Tag Archives: research

The Bucket List: Life’s Journey for Experience

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The bucket list. Most likely, you’ve heard this term before, if not from anything else but the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. (If you haven’t seen this film, you should.)

But what exactly is a bucket list?
In short, it’s a list of things you want to do before you die.
32495254860_a9e3610d0a_kMaybe, that’s a little morbid? After all, it’s reminding you that there’s the ultimate deadline to your existence.

But, buckets lists are amazing. They help you figure out what you want to do with your life. That’s better than coasting along and then only once you’re out of time realizing all the stuff you wish you’d done!

Mark Twain said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” While I may not agree that just because a person lives fully means that person is ready to die at any moment, I do believe that one of the reasons people fear death is because they haven’t accomplished all they set out to.

16349247541_c6c2d0d2f4_kIt’s recently that I’ve started thinking about and assembling my bucket list. I have no doubt I’ll add more to it and might even drop some stuff as I grow older, but seeing what I want in writing solidifies it in my mind. It makes my goals more real and provides accountability.

I’m a bit of a homebody, and I suffer from Netflix binges… and getting sucked into the Internet… and researching the things I want to do, but somehow not doing most of them. I wasn’t always this way, but I’ve been so the past number of years. It’s only about the last couple of months that I’ve started altering that.

Creating a bucket list is one step toward that change.

Some of the things on my list I’ve completed; most I haven’t. Here’s 25 things on my bucket list:

  1. Rappel down a waterfall
  2. Ride an airboat
  3. Explore a cave – Accomplished!
  4. Pan for gold/precious stones – Accomplished!
  5. Climb “The Heavenly Stairs” (Mount Huashan Plank Trail in China)
  6. Parasail – Accomplished!
  7. Visit all 7 continents
  8. Relax in a natural hot spring – Accomplished!
  9. Be in four places at once (lay on four corners monument!)
  10. Wade in a cranberry bog
  11. Experience weightlessness (indoor skydiving?)
  12. Climb a volcano
  13. Walk on a glacier – Accomplished!
  14. Be published
  15. Honeymoon in Italy
  16. Take a picture with a tiger (Tiger Kingdom in Thailand?)
  17. Visit Elephant National Park in Thailand and bathe an elephant
  18. See my maternal grandfather’s homeland (travel to Hungary!)
  19. Ice cave in Alaska
  20. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
  21. Relax in a sensory deprivation tank
  22. Wear skinny jeans – Accomplished!
  23. Start a blog – Accomplished!
  24. Adopt a child
  25. Start a fire without matches/a lighter – Accomplished!

There’s so much more on my list, and the funny thing is that once I started thinking of what I wanted to do during my life, I kept wanting to do more and more!

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it? If you don’t have one, what would you put on your bucket list?

(Photos courtesy of Geraint RowlandNico Trinkhaus, and Bureau of Land Management.)

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Don’t Mistake Unpreparedness for Writer’s Block: Know What to Write Before You Write

 

Sometimes when you sit down to write nothing comes to you. You stare at the blank screen and you can’t picture anything. Frustration builds until you shove yourself away from your desk and leave writing for later.

Often, this inability to conjure anything to write is termed writer’s block. However, writer’s block isn’t always the culprit behind the inability to write. More often than not, nothing is coming to you because you’re not ready to write.

5033800896_b63b3f63f9_oWhen writing a novel, preparedness is extremely important. You need to know what you want to write about. This doesn’t mean that you have to plan out every chapter in advance. Often you’ll find that the story changes as you continue to write it. But, there are many steps involved with writing a book.

Take a minute to think of them.

What did you come up with?

Some of mine include:

  • Writing a one sentence summary. This boils your entire novel down to its main premise. It gives your novel direction. For example, “A mute snake-breeder becomes embroiled in the chase for a once-presumed extinct snake after discovering a blood-splattered scroll in a half-dug grave.”
  • Ask a boatload of open-ended questions. When jumping into more of the details, I’ll ask myself, “what if,” “who cares,” “how about,” etc. These types of questions help me flesh out the story, and help me spot any plot holes before I write myself into a dead-end. Also, open-ended questions are great for adding sub-plots and complexity to a story, thus making it more realistic.
  • Explore your characters. I usually don’t know all of my characters at the beginning of my story, but I know my main characters. I know what they look like, their backstories, how they’ll act, and more. Having fully fleshed out characters not only helps you know your characters inside and out, but helps you see where the story is going and, even, how much of a role each character should have in the plot. Sometimes the person you thought should be the main character isn’t the best choice.
  • Research. Many times there’s information already out in the world about what you want to write. Take time to explore this information. You never know what useful tidbits you’ll discover that will enhance your story. For example, if you’re writing historical fiction, you need to do intensive research on the time period you’re writing about. If you don’t, the piece won’t feel authentic. Even if you’re writing a futuristic science fiction novel, it’s still important to know what type of technology is realistic in the future. You have to be able to explain where nanites came from or how instantaneous travel is possible, or, if you’re writing a dystopian that occurs after World War III, you need to know what the consequences of setting off nuclear bombs are, etc.

Once you’ve done your research and exploration that blank screen will seem like less of a mountain. Ideas will come to you. Perhaps not immediately, ideas take time to fully form, and it’s likely you’ll discover that more ideas come as you’re writing; you’ll end up going back and adding those new story strands, creating a fuller, more complex, and intriguing story.

(Photo courtesy of NOAA Photo Library.)

Do Your Research. (It’ll save you a headache later on.)

When diving into the world of publishing, it’s important to know what you’re diving into. The publishing world is complex. Agents. Editors. Publicists. Publishing houses. Contracts. Publishers. And more.

And before all of that you’ve got to write your novel.

This is why doing research is vital. Research before, during, and after writing your book. Continue researching even after you’ve been published. Stay up to date on what’s happening.

There are three main types of research you should do when involved with the literary world:

  1. Your book. When you get an idea for a novel, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or not, you need to get the facts straight. As an avid reader, one of my biggest issues is reading a book where I know the author did absolutely no research. If half the teenage protagonist’s house gets burned down, the mother and police won’t just shrug their shoulders and leave the teenager alone (without having done any investigating), especially when she tells them that she has no idea why so-and-so tried to burn the house down with her in it. Not to mention having no idea what a normal high school day is like. (Please, if you’re writing YA and have a high school in your novel, know what the typical teenage schedule is like. Even if you’re writing fantasy and school is only a small portion of it, teachers will not make fun of a teenage girl when she comes up and tells them that a guy is making her very uncomfortable.)
  2. Your competition. Know the books that are similar to yours, or at least share the same category. You want to know why certain books were successful and why others weren’t. More importantly, you want to be able to communicate to agents and editors why your book will succeed despite what’s already published.
  3. Agents and Editors. The Internet has made access to information much easier. It’s also allowed for an influx of information that can be overwhelming. However, you want to know which agents and editors would be interested in your novel. If your book is an adult fantasy, you don’t want to waste your time querying an agent who only represents YA contemporary. You can also find information on when certain agents and editors will be at writing conferences. Go to those conferences. Meet those agents and editors. Give them a face and a name to remember. (In a good way only. If they remember you as the creepy stalker, who trailed them for the entire conference without saying a word, they will most likely not represent you.)

Creating lists of agents and editors, and documents for your book research and on your competition will help you to keep everything organized.

Bottom line: By doing thorough research, you will save yourself time and a headache. Plus, you’ll know what you’re talking about when you do get that call from an agent.

What kind of research do you do?

10 Things You Should Do Before Writing Your Novel

You get that novel idea and you can’t wait to start writing. Your fingers are itching to pick up that pen or start typing away at your computer.

Stop. Hold up. Here’s a checklist of things to do before you sit down to write. You don’t have to do everything. Read the list and choose what works for you.

  1. Why are you writing? Why are you writing this novel? What is it about this story? The story should engage you. It should excite you and scare you. Writing a novel isn’t easy. Writing one well is even more difficult. You need to care about the characters, the story, etc. If you don’t, you’ll lose focus.
  2. Check your expectations. Writing a novel is a long process. It’s not going to be all sunshine and butterflies. There are going to be days where you want to trash everything and give up, go do something else. Remember that this is your first draft. Some parts may be fantastic the first time through. Most won’t. Make time to clarify. Make time to revise.
  3. Know your characters. You need to know your characters inside and out. They have to be real to you. If they aren’t, they’ll seem fake to readers.
  4. Plan it out. You don’t have to do an outline, though they can be very helpful. And you should at least know how to write an outline. One day you may be asked to do so. At the very least, you should know what’s going to happen over the course of your novel. Hundreds of pages, tens of thousands of words, major and minor plots, multiple characters, settings, etc. all add up. If you go in blind, you’ll end up with plot holes.
  5. Create the rules. If you’re creating a world, your setting’s in the future, or you’ve got fictional characters, you need to have rules for your story. Vampires? They drink human blood. They can survive off animal blood for short periods of time, but it’s human blood that sustains them. They can’t go out in the sunlight, unless they’re Originals, those of the first bloodline. They turn others into vampires by drinking their blood until the point of death, feeding them their blood, and then killing them. You get the point. Make the rules and stick to them.
  6. Know your ending. Know your ending before you begin writing. Why? Because it matters. Your entire story is tailored to how the novel ends. Know the ending and plan for it. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to the original ending. Most likely you’ll think of a better ending as you’re writing, but you don’t want to be left scratching your head during the last thirty pages.
  7. Research. Get some of the research out of the way before you start writing. Even if you’re writing fiction, you’ll still find you need to do research, whether it’s creating hybrid creatures or figuring out what’s most likely to happen if a hurricane and earthquake occur simultaneously. What’s the emergency plan? How will the power grid be impacted? Flooding? How will people react? You don’t have to do all your research ahead of time. You can do it as you go, but it’s good to do some early, so you’ll know what you’re talking about. Nothing’s more irritating than having someone talk about something they know nothing about.
  8. Write the query. A query letter will give you a clear image of what’s going on in your story. Aim for two to three paragraphs that explain the hook, the story, etc. Make sure to include the critical pieces.
  9. Forget about it. Forget about writing for a moment. Instead, think about your idea. Go to bed thinking about it. Ask questions. Envision problems with the story or with what the protagonist will face. Research. Let your brain absorb all you read and think about.
  10. Commit. Commit mentally and physically. Willpower has a lot to do with writing. You are going to finish this novel. It’s not a question. You’re not wishy-washy. You will complete this. No more waiting. Sit down and write. Get it all out on paper. The time is now.

What are some things you do before writing?