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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!