Friday, November 27, 2015

FRIDAY FIVE: Places to Write

Because my November was filled with grad-school applications and studying for the GRE, I decided to call it quits on NaNo. I may not be worrying about my output at the moment, but I'm still writing, and today's Friday Five is my favorite places to write.

Libraries. I'm not all that great with silence, actually, so even if I'm in a library, I usually have music on (with earphones, of course!). Even if I don't take advantage of the quiet, though, I like libraries because just the act of getting out of the house and committing to a few hours in a Place of Work is beneficial. I like tucking myself in at a corner table and creating my own little creative bubble-world.

Cafes. Warm drinks and baked goods. Need I say more?

Parks. People-watching is a great tool, both for character depth and for in-the-moment inspiration. Plus, being out in nature is calming and rejuvenating. It makes my brain work better.

Airports. I like the din of life going on around me while I sit quietly and observantly. The best scenario is when I have a few hours on hand because there's no rush to the writing. I can get up and wander or go get a snack if I need to.

Train Stations. Probably my favorite type of place to write for the same reasons as above, even if I don't get to spend time in train stations much.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

FRIDAY FIVE: NaNo Writing Advice

Writing advice is weird. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Most times, it just comes down to personal preference. So while I shy away from advice that is absolute (never do this! always do that!), here are five of my favorite pieces of advice that are getting me through NaNo.

1. Read. Just read. A lot. Until your eyes start to hurt and you can no longer find a comfortable reading position. Reading deeply in a single genre helps you learn about reader expectations. Knowing what came before also means you can play into those expectations while tweaking them in order to create something new. When I was in undergrad, I took a lot of history and literature classes, and I often found that something we discussed in one field could be useful in the other. Reading widely across genres (including non-fiction) can enrich your story in ways you might not otherwise have thought of.

2. Everything In Moderation. Adverbs are great, okay? Just don't use them every single sentence. Same with just about everything else people tell you to avoid--distancing words, 'that,' any dialogue tag that isn't 'sad,' exclamation points. These things can all add to the story when used sparingly. Deleting these from your first draft should be about trimming the excess, cutting redundancies, and adding specificity. But deleting them entirely could mean cutting some of what made a character a character or cutting into your own authorial voice.

3. Find Out What Works For You. Writing, like all creative pursuits, is highly individualized. What worked for Edith Wharton didn't work for Henry James. What works for Stephen King won't necessarily work for you. Experiment with lots of different factors. Try writing indoors then outdoors. Try writing in a cafe then a library. Try writing on a computer then in a notebook. Try writing with music then without. Find your own groove.

4. Write the Story That Gets Your Butt In the Chair. You can drive yourself crazy studying the market trends and trying to write to them, but trying to write the next Twilight isn't going to make you excited about writing. If it's not the story you're passionate about, it's just going to make you depressed. Then you'll start making excuses not to write, and then you'll never get to the end of your manuscript! Write a story you love and can't imagine not writing. Maybe it'll be a harder sell than that next teen paranormal romance, but there are probably a lot of readers waiting for your story without even knowing it.

5. Do Your Thing. Want to write about sharks on the moon? Go ahead! There are people out there who'd jump at reading about lunar sharks. Take advice when appropriate (like maybe tiger sharks would be better protagonists than great whites?), but ultimately, it's up to you. Chase those weird little dreams and get them down on paper. Someone will thank you for it one day.

Friday, November 13, 2015

FRIDAY FIVE: NaNo Essentials

I missed last week because I was attending World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs. It was a great experience, especially for my first con, but now it's back to real life. Once again, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo. Once again, I'm behind on my word count, but this year, it's because I'm prioritizing studying for the GRE and getting my graduate-school applications in (which I just did! yay!). Starting next Saturday, I'm kicking my productivity into high gear and planning to write 3K words a day. We'll see if I get there, but in the meantime, here are five essentials for me to survive NaNo.

NaNo is an excuse for me to load up on brain food. In my case, that's usually easy-to-eat things like twizzlers or pretzels. I stay away from messy foods like popcorn or sandwiches. Brain drinks of choice include tea and pop (though I'm trying to cut back on it).

A Good Notebook
Although I like to do a lot of my writing on my laptop because it's faster and I can keep track of my word count better, a good notebook is essential for writing on the go, like in my hotel room after days filled with panels and parties at WFC. I'm very particular about notebooks. The one pictured here is what I'm using for my NaNo story, which is a young adult zombie apocalypse novel, and I love it because the spine is flexible. I'm also particular about pens. So particular that the only ones I really like to use are sold only in one store. I'm low maintenance in everything except writing, I guess.

Writing Music
I can't write in silence. Lots of people can, but I need either music (when I'm at home) or the soft din of people going about their business (when I'm out). Music with lyrics is too distracting, so I usually go for film or TV scores. Particular recent favorites are: How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell), Perfect Sense (Max Richter), Orphan Black (Trevor Yuile), The 100 (Evan Frankfort; unavailable for purchase, but EF has a playlist on soundcloud, and Stardust (Ilan Eshkeri).

An Internet Blocker (Or just the willpower to keep wifi off for hours at a time)
This is the hardest, honestly. I think it's tough for any writer. I love to delve into research, and sometimes I get lost there for hours. My current big research question is what America would be like two years after society collapsed. But in this case, I'm trying to save all that digging for December or maybe even after I'm finished with the first draft. Other hazards include Facebook, which is where I message all my writer friends to check in on their stories, and Tumblr, where I just love to waste time.

A Hot Shower (or, you know, 30)
This might sound weird depending on how much writing you did in college (which is where I first learned this trick), but anytime I'm stuck on a plot point or on where to go with a scene, a hot shower works wonders. There are tons of articles out there regarding the scientific explanation, which has to do with the hot water triggering a release of dopamine and a relaxed state of mind. Whatever the reason, it works!