There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

One Year Blogiversary Giveaway! (closed) November 30, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:38 pm
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Hi everyone!

There And Draft Again is one year old tomorrow! We would all like to thank you, dear readers, for supporting us throughout these past 12 months, for “liking” our posts, commenting, sharing and suscribing!

So without further ado… let’s celebrate this milestone with a giveaway!

As Fantasy writers, we all know how important it is to get feedback on our writing. So we’ve decided to give away critiques! Prepare those queries and manuscripts, and enter below for a chance to win!

What you can win:

– A Full Manuscript critique from Jessica Montgomery (manuscript must be complete)

OR

– A query critique from Mara Valderran

OR

– A query critique from Rachel Horwitz

OR

– A first 5 pages critique from Kate Michael

OR

– A first chapter critique from Raewyn Hewitt

OR

– A first chapter critique from Rachel O’Laughlin

OR

– A first 5,000 words critique from K.L. Schwengel

How to enter:

Simply fill in the form below with your name and email. Do let us know if you prefer a query critique or a first pages critique.

Giveaway information:

The giveaway is open until Saturday 7th December 2013.

Entrants must be at least 13 years of age.

This giveaway is open Internationally.

The winner will be chosen randomly, notified by email and will have 72 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.

We hold the right to end the giveaway before its original deadline without any prior notice.

We hold the right to disqualify any entry as I see fit.

Privacy information: no information given for this giveaway will be used for other purpose than this giveaway. All information provided (names and emails) will be deleted after the giveaway.

Good luck everyone and thank you again for your continued support!

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Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Building the Magic November 27, 2013

It’s time for the final chapter of the Encyclobibliogrimoire series, and we’re finally going to talk about magic. The very first question is the most important one of all:

Does your story even have magic?

When people think of fantasy, they often think the answer to this question would be an obvious “Yes” but I’m sure we can all agree that it isn’t that cut and dry. If you are writing urban fantasy with werewolves and vampires, it can be a matter of genetics instead of some mystical element passed around like a magical contagion. Magic might not even feature very heavily in your story if it is there. From what I remember of Lord of the Rings, aside from some awesome moves from Gandalf and his staff and the omnipresent magic that is Middle Earth, magic wasn’t heavily present in the character’s journeys. The ring was magic, but Frodo didn’t use magic to get to Mordor. He used the power of his friendship with Sam to get to where he needed to go. And well, Gandalf used it to make sure others didn’t get to where they wanted to go.

Wait..wrong fandom…

The point is, you can have a story where magic is there but not necessarily explained in detail, like LotR, or a story where it is taught at great lengths to the characters, like Harry Potter, or one where the supernatural element is explained with loose science, like Twilight.

No matter what your chosen path of magic, one thing is very important. You need to understand it. Whether you explain it or not, you need to understand the ins and outs of your magical system. You need to know what tools need to be used, what the limitations of the magic itself is, and what effects it has on the wielder. For example, the magic of Harry Potter had its limitations in that it couldn’t bring someone back from the dead and you had to use a wand to wield it. It was a skill that the wizards are born with and honed through school. In Sword of Truth, Additive and Subtractive magic was used. Additive magic changes things by adding to the existing world or multiplying something already there, whereas subtractive would take it away and send it to the Underworld. In The Vampire Diaries, magic can only be wielded by witches born with the power, and often there are complex spells or strings of words in another language that have to be used.

The great thing about magic is that the possibilities are endless, but the hard part of being the writer is nailing down the magic that exists in your world. Here are some important questions to ask yourself about how your magic works:

  • Are there verbal spells involved? If so, what language is used?
  • Is the power passed down from generation to generation, or can anyone wield it?
  • Does everyone have the same amount of magical power? What distinguishes how powerful a character might be?
  • What types of magic are used? Potions? Spells? Wands?
  • What tools does the wielder have to utilize in order to use their magic? Wands or staffs, or simply pointing their hand at the target?
  • What does the magic do to the wielder? Example, if it is an extension of the wielder, it might expend their energy in some way (think Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how her nose would bleed after a tough spell)
  • Is it ritualistic, or a matter of shooting fire from your finger tips?
  • Are there any Pagan influences, or influences from other cultures that have magic in their lore?
  • How does the wielder learn how to use it?
  • Are there deities involved, or is it elemental? Or simply a power that exists?

Don’t forget that even if you don’t have magic, you have some important questions to ask yourself about how the supernatural element of your story comes into play. If it is genetics, make sure you fully understand that, how each trait is passed down, what happens if a supernatural being has a child with a non-supernatural being, and what happens if other supernatural races mix. Pick your system apart, because the last thing you want is to discover four books in that you have continuity errors and contradictions in the world you’ve built.

That wraps up our Encyclobibliogrimoire series! What else would you add to your Fantasy Bible? Anything I missed? Sound off in the comments! Or if you just want to tell me about your magic and what questions you ask yourself when building your world. I love hearing from you guys!

 

Talking It Up November 23, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:11 pm
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So I’ve been having great fun lately on a new project. Not only do I love the story and the characters (except when they act out), but it’s flowing like a river during spring thaw. Okay, that metaphor isn’t the best because sometimes a lot of ice chunks clog up the flow and . . . well . . . yeah . . . anyhow, one of the fun parts of the new project is making use of 18th century thieves’ cant.

My first introduction to cant came in the book Among Thieves  by Douglas Hulick (an excellent read, by the way). Cant was a secret language used among thieves, beggars, and other types of scoundrels. I believe there is a separate variation used by gypsies. Even though my NP (new project) is set in an alternate world, the thieves cant seemed a natural fit. The addition of this secret language has added great depth to my world building. I suppose I could have made words up, I’ve done that before, creating languages known only to my characters and sprinkling them throughout. And I do find I need to take some liberties with the cant, occasionally bending a meaning or tossing in a more modern slang term, still, it’s like that little sprinkling of hot sauce on a Bloody Mary. Or salt on fries. Or salsa on eggs. Well, you get my point.

This is just the kind of little something that I find I love in the books I read lately. In moderation, of course. Too much can ruin a good story. When I have to spend too much time trying to figure out what the character’s are saying, I lose patience. Yes, perhaps they really speak like that all the time. The problem is, I don’t. If I have to have a companion translation dictionary at hand, I swiftly lose my desire to continue on. Done correctly (and I only hope I am) the addition of such little details can really enrich the reader’s experience. It becomes those little gems that people remember and bookmark on their Kindle. Add in all those other good tidbits of world building we’ve seen here and elsewhere, and you’ll soon be immersing your readers in a land that seems as real as the one outside their door.

Have you ever stumbled across any dialects or languages used that intrigued you enough to research them? Do you like those sprinklings of gems, or do you find they pull you out of the story?

~ Kathi

 

Writing Obstacles: The Best Laid Plans, Orcs, and the Kitchen Sink November 20, 2013

At heart I’m a storyteller. I’d like nothing better than to spin tales upon gossamer threads, write so ferociously that my fingers develop callouses as tough as the sole of a hobbit’s foot, and to sweep my readers off on a journey that will both entertain and challenge them. Yet it can be a hard slog carving out time to make this writing dream a reality, because often things happen that make writing time as elusive as the one ring itself.

The Best Laid Plans.

The problem with a plan is you can’t cover every eventuality. This morning I planned to get up at 6am and have at least an hour working quietly on the blog before the family woke up. At 6.15 the first child came out rubbing his eyes, delighted to find he had his mother all to himself…

In a story, thwarting the plan creates good tension. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf hasn’t even finished giving Frodo his super-secret-brief when he finds Sam Gamgee ‘not listening‘ outside the window.  Not to mention the Fellowship so carefully put-together at the Council of Elrond lasts about five minutes when the chips are down. In fact the most successful plan in the whole story is Frodo’s very vague idea to head in the direction of Mordor and see what happens.

As a writer, I’m learning Frodo’s attitude is pretty good: you just have to keep heading in the general direction and do what you can.

Dealing with Life’s Little Challenges. (Or Overrun by Orcs)

The foes that come against our characters come in all shapes and sizes. If I had to describe the challenges I’ve been facing lately I’d say they are life’s Orcs. Not complex or difficult to overcome, but annoying and arriving en mass.

This week I’ve locked my keys in the car on the main street in town at night, planted a whole heap of seedlings only have half of them blown out of the ground by a freak wind-storm, dug up by cats, or scratched out by the neighbours chickens who found a hole in the fence. In a fit of spring-cleaning madness I sprayed the oven with oven cleaner (that part doesn’t take long) – but when I had to clean it out in a hurry could only find 5 (yes you read that right) left hand kitchen gloves. The top of the plug snapped off while the sink was full of water and I had to pry it out with a knife and I dropped a big tub of crayons and miscellaneous craft objects all over the floor just before dinner guests were due to arrive.

None of these things are a big deal; but they can be time-consuming, frustrating and certainly aren’t productive.

However I love Merry and Pippin’s strategy with Orcs: Keep a low profile and crawl away if you have the opportunity. It’s easy to be distracted by things going awry, but try to keep things in perspective. If things go wrong, do what you have to, but try and protect your writing time too. Sometimes you have to leave the water in the sink and deal with it later.

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink.

Sometimes life throws the most unexpected things at you – including the kitchen sink. The same way writing challenges come in all shapes and forms; plot problems, lack of inspiration, the hard slog of editing, illness, family commitments, unexpected visitors… Whatever form your obstacle takes, consider the dogged determination of your own characters and make a commitment to keep up with them. After all, if we can come up with creative ways to get our characters out of trouble, we can surely come up with ways to overcome any writing challenge.

Have you faced any writing challenges this week?

-by Raewyn Hewitt

 

The Main Decision November 16, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 10:05 pm

I thought for today’s post, it would be a good idea to discuss main characters. Not types of characters, but just male and female main characters. Each point-of-view brings something different and unique to the table. And for fantasy novels, choosing the correct main character can be crucial to the story’s success.

Unlike other genres, in fantasy, there doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite. For contemporary—female’s rule the narrative. For detective novels? Males. As far as old school fantasy goes, the male MC was the go-to and more recently, the female MC has been the hot trend. But how do you decide what is best for your specific story? Consider these points:

Tone– Think about the overall feel of your novel. Is it darker in tone, or more lighthearted and humorous? Consider which point-of-view you feel is better suited to get this sense of narrative mood across.

Category– Are you writing a middle grade fantasy? Young adult? New adult? Adult? Or maybe a chapter book? Depending on the audience you intend to reach, the main character’s sex can help connect with those readers.

Content– Look over your major plot points and review what happens in your novel. How is your character’s family set up? What is their personality and behavior supposed to be like? What major conflicts propel the narrative? These questions can help narrow down which to choose.

Voice– Most importantly, the type of voice you intend for the character can also clarify whether it should be a male or female. You could be writing a character that follows gender molds, or breaks them.

Carefully consider these aspects of your novel before settling on your main character as either male or female. But remember, there is no right answer. You must chose whatever feels right for your story. People may disagree and it might go against convention, but as long as you know it’s right, it will make all the difference in conveying your fantasy story.

~Rachel H

 

Line Edits! And why you need them. November 13, 2013

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:40 pm
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All right, here is my much anticipated (dreaded?) line edits post!

I first heard about the existence of line edits via Leigh Ann Kopans’ blog, where she chronicled the publication of her first novel, ONE. I had never heard of them before that, but now that I’ve done them for both Coldness of Marek and Knights of Rilch, I can’t imagine having not done them. My novels would be far less stellar pieces of work.

If you read my post last month on revising for publication, I sum up one final revision you’ll want to do if you’re going to self-publish a novel. The next step after that revision is line edits. But line edits are also a great idea if you’re querying agents/subbing to publishers, because they’re just so nifty.

Most of the revisions and tweaks you’ve been doing up until you’re ready for line edits have been macro — as in, whole paragraphs being moved or deleted, if not chapters — but you’ve probably already done plenty of line editing in the middle of all that. Line edits are all about the phrasing, the word usage, the OVER-usage, the placement of line breaks, etc. These are different from copyedits. (Copyedits involve grammar and punctuation errors, as well as other little magical things that we mortal writers might not know about, and no matter which publication path you choose, you’re not the one responsible for them. Your copyeditor is! If you’re self-pubbing, get thee down and find thyself an excellent one.)

So. How do you go doing a full-on line edit? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Once your manuscript is in what you deem to be ready, publishable form, go through it line by line and question every sentence. Is it passive? Is it repetitive? Is the phrasing just right? Is there a better word for fleece, or did you really mean fleece? Did you start too many sentences with, “She” or “I”? Would mentioning the chair first be more powerful? Would it be more in character for Henry to say “I will kill you” or “I will end you”?

All these decisions are likely to make you half crazy, and I have a lovely, perfect solution for that as well. Employ your CPs. Are there any of them who are extra good at catching little line issues like this? Did they notice little things on their first pass? Great. Ask one of them (and I say one, because you can only use so much input on the line-by-line basis before you go insane, but there’s really no set limit) — bribe them, trade with them, pay them with cookies or favors — to go through slowly and laboriously and pick on every. Little. Tiny. Word. You can hire someone to do this, but the reason I say pick a CP is because you already know that they understand your voice and your writing. They’re not going to steer you wrong. Tell them you want ALL THE NOTES. You want them to be brutal. Remember, you’re releasing this novel into the wild. It needs to be nice. It needs to shine.

After you get those notes back from your trusted CP or beta reader or whomever, the ball is back in your court and it’s time to do your own line edit. Even if you did a picky edit before, it’s good to look at it again with fresh perspective. Take this:

I stepped inside the room. It was quiet — too quiet. “Jenna?” I whispered. There was no reply. Not even the sound of breathing, or the clatter of her stirring in bed.

There’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s all a matter of taste and mood at this point. I could do this:

I stepped inside. “Jenna?”

It was far too quiet. No Jenna. Not even the sound of her breath or the clatter she made when she stirred in bed.

Or this:

I stepped inside the room. The sound of my shoe echoed, then disappeared into eerie blackness.

“Jenna?” My voice almost startled me.

But there was no answer. Nothing besides thick velvet silence.

See what I mean? You can get more wordy, or less, cut down on the line breaks, or multiply them, etc. Is one of them better than the rest? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But there are all kinds of possibilities that you may never have noticed until you got all the little pieces worked out to the point you can be micro. Teeny tiny. It sounds like it will be hell, but I swear to you, this nit-picky pass is so very freeing you will get addicted to it.

And then? A final read-through. If you can find someone who can stand to listen to your whole novel aloud, I recommend reading it to someone, not just to yourself. Because you’ve read it so many times, there might be something you say aloud that causes the listener to go “huh?”, but you would have glazed right over it. Work this thing. Work it really hard…

When you’re done? SEND IT OFF. Whether it be to your agent, your copy-editor, a final beta reader, or a pile of queries, get that thing sent off before you have a chance to question the brilliant fire it just came through.

Of course, mix and match these steps as they work for you. I found that what I did with the two novels* I’ve released so far varied slightly, and I’ll probably do something a little different for my third book. Everyone has a different process, so don’t take any of this as gospel. Just use what you need, and happy editing!

–Rachel O’Laughlin

*I went through line edits with my longsuffering CP, Darci Cole, on both of my manuscripts, line-edited myself, and then asked my incredible editor, Rebecca A. Weston, to keep an eye out for anything weird that might have slipped through us both (not all freelance editors offer this, but mine does).

 

Fantastical, Yet Subtle Inspiration in “Reign” November 9, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration — thereanddraftagain @ 9:02 pm
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I am most definitely the kind of writer that gets inspiration from things like music and television. Seeing the way two characters interact gets the wheels in my head turning, and sometimes actors’ portrayals can be such inspiration to me that I end up “casting” them as one of my characters. Music can change entire story lines for me, but that’s for another post.

Today I want to talk about the surprising inspiration I’ve found in the CW’s new show “Reign.”

When I first started watching this show, I expected nothing more than a period piece with teens, but it has been so much more. The show centers around Mary, Queen of Scots, as she joins the French court to be better protected by the marriage treaty promising her marriage to the future king of France, Francis. But things are never as easy as they seem, and though she fled to court to be safe from the English spies trying to kill her in order to easily take over her country, she finds herself surrounded by spies, danger, and political intrigue. The worst enemy she has is the one closest to her–Queen Catherine. Catherine has been told by her trusted adviser Nostradamus (ring any bells?) that Mary will bring about the death of Francis, and the Queen is willing to do whatever it takes to thwart this prophecy.

The supernatural element to this show is pretty subtle, regardless of having a prophet at the side of the Queen. Nostradamus is also a healer and a scholar, so there’s much more to his role on the show than spouting off ominous and vague prophecies. There’s also the so-called “castle ghost” who goes by the name of Clarissa. Clarissa is obviously quite taken by Mary, and constantly helping her thwart her enemies and solve the mysteries surrounding the people who plot against her. Clarissa is just girl with a sack over her head (a sure sign that she isn’t a ghost so much as probably horribly disfigured) who lives in the shadows of the castle, moving unseen through the hidden passages and easily spying on everyone, but her presence adds a sad layer of mystery to the show.

But the biggest source of supernatural inspiration and intrigue for me so far has been the Pagans in the woods. There’s so much going on there, and Francis’s half-brother Sebastian is involved somehow. I can’t wait for it to all play out and to get more on this. I draw a lot of inspiration from Celtic legends for my books, and the fact that they’ve been referred to as Druids in the story really excites me.

The fantastical elements of this show are played out very subtly, which I really enjoy. It’s such a change from shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Merlin” where the supernatural is front and center. The supernatural in this show only serves to add more layers to the magic that is already happening between the characters.

Image from buddytv.com

 

And, boy, is there magic. The chemistry between these actors is just phenomenal, and the stage presence they have alone is awesome too. Especially Sebastian, played by Torrance Coombs.

I’d like to think his draw isn’t just from his drool-worthy looks (and my tendency to fangirl out), but from his screen presence as well. He tends to steal every scene he is in, and I think a big part of that is that he is always in character and his character is always reacting somehow, giving you the impression that there is more to this bastard-born young man than meets the eye. There’s a love triangle brewing as both Francis and Sebastian begin to fall for our dear Queen Mary, but it is definitely a slow burn, which is refreshing to see.

I’m all about a character driven story, and “Reign” definitely falls under that category. If there was no love between Mary and the brothers, it wouldn’t be as enticing to me even with the hint of supernatural elements. But this show has the whole package for me: romance, intrigue, hints of magic and prophecy, and suspense. It makes me want to drop my WIP and go back to my fantasy series. So if you are finding yourself lacking in the inspiration department, I would highly recommend it.