Writing Tips

Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #8

Welcome to the Issue #8 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7

Enjoy!

Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsJeanNicole Rivers presents Elements of a Character Study posted at JeanNicole Rivers, saying, “Character is all about fear, tragedy and outcome. We have all heard the quote, ‘It is not your beliefs that make you a good person, but your actions.’ and from thinking like this we derive that it is what you do, especially in times of adversity that forge ones character.”


fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents How To Create Mystery posted at Write With Fey, saying, “Mystery is not just a genre but an emotion that can be used in any story. Here are TEN TIPS to help you create mystery in your story.”


fiction writing tipsMarjorie Reynolds presents Making Your Characters Extreme posted at Story Fix, saying, “If you want to write a novel that readers will remember decades or even centuries later, learn from the masters and populate it with one or more extreme characters. You’ll find they’ll not only linger in a reader’s mind, but they’ll give your story energy and heighten your own interest in writing it.”


fiction writing tipsVictoria Grefer presents 5 Ways to Share a Point of View That Contrasts With Your Protagonist’s posted at Crimson League, saying, “How important is it, when writing, to provide multiple points of view and multiple sides of the story? This is something all authors ask themselves, and it’s an important question without a clear cut answer.”


fiction writing tipsDebra Elramey presents What Do You Do When Your Muse Is On Vacation? posted at The Write Practice, saying, “I asked a friend yesterday if she mainly wrote out of inspiration, or if she’d mastered the discipline of sitzfleisch. She was quick to say, “I write when I’m inspired.””


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsA. Howitt presents How to Write Love Scenes posted at Mythic Scribes, saying, “As fantasy writers, we accept that certain elements are expected in our novels. For example, the fight scene. Whether it’s an epic battle or a street duel, there’s going to be a fight somewhere. But what about love?”


fiction writing tipsRobin Storey presents Writers’ research – the methods we use to get it right posted at Robin Storey, saying, “Author Robin Storey looks at the different methods of research used by writers to ensure the authenticity of their novels.”


fiction writing tipsAndre Cruz presents 5 Creative Writing Prompts to Break Your Writer’s Block posted at The Word, saying, “I have found that when I am experiencing writer’s block, the best method to break it is using creative writing prompts. For those of you that do not know, creative writing prompts can be a word or phrase that a writer puts down on paper to get them thinking about a story idea by simply trying to create a story from that word or phrase.”


fiction writing tipsRandy Ross presents Top Secret Work Habits of the Successful Novelist posted at The Loneliest Planet by Randy Ross, saying, “Recently, I’ve been working on my novel at the local library, where I don’t have Web access to distract me. Last week, a successful novelist* started coming in to work on what I’m assuming is his next book. So, I’ve had the good fortune to observe his routine, which I’d like to share.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsJo Linsdell presents Advice for Writers posted at Writers and Authors, saying, “When I immerse myself in my writing– attend a writing group, and practice with short works or exercises– an amazing thing happens. My writing gets better. How can I tell? I edit less, the tone stays consistent, and I can feel emotion in what I wrote. As with any activity, practice makes perfect.”


fiction writing tipsLovelyn Bettison presents Interview with author A.D. Koboah posted at Comments for H. Lovelyn Bettison, saying, “This is an interview with self-published author A.D. Koboah. In it she talks about the inspiration for her novel Peace and why she is attracted to writing about dark subject matter.”


fiction writing tipsKimberley Grabas presents 2 Must-Dos to Make Your Book Marketing Infinitely Easier posted at Your Writer Platform, saying, “Why is it that your book marketing is falling short? You’re trying to implement as many of the tricks and tips that the ‘experts’ recommend, but few of your marketing tactics are gaining traction. Sure, you haven’t tried EVERYTHING yet, but you’ve tried enough to move the needle at least a smidge, right? There’s no question that building a strong platform takes time, and gaining momentum–even with a sound marketing plan–requires the patience of a saint. But something just isn’t jiving.”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on December 31, 2013 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #7

Welcome to the Issue #7 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6

Enjoy!

Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents How To Build Suspense posted at Write With Fey, saying, “Suspense makes your reader’s heart pound uncontrollably, their hands sweat around your book, and drives them to read faster so they can turn the page to find out what is going to happen next. Here are ten tips to help you build suspense.”


fiction writing tipsAva Jae presents How to Write Emotion Effectively posted at Writability, saying, “[…]showing emotion is sometimes a little easier said than done. Where do you even begin? If you’re having trouble, it may help to use these four steps.”


fiction writing tipsRoz Morris presents Dialogue special part 2: dialogue is more than talking posted at Nail Your Novel, saying, “Dialogue is action. Dialogue is a kind of action scene. Although the conversation is the main focus, the characters are more than just mouths.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsBryan Chau presents Putting The M.C. Hammer On Grammar posted at Success Pen Pal, saying, “grammar, writing, speaking, success, etc.”


fiction writing tipsRinelle Grey presents 7 Tips to Help you Write More posted at Rinelle Grey, saying, “So frequent releases have a lot of advantages, BUT, only if you’re writing is good. So the question is, how can you increase your writing output, without sacrificing quality? Here are some of my tips.”


fiction writing tipsJody Hedlund presents Plotting: How to Know Which Scenes to Include in Your Book posted at Jody Hedlund, saying, “While I don’t believe there’s a hard, fast rule or formula for which scenes to write out in detail and which ones to summarize, I think there are a few principles we can keep in mind when choosing scenes to include in our books.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsJon presents The Perfect Way To Fail posted at COMFORT PIT, saying, “An in-depth article on perfectionism, failure and creative expectations in writing and art. The post combines examples from the scientific literature with real case studies of well known artists. I think this is a must read for anyone serious about tackling the creative lifestyle.”


fiction writing tipsSamir Bharadwaj presents Fighting the Procrastination of Significant Moments posted at Samir Bharadwaj dot Com, saying, “We wait for the right moment, the right date, the right time, the right amount of experience, all procrastinating against doing things now. Fight the impulse.”


Bonus Round For NaNoWriMo

fiction writing tipsKristen Lamb presents How to Make Sure Your NaNo Project Isn’t a Hot Mess posted at Kristen Lamb’s Blog, saying, “I LOVE NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is November). It is a fantastic way to push ourselves and also for new writers to be introduced to a professional pace and a professional attitude. When we do this “writing thing” for a living, we have to write no matter what.”


fiction writing tipsChuck Wendig presents WELCOME TO NANOWRIMO PREP SCHOOL, WORD-NERDS posted at Terribleminds, saying, “If you are not yet putting words down daily, you need to flex them penmonkey muscles, so that, come November, you can pop open your word processor and say, “TWO TICKETS TO THE PEN SHOW,” which will earn you weird looks because.”


fiction writing tipsRinelle Grey presents 10 Tips for Preparing for NaNoWriMo posted at Rinelle Grey, saying, “I’ve seen quite a few of these “preparing” for NaNoWriMo posts around lately. I’m loving reading everyone else’s suggestions, so I thought I’d write some of my own.”


fiction writing tipsKristen Lamb presents NaNoWriMo—Training Lean, Mean, Writing Machines posted at Kristen Lamb’s Blog, saying, “NaNo is a lot like a military bootcamp. Many who sign up for military service aren’t in the fittest condition. Sure, we might meet the weight requirements (or get a waiver), but most of us don’t start out being able to knock out a hundred pushups on the spot. We likely have little experience running ten miles with a heavy pack of gear on our backs.”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on November 30, 2013 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Re-reading Favorite Old Books

old books

I fell in love with books from the moment I learned how to spell. Reading was one of my favorite past-times during childhood. Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Stanislaw Lem, and so many others. I just loved their work.

At the time, I couldn’t tell exactly why I loved it. It was something that came from withing, from inside of me. It was as if I was caught in a net and thrown in a new world, a world of make-belief where everything was possible. It was a great time.

Since then, I’ve never stopped reading, but as time went by, I left some of those old books to catch dust on the shelves. Some of them got damaged or lost, or lent to people who think lending is gifting. Some disappeared during moves, or house reorganizations. But none of them left my head.

Years later, when I started to study the craft of writing I found myself immersed in a sea of non-fiction books. I had to. Imagination is not enough to write something that people would want to read. So I read those books cover to cover, some of them a few times. I made notes, I attended seminars, workshops, and conferences. I joined a writing group. All good steps. My writing improved.

Then, one day, I had this crazy idea: I wanted to read Dune again. (For those of you who haven’t read Dune by Frank Herbert, please close your reading device right now and head on to your local bookstore. You can’t waste another day without reading that book.) Anyway, I read this book again and I had a shock. The book was ten times better than the first time around.

Why? Because now I was reading it with writer’s eyes. I was reading it with the theoretical knowledge about the elements of fiction. As I was reading it, I was able to pinpoint almost every bit of advice that those non-fiction books taught me. I discovered all those things the workshop teachers were talking about. They were all there, in front of my eyes.

books-pileSo, I continued. I re-read Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Le Guin, Jordan. I went to all the greats in the genres that I love. With my new knowledge, those stories got new meanings. Not the stories themselves; those were still the same. But the way it was presented now became obvious. Now I started to understand why I liked them so much when I was young. Because these writers were masters who already knew how to put the theory into practice. By reading them again and paying attention to the writing, I was able to draw a direct line between that theory and practice.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King said: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” […] “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

So, here is my advice, based on my personal epiphany: Just because you read some books in the past, doesn’t mean you should forget about them and just put a check-mark in your list. As you develop your writing skills go back to the works that moved you. Go back to those novels and short stories that had an impact on you. Remember those characters that you so badly wanted to be when you were a child? Find those books. Read them again with new eyes: not with the eyes of a reader who wants to be entertained, but with the eyes of a writer who wants to learn how to entertain others.

If you do this, I guarantee your skill will improve exponentially and you will soon become a better writer!

All the best,

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Writing Inspiration in Everyday Items

brainstorming2As a writer, I have many ideas. They come to me in different shapes and forms and strike me at the weirdest times. I try to keep a notepad by my side, but it’s not always possible.

There are other times when ideas just don’t seem to freely come anymore. It’s like hitting a sandbox while running on a highway. It slows me down. It bothers me.

Normally I work on multiple projects at any given time, so I can switch between them, but every week I make a point to have a brainstorming session and get some fresh ideas for my idea binder.

Recently, I attended a free workshop organized by the Gotham Writers. They partnered with Bryant Park in New York City and during the summer they organize workshops and readings outdoors. I recommend these meetings to any writer living in New York. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot of good things.

Anyway, at this workshop the presenter gave us a system for coming up with ideas. He attributed this method to Ray Bradbury, but I wasn’t able to find a proof for that. It could be. Either way, I took that idea and I made it mine by changing it a little bit. So, here I am to share with you: How to get endless ideas?

First of all, go to a place that is less familiar. This means get out of your usual environment. If you work in your home office, or your business, just go someplace else. If you are inside, go outside, if you are outside, go inside. Even better- try to use the opportunity of being in a place that is completely unfamiliar, like visiting something new, or a place that changes often, like a flea market. The goal here is to get away from all the things that are too usual to your day to day life.

Step One: Root Item

Once in this place, look around. Do a 360 and allow your eyes to feast on the sights. What do you see? You don’t have to look for things out of the ordinary, but if you happen to see one, take note of it. Start writing down the things that catch your eye. Stop at 10. You now have a list of 10 items. Here’s an example:

Bus, Pole, Bench, Tree, Statue, Calculator, Flag, Bush, Pebble, Bird

Step Two: Making it specific

In the course of doing this, your eyes might fall on the same thing in different sessions. To make it more diverse, we will take each item and make it specific. This is where you will use your senses. Listen. Look. Smell. Touch what is near you (make sure it’s not a person, though!). Feel with your body. Is there a vibration in the air? Is there a sublime calm? Use all your senses and come up with qualifiers, like this:

Blue, Shivering, Lean, Loud, Rude, Stiff, Enormous, Stinky, Flat, Snug

Step Three: Connect Them

Now, draw random lines connecting one root item with one modifier. Add a “The” in front of them and watch the results. Don’t over-think it and try to keep it random. Here’s mine:

brainstorming

Results:
“The Enormous Bus”
“The Blue Pole”
“The Flat Bench”
“The Lean Tree”
“The Shivering Statue”
“The Stiff Calculator”
“The Stinky Flag”
“The Rude Bush”
“The Loud Pebble”
“The Snug Bird”

Now that you have this list, you might want to pick the top five. Reading these potential titles, which ones begin to give you some idea of a potential story? Here are my selections, from my example:

“The Flat Bench”
“The Lean Tree”
“The Shivering Statue”
“The Rude Bush”
“The Loud Pebble”

Step Four: Characters (optional)

If you want to take it a step further, you can add some characters to these ideas. If you happen to be in a place with people, it’s all good. If you are home, maybe turn on the news channel and wait to see something. Otherwise, maybe you can just imagine some characters, or borrow characters that you love from your favorite stories. Write just a couple of lines and give them a name, like this:

Steve ParkseTall, skinny, messy hair, but perfect business suit. Nice polished leather suitcase, but worn-down shoes. He smiles but there’s something dark in his eyes.

Angela DawsonSporty and short, with long hair in a high pony tail. Perfectly manicured nails. Too much make-up. She walks with confidence, head held high.

Tim McNealyStocky guy, wears suspenders. Walks sluggishly holding a sub in one hand and Fitness magazine in the other. He’s dressed in gym clothes.

Now that we got a few characters, let’s throw them in the mix:

“Tim And The Flat Bench”
“Steve And The Lean Tree”
“Angela And The Shivering Statue”
“Frodo And The Rude Bush”
“Sherlock Holmes And The Loud Pebble”

Did you see what I did there?

Step Five: Write!

All right, now we got some cool ideas. Are they stories yet? Not really, but they do start to point towards a story, don’t they? That was the goal of this exercise- to get you started.

Keep these notes, accumulate them in a binder or your favorite software and every time you hit a rough spot, take them out and start writing. Don’t judge, don’t edit. Your goal is to fire up your imagination. Take any of these one line titles and write about them. You don’t even have to write the entire story. A scene, or a paragraph is enough. You’ll thank yourself.

I am curious to hear what you think about this method? Do you use any similar systems to fire up your imagination? If so, share with us!

Also, please help me spread this article by tweeting it:

[Tweet “Writing Inspiration in Everyday Items #fictionwriting”]

Thank you and keep at it!

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Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #6

Welcome to the Issue #6 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

Enjoy!

Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents Protagonist vs Antagonist posted at Write With Fey, saying, “A protagonist is the main character in a novel or story that all the action revolves around. They are the hero of the story, the one we are rooting for from beginning to end… An antagonist is a person who opposes, competes with, and fights against the main character in a novel. They are the villain of the story, the one we are hoping will fall to their demise.”


fiction writing tipsVictoria Grefer presents 5 Ways to Share a Point of View That Contrasts With Your Protagonist’s posted at Creative Writing with the Crimson League, saying, “How important is it, when writing, to provide multiple points of view and multiple sides of the story? This is something all authors ask themselves, and it’s an important question without a clear cut answer.”


fiction writing tipsElizabeth S. Craig presents When Your Work in Progress Needs Early Revisions posted at Mystery Writing Is Murder, saying, “As I mentioned last week, I recently turned in a teaser chapter and an outline to one of my Penguin editors. This particular editor likes to see an outline before a book is written.”


fiction writing tipsDebra Eve presents How to Create a Three-Phase Writing Ritual posted at Write It Sideways, saying, “Literature abounds with the quirky things writers do to entice the muse. […] If you’re having trouble putting the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair, a writing ritual might hold the answer.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsGeoff Hughes presents Stop making excuses. 6 ways to get your writing on track posted at The Write Stuff Blog, saying, “Stop making excuses. 6 ways to get your writing on track”


fiction writing tipsJessica S presents Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal posted at The Write Shadow, saying, “How do you know what to publish and what to keep to yourself?”


fiction writing tipsPaul Draker presents How To Get Great Amazon Reviews For Your Brand-New Novel posted at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, saying, “If you’re reading this, maybe you’re a newbie writer like me. A story idea sinks its hooks into your brain and won’t let go. You find yourself grinning into an open refrigerator, whatever you were going to grab forgotten as the perfect plot twist or high-concept hook reveals itself to you. Your spouse/kid/significant-other has to repeat themselves three times before you realize you’re still standing there with frost forming on you’re face. And still grinning like an idiot.”


fiction writing tipsDave Navarro presents 7 Can’t-Miss Ways To Kick-Start The Writing Habit posted at Freelance Folder, saying, “Blogging can bring your business exposure, credibility, and whole lot more revenue – so it’s in your best interest to deliver a steady stream of powerful writing. But for a lot of us, that’s a tall order. If you’re finding your creative juices running a little dry, this list of quick and easy tips is sure to get them flowing again.”


fiction writing tipsLarry Brooks presents The Writing Tip That Changed My Life posted at Storyfix, saying, “As I sit here and pound on my new ebook, “101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters,” there’s one tip that haunts me, and has for the last three decades (yeah, I’m that old). It was a milestone and a perspective that changed everything, and a reminder that sometimes the little things we offer to others can make a profound difference in their lives.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsBryan Chau presents Fair Use Or Abuse – Copyright Edition For Indie Authors posted at Success Pen Pal, saying, “indie author, self-publishing, copyright, fair use, infringement, success, strategies, eBooks, etc.”


fiction writing tipsKimberley Grabas presents 34 Strategic Ways You Can Use Pinterest to Market Your Book and Your Author Brand posted at Your Writer Platform, saying, “Pinterest is exploding! And with it, so too are the opportunities for authors to expand their reach and increase their book promotion and brand awareness. Now the third largest social network, Pinterest acts as a virtual pin board that helps you organize and share things you find on the web. As you surf, you can pin images from other sites onto Pinterest where others can re-pin those same images. People head to Pinterest to find solutions, get ideas and to be inspired. Plus pinners are buyers. Hmmm… So how do we encourage them to be book buyers–your book buyers?”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on October 31, 2013 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

read more

Quick Manuscript Editing Tips

self-editing-fixing-manuscriptThere are a dozen theories about editing and endless books with tips about it. But, in the end, editing is almost never pleasant. It’s an annoying process and almost all writers dread it.

This article doesn’t claim to solve that problem. By all means, if you find a solution, let me know! Instead, this article is a list of things you can apply right now to lessen the burden of the editing process. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have to read that manuscript endless times and chop it up, but if you can do some things in bulk, from the start, why wouldn’t you?

I am talking about a series of word combinations that you can find using the search function in your word processor and fix them one after the other. If you consider all of these and you fix them all, when you are ready to start the actual line editing, you will find the process much faster, because you had already fixed a lot of things.

Let’s begin.

“Started to” / “Began to”

The using of “started to” stems from the desire to explain everything to the reader, to the smallest detail. It’s your ‘he got up from the chair, walked to the window, turned the handle with his hand, closed the window, walked back to the chair and sat down.’ Exaggerated, I know, but I wanted to prove a point. That entire sentence can be replaced with ‘He closed the window.” The reader knows the man was sitting, and he knows he will be sitting again later, because you give him the proper action cues for that. So it is only reasonable to assume that, unless he possesses some type of magical powers, he had to get up, walk, close, and return to the chair. The reader can put things together.

Using ‘started to’ comes from the same place. You want to pinpoint to the reader when someone began doing something, but in fact, it is what that character is doing that you are trying to convey, and not the moment when he/she started doing it.

Look at this: “I’m done with this,” he said and started walking toward the car.

If he started walking, what happened right after? Did he stop? If he did, tell us, but if he didn’t stop, he didn’t just started walking, he walked:

“I’m done with this,” he said and walked toward the car.

Do you see the added power in this sentence? You can almost feel the angry character, walking toward his car. That’s because the ‘started to’ adds hesitation. It undercuts the strength of the emotion conveyed through the action.

You should look for all “started/began to” and “started/began ____ing” in your text and replace them with the right verb. Your characters will actually do something, instead of thinking of or beginning to do something. Try to use the strongest verb to show the right action every time.

“Kept / Continued”

When somebody does something, for example looking at something, and a few moments later they are still looking, do you really need to specify that he/she ‘continued’ to look? The answer is no.

Read this: ‘The girl continued to look at the ocean waves[…]’
Did you mean: ‘The girl stared at the ocean waves[…]’

Since the combination ‘kept doing something’ or ‘continued to do something’ implies that whatever the person was doing before, they are still doing it now, just mentioning what they are doing is fine.

There are exceptions here too, for example:

‘Look at me when I’m talking to you,’ Jim yelled. Margaret continued to stare out the window.

In this case we put the emphasis on ‘continued.’ Margaret is defiant, she keeps on ignoring the other person. We don’t care that she was looking out the window, we care that she continued to do something the other person doesn’t like.

“Could”

‘Could’ weakens sentences in many ways. Here’s an example: ‘She could see tear drops forming in the corner of his eye.’ We know she could see them, as long as she’s looking at them and she is not blind. But does she really see them? If the answer is yes, then why not: ‘She saw the tear drops forming in the corner of his eye.’

Introducing ‘could’ adds hesitation and doesn’t convey the proper message. If the character was blind before and now she ‘can’ see, it’s a different story. In this case the fact that she ‘can’ do something she wasn’t able to do before is the focus.

“Felt”

I hate ‘felt.’ In my first manuscript I must’ve removed 100 instances of ‘felt,’ and the text improved ten fold. That’s because a good story must create an emotional response in the reader. That emotional response connects the reader to the characters, it makes them love them or hate them. Either way, they connect. You must allow the reader to get those emotions by passing the characters’ feelings onto them. You must let the reader feel it, you must not tell them what to feel.

Using a sentence like: ‘She felt the blood boiling in her veins,‘ robs the reader from being able to experience that feeling and be in the character’s shoes. If the blood boils in your character’s veins and she DOESN’T feel it, then tell us. That’s interesting. But if you are trying to convey that she was angry, this will suffice:

‘Blood was boiling in her veins.’

Here’s another example:

‘She felt the warm breeze on her face and through her hair.’

Why not:

‘The warm breeze caressed her face and tousled her hair.’

Using ‘felt’ is the essence of ‘tell, don’t show,’ e.g. the opposite of what you want to do. Scout for that word, banish it, and replace it with a sentence where you show what the character felt.

“That”

‘That’ is good in many instances, but a lot of times it is redundant. See these examples:

a) ‘She looked at the table and grabbed the cup that she liked the most.’
b) ‘She looked at the table and grabbed the cup she liked the most.’

a) ‘She knew that Jack was going to hate it.’
b) ‘She knew Jack was going to hate it.’

Sometimes you need to use ‘that’ to add flow to your sentence, but make sure you only use it when you have to.

“Suddenly”

Side note: I won’t get too deep into the adverb usage theory here, but I want to touch on a couple of adverbs that I find particularly nasty and that crawl into first drafts like plague.

Suddenly is another word used as a prop to mark something that has changed unexpectedly. You say ‘suddenly’ as if to give the impression of the suspense music from a movie. The thing is, you don’t need it. Let the reader feel it’s suddenly. Most of the things that happen suddenly can only happen suddenly. Consider this example:

‘She pulled the covers over herself and opened the new book. Suddenly, a creak in the ceiling made her jolt.’

vs

‘She pulled the covers over herself and opened the new book. She was about to start reading when a creak in the ceiling made her jolt.’

Read it out loud and you will see how using the word “suddenly” actually kills the suspense. It’s like screaming ‘hey, something unexpected is about to happen!’ Instead, simply state the unexpected situation and readers will get it.

“Finally”

Finally makes the sentence reek of author’s feelings. When you say: ‘he finally looked up,’ you are creating a fake sense of tension. You can make this better by some visual cues and pauses. Example:

a) With ‘finally’:

“You either give me the money now, or I am calling the cops,” Mary shouted.
John looked at her and knew she wasn’t joking. “Fine,” he finally said, “take it. Take the damn money.”

b) Without ‘finally’:

“You either give me the money now, or I am calling the cops,” Mary shouted.
John looked at her and saw a glimmer of madness in her eyes. He drummed his fingers on his thigh, trying to gain some time. “Fine,” he said, convinced she wasn’t joking, “take it. Take the damn money.”

Of course, the second version is longer because we are trying to create that tension and pause captured by the word ‘finally’ through some internal thoughts and actions. The end result is that the pause seems natural and the answer after the tension created by the pause doesn’t need the ‘finally’ to send the same message of exasperation and of giving up.

“Quickly / Slowly”

Both quickly and slowly are words that are fine by themselves, but you must be careful not to use them redundantly. Did he ‘walk slowly to his room’ or did he ‘drag his feet to his room’? Did she ‘ran quickly through the kitchen’ or did she ‘sprint through the kitchen’? There are a lot of verbs that can be used to show an increase or decrease in intensity. It is far better to find and use those verbs directly, rather than add quickly or slowly to others.

“Exactly”

Unless used to expressly emphasize something, “exactly” doesn’t add any new information. It’s redundant. ’10 marbles’ is the same as ‘exactly 10 marbles.’ Sometimes the writer feels that ‘exactly’ helps emphasize the number that is being referred to, when in fact it distracts the reader from the facts. Don’t even get me started on ‘exactly the same.’

“Said”

Notwithstanding the neverending discussion about using “he/she said” all the time as dialog marker, versus anything else, in this article I wanted to point out a different technique: removing the “said” all together. This should not be a manuscript-wide rule, but just a method that you would sprinkle here and there to add diversity to your dialogue. Basically, instead of saying that he/she said something, make the character do something as though to make it clear that he or she is talking. Here are some examples:

“I get it,” Andrew said, “he doesn’t want to see me.”
“It’s not that,” Jane said, “he needs more time. Give him a week or so.”

vs

Andrew waved his hand. “I get it. He doesn’t want to see me.”
Jane shifted in her seat. “It’s not that. He needs more time. Give him a week or so.”

So, we conveyed the same information, without any speech cues. You can use this to add movement to your characters, especially in situations when there is nothing else going on in the room. To avoid the ‘talking heads’ syndrome, you can replace some of the speech cues with action, thus serving two purposes.

“Saw”

“Saw” is used a lot when the writer is trying to be too much inside the skin of the POV character. ‘She saw him move the vase back in it’s old spot.’ Well, again, if she is looking, she’s probably seeing. Why not turn it into action and load it with some emotion? Does she hate that he keeps moving the vase there? Then why not: ‘He had moved the vase back in it’s old spot for the tenth time and….’ In other words, if a characters sees something and you want to describe what he/she sees, it’s best to simply state it, with the understanding that the character sees it, and add a line about how does the character feel because of what he/she sees. Instead of stating something obvious, like the fact that a person with eyes can see, you are also loading emotion into the paragraph.

“Was _____ing” and “ing” verbs

The “ing” verbs slow down the pace of the story, so you should try to limit their usage, unless, of course, you are purposely trying to slow the pace down. The past tense, the combination of “was” followed by an “ing” verb is even slower. Consider these:

“He was walking down the sidewalk, heading toward the bank, when a red car passed him at high speed.”

vs.

“He walked down the sidewalk, toward the bank. A red car passed him at high speed.”

Read the sentences out loud. Do you feel how the second one seems faster?


That’s it! I hope this helps you. Let me know if you have any other suggestions in this category? I am always interested to know what other people do when editing their manuscripts.

Before you go, please help spread this article by tweeting it:[Tweet “Quick Manuscript Editing Tips”]

Best of luck,

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Creating a Fantasy World – Geography (Part 1)

Part 1 of the series Create a Fantasy World

Foreword

It’s good to be God, isn’t it? To be up there on some sort of high cloud, or a bicycle, or whatever else your godly environment permits, wiggling your fingers toward a dark corner of the Universe and have a new world spawn and take life under your eyes. It is good, and as a fiction writer, you get to be God every day. Sometimes on a smaller scale, sometimes on a larger scale. Sometimes your creations make you proud, other times they turn out of control and you must punish them.

But still, you get to be God, and that is what world-building gives you– the satisfaction of creation, the power to make life and watch it play in front of you, without leaving your desk.

Now, is your story the same as your world? The answer is no. Even in a milieu story, where setting is important, you must never forget the true components of a complete story. Simply put, a story is a bunch of interesting characters, involved in an interesting plot, raising a certain level emotional response in the reader, while everything is taking place in an interesting setting.

Let me ask you: if you drop ‘interesting’ in any of the parts of the sentence above, do you lose the story? Well, if you drop it out of characters, you will wind up with boring characters. Boring characters can’t elicit an emotional response, so your entire world will fall flat.

If you take interesting out of the plot, you will wind up with interesting characters doing something boring, and that’s no good either.

If you drop it from both, then why are you even writing?

On the other hand, if you drop interesting out of setting you don’t necessarily wind up with a flat story, unless you are writing fantasy or science fiction. Let me explain.

Let’s say you have a story set in New York City. Now, NYC is an interesting city, by all means, but is still just that: a city on Earth. Unless you are writing some sort of alternate history or post-apocalyptic situation, you pretty much know what to expect of a city. That’s what I mean by removing interesting. You don’t have to struggle to make it interesting. It’s already interesting as is, so your job is half done.

Same goes if you decide to write a new novel set in OZ. The premise of OZ is already there, you just ride the wave.

But when the time comes to invent a world from scratch, whether it’s fantasy or science fiction, it better be fresh, interesting, and functional, otherwise your story will not work well.

This series of posts deal with the world creation, giving you tangible, step-by-step solutions on how to go about it. Together with it, I will be building a world as we go along, using the same steps. At the end, I hope you and I both can have something cool to show off!

Chapter One: Geography and Natural Resources

And Then There Was Light…

Fantasy Map Big BangHow do you start a story? I’m sure you can think of several ways and various combinations of those ways. Usually different writers love one or another, or become more comfortable with one or another over time.
For example, you could start with one or a few characters, you can start with a plot line, or you can start with a setting. Either way, to get the complete story, you will still have to come up with all three and mesh them together in the best possible way.

Since one way to define ‘fantasy’ is something different than our reality, I like to start a fantasy story by looking at the world. There are many books on plot and character, and you can take those rules plus your own and apply them to any genre, from science fiction to romance and so on. The difference in a fantasy or science fiction story is that the specifics of the world are very important and often define the story.

So, I find it very useful to first define and understand the world, and later on let the characters play the plot in that world to shape the full story.

Since the Universe, any Universe, is infinite, any subset of the Universe is a Universe in itself. I like to break them down into two concepts: Macro-Universe and Micro-Universe. When I create my world, I always start with the Macro-Universe, and walk my way down to the Micro-Universe. Your story world will be somewhere between those two. Once I get that down, it’s a lot easier to work on the plot and the characters, since knowing where they are and what to expect from the environment will influence how they act, what they do, and what is possible or acceptable.

Think about some of the stories that you’ve read in the past and see if you can visualize the plot and the characters in a different location than the one in the book. Of course, you can, that’s why there are so many modern variations on the Wizard of OZ. Strong characters and powerful stories can happen anywhere. But a lot of times, just like in Oz, or Lord of The Rings, the story world is so strongly intertwined with the plot that it becomes unique and immediately recognizable, and that is what you want to shoot for.

This being said, I like to begin my worlds by thinking about the outer shell and working my way toward the inner shell.

In some instances you may not need to go as far. As we will see later, the geographical world is not something fixed in space and time. There is a history, there is a genesis, and there are interactions that made the world be what it is. You need to decide how important those are to your story. If they’re not, don’t spend lots of time on them. Maybe do it just for your own sake, to help you later on (remember the reader should only know 10% or so from the entire idea behind your world).

Just note that this becomes increasingly important if you are working on a series. Think it through from the start so you don’t find yourself in a corner three books into your series (and have to use tricks such as ‘and a wizard came from the sky and changed everything.’)

To begin, answer the following questions:

  • Is it important to know how the physical world came to be? Was it created by a deity, was it a result of some scientific evolution?
  • Is it important to know the place in space and time for this world, or do I only need to know my world, within its boundaries?

When you discuss the map for your world, which we’ll get to in just a moment, how do you picture that map? Is it on a planet, is it suspended in some sort of unknown structure, does it simply exist and no one knows or had ever wondered what lies beyond its boundaries?

Most of the time, especially if your world was created by a deity, it’s very helpful to have some answers to these questions. Especially if you will introduce religion and magic into your world later on, those concepts are usually significantly influenced by the way your world was created and where it exists. Just like humans are constantly preoccupied and in search of the origin and reason for life, your story world can go through the same turmoil, adding tension and drama to the world.

The Universe

Fantasy Map UniverseLet’s think about the Macro-Universe first, and for simplicity I’ll call this Universe (anything that is outside of the reach of your world). At the end of the day, your story will take place within physically limited bounds, such as a galaxy, planet, country, land, field, city, fortress, etc. Somewhere where characters can move, interact and where things can happen. That part is what I call the micro-Universe, but again, for simplicity, I will refer to it as ‘story world’.

In your case, the Universe could be very fuzzy, if it is unimportant to the story. For example, you may have some sort of land, delimited by the “Boundaries of Doom.” What lies beyond those boundaries? We don’t know, because we don’t care, in this example.

Your world will have characters in it, interacting, as we said. So, you need to draw a parallel between our real world and your imaginary world, and see how many of the things that we experience here on Earth can be applied to your world, and how many are worth changing.

Let me try to enumerate some of the things that come to mind:

  • Is your world underground, above ground, under water, or in the air?
  • Is there a day/night concept?
  • What is the source of light? Do you even need light? Is there a star (or more) similar to the Sun?

The easiest way to think about a Universe is a globe, or a sphere. It’s true that in reality an infinite Universe doesn’t have a center, because it is infinite, but for the purposes of creating an Universe for a story, think of it as a giant sphere. Your world is somewhere inside that sphere. Giving it that shape will make it easier for you to picture it.

Terraforming

Fantasy Map TerraformingOnce you established the idea of your Universe and gave your world a place inside it, now you have to start building the physical part of your world. I’m talking about your geography and natural resources.
You will probably revisit this many times and make adjustments required by your plot, but it’s a good idea to establish some initial rules.

Every time I have to create a new world, I struggle with this idea: how big should the world be? Let me teach you a little trick.

Think about Earth and do things relative to familiar earthly notions. Do you envision a world that is roughly as big as Paris, or as big as Europe, or as big as Africa, or maybe even as big as Earth, or perhaps twice as big as Earth? Either way, narrowing down the approximate size and finding a matching size on Earth will help you tremendously.

Once you have a mental approximate size for your world, think about a few aspects that will influence the way you define your world:

  • Can your characters transport over water? Do you want water?
  • Can your characters fly?

These two will influence the way you create your map. If there are ways for your characters to travel by water, with ships or other means, you could create oceans and seas between your lands. If your creatures can fly, you can create tall mountains or deep canyons; but if they can’t, be careful, you might make parts of your world inaccessible.

Another important aspect is how advanced is your society. If it’s a primitive world, they might not be able to build bridges and tunnels, or even know the wheel. We’ll deal with technological advances soon, but for now, think of an era in the human history and picture the things that were possible back then and align your world as such.

Before you start drawing your world, let’s briefly touch on a few aspects that will come into play later, but they are worth mentioning now. These are elements that will influence the way your map will look in the end:

  • Political System and Government
  • Races and their effect on the environment
  • Fauna and Flora

So, how do you start planning your map, especially if you are not too good at drawing, like me? This is what I do: I first decide the general size of my world, as explained above, and then I open Excel (or any other spreadsheet program, like Numbers or Google Sheets) and I create a matrix of narrow rows and columns. When I say narrow, I mean 1-2 millimeters on your screen. This will give you a square matrix.

To do so, open a New document, and select multiple rows and columns and resize them down to obtain a small grid. Depending on the size of your world, decide on a scale for each cell. For example, let’s say we are talking about a world that is 2000 miles wide and 2000 miles long, so about the size of the United States (The actual size of USA is 3.794 million miles). We’ll say that 1 cell is 50 square miles. That gives you a 40 x 40 matrix.

Make sure you select the entire matrix and add borders all around each cell to make it easier to read.
Now that you have this grid, start representing the various parts of your world by using squares with different colors. Don’t worry about overlapping or the fact that they are not the right shape; aim for the size. What you want to do here is scale various parts of your world. Since you know one cell is 50 miles, a 3 x 3 square will be 150 x 150 miles, for example, so a 22,500 square miles area, about the size of West Virginia.

If your world is very big, you can create multiple sheets like that and join them together.

To make this easier for you, I have created a template that gives you a 40 x 40 matrix, an 80 x 80 matrix (roughly size of Asia), and 100 x 100 matrix. Download it here, and use it freely. It is a XLSM file, so a Macro-Enabled Excel file for Excel 2010. The Macros are needed because I have a few tools to help you calculate areas.

Once you completed this part, you should probably print it. Now you have a simplistic, birds-eye view of your world, very square and unrealistic, but still a good start

Here’s what I do next: I put a blank paper over the Excel printout. If I have semi-opaque paper, I use that, otherwise I put the papers one on top of each other on a window facing out, so I can see the Excel drawing through the paper. Using a pen, I start to trace the map by using the squares as guidelines. All you have to do is make sure that in your drawing you draw the map line as much on the outside of the squares, as you reduce it on the inside. When you have a lot of squares clustered together, they might be a part of the same continent, in which case you just draw all around them.

To understand what I mean, when you finish reading this look at the demo page associated with this post to see how I did it. (Link at the bottom of the post)

Oh, and here’s a tip: Use a pencil and have an eraser close by. No map comes out the way you want it from the beginning.

Once you are done, find out the scale of your map. To do so, use a regular ruler and measure how many squares on the Excel sheet you have in one inch. Let’s say you have 10. This means that one inch on your map is equivalent to 500 miles (50 x 10). At this point, you have a very rough shape of your map. The sizes of land and water are now starting to be clear. Before you move to the next step look at the map and answer these:

  • Is there enough land for your story to take place? Remember, one inch is 500 miles (in this example), so measure your land and see how big the distances are.
  • Is there enough / too much water in oceans and seas? Are the lands so far away that it would take a ship way too long to travel?

This is paramount because if your distances are too large you will wind up with transportation problems later on (the last thing you want to do is have two cities so far away that they break your plot because your Prince Charming cannot gallop fast enough to save the princess…) Some of this will be solved later on when you deal with magic, since magic can be used to avoid all transportation problems.

So, what we’ve done so far is create a two dimensional world. Now it’s time to give it some height and you do that by adding mountains, hills and valleys.

It’s not easy to depict your heights on a hand-drawn map, so one trick I use is a numbering system from -10 to +10, where -10 is the lowest point, like a valley or the bottom of a canyon, and +10 is the highest point, such as a mountain summit. Put numbers on your map to define the height in different areas. This is totally optional, and I usually skip this step, but if your map is very large and complex, it might be a good way to keep track of heights.

Now that you know where your mountain ranges are, draw a closed area with the pencil and slightly gray it out. Do go crazy with the shades, it’s simpler to use the -10/+10 method to mark the difference in height.
Once the mountains are established put some rivers and lakes. Here are some rules:

  • Generally rivers spring from mountains
  • Make sure your rivers flow into an ocean, and try not to make all rivers flow “down your map.” It’s tempting but your map is seen from above, so make rivers go in all directions.
  • Use a thicker or thinner line to identify wider or narrower rivers, respectively. Often, thinner rivers will merge with wider rivers
  • A river usually breaks into a few smaller ones or a delta before spilling into the ocean
  • Lakes are often found along rivers, or in close proximity to rivers.

Now, just use your pencil and draw some rivers and lakes on your map.

Directions and Seasons

Fantasy Map SeasonsAt this point, you are looking at a very simplistic land. You have given your world a little bit of a shape, you have decided where the land and waters are and dropped a few mountains, lakes, and rivers. We won’t add any vegetation yet, we’ll discuss this in the Flora and Fauna chapter.

Before we move any further, let’s talk about something important: directions. Because we are working in a two-dimensional environment (the drawing on a paper), your map has an “up and a down,” and “a left and a right.” What are those? Well, on Earth we call them North, South, East and West and the absolute position on the planet is given by latitude and longitude. You need to provide a similar system for your world so the reader can understand what is what and where it is.

The easiest way is to call it ‘North, South, East and West,’ because it makes sense, and because their name doesn’t really affect your plot, in most cases. But if you want to invent new names for the directions, make sure you make it very clear and mark them on the map. If somebody is walking towards “Sunrise” or towards the “Boundaries of the Gods,” where is that on the map? Is it up, down, left or right? You need to define the system that allows people to know if they are holding the map upside down and to understand where is somebody heading.

Next thing to take into account are seasons and temperature. You may have to revisit this based on your plot, but put some ideas down now. On Earth, North-most and South-most areas are frozen and cold, whereas at the Equator it is always hot. How is your world?

Depending on that, you may have areas that are constantly frozen, or areas that are constantly hot. In your fantasy world, you may have parts of the world that are forever on fire, or parts where the temperature depends on something, maybe magic, or people’s faith.

Either way, brainstorm about that and write down what comes up. On your map you can draw little bubbles and write ‘cold,’ ‘hot’, ‘medium,’ to mark the relative temperature. I say relative because what we consider ‘hot’ on Earth might not be perceived as ‘hot’ in your world.

Another thing to take into account are seasons, or temperature cycles. On Earth we are used to have parts of the world with four seasons, other parts with two seasons and others with just one. What is the situation in your world? Depending on that, you will have to draw your map in some point in time: Is it winter time, when mountains have snow, or is it summer time when the fields are filled with trees and crops? This starts to tie-in with the beginning when you answered the questions about your world’s place in space and things like day/night concepts.

Mapping Your World

Fantasy Map Mapping WorldNow how do you go about creating an actual cool map from your draft? If you know how to draw you are probably skipping this part already. If you know somebody who can draw, you should probably call them. But what if you don’t?

There are a few software packages out there that can help you create your maps. And behind those software packages, there are groups of people who enjoy creating maps and might do yours for free or for a small fee.

If you want to have a cool map, probably the software is the way to go. None of these applications are things you can just start using overnight, however, they are not impossible to grasp.
Here are the ones that I know:

Are you surprised there aren’t a lot more? So was I.
Of course, you can always choose to use one of the major graphics programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and the like. But for people who can’t draw, using one of the programs above is the only way to go.

Personally, I have only used Campaign Cartographer and I have to say, the maps that come out of that software are pretty sweet. Take a look at the gallery below to get an idea:

Copyright notice: All images are copyright ProFantasy Software (http://www.profantasy.com/evidence/gallery.asp)

This concludes the first chapter of this series. Hopefully once you are finished with your work you will be in the same spot where I am with my world. To see what I’ve done, click on the link below:

Creating a Fantasy World Demo – Part 1

Last, but not least, please comment below and give me your ideas and opinions about this first section of creating a fantasy world.

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Writing By Time Might Work For You

writing fiction by timeIn some previous posts I advocated setting daily, weekly, and monthly word count targets, with an emphasis on the weekly targets since those are the easiest to achieve. Lately, my full-time job has been increasingly complex and I want to dedicate more of my time to my family. I talked about this before in a post on writing when busy.

Unfortunately summer is usually a killer. I’m not saying that, as a writer, you should not get to enjoy your summer. I actually recently blogged about writing while on vacation. What I find is that during times of high stress and vacation, when it is very easy to get distracted, setting a word count target is still good, but might be an evil in disguise.

All it takes is one week of not achieving your word target, and you will think the next week will be good enough to catch-up. But it never is; it turns into a downward spiral of missing word targets. And that’s why I came up with a different system:

Writing By Time

writing fiction by timerWhat do I mean by that? First of all, it’s very good to know your writing speed. On average, how much can you write in one hour? If you don’t know do two tests:

  • Take 3 pages and type them. How much time did it take?
  • Think of a new idea for a story and start writing. Stop after 3 pages. How much time did it take?

Now, count all the words in the six pages and divide them by the amount of time in minutes. You should be getting an average number of words per minute. Times that by 60 and you get a pretty decent average number of words per hour. My guess is you will probably get something between 1000 to 2000 words per hour.

Now, let’s backtrack: what is your word count target? If it’s 10,000 words per week, and your average words per hour is 1,500 (let’s say), then you are looking at a total of 7 hours in a week (rounded up).

I know you just stopped right now and said: “What?? Only 7 hours?? Come on! There are 168 hours in an entire week and I only need 4.16% of it to achieve my word count!?

The answer is: YES.

So what stops you from finding those 7 hours? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you how you can fix it: scheduling time.

Schedule Your Writing Time

writing fiction by scheduleSo, if we are talking about 7 hours in a week, we are really talking about an hour a day. Let’s split that in two and we get 2 chunks of 30 minutes per day. This step is optional; if it’s easier for you to do a complete hour, keep it that way. This is what worked for me: I set my alarm clock 30 minutes earlier, I wake up and I write for 30 minutes. I set my phone for an alarm at 9:30 PM. When it rings, I jump up, go to my keyboard and type for 30 minutes.

You get the idea? Decide what are the times of the day when you have the ability to give yourself 30 minutes for writing. As soon as that time comes, stop whatever you are doing and go write. Set yourself a timer and write for those 30 minutes without stopping. Don’t even worry about word count. Just write. Have a little paper or Excel document where you mark the time you spent.

When you get to the end of the week, take your word count and your hours count. Normally, if you stuck to the schedule you should have hit the target word count.

How Is It Different?

How is this different than setting a word count? Well, setting a weekly word count makes you prone to this internal thought: Oh, it’s Monday… I can skip today and write tomorrow. Oh, it’s Tuesday… I have time Wednesday. And then… It’s Sunday. Oh, crap!

By setting yourself daily short timeslots you achieve two things: you are on a precise schedule and take the guesswork out of it, and secondly, you do not get into a situation where you have to write 5000 words today, something so overwhelming that you are unable to write even one word.

writing fictionDivide et Impera or divide and conquer is a good way to solve a huge task, such as writing a novel. Breaking it into chapters, scenes, pages, and ultimately into chunks of time will take this daunting task from an overwhelming hurdle, to a systematic process.

Don’t be afraid to use what the Roman Emperors used to conquer the world. It works. Use it to your advantage, and I hope this will bring you success.

Make sure to leave your thoughts about this method. Do you already use it or do you prefer the word count target method? Leave your comments below.

Before you go, please help spread this article by tweeting it:[Tweet “Writing By Time Might Work For You”]

Best of luck,

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Writing On Vacation

writing on vacationFirst of all, should you be writing on vacation? I am curious to know what people think on the subject, so please leave some comments at the end. Now, since I have the microphone, let me give you my thoughts on this.

To Each His Own

I think there are two categories of people: those who write A LOT, and those who write LITTLE. Of course, both are highly subjective quantities, but you should be able to make your own estimation. In my view people who write very little are those who only write the bare minimum per day, which in my head is 1000 words. But more realistically I like to stretch this number to 2500. I know, I know, everyone is different, but these are my numbers. If I write 1000 words in a day, in my head I barely wrote. If I write 2500, I am happy, but not ecstatic. If I write more than 2500 words I feel like I wrote a LOT. That’s me. You are probably different, but you know your numbers.

Now, it’s not surprising that people who write little (by their own standards, let me reiterate that), are also people who have full-time jobs, not related to their writing. On the other hand, many people who write a lot are people who have more free time, generally speaking.

Write With Your Mind

So, for people who write a lot, a vacation might need to be a real vacation. A time when you close your mind, lay on the beach or where ever you like and let your brain relax. That could be right, but for this situation I would definitely suggest using the vacation to create ideas.

Remember, writing never stops. Just as a painter never stops imagining things to paint, a writer’s mind is always at work, even when the writer is asleep. So, with the excitement of vacation, there are lots of ways you can boost your imagination:

  • Look at the local people. Do you see characters?
  • Talk to others. Do you see story ideas? Do you see plots?
  • Peek at the local news or newspapers. Anything out of the ordinary?
  • Walk through local stores and shops. Do you see anything that you have never seen before?
  • Street names and people names. Any of them good enough to make it into your writing?
  • What about setting? Is there anything you see that would be a good backdrop for your story?

If you don’t want to bother with your laptop, if you made a vow not to look at it for 7 days, keep a small notebook in your pocket and a pen. When you see something, write something. Take notes of anything that is outside of your regular world and it might turn into a story later on.

Write With Your Fingers

Now, for people who write little, category that often includes yours truly, vacation is the perfect time to get some writing done. Here are a few ways to do that:

On the plane, train or car. I believe the plane is a perfect place to write. Turn off that darn TV, you’ve been watching it everyday, and turn on your laptop. On my last trip to Eastern Europe I had a total of 13 hours. The first leg was 8 hours. I got 3 short stories written. Why? Simple: no internet, no distractions. Just me and my laptop. When you are a passenger in a car, it might be more tricky, but you can still clock a few hours of writing, depending on the situation. For me, writing on the plane has been by far one of the most productive time when it came to my writing on vacation.

Mornings. The vacation morning is a wonderful time to get some writing done. It takes me maybe a day or so to get into vacation mode and when I do, even if I go to bed late, I still find myself energized in the morning and able to wake up before the others (even before my 2 year old!). So what I do, is use the time before everyone else wakes up to write. The ideas and thoughts I gathered during the previous day, nicely grouped in my head after a good night sleep, now just want to explode out on the paper. It’s a great feeling. If you have a nice balcony with a fresh breeze and view of the ocean, that makes it that much more appealing.

The rules above also apply to this category. Combining writing with gathering of ideas is a powerful combination. You will feel great when you return home an you have not only a lot of great ideas for plot, setting, and character, but also a lot of words already on the page, waiting to be edited.

Final Rules

A few rules for writing on vacation: don’t edit. Remember, you are now away from your safe zone. You are out of your ordinary life, and away from the ordinary things. Your imagination will get bombarded with new information, new feelings and emotions. Cherish them and foster them and let them seep into your fingers. Just let your writing flow on the page and forget about editing. You’ll do that once you are back home; while you are away simply write new stuff. You will thank yourself later.

One time, during a recent vacation I write about 15,000 words. It was a story I never thought of, something totally brand new. It later turned into a novel that is now part of a 4-novel series that is my work in progress. So, I’d say my vacation paid off really well.

So, what are your thoughts about this? What is your take on writing on vacation?

Best of luck,

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Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival Issue #5

Welcome to the Issue #5 of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. For those of you not familiar with what a Blog Carnival is, here is a short description: a collection of links pointing to blog posts around a specific topic. As you may have guessed it, this blog carnival will be centered around the subject of fiction writing, with a special interest for fantasy and science fiction.

Previous issues: #1 #2 #3 #4

Enjoy!

Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsHazel L Longuet presents 6 Inspirational Writing Websites posted at A Novel Experience, saying, “6 of the best websites on writing, self-publishing and book promotion – invaluable advice on all aspects of writing”


fiction writing tipsAmanda @ Writing Cozy Mysteries presents Multi-Dimensional Characters: Why They’re Important and How You Create Them posted at Writing Cozy Mysteries.


fiction writing tipsK.M. Weiland presents 5 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist posted at Helping Writers Become Authors, saying, “I love plot twists. Mistaken identities, sneaky plans, sleight of hand—it’s all grand. Nothing makes me happier than a story that pulls the rug out from under me and shows me that my perception of the story up to that point is nowhere near as cool as the reality. But, by the same token, nothing annoys me more than a story that fools me and then laughs at me—or, worse, thinks it’s fooled me when, really, it’s only bored me.”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsChrys Fey presents Creating Mood posted at Write With Fey, saying, “How a reader reacts to your writing emotionally all depends on the mood you convey. This post gives examples of what mood is and reveals how to create it.”


fiction writing tipsVictoria Grefer presents How do you come back to writing fiction after a long break? posted at Crimson League, saying, “What is it like as an author of fiction to come back after a substantial break from novel-writing?”


Fantasy Fiction General Writing

fiction writing tipsHazel L Longuet presents 7 Ways to Fund Your Writing posted at A Novel Experience, saying, “7 easy ways to get funding for the writing, publishing and promotion of your book.”


fiction writing tipsKimberley Grabas presents Powerful Pictures Perform: How to Create Images That Grab Attention posted at Your Writer Platform, saying, “Images and graphics are an incredibly important tool for capturing your audience’s interest. Like multi-pixel eye-candy for your readers. For many writers, this may be alien territory, but since the importance of images in today’s world can not be denied–or ignored–finding simple but effective ways to source, edit and incorporate images into your platform building is essential.”


fiction writing tipsAli Luke presents How to Finish Your Novel (While Life Goes On) posted at Aliventures, saying, “Maybe you’ve been working on your novel for months, or even years. (Or maybe you’ve not started yet, because you’re waiting for a chunk of free time to come along.) Life is busy. You’d love to have all day, every day, to write, but of course you don’t. You have a day job or your own business or young kids or elderly parents or volunteering commitments or other hobbies or health issues … or quite probably a combination of several of those. The good news is that you can do it. You CAN produce a finished novel – without your fairy godmother waving a magic wand and granting you six months away from your regular life.
And here’s how I know…”


fiction writing tipsChristina Katz presents Take A Break & Refresh Your Writing Career posted at The Prosperous Writer, saying, “Writing career growth is a spiral, not a sprint. And if you don’t allow yourself some time for your fields to run fallow, if you are always a slave to your to-do list, your nervous system is not going to reset itself in preparation for more growth.”


fiction writing tipsLinda Formichelli presents Why You Shouldn’t Do What All The Other Writers Are Doing posted at The Renegade Writer, saying, “When you think of a professional writer, you probably envision someone who starts at the crack of dawn and guzzles coffee as he writes. So you force yourself to get up at 5 am because that’s what a “real writer” would do, and brew a pot of coffee even though you prefer hot cocoa or tea. Then you fall asleep in front of your computer as your untouched coffee grows cold, and when you wake up you feel like a failure.”


fiction writing tipsJeff Moore presents 24 Blogs with Tips for Promoting Creative Writing in Kids posted at Babysitting Jobs, saying, “Creative writing, on the other hand, can be frustrating when the ideas aren’t flowing. As a parent, it’s important to find ways to encourage your child’s creative writing skills, which you can do by giving him writing prompts or brainstorming with him.”


Fiction Writing Tips Blog CarnivalThis concludes this edition of the Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival. I want to thank all the contributors and invite them to submit more in the future.

If you enjoyed these articles, please leave some comments on the authors’ blogs and on this blog.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fiction Writing Tips Blog Carnival, to be published on August 31, 2013 using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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