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 :-)

The Write Way: Return to Sender/Eyes of Gods and Finding Time, Victorian Style.

Time is precious during nano.  Heck, even before nano.  But it is doable.  For my second nano year, I managed to win twice.  You read that right.  Two wins, one month.  One novel at 80,000 words and complete; its sequel at least 50,000, although incomplete.  It was just a matter of allocating time.
You see, when I was researching the first novel, I ran across a Victorian reference that stuck with me.  About house cleaning, of all things.  You see, Victorians did not try to clean the whole house in one day.  Instead, they worked on a few rooms every day, doing a quick and dirty job, but the other rooms?  They turned over one type of room a day.  In our busy lives, this still makes sense.  In our busy writings lives the analogy is clear, too:  schedule your quick and dirty work and your daily focus.

First off, decide what on what you have to tackle to be ready for nano next month.  Break it down into easy categories, like:

  •     Research
  •     Plot outlining
  •     Character profiles
  •     World development
  •     Concept development

Now break it down further.  For instance, research can be divided into topics, some of which are cursory, every day type things. Other topics need in depth treatment.  In fact, some of the cursory research leads to an in depth topic. So for the first week, I schedule almost as pure research time to get ideas on what kind of characters, plot, world, and concept work best together.  Then for the next week, I schedule one day for each of the other categories.
That's fine and dandy for October.  What about November?  The advice still holds true.  Set aside some time for non-writing activities.  This can be for brainstorming, research, plot adjustment, etc.  Also, if you are a social bug, don't forget to allow for checking in with buddies, browsing the forums, and getting and giving encouragement.  In fact, making a schedule will help keep you on track so your research or socializing times aren't eating into your actual writing periods.

But what if you don't outline?  What if you don't like to know too much about your characters and novel before you write?  What do you do with October?  Whatever best gets your muse and inspiration going.  For me it was research

I had a lot of Victorian research done beforehand on Return to Sender, but I didn't have more than a core concept and a sketch of the main characters to guide me during nano.  I knew I had an eighteen year old who was given a second chance at life after he died, and he used it to give the dead a chance to fix something in the lives they left behind.  I knew the novel was set on the brink of a civil or revolutionary war, and Roderis, my main character, would not only be in the opposite country than his family, but he would be on the opposite political side as well.  I knew one point of contention between the parties was slavery, and my Roderis inherited a very special type of slave, an inhuman magical one, who was my second major character.  That was what I had going into November. 

I had less than that on the sequel.  I didn't even know I had a duology until I was halfway through November and had nothing left to write on novel one.  In Eyes of Gods, my main characters were reincarnated.  The setting took place in the aftermath of the first novel's events; it was "Elizabethan", because culture and world had regressed.  There was a weird culture set inside a mountain ring.  "Roderis" didn't know who he had been in his past life; his former slave did and was looking for him.  "Roderis" was also a male trapped inside someone else's--some-female-else's--body.  There was nary a plot in sight.

For both novels, I had no outline going in.  So, how did I manage that lack during November?  I allocated my time.  After I wrote each day, I made sure I wrote what the next day's chapter or scene would be.  What I gained in a constant flow of words, however, I lost in publishable quality of story.  The novel was good enough for nano, but the story and plot followed my whims and inspirations, and  it showed.  The duology needs to be rewritten, but I do not regret the results. 

Neither will you regret taking a page of out the Victorian housekeepers book and setting aside time for the quick and dirty everyday things and periods of focus for that which deserves it most.  Good luck!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Search for Re: A Roman Spin

Well, while looking up ghosts and ghoulies, I ran across lemures.  Also, not long ago, it was Read a Banned Book Week, which got me to thinking about censorship.  For some reason, the  two things crossed in my mind.  So I looked up about the term censor at wikipedia, and found this page.

That's the fun part about research.  You can find one cool thing, and it leads to a fixture in the story that changes everything.  Good when done early on; no so good, when done later in the writing process.  But anyway, what is the fixture in my case?  That the dominant culture in my nano novel is based off the ancient Roman's.  Which is  neat because, of a third reason.  I got this book out of the bargain bin at B&N for my birthday, and been looking for an excuse to use it.

So, right now, I am focusing my Roman research on lemures, homes, and censors. 

On censors.  You see, I have difficulties writing about real world people with real world type jobs.  Even past historical jobs, where I become over focused on getting details perfect.  Which is why many of my protags in my novels have something to do with magic, because the details are my details and I can make it up.  But this nano novel needs people in it as unmagical as possible.  After all, it would be hard to focus on  the weirdness inside them and in the mist, if they are already too weird to start with. 

So, MC#1 is a censor.  More of a morality police, big brother type than a census taker.  Also, I want them to perform acts of censorship in the sense of the word as we know it now.  Plus, they must seem to embody the morality they enforce, and the latter just opens the door wide onto a world of inner conflict, since someone close to MC#1 is corrupt and untouchable because he is also a censor.  MC#1 feels the hypocrisy greatly.

Anyway, some links on censors:
Now, how about lemures?  They were basically malefic ghosts and had to be exorcised during certain festivals.  I am going with a form of them instead of zombies, per se.  After all, I  think they'd be a lot more freaky to encounter in a perpetual mist than zombies--and  harder to kill, especially if the typical exorcisms no longer work.  I also thought it would be neat to tie it in with the Festival of Luna (discovered in Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome).  On that day, the cover of the ritual pit (mundus) was removed and ghosts were allowed to walk around--and although this festival involves the "blessed dead", that's just asking for trouble of the zombie-like sort in my world.

Some links on lemures and lemuria, the festival associated with them, and the mundus.

Finally, since I am going with a Romanesque culture, I need a Romanesque haunted house.   This is my hardest research thus far, because so many things will be going on inside this place, I have to be able to see the house and rooms clearly in my head.  And what I found isn't quite cutting it.  So, all I can do is keep looking until something clicks.

Well, that's it so far.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009


I've entered the contest again.  Last year, I think I did it on EoS.  Now, it's Lab.  The contest is here, at Nathan Bransford's agent blog.  To see my entry, you have go this page of the comments, and it will end up being somewhere around 3/4ths of the page down.  535th entry maybe?  Yup, you read that right.  535.  And this is only the first day of the competition, which lasts till Thursday.  So, he probably has 1,500 more to look forward to, if this keeps up.

Poor guy.  But he wouldn't do it, if he weren't getting some happiness out of it.  So, good for him.

Link-a-Day: Words and Play

Last week, I posted about the King of Wolves's site.  On that web page, there is a motto at the top:  "Quid est veritas? Est vir qui adest."  Out of curiosity, I Yahooed it and came up with this site.

Which reminded me of another word play, in a different form, which I came across the other day.

Interesting, huh?  Well, while you are there, check out the word of the day or sign up for the newsletter.  Or cross reference some English to Greek and Latin at the other site; definitely helpful as my nano novel involves an Romanesque culture, and a non-nano a Grecian inspired one.

Sunday, October 11, 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 9, 2009

The Write Way: Labyrinth and Building Idea Men

It's that time of the year when all insane writers come out to play.  Well, almost.  This will be my fifth straight year nanoing.  Now, not all of my novels that came out of November Madness were successes, but out of the four years, I managed "win" nano (i.e., meet the 50,000 word count) for three times.  My first success was Labyrinth.  Yes, my current fantasy revision-in-progress (aka RIP, he he).  I did not complete the novel at the time.  That came later.  So 50,000 words in a month can be done; I've proved that three times over.  But how?  If this is the first time you are joining the lemming herd, you might fear that jump off the cliff.  Don't. 

After all, even the biggest snowmen are built with handfuls of snow.  So, what is the first handful you have to gather?  The idea. 

Let's go back to my first nano for a moment.  How did I come up with Lab's core idea?  From the Nano forums themselves.  There are always posts--sometimes dozens of pages worth--of challenges or plot bunnies seeking a new home.  Someone offered an idea about a person constantly being forgotten a few minutes after meeting people.  Whammo, bango, Six was born. 

But just like a single snowball does not make a snowman, more ideas are needed to build Six's tale.  The Collector, his enemy, is one idea.  Then there is the labyrinth.  There is the two headed, one bodied Sphinx guarding the labyrinth.  There are multiple worlds.  There is Six's invisibility.  There is the plant goddess, Six's nemesis.  And there is Six, former thief with a magic-detecting needle.  Where did these ideas come from?  Not from thin air or cold clouds.

They came from different methods. 

First of all, visit the Nanowrimo website.  In particular, the sub-forum where people post prompts and challenges.  Maybe you won't use them, but they may spark a new idea.  Nanoers also post links to other places they found particularly inspirational.  But while you are online, stay online.  Look at Ralan, Duotrope, etc, and search for the contest and anthology listings.  Oftentimes they want certain themes.  Use them.  Or, check out plot generators at places like Seventh Sanctum's, Random Plot Generator, or Plot Scenario Generator.  Helpful and fun to play with.  As I said above, I got the first germ of my nano idea from a challenge on the forums.

Next, try reference sources.  I found my two-headed Sphinx and the Labyrinth through reading books.  In fact, I collect reference books, but if you aren't careful, that is an expensive pastime.  So unless I'm expanding on a topic, I go cheap.  Use bargain booksellers like E.R. Hamilton and Daedalus.  Look at the used book sections of Amazon and B&N.  Buy from the bargain bins at your local brick-and-mortar store.  Patronize used book stores.  Go to yardsales.  Visit your recycling center and rescue a book (they'll thank you, or rather, the book will).  Last but not least, you can always borrow from libraries, download free ebooks at sites like Project Gutenberg, or Google articles.  Wikipedia is great online resource, for example.

So, back to Lab.  Where did I get my Sphinx idea from?  A picture in a woman's dictionary of symbols of Aker, which I got from a yardsale.  If you look closely at my username, you may notice something familiar ;-) And, a labyrinth?  Same book, but from there, I did more research about the labyrinth's connection to transformation--a big part of what this novel is about.  Besides, I just love the concept of labyrinths.

After that, look about your neighborhood.  Not literally; I'm talking about your literary neighborhood.  What are your favorite books?  Take an idea from them and use it.  This Holly Lisle article will show you how.  Popular books?  Invent your own twist.  That's just a starting point.  Go on Amazon or B&N, and search for books in your genre or outside it.  Read the summaries.  Look through TV guide.  Look through "new releases" DVD booklets at your local movie store.  Or do the same search online.  Do you belong to a book club?  They send fliers, they have websites, all with summaries to catch your eye.  It's time to use them to get ideas from the world of words and images all around you.

In Lab, Six goes to different many different worlds in one novel.  Where did that idea come from?  Several sources.  Stargate SG1, for one.  But more so from Gulliver's Travels.  And what about the Collector, cool, calm, impeccably dressed, and not to mention, an avid connoisseur of worlds?  I was inspired by the Chrestomanci character from Diana Wynne Jones's  Chrestomanci tales.

One last tip.  Keep an idea journal.  There are countless ways to get inspired, but all that inspiration is for naught if you can't remember it.  So, write it down.  Keep a little notebook with you constantly, so wherever you are, in bed, at work, at a grocery store, you can capture it for later use.  The best thing about that is, ideas generate ideas.  You won't run out.  Once you start coming up with ideas, you will fill up those pages in no time.  And best of all, unlike food, ideas do not go stale; unlike snow men, they are not meant for one season alone.  Start small and build big.

Invisible men, for instance, came from past ideas never used; plant goddess came from a rolling ball of ideas, collecting more as it went.  The concept of a "forgettable boy who had adventures in many worlds" collected the concept of invisibility, and a goddess who cursed him, and his being a thief.  After all, how else will an invisible child survive in a world that has forgotten him?  By stealing.

So my idea-snowballs grew in size, and from those I assembled my first novel, Labyrinth.  You will too; after all, snowmen are started by rolling snowballs and collecting more snow on the way.  That's how ideas build into novels.

Got your handful?  Start rolling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Search for Re: Start Researching Your Nano.

Since next month is Nano Month, it's time to prepare for a brand spanking new this month.  I already have my primary novel idea.  I'd love to do bee-geisha, but that requires way too much research and besides, I started on the first chapter.  Instead, I'm doing a novel that is best summed as The Mist meets Lost meets 1804.  With zombies.  Yup, when two of the influences are Stephen King works, you can guess what sort of novel this will be.  Dark.  Or maybe Semi-Dark.  There is the Lost weirdness and psychology thrown into the mix.  After all, I love how the show delves into the characters' lives, into how the characters work out personal, past, and situational problems on the Island.  My novel has people thrown in a crucible, put over a fire, all to see how they react.

Anyway, I will be doing an idea post later this week, but for those who have theirs already, research is the next step.  A venture that can be as daunting as coming up with a viable novel plan in a single month.  So, the solution?  Start simple.  Ask yourself, what are the main parts of your idea? 

Well, let's see.  My nano concept is thusly:  Several strangers seek refuge from a zombie outbreak in an abandoned mansion, and find the horrors within themselves and these walls are greater than those without.   Psychological dark fantasy.  Obvious research topics?  Well, remember that "meets" summary?  Let's use that for a start-up breakdown.

  • Mist:  What makes mist/fog.  What are its effects on sensory information.  Unusual real mists/fogs.  Pictures of mist/fog for visual stimulation.  Other novels and movies written about mists or fog (purely for research purposes, of course ;-).
  • Lost:  Point of view techniques (since I have a cast of a dozen and maybe a house).  Effects of isolation.  Psychology in general.  Survival techniques.  Small group behavior.
  • 1804:  Haunted houses.  Bizarre and weird places and phenomena.  Poltergeists/ghosts.  Sacrifices (because my house is a weirdo).
And let's not forget:
  • Zombies:  Types--voodoo or Night of the Living Dead.  Related monsters, i.e., ghouls, etc.  Similar novels/movies.
Every week at this month, I'll expand my beginning list, provide cool details of what I found, link to helpful research techniques and material on my subjects, and reveal how it affects the foundation of my novel. 

So, what are we waiting for?  Let's get busy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Link-a-Day: Creepypasta

Well, since it's the month of horror--as if one needs any excuse to dip one's senses into the dark for a while--here are some interesting, or should I say, delectable sites all revolving around one concept.


First time I heard the term. Wikipedia doesn't know about it. I remember hearing about it through the Nanowrimo forums a year or so ago, but it was never called that. Maybe it was newer back then. But anyway, before we give you a definition, how about a sampling?

Once you are done with that, you get the idea behind the term. For more, more info, more fright, head on over to Encyclopedia Dramatica, where there is a nice definition:
Creepypasta are short stories designed to unnerve, disturb, elicit a negative emotional response from, and scare the reader.

Not to mention, the pictures really add a certain flavor to the reading experience. Anyway, there all styles of these stories, from urban legends to walk-throughs. Creepy as all hell, but inspirational too--for writers. That is why the Nanoer posted the link in the first place, to the site that started it all for me and I'll use to close with you.

So have fun, get inspired, and try not to get too creeped out in the process.

Sunday, October 4, 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: