Developing a Story Concept

I want to take a moment and discuss my approach for writing Maega.

The original premise was a “Coming of Age – Young Adult” story.  Boring and overdone, but it was a starting point.  I had a Princess that Would Be Queen.  I started her as a spoiled brat with a self-entitlement mentality, and my story would pull the rug out from under her and let her learn how to truly be a leader for her people starting all the way at the bottom.  After coming to grips with the fact that I’m not good enough yet as a writer to properly create a spoiled brat that we want to read about, I made a few tweaks.  She got a bit more agreeable, but now what she lacked wasn’t moral character so much as time.  She is getting made queen way ahead of schedule, and she doesn’t feel ready for this.

Still wanted to pull out the rug, but now just losing her kingdom wouldn’t be enough.  Since she’s a bit reluctant, losing the monarchy (while certainly devastating on some level) may end up being a strange relief.  I needed to take more from her, and I needed to add enough so that losing the monarchy is unacceptable.  She has to fight to get it back.

This brought me around to magic.  If I made her a spell-slinger of some sort (and a frightfully powerful one at that), and then took her magic away, she’s really gotta figure things out from the ground up.  And thinking about magic… What if magic is hereditary?  What if her mother had the magics too, which makes taking her away doubly painful:  We lose the only person relate-able to this much magical power, and we now face becoming queen before we’re ready.  Sizzling.

This got me toying around with magic:  I wanted something where males and females leveraged magic in different ways.  Females were true spell-slinger wizardy types… The males I decided were item crafters… And Mom overthrew wicked male item-creator government to install an army of women spell-slingers.  Let’s say that’s how she’s losing her throne now… The exiled men have returned, and mom isn’t around to protect them.  This completely negates mom’s work.

Oh.. And one more thing.  Since I now have two halves of magic, I feel the need to add a second main character, a new POV with his own storyline.  Let’s have a male join the story to show his struggle.  For fun, let’s make him the half-brother of our Princess… Except he’s not poised to inherit anything.  For more fun, rather than sharing the queen as a mother, they share the same father… A father who happened to be part of the now exiled prior regime.    This adds all kinds of new layers to explore.  And as I pursue each of their stories, I want to show them each on a mirrored path, but where one learns and grows, the other slips into ruin.

This is the baseline of how I came up with the story.

What are your thoughts?  Too cliche?

How did you start your stories?

Novel Word Count: 12,006

Starting the Novel

I want to take a moment and talk through the process I’m using to write Maega.  It began with a premise surrounding what I wanted to do with magic (I’ll do a post with how the lore evolved).  After this premise, I thought about protagonists.  I decided there’d be two, a male and a female.  Each would have their own story that crossed over with the other continuously.

I started with two new documents, labeled Gavin and Luan (my two heroes).  Within each of these documents, I wrote a summary of their stories.  If the mood struck, I threw in a little dialogue.  Primarily however, I was doing the most raw form of “Tell” imaginable.  Although Gavin and Luan have definite overlap in their stories, I still listed each independently, gathering thoughts or impressions when they pushed to my fingers.

To do this, I leveraged Scrivener, a purchase I still have no regrets for and love.

Exposition.png

This ended up being about 1500-2000 words per character.  After the character outlines, I started breaking these into scenes.  Scrivener makes this easy with CTRL-SHIFT-K, which splits a document.

This gave me the 50+ scenes that are going to form the framework for my book.  Whenever Luan and Gavin had overlap, I merged those scenes.  Then I went through and assigned a POV for each scene.  The POV could be Gavin, Luan, or “Either.”  Scenes.png

I don’t have all the names of the characters yet, nor the towns or locations, but I have a general framework of what I’m going for with the story.

Next steps:

  1. Flesh out my characters with backstory and bios and settings with maps and history.
  2. Take each scene and build a larger summary of each, trying to cover some of the specific details.
  3. Anywhere during the process, if inspiration seizes me, I’ll explore it, whether that’s making a new scene, changing my plan for a scene, or even a theme for the whole novel.  To be safe, I’ll make a snapshot (backup) of the scene before I make changes.

I’ll let you know how those go!

Word Count: 10,504

Kicking it off

I labored a bit over this post.  I feel like I need more preamble before I dive straight into my story chronicles.  I should deliver some kind of haughty details or powerful and/or inspirational messaging…

If I wait for that, this isn’t happening.  So let’s talk core details.

I’ll note lots of things as I go here:

  • Strategies and approaching I’m leveraging
  • Specifics related to the technology I’m using

More than that, I also intend to include items specific to the story itself:

  • Character details
  • Plot issues I’m working on
  • Scene breakdowns and listing

In all of these, I’ll also try to list a word count.  I think showing a word count will help me feel more accountable.  We’ll see.

So, some specifics:

I’ve chosen to resurrect “Truth of Power”… Which I’m adjusting the Code name to “Maega”, which will be book 1 of “Legacy of the Aether.”  The book is a complete stand-alone, so if the story ends at 1, it’s no biggie, but part of my twisted mentality is seeing all the stories down the road that could be brought into it.

I’m starting this book over.  There are a few scenes I’m keeping, but on the whole, it’s a clean re-write.  Most of the characters remain the same, and the most basic of the architecture, but a lot of details and plot threads are receiving facelifts and overhauls.  My next post will talk to how I’m structuring.

As an additional, I think reading books on writing keeps me motivated, so I recently picked up Holly Lisle’s Create a Character Clinic.  So far, it hasn’t been a bad read, but there are a few line-items I’m dubious on.  It’s riddled with typos, and I definitely feel like it’s dramatically overpriced (@ $9.95 on the kindle!) compared to other books of its type.

Has anybody else read Holly Lisle (either fiction or non-fiction)?  Impressions?

Also, what are you working on?

Maega Wordcount: 9377

Re-Start Your Fiction

Greetings all!

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I’ve posted anything; Probably 3 since I’ve written anything.  I had a lot of lies I told myself when I stopped and why I didn’t restart:

  1. Working on the blog has taken me away from what my true passion is: Writing that story.
  2. Challenge to myself:  I’m not going to do any more blogging UNTIL I get one short story finished.
  3. I’m transitioning from fiction into a non-fiction blog on leadership and career coaching.
  4. The premise of the blog isn’t good.  I’m not even a published author… How can I make judgments on what is good or bad?
  5. I’ve got a lot going on.

I told myself all of these things, but not even the last one is a good enough reason.

So where have I been?

A few things have been going on that have pulled me away:

  1. We started the year-end process at work, so it gets really busy for me as we start having performance and compensation conversations with everybody.
  2. My wife is getting towards the end of the pregnancy, and we have a million things to do at home to get ready for another baby.
  3. Kids started school back up, which cuts means I need to get to bed an hour earlier to get them ready in the morning.
  4. I started playing some video games again
  5. Frankly, I just lost motivation.

I’ve known through all this that writing is hard work, and books don’t write themselves, and blah blah blah… But man.  It really is tough work.  While I love the stories in my head, sometimes the act of getting them on paper is a siege.

That said, I’ve rekindled myself (literally; just bought my first kindle).  I tried the non-fiction thing, and while it’s a lot easier for me to write, it only inspired a deeper need within me to get my stories out there.  I’ve got renewed focus on making sure my book gets written.

This blog may take a different form… I intend to leverage it a bit more as a mental journal as I work on one story… Forgetting everything I’ve read about marketing, and building a following, and all that good stuff.  I’m not going to get fixated on my nightly schedule, or all the other things I’d like to participate in.  I just want need to get my books done.  It’s going to happen.  The blog posts may not be as consistent as they were, but they’ll do what I originally designed the blog for:  Chronicle my journey from writer to author as I start my first fiction… And get it done.

Hope you enjoy  the journey with me.

How do you stay motivated?

Book Review – The Gilded Chain

Why I read this book:  Dave Duncan is my favorite author.

Did I enjoy it:  Yes.  A fun story, enjoyable characters, and great pacing.

What I learned from it:  In a similar vein to “The Name of the Wind,” this book features a main narrator telling stories, making it like a compilation of short stories.  But like the Usual Suspects, through the whole thing, our narrator is dropping hints that we should be getting, and when past and present collide by the end, we realize what’s been set up.  That presents an interesting idea.

The Gilded Chain (King's Blades, #1)The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gilded Chain is part of a 3-part series where each book is essentially a “stand-alone” with overlapping characters. However, depending on the order you read them, you’ll have a different take on them. A character that seems like an awesome nice guy in one book may come across as cold and heartless in another.
To focus specifically on this book: Each chapter is essentially a separate short story following the varied exploits of Sir Durandel, a master swordsman and servant of the realm. Each story is only partially related to the one before it, but together they weave the picture of Durandel’s life. The beginning of each chapter follows a separate POV (Lord Roland) in the future up to the point when the short stories catch up to present.
The magic (and indeed the world itself) isn’t terribly original or groundbreaking, but they still set the stage for a lot of great adventure. This story really comes to life with the deep and fun characterization painted on even the bit players in the ongoing tale of our hero. Throughout the story, the author drops hints that connect story of the chapter with the ongoing meta-story that takes place in the present… And the finale ties together all of these pieces for an exciting climax.

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Book Review – Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Why I read this book:  My wife is on a cleaning kick as nesting kicks in for our impending third child.

Did I enjoy this book:  Not really.  It wasn’t a bad book per se, but I honestly think it could have been done in less than 15 pages without losing a single bit of actual content.

What I will learn from this book:  Throw things away if you don’t LOVE them.  On the writing front, remember to eliminate unnecessary words (sentences, paragraphs, chapters, etc).

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up is a book on keeping your home clean and in order, and how much it can help make your life better. Although I think the message of this book is sound, the delivery leaves a lot to be desired.
The author does entirely too much stating of the exact same message over and over again in different ways. It’s important to dispose of things you no longer want. That said, disposing of things you no longer want is very important. If an object doesn’t bring you joy, you shouldn’t hold onto it. Etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if those exact three lines are covered in the book.
The core of the book revolves around the above point: You should look at each and everything in your home and decide if you truly enjoy that thing… Not the memory that thing is associated with, or the moment you got that thing… But do you enjoy the thing itself? If you no longer find joy in the present for the thing, it’s time to say goodbye and let the thing go. Storage is just a way to put things you never have any use for in a place you won’t notice it, where you will then forget it.
A key element of good non-fiction is the “war stories” or real life examples… In this case, the examples provided feel weak and generic… Or at best only marginally related to the specific point the author is trying to make. I honestly feel this book could have been made into a 10-15 page pamphlet and would have had the same value provided.
I will give a few points to the author. First, English is not her native language. As such, there are sure to be a few nuances. Second, I’m not a cleaning or storage nut. I’d like to have a cleaner house, and thought this book could give me some good tips. And it absolutely did. The suggestions are great…. All two hundred times each one is made.

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Book Review – Write. Publish. Repeat.

Why I read this book:  I picked up this one because it had trended pretty highly with the other books I had selected, and I wanted to dip my toe in the publishing books.

Did I enjoy it:  Yes.  Full of energy, and basically reiterated to me over and over again that it is possible to be a writer.  I just need to go do it.

What I will learn from this book:  Ironically, the things I learn are things that have been told to me in other books and the message just didn’t sink it.  Whether it was timing or just the voice of the authors, this time I am pumped.  Point 1)  Hard work beats genius.  Just get to it and start churning out (good) books.  Point 2) WRITE.  You don’t need an epic fantasy saga or 100 web-zine published short stories.  Just get writing.

Point 3) New for this book:  You can be a successful author even in today’s writing climate without having a crazy social media presence… As long as you are writing, publishing, and repeating.

Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success)Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book (Write. Publish. Repeat) was like being hooked up to a car battery and having 12 volts pumped into you every second for 400 pages. At the end of it you are left wondering what happened, and yet at the same time you have an irresistible urge to go do some writing.

The book tackles essentially one topic in its many facets: Self-publishing, and the authors draw from their own experience as indie self-publishers, as well as the experiences of tons of listeners and guest-appearances on their podcast, “The Self-publishing podcast.” The focus is then attacked ruthlessly from every angle, ranging from prepwork done on the book (to get ready for publishing), to different media and platforms you should use for publishing, to things you should consider doing while publishing to yield the greatest success.

Almost every book on writing and the writing life will give you the advice: “If you want to be a writer, there is a single important task you should do: Write.” This book does the same, but is the first time I’ve truly felt inspired to do so. At multiple points during the read, I wanted to put the book down and say, “Screw this book! I’m ready to go write some awesome stories!” This wasn’t from any lack of quality in what I was reading… it just gave me that much hope that I actually can make this happen if I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and get the work done, which was another point they harped on pretty regularly (and is also exceptional advice not just for writing, but for just about everything in life).

The authors are blunt and unapologetic about their words and the content contained therein. They own the fact that these strategies and tactics have worked for them, and others have had success in leveraging other tactics (Strategy vs tactic being a big topic of the book). They touch on other tactics at different stages of the process, but don’t spend much time there. They likewise pull almost every example from their own works (I think there was a Harry Potter reference in there once or twice). They also own this, and explain why, both the selfish reasons as well as the practical ones. It doesn’t take away from the book at all.

All in all, the energy level of this book stays high while it delivers lots of strong, likely timeless advice on cracking into the indie publishing arena. It’s worth a read, and certainly has inspired me to check out their podcast to learn more.

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