Need a Title? Here’s a Title!

Here’s the thing: I’m not great at coming up with titles. Heck, I suck at coming up with titles. And I have read some great ideas about how to come up with a title. A few weeks ago, a GH sister, Pintip Dunn, had a great post over at Waterworld Mermaids, asking “What’s in a Title” [there’s the link to check it out.]

And I would like to apply her methods and others I’ve seen for a great title (like brainstorming over the theme of your book; brainstorming 100 titles and narrowing it down from there, etc). But I have neither the finished book nor finished series yet; this little guy is still just in formation. And I’m getting really frustrated with it having no name at all.

So, that started me playing. 🙂 (Yes, I’ve been working too, promise.) And I found some interesting title generators that maybe you’d like to try out, too. Some of the titles are ridiculous of course, but some? Some you could write a whole book just for that title. 🙂

Book Title Generator – This one I like because you can choose the genre you want (scroll all the way down to the bottom for the actual generator). Since my book is a bit of a mash-up, I looked at a few generator. And, even if you don’t use the title just as it appears, maybe it will inspire the real one.

The Title Generator by Fiction Alley is probably my favorite, because you get to select the words that create the title. This means you can use some of the major elements or themes in your book and fit them in. I didn’t find a perfect fit yet, but this one generated some of my favorite.

Random Story Title Generator on Mcoorlim.com was another I liked, probably because of the words that came up; the titles were evocative and interesting, even though they’re still totally random.

Random Title Generator by Maygra I liked again because of the words that were used to generate the titles. Again, totally random, but some of these made you pause and wonder what kind of story would go with that title.

Oddly, I’ve never popped up these random name generators before, and I’m not sure I’ll use it to give the final title to my novel, but it certainly was fun to play with and might be fantastic for a piece of short fiction, or inspiration for what eventually becomes the title.

So how do you come up with your titles? Are you one of those people for whom titles come easy? (And if so, can you help me? Can I be reformed??) 😉 Or, like me, are titles a challenge, and if so, how do you cope?

Thanks so much for reading! Have a great week, happy writing, and have fun out there. 🙂

Stumped … or not?

Today is the first day this year that I’ve tried to work on my current WIP. It hasn’t gone well. I’m not sure if this is just me, or if it means its time to abandon the project. I’m feeling rather philosophical about the whole thing since, after all, that makes it so much easier to philosophize instead of just write.

I am considering new directions. I feel overwhelmed by too much information looking through various craft books, writing books, etc. Because of course, they are written for the general “writer,” whoever the heck that is. And they try in earnest to be helpful – and perhaps they would be were I in a different frame of mind – but of course, it’s useless to look for answers only I have.

The book feels stalled. Perhaps because I have taken such a long break from it, leaving my imagination / subconscious still off on holiday. Perhaps it is because I really don’t like zombies, so writing a book about them was a bit of a foolish notion. Perhaps it is fear.

No, I think instead it’s the crushing nature of expectation and ambition. See, I’m a worrier. And if I start thinking about all the things I “should” and “ought” to be doing instead of just getting over myself and writing, I can darn near suffocate myself with invisible foes. Worrying about if I’m writing what is “marketable” or “saleable” is, to some extent, a fool’s venture, especially so early in the first draft. I don’t even have a story at all – how on earth could it ever be marketable? It’s like expecting a baby to do my taxes.

So, I have a new plan. Perhaps I will try and play more. Instead of just doing writing exercises and creating reams of new worlds that I don’t especially feel like getting more than a 1000 words into, why not go diving into my own WIP? After all, if I’m looking at the potential of abandoning and tossing the whole thing anyway, where’s the harm? Best case scenario: I end up with something that can be salvaged in future drafts and the book is completed. Worst case scenario: instead of lots of pieces of flash fiction laying all over the place (and cluttering up my file directory since I can’t bear to delete them – it’s like killing puppies!), I instead have further messed up an already messed up story, and the whole thing may RIP.

Yes, this is completely against my usual method. But seeing as the usual isn’t working, guess it’s time to play. 😉 Wish me luck. I’m off to mess around.

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a fantastic week.

New Year Writing: Step 1

So it’s snowing here … again. But the sun is shining, and today I am determined to really get started on writing for the year. Yet I still want to be a bit gentle with myself.

Here’s what I plan to do today:

Play.

Yep, you heard me. But the difference is that I’m going to try and play with words. Over at Chuck Wendig’s thought-provoking blog, he offered up a challenge of the random story generator starting with a title … and then to write 1000 words about it. [Here’s the link if you want to play along.]

So, that’s my first step, and what may even amount to the beginning of a resolution: More play, and more actually trying things instead of just saying “when I get to it.” You see, I’ve looked at lots of this kind of challenge and exercise and even saved them for later … but I didn’t actually do anything with them. Not really. And now, look at that – my first 2014 resolution seems to have crept up on me despite my best efforts:

2014 Resolution #1: Make more time for playing with words, and actually do the challenges and experiment with words.

So, I better head off and actually get to that writing thing. 😉

What about you? Have you set a boatload of resolutions this year? Are you against resolutions? Or like me, are you just adjusting to this year a bit slower than usual?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a fan-tabulous week. 🙂

Strange But Fun Research Books

I’m taking a break from the Regency for this week and instead showing off some of my favorite weird-ass books that I have on my shelves for research. You know the kind: they’re kind of unexpected, they’re not exactly the kind of book you use as everyday reference, they can become an enormous time-suck, but boy are they fun to poke around in. Yep, some of those. 🙂

weaponsbookThe Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. Eds. Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair.

This dear book has been a long and dutiful friend, ever handy when I’m feeling rather blood-thirsty. It’s an old guy that I picked up at a library book sale, but it’s a great reference for actually looking up weapons … or if you just want to compare different suits of armor, or maybe look for a neat-looking dagger your heroine might use. Or you know, play. 🙂

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Master Guide: Arms and Equipment Guide.

I confess that I haven’t used this book as often as I might, but when a friend’s hubby said he was giving away books, well, first, who says no to a free book? and second, this one looked handy when it came to describing things I wasn’t familiar with. There are lots of pictures and descriptions of those pictures so you can understand what different weapons are, different costumes, etc. Again, a fair bit of fun to thumb through.

bodylangThe Definitive Book of Body Language. By Allan and Barbara Pease.

This was purchased in relation to writing, and because it was really interesting when I read through it somewhat randomly the first time (have no idea why I picked it up). As well as being handy for understanding body language so you can write about it, try reading it and then go out for dinner with friends, or especially with people you don’t know very well. It’s great fun all dinner long to read what their body language is saying, so much more interesting than the conversation. 🙂

You Can Read Anyone: Never Be Fooled, Lied To, or Taken Advantage of Again. By David J. Lieberman.

Yep, I got hooked on body language books, which is why I followed up the Peases’ book with this one. Also interesting, it delves into a bit more detail, and is especially used for kind of criminal profiling – though it also goes into why a read can be flawed on the basis of nervousness, etc. I, for example, swear I look like the most guilty person in the airport, because though I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m terrified I’ll be caught doing something and miss my flight.

bookromeTraveller’s Guide to the Ancient World: Rome in the Year AD 300. By Ray Laurence.

This was a bargain pick-up, and because someday, I swear I’m going to write a book with Ancient Rome in it. This one is a lot of fun because it’s formatted just like a modern travel book, which makes is super easy to find all kinds of information you’d be hard pressed to otherwise. I haven’t read – or double-checked – the sources and authenticity since I haven’t had to, but if you want it for actual reference, that would probably be a good idea. I’m not entirely certain how factual it is, but it is fun.

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. By Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack.

I did mention these were weird and rather random books, right? This is an interesting book in how it’s written – as though you’re actually out encountering or hunting down demons. A bit strange, but definitely interesting for the perspective.

Planet Cat: A cat-alog. By Sandra Choron, Harry Choron, and Arden Moore.planetcat

I like cats, which is where this book originates. But I found, to my surprise, that it’s also a great source for weird cat-trivia which could come in handy if you happen to have a feline character. There’s tons of myth, famous cats, history, cat in context to said history, that sort of thing. No, you probably aren’t going to find a use for most (all?) of the info in here, but more fun than you’d probably expect.

birthdayencycThe Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays: know your birthday, discover your true personality, reveal your destiny. By Theresa Cheung.

Ah, and at last we end on my favorite weird-ass book. It grabbed the attention of my husband and I in the bookstore, and despite it’s price tag, it came home with us. It’s also often flipped through by friends when they see it, and I confess to looking up most of my friends and family to see what it has to say. (Oh, and characters for books too – though again, less research, more play.)

So what the heck is it, you ask? It’s an encyclopedia of birthdays, breaking it down by zodiac, numerology and other systems, so you can look at general “sign” information, as well as just look up your birthday and read an assessment of your personality. For example, if your birthday were today, July 26, you’d find (p297):

“this is the birthday of self-assurance.

“People born on July 26 tend to be charming and strong individuals with an almost unshakable belief in themselves. … Other people tend to listen when these dominant personalities speak because they have an air about them which others respect and admire. … From the age of twenty-seven, they have an increasing desire for more practical order, efficiency, and analysis in their lives. In the years that follow, it is important for their pscyhological growth that they don’t become over-confident …”

“On the dark-side: over-confident, tactless, uncompromising.”

“At your best: honest, authoritative, confident.”

Neat, huh? Trust me, lots of time can vanish just playing with this book.

So, what are your favorite weird-ass books – whether they live in your home or not? Why do they make your list? What makes them special?

Thanks for reading, and speaking of vanishing time, I better get back to work. 🙂 Hope you have a great week, and hey, if you liked this post, why not follow the blog? Have a good one. 🙂

No Pressure – Just Play Time: Ten Tips to Add Play to Writing

I’ve written a few posts that have to do with the importance of play, but it would seem I wasn’t taking the advice myself. I found myself the past few months almost frozen with self-imposed rules, expectations, and pressure to succeed. So, I decided that what I really needed to do was remember why writing is fun, and why I want to write (other than to eventually make money at it, too).

As a writer – and the same goes for most other kinds of artists – we often need to be internally motivated and driven, our own bosses. But, hanging out with a demanding boss all the time can suck all the fun out of everything. Thus, here are my ten tips to add play back to your writing.

  1. Compose a “why I can’t stop writing list” [See previous blog on this]. Sure, this might be one of those only-if-things-are-really-bad moments, but it could also remind you that there are other reasons you started writing, or whatever it is that currently has you stymied. What did you really love about it? What brought you back again and again? How can you recapture those feelings?
  2. Write a short story. This isn’t the “hard” short story that you studied back in school, but a quick work of fiction. Whether this is extremely short (flash fiction, ~500 words or less) or something bigger, that’s up to you – but don’t worry too much about that. These are not necessarily stories to share with the world, but just playing with words, ideas, techniques. Start off with prompts, or start with the following point, what “what-if” list.
  3. Reconsider your method. If everything is working for you, and you’re happily producing lots of work, than leave things alone. However, if you feel change maybe warranted, than make some. Consider your learning style, what works for you, what doesn’t. Do you meticulously plot everything? What if you plotted a bit less? Do you never plot? What if you started with at least a brief plot map? Different methods work for different people, from listening to music / needing silence, pictorial story boards, index-card plot points (a favorite of mine), writing in noisy places, etc. Maybe something would work better for you, too.
  4. Take a shower. Or do whatever you know gets thoughts percolating. For me, taking a shower frees my brain for some reason, and if I let it, my imagination can take flight. Maybe a shower isn’t for you, but what about a walk? Meditation? Find what works.
  5. Start a “what-if” list. This can be a new, blank document, or as I did, a page in the “idea” book, scribbling down ideas. Don’t worry about the feasibility, your level of interest, how it fits your genre, marketing potential – no worries at all. This is brainstormed list of play; you never have to look at it again if you don’t want to, or it could foster some great brain-sparks.
  6. Build on the “what-if” list and increase the possibilities. If you play with one idea, what about it’s opposite? What if everything we thought was true, wasn’t? Okay, than the opposite might be: what if everything we thought was true, was? Again, no pressure, no worries – just write down whatever comes to mind.
  7. Write some hook-line-and-sinker first lines. Just open a blank document (or again, pen and paper if you prefer) and just start writing. These can be first lines to some of the ideas on the “what-if” list, or they can be something else. I’ve found that some of these first lines also have the potential to be the hook for the book. Plus, it’s actually a lot of fun. If you start writing more than a first line and really get going, follow through! Don’t stop now! 🙂
  8. Remove the formatting and the preconceived notions that go with it. Personally, I’m a linear writer, and I start with the same formatting I always use, and “Chapter 1” blinking in the middle, and write in chapters through the book. What helped for me was to get rid of all the formatting – including chapters, double-spacing, etc – and just write. It helps to eliminate notions of where I am in the novel, how long it has to be, etc. Try it. Maybe it will work for you too.
  9. Write something for fun. Consider the possibility that not everything you write has to have the potential to be the “break-out novel” you’ve been working towards. What about some idea that you’re just toying with that may have nothing to do with where you want to go in your career? Or an idea your spouse had that sounded like fun? Try it. Don’t worry about how long it has to be, where it’s going to be, anything – just write, enjoy the process, see what you learn from it. Maybe it will someday become something significant, maybe not. But for now, none of that matters.
  10. Stop worrying, start playing. Easier said than done? Of course it is. That’s why it gets listed separately. But the important part is that you make a conscious effort to play; when it’s been awhile, it may be hard at first. But, the more you allow yourself the freedom of play, the easier it gets.

So, have you started playing yet? Did any of these ideas have potential? Or, did you try any of these ideas and they worked for you? Please, let me know – and if you have other suggestions.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing!

Break the Rules, Have Some Fun … and maybe get some terrific writing done, too

If you’ve been reading, you may know that I’ve been struggling with the last WIP, and then with the new one I started, and it ended up being largely because I was hemming myself in too much with too many self-imposed rules and requirements. This is probably because I’m a bit of a control-freak, and quite frankly, I like rules: I think that for the most part, they help us organize our lives, our society, and stop things – and people – from running amok.

That said, while I have worked as a freelance editor, I like to break rules grammatically. Sentence fragment, anyone? So long as I know I’m breaking the rule – and doing it intentionally and stylistically – I figure it’s okay. And it’s only recently that I’ve decided that the same can be said for writing altogether. While we may like to keep rules in the back of our minds, it doesn’t mean we always have to follow them.

Case in point: my latest WIP. I’d been trying to force myself to write it third-person, and switch between two POVs. But, all I was ending up with was something stiffer and less friendly than I wanted it – and it certainly wasn’t going to have any of the humor and sarcasm I wanted. So, after my blog post about my rules and expectations, I went back to writing and did it exactly as I wanted … in first person, single narrator, very sarcastic, and certainly a “character” of her own. Yes, this does limit my ability to convey my hero’s perspective on things, which will make me have to work harder showing it through his actions, body language, dialogue, etc, but you know what it did accomplish?

It made writing FUN again.

By just doing exactly what my gut wanted to do from the start, from diving in a bit wildly and just going for it – knowing full well I may have to rewrite it all at some point in the future in a different perspective, heavy editing, etc, etc – I started writing anyway. And it was fabulous. I heard the rules in my head, but I ignored them, speeding ahead with almost 7000 words in one day, which is something I haven’t been able to accomplish in a long time, especially considering my reduced working hours.

Thus, my beloved rules were holding me back instead of helping me. Which made me realize that when it comes to rules – particularly the self-imposed kind – it’s worth remembering and reviewing them every so often, and deciding if they’re still worth keeping, or if maybe they should be tossed out entirely. For writing, I want to continue to improve and grow, and I can’t so that if I stagnate and strangle myself. So, now I’ve found a new way to play.

Thus: remember to break some rules. No, in case there are any kind of legal ramifications, I am not suggesting you do anything illegal, but just break a few rules – the unwritten kind, especially the self-imposed kind that you’ve somehow internalized, but which might be a bit obsolete, or might not be what you need anymore. How do you do it?

  • consider the rule, and its purpose – especially things like grammar. Can you say what you want with the rule? How would breaking it benefit you? If you understand the rule – like using complete sentences rather than fragments – consider using the fragments when it can be helpful to assist with style, characterization, etc.
  • character perspective / POV (point of view) – you should at least know what the conventions are for your chosen genre / specialty, which means you know what to expect when it comes to rewriting. I know my genre generally prefers third person deep POV, which is what I generally write in. BUT, is a story coming to you in first person? Have you ever tried it? What if you’re that writer who is fabulous in first person and you just don’t know it because you’ve never tried? Consider why the convention / rule exists, what you risk by defying it, and what you could possibly gain.
  • experimentation = growth. For me, experimentation is a kind of play, and I like to try something different in every new book, just to keep things interesting and me on my toes. Sometimes it’s what I research, some new branch of science or specific detail which I didn’t know much about, but which becomes central to the WIP. Each time we try to stretch ourselves, it seems to me we can only continue to grow – like a tree up towards the sun.

What about you? How do you feel about rules, and do they help you or hold you back? Have you tried breaking any lately? Come on, break some rules, I dare you – it sure can be a lot of fun. 🙂

Playing and Making Writing Fun Again

Well, this will probably feel a bit strange, but first, I’m going to send you away from this blog post, because I just read a great post that inspired this one. So, go check out:

Dale Launer’s “Cure Writers Block”

In case you haven’t checked it out already, he talks about where he thinks creativity – and it’s opposite, writer’s block – come from, equating true creativity with “the child” and our negative inner editor with “the parent.” Seriously, check it out. Poke around on the page a bit, since a lot of the other essays are both very well written, and thought-provoking.

Which brings me to my post today: playing and making writing fun again. I recently started a new WIP that’s way out of my comfort zone, is something bizarre and weird, and which may never actually be seen by other eyes than my own. The reason: I needed to. I’ve been pushing myself very hard to continue with books in two different series, and the pressure of continuing to build on this, on over-analyzing what’s working – and what’s not – in all of these books has been completely freezing up my writing. Things aren’t going well, and I can’t quite decide how to fix it.

And this all brings me back to play. When I was studying French, the reason I really enjoyed it was being able to play with the language again, something I’d lost throughout other education and the degree in English Lit; playing with language really doesn’t seem to be encouraged. So how do I remind myself to play?

I think, honestly, it comes to trying to erase all the expectations.Maybe I’ll list them to try and break them down.

    • Writing in deep 3rd person, switching between the characters.  (But wait a minute, if this is just for me, who says that it sells better? Who says it even works better? Why not switch it up, start playing … sure, I’m all the way onto chapter 2 /3, but there’s nothing saying I can’t try something new for today.)

    • Traditional plotting methods, following hero’s journey model. (Again, who says? Does the climax have to be facing death? Where else could it take me?)

    • Following the lines of a well-known storyline. (Okay, this is something I’ve apparently done to  make my life harder, but if my premise is that the original story is all lies and a coverup, than it hardly constrains me, does it?)

    • There’s no market for an “orphan” manuscript like this. (Yeah, so? Is that the purpose of writing it? No. So just keep writing anyway.)

    • This may be unpublishable for a variety of reasons. (Does the purpose of all writing I do have to have the eventual goal of trying to get published? Writing is still writing, isn’t it? And being unpublished, isn’t this the opportunity and ideal time to indulge oneself in play?)

Pardon my very strange self-analysis, but I think I needed a bit of butt-kicking. Is my eventual goal publication? Certainly. So if I write something that may not be an ideal candidate, does that make it useless? Not at all. I’m reminded of this little card I picked up at a writer’s conference that tells the story of two fictional beginner pottery classes.

Class A was told to make one pot and make it the best pot they could, rewriting, reworking, and continuing on the same project for the month of the class. Class B was told to learn to make as many pots as they could during the duration of the class. So who made the best pot?

Class B, of course, because they kept experimenting and learning with each new pot they created, rather than sticking with only their first attempt. The end message? There’s no such thing as wasted writing or effort, and I’d be better off continuing to play and expand my skill by experimenting in each new WIP or exercise than sticking with attempting to revise my first flawed effort.

I don’t know about you, but off to play in the writer’s word-box right now. What about you? Do you have the courage to just play?

Have a great week, and thanks for reading.

Have You Played Today? Why You Should Maintain a Sense of Play in Your Writing

Like most writers, I too experience the bust after the boom when for a myriad of reasons – often life getting in the way – the writing doesn’t come, the manuscript isn’t working, and you’re not writing, the end result making you feel stunted and not yourself.

This got me thinking about the value of play, which may both be especially important to writers, something we truly can’t write without. As writers and artists, there is something

inside us that depends on us maintaining a closer connection to a child-like creativity and imagination, which is how we can create and imagine new worlds, new people, and bring them all to life for others.

If we maintain the idea of being a child at play – or in this case a writer at play – it allows us to more versatile, it lets ideas flow. When you brainstorm, you don’t close yourself to new ideas, even if it’s not something you’ve tried before, or perhaps a direction you hadn’t really wanted to go. But if we allow ourselves to freedom to “play” with the idea and thoughts, play catch with our muse, if you will, there’s no telling where we’ll go.

This has the added benefit of not only letting the writing flow, but also keeping at bay the darkness and depression which can dog us when we worry about too many rejections, not enough success. It can stop us from questioning our skill, perhaps the very decision to choose art as a profession in the first place. Instead, avoid all that. Be the child.

“Because the child at play is not worrying about his or her future, and because the child at play suffers no real-world consequence for failing–that is, because of play’s triviality–the child at play does not fear failing.” — By Peter Gray, From The Value of Play

But of course, writing is also our work, which means sometimes it’s hard, sometimes we get bogged down in the work. Marketing and queries, word counts, time spent at the desk, production quality and quantities. However, it doesn’t mean we can forget play.

“Work is where we spend much of our time. That is why it is especially important for us to play during work. Without some recreation, our work suffers. Success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work. It depends upon the quality of your work. And the quality of your work is highly-dependant on your well-being.” –From HelpGuide.org

So whether you play with a style, a genre, an idea, or something else, play, and watch the fruits of play make your writing stronger, deeper, and you a happier writer.

Some interesting links to remind you to play:

Importance of Play in Child Development

http://www.child-development-guide.com/importance-of-play.html

The Value of Play

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200901/the-value-play-iv-play-is-nature-s-way-teaching-us-new-skills

Play, Creativity and Learning: Why Play Matters for Kids and Adults http://www.helpguide.org/life/creative_play_fun_games.htm

Have you played today in your writing and life? How? Have you noticed a difference in your work and you when you allow yourself to play? Thanks for reading, and have a great week.