NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up | Things I’ve Learned and Q&A

I won NaNoWriMo! It feels good to write that! For everyone that has cheered me on, helped me in any way, did word sprints with me (Ilsa thank you <3), or whether you just chatted with me, thank you alllllll!

During NaNoWriMo I’ve struggled a lot, but I pulled through and ended up with 50,060 words (I honestly don’t understand because MS Word counted 50,054 words, I don’t know where those final 6 words came from). I’ve made most of it up as I went. I had an outline, but I haven’t even looked at it in the final half. I knew most of it by heart though and there wasn’t much work put in the outline.

NaNoWriMostats

If you look at my stats, it seems like I had a pretty relaxed month, but that’s not really the case. I’ve had pretty bad days on which I barely wrote anything, and on other days I wrote 3k, but I wrote something on every single day.

Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up | Things I’ve Learned and Q&A”

The Bad Book Project #7 | World Building (by Savannah)

Welcome back to my 12-week project in which I attempt to prepare for writing my own novel in Camp NaNoWriMo this April. You can check out the last posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This week’s post is about world building and it is written by one of my favourite blogger friends Savannah, I hope you love it as much as I do!


Hello everybody! My name is Savannah and I’m a blogger over at The Book Prophet. Today, I’m here to talk to you about World Building and the easiest (and best) ways you can create the world in your novel.

As you might know, World Building is crucial to any book, especially fantasy and sci-fi. When you’re creating an entirely different world instead of putting your own spin on the present world, it can become overwhelming and difficult. I am a fantasy lover myself, so my ultimate love as a writer is fantasy. Though, it can be 2x more difficult to develop an entire world, there are no limits to what you can create. The most important thing you should remember is to let your imagination go wild and free.

I will talk about the most crucial things that most people don’t think about when first developing their world. The things you overlook may be something that a reader is looking for. Let’s delve right into it.

Think about the basics. Whenever you’re developing a new world, you have to think about the basic infrastructure of your world. This applies to all kinds of novels from fantasy to contemporary. You need to know the most basic things, such as food, shelter, and clothing. First you need to ask yourself questions that readers may ask when starting a novel. Who has power in this world? What kind of food do the inhabitants eat? Where do they get this food? What is the atmosphere like here? What kinds of clothing do the inhabitants wear? What do their homes look like? Where do the inhabitants work and get educated? Asking yourself the most simplistic questions can make all the difference in your final product. The little things are what make your world more vivid and realistic.

Create Social, Political, Cultural, and Religious Groups. In the real world (and fantasy worlds) everybody has their own beliefs. Whether it’s a belief that a king should rule over everybody in the land or a God with the head of a Ram ruling the wind, the inhabitants in your world should believe in something. Whether it’s political or religious, having groups with certain beliefs make your world all the more real. It unites and divides people, and is the central cause of chaos and peace.

Create a world that supports the story, not the other way around. By this I mean that in order to create a world that is realistic and organic, you need to make sure it ties into the story well. You can’t have an entire world developed without a story to tell first. An example would be having a rogue assassin on Mars who kills the people with the most power. First you need to figure out who your assassin is, what that character’s story is going to be like, and whether or not you’ll have dual point of views. Once you decide that, as well as the places they’ll be exploring on the way there, then you can start delving into the world-building. You don’t want to create an entire world and then not have half of that world unexplored or even mentioned in your final product. Then it was just a waste of your time. You don’t have to do this, but it’s recommended.

Write what you know. So you may be wondering “How do I write what I know if I’m writing a book that takes place in a fictional world?” Well, let’s say you live in Canada where it’s pretty much cold 24/7 and 7 foot tall creatures with antlers live in your backyard. Why not incorporate something like that in your fictional world? If you experience cold weather all the time, why not write about it? You’ll definitely be able to write about how it feels to have numb toes and fingers, how it looks when new snow settles and ice glazes over tree branches. Use your surroundings as an advantage! Add a moose with glittering fur and antlers that glow in the dark while you’re at it! When you write about something you already know well, and then you’re writing will be much less forced and your descriptions can be more detailed than they would normally be if you were describing a beach setting, although you’ve never been to a beach in your life. Not only can you use nature as your inspiration, but you can use almost anything as a starting point. Does your shower sometimes make a weird noise when you turn it on? BAM! There’s the noise your glittering moose with glow in the dark antlers makes when it’s scared or intimidated. All of these little details are crucial in the final product, which is the world your novel takes place in.

Make your world diverse. This could be filed into characters, but I think it applies to world building in a sense as well. The world isn’t black and white, there are grays and blues and yellows and greens and reds and every color imaginable. You need to express that in your world, through your characters and their cultures. You can’t make every heroine white and slim and beautiful. That’s just not how the world works; I don’t care where you are. One of the newest ‘trends’ in YA novels recently are making books more diverse. There shouldn’t be a need for a trend like this. Books should be diverse without having to be classified as diverse. In this day and age books (and media in every shape and form) should have black males and females, Asians, Trans, and everybody in between because that’s the world we live in. It should be represented without being made a big deal out of. Do this with your fantasy world, do this with your contemporary romances, and do it with your god-forsaken historical fiction novels because it’s real.

Simple interactions between characters. This has to do with characters as well, but it works to make your world more real and it creates more depth. Everything from the way people present themselves to how they talk and move around others. This all makes a difference when looking at the bigger picture of religion and culture in your novel. Let’s say one social group shows respect for their elders by giving them a small gift once a year, while another group does this by gathering in a circle and praying for their good health. It all connects to form the larger picture that is your fictional world.

Use real-world history and mythology. When you write your novel (present in either a fantasy realm or modern times) it’s a good idea to do research. I know, research is a pain, but you learn stuff and it helps a ton when you are constructing an image or event in your book. You can use real-world laws and economics in your story (with or without putting a twist on it) to make your world have the extra amount of depth that we (readers and writers alike) all crave in a good book. There are so many amazing books out there that have used mythology and historical events to their advantage whenever creating their world. And it always works, so why not do that as well?

Imagine your world at its worst. When there’s a good book with a good plot, something always has to go wrong. It’s only normal, so you need to imagine what would happen in your imaginary world if the worst of the worst came to pass. Just envision the worst possible thing that could occur in your world and fathom the impact it would have on your characters as well as the plot of your novel. This will allow you to understand not only your world better, but your characters as well. This works for whatever sort of novel you’re writing.

These are some of the main tips I have for those of you that are finding it difficult to develop your world, whether it takes place in a fictional universe or our universe. If you’re interested in reading about some more tips on world-building, visit this link here.

I would like to thank Lia for giving me the chance to write this post, and for all of you for reading through it all. Good Luck to all of you who are currently in the middle of writing the next great literary masterpiece of our generation.

lots-of-love


I think this post was super helpful! My head is already filled with new ideas to expand the world my book is set in! Was it helpful for you? Thank you Savannah for writing this amazing post 🙂

 

The Bad Book Project #5 | Plotting your Novel (by Claudie)

This is the fifth post in a series called The Bad Book Project, in which I prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I’m having so much fun preparing for writing and writing and reading these posts. In the last 4 post we have discussed getting started and writing characters, check out those posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4. This week Claudie’s post about how to get your plot rolling! I really love it, I hope you do too!


Four Questions to Get Your Plot Rolling

I spend a lot of time asking myself questions. No, no, not existential questions (though my mind can wander into pointless meandering it’s rarely of that nature). No, when I bust out the questions, it’s because I’m in plotting mode.

Before I go on, I tend to have Important Caveats ™ regarding writing advice. Everyone works differently, and sometimes your process will change from one project to the next! So everything below? I hope it helps you! But if it doesn’t at all, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

I like questions because they’re flexible. You never know which one will be the spark, but some should, in my opinion, absolutely be answered at some point in your writing. They’ll give you good landmarks to hit structure and pacing-wise, and as such, they are also good ways to get unstuck.

Anyway! Here we go with some great questions to get your plot rolling!

Question 1: What is my character’s biggest fear?

A lot of writing advice out there will say ‘make it happen’. As with most of the widespread writing advice, I’m iffy about repeating it, because it’s not always the best way. It’s important to understand why this works in many circumstances (it does) in order to use it when most appropriate. This question often comes with a few others such as “What would they never say? Never do? Never think?” The goal here is to know what makes your character tick—what will get a strong reaction out of him. Because when you plot, you need that strong reaction.

And yes, you do need to make some of those happen or to threaten your character with them. These will make the stakes of your novel personal. It will get the readers more involved. So list specific events that’d play upon your character’s fears and weaknesses and brainstorm on how some could fit your plot.

Question 2: What is my character arc, and how can I achieve it?

Characters need to evolve through a story. In the best novels, outside events bring about inward change. Sometimes, the best way to plot your novel is to determine what Point A and Point B of your character arc are, then ask yourself how such a change could come about. Try to find different increments. Most changes happen in steps.

For example, when I wrote Viral Airwaves, I knew I need Hans Vermen to go from a soldier obsessed with avenging his brother, killed by the rebels’ leader (Seraphin), to him falling in love with said man. Considering the importance Vermen put into duty (which included vengeance), that sure wasn’t going to happen overnight. So I went in steps, making him first befriend another rebel. Then choosing to save that new friend’s life instead of escaping, even though staying might mean execution for him. Seraphin stops that execution, and now the man who killed his brother also saved his life instead of ending it. Every new scene brings him a step closer to the end goal. When you plot, look to the next step. Find a concrete scene to accomplish it. Rinse and repeat.

Question 3: What is the point of no return for your character? When does it happen in your novel?

This question goes hand in hand with the character arc, but I want to dwell more on it. Baby steps along the character arc are good, but if it feels like your character could go back to the beginning easily, you’re doing it wrong. This is true for internal and external arcs.

And here’s the deal: that point of no return needs to be an active decision from your character. Seriously. Don’t just force them into it until they can’t bail out. Make them choose not to bail out. This is why Vermen chooses to save his friend instead of leaving. I did the same for that novel’s actual main character: at first, he flees the rebels and their very dangerous decision to fight, but I spend the first quarter of the book building personal reasons he should fight, and in the end, he cracks and volunteers. One scene later he is sighted with rebels, so I made sure to hammer in that he couldn’t chicken out anymore (as a side note, this actually happens more around 30-35% of Viral Airwaves and people frequently say the beginning is a bit slow—a direct consequence of how long it takes for the two character arcs to get going and the “set-up” to be complete, so watch your plot structure!)

Question 4: What needs to happen at the end to resonate with the novel as a whole?

One problem I frequently see with novels is an ending that contradicts either character arc or themes. Don’t go building so much only to destroy it at the end of your novel! If your entire novel is about how nobody gets left behind, nobody should sacrifice themselves. If it’s about avoiding violence and other means of success, then don’t kill the bad guy! Really take your time for this question. Look at your characters and themes. List what you need to get a satisfying ending—something that’ll resonate. Look at minor characters and side plots, too. Everything. Congratulations, you have a puzzle of everything that needs to happen to have the best ending ever. It might not be possible, but these will get your gears rolling in the right direction.

These questions have unblocked me at various times of my writing years, and I hope one of them helps spark your story! Don’t be afraid to explore ideas. Grab a piece of paper and push flash of inspirations to their end. Follow one question with another until you know why your plot is what it is, what works about it, what are the inner workings of your story. It’s not enough to string actions together. You have to know why you chose them, and when to unleash the events on readers for the best effect. But that last, I think, will be covered in the next post!

Are there any other questions you like to ask yourself when plotting? Please share them in the comments!

Biography

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-Kraken_black01-184x300.pngFrench Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017!

Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective, a new cooperative of indie authors for LGBTQIAP+ SFF, and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!


Thank you for reading and I hoped this helped you, a big thank you to Claudie for writing this amazing post and see you at the next episode which will also be about plotting!

The Bad Book Project #4 | Creating Characters

This is the fourth post in my novel writing project, in which I prepare (or try to prepare) for Camp NaNoWriMo. This week I’m going to talk about characters, which is one of the most important things in your book. In the last two weeks we’ve already scraped the surface of creating diverse characters and about the importance of a good secondary cast, which you can read about here and here. if you’d like to take a look at the first post in this series, click here.

For your story to be complete you of course need characters. I think there are several ways in which you can write or outline your novel, but I think I like starting out with the characters because they give you a good idea in which directions your plot could go. I would like to propose an 8 step process, by asking yourself questions.

  1. How many characters are there? You can always add in more characters or remove some later, but it is important to think about whether your book will have one POV or more. Will there be one main character and several side characters or will there be more main characters? By starting out with this you know to what extent your characters will need to be developed.
  2. Who are your main characters? Define them in just a few words, what are their connections and what are their most important personality traits and characteristics? This is what I did and then I took a break, for a few days I just let those characters develop in my head, whenever I felt like I needed to add something I did, but I wasn’t consciously doing anything with this.
  3. What are the basic characteristics of your characters? What’s their age, name, occupation etc. These are just the facts that you need to get straight before entering the next stage.
  4. Where are they coming from? For me this was a super helpful step, by defining who the characters family was and to think about their past, more of their character came forward. Think about how close they are with their family, who their friends are, how their life was when they were a child. If a person had a bad childhood, their personality and problems in the now probably have changed. Write about their history, their problems and this can be quite elaborate! Don’t be afraid to overdo this. You don’t have to put all of this in your book, but it really helps to give them that three-dimensional feeling.
  5. What do your characters hate and love? This is already a little defined in their history, but some things to keep in mind are: who are their friends, what is their relationship with their family and do they have a romantic relationship? What is their sexual orientation?
  6. What are your characters’ personalities? Their flaws, their graces, their skills, their quirks, their hobbies, and what I thought was very helpful was to define their MBTI. Another characteristic that I found useful is to think about whether they’re a leader or a follower.
  7. What are their goals? What is it that they want in the beginning of the book, this is usually a quite superficial goal, such as travelling the world. Somewhere during the book your character comes to find its ultimate goal, what they actually want in life, for example to be loved and have a family. How is your character going to reach their goal (their motivations) and what is keeping them back (the conflict) and then how is it resolved or how they realize their goal (the awakening)? This step is quite hard, at least it is for me, so it isn’t really complete yet.
  8. What do they look like? This is a fun part, you can think of how your character actually looks, what are their features, what’s their body type, what do they like to wear, etc.

You can easily mix up the steps and give it your own swing, but that’s totally okay because it’s a process.

I’ve also thought of some things to spice up this process and that make it even more fun:

  • Make mood boards. You can make them per character to get a gist of who they are and what they look like. I made one for each four of my characters and a general one for all of the pictures I might need for reference later. I use weheartit.com and pinterest.com for this.
  • Make a family tree. I did this because one of my main characters has quite a complicated family tree and I needed to keep track of who had died and who married who etc.
  • Draw your characters. Don’t worry if you can’t draw you can use online avatar creating games to do the same. I used this one for my female characters. The disadvantage of these is that they’re never exactly as you want them to be, for example they don’t have the hairstyle you want.
  • Create playlists. I actually started doing this because I heard a song that explained so perfectly the relationship between two of my characters. It’s a lot of fun to see your characters come alive in the form of a song.
  • Create a timeline. These can be important to keep track of the character’s histories and how they might be intertwined.

At first I tried to write all this down on paper with the use of several templates I found online such as this one (this one inspired for the large part how I developed my characters, so a huge thanks to the creator) or this one (thank you too). However it didn’t really work for me to write it down because it felt really final and it would become a mess because sometimes I had too much to write and to little space to write it on. Therefore I am now using OneNote, which is basically an online notebook in which you can also add photo’s, tabs, different pages with drop down menus etc. I find it very useful.

I hope this post got you inspired to develop your characters, at least I did! How do you develop your characters and did you learn something from experience? Did you find this post useful?

The Bad Book Project | The Importance of a Good Quality Secondary Cast (by Trisha)

This is the third week in a project called The Bad Book Project, in which I prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. The first posts you can find here and herehere. This week’s post is by Trisha and I will now give the word to her!


Hiya all! I’m Trisha from Autumn of 2003, and I’m here today to post about why it’s important to have a good quality secondary cast. As much as you love the main character of a novel, it’s always important to have a well structured, thought out secondary cast. Here’s why!
It helps if people think your MC is insufferable
I’ve often read books where I couldn’t stand the protagonist at all, but absolutely LOVED the secondary characters, which helped me push through the novel. For example, in Heir of Fire, I found Aelin very bratty and annoying (and do not get me started on Rowan fumes) but, what kept me reading was the awesome secondary cast – Lysandra, Manon, Dorian, Chaol (#chaolana5life) and all the other characters with nuanced, well thought out characters. It especially helps when you can start shipping these characters off! 😉
It can show what sort of person the MC is
This is not always the case, but I find that you can tell a lot about the MC from the secondary characters. Are they moody and quiet, unicorns on steroids, or something else altogether? This can indicate what sort of person the main character is. In Harry Potter, we have the Golden Trio. With quiet, bookish and yet hella determined Hermione and goofy, rather stupid Ron, we can suss that Harry possesses all those qualities to an extent.
It can give the MC an end goal
Say if like, a character gets killed or abducted or something that gives the MC a goal – to find the person, avenge their death, reminisce their death. SPOILERS FOR SIX OF CROWS When Inej is kidnapped in Six of Crows (although anyone who says that Inej is a side character can #fiteme) it gave the Dregs a goal to work towards. And it’s a handy plotline for the second story!
ALL THE FANART OPPORTUNITIES FOR FANS
Ok but I LOVE fanart. FANART IS AMAZING. FANART IS BEWDIFUL. FANART IS GOALS. And with a huge secondary cast, we have a lot of opportunities there, amirite? Yes, I count this as a legitimate point because I can drool over fanart for MONTHS.

So, there are my four reasons why it’s important to have a well structured secondary cast. Thanks to Lia for letting me post here, and I hope to see you again soon! Have a great day, everyone!


Thank you Trisha for this post! If you’re interested in reading some more tips on writing diverse characters (last week’s topic) I found this great post by Mishma from Chasing Fairytales: For an Authentic Representaiton of Diversity in Your Book.

Next week I’ll be talking about how my preparations are going and how to make characters in general. I’ll be sharing tips and tricks I find useful.

The Bad Book Project #1 | Introduction: How to Get Started

Welcome to this new series about writing a book, in the upcoming 12 weeks I’ll be sharing posts that will (or should) prepare you to write your own novel. I will be writing a novel during Camp NaNoWriMo this April, so I thought it would be a great idea to prepare for this. Like I said there will be 12 weeks, in each week I’ll share a post on Sunday, and there are 5 topics that I’ll cover. There will be guest posts from some very lovely bloggers and/or writers that want to share their knowledge and experience with us. So thanks a lot guys! I am super excited about this!

The topics that we’ll cover are: creating believable characters, building a plot, world-building, making an outline and writing-style. There will be 2-3 posts about each topic. Each topic will be covered both by me and by a fellow writer/blogger. I’m going to share what I am doing and how I am preparing but also some knowledge I gathered from the internet.

The rules of writing and how I got the name of this project

I would recommend watching Julian Tunru’s series The Nearly Complete Guide to Writing a Novel on youtube. I believe it is not yet complete, and there are only 4 episodes so far, but he gives really useful tips. It’s also really funny! In his first video he covers the basics of writing. What I think is most important from what he says, is that there are no rules of writing. You only need two things, something to write on and something to write with (and yeah okay also that family sized bag of skittles). If you write, you’re a writer. And if you think you’re not good at writing,  everybody thinks that at some point. So get your act together and write. You can only get better by writing, reading, and rewriting.

This is also partly where the title of this new series is coming from. I watched another youtube series by Scott Sigler, and in his first video he talks about the process of becoming a writer. In this case he means, how to write your first novel and actually finish it. His theory, is that you “just” need to write one book, that is probably going to be horrible, finish it, put it away for a few months, and at the same time work on your new “good” book. When you get out that old “bad” book, you’ll see all the things you did wrong or could have been improved, which will help you to get better. So my plan is, to write a book, not with the intention to write an amazing book that is perfect, but write one simply because of the fact that I’m writing it. I won’t let anyone read it, it is just for me. And who knows, in six months when I get it out of my files, and rewrite it, I’ll actually think it is something worthwhile. I’m writing for myself, and by calling this my “bad book” it will help me to not pressurize myself into writing the perfect book. It’s okay if the characters aren’t super-realistic, or that there are plot-holes, it matters that I’m writing it.

Idea-generation

The first step to writing is an idea. I know, ideas are hard to get, and the ones you get are usually nonsensical but sometimes there are hidden gems. I got my idea from a scribbled scene I wrote a while back. When I wanted to turn it into a short story I had so many ideas of how it should continue that I thought it would be perfect for a novel. But if you did not have such a “eureka” moment, this video by Kristen Martin gives you 7 steps to finding a novel idea. The seven steps are as follows. First you decide which genre your book needs to have. In my case this is science-fiction (and fantasy?) and maybe even a little dystopian. The second step is determining your audience; who will read your story? For me this is, Young Adult or New Adult (the main character is 19, so I guess you should say it is New Adult). Then you choose a theme. This list of 101 themes can be helpful. I’m not really sure what the main theme of my story is, but it definitely includes coming of age and desire to escape. The next step is to get your brain in action, brainstorm! What is most important is that you find what the main character’s challenge is. If you get stuck, you get to step 5, which is using resources. For example, books and idea generators, can help you to find new ideas. The sixth step is making a rough outline and the final step is to just write. We’re going to talk about outlines in future posts.

What I will be writing

A little more about my Camp NaNoWriMo plan. I’m going to try to work along with the schedule as discussed before and work on my characters in the first few weeks and then on my plot and so on. Of course I’ve already prepared a few things, including my general story and basic characters. It’s all still pretty vague but I’m sure I can work it out.

In Camp NaNoWriMo, you can have a cabin, consisting of fellow participants, with whom you can share your experiences. I believe you can also choose your own cabin-mates, so if you’re also participating and would like to keep up with my writing and help each other out, that would be fun! You can find me here. Sadly, I don’t think you can do anything yet, although I have updated a small synopsis of my idea. The novel is not yet named. It revolves around a run-away princess, a mechanic, her sister and a new friend from a different planet. This is my synopsis (for now):

“Mica runs away from her home planet when her father, the king, forces her to marry someone she doesn’t love. In her flight she leaves her sister Abrielle behind, but finds Karsen, her servant and mechanic, in her own spaceship. All Karsen wants is to go back home to his family. But Mica perseveres and flies across the universe to find herself at Earth, a planet forgotten after most humans left it hundreds of years ago.”

It’s not yet final and things will probably change between now and April, but this is the general idea. I have set my goal to 30.000 words, which is a thousand a day. This is not enough for an entire book of course, but I’ll just see how far I get and maybe, I’ll continue during July (which is the other month in which you can participate in Camp NaNoWriMo) and write another 30.000 words. This all depends on how it goes and whether I can reach those 30.000 altogether.

 

You’ve reached the end of this post! Was it interesting and did you get inspired? If you’re also participating in Camp NaNoWiMo this April, let me know! I would love to discuss our writing battle plans. Did you ever write a novel? If yes, was your first novel good? Or would you rather throw it in the trashcan?

Next week we’ll start with characters, and the first post will be from Hannah from The Book Thief Without Words, and it’ll be about including diversity in your novel. I’m really looking forward to it, because it is something I am struggling with at this moment.