First time filming without a script

I just filmed my vlog about chapters! It’s a real mess, truthfully, but I hope to be able to make sense of it during editing. This was my very first video without a formal script – I had basically just made a list of points that I wanted to talk about, so that was an interesting experience. Not really sure if I like it though, we’ll see what the end result is before I pass my sentence on it!

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My more casual filming setup! I thought, since I’m filming myself just talking about my experience and views, I would need a more casual setup. So here it is.

I’ve always admired Youtubers who can just sit down with a camera in front of them and talk cohesively for like an hour, with minimal cutting. It might just be me being inexperienced, but I find it really difficult to talk without a script. Not when I’m with my friends, obviously, but when I’m alone with a camera my mind just goes blank for some reason. It’s probably just some kind of performance anxiety that goes away with time.

The video will be posted tomorrow, as Thursdays are my usual upload days. 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely day!

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My Plan for the Week

I had a pretty good writing weekend – despite my nose having decided to make things difficult for me by ignoring the fact that I’m supposed to be recovered from my cold. I hate it when that happens. You get sick, you recover, you go about your life as usual, and BAM – it turns on you with an evil smirk on its face saying “did you really think it was going to be that easy?” and starts laughing this stereotypical villain-laugh. Or, you know, something less dramatic. It’s annoying, that’s what I’m trying to say.

But, life goes on, it’s Monday and that means a new week. Life won’t stop just because I have a cold, so I’m trying to make a little plan for what I want to accomplish this week.

WRITING GOAL: Finish editing chapter 9 of my WIP, and start chapter 10. (I’m keeping expectations low here, thereby making it easier to surpass it and subsequently making myself super proud. The creative process usually benefits from a little self-manipulation.)

YOUTUBE GOAL: Make a vlog about writing and editing chapters for Youtube, hopefully to be uploaded on Thursday.

OTHER: Start drawing my second map for my WIP, this time a world map including other countries. This would be in preparation for next weeks’ video.

I think this should be enough. I haven’t included other stuff like updating my blog or my Instagram, as those are obviously included somewhere in between the larger tasks. I feel quite pleased. Time to get started!

Let’s end this blog entry with a photo from my trip to Edinburgh.

Thinking about writing vlogs

I’ve been thinking about my Youtube channel and the fact that I haven’t really decided on a particular theme for it apart from writing, history, and fantasy. I’ve kind of just been “winging it” for the last two months. So far, I’ve mostly made videos regarding history and fantasy, such as my worldbuilding series. The subject of writing itself has sort of been left aside.

I don’t really want to jump on the train that so many other authortubers are on with their writing advice videos. How to write this or that, how to tackle this or that, you can learn it all within the span of 10 minutes per video.

I’m not saying that I disapprove – I’ve learned tons by watching videos like that. I’m just saying that I want to do something different. So! I’ve come to the conclusion that – for my writing related videos – I want to do writing vlogs. I’m thinking a kind of summary of the writing problems that I’ve encountered and solved (or not solved) in the past month or so. It would just be me and my moderately charming self, talking in casual terms in the hopes of reaching out to other writers that have struggled with similar things with their manuscripts.

I want to try it out, at least. Not this week though, as I have actually decided to not put up a video this week. I managed to get a raging cold as I came home from my vacation and have therefore not been able to plan something properly. Not to mention, my voice gives up if I talk for more than a couple of minutes (anyone who knows me would probably make some joke here about me talking too much).

So that’s the plan. Until then, I hope to get some more writing done since I haven’t worked on it now for a few days. Time to get productive!

New video on historical non-fiction

Indeed, it’s Thursday, meaning there’s a new video up from me. This week’s topic is historical non-fiction, and one of my favourite books in this genre: Girl in a Green Gown, the History and Mystery of the Arnolfini portrait. You can watch it by clicking here!

Trust me, this video was a real pain to get out. I know – I said I wouldn’t complain anymore about video editing difficulties, but today really takes the cake. This video is edited with three (!) different kinds of software. If it’s looking a little bit wonky, now you know why. I even had a weird situation where one of the photos in the video literally started floating around on its own, which, I’ll admit, was quite amusing.

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.

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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.

Quiet morning

I’m currently sitting o20180814_163241n my blue couch, eating breakfast and watching a Netflix documentary on the trilogy Back to the future. I love quiet weekend mornings. Just had a lovely walk with Niles in the sleepy neighbourhood, strolling about in the weak, morning sun. I find the empty streets so calming. Since we live in the city center, we rarely get that quiet calm. So I have to enjoy it while it lasts.

Today’s going to be a productive day. Oskar is away on a boat convention, so I thought I’d focus on getting some work done! I want to finish up my world map 2.0 (will be talking about the mapping process in worldbuilding in next week’s video). If I manage to finish today I’ll move on to some editing. Or just, if my hand starts to protest. Drawing is hard, guys.

So yeah. That’s about it! My productive, quiet Saturday calls.

Cheers people.

Your genre: A one-night stand, or a long-term relationship?

The video I made yesterday got me thinking. When a writer picks their genre – or rather, the story they wish to write is identified as a certain genre – that is a huge choice. And once you’ve made that choice, you have to have a real passion for it in order to be able to actually finish the project. There are no half-measures when it comes to writing a book, that part becomes clear early on.

For instance; I can enjoy the occasional murder mystery novel. A healthy dose of suspense and excitement in a sunbed while on vacation is great, but when I’m finished I move on with my life. I don’t have a burning passion for the genre. I’m ok with letting this be a one-night stand-ish sort of thing.

The same does not go for fantasy or historical fiction, though. I’ve had a bit of a love triangle with these two for the past 18 years. I love them for different reasons, so I couldn’t for the life of me tell you which one I love the most.

… and yet, when I was finally hit by a story that I just had to write, it turned out to be fantasy. It’s so clear to me now, even though I had never really reflected on this before, that despite this love triangle it was fantasy all along that was my greatest aspiration.

Of course, I’m not saying that writers can only write in one genre. Obviously, there are authors who make nice careers out of genre-hopping. I can’t help but wonder though, are they treating their genres as one-night stands, as individual, shorter relationships, or maybe even like a full-on harem? Perhaps that is taking the metaphor a bit too far. But you get the idea. I’ve read books from authors who can’t seem to make up their minds on what genre to specialise in. They write anything from horror to fantasy to non-fiction – and release a new book every year. I could go into a conversation about quality vs. quantity, but I think I’ll resist the urge.

For me, personally, I see genre choice as a long-term commitment. The unwavering passion that I spoke of earlier has to be there. Only that can bring me enough fuel to reach my goal, and even then it takes a tremendous amount of time. But then again, I’m just talking out of my derrière since I haven’t actually published anything yet. Who knows, maybe I will feel differently in the future. I suppose that’s what truly matters; that the opinion of today is open-minded enough to accept the changes of tomorrow.

New video: Historical fiction

I’ve been working really hard today with this week’s video – 5 things to avoid when writing historical fiction. As the title implies, I’m talking about different things or “mistakes” to avoid when writing historical fiction – it’s a tricky genre to get right since you have to do a great amount of research to be able to (convincingly) portray a historical setting. There are of course other stuff you need to consider as well, but I suggest you click the link above to find out what those are. 🙂

It’s only about 1 minute longer than my other videos, but it makes a big difference when writing the script, filming and editing the final video. Because of this, I wasn’t finished until much later than usual. But anyway, I was quite pleased with the end result.