Tag Archives: novices

Goldilocks

There once was a young maiden who took her ink dipped quill to a piece of parchment with the intent of narrating a story…

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Okay, so maybe the quill was more like her fingers and maybe the parchment was more like a laptop, but still. At first things went well: ideas200_s were flowing, characters were developing, and the words were clicking away. Somewhere along the way she hit a snag. What happened next? She thought she knew where the story was headed, but she changed directions, she changed details, and then that path to the ending evaporated.

writing-bad

The young maiden decided it was time to do some outlining. She sketched out her characters, and made a map of the path she had taken thus far. Along the way she discovered a new trail the ending she had envisioned.She discovered new characters, so she sketched them out. She detailed their personalities and gave them rich backstories. Better to sort it all out now, she thought. The maiden lined her cork-board with index cards marking not only chapters and the scenes they would entail, but a clear timeline of events.

She had a plan, but as she stared at the blank screen before her, she froze. Nothing came to mind. All her characters were planned out, but they weren’t talking to her anymore.

What happened?

So, this young maiden poses the question, what is the balance between planning and plotting? Was it possible to have too much planning? Too much pantsing? Is there a magical juuuuuust right balance? A Goldilcks, if you will.

Goldilocks

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Emily is an aspiring author writing about everything from fairytales to serial killers with a few published short stories, but one day… So, for now, until she has a newsletter and all that fancy jazz, connect with her here. ❤


Character Recipes

I hear authors talking about how their characters talk to them, even dictate their own stories. Don’t get me wrong, my characters become people I know, whether I like them or not, but I have to wonder what I’m doing wrong. My characters don’t tell me anything. They are more like a recipe I create: little nutmeg, dash of empathy, tbsp sarcasm: protagonist.

I start with a character idea or a plot idea and from there I figure out what the best platform is. For instance, in the novel I’m writing The Voodoo Queen, one of my MC’s is a murderess. In the beginning, that was all she was until I developed her backstory. I needed to explore why she was what she was. I also discovered that I wanted her to be more. I didn’t want just a face for evil, I wanted layers. Add an egg and a dash of salt, maybe some cayenne: antagonist.

The other MC in VQ is an RN, who I wanted to be MC1’s opposite. You know, MC1 murders, MC2 saves people. However, MC2 turned out kind of flat, one dimensional. Time for a little pepper.

The same way I build my stories from the ground up, I develop my characters. I discover what personality I want them to have. Then I work backwards, figuring why each characters has that personality. What shaped them? What made them who they are?

Ta da: Backstory.

I find that I don’t often use each backstory, but it helps me understand who my characters are, it helps me stay true to the person I want them to be. Set the heat to medium, add ingredients, bring to simmer.

This is something I’ve only recently discovered. I’ve let ghosts of characters lead me down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, getting me so lost I didn’t even know what or who the hell my story was about anymore. I’ve been 80,000 words deep with no clear concept of my plot. Rogue villains, contradictory heroes, one hit wonder character appearances.

I learned though, that I need some guidance. I’m not this literary genius from which a fount of mastery writing pours. I need a golidlocks amount of structure. I can go into a story with no ending, no plot, no setting, but the one thing that I absolutely cannot do is venture into the unknown without my character recipes.

I have to know who the journey is about to know where the journey is headed.


I’m Writing a Book… Or Something Like It

I’m writing a book. Well, I’m writing like seven, actually. Thing is, I haven’t actually finished any of them. And half written drafts just don’t count, ya know? So, I’ve been trying to figure myself out. What works best for me? Every time I think I know, I realize:

I have no freaking clue. 

My strategy for a long time has been working on multiple projects at once. Obviously, that only works when I’m juggling short stories- which are the only things I’ve finished successfully and been published. I’ve considered this my method because I loathe when I force myself to write. I end up deleting most of it anyway.

Sometimes I think that everything I’ve learned about writing has taken me way too long to do it. However, the biggest lesson is my writing is best (needs less revision) if I write happy. Finding out what makes me write happy has been slightly painful. The pain being slow moving to stalled drafts.

Turns out, self imposed deadlines seem to switch my muse into rebel mode. No writing shall pass.  Too bad it has taken me years to figure that out and get out of that cycle. I don’t do well juggling novel drafts, I have to focus on one and see it through. But you read all of this writing advice when you’re in the my dream is just to finish this fucking thing zone. A lot of it is really great, it improves your writing so drastically that editing isn’t that bad. Active tense, passive voice, first person vs third… Things I had never really considered, but can make or break your story when all is said and done.

Some advice sounds great, but just isn’t applicable for me. Like: I can’t revise, rewrite, and edit my first draft in one go. Sounds amazing though, right? Just get it all done at once, plug all the holes, iron out the plot, dress your manuscript up in pretty clothes. Maybe when I’m a better writer, I’ll be able to do this. Right now, the result is red ink and highlights and depression.

For me, my drafts are like skeletons- sometimes with some muscles, but generally just bones. I have to build the muscle (revise, plot bust, lean out or plump up), then I can slip the skin on (Edit, rewrite, iron out the kinks), and finally I can put some make up or something on it before I send it out to get rejected a couple hundred times.

I’ve only gotten to the muscle part with any one of my novels, so my conclusion is only that I have to focus on one project at a time and one step at a time. And if I get stuck, I can do the research that I avoid like my keyboard will suddenly become covered in poison.

I also started this blog, so that if anyone ever reads it, I’ll have some accountability. Or at least somewhere to air my troubles.

If you are reading this, my other timid tread into social media is I started a facebook.

And I’ve been published in Romance Magazine RomanceMagazineVol02No06-562x749and 20141020_171646 Heater Magazine as ES Cooper.