Micro art May 2, 2013Posted by thejinx in art.
Tags: android, app, art, draw something, drawing, final fantasy 7, fresco, harry potter, lord of the rings, painting, picture, sketch, star wars, world of warcraft, x-men
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Alas, I still have done little art of late – hardly any, in fact. But the art bug has bitten me recently, and I have done a few things on a smaller scale.
For one thing, I’ve been playing a lot of Draw Something. And while most of my drawings there are stick figures, occasionally I get the urge to create something a little more advanced. So, here is a compilation of some of my better turns:
(My personal favourite may be the pancakes.)
I also recently discovered a painting app for Android called Fresco, and while I haven’t even taken much time with it lately, I have done a little playing around with it:
These were both done on a 4.2″ screen using a dollar store stylus. The first was done in about an hour, the second in about twenty minutes. This is art for me these days.
Is more coming? Hard to say. I’m still feeling inspired at the moment, but as was proven to me once again, I get a little too absorbed in making art to do any while watching a little one. We shall see.
At the end of all things April 18, 2013Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
Tags: advice, book, climax, conclusion, dramatic, finale, hints, novel, story, tension, tips, writing
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Nearly four weeks ago, my edits on my next novel Enduring Chaos reached the climax of the story. I have not progressed beyond there, but not due to procrastination or lack of time to complete it. In fact, I have spent nearly every day since trying to work on it. The notes I have taken on the climax these past weeks might in fact be longer than my original outline for the entire story.
The reason it’s taken so long to try to work out this part of the story is that the climax of this novel has proven particularly challenging to manage. I’ve plotted and re-plotted it, attempted to rewrite it twice, analyzed successful climaxes in movies I like, looked up advice on the Internet for crafting the finale of a story, and spent a lot of time thinking about it, both in general and specifically for this novel.
I have never spent this much time or effort trying to work out the climax of a story, or indeed any single event in a novel. Truth be told, I thought the finale of Enduring Chaos as I originally wrote it worked both for dramatic effect and for closing out the story. But I thought I could do better.
As I reconsidered and reworked it, however, one thing or another didn’t work, didn’t sit right, or just plain dragged. Trying to juggle several very different characters, some with very limited motivations, an almost insurmountable challenge that they are up against, and character revelations and growth in a structure that created maximum tension felt overwhelming, and usually something was missed as I tried to work it all together.
So how could I get all the pieces into place? Well, a lot of it has been self speculation or discussion with my husband, who has been heavily involved with the development of this story throughout its creation, but I needed more than that as well. So, I turned to ye olde Google for advice. A simple search for “how to write a climax” turned up a number of articles and blog posts on devising the climax for a novel, with more than a bit of very useful information, things that other people have already put together more effectively and/or eloquently than I could.
See the following to get an idea of what worked for me:
Writer’s Digest: 4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax in Your Writing
How to Write a Book Now: Plot Development: How to write the climax and ending of your novel
Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors: The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 10: The Climax
Fiction Notes: Climax Scenes: Write BIG for BIG Impact
Creative Tips for Writers: How to Write the Climax – Thursday Tips!
Allison’s Bookish Life: How to Write a Good Climax
That last one is particularly useful for those looking for alternate tips on making a more memorable climax, as opposed to the more general – but still very useful – information provided by the other articles. While one may not get a complete idea of how to write the climax of one’s story based solely on that post, it does offer some excellent hints on adding more oomph to the finale.
To all these suggestions, I will only add the following pieces of advice based on my own observations of story climaxes I have thoroughly enjoyed:
1. Things go from bad to worse until the final shining moment when everything gets turned around. The heroes can achieve a minor victory in the middle of the climax to show perspective, but it must be immediately followed up by an even worse downturn to keep the tension.
2. The culmination of the main character’s emotional journey happens at the very peak of the climax; their response to the final challenge determines the outcome of the entire story.
After considering all this advice and trying to apply it to Enduring Chaos, I at last have the climax plotted out to my satisfaction. It’s taken nearly four weeks to get to this point, but now, I have an outline of what each character is doing at all times during the climax and a three-act structure of how the actual writing will commence which is, I think, both tense and dramatic and hits all the major points that it needs to and ends up at a climactic finale. It hasn’t been easy, but it is important, and ultimately, it will be worth it.
How do you approach the climax of a story? Do you write it first or work your way up to it? What is the hardest part about writing the finale?
It was a dark and stormy night… April 12, 2013Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
Tags: advice, beginning, book, introduction, novel, opening, story, writing
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Everyone knows that the beginning and the ending to a novel are the two most important parts of it. They are the initial hook to draw in the reader and the final payoff that the reader leaves with. If nothing else is worthy in the novel, they must be strong.
I will admit I tend not to give these parts their due attention. I love writing the middle; the gradual buildup of tension, the unveiling of story, the process of change the characters go through, putting pieces into place and assembling them together. To me, beginnings have always been a means to an end. Generally, I get an idea for how to open the story and once it’s written it changes little, because that’s not what I want to focus on.
I also perhaps don’t view novel openings the way I should; I am so immersed in my own world that I don’t look at it as a new reader would and try to see it from the point of view of someone who doesn’t have all the knowledge I do. The idea for the opening to a novel that gets lodged in my head often hits all the main points I need to address anyway, so usually only minor revision is required to clean it up to the point where I can call it finished. Of course, I also haven’t finished many novels, so I don’t have many openings that I can look at from the standpoint of a complete story and decide whether it suits the purpose effectively.
Halcyon was the first time an opening I wrote saw a drastic change from my initial idea. Upon actually writing it, I soon discovered my original idea for the opening might work well for a movie, but it lacked something for a novel. I suppose drastic isn’t necessarily the right word for the change I made to it, as I found merely starting the same scene a little bit earlier gave me the right opportunity to ease into the strange new world I created, which was perhaps the largest challenge to writing the beginning of the book, as well as giving me the chance to lay in hints that paid off later. Ultimately, it didn’t end up that different from my original idea, just a little longer.
Enduring Chaos, on the other hand, posed a much greater challenge with its opening. It has been rewritten several times as I tried to hone in on hook, relevancy, and character introduction, with much of my focus going toward the last, a tricky endeavor on its own, and losing the other points in the process. In my last attempt, I ended up resorting to a Google search on writing openings, and, after carefully considering the advice I found, decided that starting the story later served its purpose better.
It is, in fact, a pretty simple and basic piece of advice for writing the opening of a story: start it at the last possible moment. This was where I went wrong with the many attempts I made at the opening of the novel; there was so much history with the character and with the world that I was trying to portray enough to give the reader an idea of what they were in for, and I lost the hook and indeed the relevancy of the opening. I was trying to introduce the main character’s home life and ease into the story, things that don’t really impact the story, when all I needed to do was to show her leaving.
I still lament losing an exchange that provided some otherwise much more hidden character insight, as well as foreshadowing to a future book I would have loved to keep in. Ultimately, however, for the sake of the hook and relevancy, that dialogue had to disappear into the pre-story abyss. After that last change, I think I finally have the opening to a point in which I’m satisfied with it, but we shall see how it plays out when I reread the story after my edits are complete, as well as what others think of it.
Next time, because this post ended up decidedly too long to keep it together as I initially intended: endings.
How do you approach the opening of a story? Do you write it first or do you come back to it later? Do you find it particularly challenging?
Calling April 1, 2013Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: book, brain lag, career, fantasy, job, novel, publishing, science fiction, scifi, work
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I have never held a permanent job for more than a year.
But perhaps I should start farther back.
I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I entertained a lot of ideas as a child, but nothing ever grabbed me, consuming my full attention, and made me say this is what I want to do with my life.
When I entered college, I studied computer repair, because, well, the best excuse I have now is it seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. I didn’t make it through the program. So, still living at home at the time, I entered the workforce instead.
I’d only ever held one real job through high school, which was at a movie theatre. Dissatisfaction with the job, and more notably the management, made me leave after about six months. When I needed to start making money after leaving college, having nothing of note on my resume at the time, I started out at a temp agency doing office work. It sufficed while I still didn’t know what to do with my life and I was good at it.
With a very lenient parent, I didn’t need a constant source of income, so I took jobs when they were available, which never lasted longer than two weeks, save one. I got in on a regular, twice monthly borderline light industrial position at a state agency operating a mail inserting machine for mass mailing. I got the evening shift, 4:00 p.m. to midnight, and I ended up enjoying the job quite a bit. I liked my coworkers and I enjoyed the work. The irregularity meant it wasn’t enough to live off, but it lasted for two years and I was glad to go back each time.
Of course, I was maintaining a long-distance relationship at that time, and the job had to end when I moved to Canada to get married. Once I was able to work here, with still little to show for myself on my resume, I started out the same way, at a temp agency.
Eventually, this got me in the door at the company where my husband works, which we had been trying to get me into for some time already, and I even ended up in the same office as him. After six months as a temp, I was hired on permanently.
Of course, no sooner was I beginning to feel unfulfilled with this position than I was laid off.
My experience there got me in another temp-to-perm job at a similar company in the same position. Once again, after a year there and just as I began to question whether this was what I wanted to be doing with my life, I was laid off. However, while I was there, I self-published my first book, Aurius, doing the cover art myself and using my experience in these two jobs with document formatting to take care of all aspects of the book creation myself.
And that’s when it hit me. I enjoyed doing that.
I enjoyed every step of the process. The editing, the interior layout, the cover creation, and of course holding my own book in my hands. And I realized, I could do this for other people.
I’ve read a lot of really good amateur/indie fiction posted online to websites like Fictionpress and Elfwood, and I know there are a lot – a lot – of manuscripts out there that have never left people’s drawers or hard drives. And I know that not everyone has the knowledge, or the interest, to turn a manuscript into a book. And the thought of doing this for others gave me great joy. It was a light bulb moment.
So Brain Lag became not only the name I published my books and my husband’s under, but the name of my burgeoning small press business. I still have a lot to learn, and I still have moments of feeling like a very small fish in a very big ocean. But I’m willing to stick it out and do what I can to get this business off the ground and publish books for other authors.
Because I found my calling. This is what I want to do with my life.
Have you found the career that you’re passionate about? How long did it take you to find out what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Introducing Damian Sires March 1, 2013Posted by thejinx in art, enduring chaos, writing.
Tags: book, damian sires, drawing, enduring chaos, fantasy, female, heroine, image, novel, picture, sketch, star, story
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Character information and fanart has been available under the page for Enduring Chaos for a little while already, but let me use this opportunity to officially introduce the star of my upcoming novel.
Damian Sires is a young woman from the small town of Aether, where she lives with her father, a cloth merchant who has taken her on a trade route that crosses much of the kingdom of Faneria every year almost since she was born. She is a strong-willed yet shy girl who is close to few. Rumors abound at her home about her, heightened by the fact that she keeps her face covered with a veil at all times, though speculation over things even stranger than what she keeps hidden beneath the veil still linger among the townsfolk. She enjoys traveling and helping her father with his trade route and designing and making clothes, usually incorporating the latest fashions she observes while traveling.
Of course, no proper fantasy novel would allow her the luxury of such a mundane and easy life…
The above drawing was done entirely in ballpoint pen last weekend while I was at Con-G, largely for the purpose of creating new reference art with which I could use to commission a drawing from Artist’s Alley. I ended up receiving the following image from Daphne:
Huge thanks to Daphne for her lovely depiction of Damian.
Will more character art follow this? Hard to say, given the *cough* infrequency with which I draw these days, and my continued focus on editing the novel. However, I will admit I enjoyed drawing the above sketch of Damian, and even rather enjoyed working strictly in ballpoint pen, so perhaps I will manage to create more in the meantime.
On pulling teeth February 12, 2013Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
Tags: book, editing, fantasy, manuscript, novel, story, writing
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When I told someone recently that I was busy editing my next novel, his response was sympathy, and he said, “I’d rather have my teeth pulled.”
This seems to be a common reaction to editing. Why is that? People who manage to get to the editing stage of a novel don’t seem to take as much issue with writing it, though undoubtedly that’s the more time-consuming part of the process.
A novel is a big project. It takes quite a bit of time to write it. As a result, most people simply can’t keep everything about it together while writing it, and mistakes are bound to happen along the way. I think many people accept this fact while they’re writing, quietly, perhaps even subconsciously agreeing that as long as they continue writing to the end of the book, those things can be fixed in editing later.
Perhaps that’s the reason editing gets such a bad reputation. It forces one to acknowledge one’s mistakes. Perhaps it’s just the snowball effect of realizing that fixing one issue can cause several more through the story based on how that thing affects future events. Perhaps it’s the rigid quality standards of editing, that nitpicky insistence that now everything has to be polished, which means it has to be sanded again and again and again before it attains its luster, as opposed to the freedom of simply writing. And yes, I’ve seen it happen – one can edit all the life out of a story.
Personally, I don’t really feel like editing is all that different a step from writing. It’s still the act of crafting a manuscript, even if that involves tweaking, readjusting, rewriting, and a lot of thoughtful consideration rather than actually writing. Though perhaps my current view of the process is warped, given that most of the editing I’ve been doing on my next novel has been rewriting, which is really just writing.
I’ve always edited my work, at least when I had something I felt like sharing. I’d reread it at least a couple times and polish it up, though usually that happened along the way, not in one fell swoop as I’m doing now. That, of course, leads to problems when one gets late in a story and those things one forgets along the way end up creating inconsistencies. Fortunately for me, I suppose, none of my attempted novels prior to Aurius ever reached completion, so I didn’t have to deal with that level of editing until then.
So how do I edit a novel? With Aurius, perhaps because it was written at the breakneck pace of NaNoWriMo, for the first time in my case, I actually was able to keep even minor details together while I wrote it. The story and characters were also fairly simple. As a result, the book was pretty near to where I wanted it to be by the time I finished the first draft, and it only took minor wording changes – and things like chapter breaks – to clean it up until I considered it done.
Halcyon was my first true taste of novel editing. I had to reevaluate plot points, research some setting concepts used, and improve some characters. Once I identified what needed to be improved and how, however, the process of doing so was a simple matter of writing, that step with which I am quite familiar. Overall, it was hardly a painful process, even if it took me three years to get to the point that I felt I could improve on the story with some fairly simple editing.
Enduring Chaos is, of course, a different beast again, both for reasons that I’ve mentioned in previous posts and for the fact that this story has gone through so many very different drafts already. It’s a very exciting project for me for a number of reasons; part of it is that it has gone through so many iterations already, that after three other full drafts it is finally coming toward completion. Part of it is also that it has become a much larger and more epic story than nearly anything else I’ve tried to write, this being the first book of a trilogy. It’s also very exciting because this is such an old story. Aurius and Halcyon were both relatively new, each written within a year or two of their conception, but Enduring Chaos is something I’ve been trying to write for nearly fourteen years.
Perhaps that’s why editing this particular novel doesn’t seem such a chore to me, because I’ve seen the story and characters change so much already over the years. More than that, though, I’m simply enjoying making the book better. For each scene that I edit, I feel better about the novel in general.
Generally, that’s how I feel when I edit. Because that’s what the point of editing is: to make the book as good as it can be. And even though I’m at the beginning of a plot point that I decided needed to be cut entirely, I’m anticipating the rewriting to come, since it will ultimately end up better than it was before.
How do you feel about editing?
Narration January 25, 2013Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
Tags: advice, backstory, book, fantasy, narration, novel, show don't tell, story, writing
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I have not read much writing advice in my life. I started writing stories as a child and merely continued, learning along the way. There a few different reasons I never looked into how-to books or tips on writing. Part of it was arrogance, I’m sure, though more than that I just didn’t think of it. Besides that, by the time I might have actually looked up such information, I had already given up the idea of writing as a career and was doing it just for fun.
Thus, it was fairly late in my life that I stumbled across that quintessential piece of writing advice one can find in probably most books on writing: show, don’t tell.
Not to say that I didn’t already know that, subconsciously perhaps. But it’s stuck in my mind since then. Too much, unfortunately, as tends to happen when I read advice on anything. In fact, it’s become a part of my knowledge so much that it makes me hesitate while writing; how can I show this rather than tell it? How can I eliminate the need for narration?
Because ultimately, that’s the message I got when I read and tried to follow that advice: that narration is bad.
I realize now that that is wrong. Narration has its place and can be used to great effect. Sure, it may not be as dramatic, but to help round out a story it may be the only useful method. As an example, when I was writing the second book of my trilogy for NaNoWriMo last year, trying to show things with two characters in particular was very difficult, as they are each surrounded by people with whom they’re not comfortable discussing their problems.
And what about backstory? Trying to portray all that through dialogue is not only time-consuming and challenging, but would be very difficult for it to not come out as tedious. Personally, I like when a book draws me in with details of the world that aren’t necessarily relevant to the main story, even if told through narration rather than action.
With my current novel Enduring Chaos, there’s a lot of backstory. But with the advice of ‘show, don’t tell’ – read: narration is bad – firmly in my mind when I wrote it, I ended up simply leaving out a lot of that backstory, a lot of which filled out the second draft of the book. It sufficed as a story, but I regretted leaving so much unsaid, and even entire characters being edited out of this draft.
Now that I realize the error in my interpretation of that advice, however, in this round of editing I have added a lot more back in already. I’m barely 20% of the way through the story and have already added over 10% more to the final word count than when I finished the draft last fall. Admittedly, about half of the 12,000 words I’ve added so far have been fleshing out a different character that was not better developed, but the rest have essentially been adding back in events and details from the second draft.
Because ultimately, not only do I enjoy going into such things that aren’t necessarily relevant to the main story arc, I must admit that I do have a fairly narrative style. I’ve always tried to balance it out well enough, but to try to force myself to avoid it doesn’t help me or the story.