Category Archives: writing tools

NaN-Row and Making Money

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Sunday I was just not in the mood to write but I sat and forced myself. There’s a lot going on in my personal life that’s giving me the “much overwhelmed” feeling. Sunday was one of the days I couldn’t keep it at bay. I also fell into the NaNoWriMo forgetting to shower hole of darkness and started offending my own nose. So, that may or may not have played a part in the self-depressive state.

So I’m writing, writing, writing and I claw up to just over 500 words and I realize that my hero needs to buy something but guess what? I have no economic structure in my story. OMG. Just a side note, if you look up something along the lines of “fictional economy creation” you’ll get a whole lotta political stuff regarding our current government here in the US. While I could have used that as a fairly decent model it really wasn’t what I was looking for.

money, money, money, mah-nay

I found this post from FARP (Fantasy Art Resource Project on http://www.elfwood.com). Ok so first question I decided we’ll have a three part economy using Barter, Medium of Exchange (MoE) and finally Coinage.  On Ibius (the remote island my hero/heroine hail from) they have no need for pieces of metal (coins), they don’t have a way to mine them and they get by just fine with Barter and Medium of Exchange. Plus they’re not beholden to the mainland rule of the kings and don’t need gold to pay taxes. Since they (on the island) have some pretty rare and special items you can’t get elsewhere, the mainlanders are okay with the MoE or barter with these guys.

But then they leave the island and travel to a land where there are warring kings, the greedy kind of kings, that like to measure their wealth in coins and get their taxes in coin. So on the mainland they utilize coins for lots of things but the lower classes still deal in Barter and MoE.

So… I’ve just complicated the heck out of my fantasy world. Sigh.

Which brings me to types of coins. We can’t just have gold because it’s hard to have somethings be just 1 gold, pair of socks, cup of ale, tup in the back alley, etc. and how would we earn just 1 gold piece? If it was that easy to come by we’d have an economic surplus and a country reminiscent of a dollar store and the point of using gold (because it’s rare, not just pretty) would be moot. And then have other things costing 10-25 pieces because well, that’s just a heck load of gold to carry around on a being (hence the introduction of paper money). But we can’t do paper money here because they haven’t come up with that yet, pre/mid industry here. No printing presses, paper mills, yet. Are you still with me?

So I get to play around and I created four distinct types of coins in varying sizes. You know, to keep it simple:

The Dub -smallest coin

The Mark- 25 dubs to a mark

The Spade- 10 marks to a spade

The Haef – 15 spades to a haef

They’re all gold but varying sizes the smallest like a dime and the largest around a half dollar. A Haef is a heck of a lot of money so we’re not going to be carrying a bunch of those around. Those are for buying houses, horses, small villages and the like. Dubs are the easiest to come by, light weight and easy to earn, so our hero is going to be good with these. Maybe even he gets a couple Marks here and there. Spades are like the equivalent of $50 in today’s economy, definitely not pocket change, a bit more substantial but not completely difficult to earn.

Ok for all of you that stayed with me through that process (thanks by the way) you earn a little treat. Here is an excerpt from Chapter Three of Midnight in the Hollows. It’s my favorite so far I think. Feel free to dissect it in the comments. But gently, with some Novocaine.

~

Ryche was quiet as he closed the chest, then picked up the long iron pike to stoke the fire with calloused hands. His job required him to keep the furnace fire burning hot, always. The light from the flames flickered the long shadow of the boy against the wall. The boy reminded him so much of his lost son, Eron. He, too, had been eager to join the king’s ranks. Ryche pushed through the cold blast of pain in his heart turning his attention back to the heat at hand. “It’s late, boy. I’m tired. Come back tomorrow if you truly want a weapon and we will talk.” He left the boy standing in the forge with the worn sword in his hand and his mouth gaping. He couldn’t deal with this now. The doorway covering flapped shut stirring up a cloud of dust from the dirt floor. It was that rising dust that caused his eye to tear, not the memories stirred up by a boy he couldn’t allow himself to call by name.

~

How’s everyone else doing this week?

Don’t you dare finish that.

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One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever read (and of course can’t remember to  site the source) was if you needed to stop writing for any reason to NOT FINISH THE SCENE. Or if you happen to be at the end of a scene to go on and write whatever is going to happen in the next couple sentences.

I cannot tell you how much this has saved me. Over and over again as I put a WIP down to handle life and then come back to it, I’ve consistently seen that the stories I have stopped in mid thought are easier to pick back up again. For instance, I have a WIP titled The Blood Pits where I very stupidly left off my heroine at the opening of the doors to the arena where is doesn’t know what she will be facing or if she’ll even come out alive.

Yes, there is story there, what will happen to her? What is on the other side of the door? A ton of different things are possible but because I ended that scene where I did, at a conclusion, I haven’t been able to get back into it in nearly 3 months. I even took the time to draw out the scene but again, it feels ended, the momentum has stopped in that story right now.

My current WIP Midnight in the Hollows which I’m writing for NaNoWriMo I’ve been very, very careful to make sure I end off in the middle of scenes, actually, most times in the middle of a sentence. Each time I go back to it, I’m able to pick up the threads and continue weaving. It’s as if, by ending -or not ending- where I do my train of thought is easier to catch back up to. There’s an opening for me to start in.

I can’t explain it or even quote what I’m sure is a more elegant post than this one but if you’re finding yourself having a hard time collecting those threads of thought, getting back into your story and you have the habit of completing a scene or chapter, stop doing it.

Leave it off in the middle of a sentence, a phrase, a word, a description. Don’t even finish writing a full word! Whatever it is, don’t you dare finish and see if next time you come back to it if it’s easier to get into the groove again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on finishing or not finishing a scene/chapter etc. Do you have a hard time picking the pieces back up when you complete one? Do you already use this method of leaving your story open? Do you know where the heck I read that tip at?

First ROW/NaNo check in

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Hand Cramp.

Right in time for NANoWriMo I started a week long class on using the Tarot to help with story outlining and character formation. I’ve had this Universal Waite deck for oh, well over a year and after the initial fold of cards never really picked it up again. Part of that is because the kids think anything with bright pretty colors is for them and wanted to play Go-Fish with it.

After the first lesson I knew this was going to really help me with my writing. I am so glad I signed up for the class!

I have a lot of character writing books and lectures, I’ve written out as much as I can on a lot of the worksheets that accompany them or that I found  online but I always seem to get stuck! There is only just so much that my brain can come up with out of the blue on it’s own. Using the Tarot was just amazing. Each card has an image (which vary depending on what deck you use), that image can help with a lot but once you look into what the proposed means could be well, the ideas just start flowing. And then the cards each have a reverse which is like bonus ideas.

I was able to give in depth characterizations for my 2 main characters, outline the issues and do some cultural outlining before NaNo started. This is farther than I’ve gotten before NaNo started. Monday I needed to outline another 2 main characters, the bad guy and the ultimate good guy (I’m writing fantasy), write a little more outlining on the cities and name a few more places. I didn’t get everything done but I got more done and with fresher ideas than had I tried to sit down with a blank paper and a blank mind. I highly encourage anyone interested to try it out the next time the class comes around.

Since NaNo is here now, I’ve also tried to get a few posts ahead on both blogs. There are times when I won’t be able to write (Thanksgiving comes to mind) and I want to get at least the basics down for post ideas so that when the day comes to write it I’m not sitting with a blank screen and blank mind.

Tuesday, I got over 3200 words written for NaNo. I’m trying to get ahead since I know holidays and such will end up putting me behind. The outlining is really saving me here. I’m trying to get as much done this first week as I can. I still have things to fill in with my notes. And of course, there’s the post-NaNo editing, at one point I was just making up parts of a boat. Ah well, that’s the nature of the NaNo Beast.

I’ve also gotten through another 1+ chapter in Nancy Kress’ Characters book. So far so good!

How is ROW and NaNo meshing going for you guys? How about you non-NaNo Rowers?

Limiting Imagination

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I’m steadily working on not being a pantser anymore. Though there are still things I’m pantsing (Faylinn’s Chronicles being one of them) I realize that a lot of my time in writing is being effected by the debilitating process of having to stop mid writing to go back and remember what someone’s name was, research a historical something, make up a religion, tribe of people or whatever. When you’re in that groove (and you writers know what I’m talking about) cutting it off to look up what you called the Main Character’s neighbor’s dog five chapters back is like hitting a speed bump going seventy. It’s jarring, somewhat painful and there’s a good chance you just damaged something.

In this case, you’d have damaged that flow of words, ideas, imaginations. That sweet spot that we writers crave, where everything just kinda comes together in the cosmos and we crank out a thousand words without even blinking, becomes bruised fruit. It limits the imaginative flow. I’m working on this because I don’t like it.

I read an article this week about things you should never do in epic fantasy. Here is where pantsing can get you in trouble. The story I’m writing for NaNoWriMo is a fantasy and some of the things my characters are doing are because of the tips here. My Hero? Well, he’s going to have to work his ass off for that sword he needs so he can sell his skills in the King’s Army because swords are expensive to make. My Heroine? Well, she’s an orphan with no money who gets a position training as a Lady’s maid, except they’re treating her more like a slave and guess what? She doesn’t have the money to send a messenger with a letter to her Uncle to get her out. And if she just left? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish she’s thinking isn’t smelling too good. The Devil you know and all that.

There are real economic issues that need to be addressed, things that can add a lot of flavor to writing when you have planned out and understand them. If we visited a home where they had lush fabrics hanging from every wall, we can deduce from the fact that our Heroine comes from a culture that hand makes each bolt of fabric, that she understands that this is an extremely wealthy person’s home. One that has very little fabric and mends everything is probably fairly poor. If there has been a trend toward certain carvings (read the Meme post for more on using cultural trends in writing) that happened many decades ago and we visit a home that has these types of furnishings kept in pristine condition, we might be able to use that to determine that perhaps this person has been wealthy at one point but isn’t any longer, maybe they just prize well crafted things and are not wasteful. Or maybe the carvings remind our Hero/ine of home and we go into a few paragraphs of longing or reminiscence.

There is a lot of good that can come from figuring this out before hand.

I also researched some map making stuff and stumbled upon this fantastic article regarding map making and world building based on that map. The exercises are quite fantastic. It’s really interesting to delve into the socioeconomic structure of a place you’ve just made up. I have a city (really a small town) called Boe on an secluded mountainous island. It’s named after the animals they famously raise, that’s kinda between a goat and a llama. They also have a thriving ship building business using the hard scrub pines that grow exclusively in their environment and use them to trade for the foods they can’t grow in their soil (which is comprised of sugar sand and holds no mineral/nutrient value).

No one never needs to see the map (but I’ll share mine with you, I tried to clean it up a bit), it can be just for your own use in visualization or you could add it in the front of the book if you choose. Also, a small pronunciation dictionary for your world helps too!

 

I still need a legend. The / are mountains.

 

Boe, upper right hand corner, has absolutely no place in the story I have planned. No one comes from there. Yet. My Hero and Heroine come from Fynes (which does trading with Boe). I’m not sure if in chapter 7 when I have our Hero planning to come to a town on the mainland if there won’t be a Boe-raised immigrant and they strike up a conversation about their home island. Having it all planned and written out in advance makes Boe a real place in my head. Keeping with the ideas about epic fantasy mistakes, I’m sure not to hit any of those road bumps during their conversation. And who knows? Maybe this conversation strikes up something in my Hero that makes him want to visit Boe in a later chapter/book. (see how the map lets you visualize the things I’ve said about Boe?)

The point of all this isn’t necessarily to limit your imagination while writing, some of the best things I’ve come up with have been pantsed, but to help you think about things, keep them real in your head and have easy access to their traits, abilities and descriptions as you write so when you get into that groove, that flow, that zone, that you won’t struggle deciding on details. It’s about stretching your imagination, letting it run wild, to create a more solid world in your head before you even write that Prologue. And giving yourself a huge pool of information to drawn on while you’re in that zone can be utterly invaluable. Even if you don’t use it to create fantasy, there really isn’t a genre that wouldn’t benefit from these exercises.

Is it a lot of work? Of course. Even for places, people, names that might not ever come up? Absolutely. Is it worth it for your teeth not to snap together as you fly over a speed bump? Oh hell yes.

 

What’s the Meme about?

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This is another one of those words that pop up occasionally on Twitter and in blog posts and the like, something that you might not understand if you haven’t studied human behaivor.

What is a Meme?

In short it’s an idea, a behaivor, a style that expands over a society or culture. It’s a trend. You can get more indepth here

If you’re still not sure about Memes (or don’t want to read that kinda dry Wiki entry) a prime example is FaceBook. You have probably seen links or ads or silly sayings, quotes or photos while scrolling through your feed. When something gets reshared by you or others, and they reshare and reshare it again, they have created a Meme. Even as short lived as those reposts are, the act of copying the link or image is a Meme. In fact, the act of copying not even a specific item but the act of copying in itself is a Meme.

YouTube is another example. Videos going “viral” is just another term for a Meme. When an author Tweets with a link to their book, they’re hoping to create a Meme.

How to make Memes work for you.

I realize that many of my examples are for social media but as a writer using Memes is really quite important. Especially when creating a world or society. This is an aspect I think gets overlooked a lot of the time when we’re busy building cities and empires and creatures. It’s something important I think we need to ask ourselves:

What social trends have occured -or are occuing – that shape my character/city/world?

And these not be technical like in my examples, clothing, speech, design, these are all things that are driven in part by Memes. Where I live we can see Meme in the size and style of houses in urban areas. The small, square “ranches” of the 80’s, the “Florida” house of the 90’s, the much larger sprawl that marks the housing boom of the early 2000’s. Even car companies use the economic Meme to determine car colors. Nearly everything is influenced by Memes.

Even in history we see the abundance of Memes so far back as the Stone Age when that first gal (or guy) picked up a rock and used it as a tool, that caught into a trend that blasted humans forward in evolution. It wasn’t that each hominin picked up a similar shaped rock and used it in a similar way at the exact same time without influence, nope, a Meme was created and BAM! Memes can be powerful things.

Knowing the social background of the setting your characters are in can be a helpful resource to determine how the character will react or what is available for them in the world. Even placing a character in the near distant future will be a future that has been determined by whatever Memes have occured between now and then, short or long lived.

What trends in agriculture, technology, fashion, TV will have passed that shape the world in which they live?

Creating a believable world, one in which Memes exist, is a vital part to getting your readers interested and willing to accept the rules you’ve created in your work.

Now for my ROW80 update

– I started the Paleo-centered blog and made three posts already! Go me!

– I’ve replied to 16 fellow ROWers last Sunday, well above my goal

– Now  that I’m feeling better I’ve lifted weights once this week and bought a Yoga dvd that has 20 minute sessions (I think I can handle 20 minutes at a time).

The goals are going well though I do need to sit down and write more Faylinn I hope to get another installment out by the end of the week, it’s been almost 2 weeks since the last one (oops).

How are things going for you? What do you think about Memes in writing? Have you used them before? Conciously or without knowing it?

First Sunday Check-in? Check.

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The week from Hell is finally over. My allergic reaction has seen 1 walk-in clinic, 2 ER visits, and 3 prescriptions. I’m on day 5 of 6 with the steroids and just got done hosting 6 additional people for three days. Phew.

But I’m finally getting functional again.

As for my goals I have read the first section of Margie Lawson’s Empowering Character Emotions (ECE) lecture which is basically a welcome. I haven’t completed the tasks for it yet which require me to figure out which WIP (work in progress) I’ll use for the assignments. So far, there isn’t really anything to impart since the first portion is just an overview of what will be discussed with a little dip into how it will be done, plus the creator’s credentials and summaries of other lectures available for purchase.

I also completed The Paleo Diet book and am gearing up to start my Paleo-centered blog. I didn’t really feel very “healthy” last week which is why I didn’t get anything posted or done on it.

I also am researching printers. I’m looking at an all-in-one color laser. If you have any recommendations (or un-recommendations) please feel free to let me know. I’ve never had experience with one of these before so all information is helpful.

Tomorrow after my baby’s speech therapy I’ll be heading around to see other’s blog posts (fufilling yet another goal!)

What is Flash Fiction and Why do I write it

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What it is…

To be completely honest, I just learned what flash fiction is a few months ago. I kept seeing the hashtag on Twitter and -as most of my journeys start- was curious. To summarize, it is a short story based on certain criteria. The rules for Flash Fiction are considerably different depending on who is hosting the challenge. Word count limits, prompts, frequency, well, you get the point.

So far I have be challenged with photos, dialogue prompts, scenario prompts, have had 200 word limits and no word limits and everything in between. Right now I’m participating in Dice Games which is a weekly prompt for September. I’ve also done the first challenge for Writer’s Campaign which was the shortest at 200 words, this month.

 Why I write it…

Other than the fact that it is just plain fun to meet these writing challenges the reason I continue writing them is to stretch my writing muscles. Flash Fiction is a wonderful tool for writing.

This month I was challenged with writing Sci-fi, which is a genre very unfamiliar to me. I really had a nail-biting time with it to the point that it almost became un-fun. It gave me the ability to look at the piece, realize why I was having a hard time with it and change my approach so that it wasn’t so frustrating. Writing should be fun and that challenge helped me to discover that, even out of my comfort zone.

I also made personal challenges such as writing completely from a male perspective, something I do not really ever do. I’ve also been allowed to play around with imagery, descriptions, and voices without having to commit to a large project. I find myself snatching pieces of my flash fiction for use in my novels. Or learning to turn a phrase successfully -or more likely Un-successfully- without fear of ruining a three thousand word chapter.

It’s given me an opportunity to put into practice some of the writing techniques I’ve been learning and I hope that even these shorter pieces show progression of my craft. I can tell that while I’m writing, the delete key comes into play quite often as I realize that I am making novice mistakes. It’s also given me the challenge to be concise. Wordiness can bog a reader down. I’ve come to see where my writing needs to be cut, be able to do those cuts, when I have limited words available.

I also hope that I entertain those that stumble across my blog with these easily, and quickly, digestable stories.

 

ROW80 goals

This is the last week for round three of ROW80. I have been writing more than I had before I joined and plan to participate in the next round. I have learned so much over the course of these weeks that I couldn’t have duplicated had I been on my own. Finding Flash Fiction challenges was only one small piece. The journey to becoming a successful writer is long and there is no real set goal for completion. Every day is another day to practice, to learn, to write. To make connections with others that are on the same path even though they’re on seperate journeys.

Thanks to all the ROW80 fellows that have visited my blog through this round. I hope to see you next time.