Writing Insights #6: NaNoWriMo

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It’s been a while since I have posted a Writing Insight, but November is the perfect month to dive into a little bit of NaNoWriMo. It’s the third year I am participating and for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s quite the international venture though, with people from all over the world trying to write 50,000 words for the first draft of their novel in 30 days. Of course you can rebel and edit a previous work, choose your own word count or don’t write a comprehensive story at all. The spirit of the event is to write, no matter how you do it!

When I first tried, I “won” immediately, the second time around I honestly didn’t even try as hard (but I am still proud of getting to 25,000 words) and this year? Well, I am semi-nanowrimo-ing. My current WIP is called Arcadia, as I’ve mentioned several times before, and I don’t just want to rush it. However, I do try to write something every day. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read the Prologue + 6 Chapters right here!) So, there’s something that just really makes me want to participate, even when I don’t have the time or brain cells to be full in and here’s why:

  • I know that NaNoWriMo is a pressure of sorts, but it is also a lot of motivation. I am a competitive person, so when I get a task with a specific goal, such as reaching a certain word target each day, I WANT to do it. Also, you can earn badges and I just want to have them aaaaall!
  • If you sign up on the official NaNoWriMo website, you can connect with fellow writers online by adding them as writing buddies (my handle is Kat_Impossible if you want to add me!) BUT you can also come together with people from your region. This isn’t happening everywhere, but many places try to organise kick-off events, write-ins and planning sessions. It’s a fun way to meet new people who have similar interests to you and to find people who will hold you accountable during the month!
  • Whatever you write, know that it is not supposed to be perfect. The whole point of this venture is to get you to creative freedom. Write away, leave all the plotholes in the world in it and at the end of the month, you will have a first rough draft of your story and it’s the most glorious feeling! I am holding back this year, because I am sharing my story as I write it. That’s a scary thing in itself, but I at least try to make sense with it nonetheless. I am not saying that it won’t need a lot of work and time to edit Arcadia in the end, but it might be the tiniest bit easier than it would be if I didn’t care at all.

In the end, there’s no right or wrong way to do NaNoWriMo. I kept this post intentionally short, because I was wondering if you had specific quesitons about that topic? Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Did you like the experience or not? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Writing Insights #5: Lacking Energy

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Writing is great! It’s a way to express yourself, to tell your story. However, that doesn’t always mean we have the time or energy to actually write. What can one do in such a case? This question was asked by Chrissie @Bloggin’ and Writing and it’s such a good topic, so I am going to center this whole post around it. (Which is also a reminder that if you ever have questions or want me to talk about a certain topic, just say so in the comments or shoot me a mail! I am very open to ideas!)

I’d say there are two reasons of why we aren’t writing when we want to. One is that life is simply getting in the way and we actually don’t have one free minute to do what we would like to do. And the second is that there is something blocking our writing chi, and that’s always extremely difficult to pin down, and then we end up in an endless loop in procrastination station. Well, fear not! I have some tips for you (but without guarantee, because all writers are unique unicorns and the same methods don’t work for us all)!

  • If you are just hurrying from one appointment to the other, how about you take a little notebook with you? And I am not talking massive, heavy thing that will just weigh down your purse/backpack/whatever-you-use-to-carry-things. I am talking about something that’s maybe an A6-format notebook with about 30-40 pages. It’s thin and very easy to take with you. I have about a gazillion of them, because they cost approximately 1 Euro each at the art supply store. They are filled in no time, because unlike with super pretty notebooks, I am not afraid to write in them or to mess up and scratch things. Since I suggest you use them on public transport, lunch break or while you are waiting for an appointment, it’s not even meant to be filled with full sentences, but notes that you can get back to later on. As long as you can read the handwriting, you WILL be able to transcribe it later on.
    Side note: they are also super handy for sketches and observations!

So, that advice was obviously for people who don’t have much time, but what if you are like me and YouTube, Tumblr or Pinterest swallows all your free time? Deep down, you know that there’s a story just waiting to be written down, but … cute kittens can be so distracting! Well, here are some ways to channel that procrastination power:

  • YouTube and Spotify can be a hole that’s difficult to get out of. But if you hear a song that really speaks to you, start making a playlist for your story. Maybe one of the songs seems like the perfect theme song for your character or it inspires you to write a certain scene. It may seem unimportant in that moment, but it might just trigger a great writing session later on!
  • Not all of us are artistically inclined people, but some of you out there can draw and paint things that give me serious heart-eye-emoji! So, why not get inspired by your own work? Even if you aren’t a painting wiz or super tech savvy, there are a lot of things you can do. How about a map for your world? I once had a story set in the real world, but I printed out different Google maps images, rearranged them and added in parts with pencil. It was so much fun. Or how about character aesthetics? I just made one for a new character in the story called Findlay. Finding pictures that I thought would be fitting for him took a long time, but it also gave me a clearer picture of who I wanted him to be. Even if I changed my mind afterwards, it was a sort of character study.

findlay3

Obviously nothing t I just said is fool proof! But it is a way to get to know yourself, the story and characters a little better, so that even when you aren’t writing actual chapters, you don’t forget about your WIP altogether. That’s already worth something in my book.

Finally, I have updated Arcadia on wattpad again! You can read the whole story as well as the new chapter here. Since I wasn’t able to post much last week, I might treat you to a second chapter and maybe even Writing Insights post this week!

How do you feel about my advice? Do you have helpful tips to add?

Writing Insights #4: Reading vs. Writing

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Not all readers want to be writers, however, most writers are avid readers. So, how do you combine the two? Let’s talk about that in today’s Writing Insights!

I’ve decided to go with Reading vs. Writing as a topic this week, because it is something I have been struggling with lately. As a book blogger, I don’t just read for fun, but I also feel like it is my duty to read a decent amount of them each month. (Don’t worry, I am not reading just because I have to. I also want to. How couldn’t I!? Reading is the best!) But ever since I started concentrating more and more on my writing again, I found it difficult to combine those two worlds.

The first reason of why it isn’t easy is simply that I love to immerse myself in the world that I am reading about. I bet you like to do the same, but the problem is that as soon as I am all “Uuuuh, I love the villain!” or “Don’t hurt my precious baby!!!”, I don’t waste a single thought on my own characters anymore. Their story just sort of drifts out of my mind and I don’t want that to happen, but apparently I am a very single-minded person and it still does. More often than not it feels impossible to focus on both things and like I have to choose, even when I really don’t want to, because in addition to aforementioned quality, I am also greedy and want all the things at once.

Also, I sometimes feel like I am influenced a lot by what I read, which is a good thing, because it means the writer did their job well. However, I don’t want those influences to immediately show in my writing.

So, what do I do?

  • I always carry a notebook with me just in case, but I’ve dedicated certain days are meant for writing. I won’t even touch a book on those, except if I am in a really, really interesting part or need to finish a chapter for closure-reasons.
  • When I am done with a chapter, I reward myself with some reading time. I don’t even really limit this at all. If I feel like reading an entire book afterwards, that’s what I’ll do. If I just want one chapter then that’s okay too.
  • I am never fighting my mood. Gut feeling is everything and I’ve learned that forcing myself to read OR write never ends well. If all else fails, I’ll just watch a TV show.

How do you balance your reading and your writing? Do you have any tips?

Lastly, I’ve already announced it in my monthly wrap-up, but I’ve uploaded my WIP Arcadia to wattpad. As of right now there is the prologue and two more chapters on there. If you are interested in reading the story, please click here. I would appreciate all and any kind of feedback, emoji response or whatever you can think of! You can always leave a comment, shoot me a mail or send me a DM on Twitter!

 

Writing Insights #3: Rants & Paranoia

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My original plan for Writing Insights was not to start a rant and get paranoid, you really have to believe me when I say that. I wanted to something along the lines of character development, common tropes, writer’s block and editing and I will do that at some point in the series. However, I feel like I have to get this off my chest before being able to move on. I hope this doesn’t get too long!

The internet is a weird place, we all know it. We have never been more connected than right now, but at the same time I feel more removed from some humans than I have before. You can get access to almost anything and the whole thing is so vast, there is no way to really ever see everything that’s on the web (Not that I want to. There is weird and there is batshit crazy and I don’t need the latter). It has happened before that my posts have been copied, and I really mean copied and not reblogged, with only a very hidden hint that I was the creator of said posts. A couple days ago though, I witnessed something even more terrible happening to a fellow blogger.

Many of us know Cait from Paperfury, and if you don’t, you should really change that. She is a force to be reckoned with, super creative and generally someone I would consider a real blogging and writing inspiration. See, there’s nothing wrong with admiring another person and maybe even aspiring to be/write like them (even though I would always encourage you to find your own voice). However, what happened to her is that a random person stole her blog posts and instagram pictures and claimed them to be their own. In some ways I think this is worse than catfishing. They didn’t just pretend to be someone else in terms of looks, they stole her personality, her essence that made her unique. The matter is resolved now, seen as that person has deleted or set all accounts to private. But what concerns me is how easily someone could just do that again. How is there any way to really know if someone is doing something like this, other than finding out by coincidence?

So, it got me thinking. I don’t mind sharing my stories and writing with you. Heck, I even feel like I need to share it most of the time, but now there is also that little voice in my head saying that I should be careful, because I never know who might get silly ideas and take away what I have created. Even big time authors get allegations of having stolen or copied material. It’s difficult to tell where one person’s idea comes from and whether it was created at the same time with someone else or later on. As I said, I often get inspired by other people’s work, but I want the result to be my own and my creation alone. So, right now I am trying to figure out how to share my stories with you in a safer way. Maybe I will upload it to wattpad instead of the blog, where it is so much easier to just copy it. Would you still read it if I just provided a link for that?

Sorry about those ramblings, but it was something I had to get off my chest. It’s weird, because it didn’t even really happen to me, but I still felt like it could and that made me angry and sad. Did something like that ever happen to you? Do you have any ideas of how I could share Kasia and Dyson’s story better?

Writing Insights #2: Routines & Inspiration

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Welcome back to my new feature Writing Insights! In case you missed you missed the first part of this new series chronicling my writing adventures, just click here to check it out. I bet you didn’t think I would be back with this quite so soon, but since I am still not very much in the mood for tags, yet feel very inspired to write, I thought I’d just go with the flow here.

Thanks to your questions from last time, we also have great topics today!

Routines & Inspiration

First question is from Rami @Rami Ungar the writer: “Do you have a particular writing routine?”

Short Answer: No

Long Answer: Kind of.

Just kidding, that wasn’t the whole answer. I don’t have a set time or schedule of when I write. I also don’t really have a particular routine I go through before I feel comfortable to write. There’s no ceremonial tea brewing or pencil sharpening before I can let my thoughts pour out, I mostly just write down everything and anything that comes to mind when inspiration hits.
Generally I don’t like to snack while reading or writing though. And neither drinking very much to be honest. I just find it very inconvenient and am always afraid I am going to spill something or get sticky/greasy fingers. So, that’s sort of a no-go. What I can’t do without is music though. It either has to be something that fits the scene or something that can play in the background without distracting me too much. If I ever do need to concentrate more than usual, I will just turn it down. Complete silence doesn’t work for me personally.
Also, I do prefer writing on my laptop, but I really will take any kind of scrap of paper I can find if necessary. The only thing I insist adamantly upon is the pen I write with. Do you know that weird feeling when a pen just doesn’t sit right in your hand or you see the colour fading? I don’t know why, but that annoys me to no end. So, whenever I don’t type away on my laptop, I need a pen I like … and defining that is something I am not capable of.

Do you have a writing routine? Please don’t hesitate to share!

Second Question is from CW @Read, Think, Ponder: “Where do you draw your inspiration from, particularly the fantasy/magical elements?”

General inspiration can come from any of the following sources:

  • Music
  • Movies/TV shows and the actors/actresses involved
  • Random people on the street/coffee shop/whereever-you-tend-to-see-random-people-being-random
  • A photograph or painting
  • Dreams
  • Conversations you have with your bff/family/colleagues

I know that was super vague, but I believe in all honesty that everything can be an inspiration, which is also why I always have a pen and notebook at hand. I have several filled with random observations during the day or thoughts/dreams I had. However, the question was more specific than that and therefore is also more complicated to answer.

I will admit that I sometimes often struggle with originality. A lot of my ideas come from stories I heard and liked. That can be anything from a current TV show to a century-old myth. But there is something weirdly universal about fairy tales and myth that you can, if not always at least a lot of the time, twist to the needs of your story. Technically there are no bounds when it comes to magical worlds, you can literally make up whatever you like. However, everything in our rational mind demands rules, even magic. Figuring out those rules is one of the hardest jobs ever, because there has to be a consistency in the logic of your magic, even when it defies logic. Am I making sense yet?
I always admire people who can come up with a new concept or at least a fresh spin on a topic, because that really is the tricky part and something I always aspire to do in my own writing. One of my first long stories I’ve ever written was about a group of teens who each had control over one element and I thought I had come up with something great right there. Not even weeks later I discovered The Last Airbender on TV and felt like an utter fraud. Because even though I didn’t draw inspiration from the show at the time, it was all the rage and surely people would think I had “stolen” the idea from them. I didn’t even think about the fact that writers had been using that kind of magic for ages already and that some elements were bound to repeat themselves in stories.

So, what this boils down to is that I sometimes draw from existing stories, but always try to make it my own somehow. And in some rare cases, it creates something new entirely and that is just the best feeling.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

As promised I now have the Prologue for Kasia’s and Dyson’s story for you. The title is coming … soon-ish … I just really haven’t found the right one yet. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I am also very open to topic suggestions, because I would really love for this to continue to be an interactive feature! Sharing my writing is always extremely nerve-racking, so I hope you enjoy!

prologue
Kasia was breathless from hiking up the trail, nervously glancing at her watch every other second. There wasn’t much time left and she knew it. Yet she was also miserably aware that if she went any faster now, she would simply pass out and that would do no one any good. As she got closer to the top, the air felt electrically charged, making her skin tingle – a good indication that she had chosen the right place.
The forest around her was thinning, giving way to a gorgeous mountain view she had absolutely no eye for. The stars above illuminated her path as she concentrated on a blurry spot in the middle of a collection of large rocks. It looked like they were placed in specific positions, a stone circle, which even a layman would catch. With relief she threw off her backpack, freeing herself from the heavy weight that had seemed to drag her down for even longer than the duration of the hike. It took all of her remaining energy, but she started sprinting towards the peculiar place. The closer she got, the more obvious it was that something or someone was manifesting in the stone circle.
A grin spread on her face.
“Dyson!”
“Kasia.” He breathed her name as if it were life itself. There was nothing she wanted to do more than throw herself at him, shower him with kisses and drown him in hugs, but she stopped abruptly before the invisible border of the circle. She knew the rules, he couldn’t get out, just like she couldn’t get in. So instead, Kasia took in everything that had changed about Dyson, everything that had stayed exactly the same. She had always been a tall girl, but he still towered over her, his skin as sun kissed as ever. His hair had turned shaggy, his beard scruffy, but it was so like him to look unruly. She’d have recognised him that way any day. There was only one noticeable difference she couldn’t ignore.
“You’re …”
“Older?” He said with a sad smile.
“Yes … how is that possible?” Dyson was only two days older than her, but now it could have just as easily been 10 years.
“Time moves differently where I am.”
Kasia nodded as if she knew exactly what that meant. She didn’t want to lead on that everything was growing way over her head already.
“Where exactly are you?” But there was only silence in response. “Dyson? I need to know.”
“No.”
“What do you mean? ‘No’?”
“You have to stop this impossible search. You have to let go.” He extended a hand as if to comfort her, forgetting all about his invisible restraints. The moment his hand left the circle, he began to fray at the edges. Kasia tried to get a hold of him for just a second, but all she grabbed was thin air.
Defeated, she sank to the floor. “But what if I can’t?” She whispered to the sky as the first light of dawn slowly reached the mountains. Time was up. Her vision changed, her bones began to creak, her whole body fighting against too many sensations at once – the transformation had begun.

Writing Insights #1: Where Do I Even Start?

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Hello there lovelies! I suppose it is time for a new feature here on Life and Other Disaster and it’s one about writing, my WIP and all the struggles that come with it. A dear friend of mine said she’d be interested in something like this (I love you Marie, you are the best! Thank you for all the support!) and just to confirm you would be on board with this, I also did a Twitter poll and your responses were the best and most welcoming! This is still a topic that makes my heart race and my stomach tie up, simply because I am always nervous to share my stories. However, I am totally getting ahead of myself. This will be a feature in several parts and today is all about:

Where Do I Even Start?

First off, I am Jon-Snowing this thing. I am in no way an authority on writing and there are people out there who are way more organised than me. Truth is, I am a messy writer. I have barely to no plan at all, I just dive into it straight ahead and here are some reasons why that can be an issue:

  • If you don’t outline your story, you will eventually get stuck in the middle of story-nowhere with no idea of how to go on. You don’t have to know all the details of the journey before starting, but you should at least know where you want to end up. I found that out the hard way.
  • Research is NOT one of my favourite past times, but it is very often necessary. If you don’t do that beforehand, you might have to stop right in the middle of a writing spree, simply because you have no idea how many years it takes to get a doctorate in archaeology or something like that. Wouldn’t that be a shame?
  • When you write without a plan, you just go with the flow. There is really no limit as to how rough a rough draft can be, but editing is hard and just floating from scene to scene won’t make it easier in the aftermath. (Also learnt this from experience …)

So, I want to do this right. I still need to do my research, although I doubt that I will do it all before I get into the writing process. However, I do want to outline a timeline, just to make my life a little easier. That won’t stop me from writing random scenes that I’ll add in later anyway. Something I always do though, and it’s something that I simply cannot live without, is figuring out my main characters. They need name, age, quirks, likes and dislikes, because otherwise it doesn’t feel real to me and it probably won’t feel real to you, the readers, either. What I really enjoy doing is casting them, but I haven’t really done so this time around, instead I made character aesthetics. I never thought it would be this difficult to find the right pictures, but at the same time it showed me that I had very specific ideas about who these people were supposed to be and what would properly represent them. To leave everything up for interpretation, I am just going to post them here without further explanation.

Kasia

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Dyson

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So, what do you think about them? Do you want to give any guesses as to what their personality could be like? There’s definitely some magic in this story, but more about that later. I have no idea how often I will post Writing Insights, but next time will include the Prologue of Kasia and Dyson’s story … which still doesn’t have a title. Is there something in particular you would like to know about my writing process? Any and all questions are very welcome!