How do you Spell Your Planet?

You’ve written a character who comes from another planet. She looks very much like the average Earth dweller but her language is very different. Before coming to Earth she too a crash course in several Earth languages, including English, French, Chinese and Australian. Now she is talking to another of your characters and trying to share some words in her native language.

What are the words, how do they translate and… most of all, how are they spelled? Spelling is very important when you’re writing about someone from the planet Grammara.

eHarlequin

I’ve joined up the Book in Year challenge. Wish me potatoes. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Plot 101

Book in a Year
Kate Hardy’s 10-Step Plan for Writing a Book

1. Write your synopsis. Maximum one page, main events only, with no adverbs, adjectives, dialogue or description. (Action, action, action. Keep it really spare.)

2. Check it for holes (i.e., what’s missing?). Are there enough plot twists? Is there enough emotional punch?

3. Write your character biographies, then take another look at your synopsis. Now that your characters are developing, does that affect any events in your book? Can you add more emotional punch? Can you fill in the holes?

4. Break your revised synopsis down into chapters, determining what action will take place at each point in the book.

5. For each chapter, write a more detailed chapter plan. If your characters suddenly start having a conversation while you’re writing the chapter plan, fine — add it in. The chapter plan is for you to work from, so it can be as long or short as you like.

6. Set yourself a target — if you write two double-spaced pages a day (500 words), that’s a 50,000-word book in a little over three months.

7. Keep to your schedule — it’s all too easy to watch a film/call a friend/write a few emails and promise yourself you’ll catch up tomorrow. Do that for a week and you’re setting yourself up to fail — 500 words is manageable but 4,000 need a bigger chunk of time!

8. But be flexible, too. As you’re writing, you may find the book changes — as your characters develop, you might have a better idea for a twist in the plot or decide that something else will work better. (In my case, I get two or three more chapters than planned….)

9. Read it through, then write yourself another single-page synopsis based on the actual book.

10. Check the new synopsis for holes. Do any sections look weak? Is there enough emotional tension? Make notes on what you want to change, make your revisions, then read the whole thing through and ensure the book still works. (If it doesn’t, repeat points 9 and 10 until it does.)

Congratulations! You’ve just written your book!

Don’t Bore Yourself

When your writing bores even you it’s time to get a grip and make something change. Here are ideas from – “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves.

Lazy Writers

Play word games, experiment with language, audition words. Use the thesaurus, appropriate a set of paint chips from Home Depot and study the names of colours, take sensory inventories, practice dialogue, eavesdrop on conversations, read Raymond Carver, Pam Houston, Don DeLillo, Lorrie Moorre. Reread your work and mark doors and windows. Open and enter during writing exercises.

Same Old Territory Writers

Free-write using the writing exercise prompts, writing only new material for the next month. No rewriting or editing allowed! Ban those characters from any further appearances in any stories from now on. Send them to the Retirement Home for Overused Characters. Flip everything: gender, age, profession, politics, hair colour, diction, intelligence, geography, sexual preferences, Everything.

Holding Back

Ask what it was exactly that made something terrible? In what ways was it difficult? What did the pain feel like? Use concrete details and specific images. Use words that describe the terrible, difficult, painful. Write through the cliché with a fresh simile or metaphor. Ask what a broken heart feels like, looks like. What other body parts are affected and how? Find fresh images. Go to your own experience, bring to mind a memory of a time you were brokenhearted, when you sobbed like a child, when you flew into a rage: describe your behaviour and your feelings. Take the time to stay with the feeling and write down what you experience.

Playing Safe

Write what matters. Be a passionate writer. Don’t waste time writing about anything you don’t care about. Also, for a reader to be involved in what she’s reading, something must be at stake. There must be some kind of tension in the writing to keep the reader’s attention. Crank up the heat, put some obstacles in the way of your characters. When a writer is playing safe you can bet the censor or critic is somehow nearby.

Too Comfortable

Just like the antidote for Playing Safe, this writer needs to create some tension, crank up the heat, experience a little confusion. Recommended: change the time and place of the daily writing practice. Raise the bar to more pages everyday. Switch genres, try something new. Don’t fit so easily in the groove, feel the bumps and ridges, the sharp edge. Let your writing surprise you, keep you awake at night. If a writer is too comfortable, you can be there aren’t any risks being taken. No risks = boring writing.

Character in Victory and Defeat

Do you agree with the idea that a character can be shown better in defeat than in victory? Think about the last character you wrote about. What was happening to him or her? Were they being defeated or conquering? Would it be easier to show their defeat or victory through dialogue or description? Or would you just narrate that and not leave it up to speculation?

I’d like to think people’s characters can thrive in either situation. You know, that idea about good winners and poor losers. It should work both ways. Maybe it’s more about the writer’s own character than the character created for the page.

It’s worth thinking about. How would you describe the setting differently if the character was happy, doing well and having a great victory compared to the setting of a character who was having a bad day, etc.? There would be small details like how they carry themselves, body language and tone of voice if they speak. Larger things like their reactions to other people and things that interact with them. Aggression and violence could develop for the defeated character. Whereas someone who has won would be aggressive but not in a violent or threatening way, over exuberant perhaps. Both can be intimidating for different reasons.

How much does the mood of a character influence their surroundings. You know when you are feeling angry you see things differently than when you are sad, happy, or laid back. Do you consider that aspect as you write the scene? Back to that is the glass half full or half empty.

Anyway, it’s something I read in a book about fiction writing, an old book but still some interesting ideas. Yet another way to show without telling.

Writing Without Fluff

You can find a lot about cutting the fluff out of your writing. I know, I just searched Google for writing fluff. I did this because someone argued that there is too much gloom and reality on BackWash lately. So, I wondered if there was a guide to writing better fluff pieces. (Not so far in the search but I’m sure it’s out there, somewhere).

Anyway, life is full of drama, conflict and ugliness, sharp edges, people running with scissors, mean spirits and other assorted generally bad things. It balances out all the sparkly fluffy bits. The balance is called reality.

When you write, do you write reality or fluff? If you write fiction do you have one main conflict and focus only on that. Do you forget what it’s like to have a bad day, a day when it seems all the little things keep going wrong. Does your character live a cardboard life where she/ he has no headaches, other than the main one you’ve plotted out for them?

I think we need to trip our characters every now and then. It makes them human, keeps them real. It doesn’t have to tie into the main plot, not directly anyway. Give him a bad knee from some soccer game when he was a kid. Give her a fear of dogs from seeing her sister bitten. Or just have him skin his knee as he’s leaping all those tall buildings.

Don’t write fluff and expect us to swallow it. We know about conflict, we’ve lived it. Every day can’t be sunny and nice. Besides, if you admit it, isn’t it really those windy, blustery days you love the best? I do!

The Reframing Matrix

Here is an idea for the next time you are stuck with an idea and can’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag with it. Try the reframing matrix plan.

The Reframing Matrix is a formal technique used to look at problems from different perspectives. It helps to expand the number of options open to you for solving a problem.

You draw up a reframing matrix by posing a question in a box in the middle of a piece of paper. You then draw a grid around it. Each cell will contain approaches to the problem, seen from one perspective.

One way of using the technique is the ‘4 Ps’ approach. This looks at the problem from the following viewpoints: Product, Planning, Potential and People. Another set of perspectives is to ask your self how different professionals would approach the problem. Useful professions to consider would be medical doctors, engineers, systems analysts, sales managers, etc.

I found this on a site called Mind Tools. Consider applying the reframing matrix to your writing blocks or hold ups. What would your four perspectives or viewpoints be? Overall you could say: Story, Publisher, Reader, Characters. But it could be applied to sections of your fiction too. Look at the situation from the viewpoint of four different characters. If you are working on a non-fiction article look at it from the viewpoint of four possible readers- other writers, professionals, your siblings, a checkout cashier, etc.

It does help to give you fresh ideas and slants/ angles on the ideas you already have.