Tag Archives: Writing Process

#NaNoPrep Season: Learning Your Pre-writing Style #NaNoWriMo

Today I am featuring a post by my good friend, and fellow Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo, Lee French. Lee poses the question: Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter?’ For me, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I plot, then I wing it, then I replot, and let it fly. Without further ado, here is Lee’s post.  I heartily suggest you read it all and click on through to finish the post on her page.

Lee French

There are many writers who claim to pants their stories. That is, fly by the seat of their pants, aka no plan, no outline, no nothing before starting to write. The other option is planning, which consists of drawing up a complete outline, character bios, detailed setting documents, and so on.

Pantser vs. Plotter

I wish to submit two controversial opinions:

  1. Pantsing and plotting are not two options, but rather two ends of a spectrum.
  2. As with many linear scales, most of us fit most comfortably somewhere between the two extremes.

The popularized term for folks who do “both” is Plantser. My argument is that we are all plantsers. Or, at least, the majority of us are.

Planster

The hitch: until you start writing, you have no real idea where you fit on that spectrum. You may think you’re on the Pantser end, then you get stuck on Day 4…

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The clock, groceries, and a new thesaurus

Jetsonslogo640x480At times the world seems to be conspiring against me.  I have to drop what I’m doing, load up the van, and head up to town for something as mundane as groceries. Food should order itself, deliver itself, and put itself away.

But no. Where is my android butler and why is he not doing the shopping? Just like the flying car I was promised when I was child, my android butler is in the Jetsons‘ style garage of my imagination.

But sometimes I get two or three pages of writing done in the 20 or 30 minutes before I have to leave the house for an appointment. There is something about the pressure of knowing I will have to quit at a certain time that forces me to be more productive than I would ordinarily be.

Why is this? When I am pressed for time I use every second to get those ideas out of my head. I don’t stop and research on the good, old, time-wasting internet, and I don’t worry about whether or not I am overusing a word in the narrative. This is a rough draft–all of that can be ironed out when I have more leisure–the next day usually.

clockSome of my best ideas have come about under a time crunch.  Normally when I am writing on a stream-of-consciousness level, I can key about fifty words a minute–paltry compared to today’s young-uns who grew up keying their homework rather than writing it in cursive.

I do admit that just because I can key those words does not mean they will all make sense, or be worth reading. But that again is why we are driven to look at what we just wrote the day after we wrote it–did it say what I meant? How many times did I use the word “noose” in that particular chapter and where am I going to find six different alternatives for such a unique word?

Apricot poodle puppy portrait. Isolated on a white background (studio shoot), via Google Images

A little rephrasing here, cutting there, and voila! It looks like a poodle!

It’s a jungle in my head sometimes, and my ancient  student edition of Roget’s Thesaurus is my friend. But neither the old student version of the thesaurus from 40 years ago, nor the modern, online version is cutting it for me right now.

I need more synonyms. Lots, and lots more!

I have just now invested in a bigger, better, hardcover thesaurus. Thus I now have the Oxford American Writers’ Thesaurus winging it’s way to my doorstep. I expect the drone to drop it on Saturday.

ozford american writers thesaurusSome references have to be in hard-copy–such as The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the most comprehensive style guide geared for writers of essays, fiction, and nonfiction. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is a good beginner style guide, but I found it hard to navigate and couldn’t always find what I wanted. The Chicago Manual of Style is written specifically for writers, editors and publishers and is the industry standard.

Just as a side note–if you are using AP style you are writing for the newspaper, not for literature–two widely different styles with radically different requirements. AP style was developed for expediency in the newspaper industry and is not suitable for novels or for business correspondence. For business, you want to use the Gregg Reference Manual.

Eternal_clock

Eternal Clock, Robbert van der Steeg CC|2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

All in all, I like the way being forced to produce words in a short time helps me lay down a rough draft. But being short on time is big pain when I am trying to revise and iron out stubborn, repetitive wrinkles in a narrative.

Summer is nearly over, and with that comes the long, dark days of the northern winter. I won’t be going as many places (I hope). But with the advent of September I will be spending longer hours editing for clients. My personal productivity will drop in regard to my own work, but I will still find time to write.

And I will also find time to revise. I am nearly at the end of two books written for the World of Neveyah series. Valley of Sorrows will wind up the Tower of Bones series–it is completed and is in revisions. The Wayward Son is nearly complete. While The Wayward Son is not actually a part of the Tower of Bones series, much of it does run concurrently with Forbidden Road, as it is the story of John Farmer’s redemption.

Today will be busy–groceries can wait until tomorrow. Today I am working as hard as I can, trying to get Valley of Sorrows ready to be edited, so that the ToB series will be complete, and also to get John’s story out there too.

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Talking with Erika M. Szabo

Field Roast holiday roast croppedWe survived another Christmas! The refrigerator is bursting with leftovers, and we had a wonderful dinner with one of our sons, and one of my brothers. Life is good! The carnivores said the turkey was good, but surprisingly to me, given the amount of teasing I endure at their hands, the Hazelnut Cranberry Holiday Roast en Croute was the star of show, with little of it being left over. The world did not stop in its orbit as the vegan meal was consumed with gusto, and no one left the table hungry!

I’m always intrigued by the way other authors think, and today, Erika M Szabo, author of The Ancestors’s Secrets series, has consented to answer a few questions for us.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

ES: I became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to my dad who introduced me to many great books. I started writing educational books twelve years ago when I received my PhD in Alternative Medicine. I love animals, therefore I created the Read for Animals anthology series and published two books with authors and poets to help animals. The story idea for Ancestor’s Secrets series came from my Hun heritage, from the legends and history. I created a magical, fantasy world using bits of real historical facts and incorporating real life events from my years of working as a trauma nurse into the story.

CJJ: I love that you are able to draw on your heritage for your work. Tell us about your most recent book.

ES:  In the Ancestor’s Secrets series, present and past blends into a paranormal fantasy tale with intriguing clan secrets, magical heritage, love triangle and Ilona’s exciting and dangerous life in a secret society. Ilona is a young doctor settled into a world of logic and reason. She inherits a world of traditions, well-kept secrets and magical powers, and is left to piece together her clan’s past, using nursery rhymes taught to her by her mother. Learning some of the secrets not only confuses her, but places her in mortal danger.  When a sinister man appears, Ilona connects his presence to a series of mysterious deaths. He can influence others to kill her, but why can’t he touch her? There are clues around every corner, and the elusive answers draw her further into the hidden world of her people.  As if the mysteries aren’t enough, her life becomes more complicated when she meets a dashing stranger. Although he saves her life by putting his own life in danger, she senses evil in him. The first book of The Ancestor’s Secrets series raises questions such as: what if there is a secret society exists hidden among us with its strict rules and fiercely enforced laws, and certain members come to possess magical powers? What if finding love, despite the obstacles thrown our way, is possible? What if we could have the power to visit the ancestors in the past and create our own future?

CJJ: That sounds intriguing! How did you come to write this novel?

ES: On a rainy afternoon I couldn’t find any new book to read. I was moping around, browsing my bookshelves, mumbling to myself. After a while my daughter had enough and snapped at me, “Mom, stop whining! If you haven’t a book to read, then write one.” Her challenge shocked me, but I started playing with the idea. I’ve never excelled in following rules or formulas, so I discarded the instructions I found in “how to write fiction” books, and made up my personal rules. At first, I started playing with the story just for my own enjoyment, I thought, writing the swirling ideas in my head was far better than being haunted by them. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before.

CJJ: I always wonder, and my reader do too, do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

ES:  When I started writing the novel series, I only had a vague outline of the story in my mind, and I kind of let the story develop on its own. Some parts are totally different now than I had originally planned.

CJJ: Many of us write fantasy, but how does your work differ from others of its genre?

ES: The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series written mostly in diary style with paranormal magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel.

CJJ: We each write for our own reasons, but why do you write what you do?

ES:  My favorite genre to read I love to read is magical realism/fantasy stories, therefore it is my favorite genre to write as well.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

ES: The first edition of my novel series was published by a traditional publisher. I was not satisfied with the editing, book cover, formatting, as well as the full control they had on the story. I decided to break the contract, form my own publishing company and edit, format and publish the story the way I like it.

CJJ: I had a similar experience! What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

ES:  Both have advantages and disadvantages. If your book is accepted by a traditional publisher, read the fine lines of the contract and if it doesn’t suit you, then go indie.

I so agree with you, Erika!  Thank you for visiting today, and I can’t wait to read these books!

erika szabo protectedbythefalconebookBook 1, Protected By The Falcon

Ilona is a doctor and is ruled by logic, yet when she starts to develop unusual powers, her beliefs change and she’s thrown into a world of mysteries, traditions and secrets. Nursery rhymes taught by her mother lead her to discover her clan’s past, which still exist with its fiercely enforced laws. A dangerous dark man stalks Ilona who is unexpectedly rescued by a handsome stranger, Zoltan. As their relationship grows, her feelings for best friend, Bela, starts to fade. When her life and the future of her people become threatened, she must gather all her courage and use her inherited powers to fight back. Infused with Hungarian legend, the twisting plot keeps the reader turning the pages of this extraordinary fantasy story. The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series with magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel that is a great read for fantasy lovers and also suitable for young adults.

http://www.amazon.com/Protected-Falcon-Ancestors-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B00LNBSKIY

erika m szabo ChosenbytheSwordebook (2)Book 2, Chosen By The Sword

In book one, Protected By The Falcon, Ilona is thrust from her easy and steady life and forced to face the unknown, which prompts her to discover the ancient tribal secrets. The rules of her ancient Hun clan that still exist with strict laws suffocate her, but she is resourceful and daring. She discovers secrets and obtains unimaginable powers to protect her sister, who bears the next leader of the clan. If she does not succeed, the fate of her people is at stake. She must sort through her own feelings about the men in her life. Will she choose Bela, her best friend, or the handsome and noble Zoltan? From the time when her people were nomads, the castles of the 14th century to the present, travel through time with Ilona as she struggles to overcome the obstacles placed in her path by ruthless individuals who want to inflict their rule on the Hun clan. The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series with paranormal magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel that is also suitable for young adults.

http://www.amazon.com/Chosen-Sword-Ancestors-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B00RAGLWVI

Short Bio of Erika M. Szabo:

ErikaMSzabo I became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to my dad who introduced me to many great books. The writing bug bit me much later, on a rainy afternoon, when I couldn’t find any new book to read. My daughter had enough of my moping around and snapped at me, “Mom, stop whining! If you haven’t a book to read, then write one.” Her challenge shocked me, but I started playing with the idea. What if there is a secret society with strict rules and laws exist hidden among us? What if certain members come to possess magical powers? What if those abilities could be used to do good or evil? I’ve never excelled in following rules or formulas, so I discarded the instructions I found in “how to write fiction” books, and made up my personal rules. At first, I started playing with the story just for my own enjoyment, I thought, writing the swirling ideas in my head was far better than being haunted by them. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before.

If you are interested in seeing more of Erika’s work, here are her links:

WEBSITE: http://www.authorerikamszabo.com  

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Erika.M.Szabo.ND.Author

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ErikaMSzabo

LINKEDIN: http://www.lnkd.in/N64qzw

GOOGLE: https://plus.google.com/112402888400847638099/posts   

PINTEREST http://www.pinterest.com/erikamszabo/

SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/GoldenBoxBooks

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Infinite power equals infinite boredom

I attended a seminar on World Building this week offered by Lindsey Schopfer, local author and writing coach. One of my strengths is in that area, and I realized, as I listened to his talk, that it is because I use the same steps he does to make my world as real as is possible. I always know WHERE I am writing, WHO, and WHAT I am writing about.

I begin by drawing a sketchy map.This way I have an idea of where the towns are in relation to each other. Nothing on a map is ever finite, they are only approximations–artistic guesses.

Heart of Neveyah relief 3-4-2013 001As I write, my map evolves, becoming more complex as the topography becomes more clear to me. In Neveyah, I began with a pencil sketch, and that evolved into a relief map that gave me the opportunities for injecting tension into the tale that I needed. It also provided me with a detailed explanation of where the resources are, so that funding my country is not an issue.

I build their political and monetary structure, and the prevailing religion. I decide who has the power and privilege in that society, and who is the underclass.

As I create the power-structure and the maps, the opportunities for creating tension within the story also grow. I keep a list of those ideas so that when I run short on creativity I have a bit in the bank, so to speak.

Another thing Lindsey mentioned that I also do is to create a sort of personnel file. (I was an office-manager for years, so I think in those terms.) Is everyone human? If not, what are their species and how do they differ from humans? What are their origins and why are they all together on this world. This information will most likely not make it into the tale, but it is important for me to know.

personel file for Elena and LangleySome people draw their characters, but my artistic talents run to less realistic things. In some cases, I select an actor who best represents my character or who could play him/her well. I am a whiz at cartoons and maps, but not at drawing people or animals, so that’s why I resort to simpler methods to cement them in my head. Once I know who they are, that is where I stop. The reader will decide from the bare-bones descriptions I will give as to what they look like and that will be more intriguing than if I belabor their violet eyes and stunning cheekbones.

When I design a religion, I do it from the ground up.  I know who the gods are, what they require of their worshipers and the rituals that worship involves.  The same goes for the political system. Who is in charge of the country, and what is their power-base? What is their currency and how do they get it? Alternatively, how do they spend it? Are they despots or benevolent?

Then, there is the magic. Who has magic? What kind of magic–healing or offensive or both? What are the rules for using that magic and why do those rules exist? I despise books where there are no clearly defined rules for the magic, because infinite power instills infinite boredom in me as a reader.

http://www.hdwallpapers.in/

Ask yourself what sort of wild creatures will live in your world. What do they look like and how big are they? How do they survive, what do they eat? Are they hunted, or are they simply benign creatures that harm no one? What is their place in the ecosystem?

How are you going to name your people and beasts? Do your readers a favor and use spellings that look fairly simple and look good on paper. DO NOT USE THE CONVENIENT NAME GENERATOR websites that the internet is rife with. They provide you with hokey, ridiculous  names no barbarian worth his salt would claim.

How do they dress? Do they wear armor? How difficult is that armor to get on and off?

How do they travel? Horses or spaceships each have certain basic requirements–both require fuel of some sort and both frequently need maintenance, whether it is currying or cleaning the exhaust vents. Who does this?

In conclusion, assembling this background information is time-consuming, but once I have it all together, my work is so much easier. The hard work is mostly done at that point, so there is less stopping and starting. All I have to do is get my heroes off the sofa and out of the house to the final battle on time, so they can save the world.

 

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

extra small caricature of connie  by street artist Stacey Denton

Today I am embarking on the  “My Writing Process” blog tour! In this blog relay, each author discusses his or her writing process and then passes the baton to three other authors. Last week, my good friend Lisa Koosis, passed the baton to me. Lisa is amazingly creative, as you will see when you click on the link to her blog, Writing on Thin Ice.  Please, do visit her blog, where you can read more about her exciting projects and her own writing process.

So, here goes…

1. What am I working on?

I am working on the third and final book in the TOWER OF BONES series, winding up Edwin’s story. This book has been very tough to write, because it keeps spawning new books! I can frequently be heard shouting, “NO! We must finish this book before we embark on a new one!”

I really do want Edwin Farmer’s story to be a 3-book trilogy.

*cough* Robert Jordan…Wheel of Time …fifteen books in the trilogy*cough*

There will be more books set in this world, I feel certain of it, but I intend to make each a stand alone book.  I love each of the characters so much in this tale, it’s hard to keep on task—but my self-imposed deadline is to have it ready for the editor by August. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write what I do?

First of all, I write from the point of view of a gamer—I am a freak for the great Final Fantasy PS2 and PS3 console games—Final Fantasy VII, VII, X/X2 and XII are among the great classics in gaming. I haven’t invested in a PS4, and I may not, as I haven’t had much time to play lately, and wasn’t impressed with 2010’s FFXIII.

I know what I love about those games, and want to inject that into my books. I want the action, the romance, and the drama of a full throttle action/adventure and I want it set in a sweeping landscape, with my characters beset by nearly insurmountable challenges. Magic must have limits and no character can have unlimited power. Those limitations are what drive the action, because the characters have to struggle to overcome them. The power of the story is in the struggle. The final redemption must be worth the struggle!

3. How does my writing process work? 

That’s where I went off the rails on this final installment in this particular series—I didn’t stick to my usual process, which was clearly outlined. But I had so many sudden brainstorms, I went way off track. Normally, when I first have the idea to write a book, I visualize it as the walkthrough for an RPG game.

I spend days writing down the ideas as they come to me, obsessively building the outline, the shell of the story. I make personnel files, descriptions of environments, designing the political and religious systems, creating the rules for magic, and drawing maps. Each world is unique, and I want to know what I am writing about.

I write the beginning and the end, and key action vignettes, fitting them into the framework of my outline.

Once I have that all done, I start at the beginning, and write, connecting the dots between the vignettes. When all the dots are connected, I have a book—albeit a raw rough draft of a book. I set it aside, as it is in desperate need of a complete rewrite, but I can’t do that until I can see it through unbiased eyes.

The second draft goes to Irene Roth Luvaul, who helps me shape it into a submission-ready manuscript. Then it will go to Carlie M.A. Cullen at Eagle Eye Editors. My work is linear, with a specific goal or “quest” and many obstacles in the way of achieving those goals. Some will live, and some will fall by the way—my task is to make it an emotionally gripping journey for the reader.

 

NEXT WEEK

Stay tuned for the next part of the relay as I pass the baton to three talented writers, who I have the good fortune of working with at Myrddin Publishing Group. Next Monday (May 12) they will answer the same set of questions, so please stop by their blogs to read more about their projects and their own writing processes.

 

Dark Places Front Large (1)Shaun Allan, Author of Sin and Dark Places

http://flipandcatch.blogspot.com

A creator of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into the point of view and sense of humour of Sin, the main character in his best-selling novel of the same name, although he can’t, at this point, teleport.

A writer of multiple genres, including horror, humour and children’s fiction, Shaun goes where the Muse takes him – even if that is kicking and screaming.

Shaun lives with his one partner, two daughters, three cats and four fish!  Oh and a dog.

 

1 CP Night Watchman coverAllison Deluca, Author of The Crown Phoenix Series

http://AlisonDeluca.Blogspot.com

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

Swartz_After Ilium_FrontCvr_200dpi_3inStephen Swartz, Author of After Illium, The Dream Land Trilogy, and A Beautiful Chill

http://stephenswartz.blogspot.com

Stephen Swartz grew up in Kansas City where he was an avid reader of science-fiction and quickly began emulating his favorite authors. Since then, Stephen studied music in college and, like many writers, worked at a wide range of jobs: from French fry guy to soldier, to IRS clerk to TV station writer, before heading to Japan for several years of teaching English. Now Stephen is a Professor of English at a university in Oklahoma, where he teaches many kinds of writing. He still can be found obsessively writing his latest manuscript, usually late at night. He has only robot cats.

 

 

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