Sunday, November 27, 2011

From The Trenches: Maggie - Goals and Methods

First off, a quick apology for the lateness of this. No, there isn't an excuse, other than I forgot. Twice. But here it is, better late than never.

Since it's November, and many of us have been consumed by NaNoWriMo (key words: have been -- it's pretty much over!), I thought it was a perfect time to discuss goals and methods. More specifically, writing goals and methods. They go hand in hand.

I think it's really important when you're writing a novel -- particularly when you only have 30 days -- to have a battle plan. I'm not talking about plots or backstory or beat sheets. I'm talking about the end picture and how you're going to get there.

goal (n.) - the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

In the beginning, ask yourself this: What is it you want to accomplish?

For example, when I began NaNo this year, my goal was to write a novel in 30 days, with a minimum word count of 50k. I knew what I was looking toward (shiny winner buttons, bragging rights, a purple word meter) and I knew what I had to do to get there.

I had to write.

While that sounds simple, I don't need to tell you that it isn't. At all. We all know how easy it is to get off track. Life happens. There's homework, jobs, family, relationships, friends, commitments, holidays, trips-- you name it, it's there to stand between you and your goal.

This is where your method comes in.

method (n.) - a procedure, technique, or way of doing something, especially in accordance with a definite plan.

How are you going to tackle this? When will you make time to write? How much are you going to write every day? Where will you write? For how long in a single sitting?

For a lot of people (me included), this is the hard part. Goals are easy. You know before you begin. You can just see it. Giving your great-grandmother a novel dedicated to her. Sending that query on July 14th. Printing that manuscript out, and hugging it while it's still warm. (I may or may not have done that last one.)

So how do you make it happen?

There are many answers to that question. Take baby steps. Don't look at the whole, just look at each day. Tape inspirational quotes on your wall. Print out a schedule. Make a spreadsheet. Hang a daily checklist above your bed.

Too organized? It's okay. Schedules don't work for everyone.

Maybe you need a big graph with boxes to color in? A reward system where you treat yourself to your favorite Starbucks latte every Saturday, provided you've met your goal? Have a friend text you to check up on you. Get involved in a writing group (like Write On!). Have people around you to cheer you on.

But most importantly, you need MOTIVATION. See your goal. Want it. Strive for it. Get determined.

The power of the human spirit is pretty much limitless. When we want something badly enough, we'll do anything to achieve it. Even if that means losing two hours of sleep to meet your goal, or giving up your free time, or missing an episode of your favorite show. (Hey, it'll be on Hulu later.)

So how badly do you want to win NaNoWriMo? How badly do you want to give that to your great-grandmother? Get serious. No more excuses.

Set your goal. Decide a method.

Achieve it.

Happy Writing!

For the comments: How do you meet your goals? What are your tips, tricks and methods? Share your motivational stories and wisdom.

Friday, November 18, 2011

From the Trenches: Names

Lately I've been thinking about ensemble casts and how to keep characters straight. Part of this is because I recently read A VIEW FROM SATURDAY, and there are about 50 characters in there, and each of them has a weird connection to, like, everyone else. But none of them are characterized enough to be easy to remember.

Fast forward to the next week, during which we read Harry Potter. Over the course of that series, we are introduced to hundreds of characters, and we love them all. Games like this illustrate how rabid we are as fans.

But how does Rowling make us care, and distinguish, that many characters? Even though most of us probably can't name the 200 for which they ask, you'll recognize the names when you see them. (I just took it in the middle of class, and I got 80 in 8 minutes before I decided to start paying attention to the earth's crust again.)

It's all about the names. (Well, mostly. Part is the quirks to distinguish, but that's a post for another day.) She uses unusual, but simple, names. I can't stress how important SIMPLE is. We recently read the sequel to A WRINKLE IN TIME in my adolescent lit class, and some of the names in there are ridiculous. I would share them, but I can't remember them. And that is not what you want your reader to say.

What makes names memorable?

-No names too similar. Exceptions: When you're trying to make characters connect in your reader's minds, example: Fred and George Weasley
-Alliteration. Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, all the founders
-A connotation, such as "Filch" or "Draco." Filch brings to mind someone kind of slimy, someone you don't want to like, and Draco is kind of presumptuous.

But beware of introducing too many names at once. Make sure your characters are introduced with the name you will call them in the narrative, because nothing is more annoying than changing from Jim to James to Mr. Potter all on the same page. (Believe me. I read Russian lit, and Russian authors are notorious for that.)

How do you pick your names? How'd you do on the HP quiz? Do you agree with this?

Friday, November 11, 2011

From the Trenches: Mad

I've been thinking a lot lately about our being under the influence as writers--and no, I don't mean this in the DUI sense!

As writers, we're all influenced by something, whether it be by choice or enviroment. For me, I grew up on a steady diet of cop stories, and watched a ton of CHIPS and COPS. Now, I write solely about cops. I would actually be a little concerned if I wrote anything else. I'm in my element with the thriller and mystery genres.

So you tell me: what has influenced you as a writer?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New pages!

Our navigation bar is sparkling with the addition of some new pages. Check 'em out!
  • The forums page got an update, and so did the About page!
  • The Things To Do page is brand-new, and shows you everything Write On! has to offer.
  • The old "Events" page is now Calendar. (But the inside hasn't changed)
  • All-New Share Write On! page gives you all the tools you need to spread the word.
  • The Chatroom page now has a schedule beneath the room. You'll never miss another chat.
Happy link-clicking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Registration for 8th Agent Chat is open!

It's that time again! Our 8th Agent Chat is nigh, and this month we'll be joined by Laura Bradford. (Yes, her name is clickable. Isn't that convenient?)

It takes only two minutes. CLICK HERE to register now!

Rules and details:

  • The chat is only open to TEENS ages 13-19. 
  • It happens on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11 starting at 6pm EST. 
  • It will be ONE HOUR long. Get your questions ready!
  • Not sure if you can make it? REGISTER ANYWAY. Better safe than sorry.

Even if you have no questions, it's still a great learning experience to sit back, read along, and maybe even ask questions about her answers to other peoples' questions. (Did you get that?)

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Support Group!

Today is officially Day 1 of NaNoWriMo 2011! Woohoo!

For those of you Write On! teens who are participating this year, we have a special NaNo support group set up! It's an official thread on the forums that's at your disposal throughout the NaNo experience. Come share your joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats.

Also, in honor of NaNo, the chatroom is going to be open for use all the time (that means you can feel free to use it to chat with your peers as you write together) and during our set "NaNo chat time", which will be every evening in November beginning at 6pm EST.

Good luck to all, and Happy Writing!