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Day 10 – Recognition of other writers you follow and why they inspire you

Before I get started,  I have to admit something. Last night I started writing my novel…. in my head. I literally started with the first word and an hour later I was still going at it. The worst part about this was the fact that I was in bed and trying to get some sleep. I had contemplated getting up this morning and just start to write it, but then I have to subtract the number of words I write this week from my total starting next week. And that just doesn’t sound like fun. So I thought better of it. But the concept excited me to no end. Yesterday I went to the craft store and bought myself some poster board and an extra long ruler. I had previously written a very small version of a family tree for both my mains, but now I’ve decided to map it out completely. It’s going to take a little bit of effort, but I plan on having it blu-tacked to the wall above my desk. It can be my go-to guide and a little way to remove my eyes from the screen from time-to-time.

I’ve said before I draw inspiration from a lot of things, but great writing is obviously one of those things. Today’s prompt asks that I recognise the writers whose blogs I follow and how it is that they inspire me. It’s basically an ad for the people I enjoy reading from the most. Follow these guys. They’re pretty rad!

Newshound to Novelist

My first one is actually one of my newer follows. I met her just before Round 2 of the Flash Fiction Challenge 2015 at NYC Midnight. She helped me beta read my story, and I helped with hers. Her story went on to be in the top 5 of her group, and she’s moved on to Round 3 of the challenge. That was all her, though. I only helped a smidgen.

She has a distinct writer’s voice, so whenever she writes a story, I always want to read it. Her blog is filled with great advice, and she is actively participating in a Blogging 101 challenge at the moment, so she posts frequently.

She inspires me because she has children, works, and still has time to blog and write. I find that incredible, when I struggle juggling my writing with my work, exercising, and competing interests. I don’t have children, but I can’t imagine being able to get writing in full stop if I did. Also, she’s just a lovely person, too!

Interpreter of Inspiration

My next favourite blog is from Shanan Winters at Interpreter of Inspiration. She is also a competitor in the NYC Midnight challenges. I’ve enjoyed her work both years that I have competed, but I only recently started reading her blog. She also helped beta read my story for Round 2, and I hers. I didn’t have anything of worth to give her on hers, though, because I really enjoy the world she is building with her series Coven Thirteen Missions.

Every story I have read of hers has been really fantastic, but additional to that, is she has some great advice and insights about the world of writing. She’s a software code writer by day, and a writer, freelance editor, and copywriter by night. haha You can check out her services on her blog, and some of her writing, as well.

She’s inspiring for many of the same reasons as Donna, above. Shanan is a mother, works full-time, and manages to write fantastic pieces of fiction outside of all of that. She posts frequently on her blog, and she’s just about to release a novel Rising: Book One of the Adept Cycle, which I cannot wait to read! She’s like a superwoman!

Jen’s Pen Den

Last but not least, is Jen. Jen is another fabulous writer that I became exposed to via the NYC Midnight challenges. If she reads your story, she always provides incredibly helpful advice on how to improve it. She’s read every one of my stories to date, and her advice almost mirrors or exceeds that of the judges. She’s a fantastic writer too. I haven’t read a single story I didn’t enjoy of hers.

Her blog is filled with fantastic advice. She actively wants to impart her knowledge on other writers, and I use her blog as a resource all of the time, especially when I start the editing process. I even wrote about her in my Common Mistakes post a few days ago.

Her blog segues into her editing and critiquing business. I have to admit out of all of the feedback I receive on NYC Midnight forums, hers is the most professional and thorough. I actively want her to read my work, because I know for a fact I will get honest and helpful feedback. I honestly believe she is one of the main reasons I have become a stronger writer. (Though Shanan is second to that, as well.) I have already made an active decision to utilise her services once I feel comfortable with showing my book to the outside world.

Jen inspires me because of all of the above. She’s a professional, but she also shows compassion and optimism. And she’s an amazing writer to boot.

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Day 9 – Write a 500-word story in the eyes of your antagonist

We’re over halfway now! Only 7 more days until NaNoWriMo begins!

Today’s option was a real challenge. Not because I didn’t know what to write for my antagonist, but because I had only 500 words to use. The story comes in at 499 words, so I succeeded there. However, I think some important elements were lost in the cut. The original story came in at 768 words. That’s a lot of shaving! Of course, it comes in a bit tighter, but I’m concerned it feels a bit rushed towards the end.

Nevertheless, this challenge has been incredibly fun! Today’s prompt was one of the best so far. For a while, I have wanted to understand Nadia better. She is a complex character, but I didn’t ever really think about her past at all. I am glad I had a chance to do just that, as flawed as it is. Apologies for any errors. I am sure I missed some. 😉

The Darkness

The wind howled outside Nadia’s darkened room. Outside the moon was a shade of red, and the midnight hour was nearly upon her.

It had been nearly five years now that she had waited for this moment. She was ready.

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Her sister, Dorencia, had been the kindest person she had known, until five years ago when a demon took her for his own. She came back the following night with an aura of dark mysticism, and in a single command, she murdered their father and mother. Then she vanished, leaving Nadia orphaned and alone with only questions and no answers.

For years, Nadia had searched for the name of the demon. She wore her mother’s white healer’s dress to bring out the sympathy in those that spoke with her.

As time wore on, the edges became tattered, and the colour turned to gray. Her questions slowly became demands, and the answers started to come in dribs and drabs.

4 years passed, and she looked upon that white dress now covered in dirt. She realized as long as she looked an orphan, she would receive no help. She needed a new dress, but no shopkeeper would help her.

“Someone has to listen,” she thought.

With her new mysticism, she asked the next store. The owner was only too happy to comply. He offered to give her whichever dress she desired and she obliged.

Reality set in, and she realized her enchantment had exposed her. To cover her tracks, she left with a single suggestion. Perhaps the shopkeeper was depressed and he didn’t really like his existence.

As she left, she heard a gurgle and a gasp. She never turned to see what he had done, but she could only assume the scissors in his hand had played a part.

That night she finally got the answers she was looking for. “He comes at midnight on the full moon that has turned to blood.”

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Now she waited.

The sound of the shutters bursting open announced his arrival.

“Fool,” he whispered in her mind.

The room lit up, and in the center of it, he stood – a shadow.

“She’s mine,” he laughed.

Nadia released a psychic attack. The scream forced him to take a step back, and the mind blasts kept coming until he was cornered.

Nadia laughed as victory drew near.

“She’s mine,” she sneered.

The final blast shattered his subconscious and the shadow fell as he crumbled to the ground. Instead of revealing a man or demon, though, there laid Dorencia. Bloody tears streamed down her face.

Nadia sprinted to her side, but she knew she was too late.

“You were my goal all along,” she heard.

She shuddered. Then she realized the truth. The interrogations, the shopkeeper – she had lost her humanity, and she now realized her dark path to this moment. She deserved this.

As Dorencia’s life faded, the lit room faded to black, and Nadia embraced the darkness.

“I am yours,” she admitted.

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Day 8 – Write about the current book you are reading.

When I first created this topic, I had no way of knowing what day it was actually landing on or that it would seque so well into my current experiences. Yesterday, I posted an off-topic blog about my experience with the Flash Fiction Challenge for 2015, and I mentioned a little thing about Stephen King. Today I can write more about that! Because the current book I am reading is actually…

  
I’m just over halfway throug the book, but I have found it a very interesting read thus far. Love him or hate him, you have to admit this man is a prolific writer and knows what he is doing. The book is broken up into two parts: autobiography and craft advice. Currently I’m into the craft advice, but I have fully completed the autobiography now.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the insight into this author’s world. There are parts in the book that I just go, “Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!” 

He explains that he has no idea where the ideas come from; they just come to him randomly. When he was working at a high school, cleaning the girls’ toilets, he suddenly thought of Carrie showering and being pelted with feminine products. It was as simple as that. From there, he wrote his first novel and found the fame he rightfully deserved.

As writers, people are always asking us where we get our ideas, but if people realised how mundane that part is, they probably wouldn’t bother to ask. 

But the thing I took away from the book more than any other thus far is how Stephen King dealt with rejection. He submitted his stories to publications, and when he received a rejection letter, he would often note that feedback was left on this stock-standard “Your piece has not been accepted for publication” letters. So at first, he put a nail in his wall and stuck the feedback there for him to see it. After multiple rejection letters, the nail didn’t cut it anymore, so he put a railroad spike in the wall and just kept going.

The mental fortitude to do this is amazing. He was young when this was happening, and it’s almost like he fed on rejection just as much as acceptance. He used the opportunity to take on the feedback and use it to become a stronger writer. 

As writers, rejection is pretty much a certainty. It’s how we deal with it that that defines if we are an aspiring writer or a published author. 

I would certainly suggest reading the book if you haven’t before. There are even more insights and stories that he has told in the book, and all of it is quite fascinating. It does include everything from a young age to his marriage (to his one and only wife) to his substance abuse and beyond. But he doesn’t overly preach about his ability either. 

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Day 7 – Write a Setting Profile about your book

I looked for some resources online for this one. I thought a setting profile was a real thing, but I actually can’t find anything worthwhile. At least, not for the writing process. There are a ton of resources about how to do a setting analysis for current books and stories. So I’m just going to go with my gut here and write what I generally do when I’m thinking about the setting of my stories and novels.

In Bloodlines, I have decided to keep the exact location ambiguous. It doesn’t matter which New England community the girls live in, because the story takes place in predominately 2 locations, all of which are houses, and 2 that are fairly minor. For the sake of time, I’m just posting about the two major locations.

Known As: The Crowell Estate
Location: On the outskirts of the Ulysses Summer Camp
Description: The edge of the summer camp sits right at the boundary of the house’s front yard. The early colonial style is dominant on its face, and it noticeably seems to take after the early Victorian homes of the Brits. The colour of the house is brown and years of no use are evident as rot had long settled into the frame. The sides and back are covered by trees and vines, so most can only see the front. Two stories can be seen. The bottom level has a lot of natural light with two 5ft tall windows. The front door is nestled between the two. The top level is dark, with minimal windows. Two windows on this level were closed with shutters across them. Above those windows are two gables, one for each. This gives the house the look of constant disapproval, with two eyes, eyebrows raised and no smile.

From the inside, The Crowell Estate takes on a completely different look and feel. The front door opens into the staircase to the second level. To the right of it, the main entryway and living area can be seen. Just to the right and under the stairs is the hallway to the kitchen. The main living area has tattered furniture sitting in the middle of the room and the outer parts of the room are filled with shelves and tables. The windows are unblocked and many. Aside from the 5ft tall window, there are two other windows across the eastern most wall. To the left of the front door is the entrance into the study, but the doors have long since rotted and there is no way inside. The staircase has not succumbed to any rot, and the steps are near perfect. On the top level, at the top of the stairs lays one room. This room has only one small window, but the shape of it is quite small. It is a child’s nursery, so a rocking chair, table and bassinet are all that are inside. There are three more rooms in the house. To the right just past the stairs is the master bedroom. Across from it is another bedroom, and down at the very end of the hallway is one last room, the latrine.
History: The Crowell Estate is just under 250 years old. It was one of the first houses built when the area was colonised. Thomas and Nadia Crowell were founding members of the community, but the building of the house is shrouded in mystery. Thomas was a doctor, so he was not handy with tools. However, he had a lot of money, so it was believed that he organised people to build the house. But no one knows when or how. After it was built, Thomas suddenly passed and Nadia was pregnant with a child. She fell into madness, though, and the town sent a family in to save the babe. After that, Nadia is said to have perished from her own madness, but the house remained. It was uninhabitable, and it wasn’t long before ghosts were blamed. The town slowly moved away from the house and forgot about it. There have been attempts to enter and vandalise the house over the years. Especially after the 1970s when the Summer Camp was built, but all have ended with hints of hauntings. So the legacy continues.

Name: The Downings & Welch residences
Location: On the edges of town, across the street from an unused park.
Description: The Downings residence is a two-story house. The bottom floor holds the living area, the kitchen and a bathroom. On the top level, Shannon’s bedroom is the first room at the top of the stairs. The entrance is directly to the left. Mike’s bedroom is next to hers. A guest bedroom is across from Mike’s room, and the last room at the end of the hall is the master bedroom. Shannon’s room has enough room for a bed, desk, shelf, and chester drawers. Under her front bedroom window, she has a small space where she can sit and gaze outside.

The Welch residence is significantly smaller. The main living area is at the front of the house. To the left is Amanda’s bedroom. Between her room and her mother’s room is a small bathroom. Then on the opposite side of the kitchen is Lydia’s room, as it was an add-on when she invited Anne & Amanda to live with her.
History: Both houses are among the oldest in town. They were built as a manor and the servant’s house. Both are kept clean and painted because they are historic to the town, and because of the age, there are tiny areas in the houses where the servants could come and go without being seen. The tunnel leading the Downings house to the Welch’s house has long since caved in, but the hidden places are still very much available. Not much is known about the places, but the Welch family have owned the properties since they were built. In the early 1900s, though, their debt became too great, and the main house was sold for a large sum to cover the debt. Since then, the house has been owned by a handful of people. Because the Welch family history was lived through the walls of both places, there are a lot of things that Lydia protects to prevent the history from being released.

I’m trying to make drawings of all, but my artistic skills are fairly limited. Nevertheless, these houses almost act as another character in the story, so their history is almost as important as the way they look. Hope it comes across well, but I will be ironing this out even more before I start writing the book. 🙂

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Day 6 – What are your most common issues?

I don’t have a lot of experience with getting feedback before the last 12 months. Joining the NYC Midnight challenges has taught me heaps already, and all because of the feedback rendered by the contestants and the judges.

Today, I’m going to be looking at the feedback I’ve received on these stories as a barometer of the pitfalls I make in writing. We all do some of these, and there’s a fantastic blog, Jen’s Pen Den, that helps me a lot with ways of fixing these issues.

So here’s my biggest issues and how I aim to fix them…

Unnecessary Words -> -ing Transitions, The Usage of As, and -ly Adjectives

She looks down the lane, searching for her target. It isn’t long before she spots him, as he starts reaching for his gun. She sprints around the corner, ducking out of the path of the bullet as it speeds down the lane. Sighing, she props herself against the wall, trying desperately to calm her nerves. Her heart feels as if it is in her throat as she swallows her breath, contemplating what her next move will be.

You see that sentence, and instantly you see a writer that is not confident in her ability to tell a story. This is a trap I fall into frequently. When the tension is ramped up, I find that, from time-to-time, I get lazy in my storytelling. In my most recent story, The Lager Merger, it was noted that this was something I did during the most important parts of the story. It doesn’t exactly take away from the story, but if I were to lose these things it would certainly “tighten” the story up.

A great resource for you is the blog I noted above. It’s filled with great tidbits about all of these little editing nightmares. Instead, I figured, in the spirit of the “Show, Don’t Tell” ethos, I would just write a corrected version, as this is the aim I have in the future of my novel writing:

She looks down the lane. She knows that her target came this way. When her gaze falls upon him, she becomes aware of only one thing – the pistol in his hand. The gunfire echoes in the street, and she sprints to the corner of the nearest building. It just misses her. She leans against the building. Her breathing comes in rapid gasps. Her heart is a lump in her throat, and no amount of swallowing seems to abate it. She reaches for her gun and waits for his next move.

This is still not exactly a perfect example, but I believe this flows better. The sentences are shorter and easier to read, and there are fewer distractions. The more you look for it, the more the ases, ings and lys annoy you.

In the heat of NaNoWriMo, I am certain I will do this often, because it’s just easy to do when you’re in a mad rush to finish something. But I like to also be self-aware enough to pick it up whilst I’m writing, as well.

Unnecessary Characters

I seem to do this all the time. 8-Bit Folly, An Ocean of Memories, The Patriots, and The Lager Merger have all had criticisms about characters that were not required. I can’t quite put a finger on why I do this, but I can certainly see why it is infuriating to the readers of my stories.

In 8-Bit Folly, the extra character was Prince. I really liked the name, and I think this was the reason I kept him in the story, even though he does not drive it home in any way. The other reason I kept him involved was because it made sense that two boys would peer pressure a girl into joining them in an act of vandalism. Unfortunately, this doesn’t play on the story in any way, and his part is very much replaceable. So much so that when I rewrite it, if I can’t flesh him out more, he will not exist.

In An Ocean of Memories, I wrote my first romance, and I did the same thing as 8-Bit. I added a character that had no real purpose. He just drove home the idea that the Captain was leaving for the last time. His part was so large that it took up 200 words in a 1k-word story. That’s a decent chunk of time that would have been better suited to give more time to my main character and his memories.

In The Patriots and The Lager Merger both had characters that weren’t fleshed out well, so they both seemed unnecessary, in a way too.

So how am I going to fix this issue? Well, for the future of my novel, a little thing known as planning is going into it. Naturally, in a short space, it’s important to reduce the amount of baggage, as well, so novel writing doesn’t necessarily have the same rules as flash. Tightening the story will still be essential, though, so unnecessary characters are being ironed out before I start it.
Too much ambiguity

So this is something that I feel is something only I seem to do. But in previous stories, I’ve left too much unanswered in my stories. Sometimes I think it’s obvious throughout the story, but I’ve been told otherwise. The thing I have pinpointed that has caused this issue is that I know the story in my mind, and the clues I leave to explain myself would only make sense to someone who knows the story. It’s a writer’s worst nightmare.

What I plan on doing to fix this issue is read the story aloud when I begin the editing process. If it doesn’t make sense or is too ambiguous, then that part will be edited… a lot…

Still, again, this is an afterthought to NaNo. What’s really important that I don’t re-read what I have written in November. If I do, then the inner voice is going to go to town on editing, and I won’t finish the challenge. I’d much rather not have all this planning go out the window! 😉