What I Learned from Pottermore

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All right, I admit it. I’m addicted to Pottermore.com. And since tomorrow is Harry Potter’s birthday, I thought it would be a good time to post this.

For those of you who don’t know, Pottermore.com is the official, online Harry Potter game where you can play your way through the seven books and unlock tons and tons of Harry Potter tidbits that never made it into the series. You can also shop at Diagon Alley, get sorted into a house, brew potions, and challenge other players to duels.

And do you know what I learned (aside from the fact that maybe video games aren’t as horrible as I’d always believed)?

J.K. Rowling is the Queen of Backstory. I’m not kidding you.

I mean, I wrote about the intricacies of her worldbuilding already, in this post, and that was before I saw what was on Pottermore. So far I’ve read a list of all the Ministers of Magic (including a short paragraph on each minister, and the dates he/she served), all the winners of the Quidditch World Cup, family histories going back several generations on side characters…and I’m only on the fifth book!

Now, I don’t know how much of this existed during the writing of the books, and how much was supplied for the sake of the game, but still, it is a marvel of planning.

And it’s made me aspire to be better. Already I’m trying to think of extra details that could be added to the SHADOWCATCHERS world. Details on previous Emperors and Empresses, perhaps? More complete lineages of my MCs? The possibilities are endless. And exciting.

But it doesn’t apply just to Fantasies.

I’ve been struggling lately with this revision of my YA Contemporary, and I’ve come to realize that what’s missing is, you guessed it, backstory. I know who my characters are, and how they’d react to the events of the story, but what they don’t seem to have is any history. They pretty much exist purely in the now – and it’s made the story kind of…flat.

So, my homework before revising further is to fill in as much of Em’s history as I can. Once I know more about her past, I can filter in small details to make her a more rounded person, and a more interesting one. Only then can I finish revising her story.

Right, off to flesh out some more backstory (and then maybe onto another round of Pottermore)…

[P.S. If you’re on Pottermore, add me as a friend, ShadowWizard13771 – but don’t challenge me to duels, my head’s not up to them]

[P.P.S. In case you’re wondering, I got sorted into Ravenclaw. Okay, actually, I first got sorted into Slytherin (gasp!) but I figured if HP can choose not to be Slytherin, so can I. So I deleted my profile and redid the sorting quiz a second time. Then I was sorted into Ravenclaw (where I always figured I belonged).]

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Smoothing Out the Wrinkles

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Last week my kids went to day camp, and I got to take my soon-to-be new career as an almost-full-time writer for a test drive. It was amazing, but not without its pitfalls, so today I thought I would post about the things I need to work on come September.

1. Distractions – I expected to have to fend off my impulses to constantly check-in on social media, and otherwise waste time online, but it turns out I was actually able to handle those distractions pretty well. The harder distractions to ignore were my Mom-duties: the dishes piled up in the sink, the promise to make banana bread for the kids, the desperate need for a grocery run – I’m definitely going to have to figure out a way to schedule my time, so I don’t end up frittering away precious writing time on Mom chores.

2. Family Expectations – Even harder than ignoring my Mom-chores, was getting my family to ignore them. I’ve heard this from other work-from-home friends as well. Sometimes it’s hard for family to realize that just because I’m at home, doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do. “Why do you need to shower now? You’ll be home all day.”

3. Lack of Exercise – Not that I’m a great exerciser, especially since I’m still recovering from my concussion, but I do keep track of how many steps I take in a day, and last week’s numbers were way lower than I normally get. (You’d be surprised how many steps I can get just doing laundry, making meals, and running up and down stairs to deal with the kids.) Come September, I’m going to have to figure out a way to keep active while I write, be it a walk at lunch, or wandering up to write at a coffee shop – I can’t let having a career impact my health.

4. Motivation – As a full-time Mom, part-time writer, I had the luxury of only working when I wanted to. Not in the mood to work on that ms today? No problem, there are plenty of chores to keep me busy. But when writing is the top priority each day, I’m going to need to find a way to write, even if I’m not in the mood. The best solution I can come up with? Having multiple projects on the go (which I usually do, anyway). YA just not flowing? Work on a PB instead. Or start outlining that MG that’s been floating around the back of my head. Write a blog post. Writing is writing – it doesn’t always have to be on one project (unless I’m on a deadline, in which case I just have to suck it up and write through the ennui.)

5. Loneliness – Working from home can be very isolating. Sure, there’s always social media, but with the kids out of the house, it’s easy to go for hours without using my voice. Rather than start the practice of talking to myself, I made Writer Dates. Another work-from-home writer-friend and I are planning regular met-ups come the fall to discuss work and life, and bounce ideas off each other. Between that and my crit group meeting, and perhaps an occasional Neighbourhood Mommy Coffee Morning, hopefully I’ll be able to keep my sanity.

So there we go, the things I need to work on to be able to work from home successfully. Do you have any suggestions to add?

Birthday Musings

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That’s right, it was my birthday last week.

As I marked the passing of another year, I started thinking about where I’d hoped to be in my career by now, where I am, and where I’d like to be by my next birthday.

This year has been a big one for my writing. I got an agent – who has been amazing helping me with revising (Hi, Bri!), and I got back on the computer, and back writing, after last year’s concussion.

Also, this is my last birthday as a full-time mom. When the boys start school in September, I will officially become an almost-full-time writer/part-time mom (since staying at home means we don’t have to pay $60/day for after-school care for the three kids – not counting holidays, PA Days, etc., plus the time I’d have to take off for sick days – I don’t have to earn much from writing to make this a financially sound plan).

Of course, I’d hoped to have a book contract by now, but I knew a few weeks into the concussion that wasn’t going to happen by this birthday. And I’m fine with that (mostly).  However, if I don’t get a book contract by my next birthday, I may have to go out and actually get a (gasp!) real job. But I’m not going to think about that right now.

I won’t lie, my concussion set my career plans back, but I’m working on recovering, and trying to get my career back on track. With any luck, I’ll be able to achieve my biggest birthday wish: having a book in print by the time I hit the big 4-0 (which is only a few years away).

What about you? How is your career/writing life shaping up compared to your goals? Tell me about it in the comments.

P.S. For anyone who is wondering, I finally picked names for my geeks: Dan, Wes, and Levi. Yes, two of those are three letters long, but I also ended up changing my MC’s name to a two-letter name (her new storyline changed her character, hence the new name).

 

 

 

 

Name Frustration

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Names are an important part of any story. I’m a firm believer that names contribute to personality – both in real life and fiction – so naming my cast is an integral step in the process of creating their characters.

For SHADOWCATCHERS (my MG Historical Fantasy) I used some existing, exotic-sounding names, and completely made up others, and every name fit the characters. But now I’m revising my YA Contemporary, and the names are proving to be a sticky point. I had no trouble naming my main characters. Their names came to me along with their characters, like a package deal. But, as a part of my revision, I’m adding in three new characters: three uber-geeky guys whose appearances I’m loosely basing on some of my brother’s high school friends.

And that, I think, is part of the problem. In my head, I already know these guys, so separating their appearances from their names is proving tricky. The other complication is that this seems to be the book of three-letter names. My MC, her BFF, and her mom (who isn’t called by name very often), all have three-letter long names. So, of course, every time I think of a name for one of my geeks, it’s also three letters long. Sigh.

I’ve been trolling the Top 100 Baby Names list from 2000 (the approximate birth year of my characters, assuming this book gets published in 2018 – which is probably an optimistic assumption), but still nothing is calling to me.

I’m frustrated. It’s hard to write material for them without knowing their names. Sure, I could put filler names, but right now everything I come up with just feels wrong. Like jigsaw pieces that don’t quite fit. I think my next step is going to be filling out character worksheets for each geek to see if I can get a more complete handle on their personalities. Maybe once I know them better, they’ll tell me their names.

What about you? Ever had trouble finding the right name for a character? Or have any geeky names you’d like to suggest? Let me know in the comments.

Summer Scheduling

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Summer is (and I think will be for several years to come) the hardest time of year for me to get work done. Last year, I had the extra complication of a concussion, but honestly, having to entertain three 4-6-year-olds all day, every day for 9 weeks is no picnic. With that in mind, I thought I’d post up my goal list for the summer. I’ll check in after school starts again in September and let you know how many goals I accomplished.

1. One blog post a week – this might prove tricky, especially since I’ve been having trouble coming up with ideas to post about. Anyone out there have suggestions for a topic they’d like to see covered? I’m all ears – put your ideas in the comments, or tweet them at me (@k_callard).

2. Rejoin my online crit group – It’s been over a year since I’ve been on it, but now that I can spend more time on the computer, it’s definitely time to jump back in. The group requires one crit a week – so hopefully I can find the time to squeeze that in.

3. Expand my social media presence – For now that means Tweeting regularly, trying to up my number of followers (I’d love to hit 200 before the end of the summer – hint, hint if don’t already follow me), and commenting on at least one other blog each week.

4. Start revising my YA – The critique I received at the Montreal conference pointed out a few (major) things wrong with my YA, so it’s time to try and fix them up. The good news is ideas for fixes have been haunting me lately, so it’s just a matter of finding the time to write…

5. Write at least 1 new PB – I have a few PB idea-sparks floating around my head, the trick now is to figure out how to fan the flames and turn them into stories.

Right, think I’m going to leave it at five. I’ll let you know in September how many I managed to achieve.