Saturday, September 3, 2011

Writing Buddies

I have a writing buddy. I do. Technically, I have two, but there's one I turn to more often than not. AD Spencer(everyone wave hi!). I think I go through every step of every story I ever write with her, and I do this on a daily basis. I mean, from little flashers (stories under 1000 words) to novel plans. She knows everything. And likewise, she does the same with me.

And that got me thinking... not everyone has a writing buddy. I find that kind of tragic. I mean, sure there are some cons to it (ones that rarely bother me, if at all), but the pros far outweigh it if you have a proper buddy. And I'm a glass half full kind of person, so I'll start with the pros.

Pro #1: If you've established a tell all honesty policy, they can often stop you in your tracks before you write yourself into stupidity. We've all had ideas we've questioned somewhere along our prose. Having a buddy that's well versed in your style is so incredibly useful when it comes to getting the answer to the ever-important question: "Does this sound dumb to you?" Or it's popular variation: "Does this make any sense at all?" Now, AD and I are best friends as well as writing buddies so we know we're not out to hurt each other. But sometimes, we fudge the truth. Not a lot. Just enough so that the other can tell what we really mean. (She can pop in here and tell me if I'm wrong about the fudging). I'll discuss that more under my cons.

Pro #2: Editing. We've all had to do it, and we all hate it. Or, at least, we hate it when it comes to our own stuff. (I actually don't mind editing other people's works). And sometimes editing our own stuff makes us miss mistakes because our eyes are tricky devils who like to see things the way we want them to, instead of the way they are. This is where having a writing buddy is especially helpful. They don't know how you meant to write it; they only see the typos you've loaded it down with. And that's great because then they can tell you where they are and suggest another round of edits altogether. This also works in the case of continuity errors (which can occur even in short stories, believe me).

Pro #3: Having a writing buddy--especially one with as much on his/her plate as you--can be a stress reducer. It's great to exchange rants on how scenes aren't working, characters aren't fleshing out, or on the things that are keeping you away from the story when all you want to do is write (this may only apply to those who aren't hermits w/ wifi and if you are a hermit with wifi you are truly blessed). After having a long rant with AD either via phone or chat, I often feel pumped and ready to write where before I might have felt like crawling back into bed. And on that subject...

Pro #4: Cheerleader. This one basically speaks for itself, but to clarify just a bit... it helps a whole friggin' lot when you've got someone constantly telling you "you can do it."

Pro#5: Memories. Okay, hear me out on this one. I'm a girl who likes to laugh. In fact, I love to laugh. I would go so far as to list laughing as one of my hobbies. I find irony hilarious, love stand-up comedians, and I love to be nostalgic and look back on past instances where I've nearly busted a gut. But, in writing, the stuff that cracks you up not everybody gets. For example, you find a typo in a line of dialogue that accidently has your oh-so-innocent character shouting a swearword. That's funny to you, but try to share that with a loved one that isn't a writer or isn't up to speed with your writing. You have to explain why it's funny before you even get to the funny part. And to quote a favorite fictional character, the Joker, "If you have to explain the joke, then there is no joke!" But with an up-to-date writing buddy, all you have to do is quote the typo, and they laugh right along with you. Good times. (PS, as if you couldn't guess, totally don't own the Joker, just quoting).

Pro#6: Competitor. Now, this one can double as a con depending on how vicious you are. I mean this in a fun light-hearted sense. AD and I like to call it "throwing down the gauntlet." And we set punishments if certain things are met. For example, she too is a fanfiction writer--for leisure and fun like myself. And we both decided to do fanfiction NaNoWriMo 2010. So we set a challenge. We had to finish, or for every section of 5k-10k we didn't finish, we had a punishment. For us, it was writing fanfictions about things we hated. We had a different one for each 5k up until 50k--where your reward was finishing NaNoWriMo. I'll tell you, that's probably the reason I finished last year. I knew she would hold me to the challenge--as I would to her. AD once told me that she got the idea from reading about another set of writing friends who set the goals of submitting so much a week to publishers. By the end of the week, whoever lost had to buy the round of drinks when they went out. The fanfiction punishment was our poor-man's answer. But you know what? It did its job. Talk about motivating.

Now that I'm done with the pros, let's do cons, shall we?

Con #1: Fudging the truth. This one can be a huge obstacle. Now, because of how well AD and I know one another, we can tell when we're being nicer than what we really mean. For example, I'm also a fanfiction writer--for leisure and practice, as stated above. And I was discussing an idea for an upcoming scene in one said fanfiction. When I had finished and asked what she thought, she replied with a tight, "Yeah... good. But you need to play it just right." I heard the tones underlying it. And when I was of a saner mind, I re-examined the scene. Yeah, I chucked it. This is a good thing when it comes to me and AD. However, if you don't have this relationship with your writing buddy (or group, I suppose these could apply to as well) then this is a major con. Honesty is a must. And if not honesty, then a good feeling for subtext. This also couples with the idea of letting your buddy know that you can be told that something was bad or needed to be changed without running to a corner, sobbing hysterically.

Con #2: Time. It takes time to read stuff. That's just a fact. And it takes time to edit. And if your buddy is as crunched for time as you are, that proposes a problem. Remember that the world doesn't revolve around you and your epic story so you won't pester your buddy to death about reading something by a certain time. Now, requesting that they have it done within a certain span is all right so long as you can understand--likewise--that that may not be possible. Speaking of not revolving around you...

Con #3: Listening. Now, I don't mean having to listen to your buddy is an over-all con. I enjoy listening and working out ideas on works not my own. I enjoy being supportive and encouraging. And that's my point. If you don't enjoy these things, then you're probably best left alone. Having a writing buddy means being one, and if you don't want to be one then it's simply not fair.

Con#4: Competition. See above for the positive side to this. The negative competition comes in the form of both you and your buddy writing and submitting at the same time. Sometimes it's hard to be truly happy for a buddy when they got the spot in the anthology and you didn't. But if you can truly be happy for them, then good for you! (I'll add that it helps if the buddy has been a longtime personal friend as well). Also, if you have any sort of insecurities, that comes into play here. You might feel overshadowed or that they're just better at getting the work done than you. These are things that you need to discuss in earnest with yourself. Odds are though, your buddy feels the same way about you. But if you can't work past this, then, again, it's probably best to go it alone.

And that's it. I can't think of any more cons. But, looking back over this list, I still feel that--for me at least--the pros outweigh them. If anyone has more pros, or cons, feel free to comment and let me know! Hope this little insight into writing buddies helped. Until next time!

--Originally posted on my writing blog on my site here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Characters: What's in a Name?

Have you ever been writing along, really into your story, and then, all of a sudden, you stop. Bewildered, you start scrolling back up your document, desperately checking. Then you realize: the name you were going to use for the character you just created you've already given to some throw-a-way background character.

Yeah, it happens. And one thing is for sure: DO NOT under ANY circumstances give your MC (main character) the same, or a similiar, name to someone else in the story, throwaway character or not. It's some advice I came across one day--and I would link you to the article, but I honestly can't remember where it was--and it makes complete and utter sense to me. After all, do you want to confuse your readers, on which the balance of success and failure hangs on just as equally--if not more--than you? Heck no.

However, I'm sure that many of you have come across the tiny problem this little rule creates. There are probably an infinite number of names in the world. And if it's not infinite, it's pretty damn close. But we aren't omniscient. We, as perfectly fallible creatures, run out of names! I've done it, my best friend has done it, and I'm pretty sure you have too. So what to do? Do you stretch your horizons and maybe give your MC--or any character--a name that may not match their ethinicity, country of origin, etc.? Well, sure, you can do that. There's nothing stopping you. Except that, unless you just leave it like that God-awful giant elephant in the corner of your living room, you have to give a good reason for your character to have that name.

"Hi, my name is Fatima. I was born and raised to Irish Immigrants in the United States."

See what I mean? Now, Fatima is a perfectly good name. In fact, I've always liked the way it sounded--don't ask, I don't have a good answer to that. But I think it's safe to assume that your adverage joe would think, "Huh? Wonder why?" And they might get a little peeved if no answer is provided. It doesn't have to be an elaborate one, if you go this route of naming, but it has to be believable.

So maybe you decide that you've thought up enough for your character's world, and you just want a name that you like the sound of, has no real special meaning to the plot at hand, and that you haven't used a million times before (I'm guilty of all three of these, by the way). What do you do?

I hit the naming problem early into my writing adventures--which began in the 8th and has since improved greatly, I think. I came up with a solution that might be obvious to some, not so much to others, and got me a lot of really weird looks from my teachers. I bought a baby name book. A whole book of names, meanings, origins, and if you really shell out the bucks, the year they first came into usage. I was in the ninth grade by the time I had my first baby name book... can you guess how often I had to answer with, "No, I'm not pregnant."

And if you don't want to put out the money, there's always the internet. Anymore, this is the medium I use to find names. I'm usually typing out my stories, so it's already right there at my fingertips. I offer only one bit of advice for this otherwise great way to find names: do some double checking. If you find a name you like on one sight, try to find it on a few others if you want to use it for a specific time period or meaning. If you're just using it because you like the way it sounds, then by all means, just stop when you find it.

Other than that, I have only one other suggestion for finding names to use: mix and match the names of people you know or have known in your lifetime. My best friend started me on this. We both generally try not to use exact names of people we know--just in case they don't like their character or the fact that you didn't ask for their name--but we do take two people we've known and used the first name of one, and the surname of the other. Old classmates, co-workers, distant relatives, or even names you catch on a cemetery's tombstone (yes, done this too) can work.

And now that I've shared all my methods on getting new names, I wish to ask: what are some of yours? Got any new tips for me? Feel free to comment and let me know!

I'm off to go tackle this problem at this very moment. But, as a parting gift, here's the link to a website I use quite often for names:

Until next time! This is Patricia from the Guild! Viva la quill!

--originally posted on my personal writing blog on my site here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yet Again...

We're busy, busy, guys, so we have to apologize for not being here, issuing challenges and whatnot. I actually did a post about character names on my website here, but I might copy/paste it as a post here, as it is helpful advice--I think.

Meanwhile, Ariyana has turned her blog into her writing site here. And the both of us have been redesigning our blogs including my personal one here and my craft one here. Please, take the time to drop in and check those out.

I'll also hope that you've noticed the slide at the upper, lefthand corner of the blog. Those prettyful covers? Yeah,either Ariyana, myself, or both have been published in those books! If you have any book covers that are that of anthologies you've been published in--or novels, novellas, etc. that you've had published--let me know and I'll add you to the GFQ slide!

Also, I know we were promising vlogs, but things have kind of been topsy-turvy in all the Guildmistress's lives, so maybe we'll get some out in the near future. But, if you have a writing related vid you'd like to see up, let me know and we'll get that worked out to be put up on our youtube channel.

Now, going back to the redesigned blogs. It's been so long here, so how about some change? I open the floor. Got any suggestions?

With that, I'm signing off.

And, as always, viva la quill!

Friday, January 14, 2011

First Video Up!

It's only a little intro, but our first video is up over at our youtube channel! Please subscribe and comment!

View it here!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Challenge Twenty-Six : Horror Flash Fiction

See full details here!

But here's the skinny:

In 500 words or less, write a horror flash fiction--which, by definition, is a whole story in only 500 words!

Is is difficult? Is it challenging? You betcha. But is it crazy fun?

Hell yeah.

So, this, as you can see from the link above, is inspired by a contest that is open to all authors--published or not--and there are even cash prizes. For the sake of the Guild, you don't have to submit, but if you get one done, why not? If you need any help on what to do should you want to, feel free to contact either myself or Slinky, who have both done this process for a little while now.

Deadline: The link says July, but for this challenge, how about the end of Feb? After all, the earlier you get it in, the better.

Happy writing and viva la quill!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter News: Upcoming Vlog, Challenges, and More

I hope each and every one of you enjoyed your holiday, followers of the Quill. In order to revive our precious Guild, your friendly Guildmasters have planned out a jam-packed Winter.

Guildmaster, Kimmi Gray, has talked Patricia and me into a Youtube vlog--can you believe it? In the vlog we shall be recognized by our nicknames Blitz (Kimmi), Squeak (Patricia), and Slinky (Ariyana--that's me). The first video will be a quick intro, but from there we'll be updating with helpful hints for fellow writers, challenges, and useless off-subject nonsense. Videos will be posted on a Guild channel, then, likely, uploaded onto the blog. Hope you all enjoy.

Upcoming challenges will be issued soon enough. For the original fiction and poetry challenges, we'll be listing publishers as well who might be interested in your content.

What's the "More"? Well, how would you feel about updates on our publishing successes and failures? We're also planning to provide you with info on some of our favorite Indie presses and useful websites.

Until next time,
Viva la Quill,