Happy Monday, everyone! This week, I'm tying up the last few pointers here and how you can incorporate them into your own writing. Thank you for joining me on this animation journey!
No work is ever wasted. And if it's not working, let go and move on - if it's useful, it'll show up again.
I have at least four drafts of my current story on Google Docs at the moment. I will never encourage clients or friends (or anyone, really) to delete a draft, even if they think they're done with it and it's never going anywhere and it's terrible and they need to start over completely... was that a train of thought running through there? First drafts are where you list the ideas. I mentioned this in my Motivation Monday post earlier today. Any time you're stuck or forgot what your original storyline was, take a look at your first draft. You may not like it, but there could be something in there that sparks another idea or you can think of a way to make it better that fits your new story. It's not bad. It's not wasted just because you didn't fit it into your final draft. Change is good. Change means creativity. I've also kept almost everything I've ever written, including multiple nearly full spiral notebooks of High School Musical & Glee fanfiction I wrote in middle school and high school. I do go back a read them every once in a while, and as cringey as it is, it's fun to see how my writing has grown since then.
You have to know yourself and know the difference between doing your best and being fussy. Story is testing, not refining.
This is so difficult for me as an editor because I want the first draft to be the last draft. But, realistically, of course I know that's not feasible. And it shouldn't be. Over the course of writing my book, I've added new things, figured things out, and realized there were some things I didn't need. And when I'm done with this draft, my full first draft, I'll go back and make sure those things make sense, which could result in something else showing up. As authors, we do this over and over until there's nothing left to be said. Your job as an author is to tell the story. An editor's job is to refine it. That's why I believe the bones of the story are so important - it can't function without good bones, just like a house won't stand up without a good foundation. Once that's in place, the rest will come.
Coincidences that get characters into trouble are great. Coincidences that get them out of trouble are cheating.
The thing that irks me the most in movies and books alike is convenience and circumstance that wouldn't normally be there. For example, a character falls down a hole that was set for him as a trap and covered in leaves. Suddenly, he brings out a portable ladder that he always carries around but it's never been mentioned the rest of the story until this point. Or even if it is, it's never used until this very moment as if that's the whole reason he was carrying it around in the first place. This isn't creative, and it's not believable. It's not fun to read. One fun example of this being done correctly is shows like MacGyver. If you haven't seen it, in almost every episode if not every episode, he creates a tool or gadget to get him out of a situation by taking pieces of materials around him and putting them together to make something entirely new (think bombs out of Legos, a bike chain, and a battery, or something silly like that). I have to admit, this isn't always 100% believable and sometimes does lean toward coincidence, but I think they do a good job of making it seem feasible.
Exercise. Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you arrange them into something you do like?
This is opposite of taking elements of works you like and copying them, but this gives you a chance to rewrite something in your own style, or even with your own characters. I know I talk about fanfiction sometimes (I've already mentioned it in this post!), and I really do love the versatility it gives writers. In some ways, it's easier to be creative, because you already have developed characters you know and love that you're working with. You already know how they would react to conflict, so you can throw them into situations (or, let's be real, relationships) that they didn't get to experience in their own world. Slight changes to existing stories is a very fun writing exercise for me, and this is honestly how some fanfiction stories begin! We didn't like the way they did it, so we'll write it ourselves. And then you end up with Fifty Shades of Grey, and we're in a whole other world.
Identify with your situation/characters. Don't write "cool." What would make you act that way?
I'm actually not entirely sure I agree with this one. Definitely strive to identify with your characters, otherwise readers won't find themselves in them or learn to care about them. However, finding what would make you, the author, act a certain way won't always be true to character. Let's get a little out of touch with reality here. Your main character (MC) was born with an inability to feel pain. MC's love interest thinks it's weird of fun at the beginning, but then on a dark turn, takes advantage of that and begins to intentionally harm MC. Would MC fight back? They've never felt pain in their lives - how would they know how to react? However, if MC turned around and did the same to their love interest, that person would react very differently. I think it's important to gauge your characters' reactions to make sure they're honest to their personalities, but there's no need to put yourself into all of them, especially if there's a character you're trying to write so differently from you, which can be difficult in itself.
Putting it on paper allows you to start fixing it. If a perfect idea stays in your head, you'll never share it with anyone.
WRITE. YOUR. IDEAS. DOWN. Whether you think they're good or not, write them down. You can't publish a book without starting with that first idea. When I worked at at an animal hospital, I would keep a small notebook in the pocket of my scrubs and every time I thought of something that had to do with my book, anything at all, I would write it down and then come back to it later. And not every idea might make it into your final draft, but it might spark an idea for a sequel or something else. One of my favorite quotes came from this notebook, as have half of a chapter I wrote on my lunch break or scenes that would creep into my head as I was cleaning litter boxes. I think as writers, our brains are always going behind the scenes. We're always thinking about our writing, our characters, the worlds we've created, and sometimes these things don't always come out when we're trying to grab them, but rather, it seems, when we've got nothing to record them with (in the shower, driving, etc). But you won't know if something's a good idea until you try it, until you test it.
Well, that's all, folks! Did you like this series? Did you learn anything? What would you like me to take a look at next?