30 Days to Publishing

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World Building

We touched on this briefly in our Research chapter, now we will break this down more clearly and discover what World Building entails.

Setting > Real world or fictional

See why research is important? What if you wanted to write about Paris, France and realize you know nothing about France? For the story to feel real, you will need description of buildings, names of real streets, local highlights, parks, even culture. But say you’re writing fiction–your very own Middle Earth.

We have already talked about drawing out maps. This is a good habit whether your book is set in Paris or in [insert-epic-name-here]. You as the writer needs to understand where you are, where you are going, and where you have been (not ‘you’ you, but your characters of course).

Take Middle Earth, since we brought that up. A vast world is explored over the course of those books. There are mountains and rivers and countries and kingdoms. Each geographical monument is drawn on paper for clarity. Directions–north, south, east, west–are set in stone. As a writer, you can watch your characters traipse across the land and not worry about whether the sun is rising in their faces, or urging them on from behind. The goal is to be as accurate as possible, because while poking fun at the discrepancies in your favorite movies is entertaining, it can be embarrassing to experience first hand. It’s going to be hard enough not to have typos, let alone correctable mistakes in a world of your own making.

Give your readers credit. They are incredible intelligent and observant.

Enough about maps, let us talk about description.

What not to do:

E.g The old coffee shop was directly ahead. It was full of people, chairs and tables. A bell rang when people walked in and out. Jane could smell coffee as she sat down with John.

What a blah description. I wouldn’t read that book, would you? Depending on your reading level, I suppose you might. But I’m going to assume you are educated which, in itself, denotes an intelligent individual. You’re welcome.

What to do better:

E.g. Jane approached the quaint coffee shop. It was an old building, the walls sagged and the red paint covering the door had long since faded and chipped. But such wear and tear did not affect the shop’s business negatively. When she pushed through the door, the bell overhead jangled softly. Voices bubbled and fluttered through the room. It was bustling with activity. The family owners hastened to and fro, stirring up the famous concoction known as coffee. She had smelled it blocks away, that earthy, robust aroma which boasted of sunshine and better days. She breathed it in a moment before searching for a blond man seated alone.

Notice the difference? Good description works in an orderly pattern, whether chronological or in order of importance. It gives color and detail to an otherwise black and white world.

When building a world, it is better to have too much than too little. You can always trim down too much, and a good editor will instruct you on what to trim. But it is difficult to look at something and say, “I can’t put my finger on it, but it needs more.”

Homework: Select a descriptive scene and spend fifteen minutes writing it.

Option #2: Draw a map. ;D

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This is the character development of your outline.

Supporting characters
Guides and/or guardians
Animal companion (optional)

You can break this down as detailed or as simplified as you need, but to have some statistics on hand is always helpful when you just cannot remember whether John’s eyes were green or blue, and you do not feel like going back to reread everything you last wrote.

Hair color
Eye color
Skin tone
Weapon of choice
Name & nicknames

This is a basic format and you can use all or some of these stats. It would be confusing to have Jane’s sandy blond hair in the beginning end up as dark as a raven’s feather in the twilight hours at the end. Your readers will pick up on that. Trust me. Now that is just scratching the surface of your characters. As you begin writing their stories, keep an open mind because even a well developed character might surprise you.

For instance, I once had a love interest turn out to be the evil villain. Who could have predicted that?

Moving on. There are a few fun exercises you can practice to develop your characters.

Create a dialog between your protag and antag. What would your protagonist want to ask the antagonist?

If your antagonist had a hobby, what would it be, and write a scene in which he/she/it is working on that hobby.

Explain in three sentences why the Guardian is helping your protag.

If your protagonist was villain for a day, write a paragraph or two of his/her goals. Why is he on that path? What drove him to the “dark side”? Does he continue down that destructive road, or does he reform in the end?

“What is the point of this,” you may ask. When you try to write your characters outside the realm of the story, you’re free to discover more. The reader may not know every detail of every character–indeed, they should not, some things are best left a mystery–but this will inhance your experience. You as a writer should never stop asking questions, you should never stop learning. Think of yourself as a talented journalist, willing to travel into the battlefield to get The Story of a Lifetime. Follow your characters around relentlessly, get inside their heads, haunt their dreams, become so connected to them that you almost become the serial killer on his angry rampage.

…On second thought, do not get that close. That is just a little frightful.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive one level deeper…

What will your character ultimately gain from this adventure?

What will they lose?

Pain can be a powerful driving force. Readers connect with characters that are struggling. Knock them off their pedastal a step. Some of the most iconic, well rounded characters have a difficult past.

I have never met a strong person with an easy past.

In my new book coming out, I delve into the whole idea of give and take. In order to earn something, you must lose something else, and the greater the gain, the bigger the loss. There is a battle of emotions, the anger against seemingly unfair circumstances, and the bitter resolve to accept their situation. But this is what makes the characters feel real. This is what makes them leap off the page and into your readers’ lives. Do not skimp on the pain your characters feel, do not gloss over it. Explore it, dig deeper, and ask the hard questions.

Are you ready? Get to work. Research, outline, and start developing your characters.

Homework today involves fleshing out your characters. Fill out the description sheet and play with some of those fun exercises, post in the comments section your progress. Do you find this helpful?

Good luck and Dream Big!

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Are you excited to get to the meat of the factor? We covered a little about outlining in our Research chapter, so now let us segway into a basic outline. I really do not care how you see fit to outline, you could write all your notes on scraps of paper and throw them into a hat for storage. If that is what works for you, who am I to judge? But why not lay down some basic principles and what outlining really looks like.

   Supporting characters
   Guides and/or guardians
   Geographical map
   Roads and rivers
   General build up

We are going to assume you have a preset genre in your mind–whether it be scifi, fantasy, horror, or nonfiction. There is a fundamental asset to outlining which will help to ensure your cows do not turn out pink when they are clearly as green as grass on Pluto. Let inspiration drive your story forth, but allow outlining to be the guiding hand. As before mentioned, it does not have to be steps one, two, and three all in numerical order, and you do not have to have every detail planned down to the last comma. You make it what you need to keep track of your thoughts, so do not feel the need to idle over minute details if that will not help you. Gloss over a little and let inspiration fill in the blank spaces.

With outlining, what you are working on is building the basic concept of your story. You know Jane must meet John so that John discovers her family secret and together they unravel a thousand year old curse. That is the bones of the story. But now you need to lay down how they meet, when John discovers afore mentioned secret, how she spills her secret, why he agrees to aid her, what else they learn about the curse, when they set off on their journey, and what awaits and then how they deal with obsticals. At this point, you do not necessarily know the hows of conquering the obsticals, and ultimately the curse, but you should have a rough idea.

Outlining versus “Pantsing”

Did you know “Pantsing” was a word developed by writers for writers? In the oh-so popular Urban dictionary, it states…

What many high school students will do to fellow classmates if they decide to wear sweatpants. It is far to easy to catch the wearer of the sweatpants off-guard and pull their sweats down. Any other form of clothing on the bottom is not to be messed with…..only sweatpants.

…..Well. Yeah. Moving on.

Pantsing is for writers. We all know this.

I have done both in my time. Pantsing is raw inspiration. It is when you sit down to write and you simply cannot stop the flood of words off your fingertips. Everything is coming effortlessly and you feel on fire. You forget to eat and sleep, you somehow overcome your bladder in your single-minded, other-worldly focus. Well, guess what, inspiration drains out. Before you even realize it, the meter is tipping at empty and you are left with an empty belly, a full bladder, and sagging bags under your eyes. You couldn’t possibly convene to write a single word more. So get up, relieve yourself, and refuel, because you are about to get to work.

This is where outlining comes in.

Luckily, you don’t freak out or become woefully sorrowful at the burnout of your Muse–you have a backup. Dig out your outline and scroll through the plethora of scribbled notes and ideas. This will not make writing easier after the inspiration has left, but it will give you something to fall back on. You will have to grunge out a few paragraphs–maybe even pages–before catching your stride again, but those are paragraphs–and pages–worth editing. Now put to work determination, recommit to the cause. Everyone suffers exhaustion or momentary disinterest in their goals, but determination and perseverance will stay your butt to that seat. This is your dream, your goal, your brainchild. And the world needs your story.

Take some time to work on the outline of your story. Don’t be concerned with how clean, neat, and pretty it looks, and don’t worry if you’re missing details. We will be going through this together, and we’ll dive into deeper exploration of this basic outline. Post in the comments any questions or struggles you may be facing.

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Each project is dependant on some amount of research–even fiction, conceived from the bowels of your own imagination, requires research.

How are you doing? Are you groaning in frustration? Cursing the heavens–maybe even me? Good. Take that energy and direct it toward your task. Turn negativity into positive creativity.

From here on, I will be focusing on the fictional elements of writing, since that is what I know best. It would not be prudent to question me about the metaphysics of space flight, the gastrial anomalies of deep space, or even the gravitational pull of moons versus planets. I know not of such things. What I do know, I will share with you throughout this study. Which brings us back to the topic on hand:  research.

When it comes to fictional writing, I caution you to use caution. Cautiously. Because you can fly by the seat of your pants only so long. Trust me. I know. I have many a novel penned with inspiration and ambition which I am now gutting and rebuilding. That’s all part of the process, of course, and you will be drafting and redrafting and proofreading to boot. But if this tool can aid in the process, take it and run with it.

When you sit down with your story, what do you start with? World-building? Let’s work with that.

World-Building: Set the tone of your book with a world. I’ve always found it helpful to scratch out a map, because it’s depressing to send your heroes north to the mountains of doom…when the mountains of doom are actually south of the border. It’s not a matter of changing “left” to “right” and “north” to “south”–think of all the terrain you just covered three chapters in, with bogs and monsters that aren’t digenous of the south.

Animal Life: If dragons are relevant to your story, make sure to incorporate them into the culture and habitat. Change that frozen, bulky northern dragon into a slender, serpent-like character more suited to the south.

Culture: Build up the cities and villages to reflect the story of world your heroes will be traveling. Are there nomadic tribes wandering the midwest, and are they peaceful or war like? Keep these in mind. It might be helpful to have a notebook or Doc file just for these notes.

Who are your heroes, by the way? What thought have you given to the main characters trudging through deserts and across swampy landscapes?

What is the Point of View (PoV) of your story? Will it be told from the main character’s view, or will it be a narrative, or maybe you will be writing to the audience in second person?

Do you have a plot for the story? Where is everyone going and where will they end up in the end?

What do you want the ultimate take away to be or is this simply an exciting adventure and you’d rather your readers not think too hard about life?

These are a few of the things we’ll be discussing in the coming month which I hope will give you the tools to creating beautiful and exciting fiction.

If you’re looking for something to do now, today, start giving thought to your own research. Then start writing out those thoughts. The best way to solidify an idea is to put it to concrete on paper (or a computer file. Just as good).

Feel free to write in the comments your noble plan and share some fears or trepidation you might have about all this spooky research.

Also, I encourage you to apprise me of errors in these lessons, as my 500 words a day for 31 days restricts the editing process to complete, unaltered writing. As we’ll talk about later, proofreading is not “editing” and thus there will be errors occasionally.

30 Days to Publishing

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Today we are going to talk about a little thing called “determination”. Webster defines it as “the act of coming to a decision”, and I want you to keep this in the background of your mind–the act. Coming to a decision starts in the mind. What do you want? Are you journaling? Blogging? Noveling? Regardless of the genre, you will be able to use many of these tips.

First, let’s address your fear–what is keeping you from this writing project? Don’t try to deny it, something very well may be holding you back. And that is okay. Honest. I would like you to take five minutes–set your timer–and write down why you have been putting this project off.

Lack of inspiration?
Peer opinions?

After your five minutes, I am going to tell you the words that changed my perspective:

You cannot fail for trying.

There. That knocked out one fear. Block those obsticals from your mind. Now take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Remember what brought you here. You wanted to write. You imagined this amazing article, conceived an epic novel, and it got you excited. Everyone has a story, and in the words of the NaNoWriMo staff, the world needs your story.

So let us set ourselves to the task. Commit yourself mentally. Get excited. You are about to start an adventure, and now comes the action. Go buy your books, set up your Word Document, open your blog, get out your super sleuth detective journalist recorder, and get to work. Rekindle your love for writing, or discover for the first time the joy of writing! In my 30 Days to Publishing, I will walk with you step by step through the process of writing your project, editing the manuscript, and navigating the labyrinth of editors, agents, and publishing houses. This blog will update daily to complete my own challenge 500 words in 31 days, so check back to see where we are at in the lesson.

Tomorrow I am excited, because we will start with the subject I honestly used to dislike, but through the years of writing I have grown to enjoy this process. Everything requires research–even fiction. Especially fiction. We will take a look at it through the eyes of beginning a fiction novel, but the steps will also be applicable to other areas of writing as well. If you are just joining us, introduce yourself in the comments and let us know what you are working on. We will have writing prompts to hone those skills and get you warmed up for the task. Are you committed? Are you exciting? Then get ready to work.

Determination starts in the mind and ends up on paper.