Inspirations from an Abandoned World

 

abandoned house in the woods
Abandoned house in the woods – from Abandoned World Facebook

I find inspirations in different places, in fact I got an idea for a new story just by seeing an advertisement for another book – and my story didn’t even relate to the title, or the topic of the book, but a single word triggered an idea and I was scribbling away notes in my little notebook for later.

Quite often I see memes on Facebook that talk about writers finding inspiration all over the place. And I believe that is true with every distracted look I give my friends in café’s; every half heard conversation I pass in the street and every time I watch a movie thinking “I would have done that differently, which means a whole different story, but…could I write that?”

I have recently started following some different groups and pages on Facebook (I’m trying to be more social) and one such following is the Abandoned World Magazine. They post amazing photos of all sorts of abandoned human creations, from castles, churches, buildings, villages, to amusement parks.

I find each photo inspires something:

  • An idea of a story
  • What it could have been before
  • What it could be in my current writing
  • Who would live there
  • Who could have lived there
  • Why it was abandoned

I find each image fascinating. But I’m sure there are images out there just as beautiful or inspiring. Street scapes and architecture could be what you need depending on what you write. Images from space and speculative art – like Deviant Art.

Where do you find inspiration?

Or where could you look if you lost it?

Do you review the books you read?

Do you reviewI have tried recently to review everything I read.

Although given my recent writing commitments that hasn’t been very much.

 

What do reviews mean for authors?

Reviews help sell books. The more reviews, the more likely people are going to consider a book. They don’t all have to be brilliant, but needless to say repeated bad reviews aren’t going to help.

For independent authors this is very useful to help draw readers to their books.

They also help the right readers find your books. I have read a number of reviews that said something along the lines of “this wasn’t what I thought it would be” and can help you, as a reader, filter out the books you might have bought that aren’t what you are interested in. This might not sound useful for the author, but it will help the author ensure they are clear on the genre and market their books appropriately.

Reviews can help motivate the author – when they get good ones.

 

Who is a review for?

You might have picked up from above that reviews aren’t actually for the writer, but for fellow readers.

They are designed to inform other readers as to whether they may enjoy the book or not. They are a recommendation to buy, or not.

 

What to include in a review:

Firstly, a little about the book without giving the plot away.

Secondly, what you thought of it and why.

 

Example of a good review: (one I made up)

“The Hill” – a romance

I loved it!

Jake and Jill meet under the worst of circumstances and soon realise that they don’t like each other very much. But then they keep ending up at the same events and when Jill appears to be the new associate in Jake’s office it looks like their only choice is to work together.

I was able to connect to the characters and it had a happy, realistic ending (as all good romances should). This is a well written, engaging story which not only shows how people grow within relationships but how we can’t always see our own behaviour clearly. A great read. Strongly recommended.

 

What not to put in a review:

The spoilers or twists – because giving the plot away will stop others reading it even if you loved the way it was done.

Personal attacks on the author – you are reviewing the book not the writer; who they are as a person, or who you think they are does nothing for your review nor would it influence other readers.

Simply stating it is ‘bad’ or ‘crap’ or similar comes across as trolling. You don’t have to like it but tell us why you don’t like it. For example, the characters didn’t jump off the page, the plot was predictable.

The same goes for ‘Great’ – which every author loves by the way, but again, tell us why.

It doesn’t have to be an essay – a couple of lines or a paragraph. As someone searching for a book to read I’m not going to scroll through pages of a review to get the details. And I have seen reviews like this – that spell out every pro and con of the novella they just read, the review almost as long as the book!

 

The key here for writers is that although reviews do benefit the author, they aren’t meant for you. They are a conversation between readers.

So don’t get caught up in them and don’t respond. They do help you sell more books but commenting on a review will only stop people reviewing your work in the future and, worse, stop them from buying your books.

 

How you can write faster

How you can write faster

Following on from last week’s post, one of my current focuses is getting as many words as possible on the page in the shortest time. Sometimes I write early morning, sometimes at lunch time and I might only have half an hour or an hour at most to try and get as many words down as possible.

I am getting better at this and I do track all my writing. On a good day I can pump out around 2,500 words an hour; an average day is anywhere between 1500 and 2000 an hour. If I break my writing sessions into half hour blocks I tend to be more productive, or at least produces more words than I do if I sat down for a full hour. Not always but mostly.

Compared to some other writers this isn’t very fast.

A little while back I looked at Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt’s new book and referred to their earlier book about writing – Write, Publish, Repeat. Johnny pumps out a crazy number of words per hour, but he isn’t alone.

So following on from last week I thought I would share what others are talking about in terms of writing faster – that is, writing more per writing session.

I think it is worth starting with Johnny B Truant and here are two of his articles based around writing fast and his book Write Publish Repeat:

Write, Publish, Repeat on The Creative Penn

14 tips for writing a book in 29 days and then doing it again the next month

Both are a great read and very useful in showing just how much is possible if we put our minds to it.

ReallyRosie has some great tips on what is important about increasing your writing speed and why you would or wouldn’t want to do that. Check out her article here: Word Count Fatigue

Michael Pollok has provided 12 Tips on How to Become a Faster Writer which include some very sensible ideas. It is good to remember that you aren’t going to suddenly be writing 3000 words an hour if you currently write at a rate of 300 words an hour.

Roy Peter Clark’s article on Poynter similarly offers 12 tips but aimed at the non-fiction writer. There are still some tips there that fiction writers could use, including making a plan of what you want to write about.

And I’m sure that there are many more out there, and some good books too.

Work out what you want from your writing and why you might want to increase your writing speed before deciding on a course of action. But if this all seems too much, start with Write, Publish, Repeat.

My Drafting Process

My Drafting ProcessI have talked previously about my editing process, but as I’m currently drafting a new Iski Flare story I thought you might be interested in my processes around drafting.

I started out as a pantser and deep down I still kind of go with the flow. But now I would describe myself as a bit more of a planning pantser.

There are lots of articles and books out there with a range of opinions on how to outline and plan your story, and the level of detail you need before you start writing.

I use a combination of processes to outline each Iski Flare story but it seems to work best for me, at this stage. I start with the idea and the fairytale I’m basing my story on. I try to pull my idea down into a single sentence but at this early point it is more the idea of the story.

Then I use some tips from Holly Lisle to pull the main characters, the main conflict, twists and setting together.

I use this as the base to start the Snowflake Method. I don’t use all of this process as I think it gets too detailed. But I follow the steps through, summarising the story as a paragraph and then expanding that out to a page with all the main story points.

KM Weiland is brilliant when it comes to structure and plotting, and she has written several really good books on the subject. I have a summary page I created with a structure outline with all the main stage needed for a good story structure.

I then put my page long summary into the structure sheet to create my outline. I think for some of my larger works I need to develop that a bit further to include some more detailed beats. But for Iski it is enough.

For each Iski episode I aim for around 20,000 words. So I also add to the outline roughly how many words I want in each section.

Then it’s time to write.

I make the time and using the notes as a starting point away I go.

I don’t worry about spelling, I don’t read back over what I have written, unless it is the beginning of the next writing session and I might need a little reminder. I just type. I don’t worry if it is any good, I don’t worry if I’ve forgotten a name, or haven’t got a name yet.

For this first draft I am only worried about getting the story down. The bones of it onto the page.

It is the editing process that will look at the details and make sure that it all flows together, that there is consistency, and that everyone has a name and a clear voice.

The first draft is getting a feel for the story. For me it is Iski letting me know what he wants, or discovering it with him as he works his way through the issues with Flare, those he meets and his ongoing battle to prove himself a man. Sometimes he gets whiny, or frustrating but I have to let that go, let him talk it out or punch it out sometimes, and then we can revisit on the next round.

What to do when a story is too skinny

Is your story too skinny

I recently came across a great article about cutting back when the story is too long. And my first thought was that in my current editing I have the opposite problem. I have too many holes and not enough story. So with the help of KM Weiland I am working to make my story grow.

I’m not padding it out – I’m making sure it’s full of all the right stuff.

If you have been following my blog you know that I’m usually working on several writing projects at the same time. The story that is too skinny is the Raven Crown trilogy. I’m still pounding away at the editing of book one. But I have submitted a request to a cover designer and in preparation for that I had to develop the synopsis and back cover copy.

The process did clarify where there are some story aspects missing. Such as character behaviour, for example the queen is frustrated by her younger sister, but I haven’t clarified the why.

The relationship between them isn’t clear. It couldn’t just be because she was asking too many questions. Why was she asking them, what was she asking and what did that show us about the younger sister? Even though Meg is my main character (the younger sister) I didn’t really feel like she came to life for me until the second book. But thinking about what she needs, what she wants and why she behaves as she does in book one has helped clarify who she is as a person, and so only strengthens her for the coming volumes.

This is the first edit of this story. Before I started I read through and marked all the issues, as I do, including where more chapters or scenes were needed.

Using the tips from the articles above, as I work through this edit I am focused on what relationships need building, where people are when we are focused on other characters. And of course, making sure I’m showing what is happening and not telling.

I had a chapter marked with two characters and a note “where are they?”

What I really wanted to know what, at that point in the story, each of them wanted. Would they be able to get that by coming together? But I didn’t really want to introduce them at that point. One character really wanted to meet the other, so I put them in a place where she could learn what she needed and he could meet her, although in a way that she didn’t know who he was.

In doing this I have opened up some more questions, some other aspects that could be explored later and we know him better, than in the previous draft (where he doesn’t really shine til book 2).

There are a few more scenes that can build this way…but I don’t want to give too much away.

I would like to think I’ve been reasonably good at the show don’t tell rule. But there are sections where rather than someone thinking briefly about what went before, it is clearer if I show it happening when it did. I replaced a paragraph of not very useful information with a whole scene that showed far more clearly what happened and the impact that had on the characters involved and will build nicely into more scenes later in the book.

There is far more I could be doing and I’m sure I will repeat some of these processes as the editing process continues. Particularly as this is only the first edit run, I’m trying to work through so many issues at once. But the main focus must remain, is this a good story and am I telling it in a way that is keeping the reader engaged. All of these little things assist in that. By keeping the reader informed of where all the key players are, by allowing them to know the characters by their traits, interactions and relationships with others; and by showing them a whole new world. Appropriate description will help as well, but I don’t want to go overboard. Description is a whole other level but something to keep in mind as well. To ensure the reader sees the world and characters as I do, or at least a little like I do, without ramming the  setting down the reader’s throat, or boring them silly with pages of the stonework of a single wall…

What keeps you engaged as a reader? Or do you only see what isn’t there?