Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

It's probably a little early to be wrapping up nanowrimo, but I am rarely one to stand on ceremony. Although I didn't formally sign up for nanowrimo, I set myself some goals and did my best to stick to them. My reason for this was simple: I needed the kick up the butt a competition provided to finish a story. I am normally such a perfectionist when it comes to my writing, that I find the concept of a rough draft abhorrent.

And so, my goal was less to achieve 50,000 words, and more to finish a story, from start to finish, including character creation and all. I experienced some hurdles along the way - I began a Saturday job, thus working 6 days a week, I put my house on the market to sell, I ate tomato (which I am highly allergic to) and became very unwell, I caught a cold.

Coming to look back at those setbacks, it's a miracle, really, that I achieved anything this month! And yet, I did reach my goal. Although just reaching the 20,000 word mark I, for the first time in my life, completed a story in full. I can't tell you how excited I am! It's not pretty, at times the writing is so bad it's shameful, but it's a full story! YeeHaw! I had my lovely, supportive boyfriend print it out for me so I could hold it in my hot little hands. And then what did I do? Did I set it down and walk away? Noooo. Did I stare at it in disbelief for hours? Noooo. I picked up the pen and re-wrote the entire first chapter.

Talk about motivational! How did everyone else go with their NaNoWriMo? I hope you achieved some, if not all, of your goals.

To me, nanowrimo is not about writing a vast amount of words. It is about achieving a goal to further motivate me in my writing journey. For some, 20,000 words is something to sneer at. You may pooh pooh it, but I revel in it. Because, for me, forming words is easy. Creating flowing sentences is a breeze. But finishing what I started? That's the hard part, because I too often let life carry me along on new tangents. I have now learned that, if determined enough, I can achieve whatever my little heart desires.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks - Review

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me a while to come to grips with, as it is completely immersive and requires an understanding of a complex world. That being said, it is definitely worth the extra brain power. The characters are neither good or bad, but somewhere in between, they are likeable, interesting. And, my goodness, they are funny! The story is gripping and intelligently written, and has left me begging for more.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 21, 2011

Inspirational Blogs

I don't usually comment on other people's blogs - each to their own, I say - but today I thought I would share with you a blogger who I almost always find uplifting and motivational.

That is to say, I really enjoy reading blog posts by Les Floyd over at lesism.blogspot.com. This man is astoundingly compassionate and, whether he knows it or not, has challenged me on some of my thought processes.

When I am angry, frustrated, upset, grieving, disappointed, jealous, guilty...all those negative emotions that trap you within your own mind... it can be difficult to take a step back and view things in a different light. Les points out the obvious, common sense stuff that we can't see when our minds are clouded.

One thing he wrote recently really 'spoke' to me, so to speak:

"If you're going to remember her, remember all the good times and the love she was lucky enough to receive from you. Who would be happy to know that those who remembered them did so with agony?" (http://lesism.blogspot.com/2011/01/futility-of-regret.html, retrieved 21.11.11_)

Please note: This post is not an endorsement, just my personal opinion :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Characters Should Be More Than Stick Figures On a Page!

Things that happen to you in childhood truely effect who you are as an adult. Sometimes I catch myself doing strange things without even thinking. For example, this morning I was really fidgety. Unconsciously I sat on my hands, just as my parents suggested to me when I was little. It wasn't until my phone rang that I realised what I was doing. I also have a reflex action to jump back whenever anyone approaches me with a teaspoon. My friends think it's a funny quirk, but really it's a left over from my practical joker father who used to place a hot teaspoon on my hand after stirring his tea. It was never hot enough to burn, just warm enough for me to start back. To this day I still do it.

My point is, if I had a normal, happy childhood and I am daily influenced by events that occured when I was young, shouldn't the same be true for the characters I write? I have recently been partaking in NaNoWriMo, and something I have really noticed is that my characters, in my hurry, have been really two dimensional. One of my protagonists is a tortured soul and has been held in slavery from a young age. And yet he has no quirks, no strange reactions to ordinary situations. Really, he's just my personality in a man's body. I have to ask myself, what was I thinking in creating such a character? Before I edit this story I really need to think about who this slave is as a person. How would anyone act after living such a hard life? I need to stretch my imagination just that little bit further so that my characters are believable, likeable, and three dimensional.

Last year I wrote a blog post http://www.ashleigholdfield.com/2010/12/how-do-i-make-my-characters-seem.html about this very issue. So much for ignoring my own advice! So, I am setting myself some ground rules:

  1. Map out the character's life. How were they raised? Did anything traumatic happen? Did they have many friends, few friends, no friends? Did they have any siblings, caring parents? Were they rich, poor, stable? All of these things will have an influence on the character.
  2. Get to know the character before beginning to write the story. Imagine conducting an interview, or holding a conversation with him/her. What would the tone of their voice be? Would they have an accent? Would they frown a lot, or are they happy and bubbly? Any nervous giggling, shifting in their seat, fidgeting? Are they graceful or loutish? Knowing these things, visualising the character as a solid, will make writing scenes with them flow better.
  3. Figure out how much needs to be spelled out to the reader, and how much I will leave to their imaginations. Personally I like to allow the reader to form a picture in their mind of the character. I need to give them enough information for them to be able to do that, without specifying the nitty-gritty.

I will try my best to hold on to these rules. I think, once I have completed this story for NaNoWriMo I will start from scratch and develop my characters much, much more. I will then perform a complete re-write, and no one ever need see the mess that the story currently is!