NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Difficulties of Writing a Novel

Recently I’ve been trying to start writing again. I’m now working on my third novel “Finding Home: The Pirate Princess.” It’s been awhile since I forced myself to actually sit down and write. And since I’m self-published it really is up to me to get it done. And it can be hard. It’s easy to assume that writing just comes naturally to some people, that amazing sentences just fly forth from their brains onto the paper… or word document in this case. But writing can be hard.

So since I was having trouble even thinking about what to write today for this blog post, I thought I’d share some of the difficulties I’ve found in writing a novel. Maybe it will encourage other writers out there that they are not alone.

1. Motivation. It comes and goes. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s nowhere to be found. Often when I’m just starting on a project, I’m highly motivated and excited about where the story will go and what will happen. It’s almost like an adventure. But as time goes on, and round after round of editing, adjusting, cutting, adding and tweaking the story continue, sometimes the motivation just dies. It’s just not as fun as it was when I started and it really takes some perseverance to keep revising that story to get it right. And that brings me to difficulty number two…

2. Creating an Engaging Plot. Sometimes my first ideas for a story sound really good. But as I start actually writing, what I create can be downright boring. Or I have trouble getting it to connect to the story as a whole. I end up writing some things that later I just have to delete, either because it’s not needed or because it just isn’t interesting. And it can be really hard deciding what is worth keeping and what just doesn’t add anything to the story and needs to go. Having to make those decisions is one of the hardest things I have to do as an author.

3. Keeping Track of what I’ve Written. Remembering how each little scene I’m writing fits into the overall plot can be daunting. Even just remembering details I’ve already written can be difficult and I find myself scrolling back through already written pages to figure out what was happening, or what that character’s name was, or how I described this person in the past. It’s hard to keep track of a whole book and sometimes it seems simpler to just focus on what I’m writing now and hope that when I read over it later it still makes sense within the story.

4. Sifting through Critiques. As I write, I try to get some feedback from people. But sometimes their advise or what they notice can be hard to hear. It can be discouraging or overwhelming. I once went back and changed my whole book’s point of view so that it was more first-person instead of third-person, because someone who read one chapter said it was more engaging that way. I know I don’t have to make my writing appeal to each person who reads it, and ultimately if I like it, that should be good enough. But I do want to hear what others have to say and often someone else can spot a problem much more easily than I can. And so it again is up to me as the author to choose what advice to listen to and what to ignore. And that is a hard decision to make.

I know there are many other things that are hard about writing, and I don’t even know what kind of hoops people who have publishers have to jump through. But in any case, writing isn’t easy. It is a lot of work, requires tough decisions and many people who try to do it give up.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that even though it is difficult, it’s worth it. So don’t give up. If you’re trying to finish a book, or a screenplay, or a short story, or a poem, or whatever it is, don’t give up. Just keep writing.

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The Greatest Showman

I just had the opportunity to see this new movie musical yesterday and I thought a movie review would be fun. First off, The Greatest Showman has awesome music. I happened to hear the soundtrack before seeing the movie and I was already hooked. These are very fun, catchy and beautiful songs and I loved getting to enjoy them within the movie plot. I did have a bit of trouble with the songs being integrated into the movie. I don’t know if the lip-sinking felt off, or it just didn’t seem natural to burst into song in some moments, but it just wasn’t as natural as I’ve seen in some other musical movies. So even though I loved the songs, something about watching them on screen, was just off. It may have been just me though. My sister didn’t notice anything odd about it. And I have to say the song with Zac Efron and Zendaya swinging through the air was just beautiful to watch.

Anyway, on to the plot. I didn’t really know what was going to happen in this film and I liked that, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But I can say that I was pleasantly surprised on the value of family this film gave off. Even though our main character gets distracted by all of the attention and fame he gets from his circus success, he ultimately values his family above all of that. In addition, the assortment of odd individuals that make up the circus also form a special bond and think of themselves as a family by the end of the movie. The love story between P T Barnum and his wife, and Philip and the acrobat was also quite touching.

In fact all of the characters in this movie were very realistic and the acting was fantastic. All in all the movie was a lot of fun to watch and very uplifting. And those catchy songs are still buzzing around my head too. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope you check it out before it goes out of theaters.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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Smurfs vs Baby Boss

 

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So I haven’t done a movie review in a little while and I happened to see two movies this past weekend, so I thought it was time to do one. The two family films or kid’s movies that I went to see with a friend were The Boss Baby and Smurfs: The Lost Village. I have to admit from the previews I was a lot more excited about Smurfs than Boss Baby. The whole idea of a baby acting like an adult kind of weirded me out and even though I like Alec Baldwin’s humor, I wasn’t sure it would work out in a kid’s movie. Smurf’s on the other hand, looked extremely funny from the previews and I thought an all-animated movie would be an improvement over the mix of live-action and animated figures that we have seen in past Smurf movies.

And so, into the theater I went. The first film I saw was The Boss Baby, and I was surprised at how good it was. There were multiple funny lines and scenes, and the characters had a depth with great strengths and weaknesses. I was especially excited to see how both of the main characters grew through the movie. The single child realizes how fun and good having a brother can be. And the boss baby learns what he’s been missing out on by not being part of a family and how empty career advancement really is. And both boys learn how love isn’t limited but how it can grow to include more and more people.

At the end of Boss Baby I was just so happy. It had enough surprises for me to not feel like I had known exactly what would happen before I even watched the movie, and it had a satisfying conclusion where both characters get what they thought they wanted and then decide to change and give up their old desires for new better ones.

After a snack break and some leg stretching me and my friend headed back to the theaters for the Smurf movie. As I watched the movie, I found myself not laughing as much as I had thought I would. I realized that most of the jokes that I had found funny in the preview were the same jokes in the movie. After seeing them in the previews, they just weren’t as funny and there were not many additional ones to the ones I’d already seen. There was also not a lot of surprises either. The majority of the plot had already been revealed in the preview: other Smurfs exist in the forbidden forest, and four of our more familiar Smurfs go find them, the new Smurfs are all girls, then they have to defeat the evil wizard. There were a couple of other things that weren’t shown in the preview, but it definitely felt like I already knew most of the plotline. So when we finally got to the climax and it seemed like one of the Smurfs was a goner, I seriously doubted that it would end that way, and of course that Smurf magically came back to life. So it was an emotional ending, but somewhat predictable.

In the end, I actually liked Boss Baby more than the Smurf movie. This might have had a bit to do with low expectations for Boss Baby and High Expectations for Smurfs. Or perhaps I was excited for a movie when I saw Boss Baby and a little tired of watching movies by the time I saw Smurfs. But I think the biggest reason was because Smurfs revealed too much of its plotline in its previews and that made the movie predictable. Whereas Boss Baby set up the intro of its movie nicely in its previews but left most of the plot a surprise for the audience, and it had more of a surprising ending.

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Inside Out

If you read my last post, you know that I was very excited to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out. And I can say with confidence I was not disappointed, and if I ever make an updated list of my five favorite Pixar films, this one will be on it. Sometimes I set the bar too high for movies and end of leaving disappointed, but Pixar has done it again. They surpassed my expectations and left me wanting to see this movie again.

So before I get into the details of the movie, if you haven’t seen it, I’d say go ahead and watch it first. I’d hate to spoil anything for you. And if you still need some info before you see it, here’s a preview.

Alright, onto the review. This movie combines outstanding characters with an epic story. As only Pixar can do, the cast of this movie leaves the audience laughing at every turn. There were multiple times when I watched this movie that the audience or myself was laughing so hard, that I missed what a character said right after the funny moment. (This is one of the reasons I want to see it again).

One scene in particular that I found hilarious, was the dream sequence which began with the average dreams that pretty much everyone has experienced (reliving a bad memory, losing your teeth, and not wearing any pants) but the film pokes fun at these stereotypes by having Fear (played by Bill Hader) comment on the predictability of these scenes. Then as other characters, namely Joy (played by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (played by Phyliss Smith) try to change the dream, Fear is left wondering what in the world is going on, saying such things as “What the?” and “Stick with a plotline people.”

And this I think is one of the things Pixar does best, starting with Toy Story they have had groups of characters that feel so real, but say and do things that are just hilarious. I still remember Mr Potato Head saying “Look I’m Picasso,” and “What are you looking at, you Hockey Puck?” Inside Out has the same quality of one liners that leave you laughing. But just as Toy Story, and almost every Pixar film has funny characters, it also has an emotion filled story line.

I can honestly say, this movie made me cry… multiple times. It just knows how to tug on your heart strings, and take you from laughing to crying so fluently. Ironic right, since it’s a movie about emotions. But this is something that Pixar has perfected, even managing to make a 5 minute love story between two people that is heart wrenching in their movie UP.

One last thing I want to mention that I really enjoyed from this movie is how loss is handled. In the movie, Joy is always looking on the bright side and being optimistic and trying to make everyone around her, even Sadness, happy. But at one point she in confronted with a character who is heartbroken. Something they loved, that was really important to them was lost, and they’ll never get it back. (It reminded me of a person losing a friend or a loved one). Joy responds as she always had before, trying to put a positive spin on things, and distracting the character from the loss. And that can be such a typical response that we can give to someone else’s tragedy. But in contrast, Sadness listens to the character’s story and lets him mourn. She enters into his pain and lets him feel that it is alright to be upset. And that ends up being so much better for him, and for anyone dealing with grief.

I’ve been learning a lot about that in my own life now, with so many people around me and in my city experiencing tragedy. I want to remember to not try to fix everything or make someone feel happy, but let them be sad, validate their sense of loss and even cry with them.

So, I hope you enjoyed this movie too, and if you haven’t watched it and went ahead and read this, I hope I didn’t give away too much and you’ll still enjoy seeing it for yourself.

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Writing Tip: Have a Confidant

Girls, Whispering, Best Friends, Young, Teen, Secret

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As I’ve continued to write, I’ve found how helpful it can be to have someone I can talk to about what I’m writing. It may just be my personality, but I’ve found that getting another person’s opinion on what I’m writing is very helpful and often times is the spark I need to get excited about writing again. I think that’s why writer circles and workshops exist. Using other’s feedback and questions helps the writing process go much faster, and also makes it more fun.

Not only do I have someone I can talk out my ideas to, but I am also the confidant for another friend who is writing. So if you’re interested in writing I would suggest finding someone who you can talk to about your ideas. It really helps to hear from someone else if what you’re planning makes sense and is interesting, or is boring and full of discrepancies. Because ultimately, you want your writing to be something that someone else will want to read, and if it’s only interesting to you, that purpose will not be achieved.

Here’s a few things I tell my confidant:

-I explain a portion of the plot and ask if it sounds interesting.

-I give a few possible scenarios and ask which one is the best.

-I let her read what I’ve written and see if there are any flaws or plot holes I missed.

-I share my inspirations and ask if they would work with what I’ve already written.

-I ask if what I’m planning for a character to do aligns with their personality.

 

Here’s a few ways I’ve helped another writer:

-I listen to story ideas, and make suggestions for what a character could do or say in a specific situation.

-I help come up with names for characters or places.

-I’ve read through books or short stories and corrected misspellings and grammar issues.

 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking your confidant:

-Make sure the person is someone you trust

-Make sure the person is honest and won’t just tell you want you want to hear

-Make sure the person is easily available (not someone you never see and rarely talk to)

-Make sure the person wants to and enjoys giving feedback (not everyone wants to be a sounding board)

 

Good Luck with your writing!

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