Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Learning the Secret of Contentment

"...for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."
Philippians 4: 11-12

Being content isn't always an easy thing. But it is an important thing to learn, and certainly makes life more enjoyable. When you aren't stressing out or worried, and you aren't wishing for all the things you don't have, you can actually appreciate what you do have and enjoy every moment in life. Even if what you do have is only a little bit or so many moments are filled with darkness, you can still find joy in your life.

Where does that contentment come from?

I've been in a lot of different places in my short life. My near perfect childhood with my parents and my six siblings, growing up in that loving household without a care in the world. Sexually abused and living with a darkness because of that for many years. And more currently, a little stressed about money, or the lack thereof. And yet in every stage of my life, I find myself content, happy even. The how and why behind that peace is relatively simple.


He gives me peace in my life, and my contentment grows from that. From the knowledge that He's going to take care of me, no matter what my life circumstances are. He's good, and He loves me, and I can fully trust Him to have my best at heart. That's where my contentment stems from, and I'd wager the apostle Paul would have a similar answer if you asked him why he was able to find contentment despite everything that went on in his life.

God offers that peace to everyone. We can learn the "secret" of being content when we give all our wants and desires, all our stresses and worries, to the One person who can take care of it all.

Hey, guys. So I know this post is a bit different than what I usually do, but it was pressing on my heart so I knew I had to share it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Naming Characters

Ever wonder how your mother chose her name for you? What made your parents decide to call you what they did? My kids won't ever have to ask such a question...because I've got a formula!

I'm not even kidding.

The most likely outcome, if and when I have children, is that I will use the same method to name them that I have used for all of my creations (novel characters...).

Then again, perhaps not, since my method involves already knowing a bit about the person before giving them a name and it would be unfair to leave a child nameless for a few years until I'd figured out what their personality was like. So I guess they'll have to ask those questions after all.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm going to be talking about naming characters today! :) 

So how do I come up with thousands of names for all these people living inside my head? There are several different ways this tends to transpire.

Number 1: They come with a name. Not even kidding. Most of my Main Characters (henceforth known as MCs) come with a name. I don't know where it comes from, how it gets into my head, but I do know I don't have to find a name. Lucy from the Robin Hood series. Yep. She was just Lucy from beginning. Cassy Wilmark from my dystopian trilogy. Yep. She was Cassy Wilmark from day one. That's how she introduced herself to me.

Number 2: Seeing as option number 1 is limited to only MCs and doesn't even happen for every MC, option number 2 is much more likely. After brainstorming and creating a general outline, I have an idea of who is who in my story. This is when I begin to make character profiles, and this is when I name my characters. Step 1 is to discover what makes these people tick. Who are they? What's they're most dominant character trait? What do people say about them? "This person is sweet"? "This person is the most annoying person you'll ever meet"? Are they a hero type? Based off of their personalities and character traits, I generate a list of names that have meanings that correspond to said character traits. And I pick one of them. Sometimes this means I get a name like Hope, from my dystopian trilogy, which is just an embodiment of who that character is. She is hope for her people, for her sisters. She's the light of Jesus to the world. She's Hope. Or I'll have a character like Dusty in Robin Hood who was so named because she is a warrior and one meaning of Dustin is warrior. (Dustin seemed like a dude's name though, so I made it Dusty)

And of course, there are surnames. This is similar to naming my characters in the sense that I do a little research to get a list of 15-20 names like I do when finding first names. The difference is, I don't look at the meaning of names, I just look at names that I like and more specifically names that I haven't used before (that last part also applies to finding first names. I won't have more MCs named Cassy or Lucy anytime soon). Once I have a list of names, I grab a friend and give them pairings. One name at time. I'm going to use Cassy as an example, even though I didn't do this for Cassy's character.

I'll go to my chosen buddy and say "Do you like the name Cassy Wilmark? Or Cassy Harrison?" And then I run down the list of all the surnames, slowly, and listen to the feedback that I get. Based off of what appeals to me and what appeals to my friend, the list usually gets narrowed down to 5 names. And from there, I choose whichever surname I like best.

So that's how I name characters. It's actually relatively simple. Do a little bit of research and find names with meanings that pertain to the character and then pick one of them. And then find a buddy and play around with surnames. 

And of course there's the random MC who just comes with a pre-ordered name. Seriously, I still don't know where those names come from.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Woes of an Under-Writer

I am an under-writer in the sense that my novels tend to come up short of actual novel length and would more likely be classified as novellas. This isn't always the case, but more often than not, my stories are short.

I have reached a point in writing Queen of Caradale that I have had to put my foot down and say "No. This one won't be a novella." Because let me honest, it isn't even a novella at this point. It's a sad little novelette (yes, there are distinctions in novel length...crazy, I know...).

I don't expect this book to be huge. The first in the trilogy was barely 100 pages, the second under 200. Small is fitting for this particular series. But not this small.

As of right now, it's a sad 75 pages and 26,000 words.

So. I'm doing a major overhaul, something I've never had to do on a story before. We are adding to this story, people.

For the first time in my entire writing career, I am setting myself word count goals. And yesterday, the first day of word count goals, I achieved said goal! :) But the story is still tiny, and I haven't finished my overhaul yet so no celebrating.

Thankfully, there are things that I can easily add to the story without it being forced or ridiculous. I don't want length for length's sake, I want a well-rounded story. I wrote Queen of Caradale in 9 days (yes, you read that correctly). Because of the speed at which I was writing, there a plenty of things I have already discovered that need to be added to the story and I have a list of things that could possibly also be useful although I don't know yet if they're necessary to the plot. We'll see. Having a list of things to add, an actual plan to implement, is very helpful. Because adding to stories is not something I do very often. I don't wax eloquent. I state the obvious and move on.

I'm learning a few new things along this fun little journey I've found myself on for this novel. Growing that word count isn't as easy as some authors led me to believe. Maybe that's because they aren't under-writers like I am.

One of the first things I learned is that the majority of tips to be found online for lengthening stories is for lengthening short stories. Stories that are supposed to be under 3,000 words. That's not helpful. I'm trying to lengthen a novel here, people. Aren't there people out there like me who are trying to reach that 80,000 word mark?

(I'm going to take this moment in the middle of my blog post to muse over the fact that I don't under-write blog posts...just novels...*sigh*)

Playing around with pacing and tension is one thing I've been doing to lengthen Queen of Caradale. Stretching out the build-up and climax of tense moments. I actually think this particular undertaking is helping the overall story arc as well, so that's a wonderful added bonus. :)

Backstory. This is something that will definitely beef my word count because the main character of Queen of Caradale has a full, complicated, and fascinating backstory. I've been working parts of her life's story into the novel and it's been incredibly fun to do so! The problem comes in with POV. This book is written in a first person narrative, and more than that, it is first person present. As in, "I am sitting on my bed, my laptop before me, writing a blog post about the struggles of lengthening word count." You can't have flashback scenes in first person narrative so working in the backstory is a lot of internal dialogue and also tactfully bringing it up in conversations with other characters. It's a complicated business, but I am loving this particular challenge! :)

Adding descriptions. Putting the five senses to good use. This is one of my weakest points as an author in general anyway, so I always have to go back through and add character and setting descriptions in my stories. In this specific story, it's going to help me add to that word count. Descriptions are massively important outside of word count though. They draw the reader into the story, so that's the "real" reason I want to go through my stories and add them. The larger word count is an added (and in this case, needed) bonus.

Today's word count goal is 5,000 words. Hopefully I can make it. And then again tomorrow...and the next day...and the next...

And then, some day soon, I'll have a novel that is novel length and I can finally celebrate. :)

Happy Writing, everyone! (and thanks for listening to my ranting on word count today...)