My story – Silver Linings

Silver Linings is the working title, I have no idea if this will stick of if I will come up with something else.  Though I think it’s pretty likely that it will change.

First things first, I tried to write this story last year during Nanowrimo. I was looking for a story idea on the forum and I came across this very small idea. I don’t remember who posted it which is a shame and I should have documented it better, but I didn’t.

What if tattoos just randomly appear on a persons skin?
– Nano forum member / 2014

It intrigued me, it was so small and simple. Yet at the same time there was so much behind it, so many ways you could go with that simple basic idea. I instantly liked it and I wanted to see if I could write a story about it.

So I started thinking and I came up with a character – a young woman who has been in my mind for a long time. I never really saw a way to fit her in a story and now it seemed like I found a place for her. I named her Ainsley McCallum, a name which had been playing in my mind for a while.

Last year I had this vague idea of what I wanted to happen, I guess it could be seen as something similar to The Hunger Games, Divergent and other similar books. A girl in her late teens, early twenties who has to fight society to make it a better place. So yeah, in that regard it’s definitively similar. I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games (both the books and the movies) there is no shame in admitting that and writing a story which can be compared to that is not a shame at all. I wasn’t familiar with Divergent however. When I kind of ‘pitched’ my idea to my writer’s group I was quickly told that it sounded a lot like Divergent. That scared me, I didn’t read those books – hardly knew anything about it nor did I see the movies.

So I tried to stay far away from it. Because I didn’t want to ‘steal’ from it. And at the same time I was kind of bummed out because I felt like I really had something going, something interesting. While I know all about The Hunger Games I wasn’t afraid to borrow from that because I knew what to avoid. Eventually I asked for some more advice and someone told me that it might be a good idea to watch the Divergent movies because I could see for myself if my story was similar or not. I did, I watched the first movie and while I liked it I can now tell you 100%that my story is completely different and that I have nothing to worry about. Obviously I was advised by people who didn’t read the books or saw the movies themselves.

The only thing I do want to borrow from The Hunger Games books is the way that Suzanne Collins writes her characters. They are flawed and I love that, Katniss doesn’t make the right choices – she’s being influenced by the situation and people around her, she makes mistakes and fights to correct them to the best of her abilities with varying results. That is in my opinion what makes the characters real and those are the type of characters I want to write. I want Ainsley to be flawed, I want her to make mistakes, hurt the people who care for her the most. Mistrust the people who she should believe and believe in those she can better forget about. I want Ezra to make mistakes and fight to correct them, even if it seems hopeless.

Nanowrimo 2014

I started Nano in November 2014 and I struggled through the story, with each scene I wrote I wondered if I was doing something too similar to popular books and movies. And I was literally writing the most boring story ever. I managed to make it to 50 000 words, just don’t ask me how. When I hit the 50K I instantly stopped writing! I was still building up to who knows what. My story had an introduction freaking longer than the introduction and family lines of all the hobbits in The Hobbit. And the worst thing about it was that literally nothing interesting had happened. Nothing at all. It was as if I blocked myself from writing interesting scenes, I had a huge deal of what I now (in 2015) use as back-story.

Ainsley was a character who I wanted to struggle with life, she was supposedly on the edge of society. Being the victim of Laws who stopped her from being a regular contributing member of society because she didn’t get a sign (tattoo). It’s not something she has any control over, but it’s is something she’s being punished for anyway even if she can’t do anything to change it. How do you fight against something you can’t control? What does she have to do to get control?

Only I forgot something important when I started writing. She wasn’t struggling, not really. She was just having a bad time and didn’t get what she wanted – but that is part of life I guess. Ainsley’s best friend – Ezra Miles and his family were helping her out in a major way. Giving her a home, caring for her and while it might not be easy when your own parents can’t or won’t help you. She really wasn’t really struggling – she had a roof over her head, a warm meal and caring people around her (a surrogate family). So I knew that I was going to have to do something about that. And that is why I stopped writing after I hit 50k, I didn’t know what to do with the story at that time.

Camp Nanowrimo – April 2015

For months I thought about this story – obviously not constantly – but it took a while before I realized what I should do and how to change my story for the better. Then April came around and it was Camp Nano time, my writers group and I decided pretty last minute to sign up. I only signed up for 10k because I was too busy with other things – mainly work. I knew that it would give me  a chance to see if I could get the story going in a different more exciting way. I started writing and right away I knew that I was doing better. I made some decisions that seemed small in the beginning but they had a huge impact on the storyline.

With this new start that I wrote during Camp Nanowrimo I knew that I had a good base to build the rest of the story on. I didn’t add anything new to my story during the summer but in September I started to work on my outline.

Nanowrimo 2015

One of the biggest changes I made was the fact that Ezra Miles was no longer Ainsley’s best friend – in fact I turned him into an enemy. Ezra and Ainsley were in school together, both very competitive. When Ezra turned sixteen, his sign made him an apprentice of the guards while Ainsley never received her sign. Ainsley wants to survive, more than once she’s taken in by the guards which over the years has only increased the tension between the two of them. Ainsley doesn’t trust him, but he might be the person she needs to rely on …. who knows what’ll happen. I haven’t reached that part yet.

At this point I have 50K on this years version. And it is a whole lot more interesting, Ainsley has been caught by the guards, of course Ezra was one of the guards who caught her. She’s been interrogated, humiliated, investigated and put in jail. She escaped from jail and is currently on the run. At this point she ran straight into Ezra who was waiting at a location where someone else send her, supposedly because it would be safe. A place that no one knew about, so what will happen now? Will Ainsley escape from Ezra and find her own path in life or does she have to trust him? And if she does, is it real trust or just so that he might trust her and give her an easier escape? There are so many possibilities to this story now. Not even I know exactly where it will go. But I am very passionate about this version.

To me this sounds a whole lot better than the version I wrote in 2014, and who knows maybe one day you can read for yourself if I succeeded.

 

 

Camp Nanowrimo winner!!!

Despite the way it looked earlier last month I actually did make it! I made it through the 10 000 words, I even made it to 10 577 words. I know that it took me five days to write this but I haven’t been home these last couple of days so that’s the reason why.

The eleven steps to writing a scene I described in the last blogpost really helped me get to the end of the month and surpass the finish line of Camp Nanowrimo, the April edition. And now it’s May and that means that I have a lot more writing to do and with the scenes I have worked on during the last days of April I should really be able to get that done. I now have a much clearer idea of what I want to do and where I want my story to go.

It’s no longer just a vague idea, I now have some solid ideas I can work on.

Camp Nanowrimo, the last couple of days

Okay, so the month is almost over, which means that Camp Nanowrimo is almost over.

Writing is something which I’ve been doing for years. I’m always on th look out for ways to improve my skills. It’s strange how something which I love to do so much, can be so frustrating at the same time. I guess – no let me rephrase that, I’m sure that everyone who writes knows what I’m talking about.

Writing stories (probably any type of writing) can be frustrating as hell. It’s all about choosing the right tone, the perfect words for whatever it is you want to tell the person who will ultimately read it. No matter what you write – unless it’s your personal diary – you want someone else to read it. If that is not what you want to do with the story why even bother writing it in the first place.

You have a story you want to tel or a topic you want to write an article about and I there are a million ways to do that. And also a million different ways to go about it. What works for me might not work for someone else. Every story line you think of  but you can mold it into any type of story you like.

The reason why my writing suddenly has been going so well is simple. I was reading some articles about writing when I came across one which really grabbed my attention. It was an article written by John August way back in 2007 on his blog JohnAugust.com. The article I’m talking about is the one called ‘How to write a scene in 11 steps’. It’s really helpful and since I had some trouble keeping things interesting my attention was grabbed and I wanted to know what these 11 steps were. And see if I would be able to use them as well and improve my writing.

I came across this article this past Sunday and after I read it I immediately started using it. I have been using it to go over the scenes which I had already written. Trying to figure out what I can do to improve on them by simply answering the questions. As soon as I started working on the old scenes I realized that I could still improve a lot on them. It’s really simple.

You follow the steps and try to answer the questions you’re being asked. You don’t have to write elaborated answers. It kind of depends on the question. In my opinion these questions really help especially because it requires you to think outside of the box and sometimes that might help. I have already figured out some things which I want to change about the scenes that I have already written. And I am sure that it will make them that much more interesting because it adds some extra conflict to the beginning of the book and that in turn will make the story less dull.

My absolute favorite question is the one where you are being asked to write the most surprising thing that could happen in the scene. Question one is of course the one where you are asked what you want to happen, by the time you reach the fifth question you already know the what, where and the who. And the most important thing, whether or not this scene could be omitted. The most important things are already answered and then it’s followed by the one that asks you to think outside of the box.

And for me that certainly was really what I was struggling with, that my story was too mundane so thinking outside of the box is really helping me. I had never thought of it like that before. I just went through the motions of writing the story I wanted to write but one little scene can of course have the biggest impact you can imagine if it is well executed.

Now I know that this might not work for everyone and that it is a lot of extra work but if it makes my story better in the end it’s definitively worth the time I’m putting into it now. Besides that I do think that it will also make the actual writing process go faster since I now have a better idea and understanding of what it is that I really want. Where I want my story to go and what it is that I want to tell in the process. Also there is the fact that there is still nothing set in stone so I can still change every aspect of my story.

Also answering these simple questions will help you keep better track of your characters since you are also asked who’s in what scene. I know that continuity is one of my biggest pet peeves and at the same time also something I – like a lot of writers – struggle with. I hate it when the continuity in television shows, movies or books doesn’t make sense. Honestly it really bothers me and at the same time I have also experienced while I was writing how hard it can be to actually keep track of everyone.

Especially if you have an elaborated cast like for instance the cast of Game of Thrones, I have no idea how anyone can keep track of that many extremely well written and amazingly executed characters and story lines.

Anyway the article really helped me to up my word count over the last few days and now I’m actually in the home stretch of reaching my 10 000 words. I can do it. I still have tonight and tomorrow … and about 1800 words to go. That’s doable.

How are you doing? In the homestretch as well or did you already reach your goal? And is Camp Nanowrimo something you want to do again in the future?

Camp Nanowrimo – the last week

Instead of looking backwards on a month to tell you how I did I want to look forward and see where I can change the path that I’m on, where I can improve. The way that I have been working on my story and progressing in it has not been going very well. Even though I have only pledged to write 10 000 words this April during Camp Nanowrimo there is a pretty big chance that I won’t make it. And a very, very small chance that I will make it to the end of the month and winning this thing. With literally a week from today to the end of April left and only a grand total of 4085 words. I have my work cut out for me,  with another 6000 words left to write I know what I need to do.

Of course in theory it would still be doable, it’s only a thousand words a night and I’ll make it. Even though I have won every Nanowrimo (the big 50 000 word count November version) I have been struggling from beginning to the end with Camp Nanowrimo. Maybe that’s where I go wrong? Usually I’m looking backwards instead of forwards. I analyze the days or weeks which I have left behind and I know –  I can see where I go wrong or where I can improve. Just now I realized that I have never looked ahead.

Part of the reason why I’ve been struggling of course has to do with the extreme pressure I’ve been under at work, there have been days where I was just too tired to do anything except for staring at the screen or reading. I’ve been having a lot of trouble falling asleep at night and most days I wake up tired. If you knew what kind of stress I’ve been under you would agree that it really isn’t a surprise that the creative process has been lacking to say the least.

I’m trying, but the words come slowly. Even with a post like this I keep going over the text and adjusting the words until they feel right. It’s hard for me to move on to the next word, I’m really bad at the not editing part of Nanowrimo. One of the ‘rules’ of Nanowrimo is to just continue writing without editing because you want to make as many words as you can. And sometimes allowing the words to flow from your hands is liberating, however most of the time it doesn’t work that way for me.

I want to look ahead. I was able to write some words today, so that is a good start. As for the rest of the week,  we have another write in planned for tomorrow night at the library. I want to do good, a word count similar to last weeks might do. It’ll at least bring me a whole lot closer to the 10K I need to finish this month successfully. Besides, I need to make it. Common’ I’ve been able to finish Nanowrimo  every year since 2009, 10K should surely be within reach on any given month. I want to finish this story one day, so I better work on achieving that goal.

Camp Nanowrimo

Despite knowing how difficult it would be I did sign up for Camp Nanowrimo this month. So far, because I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to write something about the fact that I’m participating. If I’m so busy you’re probably wondering why I signed up, part of it was peer pressure. Nah, not really. I’m just kidding about that, my fellow Blue Unicorn’s didn’t pressure me into this. It was my choice and my choice alone. Our ‘cabin’ is filled with Blue Unicorn members. Nine of them to be exact and that’s only part of the group! How awesome is that? We started with a couple of members, five to be exact and now we have a group which is much bigger than I ever could have guessed it would be. I’m happy and proud to be a member of the Blue Unicorn Group.

Our group is a lot of fun and we try to meet once a week during this month, usually on Friday’s. Just like we do during the big November Nanowrimo. It’s great to have that support and I can really recommend to anyone who wants to write to join a group like ours. For a big part writing is something I do on my own, behind my computer, on my couch with my tablet in my hand or even just scribbling in my notebook. And yet at the same time I crave that time with my fellow writer friends. We laugh and joke around and we might not get a whole lot of writing done during those hours that we meet but it does give you strength to go on.

No matter how different the topics of our books are we always find common’ ground. I can honestly say that I have gained some amazing friends just by participating in that group. If you have a chance to join a group like ours, do it. I can whole-heartedly recommend it to you.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. April is a really busy month for me, in general every year. Add to that the extreme stress I’ve been under at work ever since this year started and I am basically set up for failure. But it felt good to do something for myself because I have basically been denying myself that pleasure. These past months I spend way too much time worrying about my job while fighting off headaches and insomnia and thinking about everything that has been happening.

The difference between Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo mostly lays in the fact that you can choose the word-count you want to achieve your goal during the April version. The minimum is 10 000 words and since I knew how hard it would be to even achieve that I choose that amount.  Today is the fifteenth day of the month and theoretically speaking I should have been somewhere around 5000 words … but I’m nowhere near that amount of words in fact I am at 1600 words right now.

My story

The story I’m working on is the story I started in November. I’m really happy with what I’m writing and I think that I have an interesting story going. But it’s going to take some time before it will actually be finished. More than I had expected to be honest however that’s fine by me. In my opinion writing should be a slow process, it gives you time to think about what you’re writing. Weigh in the options and come up with the best possible scenario.

It’s really difficult at times. I have been working on this story for a while now and what I had when I started in November is nowhere near what I have now. And I think that it actually makes my story better, so I’m content with the changes I made.

The thing I have been focusing on is the character development. I want my main character to be a person of flesh and blood. Well honestly not just the main characters, the other characters as well. A person who could be alive today, I wanted her to have fears and doubts both in herself as well as in society in general. And even though she’s having a hard time I also want her to have happy moments. Even if they are small tiny moments as simple as having a good meal or finding pleasure in a beautiful sunset because that is how simple life can be.

Also writing is in many cases a dreadful thing to do. You know what you want to write, but actually getting the sentences written is much harder. It takes many tries and I have mentioned this before, I have a pretty big problem with my inner editor. We don’t see eye to eye when it comes to writing. Nanowrimo should be about quantity, not quality. Getting the words written and focusing on progress and then after the month is done you should go back and edit. But I can’t do that, when I see that something isn’t working I need to fix it. If I don’t I won’t make any progress either. I do keep everything I write in the same Scrivener folder however so at the end of the month everything I’ve written counts in total word count but a big portion will never see the light of day in the finished product.

So tell me, who else is participating in Camp Nanowrimo and how is your writing process going?