2018 was a banner year for Engen Books, but 2019 has all the potential to surpass it: in spades! Those looking for a sneak peak into just some of our upcoming projects are in the right place! From returning entries in favorite series, remastered bestsellers, and brand new talent breaking for the first time: Engen Books is the thing to follow in 2019!
1. Writing every day is good. I’ve been doing a lot of editing lately, so I felt a bit rusty jumping back into novel writing. Pushing myself to write every day is helping get me back in the groove, and I’m finding that I’m more focused on the story as a whole and quicker at solving issues. Even if you can’t write every day, it’s helpful to try to write as often as you can. Just like swimming, if you don’t practice, your skills can get rusty (and you won’t be able to do those cool jump dives from the side of the pool like you used to).
2. It doesn’t matter what you write – WRITE. Some purists may consider it cheating to include writing that isn’t within your novel, but I think that as long as you’re getting words down, it can count. The novel I’m writing is about characters putting on a play, so not only am I writing the novel, but also the play within (I searched for a version online but couldn’t find one). Whenever I hit a brick wall on the novel, I’ll turn around and write the play, so I can stay productive instead of staring at my screen blankly. Sometimes, if I get stuck on both, I’ll do word-sprints to help outline the plot or work through a problem. While these things aren’t necessarily helping the novel’s word-count, it’s still writing and it’s still helpful.
3. Seriously – JUST WRITE. It was only day 2 in NaNo when I decided to pause and write a Kit Sora fiction. Sometimes I get stuck in a project and don’t know where to go next, so I need something else to think about, like an amuse-bouche for my brain. It keeps me writing, and there are so many other things out there to write (like Flying Stories). As a bonus, sometimes while I’m writing something else, my novel will notice that my attention’s elsewhere and get jealous. ‘Remember me? You should get back to me! Here are tons of ideas!‘
4. Don’t get discouraged if what you write isn’t perfect. This novel is already showing signs of being a good Zero Draft instead of a good First Draft. I’ve got some great scenes and character development, but it’ll need a lot of tightening up. However, instead of going back and trying to make it perfect, I’m writing notes to my future self of what’s needed, before moving on. I won’t finish this novel if I worry about every single word I’ve written, but I will if I keep going forward. As Socrates once said*, It’s better to have a draft that needs work than no draft at all.
5. It’s okay to hold back and wait for inspiration. I find it easier to write when I know what’s coming next or what I want to say. At one point I knew that I wanted to describe a show that was going on, but I didn’t want to write it from my main character’s point of view. So I held off and moved to the next chapter instead of forcing myself to write something I didn’t want to write. Then, that night, I was thinking about the story and I realized exactly who’s point of view I could use. The next day I started writing and SUCCESS! The words came easily and quickly, and the scene was finished in no time.
6. …Just don’t wait too long! Remember that you shouldn’t go too many days without writing. If your inspiration for the next scene isn’t coming along, think of a scene that you want to write and move on to that. If I’m struggling to write something, usually it’s because there’s something off about it. I’ll try to change it, mix it up, or think about it another way. Or cut it out altogether and write something else.
7. There’s still time. November ain’t over yet! Even if you don’t make it to 50,000 words, if you’ve been even the least bit productive, it’s been worth it. And when November ends, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop. Keep on writing! Words forever! Huzzah!
*Socrates totally did not say that.
The stars have aligned, Mercury is in retrograde*, and I’m prepping for NaNoWriMo!
I say that because this will be the first year I’ve actually done prep work for a NaNo story – and not ‘I’ve got a character name and an idea’ prep work, I mean ‘names, backgrounds, world-building, and outline’ prep work.
My first NaNo was a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ affair, and since I managed to hit my word count I figured that this was the way to go. However, that story was also a really rough draft, consisting of many odd ramblings (when I’m desperately trying to hit a certain word count it’s almost like the ghost of Charles Dickens possesses me and I can suddenly spend paragraphs describing a lamp – good for word count, but not for content). The subsequent NaNos either had similar ramblings or failed to meet the word count**.
Sometimes it seems like my brain knows more than it lets on.
Even when I don’t notice, it’s back there – constantly churning out story ideas, thinking about writing projects, and generally working in the background. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
The thing that amazes me is that I think my brain is smarter than I am.
When I wrote The Six Elemental I was writing about Kit’s journey of coming to terms with being a living mythical being. It was only after I’d gone through my third draft that I realized there was an underlying theme of how outside influences can effect* how a person grows up. There’s a big difference between the person Kit is (growing up on Briton with a Humanist step-father) and the person Kit could have been (with a more accepting influence).
When I wrote The Fifth Queen (still in it’s editing stages), I was writing about a different character’s journey (plus a few familiar ones). After I’d written the first draft I realized that I’d done another parallel theme – this time, about accepting responsibility. One character accepts that they have a duty to uphold, while another character rejects it.
But I’d never thought about that when I was writing the story. That parallel hadn’t crossed my mind once while I was writing. Instead it was something that just happened to appear when I was going through the first draft.
My brain put it there because it’s smart, y’all. Maybe too smart…
So if you’re writing something and you’re not sure where your story’s going or what it’s all about, don’t worry about it. Just keep writing and eventually you’ll figure something out. Sometimes you won’t know until the end of your first draft (or maybe even the fifth), but as long as you’re telling a compelling story with interesting characters, eventually it’ll all become clear.
Trust your brain.
It knows – even if you don’t.
*It’s too late** for me to care whether effect/affect is right, so this is the word I’m using. I’ll figure out if it’s wrong/right sometime maybe never.
**It’s only 11:54pm AST, so I’m not late! It’s still Sept 18th over here!
Engen Books is proud to have been invited to take part in the Word on the Street Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 10-3 on September 15, 2018 at the Halifax Central Library.
Engen founder Matthew LeDrew and Bestselling author Amanda Labonté will be in attendance. Labonté will take part in a ‘Writing Teen Fiction’ Creative Lab at 2pm. Our newest titles will be available.
Come buy books, get them signed, chat with authors, and pitch the publisher on stories you have that you think need to be told!
Details can be found at the Facebook event, here.
Story: Hey, you! What’s up?
Me: Oh, hi, Story. How’ve you been? It’s been a while.
Story: Yeah, I know. Continue reading Conversations with an Unfinished Story | House Blog
And here we see the elusive ‘Writer’ in its natural habitat… Be careful – we don’t want to scare it off…
Speaking for myself, I tend to do some weird things when I write. Usually I do this in the safety of my own home, where other people can’t witness these oddities, but sometimes the weird cannot be contained and spills out into the rest of the world…
As we can see, sometimes the writer’s face will suddenly contort into strange expressions, as if warning unseen enemies not to get too close…
When I’m writing a scene between two people, I’ll often find myself trapped in dialogue, so I’ll toss in some descriptions to break it up a little. If I want to describe how someone’s face looks, it’s easiest for me to make the face I want and go from there. If a character’s conflicted, I’ll pretend I feel that way and then I’ll notice how my eyebrows come together and the left corner of my mouth tightens. If you ever see me making weird faces for no reason, it’s probably because I’m working on a story.
If we get a little closer we can hear the writer talking to itself, repeating words over and over, as if invoking an ancient spirit…
I like my dialogue to sound natural (well, as natural as something entirely scripted can sound), so I’ll say the lines to myself – sometimes acting out entire scenes. If a line’s not working, I’ll try saying it a few times to figure out what’s not working. Do I need to find a better word? Rearrange the sentence order? Start from scratch…? What sounds better?
Sometimes, the writer will sit still for hours, not moving in the slightest. We suspect that this is some kind of strange meditation, and yet they do not seem very relaxed…
Yeah, I’ve been there. Staring at the screen or page in front of me, willing words to suddenly appear – afraid that if you move you might scare the words away. I’ve found this to be one of the worst ways for me to get over writer’s block, and yet I cannot stop doing it. I did it at least 5 times while I was writing this blog post…
Here we see the strange, awkward dance of the writer. Although there are no other people around, notice as they move about in strange ways, dancing to music that only they can hear…
Confession time: I like to act out fight scenes. It gives me a better idea of what’s going on and how the characters are moving, plus I get a better idea of tension and momentum and pacing. Also, it’s really fun to act out fight scenes.
I’m sure there are many other odd habits I’ve failed to mention, but I’ve got to go stare at my computer screen for a few hours and will some words to appear.
Do you have any strange writing habits you’d like to share? Any habits here seem familiar to you?
And remember, if someone sees you doing something strange and confusion clouds their eyes, just say “I’m a writer” and that should be explanation enough.