Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nano Countdown: Research

Hawn State Park Pictures - Sept 2010 Time gets away from you so easily, I'm afraid.  I am short on Old West research for my nano novel.  You may be in the same position as me.  So what can you do?  Schedule reading periods.  Read something before you start the day's writing.  Read something after you are done for the day that will help you with the next day's piece.  In my case, I have to decide what I need to know about Old West for each "key scene". 

For instance, the Beginning "Scene" or "Story Arc" is Walker's exile and entrance into a new world.  His first impression.  Originally, I envisioned this as a grassy open place with a dusty road, kinda nondescript.  If I want to hint at my Old West inspiration right away, I am going to have to do better than that.  That is where research comes in.  So nondescript is out, however whatever Walker sees cannot be super scary.  I am saving that for the Launch Scene/Arc, the first firm sign of this world's weirdness in the form of a supernatural and rather toothy horse.  So although this scene is short and my research vague, I know if I do some reading, I'll find that which I need.

The next key scene is the Launch.  It involves the actual meet of man-eating horse and man, so horse research is needed.  After all, the horse makes a living pretending to be that which it is not--a regular horse.  It has to act . . . horsey.

That is the first two bits of research I need to do.  How about you?  Research all done or do you conduct research on an as needed basis?

Friday, October 29, 2010


Recently, I was reading The Real Kate Chopin by Lorraine Nye Eliot--great book, especially for a yardsale find--and in it, Eliot wrote:

"For years Kate Chopin had been reading authors she admired in search of an authorial voice suited to her temperament.  She found it as she began to study and translate works of a French writer who would have as great an influence on her writing as Gustave Flaubert had on his."

It seems odd to seek in the voices of others your own voice, but I have to admit whether or not you seek, you can find it that way.  The biggest influence on a great deal of my fantasy writing is an author who taught me about how pace, action, and humor can co-exist with engaging characters, emotional connection, and angst.  He taught me this through his own works--books I could read in a day.  Books I couldn't put down.

I don't try to emulate this author.  I just try to learn what I can and apply it in my own way to my own works.

My greatest influence to this date is Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files series.  Chopin's was Guy de Maupassant.  Who is yours?


Links and Books of Interest in this Post:
(Through Amazon - Amazon Affiliate Sales)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Author, Lead Yourself

No one can tell you what to write.  No one ever should.  But you have to realize your choices comes with disadvantages.   Sun Tzu wrote in Art of War:

[In] the wise leader's plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.

As a writer, you are you own boss--your own leader.  You must know both the disadvantages and advantages of your choices to succeed as a writer. 

In my case, I choose to write what I like.  Which means, I choose a smaller audience that fantasy allows.  Of that genre, I choose a smaller subgenre.  Finally, I choose a smaller audience that non-traditional publishing allows.  But with self-epublishing, you can get your books into the hands of the readers faster.  It means I can write them to the length that fits the story--and my ever falling attention span.  It means that I can choose to write the books I want, when I want to write, and not be told I shouldn't write them because not enough quantity can be sold to make them viable.  It means I can experiment with them, as well.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every choice you make.  So I ask, what are you choices?  What advantages do they give you?  What disadvantages do they give you?  Do you write with both in mind?  Do you lead yourself?


Links or Items of Interest:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fantasy Q&A: World-Building and Fourth Wall

On a thread at the Fantasy Nano forum, someone brought up a question that every fantasy writer must address.  How do you explain the world-building or "rules" of your world in your novel to the reader without making it seem like you are explaining the world-building or "rules" to the reader.  Because in most fiction, you don't pierce or break the fourth wall--you, the author, don't talk directly to the readers.  It is a convention readers expect to be upheld.

So, how do you relay necessary information to your readers, so they can understand?

There are a lot of tricks out there.  Such as having a character who does not know the conventions of the society.  Or you can let the reader learn by immersion, like how Antonio Banderas's character in The 13th Warrior movie does to learn the language of his host people.  These and sundry other methods have advantages and disadvantages.

But whether or not you have a character introduced the rules of the world like us readers are, it doesn't change the fact that world-building affects more than a single situation.  It affects the whole novel.  This is true in the same way your character will change what plot options and events are possible, because he will only act and react in certain ways, different than another character will.  So, immerse your novel in world-building.  If you want to reveal how a certain magic works, do the obvious scene with it--and then go beyond it.  What indirect effects does this magic type have in the world.

For example, say your character needs to eat a certain plant to do perform a certain spell.  Then think that plant's implications.    

How is that plant integrated into his world--is it illegal?  Is it as common as aspirin?  Do you have to have a script to get it?  How expensive is it?  Can anyone use it?  Who sells it?  

What are the effects of the plant on the body--does it make the user high?  Does it give him indigestion?  Must he use more and more to get the same spell effect?  Is it addictive?  Does it react badly with other plant-based spells?  Does it eventually build up in the body, and the build up kills?
And so on.  Each answer gives you a possibility of showing something about your world-building in the novel.  In a line, in a paragraph, in a fragment of a scene; in a scene, in a chapter.  Small or large.  You can pick which tidbits are relevant to the current scene and show the rest later or not at all.  Some can be implied by the other answers.  You just have to play with it.  You just have to focus your scenes and chapters through an additional lens of world-building, by asking yourself constantly how world-building affects and is affected by this and this and this in your novel.

Basically, world-build in the details of your novel whenever possible.  Let your world-building be inseparable from your rest of your novel and its components of character and plot and so on.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Story of your Nano Story

In Mommy Millionaire, author Kim Lavine suggests having a story for your brand--that is,  

"a written document twenty-five to one hundred words long describing the unique values and benefits of your product or brand".  

This brought to mind a start-up business class I am taking (First Step FastTrac), in which we budding entrepreneurs are to write a business concept statement.  A business concept is brief--one or two paragraphs and no more than seventy-five words.

This brought to mind how agents and fellow writers tout the ability to describe your novel very briefly.  In fact, they suggest about the same amount of words. 

Doesn't seem to be a way to get away from sharp summarization skills in life, huh?

So, time to think.  What is the Story of this year's nano story?

So far I have thus for Walker Novel #2:   

Due to his actions in Novel 1, Walker is exiled, but this supposedly paradisal world has gone to hell--being filled with a hungry mist and even hungrier monsters.  Worse yet, hell is catching, spreading to his home-world too.

This is rough, but even if it weren't, this would likely change as I write the novel.  However, the First Step literature gives you some very practical advice that relates to writing as well.  This is
"it is common for the initial Business Concept Statement to change during the process [of writing the feasibility plan]"--which is the point of the class.  "In fact, you may have more to worry about if your business concept doesn't change as a result of the feasibility plan."

I feel the same is true in writing.  The premise you come up with in the beginning is not always the same as that you finish with.  It will be interesting to see what difference 50,000 words makes on mine.


Books or Items of Interest Mentioned in This Post:

Tough Slog Through the Salt-Marshes of Art of War

I have been reading on Art of War.  Honest, I have.  But I picked a bad time to adopt a new study technique.  Not to say the area I'm studying isn't helpful . . . if I were to find myself in need of fighting in a salt marsh . . . but in relation to modern day?  Not finding much to relate to.  But I will take Sun Tzu's advice on getting past this tough part, taken from the salt-marsh section itself:

"In crossing the salt-marshes, your sole concern should be to get over them quickly, without any delay."

Hmm, perhaps I found a way to relate this part of AoW to the modern day after all.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Naught For One, but Something for Two - Nano Strategy - Walker Universe

Well, my plans were for naught on Walker Novel 1. But I did get more ideas for the series and Walker Novel 2 (Nano'10 Novel). I am trying a different method based off a book I was reading, the Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray. What I am doing is as follows:

  • Key scenes intro.  I have Beginning and End, Plot Point One and Plot Point Three, Midpoint or Plot Point Two, and finally, I have Climax plus one more.  Literary agent Donald Maass spoke of bridging conflict in his Writing the Breakout Novel.  IIRC, his idea of bridging conflict is the series of conflicts that lead up to the first main conflict or event of the novel.  So, in the name of balance, I decided the introductory conflict is not Plot Point One, but falls in between the Beginning and that, like the Climax is between Plot Point Three and the Ending.  This key scene I call the Launch, for it is where things start getting more serious.   Therefore I have seven key scenes.   Now, what do I do with them?
  • Key scene use.  I write these key scenes first, generally by pairs.  Why?  Because I am trying to keep my ADHD brain engaged.  Writing out of order helps.  But I also dislike rewriting, so my plan is once I write these key scenes, to go back and edit them into shape.  From around these seven pillars, I can start the process of filling in the rest of the novel.  I'll speak more on that in another post.  
So that is it thus far on my technique of laying out foundation or pillar scenes.  I'll leave with books of interest (through Amazon Affiliates) that might be of interest.  I have not read the last book below, but it looks like one to put on my to-get list:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Journal of Self-EducationTechniques

I have begun reading a one-of-a-kind book that came too late to help me on my first elit campaigner book.  But I will read and adapt its methods as I go, in preparation for second and third choices in the campaign.  Especially, I seek to adjust it for someone with ADHD on the brain.  What book of coolness am I talking about?

This one:
It is about starting your own classical education, but it gave me an idea to become more engaged with this blog.  How?  By adopting and adapting the journal of self-education Ms. Bauer speaks of:

[The journal of self-education] is the place where the reader takes external information and records it (through the use of quotes, as in the commonplace book); appropriates it through a summary, written in the reader's own words; and then evaluates it through reflection and personal thought. ~ Page 36.

Most of my journal will be offline and personal, but this blog will hold clips I want to share.  The likely format will be as follows:

  1. Quote or focus
  2. Summary
  3. Rumination

It is worth a shot anyway, and will likely lead to better implementation of the study material--which is half of what I'm shooting for in the first place.  Action, not just studying.

We'll see how it goes.  Expect the first post tomorrow.


Prolonged Campaign on Art of War

Photo by vlasta2, found on Wikipedia,

The halfway point of Sun Tzu's Art of War is not just in sight, it has been passed.  I am on nook page 72 out 135.  Thank goodness.  But that reminds me of something.  So, so long ago, I wrote about a key point in the manual.  It was relevant then; it is relevant now. 

"When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened." ~   From Page 36, Part II, Number 2

The reading and studying of AoW has threatened to become the much dreaded prolonged campaign.  But Sun Tzu also pointed out:

"Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays." ~ Same page, Same part, Number 5.

Though the last part is a downer due to my procrastination, the first part is a pick-me-upper.  Haste does not make great.  The way I read it is:  if a war is not won in a day, why should I expect to the study thereof to be accomplished any faster?  You see, there is much of Sun Tzu's advice to digest.  I'll get dyspepsia of the mind if I try to consume too fast.

That reminds me of a fresher source of advice.  A Science Daily article covered a study on complex decisions and thinking with the following result:

"the volunteers who were told to consciously think about the decision for a specific amount of time performed poorly in both experiments [conducted in the study]."  (emphasis mine)

And that: 

"although unconscious thought may help us make the right decision in some instances, it is often better to rely on self-paced conscious thought and really focus on the problem at hand."
Basically, the study showed that putting a time frame on the decision resulted in poorer decision-making results than letting your unconscious decide or letting yourself decide at your own pace.  This involved complex decisions, however.  But it made me wonder:  can it be applied elsewhere in our lives?  Namely, are we wrong to set a specific time-limit on our goals?  So, I began to think, what's the harm in testing my theory out by choosing to read and study at my own pace?--as long as their is an actual pace involved.  Non-existent or when I get to it doesn't quite count, I'm afraid.  Let's see, shall we?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nanowrimo 2010

This year's nanowrimo novel is second novel in the Walker series.  The first of the series was last year's nano winner.  It's been quite a while since I wrote fiction, so in preparation for this year's marathon, I am starting a personal marathon.  I will rewrite Novel #1. 

Stay tuned for more information on this series, my rewriting technique, and how it goes.