Goal-Setting and Beating Records (An Update of Sorts)

As many of you know, NaNoWriMo has recently finished. I’m still a bit abuzz from the experience. This year was my last NaNoWriMo in high school — or, in other words, the last NaNoWriMo before college (and being super busy!). As such, I decided to set some high goals for myself; I wanted to beat all my old records and try and surpass my highest goals if I could.

Did I manage to do that? Well, let’s see:

In July of 2014, I wrote my personal best of 112,714 words. This year, I surpassed that with 142,743 words. And my new daily record is 25,464 words in ten hours (whew, that was some day!).

I think I can happily say that I did pretty well. I’m actually really proud of myself — and why shouldn’t I be? As writers, our chosen career can sometimes be a bit lonely and not always as productive as we’d like it to be. We should learn to celebrate the little things, and especially the big things.

So that brings me to the topic of this time’s post: setting goals and beating records. I possess a high WPM and an ability to easily come up with stories in my mind, without a need to go back and edit — this allows me to write quickly and efficiently. However, I know plenty of people who have a harder time with writing words down quickly. Because of my high typing speed, I can set higher goals for myself — but that hardly means I’m a better writer. Indeed, it may mean I’m just churning out crap faster, haha.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that depending on what type of writer you are, you need to adjust your goals based on that. If you’re a slower writer, who thinks more about the story and the characters as you write, rather than just speeding through the story, try a slow but steady goal — an hour a day or something.

For daily quotas, there are several different ways to look at it. They can generally be broken into three categories: time, pages, and words. Do you measure the time you spend writing by hours (or minutes, even), the number of pages you write, or how many words you can get down? I usually go by words, but sometimes that can be intimidating for people.

If you’re editing or even planning a story, it may be easier to go by time since you can’t measure that with a specific page or word count. Some people also think time is better since they are not constrained to meet a certain word count — since some scenes may be slower or faster, harder or easier to write, they can simply just spend the hour (or however long) working on it, rather than trying to get five hundred words into that scene.

For those who are busy, with jobs or school, you could write in time intervals. Steal fifteen minutes here and there. This is not my preferred way of writing, because I usually like to get into the “zone” and write for hours, rather than jumping in and out and writing for little bits at a time. However, I am blessed with extended blocks of time to be able to do that (at least currently . . .). If you don’t have several hours to yourself, you might be one of those people who need to take advantage of every spare minute to yourself. Carry around a notebook. Think about your characters in your free time. Watch the people around you, and search for ideas. As writers, we should take grasp of every opportunity in front of us.

Goal-setting is a hard thing to do. How can I find a proper goal for myself that I’ll be able to consistently meet, that won’t drag me down, won’t bore me, but keep me inspired and get me working steadily on my project? Well, I can’t answer that. You have to figure that out for yourself. It might take some fiddling, some changing up your routine, but eventually I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you.

Goals can help you focus and if you tell people about them, they can help keep you accountable. As with NaNoWriMo, having a goal can stretch your abilities, shooting you higher than you ever thought you could reach. The encouragement you get from the people you share your dreams with can also be very beneficial.

Mostly, I’ve been talking about daily goals. But what about other goals, vaguer things like deadlines to finish a draft, editing a story, or sending out query letters? For these, it might be good to have those daily goals to push you to those — you can adjust your daily goals according to your deadline, so you’ll reach it in time. As encouragement, think about giving yourself rewards each time you manage to be on schedule (if you have three months until your deadline, you can give yourself a reward every month).

As the new year approaches, are there any goals you’re setting for yourself? What do you hope to accomplish in the next few months? What are you proud to have accomplished this year? Beat any records lately?

Thanks for reading! For those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo, great job! It was an awesome year. As always, keep on writing!

~ J. Dominique

On Creating a Unique Voice and Style For Each of Your Stories

Have you found your voice yet? I’ve read lots of posts and heard lots of things about “finding your voice” and “learning your style,” but for me it’s never really been a problem. People talk about not imitating other authors (though if it’s to find yourself, that’s all right) and striving to create your own unique voice, but I’ve always just written what I wanted to — in other words, I’ve just poured words onto the page, without really worrying about how they sounded. In a way, I formed my own voice and style through that.

I’ve always kind of believed that you don’t need to try and force your voice; that it just comes naturally to you. But what happens when you’re writing a character whose personality is drastically different than yours? I’m not just talking about our POV characters or protagonists (which aren’t necessarily the same), but side characters who may speak up in the dialogue. We may have to alter our style of writing to fit that particular character’s outlook of the world.

Most of the time our protagonist is our POV character — and most of the time, our protagonist shares a few qualities with ourselves. But what happens when we decide to introduce a POV character who is different than us? The opposite gender? Older or younger? A wild personality that, if the character was real, would conflict with our own? (While we might like them on the page, it’s probably a whole different story in real life.)

If you read a lot (which you should), there might be a particular author you love who’s written widely and has a variety of stories and protagonists. Do you notice them changing their style of writing slightly with each new book? Or do all their characters feel the same? Most authors’ underlying voice will always be similar, but with each new story we introduce and the characters that go with it, we should bring along a fresh, new tone with it.

There are some authors that I love, and as I read the many protagonists’ stories, even though they have varied personalities, I don’t really feel any difference between them. Some authors are naturally funny or sarcastic, so they always make their characters such — even if that character may not be so. I myself have a habit of writing in a more modern way and adding too much sarcasm, even though I often want to go for a more fantasy-esque and sophisticated feel.

My point is, with each story you write, your voice might change. Actually, with each story you write, your voice probably will change. Because you’ll grow as a writer with each story you pen. It’s inevitable. I can tell that I’ve grown just from a few months ago. That’s the wonderful thing about writers and writing — there’s no end in sight: we can always keep going, up and up, with no limits to our growth.

Anyway, when writing a story, your voice/style might be something you review when editing. Get the first draft done. Write with your natural voice. It’s probably easiest that way so you can just get it down and done with. After that, you can review your character (are they witty or serious? do they view the world in a lot of detail? what is the first thing they notice about people? do they tend to think carefully through things, or not at all? etc.) and apply those to your story. Create a voice unique to your story.

Often, when stories have multiple POV characters, there’s a complaint that the two characters sound the same. Have you ever run into this problem (in reading a book, and perhaps writing one if you’ve written a multiple POV story)? There’s no easy way to fix this other than to clearly grasp all of your characters’ voices in your head. Know in depth how they’d react to situations. Know when they’d act or hold back. Know how they speak, fast or slow, the catchphrases they use, the quotes they’d quote. Do they let their emotions show easily or not? If you’re basing one of your characters off someone, observe that someone. See how they act. Of course, observing people is good just for any character or situation. It lets you get a good grasp on characters and voice, regardless of what you’re doing it for. When you think about the many people you know, you can easily identify their individual voices and personalities, right? You just need to apply that thinking to your characters. Steal some from the people you know, if need be. I’ve done it a lot. (Might need to be sneaky about it, though, haha. Or you could always get their permission. . . .)

Aside from character voice, the writing style of such things as the descriptions and action might change according to the story as well. If the story is a thriller, you might want shorter sentences, choppier action scenes, full of snappy dialogue and hot emotion. If it’s a romance, you’ll fill your story with fluffy scenes, sweet, visual descriptions, and lots of internal dialogue and drama (most likely). Horror and mystery could use a dark mood, with depressing word choices, and a gloomy tone to set it off; potentially a lot of character development. Fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian stories might be more based on world-building and character turmoil, with the fate of the world to be decided, and action scenes to keep the plot going. An even balance between beautiful descriptions, high-stakes action, and heart-pounding emotion.

(As a side note, since I always get confused between the difference of tone and mood: tone can be defined as the author’s attitude toward the subject, the feelings you write into your story; and mood is the atmosphere perceived by the reader, the emotions that are brought out by the author. Hope that clears it up. If it still doesn’t make sense, I’m sure you can look it up and see explanations by other people much more talented than me at defining things.)

Do you see how your voice and style are so important, and how it can change depending on your story? If you’ve written multiple stories, how have you dealt with the change of characters, voice, and style (along with tone and mood and such)? Are there any authors that you’ve read who have mastered the art of changing their voice well? What about authors who always sound the same, no matter who their character is?

Thank you for reading! I hope this post has been informative to you in some way. NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. I’m pretty excited because I actually have a project I’m really invested in this time! I just hope I’ll be able to finish my outline before then. Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Best of luck to you who are! And to those who aren’t, best of luck to you in all your writing endeavors!

~ J. Dominique

August Update — New Plans!

This post is just going to be an update on what I’ve been up to this summer (not much), and what I’m planning to do these following months. I hope that posting this online will help keep me accountable!

These next few months are very important for me, both as a student and a writer. I am currently sixteen years old and entering my last year of high school — approximately this time next year I’ll be in college. Scary, huh? I’m a little excited, a little apprehensive.

Either way, though, I’m sure college is going to be harder on me than high school currently is. In fact, I’d say I have it pretty easy right now. I don’t have a lot of extracurricular activities and my school load is light. I have plenty of time right now to write. So to say I need to be getting quite a bit done during this last year is an understatement. Of course, I need to make time for writing in college as well, but I also want to make the most of the time I have now.

Lately, I haven’t been writing much. Not because of lack of inspiration — I’ve had plenty, and I’ve wanted to write. The problem is that the stage I’m in right now is editing. And while I don’t hate editing . . . I don’t exactly like it. It’s a bit tedious to me. Of course, I understand that it’s a necessary part of the writing process.

Anyway, the other night I was rereading through my story to get a better handle on it so I could reorganize my plot when I realized something: I drafted this story a year and a half ago. My writing ability has gotten a lot better since then. My story, also, has developed a lot since then. Simply put, it would be much easier for me to completely rewrite/redraft the whole series than to try and edit what I have. I’m not quite sure why this didn’t occur to me earlier.

And you know what? I’m really excited about this. I know that I’m going to have to edit later on, and I’ll get to that then, but soon I’ll be able to enjoy actually writing, and that makes me super happy.

So what I’m going to do now is review what I currently have, map out a new plotline to use, further develop my characters and world, and hopefully by the time NaNoWriMo comes around this November, I’ll be prepared to start drafting anew my series. It’s doable, definitely. This week, I’ve gotten more work done that I have all summer (basically, all I got done this summer was watching anime and reading books, but hey, I don’t usually get summers off, okay? — yeah, yeah, I know, no excuse).

How are you and all your writing endeavors going? Has there ever been a point when you’ve realized that you need to stop pushing yourself so hard and start from scratch again (and in a different situation, perhaps)? It can be tough sometimes, or sometimes it can be relieving. As writers, we have to make some tough decisions.

There ends my update — I hope you all are doing well! Keep on writing and having fun with it!

~ J. Dominique

Update and a Poem

Hello, everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated and I feel terrible. Because it’s been so long, this will just be an update post and as a bonus, a poem. I’ll try to post in a couple weeks with something more, though.

So, it’s NaNoWriMo month! Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo? I did NaNo for both Camps this year and I’m doing it this month. Although, it is going a bit slow for me. I hope to reach 50,000 by the end of this week, though. I’m rebelling this month and doing a mix of writing a rough draft of a story, editing my series, and planning three different stories. Yes, it’s a lot, I know. But it’s fun, nonetheless.

I took a break from writing, which is part of the reason why I haven’t posted in so long. It was a terrible case of Writer’s Block, but NaNoWriMo has helped me get out of it. Also, I think I kind of needed the break because my mind was dead for the first two months during it — meaning, I barely thought about my story at all because I’d worked my brain overtime. And then, two months ago, I started getting ideas for stories every day. Aha! My brain is awake again. It reminded me why I’d started writing in the first place, that rush of ideas.

So, yes, breaks can sometimes be detrimental to your writing, but often are needed. Though I wouldn’t always recommend a three month-long break. That’s right. I didn’t write at all for three months. I felt like an awful non-writer. But ultimately, it did help me be more fresh with writing my stories.

Anyway, that’s what’s been up with me these last few months. I’m still working on my series, doing a lot of character developments and working on some holes in my plot. I’ll probably end up having to rewrite the whole series, but oh well. We’re writers! We all know that the first draft will never be the final draft.

Without further ado, here is my bonus. This is one of my favorite poems that I’ve ever written: it’s titled “Strike My Soul.” Hope you guys like it!

It starts when I see you in the distance,
Far-off, at first, only thunder I hear,
Then clouds twist in, a beautiful romance,
With all my veins, and every single fear.

Lightning, oh, lightning, please strike near my heart,
Slice me in pieces till there’s nothing more,
Send your blinding light to shatter me ’part,
Lightning, make sure there’s nothing to restore.

Make me anew, no longer can I fall,
Through my muscles, your crystal sheen can rip,
Your sweet incandescence become my all,
Make me a path in which I cannot slip.

Connect me to life, then sever the thread,
Give me electricity, make me kneel,
Obliterate the life I once had led,
And once you’re done, there’s nothing left to heal.

To those who tried to destroy me with words,
No longer do you have the upper hand,
Your time’s up, now we’re all moving forwards,
A new era is here, run while you can.

And now with the power of loss and pain,
I’ll make you all cry in the thunder’s roll,
I am a beauty, tangled with the rain,
But this metamorphosis takes its toll.

After the days of my ruining haze,
I raise my regret as bright as fire’s blaze.

~ J. Dominique