Friday, July 27, 2012

All public transportation should be like London

I am back in London, and thrilled to be here! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I was here last because coming off of the plane it felt like coming home.

My sister and mother were commenting on all the little differences and going through a bit of culture shock, though. I hardly noticed these things, but sitting back and reflecting on it there really are a lot of differences between life in the US and life in the UK, and even though I feel comfortable here and don’t even feel any culture shock, if I tried to write a book that took place in London I would undoubtedly make mistakes.

Which brings me to today’s topic: write what you know. So often I see authors write about something in their books that they obviously have no experience with, and it shows. If it’s not something familiar to you, it will be hard to sell it as something familiar to your characters (unless it’s magic, in which case you’re making it all up anyway :P)

This isn’t to say that it’s completely impossible—I’m not a master swordsman and I’ve never killed anyone, but the characters in my book have. But when you do write about something you don’t know, there are a few steps I suggest to follow.

1.    Do research. A lot of research. The better prepared and informed you are, the better your writing’s going to be.

2.    Immerse yourself in the culture/activity as much as you can. If you’re writing about horseback riding, go horseback riding. If you’re writing about fencing, take a fencing lesson. If your story takes place in New York City, (if possible) go to New York City. Practical, real-life experience will help you more than all the reading and researching in the world ever can.

3.    Have a beta reader who IS familiar with it. Make sure that at least one of the people helping you edit your book (preferably more if the thing you’re unfamiliar with is a prominent part of your story) is an expert, or at least well versed, on the subject. I plan on having the stage combat professor at my university look over some of my fight scenes and help me make sure they’re realistic.

4.    Read it and re-read it very closely—look for your mistakes. If something sounds wrong, it probably is. But if something doesn’t sound wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

5.    Don’t be afraid to take criticism. Stories only get better when people critique them, especially if the author isn’t an expert on what they’re writing. However, at the same time, don’t let people walk all over you.

What you write doesn’t have to be completely perfect—as long as it’s believable and you don’t sound like an idiot, you’re probably all right. However, out of respect for those who are from that culture or do participate in that sport/activity/etc, be as informed and prepared as you possibly can to do them justice.

On a side note: why, in movies and TV shows, can they NEVER hire professional musicians? Whenever there’s a band playing for something, they almost always look like idiots because they don’t know what they’re doing. Anyway….

Enjoy the Opening Ceremonies! I know I will J


Sunday, July 22, 2012

And here we go again!

This morning, I woke up, took a shower, then sat down at my laptop, like always. Unlike most days, however, I opened up a brand new document in word and began typing.

Starting a new book is an adventure. Months and months will go by where you'll be completely absorbed in this world you've created, getting into the characters' minds, watching the story unfold. Even if you have the story outlined, your characters can surprise you--and you can surprise yourself.

The book I just started is a sequel to the one I just finished, so there's a part of me that doesn't feel like I'm starting a new book. However, the tone of this book is drastically different than the first--the first was very light-hearted up until the end, and this one is very dark. They're the same characters, but there's so much more to discover about them that I don't already know.

I'm excited to get this book underway and see where the characters take me. I know the beginning, some parts in the middle, and the end, but a lot of this is going to be free exploration. That's my favorite kind of writing--where you can just let the words flow naturally and see where it takes you. I'll edit out the boring parts later :P

On a side note, I can't WAIT for the olympics! I'm flying into London the day before they start and leaving the day after they end. Yes, it will be crazy, but I'm so excited!

Have a great Sunday, everyone!


I am royalty!


Because I'm the queen of first drafts.

I just finished the first draft of my third novel. But instead of going back and editing right now, I'm starting the next book in the series. I did the same thing with the last two, and went back to edit later (still haven't entirely gotten around to editing the second one...) They're all from the same series, so I guess there's a part of me that wants to finish all the books, make sure everything flows well, before going back to edit.

I don't know how wise this approach is, but I think I'm going to stick with it for now. The next year of my life is going to be crazy with school (I am still a college student) and the possibility of me going on an 18 month mission for my church some time before next December. So even if I had a draft that was ready for querying, I wouldn't want to get on the publication road and then leave for that long.

So, since I know that publication is at least two and a half years off for me, for now I think I will go ahead and finish the first drafts of all five books in my series. That way all I have to do when I get back is edit--seriously edit.

What's your approach to writing a series? Do you like to plan everything out before seriously editing, or  do you go book by book? Does it vary by series?

Get excited for the Olympics!


Friday, July 20, 2012

A Villain's Perspective

First of all, yes, I'm alive! I was so busy at the beginning of this summer, and then I just got lazy. But now I'm trying to make it up to you guys (and myself) and focus on my writing again, which also means blogging. I'll do my best to not leave months in between my posts again!

In my current project, I've been writing each scene from a different character's perspective. I'm thinking that in the end, the novel will end up being written in third person, but for now each section is labelled with the character's name who's speaking. When I got to the most recent scene, I was struck with a real dilemma of who's POV to write it from--the angry good-guy, or the calm bad-guy (I also could have written it from the concerned princess's perspective, but I didn't think about that until after the fact :p).

I couldn't bring myself to make a decision, so I waited. And waited. And didn't do anything about it. Finally, my cousin told me to write it from the villain's perspective, so I did.

I think all along I knew that I needed to write it from his point of view, but there was a very large part of me that didn't want to. The first reason is I'm terrified of him. Others might not be as intimidated by this kind of villain (he's the epitome of the plotters I mentioned in my villain's post from forever ago) but he is a creature out of my nightmares. He can get inside your head and twist your thoughts, make you question who you are and what's right and wrong, convince you to do things you would never do, drive you mad.

The second reason was that I had a really hard time relating to him--how could I relate to someone who was that twisted? How could I come to understand his character?

It wasn't until I sat down and talked some thing through with a friend of mine that I was able to find some understanding of how he became who he is. Even then, the idea of putting myself in his mind was uncomfortable for me. I didn't want to do it--I was avoiding it as much as I could. But I knew that eventually I would come to the point where, at least for my own sake, I would need to suck it up and write in his voice. I reached that point today.

A few things happened: first, I discovered more about his character and how he thinks. Second, I discovered more about his relationship with his sister (which had baffled me before). And third, I discovered that when I let myself, I can be really, really creepy. I'd like to say it was my characters being creepy, but in all reality I'm the one writing it.

On a level it bothers me that I was able to tap into his mind (I have another character--a killer--who I was also able to tap into. That was disturbing to re-read...). Maybe it's from all the reading I do, maybe it's from the psychoanalysis of characters that seems to occupy my free time, maybe it's from my acting experience--I don't know. But somehow I'm able to relate to and get inside the minds of characters that I would never want to be associated with in real life.

Is this a problem? Maybe. Others might see it as a talent. Personally, it still kind of bothers me. Understanding them or analyzing them is one thing, but it bothers me when I can write as if I were them. I know that, as Sirius Black says, "We've all got both light and dark inside us", but I'm a little more in touch with my 'dark' side than I maybe should be...

What do you think? Should we be worried about me turning to the dark side? :P

Enough ranting--back to fun posts soon! This was just what was on my mind today.

Good luck in all your writing adventures!

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