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!

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:

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.

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.

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!

The pressures of impactful dialogue

I had a plan for this week that I don’t think I’ll be able to follow. It was my intent to make a new map for my world – which would include more countries and areas that I’m working on – but I simply can’t find the motivation to work on it. It’s rather frustrating, to be honest. I love maps and I want the map making process to be fun and exciting, not dreary and dull.

I think the reason behind that is because I’m slightly overwhelmed by where I’m currently at in my editing.

I’m on chapter 11 at the moment, still second draft. It’s getting harder though. I’ve been having some trouble creating impactful dialogue – the kind that really shows a character’s personality, gives hints of their weaknesses and strengths. This is especially important in some scenes, where something significant happens… for example… when a character meets a love interest for the first time.

It’s interesting how an entire novel can feel too short for what you want to say. It simply can’t go on forever if you want the end product to be good and keep the readers’ interest. Therefore, moments like the one I just mentioned become exceptionally important. It needs to be impactful, every spoken line has to be there for a reason, have a purpose. It’s a lot of pressure, that’s all!

Maybe I’m asking too much of myself for trying to achieve that on my second draft. But as I’ve said before, I’m a perfectionist, and that’s a difficult habit to break. I’ll have to try my best though, my story deserves better than me not finishing it because I get stuck and over-complicate things. Sometimes, we just have to move forward even if we’re not 100% pleased with the previous step – it leaves a bit of a sour aftertaste but we can always go back to it later.

There’s one major flaw concerning Plotters and Pantsers

There’s a lot of talk going on in the writing community about whether you identify as a Plotter or a Pantser. I know, apparently you need to keep up with the lingo if you want people to take your writing seriously.

In short, a Plotter is someone who plots a lot (obviously). They make an outline and spend a lot of time plotting what’s going to happen in the story before actually writing it. A Pantser is kind of the opposite. They make it up as they go along, letting their characters determine the direction of the story as they’re writing it.

There are clear benefits with both of them. A Plotter usually knows beforehand what the next step is and would therefore not get stuck as often. A Pantser, however, might be less constrained by too much planning and overthinking things.

IMG_20180904_133052_179

Sometimes, stories evolve by themselves as the characters and worlds we create become alive. That’s definitely something I’ve noticed as I was writing my first draft. I’m a Plotter – but I wish I could write like a Pantser at times. I’ve spent so much time making my outline, and in the end, I had to change a lot of things because it didn’t feel right anymore. As my story had evolved, it no longer fit my initial plan for it. Like I had created something… organic.

I’m too much of a control freak to let go and have my story take me to new places; I want to be in the driver’s seat. This means that I’m constantly fighting the natural progression of things. Kind of like shooting myself in the foot during a marathon. I might be stubborn enough to reach the end eventually, but I’ll do so on a painful limp just to prove a point. Or at least, I would have done before – but now I’ve realised that things don’t exactly work that way.

It’s difficult to know when to remain in control and when to let go. Sometimes when reading my manuscript I find little hints that weren’t put there intentionally. It could be foreshadowing to a completely different ending, perhaps, or a character acting in a way that goes against my initial portrait of them. That is when I have to decide whether to remedy this by going with my original plan – or to act upon these hints and make significant changes to the story. Each and every one of these hints means a new, major decision that no label can make for me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, whether you identify as a Plotter or a Pantser, be careful of putting labels on yourself and your writing. Whilst some people might feel safe knowing what works “best” for them, my experience is that it can also hold you and your story back from its true potential. Just a little something worth thinking about this fine Friday afternoon.

It’s Friday!

(I literally had to double-check that since I always mix up the days, and should that have been the case then the sparkling wine and dessert waiting in the fridge would certainly have a pretty anti-climactic evening.)

I finished chapter 8 today on my second draft, which was a huge accomplishment since it was a complete mess before. I basically had to rewrite the whole thing. It was also full of new and important information so some of it had to be moved to the next chapter. I have talked about that sort of thing before, where you have to think of a chapter layout that works for you and your story and try to stick to it – and sometimes that means merging or splitting up chapters.

I’ve decided that this will be the first subject of my writing vlog next week! It feels really great to plan videos in advance. I’ve actually planned my next four or five videos now. I haven’t really managed that so far – I’ve sort of just decided a couple of days before filming, which was kind of stressful in some cases (let’s not go back into the abyss that was my video editing problems). It’s really quite odd since I’m so good at planning stuff beforehand in all other aspects of my life – but when it comes to Youtube I’m not very structured at all. Time to change that!

Anyway. Here I am blogging at 6p.m. on a Friday wearing a fancy dress and an apron. I should probably get back to making dinner now.

Have a happy weekend!

I’m off to Scotland!

My mum gave me this as a birthday present – a weekend with her in Edinburgh. Our plane leaves later this afternoon. As with all travel days, today will be a bit of a stressful day. Speaking of stress, this journey almost got canceled. Can you imagine, my mum tried to do our check-in yesterday so that we wouldn’t have to think about that today. There was an error on the site, forcing her to contact customer services, who told her that they had been unable to charge her card. Therefore – they had canceled our booking.

Seriously.

No one had even tried to notify her about this. No calls, emails or anything. The strange thing is, we booked a flight and hotel as a package deal, and they were apparently able to charge us for the hotel room – but not the flight. Not that that made any difference, as the hotel in question didn’t even get our reservation. What a nightmare.

We managed to fix it last night by panic booking the last two seats on another plane, as well as a last-minute BnB as the hotel we were supposed to stay at was now fully booked. Need I even mention that there were one or two glasses of wine at the end of that roller coaster?

I’m determined not to let this ruin our holiday, though. We plan on having lots of fun with museums, shopping, tea and scones as well as pleasant walks around Old Town. I’m sure it’s going to be magical. Speaking of which, J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh when she wrote the first Harry Potter books, and several places are said to have inspired her during her writing. Well, I’m ready to be inspired!

Time to start packing!

Autumn ambiance & creativity flow

I can already smell it in the morning air. An iron-like scent that lingers long enough to be sensed, but it disappears too quickly to be fully identified. The leaves are turning yellow and orange – but slowly, many are still quite green. The sun now sets in the evening. We can light candles again, and use blankets.

I find the changing nature to be truly inspiring, especially after a particularly hot summer. Wrapping yourself in a coat and scarf, breathing in the crisp, cool air is both a longed-for relief and a grim foreshadowing of the upcoming winter.

20180904_142239

I always seem to remember autumn the best. Memories of bygone, childhood days re-emerge as soon as the leaves start to fall: the start of a new school term, shopping for new school supplies, the nervous excitement at being back and starting a new year.

I find this time of year so inspiring. Almost as if those memories help my creativity flourish. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason why, but then again, there’s no need for it either. This results in a mishmash of creative processes and a seemingly endless struggle to make sense of it all. I really want to work on my manuscript, but I’m also super excited to finalise some things in my worldbuilding. On top of that, I have several great ideas for concept art that I would like to start working on before I loose my ‘flow’. Not to mention me having neglected my social media presence for a couple of days and I’m feeling the pressure to get going with it again.

Being a writer is hard, yes, yes. The funny thing is, I already knew this, but I keep getting reminded of it time and time again almost as if for the first time. How does that work exactly? I’m curious. Do we forget about it temporarily in our creative frenzy when everything’s working smoothly, or are we simply tugging along in a constant state of denial? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as long as we make the most out of the ‘flow’ once we have it.

With that said, I should probably get back to my manuscript.

The satisfaction of a well-structured chapter

Oh, the woes joys of editing. I’ve encountered another chapter in my manuscript that needs to be split in two. It’s way too long as a stand-alone chapter and includes far too much information. I can just imagine how excited I must have been when writing it that such things must have appeared so trivial in that rare moment of inspiration.

Sometimes whilst editing my first draft, I find myself wondering what on earth I was thinking when I wrote a specific section, paragraph and the like. Most of the time it’s the chapters that make me cringe. It could be too short and uneventful, or too long and busy. I spoke a little about pacing not too long ago (click here to read it) and chapter layout is just as important in my opinion.

First and foremost; the length is key. Depending on your genre, the length of a chapter will vary, but for YA specifically, the average length is usually about 3,500-4,500 words. I like to imagine a person reading in bed just before sleeping, and only having the time to read one chapter before they must go to sleep. That was usually what it was like for me as a student with piles of homework to do every night, or when I was working full-time and went to bed completely drained of energy. That one chapter was a lovely little habit of mine – kind of like a mini-episode that brought down my stress levels. I’m not saying that everyone is like that, of course, but we tend to use ourselves as our number one reference point. So, for that reason, I try to keep my chapters at an average length.

The second thing is the content division. I prefer having the following division in my chapters:

  • One major event/scene.
  • One or two minor events/scenes.
  • A couple of in-between-montages to tie it all together.

I find that this division gives my chapters a neat and organised feel to them. Naturally, this isn’t some kind of rule (that I’m aware of), it’s just my personal preference when reading and writing, and I try my best to stick to it – even if I sometimes get too excited and forget all about it.

There are exceptions, though. For example, when you get to the middle- or end climax of the manuscript and things start to get more and more exciting. I find these sections super difficult to write, and I know I’m not alone in this. I simply try to remember how I feel when reading the climax of a book and try not to cut off in weird places during the action.

Now to the third and final thing: the Ending. Knowing how to end a chapter is an art in itself. There are quite a lot of opinions on this subject, and I won’t go through them all today. What I try to do is simply to find a good spot for a montage, like, say, after a certain impactful scene is finished. This is a good place for a new “hook”, or question to be raised, thus ending the chapter on an interesting note but not as far as calling it a cliff-hanger.

There can be cliff-hangers, but far from often. I get really annoyed when I read a book with a cliff-hanger in every chapter. I feel like it’s a cheap way to make your reader continue, instead of just making your story and characters interesting enough for them to want to continue. Even worse is when the cliff-hanger isn’t resolved right away in the next chapter – ooh that sort of thing makes me see red. Don’t do that, that’s all I’m saying.

*

Anyway. That was a lot of ranting about chapters. Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my opinions, I’d love to hear what people think.

The allure of antagonistic romance

Most adventure novels have some kind of romantic subplot. We like seeing our heroes and heroines struggle with awkward encounters, exciting emotions and unwavering attraction towards some impressive or mysterious character.

Love interests come in many variations. The rebellious girl next door, the hunky tough guy with a heart of gold, the cocky know-it-all with hidden insecurities, or the quiet but intelligent one with a dark secret. They all have their charms – and flaws – but despite these, they traditionally belong to the “good side”. This is kind of given.

Along came a new trend; that which we call anti-heroes. All of a sudden, we scrap the black and white, the typical good and bad, we want grey characters, those with questionable morals who decide to do the right thing in the end. Or maybe not exactly the right thing, but just enough to still deserve that precious hero-suffix. These characters are somehow more interesting and relatable than the typical hero. After all, not everyone wants to be a knight in shining armour.

Making your antagonist an anti-hero has become quite popular in recent times. We love it when the antagonist has relatable motives and is not just a typically evil character with megalomania, or “I want to rule the world”-complex. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt etc. We want to be able to kind of root for our protagonist’s enemy. It makes us wonder what would happen should they win, how their minds work, and if they can be persuaded to abandon their quest in favour of our protagonist. It’s less predictable, and the readers absolutely love it.

The one thing that is even more alluring than the anti-hero antagonist, is the anti-hero antagonist love interest. Yes, I said it. Apply all that I said in the paragraph above and you might not get the most healthy and secure of romances, but it certainly won’t be boring or predictable.

Readers crave this kind of complexity. Fictional romances have been so one-dimensional for too long, and I believe this is why people are drawn to anything that goes against the norm. As a result, things that are insanely unhealthy and thereby completely missed the mark gets far too much attention. Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example. I don’t know what to call that, but it’s certainly not an anti-hero romance.

I suppose the reason why I’m writing this now is that I realised that my romantic sub-plot is far too… vanilla. It has some complexity, sure, but something doesn’t feel quite right about it. I have therefore decided to do some major changes to it, but that will require a lot of rewriting. The “kill your darlings” part is always painful, but you know that it’s worth it in the end. After all, great books aren’t written – they’re rewritten.

How to portray an impression

I watch a lot of videos about writing, and I recently came across something that I hadn’t really thought of before. It had to do with portraying feelings – not the abstract, but the physical. More like impressions, really. I haven’t even been working on my prose yet since I’m still struggling with unfolding all the threads of my story and its character arcs – but I couldn’t help but feel intrigued.

This might be obvious to some, while others may find it unnecessary. Think about the words “feel”, “see” or “hear”. All of those words are used to portray some sort of physical impression.

I felt the grass crunch beneath my feet.

The above sentence is pretty normal. It could probably be featured in any young adult novel and so on. It portrays a physical feeling – but this can be achieved in a much more efficient way. Treat the words “feel” etc. like filler words, and remove them. Your sentence will immediately become more compelling.

The grass crunched beneath my feet.

I can’t be the only one who senses a clear difference in the portrayal of this feeling. As soon as I became aware of this, I opened my manuscript and changed a couple of sentences in this way – and the effect was magical. Of course, like all other forms of art, the perception of prose is subjective. Some people prefer long sentences and flowery language, while others are minimalists, getting more pleasure from shorter, on-the-point sentence structures.

Regardless of which type we belong to, I think this lesson holds great potential and would advise any writer out there to try it out.