A Revision Guide to Perfecting a Scene


Allow me, humans, to wish you a very happy end to your year. Hope you collected inspirations for writing and motivation to continue into 2015.

A Scene

What exactly is a scene? We all know what it means in reference to movies, and to a novel, it really is something similar. It is a series of events, from beginning to conclusion, that occur at the same location or time frame. A novel is made up of chapters, which are made up of scenes. 

Sometimes, as writers, we get caught up in two things: 1) the bigger picture of the master plot of the novel; and 2) the focus in details of individual paragraphs and sentences. The concept of narrowing in on scenes often gets lost in between both these ideas. 

However, strong scenes are crucial to keep the reader turning pages. They take the reader from one point to the next, from every twist and turn in the story. Some we do remember to take care on, such as the beginning and the climax. But others, particularly in the middle of our novels, we forget to give attention.

A Guide

Now that you've finished writing your novel, it's time to go back and look at your scenes. Ideally, this should come after you've already looked at your total plot. Revisions tend to work from the large to the very small. So once you're sure that all your scenes are in the correct order, that all the puzzle pieces fit together, it's time to paint those actual puzzle pieces.

Components of a Strong Scene

Characters: Which characters play a part in this scene? Are they all crucial to the scene? Are there any characters that you're missing or that can be cut? What are their goals during this scene? Are those goals clear to the reader? How are their actions in this scene reaffirming the reader's understanding of this character? (Reaffirming character traits is more important in creating a round character than having a ton of traits)

Setting: Where does this scene take place? Is there a better, cooler place? Is the setting crucial for the scene? (could it happen anywhere else?) Do the character interact with their surroundings constantly throughout the scene? When does this scene take place during the day/season? How does this affect the scene? 

Beginning-Middle-End: Does the scene have a strong catalyst that begins the scene? (What brought the characters to this scene and what drives this particular scene?) How does the conflict of this scene relate to the conflicts of the previous and following scenes? How does the conflict of this scene intensify as the scene progresses? Does it have a strong conclusion that logically leads to the next scene? Does the scene end on a strong note? (Hint: Make a last line appear stronger by ending it on a one syllable word or a stressed beat.)

Mood: Is there a strong mood to this scene? Is this mood conveyed strictly by one component of the scene (Setting) or several (Objects, Characters, etc.)? How does this mood relate to the overall mood of the book? Could the mood be strengthened further in my writing? 

Weak Scene Indicators

1. The surroundings disappear

Remember that the setting of the scene needs to be crucial to the scene itself. Keep the characters grounded in this setting. Describe the wind. Have the characters fiddle with the food on their plates. Just keep their actions, especially actions that hint at their mood, personalities, and such, interacting with the setting. Particularly during dialogue, when the surroundings most often disappear.

2. Weak dialogue

Keep the dialogue flowing, and the scene itself will flow. This means having dialogue that is clear and to the point, as well as powerful. One trick is to have at least one badass line on every one to two pages, the type of line you'd want to be quoted by lovers of your book. It doesn't have to be James Bond-esque, but simply powerful, one that pulses with intensity. Also, cut dialogue that is too much like real life. We don't need lengthy greetings. Or characters calling each other by name.

3. Info dumps

This is particularly true for science fiction and fantasy. Avoid boring info dumps. That's not to say you can't have info dumps, but make sure that it is as clear as possible and not continually yanking the reader away from the conflict, which is what truly is propelling your scene.

4. No game changer

Every scene needs to provide a game changer to the overall plot, either in the form of an action or in the reveal of information. Something needs to change, otherwise, what's the point of this scene? 

Why CPs and Beta Readers Save the World


Now that I have your attention, let's talk revising!

I'm sure you've been actively working on your revisions (or actively putting off your revisions), and eventually you will come to the point where you feel like you've done everything you can do. You've read through that manuscript (both aloud and in your head) so many times you can practically recite it in your sleep, you've convinced yourself multiple times that this is the greatest thing to happen to you since meeting your hero (hi, Steve) and that it's absolute trash and you may as well burn it now, depending on the day. You've gone through every tip you know, targeting passive voice and overused words like they are members of HYDRA. You did it all.

So, that means you're good to go? Right?

Absolutely not.

Because, when it comes to our own work, things fly right over our heads.


We completely miss them. Which is why having a fresh set of eyes on your work can really help.

The rest of the YAvengers have been giving some really good post-drafting tips that you can do yourself, so I'm going to go a bit more in-depth on getting help from other writers/readers. Because I'm a team player, and used to playing well with others. For the most part.

Anyway, what I'm talking about are critique partners and beta readers. Otherwise known as superheroes, life-savers, and miracle workers. Because these people may tear apart your manuscript in ways you didn't even know were possible, but they really will take it to the next level. I'm talking a Steve Rogers before-and-after kind of transformation.

Both critique partners and beta readers are invaluable, but whether you want to use one over the other or both really depends on what kind of feedback you're looking for.

A beta reader will give you feedback from a reader's perspective. Sort of like a review before your book can even dream of actually being published. Which is great. Because, when it comes down to it, who matters most besides you, the writer? That's right, the reader. It's so easy for us aspiring novelists to get caught up in the if I can just get this agent/editor/publisher to love me, everything will be okay. But, ultimately, the book ends up in the hands of the reader, so getting a preview of what works and what doesn't from that perspective can really help.

On the other hand, a critique partner will give you feedback from a writer's perspective. They've been through the same thing you have, and they will make sure your novel is where it needs to be. Whether it be the characters, plot development, voice, or the stupid grammar and spelling mistakes that embarrass you for hours after. They will ask you the questions you weren't prepared to answer, and see all the things you missed. Normally, you can exchange services and critique their work as they critique yours. Which is especially great, considering we can't all be like Tony Stark and have enough money to buy our own team of editors.

Either way, the beta reader or critique partner will take all the crap in your writing that you are slightly embarrassed to have left, and help you make it better.




It isn't always easy to find a good critique partner or beta reader. People have different tastes, Not everyone will be the best choice for your novel. Sometimes, trying to find the right critique partner can feel a little bit like online dating.

And, if you are like me, that is definitely not something you're great at.

But have fun, and take it slow. Exchange a few chapters and see how it goes. It may take a few tries, but soon enough, you might have your very own team of superheroes on call to critique each others work, and therefore, save the world. (Trust me, it's definitely related.)

-Coulson


Salvaging The Wreckage

So, you wrote a novel, and it sucks. You suck. The whole thing is pointless. Why did you push yourself through the hell of a first draft when all that you’ve got at the end of it is a mess? Why did you think you were cut out to be a writer anyway?

Examine those feelings for a minute. Get familiar with them. This won’t be the last time you see them.

take off mask

Post-first-draft blues, aka the ‘my novel sucks and I should never have written it’ phase are totally normal. It can make editing seem overwhelming, because what you’ve got in front of you is an unsalvageable wreckage from which you somehow need to extract the good parts and make them better. Yeah, I know, it’s daunting.

But if I can drag myself to write this post with an excruciating migraine, you can do this.

So.

Step 1: Recognition.

The books on your shelves are not first drafts. They are probably not first novels, which your manuscript might be. They’re the product of a lot of editing, rewriting, cutting, expanding; the feedback of beta readers and critique partners and editors; the line editing and proof-reading of a dozen drafts. That book might have been where yours is now three years ago, but it’s been through a lot since then. Yours doesn’t have to match up. And let’s face it, it’s never going to live up to the standards I’m setting. Sorry, babe.

Step 2: Acceptance.

Your book is, at the moment, not very good. You need to admit that. It will make it so much easier to edit it brutally if you’ve fully come to terms with the idea that what you’re starting with is something that’s not very good: you won’t fixate on trying to preserve bits of it.

Step 3: Distance.

Take some time away from your project. A week. A month. Six months. Write another book. Write poetry. Blog. Build your craft, and get far away from that novel.

where do you think i've been for 3 hours

Step 4: Perspective.

Read that book as though it were written by one of your close writing friends. If you don’t have any writing friends (loser) imagine you do, and pretend one of them wrote it. But seriously, get some friends. Even Coulson has friends. If you were reading your friend’s work, how would you give them feedback? You’d focus on the positives, but suggest key areas that are weak. Work out what those positives might be, even if your novel is a train wreck. Is it the character development? The plot? Maybe your structure is a mess, but your prose is beautiful. Unlikely, but hey, weirder things have happened.

Step 5: Salvage.

Take those good parts, and strip them out of the shell. Write them down if they’re plot points. Develop them if they’re characters. Good prose is harder to preserve at this stage, but I’m not gonna lie, it’s really rare for that to be your first draft produce, so… we probably shouldn’t worry too much about that.

Step 6: Design.

Design the second draft of your novel around those good points. Plot it. Draw squiggly lines from index card to index card across a board that covers three walls of that very lenient Starbucks nearby because hey, isn’t that what writers do? Yeah, right. I’ve never used index cards to plot in my life and Starbucks is overrated. Working out structure is my first stage, then I write down major plot points. That’s about it. I figure out how to join them up as I go along.

Hopefully by this stage you’ve worked out what’s good about your novel, and what to jettison as soon as possible. You’ve worked out which plot points allow you to take off and which ones will cause you to ice up as soon as you get close to the atmosphere. And you feel slightly less awful about yourself.

Genius.

tadaaaa

As for me I feel considerably more awful because hey, turns out migraines and computer screens aren’t a good combination. Please excuse me while I go and lie in a darkened room for about six months.

-- Iron Man

Post-NaNoWriMo: Take Time to Smell the Shawarma

Congratulations! You made it through National Novel Writing Month - hopefully, with a little help from your friends here at Team YAvengers - and you've built up some serious momentum.


As a scientist, I know a little something about momentum.
Newton's First Law states that an object (or writer) in motion tends to stay in motion, and you want to stay in motion. You've got a book to polish and query and publish and unleash on the world. You probably feel like you've just fought a battle against time, fatigue, and your own strength of will to get that draft done by December 1st.

Believe me, I know how you feel.

But hear me out: Take a break.

Walk away from that manuscript for at least a week. You need a little perspective on your work - a little distance from it - before you can launch a successful revision.

Sometimes you're just too close to your work to see it. It's like going to a museum to see a Monet painting and trying to view it with your nose up against the canvas. All you'll see is paint lumps until you back away a little bit. And your manuscript is like that. You're so close to it right now, you can probably see each individual scene in detail but you might lack a "big picture" perspective of the focus, or themes, or how it all hangs together. Or maybe all you can see right now is the mistakes and not the strengths. Either way, you need a little distance from it
.
That's how it was with my friend as she was working on her first YA novel. The sequel is coming out soon, but she struggled with the first one enough to give up on it at least twice, to put it away and decide it was just a failed experiment and to chalk it up to experience. The funny thing was, though, each time she walked away from it and began working on something else, she found that she'd gained enough perspective on the manuscript to really see it, to recognize what worked and didn't and, more importantly, to recognize how to improve it. She'd gotten the necessary distance and perspective by taking a break from it.

I'm not suggesting you take a huge break and come back next November. But I would advise taking a week or two before you jump back in to your manuscript..

Life after NaNoWriMo can be a bit like life after battling aliens. After the team and I fought the Chitauri, we were exhausted, relieved, and a little shellshocked. I just wanted to move on to the next big battle and get that one over with, too. So when Tony suggested we all meet up at a diner and eat some shawarma, I thought, as I often do, that this guy was two bricks short of a truckload.


But he turned out to be right for once. And not just because as you can see, this diner made really good french fries. It turned out that we all needed a break, a change in focus and perspective. (As you can also see, even a god like Thor needs a little time off from saving the world. And that guy can put away some food. He makes Hulk seem like a sparrow in comparison, appetite-wise.)

So take a little time away from your NaNoWriMo manuscript and let it percolate in the back corner of your brain for a little while.

Stop and smell the shawarma and come back to that project refreshed and ready to revise. And then unleash it on the world.



Read Words, Kids

I just realized: I post a lot about recovery.  Recovering from writer's block, recovering from too much writing, recovering from mistyping 'recovering' nearly three times in a row...  I've posted almost as many recovery posts as wrap-ups.  For me, recovery is important.  I don't have lightning to call from the sky.  I don't have a big green monster within me who can take over when I get tired.  I don't have a suit to protect me from the punches.  I've got spandex, which takes almost as much recovery (mostly mental) as any of the shots I've taken.

Barton knows how I feel.  Romanoff knows how I feel.  Coulson knows how I feel-- far too well (I mean him getting shot, not the fan stuff).  You get shot, you get kicked, you take a fall-- after that, you're no use to anyone until you take some time to recover.

Unfortunately, recovery doesn't only apply when bad things happen.  Sure, getting Mj√∂lnir in the side hurts more than anything, but even something as simple as a push-up, or a punch, can bring you an ache the next day.  It doesn't matter if you were punching Loki back into the void.  Despite your good intentions, even the best and most fun activities can take a toll.


NaNoWriMo is one such activity.  Weeks of words, days of dialogue-- this month of madness, as wonderful as it is, takes time.  It takes energy.  It takes enthusiasm.  Somehow, you have to recover from that.  Sometimes, you don't want to recover.  Sometimes you want to ride the wave of euphoria into edits, tackling the novel the same way you wrote it.  Perseverance, unfortunately, will not help you now.  No matter the dedication, there comes a point when you'll hit a wall.

But I'm not here to talk about taking a break.  I'm here to talk about recovering, which can happen even if you keep pushing.  How do you recover from putting down so many words in a single month?

Read.  Read, read, read.  Take a good book you love and read it again.  Take a book a friend has recommended to you and read it for the first time.  Read without looking under the surface for the nuts and bolts of character and plot.  Read with a crazy eye for detail that picks out metaphors in the main character's hairstyle.  It doesn't matter how you read, as long as you read.

Unfortunately, watching movies won't work the same way.  Often, even the best movie won't instill in you the same feeling as a good book.  Movies are hard to make, with hundreds of people working on a single two hours.  Actors, writers, directors, not to mention the guy who has to order lunch for everyone during a long day-- watching a movie, while it gives you character and plot and setting, is not the same.


But a book...  You get a special feeling reading a book, something that you enjoy.  You wrote one of those.  It's all there, on your computer or in a notebook somewhere-- and someday, it could be published, in the hands of another new writer like you were two months ago.  That book is your future (unless it's a bad book, in which case you have my permission to pick a different future).

Something about seeing the words there on paper, telling you a story, empowers you.  Seeing a book as a finished project reminds you what you were fighting for during November.  You have a first draft, but it's not quite there yet-- time to turn it into something publishable.

Read.  Read, read, read.  It inspires you.  It reminds you of your love for words and the stories they tell.  It shows you the power writers can have with just a pen and a notebook-- the power you've already experienced.  This is your recovery from a month of wonderful madness.

And once you've read something, go write something new.

~Captain America

Thor's Celebratory Drinking Game


Greetings, mortals.

I must apologize, as my post should have been up over forty-eight Earth Hours ago. Since finishing NaNoWriMo, however, I have been somewhat distracted. Catching up on things, mostly, such as friendships, laundry, family, favorite television shows...

(It may be blasphemous to some, but I highly enjoy ARROW and THE FLASH...)

At any rate, November is now over, and hopefully most, if not all, of you have a solid chunk of brand new words. Whether it's fifty thousand or ten thousand, and whether they are shiny or in need of polishing, I am here to commend you. You went, you wrote, and you can take a night to congratulate yourself. And what better reward could you ask for than to play a drinking game with friends?


THOR'S DRINKING GAME

1. Gather your friends together and decide on a movie to watch. It can be AVENGERS, or a holiday movie of your choice, or something you've seen a dozen times before.


2. Since we are the YAvengers, and we write YA, talk YA, and hopefully have in our readership many actual YAs, I will recommend choosing a non-alcoholic drink for this game. Sparkling cider, your favorite soda, coffee, even a smoothie or hot chocolate will do, though some will be riskier than others. Once you've chosen your "poison," as it were. separate it into small servings. Mini-paper cups will do fine. Set these out in front of you on a table or tray for easy access.


3. The rest is simple. Each of you choose a character in the movie. Every time your character's name is said, you must take a drink. There are of course other ways to play. Choosing a word or phrase to drink to, or any time a particular object appears onscreen. Decide beforehand how you'd like to play. And remember to bring your cameras.


Granted, this will not have the inebriating affect of an alcoholic drinking game (which our adult readers are more than welcome to play if they wish), but if you'd like to be extremely adventurous, you could try an extremely sour drink that no one will want to take. Lemon or grapefruit juice straight, or mixed with a little orange juice or sprite -- those would be sour, but palatable.


Whatever your choice, I hope you had an exciting NaNoWriMo. I myself completed it for the first time ever after two failed attempts. I was down to the wire, and managed to pull it through thanks to support from family and friends. I hope you won too, but if not I hope you wrote many words.

Just remember, there doesn't have to be a NaNoWriMo going on for you to write. Without pressure, I think you would be surprised how far you can go. Writing and publishing is a long, difficult road with exciting points that seem few and far-between. Always take time to celebrate your efforts. So for now, relax. Have a drink. And Happy Holidays.

-THOR

---

P.S.

I would like to take a moment to thank the good Captain for his birthday wishes to myself and my alter-ego. He is a good man, if slightly annoying at times. Thank you, Captain.

NaNo's Over-- Have a Sonnet

The month has pass'd along-- let's start anew,
For NaNoWriMo left us destitute.
The links, the jokes, perhaps a gif or two
Prepare us for this month, our great reboot.

December dawn'd t'many a manuscript,
Both finish'd and stagnating in the mind;
Unwilling pen or flowing, words were ripp'd,
And growth from each will ready writer find.

From whence they came, the writers now retreat
To hermitage or city, as they choose;
Their mundane works they once again repeat,
'Til once again their pens they might enthuse.

With NaNoWriMo o'er, it's time to mend
The strangest of the words we have to tend.

NaNoWriMo is over!  Whether you won or you lost, we're proud of you.  You can now go back to your regular lives, but if you're looking for advice in editing this monster you've created, December is for you: Revision, or life after the first draft.  Yes, I could have said that without the sonnet, but I needed to perk myself up.


Once again, I'm Captain America, here to wrap up November in style.  Officially, November was "motivation/goal-setting/inspiration/busting writer’s block" month, but that's too hard to say in one breath.  I'm going to shorten it to NaNo-month, because I'm pretty sure that's all any of us could handle.

To begin the month, HAWKEYE WANTS YOU TO LIVE.  Agent Barton gave excellent tips on self-preservation through the month.  Outfits, food, exercise, food, music, food— he talks about all the necessary NaNo-tools you need to be awesome and not die.  Plus, food.

Didn't I tell you that Miss Potts wrote Stark's posts?  Well, this month I was right.  Iron Man bows to his better 12% in this amazing, encouraging, rather funny pep talk.  Miss Potts spills quite a few of Stark's tricks, plus gives advice so we don't all end up like him.  This is a post to read now, reread later, and save for whenever you're feeling down about writing.

Agent Coulson shares some SHIELD training tips in his post on writing sprints.  He gives reasons (they make you write really fast, for one obvious thing), and places to find sprints (I happen to know that Thor is among the myriad @FriNightWrites sprint leaders).  Writing sprints such as these practically wrote my fourth and fifth novels— I can attest to their success in raising your wordcount.

Would you look at that?  THOR WANTS YOU TO LIVE TOO.  With his customary subtlety, he slams Hawkeye's post into place, adding more gifs and more tips to help you survive.  Trust me, he knows what he's talking about.  (My general tactic is to freeze myself until the people trying to kill me are dead.)

About Thor, though...  Before you complain, or get popcorn (whichever is your custom when I tease Thor), this won't be a Thor joke post, any more than it already is.  Instead, I'd like to wish him a happy birthday.  His alter-ego celebrated a birthday during November, and my sources tell me Thor's official birthday is coming up in early December.  Thus, it's unanimous:


Have a Chitauri sky-whale, Thor.  It's the least we could do.

On with the month, then.  In all these encouraging posts about believing in yourself and not dying, I was happy to deliver the month's slap in the face: writer's block does exist.  But the hand slapping your face also holds a toolbox (this analogy is not working), in which you can find the solution to said writer's block.  Just because it's a problem doesn't mean it has to destroy you.  Just use the tools you have.  (Whew, saved it.)

Guess what?  HULK WANTS YOU TO LIVE TOO.  Thus, he gives you a giant hug.  (Is that supposed to keep you alive?)  Assisted in part by Dr. Banner, the Hulk bolsters your courage as words begin to weigh you down.  He wants you to make people happy with your words, and finish what you've started.  He believes in you.  This is a post all of us need to hear again and again.

Unfortunately, Hulk's hug squashed our other plans for the month.  Black Widow and Loki were unavailable for posting.  I'm not sure how everyone scored in their NaNoWriMo stats, but I know Thor was close, as of November 30th.  Iron Man won by days.  And me?  I got 8k.  Total.  It hurts, but I had a lot going on, and I had to learn a lot of hard lessons over the month.  My respect to all those who won this month, and I wish I could be among you.

If you won or if you lost, it's important that you tried.  Some can only wish to participate, and some (like Stark) seem to win automatically.  Nevertheless, NaNoWriMo is never easy, no matter how quickly the words may seem to come.  If you tried, good job.  And if you didn't do NaNo this year, I hope you survived all the NaNo hubbub.

Next month is Revision Month.  If you have a NaNoNovel to revise, great-- if not, don't sweat it.  These posts will be here for when you need them.  Remember, we just want you to live.

Until next time, fare thee well.  May the words, revisions, and sonnets flow.

~Cap

A BIG GREEN HUG FROM THE HULK



A Mid-NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Pep Talk from the Hulk!






WRITERS WRITE! HULK SAY "KEEP GOING!"

The Other Guy has a simple but powerful point here. Writers write, and if you want to be a writer, that's what you have to do, even when you feel weary or uninspired.

NANOWRIMO NOT HALF OVER! NANOWRIMO HALF FULL!

While this point makes no grammatical sense, Hulk's optimism is worth embracing. It's mid-November - and thus mid-NaNoWriMo - but don't dwell on the writing time that has gone by. Instead, think of all the time you have left for one big push toward completion of that manuscript.

PEOPLE LOVE BOOKS! YOU WRITE BOOK! YOU MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY!

You're writing a book - and that's an awesome undertaking. Someday somebody's going to read that book, and the words you wrote today may well indeed make them happy - or sad, or angry, or frightened -because words have power. And as you write, you wield that power just as surely as Thor does that hammer of his.



Believe in your power. Believe in your words. And believe in yourself.

HULK SMASH DOUBT! GET BACK TO WRITING!

Hulk's right. Leave the self-doubt behind. Every writer feels it, but the ones who complete their manuscripts and move the world with their words manage to put that doubt aside. And you can, too.

Hulk and I believe in you.

And we can't wait to read what you're writing!



Superhero Block (And Writer's Block Too)

One time, I had superhero block.

It was after the Deep Freeze section of my life.  Fury had me on assignment with Hawkeye, tracking down a couple of mercenaries who ran out on the job.  We rounded them up in a smelly old warehouse, but when we stormed the place, it turned out the mercs were Hydra, and had backup.  That seems to happen a lot these days.  Needless to say, Hawkeye and I weren't quite enough to handle forty of them at once.

We managed to escape, but it took time and one of Hawkeye's special vaporizer arrows.  (Did you know he has those?  Turns nearby water to steam in seconds-- deHydration is a powerful weapon.  Pity about the coffee shop around the corner, though.)  After that, I couldn't get myself back into the game.  Even when Hawkeye rounded them up perfectly, I couldn't bring myself to do my part.  Everything I had done so far seemed useless, especially if our enemies had unlimited backup and all we had were cooler outfits.


Another time, I was fighting hand-to-hand with a banker (long story-- he was Hydra too).  I won, but he got in a few good hits, including a pretty nasty wound with a stapler.  For weeks after that, I couldn't run, couldn't fight, couldn't work.  I wasn't sick, and the wound healed easily, but everything seemed slower and less powerful.  That led to the same feelings: why was I doing this if I wasn't even good at it?

I'm sure you've heard of this, if not felt it.  It has many names, from superhero block to depression.  You probably know it as writer's block.  People get superhero block and writer's block almost exactly the same way, in fact-- and the same cures work for each.

Problem #1: Failure-induced block.

Look at my first example of superhero block.  What happened when we stormed that warehouse?  We made mistakes and had to run for it.  Instead of the easy pickings we expected, we failed to deliver the two mercenaries to SHIELD.  For me, that hit hard.  Instead of seeing it as a mistake anyone could have made, I started seeing it as something unique that only I could have done.  I also started blaming myself for it all, when it was nothing but a combination of mistakes by both Hawkeye and I.  All this led into a downward spiral where I started thinking, "I led the operation, I cost Hawkeye one of his most interesting arrows, and I destroyed our chances.  I'm useless."


The same thing can happen with writing.  You outline a scene, or even a novel, with high hopes for it.  It's the best idea you've ever had, your alpha readers are going to laugh their giant purple pants off, and it's the first thing you've written with, you know, a theme.  But for all this, when you start writing, you can't get started.  All your enthusiasm is still there, lurking, but it isn't helping your fingers fly.  Every time you start, you have to stop again.

It's the same as a failure, that difficulty.  You want it to be perfect, but every time you try, you write something that isn't perfect.  No first draft can be flawless, and you know that-- but it still hurts that your vision can't be reality quickly enough.

Solution #1: Push through.

That's right.  Even though it won't be perfect, you have to accept that and move on.  Especially when what you want isn't matching what you're writing, you have to grit your teeth and write.  You have to realize that you aren't being blocked by something else-- you're blocking yourself.  The only way to get over yourself is to stop worrying about it all.

It's going to feel terrible for the first few hundred words, but after about a thousand, you'll be in the swing of things.  You'll start writing things that you like, things that are fun, things that match your idea.  When that happens, you can always go back and change the beginning.  But to begin, you have to get yourself rolling.

Problem #2: Difficulty-induced block.

In my second superhero block example, I was feeling the same way, but it wasn't prompted by a failure.  Here's what we figured out after a routine checkup a month after the fight: the stapler the banker had gotten me with had planted some sort of device in me.  It injected a chemical that, essentially, canceled out the SSS (super-soldier serum).  It sapped my strength, made me think more slowly, and generally made me mini Steve Rogers again, except taller.


The same can happen to you as a writer, except without the banker.  You might write yourself into a corner, or find your characters contradicting themselves.  Something you said was impossible in chapter one might have just happened in chapter ten, helping the main character out of a jam.  You're contradicting yourself, and your instincts are rebelling against it.  That's what makes you think you're not good enough to write this.

Solution #2: Fix it.

Find the problem and fix it.  That's what problems are for, after all.  Your instincts can tell you how to pinpoint the problem, and you can take steps to fix it.  But that's the only way to fix the problem-- to push through here would just dig you deeper into your hole.

For me, I went to the doctor about a month after the fight.  They removed the little device and I was back to my normal self the next day.  It wasn't a problem with me and feeling sorry for myself-- it was something external blocking me.

These are your two most likely causes of superhero or writer's block.  All you have to do is find the problems and fix them, whether it's motivation failure because you've failed, or distaste with the story because you're in a slow-motion car crash.  Whichever one it is, you can overcome it.  What you can't do is sit and feel sorry for yourself.  There are always more words to write.


Be awesome this month.  It's the perfect month for it.

~Cap

Don't Die During NaNoWriMo


Good day my friends. I hope that this month you are excited and anxious to write the beginnings of what are sure to be incredible novels. My fellow Avengers have given wonderful advice so far. It is my goal today to expand on small points made by the Hawk Man and Miss Potts. Namely this:

Do not die during NaNoWriMo.

It would be a shame to see a talented writer such as yourself fall when they are so close to victory. Second, while we all love to write, no amount of words is more important than your physical and mental health. Not to mention the relationships you cherish and connections that matter.

First, your physical health. I beg of you to take breaks often. My alter-ego took a writing retreat last weekend and had the option to write for eighteen hours straight. While she did for most of that time, she also made sure to stand, move, eat, and drink. A scene wasn't coming, she went for a walk. Her foot fell asleep, she got up to stretch. She ate regular meals and snacked on healthy (and some not so healthy) foods. While caffeine is your friend, too much of it can harm you. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, movement, and healthy food or your words will not be as lovely as they can be.


Second, your mental health. While outlining helps and preparation is key, you might find yourself lost in your own story at some point. You may become agitated and overly-stressed. If you find yourself in a low place, please do something else. Watch a happy movie. Read an uplifting book. Spend time with people you love. NaNoWriMo is mentally exhaustive. Not only does your body need breaks, but your mind does as well. (I might add, blogging is a nice alternative to manuscript writing, to let your mind focus on something else for a time.)


Third, your relationships. No doubt you warned your family, friends, and co-workers that you might be a tad bit crazy during the month of November. As understanding as they will try to be, you should still make an effort to show them you have not disappeared entirely from their lives. Try to know how best to show them you care, and do something small every day or two to reinforce that. Let them know you appreciate their support in your efforts. And if you have a problem you can't solve, try asking them for brainstorming help. You may not need their solutions so much as just the opportunity to talk things through out loud, hear another person's voice, or maybe laugh at something ridiculous.


This isn't much, but I hope you take it to heart. Writing fifty thousand words in thirty days is a huge undertaking. Some people can easily accomplish it, while others struggle -- I'll admit I am of the latter group. Whatever the case, know yourself. Know your body's capabilities. Know your limits, and do not cross them. Please do not die.

Good luck.

-THOR

Go! Go! Go! (Writing Sprints and Why They're Cool)

First week of November is down, so I'm sure a lot of you are starting to get the hang of NaNoWriMo (if that's something you can ever really do). I really hope you're having a good time, and not stressing out too much. And I wish you the best of luck. Really. Or, maybe you are having none of that, and choose to write at your own pace, thank you very much. I still wish you luck, because regardless of how you're writing the novel, chances are, you'll probably need it.


In fact, if you're like me, one of the hardest things about writing is to actually find the time and the will to sit yourself down and write. Believe me, I know how it is.

That's where writing sprints can help.

In case you were frozen for the past number of years and are completely unaware of what this term means, the idea of a writing sprint is pretty simple. For a designated amount of time (30 minutes or 60 minutes are pretty standard), everyone participating tries to drop everything else and get out as many words as they possibly can.

Cool, right?

Of course, it's not only about how many words you manage to type out, and it's definitely not about the quality of those words. Writing sprints are about writing. 

There are plenty of reasons why writing sprints are helpful. They can really take your fast drafting to the next level.

Here's why:

They don't take very long.

Do I have the time to take a day out of my life to sit at home and type out on my laptop for hours upon hours? Not unless I want to be killed by Nick and have forty-seven missed calls from Maria. No, thank you. But a half-hour? Hour? In the evenings, that's not too bad. It makes writing time (especially when you've got a one-month 50k deadline) feel a lot more manageable, when writing a novel can be overwhelming.

They get you to write without looking back.

Think of that sentence you just wrote as Lola, and



It's so easy to fall into the trap of questioning nearly every word that comes out of you. Does this sound right? Does 'trod' even make sense in this context or am I making my protagonist sound pretentious? Why can't I decide on the spelling of gray grey gray a color that is a mix of black and white? Save all that for December. Don't be afraid of sucking. That's why we revise.

It's much better to write. Whether or not it is perfectly clear and grammatically correct can be worked out later. When you're sprinting, you tend to pay less attention to errrors and grammr mistakes and justkeep on rolling, even if that means your sentences get kind of long and it sort of seems like you're rambling a little.

You can fix it later. You can revise your errrors and grammar mistakes later. and Tthat's when you can worry about trimming sentences.

For now, just write. That's what sprints are for. To get you to write.

They are motivating!

Try joining other friends in a sprint. Or make new friends by joining in on other sprints. Knowing that other people are all going to be typing like mad is a pretty good way to inspire you to write something.

For you competitive types, turn it into a word war. And get that satisfaction of them cringing due to your sprinting fingertip agility.



If you aren't already a sprinter, it's definitely something to try. You can always put on one yourself, just by setting a time. If you'd like, invite others to join.

But if you aren't the organizing type, that's no problem. There are plenty of twitter accounts that announce sprints throughout the day you can catch. For example, take a look at @NaNoWordSprints even if you aren't keeping track of your word count for NaNoWriMo. (Veteran sprinters: feel free to share your favorite sprint accounts.)


 Regardless, the point is to just keep writing!

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMers, and make sure to keep an eye on all the YAvengers posts, which will really help you get through this month.


-Coulson


NaNoWriMo Pep(per) Talk

I sat down to give some good, solid NaNoWriMo advice. You know, like you do. Chock full of inspiration, sarcasm and gifs: just like the rest of my excellent portfolio of posts on this blog. But JARVIS decided the only legit course of action was to contact Pepper and tell her that I was giving terrible advice, and she told me I wasn’t allowed to post it.

Apparently, encouraging my ‘self-destructive tendencies’ and ‘incurable over-achievement’ in people less experienced in the world of NaNoWriMo, writing, or general life could lead to unhealthy writing practices and stress. And according to Pepper, I’m not allowed to do that.

So, being a smart-ass, I told her if she had such a problem with my advice, she could give her own. And she took me seriously. Which means I’m going to hand the rest of this post over to her, to give you sensible NaNoWriMo advice

A NaNoWriMo Pep Talk, courtesy of Pepper Potts

NaNoWriMo is a great time to be productive and get some of the writing done that you’ve been putting off for too long, but its nature as a challenge means that people tend to get into unhealthy habits by the end of the month. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found Tony still awake after 72 hours and far too much coffee, writing away, claiming that 800k is an acceptable wordcount target. (It’s not.)

This isn’t meant to discourage you. Challenging yourself to write more than you usually do, whether more is 50k or 500k, is a great idea, and can lead you to rediscover your limits and abilities. But when your family and friends have to play nursemaid, it suddenly looks a lot less worthwhile.

This pep talk is in two parts: how to hit 50k, and how to look after yourself while you do it. The latter will crop up again later in the month: some of Tony’s associates are at least marginally more sensible than him. But while we’re still in the first week, I thought I’d get some things established before it’s too late.

pepper needs to talk to you

Hitting 50k (or whatever your personal goal is)

I’m using the generic target of 50,000 words here, but I know many of you will be aiming for less, and many of you aiming for more. Both are awesome. You know the challenge you need. So just adapt this to your speed and targets.

Use Write or Die

For those who are unaware, Write or Die is a program that starts eating your words if you don’t write fast enough (or plays a klaxon or whatever, depending on what setting it’s on). It can be a great way to make yourself sit down and concentrate for 500 or 1000 words at a time, to make sure you get a really good chunk done. You’ll end up competing with yourself to get the most done in one Write or Die sprint.

There’s also the alternative Written? Kitten! where for every 100 words you can get a picture of a cute kitten (or bunny or puppy), if you work better with rewards rather than punishments.

Write everywhere

This will depend on what you’re using to write, but write wherever you can. Take your laptop / tablet / notebook on the train, to school, to the office. Write in corners; write during your lunchbreak; write when you’re waiting for a friend to arrive using the terrible note app on your phone. Even if you only have ten minutes, you can write something, so do it.

do not check twitter when you've said something controversial

Exclusive footage of Tony during NaNoWriMo

Get up early

Tony is not a morning person. I am, however, and I find that I can get plenty done before breakfast if I set my alarm half an hour earlier. Having got off to a good start means I’m less stressed when I come to write later in the day, because I’ve already racked up some words.

Outline

If you didn’t plot before you started, plan the next few chapters ahead of where you’re currently writing, just so you know where you’re going and don’t have to stop to think. This also applies if you did plot, but you’ve deviated from it: reassess, figure out where you’re going, adjust your direction accordingly.

Don’t look back

We talked about this before, but ignore the fact that your character doesn’t have a surname and one of them's changed hair colour three times and you don't actually know anything about steam engines and you're not sure whether someone would still be able to talk five minutes after being stabbed in the stomach and really, wasn't that guy alive a minute ago? Because research and continuity are for revisions, when you're fast-drafting.

Looking after yourself during NaNoWriMo

Take breaks

Writing quickly isn’t worth the pain of injuring your wrists or developing neck/backache. Take breaks. Relax your hands. Make sure your posture is good. You will regret it so much if you don’t. Every time I’m tempted to do more writing sprints, I remember how depressed Tony was when he hurt his hands last year and couldn’t build suits, and it makes me reconsider.

Adapt

Use NaNo in a way that suits you. 50k might be too much for you, because of your other commitments or how your brain works. Don’t hate yourself for not reaching it. This is still a month when you can write whatever you want to get done, and at the end you’ll hopefully have more of it. That’s what NaNo’s about. Also, even if you don’t hit 50k this year, there’s always next year. Likewise, if 50k isn’t a challenge, shoot higher.

same day as last year

Make friends

The community is the best part of NaNo, especially if you don’t have real-life writing buddies. Go on the forums and make friends. Find your local region and see if you can go to a write-in. These will stop you becoming a hermit, but they’ll also ensure that you feel like the month is worth it even if your wordcount flatlines after day 15, because you’ve got some lasting connections. We like to have write-ins at Avengers Tower, and they’re absolutely the best part of the month.

Your health always comes first

I can’t emphasise this enough. Tony is a self-destructive idiot, and there are a lot of people on the forums who will talk about drinking espresso at 10pm, pulling all-nighters, and writing 25k on the 29th November. It’s not worth it. Trust me, it’s really not.

If that’s what you want to get out of the month, I’m not going to stop you. You want to stay up all night writing because it’s a community thing and it’s going to be fun? Absolutely. But don’t reach a point where you’re so fixated on hitting 50k that you ignore your body’s demands for sleep and rest. Don’t push yourself until you become ill and overstressed and spend a week in bed, because that isn’t fun and it isn’t a badge of honour. It’s just unhealthy.

is he breathing

Last minute dashes to the finish line can be fun, but if they’re at the cost of your health, they aren’t advisable.

I know, I’m a killjoy. But I’ve seen it happen to Tony. Actually, back in 2010 I made the same mistake, and spent the final week of November feeling like hell because I’d been getting up 90 minutes earlier every morning, never taking a break just to eat lunch, and hardly ever seeing any of my friends. My body couldn’t cope with the strain, and I fell ill 7k short of a 200k target, which I then never reached. Making myself ill didn’t really serve any purpose.

Go forth and write your novels in a safe, healthy, and fun way. Oh, and remember one final, crucial piece of advice:

back up your novel

Seriously, do it. And don’t rely solely on the cloud, because HYDRA might get it. USB sticks, external hard drives, emailing it to friends, all of these are ways to ensure your novel doesn’t disappear into oblivion a day before validation opens.

I’ll see you all in December.

-- Pepper

write-ins

Avengers Tower write-ins usually devolve into showing off after a while.

(**See, I told you she was sensible. My advice was way more fun. And way more sarcastic and had more gifs. But she’s probably right. She usually is, and you should listen to her.** ~ Iron Man)

The Practical Side Of Nanowrimo

*Hawkeye runs in breathless* 
image via Google Images
Hello fellow writers! I am sorry for the absence of late! There has been much superhero business of late that has kept me busy and away from the writer world. But I'm back, admittedly a few days late (don't tell Coulson).

Seeing as today is the evening of November 2nd, it means that Nanowrimo has been going on for nearly 48 hours! ARE YOU WRITING? Keep it up!! Anyhow, seeing as it is Nanowrimo month, October, as the Cap so well wrapped up) has been all about tips and tricks for Nanowrimo. Outlining, drafting, the team has covered it all. Which leaves nothing for me, except the other side of Nanowrimo that doesn't normally get covered on a writing blog.

I'm going to tell you how to enjoy Nanowrimo and keep you going, while being stressed about word count and ignoring your inner editor. Because if you're not enjoying or taking care of yourself, chances are you aren't going to get much writing done, and whatever does come will be totally crappy. So, time for a crash course in how to have fun.

image via Google Images
First, in the writerly mood, you will need a story that you love, and a sort-of organized plan for how to accomplish it. So see the thoughts of Thor, Coulson, Cappy, Hulk, Stark and Natasha for any tips you may need in that area.

Now onto the fun stuff!


image via Google Images
Second, you're gonna need comfy writing clothes. Maybe you're waking up early in the wee hours to cram in your word count. Maybe you're writing after a long hard day. Well either way, you're going to want sweats or PJ's to don to keep warm. It is the fall you know, the nights will only get colder, unless you're in a country experiencing summer, in that case...don't tell me. Hawkeye is not a winter person. But anyway, having something soft and comforting will help take stress out of your novel writing process as well. A snuggie could also pass this requirement.

image via Google Images
Nanowrimo writing often includes lots of thinking and brainstorming last minute. It includes lots of stress that can be energy draining. So it important to have something on hand to keep you active and hyped up for the next chapter, or two, or three.

image via Google Images
So my third suggestion is to have snack food on hand! Indulge yourself for the month, be it with energy bars, fruit snacks (you know you wish you were a preschooler), chocolate, your favorite soda, anything! If it amps you up to write it's worth it.

image via Google Images
When you think about it, Nanowrimo really does fall at the perfect time of the year. I mean it starts the day after one of the most candy-filled holidays ever! One always tends to complain about the piles of candy left-over, but now you can put it to good use and not feel bad about it as you nail every chapter!

image via Google Images
However, my fourth idea will totally contradict what I just said. Sugar itself will not be the only think you want to keep you up and at 'em. Health is very important to keeping an active brain. So enjoy goodies and extreme sugar doses to get your through the long nights and moments of writers block, but then take time to exercise and be healthy. Throw some veggies into your snack mix. Go for a run, head to the gym. Maybe you're into yoga!

image via Google Images
Whatever you do to keep yourself fit and healthy, find a way to fit it into your increasingly busy schedule. Hit your word count? Celebrate with a victory dance that gets your blood pumping. We don't want you feeling like total crap at the end of the month! We want you feeling great not only from finishing a book, but from also keeping your body happy.

image via Google Images
And last but not least, indulge in some good writing music. Nothing gets you feeling like you can do ANYTHING than a Hans Zimmer, or any movie soundtrack. If you can listen while you write, go for it. If not, turn it on a few minutes beforehand to fill you up with inspiration before you sit and write. Words will come, I promise. Anything from Hans Zimmer to Howard Shore will fit the bill.

So there you have it! Five basic tips to keep your nanowrimo experience top notch. There are so many other ideas though! Find a writing buddy to do word sprints with. Nothing drives creativity like a race for the most words. Compare ideas and brainstorm with other writers. Having friends to encourage you will do wonders on the homestretch!

Whatever it is that encourages you to write, find it and drive head first into the Nanowrimo experience! You got this! See you on the other side.

Hawkeye Out.