Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Vaguely Fae

As a part of the writing/career class I’m taking, the teacher advocated against doing a ton of research/worldbuilding, instead focusing on what’s interesting and what’s important.

On one hand, yes, this can be a horrible, slippery slope, where one disappears into their work and never gets to the actual writing.

But on the other, it feels a bit weird, and, to some extent, a bit disingenuous.

This teacher is a self-acknowledged over-worldbuilder, so I understand why she’s teaching this way, but especially with stories involving mythology, I like to delve into the mythology itself, so I can see what aspects best fit the story, and use it to shape the story itself.

I’m just saying, Shards would be a completely different story if I just said “I’m going to write a book about angels” and went off without doing any more research than what I knew off the top of my head.

But in the interest of trying new things, I’m holding off. So far. I’m strongly considering doing more research (and yes, worldbuilding) because I feel weirdly adrift at the moment and it’s making writing harder than it needs to be.

The story I’m working on for the class involves changelings, and so, by extension, the fae. I’d like to stick to your old world trickster sort of faerie, and a lot of the book will take place in the Otherworld.

Working from memory, I’ve got:

  • allergic to iron or whatever (iron burns)
  • DO NOT ACCEPT GIFTS OR FOOD
  • Time works all weird in the Otherworld
  • Fae are good at illusions
  • DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR NAME
  • Never offer to pay a faerie for anything
  • There’s two courts: seelie (summer)/unseelie (winter)
  • Veil between worlds that’s only passable at certain times/places

(I even have the perfect book to use for research. It’s Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages by Claude Lecouteux. I got it out from the library while I was doing my Shards research and liked it so much that I got myself a copy.)

Now, it’s entirely possible that I’ve misunderstood, and that it’s really worldbuilding to be avoiding (beyond identifying what’s interesting and causes conflict) and research is fine. (I mean, what if you were doing historical fiction?) I should probably double check that. Ask in the forums, maybe?

Any good fae mythology to share, squiders? (Especially related to the Otherworld itself.) Or good sources for research, if I give in to my itch?

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Writing a Synopsis When You Don’t Even Have a Book

Afternoon, squiders. The big, mobile one has ANOTHER virtual school day today. I am considering strangling whomever decided that making a parent stay home and teach their child instead of doing a delayed start like EVERY OTHER SCHOOL IN THE DISTRICT was a good idea.

But anyway.

You guys know I’m working through a writing class right now. Well, it’s billed as a “career class,” to also talk about building a writing career and marketing and so forth. And on I go, through the lessons, because I do think it’s beneficial to try everything at least once, because you never know how it’s going to go and what’s going to work for you.

My current lesson is about writing submission material–queries, synopses, etc.–before you have a book. Her (the teacher’s) point is that sometimes you’ve got to sell a book you haven’t written, so knowing how to write these before the book is done (or even started, in some cases) can be beneficial, especially if you’ve already sold a book or two and have editors/publishers who trust you and your work..

It’s an interesting process. A few lessons back we were supposed to outline our stories, but I had a really hard time with the method she wanted us to use (and ended up using a different one after I tried and tried to get the other one to work), and the lesson after we were supposed to start the story. So right now we’re sitting with an opening and a vague (or more detailed, depending on the type of outline we made, since it was open to how many plot points you wanted to do) outline and working on these submission documents.

(My synopsis has issues. But then, they do when the book is written too, so, whatever, I guess.)

I’ve heard authors recommend doing this before writing the book before, but not as a submission/selling too–as a writing tool. The idea is, by having to figure out the core conflict/theme of your story and the main plotline necessary for queries/synopses, that you do yourself a favor by knowing that information before you ever write a word on the page. That it helps you focus on what’s important and makes your story more coherent.

And maybe it will. It will be interesting to see. A side benefit of the experiment, if you will.

In other news, the nonfiction books are going well (though I realized I forgot a section in the common writing mistakes one and had to go back and write it). I’m working on the consistency one now, and also considering putting together a workbook for it. This book is the shortest of all of them, for whatever reason, but it looks like I left more sections post-blog to write than I did with the others, so that may be why.

Happy Thursday, squiders! I’m reading Once & Future right now, which came out last month, and am enjoying it greatly. It’s not a great work of literature, but it is fun, and sometimes it feels like everything takes itself so seriously these days. Are reading anything fun?

Finally Moving

Hooray for April, squiders. The consignment sale is over, the festival is this weekend (and will happen whether or not I do anything specific), and we can focus on being as productive as possible in these last few weeks before it’s summer break.

Some things that are happening:

  • I finally finished the story idea workbook of doom, and I edited the entirety of the outlining nonfiction book, including writing a few new sections.
  • I outlined a new Landsquid picture book and fleshed out more on a second children’s book series (though I’m unsure whether to do it as a picture book or an early reader).
  • I started writing a new novel. I have also realized that said opening scene is bad and have plotted out a new one that is MUCH better, but that’s pretty standard for beginnings.
  • I got through three lessons in my writing class.
  • I’ve outlined a potential class for Skillshare and now need to look at how I want to film/edit it.
  • (WordPress won’t let me get rid of this bullet, so please disregard this aside.)

All in all, not too shabby. But, of course, there’s always more to be done. WriYe is actually proving to be a bit of a distraction here, because I have the three main things I’m focusing on–nonfiction/workbooks/now Skillshare classes, Landsquid picture book(s), and writing class–and some of the monthly challenges are VERY tempting.

For April, for example, the genre stretch sounds awesome–a mix of a college setting with slipstream elements. I definitely want to write something for that. And there’s the addition of a challenge to brush off and improve a project that you’ve abandoned.

The last thing I need is to go into a major revision process. I’ve done so much revision lately that I’m a bit burnt out on the whole thing. But…I think this actually predates the blog…I had a younger YA story I adored. I polished it, I queried it, I entered it in contests–and it never went anywhere, and eventually I shelved it and moved on to other projects. But I still think about it sometimes, and maybe…maybe I could do it justice now? Maybe I could fix it and it could go out into the world?

God, it is tempting. But, goals! And previous commitments!

So I’ve made an agreement with myself. If I get the nonfiction books edited (and any additional workbooks/journals created), then I can read through this YA story. No pressure to revise it or anything. Just read it, see what state it’s in, and see how much work it would take to fix, if it’s fixable. Maybe look at the comments I got from various agents and contests to see what other people saw as problems.

So we’ll see. There’s still 5 more nonfiction books and at least 1 workbook, and April isn’t a very long month.

How is your April going, squider?

WriYe and Writing

New month, squiders, new blog circle questions over at WriYe.

Why did you start writing?

That is quite the question, if you think about it too hard. What do we count as “writing” in this case? Do we count the very first project I wrote back when I was eight? Do we count my fake atlases of made-up places, or the stories I made up for my cousins and I to role-play?

Or do we count with my grown-up writing, when I decided this was something I wanted to make a priority, that I wanted to improve my craft and perhaps put some stories out for people aside from close friends and family to see?

I wrote as a child because I wanted to copy my mother, because I had games and shows and movies that I loved and wanted more stories from, and since they didn’t exist I had to make them up myself. As an adult, I write because I love stories, and I like to see where they go. There is something very satisfying about coming up with a place and characters and getting them through to an ending.

But as to why I started writing–I can’t recall. Storytelling has always been something I did, though writing was just one avenue until I became an adult and it became harder to get people to play pretend with me. And now it’s so tied to my vision of myself I don’t know what I’d do if I stopped. Tell stories some other way, I guess, maybe through pictures or games.

Bonus:
How has your writing improved since you first started? What would you still like to improve?

I hope I’ve improved in ALL ways since I started (with the Seven Special Princesses when I was 8). I know I’m still not fantastic at tension, and I always have to remember to add in description (so it usually goes in in revision, ah well). But I think there’s always room for improvement, that you can always be a better writer, no matter where you are in your writing journey.

(That being said, I also think there’s some good, even if you’re just starting out. While many of my early projects are pretty cringeworthy, there are some good ideas in there.)

Happy April, squiders! It’s starting to really, truly feel like spring. Got big plans?

Landsquid Picture Book Progress

Seasons are weird, aren’t they, squiders? Sometimes they make no sense, like when it’s October and 80 degrees and could be summer except the leaves have turned, or when it snows in June.

But spring has come in right on schedule. The weather changed. The flowers came up. The birds came back. All literally starting on the equinox. It’s kind of freaking me out.

I am not being productive, which is a combination of all the not-writing things I need to do and the fact that I want to write, so consequently nothing at all is getting done. But I did force myself to walk to the open space this morning (there’s a convenient picnic table not too far in) to do some drawing on the landsquid picture book I’ve been very slowly working on. (My spouse pointed out that we’d outlined it last summer. Har.)

(Have not called the medical people or done anything for the consignment sale, aside from looking at the facebook page.)

I came to the realization earlier that I was actually sabotaging myself by doing picture book publication research. First of all, it was taking time away from working on the story itself, and second of all, it’s a bit premature. Why do we care about publishing when we don’t have anything to publish?

(The Childrens’ Market book thus far has not been extremely valuable. I have not learned anything I did not already know.)

I think the idea was that I didn’t quite know what I needed to publish a picture book, when we got to that point, and that I didn’t want to be missing something. But I really should just leave it alone for a bit.

So I’m currently working on what I guess is called a “dummy,” which is essentially a sketched-out version of the book. My process thus far has gone like this:

  • Outline the book (basic phase outline using bullet points, one of my favorites)
  • Do length research (I went through a bunch of the small, mobile ones’ picture books and looked at how long they were, and how many pages were sundries–title page, dedication, copyright, etc.–versus story pages. Almost every book I looked at was 32 pages long, with somewhere between 2 and 4 pages being sundries, with most of the stories being 28 pages long)
  • Write a first draft by pages (Example: 1. On a bright, sunny day, Landsquid invited his friends to a picnic in the woods.)
  • Create a dummy (draw and write out story in a non-polished manner, in this case, in an old lined college notebook using a pencil)

I guess the dummy is not traditionally something that is done–that you submit the words to a publisher and then they or their chosen illustrator do the page layout–but I’m finding it’s helping immensely for story flow and plot progression. A lot of the first draft pages are more stage directions than words, and that’s changing as I work through the dummy.

Whatever, this is a learning process, and everyone has to find the process that works for them anyway.

And if nothing else comes of this, it was nice and relaxing to sit in the open space and draw, even if it was windy.

Page 13 of the dummy

Trials and Tribulations

March has not been the most productive month around here. We’ve had the car accident, spring break, and now other responsibilities are creeping in.

Here’s what I’ve done the last several days instead of writing:

  • I went to a several hour long meeting for a local Scottish festival, of which I am a council member and also in charge of the FB page and setting up an email list (and then I sent emails and messages and updated things accordingly)
  • (The festival is in two and a half weeks, so)
  • There’s a big children’s consignment sale twice a year at which I am very slowly offloading things the small, mobile ones have gotten too big for. It is in a week. I am not as far along in being ready as I should be due to surgery, car accidents, etc.
  • (I have run out of hangers so that is an issue, but luckily one that is easily fixed.)
  • It is the Scholastic Book Fair at the bigger, mobile one’s school, and I am volunteering, both because I am behind on my volunteer hours for the year (we’re supposed to do 30 hours, ahahahaha) and because I love both books and book fairs.
  • (I spent $35 on books while there yesterday, but in my defense only one is for me.)
  • (It is City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab.)
  • We did go on an overnight trip for spring break to a new, local, giant resort hotel that’s running a special deal for locals. That was nice.
  • I went to a webinar yesterday about creating classes on Skillshare. I had this revelation last week that it didn’t make sense to have a nonfiction series that wasn’t driving people to something, and I’m not sure if I mentioned that I wanted to get out of freelance editing (it takes up the brain power I need to work on my own stuff), but it doesn’t make sense to drive people there if I’m phasing that out. (The self-publishing coaching and book formatting aspects are fine. Ugh, I probably need to change my URL or something.) The Skillshare webinar came to my attention immediately after having this revelation, so there may be something to that.
  • (That being said, if you were going to take a class on a particular aspect of writing, what would it be?)

Plus we’re hosting a den meeting at the house tonight so I have to clean everything, bleeeehhhhh.

I think I’m just going to have to accept that my March goals are going to remain sadly unfinished and just roll the lot of them over into April. I can probably manage a few things around festival/book fair/consignment selling, though:

  • I would like to at least finish Lesson 9 of my writing class. That will give me an outline for the story I’m working on there, which means there SHOULD be writing in the near future, and I’m always up for writing.
  • I would like to finish the Story Ideas workbook (currently 24 pages long), the freebie to go along with it, and edit the common writing mistakes book. That might not all get done–I need to finish the story ideas before going on to the next book, and the workbook is taking longer than expected, though I hope once I get through the individual exercises that it will move faster.
  • maaaaaybe a drabble of some sort? WriYe is having a WriDay on Friday, but the lowest word count section is 2500 words, and my drabbles only run ~1000. (I don’t think it can go much longer and still be a drabble, honestly.) If I’m on to revising the next nonfic book, it might be doable, because I’m adding new sections as I work on those.
  • Finish the complete draft (with drawings) of the first Landsquid picture book and continue my research into the wild world of children book publishing. I’ve gotten the 2019 Childrens’ Market out of my library, which I am very slowly making it through.
  • Finish reading 1, but preferably 2 (or maybe 3!) books.

How’s your March going, Squiders?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

So, both the Landsquid books and the nonfiction books are lower down in the priority for the next week, since the Fractured World anthology is coming out in about a week and I have Things That Need Doing (I am in charge of the back cover copy, the inside formatting, and the cover, and somewhere along the way here I have obviously taken on too much responsibility).

But that doesn’t mean I’m not working on them still. I finished the rough draft of the Landsquid book and have drawn most of the pages, and I started researching how one goes about submitting a picture book to publishers, and I have learned things.

I have learned that, apparently, you take the text of your picture book, put it in manuscript format, and send it off. And…that’s it. No artwork. No illustration notes.

Which…what? What? There are a ton of books written and illustrated by the same person–how did they submit? I have pages in my book where there are just pictures and no text–how is that represented in the manuscript format? Is it? Or does what text there is have to stand on its own?

I guess the idea is that publishers want the option to hire their own illustrators for projects, and so they’re more likely to accept a book without any artwork baggage. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind someone else illustrating. I am a competent artist but I’m under no illusions about being amazing. I just can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do.

(If anyone knows, please share your wisdom! I’m also going to look into my local SCWBI chapter–it’s been probably 5 years since I last did anything with them and I don’t remember anything–and see what’s what there.)

The journal class continues to be MIA. I emailed a follow-up last night but have not heard anything. Bah. Bah, I say! Meanwhile I’ve gotten a ton of emails from this company advertising OTHER classes they want me to buy, and I can’t say I’m motivated to ever buy anything from them ever again.

(I have Lifetime access on another class I bought from them four years ago, and I went back through it last week, since I also bought that class for the nonfiction series, and it’s not in a great state. Links going to the wrong information, missing information, etc. So.)

I did find a possible alternative, if it comes to that. The other teacher I follow who’s offering a journal/workbook class has a standalone workbook on the subject for $10. It’d probably be better than nothing, but I am waffling. It sounds like part of her class/workbook is figuring out what the workbook should be about, and I’ve got that part down. I mostly want formatting info.

Also, I’m working through How to Think Sideways, which is a class offered by Holly Lisle. I bought it for a lot of money a long time ago (probably 10 years) but never got all the way through it, and I’ve always wanted to get my money’s worth out of it. So I’m going through. I’ve made it past the lesson that tripped me up the first time, and have a ton of new story ideas, which is…well, not terrible. But I’ve got to get some stuff done before I start new things.

(Now, Holly is a woman who maintains her lifetime access in a way that is actually useful. Plus she updates the courses instead of making a new course and then expecting you to pay again.)

(I’m sorry, I’m just really Not Impressed with journal class company right now.)

But, yes, the anthology must be done. If I can swing it, I hope to finish the print formatting today and get the cover done. We’ll see, though, because everything is taking longer today than it should.

How are you doing, squiders?