This, of course, just depends on what kind of story you write. My characters often have a sword or bow around, so I find adding this necessary for me personally. I also like to go into detail as to what the weapon looks like and where it came from.

With that type of Character Sheet, I make one for each character and find it exceedingly useful. Of course, there might be different points for different writers. Like many would not need the “Race” or “Weapons” part. Others might have other points they need to add or might not like to go into as much detail as I do. Just have fun with your Character Sheet.

One thing though, characters have minds of their own, no writer could say otherwise, thus sometimes what your write on your Character Sheet might end up being completely different from how the characters ends up really being in the actual story. This happens all the time (stubborn characters), but the Character Sheet is really just a rough guideline, nothing is ever set in stone, especially as far as writing goes. Some people might not even want to write down what their characters’ personalities are like because they enjoy seeing the character form upon the pages instead of being planned out, which is also a really fun way to do it. Always do whatever feels the most comfortable to you, because that is how your best stories will unfold.

Step 6: Outlining

Here is where the big part comes in. You have a general idea of your plot, a map, a list of different races, species, and places, and your main characters all planned out. Now for the actual story planning.

So many people outline so many different ways that the possible forms are endless. Being as how I’ve only ever outlined one and a half (I’m currently working on outlining my NaNo, so yes, half) novels I do not really know all the different methods, so I will just give you an idea of what I do.

Like everything else, I like to go into detail. This happened because of the first reason I decided to plan out a novel, to defeat writer’s block. Thus I decided that I must plan out pretty much every event, chapter by chapter. Usually I just write out a few paragraphs of all the happenings for each chapter, going from chapter to chapter in this way. I do not try to be fancy, I’m just basically making notes for myself, so the writing is messy and awful, but I do at least know what suppose to happen in each part. So for each chapter you will find something such as…


Chapter Thirteen

MMC (male main character) gets wounded (in the arm?) by someone. MMC and FMC (female main character) are unexpectedly rescued by a boy about their age who hurriedly takes them back to the castle. The boy introduces himself as [Name Here] and a squire of Immengoth. They are grateful for his kindness. He leads them to the king in order to report what happened in the city.

After much discussion (MMC's arm being fixed during so), it is decided the two are going to have to stay within the barracks for safety, the city is now too dangerous for them. Of course, they insist they just be released, but the king will still not allow it.

The boy offers to take them back to their room and has some kind words and possibly information for them. They are surprised to find he was born within their homeland and knows it to be of very kind people. They wish to speak some more but he is called away.

End of Chapter Thirteen

And so it goes on with each chapter. It takes much time, but if you like to plan or just need your novel thoroughly planned (like in my case) it becomes extremely useful.

Of course we must remember, just like how characters are not always as we plan them, stories have a tendency to turn in different directions than we thought as well. Outlines often get changed as the story is written, and in the end the whole novel may be completely different from the original outline. Inspiration comes while writing, so do not be afraid to veer away from the outline if need be.

As an original “Panster,” actually following an outline and knowing what was going to happen next was an entirely new experience for me. I found the outline very useful, but I still enjoy writing by the seat of my pants a lot, too. They both have their perks.

Step 7: Write!

Once the outline is done and you’ve put the finishing touches to all your planning, it is finally time to write! You now have all the essential “tools” to look back on in order to help you story flow smoothly.

You may have other things you wish to do, or steps you do not want to take. Like I have said, it all depends on the author. Some steps can even be done out of order or all together. This is what I did with a story I outlined over the summer, I might would be working on character creations while also putting together a map, or researching (which is definitely another step some might need to take depending on the story) while planning all the different places. And one thing I also did was skip the actual outlining chapter by chapter thing entirely. I do enjoy pantsing, perhaps a tad more than outlining, so I thought it would be helpful to plan out the characters and everything, but just not the actual story. I do believe that was so far my favorite thing to do. Though writer’s block is much more of a threat, is it such fun writing a story when you do not know what is going to happen next; plus, I am more comfortable doing it that way since that is what I’ve always done until last year.

Just always remember, stories are much like real life. Things usually never go as planned, characters are often not what they seem (or do what you say, *glares at charries*), and enormous, drop off cliffs with pointy rocks at the bottom are still dangerous.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

In the month of November, over 100k people do one crazy task: Write a 50k novel in 30 days. This is called National Novel Writing Month, or, as usually referred to, NaNoWriMo.NaNoWriMo Badge (cropped)

NaNoWriMo started out 13 years ago by a small group of people who wanted to try their hand at novel writing. This formed into the official site where anyone can join in on the insanity of writing 50k words in only 30 days. It quickly grew into a sensation and now has thousands and thousands of participants, not only national but international, every year.

50,000 words in one month. A crazy goal, but doable, and quite fun!

So why is this fun you ask? Let me sum NaNo up for you and you can see for yourself.

NaNo consists of sitting down and staring at your screen for endless upon endless hours, straining your eyes to the point of blindness. Hiding in your writing places for days on end until your family and friends begin to think you have disappeared from the earth, or just gone mad (which every NaNo participant is, so this is not far from the truth). Forgetting that eating is essential to stay alive (I mean, as long as you are feeding your characters then that is all that matters, right?). Wearing your fingers down until they scream for a reprieve or just shrivel up altogether to the point of incapacitation (until next November of course!). Consuming so much coffee (or other such beverage (I don’t like coffee)) that you grow a permanent twitching in your left eye. And then, after all that work and abandoning your entire life for a whole month, you find your novel to be a complete mess of blurred words and random sentences.

Doesn’t that sound fun?!

See, didn’t I tell you? Nothing better than that!

Okay, okay, while my summary of NaNo is very true (*cough*), that is not all NaNo is about.

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic program that helped me with my passion for writing tremendously. It is so much fun knowing you are doing the same crazy task with thousands of other people around the world. It gives you such a feeling of accomplishment to know you made it to the “winner’s circle” and wrote that much in only 30 days. You will find your imagination flowing like never before. The possibilities are really endless.

NaNoWriMo Badge 2011They offer all sorts of things. There is a NaNo store where you can buy really neat NaNo’ing things like NaNoWriMo pens, books, mugs, bags, etc. If you donate to the program there are some nifty donor goodies waiting for you. Throughout the month of November they get authors (often famous ones at that) to send out pep talks to keep you moving forward. There is also a Young Writers Program (YWP) for those who are younger than the NaNo participant required age (13 and up) where they can set their own word count and join in on the fun. For the past 2 or 3 years they have had a place called CreateSpace offering to print your novel in actually book form if you make it to 50k words, which was very nice. And the cool thing is all those who make it to 50k are winners, giving you a deep feeling of pleasure because of it. There is just so much there.

I had known about NaNoWriMo for a few years, but did not actually participate until last year. I cannot even express how much fun I had. After planning out my novel all throughout the month of October (which is a new thing for me to do, I have never actually planned and outlined my stories before), I was eagerly ready to begin writing come November. Being my first NaNo, I went a little…erm…overboard. I quite literally abandoned my life and made it to 50k words in the first 9 days, then finished off the month with exactly 111,500 words. It was a fun way to charge into my first NaNo, but hopefully this year I will not go quite as crazy. I’ll never regret doing it though. NaNo has helped me so much with my writing.

I have always loved to write, but ever since last November my passion for it has never been so strong. First of all, I found that I actually could finish a book within a reasonable amount of time, while before it took me years to ever get around to finishing my stories (most of which are still not finished). Second, I rediscovered how fun writing is. After November I soon finished up my NaNo novel, over the summer I wrote a 100k novel, and now I anxiously await November to start another. Writing is practically all I want to do and talk about these days. (Obviously. I intended for this blog to be about a bunch of different things and now it is just about writing!) And this is all thanks to my wonderful experience with NaNoWriMo.

The website ( has all sorts of information, a large forum, and everything to get you ready to write, write, write!

I very much look forward to a 2nd year of NaNo’ing!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Writer’s Block

Things are going so well with your story. You are writing and writing. Inspiration is literally shooting out rainbows from you head to your fingers, sparkling on the way down. You have such fun. What a great story. What an enjoyable thing to write. What fantastic characters and plot. All is going so well.

…And then it comes.

Writer’s Block.

The bane of my existence.

It comes out of nowhere. A giant blockade full of barbed wire, duct tape, and sometimes even fire, rising up like a ten foot thick, steel wall blocking that rainbow midsentence.Splattered Stone Wall

All that inspiration is gone. That wonderful plot: Gone. Those interesting characters: Gone. All the magnificent things that you thought were about to happen: Gone. All that is left is confusion, frustration, and a dead rainbow splattered across that seemingly impenetrable wall.

It is the down falling of us writers.

Want to know why I have not posted anything for weeks? You probably have guessed the answer by now. Yep, writer’s block. It has hit me hard. In every area, from blog posts to stories. I’ve been completely dry. I’ve just been staring at that steel wall blankly, hoping by some miracle it will fall down and let my rainbow continue its delightful flow to my fingers.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you hope it will work, just staring at the wall does not always help. Sometimes it does. Just a little time is often all it takes for it to crumble into little pieces and let your muse flow again. But sometimes it doesn’t.

SledgehammerSometimes it takes a sledgehammer and chainsaw to pull it down bit by bit. You have to pound that wall with all your might. It may seem impossible, but it can be done.

I have quite a few “sledgehammers” and “chainsaws” I use to tear that wall apart and conquer that evil known as writer’s block.

-Go on Walks
This helps me tremendously to get over writer’s block. I often get inspiration being outside and alone, walking around and thinking about my story. I almost always conquer writer’s block this way.

-Take a Shower
This might be just me, but pretty much all my ideas have formed in the shower for some strange reason. My mind is always going during showers and when I start thinking about my stories all sorts of ideas pop up. It is much like taking walks, so I suppose getting alone and just thinking works wonders.

-Listen to Music
Music can do all sorts of things to our muse. We listen to a sad song and it pulls on our heartstrings and brings a sad, dramatic scene of a story to mind that we realize we must write. We listen to a happy tune that makes us laugh, and a prank our characters should play on each other comes to mind. We hear soundtracks from battle scenes of movies and realize we must make an epic battle scene of our own. It just goes on and on, and helps a lot! Instrumental music and movie soundtracks help me the most.

-Write Nonsense
This might be odd, but it does often help. If you just sit down and start writing anything and everything that pops up in your head, you might very well find inspiration starts to form. I started a whole story by doing that once. Plus, it is quite fun!

-Talk to Your Story Characters
I know what you are thinking, “Whaaa?” Writers are strange beings, okay, I will not deny that for one second. (*lightbulb* Blog post idea! Huh? What? Oh…just thinking (typing?) out loud. Ignore me…) Having “conversations” with your characters often brings up ideas to break down that wall into one great heap. My characters have often whispered ideas into my head. *still not denying I’m crazy*

-Watch Epic Movie Trailers
This one may sound strange (or not, compared to the previous one) but it does wonders. Nothing gets me more roused up than watching an epicsauce trailer for a movie or show I like. Being as how I write fantasy, I love to go to YouTube and watch Lord of the Rings or Narnia movie trailers. They are so exciting and thrilling, they get my mind whirring with all sorts of ideas and ready to start writing again.

Well, where else would inspiration come from than a book? Reading something, especially a book the same genre as you are writing, brings all sorts of ideas and inspiration. Not copying what you are reading of course, but just getting ideas. It helps tremendously.

So, you see, breaking down that evil wall of doom and despair known as writer’s block is actually possible. It might not seem it, and often it takes more of a heart-wrenching swing of that sledgehammer instead of just a tap of the finger to make it topple over, but it is possible.

We can defeat writer’s block! We can conquer it!

Grab your sledgehammers, writers!


Wall and Rainbow

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