Just Write It

Tuesday Tips (1)

Last week I promised some tips for actually writing down your ideas. Ideas can come with every gust of wind, but actually turning them into a story… that’s work.

“If you want to be a writer, you should be writing.”

For me, that has been the single most useful piece of advice I’ve ever received in my writing career. It was the moment when I realized I had to make a choice: I could continue to dabble with poetry and half-finished stories and book reviews, or I could become a writer.

God gave me a talent for writing, and a passion for it. To not utilize or hone that talent would be to squander the gift I have been given. I don’t know where my writing will take me, or if any of my books will ever be best-sellers… those successes in the eyes of the world can only come from God (and I’m bad enough at marketing to ensure my inability to ever take credit for that sort of rise to fame). But that’s not what I’m striving for with my stories. I only hope to inspire others, to point to my Savior, to entertain, and to tell good stories that families can read and enjoy together. If I can achieve that, then I have done what I set out to do. If I achieve more… then to God be the glory! (To God be the glory either way, of course, as I can do none of this on my own, and He is the Author of all authors).

Before you begin, it might be worth thinking through what you want to accomplish with your gift and talent. But you don’t have to have it all figured out before you put words on the page. I still don’t have it all figured out! We’re in this together, dear Writer.

Different stages of the writing process are going to be difficult for each writer. Some writers love the outlining process, others love that fast and furious drafting stage, still others most look forward to the painstaking edits and polishing. Your favorite stage may be someone else’s least favorite stage… and vice versa.

However, when it comes down to it, regardless of how it looks or which aspect of writing is your favorite or which one you dread the most… every writer trods the same basic path that leads us from idea to creation to finished product.

But how do I get there?

That is entirely up to you. Your process is not guaranteed to look the exact same as any other writer’s. But I can give you a few tips and tricks to help you get started!

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Outlines: Outlines are honestly one of the places where I struggle the most. I was the student who finished writing their papers early so that I could create the outline. I pantsed (wrote by the seat of my pants) my way through King’s Warrior. Since Second Son is a prequel, I had at least a basic built-in outline that helped me stay on track with where the story was going. By the time I got to Yorien’s Hand I had done some editing and rewriting of King’s Warrior and realized just how much rewriting I had to do when I wrote a 140K-word novel without bothering to know where the story was headed first! So… slowly but surely I have begun teaching myself to work with at least a basic outline. Some people need detailed outlines with every scene worked out ahead of time. Other people don’t like outlines at all. For me, I like to have a very basic outline for each main character’s story arc, but I keep it short and allow it to be fluid if necessary… because the best part of writing is when the characters decide to take the story out of my hands, and I like being flexible enough to follow them when they do. But my first tip for getting started would be: Try an outline. Let it be flexible if you need to… don’t think of it as a shovelful of dirt that smothers your creativity, let it be as basic as a compass – just pointing north. It doesn’t have to be super detailed or complex with every stop along the journey plotted out. (It can be if that’s what you need) Simply try one… figure out what sort of outline works for you.

Just Write It: You knew you’d find the post title in here somewhere, right? So you’ve tried an outline and you love it or hate it or feel very meh about it… and now that blank page is staring at you… it’s intimidating… overwhelming… what do you do? Well, to paraphrase something a popular sports brand is fond of saying….

Just Write It!

Just begin. Sit down, put your fingers on those keys (or grab that pencil/pen/crayon) and start writing! Remember last week’s tip? This is where you have to really buckle down and block out the whisper in your ear that it’s not good enough, not original enough, not … enough. Because this is your ROUGH DRAFT. They use the word “rough” for a reason. You do not have to be Mozart… you can be a brilliant author AND still need to edit your work later. For me, Word Sprints have been a huge help this year when it comes to getting my rough draft on paper. I sort of figure out what the basic gist is going to be of the next scene I’m going to write, set a timer, and then I type as fast as I can until the timer stops. Then I reward myself with a cookie, or a few minutes on facebook, or jumping jacks (whatever works, right?) I have been using this method since March and I cannot even express how helpful it has been! In the past three months, I feel like this method has actually helped train the creative parts of my brain to turn on when I sit down to write.

For more information on learning how to write by sprinting and training your brain to get into the creative mode, I highly recommend the book 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox. I don’t do everything he suggests, but I do feel like I learned a lot and his methods I have implemented into my writing process have been invaluable and have enabled me to write 95,000 words over the past 3 months – only writing on weekdays.

Draft Zero: Maybe the idea of a rough draft is still too intimidating. Maybe you need to allow yourself to be extra-messy with the first things you put on paper. My friend Deborah came up with a Draft Zero approach to writing that she describes brilliantly in THIS POST. Definitely recommend reading it!

Half Draft: I do something between Zero Drafting and Rough Drafting these days. Because I can’t really allow myself to completely ignore typos/capitalization/punctuation errors… but I have also enjoyed the freedom of writing super fast for word sprints without being too concerned about whether or not those errors are happening without me noticing… I do something I like to call the “Half Draft Approach.” I start with a SUPER basic outline/story arc, and then I word sprint my way through scenes. If I notice myself making a typo I allow myself to fix it, but I also don’t let myself get bogged down in the minutiae of precision, as I know that I will be word-smithing in the coming drafts.

Also, Scrivener! Such a great tool for drafting. I love it to pieces. It definitely took some getting used to, but now I can’t imagine not having it. I love how I can keep ALL my bits and pieces and ideas and character sheets and even inspiring images and things in the same file and don’t have to go hunting through my folders wondering, “What did I call that document when I named the currency for this world???” It also makes converting my files into pretty ebooks super easy. (I do not work for Scrivener, nor am I getting anything out of recommending it to you. I just really like it).

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What do you think, dear Writer? Do you think any of these tips or tricks might work for you to help you begin putting those words down on the page? Have you used any of these ideas? Which ones work well for you? Do you have any other ideas or tips that you have found useful? Do you have any topics you’re really hoping I cover in this series of posts? I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments section below! 

~ jenelle

Journey From Skioria

Tania is lost, shipwrecked on an unfamiliar shore. With no friends or family, the nine-year-old girl must make her way through the realm of the woodland people to a town she’s never heard of. With unexpected allies from the forest, Tania departs on a wild adventure where storms rage and the forces of nature do their very best to end her journey before it has truly begun.

I’ve been wanting to read one of Ms. Wyatt’s books ever since I had her character from her Dragon Courage series, Mere, over for an interview a while back.

This was a cute story about a young girl who gets separated from her parents on a boating trip and washes up on the shores of a land filled with small folk from three different races. Despite the fact that these three races do not usually get along, Tania’s new friends all pledge to do everything in their power to take her safely home, but it is a long journey and many dangers lie in their path.

I liked the premise of the story and enjoyed the various characters. It is a light-hearted romp of a tale, and I believe it would be excellent for younger children. I’m fairly certain that my daughters (ages 9 and 6) would enjoy it very much. In this story, there are difficulties to be faced, but no serious dangers. There are obstacles to overcome, but friends to help each other through them. And while Tania does encounter some people with gruff personalities, nobody is truly unkind and there are no darker themes.

With the exception of one of the characters who has an ability to fly (that is a racial trait of his people, the Avarians) there is no magic in this fantastical tale, either, so for those who love fantasy but have an aversion to magic, this one might be up your alley.

Personally, I never really felt emotionally gripped by or invested in the characters. For an adult reader, the story was fairly simplistic, and I felt that much of the adventure was much too easy and straight-forward. However, I do think that had more to do with the fact that I am much older than the target audience for this book (the MC is only 9 years old, after all). I enjoy MG fiction upon occasion, but I find that I am pickier about it than I am about YA. If I had read this particular book as a kid, I think I would have loved it to pieces. I gave it three dragon eggs because I honestly liked it, but I can’t say that I loved it.

However, I am still very interested in this author’s other books, and plan to read Dragon’s Future next. From what I have seen of the first few pages of the prologue, I think I’m going to enjoy it quite a lot!

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~ jenelle

Favorite Family Film: The Scarlet Pimpernel

 

Favorite Family Films Header GraphicRolling the Favorite Family Film feature out of mothballs today to bring you a classic movie to start your summer out right. This movie is based on the book The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzcy, and it is one of those rare instances where I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I enjoy the book or the movie more.

There have been a few versions of this movie done, but my favorite, and the one I’m recommending here today, is the 1982 version with Jane Seymour, Anthony Adams, and a VERY YOUNG Ian McKellan.

This movie takes place in France and England, circa 1793 during the French Revolution. (This is not to be confused with the later revolution portrayed in Les Miserables… that particular rebellion took place in 1832 and the battle lasted all of 24 hours).

This movie, like so many of my favorites, has it all. Witty banter, epic heroes, a truly sinister villain, intrigue, and through it all one of the most beautiful romances ever.

Meet Sir Percival Blakeney, an English lord and ridiculous buffoon. He often visits his noble friends in Paris and enjoys all the usual sort of amusements: dinner parties, shows at the theater, hunting, poetry… but when he sees Margeurite St. Just on stage, he falls head over heels in love. He sweeps her off her feet and she eventually agrees to marry him, leaving France for his holdings in England.

Through it all runs an undercurrent of tension in their world. In Paris, it is not safe to be part of a noble line, for the Revolution is in full swing, and all noblemen and women are considered to be the Enemy, whether or not they truly have done anything wrong.

But there is a man working behind the scenes, striving to make the world a better place by rescuing innocent people from the mercilessness of the Guillotine… nobody knows his true name or face… for he is a master of disguise and cunning, but he has saved countless lives and continues to work tirelessly. He is the one known as The Scarlet Pimpernel!

Working against the Scarlet Pimpernel is Citizen Chauvelin, head of state security. Chauvelin is only concerned with his own advancement, the purity of his cause, and he harbors a desire for Marguerite St. Just, a desire that is frustrated by her marriage to Sir Blakeney – which makes him angry and causes him to threaten her brother’s safety.

When the young Dauphin’s life is at stake, the Scarlet Pimpernel will set out on his most daring rescue yet. Can he outwit the forces working against him a final time?

If you enjoy movies like The Princess Bride, or period pieces like North and South or Pride and Prejudice, or you love movies featuring heroes like Batman (The Scarlet Pimpernel was the story that Batman draws his origins from), you will love this movie. It’s older, but it has held up against the test of time. The acting is fantastic, the script is well-written and entertaining, and the cinematography does not feel overly cheesy or low-budget. Trust me, this is a great one!

You can watch this one via Amazon with a free trial of something called Acorn. You can also rent it online at places like Youtube, Google Play, and iTunes.

 

Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it? Do you have any favorite family films you’d like to recommend like this one?

If you’d like some more recommendations from this feature, check out the Favorite Family Films category (under Reviews/Movie Reviews), or just CLICK HERE

~ jenelle

So You Have an Idea

Tuesday Tips (1)

Welcome to my new series of blog posts that I am calling “Tuesday Tips and Tricks,” where I will be trying to give you some instructional/informational ideas for using with your own writing to help you learn and grow your craft.

And, since we learned in “The Sound of Music” that the very beginning is a very good place to start… let’s begin there… with those first glimmerings of ideas that spring to life in an author’s brain.

This moment of idea is crucial, because it is the moment right before many great books never get written.

One of the common statements I have heard over and over again from aspiring writers is this idea of “original thought.” Many beginning writers seem to have this belief that they need a perfect and completely original, never-before-seen-or-tried IDEA before they can even start writing. A couple of years ago, I was a vendor at a comic-con and one young man approached my table and proceeded to tell me about the book he wanted to write. It was an interesting premise, and the story itself had a lot of potential. But then he ended his pitch with these words. “But… I can’t write that. Because it’s already been done.”

I had certainly never heard of this particular premise for a story before (but, admittedly, I haven’t read all the books there are) so I asked, “Oh? It has?”

He nodded and looked discouraged. “Yeah. The new Hobbit movie.”

This confused me, because what he had just described sounded nothing like The Hobbit. My confusion must have shown, because he continued to elaborate.

“The whole idea of an elf and a dwarf falling in love. Tauriel and Kili? It’s been done.”

Okay, yes, that was one part of his story. But this young man was ready to toss out his entire plot and give up on it because one aspect of it had “been done before.”

And he’s not the only one I’ve heard this type of mentality from.

Dear Author… your story does not have to be The Most Original Idea on the face of the earth. If that’s what you’re aiming for, you’re going to end up disappointed. Or you’re never going to begin writing. Plenty of stories borrow from other stories. (And there are quite a few out there that do quite a lot more than just borrow… some skirt plagiarism… not that I’m in any way recommending you do THAT). But the point is this: will there be aspects of your story that resemble other stories? Sure. Of course. But what is it about your story that is different? What new twist can you put on an old trope? What new characters can you bring to the table? How is YOUR story relatable in a different way than other stories that are similar? The fact remains that nobody can write YOUR story the way that YOU will write it, and that makes it original and unique. Even if your story doesn’t start out super unique… that’s what editing is for. Some of my best ideas don’t come until I’m in the last round of edits. (Which can be super annoying, especially when it necessitates some serious re-writing like it did in Minstrel’s Call in the eleventh hour… but it just goes to show that a story can be extremely fluid right up until the very final draft)

So you have an idea?

That’s fantastic.

Now… go write it down! That rough draft will be messy and need work, it may not be the most original idea ever… but that is what editing is for. You can polish it up and change it around multiple times before you even let anyone read it. But until you have that first draft down on paper (or screen) you have nothing to mold, nothing to rearrange. Until you write that idea down, you will only ever just have an idea.

How do you go about writing down that idea? That’s up to you. It’s going to look different for everyone. But I’ll give you a few pointers in the next installment of this series. Until then, dear Writer… dream away… and WRITE!

~ jenelle