Site Features

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cookie Cutter Taverns

I meant to write this post sooner.  I need to finish it now before PAX is too far behind me and I forget what I wanted to write down!

My first night in Seattle, I went out to dinner with friends as they planned to participate in the annual "Triwizard Drinking Tournament."  It is quite the endeavor, as 200 PAX attendees get together, dress up as students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and split up into their respective "houses" to go on a pub crawl to various bars in downtown Seattle.

I do not drink, and I spend very little time in bars.  I was facinated by what my friends would be doing that night, so I decided to tag along "at least for one or two bars" to see what it was all about.  The evening was very fun, as the participants went about their evening doing their thing while also raising a bunch of money for the Child's Play Charity by auctioning off various items throughout the night.

When I arrived home from Seattle and started looking at Ryndaria, I realized that taverns in fantasy realms tend to all be the same.  They are seedy, dirty places where people drink, get in to fights, and find adventuring work.  I noticed that I pretty much envision every tavern any of my characters have ever walked into exactly the same!

This idea does not match up with what I see in bars in the real world.  Bars/pubs/taverns are an expression of culture.  This was extremely evident when I walked into five of them in Seattle.  Every bar had a unique layout, music style, theme, lighting, etc.  There are things about bars that are similar (they all have a "bar" where you get your drinks, they tend to be darkly lit, etc), but they all have something about them that makes them one of a kind.

So why do we tend to make taverns so cookie cutter?  Is it to make it easier?  I believe my world will come alive so much more when the little details are taken care of.  For this reason, I have spent time designing "third spaces" in my worlds.

This doesn't only apply to bars.  If there is a large city, wouldn't it have fancy restaurants?  What about family restaurants in a society where families are able to spend time together?  What about a "Starbucks" or "McDonalds" where people can get food conveniently and inexpensively? 

What would these places look like?  What would be the equivalent of an "Irish Pub" or a "Sports Bar" in my world?  These are the questions I ask myself now as I flesh out the world in which my stories take place.

What do you think?  Do these details matter?  Do they just distract from the narrative?  Any cool examples in your own worlds (or books you have read) you can share?

As always, thank you for reading!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

PAX and Twitter Lessons

So PAX Prime was gigantic.  I attended the show back in 2008, and I thought it was crowded then!  The show takes up 2 or 3 times more space now, and it was even more crowded than before.  I was completely blown away by the sheer size.

The highlight for me, from a writing perspective, was sitting in a discussion by the creator of the Eberron world of DnD, Keith Baker.  He discussed world building and the origins of Eberron.  He also spent some time talking about his approach to a new world he is currently working on.  He even took one of my questions and talked through it a bit, which was exciting.

The other thing I really enjoyed was painting my first miniature from the guys at Reaper Minis.  They recently completed a Kickstarter for a whole new line of plastic miniatures for table top gaming, and I could not help but support the Kickstarter (over 240 miniatures are coming my way over the next six months!). 

I never painted a miniature before, and I was worried it would be very difficult.  When it comes to painting on canvas, I am not fond of what I produce.  I lack the practice to create lines the way I envision them.  Painting little 2" tall characters is a totally different experience!  I really enjoyed the process, and I'm pretty proud of how my guy turned out. 


I found the creative process of painting this guy to be extremely rewarding.  Sadly, it was one of the first things I did at PAX.  The rest of the show was great, but it could not match the fun and excitement of creativity on Friday morning.


I learned something interesting the last couple weeks.  ReTweets are a powerful tool on Twitter!  Twice in the past two weeks I have had my blog retweeted by people with many more followers than I have.  Both times, the hits to the blog more than tripled!  Of course, the views only lasted for a day each time.  As soon as the retweet faded away, so did the hits.  I learned first hand the power of Twitter.  For those that are reading due to those tweets, thanks for stopping by.


I am back home now and working on a number of projects, but Jairus is still strong in my mind.  I continue to work through my outline in preparation to write chapter two.

Thanks for reading!

 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Creativity Strikes! (Distracts)

After the progress last week on chapter one of Jairus' story, I started mapping out chapter two.  I need to spend some time fleshing out more characters and some of Jairus' back story to continue on.  It was a good exercise, but the more I come up with the more I feel I still need to do.

I have a good picture in my head of Jairus' dad now.  He is different than Trezl's dad, which is good.  I was worried they would end up looking the same and that I could not vary "dads".  I was afraid they would all be the same cliche in a different package.  I think Jairus' dad will be different and unique.  I do not dare to say original, of course, but unique. 

All that said, my progress is slow this week, but for a different reason than usual.  I spent all my creative energy this week on a completely new idea. 

I like to play role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and some friends and I are getting ready to start up a new campaign.  We started thinking up a new setting to play in that we would share.  Multiple people from the group will contribute to the world, each creating the city/country/dungeon/etc of their own little corner.

I struggled with what my corner would look like, especially after one friend let me know what high expectations he had of me!  I had an idea of where I wanted to go with the area, but no clue how to get there.

Well this week, inspiration took me by surprise!  An idea popped into my head that really excited me.  I could not let it get away, so I took a couple afternoons to write down the details and flesh out the city, its surroundings, and the political and economic complications that my friends' characters will have to deal with when I run a game.

Jairus had to wait, but creativity is creativity.  I was not going to let this idea go away and try and force my way through Jairus' story. 

Instead, it woke my mind back up from fatigue and renewed me.  I am ready to pick Jairus and the island of Moonwell back up and forge ahead.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chapter One Complete

This week I hit a milestone in Jairus' story.  I finished a chapter!  It's short, at about 3500 words, but complete.  I think the scene will do well as the opening to the story. 

Every time I hit a milestone like this, I feel this huge pressure off my shoulders, but I also feel tired.  I end up losing momentum.  I need to focus and get chapter two mapped out so I can start writing it, but part of me has lost enthusiasm for the task.

I let other things get in the way the last couple days, but it is time to get back to work.  I forced myself to sit down and blog today to give the update and also to help refocus my mind on the task ahead.

I am looking forward to telling this story in Jairus' life.  Here's to maintaining momentum!

As I posted before, if I did a really good job the last few weeks of raising your curiosity about the story and you are interested in giving feedback, let me know!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Looking for Criticism

I lack substance to blog about this time around, but it has been five days, and I told myself I would make sure and blog at least twice each week right now to practice writing.

I progressed well this weekend on chapter one.  I set a goal each night for the number of words to write the last three nights.  I kept on track better with these miniature goals.  Friday did not go as well as hoped (board game night!), so Saturday I set a small goal of 500 words and surpassed it by writing over 650 words. 

For today, Sunday, I set a goal of 1000 words.  This may be tough to hit.  We had a busy day today and I got called into a meeting at the day job tonight.  Plus I am writing a blog post.  Perhaps I can count blog words toward my goal?

As I finish up Chapter 1 of the short story, I wondered if anyone out there would be interested in reading it and providing feedback?  Instead of posting the work on the blog like I posted in the past, I would like to see who is interested in reading specifically to give constructive criticism as I move forward with the story.  I still feel new at writing and want to improve.  There is no way to track who downloaded the previous chapter, and feedback is sporadic with no way to follow up with downloaders.

I read an article today about J.R.R. Tolkein's "writing tips" (you can view here ).  Number three on the list of tips is "Listen to Critics."  I realized I have a couple critics in my life willing to give constructive feedback, but I desire more at this point in my writing.  I want to know what I need to improve on as well as what works well I need to continue to use.

Would you be interested?  For other authors, I would be happy to do the same.  If interested, please find me on Twitter or leave a comment below so I can get in touch with you.  I expect the chapter to be completed (with basic proofread) within the week.

I know there are some out that offered the same earlier in the year.  If you are still on board, please remind me.

Thank you again for reading!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Detailed Should An Outline Be?

Progress! 

Those that continue to read along know I changed directions recently and began writing a short story that is related to the world or Ryndaria.  This short story is practice for Trezl's story.  I still have a lot to learn about writing, and I am enjoying all the different opportunities I have to practice being creative.  I am more motivated now than ever before.

Yesterday, I named the short story and completed a rough outline from start to finish!  I am excited about the mini-milestone, but now the work begins!

My question for the day to writers out there:  how detailed are your notes and outlines before you start writing?

Personally, I struggle taking a vague thought our outline and then fleshing out the details.  My writer's block flares up and I nitpick every word choice because I do not have the details already written down.

On the other hand, when I wrote the battle sequence with Trezl I released earlier this year (you can still download it from the links on the right side of the webpage!), I drew the details of the fight out on paper before I started using words.  This made the writing much easier, since I already knew all the details.  To write the scene, I simply described what I already had defined.  I did not need to figure out *what* to describe, only how to describe it.

I made significant progress this way and finished 5,000 words in just a little over a week.  Before that, I wrote in uneven spurts and many times walked away from my computer frustrated without writing anything.

As I write the short story, I find myself struggling again as I did before.  I decided I need to build up to the actual writing if I want to be happy with the results.  So now, I have a rough outline of the entire story.  Next, I will begin mapping out all the chapters/scenes of the story.  From there, I will outline and detail each scene.  Finally, I will write the actual scenes.  Then, it will be time to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and find help proofreading so I can prepare the story for release!

I am curious what others do about this when writing.  Please leave comments or find me on twitter!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Intentional Symbolism

I continue to write a short background story on Ryndaria that is important to the overall history of the world and relates to Trezl's story.  As I write, I question how I use symbolism in my writing.

I discussed in an earlier post my desire to tackle themes like faith, politics, and technology with stories in a fantasy setting so I am drawn to using allegory, metaphor and other symbolism.  Honestly, I am nervous going down this path with little experience writing this way.

How should a writer approach intentional symbolism in fiction?  How can I make sure that symbolic elements of the story are effective? 

I found one helpful blog post here.  The writer makes several interesting points on effective symbolic items in stories. 

First, define them ahead of time.  If they are added in haphazardly they will lose their power or even be a distraction.  I like this advice as it confirms my thought that symbolism needs to be intentional.  I noticed in my outline there are elements of the story that could be symbolic.  I need to know what I am going to do with those elements so they do not confuse.

Second, do not use too many or you end up with allegory.  I guess if I end up wanting allegory, I should make everything symbolic? 

How have you used symbolism in your writing?  What has worked, and what hasn't?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creating a Protagonist

I have a very specific issue I'm dealing with right now in a short story I am working on.  Trezl is not the main character, but it is related to his story.  I started mapping it and writing it down as backstory to Trezl's.

The problem I face deals with the protagonist.  He is not human, nor is he a standard fantasy race (elf, dwarf, halfling) that the reader might quickly identify with.  He is from a group of wolf-like creatures that stand on two legs, are intelligent, and live a shamanistic society.  They are not werewolves, but they would look similar to werewolves.  They stand over 6 feet tall, are covered in fur, and have wolf shaped faces.  They have opposable thumbs and build homes, tools, and weapons.  They speak their own language (though they are capable of learning other languages).  They worship gods and use magic.  They are a fully developed society in Ryndaria, even if they are distrusted by the other peoples of the world.

I am struggling with the best way to introduce the fact that this character is not human.  How do I describe him?  When do I describe his characteristics?  How quickly do I need to let the reader know that this character is different than they might expect?

I tend to want to start off a story with action or drama of some kind.  I am a big fan of those big opening set pieces in movies (think James Bond or Nolan's Batman movies), and I like to start with something like that to draw the reader in.  This character's first set of experiences are important, and I hesitate to take time to describe him and his people before just jumping into the first scene, which takes place completely from his point of view.

I am leaning toward letting the first scene play out.  Then, once it is complete, take time to step back and let the reader in on who's eyes they have been looking through.  The scene should stay relatively short, and I feel like revealing the nature character AFTER the scene may even draw the reader in with more questions and curiosity.

I'm curious what opinions others might have.  Is the answer a big fat "it depends on the context"?  If so, what are some examples you might give that I could go read?

The first that comes to mind is The Hobbit.  If I remember correctly, Tolkein takes time to introduce readers to what a hobbit is and why this story is going to be peculiar (hobbits don't go on adventures, you know!) before he really lets the action get going.

Other examples?

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Politics, Religion, and Writing

The more I blog and think about writing, the more varied my studies and posts are going to get, it seems.  Please be patient with me on this post, as I think I will need to take a roundabout path to get to the point.

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently finished Jon Acuff's book Quitter.  It has helped me reflect on just why am I writing, and whether or not writing is a part of an overall "dream" I have for the future.

Mr. Acuff spends time in the book discussing the importance of finding out just what your dream actually is, and I realized I am not sure what exactly I dream of doing and accomplishing with my life!  I am able to give decent canned answers to this if asked of course:  loving husband and father, man of integrity, one who honors God...  The problem is, my answers tend to be just a little ambiguous and do not get to the core of who I am and what I am really passionate about. 

I feel like I am passionate about a lot of different things.  I love computers and technology (my day job is as a computer engineer).  I am also very passionate about my relationship with Christ (and seeing those around me grow spiritually), my family, my friends, politics, TV, books, movies, relationships, and just humanity in general.  I struggle pinpointing my dream, because I love to consume myself with so many things that I easily get distracted and never really focus on anything.

Changing topics slightly...

This last week saw the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan's final chapter of his Batman trilogy of movies.  With this release, there has been an abundance of political discussion on the internet related to the movie.

First of course is the shooting in Aurora, CO.  Our nation has been struggling to cope with this horrifying tragedy, and it is no surprise discussion of laws relating to guns, mental health, and protecting people has already started coming up.  I think we are faced with a big question:  can a civil society based on freedom and laws (or any society) prevent crime and terror of this nature?  What risks are there to freedom when we try and stamp out evil?

Second, there has been lots, and lots, and lots of commentary on the political themes of The Dark Knight Rises as a part of the many reviews of the film.  Christopher Nolan has discussed openly that the movie is inspired by Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, which is a classic novel that discusses many political themes.

Now, I loved the movie.  I even saw it twice in a week.  I am a huge fan of Nolan's take on Batman.  All three movies dealt with different forms of terrorism and Bruce Wayne's struggle to do something good for the city he loves.  They are well written, well acted and just plain entertaining movies.  I believe these movies are significant, not only as entertainment achievements, but also because of the way they tackle difficult subject matters and encourage us to discuss them as a society.  Love it or hate it, I believe The Dark Knight Rises will be discussed for many years, regardless of the actual money it makes in the end.

As I reflected separately this week on Quitter and The Dark Knight Rises, I realized there is a connection between all my different passions and my desire to write.  As I write out Trezl's story, I become critical of myself as I want to write something that is not only entertaining, but is thought provoking as well.  I want to create something of significance.  I want to challenge myself as I write to look at the human condition, religion, politics, family, and technology.  I do not believe I will write the next classic like 1984 or Lord of the Rings.  But I want to be challenged to confront issues and topics that I might shy away from naturally.  Perhaps my writing will help others do the same.

"Politics and religion are the two topics you should never discuss with friends."  This saying really makes me sad.  First, I am extremely passionate about these two things, so I LOVE talking about them.  I am not motivated by a desire to proselytise and make everyone see things the way I do (even if my passion my get the better of me). 

I am honestly interested in hearing what people believe, and why they believe it.  I like being challenged by those that believe differently than I do.  I feel like it does a diservice to us all to hold back and not be willing to have honest discussions with our friends about the things that matter most.  Some of the most memorable times in my life are those moments when I participated in just such a discussion (though I will admit not all of them ended on a positive note!).

So, since I tend to get in trouble from time to time when I try and discuss faith and politics, I think perhaps my dream may be to explore those topics through artistic expression, particularly writing.  The best literature throughout time has been about just these issues.

I am curious to hear what you all might think on the matter.  Are spirituality/faith/religion and politics too dangerous to talk about with friends?  Do you feel uncomfortable or intimidated when they come up in mixed company?

What are your favorite books throughout history that have really made you think about life?  I would really like to know, because I am looking for good books to read and inspire me, so please post your suggestions in the comments section.

Thank you for reading!  I have more I would like to share with you specifically about Ryndaria and how it relates to all this, but it will need to wait until later in the week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lessons from a Quitter

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, as you might tell.  I am currently reading a book called Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff.  I am enjoying reading it.

Jon worked in IT (and a number of other jobs) while looking forward and preparing for a dream job of blogging, speaking, and writing.  In the book, he discusses his experience while giving tips on what he has learned along the way.  Today, because of a number of circumstances, he no longer works in IT and is able to persue his dream full time.

I recommend the book if you are in a similar situation.

I read today a passage about practice in the book.  Jon noted that he blogged over 500,000 words before he ever was able to publish a book of 50,000 words.  Since having that first book published, he blogged 500,000 more words!

A major point of this anecdote was it takes effort and practice to get good at your dream before you might find success at it.  He blogs every single day to practice writing and to grow an audience for his books, conferences and speaking engagements.

I have been thinking about this and my own journey right now.  I need to ask myself why I am writing and what my goals really are.

One fear I have is that I'm not good enough right now to tell Trezl's story.  I feel like I need to be able to do it justice if I'm going to complete it and make it worth reading.  I don't mean to be a perfectionist.  I don't expect this to be one of the great literary works of all time or anything!  But I don't want it to come across in a way that is not compelling. 

So I am focused on practicing and putting the time in!  Right now, I practice by blogging and experimenting with my writing.  I realize there are other stories in Ryndaria to tell, so I am flirting with a couple of them while I experiment with my writing.  The different stories I have mapped out of this world are interrelated, so reading one might give you insight to the bigger story once it is done.

What do you think about preparing for a dream?  Should it be hard work?  Mr. Acuff learned that it was indeed hard work.  But I think he would say it was worth it!

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Experimenting with Description

I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis.  I love the Narnia series of novels and all of his writing on Christianity and faith.

  Lewis is known for having "rules for writing" that he shared with young writers in letters.  I've been thinking a lot about rule #4 from the link above when writing lately.  It discusses the use of adjectives.

  He tells the recipient of his letter to not tell the reader how to feel when describing something.  Instead of saying something is "terrible," describe it in such a way to make the reader feel terrified.  Using words like this is lazy and asks the reader to "do my job for me."

  I really like this piece of advice.  It is our job as writers to suck the reader into our world and help them imagine and relate to the look and feel of our world.  So I experimented a little bit last night with a bit of scene setting.  Please read this and then answer a few questions for me below.


  The forest made no sound.  No animals moved about; no birds chirped.  Though the trees grew tall, thick, and close together this deep in the forest, the light of the early morning sun fought through the canopy of leaves and branches above with soft daylight.  

  The air in this part of the forest smelled fresh and clean.  A gentle breeze coaxed the trees to sway their branches slightly to the east.  The wind and branches moved softly without making a sound.  

  The forest floor was clear of debris.  A short, soft grass covered the ground around the trunks of the trees, damp from the morning dew.  Not a single leaf or branch marred the lawn of the forest.

  A lone ray of sunlight shone down through the trees into a small clearing.  At the end of the light sat a single white flower, no more than six inches tall, growing up through the otherwise uniform grass. 

  Jairus could not remember how he arrived, but he felt oddly at home.

So now, time for questions.
  1. How does this passage make you feel about the forest? 
  2. What is missing that you feel you need to know, right now?
I am attempting to describe something that is peaceful and inviting, even if a little strange.  Jairus feels at home, but the scene will continue to describe why he is out of place here.

Thank you for any feedback!

PS:  If you want to know when the blog is updated, please "follow" my blog on the right.  I post to twitter and facebook, but if you are missing my updates, let me know and I can help you get emails when I update.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Close Call

While not exactly related to Ryndaria, I feel like I need to write down what happened to me tonight.  I had a little accident.  Now, I am fine, I only ended up with a few nasty scratches.  Still, I am quite shaken by the experience.

The wife and I near the end of a several month bathroom remodel.  We gutted the old bathroom down to the studs and even took out a wall to build a new one to create a larger space.  The room itself is nearly complete.  The plumbing and electrical work is done, the walls are up, drywall is complete, walls are textured and painted, and new tile is down.  It is time to install our new steam shower.

The shower is a self contained unit that must be assembled on site.  Since we completed all of the work, except the flooring, on our own to this point, we decided to take a crack at the shower.

The shower surprised me along the way with the difficulty of the install.  After a few long evenings of work, all of the walls are up and the roof is on the shower.  The next step is installing the door. 

The door is pure glass and is about six feet tall.  I'm sure you can imagine just how heavy that must be.  Installing the door is probably best done with three people, but the wife and I attempted the put it up with two.  While I held the door in place, my wife attempted to screw the door to the hinges.  The problem is, the hinges will not stay still.  We tried several times to attach the door with no luck.

Now, here comes the crazy part. 

My wife left the room.  She searched for some items we thought would help keep the door steady while we attached it.  I patiently held the door in both hands and waited for her.  I stood in an awkward position, backed up near the toilet, so I decided to move the door slightly.  I planned to shift around to my left to face the door to our bedroom and continue waiting.

I gently lifted the door slightly from the floor and set it back down.  I still do not understand what was different about this time than all the other times we moved the door around while trying to install it.  We lifted it, set it on the floor, lifted it some more, and set it on the shower multiple times.

This time gave different results.  As I set the large piece of glass' edge on the tile floor, it shattered.  I watched in horror as this large piece of glass broke into thousands of pieces as I held on to it with my bare hands.  The entire door sat suspended in the air for a brief moment. 

Have you ever watched a movie where time slows down during some dramatic effect on screen?  This moment felt like that.  I saw the perfect rectangle of the door outlining what had moments before been a beautiful sheet of glass.  The shape remained, but it contained an uncountable number of tiny shards waiting to be freed from their rectangular prison.  Usually, I would be captivated by such a sight, but instinct and fear took over.

I sucked in a breath and closed my eyes as glass rained down around me, scratching and cutting at the exposed skin of my arms and face.  A crash rang out as glass met tile floor and dispersed into every available corner of the room.  Some even ventured out into the brand new carpet in our adjoining bedroom.

I stood motionless and awestruck by what had happened as my wife raced around the corner and looked in at the spectacle. 

As I mentioned before, I am OK.  I've got one nasty scratch on my wrist that we bandaged.  All the other scratches look worse than they really are.  Even the kids did not wake up to the ear splitting crash of glass, so I guess some of the sound proofing I added to the walls during the remodel worked.

I realize it could have been a ton worse tonight, and I have learned first hand why safety gear is so important, especially when working with glass.

Thank you for reading!  I hope some of the techniques I studied recently in describing scenes came out in my description of one of the most frightening experiences I can remember.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ready to Roll

Two and a half months already...  goodness how the time flies. 

With coaching two little league teams and an extremely busy project at work, blogging and writing had to take a back seat for the last two months.  I apologize for staying away and not warning you.

But, baseball is over (my two boys had a BLAST), and the work project will be done in the next three weeks and I am ready to write!

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the plot and where I want to take it, and I've set a goal for myself to have a complete framework/outline of the plot complete before Labor Day. 

Thank you for all your encouragement.  In the next couple weeks I will be back into the swing of blogging regularly.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

Process

I've been doing a lot of actual reading lately!  This has helped stir up the creativity in me as I've been trying to process where to go with Trezl's story.

First, I've been really back reading the Bible.  It's important to me that I stay grounded in God's Word, and I let myself wander away from reading it from time to time.  With Easter this year, and a new group of friends that I am studying the Bible with, I have been motivated to keep it up, and it has really helped me stay spiritually centered.  I think this has helped me stay motivated with all the things in my life I am trying to work on, including my writing.

Next, I finished the latest Drizzt book by R.A. Salvatore, Neverwinter.  It was a good book, though I must admit I had trouble reading about Drizzt, now that the latest trilogy takes place over 100 years after the first 20+ stories.  There are new characters and the world has really changed.  I've realized that my uncomfort is related to Drizzt's own uncomfort, as he is having to come to terms with living so long (as an elf) and has had to watch friends grow old while he is still relatively young.  I guess Salvatore is doing a good job of making me feel Drizzt's own discomfort.  If you're a Drizzt fan and haven't picked it up, I recommend it.

Finally, I've been reading more of Holly Lisle's ebooks about writing, which I mentioned in my last post.  This has been very enlightening.  They come with worksheets and exercises to help the creative process.  There have been a few items that I've been working on the last 10 days.
  • Meditation - I don't mean spiritual meditation here, but simply taking time every day to sit in silence and clear the mind.  It has helped me to push the many distractions in my head aside.  I try to do it in the morning right when I wake up.  Those days that I do, I've actually been inspired creatively and immediately sat down to make notes or write a few paragraphs.  It has been really great.  The only problem:  it is not a habit, and I have skipped it more days than I should.
  • Writing Conflict - one exercise I am currently working on is creating conflict in a character's life:  internal, interpersonal, and external.  This has been fun, as the exercise has had me think of a new character in a new setting.  I've had to be creative outside of Trezl's story.  I can now use what I've learned to apply it back to Trezl.
  • Plot outlining - One of Holly's courses is on plot outlining.  One suggestion was to come up with an outline of the ending pretty early in the process.  As I read about this, I realized I do not have Trezl's ending figured out.  Since I don't know where he's going, I realize that is part of the problem when trying to write how he gets there.  He's wandering aimlessly since I don't know where I want to take him.
    • So, I've begun work on the ending.  I have an idea of where he's going, but I think it needs to be a little more concrete so I can then outline just how he gets to that point.

It's been a good week.  I still appreciate all of you reading the blog.  Your comments are encouraged!  My motivation goes up exponentially when someone asks me about the story, or just gives a word of encouragement.

Thanks again...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Defining People

First off, Happy Easter to all of you out there!  I never grow tired of celebrating that God's Son came down and lived among us, died for us, and was resurrected. 

I've been doing some thinking about defining characters this week.  Take for example, Trezl's father: Candel.  Who is he?  What motivates him?  He is a husband and father, but the main thing that defines him in my notes is his vocation. 

He is one of the most highly respected wizards in the elven society.  His job is to protect the city from outsiders by leading a group of wizards who magically keep the elven city hidden.  This group also employs a number of magical defenses should any invaders be able to actually find the city.  Trezl, of course, looks up to his father and aspires to be a great wizard as well.

When I think of Candel and write about him, everything comes back to this defining quality.  He's the "grand protector" and everything he does is motivated and related to this.  Now, he loves his family dearly, and tries to make time to be the husband and father he should be.  But his work overrides any other defining attributes in the end. 

I have been wondering if this is too one dimensional for the character.  Where does his personality come in to play?  How does that personality determine how he approaches his role and tremendous responsibility?

Related to this, I have been wondering if such a narrowly defined character will resonate with readers.  Our lives can be so fragmented today.  Can I even relate to a character like Candel?

I try and let my faith and my family be the overriding defining characteristic for the decisions I make, but my life is still pretty segmented.  I "do" a lot of things.  Would Candel?  What would he do to have fun?  Would he coach a little league team for Trezl?  How does he relax?  What upsets him?  What other questions should I be asking myself about him?

These are all questions I've been asking myself lately.  In the end, I think it is OK to create a character with one major defining point, but the more important that character is, the more details I need to be able to work out.  Trezl cares deeply about his father.  The readers should too, right?


A couple side notes to close:
  • I've been reading a series of "workshops" by Holly Lisle.  She's an author who started later in life and has become a full time writer.  She even creates classes on her website to help aspiring writers.  So far, I've really enjoyed the first book.  She's currently some of them away for free in PDF form (or 99c on Amazon for Kindle).  If you're interested in writing, I highly recommend checking her out:  http://hollylisle.com/
  • I am putting a permanent link on the side of the blog to download the test chapter I released recently.  It should make it easy to find for anyone new.

Thank you all again for reading!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Momentum Lost

I really let a MONTH get away from me???  I have got to get back on track!


I've done a number of things over the last month, but I have fallen behind in the writing department.  There are a lot of excuses to be given, but they are only excuses. 

The main thing I learned after all the writing in February:  it can be exhausting!  I had a big goal, and worked really hard at it (finish the chapter).  At the end, I posted it online, took a deep breath, and let my productivity fall off a cliff.

Generally, feedback was positive, which I am really happy about.  On the down side, I felt like I did not get as much feedback as I was hoping.  I'm not sure if people didn't see the post, decided not to read, or just didn't have anything to say.

I'm going to repost the links to the chapter here in case anyone still has not read it.  I appreciate your feedback.

The last month has been slow, but I have done a bit of work on the book.  I found that mapping out the scene before writing REALLY helped, so I have committed to doing the same in the future.  I want to make sure I know what I'm writing before just throwing words at a page.

As I started coming up with a more detailed map of the story, I realized I didn't really know what I wanted to actually happen in the story.  I've got a very loose outline that basically says Trezl starts at point A and ends somewhere near point B.  The middle is a big nebulous blob. 

How does he get to point B?  Who is he when he gets there?  How will he react to finally reaching point B?

I'm reminded a bit about Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series of books (which I have not finished, but am slowly working through).  You know Roland is going to the Dark Tower, but you have no clue what is there and what he will do when he gets there.  The story helps develop that character over 7 books so that what happens at the Dark Tower has meaning. 

I realized that Trezl's story needs the same, so I have been doing a lot of thinking and writing (and crossing out and rewriting) on the middle.  I'm expecting it will pay dividends in the end!

Thanks for reading.  I expect to get back to regular blogging again, starting now!


Links to the chapter:

.pdf: Download
.epub: Download
.mobi: Download


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Start Reading!

OK, so I think I'm ready to share this thing.  I have generated a few file formats for you to use.  Please grab the one that will work best for you.  For most, that will be the PDF.  If you have an E-Reader (Kindle/Nook) and know what "epub" or "mobi" are, feel free to grab those.  If there is a different format you would like me to upload, let me know and I'll see if I can convert it!

.pdf:   Download
.epub: Download
.mobi: Download

Let me know if any of the links do not work for you.  I will fix them quickly.

If you are curious about what is going on in the scene, here is a little background.  Trezl is an elf whose home is an elven city in the middle of Nemus Forest, the largest forest on the continent of Ryndaria.  Trezl and his three friends (Ralhin, Ao, Sembaar) left the city recently to train in the wilds of the forest with their teacher, Dhenir.  The young adult elves are expected to be ready to serve and defend their people.  While on their way back home, the city is attacked and the small group finds themselves trying to infiltrate their home and help defend it from an unknown force.

The scene starts as the small troop comes upon four creatures they do not recognize.

For those reviewing it for me, here are some questions I would like you to think of while reading:
  • Is it enjoyable?
  • How is the pacing?  Too fast, too slow, inconsistent?  Does it take away from the reading?
  • Grammar issues?

I welcome any and all feedback.  Even if the feedback is "constructive" I need to hear it!  :-)

Thank you again for taking the time to read this blog and to help me on this journey.  I'm having a blast.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Readers Wanted

Say it with me... Nine Thousand Words! 

I thoroughly enjoyed myself the last couple weeks as I have hit my stride while writing this fight scene.  It has been a lot of fun to visualize the actors in the scene and to describe it along the way.  In the process, not only did I finish the scene, I hit another milestone, passing 9000 total words.

Now, I'm nearly ready for friends to start reading.  I will read through the scene over the next few days do a first pass of editing.  I want to make sure it sounds right to me.  I also want to format it into something that can be read easily on a computer or e-Reader.  After that, I will package it up and post it to the blog here for anyone to read through and give me feedback.

What kind of feedback should I ask for?  There are a few items that concern me most. 

First, is the scene enjoyable?  This is key obviously. 

Second, does the scene flow cleanly?  I want the pace to be consistent and not get too slow anywhere.  I hope that there is a sense of action and urgency in the pacing of the scene.

Should grammar be a focus at this point?  I know I use the passive voice a lot, and I try and rewrite passive voice sentences.  Any other grammar pitfalls you might point out would be helpful.

What other types of feedback should I request from my readers? 

Your comments are appreciated!  Please feel free to post below.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Too Busy Writing!

I realized today it has been nearly a week since I last blogged, so I need to get something up here.

I don't have a whole lot to discuss this week.  The problem is, I've been too busy actually writing!  I broke the 7000 word barrier (as those who follow me on twitter already know *wink*) this week as I've been continuing to flesh out this battle.

I am still surprised by the number of words devoted to this one particular scene.  I'm still not done, and can easily see another 1000 to 2000 words devoted to it.  It's already over 3200 words as is (10 pages, 8x10 with generous margins and spacing between paragraphs). 

My plan at this point is to finish the scene before I go back and do anything to change it.  I haven't even read it through myself.  Once it is done I will see if it flows well.  I will also send it out for others to read and give feedback. 

My assumption is a book should start out around 100,000 words.  It has been very uplifting to think I'm already nearing 1/10th of that goal.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting Over It

I rewatched the Lord of the Rings movies this week.  As I watched, I was reminded and struck by the amount of detail and complexity J.R.R. Tolkien wrote into his books (and some of the more interesting and complex characters and side stories were even left out of the movie!).  I am very tempted to pick the books back up and reacquaint myself with Middle Earth.

I get down on myself as I try and write my own "epic fantasy."  I struggle at the selection of every word along the way; worried that what I write will fall flat.  As I've mentioned before, this over-critical nature does nothing to help me reach my goals.

I remind myself that I am not J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, R.A. Salvatore, J.K. Rowling, or any of the other great fantasy writers I look up to (though as a side note, I wonder if I need to change my writing name to J.R. Potnick?).  This story should stand on its own if it's worth writing at all, right? 

I guess it leads me to wonder, what standard should I be trying to write toward at this stage? Obviously, I look to other writers for inspiration, but if I keep trying to write at their level, I assume I am dooming myself to failure.  Plus, if I try and write like them, the writing comes out forced and inauthentic.

Why do the answers seem so simple to explain, yet so hard to act upon? I can tell myself that over and over, yet I continue to sit down and stall out. I write a sentence, hate it, erase it, and repeat.  Constructive writing sessions are much farther apart than I hope for.

Do other writers feel this way?  Is that what the editing process is supposed to be for? 

Thank you all for reading my wanderings from time to time.  I have found that asking questions eventually leads to answers!

Don't forget - follow me on Twitter - @Ryndaria

Friday, February 10, 2012

First Milestone and First Battle

I spent the last week on a business trip to China.  Before I went, I decided I needed a goal for the story while I traveled.  There would be 30+ hours of airplane rides and many hours of downtime in a hotel for the week.  I wanted to make sure I would stay focused and make time to write.

My goal was simple - break the 5000 total word barrier.  The goal was designed to be simple and attainable.  I've been struggling getting words typed out, so I wanted a decent target in front of me to work toward.  Before the trip, I had about 3500 words already written, so it meant getting about 1500 words down.

Well, I can let you all know that the goal was achieved during the flight home!  I have attached a screen shot showing 5014 words total written!  I'm pretty excited about the milestone.  It is already motivating me to keep writing.

I decided I would focus in on one particular scene for the majority of the writing for the week in order to reach the goal:  my first fight scene.  I began by mapping out the battle on paper.  I drew the combatants and their positions at various points in the fight in an attempt to choreograph the whole thing. 

It was actually very helpful to draw it all out before writing it down.  It helped me visualize where each character is and how they each move throughout the fight.  It is easier to describe what is going on now that I have a picture to work from. 

In the scene, Trezl and four companions encounter a new type of enemy.  As they fight, they have to deal with an unexpected twist, further complicating the fight. 

Honestly, I'm really nervous about writing it all down.  I hope the words flow so the whole thing feels compelling and exciting to the reader.  I'm also a bit surprised at the length.  It is taking a lot more words than I expected.  I'm up to about 1000 words for the fight and it is just really beginning.  I hope that it does not feel too drawn out or overwritten.

I hope to finish it in the next week or two and share it with some of you to let me know what you think. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 3

It has been three weeks, and I do not have a ton to post about this week.  I'm mostly doing this just to make sure I post weekly.  I am afraid that if I miss a week, that will turn into a month or longer.  The blog really helps me set my priorities to make sure I am setting aside time to write.

I was struggling the last couple weeks with transitioning between different "scenes" I had planned out.  As I talked through this with a friend, he suggested I may be trying to race to a particular point in the story's timeline that I consider the "present".  The present time in m mind for Ryndaria is the state of the world I dungeon mastered for our recent Dungeons and Dragons game. 

The friend suggested I begin writing about Trezl at this particular point in time.  I can then flash back to the previous months as a way of filling in the blanks of how Trezl got to where he is "today."  This week, I started doing that, and I found myself able to write a little easier.  If anything, it has been a good exercise to get me back into the world mentally.  I can "see" the world more clearly now, and I am able to write about Trezl the way I think of him instead of the way he "was."

In other news, I let someone read the first few pages of the story yesterday.  It was nerve wracking, but it went well.  The feedback was positive, but brief.  It was a good start.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week 2

Work has been terrible this week.  I've had to work longer than usual each day, and it has taken away from writing time.

That said, I've tried to stay focused this week by spending time thinking about specifics.

In the opening scene, I have 5 elves in the forest.  I feel like I need to make sure each one is an actual character and not just a generic prop standing in the scene.  To do this, I have taken notes on general backstory for each character to understand motivation and personality for each of them.  I feel like I have made some progress.

One of my biggest concerns with side characters is how stereotypical should they be?  Is creating a stereotypical extra a good thing?  I get a little annoyed when I read books or watch movies where I see basically the same character over and over.  On the positive side though, it is easy to understand a character if I can quickly evaluate them based on stereotypical behavior.  (i.e. "the fanatical zealot" who is willing to die for his cause and follows whatever evil power he follows even if common sense says that is a bad idea.

I guess in the end, I need to determine how important the character is and their role in the story.  Any writers out there, what are your thoughts on this?  Any good resources you have read that discuss character development?

The other topic I have been researching a bit this week is weaponry.  Early in the story, there is a skirmish.  I want to make sure that as I describe the weapons and tactics of the characters that there is a level of accuracy to it.  Why does a character use that "type" of sword, and how do his tactics then differ from someone that uses a sword that may be shorter/longer, or lighter/heavier?  How does this choice of weapon reflect the character's personality and physical attributes?  I think all of these items questions help make a fight scene more compelling.  So I have spent some time this week looking at different types of swords to see which ones fit my characters.  The fun thing about fantasy is I do not need to be historically accurate.  A fictional world with its own history can have weapons from distinctly different time periods in reality exist together without issue!

I read an interview with a successful author who self-publishes all her books online.  She stated she tries to write 5000 words a DAY!  I haven't even written 5000 words total on this story.  I am trying to keep from getting discouraged.  This is her full time job, and I'm just getting started.  If anything, it spurs me on to spend more time thinking about and writing about these characters.

I cannot end a post without thanking you all dearly for reading and for your comments and encouragement.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting into a zone

Well, here's my second update to the blog.  It has been a typical week, with lots of "real work" to do and plenty of frustration on the writing front, but actually a some good things to report as well! 

First, a progress report.  I think I've written about 6 sentences since the first blog!  Its not much, but it is progress!  I think my biggest frustration at this point is getting focused enough to actually start describing the scenes I have in my head.  I can only describe this state as "getting into a zone." 

I have experienced said "zone" on a few occasions in the past when writing.  Most recently, I was on a trip to China last fall and I began to write a back story for a new character I had created for our latest Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  Poor guy was a paladin who had been "chosen" by some dark power.  He's being forced to work for this thing until he can break free.  I had a neat scene in my head of the young knight's encounter with this evil being and I set to write it down.  It was really fun to write, and I spent several hours of my 13 hour flight writing out the scene.  I was pretty happy with the result and ended up with a 4 or 5 page little story written down that has been great for using as the starting point for playing the character in our game.

This has not yet happened with Ryndaria.  I am hoping I do not need to catch another flight to China to make more progress on the story.  I have actually mapped out what I think will be the first "part" of the book, but actually writing it out has been an issue for me.  For one, the opening scene has 5 characters in it, all elves working together.  I am used to writing back stories and short stories that revolve around one character and maybe an antagonist.  I am having trouble keeping track of what all 5 characters are doing and describing them all.  Any other writers face similar issues in the past?  What have you done?

I had some great advice this week about this conundrum though.  It was suggested that I take the various characters and take some time to write about them in a completely different setting.  This would force me to write about how they would react to a different story, and then learn about them and understand the characters better for writing about them in my story.  I think I may try that.  I have done some similar thought exercises with a couple characters and that has helped a bit so far.

I have also been encouraged to play to my strengths and write in a style that I am comfortable with.  I am doing that in a way.  While the book is in the third person, I write it mostly from Trezl's point of view, so I do not have to spend too much time describing the minds of the other characters, only Trezl's.

I wanted to thank everyone for the encouragement and support my first week with this!  I have been spurred on by the out pour and appreciate it beyond words.  As a thank you, I am going to share the very first line of my story with you all.  So get ready... 

Are you sure you are ready???

"Smoke."

Pretty awesome beginning eh?  Are you all intrigued now?  Don't worry, I'm sure I will ask many of you to help me by reading early versions for feedback. 

Until next time...  follow those dreams!

Remember to follow me on Twitter as @Ryndaria

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's this here for?

I'm not sure why, but I've had an itch in the back of my brain to write for a very long time.  When I tell people this, most are usually quite surprised.  See, until recently, I have not spoken about this desire (need?) to those around me.  To some reading this now, it may be a bit of a shock!

There are a lot of reasons for this, of course, and that's what this blog is really going to be all about!  I am going to write the book I always wanted to, and I hope that through this blog I will have an outlet to share my experiences, my frustrations, and my successes.  I hope that some may find this interesting to read along the way.  Please join me, and feel free to share comments.

To get started, I want to talk give a little background.


What is Ryndaria?

Ryndaria is a world in my head that wants out!

I first created Ryndaria as a world for Dungeons and Dragons back in high school. Having your own created world was necessary for any "real" player and dungeon master, so I went to work drawing maps, creating cities and peoples, and putting together a history for the world. It was a lot of fun to create this world and then have friends play D&D in the world.

It was during this time that I first created the character Trezl. Trezl was an elf wizard in the land of Ryndaria who was faced with trials and heartache early in his life.

I so enjoyed the name Trezl that when the internet started taking off in the late 90s, the name became my handle everywhere on the net. If you see Trezl out there in games, Twitter, message boards, etc., there is a good chance that is me.


Writing...

In my junior year of high school our English class had a big project we were to work on for most of the 2nd semester. The assignment was to "make something" and then present it and describe how to make it. I still have no clue why, but I really wanted to write a story as my creation. I was (and still am) really into the Drizzt series of fantasy novels by R.A. Salvatore, and wanted to write my own fantasy literature. Trezl's story seemed perfect to finally tell.

I put a ton of work into the story. I commissioned a friend to help me with cover art, and asked another to be my editor. Over the next several weeks I wrote a short story, about 30 pages long, detailing Trezl's story. I think it was the one project in high school that I worked the hardest and longest on. It became a labor of love.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a B on the assignment! I was pretty used to getting A's on my papers in class, and some people literally just made a batch of cookies and talked the class through the recipe to equal or better grades. I am still a little bitter about the whole thing, if you can't tell.  Looking back, I realize that the grade was due to not following the assignment closely enough.  It was more about the presentation and describing how someone would go about making it themselves, not just on the quality of, and effort put into, the creation.


What  happened next?

I put writing away at that point.  I'm not saying the experience scarred me or anything.  I finished high school and went to college to become an engineer.  There's a lot more math and science there, and the idea of writing just went to the wayside.  I never fully gave up on Trezl and Ryndaria, but I also never spent a lot of time focused there either. 

Then, a couple years ago, it all came back.  As an engineer, I've always figured I wasn't much of a writer anyway.  So when Microsoft released a platform for developing video games on the XBOX360 (XBox Indie Games), I thought there might be an outlet to resurrect Ryndaria.  I started down the path, joined by Paul, a gamer/programmer friend, and we set out to create a Ryndaria video game.  Of course, we soon found that to be much more work than we realized it would be and while the game lives on, it may be a while before it ever sees the light of day. 


Old Passion Renewed!

A little over a year ago, after our family moved into a new neighborhood (an entire story / adventure in itself!), I found myself at a comic book shop near by.  While there, I met a bunch of people playing Dungeons and Dragons!  I couldn't resist, and started playing again myself.  In the process of creating new characters for new games, that little itch became evident again and I began to write little background stories.

Over the last year, I have put together all sorts of new history for the world.  I also even led a D&D game in the world for a while (and expect to bring it back again in the future).  I've been cleaning up a lot of what younger, teenage me first put together all those years ago.  And now I have finally started writing Trezl's story down.  I hope to eventually publish it online.

This blog is where I will discuss the process of writing a book.  I have absolutely no formal training, and I'm learning as I go.  As my wife tells me all the time, I need to stop fearing and criticizing what I haven't even written yet, and I need to just write. 

So here I go...

If you want to find me, you can start with @Ryndaria on Twitter!