Monday, April 29, 2019

Novel Quest 7: Character deaths?

Okay, this is my own take. This will also be a short blog. We all have an opinion about character deaths. Sometimes a character death is needed. Sometimes they are a trope overused and tiresome.
I see it now in films and TV-let's kill this character and upset folks. Sometimes this is done in huge numbers. Isn't this great? Wow, look at all that violence and death. Sadly for me, it has become tiresome.

If death is the only way to drive your story or you are only interested in shock value, you are missing something. Stop and think. Death can have meaning for a story, but be careful how you do it and why. Give it meaning if you must, but do not rely on character death. It has become a cheap and easy tactic that has turned me off some shows and literature. Why should I invest in a story if everyone dies? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Novel Quest 6: To Outline or Not to Outline?

The Truth about Outlining Novels and the Pansters Revenge

Outlining a novel can be great, but if it is not your thing, don't sweat it. Some must outline each and every aspect of a novel. I am a little more fluid, though I am organized. A solid compendium and knowing where my characters are stories are going is my solid base.

I do a couple pages on what the story is and main characters. I work from there. There is no set rule. I generally have a firm grasp on word count and chapters. I tend to keep my novels between 95,000 and 100,000 words. I learned to hone the skill of writing 10 page chapters. This is just math, but it is crucial. You need a chapter to begin and end with interest. In the past, I used scene breaks, which works too. Often those scene changes can be set up in their own chapter, but it depends on length. A 10 page chapter framework helps you to figure out your characters challenges and threats to your hero/heroine. I have my character and world charts, with rich details on world and characters so fully developed, they write themselves. I have my tale...but I do not do a typical outline.

Keep in mind my process does not give me grief. My story is fully worked out on paper and in my head keeps it flowing. Some minor changes may occur, a shift in direction or character focus, but they always turn out to be for the better. Nothing is set in stone during the process.

I do know how each book I write will end. I know who survives, who doesn't. As an author, if you write regularly and work at it, will develop a process right for you. Go with that. And no, I do not write my the seat of my pants....I am not a panster (I read that in a blog on outlining).  It is a quaint term for authors who do not outline, but write by the seat of their pants. I know where I am going and what will happen. My process and creative flow are my own.

If you feel you need to officially outline your novel, do it! There are tons of guides online on how to do that. If not, develop a system for you that works.

Until then, write more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Novel Quest #5: A Loss of Sanity & Cookie Madness

A Loss of Sanity & Cookie Madness

We need to review what it costs to write a book. Hence, my title for this entry to my novel quest series is A Loss of Sanity & Cookie Madness.

It has been a while since my last post, but as you must know, I'm often busy writing. Currently it is my new novel in progress, The Bastard Sorceress. I have also been promoting my new novel, The Bardess of Rhulon, on social media. Plus I have a day job, a patient husband, and two petulant cats. Needless to say, my time is spread thin. This is the life of a writer. Our current culture does not allow us to fall off the grid like Hemingway, live in a dump, drink coffee in a cafe, and type out a manuscript on an old typewriter. Life is not so simple. We are all poor of course, unless we are lucky enough to have an income from other sources which allows us a luxury to write whenever, wherever.
In reality, most of us do not.

So we must contend with the slings and arrows of everyday life as we work very hard in this complicated publishing industry, not only complete our novels, (which for me, is the easy part), but deal with the reality of submissions, rejections, agent hunting, tracking social media and promoting, and other frustrating aspects of this job.

So to appease my madness, I eat cookies and drink coffee. I push on and keep going. You must, because no one is going to do it for you. It is maddening. Being good, or even a great writer, is not enough in this business. There are so many other factors blockading success I cannot even list them. But you suck it up and deal. You keep going, because writing is what matters. My novels matter. And screw anyone who says anything different.

So be brave and write, and remember when you lose your mind, there are always chocolate chip cookies and lattes to ease the pain.

More to come. In the meantime, read more fantasy!


Verna McKinnon

Friday, January 18, 2019

Novel Quest #4 Plots! Oh, those nasty plots!

The Trouble With Plots

Hello fellow friends & writers. I have finally recovered from the holidays, so now back to work! My first post in 2019 is about plots.

Plots are a baseboard. A basic foundation to your story. The trouble with plots is there is a finite number of the plots in the universe. Maybe nine. Or less. Anyway, people twists themselves into a frenzy trying to come up with an original plot no one has heard of before.  I have one word of advice: RELAX.

Plots are simply a way to organize your story. It is the springboard from which your character's journey jumps off. It is how you can structure your novel. So relax. worry about creating exciting characters and dialogue. More to come in novel quest. So, keep writing and reading!


Verna McKinnon

Monday, December 10, 2018

Novel Quest #3: How Many Characters?

How Many Characters Before Chaos?

Here's the problem all writers face. Often when we are creating our tales, we create great characters which we love. You adore them (or love to hate them) and formulate their looks, history, loves, food choices, fashion, and everything important. But you can have too much of a good thing. One caution I would share is to define your story early on and determine if you have too many characters to keep track of. Sometimes it can be confusing for the reader. 

I will admit I have been guilty of this in the past. I love my characters, but they can get lost in the story of you have so many in a tale. When I was a novice writer, and especially for those of us who create epic fantasy series, it so tempting to have a cast of multiple characters in the novel. That is fine, but you need to review if you have too many. I have learned over my years of writing sometimes you need to step back and seriously consider if you need to take out some characters or merge them with another. A great character never dies, so do not fear. If they do not fit in one novel, you can do another one for them. 

More to come. In the meantime, read more fantasy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Novel Quest Post! Character, character, character!

Novel Quest: The Importance of Characters!

When creating any story, the most important thing to me are my characters. Great dialogue is key too, but that is another post. A great character can pull you into a story, making the journey a wonderful experience. They drive the story. You can write tons of battle scenes, create an elaborate plot, and threaten the world, but without wonderful characters, you're screwed.

The creation of great characters is an individual thing for most writers. My characters, like my tales, are fully developed entities with a soundtrack and wardrobe detail.  Often when writing a scene after doing painstaking outlines and chapter setups, a minor character will spring to life and demand to be in the tale. This happened to me with  my Familiar's Tale series. Both Darcus and Princess Opaline were drafted as minor characters, but they became integral to the story. It worked.

With my new novel in progress, The Bastard Sorceress, Sabine Fable grew to full life once I had her name. I struggled a bit with a new original story and the challenge of doing a novel  from her point of view-until I had her name. I love names. I have been complimented on the names I have given my characters. Names shout volumes about a character. For this lead heroine, I wanted an individual, someone scrappy, knocked down by life but still proud and fighting. Once I had this, she blossomed into a fully formed character with a vibrant personality and her dialogue flies off the page. I imagined how she looked, what she liked to eat, her hair, eyes, all of it.When creating, play with names, research the net and name books, imagine their faces, how they dress, and write down their background. A good character has a full bio. 

So pay attention to developing your characters. They are the core of your tale.




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Novel Quest! Part 1:The Insanity Equation!

Novel Quest #1
The Coffee, Chocolate, &Insanity Equation

By Verna McKinnon

Okay, I'm going to try to do more blog posts about writing-specifically the process of writing a novel in progress and share my process with you. It will be as I create a specific novel in fact: The Bastard Sorceress. I will share the frustrations and glories as I create my newest novel and lead heroine. Yes, because in my writing universe, heroines rule. I do have heroic men in my tales, but the central character in most of my novels are female. In fantasy and science fiction, I feel I can break free of the tropes given to women in traditional novels. Good storytelling is also key. Make them interesting and toss out stereotypes. Experiment. Write. And write some more.

The Bastard Sorceress is a fantasy novel about a young woman named Sabine Fable. Yes, she is a bastard, but that is only the tip of the wand for my heroine's story arc. She has many troubles and is hopelessly flawed. She is not the rose without a thorn. In many ways she is all thorns, but that's why I love her. But she is good and strong too, despite the obstacles in her path toward magic.

I have been working on a new fantasy novel for a few months.I created the main character (Sabine Fable) about two years ago. She is brand new for me. My initial story idea for Sabine was different, but both she and her tale evolved into something new. That's the thing about ideas. Things change. Nothing is ever written in stone. A good character can lead you down a new road!

In creating a story, you must experiment with your ideas. Sometimes as you put together your book bible, where you organize your world, characters, cultures, etc., for the novel, things just shift. It is usually a good thing. Do not fight it. 

With each Novel Quest entry. I will go over the steps for creating your novel. Chapter revisions, character lists, dialogue tips, blurbs, and more. 

Right now, an idea or character is key. Start with that! Run with it. Play "what if." One of my favorite writer guides was Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing. If you do not have a copy, get one! 

Take copious notes as your drink too much coffee and eat chocolate chip cookies. And do not fear the insanity. Creative people are not normal any way. Just accept it and write on.

More to come. Until my next Novel Quest more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon