Anonymous asked: How do you find names for your characters? Like, what is your technique? My friend and I are trying to write a book and we can not find a single name that fits our characters.
Getting a shiny new idea:
Realizing just how difficult it will be to write aforementioned new idea:
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.
True story: this is something I still struggle with after years of doing battle with it in high school and college. It got so bad that, for a period of time, I wouldn’t even re-read my papers before turning them in because I was so afraid I’d see they weren’t perfect. Which, yes, is totally backwards.
gryffmick asked: Hi, Alex! My friend has met you from YALL fest (and to say I am super jealous since I am a really big fan of yours). I just had to say that. Now onto my question; I am currently trying to write a novel long story and fine myself not motivated. What are some tips to help someone get motivated to write (as in songs, quotes, type thing)?
Hmmm… well, this is sort of a difficult question to answer, if only because I generally don’t need a ton of outside motivation to write. It’s like a nagging feeling, you know? But I do use music to help me get my head into a certain mood and make playlists to help me sink back into the story (for instance, I was listening to book 3’s playlist and got really choked up when I hit a certain song—and listening to TDM’s and NF’s immediately takes me back to writing those stories).
A few things:
1. It’s always scary and hard to write at first—I don’t generally hit my stride (that is, feel comfortable and truly engaged) until about 75 pages into the story. By then, I’ve figured out the main character’s voice and personality and I can relax knowing that the hard part for me (beginnings) is over.
2. If you’re having trouble with the first 30 or so pages, it could mean that you’re not starting the story in the right place and you should revisit the beginning.
3. A lot of authors skip around when they write, but I don’t. I like the feeling that I’m building toward the emotional climax, and I figure too much stuff out along the way to just go back and add in little bridges between scenes. This way, I really look forward to getting to the juicy scenes—they feel like rewards for hitting certain milestones. The whole waving a carrot in front of myself thing.
4. I always remind myself, “You can’t fix a blank page” and “first drafts inevitably suck,” and that’s true for everyone.
5. I finally bought a print of it, but for a long time I kept a post-it with the phrase, “Don’t give up the ship” on it. History nerd time: this was the dying command of James Lawrence on the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812, and was later used on a battle flag by his friend Commodore (Oliver Hazard) Perry (of "We have met the enemy and they are ours…" fame). The British ultimately captured the ship, but it was used as a rallying cry throughout the war. I find it very inspiring when I’m feeling down about my work and slogging through the middle of a story.
Anonymous asked: do you ever use the site nameberry? 'tis my favorite name site and thought why not share it!
Yes! Though my favorite name website is Behind the Name. That one has stolen hours of my life! They have most popular name lists by country and year, namesakes, potential nicknames, etc. It’s really interesting to read the comments on each name, too.
Anonymous asked: Hey Alex! I was going to ask you a question (that I hope hasn't already been asked before if so I'm sorry), but do you have any tips for relatively new authors getting "writers block"? Have you ever gotten it and how did you overcome it? Thank you and happy holidays!
I just posted a quote yesterday about this, but I think the key thing to remember when you hit a wall is that your writing tap can’t be on all the time. I really do believe that when “writers block” manifests, it’s either 1) because I’m exhausted and I need to take a break and recharge or 2) there’s a problem with the story that I’m ignoring and I need to step back and think things through. Let the story bake a bit more, if you will. Or, related, 3) I’m bored with the direction the story is taking or the characters, so I try to shake things up.
I’ve found that it sometimes helps to switch to writing longhand or by writing in a different location—like hitting the reset button on your brain. Good luck!!
One reason that people have artist’s block is that they do not respect the law of dormancy in nature. Trees don’t produce fruit all year long, constantly. They have a point where they go dormant. And when you are in a dormant period creatively, if you can arrange your life to do the technical tasks that don’t take creativity, you are essentially preparing for the spring when it will all blossom again.
Marshall Vandruff, one of the best teachers I have ever had, on artist’s block. Said during a webinar done on Visualarium to advertise his upcoming online course on animal anatomy (source links to webinar) (via pale-afternoon)
THIS QUOTE HELPS SO MUCH OMG
Needed this! Today and every day.
Oooh, yes. I’ve been having major trouble getting into a new project post-book 3. It’s always rough in the beginning for any book, but I think not really giving myself a good mental vacation is exacerbating the problem.
blueparrot24 asked: Hi Alex! Of late I have decided to explore in my writing ability but i'm in high school so finding time to study and keep my grades up while devoting time to write a story while developing characters and their names and personalities is a lot to do. So my question I guess is how long did it take you to write TMD and Never Fade?(which are both really good, like Chubs and Vida's kid is me) And also how much time do you think you actually spent thinking and planning the story rather then writing?
Hi! So I get this question a lot—a very similar one came up at YALLFest, though that teen was asking for general advice on becoming a bestselling author ASAP. Here’s the thing that I don’t think teens really want to hear (I know I wouldn’t have): take your time. Take time out to practice writing, but don’t impose strict deadlines or benchmarks for yourself that’ll force you to start sacrificing time with your family and friends in favor of you sitting alone in a room for extended periods of time. Right now, school is your priority, and it should be. Squeeze the most out of that experience as you can, learn as much as you can, interact with as many people as possible. All of these things will help you develop your stories later in life because you’ll be able to look back and reflect on those times in a meaningful/critical/reflective way.
*steps off soap box*
I think it took me about 6 months to draft TDM—but then I spent pretty much a year revising it. Like, I finished it in October 2010, revised with my agent from October until February when it sold to my editor… and then I revised with her on and off pretty much through most of the rest of that year. NF took about eight months (which is really long for me—my dad was sick and passed away during this time, which made focusing on work very hard) and then we revised from the time I turned it in in August to April of this year. I mention both drafting and revising because both are critically important to a story’s development. With book 3, I think it took me five months to draft it, likely because I had a tighter grip on the plot.
Brainstorming/planning depends totally on how much research I need to do before I can start writing. I generally don’t start figuring things out until I start the whole drafting process (or, really, problems start showing up and I have to shift gears and re-brainstorm). I honestly brainstorming and reoutline the entire time I’m drafting. I’ll find out something about the characters I’m working with that I didn’t know at the start, but it only comes out through the writing. I think I generally spend a month or two really thinking about the story, the characters, and the plot before starting, though.
When we believe and react negatively to a girl character who pushes against our expectations of what it means to be damaged, we reiterate the mythology that girls can only ever have smooth seams. If she lives and thrives despite her situation and experience, she must be wrong.
If she chooses not to live and thrive but instead needs to grieve or express anger or rage or act in a way many would consider ugly or downright intolerable, she’s still wrong. At times, she might as well just kill herself because she’s so miserable. Why can’t she just suck it up and move on with her life?
I’m taking this quote slightly out of Kelly’s original context to expand on it a bit with my personal experience (the whole read is so worth it—click and then come back).
I always tell people that, for the most part, I’m not really bothered by negative reviews—the only ones that get under my skin are the ones that are hypercritical of Ruby (calling her stupid, pathetic, annoying, etc.). It’s really striking to me, because it’s that kind of response towards her from the PSFs and the general world that’s reinforced her low self-esteem and perception she’s wrong. Of course she’s not perfect, of course she makes bad calls and decisions, of course she’s scared and angry and is frightened of what she can do (and struggles to control)—the girl is straight up, completely and totally, traumatized and while she’s a fairly quick study, she isn’t exactly brimming with life experience to pull from. This kind of PTSD is not something you “get over” in days, months, or even years. It makes me wonder if, when it comes to female characters, there is a kind of empathy gap—that when the girl isn’t kick-ass or witty or able to immediately bounce back emotionally, she’s perceived as a weak or bad character.
What do you guys think?
splendiforousdiction asked: How do you determine when a book is going to be a series? I'm currently questioning whether I have enough material in my WIP to even make 50,000 words, and yet series make up more than half of my personal library. Also, how do you decide how to set up your chapters/organize the book in another way that isn't simply a list of scenes?
I have to know before I start a book because it affects the way I plot and lay the story out. That said, I always make sure the first book in the series can standalone. (In fact, while I’m happy I got to continue Ruby’s story, I would have been perfectly happy to have TDM standalone. Yes, seriously.)
I’m probably not the best person to ask about organizing chapters. Most of my first drafts are super long and I overplot. The first editorial letter I got for Brightly Woven pointed out to me that I plot the way a television show would plot. That is, a lot of little episodic, self-contained plots/moments within the larger plot. It’s a bad habit that I’m still a little guilty of. My brilliant friend Susan Dennard posted something recently on PubCrawl that I think will help you. My method is almost identical to hers, but she explains it so much better than I ever could!
Click through to awesome photo array at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/doree/quotes-about-writing
I just want to write someone’s favorite book.
Markus Zusak (Goodreads Livestream, November 5, 2013)
I want [female characters] to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad – human, basically. The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.
Natalie Portman (via yahighway)