There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

There and Back Again May 31, 2014

Hi everyone!

In November 2012, I gathered a few Fantasy writers I had met online and created this blog. The idea was to share our thoughts on all things related to reading and writing Fantasy fiction. Along the way nearly 300 of you, dear readers, joined us as we walked on our different paths to publication. We shared with you our writing tips, reading recommendations and publishing adventures. In return you commented on our posts, leaving your tips, recommendations and thoughts. It was great!

Unfortunately, last month, it became clear our lives have all become too hectic and our schedules too busy to allow us to continue this blogging adventure. This means this blog won’t be updated anymore, although it will remain online.

If you’re new here, feel free to browse through our archives to find out about our writing resources.

If you’ve enjoyed following this blog, feel free to find us on our personal blogs:

EM Castellan

Blog: http://emcastellan.com/

Raewyn Hewitt

Blog: http://raewynhewitt.wordpress.com/

Jessica Montgomery

Blog: http://www.writerjessica.com/

K. L. Schwengel

Blog: http://myrandommuse.wordpress.com/

Mara Valderran

Blog: http://maravalderran.blogspot.co.uk/

Kate Michael

Blog: www.kate-michael.com

Rachel O’Laughlin

Blog: http://rachelolaughlin.wordpress.com

Rachel Horwitz

Blog: www.rachelhorwitz.com/blog

Thank you for your support during the past 18 months. Thank you for reading, commenting, liking and sharing our posts. I hope you’ve found something useful or entertaining here. I know it’s been a pleasure to be part of this blog, and I’ll miss it.

So don’t forget: keep writing Fantasy. Keep reading Fantasy. Keep working towards your publishing dream(s). And most importantly, keep going on adventures and believing in dragons.

EM Castellan

 

The Heart of Epic May 29, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration — thereanddraftagain @ 1:39 am
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Lately I’ve been thinking about why I’ve taken on the leviathan that is writing epic fantasy, especially when the trend seems to be to break stories down into smaller, more manageable chunks. I’ve even looked at carving some of the smaller storylines out into something standalone. Losing a book or two. Throwing the whole thing into the Pacific Ocean and being done with it. But there is something about epic fantasy that calls to me to keep going. To find a way to keep pulling on these story-threads until the big picture reveals itself.

Epic Fantasy, to me at least, is the grand canvas. It looks at more than one person’s journey. In some sense it’s about revolution, always about change and the things sacrificed along the way. The Lord of the Rings wasn’t just Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom, it was so much more; the time of great change that effected everyone in Middle Earth. How such times shape people, and how their experiences can be quite different.

At the heart of epic fantasy is the human response. Where we dig in, where we stumble and what we value during the hard times. What is it about this particular time in history (in my fantasy world) that is causing people to step outside of the everyday? What is so important that they will risk life, limb and everything they hold dear to ensure a certain outcome? What temptations draw them away from this goal? What things will they refuse to let go of?

And I see these parallels as I’m writing too. What causes me to sit up late and write and rewrite and try and find a way through the many stories that make up this one? What will I give up? Sleep. Plenty of that. Time. So I can put in hours and hours of work, the results of which I am in no place to share with anyone yet. If you write you know the sacrifice of going to that place. I’m always tempted to give up. So I don’t have to tell people I’m still working on it. I’m tempted by other stories and the promise of shorter timeframes. Of sunny days and the call of the garden. Of a paycheck. And yet I haven’t let go.

What drives me is the heart of the story. My belief that the story has meaning – at the very least it means something to me. So I encourage myself and I find something to hold on to. For those who are struggling to birth a story that seems beyond you, keep going. It is your own epic journey. So in that vein, I leave you with the words of Galadriel, one whose time is passing, to another who still has a way to go:

‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts.  For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand.  ‘In this phial,’ she said, ‘is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you.  May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.’

Because apart from anything else, epic fantasy inspires me.

-by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Our Heroes Can Fall, But Can Our Villains Rise Up? May 8, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 11:01 pm
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I am an absolute, self-proclaimed fangirl, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I might find myself browsing forums on televisions shows I am obsessed with like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. For those of you who follow the show, you know that the recent tie-in to Captain America: Winter Soldier was a massive game changer for the series, and revealed that someone we thought was good was really bad. Like really, really bad. It was a big shocker, but what surprised me even more was how many posts I have seen from fans hoping that this bad guy never gets a redemption story arc and just stays bad, which got me thinking about how villains are treated in fiction. And in particular, fantasy.

We’ve already discussed How To Write Real Villains and how to Turn Your Heroes into Antagonists, but what about redeeming a villain? More often than not we see villains that are simply power hungry or have ideals that would walk hand in hand with the Nazis. There’s really no excuse for Sauron or Voldemort, so it is easy to root for Frodo and Harry. But what about a villain that is doing all the wrong things for the right reasons? Is there still no hope for someone willing to sacrifice their very soul for the greater good?

I’m not saying the character on S.H.I.E.L.D. is heading that way or a triple agent or any of the other theories out there. But I am saying, shouldn’t we give the writers a chance to explore that? This got me thinking about my own series and a recent conversation I had with a reader who sympathized with the rebel Cahirans in my book. The group as a whole has the right ideas, but they have the absolute wrong methods. There’s a huge grey area because you see a group of people fighting for a cause they believe in. Whether or not they turn out to be the true villains of the story hinges on whether or not they win or lose—because let’s face it, the winners are the ones who tell the story.

If we look at our own history and the wars that have been fought in the name of freedom, there were always two sides (There usually is with a war). And it is easy to look at something like World War II with Hitler heading up one side and see it as black and white, good vs evil. But what about the Revolutionary War, which gained America independence from Great Britain? Was there really a good and evil side to that war, or merely two opposing sides willing to fight for causes they believed in?

So if grey area exists in real life, why do some people feel there is no room for it in fiction? Is it a matter of needing more clear cut boundaries than what we receive in life? Or is it lack of imagination? And more importantly, are we, as writers willing to explore that grey area, even if it does get a little uncomfortable?  Head over to the comments section and tell me what you think!

❤ Mara

 

Music to Inspire April 2, 2014

Hello Everyone!

Sometimes, it’s a little hard to get inspired and making playlists for a fantasy novel seems almost impossible! Do you use modern music with lyrics? Do you do classical and powerful? The answer is honestly up to you, but there are a few places you can look when you are feeling stuck.

Video Game Soundtracks: This is an often under represented area to look for inspiration. Depending on the type of novel you are writing, you can find what sort of game fits your novel. Skyrim, Dragon Age, Final Fantasy, and Guild Wars 2 are a few of my favorites

Movie Soundtracks: This is the typical go-to for music, but definitely should not be ignored. I find that going to Pandora and listening to Epic Soundtracks usually gets the gears turning. It has a lot of variety and if you find a particular soundtrack that really hits you, it is possible to make a station dedicated to it. Some of my favorites are The Last of the Mohicans,  Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, and The Dark Knight.

Modern Music: The discovery of modern music for a fantasy novel is often hard. If you find a piece that really sings to you, try to remember it and put it into your playlist. Another fun way to discover more about your character while also finding music that fits your novel is to think about what your character would listen to if they were in the ‘real’ world. Some of my favorites are Panic! At the Disco, One Republic, and My Chemical Romance.

What gets you in the writing mood? Do you have set playlists or just go where the music takes you?

Happy Writing!

Jess

 

The Music of Writing: I See Fire March 26, 2014

Music has always played an integral part in the world of fantasy. Whether in the form of the siren song, cast out over a still ocean, or in the bardic tradition of weaving myths and legends into musical form; it brings a richness and sets a cultural timbre to the fantasy world.

When it’s done well that is. One of my favourite passages of ‘written music’ is when Aslan sings Narnia into existence in The Magician’s Nephew:

In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide what direction it was coming from. Sometimes it seemed to be coming from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…

It’s a long passage that builds a crescendo in the reader:

The lion was pacing to and fro about the empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave…

Conveying the essence of music with words is hard work. A mere record of the lyrics often can’t convey the emotional response, atmosphere or tone of the music itself. And music often tells its own story. Just watch a deleted scene from a movie without the background music. It’s never as powerful.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a gifted musician to write music in a novel, but it helps to look those with a musical gift for inspiration. Whether the music of your book leans towards the soft background music of unassuming string instruments, often in the background and unnoticed by those discussing things of import (because it never hurts to have one eye on your plot); or the type of percussion that gets into the blood and rouses passions – find yourself something similar to listen to and to quote Eminem;

Lose yourself in the music…

And then find the words to express what you feel.

Many of us create playlists that evoke emotions when we’re writing. On my epic fantasy playlist is U2, Bryan Adams, John Mayer, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Shooting Stars. It only takes a few bars from With or Without You, and I’m with one of my characters, riding across the plains of Gaelladorn with the wind whipping my hair and my mind focussed on just one thing…

And if you get really lucky you might come across a musician who has been inspired by someone else’s words, and who will inspire you. Like this masterpiece from Ed Sheeran:

I’d love to know how you incorporate music into your writing, or writing process?

by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Forever Neverland March 8, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 7:54 pm
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As a child, Neverland was my ultimate vacation destination. I remember wanting to go so bad my chest actually ached from it. I dreamed of Neverland on a regular basis, and watched the Disney movie until the tape (yeah, VHS all the way) wore out and we had to buy a new one.

And Peter…Well, my childhood crush hasn’t ever really faded, from my heart or my mind.

So, here I am, all grown up with children of my own, and still I dream of Neverland. Anything to do with it, whether a movie or clever re-telling, grabs my attention.

Finding Neverland is brilliant and heartwarming, and reminds me of the power of imagination.

findingneverland

My absolute favorite re-telling is THE CHILD THIEF by Brom. Dark and twisted, this beautifully gruesome book is not for the faint of heart.

the child thief

And I can’t wait to add this to my collection: HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz.

hooks revenge

One day I’ll visit Neverland, and hopefully I’ll see one or two of you while I’m there.

Kate

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Feasts and Traditions December 25, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:10 pm
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I’m going to be the same old history nut here and draw on tradition in the real world to influence fantasy. I know, I’m like a broken record. But honestly, this is somewhere I don’t see quite as much depth and development in the fantasy genre. There are celebrations and feasts aplenty — usually to celebrate a name/birth day or a great military victory — but it seems like many of us (myself included) gloss over the whole who/where/why/what/how of tradition by stating plainly: “This is what happened and this is how we celebrate it. End of story.” But tradition isn’t usually like that. Not really.

Since it is Christmas Day in much of the world, and countless millions are clustered around trees opening presents, it’s got me thinking about Biblical tradition, and the fact that there actually was no documented celebration of Cristes-messe until long after Christ, and no mention of celebrating his birth anywhere in scripture. Hmm…so this tradition commonly associated with those who follow Christ (since it IS literally titled Christ’s Mass) sprung up from nowhere? I mean, where do we decide it actually began, if it isn’t anywhere in the four books about the Messiah we’re supposedly celebrating?

(Not to mention Jesus was Jewish, and he celebrated Jewish feasts.)

Have you read the Wikipedia history of Christmas? It’s like…whoa. Many people believe Christ’s Mass started with…well, Christ. But it probably started way earlier, as pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, Sun God, and Epiphany wound their way into new traditions of reveling and drinking that turned into old traditions and then came new traditions of gift giving and tree-worshipping and all vaguely at the same time or before or after it was adopted by the Catholic church as a celebration of the Messiah’s birth and is now a huge consumerism event and ohmigosh my brain is tired. It’s shrouded in complexity, with many influences from Greek and Roman history and worship, and even random Santa Claus/Father Christmas/St. Nicholas connections from worship of Molech in the Middle East waaaaayy back when, all with sometimes very loose or nonexistent ties to Christianity. So maybe it wasn’t even a Christian holiday to begin with? It’s almost impossible to untangle who brought what to the table, because it’s all linked and related because people groups and stories and traditions are often linked and related.

And therein lies my fascination with traditions passed down through centuries of a changing humanity. How do we untangle it? In the pages of a fantasy epic, we probably don’t, and that adds to the realism. To be genuine, it’s got to be deep, confusing, complicated — and even you, the writer, may not know exactly how all of this started thousands of years in the past of your fantasy world. In order to give tradition many facets, consider this:

–Each character has his/her reasons for celebrating.
–Each character has his/her version of how the original feast was celebrated.
–Each character has his/her personal past connected with this feast, since it’s a recurring event.

If you go at it from your key characters’ perspectives alone, you’ll have several different interpretations. And that’s so cool. It’s beautiful, deep, diverse. It can be unsettling (for the character) if they don’t know what they’re celebrating and why. It can be warm and fuzzy because they have good memories connected with tradition. It can be creepy because bloodshed was once involved. Dude, tradition can be your wild card! What happened?

Hmm….

Rachel O’Laughlin