Category Archives: On Writing

I think my brain just flatlined

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So I’m scratching at the 40k mark for NaNoWriMo, typing away at a rather cheesy scene and minding my own business, when suddenly – end of chapter, and all I can come up with is a feeble “now what?”.

Seriously, I’m trying to add to the romantic subplot (which is really just the main characters getting their shit together and trying the whole adult relationship thing, so not even that complicated), and I finally managed to come up with some decent dialogue, and now that I’ve reached the “we’re officially dating now” part, it’s like my brain went “oh, good, you’ve finished that part, good luck finding a decent way to start the next chapter, I’m outta here!”. Leaving me staring blankly at the screen and wondering what to do next.
It’s not that I’ve run out of plot; I have plenty of that. Or that I want to add drama and don’t know how (there won’t be that much drama, anyway). Or even that I know what’s supposed to happen, but have no idea how to write it.
I just have no idea what comes next. Like, should the next chapter be the one where Tyra begins her training? Or the one where Petri is criticised for going out with a “tavern wench” when he should be looking for a bride among the other Jarls’ daughters? Or maybe just a scene or two with everyone being normal for once? But what if that’s boring? Readers don’t like getting bored, so something should be happening. But isn’t this also a story about Tyra finding a new home, rebuilding her life before she has to fight for it – again? If I never show any part of that life, does that fight even matter? Do people even care why people in books fight as long as there’s magic that goes BOOM? Is “people making friends and realising that their temporary home could actually be permanent” not a thing that counts as “something that happens”?

Gah, I’m confused, and freaking out, and now I really want some coffee but it’s ten pm and that’s not something I should do at this hour. Drink coffee, I mean. The freaking out part is fine.

I’m torn. On the one hand, I want to write good, old-fashioned fantasy that’s neither high nor low, just happily settled somewhere in the middle, without all the over-the-top heroism or all the gritty, dirty, brutal stuff. Not that there won’t be something of both, but I thought it would be nice to have a story that’s not about either a knight in shining armor on a sparkly unicorn saving the day or a street rat getting by via stealing, killing and occasional prostitution. Just… normal people who try and keep their land and people from being overrun and occupied by a foreign army.
But then I think that maybe no-one wants to read that? And since I’m writing this one with publication in mind, I should think about what’s marketable, at least to a degree. I can write the weird stuff once I’ve got my millions safely on my bank account and Peter Jackson directing a film version of my book. So for now I have to ask myself: Is this the kind of story I can sell and that has the potential to earn me at least a modest amount of money? Or should I put it away for a while and write something more… accessible to secure myself a position among the literary folk?

Bwah, life is too complicated, I’ll just go shoot some dragons until I can figure out how to stop thinking so much…

 

Rant over, Ricarda out.

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Fuck you, universe -.-

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There are days when I just know that the universe is screwing with me. Today is such a day.

First a problem with an insurance company needed sorting. A problem I shouldn’t have because I canceled my insurance, which got confirmed. Twice. But since people trust computers and computers are stupid, that info didn’t get through, so they tried to collect the fee for 2014. I reversed this transaction, called and was told that I shouldn’t worry, the system would recognise the transaction, and no-one would ask for money anymore.

Again, fuck you. First, they sent me a check for the amount of the fee because they already collected it, oblivious of the fact that I already got my money back. Then, they wanted proof that I didn’t cash the check, which I sent. But because they are way quicker collecting their money than they are reading their clients’ emails, I received a dunning letter at the very same day. Because I didn’t pay for my insurance. Which I don’t have anymore. Which they confirmed multiple times in various ways.

Today I was told to ignore that claim, come December the system would update and correct the error.

I’m afraid this isn’t over yet.

 

And as if that wasn’t enough, my computer decided to screw with me as well. First it went out. Just like that. Since my monitor and speakers still worked and the light of the plugbar was still on, I assumed it was the computer’s fault. Called brother, brother fiddled with it for a bit, nothing. Plugged it into another bar, works just fine. Plugs it into the old bar again, runs like it always did. What the fuck? I mean it, computers are stupid. And evil. Especially evil.

Well, that wasn’t the end of it, obviously, since I spent the last two hours digging around in my system, trying to get my USB ports to work again and connect with my usual mouse (or any mouse for that matter; one still worked, but only in one port, that picky diva). Nothing helped until I disconnected the hub (which still had the keyboard plugged in and that worked just fine, mind you) and plugged it into another port. For the second time, because hey, it might just work now. Bam, problem solved. Lesson learned: If something doesn’t work, just keep trying the simplest solution over and over again like a moron, because either way you’ll lose a few hours, and you don’t run the risk of killing your system dead with a wrong click. Also, you don’t have to google every weird error description possible.

 

Now I’m just glad I wrote 1.5k already before all that crap happened. I’ll just add this post to my wordcount and call it a day, I think I can justify that today. And then I’ll probably go and shoot some Nazis, because that always cheers me up. Go me!

 

On a side note, I’m not that far behind on NaNo anymore. I wrote zip on day 2 because I went over to a friend for a film night, and a little less than 1667 words for a few days after that, and now I need to write 1.8k per day just to win. Yeah, so much for writing 70k this November.

Ah, well, I still have time, don’t I?

 

Yes, this was rant-y. No, I do not care. But feel free to laugh at my misery, maybe it helps lifting your mood; go ahead, I don’t mind :)

 

 

-Ricarda

Moar video!

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Angry cats shouldn’t be this funny, but they are. Especially when they get up on two legs and walk away for no apparent reason.

On a side note, it seems like disgruntled Me sounds a lot like a disgruntled cat. Also, I tend to hiss a lot. In my next life, I’m going to be a cat. One of the diva kind.

Now, it’s October, and that means less than a month to go until NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t heard of that, go look it up! What do you mean, not interested? What are you reading a writer’s blog for, then? :O

…back? Great :) I’m not doing as much preparation as I usually do; I’ll be mainly working on my two current novels (read: rebelling), and try to finish at least one of my fanfictions which I have neglected for far too long! I mean, it’s season premiere for NCIS tonight Scratch that, it’s episode 11/2 already oO And I haven’t even watched the last four episodes of season 10. I have way too many shows to keep track off, I should write that down somewhere… Anyways, it’s about time I finished that fic, especially now that GODDAMMIT, FACEBOOK, THAT WAS THE BIGGEST FUCKING SPOILER IN THE UNIVERSE!!! How dare you show me this picture?! That is… I don’t even… gah! T_T

Seriously, why?! -.-

In any case, I’ve got a lot of writing to do in November, and by New Year’s, I’ll hopefully be able to toast to my first finished second draft :)

(What goes as a second draft for me, anyway. I usually write one draft, let it sit, make the necessary changes and then write another draft that I obsess over for so long that it ends up feeling like a third or even fourth draft. I’m pathetic >.<)

So, what are your plans for this NaNo? Planning, pantsing, recording a collection of freeform poetry in your best Oprah voice?

-Ricarda

Yes, dammit, pay the writer already!

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I don’t like Ellison as a person, but damn, this needed saying so badly. And loudly. (Sorry for the big video, apparently, WordPress’ Animosity of the Day goes out to properly embedding videos…)

 

Longer posts are coming up again once I managed to shake off the holiday feeling. *sighs* The beds in France are horrible, but I’d kill for that food every single day.

Not literally, of course.

Maybe.

 

 

-Ricarda

Writing Problems #4

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It’s been more than a year, but welcome back to Writing Problems Sometimes, this time with an episode about how to properly begin a story. I know, it seems like that’s pretty easy, and who on earth needs help with that, but trust me, it’s not easy, and help is a good thing.

It really is.

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“Where the fuck do I begin?!” or How to find the perfect place to begin your story

The problem:

I’m pretty sure we all asked ourselves the above question at least on one occasion during our time as writers. Because let’s face it, nothing sucks like a beginning gone wrong (I think I mentioned that before. Somewhere in between angry curses at the universe and a bunch of profanities…). When the beginning is wrong, the story is likely to turn out feeling off as well. All the more important that we find the right time and place to start the story, the exact right point on the time line that we arbitrarily define as The Beginning. It’s not so much the real beginning, though, but the point we feel is best to jump into the story and start telling it.

Because here’s the deal: Stories don’t really have a beginning. All there is is a point that’s good enough to serve as one, the point where we can begin telling the story without withholding too much background information. We’re treading a fine line, and we feel the pressure to “get it right”. I find this incredibly hard. Some of you might not; you might say “what, why, it’s so easy, just pick a day and start the goddamn story”. For those, however, who need to put a little more effort into their beginnings (and I know you’re out there, believe me, I know), here’s a little beginner’s guide to beginnings. Lame pun intended.

The solution:

I’ll start by putting it in a nutshell: Start when the story begins. Don’t hit me, it’s true! The problem is just that, well, there’s more than one story. We have the main character’s story, the story of their life. We have the story of the world our story is set in. We may have the villain’s story, too. And I’m sure their stories are interesting as well (no irony here, they probably are). But they’re not the stories we’re trying to tell. We will tell the plot. Now, plot =!= story, but for our purposes, it is, because that’s what it is: the story we want to tell is the plot of our novel (short fiction is completely different from this – it MUST start precisely when the “action” starts, it has no room for anything else). So what we have to figure out is the point when “character’s backstory” changes into “epic plot about fight of Good vs. Evil with lots of drama in-between”. It’s easiest to do it this way: What was the precise day that changed your MC’s life from “ordinary” to “future hero”? Example: for the heroine in Under the Northern Star, it is the day the mages come to town and discover who she is. For my MC in Renegade, it’s the day she decides to stop a government hit squad and save a “traitor” from execution. Those days and their events changed the course of each character’s life drastically. Before that, they lived ordinary lives; afterwards, they decides to take action and change the course of history. (Sort of. But that’s not the point here.)

Now we have a Day Zero, so to speak. Now, we could decide to start the story in medias res, and if it works, why not? For Renegade, it could work because the story itself has a lot of running, hiding, starting riots and shooting stuff. The cast is one that allows for explanations of a lot of backstory via dialogue and/or action and interaction. It doesn’t need ten pages of Allie doing regular (read: boring) stuff. I could still write it, but it’s not necessary.

Still, some stories require a little build-up. Under the Northern Star is pretty different in that regard. It’s hard to explain, but the MC kind of needs this extra chapter of normal life; it adds something to the story that would be missing if I just started with her running through the woods in fear.

Now, as the author, it’s up to you to decide whether your story is suitable to have an abrupt beginning. If so, be happy, stop reading, and go start writing your story, what the hell are you waiting for, goddammit? If not, feel free to go binge-eat a whole bucket of [insert flavour of choice] ice-cream, it’s okay, I won’t judge. Or you can now take your story (you know, the plot-story) and go on poking and prodding it to find out how many words it will take to tell the reader what you think is necessary before the plot really starts.

I think the main reasons for a “boring” (as in, MC does boring normal stuff instead of shooting fireballs at demons) first chapter are a) backstory and b) atmosphere. Both are valid reasons to let the first chapter or two take place before Day Zero. However, don’t let it be too long before that day, and make sure it’s really necessary to include the information in those passages. Infodumps in first chapters are a common problem and tend to make people put the book down and never pick up again because if the author can’t write a compelling first chapter, why should I think they can write a compelling story? If you have to get this off your chest, do this: include the first chapter as you think it’s necessary. When you are three, four chapters in, go back to that first chapter and read it again; if you find that all the info is in the story anyway, delete it, it’s unnecessary. If you still find bits and pieces your reader needs to know, but don’t fit into the main story, only keep those bits and pieces in and label the whole thing “Prologue”. People don’t expect prologues to be super-thrilling, in fact, readers expect a prologue to be completely different from the rest of the book (“…otherwise it’d be the first chapter, right?”). Even if the prologue is a little boring, chances are they’ll simply skip it and at least give the actual story a try. It’s kind of cheating, but not really; you get to keep the info in the story, but the reader has the option to skip it and read the story without it. Mostly, though, the story doesn’t need it and is fine without the additional, super-important information. Sad fact of life.

Atmosphere is a little different. Let me make this clear, I don’t think a prologue ever sets the atmosphere for the rest of the story. Of the few prologues I wrote, most were sorta-mysterious-but-not-really-because-we-know-the-little-girl-will-eventually-grow-up-to-be-the-MC. Then I went ahead and let the story begin with a bunch of guys getting drunk and singing dirty songs. Atmosphere killed. The first chapter doesn’t do this kind of thing. Since it appears to be part of the plot-story, it needs to feel that way. And the way it feels sets the mood for a good part of what comes next. Again, example time! In Under The Northern Star, the first chapter has Tyra going to work, interact with her stepmother and her best friend, and bang a dude she’s only seeing twice a year. It’s her life, and she likes it, even though she’s wondering what she would do if she could ever leave that damn small town she’s stuck in. It sets a mood that I need to make the following chapter more intense, the chapter that is Day Zero and takes all that away from her. The rest of the book deals with how she tries to regain what she lost, to find something new and finally defend and fight for what she loves. I feel it’s important to show the reader what matters to her so it hurts a lot more when it’s taken away from her. It also gives the second part of the story more impact, when she’s finally built a new life for herself, and again some douche is trying to take it all away. And finally, it highlights the differences in her character before and after; she’s still scared to death by the danger, but instead of running like she did on Day Zero, she takes up arms and fights back. Without that first chapter, a lot of things in that story wouldn’t work the way I want them to.

That’s what you, the author, need to decide: Is there anything important before Day Zero that adds to the story? If so, start there. If not, in medias res might be your best bet. After all, even if you later decide you need a little more info before your MC goes off shooting at aliens, you can still rewrite chapter one and add it. In most such cases, that’s totally enough. Don’t give your readers too much too soon. Let them figure things out by themselves. The story develops as much in your readers’ minds as it does through your words.

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Well. That was lengthy. Still, I felt like it was necessary, after seeing half a dozen “where should my story begin” threads in the past few weeks, and that’s only the NaNo forums. And writing a decent beginning is hard. Anyone who doesn’t have trouble with that, you’re a hero. The rest might find this piece useful. And if all else fails, striptease! (That has a context, I promise!)

Also, on Guild Wars 2 related news (yes, feel free to stop reading now^^), my warrior (you know, this guy) is level 80, finally! Now that I’m not the pathetic person anymore who only has one character on max level and will never have another, I can go about crafting a fun weapon for myself. Which will likely take another year. Sighs. But those legendaries look so cool!

I have weird problems. Good thing my writing ain’t one of ’em for now XD

-Ricarda

€dit: Also, WordPress seems to hate paragraphs these days, it won’t let me create any. Goddammit…

The cinema gives me weird ideas…

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Now I really want this doorbell that isn’t actually a doorbell, but a life-size statue of Batman, that, every time someone rings, goes “I am Batman!” in Christan Bale’s Batman voice and freaks the hell out of the unlucky person at the door^^

 

In other, actually writing-related, news, chapter one of the second draft of Under the Northern Star is finished. Like, really. And I’m so fucking happy.

I hate first chapters. They are easier to write for a first draft, since I don’t have the pressure to get everything right. But all the versions after that are just a major pain in the ass. I know me; when I write a first chapter, it has to be flawless (or as close to that as possible). It’s the basis for the whole fucking rest of the book, and if I don’t get it right, I will fuck something up because I didn’t pay enough attention to the first ten pages. When I have a good first chapter, the rest is a whole lot easier to write, so I try to make it perfect. Of course, being a writer for more than a few days, I know there’s no such thing, but I do my best. Meaning that those eight measly pages (Times New Roman, 12 pt, 1.5 line spacing) took me two weeks to write. Two fucking WEEKS. And there’s not even a whole lot happening, action-wise, nor does it contain some hot, steamy sexytime which I struggle with every time. It’s just the chapter that introduces the main characters, gives some backstory, and defines a few relationships. That’s. It.

*sighs* Can you guess just why I hate first chapters so much?

On the bright side, now that I have the first chapter all wrapped up, I’m free to run along with the rest of the story.

Or recommence the second draft of Renegade. Which means writing yet another first chapter. Whhhyyy?! T_T

 

 

-Ricarda

 

(Also, people still find me after searching for porn. Are my posts really that graphic? oO)