Writing your manuscript - part one, the concept.

Writing tips, part One-Getting Started.

No matter where you look, you will always find people willing to talk their trade.  To pass along the expertise, wisdom, and insights from their personal journeys.  Writers may be in the forefront of this trend, as so many writers and novelists started writing on a smaller scale, such as blogging, columns, or short stories.  This three part blog-series is no different, as I will attempt to provide some useful insights into how to best prepare yourself for writing your first full, completed, successful manuscript.  Without further prologue, I give you, part One, or as I call it, getting started.

Here’s a tip. While starting to craft your idea, invest in a notebook or journal. Write down as many pertinent facts as you can about your idea or concept. As you begin to write, continue to add important details. This way, you have a reference guide, and save yourself the trouble of having to scour through potentially hundreds of pages of manuscript to maintain continuity.
Craft the “seed” of your story, plant it, and watch it grow!

In the beginning you need to have an idea, a concept, scene, conflict, or a character that you wish to start building your story around.  For lack of a better term, i will call this your seed.  In order for this concept to be adequate for your story, you need to flesh it out a little.  Dedicate a small amount of time to write down particulars.  If it is a character, give them a name, a face, the world they live in, and something that makes them unique, or otherwise stand out.  If it is a scene, write it down.  Use vague terms and description, but give yourself a basic idea of what is happening, and more importantly, why.  If your seed is even less specific than a character, or a scene, then try to write down a number of items that makes your world unique, and worth writing/reading about.  Is it fantasy, science fiction, historical, or steam punk?  What sets you land apart from all of the other lands of fiction out there?  Remind yourself that there are a lot of them to chose from, so what will make your's stick with readers.  Also remember, backstory fills out a narrative.  It also adds intrigue for the reader, and can make a story more fulfilling, but most importantly, sometimes it can be something written exclusively for you, the writer.  Spend time writing down key moments in your world's past.  Moments that shaped not only the land itself, but also the people, and the relationships that you will draw upon to craft your story.  You will be amazed at how this will aid you in your writing endeavors going forward, especially if you decide to scorn the stand-alone novel and go with a series.  In summation, write your back story, and once you start writing, you can decide how much, or how little, you want to use.  You may also find that some of these details lead you to other story ideas, side plots, prequels, or more intriguing plot points to add down the road.  To conclude Part One-craft your idea, no matter how small.  Fill in around your idea, the more details the better.  Once you have crafted this nest egg, move on to Part Two-Creating your Characters.

The Comfort Zone

I started thinking about this after I finished proofreading Within. It struck me again when I picked up Wizard's First Rule, by Terry Goodkind. I got thinking about the "comfort zone" authors get into, and in some instances are unwilling to, or unable to break from

Now when I say comfort zone, I am referring to words or phrases that we fall back on, perhaps a little too often. Me personally, my comfort words are now, and then. It's funny when I put them together, now and then, but it's true. I would find myself beginning and ending sentences far too often with either. When we write, we have tendencies, and as those grow it becomes our "voice".

As we write longer and develop our voice, it becomes even more important to not only expand our vocabulary, but utilize it as well. I started reading Wizard's First Rule recently, and I quickly realized that the word "came" was used frequently. He "came" awake...she "came" to him, are a couple examples of the early uses. Its not a bad thing, after all much of the English language assigns multiple meanings and uses for almost any word, but how much should we use a single word before it becomes a crutch? When a single verb or adjective is used in many different sentences, in many different ways it can frustrate certain readers.

This is where a broader variety of verb may be utilized to color up the narrative, and thus pull the reader deeper into the story. I didn't realize my own over use of certain words because quite frankly the early writing process is far more stream of consciousness than anything else. But after I finished the creative functions and broke into the more critical steps I realized how badly I abused certain words. Even writing this post, I struggle to not start or finish sentences with "now" or "then", at this moment I am getting the shakes as my finger hovers over the keyboard.

I pose the following questions to you book loves, writers, and bloggers: when you are writing, how much thought do you put into substance vs story? How difficult is it for you to identify over used words, and/or change or find alternatives? And do you think that this should only be a consideration during the proofing and editing phases of a written work? And if you banish these considerations from the creature steps of a story, how much time afterwards do you dedicate to rewrites? Throw some knowledge at me, and as always, thanks for reading.

The Power of Music

Its one of the most commonly asked questions, whether between readers, writers and bloggers or wanna-be novelists, like me. What inspired you?

That is a multi-part question isn't it? After all, taking an idea, putting it to paper and then having the imagination and the fortitude to see it through to completion requires inspiration all on its own. But so does the story that you are trying to create and grow.

Science Fiction and Fantasy have been near and dear to my heart since childhood. My earliest brushes with fantasy literature were with J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis. The Lord of the Rings and Narnia were some of the first books I remember reading with my parents, so when I set out to write my own story it only felt natural to start there.

The time had come to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak. It was time to write the story I wanted to read, and hope and pray that other people might want to read it too. After all, what better way to get what you want out of a book then take direct control of the project yourself right? Easier said than done.

Simply deciding to write a book is not enough. Something has to move you to want to write, otherwise the words will fall as flat as that "500 words or less essay" you hacked out for humanities senior year of High School. I had tried to write a book before. The story I wanted to tell inspired me. The setting I wanted to tell it in captivated me, but I was at a point of transition in my life and focus, not to mention free time were commodities in short supply.

Fast forward to present day, a couple years ago I mean. Life had settled out, the new phase was in full swing...the stage was set. Just like any other night I was checking in on new trailers for up and coming movies. Then it hit me. It wasn't so much the content of the movie trailer, because at this point I can't even remember what movie the trailer was for. It was the song. Even in its chopped, spliced and horrifically shortened and disfigured state the music grabbed me. I started to search. Back then we didn't have Sound Hound, or Shazam as back up. I had to do it the old fashioned way, I had to actually look...ugh.

Thanks to our friends at Google my search was much easier than it could have been. Thanks also go to the legion of people out there that will research, post, link and document anything and everything...you people reach around and pat yourselves on the back! The song was called Protectors of the Earth. It was two minutes and forty nine seconds of pure epicness, composed by Thomas Bergersen for the then little known Two Steps from Hell studios. Thanks to YouTube I was finally able to listen to the song in its entirety, and let me say, it did something.

I have never experienced anything like it. It was raw and spontaneous, the kind of inspiration that can drive you crazy, or drive you to write. So I wrote, and in just a few short, fevered hours I had written the first chapter of my book. The story felt like a wire frame however, so I kept on writing. Desperate to get it down, and also to see where my imagination would take me. One chapter turned into two, and then two into four and before I knew it I was sitting on fifty thousand words and hadn't really gone anywhere.

In six months I finished the first draft. That version of just over one hundred thousand words was a benchmark for me, I thought I had finished my task. But the story had changed so much over the course of writing I found that the first chapter I wrote, the seed of my inspiration was no longer a part of my book. So I went back to the very beginning and started a rewrite. The story needed filling in. There were side characters that had earned larger rolls and something called "continuity" that I guess I needed to worry about.

It took me the better part of a year to complete the next phase of writing, but what had started as a 100,000 word first draft had grown into a 245,000 word monster. The story had taken on a life of its own, and I would not be the one to hold it back. In the time since I have edited, revised and polished. I still have the first chapter I wrote, that darling seed planted by Bergersen's epic track. It no longer fit into the folds of my finished book, but that fact alone makes it no less important.

While you consider what might inspire you, give a listen to the song that started it all for me.