Finding Time to Write

Sometimes as writers, we struggle to find time to write. Everyone, unless they’re a retired old fart who doesn’t get out of the house, has a social life and a job and other things that get in the way. The bottom line is, we all have to deal with struggles that come hand in hand with being a writer. One of the biggest struggles, however, is finding the time we need to sit down and write that dang book.

But the dirty little secret is, it’s actually not that hard to do.

If you’re stuck in a rut and you’re having trouble writing whatever project you’re working on, then you need to evaluate what is going on in your life. For years, I’ve been trying to publish a second book, and I’m just now learning to focus onto how to get my words down when I’m struggling. Some of that involves writing detailed outlines, which has nothing to do with finding time to write, but one thing that does relate to it is the idea that you need to schedule your writing time.

Recently, I went to Walmart and bought a weekly planner. That allows me to plan every single day and write down tasks I need to fulfill during the day in question. This means that I can set in stone every day’s tasks and write during my writing time and carry out other tasks that have to be done that day. In the grand scheme of things, it’s taught me how important it is to focus and be consistent. Truth be told, you don’t need a weekly planner if you can learn to focus on when to write without one, but it certainly does help. It’s the best tool I’ve invested in.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

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World Building

In novel writing, research is key. You have to know what you are writing about before you go about writing the subject in question. But in fantasy and other genres with made up settings, world building takes the place of research, and it is the author’s job to create a world that only exists in the mind.

In order to do that properly, you have to look at things that exist in the real world and ask yourself how that can relate to a fictional one. In the real world, you have cars and other motorized vehicles, but how do people get around in a fantasy world?

Also, if you’re writing fantasy, what does the politics or the religion of people look like? Is your government a monarchy with a democratic twist? Is your religion a polytheistic version of Christianity? Also, what do the world cultures look like? In my novel, Kingslayer, I based a lot of my culture on Europe (not exclusive to England), plus I added a few hundred years so the characters could carry guns and ride airships and trains.

One of my all time favorite examples to world building is Harry Potter. In the magical world, there is a real world equivalent to pretty much everything. For sports, you have Quidditch and the Tri-wizard Tournament; for school, of course, the students focus on the magical arts as opposed to math and grammar, and instead of your ACT’s you have your OWL’s and NEWT’s; and you even have the media with The Daily Prophet.

I haven’t even touched on the Chocolate Frog Cards, so needless to say, HP is chock full of examples of world building. These are just a few ways a writer can make their world truly unique. And in fact, if you are setting your story in a secondary world, there are even more things you can do that are ripe for the picking.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

A Few Things I Learned From Playwriting and Screenwriting

First of all, I know I said this post would come out yesterday, but life happened. But now that that’s out of the way, I want to discuss some things I’ve learned this semester in my creative writing program, specifically in a pair of playwriting and screenwriting classes. In one of my previous blogs, I said that my CW program hadn’t helped me as a fiction writer, and this was perfectly true, but I’d like to amend that thought and say it was mostly the fiction classes that hadn’t helped. Truth be told, if you want to be a better fiction writer, learning to write scripts is the way to go.

The reason for this is because screenwriting and playwriting dive far deeper into how stories are told. There is terminology at use in both fields (which are basically two sides of the same coin) that help the writer help to structure their character’s motivations. They are called superobjectives. These are basically what the characters are after, and every single character in your novel should have one. The bottom line is, what is their goal? In Star Wars, you can even argue that Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have opposite superobjectives. Darth Vader wants to turn his son to the Dark Side, while Luke wants to bring his father back to the Light. In a nutshell, what does your character want?

Something else I learned about is the MDQ: the “major dramatic question.” As my professor said, it is the major question (usually asked 10% through the story) that the story depends on to be driven forward. To go back to my Star Wars example, the MDQ could be “Will Luke turn his father from the Dark Side?” It is a question that can be asked in questions beginning in how, what, when where, why, who, and so on. But according to what my prof has said, it is best asked with a “will” question.

The bottom line is that, while fiction writers will not benefit much from a CW program if they’re focused on fiction, there are other types of classes out there that will teach writers the structure of a story in far more detail. That means that classes such as playwriting and screenwriting can actually make you a better writer of fiction, depending on which university you’re going to, of course.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Something I’ve Learned In College

It’s time for a confession. I’m not a fan of creative writing programs in college, unless you’re just looking for a piece of paper to help you make some extra green. The truth is, I haven’t exactly kept any of this a secret while I’ve been using this blog. However, I’ve discovered something useful when it comes to playwriting and screenwriting classes.

They help me outline fiction.

Some may not think this is possible but it is. Currently, I’m taking a playwriting class, and my professor has provided his students with an outline of how the play works and all that jazz. There are three parts to a play (a beginning, middle, and end), and between each part there is some kind of transition between them. This has helped me transition my stories from brief idea that can be summed up on three pages, to a 30-page outline using the beginning-middle-end format for each scene, to a script format to get all the dialogue down with brief description ideas, to a fully-written novel.

I think the evolution between brief idea to full novel speaks for itself. Needless to say, I’m incorporating this into my process, and am attempting to use it to plan a sequel for Kingslayer as well as planning an anthology for shorter fantasy fiction. This plan seems to be working out pretty well so far.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Update: Summer 2017

I know I haven’t been making my regular posts, but I assure you I’m not chillin’ with Tolkien, Poe, Twain, and other dead writers. I have, on the other hand, been very busy. I’ve been taking a senior-level playwriting class, after all. And before that, I was visiting my brother and his girlfriend out in the boonies of Angleton, Texas.

Several projects in a row have fallen apart–including the epistolary novel I spoke about on Twitter–but I did manage to get something else done. I managed to fully draft a piece of flash fiction, which will be published as bonus content in the back of Kingslayer with a simple update to my files (perks of self-publishing). This story actually stems from the failed prequel for my novel that never got finished, but I digress. I’m also going to be publishing an appendix in the back of the book to further explain some of the magical items in my created universe.

Something else I’ve been working on is a new cover for Kingslayer. The current one just isn’t working or getting the book noticed, so I figured a change is in order. It’ll be up soon.

Right now, novels just aren’t working for me. I’m starting to think that short fiction and flash fiction are where I need to focus my attention, until I can readjust my attention to novels again. That’s why I’m considering doing a collection of fantasy flash fiction (some of which will be from the world of Kingslayer, while others will be from entirely new worlds).

All in all, I wanted to update everyone on what I am doing so they can get a bigger picture for why I’ve been absent from the blog scene.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Dialogue

Everyone has a unique voice, whether you be from Boston in the U.S. or Ireland in the U.K., but how can a writer use this fact to make dialogue that is unique from character to character? Well, there are lots of components to this, which will inevitably have to be covered in future posts,  but at its most basic level, dialogue stems from how people talk.

If you want to write realistic dialogue, it is important to note that there are three major components to speech: phenology, morphology, and syntax. Phenology is basically how people pronounce certain words, morphology is the choice of one word over another that basically means the same thing, and syntax is all about overall word choice.

For example, if someone says “worsher” as opposed to “washer,” you’ll know this is an example of phenology where they’re talking about a washing machine. Different people pronounce these words differently depending on their geography. Morphology works similarly in that you’ll say something different depending on where you live, except you’ll use a different word as opposed to the same word that’s pronounced differently. Fireflies are a good example of this. Where I live in the south, firefly is the accepted word, but in other places firebugs or lightning bugs are just as acceptable. Syntax is a little more complex, but it’s self-explanatory, so I won’t go any further on that.

The point is, we’re all going to talk differently, and it’s your job as a writer to convey that in how your characters talk. Geography is very important in the real world, because different kinds of people settle in different places, and therefore different accents and even dialects develop. If you want to create realistic dialogue, even in fantasy, these are all things to keep in mind.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Excerpt: Seeds of Resistance

This is a bit of a surprise post. I wasn’t going to say it until later, but I’ve chosen to go ahead to reveal that I’m working on bonus content to add to the print edition of Kingslayer. This is an excerpt, and the full first chapter. Any feedback is welcome, but I’m mainly posting for your enjoyment. Enjoy!

***

Since leaving Liverpool, Jocelyn and I watched as the rolling hills of the Gililands passed by our compartment window. We were aboard The Runaway Express, which was fitting since we were fugitives from the Empire. If we were seen, we were as good as dead. But we wouldn’t stay on the train long; after all, we were nearing the industrial city of Issylot.

“There’s been a riot in Saxony,” Jocelyn said, turning the pages of the daily newspaper.

Of course, this wasn’t a surprise. Tiberius ruled the Isobellian territories with an iron fist. If there was a riot (like Jocelyn said), then all it meant was that people were getting tired of the Black King and his Imperial Knights.

After a moment, I looked over at Jocelyn.

Slender body, hazel eyes, red curls. Throw that together with a pair of rosy cheeks, and you’ve got one heck of a beautiful wife. To be honest, Jocelyn looked upset by the news of another riot, and I couldn’t blame her. I just wish there was something I could’ve done.

“How many were killed this time?” I asked, biting into a half-eaten apple from the night before.

“Thirty-seven,” Jocelyn replied. “That’s the worst one to date.”

True, I thought.

“I just wish there was somethin’ we could do,” Jocelyn said. “Don’t you agree, Vensyr?”

I didn’t give a verbal answer. I finished the apple and tossed the remains out the nearby, opened window; then I gave my wife a nod of the head.

When we arrived in Issylot, Jocelyn and I left the train station as quickly as possible; then we moved into the nearest alleyway. The city was a bustling metropolis, with airships and skyscrapers as far as the eye could see. It was good to be back in Jocelyn’s hometown. After all, it had been years since our last visit, plus there were lots of places where we could hide from the Empire.

“Where you want to go?” I asked, looking at Jocelyn.

“How about the tavern in the Business District?” she replied, pointing down the alley with one finger.

This was a natural choice, since the local tavern belonged to Jocelyn’s cousin. Whenever we came to visit, he always let us eat for free. Once we arrived and took our seats inside the bar, we both received a plate of dragonloaf with a choice of our favorite beverage. Jocelyn went with a glass of wine, while I settled on a chocolate, peanut butter milkshake.

Not a single Imperial Knight was present. And since we were covered in darkness (with nothing but a light to cover our faces), Jocelyn and I felt safe lowering the hoods of our cloaks.

Clearly, Jocelyn was starving. She practically inhaled her dragonloaf the moment it touched her lips.

I tried not to laugh. It was quite the sight to behold.

“That looks yummy,” Jocelyn said after a moment, eyeing my milkshake.

“It is,” I said simply, taking a small sip.

“Can I have a sippy-whippy?”

I grinned. “You have your own drink,” I said, looking over at Jocelyn’s wine.

“Pwease!?” she asked in a babyish tone of voice, crossing her arms and puckering her lips.

I rolled my eyes. “Jocelyn, knock it off.”

“You hate me….”

She’s acting like a five-year-old, I thought, shocked by my wife’s behavior. Still, she was a cute little thing, which is why I chose to give in.

“Here,” I said while handing her my glass. “You owe me one,” I added with another roll of the eyes.

“Thank you!” she told me after taking a sip. “I wuv you forever an’ ever!”

“Love you too,” I said, amused.

After we finished our meals, Jocelyn pulled out her newspaper and started to read. She was fixated on the paper for the better part of fifteen minutes, occasionally turning the pages with circular photographs.

“Hey Vensyr?” she said, looking up from the paper.

I looked at her, not saying a word.

“Sara Willington’s been sighted,” Jocelyn continued. Right then, a group of Imperial Knights entered the tavern.

I stared at Jocelyn. The Sara Willington—daughter and heir of the late King Michael Willington—sighted? This was a big deal, and not because the Black King wanted her dead. Rather, it was a huge deal because the princess hadn’t been seen or heard of in nearly thirteen years: not since her parents were killed.

“Sighted!?” I said in a whisper. “Where?”

“Alma Defa,” Jocelyn replied, passing the paper to me. I blew out the candle between us so the Imperial Knights who just came in couldn’t see our faces in the dark corner of the bar. It wasn’t easy, reading without the light of a candle, but the task seemed manageable nonetheless.

And so, I read the paper aloud:

Princess Sara Willington (age 15) was sighted in Alma Defa last night. She should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information leading to Her Majesty’s arrest will be awarded 50,000 gold shillings.

I reread the article several times. It was short, yet Sara’s mugshot covered half the front page. After a moment, Jocelyn took up the newspaper and stuffed it in a pouch beneath her cloak.

“It’s interesting. Isn’t it, Vensyr?” Jocelyn said.

“What’s interesting?” I asked.

“The location, more than anything. It is Alma Defa, after all. The Empire’s Supreme Court is there. But why would she go there of all places, when the Emperor himself wants her dead?”

Jocelyn’s guess was as good as mine.

I looked at the tavern’s front door. At the moment, the owner of the bar was servicing a couple whores and a half-drunk midget. Each of them seemed to be getting their fair share of wine, yet the Imperial Knights that just came in were as sober as a priest before mass. In fact, to tell the truth, the gentlemen standing in the doorway looked as if they were looking for something.

Or someone.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but then as they made their way through the bar, I knew better. They weren’t just looking for someone. They acted as if they’d seen someone, namely me and Jocelyn. Do I even have to say it? They must have seen us enter the freakin’ building! Why did we have to lower the hoods of our cloaks? I thought, but now wasn’t the time to complain. I had to warn Jocelyn, and together we had to escape.

“Hey Jocelyn, does this place have a back door?” I asked, trying to remain calm.

Jocelyn pointed to her left. “Why you askin’?” she replied. I cleared my throat and motioned toward the approaching knights. Jocelyn looked to see them and immediately understood. “I’d say our welcome here is officially worn out,” she said.

And less than a minute later, we were out the back door.