Monthly Archives: November 2012

Writing Snippets Classics: Podcast – Building Believable Characters

Here is a panel discussion podcast that we first posted in March, 2011. Enjoy re-living our discussion.

Do you want to know how to make your characters feel more real, or to learn why it matters? How about the difference between a quirk and a flaw?

Listen on, my friends…

Download here. (Right click and select “save link as” to download.)

Check out Verla Kay’s website.

And the winner is…

Terri Dion, you have won a signed copy of the ShapeShifters Secret!  Please contact us at with your address so that we can send you your book.

Thank you for listening to Writing Snippets.

The Journey

I found NaNoWriMo by accident in 2004.  Well in reality it was probably 2003, since it usually takes both time and familiarity for me to take the plunge into something brand new.  In any case, 2004 was the first year I participated.

To that point I had started about 2000 stories, and finished nothing.  I had bits and pieces of stories that I now recognize had a lot of potential, but I’d get bored within a few pages and rather than continuing I’d start something new.

Every couple of days, I’d start something new, and discard the old.

I kidded myself that I was developing my writing style.

Truly I did a lot of studying during those years, but without applying that new information it just went in one ear and out the other, or in my eyes and straight into the trash pile.

I found NaNoWriMo in 2004, and for the first time I forced myself to write straight through.  That first year was a struggle because of the habits I’d formed, but writing is an addiction and I was determined to finish.  I hit 50k and stopped.  That story still hasn’t been finished.

But the next year I went back.  I still believed that writing was (and should be) an individual endeavor, so I didn’t participate beyond writing 2000 words per day and hitting 50k in a month.

And I went back.  At some point it became more than a challenge.  I began participating in the write-ins, went to the kick-off party for the first time.  I wrote 50,000 words, and for the first time I finished a full novel.  It wasn’t good, but it was a beginning.

People have varying opinions about NaNoWriMo.  Some discard it as a gimmick, a useless attempt at entertainment.  They point at the low number of participants who have published a novel and say “Look!  It’s useless.”  I disagree, for a number of reasons.

Millions of people “try” to write, and fail.  A portion of those try again.  Some fail.  Some succeed.

Although publication is the goal (we all believe that what we write is good enough for publication) only a small percentage of those who write a novel keep going long enough to get that novel published.

From the insane goal of a novel in a month, 178000 novels have been written that would otherwise not have seen the light of day.  I know of at least six.  I have five more finished that would not have been written if I hadn’t started participating in NaNoWriMo.

For me, NaNoWriMo was the one thing that pushed me into finishing a novel.  Others feel differently.  That’s their choice.  But this year I will finish a 12th novel during November, and hopefully at least three more by November of next year.

And someday I’ll be published.

Maybe this year…

Podcast: Author Heather Ostler talks about the querying process

Find out how Heather Ostler wrote, edited, and published her first book, The Shapeshifter’s Secret. She talks about building a platform and finding an editor, two things that helped her sell her book. Comment on either of her interviews for the chance to win a signed copy of her book. A winner will be announced in the middle of next week, entry deadline is next Monday.

To learn more about Heather, you can visit her blog.

Download here. (right click and select “save link as” to download)

A Lesson From Poetry: Writing Emotion

This month I was pleased to attend the Utah Poet of the Year concert. This is a prestigious award given by the Utah Poets Society, of which I am not a member. The event was orchestrated professionally and the winner Dawnell Griffin, was sophisticated and regal in her graceful acceptance of the plaque and the reading of her poetry book, On Judgment Day.

She, with her skilled way of putting the right words on paper, had the entire body of the audience in tears. The book itself, a masterpiece, and a glimpse into the moment of tragedy in a relate-able way, was at it’s core nothing but pure honesty. That unabashed honesty made me think.

As writers we can’t help but put our viewpoint into our books. We build characters based on our perception of others, and ourselves. Sometimes that perception is wrong, or skewed, but it is how we see it. The best writers I know take experiences from their own life and inject those emotions into situations that require that depth in their novels. After all, isn’t that how we generate a believable character? To fill him/her with human emotions?

Dawnell Griffin was able to put her emotions on paper without fear of being judged and claim them as her own.

As a novelist, I get the luxury of having characters present my emotions in a less scrutinizing way. The brilliance of that maneuver is my characters can sift through the feelings I give them and I can discard them as I move onto other types of experiences.

You may not have to write as bravely as Dawnell did, but the most important lesson in this to me was that emotions not only help your reader to relate to your characters, but also to validate the reader’s experiences in life. I will always feel very fortunate to have been at that concert because Dawnell’s book of poems made me feel. Emotions and ideas that I’ve had in my life could relate to her emotions she shared. Her traumatic moment was still full of hope and her true character, without being bogged down by self pity or martyrdom, shone through.

May we all be so brave.

By Lillian J. Banks