DIY MFA Book Club: My Storytelling Superpower

I’m participating in the DIY MFA Book Club this month, and one of our daily prompts asks us to consider our Storytelling Superpower.

I took the Storytelling Superpower quiz at the DIY MFA site, and after a few quick questions, it told me my result is The Protector.

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“Your superpower is writing superheroes!”

This means my characters tend to be self-sacrificing and selfless (even to the point of martyrdom…).  They have a strong sense of duty and “superhuman fortitude.”  They strive to protect the people and things they love.  It gives Scarlett O’Hara, James Bond, and Iron Man as examples.

I had never thought of my writing this way!  For the result of a goofy little quiz, it does seem to fit my characters pretty well.

I love superheroes of all kinds.  I see superhero comics as a kind of modern mythology, a reflection of cultural aspirations and values.  Even though I’m drawn to grey characters, I don’t write a lot of them (at least not yet…).  Most of my characters have a Lawful Good bent, which I think mostly goes along with the superhero concept.

My last NaNoWriMo project is a great example of this; it features a healer who’s trying to free the spirit of a goddess (while possibly losing herself in the process), and a gladiator-turned-personal bodyguard who gets sucked into her quest.  They may have different reasons for doing what they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are both Protectors in their own way.

At first, I thought that another NaNoWriMo project, Ash and Team, threw a wrench in this scheme.  However, although the titular characters Ash and Team don’t really fit this superhero mold, the narrator Meg does.  Meg is Team’s older sister and a friend of Ash, a protector to them both. Way back when I started conceptualizing the retelling, it wasn’t until I looked through her perspective that the story really took shape.  She’s really the heart of the story, despite not being the “main” character.

You can take the Storytelling Superpower quiz, too!  Let me know what your result was 🙂  You can also join the DIY MFA book club here or get a copy of the book here.

 

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Nanowrimo Tag

If it’s November, that means it’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  I love participating in NaNo even though I rarely “win” by writing 50,000 words; it’s just a good excuse to make writing a priority for a month.

This month I’m working toward finishing two drafts I have started, one a YA folklore retelling Ash and Team (read some excerpts here) and one a fantasy adventure The Gladiator and the Goddess that was my first NaNo win.

The tag was created by Seihren the Bookish Witch and I saw it on Darnell’s blog.

1. How many years have you participated in NaNo?

This is my 6th year.  I started in 2013, when I wrote not even 6,000 words.  I finally won in 2016!  I’ve also participated in Camp NaNo during April and July over the years (which I prefer because you have “cabins” and can set your own goals).

2. Are you a planner, pantser, or plantser?

A planner! I outline nearly everything I write, even blog posts. Of course, I don’t know everything ahead of time (there are always twists and surprises in the process), but I usually know what will happen in all the key scenes before I write. For me, the story comes first in my head, and then I interpret it onto the page in writing.

3. If you are a planner/plantser, what are the first story elements that you flesh out?

Whatever plot points happen to have come into my head.  I guess I don’t really do it intentionally at first, I just kind of daydream about the story until I see some scenes and conversations taking shape.

4. NaNo Forums? Do you use them?

Nope. Time spent on the forums is time not spent writing.

5. Writing Buddies? Do you prefer to write socially or alone?

I generally like to be alone but around people; I write in Panera and libraries a lot.  But I find being with other writers does help my productivity.

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6. Do you diligently write 1,667 words a day, or do you write in spurts?

Definitely spurts. I don’t have time to dedicate every day, and I hate having to stop and start.  Once I get going, I want to keep going.

7. Do you have a writing totem?

No, I didn’t know this was a thing. Maybe I’ll get one now!

8. Do you go to kick-off, write-in, or wrap-up parties?

Not typically. I did make an effort two years ago to break out of my comfort zone and attend some write-ins. It was really great for my productivity and word count, so hopefully I can find some near me again this year.

9. When writing, are you an analog (handwritten) or digital writer? Does the same apply to when you’re taking notes or brainstorming?

Almost all digital. Even my notes are in Google Docs files. I just like the ease of editing so much.

10. Share your NaNo username (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that others can connect with you on the NaNo site!

Meimei21 (feel free to add me as a writing buddy)

Anybody else writing this month?  How’s it going so far?  Feel free to participate in this tag!

Getting Critiqued

Last week I had a new experience that, as many new experiences are, was both thrilling and terrifying.  No, I did not get to ride a new roller coaster at Cedar Point.  (In fact, due to my interesting condition, I was reduced to the Ferris wheel and Sky Ride this summer.)

No, I’m talking about having someone who is not related to me read my writing.

Several months ago, a fellow blogger was running a Kickstarter to fund her trip to a writer’s conference in Iceland.  One of the perks she offered was a critique of the first chapter of the donor’s WIP.  This sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to get some feedback on the draft of a fantasy novel I started for NaNoWriMo last year.

I was so elated when I won NaNo last year, I figured I would be able to channel that energy into a second draft this year.  However, when I started re-reading what I’d written, I really started hating it.  It did not seem at all like the story I’d had in my head.  The prose made me cringe, and the tone was all wrong.  I didn’t want to look at it, much less edit it.

So I figured I should really take this opportunity to get a fresh opinion in the hopes it would give me some direction for where to go next.  I didn’t really end up having any anxiety over it at all.  I already knew there were things wrong with my text, so I was actually eager for someone to tell me what exactly was wrong so I could fix it!

And that’s exactly what happened.  Sara wrote me a nice list of comments with her first impressions, things she was confused about, etc.  The most important comment she gave me was that my very first scene lacked tension.  There was nothing to hook the reader in, and nothing to foreshadow the larger conflicts of the later story.

She also mentioned a lack of visual cues for worldbuilding.  Although I implied a setting based on ancient Rome, I gave no physical descriptions of characters, buildings, etc.

As far as the writing, one of my goals is to re-read some of my favorite historical fantasies by Guy Gavriel Kay, who is kind of my “model” author for this story as it was heavily inspired by his works.

So this first chapter critique turned out to be a good experience for me.  I definitely feel more inspired and up to the task of revising my story now.  Letting others read your writing is always difficult, but hopefully it will get easier with time and practice.

 

Victory!

Winner 2016 - Web Banner

OMG you guys I’m so tired, and I’m going to spend the next month putting my life and my blog back together, but…I DID IT.  I won NaNoWriMo for the first time by writing over 50,000 words on my novel during November.

My novel, which is currently going by The Gladiator and the Goddess, is definitely not done.  In fact, the third act is virtually nonexistent, but it is a complete, readable text, which was really my goal.  So I’ll put it aside for a month and come back to it next year.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that winning NaNo was the hardest thing I have done in recent memory.  I am totally drained.  It got a little easier as I went along.  In previous NaNos, I’ve struggled to write more than a few hundred words per day; this time I found I was able to do about 1000 easily.  Of course, I was still behind the whole way, so this last week I really had to put a lot of time in.  Nothing like an upcoming deadline for motivation.

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Can you tell I’m a procrastinator?

When I tried to validate, I was still a few words short due to differences in word count methods, so I quickly added an extra paragraph that looked like this:

More words words words words la la a an the small words are better I think omg I’m done and Spotify stopped I need more kpop la s an the pull the dk ahf etih aien I need a hundred more words, how could the owrd count be off by that much yikes oh well I’m still going to win so whatever and opefully in January this will make me laugh a lot. So tied need sleep. Almost at one hundred more words more words the best words tremendous words so great I know all the best words much owrds so wow very write ok I’m over one hundred now thanks bye

Yup, that’s the thought process of a NaNo winner at the end of the month.

I hope you all had successful writing, too!  I look forward to reading them someday…after some editing. 🙂

ETA: I also accomplished my goal for the month by attending two local “write-ins” with other people in my area attempting NaNo.  We’re the Akron region and we have a Facebook group if you are local and want to join.

Also, my soundtrack for the month varied from Pines of Rome to the sounds of my husband playing Overwatch.  I did create a Spotify playlist for NaNo K-pop music that was my most frequent listen; check it out here:

https://open.spotify.com/user/scifijunkie21/playlist/0oj9pVqL6WEAeIqpD7JJQ9

 

Ash and Team Excerpt #4

This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team.  It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Ash (our Cinderella character)
  • Azula (her older sister)
  • Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
  • Meg (his older sister, our narrator)

Out of sight of the village, she broke into a skip, reveling in her new found freedom.  Once inside the forest, she greeted the trees as she walked among them.  “Hello, fir,” she said, touching their trunks she passed.  “Hello, hickory.  Hello, birch.”  She grinned as she felt them respond.

She heard footsteps and the occasional splash of water through the trees ahead of her; someone was standing on the bank of the creek at our meeting spot.  Ash picked up her pace so as to not make me wait any longer.

But when she entered the clearing it was not me she saw.  Team was standing with his back to her, tossing stones into the creek.

She just couldn’t seem to stop smiling today.

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