I decided to go with the flow like I talked about in my last post and I’ve gotten nowhere with my WIP. Something isn’t working with this story. I find myself constantly starting over and I’m sick of it.
My work in progress is a rambling mess, and, yes, I know what you’re thinking: But Jen, your first draft is supposed to be a mess. You’ll fix it in the rewrite. Yeah, maybe. Or I just might be wasting my time. Who the hell knows. The one thing I’m certain of is that my current WIP is page upon page of events happening but no real story.
I thought about signing up for NaNoWriMo and starting again, banging out another 50K words this month, but it would be just another 50K words of random shit happening with no real reason as to why, so I decided to go a different route.
Recently, I bought a copy of Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy another writing how-to book until I finished my first draft. I love books on writing, but most of the time they end up becoming just another form of procrastination rather than a useful craft tool.
According to the back cover copy of Story Genius, this book “takes you step-by-step from the first glimmer of an idea to an expansive, multilayered cause-and-effect blueprint–including fully realized scenes.” So instead of participating in NaNo this month, I’ll be working my way through this book.
Hopefully, by the end of the month I will know more about the story behind all the events happening in my current WIP and maybe finally complete this first draft.
Camp NaNoWriMo ended yesterday and my final tally was 28.25 hours, and even though I didn’t reach my goal of 50 hours, I got a lot of work done.
At the beginning of the month, I created a spread sheet to keep track of my progress. I found that out of the 31 days of Camp, I had only worked on my project 20 of those days. I was surprised. I didn’t work on my novel for 11 days!!! Think of the progress I could have made.
Oh well. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Some days I had no time to devote to writing and other days I was just lazy. What can I say…I’m human.
Overall it was a good experience. I’m back in the habit of writing on a regular basis and the story is always fresh in my mind.
The final result of Camp NaNoWriMo is that it’s left me even more determined to keep going until I write “The End” and finally finish my first novel.
It’s day eleven and progress is slow going still. By day seven, I knew I wasn’t going to reach my word count goal. That’s when I realized something important–word count goals just don’t work for me. Instead of following the advice of the eight gazillion books and blog posts on writing that I’ve read over the years, I’ve decided to try things my way. I’m going to shoot for hours spent writing rather than number of words written. My new goal is 50 hours of writing. As of this writing, I’ve accomplished just under eight hours, so I’m still behind. Over the weekend I hope to play a little catch up by putting in as many hours as possible. Wish me luck.
image by _Zhang via Flickr
After spending the past week brainstorming ideas for my estranged sister story, I’ve hit a wall. I’ve come up with some possible ideas for this novel but nothing concrete. I need to know more about the characters. Who are they? What do they look like? What’s their backstory?
Knowing more about the characters will help me figure out the point of this story.
Character development is probably my favorite part of the story writing process. I usually start with figuring out the basics: General appearance, how old they are at the time of the story, occupation, marital status, do they have children, and who are the other family members.
After I have the basic character information, I’ll then write a biography starting from childhood and covering any major events that have happened up until the starting point of the story. These are usually three to five pages long, sometimes longer depending on the complexity of the character, where I let my mind wander and let the character tell their life story. The biography is where I learn the following details about my character:
- What their life was like growing up – chaotic, idyllic, impoverished, etc.
- Events that have influenced their choices in life.
- Their relationships with others.
- Their fears.
- Their flaws.
- Their secrets.
- Their dreams.
- Their disappointments in life.
It’s important to know what makes your characters tick. The biographical details you discover help to create believable and relatable characters. They also help with the plotting process. As you develop your story people, you’ll uncover what their goals are, both external and internal. This in turn helps you figure out what motivates them and what possible obstacles you can throw at them during the course of your story.
True-to-life characters have emotional baggage, and creating a character biography helps pinpoint what those issues are. That baggage will be a source of conflict, and conflict is what makes the story interesting. It keeps readers turning the page and coming back for more. And, as with most writers, keeping the reader engaged is my ultimate goal.
What methods do you use to develop your characters? Are you like me and try to figure them out during the planning process, or do you learn about them as you’re writing the story?