Friday, December 31, 2010

Death or Not Successful Results

This topic is thanks to my stepdad who has been talking to me lately about how in John Grisham's novels there are some where the characters die, or lose and he is surprised by that. While death is a situation used often in the ends or throughout certain types of books, there are usually restrictions on the types of characters that the author kills and there are definitely genres that expect a successful outcome of the overall plot. It's surprising when the hero doesn't win but if all books had happy endings it would start to get boring so sometimes there has to be failure. And since this involves talking about endings it seems like an appropriate last post for 2010 on this blog.

While in series and standalone novels, there are often happy endings (not just in the satisfying for the reader and story line type of way) that is not always the case. I don't mean endings per say that didn't provide for the promises made, but simply endings that don't go well for the characters. My stepdad was surprised with a few of John Grisham's books because they don't always end well for the main characters and before that he was reading long series by W.E.B. Griffin, and the main characters at least all live considering they are in the next book of the series. But the standalone novels haven't gone that way out of his reading collection and it surprises him.

Most romance has to have a happy ending, not just satisfying but the genre specific all ends well for the couple type of happiness. But in anti-romance there is a romance as part of the focal plot except things don't end well for the the couple. And it's fitting for the stories.

Of course, this can be difficult in series. At least, it is difficult when it comes to killing off main characters because some of them have to survive in order to have another book. It's harder to pull a Buffy (yes I know about that even though I've never seen it) and have the character die and then have them come back at the beginning of the next one. When the cast of main characters is big, like in epic fantasy, it is a little more possible to do the death type in the middle of a series but with a single main character that's a harder option. The real trick comes in with the last book of the series because there is a chance for not successful results and death.

Death aside, the other possibility is characters failing in their main goal. Often there will be smaller failures along the way but the end or the top of the climax in plot are what I mean here. Sometimes a failure can provide an option they didn't expect to come out of the situation. This can mean that "evil" wins, that it turns out to be a world set on repeat or a number of different options. The hero gives in the temptations he's been fighting the whole story, tainted by a magical artifact. Neo is in a loop, the matrix has things go the same way each time, or something like that. Maybe she picks the wrong guy and ends up alone. So many options but why have a not successful ending?

The truth is, as is common in writing, it depends on the story. It also depends on what is considered success. As long as it makes sense and answers the promises made throughout the novel, an ending can be as happy or sad as the story calls for. Sure, a reader may hurl the book across the room but that's not always a bad thing and it's a sign of awesomeness when a book can move someone that much. Write the ending the way it needs to be written, even if that means failure.

I haven't written this type of ending yet, but I have at least one planned so far. It's one that is fun to be cruel with because there are two men who have become really close (intimately and such) but they know it can't last. So, the end involves two men and one gun, but I won't tell anyone yet who holds the gun and who it actually kills. But to say the least, it's not the happiest ending for the characters the story surrounds. I'm sure there are others with varying degrees of success and what not, but I won't bore everyone by listing them all here.

And that's all for 2010. It has been a good year and I look forward to blogging about writing more in 2011. Look forwards to more interviews and maybe even a few guest posts. Until then... Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Writing

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The holidays can be difficult on life in general, let alone a person's solitary writing time. First it was Thanksgiving and a month later we have Christmas (or the many other holidays that different countries and religions celebrate). At my parent's house we have Thanksgiving, Christmas(mostly secular family focused stuff though some of them go to church and what not) and on the rare occasion do something for New Years.

Considering I haven't written much over the last month, I'm thinking about writing on the holidays or at least trying to write. While I don't follow the rule of "absolutely must write every single day" (obviously) I also don't mind writing on holidays as long as it doesn't take away from spending time with family.

Do you write during holidays or do you take a break?

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

How long will it take?

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Waiting and patience are vital in the publishing industry and from the outside it's hard for some to imagine that trying to get a book published isn't easy. I've posted before about how my dad thought that all a writer did was write the first draft, maybe edit a little then send off and voila! But I have to be a little honest here: I thought it was going to be a little easier, or at least take a little less time than this.

Back in December of 2009, I made my writing goals for the year of 2010 and one of those goals was to not only have the YA mutant novel second draft finished (which I haven't even accomplished yet) but I thought I'd have it edited and after said edit would be able to get a query ready and start sending at the beginning of 2011. I can tell now and even figured it out months ago that the goal wasn't going to happen. It was a disappointment actually. One problem I forgot to mention when talking about writing on several manuscripts is it feels like I've spent at least 5 years working towards this goal but that hasn't been on a single project, so I don't have any that are at the ready stage. But it feels like I should. Sure, I'm closer, just not where I thought I'd be but at least I'm not rushing it by sending out a book that isn't ready. Still can't help but feel like this is taking too long though.

Anyone else think it wouldn't take a long long time?

It's almost time for 2011 goals and I'm tempted to put a query goal but not sure if it's realistic. I plan to get the novel to beta readers since I've learned that is a really good plan. Still thinking about it. There is no way of knowing yet how long it will take for me, but I do know one thing. If I'm going to get somewhere I'd better go write.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Novel Contemplation

One of the good parts about having a blog or a profile on a social media network is the ability to rant, to discuss when there is a struggle and there is someone to respond who might have a useful suggestion. While I usually use the other blog to talk about my personal writing, I think this time is a good one to post here because it fits in a topic that can also be discussed.

Part of the hardship that has been on some writers in the past is the solitude. Being alone with characters in their head all day long is enough to drive a person crazy. Plus, when getting stuck in a story, it makes the feeling seem almost daunting to overcome.

I had a ramble that went on twitter and it was one that I posted just to complain because it was late and I figured that no one would respond because many of my friends are in bed during the night. But after I posted my panic over worrying about my Young Adult novel's word count because I'm not sure if it's going to be long enough. Considering the first draft was only 23k, it's getting better but still for something that is fantasy/sci-fi those books nowadays tend to be longer. Anyways, I actually posted on twitter and an awesome writing friend (WritersBlockNZ) responded and was so awesome just to talk to me about it.

This is why writing friends are awesome and the networks used to keep in touch can be so essential. While we didn't come up with a solution, it was what I really needed. I just needed someone to talk to about it and for once that actually happened and it made me happy. So, I thought I'd post about how I'm struggling on a novel on here, because this is a writing blog.

Young Adult is not easy. I didn't really plan to write the genre, per say, but that's where this series lies so I'm going with it. While I plan the novel to at least be over 50k, I was slightly worried because it seems novels in similar subgenres of YA are in the 70-90k range instead of the shorter range that used to be more common. Maybe after the beta readers get a chance to scrounge over the novel the draft after it will be longer. Considering the first draft was 23k, I should be happy that it can get up to almost 55k in the second draft and I am. Just had to rant about my word count concerns.

The other problem I have is I'm nearing the end. It took me 2 years to do that with the first draft since I started it for nano 2007 and didn't finish that draft until late 2009. Endings are hard in part because I've only written three so far while I've started like 10 novels at least. Also, near the end there is a chapter in the 23k version that is only a few hundred words because there was a part I didn't know how or what to write. It's a part that involves punishment but I'm not sure what to do. I think it should involve mostly emotional attempts but with a few physical by the government agents on the teen boy main character. But what do I do?

Any ideas?

Anyways. The point here is it's okay to rant and sometimes just whine a little bit (just don't whine on a regular basis because people can find these online postings and maybe not appreciate the type of person you are perceived to be when doing that all the time. But get some of it out and maybe by posting about the trouble a story is giving it can help you find a solution or come to terms with the issue. As for me, I'm going to write those last 5-7 ish chapters and try to have it done by my deadline.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


No, not that kind of brand. I'm sure that many authors/writers will know by now, but for those that haven't heard this: Branding is very important for a writer who wants to be published.

What do I mean by "brand"?
Brand can be a couple of things. Sure it can be the marking that some people do on their property, like that seen on cattle or even the marking people do on their own bodies involving hot metal. Ouch! But what I mean is the name or particular type linked to a specific product. Coke is a brand of soda, for example. The brand is a form of identity for a product, service, business or person and that is what authors need to consider when figuring out their own brand.

This is where, for me, pen names come in. In fact, someone on Twitter was asking about pen names and I commented about it that mentioned branding and they liked the response.

Dawn Embers is an essential element to my brand of novels. They may not always be in the exact same genre/subgenre but there are elements that tie many of the stories together that combined with my pen name will make for what I think will be my brand. I've actually be known in writing as Dawn Embers for around 5 years now. It isn't easy to get used to at first and sometimes it feels weird to have someone call me Dawn when that isn't technically my first name. But it's getting easier and I like it, which is what really helps.

One person who blogs about marketing you all should check out is Kristie Cook. Check out her blog here: It's really great and she did several posts on marketing, including ones about brand and product.

This is a brief introduction. Maybe I'll discuss the topic more in detail but for now this is it. If there are any questions readers want to have discussed about writing on this blog my email address is available for anyone. Just send the email to DawnEmbers(at)ymail(dot)com. :-)

Do you have a brand figured out yet?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dating a Story

No, I don't mean going on a date. It's not date the dried fruit or date the social event, or even date the event on the calendar. What I mean by this is using something that will show a specific time period that the story takes place, which can either help or hinder a novel for a reader.

Old Phone, lol                     (Image Link:

Is it okay to have bands, music, tv references, language or anything else that would date a story for the reader? The truth is it depends on cause of the "dating" and the type of novel.

Dialogue is one location where it can be a problem. This is one that I've had to deal with because in one of my novels I'm trying to figure out how to write future young adult speech. Which, according to a couple of readers does not involve the teen using the word "neat". It does make sense but it's not easy to figure out how teens should speak per say when writing an alternate world type of future where the characters have genetic mutations. Using terms like "rad" and "schweet" would also cause questions to arise because language will catch a readers attention. I can't have a character that uses the word man a lot. (Such as "hey, man" and "that's chill, man".) The reason for this is I immediately see a hippy-ish, pot smoking type of character because there was a guy on my college debate team like that, one I did not like at all.

There are other things besides words that do it though. Having a reference to any type of music, band, movie, tv show or anything of the sort will date the story. There was a book I was listening to through itunes that the author had podcasted. The character was interesting and his voice was perfect for him, but there as a section where the teens were listening to music and that part really stood out because it was interesting to see the types of music he was considering when writing the novel.

And I have read a section of a story where they referenced Howdy Doody. I had to blink and try to recall in my memory anything about Howdy Doody, which was much. Nothing wrong with this but if I don't know anything about it what are the chances are that a teen within the next couple of years is going to know it at all. I'm guessing not many teens do.

Part of the point here is that it's good to be aware of the potential readers, at least when doing the rewrites in order to prepare the book for others to read. First draft throw in whatever you want but if rewriting, consider how the reader will approach the story.

I'm not saying that dating a story at all shouldn't be avoided. In fact, it can add character to the story. The reason for posting this is that I have noticed some people (including me to a small degree) are unaware of what might date a story. Yes, talking about Metallica, Howdy Doody, Pretty in Pink, or anything like that will have an effect on how the reader approaches the story because believe it or not, some won't understand the reference. But it's okay.

Just be aware of the possibility.
Now time to get back figuring out my YA novel.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Non-Writing Turducken Post

While this blog is mostly for writing topics there are a few times where other topics come up and today is one of those times. Since I've got a blogfest coming up for my other blog I thought I'd post here the slightly anticipated blog about my attempt at making a turducken.

What is a turducken?
So, glad I asked. A turducken is a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. It's a tur(key)duck(chick)en. Most of the bones need to be removed from the turkey and all of the bones have to be removed from the duck and chicken then they are combined along with stuffing before the turkey is sewn up (or skewered in a way to keep it in one piece) then cooked.

The night before, while the birds were thawing, I created a brine. This is usually just salt in water but can also contain other seasonings like peppercorns and sugar. That gets boiled then cooled. After it's cool the birds can be put in along with water and ice. The ice keeps the temperature low enough to make it safer that way. If there is a lot of room in the fridge it could be kept there without ice but that's hard to find in most fridges I would imagine. It spent over 8 hours in the brine.

Morning came along with the hard work. Had to remove the bones, which took a couple of hours. Wasn't too bad as I don't have issues with handling dead animals or anything like that and having taken anatomy type classes helped, I think. The only bad part is having to smell the dead birds for that long is a bit nauseating.  I forgot to take pictures during the first stages, sorry. But finally I got them de-boned and my sister sewed the turkey while I held it together.

The end result is this:

After de-boning the birds I had a slight problem because the roasting pan I was remembering actually belongs to my dad and he lives in Utah. Mom (in Wyoming) doesn't have a roasting pan and we didn't pick up an aluminum one at the store this year because I was thinking we had one. Luckily, Grandma had a type of roast that plugs in and it was big enough. The first 20 minutes were on high at about 450 to sear a bit, then the temperature was lowers to about 275 for a slower cook to get the center done. We checked it regularly with a meat thermometer with the hopes of it reaching 180 degrees inside. It took around 6 hours to cook all the way.

But the overall result of the cooking came out well.

It looked good though if looking closely at the picture, yes there is a split down the middle sides. I think it's how the thread was placed through only skin in that area. Will have to work on the sewing and type of twine used if I try it again.

Then it was carved by Stepdad with directions from me on how to attempt it to let everyone get a piece of each type of bird, which wasn't as easy as it would seem. The turkey and chicken look similar but the duck has darker meat.

As you can see, we attacked the end result. There were only 5 people though so that is all we ate that night: less than half. Everyone liked it and I think it's something that I'd consider making again. It takes a lot of hard work but the end result is good. A few things I could improve on, like the treatment of the skins and how it was sewn up but other than that, it was a good meal. Had a good Thanksgiving with family, which is the important part.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Yep. After writing 50,000 words in a shortish amount of time was tiring and I haven't written much since then. But I'd better wake up and get it into gear if I'm going to make my goal. As long as I get more than 67k this month I'll be very happy but 100k would be awesome. Thank goodness for the 10k in a day challenge that is happening on the 28th. Check out the blogfest if you want to try and write 10,000 words in one 24 hour time period. 10k In A Day Blogfest

Hopefully I can regain that writing streak I had the first two weeks of the month and reach my goal but it's going to be a struggle.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaNoWriMo 50k Done

At the end of day 13,  I crossed the technical NaNoWriMo finish line. I had 50,055 words in my epic fantasy novel. Yay! There was a slight hope that I'd make it a little faster than this but that's okay. Aside from the fact I had microbiology homework the first 10 days I can also say that means I have another goal for next year to see if I can do even better. There will be a point where that ends because I know I am not capable of writing 50k in one day. For now I'm more than happy about my words accomplished in 13 days.

I'd post a fun winner picture here but umm... the web site doesn't have the goodies and win/verify until the 25th so I finished too early to get that yet. lol Not a bad little problem to face really. So, I found a picture online to celebrate the joy of finishing the first 50k already.

Friday, November 12, 2010

write in chapters or scene

Chapters versus Scenes

Normally when writing a novel, no matter the draft I'm in, I write in chapters. But before I made it to the full length of a novel, I started by writing scenes. The first few years of my writing life, the part where I figured out I wanted to write, was spent either writing poems or writing scenes of stories I wanted to maybe one day make into a novel. But by my second novel writing attempt (also known as NaNoWriMo 2007) I was into chapters and continued from there. I still do some things in scenes. The romance/erotica novel I'm sort of writing at the moment is being written scene by scene and technically the blog novel "Cinder Story" is also being written in scenes for different blogfests. The rest of my novels all have been in chapters...

Except for NaNoWriMo 2010. Yep. This year I am writing my epic fantasy novel in scenes and not chapters. Back when I was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, there was a workshop on editing where the presenter said he wrote his first draft in scenes instead of chapters. He wrote science fiction but I thought it would be a good thing to try for epic fantasy too.

But what is the difference between writing in chapters versus writing in scenes and why pick one over the other? I'm glad I asked. lol

A chapter is a planned (or random) break in a story that usually requires a page turn in a printed book though there are some exceptions. The online sources I've skimmed through say that a chapter has an average of 3 to 5 scenes in general, but I've never purposefully counted scenes when writing chapters. I just write what feels right and end at a point that makes sense. Some also say that all chapter endings should have some sort of cliff hanger and/or reason for the reader to want to read the next chapter instead of putting it down. They can actually be a variety of lengths. Some make it a full page and no more while other chapters can seem to last forever. Some people try to keep their chapters uniform in length. There is a member of a writing group that I run who tries to get around 2,500 words per chapter. I tend to fall in the other camp where I don't care how long the chapter is, though I do like to get over 1,000 words if possible because less than seems so short. Since this has become the common place method for my novels, I prefer to write in chapters.

Scene changes usually occur when there is a change in location, time, and point of view. A scene can be split between too different chapters and sometimes there is a preference to those that don't end the chapter at the end of a scene because it stops the motion instead of propelling the reader forward. Writing in scene helps with keeping track as to what goes on per scene with a little less worry over chapter length and how many chapters make up a novels first draft. Sure, the rewrite will later put them into chapters but for the get it written stage, it's okay to write the scenes instead of chapters. I fail a little with this, however, because I have a few "scenes" where I write more than one character pov but that's okay. It's a first draft.

Do you write in chapters or scenes?
Would you try the other way?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update

Okay, after a little over 6 days (and a little behind personal goals but still very pleased with the progress) I made it to a big number.

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That is 1/2 of the regular NaNoWriMo goal and 1/4th of the way to my personal goal. Yep, I am officially admitting in this blog that I'm trying to write 100k in a month. And I want the first 50k to be done in 12 days at the most because my current record is 50k in 15 days. Can I do it? Let's find out!

So, how are you?
How is NaNo treating everyone else?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The One, novel that is

How does a person figure out when a novel idea is "the one"? When is that feeling not Shiny-New-Idea Syndrome? Good questions that I don't really have an answer to but I'm gonna talk about them anyways.

(Image source: kaykays-corner)

First, a confession. I know have an idea that I know for sure is "the one." How do I know? Well, that's the thing: I'm having a hard time figuring out. Not too mention the temptation of the new idea can often make it feel like it's the one cause it's all shiny and fun.

What is "the one"? 
In this case, I mean the idea that is most likely to become the first book to get the writer an agent and/or published. While it is not always known before the query stage and when the call happens (or the email), there are some people who get an idea and they get that feeling. They know... It is a gut feeling that the characters, the story are that one amazing combination that is just waiting for them to put the words down on a page and to one day prepare in a way that is ready for the world to see.

And SNI Syndrome is what?
This is "shiny new idea syndrome" and it pretty much means getting distracted from a current work in progress by a shiny new idea that comes up because it is so pretty, and new and fabulous sounding while the other story is so much work. But the SNI becomes the WIP at some point and requires work and if every SNI is followed then it can be hard to finish anything. But it's an exciting feeling when a new idea hits that sounds super amazing. I get this problem often because I have so many new ideas and some of them are very tempting but so far I do okay at avoiding the temptations.

But how does one know it's "the one?"
I don't know. It's actually really cool to see when someone else has that moment. For me, it's easier to see as the outsider, being told someone else's idea, whether it sounds like it could be the one for them. I had this recently and she is the inspiration for this blog post. *waves hi to Ashy* Sometimes, when reading someone else's story description it just has that "this has to be a published book" feel to it. That internal light bulb goes off and I must immediately tell them how awesome they are along with the amazing awesomesauceness of the idea. But that doesn't help when looking at my own writing.

My main reason for posting this is to just get my thoughts into words when it comes to my own novels but I'd like your opinions in the comments for anyone who wants to comment on the topic.

Logically (not that amazing emotional light bulb that just appears) I feel like the mutant series have potential for being that first book. However, the YA books are first when it comes to the chronological story but I'm not sure if it's developed enough. I'm almost done with the rewrite but there is a slight uncertainty that bugs me a bit. The adult book doesn't require the YA as they both work as stand alone novels, technically, but book 3 has the YA MCs as secondary characters. My concern in general is the series are a bit convoluted and might cause problems assuming anyone asked for full and I'm not sure if that's the best foot to go forward. But other than that, I have a bunch of random novels either started or almost started but the only other finished draft is a romance/erotica novel that I don't feel is my desired genre and it's definitely not "the one." Of the other ideas, I don't know which one has "the one" potential. And it's a tad frustrating.

What about you?
Believe people can have a "the one" idea?
Do you have "the one" or are you still searching for it?

Monday, November 1, 2010

On your mark, Get set...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is there Passion in Persistence?

My Dad said something to me recently that inspired this blog post. I am going to be done with school for awhile after I finish a microbiology class, online, in part because I am burned out majorly from spending most my life in school. Dad thinks it's a good idea, but he thinks I should take a break from writing too and that I need to not force the novels out by making myself write. He also thinks artists only do great works when they wait for inspiration. Yet, it brings up an interesting topic. Does persistence mean that the passion of writing gets lost in the act, or can there be passion within persistence?

I'm going to get a bit personal with this post. I think in January 2011 I'll post an official about me post but for now, here is a small insight.

I consider myself to be a writer because I write. Sure, there are some days and an occasional week where I won't get anything written of fiction, but in general I write on a regular basis. But that's not all I do. It's just I don't call myself certain labels if I don't do them often.

My bachelor's degree is called a Bachelor of Integrated Studies. The studies I integrated are English, legal studies and art with a minor in communication. Most of my art studies were in painting, having taken all 3 main painting classes available. Yet, I don't call myself a painter or even an artist. I have a degree in art, I have some paintings, but that doesn't mean I am either of those things because I haven't painted for over a year. I haven't done sketching or much art work in any way. I barely have room in my bedroom to walk in order to get to my bed, so I haven't found a spot to put up my painting stuff. So, I'm not an artist. I work on art sometimes but that's it.

I also have written poetry. Took a class on it, submitted poems and have been rejected a few times, and considered hosting a small poetry workshop in the small towns I've lived in. My portfolio has around 300 poems. But I don't call myself a poet. This is because I don't do poetry on a regular basis. I have written two poems in the last 5 months, or so. It's the sort of writing that I do either when I feel like it or when I have a challenge to do, but not something I aspire to pursue at this time.

I'm a writer. I make monthly goals, along with year goals, and do my best to accomplish them. But do goals and making oneself write mean there isn't passion in it? For me, the answer is no. I know that when I force myself to write, once I get past that hard point of starting awesome things can come out. I can't write whenever the mood strikes because then I would write at random with little focus. Each shiny idea that comes to me would get words for a short while and then I'd move on, never finishing anything. I need to have the persistence in order to give my passion room to grow.

But what do you think?
Can persistence still have the passion of the art?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NaNo Prep Last Set

That's right. We're at the end of our novel prep month.

Monday 25th
Commitment Letter - Write a letter to yourself committing to the month goal of NaNoWriMo that includes pep talk. Cheer, encourage, make sure you know you can succeed. Write why you are awesome! Or write the methods that you think will help you succeed in the writing. If you like having rewards, think up a few rewards and put those in the letter too.

Tuesday 26th
Sketch #3 - last setting. Draw one more time a setting found within the novel. Then be glad you don't have to drawn anymore and can just write about things. lol

Wednesday 27th
Setting #3 description. Add the senses in this one if possible, and basically describe the setting that was drawn yesterday. Get into the moment, one moment of time in that location to show the visualization through words.

Thursday 28th
Journalism time. Next is to do an interview with the protagonist from the beginning of the prep work. Consider the story of the book to be done, whatever number in a series that may be written for nanowrimo for us series writers. This takes into consideration how the main character will be changed by the story. Ask questions like: How did the events of the story change you? How is life for you now?

Friday 29th
Procrastination list. That's right, acknowledge those pesky things like facebook, twitter, family, anything that may be a procrastination from writing during November. Consider ways to combat the procrastination demons. Or come up with a schedule to maintain during November to reach the word count goals.

Saturday 30th
5th draft of outline. Yep. 5 drafts. Should have a comprehensive outline by now that you can either pay attention to during nanowrimo, or you can ignore it like I do. But the main structure of the story should be cemented decently in your mind by now, which will come in handy during the marathon that is nanowrimo.

Sunday 31st
Take a break. Rest those hands because as of midnight it will be time to write a bunch. Enjoy Halloween!

Monday, November 1st

Friday, October 22, 2010

When to Write or Wait on a Novel

Since National Novel Writing Month is slowly creeping up, I thought I'd post something about trying to decide when to write an idea or when to wait on it. Part of the reason is this year's nanowrimo novel is one I got the initial idea (though it changed greatly the first few years) back when I was in high school. Luckily, most of you don't know what I look like so I don't have to show ID to prove that has been years ago (lol). If I've had the idea since before I came up with 60 other novel ideas, then why didn't I write it back then? Ah, that is a good question *talks to self*.

Write or...
(image by Amor Magno, taken from


This can be a tough choice. When I got the idea for the epic fantasy novel, currently titled Gathered at Dawn, I was maybe a sophomore in high school, though it may be earlier. It started out as an alternate history novel idea set during the Civil War. That changed slightly to add a sci-fi element of a gaming system that puts the group of characters into a Civil War like world, which soon split into two different ideas. There is the Civil War story that has two main characters that aren't anything like the original characters and the plot is different but somehow it came from the first idea. Then there was the gaming idea, which sounded cool at the idea, where at the end not everyone leaves the game. Somehow, that shifted to become the awesome (although not the most original) epic fantasy story. The idea has been an epic fantasy one, with the same plot and characters, for about 4 years or more.

So, why wait 4 years or so (and thus accumulate 60 other novel ideas) to actually write the first draft of the novel?

The basic answer is simple. I wasn't ready to write an epic fantasy. I wasn't ready to write a novel even. When I first started writing on I had a few poems posted and tried a little writing but nothing big or serious. By the second year I was writing scenes and "short stories" or "flash fiction" for contests on WDC along with more poetry. 2006 was my first attempt at novel writing. By then I had at least 10 ideas for stories(novels) and things increased from there.

Also, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by the genre. There are such amazing books out that are epic fantasy and it has such a large word count, I didn't think I could write a good epic fantasy based on my writing skills. 100,000 words is a large number for someone who had only written 5,000-ish, or 14,000 (nano 2007). Even if it was never going to be seen by any other person but me, I wanted to do things right.

Elves, dwarves and humans aren't the most original combination for an epic/high fantasy story either. But I love elves and mages. The main characters were inspired by friends of mine with one being the closest to a mary sue character that you'll ever find in my writing. But don't worry, since every character has taken on a life of their own and don't even look like the influenced person anymore.

So, I chose to wait on that novel as I learned more about writing and worked on different novels (along with coming up with many many more ideas).

Why am I ready now?

I have written 3 finished first drafts, including one that came out at 90,000 words. I have been writing for the past 4+ years and think I'm better at the process and it's my fourth year doing NaNoWriMo. Considering in March I was able to do 50k in 15 days, I should be able to do 50k in a month. The novel idea is solid and hasn't changed since it became an epic fantasy. I am excited for the novel and overall, I just think it's time to write the novel for me as I prepare my two mutants series to eventually send out.

Do you ever wait on an idea? 
If you do or don't: why?
Guess what? It's almost time for NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Titles (already used ones)

Yes, another post on titles but with a slightly different focus.

Some people have wondered, and there have been a few answers on this, if they can use a title they think works for their novel but someone else already has used. Some people advise that when you come up with a title to double check to make sure it's not take.

But can books with the same title be published? Yep.

Titles, as far as I'm aware of, can't be copyrighted. Surprised? But it's true, much like ideas. A full franchise is a little different than just a title, however (wouldn't recommend going for Star Wars, for example). So, it's possible to use a title that someone else has already used because you never know if someone will have the same title. Some of the ones in the examples were published in the same year, sometimes in the same season.

There are many examples of different books by different authors with the same title. Here is a very small list.

"Book of the Dead" - (2007) Douglas Preston, (2007) Patricia Cornwell, (1991) Tanith Lee, (1990) Robert Richardson, (2004) Ashley McConnell
"The Moving Target" - (1949) Ross MacDonald, (1963) W.S. Merwin
"Fallen" - (2010) Lauren Kate, (2008) Erin McCarthy, (2008) Claire Delacroix, (2006) David Maine, (2001) Celeste Bradley, (2009) Laury Falter  [at one point I had a wip novel with this as the wip title]
"The Fallen" - (2006) Thomas E. Sniegoski, (2006) Paul Langen, (2008) Gwen Hayes, (2006) T. Jefferson Parker, (2010) Mark Terry, (2006) Joshua Dragon and Arthur Breur
"The Dragon Reborn" - (1991) Robert Jordan, (2002) Kathleen H. Nelson
"Hero" - (2009) Perry Moore, (2010) Mike Lupica, (2007) S.L. Rottman, (2009) Derwin Gray, [was the initial wip title for my adult mutant novel]
"Aftermath" - (reprint 2010) James Lane Allen, (reprint 2010) Hilaire Belloc, (2002) Peter Robinson, (1999) Charles Sheffield, (1997) Levar Burton, (2009) Scott Campbell, (2007) Brian Shawver
"Against All Odds" - (2009) Irene Hannon, (1991) Kay Thorpe, (2000) Barbara Riefe, (1988) Patricia Rosemoor, (2002) Tricia Pursell, (2000) Russel Keith, (2005) Jasmina M. Svenne
"Taken" - (2009) Anya Bast, (2007) Chris Jordan, (2008) Selena Kitt, (2008) Jet Mykles, (2006) Barbara Freethy, (2002) Thomas H. Cook, (2002) Kathleen George, (2010) Debra Lee, (2010) Chloe Stowe

And these don't include variations on the titles, and most don't include a secondary section to the title either. They have the exact same title.

There are a few things to consider if the title chosen has already been used.
1. When was the book published? Published in 1980 will be less of a problem compared to published in 2010. While this doesn't have to hinder the title, it's something to at least think about. But remember, if the book hasn't been picked up already, it's going to be a few years before it even gets published, so it may not be an issue then.
2. How popular was the novel? The more popular the book, probably the less likely that title should be used. Though that is not a guaranteed rule or anything.
3. Similar to popularity, what do people think of those novels? If you don't want the hype surrounding sparkly vampires and the perceived thoughts of the technical aspects in the writing, then Twilight might not be a good one to pick (aside from the popularity of the novel).
4. Is it in the same genre? For the not epically popular novels, just being in a different genre will mean there isn't a problem in using the title. The title "Against All Odds" was used for romance and suspense type books. They will be put in separate sections of a bookstore and the only issue will be for people who remember the title of a recommended book but not the author.

In the end, if the title works at this point for the novel then I'd so, go with it. If a publisher wants to change it due to others that currently have that title, then it might need to be changed. But can't predict what a publisher will say until the contract gets made and such. For those of us that aren't published, or even contracted, writers, it doesn't matter as much.

Your thoughts?
Ever have a title only to find out someone published a book with it already?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

NaNo Prep Continued

We are getting closer. After Halloween it will be novel writing month. Woot!

October 18th
Describe setting #2. There is the picture of it already, however rough it may be, so then describe what is in that picture. Having more than one location is very useful in a novel (most should know this tip).

October 19th
Sketch (make profile for) minor character #2. Do the same as the other sketches of characters. Here is where profile templates are useful.

October 20th
Backstory for minor character #2. Just like the other back stories, write a scene that shows something in the characters life before the novel that will bring them into the conflict eventually.

October 21st
Describe the political setting of the novel. What kind of government(s) rules the world? What major law/code sets are in placed on the main society? Who enforces them? Is enforcement successful?

October 22nd
Describe in detail an object that is critical to the story. They can be important to the plot or one of the main characters. Make the description so that a reader would be able to see that exact object in their mind solely based on the words provided.

October 23rd
Outline draft #4. That's right, there are four versions of the outline. After this, the draft should be pretty decent in detail, though it's okay if there is plenty of wiggle room available.

October 24th
Day off. Relax and get ready cause there is one set of assignments left.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Go Outside

Since moving back home in Wyoming, where I went to high school as one parent lives in Utah while other parent lives in Wyoming, I don't leave the house much. While this may seem useful for writing it can also create a mood that isn't very creative. My big bit of advice for today (thought of two other topics on the way to Utah for a visit) is this:

Go Outside

(Image by Natalie Dee @

Isn't it cute? See, even outside misses us when we don't go there. ;-)

One reason I don't mind the drive from southeastern Wyoming to northern Utah is that I get to go outside (to my car) and then see all kinds of stuff on my way. It's only a 7-ish hour drive but across most of southern Wyoming and then a portion of northern Utah. There are bits of flat terrain (odd, I know, lol), plenty of fields, a few hills, some canyons and almost always wind. Antelope/deer and cows are common fair along the side of the road in the different fields and canyons though I've seen a fox or two before. There are a few things that made this trip enjoyable.

No snow yet. Last year, it snowed at the end of September. This year we haven't had any yet and it's getting close to Halloween. oooo  The trees were turning fall colors, and that's always nice to see when winding through a canyon.

I saw a beautiful display of birds in flight dealing with the wind.

There were close to 100 birds in flight over a field of dried corn stalks. Once upon a time they had been green, before harvest, but now they stood in golden formation as wind swept across the land. The flock was spread out, combing over the land. Like waves heading towards a distant shore, birds would dip down, almost grazing the tips of corn husks before drifting up again. Each bird got a turn to crash down toward the land before swooping up to reach a whitecap level peak and then the process could be repeated as the wing patterns demanded.

Okay. Probably could write that better and eliminate a few passive moments, but you get the idea. Really cool moment with birds flying over a dry corn field.  But writing natural elements into say, an epic fantasy novel, is a little easier to do if someone actually goes out in nature once in awhile. City elements feel more realistic after having dealt with a city, so forth and so on.

The other thing the trip did was give me time to think about writing. 7 hours to think about writing and now I have 3 blog posts to do and some thoughts for nanowrimo. So, once you've gone outside and gotten a little fresh air (or smog, depending location) then go back inside and Write!

Friday, October 15, 2010

OMG day 15

Oh My Gosh! I'm so excited to reach the 15 day mark because that means we are 15 days closer to NaNoWriMo. I can't wait to start.

The prep challenge is working out really well. Aside from drawings, I have been posting my entries on my other blog along with the book entry on, which is where I get all the information from for the challenge. I'm glad people are finding the information useful and I'm sure Brandiwyn would be happy too. Just a reminder, I'm just posting the assignments for everyone to see, she (brandiwyn) is the real genius behind them.

As much as I love the prep work, and writing in my 5 other novels, I'm starting to get antsy. I want to be writing the epic fantasy already. It has been 5+ years in the making and it will be nice to get that first draft written down, even if I never try to get it published.

How is everyone else doing?
Ready for NaNoWriMo?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

next set of NaNo prep

Here is the 11th - 17th. Some of the assignments are similar to ones already done with only a slight difference. This week also marks the middle of the month, which means there is just another half left before the big event starts. Yay!

October 11th
Write a background story about the antagonist in a way that makes the reader . This will flesh out the antagonist even more. After all, the antagonist would be the protagonist if the story was being told from their point of view.

October 12th
Write any background story that sets up the plot of the novel. Should be set before the time of the novel and have an influence on the plot.

October 13th
Character sketch for a supporting character(#1). This can be a secondary character or any other minor type from the novel.

October 14th
Background story of supporting character #1.

October 15th
Drawing of setting #2. Yes, try to draw a different setting than #1 unless the story really is only in one place for the entire 50k+ of words.

October 16th
Outline #3

October 17th
Another day off.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Talking about Names

While preparing my epic fantasy novel for the writing sprint known as National Novel Writing Month, the topic of names has resurfaced. Names can be difficult with a new novel for a number of different reasons. Some people have an easier time coming up with their character names while others struggle to pick the perfect name for each of the important characters of the story. Sometimes it's an issue with finding a new novel for those that start many different projects/stories, or it can just be finding the right one because a placeholder name just isn't the same as having the perfect name that really fits a character. So, let's talk about character names.

Where/How to find/create character names

Different Approaches: as stated above, different people have different approaches. For some, like my bf, the names just come to them. They think of a character and the name just appears ready for use. It doesn't matter the type of character for them either. Vampire, detective, teacher, child... they are all the same. For others, it's almost headache inducing with long periods of struggle in order to find the right name. I fall in both categories. There are times when I've just had a name pop into my head and I enjoy those times. However, there are plenty of times where it's not easy. So, I've used a number of different methods to come up with character names in novels and short stories.

The placecard name: This is where a general name or description is used until a better, actual name can be determined for a character (place, object, etc). I don't like to use this more protagonists, usually. The good part of this method is that it doesn't halt a great writing spree. Putting something there to hold the place for a better name later on means the writer can keep going without worrying about it for the first draft. Not so much help for later drafts but hopefully by then a name can be found.

Research: Can be used for a variety of names. Common names don't always need research but it can help when looking for a new name to look at a baby name book as research. Historical names can be very important when wanting accuracy. There are also different web sites that can help with fantasy names. There are also web sites that have name generators. These can either be rather silly or somewhat useful, depending on the type of generator.
Web sites:

The problem with some names: 
In particular with fantasy names, there can be a problem with pronunciation and the names can come off as a little too random. I once had someone in a critique group say that my fantasy names were made up nonsense. However, those were names I had created through my research with each section of the name having a specific meaning. So, sometimes the meaning of a name will not correspond to what the reader will interpret. Names that are too long will take up a lot of space and eventually the reader may have issues with it, but those can often be shortened with fun nicknames. I plan to keep the elf name I'd chosen for my main character because I think it's kind of fun for the one that is in denial of his sexual orientation to be called "feyn" as the shortened form of his name. 

There are also names that have already been taken that may cause problems for readers. I'll admit that in blogfests and even looking at fantasy books, if anyone names their main character Rand, I immediately think of the main character in The Wheel of Times series. I can't help it, that name belongs to that series in my mind and any other book using it will have problems.  Names can also make gender a little confusing. On twitter, I chatted with someone who had considered using the name Juniper for a male character. In Jr High I read two different YA fantasy books with the main character being a female named Juniper. It is, in fact, my favorite name for a female and I might even name a daughter that one day, if I ever have one. But I will have a hard time ever reading about a male Juniper. That's the problem with the common reader response criticism that most readers will bring with them to a book.

Where do you get your character names?
Are names easy?
What problems do you have with names?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Prep Days 4-10

Here is a full week for those that are interested in the nanowrimo prep. And there is one day off too. Enjoy!

October 4th
Protagonist background story. Make the readers relate to the character and want to read about them. Even an unpleasant character can win some sympathy points given the right backstory (which may happen when the antagonist gets a turn).

October 5th
Marketing exercise: describe the target audience of the novel. Explain in detail what aspects of the novel that particular audience will enjoy and why.

October 6th
Get a pencil out (or excel, visio, or other drawing programs) and draw a physical sketch of a setting #1 in the novel. It's okay if you aren't a great drawer. (I have part of my bachelor's degree in art and I'm not good at drawing.)

October 7th
Describe setting #1 while using the senses to make a reader experience the scene.

October 8th
Antagonist character sketch. If it is a situation instead of a person, explain what it is and how it will create tension.

October 9th
Outline, second draft. Revise and then add more detail in beginning, middle and end.

October 10th
Day off.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

October Prep days 1-3

The time has come to get ready for NaNoWriMo.  I'm going to try and get them mostly one week at a time but figured it'd be nice to have the first few days up in time to prepare instead of rushing on day one. Also, thank you to Brandiwyn from for letting me post the activities from her challenge on my blog. I really appreciate the opportunity and hope others find the information very useful. Remember: to see my attempts at the exercises don't forget to check out my other blog (

(image source:

Most exercises are meant to be worked on for 15 minutes or so. Some may not take quite as long while others, like the outlines, can take a bit longer. Not every single assignment will apply but the goal is to try and do as many as possible in order to get to know the novel idea more before making the mad dash in November.

The Schedule:

Friday, Oct. 01
The general premise of the novel. Summarize the following: Who is the protagonist (or protagonists)? What will happen to him/her/it/them? Why? How will it turn out? What does that tell us? Is there a moral to the story? Resources to help:  -  creating_the_premise  and  Premise discussion on WDC.

Saturday, Oct. 02
Outline: first draft. Basic overview of main events. Check out the section on Outlining in this free ebook:  -other sources:  WDC Blank Novel Outline  -  Snowflake Method  and  how-to-write-a-novel-outline 

Sunday, Oct. 03
Character sketch: The protagonist, (one of them if there are more than that). A couple of resources to help: Fantasy Character Background Information,  Character Profile Template , and

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Schedule

That's right. The month of craziness approaches and I can't wait. October and November will be affected on both of my blogs, so this is your warning.

What is National Novel Writing Month?
It is..."is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30." According to the rules on the web site: it has to be a "new" novel (complete redo's still count) and the first word can't be written until November 1st. No screenplays because Script Frenzy in April is for writing those.

The point of doing NaNoWriMo, in part, is to shut the inner editor up for a month and to just write. Get that novel out. Sure it is a quantity over quality exercise, but it's a first draft. First drafts are allowed to suck, so don't worry about the bad words and get that draft done (or 50,000 words or so done).
Web site:

Personal Story
My first year of attempting NaNoWriMo was back in 2006. I failed with a total of only a few thousand words. It was my first attempt at picking a single novel and trying to write that length so it was definitely a learning experience. Haven't finished that novel but I still like the idea. 2007 went a little better when I attempted to only get 20,000 words done of a YA novel. I manged to get 14,000 of what was then called Ephram's Defiance (I'm working on the rewrite of that novel now). Not a win but the longest piece of fiction I had going at the time. Then came 2008 and my first year doing the October prep challenge on with a romance/erotica novel. With tons of coffee and a friend coming over for the last weekend to write, I managed to get over 50,000 words done and win. My first time, and only thus far. It was awesome. I finished the first draft in december and even though it needs a rewrite, I enjoyed it. Last year I had personal things come up during the month, so I didn't really even try. This year I'm doing the novel I have wanted to do since high school, one of the first novel ideas I've had. I'm doing epic fantasy, book one of a series, and the 50,000 will only be the first half. I'm hoping to make it early and I'm using my blogs this year along with the novel writing.

I will have a schedule for both this blog and my it's in the book blog.

Schedule for this blog.

October is prep month for NaNoWriMo. The manager/creator of the October prep challenge has given me permission to post this year's prep work on my blog. I will have a blog post with each week's assignments up for those that want to try doing the prep but aren't on I will do one week at a time to give people time to work on them and in case I want to expand on certain topics that week, like maybe one on premise, but we'll see. The prep work I do for my epic fantasy will be posted on my other blog.

November is novel writing month. Woot!  Probably won't post as often, though it's hard to tell, but will try to get some updates posted at least a few times during the month. Plan to be writing and maybe even get 50k down by the 20th of the month. The best I've done is in March of this year I wrote 50k in 15 days. We'll have to see how this year goes. Hopefully all this stuff posted on my blog for my followers to see will keep me going through the month.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Query tips I learned from Kristin Nelson

Say Goodbye to the Slushpile: The Pitch Paragraph

Who is Kristin Nelson?
"Kristin has her B.A. from the University of Missouri at Columbia and is a graduate of the nationally respected University of Denver Publishing Institute. In the early nineties, she studied creative writing with National Book Award Nominee Patricia Henley at Purdue University where she earned her M.A. This makes her particularly interested in representing fiction. Before opening her own agency, she learned the ropes working for another literary agent. As for her previous work history, Kristin has been a college English teacher, a freelance writer, and a corporate trainer for business communication topics before embracing her true passion of agenting."
Bio Source:

While many different bits of information was given at the workshop, with email tidbits and a query breakdown, I'm going to focus on the pitch paragraph of the query because that was the focus of the workshop. There is also an activity and I will share with you all what I wrote. Yes, it is pretty bad but I'll show you what I tried to get done during the workshop.

The Pitch Paragraph

This is the section in the query that should catch the agents attention. It can often read like the back cover of a published novel, or inside the flap of a hardback book. The job of the pitch paragraph is to highlight the plot element that forms the catalyst for the rest of the novel.

The catalyst should be found within the first 30 pages of the novel. (Note: this doesn't mean there aren't any other areas of conlict added that lead to the climax. This is just the first one that is key to leading the main character towards that climax and/or major conflict, decision, etc.)

On average, the paragraph should be 7 to 10 sentences total.

To find the catalyst: list the events that open the novel. Then decide which plot element is the most important and sets the rest of the novel in motion. So, we had to do just that... find the catalyst.

Want to see mine? Well, there isn't really a choice because I'm making myself post what I wrote so here is my "catalyst" that I actually wasn't even using when I first attempted writing a pitch/query.

Closest thing to a friend Ephram has shows an ability from genetic mutation that he will have to report to the men in suits, government agency. The result of his telling leads ot regret, goals of seclusion and a revolution of his current role as a tattle.

Good thing that's just me trying to find the catalyst and not an actual pitch line.

Next, we had to write it down in 1 sentence.

On mine, I struggled very much so. Some words are crossed out or changed but I'll try and post it all.

A young mutant (tattle tell) has to tell the men in suits (realizes the consequences of his telling) when a friend shows signs of genetic mutation...

I didn't finish the full sentence. Sad, I know.

The hardest part of the one sentence, and the pitch paragraph, seemed to be the consequence of the catalyst. Everyone that brought up their sentences and paragraphs for examples on the CD struggled with the consequence and I know I had issues with that too. What is the consequence of the catalyst for the main character?

To shape the pitch paragraph from that one sentence consider the details that support the catalyst. This includes backstory, other inter-related plot and character insights. Also includes that pesky consequence.

Then comes the challenge. Write a pitch paragraph that has 7-10 sentences. In the time given, which was plenty of time considering the challenge and workshop, I wrote 5 sentences. Yeah... Here is my very rough version of a pitch paragraph using the catalyst from the first 30 pages of the novel, Tattle Tell.

Unlike most, Ephram Gray's genetic mutation was discovered at birth, leaving him already identified and monitored. Which would be fine if the government didn't use him as their personal tattle source for finding other mutants. It's even worse when one of his limited number of friends shows signs of mutation, forcing him to tattle. He soon discovers the truth behind the identification process, the men in suits, and he must make a decision. Either risk having to tell on another friend or accept the life of a loser and a tattle tale.

It's not the best pitch paragraph ever, but it's a start. And thanks to Kristin I now know to use the first conflict (catalyst) instead of the last one leading to the climax. She was amazing as a presenter and I've definitely learned a great amount of information from the workshop.

Now for you.
Have you ever written a query?
Going to try?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

World Building

Writing Worlds That Work by Carol Berg

(Image source:

Who is Carol Berg?
"I am a writer of epic fantasy novels: ten published, one forthcoming, and two more in the process of bubbling up from wherever the ideas come from. Where did I come from? Though my home is at the foot of the Colorado Rockies, my roots are in Texas in a family of teachers, musicians, and railroad men... Since Transformation was published in 2000, my novels have won the Prism Award for best romantic fantasy, the Geffen Award for translated fantasy, and multiple Colorado Book Awards. They have been short-listed for the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award and for the Barnes and Noble Maiden Voyage Award, both given for the best first science fiction/fantasy/horror novel and for the Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers’ Choice Award for epic fantasy."
Other Page:

Now for my notes from the Writing Worlds That Work Workshop.
World Building

First, you will need compelling characters. Then a setting that is so real the readers believe, become involvedin, aspects in the novel that may not even exist in the real world. But what is the difference between the wolrd and the setting?

Setting v. World

Setting is the where and the when of the story.

World is beyond the setting. It is the entire, interconnecting reality combined as backdrop that encompasses all characters, story, setting, etc. This goes beyond the story both before and after. Compared to an iceberg, the story is the portion that people will see but the rest is under the water.

There are a few options with world building. It doesn't have to be brand new worlds for a writer to actually work on world building. One option is to world build on a certain time and place in the real world. Another is to have something close to Earth but has elements that aren't found there. Another is to completely invent a new world, which still can have realism elements borrowed.
Key element to world building - Research!

While the story is often more important than the world, but it can be a good idea for certain novels. But it can seem like a daunting task to do when considering all the different elements that go into building a world. In order to get the would built, start with a segment of that world, any segment and go from there. Like writing the story, it's not always easy but it's almost impossible if you don't start. Those segments that you choose, however, should be ones that are key elements in the story because it's better to start with something you know that you'll need then an obscure fact that probably won't end up in the series ever.

After you start, don't do all of the world building before writing the first draft.  It's risky to do too much up front because it can become a form of procrastination, and/or too much information may be developed that will stunt the writing.

Some things to consider when world building:

    How do characters make a living?
    How is the economy reflected in different locations?
    What resources are available?
    Are there any exports/imports?
    What are the class rankings?
    What objects have value and why?

Diversity of races & langagues
    Are there clashing customs?
    What are group prejudices and are they based on reality/myths?
    What changes have occurred in history with the races/languages?
    Consider religion, science and beliefs of the races.

Racial and gender roles
    How do the roles relate during the times of the story and place.
    Don't force present day sensibilities if not realistic for story.

    Why are the cities(places) in their location? What is their reason? (river, etc)
    What does the location have access to?
    Do they have power?
    How much exploration is done?
    What does one set/location of people know about others in different places?
    If they don't know much, why not?
    Are there any geographic barriers?
    There needs to be log in the weather and geology.
    Tip: don't always copy Great Britain (has been done a few times in fantasy).
    Empires don't happen overnight.
    Have there been conquests in past or attempts made?
    What changes have occured over time in the land?

    What are the boundaries between magic, divinity, mythology and science?
    Are there flaws?
    How important is the Divine?
    How does human experience factor into things?
    Are there any myths? legends? important rituals? superstitions?
    Is there a range of believers? skeptics - believe a little - middle - fundamentalists

Magic (linked to the supernatural)
    Magic should have rules, limits and consequences.
    Why can't magic solve all problems? (food preservation, housing, etc)
    How does society in general feel about it?
    Does everyone know there is magic?
    Can anyone do it or is it special?
    Is it okay to use magick or is it banned?

Also, in world building, consider the world beyond the limited scope of the story. In theory, it should feel like the world existed before your characts had their story and it should, at the end of the novel, feel like the world will continue after it.

The information shouldn't be dumped in huge clumps. Remember the post on Exposition? That will come in handy with world information. One thing to remember is to layer/scatter the information in, making sure not to put too much in one spot.

This is a good start. There are many other places to look for information on world building. Despite having three different novels with a first draft done on each, I had never done world building. Not even for the mutant novels. But I am world building for the first time now with my steampunk idea. It's different but I can already tell it's going to be useful.

How about you? Do you world build?
Ever consider trying it, if you haven't yet?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lessons from Connie Willis

(image source:

It Gets Complicated - the middle of the novel
Plot Exposition - Where to Put It

Who is Connie Willis?
Author who "recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, has received six Nebula Awards and ten Hugo Awards for her fiction; her previous novel, Passage, was nominated for both. Her other works include Doomsday Book, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, Uncharted Territory, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Fire Watch, and Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Connie Willis lives in Colorado with her family."
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Middle of Novel

The middle of the novel is very important, though it gets less recognition than the ending and far less than the beginning when it comes to writing advice. The workshop at the RMFW conference by Connie Willis on the middle was awesome. Here are some tidbits from that workshop.

The middle of the novel should follow logic in the story by keeping the conflict going throughout the middle of the novel. Often this involves the things that go wrong in the story.

Delays in the plot or the scenes can add a little suspense. Even little delays can help to make things remain interesting in the middle portion of the novel. Or have a deadline in the story (not just deadlines to write it). Different deadlines will add certain elements of emergency and time constraints to the middle section, making it less of a slum part.

In this aspect, mystery novels have a great usage of the middle part because there are often warnings or clues that exist but sometimes have been ignored by the reader. Those elements are helpful for creating the end.

Next, consider how emotions affect the plot.

Remember that with many actions and decisions made there might be unintended consequences that they character didn't consider but could complicate things more.

And a favorite "trick" used in great writing that isn't really a trick = The Reversal

Consider the movie "A Beautiful Mind" because it does this well. Another example is the movie "The Sixth Sense". I'd recommend watching those movies at least once.

How this works? The move is going along with the plot and readers think they know what's going on when all of a sudden, the story goes off in a surprising direction that changes everything the reader/watcher knew from the beginning. Yet the evidence is there; it just wasn't interpreted that way until the reversal happens. What this does is it changes the nature of the questions the readers have been asking before the reversal.

There was a lot more but those are the tips from my notes.

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Plot Exposition

This dealt with the different aspects of backstory and other explanations that could fall under the dilemma of an info dump. While some of it isn't necessary, there are different times when that exposition can be very important to the story. And the workshop gave many tips on how to do exposition without overdoing it.

One option is to give information through dialogue, but this technique can be overdone or used in the wrong way. For example, there is a character some people use whenever they want information to be given through dialogue. This doesn't work when the characters talking are both people who would already know the information. Often the dialogue starts with "As you know..." or something similar. But having someone who is new or young and doesn't know the information is a character that can be used during certain times when information is needed to be given to the reader. Also, in dialogue, arguments can be used to tell stuff that the character may already know because people will do that in fights.

Some information is more necessary than others. Grounding, for example, is the telling of key information that happens near the beginning of the novel. Information can be prioritized based upon the concept of "on a need to know basis."

Where do background and other explanations go?
They should be scattered throughout the novel in a few different methods of "telling" in order to give the information but not to dump it on the reader. This shouldn't be done at unrealistic moments, like in the heat of action. When being shot at by laser guns, most people won't go into a story about their history or about how the laser gun works. Trust me!

Don't leave/start giving the reader too many things to question that they don't have any answers for yet.

Don't directly tell the reader the character's sate of emotions. This is linked to the "show don't tell" rule of writing.

And consider indirection as a tool to show character.

Last bit of advice on getting books signed by other authors.
"When you are having a book signed by an author, always have them sign it to your real name, not your pen name."
One of the reasons was to keep the ego of the pen name separate from the rest of your life/ego. Which does make sense to some degree but I'll add a little to it. The pen name is the person's focus on writing. The books are fiction signed by other people who have already been published. Make sense to anyone else? Hope so because that's the end of this explanation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Novel Influence

Novel influence is one reason that some writers don't read books similar to theirs or in their genre when writing a novel. But how much does a novel really influence a writer?

I don't really have any statistics to tell you how much the reading of novels will influence a single reader so instead, I can just talk about how reading books recently has influenced new novel ideas for me.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Border Patrol, and pregnant woman idea

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one amazing novel. I have never read a zombie novel, I didn't watch any zombie movies even though were supposed to watch several for policy debate (for a capitalism negative). Yet, despite the fact taht I haven't read much in the past 3 years, I read this book in 24 hours. If you haven't read it, you should give at least the first book a try. I haven't read the second book because I'm waiting for the paperback to come out. But I will read it when it does.

The Border Patrol is an idea that I might write soon, which is dystopian. The name is a work in progress title, so it will probably change but it's the idea that has some obvious influence from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. No zombies. Instead there are different types of monsters that hunt humants. There is a village in the mountains, where one main character is from and the second main character's family barely makes it there alive. The border is kind of like a fence, only done with magic. It's similar to the fence in the published novel because it keeps the "monsters" out.

The pregnant woman main character story sparked from a blogfest involving breaking the rules and I got the idea when I was reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth (took me 24 hours to read, with some sleep in the middle). Granted, it's not similar to the published novel because no zombies, or fences, or any similar characters. But the overall tone of the novel affected the tone of the novel I'm developing.

Shiver and The Pack (working title, not all that serious)

Shiver has a pretty cool idea in werewolves. I haven't really been into werewolves before, except for the movie Ginger Snaps Back, which is a horror movie about windegos (has some similarities to werewolves). The idea is that the one character is a wolf when it's cold and human when it's hot outside. But they don't always change, but I won't get into that. Also, they are wolves or humans, not a crossbreed of human-wolf.

My idea involves werewolves that are wolves a year or so then humans a year or so. MC is an older teen boy who stands up against a pack of bullies for a weaker friend and it seems to work. But they "jump" him on his way home from school. Leader forces him to do something and he thinks this is just a move to show him not embarrass the group again. But the truth is he has been chosen to join their pack. There is more that goes on, blah blah blah, not going to say it all. But at first I wasn't interested because of the werewolves, and the love triangle... then the second book idea came up too. The situation in the Rocky Mountains years ago, where the wolves were removed and taken to Canada. Made me wonder what would happen if they were wolves during the move and the new wolf woke up in human form somewhere in Canada with no idea where he was. The idea has ahold of me now. Darn the idea!

While most of my ideas come from random dreams and such, there are times when published novels influence me.

So, what about you?
Has a published novel you read or heard of, ever influence your own writing?