Writing 101: Setting the Scene

A popular way that some people describe lack of scenic description in a story is “white room syndrome.” While I understand the analogy, I want to use my very limited theatre experience to offer a better way to give help for setting a scene.

Imagine, if you will, an empty stage.

An empty stage in a theatre, like this picture of the Globe Theatre in London, has no set. If you ever read Shakespeare plays (as opposed to actually watching them), you might come across dialogue like this:

SIWARD
What wood is this before us?
MENTEITH
The wood of Birnam.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Back in Shakespeare’s day, they didn’t have fancy sets aside from the upper level. As you can see, the only “set” here is very minimal, with no extra stuff on the stage. Depending on the scene, of course, they added things to this stage to help convey the scene in the best way possible. Some theaters use backdrops, for example.

So what does that all mean when it comes to writing? In theater, similar to a novel, most of the time the audience can fill in the blanks for themselves. You don’t have to describe every single detail of everything in the room. Instead, I always imagine the settings of my books as being played out on an empty stage.

If you’re the kind of writer who loves to describe a scene before the action occurs, point out what’s important. The characters can also acknowledge the scene in dialogue, but avoid having them just describe everything around them. Example:

OBERON
How long within this wood intend you stay?

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Other factors, such as weather, could also play a role in the scene, such as in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which literally begins with a storm. And yes, the characters in the scene are talking about the storm in the dialogue, but it’s pretty minimal:

ANTONIO: Where is the master, boatswain?

Boatswain: Do you not hear him? You mar our labour: keep your
cabins: you do assist the storm.


GONZALO: Nay, good, be patient.


Boatswain: When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for the name of king? To cabin: silence! trouble us not.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

The point is that when it comes to putting description into a scene, imagine a stage with enough props, furniture, and a backdrop that can convey just what is necessary. The first minute of this part from Singin in the Rain is a really good example:

Trust that the reader has enough imagination to create a picture in their minds. I don’t even have that vivid of an imagination myself, but whenever I read novels, I can usually imagine enough to create a movie in my head. So, in the words of Shakespeare, “Screw your courage to the sticking place” and get to writing!

Books I can recommend that do a great job at setting scenes:

  • Pride and Prejudice, especially when Jane Austen describes Pemberley.
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Desperate Forest by Cece Louise

Adult Life Ruins Romance!

Tips on Writing Romance Plots and Subplots from a Demisexual

It’s amazing how romantic views can change over time. When I was a teenager, I used to read chick lit and the occasional romance novel. In college and throughout my 20s, Hallmark Channel Original movies were a comforting tradition every holiday season.

But I’m 30 years old now. And a working adult. Recently, I found myself becoming very picky about what I like in romantic comedies, rom-coms, and adult romance stories. Aside from the fact that I work for a living and got introduced to a lot of stuff that comes with adulting, the biggest disclaimer I have is that I am demisexual. Demisexuality is a type of asexuality. The basic definition is that I only develop an intense attraction/desire through strong, emotional connections. I can literally count the number of guys I consider myself in love with on one hand. And they’re all fictional.

Don’t get me wrong. I do find some guys aesthetically pleasing, but the guys I’m attracted to usually have a personality behind them. I feel like I’m the only woman in the entire world who doesn’t feel any attraction to Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Instead, I swoon over Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Matt Ryan from Constantine…you get the idea.

I think my demisexuality combined with a life of actual adulting changed my views on romantic comedies and romance stories as a whole. So with all that out of the way, here are my 5 tips for writing romance stories and romantic subplots, whether you’re writing a romance novel, a contemporary romcom, or a screenplay for a romantic movie/romcom.

1. Make sure the premise and conflict makes sense, plausibly.

There’s only so much suspension of disbelief can allow for, even by guilty pleasure rom-com standards. One of my favorite “guilty pleasure” romcoms had a lot of over-the-top stuff that didn’t make sense, but the premise was grounded on fairy tale archetypes and tropes (true love breaking a spell). So in spite of how ridiculous some of the characters are and some bad editing, I enjoy watching it because the movie still feels like a modern fairy tale.

In contrast, there was this movie that I used to like where the main characters frequented a dog park, but the problem of the conflict was that apparently the dog park would be closing down to break ground for a day spa. One of the characters said that dog parks don’t pay rent, but I immediately thought “Aren’t parks government funded, even dog parks?”

Basically, make sure that the premise and the conflicts of your novel have some semblance of plausibility. This also applies to the interpersonal conflict in the next tip.

2. Hating a person and finding them hot are majorly unmixy things

I literally cannot comprehend how you can intensely hate a person and find them hotter than Hades. There has to be something endearing about the love interest for both the reader and the love interest.

This is coming from the lady who swoons over Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but toxic issues regarding Season 6 aside, I mostly loved Spike from the start. If there’s something I loved about Spike as a whole, it’s that he owns up to what he is and what he does for better or for worse. He’s reckless and impulsive, but there isn’t any pretense to him. He’s a romantic and he’s a bad boy and while he hates his past as William the Bloody Awful Poet, his romantic tendencies still show. He clearly cares for Drusilla and in later seasons, we see him caring for Dawn and for Buffy as much as he is capable of doing without a soul.

What I can’t comprehend is when there’s a standard romance or rom-com and the two protagonists simultaneously hate each other while also wanting to jump each other’s bones. There has to be some kind of common ground here. If you’re gonna do enemies to lovers or some variation on hate-to-love, they need to respect each other about something. I recently read this short romance novella between a writer and a book critic and while it’s hard for me to buy the premise of a critic who’s so scathing over the romance novel genre, I could get behind the idea of the writer using that criticism to fuel her into doing better in her writing.

If the enemies have this sense of challenging each other, if they start out as something along the lines of rivals or frenemies, the hate-to-love becomes a lot more believable because they have something in common aside from being physically attractive.

3. Pretense can only go so far.

This isn’t a criticism against fake dating. When done well, fake dating can make for amazing stories. I literally reviewed a book centered on the premise of fake dating, for crying out loud. What I liked about that book in particular was the two of them finding the truth within the lie of their relationship.

What I mean by pretense is more along the lines of either party in a romantic plot or subplot pretending to be someone they’re not for a long term relationship. I get the initial first date awkwardness, trying to seem cool. But there’s only so long a person can go faking emotions. Unless you’re writing a romance story that involves a genuine sociopath, at some point, the mask is gonna come off, metaphorically.

I am a firm believer in authenticity when it comes to a lot of different things in life. As I have mentioned before, I loved Spike because he owned up to who he was and he was never pretentious about how he felt about anything. I think I developed a bias against men who do nothing but brood and feel guilty all the time because 1) I’m Catholic and I do enough self-guilting already and 2) guys who brood all the time don’t really change and I don’t feel like they’re owning up to whatever conflicting emotions they have.

Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite novels, has this reputation of being the archetypical hate-to-love story, but in reality, Elizabeth doesn’t really fall for Darcy until she actually sees him for who he really is, where he is most comfortable. And Darcy isn’t worthy of Elizabeth’s love until he comes to terms with his flaws and makes an effort to be a better person, even if it means not having Elizabeth in his life. She doesn’t magically fix him. He changes because of her influence in his life. There’s a huge difference!

Long story short, your characters have to acknowledge the hurt in their hearts, acknowledge their issues, then figure out how to work on healing those wounds. Which leads me to my next tip.

4. Love develops through emotional connection and shared experiences

I love slow burn romances. I love friends-to-lovers. Instalove is a hard sell for me because real love based on big gestures and intense attraction doesn’t really last long in the real world.

There’s a fine line between “shared experiences” and “trauma bonding,” so I advise against putting characters through something that would emotionally scar them for life unless you’re writing dystopia/sci-fi/fantasy, but even then, I advise to proceed with caution and not build the foundation of the romance on something that keeps them in the negative. The kinds of shared experiences I like is when the two people are working together on a project or share in holiday traditions or they go places together.

There also needs to be genuine emotional connection and understanding between the parties involved. By that, I mean that your characters need to be open and vulnerable and genuinely loving to each other at some point. While I realize that it takes time to get to that point, I have seen or heard of way too many “romance” stories where the characters don’t really communicate with each other and spend more time making out and fighting and playing manipulative mind games. (Points to the entire After series.)

Which leads me to the next tip.

5. Manipulation, Mind Games, and Stalking Aren’t Love

While there’s an initial emotional rush towards relationships that are, to quote Taylor Swift “screaming and crying and kissing in the rain,” relationships where people try to manipulate each other and play mind games or do something to trigger some kind of emotional reaction from their partner have major consequences that usually end up with people going to therapy.

There’s no genuine emotional connection when people are playing power games. Love isn’t about dominating or possessing some other person. Why do authors in the YA genre and writers of Netflix romance dramas find that concept so hard to believe?!

Long story short: Writers, stop writing stalking and romances that are founded on emotional abuse. Watch these videos.

In Conclusion

When you’re writing a romance, a rom com, or a romantic subplot, the key theme that ties all my tips together is authenticity. The premise of your story needs to feel real, even when you’re writing outside of the contemporary genre. The people in the story have to own up to who they are and overcome their pretenses.

Authentic love isn’t grounded in manipulation, mind games, or stalking. Real love is about the parties involved being genuinely happy with each other, even if they live in a dystopia. If the parties involved in a relationship of any kind can understand each other and talk their issues out, the relationship becomes all the more endearing because of the vulnerability.

I hope y’all liked these tips. And don’t let me stop you from enjoying your holiday romcoms!

The Play’s The Thing: How to Let Characters Drive the Story

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

-William Shakespeare

I have heard a lot of conflicting writing advice in my years. But one big conflict that I’m still having trouble getting over is the issue of plot versus character. In the past, I was very character-driven. However, in trying to fix myself, I have now leaned way too hard on plot and keep getting feedback about my characters feeling more like chess pieces.

So how the heck do you resolve this issue? When a character takes over the story, the plot basically becomes like a black hole, revolving all around them and dragging everything else along with it. When the plot is driving the story, the characters feel boring.

As William Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “The play’s the thing.”

I used to do theater in high school and college. Even though I don’t have a lot of theater experience, I still learned a lot from memorizing monologues and acting out scenes in class. When you’re acting you (quoting Lizzie Bennet Diaries here) “open yourself up to inhabiting another person or letting another person inhabit you.” Actors put a lot of thought into embodying the character they play, no matter how small the role may be.

Emotion is really the driving force behind a good story. The reason why a majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have worked is because there are always emotional stakes behind all the action scenes. We care for the characters. The same applies to My Hero Academia. It’s a series with a perfect balance of plot/action and character-driven moments and you slowly start to see the characters develop in between all the fights or even as the action is happening.

Basically, creating a novel is basically like putting on a one-man show where you play all the characters at once. No matter how crazy it may seem, every character you create is a part of you. Some characters will feel more like you than others, but every character comes from something inside you, even if it’s the worst part of you.

What does that all mean when it comes to plotting a story?

Plot is created by decisions the characters make and the consequences that result from those actions. You might have the characters react to things at first, but there needs to be a point where the characters take initiative.

How the heck can we figure out how to make sure our characters drive the story without getting lost?

Aside from taking an acting class, I recommend looking into musicals and studying Shakespeare plays. The most memorable musicals have character-driven moments that still move the plot along. I think of musicals like Hamilton, WickedThe Great Comet of 1812, and even the Heathers musical. Check out this essay as to why:

 

I hope that you take some time to get in touch with your inner actor.

Adventures in Bullet Journaling

A month ago, I created my own bullet journal. The cover is made from scrapbook paper. The pages are graph paper. My style is minimalist, but I did get a calligraphy set for Christmas, so who knows? Future bullet journals will definitely improve with time.

I wanted to write this blog post because I love journaling and I wanted to figure out a way to make bullet journaling my own. So far, I really love it because I can keep track of my exercise routine and writing progress. I also wanted to tell you that no bullet journal, or even a regular journal starts out as perfect as it looks on Pinterest. I keep looking for minimalist spreads because I don’t consider myself to be particularly artistic. Just look at this drawing I did:

 

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What I like so far about bullet journaling, though, is that I have a lot of freedom to really make it my own. My style is having one page for a weekly task list, followed by a weekly spread where I keep track of my moods, exercise progress, daily Bible verses, and my daily “gratitude” highlight. Finally, I have one page for things such as drawing, lists of books I’m reading, or full-page motivational quotes.

If you’re not someone who usually journals and you don’t like the idea of just writing everything out, I think bullet journaling can allow you a lot more creativity than you think. You don’t need a table of contents. You just need to make it your own.

How I’m Editing My Novel

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It’s a new year and I’m back. I went on a hiatus from social media for about two months and I haven’t updated this blog since last summer. So sorry about that.

One of my goals this year is to edit my current WIP so that it’s ready for pitching at conferences and sending out to agents. The problem is that a lot of writing videos are really vague about how editing really works. I decided that as a way of getting myself back to blogging, I will talk about my process in editing my WIP.

One thing I agree with other writers about is that if you want to start editing, you need to take a break first. Don’t take a look at your novel for a month at least. Work on other things in the meantime.

While I understand the importance of reading through your entire work, I don’t have enough ink in my printer and I can’t afford to print out my novel every time I need to edit. Instead, I change the entire WIP to a different font and make separate copies. Example: If you usually work on Scrivener, make a copy onto Google Docs and whatever word processing program you have on your computer (Microsoft Word or Mac Pages).

I’ll be honest when I tell you that I haven’t read through my entire work. It’s a long story and I know that there’s a lot to fix. So for the time being, I’m just tackling one chapter at a time. I started from the beginning and read through the first chapter of my novel, taking notes about what I need to fix. (Use a notes program like Notepad or Evernote or Mac/Apple Notes. Be sure to use bullet points if you can.) It also helps to share your chapter with a critique group or at the very least a fellow writer who can look at your WIP with fresh eyes and point out stuff you might have missed.

Once I’m done reading through the chapter, I turn those notes I made into a to-do list. My current goal is to edit one chapter every one to two weeks. How long I edit will depend on the chapter and how many changes need to be made. Instead of being vague about my tasks, I try to make my to do list as specific as possible.

Example: Instead of saying “Edit this chapter,” be specific about what needs to be edited. “Improve pacing,” “Expand on this character,” “Rewrite the action so that it flows better.” You get the idea.

I hope that this blog post will help anyone who’s also facing the huge task of editing a novel that’s at least 50K words long. I think the secret is just to break the goal down into manageable tasks. It’s all about taking things one chapter at a time, one scene at a time, one line at a time, one word at a time.

We can do this, writers!

 

Valentine’s Day Writing Tag

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Once again, Jenna Moreci has participated in a holiday-related writing tag and once again, I decided to blog about it. Valentine’s Day may be over, but since all the candy is on sale for uber-cheap, I decided to keep up the spirit since I was a bit busy being penitential yesterday for Ash Wednesday.

The Valentine’s Day writing tag was created by AuthorTube vlogger Bree Barton, whose debut novel will be coming out this year.

RULES: Describe your WIP in three sentences or fewer. Then answer the following 10 questions.

For this tag, I want to use the characters from my chick lit novel, Love Notes. Love Notes centers on Allie, an aspiring professional pianist who becomes a contestant in a talent search reality show around the same time she begins a relationship with the bass player of a semi-famous rock band. Allie’s ability to be more sociable are constantly put to the test, as she is portrayed as the token “Ice Queen.” Will Allie be able to find her creative voice and become the musician she always wanted to be?

Well, that’s what you’ll have to find out.

Onto the questions!

1. Which character does something epic for another character on Valentine’s Day, only to have it go epically wrong?

This doesn’t happen in the novel, but Allie has tried a grand gesture for her ex-boyfriend back in her college days by singing karaoke in public for him and it went epically wrong because he verbally chastised her after she finished singing. Did I mention that her ex-boyfriend is a narcissistic jerk?

2. Nine million people buy their pets a gift for Valentine’s Day. Which of your characters does this, and what’s the gift?

Nobody in my novel owns any pets, but I can see Elena doing this. Elena is a dancer that Allie befriends on the show. Elena is sweet, nice, and would probably buy a cozy Valentine’s Day sweater for the most adorable kitten in the world.

3. Which character is celebrating Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.) and how do they celebrate?

Allie’s sister, Stephanie. Stephanie is a college senior interning for a TV show and prefers to just casually date guys for the moment. However, she does want to have a serious relationship eventually, so she would celebrate the “S.A.D.” part of Single Awareness Day by watching Marilyn Monroe movies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to boost her mood.

4. In 1537, King Henry the Eighth declared February 14th the official holiday of St. Valentine . . . the same King Henry who beheaded two of his six wives. Which character decides to murder someone on February 14th?

Spoiler alert: nobody dies or tries to kill anyone in Love Notes. It’s not that kind of novel! But if someone were inclined to kill someone, even on Valentine’s Day, it would be Regan. Regan is the main antagonist in Love Notes who acts like such a sweet girl on camera, but is actually a total diva in real life. If she could, Regan would murder the people she considers to be her biggest threats to winning the show. And she wouldn’t care if she did it on Valentine’s Day. But that’s not something she would say out loud!

5. Which character writes and performs a sappy love song for their crush?

Jethro, no contest. Jethro is Allie’s new boyfriend and the bass player of a rock band. He also writes songs along with the other members of his band. He actually wrote a sappy love song for her that they dance to in one of the chapters. It’s an adorable little scene!

6. Fill in the blanks: I saw ________ [character] give a box of __________ [noun] to __________ [other character], which made them wildly __________ [adjective/verb].

I saw Cassie give a box of baby clothes to her husband, Pete, which made him wildly ecstatic and sappy. Cassie and Pete are part of Jethro’s band, happily married, but they’re at a point in their lives when they want to have kids. This would probably be Cassie’s way of telling Pete that she was expecting.

7. Every February, the Italian city of Verona receives approximately 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet. Which character writes a love letter to someone who does not exist, and what does it say?

I’m gonna pick a minor character for this one and go with one of the Songbirds. The Songbirds are Regan’s cronies and they’re basically an a capella quartet, but you can’t really tell any of them apart aside from their hair color because they all act very similar. I can see any one of them writing a letter to their “Future Husband” in the Meghan Trainor style. Like “Dear Future Husband, I’m writing this cuz I want to let you know what I want out of a relationship…” You get the idea.

8. Which character breaks up with their significant other on Valentine’s Day by text message (or an equally awful way if there are no texts in your world)?

Eric. Remember that narcissistic jerk of an ex-boyfriend that I mentioned earlier? That’s him. Eric is the most entitled, presumptuous rake who thinks that he’s the smartest man in the universe and deserves the smartest, prettiest woman as his wife. He would dump a girl on Valentine’s Day via text message without a second thought if he finds someone else or just because he doesn’t see any value in her anymore.

9. In Finland, Valentine’s Day isn’t romantic—it’s called Ystävänpäivä, or “Friend’s Day.” Which character celebrates Friend’s Day by playing a massive prank?

Ruby would probably do this. Ruby is an aspiring country rock singer from Memphis who wouldn’t mind playing a prank on the reality show favorites like Regan or the Songbirds as a nice set-down. Regan and her cronies usually get perceived as being the cool girls that everyone wants to be friends with, so a little on-camera prank would show the world what kind of people they really are.

10. One of your characters consumes too much chocolate and champagne and gets sick all over the love of their life. Which character is it?

Chad, the token “heartthrob” of the show, whose only talent is being the white guy with the acoustic guitar. Aside from Ted, Chad is a guy who can get carried away with himself and I can see him overindulging on all the Valentine’s Day related food and drink, only to puke all over Regan because he doesn’t actually have any game underneath his pretty boy demeanor. Chad is the epitome of “all style, no substance.”

The Naughty List Writing Tag

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This writing tag came from Jenna Moreci. Don’t worry, readers. This little game is Safe For Work.

THE RULES:

1) Provide a brief description of your novel before beginning. NO MORE THAN 5 SENTENCES.

My Ex is a Vampire is a YA/urban fantasy/paranormal novel that centers on Jane and Andy, two seemingly average teenagers who are gifted with the power to fight and kill vampires. Jane is a class rep with a stellar reputation and Andy is a delinquent, but the fight against evil compels them to work together. The fight becomes more personal when their exes become vampires. Will they take them down or figure out a way to save their exes from becoming complete monsters?

2) If your cast is fewer than 15 characters, you can’t use the same name more than twice. If your cast is larger than 15 characters, you can’t use the same name more than once.

My novel has more than 15 characters total, so I’ll use my minor characters for some of the answers here.

THE QUESTIONS:

#1 Which character is SO into the holidays, they nearly cause a street-wide power outage from all their Christmas lights?

Jane’s sister, Gabrielle. If there’s one thing that Jane and Gabrielle have in common aside from their love for all things sweet, it’s their love for the holidays. However, while Jane prefers making holiday treats, Gabrielle loves decorating and especially loves Christmas lights. She would be the one watching ABC’s Holiday Light Fight and taking notes on how to use that for her house.

 

#2 Which character attends the office new years party with ONE date…and goes home with someone else?

Leticia. She is the queen of the “popular” clique in Saint Marcellus Catholic School. Given that she’s 17, she’s not super-serious about relationships and she is willing to trade up for the most superficial reasons.

 

#3 Which character is more than happy to steal Hanukkah gelt from poor, unsuspecting children? [Note: Hanukkah gelt = chocolate coins]

Conner. Jane’s jerk of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. Conner starts out the novel being a selfish jerk who likes to throw his weight around. He even bullies his little sister, so I can see him cheating at dreidel just to make sure he gets the most chocolate.

 

#4 Fill in the blanks: I saw ____[character]____ doing a whole lot more than ____[verb]____-ing Santa Claus. They were full on ____[action]____.

I saw Jane doing a whole lot more than eating cookies with Santa Claus. They were full on baking reindeer treats.

Jane is a warm, loving person and she loves to bake when she’s not hunting vampires. Not only would she make cookies for Santa, she would also make something for the reindeer as well.

 

#5 One of your characters decides to pregame before church and passes out in the middle of the Christmas service. Which character is it?

Donovan’s uncle, Pete. Pete is a sports reporter and he loves to tailgate, alcohol included. So if he winds up falling asleep during a homily, it’s probably because he came back from a tailgating party.

 

#6 Which character hasn’t been seen since winter began because they refuse to deal with the snow?

Principal Mallory. While nobody in the novel has much experience with snow, given that it’s set in Texas, Principal Mallory absolutely hates the cold and can be a serious grinch around the holiday season. She gets better, though, but never likes winter.

 

#7 Which character completely forgot about the holidays and ends up regifting to everyone?

Tamara is the most likely candidate for this, mostly because she celebrates Hanukkah and her parents never really give her what she really wants. So she regifts anything she gets for Hanukkah, but tries to make sure that the person actually likes what they get.

 

#8 Which character has such crappy luck, they only discover their potato allergy after pigging out on latkes?

Donovan, for sure. While Donovan is the life of the party and a great brother, he also has problems with handling his romantic relationships, so if he has an allergic reaction to latkes, Tamara is probably the one behind it.

 

#9 The Krampus has arrived to punish your very bad characters. Which character is kinda into it?

Desdemona, my villain. Desdemona has a lot of experience with sadomasochism. She would probably make the Krampus her pet.

 

#10 One of your characters should be on the naughty list, but has convinced Santa to clear their name. Which character is it, and what was their means of persuasion?

Andy. Andy, Andy, Andy. Andy may get in a lot of trouble at school and has committed more than a few acts of petty theft, but Andy is also loyal to those he loves and he would convince Santa that he should be on the nice list because his good actions outweigh all the trouble he caused.

NaNoWriMo Log: Always Starting Over

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There are a lot of things I learned this month. Although I had fun this month, I didn’t really win. So I decided to write about three fundamental truths that I learned from this whole experience.

Lesson number 1: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Back up everything. If you’re using Scrivener, learn how to export your stuff properly and save everything under a new file. Don’t replace old stuff. And don’t throw anything away. You might find some good stuff in your old stories.

Lesson 2: Take your time.

I still stand by what I said about how outlines are basically guidelines, but this NaNoWriMo I learned that I can’t write by the seat of my pants the way I used to. This may not apply to everyone, but I definitely realize that I needed to dedicate more time in prepping this novel. I needed time to create detailed outlines, character profiles, and worldbuilding notes. Even if you’re a pantser, you still need to take some time to develop everything that’s in your head and give it some structure.

 

Lesson 3: Cheaters never prosper.

While I’m glad that I have a lot of old stories in my archives, it never felt right just copying and pasting stuff from them to add to my word count. Each novel is its own unique universe and you have to treat it as such. If you find something in your old WIPs that might fit into your new book, you still have to rework it to fit with the new book.

 

I hope everyone had a great time with NaNoWriMo. My personal wish is that I do better next year. But I think we can all aspire to that. There’s always room for improvement and there’s no shame in starting over on a blank slate.

Best Book Related Memories

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For a bit of #FlashbackFriday fun, I want to join in on the “Best Book Related Memories” tag. The rules of the game: list 3 of your favorite memories that relate to books, whether it means reading a book, writing a book, or just has anything to do with books in general.

Thanks to Jenna Moreci for tagging me (and all her other viewers).

  1. My first real “short story.” For the longest time, ever since I had internet access, I wrote fanfiction. Really, really, really bad fanfiction. But then I decided to write what is called a “song fic” to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” because basically, everyone was doing it and created original characters to fit the story of the song. When I printed out the first version of this short story, I marveled at how many pages I wrote. This “short story,” dear friends, was what inspired me to want to write a novel. It eventually led to the creation of Jack, Lorelei, Kira, Travis, and Evelyn. You will be meeting them in my Tales of the Vocati series. It took me a long time to find the right story for these characters.
  2. How I got into Jane Austen. The way I got into Jane Austen wasn’t through watching Becoming Jane or reading one of her books, although when I was a kid, I saw episodes of Wishbone that adapted a few of her novels. No, it was through a biography: Emily Auerbach’s Searching For Jane Austen. It was in my high school library. It’s not an easy biography to find, but to me, it fascinated me that someone tried to understand a writer based on the works they wrote. It’s a modern way to figure out a person and it doesn’t always apply to every writer, but I liked the idea of Jane being more than just someone who wrote romantic stories. There was some real depth to them. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, I highly recommend reading this biography.
  3. Sci-fi Meets Classic Literature I don’t usually read sci-fi as a genre. I am tired of dystopias and stories of corrupt governments oppressing everyone. For me, fiction is about escapism and getting to know characters on a personal level. Then I read the Jane E trilogy by Erin McCole Cupp. Die-hard Jane Austen fans like myself will tell you that most of the time, fans of classic literature will either pick Austen or the Bronte Sisters for their favorite 19th Century female writer. That particular disagreement applies to me and my best friend. The ironic thing is that in spite of having Asperger’s Syndrome, I can understand the witty ironies and sarcasm in Jane Austen’s prose whereas my neurotypical best friend can’t. In contrast, my best friend doesn’t consider herself a romantic, but really loves Jane Eyre. I love the character of Jane Eyre, but hate Rochester with every fiber of my being. It took reading this trilogy for my best friend and me to find something we agree on in terms of Jane Eyre. The classic heroine is a lot more active in this version, Rochester is somewhat more sympathetic and likeable, and the themes of integrity ring truer here than in the original version.

Share your favorite book-related memories in the comments.

 

Nanowrimo Progress Report: The Halftime Edition

open book

This is going to be more of a listicle than an actual blog post, but since I have hit 25,000 words in the first draft of my novel My Ex is a Vampire. Here are some things I learned so far:

  1. I am not a pantser. This is the most pantsing that I’ve ever done for NaNoWriMo. I have an outline, but it wasn’t exactly detailed. I’m not saying that next time I draft this, I will have everything written down to the letter, but I should have a better idea of where things will go. Also, when I started writing out my characters, the unresolved romantic tension between my two lead characters started way earlier than expected. If you want to get an idea of Jane’s state of mind at the start of the book, listen to this song.
  2. The novel has started out in this funny, lighthearted way, but lately I’m writing more dramatic, heavy scenes. And while I know that things get more dramatic as the stakes get raised, I’m wondering how the heck I’m gonna balance all the humor with the more serious stuff.
  3. I tend to be more productive at night. I don’t exactly know why this happening, but I tend to write more when it’s nighttime. This may not apply to every writer, but I know a good number of writers who are night owls. The problem with that is that I still need my 8 hours of sleep.

So basically, this particular NaNoWriMo has been an interesting learning experience. I know that everyone says that first drafts are supposed to suck, but I can’t help but think I should write a better first draft. How crazy is that?