Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blog Hiatus

Well, since I was late for my Wednesday post, I decided it was a sign.  I'm going to take a holiday from the blog until Jan 1.  And hopefully, when I came back, I'll bring in some changes as well.  For one of my new year's resolution's is to get my blog (and web page) into shape.

Till then have a merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Link-a-Day: World Generator

Last week, I posted about time wasters.  Well, how about something that can both fun and helpful.  If you write in a speculative genre that isn't set on our world, you have to create your own world.  There are tools out there to do just that.  The one I like in particular is Fractal World Generator.  Not only can you pick the type of map, but chose criteria that affects the world you get--like percentage of ice and water.  Then you can save the map it generates.  Neat-o.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Test Drive: 10 Steps: Step 1 and 2

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These are listed in as the first two steps in the book, but often times you see them combined in a basic character building checklist. Since they fit well together, I'm combining them here into one lesson.

So, let's get started with . . . .

The Question.

You've seen these before, the checklist of character attributes. I've filled out these charts before, but I rarely remember the details come writing time and to tell the truth they bore the heck out of me. But the book adds a twist by asking one essential question. One I never thought of asking.

Why. Why is this important.

The answer to this question directly pertains to your story. It makes you think what effect this attribute has not only how your character acts and reacts to life, but how it affects the story. So for every bit of physical description, ask yourself that question: Why is this important. I think you'll be surprised by what changes and depth develops in your character and your story early on.

In fact, for all steps, that is going to be a question you need to ask and you'll be surprised by how much you get out of it.

Anyway, on to . . .

#1. Physical Description.

The book covers a few primary areas of physical description, which are age, physique (including height, weight, etc), face, and distinguishing characteristics. Instead of just following those listed, I suggest finding a character chart online or making your own. Charts aside, though, there are a couple attributes I want to touch on from the book, ones that shouldn't be missed.

First Impression. What is the first impression your character makes as he walks into room? What attribute is the first noticed? How does it make others feel about him or her.

Distinguishing Characteristics. This is the unique aspects to your character's appearance. Does he have scars? Does she have a tattoo? How about injuries? Where do these characteristics come from, are they genetic based, as a result of an injury or illness, or something your character has deliberately done to themselves?

No matter how entertaining or boring you find the character description charts, the point is clear. Start thinking about the story these attributes tell about your character. For example, age affects how your character reacts, what positions he might hold, or possible sources of conflict--think about a Doogie Howser type character or the reverse, a late comer dealing with a much younger generation of peers. On physique, calloused hands can show your character is used to hard labor or her weight might be a point of contention in your character's life. And so on.

However, don't go overboard on filling out these character charts. If your story shifts as you write, you may wish to change things about your character. Do yourself a favor. If you don't feel strongly about an attribute after you've done this work, don't lock yourself in.

Now that we covered what your character looks like, what about . . .

#2. Profession or Occupation

Just like real life, your character has some occupation or profession to define him. Whether it is stay-at-home parent, being independently wealthy, or a 40-hour a week job, something occupies most of his or her time. This section of the book will focus on that. Again, this is something you can probably find on a character checklist. But remember to keep in mind other aspects about the job--what does the job involve? What does it say about his personality? Are the other characters that are important in the story at his work place? How important is her occupation to the story? To your character?

Some checklists cover the next topic. The book doesn't. So, I'm going to include it here. I'm talking about the . . .

Hobby or Volunteering or Pastime. I'm not a full time writer. I also have a 40-hour week job. Perhaps your character does too--is there something he sees as his vocation? Or maybe she just has a hobby? Maybe she volunteers. Work is work, whether not you get paid for it. What your character does when not working for money can be revealing. What does your character's hobby say about her?

Beyond that, the book covered something interesting that I think is left out of most checklists. That is . . .

Work Ethic. How does he feel about his work? Does he give 100% to it? Or is it to just get by, while he focuses on something else that is true passion? Is this going to change throughout the story?

Personally, I never thought to ask about my character's work ethic. But it is different and possibly revealing, so it doesn't hurt to give a try, right?



Well, that's it for the first two steps. Easy enough, so far. We are starting with basic but useful building blocks, choosing what your character looks like and what he does. More importantly, though, we learned to ask: Why--why is this important. Keeping the lesson in mind, why don't we take a look at some exercises and tricks that will keep things interesting.


The following is a list exercises, tips, and tricks (from the book, other resources, and myself) to get you thinking about the physical description and occupation of your character and to help you define him or her in interesting ways. You don't have to do them all, but I do suggest at minimum doing the exercises listed in the section below.

Main Exercises.

The Checklist. Your first exercise is to find or make a checklist you want to work with and fill it out. Make sure it includes at first impression and occupation. Try to keep it brief and don't be afraid to revise as you learn more about your character. And most importantly, don't forget to ask yourself "Why is this important?".

The write up. Once you got your checklist filled out, write a brief paragraph summarizing the most important bits. Include your "whys". Keep this handy, either in its own file or on a note card for easy reference.

Bonus Exercises.

These are more creative exercises to explore physical character aspects. They get you in story-mode thinking, making you see how your character's physical aspects and occupation affects his life and his choices in the story. You don't have to do all these or any of these, but they can be fun to try. Some of these come from the actual book, some from other resources, and some I just made up. Enjoy!

  • What's your sign? The book posed an interesting exercise related to age. What is your character's horoscope? You can add attributes to your characters personality and relationship compatibility. But what if your novel is not set in the real world--that is, it is of the speculative fiction genre? Well, it can work reverse too. Look up the descriptions of the signs, and you have the idea for personality and relationship conflicts.
  • Future self. Your character meets himself from the future (or the past if he is currently older in story-time). Future Time Character and Present Time Character have had different experiences. Age has had an effect. What effect? How are the two characters different from each other, physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.
  • Beyond the visual. Use your other senses. What is the scent associated with your character--or what is her favorite smell? Does she favor certain textures, or is his skin smooth or rough? And so on.
  • Love poetry. You've all read or read about poetry that glorifies aspects of a lover's body like eyes or hair. Well, here's your chance. Your character is going to write a poem or love letter, no matter how awful, about the beauty of another character.
  • The secret. Let's say your character has been trying to hide a scar or injury. How has he been hiding it? Now, go further on this exercise. Your character's secret characteristic has just been revealed to person he least wanted to know about it. How do both react?
  • Corporate headhunter. Your character has to recruit someone for a job and orientate them.
  • The first job. Your character never worked before, either this is their first job or they lived life in the lap of luxury. What job does he pick? Why? What is his first day like?
  • So what do you do for fun? Your character is bored. Give your character your hobby. Does he like it? Does he hate it? What does he do with it?




Character Charts.

Test Drive: 10 Steps: Introduction Implementation


(Image from:

I mentioned in the article that you can use this on a first draft or a brand new story.  Well, to make this a true test drive, I'm going to be insane and try it on both simultaneously.  Here is the information on them.

WIP:  Walker#1
  • Genre:  Fantasy
  • Protagonist:  Walker or Pheteh. 
    • First thing to know about Walker is that he amnesiac.  So, the following names are not really his, in the real sense.  He named himself Walker.  Someone else named him Pheteh.
      • Walker - The meaning behind Walker is "fuller".  It was an occupation.  According to Behind the Name, "Walkers would tread on wet, unprocessed wool in order to clean and thicken it."  That's not the reason I picked it, though.  You see, I had an idea that Walker got that name off a flyer or poster of some sort.  Also, it reminds me of his occupation--he is courier.  A very special kind (see the concept below).
      • Pheteh - This was me playing with Egyptian names/people and sounds.  Pheteh came from a mangling of the god Ptah.  Wikipedia shows that it can be spelled Peteh, hence my mangling.  One allusion I wanted to make between Pheteh and Ptah concerned the "opening of the mouth ceremony" Ptah was said to have created.  Since souls can be transferred into a courier through the mouth in my world, it fit.  
  • POV:  1st person, single point of view.
  • Plot Concept:  Amnesiac Walker was a courier--he used to carry memories, souls, and even objects magically miniaturized inside his body. But few people know it; and he doesn't even remember ever doing it. Now he's a mehnset, someone who makes sure what the couriers carry won't mess up the worlds any more than they already are. But as they say, once a courier, always a courier. Well, Walker's sometimes-wife says that. She is counting on him to transport an item across the schisms (loco world borders) that mehnsets would kill to destroy; as a mehnset, he is the only one who could do it. He is prepared to tell her to go drop off a schism when she reveals what it is. A key ingredient for a cure for an adaptive plague that in his world raises the dead and turns them into parasitic succubi. She carries the thaumaturge soul who brewed it up. Walker has his own personal reasons for seeing the cure come to fruitation, but few people are willing to try. After all, the last attempt at a cure pissed off the plague and turned that world a great big mausoleum. That being the world from whence the plague originated. The world he called home.

New Novel:  Hunger
  • Genre:  Kafka-esque fantasy.
  • Character Names:   
    • Sorenn - Mangled.  Comes from a Romanian Sorin, which means "sun".  Thought it was ironic, given that he's a vampire.  
    • Anca - Is a Romanian name (female) meaning "grace, favor".  It's for a male character, though.  Quite frankly, I just like the sound and look of it.  He is a "food" product for Sorenn.
    • Mareis - Mangled.  Comes from Romanian Marius, either derived from the Roman god of war, Mars, or from a Roman word mean "man".  Figured, since she is the competitor of Anca, and Anca is originally a female name, it is fitting. 
  • POV:  Either first person (single pov) or close third person (multiple povs).   I'll know more once I start working with the story and character voices.
  • Plot Idea:  Influenced strongly by The Hunger Artist by Kafka, and maybe by Jackson's The Lottery.  It is the vampiric act put on display for public entertainment.  Sorenn is like those big cats you see in the movie Gladiator.  Except, he is kept starved and is mistreated, and then he is released to hunt down and kill prey.  The lucky food product survivor not only gets to live but gets a magically prolonged life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Search for Re: Cartazonon.

The Cartazonon.

This Indian and north African equine calls deserts and wastes of mountains home.  It possesses a reddish-yellow coat, long mane and tail, and a lengthy horn that is black and shiny.  Although it sounds beautiful, the Cartazonon is not your typical Disneyfied unicorn:  au contrare, it is very aggressive.  It will attack anyone who tries to capture it--no one has managed that feat yet, so the legends go.  Sometimes its agression is unprovoked, attacking people for no reason.  It seems to dislike animals as much as humans, especially lions.  The African native will kill whole prides of them. 

What do I like about them?  Come on.  Killer unicorns?  What is not to like? 

How do they relate to my writing?  Well, I did have a story idea once with evil unicorns, but besides that, folkloric horses gives me ideas on building a better mount for Walker.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Link-a-Day: Time Wasters

Last week, I posted about an online Victorian ettiquette game.  That reminded me of other games I used to play online.  Some have since disappeared, but there are others out their to tickle the fancy, eat up time, or provide a some fun research.  I haven't tried all of them out myself, but here a few that caught my eye:

  • Zynga - My favorite is the Fishville, although the FarmVille is fun too (reminds me of SimFarm).  The vampire game is fun too.
  • Neopets - Used to play this one.  Addicting but very time consuming.
  • Arcadia Sim - Never played it, but it reminds me of a horse game I used to play.
  • Girls Go Games - Simulations - Played one.  Neat concept.

PS--Sorry this late.  For some reason it went from scheduled post to draft and never posted.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Test Drive: 10 Steps: Introduction

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Start-up Questions

Alright, if we are going to build memorable characters, where do we start?  First with the answers to some questions you might have.  Such as, to use 10 Steps, do you have to start with a character and build the plot from there?  Or can you start with plot and plug in character?  Can you use this one novel you already started, or does it have to be a brand new idea?  I believe you can adapt this any of the above, although if you are going to use this on a novel already started, I suggest using it on one whose first draft hasn't been completed.  You will benefit more that way.

Start-up Elements

The book gives us the following basics as a guideline to start developing our story and characters: 
  • Genre
  • Character Name
  • POV Technique
  • Plot concept
I am assuming you are not new to writing, so you already have strong preferences on genre, pov, and plot concept generation (for those creating a new story).  So, let's focus on character name instead.

Character Name

If you are starting a new story, you need to name your character.  There are a lot of baby name resources out there (check out the resources listed below).  They can show culture or origin behind the name, meaning, popularity, nicknames, etc.  It is also worthwhile to pick up a baby name book.  If you are a yardsaler, you can find these cheap.  That is how I got mine, and I never had to pay more than a dollar for one.

Once you have a baby name reference, pick a name.  10 Steps points out the importance of sound in the name choice.  Their example is, if the character is arrogant, use a hard sound like D or hard G, like Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  Other useful tips 10 Steps gives that you may already know, but are worth mentioning, are to vary the characters' names.  Don't start them with the same letter and try to vary them in other ways, like length or sound.  Also, minor characters don't really need names and may serve the story best by being described by their occupation.  The reason?  Because names add importance to characters and readers try to memorize names of characters.  Don't add more work onto your readers. 

Baby Name Online Resources:

Tips, Tricks, and Exercises:

10 Steps
has a neat idea on names.  Take a deeper look into the meaning of the baby names you are looking at and use the meaning of the name to spark an idea for a plot, especially if you are creating your plot from your character.  For example, take the name Emily.  It means rival or emulating.  Emily could be the antagonist.  Or perhaps she is the contender for a job. 

Another trick, not found in the book, involves the question:  What if you are writing something not set in our world or any of our time periods?  If you are like me and don't have time to develop an entire language for your culture, tweaking "real world" names may serve you best.  Decide on the real world culture type that is basis or influence behind the culture your character is from.  Find a baby name to fit it and your character.  Now, find other baby names from the same culture and start analyzing the endings and other patterns within the names. 

For example, I am chosing Italian-based culture.  There are several Italian names with the "-ia" or "-io" ending, such as Marzia or Eugenio.  Maybe make this "-a" or "-iso" instead. 

Once you have a list, take those patterns and change them to something you like the sound of.  You'll want to do the same for place names and the like. And that's it--a simple method developing cultural names that have a cohesive, consistent sound and feel.

Test Drive: The Choice: 10 Steps

Last week, I talked about test driving a writing reference.  Well, I chose the reference.  It is 10 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters by Sue Viders, Lucynda Storey, Cher Gorman, and Becky Martinez.

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I picked this book for several reasons, the first of which was to start out with something simple.  Not that building well-rounded, interesting characters is a simple project.  But the book is full of exercise and steps--a simple layout for this blog series.  Not to mention, there are articles and references available online to supplement the techniques covered in the book.  Finally, ten steps (well, twelve with intro and conclusion) means this particular Test Drive will be relatively short in comparison to some of my other choices.  Great for a maiden run.

There is another reason, a personal reason, I picked this book.  I'm not big on detailed character analysis in the prewriting stage.  Usually I sketch brief character history and relationships, physical traits, and goals, and then let the rest develop as I write.  It is worth a shot to see if I can improve my characters before the actual writing begins.  It is worth a shot, if it means one less thing to cause writer's block or necessitate extra revision at the end. 

However that brings me to an important point.  This is prewriting; you won't get an instant product out of this Test Drive.  Even so, I will continue to update you on the progress of the story line that comes from this technique.  I hope for those joining in, you'll do the same and let me know on the blog how it works out for you.

Test Drive: News

I am a little behind this week, so the Test Drive post will be posted much later in the day.  If you are new to the blog, what do I mean by Test Drive?  See this post for details.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Search for Re: Boobrie

What is the monster this week?  A neat Scottish creature called a boobrie.

It is enormous and birdlike, with black wings and claws like human hands.  The most interesting features about this creature are the eyes and the bill.  The black eyes have a stare that can drive a man insane.  Its bill is a long as a sword and just as deadly, capable of skewering large animals and flying off with them.  It is also capable of emitting a terrifying roar.

The boobrie is similar to the Great Northern Diver, but it has white markings and huge webbed feet.  But do not mistake it for a mere fishing or wading bird.  It prefers land animals, consuming anything that goes near its loch or even shipbound lifestock.  It will tear through wooden rails and nets to reach its prey aboard such vessels; sometimes it even tears through the sailor or fisherman who tries to stop its predation.

What do I find so intriguing about this creature?  The stare and the bill.  Walker sojourns in a world with a predatory bird.  I pictured it about the size of a crow, but I never thought of making it bigger or increasing its bill length or strength.  Nor did I consider making it have a hypnotic gaze.  All very cool things.  Though, I'm considering making it either silent or a mimic, whichever ends up scarier.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Link-a-Day: History Games

Last week, I posted about some science sites, good for inspiration or research.  One of those links was a top 100 site, and gave more options, like museum sites.  That reminded me of an old game I played online at a museum that dealt with Victorian manners.

Well, I found it again.

It's a little Monty Pythonish history lesson, where you are in the role of either a man or woman from the Victorian era.  It's just as much fun to guess wrong as it is to guess right.  While there, check out the other games available, such as the photography one.  It's a little tougher, but still neat, especially in the role of the photographer's assistant.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Article Channel: Outlines

Hiya, I'm trying something new out on my Fridays, and so, my articles posts gained a new name to keep them separate from other materials you'll find posted on these days.  So, the first program on the The Article Channel is . . .  


In particular, two ways to create a novel summary.

I have written many novels throughout the years, and in nearly every case, I started with an outline or synopsis.  Usually when I talk about outlines and synopses, I allow the terms to be synonymous.  In this case of this article, "outline" is a summary broken down into chapters and maybe scenes.  A synopsis is a summary narrative form; the only breaks you'll see here are of the paragraph kind.  But once you write one type of summary, it can transform into another with a little more work.  Here are a couple of techniques that worked well for me.

Method #1: The One-Liner.

This is the technique I have been using lately.  I start with my own version of the Snowflake Method.  That is, I start with one line that summarizes what my novel is about.  This is not easy, but it helps focus my novel and it can be a useful marketing tool in a query packet. 

Once I come up with my one-liner, my next step is the query letter blurb.  Not only will this come in handy as I write, but it will be the first draft of my actual query letter.  I revise it as I work on the actual drafts of my novel, and by the time I am done with my novel, that part of my submission packet is ready to go as well. 

From the blurb, I expand the summary into something with a little more substance over all parts of the novel, beginning, middle, and end.  I keep fleshing this out, making sure that my plot events flow until each other and that character motivations, goals, and thoughts are present wherever necessary to understand my character's actions and reactions.  

Turning the synopsis into an outline:   I go through my synopsis, either on a new file on the computer or on a printout, and I put little marks (like [1]) indicating where a new chapter's material begins.  Once I have gone through the entire novel this way, I separate my synopsis material by chapter tick marks and adjust wording as necessary to fit the level of detail I need for a chapter and scene summary. 

Method #2.  The High Points.

This idea is inspired by the whole Act I, II, III type plotting, but again with my own twist.  I use my story concept or premise, either written down or just inside my head, and start by deciding what are the high points or major events in my novel.  I start with three:  the one that kicks off the story after all the set up is done, the one that is in the middle, and the climax.  

Once I have these three events, I go back and fill in more events between each of the major ones until I have enough to fill a novel.  With some tweaking and organizing, these become chapter or scene summaries and are grouped accordingly. 

These are usually only a few sentences, more focused on plot than character motivation, unlike the synopsis.  However, I find it useful to post the summary of an individual chapter in the file I write the novel in before I write the actual chapter.  That way I have it handy for easy reference and focus.

Turning the outline into a synopsis:   I start my synopsis by copy-and-pasting my finished outline into another document file.  Then, I take these brief sentences and I flesh them out, turning them into a narrative full of character motivation and goals as well as plot events.  Then once I have those, I delete the chapter headings and make sure it flows like a story, like a synopsis should.

In the end, no matter which method I pick, I have a multi-functional tool.  First of all, it will help me start writing.  Second, it keeps my writing on track.  And third, it provides the ground work for my novel submission packet.

Test Drive: The Start-Up

On Friday, Dec. 11, I will start a new series on my blog called the Test Drive.  This is where I find writing references, apply them to my works, and post about the results.  I will mostly pick books that:

  1. have built-in writing exercises or lend themselves well to the creation of exercises, and
  2. are similar to resources available online in order to expand on the topics under discussion.

Hence, the title of this series.  Off hand, I can't count how many writing books I have accumulated over the years, but I can count on one hand how many times I directly incorporated all I learned into a writing piece.  Hands-on experience not only makes sure I am applying the lessons, but I will also get a potential product to market out of it.  A win-win situation.  Same for you, I hope.  That is why, I'm trying the writing techniques out on my own fiction, and inviting you to do the same, either along with me or after you obtain the writing reference for yourself.  But if NaNoWriMo has taught me anything, it is this:  not only is it more fun to write as part of a community, but doing so makes you more productive.  If you can, join in and let me know how it works for you, that way we can motivate each other and I can improve the series.

So what can you expect to see?  Well, even though this is a test drive of my Test Drive series, the format is to consist of:

  • an article on a writing technique
  • writing exercises
  • progress reports and results posts
  • snippets
  • a final review of the reference at the end of the series
Oh, and if you join in and blog about it, let me know and I'll backlink to it in my posts.
    Anyway, when will the above be posted?  On Fridays, but beyond that, I'm afraid the timing of the posts is set by my writing pace.  The series will be archived on my blog, however, so that you can pick and chose which techniques and exercises you wish to try and in what order.  However, I intend to give the reference a thorough workout. 

    Now that you know the rundown of the Test Drive series, what's next?  Well, on Dec. 11th, I will post my writing reference choice, preliminary goals, and any other preparatory information needed to get us ready for the 18th, the day of the first real exercise.  Until then, I'll leave you with this article about outlines--articles, by the way, will continue to be posted on Fridays when there are no Test Drive posts.

    See you all on the 11th!

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Search for Re: Alps

    In my quest for vampire folklore, to find something that fits the vampires that are part of the Walker universe, I ran across something called the alp.

    The alp is a night predator from Germanic folklore.  They are more like incubi than vampires according to Wikipedia.  Although from what I understand, according to the same resource, they rarely sexually attack the victim. 

    Perhaps the incubi connection has more to the with the Old Hag syndrome, which has to do with uncomfortable or suffocating pressure on the chest.  I say that because they sneak in at night, sit on their victim's chest, and increase their weight until the victim can no longer breathe. 

    They feed off their victim's vitality, breath, and their terror--that is, while atop their victim, an alp changes the victim's dreams to nightmares and feed off the discharge of terror.  Or according to Wikipedia, alps feed by entering through the victim's mouth or nose as a fine mist and once inside feed on dreams.  Or they may use their long tongue to do the same.  Gross.

    Well, the more I looked into the alps, the more I realized they were like my "keshets" in the Walker universe.  My keshets are like a mixture of vampires and succubi/incubi--you know all about the latter, of course.  It was the tongue thing though that made me think of them.  My keshets have a long tongue they stick down inside you, through any handy orifice.  Walker gets an earful, for example.  Anyway, this tongue has a dual purpose.  First, it discharges something like a spider's venom, turning your insides into a Slurpee.  Second, they use it lap or suck you dry.  Yum. 

    But I really like the idea of the dream-changing and I see a way to tie it in my creatures.  You see, the keshets are so physically enchanting, the victim is drawn helplessly to them while they work their stuff.  What if, part of that "enchantment" involves some very . . . captivating dreams, so that once they get you close, they keep you close.  You're insides are liquefying, but you don't feel it, because you are off somewhere in la la land doing something far more pleasant than being munched on. 

    Folklore is cool, huh?  Where did I find my information about Alps?  Well from Wikipedia and from a cool new book, They Bite by Maberry and Kramer.  You'll probably be seeing more from this book during this month.  After all, I still need some more vampire info.  And I need some cool critters for other worlds in the Walker universe.  Oh, and once my web page gets up and running, I'll see about posting more information creatures like alps, because they have some other quirks too worth noting.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Link-a-Day: Science and Fact Sites

    Last week, I posted about sources for weird.  How about regular science and fact sites?

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

    Well, now that nano craziness is over, I can get back to focusing on the blog and regular writing.  So, what can you expect this week?

    • Monday:  Link-a-day:  Science and Fact Sites.  Some links about . . . science and fact sites that I find interesting.
    • Wednesday:  Search for Re:  Alps.  No, not the mountain range, but the breath-sucking creature from folklore.
    • Friday:  The Write Way:  dual posts.  The first being an announcement about a new feature for Write Way Fridays and the second being an article on outlining techniques.

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Check Up

    Well, it's Saturday, and it's a good day to look back on progress made and to set up expectations for the week to come.  And for a snippet from my nano novel, tweaked to make more sense.

    Progress Made:
    • I finished NaNoWriMo Friday night. Walker#1 Novel is not finished, but I am pleased with my word count this month.
    • I've started on my website.  Right now, I have my hosting site, domain name, and a very basic layout of site.
    New Goals:
    • Take a break from the actual writing of Walker#1 Novel, and start planning out the series and world in greater depth.
    • Work on a page a day of my website.
    • Get back to my regular schedule of linkaday, research, and write way posts.
    Snippet from Walker#1 Novel:

    "Aren't you going to offer a lady a ride?" Mehe said.

    Find me one, and I'd be happy to.  But my former horse had a mind of Mehe's making, and without waiting for my response, it folded itself in place over its legs, nearly upending me in the process.  She demurely settled on the now expanded back, crossing her legs over the side.  By the time I found my seat, it rose up again.  Nearly dislodging me in the process again, while her pose hadn't shifted a muscle.

    Enough was enough.

    She could keep her mech . . . beast.  I'd go hide out in the House of Health until it had returned to normal and she preyed on one of her other sometimes-husbands.  I lifted my right leg over the neck of the beast, intending to slide off over shoulder and wing.  Instead, I found myself in a less than comfortable parody of her position.  The wing had locked my leg into position.  And my seat warmed, threatening sunburn in inopportune places. 

    Mehe draped an arm over my shoulder and toyed with the back of my neck.  "A rather comfortable improvement, isn't it?  And roomy.  One could practically do anything atop him.  One doesn't have to be so flexible anymore."

    Choosing the lesser of two evils, I swung my leg back into the proper side of the trap and sighed.  "You're going to sell me to the vampires again, aren't you?"

    Mehe withdrew, rigid.  "You should know I possess more sense than that."  She plucked at my silk sleeve.  "Do you have any idea how much your garments would cost to purchase?  I'd never recoup their loss or my standing with the creditors if I let you go off to a harem in these."

    Well, she could, if she did business with the greater harem holders, but none of them would have anything to do with her after her last deal.  "So I'm safe as long as I'm dressed in your purchases?"

    "Rentals, not purchases."

    "What's keeping you from just stripping me down beforehand?"

    She scoffed.  "Men, you only have one thing on your mind.  But I am flattered you miss me so, my love."

    Reassuring that:   in her mind, she connected my nudity only to intimate acts with her; it was also quite unreassuring for entirely the same reason.  But continuing to argue down this path would only lead to more equivocations of increasingly uncomfortable nature.  So there was nothing left for it but this:  I turned around in my seat, stared her in the eye, and entreated her for a straight answer for once.  "Mehe, what do you want?"

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Link-a-Day: Weird Science

    Last week, I posted about Tagfoot.  From that site I found Strange USA, where you can find the weird or supernatural stuff near you in America.  Just click on a state and a county, and it pops up hauntings and other unusual things available to check out. 

    Since we are on the topic, how about some other sources for weird facts and weird science?
    PS:   Sorry, this was posted late.  I thought I had it scheduled; turned out, I only had a draft of it on my computer.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009


    Well I've been quiet because I've been working on another project, my web page.  I haven't written either.  So I broke my 30 days of straight writing streak.  Instead, I'm going to work on nano today, and tomorrow, and whatever other days are needed to finish it for that and I'll keep up writing on it afterwards.  But it was nice to have a break.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Day 19: 1,753

    Day 19's Word Count: 1,753
    Nov's Total:  45,423


    • I discovered that I still have a ways to go yet plot-wise in my novel, but I hit the mid-point plot event.  And it turned out differently than I expected.  I'll let the revision time tell me if it is better or worse than my plans.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Day 18: 2,182

    Day 14's Word Count:  2,182
    Nov's Total: 43,670


    • I discovered more planned chapters are merging and I'm sorta adding one.  At this rate, I don't foresee this draft being much more than 60,000 words, if that.  Which would be my shortest first draft of a novel, ever.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Critique Groups

    I ran across an interesting post on BookEnds about critique groups. Interesting, because I have been thinking about joining one again. So, I thought to post about some groups I've been in, for those also on the look out. Please note, the sites listed below, except for FMWriters, are dedicated to science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres only.

    The last one I had been on was Online Writing Workshop. This one isn't free, but the fees are small. The basic setup is that you critique others, and you get points. After you get four, you get to post a piece of your own. You can have three posted pieces up at once. The neatest thing is the Editor's Choice function--basically, if you are lucky, an editor will crit your story. That chance alone is worth the value of the membership fee, in my opinion. Anyway, on average, I got the quickest critiques out of this place, due to, in part, the fact that you get more points if you are the first to crit a new piece.

    Before OWW, I was member of a crit group at Forward Motion Writers's Community. I've actually been in several crit groups there, throughout the years. The great thing about that site is, you can create your own group or join a specific one that has openings. If you make your own group, you can also make up your own rules, but in general, they the groups rely on crit for crit--meaning, everyone critiques everyone in the group. This site was the best option for having people stick with you throughout your novel, instead of giving you feedback on just a chapter or two.

    Before that, I started out with Critters. The way it works is somewhat like OWW. If I remember correctly, you have to keep your crit percent up--basically, one crit a week--in order to have a piece posted. However, unlike OWW, your piece enters a queue instead of being posted instantly. The best thing about Critters is the Dedicated Reader function, where you can get people willing to read your entire novel and critique it. Out of all three crit groups I mentioned, I got the most feed back out of this one place. It was also the least "cliquey".

    Overall, all of them had their attractions and drawbacks, but I enjoyed my experiences with them all and learned a lot. But however, right now, I am more interested in finding a very small group (3 to 4 people) that operate more like crit buddies. That I have the least experience with.

    Day 17: 1,911

    Day 17's Word Count: 1,911
    Nov's Total:  41,488


    • I discovered that I am under the 10k mark!  Only 8,512 words left to go.
    • That three of my "chapters" worked better combined, as two scenes.  That's a first this month.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Day 16: 1,899

    Day 16's Word Count: 1,899
    Nov's Total:  39,577


    • I discovered I have about 13 chapters left to write in the novel, and I have 10,423 words left to write.  So, once my 10k words are done, I'd like to try my own marathon in November.  No, not to write all 13 chapters.  Rather to write every day of November, no matter how little it is.  And a secondary goal in December to finish the draft.
    • That due to overtime this week at work, for the next couple days, my plans are shot all to hell, both for my word count and my blog.  So I may start updating my nano-count at night instead of in the morning, so I have more time to do things in the morning.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Link-a-Day: Bookmarks

    Last week, while looking for more demographic generators, I ran across this site which I posted about.  It was included on a list of demographics at the site called Tagfoot

    According to their help page, Tagfoot is "social bookmarking on steroids".  Basically, it's one giant link page that was created not by one person, but an entire community.  The site is full of interesting tools, research, and art that is bound to spark an idea or two for a writer's use. 


    Day 15: 4,219

    Day 15's Word Count: 4,219
    Nov's Total:  37,678


    • I discovered that I have 12,322 words left to write. Yeah!
    • That despite my new technique of growing the outline into actual novel content, I still have plenty of room for surprises to occur. Such as when, my character Walker was sure danger was going to happen.  He was supposed to warn the party-goers of an attack "happening right now" and then have it be too late, it was already happening.  Instead, I decided, he warns the party-goers, nothing happens, they toss him out, then just when his confidence is at an all time low, the attack occurs.  It was unexpected, and fun to write.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Day 14: 3,451

    Day 14's Word Count: 3,451
    Nov's Total:  33,459


    • I discovered that if I do 2,400 words a day on average, I can finish this in one week.  That's not so bad, only mildly insane.
    • That I finally have my novel outlined and I like what I got.  :-)  :-)
    • That Nano is worth it.

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Day 13: 2,091

    Day 13's Word Count: 2,091
    Nov's Total:  30,008


    • I discovered that while the getting the words have been tough, I will have something ok to work from for the next draft.  That surprised me.
    • That my outline is going better than I thought.  It will need some tweaking, but I am past the first and second high points.  Just need to finish up the third.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Day 12: 1,824

    Day 12's Word Count: 1,824
    Nov's Total:  27,917

    • I discovered . . . er . . . uhm . . . not much?  Maybe next time.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Day 11: 1,742

    Day 11's Word Count: 1,742
    Nov's Total:  26,093

    • I discovered that as I work on my outline, I come across things like, one of my family-business heirs has to be married by a certain date.  It makes me ask why and by gum, I actually have time to figure it out and see how it affects the rest of the world; that works much better for me than plunging on full-speed ahead into uncharted waters.
    • That it's really hard to write with company about.  So much for my 3k word goal.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Day 10: 2,293

    Day 10's Word Count: 2,293
    Nov's Total:  24,349

    • I discovered my weakest point is still the plotting after the high point number one.
    • That this novel is chock-full of revelations.  
      • Couriers are going to be outed--well, definitely Walker will be, and the fact that couriers exist will be as well.  
      • Someone from Walker's past is part of their own secret organization affecting society.  Well, the revelation is more that they exist and are doing things, not the full extent of their powers and motives.
      • Walker is going to discover another person who knew him, briefly, from before his memory was wiped.  Walker is not pleased with this at all :-)
      • Finally, I plan on Walker revealing why he was visiting in the House of Healing (to the characters in the book) and whom that person is (to the readers).
    • That my characters need therapy.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Day 9: 1,852

    Day 9's Word Count: 1,852
    Nov's Total: ~22,056

    • I discovered that this novel is trying to turn partly into a mystery on me.  Not sure I wanna let it.  Mysteries and I don't get along well.
    • That I'm going to try a new technique for getting my words.  I said my chapters were resembling outlines more than real chapters or that I'd have to pretend they were, in order to edit?  Well, why not see how hard it is to build a novel up from a literal outline.  Summarize the rest of the novel in 2,000 words today.  Next day, flesh it out with 2,000 more until I get to the point I'm focusing on individual scenes and adding dialogue, scene setting, etc.  Hmm, it's worth a shot anyway.  That's what nano is for:  exploration.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Link-a-Day: Demographics

    Last week, my post was on story or idea prompts. One of the links was a story idea generator on the Seventh Sanctum site. On that site, they had a forum with a thread about a useful site and I hoped they would list one I used to love to play with.

    They did.

    Enter in a few criteria, and it pops out not only what medieval population is sustainable on those conditions, but what type and number of occupations your population can support. Nifty, huh?

    If you like that one, you might like the Medieval Kingdom Generator too.

    Day 7 & 8: 3,992

    Day 7's Word Count: 1,786 
    Day 8's Word Count: 2,206
    Nov's Total: ~20,198

    •  I discovered that even with a better plan on where I'm heading, I have to go fairly slow to try to write something that makes sense. I'm going to have to find a better technique for getting 1,667 words a day and having those words be of good quality.
    • That I'm going to have a hell of a time with edits anyway.  They are going to give me a headache unless I treat this as a really long outline.
    • That I still didn't get a snippet out, due to time and inability to find anything of readable quality.  At times, my writing is pure dialogue with a few other lines thrown in.  It takes too long to make that ship shape for posting.  Hopefully this week.

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Day 6: 1,697

    Day 6's Word Count:  1,697
    Nov's Total:  ~16,205

    • I discovered my middle turning point after I did some summary writing last night.  It surprised me.  I mean, I knew it was going to happen, but I never planned on it being in this novel.  I guess I always pictured it more as a thing that happened between novels.
    • That when I got to thinking about The Spirit, thanks to the last post, I realized other influences it was having on my work.  I didn't originally plan on Walker having a big affect on women--just this one family.  See, Walker is supposed to gain an useless ability, well, mostly useless one that can get him trouble or help him out of an odd jam in an odd fashion.  Having a Don Juan effect over women around him fits the bill.  Not necessarily a romantic-only effect.  No, just having an unnatural halo effect on women would work.  And it would fit nicely with some other dangling plot thread, too boot.  Now all that is left is to see how hard or easy it is to pull off :-)
    • That, thanks to some company and a major sinus/allergy headache, I barely got my words and a summary written.  So, oops.  No snippet.  I'll do my best to get it up this weekend.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Day 5: 1,860

    Day 5's Word Count:  1,860
    Nov's Total:  ~14,505

    • I discovered another neat character, inspired by Plaster of Paris from the movie, The Spirit.  You see, I get characters and things knocking around in my head without a proper home.  It seems like this series is hoovering them up the way my dog hoovers up his food.  So once I really got the connection, I remembered a scene I wanted this homeless character in, and now I have to leave a note to myself to revise something: the first scene where my PoP inspired guy (Grips) meets Walker.
    • That the original guy who was going to be the escort (not Grips mentioned above) is now going to have to wait his turn to arrive.  He's related to Walker's forgotten past and is currently MIA.  I'm thinking his movement from MIA to IA may be what prompts memories to come back to Walker, because these two characters are connected like none other.
    • That sometimes you wish you could don a pseudonym.  What I'm writing in this novel and next is a little embarrassing at some instances and little taboo at others.  I am pushing the envelope on my comfortable levels, and that would be fine if it were just me an anonymous audience looking on my work.  If my family and friends, however, were to read it or another novel of mine . . . . I don't look forward to their reaction, no.
    • That once you change something about your characters, previous plotting goes out the window.  Hopefully in a good way.
    • That I forgot to prepare for my snippet today.  So it will be belated, I'm afraid, as I try to find something worthy of snipping.  Like I said, my writing is not pleasing my internal editor this month.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Day 4: ~1,701

    Day 4's Word Count:  ~ 1,701
    Nov's Total:  ~10,645

    • I discovered that my original goal of 80k words this month wasn't going to work out.  So I've changed it to 50k.  This way, I have more time to plot and plan everyday too.
    • That part of my plotting and forward movement problem is Walker is a pushover in the first 10k.  It's cute in a few scenes, but afterwards, he needs to get some gumption going on.  Once I decided that, I decided that a key event that needed to be at the 25k mark, doesn't have to be.  And out of the blue, a new idea came to me that caused me to lol, which means I am on track again.
    • That I want a fourth novel idea that is a marriage of the Walker universe and a completely different novel idea.  You see, Walker gets a certain special horse in novel two.  That horse kept ending up resembling my fae mount in another novel I was working on.  So I quit fighting it, and now, not only is it the same species, it's the same horse--with the same rider/MC.  And surprisingly, it works out better that way, I think.
    Eh, not many discoveries, but they were good ones.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Day 3: ~2,986

    Day 3's Word Count:  ~ 2,986
    Nov's Total:  ~10,947

    • I found out that I may have a dreaded trilogy on my hands.  Let's see if I can't make it a quartet instead.  I like my even numbers, yes I do.
    • That the plotting is getting harder:
      • because turning point number one has to happen at 25k words into the novel to make the novel balanced in length.  The problem?  Since I haven't had time to do an outline, I have to try to fill out the area between only about a day before I write, and I'm not satisfied with what I'm finding coming up with so far.
      • because of trying to write fast-paced and unexpected, like my inspiration, the Transformers movies and Harry Dresden books.  But after my first real action scene, I'm not sure if I'm cut out to write action thrillers.  Not sure this novel is cut out to be one either.
    • That if I get 50k early, I am going to slow down and instead of focusing on writing 80k rushed words, I am going to have 50k honed words.  That appeases the muse and inner editor.
    • Finally, that my "hungry ka" idea-based enemies (instead of zombies) need a make-over.  While the twist that they are devastatingly beautiful is neat, they also need to be devastating.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Day 2: 2,838

    I don't think my little progress graph is working, at least not on this computer, but here it is from the nano site itself:

    Day 2's Word Count:  ~ 2,838
    Nov's Total:  ~7,966

    • It's hard to plan just a day ahead.
    • That the words are coming harder, a sign that my inner editor is not as satisfied editorially with my work as we were on Saturday.  But I'm going to take Edittorrent's suggestion, and trust myself to fix it later.
    • I must be on a self-imposed challenge to see in how many chapters I can get Walker, my MC, nude.  Let's see now:  
      • In the first scene, he's just stepping out of the purification pool when his sometimes-wife arrives to abduct him.
      • In a later scene, his sometimes-wife has him strip so she can make him courier something.  (See my previous, linked blog post to know what "courier" means exactly.)  He also wakes up naked in bed afterwards, along with her.
      • Later, he is told to strip and stand for investigation, at the border of his world and another, on the suspicion he's been infected by the plague.
    Well, that's it.  Happy writing everyone.  I survived Day 2!  Let's see about Day 3!

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Link-a-Day: Prompts

    Last week, I delved into word origins for research and inspiration.  How about another type of inspiration?  Prompts.

    These can be words, scenarios, or pictures that are meant as warm-ups, to get your creative energy flowing.  But more importantly, there is no weight attached to them.  Just as warm-ups for your body won't get you fit, writing exercises won't get you published, but they do get you ready for the real deal.

    Here are a few more resources, from other prompt sites to places where you can find or make your own: 

    Day 1: ~5000 wc

    I survived day one, even after doing research for half the morning.  Egyptian research, the inspiration on which I am building my culture.

    Wordcount:  ~5,000 words, but that sounds a little high.  But it's all on my laptop, so I can't verify.

    • That I'm slowly getting a handle on Walker's voice (he has a sense of humor that reminds me of Six in my novel Lab).
    • That the research overtime was worth it.  Egyptian culture works really well for this story, what with their religious beliefs on different aspects of the soul. Oh, and also that now that I started writing the novel, I don't seem to have enough reference books?  Never mind I have about six or seven books that cover Egyptians exclusively or at least extensively, and Wikipedia and other sites a click away . . . .
    • That I can handle writing prominent females so far, as long as they aren't my view point character.  Case in point, the minx that sold her "husband" Walker to a vampire harem (back in the nebulous character history).  And her daughter.  Heck, I better be able to handle it, seeing as how most people in this novel from the thaumaturge to the Walker's supervisor/mentor are of the female persuasion.  The only other principal character that isn't, is an escort, and my intentions are to make that guy make the minx look good.
    • That Walker's having fun (well, more people are having fun at his expense); the novel's having fun; I'm having fun :), despite this idea being thrown together and apart, like a tossed salad, at the last moment.
    Well, that's it so far.  More when I get home and write.

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Upcoming Posts

    During Nano, I can't guarantee I'll be able to keep to my previous schedule of links, research, and writing articles.

    My hope is instead, to keep up the link posts on Mondays and post snippets on Fridays.  I'll try my best though to add articles and research posts whenever I can this month and do frequent updates on my writing progress.

    We'll see.  Oh, and good luck to all doing Nano.  I know for one I'm going to need it.

    My Nano

    Well, I chose "Walking Papers", but with some essential changes.
    • I'm dubbing it The Sentinel for now, but that isn't a permanent title.
    • It's no longer a weird west setting; I'm saving that for its sequel, which cannibalizes much of the unwritten prequel.
    Here's a rough summary: 

    Walker was a courier--he used to carry memories, souls, and even objects magically miniaturized inside his body, all in exchange for a free pass into worlds plagued by parasitic magic, a bunged up mind and body, and an all time low in life expectancy.  Then he got out, turned traitor: he became a sentinel, those who make sure what the couriers carry won't mess up the worlds any more than they already are.  But as they say, once a courier, always a courier.  Well, Walker's sometime wife says that.  She is counting on him to transport an item across the schisms (loco world borders) that sentinels would kill to destroy; as a sentinel, he is the only one who could get away with it.

    He is prepared to tell her to go drop off a schism when she reveals what it is.  One of the last ingredients for a cure.  She carries another, the soul of the thaumaturge who concocted it.  Fortunately for all involved, Walker has his own personal reasons for seeing the cure come to fruition, because few people are willing to have anything to do with one.  After all, the last attempt at a cure pissed off the plague and turned that world into one giant mausoleum.  That world being the original world from once the plague came.  The world he called home.

    This is a rough summary, and just like the title, a lot of the terms in it are place holders.  But hey, that's what draft two is for.

    Anyway, I also have two Excel files.  Use this one if you are only going 50,000 words, aka going for the Nano win only.  Use this one if you are attempting an entire novel in one month--just change the word count of your novel from 80,000 to whatever yours is.  In both, if you fall under the daily goal (based on 50,000 words), the cells where your daily word count turns red.  If you meet or go over the amount needed every day to reach 50,000 words, the cell turns green; blue if you chose the second Excel file and meet or exceed your daily goal for a longer novel.  Right now those spreadsheet trackers are as rough as my summary, but hopefully, they will suffice or the can be altered to meet your needs.

    Well, see you in a bit.  I'm off to do some last minute research.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    My webpage

    As much as I think Weebly is a cute resource for a basic web page, especially with its ability to make instant page buttons, I'm frustrated with its limitations.  On my links page, for instance, I can't center the titles of my link categories without centering the whole blasted page.  I can't make two words near each other each be different links.  Now, it's been a while since I did make my own page, but if I had control over the basic html, I could fix that myself.  The provider promises greater control is coming, but not any time soon. 

    Sorry Weebly, I think I'm going to have to go with some other free resource.  I used to have a Geocities page, but as you can tell, they discontinued the service.  So, any suggestions? 

    The Write Way: Final Moments

    Well, it's getting down to the wire.  Are you ready?  Due to complications, I had to choose a new nano novel, and had to research and develop my idea from scratch.  Which is why prewriting is more important now than before:  just because I am behind now, I don't want to be behind later.

    So, I compiled a checklist of the ideal and bare minimum tools necessary to be ready come November 1st--and I will be posting examples from my own notes as I build them, any useful resources I find online to related to these tools, and a Excel spreadsheet template I will use to keep track of my words written during nano.  It also doesn't hurt, if you have the time, to do these same steps for your backup novel, the novel you will use in case, after week one, your original idea isn't working out.

    But first of all, let's look at the documents that will help you win nano.  They are:
    • Premise or concept summary.  
    • Novel synopsis or outline.
    • Character profiles.
    • World building factsheet.
    • Word count tracker.
    Seems like a lot, huh?  Well, that all depends on you.  The premise merely encapsulates what your novel is about in a few paragraphs.  A sentence or two version might be the ideal for those who write by the seat of their pants or for any writer wanting a tighter focus on their novel.  Either way, this premise keeps you and your novel concentrated on what is important and gives you an idea if your novel is too short or too long.  It will also let you know while you are writing if you are heading down a dead-end path that will eat up your time or cause writer's block. 

    For staying on track however, a synopsis or outline is an even better tool.  It will give you an idea of where, amongst other things, your story is weak or overcrowded on plot.  After both documents are written compare the two documents and ask yourself if one deviates too much from the other.  If that happens, decide which, premise or outline, you want to revise to match your vision for your novel.  Don't have time to write one?  Then write just enough scene summaries that your first week is occupied; that coupled with your premise should keep you on track until you have time to develop one during the first weekend. If all that is still a turnoff, then try this trick:  after you are done writing for the day, summarize the day's work in a brief line or two.  This retroactive outline will let you know where you were and as such give you ideas on where to head in the future--and it will come in handy when you revise your entire novel in the future.

    The character and worldbuilding profiles are cheat sheets and while they can be as detailed as you want.  For the character profile, include your characters names, most prominent characteristics, relationships to each other, history, goals/motivation, and opposition.  This sheet is especially helpful if you do not have an outline, for you can build a novel based on simply pitting characters and their goals against the people, things, and circumstances opposing them.

    Just as important is your worldbuilding fact sheets, especially if you made up a world or using one you are not familiar with.  This is where your research notes go; this is where your own ideas on what your world is about goes.  Start out with the basics of time period and physical setting, then look back at your premise, character sheet, and outline and see what facts you will need to make sense of your characters and plot; for example, if by your outline you, your know your character is going to cast a spell, include a section on your magic system.  Will he or she travel?  Transporation notes.  The trick is to make your notes concise and categorized, for you want to spend as little time looking up facts as possible while writing.  Finally, on both of these sheets, leave copious blank spaces for notes.  For as you write, you will discover more about your world and characters that you will need for later reference.

    Last but not least, the word count tracker.  Something that both pantsers and outliners need:  something to keep track of how many words you need to write and how many you already wrote.  This can be a handwritten document or, my preference, a computer program.  I prefer spreadsheets.  You can make this as simple or complicated as you want, but the essentials are total word count goal (whether it is 50,000 or more), a daily or weekly word count goal, how many words written, and a count down to how many words are left.  Not only will seeing the words build up give you a boost of confidence and motivation, it will give you plan to win Nano or complete your draft.

    So there you go, a compilation of helpful tools to keep you focused on one and only one thing during your scheduled nano time:  writing.

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Search for Re: Stagecoaches

    One of my new, potential nano ideas involves an Old West type setting, and I decided to research different modes of transportation.  This time, I'm looking into the romanticized stagecoach.  In particular, the model I'm most likely to visualize and emulate is the Concord, called an "imposing cradle on wheels" by Mark Twain.

    The ideal for me is to have my main character, temporarily dubbed Walker, be able to ride as guard, not on the stagecoach, but on his own horse.  A horse which is to say a little different than the average horse.  Anyway, reading through The Expressmen, the only mention near what I wanted was this:

    "To protect the stages carrying bullion from Comstock country--popular targets of robbers--Wells, Fargo put not only a shotgun guard on the box beside the driver, but another on the top of the coach and two more riding on horseback 50 yards to the rear."

    Since my character is going to be under some mental duress, another tidbit from that book was interesting:

    "Lacking a doctor to certify a traveler's madness, stage drivers and passengers alike kept a careful eye out for strange behavior.  When incipient delirium was detected in a passenger, he was sometimes forced to stay over at a stage station and, despite his protests, take his chances on the next coach.  Now and then such passengers wandered away from stations in a daze and disappeared.  Journalist Richardson referred to 'stage-craziness' as a recognized malady of the West."

    Of course, my character isn't likely to be riding in the coach--although that might be fun due to the instant friction of passengers sleeping on the go while cramped inside coaches.  Anyway, I foresee some interaction between him and the passengers that does not go well, and it would be an interesting for Walker to be left behind at a home station.  Maybe his cool horse can even be taken.

    Not to mention potential for trouble on en route, that is, running into robbers or the demonic equivalent of an Indian attack.  Or rather, instead of demonic, a zombie equivalent, since this is novel is set in the same world as Walker's unwritten prequel, a novel idea that was inspired by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  After all, even though I am putting my original nano on the backburner, doesn't mean I have to put zombies (or their kin) there too.

    Well that's it for today.  Stay tuned for more Old West research next week.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Nano Possibilites

    All right, I have three Nano Possibilities:
    • Vampires, Naturally.  Fantasy.  Male graduate of natural science is sent to study the last vampires. Set in a Victorianesque culture, with a gender role twist, a dash of humor, and a sprinkling of theme.  Status:  Needs short summary, outline, and character profiles.
    • Garden of Roots and Wings.  Literary Fantasy.  The struggles of three men who are bound to tend an isolated garden that their civilization depends upon for magic.  Status:  Needs better logline, has short summary, needs need outline, needs character profiles.
    • Walking Papers.  Fantasy.  Old West like setting, with demon or zombie like creatures.  Fast paced.  Status:  Needs logline, short summary, outline.
    After a movie marathon this weekend of Transformers 1 and 2, I am leaning toward option three.  Even though I don't have much done on it, it seems like the most fun.  Also, I have some of the world building done on it from an unwritten prequel.  If that does not pan out, my backup is one of the other two, depending on if I am in more of a fun or deep mood.

    Link-a-Day: Etymology

    Last week, I mentioned obsolete words as a source of muse inspiration.  So can word origins, or etymology.  The best site?  Etymonline.  Another source for etymologies is  Not only can you look up how anachronistic a word would be for your novel's setting, but you can also find a name for characters or objects that hold deeper meaning.  Or it's a good way to help you see how a word changes through time, and will provide a model or inspiration for inventing your own languages.

    There's so much you can do there.  So, what are you waiting for?

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

    This month is dedicated primarily to Preparing for Nanowrimo, which is coming up next month. Nano is National Novel Writing Month. You challenge yourself to write a minimum of 50,000 words during the month of November. Impossible? Nah. Insane, maybe. Anyway . . .

    This week:
    • Monday:  Link-a-day:  Etymology.  The stopping place for word origins.
    • Wednesday: Search for Re: Stagecoaches. All aboard the "imposing cradle on wheels" of the Old West.
    • Friday: The Write Way: New Novel and Final Moments.  The last of four topics on Nanowrimo preparation. This one deals with my choosing a novel to nano and advice on last minute prewrites and organization.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    The Write Way: The Game and Gods, and Success or Salvage.

    My original plan consisted of tips, about how to succeed at nano as well as warning signs.  But you know what?  Sometimes it's both, not an either/or scenario.

    My third year's nano was The Game.  It was inspired by Stephen King's short story, The Long Walk, and in it, initiates underwent an ordeal to become full-fledged mages.  An ordeal that cost most initiates their lives.  An ordeal that became a spectator sport to boot.  Sound concept, but I struggled to eke out the last chapter or two of the 50,000 words.  To this day, this novel is still incomplete  Why?  Because my goals did not end with winning nano, but with a complete draft.  Hard enough to do in 90 days.  Even harder when you realize, subconsciously, something is wrong.  You get to a point where you cannot go on.

    The next year, last year, I reached that point well before the middle, much less the end, of the 50k goal came into sight.  In fact, it was so tragic a failure, I no longer recall how many words I wrote, when I stopped, nor the name of the work beyond the the word "Gods" being present in it.  The concept, however, involved a winged quarter-god who was trying to gain his godhood--but the only surviving member of a slave race stole his magic mojo and his ability to fly with it.  They would start out as enemies, but come to together to acheive a lofty--he, he--goal.  That nano I lost, because I couldn't force out the words.

    That is the key word.  Force.  Whether or not your goal is to win nano or produce something you want to publish one day, forcing the story isn't going to cut it.  But nano failure doesn't mean novel failure.  I'm a firm believe in no effort is wasted.  Case in point, both of these novels are salvageable in one form or another.

    The Game needs rewritten, a realignment of its focus and a new opening.  But goal to see it published hasn't changed.  And the failed nano?  I'm losing most of the original plot and grafting the basic concept of the story, world, and characters onto another novel where it fits so much better.

    So, how did I manage to salvage these novels?  But giving myself time.  Time to think through the novels's flaws and how to fix them.  Time to think through the novels's strengths and how not to lose them.  Time you don't have during the rush-rush-rush of nano.  Finally, time away from the month-long hyper-focus on one novel.  Time fixes many things.

    Before I wrap this up, I want to salvage something of my original concept for this week's topic.   So, I will give you two tips.

    First, how do you succeed at nano?  Pick a novel that can carry you, not the other way around, through the month.  You don't have time for anything else.

    Second, if you are having problems, make a judgement call at the end of week one on whether or not to continue or use a backup nano idea.  How?  Trust your gut.  If the words are coming hard, try slapping a bandage on the problem.  That is, write a note to yourself about what is needed and move on.  If you can't, there is no saving that patient--until after November.  That's when you pull out your backup.

    Finally, here's a third tip, gratis.  Whatever you do, don't judge yourself.  Nano is supposed to be fun--keep it that way, and you'll thank yourself when you approach both this year's product and next year's nano.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Search for Re: Jung and King

    As I'm not feeling well this week, let's keep this short.  What are we looking at this time?  Psychology.'

    First up, an interesting concept called the shadow.

    According to Wikipedia:  "In its more destructive aspects the shadow can represent those things  which people do not accept about themselves. Someone, for instance, who identifies as being kind can have a shadow that is harsh or unkind."  Although, there is another side to the shadow.  For "in its more constructive aspects, a person's shadow may  represent hidden positive qualities. This has been referred to as the 'gold in the  shadow'".

    However, I prefer to focus on the darker parts.  After all, I want the House to bring out the worse in my people, and if it is the part of them that they are desparately trying to deny, but actually get turned into, all the better.

    Next, an equally interesting topic that both Carl Jung and Stephen King talked about.   Heh, never thought those two would go in one sentence together, did ya?  But in his book Danse Macabre, Stephen King sees the Werewolf concept and Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr  Jekyll and Mr Hyde as about the Apollonian and Dionysian conflict.  What is this conflict?  In other words,  Apollo represents the moralistic, intellectual, noble side of us.  Dionysius represents the wild side, the side concerned with physical gratification and impulses.  Apollo is self-control.  Dionysus is the unconstrained. Apollo the light, the Dionysius the dark.  Order, chaos.  You get it.

    Anyway, in Stephen King's words, I want to show "the Dionysian psychopath locked up  inside the Apollonian facade of normality . . . but slowly, dreadfully emerging."  I want to strip away the control, and show the shadow and the Dionysius inside my characters, and in the end, I want to show it consume the light, the morals, the order inside of each of the men and women in my story.  Well, maybe not each of them.  Just enough of them to make it interesting :-)

    That's it.

    Blast It All To Hell . . .

    . . .  I think I have change my nano idea.  As much as a try, my The Mist meets Lost meets 1804 idea is a no-go.  Mostly because I'm not in the mood to write horror and I am not in the mood to write a cast of dozens.  The idea isn't going away, it just needs more time to ever get it ready to write.  After all, I never really wrote dark fantasy with the intent to scare before.  And I never wrote with that many povs before.  That's not going to be an easy novel for me.

    This is funny, what with my article on success or salvage of nanos coming up.

    Anyway, so there should be frequent posts on my search for a nano idea.  Starting with  Possibilities List (below), that will grow until I find one that clicks and doesn't lick me:
    1. Male graduate of natural science is sent to study the last vampires.  Set in a Victorianesque culture, with a gender role twist.
    Wish me luck.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Link-a-Day: The Thinking Place

    Last week, I posted about a neat word, or rather, a neat word play:  peccavi.  I said I found it the other day.

    Or rather, I re-found it.

    Originally, I came across it on a favorite word list at The Phonistery.  Other cool words on that list?  Growlery and redivivus.  Other neat areas on that site include lost words and unique glossaries, such as types of government, phobias, and divination.  That site is brain and muse candy.

    Oh, and what is a phonistery, you might ask?  That's explained there too.

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

    This month is dedicated primarily to Preparing for Nanowrimo, which is coming up next month. Nano is National Novel Writing Month. You challenge yourself to write a minimum of 50,000 words during the month of November. Impossible? Nah. Insane, maybe. Anyway . . .

    This week:

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Parallel Lives and Parallel Nanos?

    I few years back, I saw this book at the book store and wanted it.  Back then I was only poorly and part-timely employed, so I couldn't buy it.  So, I forgot it.  Until, browsing the history section at my semi-local used book store for books not World II to modern--how can present day be labeled as history, by the way?--I saw this book tucked away.  I forewent a book on supernatural that I almost grabbed for, to get it.  It is an interesting study about marriages in Victorian times, which are often portrayed, Jane Austen's literary successors aside, tinged with a mellow sense of horror on the side of the woman, forced into the role of servant instead of comrade.  Or so, it is portrayed.

    I have always wanted to do a reversal of gender roles, where a man is in such a "lamentable" position as marriage in those times.  And dammit, I'm almost tempted to do it instead of Nano.  If I can't get my creepy house story ready in time, I just might.  I just might, especially since I also picked up this book.  Serendipity calling?  Me thinks so.  Me thinks so.

    Winner and Loser

    Nope, I didn't win Nathan's contest.  But the two I voted for definitely deserve to share the title.  See the comments for my choice.

    But these contests, they teach you a thing or two.  Such as, writing rules?  Writing rules are bull pucky.  I, honest to God, no offense meant, thought the last finalist was the perfect example of never-dare-ye-do purple prose and over writing.  Well, maybe it is, but in the eyes of the agent, it is part of the creme de la creme.  No, I don't have sour grapes--but what is up with food analogies?--but I am confused.  Which leads me back to point.  The rules are bull pucky, for as long as your English isn't rank, you will find someone in the publishing-related world who shares your tastes.  Heck, far from sour grapes, I'm effervescent--lol, not quite, but as long as my stomach is ruling my fingers, let's go with it--because that gives even me, the odd ball, hope that I have a chance not only in Hell, but here on Earth.

    Oh, and another thing to note.  You can't judge an agent by his blog.  Quite a few of those finalists have a "literary genre" style or tinge to them.  I would not have expected that to be Mr. Bransford's cup of tea.  Huh.  Edited to add, I should have.  Look at his profile at the agency he works at.  In my defense, at the back of my mind I knew he didn't cover my genre, so I didn't care to understand what genres he did cover; I just went to his blog to read. 

    By the way, I'm no a hater of the literary genre.  In fact, it is one of the few non-fantasy, non-classic, and non-historical fiction genres I read.  I love it for the mind candy phrases as well as the strong focus on characters as plot.

    Anyway, am I disappointed I lost?  Nah, that would mean I did more than indulge in an a fantasy about winning--same as I indulge in a fantasy about what would happen if I won the lottery.  And trust me, I have a lot more fantasies on the ol' tree to pluck yet to miss one bruised apple :-)