There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Don’t Mythunderstand Me April 27, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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(C’mon, you know you love the title. Stop groaning.)

Show of hands if you’ve ever heard the declaration, “This is the stuff of myth and legend!”

*glances around room* Thought so. Now, how many of you have actually used the phrase?


So, who knows the difference between myth and legend? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller . . .

Sorry. I digress.

Myth, legend, fables and folk tales — in the fantasy genre (and some others) we’re immersed in them. As readers we enter worlds with their own rich tales. As writers, we create them. And though some use the words interchangeably, they’re really not. It doesn’t help that the list of synonyms for “myth” include legend, fable and fairy tale.

In my novel First of Her Kind  Ciara refers to the Sciathian Tales as something of “myth and legend.” Donovan corrects her by saying, “Legend perhaps, but not myth.”

Why does he make the distinction? Let’s look closer at the definitions:

                MYTH: a traditional story about heroes or supernatural beings, often attempting to explain the origins of natural phenomena or aspects of human behavior

                LEGEND: a story that has been passed down for generations, especially one that is presented as history but is unlikely to be true

                FABLE: a short story with a moral, especially one in which the characters are animals

                FAIRY TALE: a story for children about fairies or other imaginary beings and events, often containing a moral message

When we include myths, legends, and fairy tales as part of our world building, we add a depth and richness to the culture we’ve created. These stories, whether to teach children, explain phenomena, or share our history, exist in every civilization. Along with their traditions, speech patterns, jewelry choices, and even what foods they eat, they define a people — real or imagined.

If you’re looking for ways to make your world more real for your readers, sprinkle in bits of these fabulous four and let the magic begin.

~ Kathi


Keeping the Soul While Ripping the Heart Out April 24, 2013

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:06 pm
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Okay. This is completely not what I meant to blog about this month, and I may be getting a little personal here (har har, me? Never!)… but this is what I’ve been in the midst of lately. Plus, it can’t hurt to drift into the editing/polishing territory here on There and Draft Again, because it’s an important part of the writing process. So please bear with me. 🙂

I’ve been stuck in edits with my upcoming epic fantasy COLDNESS OF MAREK for awhile now, and as much as I love this story, it’s getting to that point where I begin to hate it. For me, once I get down to the nitty gritty, it becomes grueling. I start to question all of my decisions thus far and the text starts to look stupid and gangly.

For any writer, trimming down our words is painful and akin to shaving off pieces of the soul. But for a fantasy writer it becomes even more than that. You’ve created a whole world that reflects you in so many ways — things you think are good, or bitter, or right, or ugly — every facet is something you probably feel strongly about. You’ve spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours inventing this place, and then when it comes time for line edits, guess what else has to go besides pretty words? Yup. Pieces of your world. Anything that feels awkward or just doesn’t need to be there. Out.

If you’re being published traditionally, most likely someone else will be cutting out a lot of this stuff for you, but it will still hurt to see the result. If you’re doing it yourself or have hired someone to do it for you, it hurts a lot, too. Yet it must happen in order to make all that drafting, revising, and revising again worthwhile. It must happen in order to make that novel truly shine.

It’s hard not to get worn down in the process. You need help with this, for sure; you need friends who know how to be uber critical and uber supportive, and if you’re self-publishing, you need a professional editor before you’re done. In the midst it all, keeping your world consistent becomes increasingly complicated. And with all those world details to keep track of and hone, keeping the emotion in the story consistent becomes… well, complicated. You’re going to want to have your Fantasy Bible nearby, for sure.

I discovered there’s something else I need. Something I used to think was just for fun. But as soon as I got here, to this patch of crazy, I realized I needed it savagely. What is it? Emotional props. What for? To help keep myself on the same plane with my characters’ passions and loves. I didn’t have trouble with this in the drafting stage. Not even in the revision stage. But here? SO BAD, I NEED IT SOOOOO BAD!

Mine is a hodge podge pile, but it includes music, movies, youtube vids, outfits, Pinterest boards, other novels (usually completely unrelated to what I write), a font, a friend who understands why Marek and Trzl can’t be together… anything that connects me with the emotion in that story that I am now chopping into a million pieces. You’ll need things that rivet you down to the heart of your story, that strike that chord for you. Keep them handy. Not to influence your editing, but to influence you.

To remind you that there’s something lovely and shiny at the end of all of this. To keep the depth of your characters’ souls fresh and real. To convince you to stay the course tenaciously, to polish fervently and ruthlessly, because that heart and emotion is what all your words will say when you’re done.

Keep it alive.



If the Slipper Fits. The Power of Symbolism in Fantasy: Part II April 21, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:07 am
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Often, the greater themes of symbolism in fantasy are reserved for the hero or heroine in a story. Granted, I’m thankful the glass slipper fit Cinderella, else where would we be without the belief that faith/true love/kindness triumphs over the most evil of stepmothers?

But if the slipper represents these things, might it be possible that other characters can wear the slipper as well?

And by slipper, I mean any object or other symbolic idea integral to the story.

For example: The main theme in my novel, A Song In Winter, is rebirth. It’s what Winter represents, what my main character witnesses and experiences. Everything that happens in my novel—the battles, the transformations, the objects I use—spirals out from this idea and symbolizes rebirth.

Now, at one point in my story, I tried to make my love interest the prince of Winter, but unlike Cinderella’s slipper, it didn’t quite fit. I didn’t force the issue. Instead, I listened to my muse and gave my love interest a brother. And though the Prince is a secondary character, he turned out to be pretty important.

I wrote a scene, the events of which I didn’t initially intend, and the Prince received an item of great symbolic meaning (I can’t give too much away) in which the theme of my novel was reiterated. It was beautiful. If it had happened to my love interest it wouldn’t have worked and I would’ve deleted the scene. And then my story would’ve been lacking in some way. As it was, the power of that symbolic event gave my story strength.

Needless to say, I’m glad the slipper fit another character. And if you find the same thing happening in yours, trust your instincts, and let the power of symbolism work its magic.

Happy reading!



What’s in an Apple? The Power of Symbolism in Fantasy: Part I April 17, 2013

Ever wonder at the symbolism behind the poisoned apple in Snow White? Or in Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule? Did the authors choose the apple on purpose, aware of its significance, or was it coincidence? Whatever their intention, their use of it left a lasting impression on me.


Because the apple has influenced the world for centuries. Knowledge, protection, love, temptation; these are but a few representations. Literature and myths from nearly every culture are full of stories about this simple yet powerful fruit.

But what of other symbolic examples?

The harp for instance. People in ancient times believed it to be an instrument of truth, wisdom, and to communicate between realms. In Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin, a harp is fashioned from the hair and bones of a slain man so he can “sing” the truth of his murder.

And let’s not forget names, animals, gemstones, trees—all of which represent different ideas. In Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels trilogy, the jewels denote the hierarchy of power. What about the White Tree of Gondor and the horses of Rohan in The Lord of The Rings? Or the ring itself? Epic symbolism there. Harry Potter is saturated with it.

Do our readers need to know the meanings behind our symbolic choices? No. The power is there regardless. It will weave itself into their hearts and minds, and stay with them long after they’ve read your book. And one day, if they happen to discover what a stone, a flower, or constellation symbolizes, they’ll remember it from your book. And mayhap they’ll want to read it again with this newfound knowledge.

And that’s a very good thing, yes?

Happy reading!



Creating Your Fantasy Bible April 13, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 4:54 pm
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Some people call it a Bible. Others call it their Grimoire. Some simply call it what it is: their personal encyclopedia. Whatever the case may be, the importance is still the same.

Now that you’ve created your world, you need to have a place to go back and reference it. This is so important for continuity in your world. How do I know that? Because I am still working on creating mine. What does that mean? That every time I need to mention where my warrior race or my healer race originates from, I end up scouring the 2 1/2 books I’ve written in the series to try to find it.

So in a sense, I am definitely the pot calling the kettle black here. But I am confident that with these helpful tips (that I fully intend on following one day), you won’t have the same problem I do of having to hunt through your words to try to find one small instance where you mentioned something about your world.

The first question to answer is: What should be included in my reference bible grimoire? The answer is simple: Everything. Characters, geography, races, creatures, magic, government, society…Indeed, everything you can think of. Everything you create in your magical world.

I know, that’s a bit overwhelming, so we’ll start small and work our way through the list. We’ll start with characters and what details should be included in there. I’ve already started on this part. You don’t need to include every word your characters say, but you do need essentially a mini-biography for them. Here’s a nice check list to use as you create sections for each character (major or minor):

  • Key descriptors of their physical appearances
  • Important aspects of their personality (extremely sarcastic? shy?)
  • Key points in their character development
  • Birthdays
  • Race
  • Family information
  • Love interests
  • Place of birth or being raised (or both)

As you can probably tell, your encyclobibliogrimoire needs to be pretty intensive. Of course, you can always go the light route but I prefer to be thorough so I don’t miss anything and have to hunt (again). You can go digital or hard copy, but if you go digital make sure you back it up. I prefer to use Scrivener for mine since the program offers a really neat way to organize everything. Next time we’ll talk about some of the other important things to include, but for now hit the comments and let me know how you’ve made your encyclobibliogrimoire!

~Mara Valderran

Character Limitations April 11, 2013

Hello readers!!

I want to apologize for my lateness of posting. I live in a very rural area and even an ounce of wind knocks out our Internet and we had 70 mph gusts! Originally, I had planned to do a post on voice in fantasy, but my little issue got me to thinking. As a person, I am limited in all sorts of ways. I don’t have reliable internet, making it hard for me to be reliable to post on time. I have ADD, which makes me limited in the amount of time I can spend writing or doing any sort of activity for long periods of time. It also tends to make me irritated because I focus on too many things at once and not enough on what I’m actually trying to do. I live in the middle of nowhere, so if you want to come visit me, prepare to get lost in some corn.


Seriously, the middle of NO where.

However, all of these things make me who I am, make me a very flawed but believable human being (hopefully). Characters deserve the same amount of flaws.

So your heroine is a badass knight who can chop off foes with one sweep of a battle ax. That’s awesome! But how is she limited? We want to be able to understand and become the character we are reading about, so the character needs to be sympathetic in some way, shape, or form. She/He needs a major flaw to help us lowly non-ax wielding individuals feel like we (the reader and the character) are on the same level. She could have anger issues, or perhaps she is a huge ditz and forgets where she killed the body. Too often the go to for hard, tough, girl characters is zero emotion (*cough* *cough* Katniss, why couldn’t you just love Peeta like he loved you?!). To stand out and be original, you need to give your character a different or additional flaw.

Don’t ignore the limitation of locale either. If your ax worrier is in the middle of the city practicing weapons, I doubt the city guard will like that very much. S/he might end up in jail more than they actual defend the city. If your main character is a cow salesman on a ranch in the middle of Wyoming, they are more than likely comfortable with a gun in their hands and those evil goblins coming to suck out his/her soul might have more than a fight than they bargained for.

In short, people are all flawed, they are limited. Since your main character is a person to you and to your readers, they need to be flawed too.

In need of a flaw? Here’s a short list!

  • Narcissism
  •   Insecurity
  • Fear of Heights/ Spiders/ the dark/ monkeys/ rabbits/ a lone goose/large, open areas/ tiny spaces/ ect.
  • Gambling addiction/alcohol addiction/ ect.
  • No Social Skills
  • Too friendly it borderlines creepy
  • Fumbles for words
  • Too Nice
  • Bad Liar
  • Brilliant, but very lazy
  • Can’t Keep A Secret
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror
  • Control Freak
  • Man Child/Woman Child-the character is an adult, but they still have attitudes as if they were a child
  • Ignores duty
  • Neat Freak
  • Can’t Say No to a Challenge
  • Overprotective
  • Picky Eater
  • Rebellious
  • Stubborn
  • Is an excellent liar
  • Sore Loser
  • Wildcard
  • Needs Constant Approval from Others
  • Stoic

Good luck and Happy Writing!



Avoiding Fantasy Pitfalls April 6, 2013

One of the advantages of writing fantasy is the big backdrop to the story – spanning time, space and the furthermost reaches of the imagination. Yet sometimes a story can get lost on a big canvas. So before creating a bold new world, it’s worth bearing in mind some of the pitfalls of writing in the fantasy genre.

1. Description Overload. Beware of overwhelming the reader with too much detail. Although it takes a lot of time to create a new world, remember you’re telling a story – not putting together a documentary. World building is about providing a framework and highlighting the unique qualities of your setting. As the author it’s important you know the intricacies of your creation; but ask yourself, does the reader really need to know?

2. Too Many Characters. Great epic fantasy, such as The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, is able to weave together multiple storylines that both draw the reader in and convey a sense of scope. For lovers of this kind of fantasy, the advantage of seeing so many points of view provides depth and perspective. However, as good as Tolkien and Martin undoubtedly are, many people won’t read their stories because they are complicated and it’s hard to invest in so many characters.

3. The Never-ending Story? Does your book have an ending? Or are you stringing it out over 10 instalments?  Sure it’s great to have a captive audience. I’ll usually follow a good author through a series, a saga or a decent set of chronicles (there is something comforting about a familiar world and characters). But there comes a time when as a reader you want a resolution. Padding the plot, creating impossible obstacles, or manufacturing new and even more evil enemies, can end up frustrating a reader. Keep the end in sight. Give your reader a bit of a breather at the end of each book. And know when enough is enough.

4. Point of Difference? With all the scope in the world at our disposal, there are still common fantasy elements that tend to be revisited time and time again: Vampires, elves, faeries, dragons, objects of power and prophecy are well recognised within the genre. But as Alec Austin so aptly noted;

A dragon must learn to make a good first impression if it is to do well in this life.

In essence if a reader has encountered hundreds of dragon stories, your dragon will be subject to comparison. So you’d better make it good. Agents are always asking what makes a story unique. If you’re working with fantasy tropes, at least make sure your story has a point of difference.

5. Poor Craftsmanship. I’ve been at ‘literary’ writing courses, where fantasy writing has been considered the poor relative to literature. Don’t believe it. Storytelling is an art form that sells. But it doesn’t matter how imaginative your story is if you can’t tell it well. So ignore the detractors, hone your writing skills and bring the reader along for the ride.

The great thing about a pitfall is – once you’re aware of it, it’s much easier to avoid.

– by Raewyn Hewitt


Is your Fantasy Novel gender-biased? April 3, 2013

I am a Fantasy writer. I am a reader. And I am a (young) woman. Because of who I am and the way I was brought up, I am always asking myself how women are represented in fiction, especially Fantasy. And since I write Fantasy books myself, I am always careful to avoid the usual pitfalls of gender-biased novels.

But how, you ask, do I know I am writing a novel that represents women in a way that is both realistic and unbiased?

First, you need to ask yourself if there are women in your story. As incredible as it may sounds, too many Fantasy novels published nowadays STILL don’t have a female main character. We can forgive Tolkien because he wrote his books in the 1940s. But in 2013, if a book doesn’t have a female main character, I’m sorry to say I’m likely to leave it on the shelf, or to read it and hate it. And it’s not because I’m a feminist. It’s because I’m a reader who lives in the 21st Century.

But let’s say your novel has a female character, whose part is somewhat important to your plot and story. To check if your book is gender-biased, you can use the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel test was introduced by Alison Bechdel in 1985. She credited the idea for the test to a friend, Liz Wallace.

The test is as follows:

1. The piece of fiction in question must have at least two (named) female characters.

2. They must speak to each other.

3. They must converse about something other than a man.

Anything with a score lower than 3 fails.

The test moved into mainstream criticism in the 2010s and shows that a great proportion of contemporary works fail to pass this threshold. The test was originally conceived for evaluating films, but has since been applied to other media.

Most recently, it was applied to the new Doctor Who series.

Doctor Who

Here are the results:

Total percent of failed episodes: 35.2%

Total percent of episodes in which there were two named female characters, but they didn’t speak to one another: 14.8%

Total percent of episodes without two named female characters: 8%

That’s one example among many.

So would your novel pass the Bechdel Test? If not, will you revise it? I’d love to read your comments below!