Posted in Planning, Writing

Update…

Can you believe we’re already in June?! May was one of those weird months, you know the kind that seems to take forever at the time, but when you look back it feels like it flew by?

I’ll be honest: May was a bit of a flop on the writing front. Very little happened with my WIP, I fell behind and then off the wagon completely with the Twitter hashtag games I like, and struggled to meet my targets on here for weekly posts.

However, May was not a total loss. I didn’t get round to finishing the second half of my synopsis like I wanted to, but I did start plotting the first book in the series. I’m trying to outline each of the major plot points first, using the 3-Act Structure, and then look at filling in the in-between scenes after.

I also sat down and have planned out achievable (fingers crossed) writing goals from now until next February. They are written down, colour-coded, and pinned to my notice board in an attempt to keep me focused.

My aim for June is to finish plotting and planning book 1, and have a decent enough over-view of the entire series outlined as well (because foreshadowing). Then when Camp NaNoWriMo starts again next month, I will *hopefully* be able to start my first draft. Finally!

That’s the plan anyway ūüôā

On top of that, I’m going to try and get back to posting on here a little more regularly, and be around on Twitter more often.

Small steps, I know, but as long as I’m moving forwards, the speed doesn’t really matter at this point.

Hope you all have a productive June, and if you’re interested in taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo next month, have a look at their website here.

Useful Info…

…about Planning.

planning

From what I’ve read on Twitter, and different blog posts/articles/opinion pieces by other writers, there are 2 (possibly 3) different styles of planning for a writing¬†project.

These are known as:

  • Plotting
  • Pantsing
  • Hybrid

1) A Plotter (can also be referred to¬†as an Architect…) is someone who is big on planning. These types of people like to get¬†the world building, character profiles, story arc etc. done before they sit down to actually start writing their book.

2) A Pantser (can also be referred to as a Gardener…) is someone who prefers to start writing straight away and see where the story takes them. Structure, details and other key points are worked on/added in later drafts.

3) A Hybrid (not sure what else they’re called…) is pretty self-explanatory. These people combine the above methods, perhaps starting with a basic outline and then adding to it as they write and the ideas are flowing.

Personally, I think I’m probably more of a Plotter. I like to know who my characters are, where the story is going and what my fantasy world looks like before I start writing. Once I get going, I’m more than happy to be flexible and go off track if the story needs me to, but I like to have something I can look back at if I get stuck.

How about you? Are you a Plotter, a Pantser or a Hybrid?

Useful Info…

…about NAMES.

600px-hello_my_name_is_sticker-svg

If you’re anything like me, you have no problem when it comes to creating characters and dreaming up worlds. Yet, when it comes to the point where you actually have to write about them, you realise they need names…and that’s when everything comes grinding to a halt.

I tend to know the names of my main characters as soon as they come to life in my imagination, but when I’m trying to decide¬†what to call anyone and anything else, my mind seems to go annoyingly blank.

It’s not something I’d really given much consideration to before I actually started trying to write my first novel, but there can be¬†a lot of different things that need naming. This is especially true if you’re writing a fantasy series and having to start from scratch.

Things such as:

  • Any other character/creature in your story.
  • Countries, kingdoms, nations and dynasties…
  • Planets, galaxies, starships and space ports…
  • Cities, towns, villages, estates…
  • Forests, mountain ranges, rivers and deserts…
  • Bridges, roads, rivers and seas…

These are just the ones I can think of, off the top of my head. Some of them may not be relevant to your current WIP, but I have no doubt there will be more than just your hero and villain who need a name.

There are lots of great resources out there for those of you who, like me, struggle to think of the minutiae when your head is full of the ‘bigger picture’. Here’s a good resource that can get you started:

Fantasy Name Generators. 

They have a lot of different categories for both people and places, and although some are slightly outlandish, there should be something in there that can at least get your creative juices going, if nothing else.

Have a look and see what you think, or let me know if there are any other sites that have worked wonders for you!

Posted in Planning, World Building, Writing

Update…

…for January 2017.

Can you believe it’s February already?! This past month has flown by, but thankfully I managed to get everything done that I intended to.

So here’s a quick update on my progress for January:

  1. Started a blog (obviously…)
  2. Set up a Twitter account
  3. Set up a Goodreads account
  4. Started an authors page on Facebook (but not published it yet)
  5. Completed my World Building
  6. Drawn all maps for my new fantasy world
  7. Started a spreadsheet for main & sub-plots
  8. Started chapter outlines
  9. Started character profiles
  10. Started a notebook with ideas for up-coming blog posts

I’m feeling pretty positive about how much I’ve managed to do in just the past few weeks, and am actually starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere. I’m even ahead of schedule in terms of where I hoped to be at the start of this month.

Trying to set up an online presence (Twitter, blogging, Goodreads etc,) has probably been the hardest in terms of not really knowing what I’m doing, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it now.

Finishing my World Building took the longest, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but was also the most rewarding. I felt like I’d completed a major step towards writing my book, and feel more focused and confident about moving forward.

For February, I want to continue working on my social media accounts, finish my character profiles and plotting spreadsheet, and try to get a more substantial chapter outline completed.

Hope you had a good January and managed to get everything done on your to-do list. Here’s to an equally productive February!

Posted in Planning, World Building, Writing

World Building…

…is one of my favourite things about writing. It doesn’t matter if your story is set in this world, or one of your own invention, having some sort of idea about things such as the geography, inhabitants, history and technology present, is going to make it easier for¬†the reader to step inside your imagination. Your world needs to be extensive enough to create a believable backdrop for whatever adventures you’re sending your characters on. Having your world ‘set in stone’ will also help you to be consistent throughout your book (and series, if you’re writing one).

World Building is an important part of the planning process for me because it lays the foundation for everything else that I’m going to include in my story. ¬†It’s kind of like creating a solid and structurally sound room, into which the rest of your ideas, characters and plot devices can be stored. ¬†If the world in which your story takes place is clearly defined, then it’s easier to figure out whether or not certain actions, sequences and events can logically happen there.

For example Рit would have been difficult for readers to go along with the idea of Frodo and Sam googling how to get to Mordor when that kind of technology is obviously out-of-place in Middle Earth.

When sitting down to start World Building I have a list of areas, or ideas, that are essential (for me) to make notes on:

  • Location
  • Inhabitants
  • Society
  • Geography
  • History

These points are general enough that you can use them to detail a fantasy world of your own creation, or¬†have them as¬†a starting point for describing a location in the real world. Obviously, you can add/use your own versions of these because not all of them may be relevant to what you are working on, but I’ll give a run-down of what I cover in each area, just so you get an idea of what works for me.

  1. Location: Where & When
    • ¬†Where – Identify which world your¬†story is set in.
      • Are you using real-life, recognisable locations.
      • Are you on Earth, but there are hidden sections of society or doorways into other worlds (like Harry Potter, & the Narnia series).
      • Have you created a whole new world of your own (think J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth).
    • When – What time period are you¬†aiming for.
      • Past – is your story set in¬†historical times (in terms of clothes & technology etc.).
      • Present – are you in the here and now.
      • Future – has society and technology advanced, or are you aiming for a dystopian fiction¬†with a mix of modern and medieval.
  2. Inhabitants: Who and/or What
    • Who – who are the main inhabitants of your world.
      • Identify the protagonist(s) of your story.
      • Who are your antagonists and what is their relationship with the protagonist?
      • Are you going to have a villain? ***NB ~ Remember that villains and antagonists are not necessarily the same: a villain is a bad guy, and generally seen as evil by the heroes; whereas, an antagonist is just someone who is in opposition to the hero (like the Chief Inspector in the Pink Panther: he’s constantly in opposition to Inspector Clouseau, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy).***
    • What – will there be¬†magic and/or other species?
      • Magic – is it present in your world. Who uses it? What kind of magic is it. How is it looked on by the rest of society.
      • Other species – will there be other human-like creatures or talking animals (think Narnia). What about mythical creatures (like dragons and unicorns).
  3. Society: Type, Politics, Religion, Technology, Economy & Education.
    • ¬†Type – ¬†what kind of society are you writing about?
      • Hunter/Gatherer – pretty self-explanatory.
      • Pastoral – a nomadic lifestyle, typically revolves around tending flocks and domesticating animals.
      • Agrarian – or agricultural society, organised around farming.
      • Feudal – A Lord or Master owns the land and provides military protection for those living & working on it in exchange for labour.
      • Industrial – think factories, machinery and mechanisation etc.
      • Post-industrial – based on knowledge, information and selling of services.
    • Politics – what is the¬†political climate of the world your story is set in?
      • National government – democracy; dictatorship; monarchy; or something else.
      • Judiciary – are there police officers, courts and judges etc.; or some other kind of system.
      • Military – is there a nationalised one; a system where towns and cities protect themselves; or something of your own invention.
    • Religion – what are the moral and spiritual values of your society and how are they manifest?
      • Is there a national religion.
      • Are there multiple religions living harmoniously/in conflict.
      • Is there no religion at all (i.e. it’s been banned/become obsolete).
      • If there is some sort¬†of religious observance, what form does this take?
      • Does religion cause any conflict in your world? If so, how and why?
    • Technology – what levels of technological advancements has your world made?
      • More or less advanced than our world.
      • A mix of technologies: modern & medieval combined.
      • Futuristic super advancements where everything is completely automated.
    • Economy – How wealthy is the world you’re writing about and what¬†effect does that have on its citizens?
      • Trade – how does selling and purchasing work. ¬†Are there foreign trade links. Which industry creates most of the¬†wealth.
      • Money – are you going to use an already established system¬†or create your own.
      • Class – is there a class system. How does it work?
      • Standard of Living – think about housing, sanitation, hygiene levels, health care etc.
    • Education – what type of systems are in place, and how well do they work/how far do they reach?
      • What is the general education level of your world.
      • At what age do people leave school and start working.
      • Is education available to all, or only a select few (i.e. the wealthy).
      • Is schooling nationalised and standardised.
  4. Geography: Cities/Towns, Countries and Foreign Powers
    • Cities/Towns – Where specifically is your story set?
      • If set in a¬†real place, use a map to make sure you get street names and directions right.
      • If set in a fantasy world, maybe draw a simple map of your own, to help you visualise the setting, and keep descriptions consistent.
    • Countries – countries can be land-locked; mountainous; desert-filled; or islands etc. Again, if real, look at a map, and if fictional, consider drawing your own.
    • Foreign Powers – If relevant, who are the neighbouring countries? Is your world at war: who are the key players? Maps can be useful here too.
  5. History: Local, National & Global
    • Local – is there any local history that is relevant to your story/characters? e.g.:
      • Old family feuds
      • Long oppression of an¬†evil Land Owner
      • Myths and Legends
    • National – a general history of your world can give context for certain crisis’.
      • Is there a specific government type because of something big that happened in the past.
      • Are certain laws in place for a reason. How do these affect your characters.
    • Global – are there any international histories that may need mentioning?
      • World Wars/conflicts with other nations.
      • Alliances.
      • ‘Anything else’ that has an affect on the present.

At first glance it seems like a lot of information to get down, but as I said at the start, this is just what works for me, and not everything on here may be relevant to your project. At university I figured out that I get much better results when I¬†thoroughly plan and organise, than if I just try writing it straight off the cuff. ¬†I find I can spin¬†out¬†a first draft much quicker¬†when I know what I’m talking about.

I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly good ways to go about World Building¬†for your story, the trick is to find the one that best suits your style. Feel free to borrow all or part of my process if you’d like, or have a look around at what works for others. ¬†Either way, make sure you take the time to build your world, even if it’s just by making a few bullet points…

***HOWEVER***

…don’t forget that this is only meant to inform your writing, not replace it. Prep and planning are merely prerequisites to the main event: actually writing your book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Organisation, Planning, Writing

Being organised…

…is often half the battle. At least that’s how it always seems to be for me. I finally get to the point where I have decided on an idea or project, and committed to seeing it through, but then I get stuck at where and how to start.

Thankfully in this instance, my trusty Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2017¬†is proving to be invaluable and has countless suggestions for the novice author lacking direction. ¬†The chapter which stood out to me as an obvious starting point was ‘The writer’s ultimate¬†workspace’,¬†by Rib Davis (p. 635 for those of you interested).

As someone who likes things neat and tidy (in theory if not always in practice…) this seemed like an ideal place for me to start.

Davis goes through some key points that are well worth looking in to.  Have a read of the chapter for yourself, but the main things I took away were suggestions such as:

  • Location: ‘finding the ideal workspace’ can make all the difference to a writer’s level of productivity. ¬†Knowing what works for you, or taking the time to figure it out if you’re not sure is definitely worth doing.
    • Think about your ideal temperature
    • How close are the ‘amenities’ (food, water, loo…)
    • Do you prefer a window view or are you too easily distracted by clouds?
    • Isolation vs. a bit of ‘background noise’
    • Are dark/bold/muted/no colours better for your concentration
  • People: are you the kind of person who needs to be in complete isolation to get in the ‘zone’ or do you prefer not to be cut off from the rest of the world?
    • Working from home – how easy is it for your family/roommates/whoever to distract you?
    • A door with a lock can be useful if small children are in the house so they can’t keep interrupting you (*to be clear: lock yourself away, not the child…*)
    • Be selfish – make sure people know not to interrupt you if you’re writing: this is your job (hopefully).
    • Explain that just because you’re taking a break does not necessarily mean you are available either, sometimes you just need a brew/wee/stretch of the legs.
  • Space: making sure you have enough room to do everything associated with writing is also important. ¬†It’s not just about having space for your laptop/pen and paper.
    • Think about research and planning. ¬†Is there space for your notes to be out and available while you’re writing.
    • Admin work – a lot of people forget that things connected with publishing/producing/selling your work take up space too.
    • Files – having a good physical and electronic filing system in place is invaluable, and takes up space! Make sure there is room in your work area for this.

Finally, Davis sprinkles his essay with a few useful suggestions to help make your workspace more writer-friendly and keep distractions to a minimum:

  1. Write offline – obviously research and planning may need some online time but when you actually sit down to write, make sure you’re not going to be distracted by constant alerts and notifications, or even just the lure of checking your Twitter feed or Facebook messages.
  2. Turn off email notifications – You may not want/be able/know how to work offline, in which case you can alter your computer settings to make sure that your emails and social media accounts don’t keep popping up in the middle of author-ing. Have a dedicated time to check all of that, and then log out and leave them alone.
  3. Ignore your phone – just because it’s ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it. ¬†You can set it to silent/vibrate or even airplane mode if you really don’t want anything coming through. Some phones have settings where you can have it on silent but pre-programmed important numbers will still be able to get through (eg. pregnant wife/elderly mother/kids’ schools) so that emergencies won’t be missed.
  4. Use books – online dictionaries and thesaurus’ can be useful, but inaccessible if working offline. Invest in a good physical copy of each, and any other books that may be relevant to your specific genre/project.
  5. Take breaks – combat exhaustion, writer’s block, cramping fingers or a numb bum by getting up and stepping away for a little bit every so often. Then come back refreshed and ready to resume writing!

Quite a lot of good things to think about, some of which I’d never really given much consideration to before and all of which are probably applicable to other work-from-home professions too.

Personally, I can’t sit by a window because I do get too easily distracted by clouds, so the dining room is a great place for me. ¬†I don’t like being interrupted by people but I do need a bit of background noise, so having the TV on quietly in the other room while my husband is out is the perfect solution. ¬†Our dining table is big enough for all of my files, folders and books for the projects I’m currently working on, and I actually quite enjoyed spending this morning sorting through everything and getting it all organised in a way that works for me.

It doesn’t look like much, but I feel like the day has been productive, and as I’ve sat here researching, writing, planning, and currently blogging, I’ve felt calm and in control because I know that everything I need is in reach, and there’s no clutter, people or clouds to distract me.