There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

What I Learned from JK Rowling February 19, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:25 am
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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

 

It’s Not So Bad . . . Is It? October 16, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:30 am
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So, here’s the thing. I read this really great, enlightening post on the word ‘it’, and said word’s usage in writing. That being, laziness. Now that I want to reference the original post, I can’t locate it. I even went back in my handy WordPress reader. No luck. Which means the blog was one of those I get e-mail updates on and I’ve deleted it.

Anyhow, I will admit, I never gave It much thought until I read that post. I mean, who doesn’t use that tiny word, right? Such a simple creature, really. Two letters. Most times I’m not even aware I’ve read It. Like ‘said’, It blends into the sentence, unassuming and totally at peace with the surrounding words. It causes little trouble. Keeps to Itself. I never suspected It suggested laziness as a writer. I actually hadn’t dwelt on It at all.

Until that fateful post. Now I can’t get It out of my head. But I’m very conscious of trying to remove it from my writing now. Is that good or bad? I haven’t yet decided. I don’t want to be a lazy writer. I don’t want to use words such as thing, stuff, something . . . You know, “He picked up the thing.” Well, what is the thing? What’s it look like, feel like, smell like? Even if he doesn’t know what the thing is, he certainly knows those bits of information. Right?

“He heard something.” Really? Something like . . .  a whistle, a hoot, a scream, a bang, a thump . . .what?

Now there’s It.

Is this lazy writing? Jenner picked up the sword. He swung it, marveling at the way it whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. It could be his if he wanted it.

All right, it’s not winning any literary awards, that’s not the point. The point is, what if I write this instead: Jenner picked up the sword. He swung the weapon, marveling at the way the blade whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. The sword could be his if he wanted to part with his gold.

Is the second attempt better with the elimination of It? I definitely had to work harder, coming up with other words to replace those two lovely letters. Did the change improve the writing? What do you think? Does It go onto the list of Lazy Writer Words That Shall Be Avoided?

~ K. L. Schewngel

 

Balancing Your Writerly World with Real Life September 29, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:03 pm
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I know I’m supposed to be wrapping up the Fantasy Bible tips in my post today, but something else has come to light. Namely, that my post was supposed to happen yesterday and I completely forgot about it. Why? Because I was too caught up with life. It’s a lame excuse, but it is the truth.

Which brings me to the topic today. As we continue down our writerly paths and writing becomes more of a career, complete with responsibilities and deadlines, how do we balance it? That’s one of the most common questions I ask when I interview other authors for blog tours: How do you balance your writerly life with your non-writerly life?

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It isn’t all fun and games and social media. When you commit to a blog post, you need to stick to it. When you sign up for a blog tour, you need to make sure you don’t double book and that you post on time. When you get to the point of publishing your book, you will have deadlines to stick to (this is true for traditional and non-traditional publishing). You’ll need to connect to your audience and engage them through social media. Once you join a critique group, you’ll need to do your fair share and read your partners’ works as well. And you still need to be writing and reading.

Overwhelmed yet? Understandable. But we can’t just spend our lives in front of our laptop screens, even if it seems like our writerly lives demand it of us. We have friends, family, kids, jobs…Sometimes the list of responsibilities we have can be daunting.

So here are some tips to help strike a balance (like I failed to do yesterday):

  1. Keep a calendar. When you make commitments of any kind, view those as appointments and put them on your calendar. I use Google calendar to keep my blog tour dates straight. I even color-code it so I know which posts I need to write and which have already been written. If I commit to review a book, I also put the deadline on the calendar and set reminders. Make a habit of checking your calendar at least once a day to make sure you are on top of the tasks for the week.
  2. Stay organized. This doesn’t just include files on your desktop. It’s very important that you keep your email clean and orderly as well. If you engage in blog tours and critique groups, create separate folders to hold those emails. You’d be surprised how often you’ll need to go back and reference them, and this helps cut down on the search time. This is also a good way to keep up with social media. I have a folder for Twitter followers. When I get an email notifying me of a new follower, I put it in that folder so I can go back and check them out later (I never auto-follow).
  3. Give yourself a break. Writing isn’t just a hobby for most of us. It is a job. So this means that if you are setting out to edit or write for the day, you need to make sure you are giving yourself breaks, just like you would take at an onsite job. Walk away from your computer for an hour to do something else.
  4. Don’t neglect yourself. This goes along with the breaks, but it needs a point of its own. It is way too easy to forget to eat, or spend your day imprinting your couch cushion with your butt. You need to take care of yourself. Make a real meal. Go jump on the treadmill or take a walk. Just make sure you are still taking care of you.
  5. Give yourself a day off. Most people get these with their so-called “9-5” gigs. You should get them too. Spend some time with your friends. Go out and be social. Your writerly world will still be there tomorrow. (And if you fear it won’t, you can still stay connected with your phone, but no more!)
  6. Have an end of day. For some people, there’s no getting around this. Once the kids get home from school or the spouse gets home from work, the laptop gets put away. Family should always come first. But if you don’t have someone (or ones) forcing you to end your writing shift, do it yourself. If you keep running from morning til night, you are eventually going to run on empty and get burned out. And this will also help to ensure you don’t forget about commitments if you make sure all your work is done before your “end of shift”.

Doing these things might seem like no-brainers, but it is easy to let some of them slip by the wayside. What are you guilty of when it comes to writing?

~Mara V

 

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Races August 11, 2013

Not every fantasy novel has to have different races, but if you decide to go that route, you should most definitely include all the details of the races you create in your fantasy bible. Why? To save you headaches and prevent continuity errors.

You might think you know the ins and outs of your world like the back of your hand, but as your world continues to grow, it is going to be harder and harder to keep track of each detail. Going from personal experience, I would actually say detailing whatever races you create is probably of the most importance.

I know, I know. How can creating a race of people be more important than outlining the governmental system under which your world operates? Well, because your characters might not come across every part of that system. But racial traits influence who your characters might be, and help to emphasize plot points as well.

Take, for example, the hobbits of Lord of the Rings. They are kind, simple, and gentle folk. It is in their nature to be warm and happy, which proves to be a stark contrast to how dark and depressed Frodo becomes under the influence of the ring. If he was as sullen as Aragorn could be, the heavy influence the ring has over those who possess it might not be as clear.

Another example would be the house elves from Harry Potter. They have their own rules they live by, which causes them to essentially become slaves to wizards. They are owned, and to be freed is shameful. But they are also incredibly loyal, which drives Dobby to help Harry time and time again. This same trait led to Kreacher’s ill demeanor, and is the cause for the insanity plaguing his mind.

If all house elves were meant to be warm and fuzzy, we wouldn’t have Kreacher. If all hobbits weren’t kind-hearted and loyal, Sam might’ve ditched Frodo at the first mood swing. The characteristics of their races help to define them as characters, and help them to stand out as well. Hobbits aren’t naturally brave, but the four we journey with sure are. House elves aren’t meant to question their owners, but Dobby does, and even punishes himself in order to do so.

So what are some of the things you might want to include about the race you are creating? A lot of the same things you might include about a particular character. Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself as you create your race, or even as you play around with that race more:

  • What are some of the physical attributes the people of this race share? (Ex: Hair color, skin tone, height, build, etc)
  • What are some of the physical abilities the people of this race share? (Ex: Heightened sense of smell, speed, agility, etc)
  • What kind of religion or rituals do the people of this race follow? (Ex: Human sacrifice, multiple deities, coming of age rituals)
  • What sort of laws does the society of this race adhere to? (Ex: Mixing with other races, competing for a hand in marriage by a fight to the death, etc)
  • Where (geographically) do these people originate from? (Ex: Another world, a desert land, mountains, etc)
  • What are some common personality traits of this race? (Ex: Compassionate vs cold and logical, animalistic vs etiquette, naive vs skeptical, etc)

You’ll probably find that some of these questions go hand in hand together. The religion or rituals they follow probably influence their society on the whole. Also, their physical attributes might influence their overall characteristics as well. I’ve created three races so far in my series, two of which I will use as examples here. One, the Athucreans, are a warrior race. They are very closely tied to animals (no, not werewolves), so they tend to operate a lot like a pack, which means they don’t welcome outsiders. However, the Baiul are essentially psychic vampires, feeding off the emotions of humans around them. So they are very open to socializing.

These are definitely things you need to think of because they influence how your story unfolds and how your characters interact with one another. A Baiul and Athucrean would make for a great Romeo & Juliet-esque love story (kinda bummed I never thought of that before now), or a nice antagonistic set of advisers (again, should’ve thought of that). But they wouldn’t be likely to become best friends. Kinda like a dwarf and an elf finding an unlikely friendship on the road to Mordor.

Answering these questions and solving your own mysteries surrounding the races you create will only enrich your story and your characters that much further. So what are your answers? What are some of the races you’ve created for your fantasy (or sci-fi, since the same rules apply here) worlds? How do they relate to one another?

 

Naming Names July 20, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:25 pm
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The names in fantasy novels or really any speculative book in general can often be absurd. Confusing. Misleading. Downright impossible to pronounce. Names you struggle to understand if it belongs to a male or female. Perhaps there are whirs or clicks involved, maybe a number even. The fantasy genre is notorious for producing extremely unique names and that doesn’t often work to the writer’s advantage.  But it can! There are a few things to consider when naming your fantasy cast: setting, timeframe, and audience.

When it comes to setting, think of where your story takes place. Is it on Earth? Is it in the woods? Is it on the ocean? Is it on another planet? Is it in another realm? Where your story is set should influence the names you give characters, but no matter what, remember to keep it simple.

The timeframe is also incredibly important to naming because some names were used more often in the 18th century than in the 4th century and if your story takes place on Earth during a notable time period, be sure the names fit into that. And remember, keep it simple.

Audience is extremely important to keep in mind when naming, believe it or not. If you’re writing for adults, you can probably be a bit more creative and whimsical when choosing names so long as (once again) you keep it simple. However, if you’re writing for children, especially young children, your names need to be very easily pronounced and understood.

When it comes down to it, your setting, timeframe and audience are crucial factors you need to consider when naming fantasy people. But the primary rule you should never forget is to keep it simple—knowing that you can still be creative and fun and unusual.

What are some of the most interesting names you’ve read or written about?

Rachel H

 

How to Write a Twitter Pitch for a Fantasy Novel July 13, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:16 am
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Hello everyone!

Several online writing contests are scheduled this summer, and a few of them offer the possibility to “pitch” agents and editors on Twitter, with a 140-character tweet presenting your completed manuscript. Yesterday it was #PitchMas, organised by Jessa Russo (@JessaRusso) and Tamara Mataya (@FeakySnucker). Unless I’m mistaken, the next scheduled Twitter Pitch session will be #PitchMadness, organised by Brenda Drake (@brendadrake) in September.

As I was browsing pitches yesterday, I noticed a trend with Fantasy writers: many of them openly said they had trouble summing up their 100k novel in 140 characters. And who can blame them? It IS very hard!

So here is my recipe for a successful Twitter pitch. Ready?

1 – Inciting Incident

2 – Main Character

3 – Plot

4 – Stakes

If you can fit it in:

5 – Genre

6 – Voice

You can check out examples of successfull pitches here: Carissa Taylor – March #PitMad Requested Pitches

Is it hard? Yes. It is doable? Yes! Yesterday during PitchMas, our very own Jessy Montgomery and Rachel Horwitz got requests!

So tell us: do you struggle with Twitter pitches? Did you get requests yesterday on Twitter? Make sure to leave us a comment or your questions below!

EM Castellan

 

Creating Your Fantasy Bible: The Laws of Government and Society July 10, 2013

Rules are made to be broken.

This is a common saying, but it is also a more common tool in story telling than you might think. In fantasy, our characters might battle dragons, fight in wizard duels, or march towards blue-eyed beasts that plan to eat our children. But this isn’t all they go up against. A lot of times, our characters end up fighting against society itself.

In Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, Richard and Kahlan are out to stop the oppressive Darken Rahl from leading the world to ruin. But Kahlan finds herself going up against so much more. As a Confessor, she is taught never to love because her power will only leave her with heartbreak in the end, destroying the man that she loves. She has to fight against her own beliefs–beliefs that society has passed down generation after generation–to find the truth of her power.

Frodo was a simple hobbit living a simple life, not getting involved in the affairs of men and elves. That is the way of the hobbits. They are a peaceful folk. And yet he sets out on an adventure much like his uncle and ends up being the key to saving Middle Earth.

I could go on and on with examples. To get to the point: Fights against mythical creatures or epic magical battles are not all there is to a story. There are layers upon layers of challenges, trials, and strife our main characters must overcome. So it is important we know how the society of our world works and the government that keeps order.

How do we start? First, you need to figure out where the power is. Some might argue that in society today, power is in money. Those who don’t have it constantly strive to make ends meat in the hopes of one day making their lives better, while those who have it make the rules for the rest. So what is the key to power in your world? In Estridia (my world), it is magic. People are born with magic in varying degrees, and those who have the most rule over the worlds. Those who have none are shunned as the Tainted, treated as though there is something ghastly wrong with them.

Okay, so now we have the key to power and know who might have it. But what about the people under them? One person or group can’t rule over everything because they can’t be everywhere at once. There’s a certain amount of delegation in government, which means other people will have jobs as well that help to maintain order. Who would those people be? Relatives, like the Lannisters? Or people with the next tier of power? Perhaps just trusted friends and confidants of the leaders?

The answer to that question will also tell you a lot about the society. If power is merely passed down from generation to generation and dependent on a blood line, how fair and just do you think that world might be? They might get lucky and have a benevolent ruler from time to time, but a family that breeds power might also breed monsters (coughJoffreycough). A leader who counts on friends and confidants to help him/her rule might be more reasonable, or be surrounded by mewing idiots that tell him/her what they want to hear.

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Every society has an order of power that enforces the rules of that society. Marriage laws. Taxes. Armies. How heavy a hand the government rules with will determine a lot about the society. Do they determine who can and cannot marry? What professions the people are allowed to enter into? What sort of taxes are imposed? Is the lower class taken care of or downtrodden with despair? Are the races allowed to intermingle?

I’m sure you see my point. I could probably write a whole other post continuing on how to define the lines of social classes, but that might venture (even more) into rambling territory. For now, I will leave you to mull over the questions of society and government with this piece of advice: Study the different societies around you and the ones from history. Figure out the differences and how the political climates might have been for the people of that time or in that area now. You might find your answers a lot closer to home than you think.

Next time, we will talk about races, and then after that we will conclude this series with a big factor in a lot of fantasy series: Magic! Hit the comments to tell us about the society of your world!