Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

Last year I read a lot of posts about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It is held on the first Wednesday of each month. I found the idea very interesting so I joined. If there is something I am really good at it's complaining, but I don't think that is exactly what this is for. The home page also says something about neurotic writers uniting so I figured this is just the place for me.

I reread some of my manuscript and man am I going to have my work cut out for me when I go back to edit. NaNo is about pounding out the words with no editor, but I am not sure if that is the best way to work. I realized while I was so busy getting down what they did, saw, heard and smelled that I forgot to write what they looked like. So I know that I have to go back and add the physical descriptions of the characters. It is not like I didn't know what they looked like yet it is just that I forgot or didn't do it. My question for anyone out there reading is do you gently work in what they look like in little bits or should I just dump it on the reader when they are first introduced?

Another thing I am having trouble with is naming cities and towns. This is a fantasy so I have to make up the map and I have a rough sketch and idea where things are, but not names. I keep writing things like ***NAME THE DAMN CITY ALREADY*** and ***THE LITTLE TOWN TO THE NORTH THAT WILL NEVER HAVE A FREAKING NAME***. I am not sure if it is helpful, but it makes me feel better. Especially when I am writing and feel like I am screwing up because I haven't named some of the vital elements and people. If there are any fantasy writers out there how do you name your characters and towns?

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc


  1. I've learnt so much by reading about how you and some of the other writers I've found blogging actually produce a book. It's fascinating and quite inspiring. I have no answers because I've never really tried writing a book (I've started once or twice but not with any serious intent!)

    Good luck with your place names!

  2. I'm a newbie too and tend to write by the seat of pants, which I recently learned is called pantsing. For me, I write the way I like to read. The descriptions of the characters are given a bit at a time and are rather vague so the reader can make it up however they want. But, what do I know, I'm not published. As for naming the cities, I could see how that would drive you a bit nutty, I'd have to have a name too. I'd reach back to my D&D days and create one that way. Best of luck to you!

    Great IWSG post.

  3. A support group sounds really interesting! I tried a critique group once, and it wasn't quite my cup of tea, but to have a group of writers support each other sounds really motivational! Best of luck with the naming and writing in 2013!!!

  4. Hi fellow insecure writer! :D I struggle with names too (I write fantasy/ science fiction) so I use this site:

    (It's a site for old baby names. I'm fairly sure JK Rowling got some of her amazing names from there!)

    Naming cities and towns... I'm not too good at. I tend to call it something mundane with the hope that somewhere along the line I'll get inspiration :)

  5. Welcome to IWSG!!! I don't know that I have great answers for your questions . . .but I'll give it a shot. I think that gently adding character descriptions is good, instead of dumping. It's something that I struggle with too in my rough drafts and my revisions.
    And the names . . ooh, that hits close to the bone for me. I went through a rough draft where a character was named "The Dark Sorceress", then I gave her a name and didn't like it and switched it in a revision.
    I suggest baby name sites, especially ones that will give names in various languages and their meanings.
    Happy Writing in 2013!!!

  6. I write fantasy romance, and I have the same problem with names. Over the holidays I did a more formal map with names and places to help myself keep up with the world as I expand upon it. Names are harder, I look at a lot of baby name lists for foreign languages like Sanskrit and Mandarin. Then I modify until it feels right.

    Just remember - don't be too hard on yourself. One of my characters was "Melvin Do Wrong" until I figured out a regular name!

  7. I tried NaNo a few times, and it never seems to work for me. I know it's great for some people, but we're all different as writers, and we need to find our own strategies that work. I edit as I write, which means I tend to write the exact same paragraph over and over again with subtle differences until I find a version I like.

    I don't recommend dumping a lot of character description on your readers all at once. I try to pick out the details that will stand out the most. For one character, it's her sassy blonde curls and shockingly bright violet eyes. I mentioned a few other things when I first introduced that character, but I don't think I needed them. People remember those two things and the rest is fluff.

    As for naming characters or towns (or planets in my case, since I write science fiction), I skim through baby name books, books on history or mythology, or just dictionaries and thesauri and pick out stuff I like. I keep a list, and when I start a new story I choose something from my list. I picked out the name Isaac Matheson for one character. It has a nice, sciency ring to it, referencing Isaac Newton in the first name and having the word "math" in the second. The story that character was in had some religious undertones too, so the name also referenced the biblical Isaac.

    But as I said, every writer has to figure out what works for him or her. Experiment with new ideas, see what works for you and what doesn't, and develop a writing strategy of your own!

    -JS Pailly.

  8. naming my characters isn't too tough - the names just come to me and insist on staying. I think whether you are writing fantasy or any other sort of fiction don't make all the names too unusual - it is very hard for folks to remember made-up names. Harry Potter is a normal name. Of course if a name persists or you feel your story needs each character to have a name not heard on earth go for it but be careful then to make them distinct (not with the same first letter or all end in the same way). As to towns - if you are writing fantasy you could use natural names - which is how all places were first named - Black Rock, Holy Spring, Three Pines - or make the names something that happened there - Lost Knife, Sad Battle, Dancing Forest - you get the idea. Again if you are going to make them fantastical give us the littlest bit to hold onto - a clue to keep them in our mind. That's my two-cents.

  9. LOL - I have notes like that sometimes in my WIPs, too. There are times you plow ahead for the sake of inspiration and leave blanks for later.

    Never dump ANYTHING on your reader. Always work it in. We don't have to know everything right away. And be careful of POV errors. You have to introduce it in a way that doesn't violate POV. (If I'm admiring my own hair, I'd better be a very vain character. LOL) There's nothing wrong with describing using some generalities and letting the reader's mind fill in the blanks.

    If I said, 'She was tall and of those women who was beautiful no matter what--ill or well, old or young. Heck. She was probably beautiful when she cried.', I'd bet you already have a mental image of the character, and I didn't even give you hair or eye color.

    Name generator:
    Fantasy name generator:

    The best thing you can do for your writing, besides reading good books on the craft and getting constructive criticism of your writing, is to read good books period. As you study fiction, you'll look at them differently and start seeing what certain authors do really well. ;)

    Welcome to the group! Great post!!!
    IWSG #137 until Alex culls the list again.

  10. Visiting from IWSG! I chuckled when I read your paragraph about finding names. I write fantasy too. Something I tried when on a long car journey I write down all the unusal or appealing names I see written on the sides of vans or lorries. Sometimes place names too. I have found several names this way! I play with the names a bit and sometimes they are completely different to the original I jotted down but it seems to stimulate my thought proceess. Good luck.

  11. Thank you all for the thoughtful and helpful comments. Everyone has added something useful. I was becoming discouraged and now am full of ready to get started again.

  12. I struggle with character descriptions too. Especially since a lot of my stories are in first person POV.

    I also have some stories that have cities and places that need names. I put in a basic name, like in my story Squidboy, the city on the ocean bay is called Bayville. That's not a very unique name so I plan to change it during editing. That's the great thing about editing, you can fill in the details that you skimmed over getting the first draft finished. =)
    (visiting from IWSG)

  13. I write fantasy too. For some city names, I just made them up. For example; my main country is called Menrio and Cerin is the neighboring country. Gerta is the capital of Menrio. The capital of Cerin is Tanah. Most of my characters for this particular novel have Hebrew based names, I used a baby names meaning website. That's one of the fun parts of writing fantasy - getting a chance to make up your own places and characters! Good luck!

  14. Welcome to IWSG! I add physical descriptions of my characters in bits and pieces, for the most part- that whole "show don't tell" thing. I love to write first person, and sometimes that makes it hard to describe the main character, but there are usually some round about ways to sneak in little details.
    If a character is seeing someone for the first time, I might put in more direct detail. Then add some finger details, for example within dialogue you might note certain facial features, etc. I'm by no means an expert though :)
    For character names, if I'm having trouble thinking of a name, I'll search the baby name websites people mentioned above. I usually choose a name based on meaning and find that helps it feel right.
    Place names are harder for me. I either choose real places and take some creative license on the details, or just make up random places :) If it's fantasy, it's your game, right? Just do us all a favor and choose things that could, conceivably be real names. A pet peeve of mine is when place and character names are so complicated that you can't keep them all straight :)

    Best of luck on all your endeavors! Happy writing.

  15. Hi there!

    For physical descriptions, I could go either way, but generally tend more to sprinkle in the descriptions a bit at a time - or sometimes three details at once. :)

    I know I found a really good link for coming up with place names, but I don't have it here; I'll try to find it and get back to you.

    1. Here's the link I was thinking of: