All posts by Barbara Becc

About Barbara Becc

While I don't like the expression 'aspiring writer', it is currently still true. As soon as I published my first novel I'm going to change it to 'writer'! On my tumblr the960writers I collect writing advice and occasionally write down my own thoughts. The blog is the base for my very own writing program: 960 words, five days per week ==> an epic novel in half a year! Instead of beating myself up every day for not meeting some insane wordcount goal, I want to make it easy and less stressful to write. Come over and say Heij!

Day 73/90

Hello writerly friends!

Well, it is now 23:00 and I think this is the first time I’m sitting down in front of my laptop today. Hence the post being late. 

We’re going to have to talk about the upcoming plot point on “All is lost” in the next post. Yesterday we had “Bad guys close in”, today is “All is lost” and in the next post we’re going to come up to “The dark night of the soul”.

You’re seeing the theme? Shit keeps going to shit. No wonder this section is so difficult to write, right? 

These are intense moments for your characters and their arcs. I leave you with the capable crew of Writing Excuses to explain this more thoroughly because I need to go and grab some sleep. [https://writingexcuses.com/2018/06/03/13-22-character-arcs/]

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/683264759369531392/day-7390

Day 71/90

Hello writerly friends!

If you’re following the path of the three act structure, as we started with Jessica Brody and the Save The Cat system, you’re currently round about at the second half of the second act. In Save The Cat, this part is called Bad Guys Close In. This section has room for several scenes where things get so much more difficult. 

Shit goes to shit here. This can be a downward spiral and the main goal can change here too. In this section, the flaws of our characters bite them in the ass.

I find this part so difficult to write! I’m sitting exactly at that point right now, I know all the bad things that are supposed to happen and I just don’t want to write them down. I have the constant problem of not wanting to hurt my protagonists, and I keep falling in love with the OCs I’m making up and then I don’t want to hurt them either! Someone has to suffer but I don’t want to be the one doing it to them.

Do you have trouble hurting your characters too?

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/683082700951830528/day-7190

Day 69/90

Hello writerly friends!

Well well well. Look at that date. Since we have that funny number today, let’s talk about writing better smut. 

First question, why even write sex? Why do we want to add that to our stories? Gail Carriger made a post about this a while back, and she gives several reasons why she has sex in her stories. I just want to focus on the first three:

“1. I write sexy because I believe fiction writers have a responsibility to culture. I consider it my duty to glorify different types of healthy adult sexual interaction.
2. I write sexy because violence in fiction is lauded, revered, awarded, and magnified while sensuality, pleasure, joy, and humor are not and that’s wrong.
3. I write sexy because conversation between characters about sex is hot and needs representation in fiction. Because we should all talk about desire with our lovers and learn what we want and how to articulate it.”

[https://gailcarriger.com/2019/06/19/why-write-sexy-high-heat-in-genre-fiction-important-for-authors/]

This really resonates with me. I use sex in my stories to show character development, to show connection. I show them having conversations, I show them having mishaps, uneasy reactions and conversations about it. I think these scenes have such a huge potential to bring characters and their place in the story forward. 

I like writing smut, because it’s fun, it’s satisfying, and even want to say because it’s necessary. I want to show diverse characters, people who have problems, and still show them having good sex. I want show braveness that has nothing to do with violence but with emotional intimacy. 

My advice for writing good smut:

Focus on the reaction, not on the action. You don’t have to write about what body part goes where, write about how it feels. Write how the characters react, about their connection to each other. You don’t have to describe all the details of body parts and fluids. Think of it like a dance, action and reaction, the feeling of being so close to each other. Focus on the intimacy, not on the mechanics.

Here are some links with more advice:

[https://the960writers.tumblr.com/post/674162845343252480/romance-delicate-and-relevant-sex-scenes]

[https://chaoschaoswriting.tumblr.com/post/671372665898090496/how-to-write-better-smut]

[https://pikapeppa.tumblr.com/post/185155680298/smut-101-a-tutorial-for-beginners]

[https://pikapeppa.tumblr.com/post/185453120570/smut-102-a-tutorial-on-writing-dialogue-during]

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/682888923750514688/day-6990

Day 67/90

Hello writerly friends!

Today I want to point you to another podcast, an interview by Sacha Black with Jessica Brody. You heard that name before, because we are kind of following her approach here in our project. You remember this? 

This is from Jessica Brody’s workbook for “Save The Cat Writes A Novel”. 

In the interview with Sacha Black, Jessica Brody explains some more how the “Save The Cat” method works. She also talks about a new craft book she’s writing, which is “Save The Cat Writes A YA Novel”. She specifically mentions that with this new book, she added information about multiple protagonists and multiple POV.

I found this section very interesting because she talks about how each protagonist in an ensemble cast can have a differing journey through the story beats. For instance, one character had the inciting incident “off-screen”, before the story even starts, while the other has it several chapters later. 

Listening to the interview was quite inspiring and informative for me so I hope it’ll be interesting for you too. 

[https://sachablack.co.uk/2022/03/16/129-save-the-cat-writes-a-novel-with-jessica-brody/]

Originally postet on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/682677169969938432/day-6790

Day 65/90

Hello writerly friends!

Today’s post is a guest post by mareebrittenford about Circular Plots. Take it away, Maree!

A circular plot, at its most basic, is one where the main character ends up right back where they began.

Portal fantasy is a classic example of that, where the story opens with the character in their mundane life, from which they are whisked away to an adventure, but in the end they return to their home, far wiser and more mature.

Heroic quests are another. (If you google the hero’s journey you’ll notice that it’s always charted as a circle.) The character is sent on a quest, and eventually returns home.

But conceptually circular plotting has a far wider application than just portal fantasy or heroic epics. It applies to almost all fiction.

A classic formula for a good opening is that there is a character, in a setting, and they need something.

For me, the circle of the plot isn’t so much about bringing the character back to the specific location where the story began, but back to the question, the need, that the story began with.

The thing is, that need is not always entirely clear initially. Often the initial need of the MC is superficial or momentary. But as you write you get to know the character, and often you realize that the initial superficial need was a reflection of the real deeper need your character has.

And when you feel like you’ve lost the plot of your own novel you can find it again by focusing back on that need your MC has. Is it to be loved? To be useful? To understand? To create something of worth? And then send them after that.

No matter what plot structure you chose to use, there’s no more satisfying ending than when a character circles back to their deepest needs, as established by what they were seeking at the start of the story, and truly answers the question that was asked in the opening.

So ask your character. How do you get what you need?

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/682506160558014464/day-6590

Day 61/90

Hello writerly friends!

After being called out yesterday for, uhm, actually not writing that WIP I wanted to finish with this project, let’s dedicate today to starting again. Because I will. Start again.

Joanna Penn had a good post on her blog a while back called “Writing Fiction: 7 Steps To Write Your First Novel” [https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/09/29/7-steps-write-first-novel/]

Here are her seven points: 

(1) Understand what you’re writing and why

This is a good point I don’t see so often. Why even do this? Why this genre? What is my definition of success? Who do I want as a reader? 

(2) Fill your creative well

Yes! So important, you cannot be creative in a vacuum. Take care of your body and your mind, find inspiration in the world around you. 

(3) Write a story, not just a pile of words

This is where genre and structure comes in, the things we have touched on already.

(4) Write a character that people want to spend time with

I think most of us do this subconsciously. It doesn’t mean that the character is flawless but they are someone we like spending time with as we write and that translate into a character people like to read about. 

(5) What happens, why and where?

Setting! You know, I pretty much ignored the setting so far but it gives us so many options to raise the stakes in the conflict. Do not ignore the setting as part of the story.

(6) Get words on the page for your first draft

Well, this is exactly what we’re trying to do here with the WIP project. Write it, write it, get it on the page. Everything else comes later. Write forward.

(7) “Writing is rewriting.”

Exactly. The first draft is not the end product, so don’t waste time on perfecting it as you write. You will work on a better version of the story later, once you’re done with the first draft.

These are such good points! Please read the post for a more thorough explanation. 

Here’s to starting again. Join me in catching up.

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/682151049124020224/day-6190

Day 59/90

Hello writerly friends!

Today’s post is inspired by this post about breaking writing rules by September C. Fawkes: [https://www.septembercfawkes.com/2022/04/2-rules-of-thumb-for-breaking-writing.html] and even on tumblr [https://septembercfawkes.tumblr.com/post/681876925785014272/rule-of-thumb-1-it-conveys-more-than-itself] (I love finding writers on tumblr) @septembercfawkes

We hear about writing rules all the fucking time. Show don’t tell, never use adverbs, and so on and so forth. But the thing is, sometimes you have to break these rules to make your story come alive. September C. Fawkes postulates two rules of thumb of how you can break these rules:

Rule of Thumb #1: It Conveys More Than Itself

Rule of Thumb #2: It moves Forward Character (Arc), Plot, or Theme

Read the post for an in depth explanation. 

I especially like Rule of Thumb #1. I heard similar advice formulated as trying to make sure that the things you write do double duty. The description of the room also explains something about the setting, the dialogue also gives us a glimpse into worldbuilding. Characters talking while they work shows us what they think of the story problem and also what their position in the hierarchy of the world is. 

Here’s to breaking writing rules! Let’s keep on writing!

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/681959050982899712/day-5990

Day 57/90

Hello writerly friends!

As a way of procrastinating, I read through a craft book yesterday. It was “5,000 Words Per Hour” by Chris Fox, part of his “Write Faster, Write Smarter” series of books [https://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/write-faster-write-smarter/].

Since I read it quickly, you can probably tell that it’s a short book, punchy information without filler. I like my craft books like that. Recommended.

In the book he lays out ten methods to train yourself to write faster. This is actually a training program for your mind. The point is to find a place/situation/mindset of creative flow, where you can write fast without getting stuck. 

Some of the methods are familiar, like word sprints, we have the bots on the discord server exactly for that reason. He also talks about planning your structure beforehand, reward systems, mindset. But the point I found most interesting was what he called Tortoise Enclosure. This expression is from a video by John Cleese, where he talks about how he set up a place for working creatively, “a sacred place where your mind is primed to enter a state of creative flow”.  

The advice is not to write where you usually have all your distractions. A place where you don’t watch TV or chat on your phone, but a designated creation place. 

This is funny to my because I’m trying to do the opposite. I’m actively training myself to write whenever and wherever. I specifically don’t tie rituals to it, I don’t turn off the internet, I don’t always make a cup of tea and I don’t light a candle. And I sit on my couch where I do everything else. Or I take my bluetooth keyboard and my phone and write in the car, at the library, at my friend’s place. As long as I have a place to sit and some time, I can write anywhere.

This is very useful for me, personally, but I wonder how it is for you all? Have you tried tying rituals to your writing sessions? Do you have a special writing place? 

If you don’t, maybe try it out for a while. Try setting up a writing place, or make up a ritual that you do every time you want to start writing. Let us know how that worked for you.

Originally posted on tumblr: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/post/681779299982901248/day-5790

Day 55/90

Hello writerly friends!

In my notes for today I have: infodumping.

I’m sure I meant to tell myself something with that. This is usually more of a first act problem but we haven’t talked about it back then. So, let’s talk about infodumping. 

Infodumping is, when the writer has so many cool ideas and so many important worldbuilding details to share, that they dump it all into several big paragraphs to give out all the information at once.

We are still in our first draft, so this is not something we have to worry about too much. But I like to make things easier for myself in the reread and I find big paragraphs of info tiring to read, therefore I like to avoid it in the first place. 

To avoid infodumping, we first have to pinpoint why we do it in the first place. As writers, we have a whole set of ideas in our minds about how the world of our story is built. We know how society, technology, magic, and everything else functions. Naturally, we assume that our readers need to know all of that too, before they can even understand our stories. 

But big blocks of information are not interesting to read. Very few people want to read the meta information before they get the story. Why learn all these rules, names, and symbols, if you don’t even know what the story is about and who the characters are? If your readers have no connection to the characters yet, they’ll probably stop reading in the middle of the big info paragraph.

As a sidenote, if you write fanfiction, you might notice that you don’t write these kind of intro meta-information paragraphs. Why? Because it’s fanfic, we assume that our readers know about this world already (we don’t have to explain the Force in Star Wars fanfic). We need a bit of that vibe for our original fiction.

How do we give our readers the necessary background information without shoving intro meta paragraphs at them? The answer: the sprinkle technique.

Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle. 

You want to sprinkle in world building details, while your characters do other things. Show the characters doing things and talking about stuff and explain the world through that. 

You want your characters talk about the limits of magic while they tie their shoes. You want them to talk about how the food tastes different because of the atmospheric disturbances. You want them to hide behind a broken down car as the monsters crawl by while they fix their water distillator. 

A trick you see used often (and once you’ve seen it, you’ll notice it everywhere) is the introduction of a clueless characters. Sometimes the clueless character is even the protagonist and gets a smart sidekick who explains shit to them. Or the clueless character gets dragged into this situation and needs to catch up quickly to all these new rules wit the explanations from the protagonists. Either Clueless learns by trial and error, or someone takes them under their wing and explains things as they come up. You see how in this kind of setup, you can’t really infodump because things are moving, happening! You can only sprinkle in bits of information here and there and the reader learns along with the clueless character.

Here are some short videos that give you some more information about infodumping and tricks how to avoid it: