NaNo Special: Writer’s Block

Good morning, my special friends! It’s time for another NaNo Special! Today, I’m going to talk about probably the most frustrating thing a writer can go through (in my opinion, at least). Yep, we’re talking about Writer’s Block.

I like to envision writing a bit like driving… Which is funny since I can’t drive. And yet, in my mind, I’m driving with my characters along the road that is the story’s plot. Sometimes they take the wheel and drag me through detours, while other times they just sit back and let me work. But sometimes, the road leads to a dead end. And, upon that dead end, I imagine a massive stone monument: a slab of Writer’s Block.

I try to keep my toolbox full of things to break the block down, naturally. Sometimes it requires a hammer, sometimes it needs to be set aflame. Many times, though, the only way I can get past a writer’s block is another detour. That, or take a trip to another story that has less blocks on its course.

See, I find detours and changes in direction the best methods for me to deal with writer’s block. If I don’t do those, I just end up sitting and staring at the block for an hour with absolutely no progress. By either jumping to a different road in the story or taking a route to a different story for a while, I manage to give the block time to sink into quicksand on the road, and return to it later with much clearer ideas and abilities to conquer it.

Another helpful thing is to have creative snacks. I remember reading once that someone recommended blue ice cream as a good writing food, but there’s a lot of options to get some sugary goodness that’ll get your motors going. For some reason, sugar is helpful for creative projects like this. Whether it’s blue ice cream or interestingly shaped cookies, there’s all sorts of snacks out there just waiting to be devoured for your writerly pleasure.

If you’re really hitting the wall with a hammer and having no luck, sometimes it’s good to take a break from writing altogether. Take some time for self care- go take a soothing bath or do a facial mask. Take a nice walk outside if the weather permits, or maybe just chat with a friend. Relaxation is a good way to help ease out of writer’s block and avoid burn out. Don’t forget it’s good to take a break once in a while either way, both for your stress levels and your eyes!

I know this isn’t much, but it’s all I can think of that might help. These are things that help me a lot, but they may not help you. Still, they’re things to try. If you have any tips for writer’s block of your own, share them in the comments so I can try them! If we all work together, we can all get a lot more done, don’t you think?

NaNo Special: World Building

It’s that time again today. That’s right- it’s time for a NaNo Special! Today, I felt like talking about something I worked on for a good chunk of September and October in preparation for this year’s NaNo: world building. It’s a difficult and tedious task depending on how you go about it, but in my experience, it can feel so worth the time and effort!

One of the first things I worked on, personally, was religions. I only knew one religion on the world my story takes place in, but I also knew that my characters followed something different. So, I had to come up with a new religion or two. With that responsibility comes the requirement to note down things like their myths, their holidays, their rituals- and to be honest, I didn’t finish as much as I intended to. It can be pretty hard to come up with all those details! But as of this moment, the world I’m writing in has three religions. I hope to use all of them in the stories I write someday!

The next task, to me, was to make a calendar. You see, my stories take place on another (made up) planet. Time moves differently there. And naturally, the religions and countries have their own holidays and things to celebrate throughout the year. So, I made a calendar. A calendar full of the world’s important dates highlighted.

That calendar was a pain in the ass to make, however. It was tediously daunting, and I had issues with my local spreadsheet programs eating and just deleting the calendar after I finally got it all prepared. In the end, it’s on my google sheets, and will eventually be put in my writing planner when I feel it’s filled to the brim with important information.

Another major task was getting to know the countries of this little world of mine. I had to know not just their names, but their layouts, governments, and other details relating to local vs broad spectrum holidays and such. I drew really crappy maps, set up the sections with numbers, colored the maps with a key for the different terrain, etc. I set up holidays for single countries and the world as a whole. I set up a monarchy, and two distinct forms of democracy of sorts. I laid out some of their laws, and up to 400 years of history depending on how far back I felt I’d need to deal with my immortal heroine in this year’s NaNo project.

With all that said, there’s still a lot of things I need to do. I need to adjust character birthdays, which are currently set on the Gregorian calendar. I need to finish fleshing out rituals and holidays, and write more lore of the land in detail. I haven’t plotted out the resources that are abundant or lacking yet, and while I’ve named all the primary politicians and capitals, I haven’t laid out where on each map the stories are set when they’re not capitals or anything of the sort.

As you can see, world building has a lot of details it can include. I think it really depends on the writer as to what details to focus on and how to go about planning things out. I put so much work into it the past months because I felt having the world better set up would give me more to work with when I write my stories in it. I get stuck with a lot of plot holes and writing blocks when I’m working on a story- but I think maybe, just maybe, better knowing the world will give me ideas of what could happen, or at least become good dialogue.

So today I have questions separate for my readers and writers out there. Readers, what do you consider the most interesting or important information to have about the world you’re reading about? And writers, how do you prepare details about your world? Do you use spreadsheets, make maps, or a number of different things? I want to hear this topic from different perspectives. Please share anything you’d like or can, so that I can learn it from you!

NaNo Special: Me and My Characters

Hey there everyone! Having a good November so far? I’m writing a number of these NaNo Special posts in advance, to give myself more time to write during NaNoWriMo… But I’m sure I’m having a lot of fun and frustration in your present and my future. “But wait, Jaluna, why are you so certain you’d be frustrated today?” Well, writing is hard… Especially if your characters seem to have a life of their own. You’d think that’s a good thing, but it’s not that great when they go off script and lead you in a direction that’s interesting, but blocks you from getting to what you needed.

To me, my characters are like my children- and I have a LOT of children in this case. They love to take me down alleys I wouldn’t have thought t, as if they’re trying to find a shortcut to their conclusion. Sometimes, my kids from another story idea start to whine about not getting enough attention. Basically, I feel a lot like a parent with many children, perhaps like my doctor whom has eight of his own. And yet, I’m not a parent. I’m only a writer- a writer with childishly defiant characters that won’t accept the rules I enforce on them.

I think this way often, however. I remember that my characters are my kids- and some of my kids have kids of their own already. I ended up becoming a fan of parenting blogs and following twitter accounts that talk about their kids a lot. I always make it clear when I respond to them that I’m not a parent, and most of them are totally understanding when I describe my characters the way I do, surprisingly. Some of them give me advice on behaviors I can do for myself that will improve my connection with them, in fact. I’m lucky parents can be so understanding- just like my father is.

Of course, another big issue when writing about a character is generally knowing as much as possible about them. When is their birthday? What makes them tic? What color was their favorite when they were 5 compared to when they were 25? No matter what inane piece of information, I want to know it all with my ‘children’. I want to know their life story and then some. I want to know their goals in life outside the plot. I want to know what led them to the plot, and what the plot means to them compared to me.

For me, the built in template for character development in Scrivener works great- but there’s always a sense that something’s missing. I can edit it as I please, luckily, but I often just keep a separate character form I can fill out for each character that’s more extensive. I’ve seen character charts that are a hundred questions, and others that are two-hundred fifty. What I like to do is take one of the larger forms and crop it, taking only the questions that fit my needs. I’m not likely to need to know anything about magic if it’s a fictional world without it (though this is just an example- my work always has some fantasy and sci-fi inside it!).

I think the things I often find myself cropping are things like specific body parts that don’t fit, such as scales, tails and all that fun stuff. I do have occasional characters that need those parts, but for the most part my characters tend to be humanoid, so I’ve yet to need those particular sections.

That’s all I can really say about my characters. They’re the proof of a lot of things: my love of children, my dark side, my inquisitive side and my thirst for control that I still can’t seem to get right. Writers, tell me about yourself: what do you think of your characters as? Are they just characters, or are they something more special? I’d love to hear how others plan out their characters and think about them in general. I could use some new tips to get to know mine even better, that’s for sure!

Until next time! Happy NaNo!

NaNo Special: My Writing Style

It’s the second day of NaNoWriMo, and my first November blog! I figured since it’s the first NaNo Special, I’d talk about something unique to me: my writing style, particularly how it varies between chatting applications and story writing. You see, I write very differently depending on what I’m writing. A message to a friend will often include a lot of typed out smilies and tildes at the end of sentences. You won’t find those in my fiction, however, except occasionally in author notes I include, including placeholders.

But did you know? There’s a method to my madness. I change my writing style drastically based on situations for a number of reasons. That’s what I primarily want to share with you today.

For those of you that don’t know me, I think it’s best to start out by telling you this: I’m an editor. I have severe OCD when it comes to writing and reading- any spelling errors I see, any awkward punctuation, it all makes me stuck when I’m reading something. When I say stuck, I mean my focus is glued to it, and cannot be unglued until the issue is fixed. It’s gotten me into a lot of trouble with all sorts of people: teachers, therapists, doctors offices- I’d notice their errors and start correcting them just to get out of the quicksand I felt myself engulfed in.

So, when I chat, I started doing something therapeutic: I started purposely making spelling errors of my own, altered my grammar to be something far from perfect, and used chatting with friends as a form of shock therapy on my own side of it. I still have trouble with forms when there’s errors, but I can at least hold back a little bit now. I still stop and stare, but I don’t feel like I’m going to miss every detail from getting glued to a page with problems.

And that’s why I chat the way I do. I find the tilde endings cute for some reason, too, though. It wasn’t just for therapy- it was to feel cuter, because my self-esteem sucks, and it was just getting worse with each day that I sat unable to take in anything people talked about around me because of a missing comma or the wrong use of there, their, or they’re.

But, there’s something else that I didn’t think of when I first started using this method of finding some self control: I didn’t think of how it would effect others that I wrote that way with. I had an ex who absolutely hated it. He sarcastically called me his tilde princess, but I didn’t realize he was demeaning me at the time. I thought it sounded sweet. It’s not that surprising though- I mean, I’m sure plenty of people find it irritating, but I would’ve liked it if he said it plainly rather than giving me what I thought was a cute pet name in his irritation.

Actually, it makes me worry sometimes that people may just be being nice for not calling me out for my somewhat weird writing methods. However, there are also people who do think it’s cute, which encourages me to continue doing it, as I feel my best and most like myself when I do this therapeutic facade. I know better than to use it when doing work of some sort, of course. But still, there’s some times where it’s okay not to be perfect. That’s what editors are for!

Well, that’s all for today’s ramblings. Do you find your writing methods change when you’re chatting versus writing fiction? How do you find yours differ from one another? What are some similarities? I’d love to hear your viewpoint and experience on the matter. Well, until next time! Take care~!