Archive for ‘Wannabe Writers’

July 24th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #26

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

Where I am in the Writing Process: I know it’s been forever since I made any progress…. but I wrote the second half of The Lemonites all this week! I think the most I wrote in one day was 8,000 words, and I can hardly believe it! I still have a scene to stick in that I accidentally skipped over, but I still believe what I have qualifies as a completed first draft!

The problem? Now I have to send it to betas. I’ve never really sent a book out for a very detailed critique, and never to more than one person. This is going to be quite an experience, and although I’m excited to make the book the best I can, it’s frightening to think that it could very well be crap no matter what. I didn’t plot this book very well. I have roughly two pages of a synopsis and that’s about it, but most things seemed to fall into place as I went…

I’m especially not pleased with the last 250 words or so, which I know is minor, but it’s certainly disconcerting. I’m going to let it sit and stew for a while, and hopefully my betas will have some input on how it could be/if it needs to be improved. Unless, of course, I’m struck by sudden inspiration and come up with something brilliant (I’m crossing my fingers).

Overall, though, writing my second book has been an incredible experience! Even if there are problems, it feels a lot more… bookish than my first. I know that, no matter whether this book is crap or not, I have improved. I’m grateful for all the practice I’ve gotten. Learning to sit down and simply start writing has always been the hardest thing for me. Once I’m into it, I’m enjoying myself, but the beginning of the day is difficult. I’m learning to work with this. Also, I’ve realized that I can write 2,000 words in an hour if I try, which will be a great thing when the school year starts and I have homework. (Ugh.)

I’m hoping The Lemonites can be whipped into shape, but it will always be something I’m proud of. Writing it was enjoyable, I love my characters, and I know that my writing is improving with every book. Which is exactly what I’m going for.

The Question this Week: Character Flaws. Okay, I know I need those to make my characters realistic, but I also know the flaws shouldn’t make the reader hate your character. So what are some good, hero-worthy, none-hateable, character flaws?

Well, this sorta kinda goes along with my post the other day: Can You Do That Again in Normal, Please? Not precisely, but if you’re struggling with characters, it might be a place to look.

I think the key is to ensure that the flaws are explained. Their anger issues are justified, their hatred for animals has a story to go along with it, etc. You don’t want to make them terribly flawed/mean (unless that’s what you’re going for), of course. My point is, however, that the flaws need to be within reason. Can I relate to the character? Can I sympathize? Or is he/she cruel for the sake of being cruel? You see my point.

If you’re not going for serious flaws of anger/hatred/etc, but simply little ones to make the character real, I think it’s important to have a wide range. Not to mention the fact that characters need to do things that are out of character every now and again. Say the character has problems giving people the benefit of the doubt – at some point, they should. It’s called character growth, and it means overcoming obstacles within the character. That problem of not giving people the benefit of the doubt has probably ruined some potential relationships. You could choose that as part of your character arc. By the end of the book, a character needs to have changed/realized something/become a better person/become a worse one. The point is: Something needs to have happened within them. Plot is not action, plot is story. Characters are story.

A few “none-hateable” flaws I can think of are:

  • As I said, a problem with giving people the benefit of the doubt
  • Distrusting
  • Simply confused – there’s something this character needs to understand to be happy/kind/a better person

And those are some big-ish ones. You can have flaws like saying “like” too much! Instead of thinking about how to make characters flawed, think about how to make them real. What have you struggled with? What are things you’re trying to overcome within yourself?

Just remember: Characters are people, too.

July 3rd, 2010

Wannabe Writers #23

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

Where I am in the Writing Process: There hasn’t been much progress since my last Wannabe Writers post, due to the fact that I’ve been vacationing. Next week, I have to go to a camp, and my WIP will remain static until I get back. Hopefully, I’ll get something done on Monday! My goal is to finish The Lemonites by August 1st, and I’m 99.91% sure I can meet that goal. I’m planning on a 20,000 word+ week somewhere within that time-slot (which, by the way, means that anyone who sees me on twitter during that week should yell at me until I get a decent word count in). I’ve written that much before, and I’m actually hoping the word count will land somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000.

Miranda and I are planning an IM chat in which she will rip apart my brain with questions about my characters. We started before my vacation, and I swear, it was incredibly fun and helpful. I realized, to my dismay, that I didn’t know what my character’s greatest fear was. Or his goal in life. Major issue there that I will attempt to deal with when I’m in the mood to drive myself nuts. Perhaps Pepto will just speak to me sometime, and I’ll have my answers.

A friend of mine read my entire That Boy in the Shed manuscript in hardly more than 24 hours. Needless to say, I’m feeling quite nervous at the moment. She’s going to send me a bulky email soon!

We all know that I’m okay with That Boy in the Shed being my “practice” novel. It’s my first. I’m fourteen. Those two factors scream one thing: I’ve got plenty of tries left. This isn’t the sort of thing with limited chances. You don’t have to quit after three failures. And at my age, I’ve got a heck of a lot of time to practice.

Not that I want it to take five years or anything. The goal is to publish while I’m still a teenager. However, the back-up goal is to publish by the time I’m 23, and the back-up back-up goal is to be published by the time I’m 26. Like I said, the chances are limitless.

The Question this Week: Overcomplicating vs. Undercomplicating.  I’m afraid sub-plots in my novel are going to take the main focus.  How much is too much?

Wow. For once a question I haven’t thought about and, consequently, have absolutely no firm answer for.  I’m not going to go into a thorough answer (because I don’t have one), but I do have one comment to make.

If a subplot is taking the main focus, your main plot is too weak, or the subplot should be your main plot. Go ahead, switch focus. This is called a draft. It’s trial and error at their best. When I was plotting That Boy in the Shed, I realized that the subplot was both far more interesting and that I felt more compelled to write it. The subplot became the story I wanted to write, so I did. And I think the book is ten million times the better for it.

I’m curious, though, as to what you guys think. Let me know.

This last part is totally unrelated to the above.

I’m contemplating writing a series of posts concerning love in YA novels. I’d touch on as much as I could. Some of my ideas are:

  • Love triangles
  • Sex in YA (this post is destined to be really, really long)
  • The “What happens to their relationship after the book? Will they be together for the rest of their lives? Sounds unlikely” questions I always ask the Universe after reading a YA novel
  • First love
  • Flaws I’ve encountered in books
  • Anything else you suggest and that I feel comfortable talking about

Does that sound good? Would you be interested?

June 26th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #22

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

(I’m going to do away with the Current Problems section, as I usually cover those in my Writing Progress.)

Where I am in the Writing Process: I’m doing far better than I have the past couple of weeks, though that doesn’t entail much. I’m up to 22,425 words in The Lemonites, which is just past what I expect is the quarter way mark. I’m struggling a bit with connecting to my main character, Pepto, among other things (none of which are the plot, incidentally. Which is ironic because I haven’t plotted much at all), but my friend Miranda (who is awesome in many ways) is helping me out. (Psst. I got to read her new WIP and it is amazing. Just saying.) She’s grilling me with questions about my characters, and we’re weeding out some of the issues.

I’m looking forward to delving farther into this WIP, and I hope to be finished with the first draft by the end of July. I’m really busy the next couple of weeks, so my progress may be impeded a bit. Will see.

I haven’t begun working on Forbidden yet, but I got out of school a week from yesterday. My summer’s hardly begun. I’ll need to step it up, soon, however, because I foresee some serious plot tangles in my future!

The Question this Week: When writing how do you structure out your novel?  Do you use the classic method of intro, rising tension, mini crisis, rising tension, mini crisis, rising tension, climax, resolution?  Or some kind of alternative structure?

Goodness. How do I answer this question when I confronted my two WIPs in totally different ways?

In the case of That Boy in the Shed, I plotted like there was no tomorrow, and, consequently, there was a strong, formidable (as I realized later) structure. Every section of the story arc was built brick by brick by brick. Consequently, I knew precisely what would happen, be said, and be felt. In the end, however, this proved to be too much. Instead of propping my story up, I’d put it in a straight jacket.

I resolved to take a more laid-back approach. I’d actually begun writing That Boy in the Shed with the intention of learning how to plot specifically because I knew that Forbidden would require a strict plot and story structure. However, it’s become clear to me that particular types of stories call for a subsequent amount of plotting/structuring. Forbidden is some sort of mix between YA fantasy and horror, and, in my head, it’s the first of a trilogy. There’s an entire world to plot. Every scene must be laid out perfectly to ensure that I don’t give too much away too soon. Not to mention the fact that I have to plan how to stretch the story believably throughout three books while making sure that Forbidden can stand alone. Already, it’s clear that this project will be one that requires a lot of thought.

The Lemonites, however, is a totally different species of novel. It’s more laid back, and I can do a lot more in revisions, which means stressing over the plot less as I write the first draft. However, I know the story arc. I’ve written a synopsis. I’ve given the story support and an end to the beginning, but I have not forced it, struggling, into a straight-jacket.

So, in the end, I’d say that it’s crucial to evaluate what sort of story you want to tell. Judge wisely whether or not that story requires a strict whipping into shape or a lax, laid-back attitude. Which would make the writing more fun for you? Remember: You have to enjoy this sometimes, too!