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.