There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fantastical, Yet Subtle Inspiration in “Reign” November 9, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration — thereanddraftagain @ 9:02 pm
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I am most definitely the kind of writer that gets inspiration from things like music and television. Seeing the way two characters interact gets the wheels in my head turning, and sometimes actors’ portrayals can be such inspiration to me that I end up “casting” them as one of my characters. Music can change entire story lines for me, but that’s for another post.

Today I want to talk about the surprising inspiration I’ve found in the CW’s new show “Reign.”

When I first started watching this show, I expected nothing more than a period piece with teens, but it has been so much more. The show centers around Mary, Queen of Scots, as she joins the French court to be better protected by the marriage treaty promising her marriage to the future king of France, Francis. But things are never as easy as they seem, and though she fled to court to be safe from the English spies trying to kill her in order to easily take over her country, she finds herself surrounded by spies, danger, and political intrigue. The worst enemy she has is the one closest to her–Queen Catherine. Catherine has been told by her trusted adviser Nostradamus (ring any bells?) that Mary will bring about the death of Francis, and the Queen is willing to do whatever it takes to thwart this prophecy.

The supernatural element to this show is pretty subtle, regardless of having a prophet at the side of the Queen. Nostradamus is also a healer and a scholar, so there’s much more to his role on the show than spouting off ominous and vague prophecies. There’s also the so-called “castle ghost” who goes by the name of Clarissa. Clarissa is obviously quite taken by Mary, and constantly helping her thwart her enemies and solve the mysteries surrounding the people who plot against her. Clarissa is just girl with a sack over her head (a sure sign that she isn’t a ghost so much as probably horribly disfigured) who lives in the shadows of the castle, moving unseen through the hidden passages and easily spying on everyone, but her presence adds a sad layer of mystery to the show.

But the biggest source of supernatural inspiration and intrigue for me so far has been the Pagans in the woods. There’s so much going on there, and Francis’s half-brother Sebastian is involved somehow. I can’t wait for it to all play out and to get more on this. I draw a lot of inspiration from Celtic legends for my books, and the fact that they’ve been referred to as Druids in the story really excites me.

The fantastical elements of this show are played out very subtly, which I really enjoy. It’s such a change from shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Merlin” where the supernatural is front and center. The supernatural in this show only serves to add more layers to the magic that is already happening between the characters.

Image from buddytv.com

 

And, boy, is there magic. The chemistry between these actors is just phenomenal, and the stage presence they have alone is awesome too. Especially Sebastian, played by Torrance Coombs.

I’d like to think his draw isn’t just from his drool-worthy looks (and my tendency to fangirl out), but from his screen presence as well. He tends to steal every scene he is in, and I think a big part of that is that he is always in character and his character is always reacting somehow, giving you the impression that there is more to this bastard-born young man than meets the eye. There’s a love triangle brewing as both Francis and Sebastian begin to fall for our dear Queen Mary, but it is definitely a slow burn, which is refreshing to see.

I’m all about a character driven story, and “Reign” definitely falls under that category. If there was no love between Mary and the brothers, it wouldn’t be as enticing to me even with the hint of supernatural elements. But this show has the whole package for me: romance, intrigue, hints of magic and prophecy, and suspense. It makes me want to drop my WIP and go back to my fantasy series. So if you are finding yourself lacking in the inspiration department, I would highly recommend it.

 

What would fantasy writers do without Pinterest?! October 10, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:52 am
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Quick note: I know I said I would blog about Line Editing, but I decided to wait until next month after I’ve finished doing line edits on my second novel. Stay tuned!

I just had to take a moment to talk about one of the lovely places all of us fantasy writers go when we’re low on inspiration, waiting for a reply from someone and our thumbs just aren’t busy, or (dare I say it?) procrastinating. But here’s the wonderful thing about it: if I’m hiding from work, waiting for something, or just having a downer, Pinterest almost always takes me back to that writing zone. I don’t know how it does this, but without fail there will be a perfect little piece of art that will grab me and instantly transport me to another world. My brain starts working creatively as soon as I catch my breath of awe. Emotions evoked send me to my story zone and DUDE, I AM THERE.

What do I pin? Well, it can be anything from a scene that captures the feelings in my story, such as this:

Marina by Guily ^^ on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/giulia_tamas/

to a moody image that describes a scene:

to a moment that provokes all kinds of feels:

By smoothdude on Flickr

to a snapshot of a character that describes them so perfectly, I can’t even:

via weheartit.com

Fantasy authors such as Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas use Pinterest all the time, especially because it’s great for worldbuilding. Little snippets that remind us of our worlds can be easily arranged in a symphonic manner to instantly immerse just by revisiting a board. (I know the There and Draft Again ladies are on Pinterest quite often, because I follow them and they post awesomeness!)

For me, Pinterest has the same squeal-factor as watching my favorite movies, only it takes less than a minute to scroll through a board I’ve made or find a few pins from a friend who inspires me. Yep, I’m here today to hook you on another form of social media. To convince you it belongs in a fantasy writer’s toolbox. You’re probably in desperate need of it and don’t know it yet. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

And, if you’d like to, feel free to share your Pinterest handle in the comments so fellow fantasy writers can follow and be inspired by what YOU are inspired by. 🙂

–Rachel O’Laughlin

Final Note: Another great thing about Pinterest is that — like Tumblr — it does a great job of maintaining the trail of creation. Artists get credit for their work wherever it is repinned. All pictures in this post are linked directly to their original pins, where you’ll find links to the original content.

 

Epic Eras September 4, 2013

I’ve just started reading Shield of Thunder, the first book of David Gemmell’s excellent Troy series; which, a hundred pages in, has already captured my imagination and drawn me into the ancient world of Odysseus, Penelope, Achilles and Kalliope.

It’s not the first novel I’ve read based in this era (fantasy or otherwise), Sara Douglass’ Troy Game series had its roots here, weaving a magical fantasy tale right out of the labyrinth into the heart of wartime London; Rick Riordian’s Percy Jackson series leans heavily on the mythology of that time; and who could overlook the movie Troy, which at least gave a taste of the larger than life characters who made a such an impression on history and legend.

But what makes this period such great fodder for the writer of epic fantasy is not only the abundance of kings and the history of battles and intrigues, it was also the time of the storyteller. Great battles have been fought countless times throughout the ages, but in the time of ancient Greece, the retelling was coloured by myth and becomes something quite magical.

For writers seeking to create memorable characters, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of these eras. If you write heroic fantasy, what made the heroes of legend? What drove them? What drew people to them? Or who or what was it that provoked them to action? How did the social structure contribute, especially in the areas of religion, slavery, natural resources and education?

David Gemmell, in my opinion, got it exactly right. His Odysseus is as charismatic and mesmerising as a man of legend should be; managing to be both powerful and vulnerable, virtuous, sentimental and pragmatic.

Yet this is no cookie-cutter hero. Gemmell draws Odysseus’ character through his reaction to the death of a recently deceased crew-member, a run-away princess, dishonoured soldiers and a huge black pig!

Although the world of ancient Greece has influenced many fantasy writers, there are many other eras (on a grand or small scale) that are equally as captivating: The Scotland of William Wallace; Marco Polo’s journey into the heart of the Orient; the record breaking airmen and woman who flew around the world in planes held together with wire and string; the Kennedy Era and the first astronauts.

History might provide the major plot points, but for writers there are endless possibilities to explore the crevices in between.

Has an era or a person from history ever influenced your writing? 

– by Raewyn Hewitt