Mental Health Monday–Character Conflict

As writers gear up for NaNo, I want to review an important tidbit to keep in mind.

Stories thrive on tension and a sure-fire way to create tension is through conflict. Not only can conflict occur between characters, it can also happen within a character.

Here are some examples of conflict between characters:

  • Protagonist vs. Antagonist
  • Protagonist vs. BFF
  • Protagonist vs. Parent
  • Protagonist vs. Love Interest
  • Antagonist vs. Minion

Pretty straight forward, right?

So how do you develop conflict within a character?

  • Put him or her in a situation where he/she has to choose between two “bad” choices. (Does the phrase “the lesser of two evils” come to mind?)
  • Make it so the antagonist is a sympathetic character and let the protagonist see it. This will put him or her at odds with defeating the “bad guy” versus giving them forgiveness or helping them.
  • Set things up so the protagonist can’t necessarily tell the difference between reality or fantasy. This doesn’t have to apply strictly to paranormal or even psychosis, but situations can be open to interpretation and it all boils down to perception. For example, if a protag sees her love interest hug an attractive woman, the protag may assume he’s married or dating when in reality the “other woman” could be a cousin or sister.
  • Like all humans, it’s natural for our protag’s to have mixed emotions about things. For example, maybe the protag is trying to quit drinking because he’s got a DWI, but his buddies are egging him on to drink. He knows he shouldn’t, but dammit, why can’t he have a good time like everybody else?
  • Remember that the higher the stakes, the more tension and the more conflict arises.

What strategies do you use to raise tension and conflict between and within a character?

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation for some awesome writerly posts!

Mental Health Monday–To NaNo or Not To NaNo, That Is the Question

Okay, so last week I reviewed some NaNoWriMo prep tips because it’s important to be mentally prepared to tackle writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

This week, I wanted to check in with you guys regarding whether or not NaNo is for you.

Come on, admit it, if you haven’t done NaNo (and if you have), I’m sure you’ve had some fluctuating thoughts and feelings toward it.

(Talking about thoughts and feelings = Mental Health, just in case you were looking for the Mental Health Monday connection. 😉 )

It’s a BIG decision.

Here’s some reasons to DO NaNo:

  • You’re looking for a new writing challenge.
  • You’ve got an idea for a novel and wanna crank out that rough draft like nobody’s business.
  • You’re focusing on word counts and quantity rather than quality (I’m not dissing quality; quality can be developed during revising).
  • You need a reason to commit to putting down a certain number of words a day for a certain length of time.
  • You need the structure.
  • You thrive on that sense of accomplishment that NaNo gives.
  • Your friends have coerced you to…oh, wait, maybe that’s not a great reason.
  • You made a bet.   (You didn’t see that one, okay?)

Here’s some reasons to sit out and cheer on your NaNo’ing friends:

  • You’ve done NaNo before.
  • You know you can plop a bunch of words down on the page.
  • You want to work on quality rather than quantity.
  • You struggle with massive word counts and might get frustrated with the process to the point where it’s no longer enjoyable to write.
  • You hate revising and know that a NaNo project will need a couple years of smoothing…if it’s smoothable at all.
  • You’ve got a HECK of a lot of other things happening in November.
  • You’ve got a life. (Just kidding. NaNoers have lives, hehehe.)

What are some other reasons to NaNo or not to NaNo?

Bottom line: Listen to yourself. If you’re ready, you’ll know. If you’re not ready, you don’t have to push yourself to do it. Another November will come around next year. Just sayin’.

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah Fine’s blog, The Strangest Situation!

Mental Health Monday–NaNo Prep Tips; It All Starts with a Goal

I’m kicking off my new blog series where I focus on a different writerly topic every month with NaNoWriMo Prep!

How does this connect to Mental Health Monday?

Well, whenever a challenge presents itself, it is often helpful to tackle it strategically in order to keep stress and mental anguish as low as possible. 😉

Those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) know that it’s a marathon for writers. Instead of pounding out miles with our sneakers, we pound out words with our fingers.

It’s important to remember that you’ve got to exercise your writing muscle before November 1. Here are some helpful tips that’ll get you warmed up and ready for the race.

1. Identify a goal.

The goal for NaNo is pretty simple, right? Write 50,000 words in 30 days. But how are you going to break down that hefty wordage into manageable chunks? If you divide 50,000 by 30, you get: 1667. That means you’ve got to write 1667 words a day to stay on track. Or 3333 every other day. Or 12,500 a weekend.

  • Take a look at your schedule. Do you have time to write every day, every other day, or weekends only?
  • Take a look at your writing preferences. Do you like to write here and there or in large chunks of time?
  • If you’re worried about letting time slide by, literally schedule writing time in your day planner.

2. Prepare a space. 

Do you have an office, a library, or a corner of your apartment that’s designated for writing? Or do you sit on the couch with your laptop and pound out words with your feet up and your back melded to a cushion?

  • Consider clearing off your writing space. Get rid of clutter. It’ll fill your mind and block your creativity–things you don’t want to happen while plopping out massive word counts on a daily basis.
  • Consider developing an inspiration wall. Collect things that spark your creativity or make you feel all energized and warm and fuzzy. Put it up on a cork board or poster board. If you’ve got a story idea in mind, print pictures of characters, settings, or clip magazine photos of the same. It’ll help you visualize the world you’re creating.
  • Consider adding a pleasant scent, either with fresh flowers, a scented candle, or sachet. Just like our writing, we need to engage all the senses, not just our eyes.
  • Don’t forget the tunes! Do you like Metallica or Vivaldi? Make sure your ipod, CD player, or Pandora station is ready for you.

3. Gather supplies.

  • Do you write in notebooks? Use post-its? What kind of pens, pencils, markers do you use?
  • Keep bottled water nearby. Set your favorite mug by the computer. Collect your favorite teas or coffees. Have them handy so you don’t have to waste time “getting ready.”
  • Writers need snacks. Salty, sweet, healthy, whatever floats your boat, get yourself a cute basket and fill it up so you’re ready to go the moment you sit down.

4. What’s your story going to be about? 

Here may be the trickiest part. Are you a panster, thriving off the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen next? (Psst, that may be tricky during NaNo if you get stuck…just saying.) Maybe you’ve got an idea or an “old” manuscript you haven’t been able to develop.

  • Consider mapping out a loose plan. Draft an outline so you have something to follow while you’re whipping out the words.

5. Schedule time to relax.

NaNo can be a pretty nerve-wracking and brain-numbing month. Be sure to allow yourself time to chill out or you’ll get so stressed writer’s block just might get you.

  • Keep a novel near by to read a chapter here and there, the break will allow your brain to recharge so you can be fresh and alert to reach your goal.
  • Keep a sketch pad next to you if you draw.
  • Keep your walking shoes nearby. Exercise will help you stretch our your muscles and your mind. You just may figure out that sticky plot point while the wind whips through your hair.

All right, well that’s a good start, I think. Don’t want to overload y’all with too much information. We’ve got the whole month to prep, after all.

How about you? What tips do you use to prepare for NaNo?

Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s blog for more writerly information!

Mental Health Monday–Well, Nanoers, Y’all Deserve a Break!

Wow, I *cannot* believe November is coming to a close. And for those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month), I have to give y’all a big pat on the back and a congratulations!

I know, I know, there’s still a day left. BUT, whether or not you crossed the 50,000 word finish line, you still walk away from this month victorious.

Why?

Because you set a goal and you worked toward it. (And that’s just as important, in my book.)

Lemme ‘splain.

You know those stages of change? (Here’s a quick run-down if ya don’t.)

  • Precontemplation–There’s no problem here. Everything is *just* fine. I don’t gotta change nuthin’.
  • Contemplation–Huh, well, somethin’s amiss. I suppose I should change it…nah, maybe later. I’m tired.
  • Planning–I’m gonna change this and here’s how I’m gonna do it.
  • Action–I’m making the change.
  • Maintenance–The change has been made and I’m sticking to it. Squee!
  • Relapse–Screw it. I’m going back to the way it was. -or- Whoopsie, I goofed.

You can think of these stages as a progression. The goal is to get through them until you hit the maintenance phase. Relapse is a reversion to “pre-change levels/behaviors”, but it doesn’t mean you can’t jump back in there and head toward action again.

MOST people cycle through the stages in a non-linear fashion. That’s life. (I do it to.)

The *crucial* step is determining you’d like to make a change and then actually DOING something about it. A LOT of people never get to the doing.

I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying:

IF YOU SIGNED UP FOR NANO AND PUT WORDS ON A DOCUMENT, THEN YOU’VE FOUND SUCCESS IN THE ACTION STAGE. DON’T GIVE UP.

*steps off soap box* *throws confetti*

Now, for those of you still heading toward the finish line, you’ve got over 24 hours. Go, go, go!!!!

(Clearly, this post is for writing purposes only. Reviewing the stages of change is not meant to be medical advice or treatment in any way, but I gotta put up the disclaimer, ya know.)

And don’t forget to check out Lydia’s post on Medical Monday!

Alrighty, gang. Who went for Nano this year and how did it go?

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog AND Who’s Doing NaNoWriMo???

So, writerly peeps, who’s gonna do NaNoWriMo? Show of hands please.

I signed up and “won” last year by completing over 50,000 words of a manuscript within the month of November. What an exciting–and exhausting–endeavor.

This year? My goal is to PACE myself and take time with refining my craft. If that means spending six hours on one paragraph or thirty minutes writing ten pages, then so be it. Since my focus has shifted more to quality rather than quantity, I’m gonna sit out of NaNo. That doesn’t stop me from feeling the collective momentum of other writers gearing up for the great race of words.

So, good luck, dear friends! November 1st is only days away!!!

Please share whether or not you’re doing NaNo and what your focus for this next month is.

**********

Every Wednesday The sisterhood is on hiatus this week. We’ll return in November for another tour. Stay tuned!

Blog Chain! The Revision Mill–Yes, It’s Grinding and Slow, Just As the Name Implies

Go to fullsize image The talented Sarah Bromley started this round of the blog chain. Be sure to check out her blog and congratulate her on her recent success of signing with an agent–so exciting! CONGRATS, Sarah! Woot!!!!

Her question:

How do you handle revisions? Do you revise as you’re writing, or do you wait until you’ve gone through beta readers and crit partners to revise? How soon after you finish do you begin your revisions?

You can read Sarah’s response here. And check out Michelle’s blog tomorrow for another writer’s take on the subject.

For me, this question is quite timely. I spent the past seven months revising a manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009. Because of numerous revisions, that thing doesn’t look ANYTHING like it used to. For realz. And I owe a HUGE thanks to all the betas who offered EXCELLENT advice! I humbly bow down to you ladies.

So what have I learned from the process? I’ve completely overhauled my approach to writing. Instead of gushing a story as fast as I can (I’ve written a novel in two weeks time x2), I am more mindful of what I write, where the plot goes, and how the characters respond to each other and their surroundings. I pay more attention to logistical details, motion, senses, and emotions. I TAKE THE TIME to enjoy the PROCESS of refining my ART.

Honestly, I did none of those things before. * blushes *

How did the revision process lead to such changes? Well, it was INCREDIBLY PAINFUL starting over every couple of months, breaking down my novel chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word. (Yes, people, it was that intense.) I NEVER want to stumble and plod around like that again.

Don’t get me wrong. I am prepared to revise and hack my writing to bits if need be, but I figure if I try to take care of some things (like lost story arcs, plot holes, and wonky dialogue) as I go along, it’ll make later pass throughs smoother. (I hope!)

The creative bug bit me a few weeks ago and I am well into a new novel (more than 50%, I’d say). This time, I’m focusing on AUTHENTICITY, TENSION, CLEAN WRITING, and making my protagonist AND antagonist WELL-ROUNDED and THREE-DIMENSIONAL.

As far as the logistics go, I do revise what I’ve written the day before, smoothing tics here and there before I move on to the next chapter. If there’s a snag, I want it fixed before it turns into a tear. When I’m done with the draft, I’ll read it again, fix the things I can, and then send it to betas. While it’s out and away, I will do my best to leave it alone, give it some space, and then tackle it again, incorporating the feedback I’ve gotten.

There ya have it, folks. My work at the revision mill. How’s your experience with revising? Is it your friend or foe?

Bring it, NaNoWriMo!

OK, so I told myself that I would sit out of the NaNoWriMo game this year. 50,000 words in a month? No way! November equals “time to hibernate” for me. Besides, I just finished a WIP that was kicking my butt for the past several months and, with the help of some fabulous people (Go QT Kick in the Pants!), I was able to pound out over 25,000 words to finish the darn thing. My plan for November was to edit, edit, edit. There were a couple of plot threads that I knew needed smoothing out and I just wanted to make sure the characters were “consistent” because–in the midst of transitioning to a new role at my job–my progress on the thing was stop and go.

Then the buzz and excitement of NaNoWriMo got me. On All Hallow’s Eve, “write” on the edge of the wire, I decided to join. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh? Don’t worry. I’m not TOTALLY unprepared. In mid-September an idea struck me–I was quite unawares, but thoroughly pleased–and I’ve been biting my nails impatiently ever since to get it down on paper. My logical mind said, finish your WIP first. Well, I did. Now I’m gonna have some fun!

Who’s with me?

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