Iron Man’s 5 Steps To Finishing NaNo In The Next Five Days

tony stark 1

It’s the last week of NaNoWriMo and some people have won already. But don’t give up if you’re still plodding towards that finish line, or if you’re in the impossible position of having hit 50k but not met your own personal goal. I know how hard that is. Suddenly, there’s nothing left to motivate you.

You have until midnight on the 30th November to change the facts, and you’re going to do it. Step one in doing that is not hanging around to read super long blog posts, so I’m gonna keep this one short.

Five steps to completing your NaNo novel in the next four or five days:

Decide what your goal is.

You can’t aim towards something unidentified and vague. Is it 50,000 words? 100,000? 30,000? Wherever you’ve set your goal, grab a piece of paper, scrawl it down, and stick it somewhere you can see it from your work station.

Break it up.

You don’t build a suit by deciding you’re going to do it and it magically assembling itself. You need the design (plot and characters). You need the materials (computer / tablet / notebook / typewriter / other apparatus of Writing Stuff Down). You need the skills (putting your butt in a chair and making words). And it still doesn’t happen all in one go. It takes time to assemble and render and it might not be functional at the end of it.

So sit down. Familiarise yourself with the design until you’re certain you know how you want it to look. Polish the materials and make sure you have access to them. And then decide how much time each day you’re going to dedicate to chair-butting and word-making.

Is your goal for the next hour 1000 words? Okay. Good. How many of those sessions will you need to hit your goal?

Have a snack.

Maybe you’re hungry, or you haven’t showered, or you need more tea/coffee. But it might not be physical: maybe you haven’t read a single book since you started the month. So take two hours out and look after yourself, and remind yourself why exactly you started doing this. Then dive back in.

Be daring.

If you’re stuck, ask someone to dare you something. Throw in a plot twist, whether it’s the tried-and-tested NaNo favourite, ninjas, or something a little more appropriate to your genre. Stick your personal best friend in the story to see how they fare. Change the gender of every character for one chapter just to see how it changes the dynamic. Describe their clothing, and then give them a costume that doesn’t suit them. Decide why that happened.

You can always cut it in rewrites, but you may not want to. It might be just the way to reveal something unexpected about your character.

Don’t give up.

It’s very tempting to get to the end and think, “I’m never going to make it.” Screw that. Repeat after me: SCREW THAT. ‘Course you’re gonna make it. Why wouldn’t you? I’ve known people who wrote 50k in a day, in three days, in a week. There’s absolutely no logical reason why you can’t achieve your personal goal, even if it’s not where you originally set it.

Just remember that if you fail NaNo, you’re not a failure. Not hitting one goal doesn’t take away your novelist cred. It’s just about reevaluating where you set goals in the future.

If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

i love you

Good luck for the rest of the month!

-- Iron Man

Le Romance!

Close your eyes and imagine the following scenario:

You have all your favorite YA books lined up on a shelf in front of you. Each story is different, unique and follows fascinating plotlines. Maybe these books have made you feel all the feels. You may visualize individual books if you like.

Now I may be wrong about this, but I don't think so. I can practically guarantee you that there is something the same with all of these books, despite the possible variety of genres and storylines/. Something that maybe made you laugh, swoon, curse, or feel any sort of emotion. Probably a good emotion though, because you love these books.

What is that? Romance.

Romance has become a popular trend within the YA genre that it's almost unthinkable to have a YA novel without a romance lead. In fact, tt's often one of the first things that comes to me when I get a new novel idea or begin to plan my next project.

There's nothing wrong with romance either! Who doesn't love books with a good romace on the side of a fast-moving plot? Or a a sweet swoony chick-flick? It's fabulous! But in some cases a romance can make or break the book. So let's talk about this trend and how to create a working romance via The Blender Method.

YA Romance
The Blender Method

So you’ve decided to have a romance in your book! Good for you. Now let me guess, in your head it sounds fantastic. The Hero’s hot, and the attraction is instant. They work well together and you can’t help but swoon when they kiss in your head.

There’s just one little catch, YOU might love them, but unless you add some crucial ingredients, your readers aren’t going to love them. Enter what I like to call, The Blender Method. Close your eyes again and imagine your romance as a tall glass filled to the brim with a mouthwatering smoothie of your choice. It could be berry, citrus, or even chocolate. Doesn’t matter.  It’s delicious and compliments your meal (*cough* your plot *cough*) perfectly.

But it didn’t start out that way. No-siree, it began when you gathered up the ingredients and tossed them into a blender. Then after letting the blender chop and spin and whine, it became what it is now. And I’ve got the recipe for you: 


THE RECIPE FOR MOUTH-WATERING ROMANCE:
Start off with 1 Hero and 1 Heroine. These are the main ingredients. They can be any flavor, or proportion of your choosing. But make sure they are compatible and different, if only by a little bit.

Next, portion a heavy dose of Character Flaws. This is to change up and add some unique flavor to the mix.

Dice up some Conflict, be it actions, opinions or interests. But don’t forget some Similarities which will be used to soften the differences between them.

Consider sweetening the Conflict with one or more of the following ingredients; Respect, Consideration, Sacrifice and Caring. This will increase our love in the face of difficulty.

Once you’ve gathered up these ingredients, throw then into the blender of Difficult Circumstances. If you are feeling especially naughty you might consider flavoring this romance with Lies, Betrayal, Arguments, Stubbornness or anything spicy of that nature.

Don’t forget to top it off with a cup of creamy Swoon Factor.  Rough times might make it more believable, but a romance just isn’t a romance without that delicious taste.

Now you’re ready to mix it all together. Cover the top of the blender with a lid, allowing nothing to escape as it mixes together. Turn the machine on to the lowest setting  and slowly all the power to grow until the highest setting is blending away at full blast. If you are unsure whether the smoothie is just right, you may turn it off and take a taste. All the smoothie to settle before jacking up to speed again. This will allow the shake up to be all the more effective. Once your smoothie has reached perfection you are ready to serve and enjoy.  Bon appetite!

-----

PS. Don’t Forget to check the list of Romantic Smoothie No-Nos before you serve. Add any of these into the mix and it will almost always mess up your drink.

  Insta love/lust – this will cancel the differences you have thrown in and enhance the Swoon Factor to a horrendous amount.
  
  Perfection – Characters without a flaw will upset the balance immensely. Remember that conflict is a crucial ingredient to your drink.

  Unnecessary Conflict – This can come in the form of stupid inconsequential arguments, or other characters that pull apart characters.

DISCLAIMER: You may feel inclined to dabble with this ingredient. They are appealing and very easy to use in your smoothie. This is a lie. The use of these tempting beverages will only make it easier the next time you need a quick drink. We don’t want easy and quick. In the event of any of these ingredients making it into the blender, scrap it all and start again. There’s always a fresh start.

**********************************

With all that laid before you, it might look like an impossible task, trying to write the perfect romance. And I hate to break it too you, it is kinda impossible. It's not going to come all at once either. Sometimes ingrediants will be overlooked the first batch, and added in later. Sometimes this will be left our or changed to fit each new flavor. It's all up to you to make it the best smoothie ever, but here are a few baking tips before I go

Get A Taste Tester. Unsure if the smoothie is just right? Friends and "beta readers" are perfect to let you know if it's not just you totally in love with the romance you've created.

Focus On Love-Showing Actions. I once read a post by author Kasie West, in which she shared a tip on how to write good romance that I've never forgotten. She said that it's more important to SHOW the "I Love You" through actions than to be saying the words "I Love You" all the time. Oftentimes, it's the sacrifice and the way the characters interact that means more than kissy-sentimal scene covered in cheese. Actions speak louder than words right?

With those in mind, I'm off to revise my cheesily fun chick-flick and make the horrendous first draft of a romance into something swoon worthy. Still worried that your romance skills are lacking? GO WRITE! The more you implemant what you learn the better it will be. So go get that romance! I believe in you.

---Hawkeye

PS. Thanks to the minions of Tumblr for helping demonstrate these points.

Just Another Post on Names



There have been countless posts that talk about picking the perfect name for your character. Thor talked about where to find it, Captain Rogers about how. I'd encourage you to re-read those two posts, because my compatriots got it exactly right: names are important.




But I'd like to take a different side of the issue: how do you make the names meaningful?


This doesn't always mean you need to make the meaning of the name fit the personality – Tristan doesn't have to be mopey, Charity doesn't have to be kind. But I would say there are three things you want to keep in mind when you search for the perfect name.




  1. Consider the background.


Even if you're writing Fantasy, every country has it's own culture. You need to make sure the name your character has reflects their upbringing and background. Cap addressed this in his post, but I just wanted to stress it again – it is a huge reader turn-off to see MeiXin from medieval Scotland. If you're writing a more contemporary or futuristic novel, it's easier to place names all over the world, but make sure you understand certain names come from certain cultures and if you want to name your pale white girl Komoyo Lina you need to explain why.


  1. Consider the character.


No, like I said, your character's name does not have to match their personality. However, know that readers will be looking for some kind of a connection. You should either make it somewhat compatable, or a complete joke – Harmony for a troublemaker, Justice for a villian. If you're choosing a name with an obvious or well-known meaning, be sure to give it at least a side nod so the reader knows you knew what you were doing.


  1. Consider the potential.


You can do great things with names, and one of the greatest is to make them subtle hints about plot twists. This has been around forever – Darth Vader could be taken as invader, but more likely is a play off the German word for father. It's a fun easter egg to throw in, and it really just ties the plot together. I did this in my current WIP – not going to give the example since some people are beta-ing and haven't reached the twist yet – but essentially, one character's name is in fact a dead giveaway for his/her inevitable betrayal. It makes so much sense in hindsight, and once again makes you really seem like you knew what you were doing.




So there's a short update on the art of picking the perfect name!


Widow out.





Natasha.  

3 Things Writers Can Look Forward To


Aaaand, Hulk is back! Yes, I was away for a long time, with limited WiFi (which is good, because Fury couldn't find me). I had a great time in outback Australia. There are a lot of kangaroos there. Most of them are dead.

But that's not what you want to hear, right? So. Writing. I will do my best to minimise my hypothesises on intercommunications (a.k.a. I will speak without the science jargon).

3 Things Writers Can Look Forward To

1. Writer's Block

Don't fool around. You're going to get writer's block at some point. Nope, I'm not being negative -- it's a fact of life.

Why do writers get blocked? There's only a billion reasons. Like:

a) Your book is better then mine.
b) I'll never write brilliantly.
c) Oh! I had success...I will never write brilliantly like that again.
d) I don't know where I'm going with this story.
e) My characters suck.
f) What if my plots are too simple?
g) My mystery doesn't have any mystery in it.
h) My first sentence is great! What do I write next...?


2. Rejections

I'm not just talking about querying or submitting to publishers. I'm talking about good ol' fashioned "You suck" rejections from the humanoids we often refer to as...acquaintances.

To be honest, no matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks your writing is dumb. They might even say so (boo to them). They might say so nicely, but let's face it: a rejection with a pretty blue ribbon is still a sucky rejection. We can't be awesome all of the time (no comment, please, Iron Man).

THEN you get to get REAL FAIR DINKUM rejections from agents and publishers and editors! It just gets better, right?!

3. Caffeine Addiction

This is debatable. I've heard some authors don't suffer from it (they might be a few neurons short of a cerebrum). But, most of us have this need for caffeine.

Chocolate. Coffee. Sugar. Put them all together and you have: super caffeine. Oh, don't worry! It's legal (for now). You can get hyped up on caffeine and you know what? You'll probably still write like a watermelon banging it's head on a keyboard -- but at least you'll have fun.


Have you encountered these Famous Three yet? What other common/freakish habits do Writers have? Add to my list!

Thor's Thoughts: Story Structure


Greetings, young writers of Earth.

Today, I am rather pressed for time. As you may know, a movie has released only three days ago chronicling one of my many adventures. I would encourage all of you to view it soon, and please forgive my brother his shortcomings. He has learned a great deal since these events took place.

At least, that is what we hope.

Today, I would like to point you to a few resources that will help you structure your stories. I have found each of these useful at various times and with various projects. I hope you will experiment with them and find what is right for you.


The Seven Point System

I recently put this to use for a short story, to great effect. A brief explanation is given by Lisa Buchard, but the best/most exhaustive explanations I've found are a series of YouTube videos by Dan Wells. Both are linked below.

Lisa Buchard's Explanation

Dan Wells Video 1
Dan Wells Video 2
Dan Wells Video 3
Dan Wells Video 4
Dan Wells Video 5


The Three Act Format

This is a standard in Hollywood screenwriting, but can also work well for novels. The very basic explanation of this is as follows (and please forgive me, I can't remember who originally explained it this way):

Act One: Chase your characters up a tree.
Act Two: Throw rocks at them.
Act Three: Get them down.

In essence, this is a basic story arc that every story should follow. Insert a few failures and road blocks to make things more interesting and increase the tension, and you have a well-rounded story.


The BeatSheet

I first learned about this from a friend (well, my alter-ego did) and it has come in handy for pacing purposes. You can use it as a strict outline/road map, or as a guideline. Even the simple act of studying the beat sheet and knowing which emotional beats to place at certain points throughout the story can help.

Save The Cat BeatSheet


These are tools I have used in my own writing. I'v also heard of some who start with a beginning and work backward, or who write an outline and fill in the story around it, literally in the same document. then there are Discovery Writers, for whom these tools will be put to use after the first draft is written and you want to revise for stronger structure.

What are some tools you use when structuring your story? Whether you do it before drafting or after, I'm interested to know what other tools are available to us as writers.

-THOR

Reed and Right

Ah, deadlines. Life. Worries. No updates from me today. Any tips I'd have to offer would sound like:

BAH BEE BOOK ME REED AND RIGHT.



10 Ways To Build A World

 

World building is super important. It can make or break a novel, and it does a lot to support your characters and plot. For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, this post may seem like it comes a little late (especially as it should’ve been up yesterday, and I assure you, I feel almost guilty about that. Like, I’m probably 12% pure guilt. Truly sorry), but it doesn’t. If you have ten minutes on public transport without access to writing materials, start working over these questions, and from here on you can add them into your novel. If you’re still in the planning stages, however, it’s even more perfectly placed.

Whether your novel is set in the real world, a mythological realm, or an entirely created landscape, you have to build that world. Here are just 10 of thousands of potential questions to get you started.

#1: Location

If you’re setting your novel in an entirely new location, it can help to draw a map. It doesn’t have to be a Tolkien-esque work of art, though it can be. This will be super helpful later when you realise you don’t know how long your characters need to travel between various settlements. It also helps you keep track of what stuff is called.

If your novel is set in this world, you’ll still need to work out where your characters live, what sort of things are in their surroundings (are they near a park? a hospital? during an emergency, where would they go?) and if it’s an alternate world, you should work out how these fit in to existing geography.

#2: Weather

Maybe it’s all the time I’ve spent in the UK recently (which is extraordinarily tiny when you’re flying, had you noticed? I might buy it), but you notice the weather. The endless rain. That’s not only going to affect some scenes in your novel, but it’ll also affect buildings: somewhere with a lot of earthquakes is going to favour reinforcement over aesthetics. And it’ll affect the clothing of characters too. Make sure you understand the climate and how it physically affects things.

#3: Magic and technology

If there’s magic in your world, or even any sort of super powers, then it’s going to affect more than just the users. How is it used defensively in cities; how do they incorporate it into weapons? What about for the purpose of illusions? What is the outsider’s impression of magic? Who can use it, and why: are they trained, or is it all natural? Magic also needs to have boundaries. A civilisation founded by magic users is going to look VERY different to one built by normal folk, so it’s crucial to work out how it functions in society, even when it’s as simple as what it looks like.

Meanwhile, for the sci-fi and futuristic folk, you might be thinking about technology. But remember: in a world built on magic, they’ll have integrated that into the workings of everything, so you fantasy folks need to think about how your unicorn-powered microchip works.

tony stark 1

#4: Occupations

For YA writers, this is less crucial, because quite often our protagonists are too young to have jobs. Nevertheless, others in the story might, so work it out. What’s highly paid and what’s minimum wage? Is there such thing? Which jobs are valued or admired above others, and how does that affect hierarchy?

Also think about the characters who don’t work, but have a role voluntarily. That might be heroes, magic users, or even something like performers. Are they looked down on, or praised for their selflessness?

#5: Education

Are the inhabitants of this world educated, or is it limited to a select few? Unless you’ve found a way to genetically implant information, every world is going to need to have some form of teaching, even if it’s electronic rather than a physical school. For how many years are children educated, and by whom? It can also be an interesting look at politics: if they’re being taught by the government, is it a fair, unbiased education? (Clue: probably not.)

#6: Clothing

Look at materials. Look at where they come from, and that’ll give you some information about occupations. Do people value clothes as fashion accessories or are they just for covering? How do they reflect the hierarchical system of the world? Are they adapted well to the jobs of each character? Also look at what clothing says about gender. For example, if all male clothing is symmetrical armour, and female clothing is asymmetrical and less defensive, that could tell you something about gender roles (but what of the character in asymmetrical armour?*). How do androgynous, genderqueer and non-binary individuals express themselves through their clothing? What would be considered outlandish?

loki is a diva

Oh, come on, he can hardly object to this one. He has wonderful fashion sense.

#7: Ideology

Linking to that last point, think about attitudes. How is gender perceived: is the world plagues by sexism? What about sexuality? In our world, religion has shaped history, so how has that happened in your world? Remember, if it’s a mythological realm then do your research properly, and don’t apply modern ideas about worship to pagan gods. Beliefs will also affect social issues and how others are perceived, so think about whether it has had a positive or negative effect. It’ll certainly affect ceremonies like weddings and funerals, and if you’re anything like me you’ll have more than a few characters dying in your novel, so you’ll need to work that out.

Even if religion isn’t a huge part, think about superstition and folk beliefs. These may be rooted in magic, if you have users in the world. It’s interesting to explore religious attitudes to magic, too.

Also think about racial issues. It’s very unlikely the world will be entirely homogenous, but a region might be, perhaps because of how it excludes outsiders. Will that affect your characters?

#8: Appearance

Not all characters will be white, especially if their world is hot. Not all characters will be our height, or shape: if it’s sci-fi, remember how gravity affects people and growth. This will also impact buildings, plants and colour. How much sunlight does the region get; how much gravity; how warm is it; how much oxygen; how much water? All of these affect characters as well as setting. Remember that in sci-fi, location within its solar system will affect light and colour, as well as length of days.

#9: Government and politics

Is it a monarchy? Is that a hereditary position? What about councillors, advisers, and other officials? Or, if it’s a democracy, has it always been that way? In our history, remember how many revolutions there’ve been to achieve that sort of thing. Does your world have a similarly bloody past?

Can your characters vote? How do they make their voice heard? Politics etc will also affect the legal system, so think about how crime and punishment are perceived. If the death penalty exists, consider what sends someone to death row. Fantasy worlds may well have a totally different system of punishment, and sci-fi can be inventively cruel. Also consider how society views offenders who’ve served their time but returned to civilisation, and whether they’re accepted.

arrested

I have a feeling Loki’s going to kill me for using him as an example several times in this post. He’s welcome to try.

An interesting way to explore government is to think about extremist groups. They’re usually formed to fight against and change something, so what’s their aim? How do they try and carry it out? It can tell you a lot about the government’s popularity, too, if the world seems disposed to support the terrorists.

#10: Economics

Who makes the money, who controls it, and how does it get from one to the other? This relates to employment, because someone’s in charge and someone else does the work. However, you can also look at billionaires (like yours truly) and how they use their wealth in the community (sustainable energy, baby). Are there poor people, and if so, who is helping them? How?

The rest is for you to work out. I’m not here to coddle you.

There are a lot of things you could think about after this. Language is crucial (even regional dialect can play a HUGE part in building a world), and you’ll want to think about the military and who commands it, and how much power that gives them. Think about people of all levels of social status. Think about transport, and travel, and how that’s perceived.

Many of these prompts are better suited to sci-fi/fantasy writers, but can be adapted for those writing in our world, especially if it has some element of alternate reality, or if you’re setting it in a different time period.

To see how these work in a “show don’t tell” manner, I recommend watching movies. Thor’s latest film press release is fascinating; his home realm of Asgard is utterly stunning, cinematically speaking, but we also catch a glimpse of many of its customs. And clothes. I don’t know if they have stocks and shares (one aspect we didn’t learn), but I want to buy some in their designers.

-- Iron Man (Click to stalk me on the NaNoWriMo website, if you will.)that's it

*This is actually a direct observation from Thor: The Dark World, although don’t tell Loki. I’ve only had time to watch it once, but I happened to notice the difference in Thor and Loki’s clothing… Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that. I’ll leave that to the Asgardians themselves.