A brief update and miscellany

Hello, lovely people.

It has been a while, hasn’t it? I can tell you the last few months have been spectacularly busy at best, and tumultuous at… less than best. Between day job issues, exciting ongoing writing projects, personal health issues, and of course the juggernaut that is National Novel Writing Month, my blog has been (accidentally) abandoned to the dark corner of the internet where neglected blogs are tossed to collect dust.

Forgive me?

And because things show no signs of slowing down in the near future, I just wanted to reach out and answer a few questions.

  • 1. Yes, I’m alive and relatively healthy, the people I love are healthy, and things are more or less okay.
  • B. My major book-publishing projects are moving forward, behind the scenes, even though they’ve been out of the limelight for a little while… both my travel memoir and my YA novel Stormriders are in their respective editing phases (to clarify, Stormriders is in the Gonna-Pull-My-Hair-Out-This-Is-Horrid part of the editing phase).
  • And thirdly, I have some exciting updates to share with you!

Updates:

I started a new project last month, for this year’s National Novel Writing Month, and on this side of November I have a 45,000-word draft for a story I’m sorta in love with. Think high fantasy meets stranger-in-a-strange-land, throwing in a few dragons and featuring a version of the feisty heroine who always finds her way into my stories somehow, and here we go again! Stay tuned.

The local writers group in Waconia is producing an anthology of our work, hopefully in early 2019! I’ve signed on as primary editor and formatting/layout designer, and the book will feature a wide range of beautiful work from our group members. More information can be found at waconiawriters.wordpress.com.

My 4-part blog series is still in progress! I began writing the third entry in The Big Magical Process of Making Words Happen series a few months ago, and hope to finish the darn thing and post it live within the next few days.

Anything else?

Yes.

A note on overcoming adversity, and finding success in your writing, even when you (temporarily) physically cannot write.

Over the past week, I’ve been sidelined from all of my writing projects, due to a pinched nerve in my neck. Sidelined, meaning I’ve been forced to intermittently lie flat on my back on the floor, with an electric heating pad between my shoulder blades. For awhile, merely sitting upright was painful. Working on my laptop was excruciating. 

This has been my primary view for the past seven days straight. (Yes, that is A Christmas Prince, the finest Netflix Xmas movie ever made. Fight me.)

But in spite of my inability to use my computer, I’ve still been writing. How, you might ask? I used the time staring at my ceiling. I used every single one of those horizontal minutes to brainstorm, to think through some plot problems, and I even solved some plot holes that were previously and up to that point driving me bonkers.

My injury forced me to stop, to avoid the tempting social media distractions that are present every time I open my Chromebook, and think. I spent the better part of the past two months constantly on the go. Not saying a nerve injury is a boon, but it did present an opportunity. I had to press pause on most of my hectic daily life. Alone with my thoughts and the strange patterns on my popcorn ceiling, I had nothing to do but untangle and sift through those thoughts, prioritize the ideas I wanted to, and focus.

After a few days, I was pretty good at think-writing. I could visualize pieces of my story that I struggled to see through the blue glow of the computer screen. Fleeting ideas and concepts became tangible plot points. Characters developed true human flaws and traits; I got to spend some time with them and get to know them better. Even though I didn’t physically hold a pen or crack open my laptop, I was writing. I was creating. And those exercises were really the only things keeping me from going out of my mind.

Moral of the story: you can create, you can make progress and move forward in unconventional ways, even when life (and nerve pain) tries to blow up your process.

Fin.

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Harnessing Inspiration in the Digital Age

How do you harness inspiration for your works-in-progress?

Hello, friends!

I wanted to let you know about a thing I made. The thing is the product of one of my favorite “non-writing” writing activities… a fun tool I used to help craft the world of Stormriders! I’m talkin’ about inspiration boards!

Inspiration boards have been used in the design and visual arts fields for ages. They are commonly used in those fields to shape the intended narrative and guide the project. In this increasingly digital world, it is becoming easier for other creators, including writers, to dabble in creating these bulletin boards of imagery that help share their vision and aesthetic for the worlds they build. Read more about creating your own writer inspiration board here. Inspiration boards can be either “analog” (physically tacking items to a bulletin board) or digital. Whatever works for you!

Stormriders inspiration board (preview)

I’ve created digital inspiration boards for nearly every story idea I’ve had; it is an important part of my world-building and outlining process, as I am the most visually-oriented person you will ever meet! So I’ve decided to share my Stormriders inspiration board on Patreon! A link to my Patreon page is here. If you join at the $1 level, you can unlock the full inspiration board (not to mention the added perk of getting full access to ALL of my Patron-exclusive content about all things Stormriders!).

DISCLAIMER: Inspiration boards are generally for a creator’s own personal use and are not widely disseminated for profit. That said, When utilizing images and artwork that aren’t my own and that will be used for Commercial use (i.e. book covers), Best practice is to either purchase rights to images (via for-purchase image databases like Shutterstock/Getty Images/etc.), or find fair-use/royalty-free/Attribution-free photos via sites like Pixabay. Personally, I give credit for Every Photo when using them commercially, even the attribution-free photos. but it is always best practice to read carefully about any restrictions or attribution guidelines for any images you opt to use for your creative endeavors, especially for projects or products that will be distributed to large audiences. Credit your fellow artists!

 

Welcome to the perfect morning.

 

I decided to take some time off this week (gasp!) to treat myself with a long weekend of [refer to above photo].

As a writer with a full-time day job in a field that demands a significant amount of my energy and focus on any given day, one of my most daunting challenges is making the time and harnessing the motivation to write after a long and difficult day at work (or, on the weekend after a full week of long and difficult days). Fortunately, I have a day job that actively encourages best practices in work-life balance, a supportive team, and A LOT of PTO days accrued. Hence, Stormriders Staycation 2018.

I absolutely understand how fortunate I am, in these respects, and I admire my fellow writers who are making things happen with limited resources and support… a special shout out to my fellow indie writers.

Dear Indie Writer With A Day Job,

Your time is a treasure, and your process is valid, however that looks for you. I have every confidence in the story inside of you, the one you absolutely MUST tell, the one that makes your soul cry and sing and hope and despair at the same time. You WILL write it. And if it’s not done tomorrow, that’s okay. Maybe in a month, or a year, or a few years. All of those time frames are valid. Because your story WILL be told, and by you. There is no better person to tell it.

If you’re interested in supporting indie writers in their endeavors, I highly recommend exploring Patreon, a crowdfunding site for artists, authors, and other creators. You can visit my Patreon page here.

A Universe in My Head (or: The Intricacies of World-Building)

All the world is a stage, And all the men and women merely players.

~Everyone’s favorite English bard

First, you must build a world.

There are several different camps out there, when it comes to world-building for a novel. And each camp will tell us something different, when we ask the questions we were always going to ask… the questions that pile up as we writers all sit down at our favorite writing desks, and open our notebooks/computers/etc. … when we try like hell to make sense of the places we’ve envisioned, the intricate worlds that thus far live only in our heads but yet are beautiful. Vibrant. Real.

  • Do I need to build a world?
  • How much of a world should I build?
  • Do I build the whole world before writing a word of the story, or do I make it up as I write along?
  • How much of my painstakingly-built-and-now-thoroughly-complex world needs to end up in my story?

To name a few. (There are so many questions!)

Where to start building?

The important thing to understand is that there is no right or wrong way to world-build, but if you gravitate toward the speculative fiction/science fiction/fantasy genres, chances are world-building will be a necessity for you at some point. Whether you design every aspect of the world, down to the smallest detail, before you write a word of the story; or create and pull pieces of the world in as you write along… your characters cannot exist in a vacuum.

I personally fall into the first category of world-builder. For me, creating the world where my characters will be born, grow up, meet each other, fight, go on adventures, suffer loss and find happiness, has to happen before I meet my characters. The world needs to have existed long before my characters’ stories begin, and could feasibly continue to exist long after my characters have departed from it.

Your characters cannot exist in a vacuum.

How much of the world should show up in your story? We are writers, descriptive people by nature, so of course if we had our way the worlds we’ve so painstakingly created would be captured on the page, in every last vibrant detail. But the reality is, not much of the world will actually show up in the story. World-building generally is more for you, the writer, than it is for the reader. Although we spend hours (days, months, years?) developing extensive historical, social and geographical complexities of the worlds we create, the story itself may contain only whispers of the detail we’ve meticulously planned.

We use world-building as metaphorical post-it notes, to highlight a cultural reference or a social norm, to provide a supportive context as for the reason our protagonist has to captain a sailing vessel instead of drive a car to the next town over. Our characters should be living, breathing, imperfect beings; they should screw up and feel losses and care about things (more on this in another post), but their choices and actions need to be grounded in the environment around them. However, it is a balancing act between providing the appropriate amount of context and over-explanation. Too much description and focus on the world, and not on the characters, will slow a story down and ultimately will prove distracting to a reader. You want to give your characters a place to travel, interact, grow and get into trouble, without sacrificing focus on key aspects of the plot or the characters themselves.

There are many, many resources and tools that can assist writers with world-building. I’ve linked a few here that I’ve used and found incredibly helpful:

The Ultimate Guide to World-Building – Writer’s Edit

World-Building for Every Genre: A Checklist – Writers Write

Fantasy World-Building Questions List – pcwrede.com

Additional Advice and Links to World-Building Tools – Fictorians.com

List of 42 World-Building Resources – The Dabbler

30 Days of World-Building Tool – Fantasy World-Builder Guide

Article continues on Patreon.com. To read more about Worldbuilding and the world of Stormriders, subscribe to my Patreon here!

 


This is the second post in a 4-part series about The Big Magical Process of Making Words Happen (According to This Author).

Part 1: Spark

Coming soon:

Part 3: I Sometimes See You When I Look in the Mirror (or: The Complexities of Character)

Part 4: Our Journey Begins Now, But How? (or: To Plot or Not to Plot)