A Story in Emoticons

What happens after you finish writing a book (at least, if you’re me):

I DID IT!  =D

Um.  But now it’s OVER.  :  (  And I miss my characters.  :~*(  And I don’t know what to work on now.  {:/  Oh NO!  Am I going to be one of those writers that only writes one novel they’re happy with and then can’t follow up with anything good ever again???  {:E

No.  That’s not me.  I won’t let it be.  I’m going to sit down and write something else RIGHT NOW to prove that I’m not one of those writers.  :/  Um.  I don’t know what to write about, though.  I don’t like any of my other ideas because they’re not as polished as the ones I just wrote about.  {:/  But those ideas weren’t polished, either, until I finished writing and refining and editing the book!  I can do that again.  : )

…I don’t like these characters as much as my characters from my last book.  They aren’t cooperating with me like the old ones did.  }:(  $#&@ you, new characters!  $#%& you for not being the characters from my last novel!!  You aren’t as good!  >:#  *throw notebooks in the corner*  *ignore writing for a month or two*  *do other stuff until your writing gets jealous because you’re not paying it enough attention*

Oh!  I have an idea!  And I really like it!!  {=D  Shhh!  Don’t spook it!  Sneak up on it quietly.  ; )  *sneak, sneak, sneak*  …aaaand POUNCE!  Gotcha!  =D

A Brief Observation…

If you’re not inspired to write, there is nothing more likely to make you start living in a story world than spending a few months in a class where the teacher never stays on topic, especially if the tangents are wholly uninteresting and usually repetitions of previous tangents, and after the first month you still only have half a page of useful notes taken from the lectures.  So in spite of the fact that I’ve learned nothing in one of my classes (yet am paying to attend it), I’m grateful it has bored me into escapism, and therefore inspiration, and possibly a new novel.  I recommend, if you aren’t sufficiently into a project, that if you can’t take an absolutely terrible college course that you have to pass to graduate, you should find some other way to make yourself a captive audience long enough to space out and start really loving that story world.

Obviously, I’m not going to tell you which of my classes I’m talking about….I still have to pass the damn thing.

Some Thoughts on Descriptions

Descriptions generally get a bad rap.  When you say something has a lot of description, people assume you mean it’s boring.  And to some people, maybe it’s true that any description is a boring description.  But since it’s a necessary part of any story, we writers can only hope that there are ways to make description interesting to our readers.

There are a few things that really draw me in when it comes to descriptive passages:

  • A character’s voice if it’s first person – how they perceive the environment gives me clues, not only about their environment, but about the characters themselves, about their psychology, and about what they may do next based on that perception.  I want to know if my guesses about them are right or not, so I read on.
  • If it’s third person, a character’s thoughts and feelings and reactions, as they’re revealed throughout the passage, for the same reasons listed above, will also keep me hooked.
  • Truly evocative language – avoidance of clichés, avoidance of overly flowery prose, metaphors that really help me place myself in the scene, and not forgetting that there are senses other than sight.
  • Description that mingles with hints about conflict or change.  A fleeting  sense of the past or a glimpse of tension that might mean trouble in the future.

Lament for NaNo and How to Raise a Story Once it Hatches

It’s NaNoWriMo starting today – the marathon of National Novel Writing Month – and I can’t reasonably participate this year due to school.  I’m sad about that, in spite of the fact that last year, my first NaNo, I felt half-crazy by the end of November from trying to churn out 2000 words per day.  If I hadn’t gone back to college, the plan was that this year I’d write Book Two of the trilogy I drafted the first book of last NaNo, and next year I’d do Book Three.

As it is, I will go half-crazy by the end of November due to schoolwork combined with trying to make ends meet to pay my December rent and bills, so writing needs to be my pressure valve, not an additional stressor.  I am writing, here and there, in bits and pieces, as I mentioned a few posts back.  More, actually, than I was writing over the summer, when I was trying to figure everything out ahead of time instead of just writing what occurred to me and letting it take me on a tour to see if I wanted to buy the property and fix it up.

One of my favorite things about writing, I realized yesterday, is just finding a new voice, a tone that interests me.  I love when I start writing something and it starts to sound like someone else, when it starts to evoke a feeling and a style and images that aren’t stated outright, but are clearly present.  For me, that’s always been the point where I know I have a character I can work with, a setting I can stroll around in and watch the events of the plot unfold.  If I feel like I’m tuning into a frequency that’s channeled through me, instead of like I’m forcing words to act like blocks I can build into something, then I feel at home in a story.  I want to write more.  I want to go there when I’m sad, when I’m frustrated, when I’m lonely, when I need to unwind, and, yes, when I want to celebrate, too.

And I don’t know exactly what gets me there.  Partly, it’s just a matter of, as I said, giving the piece a chance.  Starting to put it to paper, allowing it to stretch and breathe and move around without trying to shape it too much.  Then starting to see potential, introducing new elements, or figuring out what causes and effects are playing around the moment.  Once you start finding threads of cause and effect, if the voice has kicked in, you’re gold.  You can play around and find what connects to what or whom, find infinite possibilities, and then start picking the best and most interesting ones to work with.

The worst mistake I think you can make on a rough draft that’s starting to have its fledgling voice, that’s starting to take off in this way, is to worry about the grammar.  Grammar is for later.  It is the killer of baby stories that can’t fly on their own yet.  Nobody likes things that kill baby animals.  If you find your inner grammarian slavering for a feast of sweet downy feathers of fledgling story, shush it and promise it that when that nest of darling possibilities grows up big and strong, it will make a much better meal.  Then lock your inner grammarian in its kennel and go back to work.  Let the voice be what it is, especially if you’re using first person or an intimate third person perspective.  How much grammar needs to be fixed and how much is acceptably artistic choice for setting a tone is not something you need to work out on the first draft.  In general, my advice for rough drafts is:  Don’t complicate it.  Don’t make anything harder on yourself than it needs to be.  Have FUN with your first draft.  Writing is fun.  Editing is work (sometimes fun, sometimes not), but writing is fun.