NaNoWriMo Week #1 – Quantity over Quality

Welcome to my first NaNoWriMo update! I plan on doing these once a week, usually on a Thursday, all way until the end of the month. Which means we’ll have four writing updates, and one final wrap-up on either the 30th of this month, or the 1st of the next.

So far, this first week has gone by brilliantly! This event truly gives me the inspiration to get a novel I’ve wanted done for a long time written and done. Before, I’d write here or there, but without much consistency or luck. I’ve been taught that as writers, our job is to simply write – and as of right now, that’s it.

I tend to be a perfectionists with somethings. Not everything, but especially things that I’ve had my hand in majorly, I’d like it to be as perfect as possible. And usually, if that means writing a couple of really good…sentences, rather than a few decent to mediocre pages, I usually go for it.
At NaNoWriMo, the goal isn’t for you to write the next great American novel, it is simply to get you to write. And everyday as I plow through a couple thousand words, I make sure to keep this in mind. If I want to go back after the event and tweak and edit and revise… that’s perfectly fine. Nothing is stopping me from making revisions to create a better and smoother story later on, NaNoWriMo is here to get you writing, to get that foundation set up. And as a long time procrastinator, and I’ll tell you… I’ll procrastinate with anything. Oh, I need to do laundry so I won’t be naked tomorrow? I’ll get it done in a couple of hours. Oh, I want to play some of that video game that I just bought? Eh, it’ll be there tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo is really helping me to get off my ass and get writing. Because what good is having any vague talent of anything if you don’t use it?

As of right now, my story, entitled ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’, has reached 15,884 words. On the sixth of the month, I think that’s pretty good. There is five sets of six days within the thirty-day month, and if I could replicate the success of these past view days within those… I would certainly be on the right track.
I’m already exceeding the ‘recommended’ word count the NaNoWriMo site gives you, but I don’t remember one person who hasn’t. Every thousand words written feel like a reward, and I’m excited for the rest of the month.
As I go on, it gets easier to forget about a section that might be a little lackluster at the moment and just keep writing. Because this event is about word count, the contents of your novel, at least right now, don’t matter as much. It’s a tough thing to learn just for this event, because anyone you’ve ever met tells you differently. And though they’re usually right, I find a quality short story to be eons better than a crap four hundred page story, just being able to write… to put pencil to paper, or in our case fingers to keyboard, matters a whole hell of a lot more at the moment. Because, if you don’t start to write, no matter how bad… then I can guarantee you, you’ll never get better.

It’s been early mornings and long nights, and I’m sure the further we delve into the month, the pots of coffee will increase as much as the hours of sleep will decrease.
And I’m looking forward to every day of it.

But before we end, I just wanted to a little update on my novel outside of the event. I’ve had ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’ planned out for a long time. It in fact was spawned through a story I had written in the eighth grade about a different character, but the same sort of urban fantasy setting. I’ve had character sheets and plot notes scattered around for a few years, but besides some tinkering that later got thrown in the trash, I’ve never taken the time to sit down and write it. NaNoWriMo has gotten me excited for my story again, and with all luck… after editing, I hope to have it out in May 2015 as my first fiction novel!
I am going to have more information on it as time goes by, synopsis, characters, and probably even a few chapters posted later this year.

So NaNoWriMo is going great, and the first week has definitely worked out. I’m excited for the days to come, and I’ll see you on Sunday for something not writing related.

Happy writing, everyone!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 12:34 PM

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/theplebeiansheep

 

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The post that was about nothing

DISCLAIMER – This post isn’t ACTUALLY about nothing. It is about something, or it would be a blank page. Thank you.

One of the hardest things I’ve discovered about blogging, is that most of the time in order to blog, you have to have something to blog about.
I’ve tried to incorporate a few things here, and not leave it just about my writing. I try to offer opinions and thoughts every couple days or show that may or not be read by the inter-web populace, and I try to doll them out in small portions because who wants a bunch of thoughts, idealist stances, and political/moral commentary from a sixteen year old? Now, what I talk about is a bit better then most sixteen year old’s, I’d like to think. But still, at my age, I only know so much and have a limited about of things to say.
That’s why I find it hard at times to decide on appropriate, moderately uncontroversial topics to write about.
When you’re writing a story, whether it be fiction from your head, or non-fiction research paper, you always have somewhere to go. You have your research to refer too, or you can just invent some new sub-plot to fill in gaps. (Not always advised, though.)
When you are speaking on daily or even weekly topics, it gets harder to find something interesting and compelling to say.
I try to stray away from current news or events, because everyone’s talking about them and has probably said whatever I was going to say. I could try and write a post about why I couldn’t care less about the World Cup. Firstly, I wouldn’t have much to say. Secondly, there are lots of people who feel the same, and probably have said something more intriguing then I would have. Lastly, I’d have a bunch people ready to punch me, or perhaps kick a soccer ball in my groin. Either way, I wouldn’t like that too much.

And because it is one of my bad habits, I try not to build a thought or post of a small idea or topic, due to RAMBLING. Because then, you have SO much to fill in, and I’m not good with bridging gaps. I need a LOT to say on the topic, or already have a strong opinion, or else I fall into the dreaded rut that is saying something over again, and saying it over again, and saying it again. Even though Led Zeppelin told me that it was okay to ramble on, and I find doing it quite easy, it is a terrible habit that I try to stray from.

But see here, with something like this, the post about nothing… there is now free space to ramble as much as I feel. Because a post about nothing… isn’t that ALL a ramble?
That’s sometimes why having a generic title is a good thing, especially if have the same problem as me.

Take my first post, for example. It was originally called, “Religion in Children.” I was going to talk about forcing religion down children’s throats, and making them believe in it without their own input. Eventually, that went from religion, to politics, to parental opinions, to me telling you how to parent your children.
After the first post, and a little of the second, I’ve learned a lesson to keep titles generic. If I had called this post, “The Difficulty of Choosing a Blog Topic”, that would have limited to me a bit. Now, it probably would have been fine in the long run, but by giving it the name it has, I have free rein to talk about what I want.

Movies? Music? Writing? The World Cup? All fine!
Because the title is all encompassing, and anything can be set into that post. Everything goes, everything works, and there’s no questions later.

My last point;
The difficulty of ending a post. Now, I do this in real life conversations, where I just end a conversation abruptly. Now my social skills aren’t really on par, so I give myself a little lenience, but I never knew how hard it was NOT to just say “bye” and walk away!
I’m not going to be giving any advice here, because I am terrible at it. So don’t expect any elaborate opinions and thought processes here, from me. I don’t do social science, sorry.

Now, on the topic of ending a post…
…How about that World Cup?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 12:57 PM

The Soundtrack to your Writing Career

Welcome to July, everyone! We’ve gotten through one month… let’s see how the rest go from here.

Music is powerful. We are all aware of this, even if we aren’t avid listeners. Music helps get us through a lot, if you listen to it correctly. The right kind of music can act as a warm, tight hug if you’re depressed… it can be a shot of energy and motivation to get us through a long work out, or even cleaning up.
Music is a important part of humanity in of itself.

One of the best things that music can do, is act as inspiration. Even for unrelated things, music can be the push, the pull, the inspiration and the idea… and that’s our topic for today.

The Soundtrack to your Writing Career. The right kind of music for the right kind of time.
But because you know me a bit more than I know you, I’m going to have to go all out on the personal preferences and experiences thing. So if you disagree, or dislike, keep in mind that this is what helps me… and what might help you.

Plus, you’re probably going to learn about my taste in music. I listen to what I like when I write, so I fit my tastes around my work. So this might be DRASTICALLY different when it comes to you, but if you see an idea or suggestion you like, go on and try it.

Typically, when writing a genre or chapter, I try to match the music to the writing. And what is sometimes even harder is matching the music to poetry. Seeing as both of them have a flow, finding one that interconnects enough can be a daunting task.
For The Next Day, I am currently writing the second collection which comes together as a cohesive story, perhaps as an opera or play of some sort. So what I’ve been listening to for that is a wonderful album by the band, Forgive Durden called Razia’s Shadow.

Razia’s Shadow is the soundtrack to a musical without a play or movie to accompany it. It is absolutely gorgeous, and it works so well!
It has a lot going for it. It goes slow, and heavy. Sweet, and mean. It can get very powerful and commanding, then turn down the volume and fall very meek.
All of this gives me PLENTY of thought and flow that works just well with the emotion I am going for, for this collection.

Now, if I’m doing something that is kind of nonsensical, or sort of thought-provoking and hidden in metaphors, there is a couple things I can do.
I’ve listened to the Beatles for some of it, usually their Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour days. That is FANTASTIC if I’m really writing a sort of nonsense wrapped in bacon of meaning.
Another thing that does it well, to a lesser extent, is Panic! At The Disco’s album Pretty. Odd. This album is strange, quirky, and beautiful all at once. I’ve used this album for a lot of my sort of love, or happy relationship poetry. The flow of the music, and the beat in which it is pulled along… makes for some of the best happy nonsense I’ve heard.
Refer to my poem, What a match, I’m half-doomed and you’re semi-sweet for an example of that sort of writing.

I also like a lot of Pink Floyd. I listen to their music if I’m writing something with political or social undertones, or sometimes for depression poems.  They do both of those quite well. I particularly enjoy the albums Dark Side of the MoonThe Division Bell, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Lastly, when I want something heavy, full of angst, or just something really hard, I go to a few places.
I enjoy My Chemical Romance for a lot of those times. I listened to my fair share of them when I wrote The Industry Standard from my last book, because they were both rather dark and heavy.
Also, Nirvana. It’s more of a classic angst, which does a great deal different then MCR. While My Chemical Romance does the depressed hard rock, Nirvana did the rebellious hard rock. It sounds more raw, it sounds more… I don’t know, more ready for a fight. And that can do a great deal when you lack the energy or will to write like that. If you have a backing track by Nirvana, you’ll get tossed in the whirlwind yourself.

Music can do a great deal when it comes to your writing. It’s almost like having a second author, fueling your own work and tag-teaming in with their own ideas when you get too tired. It can show you what could be better and what could have more emotion. Music is truly something that gives a lot, and asks for no more then a little listen every now and again.
I think some people have started to have a certain lack of respect for music after a while. We see a lot of these modern artists, and we see the musical art deteriorating. I mean, a long time ago, even rap was a respectable music with good themes and good sounds. Now, we’ve let what used to be the unwanted, spoiled fruit of the bunch rise up and take control. Now it is feeling like ALL music is doing that.

I love metal music. But here’s the thing, when I say metal, I think of Motley Crue, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Dio… now we have replaced a good deal of metal with the god awful screamo. The demonic bastard son of one hundred maniacs.

Where did all the good music go? Well, we still have some. There are bands out there that try, even new ones. Bastille is FANTASTIC, and they’re fairly new. Of Monsters and Men has been around for a couple of years, same thing with Florence and the Machine.

Good music is out there. Some people don’t realize it, but it is. What we need to do, though, is take the music that deserves the spotlight and actually put it in it, and leave the shady, no effort, redundant tunes and put it in a dark alley where only people that want to take the risk have to go.

I think that really ends my points, both of them.
So next time you sit down to write, think about your soundtrack. What will go in it, and how to make it fit.
Trust me, it will be worth it.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 11:23 AM

Background and Backstory

Today, I’m going to get into the main post pretty quickly.
But first, let me give you some background on myself;

My favorite music is pop punk/alt rock.
My favorite cereal is cornflakes and those flash frozen strawberries.
My favorite soda is cherry Pepsi.

I am American, I was born in Texas, and I’m sixteen years old going on seventeen. My eyes are hazel, and I’ve finally settled on that after being told by numerous people that my eyes are BOTH green and brown, separately.
I like to write, obviously. I like to sing. I like to cook.
In school, I liked history and English. I am going to study computer science and technology in college.
I like to keep my hair long.
I prefer women with Scottish accents rather then the mainstream English accents. (Though both are extremely beautiful, like seriously.)

That was a little background on me. All these facts are true, due to them being facts of course, and that leads into today’s main topic;

Background and backstory in writing. Both important elements, both entirely different, but both give some much needed information for character development, growth, and just… a way for the reader to get to know and grow attached to said character. Without these two tools in our toolbox, our characters would be sad one-shot pieces with nothing to build on.

Before I go into detail on each one, let me give you the broad definitions that I was raised writing with;

Backstory – The tale of your main character before the events of the book. Told through flashbacks, prologues, or conversation. Shows a timeline within the book, and gives a character a more 3D appearance.

Background – Basically just extra info on a character. Told through conversation, or just basic story-telling and day to day events. Can also be a tool kept to the author. Helps broaden the character more, making it nearly fully 3D, because now he has likes, dislikes, favorites, and real world things that help the author get more personal with his character.

Now, our feature presentation.
Let us start with background.

As I said in the shortened definition there, background is really just extra info. It broadens your character to a real world equivalent. Let’s take my character from my new book, Aubrey Kasey, as an example.
We want to leave out any real story elements, or anything that would usually add to the plot in a significant manner.

  • So here. Aubrey Kasey.
  • Well, Aubrey Kasey is an insomniac.
  • He is on a few prescription drugs, and a few not so prescription.
  • His favorite cereal is Lucky Charms.
  • He likes black coffee.
  • While an introvert in of himself, he likes extroverted women because they help him live more then he typically would.
  • He is a writer.
  • He has had three books rejected in twenty years, each around twelve times each.
  • He never smokes.
  • His preferred alcoholic beverage of choice is a banana daiquiri. (Though around women, he gets a gin and tonic.)
  • Aubrey Kasey’s middle name is Bartholomew.

There you have it. Some tid-bits of information about my character. As I’ve probably said twice before, this really helps bring the character into the real world. Aubrey may never once get a banana daiquiri in the book, but know that he loves ’em! You, the reader, may never know his favorite cereal, or his choice in women, but I, the author and creator of Aubrey Kasey, do. And it helps me develop a much more realistic, moving character that you can relate too, by having this information laid out in front of me. I can really get up close and personal, and learn things about my character until he’s practically my best friend. (Or he’s so despicable I wouldn’t let him pet my dog.)
Usually, I keep this as an author’s tool unless one of the traits or favorites has a plot point in the book. Otherwise, I have a list on my desk next to me of all this stuff about my character while I’m writing, and it’s all good.

Next, let’s talk about backstory.

Backstory is the events that happened to your character before the events of the actual book. Backstory can be as short as what the character did the day before, or his life story from birth ’till then. The length of a backstory should really depend on what type of story it is, and what the character is like. You have to think about whether or not it will add something to the story, explain something that the readers will read later, or let us see a bit closer into the character. I have read some stories where the author creates this elaborate backstory full of twists and turns, and then it has nothing to do with the rest of story, it is never mentioned again, and it really didn’t have an impact.

Don’t do this. For me, an excessive backstory/prologue is an absolute story killer. Either have one and have it matter, or don’t have one at all. Sometimes enigmatic characters are cool anyways.

Another way you can go about it is like the background; keep it to yourself. I’ve written a few short-stories where the title character himself hardly has any info, no name, no story, sometimes no motive! (Don’t do the last one… most of the time, it’s a mistake)
But still, I write a backstory. Whether it is a paragraph or two pages, I make myself know the character, even if the readers won’t.

I am a firm believer that if anyone should know the main character, it should be the author. After all, how can you write for someone you don’t know? Learn the character, know the character, make them your friend.
THAT will help.

Real quick, I want to talk about the difference between prologue and backstory. Every prologue has a backstory, but not all backstories are prologues.
A prologue is at the beginning of the story. We’re talking about books here, because obviously movies can do it differently. (Star Wars, anyone?)
I prefer prologues. I prefer to introduce my readers to a character back then, and now, so that they can see the difference, development or growth in the character.

A regular backstory has to be developed through the story, through dialogue and narration. While it can work quite well, giving bits of the character’s story throughout the novel, I simply prefer the prologue method, because it seems plainer and easier to do. There is no gray area, there is no question what the character means, you have two black and white sections; then and now.
And that seems to work best, at least for me.

Now not everyone needs a backstory… or background. But I recommend both, especially if you are a fledgling writer. Even if you just keep it to yourself, they are yet another couple tools to help your story.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 9:47 PM

 

The Cardinal Rule of Writing

I’ve been writing for about nine years or so. Of course, a good portion of that wasn’t really writing in the same way it is today, in a structured, warm and knowledgeable environment, but I have been putting fictional words to paper for nine years.
Once I did go a more structured route, I adopted some rules. A lot of these rules are traditional rules you hear in English class, but a few of them are mine, or at least, I heard it from myself first;

– Although a third-person story should be plot-driven, character development is MOST important, because you usually find yourself more distant from the titular character, especially in a limited third-person POV.

– And a first-person story should be character-driven, but outside detail is more important, because if you don’t pay attention to the world OUTSIDE of the character’s mind, you’ll end up with a story that looks a lot like a play; mostly dialogue, little extra.

But although I made rules of my own, and adopted some from school, I have discovered what I believe is the TWO most important rules of writing. The both of them will seem obvious, and I’ve heard of too many people that don’t follow them. And what I put FIRST might surprise you.

These two rules come from Stephen King, probably my most influential author, and they come from his book On Writing. (Which is an absolutely excellent book, by the way, part auto-biography and part tutorial to write.)

The first rule is do not talk about Fight Club.

…Um, okay. Sorry, wrong set of rules.

The first rule of writing is very simple, and very obvious.
#1; Simply write. If you want to be a writer, then write. Write anything, it doesn’t even matter. Put a pencil to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and then just let it spew out. Write a sentence. Write a paragraph, write a page! Take a single sentence, and try and get a little story out of it. Doesn’t have to be anything big or complex, but just write.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re bad. It doesn’t matter if your spelling is off, your grammar is terrible, and the writing is atrocious. WRITE.
Do you understand?
Write.

But now, there is one other rule which I place as the most important rule of them all. Even more important then writing. This is the cardinal rule of writing.

This rule, is once again, very simple.
Just read. Read anything. Read the back of the shampoo bottle, read the manual for the dishwasher, or read Charles Dickens. It doesn’t matter. (Although I recommend Charles Dickens over the other two options.)

In order to write, you must read first. Just like you must walk before you can run. Reading is baby steps that will teach you the mechanics of the immense world of writing.  It will give you the tools that you’ll need in order to create something great.
If you aren’t a big reader, but you want to write, I’d recommend finding the best books from a handful of genres. A little fantasy, a little sci-fi, a little horror… these will give you the know-how needed to craft a work of art.

Would you try to build a birdhouse if you had never seen a birdhouse before? If you tried, you might end up with a coffee mug, or a mailbox. (Both which can be used as a birdhouse, but that’s not the point)
Books are the pictures and manuals in which to build new things. And once again, like building, not only will you know how to then create a certain type of story, but you’ll learn other skills that can be put in use for all stories.

Now unlike building, where you read the manual, create it, and you know how to do it forever… with writing, I’d recommend reading as many as you can. My new novel, The New Phantasm, is crafted with many novels. A large portion is Stephen King, and that becomes evident when you read it, but there’s a little of everything. A little Lovecraft, maybe, a little Jim Butcher. And of course, other things, such as music, television and video games play a part. If you want to go that route, there’s some Supernatural in it for television, a little Amnesia from the video games.

But even though a lot of things can attribute to your own unique style and can hand you tools, nothing can give them better then reading a good book.

…And I have a confession to make.
It’s pretty tough to admit.

…I haven’t been reading that much.

CUE GASPS! CUE COMMENTS OF HYPOCRISY!
And maybe I’d deserve it. A lot of my writing recently has been poetry, and I only read poetry over the internet when I need a little inspiration.
But that’s the other part of this post… I’m writing, and following all the other rules, and following grammar and such…
But I haven’t been reading.
Now that’s a problem. I used to love reading! I read the Harry Potter series in about half of my fifth grade year. I used to read a new Stephen King every couple of weeks, and for god’s sake, I bought the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy collection for eleven bucks, and it’s just on my shelf, collecting dust!

This now falls into a lesson of practicing what I preach, and hopefully making it a lesson for you too.
This is something NO ONE should do, or say, or use as an excuse.

I haven’t been reading because I’ve been busy, i.e with writing.
No, that’s not how it works. Why WRITE if I can’t take the time to READ.
Don’t turn this backwards, don’t write before you read, especially if you are new to the craft. And especially if you aren’t new to it! There is no reason to not read if you’re a writer.

So I’ll end by saying this. Around my room somewhere is a half read Dresden File book. I’ll read that by the end of the month. Halfway through summer, I’ll have the Hitchhiker’s series done. And by the end of summer, I’ll have 2001; A Space Odyssey read as well. (I searched for six months to find a copy of that book that WASN’T a movie book, and now it’s collecting dust as well).

Those are my goals. And of course, I’ll still write in between, but as a community I don’t think we can forget what anyone, even the best, had to do first before they ever started to write.
And if you’re a writer whose fallen into the same rut as me, or even if you’re just a reader who hasn’t read for a while, hopefully you’ll take the initiative to start up again with me.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 12:37 AM