A Sprig of Rosemary

So, originally this blogpost was going to be about how I didn’t have any inspiration for my second fantasy novel. How the first one seemed to flow much easier than this one and how the plotpoints I created made sense. How I was so stuck on this second book that I was going to do something else for a while (even though I used that excuse before concerning this WIP). How I was just so freaking disappointed in myself for not figuring things out in my fantasy world, for letting my writing self down, for not being creative enough.

That was what my blogpost was going to be about.

And then something amazing happened. I opened up my documents, turned on some Lord of the Rings music, and just stared at the words for a little while. Stared at the my confused words like: “Plot?” and “What is her motivation??” and “Character arc???” All questions and no answers, the tiny red ellipses beaming like shameful reminders of my lack of my creativity. I just…stared. And wondered. And listened to the Lord of the Rings fantasy music swell and ebb. I thought about my main character and the world I had created and the magic I wanted to explore and the darker side of the realm. I thought about my first fantasy book still at the beta readers and wondered if they’d like it or if I’d have to scrap something I loved. I wondered about the ties from that book and into this one, how corrupted versions of the crafting abilities could become and how I wanted to showcase another version of that in this book. I just took some time, sitting in front of my WIP fantasy brainstorming documents and listening to LOTRs, really contemplating my manuscript and what I wanted this story to be about.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, an idea came into my mind. It’s not a fully fleshed out idea. It’s not the entire plot of my manuscript. It’s not “everything.”

It’s actually kind of a small idea, now that I think about it…a sprig of a larger branch of a larger plant. A sprig of rosemary, perhaps, that I can offer to my creative muse.

But it’s something. Something to build off of. Something to be excited about. And something that ties in my MCs motivations, the corrupted version of magic I wanted to explore, and an interesting plotpoint to weave throughout the story.

It’s something. And my advice to anyone else struggling to write, doubting their creative muse, doubting their writing?

Don’t force it. Whenever I would sit down to write, I’d think, Okay, Doherty, time to do this. Time to be creative. … … Go. Go, already. Creativity?? When nothing came, it would eventually spiral into, Okay…okay…okay…nothing. Bah! 

Don’t feel bad. So, because I wanted my creativity to spark so badly, I was disappointed when I didn’t think of anything. It doesn’t help to think that, but every writer doubts their craft.

Keep going. Allow yourself some time to think. Sit with your budding creation and wonder what could happen, what kinds of things you’d like to write about, whatever’s cool or interesting or intriguing. Think about your world and your characters. Sit with it for a while and see what happens.

(And, put on some music, too! But that step is optional.)

Here’s hoping you have a creative weekend!
Warm regards,


Starting the Next Novel

One of the most exciting things an author can do is start working on their next big thing, whether it’s a novel, a poem, a short story or flash. Even working on a new article is thrilling. You get to start all over again – or as my case would have it, continue on with the story since I’m working on a duology – and create something from nothing, tackle the white space on a page, form new characters with new backgrounds, loves, loathes and everything in between. There’s a new plot to be created, new twists and turns, and a setting that has to be vibrant and fresh. And, if you’re writing articles or non-fiction, you get to interview all new people, share their stories, and interweave them together into one coherent knowledgeable piece. It’s literally a start-over, a chance to do whatever you want to in the story realm, to break rules and make new ones, to just… explore and see where you land.

It’s one of the best feelings in the world, in my opinion.

But it can also be the scariest.

All that white space, all those new characters, all those new people, plus not to mention all the words, paragraphs and pages that need to be written and the edit-and-revise process we’re all so fond of… well, it can be daunting. A lot of work goes into the written word.

But this morning as I was walking from my warm car to my relatively warm work building I noticed something different about my little town of Eagle River. A fresh coat of white sparkled and covered everything, from the streetlamps and roads to the pathway to my building. My breath clouded before me and a chill raced up my spine. It had snowed. And everything looked new again. I even had to blaze my own trail to work. In that momentary frolic, I realized that whatever path I decided to take, whether it is a straight line, zigzagged, or circular, as long as I got to the door it would be the right path to take. It’s the same for working on a new piece – whatever you decide to do will be right, as long as you finish it in the end and are proud of what you created.

So while starting anew may be a tad bit frightening (yes, there will be times I sit up late at night over a cup of tea and think Oh my gosh, I’ve written myself into a corner! How can I ever fix this?) try to focus on the fun of it, the adventure of it, and the love that you have for writing. It’ll be much more exciting that way.

Have a wonderful weekend!
Warm regards,

The NaNo (In)Decision

So for those of you who don’t know NaNoWriMo is happening next month. NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month – is an event where writers attempt to pen 50,000 words in 30 days. An entire novel written – beginning, middle, end, full-formed characters, details, and worlds all – in one month, no cheats, no thinking, people just write to write. It is fun and intense and very soon. Or so I’ve been told. I’ve known a few people who’ve lived through it and told the tale of craziness. I’ve wanted to try it out for a few years now and last year I was getting really serious but then I wasn’t able to do it because of a prior vacation. So I swore I’d do it ‘next year’, as in 2012, as in this upcoming November which starts in less than 20 days.

But, as fate would have it, I’m actually going on vacation again in the beginning of next month. Because of this shindig, I’d miss nine – NINE – whole days of writing (which calculates into roughly 15,000 words that I would be behind in the daily chart of craziness I devised). I am planning on bringing a notebook but, let’s face it, even if I did write in the notebook daily and even if I did manage to write 1,666+ words per day I’d still have to take a day (or two) to transcribe all those words onto the computer and still write enough words to make quota for those particular days as well. (Did that make sense? I feel like I’m rambling today, but it might be because I’m sick and, so, not up to my usual par. Regardless…)

Why, oh cruel world, are you against me? I jest, of course. I’m looking forward to this little vacation of mine but it’s just bad luck that it clashes with the NaNoWriMo event.
So now I’m faced with a decision.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I wanted to take this opportunity to really go out of my comfort zone, to write something I’m not usually writing, to possibly jump into the sub-categories of fantasy and sci-fi I haven’t yet explored and see what I pull out of my hat. (I have never, for example, tried my hand at historical fantasy, steampunk, apocalyptic , magic realism, superhero, dark fantasy or romance. Heck I could even use this time to work on the novella series I wanted to write. Or write some Literature instead.) I wanted to try something different. I wanted to try this NaNo craziness out.

But do I have enough time to do this? Will I be able to write enough to complete this goal? Will I be able to make up for the ‘lost days’? Will I be able to juggle everything?
I haven’t the slightest idea.

So I ask you, oh great blogosphere, what would you do?

Warm regards,

Updates and Crosscurrents

This week I’ve decided to give an utterly random project update…

1) The first half of my novel is done!
2) I’m officially onto the second half of my novel!
(yes, I realize this reiterates my first point but I’m excited so I’m throwing the usual writing guidelines into the wind)
3) My novella has a first sentence!
My novella has, thus far, only been a seedling in my mind. It hasn’t had the chance to develop and push it’s tendrils onto the page… until now!  (Cue scary, unintended, music here.)

And tell you all about the Crosscurrents event that I happened to attend…

It was awesome. Yes, awesome. Held at one of our museums in town, Crosscurrents is an event that only happens a few times a year. 49 Writers, the local creative writing organization, invites authors to come up to Alaska and speak about their books, how they made it big, and what inspired them to write. I have only attended this one time but quite a few people showed up considering it was a random Wednesday night.

Two authors stopped their hectic lives to chat with each other (and all of us) for an hour. They covered aspects like why they decided to write, how they got into writing, what degree they each received, how often they write, why they wrote their novels, and how to really get into the setting and world (among other things).

The back and forth was enlightening but the one aspect that really stuck with me is this… in response to a ‘how did you make it big?’ question the author of The Snow Child said roughly the following: “The stars aligned. Really though, nothing could have prepared me for it, I did nothing special to get it. I wanted to write this story and so I did.”

Do you know what that all boils down to, fellow readers and writers? You can write about vampires, you can write about werewolves, you can write about magicians with a lightning scar. You may cater to the current wave of fierce magical and fantastical elements in the literature trend today. You may get published. You may make it big. And you may not. When it all boils down to it? Write the story in your mind, get it down on paper, solidify the characters, know the plot, describe the setting, do your best to tell the story the best way you possibly can – write what you want to write. In the end, as long as the story is told, you did good. The piece of advice spoke to me, it’s what I’ve been writing about (and thinking about) these past few blogposts and I’m glad that others feel the same way.

I was wondering, though, have you been involved with a discussion such as this? If so (or if not, for that matter,) what is the best piece of advice you’ve gleaned about writing?

Warm regards,

Postscript – By the way, I encourage everyone to attend the writing discussions in your own area, don’t say there isn’t any around – there’s always something somewhere. You just have to look for it. It’s a lovely experience, really.

Red Hair? Blue Eyes?

Ever since I was little I have been fascinated with the process of creating characters – or characterization. Much like editing, creating characters is one of those necessary processes that every writer must do. However, unlike editing, characterization is a fluid process, one without many rules or restrictions to speak of. Your character can be a 10-inch tall donkey with pink wings who captains a ship shaped like a whale but as long as it’s relatable to the readers in some way, you’re golden. Plus, there’s no condensing of ideas when it comes to building a character, like many other aspects of writing, it’s actually better to know more about your character than any reader would. (Of course with a winged 10-inch donkey it might be best to have some back-story within the narration as well.)

As some of you know I’m currently working on two projects: 1) a novel, 2) a novella. The novel idea is completely fresh but, with the novella, I’m taking a character I loved from my first attempt at a “novel” – a 100 page piece that deals with green lava and too much bosom I wrote when I was 13 – and plopping her down in a newer world. Because of this I’m going through my older work to find traits I can use. As I’m sifting through, I find that the character I built within the piece when I was younger is quite similar to the character in my novel I’m writing about now, 10 years later. They have red hair, blue eyes, confident demeanors, a fiery/fighter attitude and are kind and complicated. So much for being a ‘completely fresh’ idea, right?

But why is that? How can both characters – one from my youth and one from my adulthood – be so similar?

Then it struck me. I have a one sibling – an older sister who has naturally strawberry red hair and ice blue eyes. We used to fight a ton when we were little – as siblings tend to do – and she confused the heck out of me. Yet she was always confident (a trait I admired) and kind to others. That’s where the inspiration came from! As writers we naturally draw inspiration from the world around us. I pulled elements and aspects that were interesting to me and incorporated them into my work.

I like creating characters because I can do just that, pull elements from the “real world” and then fiddle with them, change an attitude there, alter an eye color here (though, looking back, it’s interesting that I didn’t originally when writing my novel). It’s fun for me and quite easy too.

If you have trouble creating characters though, and some of the best writers tend to get stuck every now and then, here’s some things to think about when building a character (you can use one of those “personality charts” but I like my way better, ha!):

1) Name – First impressions are everything, if you don’t have a good name, or at least a lovable nickname, then readers will put the book down. (Sounds snobbish, but I know I have.) Chose something easy to pronounce or have a nickname, both first and last at least. If you’re stuck, go on various ‘What to Name my Baby’ websites, they have plenty of choices. I usually fall back on Irish names since they’re pretty and I’m half the green stuff.

2) Appearance – These are the everyday aspects of your character, the simple outward appearance that allows your readers to “see” the characters. Male/female, eye color, hair color and length, tall/short, body type (aka: ‘fit’, ‘overweight’, or somewhere in the middle), clothing usually worn.  Be sure you have this one down, as a freelance editor I’m always shocked when the author mixes up blue and brown eyes on their main (or secondary) characters.

3) Personality –This where your character should start taking form. What does the character like/not like, is your character kind, caustic, depressed, overly sexual, does your character wave at people or stalk on by? does she like ice cream (the end all question, of course)? does he always roll his eyes? Does she twirl a ring? Play with her hair? Does his hand shake when he’s nervous? Personality traits unique to each character make the characters more believable.

4) Back-story/history – Essentially this solidifies the character, this is why your girl or guy (or animal, or spirit, or pinked-winged donkey) does the things he or she does. What does his home look like? Where did he grow up? What’s her family like? Did she have a pet? Where did he go to school? Why did she decide to go to that school, or take that job, or go off-planet? Think about yourself, what makes you… you? Your past, your choices, your life up until this moment and this exact moment defines who you are. So figure it out for your character too!

5) Items – This one is my personal favorite. If your character had one thing always in her/his pocket, what would it be and why would he/she carry it? These two questions come last, always, and they help me learn about my character. Not memories, not attitude, a solid item. It can be a slip of paper, a picture, a pin, anything! It sounds simple, but trust me, this will allow you to figure out who your character is, who your character was, and who they will become later on too.

Building characters can be fun, entertaining, exciting even. If you get stuck, look around you, there’s plenty of elements if your world waiting to be used. Remember to have your character relate to the readers and then, well, have at it! Make a 10-inch pink-winged donkey! It’s your character, create anyone you’d like.

Warm regards,