There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Writing Obstacles: The Best Laid Plans, Orcs, and the Kitchen Sink November 20, 2013

At heart I’m a storyteller. I’d like nothing better than to spin tales upon gossamer threads, write so ferociously that my fingers develop callouses as tough as the sole of a hobbit’s foot, and to sweep my readers off on a journey that will both entertain and challenge them. Yet it can be a hard slog carving out time to make this writing dream a reality, because often things happen that make writing time as elusive as the one ring itself.

The Best Laid Plans.

The problem with a plan is you can’t cover every eventuality. This morning I planned to get up at 6am and have at least an hour working quietly on the blog before the family woke up. At 6.15 the first child came out rubbing his eyes, delighted to find he had his mother all to himself…

In a story, thwarting the plan creates good tension. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf hasn’t even finished giving Frodo his super-secret-brief when he finds Sam Gamgee ‘not listening‘ outside the window.  Not to mention the Fellowship so carefully put-together at the Council of Elrond lasts about five minutes when the chips are down. In fact the most successful plan in the whole story is Frodo’s very vague idea to head in the direction of Mordor and see what happens.

As a writer, I’m learning Frodo’s attitude is pretty good: you just have to keep heading in the general direction and do what you can.

Dealing with Life’s Little Challenges. (Or Overrun by Orcs)

The foes that come against our characters come in all shapes and sizes. If I had to describe the challenges I’ve been facing lately I’d say they are life’s Orcs. Not complex or difficult to overcome, but annoying and arriving en mass.

This week I’ve locked my keys in the car on the main street in town at night, planted a whole heap of seedlings only have half of them blown out of the ground by a freak wind-storm, dug up by cats, or scratched out by the neighbours chickens who found a hole in the fence. In a fit of spring-cleaning madness I sprayed the oven with oven cleaner (that part doesn’t take long) – but when I had to clean it out in a hurry could only find 5 (yes you read that right) left hand kitchen gloves. The top of the plug snapped off while the sink was full of water and I had to pry it out with a knife and I dropped a big tub of crayons and miscellaneous craft objects all over the floor just before dinner guests were due to arrive.

None of these things are a big deal; but they can be time-consuming, frustrating and certainly aren’t productive.

However I love Merry and Pippin’s strategy with Orcs: Keep a low profile and crawl away if you have the opportunity. It’s easy to be distracted by things going awry, but try to keep things in perspective. If things go wrong, do what you have to, but try and protect your writing time too. Sometimes you have to leave the water in the sink and deal with it later.

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink.

Sometimes life throws the most unexpected things at you – including the kitchen sink. The same way writing challenges come in all shapes and forms; plot problems, lack of inspiration, the hard slog of editing, illness, family commitments, unexpected visitors… Whatever form your obstacle takes, consider the dogged determination of your own characters and make a commitment to keep up with them. After all, if we can come up with creative ways to get our characters out of trouble, we can surely come up with ways to overcome any writing challenge.

Have you faced any writing challenges this week?

-by Raewyn Hewitt

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World-Building Resources (Part 1) December 27, 2012

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 1:32 am
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When I set out to create this particular blog, I had a list of books I planned on recommending to you all that are great resources for world-building. As it turns out, I’m a pantser even when it comes to blogging. Because as I went on vacation with my husband for Christmas, inspiration for one of the best and cheapest world-building resources ever came to me: Nature.

 

What is the one thing that all fantasy worlds have in common? There has to be some sort of nature, some sort of plant-life for the inhabitants of that world to survive off of. And this is, to me, one of the most important aspects of world-building. You don’t need to spend five pages describing a leaf, but it is very important that the reader be immersed in the world your characters are traveling through. Tolkien and Rowling both did amazing jobs with this. Their worlds were so vivid they might as well have been characters in the books. I feel like I know Middle Earth and Hogwarts better than I know my own backyard. Why? Details. And because I don’t go in my backyard a lot, but I digress.

 

You see, my husband and I set out on our Christmas jaunt and he decided to surprise me by taking me on a hike through the woods where The Hunger Games was filmed. No, The Hunger Games has nothing to do with my manuscript and would hardly fit in the epic fantasy genre, but it is yet another example of an author who knew what she was doing with world-building. Oddly enough, my mind wasn’t on Suzanne Collins or her books while we traipsed through the woods where the movie was filmed. I found myself in awe of the sites on this hike. The views were amazing and so magical I would (and probably will) use them as inspiration for my series.

 

Which is what led me to this blog. Usually, when doing research for world-building I turn to books and the internet. I have a whole slew of pictures of castles and rolling green hills and oceans and lakes. But in all my hours of surfing online, I’ve forgotten one very vital thing I would like to remind you all of today.

Triple Falls, NC

Triple Falls, NC

If you are looking for a magical world to help you build your own, sometimes you need to look no further than the one you live in.

 

Sure, surfing the net is fine. And books are a great help (see my recommendation below for a great one to get you thinking about the plants in your world). But if you really want to know what it would be like for your character to hike by a river or through a vast forest of trees, then try it out for yourself. Not only will you have experience to use in your writing, but you’re bound to find inspiration as well.

 

If you’re looking to start your world-building with nature and need more to go on than a hike with breathtaking views, check out this book for information on different herbs:

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Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham is a great source of the magical aspects of the plants around us. Some have healing properties, others bring luck. Cunningham discusses herb magic in this book, but if herb magic isn’t the way you want to go it is still a great resource. Need to know what plants to line the way of a dark and eerie path your characters need to take? Look at the meaning behind herbs and the plants they come from (or flip through the illustrations). The book is available through Amazon or Barnes&Noble (available in both Kindle and Nook formats). Amazon also has a pretty good preview of the book available for viewing, so I would strongly recommend you take a look before you purchase to make sure this book will be helpful to you.

 

 

What world-building resources do you use? Hit the comments to give us your recommendations!

-Mara

 

Holiday Worldbuilding December 22, 2012

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:58 pm
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The holidays are upon us and I thought I’d discuss how important including them in your worldbuilding can be to the realism of the story. Now, this doesn’t mean your manuscript requires Christmas. Especially not if your fantasy takes place elsewhere or in a realm where Christmas does not exist. However, you can and should mirror the importance of holidays in your text.

Holidays create a sense of culture and community and by adding them to the world you’ve built, it gives credibility and believability to your work. There’s a few brainstorming steps you can take to create the appropriate holidays for your story:

1-      Assess the culture and community you have in your world

2-      Review our Earthly holidays (across national borders) to get inspiration

3-      Write ideas and notes about the type of celebration you wish to include

4-      Develop your holidays with traditions and nuances to bring it to life

5-      Insert into your story with foreshadowing and hints before its introduction whether on the forefront of the narrative or in the background

If you think about your favorite fantasy stories, they all employ holidays as a way of creating a rich culture for readers to immerse themselves in. You might not have believed before reading this how important holidays can be to worldbuilding, but with a little brainstorming, research and creativity, you can pull together a wonderful celebratory day or several that your readers will fawn over.

Rachel