I’m starting again.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a writer, it’s to forgive myself when things don’t turn out the way they planned. Sometimes stories just fizzle and that’s okay. Sometimes you find yourself going in a different direction than planned, and that can be okay, too. Today I’m off in a different direction, and whatever happens, I’ve decided that my goal is to enjoy my month of writing with whatever characters and plot are ready to go on Monday. I mean, how often do the words “a month of writing” occur in my life. If I don’t enjoy it, I’m missing the point of NaNoWriMo, and more important, I’m missing the point of being a writer. Writing is all wrapped up in the “do what you love” part of my life that often gets overrun by the “do what you must”, “do what others need”, ”do what– write your own version here.”
So, onward into a new plot with new people. The countdown begins. “Do what I love” month starts Monday
Some characters dropped by two weeks ago with a bit of snappy dialogue and a dim idea for a story, and I thought, “Yes! I’m on my way!” Then they took a hiatus while schoolwork and life got attended to. In that time, they lost a lot of their lustre and I wondered if they weren’t just a cute premise and not a real story. Today, I invited them back for a visit and did my best to find out more about them and to see if I could find a way to brighten up that “dim idea.” I mean, in order to meet my NaNoWriMo goal, I need to complicate their lives sufficiently to sustain me and the story through 50,000 words of beginning, middle and end.
I can honestly say now that these characters and their story have possibilities. I only have a name for one of them right now, and of course, that may change as I learn more about her and see her in action. But I have something to work with right now. My next step is to get names for all the other main characters, so I can listen to them talk and see what they have to tell me between now and November 1st. If people are going to be carrying on conversations in my brain for several weeks, they definitely need names. I’m going online to check out baby name sites and see what I can find.
And I’m going to practise typing the name a few dozen times, too, before I settle on it. I had a character named Philip in a romance novel, and I got extremely tired of typing that particular combination of letters. I guess because they mostly used only three fingers of my right hand and typing Philip seemed just plain awkward. He was the villain in the first novel I wrote, and I decided to reform him and make him a hero in a second book. I changed his name to Simon–still mostly a “right-hand” name, but my little finger was out of the action and I was much happier. Hence the typing practice.
Do your characters just introduce themselves–first, middle, last name complete? Or are they X and Y until you find just the right name for them? Have you ever changed a character’s name part way through or after you’ve written a story or novel? Do you have a favourite name that you’re just waiting to find a story for? Have people left such strong negative impressions with you that you would never use their name in a story–unless, of course, they were perfectly horrible characters? How do you find the names for your characters?
I confess. I’m a list maker. I love making lists because I really enjoy crossing things off them when the jobs are done. In fact, it’s so bad that if I get part way through my day and realize that I have completed tasks that I didn’t write on the list—like making a phone call for a dentist appointment or putting a load of laundry in—I add those items to the list, just so I can cross them off.
A good time for me to write my list is just before I go to bed. It’s the best way for me to avoid lying awake worrying that some the things I have to do the next day will be forgotten over night. (I’m a worrier by nature, so anything that can short-circuit the worry reflex is good by me.)
I make lists when I’m writing, too, especially in the early stages. I make lists of possible names for characters, hobbies or special skills they might have, places they might have visited or lived, things they might carry in their pockets or purse. I write down just anything I think of. Some items on the list will get scooped up because they seem just right for my character or make me ask good questions about my character that add a needed dimension. Other things on the list might be picked up by secondary characters and the rest languish unclaimed until another story comes along. I use coloured markers and pens for these lists, too, because I find ideas at the brainstorming stage come more readily when I’m not working with black and white.
Are you a list maker, too? How do you use lists when you are writing?
Nothing stays the same, and over the past few years the purpose of this site has grown and evolved. I decided that it’s about time that the design caught up with the ways in which this site is used by my visitors and with the ways I need to use it now and in the future.
The first thing I’ve done is simplify the tabs. I’ve grouped the material by the needs of my audience. So click on the tab that applies to you and explore. I haven’t deleted any of your favourite links, but if you have a problem finding something, please let me know.
I’ve also turned this first page into a blog where I plan to share great links for teachers and young writers and chat about my own writing, as well.
I’ll appreciate your patience as I work through the challenges of making some necessary changes to the site. As always I wish you all the best with your writing and teaching endeavours.
The photo above shows my collection of writing journals. A couple are still unused, but most of them have bits and pieces of stories, and some a lot more. Do you write in journals or are you strictly a keyboard writer?