There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

From Out of Nothing . . . July 27, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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As the deadline for my post slithered closer, I sat and banged my head against the desk praying for inspiration because, quite frankly, I had nothing. Yeah, nada, zip, zero, zilch, nuttin’. It happens. I ran through the gamut of usual resolutions: I scoured other blogs looking for inspiration. I picked random topics out of the air. I asked my muses and was met with stony silence and an evil glare for interrupting their game of bones with the Fates. (I should be bothered that they hang out with each other but I’ve no control over their social life. It’s when the Fates bring Destiny along that I really start to worry.)

So, with the eleventh hour fast approaching I put my fingers on the keys and just started typing whatever came into my fevered grey matter. That led me to consider Writer’s Block and the fact that I don’t seem to suffer much from it any more. Except, apparently, where blog posts are concerned. Even that I’ve overcome by just writing. Anything. With the obvious exception of the phrase,

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“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

I used to suffer from WB. Frequently. I’d stare at the blank page and freeze. I’d read what I wrote the day before. I’d edit what I wrote the day before. I’d trim the plan in the corner (for future reference, cacti aren’t the most fun to trim). But I just couldn’t move beyond. That would invariably lead to frustration, mental anguish, constant guilt and self-inflicted “you’re not worthy” tirades. During which time my muses would sit on the window sill and throw things at me.

Not good.

That doesn’t happen any more.

Why?

Go back to the beginning of this post. One of the things I do if I feel truly stuck, is just start writing. I don’t care what it is, how badly it’s constructed, how flat and meaningless the characters and non-existent plot are. It may start with dialogue, with action, a bit of fanfic from a show recently watched — it doesn’t matter. The key is to string some words together. It’s like priming a pump. Once it starts flowing, sometimes it’s hard to shut off.

Another remedy, at least for me, is having more than one WIP going at a time. Sometimes the brain just needs to switch gears. Being able to flip to another world and different characters keeps me from getting in a rut.

I also have given myself permission to put my brain on idle. This usually means playing a few rounds of Bubble Town during my writing time without amassing tons of guilt. Why? Because Bubble Town, while a nice little diversion, takes just enough thought to keep the front part of my brain occupied. That’s important because more, often than not, when I’m stuck it’s due to the frontal lobe running rough-shod over my creative center. Giving it something else to do allows my creativity to relax and breathe. Generally, whatever has been damning me up breaks free.

And if I’m really and truly stuck? I watch a movie or read –recreational reading or beta reading. Either works. Again, it forces me to relieve the pressure on my creative center. The subconscious. It works better when it’s not being controlled.

Do you ever suffer from Writer’s Block? What are some of your cures?

~ K. L. Schwengel

 

Cartography 101 July 25, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:09 am
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Hello Readers!

Most people who write fantasy have a map in mind, some even try to draw their map. I think this is an excellent idea. It gives you as a writer an actual image to look at while writing your novel. It gives you a great sense of space, lets you know if walking from point a to point be is even possible, and lets you get to know your world even better than you knew it before. That being said, some don’t know how to make a map, even if they really want to. So I present you the basics, Cartography 101.

Mountains:

Typically you want to make your world as interesting and diverse as our world. This means giving a varied landscape and mountains are a great way to do that. Mountains arise in places where two tectonic plates meet. To create a mountain, simple make jagged edges around a triangle. Add shading from the west to make the mountains appear more 3D. Don’t forget many mountains are flanked by rolling foothills, which appear as small bumps on a map.

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Forests:

Woods and forest never really have a definite reason for standing where they are like mountains. Where you put forests is completely up to your discretion, but unless your inhabitants use something other than wood to build, they forest around major cities will probably be scarce. To create a forest, make a stand of trees, it doesn’t have to be particular skillful, just a trunk shaped bottom with a cotton ball on top. Shading for trees goes underneath the boughs and out to one side, the side you chose the sun is coming from.

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Edges:

Edges of a landmass are probably the number one thing I see messed up on homemade maps. They are typically too smooth for a real coastline. Erosion will have taken place over time, creating indentions and alcoves all along the shoreline, giving your MC tons of places to hide. Jagged shorelines are very easy to create. At random intervals, move more inward or outward with a your writing utensil, it’ll create a move unique and realistic coastline. Edges are harder to shade, but add shading from the waterline up to the line you made for the country. This give the appearance of more depth.

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So that’s about it for Cartography 101, to go deeper you can create vales, glaciers, hidden valleys, and vast plains. I hope this helped a little in your map making adventures! I’m curious, do any of you make maps? And if you do, what has your experience been while creating it?

Write On!

Jess

 

Naming Names July 20, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:25 pm
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The names in fantasy novels or really any speculative book in general can often be absurd. Confusing. Misleading. Downright impossible to pronounce. Names you struggle to understand if it belongs to a male or female. Perhaps there are whirs or clicks involved, maybe a number even. The fantasy genre is notorious for producing extremely unique names and that doesn’t often work to the writer’s advantage.  But it can! There are a few things to consider when naming your fantasy cast: setting, timeframe, and audience.

When it comes to setting, think of where your story takes place. Is it on Earth? Is it in the woods? Is it on the ocean? Is it on another planet? Is it in another realm? Where your story is set should influence the names you give characters, but no matter what, remember to keep it simple.

The timeframe is also incredibly important to naming because some names were used more often in the 18th century than in the 4th century and if your story takes place on Earth during a notable time period, be sure the names fit into that. And remember, keep it simple.

Audience is extremely important to keep in mind when naming, believe it or not. If you’re writing for adults, you can probably be a bit more creative and whimsical when choosing names so long as (once again) you keep it simple. However, if you’re writing for children, especially young children, your names need to be very easily pronounced and understood.

When it comes down to it, your setting, timeframe and audience are crucial factors you need to consider when naming fantasy people. But the primary rule you should never forget is to keep it simple—knowing that you can still be creative and fun and unusual.

What are some of the most interesting names you’ve read or written about?

Rachel H

 

Turn Your Heroes Into Antagonists, Maybe? July 17, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:57 pm
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Fantasy is one of those genres that tends to have a defined hero/heroine character. Somewhere near the beginning of the book — if not in the very first sentence — we are introduced to the character we hope to cheer and root for throughout the rest of the story. Amid villains, love interests, comic relief, and best friends, this is the anchor we keep coming back to.

At whatever point our villain comes in, we understand that this character is the antagonist. No matter if he/she is evil at their core, or if they just come from the opposite side of the major conflict, this is the person who makes things difficult for our hero[ine].

But sometimes, the story needs changing up. Another side needs to be shown.

The antagonist may have redeeming qualities that show through at a pivotal moment. As much as I love an evil, evil villain, I love it just as much when we get to know a different side of this character and realize they might have some justifiable motivations and/or a setting wherein they treat their fellow humans well. George R.R. Martin loves to write about this gray area: the person whose goodness or badness is not definite, or not yet decided. The beauty of this is that it shows so much humanity. It can be depressing if there is too much of it or if it goes on forever, but if done well, it can be beautiful.

(Sometimes it’s beautiful because the antagonist finds redemption and becomes a secondary protagonist and it’s super awesome (!!!), but I digress.)

Here’s what I’m coming around to. I believe it can be just as powerful for the protagonist to turn bad. Typically, most of us writers want to write a character the reader can get behind. We want someone to believe in. It is hard to tolerate a story in which our protagonist never does anything right, but it is possible to love a story in which they become someone horrible for awhile (like an anti-hero), or even indefinitely (maybe turned into an antagonist)…so long as we understand why they became this person, and we can sympathize with it.

I don’t think this works all the time. It only works when it truly is what should happen next. But I want to say this: don’t shy away from it. If you want that main character to go through a time wherein they do something terrible, it might be exactly what has to happen to make that character’s story complete. I struggled with this a lot while writing the first book in my SERENGARD series. There were awful things my main characters had to say to one another and do to their fellow characters, because that’s who they were. They couldn’t be anyone else, and I still wince when I read it, but that’s what happened. It’s scary to write like this, at least for me, and it’s not necessarily what everyone’s story needs. But if it does, do it.

If you decide you need to go to the harsher, darker places with your protagonist, here are a few things that helped pull my story through, and might help with yours:

  • It’s a good idea to make sure the secondary characters carry a little light with them to keep people reading. Maintain a bit of humor and a bit of morality in some form.
  • In the same vein, have another character in the wings who appears ready to be the next hero[ine]. There doesn’t necessarily need to be any mention of them for fifty pages, just as long as we remember that this person exists. Whether it happens or not doesn’t matter. We just need the hope.
  • Too much badness, and people get turned off. Not enough, and they’re unconvinced that it’s even a crisis. Balance it out as best you can.
  • Of course, keep your character consistent. They can’t suddenly develop a horrid temper or a thirst for blood. They need to have had this issue in a mild form before. What made them snap? Be sure it’s explained.
  • Don’t forget resolution. Even if your protagonist changes and becomes this darker character, bring the character arc about full circle, just as you would if they remained a hero[ine].

You’re the writer, and you know in your gut where this story has to go. If it has to happen, than it HAS to happen! Is it horribly hard to write? Yes. But can you do it? You totally can! I have faith in you. ❤

Rachel O

 

How to Write a Twitter Pitch for a Fantasy Novel July 13, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:16 am
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Hello everyone!

Several online writing contests are scheduled this summer, and a few of them offer the possibility to “pitch” agents and editors on Twitter, with a 140-character tweet presenting your completed manuscript. Yesterday it was #PitchMas, organised by Jessa Russo (@JessaRusso) and Tamara Mataya (@FeakySnucker). Unless I’m mistaken, the next scheduled Twitter Pitch session will be #PitchMadness, organised by Brenda Drake (@brendadrake) in September.

As I was browsing pitches yesterday, I noticed a trend with Fantasy writers: many of them openly said they had trouble summing up their 100k novel in 140 characters. And who can blame them? It IS very hard!

So here is my recipe for a successful Twitter pitch. Ready?

1 – Inciting Incident

2 – Main Character

3 – Plot

4 – Stakes

If you can fit it in:

5 – Genre

6 – Voice

You can check out examples of successfull pitches here: Carissa Taylor – March #PitMad Requested Pitches

Is it hard? Yes. It is doable? Yes! Yesterday during PitchMas, our very own Jessy Montgomery and Rachel Horwitz got requests!

So tell us: do you struggle with Twitter pitches? Did you get requests yesterday on Twitter? Make sure to leave us a comment or your questions below!

EM Castellan

 

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: The Laws of Government and Society July 10, 2013

Rules are made to be broken.

This is a common saying, but it is also a more common tool in story telling than you might think. In fantasy, our characters might battle dragons, fight in wizard duels, or march towards blue-eyed beasts that plan to eat our children. But this isn’t all they go up against. A lot of times, our characters end up fighting against society itself.

In Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, Richard and Kahlan are out to stop the oppressive Darken Rahl from leading the world to ruin. But Kahlan finds herself going up against so much more. As a Confessor, she is taught never to love because her power will only leave her with heartbreak in the end, destroying the man that she loves. She has to fight against her own beliefs–beliefs that society has passed down generation after generation–to find the truth of her power.

Frodo was a simple hobbit living a simple life, not getting involved in the affairs of men and elves. That is the way of the hobbits. They are a peaceful folk. And yet he sets out on an adventure much like his uncle and ends up being the key to saving Middle Earth.

I could go on and on with examples. To get to the point: Fights against mythical creatures or epic magical battles are not all there is to a story. There are layers upon layers of challenges, trials, and strife our main characters must overcome. So it is important we know how the society of our world works and the government that keeps order.

How do we start? First, you need to figure out where the power is. Some might argue that in society today, power is in money. Those who don’t have it constantly strive to make ends meat in the hopes of one day making their lives better, while those who have it make the rules for the rest. So what is the key to power in your world? In Estridia (my world), it is magic. People are born with magic in varying degrees, and those who have the most rule over the worlds. Those who have none are shunned as the Tainted, treated as though there is something ghastly wrong with them.

Okay, so now we have the key to power and know who might have it. But what about the people under them? One person or group can’t rule over everything because they can’t be everywhere at once. There’s a certain amount of delegation in government, which means other people will have jobs as well that help to maintain order. Who would those people be? Relatives, like the Lannisters? Or people with the next tier of power? Perhaps just trusted friends and confidants of the leaders?

The answer to that question will also tell you a lot about the society. If power is merely passed down from generation to generation and dependent on a blood line, how fair and just do you think that world might be? They might get lucky and have a benevolent ruler from time to time, but a family that breeds power might also breed monsters (coughJoffreycough). A leader who counts on friends and confidants to help him/her rule might be more reasonable, or be surrounded by mewing idiots that tell him/her what they want to hear.

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Every society has an order of power that enforces the rules of that society. Marriage laws. Taxes. Armies. How heavy a hand the government rules with will determine a lot about the society. Do they determine who can and cannot marry? What professions the people are allowed to enter into? What sort of taxes are imposed? Is the lower class taken care of or downtrodden with despair? Are the races allowed to intermingle?

I’m sure you see my point. I could probably write a whole other post continuing on how to define the lines of social classes, but that might venture (even more) into rambling territory. For now, I will leave you to mull over the questions of society and government with this piece of advice: Study the different societies around you and the ones from history. Figure out the differences and how the political climates might have been for the people of that time or in that area now. You might find your answers a lot closer to home than you think.

Next time, we will talk about races, and then after that we will conclude this series with a big factor in a lot of fantasy series: Magic! Hit the comments to tell us about the society of your world!

 

Historical Fantasy July 6, 2013

The inspiration for this post came from my recent attendance at the HNS (Historical Novel Society) Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Fantasy is my passion, in reading and writing, whether it’s urban, epic, or dark—especially dark—but I have a very special place in my heart for historical fantasy.

Think The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray. These are richly vivid depictions of our past, woven throughout with threads of magic that are completely believable. I never doubted the existence of another realm in Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, or that Tuala was a child of the Good Folk in Juliet Marillier’s The Dark Mirror.

Books like Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Smoke Thief by Shana Abé (I don’t care if they shelve it romance, it’s about DRAGONS!) and Chime by Franny Billingsley have captivated me with their vibrant historical settings. There are a number of sub-genres within historical fantasy, like classical (based on Greek and Roman myths–YAY!), medieval, and steampunk, which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I also love alternate histories, like the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey.

Funny enough, I have a WIP I refer to as my steampunk-alternate history-dark fantasy. Which genre of fantasy do you enjoy the most?

Incidentally, I met Stephanie Dray at the conference and she’s absolutely lovely.

Happy reading! Kate