Friday, September 30, 2011

Story Events - Plots

I've been having trouble with Chapter 8, fortunately only partly due to writer's block.  I've realized that there are some holes in my novel because I wasn't making one of the characters important enough who I had written into it as being important.  I'd also been forgetting several of the plot points that were also important to the story (hence why I was having a block when I thought it was too thin a story).  So now what I'm doing is going back and doing an "event map".  Normally the characters in my stories run away with them but as I have started holding the DM position I've realized how I like to write is a very similar thing.  I like to plan the stories that I DM for people by creating events that can happen when they reach a particular place.  Some events will happen when they get there and you know they're going to get there because you've set the premise or the story up that way.  Now the nice thing is the when or the particular order doesn't always matter unless it sets off a more important event later.  So I'm taking the same premise with my writing.  I'm going to do an "event map" instead of a plotline or outline for my novel.

 Basically that means I'm going to write out all the possible plots and subplots, attach which characters are going to be needed in each one so I know where they cross over and who's important for each segment and then I'm going to write major events in each plot-line that needs to happen and which characters NEED to be involved.  I've decided not to write a true outline this time, though I've been doing a synopsis for each chapter and that's been helpful.  I suspect that doing it this way instead of as a definite outline I'll be able to keep more flexible.  What do you guys do to plan your story?  There's lots of comment space!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writer's Block

Writer's block as always been one of those things that I struggle from.  When I was in high-school I never seemed to have a problem with the dreaded writer's block.  Somehow I always had someone to talk to or I always managed to find something to read or do that would lift it pretty quickly.  Since then I've taken lots of writing courses and been in a few different writer's groups and I've found writer's block an increasingly difficult problem.  So what changed?

I've been really thinking about the things that cause my writer's block and I've come to a conclusion.  I have no idea if this is going to be universal or if it's going to be just me so if anyone feels the same way, do please let me know.  When I was writing in high-school (and younger) everyone around me gave me praise, made me feel good about what I was writing and the way I was writing it.  They seemed to think I could be a writer and that my writing was worth reading.

Enter university.

Now, don't get me wrong I loved school in high-school and university was no different.  There were classes I hated and classes I loved and some that just didn't interest me but overall I love learning and I loved the experience.  Except for one thing.  Suddenly, my writing didn't seem so wonderful anymore.  No one understood it, or if they understood it they simply did not like what I had written.  I could not have enough description one day and then had too much the next.  I began to suffer from writer's block so badly that I had to force myself to break through it with no help from anyone else just to get a poorly written short story on the page so I could hand it in for the next day.  What happened?

I know that when we're younger people give us praise much more frequently.  It seems that when we get to be adults we don't get that anymore, we should be able to hear the hard truths and deal with it.  The "hard truths" were often viciously laid out and a great deal more deconstructive than constructive.  I remember having writer's block so badly and begging my teacher one semester to help me find a way around it.  The only solution I was given was to "just go write it."  Now obviously (now anyway) that was good advice in its own way, but I felt like I was drowning and couldn't bring myself to write a word because I was terrified that people wouldn't like it.  One of the worst criticisms I've ever had was a flat out statement that was agreed to by all that a character was "disgusting and unlikeable".  I don't know about you but when I like a character hearing something like that (from the entire group no less) is devastating unless that's what you wanted for that character.

Now let me explain what I think my teacher meant.  "Just write".  I think that teacher meant that I should go home and start writing everything and anything that came to mind.  I don't think it was meant to be "just go write the story and stop complaining" which is how I took it as it came with no further explanation, it was supposed to be "just go home and write something."  I've only really understood that in the last few days as I've been working on chapter 7 and now chapter 8.  However I also recognize that fear and discouragement are powerful things that can contribute to that block.  It's built from the ground up with fear of what other people will think about it, fear of it not being good enough and anything else you can think of that involves others judging my work.

Yes, eventually my work will be judged by others.  Once it's done and someone else reads it the judging will begin in one way or another and there's nothing I can do to change that.  But I am not writing for others and I have to remember that.  Yes, audience is something to take into account, so is the publisher or agent I want to read my book and then support it.  But at this stage, at this point in the writing there is only one person that I need to write for and that's myself.  I'm a reader too, I contribute to the hundreds of books that are published every week simply by being a contributor to the purchase of them.  I know what a good story is, I've long had a sense for timing and figuring out the future of a story before it happens.  The book that I'm writing is in that way no different.  I write the book I want to read and I can trust that those other books that I read have other people reading them too who will one day pick up my book and read it too.  It's for the people like me that I write because I write it for me.

So.  Go away writer's block.  Go away fear.  I've no use for you at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Word Count Notes for Novels

So I was poking through Facebook (bad habit I know, but hey, this time it was useful) and I had cause to be glad for the new formatting when I had a link to a blog posted on my page.  It looked interesting so I followed it to Rachelle Gardner's blog ( ).  She's a literary agent and has some really good articles on her site that speak on a wide variety of subjects in regards to writing.  There was also a link to another site for a blog by Colleen Lindsay ( ) that had a very interesting article regarding word count for novels of varying genres.  ( )

Generally, the word count suggested for most novels (excepting YA and younger novels which are generally shorter) is between 90,000 and 120,000.  It's pointed out particularly in the comments that there's also been a lot of novels published that must be over that count.  (Patrick Rothfus's The Name of the Wind or the majority of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series for example are both extremely long and detailed.)  There was a lot of arguing back and forth and if you want to take it very seriously, honestly these women are or were Literary Agents and there's a reason they link to each other and say what they say.  If you want to get published, especially the first time they say you must be aware that the general word count for novels is somewhere between 90,000 and 120,000.  Having said that, and having read the much longer books that have been printed by newer authors (and being someone who reads exceedingly quickly so enjoys longer books) I posted a comment with a theory (that will appear when and if Colleen deems it worthy) that I think bears repeating here.

I believe that the people with experience are right and that the general word count for most novels is going to be within the aforementioned word counts.  However!  I also believe there are two things that will forgive almost  any page count.  Spectacular writing and sales.  If you have well over 120,000 words, you are asking your reader to sit and stay with your book for hours on end and even if the reader is an incredibly fast read, it better be a d*** good book.  A longer word count gives you more chances to wander, more chances to mess up and more chances to lose your reader so that they never come back.  While it can also allow you more time to develop your characters, plots, sub-plots and everything else you might need in your book if you do not do this in a way that can hold someone's interest through every sentence of the book then you need to cut it down.  If you're losing the reader, especially more than once, you've already lost the agent.

If you don't need the scene then it shouldn't be in there.  It can be for character development, it can be for plot development it can be for whatever you want but it should advance the story or it better keep me very interested and I say that as a reader, not so much as a writer.  If you can't keep my interest I won't finish your book and I won't buy your next one.  Assuming you get a second chance.  If your book doesn't sell well because I don't finish it, I also won't recommend it.  That means your sales are already below what they should be.  Your agent/editor is going to be the first person to read your book and whether it's 30,000 or 200,000+ words your first priority should always be a story with purpose.

Keep in mind though, you can have a scene that advances the plot without it being full of action every second.  There are ways of keeping interest that don't need to be a fight or really active and make your reader want to turn that page until there are no pages left!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Smooth Sailing?

There's a peculiar thing that can happen when things are going well.  You've managed to write something you're happy with (like I finally did with chapter 2) and you're feeling good but for one reason or another you've got to stop.  You manage to stop in a good place, you've got your groove going and you know you'll be able to pick it back up when you go to it later.

Only... somehow that doesn't happen.  You come back and sit down in front of the screen aaaaand... nothing.  Nothing but the urge to go and do something else.

This is another hurdle I'm realizing is part of why I'd been having such problems with Facebook.  I think it's got a lot to do with Rule Number 1.  For those who didn't read my last post or who forget what Rule number 1 is, it's WRITE.  Simple enough right?  Sure, except for those dishes that need to be washed, the laundry and cleaning that need to be done and everything else during the day that somehow doesn't seem so important once you actually GET writing but can be very difficult to ignore before you start.

So how do you find the time to write when life's got you pulled one way or another?  Some things you really can't ignore (or shouldn't) like kids if you've got those (as a few friends of mine do) you can't really ignore them unless you want social services taking them away and no parent wants that, as much as they'd like to write.  Or homework if you want to get the most out of any classes you might be taking.  And you should probably keep eating and other mundane stuff necessary for survival.  As for the rest of it?  Well maybe it can wait for a little while.

I know for myself I've got to learn to either do everything and then sit down and just write what I know I've got brewing in my head and sometimes I'm looking for anything that lets me procrastinate.  Lately I've found writing a blog and talking to my hubby two of the best cures for writer's block and writer's procrastination, but I've also found you've got to find your time.  My time means I don't sleep.  It means writing until all hours of the night, until the chapter's done and until my hubby wakes up in the morning and heads in to work.  Usually with me waking up before he goes and pestering him to read the chapter I wrote while he slept.  I'm glad he finds me amusing and likes my writing or I think I'd have driven him crazy already.  As it is I'm really thankful to have him around and supporting me.

Find your supporter, the person you can talk your ideas with when you're stuck and who'll live with your craziness no matter the hours (doesn't have to be a spouse and if you don't have one yet try writer's groups).  And second find your time to write.  I need no excuses, no distractions and no one to interrupt.  Night-time provides that for me.  You might find early morning or midday or night works the best but it's definitely worth it to find the time.  If you're still stuck with writer's procrastination try and work out an exercise or something that helps you get started.  So far, this blog's working great for that.  So, it's 11pm, and I'm going to post this, watch some more Castle (third season out soon) and then descend into the world of words and visions in my mind.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The 6 Rules of Writing?

I was stunned to learn this weekend that there is an article about "the 6 rules of writing" by Robert A. Heinlein.  I was provided with a link to a great article that not only provides the original 5 rules of writing but adds a 6th.  I was stunned to read how simple there were but to realize how utterly true they were.  Especially after this last weekend since my failure with chapter 2 completion.

Rule 1:  You Must Write.
Rule 2: Finish What You Start.
Rule 3: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order.
Rule 4: You Must Put Your Story on the Market.
Rule 5: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold.
Rule 6: (Added by the author of the article, Robert J. Sawyer) Start Working on Something Else. is the link to the article again, I highly recommend you go and check it out, especially if you're not doing one or more of the suggested rules above.  I know for me I'm stuck between rule one and rule two.  Sawyer also explains each rule wonderfully so I am not going to steal his work and repeat everything he says here.

Each rule has its own time frame, you've got to write in order to finish and you've got to finish something in order to send it out for rewrites and you've got to put it on the market if you're going to sell it and you've got to keep doing it if you're going to get sold and you've got to keep writing if you want to actually make it.  It's surprisingly circular isn't it?  I'm planning on making these rules into my mantra for everyday and first and foremost for today I've got to leave all my fears and worries behind so that I can write.  I don't think it matters what I write anymore, but I need to be writing.  A wonderful blogger named Lana left a comment on my last post that was extremely encouraging and reminded me of a quote from Stephen King (who doesn't know that name eh?) "Fear is at the root of most - if not all - bad writing", well that certainly sounds like me lately!  (You can pop over to Lana's blog with this link:

I also have gotten some extraordinarily good advice from the wonderful writers at Writer's Digest's forums.  First and foremost?  Write and persevere.  The two hardest things to do when you're writing a novel and things come at you from every direction.  (Here's a link to the forum if you need it:

So thank you to everyone who has offered me suggestions and support through this hard stretch and I hope that this post gives a little back to those who are also looking for some help.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chapter 2? Failure...

So today started out with the best of intentions.  I was going to finish chapter 2!  I was going to sit down and work out the details I need to figure it out and get it written.

As you can probably guess that didn't happen.  I am having such writer's block with this one and it's really bothering me because Chapter 1 started off so well and ended with me being satisfied if not 100% happy with it and now chapter 2 has be totally stumped.  Do I start off with the same character from chapter 1?  Do I move to one of the other characters and if so which one?  What works the best, what will be the smoothest... ugh.

I actually think one of the biggest reasons that I'm struggling with chapter 2 is because of stress.  When stressor after stressor gets dropped on you all on the same day it has a way to stifle creativity.  But in all fairness I was kind of having the same problem before today.  So what to do with writer's block?

Today I've done a lot of networking, critiqued some other people's works (I hope I was useful) partly to be useful, partly because I eventually want my work critiqued and partly because I wanted to and spent some time with my mom.

I also worried about work (or lack there-of), worried about not being able to crack Chapter 2, and before I knew it found everything around me that I had ever worried about in the last month kind of attacking me.  This made me feel a lot like the world is falling apart.  It makes me feel sick and weary very quickly and the last thing I do is want to write.  So what am I doing about it?  I'm writing a blog post and later I think I will go and work on a short story for awhile.  Who knows, maybe it'll help knock something loose.  Right now I need something I'm not so worried about screwing up and I think that's what's happening with Chapter 2.  If I can't get my groove going again by the end of Friday after trying to write something else for awhile then I'll move back to the drawing board and re-consider the storyline.  I was pretty sure this would be chapter 1, but who knows, maybe I'm still searching.  At least blogging is writing about something.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life Stealing Time, Taking Advantage!

One of the biggest problems I'm having (besides being somewhat addicted to Facebook games) is that life seems to take me away from my writing quite frequently.  I can't tell you how many other writers I know who have the same problem, but today got me thinking about that.

First of all, writers are told to draw from their experiences, the proverbial "Write what you know" being tossed out with sickening frequency.  But if life didn't happen around us and to us and with us, what would we have to write about?  Yes, I as a writer also need to find the time to sit down and write that next chapter (yes, which is lagging at the moment as I puzzle over how to start it, I think I have an idea though), or edit that passage that's been bothering me or whatever.  If I don't find the time to sit down and DO the writing nothing is ever going to happen, but if I don't find time to live life as well?  At that point I die as a writer.  My world comes from my head yes, Reinora is largely conceived there, but if I did not interact with people where would I get the ability to interact on paper?  Characters are in their simplest forms people interacting!  So don't get too discouraged when you hit a really busy patch in your life that pulls you away from your writing.  Take notes about interesting conversations you had (actually, the mundane ones too to make things more realistic if neccessary).  Take notice of the people you interact with, or that are interacting around you.  I think that's the very reason that some writers love writing in public places where they can be solitary but still around people should they need inspiration.

Second, there's some real purpose to letting your brain take a break from your writing.  It probably wouldn't work for everyone, but I know if I'm having a lot of  trouble starting the next chapter (in this case it's a good thing as I have too many options to start from) sometimes I need to let my brain stew with my ideas before I come up with the right place to start or the right character to start with.  I know I for one need as much dreaming and imagining time as I do writing time some days and life can provide you with the inspiration you need to get that lightening idea.

Just be warned.  Sometimes life really can get the better of you, use it, take notes from it, expand your experiences, but don't forget that your writing is where you come back to.  That's what I've got to remind myself daily.  So!  Tomorrow I will be writing chapter 2, feel free to harass me with comments in the meantime if I don't get it done.  A kick in the pants when people are watching does tend to make you want to work and not get it done again.  (Kind of like why I finished NaNoWriMo a couple years ago... they're right, tell a lot of people and you tend to want to get it done just so they can't tease you.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Exploring Setting - Swamps vs Marshes

So I had to revisit the geography for the continent that I'm currently working in.  One of the major portions of land I had thought would be more of a marsh or a swamp, but that got me thinking, what's the difference?

In an attempt to answer just that I looked it up.  Long and the short of it?  Marshes seem to be much more shallow than swamps, though both are generally the result of constant flooding in low areas with lots of river overflow.  Swamps are generally deeper and have many more trees, as my husband says the swamp is more like a flooded forest where the Marsh is a flooded meadow.  Not totally accurate but pretty close.

This brought to me the importance of research.  I also learned that not all swamps have to be brackish and stink (which I thought was part of what a swamp was) it can be fresh water, salt water or the brackish water that is one of the things I thought was inherent in swamps.  Now this works really well since it LOOKS like it's not good, even with fresh water, because algae tends to cover the surface.  So if you want to find what works the best it's really worth it to pop out and look, researching something like your settings really help to ground your work and give you a good idea of what can happen where you're writing in.

One of the things I learned from my anthropology classes is that geography can influence the development of people's cultures by quite a bit.  My decision whether to make the area a brackish swamp verses a fresh water marsh will seriously influence the type of people who live there as well as the culture that they will develop.  The sad thing?  i had to look this up while redrawing the boarders for my countries due to the geography and for that I had to decide what geography works.  When they say you need to have more reality in fiction than in non-fiction these days I see where they're coming from.  You've got to set the rules and the stones before you can break them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


So Friday was absolutely spectacular!  The only thing I am sad about is not having as much time to write on set as I expected.  That's not a bad thing of course, it meant I was actually ON set a great deal of the day which was one of the most incredible days of work I've ever had.  It's definitely something I think you've got to be interested in though, there are a lot of uncomfortable conditions in order to get the vision the director has done properly and there's long moments of just standing around waiting for one thing or other but I didn't mind any of that, I loved every second.  I really hope that I'll be able to make this a career while I'm writing because those two things work so well together.

Now, as for the writing, Saturday and Sunday?  Complete washes.  Why?  I don't always write well with other people around and my hubby was of course home all weekend!  I enjoyed spending time with him though and he lets me expound all my issues with writing in his direction and helps me smooth things out.  He's also giving me a lot of cheerleading with everything I write.  Today, (Monday, though I'm writing this late enough the post may seem like a Tuesday post) I had an incredibly hard time waking up.  I was tired and my body ached and I felt like I hadn't slept.  But the strangest thing happened when I finally got up, I sat down at my computer, played facebook games for awhile and then pulled out my writing and started transferring it to the computer.

Originally I'd wanted to write long-hand because it was helping me stay away from Facebook and all of its' wonderful games, as well as giving me a really organic feel that was helping with the creation.  Now that I've written on the computer again I realize I'm really a child of my generation.  I'm a total computer geek and instead of being as incredibly distracting as I thought working on my laptop would be I'm finding it incredibly freeing!  Yes, it's a little less organic in some ways but because my typing speed keeps up with my thoughts far, far better than my handwriting speed (at least if I want to be able to read it later) I'm finding the process flowing through my keyboard with a great deal more speed and ease than I expected.

If you're struggling with your writing I highly reccomend trying a few different ways to write, with the physicality of things as well as with the words themselves.  I suspect I'll keep using my notebook for ideas (since that's the really organic part of the writing process for me, I drew a castle map in there earlier to help ground my ideas of the place they're living), and then do the actual writing for each chapter on my computer.

I've also found doing a chapter by chapter synopsis really helpful.  It's good to clarify my ideas as well as give me a quick overview of what happened in that chapter so when I come back to it later I can pick it up without having to re-read the whole thing (as that usually ends up in massive rewrites and constant edits and I never get past the first chapter >.<).  I've also added onto the end of the synopsis all the questions I feel are raised in that chapter that will need to be answered eventually.  This is a question a book I was reading recently, The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by the Writer's Digest, suggested was important for mystery novels (I think that was the section where I read it).  I thought it was just as applicable to fantasy and so far it seems that it's really helping me keep an awareness of where I'm going and what I'm writing into the chapter already.

Short and the long of it?  If you want to write comfortably, then find the physical area and the physical medium that works best with your thoughts.  If the computer isn't working for you try long hand.  If pen's not working try pencil, if that's not working try crayons, pencil crayons, paints, different types of paper, notebooks, even different computers or keyboards might work better for you!  And of course different physical things can work well for different processes of thinking.  (My preference for pen and paper with ideas and a computer for actually writing for example).  Also, make note of the questions you raise that will need answers as you write each section of your novel (or chapter, or scene, or whatever works best for you, just don't let too much go by before you do it or you'll forget).  This can really help later should you get stuck on a section, you can pop back to the outline and see what you've forgotten to answer or if you need to answer something to make something else work.

Friday, September 9, 2011

God's Gift to Me!

So today I'm feeling a little like it's my birthday.  I have been trying to figure out what to do while I'm writing so that I'm out of the house and not sitting here alone all the time but that wouldn't cost money (aka, sitting at a restaurant since I can never justify sitting there without steadily buying drinks and/or food v.v') but that won't leave me sitting alone all day in the house.  God's answered my prayer and with something I never expected to happen!

For some time now I've had to great loves, writing and film but I figured there was no way that I would be able to make them fit together.  Not unless I had something published and someone wanted to make one of my books into a movie or if I wrote a screenplay and managed to get on set.  However, I did send out an application to an extra agency.  Last year we (hubby and I) had joined one agency but they were so huge we never got any roles, never even a hint of it.  Part of that was lack of work (which I understand hasn't really changed) and part of it was I think how big the agency was and how inexperienced we were.  The agency I applied to more recently (after leaving the first) is much more specialized and takes a much smaller roster.  I figured I wouldn't get in but I did get a relatively positive response with my first application but then heard nothing.  When we got back from Europe I didn't think to email them back right away but hubby suggested I do so if I was still serious about it so I did.  A little while later I got a call asking me to send more information because they couldn't find my previous email that asked for it and yesterday I got a call asking if I was free today for a set call they thought I'd be perfect for!

So what do I get to do today?  I get to go hang around set, get paid for hanging around, work as an extra (no, can't tell you where or what show yet) and in the hanging around time, chat or *puts dramatic and triumphant music on* write!  God's given me a huge gift in that since I won't be home attached to my computer games that I've had so much trouble on and I'll be making money while I write and working in between!  This couldn't have worked out much better so pray it continues and I might just get this book done and get into film like I've always wanted in a way I never, ever expected.

God's so good!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Name

So shortly after I posted the blog for today I realized that there's no point to keep everything a secret if I'm trying to blog about it.  Hence settling on the name Chronicling Reinora.

Reinora is the name of my world and since I'm writing about the process of writing the Chronicles (Dear Lord I hate that word, have you noticed it's an ugly word?  It's not so bad with S on the end, it's ugly with ING on it... yeah, weird I know, but there you go.)  I figured a blog's name should actually have something to do with what you're writing on so there it is, bright and shiny.  I changed the website address too so it's the same as the name.  Yay me!  I wrote some more after I posted last (eventually, fb got in the way first v.v, dang addicting games!) and I'm feeling pretty good about where it's going.  I'll post an excerpt when I've finished at least a chapter's worth.

I finally have the name worked out, it should show up properly on search sites.  Yay!