Holy crap I'm writing a book

Friday, November 25, 2016

I can't tell you how many times people have told me that, since I read so many books, I'm bound to be an author.

"Wow, you read so much! Are you gonna write a book one day?"
"Well, all that reading is going to make you a kick-ass author one day."
"From what I'm seeing, you've probably already written like, 50,000 books by now."

That last one was from a guy who had been staring at my bookshelves as if they were the Great Wall of China, mouth hanging open in awe. 
I never, ever thought I would try my hand at writing. I always smiled and shook my head, saying "Nah, I'm not that good of a writer. It's a lot of work." I thought of J.K. Rowling, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, all of these fantastic fantasy writers who created worlds, and didn't think it was possible. It's not that I didn't want to be an author, or had something against the profession; it's just that I never thought it would be mentally possible for me. It was daunting. It required research and time and patience, a lot of thinking and using your imagination, and I lacked those. (Or at least I thought I did.) Reading doesn't equate to being an author.
But, it definitely helps in putting one foot in the author door. By default, you understand the basics of how a novel flows: there's a beginning, middle, climax, and end. You know there's side characters, an antagonist, family dynamics, romance, and a journey. (Those are just things I personally like in a novel, not something that I believe needs to be in one.) You understand what it's like to be immersed in a story, to watch it play out in your head because it's that vivid and imaginative. So, in theory, you have all the tools to create this masterpiece, even if it does sounds impossible. 
There're words in you. It just takes the right story to bring them out. 

Which brings me to the point of this post: I'm writing a story. 
I've had plots and characters come to me at random moments in the last couple of years, popping up in my head, making me perk up a little and think, "Huh, that would be interesting..." I would think about it for a couple days, my mind tied up with the characters and what they would be trying to accomplish. And then I would promptly lose interest. Nothing ever stuck. I would find a fault, think of how exhausting it would be to try and work it out, and then let it flutter away. In high school, scenes would come at me randomly in class, and, depending on the subject, would start writing it out on a loose leaf piece of paper. (I'm looking at you, geometry. Rot in hell.) I have a folder and a journal stuffed with random scenes and plots. It looks like it belongs on the bedside table of a patient at a mental hospital: colorful and messy, written out in spurts with blue, red, black, orange, green, and blue ink. A plot would be half written out, and then directly after it, a conversation between two characters from a few pages before would be continuing, followed quickly by a random scene from a separate story. No one would understand any of it except for me. It's messy and wild, ink smudged all over the pages and random doodles in the margins. Almost loosing the journal had made me realize just how much I loved that thing, and now I keep it tucked safely on my bookshelf. 
It wasn't until I watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that inspiration really struck. The movie features everything I love: two hot dudes who dislike each other forced to work together on a mission, a short, spunky female lead that isn't afraid to throw down with either of them, hilarious quips, and a plot stuffed with action, humor, and drama. (WATCH IT.) I was grinning like an idiot when it ended, and, as per usual when I fall for an action movie, I was putting myself in the film. Don't even try and tell me you haven't done this at least once in your life! Seriously, my imagination runs fucking wild after watching an action film. I'm in an intense storyline coma for at least an hour afterwards, dreaming of what it would be like to scale buildings, shoot bad guys, and throw down verbally with a hot guy. (That last one I at least have some experience in. I once argued with a dude for almost an hour about why Captain America: The Winter Soldier was so much better than the first movie. Thinking back on it, he was 100% doing it just to get me worked up. I vividly remember rambling about the flawless fight choreography. #nerdyandproud) Aaaaanyways, back to my point: I was deep in my storyline coma, but for the first time, a full scene came to me. I hauled ass to my computer and typed it all out. It was nothing huge, maybe 1,000 words, the beginning of the novel. But still, I was proud of it. Weeks passed, and the story stuck with me. I jotted down possible plot points, ideas, characters. I shifted the timeline, working on dates and how they would fit in with the story. 
The full scope of what I wanted to accomplish hit me a few days later like a bag of bricks, and I wanted to smash my head into a wall: pulling from a few other inspirations, along with my all-encompassing and irritating love for history, and I was writing a story about a girl who was destined to kill Adolf Hitler. 
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. deals with Nazi-sympathizers in the 60's; Gaby's father allegedly was a Nazi scientist, and her uncle works for a shipping company who's owners are Nazi-sympathizers. Gaby was my inspiration for Klara, my main character, and I wanted her tied intimately to this 'cause'. That was the only way I could see her getting involved. But I shifted the focus, because I've always been grossly fascinated with Hitler and the Holocaust, and found my story. I remember thinking to myself, years and years ago, that if I were to ever write a book, it wouldn't be a historical fiction because that involved way to much research. I was grumbling to myself about the irony of that statement as I checked out 10 books about Hitler and the Holocaust at the library. Life is cruel. 
So that's book one! Now, being me, I couldn't just be suddenly hit with inspiration for one book. It had to be two. One book wasn't stressful and time-consuming enough. Another character had to show up, hollering about how her story needed to be told. Plus, they had to be vastly different, and both require tons and tons of research. 
Book two revolves around a girl named Katie, and the bare bones of it is this: she finds out she's the heir to a fae kingdom, and is sent off to take her rightful place alongside her parents, struggling with her emerging fire ability, her snarky tongue, and the idea that, one day, she'll be queen. 
There's tons and TONS more than that, but that's the gist of it. There's also an evil queen who takes a liking to Katie and schemes to pair her off with her nephew, who's destined to be This Great Evil Dude, but is actually a very large cinnamon roll.
I'm focusing more on Katie's story at the moment, and have been doing a lot of research, note-taking, and world-building. I only write a scene if it comes to me in vivid detail, and will usually scribble it down in a folder for random scenes and forget about it. I want to get this world figured out first, since a solid chunk of the first book is her learning about the fae history and the kingdom she'll be ruling over one day. I need to know my shit. 

Now that we've finally gotten to the point of this post (I swear I didn't mean to ramble so much!), I wanted to leave some links to some useful tips and posts I've found. The first ones are to two world-building questionnaires: this first one is the one I'm currently using, and this second one is essentially the same thing, but a little more clean cut. I would've used the second one if I had found it first, but I had already printed out the first one and started working on it. These are seriously so helpful, and ask you questions that you probably wouldn't have even thought about: anything from social customs to agriculture, to language and politics. 
This next link is to a blog post Marissa Meyer wrote, "My Writing Process: 9 Steps from Idea to Finished". She takes you along her entire writing process, from when the idea first hits you to the publishing process. It's so incredibly insightful. They're some mild spoilers in it for her Lunar Chronicles series, but she'll warn you before she talks about them, so you don't need to worry about it! 
This next tip isn't really a link, but instead a website: Pinterest. I'm a visual person, and seeing my board for my books is extremely invigorating. It gets me in the mood to brainstorm and write, plus gives me oodles and oodles of inspiration. Next, I've got character questionnaires on Gotham Writers Workshop's website. There's two of them, and are super easy to download and fill out. Characters are obviously vital to your story, and this just helps in getting to them better, especially your mc. 
Finally, I've got an article from Writer's Digest that, if you're a newbie like I am to the whole writing thing, gives you 7 simple steps to beginning the process of brainstorming your story. Use all the steps, only a few of them, or none! This is your story. There's no right or wrong way to outline or brainstorm your book.

Okay, that's it! I think my goal is to have my outline and first draft done by November of next year, so that I can do my edits and second draft for NaNoWriMo. That would definitely kick my ass into gear.
Are you writing a book? If you are, how's it going? Do you have any tips for a newbie like me?

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