All posts in Drafting

31 Oct

NaNoWriMo Tips & Tricks

In Drafting,Goals,NaNoWriMo,Writing Process by MK England / October 31, 2016 / 0 Comments

The hour is nigh! It’s October 31st, which means NaNoWriMo is less than 24 hours away. Here are my favorite last-minute tips and tricks for Wrimos and speed-drafters alike:

Aim for halfway. Seriously, that 50k can feel like A LOT, but the first 25k is the uphill climb and after that you’re coasting downhill toward the finish line. Forget about 50k—commit to hitting 25,000 words in the first two weeks. It will be painful, it will suck at times, and you will hate your writing occasionally, but if you can hit 25k, you will have pushed through the worst of it!

Write your first page BEFORE November 1st. You can’t count any words written before November 1st toward your 50k goal, but getting the intimidating blank page staring contest over before the read deal starts can be a huge confidence booster! Turn some of that nervous energy you’re feeling into an opening scene. Just make a note of your wordcount before you start writing on November 1st so you can subtract it from your overall total.

Use placeholders to keep momentum up. You should avoid stopping to research things as much as possible. Don’t know what to call that city? @CITY. Can’t come up with a name for that character? @DUDE1. Can’t remember how many bones are in the human body? @RESEARCH LATER. Can’t get over how bad a sentence sounds? @DO BETTER. Literally anything that will cause you to break your flow as you write, just throw a placeholder there and keep writing. Once you’re done with your first draft, you can use the ctrl+F (or cmd+F on a mac) feature to find every single instance of that placeholder in your doc. I always use the @ symbol, since I rarely write fiction that has lots of e-mail addresses in it, but you can use any character that doesn’t show up in your story.

Stay in the story between writing sessions. Carry a notebook around and always have those characters cooking in the back of your head while you do other things. When you sit down to write, you’ll be ready to go!

Reward yourself. Set mini goals along the way, and give yourself mini rewards! A cookie every 10k words? An hour of video games each week you make your goal? Whatever motivates you!

Let your draft be rough. Real writing is rewriting. You’ll make it pretty and readable and entertaining later when you revise your novel. For now? Its only job is to exist. Make it exist.

Do you have any tips or tricks that help you survive NaNoWriMo? Post ’em below! Best of luck to all the wrimos out there. We will be victorious!

24 Oct

NaNoWriMo Prep – Even for Pantsers!

In Drafting,NaNoWriMo,Writing Process by MK England / October 24, 2016 / 0 Comments
(Originally posted in my region’s forum on nanowrimo.org)

NaNoWriMo is less than a month away! Do you have any idea what you’re going to write yet? If not, that’s fine! I’ve got some suggestions to help get you going. Even if you like to totally fly by the seat of your pants when you write, you can really benefit from having at least some vague points in your head before you start.

You don’t have to go all dystopian-YA-novel and declare your faction. It’s not plotters vs. pantsers to the death. It’s not “start without a single idea” vs. “20 pages of meticulous notes”. There’s tons of middle ground between those options, and you can find a balance that will work for you and keep you motivated and inspired throughout November!

If you do nothing else, it can really help to elevate your NaNo plan from a vague idea to a premise. Larry Brooks talks about this in his book Story Physics, and in this Writer’s Digest Article. Here’s an example using The Hunger Games:

  • [Idea]  I want to write a dystopian novel about reality TV
  • [Concept]  (add conflict and tension) I want to write about an annual televised event where poor kids are pitted against other poor kids for sport
  • [Premise]  (add character and themes) A girl named Katniss volunteers for The Hunger Games to save her sister from participating and has to fight to the death against other kids—including a boy from her own district who has always shown her kindness.

Look for that hint of conflict inherent in your basic idea and start questioning it. Want to go a bit more in-depth into the plot than just the basic idea? Larry Brooks also has a book called Story Engineering, and just about every story in the western world* ends up falling into this structure, whether by instinct or by planning.

What’s great and useful about this style of outline is the focus on when characters learn new pieces of information, which makes you think through what bits of info the characters need to learn over the course of the story to achieve their goal, which in turn gives you points to write toward. What does Harry Potter need to know to defeat Voldemort? What does Luke Skywalker need to know to embrace the Force and blow up the Death Star?

The very boiled-down version of the structure is:

  • Part One: The Setup (the orphan) — Introduce your characters, have the inciting incident, foreshadow things that will be important later, introduce your antagonist in some small way. At the end of part one, at approximately the 25% mark of your story, include Plot Point One: The clear statement of the quest/goal/major obstacle, our first full view of the antagonist, and the statement of the stakes. What do you characters stand to lose? Make sure we know why it matters to the characters.
  • Part Two: The Response (the wanderer) — Your characters have their very human reactions to the quest. Run, hide, seek information, get help, find an advisor. At about the 50% mark, you’ll have the Midpoint, where the character learns something new that changes the context of the quest. The game has changed, and it shifts the character from reactive mode to proactive mode. Time to DO STUFF.
  • Part Three: The Attack (the warrior) — Your characters attack the problem/obstacle/antagonist head on. They can’t totally succeed yet, because we’re not at the end of the book yet, but they can make progress. At about the 75% mark, you’ll have Plot Point Two: The final piece of information the characters need to conquer the obstacle/defeat the villain/begin the final chase. It’s ON.
  • Part Four: The Resolution (the martyr) — No new information can be introduced after this point. It’s time to defeat the obstacle/villain, resolve the conflict, let the stakes come into play in a big way, and make the character sacrifice something to achieve the goal. Make it happen, cap’n.

Come up with as much of this as you can ahead of time! If that’s just the big four basic sections (Setup, Response, Attack, Resolution), then great! That still gives you some good direction. If you can, add in those plot points. If you want to go even more in depth than that and plan out chapters, go for it. The level of detail is up to you.

Or, maybe you want to approach things from a character standpoint, rather than plot. Consider: How will your character change over time? What kind of person are they at the start, and how will they be different at the end? Why does the conflict matter to them? What do they personally have to lose?

No matter where you start (plot, character, idea, or even worldbuilding), look for that source of conflict and change. No conflict, no story!

And if you want to do a bit more in-depth prep, don’t forget that NaNoWriMo puts out some excellent workbooks through the Young Writer’s Program. The high school one is great for adults, too!

Do you have any NaNo prep strategies to share with your fellow wrimos? Post ‘em below!

Happy writing,
M.K.

* – except literary fiction which, by its very nature, is about experimenting and subverting expectations.

19 Oct

Three Kinds of Writer’s Block

In Drafting,NaNoWriMo,Writing Process by MK England / October 19, 2016 / 0 Comments

…and how to beat them

It’s NaNoWriMo season, which means everyone has speed-writing on the brain.

john typing

(That’s not how you do it, John.)

Writer’s block is oft spoken of in groaning complaints and hushed whispers like it’s a thing that sneaks up on writers to ruin their flow and steal away their creativity. In reality, though, I don’t think “Writers Block” is really any one thing. In my own writing experience, I’ve found I’m affected by at least three distinct types of writer’s block:

Totally Lost Block: This block usually comes from a lack of prep work. Not sure what comes next in your story? Even if you’re a pantser (you write by the seat of your pants), it’s time to stop and brainstorm. List your core elements: Main characters, central plot conflict, stakes (what the character has to lose if they fail). What’s the end goal for the central conflict, the problem to be solved, or the farthest point forward where you know what happens? Make a list of 10 potential ways to get there, then pick the most interesting one. What information do your characters need to get to that point? Brainstorm interesting ways for them to get that information. Keep breaking it down until you have several points to write toward. You don’t have to obey those points if you come up with something better along the way, but it helps to have a light at the end of the tunnel. Or, is there a point later in the story where you DO know what happens? Write that first, and go back to connect the dots later.

Depression Block: Not in a good place mental health-wise? That can have a big impact on your writing. If this is the case for you, take some time for self-care. Give yourself permission to do something you love to recharge your creative batteries and mental energy. Once you’re in a better place, set reasonable but challenging goals, manage your expectations for yourself, and re-dedicate yourself to your writing. If you haven’t already sought help for depression, definitely do! Taking that first step can be a huge load off your mind in and of itself.

Motivation Block: This is the most common type of writer’s block. You’re not actually blocked, writing is just HARD and it takes a lot of time and effort and it can be a struggle to get motivated. Even seasoned writers get this kind of block sometimes. Sit down at your computer or open your notebook and commit to writing one sentence. You can manage that, right? Once you’re over that hurdle, it’s surprisingly easy to keep going. You’re already there, so why not make it a whole paragraph? How about a page? And there’s no rule that says you have to write all your daily words in one sitting. Write a little in the morning, a little at lunch, and a little in the evening if you need to. Or, binge it all in one sitting and enjoy your free time afterward. Also consider small rituals that tell your brain it’s writing time: Light a candle, get dressed like you’re going to work, put on comfy PJs, whatever works for you. You can do this! Just remember BICHOK: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. Make it happen.

Have you experienced any other kind of writer’s block? Any advice for overcoming? Tell me in the comments!

15 Oct

NaNo Printables – 2016 Edition

In Drafting,NaNoWriMo,Prompts by MK England / October 15, 2016 / 1 Comment

I’m serving as a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month again this year, whoooo! Last year I made some printable NaNoBingo and Frequent Writer Cards that wrimos got stamped or stickered at events they attended, and they were a big hit in the South Jersey region, so I’m hoping they’ll be similarly received in Charlottesville. This year, I’ve included an alternate version of the NaNoBingo card for use in schools and libraries. Differences are minor, but they exclude any mention of donating to the NaNoWriMo organization, distance travel for write-ins, and making characters kiss. Please feel free to print these out and use them at your own events, though I’d prefer it if you could leave the credit line in.

NaNoBingo Card – standard version
NaNoBingo Card – classroom and library version
Frequent Writer Card

The FWC currently has six spaces, which could be filled if a wrimo went to one write-in per week, plus the kickoff and TGIO parties. Regions with particularly ambitious wrimos may wish to edit to add more spots by circling the smaller stars in fun colored markers.

For prizes, I’m using my library’s button maker to make 1.5″ pinback buttons again, though this year they’ll be Virginia-themed instead of South Jersey. Check your local library to see if they have a makerspace or equipment check out—you may be able to do the same!

Happy novel planning, wrimos! November is almost here…

Moriarty(1)

 

13 Jul

Plotting Resources

In Drafting by MK England / July 13, 2016 / 0 Comments

I recently gave a short(…ish) presentation about plotting techniques for the teen writing group at my library and figured, hey, I spent time putting all this together, may as well share it with the world wide interwebs, too.

Look, I make no secret of the fact that I’m an avowed plotter, and I love my outlines with a passion bordering on the obsessive. The mere thought of pantsing a novel both fills me with awe and gives me heart palpitations. As with most things in writing, though, the only correct way to do things is the way that works for you.

That said… we’re here to talk about plotting, which means we’re really here to talk about outlining. Because what is plotting if not an organized list of what happens in your novel? Here’s the secret, though: Outlines aren’t just for plotters, they’re also for pantsers.

plotting

If you intend to create writing for serious public consumption, you will end up doing some manner of outlining at some point anyway, whether it happens before or after the first draft. Even if you’re a devoted pantser, you will eventually need to look back on what you’ve written, analyze it, identify the critical elements, and work to polish them. Outlining methods will help with that! (And hey, with outlining, at least you know if a story is broken before you invest weeks of time into a meandering vomit draft that goes nowhere.) Ultimately, I think Chuck Wendig said it best:

Outlining will not “destroy the magic” or any of that wifty supernatural pegasus shit. I believe very much that writing and storytelling feels like magic while at the same time being a wholly and gloriously mundane activity. (x)

The powerpoint (because I’m incapable of organizing my thoughts without a powerpoint) is right here, with all the relevant links included, but here’s the TL;DR version:

Before you start plotting with ANY of these methods, it’s really helpful if you know your Character, Conflict, and Stakes:

Character– Who should we care about?
Conflict – What is the major obstacle?
Stakes – What bad thing will happen if the character can’t resolve the conflict?

Some methods to try:

Try a bunch, combine methods, see what works!

Do you have any particular plotting methods that work for you? Let me know in the comments!

04 May

It’s Not Selling Out: On revising from feedback

In Drafting,Editing,Writing Process by MK England / May 4, 2016 / 2 Comments

Typically when something makes me angry, I’m tempted to immediately fight back with an extremely pissed off torrent of logic that overwhelms my opponent. Just ask my partner. I know it’s not the best reaction, so I’ve worked hard to chill out a bit and take some time to process my reactions before word vomiting all over everything.

But when something is still actively angering me a month later, I think it’s worth talking about.

Upon hearing about all the revisions I’ve done based on critique partner and agent feedback, two separate people have made comments that really stuck in my brain. I attempted to play it cool at the time and tried to brush the comments off, knowing they weren’t intended to hurt me. Both people were writers who were going through that awful period when you’re getting critiqued for the first time and learning to deal with the pain and aching pride. But months later, I still haven’t forgotten those words.

One casually asked, in a somewhat condescending tone: “So, you’re writing for the masses, right? That’s your goal?”

The other made blatant comments about “selling out” and how revising based on feedback makes it “not my book anymore”.

take a deep breathOkay, look.

If you are writing only for yourself and have no particular interest in whether anyone actually reads or enjoys your work, then perfect. Don’t revise. Don’t get others’ opinions. That is completely fine and valid and wonderful. But if that’s your goal, then don’t submit your work to others for critique. And definitely don’t be surprised that when you ask for opinions, you get them.

If you are writing with the hope that people will eventually read and enjoy your book, though, you must seriously consider reader feedback.

Here’s the thing. For me, the biggest part of being critiqued is making sure readers are getting the experience from the book that I want them to have. When I get feedback that the pacing in my first chapter is dragging, I don’t change it to “appease the masses”; I change it because I’m not evoking the feeling in my readers that I was hoping to achieve. I’m changing it because I’m not fulfilling my vision for the book. If my goal is to deliver a fun, fast-paced space adventure and I get feedback that the pacing is off, you’re damn right I’m going to fix it. That’s not what I want for my story. At the end of the day, it’s my book, and I want it to be the best book it can be. Revising based on feedback doesn’t make it any less my book. If anything, it makes it even more my book, makes certain that I’m accurately conveying what I’m trying to accomplish through my story. And yes, you know what? I do want to appeal to as many readers as possible because, for me, the goal of writing is to share the story with other people. That means doing what I can to bring readers in while staying true to the soul of the story.

But M, what if the story I’ve written is exactly as I want it to be and I don’t want to make any changes based on reader feedback? That’s fine, but you have to live with the fact that some readers—possibly most readers—won’t connect with what you’ve written. They’ll stop after a few chapters and never make it to that beautiful scene at the climax of the book that you so want them to experience.

But if they only gave it a chance! You need to give your readers a chance, too. If you want to share your story with them, you need to meet them halfway, invite them into your world. I’m not talking about changing anything critical about your story or watering down your style, language, or complexity. I’m talking about paying attention to things like pacing, cutting self-indulgent scenes that don’t serve a purpose, and acknowledging reader reactions to your writing as valid. Sure, you can write whatever you want—but readers can also react however they want. Again, it all comes back to goals, but if your goal is to have readers magically understand your artistic vision… good luck.

Maybe you will be one of those hole-in-one authors that gets it right without outside feedback. There’s always a chance. But don’t rely on being the exception. Put in the work. Grow that thick skin. Care about your readers.

Deliver the story you want to tell.

02 May

Spring Writing Bootcamp Goals

In Drafting,Goals by MK England / May 2, 2016 / 0 Comments

I’ve participated in the YA Buccaneers seasonal writing bootcamps on and off since spring 2014 and I’ve decided to participate in the Spring Writing Bootcamp again this year in hopes of distracting myself from being on submission. Time to refocus my energy on generating new words! So, here I am, publicly declaring my goals for May 1st through June 30th.

Bootcamp Goals

  1. Draft a new YA book. First draft wordcount goal: 50,000.

I have three ideas battling for supremacy, but I’ve been focusing my brainstorming and outlining efforts on a YA f/f contemporary romance novel. Last August, I went to one of my many annual fan conventions and walked into the con hotel to find myself surrounded by gorgeous women decked out in their finery. A fan convention and a beauty pageant in the same hotel? Obviously a meet-cute and whirlwind weekend romance waiting to happen. Can I write something that isn’t science fiction or fantasy? WE’RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT.

2. Critique my primary CPs latest YA novel.

My dear writing wife Lisen Minetti just delivered her latest manuscript to my inbox last night, and I am PUMPED to dive in and critique it. I’ll be setting aside lots of time during the first week to accomplish my first in-depth critique, and possibly another chunk of time late in June to read revisions. I love this project of hers and have been looking forward to reading it for months!

3. Be active for 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

Since I began writing seriously back in 2014, I’ve devoted more and more time to writing and writing-related pursuits. All of those pursuits involve me spending lots of time sitting in chairs, and my body is suffering for it. My health and energy levels have noticeably changed for the worse. All those days where I work from 8:30-5, then come home and write until midnight may make me feel like an awesomely productive writing superhero, but they do a real number on my health. My wordcount won’t drop dramatically if I take 30 minutes out of that time to go for a walk. In fact, it could even boost my creativity and energy levels.

Upcoming Pinch Points

I have several things on my calendar that may make my drafting goal a bit lofty, but hey, I’ve won NaNoWriMo for the past two years, so I should be able to do 50k in two months no problem, right? Right? Mid-May will be the New Jersey Library Association conference, which is providing me an excellent excuse to have a mini writing retreat with Lisen. June will be the American Library Association annual conference in Orlando, where I’ll have a peaceful hotel room all to myself to get some writing done in between conference sessions. I’m hoping the circumstances I’ve created for myself during these trips will mean I can still get some writing done and stay on track.

Tracking my Progress

I’ve tried lots of ways to track my goal progress over the years, but nothing seems to make me as happy as the combination of colorful star stickers on a calendar plus the wordcount tracker on storytoolz.com. Storytoolz makes a line graph as you input your wordcount each day, and there’s something so satisfying about watching that little line climb. But seriously, colorful star stickers. Who doesn’t love them? I’ll give myself a sticker for each 30 minutes of exercise, each critiquing session, and each 500 words written.

But M, you’re supposed to be a professional! Why do you need stickers to motivate you to write?

Fuck off, stars are awesome.

you got a star

What about you? 

Are you working toward any particular writing goals right now? Declare them for all the world to see in the comments. Let’s keep each other honest and motivated!

09 Mar

On Receiving Critiques

In Drafting,Editing,Writing Groups,Writing Process by MK England / March 9, 2016 / 2 Comments

Getting critiqued is hard.

There’s really no way around it. When you first start getting hardcore critiqued, it hurts. It took me the better part of a year to grow thick enough skin to really get something useful out of my critiques, and I felt horrible the entire time. Part of it is the battle of what you tried to do vs. what you actually did. The following thoughts tend to creep in when being critiqued for the first few times:

  • But they just didn’t understand this part, even though it was obvious
  • Well, they completely missed the point here
  • I know they think this, but I really like this part as-is, so I’m going to leave it
  • It’s MY book anyway, so I’m going to do it my way

thanks input

Don’t shut out your critique partners!

Secretly, everyone who submits their work for critique for the first time wants one thing: VALIDATION. We want readers to come back with a few little comments here and there, maybe catch some typos, but overall want our work to be loved and understood. Above all else, we want to know that we do have talent, we can do this whole writing thing, and we aren’t wasting our time. We all want to be the exception, the one that really is talented enough to get by without revisions.

I get it. I’ve been there. I still wrestle with these feeling every time I submit something. But you have to let it go, because there is exactly one purpose to submitting your work for critique: getting better.

If you’re writing purely for your own enjoyment, you shouldn’t worry about having your work critiqued. Don’t even bother! So long as you’re happy with it, mission accomplished. If you want to share your work with readers, though, critiques are absolutely necessary.

There are two sides to any creative work: the work itself, and the audience’s view of the work. We all have things we hope to convey through our work, but if we’re conveying those things in a way that doesn’t come across to the reader, it doesn’t matter how in love we are with our own words; the meaning has been lost. Our work must stand on its own once it’s out in the world. We can’t be there to defend it or explain it to those who misunderstand. It is a product wholly separate from ourselves, no matter how much of our hearts we pour into it.

These days, when I present my work for critique, I have a very different attitude: Be ruthless. Overlooking mistakes doesn’t help the work become stronger. It doesn’t help me become a better writer. I want to know everything I’ve done wrong. Everything that’s unclear. Everything that makes the reader pause and question. I don’t want my feelings spared if it means the book is worse for it. That said: don’t be a dick. Self-explanatory, yes?

And of course, there’s a whole other essential skill set to master once you’ve become numbed to the pain: Sifting through the feedback, identifying the useful bits and, hardest of all, figuring out how to fix everything. Learning to spot the problems and learning to fix them are two separate skills. Fortunately, I think the key to both is the same: critique other people’s work. As you learn to see things in others’ work, you’ll start to see them in your own work. It’s a brilliant symbiotic relationship, and it really helps with internalizing that a story isn’t any less yours because you’ve incorporated feedback.

Critiquing others, more than anything else, helps writers understand that it’s not about following the rules of style because they’re rules, but because of the psychology of reading that backs up those rules. There are reasons you need to say things in the clearest way possible, reasons you should ensure your first chapter sets up certain elements of your story, and so many reasons you should show instead of tell.

As my brilliant agent Barbara Poelle once told me: you need crit partners who can kick your ass. I wholeheartedly believe this now, and not just because a good ass-kicking got me the greatest agent in the world. I can see how much better I’ve gotten, and it’s exciting. That’s my new form of validation: Being able to look back and see the improvement with my own two eyes. I’m a completely different writer than I was a year ago, and I have so many brutal crit partners to thank for it.

cheers

Also, seriously, grammar is not optional. But that’s a post for another day.

24 Feb

Idea Seeds and Updates

In Drafting,Questions Answered,Writing Process by MK England / February 24, 2016 / 3 Comments

It’s been a while. I know. Forgive me. Things got pretty real in the beginning of 2016.

So what’s happened? Two things, mainly.

  • I completed my R&R for Space Academy Rejects, which includes a completely new second half and tons of fantastic revisions to the front. I looove it. It was brain-bendingly difficult, but I’m thrilled with the final product, and I hope my beta readers are enjoying it right now!
  • A lot of stuff went down in the city where I work. Public libraries are part of local government, so whenever a city has major financial issues, its public libraries suffer. We’re talking possible bankruptcy, state takeover, layoffs, the whole nine. Fun times.

So, y’know. I’ve been a bit off the grid. But I return!

Moriarty(1)

The big topic on my brain lately is book ideas. After each book I finish, I have a major panic moment where I feel like I’ll never have another good book idea ever again. It inevitably passes and I fall in love with another project, but it doesn’t make the fear any less REAL each time. It’s like:

giphy

I’m coming off another such crisis right now and am beyond thrilled to be outlining a new YA space opera with a main character I adore. But the question that gets asked of every writer at some point is: where do your ideas come from?

For me, there are two stages: Seeds and sprouts.
(and I hope you’ll forgive the cheesy metaphor, which I’m about to beat like a bad cliche)

I have a whole document full of unspecific ideas that can come from anywhere at any time. Concepts I think are cool, bits of dialogue in need of the right character to say them, worldbuilding details that need a plot to go along, and other tidbits. Some are more fully-formed than others. These are my seeds: little story bits that are fully of potential, but need the right catalyst to get them growing.

But what’s the catalyst? What provides the water and sunshine for the seeds? (What will stop this awful metaphor from continuing?) That’s where my own media consumption habits come into play. When I’m having an awful time getting a new book idea going, it’s almost always because I’ve been neglecting reading, TV watching, and video game playing in favor of 100% focus on my writing and critiquing responsibilities. For those little concepts to turn into real, feasible story ideas, they have to collide with something I’m experiencing in media.

For Space Academy Rejects, the seed was utterly generic: some kind of space academy thing, a wacky sense of humor, and the whole found family crew concept common to sci-fi like Joss Whedon’s Firefly. That’s nothing. There’s nothing to go on there. No plot, no conflict, no character. That seed planted itself in my brain in mid/late 2013 and lay dormant for over a year.

Then I saw Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater in August 2014, and something about the sense of humor in that movie jumpstarted the voice of my main character, Nax. Suddenly I could hear him so clearly, hear his humor and self-deprecation, and in September 2014 I vomited the first chapter onto the page in one go. I toyed with it, thought about changing tenses out of fear of writing first person/present tense, decided to stick with it, wrote another three chapters, then added 50k words to finish the novel in November 2014 for NaNoWriMo. I haven’t written all that many books yet, but each time, it’s worked the same way: an idea seed lies in wait until it meets the right catalyst, then sprouts.

groot dance

Any time you plant seeds, there will always be some that don’t sprout. Some cool ideas will only ever be cool ideas. And that’s fine. Maybe they didn’t meet the right catalyst, or maybe there was something wrong with the seed to begin with. Maybe they’re still waiting for the right reaction. BUT. So long as you keep planting seeds and watering them, something will eventually grow. Keep that list of cool ideas and engage with lots of media. A new idea will take root soon enough.

(Hear that, self? STOP PANICKING.)

How do you come up with new story ideas?

04 Dec

Thank Goodness It’s Over!: Reflections on NaNoWriMo 2015

In Drafting,Editing,Goals by MK England / December 4, 2015 / 0 Comments

What. A. Month.

#PitchWars agent round. Tons of querying. An R&R request. And, oh yeah… a little thing called NaNoWriMo.

madness

This was my first year as an Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month, and it was pretty great. Stressful, busy, but fun and rewarding. MLing took up a lot more of my time than I anticipated, so even though I was attending 2-3 write-ins per week, I still struggled to meet the daily word count. That honestly had less to do with my ML duties than with my story problems, though.

There’s a point at which I know a story is ready to be written. I do lots of outlining, worldbuilding, and character development before I even start, but I really know a story is ready when I’m about 5-10k words in and I find myself thinking about the characters constantly when I’m not writing. I play out conversations in my mind, imagine how they’re going to react to events that I know are coming, bounce them off each other and see how they relate. The mechanics of the story can all be totally solid, but if the characters aren’t talking to each other in my head, then the story isn’t going to happen, no matter how I try to force it.

That probably sounds kind of woo woo, but I’m serious. If that’s not there, the story falls apart. And this point was proved all over again this November.

I really, really wanted to write my next YA space opera during NaNoWriMo. I wanted it so bad, and I planned and outlined and figured out tech. But the characters were boring, especially compared to my beloved Rejects, who I’d so recently finished revising. They weren’t talking to me. I forced myself all the way to the 25k mark before finally throwing in the towel on that story. It’s not ready. I love the concept, and I’ll write it one day soon, but now’s not the time.

I thought part of the problem might have been that I’d so recently finished editing Space Academy Rejects and I was having trouble getting that voice out my head. The new space opera had next to nothing in common with Rejects, but I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth. So, I did something a bit… maybe ill-advised?

sherlock bluuuh

I decided to go for a palette cleanser. I had an adult M/M romance I’d outlined over a year ago, and with 25k words still to write for NaNoWriMo, I figured—what the hell, right? May as well write something completely different to give my brain a reset, then try another YA space opera after the holidays. And it was fantastic! It’s great to stretch writing muscles I don’t use as often and study the conventions of another genre. I had so much fun with it. In fact, I had originally decided to ditch my NaNo project altogether after I got the R&R request, but then I was waiting on feedback anyway and going crazy thinking about it.

So, there I was: November 29th, sitting at just under 37k words. I. Lost. My. Mind. And I beasted out a win at 10pm on November 30th.

Tenzin-Woohoo

See the crazy things that can happen when your characters talk to you in your head?

So now, here I am, early December, armed with tons of new feedback on Space Academy Rejects and diving straight from NaNo into this R&R (with an unreasonably ambitious self-assigned deadline because, hey, I’m me). I’m ready for this. And hey, if you see someone wandering around with coffee in a drip bag, please send them my way.

In my free time (hahahaha!)  over the next few weeks, I’ll also be indulging in one of my favorite holiday traditions: LGBT holiday romances. There’s just nothing like a fire, hot cocoa, and first kisses for the chilly winter months. Got any recs for me? Let me know in the comments!