Tag Archives: Writing

February Writing

After not writing anything here for 2 months, I’m back. Or, rather, I want to be back. I feel constant shame about not updating this site often. So, I will try to post as much as I can in February. I have no idea how this will go, nor if I’ll be able to keep the regime. Let alone find interesting stuff to post. But let’s try and see how it goes.

By the way, I am really thinking of turning this site into a writing blog (of sorts). I don’t think I’ll ever share my writing, but I might as well focus the blog on it, with occasional posts about other subjects. (When I say writing, of course, it can be anything, from thoughts about writing to movie reviews).

I guess the blog needs some focus.

Speaking of writing (and reading), you may also find me on Goodreads: Jefflion

NaNoWriMo is Here

That’s that time of the year, folks. NaNoWriMo time. November is a novel writing month, and as usual, it makes me excited. This time, though, I am busy with other things so I honestly don’t have idea how I’m going to accomplish the whole “write 50 000 words in 30 days”. On the other hand, I can’t help but wanting to participate, so… here I am.

I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2010, at a particularly weird moment in my life, when I desperately needed something to uplift me and take my mind off the harsh reality of being an university educated person who can’t find a job. It was just a slap in the face, you know? I needed something to look forward to, something to call my own, an accomplishment of some sorts, and NaNoWriMo provided a perfect outlet. My novel, “A Postcard from Hades” was born there, and it still holds a special place in my heart despite being imperfect and, well demanding more work.

This year, I’m writing in English (good luck to me about that). I figured it would fit the story and it will help me practice my English. I feel passionate about and really invested in psychology behind it, even though I am not completely sure how to build the plot or how dark it’s going to be. (I am not really into dark stories per se – I like to read some of them but I can’t write them well. No idea why).

The first thing I had with this story was a title, back in 2010 or so. The first plot idea revolved around a supernatural girl who can harm humans but wants to avoid it at all costs and her love interest who helps her. Somehow (no idea how) it evolved into a story about succubi and incubi and a complex method of their survival and reproduction. The core of the story, though, is identity and figuring out you are not who you thought you were. There are many things to explore here.

My Problems with “New Adult” Genre

readingWikipedia describes “New Adult” as “a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket. The term was first coined by St. Martin’s Press in 2009 when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”

Without going into a long rant about this emerging genre (and whether it’s really necessary or just a marketing fad), I can’t help noticing that yet another genre is defined through the age of its protagonists. While it’s understandable that a book for kids may have an eight year old protagonist, I simply don’t buy the whole age of readers = age of characters (or the good old YA rule: “your characters should be a few years older than the target audience because the kids read up”). In a way, I understand why this is happening, but I think it’s very limiting. After all, you can have a very adult book with a 5 year old protagonist. Also, as much as teens (or readers in general) like to read about characters who are “like them” I do not buy the idea that readers are so narcissistic to only want to read about characters who are in the same position as them. If we go this road it can easily slip into a belief that readers want only to read about people who share their gender, race, ethnic group, sexual orientation… see where I’m going with this?

The problem with YA and New Adult genres is a different one, but it still operates under the assumption – a false one, I’d say – that readers only want to read about themselves. The whole publishing world and marketing operates under this idea, and it drives the industry. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is also another problem when it comes to the New Adult genre. On the surface, it basically deals with protagonists of a certain age and common issues in this age group. The thing is, some of the issues such as sexuality, identity, finding your place in the world – they are all common in the teen/Young Adult group, too. Perhaps not in the same way, but they are present. I have a feeling the emerging new genre only makes a sharp difference at the arbitrary line that is 18th birthday/high school graduation. While it’s true many people’s lives change after high school, it is a transition and not a clear cut.

Having genres so clearly divided is  not productive because once you start thinking about the necessary age you need to give to your protagonists, and about the issues you can (and can’t) explore, it becomes limiting, and it is never a good thing with fiction. I admit, I understand the need that books for children should be limiting in this sense (if nothing else, because of your readers’ reading level) but I don’t see it for other genres, including Young Adult or New Adult.

In the basic sense, it is limiting because you can’t just have a book that will follow your protagonist from the age 14 to 20. If you want to market your book, you need to either make it YA (and stop at high school graduation) or a general book for adults – but in this case, the tone and voice of your novel must be different. Similarly, you can’t have a mixed group of characters aged 15 (your POV character) to 25. It just breaks the genre rules.

I am sure you can all name some successful books that easily break these rules. But it’s still true that rules exist for marketing reasons and these reasons are not always beneficial for writing itself. They are limiting without a reason. Because God forbid that a teenager might want to read about a character in her 20s.

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My Camp NaNo Results

campnanowrimo I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time this year and it was an interesting experience. In a way, it is a lite-NaNo event; you can set up your own goal for the word count and you get a lovely cabin to share with 5 writers so you can all motivate each other. Here’s my camper profile for those who are interested in this stuff.

Though in whole honesty, I cheated. Well, not really: there was some writing and outlining, but the story is not new – I’m still working on my last year’s NaNo novel. It’s that fantasy story I’m trying to write, the one I’ve been outlining for years. The funny – or really not – thing is that only after I started writing it for real I realized how the plot should unfold and, well, many other important things (for example, villains. I never had a proper villain in the story. This fact alone is not problematic on itself; after all, I don’t like the cliche “evil for the sake of it” villains anyway. However, I’ve realized that my story lacks a conflicting force, something that would motivate my characters, move the plot and, well, provide conflict).

The truth is that I know more about my story at this point, but it’s still far from being finished. Looks like I need to revise my outline before I move to the next step. It seemed like a fantasy duology but the writing showed some ill-outlined moments. Like the fact I’ve tried to push most of the stuff in what was supposed to be the first book. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s another thing I need to work on.

All in all, I’m glad I had Camp NaNo to rethink my story and add some new chapters, but the first draft is not over. I was planning on finishing it before doing my revision, but now I wonder if it’s better to revise the outline and come back to the beginning so I can revise the story right from scratch.

Things I Want to Improve About My Writing

WritingThere are some things I need to learn or improve about my writing:

Finding the right amount of outlining

I tend to over-outline. Having a solid outline is the only way for me to write, but too much IS too much. It can prevent you from sitting and actually writing the story, because the outline feels incomplete. Or it can make you too fixated on only one possible solution you fail to see what’s best for the story. That’s why I need to find the minimal amount of outline I need and just start writing.

Knowing where to start

One of the most important things about writing a good story is to know where to start and where to end it. I know when to end a novel. My endings are good. I have a trouble figuring out how to open a novel. My problem is that I grew up with 19th and early 20th century literature. Things take ages to start rolling in those books. I’m used to preparatory chapters and I’m used to having a first hint of a plot circa page 50. However, you can’t go like that anymore. It’s important to start when your story actually starts: not with introduction of the characters or setting, but with the first conflict in the story. I know all of this, and I can identify when it’s a good point to start, and yet I don’t know how to do it without any character or setting introduction.

Being able to cut and change

This is probably one of the most difficult things, because I tend to get emotionally attached to plots, characters and scenes. It’s worst when it’s something I’ve planned for a long time, even since the first idea for a novel. When plots and situations are linked with the story from the beginning, it makes it seem like they’re essential, like they’re integral for the story. So even if it turns out that they don’t fit, I try to force my plot around them. Because hey, I’ve always seen my characters running away from point A to point B using a  boat during a stormy night, so how come I can completely disregard this scene? This scene is been here forever, it’s one of the first things outlined for the story, it’s one of the first things I saw in my mind when I got inspired to write this story! How can I change it, how can I cut it? And yet, that’s the only right thing to do. If it doesn’t fit into the written story (or even outline), it needs to be changed. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been part of the story.

Knowing how to say things with the least amount of words

Unlike this subtitle, I need to make my writing as concise as possible. This is one of my most serious weaknesses. I tend to over explain. I use many words when few would do much better. I repeat myself. I throw too much description. I repeat myself. I never know how to control my word count.

Finding Beta Readers

I know the importance of quality Beta readers, but I still feel hesitant to share my work. This is a huge mistake. You can’t  write a good story without Beta readers. There’s a point for any writer where you need to learn how to share your work with others and how to accept criticism. Interestingly enough, the mere sharing (having someone read it) feels more terrifying to me than people criticizing it. In any case, it’s juvenile and it needs to stop.

Practicing my English

I don’t write in English, and at the same time, I know writing in English is the best way to go if I ever want to be published. However, whatever I write in English seems like pure crap to me, and I’m not even talking about bad grammar – bad grammar is possible to fix. I just don’t seem to have my voice in English, which is a shame. I can do ok when it comes to articles and essays, but not fiction. As usual, practice makes it perfect, but I guess I’m just too much of a coward to try.

Finding the best revision method

When I was younger, I didn’t do any revisions for my novels. I wrote ferociously as a teen, but  mostly to entertain myself and to put my daydreams into words. I lived through these stories, and once they were written, I’d move to the next one. I didn’t have any wish to publish them, and only a few selected people were allowed to read them.

It’s one of the reasons why my revision skills are seriously lacking. I am still trying to figure out the best way to do it: the best way to let it sit on the side, and the best way to identify all the problems in the writing and to find solutions. The best way to cut, and then cut some more. The best way to know when I should stop revising and move to another story.

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