There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

There and Back Again May 31, 2014

Hi everyone!

In November 2012, I gathered a few Fantasy writers I had met online and created this blog. The idea was to share our thoughts on all things related to reading and writing Fantasy fiction. Along the way nearly 300 of you, dear readers, joined us as we walked on our different paths to publication. We shared with you our writing tips, reading recommendations and publishing adventures. In return you commented on our posts, leaving your tips, recommendations and thoughts. It was great!

Unfortunately, last month, it became clear our lives have all become too hectic and our schedules too busy to allow us to continue this blogging adventure. This means this blog won’t be updated anymore, although it will remain online.

If you’re new here, feel free to browse through our archives to find out about our writing resources.

If you’ve enjoyed following this blog, feel free to find us on our personal blogs:

EM Castellan

Blog: http://emcastellan.com/

Raewyn Hewitt

Blog: http://raewynhewitt.wordpress.com/

Jessica Montgomery

Blog: http://www.writerjessica.com/

K. L. Schwengel

Blog: http://myrandommuse.wordpress.com/

Mara Valderran

Blog: http://maravalderran.blogspot.co.uk/

Kate Michael

Blog: www.kate-michael.com

Rachel O’Laughlin

Blog: http://rachelolaughlin.wordpress.com

Rachel Horwitz

Blog: www.rachelhorwitz.com/blog

Thank you for your support during the past 18 months. Thank you for reading, commenting, liking and sharing our posts. I hope you’ve found something useful or entertaining here. I know it’s been a pleasure to be part of this blog, and I’ll miss it.

So don’t forget: keep writing Fantasy. Keep reading Fantasy. Keep working towards your publishing dream(s). And most importantly, keep going on adventures and believing in dragons.

EM Castellan

 

The Heart of Epic May 29, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration — thereanddraftagain @ 1:39 am
Tags: , ,

Lately I’ve been thinking about why I’ve taken on the leviathan that is writing epic fantasy, especially when the trend seems to be to break stories down into smaller, more manageable chunks. I’ve even looked at carving some of the smaller storylines out into something standalone. Losing a book or two. Throwing the whole thing into the Pacific Ocean and being done with it. But there is something about epic fantasy that calls to me to keep going. To find a way to keep pulling on these story-threads until the big picture reveals itself.

Epic Fantasy, to me at least, is the grand canvas. It looks at more than one person’s journey. In some sense it’s about revolution, always about change and the things sacrificed along the way. The Lord of the Rings wasn’t just Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom, it was so much more; the time of great change that effected everyone in Middle Earth. How such times shape people, and how their experiences can be quite different.

At the heart of epic fantasy is the human response. Where we dig in, where we stumble and what we value during the hard times. What is it about this particular time in history (in my fantasy world) that is causing people to step outside of the everyday? What is so important that they will risk life, limb and everything they hold dear to ensure a certain outcome? What temptations draw them away from this goal? What things will they refuse to let go of?

And I see these parallels as I’m writing too. What causes me to sit up late and write and rewrite and try and find a way through the many stories that make up this one? What will I give up? Sleep. Plenty of that. Time. So I can put in hours and hours of work, the results of which I am in no place to share with anyone yet. If you write you know the sacrifice of going to that place. I’m always tempted to give up. So I don’t have to tell people I’m still working on it. I’m tempted by other stories and the promise of shorter timeframes. Of sunny days and the call of the garden. Of a paycheck. And yet I haven’t let go.

What drives me is the heart of the story. My belief that the story has meaning – at the very least it means something to me. So I encourage myself and I find something to hold on to. For those who are struggling to birth a story that seems beyond you, keep going. It is your own epic journey. So in that vein, I leave you with the words of Galadriel, one whose time is passing, to another who still has a way to go:

‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts.  For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand.  ‘In this phial,’ she said, ‘is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you.  May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.’

Because apart from anything else, epic fantasy inspires me.

-by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski May 21, 2014

Filed under: Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 9:00 am
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At the urging of many a book blogger, I pre-ordered The Winner’s Curse long before release, received the gorgeous hardcover, and somehow managed to squish in reading it. I’m typically terrible about finding the time to joy read, but HOLY COW THIS BOOK. It gripped me. I stayed up way too late and ignored friends and simply basked in this masterpiece. (Also had a happy panic attack when this happened.) I have a hundred and one things to say about it, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down to four or five. First off, the writing. I loved some of the unusual descriptions that many people wouldn’t be able to get away with, but somehow the author was able to make them totally work. Those lines that I’m always afraid are a little too ironic or a little too intense? She puts them in there, guys! And not just anywhere. They are chapter endings. THE ACTUAL ENDING, ZOMG. This is what prompted me to gush all over Twitter that I think I have a kindred spirit, to run out and buy all her other books pronto. I’m now a crazy fan, thank you very much.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my adoration for the writing off of my chest, there’s Kestrel. I haven’t liked a main character this much in years. She’s smart and cunning, and she knows how to use her intelligence without rubbing everybody’s face in it. Her personality was realistic and deep. I loved that she didn’t go around earning respect by being as tough or attractive as others. Instead, she was very much her own person, with her own tastes and friends and qualities and weaknesses. I love a character with a passionate streak, or deeply wounded with complicated motivations, and even some who are harsh and unforgiving, but I also love a character with downright sense. Kestrel is sensible while still managing to feel things deeply, and she knows how to strategize around life crap that gets thrown at her. Basically, I adore her.

Arin, the Herrani slave Kestrel wins at auction at the beginning of the story (thus invoking the “Winner’s Curse”) was expertly layered in every sense. His entire race has been conquered and made slaves — and that alone is enough to justify the bitterness he shows toward his purchaser — but he’s not whiny at all, and that made me literally want to hug him. He is displeased and incensed by his circumstances, so he sets out to change them, and he does so in a smoldering cloud of awesome. The conflict between him and Kestrel was crackling, and I liked it even more than their romance. There’s nothing quite like two honorable characters, equal of mind and soul, going at each other with words [knives, swords, poison, chains…ahem].

The secondary characters do not disappoint — Kestrel’s friends, Jess and Ronan (especially Ronan); an opponent of hers, Irex; and perhaps my favorite, Kestrel’s father, a general in the Valorian army — are all interesting, complex, and real in their own right.

Oh wait, General Trajan totally deserves his own paragraph because the father/daughter relationship is so freaking flawless. Kestrel’s father sometimes seems too unemotional and commanding, yet the way his wife died gives him cause to pull away AND cause to want his daughter to be as rugged and logical as possible. Also? He treats her as an equal. So much of the Young Adult genre eloquently reflects how idiotic parents can seem to a teenager, but I LOVE that someone decided to portray a teen that is actually pretty good at putting herself in her parent’s shoes and understanding him as a person (teens can be sympathetic and observant too, y’know). Trajan, although rather emotionally challenged, does everything he can to give her equal parts privilege and responsibility. And although she finds herself disagreeing entirely with his political views, Kestrel manages to never personally betray him — which, you know, just made me❤❤❤ her all the more.

I love that Rutkoski doesn’t shy away from showing many sides of mortality. There are slimy characters, people we think are well-meaning who turn out to be douchy, and there are beautiful, sacrificial souls that might have seemed shallow until the surface was scratched. (I AM rather bitter that we didn’t see enough Ronan in this book. I want more Ronan.) Nothing in the story was overtly magical, and that made me love it ten times more. Kestrel’s world is layered in history and humanity instead of symbolism and supernatural powers. I’ve always been drawn toward the more realistic/historical worlds in the fantasy genre, especially where the greatest emphasis is on the characters. The Winner’s Curse is the first in a trilogy, so there’s more coming, YAY!

{ Buy the Book }

{ Add to Goodreads }

{ I’m giving away a hardcover of The Winner’s Curse over on my blog. Enter here! }

–Rachel O’Laughlin

 

 

Why This Pantser Loves Story Boarding May 18, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:20 am
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You’d think that, with all this talk of story bibles (or, as I like to call it, encyclobibliogrimoires) and such, that I would be more of a plotter than a pantser. But I’m really not. I try to plot, I really do. It just never works out for me. My characters start doing their own thing and I go with it, and my plans go out the window.

So how is it that I can love story boarding so much if I never go by my plans for my novels? Simple. I story board after I write. It’s a great way to keep up with a timeline and to mark important story points and world building areas. I tend to do this as I go in Scrivener, but having a physical story board really helps me creatively.

I’ve been reminded of why this is as I create a story board for my upcoming book Altar of Reality by Curiosity Quills Press. I just sent my first round edits back to my editor (yay!), finished pre-editor edits on Heirs of War, Crown of Flames, and am happily free to write. I’ve decided to write the sequel to Altar of Reality (tentatively the SHIFT series). But now that I’m free, the ideas just weren’t flowing. So what do I do?

WP_20140517_002

I go back to the drawing board. Literally. Nothing gets me more jazzed about my story than looking at it from a cat’s eye view. It’s way too easy to get bogged down in the details when you are editing. And sometimes rereading it can be even worse. By the time you are at the point to write a sequel, you’ve edited that first sucker into the ground. You’re tired of looking at it. But story boarding allows you to look at the individual parts and how they stack up as a whole. You’re reevaluating the characters and the journeys they go through, which can help you figure out where they are going next. And it can be just the kickstart you need to whoop your writers’ block and get your muses agreeing with you again.

What are your thoughts on story boarding? Are you one with the digital age and aids available like Scrivener, or do you prefer the old school method?

❤ Mara Valderran

 

Social Media for Writers May 10, 2014

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:43 pm
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By Sofiaperesoa via Wikimedia Commons

Hi everyone!

Whatever publishing path they’re on, writers are advised to have a “social media presence” and to create an “online platform”. Some are very successful at it, others find it more difficult. If you belong to the second category, I’d like to share a few ideas to help you make the most of your online presence.

Keyword #1: Content

This is the basic advice for social media beginners: if you want people to follow/like/suscribe to you, you have to offer them an information or an experience that they will value. The best way to do this is to ask yourself: “is this tweet/post/video/picture going to be of interest for my followers?”

Keyword #2: Consistency

Another good way of building a following is to post regularly, and often. I’m not suggesting a rigid posting schedule here (I certainly don’t have one!). But posting on your blog 2-3 times a week, tweeting 8-10 times a day or pinning pictures on Pinterest once a week can work wonders to help you become a familiar online presence.

Keyword #3: Focus

Pick a few topics that you’re passionate about. Pick a few social media services. Writers, if they want to write, can’t spread themselves too thin online. It’s important to choose a few ways to interact online, and to stick to them. It’ll help people understand your “profile”: who you are and what you’ve got to offer.

Keyword #4: Fun

Social media shouldn’t be a chore for writers. I set aside about half an hour every day to check/update my favourite sites, and it’s always a fun moment of my day. If you’re forcing yourself to build a platform and your heart isn’t in it, it’ll show and it’ll be a waste of your time.

Keyword #5: Network

Social media is about networking: it’s about doing online what people usually do in real life, i. e. chatting, sharing ideas, sharing good practice, sharing silly/funny things, sharing news, socialising. You find people who share your interests (readers, writers, etc.) and you interact with them in a friendly/polite way until you become friends or at least acquaintances. People are much more likely to buy your books or listen to what you have to say if they know and appreciate you.

Keyword #6: Etiquette

There have been numerous posts on the topic, but it’s important to be reminded of bad practices, in order to avoid them. Spamming, trolling, general bad behaviour online are a surefire way to burn bridges for writers. The best way to know if you’re “doing social media right” is to ask yourself: “would I do this to my neighbour in real life?”

What’s your favourite social media service, then? I’m a big fan of Twitter (to chat with people), Pinterest (to create boards for writing inspiration), Tumblr (to share visual content that I like). I don’t use Facebook very much anymore (do you still do?). And I’ve never tried Google+, Instagram or Youtube.

So tell us about you and social media in the comments!

EM Castellan

 

Our Heroes Can Fall, But Can Our Villains Rise Up? May 8, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 11:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

I am an absolute, self-proclaimed fangirl, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I might find myself browsing forums on televisions shows I am obsessed with like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. For those of you who follow the show, you know that the recent tie-in to Captain America: Winter Soldier was a massive game changer for the series, and revealed that someone we thought was good was really bad. Like really, really bad. It was a big shocker, but what surprised me even more was how many posts I have seen from fans hoping that this bad guy never gets a redemption story arc and just stays bad, which got me thinking about how villains are treated in fiction. And in particular, fantasy.

We’ve already discussed How To Write Real Villains and how to Turn Your Heroes into Antagonists, but what about redeeming a villain? More often than not we see villains that are simply power hungry or have ideals that would walk hand in hand with the Nazis. There’s really no excuse for Sauron or Voldemort, so it is easy to root for Frodo and Harry. But what about a villain that is doing all the wrong things for the right reasons? Is there still no hope for someone willing to sacrifice their very soul for the greater good?

I’m not saying the character on S.H.I.E.L.D. is heading that way or a triple agent or any of the other theories out there. But I am saying, shouldn’t we give the writers a chance to explore that? This got me thinking about my own series and a recent conversation I had with a reader who sympathized with the rebel Cahirans in my book. The group as a whole has the right ideas, but they have the absolute wrong methods. There’s a huge grey area because you see a group of people fighting for a cause they believe in. Whether or not they turn out to be the true villains of the story hinges on whether or not they win or lose—because let’s face it, the winners are the ones who tell the story.

If we look at our own history and the wars that have been fought in the name of freedom, there were always two sides (There usually is with a war). And it is easy to look at something like World War II with Hitler heading up one side and see it as black and white, good vs evil. But what about the Revolutionary War, which gained America independence from Great Britain? Was there really a good and evil side to that war, or merely two opposing sides willing to fight for causes they believed in?

So if grey area exists in real life, why do some people feel there is no room for it in fiction? Is it a matter of needing more clear cut boundaries than what we receive in life? Or is it lack of imagination? And more importantly, are we, as writers willing to explore that grey area, even if it does get a little uncomfortable?  Head over to the comments section and tell me what you think!

❤ Mara

 

Write Your Post! May 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:02 am

This is the note I left myself this morning before work:

 

Write Your Post

 

Because I forgot last month.

The reason I forgot? I was in the middle of moving my “day job” business to a new location. It took about a month to get the space ready, from cleaning and painting, to buying new supplies. The move was necessary because the atmosphere of the previous location had become depressive and stagnant. To the point where I no longer looked forward to going in and even contemplated quitting. I didn’t realize just how much it affected me until I was firmly settled in my new place.

Suddenly I felt renewed. I looked forward to going in again and even began jotting down new ideas to expand my services. In less than two weeks, I garnered four new clients. I felt lighter and happier than I had in more than two years.

The other day when I thought about all this, I realized I’d done the very same thing with my “writing” business. I was stuck ¾ of the way through my fantasy novel, THE GENTIAN SOUL, and had been since last year. I hated everything new I wrote, the story became less and less appealing to me, and my creative juices seemed to dry up because of it. I couldn’t even switch and write in my other fantasy stories. Everything felt stagnant. It wasn’t because I didn’t love them, I just couldn’t feel them.

Sometime last year, and I can’t even remember where I saw it, someone said try writing in a different genre if you’re stuck. It was either that or quit. I hadn’t written anything decent for nearly six months but I didn’t want to quit. So, at the end of January this year, I started writing a contemporary. And WOAH. That baby took off. I’m at 62,000 words (I didn’t write in March or April, only edited—1) because of my move and 2) CPing for friends) and even though the story isn’t actually the first in the series, I’m WRITING.

And here’s the best part: not only has writing contemporary helped me improve my pacing and character development, it got my creative juices flowing again. Ideas for THE GENTIAN SOUL are dancing in my head and I’m actually looking forward to diving back in. Hopefully in a few months I can write a post titled THE END and tell you all about it.

What about you guys? Ever had to move in order to re-invigorate your writing?

Kate