writing tips

Naming characters

Tonight is Supernatural. Woohoo! Last week’s episode was really cool, so I’m excited about tonight’s. 😀 I also received a rejection today, but hey, that just proves to me that I’m submitting and have my stuff out there. There’s another publisher that is also interested in the story, so here’s hoping that they like it enough to contract.

Anyways, recently, I’ve had the pleasure of naming a new kitten, so it made me think about character names as they are one of my favorite parts of writing. I use name websites a lot to help me with this task. Some of my favorites are: babynames.com, 20000-names.com, and behindthename.com. (For surnames, there is surname.behindthename.com.)

When I name my characters, I almost always choose the names first by figuring out my character’s ethnicity and country of origin (or ancestor’s country of origin). Then I go about finding a name that matches a certain quality or trait regarding the character. For instance, if I were to have a character that was very much into protecting others, I would go with something like Alexander/Alexandra, which means “defender of mankind.”

Sometimes though, a character will emerge with a name, and I don’t have to worry about picking out just the right one. I enjoy either path, though it is nice when I do get to go through the lists of names. A lot of the time it gives me ideas for secondary characters, or even ones not related to that story.

How about you? What are your methods of naming characters? I’d love to hear your opinions. =)

Something I learned yesterday

Recently, I’ve been thinking of all of these awesome story ideas and how I should work on X novel for Y submission guidelines, or I thought about Z idea, which would be great to break into. And then there is my ’08 Nano novel, I.V., that I need to edit, which has been set on the back burner, and the sequel to that novel that has almost 58k words. It’s felt like I’m ricocheting around on my projects instead of steadfast and focused.Today I started reading an e-book called 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer (who has worked with Jenny Crusie on a few books as well as writing his own). I got it recently for free after signing up for Writer’s Digest’s e-newsletter (in the green sidebar on the left). The second mistake he mentions is Not Finishing (the first being, Not Starting, if you were wondering). Now, I have totally finished the first draft of I.V., and I’m making my way–however slowly–through revising it.But as I mentioned before, I’ve been bouncing around like a chicken with my head cut off with all of the new ideas and opportunities that have shown themselves. It’s interesting because I’ve been getting in my way more than really having an external distraction like TV or anything like that since I haven’t been able to make my mind up on what to work on.There were a few key pieces of advice that he said. One was that, if you don’t finish the project you’re not going to get a contract for the work. And two was to not move onto another project unless you finish your current work-in-progress. Yes, I know it sounds so simple, but for me, those words were very timely. I feel like it gave me a shot in the arm to get back to work on I.V. and give it my main focus.

Making it with Discipline

Here’s an article I did on motivation, so I thought I’d share it here. I hope you enjoy it!
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Making it with Discipline
By Sarah Mäkelä

In the past, I have had a lot of trouble with staying focused and being disciplined when it came to writing. I had thought that writing was something people do when they’re feeling creative and inspired. New York Times Bestsellers probably wrote every day, but they made a living writing. I would write when I thought about it, and I loved writing when I did, but it wasn’t something I would do on a regular basis. I loved my characters and thought about them a lot, and when I did sit down to write, I would think about new ideas that had occurred to me, and start writing out those stories. Needless to say, I now have six partials for novel-length works. Most of those are around twenty thousand words.

I always hear a lot about writer’s block, and my answer is that I don’t believe in writer’s block, so it doesn’t believe in me. Most times when I’m “blocked,” I just need to keep that much more focused on the work and break through it. That doesn’t mean I think there can’t be actual problems going on when a writer is stuck. Always examine where you are stuck and try to figure out why, but then continue on. I know of well-known bestselling authors who write their first draft quickly, and then go back and make sense of the manuscript. Stephen King in his book, On Writing, suggests three months for this process.

Before completing my first manuscript with the help of National Novel Writing Month, I didn’t understand that. Why would I want to hurry through such an important step? With National Novel Writing Month, you have to turn off your internal editor and lock her in the closet. If you don’t, you simply won’t be able to write fifty thousand words in one month.

I think sometimes writers get bogged down with making everything perfect on the first time through, but if the first draft doesn’t get done with the diligence of sitting down to write every day, then you won’t make it to the second draft. Now with my first book coming out April 1st, and my second book ninety-one percent written, I recognize that a person needs to have discipline when writing, or pursuing anything else that they desire in life. Writing is a creative process, but it’s also a business.

If you have the desire to write, then go for it! Don’t let others deter you from your dreams.

(c) 2008 Sarah Mäkelä