When the Days are Long and Roads are Chosen

It’s been a bit quiet around here, but that isn’t because I haven’t anything to say, it’s because Christmas is fast approaching and things have suddenly become hectic. As I’m sure everyone is discovering.

I’m still travelling and working. That seems to take most of my days at the moment and will continue to do so well into the future, I foresee. This time of year is extremely busy, so there’s no time for slacking off at work and surfing the net. It’s not all bad though as I’ve been diligently working on planning my trilogy during my travelling time, which is no longer a trilogy, but more on that in a moment. At present, my travel time consists of writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. I carry a mini-laptop for one and an iPod Touch for the other. I feel quite “up with the time” and it’s brilliant.

My first ebook experience is proving to be quite satisfying. Using the iPod Touch as an e-reader has been a good experience. It’s easy and light to carry. The screen is clear to read. I haven’t experienced any adverse side affects from reading a screen rather than a book. And, of course, the book I’m reading is entertaining which always helps.

The mini-laptop is great for writing. I have loaded all my files onto a flash drive so that I can go between computers without the fear of not being up-to-date (I found I was in a state of confusion prior to adopting this method). It took a while to get used to the smaller keyboard, but I’m finding that I can type with minimal errors now.

And what about that non-existent trilogy, you ask? Well, that’s an easy question to answer.

My idea was to write a trilogy. I had three stories vaguely mapped out in my mind with a thread or two that linked them all together. However, the idea for book 3 wasn’t coming together well. In fact, it fell in a heap and refused to be sorted out, no matter how hard I tried. The plot itself was quite good, but in reality I couldn’t find a way for my character to make it all pan out the way I wanted it to. This put a huge stumbling block in my path that I was finding impossible to find a way around. Then, one morning, I woke up early and lay staring at the ceiling for ages thinking about it and realised that the story wasn’t possible and it had to be dropped. That quickly allowed me to store the second story as a possible future stand alone with other characters in another setting, which meant the trilogy was reduced to a single stand alone book.

Since making that decision, the planning is forging forward nicely. My characters have shifted in their personalities, the plot is changing continuously to fit a stand alone and I’m pleased with what I have so far.

When the days are long and roads are chosen, I’m glad everything is panning out just right for me.

In other news, the number of votes for the competition is steadily rising. There will be no more hints until later next week.


Plan of Donnington Castle and Making a Map

I have been building a fantasy world for the trilogy I plan to write.  Part of that research includes finding out the history of Donnington Castle in southern England.  I can’t, or won’t, tell you the reason for this research as it is top secret.  But I will say that I was overjoyed when I found this Plan of Donnington Castle.  It will make things so much easier for me.

Donnington Castle forms only part of what I’ve been doing today. The other part is looking for a suitable map that I can adopt and adapt to my needs. I’ve been searching the world for possible locations and have narrowed my choices down to two likely candidates.

The first is a map which includes Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. I like this map because it has mountain ranges separating two valleys, but it also shows the natural rivers and waterways. Better still is that fact that it isn’t spoilt by town and cities being splattered all over it. If I were to adopt this map and change it to suit my needs I would be starting out with a world that has to be realistic because it’s real! I like that idea.

The second map is an ancient world map. (It’s an impression of what the creator thought the world looked like.) With a few slight changes, no one would know that my fantasy world was based on our own world some eight hundred or so years ago. This one doesn’t show the mountains or rivers (which is unfortunate), but it does show large lakes and several towns with connecting roads, which could be quite useful. This one is also just black and white so I guess, whilst it isn’t as visual as the first map I mentioned, it will be easier to manipulate.

I could, of course, just draw something myself but the way I’m thinking about this is that if I use something that already shows mountains and rivers and towns and roads then I won’t have to worry about anyone saying, “that’s impossible, you can’t have a waterway there, because…” Besides, I’m a planner and I like visual things to inspire me along.

In my office at work there’s an old map of Sydney on the wall. It’s quite large and most visitors cannot help but stand beneath it and stare at it for the longest time. I’ve basically ignored it for eight years because I see it all day, every day. But today was different. Today, I could see a castle placed back from the coast where the racecourse used to be. All the streets went in that general direction, which seems appropriate for a village with a castle in its midst. And then there was a road that would have passed directly by the front of the castle wall and wove around and off to the west (away from the coast, the town and the castle). Could that be a trade road leading to other realms? I could imagine my characters walking down the streets of the village. I could see them pausing at the docks to watch the merchandise being carried off the boats. Some of the buildings (on the print) were the homes of important people in Australian history, but I could see other names in their spots, names of my characters. If the print wasn’t so large, I would have taken it down and scanned it. Now I think I’ll have to take a photo of it and transpose the relevant information onto my own drawing because the print inspired me and set my imagination running.

By the time I’ve finished with the maps, no one will know where they came from and how close to the real world they really are. Or maybe the real and fantasy entwine to become one magical place.

I like the sound of that. 🙂

30 Days of WorldBuilding

With my recent decision to scrap a couple of projects I’ve been working on, one in particular, I’ve been thinking about what projects I’m going to concentrate on now.

Not being one for working on too many projects at a time, I’ve decided to go with two manuscripts.  One is a much loved project that has been finished, but needs replanning and rewriting – The Marlinor Trilogy.  The other is new and different to what I’ve worked on in the past – the non-fiction children’s picture book.

At opposite ends of the scale, I think that will work in my favour.  There certainly could not be any confusion between the two as they are different in every sense of the word.

The non-fiction picture book is in the first draft.  I’ve been considering ways to make it entertaining for the intended audience and will put those thoughts into action once I’ve finished the book I’m reading.  I also need to complete my research on writing proposals in order to submit the project when it has been completed.

The trilogy is a different story.  It’s complex and, although I know the characters, world and plot of book 1, I need to plot out the other two books.  I plan to start again and rebuild the characters and the world, which brings me to the reason for this post…

The author of the following quote and subsequent link claims that if you put 15 minutes aside each day for 30 days, you can build a complete world worthy of your story.  She has written a post for each day in the form of an exercise where she gives an explanation of what you’ll be doing and why and then she’ll set you a task to do.  I haven’t checked the whole 30 days, but I believe this could be helpful in putting all writers on the right track.

And if you want to build a magical world, there’s a link to some extra information at the bottom of the sidebar.

A lot of times, people want to write a novel and think “I want to write fantasy, but there’s so much world-building I would have to do– I haven’t done any of it!” As everyone signing up for NaNoWriMo or any writing challenge quickly learns, this is really the self-editor speaking; it’s another way of saying “I can’t.”

So, give yourself 7 and a half hours this month– 15 minutes a day– to build a world. It’s not going to be Perfect or Set. Why would it be? You haven’t actually written the story yet, you haven’t tested its limits. But it’ll give you something to start with, something to feel comfortable about when you start.

via 30 Days of WorldBuilding by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant

Taking the Hard Road

Due to the hiccup I’ve experienced over the last few days where Mirror Image is concerned, I’ve decided to do myself a favour and pull back from that manuscript for a short time. I need to let the information I’ve received from the reader and helpful friends on the internet to sink in for a while, without formally doing anything with it. At least I haven’t let the “hiccup” stop me in my tracks. I’m still passionate about Mirror Image and August might see me return to this manuscript, September at the latest.

In the meantime, I will continue working on the plan for the trilogy. At this stage, I have loose concepts for all three books, a general idea of the two threads that will span the entire trilogy and a very firm history rolling around my mind. With this in mind, I have turned my attention to building book one from the ground up. The storyline and characters for book one are well known to me, so this will be relatively easy. My biggest decision will be what changes I want to make…especially to the characters. I was thinking about this on the train this morning and have decided that I will NOT use my previous notes/plan/profiles, I will literally start again. I know my decision will take me along the hard road because using what I already have would be the easy, logical option, but I believe taking the easy road has been my mistake in the past and now I’m willing to start again and do it better because I have evolved as a writer since I first planned and wrote this story.

I have devised my own system, which is a bit like the Snowflake Method in as much as I start with basic information and build from there in small steps. I might go into this in more detail at a later stage, when I know how well it works. I began the process, in earnest, this morning. When the process is finished for book one, I’ll do the same for books two and three.

Planning a Trilogy List Updated

A week or so ago I put together a list to help me organise, and stay focused, on Planning a Trilogy. That list has now been updated to include a couple of things that had previously been forgotten.

Unfortunately, I am unable to cross anything off the list at present, but I have made some progress. I am developing my list of characters (for book 1, at least). I have a vague concept of what books 2 and 3 may be about. I’ve been thinking about themes and premises for all three books, and the trilogy as a whole. And the history, which I intend to write in short story form, is bubbling away nicely in my mind.

Although I haven’t much to show for the time spent on this planning, things are happening and that’s what counts!

I am using TiddlyWiki to organise my planning.

Planning a Trilogy

While Mirror Image is out being read by someone else, I find myself with some time to spare so I thought I’d plan the planning of a fantasy trilogy I want to write. The first book is pretty much fully formed in my head and I know the characters extremely well, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to do. However, being a planner, I’ve decided to make a list of the things that need to be done as I think it will make the process easily overall.

This is my current list (which is subject to change):

1. Work out the general concept of the trilogy as a whole. (This includes a one sentence blurb, a theme and a premise; and the threads that will stretch across the three books.)

2. Use the three act structure to plan my point plots, inciting incident, and the general structure of the entire trilogy.

3. Work out the general concept of book 1.

4. Use the three act structure to plan my point plots, inciting incident, and the general structure of book 1.

5. Work out the general concept of book 2.

6. Use the three act structure to plan my point plots, inciting incident, and the general structure of book 2.

7. Work out the general concept of book 3.

8. Use the three act structure to plan my point plots, inciting incident, and the general structure of book 3.

9. Work on the character profiles for all three books. (This includes their storylines and motives.)

10. Finalise world building aspects. (This includes maps and names of cities, towns, rivers, mountains, etc; religion and superstition; clothing and hair styles; living standards, including homes, food, way of life; modes of transport; medicines available; time structure; enemies and allies; politics; etc.)

11. Create a system for the use of magic (includes who can use it and what it will cost them).

12. Finalise all research material required.

13. Plan how many chapters I’ll need for each book and position the abovementioned plot points accordingly. (This includes having a rough idea what will happen in each chapter, what the conflict is and what each character’s motivation is.)

14. Write a detailed history in short story format. (This will include narrative and dialogue and will give me a firm idea of what “went before”.)

15. Start writing book 1.

16. Write a synopsis for books 2 and 3.

17. Submit a proposal for all three books.

I’m not sure if the order is what I’ll work to. At this stage I just want a list of what I intend to do. I will cross them off the list as I do them. Everything for book 1 will be done without a lot of stress, but I can’t say the same about the two other books. We’ll see what happens there.

No matter what happens. I want to have three solid plans for three solid books before I start writing a single word. I want to know the world, the characters and the plots inside out. And when I have all that planned then, and only then, will words appear on the page. My intention is to write, edit and polish the first book and then find a publisher for it. I will not write the other two books until the first book is sold. That might sound strange, but I feel there’s no point slogging myself to death on one project if I can’t find a home for the first book. When the first book is sold, then I will write the other two books. At least I’ll have in-depth plans in place for both of them…and if book one is with a publishing house then I’ll have the added incentive of publication to spur me on.

This begins the planning of a trilogy called The Kingdom of Marlinor.

Edited on 22 June 2009 to include last two points.

Edited on 30 June 2009 to include the creation of magic.


Resuming work after a nice break is always difficult, but it has to be done if food is going to be put on the table. Today, I returned to work after a break of almost three weeks. *sigh*

However, I won’t dwell on that. Let me tell you what I’ve been doing – in terms of writing – since the beginning of the New Year. I’m pleased to be able to say that I have spent many hours every day on my writing projects. I haven’t actually written a single word, but there’s more to writing than the actual written word.

A friend told me about TiddlyWiki and showed me her files, so that I could see it in action. It’s free to download and use. There’s a tutorial if you need help understanding how a wiki works. Once downloaded, you just copy the file, changing the name of it (by doing this you can use the downloaded file over and over again) and then you can start using it straight away. There’s no real installation and it’s loaded onto your computer. You don’t need an internet connection to use it either, even though you use your browser when working with it. The file is small enough to put on a USB flash card too. It’s so easy!

I have used an online wiki before, so I understood the working of it, but needed a reminder how to do things like using the bold, italics and underscore features, and also how to insert images. There are plenty of other things you can do too ie ordered and unordered lists and blockquotes.

But what am I using it for? I know you want to know. It’s ideal for planning writing projects and for gathering all the research (including images you collect) associated with that project, into one file. Every aspect of the planning can be cross referenced too, which is brilliant! If you set up the wiki correctly, it will make your writing project organised, efficient and everything will be at your finger tips.

The first wiki I set up was for the Marlinor Trilogy. I have a lot of research material, which was placed in folders according to subject, but even so it was getting almost impossible to find anything (even when I knew the information I wanted was there…somewhere). Now that information is categorised, cross referenced and tagged…and there’s a search function too! Apart from that, I’ve also set up the planning for the story – world building, character lists, storylines, themes for each book, plots for each book and an in depth history, which also links to the research material to prove authenticity. It’s absolutely the best way to organise your planning.

Then I created a second wiki and started doing the same thing for the children’s chapter books.

I literally spent hours every day working on this, but the result is fantastic. I discovered I had changed the spelling of character names between book 1 and book 2 of the children’s series. That is now fixed. I discovered information in my original planning that had been lost or forgotten. That cannot happen again. I believe the children’s series and the trilogy will be better because of the time I’ve invested in getting these wikis right.

Now I intend to create a third wiki for Mirror Image. This is the project I should be editing, but I’m having trouble with. I’m hoping that, by creating the wiki, I’ll work out what the stumbling block is and get passed it.

I highly recommend TiddlyWiki. However, if you want to do the same thing online, from any computer, then I recommend PBWiki, which is free and you can change the settings so that only you have access to it. If you’re not using a wiki to organise your writing, then you should try it. I doubt you’ll be sorry.

Writing Goals for 2009

Everywhere I go I seem to be seeing the question, “What are your writing goals for 2009?” I feel stressed when I read the question, let alone try to answer it. But answer it I know I should do.

What are my writing goals for 2009?

First and foremost, I don’t want to put pressure on myself because that is a sure way of not writing a single word. However, I can’t leave it at that, so:

1. I would like to finish Mirror Image. “Finish” meaning a polished version ready for submission. I don’t know how many edits that will take.

2. I would like to fully plan book 3 in my children’s series. I know where it starts and ends, but there is no middle to the story – not one that I’m happy with, anyway.

3. I would also like to continue with the in depth planning of my adult trilogy. I envision the writing of this project maybe next year or the year after.

I’m not willing to say any more than that as I would like to surpass my goals rather than not reach them.

Putting the writing to one side, I am hoping that 2009 is a big year for me on a personal level. I’m hoping to secure a future for myself that will hopefully take underlying stress and worry away so that I’m free to enjoy life. This will lead to more productive writing, I’m sure.

Are you a writer? What are your 2009 writing goals?

Mirrors, Cat's and Caves

It’s strange when I think back and acknowledge my decision to walk away from writing at the end of last year. It feels like I was a different person then…and I probably was, for many reasons (none of which I’ll go into now). The transformation between then and now is incredible. More importantly, I’m excited by the way my mind is working overtime where writing is concerned.

Having always been a One Manuscript Woman, I’m suddenly having the time of my life with three writing projects at once. I don’t know if this new found method will last for long, it never has in the past, so I’m making the most of it while I can.

Anyway, the three projects are:

1. Mirror Image. You know the one I mean – the one where I keep reporting “I’ve only got 10,000 words to go”. I’m writing about 5,000 words a fortnight since I first said that and I’m still going. I am, however, in the last hours of the story, so I’m making solid progress.

2. Cat’s Eyes. I finished this manuscript a long time ago, but had reservations about its length. Those concerns no longer exist, so I am currently drafting a query letter. Admittedly, I’ve written the letter several times, but so far I’m still not happy with the results. But it’s getting closer and I won’t stop redrafting that letter until I feel it’s perfect!

3. Marlinor. This is an old project revisited. I’ve decided to scrap the entire thing and start again. I love the characters and the story itself, but there are some serious problems that need fixing. I’m currently rebuilding the history and recreating the world…and everything is falling into place extremely well. This project is a trilogy, but I can see a prequel happening too! (I’ve created a new category called “Marlinor Trilogy”; everything mentioned prior to today has been archived in “Marlinor Archives”.)

At the moment, my writing routine consists of me writing for Mirror Image Friday to Sunday, with a bit of query letter writing thrown in now and again. Monday to Thursday sees me doing research when I have time and, again, working on that query letter. What really matters is that this writing routine is working for me. I’m pleased about that.

Honestly, walking away from writing was the best present I’ve given myself. It allowed me to wind down and then, when I was ready, to rebuild my energy levels from the bottom up. It has allowed me to view … everything … from a different angle. And it has given me inspiration and excitement where writing is concerned, which I haven’t felt for a very, very long time.

My Writing Decision

After much thought I’ve made my decision as to which manuscript will get my attention first.

If you look at the list, you might think it would be fitting to finish the Cat’s Series as two books are already completed, leaving only the third book to be written. This would seem like the natural course to take, but I’ve decided against it as the second and third book cannot be published without the first book being successful (the first book is written as a stand alone, whereas the other two books are definite sequels and must be read in order). Due to this I feel it would be better time management to put my efforts into submitting Cat’s Eyes (book 1) to publishers instead, which is what I will do. I will keep you updated on my progress.

The Kingdom of Marlinor trilogy is a favourite of mine. In the past I’ve rushed the planning and have been sorry afterwards. This time, I intend to do it properly. All three books! Completely! As I mentioned in a previous post, I have already started researching important issues for the trilogy and this will continue until I am satisfied with the information I have. I will then use the Snowflake method to produce a proper plan.

Planning isn’t actually writing though and I feel I should be getting words on paper (or on the computer screen) while I feel in the mood because who knows when the mood will disappear?!? With this in mind, I’ve decided to plan one story and write another.

The manuscript that has been given the number one slot is Mirror Image. With only approximately 10,000 words to write, I feel this isn’t a huge hurdle to face at this early stage and, besides, I want to see the first draft finished, so this is the story I’ll revisit. Upon its completion, I will decide what to do next.

However, I’ve said only one manuscript is the “winner”, but in actual fact three manuscripts are winners. Cat’s Eyes will gain my serious attention for submitting. That has to be a good move. Kingdom of Marlinor will finally be planned the way it should have been years ago. That’s definitely a positive step. And the first draft of Mirror Image will finally be finished. It will feel great to cross it off my “unfinished projects” list.