November 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Naming characters has never been easy for me — especially those “walk on” characters that surprise me by turning up in a scene unplanned. That’s why I am sharing a link to this article: How to Invent Names for Your Genre Novel. It’s partly for those of you who also have this trouble, but mostly for me, so I can find it again when I need it. (Yes, I can and did bookmark it in my browser, but … well, I have a bookmark problem. I’m a bookmark hoarder. There, I said it.)
Going handily with that link is another article I stumbled across this morning about the naming of the characters in the Hunger Games series. (There are several articles about the Hunger Games names, by the way; that’s just the one I happened to read this morning.)
Do you have any tips for coming up with character names? Share them in the comments! I need all the help I can get.
November 21, 2013 § 2 Comments
Hi, writers! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, we’re in the home stretch — just a little over a week to go!
I’m finishing up the first draft of my book, which currently weighs in at 200 manuscript pages and almost 55,000 words. I’m loving it so far, and can’t wait to start the rewrite. It’s going to need a lot of polish, but I think the end result will be worth it.
I haven’t always thought this.
There have been moments when I thought the book was either A) too derivative, B) too boring, C) too thin, D) too unoriginal, and E) all of the above. But I’ve kept on, because I really enjoy being with these characters and I know that if there are flaws, they will be glaring and I can easily find and (possibly less easily) fix them in Draft 2.
But there are a few first drafts of other novels that are reposing on my hard drive, un-rewritten, because I let fear of failure get the best of me. I was afraid they weren’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and doggone it, people were going to like me or my books.
So that’s why I’m taking valuable writing time to share something I found this morning, thanks to my friends Jesse and Genny. It’s called Be Friends with Failure, and it’s a short comic strip (although that doesn’t feel like the right term) about why you should embrace failure, not fear it. My favorite quote from it is this:
“You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
In the corporate world, there’s a buzz phrase: “Fail forward.” It’s shorthand for just what Be Friends with Failure is talking about — not fearing failure, but learning from it to improve your process, your product, your company, etc. Move forward by failing. Fail forward.
So don’t despair! Keep pounding away at that first draft. Keep kicking your book forward, even if you think it’s crap. Finish it, and fix it in the rewrite. And if you can’t fix it in the rewrite, take what you learned and write a new book.
Be friends with failure.
October 30, 2013 § 4 Comments
No, it’s almost National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.
If you’ve never tried to write an entire novel, start to finish, in a single month, now’s your chance to join the nearly 180,000 other crazy people all committing to cranking out 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several times, and even “won” (i.e., wrote 50,000 words) twice. I won’t lie; it ain’t for the faint of heart. You have to pretty much give up TV, your friends, your family, social events, and all other distractions to be able to hit the 1,667 words a day you need to write to make it across the finish line by the end of the month.
In exchange for all you give up, you gain a little self-respect for sticking to it. You gain a little insight into what it’s like to be a full-time writer. And most importantly, you gain a first draft of your novel.
You also learn—out of absolute necessity—to silence your internal editor. That’s because what you’ll be cranking out at the pace of 1,667 words per day isn’t going to be good. It’s going to be a lumpy, roughly sewn first draft, with glaring seams, bad transitions, stilted dialogue, and way too much exposition—and that’s perfectly fine. You have to be okay with that. Your internal editor won’t like it, but you have to ignore that voice in your head that’s telling you to go back and change that one scene or that one line or that one word, because once you start going back, you stop going forward. And you can’t afford that, not if you want to win.
And you want to win. Trust me.
You want to win, because you want that rough draft.
You want to win, because then it’s just a matter of polishing; the hard work is getting that first draft out of your head and onto the screen or the paper.
You want to win, because it’s a fantastic feeling to know you’ve written a novel in a month. (It’s probably like a runner’s high. I wouldn’t know, though; I only run if something is chasing me.)
It seems like a lot of words—trust me, I know. My current writing pace is wretchedly slow—300 words a day, if I’m lucky. That’s far less than John Scalzi, who writes (I think) 1,800 words a day, or Charles Stross, who cranks out 5,000-plus.
But 1,667 words a day is doable. I know because I’ve done it. It helps if you have an understanding spouse or supportive friends (and hey, as a WriMo, you’ve got 180,000 supportive friends). I think it helps if you have an outline, but others find it easier to make it up as they go along and fix what doesn’t make sense in the rewrite.
One of my WriMo friends believes in the power of her magic red wine. Another creates a writing soundtrack. Yet another will force herself to listen to the same crappy song, on repeat, until she hits her goal for the day. Some meet up in local coffee shops for write-ins, others schedule writing sprints with fellow WriMos on Twitter or Facebook.
There are all sorts of tips and tricks. The point is, you can do it.
So go sign up at NaNoWriMo.org, and write a novel next month! Then come back and share your secrets for WriMo success. And if you’re already a NaNo veteran, share your tips in the comments!
August 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m sure you’re probably tired of me raving about Iain M. Banks’ Culture series, so I’ll keep this brief. The Player of Games is not a book I expected to like, mainly because the plot revolves around a professional game player playing a game.
Of course, since this is Iain M. Banks, the story doesn’t quite fit into that too-tiny nutshell.
August 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
Fantastic advice for we struggling writers from one of the contemporary masters of the craft:
To sum up:
- Finish things
- Read outside your chosen genre
- Tell your story
(I can attest to third thing on the list; the idea for the novel I’m currently writing came from watching an opera and an old movie.)
August 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I got the news via Twitter, because that’s how bad news finds us these days. That’s how the worst news always seems to find us; a gut punch sandwiched between trivialities.
Elmore Leonard has died.
There isn’t much I can say about “Dutch” that hasn’t already been said around the world. I mean, it’s not like I’d ever met the man in person. But I loved him like an uncle—the good kind of uncle who tells you dirty jokes when your parents are out of earshot and gives you sips of his beer before you’re old enough. The uncle who always tells the best stories.
Elmore Leonard could really tell stories, that’s for sure. Even if you’ve never read one of his books, I’d bet good money you’ve heard some of his stories. Maybe you watch Justified, the show featuring Leonard’s character Raylan Givens and a host of others; most episodes come straight from Dutch’s books and short stories (Pronto, Riding the Rap, and his latest, Raylan.) Maybe you saw Get Shorty, with John Travolta, based on Dutch’s book of the same name. Perhaps it was Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, based on the novel Rum Punch. Or Out of Sight, with George Clooney, based on the book of the same name. About 30 of Dutch’s books and short stories have been adapted to film or television.
Maybe you know of him because of his 10 Rules of Writing.
This is getting long. I didn’t mean for it to get long.
All I really want to say is that Elmore Leonard was an exceptional writer. He influenced me more than any other, and I always eagerly looked forward to his next novel, his next great story, his next unforgettable character speaking his inimitable “lowlife dialogue.” And knowing there won’t be any more makes me incredibly sad.
Thanks for everything, Mr. Leonard. There is simply no other writer who is your equal.