January 16th, 2021 NEWSLETTER
This newsletter is the first for 2021, and we have a lot of great information to cover!
Ideas for your future books
Organizing your book ideas
Character creation and organization
Creating a great backstory
New Author Tool in development
IDEAS FOR YOUR FUTURE BOOKS
I have talked about various ways I get inspired and feed passions for stories that I write. It's time to talk about how you can get your creative juices flowing and why it's important to strike while the iron is hot.
First of all, striking while the iron is hot has meaning. When working with hot metal from the forge, you must hit the iron while it is hot. Beating cool iron hardly moves it, wastes a lot of energy and strength, and causes you to work ten times as hard to get the same results.
So when is the iron hot? Creativity comes in waves. Any creative person will tell you this. I believe that most "dry spells," or "writer's block," takes place because a creative person is trying to strike the cold iron. They either waited too long to get started or lost inspiration and wanted to fake it to make it.
It's not worth it to force creativity. When you get that idea, write. If inspiration wanes, find more inspiration!
As I said with my series Pandemic Dawn, if I felt my inspiration drying up, I stopped writing immediately and tried to reignite that flame.
I would find inspiration from various sources, even music! I remember precisely one day when I wasn't "feeling it," and I happened to hear Imagine Dragons on the radio, and boom, I was reignited.
Look for inspiration in movies, books, pictures, music, and driving through an area resembling the story you wish to write. I even get inspired by talking with others with similar likes about the project. Once the candle of inspiration is lit, write, write, write!
Write down all of your story ideas on notecards, even if they don't fit together! I will write more next week about storylines and plots. Write everything down, and eventually, you may find out where it all works. It is better to have some ideas that don't fit in, rather than not write them down and lose them forever.
ORGANIZE YOUR BOOK IDEAS
I cannot say this enough. Save everything—all your notecards of random thoughts, book ideas, character ideas.
Notecards are cheap! Don't be afraid to use them.
I have multiple card organizers with my notecards. One box marked 'character ideas,' another marked 'story ideas,' you can even make one called 'life events,' and when you need some help with backstory, randomly draw one.
As you write your book, place the character notecards into your box marked with your book name. This way, you never accidentally use the same character in two unrelated books or stories.
You could take this even further and write notecards filled with ideas about different themes, moods, conflicts, events, crisis, and if you ever hit a slump or stumbling block, draw a card for inspiration!
CHARACTER CREATION AND ORGANIZATION
When it comes to creating a character that fits your story's needs, it's best to have well-defined requirements.
If you have a story that needs your main protagonist to get from point A to point B (whether points are locations, thoughts, or conclusions), you need to decide what requirements you have for your story.
a) protagonist needs to find out the security box is empty
b) protagonist needs to know who emptied it
c) protagonist needs to know where to find said person
Your new character can fulfill these three well-defined needs for your story.
You create a character that a) tells the protagonist about the antagonist emptying the security box. b) Who the antagonist is, and he knows that the antagonist went to Florida.
Remember, you don't want to fill your stories with too many secondary characters with no real reason for being in the book.
A few years ago, I met an author who wrote what I call Zombie Fiction. Zombie Fiction is a slasher, blood, and gore book. There are people out there who like this genre, probably the same who love slasher films. His books featured hundreds of secondary characters.
The reason? He held contests to raise money for his novels by allowing readers to pay to be in his books. You could spend a few bucks, and your name and how you die by Zombie would be in his next novel.
Now I'm not knocking this method if his goal is to make a few dollars rather than tell a compelling story. But for most authors, we have a story we wish to tell, and a novel filled with secondary characters would cause a lot of confusion and distraction from the book.
Limit secondary characters, and only give details that are important to your story.
CREATING GREAT BACKSTORY
Since we are on the subject of characters' details, a great backstory is a key to riveting storytelling. As mentioned in my last blog, backstory can move your readers emotionally to where you want them.
I like to define what I need from my character to accomplish my story's goals. You want your readers to feel hate for the character? Make him a terrible person in his past, then write about how bad he is now. You want your readers to love the character? Tell a good backstory, and show how he tries hard in your story to keep being good. Some shortcomings and flaws will also make your character more appealing and believable. Make them an underdog, and your readers will root for them.
Some backstories are so good they become "spinoffs."
While writing Pandemic Dawn Book IV: Before the Sun Sets, I wrote of two characters introduced in the ninth chapter of the novel, Tanner and Virgil.
They were simple secondary characters who traveled with a group of survivors. Within this group was a primary character.
I had no intention of ever doing anything more with these characters than have them in the group as tag-along secondary characters.
I wrote about their backgrounds. Tanner was a medical student with a gentle personality. She seemed unfriendly, but it was a byproduct of her debilitating anxiety and PTSD. Her boyfriend Virgil used to work for a salvage yard and was very loving and protective of Tanner with great compassion for her weaknesses.
Remember, I had no plans of ever doing anything with these characters. However, as I wrote in Before the Sun Sets, their relationship drew me in. I found them and their dynamic very interesting, and I found myself wanting to write more and more about them.
This series is still in the outline stage, but the working title is The Pandemic Dawn Chronicles. The first book in the series is about how Tanner and Virgil first meet and end up with the survivors. It's called Dream of Tomorrow.
So I say, write everything down, keep good records of Characters, and always take your time writing their backstories. You never know what may develop!
NEW AUTHOR TOOL IN DEVELOPMENT
I have many people ask over the years, and I mean to blog about it within the next week; how do you know how many words or chapters to write?
There are many websites out there that will give you the average word count for various types of books. The word counts are directly related to the kind of book you plan on writing.
Word count in no way dictates the value of the contents of a book! Look at some of the word count examples.
Animal Farm 29,966
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 46,573
The Hunger Games 99,750
It can be challenging to monitor your chapter/word count while focusing on writing. So I created a program years ago that I use to do this.
I have never thought to offer it to anyone before, but it may be worth giving copies out with so many people asking.
This tool has a page showing you the number of words, the different genre's average, and a few average word counts from books on Reedsy.
Once you choose your target word count, you enter it into the program. As you write and track your progress, the program determines from how many chapters you will write, the average word count per chapter, your total word count, and tracks your progress, showing you your percent of the completed manuscript.
You can also track how many chapters you have written for each storyline if you have multiple, as I do in the Pandemic Dawn Series.
The tool is a great help.
As soon as I have it finished for distribution, I will share how to get your copy in a newsletter. Of course, I will make it free.
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