Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Writing That Fantasy Novel, Part 3

A lot went on since last week. Well, writing-wise, not much happened, unfortunately. Life will do that, won't it? Between being sick and my mother in the hospital again, all I felt like doing was to read. It gave me a chance to cast a more critical eye on what I already had written and I had to be honest, I did not like where it was going. Also, I think my readership would have been very narrow as far as who would enjoy reading about the main character as he was.

So, yes, I changed it all around. Hey, like my blog says, I'm the Troubled Writer.

I like my new line of thinking for the story and a lot of the basic plot is the same. The main character, Marek, is still part of a team to escort a mage to a dangerous location. He falls for the mage, thinking she is someone else, they reach the destination and sort of succeed.

There have been a few very significant changes, however. I had touched on the Mastery system of the society before, where everyone's goal in life is to choose a profession and become considered a Master at it. This becomes more important now. Families almost always followed in the same jobs and when they did not it often resulted in a scandal and relocation. But what to do with orphans who have no family at all? That is where Marek fell into. I dealt with that by turning his best friend into his mentor. I was finding his friend character did not play much of a part in the story except as a sounding board and it was getting old. This way works much better and I can still have Marek develop a friendship with another character as they travel.

I also feel like I have a better reason for why all of this is going on and I was able to raise the stakes without making it cliché. A lot of the epic fantasies I've read have one thing in common: an invading force is on the way. I'm trying to avoid that and I think I've done it by making the crisis involve more of an impending doom that involves everyone and everything. Basically, if the main character and his party fail, every living thing in the realm will be affected. Kind of like a man-made disaster that can be stopped by repairing something natural, if that makes sense.

So, my goal this week is to plot out my scene cards and start writing all over again. At least I can take comfort in how I was only a few scenes into the story before I realized it's flaws. Thanks for reading, and keep on writing.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Writing That Fantasy Novel, part 2

Well, week one did not go off very well. It started perfect with three days and over three thousand words, just like planned. But then two straight days of headaches stopped me cold and I spent the sixth day reviewing what I had written. I ended up adding a few hundred more words on Sunday and then played catch-up on Monday to get as close to seven thousand words as I could manage. I'm still way off but not so far that it is unmanagable.

As usual, my carefully laid out plot was trampled on by my characters as I wrote. That may sound like a bad thing but I believe it is the best thing that could happen. It means your characters are realized enough to dictate what they need to say to move the story along and how they want to say it. I've had to make some adjustments to accommodate this. I took out two scenes that became either unecessary or bloat that I was able to condense into a previous scene. 

The first scene I had trouble with was my first scene featuring the antagonist. Everything he does is based on magic, even just walking around since he has to keep up a glamour to hide his appearance. Until this scene, which is the fourth in the story, I did not touch on magic at all except to allude to the fact that my protagonist was opposed to it in every way. The eternal struggle for every writer of show versus tell had reared its ugly head. I had to alter my original idea for the scene to work in a way to describe how magic works and in particular how he used magic which differs from how it is normally used. I decided to have him too weak to continue what he was doing and need to restore his magic's potency. It made sense since he had drained himself the day before. I'll still leave how he became different for another chapter but this will give a decent introduction to my magic system which will become essential in the next chapter.

This past week has reinforced my opinion that plotting is much more useful than pantsing, or in other words, creating as you go. If I did not have my story already mapped out I probably would have abandoned what I had already done and wasted time starting all over. But because I already know where I'm going, I can easily pick up where I left off. All of this brings up a point I don't think I've seen touched upon before. Although I consider myself a plotter, I am still at the mercy of my characters, all of whom have distinctly pantsy personalities. They never want to do what I have laid out for them, like petulant children who refuse to wear what you picked for them. Because of this, I get the same experience of discovery that a pantser gets, but I still know where I'm going and how to get there due to my outline. So don't be afraid of killing your ideas with an outline. With the right characters, you'll never be bored and like frisky puppies, they'll always find something of yours to tear up. But you can never stay mad at them. You just shake your finger at them, give them a hug, and move on.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Starting That Novel... Again

     So here I stand at the threshold of another attempt at a fantasy novel. I've lost track of how many iterations of this idea I've gone through. I will admit it has been in flux for years now. I always think I've got the characters and story figured out but then something happens along the way to sabotage my house of plot and theme, like a literary sinkhole waiting for me to get just so far before caving in.

     If this sounds familiar then I think you'll have a good time following my blog for a while. I expect to post something every Tuesday from now until I finish writing my story. My intention is to help those attempting to do the same as well as commiserate with my fellow writers. My posts will consist of not only progress reports (because I need to keep myself in check and thinking that others are actually watching what I'm doing helps), but also tips and ideas I use along the way. I'll talk up my story but I'll try to avoid revealing too much in case it sounds like something you may want to read for yourself. If not, that's fine, too. If what you read here helps you with your writing, I'm happy with that, too. Just let me know in the comments so at least I know I'm not just talking to my Ipad and any constructive feedback is good as gold.

     As I said I'm working on a fantasy novel. It is set in a medieval era world where magic is limited by the pain it induces. My main character not only does not use magic, but has a strong aversion and even a hatred towards it and its users. He believes himself a man destined for greatness and seeks it out wherever he goes. What exactly this greatness is he's not sure but he believes it has something to do with eliminating magic and ruling the entire realm. He ends up finding it where he least expects to and that's where the story begins. 

     The story will be told in third person limited and most scenes will be from the main character's point of view. I try to keep the scenes as brief as possible, though I haven't mastered the art of cutting things down to just a page or two. I would like to, but there always seems to be one more one-liner to deliver and I can't pass up a good joke here and there.

     I began writing the first draft yesterday. My goal is at least 1000 words a day. I won't stop myself from writing more but I definitely want to make sure I reach at least that each day. This way I should have a first draft done in about 4 months. The total from my first day was over 1100 words. It went smoothly but I don't want to try to increase the daily word count yet. I know my track record and keeping the expectations realistic is going to be the key to keeping positive about following through with the project this time.

     My next post will reflect my first week of writing so I should have a more in depth analysis of how my idea is going. Hope to see you then.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Will I catch NaNoWriFever?

This year's NaNoWriMo is looking less and less likely to turn out well for me. While I'm discouraged  I can at least take solace in the fact that I'm keeping pace with my usual daily output of words. It won't get me to 50k by the end of November, but it lead still lead me to a finished novel and that is after all the real goal. At this rate I should at least finish by my birthday in January. I'll keep trying, hoping for that fever to come over me where I just can't stop writing, the pages pile up like the yellow leaves on my lawn, and I submit my final count with a triumphant, "Take that!" We'll see. I'll need to do 2600 words a day. That just makes me miss my Atari 2600.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


So here we are a week gone in NaNoWriMo and I know what you're saying. So, Writingbull, how are things... And that's where I cut you off. I turn and walk off yelling, "I don't want to talk about it!" But, I guess since I'm the one writing this I don't really have a choice.

Terrible. All right? That's how it's going. I'm not even close to the target count. At this rate I may finish by my birthday which is at the end of January. JANUARY, people! And the worst part is I can't figure out exactly why this is going so slow.

Now, granted I've had some unavoidable delays and the usual lost day to a migraine, but with everything already charted and the characters having lived in my head now for months, I should be able to move this along faster. I mean, I even avoided buying or even renting the updated version of Skyrim! How's that for dedication! Oh, in case you haven't checked it out, here's a link to my fanfiction for Skyrim. If you've played through the main quest you'll love this. http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9514861/1/

Anyway, this is going to be a tough slog now that I'm in a hole. Right now I have to do over 1900 words a day to finish before Dec.1. It's still doable and my wife is all in so I don't REALLY have an excuse except I just worked too damn slow. Since I don't want that to happen, I'll be using all my spare time at home and at work.

Hope your efforts are going along smoother than mine and if you're already done, I secretly hate you. No, I don't mean that. I openly hate you! No, I don't mean that, either. Just chalk up my eye-rolling to jealousy and I'll see you at the finish line on Nov. 30. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Shoulder Eyes and Curious Aliens

Nine days left until NaNoWriMo 2016 and I'm feeling confident about my story this year. If you don't know about NaNoWriMo, check out their site at nanowrimo.org. It is a great boost for your writing, especially if you need some sort of eye over your shoulder to make sure you are getting your work done.

So far I've been fine tuning my plot for the past two weeks. If you prefer not to plot and just wing it with a few stray scenes and a theme in mind, go for it. I think you're nuts and doomed to take much longer than necessary, but to each his own. I need to plot. I see it as a map, showing me where to go. But not just any map. My plot sceme is like a UFO arriving at Earth. From the furthest distance, you great the grand scheme of things. An ocean there, an ocean on the other side, mountains and rivers and lakes in between. Looks great so far. Any alien race would want to move in for a closer look to see if this planet has what it wants and needs.

Closer in, my plot scheme turns into scene cards, breaking up the plot into logical steps. For the UFO, the view turns into cities and towns filled with buildings, farms, and cellular phone stores. Now this is getting really interesting.

The last step is to turn those scene cards into actual scenes, complete with paragraphs, sentences, and outlandishly big capitol letters denoting the beginnings of chapters. For the aliens in the UFO, the cities turn into individuals filled with dreams, regrets, and schemes of robbing cellular phones stores. If they see what they like, they'll land and mingle, maybe buy a cronut or two for the trip home. They'll go home and tell others, who in turn will visit on their own. Or in the book equivalent, they will like the story and tell others who will also purchase it, option the movie rights, and allow me to retire to play video games where I kill aliens who try to take over the world. Such is life.

Now go write. You don't know how much time is left until the aliens arrive. Or should I say, return?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Return of the Muse

I write a lot about the Muse. I never really put much thought into whether it was a real thing or not but apparently there is more to this ethereal minx than I had considered. I may need to set another chair at the writing desk so it won't feel so unwanted. Here's what happened...

For the past two days I've been at an impasse with my plot. There was one very important scene that I had not entirely fleshed out while doing my outline. I did not want to rush it, so I left it blank except for the title, '*character* dies'. I knew who was dying, I just left it out here so as not to spoil my bestseller for people when it comes out. I know, right? Anyway, now that I needed to fill in the specifics, I was drawing a blank. Every idea seemed too cliche or similar to previous scenes. If you are a plotter like me, you know I could not go any further. Leaving it blank would just haunt me if I started writing expecting the idea to appear once I got to it. So there I sat. Until today.

The idea came out of nowhere. Well, maybe not from nowhere. I had a setting but for some reason I kept leaving it to go somewhere else. I think because I had a split second vision of the scene already composed in my mind's eye and I was forcing my ideas to run through it. Then along came my Muse, finally. Where the Hell have you been? Wait, never mind. I don't want to know. You're back and that's all that matters. My Muse stopped me before I left my setting and told me to just wait. So I waited. After a few minutes, along came the two adversaries that I had imagined elsewhere. They could do their job here as well as there. With that impasse gone, the ideas came like a torrent of water from a burst dam. Now I may proceed and with new ideas brought to life from this other one. It was a gift within a gift.

To sum this up, if you find yourself struggling with a scene, I suggest you give it time instead of giving up. I kept coming back to this scene instead of skipping it. If I had skipped it, I might have forced it to conform to the upcoming scenes which would have squashed what I really needed: true inspiration. Now because of deadlines, that is not always an option, but deadlines also have a way of creating a different kind of inspiration, mostly weaved from the lining of empty pockets. 

Don't forget NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. Declare your novel and keep writing!