What’s your writing style

Do you know how you write the best?  I know for the longest time I didn’t.  I do now, of course, but there are some people who still haven’t figured it out.  Here are some things to think of.

Do you think about writing almost every day but rarely do it?  Well if that is the case you are probably like me where you need a deadline to actually write.  There is nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned.  You work well under pressure.  It’s the main reason I like NaNoWriMo so much.  I HAVE to complete my novel in those 30 days no matter what!

On one hand I like only doing that once per year because it’s stressful and takes away from basically everything else in my life.  On the other I don’t write much else the rest of the year, which is kind of bad.  For those who want to really go at it they now offer CampNaNoWriMo during the summer; either June 1-30 or August 1-31 (ooh look one more day in August).  So for those who work well under pressure, doing all three of these writing months might be just the ticket.

There are also those who need a quiet morning, a noisy afternoon, or the dead of night to get something out.  I know one guy who prefers Sunday mornings because he is focused and the writing tends to flow.  I envy that but I also know I can’t do that (I’m one of those who has to have music and it doesn’t have to be any specific kind of music either).

So I ask again, do you know how you write best?  Let me know in the comments.

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You Have To Make Time

Many people will say they can’t write until inspiration hits them, and then those same people never actually finish anything.  The biggest reason is because they are waiting for lightning to hit instead of making it happen.  I can say from personal experience the best way for inspiration to strike is to just sit down and write.  Yup it is really that simple.  However, one of the biggest obstacles can be finding the time to actually do this.

One thing I really like about NaNoWriMo is that it forces me to work on something.  Granted I could just ignore the challenge the month presents but having a place to go, friends to “compete” against, and something which shows my daily progress really helps me to want to write.  That November mayhem has taught me that I work very well under pressure.  It’s the rest of the year which I have trouble.

So what’s the answer, well it’s kind of the same, I have to force myself to work.  This is much easier said than done though.  Just like with exercising, if you want to keep at it, you have to find out what works for you.

So if you write better in the morning, make the time.  You say you have to be at your boring, demanding job at 8 am, well get up a half hour earlier and write for those thirty minutes when you will be at your peak.  Are you better in the middle of the afternoon, work something in there.  Of course that might be hard if you have an 8-5 type job.  My advice then is to write during your lunch.  Or you could see if changing your hours is possible so you are off during your peak creative time.

Whatever you decide, you have to make the time and stick with it.  This doesn’t mean you can’t take a break now and then or that no matter what happens you have to write at that time.  However on the same note if you let other things distract you too much, well you have defeated the whole purpose.  And if you really don’t have a good time due to family, work, and other obligations, find five, ten, fifteen minutes you can write throughout the day.  Those small chunks can make all the difference.

Do you have the gall?

While I am editing my work, I am also reading books.  When I write for NaNoWriMo I don’t touch anything except magazines and non-fiction books, and even those I limit.  I have enough which influences my writing; I don’t need it when I am concentrating so hard.  Currently I am reading “A Dance with Dragons” by George RR Martin.  I love his writing, the fantasy world he’s created without using D&D style elements.  But it burns me that he has no regard for heroes’ lives’ and will kill a character off, almost willy nilly.

I can see why he does this, to move his story ahead, but it’s aggravating all the same and makes me dislike the man.  I want to finish the series (whenever he decides it all ends) but during the reading I will lament.

Of course many writers don’t kill of main characters.  Probably because they don’t want to lose their fans who can become enraged over their favorite being gone and thus feeling there is no need to continue reading this person’s work.  Martin, obviously, has no fear of that.  In fact I know many people who joke that you shouldn’t fall in love with ANY character because there is a chance they will not survive long.

It does make me think though, should people have more gall to kill off a character which people love or identify with?  I have to admit I want to do this myself.  I want to have a character which people love (or love to hate I’m not totally sure which) that I take out.

I did not steal this idea from Martin.  I have been thinking about it since I wrote my first draft of my first novel.  Not the one I am editing, but the one which I decided after 32,000 words wasn’t working anymore and was never going to be finished.  I just hadn’t figured out who and why.  I loved the characters too much, even the ones I hate (yes I have my own).  So, this idea is floating around my head and I will figure out who and when at some point.  Until then I will just keep working and see how the story would benefit from this.

Would you have the gall to kill a main and beloved character?

Boring yourself

Last week I spoke about striving for perfection in my novel.  While I am in a way, I also came to realize that I am starting to get bored reading these same few pages over and over to make them better.  Now does that mean I think a potential reader will be bored with the story, no.  But I do see that I need to move on in the story before I decide I don’t like it anymore and want to stop working on it altogether.

I have to admit I never thought I would get to this point.  I mean I love my own characters, even the ones I hate, because I created them; or at least made them my own in the case of some.  So how could I get bored with them?  Well I think it’s because I want to get on with the story and see what comes next.  It is the same way when I read a book.  I want to keep going so I can see what happens to the characters I like, or despise.  The really, really good books make me want to keep reading until I am done in one sitting.  For some books that is not possible and I rue having to stop.

Now some might ask how I can want to get on with the story when I know it.  All I can say is it has been long enough there are some things I forgot and there are some things that need to be changed so the story becomes better.  Also, I have some ideas for my world that I didn’t when I began writing this story and need/want to incorporate them into the novel.

It could be that boring myself is not the correct term but I cannot think of anything else which fits.

Have you ever been working on something and got bored trying to make it better?

The Pen is Mightier than the …Computer?

When I was editing my manuscript a few weeks ago I realized something, I cannot write by hand and I cannot edit on the computer.  Prior to this realization, I had never given either process much thought.

When I did NaNoWriMo in 2010, I started with a notebook and my pen the first few days.  I got stuff written but I realized that I was going to have to do the work all over again when I typed it in my computer.  Also, my writing is atrocious so deciphering what I scribbled as my brain was throwing out the story proved difficult.  So I started using my netbook to write during work at lunch and the desktop at home.  Low and behold, my word count went up considerably.

Now granted I still edit some thoughts on the screen (if you’re a NaNoWriMo purist sorry) but it’s not true editing so I don’t count it as such.  This kind of “rewriting” is much better for me because I’m not scratching over the wrong word(s) and rewriting something that might be illegible later.

As for my editing, well I have to have that piece of paper in front of me with a red pen to mark on.  I actually prefer red to any other color, even from someone else editing, because it’s easier to see the corrections and suggestions.  Editing on screen doesn’t work for me because I can make notes on the page and refer to them later if I know something needs a change but not exactly what that change needs to be right then.  Plus I can edit anywhere with pen and paper.

It’s stated, and is true, that editing is a different kind of thinking than writing.  I see it in myself as when I write I tend to sit up straight and go.  When I edit I slouch and usually have one hand one my head, sometimes running through my hair (the result of which is my hair becoming a total mess).

While it sounds silly, I think that learning these things about my writing process has made my work better.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Writers Group

A little over a year ago, thanks to a friend, I joined a local writers group.  I had always wanted to join one but didn’t know any around.  That’s not entirely true, one of the bookstores had one but from what I had seen of it, I wasn’t impressed.  Plus they met at an inconvenient time.  So my friend gets me involved with this group she’s a member of, I go to the first meeting, and I am glad I took the plunge.

Now I have been, and am, a member of several writing places online.  Some I have used in the past and some I never got around to exploring the website very much.  Honestly some sites are more difficult than others to peruse and figure out how to use them to help you as a writer.

This group is great because we meet every month and it is the same people over and over.  Or at least many of the same people since life can get in the way of people returning or coming to meetings some months, plus right now we are seeing a HUGE growth.  Consistency is what I like here.

I don’t always take my work for critique but I have many times.  The first piece was a short story which became my first novel.  I don’t think without going to this group and brining that piece I would be where I am today as a writer.  The biggest comment I received was that there was a story there; it couldn’t end where it did for the short story.  That was September and come NaNoWriMo of said year, I decided to find out what that story was and haven’t looked back.

I have received some good and bad feedback from people when I’ve gone.  One such incident was a novel I have since decided to not finish, where I was told there was too much exposition and not enough action.  So I cut it down and returned the following month, to be told there wasn’t enough exposition (no this is not the reason I decided to stop writing this novel) much to my aggravation.  However other times I get things which do improve the writing or at least make me think how to do something differently, especially when it’s not something I saw on my own.

The biggest disadvantage though, is we have a three page limit.  So that several people can bring their work in for critique it makes sense and I understand it, but the need to have the entire thing read is crucial for someone to critique the piece effectively.  However with the new blood in our group came an idea for those with novels to have a different group, within the current one, so that one person CAN read your manuscript all the way through.  Yeah what a novel idea, no pun intended, but something that wasn’t really addressed or offered this way previously.

I do think writers groups are highly valuable and worth to join, provided you can get honest criticism and not take it personally (we have had one person who did and never returned).  It’s just a matter of finding one which works for you and dealing with whatever constraints there are.

Waiting to Edit

With almost a full month of NaNoWriMo being completed the looming job of editing is staring me in the face.  I am actually not ready to edit this year’s novel as I am still working on 2010’s so I can let the 2011 simmer in my head a bit longer but the knowledge that I will have to at some point is still there.  And that thought frightens me some.

The biggest problem is that I am too close to the work (then again what author isn’t?).  In 2010 when I finished on November 30th I decided to wait until at least the beginning of February.  I was burnt out on anything relating to my own work during December (not to mention how the holidays take up so much time) and I didn’t think January would be enough time with it out of my sight to work on.  Unfortunately February came and I still couldn’t edit it, I was STILL too close to the characters, setting, story.  So I waited a few more months and tried again, same problem.

In June I was able to pick up my red pen and begin to edit the novel.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the great job I had hoped it would be.  I tried doing a little at a time with limited success.  I even gave a copy to a friend of mine who I knew would rip it to pieces.  Unfortunately she never got around to it and now has decided she won’t do it for me, she thinks I will be highly upset with her for ripping it apart when that is exactly what I am looking for.

August was when I finally got smart and began to edit the novel backwards.  While I have heard of doing this, I didn’t think doing it for a first edit would be a good job.  However I am making progress, of a sort.  I have discovered some inconsistencies I don’t think I otherwise would have going forwards.  You definitely get a different perspective by reading the last chapter to the first.

I stopped editing during November so I was no influenced by my own writing during the second novel.  And much like last December, I have not had much time to edit again, plus I wanted a break from my own story.  Come January I will be at it hard and heavy again.  I do have to say that waiting to edit is probably a good idea.  Hopefully for you, it won’t take eight months to accomplish something useful.