A Novella

“I’ve got a jar of dirt! I’ve got a jar of dirt, and guess what’s inside it!” –Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I started a fantasy novella last July as a means of giving myself a break from my first novel. It was meant to be completed in the month as part of Camp NaNoWriMo in conjunction with watching Brandon Sanderson’s BYU classes on writing. Unfortunately, I got busy and the plot was giving me a few issues, so it remained in stasis for a while.

Part of my reason for writing it was to get a microcosm of the writing process, like learning to bake a cookie so that I can eventually go on to creating a soufflé. Another reason for writing it was also because I’ve spent the last ten years putting the pieces of my high fantasy work together, I needed a break and proof that I was more than just a one idea and done author.

So there you have it, the main reasons I’ve been exploring short stories and this novella over the course of the last year is because I need the practice before I go back and work on my high fantasy trilogy.

So why am I going on and on about this?

I finished the novella yesterday! It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be released any time soon, but it is another step forward. And I’m looking forward to what the story can teach me about the editing process.

The reason I love the Pirates of the Caribbean quote above is because that’s exactly what I have in this draft.  It is what amounts to a jar of sand that I’ll use to build my sandcastles. (Writing as related to sandboxes is a popular metaphor shared by at least both Ted Dekker and Shannon Hale regarding writing.)

What should be coming sooner than a published novella however, is news about short stories: the rest of this month will be committed to the backlog I’ve created of short story and flash fiction drafts. I’ll be cleaning them up and sending them off for submission.

For tonight though, I’ll continue celebrating that another major rough draft is finished.

 

 

 

(Here’s the first in the Sanderson lectures if you’re interested:)

Weddings

Between my family and friends I have seen my fair share of lives changed by the united utterance of “I do.”  One such time was this past weekend.  Two of my more recent friends committed their love and lives to each other, and it was utterly beautiful.

In the midst of their love, there was also a larger scale showing of support.  I’m not sure I have ever seen so many friends instead of family take lead on throwing a wedding together, but we did (not to say the family wasn’t involved, just that the brunt of the wedding day set was taken care of by us).

Again, it was beautiful.

Tying that back to me, there’s a term I absolutely love: husbandry.  I have always conjured up this image of a farmer being wedded to the land.  A man or woman committed to the land through the good and the terrible, in an unshakable relationship.

Maybe that’s why I keep writing.  I am wedded to the work in a way more deeply than I had ever comprehended when I started.  It’s an overly optimistic obsession (much like farming).  And the writing contains my blood, sweat, and tears just as much as the land that I work on.

However, a marriage doesn’t work without support.  Just like how my friends and I love and support each other, without their support I would likely not be as far along in my projects as I am now.

I suppose if I were to sum it all up: without commitment rooted in love – the books, the farmland, friendships – all would fail.  We need each other.  We need commitment.  And a wedding is an amazing symbol of that.

Microfiction: Chestnut

I have been challenging myself to write microfiction each weekend.  The following is based on the one word prompt “chestnut” written and edited in about the span of an hour:

We’re standing in the middle of the wide open, rocky grazing land. The mesas rise like otherworldly sentinels in the distance and the brush covered land between is absolutely perfect.  My partner, a beautiful chestnut mare, is standing just behind me to my right.

She started life as a wild mustang and was still pretty young when I got her at the auction.  Mustangs are the best type of horse in my opinion, they still have instincts other horses have long lost in their domestication, even if their training can be long and intense.

She nudges my shoulder, the strong willed horse is ready for some water and fresh hay back at the ranch.  I oblige with a grin and a quick rub of my hand on her velvety head as it sits on my shoulder.  Of course, she doesn’t know why I make a point of coming out here but I know the land won’t always stay this way.

Even now I’m responding to queries from resort developers almost monthly.  But for now, in this one small glorious moment of time, the land and I still have a bit of the wild running through our veins.

I saddle up and pat her neck, “Let’s go home.”  Together, we ride off into the horizon.

 

Getting Down to Business

A.K.A. Working through Procrastination.

Many times I fall into a couple forms of procrastination

  • Cleaning, texting, daydreaming, reading, etc… (these may be productive, but will not get my novels written).
  • Looking up clips from favorite shows, listening to some of my favorite music, and/or looking up quotes from favorite novels.  I do this to help me get my muse going, but more often than not it leads to rabbit trails of distraction.

Those two observations seem obvious right?  Well they are two of several traps I fall into when I should be taking time to write.  Most often what happens is I’m tired from work and want to relax a bit before working very hard on stories.  To be honest, more often than not the social media I rely on to get my name out there – as great as they are – often distract me as well.

Now, I have no idea if you have some of the same struggles or if yours manifest differently, but here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  • Self Discipline – The tricks I have learned won’t work unless I make myself do them.
  • Full Screen Mode – The writing software I use (Scrivener) has a mode where the only thing I can see on my computer screen is the part of the document I am working on.
  • Pen and Paper – This has been my favorite of late.  You can’t access Twitter from a piece of paper (at least not yet, I assume something crazy like this will one day be invented to our detriment).  And, as I discussed in a previous post, there are advantages to writing stories out in longhand.
  • Lyricless Music – Music without words coupled with sound proofing ear buds help me isolate myself from the world and the worries of it.  This gives me a clearer focus while writing, especially when I don’t have the lyrics to listen to as an added distraction.  Besides soundtracks, I really like listening to piano music.
  • A Plan – If I use a planner to write out what I want to get done in the course of the day, I am far more successful at it than when I am not writing it down.  (I personally use a bullet journal, an example of which can be found here).
  • A List – I learned a while ago that if you want to focus, write down your stray thoughts on a pad of paper next to you.  It releases your mind from worrying about it and helps you focus on the tasks at hand (other advantages can be found in this article).
  • Rewards – Though I do this less than I should.  Giving myself a reward for finishing my daily goals and larger rewards for larger projects has been useful.

Hope this is helpful!  Time for me to get back to work myself.

 

Weekend Microfiction: The Chase

The words of the forest were dimmer today. The young mage was unsure how to approach the ancient trees. The soldiers would be here at any time and the mage needed the words of power, now. She felt sweat bead on her forehead as the pounding of horse hooves began to echo closer. The inquisitors were likely behind their speed. She looked at the trees and then at the sky. “Please.”

She was not sure where the plea was directed, but moments later her body filled with warmth, like golden light filtering in through a storm.

The Advantages of Longhand

(The above interview makes note of longhand but also has some fantastic general advice)

I am not one of those authors who will write everything out by hand and then meticulously copy it into the computer.  That being said, I am experiencing my own resurgence in using paper and pen instead of a strict computer model.

I’m finding that I’m less distracted when I’m plotting, creating character notes, and world notes by writing rather than immediately typing up my ideas.

Now while I may be using a computer first model for novels, for short stories, I have been writing a first and very rough copy by hand.  Once those are done, I enter them into my computer and make a few adjustments as I’m typing.

I am finding that with physically handwriting the stories, the ideas have a little more clarity in the early draft than some of my projects that were exclusively done on the computer.  As a result, I have been writing chapters of my novels in long hand when I find I need a little more momentum without the distractions that a computer offers.

All that said.  Here’s a quick breakdown of a few of the benefits I’ve found:

Retention – I quite literally remember more of the details that I’ve written.

Brevity – The physical act of writing at a slower speed keeps the superfluous words to a minimum.

Clarity – When it takes more time to write a phrase down, it is easier to keep the target in sight.

Edits – It’s far easier to make notations in different colors on a manuscript than to go through all the steps to get a comment in on the computer.  I also appreciate how it is ultimately always visible when you are looking at the physical document.  This is also why the edits on my first draft are all in pen/pencil on a printed copy.

Attention – I am far less likely to browse the web if I have a piece of paper in front of me than a blank document on a screen.  My attention is drawn to the paper, and while I may check my phone, I am still often more productive with the pen and paper method in the same amount of time as I would have spent on the computer.

I’m still working on my own process.  As I find more tips, tricks, and recommendations I’ll be sure to pass them along!


For additional reading:

The Very Weird Handwriting of Very Famous Authors

This Is What A Handwritten Novel By Neil Gaiman Looks Like 

(Both of the above links make me feel a whole lot better about my own handwriting style.)

8 Ways Writing Longhand Amps Your Muse

Electricity

I have been working on a few micro fiction pieces recently, spanning no more than a paragraph in length.  This was my favorite from those I created this weekend.  If you like it or have some suggestions, feel free to let me know:

The woman sat in the corner of the bar, watching the door as she tapped her fingers together.  A picture of grim beauty as her dark hair fell in contrast to her sultry red dress.  As the music blared the smell of cheap liquor overwhelmed her nostrils.  It was a proper place for revenge she thought as the tips of her fingers sizzled with energy. The fire gathering between them was ready to be unleashed on her command.  Her lover would soon emerge from the backroom with his new mistress, but this time she would be ready.