Four more days, time to change

Photo credit: eszter

Four more days to Nanowrimo. Yes, I know there are plenty of sites you can hit that will give you the rundown on how to outline, how to spend your time, how to organize your thoughts and get your 1,667 words per day. You could actually spend all your time reading about how to do it, rather than actually doing it. So, I’m not here to give you that kind of advice.

I’m here to tell you to just do it. I had written what I thought was a great outline for my next Nano Novel and today, just four days before the big start, I’ve decided it’s crap. I need to rewrite and research a little more before starting. Big mistake? Not really. This just means I’ve been mulling it over in my head and I need to revise. What will I do on Nov. 1st if I’m not done? Just do it…simple as that.

My advice to you is don’t make any excuses…change what you must, do what you need to do, wake up early, whatever. Just do it. If you sign up to do it, you can do it. There must be something in your brain that told you to do this, so don’t back out now, even if you’re first outline is crap (sounds familiar). Go for it!

Oh, and stock up on that leftover Halloween candy. Chocolate makes late-night writing oh so much easier to handle. Better yet, buy your own chocolate…the good stuff, you deserve it!

 

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Conflict…It’s what fuels us

Conflict. It’s on my mind all the time. A good novel must have conflict. And that is key…inner conflict, outer conflict. What kind of conflict is your MC facing? That is what is stumping me right now as I plan and outline my Nanowrimo novel for this year. I’ve got inner and outside conflict and I think it sounds wonderful, but my fear is that the conflict is not enough to keep a reader interested throughout the entire story. There needs to be more, or perhaps it needs a slam-dunk deadline.

I agonize over this each time I do this, and it all comes together once I start typing. I’m finding that revisiting books I have adored and mapping out the conflict from those stories is helping me to outline my own. I find that most MCs seem to have inner and outside conflict. Having just one doesn’t get it, and that makes me happy since that’s what I’m struggling with right now.

For instance, think of the MCs of popular fiction. Harry Potter has an inner conflict (dealing with his parents’ death/dealing with his fears) and outside conflict (he who must not be named, among others). Even our dear Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice has inner conflict (her need to help her family, coming of age, love for Darcy) and outside conflict (poverty of her family, actions of her mother and sisters, Mr. Collins’ affections, etc.) There must be more than one conflict. I think that’s where I went wrong with last year’s novel (which I am not abandoning, just shelving for a moment). One major conflict is not enough.

Gee, I believe I’ve got inner and outside conflict right now! I think I’ll go with that…see ya’ later.

Nanowrimo…why now?

It’s just two weeks away from Nanowrimo 2010 and every writing blog out there is posting the how-to’s on writing, planning, developing, mapping, etc. in order to “win” this year. Getting to 50,000 words seems like a monumental task. But the real question is why? Why do it now?

I’ve got last years’ book sitting on my desk awaiting my gentle revisions and artful edits. Bookchild #1 is feeling neglected as I plan and outline for bookchild #2. Should I be thinking about participating again if I haven’t finished the first one? I have enough edits to last a year, and enough ideas to write a few more. What do to? Why now?

I found a grand magnet at the bookstore yesterday that sums it up…Let Go or Be Dragged. Simple as that…let go and move on. Don’t get dragged down by what you think you have to do. Do what you want, do what you must do, then worry about what you think you should be doing or what others expect.

At the end of next month, I’ll have two bookchildren waiting for my gentle edits and artful revisions. I’ll be able to bounce back and forth as I choose, and that makes me happy. I’ll be able to say that finishing Nano last year wasn’t just a one-time thing I did just to prove I could do it. I’ve got it in me again, that’s for sure.

Of course, I’ll feel guilty for ignoring bookchild #1 as I write bookchild #2 next month. I’ll feel guilty for getting up early and working on bookchild #2 instead of cleaning the house and cooking (Ha, like I’ve ever done that in the past! I crack myself up!) I’ll feel guilty for taking time away from homeschooling Daughter in order to catch up on bookchild #2 (she’s participating in Nanowrimo also, so we’ll do it together.) See a pattern emerging? I’ll feel guilty no matter what I do, so why not get another book out of this, edit away for the next year and be happy?

What’s your excuse?

Why do you love that book so much?

I just finished reading a wonderful book by Rebecca Cantrell. Actually, I read the first two books in her Hannah Vogel series, A Trace of Smoke and A Night of Long Knives. (Sorry for raving so much on Twitter, Rebecca. I’m not stalking you, I promise!) I took a break from writing and devoured these books, becoming engrossed in the story and characters. This made me think…why did I love these books so much? What was it about them that made me want to jump into the second book so quickly?

Have you ever felt that way about a book? You wish you knew the characters, could sit down and talk with them, or even talk to the author and ask why they created that character in that way? I’ve been asking myself these questions mainly because I believe, as writers, we have to create compelling, interesting characters before anything else. A great story without intriguing characters is worthless. If your reader doesn’t care about your main character, or doesn’t feel compelled to turn the page, it’s a bust.

So, in analyzing these books I’ve come to the conclusion that Cantrell’s characters are flawed. They all seem to have a sense of loss and confusion at some time and I felt compassion and sympathy for them. Even those who were truly evil and nasty became a little likable at times. So much so that I hated myself for actually feeling sorry for them. The main character, Hannah, is at times strong and fearless, but is always a “real” person who makes mistakes, says the wrong thing and frustrates the reader by not making the obvious choices. But would we want it any other way? Nobody likes a predictable character.

I hope to create compelling and interesting characters as Cantrell has done.  It’s not easy, as any writer will tell you. Characters create themselves on many levels, but as the writer we must create someone who will inspire, intrigue and fascinate readers. Once that’s accomplished, that character has to be in the right time period and place in order to make it work. These books take place in Berlin just before Hitler’s rise to ultimate power. It’s a perfect setting for the book and for the characters.

I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment in the series (which I will have to wait much too long for) and applaud the author’s talent at creating the characters and time period so beautifully.

What are you reading and why do you like it so much? Use this knowledge and apply it to your own writing. I’m not saying that you should copy any writer, but most definitely you can learn by observing what the author did to create such a great story/character/etc.