Thursday, February 25, 2010

Story Starters - Science Fiction

The story starters I wrote for today, the genre being science fiction.

"Welcome to 1965, Cindy," the mechanical voice said as the door slid open revealing a foreign panorama before her.

In the caves of planet Allelle evil lurked in the shadows of the city. She knew this, but the caves still called her.

In a system where nothing usually ever happened Jen threw the emergency reverse on the shuttle dodging the first attack wave.

Shuttle pilot for hire had sounded so much more interesting when he'd first signed up. Now here he was in this boring sector

So much for the stars like in the novels of old, Klinda thought. She glared at the deep water through her bedroom portal.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Story Starters

Short post tonight, I mainly wanted to highlight the fact that it's genre week for Story Starters over on Twitter this week. Today was fantasy, yesterday romance. Clicking the link will load a search for story starters on twitter.

I also figured I'd share some of mine for today here:
~Derick ignored those around him on the busy sidewalk. The light shifted and he found himself in a forest, he looked around.

~The sea of Irella glowed in the gathering dusk, casting the mage poised at her shores in a blue light.

The knight raised his sword challenging the dragon. In a blur of motion, the maiden sword in hand was blocking him.

Me on Twitter

Query Letters and Revision

Is it ever to early to start practicing the art of writing query letters? That's a question I've been mulling over for awhile and decided that no, it's not to early to practice them. With novel writing, a good query letter is your foot in the door with agents. No matter how good the novel a bad query letter won't get the manuscript read.

That being said I don't currently have any novels ready to start sending out queries for. I'm planning on my query letters serving a dual purpose. In addition to the practice I figure that taking the time to write a query letter now would be a perfect opportunity to look at my novel and highlight the important parts for myself. What are the selling points? What is the main conflict? Where do I see the direction of the novel? All those sorts of questions.

Yes, I'm working on revision. Once take that good look at where I want my novel to be I can look over my draft and work on getting my novel there. An outline will help, I already have one from writing the first draft. But the outline I'm talking about for this stage is a revision outline. I'll use the main points from my query to start the outline, and work in parts from my draft outline that fit in. I'll also see what scenes from the draft will work where for the revision outline. With writing first drafts, I always have more stuff in the draft then was planned ahead of time on the draft outline.

Of course I have to figure out which novel do to this with. I have two that I want to focus on with revisions this year. My mining mystery I'm working on as part of the 2yn class over at FM Writers. I'm planning on following Zette's lesson plan for that novel revision. Which leaves me with my magical fantasy novel draft. That might be a good one to work with as I need to figure out my audience. After writing the first draft part of me feels that novel could almost be young adult. Looking at the novel and writing the practice query letter should help me figure that out.

I'll post updates on the progress here on how well (or not)this works out for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Characters with mental illnesses

Have you ever wanted to or have included a character with a mental illness in your fiction? If so it's good to look at the character as a whole, to help avoid a walking group of symptoms in your story. Writing is stronger with well developed characters and a character primarily comprised of said symptom list will fall flat rather quickly. Plus to you wouldn't want to fall back on stereotypes either; i.e. the depressed character who is there only to be sad all the time.

Start with your character like you normally would. Who is he or she? What dreams, goals, aspirations do they have? What challenges do they have to overcome to achieve their goals and dreams? Who is their best friend, who is their worst enemy, and so on? You should have a good feel for these sorts of things before moving onto the mental illness portion of character building.

When it comes time to work on their illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) contains various illnesses and the symptoms associated with them. Again be careful of a symptom list. When making a diagnosis of a mental illness the therapist would look at how the symptoms are affecting the patient's functioning. For our depression example a person's normal behavior would be changed in some way for the diagnosis to be made.

With the illness figured out you can then go back to your character and see exactly how the illness affects him/her. If he's the type to normally go out with friends every Friday night would depression keep him home alone instead? And how would the changes in his behavior because of the depression make him feel?

I've only scratched the surface here, but I hope I have pointed people in the right direction. The Wikipedia article I linked describes various versions of the DSM along with the categorizations of disorders. Wikipedia isn't a very scholarly site, but it can be a handy place to start reading on a subject.

Disclaimer: I am not a clinical psychologist, which means I am not qualified to council anyone on their psychological illnesses. My bachelors degree in psychology merely gives me more knowledge about these types of topics which I am sharing here so they may be helpful for your fictional characters.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Write an hour a day

Sure, writing a draft is easy to measure the progress be it in terms of words or pages. Revising can be as well, depending on your process. But what about all those other writing steps that can't be as easily measured in words and pages?

I've been thinking about my writing progress recently with these in-between draft stages. I have more world building to do after a rough novel draft before I work on the pre-revision outline. I can count words in the notes, but it would be nice to have some daily goal to set for myself.

When word/page counts fail, enter time. I'll admit I am huge on the word count in terms of measuring my progress. It's great for writing drafts. But now with the planning the amount of material isn't as important as the ideas I'm working out. So I figure I can aim to spend about an hour a day working out various details of the novel's world and characters.

Who else does time goals for any/all writing stages? Do you all pick the same amount of time each day? Aim to write longer some days then others? Take days off during the week? I know at times with my word counts I'll like to write a bunch one day, then take the next off. Or write a shorter more intense scene the next day. It does depend on the story.

Everyone is different, there are probably many writers out there doing a time goal for drafts as well. And even different parts of the novel/story writing process can be approached differently.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Muse Prompting - an introduction

A while back I had a blog for posting images, which writers could use for inspiration if they wanted. Long story short I hadn't updated that blog much, or very recently. I still like the idea of posting images and other prompts, so I figured I could have some muse prompting in my writing blog.

I do tend to gravitate towards scenery, it's fun to imagine what sorts of characters might wander into the setting. I made this with Bryce, a 3D rendering program. I also have a program that works with figures (DAZ studio) which I'll use for more prompts sometime soon.

The old Muse Prompting blog.