There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Letting Go Of Inhibitions February 26, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 10:44 pm
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(…in which I get a little personal, as I tend to do. Also, I had a book release yesterday so I’m feeling extra sentimental.)

I actually hate writing “writing craft” posts for the same reason I hated giving violin lessons. With music, I felt like the root reason for making music is to play, and it’s not fun if you have a teacher telling you what to do. Some people enjoy learning with a teacher, but I never did…and so I quit giving violin lessons because I felt like a fraud.

When I was a teenager, I wrote simply to please myself. I didn’t let people read my words and I was happy that way. But a lot of people told me I should write nonfiction. “Why would you waste such a gift with words on fiction?” they would say. It caused me to want to hide my infatuation with stories even more, to be somewhat embarrassed that “all I write is fiction”. It seemed everyone I knew — even people who didn’t know me well — had ideas about what I should write.
“You should be a journalist.”
“You should write letters to the editor about political issues.”
“You should chronicle your switch from pampered suburbia to sustainable rural living.”
“You should write women’s literary fiction and change the world. Be the next young voice for feminism and be an example to your generation.”
And on. And on. Writing fantasy –of all things — would be the height of frivolousness to my high-minded friends. Why, why, why would you ever want to write such a useless thing?!

Most of this was not really that traumatic for me. I laughed at it. I buried it. I forgot about it. I didn’t dredge it up until I was ready to publish my first fantasy novel at age 23 and realized I was having the hardest time ever admitting to people that I’d even written something that was pure fantasy. “It’s uh, an action/adventure story. It has some sword fights. Nothing too bloody.”
“Is it…historical?”
“No…but, but(!) I based it on historical societies, mainly Tsarist Russia.”
“Ah, political fiction! Is it full of ideals that will be an excellent example to my children?”
“Um, no.”
“Is there romance in it?”
“Um, yes…it’s kind of dysfunctional, though.”
Dysfunctional? Is the woman a strong woman?”
“Well, sometimes, but she has her weak moments, just like any man would…”

Yeah. I was really bad at pitching it. Thus my self-reflection started. Why can’t I have faith in my own story? Something must be really wrong with me, because I know I love this story. Am I trying to walk too much of a tight rope? Trying to impress too many people who will never be impressed even if my feminist manifesto is on the bestseller stand at Borders (back when there was Borders)? Somewhat, yes. All these expectations had turned into something ugly: deeply rooted inhibitions that made me fault my characters for things like simple human nature. Even if I had portrayed accurately what my characters felt and did, I was wracked with guilt over it. Time to strip it down to the basics. What did I love about my story? Why did I love it? Was it truly me speaking, or could I do better?

It was me. It was good. But I could do better. I could do better by letting my characters show their emotion on the page in its full depth. By not letting them feel like someone was glaring over their shoulder, questioning their every motive. By asking, is this really what this character would do? instead of is this really what I want this character to do? Forget what I wanted them to do. I was telling their story. David did murder Uriah because he got Bathsheba pregnant. And I’m sure the writer of II Samuel was all, “Don’t ever read about this heroic giant slayer, because he turned into a murdering punk later.” Um, nope. He told David’s story, in all its glory and its ugliness. Stories are freaking important. Stories rock.

This is the state of mind I finally allowed myself to be in when I wrote Knights of Rilch. That story isn’t what you might call pretty. It’s desperate and tragic and only sometimes reflective. But it’s what happened, and it’s as raw and real and as deep into my character’s minds as they would let me go.

I’m sure I’m still holding on to a few inhibitions in here, and they’ll be something new to search and destroy with my third novel. But I just had to share this with you guys, in case there’s something holding you back, making you afraid to write that sucker. Write the stories you have inside you. Don’t let anybody tell you that you don’t have the capacity to write what you need to write, and don’t let anybody tell you that you should be writing something different. Ask advice from people you trust, from writers who can help, from agents and editors who support and polish…not from your critics. Above all, ask yourself to be as honest and real as you can be on the page. Make your art. Yours.

Rachel O’Laughlin

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What I Learned from JK Rowling February 19, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:25 am
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What I Learned from JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling continues to amaze me as a writer. When I first read her revelation that maybe Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead of Ron, I was upset. As a huge fan of the books, I felt like two of my favorite relationships were unraveling.

Ginny Weasley is perhaps one of my favorite characters in the series, alongside Neville Longbottom. We watch her go from silly little starstruck girl getting herself into trouble to a strong and powerful young woman, and her growth is all about the subtle changes along the way. She’s always on the outside of the trio but still involved, even if just by watching. She’s clever, and proves that she doesn’t put up with crap. She turns out to be quite the match for Harry, and I loved watching Harry get smacked in the face by his own feelings for her in book six.

Ron and Hermione I called after watching the second movie and seeing the trio reunited after Hermione had been turned to stone. She hugs Harry without a second thought, but she and Ron hesitate awkwardly and then shake hands. And then the way he calls for her instead of Lavender in the hospital? Swoon! My only complaint with their relationship is that it unfolded too slowly and felt a bit unnatural for that reason. I always worried that they were going to miss their moment. Happily, they created their moment in the middle of a battle. But still. Love them together.

So, of course, when Rowling admitted that she put Ron and Hermione together for her own personal reasons and that they weren’t necessarily the best match for one another, my first instinct was to scream with with the other fans about how unfair it was for Rowling to try to change things now or tell her she was wrong.

But was she? Who knows the Harry Potter world and characters better than Rowling? No one. She is the god of that world, so she knows the characters hearts better than we do. And she knows her own heart as well. It is really easy for authors to get lost in their love for their characters and to create fan service that would please them and possibly them alone. J.K. Rowling is amazingly talented, and so fans were more than willing to go along on whatever ride she took them on in the Harry Potter universe, even if it was just her own personal wish fulfillment for the characters.

This got me thinking about whether or not I do that as a writer, and I realized the answer was yes. I am incredibly impatient with love stories. When I know two characters are going to end up together, I tend to slap them together instead of going for a slow burn, even if it is more natural. I ran into this with the second book of the Heirs of War series. Thankfully, I had this epiphany before I sent it off to the editor and managed to slow down a pairing that I had originally planned on putting together in that book. I realized that getting them together now is just what I want to see and not what it best for the characters at this point in their stories. This epiphany led me to really reevaluate a lot of my plot elements and ask myself if I was writing as a fangirl or an author, and it has led to a much better book with a tighter story. And that’s all thanks to J.K. Rowling, who continues to shine as an author we can all look up to and learn a lot from.

What do you think? Do you agree with Rowling’s revelation? Have you read other series and thought that the author was being too much of a fangirl?

~Mara Valderran

 

YA Fantasy: what’s next? February 14, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:27 pm
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Hi everyone!

It can be useful for Fantasy writers looking to get traditionally published to know what’s being aquired by editors right now. Indeed it gives us an idea of the so-called trends we are supposed to be aware of.

Today I’d like to share a few YA Fantasy titles that will come out in 2015 and see what editors are excited about these days…

Mortal (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas

A retelling of ”Beauty and the Beast,” “Tam-Lin,” and ”East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” A Court of Thorns and Roses tells the story of a young woman growing into herself, learning to love, and understanding the true nature of sacrifice.

Becoming Jinn (Becoming Jinn #1) by Lori Goldstein

Wishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does. Turning sixteen opens the door to Azra’s Jinn ancestry and her new life as a genie. But receiving her powers isn’t exactly what Azra would call a gift. Her destiny is controlled by the powerful Afrit who rule over the Jinn world, and she must keep her true identity a secret.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

The first in a new two-book series about an orphaned princess fighting to reclaim her kingdom while hiding her power from the masked vigilante hunting her, set in a world where magic is not just forbidden, but will soon destroy everything…

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Red Queen is set in a fantasy world where society is divided by the color of blood. It features a 17-year-old who, to save her family, must assume the role of a long-lost princess while secretly aiding a revolution. The novel was pitched as Graceling meets The Selection.

So what’s next in YA Fantasy? Fairytale retellings, magic, secret identities and powerful female main characters… Familiar topics with a twist, it seems.

What do you think? Have you heard of other YA Fantasy books coming out in 2015 or 2016? Which trends do you see emerging? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

 

As You Wish: A Post to Honor “The Princess Bride” February 12, 2014

The Princess Bride is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. Well, I’ve read the first chapter. But, I’ve watched the movie a gaziliion billion times and it never gets old.

Why?

Well, a fantastic screenplay and cast doesn’t hurt, but really, it’s because William Goldman is an exceptional abridger. I mean, he wrote all the best parts: fencing and fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, pain, death, brave men, cowardly men, strongest men, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion, and miracles.The Princess Bride, when all is said and done, is a classic tale of true love and high adventure. Even the great Florinese writer, the immortal S. Morgenstern, called it such.

Anyway, while I had fun storming the castle the other day, I came across this photo:

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Inconceivable! The movie is twenty five years old?!? Yep. This is Entertainment Weekly’s reunion photo. The New York Film Festival celebrated the film’s 25th anniversary with a cast reunion at Lincoln Center. You can read all about it here. I did. And then, of course, I watched the movie again. I also downloaded the book; I’m going to read it this weekend for relax.

So, if you’ve never seen the movie, or read the book, I suggest you do so immediately. You’ll at least learn how to fill out your name tag properly. You might even fall in love. You think I’m teasing you? I’m not. The Princess Bride the best thing in the world. Well, except for cough drops.

So, good night readers, and movie watchers. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

Kate

 

Art Imitating Life? February 8, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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A week or so ago on my blog I reviewed Evensong, an awesome fantasy book by Krista Walsh. The basic plot is about an author getting transported into the fantasy world he’s created, and coming to grips with the fact he may not be as in charge of that world as he thought. It’s an excellent book scheduled to be released on February 10. I suggest you pick up a copy. It will brighten your Monday.

Anyhow, Evensong started me thinking about where a writer’s ideas come from. Where mine come from. It’s the age old question regarding the origins of creativity. Are we tapping past lives? Alternate realities? Alien transmissions?

Okay, that last one, maybe not so much. Just seeing if you’re still with me.

I tend to gravitate toward the flawed characters. Those with a touch of darkness, and ambiguous moral codes. My stories aren’t dark, per say. Not all of them. But they tend to lean more that way than towards fluffy bunnies and sparkly unicorns. Not that there’s anything wrong with bunnies and unicorns, they’re just not me. In my story, the bunny would be dinner, and the unicorn would likely harbor delusions of grandeur. But the question remains; am I drawing from bits of myself? Exploring the dark side of my psyche? Why is it I, or any other writer, gravitate toward a certain genre, character type, or theme?

Like every author, I’ve been asked why I write what I write, and where I come up my story ideas. My standard answer is a shrug, followed by something to the effect of, “It’s the voices in my head.” It’s a lame response, I’m aware, but it’s the best one I have. I honestly don’t know. Sure, certain things spark my imagination. There are images, songs, lines from poems, a certain character…but that’s just the match that lights the fire. What I wonder is where does all the wood come from to feed that fire.

If you believe in past lives or parallel universes, then perhaps the theory that creative types can tap into those worlds is plausible. That we’re not so much imagining events, but recording them as they happen. Krista Walsh touches on that idea in Evensong, I won’t take credit for it.

Maybe creation is just the result of a finely developed imagination and nothing more. We’re able to take a simple premise and ‘what if’ the daylights out of it. That’s how our brains work. Those voices in our heads, those characters running amuck until we tell their tale, are nothing more than a spark of brain neurons…synapsis…hey, I’m not a brain surgeon, give me a break. I think you know what I mean.

Or is there really a more mystical explanation? Are the muses something tangible? Do they choose certain people to be their conduits? Are the voices of the characters, the paths they wander, given to us by something beyond our comprehension?

*huge shrug* I have no answers. I still haven’t found my own. Have you found yours?

~ K. L. Schwengel

 

A Hint of Fantasy: Pushing the Genre Boundary February 5, 2014

I have a particular soft-spot for stories that tip over into the realm of fantasy. The ones that on the surface appear to be fantastical, but could equally be explained by some unusual combination of circumstances. The best ones, in my opinion, are the ones which have a great logical explanation, but still leave you wondering.

One of the best examples I’ve come across in this vein is The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey.

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Based on a Russian folk-tale, this is the story of an older, childless couple, who bury their emotional pain trying to carve out an existence in pioneering Alaska. One night, in a rare moment of levity they build a child out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone, and the retreating footprints of a ‘real’ child remain. The result is a journey into the hopes and dreams of both husband and wife as they try to reconcile what they’ve discovered.

The setting, the harsh and unforgiving Alaskan frontier, has a wild, untamed, beauty that adds to the magic and reflects both the struggle for survival and the fragile nature of hope the snow child brings.

Is it fantasy or not? 

I won’t be giving away the ending, except to say perhaps it depends on the reader?

Other popular examples play up the magical qualities of food, including Joanne Harris’s works, Chocolat and Blackberry Wine; Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate; and Pomegranate Soup, by Marsha Mehran.

Carol Goodman also draws together fairytale or legendary themes in her books: Arcadia Falls touches on changeling folklore; The Seduction of Water, on selkies. She has since crossed over the full-fantasy line writing the Black Swan Rising series with her husband under the name Lee Carroll.

On the faith based front, one of my all time favourites, The Miracles of Santa Fico by D.L Smith, deals with the nature of miracles. The story is based around a group of men attempting to create their own miracles in order to restore the faith of their local priest. (The priest lost his faith due to the actions of these men). The manufactured miracles go awry quite spectacularly, and yet as they do circumstances seem to line up in a way that could be seen as truly miraculous. And like the other stories you’re left wondering if the rational explanations truly tell the whole story.

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I’m not sure if any of these novels quite cross over into realm of fantasy? At the very least they all have that not-quite-of-this-world element about them.

Do you think these novels should be considered fantasy novels? Why? And do you have a favourite mainstream novel that brushes shoulders with fantasy?

– by Raewyn Hewitt