There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Why This Pantser Loves Story Boarding May 18, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:20 am
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You’d think that, with all this talk of story bibles (or, as I like to call it, encyclobibliogrimoires) and such, that I would be more of a plotter than a pantser. But I’m really not. I try to plot, I really do. It just never works out for me. My characters start doing their own thing and I go with it, and my plans go out the window.

So how is it that I can love story boarding so much if I never go by my plans for my novels? Simple. I story board after I write. It’s a great way to keep up with a timeline and to mark important story points and world building areas. I tend to do this as I go in Scrivener, but having a physical story board really helps me creatively.

I’ve been reminded of why this is as I create a story board for my upcoming book Altar of Reality by Curiosity Quills Press. I just sent my first round edits back to my editor (yay!), finished pre-editor edits on Heirs of War, Crown of Flames, and am happily free to write. I’ve decided to write the sequel to Altar of Reality (tentatively the SHIFT series). But now that I’m free, the ideas just weren’t flowing. So what do I do?

WP_20140517_002

I go back to the drawing board. Literally. Nothing gets me more jazzed about my story than looking at it from a cat’s eye view. It’s way too easy to get bogged down in the details when you are editing. And sometimes rereading it can be even worse. By the time you are at the point to write a sequel, you’ve edited that first sucker into the ground. You’re tired of looking at it. But story boarding allows you to look at the individual parts and how they stack up as a whole. You’re reevaluating the characters and the journeys they go through, which can help you figure out where they are going next. And it can be just the kickstart you need to whoop your writers’ block and get your muses agreeing with you again.

What are your thoughts on story boarding? Are you one with the digital age and aids available like Scrivener, or do you prefer the old school method?

❤ Mara Valderran

 

Social Media for Writers May 10, 2014

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:43 pm
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By Sofiaperesoa via Wikimedia Commons

Hi everyone!

Whatever publishing path they’re on, writers are advised to have a “social media presence” and to create an “online platform”. Some are very successful at it, others find it more difficult. If you belong to the second category, I’d like to share a few ideas to help you make the most of your online presence.

Keyword #1: Content

This is the basic advice for social media beginners: if you want people to follow/like/suscribe to you, you have to offer them an information or an experience that they will value. The best way to do this is to ask yourself: “is this tweet/post/video/picture going to be of interest for my followers?”

Keyword #2: Consistency

Another good way of building a following is to post regularly, and often. I’m not suggesting a rigid posting schedule here (I certainly don’t have one!). But posting on your blog 2-3 times a week, tweeting 8-10 times a day or pinning pictures on Pinterest once a week can work wonders to help you become a familiar online presence.

Keyword #3: Focus

Pick a few topics that you’re passionate about. Pick a few social media services. Writers, if they want to write, can’t spread themselves too thin online. It’s important to choose a few ways to interact online, and to stick to them. It’ll help people understand your “profile”: who you are and what you’ve got to offer.

Keyword #4: Fun

Social media shouldn’t be a chore for writers. I set aside about half an hour every day to check/update my favourite sites, and it’s always a fun moment of my day. If you’re forcing yourself to build a platform and your heart isn’t in it, it’ll show and it’ll be a waste of your time.

Keyword #5: Network

Social media is about networking: it’s about doing online what people usually do in real life, i. e. chatting, sharing ideas, sharing good practice, sharing silly/funny things, sharing news, socialising. You find people who share your interests (readers, writers, etc.) and you interact with them in a friendly/polite way until you become friends or at least acquaintances. People are much more likely to buy your books or listen to what you have to say if they know and appreciate you.

Keyword #6: Etiquette

There have been numerous posts on the topic, but it’s important to be reminded of bad practices, in order to avoid them. Spamming, trolling, general bad behaviour online are a surefire way to burn bridges for writers. The best way to know if you’re “doing social media right” is to ask yourself: “would I do this to my neighbour in real life?”

What’s your favourite social media service, then? I’m a big fan of Twitter (to chat with people), Pinterest (to create boards for writing inspiration), Tumblr (to share visual content that I like). I don’t use Facebook very much anymore (do you still do?). And I’ve never tried Google+, Instagram or Youtube.

So tell us about you and social media in the comments!

EM Castellan

 

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

 

Write Your Post! May 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:02 am

This is the note I left myself this morning before work:

 

Write Your Post

 

Because I forgot last month.

The reason I forgot? I was in the middle of moving my “day job” business to a new location. It took about a month to get the space ready, from cleaning and painting, to buying new supplies. The move was necessary because the atmosphere of the previous location had become depressive and stagnant. To the point where I no longer looked forward to going in and even contemplated quitting. I didn’t realize just how much it affected me until I was firmly settled in my new place.

Suddenly I felt renewed. I looked forward to going in again and even began jotting down new ideas to expand my services. In less than two weeks, I garnered four new clients. I felt lighter and happier than I had in more than two years.

The other day when I thought about all this, I realized I’d done the very same thing with my “writing” business. I was stuck ¾ of the way through my fantasy novel, THE GENTIAN SOUL, and had been since last year. I hated everything new I wrote, the story became less and less appealing to me, and my creative juices seemed to dry up because of it. I couldn’t even switch and write in my other fantasy stories. Everything felt stagnant. It wasn’t because I didn’t love them, I just couldn’t feel them.

Sometime last year, and I can’t even remember where I saw it, someone said try writing in a different genre if you’re stuck. It was either that or quit. I hadn’t written anything decent for nearly six months but I didn’t want to quit. So, at the end of January this year, I started writing a contemporary. And WOAH. That baby took off. I’m at 62,000 words (I didn’t write in March or April, only edited—1) because of my move and 2) CPing for friends) and even though the story isn’t actually the first in the series, I’m WRITING.

And here’s the best part: not only has writing contemporary helped me improve my pacing and character development, it got my creative juices flowing again. Ideas for THE GENTIAN SOUL are dancing in my head and I’m actually looking forward to diving back in. Hopefully in a few months I can write a post titled THE END and tell you all about it.

What about you guys? Ever had to move in order to re-invigorate your writing?

Kate

 

A Bad Review: One Person’s Opinion… May 1, 2014

I must admit I’m pretty jaded by Amazon reviews. I’m sorry to say a five star review won’t induce me to part with my hard-earned cash, any more than a one star soul-stomping-hatred-fest will put me off something that really appeals.

My favourite fantasy author of the moment is Patrick Rothfuss. I devoured The Name of the Wind, and Wise Man’s Fear, the first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles, loving the world, the characters, the glorious plot tangles and even the narrative structure. And I’m desperately awaiting the next instalment Doors of Stone.

And I’m not the only one to enjoy the books either. They have a 4.5 star rating on Amazon. So it was with much surprise I stumbled across my first scathing review of the book:

Kvothe makes me wanna gouge my eyes out. He’s that annoying. I know fantasy is attractive because it diverts us from the humdrum of our normal, uninteresting lives, and I’m aware that a heroic character should be more powerful and awesome than your regular joe. But seriously, if Kvothe excels beyond the realm of understanding in one more thing, I’ll scream.
I’d list all the achievements young Kvothe has earned himself but I just don’t have enough room. And I honestly cant swallow another list covering All That Is Supremely Awesome About Kvothe.

Wow. The reviewer J.J. Maken (read the whole review here) hated with a passion the very things that I really enjoyed about the books. Kvothe and his ridiculous giftedness was something I enjoyed about the story, particularly because he could be so good at some things and then completely clueless in other areas (like pretty much any interaction with women).

However rather than being upset on behalf of my own opinion, it reminded me that people have different tastes – and I thought J.J. Maken was at least able to articulate why the story didn’t work for her, instead of bashing the intelligence of the author or other readers who did like the book.

I prefer to like my protagonist as I’m reading, not secretly pray he dies a painful, drawn out death. I really loathed this book. I wish there had been more negative reviews available before I bought it.

I wish there were more negative reviews as interesting as this one.

My advice is read the reviews if you find they help. But the best person to judge whether a book is going to suit you, is you. Read the blurb, check out a sample, and try your luck.

What are your thoughts on Amazon reviews? Or any form of creative review?

– by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Book Recommendations: Writing Craft April 19, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:34 am
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Hi everyone!

Today we decided to share with you our favorite books on the writing craft!

Kate recommends: ON WRITING by Stephen King

on-writing

” It’s part autobiography and part advice on the craft. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and full of notes in the margins. It’s encouraging, especially during my bouts of massive self doubt, honest, and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious. I’d recommend it to any writer regardless of where they are in their writing journey.”

Rachel recommends: NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! by NaNoWriMo’s founder Chris Baty

no-plot-no-problem

“I have lots of books on writing craft, and while they all contain helpful techniques, tips, and rules of thumb, my biggest issue is being able to set aside all of the perfectionist noise of my brain and simply write words. Baty’s NaNo-ing guide gives me a pep talk every time I pick it up, and that’s been invaluable since I started taking my writing seriously.”

She also recommends: SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King

self-editing

“Since I self-publish, I need as many checks and balances as I can manage on each manuscript, and this book is an excellent tool for revisions before actual edits.”

Raewyn recommends: THE FIRST FIVE PAGES: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO STAYING OUT OF THE REJECTION PILE by Noah Lukeman

First Five Pages

“It’s a practical little book, with some good end of chapter exercises to measure your writing against.”

Jessica recommends: THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS by James Scott Bell

ArtOfWarforwriters

“It’s very easy to get into and his writing is engaging and encouraging.”

She also recommends: WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KID LIT by Mary Kole

writing irresistible kid lit

“It really breaks down how the YA and MG market and what types of writing really sings for that market. It has great examples over lots of different YA and MG genres. I loved it. “

Finally, my recommendation is: HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

Hownottowriteanovel It is a hilarious book that is also an invaluable source of information about what NOT to do when you are trying to write a publishable novel.

What are YOUR favorite books on writing? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

Tools for the Busy Fantasy Writer April 16, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 10:23 pm
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Finding time to write in the middle of everyday life can be almost impossible sometimes. I have two little boys that take up the majority of my time, and every writer I know has just as much or more demanding their time every single day. So I wanted to share with you a couple of ways I cheat time — when I’m in the car, standing in line at a cash register, watching the kids in the tub, or trying to get them to nap, I need multiple ways to get my creative thoughts down so that I can maximize the 1-2 free hours I get to write per day (if I’m lucky!).

Notebooks — Of course! We writers tend to be notebook addicts. I usually have a separate notebook for everything. One for every novel that’s about 5×7, small enough to tuck in a purse but big enough to write outlines and entire scenes if I want to; a 6×9 that I keep in my car in case I get stranded somewhere and need to write about ten pages of brain vomit because the scene just won’t wait; and a little 2×4 to remain permanently in my purse for any random thoughts.

Evernote App — This is perfect for all of the above, only it fits in my pocket no matter where I am, because it’s an app. But not just any app, Evernote actually syncs with your computer, your tablet, your Kindle, whatever you need! so that you can write outlines, scenes, dialogue, anything, and then simply copy/paste it into your doc or Scrivener when you get home. It’s too easy, and all you need is an internet connection and an Android device because it’s FREE.

 

Dropbox App — Dropbox is, in my experience, the best way ever to back up your stuff online. I can’t tell you how many times it’s saved my butt to have a backup on the internet when my files get mixed up on my flash drives (always a good idea to backup things on a physical drive as well, of course). Dropbox is also free, and you can get it for Apple and Android and choose which files sync where so that you can always have your most important documents with you. It’s awesome (although, it also scares me because what if someone stole my phone?! So I don’t keep more than my current work in my Dropbox).

Scrivener App — I know some people love Scrivener, and some people hate it, but I happen to love it so I’ve got to mention it. Dude, the way you can organize and color code everything on the side? I don’t know how I’d write a four-part series without being able to give each scene a million identifiers. They get shifted around so many times, sometimes from book to book, that I need the outline-within-an-outline-within-a-binder-within-a…that Scrivener offers. It’s positively lovely to just click “compile” when you’re done and get it shuffled into a nice, shiny Word doc. It does cost money, but it is so worth it. Available for both Windows and Mac.

What are some of your time-stealing devices? How do you catch and save all your thoughts and get them shuffled neatly into a manuscript?

Rachel O’Laughlin

 

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

 

Pin-ups March 29, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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I’m notorious for letting band-wagons pass by. I stubbornly refuse to join in just because something is popular. Facebook is a perfect example of that. I went in kicking and screaming; only joining because most of my family had defected from our Yahoo Group List, and it seemed if I wanted to keep abreast of things, I needed to be on Facebook. Oh, but the grumbling that took place.

I now have three Facebook personas. *head, desk*

When Pinterest came around, I turned my nose up. Yes, I can be a snob. What a frivolous waste of time it seemed to be. I needed nothing to do with it.

A while back…I succumbed. And, I’m big enough to admit, I was wrong about Pinterest. I’m a visual person. Pinterest has become a giant corkboard for me. A place to stash bits of things I want to remember, or keep track of. More importantly, I can see how it is becoming a tool for my writing. All those little things I scrawled on post-it notes, all those links I write down and then lose, images that inspire scenes, characters or places…they are no longer lost in piles of papers, stuck somewhere in the back of my head, or otherwise scattered to the winds. They are organized on boards that I can access at any time from any where. I figured I would post things and forget about them, never checking them, never using them as reference.

Again. I was wrong.

More importantly, I’m hoping to use Pinterest and my writing boards to connect with my readers. No, I haven’t figured out how exactly. Not entirely. I have some ideas rolling around in the grey matter. One thing would be to invite readers to send me images that they connect with my books. How they see the characters, or the world around them. Maybe bits of music that remind them of a certain scene. That’s something I’m working on. I’m sure it will evolve.

One of the nicest things about Pinterest is that it’s quick. Especially with the aps available. I see something I want to pin, and in a few clicks, done. I like that. Simple, effective, visual, easy to share, easy to keep private if I choose.

So, how many Pinterest users out there? What do you use it for? Do you actively follow other people’s boards? What are some creative ways you seen it use to connect with others?

~ K. L. Schwengel

 

That’s How It’s Done: Siege and Storm March 12, 2014

This past month I finished reading the fabulous Leigh Bardugo‘s second installment in the Grisha Trilogy, Siege and Storm. I actually didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book, Shadow and Bone (for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that the first book is pretty hard to top), but the fact that I wasn’t thoroughly engrossed gave me the chance to read it slowly and really parse the writing style as a whole.

There are certain things we are told are against the rules of writing, and usually they’re fairly good points. But sometimes these rules of thumb are based on what’s in style, so it’s a good idea to know why and to what you are conforming. Don’t just take advice because it’s thrown out there as advice — always determine whether or not it’s right for your novel, and keep aware of the reasons these trends are circulating and to what audience[s] they apply.

As I read Siege and Storm, I noticed a bunch of things that broke *sacred* rules, and yet worked well for this novel, and I felt I just had to point them out.

— Telling v. Showing
We’re always told, “Show, don’t tell,” and generally speaking it’s a wonderful rule. But guys, there’s boatloads of telling in Siege and Storm. BOATLOADS. Whenever there’s a folk tale or history that needs to be explained, it’s usually done right there in the middle of the narrative instead of in the voice of a character or in relation to the stakes. Sometimes the description is so dry that you could swear Alina isn’t observing it herself (as we might assume she must be, since the entire series is in her first person narrative). Sometimes characters’ powers and attributes are described in a drifty, blank, who-the-frig-is-talking voice instead of Alina’s. But somehow, it works. It feels very classic, old school, and large scale.

— Lots of Action, followed by lots of Nothing
Usually pacing is a huge concern for us writers. We want to be sure our action is interspersed with reflection and dialogue in a thoughtful manner so that the crescendo at the end of the book can hit the reader with maximum force. Siege and Storm opened with seven solid chapters of pure action, then slowed to a lilting, description-heavy pace for almost the entire novel until the very, very end, where we again encountered intense action just in time for the story to wrap up. I’m a huge fan of tension throughout an entire story, so this unusual pacing should have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Yet it felt unique and truly endearing. I was pleased that the book hadn’t unfolded as I expected. Surprise is nice. Very nice.

— Passive Voice
This one is the kicker. Passive voice, passive voice, passive voice. Everyone hates passive voice. We all do. It feels lazy when we find it in our own manuscripts, and it looks lazy when we see it in others. If we could make it die finally and forever, we would. But it always creeps back up on us and lurks in the shadows whenever we’re having an off-day. To be completely honest, when I first encountered passive voice in Siege and Storm, I switched into critique mode and was tempted to take out a red pen. “Passive! Kill it with fire!” But I couldn’t. I was reading the novel of an author I admire, the second in a series I was breathless to hear the end of. So I kept reading. After awhile, I started to realize the passive had a gorgeous part to play in the story. Alina is going through some really unusual struggles with her own psyche in this middle novel. She often isn’t sure who she is or what she wants, and she starts to view others with a detached lack of empathy. The Passive Voice is just that — detached, lacking the full experience. It’s very Alina, it’s very true (in this case), and it’s very freaking brave of Ms. Bardugo to put it out there right now.

This book reads like a classic, and I love classics. I have to admire it to pieces for being able to pull a Crazy Ivan on some of our modern writing rules and still be a huge success in today’s market.

Rachel O’Laughlin