Monday, 13 April 2015

Falling Behind

Monday, 13 April 2015
It's nearly halfway through Camp NaNoWriMo April and I'm 4,000 words behind where I should be to reach my 40,000 word goal in time. I'm not surprised. I shouldn't be. I wish I wasn't. But I am. Life always seems to get in the way of us writer's, or procrastination and lack of motivation. The most important thing though is to not give up.

I've been looking at my little graph I get on the NaNo website. The average words per day for my target is 1,334. The problem is I've had a few days where I just haven't written anything at all, and what I really should have been doing is trying to write at least a little bit of something each day. Even if it's 100 words, it's something.

Then on the Stats page it gives you the words per day to finish based on your current word count. For me, this is 1,592. That's only about 200 more words per day than the original target. And I realised I wasn't in as big a hole as I thought I was. Saying I'm 4,000 words behind seems daunting and impossible. But viewing it as only a couple of hundred more per day suddenly makes it seem achieveable.

So basically what I'm trying to say is (in relation to NaNo and writing in general) 1) not to give up. Achieving something is better than achieving nothing, even if it's not as much as you initially expected to believe. 2) try not to fall behind. If you've set yourself targets, then sticking to them is a really good idea. And 3) look on the bright side. It might not be as bad as you think it is. You can still achieve your goal, you might have just made it a little harder for yourself. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Camp Dash

Thursday, 26 March 2015
So, the counterparts of NaNoWriMo (November) are fast coming up. Camp NaNo April/July are on the horizon. Specifically, Camp April is just over a week away. Ensue the normal panic of the participants who are still either a) trying to choose a project or b) trying to plan their chosen project. If you don't know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) runs in November and the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. The Camp sessions are slightly different, running in the spring/summer and where you can set your own word count goal, and are also put into Cabins with other writers like in a camp!

Luckily for me, I have Easter holiday for pretty much all of April so I'm going for the whole 50,000 words as I will (hopefully) have lots of time for writing! I will be working on the second book in my dystopian trilogy, The Day The Sky Bled. I wrote the first book in Camp July last year and reached my 50,000 word goal. I had more time then, however, so I'm not sure I'll be able to get 50,000 this time, but I will give it my best shot!

I'm currently in that phase where I'm frantically planning, trying to tie all the strings together. When I do NaNo I like to have a very clear plan of what is going to happen in the book, or I know I will end up going off on a tangent or getting completely stuck. Both of which are pretty undesirable. I like to have a chapter-by-chapter plan of what is going to happen. Some of them are really vague e.g. "Stuff about Reeve looking for the inventor" is all I have written for one chapter, whereas some are more detailed if I have a particular scene/image in my head. I have been planning this series over a period of three years or so, so I've had time to work on and improve the plans, hopefully meaning the plot is pretty solid and well-planned before I even start writing.

I'll be at my Grandparents for the first week though. Going on holiday during NaNo is not the best of ideas. Because invariably you find some time to sit and write something and then the family decides to drag you out somewhere. Though it's usually pretty chilled when I'm at my Grandparents so hopefully I will have time.

The problem is when you get behind. Keeping roughly on track is so important because if you get evene a bit behind then it feels like you have a mountain to climb.

For fun, here is my history of NaNo participation:
-NaNoWriMo November 2011 ~ Nameless ~ 18,000 words
-NaNoWriMo November 2013 ~ The Water That Sings ~ 28,000 words
-Camp NaNoWriMo July 2014 ~ The Day It Rained ~ 50,000
-Camp NaNoWriMo April 2015 ~ The Day The Sky Bled ~ ???


Monday, 16 March 2015


Monday, 16 March 2015

*This post is for the monthly theme – Carving Characters in Stone*

Characters. The one thing you can’t have a novel without. Sure, you need other stuff like a plot too. But if there aren’t any characters it isn’t going to be a very interesting book. Despite their being of central importance, characters are the weak point of my writing. I can come up with plot and I can write descriptions, I can even write emotion, but I struggle with building a picture of a character’s personality and showing that through their dialogue and actions. This is something I am always working to improve, as it is so essential to a good novel. 

A lot of people use character charts. I should probably do this more. This is where you have things like age, hair colour, personality, nicknames, favourite this and favourite that. There are lots of templates online, some more detailed than others. It can be really useful and make you think about every aspect of your character. 

Character conversations – not sure what the official term for this is, but basically it is where you have a conversation between your characters (and other people’s characters if you have some willing writing buddies), writing in their voice. 

The past is really important. Your character’s past is what makes them the person they are today. This is particularly important for bad characters/villains/antagonists because them being evil just because is weak, they need to have a reason for being the way they are. This applies to all characters as well. The way they have been brought up, the way they have been treated, bad experiences, positive experiences, friendships, relationships, fall outs, break ups, holidays, childhood, school – there are all kinds of things that impact us as we grow, so your characters need to have a past. Their life doesn’t begin at the start of your book (unless the start of the book is them being born, I guess…). 

The character’s motivations and wishes are also vital. They have to have a reason to be doing what they are doing. What motivates their actions and drives them to reach their goal. They have to have a goal of course. This applies to both character-driven and plot-driven stories. 

A lot of people talk about memorability being important. Flat characters get forgotten by readers. The ones that have depth and which the readers connect with are the ones that are remembered and so the novel is also remembered. 

Often though, the best way to get a clear picture of a character is simply to write their story. Often I find as I begin to write the novel their character becomes clearer to me and as I write I learn about them and how they react to situations. Yes, planning is good and necessary, but sometimes just immersing yourself in their world is the best way to unearth their personality.


Monday, 23 February 2015

Hitting the Roadblock

Monday, 23 February 2015
So I was going to start this post with some crazy metaphor, but I'm not sure how that's going to go. Well, here goes. You're driving along in your car heading somewhere (hopefully somewhere really exciting) but then you come across a roadblock. You sort of sit there for a minute wondering what to do next, there might be diversion signs or they might have decided to be really annoying and not be helpful like that, meaning you have to dig out your maps on your phone or whatever. You then have to take a really long detour which you feel has wasted you loads of time, but, you went past some places you've never seen before, and guess what? You did eventually reach your destination.

At this point, you're proabably thinking I've lost the plot (unintentional but effective pun there). This is a metaphor for when you're writing and you have that moment when you get stuck and don't know what to write, or how to write what you want to say. You get stuck (hitting the roadblock) and to get around it and continue the story you might end up taking a different route or using different ideas to what you intended (the diversion), which then ends up providing some new insight (the diversion actually has really nice scenery). Basically, what I'm trying to say is that getting stuck isn't necessarily a bad thing. All writers hit that roadblock at some point, and it can be really frustrating, but it can also lead to new and exciting things you hadn't thought of before.

There is no particular way to overcome writers block. Sometimes, nothing works, and you just have to be patient and wait for inspiration to strike. Some people use music or other kinds of media/culture to gain inspiration. A change of scene can also be good, go and visit some nice place near you e.g. the beach, a park. Sometimes just leaving the idea alone for a while is the best thing to do. Or don't completely stop the project, write another part of it or do some planning while waiting for the right idea to come.

One way to prevent this (although it is impossible to do so completely, it is inevitable) is to plan thoroughly. I know this isn't everyone's groove and if it isn't your style/the way you like to work then you don't have to plan. There is no particular way of doing things, every writer has their own way. But if you plan then you're less likely to get stumped. Knowing your characters really well can also help because if you get stuck you think about how they would react to the situation they are in and what they would do.

In terms of how to say what you want to say there isn't really a way around this. Sometimes you get that moment where you know what you want to write, you just don't know how to put it. In this case getting something down is generally better than nothing, because you will just get stuck. Even if it sounds ridiculous right something, try a few different versions. You can always come back to it later so maybe write a note to yourself that it needs working on.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Making Time to Write

Thursday, 19 February 2015
I started my second year of university on Monday. Since my majors are physics and astrophysics, the workload is hectic and I am terrified that I won't have any more time to spend writing. I'm sure I'm not the only writer who has this fear. Writing - like most skills - gets better the more you do it and gets worse after long periods without practice. What scares me - stresses me out - most is that I can't remember exactly when I last wrote. I know that it was within this month, perhaps last week, but it feels ages ago. Since writing is one of the few things that properly acts as a de-stressor, this is not good for my mental health.

I don't think I'll get back to the point when I spend at least half an hour writing everyday any time soon, but I do hope to achieve that again. I'm going to start small. Write some fiction for 15 minutes a day. Journal once a week, during my free period or before Juma'ah prayers on a Friday. It's not a huge commitment. I've always been of the opinion that if something is truly important to you, you won't ever use the excuse "I don't have time to do it". Since writing is such a big part of me, I will make time for it. I am making time for it. I was lucky to finish my physics weekly problem set earlier than I expected, so I have almost the entire evening to spend with my words.

It does come with a sacrifice. I'm sacrificing some of the time that I could spend reading through my textbook or get an early start on my maths problems for tomorrow. These are things that I should be doing, to be a diligent student, but I stood on a rooftop at campus last night with some friends overlooking the city and searching for stars. My knee-jerk writer instinct is now to find the right words to knit that image, those thoughts and the first chill of autumn on my skin creeping in on summer. Maybe I won't write about that, specifically, but the warm reassurance of inspiration and the familiar rhythm of my fingers tapping on my keyboard are enough to remind me that I am still a writer.

Some of my Wattpad friends proposed some Word Wars a minute ago. I'll search my Pinterest boards because I think a sprokie (I don't know why, but I've always liked the Afrikaans word for a fairy tale more than the English equivalent) in a cityscape might somehow be in order. After spending so much time trying to decode the hieroglyphics called the Levi-Cevita tensor and Kronecker's Delta in physics, my mind has felt of an evil queen and requires the glitter of city lights, the approaching midnight and poisoned Apple (macbooks).

Perhaps some time later, I'll do a post on how I reconcile the abstract coldness of science and reason with the pure empathy of fiction and art. You'll be surprised how similar they care to be.

(When you're writing, do you ever type a word you weren't thinking of, then realise your fingers thought better than your mind because the word they put down accidentally is better than the one you had in your head?)

xx Munira