I've been teaching my students about the writing process quite a bit lately. I tell them that the first time they write their essay, it won't be perfect. In fact, it will be messy, and that's okay.
I tell them that the second draft won't be perfect, either, and that's okay, too. Neither will the third or sometimes even the fourth and fifth, but--- with each draft, they are coming closer and closer to a better essay.
I introduce the idea of "seeking advice" from classmates, trusted friends and tutors. I tell them that they can (and should) seek advice on their writing throughout the process. Writing takes time. It's a process. My students are ESL (English as a Second Language), so I encourage and tell them that what they are doing is amazing, and it is! To write a fluent multi paragraph essay in a second language is no small feat.
It's time to take my own advice.
I'm on my second round of NaNoWriMo, and my book isn't finished. I wrote 30,000 words in November 2016, and now I'm attempting the Camp NaNoWriMo this April, with 20,000 words on top of the 30. That makes a total of 50,000 words! Impressive? Maybe.
I'm not done with the book. The 20,000 words are me rewriting the first 30,000 words from 3rd person to 1st person, adding in scenes that I didn't think about adding in when I wrote in November. In some ways, I feel like I'm moving backwards. But as I rewrite and continue to build up my characters (through interviews and pen pal letters, etc.) I remember what I teach.
I hope it doesn't take that long for my characters and story to take shape, but it might. And that's okay. I think about the many people who probably influenced the creation of the beloved m&m characters. It took a lot of work, draft after draft... revision after revision...
If I were to pin my current story to an m&m year, it would probably be 1957. I started it when I was in high school. Not in 1954 (I wasn't born yet). Probably closer to 1999 or 2000. But that was my earliest version of the story. As I picked it back up this last November, I changed a number of details. It's still "black and white," though. I still have a lot of work to do.
And that's okay. With every draft, I get closer and closer to something better, something worthy of possible publication.
I once asked a good author friend of mine about his process for writing books. He told me, "First, I make a list of ALL the characters that will play a role in my story. Then, I sketch them..."
He's a graphic novelist, so I think he literally sketches them out, but you don't have to be a good drawer, which is good news for me because I'm a terrible artist, to sketch a character. When we talk about "sketching" characters, we're talking about creating characters--- the physical traits as well as the internal traits.
Oftentimes, I don't know who's in the story until I start writing. With one NanoWriMo experience (November 2016) under my belt (30,000 words!) and currently in the midst of the beginnings of my first CampNaNoWriMo, I've learned a couple tricks for building better characters. I used to think writing out what I already know about my character is a waste of time, but I've learned that it really isn't.
Googling pictures help! Say I need a teacher, and I'm not sure what the teacher will be like, I'll google "teacher" images and see what pops up. Then, I'll describe the picture, and from the picture I can come up with personality traits as well. Even if I know my character, having a picture makes it more "real" for me, so I've been trying to add pictures for all my characters, even the minor ones.
In a previous blog, I talked about writing pen pal letters to and from my characters. I find that's a great way to get to know a character. But for my major key players, I like to sit down and interview them. And, it's more than just asking, "what's your favorite color?" or "who's your best friend?" Really dig into their character.
I picked up this template sometime last year... somewhere. I really like it! You are welcome to use it, and always feel free to ask follow up questions, etc. Enjoy, and happy character sketching! Remember--- the more you know your character, the more they can tell you their stories!
In what situation is your self esteem most at risk?
What are you keeping a secret?
What are you lying to yourself about? To others?
Is there anyone in your life that you are attracted to?
How do you decide if you can trust someone?
How do you know you love someone and/or when someone loves you?
When you walk into a room what do you notice first? Second?
How would you change the world? The things around you? The people around you?
How do you learn best?
What are your goals in life?
What unusual hobbies or interests do you have?
What are you most afraid of?
If you had one wish, what would it be?
What do you like best about yourself?
What do you like least about yourself?
What do you think other people think of you?
What’s your greatest source of frustration?
What’s your greatest source of joy?
What are you especially proud of in your life?
If you could change anything about your life what would it be?
"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down... and bleed."
"Mongkonk Street, Hong Kong"