Reading and Writing Habits

I have some questions for all of you, and I’d like you to answer them if you like.

First, I’d like to ask about your reading habits.  Please answer with as much detail as you want.

1. How many hours a day do you read?

2. When you read a particularly long book, do you also read a second book at the same time if you want a bit of a break?

3. How many books do you read at the same time?

4. Do you stick with the same genre, do you alternate between a couple genres, or do you read many?

Now, on to the writing questions.  This will only apply to you if you are writing a book or have written books.

1. While you’re writing a book, do you focus exclusively on that project, or do you have some side stories going on when you’re stuck on your main project?

2. What do you write mainly, novels or shorter fiction?

3. Where do you usually write?  I’d like a description of your writing environment.

4. How often do you keep notes in a notebook (or several notebooks)?

Thank you in advance for answering! I look forward to reading your replies.

Protagonist, This Is Your Life

Do you know your main character inside and out?  Can you tell your protagonist’s life story?  To understand your character and keep them in consistently in character, you should know all about them.

Start with some basics.  You should know what they look like.  What’s their hair colour?  Eye colour? Any identifying features?  Height? Body type? Facial hair? Age?

You should know their personality.  What would they do in certain situations? What do they like?  What are their hobbies?  Is there a word or phrase they like to use?  What’s their daily routine?  What do they like to eat?  What do they hate? What makes them sick?  What are they afraid of?  What are their dreams?

You need to know their friends and enemies.  You need to know their coworkers and family members.  You need to know their pets.

You need to know what their job is.  If they don’t work, are they studying?  What are they doing at the moment?

Then go back to the beginning.  Go through their life and figure out major life events, including birthplace, birthdate, what kind of home they grew up in, if they had good birthdays, where they went to school, who their friends were, who was influential in their youth, if they moved around from place to place, if they got in trouble, if they were good in school, if they had any part-time jobs, if they fell in love, if and when they lost their virginity, old injuries, traumatic events, where they went to university, if they traveled, if they got married, if they had children, their work history, and so on.

That’s a lot to think about.  Now that you’ve done your protagonist, do the same for your antagonist and supporting characters.  That’s a lot, isn’t it?

Keep all of this in a well-organised notebook that you can refer to quickly when you need to.  This will keep your characters consistent and realistic.

I really need to do this myself.  Any other bits of information you suggest?

A Couple of Updates

I’ve been working a bit on some things in the background of the blog, something you won’t really notice right away.  However, they’re useful things, which I hope you’ll use.

First is a dedicated page to my Worldbuilding series of posts.  So far, three posts have been written, but you can easily access them from the new page.  More will be added.

Second, I’ve started my book review tweaking.  The first review I’ve done it with is Running with the Demon.  Check it out and let me know what you think here.

World-Building: Mapmaking

Here’s where the fun starts with your world.  I assume you’ve chosen the type of world to create, whether it’s Earth-like, a waterworld, or a dry world.  All of these need a map.  This section is more important for fantasy worlds, though it is quite useful for science fiction worlds if you’re creating a whole world.

Making a Basic Physical Map

To start off, a simple map will do.  Make the continents first.  But don’t just make them blobs.  They need intricate coastlines.  The more complex, the more realistic.  Look at a map of Earth.  Take a look at coastal regions and you’ll see that they’re not straight lines.  They’re not curves.  They’re very organic looking with lots of inlets and peninsulas.  That’s what you want to draw.

Moraine_Lake_17092005

What you need to do next is add the mountain ranges, lakes, and rivers.  Keep in mind that large mountain ranges form continental divides.  The rivers should flow from the mountains, not cut through an entire mountain range from one side to the other.  Mountains aren’t random, either.  What is useful is to create a map showing the tectonic plates, and show the direction of movement of each plate. This will allow you to determine where the mountain ranges go, as well as pinpoint the seismically active regions.  You can indicate where volcanoes are in this step, as well as the mountains.

A Fantasy Reader has an index of maps that shows a long list of fantasy novel maps.  Definitely worth going through for some ideas about style.  The style is up to you.  The easiest is to use a bunch of triangles for the mountains.  Even the best did it.

The map gives you a lot of possibilities for stories, especially if you’re writing a long series.  It also gives you an image of what the world is like.  It’s a very powerful tool.  I love looking at maps in fantasy novels.  I love making them, too.

What I Did

For Ariadne, I did just what I said above.  However, I drew the tectonic plates map after I drew the mountains.  I just imagined how they would be arranged with the mountains already drawn.  But this gave me the idea of where to put the volcanoes and which areas are prone to earthquakes.  I also included some hotspot volcanoes, similar to Hawaii.

Ariadne map editing

I’ve posted the above image before, and this is my work in progress, the map of Ariadne I’m digitizing.  Whether you do the map on paper or computer is up to you.  I prefer doing it on paper.

My map contains four continents and two major oceans with some large bays.  There are also ice caps, but I’ll talk about this on a later mapmaking topic when we deal with climate and ecosystems.  To read more about Ariadne’s mapmaking process, please check out this post.

I Can Do It!

I remember a day in the early 1990s when I was in junior high school in Canada.  I was in grade 9, listening to my math and science teacher talk about a former student of his.  She had started high school the year before and came back to visit him.  That’s pretty easy, since the high school was next door.  He told us about his former student’s experience in high school.

She was one of the top students in his math class, and so she entered the AP (advanced placement) math course in grade 10.  This was an accelerated math class in which you take a double dose of math in grade 10, then advance through to grade 12 math by the end of grade 11.  That was my intention when I entered high school.  What he told us though is this, and I’ll paraphrase.

Don’t enter the AP math class.  None of you will do well.  It’s too difficult for any of you.  She was the top student in the class, and she couldn’t do AP.

A math teacher told us we couldn’t do it.  He told me I couldn’t do it.  I was the top student in his math class, actually.  Well, I entered high school and I took that AP course.  And you know what?  It wasn’t that difficult.  I finished grade 12 with an overall average of 98% in math.  I received many awards and scholarships based on my math and science marks (physics 97%, chemistry 96%, biology 94%).  I was the top math and science student in my graduating class.  No wonder I have a lot of science-based posts on here.

You see, I didn’t listen to him when he said that I couldn’t do it.  Well, I did it, and I excelled.

But what does this have to do with writing?  A lot, I think.  Writing a novel is a lot of hard work.  Much of the time, you have to keep yourself motivated.  I keep telling myself that I can do it.  I’m going to finish this book.  I’m going to finish this short story for Camp NaNoWriMo.  I’m going to finish my second book, my third book, etc.  I just need to put my mind to it and get it done.

The big thing is that I can’t listen to the people who say I can’t do it.  They say it’s a waste of time and I will fail.  It’s too difficult.  Well, I say that I can do it, and I will do it.  I may not write a bestseller, but I’m going to do my damnedest to write a good book.

If you doubt yourself because someone says you can’t do it, don’t listen.  If you tell yourself that you can’t do it, shut up and just do it.  You can do it.

I teach English for a living, and I’ve often had students say that they can’t speak English.  This is even from high level students.  I tell them that they are speaking English right now.  You can do it.  If they’re worried about the mistakes they keep making, I tell them the mistakes only make them better.  Don’t worry about the mistakes.  Just try, and they can succeed.

So, if you love writing and you have a story to tell, don’t listen to the naysayers.  I don’t.  I believe I can do it.

My Camp NaNo Disaster Cause

I’m not calling Camp NaNoWriMo a disaster yet, but it’s getting close.  I’m at 522 words, and there are only two weeks left.  But why am I having trouble getting the time to write?  Well, it’s not that I don’t have the time, I just don’t seem to be getting the silence I need.  This is the reason:

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That little girl is the reason I’m having problems writing.  I can write a blog post with her around, but I can’t achieve the level of concentration I need for writing fiction with her playing around me and interrupting me.  Who is she?  That’s my daughter.

She’s going through the terrible twos right now, although it’s not so terrible.  She’s talking a lot, she’s pretending a lot, and she wants to spend a lot of her time sitting on my lap whenever I use the computer.  She wants me to play Angry Birds often.  She loves watching me play that game.  She points at the computer and says, “Bah.”  I know what she means.  Right now, she’s playing with Lego on the table right next to my computer.  She loves to be near me all the time.  She wants to show me her creations all the time.  She’s actually really good with her hands.  Although she’s only 2 years, 1 month, and 22 days old, she can hold a crayon like an adult.  She builds things with Lego that are symmetrical.  She loves putting things on top of my head.  She’ll see numbers and start counting to ten: “One, two, thee, foh, fie, dih, deben, eight, nine, ten.”  She’s memorised her puzzles and can put them together in a very short amount of time.  She gets excited about bananas.

But because of her, I’m not sure if I can finish Camp NaNoWriMo.

So, how many of you have kids?  I wonder how people with kids can spend a lot of time writing.  Any advice?

And now she’s crawled onto my lap.  She wants to sleep, I think.

What an Odd Year So Far

It’s halfway through April now, and I’ve found this year to be a bit odd.  At least the norm doesn’t seem to apply this year.  There are various things that have happened which makes it unusual.

The weather has been crazy.  We had two big snowstorms in February in an area that sees maybe three days of about 5 cm of wet snow.  We had 30 cm twice one week apart.

This blog has seen an increase in activity, and so an increase in visitors.  The number of followers has passed 300 in the past two days, and that’s up by 50 in about a month.  I guess I was used to the slower pace.  Not that I’m complaining! But when I look at the site stats, I find something odd.  I’ll continue with the same amount of posting each day, and I’ll have days that are far more than usual (I had a record high 103 visitors one day this month), then suddenly drop to fewer than 30 for four consecutive days despite my posting continuing as normal.

On the computer side of things, my old Windows 7 computer began to fail.  It still works, but I haven’t used it recently.  My new Windows 8 computer works fine, except for one really weird glitch that seems to be quite common.  I fixed it, though.  And I still don’t have a working mouse.  I need to get one if I’m going to do some map editing for Ariadne.

As far as reading books goes, I haven’t read a single five star book this year yet.  I”m quite surprised.  They’ve all been three or four star books.  It’ll come, though.

Maybe these don’t seem so odd, but it makes me feel like this is an odd year.