Hi there! This is my first time doing NaNo and I feel kind of strange about the quality of my writing. I'm taking comfort in the fact that everyone says it's about the quantity and hitting the word count. That it's a first draft and the most important thing is to get it out, which I've been doing for the past two days. But I feel I'm doing a lot of telling and very little showing. Like it's all stuff I would fix in the second draft, but there seems to be very little substance now, is this okay?
It’s totally fine. It really is about the words this month.
Yes, you want to have substance. Yes, you want to have a cohesive story. Yes, you want to have fully developed characters. Many of these things reveal themselves through the process of actually writing. So while at times describing in minute detail the way a room looks, or how the weather makes a character feel, or a dream sequence with dinosaurs with lasers for eyes seems worthless, it’s all a part of the process in crafting your world, your story, your characters.
Let your ideas fly free, because now is the time when everything might be useful.
(Also, we’re three days in. You are not expected to be perfect with this type of writing practice yet. Are you an expert at anything after three days of working on it for several hours? No. You won’t even be an expert at 30 days — and that is totally fine.)
Anonymous asked: Skipping hours, days, months, WHATEVER amount of time in existence can be very difficult for me sometimes… I’m afraid it gets too sudden, for example, and I just can’t find the correct moment or words for that. Do you have some advice on the matter?
Unfortunately, there are no good links for writing time lapses (which irritates me to no end. Links are the epitome of good examples).
Hmm… here’s an example of my own writing of a couple-hour/over night time lapse because I’m not sure how to answer this. If followers have suggestions, please let this Anon know. -H
** This is about 2 years old or so. It’s one of the endings I thought I’d have in my book but I have since discarded it. **
I wanted to ask about writing superheroes, how do you first go about balancing their powers out and finding equal villains for them to go against? -cluewhite
What a wonderful question! I’m really going to enjoy answering this one and hopefully our followers might be able to share their own opinions (hint hint).
When creating a superhero there are a few things to consider:
What gives them their superpower (special spider, iron suit, the fact they are a god).
What their superpower is and its limitations. (All superheroes have limitations- think of Batman!).
What is their weakness. (Small knifes? Hahaha I made a funny.)
Who knows their weakness?
How does their personality contribute to their superhero status? Do they deserve to be a superhero?
Best question: Are they a superhero by choice?
These are just some questions I would consider to start developing this character. Superheroes are normal characters, they deserve the same amount of character development and they need to be rounded characters. You also need to really consider their motives. Are they driven by revenge? Or simply because they want to make a difference?
So your superhero can have any power they want, but it needs to have a limitation. If this character is unbeatable then there is no point in your story. Also, your reader will struggle to empathise with your character if they aren’t challenged and if there isn’t a struggle to succeed.
So lets talk about villains! Now, what you need to think about to start with is why are they enemies? Is it because your superhero knows this character and wants to stop them? Is it because your superhero has suffered at this villains hands? Or does the superhero want to act for the good of the people?
I’m going to mention some villains here so you can catch my drift a bit more.
Obediah Stane (Ironman) - knew Tony and was motivated by greed. Tony fought him because he felt like it was his fault, he had created this ‘monster’.
Lizard (The Amazing Spiderman)- Peter felt responsible for the Lizard thing as he had given him the formula.
The Joker- (Batman) had no real motive, he just liked chaos. Batman fought him because it was the right thing to do, to save Gotham.
Loki (Thor and Avengers)- Loki was motivated for revenge. Thor fights him because he is his brother and he feels responsible for him.
You can see a trend here with comic book superheroes. The superhero is normally motivated to fight the villain because he knows him, feels partly responsible or less common he just wants to fight them.
Of course this means nothing, you can do whatever you want with your superhero. But it is interesting to consider the relationship between these two central characters and how well they know the other.
So, making them equal.
You don’t have to make them equal, not at all. A common trend seems to be that one party is the brawn and the other the brain. What I think is more interesting though is when both characters are equally brilliant. It then is more a battle of tactics to win.
To make an equal villain develop them like you did your superhero. Consider what makes them powerful, what gives them the power. Their own weaknesses and strengths.
Give them both strengths and weaknesses and they should start to balance themselves out. Or they could just be equally as powerful and it is their personality that determines who wins.
Hello, I have been on a very long break from writing, for well over a year now. As I entered into my last year of high school I got too busy to even think about it. But now I've graduated, and I really want to get into writing again before uni. But I have NO IDEA how to start again. Any advice for someone trying to break a long-term writing dry spell? Thanks :)
Step 1: Sit down at your computer (or notebook) and give it a good long stare.
Step 2: Remind it that everything you put on the page belongs wholly to you. You are the master. Tell it that you cannot be intimidated by anything you create because it’s YOUR creation and you have the power. Say it out loud - especially if you’re unsure. Your computer (or notebook) will not be able to tell if you are lying and will begin to cooperate.
Step 3: Start small. Write little things that can’t intimidate you or scare you away. Proceed to write whatever beautiful prose or randomly-generated garbledygook you wish to write. Write it even if it feels weird. It’ll get you in the habit, and your bigger projects will thank you for it later.
Step 4: Do this every day. Write a bit and, if you want, show it to a friend or two. Having people ready and waiting to receive the table scraps of your grand work read your writing can help motivate you to continue.
Step 5: Water the plant until it grows. Keep growing it. Do not stop watering it. Remember, your writing is a beautiful small poppy seed that wants love and will wither away sadly without your devotion.
You have your friends, your family, your activities, your studies, the weather outside your window, your favorite shows. Your writing has only you. Love it every day.
Is it still considered an information dump if I'm having a character tell another character something about their past? Sorry if it's confusing, I love your blog! Thank you!
Don’t worry, I understand what you mean. It doesn’t really matter what the context is, an information dump is when a bunch of information is given to the reader all at once (often a lot of unnecessary information, too.) -T
Anonymous asked you: Do you have anything on gunshot (assault, pistols, snipers) wounds, stab wounds, or stitching? I’m writing both sci-fi and fantasy stories, so the stab wounds can really be caused by anything from small pocket knife to a rapier.
Hi! Great question. I have answered this once and then tumblr decided to delete it, so here we go again!
I’ve kick started your research for you with the above links. I think for the wounds and types of weapons you will have to a lot more research into the damage a weapon can do and the likely result of an injury.
I would take a look at rehabilitation time for injuries as well if you want it to be quite realistic. This will differ upon type of wound, depth of injury and placement.
For stitches I wasn’t sure if you wanted modern/future/past so I’ve got you some past treatments and the ones used nowadays. For a futuristic approach I would look at research that is ongoing at the moment and look for ways that medicine could be improved or changes. For example maybe instead of stitches or staples they use a laser to shut a wound.
What would be your advice on making writing 'grittier'?
There seems to be some disagreement on what makes a story “gritty.” When pulling up gritty book lists on Goodreads, the majority tend to be dark, disturbing stories that may give readers an unsettling feeling because they are getting enjoyment out of something so unpleasant. I read two different takes on what makes fiction gritty, and they each offered a unique perspective.
This writer suggests that a gritty story features a resilient, ambitious, and passionate protagonist, and that doom and gloom are mere “decorations.” Also written here is that gritty fiction doesn’t shy away from harsh truths.
While the previous viewpoint suggested gritty writing was about characterization, this writer believes gritty fiction is more about the tone you use to describe events. Any plot can be gritty if the author approaches it with that intention.
For me, when I think of fiction as being gritty, it has to do with tact. It’s fiction that is brutally honest. A hero may not win the war (at least not without major casualties), and sad, unfulfilling endings may be the unfortunate result. If that’s the case, it pegs the question - why would we read fiction that leaves us hopeless and sad? I think no matter how gritty a story seems, we try to find the good in the character’s harsh circumstances. If the protagonist loses their best friend, we try to think about what the protagonist still has left to hold onto, or we consider that the deceased no longer suffers. It challenges our pessimistic instincts to find the good in the darkest of times.
Okay, that was a bit more philosophical than I intended, but I think the key to making writing gritty depends on your idea of gritty. Is it dark? Is it honest? Is it about passion, determination, fervor? What books have you read that make you want to write gritty fiction? I would start there and think about what those books have in common.
Lmao you have the stones to run a writing blog and say "reading shouldn't be a qualification for good writing" thanks for making my dash cleaner
Yes, reading does subconsciously help people write. Yes, it can be helpful to see how other people approach different ideas and styles and all kinds of things.
Reading, HOWEVER, should not determine one’s worth as a writer. Not liking to read nor not having the motivation to read shouldn’t dissuade someone for doing something they love to do. It should not be so pivotal that it should stop someone from writing. I know plenty of people that are phenomenal writers, and guess what? They HATE reading. It doesn’t always go hand-in-hand.
Remember folks, do what works for YOU. Just because it works for other people, doesn’t mean it’ll apply to you.
Also, don’t let anything dissuade you from doing what YOU love to do. If you love to read and love to write, great! If you love to write but hate to read, also great! You do you, followers. You do you.
Sorry to see you go, but you’re entitled to your opinon. Thanks for the feedback, franklytriggering.
Hi! So I know someone just recently asked something along similar lines but I'm nearing the end of the first draft of my first fantasy novel. I'm very excited but nervous about the editing process. I'm worried that I won't be very good at "killing my darlings" especially when it comes to scenes/ideas I've started to grow attached to. Do you have any advice for the process as a whole?
As someone whose least favorite part of writing aside from cranking out the middle of a first draft is the first round of edits, here’s how I cope:
Once you finish your first draft, celebrate. Seriously, that is a major accomplishment and deserves a big pat on the back, a special libation of choice, a couple happy dances, and maybe more. Enjoy and be proud of the fact that you made it through a first draft.
Then, let it sit for a while. Walk away from it completely. Drafts need some time to revel in their completion, and so do you. A completed draft should be a precious item for a bit.
“A bit” can range from a few days to a few months – depending on deadlines, life, other projects, etc. Some projects sit longer than others; the key is to try and give yourself enough time to distance your mind from the joy of having finished something and switch to the practical mindset that a good portion of what you wrote is going to be changed.
Once it’s time to pull that draft out again, there are two reading tactics that tend to work well from an editing perspective.
1) Read your draft out loud. If things sound awkward out loud, they’re going to likely read as awkward. Read your writing as punctuated. You’ll find it easier to use punctuation properly and as you intended when you read aloud.
2) Approach reading your draft not as the creator, but as a reader. It’s a different frame of mind to get into, but try and imagine you’re a reader picking up your book for the first time, knowing nothing about the world, the characters, the story, any of it. Is it engaging? Do you understand what’s going on? Are the characters fully formed people? Are you being told too much, or not enough? Are there any gaps between chapters or time jumps that leave you with questions? All these are things to constantly ask from a readers’ perspective and make notes on while starting to revise your draft.
For myself, I also find it easier for the first round of edits to have the draft printed out rather than editing on screen. Everyone is different, but having the ability to physically cross out sections and make notes engages me a lot more than deleting sections and making comments on a screen. You also tend to catch more mistakes when you’re looking at a draft in a different format than you wrote it. If nothing else, make a copy of the draft for editing and change the font and/or background color.
Once you’ve gone through and marked and notated your edits, it’s time to incorporate them in the draft, as well as work on revisions based on your notes. Sometimes it’s tempting to rewrite or add during editing, but on the first pass it’s usually better to approach like the first draft while writing – just get through it. Take lots of notes, even work on a section if you want to write something to get a break from the editing – but write it in a different document or by hand to insert later, because what you write will be kind of a mini-first-draft of its own.
Think of it like this – drafting is homework time, sitting down in comfy clothes and just getting the work done. Editing is looking at that work like a teacher, assessing its strong and weak points, offering ideas on how it could be more polished and better expressed. Revising is taking those notes from the teacher and incorporating them to rewrite the work as a stronger piece, with both your original ideas and intent and the teacher’s notes. They all engage different methods of thinking but are all aimed at the same goal.
Editing and revising exist to make your story and characters better. Sometimes that means cutting and changing things that you, as a creator, love but as a reader won’t make any difference (or, in some cases, any sense). It’s one part of a very involved process needed to tell the best story possible. Just like writing, it has its pitfalls and rewards, but in the end it’ll only strengthen your work. Approach it with determination, and you can do it.
Any advise for writers who got started late, a lot of writers I see usually started in their teens or earlier. I'm in my 20s and just getting into writing and sometimes I feel behind.
Short version: just write.
Longer version: Everyone comes into their own at different points in life – this is as true for writing as it is for any endeavor. You may feel as though you’re playing ‘catch up’ to some people, but the truth is that everyone is always playing that game with any new undertaking, everyday. We all start somewhere, and whether you’re beginning the path as a writer at 16 or 46, the only way to get started is just to do it, and not judge your progress on someone else’s.
I mean, can you imagine being 26 and deciding you want to be a composer and comparing your progress at that point to Mozart? It’s an extreme example, but it highlights how you shouldn’t judge your starting point by someone with more experience.
Additionally, it’s a common used phrase to not judge your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel – meaning you shouldn’t judge your individual progress on a journey by looking at what other people have accomplished at a completely different point in their personal timeline, especially knowing that all you’re getting is the accomplishment, not all the work it took to get there.
If you want to write, write. If you have stories in you, tell them. It doesn’t matter what age you are.
Hi there! I was wondering if you'd have any tips on writing mute characters. Thanks in advance!
Writing mute characters forces you to focus on body language and actions. There’s also the option of using sign language, which is a relatively unused mechanism in mainstream fiction, which you can either describe (if you know sign language) or establish that what you put in speech marks is actually said in that way.
If you’ve decided against using sign language, the best thing to do is concentrate on showing your reader what certain things mean. Speech isn’t our only form of communication, in fact it constitutes a surprisingly small percentage of what we do to communicate with other people. Research body language extensively and look at non-verbal forms of communication (gestures, personalised signs, signalong, sign language, PECS, TaSSeLs [Tactile Signing for Sensory Learners], etc.). It’s vital that you remember to involve personal relationships as much as you do formal systems that we all recognise. The longer we spend with people, the more they understand us, whether we speak or not.
This is another situation where you’re actually just looking at communication, the rest of the character is intrinsically the same as the rest. A mute person needs precisely the same kind of time and devotion you’d give to other characters, you just need to try to understand how the experience of being unable to speak affects them. Be sensitive to the issues that they’re facing in the time period you’re writing about (this will take some research on your part).
With the technical aspect of writing, teach your reader what each non-verbal cue means as you go, then by the time you come to the important scenes, the physical responses of your character will show their feelings and responses for them.
You really need to avoid the (frankly insulting) pattern of having another character who can miraculously understand the thoughts of their mute companion. Some people do have translators, but in fiction, the problem is that you wind up effectively conveying what the mute person wants to say, but through another character. That character then takes on a dual persona rather than the mute person having defined themselves as a person in their own right. You must ensure that they have their own identity, and the only way you can do that is by letting them get on with it.
I received a question on my own blog about showing ‘quiet’ characters’ responses and I think it might be useful here. So, click here -> http://houseoffantasists.tumblr.com/post/59521718705/a-question-of-action and hopefully it’ll be useful when it comes to technical writing.
Hope that’s useful.
-House of Fantasists
Hey! I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to start writing. I never know how to start a story and I'm still a beginner, so I was wondering if you could help me :)
I’ll do my best!
If you are struggling with getting started with your story then it might help you to start planning. We have quite a few resources on starting planning and this is normally a good place to start.
I find it hard to start writing without any planning as it makes it (IMO) quite a terrifying experience. If you already have an idea where your story is beginning and who your characters are it makes the process of starting to write a lot simpler.
Keeping this in mind will also help you get started: Your first draft will SUCK. Other people may think it’s fine but you will probably hate parts of your writing- this is normally and perfectly fine. Your first draft is a work in progress, you are never sure where the characters are going to go or what the twists are going to be. The second time around you can plan for these kinds of things and it means your writing will make more sense.
If starting an entire novel sounds a little scary to you why not try some short stories or flash fiction. Prompts are quite good for this.
Check out the prompts tag on tumblr or these people:
I recently found out my dream of going back to school again isn't going to happen. I feel like my dreams are crushed. I was going to get a degree in English and Creative Writing so I can get writing gigs and make money while working on becoming a published author. I want to write. I don't care what as long as I can write. I want to make money in what I love. Is there a way to make it in the writing world without the degree? Is there a way to still make money writing? Please help. I'm destroyed.
First thing: take a deep breath. This isn’t the end of the world. Not even close.
Honestly, going to school for those things helps, of course, but it isn’t necessary by any means. You can become a better writer without college in the same way you can learn math without going to public school. There are a million ways to learn - the fact that you (presumably) follow this writing blog when our sole intention is to help other writers become better at the craft is a damn good start.
I have a basic outline planned out. The problem is, my antagonist. I don't really have one, other than society itself. It's a bit of a 1% vs the 99% type of story. I can justify the reasoning for the huge gap between the classes, and will come up with a good enough initial villain/reason why society is set up this way. However, is it good enough for this lifestyle to prevail simply because the "Haves" don't want to give their lifestyle up? They'd rather remain the "Capital" just cuz they can?
Your antagonist doesn’t need to be an actual physical human being.
There are many books which utilize main conflicts other than person vs. person - The Hunger Games (technology), Jaws (nature), The House on Mango Street (self), etc.
Many novels fit into more than one of these categories - Fahrenheit 451, for example, has a main arc that is arguably both person vs. society and person vs. technology, with subplots including person vs. person and person vs. self (if you’re talking to me about this book, that is the main conflict, but that is a conversation for another day.) Crush by Richard Siken is divided into 3 parts: man vs. man, man vs. god, and god themselves.
Anyway, the point is it’s definitely possible to write a good, plausible story without a person as the main antagonist.
I believe that because titles cannot be copyrighted, you are fine to use titles of books or movies in your novel. Quotes or appearances of characters is not so fine. I provided a list at the bottom of various topics on copyright and trademark infringement that will pertain to both your questions, and FAQs on fair use and public domain. And I hope our followers with legal expertise will chime in as well.
Having said that, I would be careful how you use contemporary pop culture in your fiction. When things are popular in a given moment, it is difficult to predict how long it will stay popular, and if it fades, your work can become extremely dated. I have nothing against John Green or Rainbow Rowell, but they are both very “now” authors. If you were to use classic authors like Austen or Hemingway, or J.R.R. Tolkien - those have shown they can stand the test of time. And personally, I think J.K. Rowling has claimed that status considering her last HP book was published 7 years ago (last film 3 years ago), and the HP popularity has remained persistent despite many other popular fantasy and sci-fi series that have come out since.
There is no cut and dry rule of what makes a work “dated,” and this is certainly my own opinion and not necessarily a rule of writing. But just consider your choices carefully, regardless if it’s a popular book, movie, or band. Now, here are those links I promised:
As many of us know, suddenly is an adverb that means ”quickly and without warning; unexpectedly”. Adverbs being adverbs, there are right and wrong ways to use any and all adverbs.
So before we jump into our main point, let’s have a little lesson on using adverbs.
Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. The adverbs that we are all familiar with and are taught in elementary English to identify are words that end with -ly, however, some adverbs (always, here, there) don’t end in -ly.
The most common misuse of an adverb I see is the use of the adverb “badly”.
Bad is always an adjective and should be used to describe a noun, while badly should always be used to modify a verb.
1. The sisters felt badly bad when they realized they had left their brother out of the planning.
2.She feels bad badly because her fingers were burned.
Now let’s talk about “suddenly”.
It’s a common opinion that your writing is much stronger without the use of the adverb “suddenly”. Often it is thought to be redundant and commonplace, and usually unneeded.
If the word is used properly, however, it can be helpful to describe scenes for your character.
“What do you mean John slept with Mary?” Janie asked, suddenly aware of all of the people that were looking at them.
Suddenly should be used where the suddenness of the situation isn’t apparent. Characters can definitely suddenly feel things if you don’t build it up to your reader beforehand (“I suddenly felt weak”).
It can also be used for natural disasters (just going off the question for this) and the like as long as it is believable. Earthquakes can suddenly happen, but wildfires usually have a predetermining action (such as lightening or people).
In conclusion, “suddenly" is an adverb that as long as it’s used appropriately in the situation, it doesn’t detract from the situation at hand and slow the reader down.
If there are any other questions, please send them to the inbox and I will continue to update this post as they come!