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.




Writer’s block

wooden-lettersWriting is not something you can do on a whim.

A lot of people might think that writing a book is a joke. It’s not. Not to us anyway, the people who love to write.

It takes time, huge chunks of time to be honest. Time which most people probably won’t want to spend on a single project and even if you’re done with the story. That is basically just a first draft, the beginning of it all. Editing and revision are the next steps and they might take up just as much if not even more time as actually writing the story. However If you are successful that’s of course time well spend. We all know that the chance of being an actual successful published author are very slim at best. Never the less we do spend all that time on it because we have a story in our hard which we want to tell. Or at the very least we need to get it out of our system.

I don’t want to say that November is just around the corner, but this years November certainly is closer by than last years. Each year when November ends, I’ll say, no promise myself, that I’ll keep on writing. December is too busy, there is too much we have to do at work and also Christmas and New Year. January however that’s going to be the month. Or so I thought, that didn’t turn out so well either. A lot changed in January, things I didn’t foresee, couldn’t foresee. The situation brought on a lot of stress and sometimes stress is all you need to get your writing done. OWhile at other times it can completely stop any creative processes in my mind. My job – mostly – was so demanding that I was glad each evening when I arrived home. I made dinner and dropped down on the couch to either read something or watch tv. I didn’t feel the need to write. Neither was I bothered by the fact that I wasn’t writing, that is something which has been quite different before when I had writer’s block. I always wanted to write but couldn’t find the words. I would spend hours in front of my computer or with my tablet or notepad on my lap trying to find the words. In this case however that didn’t happen either. Right up until April not a single word and no urge to write anything either. I guess I was just exhausted most of the time.

My group of writer friends – most of them anyway – decided to do Camp Nanowrimo and at the last moment I signed up as well. I signed myself up to do 10 000 words, which is the bare minimum amount of words you can actually choose to do. It was in an effort to get myself back to writing. And with the help of my writer friends and write ins I did it, I made it through the month and finished my 10 000 words. Don’t ask me how … I can’t give you answer to that but I finished the words. I also managed to throw my whole story around. Honestly I think it’s for the better. It’s makes much more sense this way however it also means that I’m changing literally everything I wrote before during Nanowrimo in November 2014. And that sucks, it makes me feel like my preparation for Nanowrimo wasn’t adequate. Which is probably true. That is usually the problem with my stories, I know what I want to write and while I’m well on my way I think of better and especially more interesting story-lines. That’s really frustrating! Especially since the new and improved story-lines always  require full re-writes of what I already have written before. In the end the story will be better, even if it’s frustrating.

So when Camp Nanowrimo ended in April I stopped writing. Completely. Full stop. One minute I was working on the re-write and the next I seemed to have completely forgotten about the whole project.

May and June passed before I really did anything but when July came around I felt the need to write but I had no idea where to start. I know now that I should really rethink my idea for the story and maybe try to work things out before Nanowrimo starts in November.So I can do some proper work on that re-write.

First however I have to get back into that creative state of mind. I asked my writer friends to give me some ideas, pointers on how to overcome a writer’s block. I haven’t found the solution yet, however I have found some cool new songs and a couple of challenges I’m willing to try.

So I best finish writing this and get back to writing something creative.

Have you ever dealt with writer’s block? How did you overcome it?

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?

Writing progress

I started my day with a big glass of smoothie (strawberries, banana, orange and ginger) it’s so good. You should try it. I try to do that a lot, it feels good to eat the fruit and it’s healthy. Besides that it tastes good. Anyway it’s the best way to start a day, especially if that it the first day of the weekend. However good my smoothie tastes that is not the reason for me to write this post. Maybe one day I’ll put some recipe’s  up on this website but that is not today.

What I wanted to tell about is my writing progress as the title so obviously states. In all honesty that hasn’t been going too well. I started working on this story during Nanowrimo last year (November 2014) as you might know. And I made it through the month and at the end of it I had 50 000 words to show for it. But during the writing process I had come aware of some mayor flaws in my story both regarding to the time line as well as the storyline. In the first version it took too long to get from one part to the next, it had to go faster or it would be a very dull story which no one would even want to read. So already during November I started writing the second version of my story. Right now I am happy that I did that because it was indeed a lot better, I was  content with the pacing of the storyline. Since I wrote both versions of the first couple of chapters during November I counted them both in my total word count. But that also meant that I had the beginning of my story but nothing else when the end of November came around.

December is always really busy and I didn’t do any writing or look at my story for that matter. Due to some unrelated issues that have been going on during January I didn’t have time to do any writing. Well I had the time but I was just to tired to do anything once I arrived home from work. So when February came around and I finally had some time to sit down and reflect on my story I realized that there is still something missing. And I decided to once again start with a clean slate. I have to do it because I realized that my main character ‘Ainsley’s’  life was too easy. She was supposed to have a bad life, suffer through all kinds of un-fair situations because that would be what made her stronger, the thing which made her more determined to get what she deserves. Which is the base on which my story rests. So I knew I needed to make it more interesting, there needed to be a challenge because if there wasn’t what would be the thing that pushed her to go find what she needed?

So I started with a complete new Scrivener binder and set it up exactly the way I like it. Transferred the files I would still need and a complete copy of my Nanowrimo 2014 project and I started my re-write. And so far I’m really happy.

However this is something which always happens when I try to start a story. I always end up getting better ideas which require an almost complete rewrite.

I really struggle to write a story from start to finish.

Does anyone else have that problem? And if so, how do you deal with it? Do you at one point just say the hell with it and just keep on writing till you reach the end. It’s really hard for me to get past this beginning.

Let me know.


Nanowrimo, week two

I know I posted my week one post just last night – that was because I finally had time to finish it yesterday, which is a pretty lame excuse, I give you that – but here is week two for you.

Nanowrimo week two is generally known as hell week. It’s the second week of your novel writing endeavors and in week one you’re all pumped up and ready to go. So most people sail through it on a light breeze but to many week two feels like you’re struggling to get ahead with stormy winds blowing in your face.

I don’t know why I’m using boat, sail and wind references – maybe because I’ve watched Pirates of the Caribbean at Worlds End –  just flow with it. Anyway, statistically week two is the week in which most people stop writing. I guess it has something to do with the fact that your initial writing adrenaline starts to wear off and 50 000 words still seems really far away. At the same time so is the end of the month and I guess that week two is also the week in which you should really get into your story. Week one is basically the set up, by week two you should be getting into the flow of things. And I can imagine if that’s not the case that you might get worried and feel like it’s no use to keep on writing. But in all honesty I think that you should push through, don’t let things like that get in the way of writing. Nanowrimo is not really about quality more about quantity and you should have fun while you do it. When you edit – after November – that is when you should worry about style or pacing of your story. You can always take stuff out, later on. Or do like I do and make an un-used scene folder and chuck everything you don’t like into it. It still counts as word count and you can get it back whenever you need something from it or if you decide that you do want to include it. Like is said in my last post I have currently pieces from three different chapters in that folder. The build-up of the story was basically taking way too long and if I loose interest why would anyone else want to read it. So I put them in my un-used folder and started writing the third chapter again. And like I said it’s better this way, but I did write those other scenes so I am including them in my total word count.

I was kind of losing my interest in a way, not in the story specifically but in the way it was developing and I guess I could call it part of my hell week experience but that is certainly not how I viewed it. I made a choice, set aside what I didn’t need and continued writing and I haven’t stopped.

Though I did have some days were my writing didn’t flow as easily as I wanted it to go but that’s part of the game. Writing is a process and sometimes it goes well and there are days where you won’t get your word count. Key is to not give up and continue writing even if things go a little slower than you would have liked it to go.

This is my sixth time doing Nanowrimo and I have to say that so far I’ve been doing good. I’m right on target. Sometimes I’m a little ahead and sometimes I’m a little behind but all in all it’s going well. I guess that when it comes to word count this is actually the best I’ve done so far. Other years I’ve been a lot further behind than I have been at any point during this Nanowrimo.

Anyway I hope you’re all doing well and that you’ll keep on writing until the end of the month, because let’s face it you’ve survived hell week. You’re on day 15 so you’ve also survived the first half of the month which means you’re half way through Nanowrimo 2014!!! And at the same time you still have enough time left to kick some ass during this month.

And on that note it’s back to my novel to get those numbers in and hopefully get ahead of my word count!

Nanowrimo, the first week

This was not supposed to happen, I had wanted to update sooner since it’s Nanowrimo. But things have been really busy and I used my time to focus on my writing more than updating my blog.

I’ve written every day, and I’m proud because I had my parents over during the first weekend and still I managed to write. And not only that I even managed to stay ahead with my writing. My story is going really well. I’m very happy with what I’ve written so far, although I have already chucked a couple of scenes into the ‘Un-used chapters’ folder in my scrivener.

I started writing as soon as the clock hit 0.00 on November 1st, the anticipation at that point is too much for me not to sit down and write. I need to get those first words out at that particular point. Even if it is a weekday and I know that I have to work the next day I will still be sitting at my computer to write my first scene. Sometimes just for twenty minutes sometimes longer. I always do this and I was really happy that this year Nanowrimo lined up perfectly with the weekends. Both the beginning and the end are either a Saturday of a Sunday.

Anyway like I said, I started writing as soon as I was allowed to do so and I was off to a good start about 1100 words before I signed off and went to bed. And I was really happy with it as well. That was until I fired up my computer and wrote what I had typed into Scrivener early in the morning.

The idea was fine and it told me exactly what I wanted to say in that chapter, but it felt really distant. Disconnected for some reason and now you might say ‘Oh, that’s fine it’s only a first draft!’ and more comments like that but I really didn’t like it and since it was only the start I figured why not go back and change what I want to change now that I have the chance. Instead of annoying myself with that chapter every time I see it. So I went back and changed my third person point of view to a first person point of view. And it became a lot better and now I’m really happy with the result. So in all honesty I suck at not using my inner-editor and I know it. I’m not even trying to keep it in check, it just doesn’t work for me, it’s part of me and part of my process. It does take away from my actual word count but at the same time I know that if I’m not happy with what I’m writing I might give up completely. Or I write it to get to the 50 000 words and then never look at it again.

Another big issue in my story is that I keep repeating certain aspects of my main characters life. She doesn’t have an easy life … but if she did she wouldn’t be my main character. So it’s obvious but I don’t need to keep repeating that fact over and over again! I had written parts of chapters 3, 4 and 5. And I’m not happy with those either because I was repeating myself constantly and I wasn’t making much progress in my story in general. So yes again you could say it’s just a first draft, just keep on writing and you’ll get through it. Which is all fine, but again a big annoyance to me.

Last Friday we had a meeting, a write-in at our local library and while I kept writing I was contemplating what to do. So I decided that I would set up my timeline in Aeon Timeline and see if I could figure it out from there. And that is what I did.

Aeon timeline

I always screw up in timeline. Not exactly timeline wise, ehm let me explain this in a better fashion. I make a timeline with a general idea of when I want something to happen – the order in which it happens. But when I start writing I always screw up. The key points in the story still happen the way they are supposed to happen – in the right order I mean – however the reference to those key points always get screwed up. Here in this story it already happened on the third chapter. The first and second chapter consist of one big event which explains the start of the story and introduces my two main characters and a minor character and the world they live in. In chapter three I was referring to these events in one scene I said it happened 6 weeks ago and certain consequences would happen in weeks or months to come and in the second scene I referred to it happened a few weeks ago (meaning two) and the consequences would follow in a shorter amount of time than I stated previously.

So I  downloaded the nano-trail version of Aeon timeline which is offered to us by the makers of the program. I put all my main characters into the bottom part. You give them a birth-date and if necessary a day they died. You’re really flexible in creating your own timelines even for fantasy worlds (but I have no use for that, so I haven’t really used it). My story happens in the future of this planet. So far when it actually takes place is not really important in my story. But I did set up a specific start date so that I would have that actual starting point, it’s December 15th, 2857. That is the first event, that is the date of chapter one.

As you can see in the image below I set up three different arcs so far. There might be more in the future, I don’t know. You always start with the Global, so I just started adding events. Important dates like the birth of my characters because if you know when they were born you can always find what age they where when a certain event occurred.

Then I set up the Story arc, in this line I have added key point in my story. So far these are only things I know ahead of time. But new key points will be added when I need them. So I will know when they occur and who was either participating in that key point or merely observing it. You can change this by clicking on your characters arc line where the key points intersects at the bottom of your page. By clicking on your left mouse-key.

The third arc which I have added is called Chapters, it might be a weird name but that is hopefully how I will keep track of my storyline. Right now you can only see the chapters which I’ve already started writing. And when I need them I add a new chapter.

That is the way I set it all up. Underneath you will also find a zoomed in version of my timeline. You can now see the key points and my characters names. Obviously ‘Revar’s sign appears’ is an important event, since this also marks the start of chapter 1. Underneath my characters you’ll find a yellow-ish base timeline. This is what I called the timeline of my book. It starts with zero at the first event. I now know that Ainsleys sign appears five weeks after the first event in my book. Of course that’s still subject to change.

The way I set Aeon Timeline up is what made me decide to chuck the already written parts of chapters 3, 4 and 5 into the bin. It’s still there and I will probably go back and re-use parts of it because it’s usable just not in the way I was using it before. By now I have rewritten chapters 3, 4 and 5 and I am really happy with what I have now, it’s way better this way. I know that this probably falls under the whole don’t use your inner-editor thing but I like that inner-editor especially when I see that what I have edited is so much better and right now I’m still in the stages easily throwing those things out and still being able to keep on writing.

Being able to do this is what keeps me motivated to write. I reckon that might not work for everyone, but it does for me and I will continue to do so. I just hope that someone out there finds some tricks in this post which will help them along in their story.


Scrivener update

I still love working with it! It’s great, I have everything I need right there with me in one and the same program and that is fantastic for a chaotic person like I am. It makes the whole process of writing easier for me, so I’m really seeing the benefits of the program.

However there is one thing which kinda annoys me, maybe it’s an option which the program has and I just haven’t found it yet.  Though I have asked my writing buddies and so far no one has been able to help me yet. Chapters can be very long sometimes and while you’re writing you might loose track of characters. In yWriter you’re character names (as long as you’ve added characters in the program of course) will light up in a different color which will make it easier to find your characters. And so far I haven’t been able to find that particular option in Scrivener. And the same goes for places and items you can light them up as well. I know that you can search for certain words and you’ll get a list of all the files in which that particular word is used but that is not what I meant. I would really like it if I could light those words up permanently.

If anyone has any idea how to do this, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I would really love to have the option if Scrivener has it!

Nanowrimo 2014 participant

November is almost here!

Besides the fact that I can hardly believe that November is almost here – just the sheer fact that the years is almost over astonishes me. Just two short months are left in 2014 before the new year begins. But before that happens we have November.

And November means just one thing and if you’re following my blog you must know what I mean by that. November is reserved for Nanowrimo. My new writing adventure starts tonight, November first at 0.00. Yes, I’m gonna kick it off, right at the start. Get my first words in because this weekend is going to be a busy one and who knows when I can get some writing done.

Besides I want to do it better than I did these past years. There are days when I already know that I won’t be able to write or when I know that I don’t have time to spare. One of those days is actually the very last day of the month and given that I usually clock in the last words on that very last evening. I need to do better! I want to finish early, that is my goal for this year.

And now an hour and a half before the start I feel very pumped up! I want to start!!!