#NaNoPrep: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome + Giveaway!!

Hi everyone! Today I have a very special post as part of the Writers Persevere event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward.

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To help them celebrate this release, many of us are posting stories about some of the obstacles we’ve overcome as writers. (I also posted about this on Sunday… if you haven’t had a chance to read about overcoming fears, you can do so here.) As we all know, this isn’t an easy path. Writing is hard and as writers we tend to struggle with doubt. Sometimes too, we don’t always get the support we need to follow our passion, or we have added challenges that make writing more difficult. Because people are sharing their stories this week about how they worked through these challenges to keep writing, I wanted to post about it too.

When it comes to a character’s past (which The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is all about), there is a common problem: the character can’t seem to move past it and change. Ironically, we as writers are prone to the same problem. We feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, and that we’ll never move past the difficult stage we’re in right now. In other words, we feel like impostors. We are constantly presenting our identities as writers to the world for it to see, but when it comes down to it, do we really know what we’re doing?

I realized something yesterday (and I’ve realized it before, but yesterday it really hit me hard). In the three years or so that I’ve been seriously pursuing writing, I have grown. A lot. I laugh every time I remember writing the beginnings of my first novel. I barely knew how to structure a plot, much less map out a character’s growth. I remember getting frustrated because my characters weren’t complex enough to make that neat little chart that shows the steps of a character arc. That feeling lasted for a long time, too. I felt like I couldn’t move past it. 

And now? Character development is my favorite! For my WIP, my main character’s journey was practically the thing that made me want to write the story in the first place.

I also remember my first time trying to edit a draft of a novel as a whole, rather than fixing specific things as I spotted them here and there. I got so bogged down. And now? Now I’m nearly finished with the official second draft of Twelve, and it will be complete by Christmas break. At least, that’s my plan. My deadlines tend to get pushed back.

I have found that the cure for Impostor Syndrome is to just keep writing. You will improve, trust me. But you won’t be able to see any improvement unless you compare where you are now to where you were sometime in the past. So don’t get hung up on what you don’t know now. Instead, look at the things you didn’t know a year ago. And keep writing.

I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Angela and Becca, because I have been following their blog and reading their books for three years now, and they have taught me so much about writing. Like I said a minute ago, you have to keep writing in order to improve your craft. That’s not the only thing you can do, however. You can also learn from professionals – people who have been where you are now, and know exactly what you need to learn.

I highly recommend all of their thesauruses (thesauri?), but The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is by far my favorite. And that is saying a lot. It has taught me much of what I know about character development. You can use it throughout all stages of the writing process, too. If you’re just starting to plan out a character’s journey, it has tons of tips and ideas to get you started. And if you already know everything about your character’s journey, this book will help you go deeper still.

As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about the release of this book, so please join me in celebrating! Do you have a story to share, or some advice for others? You can join Becca and Angela at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell them about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, write a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere. Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us.

Giveaway Alert!!

There’s a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost at Writers Helping Writers.

I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!

The giveaway is only from October 25-27th, so enter asap. And don’t forget to share this using the #writerspersevere hashtag so more prizes will be awarded!

Do you have a story to share, or advice for others?

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#NaNoPrep: The Do’s and Don’ts of NaNoWriMo

I hate lists of do’s and don’t’s. In fact, I hate writing rules in general. So it seemed logical for me to type up a list of rules about what to do and what not to do during NaNoWriMo.

Actually, I had a lot of fun writing this. Every item on this list is something I’ve learned from personal experience. If you’re considering participating in NaNoWriMo this year (especially if it’s your first time), it might be just what you need.

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

DO look at your schedule sometime before the first of November, and make sure you have enough time to get writing done. Note any holidays, etc., when you won’t have as much time on your hands. Be sure to be practical when making time to write… if your brain doesn’t begin functioning until lunchtime (like mine, ahem), then getting up early to give yourself time to write is NOT a good idea.

DON’T try to do it on your own. In other words, don’t just assign 50,000 words to yourself as a personal, private challenge. Last year I considered doing this because I was afraid to officially commit to it. Luckily, one of my friends encouraged me otherwise. Make yourself an account on the official NaNoWriMo website. It is much more motivating. Even if you don’t win, you’ll get some pretty awesome prizes.

DO spend time with your family. It’s important. And when you do, try to talk about something other than the novel you’re working on.

DON’T stay up late to write on a school night. (I have to put this here to encourage responsible behavior. Whether or not you actually take my advice is up to you.)

DO make time to spend with God. This should be #1 on the list. It should be your first priority, the most important thing on your schedule (even during the other eleven months of the year). He is your sovereign Creator, and he deserves your worship. Consider asking Him how to let whatever you’re writing glorify Him. After all, whatever you do should be done for His glory.

DON’T obsess over word-count goals. If you’re constantly checking your word count while you write, you won’t be as productive. Did you know that Microsoft Word has a feature that enables you to turn off your word count?

DO make sure you know what you’re writing before November hits (that’s why October is NaNo Prep Month – unless you’re a die-hard pantser), but:

DON’T wait for inspiration to strike every day. It won’t. Sometimes (okay, probably twenty-eight out of the thirty days), you’ll just have to sit down and make yourself start writing. It’s painful sometimes, because even as you’re writing them, the words sound like squeaky chalk on a chalkboard. Write them anyway. You’ll fix them later.

DO pick up a copy of No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. He walks you through NaNoWriMo, week-by-week, and has a lot of great tips to offer. I checked it out from the library last year and had it for the entire month of November. This year I’m considering buying my own copy.

DON’T forget practical things like eating, sleeping, and exercising. Eating and sleeping are no-brainers, but exercise is just as important. Sitting in front of a computer makes muscles stiff and eyes sore (not to mention wrists and fingers from all that typing).

DO make sure you have your own computer (or notebook, or typewriter, or Morse code machine, or whatever you prefer to write books with). This one seems obvious. But I didn’t have my own laptop until after NaNoWriMo last year, and certain anonymous members of my family got annoyed and thought I was hogging the computer. Which, of course, is impossible to do if you’re writing 50,000 words in a month.

DON’T give your family hourly updates on your word count. Trust me on this one.

DO make sure you have enough chocolate to last you through the month. Chocolate is good for pretty much any circumstance you could possibly run across during NaNoWriMo… it’s there to comfort you when the words won’t come, it’s there to celebrate with you when you win, it’s there to melt in your mouth when you cry for your characters and the hardships you’re putting them through.

That’s all the tips I have today, but since NaNoWriMo is fast approaching, I will probably be doing a series of posts similar to this one.

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

Do you have any advice to add to the list?

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The Difference between Salvation and Redemption

I’ve been doing a lot of character development lately. It’s my new favorite aspect of writing. I’ve been reading a lot about the different Myers-Briggs types (and yes, each of my twelve main characters is a different type), delving into backstories, and figuring out their inner motivations.

My latest endeavor is to answer this question: What is it that drives them? What are they seeking, and hoping to find? These questions are closely connected to their inner motivations. Of course, all of them are driven by something different. No one is quite desiring the exact same thing, although they share the same external goal for the story. They all have different histories, and different character arcs. Every single one of them has a unique internal longing.

That being said, of course some of them will be similar. For example, and this is the main point of this post, two of my characters are seeking almost the same thing. I’ll call them Character A and Character B, for the sake of character-author confidentiality. For some odd reason, most of my characters have a habit of having intricate, secretive backgrounds which somehow always end up playing vital roles in future stories that haven’t been written yet. So, for the sake of a spoiler-free post, I will tell you their stories but not who they are. Get to the point, you say. What do these two characters want?

One of them is seeking salvation, while the other is seeking redemption. I had to stop and think about this after I wrote it. Don’t the two words mean the same thing? More often than not, they are used synonymously, especially when referring to the Christian faith. But no… they are not really synonyms. The root of the word “salvation” is “save,” and the root of “redemption” is “redeem.” Redeeming someone is very different from saving someone. Saving someone implies protecting them. From danger, perhaps. From death, even. Saving implies rescuing. But nothing more.

Redeeming someone, on the other hand, is more than just rescuing someone. Redemption involves a price. If you redeem something, you are buying it back. If you redeem something, it is yours. But it always comes at a price.

It’s easy to see why the two words are used synonymously when referring to Christ. Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, gave us both salvation and redemption. He saved us from death – by taking sin upon himself – and serving the punishment for that sin: death. And because he paid that price for us, he redeemed us from sin. He bought us back to be his own. And now, if we believe in him, we not only are saved from death, but we belong to him. We are his children.

In the cases of Character A and Character B, one of them is seeking redemption, but the other is seeking salvation. This too is easy to see. Character A grew up in a dysfunctional family. As a child and teen he was abused – both physically and emotionally – by his parents. He was bullied by other children. He was wronged in a lot of ways, and this traumatic past has shaped the rest of his life. He doesn’t trust anyone but himself, not even God. In fact, he wonders if God exists at all. He wants salvation.

Character B, on the other hand, is haunted by a past she no longer wants any part of. She’s made mistakes; she’s been lured in by sin’s enticing temptations. Her sin hurt the people in the world she loved most, not to mention herself. She’s mad at God and feels she doesn’t belong anywhere, not even in the shelter of God’s love. She wants redemption.

So there you have the difference between redemption and salvation. Salvation is a rescue; redemption is a purchase. Character development is definitely one of the harder things about writing, but it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding aspects too.

My favorite resources for developing a character’s backstory or motivations are the Emotional Wound Thesaurus and the Character Motivation Thesaurus (both are from Writers Helping Writers. I’m very excited because The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is going to be released sometime this October!!) Even if you don’t need them as writing resources, check them out anyway. They’re awesome.

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Plot happens when many characters’ journeys cross paths.

A character’s journey, for me, quickly becoming more important than the plot of the story. It makes sense… the characters are the ones interacting with the plot. A lot of the time, the characters are the ones creating the plot in the first place. What would Pride and Prejudice be if Darcy wasn’t so proud in the beginning and therefore had no character arc? Or think about how the numerous plots of Downton Abbey would be different if none of the characters had distinct backgrounds, motivations, and personalities. No story would be the same without these elements. Characters are one of the primary driving sources behind any story.

I’m curious to know… have you done any interesting character development? And do you have any favorite books with well-developed characters?

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