Review: Writing Blocks

writingblocksFor as long as I can remember since I started writing stories – especially my longer works – I have noticed I’ve had problems with keeping things going, getting stuck on certain areas (motivation for characters, new characters, etc.), and ultimately not abandoning said stories.

Then, back in November as I was in the swing of all things NaNoWriMo for the seventh time, I heard about something called Writing Blocks. The creator, Mia Zachary, was promoting a Kickstarter project to share them with other writers. My first reaction was stunned silence. My second? I backed the project immediately. I didn’t need to watch the videos or read all the information on the project’s main page. All I needed to know that these dice could be used to help with writer’s block, whether starting to write a new story or continue an old one. I did end up watching the videos and reading all the information I had skipped over not long after, and all it did was get me even more excited for these dice to be made into a reality.

Fast forward to the end of May and there they were, the Writing Blocks, in my hands, begging for me to roll them.

I decided to wait, however, because I had bought a second set for my friend and wanted to wait to use them until the two of us could get together for one of our writing sessions. Instead I just kept rolling them around in my hand as I tried to figure out the new character I was trying to create. Every so often I would glance down at my hand, and a few of the words on the dice struck a chord with me.

The complete set is made up of twelve dice and six of them dice jumped out at me that night. With those six (Archetype I, Archetype II, Situation, Motivation, Evaluation, and Tension), I was able to figure out everything that had stumped me about the character. The only thing left for me to figure out was his name, which was not only a relief, but also amazing. And everything fit in with my story!

I didn’t have to wait long for my friend and I to get together, thankfully, and tried out a few different methods of rolling the Writing Blocks that night. My first roll was with every dice that could apply to the creation of a character (nine of the twelve). Yet again the Writing Blocks worked their magic and I had a second character ready for me to use in my current story!

Knowing that I was going to write this review, I decided to also roll all twelve dice to create the basis for a completely new story – which is something I try to avoid when I already have a story I’m working on since I’m not very good at juggling multiple stories. I could tell you how easy it was to take those twelve dice and connect them, how helpful and easy to follow the guidebook (Story Building Solutions) was, or even tell you what dice I rolled and the story I created with them, but I think the best thing I could do is tell you: try the Writing Blocks out for your self. You will not be disappointed in this brilliant, innovative writing tool!

I know I’ll be having a lot of fun with them in the days, and years, to come!

Week Four NaNo Update

NaNoWriMo came to a close just a few days ago and I have finally been able to sit down and compile my stats from the final week.

While I won as I mentioned in my last post, my story is still unfinished but I have high hopes to finish it within the next week or so and then I will be going back to rewrite those scenes I had to skip over. I was unable to write ‘The End’ before NaNoWriMo ended for a number of reasons, but the main one was that after I reached 50,000 words I finally decided on my story’s ending and it is a far from happy one which makes writing it very difficult for me. I have always hated writing sad scenes but since this story focused so closely on six characters, to have things end up for them the way they’re going to makes it even more difficult.

Until I manage to finish writing the story and can add it to my completed novels listing, my stats for Week 4 of NaNoWriMo 2012 are below.

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That Magic Number: 50,000

NaNoWriMo is all about the number 50,000. 50,000 words in 30 days. But not just any 50,000 words, 50,000 words that make up a novel. 50,000 words of new fiction. Unless you’re a NaNo rebel, of course ;)

At a little past 2AM this morning, I made it across the 50,000 word line and into the Winner’s Circle.

By now, one would think that this means virtually nothing to me. I have participated in NaNoWriMo six times before this year, and all six of those times I have hit 50,000 words or more. In fact, some would think it should mean nothing to me since my fifth year, 2010, I won with over 75,000 words.

This, I can tell you, is not the case. Every year I hit the magic number of 50,000, or go beyond it, feels like the first time I won. Utter disbelief, ecstatic squees, and double-checking my word count a bunch of times just to make sure it’s not a hallucination. I personally attribute it to the fact that each year is different with new obstacles and complications, a new story and characters to get to know (except the one year I was a rebel for continuing an unfinished story but that in itself counted as a new challenge) and the fear of ending my winning streak.

Right now, my NaNoNovel is unfinished, but I have a few more days to remedy that and I fully intend to do so. Though, even if I can’t finish by midnight on December 1st, I will see it through to the end. This story deserves it and, as Chris Baty says, “the world needs your novel.”

Below you will find a screenshot of my winning stats. The full breakdown for my Week 4 stats won’t be posted until after NaNoWriMo officially ends.

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Week Three NaNo Update

Just nine more days of NaNoWriMo…

I always find this time of year to be sad, NaNoWriMo is coming to a close and so is my novel. And yet, I’m excited to be taking that next step with my novel and enter the Winner’s Circle. This year is no different.

Late last night/early this morning, I wrote the 40,000th word of my latest novel. I am less than 10,000 words away from winning NaNo, but I doubt I’m that far away from the end of the story. In my post last week, I said that I needed to pick up the pace to get to the juicier bits of my story. I’ve managed to do this, in part, after skipping ahead seven scenes yesterday (though I did write a somewhat extensive outline of the scenes I skipped, it’s not part of my word count), but I’m still going to have to keep my nose to the grindstone to make sure I can type ‘The End’ before midnight on the 30th. After that I’ll be going back to write the missing scenes.

My next post will be when I reach 50,000 words, but for now, here are this past week’s stats!

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Week Two NaNo Update

The week of doom (aka Week 2) is going…. going… gone! Time for the awesomeness that is Week 3 to begin!

I’m currently at over 22k words, just a little bit behind today’s quota. I’m actually kind of amazed at how close I am to today’s quota given how difficult a few days during Week 2 were for me. There was one day where I wrote nothing at all, and then two other days when I only wrote between 300 and 500 words. I think I may need to give credit to last night’s write-in as I added over 2,000 words to my word count while I was there in between all the chatting, laughing and snacking. Not to mention all the great ideas for future scenes I got from our random conversations!

This week I’m going to do my best to get a nice little cushion before the familial obligations that come along with Thanksgiving, and anything else that might come up, distracts me from my writing. I also need to get my story moving just a bit faster so that I can get to Day Three of my story (it takes place mostly over the course of four days with a few scenes set on two other days).

Once again, I’ve included a sampling of my stats and progress for the week. The only thing that is a combination of both weeks is the word count. At the end of the month I plan on doing a comparison of the weeks.

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Tips for Word Wars

After winning both word wars (or word sprints, if you prefer) at my very first write-in, I’ve decided to write up some tips of what works for me. Since no two people are the same, some of these may not work for you, but give them a try!

1. Don’t Write
This may sound counter-productive, but from the time a word war is announced until it begins, don’t write. Instead, use the time to think. Think about your characters, figure out what scene could come next in your story and try to plan some of it out. If you have an idea of where the scene is going to go, it’ll help keep you from stopping mid-word war to try and figure it out. Plus, this gives your hands a chance to rest before you give them a nice workout!

2. Mark It
When I first started doing word wars, I would open up a new document to type in for the duration and then copy and paste it into the ‘master’ one once it was over. I quickly came to realize that this took more time away from writing later on when I had to reformat it to my specifications. For the sake of a word war, I could forget all my usual ‘before I start writing’ needs, but once it was over, I couldn’t have one document with some passages formatted differently from the rest unless there was a legitimate reason (ie italics for dream sequences).

What I do now is, once a word war is announced, I type the word ‘start’ in all caps and, without adding a space, start writing at exactly that point once the word war officially begins. For example, one of my sentences this year might be something like STARTSid walked down the driveway to pick up the newspaper, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

This way I can easily go back and find the word ‘start’ once the word war is over and highlight everything I’ve written to find out my word war word count without worrying about accidentally including something I wrote prior. Just remember to get rid of the word ‘start’ once the word war is over – especially if there’s a chance you might be doing another one!

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Week One NaNo Update

A whole week of NaNo-ing has already almost passed us by!

With over 13k words written so far, I’m a little ahead of the game and hoping to give myself a nice little cushion before the dreaded symptoms of Week 2 set in. Not to mention my brother is visiting for the weekend and I’d like to be able to spend some time with him without worrying about my word count suffering since I only see him about once a year and each time it’s just for a few days.

I also attended my first-ever write-in last night despite this being my 7th year participating in NaNoWriMo! It was an amazing experience and I wish I had been able to go to them in past years, but alas they were all too far away for me to attend. I’m planning on attending at least three more before the month-long noveling event is over, maybe six depending on my schedule and ability to get to another one that isn’t too far from my house.

Below is a sampling of my Week One progress and stats.

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It’s been nearly an entire year since my last update. Since then I haven’t done much writing in terms of actually finishing any new novels (although I did win NaNoWriMo 2011 by writing 50k of one!) and unfortunately there are no new short stories since then either.

This past year was a very difficult one for me with life rearing its ugly head at many different times and attempting to pull me under. I am hoping this next year will be better and the first test shall be how well I do during NaNoWrimo 2012. I already have an idea as well as my main characters and some supporting characters all fleshed out. Now it is really just a matter of playing the waiting game until the clock strikes midnight on November 1st. Which, for me, can sometimes be the hardest part.

I hope to keep you all updated on my NaNoWrimo status this year and perhaps share a few lines or blunders from the novel.

Til then, I shall make sure I am fully prepared – and perhaps write some non-NaNo tidbits…

Last Pre-NaNo 2011 Weekend

So with Monday being Halloween, this is the start of the last weekend before NaNoWriMo 2011. The last weekend before a mad frenzy of writing. Which means… time to make sure all writing notes are organized and all supplies are in stock.

My favorite thing to do before NaNoWriMo begins is to have a playlist of music that fits my novel’s theme so that come midnight, I’m already in the mood to write my story and not just sitting there trying to figure out how to begin the story. To create the playlist, I go through my iTunes library, take a look at the freebies in the iTunes store, create a station on Pandora with a song I know fits the theme, tone, etc. and ask friends for help as I look for at least 20 songs.

Since last year, instead of writing my notes on various sheets of paper that I keep in a nearby folder, I have taken to using the wonderful free site LitLift to organize all of my notes on characters, items, settings and scenes. I also keep a notebook, though, for when I can’t be near a computer/internet – like when I’m dragged out of the house to get “fresh air” despite my protests.

As far as making sure I’m stocked up on supplies, I like to go to the grocery store a couple days before to buy various products with sugar and caffeine. Not to mention things like Vitamin C cough drops and orange juice so that I hopefully don’t get sick and fall behind on my word count. Then when I can find a moment to pause on November 1st, I go back to stock up on clearance-priced Halloween candy.

The most important thing, however, is to make sure I get a lot of sleep because come November 1st, there are going to be some sleepless nights!

Now off I go to finish up my own preparations!

New Short Story: Picture Day

Just posted a new short story that I just finished writing about an hour ago.

Read it and let me know what you think!

Picture Day
Genre: Young Adult – General Fiction
Completed: October 2011
It’s school picture day at a high school and everyone knows what that means – look perfect and smile.

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