A Brainstorm (Almost) Unedited

brainstorm real

Quick! Abandon ship!

The rats always know when it’s time to leave.

Should I share my brainstorm with you?

Should I share my brain with you?

My unedited thoughts?

I’ve always been more comfortable with knowing that it was safely tucked away behind my eyes. Even though they say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, you cannot see my thoughts no matter how long you stare into these balls of goo. And maybe that’s for the best. Even if you saw a flicker, it depends on what it sounds like you saw, what I was thinking at the time and the direction of the wind whether I would admit to having a thought like that.

Would you profit from reading my brainstorm? The raw material, unpolished, unhewn even. It is of course not as raw as some things in my brain; it has been through my conscious mind and fingers first, still, would you enjoy wearing two pieces of cloth, kept together with pins?

The metaphor is not perfect, but this is what you get when you get the unedited text.

So after this small taste, are you hungry for more?

Would you like to see what happens before the finished text?

Throw me a comment with your answer.

“Untitled” no. 7 (or “The Novel Which had no Title”)

The novel I am writing has 15 chapters, 91 pages, 33,600 words and no title.

Of course I expect to write about 41,400 words more before it is finished, so there is no hurry, but still I wondered if the Great Internet, had something interesting to say about title creation.

I found several interesting sites:

Rachelle Gardner’s blog (a literary agent): http://www.rachellegardner.com/2010/03/how-to-title-your-book and
eHow: http://www.ehow.com/how_2308134_title-novel.html
both had some nice concrete suggestions, and not so much text that it swamped me.

Wiki how: www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Good-Story-Title
Had a few pointers though some were rather obvious and the suggestions were less concrete than the ones found at the two sites above.

Write and Publish Fiction: http://www.write-and-publish-fiction.com/good-book-title.html
Had a nice exercise, but with the title: “Follow This Simple Exercise to Create a Good Book Title That Sells!” I really felt like they were trying to sell me something.

All in all, many of the sites I found repeated the same things. I have gathered some of the ones I liked here:

  • Make really REALLY ReAlLy long lists with all the things your story/novel/poem is about. Concentrate on verbs and nouns in particular and try to match some of them up.

  • If somewhere in your story/novel/poem there is a really funny/smart/interesting phrase, use it in your title.
  • Make it short. (Unless you have a really great idea which takes up the whole cover.)
  • Use good quotes if you can find them. (try www.thinkexist.com)
  • Use alliteration or rhyme if possible. (Of course this might make it sound like something for children, but grown ups like rhymes too… I do anyway.)
  • Be careful with giving it a title which is already in use; it might cause a lot of confusion.
  • Make sure the title has something to do with the story/novel/poem. If the title is “Cake” everyone will be disappointed if there is no cake in the story in some way or another. Everyone feels cheated if the cake is a lie.
  • Find stories/novels/poems in the same genre as yours and check out their titles. Find out which kind of titles you like. Find out why you like those titles. Use that to make your own title. Without of course making it too generic.

That’s the list I came up with. I’ll probably take a look at it again when the novel is finished.

What do you do when you need a good title?


PS. I have an exam on Tuesday and another the week after, so there might not be any more updates before I am done. I should be reading right now, but I agree with thebyronicman that regret should be the 8th deadly sin, so I regret nothing!

The Creation of Namé Hara

I saw this post, and since I know that sometimes stories begin with a character, I thought I would like to make a character sketch just for fun.

This is how it turned out:

Namé Hara

Physical: Black hair long enough to touch her lower back. Brown eyes. Golden brown skin. About five foot tall.

Personality: Quick to laugh. Brooding. Shy. Self-critical. Protective.

Family: 1 older sister, 3 older brothers. Mother, father and grandparents on both sides still alive.

Friends: A few good friends, many “acquaintances”.

Relationships: None.

Personal History: She began dancing when she was five years old, she stopped when she was 13. She said it was because she did not like dancing anymore. Really it was because she liked one of the boys in her dancing class, and she did not want any physical contact with anyone else, but she was too shy to dance with him. She is now 17 and no longer in love with the boy, but she still thinks it would be embarrassing to begin dancing again.

I do not think this one will end up as a story, but it was a nice exercise 🙂

When I rewrote my novel, I made character sketches for all the important characters to try to get a better picture of them all, and I found it very helpful.

However, when I write short stories or flash fiction I practically never make sketches of the characters. But maybe I should once in a while, it might give some of the characters more depth?

What do you think? Do you use character sketches?

Writer’s Block

Here I am again staring at the screen. Willing new and interesting words to appear, but where are they? They say the only way to leave writer’s block behind is to write oneself out of it. So here I am. Trying.

If I have a muse, she must have gone on vacation somewhere close to my first exam, and even though I am done, she has not returned. How does one entice a muse to come back to work? Flowers? Chocolate? I am sure some chocolate would help. I had better eat some (says the chocoholic).

mmmm… Lovely. Now where did that muse get to? Perhaps she got lost in the mess on my desk? I suppose I could tidy it up just a little bit…

Done, but there was no muse hiding in the debris. Or wait. What is this? An old scrap of paper with a few scribbled words. It sounds like something from a dream. Or something I wrote in the middle of the night which is basically the same. Hmm… If I have a muse, I think she just gave me a hint.

What do you do when your muse goes away on holiday?

About First Drafts and More of the List

When writing the first draft, give your subconscious free rein. When editing, be conscious of EVERYTHING.

Consciousness Awakening on Vimeo by Ralph Buckley

Consciousness (Photo credit: Ralph Buckley)

When you reread your novel/poem/short story, read every sentence with this question in mind:

“Why is this sentence in my story(or poem)?”

And for each word:

“Why is this word in my sentence?”

Describing a scene or a person can be a reason for a sentence to be there, but if you have two sentences which essentially only describes a person’s hair, consider if they are both necessary. If the second only repeats the first, delete it.

Unless you have some very special reason for focusing on the hair of this person. Your protagonist might have a hair obsession and stare at everybody’s hair, but if that is the case, at least make it interesting for the reader, or the text as a whole will not work.

Of course, it is a very difficult task to be conscious of everything which is why getting a writing/critique group or at least a critique-person is a great idea. An extra pair of eyes might see things which one does not see oneself.

Reading the texts of other people can also be a great exercise. It is often easier to find out what one likes and why in a text written by someone else.

Another great help is lists.

You might recall the list I wrote for “About Pictures in Writing and Writing in Pictures

  • The words or combination of words: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, ‘as if’
  • ‘Began to’
  • Too many adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Passive sentences
  • Points of view
  • ‘could see’, ‘could feel’, ‘could smell’
  • The pace of the story
  • Interposed sentences
  • Very long sentences
  • Repetition of small words like ‘so’, ‘and’, ‘then’
  • Things that are irrelevant to the story

I’ll jump right to the last point of the list which is often one of the most difficult ones to spot.

Imagine we have a story about a Chihuahua puppy who falls in love with a Great Dane.

Great Dane and Chihuahua mixed-breed

Great Dane and Chihuahua. It was love at first sight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the first page we are introduced to the black bird who lives in the tree in the puppy’s garden.

Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. Bogen...

Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. One day he will be a famous slayer of snakes! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once in a while during the story, we hear of how the black bird dreams of becoming a slayer of snakes.

This is not one story. It is two; One about a puppy and another about a blackbird. If the two stories do not influence each other then perhaps they would be better off as two independent stories.

There are always exceptions of course, but in general try to stay with the story you want to tell the most and tell the other stories some other time.

And always, always, always when you edit, be conscious of which story you want to tell.

So tell me, have you tried telling several stories at once? Did it work?

I wish you all good writing 🙂

Of Pictures in Writing and Writing in Pictures

Oh, yay! I am finally done writing the story of Moving Forwards, so now I can begin the rewriting/editing phase.

But wait, this would be an opportune moment to throw in some advice on writing, so let’s rewind and change the point of view:

Oh, yay! You are finally done writing your novel/short story/narrative poem… your story. Now all you have to do is send it off to a publishing house, right?

No! First you have to look it through and edit it, tidy it up if you will, because a first draft always has some irregularities. Some things that do not do the story or idea you had justice.

So where to start?

I usually start at the beginning (I am SO original) and read the whole story through looking for:

  • The words or combination of words: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, ‘as if’
  • ‘Began to’
  • Too many adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Passive sentences
  • Points of view
  • ‘could see’, ‘could feel’, ‘could smell’
  • The pace of the story
  • Interposed sentences
  • Very long sentences
  • Repetition of small words like ‘so’, ‘and’, ‘then’
  • Things that are irrelevant to the story

This may seem like a rather long list, and many of the points will need clarification, but it is a very tangible list, and I recommend making one like it to anyone who wants to edit his/her writing. Of course, the points on this list do not work for all stories. For example, in my story Misfortune I use quite a lot of passive sentences. Can you guess why? 😉

Where do they come from all of these very tangible points?

Well, some of them have to do with pictures.

One should think that writing is about words, but actually it is about pictures. That is, the pictures the readers get in their heads when they read what you have written. The stronger these pictures are the better. Also, if you want to tell a specific story then it is a good idea to give the readers the right pictures or it will not come across as you planned.

For example, if you use the word ‘dog’.

Think about that word: ‘Dog’.

It can bring thousands of different associations with it, both positive and negative, and if you ask different people about the ‘dog in their mind’

Great Danes and Chihuahuas by David Shankbone,...

Great Danes and Chihuahuas by David Shankbone, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

you will get both Chihuahuas and Great Danes.

Now think about the word ‘puppy’. It is still a dog, but most people will here envision a small one of the kind and probably a cute one too.

Deutsch: Ein Wolfspitz-Sibirian Husky Welpe En...

A Keeshond-Sibirian Husky puppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, if you write ‘flea-bitten hearthrug’ you will give your readers a quite different picture.

Which is the right one to use depends on the situation. You have to know, what you want your readers to ‘see’.

Also, remember that your readers might not always get the same associations as you do when they read a word. If you want other people to read your story, it is best to use the words that will get the right associations and pictures across to the largest number of people.

Let us pretend that you have written a story about a dog. If you have written that it is a ‘small dog’, change it. If you mean that it is a Chihuahua, write ‘Chihuahua’, if the kind of dog is not relevant to the story, but you want people to think of the dog as cute, write ‘puppy’. Both words give stronger pictures to your readers.

I found a new puppy to take pictures of, you'l...

Chihuahua puppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which leads me to the first point on the list, words like: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, etc.

These words tend to weaken otherwise strong words and pictures.

For example, why write ‘very big’ when you could write ‘enormous’? Do not be afraid to exaggerate. It only improves the reading experience.

If you compare ‘She almost knocked him off his feet’ and ‘She knocked him off his feet’ is the latter not more fun? Or if you do not like the change in meaning how about ‘Her blow made him reel’?

Consider the sentence: ‘His face was a little pale.’ Here ‘a little’ adds nothing new to the sentence. His face was pale, so write it: ‘His face was pale.’

That is it for now. I will save the rest of the list for some other day.

But how about you?

Do you have a ‘watch-list’ for editing your writing? Or are you perhaps going to make one now?

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