Fabulous idea! Unfortunately picked up a few spammers along the way via comments, but this girl has got the right idea…be kind and kindness will find you back.
And how can you use this to help with characterization?
I’m an old soul. I’ve known this since I was in grade school…since I could conceptualize what a soul was…or at least that’s what I recall. I related with my older peers better than I would ones my own age and always felt a gap with classmates. I had many acquaintances that I befriended, but would always be slightly disappointed when they didn’t ‘get’ me. This continued on throughout high school and still happens even now. I’ve come to peace with the fact that many people will never ‘get’ me, but on different levels, I connect with almost every person I come in contact with on a superficial level…not a true friend level, but a kindness level that allows me to care without knowing every detail of their lives. I do, however, feel a general responsibility for everyone in my life. Like if they come to me for advice, I look at the whole picture and hope that I advise them wisely. “Wise beyond my years” was the term I heard the most…and that was from the elderly peers that I had contact with. And of course, I knew how to suck up pretty good, so any elderly person pretty much loved me.
I know that the terminology for ‘old soul’ is supposed to be related to reincarnation, but I’m not sure that’s why people end up being old souls or not. I think it’s something you’re born with. Much like others are born to be great athletes or others mathematicians…some people are born to be old. And they instill traditions from the past onto others naturally throughout their actions and conversations sometimes without being environmentally conditioned to do so. Which I guess speaks loudly of some kind of past life interference, but who knows right?
I know that I am both an introvert and an extrovert. I love being around people, yet I love being alone. I need the balance of both in order to see the whole spectrum though. I also find that I love historic facts…not textbook history, but old artifacts and their past history. Family heirlooms and how these items came to the families they were past down to and what that means. I respect everything. I love listening to Sam Cooke, even though that’s probably not a trait of an old soul exactly…I think listening to soul music has got to be somewhere up there.
I am a Pinterest addict…well, I’m a recovering Pinterest addict that is. There are too many visual feasts to possibly devour in one sitting, so reoccurring visits are darn near mandatory. I browse it for numerous reasons such as gardening tips, recipes, DIY’s, hobbies… the list goes on, but most importantly for me, I use it to create story boards that inspire and fuel my writing.
While using Pinterest for writing may be old news to some, originally when I joined Pinterest, it wasn’t widely known to many writers as the wonderful tool it is. At that time, it was an under-the-radar site in which you had to receive an invitation to join or put in a request that would need to be accepted before pinning. At first, I didn’t truly understand its full potential, but once I stumbled upon an image that screamed TPR, aka my first WIP, it was pretty obvious how easy it could be to draw inspiration. And so the obsession began.
There are many ways to have a presence on Pinterest, some writers will use it to promote their blogs, books, or gain readership. However, the purpose for this post today is not to promote anything, but rather share some extremely helpful writing boards with numerous tips, prompts, and quotes to keep you motivated. Here are a couple of boards to get you started:
Once you’ve browsed these, feel free to peruse other boards and discover the wealth of info available. Be warned though, it can be extremely habit forming.
Best of luck and happy writing!
The first writing conference I attended was online. You had to have either Young Adult or Middle Grade stories in order to get feedback or participate on forums. There was a discussion panel made up of publishers, agents, and authors of children’s books where you could ask anything. Pretty cool, right? I was so excited to take part in this forum, that I was almost too nervous to type. Afraid I would ask a dumb question. So I sat silent for a bit and read other questions posed and after seeing the thoughtful responses, I finally mustered enough courage to ask one of my own.
the Q: Can a book still be considered Young Adult, if the main character is over seventeen?
Response 1: Once your main character is eighteen, they’re considered an adult. Therefore no longer Young Adult.
Response 2: It’s really an industry decision.
Response 3: There’s no market for writing a ‘Young Adult style’ book with characters who are older than seventeen.
I was just crushed. The recommendation was to make the characters fit a Young Adult age bracket. So with heavy heart, I stepped away from that conference knowing how much work would need to be asserted into rewriting, recreating, and polishing my novel, again. I rewrote and rewrote and created different scenes to reflect a similar storyline, only with characters that would fit in the realm of marketing for Young Adult. I found my inner self trying to absorb all of what I’d taken in from the conference, only to fight a battle against my subconscious mind, which was ripping apart my story. Worse yet, the entire time I scolded myself for not knowing better.
Here’s the issue with what I did:
- I recreated an entire story, losing the origin of relationships between characters, cut and killed off characters…toyed with a new plot line, and ultimately destroyed the heart of it. I do understand a similar process takes place during the editing phase, but the goal is to make your story stronger, not kill it. And at that time I didn’t understand what it meant to revise your story and keep the essence, so I penned a new story that a publisher or agent would like. Big mistake! I might as well of been trying to write to trend. It ended up a hot mess.
- Turns out, there was a market for what I did, it just wasn’t recognized as a category yet at that time. And while what the panel said was true, it mostly likely would not have been marketed as YA, if I wouldn’t have been so quick to dismiss the story, it might have found a place within NA. The only way to know that for sure would have been to see it through to the end, which I didn’t do.
- And because you can’t just take younger reflections of your characters and expect them to act the same way in similar situations they’re faced with, the whole story tied itself into a knot. I couldn’t salvage any of it, so I ended up walking away. Major bummer. (Little did I know this was a miracle in disguise)
It can be difficult to be on the verge of a trend that may or may not take off, so I think that is all the more reason to just write the story you’re compelled to write and keep in mind who your reader is, not who you’re trying to sell it to. There will be plenty of time for that later!
In retrospect, the conference was fantastic and even being a first timer, I learned so much! As far as my experience with the panel, I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to go through that entire process because it unearthed a confidence in myself that I never knew existed. And that prompted me to write another story, and another, and another, until a writing fury began.
It’s a good idea to have responses in mind when answering questions about your work. Not only will you need to have these questions down pat when pitching to agents or publishers, but it will help you with the other aspects of submitting your novel such as the query or synopsis. So think of it as practice when friends and family ask the following questions:
-What is your book about?
-Are you done yet?
-Can I read something you’ve written?
The answers to these questions have changed drastically for me over the span of my writing.
While I do cherish the support I receive from my family when I burst into a song and dance about my latest story idea, I can read behind their responses of “oh, that sounds interesting,” to see the darting of eye contact to someone else in the room… er, anyone else in the room.
What this taught me? The excitement is usually mine and mine alone, so it’s best not to overbear anyone with details. Save the bouncing around of ideas for critique partners and other writers who have similar goals. When answering friends and family, keep it short and learn how to summarize the book idea in a one or two sentence tagline.
And no matter how many times someone would ask me if I’m done yet, the response would usually play out something like this:
“No, I’m not finished yet. Well, I am, I mean my second draft is done, but it’s not even close to being ready yet.” Pause to accept awkward look. Then I’d feel the need to further explain. “I’m working on several novels right now.”
“Oh, so you’re working on something different than the last time I talked to you?”
“So you are done with the other one?”
“Oh, well good luck with that.”
Difference between then and now. I simply say, “Not finished yet, or it’s a work in progress.”
The only thing more frustrating than having your lack of progress pointed out is when someone really wants to read what you’ve written, only you have nothing consumable yet. That frustration can create a moment of weakness. A moment of which I’d then cave in and give access to a chapter or two. And…once all the amateur grammatical errors and sentence fragments got brought to light, I’d kick myself for letting them read it. Nothing makes you realize how badly you need to polish your work, like preparing to have a friend read it. And not a close writer friend who will chalk up your errors to early drafting and forgive you. But a friend whose eyes have only read books, not manuscripts that aren’t ready.
What I learned? Don’t let them read any of it until you are satisfied with it. Unless there’s a killer opening page. Maybe then I would allow a sneak peak of that specific page, but mostly I tell them they can read it after another two revisions or so.
I feel like the pressure to answer these questions in a manner that is appealing to the person who is asking is just as big of a challenge as discovering the true answers for yourself. Has anyone else had similar experiences when answering questions about their work?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel a certain amount of frustration when I see the amount of blog posts wading in the pile of drafts, just daring me to hit publish.
But I cant. Because there’s just. something. missing.
Maybe it’s not useful or not entertaining enough, or it just sounds dumb when I read it back. Whatever the reason, I do my part by ripping it to shreds and setting an unrealistic goal of perfection.
Then I stop myself and reflect on why I blog:
A. I am thrilled if I can help a fellow writer through an issue by sharing an experience I’ve had and how I pushed through it or by letting them know they’re not alone. Plus, it can be refreshing to try an alternative method when you are stuck with your current one.
B. I feel passionate about the topic. This happens mostly when I am currently going through a major roadblock and can’t seem to do anything other than complain about it via blog post. Then I simply justify my words by way of writer madness and leave it at that.
C. I like to read fun blog posts, especially if they humanize writers. Several of these types of posts are sitting in my drafts. Enough said.
So, by understanding what it is I want to achieve and who I’m writing my post for, it becomes easier to focus on a topic. It also helps me visualize the potential of the rotten drafts so I know what to add in order to make them functional in the future.
Because when you have a great understanding of what it is you want to achieve, it seems to take the pressure off creating the perfect post and allows for a little reward when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Does anyone else struggle with this?
Here are my thoughts on immediately revising a first draft: Don’t do it. Just don’t. Let it sit for a while. Take the time to work on other projects, get caught up on your to read list…do anything but revise that infantile draft. I say this with a heavy heart because that seemed to be the first and only goal I had with my completed rough drafts. Polish, perfect, and publish. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
My reasoning behind this revelation comes from my own experience. One in which I dissected many stories three or four times over because I started revising too early. I wanted to make this baby perfect and the end result was much less glorifying. I killed the creativity and essence of the entire story just because I had been dealing with it for too long and honestly, it didn’t seem like that original of an idea anymore. So every single critique made me feel like I had no business trying to pass my work off as a novel. Luckily for me, I followed the advice of a fellow blogger and saved a copy of my first draft “as is” in a separate area. That has since been my salvation.
I recently reread one of my first drafts (after roughly about a year of having it finished) and guess what? I like it now. Crazy, considering I was about to throw it away because it didn’t meet my standard of perfection. So again I say, leave it alone. First pat yourself on the back for finishing a rough draft, but then walk away.
Well, it’s not the easiest thing to achieve, so how does one do it when they are knee-deep in revisions or just barely staying afloat through the rough draft?
Not sure how it happens for others, but writer’s block seems to kick into high gear when my stress levels have reached dangerously high altitudes. When I’m on the brink of tossing it all out the window, I take a step back and run through this checklist to regain the control my muse has so easily given up.
The following are helpful tips used by many writers to beat the block:
1) Make a list of everything you need to accomplish in a week that does not include writing. Whether that be grocery lists, cleaning, kid’s activities, books waiting to be read, prior engagements, bills to be paid. Whatever it is, get it down on paper so you can start checking them off one by one.
2) Clear your mind. Meditate, go for a stroll, a run, or visit someplace quiet that will allow you to gather your thoughts without interruption. Anything that will allow you to relax your mind.
3) Reread the chapter preceding the block. Does anything feel forced? If so, focus on why. What are the characters in that scene trying to tell you? If it nothing is popping out at you, then visualize three different ways the scene could play out (The more outlandish and ridiculous the better) By doing this you get an idea of what won’t work for the story and just maybe you’ll see what will work. And if all else fails, skip it and write the scene that you do want to write. You can always go back during revisions and find the awesome bridge between the two scenes and maybe even be excited to write it.
What do you do to beat the block?
I heard this question posed in a chat room and while the rest of the room flooded that individual with the correct do’s and don’ts of writing, I sat silent. It was a good question. Then I began to think about my own process and how it’s evolved since I began writing. Could I have learned a different technique in the beginning that would have eliminated extra time while writing? while editing? And my answer is yes, I think there are ways to skip ahead, so to speak. But a short-cut is only a short-cut to someone who is currently not using that process and then finds it easier when trying it. For me, I definitely took the long way around, trying to soak up as much as I could from other writers, authors, editors, and industry professionals, so anything I’m able to do right the first time seems like a short-cut for me.
One of the easiest examples I can think of is when it comes to fleshing out characters. When the brainstorming phase begins, it’s simple for me to envision what the characters are doing and why. Then I begin to see the whole story unfold in front of me and I can’t pick up a pen fast enough, but when it comes to defining details of my MC, I rely on generalizations to pull me through. And then I hit a Dead End. I understand that I’m a plot driven writer and not character driven writer. Which is okay. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just means I have to do a little more work when it comes to developing my characters. A lot more work, actually, because I can’t remember the last time a book kept my interest based on plot alone.
So, I look to the stars. People who are born under the same sign, share similar personality traits that are impossible to deny. This is how I determine my MC’s date of birth. I start with a general description and then seek out the horoscope with the most similar personality traits. From there, I can research a more in-depth look into traits of that sign. With that, I can accurately guide my MC actions to comply with what their hardwired to do. Now, this is just an earthy starting point. When I begin exploring motivations, physical descriptions, and personality traits, I can delve deeper into their psyche and be able to fill out a basic character sketch. That paired with what my character has experienced in their past will also help shape who they are. Where they lived, how they were treated by family and peers. What type of social/racial conflicts do they deal with/or have they overcome? Is their natural behavior overshadowed by another aspect of their life? Does their religion prevent them from being who they truly want to be? Does anything else? Plus a list of about fifty more questions to ask your MC, but I’ll save that for the post with an in-depth character sketch, coming soon.
Do you as a writer have any habits, processes, or “short-cuts” that have successfully worked for you?
Until next time – happy writing!