There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

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

Advertisements
 

Pin-ups March 29, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

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

 

Letting Go Of Inhibitions February 26, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , , , ,

(…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
Tags: , , ,

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

 

Art Imitating Life? February 8, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , ,

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

 

Writing Tools: SoundBible.com January 29, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 11:52 am
Tags: , , , ,

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