Pages of Awesome

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Endurance and Victory! - Part Two

I have been so busy as of late that it seems I've begun neglecting my blog. As most of you can probably understand I've had Christmas family stuff to deal with, a short family crisis, as well as simple time to write and be with the family. Here is the promised Endurance and Victory Post (though not the one I expected) and coming soon might be a third part as well as the series on types of characters.

I talk to many aspiring writers, quite a few of which are my friends in real life. They stick with writing for months, sometimes even a full year, and then just quit. They grow tired, or loose interest. This is my greatest fear--that I may by some means loose interest in my current project or in writing in general.

I've gone through many obsessions in life. Being a kid, I often have "phases" of one thing or another. While I was REALLY small I was in love with Batman. All I ever wanted to do and to be was Batman. I never took off the costume, refused to answer to "Nathan" (only to "Batman"), and I even recall praying that I would miraculously be transformed into Batman. But what came with this obsession was the nagging fear that I would someday lose this feeling and become interested in something else.

More recently (as in a few years ago) my obsession was Star Wars. This went on from the time I was seven years old until two years ago. I really liked it. I bought all the toys, had all the video games, and had mastered the ways of the light-saber. I practiced dueling all day everyday until I could out fight kids nearly ten years my elder. I named myself Nathan Light-walker and, once again, refused to answer to anything save "Master Light-walker". I wrote a 100 page novel, at the age of 10, about Light-walker and how he and his jedi buddies saved Yoda from the clutches of the Dark Side. I fell in love with the Lego version of my favorite characters, and then the Lego Star Wars Video Game. And I remember clear as day thinking "I hope this love never dies out."

And then came my obsession with writing.

In all of my obsessions I've feared losing the obsession. These times came when I found a lack of productivity in them, or a lack of their use.

As of late, I've found myself very busy and very unable to write. This inactive state is adding to my fear that I may loose interest in writing. The funny thing is, I am writing WAYYY more than I used to and yet I still feel like I'm not doing enough. Why?

Because I'm only writing in short spurts.

Every other day or so I sit down with the plan to write for one, maybe two, hour(s). And recently I've only been able to keep at it for one hour and then knocking out half as many words as usual. On a normal day I can write 1,500-2,000 words an hour, but the trend for the past couple months has been only about 300-400 words. And its bothering me like crazy.

Have you ever felt like this? Gotten discouraged because you are not doing as well as you previously have done? It's not fun.

So I try to re-encourage myself (yes I made up that word) in any number of ways: I'll chat with other writers, take a break and read for a while, do push-ups, shut off the computer, or anything else that might help infuse me with energetic creativity.

Some would call this Writer's Block. I don't. To me, it's just that I can't seem to find the story-world. I don't write in a way that Writer's Block implies to me. It seems that the term "Writer's Block" would mean that a writer is trying to create such and such and simply can't. I don't feel like that. I know, very well, what happened to my characters. But in this time right now, I can't find my characters in order to represent the events accurately.

When I call a day of writing good, the words and actions of my characters flow easily. I don't even have to think. What the characters say, they say, and what they do, they do. It's easy when things come like that. But what I consider my own version of "writer's block", and what I'm at now, I find myself forcing the characters to my will. And when I do that, well, I don't produce as much or as good of a story as I do when it comes naturally.

So as writing buddy Christian Miles said on my previous "Endurance" post, I often tuck my head and run through a scene. I just don't like to do this though, and I am not a fan of skipping ahead in my stories. I either skip backwards or not at all. I just don't like skipping ::laughs::

What I'd like readers of this post to do, is to comment with some ideas on how to get out of a rut. When you are having a bad day of writing, what do you do? Because lately, I've just been quitting and waiting for better days. As you can imagine, this isn't a good idea.

I know this idea of being "stuck in a rut" has become rather repetitive on this blog for the past couple posts, but I'd like to think its something every writer struggles with. If not, I guess that just makes me even more special :)

Stuff for you guys to look forward to;
  • "Characters' Character" Series
  • "Party Till Midnight!"
  • "New New Year's Resolutions!"
  • "Endurance and Victory! - Part Three"
  • A link to the working prelude of The Sword of Fire
I hope you all had wonderful Christmases, I know I did. I am so upset that I didn't get to blog on Christmas Day. I had an awesome idea that I wanted to run with, if enough of you want me to blog it I will. The title would have been Silent Night *Cue Thunder, Lightning, and Battle*

And since that is over: Have a happy new year!

To the end,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Part Two is Completed!

The dwarf king walked next to Tarth and smiled up at him. He leaned forward and whispered. “Thank you.”

The Prince’s lips turned up at the corners and he nodded. “It is the King that redeems, not I.”

“But through the willingness of His servants the Most High does mighty things.” The Jreen of the dwarves let a smile fill his face, swelling with a joyous pride. He turned back to his people. “And by their hands the nations will praise Him.”

The above is a quote from the second of three parts in my novel. And it is found in the final chapter. I think it sums up the theme of the section nicely--that God uses His servants in mighty ways.

I am so excited! As many of you know I've been writing the novel for nearly five years. And in all this time I've only passed the middle section of the novel once, and that was the first draft. Part Two is a newer addition to the story and consists mainly of an epic battle and preparation for said battle. It was awesome to write and I trust will be awesome to read once edits have been done.

Part three begins the climax of the story, as well as the slowing down. The whole story leading up to this point has been the main characters trying to rescue the main main character's sister. Thus, Part Three is entitled "The Lost is Found" and I have not had a chance to visit this section in many the year. And I am SOOOO excited.

Part three means a lot to me. It's the end of the story, the completion of the quest (completion of this tale, maybe not contentment for the characters however. "Lost" doesn't have to mean the guy's sister ;) ). It's my favorite part of the novel. And it signifies one thing;

The end.

The day I will be able to type those words for the last time will be a grand day indeed.

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have a completed manuscript and be satisfied with it. To be ready to send it out to publishers, agents, and editors. Man, that's gotta be an awesome feeling.

How many of you have finished a manuscript? How many look forward to it? I know I do.

The other thing that comes to mind with this is how to end the novel. I have a pretty sweet ending if I say so myself but I'm curious--what makes a good ending? There are two kinds of novels--series novels and standalones. So for series, how should they end? Standalones? I'm curious. I have my own ideas, of course, but as always I'd love to hear from you :)

The end. (or is it? o.O )

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Random! Falala-etc.

Christmas time is here! Woohoo! Friday was my last day at school, for which I am more than grateful, and I'm finally on Christmas Break. Over the next few weeks I plan to write and finish my novel (we'll see how that comes out lol) as well as work on some things for Wayne Batson's Tribe Building Game. In the meantime however, there's some serious business to be taken care of.

Christmas lights.

Probably the most important part of the year--the lighting contest between my siblings. The idea is that each of my siblings (there's four of us) get the same amount and types of lights (except for my one brother Stephen...he gets the "special" lights) and we decorate our rooms. I personally prefer the technique of locking the door, setting the alarm, setting extra precautions (as in placing a close hanger on the lock and then setting it to my light switch, effectively keeping the door from unlocking), and then finally pushing the chair up to the door, and begin my work.

This year I crushed the competition, and I'll show you why. Or rather, you can look back up at the picture and SEE why.

I wrapped my lights in and out of my Tae-kwon-do trophies and then circled my headrest. The remaining lights from the trophies I strung across the room and to the furthest window. As you can probably see.

It's awesome.

So, here's the list of randomness for the week--it's been far too long since my last random post.

1. I hung the lights
2. I finished reading Christopher Hopper's AWESOME book The Lion Vrie. [See my review on Stories for the King shortly]
3. I completed Part Two of my novel!
4. I made plans for the ACFW Conference!

The Brave is Found, being the second part of The Sword of Fire, was completed just the other day. And it is one awesome section. The entire 30,000 words is mainly battle, which to me is pretty sweet. And I hope a lot of you get the chance to read it someday.

Also, in reference to writing the ACFW Writer's Conference will be held in Indianapolis this year. I read this and literally shouted for joy, "YESSSSSSS!" I've been dying to go to a conference for a ridiculously long time. And finally I will be able to attend one. But this isn't just ANY conference....the ACFW ones are the BEST conferences for my genre. And so I am so excited :)

That's all for now. Just a big batch of randomness.

I'm looking forward to my Christmas post :) As well as some updates on my magazine story.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Author Scott Appleton Visits!

Hey guys! So I had a unique opportunity today, a chance not many get very often. My school was visited by an author in my field of writing. Mr. Scott Appleton author of the novel Swords of the Six spoke today in first my creative writing class and then during my last two periods. And let me tell you, I had an awesome time.

Mr. Appleton is a well known author and owner of the publishing company Flaming Pen Press. He came to our school to promote Swords of the Six and also to talk to us about his writing life and what he's learned along his own writing journey.

I for one learned a lot from him, and was very impressed. Mr. Appleton knows his craft. I wish I had been able to tape his whole presentation but here is a brief statement he made in my Creative Writing Class. Yes I know the camera isn't steady, and it makes a loud noise when it zooms in and out, and I know that the clip I caught makes no sense, and yadayadayada. I'm a failure :P Enjoy the clip.

So yes, an awful clip. But there was a lot of cool things discussed in that class.

One of my friends asked this question, "If you are trying to publish something, at what point do you give up? And how do you know when you've reached that point?"

To which Scott replied, "You don't give up."

You see, there are a lot of writers out there that simply "like" writing. They don't love it, they don't have to write. To them writing is just something they think is fun. But they don't need to do it. To many writers, often the ones who get published, writing is like breathing. The writers that will continue writing even if they don't ever get published are the writers that will find what they seek. These are the authors that make the bestseller lists.

Because if you love something, you are going to want to learn everything about it. If you love God, you will learn about Him. If you love sports, you will practice. And if you love writing, you will study the craft and practice what needs be done to succeed. Writing is like music, it's like sports, and it's like everything else. Writing is a craft, an art. And so practice does in fact make perfect. The more you read, the more you write, the better you will get. Eventually, you will have created a piece worthy of publication.

That theme seemed to carry that class a bit. I was only present for one of the two classes Scott talked to, but I imagine something similar went on.

Other things discussed included writer's block (how to avoid it), what writing style seems best (third person limited, third person omniscient, first person, etc), paths to take toward publication, and simply that theme of endurance. Run the race. If you love it, the race will be of no difficulty.

So then I had to go back to class. Thankfully, Scott's visit was not yet over. Dixie had planned for him to speak to the whole school. And while this did not exactly happen, Scott did end up speaking to around 100 kids. It was a fair enough turn out, and I imagine sales of SOTS weren't all that bad.

At this larger presentation Scott dwelt more on his own book rather than writing at first. He explained how he ended up writing Swords of the Six and not its squeal Offspring first. And then he proceeded to explain how he first began his novel, which was later changed for a more action-y prelude. Either way, this is where the idea for Sword of the Dragon came from.

Once again, excuse the poor quality of the video and my own stupidity in cutting it short. But you get the gist of it I hope;

He goes on to explain how a sword was stuck up in a tree upside down, as if it had been thrust up out of the ground. The boy looks down and sees a gaping hole in the earth, and clouds inside. And so the story began.

Reading summaries and reviews it really does sound like an awesome epic of a book. Once I finish reading it, sometime during Christmas break, I'll post my own review but in the meantime check out Jacob Parker's review and the Amazon purchasing page. Because I know how much you all want to buy it :)

Anyhow, from there he opened up the floor for people to purchase his book. And it seemed that most everyone went down. How many of them actually bought the book, I am not sure yet. But I certainly hope a good many did.

Scott also was giving away free posters and the like, which I will be hanging in my room shortly. The cover artwork for this book is amazing, and ever since the first time I saw it--maybe a year or so ago--I've wanted to read this book. Now I finally have the chance :)

After everyone had bought, or had the chance to buy, a book Scott opened up the floor for a question and answer session. The group was quiet at first, but slowly hands shot up and a good amount of questions were asked and answered.

The Q and A's were the best part for me, simply because Scott knows so much about the market of writing, how to market, and how to write. It was a very enjoyable session. We had to cut short because the next class was about to begin, or it likely would have gone on for a long time.

When I was on my way out Scott asked me to stick around for a few minutes. And by that I do believe he meant a few hours for I spent the rest of the school day, 2 hours at least, talking with he and his wife Kelley. I have to say, however, that I didn't even notice the passing of time. I was so excited, as I often am around writers lol, and interested that I simply didn't notice. It was very enjoyable. It's always nice to sit down with another writer like yourself, which are few and far between around me, and just talk. Not on a topic, but just talk. And so I thoroughly enjoyed Scott and Kelley's company.

Tomorrow the two of them will be returning to my school to set up a book stand. This is because the student body was not informed quite enough about his coming and so many were not able to buy a book. And SO many wanted to. So I'll have another chance to hang with them tomorrow.

So, is there anything you'd like me to elaborate on? How do you feel around writers who have done what you aspire to do? What kinds of questions would you ask a writer if given the chance? Anything random I haven't stated? lol

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Characteristics of Characters, and their Character

Hey'a readers/writers/random people! There was an overwhelming response to my last post, for which I am very thankful, and one of the topics that started being discussed was characters. What makes a good hero, villains, and where characters come from. Seeing as how this is a very good topic I thought I'd blog on it.

All stories, fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or otherwise, are about characters. Stories are about who characters are, what they want, and how they get or do not get what they want. Every story. And as characters are the most central part of any story, they are likewise the most important part of writing a story.

So what makes a good hero? There have been all types that have had success--underdogs, super-humans, average people, and probably more. What kind of traits make characters believable, and lovable?

My favorite characters and stories involve things that should never happen. Like Frodo Baggins, he's just a hobbit...there's no way he should have been able to waltz into Mount Doom and destroy the Ring. But he did.

I guess my favorite characters are the underdogs faced with impossible tasks.

And why does this resonate with us? Because we feel like them. We all feel like underdogs faced with impossible tasks at some point in our lives. And through faith in something stronger we overcome these impossibilities. These are the stories that stick with us, and the characters as well.

Here's my list of most common traits for a hero;
  • Loyal
  • Trusting
  • Naive
  • Underestimated
  • Innocent
It seems to me that those things make up all good heroes.

But what if you can't write like this? What if you aren't that creative (like most writers)?

Basically what I'm asking is where do you get your characters from?

Mine, in TSOF, typically come from combining characteristics of real life friends. My current project, as with most first projects, has a main character much like myself and supporting characters much like my friends. But the thing is, no one wants to read an allegory of your life--unless its really interesting. Your characters need to be new, and yet real.

This is a difficult thing to balance. Creating entirely new people. People with histories, goals, dreams, hopes, pains, weaknesses, etc.

I find it easiest to steal from real life. Write a character with a history similar to your own, or someone you know. Snag personalities from multiple persons and make this person its own. And after the personality and story is set, the goals and dreams easily fall in line.

You following me? Steal from real life. Throw people together and make a new person. Or perhaps make characters symbolic of a trait--love (make a person who's life is centered around love), loyalty (make a Sam Gamgee character), and more.

So once you have your hero, you need to pit him/her against someone. A villain.

So what makes a good villain? Villains, honestly, are many people's favorite characters. They can define a story. You can have a perfect main character, and write such a bad villain that your story will be awful.

This is a skill hard for many people. Your villains need to be just as real as your hero, perhaps even more so. They need believable motives, readers in fact do need to identify with the bad guys. Because it adds so much more depth to the story. Some of the best stories are the ones where the reader is caught between the two sides--good and evil. Loving the villain but knowing he is evil. That's the goal. Make the reader feel for the villain, or at least understand him. You don't need to write a lovable villain. But write one that makes sense.

For example, a bad story would have a villain that wants to kill the main character...simply to kill the main character. There is no purpose in killing him. He just wants to kill him.

That's a bad character. The villain needs motives, just as much as a hero.

Now, it is commonly misunderstood that villains need to be wholly evil, detestable, ugly, dressed in black, etc etc. You know the picture. Think up the most cliche villain. That's what I'm talking about.

Instead of following this trend, write a seemingly good villain, enchantingly evil, handsome, donning shinning robes. Give your reader the same feeling as the hero. Fearful, but enchanted.

Naturally this varies between stories. But there really aren't rules in writing characters--they just need to be real. Sometimes cliche's work, but not often.

Make a villain that's wretchedly evil. But make your readers like him.
Make a hero with motives your readers understand, and terrorize his life.

So, here's what I'd like to talk about. Do you agree, disagree with what I said? Do you want to hear more on any of this? How do you make up characters? What are the most important traits of a hero/villain?

If this goes well I'll do a series of posts on types of characters. Even if it doesn't I just might. I like studying that :)

So, what do you think?
"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."