Friday, January 30, 2015

Fiction Friday - Clockwork Heart 8

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#8

Wolfe led the way out of the shed and back toward the staging area, but they traveled their own routes; he lost sight of Devinovitch almost immediately. She was fast, silent, delicately balanced on the world, and it made her very good at disappearing--and yet, he knew where she was. His sense of her had only grown stronger since their handshake. He'd never felt anything like the feel of her hand in his. If he were given to flights of fancy, he would have thought it was something like destiny, except that he didn't really believe in destiny beyond the definition of literally being born for a purpose.

And anyway, she'd given him a new option that seemed better than this one, where he'd eventually be fed to some ancient monster or left to die in a jungle or forced to give up himself so the Brothers could escape some terrible end.

It should have been harder to turn on the only life he'd ever known. It wasn't easy, not by a long shot, but it wasn't exactly difficult, either. It was more...uncomfortable. He'd spent all his life knowing exactly where his life was going, whether he was happy with it or not, and now he was offered a whole new selection of possible lives, and he knew almost nothing about any of them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Serial Tuesday - Clockwork Heart 7

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#7

Raven almost fell through the space when the wall finally popped off the back of the shed, and caught herself in a more graceful sort of landing, but the guard saw and even smiled just a tiny bit.

"What's your name?" she said. "I can't just go around thinking of you as 'the guard' and calling you 'hey you'."

"Names aren't important."

"You're seriously going to do that? Act like a slave and a drone? Names aren't important, just like that, like who you are doesn't even matter even though you've got a very definite personality?"

That tiny quirk of a smile, there, then gone. "We're working together now?"

She leveled him with a hard glare. "We aren't?"

He looked around the corner to the staging area, to the big weird polygon of the gateway. "The shadows there are thickening."

"Yup."

"I don't care if they destroy the world." His voice was flat, emotionless. A robot's voice.

"Well, I do." She couldn't work if he was going to get in her way, and the creature's sound was nearer, less echoy, more defined--and definition did not make it less horrible. It made the tiny skittering sounds in it more noticeable, the creeping terror behind the darkness more imposing. The whispering noises at the edge of her mind surged like the waves on the beach, and for a moment, overwhelmed her thoughts.

She woke again when the guard caught her shoulder. Damnit. She wouldn't be the fainting damsel!

"What happened to you?"

How much should she tell him? All at once, she decided to tell him everything. He was part of it, whatever it was. She could feel it in her bones. "I...I hear voices. They get loud sometimes."

"Voices."

"Yeah."

"So they've sent a crazywoman to stop criminal lunatics."

She jerked her arm out of his grasp, and the surge of whispers was louder. "I'm not crazy. My brother is crazy. I'm...The Agency calls it gifted. They collect people like me, people who have something unexplained about them, but are generally functional. It helps if you've got other useful skills. I hear voices. They get louder the closer I am to nutbars using old magics--it used to be a really useful paranormal detector, like a Geiger counter inside my head."

"Used to be." A statement again. This man was defined. His edges lined up with the outline of his body. He didn't need the uncertainty of questions.

"Lately it's been... stronger."

"Stronger."

"It was already more pronounced when I came here, but the gate, the creature, these particular magics--I get overwhelmed."

"And, for whatever reason, I can stop it."

She paused just long enough to convey that this was an important point, and saw in his eyes that he got it. "Yeah."

This time, he was the one who paused, his dark, predator's eyes boring into her, reading her like a book. Again, that mingled tangle of relief and discomfort wormed through her under his gaze. "This hasn't happened before."

She shook her head, tried for a rueful smile and hoped she got it. "Usually, physical contact makes it worse. When it was less of a mind-eater, it clarified the sounds so I could tell what the voices were telling me, a little. Now...now, touching someone skin-to-skin seems to amplify the whole noise, not the message. And then coming here."

Did she imagine his face softening, just a little. "You're barely holding it together."

"To put it succinctly."

"Why me?" So he does use questions after all. But even his questions are defined. "I don't even see most of what the Brothers do."

Interesting. "What does the gateway look like to you?"

"A machine. With shadows in it."

Raven peeked around the side of the shed; the gateway was bottomless black, pulling on her sanity with hooked claws, and something large and horrible was moving around in there. She shuddered, and a loose, insane scream started down in her stomach. The guard caught her elbow and pulled her back before it even reached her lungs.

"The gateway looks like a bottomless pit full of moving horrors," she said. The whispers washed around her, sliding static between her thoughts, until the guard folded his hand more firmly around her arm.

"Not to me," he said.

"Maybe that's it," she said, glad her voice was still mostly normal, glad it wasn't a shriek or a strangled sob. "maybe you're immune to even the harshest, oldest, most terrible powers."

"Lucky me." He released her arm.

"No one figured this out before?"

He shook his head, one small sharp movement. "No one in the Brotherhood much cares about their servitors until they fail. I haven't failed."

"It probably makes you an exceptional guard."

"It does."

"And it'll make you an exceptional Agent. If you work with me."

Nothing from him, just a measuring look.

"You're good at this stuff. Think of it as guarding the world, instead of guarding these jerks who don't even know your name. You'll get to think for yourself, make your own decisions. Have a choice."

A ripple, a tiny current of emotion. "Will your superiors figure out what it is about me that makes me immune?"

"Are you kidding? They'll be clamoring for your attention."

For a long, hard moment, they stood, eyes locked, her hoping she'd made the good recruiting choice, and him unreadable but weighing options. Then he held out his hand. "My name is Gabriel Wolfe."

She slid her hand into his, her fingers disappearing in his much larger ones. "Raven Devinovitch."

"Russian."

"On my father's side. I'm a citizen of the world." Flippant, yes, but flippancy was a good cover for the difficult things. He saw that it was difficult, and she saw that he saw, but he didn't comment. One day, she was suddenly sure, all these details he filed away would either save her--or lose her entirely.


"Pleased to meet you, Agent Devinovitch."



Tune in Friday for Part 8! We're past the half way point now!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Division of Muse Relations Monday dispatch from the muse-sphere!


Another week, another five story-starts! In honor of Division of Muse Relations Vol2, which should be out soon, this week's starts are all Scifi!

1. Scientists create a new sort of human, intending that this created-human would take over the grunt work from the regular humans. But these created humans have other ideas. Ideas that do not involve war, because they've read the books written by normal humans and know how that'll end. How does it play out?

2. A totally retro red and white rocket lands in the middle of a modern city, despite the fact that manned vehicles never actually looked like that. A spaceman and a robot come out of the hatch and start exploring. How does te city react? How do they react to the city? Where did they come from and what is going on?

3. A space explorer living alone on a long-distance mission starts getting cabin-fever, and needs something to distract them from creeping insanity from isolation. They eventually find a very weak singnal, and can't tell where it's from, but it's something in all this nothing. What happens when they start talking back?

4. Aliens land, and it's less an invasion and more like tourists visiting a zoo--with about as much consideration for the local "wildlife". Who is fine with that? Why? Who takes offense? And what does everyone do about it?

5. Someone invents nano machines that get out, but despite all the sure warnings, they don't destroy the world--they fix it. But as they do, their collective complexity increases. What happens when they, and by extension, the whole planet, becomes conscious and has access to all of human history because of the internet?


So have at em!

As always, any story you write from these prompts belongs to you, no strings attached. It would be super-cool, however, if you'd link to any published or posted stories so we can read them! That's up to you, of course.

If you'd like to see more scifi story-starts, look for Division of Muse Relations Vol2 sometime around the end of the month or early next month! And for fantasy prompts, check the Shop tab above to get your copy now!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fiction Friday - Clockwork Heart 6

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#6

From the look on the woman's face, it seemed she thought he would attack her, but he hardly spared her more than a quick glance; he pushed past her and went to where the stacks of heavy cases filled up the back wall of the shed.

"I have to say, I thought for sure you were going to punch me in the face just now." Her words were bold, but under them, he heard honest, shaking fear.

"That wouldn't serve any purpose."

"When has punching a girl ever served a purpose? Usually it just makes a big brute feel better."

"I'm not a brute."

"Aren't you?" He didn't have to see her to know she was sending significant glances at his sidearm, his height, his scowl. It was all in her voice. These were all things he was aware of, tools to be used to his advantage. But they weren't him.

He moved one of the boxes.

"We have other things to worry about."

"Like the giant hole in reality and the endless, ageless, undying monster crawling out of it?"

"Yes. And the fact that that man shouldn't have been here."

She was quiet long enough for him to heft three more cases; there was the start of a tunnel to the back wall now. When she spoke again, her voice sounded haunted. "Who was he?"

"He used to work here. He's been banished. I thought he was dead."

"He sounded...familiar."

This made him pause. "Familiar how?" Her face matched her voice, and she folded her arms around herself, tucking her hands out of view.

"I don't know. I'd swear I never heard it before, but something about the patterns, the cadences...It sounded like someone I once knew. Someone I lost." She turned away.

The bravado was almost entirely gone, and what was left was a raw nerve trying to protect itself. Wolfe wanted to protect her--nerves were terrible at doing it themselves--and he had no way to understand such an impulse. She was nominally the enemy. She was here to stop what he'd pledged and been raised to keep going. She was a stranger.

But there it was. An impulse to smooth away her pain.

It wasn't rational, and he had so little experience with irrationality in his own mind, for all that everything he lived to protect was hardly rational. He started to reach out a hand toward her shoulder, and stopped himself, but she saw it. He had a feeling she saw everything, and it made him feel strangely laid bare.

And strangely comforted himself.

He was nothing but a thug as far as the Brothers were concerned. It could have  easily been him fed to the beast. But this stranger looked at him and saw a person.

"Why are you tunneling through those crates?"

"The back wall of this thing is weak; it's why the stacks are there. If we can reach it, we can probably knock it down."

She smiled, and it transformed her face from stunning but severe to outright beautiful. He wondered, for a moment, if she didn't smile much so she could preserve the power of such a thing. "Insider knowledge," she said. "You can't beat it." And she moved to join him.

"The ceremony is meant to last hours, but I don't think they expected so much response so quickly," he said, more thinking out loud than speaking to her specifically. "They'll be concerned about controlling the power, and there's a device for that, but it's untested. The Interested Parties have to be protected--those were our orders--because their bosses have the funds to pay for more experiments like this, but everyone else is disposable."

"You live and work with these loons, knowing they consider you disposable?"

"It's what I was born to."

"How terrible."

He paused, his hand on the next case, and looked at her directly, which caused a ripple of what looked like startlement mixed with consternation to cross her face. "Don't you live under the same idea, Agent?"

Her expression shuttered, and her lips went thin and tight, bringing the severeness of her fine, narrow features back in full force. "I chose this." It didn't sound like it was really much of a choice. "You were born to it, you said. That's no choice at all."

He shrugged one shoulder. "It was the choice I had. Serve, or never make it out of training."

She didn't respond, but her jaw took on a stubborn set and she moved the next case less carefully than she should have.

The whole process of clearing the back wall took longer than he'd hoped, but went quickly enough with the two of them; the beast still howled, but the howl still had a deep echo, so it wasn't here yet. He could just hear the chanting over the sound of the wind and the waves, and the occasional, horrible, scream cut off in mid-voice.

They braced their feet, one on either side, and pushed in tandem. The wall creaked, but didn't move. "Again," he said, and they did it again. This time, it popped at the corner on his side, and wrenched at hers. The roof wobbled and bowed over them.

"Are you sure this won't cave in and crush us?"

"Not at all. Would you rather sit here and wait for the end of all things?"

That smile again, but this time less brilliant and more like the edge of a knife. "Not at all."


They pushed.


Tune in next Tuesday for Part 7!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Five points about creating a fantasy world


1. Start with something reasonable and then elaborate on it

The world we live in is frikken amazing, and yet so many fantasy stories start with white guys from somewhere sort of like England or some European country. Which was fine when Tolkein was writing, but now we've had so much of that, it's starting to be predictable and boring, unless you're a phenomenal writer. 

So why not start somewhere else? Base your culture on the reality of, say, the Middle East like Saladin Ahmad does--and does fantastically. Or start with, like, Nepal or mountainous Peru, or the nomadic cultures in desert Africa, or an island culture in the South Pacific. Read up a whole lot of how the societies are structured, how their social group songs work, what their history and religion and mythology is like.

And then elaborate. Change the planet they're on, or their place in the world, or their mythology. Graft your own ideas on that already fascinating foundation. 

Some considerations, though:
- the closer you are to the recognizable world, the more accurate you'll have to be, or you're walking right into that appropriation / imperialist / Noble Savage problem that 1) is insulting, and 2) ruins a story by being uninformed and unrealistic. The weirder your story is, the more it has to seem believable.

- if you start with, say, modern America or one of the Typical Fantasy Starting Points, you'll have to be more creative than the piles of others that are Basically England, But With Magic. If you have a really fascinating idea, though, setting it in a world that is so familiar you don't have to figure it out could do wonders for that idea by not distracting from it.


2. Take interplay into account

Societies don't exist as lists of attributes that don't have anything to do with each other. You can keep those lists for yourself, but don't make the story read like a list. Remember that everything in a world and te societies that grow on it bounce off each other. When you're writing, think about how weather and climate change what it's like to be traveling cross country. Think about how te tech level of the world affects how quickly information travels. Think aboutthe  basic education level of your characters, and how that would affect their possibilities and what they're capable of understanding. Think about how the environment has shaped how the cities look--and whether there even are cities, and where it's possible to build them--and how that affects movement, gossip, interference, the ability to keep secrets or have somewhere to hide, and what the different seasons do to change that.

Think about what happens in different levels of society and how what they each do affects the others.

Think about how te different societies living in the area overlap and clash and work together and stay apart, and how that affects what your characters can and will do.

Basically, think about the world as a world, not a list of details. All those details need reasons and ties and purposes, or why are they there?


3. Don't forget consequences

Human history is a story about consequences. A plot, basically, is also. When you're building a world, there has to be consequences. If this character breaks this law or social contract or magical ward, what happens? Why? This plot point--this law or structure or organization--that stands in their way, what was it formed as a consequence of? If the hero changes how things work, or defies what people think is possible, how will doing that thing ripple out? Who will be inspired? Who will take it further? Who will push back and get in the way?

Hell, what is the hero a consequence of? What happened before the story starts that set them off on this path to begin with?

4. Give your plot points really good reasons

Okay, say you really want your heroes to face a specific spell, or challenge, or person, and it's going to be flipping awesome. But it's also sort of out of left field and you haven't seen anything like it in other books, and it's exciting because of that. That's great! Fantasy sometimes beats dead horses until there's nothing left at all, and that's so eye-rolly it's hardly even worth reading, so bright new ideas are exactly what we need.

The thing, though, is that it has to make so much sense that no one bats an eye, and instead they're all "that is SO COOL."

You do that by having fantastic set up. Foreshadow it ahead of time. Have other smaller plot points that build up to it. And this one is the most important: Whatever it is, make sure it has a reason to be there.

Don't just drop it in because it's neat. Don't just get through it and move on without ever talking about it again. What about the world makes this thing exist--is it a logical growth of what we've already seen, or a logical perversion of what we've seen? Are the motivations of the people the heroes the people are facing off against as clear as those of the heroes? Did the story and the world up to this point allow something like this to happen, and if it didn't, did it really, but the heroes weren't aware of it or were focusing on the wrong stuff and so were surprised? When they get through, do they come out changed, or did someone die, or did they pick up something that will help or hinder them later? Did someone do something wrong or reveal some secret that changes everything? Did someone find new strength or purpose? Or lose the strength and purpose they had before?

Remember to make sure everything happens for a reason other than it looks cool!


5. Don't forget the effect of environment

Weather, most obviously. But like I said above, also climate and location. What sort of building materials do they have? How does that different from other nearby cultures? What are the seasons like and how do they change and how long do they last--think of the double-season system in Game of Thrones; winter is like yet another enemy, and darkness is, and they spur a lot of the movement and actions of people AND reveal the White Walkers.

Think about how people who were raised in a cold, snowy place will have trouble in a hot, humid one. 

Think about how much sun they get and how hard it is, and whether there will be any cultural celebrations or coping mechanisms that amount of sun will create-- solstice celebrations, say, or bonfires to hold back the dark, or everyone goes underground at noon because the sun kills, or whatever. Make it interesting for the characters to move around in.

Think about farming and herding and hunting--that determines what they eat and how they prepare it. A fish eating culture will be different from a goat eating one--and one culture might have both, depending.

Think about how rain blocks distance viewing and slows progress. How wide oceans make land precious. About how mistiness changes the edges of things, and how strange mist would be in a place that never has it--or a person who has never seen it. Think about how mountains are vertical and plains are horizontal and how that changes how you move or see across things or build or think about escape. Think about how woodsmen know a forest and others wouldn't. 

Think about how all of that shapes a world and the people shaped by it.


Now, don't spend a million pages talking about the weather. But when characters need to get somewhere, that's when you set a scene. Don't have someone lecturing on the full history of the kingdom, but when someone needs to pass as royal or as peasant, or go to enemy territory, or rebel against oppression? That's when someone comments on historical bias or defends historical norms. 

So just think, expand, and keep that big wide world on hand, and when your characters move through it, especially if try come from different places or training or religions or cultures, they'll know what's going on so the reader can know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Serial Tuesday - Clockwork Heart 5

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#5

Raven crept up behind the structure. Everything and everyone was focused at the front, and though a gate should open from both sides, back here, she saw only a vague mistiness, like something smeared over a camera lens. She saw the faces and the reactions of those before it, blurry, but stricken. And she felt the pull here, too, the whispery gibbering that nibbled at the edges of her mind taking larger bites now.

Inside her mind, she felt like she was coming unhinged, like a door that had never been opened was loosening in its frame.

And the saw the guard, watching whatever was happening, his closed face shuttered against the deaths of people all around him.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekly Dispatch from the Division of Muse Relations!



The theme of today's story-kindling is Family!
  1. A girl who has always left every town she lives in before she can start to feel like it's home, who thinks that she'll never have a normal life and a family because of Her Big Secret. A girl who has lived in one place her whole life, and so has her whole family, so that it's practically only her family in the town, who thinks she'll never get to meet anyone not related to her. They meet in the middle of a really weird afternoon. What happens next?
  2. An orphan finds out that she was born a twin--and that she's not human. She has no idea what she is or if her twin is alive, or where the rest of her family might be, but now people keep showing up asking bizarre questions about her. Some of the questions give away some of what they think she is; most of them make no sense. What does she do about it? And what happens to the family that adopted her?
  3. A guy who has only ever wanted to settle down and start a family, and so has built a nice solid life for himself so he can support one, finds out that he's got an eight year old daughter on the same day that he meets a mysterious and compelling woman who shakes up all his plans. Then strange things start happening that his daughter thinks is the ghost of her mom. Do they get to live happily ever after?
  4. An alien crash lands in the middle of a city, and is almost immediately wanted by the government, but he's taken in by a single mother and her son. The two of them have a lot of things they don't talk about, and the alien asks too many questions because there's no way he can understand anything he's being faced with. Then the first of the government agents--the one with too much to prove because of a string of failures recently--tracks everyone down. What happens to the four of them?
  5. One day, a man opens the door and the man on the other side tells him three things--he's his father, despite looking younger than him; both of them are some of the last of the Fey; the dwindling population of the Fair Folk is under attack. Now that everything is different, what do they both do next?

As always, these are your stories! If you like my prompts, run with them however the Muse strikes you. If you publish them or post them online, it'd be cool if you linked them here so that people can see them and share them, and it'd be super-cool if you pointed other writers looking for ideas in my direction, but both of those are optional. It's up to you!

If you like prompts, I have 100 more fantasy prompts in the Division Of Muse Relations Vol 1 in the SHOP tab up above this post! Vol 2, Scifi prompts, will be out soon, so be sure to check back!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gothic Lit in an info graphic nutshell





And it goes on and is entirely amazing, so click through to see the rest!


Friday Fiction - Clockwork Heart 4

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#4

Wolfe didn't remember a time when he didn't work for the Brotherhood. He also didn't remember a time when he didn't have reservations about what they did. He felt like statements along these lines should be more meaningful, but truth be told, he didn't remember much at all before the age of ten or twelve, when his parents had sent him away to a boarding school that turned out to be a training ground for Brotherhood support systems. He still wasn't sure if they knew what they'd done, but he had a suspicion they did. They hadn't spoken in years.

The woman's offer of a job that wasn't this one kept coming back to him. It's entirely unlikely that the Brotherhood would allow him to just quit and move on, especially to whatever group might be actively working against their plans, but this was the first time he'd had the chance to think about something like this, and he was a muller, a deliberator.

When he got an idea, he liked to chew on it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Serial - Clockwork Heart 3

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#3

Raven skirted the compound, berating herself. What was she thinking, moving in like that? Trying to handle unknown tools, drawing attention to herself. She might've gotten killed--or had to kill him, and he looked like he'd be hard to kill, all muscle and brute force and moving like he's been trained in a thousand different ways to kill a person. Her heart was still beating too hard from escaping him.

She had a suspicion he hadn't tried that hard, or she'd have been caught.

She didn't like that suspicion at all.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday writing prompts!


This week's theme is Time Travel!

1. A character who is haunted by some past thing discovers a time machine--doesn't build it, just finds one. Where does it come from? Who built it? How does it work and what do they do with it? What happens to them because of how they handle the machine?

2. A signal from outer space hits earth and is deciphered as a set of blueprints, that when built, is a machine made of weird tech no one has ever seen before. When activated, it opens a portal that happens to go to the past. But there was also a part of the message that was missed. What do people do with the now open portal? What information was in the missing part of the message and what does the lack of it do to the outcome of the event?

3. A woman falls through a portal into another time after she's had the worst day of her life. Does she land in the future or the past? Does she land somewhere better or worse? Once she's just barely getting a handle on things, she starts to notice other people who can't possibly be from the time she's now in; what gives them away? What does she do about it and what do they do about being found out? Which one knows what's actually going on?

4. A man and woman who have never met both wake up after traumatic events to find they've restarted the day--the same day that led to that trauma. As they deal with the day again, they keep restarting, Groundhog Day-like. And then they realize they're crossing each other's paths and that something in one of those crosses must be what's causing this--but they have differing ideas about what should be done next. Do they work together or do they part ways? Do they solve the problem, and how? What does repeating the day let them do that they couldn't do under normal circumstances?

5. Someone trying to build a time machine builds seven machines that don't quite travel in time. Where do they travel to? What happens during testing? Why are they so desperate to make a time machine that they keep trying even when stuff keeps going so strangely wrong?


For more Muse Relations, check out the Shop tab for Division Of Muse Relations Vol1, and stay tuned for Vol2 soon!

These story-starters are free to use, and any stories coming from them are all yours. You can use the prompt as given or you can use part of it. But it would be really cool, if you post or publish one of these stories, if you linked it here so we could all see it! I'll eventually build a whole page just of stories from my little story-sprouts!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Fiction - Clockwork Heart 2

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#2

Gabriel Wolfe didn't feel the pull of the gap opened in reality. Other people around the compound did, and they talked about it constantly, but as far as he was concerned, it was just an illusion. In fact, it didn't even look real; he had no idea what people were talking about when they talked about the bottomless black, the keening darkness, or anything else. They were hysterical. It was just a shimmery sort of shadow hung up between four messy and slap-dash struts.

He paroled the edge of the demonstration space because it was his job, and he was determined to do his job right, but he didn't have to believe. Even if they were in there, those Old Gods had lost most of their worshippers a long time ago and he wasn't about to start a trend.

The Brothers of Darkness had that covered, anyway.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Five ways to just write


Writers write. It should be obvious, but it winds up sometimes being harder than it feels like it should to just sit down and write. But to be a Writer, not just someone who sometimes writes things*, it's important to write. More important, really, than almost anything else. You can improve craft and skill and execution, you can get better at plotting and pacing and editing, but not if you don't get into a habit of sitting down and writing--and all of that counts as writing, in the broad sense.

So here's five things that help me when inspiration is acting like molasses in winter and I look at my desk and just go uggghhhhh at the thought of having to write a single other word.

1 - Prepare yourself
The night before, as you're getting ready to sleep, think about what you need to do in the next day's writing. What is your one big event that you need to get out in that particular chunk of words?

When you wake up in the morning, think about what you were mulling over the night before as you make your breakfast, and sift through possibilities before you ever sit down.

More ways to prepare yourself:
- at the end of each day's writing, write down three things that you intend to write next, or that could happen, or that are required to happen for the plot to move. No real details, just a trigger--"they go to town" or "something busts up trough the ground" or "one of them is lying".

- Plan ahead. Personally, I hate outlines with a burning passion, because you've basically already written it at that point, except for the hardest part of actually writing it. But I love a little grid at the beginning of the week with just a few words to remind me what this chunk of the book is supposed to accomplish.**

- Do the whole same time / same channel deal--wake up and set up and then sit down and write as close to the same time every day as your schedule allows. It trains your brain to expect it and to perform. 

- Set word or page goals, and stick to them. I like to decide how much I think I could write, then half that as my goal--that way, even on the hard days, it's fairly easy to hit the goal, and on easy days, it's all bonus sectors pages.

2 - Freewrite to warm up
When I was in school, one of my comp classes, the teacher had us free write for ten minutes every class to get our brains going. It's a skill I like and go back to frequently. Sometimes I journal; sometimes I open a book to a random page and pick the first phrase I see as a prompt; sometimes I look up prompts, or consult the file I keep with lists of story prompts I find on the interwebs. Sometimes I just see what comes out of my brain.

Then, after a few pages of that--just two or three, don't want to use up all your time--it's easier to get into the day's more important writing.

Other free-writing ideas:
- Sometimes I write a totally different story in little chunks as I Freewrite to warm up. It's like stretching before you run.

- My friend Stephanie Wytovitch writes poems and short stories to get into the heads of her characters, and I feel like a quick poem or three before writing could be a good warm up.

3 - Brainstorm
I'm a big believer in brainstorming in general. I do weekly times brainstorms basically just to drag stuff forward from my subconscious so I can look at it later and see a story when I'm looking for a new thing to write. But it's also good for getting going.

Spend five minutes just offloading all the ideas in your head so you can clear space for the day's writing.

If the day is hard because you're stuck, spend that time listing every single thing that could happen next, then pick the one that's the most fun and write that.

If you're having trouble because you're doubting the story, brainstorm out all the ways you could make it cooler, more fun, more unusual, deeper, more exciting--then write from that high as if it ha always been that cool, and fix the previous stuff to match when you get to revisions.

4 - Set a timer
Sometimes your brain is just screaming to get away. On those days, set a timer. Five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour, whatever. Write like your life depends on it, from the moment it starts to the moment it ends, and call that the day's writing, no matter how cruddy it seems--cruddy can be fixed, but skipped just builds up in the waiting pile. You can't fix what you didn't write.

5 - Go somewhere new
Write in the living room instead of at your desk. Go to a coffee shop or the library. Write longhand instead of on your computer. Basically, switch it up--because routines make inspiration better, but sometimes you just need a change so you don't explode. 

Also in this category:
- Go outside and just decompress. It's been proven that direct sunlight on your skin while you're in physical contact with the ground lowers stress-hormones, and if you're less stressed, it's easier to be creative.

- Take a shower and then come back fresh. The ionized air caused by falling water can change stress levels and brain activity, too, and often a shower is a good place for ideas.

- Go for a walk. Brains work differently when limbs are moving, and activity also de-stresses.

The important part of all of these, though, is to make sure you come back and do your work.

Bonus:
Change how you think about writing. Writing is work. It sits in your brain the way any effort does, and thinking about it as a lark, or as a mystical thing brought by invisible spirits is blocking--and makes you superstitious. It's much better to plug along regardless of how many mystical spirits feel like they're feeding you stories than it is to wait on them, because plugging comes from you and your own effort, while waiting is all external and makes you helpless. It puts you at the whim of something that probably doesn't exist--and that's not going to get your book written.

So tell me, dear readers, how do you make sure you get your word goals in? Do you have any tricks for the bad days that you can share?



NOTES:
*not that there's anything wrong with that. But you can't be a writer as a profession and only sometimes write things.
**im currently writing two books on alternating days and editing another at night, so this is basically a requirement of sanity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Serial - Clockwork Heart 1

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.

#1

The Gate to Hell was open, and it shouldn't have been. Agent Raven Devinovitch frowned over the case she was helping one of the techmen carry. How the hell was she supposed to close a Gate to Hell? Her briefing had been woefully under-informed; as far as the deskmen back home had said, this was a test of the technology--if you can call mechanical harnessing of magic a technology--and all she'd have to do is infiltrate the site and make sure it didn't work so the Brothers of Dakness would be set back, at least, and outright abandon the work at best.

This was far from a test.

The tech was unrefined, of course. It looked like a roughly rectangular frame of wires that sparked at unpredictable times, tubes of liquids and gases that leaked and shook, a bank of generators that glowed with the specific peculiar blue of magic being made to work against its normal channels. And three huge claws that held back the ragged echoing of the world so that between the cockeyed lines of the Gate, a gaping hole stood in the fabric of the world.

Monday, January 5, 2015

This week's dispatch from the Division of Muse Relations!

This week's theme is DISCOVERY!


1. Somehow, there is another whole continent that no one knew about, discovered just now by someone in the story. What do they do about the announcement? What do they find on this new continent? What does the world do about it? How did it escape discovery until now, and what changed that allowed discovery?

2. Kids in the woods behind their house stumble across a section of the woods that doesn't exist here--it's part of a woodland in an ages-old country, somewhere magical an far away, and it's like a bubble, poking through here. What do the kids do with the weird woodland? What do the adults do about it--if they even know about it? Is it stable, or is it a fluke that'll close off?

3. Out in the middle of every desert, people see mirages, and they think they're not real. What if they are--and they're all the same place, and the reason no one ever reaches one is because they don't know the right way to approach it? And what if someone figures out the way? What would they find?

4. Right in the middle of one of the worst conflicts in human history, a tear in reality surfaces, and strange things start coming through. Did the fighting cause it? Or a new weapon? Or the collective trauma? Or is none of that the cause? What comes through and what does it do with the war? Does it stop it, or does it make it worse? What happens after?

5. Someone decides that some invention is the worst thing that ever happened to humanity--and decides to do something about it. Something that involves inventing time travel and stopping that invention from happening. What do they discover when they try? What happens back home? What other discoveries happen because of this? Is all of it successful, or no?


As always, these ideas are for you--if you write a story based on one of them, it belongs to you. You don't even have to let me know about it! But, if you link to your publication, on your blog, in a magazine, in an anthology, whatever, it'll help people find it, and I'd love to see it!

For more story-starters, there's 100 Fantasy prompts in the Division Of Muse Relations Vol1, available for 2$ up in the Shop tab! Vol2 will be out soon, and will be all Scifi prompts!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Weekly writing report - first (partial) week of Jan, 2015


Not bad!

I've scheduled in days off, which is not something I've ever done before, and the first is tomorrow, so I'm wrapping up today. I think I'm off to a good start, though next week I need to layer in some editing if I'm going to get Beacon ready to publish by the end of March. 

How was your week, productivity-wise?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Books read in 2014!

With affiliate product links! I think this is all of them--at least, it's all the ones I posted on Instagram. I didn't keep a very good list this past year, and I'm gonna try to be more organized in 2015!

This is also not necessarily in the right order--it's the order that I found notes about them in various places.



Messy Canvas by Mandy Steward

 

Pioneer Farm

2015 Create Your Amazing Year Workbook (Biz Ed AND Life Ed)

The Overarching Theme Kit



The Rundown:

  • Fiction: 18 / 27
  • Nonfic: 8 / 27
  • Comics: 1 (but actually more that I didn't count; fixing that in 2015)
  • YA: 7 / 27
  • For Review: 2 / 27
  • Scifi: 5 / 27
  • Fantasy: 8 / 27
  • Children's picture books: 4 / 27
  • EBooks: 7 / 27
  • Library: 3 / 27
That's a little more than one every two weeks, which is pretty good in raw numbers, but it was actually that I hardly read anything over summer and fall, and that's weird for me! Lets see if I can do better next year.

What did you read? What was your favorite?
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