Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

what's the worst

You’ve finally reached the scene. The one you’ve been waiting for.

You’re sitting in front of your computer, coffee on one side, cookies on the other, writing so fast you can barely see your fingers.

Your characters are doing the thing! The thing that will change the very course of your story or novel! The thing you’ve been planning since the very beginning.

You type furiously for hours. You lose track of time. Someone has probably texted you, but you don’t care.

No, you’re a writer. You are one with the words. The words are one with you. Nothing can interrupt this perfect moment.

When you finally finish your fated scene, you high-five yourself, let out a heaving sigh, and that’s when the panic hits you.

You have no idea what happens next.

~

I recently completed my July NaNoWriMo project, a novel titled The Alabaster Heir. I wrote a little over 88,000 words in 17 days, and people keep asking me, “Do you ever get stuck? How on earth do you recover so quickly?”

The answer?

I ask questions.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a foolproof way of salvaging every plot, but it’s gotten me out of quite a few holes that I joyfully dug myself into.

What are the questions, you ask? There are several, but my all time favorite is:

What’s the worst that could happen?

Oh, aliens? A dinosaur attacks the village? Starbucks goes out of business?

Okay, cool.

Make that happen.

Keep yourself on your toes.

Generally when I get stuck, it’s because I’m bored with the story or I have no idea what happens next.

Someone told me once, “if you’re bored writing it, your readers will be bored reading it.”

I’m an extensive planner when it comes to my novels and stories, but sometimes I still have to drop in the unexpected to get the plot moving again. Even if that means wandering away from my outline for awhile.

What’ll happen if you try this out?

  1. It’ll get your plot going again, hopefully.
  2. You may end up with super interesting content that you didn’t expect.

Also, keep in mind that whatever you write, you can always go back and change later.

~

Let me give you an example of how you can use questions not only to get yourself unstuck, but to build a basic (or maybe not so basic) plot.

Allow me to set the stage.

Meet Gregory Williams. Gregory is at work. It’s Friday night and he is dying to get home and see his wife. It’s their first wedding anniversary, you see, and he bought her the most glorious bouquet of white roses, which just happen to be her favorite.

The clock finally hits 5 PM, and Gregory is out the door in a flash.

Now at this point, you can ask, “what’s the BEST thing that could happen?”

Gregory gets home in one piece, the bouquet hasn’t been damaged, his wife tearfully accepts the roses, surprises him with a home-cooked meal, and then they spend their evening enjoying some good ol’ Adult Hanky-PankyTM.

I guess if you’re writing a warm and fuzzy feel-good story/novel, then that could work, but I generally ask myself the first question so I know exactly what I’m trying to prevent.

So, let’s ask another question.

What’s the WORST that could happen?

Gregory’s car breaks down, Gregory drops the bouquet, Gregory gets an emergency call from a family member.

Or even, “what’s the most BIZARRE or UNEXPECTED thing that could happen?”

Gregory is abducted by aliens, Gregory gets stalked by a vampire, Gregory meets his doppelganger and they have a death match in the alley.

Poor Gregory. Whenever he figures out how to overcome the obstacles you drop in his way and FINALLY gets home, you can ask the questions again, or you can figure out how to tie things together and end the story.

What happens to Gregory? Up to you. Personally, I kinda dig the doppelganger idea.

The point is, keep yourself interested in the story, and the words will come to you. Let it flow, take a chance, ask yourself questions if you get stuck, then act on the answers.

Besides… what’s the worst that could happen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

Befriending My Self-Doubt

NO CAPES

Every creative person wears a cape of doubt. It hangs there, constantly weighing at our backs, flip-flopping when the wind isn’t quite right, and trying its best to trip us up.

Whenever I voice this doubt, the (amazingly supportive) people in my life tell me, “Morgan, you can’t do that to yourself. You’re a wonderful writer. Don’t doubt, just create.”

I do appreciate the encouragement, but sometimes I have an incredibly hard time ignoring my doubt. In fact, ask any creative person and they will probably tell you the same.

I’m sure all of you have heard the saying that goes, “you are your own worst critic.” Sometimes I shrug off the actual meaning of the saying because I hear it so often, but there is a frightening and resonant truth to it that I can’t ignore –it’s me. I’m the one letting the doubt drown out my hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I control the volume.

Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

So here’s the thing: I had a thought! Maybe, just maybe, we should be looking at our doubt, our “capes”, from a different perspective.

Stick with me here!

I’d like to introduce you to Susan — Susan is a wonderful person. She spends her free time running three children to various school activities and loves keeping up with the latest celebrity gossip, but she claims that she isn’t creative. When she sees you, creative person, she’s jealous. You have something she doesn’t; a pretty cape.

Little does she know how heavy that cape, that doubt, truly is.

Susan can’t see your struggles, nor the inner-editor that constantly nags at you. All she can see is your passion, your talent, and your ability to create something from nothing.

Your cape, to her, is one of the the most beautiful things she’s ever seen.

~

I decided several months ago that I needed to start looking at my doubt in a different light; that I needed to let it stoke the fire as opposed to snuffing it out.

Ever since I made that decision, I’ve been more productive. I’ve written, planned, edited, and even read more.

I’m not saying this is an easy battle. There are times when I want nothing more than to rip off my cape and tear it to shreds, but then I remind myself that my cape is a gift… a gift that not everyone receives.

Some days are easy. Some days are hard. Some days I require ice cream and drinks that you can’t purchase from the soda aisle.

I’m slowly learning to befriend my self-doubt.

And from now on, I’m going to (attempt) to do this cape justice (sorry, Edna).

Join me, fellow writer, fellow creative person.

Don’t give up on yourself.

You are truly amazing and talented and your dreams do matter.

Turn down the volume on your doubt and march forward.

Your ideas are worth it.

You are worth it.

 

 

 

 

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

Looking at the World Through Writer Glasses

Kids-Wearing-Sunglasses

The other day I went to go see a movie with friend A, we’ll call her Rose, and friend B, who we’ll call Jeremiah (the names have been changed to protect the innocent).

After around two hours in the dark, cold theater, we waltzed out into the sun and began chattering about what we’d just experienced.

“The main character was so hot,” gushed Rose.

“And the graphics were badass,” said Jeremiah.

Then both of them turned to me.

Now, I don’t see movies with Rose and Jeremiah very often, so they were unaware of the fact that most of my close non-writer friends have stopped asking me what I think about movies or TV shows, for fear I’ll go all “crazed writer” on them.

Rose and Jeremiah’s expressions quickly transitioned from curious to stunned deer-in-the-headlights as I dove into my explanation about how I thought the plot could have been different, how I felt the characters needed more development in their relationship before X, Y, and Z happened, how character N had inconsistencies, or how the dialogue in scene 39 was rushed.

It’s not that I try to over-analyze plots and characters, it’s that once you look at things from a writer’s perspective, it’s kind of hard to just… turn it off.

It’s not like a light switch, people! It’s like a raging, consuming fire!

Even if I’m watching or reading something and fully enjoying it, I’ll generally still pull apart the plot in my head and/or try and figure out where the writer (or writers) slipped in certain elements of the story; foreshadowing, character development, etc. I learn a lot from studying the flow of other stories, both what to do and what not to do when it comes to my own writing.

The whole “can’t turn it off” thing can work in our favor, fellow writers (just don’t go around scaring friends – I speak from experience).

You know how they say, “you’re seeing something through rose-colored glasses”?

It’s a similar ailment, except we’re looking at things through writer glasses… forever.

We’re not trying to annoy you, beautiful non-writer souls, we’re just diseased.

Diseased with the curse, blessing, and absolute need to write.

Sorry we pick apart your movies, books, and TV shows.

Love you.

Disclaimer:

I’ve written 45k for my NaNoWriMo project over the last 7 days, so I apologize if I missed something during edits. My brain is high on words and low on editing power.

I’m going to go find more caffeine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

NaNoWriMo!

20540050

Ever year in November, writers from all around the world participate in a crazy little event called NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month.

The goal?

Write 50,000 words in a month.

The prize?

A 50,000 word manuscript that you wrote.

Are you still with me?

On top of November, some crazy writers (such as myself) also choose to participate in “Camp NaNoWriMo”, which takes place in April and July. Camp is a little more casual in the fact that you choose your own word goal.

This year I’ve set the whopping goal of 75,000 words for July. I wrote 30,000 words back in April, but my story went completely off the rails and grew three arms and five subplots. My April novel will definitely be revisited, but for now, my focus is on July.

I’m happy to report that I’m 32 chapters into the outline for my July novel, The Alabaster Heir, and the more I outline, the more I cannot WAIT to get started! (That being said, I have also updated my Current Project page with the cover and synopsis for The Alabaster Heir!)

So, why on earth would I subject myself to this cruel sort of torture, you ask?

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I frequented the forums on GaiaOnline. If any of you know what that is, feel free to mock me or throw fruit at me (especially if it’s fresh and delicious fruit).

Anyways, I used to hang out on the writing forum, and one day I ran across a thread with the title “NaNoWriMo.”

I squinted at it, attempting to pronounce it to myself (which I’m sure I did terribly), then, in that fated moment, clicked the thread and opened the door to the rest of my life. Cue dramatic music and a montage of me furiously typing and screaming at my laptop at all hours of the day and night.

If I’m being honest, my initial reaction to  NaNoWriMo was one of deep sarcasm and many shrugs.

How could I accomplish the ridiculous task of writing 50,000 words in a month?

I thought it improbable, impossible. I ran away from that thread as fast as I possibly could, and yet the idea of NaNo continued swimming around my head.

A few weeks later found me at a writer friend’s house. I asked her if she’d heard about those other crazy writers on Gaia who were going to attempt to write a novel in a month. Long story short: She hadn’t. I showed her the thread. We ended up on the website. And then something kooky happened…

We both lost our minds and decided to do it.

I did write pretty frequently at that point in my life, but I had never finished more than a short or co-authored story, and I had no idea in hell how to outline.

If you’re a writer (or like writing, or enjoy long nights and excuses to drink caffeine), I SO SO SO encourage you to try NaNo! Do it in November! Do it in July! Do it in April! Heck, make your own goal during your favorite month and write until you can no longer feel your fingers! (FYI it doesn’t have to be a novel. Some people do a series of short stories or poems or a script or whatever the heck they want.)

Even if you don’t finish, even if you get 5k in and decide that you hate your story, YOU STARTED SOMETHING WONDERFUL!

NaNo taught me to make goals in my writing, and to be serious about those goals. Writing is a muscle. You have to work it as much as you possible so you can be the lean, mean, writing machine you were always meant to be.

I thank the writing gods for that silly thread in that silly forum so many moons ago. Ten years later I’m still doing NaNo and I wouldn’t trade the missed sleep, over-consumption of caffeine, cancelled social plans, or lost sanity for anything.

Thanks to NaNo I’ve finished several novels (revisions are another story, but we’ll talk about that later), learned my style of outlining and what works for me, and have set and accomplished other writing goals that I never thought I’d be able to accomplish – like writing every day, for one.

Yes, let the plot flow throughhhhh youuuu. And come do NaNoWriMoooooooo!

Condensed version:

I’ve learned a lot from NaNo. NaNo is my bro. Let NaNo be your bro. Do NaNo. Let me know. We can suffer together.

 

 

 

 

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

#IrrationalWriterFears

Being a creative person leads you to doubt yourself in one way or another. Sometimes I’m really great at ignoring it or letting it drive me, and sometimes I’m not.

Today I was developing characters and outlining for a novel that I’m planning for July NaNoWriMo, when all of the sudden I had this terrified feeling that there were no good names left for me to use.

In my brief moment of panic, I started recalling all the names of my main characters over the last few years; all the names I’d already used: Skylar, Capella, Valine, Rhiannon, Jesse, Shaylin, Avren… and then started going over minor characters. Thankfully, I stopped about three characters in (because my minor characters could basically make up a small army), and attempted to remind myself that there are probably millions of names that I could choose from. I will legitimately never run out of names to use.

But then I started thinking… what if the right name is already in use by another author? What if my ginormous, half-giant character just screams the name Frodo? I, of course, would never name a character Frodo (not to mention a half-giant), because the name is way too iconic and well known; just like I’d never name a character Katniss, Hermione, or Daenerys.

However, I think a lot of names in modern fiction are still on the table. I could have a character named John, and the guy across the coffee shop that is glaring at an open Word document on his laptop (who I suspect to be a writer) could also have a character named John. Our Johns wouldn’t be the same. Our Johns would be two entirely different people.

Sometimes I have to remember that names aren’t exclusive. I can use the name Harry, but he’s not going to live in a cupboard under the stairs. I can use the name Edward, but he’s not a shimmering vampire. I can use the name Lucy, but mine hasn’t found any magical worlds through wardrobes as of late.

Names are beautiful and precious things, and when you find one that sticks for your character, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the name that fits, and that’s that, and I don’t think that any of us should feel guilty about it.

Don’t worry, guys. We haven’t run out of names… yet.

In my defense, I partially blame the above mini-anxiety attack on the fact that I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

Lesson learned for today: Being a writer is hard; drink coffee first.