Saturday, 30 July 2016

On Writing Perfect First Drafts

     As I draw near the end of first drafting my WIP, Golden Revenge, I've had a lot of time to realize how much the story has developed from the first page. I've discovered who my characters truly are, revealed the villain's motives, and dug deeper into the plot.

     But it's far from perfect. 


     There are characters who I ditched after eight chapters, and point-of-views that jumped into the book halfway through. There are major plot twists I need to go back and foreshadow.

     Let's not even discuss how the beginning doesn't fit the current story anymore.

     When I was at the beginning of my writing journey, I thought all you had to do was write a first draft, fix the typos, and then bam you'll get published. I didn't even realize there could be second or third or even eleventh drafts. I thought the first time I wrote the story it would be perfect.

    Hahaha.

    No.

    As Shannon Hale says: 


    Now I don't go into my first drafts thinking or even trying for them to be perfect. First drafts aren't meant to be perfect.

   So don't expect them to be.

   Laugh at how your characters changed hair colour halfway through; sigh at the people who end up on the wrong continent to fight a different villain. Muddle through the middle as you try and connect the dots.

   Don't be discouraged if there are plot holes the size of the Mariana Trench. Don't toss away words because they're not perfect.

   First drafts should be you trying to discover the story buried beneath a collection of plot bunnies. Find its true heart. Let your first draft be imperfect, because if it is, not only will you have an excuse to stay with your characters longer, but you'll grow as a writer.

What draft of your WIP are you on right now? (If you can even count how many) How would you describe your first drafting process? What's your favourite writing quote?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Lessons Learned from 'Rebel of the Sands'

    After many of you mentioned how you'd loved Rebel of the Sands or heard great things about the book when I shared my current TBR, I decided to dive into it. I considered giving it a book review, but honestly, everything would have come out like: I LOVE THIS BOOK. SO. DARN. MUCH.

   So here are a couple writing and general life lessons I picked up from reading this super amazing novel.


1) Setting has a major impact on plot

     I knew this beforehand, but I'd never noted the setting in a book play such a huge part in pushing forward the plot, along with the world-building. Rebel of the Sands is a mostly desert world with Middle Eastern touches and guns. A lot of guns. All the aspects of the desert (without giving any spoilers) made certain elements of the plot happen, or revealed truths about characters. 


2) Sass is always the appropriate response

     Amani (main character) is so sassy, along with pretty much everyone else, that I found myself smiling throughout all the dialogue. I can be quite sassy when I want to, so it was nice to have a heroine with my sense of humour. This book also gave me a lot of new sassy punchlines to use. 

3) Foreshadowing can be in EVERYTHING

     What I thought was just some thrown in folklore to add to the already incredible world-building gradually layered with bits and pieces of dialogue. The foreshadowing was subtle and slipped into everything, so when the plot twist was dropped, I had an "OH" moment where it all clicked together. 


4) YA doesn't have to be 500 pages long

     I feel like 90% of fantasy YA novels I read now are so thick they barely fit into my handbag (I am guilty of writing long novels too). Rebel of the Sands is thin in comparison, but it packed a solid punch to the feels, and managed to add just enough at the end to hook me for the next book.


    Have you read Rebel of the Sands? Are you sassy person, sarcastic, or both? Also, feel free to drop book recommendations below! I love hearing about more awesome books! 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Creating Fictional Celebrations

     Everyone looks forward to holiday celebrations. Holidays such as Christmas, New Years Eve (and Thanksgiving if you're from America) mean spending time with family, relaxation, and fun activities. In books I love it when characters take part in celebrations true to their world. It really captures me in the story, until I am dancing alongside them and tasting their rich food.

     If you're writing a fictional celebration, or in the process of creating one, here are some elements that can really bring it to life.



1) Reason for the celebration

     Many countries on Earth have celebrations that stem from religious events, or past days where something was achieved (like an Independence Day). Celebrations are often created to remember this day or event. I'll use a celebration from Thailand as my example, since I've experienced it multiple times. 

     Loy Krathong takes place on the full moon night of the twelth lunar month. The ritual of floating krathongs (see picture below) down the river is the core of the celebration, and is often done to pay respects to the Goddess of Water and apologize for river pollution. Seeing the krathongs float away also represents washing away past sins and misfortunes.




2) Activities 

     At Christmas people give presents, spend time with family, and if you're Christian probably go to a church service. Similarly, on Thanksgiving I've heard from American friends that they eat a lot of food. So when creating a fictional celebration think about what your characters will be doing. Will they be dancing? Praying? Giving gifts, eating, hanging with family? Attending public places for festivities?

     Going back to Loy Krathong, apart from sailing krathongs, people let off floating lanterns (Thais did it before Tangled, I promise), go to float parades, compete in beauty contests, visit temples, and set off fireworks.



3) Food 

     Holidays are often associated with certain foods, but is also depends on which culture you are in. In Australia at Christmas lamb with mint sauce or some kind of ham is likely served, while in America the stereotypical type of meat is turkey. 

     I, for one, love to read about food in fictional worlds. So what foods are associated with and have to be eaten in the celebration? Are there any special drinks or candy?


I love eating lamb
4) Clothes 

     Sometimes certain clothing is demanded to be worn during certain celebrations. In Thailand during Loy Krathong you might see people wearing traditional clothing on floats or milling around. In your fictional world, does everyone need to wear a certain colour? Do people dress up to go out? Do they tattoo their skin or put on henna?



     Play around with all four elements, and you can come up with something that is true to your world-building and unique!


What's your favourite holiday/celebration in your country? Do you enjoy creating fictional cultures and world-building? (I do!)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Bad Choices Make Good Stories

     A couple days ago when I was out and about, I saw a shirt that said: bad choices make good stories. At its heart this is completely true for books. Conflict drives plots along and forces characters to make choices, often bad choices that leave them scrambling to pick up the pieces. 

    Think about a book you picked up lately. Did the characters go ahead with a plan that ended up with them in captivity, or leave someone behind who wound up being killed? Did they give into curiosity and find themselves in a bubbling pot of trouble? 



    Sure, these decisions might not have appeared bad at first, but their consequences were.

    Bad choices are horrible in real life, but one gave me an entertaining, if painful, story. So for proof of the truth of the statement, here it is:

    While at school during a P.E. class, my grade was playing dodgeball on the outside covered basketball court. Ancients trees perched on either side of the court, and grew heavy, round brown fruits from their leafy limbs. I got hit after dodging several balls, and jogged to the other team's jail. The jails were behind the court lines at either end. Here a couple tree branches snuck underneath the metal roof.

     I chatted with a few people while we waited for our team-mates to free us. Then I walked a few feet to talk to someone else about strategy (because that's the kind of person I am: talking about how to win while in jail. Dodgeball is a serious kind of game). 

     Over us branches spread green fingers.



     Something struck me on the head. 

     My first thought was that it was a dodgeball, until the blinding pain made the world blur. Clutching my head, I looked around to see what in the world could have hit me that hard.

     A round brown fruit lay on the ground.

     I almost lost consciousness because of a fruit. A fruit. It weighed at least five kilos, no joking. It certainly wasn't funny at the time, but it is now. If I hadn't had an urge to talk strategy, I wouldn't have to put ice on my head for the rest of P.E. class. (And be in extreme pain) But hey, I've got a good story, right?


Ice cubes, my friend after fruit attacks
     Back to the point.

     Characters making bad choices is what gives us conflict. Conflict = stories. It's only natural that people will make bad choices and end up in sticky situations they'll have to fight out of (or go get an ice pack). But what about good choices?

     I want characters to choose sacrifice over selfishness at the end of the book. I want them to choose who to love wisely. There should be a balance of both kinds of choices, so characters can learn and grow.

     Bad choices make good stories, but with good choices they make great ones.


Do you think stories should be a balance of both choices, or just one? Ever been hit in the head by a really heavy fruit? (I hope not. It was traumatic) Let me know in the comments, and remember you are all amazing! <3
    

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Am Currently...


     Welcome to the first Am Currently!


     My Am Currently posts will be where I share all my current life happenings, TBRs, new favourite songs, and writing updates. It's a bit like a monthly update, but not as precise on schedule as they could pop up whenever there's new, well, updates.

     Let's get into it, shall we?


     Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard. I'm three quarters through--381 pages to be exact--and though I'm not as big a fan of it as the first book, I've high hopes for the next one. (Oh, and I really ship Cal and Mare)


     I accidentally colour coordinated my book haul this month at the library. This TBR and its gold/blue tones pleased the aesthetic side of me immensely. I've heard great things about all of these books, so I can't wait to dive in!



     The first draft of Golden Revenge is at 78,825 words for the first draft, and it will probably be pushing 100,000 (which is my average book length). I'm completely pantsing this thing apart from a few scenes at the end, so while my characters are making all these complicated plots to get what they want, I'm left in the background like: "Wait, what are you doing? Do you want to explain this to me?"

     Apart from that, I've been tossing around a few new ideas and letting them simmer in my mind and develop. One involves dragons that breathe smoke that make people hallucinate, and the other consists of sassy criminals and a whole lot of murder and mystery.


     My lovely sister introduced me to the Broods, and ever since I've been listening to their music non-stop. My fave songs from their latest album include "Conscious", "Couldn't Believe," and "Heartlines." On top of that Shawn Mendes' "Treat You Better" has me dancing in my seat.


     Tired. As soon as I wrote that I yawned, so yeah. I'm loving my summer break and all the writing time it gives me, but at the same time I've been feeling a little stressed about how I'm going to pull off the end of Golden Revenge. It's a stand alone novel unlike a lot of of my other works and that puts on more pressure to wrap everything up.

How is your writing going? Read any fabulous books lately? (I love getting recommendations!) I hope you're feeling great because all of you are amazing. <3

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Beautiful People: July Edition

     My WIP Golden Revenge took a really unexpected turn in yesterday's writing session. What happened to my characters made me a little sad, but hopefully this Beautiful People post should bring me up a bit. 

     Beautiful People is an awesome link-up hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In to help you get to know your characters better. This will be my third time doing it (I loved it the first two times!), so today I'll be interviewing both and Taylan and Mida. 

     It might be a tad long, so buckle up!


     Super quick, here's a little bit about Golden Revenge:

Taylan is a refugee from a vicious civil war, bent on getting revenge. Mida is a princess cursed with the touch of gold. Poverty traps Taylan from returning to his home, while Mida delves into the illegal magic market to find a cure. When rebels escape their war-torn country to recruit refugees and raise funds, the answers to all their problems might lie in the two teenagers.
But in this game of war, there are no winners.


1) Do they want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?

Taylan - Definitely, especially a marriage to a certain lady called Feriha, even though he always gets a little nervous around kids, fearing he'll accidentally hurt them. (This is because of a bad experience with his dad in the past) But he only wants to start his own family once he's gotten revenge.

Mida - She doesn't want a husband or kids, because of her gold touch. The curse makes her isolate herself from people; she views herself as a monster.

2) What is their weapon of choice? (It doesn't necessarily have to be a physical weapon)

Taylan - He favours knives because of their light weight. I'm not sure if running counts, but he's very fast, and so also uses that to his advantage.

Mida - Words. Oh, she can cut you to the core of your existence with a well placed sentence.

He uses knifes like this, but with leather hilts
3) What's the nicest thing they've ever done for someone else, and why did they do it?

Taylan - He took a job he hated to his bones because he knew that the refugees back at the camp needed the money. He spent almost all of his salary on medicine, food, and other necessary items they were desperate for. The thought was if he could ease their suffering for a few moments, it would be worth it.

Mida - This is more a continuous thing than a one off: her brother Anton changed completely when he lost his wife and child. Sometimes he would just be silent and lost, and other times cry non-stop or smash things in his room. Mida would spend days with him at a time, just being there with him and trying to ease some of the grief.

4) Have they ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it?

Taylan - Many times. When he's reminded of his home country, Paralin, often flashbacks hit him hard and make him aggressive with everyone.

Mida -  It takes a lot to make Mida use her fists instead of her words, but if someone in her family is wronged, she might give a good kick to the gut. Or a window.



5) Are they a rule follower or rebel?

Both of them are rebellious. Mida is more of a rule-bender who can twist any law her way; Taylan just straight out smashes rules and kicks aside the debris with no regrets. For a good cause, of course.

6) Are they organized or messy?

Taylan - Organized. Everything has its place.

Mida- Messy. Who needs a clean room? It's organized chaos, after all. 

7) What makes them feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way?

Taylan - When someone shows interest in his sketches, he feels like they care, even if they're not an arty person. Feriha showed interest in his sketches... ;)

Mida - When someone spends time with her. They don't have to be doing anything interesting, but just them being there by her side is enough. Her brothers sometimes invade her study or room to annoy her  keep her company.


8) What do they eat for breakfast?

Taylan - Anything around. If it's edible, it's still food, right?

Mida - Sass. 

9) Have they ever lost someone close to them? What happened?

Taylan - I hate recounting this because it's super depressing, but basically he lost his mother and sister when Paralinese royal soldiers attacked and burned their village in one night. I won't describe how they died because it's pretty graphic. 

Mida - Her sister-in-law and niece (Anton's wife and child). The believed cause of their deaths is a storm wrecked their ship.


10) What's their treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else do they reward themselves?)

Taylan - Moussaka. Always moussaka.

Mida - She loves these refreshing sweets which are like little frozen ice cubes, but instead of water it's frozen lemonade with little flower petals in the middle. Yum. 


Have your characters ever lost someone? Does Golden Revenge interest you? Also, if you've done Beautiful People link down below; I'd love to check them out!

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Blood Stained Search Bar Tag

     I'm sure I'm not the only writer who is afraid that someone will dig through my search history and give me a very questioning look. I swear I'm not plotting murder; it's writing research. A lot of people die in fiction.

     My searches can end in a lot of characters in pain. So on a whim I've decided to start my own tag! The Blood Stained Search Bar Tag (quite a mouthful, I know) is designed to help you share what you're currently researching, and to have fun!


Here's a few quick rules:

1) Dig deep into your computer history and list five of your most recent and interesting searches for writing research; how to murder someone, is the sky blue, anything! And if you please, share a little about what you learned from these searches.

2) Thank and link to whoever tagged you. Also if I didn't tag you, if you could link to the creator (me), that would be awesome. 

3) Tag at least three other bloggers!

4) Have fun ;)

     These are five of my recent searches:

Physical damage from flogging - I'm not the kind of person to cuddle my characters. Apparently the damage is determined by the kind of whip. If the person whipping knows what they are doing, sometimes the whip won't break the skin. But if they're mean...ouch.

Ancient military punishments - This search brought up some gory stuff. The Romans had this punishment where every tenth soldier was beaten to death to by the other nine soldiers that weren't chosen. (Don't worry, I decided not to use this in my writing. I'm not that cruel)

Basil Oh gosh. This was such a random search, because I have a character called Basil, and I wanted to know how well basil grows in summer. *shrugs* This is my writing research for you: basil and blood.


Dragon legends - Basically, Eastern dragons were treated with respect, and Western dragons were slaughtered. I may or may not be planning a book where mythical creatures like dragons, mermaids, sphinxes, leprechauns, etc. live in an alternate world without humans...

Turkish dating customs - In traditional Turkish culture, the father of an eligible girl would place an empty milk bottle on the roof. Whoever knocked the milk bottle down had the right to date his daughter. I didn't end up using this idea because it didn't work with my world-building, but it's an interesting concept. 

     Now for the tagging (be sure to check out all their amazing blogs)!



And of course...YOU! You can take part in this tag too. In fact, I'd love it!

What is your research history like? Do you torture your characters or cuddle them? Have you ever started your own tag? (Which I'm sure is awesome)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Writer's Brain vs Normal Brain

     The writer's brain is an beast that can't be tamed. It prods us with ideas when we're about to fall asleep, owns a very lethal plot bunny spawner, and directs our thoughts in the direction of what some people would call, well, a little crazy. 

     I recently observed that my brain, being a writer, functions differently from a "normal brain." Not that I have the stereotypical brain, but I have my sources. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have it any other way; I love my brain (weird as that sounds).

     So here are a couple everyday situations and the different ways they react!



Someone asks: "How's your book going?"

Normal reply: "Pretty good; I've read a hundred pages so far, and can't wait to see what the author has in store for me next!"

Writer's reply: PANIC PANIC PANIC. How do they know I'm writing a book??? Have they been spying on me? How do I summarize it in a few sentences? It's still a messy first draft. PANIC STATIONS "Um...ok?"


Seeing a pretty red dress in a store

Normal: Hmm, I should buy that. Do they have it in my size?

Writer: Is that blood red? Or the red of the bottom of a wine glass? Would my character wear that? They probably would; it would hide blood stains.



Browsing through Pinterest

Normal: Ooh, a nice shirt! Think I'll pin this.

Writer: Ohmygoodness, that person looks like my protagonist. Who is that model??? I must find them and stalk all their photos and pin pin pin. Wait. What if they're actually my protagonist but like, a real-life contemporary version? Mind=blown.

Hearing a noise in the night

Normal: It's probably the wind.

Writer: Burglars! Quick, what can I use as a weapon? I know, the toothbrush. I'll gouge their eyes out with it. 
*nothing happens* 
It must have been aliens. No, dragons that have teleported from a different dimension and now want to take me back with them. I'll ride on their backs and save the world! Yep, gotta be dragons.


You never know, it could happen

Surfing the web

Normal Search: Why is the sky blue?

Writer Search: 100 ways to kill a person


In a stationery shop

Normal: Let's get what we need and get out.

Writer: I just need a new pencil, but look at this notebook! And this one! Oooh and these gel pens are on special, as are these stickers, and wow are those carrot-shaped pencil sharpeners half-price???



Reading the news

Normal: All of this is horrible. Our world is a sad place right now.

Writer: This is bad...another war? Have I done a war story yet? Yeah, three dozen, but look at the fresh perspective this offers. *plot bunnies sprout from everywhere*


Writing a shopping list

Normal: Let's see, I need milk, potatoes, apples, and saffron.

Writer: Let's see, I need chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, a little more chocolate, and...what was it again? Right, sanity. 


Do you connect with any of these writer's brain responses? (Or I am a lone bunny in all of these??) How do you resist the urge to buy every single notebook in the stationery store? 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Writing From a Villain's Perspective

     If you're anything like me, you probably spend more time creating your villain than your actually protagonist. The villain has a tragic backstory, maybe people they care for or love, motives, and beyond. I tend to get very attached to my villains, both repulsed and intrigued by them at the same time.

     Recently I started writing from my WIP Golden Revenge's villain's perspective: Queen Ela. It wasn't until I was several scenes in, completely wrapped up in her narrative style, that I realized how little I knew about her.

     As they say, you don't understand someone until you walk in their shoes write in their perspective.



     Why do I love writing in villains' perspectives, you ask? Well, here's why:

1) Villain is Treated as the Protagonist

     I am a strong believer that every character considers themselves the hero of their own story, which is why I love writing and reading books with multiple POVs. When I'm writing in Queen Ela's POV, she has her own challenges and story arc. She has her own thoughts and life goals apart from crushing whoever threatens her rule. 

     Villains and antagonists should not be paper cut-outs plugged into a story just to cause conflict or make your protagonists heroines and heroesVillains are often messed up, yes, but they are people too.



2) Not Seen Through Tainted Lenses

     To explain this one, I'll draw from Queen Ela. To the other characters in my WIP, she is wicked, magically obsessed, and power hungry. But Queen Ela doesn't see herself as any of those things; she hurts others because she believes it will protect her family. And magic is her passion and her gift, so of course she thinks she has the right to use it.

     When in her POV, readers can understand how she sees herself and justifies her actions.



3) Experience the Villain's Softer Side

     Through the POV of the protagonist, often the only time the villain comes out and shows their face is when they want to maim or murder the protagonist. Every character should have several sides to them, and this would only being showing a single face of the villain's.

     In Queen Ela's POV, I was able to explore the relationships she had with her loving husband, and two children. She would do anything for them. No character is completely evil (I hope), and showing their soft side makes them realistic.


I'd love to know, have you ever written from a villain's perspective? What do you like/not like about it? Are there any books with a villain's POV that you adored?