Camp NaNoWriMo aka The Summer of Writing Dangerously

Hi all! I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted (oops, over a year!), but I promise I’ve been amazingly busy. In addition to finally publishing Into the Sky, I have also completed work on the second book of the Five Stones Pentalogy: A Bright and Distant Star. Currently, it’s chilling out with my amazing editor, Jen Blood, and should be ready to go by November 2016. Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on Book 3, and have joined Camp NaNoWriMo to keep the energy flowing.

What is Camp NaNoWriMo, you ask?

That’s a very good question. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is technically in November. As Thanksgiving nears, a bunch of us crazy writers across the globe all get together to each write 50,000 words (aka a novel, although mine clock in at closer to 90,000) in 30 days or less. The Camp version is more or less the same thing, only in April and July instead.

Erica and Taj Rif
Little me at summer horseback riding camp. That helmet was bigger than my head!

I found NaNo immensely helpful to me when I was writing my first novel. Not only did the constant word count hold me accountable for my writing, it also led me to my brilliant beta reader who I’ve been with for two years now. Working with a group of people doing the same activity – especially when that activity can be lonely, as writing so often is – makes the process flow more smoothly. I get excited seeing others’ word counts. I’m determined to catch and beat them to the goal line! And once I’ve hit that magical 50,000 words, somehow the rest of the novel doesn’t seem so difficult.

Right now, I’m only in the very beginning of the month, and while the chapters are flowing, the lack of an outline for this one means that every day I have to ask myself, how do I get where I’m going? It’s like walking around the city without a GPS. At every corner, I have to ask someone, “Where do I go from here?”

But while I’m normally a plotter (someone who outlines meticulously) and not a pantser (someone who flies by the seat of her pants), I’m actually finding the process refreshing. I’m learning new details about my characters. And instead of babying them by planning ahead for their every action, I’m putting them in situations and letting them think for themselves. The result has been eye-opening.

 

Challenge of the Day: Think about your memories of the past week. Put your characters into a situation you encountered, and see what they do. Don’t plan, don’t outline, just write.

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NaNoWriMo Strikes Again!

Wow!

 

So last year, I got to 50,000 words in only 16 days! Which is really, really crazy.

 

So this year, I decided to be even crazier. Why not, right? You only live once. (Unless you’re a writer. Then you get to live right along with as many characters as you can cram into your head.)

 

So this year I present to you, using Kickstarter terminology for easy understanding, Erica’s Super-Insane-Amazing Stretch Goal:

 

This year

 

I am going to write

 

100,000

 

words

 

in 30 days.

 

Wow.

NaNoWriMo, art by Merian Rose (Deviantart)
Image from DeviantArt, by Merian Rose

 

I’m working on the sequel not to the novel I wrote in last year’s NaNoWriMo – that one is undergoing extensive revision as the giant world that it is set in just seems to want to keep expanding and detailing itself even further.

 

Instead, I’m writing the sequel to a novel I started back in my senior year of college, a novel that I took out of storage on and off for approximately six years before I finally sat down and finished the darn thing this past summer. I’m incredibly proud of it, and have finally started the process of getting it published.

 

Considering that there’s actually a decent chance the novel will be out in the world early sometime next year, I figured I’d better get going with the sequel. And now that I’ve finally started to get my life where I want it to be, it’s time to work my butt off getting my writing career to where I want it as well. I’ve made great progress these last few months, and don’t want to slow down until I’m done with book 2.

 

So wish me luck, love, and lots and lots of chocolate!

 

 

 

Inspiration: My mother telling me she really liked the first novel. My mother is a tough critic even of her daughter, so that’s real praise.

 

Music: Silence while writing, but there was much Maaya Sakamoto yesterday, particularly her new album. I love Replica and the piano take on Be Mine is amazing. The speed at which she blisters through the song on the recorded track, and the high notes she hits seem impossible. But then you hear her do the same thing live with just a piano in the background, and you can see that she’s The Real Deal.

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You Gotta Get A Gimmick!

Hi there, guys and gals!

Sorry to delay World-Builder Friday, but my husband and I were out enjoying the 4th of July festivities with friends and somehow the time just slipped away from me. But here I am for a special World-Builder Saturday, and this time we’re going to talk about how to get ideas for a series.

Last time, I mentioned that I am a series kind of gal. I can’t help it; when I create characters I want to spend as much time as I can with them. But I have no intention of writing the next War and Peace, so I have to think of good places to split my fiction into halves, thirds, quarters, or even more slices of pie. Often, I find myself using devices to center each novel around a similar point.

For example: the Harry Potter series centers itself around the school year. Every book begins with some variation on “Harry finishes up summer vacation. Harry prepares to go to Hogwarts and something interesting happens to set up the adventure for the year.” Each book ends with “and Harry goes home to spend another uneventful summer waiting for school to start up again.”

You know, it occurs to me now that if nothing else clued you in to Harry Potter being a fantasy series, that would have. No sane kid sits around saying, “Gee, now that I’ve got no homework to do, I’m bored! When can I go back to school?”

 

A Sleeping Student, Drawn By Me
This image is courtesy of my amateur efforts in ArtRage Studio, using a mouse and a cheap stylus. If you want to use it on your site, feel free! If not…well, I can’t say I blame you. I think I need more practice! ;)

 

Making my point, though, Rowling has a brilliant gimmick that allows the audience to wait with baited breath to see what happens to Harry each year. There are conventions of each novel. Who will the next Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher be? Who will win the Quidditch matches next year? Not to mention all of the plot threads she creates in each novel, many of which she leaves deliberately unfinished to whet the reader’s appetite for the next installment.

But novels don’t just have to be broken up by time period. They can be separated by special events – in the Eragon series, each book heralds the birth or introduction of a new dragon, in a world where very few are left. In cases of ongoing series, the separation can simply be single stories within a genre. Many mystery series use this gimmick – same detective, different case. Or, as in my series that begins with Into the Sky, it can be a series of special items. In the world of Taralin, a prophecy states that five sacred stones gathered together can open the door to Astraea, land of the dead. Each book will have my heroine chasing after one of the five stones. Each stone is a different type of gem, and represents different traits that are showcased throughout the book. Each stone is found in a different part of the land, giving a unique cultural flavor to each adventure.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that there is some sort of cohesiveness running through your series, linking each book together. Not only will it make marketing easier, it will also give your readers certain cues to look forward to, and questions to ask themselves and each other as they eagerly await your next book.

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Where Do Ideas Come From?

“Where do you get your ideas?”

How often readers ask this of writers! Harlan Ellison always answered “Poughkeepsie,” but frankly, I’ve been there and I think they’ve all been taken.

Now, some writers have a lot of trouble finding ideas, but once they have one they are tenacious. They know they’ve found gold, and they will work diligently to extract it, writing until it’s finished and polished and perfect.

Others are like me: I have no trouble finding ideas. It’s finishing them that’s the trouble. I keep thinking of all the ideas I haven’t even started, and sometimes it gets in the way of the one I’m working on.

So how can you have that problem, that overabundance of ideas?

 

Vector Lightbulb from Clipart Best
Aha!

 

I take ideas from the world around me. In particular, I steal. Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like An Artist,” shows you the basics of why this concept is valid, but not the specifics. Over the next few months, during every World-Builder Friday, I want to take you through the stepping stones of finding an idea and turning it into a story, using my novel, Into the Sky as an example.

Into the Sky began in the seeds of another world. The most basic concept – a world with a knights who rode flying horses – was one I’d explored before, in ideas that never came to fruition. They’re still there, but the plots became knotted and snarled, and I decided to start fresh with the concept for my senior year Creative Writing Independent Study in college. The next step was coming up with characters.

This is where the exciting magic of thievery happens.

I can’t think of a single writer that I know who hasn’t spoken of their inspirations – favorite books, movies, music, even works of art. But some authors take that more literally. Robin McKinley got her start retelling her favorite fairy tales. When I created Into the Sky, I used some of my favorite characters in order to get a template for not only my characters, but my story.

Without spoiling who’s who, I based one pair of characters based on Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite from The Scarlet Pimpernel, one of my favorite novels. The gentleman is cheeky and charming, but with a sensitive soft side he keeps hidden. His lady love is more hardened off, treated harshly by life yet still hoping that something better lies around the corner.

Another couple is based on one of my absolute favorite movies, Lili. The heroine is a naive young orphan girl who falls in love with a charming group of lifelike puppets, while their cynical puppeteer secretly falls desperately in love with her.

These elements of the plot didn’t actually end up coming into play in Into the Sky itself because the story grew larger than I anticipated (I’m a series kind of girl), but they influenced my characters, and their romantic arcs. Those in turn influenced the direction my heroine, Alcie, goes in on her quest.

I’d love to tell you more, but I’m realizing that this has become a rather epic blog post, so we’ll pause here. If this has been helpful to you, please feel free to leave a comment. This blog is really new and I’d love to make friends! Tell me where your ideas come from!

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Building A Website Around a World

When creating my website, I had the idea of making a place online that was not only about my books, but about the worlds I’ve created. I find world-building to be the most interesting part of writing, and I love making up new sets of rules explaining how the universe works, and populating these settings with characters who have a unique take on their universe. While I respect the heck out of the people who write stories that take place in the real world, and who can make them fit seamlessly into the non-fiction of our lives, writing in our world just isn’t my passion.

So I’ve decided that my website will be a portal to different realms in my imagination. Going forward, I intend to first create a sub-domain attached to this site for my Shadows Universe. It’s the one I’m most familiar with, as I’ve spent the last four years visiting and exploring it. I also intend to write blog posts – on something that hopefully resembles a regular Friday schedule (yay for impending weekends!) – detailing how I world-build, and putting together a list of resources for others trying to get started creating their own fantastic lands, worlds, and galaxies.

I’ll close today’s post with a quick tip for the very newest newbies:

If you’re looking for cliches, common story and character archetypes, or just basics on how stories are similar to each other, check out TV Tropes. If you’re looking for a great way to build a story idea, take two or three tropes at random, and see what you come up with that fits the criteria. Just a word of warning, though: reading tropes is really fun. I mean addictive levels of fun. Take a breather if you notice you have 20 tabs open at once.

For those new to my site, welcome! I’m looking forward to giving you more cool world-building tips next Friday. And keep watching this site – there will be some cool updates coming down the pike…just as soon as I learn how to design them!

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Welcome! Check out my new website and blog!

Hi!

My name is Erica Converso, and if you’re joining me from my earlier blog, Pyrakanthe’s Place, or from my Twitter page, it’s great to see you! If you’re new, even better! My first novel Into the Sky just came out, and I am so excited to share it with you! I’ve worked at my stories ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and am thrilled to finally be able to give them to the world.

This website was created to help readers become familiar with my work, to publicize books as they come out, and eventually, as a portal into the many worlds in my imagination. Not only will you be able to find out about my books, you’ll have behind-the-scenes access, so to speak. There will be bonus content, character biographies, maps, illustrations, and more. I’m even compiling a Writers’ Resource page, to help you get started building worlds of your own!

As I begin my career as an author, I’ll take you through the steps involved in the process. I’ll be blogging about writing, research, and all the brilliantly creative works that inspire me, and would love to hear from other aspiring authors, those who’ve already blazed the trail, and most especially, from you, my future readers. Whether you are young or old, a writer or a reader, come out and join me on my journey. I can promise it will be an adventure!

Writer Dan Harmon has a quote that basically sums it all up: “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.”

Well, HERE I AM, WORLD! And I can’t wait to meet all of you!

Tansy says "Hi!"
Tansy says “Hi” too!
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