Writing Progress: Week Ending November 3, 2012

It’s kind of sad when I think that a week where I barely topped out over 500 words is a good week:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 566 words

Super Secret Project:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 566 words

Be that as it may… I wrote over 500 words last week, so I have to count that as a good week, right now.

I might’ve been able to do another 200 or 300 words, but I hit a smallish roadblock as I was writing.  I discovered, as I introduced an important secondary character, that I had no idea what that character actually looked like.  No clear vision of him.  So I spent somewhere near to an hour or so looking up inspirational images on the internet.

One of the things I feel like I often get complimented on, in my writing, is my description.  I don’t know if that’s really a good thing, or just people stretching to compliment me on something, anything.  But assuming it’s a genuine compliment – to the extent that it’s actually a good thing – I think I owe that at least in part to the very visual way in which I approach writing.  I “see” a lot of what I write, and I describe what I see.  For better or worse, I expect my readers to be able to see the same thing I see.

And so it was, when I reached the point where I was introducing this important supporting character, and upon realizing I couldn’t “see” him… it quickly became incumbant upon me to cultivate my mental image on him.  Luckily, there’s no dearth of images easily searchable on Google.  (Unluckily, the search times I came up with for this particular character have not produced an awful lot that’s been particularly evocative and inspirational to me.)  So it took me a while to come up with anything that started to tickly my imagination the right way.

There are limits, clearly, to the benefits of writing in such a visually-oriented way. 

How was your week in writing?  Are you very visual in what you write, or else how to you typically approach writing description and evoking the world of your story?


18 thoughts on “Writing Progress: Week Ending November 3, 2012

  1. I’d still say that’s success! Nonzero writing! Sometimes though you need to do those things, whatever it takes to get a feel for your characters. Its still writing work. I am a visual writer as well, and I have to remember to go back and add in the other senses to my descriptions in an editing pass.

    Everyone doing Nano has been pumping out crazy word counts, and I’ve been riding along with them. I wrote 9k this weekend, and its looking like I can finish this novel draft before the end of the week. *fingers crossed*

    • Yeah… given my recent history, anything non-zero has to be a success for me.

      But hey, 9,000 in a week! That’s awesome! Keep that up and you’ll be most of the way to a NaNo even if you hadn’t signed up officially… But I guess when you reach the end of this novel you’ll probably take a break. But still, that’s an amazing accomplishment.

  2. Oh yes. I’m a lot like you in that I typically meet roadblocks if I have not first taken time to visualize certain details. Kinda annoying when you’re on a roll, heh, but sometimes those pit stops are necessary!

    My week has gone okay…could have been a lot better. Made some progress on my project, sure, but I was also dealing with a breakup (imparted by me, though only because I could sense slippage from the other side)… Needless to say, that slowed things down on the editing front, heh.

    I’d planned to blog later this week. -__- Meh, not really in the mood, but I’ll still give it a go.

    • Yeah, I guess I’ve always been very visual in my approach to writing. Luckily, I’m not a half-bad artist, so that helps a lot, too. The very first version of “the-novel-I’ve-been-writing-since-forever” I drew a map to start, and every few pages in the handwritten manuscript I drew a picture of the scene. (I was in single-digit age years at the time, so both the writing and the art were of a somewhat age-appropriate quality; i.e. not very good by my current standards.)

      Sorry to hear about the relationship situation. I’d offer something more encouraging or understanding if I could, but experience tells me (a) I’m not very good at that and (b) it’s not always what a person wants to hear in the situation, anyway.

  3. My mental images while writing are usually rather blurry and impressionistic — particularly so with scenery, less so with the characters that I’ve taken the time to really get a good look at beforehand. Just today I reached the first point in my NaNo Project #1 where we see the villain, and I realized that I had forgotten to figure out what color his eyes were. It doesn’t make any difference to the story; and even now that I’ve come up with a color just to fill in my own mental picture, it may or may not come up in the text. …Actually, now that I know, I’ll probably go back and make mention of it, somewhere. It’s NaNo; every word brings you closer to that 50K. (:

    • Yeah, that’s why I have to keep a file of character profiles – because details like “eye color” and “height” and whatnot can fall through the cracks if I’m not careful.

      At the same time… I’ve not been particularly diligent, so far, in keeping my files up-to-date on this novel, as I write it. The writing is going so painfully slow that it feels like stealing time and throwing it away to arrest progress on my actual first draft. But it’s making me anxious to have so many details buried in the prose but not easily accessible in my notes.

  4. I’m not very visual so I often have only a sketchy ides what new characters look like. I almost never know their eye color, for example, probably bevause I almost never think about it in life.

    One of my major characters started out as a walk-on in one story, and her entire description was, “a very small teenage girl.” Detailed description came gradually, in later stories (including the fact that she’s really only twelve). In fact, the first thing aboit her that I described in detail was her voice, so maybe Im more aural than visual.

    I had a fairly productive week, made both easier and harder because I still have no internet. I posted the second of my rewritten mystery stories and also a new scene which I just finished. The links are on my blog (well, they’re technically URLs, not links, but there are limits to what I can do on my Kindle. 🙂

    • Glad to hear you’re still managing to be productive, even in the face of storm-related outages in your area.

      Sometimes my image and idea of a character evolves over time, too, or become clearer. I try to think a lot about a story and about it’s characters before I start writing so my image of them is clear when I start and any evolution of the character is an organice outgrowth of the story itself and not of my own changing views. But I daresay I fail to live up to this personal ideal, anyway.

      • I’m not sure I understand the “personal ideal” you’re talking about. I agree that it’s usually problematic to have our characters spout our personal beliefs, but it seems you’re talking about something more than that.

      • I meant that this is my personal ideal result when I write: that characters are consistent within themselves and their stories. It was a way of saying “this may not be the goal of other writers”. Or, in other words, “YMMV”.

  5. I’m a very visual writer and often spend time looking for inspirational images. Usually for setting rather than character. Where do you go to find inspirational character images? I’ve tried Elfwood and Deviantart, but have a hard time filtering through all the sludge.

    • Well, in this particular case, in fact, I had my best success looking on DeviantArt and ElfWood, as a matter of fact. I also used Google’s Image Search. You’re right that there’s dross in all those cases, and I can’t necessarily make any firm recommendations: as I said, I had trouble finding images that spoke to me.

      I figure the secret, if there is one, is three-fold: good search terms, learning to use the searching and filtering tools to your advantage (where they exist) and being able to scan and evaluate lots of pictures quickly. But I can’t say I’ve done any of these effectively.

      In the past, I’ve just perused sites like Elfwood casually and bookmarked images that were evocative to me generally, but not in any specific ways, just to keep a record of stuff that spoke to me artistically.

    • Not that anyone asked, lol, but…I actually get a lot of inspiration from video game conceptual art.

      conceptart.org is a huge hub where both professional and up-and-coming artists showcase their talent (mostly to get feedback from each other, it seems), but it isn’t exactly user-friendly… So instead, if I’ve heard of a particular artist before, then I’ll just browse on their personal website. I do the same with book cover artists if I see a cover I really like, just to check out the rest of their portfolio. Or, like Stephen, just do a Google Image search but for specific book or video game concept art.

      Also, movies. Sometimes certain actors pop out at me; then I go on hunt for lots of images of them in different movies (then end up feeling like a stalker for it, lol). But movies also tend to have oodles of concept art behind them because of all the preliminary idea pitches they need to do when working with directors or whoever for set and costume designs–particularly if they’re sci-fi, fantasy or historical. (Costume design is another area ripe with inspiration.)

      So yeah, any movie I’ve seen that just feels aesthetically similar to my project I’ll go on an image hunt for and see what pops up. That way the search results aren’t so random. 🙂

      • Yes, I definitely appreciate the ideas. I have a few favorite artists bookmarked, but I’ll have to be more consistent about doing that. Looking at movie art is another good idea. My current project was strongly inspired by a movie, actually. I’ll have to see if I can find any concept art behind the movie.

  6. Congrats on getting 500+ words done. Much better than I’ve done over the last couple of weeks! 🙂

    As for pictures, I’m extremely non-visual so rarely even know what my own characters look like beyond something like, “He was tall” or “His hair was the colour of fire.” (I’m very auditory, so tend to use a lot of dialog and describe voices and sounds in the scene.) I’ve become aware in recent times that some readers actually like to know what characters look like, so I’ve started finding character pictures online and printing them out.

    My best tip? Join an online dating site. (Disclaimer: Make sure you tell your Significant Other that you’re doing it and why! These things are soooooo much harder to explain after the fact! ;))

    I got this advice from a best-selling author at the last writing convention I attended, and it’s made a huge difference. I can find an appropriate character picture in 5-10 minutes tops, every time. Sure, I can’t publsh them online, but the pics are for my own records/memory anyway.

    * Join a dating site. Set your own profile to not show up in searches and don’t upload a picture. (Unless you want people messaging you!)
    * The customisation of the search lets you search for really specific descriptors: Male, age 30-35, Black or Brown hair, Blue eyes, between 5’10” and 6’1″ tall.
    * Then it’s just a matter of scrolling through images until you find one that looks right.
    * Less than 10 minutes later, you’ve got a printout of your character.

    • Hah! I don’t think I’ll be following up on your “dating site” suggestion for myself – it’s a neat idea, and I can see how it would work – but, you know…

      But anyway, that’s a really cool idea and process you have there.

      • Yeah, I know what you mean. I sat down and talked to my husband about it before I did it — and made sure to show him my profile (which has nothing but a fake name). Even though he didn’t really want to see it and had no actual concerns. But, you know. 🙂

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