Posts Tagged With: writing

Another Kind of Map (and Library updated)

I’ve written about how an outline can serve as a great tool, a sort of map, to guide you on your course as you write. Another kind of map, one closer to its namesake, is a sketch (or much more detailed drawing, if you need it) of the area in which your story takes place. Depending on how much your character(s) move(s) about in the town/castle/prison/whatever, a sketch of the layout will help considerably in keeping your story consistent.

Will the sun be in the character’s eyes when walking out the door? Where will the shadows be in this scene (will there be shadows)? Is the destination to the left or right (or north or south, etc)? Is the building visible to the character from here? If there is a chase scene, where can the character run to/through? A sketch also helps keep things consistent between books, if you’re writing a series (as I am).

Early in writing Dragonlinked, I realized that a sketch of Caer Baronel’s layout would be required. There were just too many locations in the Caer to keep straight in my head and the characters did a lot of walking around. That sketch has served me well all through the three books I’ve written so far. The sketch isn’t meant to be exact; it merely serves as a handy reference to where things are in relation to each other.

I’m adding the sketch to the Library (accessible from the menu at the top of the blog) along with a sketch of the dragon stable layout. The remains of erased pencil (which became much more visible when I increased the contrast to make the fainter lines visible) let you see where I changed the layout of the Caer and changed some of the buildings a bit. The Woodworking building used to be two separate buildings, part of one of which was the armory, and the Water Hall used to be called (only briefly) the Pump House, for instance. Also, vegetable gardens used to be nearby, before I decided that an entire farm would better serve a community as large as the Caer and moved all that off to Baronel Farm ten miles or so east. You also get to see the sheer awesomeness of my chicken-scratch handwriting! I thought some readers might get a kick out of seeing these.

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Categories: Dragonlinked, Fan Extras, Lethera, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writers, Be Wary of this Affliction

I’ve written before about the great things you can learn by attending a critique/writer’s group, and now that I am in a brief lull between books (though I am doing research for the next one), I thought I’d give a specific example of one of the things I learned from one such group.

When I first started attending the Saturday meetings, I had just put out Dragonlinked and had nothing unpublished to bring for discussion. I had maybe one very rough chapter of the next book started, but wanted to try something different. I decided to write a short story centered on one of the characters from Dragonlinked. This short story eventually became Moonflower, but it wasn’t called that at first, and the section used below comes from a part I removed entirely and turned into its own mini-story. At any rate, this was what I initially brought for discussion once I had it mostly written out.

One of the critiques of the piece, to the best of my memory, started out very flattering.

“This story is so good that many don’t notice the errors. One of the biggest is that you suffer from pronoun-itis.”

I looked at the woman and raised my brows. “Suffer from what?”

“Pronoun-itis.”

I let out a little nervous chuckle and looked around at the others. Some were nodding wisely. I looked back at her and asked, “What do you mean?”

“You use too many pronouns. Many could be left off or the sentence reworked in such a way that they are not needed.”

Hmm. Pronoun-itis, eh? I’d never heard of this problem. After she pointed out a sample paragraph, however, it became obvious what she meant. I will present that paragraph below and will then show how I changed it up to make it better.

“Lie down?” she mumbled, still trying to remember her task. Unable to do so, she slumped to her side on the ground. Her heart began to beat wildly. Though ignored, her fear still made its presence felt. The pounding in her ears confused her for a moment. She was supposed to relax, wasn’t she? Rolling on her back, she stared up between the trees. The ground was cool beneath her, and stars were visible through the canopy above.

Thirteen pronouns. Thirteen. In that little paragraph. When first read, the paragraph doesn’t seem so bad, but once the pronoun-itis is pointed out? Sheesh.

So, what’s the problem? There are two, really. One, the least important, is word repetition. Having the same word repeated too many times gets distracting. One way to fix that is to use a synonym for a few of them, but going too crazy with synonyms can also be distracting. Reworking a few of the sentences to eliminate the word is another, and possibly better, method. The second problem, and the one I feel is more important, has to do with deep point of view. In order to draw your readers into the story (particularly a section or scene that you want to be intense), you want as few signifiers as possible that tell the reader they are reading a story instead of experiencing a story. One of those is continually telling them that ‘he’ or ‘she’ is doing something.

‘No, dear reader, it isn’t you who is being attacked by this horrible creature, it is HER.’

As a writer, you may as well be saying that when you load up that many pronouns into your work. The way I try to handle it is that the closer I am to the character, the more zoomed in I am, the more I just describe what is happening as if I am looking through the eyes of the character, as if I am listening with the character’s ears, touching with their fingers, thinking their thoughts, etc. I try to only use pronouns when not using them will cause confusion, another thing that hampers deep point of view. So, here is the reworked paragraph that I went with. I removed some ‘telling,’ where I should be ‘showing,’ removed a couple of sentences to pick up the pace, and changed up some of the sentences to remove pronouns.

“Lie down?” she mumbled, trying to hold on to thoughts of escape. Like writhing eelfish, they twitched and slipped through her fingers. She slumped sideways, heart beating wildly. Rolling on her back, she stared up between the trees. The ground felt cool, and stars peeked through the canopy above.

Pretty much the same paragraph, but with only five pronouns. It feels more immediate, now, more intimate, because I describe some of the actions so that while reading them, the reader feels as if they are experiencing them. Reading it again, now, I can see how it can be improved even further, but it serves as an example.

So here is my shared tip: Avoid pronoun-itis whenever possible. It is one writer’s affliction that can be dealt with fairly easily and makes for better writing in the process.

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First Draft of Book 3 Complete!

Whew. That took a bit longer than I expected. But that’s what happens when you decide to change the last few chapters of your book, I suppose. I went off-plan, ignoring my outline, so I was writing from scratch, essentially. The ending is the same, but how we get there is a bit different, and hopefully, more exciting.

My next step is to review the entire book again. Then, perhaps while it is with test readers, there’s the title to come up with and a cover.  I’ll then reread it again while making any tweaks I think are justified. Publishing the ebook version will come after all that is complete, and then work on formatting a copy for the trade paperback version will begin. But at least the full thing is complete now, if only in draft form.

Not too much longer and it will be in reader’s hands!

Categories: Dragonlinked, Lethera, Update, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Book 3 Draft Nearly Complete Party

I just finished chapter 23 of the draft for the third book in the Dragonlinked Chronicles series. In celebration, I’ve set up a Kindle Countdown Deal for Book 2, The Bond. That way, if there are Kindle/ebook readers who haven’t read it yet, they’ll get a chance to do so before the third book comes out. Kindle Countdown Deals can only be done on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, so I’ve set them up there. The UK promotion is shorter because of the way Amazon requires them to be set up, as far as minimum price-point changes (their minimum is 0.99, no matter the currency, which is a little silly, as, for example, 0.99 british pounds is more than 0.99 us dollars). While the amazon.co.uk promotion has only one tier, if you take advantage of the amazon.com promotion earlier, you’ll get a bigger discount.

Both promotions start the morning of Tuesday September 23, 2014. The amazon.com promotion ends six days later on Monday morning, while the amazon.co.uk promotions ends three days later on Friday morning.

For amazon.com, click HERE.

For amazon.co.uk, click HERE.

Happy reading!

The Bond cover

The Bond

Categories: Dragonlinked, Lethera, Sale, Update, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Book 3 Manuscript Progressing

As I think I’ve mentioned before, while I am writing I like to go back every now and then to read over what I’ve written so far. Every five chapters of progress seems like a good number for me. I actually went to chapter sixteen this time, though, as I was on a roll, so to speak, and didn’t want to stop at that point. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that after finishing chapter sixteen, I did a read-through, which I just completed. I found some clunky sentences, a few places where I’d changed the name of something later in the book and hadn’t gone back to correct earlier instances, added or rearranged a sentence or two in various places to get the flow at those points to feel better, adjusted word choice and description in certain earlier scenes so they are better in-line with how I describe the atmosphere later in the book, and so on. Little things that one doesn’t think too much about in the heat (or in the slogging) of getting the words on the page.

It’s looking pretty good so far. As it was a bit in book 2, now that the guild exists, what dragonlinked must deal with keeps piling up. And as they are new, there are no ideas as of yet on what exactly it is that dragonlinked do beyond ‘protecting people’ (which includes dragons!). That also means there are no limitations. It’s fun playing with that.

One of the difficulties with the series at this point is the number of characters. What I tried to do in book 2, and am still doing now, is to pick a few ‘main’ characters for the book and mostly use them as the driving/point-of-view characters. The other characters are still there, obviously, and they do get things to do and say, but the ‘mains’ carry most of the book. Another thing I’m trying to do is to give the different characters a little bit of style. By that I mean, their own quirks—phrases, actions, nervous tics, etc. I don’t want it to be anything in-your-face, though, and it doesn’t have to be. Something as simple as the nicknames used for bond-mates has an impact of how characters ‘feel.’ For many this may seem beyond obvious, and I suppose it is. But the more you get a handle on certain aspects of your craft, the more time you can devote to other aspects not quite perfected. That’s where I am now, still learning and (hopefully) still improving.

Now, back to work on chapter seventeen!

 

Categories: Books, Dragonlinked, Lethera, Update, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Another Crucial Tool for Your Writer’s Utilitybelt

I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with my brain. On the one hand, it’s my brain. It is what makes me, well, me. But on the other hand, do I really have to think about three-quadrillion different things at three in the morning? Really? I’m trying to get to sleep here!

Still. Sometimes, one or more of those three-quadrillion things I think of while staring at the ceiling and listening to all the strange sounds that my house makes at night (I fully expect The Doctor to come racing through the room one night, screaming at me to look out for the what’s-it chasing after him) are actually good ideas. They could be completely new ways to go with a sub-plot, or better ways to proceed with a scene, or perhaps an ‘ah-ha!’ moment of seeing how a few things already in-place can be tied together in sheer awesomeness. Sure, most of the things that occur at that hour of the night (morning?) are horrible. But some are little nuggets of gold caught in the panning dish of your late-night brain. Whether you are writing music, short stories, poetry, novels, or blogs, do not lose those ideas!

Yes, yes, yes. You already keep a notebook by your bed for just that reason. Well, at least for me, the dim light that seeps in the bedroom window doesn’t provide enough illumination for me to write anything in a notebook. And even if I flipped on the lamp on the nightstand, it would blind me, wasting precious time where the idea could wash away, leaving the pan empty. No, I say, and again I say, no. Instead, use something you probably already have. Most smartphones (don’t panic if you don’t have one, see a bit later) have a voice memo app or some kind of recorder app. Yes. That’s right. Like Lewis in the USA show Suits, you, sir or madam, are going to make recordings of your brilliant ideas. You don’t have a smartphone? No problem. A quick Google search (Google-smack it!) shows that you can get an electronic voice recorder for as little as 18 dollars. In the gloom of night, it is MUCH easier to launch an app from a glowing screen, or press a record button, than it is to try to scribble down an idea in the dark.

Voice memos have saved my bacon many a time (What does that even mean? Saving it from falling into a camp fire? Did bacon used to be cooked on sticks or something?). The next day, it can be difficult to recall that little nugget that occurred to you in the wee hours of night. I have forgotten a few potentially great ideas in the days before I started recording everything that seemed like a good idea. Yep, I said seemed. Because not everything that sounds fantastic at four in the morning will sound so amazing the next day. But at least you won’t forget anything.

Just recently, I had FOUR great ideas occur to me in one night. Four! And even the next day, those ideas were still great. I would have likely forgotten two of them, maybe all of them, if I hadn’t made a quick voice memo. So do yourself and your readers a favor and use a voice memo app—the under-appreciated little tool that can keep your pork product out of the fire.

 

P.S. I have put the tag ‘tools’ on the various posts I’ve made in which I have talked about different, well, tools. At this time there are three posts tagged this way, but in the future? Who can say.

Categories: Blogging, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Listen to Yourself

So, I’ve been pecking away at the keyboard for several weeks now, working on the first draft of the manuscript for the next book in the Dragonlinked series. I’m near the end of chapter ten. I started the chapter last week, but the writing slogged down during the second scene. I just couldn’t get into it. I knew what needed to happen in there, in general, and I wrote it out. But it wasn’t clicking. It wasn’t so much that the scene was boring, it just seemed off toward the end. I thought about it, tweaked it, and wrestled with it for two days. Nothing. I couldn’t figure out exactly what bugged me about the end of the scene. It was time to get my mind off the scene and do something else. A first read-through of the chapters so far would serve nicely.

I try not to re-read completed chapters until I have a few done. One can get bogged down tweaking every last thing to perfection. You can end up with something wonderful, but six hours will have flown by and you’ve got one singular paragraph done the way you like it. No. My preferred method right now is to just read through and fix only the things that pop out at me, things that take me out of the reading experience. It could be a spelling error, punctuation, the wrong character’s name used in a speech tag, the flow of an idea/conversation being out of whack…just the big stuff. And there was some big stuff. I had the wrong character making reference to a previous thought. I had references to the wrong time of day (morning vs evening). I had a few misspelled words. Well, the words I had spelled were actual words, they were just the wrong words. Thus, spell-check failed to catch them. All of these things I fixed over the course of two or three days. Then, it was time to get back to that problematic scene.

I didn’t want to. I pictured myself like a kid with feet shuffling and dragging, a kid doing anything to keep from having to do the chore that must be done. Buck up, mister, I told myself, get in there and let’s see what we can do. Well, one thing I realized was that the second scene should be the first scene. It would make the chapter flow better. Easy enough; a quick cut and paste and I’d switched them. Then, as I read through the problem scene it finally dawned on me what I didn’t like about it. A lot of the information that the characters were learning had already been revealed to the reader in a previous chapter. It was repetition of information, a no-no. Repetition, whether information or even the retelling of some action by characters, should be cut out (or summarized) whenever possible, unless it is needed for some dramatic or plot purpose. Neither was the case here, and worse, the information wasn’t really needed by the characters in the scene. I highlighted a good chunk of text, gulped, and hit delete. This left me with a very short, skimpy scene, however. What to do? Well, there was some information that in the previous version of the scene I was going to summarize. Maybe I could flesh that information out instead. With that in mind, I set the scene in my head and let the characters do their thing. I liked where it was going. Once the first write was completed, I read over it. It was much, much better.  And in fact, two cool things happened with the re-write: a new plot-point, a new layer for the antagonist’s evil plan, emerged, and I was also better able to tie what these characters were doing into the larger plot. Sweet!

If something you are writing just feels off, it might be your subconscious letting you know that there is definitely something wrong with it. Take some time away and then come back to it refreshed. And don’t be afraid to scrap it! The re-writing might reward you with more than just better prose.

Categories: Lethera, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Draft Outline for Book 3 Complete

Whew. The past few weeks have been busy, busy, busy, mostly with work on the outline for book 3. But now, the initial draft of it is complete. I will take maybe a day or two off and then review the outline for any tweaks or additions I think might be warranted before starting the writing process. I’d take more days off, but my brain probably wouldn’t let me anyway. The whole time I was working on the outline, ideas for fleshing out specific scenes kept popping in my head, slowing me down from completing it. But that’s absolutely fine by me. I’d much rather be bursting with ideas than struggling for them!

Categories: Dragonlinked, Lethera, Update, Writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Be Afraid to Scrap

I’ve been working on book 3 of the chronicles since Monday. I knew, in general, what I wanted to accomplish with the book, but I had no ideas about specifics. So I spent Monday brainstorming with OpenOffice Calc opened on a new outline spreadsheet. It was completely blank except for the headings: Timeline. Plots. Plot Points. I sat and stared at it. It was so blank. Where to start? Well, what did I have, story-wise? I had a vague idea of what should happen by the end of the book and I had a potential starting point, the epilogue of the second book. But starting right at the end of that would be a little boring. There wasn’t much going to happen at that point, aside from the surprise that had already occurred. And something pulse-pounding or dramatic or scary or something action-y should open a book. But nope. I had no ideas for an opening.

Alright, I thought, then think more about the book as a whole. It took me a few hours, but eventually I filled in some plot points. Not all from the same plot, and not all actual plot points. Some were mere scenes that I knew could eventually become plot points. I think I filled in maybe six that first day. Even so, it felt a little underwhelming. But it was just the first day–I had time. More ideas would come as more plot points were filled in. One idea would lead to another and that to another one or more, and so on.

Yesterday, I decided to use one of my tricks from writing book 2: focus on one subplot at a time. I knew who/what the antagonist was going to be, so I decided to focus on the subplot that would get Antagonist hooked into the main plot. I sorted the spreadsheet by plot and started brainstorming again. It helped. I came up with many ideas about how Antagonist would think and actions (along with Protagonist reactions) that might be taken during the three acts of the book. I also made sure I could come up with justifications for those actions that made sense. At the end of the writing day I had about eight more points for that sub-plot. They were decent enough, would lead to some exciting and cool scenes and events, but something was nagging me.

It wasn’t until a few hours after I’d stopped writing for the day (I never stop thinking about a work in progress, or rather, my brain never stops thinking about it) that the reason came to me: this whole sub-plot didn’t excite me. It wasn’t that it was boring, it just didn’t click for me. And if it didn’t click for me, I wouldn’t be able to make it click for a reader. To make matters worse, another subplot I’d thought of didn’t seem to be related at all to this one, which meant one or both should be eliminated. But I loved that other sub-plot. Not only was it cool, it could dovetail into ideas I had for future books. A few thoughts on adjusting the Antagonist sub-plot popped into my head throughout the rest of the night, but I was still unsatisfied.

This morning I grabbed my mug of coffee, my cinnamon toast, and headed to the computer determined to tweak this sub-plot and make it better. I spent an hour or two brainstorming. What if this happened, or that? What if Antagonist had this desire, or that desire, instead? The ‘what if’ game helps to come up with potentially off-the-wall ideas, some of which can be awesome. But I was having no luck. I decided to think about that other sub-plot. How could I get it involved in this sub-plot? I spent time thinking about it but couldn’t come up with anything. That is, until I thought: How can that sub-plot be connected to Antagonist. I thought about Antagonist a bit and an idea came to me. It would mean abandoning the current sub-plot entirely and scrapping everything I’d done on it the last two days. So what? Sometimes you have to kill your darlings. Whether they are darling because they are awesome, or darling because you worked so hard on them, if they don’t work, lose em.

Now, I’m not entirely crazy. I saved the current outline and then used Save As to create a draft 2. In the new draft is where I would start fleshing out this new sub-plot. I’d have the old one handy in case this new one didn’t work. I sat back then and thought about the new plot. I spent a few hours doing so, following ideas where they lead and considering how everything could be connected into a story. It was working rather nicely. And as I thought and typed in plot points I realized something: this new plot clicked with me. I liked it. I liked where it was going, where it came from, and some of the things that could happen because of it. It also gave me an idea for a dramatic prologue.

That’s not to say it will end up exactly as I have it conceived right now. It might end up being tweaked later, but it certainly feels more right than the previous one. So don’t be afraid of scrapping something that isn’t working. It just might give you the freedom to come up with a better idea.

Categories: Dragonlinked, Lethera, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Another writing resource: Etymology

I wrote a piece a few months back about how Google can be used as a great little writing tool. While I was writing The Bond, sequel to Dragonlinked, I found I used Google a lot in another way: to find the etymology of several words and phrases.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way they have changed through history. Why is etymology important? Well, Dragonlinked Chronicles takes place on another world. I wanted the books to have some tie to the familiar, however, so I set Lethera at almost the same technology level that Earth was during the same time period, the late 1800s. In some ways Lethera is a little more advanced than Earth (medicine, and thus, hygiene—due to diagnostic, preventative, and curative magic), while it is behind in others (electricity, gunpowder—also due to magic being used instead). Therefore, since the books are pseudo-period pieces, I wanted to ensure that words and phrases I used made sense for the time and technology, etc. For example, in the Preface of The Bond, I initially referred to anaphylactic shock, but a quick check of the Online Etymology Dictionary (Google: anaphylaxis ety) revealed that the term anaphylactic shock wasn’t really in use until 1916, which is just beyond my 40 year allowance for medical terms (the book takes place in 1874), so, I decided against using it and conveyed the medical issue another way.

For period pieces, and even for pieces set on other worlds/societies, there are many instances where an etymology check can prove handy. For example, say you are thinking of having a character or the narrator say or think ‘Such and such took off like a rocket’ or ‘rocketed away’ (Clich鍏? Probably, but useful enough for this example). Well, do they USE rockets on that planet/society? Has the character/narrator seen or heard of one? Could they have? When did rockets (or that specific phrase) come into general use on Earth? Does it makes sense for that character (or the narrator) to use that phrase? a quick etymology check will answer many, if not all, of these questions.

Hand-in-glove with the discussion of etymology as a tool comes the idea that you should concern yourself with this aspect of writing as well. It ties into suspension of disbelief. As readers we are willing to let a lot go, but if some wildly out-of-place detail pulls us from the story, our suspension is broken and that is something, as writers, we want to avoid doing.

So, think about adding this nifty little tool to your kit, and keep at your craft!

Categories: Tips, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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