Today, I'm going to answer a question that I get asked a lot - where do I get my ideas?
To be honest, I don't so much get ideas as they get me! It feels more like being a conduit for the stories, that they are telling themselves to me and I'm translating that through the action of my fingers typing on a computer. And sometimes my translation is pretty poor! I know what the story, or the scene, or the dialogue should look like, but I just can't express it properly.
So, that's how the story is told - but how do I begin? Sometimes a character just appears in my mind fully formed - the title character in 'Rathia' was one of those. Sometimes I am inspired by my reading to try my hand at something similar - that was how 'The Curse of Mannerley Manor' began. But quite often I have a vague sense of a scenario and then have to search out the details.
Nano Nineteen is proving to be one of those! The initial concept that presented itself was of a married couple, separated for an extended period, who find themselves changed by their experiences when they are reunited, perhaps irrevocably.
With the initial idea in place, I began working out what the exact situation is. How have they been separated? What are the experiences that have shaped them? What world do they live in and how is that impacting on their lives? What social and political changes are affecting them?
In answering these questions, I came to realise that this was not a simple domestic tale - although it is that, too. This is an epic, a saga, a story that can only be told over multiple volumes. One of my life-long ambitions has been to write a story that spans multiple books, and this may be the one. And it came to me as a very vague concept!
Next time, I'll look at how I get to know my characters, the driving force of the story.
So, I have the outline of the story mostly in my head. With the stuff that's going on in RL, I really haven't had the time to do anything much with it. In particular, I'm really struggling to get to grips with my characters.
Characters are people. They may live in our heads - and when we've written about them in the heads of our readers - but they are still people. And people deserve attention, love, commitment, especially from their creator. I must make a confession; I have woefully neglected my people.
Who are they? What are their motivations? What makes a princess dress as a man and go running off to war? Why does a queen put all her trust in the most untrustworthy person she knows? All very good questions - all still without answers. And that doesn't get me anywhere on the path of understanding their world, the places they live or the history that has brought them to this point, the moment when my story begins.
I think I have two options. Option one: over the next couple of weeks, make a concerted effort to get under their skins, to get to know them - starting with their names! - and the world they inhabit. Option two: make that part of my Nano; write character sheets (including ones for the countries involved) before I get going on the story. The whole thing is a precis, anyway, an experiment. Can I tell a whole story in 50k words that can then be turned into 4 or 5 full length books? Why not use some of the 50k to explore my characters?
Option two is very appealing. It means that I don't have to beat myself up for not making any progress over the next few days, and increases the experimental nature of the whole piece. What I can do in the meantime is get together a list of the characters I want to explore and at least find out their names. I can also get together a list of the countries we will be visiting and work out what their 'character sheet' looks like.
I do like having a plan!
I was talking to a friend about the process of creating The Curse of Mannerley Manor (which will be published and available to purchase very soon, honest!) and I found that, whilst I remembered the basic steps (and the editing, re-editing, re-re-editing and still finding things to fix when I was in the process of publishing!), a lot of the details had escaped me. So, I am going to follow my own progress a little more closely this time, especially because my ambitions for this particular story are nothing short of epic.
To date, I have drawn up a couple of different outlines that I then attempted to merge. I think they do work together but I haven't gone through the final hybrid properly, nor talked it through with someone else. That step of talking it through, saying the words out loud, is an important sanity check, by the way. What makes perfect sense in your head sometimes looks rather less logical when it's exposed to the light of day!
I have quite a number of characters, although I haven't yet named any of them! That is definitely something I need to address sooner rather than later, as there is nothing worse than throwing a name at a character that just doesn't fit them.
I also have an actual theme this time - the way relationships adjust (or don't!) as the people within them change.
For the purposes of Nanowrimo, the story will cover five chapters but the plan is to expand each of those into a book. Yes, I am in the process of creating my own epic saga!
I have decided to do it this way partly to test that question of logic, again. I have this big, sweeping idea in my head - but how will it play out on paper? Or even screen... Is there enough to the idea to even make five whole books? And another reason is that if it clearly isn't working I haven't created the first book and left the story incomplete. I also think I'll be able to judge the balance of the story across the different parts better.
So, there we are. My Nanowrimo journey for 2019 has begun!
Now that I am publishing my first novel - The Curse of Mannerley Manor (remember you can buy it on Lulu.com!) - I felt it was time to give this site a bit of an overhaul.
Please feel free to have a wander around and if you see something you like, be sure to leave a comment in my Guest Book!
Today I start my first ever blog series - go me!
As the title above suggests, I'll be looking at words and their importance to writers. It might seem pretty obvious - in fact, I hope it does! - but words are the writer's raw material. I'll explore the way that the writer chooses, combines and manipulates this material to produce something that other people want to read.
So, check in next week for the next part.
So, this year's Nano wasn't the greatest thing I've ever written. It wasn't terrible - it just wasn't a great novel.
It did prompt me to look up some of my older manuscripts, though, and the one from 2007 - Today is not a day for heroes - is worth salvaging. The last two chapters are very condensed and could probably be at least another five chapters. When I write a Nanonovel, I like to tell the whole story even if that means chopping bits out. So, task one for December is to do some work on that manuscript - tidy up the typos, expand the last two chapters. But maybe I can take the whole thing further, really go in depth? Let's start with the tidy up, though.
The other thing I want to try is doing the little prompts and competitions over at Writing.com with a set of characters I'm developing for next year's Nano (you can never start too early!). I'm planning a gothic novel of amazing proportions, so watch this space.
Well, I took on the challenge for the 8th time and I think I'll manage the 50k words that count as 'success'. But it took me ages to get into the swing of the story. Some of my readers have been kinder than others about this!
At the end of the day, I'll know far more about these characters than I do about most of the people who occupy my head during November - which can only be a good thing. But as for the story... I think the main problem is that I've dragged what should have been a long short story out into a short novel. Or maybe I didn't plan enough before I started. Because I didn't plan. At all.
Still, experiences of all kinds - and Nano in particular - are there to teach us stuff. And I now know that if I've been planning a story for a couple of months (which I had), it's probably better to go with that than to try to come up with something a couple of days before the start. And I also know that if I don't have a story well planned, I can't suddenly lift one out of thin air.
I never plan my Nano-novels too carefully because I'm worried about being too restrictive. But it is helpful to have some kind of outline for the purposes of pacing if nothing else!
So, at the end of this exercise, I'll have 50,000 words but not a novel.
On Friday, I visited Helium and picked a number of assignments from those available, a couple of which were due within 4 days. I was confident I would be able to make a start on them over the weekend - a first draft, at least. 500 words - I can knock that out in half-an-hour!
Sadly, life in various forms took over my weekend leaving me with no time for writing, let alone researching the biography of Michael Crawford that was amongst the assignments. Yesterday, I finally sat down to write and found that there were only 12 hours left in which to submit said biography.
Well, I searched the web and found out some interesting things about Mr Crawford (including the facts that he's been on Desert Island Discs three times and now lives in New Zealand) and threw them together in some kind of coherent order. I then had to fight with Helium's slightly strange publishing method but I got it in within the deadline.
Is it the greatest thing I've ever written? Probably not - but I wouldn't count it amongst the worst, either. I'm getting to grips with this business of writing quickly!
The great thing about deadlines is that they focus the mind. If you only have a certain number of hours to produce something, you need to make those hours count. Drop everything else and think about that one thing. If you need to research before you write, your focus narrows down to the information that is most relevant - and most easily available! You then need to sort through the results, rearrange your notes and write around them to produce a narrative that flows. Hopefully, you also have time to read through the piece at least a couple of times, tweaking as you go.
And before you know it, you have a piece that is worthy of being read by other people!
I now have accounts at four different websites, all of which promise cash for words. Below is a brief summary of the experience so far.
Very detailed profile, which felt promising. I actually updated this site based on what I'd put in there. However, after 9 days I'm still getting a message promising to put me into a programme as soon as one matches my profile. Of course, it may be that I need to make a change to my profile - but what?
The first thing to say is that they won't pay me because I'm not an American citizen. Still, having my writing on a public site can only be a good thing, right? Well, it would be if they'd publish my article. I submitted it for approval a week ago and still haven't heard back.
I have to admit that I haven't really engaged with Wikinut, yet. I need to, though, because if you don't keep up at least a 1 star rating (I'm not even sure how you do that!) they charge you for having an inactive account. So, watch this space on this one!
OK, I have to admit that after just one day I'm in love. Sooo simple - write an article and publish it. A very nice editor will then check it over (remember - 1 space between words and capitalise those 'I's!) and let you know if they've made any changes. How great is that? Of course there is a 'but' - but only a small one! You have to promise not to publish your article anywhere else for at least a year.
Overall, I think this is a good way of cutting my on-line writer's teeth. Articles for all of these sites are short - 500-2,000 words - so, all you need is an idea and a keyboard. Yahoo Voices and Helium have prompts in case you're lacking in inspiration - some of the ones on Helium pay quite well, too. Being able to bang out an article or two a day gives a real sense of accomplishment, too!
I do want to move on and start finding 'real' paid work but the rest of this year looks like it could be quite hectic. I think it will form a New Year's resolution, though!
So, when is the best time to write? Early in the morning when the brain cells are fresh? Or last thing at night when the rest of the family is winding down? Or just when inspiration strikes?
I've tried all of them and I don't think one works best all the time. Like most things (at least for me), the answer is - it depends.
At the moment, mornings are pretty hectic so squeezing in an hour's writing isn't really possible. The evenings are much quieter, though, making it easier to take myself off and type out a few hundred words. It never hurts to snatch a few minutes here and there, though, as the opportunity arises!