On the most recent episode of the Writing Bloc Podcast, hosts Christopher Lee and Jacqui Castle continue their conversation on world-building, this time with featured award-winning fantasy authors Maximian Held and Joshua Robertson.
In this resource-heavy episode (be sure to jot down some of the great, free resources for world-building we discuss) we dive deep into the nuts and bolts of building a fictional world. Listen below as we discuss everything from drafting habits and organizational styles, to our favorite map-building software!
Have you ever thought about crowdfunding a novel? Are you curious what the process is actually like behind the scenes? Listen to the latest episode of the Writing Bloc Podcast in which authors Becca Spence Dobias, Cari Dubiel, Jacqui Castle, and guest Jason Stokes talk honestly and openly about their experiences crowdfunding – the good, the bad, the inspiring, the deflating. ALL OF IT! Listen below:
July is Camp NaNoWriMo, and here at Writing Bloc we’re using the month of June to pack for camp, and we invite you to join us!
Even if you are familiar with National Novel Writing Month, you might not know that the organization also hosts two ‘camps’ throughout the year – one during the month of April and one during the month of July.
While National Novel Writing Month in November challenges writers to whip out a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days, the camps are lighter and breezier. Participants, or ‘campers,’ set their own goals and can track their progress through an online dashboard(much like they do in November).
I will be working on adding 20,000 words to the novel I started in November, but many authors choose to work on short stories, or other projects during this time – even skipping around from project to project with the goal of writing every day.
The second Camp NaNoWriMo of 2019 takes place less than a month away, and Writing Bloc wants to make sure you are ready! So, let’s dive into a few action steps you can take to prepare for camp.
Set Your Goals
Whether you are aiming for 1,000 words or 50,000 words, set your overall goal before the month begins. Look at your calendar for April and set aside time to write each day. If you have something that can be checked off your to-do list before the month begins to make more time for writing, do it now.
Next, you will want to set smaller daily and weekly goals. These can vary depending on your schedule. Maybe you want to hit a goal of 5,000 words a week, but you know you have the most time to write on Thursdays. You could set a goal to write 2,000 words on Thursdays, and 500 words the other six days of the week. Setting attainable goals will help with forward momentum!
Let your family and close friends know what you are working to accomplish, and accept their support!
Join a Cabin
Cabins exist within the Camp NaNoWriMo website and encourage groups of writers to support each other and also hold each other accountable. Writing Bloc will be hosting a cabin for Camp NaNoWriMo, and you can request to join us here(will add link here as soon as Cabin Registration opens up).
Prepare to Sprint
NaNoWriMo holds word sprints on their twitter account around the clock during November, April, and July. Sprints are timed writing challenges in which participating writers across the globe take off writing for a specified amount of time, and then report back with their progress. They are great fun, and a wonderful way to keep each other motivated.
If you are sprinting to the finish line trying to hit 50K before that clock strikes 12, the fine people at @NaNoWordSprints have got you covered with non-stop sprints for the next 7 hours as we close out all the time zones!
If you are a plotter, outlining ahead of time will get those words out faster.
If you are a pantser, then even jotting down a few plot points or scene ideas will come in handy.
While it is always a good idea to save the research and fact checking for the editing stage, sometimes we just need to “check one thing real quick.” If this sounds like you, you might consider having a bookmarked list of related websites prepared for speedier referencing during your writing time.
Have your Tool Box Ready
Do you have a list of tools that help you when the words aren’t flowing? For some writers, it’s a music playlist organized according to mood. For others, it’s having writing craft books handy to inspire creativity.
Whatever it is that helps you keep writer’s block at bay, make sure you have your tools within arms reach when you sit down to write. If you need a few ideas, you can check out this article we wrote last year on 6 Techniques for Busting Through Writer’s Block.
Check out our Handy Prep Week Calendars
As a gift to all of you Camp NaNoWriMo participants, we have these handy calendars from April’s camp for you to download, set as your desktop background, or print and gleefully cross out each item as you complete it. Basically, use it in whatever way will help you the most. Check back throughout the month as we add content each week!
Good news! I am about to give you permission to sit down, watch movies, and spend time wandering around on the Internet. The best part? You can call the entire time “research.” And I am going to answer the question I am asked more than any other: “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s something anyone can do who is willing to spend that time watching movies and web pages.
Yesterday after lunch, I turned on the television and came across the 60’s movie, “Psych-Out”, featuring a very young Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Susan Strasburg, and Gary Marshall. Gary Marshall? Yeah, that caught my eye, too, so I opened the IMBD page on my iPad and started reading. One paragraph explained how Strasberg and Nicholas had been nervous about some of their scenes and calmed themselves down by discussing Reichian therapy which they had both experienced. Apparently, it was some kind of cosmic, bio-energy thing, but new to me. I opened a new window to the Wikipedia page for Reichian Therapy.
I read that William Reich was a student of Freud, but had then developed theories about a mind-body energy related to sexuality. My highly oversimplified understanding was that Reich believed that our mental and physical health was connected to a ‘cosmic’ energy that Freud called the libido, or sex drive. Repression of our sexual urges led to illness, mental and physical. It sounded like one of those things that would be in a 60’s movie. Reich built on his theory, identified that cosmic energy as something he called ‘orgone’, and created devices called “orgone accumulators” that would help us decrease our sexual tensions and improve our overall health. He also created a form of therapy called “Vegetotherapy”, which I’ll simply say violated the established ‘distance’ between patient and therapist. His work was banned in Germany, and in the U.S. he was eventually determined to be a fake, was thrown out of various groups, had his books and research confiscated, was arrested, and died in prison in 1957.
No, nothing much so far. Interesting stuff, but not the kind of material that great ideas come from. Then, I opened this morning’s New York Times obituaries.
I read that Mary Boyd Higgins died at age 93, after serving for sixty years as the Director of the William Reich Trust, the William Reich Museum, and the Orgone Energy Observatory that is on the National Register of Historic Places in Maine. As I read the obituary, I recognized things from what I had read yesterday, but there was more detail. For example, it explained that the reason Reich’s material had been banned in Germany was that he explained that Fascism and dictatorships were the result of sexual repression and not at all a healthy thing. Nazi Germany did not agree. And I read that, in 1954 in the U.S., after reviewing Reich’s 789 page FBI file, a Federal Judge wrote: “any journal or pamphlet that mentioned orgone “shall be destroyed,” that all orgone accumulators be destroyed, and that all copies of Dr. Reich’s books that mentioned orgone “shall be withheld” from circulation until such references were redacted.”
My neurons began to fire. I found it interesting that Reich was one of the few men I’ve heard of to be banned and have his books burned in both Nazi Germany and the United States. What bothered me the most was that line in the judge’s ruling that said any of Reich’s books that mentioned orgone “shall be withheld from circulation until such references were redacted.” One word? What was so dangerous about one word that might cause two groups who had completely different worldviews to link arms like that? What was it about “orgone” that made it so important that Dr. William Reich be silenced?
And then my mind said, “What if…?”
And that is how ideas are born. What if Reich was right, and the repression of sexual expression and ‘orgone’ does cause people to be less independent and self-actualized and more open to authoritarianism, Fascism, and dictators? What if encouraging sexual repression does help keep people under control, keep them weaker, more compliant, less likely to resist? What if there are groups ‘out there’ who know this secret and have been the drivers behind the cultural battles relating to sexuality and sexual expression? What if our entire medical health care system could be…What if…?
I may never know the answers to those questions, and honestly, I’ll leave that task to others. My goal was to find an idea to explore. My goal was to find a “What if…?”
Some may say that this experience was all a great coincidence, and I was just lucky to have the movie, Wikipedia, and obituary show-up like they did. Yes, it may well have been coincidence. But I am convinced that the more pieces and bits of information I pick-up and store in my mind, the more frequently those little idea-creating coincidences are going to occur.
Now, I need to go see what’s on television.
John Jamison is a life-long believer in the power of stories. First as a pastor, then educator, creator of Centers for Innovation at multiple universities, Director of a national Game and Simulation academic degree program, a consultant for e-learning and brand development, John has used the power of story to bring about serious change and have some fun in the process. John grew-up in a small river-town in Illinois, and describes his childhood as “kind of Tom Sawyer-ish with a blend of Wizard of Oz.” John says, “I grew up in a family of storytellers and liars, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out which was which.”
So you’re thinking of writing a book, but you keep telling yourself that you shouldn’t. There’s always a thousand reasons not to, so I see where you’re coming from. Writing a book is hard, it takes a lot of time, it’s not a lot of financial reward for the amount of time spent, you most likely won’t get a professional publishing deal that will sweep you away from your day job, people will criticize your work, you might get writer’s block…the list goes on and on and on…
And hey, there is a chance that the book you’re either writing or thinking of writing is objectively terrible. But, even in this case, I am here to tell you to stop thinking that way and just get on with it. Write your book. Get your words down. Create those characters. Forget all the haters and just get it done. Why? I’ll tell you why.
1. Writing is fun.
Really, it is. And it doesn’t matter what you do with it. Want to find out how awful and agonizing the whole process is? There’s thousands of articles on that, but it’s simply not true. If you don’t like your writing, then maybe you’re writing the wrong thing. Try poetry, haikus, or FanFiction. Try writing a memoir of a favorite time in your life. There are endless possibilities, and all of them are equal, as long as you are having fun. It may seem like the novelists complain the most, but that’s only if you go searching for complaints. The trick is to just keep doing it. Don’t let the negativity stop you.
2. Giving up feels awful.
Let’s say you’ve written a few pages of something you like and you are so bold as to show someone else. And let’s say that someone else shows you all of your grammatical errors and plot holes, and even goes so far as to explain to you why your entire story won’t work and tells you to quit. Obviously, that person isn’t a friend. The truth of the matter is that your critic is trying too hard to make themselves feel better. All first drafts will have problems. All stories need editing. Every tale requires a lot of work until you “get it right.” But if you decide to give up just because it’s too hard or you’re afraid of failure, you’re forgetting that you’re writing for fun. Make your grammar errors and spelling mistakes, power through it all however you decide to do it, and get it done. Why?
3. Finishing a story feels amazing.
I wrote my first novel over the course of two months, and when I finished, I felt incredible – abuzz with the accomplishment. I told everyone I could that I wrote a book. And oh man, when I read it again, I realized how terrible it really was. You might think that discouraged me, but it did just the opposite. I tucked that book into a box and it’s still sitting in my basement, preserved. The story was so odd and convoluted that I decided not to rewrite it. But here’s the important part: I made that decision on my own, and the reason I made it was because I had another story idea I wanted to get started writing. And I started writing that story. And that story was much better and far easier to write because I knew, even though my last attempt wasn’t great, I could finish writing a novel. I got over that hump and knew I wouldn’t give up ever again. I realized that I had more to learn, but I was no longer afraid of finishing a project I started.
4. Perfection will never come.
Finding errors is easy, especially when you’re first constructing something. But here’s the thing: you aren’t writing something that has to be perfect the first time around. And what is perfect anyhow? Writing should be a freeing process. Look to the greats. Do they use sentence fragments? Run-on sentences? Odd spellings of words? Poor grammar? Sure they do. But because the stories were so great, these “errors” could be applied to that writer’s style. What would happen to countless stories if everyone obeyed the same rules and wrote the same way? As I’ve said, language is evolving. Write your story using as many acronyms and emojis as possible. If it’s what you’re feeling and what you want to write, just get it out. Story first, rules somewhere way down the line and definitely not second.
5. Because you can.
Seriously. You can do it. Don’t expect to have a bestseller float out of your fingertips on the first try, don’t try to impress anyone, don’t make the process something more than it needs to be. Just do it. You can. If you had the idea to write a book, it was because some part of your brain, a part you should listen to, said you can and want to. There isn’t something magical to it, you just have to keep at it, make it as fun as possible, and push those critics away – especially those in the other part of your brain telling you that you can’t do it. Show that inner pessimist who’s boss and get that story written, even if it ends up being terrible.
Why? Because there are no good reasons not to. Finish what you start. You’ll never regret it.
Need a little extra motivation? Check out the video below.
Welcome, Jeyna! The Slave Prince and The Battle for Oz, both deal with retelling well-known stories, with a fantasy twist. Can you tell us a little bit about what that process is like and why you are drawn to this style of writing?
The process often begins with a question of ‘what if’. What if these worlds coalesced? What if there was magic? What if I retold the entire adventure in another place and time? Then, when an idea hits, I give it a go. Honestly, I’m not too sure why I enjoy retelling stories. Perhaps it has something to do with pushing my imagination to the next level—challenging myself to see beyond a well-trodden tale. Or maybe, it might have something to do with how I started honing my skill—Harry Potter fan fiction was my go-to when I first decided to write more frequently. It could also be because I grew up with the original adventure—as with the case of The Slave Prince—that I simply wanted to add my own twist to my favourite childhood story.
Tell us a little bit about your writing routines. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
My routine changes with the season. During busier times, when my day job requires more brain power, I’ll endeavour to complete one chapter a week. In which case, I will write the first half of the chapter on one day, edit that half on another day, write the second half on that same day, then edit the second half before the week ends. Thus, being one chapter closer to finishing the book. On a less mentally taxing week, I’ll try to get in two chapters a week with the same write, edit, write, edit model. As for the word-count, I usually aim for a minimum of 2,500 words a chapter—occasionally pushing over 3,000 if I’m feeling adventurous.
As I have other forms of writing—additional articles and short stories on a weekly basis—there will be some weeks where I don’t write any chapters at all. But then again, on long breaks from work, I find myself on a roll—completing chapters one day after the next. So really, the routine changes with the season.
Have you ever destroyed any of your first drafts and started a story from scratch?
I haven’t destroyed first drafts but I have abandoned some. They have been relocated to a folder of ‘unpublished works’ for keepsake. And whether or not I dive into them again, only time will tell. At the moment, there are more exciting quests to embark on.
How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
For the better! I’ve learned to build denser worlds, dive deep into character motivations, and steer clear from cliches as much as possible. Through the years of writing, I’ve learned that a story isn’t just a story. I cannot merely write it as it is—I have to truly live it out. And if I cannot see, hear, smell, or feel it, neither can my readers. So whenever I write, I don’t just endeavour to be flowery, I strive to create something tangible in the minds and hearts of every reader too. But honestly, I still have a lot to learn. At the very least, I now know what it means to show and not tell.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your books?
Wow, there are just so many! With The Slave Prince, specifically Alpenwhist, I drew inspiration from Croatia—their stone walls, ember rooftops, and cobbled streets. But with Meihua—a realm from my newest trilogy—I drew inspiration from my travels to South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan. Thus why I love traveling!
As much as it is about the food, travelling gives me the opportunity to gaze upon the natural landscapes and distinctive architecture. Sure, I can Google them—I frequently do since I can’t time travel—but being ‘there’ allows me to live it out. Furthermore, the out of norm experiences allow for a more in-depth world-building through a recollection of said events. So, if I were to summarize with one consistent real-life inspiration for all my works, I would say… it’s my real-life experiences.
What do you love most about the writing process?
I love finishing it—the feeling of having accomplished something. The satisfaction of pulling through to complete a story. What I love the most about the writing process is the end of writing—when the story is released to the world. So I guess it’s safe to say that one of my favourite sentences—in all of my books—is ‘the end’. After all, the end is but the moment before a new beginning.
What do you do to market your own books yourself? Any advice on that front?
Despite earning a living as a Content Strategist in a digital agency, I’ve yet to find a lucrative way to market my books. So instead, I’m marketing myself. After discussing with a few people in the marketing industry, I’ve realised that authors should spend more time marketing themselves instead of their books. You see, you can only do so much to pitch a story in hopes that it resonates with a reader. But, if you are—as an individual—someone people want to support, you don’t need to exhaust your efforts into pitching your work. If people like you enough, I believe they will naturally buy your books.
My advice to fellow creators is to spend less time selling copies and more time building a brand that people can resonate with. And, do so in a genuine manner. After all, we have the innate ability to spot insincerity. So focus on creating an image that reflects who you truly are and your story, and let your works sell themselves to those who believe in you.
What book(s) are you reading at present?
I recently completed The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Cho. And boy, did I love it! Having only read books set in foreign countries, it was nice to finally dive into a book set in my own. So if you haven’t heard of this book, you might want to check it out. It has an interesting plot—one that had me flipping one page after the next during the Lunar New Year. As for what’s next, I’m eagerly waiting for the Escape anthology to arrive in the mail!
When can the readers expect another book from you? Any details that you can share?
Well… I recently completed Book 2 of my trilogy! But when to expect the launch of this trilogy, I can’t tell. And not because I don’t want to but because I recently uploaded the entire manuscript of Book 1, Whispers Of The Wind, on Swoon Reads. So if you’d like to read it, you can! And guess what? You don’t have to pay a cent—you can read it for free!
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Robb is the king of Zeruko. He, and his twin sister Myra, ascended the throne after their father’s passing. According to many, King Daemon—arch-nemesis and ruler of Tentazoa—murdered the late king. But despite the claims, Robb believes his father is still alive. With a desire to bring his father home, Robb leaves Zeruko with his trusted friend Spion. The pair travel to the realms of the universe through the magic of raindrops. From the hazardous trip behind enemy lines to the festive East Asian-esque Meihua; from the kingdom hovering above the clouds to the military-driven Bevattna; from the heterogeneous society of a tunneled realm to Robb’s duel with the heir of Tentazoa, every step in his journey uncovers a gem of his past, present, and future. And in one foresight, Robb learns of the daunting fate of Zeruko. (Read Now @ Swoon Reads: https://swoonreads.com/m/whispers-of-the-wind/)
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and links?
I frequent all my social media platforms, so readers can get in touch with me on whichever platform they feel most comfortable with. My inbox is also open to anyone who wants to share their thoughts on any of my works or have questions they’d like to ask. But, if you only had to pick one, I would suggest Facebook—it’s where I share snippets of my writings and broadcast personal thoughts through weekly videos!