Monday, May 20, 2013

I Don't Get It

There are some things I just don't get in life. Why cats can be perfectly cuddly one second and then killing your hand moments later is one of them. Another is why some English words are spelled the way they are.

But I am troubled with something bigger right now.

I recently went to see the movie "42". It is a true story set back in the 1940s, about Jackie Robinson, a black baseball player who plays on an all white baseball team.

In the movie, Jackie Robinson is treated despicably simply because he is black.

That's what I don't get.

How can anyone think it's okay to treat another human with so much disrespect or even downright cruelty  simply because of the color of their skin? How did so much prejudice and racism exist? And how does it still exist today?

Yes, people are different. There are so many different races, religions, gender attractions, ages, IQs, hair colors, body types, and tons of other things that make us each different. It's one thing to have an opinion on a certain type of person, but an entirely other thing to be cruel or rude to them.

It's not right, yet people do it all the time. I just don't get why. Don't they realize that they're tearing down another person?

Maybe I'm just slightly naive about the world, but I can't fathom ever being so rude to anyone for any reason, no matter how much I disagree with them.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Way back, a few years ago, when I was still a bit naive about the world, I made a goal that one day, my writing would be good enough that I will be able to make someone cry when they read my words.

Well, I've hit that goal, but it wasn't nearly as gratifying as I thought.

I've learned a lot about it, and I'll tell you the secret to making your readers cry:

You have to cry as you write it. It's as simple as that. If the words you write ignite tears in yourself, chances are, they'll draw tears from someone else who had a similar experience to you.

I've done a lot of crying lately, and a lot of writing through those tears, and have come to regret setting that goal. When I'm reading something, and it brings me to tears, it's usually because what I'm reading reminds me of something that has made me cry in the past and continues to make me cry when I think about it too much.

When something I write brings one of my readers to tears, I suspect they're having the same experience, reliving one of their bad memories that caused them to cry. My writing is causing them to remember a bad memory. How could I have wanted that?

How could I have wanted my writing to remind people of the bad things of the world?

I should've made a goal to have my writing make them laugh, not cry. Yes, the emotion I put into my writing can be intense at times, now that I've had some extremely emotional experiences myself, but the world doesn't need more sadness, it needs happiness.

And so I continue to learn and grow.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Reasons Why I Will Never Be Able To Stop Writing...Except To Be A Missionary

1. Writing Saved Me

When I was twelve or thirteen, I went through what I call my "dark age". I struggled with pretty much everything - bad family relationships, my supposed lack of friends, how ugly I thought I looked, and wondering what my purpose even was.

One late night, it all came to a head as I had a long (we're talking hours here) inner battle with my demons, and finally fell to my knees and prayed desperately for help.

Two days later, I found a website that was bookmarked on the computer. It was one a friend had introduced me to several years earlier, but that I hadn't even thought about since. I threw myself into this new site, first reading fanfictions like crazy, and then turning to writing them. With the discovery of this site, all my struggles disappeared as my focus was completely absorbed into this new site.

I've since graduated from writing fanfiction to writing my own, original stuff, and I rarely work on any of my half finished fanfictions anymore, but I can't find it in me to stop working on them permanently, because they were my real start to writing.

I do consider it a miracle from God that I discovered writing when I did. Writing probably saved my life and definitely helped me work through all my struggles in a timely manner.

2. Writing Fits My Imperfections

I'm kind of a perfectionist. But I'm also incredibly impatient. It's not a good combination. I always start to do something, and have a brilliant idea for it, then rush too much, because I'm impatient to be done, mess it up so it isn't perfect, and then give up on it. Then next time I come back to it, I regret that I ever rushed and try to do it again, only to, rather than fix the problem, have it happen again, making a bigger mess. That's why I don't do crafts very often.

The thing about writing, is that it won't be perfect the first time you do it. The first draft is meant to be a mess.     My impatience causes me to just write and get it done with as fast as possible. My perfectionism causes me to return to that mess time and time again to fix it, and it's the one thing that actually is improved by each new revision.

And yes, I've never had a story that I thought was perfect, but at one point, it reaches a point where I think it's good enough, for the moment, and I post it up for people to read. Even those stories are constantly being rewritten and reposted, however.

I don't know if I'll ever publish anything professionally, just for this reason. I'd never be satisfied with the finished result. You can't exactly keep rewriting a book once it's already published, without ending up with a dozen different editions, anyway.

Even so, you can't deny that writing is one thing that fits okay with my perfectionism and impatience.

3. Writing Fulfills My Unrealistic Dreams

I've dreamed of traveling the world since I was a kid. It will probably never, realistically, happen. But one of my characters went to Venice.

Yes, I've fantasized about getting a tattoo. It'll never happen. But one of my characters got one.

Living on a moon colony? Time-traveling? Marrying prince charming? Probably won't happen to me, but it did happen to my characters.

I live through the experiences of my characters. It helps me explore the world as I sit in my bedroom, living a normal life, surrounded by normal people.

4. Writing Is a Cheap Substitute For Therapy

I can now say it's a fact that writing is therapeutic for me. I've been through a lot lately, and writing always made me feel a whole lot better. Even if I was writing about something that had nothing to do with what I was going through. Maybe it's just me allowing my mind a break from turning the situation around and around as I think about it constantly that makes me feel better. Or maybe it's the reminder that my issue is no worse than some of the things my characters have to go through, and they all survive, don't they? (Well...most of them survive...) Whatever it is, it works.

5. Writing Brings Back My Childhood Happiness

When I was little, I used my imagination a lot. I roleplayed as quite a few different things with my imaginary friend, I played with horse figurines with Lydia, and I explored and read like my life depended on it. That all stopped the moment I discovered technology (which is why I've decided I'm keeping my children away from technology as long as is humanly possible). My imagination slowly started to fade away.

And then I found writing and suddenly, that imagination that had been used constantly as a child was reignited. There are whole worlds in my head again. Granted, I'm usually not the main character anymore, but I'm still there, walking with my characters through enchanted forests, ducking the fairies that love to dive-bomb people. Or I'm following a character across the surface of the moon, hiding from the cameras and lenses that the aliens of Earth like to stalk the people on the moon with. Or I'm exploring a cave which will bring my characters into another dimension.

My writing brings back my childhood. The innocence and wonder and excitement that playing brought to me as a child is returned as I create whole new worlds to put my characters in. As I create exotic places for scenes to happen or create new creatures and people for my characters to interact with, it changes my life. The dullness of attending college classes or other necessary adult activities is partially wiped away as suddenly I'm transported to a place I can call all my own, that is designed just to my liking. It's kind of amazing, if you think about it.

Serving As A Missionary Means No Writing For Eighteen Months

And now you see why I would never be able to give up writing permanently. It means far too much to me. I don't know what I'm going to do without it for eighteen months, but I know God introduced me to writing, so he'll provide a way for me in the eighteen months I have to live without it in order to serve him.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Outlining a Novel 101

You know that feeling you get when you put on a pair of jeans you haven't worn for a long time and you find a ten dollar bill in the pocket that you had no idea was there? Well, that's kind of how I feel about these extra six weeks. At first, I was upset and such, but I've come to see them as something good and needed even. I've spent a lot of time writing during them, which is nice, since before these six weeks I had practically been working to get all my stories to a good stopping place and sorted out, so now everything is all organized and perfect for working on them.

Since I'm so organized, here are some current stats:

I currently have 129 stories. 62 of them are fanfictions. 15 of the originals ones are actually poems and 13 are short stories. That means that I'm currently working on 39 original novels right now. Of those 39, 24 of them are part of series/trilogies, making 15 stand-alone novels. Only four of my original novels have been written all the way through. Two of those four are back in the outlining stage as I prepare to rewrite them. I have four other novels that have been partially written, but not completed. 

As every time I write currently, it seems that I only feel like working on my original novels, and the majority of my novels are currently in the outlining stage (arguably the second most important stage, the first being editing, and the third being writing), I've been putting a lot of thought into how I outline my novels.

I've come up with seven steps.

First, I write what I call a "Base Idea". This is a one sentence synopsis that gives the basic main character and biggest conflict they have to face. For example, the base idea for my novel, Involuntary Notions is this:

After receiving a vision from her dead mother, Melissa leaves on a quest that will change her life forever.

After the Base Idea, on my prewrite document, I have what I call my "Outline Outline". Basically, these are just random ideas that I want to find a place for in my novel, but I'm not certain where. Typically, I also write  the original inspiration for my novel here as well, so I can go back and refer to it, if needed. I also put possible character names, interactions, or sequel ideas in this area. 

Third is to write what I call my "Basic Outline". For this I don't care about character names or specific settings, I just lay out the beginning, the end, and the biggest plot points that I want to occur in the middle.

Fourth, I write a "Defined Basic Outline" which is kind of like the basic outline, except I connect all the dots. I write in detail how the story starts and what leads them from point A to B to C and beyond, all the way to the end. 

This is where I typically start developing my characters. I make up to four separate documents, besides my outline document. 

One is for all my character profiles, relationships, backgrounds, etc. 

Another is for my settings, world history, and culture. 

The third is my research document. I create a list of questions of things I'm not sure about (like how bodies decay in space, for my novel Imminent Pandemonium) and then, when I get the time, I research and write the answers down, so I can more easily refer to it. I also add plot points here that I'm not sure how to add in, or questions such as "What happens to Gothel about Rapunzel escapes from the tower? She just kind of disappears..." from my novel Charming Disaster. Even if it isn't crucial to the novel or plot, I like to have an answer to all those things for my own reference, or in case I decide to make that character appear later on. Besides, what if someday when I'm famous, someone asks that question? I have to have an answer.

The last document, I don't often do, only with my more complicated novels, where things are happening multiple places at once (like Paradox). It's a timeline. I write the dates of every event, so I can keep things consistent. 

After my basic outlines are done, the next step is to write my "Extended Outline - Chapters". This takes the Defined Basic Outline and sorts it into chapters, splitting it up according to how many word count or where there's a perfect cliff-hanger moment. (I'm a sucker for a good cliff-hanger. Reading my fanfic The Brotherhood is proof of that.)

If I'm feeling really ambitious (I've only done this on two fanfictions so far, but it was really effective, so I'm planning on doing it with any original novel I am really invested in publishing some day, which is only about 20 of them), I create a fourth outline I call my "Extended Outline - Scenes". For this, I take my Extended Outline - Chapters and split each chapter into all the possible scenes it could include. I ensure all the major events of the chapter are included as scenes, and then I'll often add an "optional scene" that adds more depth or develops a character more, or gives additional perspective through another character's point of view, that I can write if I feel the chapter is too short with just the necessary scenes. These can often be cut out later, if the entire novel's length is too long, or sometimes they add a second plot-line that makes the novel better and which I wasn't even planning on. 

At this point, I'm ready to just sit down and write. I can pick any scene out and write it, skipping over scenes that are difficult or I'm not in the mood for. My research is already most of the way complete, so I don't have to stop while writing to figure something out. I know what my characters are supposed to do, and hopefully how they'll act while they do it. I know my setting well enough that I can play with it and make sure everything still fits as it should.

My total prewrite, using this method, usually ends up being about 25,000 words of writing, at the least. When I'm prepping for a NaNoWriMo novel, in October, it typically takes the entire month to do so, assuming I haven't worked on it before that. 

And now you know why most of my novels are still in the outlining stage. Once their outlines are complete, it's smooth sailing and I could probably write the novel in a week or two.