There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Book Recommendations: Writing Craft April 19, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:34 am
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Hi everyone!

Today we decided to share with you our favorite books on the writing craft!

Kate recommends: ON WRITING by Stephen King

on-writing

” It’s part autobiography and part advice on the craft. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and full of notes in the margins. It’s encouraging, especially during my bouts of massive self doubt, honest, and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious. I’d recommend it to any writer regardless of where they are in their writing journey.”

Rachel recommends: NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! by NaNoWriMo’s founder Chris Baty

no-plot-no-problem

“I have lots of books on writing craft, and while they all contain helpful techniques, tips, and rules of thumb, my biggest issue is being able to set aside all of the perfectionist noise of my brain and simply write words. Baty’s NaNo-ing guide gives me a pep talk every time I pick it up, and that’s been invaluable since I started taking my writing seriously.”

She also recommends: SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King

self-editing

“Since I self-publish, I need as many checks and balances as I can manage on each manuscript, and this book is an excellent tool for revisions before actual edits.”

Raewyn recommends: THE FIRST FIVE PAGES: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO STAYING OUT OF THE REJECTION PILE by Noah Lukeman

First Five Pages

“It’s a practical little book, with some good end of chapter exercises to measure your writing against.”

Jessica recommends: THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS by James Scott Bell

ArtOfWarforwriters

“It’s very easy to get into and his writing is engaging and encouraging.”

She also recommends: WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KID LIT by Mary Kole

writing irresistible kid lit

“It really breaks down how the YA and MG market and what types of writing really sings for that market. It has great examples over lots of different YA and MG genres. I loved it. “

Finally, my recommendation is: HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

Hownottowriteanovel It is a hilarious book that is also an invaluable source of information about what NOT to do when you are trying to write a publishable novel.

What are YOUR favorite books on writing? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

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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

 

Letting Go Of Inhibitions February 26, 2014

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

 

Art Imitating Life? February 8, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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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

 

On Querying and Originality in Fantasy January 25, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Hi everyone!

If you’re a writer in the query trenches now or if you’re planning on looking for an agent and getting traditionally published in the future, you know that getting rejections is part of the process.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to assume the Querying Writer has done her research, finished and polished her manuscript, written a professional query letter and put together a list of relevant agents to contact, along with their submission guidelines.

There are many, many reasons for an agent to send the Querying Writer a rejection, and for nearly every single one of them there’s a solution. Sometimes, the agent will tell you what’s wrong with your submission: it’s called a personalized rejection. Other times, the agent won’t tell you why she’s rejecting your manuscript: it’s the infamous Form Rejection.

Thankfully, a few agents use Twitter to reveal the most common reasons why they reject a submission. They use the #10queriesin10tweets or #tenqueries hashtags. And one reason that keeps popping up when it comes to Fantasy manuscripts is this one:

Sara Megibow Tweet

The premise isn’t unique/original/inventive enough.

In a sea of submissions, agents and editors are looking for a Unique Concept. Or a Familiar Story With An Unexpected Twist. They want the Unfamiliar. They want to be Surprised. As we do, as readers.

So how do you avoid being rejected for lack of originality? Here are a few pointers:

  • Research the industry: find out what’s on the shelves right now or what will hit the shelves in the next 18 months. This will give an idea of what agents/editors have already seen and aren’t looking for.
  • Avoid tropes in your writing: I recommend this website to find out which writing devices have been overdone.
  • Read: writing a Fantasy book requires reading Fantasy book, to avoid the annoying predicament which consists in writing a book that already exists.

Are you worried about how original your manuscript is or isn’t? Have you had rejections stating your premise felt too familiar? What have you done to ensure your book was as original as possible? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

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