Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers: Part 2

A couple days ago, I posted an article on how the social media site Pinterest is extremely useful for writers and the visualization of characters, settings, clothing, etc. As a follow-up, I want to now get into the ways Pinterest can assist writers in a more general fashion. What do I mean by this? Things like writing prompts, suggestions, guidelines… you know, all that jazz.

Like many other writers out there, I’ve suffered from writer’s block. Well, one of the more recent ways I’ve discovered to help out with this issue is using Pinterest. Just simply search “Writing prompts” and you’ll receive hundreds of ideas to get you unstuck from whatever writing dilemma you’re currently facing. Sometimes it may be something entirely unrelated to what it is you’re working on – and that’s totally okay. Taking a break from your current project is sometimes exactly what you need to rejuvenate and recharge your writing batteries. Other times, you may actually find a writing prompt that works with whatever it is you’re writing. I’ve had both of these circumstances happen for me and they work just the same. They get me writing again, which is all that really matters.

Pinterest also has a ton of writing advice out there that authors and writers should really take advantage of. I’ve got a whole board of pins dedicated to writing tips and suggestions that I really do use when writing. Sometimes they can be as simple as a reminder on how to notice when you’re writing in a passive voice or active voice… or how to tell when a bilingual character has been written by a non-bilingual person. Other times, they can be far more detailed and explain different ways to include prologues into your writing. A lot of these tips are things you may not necessarily think of, or maybe it’s something that you didn’t know. Pinterest is wonderful for that reason – you get to read a wealth of information from experts in their own fields and then can save it to a board for later reference.

Using Pinterest for writing motivation is another way I find the social media site extremely helpful. Sometimes, when the writer’s block has hit and you just need a pick-me-up, motivational quotes are the way to go. Or maybe you’re someone who needs a list of other books that have been published in your genre as a means to spur you on. Pinterest can help with this. Having a board completely dedicated to motivation is sometimes exactly what a writer needs to get going and pick up that pen, or put their hands on those keys again.

Again, these are just a few different ways Pinterest can help an author out in a more general writing fashion. I know there are many authors out there that also use Pinterest for marketing purposes – but since I don’t have any experience in that particular area, I think I’ll leave that for someone else to explain.

If you have any more suggestions or ways you use Pinterest to help out with writing, please feel free to add it into the comments section below. Differing opinions and ideas are always welcome – in no way to I pretend to know all.

And as always, keep writing everyone! I hope you’re all gearing up for the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo!

Until next time.

 

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.

Why Short Stories Are Difficult To Write

I’ve never thought I was capable of writing short stories. Novels? No problem. Give me an idea and I can run with it for eighty-thousand words without hesitation. But ask me to tell a complete story arc from start to finish in five-thousand words or less? Never. Not a chance.

That’s how I’ve always believed things to be. And I never imagined I’ve have a differing perspective on the matter until just very recently. It occurred to me the other day that though yes, there are definitely technical differences between writing short stories and full length novels, it’s also very much a mental game with yourself. If you back yourself into a corner, only ever believing you’re capable of one or the other, you’ll never truly succeed at anything else. You’ll forevermore be uncomfortable with writing out of that space you’ve become extremely familiar with.

I’ve written short stories – good ones, in fact. I’ve been writing them for almost two whole years in a collaborative piece with my writing friend, Lyndsay. The only difference between those pieces and what I’ve always thought of as a traditional short story? The ones we’re writing require some previous knowledge from the respective books we’ve each written.

I guess it’s different when you’re working with characters who already have a background you’ve delved into – maybe it makes it easier. And in a way, there’s less work for you to do. Your reader already knows information about this character – yes, maybe there might be that odd person who hasn’t read your novel yet, but that’s what those quick pieces of background information you throw in there are for. So when you start that short story, you can focus on the plot, on where you’re taking the piece and how it’s going to end.

But of course, there are still some short story rules you should follow. I’ve learned a lot of these the hard way (which resulted in a lot of rewriting!).

  1. Make sure you limit the number of characters. Don’t have more than a couple of protagonists. Too many will clutter the story and take the focus away from the action going on in the plot!
  2. Time frames should remain quite short. In novels, it’s much easier to spread your story out over a series of months, but since the short story format is, well – short! – you need to keep the timeline reasonable to allow for events to feel important and carry the weight they deserve.
  3. Every word counts! This might be the most important thing to remember about short stories. You have a limited word count, so every single one should have meaning and be there for a reason. If you’re adding unnecessary fluff, take it out. Fluff is not needed.

With all this said and the rules laid out, it still doesn’t make writing a short story any easier. Yes, this might provide you with a bit of a guideline for what you should and shouldn’t do in short stories, but we’re writers. Let’s be honest, sometimes rules just have to be broken. Now please, don’t break all of them at the same time (and the three I gave are by far not the only rules – more like a couple of examples). But don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and bend the rules to fit whatever it is you’re writing about. After all, that’s what writing is all about, right?

Keep writing, everyone, and if you have any other short story tips, pass them along in the comments section.

Until next time.

Why Being a Writer is Like Riding a Rollercoaster

Being a writer is both the most exhilarating thing and the most terrifying. Writing is full of so many ups and downs that sometimes (more frequently than not) it’s hard to keep straight what’s going on in your emotion department. There’s nothing like finally putting the finishing touches on a manuscript and saying to yourself, “Hey, look at what I did. Look at what I created.” But, on the other hand, some of your lowest points can come as a writer too – like when you get a terrible review, or you’ve been rejected for the millionth time.

Writing is my passion, it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. And there’s nothing like that feeling when you realize someone else has enjoyed something you’ve written, and you’ve maybe even helped them figure something out. Positive comments, reviews, even someone offering to re-post or re-blog something you’ve worked on, all give off this euphoric sense and suddenly you’re on Cloud Nine. It feels like nothing will be able to tear you down from the high you have.

Until you receive a nasty comment from someone on the internet. Or that person you’re catching up with scoffs at you when you inform them you’re a writer. Or a thousand other scenarios – if you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about.

So then you have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, tell yourself that what you’re doing does have worth, and start over. Soon you find a new idea – a great idea – the idea that’s going to send you over the top. And you pour yourself into it over the next few months (or years, depending on how fast/slow of a writer you are). The plot, the characters, the setting – they all become a part of you. You feel as if you’ve given everything to this piece, every ounce of your soul. Suddenly, you’re on Cloud Nine again, with a finished piece and confidence booming.

I think you know what’s coming next. More rejections, more negativity, more self-doubt.

Does it feel like a roller coaster yet?

The key to this never-ending cycle is to find ways to keep bringing yourself back up. Pep-talks (from either yourself or people close to you), rewards, even just simply pausing to reflect and realize that not everyone in the world can do what you’ve just done. You’ve created something entirely from your mind. Yes, you may have borrowed little ideas here and there, but the words, they’ve come from you. No one can take that from you and don’t ever let anyone think that they can.

Even with all the bad that’s been thrown into the occupation, I still wouldn’t change a thing. To be writer is more important to me than most people understand. It allows for my brain to think up possibilities that wouldn’t normally exist, or walk in the shoes of someone I know I will never meet. Writing gives me the freedom to be who I want to be and not have to apologize for it. When I write, I have no boundaries.

People say that birds are the luckiest animals, because they have the ability to fly freely in the air and go wherever it is they want to go without limitations. Well when I put my pen to a piece of paper, or my fingers brush against the plastic of my keys, I feel like a bird.

So even though it’s like I’m constantly riding on the Leviathan roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland, with moments where it feels like I’m hurtling towards the ground about to meet my demise, I’m prepared to stay on this ride for the remainder of my life. Because if that’s what it takes to be a writer, I’m there.

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.

When You Don’t Know Where The Story’s Going

It’s happened again. I’m pantsing a new writing project.

Now, in case there are some of you out there that don’t know what pantsing is, let me give you a quick sum-up. Pantsing is a style of writing where the author doesn’t have any real sort of plan of the story when they start to work on it. Basically, it’s when you’re literally flying by the seat of your pants, hence the name.

The opposite writing style is plotting, which is fairly self explanatory, I think. If you want to know more about these polarizing writing styles, I wrote an article a while back on the matter. You can find it here.

So as I was saying, I’ve begun to work on a new project, and like a similar issue I’ve had before, I don’t know much about it other than a couple of characters and a few scenes. What is different that last time? Well, this time I know what’s going to happen in my story leading up to when the male and female leads finally meet. As a sidenote (which the context is important, I think), my characters don’t actually meet until well into the plot of the story. There’s a lot of character development and plot which showcases their lives separately. Let’s just say I have a feeling this piece is going to be a long one.

Since I’ve been there before, I have a few tips I think may help first-time pantsers who are all probably crapping themselves at the scary and murky plot which awaits.

  1. When you think of something, jot it down. I’m serious. Literally anything that can pertain to your story. A character, a plot, a conflict. Just write it down. You never will know when you might be able to use it.
  2. Use timed sprints to jolt your creativity into action. I find that writing for fifteen or twenty minutes without any interruptions really helps, especially when you don’t have anything particular planned out. Doing this allows for your characters to speak out for themselves and since you’re writing without distraction, you can find that you stumble on a new plot point.
  3. To go with the previous point (though this is a tip I suggest for all writers in general), don’t edit as you write. Just write the draft. You can come back to it later. There’ll always be time for editing. The flow of the actual writing, now that’s harder to keep going.
  4. When you do find you get stuck, try thinking of something else. Think of what you already know about your characters or the plot you’re working with. Draw from that. Maybe there’s a small scene you know you want to work on. Do it. The point is to just keep the writing flow going. Just write something.

As for myself, I still have many questions involving my story that are nagging at me. The mystery lies in what will happen after my characters first meet. How will they react to one another? What will their first impressions be? I know there’s going to be some sort of romantic relationship between them eventually, but how will that transpire? Who will make the first move? Will they stay together or will their chemistry flame out?

Thankfully I’ve been here before, so I know what to expect. And I hope that for all you first-time pansters out there, you’ve found a little bit of comfort or serenity in the suggestions I’ve made here.

If anyone out there can think of any other tips or suggestions for pantsers, please comment below. I’d greatly appreciate it. And as always, keep writing everyone.

Until next time.