Monday, June 30, 2014

Planning a Fantasy Novel

Well, Camp NaNoWriMo is breathing down my neck, and I've got a coverless Untitled Fantasy Novel registered as my project on the site. But I know what I'm doing, and 50k words is my goal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This post has a title. And some content. Just a bit.

Well, I "created my novel" on the Camp NaNoWriMo webpage. I've got it named Untitled Fantasy Novel right now.

A couple of things I've been looking at, worksheet-wise, in order to perhaps organize myself in order to actually write a freaking novel during July while running a once a week workshop at the library. As you well know, I'm unfamiliar with crazy traditional ideas like outlining, considering I've abandoned nearly every one I've ever started.

Story Idea Map

Writers Cheat Sheet

I've also got a file I just keep on my desktop called "ideas that went into fantasy novel" with phrases like "The Wasteland" (meaning T. S. Eliot's) and "Magic without MAGIC". Useful to me, anyway. I think maybe one day I'll enjoy pinning things to a wall or corkboard or whatever and then stringing them all together like brilliant minds do on cop shows and criminal movies and suchlike.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Science Fiction for everybody! It might change your life.

Daniel Keyes passed away. I didn't know he was still alive, and I found out only because he isn't. He wrote Flowers for Algernon, a fantastic science fiction book that's only just so science fiction-y. Near future science fiction (Though I guess at this point it's near past science fiction?), in that you don't need a whole new vocabulary to comprehend the story.

I first read "Flowers for Algernon" as a short story, I think in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame volume that Isaac Asimov edited, which included other beautiful beautiful stories like "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" and "A Rose For Ecclesiastes".  This kind of science fiction, deeply rooted in a reality that the readers know but is somehow also changed, has influenced my own thoughts and writing strongly. When the deeply familiar (or even casually familiar) is profoundly changed by environment or action, it speaks to us. It unsettles us. And it makes us think. This is the purpose of books, of writing, of science fiction and fantasy. I feel.

The topic of science fiction specifically was on my mind today, as we near summer. There's an adult summer reading program now, and we're supposed to "read across" Literary Elements, which include "Things you should have read in high school", "Classics", and "Self Help". Arguably, science fiction books could be used in each category. So, Flowers for Algernon is what you should've read in high school. Frankenstein is a fairly reliable "Classic", and The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead   could be "Self Help", yeah?

Poetry, I hit a snag. Science fiction poetry? Well, io9 came through for me, with "The Best Books of Poetry for Every Kind of Science Fiction Fan". Of course my library system doesn't have it, but Cyborgia , by Susan Slaviero, immediately caught my eye and I ordered it on Amazon.The blurb describes Slaviero's "scathing playfulness", and I hope somebody says that one day about me, instead of "God, Jen, you're so mean."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lazy Link Roundup June 18

Hello and welcome back to the Officially Named (yeah, whatever) Lazy Link Roundup™!

First off I'm going to give you 21 Secrets for Shopping at Sephora. Not because I've ever set foot in a Sephora, or because Sephora or Buzzfeed is offering me money (hint: they're really not. I wish they were), but because some of the things on the list are fabulous novel fodder. I feel. Have to remember to use my "I statements".

Next, here's a link to get a free PetMassage CD. I haven't gotten one myself, so I cannot vouch for the efficacy of the product. But it dovetails nicely with this magnificent Youtube video on Proper Opossum Massage. I cannot vouch for the seriousness of your reaction. I know I watched some other videos and then laughed until I wept and my fiancé strongly encouraged I put the laptop down.


In other news, if you haven't watched True Detective yet, you should. NO SPOILERS. I'm not done yet. But go do it. DO EET. It is everything I want from a television show. I also quite enjoyed the first season of Bates Motel (the second season isn't on Netflix yet). And Game of Thrones, but I read the books (mostly) first thankyouverymuch (I only just recently read the most recent book).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some fun prompt websites

I've been looking up writing prompt websites, y'know, because I'm a super nerd and prompts are fun.

I haven't really used any of these sites I'm going to link to you. But I may use them when running my Camp NaNoWriMo workshop. I got my first signup already! A little less than 3 weeks 'til July 1. Are you camping? Are you ready?

There's a Tumblr just full of writing prompts, called Writing Prompts, oddly enough (this is going to result in my not recognizing the words "writing" or "prompt" as a word after I'm done typing this post. This other Tumblr calls itself Awesome Writing Prompts but...I'm not sure they are. Maybe it's because of the expectation? The final Tumblr offering I'm going to give you is I Dare You to Write, because we could all use a little creative antagonism.

This guy's blog has a "master list" of speculative fiction writing prompts, which is pretty rad. Typically, I can turn a story speculative or weird without much effort, so it's almost a relief when it's expected. It almost makes me want to go the other way, and write a literary story from a speculative prompt. Like, DON'T IMPOSE YOUR GENRE ROLES ON ME.

The Prompt Machine has an interesting premise, wherein they say "All stories can be boiled down to the following: A wants B but can't have it because of C." They boast literally one million possible variations on their clickable prompt generator thing. gives you, y'know, one word and then you write about it for sixty seconds. You can sign up, and I assume that means it'll save your one minute writing binges under your account. I got "decadence', but I was writing this post, so I didn't do it. Nor do I have an account.

There's something about the randomness of writing prompts that appeals to me. It's also a facet of tabletop RPG's I like. You can make whatever decisions you're going to, the story is what it is, but sometimes a whole lot hinges on the roll of a single die. Will you succeed? Fail? Die? It's fascinating.

But, if you're not into randomness, I can get that. What about positive reinforcement? There's Written? Kitten! You write 100 words (at minimum; you can change it), they give you a picture of a kitten, puppy, or bunny.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On blog novel serialization

It really pays to follow blogs of people in the industry, and I cannot recommend Janet Reid's blog enough. She's a literary agent with Fineprint Literary Management, in New York City. She blogs frequently, is often on Twitter, and is rather approachable in both of those venues. Alas, she doesn't represent my genre(s), though she does rep some great authors (like Patrick Lee and Jeff Somers).

However, this week, she addressed the question of Serialization On the Web. If you'll recall, one of the March Flash Fiction prompts I did resulted in "Klara and the Clockwork Djinn; or, Matchmaking at the Museum", a story set in my Steampunk South Africa. I've thought about doing a serial novel, writing more about Klara, and her "sky jockey", but I'd hesitated, because I don't really want to self publish. I don't feel as though I've got the skills and/or the handle on the industry for it. Do I really want to be my own editor, cover designer, advertiser, and accountant? Nope. Yes, self publishing authors frequently pay people for these jobs, but, well, a trade publisher takes care of that for you too! So is online serialization a bad plan, if I then wanted to query the novel?

What Ms. Reid says, ultimately, is "But don't worry that in publishing a book to the web you've closed any doors. It's the amount of attention the book receives that will determine that."

And really, that's how Fifty Shades of Grey worked out. First it was Twilight fan fiction (I'm not sure on which site, but there are numerous fan fiction sites). It was very popular as such, is my understanding. Then, E.L. James filed the serial numbers off enough that it was her own story; no Bella or Edward, no vampires. Then she self published it, and then the Random House deal came along. Pretty swag, right? Regardless of how you feel about the book itself, she's a success story.

(or, reading the Wikipedia article, it was boutique published first, not self published? Whichever. I'm a little unclear, but am admittedly lazy and don't want to read more in depth info on it. You get the gist.)

So anyway. If Klara's story happens to take off (pun intended! Zing!), and get a following, and then I put the thing together and polish it up and query it, I can point to that following as a success. I can say "I've already got all these fabulous Steampunk fans!"

Just some musings, to which I am prone (see blog title). The second chapter isn't written yet, lest you've gotten your hopes up. Though I guess it's worth asking: Do you want to read more? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Am I Qualified?

July is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. My "information meeting' for the Camp NaNoWriMo writer's workshop thinger is in the last week of June. I've got the general idea of a novel hammered out. And I've paused with the "who do I think I am, anyway?" notion.

I'm 'just' a library clerk, no master's degree. My degree is, in fact, in psychology. I've never run a workshop of any kind before, on writing or otherwise. I'm not necessarily a very patient teacher, though having a dog has helped me a bit. I've taught Elka all kinds of things.

This isn't a 3 a.m. panic or despair or anything. I'm not tearing at my hair or garments, wailing that I'm not good enough. I'm confident I'll do just fine, actually.

I've done NaNoWriMo since 2007. I've done Camp NaNoWriMo since the year it started. The only November session I've failed was in 2010, where I abandoned my idea halfway through and started a new one. Combined, the two novels were almost 50k, but just short.

So, in short, I know how to get my shit together and make the  little electro-letters crawl across the page. I pants it like there's no tomorrow, because if I don't write it for my characters, they don't have a tomorrow. I plan, sometimes, making valiant effort at outlines that only make it to chapter 6 before being abandoned. Some of my outlines are "longer", but I'm typically no more faithful to them.

How to translate this to other writers, though. To people who haven't written in a long time, perhaps, and want to try it again. To people who have never really written, and want to give it a shot. To people who've tread water and need that glimpse of shore to head towards.

To be a writer, you need to write. That is the long and the short of it. I write, therefore I can head a workshop. Novelists without degrees teach at colleges all the time, right? (maybe?) Maybe I should be more worried about it, but I'm not going to worry about my worry, that's getting a little too meta, n'est-ce pas? I'm just going to keep on keepin' on, plan my last couple of workshops (I've got the first few laid out in general). Come up with some fun prompts, fun ways to implement them  (dice? index cards?) This is exciting, and exciting is good.

And July is my favorite month.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stop planning and get it done!

I realize the title makes it seem as though I spend loads of time planning novels, perhaps outlining and plotting and other meticulous things. I don't. Some people do, but I don't.

July approacheth, and another Camp NaNoWriMo. I do intent to participate. 50k words? Yeah, I'll leave that as my goal, though fantasy novels are supposed to be longer. Maybe I can hit the high points of the main plot and sketch out a subplot to weave in later.

I've been planning a fantasy novel. Letting it percolate, only poking it with a stick once in awhile. "Normal" fantasy, maybe it'll be epic, not urban fantasy. I don't want to let it percolate too long, though, and just wither on the vine. So far as plot goes, it's general fantasy; a kingdom falls, the erstwhile heirs are separated, usurpers take the throne, erstwhile heirs grow up, get reunited, take the kingdom back. A million stories like that, I'm sure. It's the world that sets fantasy novels apart. I'm thinking low magic, and I've got to consider races other than human sooner or later. I'm trying to consider fantasy and folkloric beasties which don't get used a whole lot; there will be a distinct lack of dragons, I'd say.
Worldbuilding is just one of those things. It can occupy more of your time than the story does, and so much of it can end up remaining behind the scenes. No infodumps, we want to avoid infodumps. So you just have to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

My main characters aren't even named yet. I've got a general sense of their experiences, their demeanors. I know we'll be working in third person, likely omniscient. The novel doesn't have a title yet, but that's nothing new.

Are you camping in July? What have you got planned?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge: Scarlett Promise

Another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge, this one random title. There were two lists of twenty words each, and the assignment was to get a random number from each column, make a title, write 1000 words. I got "Scarlett Promise". Here it is, pretty much hot off the press, as it were. I ran spellcheck, obviously, and fiddled with some paragraph order.

Scarlett Promise