Monthly Archives: September 2011

The End of the Dear Diary Project

Today, September thirtieth, marks the end of this month and with it the end of this year’s Dear Diary Project. Hopefully today you’ll be able to give your Dear Diary Project an ending that will tie it up nicely. If not, don’t worry too much about it–after all, it’s not like your character’s life is ending, so why should their diary? If you have the time, you can even keep going with your Dear Diary Project. I won’t stop you, but I will tell you that now is probably a good time to move on to a new project, and unless you have the time to do both, I’d suggest ending your Dear Diary Project now.

What should you do once you’ve finished your Dear Diary Project? First, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing it. Then join me on Wednesday to talk about how to make the most out of your Dear Diary Project. Start something new–a short story, planning for a new novel, a new blog, whatever strikes your fancy. And don’t forget that it’s October now, and Nanowrimo is right around the corner.

Me, I have to work on Moonshadow’s legal code, but I hope to get a little bit more editing done before November starts. And I’ll be pulling out a binder with notes for a story idea I had last year but which I never ended up writing, blowing the dust off of it, and making sure it’s ready to be my Nanovel.

There are going to be some big changes around here, which I’ll talk more about on Monday, but right now what I can promise you for the next month is information on making the most out of your Dear Diary Project, how to prepare for Nanowrimo, and a couple of writing exercises I hope you’ll find useful. In the meantime, there are a couple questions I’d like to ask you:

What did you like about the Dear Diary Project? What do you think would make it better for next year?

Childhood Dreams

Most of us, when we are very young, constantly change our minds about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Even when we’ve thought we’ve decided on something, and we believe we’ve decided on it for a couple of years, our decision can still change. Some of the things that we want to do with the rest of our lives are perfectly achievable, like becoming a teacher or a nurse. Some of them are harder, like becoming a star ballerina or musician. Sometimes we change our minds because we hear about what it’s really like from somebody who’s been there, and we don’t like it as much as we thought we would. Sometimes we just realize we can’t do it, or that there’s something else that simply sounds like more fun.

In a medieval-type society, there might be many more reasons why your character will never achieve their dream: class, gender, colour all play into those societies in a way they no longer play into ours. In a science fiction society, your character might be capable of doing anything, but have realized somewhere along the way that their childhood dream is not really as glamorous as they thought.

This week I would like you to write a Dear Diary entry talking about your character’s abandoned dreams. Have them examine what they dreamed of as a child and why. Then ask them why they gave up those dreams, and what they’ve replaced them with. Explore all the possibilities of these questions. And remember that while you are aiming for a certain word goal, it’s perfectly acceptable to write much, much more on one day and a tiny bit less the next–as long as you write every day.

What were your childhood dreams?

How to End Your Dear Diary Project

Whether or not you planned it, some sort of structure and story arc has probably appeared throughout the course of your Dear Diary Project. With only a few days left in the month, it`s time to start thinking about how you`re going to end your Dear Diary Project and finish your story arc. It`s important to write something which will tie up a couple of loose ends and feel satisfying as an ending to both you and your character.

There are lots of ways to end your Dear Diary Project, and what is most effective depends on you, your character, and what you`ve written so far. You should spend at least a little bit of time during the next few days planning and setting up hints for the end of your Dear Diary Project, whatever that is going to look like.

Here are some ideas for ways to end your Dear Diary Project:

1. A New Journey– Over the last thirty days, I am sure your character has changed, and so have the people around them. It can be surprising how rapidly people change, and how rarely somebody you met a month or two ago is the same person when you meet them again. The changes in your character’s life and psyche can be leading them down a new path at the end of your Dear Diary Project. It may be that your character leaves home now for the first time, or that they choose a career path they’d never really thought about. Whatever it is, the introduction of something completely new will both end the story well and show that the character’s life goes on.

2. A New Friend/Lover– Another interesting way to end your Dear Diary Project is with a meeting. Your character might meet someone new, or they might suddenly realize that a person they’ve never talked to is actually really nice. They might have been waiting for something like this to happen all month, but then again, maybe they haven’t been. Writing down the moment in which they truly gain the new friend or lover, and showing their emotional reaction to it both in the moment and afterwards, also rounds off the story nicely.

3. A Great Loss– We’ve all lost somebody at some point in our lives. Your character is much the same–and if they haven’t lost anyone yet, they’re sure to lose someone eventually. Loss can be a powerful moment in your character’s life, and their reaction to it can show you so much character. As a bonus, this ending gives you extra depth, and an opportunity to let your character really grow. What if they actually stop writing their own diary when you do, because they are so depressed from their loss? It happens to lots of people. We all react to grief differently, and from the point of view of characterization, this is one of the best endings.

4. Something Completely Different– Really, you can end your Dear Diary Project however you want. It’s up to you and your character to find the best ending for your Dear Diary Project. Just make sure that the ending makes sense considering your character and the story you’ve been telling.

Personally, this has been the easiest Dear Diary for me to write, and it will be the easiest to end as well–I decided on the ending more than a week ago. That said, I think it’s also the one I’ve learned the most from. I hope you’ve learned a lot so far. Next week I’m going to talk about how to get the most out of your Dear Diary Project, but in the meantime, enjoy the last few days of your Dear Diary Project.

Have you thought of an ending for your Dear Diary Project yet?

Dear Diary Entry

Today I would like to share with you one of my own Dear Diary Entries, which I hope you will enjoy. My Dear Diary Project is written by Riana, the main character of Moonshadow’s Guardian. At this time she called herself Naomi, and she lived at Home, the gloomy red caverns where demons are sent when they hit puberty and gain access to their powers. She’s just begun swordplay lessons.


Day Nineteen
Today began with a long run all around the town. I’m slowly getting used to the atmosphere of darkness, what with almost all the stone being black and the gargoyles hanging onto the corners of every building, and the sick, twisted plants growing in the narrow spaces between houses. I still don’t like it, but I’m getting used to it now. The sights don’t horrify me the way they did when I first arrived. Even though it’s only been a couple of months, I feel like I’ve aged a hundred years—I was just a scared little girl when I got here, but now I’m becoming a woman.
A woman who feels like she is always being watched. I swear sometimes I see yellow orbs like eyeballs lurking in the shadows. Sometimes when I’m going to sleep I hear movements outside the door, but if ever I go to check, there is nobody there. The door is thick and wooden and protected by powerful spells—all the doors here are, to keep demons from being killed in the middle of the night. We like to die in a proper fight, around here. But I suspect that the people who are watching me will never actually seek a physical confrontation. If I am to be punished by them, it will be in the official way, and I’ll never get a chance to truly fight for myself. People aren’t really given trials around here. A ‘trial’ around here is really the Family deciding how to punish people they don’t like.

Then again, in the Magi Plains, people don’t usually get trials either. They just get their limbs or titles removed. Sometimes they get banished to some far away place. If it’s somebody really important, or if the crime was really drastic, they might get a trial. The four families don’t like to kill innocents, so if it’s a crime that people are usually executed for, they like to enforce trials. Of course, the judges are all cousins of one of the four families and they usually rule against the poorer party, but at least it’s some kind of trial.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too worried about it. I’m not Merrique’s lover right now, and they won’t actively try to harm me until I am. For now I just need to focus on my training—several hours of repetitive motions, trying to make each one faster than the last one. I’ll fight those battles when I have to.

It’s Tough to be a Writer

Writing isn’t easy. Or perhaps I should say that writing well isn’t easy, even for those of us who have an instinctive grasp of grammar and spelling. Fiction is particularly difficult, because you’re creating new people and giving them new experiences. A good story is something like a tapestry–made up of many different elements and woven for hours upon hours upon hours.

In order to write an amazing book, you need to have a strong setting, strong characters, and a good, non-stereotypical plot. And you’re going to have to rewrite, because you’ll probably realize that your characters aren’t as tough as you thought they were, and your plot’s got holes in it bigger than your windows. And after that, you’re going to have to rewrite again, because on the first two times through you were focusing on the story, not on the words themselves, so you have to tighten it up.

And that’s being generous–odds are that each of these steps will take two or more new drafts of your novel. Ten years isn’t an unreasonable amount of time to spend writing and rewriting your first novel–I’ve already been working on Moonshadow’s Guardian for six, and I expect to spend another year or so on it before I submit it to any publishers.

The scary thing is that once you’ve got a book published, your publishers expect you to be able to have the next one ready for them in a year or two. For the rest of your writing career, publishers will be giving you deadlines, and you will be struggling to meet them while making your work the best it can be. It doesn’t get any easier after you’re published, except that your family and friends will actually start respecting your writing time.

So if you’re struggling to write your Dear Diary Project, slow down. Remember that right now, the only person who really wants you to write is you. Remember that there’s no need to rush into publication. You can’t hurry a book and expect it to turn out well.

You don’t have to be trying to get published to enjoy writing. And sometimes, the desire for publication can make it less enjoyable. Remember that first and foremost, writing is for you. If it’s not enjoyable, it’s not worth it.

So go out, enjoy yourself, and write up some good times.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Today, or sometime this weekend, I would like you to do something completely different–something I’m trying for the first time, too–and write two Dear Diary entries. The interesting part? One will be the character whose diary you’ve already been working on this month, and the other will be a character of your choosing. It doesn’t have to be somebody who will be in the main story you’re working on. It might be more beneficial to you if it can be, because you’ll get more used to their voice as well, but if it’s not plausible at the time you’re writing in, don’t force it.

On this particular day in your character’s life, they’ve met somebody new and intriguing. Have them describe in as much detail as they usually would the moment in which they met this person. Notice the way that your character describes their clothes, and pay particular attention to how they feel about the person and why. You can make the meeting as simple or as complicated as you want. Focus on the emotions of the moment. Don’t forget to have some fun with it.

Then you’re going to write an entry about the exact same meeting from the other character’s point of view. They’ve just met your character for the very first time–how does that character come across? Odds are, what your character thinks about themselves and what other people think of them will be pretty different. Pay attention to what they think of your character and why. It’ll come in handy when writing about them from other PoVs in the future, and when writing interactions between them and other characters in the future.

Have a great weekend, and please share the first sentence from each of these entries.

Staying Motivated When Life Interrupts

The last couple of weeks have marked the beginning of school for many of us. Personally I’m very excited to begin the new school year, knowing that it moves me one step closer to graduation and from there I can begin the rest of my life. I’m also excited because I’ve got some great classes this semester–particularly Aboriginal Studies and Law–but all the excitement in the world doesn’t stop me from catching sick. Which is, unfortunately, what happened to me last week. I spent most of the weekend in bed, so this is a very short post.

Despite my sickness and not getting much done–I managed to forget my school binder at a friend’s house on Friday evening because I was so out of it–I did manage to write a Dear Diary entry each day this weekend. I didn’t do any editing and I did only a little bit of reading, but I managed to accomplish those 250 words of my character’s diary each and every day. I picked 250 as my word goal because it’s not too challenging for me–it still allows me to have time to write other things and to work on my homework–and because it makes the most sense for my character, who would write fairly brief diary entries.

I hope that you’ve picked a similarly easily achievable goal. Just remember each day when you sit down at your computer that you don’t have to write an epic. Your goal isn’t to write a novel this month, and it’s certainly not to drain yourself entirely writing extremely long diary entries. I’ve made the mistake of making the word count goal too high–1, 000 words–for this challenge before, and learned that long winded diary entries don’t really help characterization, they just get boring after a while. Each day is different, but there’s only so much in any given day that’s worth writing about.

Remember that while you are challenging yourself, it’s more important to learn about your character than it is to write x number of words. The goal is to learn a little something about your character each day and to get a little more used to their voice each day. Even if you can only push out one or two paragraphs on any given day, that’s okay. You can still learn something from those one or two paragraphs about your character. And no matter how sick or busy you are, you can always write those one or two paragraphs.

What is the biggest obstacle between you and your writing time?

Journalling Prompt #1

A journal does not need to be simply a recital of facts. Your character’s journal should include facts, some every day things and some unusual events, but it should also include many other things. It’s your character’s space to explore who they are and what they want. Journals can be very therapeutic and can help us all discover ourselves and reach our goals.

Sometimes, when we’re having a hard time, we need to sit down and really think about what’s causing our problems. Not just the surface of it, but what’s really behind it–our own deeper issues. Asking ourselves on paper and then responding honestly can help us reach the heart of the problem and find a solution. Your character might not be the type to do this, but then again, they might be. So I’ve come up with a few basic questions that your character should ask themselves each week, and decided to give you a choice between two every Wednesday. Take each of the questions and modify the pronouns a bit to make them character-specific if you want to write them on the page. If your character isn’t the type to write the question itself on the page, have them writing the entry with that question in mind.

Today’s potential questions are:

What does your character truly want out of life, and what’s stopping them from achieving it?
Does your character get enjoyment out of their life as it is? Why or why not?

And my question for you:

Have you ever journalled your way through a problem?

Now Hear This! Blogging Position

This summer I decided that I really wanted to hunker down and focus on my writing. For the last three or four summers, I’ve always told myself I’d get a lot done with all my spare time, but I didn’t actually get all that stuff done. I spent most of my time out and about with friends, or buried deep in somebody else’s book. Even when I stayed home, I spent most of my time reading and researching on the internet.

This summer was different. I got a brand new computer at the start of the summer, and I managed to write an entire new draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian. I participated in an online summer writing group called the Writer’s Circuit. I’ve been going to acting for camera workshops, where they’re teaching me how to act and soon we’re going to start working on a short movie. I’ve written two short stories and edited one of them. I’ve edited a short story that I wrote a long, long time ago twice.

I got a lot of work done this summer. And it’s paid off. Literally. Paid.

How so, you ask? Well, when I was just finishing up with the Writer’s Circuit, I got an email saying that Now Hear This, the parent company–a Canadian company promoting literacy–was looking for new youth bloggers. They wanted youth to come and offer writing tips, book reviews, and to talk about local literacy events. And they were offering payment.

I jumped on the chance and sent an email back right away, with two ideas for blog posts: a book review and a post about online writing communities. I’ve been corresponding with the people in charge, and I wrote up and sent in my first blog post. The first piece of writing I will ever receive payment for. And sometime soon, a cheque is going to come for me in the mail. The first cheque I’ve ever received, since I’ve never had a real job. I’m ecstatic. Heck, I’m more than ecstatic. I’m bouncing off the walls. Really, really quickly.

So if you want to check it out, today I’m on the Now Hear This blog with a book review of Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey:

Thanks for reading, guys. Your support’s made all the difference in this journey.

Things to Think About During the Dear Diary Project

Yesterday, on September first, you should have begun your Dear Diary Project. Your first entry could’ve been your character starting a new journal and introducing themselves to the book–I often start my own new journals by mentioning who I am and why I got the journal–or they could’ve just started ranting about their lives. It depends on who your character is. And that, my friends, is the most important thing to keep in mind while writing your Dear Diary Project: that everything, the style of the journal and the length of each entry and everything else, depends on who your character is.

Once a week this month I will post a question for your character to ask themselves in their journal. If they’re an artist, they might do this naturally. Many writers and other creative people journal when they feel stuck, and ask themselves why they feel stuck. Then again, your character might have somebody else ask them something, and they might realize that they don’t know the answers. Or, in modern day, they could’ve found journalling prompts on the internet. Why your character is asking themselves this question is almost as important as the question itself and how they answer them. Come up with a reason for every question they ask themselves, and you’ll learn a lot about character motivation.

Remember that the goal of Dear Diary is to write every day. If you miss a day, I won’t judge you, but you can’t write two entries the next day to make up for it. We’re not aiming for a monthly goal, so there’s no catching up. How many entries you write is how many you write–and to be completely honest, I’d love to see you manage one for every single day, but I really don’t care if you miss a day. Just remember that the only person you’re cheating by not devoting enough time to your writing is yourself. The world will go on and your family and friends will remain unchanged if you miss a day of writing. It’s only you that suffers from letting life take over writing time. Nobody suffers with you, because until you’ve created something that’s ready for public consumption, nobody cares that you’ve written anything at all.

So this weekend, spend half an hour putting out a diary entry each day. I’m going to be in Algonquin park camping with my hubby, but I’m going to make sure that I write something down anyway. It might not be 250 words. It might be more, it might be less. I’m not taking my computer because we’ll be backpacking the first day, and I don’t feel like carrying it. I will be taking a notebook, but it won’t have a word count feature, so I won’t know until I get back how long each entry is.

But really, that’s not the point. Word counts are goals that are easy to break down and to figure out. They’re an easy way to give yourself measurable writing goals. But writing fifty words in a day, in its own way, is just as awesome as writing five hundred. Sure, your story or book will take longer to get done if you’re only writing fifty words a day, but it’ll still get finished eventually, and at least you’re still devoting a little time to your craft.

So don’t hate yourself if you can only write fifty words one day and five hundred the next. It’s okay. We all go through it. Creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes it trickles. The important thing is to make the most of whatever creative energy you do have.