Thursday 30 December 2010

The Birth of an Idea

Finding ideas can sometimes be entirely hopeless. Usually, when you have one idea, many more seem to pile up, but when you don't have a single idea, there is just... air. Fluff. Nothing. So, how does one get at an idea when one is in dire need of one? Well, the first and most important rule of idea-gathering is always to have a notebook and a pen or pencil nearby. I have notebook strategically placed around my apartment, and I go nowhere without at least a scrap of paper to scribble on. If you cannot write your ideas down you might as well give up immediately. You'll just forget them before you can develop them into something more substantial anyway.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Word of the Week #21

Butterfingers (noun)
Someone who is clumsy and drops things, e.g. someone who cannot catch a ball.


Wednesday 22 December 2010

Christmas and Things Like That

Since it's Christmas (yay!) I won't be posting anything this week (I'm too busy cleaning, baking and cooking). I'll be back next week though, and until then: Happy Holidays!

Saturday 18 December 2010

Word of the Week #20

Fop (noun)
A very vain man, very concerned with how he dresses and looks. E.g. "He's such a fop he had to drive all the way into town just to get his hair cut."


Tuesday 14 December 2010

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Perhaps you've seen the movie by Miyasaki. If you have, will you believe me if I say that the novel is even better? That's no small feat either, since Howl's Moving Castle is my absolute favourite Miyasaki movie. If you have seen the movie you will notice many similarities when reading the book. However, there are some points that I feel clarifies the story somewhat, and others that simply help make the story reach even higher levels of awesomeness (yes, it's a word).

The protagonist, Sophie, is a shy, oldest sister of three who knows that she is destined for misfortune in life. She hides in a back room of her father's hat shop, making the most beautiful hats that her stephmother sells. One day, the Witch of the Waste wants to buy a hat, and Sophie fails miserably at her job. The Witch turns her into an old woman, and

Saturday 11 December 2010

Word of the Week #19

Coxcomb (noun)
Someone (usually a man) who is very vain and conceited. Someone pretentious and foolish. E.g. "He's such a coxcomb, I cannot stand him!"


Thursday 9 December 2010

Taking Out the Trash! - On Editing a Novel

I'm about to start the editing work on one of my three finished novels (the non-NaNo novel). This is the first time I've ever edited a novel and I'm quite scared at the very idea to have to revisit something that I know is written terribly badly. However, editing is a necessary process in the work of a writer - how else do great novels get written? Someone once said that even Lord Byron edited his work, so never be ashamed that you have to, or think that you don't. In order to calm my nerves before this work I decided to look up what I could find on the editing process itself, and I thought I would share it with you. So, let's get to work! (If you don't feel like reading the entire post you can just skip to the summary at the end.)

Saturday 4 December 2010

Word of the Week #18

Parsimonious (adj)
Someone very frugal or stingy (and if you read the WotW last week you'll know what 'stingy' is), very unwilling to spend money.


Wednesday 1 December 2010

The Beginning

The very first sentence of you story is the most important of all. It's the sentence that has to take a hold of the reader; it has to be interesting enough to make the reader want to continue. It has to hint about the story, but obviously not give too much away. I find the beginning to be very difficult, simply because there are so many different ways you can begin a story. How to possible choose the very best way to start? It's not like someone is going to hand you a cookie when you find the perfect sentence (unfortunately). So I thought I would share a few sentences from books I like, in order to see how those authors chose to start their novels. I'm going to begin with perhaps the most famous first sentence, and then just randomly choose some of the books from my bookcase. Hopefully you can find something to inspire you, or maybe even something to avoid (who knows?). Hope it helps!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." (Could there be a better way to start a novel?!)

Monday 29 November 2010

Word of Last Week #17

Stingy (adj)
Someone who holds on to their money, is ungenerous, not generous (and not only with money). E.g. "He never pays, he's too stingy."


Thursday 25 November 2010

Aaaand it's Official!

Today is the first day to validate your NaNoWriMo 2010 novel! If you're not finished yet, don't despair. There's still five days (-ish) left to write. For those of you who have finished though, it is now official. You're NaNo '10 winners! Congratulations! I was met with the winner's page when I logged in today because I had already entered my 50,236 words ages ago to make sure that the word count wasn't messed up (you never know!). So, if you haven't already, go and collect your winner goodies! And then may I suggest you give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back (if you can reach - otherwise, ask someone else to do it). If you need to you can cry a little that NaNo is over too. I'm sure I will be very sad when we enter December next week. November is truly one of the best months of the year.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Word of the Week #16

Heartfelt (adj)
Something that is felt sincerely and deeply. E.g. "You truly have our heartfelt sympathies".


Thursday 18 November 2010

Passed the Middle but How to Get to the End? or 12 Days Left of NaNoWriMo

Finally I have some time to write a blog post post-NaNo (well, for me anyway). I've barely had time to visit the NaNoWriMo webpage and forums these last couple of weeks, let alone enjoy any more writing after finishing my 50,000 words. I'm very jealous of all of you who still have writing left to do! Finishing in 5 days might sound good but I miss out on so much, being buried in school work the rest of the month.

Anyway, as I presented some of my statistics for NaNo in the last NaNo-flavoured post, I thought I would give some tips to anyone interested for finishing their NaNo novel (or any other novel for that matter) and ending up with statistics of their own. For, even though you can always come up with some fun statistics if you fail, it is always more rewarding to know that the numbers you put down helped you win.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Word of the Week #15

Droll (adj)
Something that is amusing or funny in a strange, eccentric kind of way. E.g. "How droll! Will you look at that!"


Friday 12 November 2010

Videos on Writing #1 - Various Advice and Interesting Stuff

I'm sorry for my long absence on this blog but I seem to suffer from a post-NaNo coma where writing has become impossible. Also, I am drowning in school work and I've spent the last week trying to keep my head above the surface. That's why I've decided to post this - a post I wrote ages ago and saved for just a time like this when I didn't have time to write new one. I hope it can help and inspire you, no matter if you're doing NaNo or not. I'll try go be back next week with a more NaNo centred post, if I can find the time to write one.

I wanted to share some videos I found on YouTube on writing, the writing process and how to build a story. These videos are a diverse bunch, I haven't stayed to a single theme this time since I wanted to explore what was available out there without having to turn away a video simply because it didn't suit my purpose. I hope you find them instructing and helpful, if not at least interesting.

Monday 8 November 2010

Word of Last Week #14

High-handed (adj)
Someone who is overbearing and uses power without considering others' feelings.


Friday 5 November 2010

I Did it!

Five days into NaNoWriMo I finished the 50,000 words! As you can imagine I've been writing like crazy all week, but it's been worth it. It will make the rest of November much easier, for I have a heavy courseload this month, and I'm working a bit too. Now I've participated in and won two NaNos. I'm a little sad at the moment though, because I won't be able to enjoy all of NaNo 2010. I won't have the time to check in on the forums every day, and I've already finished my writing. It turned into a NaNoWriWe for me instead. Oh, well. I'll just have to try to find time for the forums. Maybe I'll work on a short story as well. We'll see, we'll see. Now I'm going to eat the rest of my potato chips and just enjoy an evening of rest and no writing.

As a true NaNoer, here are some very specific statistics on my NaNo novel this year:

  • Words written: 50,236
  • Days to finish 50K: 5
  • Average amount of words per day: 10047
  • Approximate no. of hours written: 42
  • Words written on most productive day: 13,010
  • Dare points achieved: 47 (!)
  • No. of Pringles tubes emptied: 1 1/3
  • Bags of Maltesers eaten: 1
  • Rows of Marabou chocolate eaten: 2 (which makes 8 squares)
  • No. of metaphorical walls hit: 2
  • No. of 4th wall breaks: 0

I'll write more on this subject later. Right now I just want to get away from the computer.

Good luck to all of you still writing! I know you will get there too!

Sunday 31 October 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: It's Here, It's Everywhere and This Is How You'll Survive It

I have about 10 hours left at the time of writing this, until NaNoWriMo 2010 starts. I can't wait, I'm mortally afraid and I'm having problems sitting still. The only thing left on my To Do list is to clean, and then I'll be ready. I've been cooking like crazy all week, and now my freezer is about to burst with leftovers and microwave meals. My pantry is filled with potato chips and chocolates. I've dug up a candle to set the ambience in my otherwise rather dull writing area (i.e. my desk), and I've printed and organised my notes into a folder to have them readily available. I'm ready. Let's go.

Well, I can't start yet, can I? There is no cheating, and I don't plan on starting at midnight anyway (I'll be asleep...), but early on Monday morning there will be no stopping me! Or will there?

Saturday 30 October 2010

Word of the Week #13

Fruitcake (noun)
This is slang for a crazy or eccentric person, a nutter. E.g. "He's a complete fruitcake. Ignore him."


Thursday 28 October 2010

To Do Before NaNoWriMo and How to Stay Motivated for a Month

We're only a few days away now, and it's time to get your affairs in order and prepare for a month of doing nothing but writing. So, write up a to do list and make sure to finish it before Sunday 23.59 (11.59) in order to have time to enjoy NaNo as much as possible. Things that can be on a list might be to clean (because you won't be cleaning for all of November), cook food for the freezer (because you won't be cooking for all of November either), and buy copious amounts of snacks and microwave meals (see previous parentheses). My list is more specific though, and contains posts such as (apart from the aforementioned) blogging (which I'll soon be able to cross of my list), backing up my harddrive and cleaning out my storage room.

A to do list is important in the preparation for NaNo, so don't skip this step. It's essential to be prepared both concerning what to write, but also in your private life. There will be no room for chores - finally, an excuse not to clean without feeling guilty about it!

Saturday 23 October 2010

Word of the Week #12

Inaugural (adj)
This word originates in the late 1600's. It is something that begins something, e.g. a series. It's for example possible to have the inaugural edition of a TV-series, meaning the first season. Make sense?


Planning for NaNoWriMo - It's Only (Almost) One Week Away!

I'm panicking. I am, personally, the definition of panic. NaNoWriMo is only about one week away and I still don't have a clear idea in my head of what I'm going to write. I spent the entire (yup, from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, with the exception of when I ate and showered...) day yesterday working on my characters and plot. It took me hours just to work through my two main characters (MCs). I had thought I would have plenty of time to gather all the loose ends and plan out the details, but all I've got is the broad strokes of the main plot, and the two MCs, and one minor character. And that took me all day! It's insane.

NaNoWriMo has truly eaten my soul. It's all I think about. Except when I have to think about school, which freaks me out even more. I just want to get the planning over with so I can be confident that I have enough to write about come Nov 1st. In the hopes of simplifying the processes I went out a few days ago and bought a whiteboard. It's come into handy, but more with school work than with NaNo (whiteboards are excellent for planning databases and the structures of adventure games!). I still love it, however. It feels good to erase everything and have a clean slate to write on each time you've filled the board, and you can still doodle on it - a function MS Word unfortunately lacks. Aaaand that's the end of the sales pitch for whiteboards...

I thought I would show you some of the steps I went through yesterday when planning, and perhaps help someone else out there with the same problem as mine. First I popped in a good CD with music I could plan to - i.e. nothing I might be tempted to sing along with. I started with my MCs and began by writing random facts that I knew about them. I set as a goal to always fill the board before erasing. Note that I took a picture of the board each time I had filled it - the things I write weren't lost forever. It seemed the easiest way to do it.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Word of the Week #11

Gobbledygook (noun)
Has its origin in the 1940's, from the word gobble. It means something unintelligible, gibberish, a complicated language that cannot be understood.


Friday 15 October 2010

Writing Exercise #2 - Building Characters and Preparing for NaNoWriMo

As I've already pointed out, NaNoWriMo is just about two weeks away and it's high time to prepare a story worthy of a month's sweat, blood and tears. I have to admit that I've thought more about what kind of snacks I'm going to buy for NaNo than what I'm going to write, but I intend to remedy that this weekend. I've got a basic plot, which is in dire need of fleshing out. I'm going to start with the characters. In order to build strong, three-dimensional characters, you need to think about more than what they look like and how they act - you have to figure out their motivation for what they do and how they react in situations that you haven't met with yourself (unless you're writing about yourself, then it's much easier, I should imagine).

However, it's not the easiest thing in the world to know why your characters do what they do. Your own motivation and that of the person you're creating isn't the same. This means that just because you want your character to go to a bar one night in order to meet her hero, you can't just tell yourself that she feels like going to a bar. Perhaps she's been persuaded by a friend - but then you have to know why that friend is so insistent on inviting your character. On the other hand, if she has had a particularly awful day at work and she wants to drown her sorrows just like her father used to do after a day's work, her motivation is much more obvious to the reader. It has to be deeper than simply you knowing that your character wants to do something; it has to be a reason apparent to the reader as well.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

NaNoWriMo: What it Is and Basic Survival Training

Rule number one: Don't make any plans for November.

Rule number two: Don't make any plans for November.

If you follow the above stated rules, you will have plenty of opportunity to participate in NaNoWriMo. If you don't already know what NaNo is, check it out here.

In short, anyone willing to sacrifice health and sanity promise to write 50 000 words in one month. If you do, you get a wonderful prize  (a diploma) to print and frame. I didn't find out about it until September last year, and I went crazy enthusiastic. In one month I prepared and planned a short novel, and finished it in 10 days. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life - sitting hauled up every day before and after school (and late into the nights), eating junkfood and candy that I never get to eat otherwise. The "worst" day, a Saturday, I wrote 10 000 words in one day. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was painful.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Word of the Week #10

(In) Cahoots (plural noun)
Dates back to 1929, meaning to be in a partnership or conpiracy with someone. Most commonly a secret or illegal partnership. E.g. "The tall man and the scary woman were in cahoots."


Wednesday 6 October 2010

Those Darn Idioms! #1

Probably the most difficult for a non-native speaker of English are all it's idioms and expressions that make very little sense when directly translated. A few years ago I found a lovely book, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms, in a bookstore, which has ever since been resting peacefully in by bookcase. I decided to pop it out for a bit of an exercise for this blog however, and intend to, at very irregular intervals, to write posts with some interesting idioms found in my lovely book. Also, I have some other interesting finds in my bookcase that I will write more about later, for those of you who, like me, adore the English language and all it's nuances. Now, however, I will focus solely on idioms. The definitions are all taken from the aforementioned book. Enjoy!

Make a mountain out of a molehill
"to exaggerate the importance of a problem"
E.g.  "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill. I'm sure one mistake will not lose you your job."

Saturday 2 October 2010

Word of the Week #9

Dupe (verb)
Originates somewhere in the late 17th and early 18th century, possibly from a word for the hoopoe, a bird that is believed to be quite stupid. The transitive verb means to trick someone, to make a dupe out of someone. The noun dupe means a person that is easily fooled, or is used by someone more dominant. E.g. "I feel so duped!"


Thursday 30 September 2010

Just a Reminder

I haven't had the time to write much here (or anywhere else, for that matter) these last few weeks (good thing I had some posts saved for a time like this), but I just wanted to remind you that it's just over a month left before NaNo '10 starts. It's time to come up with a story! If you don't know what NaNo is, check this out: NaNoWriMo.

I'll write more about NaNo another time. For now, your assignment is simply to spawn ideas that can turn into 50 000 words. Good luck!

Saturday 25 September 2010

Word of the Week #8

Fastidious (adjective)
Dates back to the 15th century. It refers to someone who is very caring about details and critical in judging others. Someone with high standards, who is difficult to please and sensitive when it comes to keeping things tidy and clean. This week my example won't be my own, but taken from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (said by Mr. Bingley): "Good God, Darcy. I wouldn't be as fastidious as you are for a kingdom!"


Friday 17 September 2010

Word of the Week #7

Moribund (adjective)
Originates in the 1700's. It means that something is on the verge of death, about to die. It can also, though similar, relate to something that is becoming extinct or is no longer developing. Additionally, it means something that is no longer effective and will be out of use. E.g. "I walked through the moribund city, marvelling at the despicable standard of the few people still remaining."

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest novels in the world - yet very few seem to know about it. This story of the disturbing use of a child in an attempt to eradicate an entire species is Card's best work (and it is not without competition - let's not forget Songmaster or Treasure Box, and I have yet to read the Alvin Maker books).

The novel takes place in a future where Earth has been attacked twice by the Buggers, insect-like extraterrestrials with technology far more advanced than that of mankind. In order to prepare for a third attack, promising children are taken to the Battle School where they learn all about tactics and warfare. Ender is the most gifted student, rising far above all others his age, but he is troubled and has gone through a great deal at an early age.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Word of the Week #6

Topsy-turvy (adjective)
Dates back to the 1520's, meaning upside-down (specifically, with the top facing down), in reverse. Also, it can mean confusion or in disorder. E.g. "The breeze turned all the papers on my desk topsy-turvy."


Wednesday 8 September 2010

Article, Essay, Research Paper... What's the Difference?

My intention was to write a post describing the structure of articles, essays and research papers, and how these differed. However, I haven't been able to find any information on the matter. I do not know why some papers published in high-ranked periodicals are considered to be academic essays and others to be articles. By my understanding it has to do with the structure - essays don't require e.g. a section on methodology. Instead of outlining the essay and article structures, I will give you what I hope is the next best thing: a brief (because I didn't find much information) comparison between the two, and an outline of the general structure of a research paper.

Friday 3 September 2010

Word of the Week #5

Heft (noun)
Originates from the 15th century. Meaning: weight, heaviness, bulk. It can also mean significance or importance. E.g. "The man dragged his heft, bumping into every single passerby as they tried to walk by."

Tuesday 31 August 2010

10 Writing Resources You Cannot Live (i.e. Write) Without

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It has more crap than any library multiplied by ten could even begin to imagine having. Over the years I've collected a great deal of this crap and will share some of my favourites with you. These are all relating to fictional writing (I have a whole other list for essays, which I will post at a later point). I hope you can find use in them, either to improve, help or enable your writing.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Word of the Week #4

Forlorn (adj)
Originates from before 1150, from the Old and Middle English word for to lose. Forlorn means that something is lonely, sad, forsaken due to isolation. It can also express hopeless and despair or something that is in poor condition.

"I observed her small, forlorn figure in the distance."
"The buildings seemed forlorn, moss growing along the walls and all the way up to the rooftops."

Thursday 26 August 2010

Beware of the Semicolon!

There are few errors I see more often when reading people's texts than the incorrect use of a semicolon (;). I physically begin to hurt when I see some of the uses people have for it. I want to scream, rant, eat chocolate and cry - all at once. However, I've decided to educate those in need instead. Even if you are 100% sure that you know how to use the semicolon, please read this anyway. You might be duped.

First of all, the semicolon is not (I repeat: not) the same thing as a colon (:). It cannot be used to introduce a list, e.g. "I saw three things through the window: a bird, a plane and a flying pig." Using a semicolon in this case is wrong. This is the most common error I see. So please, please, just... don't do it. It's bad for my blood pressure!

Saturday 21 August 2010

Word of the Week #3

Lurid (adj)
Originates in the 1650 - 60's. Lurid means that something is gruesome, horrific, meant to chock or repulse people. It can also mean that something is pale or shining very brightly red.


Wednesday 18 August 2010

5 Great Novels That Are Also Great Movies

I'm a firm believer that books are always better than movies and that movies based on great novels can never live up to the original. However, once in a while there comes along a movie that turns out to be just as good - or even better - than the book it is based on. The following a just some examples.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Writing Exercise #1 - Living Dialogue

In order to improve one's writing, one has to practice, right? Well, here is a writing exercise that will help do just that. I will start with an exercise relating to one of my weaknesses - dialogue. I find it very hard to write dialogue in a smooth, believable way. My problem isn't so much with using the right words as with the format in general, but that we will deal with another time. This is just something to get going, write however much you choose but spend at least 20 minutes on the exercise. Personally, I don't plan what I'm going to write when doing an assignment like this, but if you want to make it a part of a longer story, feel free to plan as much as you like.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Word of the Week #2

Smithereens (noun)

Originates from the 1820 - 30's. Meaning: small/splintered pieces, fragments, bits. Is often used in combination with the words smash to or blow to, i.e. "The vase was smashed to smithereens" or "My dreams were blown to smithereens".

Tuesday 10 August 2010

My Name Is... Eh...

For me, naming a character is always a long, difficult process. I need the name to be just right or I lose the character when I try to make their personality fit the name (or vice versa). The name of a character represents not only who they are but also where they belong and who they will become.

When you choose names for your character the most important thing is that you are happy with the name. If it doesn't work for you, abandon the name immediately. Using it will only hurt your story.

After you've found a name you like, think about the following things:
  • Do your characters that come from the same place have similar names? It's probably not a good idea to have two characters from the same village named Ch'chnuck and John.
  • Think about the meaning of the name you've chosen. Sure, you like it, but does your strong, evil overlord have a name that means "little, pink flower"?

Friday 6 August 2010

Word of the Week #1

Being a non-native English speaker I always feel inferior to all the lucky people who have grown up speaking it. In my opinion, English is the best language in the world. So, in celebration of this wonderful language I will try to write a post with some interesting word I have come across each week. In case you don't feel like waiting an entire week for a new word (if only I had the time to make this a daily thing!), here are some web pages where you can find new words each day:

Wednesday 4 August 2010

This Blog or What You Will Be Reading About If You Come Back

I have a post-it note with thirteen items on it that I want to write about on this blog. I just added two of those items today. I expect there to be even more in a week. In fact, I just added one, so now there are fourteen things on the list. Six of those things are about writing. Thus, I draw the conclusion that this blog will be mainly concerned with that. Five things are about reading, so I will be writing about books a lot as well. I am convinced that those two go hand in hand, because you have to know literature in order to create it. (There are now sixteen things on my list - two more about writing.) There are also two things on my post-it about photography, which is simply another way of telling a story.

If you have been paying attention you know that there is only one thing left on my list. In fact, that item was about writing this introduction. I had to write it down so I wouldn't forget. My memory really is that bad, yes. If you're disappointed that the last item was a bust I can promise that I will have doubled the amount of items in a week, so there is no need to worry.

I suppose I should introduce myself. I am a woman from Sweden who loves English but will never be as proficient in using it as native speakers. I want to write for a living but insist on writing in English and thus will have to rival all the amazing published writers with a much better grasp on the English language. I am at Uni, studying a subject I have lost all interest in, just because I need to make a living. I talk about becoming an author but almost never write anymore. That is why I've started this blog. I am going to write, and I am going to write about writing. I am going to improve my vocabulary, and I am going to do what I love doing. This blog is just as much about me learning as it is about sharing what I already know. I am going to be juggling school, work, responsibilities, writing, photography and this blog because one can never have too many things to do in life.