A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘Creativity’

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 7

In my thoughts, I conjured that city, where there was a special place for me. I imagined a city of pink stone like the one’s Auntie had taken me too when she was trying to find my home. Pink stone and dirt streets that were wreathed in bright green summer garlands. There would be other Whisper children, playing and exploring and learning and so eager to welcome me into their home. My former guardians had said that I might go to the Citadel, but I wondered now if that was such a good idea. After all, they’d made it sound as if I had to pass tests to be allowed there, but Soliri was promising me a special place of my own. That he’d killed them and taken me I’d not forgotten, but perhaps they had been the evil ones.

We passed three nights in that small town. I pretended, all that time, that I was his daughter, and mute. It was easier for me to listen, and to daydream, if I did not have to speak to anyone. Not that I had much chance. Soliri rented out a private room and brought all my meals there. I missed Flier’s company, but I knew she was happy and well in the stables. I was true to my word and did not try to run away or tell anyone that Soliri had taken me away from someone else, not so much because of the threat of death hanging over me than because I’d been with him for weeks, and thought perhaps he might become something similar to what Auntie had been to me.

Even as I thought such thoughts I knew they would not be. He was taking me to a special place.

He was away much of the time we were in the town. He would leave and bring back sacks of provisions. From this I inferred that we would not stop in another town before we reached the coast. I was at once disappointed and relieved, for it meant we would travel more safely, but I enjoyed the luxury of the inn. I wondered, distantly, why I could hear the whispers of the dead wood that made up the place. I heard trees often, but wood was killed trees. Perhaps it was only that I was a Whisper, and the planks and panels were like ghosts that were not magicked into silence.

When at last we left, it was with laden saddlebags. Flier was not pleased to go back out into the snow, but she greeted me with affection nonetheless. Soliri was taciturn and Flier did not try to greet him as he saddled her. The three of us rode out onto the snowy road, but quickly turned from the worn path to break our own ground through frozen over snow. South and west we went. The little town disappeared over a rise. We were on our way.

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Advanced Worldbuilding

Here we are, deep into worldbuilding. If you’re like me, you are ready to take it to the next level. I’m excited to work on these steps for my next novel (after I finish book 3 of Lacey’s story). Before I get to far ahead of myself though, here are the previous steps to worldbuilding that I’ve discussed in Beginning Worldbuilding and Intermediate Worldbuilding: make maps, think about religion, decide how your people look, language, and politics. If you haven’t read my previous posts, take a gander.

1.History

Every world, every person, has a history. If you haven’t thought about the history of your cities, nations, or world, now is the perfect time to do so. Even if you’ve already written most of your novel, you can look and decide how your people got to where they are. Think of it as learning about their history (much like children learn history in school) rather than creating it. Some questions to ask when discerning the history of your world: who is in power and how did they come to be in power? Who are the minority groups and why are they minorities (are they immigrants or displaced people, or do they have a unique heritage)? Who are the disadvantaged groups of people and why are they disadvantaged?

2.Marriage Customs

That people have partnerships and get married is something we assume in books, for the most part. We read about mothers and fathers, husband and wives. But how did they get to be husbands and wives? Are there complex courting rituals? Do people have elaborate wedding ceremonies? For inspiration here, I suggest looking around at cultures in our world. Not things like “what do they do in Spain,” rather “what do they do in the depths of the Amazon or in the heart of the Sahara.” The more far-flung you get, the more interesting results you will find.

3. Water and food

Farmers are stock characters in fantasy and markets are stock settings. A step further: wagons are stock transportation (unless you are on horseback). We readers can assume that food is grown by farmers and bought by all manner of people – but if you want to get into the nitty gritty details, you should think about how it’s done. Does the government buy crops and resell them? Do people all have their own gardens/herds/flocks for basic needs and sell the excess to others? Do they have a bartering system or, perhaps, it is a communist-esque system where they all share everything equally out of the goodness of their hearts (hello, plot conflict)? And that’s just for food. What about water? Are there wells throughout the city? What happens if the well goes dry? Are there rivers your people can drink from or are the waters dirty? Who is in charge of fetching the water from its source? Who guards it from enemies? All of these things can be significant to the plot, if you let them be. Or they can add realism.

4.Hygiene

Do your people bathe regularly? Where and how? Bathhouses are going to make for different social norms than private baths in homes. (Think open vs. closed, respectful of privacy vs. potentially lecherous.) It also matters because if people bathe regularly, the water system is much more important. Perhaps they build aquaducts in order to supply bathhouses, or perhaps they leave it up to individuals to fetch their own water and therefore they either don’t bathe regularly or have private baths. Do the rich bathe more than the poor? Does this mean water is a commodity?

5.Superstitions

Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Break a mirror and have 7 years bad luck. Don’t walk under a ladder or open an umbrella inside. Silly superstitions. And yet we recite them whenever someone does one of those “unspeakable things.” Give your characters some superstitions – things that apply to either them or their society as a whole. Make them convinced all their bad luck is because of X, and either make it so or show their foolishness. Have fun with this one, but if you include it in the actual story, make sure it’s plot relevant.

He’s a black cat, but I don’t think anyone would complain about him crossing their path!

The following are even more things to think about (we can call it expert worldbuilding). Now, I’ll be the first to say I have not effectively gone this far into worldbuilding yet. It’s part of my learning process and part of my next novel, in which I will be writing about a characters in a nation that is recovering from war. Thus, the following worldbuilding considerations will be important.
1.Waste

2.Fires

3.Natural Disasters

4.Wars

5.How are things built? And how are large objects (trees, stone, etc) moved?

Take flight, enjoy, and share any other pieces of worldbuilding you find particularly helpful!

Take care,

Emily

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 5

winter.:

EarthSky Facebook page, by Timothy Boocock

Fierce wind whipped us as we plunged through the storm. The blood on my coat was frozen. The arm around me never loosened its grip. The run of the horse was not smooth, but jarring and I felt sick. Only the sting of wind and ice kept me in the moment. I could hear the cries of the tormented horse, crying from it’s mind to mine, asking me to please, please let it rest. I tried to answer it, to tell it that all would be well, but I did not know how without the man hearing me too. And so I sat in silence.

At last the man slowed the poor beast, and though the wind still thrashed around us, the snow lightened, and far above the clouds were starting to drift apart. I threw up, covering the man’s arm, my front, and the horse’s neck. The man swore and pulled the horse to a stop. He pushed me to the ground and for a moment I felt the sickening sensation of snakes in my stomach and then hit the ground, air whooshing out of me. I rolled as he dismounted. He shook the sick off of his arm and glared at me. Anger rolled off of him. I scrambled away backwards, fearing his rage. He snatched me and told me that I was not to try to run away, because if I did then I would die. I wondered: would he kill me or the storm? I did not ask it though.

He wiped down the horse, who was effusing gratitude for the rest and little weight on her back, and then he turned to me. He told me I should try to clean myself with the snow because he wasn’t going to do it for me. I scrambled to obey and as I did, I watched him from the corner of my eye. I did not like the look of him. He was graceful in the way a hunting cat i graceful – watchful, lithe, and ready to strike. I knew he was a killer, and I knew he’d taken me – for what purpose I could not fathom, but he had not hurt me. He had pushed me off the horse though, and that made me just as wary as as that he’d killed. And he was big, so much bigger than Auntie, bigger than Shuri, Naha, and Abrisin.

When I was as clean as I could make myself, he lifted me back onto the horse and we were off again, but this time it was a steady trot instead of an all-out gallop. I was grateful for that, and did not feel sick that time. It had been a long time since I’d slept, and I started nodding off, only to be jarred awake each time by my falling head. I shook myself and sat up straighter. I did not want to fall asleep in the man’s grasp, if for no other reason than my fear that he would push me from the horse to wake me. He was not a gentle soul.

Eventually the night was clear, though still windy, and the moonlight shone down on us. I did not recognize the landscape, and felt sick for home. We stopped by a road shelter – three walls and roof with a dirt floor that had been sheltered from the snow. The man dismounted and took me with him. The horse joined us in the shelter and the man gave us both food – some sort of meal for the horse and bread with dry cheese for me. He ate as well, eyes never leaving me.

I asked him what his name us. He told me that I could call him Soliri, but I didn’t believe that that was his real name. I asked him what he had taken me for, and he said I was a Whisper, and people bought Whispers. Then he told me to be quiet, and go to sleep, because he was tired and if he was tired then so must I be.

I watched him lay down, no pillow or blanket, thoughts whirling in my head. I had been called a Whisper before, and it was time I learned what it meant.

#FirstLineFriday

Are we getting used to this yet? For new visitors, a brief explanation of what FirstLineFriday is:

  • Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules (like this).
  • Post the first one or two lines of a story idea, work-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.
  • Urge others to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is optional).

     They always told her never to leave the Safe Waters because here the Path was still pure, untainted by hate for her kind, and the night sky burned with stars of gold and green, bleeding through from another time and place.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions or ideas?

Take care,

Emily

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 4

deeplovephotography:“ flickr | facebook | society6 ”

aldrtree.tumblr.com

Those first weeks with the strangers were excruciating. I walked between them, snow soaking into my boots and chilling my feet. My body did not want to heal from the torment I’d put it through. The food the strangers ate was tasteless.

They called themselves Naha, Shuri, and Abrisin. Naha was the eldest, or so I assumed, for she directed the others and they followed her bidding. She had spoken to Auntie, made the deal with her to sell me. Shuri was the man. He was in charge of our food, and I wondered if that was why it tasted so bad. But he did keep us fed, and he often took special note of how I reacted to the dishes, and tried to change them so they would be better. Abrisin was in charge of my care. She was a gentle soul, and when we stopped each evening she made sure I had a cozy nest near the fire.

And so we went, travelling deeper into the cold. North, they called it. There were no birds or animals that I could see, though Shuri pointed out their tracks. I could not even hear them in my head over the whispers of my traveling companions. Their lives were so loud that I wondered how they could ever travel in silence, which frequently we did.

I was not in their care for long. There was a storm one night that threatened to bury us in our camp, so Naha decided that we would press on to the town they knew was near. We’d not stayed in a village or town since setting out from Auntie’s. In the town, we arrived at an inn. The innkeeper told Naha that the rooms were full, on account of the festival of fire. He said that we were welcome to stay in the common room, for reduced price. I think Naha was ready to brave the storm in search of another inn, and certainly we would have followed her, but she looked down at me, weary and shivering, and agreed to the innkeeper’s terms.

The common room was full with people in a similar situation to ours. Some of them looked as we did – weary travelers who just needed a place to stay for the night. Others looked fierce, as if this was their first time among civilized folk. Naha ushered us to a corner out of the way, and Abrisin settled me in a cocoon of blankets. She smiled down at me, stroking my hair, and told me that all would make sense when I made it to the Citadel. And then Shuri warned someone not to come any closer.

I think those memories I chose to lose, for there are only flashes of what happened. Warm blood on my face, Abrisin’s back as she stood to protect me, her weight as she fell on me. And then someone dragging me out of my nest, and a grinning face with a cracked front tooth.

The innkeeper did nothing as they drug me from the place. The other travelers did nothing. Perhaps they thought that since I did not scream or cry, I was in no danger. I was too afraid to scream or cry or even fight. Perhaps I thought it the way of things, to be passed from one keeper to the next. The big man who had me in his grasp was wild. His hair tangled with itself and the beads strung through it. A gold ring shone from his ear. His fingernails were torn and dirty.

Out in the storm he loaded me up on a horse and swung himself up after me. I’d never been on a horse. When he spurred the beast into movement, I clutched the arm around me, terrified of falling. We rode out into the night. The storm closed around us.

#FirstLineFriday

Welcome to #FirstLineFriday. Explanation:

  • Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules (like this).
  • Post the first one or two lines of a story idea, work-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.
  • Urge others to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is optional).

So get comfy, take a seat and tell me what you think!

Ehdra’s people lay dead at the bottom of the sea, their lives stolen by the dark ash that fell from the sky and the liquid flame that burned their cities.

This line is from an origin story, of sorts, and that’s all I’m going to say about it. Where do you think it’s going? What do you think is going to happen? And above all, what do you think about the line – things you would change, improve, keep the same?

Take care,

Emily

Beginning Worldbuilding in 3 Steps

A friend of mine recently said “I hate worldbuilding, that’s why I only write fanfiction these days.” I’ve heard the sentiment before, and it shocks me every time. Worldbuilding is my favorite part of writing. I love diving into something that isn’t even real yet and figuring it out, deciding how the people live, how things are done. There is a lot that goes into worldbuilding, and all at various stages of how much you want to accomplish, or how much you need for the story (trust me, it’s always more than you think, but if you have the basics, the rest will come while you write).

So what does one need, to start worldbuilding? I have A NUMBER OF TIPS for you in this post. I will say, before we get too far, that not every story needs tons of worldbuilding. If you are writing a fiction or fantasy that takes place in this world, you may have a specific place in mind so you don’t have to build one. But you may have to take more time developing the magic system or history of were-creatures. As with all writing tips, use them or don’t at your own discretion.

Tip #1: Make maps.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know about my obsession with maps. I draw maps for all of my stories (heck – I draw maps for my ideas and the ideas that haven’t even become ideas yet). This is one of the most important parts of worldbuilding, so you can get oriented and know what’s where. Think about it: have you ever read a book and come across a passage that jars you directionally? For instance, if I’m reading a book and it says they are going east, but then says the rising sun is behind them? Or even not having a discrepancy like that, and just assuming the layout of the world is one way, but in the author’s mind it is the complete opposite? Maps help with this. Maps will help you, the writer, avoid mistakes like the one illustrated above, and they will help readers have a clear vision of your world.

So make maps. Not just of countries and continents, but cities and buildings and important places in your story. You don’t have to include everything in the end, but if you know it, you’ll be able to write more clearly about it.

Tip #2: Think about religion.

Okay, I know a lot of people aren’t religious. I’m not very religious. But we can’t deny that religion plays a huge roll in our world. If you are creating a world from scratch, there are going to be creation myths, legends, and maybe even texts that someone decides is the key for how to live life. Some of these are going to evolve into religions. Because people want something to believe in, whether they are characters in a book, or real people. If you don’t want to have any religions in your book, there should be a good reason for their absence. Not one that you necessarily have to share, but it will inform your writing if it is there. And if there are religions, but you don’t want to make it a focus, maybe your main character is not religious. Or maybe it becomes a source of conflict between the hero and their travelling companion. One suggestion: don’t be preachy. It’s okay for one character to preach at another, but don’t preach to your reader. They won’t thank you for it.

Tip #3: Decide how the people look.

I’m not just talking physical features, though that’s important too. I’m talking about how they dress, how they move. The climate will play a part in this – people in colder regions are typically shorter and stouter while people in warmer areas are thinner and taller. (This is about heat conservation in northern regions, or keeping cool in warmer regions. It’s biological. If you have someone move from a warm region to a cool region, their kids are still going be taller, typically.) Not only height and girth, but in cold places people are more bundled, making for less graceful movements. Clothes are very important to worldbuilding – and not for description purposes (let’s face it, it sucks to spend paragraphs upon paragraphs trying to memorize details of someone’s attire). But if you think about why they wear certain things, you’ve hit a gold mine. If most people in a country wear leather armor, you can assume they are warlike. If they wear fine silks and flowing robes, maybe it is because they are excellent traders and have become very wealthy. Of course, in every culture and country there is wide variation depending on class, occupation, and even religious beliefs.

Okay. So these three steps are going to get you started. Of course there is so much more to think about, but if, like my friend, worldbuilding is not your forte, or is simply new to you, these steps will get you started in the write direction. (I know, written puns never do so well.)

What is your favorite worldbuilding tip?

Take care,

Emily

The Unknown

Do you ever get to that point in your project, when you start to wonder what you’ll write  next? Not the next page or chapter, but your next book. I’m there now. I’ve finished yet another edit of Quest for Salvation (one that I was itching to do and once I got that rejection letter, I knew I could do it!), finished typing up the sequel, and I’m about 1/3 -1/2 of the way done with the third. I have an outline that takes me to the end, and I’ve been making steady progress.

So what will come next? I have lots of ideas, some I’ve even started writing out the first few pages. But they don’t feel right yet. It could be because I’m still immersed in Lacey’s world, it could be because I’ve spent so much time there building it up that everything else just feels hollow. I logically know that the next project I settle on will grow and develop to be just as good, if not better, than my current one.

To be honest, I’m trying my best to push back this worry and just focus on the writing – which works when I am actually, physically writing. I know I have a long way to go and a lot of time left with these manuscripts – after all book 2 is only a first draft – yeesh!

But I also like to plan ahead. And that means starting to think what I will do next. Will I stay in the same world and pick a different character, a different time? I have plenty to choose from! And a part of me yearns to write those stories as well. Another part, however, whispers, “Go somewhere else for a while. See different worlds. Don’t neglect your other ideas.” And it is this voice that has me wondering what, then, I will write next.

For now, I will keep writing what I’m writing, keep stewing on other ideas, and when the time comes, I will have another idea settled to shape and form and make great.

Take care,

Emily

When Writing, Have Goals

A notebook full of goals has a prominent position on my desk. Some of the things in the notebook are get a full time jobexercise daily, and (my favorite) finish that book. With each goal, I have four or five “action steps” listed – things I can do with RIGHT NOW to accomplish a goal. Things like “write for a half hour every day” (it’s easier than I expected – especially if I take my notebook to work and do it on break) and “design one project a month.” That one is crochet, by the way. Reasons for why I should follow through on the goal are also there, at the bottom of the page. Feeling accomplished is on almost every page. And guess what – I’ve finished two goals and I DO feel accomplished – which encourages me to keep going.

Having goals is an important part of life, so that we aren’t just dragging our feet from home to job and back again – goals give us purpose. So we had better have some goals when we are writing!

What are my overall writing goals? This question is the key to how writing fits into our lives. Is it a hobby, a career, a passion? Answering this question, truthfully, can help you decide how to focus yourself.

I want you to go past “I want to be a published author” and “I want to be a bestseller” and “I want to reach/change/impact the world.” While those are great goals, they are surface goals. They are the goals every budding writer comes up with. Think a little more personally. What does writing mean to you? How does it impact your life? Where do you see your writing going (think hard about this one – it could go towards editing, copywriting, technical writing, freelancing, books, poetry, and so, so much more)?

When you have that figured out, give yourself some action steps, things you can do today, in this moment, to set yourself on that path, or keep your journey going. (As for me, I’m going to do my half-hour writing as soon as I’m done with this post.)

 

 

If you are a fiction writer, you have to think about more than just your goals – you’ve got a whole cast of characters fighting for attention – fighting for their goals to be fulfilled. Just like our goals give us direction and meaning, so do theirs*. Something more than “the good gal is determined to beat the evil witch.” Because while that can be an overarching goal, that good gal had better have some compelling goals for her own life (or a compelling reason that she’s got to defeat the evil witch). Just like us, they need action steps that they can accomplish to get them closer to their goals. Sure, they will make mistakes (at least they better!), but everything they do should advance the goals (hmm, sounds like some plot-relevant advice, doesn’t it?).

Now, let’s get back to us. When writing our lovely novel, we’ve got the task of keeping everything on track. So stick to your goals, even if your characters lose sight of theirs. Get that book finished, get it published or stowed away or whatever you do with finished manuscripts, and then get on to the next one.

Take care, travelers

*Sure, you can have an aimless character, but you will have to have a fantastic story to make that work – too often aimless characters get drug around and have no say about anything. Of course, your goal-oriented character can also have these things happen, and they can make bad choices based on hopes for accomplishing their goals – being goal-oriented doesn’t mean the story is boring.

The Genius Hat

We’ve all heard it: you can’t fix something you haven’t written. And yet it is still so hard to sit down and write that first draft (or rewrite the 8th one, when you realize there are so many things to improve…). There are lots of reasons for this, which belong in another post. Because today I’m going to share some tips I’ve gleaned from other writers, Writer’s Digest, and many other places. A lot of these tips are no longer attributed to a single person, and I can’t remember where I found them.

1.Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. This one can actually be really hard for me, unless I’m writing a blog post! BUT, I think in combination with other tips, this idea of “just write” can be really helpful.

2.Write for scenes, not word count. This one I really like because word count is my enemy. But writing to end a scene is something that compels me to continue writing – I want to get out what happens in the next scene too! I find I get more writing done with this idea than with meeting a word goal.

3.Set time limits. This one is helpful when I am struggling to write, but not as much when the flow is great. Setting yourself 20 minutes or a half hour is great to get yourself writing again, and if you fall into the groove and keep going that’s awesome! I will say, I don’t set myself for anything over a half-hour, because then it gets to be a chore.

4.Change what you are writing. This morning I was having trouble with my WIP novel, so I came to write a blog post instead. And you know what? I am feeling ready to tackle the novel next!

5.Give yourself permission to write. Usually this ends with “write crap,” but that mentality really brings me down. So yes, even if my first drafts are poorly written, I don’t like to call them crap. And it is hard to give yourself that permission to write (especially if there are other things that need attention, like pets, the house, etc.), but you just have to do it. Stemming from this one is….

6.Wear your genius hat. Sounds silly, right? It means, though, don’t give in to your inner critic who is telling you that those words sound bad, your idea is stupid, or what have you. It means put on that hat, and write. Pretend that everything you write is pure genius. You can put your critic hat on later for editing. This is a hard one for me. I found that actually having a specific hat to wear (I’ve started calling it my genius hat too) is actually really helpful in facilitating this. While I wear my genius hat, I can write no wrong. 🙂

What are some tips you’ve come across? What do you do to combat the lack of writing?

Write on,

Emily

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