Tag Archives: Writing

Doing NaNoWriMo

Two years ago, just a week before I graduated from university (and had a nasty cold shower of reality when it comes to job options in my country – first of many, that is), I joined NaNoWriMo.

So yes, you can say this happening is important for me. Both emotionally and as a writer. I need someone to, well, make me write. I really like the support and the sense of being there together, writing 50 000 words (or more!) in a month. It may sound counter-productive (you can’t create art on a cue, right?), but it’s actually important becuase it does make you write. This is a great thing for those who tend to find excuses and procrastinate to no end. To all those who never feel ready or never feel like it’s the right moment, or who never feel their ideas are good enough. It does make you write, as in, actually write; put words on (electronic) paper, turn your inner editor off and don’t look back.

There’s some great motivation coming from the task of writing a novel in a month.

The Novel Itself

There’s this idea of mine I feel really passionate about. It’s almost decade in the making – sounds ambitious, but frankly, it’s almost a decade of daydreaming and procrastinating and not the actual writing. Not really proper outlining, except in some key concepts.

It’s a story about a somewhat crazy world of hippies and rednecks and evil magnates and nature and a group of misfits on a journey. And rock music. Lots of it.

It’s fantasy, and it requires a lot of world building. In a way, you are never ready when you wish to do something like this. There’s still a lot of research and world building you need to do. But I kind of realized that I have to start writing it at one point. I need to write that first draft because I really want to tell this story, but daydreaming about it is just not enough. I need to write that first draft, at least partially and NaNoWriMo seems like a good place to start. Like I said, writing a novel with so many other people doing the same can motivate a person to stop procrastinating and actually do it.

Am I scared? Shit scared. But I really want to tell this story.

The 7 Pillars of Writing

Writing process is individual, and what works for one person might be completely useless for somebody else. Still, here are some essential things most writers need to learn how to do (in their unique ways):

Reading

You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Read a lot, read good books, read bad books, read books of the kind you want to write. It’s more than just having fun: reading makes you understand what works and what doesn’t work in a novel.

Inspiration

Learn to recognize a story idea when it presents itself to you. This is one of the rare effortless moments (everything else is hard work), so learn to embrace it. When something seems inspiring, or when you start thinking about a plot idea or a dialogue, make sure to write it down.

Outlining

Outlining is expanding your idea, and it’s all down to your unique writing method. No two writers do it in the same way. There are plotters and pantsers. Plotters like to have every single thing planned before they sit to write the first draft. Pantsers start without an outline, but that doesn’t mean they work without one. For these people, a first draft serves as an outline. Whatever you do, you need to find a way to expand your initial idea into a coherent story. Since there are many different ways to do it, you need to find the one that works for you. The only way to know is to try and see what suits you.

Writing

This is the actual process of putting words on paper. Never (ever, ever) mistake an outline or a story you have in your head for the actual writing. If you want to be a writer, you need to WRITE. You need to put those words on paper (a real or electronic one, doesn’t matter) to produce a first draft. It’s not easy. Most of it will seem like rubbish, and a lot of it will be rubbish. You’ll experience frustration, inspiration, confusion and a writer’s block. It’s important to keep writing. If you have to, set a strict regime. For example, write two hours a day. No exceptions. You’ll write even when it’s the last thing you want to do, even when your words seem like the worst crap ever written. This is the only way to get it done with the first draft and the only way to practice your craft.

Revising

This is another big step. You need to learn how to turn that mess of a first draft into something that makes sense. Again, the revising process is highly individual, so you need to learn what works best for you. Some people start with identifying problems with the story. Others revise line by line. Some include Beta readers right from the start. The only seemingly universal thing about the revision is that you shouldn’t start it right away. You need to put your story aside for a while and get back to it later. All stories will need at least one revision, probably more. However, you also need to know when to stop revising. There’s no need to do a 14th revision of a story. At one point, you just have to let it go and move to your next story.

Sharing

You can’t write a good story without some constructive criticism (emphasis on constructive). This is what Beta readers are for. In a way, this step is part of the revising process. Some people prefer to share their material with Beta readers right from the start, while others choose to make the story as good as possible. Some even share the material in the process of writing the first draft, or even before, when they’re outlining or thinking about good solutions. Whatever you do, understand the importance of Beta readers (and other people who can help you). You need this feedback; no book exists without readers.

Publishing

Not all writers want to publish their work, but unless you’re writing diary or a story for yourself, chances are you’ll want people to read your story. There are many ways to bring it to the readers, from sharing it among your friends or publishing it on your blog to seeking a commercial publisher. Each of these methods require a different approach, so you need to know what you want for your story and you need to understand the rules of the game. If you wish to be published traditionally (or even if you want to self-publish), you will need to deal with the business side of writing. Many writers refuse to think about writing in commercial terms, but you need to understand how things work in order to choose the best path for you and your work.

Writing About How to Write

I want to write about writing.

While this is, in essence, a personal blog, most of the time I don’t feel comfortable enough to write about my personal life or problems, so it was always more about the external things, such as movie review, social commentary or random rants. I also love to write about writing, not because I believe I’m an expert in the field (far from it), but because I like to have a space where I can share my thoughts and observations on fiction writing.

I also feel this theme might be inspiring enough to make me blog more often – at least twice a week, because this blog is in urgent need of some updating. While I was never popular – far from it – I’ve witnessed, over and over again, visitors leaving when there’s nothing new on the blog for weeks (you can’t blame them).

Stuff I want to blog about:

Writing tips

Again, I don’t want to pretend I’m an expert, so these will mostly be some observations I will, first and foremost, write as a reminder to myself. It might include points on characterization and plot, DOs and DON’Ts, common misconceptions, writing myths, etc.

Existing example of this kind of posts: How NOT to create Mary Sue

My writing process

These posts will cover my own way of outlining, writing and revising, writing schedule and stuff that works (or doesn’t work) for me.

Existing example: Choosing Character Names

Fiction I like & dislike

These will probably be made as reviews. Same goes for film reviews.

Existing example: The Power of Writing: Atonement

Things I probably won’t blog about:

Short stories, poems, essays, etc. The posts will focus on novel writing, because this is what I’m experienced with. Which is, by the way, a serious problem: a writer needs to know how to write in different formats. I suck at writing poems and I don’t know how to write short stories. It’s bad. So I might reconsider short story writing, but since there are so many things so be said about novel writing, I’m not sure about this. As for essays, I am good at them, but they’re completely different beasts.

Writing excerpts. I’m not confident enough in my English to share my writing online. I might reconsider this, because I know it’s impossible to practice your craft without beta readers and some critique.

This doesn’t mean I’ll turn this into a writing blog. However, expect to see more writing-related posts from now on.

New post ideas

I wanted to write a clever post on why I don’t update so often. It’s not like I don’t have time for my site, and it’s not like I’m not interested in jefflion.net anymore. And it’s not like I don’t have ideas: I have tons of ideas.

I just… Can’t. It happens to me when I’m depressed, or anxious, or when I worry. I become so fucking unproductive in those situations. I also suffer from insomnia. I can’t sleep at night. I just can’t.

But to make this post somewhat positive, here are some post ideas:

Race & yours truly (race blogs, racism, and what’s in it for me, because I’m white and I’m non-Westerner, so it’s not an issue that usually affects people in my part of the world. Unlike, you know, almost all the other issues you can think of).
Movie reviews (I love doing movie reviews, and I don’t even care if a movie is new or not. I’ve been planning on doing a review for In Bruges for so long, and there are also some new films I’m interested in: new Sherlock Holmes or Tin Tin, or just some little independent movie I watched and loved).
Stereotypes about Eastern Europeans (that are actually true).
Novel writing (How to and How Not To)
Vampires and the Balkans (and the way popular representations of vampires, based on stories about Dracula, were actually formed as cautionary tales about the wild Balkans, a dangerous region that can corrupt the West – yes, that’s right kids, there’s an ugly story behind this).

Anyway, this song always makes me feel better for some reason:

NaNoWriMo is here again!

There’s a reason for not blogging so long. I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo, first outlining and doing a research, and then writing. To be honest, I’m still busy, but I felt like ignoring this blog wasn’t the best idea.

So, I present you my NaNo novel, The Demise of the Elm Trees (it’s a working title but I like it).

This novel is special for a couple of reasons. This is the first time I write in English (and yes, I’m shit scared of it, thanks for asking). My level of language self-esteem is quite low to non-existent. But if I ever think to grow as a writer I need to learn now to do this, so NaNo seemed like a good opportunity to try.

It’s also the first time I write a YA (Young Adult) novel. Consciously, at least. I believe many of my early novels (those beautiful and embarrassing and amazing and face-palm and nostalgic teen efforts) were also YA, but I was unfamiliar with the label back then. Why YA? In part, because I’m a sucker for coming of age stories, and in part because YA doesn’t require complicated style or advanced English.

I’ll share more about the story later (if there are people interested to read about it), but for now, I present you the writing rules (or you could say it’s more of a process?) I set for my NaNo novel:

1. Write now, worry about grammar later. Try to record your thoughts on the electronic paper without worrying about the grammar structure, appropriate words and idioms, and especially not about that fucking thing called “past tenses in English language”. (Or the most evil aspect of them, the Present Perfect vs Past Perfect issue). Oh no, don’t worry about it now.

2. When first draft is finished, write a second one. Fix the plot, characters and stuff.

3. Check your information Do your research again. Check every single thing, from school policies, drama classes and copyright to pop cultural references and important events. Make sure everything is plausible.

4. Speaking of which, make sure it seems like 1994. Do a double check on slang (especially regional, including, but not limited to Seattle). Do a double check on technology. Fashion. Pop culture all over again. And then, slang one more time.

5. Fix your grammar the best you can. (There’s no point in doing this before the step 5 if you need to change your sentences and write new ones).

6. Grow a pair and ask a few unsuspecting victims beta readers to read it. They will have a demanding task of checking your story/writing, your information and your grammar, but that’s what friends are for, right?