Sunday, December 23, 2012

Character Arcs (And How I've Been Plotting My Novel)

Recently, I read Wither by Lauren Destefano and I was struck by how beautifully done the character arcs were. Well, okay, it wasn't recently. It was more like a couple of months ago. But anyway, I've been struggling for a while, trying to figure out how to keep so much focus on the development of my characters. I don't know why it took me so long to figure it out, though. The answer was so simple (and yet oh-so complicated.) Why don't I just plot the character arcs along with my novel? Duh.
Still, when I though of that, I was still in a pickle. How would I set up my plot in a way that I could keep track of both the plot arc and the character arcs? I'm not the most organized person, as you'll see below.
Sorry for the bad quality of these pictures. I can't find the charger for my I had to use my phone. (Yet another example of how I'm an unorganized person.)

Anyway, these are pages in the sketchbook that I use to plot and brainstorm for my WIP.

I'm kind of glad that you can't read any of it. ;P

Look at all of those notes, squeezed into the tiniest of places. How am I supposed to build a novel off of this?

Okay, so this one's slightly more structured, but still. You get the point. 

So, I took all of that and turned it into this:
That's right. I took every single note from my sketchbook and put it on loose-leaf paper, all organized by category.
Then I made a list of the story arcs I had to follow. There were, like, six. I don't know if that's a lot for you, but it's a lot for me. In the first draft of this novel, I had, like, two and a half. And I didn't even know what I was doing.
THEN, I came up with an AWESOME system. For each scene, I'll ask five questions.
Who (who is in the scene?)
What (what is happening in the scene?)
Where (where is the scene taking place?)
When (when is the scene taking place?)
How (how does this move the story forward? How does this effect each plot line? How does this change or affect the characters? and etc.)

So then I have something that looks along the lines of this:

Who: Fraud, Lauren, Iri, Warriors, and a couple of Ashrays
What: Fraud wakes up to screaming. Everyone runs out to find nearly all of the Ashrays have been slaughtered. (ashrays are out during night because they’re nocturnal) Like 3 are left alive, screaming. Warrior says something stupid like, “At least we’re safe.” Then he dies. Everyone starts running for the exits. One Ashray dies b/c it’s daylight now. Others are left inside, trapped. They die. Start running. Wait, where’s Devlin? Have to leave him, can’t go back.
When: Day 3
Where: Ashray Lair
How: Lauren sees Eolande and no one else does (which is pretty scarring) She doesn't realize no one else saw her, though. Devlin left over the night to go to castle. Eolande made a slight mistake drinking all their blood, she knows. But she couldn’t help it. She’ll just get them another time.

It took a while to do, but now that I've done it fifty billion times, I have a (nearly) finished plot and a clear picture in my head of how the characters develop! I still have some polishing to do. Add some scene notes here and there, decide what information I want to reveal in each scene, and decide what POV each scene will be in. Oh, and I have to type the entire thing up on my computer still. But, other than that, my plot is basically done.(:

You're welcome to try out this method if you want. However, if you don't like plotting very much or if you're a pantser who's decided to try out plotting for the first time, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT USE THIS METHOD. This was tedious for me, a plotoholic. If you've never tried plotting before, doing this will probably make you hate it. And, quite possibly, it may even make you hate your own story. I don't want to be responsible for that. You should start small, build up your own method and ways. (:

How do you keep track of character arcs? What's your method of plotting?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Love-hate Relationship with My Kindle

I own the Kindle Touch. It's light, it's small (it fits in my tiny purse!) and books are generally cheaper on it. Not to mention all of the Indie books that you can find for, say, 99 cents or less. For example, one book I'm really pining for is The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. At Walmart (basically the only place in my city that sells books, besides one Indie bookstore that is scarily expensive) the book is $16.99. On my Kindle, it's $9.50. That's a big difference, especially for me, someone who hates spending money.
Yet, I refuse to buy the book on my Kindle.
Why? I'll get to that soon enough. First, I'm going to list all of the pro's and cons of my Kindle Touch.

The Kindle

  • It's cute. 
  • It's portable. 
  • Books are more affordable. 
  • No one can judge what you're reading.
  • You can look up the definitions of words within seconds. 
  • It's easier to hold when you're trying to read in bed. 
  • You can make the fonts bigger so you don't have to read with your glasses on. 
  • You can put music on it. 
  • You can buy a book from anywhere and be able to start reading it within seconds. 
  • You can read samples of books.
  • You can take your entire library with you wherever you go. 
  • You can buy writing books without people asking you about your writing. 
  • It connects to Wi-Fi, so yes, you can use the internet on it. 
  • You can play word games on it (for free!)
  • You can highlight and make notes whenever you want and they don't harm the book. 
  • The e-ink stuff is really cool. 
  • It moves really slowly. 
  • The notes and highlights you make? Yeah, they all go into one gigantic confusing file. 
  • It's really easy to lose your place if you just accidently touch the screen.
  • It takes forever to get back to whatever place you were at. 
  • You have to charge it. (Not very often, which kind of makes it worse because it runs out of charge when you want it most.)
  • It's not a book. 
  • You can't look at the pretty covers. 
  • You can't stroke the pretty covers. 
  • You can't admire how many pages the book has. 
  • You can make notes, but you can't find exactly where you made those notes so it's kind of hard to understand what you were talking about. 
  • It's cold, hard technology. 
  • There's no paper. 
  • No ink (that you can feel). 
  • No new-book-smell. 
Overall, if you like reading, I'd suggest getting a Kindle. It's a good investment. If you're a writer, however--or just a bibliophile--owning a Kindle can be quite dangerous. You can own every book EVER with just a few swipes of your finger. You don't feel the cash leaving your pocket because it's all electronic. If you're not careful, you could go into some serious book-debt. 
You can also get tricked into buying some really awesome books electronically rather than physically. You've been wanting to read this book forever. It's cheaper and easier to you press buy. You devour the book in a day. It's even more awesome than you'd thought it would be. 
But then what?
You can't admire the cover. You can't add the book to your shelf. You can't open it up and easily go to your favorite parts. It's difficult to study the pages if you're a writer trying to learn from the book. The book on your Kindle does not physically exist. 
I don't know. Being a person who collects books like trophies (because I'm not really the athletic type), this can be really distressing. There are several books that I bought on my Kindle that I really wish I hadn't. 
Too name a few:
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Across the Universe and A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Graceling by Kristen Cashore

I regret purchasing all of those books digitally because they were too amazing not to have a physical copy. I love my Kindle, but that is why I hate my Kindle. I love being able to look at the samples of all the amazing books, and to be able to buy the books that are still good, but I can live without seeing them on my shelves. However, if I read a sample to a book that looks like it's going to be another Best Book Ever, I won't buy it. I'd rather wait and go crazy over it until I finally get to get it at a bookstore than not have a physical copy of it. 

What about you? Do you have a Kindle? If so, do you like it better than the physical book? If you don't have a Kindle, are you considering purchasing one?

Okay, I know. I know. I know. I used the word "awesome" at least a gazillion times in this post. Sorry.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Scary Business

Well, the world didn't end, so I guess I have to keep up this whole blogging resolution I made. ;D
Since I'm sure many people were scared yesterday, despite NASA's reassurances that the world is, in fact, in no danger of ending any time soon, today I'm going to talk about fear and how it relates to writing. Yeah, I know, so appropriate for the holidays, huh?
When you're starting a new novel, you're starting from scratch. Always. And that can feel like you're looking up at the longest flight of stairs in the world.

Daunting, huh?
It feels like you're never going to make it to the top. But then, you start climbing (in this case, writing--or plotting) and you stare at your feet the entire time until you finally look up and you're already half way there!

But being halfway there doesn't always feel like a good thing. You're at the point of no return. It's either do or die. You have to convince yourself not to look down because if you do, you'll get intimidated by how far you've come. You don't want to be that far off the ground. You want to go back, retrace your steps, make it better. But you can't, because you're dangling. And you can't look up, either, because then you'll realize how much farther you still have to go. You're tired, you're scared, and you're kind of regretting your decision to do this. 
Then, after a couple of scary slips and a few tears, you make it to the top.

You're a god. You actually did it. You can do anything now. You look back at all you've accomplished--and it still scares you--but that fear is mixed with huge senses of pride and relief. You walk around, telling everyone you know, "I climbed a mountain!" ("I wrote a novel!")

And then you slip. 
You fall all the way down to where you started. The mountain, or flight of stairs, is no longer a beautiful thing that you've accomplished, but just a big old jagged rock. You're bruised and battered, your confidence is shattered. How could you make the mistake of slipping? Now you have to start all over. You cry a bit. You cry a lot. You research better ways to climb the mountain. You look at all of the mishaps you made before and figure out how to avoid them this time around. You start climbing again, and the mountain isn't as bad as it was the first time. You know what to expect, you're even more determined, and you make it back to the top in no time. 

Your climb still wasn't perfect, but it was better. You know you can do this now--it wasn't just luck the first time. You go back to the bottom and start climbing again, and again, and again until you're like freaking Spiderman. 

Writing is a long, treachorous journey that no one but a writer can experience. All of this climbing, these accomplishments--they're all inside of your head. No one else notices but you. We writers are alone in our long battle with our manuscripts. Being alone and not knowing what you're doing is scary. Sometimes it can scare you out of doing it. Sometimes it can destroy you. But, if you start and you're stupid enough to fall in love with it, you'll get better over time. It's a long uphill battle and we don't have anyone behind us to catch us if we fall. We are alone, but we are strong. We can do this: we're writers. It's what we're made for. 

Do you get scared when you're writing? What are the scariest parts of writing for you?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beginning at the End

So. I can't help but to notice that it's been a while since I've blogged. You've noticed this too, yeah? Liar. You forgot all about me and my silly little blog. WELL. That won't happen again. Starting now (the last day of the world), long as I can keep it up, I'm going to be blogging EVERY DAY. Therefore, I'm beginning at the end. And then, when I'm done blogging everyday, I'm going to gauge how much I can handle and create a weekly blog schedule. That way, if you want, you can bug me about not blogging. Or I can just feel guilty all on my own. (:
A few weeks ago (it may have been days, I have no sense of time)  my lovely friend Megan Paasch tagged me in The Next Best Thing Blog Hop. I'm finally going to do it. As you may know, I've recently begun rewriting my novel and there's so much new stuff than before that I only hope I can sum it all up below.
-WARNING: terrible writing may ensue.-

What is the working title of your book?
The working title at the moment is "Everlae", which is the name of the world it takes place in. I don't know if this will stay the title for very long. I'm not good at naming things.

Where did the idea come from for your book?
Oh, gosh, I don't remember. I got the title of the world from a song that I misheard, I think. It said, "of L.A." and I heard, "Everlae." But it was, like, a year after that when I really sat down and started brainstorming. I really liked the idea of having faeries hate humans for whatever reason.

What genre does your book fall under?
Uh. I don't know.  YA Fantasy, I think?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Ha. Well, here goes:

When Lauren inexplicably finds herself trapped in Everlae, a world where humans are enslaved by faeries, she’ll do anything to get home…even if means inciting a war with devastating effects. 

Thanks so much to Chynna-Blue for helping me with this!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither, at the moment, although one day, maybe, I'll start querying for it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Well. I started the first first first draft four years ago. But I really didn't start working on the current version of the story until last year. Basically, all I'd had to show for three years of working on it (occasionally, when I was in the mood or during the summer holidays) was 20,000 words. At an early part of last year, I sat down, plotted out everything with excruciating detail, tried (and failed) NaNoWriMo, got the manuscript to 40k, and then I finished writing it around the last day of school last year. It was 78k.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Um, I don't know. I don't have anything to compare it to. Not yet, at least.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Wow. I don't really see the faces of my characters, so this will be difficult. I'll only do the two main characters.
Um. I kind of like Alexander Ludwig from the Hunger Games as my male protagonist, Fraud Ghriaura.
And I don't know, maybe Lucy Hale as my female protagonist, Lauren Fischer.
But if there ever were to be a movie (highly HIGHLY unlikely) I'd like whoever could play the character best, even if it means they're a new face.(:

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
There are many things that inspire me to keep working on this book to this very day. Right now, I'm really interested by the American Civil War because there's going to be a war in my story and it's caused by racial issues. But, other things that inspired me were Celtic mythology (I love it), Irish history, the summer, Also, every single book I've ever read, all of the writing advice I read, and the support of my fellow writers.(:

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's not a love story. Not really. Oh, and humans are stronger than faeries. The Faeries are actually afraid of the humans.

I tag:
Ayssa Sherlock
Skye Fairwin
Ashtyn Stann
Lupus Amator
David Patterson
Chynna-Blue Scott

I want to hear about your guys' stories.