There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Writing Tools: SoundBible.com January 29, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 11:52 am
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As writers we have a plethora of tools at our disposal: Scrivener has taken cross-referencing and compiling research and resources to a whole new level of amazing, pinterest has delivered a feast of visual images that cannot fail to inspire, and google has become a go-to font of information for both the sublime and the mundane.

But as far as writing tools go, SoundBible.com has really turned up the volume.

I stumbled across the website by accident when one of my characters was standing on the edge of a thunderstorm. For the life of me I couldn’t recall the finer details of a thunder-clap; so I googled it, and found SoundBible.com. Not only did it have this actual recording of a thunder-clap, but it had thousands of free sound effects and sound clips.

Footsteps on gravel, galloping horses, flapping wings, frog chorus, raptor call, and my personal favourite – a lightsaber being turned on and off (there is a subtle difference), are only a few examples. If you’re having trouble capturing the nuance of a sound, chances are Soundbible.com may have a recording that will help.

Like any tool it isn’t going to write your story for you, but I’ve found it has encouraged me to open myself up to the sensory experience of my characters. If I’m listening to the wind in the trees, I’m more likely to consider the sharp scent of pine needles or the sticky smear of sap that won’t easily be wiped off.

I’m not suggesting you’d use it for every scene, but if you’re struggling to connect, this may be a useful tool.

Have you ever used sound clips to help you pin down a scene?

– Raewyn Hewitt

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On Querying and Originality in Fantasy January 25, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Hi everyone!

If you’re a writer in the query trenches now or if you’re planning on looking for an agent and getting traditionally published in the future, you know that getting rejections is part of the process.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to assume the Querying Writer has done her research, finished and polished her manuscript, written a professional query letter and put together a list of relevant agents to contact, along with their submission guidelines.

There are many, many reasons for an agent to send the Querying Writer a rejection, and for nearly every single one of them there’s a solution. Sometimes, the agent will tell you what’s wrong with your submission: it’s called a personalized rejection. Other times, the agent won’t tell you why she’s rejecting your manuscript: it’s the infamous Form Rejection.

Thankfully, a few agents use Twitter to reveal the most common reasons why they reject a submission. They use the #10queriesin10tweets or #tenqueries hashtags. And one reason that keeps popping up when it comes to Fantasy manuscripts is this one:

Sara Megibow Tweet

The premise isn’t unique/original/inventive enough.

In a sea of submissions, agents and editors are looking for a Unique Concept. Or a Familiar Story With An Unexpected Twist. They want the Unfamiliar. They want to be Surprised. As we do, as readers.

So how do you avoid being rejected for lack of originality? Here are a few pointers:

  • Research the industry: find out what’s on the shelves right now or what will hit the shelves in the next 18 months. This will give an idea of what agents/editors have already seen and aren’t looking for.
  • Avoid tropes in your writing: I recommend this website to find out which writing devices have been overdone.
  • Read: writing a Fantasy book requires reading Fantasy book, to avoid the annoying predicament which consists in writing a book that already exists.

Are you worried about how original your manuscript is or isn’t? Have you had rejections stating your premise felt too familiar? What have you done to ensure your book was as original as possible? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

Does your fantasy brain need a break? January 23, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 2:01 am
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You know how sometimes the best way to re-inspire your brain is to take a break? If you’re writing non-stop, you have to stretch, take a walk, go to a movie, listen to music, visit a friend. Experience some life. I hear this all the time, and I know it’s true, but I still sit down with my laptop and spend hours and hours without even glancing up to look at the sunrise. And then I wonder why my brain is clogged.

This past November, I was feeling more burned out than I ever had. I’d been working on the Serengard Series rather constantly for two years. My brain was tired. So I decided to do something that I really shouldn’t do according to my deadlines: I spent NaNoWriMo writing 50k of a historical fiction.

I’ll admit, it was painful trying to get into the historical. The story, the relationships, the romantic focus, the style — it was all very different. I wasn’t really writing comfortably and confidently until week three, and then I was on the clock to get back to release work for my next fantasy release. (Of course, I got sick, too. There was that.) And when I had to stop, I just sat there staring for a day, wondering if I’d really done a good thing or not. Would my fantasy brain be broken?

Then I got back to edits on my fantasy series. And guess what? Everything looked different! It looked fresh. Unique. Real. I’d been living in my fantasy world so long that I forgot what it looked like from the outside. What it would be like to experience it like I was coming home from somewhere far away. Reading something else wasn’t enough. I had to write something else. I had to literally take my creative brain on a real vacation.

I know, I know. I’m a broken record. “Other genres are so cool!” But seriously. Next time you need a break, sretch your writer brain. It feels really good.

–Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Darth Vader & The Knights of Rilch by Rachel O’Laughlin January 18, 2014

Filed under: Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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Have you ever noticed how over the course of the three original Star Wars movies, Darth Vader gets a bit more impressive with each one? His shoulders get a bit broader. His voice gets deeper. He just appears more menacing. At least it always seemed that way to me.

Where writing is concerned, that’s what I expect of a series. The first book may be good in its own right, but the second is usually a bit better, as the author starts to find their stride. Characters are becoming more filled out. The good become better. The evil more evil. The ambiguous become even more blurred. The seeds of plot scattered across the ground in the first have taken root, and are starting to grow. If this doesn’t happen, if that second book is weak, or just a rehashing of the first, or if it feels as though we’re not reaching a crescendo, I won’t go on. Likewise, if it feels totally disjointed from the first, I’m done.

When I read Coldness of Marek last year, the first book in Rachel O’Laughlin’s Serengard Series I was blown away. I devoured it. I loved the characters, the world, the plot–pretty much everything about it. I hated the ending. Not because it wasn’t good, but simply because it…well…ended. I waited with anticipation for the second book, Knights of Rilch. Well,waited with my usual blend of impatience, anticipation, and skepticism. I’ve read too many series where the second book falls flat. I didn’t think that would be the case here, and I was right.

Knights of Rilch is Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Broader, more intense, and I found myself unable to put it down. Questions that had haunted me since Coldness of Marek were answered. New questions were raised. Characters surprised me. There were a few chuckles and, yes, some tears. I’m not a softy, so when an author can make me care that deeply about a character, they’ve done their job and then some. And even though the story jumps from present to past and back again, I never felt lost or confused. That takes a deft hand to pull off. Rachel O’Laughlin makes it look easy.

With a plot involving political intrigue, rebellion, war, scheming, and characters holding themselves out to be something other than they are, Knights of Rilch could have become a clunky monster struggling under its own weight. Could have, in less skilled hands. In Rachel O’Laughlin’s hands it is a sweeping tale of loss, pride, and the challenge of holding onto your beliefs when it seems it would be wiser to just let go. She gives us characters with all their faults, all the subtle shades of grey that make them seem so real. Her world-building is incredible. Her storytelling exquisite. The ending…

Once again I’m left flipping my Kindle over, as though there may be more on the backside of it, and screaming, “Noooooooooooooo!!!!”

Final_WebVersionBlurb:

Nearly a decade ago…
When Serengard rebelled and the Orion monarchy fell, former crown princess Kierstaz Orion’s love for her people became a burning desire to set things right. With a price on their heads, Kierstaz and her brother Mikel led a handful of Border Guard against the new army along the border of Dreibourge. But months of heavy bloodshed forced her small band of knights to abandon the border — and all of Serengard — to the rebels.
Nine years and a thousand betrayals later…
Kierstaz and Mikel again find themselves on the run, only this time, they’ve a boy in tow: Malcom, the son of two of the Seren rebellion’s strongest leaders. The new regime wants him dead, Mikel wants him alive, and it’s all Kierstaz can do to keep their tracks covered. Desperate to preserve the innocent life she’s sworn to protect, and afraid Mikel’s may be forfeit, Kierstaz must gamble the last thing in the world she owns — her identity. Secrets are a staple of the Orion family, and those Kierstaz keeps are as dangerous as the ones kept from her.
Author Bio:
Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories in which heroines tend to get their hands dirty, bad guys sometimes win, and someone always gets kidnapped. Her passion for all things history morphed into a love for fantasy in her late teens. Lattes and The Fray are daily dwellers in her home in New England, where she lives with her husband and children.
~ Kathi
 

The Tale Continues… January 15, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 8:45 am
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We love a good story at There and Draft again, so when the very creative Kathi Schwengel threw down the gauntlet, and whipped up the beginning of a serial fantasy tale, we all pulled out our pens and said, “Yes please!”

So following on from the last instalment (check it out here if you missed it last time), we rejoin Corrin and Cafyl. Only this time another watcher makes an appearance…

Calliope was flickering, a habit her mother abhorred because it made her look like a sputtering candle. But since she’d been banished to the backside of nowhere, and permitted only the smallest thread of aranthe to keep the shakes at bay, she wasn’t bothered by social niceties.

A girl and her dog were wandering through the Desolation as though it were a tumble of old stones.

Calliope squeezed her eyes shut. Perhaps she’d finally gone mad. Her mind had fabricated its own excuse, and not even a plausible excuse at that, to make contact with Faeilleah. Home. Her fingers automatically slipped into the soft leather pouch at her hip, reaching for the comfort of the solitary, silky thread of aranthe.

Pull yourself together.’

Even here, a lifetime from home, the memory of her mother’s voice still rang clearly in her mind. She’d resented her mother’s firmness back then, always insisting on obedience and propriety. Never interested in her daughter’s fixation with spinning aranthe. Strange how the same words continued to fortify her through the years of isolation.

She had to focus. The ancient wards couldn’t be breached. Had never been breached.  So the girl couldn’t be real.

Blowing out a long breath she opened her eyes.

The girl was still there. Eating an apple and clambering over the remnants of the runes that once protected the great fortress, as though the piercing dissonance had no effect on her. Even the dog was at ease. Loping between pools of tainted, wild magic without so much as a hackle raised. It wasn’t possible.

The flickering intensified, as Calliope left the small cavern that provided both shelter and an uninterrupted view over the Desolation. Standing at the edge of the dark rock, with the wind whipping up around her, she looked beyond the impossible girl.

The barren wasteland was the constant companion of her exile; its rhythms as familiar as her own body. The wild magic was stirred up today, she could feel the thrum of it in the wind, as it called the storm. Perhaps it was responsible for the girl? A vision sent to tempt her into – what? What was left for her anyway?

The aranthe curled around her fingers. Long ago she realised the ones who’d stood in judgement had sought to make her into the unhinged girl they’d painted her to be. Forcing her to stand watch over something that didn’t need watching. Hoping she’d succumb to the wild magic. But she was her mother’s daughter; she’d stand on the edge of this rock forever before she’d give them the satisfaction.

She caught a small movement to her right. A Rapier. She’d never seen one this far out. It was tracking the girl too. So focused on its target it was skirting dangerously close to the edge of the Desolation. A Rapier…

This was something. The thing that could open the door home.

For the first time since her banishment, Calliope opened her heart to the aranthe, calling it to her vision, capturing the likeness of the girl, and the dog. No not a dog – in the detail she saw it – wolfhound, with the lines of the great fae hunters. But she barely registered the detail as her fingers flew, and the Rapier appeared, reproduced in perfect, tiny, detail.

She didn’t dare stop to consider whether she should send it. With a gentle breath, it was gone. Her fate was in their hands.

If they didn’t come soon, she would be as forsaken as the land at her feet.

So there it is. I’m looking forward to seeing which direction the next instalment takes!

Raewyn Hewitt

 

More Fantasy Please January 11, 2014

I read through Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2013 yesterday, and realized the number of fantasy books I didn’t read in 2013. I read 106 novels total, most of which were horror, paranormal romance, and contemporary, with a few literary sprinkled in for good measure. As fantasy is my #1 genre, this shocked me.

And then I asked myself why I’d avoided the fantasy books on my TBR list, and I think it’s this: I didn’t want the story I’m writing influenced by others. The ms I’m currently working on has given me way more trouble than my previous one. This one is epic fantasy, filled with action, mythical re-tellings, battles, you name it. I’ve struggled with plot, direction, plot, and more plot. I know what the end looks like, but getting there has been one hell of a journey.

I think I feared reading fantasy because I feared I’d take the easy route and structure mine based on what worked for others. Reading outside my genre while writing is something I’ve always done, for various reasons, but never to this extreme. And now that I’ve passed a number of hurdles, and the end of my ms is truly in sight—Jan. 28th is my deadline for this draft—I’m looking forward to catching up on my fantasy reads. The first of which is Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.

us_prince

Happy reading! Kate

 

Beyond Fanfiction: Publishing Your Book Online January 4, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:16 pm
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Many writers have dabbled in fanfiction here and there, or maybe even been so hardcore that they tried to organize a fanfiction virtual season of their favorite vampire show that inexplicably got canceled after one season (ahem…not guilty). Writing fanfiction is a great stepping stone because you are using characters and worlds already created, so you can really play around and get to know your writing style. But writing fanfiction can also be great for the ego since the fan communities are so involved and vocal in telling you how awesome your story is. Which is understandably cool since you wouldn’t have written it unless you were just as obsessed thought it was awesome too.

From uthinkido.com

Which is something you don’t necessarily get when you start your own original work. Sure, you can try to find beta readers and see what they say, but there’s a certain thrill to publishing your writing online that is missing. Also, it is a bummer to not be able to transfer your readership from fanfiction to your actual books if you chose to use a different pen name.

 

But what many writers don’t know is there are plenty of online writing communities where you can publish your work for free. I don’t recommend posting everything you’ve ever written, but if you are just starting out, it can be a great way to build an audience. There are a few that I’ve come across like Figment and FictionPress, but Wattpad is by far my favorite. I mentioned it before when talking about my self-publishing journey, but I thought I’d give you guys some more detail as to why it is so awesome.

 

I discovered Wattpad through an article on Publisher’s Weekly (that I haven’t been able to find since, but you can check out Wattpad: A Way for Indie Authors to Build an Audience by PW) giving tips on how to build an audience when you are just starting out, especially if you are self-publishing. One of their suggestions was to post your book on Wattpad and get it featured.

“For self-published and hybrid authors, participating on Wattpad is all about the exposure. We have 16 million engaged readers every month — a captive audience looking for their next great read. For authors, it’s a way to build an audience directly on a reading social network. They do it because they see Wattpad as a way to promote their brand, test out new ideas, and find new customers. The writers who are the most successful are those who are engaged with their readers — they respond to every comment, update often, and share as much as they can.” -Maria Cootauca, Engagement Manager on Wattpad

I did this back in September for the first book in my fantasy series and have been astounded with the results. In four months, over 6000 people have finished reading my book, 1700 people follow me, and over 700 people have commented on it. Has that translated into sales yet? I don’t know. I’ll have to follow up on that when the second book is released in March. But people are excited about it, which is awesome.

 

Word of mouth can be everything for an author, and this site is a great way to get some buzz started about your book. And it’s not just new authors that agree. You can find authors who are already established and selling hundreds of thousands of books on Wattpad as well. Amanda Hocking, Melissa Foster, Margaret Atwood, and the week that I was featured, Brandon Sanderson was as well. Some of you might recognize his name since he finished out the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan passed away.

 

Wattpad Logo

Wattpad is not only a great marketing tool, it is also a wonderful community where you can truly connect one on one with readers. They can comment on each chapter, asking you questions, telling you things they liked, and you can reply directly to them. I’ve gotta say that it is pretty awesome to see people fangirl over my characters as much as I do. Even if it doesn’t leave me with 6000 guaranteed purchases, it will be worth it.

 

The only downside to publishing the first book in a series there is that you will break some hearts by not posting the second one. Wattpad is a worldwide community, touching countries you might not have even heard of, which means there will be some readers who are unable to purchase your second book because it just might not be available to them, regardless of how many distributors you use.

 

There are tons of success stories from Wattpad, such as 17 year old Beth Reekles who scored a deal with Random House after her book The Kissing Booth amassed a huge following on Wattpad. Harlequin has sponsored a contest to discover New Adult stories through the site, and I’m sure many other publishers will follow suit.

 

Don’t take my word for it, though. Hop on over to the site yourself and see how it works out for you. In my experience, getting featured was a great way to get a lot of readers fast, whereas just posting the book there was a bit of a slow burn for readership. It can happen without being featured, but you have to have patience. Then again, if you are trying to get published or publishing on your own, patience is probably your middle name by now. =D

 

Have you ever published online? What was your experience like?

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