A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘Inspiration’

Coming Back to Life

There is a lovely blogger at fibijeeves who has inspired me. We had a brief conversation about getting out of writer’s block, and so I am trying to do more writing again. I’ve been busy working at my other blog, Simply Stitched, and of course busy with the big wide world and everything life throws at a person.

But I am coming back. I want to write here, I want to breathe the written word again, I want to live like I used to live: immersed in stories and language and adventure. So here I am, ready to get back out there, ready to reinvest in myself, ready to go questing once again.

Adventure Well,

Emily

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Intermediate Worldbuilding

Okay, so last week we had a post for beginning worldbuilding that outlined a few of the most important steps for worldbuilding. Those steps were: make maps, think about religion, and decide how people look. This time we are going to go a couple of steps further. For those of you who want to continue past the first three steps (or those of you who are wondering how to proceed or just want some extra ideas), here are two more steps to take your world to the next level.

1. Language.

This doesn’t mean you have to go all Tolkien on us and go study linguistics to make your own fully-fledged language (though if that’s your thing DO IT!). Rather, look at the names of characters and places that you’ve come up with. Say them out loud. What do they sound like? If you’ve got one nation your focusing on, chances are most names are going to have a really similar cadence or feel to them. I’m not saying that everything has to sound the same (because really, we don’t want that), but look at the rhythm and flow of your names. For instance: in Quest for Salvation I have the following city names: Ruslaht, Ohmlaur, and Talahm. Say those out loud. There’s a similarity, and they are all very clearly from one nation. But Frewantin (another city) is obviously from a different part of the world, by the sound of the name alone.

So what about character names? You can keep it simple, like with city names, and have names that just sound like they go together. Or you can take it a step further and create a system for names. For instance, in my novel there is a system for imperial family names; male names start with consonants, female names with vowels, and all imperial names end with the “ay” sound. In addition, names throughout the nation have certain sounds that are more prominent than others (such as “ie” “o” and “n”). You can get as creative as you want with things like this, and it will be sure to give your story that extra layer. Just be sure to write your rules down, and follow them consistently!

One last note: not all countries have to have similar language sounds. In fact, the further apart they are the more different they should be. You  could always have slight differences between neighbors that become huge differences between the nations on either end of the line. Example: if you have a common tongue that people from most or all nations can speak, they will still have names (cities and people and sometimes even special items) in their own language. So someone named Sandrilion can still interact with someone named Crystal, but be from different places.

2. Politics.

It’s important to know what your political system is in your story world, even if you never mention it directly. That’s because whatever is happening at the top has a huge effect on what happens at the bottom. For instance, if there is a political coup and the king is overthrown by his great-niece the duchess of Winderburn, there’s going to be some backlash. People who supported the king are going to have to fall in line fast, or be smart about taking the new queen down. And maybe some pro-king folks will take it on themselves to raid villages in Winderburn, which causes hardship for the farmers there, who suddenly can’t get crops to the trade depot that your character runs, and she has debts from sending her son to a prestigious academy in the capital that has actually been shut down by the new queen, so not only does she have to pay that back to the folks who loaned her the money and her son is back with her so she has to feed him again, but now her trade depot can’t make a profit because the farms are being raided.

Get the idea? Even little political changes can have a big impact on your characters. It’s a trope in mediocre fantasy that “the poor people don’t care what’s going on with the rich,” (and vice versa) but to make your story ring true, the poor should always care, because everything always effects them – you just have to pay a little more attention.

I hope these two worldbuilding tips help take your world and story to the next level. If you have comments or questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below!

Take care,

Emily

 

Writing Isn’t Romantic

“If I only had time I would write my book.”

“I would love to spend all my time writing, gathering ideas, editing.”

“Someday, I’ll write too.”

There has always been something unsettling about how people say these things (and things like this). It goes past the unspoken assumption that unpublished authors are lazy (they have lots of time, ie no jobs), it goes past the assumption that writing is easy, that anyone can sit down and write a book whenever they want to (because let’s face it, not everyone is that driven).

No, it has something to do with that quiet suggestion at the edge of these statements that there is something beautiful, romantic, about the “writer’s lifestyle.”

Well, let me put this out there: there isn’t a “writer’s lifestyle.” Maybe there was once, but no more. We go about our lives, working full-time jobs, part time jobs, going to school, raising families, and so much more. No two writers are the same. And there is nothing romantic about being a writer.

Let’s put it this way: when we write, we strive to create realistic worlds where realistic things (ie coincidence) don’t happen. We fight our plot at every turn, pouring our life into a single work, letting it bleed us dry until we have nothing left – and then when we fill up we do it again. Sounds romantic and beautiful, right?

But what you don’t hear is how we lay sleepless at night trying to work our way around the plot holes. What you don’t hear is how we torment ourselves trying to build realistic characters or how we cry ourselves to sleep when we just can’t make the story work. What you don’t hear is the physical and emotional toll writing takes on us – the sore shoulders, the lonely hours when your friends are out, but you need to write, the frustration when well-meaning friends and family unintentionally deride your work, again. What you don’t hear is that it is one of the most taxing sedentary careers.

Because we do put our lives into it. And even though we say we have thick skin, every little criticism is cutting into us. We put our life into that work and someone just wants to tear it down for the sake of tearing something down.

So no, writing isn’t romantic. It’s hard, it hurts, and it doesn’t get easier. You get better, but writing is still hard, and it still hurts.

“Wild Mind” – Truth in Reading

Today I finished reading another book. Or rather, I started and finished another book. Six hours of sitting at a desk waiting for the few phone calls and fewer visitors to the museum calls for reading material. This time it was Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. Personally, I liked Writing Down the Bones better, but Wild Mind had some golden nuggets of wisdom as well. For instance

I’ve never met a writer who wanted to be anything else. They might stop for a few months, but those who have bitten down on the true root do not abandon it

This, to me, was probably the most affirming thing I have ever read when it comes to writing and being a writer. Because if I really face the truth, writing is my life. Ever since I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a writer. Yes, I flitted to volcanology for a while, or culinary arts, or park ranger, but all the time I came back to writing. What was it that kept driving me away from writing, looking for something else? Doubt. It’s what Goldberg calls the “monkey mind,” the part of us that focuses on the obstacles (I’ll have to pay bills, be rejected by publishers, commit). I didn’t know any writers, and the ones I read as an elementary-aged child did not speak wonders to me. It wasn’t until (I’ve said it before) I read Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet that I found an author or genre that truly spoke to me and encouraged my writing. Even then, I held back because of the difficulty of the task. More than once I put away all of my writing materials and vowed never to write again.

Yet I kept coming back to it. Of course I did. I am a writer, and that is what drives me onward.

Writing is a key part of my life. All I want to be (career wise) is a writer. Yes, I work at a museum now and that does not cause me strife the way my previous job sometimes did. Yes, I expect that I will have to work full-time because writing really isn’t going to pay the bills. But writing will be there, in the chunks and snippets of time I have, writing is what will carry me.

I am a writer.

Writing Update (With this Super Creative Title!)

Work on book two has officially picked up again. Yesterday I wrote, slowly and with too many interruptions, for about four and a half hours. I’m very happy with that. And guess what: I feel like writing more today!

I know many times we have to push through the days we just don’t feel like writing, but I believe that is a detriment to creativity. I believe that you should fill those days with activities that will rekindle your desire to write – the thing I’ve found to help is 1) going frolfing (frisbee golf) or other physical activity and 2) not stressing about things that, in all honesty, don’t deserve the stress.

Hang in there, writers.

Keep Writing!

I believe myself that a good writer doesn't really need to be told anything except to keep at it. Chinua Achebe

This is what I am telling myself these days – just keep at it. Going back and writing a first draft again is difficult work. It’s hard to switch back into the mindset of creating rather than polishing. But the story isn’t over. Lacey has to keep going, so I have to too.

No word about my submission yet. I figure it will be a few months. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Being Inspired

Yesterday, I had a conversation about reading and writing (among other things). One thing that stuck out to me was the need for motivation (though I like the term inspiration better – motivation makes me think of working out and dieting). Whether a person is working on a college paper, a painting, some sort of building project, or writing, being motivated/inspired is key.

I’ve had a problem with this inspiration/motivation lately. I’ve had great ideas for what I want to write about, how I want to rework QFS so that I’m satisfied with it (though let’s face it – having a completed manuscript is pretty satisfying on its own), but whenever I have the time and desire to work, I get stuck. Part of that is because it isn’t new and exciting anymore – but that isn’t all. If it were, my other new fragments of stories would be holding my attention. More than anything else, I have been stuck because I’ve not been talking to people about it.*

I’ve been working full-time with people who don’t do much reading or writing (as far as I am aware) and the friends I used to talk to are busy (not to mention far away after  the end of college). I’ve been busy trying to get my life in order, to learn new things (gosh, I miss school!), and to get involved in the community. That doesn’t leave much inspiration for writing.

So here is my advice to you, if you are stuck. Talk to someone about it. Not online, (preferably) not by texting or any sort of electronic communication.** Talk to someone, in person, about writing. You don’t have to talk about your specific project, just talk about writing and you’ll be itching to dive back in, to feel the flow of words on your skin.

Try it.*** Trust me, you will thank me! (And if you don’t, well, sorry! What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.)

*Well, that and my apartment is NOT conducive to writing.

**Of course, electronic communication is better than no communication. But in my experience it doesn’t have the same effect.

***Another thing to try is getting out of your normal writing space. Sometimes, for me, if I’m stuck for too long and I keep trying to write in the same place, it sets me up for failure. Go to a library, a coffee shop, or even a restaurant.

Take care!

Inspiring Others

A friend of mine recently read through a lot of my poetry. She doesn’t care for poems, but she told me that what I wrote inspired her to write more. Everything we do inspires others, so don’t give something up just because you feel that it doesn’t matter. Keep going, you never know who you are inspiring.

Take care, fellow travelers.

Thinking Back 2

On Monday, I posted about writing in high school. One thing that I didn’t mention, was that EVERYTHING was an inspiration when I was in high school. I briefly mentioned that a friend and I wrote a novel in high school. We did this over a year and a half, and the whole thing was set in the town we lived in, and the school we went to. Walking down the hall was an inspiration. Our boyfriends were inspirations. Our friendship was inspiration.

Just because I am not in high school anymore doesn’t mean that I can’t still be inspired by everything around me. In fact, I am still inspired by almost everything. But I don’t use the inspiration like I used to. I think about how cool an idea is, and start thinking of the story it could become, and then I –

Stop. Just like that. I let it go and move on. Why? Part of the reason is because I am so focused on getting QFS done, I don’t feel that I have room for anything else in my head right now. I am also tired. I’ve been running so hard the last two months that I am finally at a point where I just need to take a break, take a breath, and take a moment to gather my thoughts. That means cleaning out the cobwebby inspiration that is blocking my creativity.

I never had that problem in high school. Everything that inspired me went into the book. (Part of the reason it was so bad! With two people putting every detail in, it is bound to collapse.) I had no cobwebs because I used everything right away. I didn’t let it sit, didn’t let the ideas grow or molder. They were just used right away.

Take a moment to clear out the cobwebs. Take a deep breath, and then carry on.

Take care, fellow travelers.

Friday Inspiration – Music

Music inspires me more than anything else. The first time I realized this was in high school. I was listening to Evanescence non-stop and writing a joint-story with one of my best friends. The music shaped the story and made it into what it was (which, admittedly, could have been better). Even now, I have a hard time listening to certain songs by Evanescence without remembering those characters and scenes. The one that will forever be the song of Elyza (the character that I was in charge of) is My Immortal.

As my writing developed, I kept playlists for my stories (as many writers do). The artists included in these posts ranges from Breaking Benjamin to Enya and beyond. My tastes in music are eclectic, though it doesn’t always appear that way.

I believe that music speaks to the soul in a way that few other things can. Not many writers have the ability to craft a story and it’s characters well enough to compete with music (though I love books all the same).

For a sample of the music I listen to for inspiration follow this link to a playlist I have on 8tracks.

Does music inspire you? Which artists/songs/genres?

Take care, fellow travelers.

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