What I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo (Weeks 1 & 2)

Fourteen days in. Fourteen. Whole. Days.

Amazingly, I’ve only missed writing on ONE day so far. Usually I’m doing pretty horribly by now. That still leaves me with almost 2,000 words to make up. Joy.

Anyway, on to what I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo this year. Going on the last two weeks alone, I have learned one very important thing as I’ve worked my way from 0 words to almost 23,000. And that one thing is this:

Push through the pain!

I say this because, even though 1,667 words a day doesn’t sound like TOOOOO many, I’ve been having a really hard time getting that many out. Usually, I hit around 1,100 and the words dry up. My mind goes blank. I have no idea where the story is going next.

And that, my creatives, is where I have had to learn to push through the pain.

Those last 600 words can be terrifying and excruciating, but it hasn’t failed yet to be the best part of everything I’ve written. When you finally push through that wall that stands before you, you find jewels on the other side. A secret letter, an unexpected in jury. A love you didn’t know existed for your character. An amazing best friend.

Though it is so difficult to think past writer’s block, I’m learning!

Sometimes it’s easier than other. Sometimes I have to use a writing prompt (and, yes, that’s okay!) Sometimes I have to sit and ask myself “what could go wrong here?” and then write it down. (This is how I end up with things like helicopter chases. Who knew?!)

So, even if you’ve hit that wall. That writer’s block craziness! Just push through the pain and find the treasure on the other side. It will be worth it in the end.

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Do you love your stories? I’m sure I would too! This week, I’d love to hear either A) your summary, or B) Your first page of a recent story. I can’t wait!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

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Learn the Language

What’s the first thing you do when you visit or move to a foreign country?

You learn the language.

And not just the spoken language. You learn the gestures that are permissible or impermissible. You take time to learn how their bartering system works. You learn what the people from the country love to do and what they’re not so fond of. You learn every aspect of the language they speak from the inside out.

“But, Megan, what does this have to do with writing?”

Good question. And one I’m here to answer.

When people leap into their preferred book or movie writing genre (fantasy, sci-fi, action/adventure, etc.), most of them don’t take time to learn the language. It’s the ones that do take that time who excel in what they’ve set out to do.

“What do you mean by ‘learn the language’?”

What do I mean? I mean that each genre has a language you should be learning.

Do a study for me, just to humor me. Pick up a Science Fiction book or movie and really listen to what they’re saying. You’ll probably hear a lot about lasers, teleportation, spaceships, and other fun stuff. Now pick up an Action/Adventure. Bullets, car chases, knives, and stalkers.

If you look at each genre, through multiple stories, you will find that each has its own set of rules and its own language to learn. People who read or watch those genres all the time have an innate ability to speak that language fluently, and without really thinking about it.

If you’re going to write a specific genre, I suggest you pick up a book or movie and start learning the language before you take one step further. Fans will know if you really speak their language or not, and if you don’t (I hate to say it) they’ll put down your stuff and call you a fake.

Just like any other language, the genre languages are more easily learned when you immerse yourself in them. When I sit down to write an Action/Adventure, I make sure I’ve spent weeks reading that genre and watching all my favorite action movies. The more time I spend immersing myself in those things, the better my writing becomes. Why? Because I’ve learned the language.

Don’t jump into writing a fantasy novel when you’ve been on a steady romance-only diet. (Just an example, exchange any two genres in there.) What you put in is what will come out when you sit down to write. Please, please, please do the world a favor and immerse yourself in the language. Learn it until you can’t possibly speak anything else. Until the syntax and sentence structure are fused into your bones. Trust me, your readers and I will thank you later.

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Your genre and your favorite story therewithin (book or movie). I want to know!!!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

4 Lessons About Writing From “Hoodwinked!”

For those of you who are now wondering what in the world “Hoodwinked!” is, I will explain. “Hoodwinked!” is not only fun to say, (go on, try it!) but is also an animated movie from the early 2000s. The premise? To learn the “true” story of Little Red Riding Hood, a tale distorted by time. (Let it be noted that I know a lot of people who don’t like this movie, but I happen to think it’s pretty awesome and will continue to like it despite protests.)

There are tons of lessons we can learn from fairytales themselves, but that’s a blog post for another time. In this case, we’re taking lessons from the movie loosely based on the fairytale. They are completely different. So…

#1 – No Character is an Island Unto Himself

It’s true folks, this movie made me sit up and see the light on that point! No character exists in his own little bubble. All their lives interconnect, even when they don’t realize it.

There are several characters in “Hoodwinked!” who, at the beginning, seem random and unessential. Until you start to figure out the story behind the story. Suddenly, you realize these characters aren’t random and they are very essential to understanding what’s going on in the Forest. They bring with them a depth the story wouldn’t have had if they had been left out.

So don’t underestimate those characters that just happen to show up for a brief scene. What if they’ve crossed paths with your hero or villain (or both!) in the past? What if they know more than they’re telling? Think about how their life connects with the other characters’ lives, then see what depth your story has just developed.

#2 – Nothing Should Ever Be As It Seems

“Hoodwinked!” has one major writing advantage to other kids’ movies. Nothing turns out like it seems.

That crazed axe murderer? Not a crazed axe murderer at all. Granny floating through the clouds? Logical explanation. A seemingly random avalanche? Not random at all.

When writing, we should remember that people make assumptions, and those assumptions are usually very wrong. Don’t let your characters figure things out too quickly. Let them assume what they just saw was something completely different than what it actually was. It makes for conflict, and conflict makes for a great story.

#3 – Villains Aren’t Always Cut-And-Dried, Sometimes They’re Cunning

I won’t give the spoiler on this one, but the villain isn’t who you think it is. He’s unassuming. He’s a friend. But, behind the scenes, he’s orchestrating everything to make it look like someone else did it.

Villains don’t always seek the attention. Sometimes they’re villainous because they DON’T want the attention. They want someone else to take the fall so they can pick up the pieces and make a profit. Think outside the box when it comes to villains. Let them be someone you don’t think a villain normally is. Surprise us by twisting the story around until the REAL villain jumps out and says, “You didn’t see that coming?”

#4 – Keith Is Not A Scary Name

“…And Keith… get a scarier name. Really, who’s going to be afraid of a guy named Keith? ‘Ooh, I’m so scared, it’s… Keith.’ ‘Everybody look out, here comes… Keith’.”

The longer you think about it, the more you realize he’s right. Keith is just not a scary name. Friendly, maybe, and totally hero-sidekick-available. But not scary. Because of this movie I now realize I can never name a villain… Keith. This is a very important lesson, folks. Be sure to give your villain a scary name like Gunter or Nash or Vadislev. Not… Keith.

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Have you seen this movie and will you fangirl with me? BONUS QUESTION: Can you spot the Marvel Cinematic Universe reference in this post?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You!

The Power of Prose

Words are magical.

I mean, think about it. With a simple turn of phrase, we can make people see exactly who, what, or where we want them to. With one carefully placed word, we can turn a sentence from sweet to creepy or vice versa. There isn’t much that our words CAN’T do.

I know, better than most, that this puts a huge weight of responsibility on our shoulders. What if we choose the wrong word? What if the word we pick isn’t strong enough? What if we fail to make it come across as we see it in our head?

All valid questions.

The answer is: we never know if we’ll have the desired effect until we let others see our work.

I know, it’s a Debbie Downer. But, the good news is that there are things we can do to make sure we get our point across exactly as we want it to come across. Let me ‘splain.

For those of you who write Suspense or Thrillers, you’ll want to know how to heighten suspense in your scenes. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea how Suspense works, so here’s my number one suggestion to create the suspenseful scene you’re looking for. Ready?

Use short sentences.

That’s it. The shorter the sentence, the more clipped the feel of the scene. And don’t just use short sentences in your narrative, throw some into your dialogue as well. Fragments are welcome in a suspense scene, because it inherently tells your reader that something is terribly wrong. (Despite what people think, anyone who paid attention in English during middle school subconsciously knows their grammar.)

For those of you who write Romance (or any sub-genre thereunder), you’ll probably want to know how to show your readers how sweet one or the other person is without being super cheesy. So, my number one advice:

Use body language.

“In my writing? Really?”

Yes. Really. Over half of the ways people express how they’re really feeling is in their body language. Do they have a nervous tick? Do they have a habit of reaching to push the girl’s hair behind her ear? Anything like that can add loads of layers to a scene and, ultimately, a story. This is one of those instances where “Show, Don’t Tell” comes in really handy. Don’t tell your readers he likes her. Show them by his actions. Just like real people.

So, you romance writers, go plug in your favorite Rom-Com and take notes on how he shows he loves her.

For those of you who write Historical, you’ll want to know how to keep your facts straight.

Google.

There is nothing better. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please find out if the words you choose for them to speak were actually spoken in your time period. Please. I’m begging you. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

For those of you who write Fantasy…

Okay, I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. It’s all in your head. As I am not a fantasy writer, I can’t give advice on the subject, except to say pay attention to your plot holes.

So, advice for the day, pay close attention to your genre and READ, READ, READ!!!

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What genre do you write and what’s your favorite part about it?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Learning to Intrigue

I’ve struggled a lot while learning the craft of writing. A. LOT. And do you know what the hardest part is (for me, at least)? Catching and holding an audience. And, as I write romantic suspense, that’s kind of a problem.

So, here I am to tell you I’ve finally found the solution.

I have taken a lesson from the movies.

Let me expound. I found this solution for myself by thinking about what I want readers to feel like when they read one of my books. I sat down, I thought, thought, thought (Eh? Anyone? No?), and I said to myself “action movies”. You know the ones. The ones where you sit on the edge of your seat, bite your nails, and worry over whether the characters are going to make it out alive. And then, after I had nailed that down, I promptly sat down to marathon and take notes.

What fun tricks did I learn, you ask? Well, that’s why we have this blog post!

1. Keep the audience in the moment

This may sound like an impossible task, but it is accomplished by utilizing one simple tool. Withholding information. To keep in the audience in the moment you’re at, you only tell them what they need to know to understand the story thus far. Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — burden them with exposition. Keep them in that moment in time. Do not take them back in time. It is okay ON OCCASION to foreshadow something from the future, because we’ll need that in a minute.

Which brings me to point:

2. Foreshadow future events

Let me clarify. Not every single line of narrative has to foreshadow the future. Do not harp on people about how “If I knew now what I knew then” and “I would have chosen differently if…”! Just don’t. Foreshadowing is a tool to keep your readers/watchers guessing. If you keep using it over and over and over in an overt way, they’ll lose interest.

So, use subtle foreshadowing. That gun that has a tendency to jam. That squeaky door when you enter the house. That weird note the heroine gets at the beginning of the story. An “off” line of dialogue. Be creative. Be subtle.

3. Keep them guessing

I recently watched a new release where a character was introduced and we weren’t sure if she was totally evil or semi-okay. She was there to torture, but then she helped the hero escape. Everything she did could be taken for good or evil, and we didn’t know which way she would ultimately lean. You know what this did? It kept me guessing!

If your audience has seen the plotline before and knows that “Oh, hey, this is what’s going to happen next”, they’re a thousand times more likely to put your book down or turn off your movie. You have to keep them up in the air. Don’t solidify anything until at least the third act.

That isn’t to say don’t tell the audience anything. Give them hints, clues, snippets. They’ll read on.

Anyway, those are the major points I’ve learned while studying the action/adventure movie drama for tips. I hope you found them helpful, and I also hope if you have questions you’ll either comment or contact me. Here’s till next time!

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What are your thoughts on keeping readers hooked? I’d love to hear!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Keep Your Eyes Open

Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…

Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.

The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”

Three simple words that changed my story method forever.

Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.

As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?

I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.

Answer: nothing.

I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.

Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.

Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.

Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”

Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?

Why?

That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.

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What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You