Picking Up Dropped Threads

No, this is not a post about knitting or weaving…at least, only figuratively.

This week I’ve been struggling to pick up an unfinished manuscript and get it moving forward again. I wrote over 50k words of a second Magica Incognita novel last November, and expected to finish the first draft early this year with an eye to rewriting and editing in the spring, and maybe a publication date this past summer.

Well, due mainly to consuming family issues, nothing beyond projects I had outside commitments for happened from early spring to fall this year. I’m very pleased that I was able to keep all of those commitments…but other projects fell by the wayside.

I’ve said before that the key to a really successful NaNoWriMo draft is getting to “the end.” It doesn’t matter how much work that manuscript will take in revisions and rewrites and adding new subplots and taking it apart and putting it back together again–it’s all easier if you have a finished first draft that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, I didn’t get anywhere near “the end” of The Chaos Assassin. And the intervening ten months or so have effectively blurred the progression of plots and clues and conversations in my mind so that I sat down at my desk this week not really knowing where to start. Reading through the existing manuscript was a good place to start, of course, as well as reviewing all my notes and mind maps. I also made a timeline of the existing events in Aeon Timeline, a program I recently purchased. Seemed like a good way to try it out, and so far, I like it.

But even all of that didn’t get the story back in my head the way it was when I was writing that first draft. I still feel like I’m floundering around with a fistful of plot threads and no clear idea what to do with them.

So I am going to try making an outline.

Yup, me. Making an outline. Weird, right? Not just of what’s already written–I usually do that anyway, after the fact or as I go along, because it’s invaluable for rewrites later. No, I’m going to go further. I’m going to catch up to where I have written and keep going. Plan out the rest of the novel and then write it.

My head’s almost exploding at this point.

Since I’m not an outliner by nature, I decided to get a little help by looking at various outlining methods online. I wasted  spent a fair bit of time perusing articles, charts, worksheets, etc., but in the end came back to one I’d looked at before and that sort of spoke to me: Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet. Actually, an enhanced version of it by Tom Gowan. And a little bit of Dan Wells’ 7-Point Story Structure and a Scrivener version thrown in for good measure. No, I’m not dedicated to following it rigidly–just to using it as a guide to help put the manuscript back into perspective for me and assist me in finding my way forward.

So here we go. If nothing else, it’s colourful and pretty!

BeatSheet

 

Mapping for Writers

I love maps. As a writer and a gamer, I’ve created maps of worlds, dungeons, cities, space stations, villages, wormholes in space…anywhere a story might happen. I’ve also used real-world maps for stories set in–you guessed it–the “real world.” I find that maps help ground the story and help me visualize what’s happening.

Here’s my map of the fantasy world in The Seventh Crow (which is coming out soon! Like, this month soon!):

Ysterad map 2015 print

Okay, yes, I’m pretty happy with this one. It’s done in Photoshop, and I took a lot of time to get it just the way I wanted it. But it didn’t start out this way. It began as a pencil outline on graph paper, and it was pretty rough. It’s been through several incarnations on the way to this, including a hand-colored one I used in a D&D campaign for a while. But the act of creating the world–no matter how rudimentary it is, is the important part. By creating the environment, you are also thinking about everything and everyone in that environment.

This video by Peter Deligdisch explains this much better than I can:

As the artist explains, one thought about the world can lead to the next, to the next, to the next, when creating your map (and you do not need to be as talented as he is–it can work for anyone). Graph paper or hex paper is your friend (and you can download and print of either of these here).

If you really think you can’t tackle creating a map on your own, you can use a map generator (yes, just Google “map generator”) to do some of the work for you. You don’t have completely free creative rein with this method, but if you feel drawing-impaired it can be the next best thing.

If you’re just looking for inspiration, and not material to completely call your own, there are so many maps and plans already in existence online for role-playing games, that you need never lack for a visual representation of your story environs. This sort of resource is invaluable if you really need something visual to work out story logistics in your head, but you don’t need any sort of publishable plan or blueprint. I mean, look what searching for spaceship blueprints generator gets you.

Or again, you can make your own, as I did for the main character’s ship in One’s Aspect to the Sun (these, too, started out as sketches on graph paper. I transferred them to tracing paper at one point so I could line up the inter-deck hatchways):

DeckPlans-T-I

Maps can also make a lovely background for a book or ebook cover. Here’s one I created for a friend’s story:

20130914102723-Eyes-JulieThe map we started with was a barely-there representation, but with a little work it blossomed into a lovely backdrop for this cover.

Do you draw maps, plans, or blueprints for your stories? Do you spend a lot of time on them, or are you happy with a quick sketch? Share your thoughts in the comments!

July Newsletter

Paper_StackThe July issue (okay, the first issue!) of my Writing News newsletter is out. I hope to make this a regular feature; this issue includes some news items, reading recommendations, and writing thoughts. I’ve kept it short and sweet and (I hope) interesting.

If you’re not subscribed yet, you can do so from the bottom of any page on this site, or from the top of the right-hand sidebar on most pages. In the future I’ll be running contests, offering writing tips and book reviews, and adding anything else I think might be of interest. I’m also happy to hear from subscribers (or potential subscribers) about what you’d like to see.

The July issue is available to view online at http://t.co/mLaYkI7fST.

Cover Reveal: Dark Beneath the Moon

I’m thrilled today to reveal the cover for Dark Beneath the Moon, coming in September from Tyche Books. This book is a sequel to One’s Aspect to the Sun, and you’ll find many of the same characters returning to the story. The art is once again by Ashley Walters, who did an amazing job again this time around.

Oh,  you actually want to SEE it? Here you go:

DarkBeneat_front

Ohmigosh, isn’t it amazing? If you’ve read One’s Aspect to the Sun or the free Nearspace story on this site, you’ve heard mention of a wolf-like alien race called “Lobors.” Yes, that’s one of them on the cover with Luta, and she’s pretty important in this story.

What’s the book about? Here’s a glimpse:

Luta Paixon has plenty of trouble on the Tane Ikai, with relationships in flux and the sticky problem of two captains on one ship. But when an alien artifact, the remnant of a long-ago war, shows up on the other side of a newly-discovered wormhole, the crew also find themselves pressed into the service of the Nearspace Protectorate. The Tane Ikai‘s task: covertly deliver an alien historian to the site to decipher its meaning–and possible threat.

 

Jahelia Sord is a woman with a grudge against the world, and against Luta Paixon and her family in particular. She has her own secrets to guard, and an alliance with the notorious PrimeCorp–one she’ll keep only as long as it suits her own hunt for vengeance.

 

When a mysterious attack leaves them stranded in an uncharted new system, Luta, her crew, and Jahelia must try to put their differences aside and decide who to trust, while they uncover a shocking truth about the Chron war and what their old enemies are so afraid of…

 

Dark Beneath the Moon is set to launch this September at CaperCon. I know I’m excited! :)

The Seventh Crow Kickstarter is Live!

My publisher for The Seventh Crow, Dreaming Robot Press, has launched its Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders for the book. I’m pretty excited about this as some of the perks are pretty cool: mini-prints of illustrations from the book! I’ll give you a sneak peek of one here:

Rosinda&Traveller

…but you’ll have to click over to the Kickstarter page to see the rest! It’s right here. There’s also a very cool video you can watch to find out more about the book. Watch for my very own map of the fantasy world of Ysterad in the video!

You also have the option of ordering the book with color or greyscale illustrations, ebooks, multi-packs for classrooms–even a visit from me! (via Skype if I don’t live near you, unless of course you want to pay my way…haha)

The Kickstarter will collect pre-orders and funds will help cover the cost of the illustrations and additional printing costs. There are a limited number of Early Bird copies with special pricing, so don’t miss out!

The book is set to release this August in print and ebook formats.

Cover Reveal: The Seventh Crow

Seventh Crow Cover_smI’m excited today to reveal the cover for my forthcoming middle-grade fantasy/adventure novel, The Seventh Crow. It’s coming this summer from Dreaming Robot Press and we’ve been working hard on it over the past few months.

The crow on the cover? That’s Traveller, the crow from the title. When we first started discussing cover ideas, we went hunting for an image that captured this character, and we found him! See those intelligent eyes, that proud bearing, the impression that he’s just about to speak–

But I don’t want to give too much away.

What’s the book about? (I hear you asking…)

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Dreaming Robot will be running a Kickstarter campaign to gather pre-orders, with some pretty sweet perks–like prints of illustrations from the book! Stay tuned and I’ll share full details of the campaign when it goes live.

Audiobook Giveaway ~ One’s Aspect to the Sun

OATTS cover-smI’m happy to announce that I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway for THREE Audible.com audiobook codes for One’s Aspect to the Sun. The sequel is due out later this year, so if you win, you’ll have lots of time to listen to the first one before the second arrives!

As usual with Rafflecopter, there are several ways you can enter, and some things you can do every day to increase your chance of winning! The contest will run for one week, until April 21st.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Flashpoint

*puts on Third Person Press hat*

flashpointWe’ll be launching our fourth volume in the Speculative Elements series this Friday: Flashpoint. As with the earlier volumes in the series, all the stories in Flashpoint involve something thematically related to the title, whether literally or figuratively. Sometimes both.

We have fifteen stories in this anthology, each one unique in its own right. It’s always interesting in these anthologies to see how very many different ways there are to interpret the theme we set before our authors. As combined editors/contributors, there’s an extra layer of interest as we each work within the theme on our own stories, as well.

The stories in Flashpoint cover the speculative spectrum, from fantasy to science fiction, horror to paranormal, light and funny to dark and serious. We always try to offer a mix of styles, subjects, and ideas in these volumes, and I think (if I do say so myself) that this one does an admirable job again.

If you can’t join us for the launch, watch for Flashpoint in print and ebook formats online at all the usual suspects.

If you supported our Indiegogo campaign for the book, watch for your perks to arrive soon!

The Seventh Crow ~ News!

file1941286445708I’m so pleased to officially report that my YA fantasy novel The Seventh Crow will be published by Dreaming Robot Press, with an expected release date sometime in 2015.

I wrote the first draft of The Seventh Crow as my NaNoWriMo project in 2005. It’s been through several drafts since then, growing and maturing (I hope!) with every one. No, I would not say that I’ve “been working on this novel for ten years”! Novel revision seems to be a very on-again, off-again kind of thing for me. If we condensed down the time that I actually worked on it, it would fit into a ridiculously shorter period of time. But sometimes that in-between time is important for the book, and for the writer. In any event, I’m very excited that the novel has found a home!

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit: curlsdiva