Monday, October 26, 2015

Beautiful Books - More Black than Night {October 2015}

Guess whaaaat? NaNoWriMo starts next week!

*waits for screaming and flailing and panicking to quiet down*

I know. O_O I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that we only have a week of October left. Craziness! Next time you hear from me I’ll be plunged right into the depth of the insanity that is NaNo. So while I still have a tinge of my sanity left (I’ve never had much to begin with, but it all gets shipped far away during November) I’m actually going to talk about my NaNo! Because I shockingly haven’t done that yet. Usually by October, NaNo conversations are the only kind you can get out of me. Buuut I kinda wanted to finish plotting my novel so I could talk intelligently about it first. Heh. And from here on out you probably won’t get anything but NaNo related posts until, like, mid December. So I’ll make up for not much NaNo chatting. *grins*

Anywhoozle, fun things are going on within the blogsphere. You know Sky and Cait's Beautiful People monthly linkup? Wellll, instead of characters, this month, in honor of NaNo season, they’re doing Beautiful BOOKS. They did this last year and it was the best, so I was thrilled to see it back and renewed this year. And I doubt I’m telling you anything new since I’m probably the last person to join in, and just a week before it ends. That’s how I roll. *puts on sunglasses*

BUT if you haven’t done it yet, you can grab the questions and link up on Sky's blog or Cait's. And it’s by no means for those who are just doing NaNoWriMo. You can answer the questions for any novel you’re writing!

Beautiful Books Banner

So here we go! Introducing my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel. . .

More Black than Night Book CoverCover made just for fun from Pinterest pics and things

1. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
That’s a complicated question, because I technically came up with the idea back in 2010. But I didn’t know the plot for this particular book until this month.

See, this is the 6th book in my Colors of a Dragon Scale series. I started the first book for my first NaNo (in 2010) and have written each book for each NaNo since. And since this is my 6th NaNo (good grief, my first one feels like yesterday!) I’m on the 6th book. Basically, all I’ve ever written for NaNo is this series.

What sparked the idea for the series is a picture I found online of a white-haired elf, my decision to try NaNo for the first time, and my sadness at having never written about elves despite them being my favorite fantasy race. Once I saw that picture, it all came flooding in and exploded into a 7 book series. In like. . .5 minutes. Such is my brain.

For the actual plot of this particular book (since I really only figure out the plot of each book once I get to it), I was thinking about one of my favorite characters in the series and pretty, shiny black-scaled dragons and how I could make my characters’ lives miserable and it took off from there. Normal stuff, ya know.

2. Why are you excited to write this novel?Black Dragon
Multiple reasons. I’m basically always excited to write the next book for the series. NaNo is my favorite time of year, and for me it means continuing my Colors of a Dragon Scale series, which is always fun. I’ve loved spending time with this series and watching it evolve through the years. It’s become really special to me.

But the main reason I’m excited for this one is because it’ll be the first book to feature all the characters. How this series works is I have five pairs of dragon riders, and with each book, it features one duo of dragon rider partners and follows their journey. Then the next book basically resets to the beginning with another pair and is about their adventures, etc. But I’ve written about them all and am now down to the finales (this series has become so monstrous I’m giving myself two books to wrap everything up). And now, instead of resetting with new characters, I’ll be continuing where I left off everyone and featuring them all. I finally, finally get to continue everyone’s journey!

It feels a little surreal. When I started planning this series in 2010, the idea of making it this far seemed unrealistic. I can’t believe I’m actually here, on the next to the last book where I can toss ALL my beloved characters together and lead up to the finale. And just writing about certain characters again, some I haven’t written in years, thrills me. It’s gonna be a blast!

Also, dragons. Need I say more?

3. What is your novel about, and what is the title?
The title is More Black than Night. Each book has a color. You can find the others on my stories page if you’re curious about them.

And I just wrote a synopsis for it two days ago so. . .

Ever since the ten young dragon riders of Sivral were sent out the day after their initiation as riders to find their captured princess, their lives have become entangled in the peril and treachery found beyond their peace-loving region. Dangerous plots that have been hidden deep in the shadows of Aerigethel have surfaced, and with each shadow, Aerigethel's future becomes darker.

As Vithen, king of the dark elves, grows closer and closer to ripping apart the allying binds of the regions, it's a race for the Sivral riders to get their loved ones out of Vithen's clutch and stop Aerigethel's greatest war from transpiring. But Vithen's plot goes deeper than they ever could have imagined, and preventing a war that has been set in motion for decades may be impossible.

Just as the world is falling into chaos, a deadly beast thought only to be legend surfaces from the earth, and Aerigethel's last flicker of hope is doused. Loyalties waver, faith is shaken, and strength falters.

For how can a small group of new dragon riders ever return the light to a blackened world?

4. Sum up your characters in one word each. (Feel free to add pictures!)
Uh-oh. This could be a problem. Remember when I said this is continuing everyone’s story? Well. . .there are a lot of “everyones”. A LOT. In fact, I’m thinking when I rewrite this series I’m going to have to drop a few. Which destroys my heart, but there’s just too much going on in this thing. It’s overwhelming. Not to mention some of the characters are way too similar to each other.

Okay, I’m gonna try this. I’m separating them by dragon rider partners and then other characters who aren’t riders.

Dragon riders-

Eryth: Soft, Bryth: Tortured

Naidren: Homebody, Nyria: Energetic

Eldoren: Spoiled, Riana: Callous

Darven: Melancholy, Leiden: Chatty

Iavin: Insecure, Sayleth: Hopeful


Airen: Funloving, Iraila: Fiery, Erra: Mistrustful, Rem: Loyal, Cael: Unpredictable, Ritholv: Heedless, Visance: Skeptical, Terreth: Spiteful, Vithen: Cunning

Too. Many. Characters. And that’s not even all of them! Also I’m the worst at describing things in one word, so excuse my lame attempt.

Cavern5. Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write? Tell us about them!
Oh man, I’m so excited to be returning to all these characters! I really, really look forward to revisiting my girls Eryth and Bryth, because their book started it all and I haven’t written about them since my first NaNo.

The charming, silly prince Airen is one of my favorite characters period (just don’t tell him, goodness knows his head is big enough), so I’m always happy to write about him.

Cael is also my favorite, which, if you followed my blog during last year’s NaNo, you heard plenty. His and Iavin’s strange friendship is way too much fun and, even though it was only last year I wrote their story, I’m sitting on pins and needles awaiting for November 1st to get here so I can continue it.

But then there’s my crazy twins, Naidren and Nyria. And Darven and Leiden is one of my favorite duos. And. . . Okay, I’m excited to write EVERYBODY. This is going to be one crazy but awesome NaNo!

6. What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?

There’s so manyyyyy! *collapses* I guess I can just say they all, in general, are working toward getting some loved ones out of the villain’s castle and, ya know, stopping him from taking over their world. No biggy.

7. Where is your novel set? (Show us pictures if you have them!)
The high fantasy world of Aerigethel. And they travel all over the land, from mountains, to castles, to great cities, to shabby villages, to an enormous silver bridge, to green fields, to forests, and everything in between. There’s a lot of traveling in these books. This one especially since I have so many points-of-view and different plotlines going on.

Dragon and Castle

Dragon in Mountains

Rocky green fields

White Dragon

You can see my Pinterest board for more pics if you’d like, but I have a sad lack of them in there for some reason. I keep meaning to remedy that.

8. What is the most important relationship your character has?
*chokes again* I repeat: Too. Many. Characters.

I guess each other’s friendship with their dragon rider partner and dragon alike is very important for them to work as a team to stop their world from falling into war. In general, this book has a lot of focus on friendships and family bonds. Some of the characters will stop at nothing to get their family out of the villain's control, while others need their dragon rider partner to keep them from acting rashly. Things like that. The other book might focus on a couple romances, but this one for the most part is friendship and family relationships. And, to me personally, they’re all important.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?Ready for Battle
XDDD I really don’t know how to answer these questions with this story. They’re pretty much all the protagonist.

There was a whole lotta character development in everyone’s individual books. In this one we kind of see how they’ve changed, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. With their world falling into utter chaos, many are falling back into old habits and questioning their friendships and faith.

Since this book is the lead up to the real finale, it’s kind of the “dark moment” for the series. When everything that can go wrong does and things are looking pretty hopeless. As a result, I leave a lot of the characters in a mess. I’ll have a whole lot to clean up in the final book next year. *grins*

10. What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?
Strangely, this book doesn’t have quite as many deep themes as most of mine do. Probably because it is the dark moment. Don’t worry, there will be better themes and a lot more hope in the final one.

But, still, I think this one will have a lot of themes on courage and taking a stand even when the world is falling. Never giving up, no matter how dark things are. That’s my guess anyway. My themes, and character development really, usually only show up while I’m writing, no matter how much I’ve plotted. So we’ll see.

11. NaNoWriMo BONUS: Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.
1. Coffee. If you don’t like coffee, find another caffeinated drink that you do. Just trust me on this one.

2. Love your story. Trying to work through a book you’re not crazy about for a whole month is not fun. Make sure your story sends a thrill inside you. That you want to spend an entire month with your characters and inside their world. And if you’re halfway and just not liking your story. Don’t give up. Instead change it, throw in something you DO love even if it doesn’t fit the story. Which leads me to. . .

3. Make a mess. NaNoWriMo is not about quality but quantity. It’s about throwing as many words as you can out there as fast as you can and seeing what happens. Do NOT worry about perfection. First drafts are not about perfection, they’re about exploring. Explore your story, make crazy things happen, throw insane words onto the page. Just WRITE. Later you can sort through it and pull out the gold. But for now just write and have fun and give yourself complete permission to make a disaster. Sometimes that’s half the fun. And sometimes what you think is a disaster is the first spark of a bestseller. During NaNo, anything can happen.

Well, I think that’s enough (or more than enough) babbling about my NaNo. So now I’m going to (finally) hush because I want to hear about YOURS. Are you doing NaNo this year? What’s your novel about? And if not, what current project are you working on? Annnnd how is November NEXT WEEK???

Monday, October 19, 2015

Retelling Stories Vs. Changing Stories

Retelling Stories Blog Banner

A week ago I went to the theaters to see the new Pan movie with a tinge of excitement and a bucket-load of wariness. On the one hand, COOL PETER PAN THINGS; on the other hand, Peter Pan movie that looks nothing like Peter Pan.

You see my problem here?

You should know, I’m a diehard Peter Pan fan. I loved Peter Pan before I even heard of Tolkien and Lord of the Rings and the like. Peter Pan was one of the first things to introduce me to fairies and fantasy lands. Neverland is like my childhood home. So I get rather grumpy when people go and change it.

Pan Movie Poster

Once I stepped out of the theater I spent the rest of the afternoon complaining to my family of all the many, many wrongs these people did to my beloved Peter Pan story. First of all, it didn’t feel like Neverland to me. I adore Neverland. Like I said, it’s practically my home. I knew the movie was going to veer from the original story, but I was still looking forward to at least spending time in my dear Neverland. But it just didn’t feel like that enchanted world that has captivated my imagination since a child. Then of course Peter’s backstory was so very wrong. And don’t even get my started on their interpretation of Tiger Lily, And then there’s. . .

Wait a minute, Christine, wait a minute! You LOVE retellings.

Oh. . .right.

That day the reasonable side of my brain made one of its rare appearances and shoved away the grumpy side. I do love retellings. Retellings are one of my top favorite types of stories. So why did this movie so upset me? I had to think about that one for a bit.

Finally, after much thought, I realized it’s because of how they advertised it.

“Experience the Untold Story of the Timeless Legend.”

That’s it. That’s how they’re pitching it to us. Um, excuse me? Untold story? Untold story???

*whips out copy of Peter Pan and flips through pages* Here we go, and I quote:

Wendy, I ran away the day I was born. It was because I heard father and mother," he explained in a low voice," talking about what I was to be when I become a man." He was extraordinarily agitated now. "I don't ever want to be a man," he said with passion. "I want always to be a little boy and to have fun. So I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long time among the fairies.

And a page later we get an explanation of the Lost Boys.

But where do you live mostly now?”
”With the lost boys.”
”Who are they?”
”They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent faraway to the Neverland to defray expenses. I’m captain.

Book ComicIt’s all right there, in the third chapter of the book. So please do not tell me over and over again in all the trailers and posters and everything that this is the oh-so mysterious untold story.

And that’s what so bothered me with this movie and so many others. It’s like these people are trying to make their version the “real” one and convince us this is what really happened. There’s a lack of respect to the original author. Because of this I can’t help but get critical when it comes to movie adaptions. (It’s only taken me my whole life to grasp this. Better late than never?)

But I didn’t actually mean for this post to just be a review/bashing of the Pan movie (even though it’s turning out that way. . .whoops).

What I’m trying to get at is I do love retellings. And that’s just it. Retellings. As in a story that was inspired by another story and retold. Not claiming to be the “real thing”. Merely inspired by it and recreated for fun.

If Pan had been pitched to me as a retelling, I wouldn’t be nearly as critical of it. Instead of “the untold story” how about “an all new telling”? That way I can see it for what it is: Fanfiction. But I feel like these movie makers were trying so hard to tell me this is exactly how Peter Pan came to Neverland and this is what the characters are like, as if J.M. Barrie didn’t give us this information.

Same thing with the The Hobbit movies. I love those movies, but, again, they weren’t supposed to be fanfiction or retellings. They were trying to be the real story, and I can’t help but feel as if the producers are attempting to convince the audience that so many of these events are canon. (“Canon” is a geeky word for “true to the real story” for any who might not be familiar with the use of that word. I’ll be using it a lot.) So many movies have this problem.

BotFA Reality

But then you have something such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I am completely in love with that movie and basically have zero complaints. Wonderland is as dear to me as Neverland. Yet just as Pan, it was presented to us as a connection to the actual book. So why was I perfectly fine with it? Because they respected the original tale. This movie did not try to convince me “these events we just made up” happened instead of what I read in the real book. It acknowledged Lewis Carroll’s wonderful story and respected it. Not changed it and tried to “improve” it.

Peter Jackson added all manner of drama and romance and total remakes of characters in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, because apparently Tolkien’s original masterpieces weren’t interesting enough?

Grumpy Bilbo GIF

No. That’s just disrespectful. Tim Burton respected Lewis Carroll, stayed so true to his characters, and as a result gave us a very loveable and believable sequel to the original tale.

“So wait, you’re telling us people shouldn’t make retellings?” you’re probably asking by now. I know, I do get off on rabbit trails.

The answer is: I absolutely think people should make retellings. And now I’m probably confusing you. (I’m confusing myself, really. Like I said, it has taken me my whole life to grasp my opinion on this and it only came to light this week, so bear with me here. I’m sure I’ll get to the main point eventually. . .)

Retellings are fantastic. I mean, I just wrote a Beauty and the Beast retelling myself. Obviously I love them. In fact, I’ve very much thrown around the idea throughout the years of writing my own Peter Pan retelling. But I’ve never allowed myself to give into that desire too deeply because how could I do that when I bash others that do? When I so resent stories that aren’t true to my beloved Peter Pan? Wouldn’t I be a hypocrite if I turned around and made my own? This has honest to goodness been a war in my mind for years. And then, just the other day, it finally, finally hit me.

I resent these stories when they’re claiming to be canon to the original story.

But many, many people do not claim this. Many very openly acknowledge that they love the original story and are simply retelling it because of that love. No improving, no disrespect to the author. More as a tribute to the author’s beautiful work. And THAT’S when I love retellings.

If I ever write a Peter Pan retelling, I’d be very clear that I am in no way trying to make out my version of Neverland and the characters as the real things or trying to improve anything. Only that I love the story so much I can’t help but explore it in some form or fashion with my own writing. That it’s a retelling and nothing more.

Now, if it isn’t really a retelling but more a sequel or prequel or what-have-you to the real thing, that’s where I go back to the Alice in Wonderland movie example. In my opinion, Tim Burton stayed so true to Lewis Carroll’s world and characters it felt like a proper sequel.

Painting the Roses Red

Not too long ago I read Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean which is said to be the “official” sequel to Peter Pan. When I read that I got very defensive and wary of the whole thing. But within one chapter, all my fears dispersed. It was as if J.M. Barrie wrote it himself. The writing style, the characters, the world—it felt so perfectly Peter Pan-ish I couldn’t help but believe it really was a sequel. Geraldine McCaughrean respected J.M. Barrie, and that love and respect shone from the pages. I really don’t believe she was trying to improve his work, but instead provide us with yet more of his imaginative world and delightful characters.

So to sum up what I’m trying to say in this long, ranty post, if a story is a retelling, I’d very much appreciate it being openly acknowledged as such. If it’s trying to be canon, it’s my greatest wish that the creator respects the author’s work.

Yes, I love retellings. It never ceases to amaze me how a single story can be retold in so many, many different ways. It’s fascinating how our imaginations interpret things so very differently. I have tons of stories I want to make retellings for. Alice in Wonderland being number one on the list. (I’ve been scheming a Wonderland story for yeeeeears, so just know one day I’m going to burst over here flailing excitedly about a Wonderland retelling I’m writing. It’s gonna happen. *nods*)

I enjoy retellings not because I want to change these classics, but because I love them. So maybe we should clearly present fanfiction as fanfiction and canon as canon, eh, Hollywood? *poke, poke*

(And, just so you know, despite all appearances, I didn’t actually hate Pan. It was a pretty good fantasy movie, just not a good Peter Pan movie, in my humble opinion. If that makes sense. If you want a proper Peter Pan movie I say watch the 2003 version. To this day that’s still one of my most favorite movies. Buuut that may just be me.)

Peter Pan Shrug GIF

Okay, this big ol’ post is just MY thoughts and opinions. I am in no way trying to say this is how it should be and that’s final. This is just how I personally feel on the subject. So I MUST know what you think. Am I being too persnickety? (I usually am.) What do you think about retellings and sequels/prequels/etc. to classics and the like? I’m exceedingly curious on everyone’s opinions of this subject. So please oh please, debate away! (Oh, and has anyone seen Pan? What’d ya think?)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

That Time I Painted a Pumpkin, Accidentally Got a Job, and Didn’t Have Fun Adulting

Pumpkin Banner

Sometimes very unexpected things happen in life. Some are good, such as accidentally getting a job even though I wasn’t exactly looking for one. Some are bad, like getting stuck on the side of the road. My week was filled with both kind. But hey, at least it wasn’t boring.

It all started with this adorable little secondhand bookstore in our town that we frequent often (because we all know I have an obsession with secondhand bookstores). Recently they moved locations and were so busy with that, Mom and I thought it wouldn’t hurt for me to ask if they needed help here and there while they settle into the move. Because if there’s anything I like more than shelving and organizing books I don’t know what it is. So I spoke with the nice couple that owns it and they said they weren’t looking for anybody then, but took my name and number should they ever need help.

*cue two weeks later*

My phone went off and, lo and behold, it was the wife from the bookstore saying they were looking for a part-time worker and knew I had shown interest in helping out. Did I have any interest in working part-time in basically my favorite place in town? Uh, YES I DID. So I went in the next day and had my first ever job interview. Though it was so casual I’m not sure “job interview” is even the right term. Thankfully I didn’t do anything too blonde (as I’m prone to do) and a few days after (last Monday) I got a call from the wife saying they’d love to have me and I’d start Friday morning.

And this is the part where I practically flew downstairs to squeal to my family I got the job. I had a JOB. At a BOOKSTORE. I would be paid to work with BOOKS. Saying I was excited is an understatement.In the Details

Let me tell you guys, God is in the details! The thing about this bookstore is they already had a part-time worker, and have had her for yeeeears, before these current owner even had the place. But then right when I show interest in helping they suddenly need a new part-time worker. And when I asked about helping them at first, I just meant during their move to help them get established in the new building. But that led to me having an actual job there. Not only that, but the hours and work fit so well with me. I have a lot of health issues that keep me from being able to work a whole lot, which is a big reason I’ve never really pursued a job. But with this job, I’ll basically only be working here and there when they need me, and not long hours in the least. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal at all with my health. Plus the actual work is quite simple. Just shelving books and taking care of the customers really. Books and people are two of my favorite things, so I really couldn’t ask for a more suitable job.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I have a job and I’ll get paid to be surrounded by books in a quaint little shop. And it just came out of nowhere. I was NOT expecting to suddenly have a job. Obviously all my paychecks will be turned right around to buy books from there because I have no self control but, ya know, I’m not sad about it. *grins*

I can’t thank God enough for orchestrating this all together. You just never know what kind of surprises He has right around the corner.

After getting the call last Monday, the next few days were spent in excitement and preparation for my new job. But also a wee bit of stress because October was supposed to be the big “NaNo planning month” and I hadn’t even started any plotting on my NaNo novel. And now I suddenly had a job to throw in the equation of life.

What at first was a pinch of stress turned into a whole big mess of it on Thursday.

One of my very dearest friends was hosting a pumpkin painting party on Thursday. So that afternoon my little sister and I hopped in my car and drove off with enthusiasm for a good time with friends. We were riding along, happily listening to a Sanctus Real CD and nearing my friend’s house, when suddenly the ride got rather bumpy. We both were guessing it was just the road since we had recently turned off onto a rougher road. So we went a little further thinking it was fine. Then, next thing we knew, the bit of bumping turned into JERKING. We’re both wide-eyed screaming “NOPE! Not the road!” and I pull over and get out to find one of my back wheels totally shredded. I still have no idea how that even happened but it terrified me nonetheless. We were stopped in a not-so-safe area and I really was not comfortable just sitting there.

I had never been more grateful for cell phones than that moment. While my sister explained the situation to our mom and brother at home on her phone, I called my friend whose house we were headed for because I knew we were very near her. Our house was about 25 minutes away and I didn’t want to have to wait for my mom and brother to drive all that way. It hardly took my friend five minutes to get to us, and we were soon taken safely to her house. Much to the relief of us all because no one was comfortable with us just stranded there.

A friend’s husband was nearby and kindly put my spare tire on the car so we could get it off the side of the road, and then Dad came later and took it to get a new, proper tire.

Have I mentioned God is good lately? Because He is SO GOOD! Another reminder that God is in the details. Things could have gone much worse, but He protected us and all was fine.

I was definitely very shaken afterward though. My first car trouble experience. I guess it had to happen sometime, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted the day before I started my first job. Life doesn’t always just give you lemons, sometimes it rudely hurls them at your head and stuns you for a moment before you can make that lemonade.

Ahem. Regardless, everything turned out okay and we did have fun painting pumpkins. I’ve never painted a pumpkin before and was a little nervous because I am not in any way an artsy person. Drawing, painting, crafting—nope, I can’t. Which makes me sad. I wish I could draw and such, but my fingers and brain just refuse to make it work. (Seriously, sometimes my stick people look disfigured. It’s embarrassing.) Sooo my pumpkin isn’t exactly something you’d put in a magazine, but I had a ton of fun painting it nonetheless. I totally understand the appeal of painting them now.

Painted PumpkinFor once I’m grateful for a phone that doesn’t take great pics
so you can’t quite see the messy details.

Navi and PumpkinI had to break the news to Navi it wasn’t for eating.

After the party, my sister and I went home (safely with my new, non-shredded wheel courtesy of Dad) and I crashed (I mean I went to bed, not crashed my car. Good grief. Can you imagine?), extremely worn from such a distressing experience.

The next morning: FIRST DAY OF WORK.

This is the point where I pick up that lemon that had been hurled at me the previous day and make lemonade. The exhaustion of the day before would not ruin my new job! I refused to let it. And it didn’t.

My first day of work was a very pleasant experience, and I was relieved to see the work isn’t complicated at all. I got to meet great, bookish people and shelve books and had fun with the nice owners as I was trained, and all around had a really enjoyable time. And of course the highlight was THE BOOKS.

I'm a bit Bookish

I could happily be there all day. I think this job is going to be such a blessing!

So, all in all, I had a very interesting week full of new experiences. Blowing out my tire, painting a pumpkin, and working my first job. Yep, sometimes you don’t know where life will take you.

The rest of the week went well. I’ve finally dived into some serious NaNo plotting (woot, woot!) which relieved some stress about that, and yesterday got to go to the theaters to see Pan. (And I was going to share some of my thoughts about that but this post is getting long and rambly enough. Whoops. Maybe in another blog post.)

The moral of the (very longwinded and probably boring) story? Don’t ever let Satan discourage you. He’ll try. Trust me, he tries so hard. After my disconcerting car experience I was not ready to go to a new job the very next morning. I really just wanted to hide under the covers for a few days. But God pulled me through it (and my alarm pulled me out from under the covers) and my job turned out to be fantastic. Who knows, if I hadn’t gone to the party Thursday, my tire very well may have blown out Friday instead on my way to work and I’d have to be late on my very first day. It could have all been a blessing. So, no matter what life throws at you, don’t be discouraged. Just keep pushing through. We’ve got a God that is so much, much bigger than anything that ever comes our way. And isn’t that a comforting thought?

So that was my adulting adventures for the week. Now I want to hear about YOUR week! Anything good happen? Bad? And very important question here: Have you ever painted a pumpkin? Alsooo for those doing NaNo, how’s plotting going?? Can you believe NaNo is only 3 WEEKS AWAY??? *hyperventilates*

Monday, October 5, 2015

My Writing Process a.k.a How I Throw Words on a Page and Call It Writing

My Writing Process Banner

Recently Mirriam Neal shared her process for writing, and a couple others of my Pack sisters joined in and did the same, so I couldn’t help but hop into the bandwagon myself. Even though I don’t really have a writing process. *cough, cough* This is more of a conglomeration of writerly things I do to get a book written, but my “process” is basically different with every book I write. So do not expect any great wisdom or organization from this post. My writing process is akin to a mad scientist experimenting with all sorts of different combinations of potions and making a terrible mess along the way (with some evil laughter in between of course).

Step One: Tell my story, writer person!
(a.k.a a character pops in my head and demands I write about them.)

There I am, minding my own business when BOOM! a character sneaks up behind me and insists I write about them. Rude.

Sherlock GIF

For the most part, the first inkling I get of a story is via the main character. Some random character will wander over on my brain, plop down, and tell me stuff happened to their life and I’m supposed to write about it. And usually it’s a LONG story that wants to be a ginormous series I have no time to write. >.> Such happened with my Colors of a Dragon Scale series. I saw a picture of a white haired elf, she clung to my brain, and next thing I knew I had a humongous, 7 book, dragon rider series.

My steampunk, time travel trilogy, The Traveling Library, came about when I imagined a poor girl stuck adventuring in a wedding dress that wasn’t even her own.

Another series sprang to life as I was washing dishes and daydreaming about a girl doing some “Robin Hooding” and stealing from the king for the poor.

Sometimes the characters come with a full story, sometimes I don’t even know what genre their tale will be. But almost always the characters appear first.

Step Two: Pants, Plot, or Both?

Throwing Computer GIF

Okay, so I have a story I want to write. Now what? This is where I decide if I want to just dive in and write or actually be responsible and do some plotting first. I used to be a major pantser, never plotting anything. I’ve been that way for years and still refer to myself as a pantser because of it. Just writing blindly and seeing what comes of it is fascinating and I’ll always love writing that way. But, really, I’m wondering if I’m switching over more to *le gasp* plotter status. Never thought that’d happen.

It started with my first NaNoWriMo in 2010 when I thought it’d be way easier to write if I had everything planned. Turns out, it was. I plotted and outlined to the point where I never had to worry about writer’s block. I always knew exactly what would happen next and I could just WRITE. That made something as crazy as NaNo waaay easier. So, ever since, I always do a super major plotting for each NaNo. Giant character bios, notes on the world, a map, long and detailed chapter by chapter outline of the book, the whole shebang. I found this method extremely helpful. Not only did it thwart any writer’s block, it also helped keep me focused. When I pants, I’m discovering everything along the way and thus follow allll sorts of random rabbit trails that lead to nothing and end up making the book a billion words longer than it needs to be, full of pointless adventures. Sometimes I need something to help me stay focused on the direction I’m taking.

But, I still love to pants. There’s something so magical about seeing a tiny inkling of an idea blossom into a full story with every word you write. The mystery of it keeps me on my toes as even *I* don’t know what will happen next. Some of that magic is lost in plotting.

Basically I enjoy both processes, and have a long list of pros and cons of each. So for every story I do it differently depending on the circumstances. If I just have no idea what the story’s about and it’s only a vague idea but I really want to write it, I’ll probably pants it because I can see the broad scope of a story so much better once I actually start writing. On the other hand, if I have a pretty good idea of the actual plot but a little lost on how it all happens, I might outline it to help figure it out and keep me in the direction of the plot. Such as with Burning Thorns. I already had the novella written, so I knew the plot, I just needed more happenings to turn it into a full novel, thus I decided to plot and outline it to keep focused.

But who said I had to do one or the other? Being a plantser is a thing, too. Both pantser and plotter. Sometimes I just feel like pantsing a novel but not going in completely blind. In this case, I’ll do a little plotting, such as making character bios, plan out some of the world, and maybe make a few notes on some big plot points. Then just pants the overall story without an outline or anything. It’s a good compromise.

Then of course there’s some stories such a Fallen Matter that came about from one single sentence that I wrote down and then just kept writing. Three chapters in and I still didn’t even know what genre I was writing. . . Let’s just say that was the most pantsed pantsing I’ve ever done.

Allllll that to say, sometimes I’m a pantser, sometimes a plotter, sometimes both. To this day I have no clue which of the three I like better.

Step Three: Let’s Procrastinate and Pretend It’s Working

Birds Dancing GIF

This step often happens during the step two stage. So I’ve either started plotting, half plotting, or just decided I’m going to dive into the thing. Either way, I have decided I’m going to write this book. That means I have permission to get myself really pumped for it and can start having fun. And by having fun I mean making mock covers for it, finding actors that could play my characters, putting together a Pinterest board, building a suitable playlist, etc. etc. All for inspiration of course. *nods seriously* Really, anything that isn’t writing. These things do help get me even more excited for the book and gain some good visuals on it. Totally working. Not procrastinating at all. Noooo.

Step Four: Oh look, words.

Writing GIF

All right. So I do actually have to start writing eventually. I know, crazy. Once I find myself sufficiently pumped (and well procrastinated) it’s time to make a new word document, put the title at the top, type “Chapter One”, and *cue scary music* write out that ever elusive first sentence. And so the hard, but most rewarding, part begins. From here on out there are multiple other little substeps (we’re pretending that’s a word) that I do to keep myself writing and actually make it to the end.

Music: I actually put to use some of that procrastinating I did in step three, such as the playlist I made. I have to write with music. It’s essential. (But instrumental music only, lyrics usually distract me.) If I have the right song going it sets the mood of the scene and takes me out of the world around me and into the story. Which means of course I have to have a fitting song for whatever the scene is. I do make a playlist for the novel, but I also have other little playlists for specific scenes. Battle scene going? I’ve got a playlist for that. Sad scene? Got one for that, too. But if it’s just a general scene with nothing too emotional, I go to its main playlist.

Pinterest: I’m a visual person, sometimes I can’t picture things well without actually seeing them. My imagination can be a little restricted when it comes to the look of things. I think my story worlds have become much more interesting ever since I discovered the joys of Pinterest. And yes, I procrastinate there a LOT, but it really is extremely helpful. Looking through hundreds of hundreds of pretty landscape pictures really gets the brain storming. And if I’m feeling unmotivated to write, perusing the story’s Pinterest board brings back that inspiration and love of the story I had at the beginning.

Drink Coffee: Do I really need an explanation for this?

Goals: This is the biggest, most helpful one for me. I feed off goals. Nothing would ever, ever get done without goals. I work with big and little goals. Whether it’s planning on getting 2k words in a week or finishing the whole novel within a certain date. Give me ALL the goals! I kind of get obsessed with goals and feel like I have to make them, no matter what. Which may not always be a good thing, I should probably be a bit more flexible, but at least it makes me finish things. And that’s why NaNoWriMo is one of my favoritest things. It’s actually what taught me how wonderful goals are. Basically, if I’m not working toward a goal I won’t get anything done, but if I do have a goal I’ll stop my life to make it. One day I should figure out a balance. . .

Step Five: Ignore Life and Write Like a Mad Person to “The End”

Dylan O'Brien Pencils GIF

Once I’ve started chapter one, I usually set a vague goal for when I’d like to have the story fully written, then I just write and write, putting in mini goals in between to keep myself going, all the way to the end. This often results in ignoring life in favor of my story. My characters are very demanding. >.>

There are lot of magical people out there who can write their stories out of order. I am not one of those people. Some go ahead and write scenes as they come and then fill in the gaps. I think that’s pretty awesome. Since I do get ideas for scenes later on in the book it’d be good to go ahead and write them while they’re fresh on my mind. But I just can’t. It’s probably my OCD side but I absolutely have to write everything in order. Maybe one day I’ll branch out and try this mysterious out-of-orderness, but for now my brain refuses to write anything beyond whatever current scene I’m on.

I also only ever keep one writing project going at a time. I’ve tried to do multiple but I always end up favoring one and dropping the other. So if I want to finish a book I do not under any circumstances allow myself to start another one until the first one is finished in fear of dropping it for the new, shiny one. This also means if I get a new story idea I don’t go off and make a Pinterest board for it and things because that gets me too excited for it and too tempted to write it. I solely focus on my current project, even as a plague of plot bunnies attack me. Because they do so love to attack in full force when you’re busy with another project, don’t they? Mischievous little bunnies.

Unless it’s NaNoWriMo, it usually takes me a few months to finish a book. Then after a writing break, I excitedly look into whatever plot bunny was attacking me the most while I was trying to write my current one. Back to step one it is, and repeat. Which is a problem itself because I have a computer overflowing with first drafts, practically nothing rewritten and polished. Whoops.

But hey, one step at a time. *grins*

So now you know how my novels come into being. (Probably in waaay more detail than you wanted.) I know, it’s a mess. Maybe someday I’ll find that perfect formula.

But probably not.

What about you, dear writer? Share any of my strange methods? Are you more of a pantser or plotter? What system works for you? Share away, I’m always on the hunt for ideas!

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