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5 Quick Tips for NaNoWriMo

Be the center.
NaNoWriMo starts on Thursday!

For the few who are masters at avoiding what's in, or live in especially glamorous rocks, NaNoWriMo stands for "National Novel Writing Month". The goal is simple: Write 50,000 words for one novel project in 30 days.

The challenge, however, is harder than it sounds like--yet easier, if you actually write.

Since everyone else's doing it, even though I prefer to not follow trends without putting my own twist in the matter, I'll just put my two pesos into the arena:

Set Some Time For Writing

Once you carve out time in your day to sit down and actually write, reaching 1667 words a day should be a breeze, relatively speaking.

Unless you're a busy person or a student with lots of exams this month, you should be able to spare sixty or ninety minutes. 

Now, don't be rigid about it. In fact, you should encourage yourself to be spontaneous about it...

Make Writing Your Go-To Activity

This is a thought that I had after playing Bejeweled on my iPhone one too many times.

It's deleted now, and there was a dull shift in my mind when I found myself clicking to it only to see that the app's gone, but the problem was that it has became a habit to play it, instead of doing something productive, like piano, or homework...or writing.

Make writing that kind of habit, to the point that you feel it when it's absent.

It's a great activity to get "addicted" to it, because, unlike blows and whisky, you can get something good out of it.

Learn How to Sit Correctly

This will be a future post. I already have it written up. Posture is important. Remember that.

BACK-UP! BACK-UP! ONE, TWO, THREE TIMES!

Seriously! This doesn't apply just to NaNoWriMo. Have more than one way to back up my writing.

I have learned my lesson multiple times. First, it was my flashdrive. I lost it.

I then put SyncToy into the mix, which allows me to easily back-up my files onto the computer. Unfortunately, one month, my laptop charger died on me, and my flash drive broke.

Now I have Dropbox. That's three ways of backing up, although it's sort of moot. I'm using Google Drive now.

But even then, I'll be setting up a back-up for that, just in case Almighty Google decides to shut my account down. I'm probably breaking at least one rule.

Now, about rules...

Don't Use NaNoWriMo as an Excuse to Write Complete Junk

This is just my opinion, but for NaNoWriMo, I think you're better off coming in with some sort of plan instead of typing disorganized yarn for thirty days.

I know that the point of NaNoWriMo is to get yourself writing, but you can do that and have a decent draft. In the long-term, it's better to work on a project you can take farther than November, and have some structure to work from it.

You technically win NaNoWriMo if you write 50k words.

How about take the further step and win writing by continuing with those 50k words?

Therefore, have some sort of plan (whatever it's an outline or some key scenes you want to write) so you have something to work off of for draft two.

Conclusion

So, those are my tips.

I turn the mic to you.

YOUR TURN: Are you doing NaNoWriMo? What advice you have?

Respond in the comments or write your answer on your blog, and link it back to here.



Dogtown Weekly: A Love Affair with Roblox

Weekly Round-up: 10/26/12


 

Writer's Update: Roblox?

Image of the Roblox Bloxxer badge.
Guess what's shattering.
For some reason that I can't recall, one week before NaNoWriMo, I decided to dip back into Roblox and see if it could catch my interest again.

You see, videogames cycle in and out of my life in irregular intervals. I have been a member of Roblox since 2008. I haven't been playing all that time. More than not, I'm not even thinking about it. Most of the time, I'm off in other places.

YA Mythology Giveaway: Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

The YA Mythology Giveaway Hop button image.
Remember all the times I promised more giveaways? Your wish got granted!

This time, it's a part of a larger scheme to gain followers spread YA love via a blog hop: The YA Mythology Giveaway Hop.

The lucky author? Karen Amanda Hooper.

The lucky ebook? Tangled Tides.

(Don't worry, Dogtown Weekly will be up in the morning.)


Ode to the Shrinking Violet

I've only watched one episode of MLP.
Source
For some reason, one of the character personality types I'm fond of the shrinking violets.

Shrinking Violets. These are the characters defined by their shyness. Shyness is the character's fatal flaw. So is lack of self-confidence, and the inability to stand up for oneself, and the social clumsiness they endure with every conversation.

Done right, they're one of the most sympathetic characters in a story. You can't help but feel sorry for what they're going through.

Done wrong, their passivity makes them annoying, and you want them to really develop some guts or get out of the game.

Done really right, they can overcome their problems and shine brighter than everyone else.

Shrinking violets. Love them.

Examples

First of all, look at the page image. That's Fluttershy, from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She's so shy, the word is even in her name. However, don't ask me about her. Ask one of my brony friends.

Another example that I'm more familiar with is Violet Carr from The Incredibles. Besides the name, her personality is established from her first full scene, with her using her invisibility powers while peeking at the boy she's crushing on. Her character was crafted with this concept in mind.

Yet another example, but in a darker work, is Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He's sometimes hated for being a wimp, but he's also a good example of someone who starts improving step by step--only to be broken when the rest of the series go downhill. He's also a male example, which I personally like better.

Oh, one more example for literary purposes: Harrison from This is Not a Test. He's the crybaby freshmen nobody else in the cast knew about before zombies arrived. Although it's not as prominent, it's clear that he's supposed to be this kind of person. I wished he had a slightly larger role compared with Rhys...

(If you want to know what my issue with Rhys is, read my Amazon review.)

The question is...why do these characters work?

Hidden Depths

One of the more powerful techniques I've witnessed with characterization is to associate a character with only one kind of emotion--and then push that expectation out of the window.

That nice, calm girl-next-door that everyone loves? She's a murderous madwoman.

The leader that everyone jokes about him having no emotions? He's breaking down every mission when no one's looking?

The shy little guy that no one thinks have any balls? Well...when he's angry and ready to swing fists, you better listen.

Really, I think the shrinking violet is one of the types most conductive to reversals. Purple is one of the darkest colors, after all, as opposed to its brightest opposite, yellow...with yellow being the Energetic Extrovert.

Something about the sharp contrast is powerful. Both the audience and everyone in-story don't expect the shrinking violet to be bold. So when he or she dares to be bold, it's an action that deserves to be noted.

How I'm Using Shrinking Violets

Well, "using", as in present tense, is a little of a stretch. Currently, Manifestation Files is on hold for NaNoWriMo and any short stories I'll be working on before or after November.

In the meantime, I'll be using it as an example.

The co-protagonist (which is the non-narrator protagonist) is Finn. From the moment he meets Bryan, his timidness shines, along with his awkwardness and clumsiness. Clearly, he never had any true friends, presenting quite a few challenges as Finn avoids insulting anybody--or causing Bryan to facepalm.

Bryan embarks to remedy that.

Of course, since nothing can be simple, Finn isn't what he seems.

Let's say that I overuse the word "facade" throughout the story, but with good reason.

But for now, I'll indulge in Finn's awkwardness--in my own imagination. I need to tend to Niv. He's a more cold variation of the shrinking violet, considering his muteness makes his social inactivity a choice.

Okay, end article now.

YOUR TURN: What's your opinion of shrinking violets? Love them? Hate them? Any favorites, or disfavorites?

WANT MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? Don't forget to sign up for email updates!

"Oath" by Cher Lloyd and Becky G

(Note: This article is based off a review I did on this blog's Google+ page. A review of "The Boys" was originally slated for today, but I swapped it in the last thirty seconds, for the sake of variety.)

"Wherever you go, just always remember,
That you got a home for now and forever,
And if you get low, just call me whenever,
This is my oath to you!"

One YouTube user commented: "Finally! A song about best friends!"

Indeed! Oh, and it's from Cher Lloyd, another British artist crossing over. "Want U Back" is still rocking on the radio, but will "Oath" arrive, or will Top 40 Radio shut it out while it hypes its American goods (and keep Gangnam Style from going #1)?

Meaning, Lyrics and Interpretation

"Oath" paints a positive, if iffy, message. I'm not usually the one to think about message, it's tangled in all that moral guardian stuff.

 For example, "crash your dad's new car". Is that supposed to be past tense, or present tense? Is it supposed to be a command ("let's do bad stuff!"), or an event that just happened? Well, the lyrics sites are saying past tense, so I'll go with that.

Still...maybe it's the Hollywood High image of the music video, even though it's supposed to be British. Or Brits masquerading as Americans?

Image of Cher Lloyd and her gang in "Oath".
I mean, look at this!
Source

On the other hand, it paints a good image of best friends that I envy. "All the scars we share". Considering my social drive, I'm not the one to have an intimidate bestfriendship with anybody. Society's fault, or my introvert tendencies? I'll go with the latter.

Wait, the lyrics. Where was I?

Oh! It was a great choice to choose Becky G as a featured artist. This song requires two point-of-views. Besides, she produces this gem:

I know I drive you crazy, sometimes. 
 And I know I call you lazy, and that's most times.

Review

For some reason, Cher Lloyd is one of those artists whose songs sound a bit grating on the ears at first, but then you get into it. It's hip-pop with more emphasis on "pop" than "rap". The guitar is quite typical, along with the rest of the instrumentals.

The "sing-rap" verses are spunky, and produces a hit-and-miss effect. Either you're rocking the beat, or the attitude turns you off. For now, I'm going with the first one. Ms. Lloyd has very interesting execution.

Oh, and the bridge is "feel-good" sunnied up.

Overall, it's a good song. Not the best song, but a good song that's different from the usual pop stuff. Maybe that what sets Cher Lloyd from the rest of the crowd, but I'll have to buy her album first.

Meanwhile, I'll consider my album review for Ellie Goulding's Halcyon.

YOUR TURN: What do you think of "Oath"? Do you think "Cher Lloyd" will have a more prominent presence in America? By the way, if you want more music reviews like this, don't forget to follow this blog's Google+ page!

Want to read more reviews like this? Check out the yMusic page for reviews on Nicki Minaj, Pink, Rihanna, and more!

Dogtown Weekly: 10/19/12

Weekly Round-up: 10/19/12

With the decreased number of links, I'm getting rid of the day headings. Tell me if this hurts the round-ups:




Writer's Update: Outlining Ho!

Outlining has started. 

I got the basic arc out: beginning and end. All I need to do is to figure out the latter.

You see, when I first battered out the outlining, I gawked at how... amateurish it came out as. Like a stroll in the park. It showed how long of a way I had to go.

Now, I should also start "training" for NaNoWriMo, establishing a routine to make sure I can do the 1667+ every day. Hopefully, I'll do even better than last year--and come out with an even better draft that I'll commit to.


Jocelyn C. DiDomenick On "Rain" [Interview]

Author photo of Jocelyn C. DiDomenick.
The lady whose comic you're going to read.
For my second interview, I'm please to introduce a webcomic artist!

Jocelyn C. DiDomenick (also known as JocelynCD or LittleLynn84), is the creator of Rain, a slice-of-life/comedy/drama that follows the journey of a male-to-female transsexual going through high school as a woman. Hijinks and awkwardness ensues. Lots of it.

If LGBT stories are for you, you should check it out! Story-wise, it's packed with comedy and tense moments, along with a faithful (if larger-than-life) account on having a different orientation or gender. Jocelyn definitely got me anticipating each update--along with hundreds, if not a thousand, of other fans.

I chose now to approach her because she has recently released a print collection of the first six chapters of Rain, which I'm buying the moment I have money.

Read on!

NOTE: There are minor spoilers on Rain, although nothing overly revealing.

"Try" by Pink Review [yMusic]

I was going to review the music video for "Ride" by Lana Del Rey this week, but the problem is that so much new music was released last week! At least three candidates clamored for yMusic, each burning up the YouTube charts.

Pink won out. Again.

With her latest music video for "Try", she makes me wish I have more money.

NOTE: While it isn't as dirty as that screenshot makes it out as, there's a lot of domestic violence implied. So...trigger warning?

Song Lyrics Meaning

There seem to be at least two kinds of Pink songs: the scornful ones ("So What", "U+Ur Hand", "Blow Me One Last Kiss"), and the inspirational ones ("Raise Your Glass", "Perfect"). "Try" falls into the second category.

Really, the verses are forgettable. They're both vague and short, but that doesn't mean that they aren't important. They frame the rest of the words so they connect to that young girl in a bad relationship, or maybe that boy afraid to take that step to do what they love.

The chorus is a message to the listener:

Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame, someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns, doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try, try, try.

This is quite universal and powerful. Although in the context of a song, it's saying how all passionate relationships are painful, it can apply to any desire. Like singing. Becoming a pop star like her must've been painful and stressful.

Yet she tried and succeeded.

Plus, the fire metaphor is simple but simple. It reminds me of this one guy who accidentally set himself on fire when he was a boy and endured extreme pain while being engulfed--and yet he lived. Permanently scarred, but spiritually changed for the better.

From a non-lyrical standpoint, "Try" got it down. Pink's non-verbal moans are chilling, along with the piano and arrangements, but her message is what stands out.

Music Video Summary and Thoughts

Pink and her coaster in a pose together.
Just one shot of the pain.
The music video stirred me so much.

It's basic, with only two characters and two settings. Pink is in ragged garments with chalky colors adorning her. 

She engages in interpretive dance with a man. Although it seem strange at first, like a routine on You Think You Can Dance, it quickly blurs the line between acting...and real.

I mean, I didn't know the exact nature of what was going on until they started pushing each other around.

God. Violence hasn't been conveyed in such a way.

The Most Painful Thing

It's unclear whatever this relationship is supposed to be abusive or just an episode of their darkest moment. It's mutual, but it's never spelled out who's at fault and why. Whatever that's better or not is up in the air.

Interplay of sex and violence, with less emphasis on sex. It's a concept I want to write about one day, but considering what I write about, it's likely it'll reach that point.

The Most Emotional Thing

What's more wrenching about the entire video is the pure emotion Pink is going through. Every action has fury behind it, and every rest have tears.

I think the highest point in the video is when Pink says "are you getting by, by, by". With every word, the man is jerking her head toward her, as if she's banging her head against a wall. It's just before the final chorus.

If you're going to cry, that's the time to start.

The Strangest Thing 

Pink in "Try".
That isn't a typical shot.
It's a surreal version of "Love The Way You Lie", another favorite music video of mine.

In the end, surreal is what it is, especially in the desert scene. What's exactly happening there?

Who knows?

To be honest, there isn't too much to explain. That's not what you're supposed to do. Instead, you have to watch it, experience it, and marvel at how much of an artist Pink is.

YOUR TURN: What do you think of Pink's "Try", and the nature of the relationship within it?

Dogtown Weekly: 10/12/12

This is a short edition--but expect something bigger next Monday!

Weekly Round-up: It's Still On

A jagged cartoon speech bubble.
Fits more with the last section.
Source
After considering it, I've decided that it's worth continuing on the round-ups.

I loosened the routine though. First of all, I'm no longer setting aside time to check for articles, instead reading them when I want to. Second of all, no social sharing until I release them here. 

Hopefully, this will lead to some better articles, even if it's a little less.

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:
  • A guest author describes one way to get unstuck when writing a story: a panel of characters. Dumb or genius? Who knows?
  • Lastly, here's a great mash-up of two authors' journey to selling 10000 copies.

Blog Update: Changing It Around with Twitter

I made my decision with Twitter.

I'm still using it, don't worry, but I'm no longer auto-following people. I'm going to be more selective, choosing only people I want to interact with, and blocking out constant self-promoters.

So far, my following count has stayed stagnant, but future plans will replace the lost increases I got from auto-following.

Writer's Update: He Is Now Named

Okay, it's time for me to start outlining my project properly. Let me say that.

More importantly though, I've finally decided what to name my mute protagonist: Niv.

I choose it because it means "speech/expression" in Hebrew. Ironic, right? Yet, at the end of Niv's story, it'll be the only name suitable for him. That's the magic of character development.

It might take a couple of days for that name to match for Niv. But since I'm hoping it will, I think it will. It does have that heroic tone to it, doesn't it?

(Besides, it's a futuristic setting, so it doesn't matter if it's of Hebrew origin. What's more likely are names that have mutated over the centuries while maintaining its form, a la Peeta, but Niv manages to survive, probably due to a linguist with a twisted or genius sense of humor).

Conclusion

See? Short.

YOUR TURN: What's the name of your a protagonist you're writing a story about? Why that name?

Why Chapter One Expo Dumps Must Burn

Cover of Virals by Kathy Reichs
Ever read this book?
One of my reader's peeves almost killed two books in the past. A few months ago, it claimed its first victim.

Due to the nature of these circumstances, I will refer to the novel as Jane Doe, but despite other flaws that made continuing on with the book impossible, it proves a flaw that can break a book for me.

So, what does ViralsAshes, Ashes; and Jane Doe have in common?

They have excess exposition in Chapter One during a scene that serves little purpose except be exposition.

One Day, I Was Cleaning Seashells When...

A pile of seashells.
Are these worth talking about?
Source
First of all, let me clarify something before I go on a semi-pseudo-rant: I consider prologues not mandatory by nature. If you're using a prologue to cover up a less-than-stellar Chapter One, you might need to arrange another round of revisions, because your story is going to suffer a dip anyways.

Katy Reichs, even though you're a best-selling author, it doesn't give you the excuse to slack on your beginning.

I'm not saying that the rest of Virals is bad. It was quite thrilling, but if it wasn't for the fact I was reading your book for school-related purposes, I would've set your book down during your multi-chapter exposition hurricane.

Rule of thumb: Exposition slows pacing. This is a rule agreed on most authors.

When you dump it in entire chunks, it slows the story to a standstill. Therefore, what's more ideal is to yearn more on the side of letting the reader be oblivious, and use mostly "scene". This means, mostly conflict, characters, dialogue, etc. Scene first, exposition second.

So why can I summarize Chapter One as this?

Tori was cleaning seashells one day when Hi, one of her best friends, came running toward her house. She ran out to meet him.

That is all. It can be easily expanded to an entire page, but from my last count, the entire chapter was six pages--most of it exposition.

I could post the page-to-page breakdown that I have figuring out how much exposition was to scene, but all you guys need to know that almost nothing happens but exposition. No conflict, just Tori cleaning seashells.

You can move the prologue to its proper position to the narrative, condense the entire first scene to an intriguing opening paragraph, and then cut back on the snark-filled info and decide what the readers really need to know from the get-go, and what can be jettisoned out of the story.

Oh, and rise-and-repeat for the next few chapters.

By the way, I consider the first "good" scene in Virals is when the point-of-view switches to the initial antagonist, Carson. Exposition dropped to more-than-acceptable levels, and I enjoyed the intrigue of not knowing about what he's cooking up.

At the same time, I wondered, "why weren't the other chapters like that?"

Some Writing Advice

Lean toward leaving readers in the dark as opposed to killing pacing with information dumps.

Also: If you have a character alone in a scene, at least have an active purpose for them. Sure, Tori cleaning the seashells characterizes her, but she isn't going to win the "Best Establishing Character Moment" award. You can glaze over the scene, get right to the action, and let the information pour out in a steady stream while getting a quick tour of the setting.

But Can It Be Done Right?

This has to be said.

I'm a stern believer that 99.99% of fiction elements can be done both right and wrong. I'm not a fan of saying "you might" or "always" and "never".

This kind of exposition isn't an exception. It's just that I tend to have bad experience with it.

The question is about how to do it correctly.

YOUR TURN: What type of beginnings do you have a peeve with? Or: What is one of your reader's peeves?

Answer in the comments, or blog about it and link back!




Music Round-up: Lead Singles [yMusic]

As a proper celebration for the 201st post, I'm going to gather up a bundle of music from YouTube!

Each and every one of these are lead singles from a new album or a re-release, so quality is ensured. I hope you enjoy all of these!

"Diamonds" by Rihanna



"Diamonds" is the newest song off of Rihanna's latest album. Its lyrics and instrumentals display a deeper and more mature tone than "We Found Love" (which happen to have the line "yellow diamonds in the sky". Are they in?)

In any case, this doesn't reduce the catchiness and danceworthiness of the single. Shine bright like a diamond!


Dogtown Weekly: 200th Post!

It's the 200th post!

201st will have sort of a celebration.

Normal posting will commence...


"Mary Sue" Might Now be Meaningless

Hello, my name is Mary Sue. This is my nametag.
And this nametag is peeling off!
Three weeks ago, a fellow writer at the TV Trope's writer's forum made a bold statement: Mary Sue is meaningless.

This was after about three discussions on Mary Sues, populated by people concerned about writing them, popped up in the forum. The fear about writing a Mary Sue is a recurring topic, since it's one of the best known literary concepts on the Internet. You know, litmus tests?

nrjxll, one writer, got fed up with these topics.

So he created a thread called "Mary Sue Must Die: a call to arms".