There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Creature Feature Edition May 2, 2013

We are still on the journey to creating our encyclobibliogrimoires for our fantasy worlds, and today I thought we might mix two related topics: Creatures and Races.

First, let’s distinguish between the two. Obviously, Races need to be your more sentient beings whereas creatures would be the things that go bump in the night or swoop in from overhead. No, no swooping. As Alistair might say: Swooping…is…bad. For characters, anyway, but not for plot. Which is why you want to include them in your encylobibliogrimoire. If your characters have to fight magical creatures of some kind, you need to be able to keep them straight in your head and know at least as much about them as your characters will.

How you distinguish between the beasts and beings is, of course, at your discretion. But for organizational purposes I suggest doing it. For example, I would consider the House Elves from Harry Potter to be beings, not creatures, because they are intelligent and have their own cultures and traditions. But I would consider the giant spiders to be creatures because, well, they scare me.

Like I said, your discretion. Here’s an example from my bestiary for Heirs of War:

Black Dog by Micha F. Lindemans (Encyclopedia Mythica)

The black dogs are found all over the British Isles, especially on deserted roads. They are roughly the size of a calf and they move in utter silence, except for the clicking of their claws. The chill despondency and despair these dogs cause is the reason why there are no detailed descriptions of their appearance. While a companion is no guarantee for safety — for one might see the dog and the other might not — it offers a better protection than walking alone. It is said that the best companion is a descendant of Ean MacEndroe of Loch Ewe. He rescued a fairy once and in return he and his descendants were given perpetual immunity from the power of the black dogs. (See also Barghest).

Some creatures I have pictures of, others I don’t. Now, here’s an example of a description of one of my races:

Donnfaybrownies

Description:

  • “a pair of eyes so big they gave the impression that someone had screwed two light bulbs into a light brown furry face and painted large brown dots on them”
  • “humanoid creature with its gangly limbs. The creature was maybe two feet tall, coming to just above the girl’s knees. Two skinny hands were placed on its hips, the thin lips of the creature’s mouth pulled down as it frowned”

Origins:

Brownies are invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country buildings within Scotland. While the members of the household are asleep they go about doing labours for the house owners. Brownies are protective creatures and become attached to the families if the family move the Brownie will move with them. If a brownie is treated badly by the family or is offered payment the brownie vanishes without trace. Children because of their innocent nature can only see Brownies, though this does not prevent the brownies from helping adults

The donnfay aren’t one of my more prominent races, more just a nod to my love of Irish and Scottish folklore. Hence why there isn’t a lot of information on them. The more prominent a race features in your story, the more information you should have on them. You should include their origins (which part of your world or land), their traditions, their cultures, their physiology, any special powers or gifts they have, their weaknesses, their prejudices…the list can go on and on. Don’t panic if you can’t answer all of those criteria and don’t feel like you are overdoing it if you have more. Keep in mind that your encyclobibliogrimoire is there as an aid for you.

We’ll talk about geography next go round. For now, make sure you hit the comments to let us all know how your encyclobibliogrimoire is going!

Mara Valderran
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Dori and the Legendary First Draft March 20, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:30 am
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~ by K. L. Schwengel

It’s an ugly beast.

Disjointed, and awkward, it has too many of some things and not enough of others. Parts of it seem half-formed, as though the power that created it left off too early or couldn’t figure out how to finish that particular appendage. Other parts of it shimmer with perfection, nearly flawless in their beauty. When it moves, it does so hesitantly in great lumbering strides. Then suddenly it surges ahead with all the speed and care of a juggernaut only to flop onto the ground, panting, uncertain of what to do next.

This is no mythical creature. No being drug from the depths of murky legend. This, my friends, is the dreaded First Draft.

Ah, yes, I can see by your expressions that some of you are quite familiar with this being. Perhaps you have your very own you are struggling with? Or have you recently bid one Finis! and tucked it in to sleep while you prepare the shredding tools?

In all the long process of writing, the First Draft, for this writer at least, is the most difficult part. Getting from, “It was a dark and stormy night,” to “The End” is a long, torturous journey for me. Mostly because I suffer from incurable rewriteritess. I want every word on the page to be perfect. To glisten like a polished sword slicing through the low mist of early morning. I can’t tolerate plot holes. Little details make me squirm as though someone has put tacks on my chair. Fighting with my characters makes me cranky.

But if I gave in to all that (which I have) I would never get anything done. I would work on the same handful of chapters over and over (which I have). So, how do I get over my rewriteritess and forge ahead?

So glad you asked! Here are my tricks:

  •  I repeat to myself: You can’t edit a blank page. I can’t take credit for that quote, but don’t remember who can. Regardless, I intend to put that above my monitor. And if you just keep editing the same pages over and over you’ll never get to Finis!
  • If I get really and truly stuck I do this: [Just keep writing and fill this in later] Seriously. There are such bracketed notes all throughout my first drafts of late. Just keep writing, just keep writing . . . who else is hearing Dori?
  • I mention it to my writer pals, and they kick me in the arse.
  • My husband asks, “How’s the book coming?” I reply, “I’m stuck.” He says, “Just keep going.”
  • I remind myself that the First Draft is allowed to suck. That’s truly its purpose. It can’t rise above and become a polished gem until it gets rough cut first. Even when I paint, my pictures invariably go through what I term The Ugly Stage. I don’t show them to anyone during that phase. They’re horrid. I’m working things out — colors, details, placement — and only after The Ugly Stage can I begin to fine tune them.
  • I tell myself no one is ever going to read the First Draft. It is for my eyes only. It doesn’t matter if I’m passive, use too many adverbs, or left a participle dangling somewhere, because once the beast is whole, I can fix those issues. I can smooth and massage and tweak to my heart’s content. But you cannot tweak an unfinished beast.

So, what tricks do you have to forge ahead in your First Draft?

 

Writerly Tools: Critiquing Edition March 7, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 1:18 am
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I fully intended on the Editing Edition to be the last edition of the Writerly Tools feature, but new ideas keep finding me! This week, I had the pleasure of being introduced to a few new tools myself, which means I am passing them along to you!

So, you’ve plotted your novel. You’ve written your novel. You’ve exhausted every thesaurus resource your fingertips could possibly find online. And now you’ve edited your novel. Now what?

Now it is time to share your precious gem with other writers in the hopes of having them rip it to shreds and destroy your writerly self-confidence. The latter will, hopefully, only be a momentary reaction, but it will be a reaction nonetheless. Give yourself a moment. Scream and yell and stamp your feet as you cry to the world about how unfair your evil shiny new critique partner is. Cry it out.

…Maybe not that much.

Okay, in all seriousness and now that I can cross “Use James van der Beek crying meme” off my bucket list, a new set of eyes is just what you need. And I don’t mean your mother or your best friend. While sharing our stories with the people we love is great, the problem is that, well, they love us. Which means their eyes are biased when we need critical. I’m not suggesting you go share your precious story with the bully who stole your lunch money growing up, but you do want someone who is going to be honest with you. Here’s some advice that’s been given to me over time on the subject of critique partners:

  1. Look for someone within your own genre. Someone who loves John Grisham novels might not be the best fit for a book targeting the same readership as Jodi Picoult. Sure, people are capable of reading different genres and enjoying them. But when looking for someone to critique fantasy, I generally like to know they’ve written their fair share as well.
  2. Make sure you are on the same schedule. People have busy lives and would-be authors are no different. Juggling writerly responsibilities and real life can be difficult. So if you want someone who can do a chapter a week, be clear with that.
  3. Have a good idea of what you are looking for. Grammar edits? Plot holes? Character contradictions? All of the above? You might not be able to find just one person to do it all. Which leads me to…
  4. Have more than one. Have a few, if you can. You want your novel to be the best it can be, and one set of eyes might not be able to get it there. Don’t be afraid to have more than one person critiquing it.
  5. The most important part: LISTEN. Like I said before, cry it out and have that visceral first reaction. But then you need to clear your head and get back in the game. Writing the book is not even half the battle. Keep in mind that your critique partners are not out to get you and your little novel too. They are trying to make it better and if they are spending the time critiquing it, chances are they believe in the book and in you. Pay attention to what they say and know when to take their advice and when to put your foot down.

My first critique partner from the net is actually a poster on this blog and she pushed me. Hard. She would tell me “I know you can do better than this” and ya know what? She was right. And my writing is all the better for it.

So now that I am stepping off my soap box, you might be asking “Where can I find a critique partner?” Calling out to the masses on Twitter might be great for finding beta-readers, but with critique partners you need to make sure you are good matches for one another. Which is why I recommend you check out these three sites to find a critique partner (or three) of your own:

  • Figment.com: On the first glance, this might look like a place to post fiction and get reviews. Which is great, but not exactly what we are talking about here. If you dig a little deeper, you can see where it comes in handy. You can create your own profile (for free!), join groups, and post requests for critique partners in the forums. Posting a couple of chapters is also a good way of reeling in someone who might be interested in critiquing.
  • Ladies Who Critique: This site might be a bit gender-biased, but I have to say I’m loving it. I posted my profile, joined the sci-fi/fantasy group, and am now communicating with potential critiquers.
  • Critique Circle: Now, I literally just registered for this site since I’ve been busy with the other two, so I can only tell you the basics. They work on a credit system, which means you have to first critique before you can submit your own story to be critiqued. How many credits that will cost you depends on the length of the story. Now, before you start to grumble (like I did) about the credit system, think about it like this: Their system guarantees each member is actually critiquing instead of just tossing theirs out there. It’s a give and take system, which I really like. It reminds me a lot of the AbsoluteWrite forums (which, coincidentally, might be another good place to find a critique partner if you are an active member).

Overwhelmed? Good. I was too, so that makes me feel a bit better. Now hop to it, fantasy writers! Go put these tools to the test and tell me about your experiences in the comments!

 
-Mara Valderran
 

Writerly Tools: Editing Edition February 22, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 4:44 am
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Here at There & Draft Again, we’ve gone over lots of helpful tips and tools you can use when writing your novel. World-building resources. Thesauruses to help expand your prose a bit. Building characters. POV. But what if you’re past all of that? What if you’ve already written your first, even your second or third draft of your manuscript?

Well, first of all, let’s start by saying:

congrats

You’ve finished writing a book! Time to publish!

Wait, that’s not what I meant at all. What I really meant was that you are, as most people say, halfway through the battle. In reality, I think it is more like 1/4 of the way but who am I to nitpick?

The point, of course, is you have a long journey ahead of you filled with editing, beta readers, crit partners, etc. All of which you will need to get your manuscript shiny enough to send off to an agent or publisher. In this edition of Writerly Tools, we will be discussing editing with advice as well as tools you can use.

First piece of advice: Never submit a first draft to anything besides a beta reader or crit partner. First drafts are just that–first drafts. The harsh reality is there is a lot more work that goes into being a writer than the fun parts like developing characters, world-building, etc.

writers2

In fact, sometimes it can feel like a full-time job after the first draft is done. So what do you do? Where do you start? Well, with some nifty tools of course. We’ve already touched on this, but a thesaurus is really your best friend when it comes to editing. We all have our favorite words in our ever-expanding vocabularies, but you want to make sure that doesn’t show too much in your manuscript. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of editing, you can try these three tools:

1. Wordle: This is a word map of your manuscript. I have not been able to get it to successfully work for me, but other people have and speak very highly of it. Basically, you plug in your manuscript/chapter and Wordle will create word maps, or word clouds, of your piece. The bigger words are the most used, which tells you that you need to narrow down the usage a smidge (or more if you are like me and love it when characters purse their lips). Best part: It’s free! Worth a shot!

2. Autocrit: Oh, how can I sing thy praise, Autocrit.com? Not only do you offer a free preview by allowing authors to paste 700 words into your wizard and spit out some interesting bits (like overused words, for example), but for a fairly decent price you can subscribe for a year and get access to even more tools like cliches and redundancies, pronoun usage, and many more. I got the Platinum membership for $77 a year and I definitely recommend it, especially for editing novices like me. The process of editing can be overwhelming and this definitely has some good pointers as to where to start and helps you develop an eye for mistakes.

3. MyWriterTools Editor Edition: I can’t say too much about this because I don’t have it myself, but it does look appealing. It seems to be a plugin for Microsoft Word and creates checklists for writing, proofreading, and editing for you. If I am reading the site correctly, the program also creates your very own style sheet. This is definitely on my “want” list, but since I just got Autocrit and this program is $49.99 ($29.99 introductory price) and I am still learning about it, it will have to wait. Have you used this program before? Sound off in the comments!

I know not all of us can afford editors, but sometimes these programs might help offset editing costs while making your manuscript stand out as something, well, not riddle with errors. It might be worth the investment if you find yourself in the position to make it.

What are some of your tips and tricks of the editing trade? Tell us what you use and what you think of the recommendations!

Mara Valderran