How I Stay Organized With My Writing

One of the hardest things I find about being a writer is keeping my creative brain in check. It’s no secret that writer’s constantly have idea after idea after idea floating around inside their heads, along with a plethora of characters and settings to boot. Most of the time, I find writers are constantly juggling multiple projects at the same time. With this happening, keeping your writing organized can be a challenge. So how can you stay organized through all of the chaos surrounding the life of a writer? Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks on the matter, and I’m going to share some of them with you, in hopes that it can help you out too.

1) Creating a timeline: Use Aeon Timeline software to document every important/major scene in your writing project. Even use it for the minor scenes – they’re still relevant too! You’d be surprised how much easier planning and writing becomes once you have an up to date, working timeline.

2) Keep an idea notebook: It can be either be on your electronic device or a physical hard copy in a real notebook, but always have it around you to write down random ideas. They probably won’t all be used (some will never make it further than a partial idea in this notebook), but at least you have things written down somewhere that you can refer to later if need be.

3) Make character profiles: Do this for every character, no matter how big or small. Some can be as plain as the character’s name and a brief description of what they look like. Others can be a crazy amount of in-depth knowledge on likes and dislikes, preferences, physical description… you name it, it’s there. Just try to get down something for everyone. That way, when you’re working on your piece you have an easily accessible reference page that describes the character you really need to remember. You know, in those moments when you have no idea what they look like when you briefly mentioned again fifty pages earlier in your manuscript.

4) List of things to fix: This is a very important thing to do, though it can be quite a tedious task. Once you’ve written your piece, of course that’s where the editing and re-writing process begins. While doing a read through, if you keep track of things which need to be fixed or changed (obviously not something as simple as a spelling error or grammar mistake – I’m talking the big stuff like plot or character changes), write it down in a list. It’ll make things a whole lot easier when you go to start that rewrite (and trust me, you’ll have to go through at least a couple of those).

So there’s a couple of suggestions to help you stay organized in your writing. Hope they help, and if you have any others you find work well for you, feel free to add them in the comments section!

As usual, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

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Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers: Part 1

There are countless social media sites out on the internet, each of them offering us different means to share our thoughts and life with other people. For authors, social media can help us out in many different ways. Book promotion, connecting with fans, networking with other authors… and that’s just to name a few.

A little while ago I was introduced to a site called Pinterest by a fellow author and let me tell you, I will be forever grateful to her for it. In this post, along with another one I shall be putting up in a couple days, I hope to give you a few reasons why I believe Pinterest is so useful for authors. Right now, I’m going to focus on the private side of Pinterest, and what it can do for you and your specific writing.

Character depictions, settings, random quotes that mesh with your story… Pinterest is full of pictures and photos just waiting to bring out your creativity. And once I was shown all of these possibilities, I became hooked.

When I write, I’ve always found it rather difficult to conjure up an image of my characters in my mind. Vague ideas? Yes, that I can do, but full-fledged representation? No chance in hell. And I know that I’m not the only author who suffers from this problem. I’ve chatted with others who also find picturing characters difficult. It’s a problems that can have devastating effects on work in progress writing projects and wreak havoc. Sometimes, if it’s really bad, it can stunt my writing and cause a serious case of writer’s block.

This is where Pinterest works wonderfully. For example, let’s say you know your character is female, blonde, and has hazel eyes. Type that into the search bar on Pinterest, hit Enter, and voila! Dozens upon dozens of pictures of blonde females with hazel eyes for you to search through and find your character. Now, it’s not always that simple – sometimes Pinterest requires a little more keyword refinement or tweaking, but it’s there. Something physical and tangible that you can pin to a board and have for reference sake.

I also use Pinterest for fashion-related dilemmas in my writing as well. Recently, I was writing a scene where my high school-aged characters were attending their prom. Of course, when you write a prom scene you need to know what your characters are wearing. Since I have difficulties picturing things in such detail in my head,  I needed to find visual representations of everything. Hair, makeup, dresses, suits, ties, shoes… See? I’m not lying. Literally everything.

Pinterest made my life so much easier for this as well. I spend hours searching through its contents, pinning anything and everything I thought might possibly work for what I was looking for, and eventually ended up with pages of images to choose from and form my magical evening for my characters. And it helped. When I sat down the next time to work on that prom scene, I had a clear head to write. No barriers or questions arose about the visual and what everything looked like. All I had to worry about were the actual words being written down on the page.

As I’ve mentioned before, I write collaboratively with one of my friends for a series of short stories. Separately, we created a number of characters, each with a set description of the way they look, and since then, have thrown those characters into short stories together. Sometimes I will write a story involving her character, or she’ll write one involving mine. During these moments, descriptions can get rather challenging, since I am not the creator of her character, nor is she of mine. This is where Pinterest takes on yet another form of usefulness for us.

Pinterest has two types of boards: public and secret. Public boards are pretty self-explanatory I think. Secret boards are too – they can only be viewed by the creator of the board. Now Pinterest has a way that you can share a board with others and make them collaborators of it. This is what me and my writing friend do. Boards that involve characters we need for our collaborative project are shared between the both of us, and pins are added of physical representations of all things necessary for us to know. So with a couple of clicks of my mouse, I can have access to a picture of her main character, or the school that she goes to, or the outfit she was wearing for a particular scene of a short story. All of this information which is crucial for the continuity of our stories, I can see without having to bother my co-collaborator every single time I have a question. It makes writing so much easier, I can say that with entire confidence.

So there are just a few reasons why I think Pinterest is extremely useful for writers. Of course, this is only Part 1 of my reasonings – in the next few days I’ll post some more, this time focusing on the more public side of Pinterest and what it can do for writers in a more general fashion.

As always, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

Writing Software Worth Investing In: Aeon Timeline

Though I’ve yet to be published, I’ve written a great deal of manuscripts, all of which are still work in progresses. Characters and plots are always buzzing through my mind as a result of this, but to make matters even more confusing, all but one are linked in the same universe. It hadn’t been intentional – it just sort of… happened. A side character became interesting, or sequels just appeared out of thin air, or the new group of characters I was working with told me they existed in the same timeline and world.

So, when all of these plotlines started to cross over and interfere with one another, I knew I needed a way to keep them all straight. Random pieces of paper shoved into the pockets of my overflowed writing binder (my current plot-outlining method) just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

It was as this point my friend and fellow writer, Lyndsay, introduced me to the writing software, Aeon Timeline. Though there has been a second version of this software which has come out since I’ve purchased it (and I’ve yet to get personally), there are still so many features I find extremely helpful, and I think you will too. All of the features I’m writing about in this version are available in Version 2, though their set-up and details might vary slightly.

Aeon Timeline is first and foremost a timeline software designed to help keep whoever’s using it organized. For writers, this in unbelievably helpful because you have a place to keep track of all the events of your plot and information about your characters. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found my character doing two different events at the same time. Without Aeon Timeline, I might not have realized this error ever – or at least it would have taken much, much longer.

arcs in aeon timeline blurred

What I think I love the most about Aeon Timeline is the ability to have multiple story arcs within one document. In the picture above, all of the arcs are listed in the left-hand column. The arc titled Global is the default found in Timeline. All of the events which are found in this arc are able to be seen no matter which arc you’re focusing on at the time. In the case of a multi-story universe (like I have), using these arcs makes it possible for me to view every single one of my events together to make sure things coincide in each respective story. I can’t stress how much this has made my writing that much more accurate for dates. Now I know where all of my characters are (no matter the book they’re in) for every single event that ever happens in any of my novels. Currently, I’ve got my arcs set out for each set of main characters it follows since I’m working with a multi-story universe, but really you can break it down even further. If you have a book with lots of sub-plots, each of them can be assigned a particular arc and voila, everything is now organized.

Want to know something that’s even more awesome? There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of years available to you in your timeline. It could be as short as two days, or as long as a thousand years, and Aeon Timeline can do it.

noah

Events and character ages are found together for convenience

Another feature, though small, helps me out so much when I’m story-plotting. Aeon Timeline has a way of viewing the age characters will be at the time of events. You also have the option to choose whether each of your characters (called Entities in Timeline) are participants or observers of the event. In my example to the left, the coloured-in green circles means that particular character is a participant in the events, and the outlined white circle means they are the observer. This feature is a nifty little thing that helps keep your plot organized and structured properly.

aeon timeline inspector blurred

 

The inspector function of Aeon Timeline is the one last feature I’m going to talk about here, though there are many others I know I could go on about for much longer. Basically, the inspector feature allows for you to see details on events. All you have to do to view it is click on an event in your timeline and then click on the little ‘i’ icon near the top right corner of the program. Once in inspector mode, you can view and/or edit the duration of the event (in a choice of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds), when it starts and when it ends, it’s title, label (the colour it appears in the timeline), what arc it’s in, as well as adding any notes you may need to remember about that event. When you’re working with a lot of plot points and characters like I do, having a tool like this to either make quick changes on the length of an event or add information reminding me of what happens here is quite convenient. The note function works well too for when you’re still in the plotting stages and maybe have just a few quick ideas you want to jot down about what’s going to happen in the scene when you’re writing it.

So there you have it. A couple of quick facts about Aeon Timeline, a wonderful software I recommend every writer gets their hands on. If you or anyone else you know has experienced other aspects about Aeon Timeline and wish to share your experience, please comment below. Or if any of you writers out there have Version 2, I’d love to hear about some of the new features available exclusively to it.

As always, keep writing everyone! And to those who have just started participating in the April Camp NaNoWriMo session, good luck and I hope the words are flowing wonderfully for you!

Until next time.

 

 

 

How I Fell in Love With My Antagonist

Years ago, when I first set out writing my trilogy, I couldn’t stand my antagonist. Granted, most people don’t tend to like the villainous character in novels, but I really hated this guy. He’s possessive, obsessive, abusive, and just a downright asshole to my protagonist throughout the whole trilogy. With qualities like that, why would I ever like him, right?

That’s the way I felt for a very long time, and it’s only recently when I’ve started to rewrite the whole series that I’ve had a change of heart. See, while editing and fixing up the plot holes I’ve found throughout my novels, I’ve had to learn more about each and every important character that passes through, including Noah, my horrific antagonist. All of a sudden, there’s love and sympathy for him which was never present before. The reason why? I’ve learned about his backstory.

Character backstory is probably one of the most important things to be super familiar with whenever you’re writing any sort of fictional work. Without it, you have no idea where they’ve come from or what they’ve been through. I think that’s what a lot of new authors forget when they begin working on a piece of writing. Your character’s story may have started being told when you start writing your novel, but in no way is that they beginning of them. They’ve lived a life up until the first chapter of your novel. They’ve been through ups and downs that have shaped and moulded them into the person that they are when your readers first meet them. Without knowing that all-important information, your character is going to come across as two-dimensional and wooden.

This is the problem I saw almost immediately when I started rewriting my trilogy. I knew a decent amount about my protagonist’s backstory – it was relevant to the current plot I was telling so the information was a need-to-know kind of thing. But for Noah, it was as if his life had started on page one of my novel. We never discovered anything about his past, so when he goes and does horrible things, it’s impossible to understand why he’s so mean and the way he is.

It’s only after finally sitting down and letting him open up to me that I discovered why my antagonist is such a terrible person. And in that moment when he finally opened up to me and let me into his life prior to the start of my first novel, I finally understood the reasons for why he is the way he is. Let me tell you, it saddened me. Noah had a horrible childhood, something that no person should ever have to go through, and the choices he makes throughout my whole trilogy all stem from it.

Is he excused for the suffering he inflicts upon my protagonist? Of course not. What he does to her is entirely inexcusable. But I get it now. I understand why he operates the way he does. For the longest time, I thought that Noah just liked to be in control and cause my protagonist pain. I know better now. I know that in his own twisted and messed up way, he believed that he was trying to protect her from the harsh ways of the outside world and keep her safe.

Despite the nature of Noah’s character, he is by far the most interesting and intriguing character to write. I think it might be one of those things where they’re so evil and sinister that you just can’t help but to love them. Reading about him, I see why people are turned off – if I hadn’t created him, I’d feel the same way too. But writing him, it’s exhilarating. I spend so much of my time wondering what he’ll do next to throw a wrench in the works. My protagonist is safe and for the most part, fairly predictable in her behaviour, but Noah, he’s such a loose cannon that anything can happen when he shows up.

In the first book of my trilogy, I never get to visit his mind. I see the whole novel through my protagonist’s eyes. In the second book, things change though, and we get to spend the occasional chapter in Noah’s head. I wouldn’t call his points of view a narrative, but rather a stream of consciousness. The reader is privy to his point of view, but only his thoughts. It’s even different than a first person perspective, where traditionally it’s written with quotation marks, followed by he said, she said – all that jazz. Noah, on the other hand, gives us very little dialogue and instead, gives mainly his thoughts and feelings on what’s happening around him. It’s raw and emotional – exactly how his character is throughout the novels.

Getting inside Noah’s head like this – writing from his point of view – brought another level of intensity to the table that I didn’t think was possible. All of a sudden the floodgates to his mind opened and I was really able to get a feel for what was going through his head in those exact moments. At the time I was writing, I had no clue about his past or anything about his life that didn’t pertain to the plot of the stories, so although I knew how Noah would react or think about something, I had no real clue why that was the case. Now, as I continue to forge forward into my rewrites, and now that I have the backstory I hadn’t been privy to upon writing the first draft, I think I’m able to portray Noah in the way that he should have always been shown. Yes, he is still the villainous character. Yes, I am most definitely still rooting against him. But it’s different now. I feel… something for him.

So maybe it isn’t quite love like I suggested earlier, but rather understanding. I feel sorry for Noah. I wish he could have gotten the help he needed back when he was a child. Maybe things would have turned out differently for him if he had. Maybe things would have been alright for him. Though I guess I should be thankful things happened they way they did. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

Please feel free to comment if you’ve ever experienced something like with with one of your antagonist characters – I’d love to hear about others and how they feel about it all. And as always, keep writing!

Until next time.

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

With only a few weeks before the 2016 edition of NaNoWriMo starts, I thought I would focus this post on the prep which goes into taking on this daunting task. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is an even which occurs every year in November, where authors from around the world attempt to write 50 000 words in the 30 day month. If you’d like to know more about it, I wrote a post about it a while back. You can also check out their official website for more information.

Prepping for NaNo is insanity. You need to do character profiles, world-building, plot construction… All of which will require a decent amount of research. And that’s not even including the whole mental preparation side of the matter. Since there are a few ways to complete NaNo (plotting and pantsing), writing prep isn’t always necessary, but I have some tips for those who decide to plan their novels out.

Creating an outline is the suggestion I think helps out the most when it comes to NaNo prep. Without one, you’re left to fend for yourself with plot progression. An outline can be as simple or as complex as you like. Personally, I tend to write out in point form as much detail of every scene I plan to write in chronological order. This helps to keep your thoughts straight and allows for you to pick back up where you left off every day without much hassle. If you’re looking for something more structured to plot your novel around, take a look at this blog post. They have a few different types of templates for story plots, but also some helpful ones for character profiling.

Speaking of character profiling, this is extremely important too. Everyone always focuses on the concern around the plot planning – which is definitely important – but just think about it. If you don’t know how your characters will react in a certain situation, how are you going to write about it? The key is to know the little things about them. Do they have any weird idiosyncrasies? How do they react under pressure? Do they have any nervous tics? Or what about their likes and dislikes? What’s their favourite colour? Season? Food? All of these things might seem useless when it comes to your plot, but knowing them will help you understand your character in more depth. To make them believable, they need to seem real to you.

While prepping for the writing side of NaNoWriMo is good, you need to remember your mind needs some prep as well. This is just as important – you can have everything planned out perfectly, but if something goes wrong along the way, you need to be able to think clearly and handle it quickly.

Tip #1: When you partake in the journey of writing 50 000 words in 30 days, you need to remember just that: you’re trying to write 50 000 words in 30 days. That means what you write doesn’t have to be perfect. It can have mistakes, it can have plot holes. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to just finish. Perfectionism can’t happen during NaNo – if you let it creep in, it’s going to stunt your creativity and make writing that 1600 words per day extremely difficult. I know it’s going to be difficult – trust me, five years in to participating in NaNo and I still want to edit while I write – but you need to shut away your inner perfectionist if you want to finish.

Tip #2: You should lay out a writing schedule. Set a time every day, even if it’s only an hour or two, and stick to it. For those of you that do shift work and can’t set a definite time for every day, that’s alright. I get it, I’ve been there. Instead of a particular time of the day, just try for a time limit. Tell yourself that you will write for an hour every day – it doesn’t matter when, but before that clock strikes midnight every night, you have to have spent an hour writing.

Tip #3: Find a writing group or partner. Mentally, the thought that there’s someone else out there keeping tabs on you will push you to write and stick to that schedule. Check out the NaNo regions page and see if there’s one near the city you live in. They’re really good for setting up write-ins (places where you and other NaNo-ers can meet up and write together) and are a great support group.

So there you have it. Some tips to get your NaNo prep into full swing this year. As always, if you have any other suggestions or comments, please leave them below. Happy writing, everyone! (And to all my Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!)

Until next time.

When Side Characters Become Interesting

A little more than a year ago, I was hard at work on a novella about a main character from my in-the-process-of-editing book trilogy. This main character made new ‘friends’ (if that’s what you call cellmates in prison) who were required to help push the plot along. One of these side characters sparked an interest in me and then poof! All of a sudden there was a whole life story to explore.

To dig right into the topic at hand, side characters provide a very interesting conundrum for authors. It’s not their story you’re telling, but they are completely integral to the overall success of the project. Without them, the story won’t function as it should. Can you just ignore them? Sure, you can. Can you work them further into the plot? Absolutely. Sometimes, the side character even becomes more interesting than the main character. Is that a problem? It depends.

In my opinion, there are different ways to deal with this particular problem.

  1. Try giving the main character a more interesting voice. Sometimes, side characters (whether good or bad) have more interesting things to say, or maybe they think in a more obscure manner. This can provide more interest for a reader since the side character’s perception is more colourful. To fix this, put your main character in situations which allow for their inner voice to flourish – something to flesh them out more and gives the reader something to sink their teeth into.
  2. Define your main character more. This kind of goes along well with my previous point. Sure, you may have told readers what they look like, but what about how they feel? How they act? Are they too perfect? Do they have any faults? To make a character convincing, they need to be human and humans make mistakes. Try to think of what the main character is like outside of the story’s situation. If you can form a concrete character profile about them using that information, then they should become more interesting all-around.
  3. Make your project a multi-P.O.V. story. If possible, and if it fits with your narrative style, try giving the side character a more prominent role in the overall story. Give them a point of view, let them tell the reader what they see the main character doing through their eyes. Put them in more scenes with the main character, or let them have a sub-plot and then find a way to tie it into the climax. This way, everyone wins. The main character gets to continue having the story revolve around them, but the side character gets more screen time, so to speak.
  4. Write about the side character, but in a separate piece – maybe a novella or short story. Using this option is something I’ve done a couple of times in my past experiences. Allowing the side character to grow and expand into their own separate story can be helpful. Not only do you have a new piece to work on, but it helps with many other areas of your writing. You get to world-build. And with that urge to learn more about the side character gone, you get to focus back on telling the main character’s story in your original piece.
  5. Make the side character your main character. This one involves the most amount of work, but if you’ve tried everything and it just still doesn’t seem to be working, maybe making the drastic change is for the best.

So there are a few suggestions for dealing with an intriguing side character. Comment if you have any other helpful suggestions! And as always, keep writing!

Until next time.

Writing the Male Point of View

Writing is difficult. The carefully crafted plot, the perfect climactic moment, the creation of three-dimensional characters. All of these and more are required to make a believable and plausible novel. And then there’s the point of view (P.O.V.). I’ve already written here about the different points of views out there for authors, along with their benefits and drawbacks, but then the gender of the character speaking plays a role as well.

In my current novel, I’m writing a split-P.O.V. between a 21-year old girl and a 25-year old boy. Now, you might say, But you’re a girl, how can you write as a guy? My response? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I’m any good at it. I guess we’ll all find out in due time.

All joking aside though, I do believe it is possible to write in the opposite sex’s viewpoint – it just requires a little more dedication. My biggest tip? Research. Research is key.

Start off by having conversations with a guy. Find out the way they talk, the way they think – in particular how they react to certain situations. Perhaps you may know a particular scene your male character is facing, so ask them what they would do if faced with that issue. I know it’s not necessarily the same, since most likely the person you’re talking to isn’t identical to your character, but at least it’s a start.

Another suggestion? Don’t just talk to one guy and call it quits after that. Like any other kind of research, you’re going to need to do some thorough digging before you come up with something concrete. So get out there and talk to lots of guys. Guys of all types, too. The more variety, the more realistic your male character is going to sound. You want to know all the options out there before you pick one which will work for you.

I’m sure that by now you’ve realized that there are some major differences between how a guy thinks and a girl thinks. To just throw some out there (and keep in mind these are just generalizations – so in no way do I believe all men are like this):

  1. Men talk less. WAY less. So if you find your male lead is out-talking his counterpart then you might want to re-visit his characterization.
  2. Guys don’t tend to notice details in the same way girls do.
  3. Men try to act like they don’t have “feelings” – even though we all know they really do so keep that in mind while you’re crafting your emotional scenes.
  4. A male character is going to notice more visually than his female counterpart, which means you’ll probably spend more time describing things than monologuing about thoughts.
  5. Guys DO NOT always think about sex. Yes, it does cross their thoughts, but most men are not sex-driven. They will, however, always notice a girl, regardless of whether or not they think they’re hot.
  6. On that note, the first look is one of instinct; it’s the second look, the double-take if you will, which really matters. This is the look which means they’re interested.

So there you have it. A short and quick guide to writing from the male point of view. Hit me up with a message or comment if you have anything to add!

As per usual, happy writing everyone!

Until next time.