Progress Report

Or: A Retrospective on My Writing Journey

Nearly a decade after starting my first “real” story (i.e. the first one I realized I wanted to finish, no matter what), I am still not finished with a complete draft. That might be depressing to some who aspire to finish their newest tale in under a year, but I knew when I started that I was undertaking a large task in attempting it: the story includes an enormous cast of characters, creating their world from the ground up, setting up a history of at least two hundred years, putting political systems in place (and the different monarchs use very different systems of ruling!!), learning about military campaigns…. The list never really ends, and the stories of minor characters have moved beyond my control, so that now when I mention it to friends in-the-know, I lovingly call it “The Epic.”

I didn’t set out to spend ten years trying to write the thing ( I probably would have balked at even starting if I’d known!) At the time, I wrote to keep myself awake through long midnight shifts at my job. The story grew out of an idea for fanfiction that quickly passed the bounds of those characters, and as I begin coming up with their names and feeling out their story, I realized that I had something unique, and for the first time started to consider myself a writer, and not just someone who liked to write. Continue reading

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Becoming An Expert (The Writer’s Way)

How many times have you heard “write what you know”? It’s good advice – to a point. Because if everyone only wrote what they knew, we’d have no space odysseys, no dragons, no magical words, no elves or dwarves or krakens… and we’d be poorer for it.

So where does one draw the line between what you “should” write and what you can write? I’d say there isn’t a line, and if you’ve been limiting yourself, STOP! If you can make your readers want to enter the world you’ve written, no matter how unrealistic or crazy, then you’ve still succeeded in writing something good (i.e. interesting). You don’t need to be an expert in fighting to write a fight scene, or on trains to write about your characters taking a train ride. Same goes for flying on the back of a dinosaur, or piloting a ship through outer space – if you can make it interesting and immersive for your readers, only a few are going to nitpick the details. ♦  Continue reading

How to Create the Right Setting for your Story

At one point in writing history, writers began their stories by setting the scene. Setting was once used as a reflection characters emotions or actions. For example, a storm arises as a disagreement to your evil plot of revenge… But setting in books have changed today with things like TV.  We still need setting, but it is not nearly as important as our characters and plot.

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Setting brings us to a certain time and place.

Seattle’s physical setting compared with Albuquerque’s is night and day– one is high desert, with dusty browns and golds; the other is sea-level, with fertile flora and greens and blues. But they also eat different foods. ABQ leans more towards a Mexican flavor whereas most anyone in Seattle can list 5-20 favorite Asian foods. Continue reading

Know Yourself: How Many Worlds Do You Live In?

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Writing fantasy is fun. Why else would so many people do it? Why would so many read it? There’s more than a monetary investment when a reader picks up a fantasy novel. They are taking on faith that the world the writer has created is going to engage them and spark their imagination. As an author, you have to think through more than loving your own world and story – it has to be easily comprehended by a reader so that they don’t get fed up and abandon the attempt to enter into your written world.

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Journey to the Stars: Discoveries Shaping Sci-fi

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One of the joys of writing Science Fiction is how quickly tomorrow’s technology can surpass a writer’s imagination. Computers the size of your palm? Done. Glasses that help you see 3-D worlds? Done. Real Pokémon lurking in your backyard? Well, sort of. And 30 years ago, no one really expected those inventions to become reality in their lifetime.

So what does that mean for a science fiction writer? Should we all retreat to fantasy? No!

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How to Write Vivid Animals and Fantasy Creatures- Part 1

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We often talk about creating characters, but what about those stories that feature animals as the heroes? There are several great books (and series) with animals manning the cast, while other stories include animals playing side (yet still important) roles. Whether your animals speak, your human character happens to have the ability to speak to them, or you’re writing a story with fantasy creatures, the depth and breadth of possibilities with non-human characters are endless.

For today, we’ll tackle two kinds of characters:

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Critical Things to Do Before You Write Your First Novel

Hindsight is twenty twenty they say. Before I ambitiously embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime, I had no clue what to expect. Sure, I’d read many novels and books and blog posts on how to write them.

What I quickly found out was reading about writing, and actually writing, are totally different. It’s like thinking you’re a good singer because you watch America’s got Talent and belting out off key tunes at a karaoke bar. Time for a reality check.

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Prompt: Camels

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A thirsty cry startled me from a sweaty sleep. The sound–high-pitched and screechy– rang in my ears. I licked my dry lips and cracked a smile. I knew that sound. Among the tents of my father I heard it all the time –camels. Today it was much more. It was the sound of salvation. I was close. It had been three days since I entered the desert…

What happens next?

Finish this prompt in 500 words or less. Send us yours at thespinningpen@gmail.com . We will select our favorite to be shared with our readers.