Complex or Convoluted?

At work yesterday, my colleague and I were shelving books when we came across one in particular. It was a novel about a time traveling vampire angel cowboy boxer. And no, I am not kidding. We stood there in the aisle of our book store and read the back of this novel out loud, bewildered as more and more layers were piled onto the main character. The MC was… a what, trying to do what? In the end, it only left us baffled. 

When does a story become over encumbered? How do we make our books unique and ‘with a twist’ without making it convoluted? 

I think a great place to start is by keeping the story simple. You can build upon simple by deepening the character, not just assigning new identity labels to them.

There is a difference between a complex plot/character and a busy plot/character. Adding more and more elements does not mean more interesting, it usually just means less sophisticated or nuanced. 

I think the best stories have two to three arcs- one main arc, and one or two smaller arcs. Focusing on the arc of the story, I think you can more readily identify what the story really needs, moving from the unnecessary to the necessary, and making the necessary more detailed. 

In the end, the best thing is to keep focused on the heart of the tale you’re telling, and not get too distracted by the ‘next big thing’ that might be popular on the shelves.

The Story of Your Heart

So often, I’m wracked with inspiration. A little spark of an idea, a fleeting glance of an amazing character. Like a twirling dancer in an enchanted ballroom, these rushes of inspiration pass by me, moving so fast and so beautifully that  it becomes hard to focus on one aspect and see where this idea fits, figure out the story’s shape.

And I find myself with a notebook of portraits, a journal full of single moments in a story. How on earth do I make a full tapestry of all these threads? A beautiful, complete story?

I realized something about all these ideas- they are wonderful, but they are not THE story. Thy are not the thing that keeps me up at night, my fingers itching for a pen and my brain running wild with ideas. They are wonderful moments, but they are not my story to tell.

I realized that I have to tell the story that calls to me like no other. The story that only I can weave, the story that pours from my heart. I have to tell the story that is me, wholly me.

So I sat down. I closed my eyes. I thought about what I love, what I do, who I am. I thought about the things that make me feel complete joy, the things that make my mouth curl up without trying.

And not just the big things- the tiniest moments, too. My dad humming an old song, the way the kettle whistles, opening an old book, patting a horse’s nose, watching a flickering candle. All these moments are treasures that I can put into my story, to make it from my heart.

Your story is within you. You just have to trust yourself enough to find it.

Finding Yourself in Your Words

Hello!

This week I wanted to write a post about a few things, including catching you guys up on what’s been happening in my life, as well as talking about the fact that we put  alot of ourselves into our writing.

First things first- I’m back in Canada! After quite possibly the best six weeks of my life (so far), I have come back to the land of maple. The U.K. is everything that I wanted it to be and more- i cannot emphasis enough how very at home I felt the second I saw the lovely rolling green hills from the plane window. And that’s nothing to the sense of belonging I became wrapped up in when I was in Cambridge.

Ah, Cambridge. Just thinking about that perfect, brilliant, beautiful city makes my heart yearn for it. I can now say I have a creative writing certificate from Cambridge University (excuse me for a moment while I brush away my tears of happiness). It wasn’t only the course itself that was phenomenal- I made lifelong friends, people who are lovely and so intelligent and interesting and inspired. I met the most amazing professors, enjoyed insightful and immersive classes. I stayed atNewnham College, which is not only the most beautiful castle with gorgeous gardens, but its also where the Sylvia Plath lived and studied.

I don’t think I could ever, ever, ever replicate my time at Cambridge. In my heart, I took part of the city with me, and I know I left a part of me behind to endlessly wander those magical streets, pausing on the gorgeous bridges overlooking the river cam.

There was just so much magic there. Truly, I can’t even describe it. On the wind through the leaves, down the narrow cobbled streets, shimmering in the golden rays of the sun… We all felt it. Maybe it was because a whole bunch of writers were brainstorming and imagining in the same place. Maybe it was because there is so much history and intelligence and wonderment that just swells throughout the city. Maybe its because it’s just Cambridge, the place that will always feel right.

I did a lot of sight seeing in England, as well. I went to London (and then went back, because I couldn’t get enough), I stood in a 1,000 year old church, I wandered through the fields and commons of the Cotswolds, I dipped my feet in the water at Brighton Pier. But the place that stirred story ideas in me was Stonehenge. I swear, I could feel the days, the memories, the moments that had passed there. I only wish that I could have touched the stones and traveled back to Scotland, 1743… But then again, I forgot my plaid, and my boyfriend would probably be a bit put off if I arrived home with a Scottish Warrior in tow (By the way, anyone who has read Outlander- please email me. We must fan girl).

I was glad to see that Stonehenge wasn’t too ‘pre-packaged,’ AKA commercialized. Yes, I couldn’t physically touch the stones, but that was to preserve all the other significant stones and markers which have been found recently enough. I am totally okay with taking a small step back if it means that the history and stones themselves will be preserved.

Now, speaking of preserved… what of preserving ourselves in our writing? I think that its probably impossible not to. Writing comes from within you, at least I believe it does. I know some people believe that once your writing is put down on paper, it is separate from yourself. But I don’t think so. My belief is that your writing is apart of who you are. When you are truly proud of something you have written, does it not feel as if it is an extension of yourself? A limb that you have somehow managed to grow through reflection and thought and creativity?

I know that Cambridge will be apart of me now. Just as I know that my writing, once it is out on paper, is still apart of me.

For me, I know that I only write things that completely capture me. I write when the characters in my head become so full and demanding that I must write that particular story. I think that good writing- really, truly amazing stories that do not let you forget them- are written with love and passion and hunger. You simply cannot do that if the story you are writing does not make your chest positively ache with joy. Because for me, that is when you can write 70,000 words. That is when you can stay with these characters and this storyline, for hours and hours and hours of toiling and tailoring and tedious tampering. You need to have your self, your very heart, in your story.

Or at least, a part of your heart. Let the other parts stay in the places you dream of- like maybe a city in England that whispers with magic.

 

Love,

Gillian  x

 

 

 

From Ink to Earth- Creating Believable Worlds

The type of world we live  in changes us- from the clothing we wear, to the houses we live in, to the jobs we have. Everything from what we eat for breakfast, to how we say goodnight is affected by our world, and further by our role within that world.

So how on earth is it possible that writers are able to completely create worlds? To sprout from nothing the lives of people who only exist in their minds?

Well, let’s start with our minds- the very place ideas come from- and think. There are different types of world building- from almost non-existent changes, to full blown galaxies.

In contemporary fiction, world building  might seem easy- after all, we live here! Though you needn’t completely create something, it is important that you observe, and truly take in, what it is you see. A novel with insights and interesting observations becomes much more intriguing. To present new ideas about the very world we live in becomes like a window inside ourselves and our own lives.

In Historical or even bibliographical, there is world building. There is research and content that a reader or writer might have no inkling about. With historical fiction, there has got to be some molding of pre-existing life. A writer must take what is there, and then weave these facts into the web of the story. But knowing these facts, all the littlest details that might make the story seem very real or very irrelevant, can be tricky.

Off the top of your head, do you know the cost of a meal in 1864 London?  Would you know where to go, and what manner of dress you would be wearing? Would you know what you would order, who would bring it to you, and how you would be received? Without research and at least some insight into the workings of your story’s world, your setting will suffer. And when the world your story is set in does not seem believable, it can make readers turn away.

When it comes to Fantasy, Distopian, or Science fiction, a writer must create. From nothing, we build houses, languages, villages, and customs. We decide upon modes of transportation, communication, on political webs and weather patterns and entire ways of life.

World Building is one of the most complex, invigorating, overwhelming things a writer can take on. How do we create someone else’s world out of nothing?

We can start by thinking about our own days. What do you do when you first wake up? Where do you wake up? How?

As myself, I wake up in my bed, at the apartment my boyfriend and I share, thanks to the alarm I set on my phone.I usually give him a kissy and then get up, and hop into the shower. Once I’m cleaned up, he will usually have started cooking breakfast (tea, coffee, toast, eggs, bacon), which I take over while he showers. We then eat, pack up our books, check emails, etc, and then head out to class or work, depending on the day.

Now, if I were to think through the same exercise as one of my characters, my answer would be totally different. Let’s see how a morning routine can influence (and be influenced by) a character from My novel Of Shadow and Stone (YA F).

Yenika wakes up in her military tent when her squire, Olyna, rouses her before dawn. Yenika gets out of bed, and kneels before the small bust of Goddess Astoria in her tent, cutting her finger as a blood offering in hopes that the Goddess of Death will spare her for another day. Then, Yenika goes for a run, just as the sun is coming up. She spars with Olyna with knives  for twentyish minutes, and then takes a dip in the river near the army camp. When she comes back, Olyna already has a breakfast of oatmeal, tea and  bread warming over the fire outside. The squire helps Yenika dress in her leather armor, and tightly braids her hair before they sit down at the fireside to eat.

Just comparing the two, I can see the slight worldbuilding details in my world versus Yenika’s world. Wouldn’t it be bizarre if Yenika was awoken by her iphone? Or if I had to bathe in a river outside?

There are larger details which would be obviously strange to build into a character’s world. But there are also more subtle details with help paint the mental picture of how  a character’s world works. For instance, Yenika’s blood offering shows that she knows how much danger she puts herself through everyday- she faces death constantly. In my world, I don’t pray to a God or Goddess as my morning ritual, because I am not living a dangerous, tumultous life. I don’t have to be worried about my after life, or that there are spiritual beings I could anger, because our society is not so bloody or dangerous.

I could pick apart small details in my morning and Yenika’s morning and compare how very different they are, and how they speak to the larger world we live in. The fact that I get up and I have to make myself up for purely cosmetic reasons is a far cry to Yenika’s washing her sweat off and braiding her hair to keep it off her face while she cuts people down.

So, I want you to think about your character, and for instance, their morning routine. Who are they? Why do they have to prepare themselves for their day in the way they do? Does their society demand certain things from them? Does their job? Their culture? Their religion?

Small details can give us writers more to work with. We can expand on people’s routines to see the bigger picture behind them, and in doing so, we can begin to construct and refine our character’s worlds.

 

 

 

Image- Anton Lomaev, ‘The Wild Swans’

 

 

Finding Your Story Threads

We’ve all done it- staring at a blinking cursor, our brains turning to mush. Perhaps a deadline is looming like a coming storm, or you just really want to write and can’t seem to find the story.

I tend to call this terrible conundrum loosing your story threads. Some might just call this writer’s block, but I don’t like to think of it that way. ‘Blocked’ brings to mind a degree of separation, a huge obstacle to overcome with great difficulty.

You haven’t been barred from your story- that’s impossible! Your story comes from within yourself. All you have to do is find the threads.

This can be as simple as changing up your routine or your writing space. Do you usually write at your desk, and find yourself staring out the window? Why not try going outside, and imagine that your characters are there talking with you. Do you often only write before bed? Why not try turning out your light, laying in the dark, and just thinking about your story threads.

Sometimes it can seem counter productive to simply ‘not’ write. But guess what? Thinking about your story, molding and creating and adding new elements, is writing. In fact, your story will be all the better for taking a step back from it and contemplating what you’ve written so far, or even just the story seed you’ve planted in your head.

Think of your favorite books. Was every aspect about the story simple? Probably not. A simple plot can turn into an amazing story, but that doesn’t mean that the characters should also be underdeveloped, the setting bare.

Stories with complex webs and intricate patterns make the reader come alive within the book. Think of books like Harry Potter, Gone Girl, or Game of Thrones. Each of these stories have twisting aspects woven into the plot, into the characters, into the setting and backstories that add up to create an entire world to inhabit.

The way to create these whole, believable worlds is to know what you’re writing, and not just what appears on the page. You must know telling details about your story and its components. You have to know these characters like they are very old, close friends.

So look again at your story. How well do you truly know the essence of your book? Reflect, review, think, challenge.

Re-familiarize yourself with your book. That is where your story threads lie. All you have to do is give them a little pull.

And then, you can get back to that blinking cursor and make it see what you do- the threads of an amazing, wonderful, marvelous story that must be told.

 

Hello Gorgeous!

So. I have been a wee bit MIA lately, I know, and I apologize. I finished up exams and moved and am currently trying to plan a VERY exciting trip that involves a VERY exciting writing (ha rhymes!) component. But more on that later!

The truth is, there’s no excuse to not be writing. And I have been writing! I just haven’t been keeping up the blog. Naughty me!

A Few Updates!

You may have noticed that I fancied up the site. I hope you like it! I want to make the whole shebang look professional and … Well also very me. Hopefully I married the two!

You may have also noticed that I added along the top toolbar my current projects. BTBH is still in the editing stages. There are just so many things I want to slightly tweak, or change some dialogue or this or that or whatever. There are also some more major things which I think could be made neater. I’m telling myself that I am taking a break to come back later with fresh eyes. I think I just need some space from Sapphira- she’s so intense all the time! Thank goodness she has Benja and Flinna to make her laugh and bring out her silly side.

I am also taking time away from BTBH to work on another project- Of Shadow and Stone. I don’t know why, exactly, but I just have this glorious feeling about this world, these characters. I have never found it so easy to write a story. When I say easy I don’t mean painless… Just that I find myself writing OSAS constantly, and while I would otherwise be totally NOT thinking about writing. I don’t know, there’s just something about these ladies.

Big Trip Plans

I was going to wait, but I just want to tell the world. The big trip I am planning- is my first ever jaunt overseas, To the UK! Specifically- and this is the best part- I am going to Cambridge University for an International Summer Program for Creative Writing.

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

SO THERE’S THAT!

Have any of you ever taken a writing course? What was it like? And if you’ve been to the UK, are there any amazing things I ABSOLUTELY must see?

Silver Linings

When I was 13 years old, I mailed off my first story to three agents.

Over the next few months, I recieved three rejection letters.

Today, after opening another rejection letter, I felt this weighty sadness. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve wanted this dream for so, so long, and perhaps I may never achieve it.

 But then something made me take pause. I remembered that those three rejection letters became my most prized possessions.

I still have those letters today- and have added many, many more to the pile. 

But it’s strange, isn’t it? The letters were rejections, so why did I find so much hope in them? Am I becoming jaded? 

I thought back to reading those letters. I guess for me, it was the first time I had ever shown anyone my writing. I had absolutely no idea if I was terrible or good or mediocre. But these letters were the opinions of industry professionals, people that knew.

My story was called, “Daisy the Mixed-Up Princess,” about a zany and clumsy young royal accepted to Princess school. Her best friend was a young witch named Miranda, who was terrible at Magic. Daisy generally spent a lot of time getting into trouble, and the trying to find her way out of it. 

The rejection letters were so nice. The people reading my submission obviously took pity on my terrible query letter, and I will be forever grateful to them for sending personalized, thoughtful responses. They said things like, “You obviously have talent” and “Your characters are funny and entertaining” and for me, that was all I needed. 

I find happiness in the fact that, at 13, I didn’t lose heart, I didn’t give up. I focused on these amazing things and this wonderful feedback from people who could make my dreams a reality. 

Right now, I have seven rejections sitting in my inbox. And, though some days it’s harder than others, I realize now that I’m okay with that. Because I know that I will find the fight agent, the one who is perfect for me, for the stories I tell.

And for right now, I just focus on telling my stories the most enchanting, magical way I can.

So, to all the writers out there who, like me, are slugging through the muddy marshland of querying- you can, you will, do this. Don’t give up on yourself, and don’t give up on your love of telling stories. 

For I find that when it comes to storytellers, we couldn’t stop if we tried.

Chapter Two- the Marshlander

Naliya’s sword sang as she swung it through the air, meeting steel. She felt the vibrations through her bones as her sword met her opponent’s dagger. The familiar clang of metal echoed, sending a shiver of thrill down Naliya’s spine, and for a moment she didn’t feel the pain ricocheting through her body.
She swung again, only slightly feeling her wounds burning. The bandit she fought must have been from the Marshlands, based on his double curved daggers. He swung at her, right then left, and again. Naliya blocked his swinging hands, then managing to hook her ankle around his calf, she yanked upwards, and he crashed to the ground.
Naliya cast a glance over to Inerri. The Fae moved like water. Her arms swirled gracefully, throwing various spells at the remaining two bandits. Blue and white sparks tangled through the air like a biting gust of snow and ice. Her face was, as it always was while casting, completely calm.
Naliya brought her attention back to the bandit across from her. He stood, shaking, and lunged at her. She twirled to her left out of the bandit’s reach. She swung, finally feeling the effort tear into her abdomen. Naliya stepped forward, moving to meet the Marshlands bandit’s crossed daggers. They were face to face, pushing hard against each other’s weapons. Naliya was only inches away from the flaking dark facepaint across his forehead and down the bridge of his nose, inches away from his fierce, dark green eyes. She paused, for she could see a world within them.
“You’re very sick.” He breathed, and Naliya swallowed. There had always been legends that the Marshlands were full of mystics who could see an opponents every weakness, just by casting an eye over someone. Those with the gift of Telling had deep, mysterious eyes like bulbs of light. Naliya felt her body tense.
“You’ve been in prison.” The Marshlander continued, and his eyes dropped to her stomach. To her injuries.
No. Not there.
She shifted her body to angle her wounds away from him. One solid hit there, and it might all be over.
Nevertheless, Naliya smirked, and pushed harder against the Marshlander’s double daggers. A terrible screeaching sound grated through the air as steel dragged along steel.
“And you’ve had a hard fall. Likely to have one again soon.” Naliya said, and in one fluid, quick motion, pulled her weight back from pressing against him to slide out of reach. The Marshlander fell forward, and Naliya was right there to take advantage. She swung her sword, cutting into flesh, crashing into bone, her hands reverberating with the hit. The Marshlander let out a gasp of pain, clutching at the slice across his stomach. His rough brown tunic was quickly turning a dark red.
A strange, terrible something twisted her stomach. She stepped backward, away from him.
Naliya had been in life or death fights many times, had given fatal blows to enemies. She knew what blood looked like when it gushed from a wound. She knew how it felt to guide a weapon with intent to hurt, to protect herself.
But something here, with this stranger… something was different. Something felt wrong.
Naliya looked down at her blade, red with the Marshlander’s blood. She blinked several times before coming to her senses- Inerri still needed help.
She stumbled toward Inerri, who had incapacitated one of the bandits so much so that he was currently slumped against the rock wall. The remaining man grimaced, his sword raised to strike. The Fae had her palms outstretched toward him, and strands of blue magic encircled the remaining bandit.
Naliya, who knew of Inerri’s dislike of using magic to harm, squeezed the hilt of her sword and made a run at him. They met in a clash of yells. Their swords clanged, and Naliya felt her strength being sapped from her with every swing. That strange horror in the pit of her stomach had made her tired all of a sudden, tired and unsteady.
Inerri, watching Naliya fade, came beside her, her small palm facing skyward. It glowed briefly before she cast a ball of swirling dark blue magic. She clenched her hand inward, and then let the spell fly directly at the bandit’s chest. He fell forward, a gurgle on his lips. Naliya looked away.
“We need to get inside.” Inerri said, looking over the downed bandits to make sure they were truly out.
As she sheathed her sword on her back, Naliya cast a glance at the Marshlander. Inerri followed her gaze.
“Is he dead?” She asked. Naliya shrugged, holding her breath.
Inerri was studying Naliya, her brow furrowed. “Both his companions are alive,” She said, stepping toward the Marshlander, “I’ll heal his wound enough so that he can survive. He’s out cold now.” A curious sort of relief washed over Naliya.
Inerri bent before the Marshlander, placing her hands on his stomach. She mumbled some things under her breath, and Naliya watched as his body dully glowed gold.
Inerri stood, letting out a breath. “Alright, let’s not waste anymore time on bandits.” She brushed the pine needles off her cloak and stepped into the mouth of the cave.
Naliya bent down, noticing the piece of dark braided leather wrapped tightly around his wrist- a promise made, and as of yet unfulfilled, for the strands were not separate. Her eyes fell to the blood-soaked fingers. A sigil ring, one she didn’t recognize. Some kind of soaring bird, in front of the night sky. She slipped it off his finger and dropped it into her cloak pocket. Payment, she told herself. Payment for letting him keep his life.
She stood and followed Inerri into the mouth of the cave. Inerri was looking at the drawings and warnings on the cave walls, hands on her hips. Naliya stopped at the crackling fire and pulled the roasting food off the spit. The meat burned her fingers, but she hardly noticed the scalding juices dripping onto her dirty palms.
Venison. She had forgotten how tender it was. Hell, for as hungry as she was right now, she would have eaten an old squirrel and thought it was a delicacy. Inerri watched her, grimacing.
“I know you’re hungry, but who knows how safe that is. We can get some food soon enough-”
“Inerri, I wouldn’t care if this was cooked dragon hide, I would still gladly eat it.” She held out the last few bites to Inerri, who shook her head with her lip curled. Naliya shrugged and shoved the rest in her mouth.
They stepped farther into the darkness of the cave. “Let me just see if I can…” Inerri fumbled for a minute in the dark. “Ah, there we go.” She said, and a yellow glow illuminated the dark cave. In each of her palms sat a glowing orb of light. “These won’t go out until I put them out.” Inerri flicked her wrists, and the orbs floated in front of them.
Naliya finally swallowed down the last of the Venison. “I have no idea where we’re going. Do you?” She asked, peering into the darkness before them. Rock passageways lead off in every direction- some tall, some only big enough to fit a child.
Falcran cave was a hub of sorts. It had hundreds of natural, underground passages which led to hundreds of different places across the realm- and hundreds of dead ends.
Inerri nodded her head. “It was written on the cave walls at the mouth. If we take this tunnel on the left and follow it for a few miles, we’ll come out at Vespan Bay.”
They walked in silence for a while, too busy listening for anyone or anything else to talk, until Inerri cleared her throat.
“You know, Nal, its okay to feel different after… you know, after being held captive for a while.” Inerri was using her calming voice.
Naliya closed her eyes for a moment, half out of anger, half out of relief. “What do you mean?” She asked.
“I mean… things change, feelings change. Sometimes for the better. If you find that you have a hard time fighting now, it’s okay-”
“I’m fine, Ri. Seriously. And the Fort wasn’t that bad.” Even in the dim light of the glowing orbs, Naliya could see Inerri’s eyes narrow.
“Really?” The Fae said, “So you didn’t tell me about whatever wound you have on your stomach because…?”
Naliya sighed, squeezing her hands into fists. Truth be told, her abdomen was on fire right now, and she was favouring it a lot. Now that she thought about it, she would have been more surprised if the Fae hadn’t noticed.
“I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to worry and to waste time and energy on me.”
“But you were fine with me healing that bandit that you injured. Don’t tell me that you don’t feel differently now. Something changed. You never used to feel so regretful if you hurt the people you went up against.”
“Alright! So maybe something made me more sympathetic while I was imprisoned.”
“Probably the fact that you were regularly beaten.” Inerri watched Naliya, daring her to object. “Naliya, you were always the best. Now you know what its like to be the one to lose. And usually, that hurts. A lot.”
Naliya kicked at the loose pebbles on the cave floor. “They beat me, yes. But I handled it.” Inerri’s face was clouded over with sympathy, and it was almost too much for Naliya to take.
“See? This is why I didn’t want to-”
Naliya stopped talking abruptly, spinning around to look behind them. She had heard footsteps, she was sure of it.
She turned to Inerri, and a significant look passed between them.
Someone else was in the cave.
Inerri raised her light bubble higher, letting the glow bounce off the damp cave walls.
The silence pressed in on them. “Maybe it was just a-”
An arrow soared right past Inerri’s cheek.
“Damn it all to hell!” Naliya cursed, as they turned and fled further into the dark tunnel, their pursuers right at their backs.

I Have a New Story! Chapter One- the Fire Within

I don’t think there is anything more thrilling or invigorating than beginning a new story idea. I mean, from that first beautiful, other-worldly jolt of inspiration, of “OH WOWIE, WHAT IS THIS BEAUTIFUL IDEA?!” to flinging everything in your book bag all over the floor in an effort to find a notebook, to watching your fingers fly across the page in an attempt to keep up with that inspiration machine between your ears.

Well… in case you couldn’t tell by the lateness of the post, THAT VERY THING HAPPENED TO ME ABOUT TWO HOURS AGO.

Needless to say, I’m on a high right now. Any writer can tell you what that feels like. Its this utter shock of joy and adrenaline that just pumps through your very soul.

Hmmm…. a little of that might also be the coffee i just downed, but I mean. IDEAS!

I sat  down at my desk and about a thousand words just poured right out of me. Sometimes when writing, things as just so clear and so close that they are almost tangible.

Of course, writing like this is as easy as pie. Its a joy. An unbottled, wild, sing-out-loud burst of happiness.

But writing isn’t always this way. Like a wonderful long-term relationship, sometimes writing can seem like the last thing you want to deal with. It can become trying. It can get naggy. It can forget to take the garbage out even when you specifically asked it to and left a note on the counter as a reminder and-

Well, probably not the last one, but you never know.

So, writing isn’t always easy, it isn’t always going to do the things you ask of it. But its an absolutely amazing, wonderful, mind blowing thing most of the time. It’s part of you, part of your heart and soul.

And with that, I’m going to end this little reality check with my excerpt of what I managed to write and edit tonight of this new project. And I am going to go dance around some more and let my ideas run like a nice river of inspiration through my mind.

OH and before I forget…. I know in my last post, I spoke of the perils of pantsing and how I really feel that I am a planner. But here’s the thing:

1) Never take anything I say too seriously, or with any sense of finality.

2) I still feel that writing one chapter is not pantsing, just a crash test to get to know your characters and a fun way to get your fingers flowing.

 

Alright, here is my new baby. Please let me know your thoughts!!!! 🙂

———————————–

 

 The ancient forest was perfectly, completely still. Not a whisper of the wind came through the thick canopy of leaves above to ruin the spell of quiet over the trees.

But then- a distant sound like a heartbeat. Galloping hooves, growing ever closer, and muffled voices.

Two hooded riders broke through an empty expanse of trunks. They burst along the narrow path, one after the other, moving in a flash of dark furs.

“I thought we agreed- you’d set a small fire!” One of the riders yelled, a golden tangle of hair escaping from her hood. A jewel-hilted broadsword was strapped to the girl’s back, and a dagger lay sheathed at each thigh. She looked over her shoulder, to the dark shadows that shifted in the trees, searching for the black cloaks and eagle sigils of their pursuers.

The other rider, wearing the golden bands of the Fae stacked up her dark bare arms, shrugged. “Naliya, I told you controlling flames aren’t my strong suit.”

Naliya stared at her companion’s back, eyes growing slightly wild.

“Inerri! You blew up the whole Fort! What happened to a discreet escape?” Before the Fae girl could respond, a crash resounded behind them, not nearly far enough.

“I think we should try to head to Falcran Cave!” Inerri said, twisting her body to give Naliya a meaningful look. Naliya let out a groan, but nodded her head. They both knew what that meant.

As their horses continues to gallop, the girls took their right feet out of the stirrups, shakily transferring their weight to their left. Naliya gasped in pain, trying to ignore the urge to touch the spot below her ribs. They both swung their right leg carefully over their moving mount’s back, gripping tightly to their saddles.

“Now!” Inerri cried. They let go, both pulling their remaining foot out of the stirrup, and then, with a whisper of words like a song under Inerri’s breath, they were falling at an unnaturally slow pace backward.

A large, sparkling bubble of water, as soft and plush as a pillow, had caught them, and was carefully descending onto the ground like a weighed down pulley. The moment it touched the damp forest floor, the enchanted bubble popped, and the two girls were staggering up . Naliya swallowed the grunt of pain that clenched at her throat and followed Inerri at a break neck speed through the trees adjacent to the path. Their mounts galloped on, a slight distraction for their pursuers.

It wasn’t until they had gone well into the web of ferns and underbrush that Naliya felt her nerves calm. She hated that swooping feeling of falling in her stomach, that nauseating moment of being suspended in the air with nothing to catch her. Inerri, on the other hand, loved the strange, floating sensation. Naliya supposed it was because the Fae girl’s natural branch of magic was water.

Naliya liked to have her feet firmly on the ground.

As they stumbled as quietly as possible through the trees, Naliya ripped at the cold black pendant against her throat- the amulet worn by a Tower Priestess. It was out of habit, rather than belief that the perpetually cold thing would come off. No matter whether she tried burning or magic or steel, the amulet was impossible to remove. It had been choking her since her initiation ceremony that past spring. Even after she fell from grace, even after she refused her duties as a Tower Priestess, it still would not budge. She would have to cut off her head before being free of the vow she made to the Sky Goddess.

The forest around them was silent once again, save for the sounds of their footsteps and laboured breathing. Far off, they could hear the muffled crashing of their pursuers. Inerri reached into the leather pouch at her hip, pulling out a small wooden compass and a neatly folded map. They kept up a quick pace for about an hour, always heading North West. Naliya tried not to grumble about how weary her body felt. Her jellied limbs had been used to the cramped, hard cell in the Baevan fort. She gingerly touched the sore spot on her stomach where purple plumes of bruises decorated her skin. Inerri could find out about that later- no use in worrying her now. The Fae would only waste her energy trying to heal the slices and bruises, and depending on what they found at Falcran Cave, Inerri would need all the energy she had.

“Just here, I think!” Inerri puffed. Up ahead, the trees gave way to a brook, and past that, a wall of red rock. The smell of wood smoke drifted across Naliya’s nostrils, and she stopped suddenly, dragging Inerri down to a crouch. Just inside the mouth of the cave, a warm and inviting fire crackled, with a spit of meat roasting above it. Naliya felt her stomach twinge at the sight of the feast. She couldn’t remember the last time she ate anything other than the stale crusts of bread- and (just the once) an unfortunate mouse.

But three shadows cast themselves along the rock wall like demons. Bandits, all well armed and muscled, lazed in the mid afternoon, waiting for something to do.

“Let’s move on,” Inerri whispered nervously, biting her lip. “You’re in no fit state to fight anyone, and making a racket could call those Baevan soldiers back onto our trail.”

Naliya let out a breath. “Inerri, I think it’s time I take the lead for a while.” She said, standing back to her full height. The thread bare rags she had under the fur cloak Inerri had brought would do nothing to protect her. Neither would the fraying deer skin boots, or her exposed skin. She was already injured, she was frail and malnourished. Her very bones ached.

But Naliya’s hands were as still as the forest, and her heart was burning with the need to swing steel.

She rolled her shoulders.

“No! Naliya, you can’t-”

“This won’t take long.” Naliya reached her arm above her and unsheathed her sword, bolting across the brook to the cave before Inerri could stop her.

 

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That’s it! I really hope you enjoyed

 

 

 

The Plus Side to Planning

The Perils of Pants

Ah, ye olde debate- to plot, or to pants?

First off, what does that even mean? Well, in writing we like to think that there are two basic roads to travel regarding your story’s game plan. (And how much you know about it from the get-go).

When a writer plans out their story arc, characters, setting, etc, they are known as ‘planners.’

When a writer heads into the story with only very bare bones ideas- such as knowing a characters name or the fact that they want to write a mystery about a missing diamond ring- they are called pantsers.

Of course, these are very basic definitions, and each can have their own variations.

Well, personally I like to banish pants whenever necessary, but especially when it comes to writing. I know there are plenty of pantsers out there who will disagree, but I believe in planning. I’m the type of writer who needs to have a fully fleshed out vision of where the narrative is going. How can we add little tidbits of important information or foreshadowing if we have no idea what comes next?

The thing is, I view planning as a sort of “dating” period with my story and its characters. I have to get to know them on a more personal level before I begin a fully-fledged book writing relationship with them. I mean… I will at least take them out for dinner first!

As far as I’m concerned, planning doesn’t have to be strictly about outlining chapter by chapter synopsis. Though that can be helpful, it’s a lot more useful to engage in planning activities that really help you learn more about these people and places in your head.

My Method:

What I like to do is get a three ring notebook, nothing fancy, and just write down EVERYTHING I know or think I might know about characters and world building and plot and magic systems. I just sort of start spewing (sorry, gross word) out whatever I can, and in doing so that usually encourages my brain to just keep flowing and produces more ideas!

I try to shape up the plot once I think I have a vague idea, by constructing a few sentences that I can use to strengthen my idea of the story.
Then I get some little blank recipe cards and write out the plot points with only a little extra details here and there. It doesn’t matter if they are in order because the beauty of the cards is that you can lay them all out over the floor and organize them. For someone like me, who is very visual, it’s a real help in seeing the entire web of the story.
Next is the most fun (and perhaps only a little necessary) part- I pour myself a glass of wine (because I enjoy adult grape juice) and go on pintrest and create a new story board. I pin characters, settings, mood posts, etc. I find it really helps me visualize an also I just bloody well love PIntrest.
Then I like to make a playlist on songza. I really like classical and film scores, but I also add music with lyrics that really fit with the story mood.

Sometimes I get really into one particular artist. For instance, While writing my NaNoWriMo book this year, Demi Lovato- who I’ve never really had an opinion about- just had so many perfect songs for my character. She was kind of the voice of my heroine, in my mind. The next book I did, it was an obscure German artist with the most beautifully haunting voice, and she just really captured my character and the emotions the character went through in the story.

Honestly, music really helps to shape a character for me, and helps me get into their head. A few authors like the ever wonderful Sarah J. Maas have their book playlists up on spotify, which are great places to start looking for your own playlists.
Sometimes I will also do individual playlists for each character, and/or write a few diary or blog enteries from their perspective to get into their head.
All of these methods help me prepare for my story. There are other things I’d like to try aswell, such as covering my desk and workspace with photos and maps and quotes from my characters. When I’m thinking, I tend to stare off into space at the wall or the window, and I think that staring at a map of my story’s lands, or a photo of my characters or something telling that a character said would keep me immersed in their world.

For those of you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, how are you using your planning month of March? Or will you be buttoning up a pair of pants and saying, “to hell with planning!”

Either way, I hope you’re as excited as I am to get down to work!