On writing believable relationships

We all love complex characters. Even more so when they meet other complex characters and start interacting with them – there are so many possible ways for this to go! What do they really think of each other? Is there instant like, dislike, jealousy, admiration, attraction? Will there be drama, trust, betrayal, romance? Just like with our real-life relationships, we don’t necessarily think the same of all our friends, colleagues or loved ones/family members. Just as every real person is unique, so should our fictional characters be, thus making their relationships feel real as well.

This is no easy feat. There are only so many questionnaires you can fill about your characters middle name or favourite colour before you start feeling like your brain is just one big pile of superfluous information. But truthfully, this is another matter. My point is that it takes a lot of trial and error to get the relationships right, and I’ve been working on this lately as a way to further improve my story.

The method is simple, but requires having a draft to be able to use. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, I simply sat down and tried some things until I found something that worked for me. So I decided to put it in a video and share it with the world! Feel free to give it a watch and let me know if you have any thoughts, I always appreciate that. πŸ™‚


End-of-year Reflections

I hadn’t really planned on taking a break over Christmas, but here we are. There’s no video ready for Youtube either, which makes me feel a little bad, but I suppose it was somewhat unrealistic to be able to stick to my normal schedule during those busy Christmas days.

But now it’s over, and we’re getting closer and closer to New Years Eve. I have mixed feelings about this to be honest. Whilst I’m super excited to start 2019 with a bang, I’m also a little apprehensive about my expectations and whether or not I will be able to meet my goals. I guess this is completely normal though.

What are my expectations? What are my goals? A few months ago, I played around with the idea of being able to publish my first novel in 2019. I haven’t quite given up on this yet – but I think the more realistic approach would be to aim for the end of that. It has come to my attention how much… well, preparation that needs to be done after the book is actually ready to publish. What I mean is, if I want to do things properly, I need to have the finished book printed and ready in my hand months before I can actually release it.

It’s a little bonkers, but it also makes sense.

As writers, we want to focus on writing, being creative, weaving together stories with interesting characters. But the marketing side of things is just as important as the writing side because we want people to read and enjoy our books, and if they don’t know it exists, well, then they won’t read it. With this in mind, I’ve come to realise that publishing a book – even self-publishing – isn’t as straightforward as I initially thought. But that’s okay.

To sum this up, next year will probably be quite a busy one, and I’m looking forward to it. I just have to try and calm down in my expectations, because ultimately, it doesn’t matter if I don’t finish in time to publish next year. The most important thing is that I keep going, that I work hard and never give up. As long as I do that, I can be proud of myself.

I finished the second draft!

Yesterday was a milestone – a pretty big one, too! Like the title says, I finished my second draft. To explain it a little further, I finished editing the first draft. I feel like I have a new understanding of novels and how they are created. The first draft is, without doubt, terrible. I don’t think there is a writer out there whose first drafts are flawless. Once you start really looking into your writing, your world, your characters, the plot oh my god, the plot… you realise you have a lot of work to do.

It would be interesting to have a specific number showing how much of the first draft I kept and how much was deleted or rewritten. Trust me, it’s not much at all. Kind of a depressing thought when you think about it: I spent six months writing the first draft, and ended up rewriting most of it. Even the outline changed as I worked. But you know, it’s still not a “waste of time” because in the end, my book will be better for it. I’ll probably do a lot of rewriting again once I start with the third draft.

However, before I start with that, I’m going to have a look at my characters and their arcs. I did this for one of my antagonists the other week, just to see how useful it would be: I wrote their backstory, from childhood and up, and then I wrote their side of the story in the book, kind of like an overview of their perspective. I had always known in my head what this character’s personal journey would be, but now I put it into words and fleshed out the details of it. It turned out great, really great. I see this character in a new light now, I know every move they make and why – that is the most important thing for a story in my opinion. Every character has to have a reason for their actions.

I have decided to do this for every important character in the manuscript before starting with the third draft. Some people might think that I’m very late to do this now, but I’m actually quite slow when it comes to building characters. I need to create them as I write my story, they come alive in the setting I’ve made up for them. I have a feeling that this exercise would also be very helpful in discovering potential plot holes and such, which is an added bonus. So that’s what I’ll be working on now!

I hope everyone else is having a pleasant Monday πŸ™‚

Shame on me!

I’ve taken a longer break from my blog than I initially intended – I must admit that. But it’s not like I’ve been procrastinating in vain, I’ve actually gotten a lot of things done! I am currently in the editing phase of the last two chapters of my second draft. It’s been a long ride, people. A whole year to be exact, since I first started writing my outline.

I suppose this is a given fact to anyone who’s writing books for a living, but I keep getting surprised at how my story grows with me as I become a better writer. It started out as a little baby first draft, and now it has certainly grown a lot bigger. Who knows what will happen once the third draft is finished! Hopefully, one day, it will spread its wings and get out into the world.

…but until then, there are more lessons to learn! This week I have focused a lot on endings in general, what makes a good ending, what is mandatory and what is superfluous etc. It has been quite the learning experience, so I decided to make it my vlog topic this week. Feel free to have a watch, let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject! πŸ™‚

Another week has passed

Last week, my aim was to get more editing done by cutting down some of my blogging and social media time. I have to say that it has proven most effective. Like I’ve said earlier, writing and marketing are polar opposites when it comes to the mindset of the writer, and I’ve found that I struggle a lot when toggling these different mindsets. The result was simple; I got 2 chapters done instead of one.

I’ve decided to continue with this for the upcoming week, to the point where I’m even sacrificing my weekly Youtube video to get more chapters done. You’d be surprised at how much time goes into making a video of 8-10 minutes in average length! You have to plan and structure the content, record the video and edit all the raw footage into something that feels accessible and (hopefully) fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing it and every week is such a learning experience, but it’s impossible to deny that it’s time-consuming.

I suppose this is just another experiment where I will see how much I can manage to do without any other distractions (although, there might be the occasional blog post or IG post if I need a break from editing). The reason why I really want to get more editing done is that I only have 5 chapters left! Well, for the second draft, that is. After that, I’ll start with the third draft. But I have this goal that I want to start looking for beta readers at the beginning of January, and in order to do that, I have to have a final draft.

Anyway, I hope everyone else is making progress on whatever projects they’re working on, and I hope you have a pleasant week ahead. πŸ™‚

How can I come up with a conclusion when all I can think about is prosecco?

I know it’s not technically the end of the week yet, but I decided to end the experiment here. So – I wanted to focus on my writing this week and keep social media and blogging to a bare minimum. I did ok, only one Instagram post and one blog post. (Couldn’t resist IG, shame on me.)

The result was interesting. I’ve done almost two chapters in terms of editing. During a normal week where I try to fit in blogging and social media as well, I get one chapter done at a maximum. Like I’ve said before, the mindset is important when writing and editing, and if you’re too distracted by other things it can be damaging to your productivity. Especially when doing something creative that requires a lot of focus.

In the end, I really want to get this book finished. Sure, I’m aware that these things can’t be rushed and that it will take the time it takes, but the things I actually can control are my priorities.

I think I will try to get my expectations down a little bit when it comes to blogging/social media, at least for a few weeks. After all, what’s the point of engaging with the online writing community if I’m not actually writing? I know that sounds a bit harsh, but there’s no denying that once you can see your goal, you start feeling (very) eager to reach it.

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try specific days for social media or something. I can’t make up my mind about it at the moment though since I’m quite hungry and it is Friday evening after all and I’m looking forward to a nice dinner with Oskar and our mutual friend Prosecco.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Two mindsets collide: Writing vs Marketing

… and it’s Monday again. For some reason, I feel like Monday is everywhere nowadays. The weeks go by so fast it’s almost as if every other day is a Monday… and I don’t like it. Usually, my Monday routine is to sit down and plan my goals for the week. It’s always good to have an overview of your expectations and such, but it becomes a bit depressing when you’re not really meeting those expectations and you have to push some of them into the following week.

I have no idea what is doing this. Is it the weather? My overall mood? Something is killing my flow. Or at least, my writing flow. I’m still making one video per week for my channel, so at least I’m consistent there. I have talked before about my struggles when it comes to balancing marketing and writing, and I have to admit, it feels as though it’s only getting harder.

The funny thing is, I know I’m not alone in this, and that makes me all the more worried. I’ve seen other writers struggle with making Youtube and other social media secondary to their writing. I know this struggle, I feel it every day. It’s because you need to balance two very different mindsets and try to control your aptitude for them on any given hour of the day. If that sounds exhausting, it’s because it is.

The writing mindset is solitary, focused and creative, with emphasis on the word solitary. You, your imagination and your words are the only things that matter. The marketing/social media mindset is the opposite. That’s when you need to be outgoing, accessible, open-minded, the key word here being outgoing. That’s usually a lot more difficult for an introvert, and therefore requires more energy.

This is where we have the issue. I spend far too much energy on the marketing side of things, so much so that I barely have any left for my writing. I think I need to re-evaluate some of my time management this week. I will do a little experiment and focus on my writing – blogging and other social media like Instagram will be given little to no attention. The only exception is Youtube. I will still upload a video but that will basically be all the marketing I do this week.

So, we’ll see how this goes! Wish me luck!

Cheers everyone & have a great week!

Lost in Nanowrimo Land

Don’t get me wrong – I love the online writing community. I don’t think I’d be where I am today in my manuscript without it. It’s been a tremendous help, both in support and advice, and I’ve connected with some really lovely people.

But…

There’s something in the culture of the community that tends to get really obsessive sometimes. Especially now – it’s November, meaning Nanowrimo, short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal for anyone that participates is to write 50k words in the month of November, usually as a first draft for a novel. It’s a challenge, so to speak.

I’m generally on board with this premise. I’m not participating, but I can understand the appeal and why people would want to give it a try. What I find a little frustrating though is the insane hype about this all around social media. No matter where you look – on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube or even Facebook of all places, nothing else is discussed but Nanowrimo.

With the added hype of October, called Preptober (well isn’t that clever), that means two whole months where the online writing community is at a full stop on all things not related to Nano. I usually try to be a positive person, but I can’t help but being a little disappointed at this. The new thing is also about not making the writing process a solitary experience, now it’s all about live streaming writing sprints (?) and being part of a team to help “win” Nanowrimo. Not participating in this has become synonymous with being an outsider in a community supposedly full of introverts. It’s madness, truthfully.

I mean sure, if you’re into that then good for you. I just find it really strange, but that’s just my opinion. I’m going to continue working on editing my manuscript and hope that the obsessiveness goes down a bit in a couple of weeks.

The clues and crumbs that make up a satisfactory mid-point climax

I’ve taken a little break over the last few days from blogging and social media in general. I’m at a place in my manuscript that has given me a lot of grief recently; my mid-point. This might not be a big deal to all writers, it depends on the story. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but my story in particular, has a pretty important mid-point.

There are stories that have a slow build-up to the climax at the end, and then there are stories that have like a “lesser” climax in the middle. I’m quite fond of both versions. Like I said, it depends on the story. As a writer, no matter the path we choose there’s pressure in one way or another to get it just right.

Personally, I like stories that leave little breadcrumbs for the reader. Sometimes, these crumbs are noticeable and help the reader figure out part of the mystery before the great reveal, but other times, the crumbs are completely invisible if you don’t already know what they mean and where they lead.

Growing up, I loved reading the Harry Potter books. I read and re-read them as often as I could, and every time, I found new things that I hadn’t noticed before. It could be a tiny detail that didn’t really make much of a difference, but the fact that it was there made me feel like I was experiencing the story in a new way. J.K. Rowling is a master at crafting breadcrumbs. Everything is connected, and even if it doesn’t appear that way at first, you can find the connection several books later.

So how did I get from mid-points to… well, here? I suppose it’s because I try to learn from Rowlings’ expertise on this subject, and apply it to my own writing to the best of my ability. That is why I think the mid-point is so important – because that is where the clues will lead (as well as the end, of course, but we’ll get to that later). There’s a fine line between making it too obvious and making it too… out of nowhere. As writers, we shouldn’t underestimate nor overestimate the reader. I suppose the only way to learn this is by experience, by letting other people read our work and get feedback.

Naturally, every single chapter of a novel is important in its own way. If it’s not, then it shouldn’t be there. But I think the three most important ones are the beginning, the middle and the end. Writing these always brings some added pressure, because for some reason, long after we’re done reading, we tend to remember these the best.

New week, new goals!

It’s seriously troubling how fast the weeks go by. I had planned to have my book ready for beta reads around Christmas time/end of the year, but now I’m a little worried that I won’t be able to reach that goal. I’m still working on my second draft, and I wanted to give myself a third (or even fourth) before starting to look for beta readers. Some chapters are obviously more complicated than others and would, therefore, need a little extra love before the send-off.

Like I’ve said before, I’m that kind of person who likes to worry in advance. Trust me, I am painfully aware of this flaw/quirk/issue of mine. It’s because of this that I have to try and ignore some anxiety-inducing thoughts if I want to be able to do anything at all, instead of just worrying about it in en endless loop of what-ifs.

With that in mind, here’s what I hope to be able to achieve this week:

β€’ WRITING: I want to finish editing my mid-point, meaning chapter 13 and 14. It was only one chapter at first, but as I was editing it I realised it was far too cluttered and busy so I decided to split it. I’m already about half-way through chapter 13 so, hopefully, this won’t be too much.

β€’ YOUTUBE: I want to prepare, film and edit a video on my comparison between The Ladies’ Paradise – the novel – and The Paradise – the tv series. This will complete my video review of the book that I made last week. I’ve made some really interesting observations that I would like to share. After this however, it’s back to writing vlogs.

β€’ OTHER: I will try to stay on top of Instagram updates and some blogging, but I’m not pressuring myself too hard with that this week.

So – those were my goals for this week! It feels like quite a lot, I must say, and I might have to sacrifice some evenings as well. But I know it will be worth it in the end. In my point of view, there’s no greater satisfaction that the feeling of accomplishment.

Have a great Monday everyone!