Today I was thinking it would be extremely fun to have a guest post from a foreign writer on my blog. By ‘foreign’ I mean anyone who is not a citizen of the United States; I do not mean a person has to speak a language other than English. Most of the readers of this blog speak English as their primary language, so a post in English would actually be preferable. However, if you speak English as your second language and have a post that was originally written in a non-English lanaguage which you have translated into English, that would be welcome, too.
So bring it on, writers! Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? I would love to hear other writers talk about writing, or share a favorite post of yours from your very own writing blog.
Extra Fun Guest Post Topics
If your guest post fits into one or more of the following, it would be even more cool:
Write about The Artist’s Way, which I have been studying recently in this blog
Write about what you think it means to write from the heart, or from the brain
Write about lessons you’ve learned in writing or from non-U.S. authors that you think U.S. writers would find new and exciting tips or intriguing facts.
Cover a favorite author of yours; review a favorite book or just gab on about how great they are!
Of course, you can obviously post about something else, too. As long as it’s important to you, relevant to writing topics, and isn’t too, too long of a post, I would love to post it on here – for FREE! Yes, FREE. If you’re interesting, please comment on this post.
Favorite Non-U.S. Writers
Here are some of my favorite non-U.S. authors/artists:
As you can see, I really need to diversify my reading list. Please, throw some recommendations at me.
Who are some of your favorite authors from foreign countries? Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? Please comment below!
Recently I joined a fun website to keep myself accountable about writing something every day, even if it’s just journaling. The website requires you to write 750 words a day, and gives you badges as rewards for hitting special rungs of the ladder.
Here’s a bit of a journal entry today; please excuse my sleepy typos and bad sentence structure:
Writing is good. I think that is what makes me happy and contented, today and yesterday, basically. I wrote a few paragraphs in Chapter one in Emna’s point of view, ad then I went over them a little, and they were good. I like them. I think they serve the story well, and show who Emna is, an dmake her likeable, and they also show who the queen is a bit and why she is likeable. I wanted the readers to be able to care about her later, when she is in trouble and Emna is very worried, and has to choose between Phen and the queen, who to help.
I think I am getting better at seeing the overall arc of the story and at tying things together. What I want to get better at now is tying overall themes together, and plot. The thing is I still don’t know the exact end and middle, since so much is changing from the rough draft, so….still gotta work on some sort of outline. I think that will help a lot.
Once I get it outlined, I will know what happens. Once I know at least a general idea of what happens, then I can think about what I want the main points to be, and how to say them.
I read this great article on the “golden thread”, where you basically have an “aha!” moment and find out what your story is really and truly all about. What the heart of it is. Then you go through your entire book and you pepper in that golden thread. Sometimes the point gets in a few times per chapter; other times, it is given a rest and doesn’t appear for chapters at a time. But each successive time it is present, Jennie Nash‘s article seemed to say, the golden thread gets more and more powerful. Sortof in such a way that the reader gets an “aha!” moment with you. The readers gets more and more excited about what you are saying in your book, as it gets more and more clear what it is you are saying. By the end of the book, they don’t want to leave it. They want to keep reading. You have succeeded in thoroughly engrossing your reader in an idea, in your characters, in your book. Your book is thus a success.
Thinking of this makes me happy and excited. I want to do this with my books.
At the same time, I am also realizing how many aspects there are to this book I am writing. Fantasy is complicated. There is so much worldbuilding to do. A lot of politics seems to come up in fantasy. I am not a big fan of politics and don’t take much interest in it, but somehow it got in my story. There is a civil war going on. It takes a back-burner to the rest of teh story, but it IS still going on, and of course it affects the story, the setting, the characters, etc. So I have to research and think on all of THAT, even though it’s just in the background.
There is also just so much to think of, regarding magic. I don’t think anyone knows about this except a fantasy author/writer. It is a whole other realm unto itself. For instance, what rules are you to have in the magic of your story? In Harry Potter, they wave wands and have to memorize certain phrases and tricks. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf has a staff, but the Elves seem to do magic just by force of will, or through song. In The Name of the Wind, Kvothe has to know the names or essence of things before he can have access to them. And etcetera, etecetera, etcetera. There are so many books and so many types and ways of accessing magic. It’s all so interesting and fun! Where I am not excited by politics, I AM thoroughly excited by all the magical concepts. Deciding how my magic works is hard but fun.
Recently I have started a big binge on steampunk. I am hoping to get some ideas that I can jot down, during downtime from Phen and Emna’s story, for my steampunk book about witches, a sort of grief/adventure love story.
The way that the airships work, and the way the books’ authors change history to suit the steampunk genre, are very intriguing. I don’t know the first thing about mechanical devices, but some of the authors make it fun, even for me (others are boring, I do say).
The one I am reading right now is a YA, set in pre-World War I drama. It takes the idea that Darwin discovered DNA and that Britain uses it during wartime to make creatures that are animals all mixed up together, that act like machines. The airship in book 1 of Steven Westerfeld’s trilogy, Leviathan, is like this. There are also krakens, and walking machines driven by the “Clankers”, which is the British nickname for the Germans, Austrians, and Russians. The two main characters are a girl disguising herself as a boy to join the British airship, and a prince who has been disabled from a royal title because his royal father married a common woman. The two have individual points of views and individual adventure stories, until suddenly their two points of view intertwine into one story – both points of view still separate, still going – later in the first book. I am in the second book now, still happily reading. A third one is yet to come out, the last of this trilogy. I really recommend these books. They are so fun!
The two main characters are very engaging. Deryn, the girl in disguise, is a very funny tomboy who has a knack for being more clever at being a boy than some of her male counterparts on ship. Alek, the prince on the run, is less confident of himself but very determined to do right by his friends, and make allies.
Good morning, everyone! Today is a good day. Sometimes I have trouble thinking positively, even in the morning, but today feels pretty good so far.
Today, I’m going to finish my little duet on writing one’s gender opposite. My previous post, The Melding of the Minds, Part 1, discussed famous men and women who have written their gender opposite to great popularity. I also shared some insightful, interesting posts from other writers on this topic.
I would like to thank everyone who replied and has been following and commenting. I have blogged before, but never about writing, so this whole experience is new to me. Sometimes I feel like I am stumbling along in the dark on a cobbled road, with witnesses! So excuse me if I occasionally let out a yelp as I stub my toe. One thing I’m really loving about writing this blog is discovering new blogs about writing. Just now, I stumbled onto Ingrid’s Notes, which I look forward to perusing after I finish this post. There are a lot of you guys out there! It’s great. I’m having so much fun reading the many perspectives of different writers – from so many varying backgrounds and places, doing so many neat things in this wonderful craft we call writing.
Back to topic. I’ve been writing and reading gender-opposite for a long time, and I never really gave it a lot of thought before now. There are countless books I’ve read written by women about men, and by men about women, and vice versa. When I used to read a lot of YA, too, I found women writing about young men and men writing about young women.
This can be one of the more challenging ways to write one’s gender-opposite. It’s one thing to try and get in the head of the other gender when they’re your age; it’s another to write about a teenage experience very faraway from one’s own. I applaud all of those who do this, and I can imagine it’s a lot of fun.
That’s one of the points I wanted to make in this post. Writing your gender-opposite is so much fun! I find that it’s more fun than writing in my own gender’s point of view, sometimes. The challenge of getting into the character’s head forces me to really ruminate over the character. Who are they and what makes them tick? What is their backstory? Those are such vague questions; as writers, we get to delve into the details with questions such as:
What does this character eat for breakfast?
What is their favorite animal, if any?
What is the character’s pet peeve that they absolutely hate?
What makes this character afraid? Angry? Sad?
I find that the emotional questions are what really gut me and pull me, whether I’m writing my gender-opposite or not. I really love it when people share from their hearts with me. It moves me. It makes me love and appreciate the person more. And, it makes me want to give of myself to that person. My brain and heart tick along and wonder, how can I help this person? What do they need and want that I can help them get? This is how I like to repay heartfelt honesty and genuine sharing. I love it so much, that it inspires even selfish old me to get up and do something for someone else.
I love to create characters because I get to see what is in their heart. I don’t have to talk to them or wheedle it out of them (though I do interview them, sometimes). I DO have to develop it like a regular, real-world relationship though, sometimes. Some characters don’t want you to see in their heads. They want to play around, they want you to write a few scenes about them before you can see what makes them tick.
Other characters are easier to get to know.
The point is, I get to see the contents of the characters’ hearts, and from there, it fuels my writing. The characters who I feel that I really “see” as people, are the characters that really feel alive and are really appreciated by my readers. By appreciated I don’t mean liked, necessarily; I’ve written some unlikeable characters in believable ways, and had my readers tell me that they loved how that character was written, or loved scenes with him or her, even if they disliked the character’s personality or actions.
When I set out to write a character who is a man or a boy (my gender-opposite, in case you didn’t know), I don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t fret over, how can I make this character sound like a male voice instead of a female voice. I focus more on studying what makes my character tick, and start writing.
Later on though, sometimes I do worry about my male character’s sounding feminine. For example, right now I’m working on an epic fantasy book. It features a main male character who is very gentle and serene. He believes in nonviolent communication very much, and tries his best to help people, even those who may have mistreated him. He believes in an optimistic view as much as he can, and he is also a big believer in Fate. All of these serve to make him “in touch with his feminine side”, you could say. He’s in touch with his emotions and forthcoming about them, and enjoys nurturing others.
So, I worry that these qualities which are seen as feminine in our world today will make people think my male MC is a pansy. But I hold by his personality, because there are certain incidents and facts of his history that have made him have those so-called “feminine” qualities.
We come to my challenge then: How to make this male character appealing to male readers, even though he shows more feminine personality traits than male?
Perhaps I’m stereotyping. Really, that’s what it is. After all, there are sensitive men out there. They smash all stereotypes. They do exist! So perhaps I should not worry about it so much.
I have no conclusion to make on this, really, because…I still worry about that male MC. He’s not likely to change toooo much over the course of revising the first draft (or subsequent drafts), unless someone really balks about something in his character. Hopefully, he’ll be a success and loved even though he’s unusual…*I* certainly love him. (That’s another fun topic worth exploring – loving one’s characters as if they are real!)
Another story of mine features two male characters as the mains. For some reason I feel more confident about their believability and their draw towards male readers, in comparison to my mage character. I think it’s because I was able to get in their heads really well. When I write either of them, it pretty much just flows without too much overthinking.
Funnily enough, these two male MCs that I write more easily were never officially profiled, whereas the mage MC has a long character profile. So here’s another topic I might take up the challenge of: What makes one story flow more easily, and how helpful is it to write stream of conscious versus planning out scenes, dialogue, etc.?
What about you? Have you written your gender-opposite, and what was your experience? What do think about reading something in the viewpoint of your gender-opposite? Are you yay or nay for this type of writing in YA fiction?
Also, votes are welcome as far as what topic I should write on next. Is there something that you’re curious about in the writing craft world? Should I say more on my own stories? Is there a topic you find confusing or rarely discussed that you would like light shed on?
I have been struggling to get this post out, and am sorry to say it is coming about two weeks later than I wanted it to. Life has gotten in the way, as it does sometimes. I decided as a sort of compromise that I might make this post into 2 parts, since it is a potential hot topic, with lots of people talking about it, and my own thoughts expanding and increasing.
This topic that has recently wheedled its way into my brain is:
How do women write from the point of view of male characters? How do men write from the point of view of female characters?
This is an interesting topic that was mentioned as part of a post on women being properly represented – in literature, in movies, etc. – in Julia Munroe Martin’s post over at Writer Unboxed. Julia focus was more on gender bias in the literary world. My thoughts are more towards the pure exploration of the topic, rather than analyzing it from a gender bias perspective. Of course, the gender bias must be considered when exploring the topic, because as Julia’s post shows, more men are writing books and being written about (whether fictional or not).
Obviously, each gender has been writing about and from the perspective of the other gender for a long, long time – imagination lets you do that. But, there are certain books that have rich characters which we find deeply interesting, or particularly admire. Sometimes we are surprised when we see, say, a rugged hero written by a woman, or a very snappy, clever female character who stands up for herself written by a man. It may be 2014, but sexism is still prevalent in our world – even to the point where the feminists who are trying to defend against sexism are being stereotyped and dismissed.
Let’s take a look at certain characters which have been particularly memorable and were written by the opposite gender. Here’s a short list; please feel free to expand it in the comments:
Anna Karenina, of Anna Karenina Tolstoy fame
Lolita, of Lolita Nobokov fame
Harry Potter by Joanne Kathleen Rowling
Victor Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Various female characters in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones – but their perspectives battle with many other characters’ perspective, many who are male
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series by Steig Larsen comes to mind, but she is described through the view of a prominent male character
Theseus in Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and its sequels – I put this on the list even though I know many people don’t like his arrogance and womanizing, but I feel it fits for the society of the time period he is in.
So the question here is…how can we get into the opposite gender’s head? We live with them. We see them every day. We can interview them, study them, and read about them just as we would do for researching for a fiction book, school essay, academic thesis, etc. We certainly love them and may feel we know some of them deeply. But how do we capture that feeling, where the reader doesn’t remember that we are a woman or man writing our gender-opposite? How do we get it so right that the character sticks in people’s heads?
Ali Hasanali over on Hobbes Lives (love the name! It makes me think of the philosopher Hobbes and also the comic book stuffed tiger character from Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes) has a lengthy, thorough post on the difficulty of men writing female characters. In it, Ali does a fantastic study of what makes a character dynamic, multi-dimensional, and believable, and how male writers of female characters can make their characters shine.
Ali really adds to the discussion. What I like most about his post is how he highlights the significance and difficulty of writing convincing internal dialogue for one’s gender-opposite, and also his examples of convincing female characters written by men. Ali brings to highlight the big exclamation mark about writing one’s gender-opposite:
How do I get into their head, if I’ve never been there?I can observe, take notes, pretend, etc., but when it gets down to it…
1) Depending on where you live or are from, society gives certain roles to each gender.
2) Then there’s just anatomical differences.
3) Our brains are just wired differently.
It is this last point that really is the clincher. Our brains are wired differently, yet we see that people have indeed written some fantastic stories with dynamic characters that are their gender-opposites.
Ali makes the point-of-view gender question seem like quite the operation. On the flip side, Mett Ivie Harrison makes light of the matter, saying that when it all comes down to it, characters are just people too, before you even classify their gender, and the bigger a deal you make of it all, the harder it becomes to do.
Today I read a great guest blog post over on Writer Unboxed about outlining your novel before writing it, versus writing straight-off from your mind with no outline, “by the seat of your pants,” as the saying goes. I like what the writer had to say there, and it got me thinking…am I a pantser, or an outliner?
I have one novel which I outlined for – BUT, I did not keep the outline. How ridiculous, right? Well, it was the first novel I wrote which I could actually show to other people and to the light of day, so…when I was initially doing the outline, I would delete the outline I’d made for that chapter once I finished it. This was so that I could feel proud and accomplished for having finished that chapter.
In the second half of writing and outlining the novel, I started to keep my outline.
Now that I am in the second draft of the novel, I really, really wish I had kept my outline! Sure, it might have been laughable and ugly, that old, early outline, but…it would make me feel good now, at least, to be revising the novel into a better state. And, of course, it might make the job easier, if I had that outline now. I would see more clearly and easily the underlying themes that I wanted to go into the novel. I would be able to decide, do I want to keep those old themes? Do I see a particular way that this character has developed that I want to maintain as I do the second draft? Etcetera.
My other novel is definitely a pantser one. I started writing it in college after my first viewing of Hayao Miyazaki‘s Howl’s Moving Castle film. I named one of the important characters in the novel Sophie, but she ended up very, very different from that protagonist in Miyazaki’s film (first of all, she’s dead! But her death before the novel’s story begins is very important to the characters and their development and actions).
For this second novel, I just wrote whatever I wanted. Scenes would come up upon me like dreams, and I scribbled them down in notebooks, sometimes frantically, sometimes with a grin upon my face. My inner editor somehow shut up or died throughout the process of writing this novel, and I just wrote whatever. Sometimes I went back in and changed something that I had decided early on in the novel. Sometimes I introduced a random character out of nowhere (*cringe). But darn it was fun!
Going back over that pantser novel recently, I realized – this is going to take a LOT of work if I ever want to publish this! And I mean a LOT. But even as I made a list of questions about stupid things in the draft and came up with ideas for my grand fixer-upper, I realized a few things about the pantser novel:
The characters had really distinctive voices. They felt like really people to me, with intricate pasts and even futures beyond the novel. I grew to love them so much, I even wrote little snippet pieces that have nothing to do with the novel and won’t ever be in it, but feature the characters doing ordinary day things, having separate little adventures and romances, etc.
The writing is stupid sometimes, but never do I get the feeling, reading the pantser draft, that I struggled a lot in writing it. It doesn’t FEEL like “oh this is writing, see what the writer was trying to do here?” Instead, it just feels like a flowing story, albeit with a lot of holes, cuts, and scrapes that need healing in revision work.
In contrast, my outliner-novel is a lot more fleshed-out. It is more of a child than a baby, and it certainly does not have as many cuts and holes that need mending. It DOES have sections that feel stiff though, and the ending is terrible. The pantser-novel has some stupid elements in its ending, but ultimately…that last line? I love it. It’s perfect. The last scene has just enough, and not too much….loose ends are tied, but not too tightly.
The outliner has more of a message. Its characters also have distinctive voices. It has bad plot holes, sometimes, too, and cliches that need to be mopped up and are embarrassing. It will DEFINITELY be easier to revise, for which I’m happy.
But…but…there is something to be said for heart, when you write a pantser novel. Somehow they’re just so fresh and lively and laughing, when you wrote them without that awful Inner Editor lifting a shotgun to every sentence.
Ultimately though, like I commented on John Vorhaus‘ post at Writer Unboxed…I vote for outlining. It just helps me keep my sanity!
Anyway, back to the main topic…I wanted to say more, aside from my personal story about outlining vs. pantsering.
If doing nothing, staring into space, daydreaming, and wandering aimlessly through fields of wheat and such helps us write…and pantsering novels into creation has more heart and voice but ultimately more work in it for us writers…should we stop outlining, forgetting about deadlines, in the name of writing “better” novels which “speak more”?
But…will they speak more to us, or to readers? Perhaps an outlined novel will have more structure and more efficient plotting etc., making it a more enjoyable read? Even if it meant more work for us…it would be worth it, to work more, to outline, because what we produce will reach more people, touch more lives, and be ultimately more satisfying for us, too, since we’ll be connected with a product that people enjoy.
Of course, this is just me throwing ideas out to you all…thoughts to munch on. After all, we know that each writer has his or her individual process. The pantsers will pantser on, and the outliners will outline. That is that. They may switch, or stick to their chosen method, whichever they choose.
I think I choose both. I think I choose whatever strikes my fancy.
I also think that one of the commenters on Writer Unboxed makes a good point. His opinion was that Pantser writers are simply writing an outline, in the form of a higgledy-piggledy, super-rough first draft. Yeah. I tend to agree with that.
Here are some fun statistics on outlining vs. pantser-ing, from the lives of well-known authors:
J.K. Rowling knew the end of the 7th book in the Harry Potter series rather early on in her writing. She does outline!
Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries series and other series for YA, does not outline. More on her view here.
Faulkner wrote his outline for A Fable on his office walls.
The outlines are as varied, organized, disorganized, and interesting as the writers who wrote them!
So, you see? Perhaps outliners and pantsers aren’t so different after all. Even the outliners have differing styles. Some of their outlines just look like tons of squiggles. Some make miniature books showing their outlines, bit by bit. Some do charts and rows of boxes…it’s all very diverse.
I love that. No matter whether we fall into the outliner or pantser field of writing, or whether we run from one group to the other depending on our format, novel, or mood…writing remains a very free thing, very individual, and each story has its own unique flavor.
Yet another reason to keep on chugging on!
I hope this gives some confidence, or at least a few laughs and munchies, for fellow writers who are outlining or revising out there today.
Why do writers write in cafés? What is it about them that makes them so attractive and conducive to writing?
We know that:
They’re warm (or cool, in summer).
They have nice mellow music.
You get to have your own private space where no one will bother you.
You can easily set up your notebooks, laptop, or tablet – or, write on a napkin, if you so choose.
It’s a different environment, getting away from a distracting house or the usual dull desk.
Is there anything else about it? Perhaps there’s a psychological study, I wonder. Perhaps famous writers have commented on it. Maybe some people hate writing in cafés. I started to wonder, because recently I took up writing in a local coffee shop.
It is nice! Everything is quiet and the music is…smooooooth. No interruption. It glides over and around you and stirs you but does not disturb your work. Oh, plus there’s the coffees and teas and croissants just beckoning that you sip or nibble on them whilst you try to come up with the next Great American Novel. Yes, we can’t forget the croissants. Crunch!
The perks of being away from the dull desk are also helpful to me. I just recently moved and I miss my old desk. It was in a corner of my room by the window, and when I needed to think I could stare out the window and drift away…the new desk is blocky, smaller, and has a window further away from it. It’s in a hot area of the room, sortof in the middle. Not the same at all! -sigh-
Anyway. Here is what I found on writing in cafés. (You know, I had to decide before writing this post whether to keep the diacritical mark over the letter E. What do you think – yay or nay?):
Jason Lundberg puts emphasis on the lack of intrusions:
A café provides that perfect middle ground. As long as it’s not too crowded or noisy, I can appreciate the other people sitting at their tables, drinking their lattes, eating their artisanal sandwiches, having quiet conversations. I still plug in my ear buds so that I can choose music that will fade into the background as white noise, but the sound level is never too much to overcome my focus. But the best part is that no one else there gives a shit about me, and I’m largely left alone, which is important in maintaining that focus, the only exceptions being the respectful staff who are either trained in or are instinctually keen on minimizing their intrusions.
Last but not least, a fantastic little piece which gets into the “psychology” of writing in cafés. He includes this fantastic bit on the café that is made to scare technology-dependent writers away:
The coffee-shop writer needs to be, as the sociologists would say, an outlier and not a pioneer. You don’t want to be the laptop cowboy who signals to other laptop cowboys that this is the place to be. You want the club that won’t have you as a member. Extreme case in point, the quite delightful Grumpy Coffee on West 20th Street in Manhattan, which bans laptops. To write there, you have to print out and use a pen, two radical moves that automatically exclude anyone under the age of 30. (I have seen hipsters, lugging their seven-pound PowerBooks and 12-foot extension cords, look at the no-laptop sign at the counter and let out a low, uncomprehending moan—whoa—the way they did when they heard they were wait-listed at Bard.)
The token looks for the coffee shop that is other: no comfy chairs, no Wi-Fi, no outlets, and coffee so ridiculously expensive that it functions as a tax on lingering. A good example: La Stanza on the Bleicherweg in Zurich, which I stumbled across this past spring. Simple, high-ceilinged room; long counter, small wooden tables, brusque white-shirted waiters, no food except for tiny, perfect, toasted pastries filled with sweet cream. (Yum!) The clientele largely consists of shady-looking types in pinstripes from any one of the area’s dozens of private banks. I recommend the table in the far corner.
– Malcolm Gladwell
I have a lot more to say on this. I want to get into sociological studies. I want to check out different cafes in different cities and countries. I want to write via laptop, notebook, and typewriter, and see how it feels.
But I said I would not ramble in my next post. Plus, there are always other things to write. So – Auf Wiedersehen!