Plan of Donnington Castle and Making a Map

I have been building a fantasy world for the trilogy I plan to write.  Part of that research includes finding out the history of Donnington Castle in southern England.  I can’t, or won’t, tell you the reason for this research as it is top secret.  But I will say that I was overjoyed when I found this Plan of Donnington Castle.  It will make things so much easier for me.

Donnington Castle forms only part of what I’ve been doing today. The other part is looking for a suitable map that I can adopt and adapt to my needs. I’ve been searching the world for possible locations and have narrowed my choices down to two likely candidates.

The first is a map which includes Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. I like this map because it has mountain ranges separating two valleys, but it also shows the natural rivers and waterways. Better still is that fact that it isn’t spoilt by town and cities being splattered all over it. If I were to adopt this map and change it to suit my needs I would be starting out with a world that has to be realistic because it’s real! I like that idea.

The second map is an ancient world map. (It’s an impression of what the creator thought the world looked like.) With a few slight changes, no one would know that my fantasy world was based on our own world some eight hundred or so years ago. This one doesn’t show the mountains or rivers (which is unfortunate), but it does show large lakes and several towns with connecting roads, which could be quite useful. This one is also just black and white so I guess, whilst it isn’t as visual as the first map I mentioned, it will be easier to manipulate.

I could, of course, just draw something myself but the way I’m thinking about this is that if I use something that already shows mountains and rivers and towns and roads then I won’t have to worry about anyone saying, “that’s impossible, you can’t have a waterway there, because…” Besides, I’m a planner and I like visual things to inspire me along.

In my office at work there’s an old map of Sydney on the wall. It’s quite large and most visitors cannot help but stand beneath it and stare at it for the longest time. I’ve basically ignored it for eight years because I see it all day, every day. But today was different. Today, I could see a castle placed back from the coast where the racecourse used to be. All the streets went in that general direction, which seems appropriate for a village with a castle in its midst. And then there was a road that would have passed directly by the front of the castle wall and wove around and off to the west (away from the coast, the town and the castle). Could that be a trade road leading to other realms? I could imagine my characters walking down the streets of the village. I could see them pausing at the docks to watch the merchandise being carried off the boats. Some of the buildings (on the print) were the homes of important people in Australian history, but I could see other names in their spots, names of my characters. If the print wasn’t so large, I would have taken it down and scanned it. Now I think I’ll have to take a photo of it and transpose the relevant information onto my own drawing because the print inspired me and set my imagination running.

By the time I’ve finished with the maps, no one will know where they came from and how close to the real world they really are. Or maybe the real and fantasy entwine to become one magical place.

I like the sound of that. 🙂

Inspiration Friday: The Dragon Cometh

Do you want to write but you can’t get your teeth into your current manuscript? How about giving something different a try to see if it will loosen the fingers and the mind.

This week’s exercise:

Your character is trapped inside a cave with a fire-breathing dragon approaching!

What does your character do?

Happy writing and don’t forget to share if you feel like it.

Thank you Saraneth for the suggestion.

30 Days of WorldBuilding

With my recent decision to scrap a couple of projects I’ve been working on, one in particular, I’ve been thinking about what projects I’m going to concentrate on now.

Not being one for working on too many projects at a time, I’ve decided to go with two manuscripts.  One is a much loved project that has been finished, but needs replanning and rewriting – The Marlinor Trilogy.  The other is new and different to what I’ve worked on in the past – the non-fiction children’s picture book.

At opposite ends of the scale, I think that will work in my favour.  There certainly could not be any confusion between the two as they are different in every sense of the word.

The non-fiction picture book is in the first draft.  I’ve been considering ways to make it entertaining for the intended audience and will put those thoughts into action once I’ve finished the book I’m reading.  I also need to complete my research on writing proposals in order to submit the project when it has been completed.

The trilogy is a different story.  It’s complex and, although I know the characters, world and plot of book 1, I need to plot out the other two books.  I plan to start again and rebuild the characters and the world, which brings me to the reason for this post…

The author of the following quote and subsequent link claims that if you put 15 minutes aside each day for 30 days, you can build a complete world worthy of your story.  She has written a post for each day in the form of an exercise where she gives an explanation of what you’ll be doing and why and then she’ll set you a task to do.  I haven’t checked the whole 30 days, but I believe this could be helpful in putting all writers on the right track.

And if you want to build a magical world, there’s a link to some extra information at the bottom of the sidebar.

A lot of times, people want to write a novel and think “I want to write fantasy, but there’s so much world-building I would have to do– I haven’t done any of it!” As everyone signing up for NaNoWriMo or any writing challenge quickly learns, this is really the self-editor speaking; it’s another way of saying “I can’t.”

So, give yourself 7 and a half hours this month– 15 minutes a day– to build a world. It’s not going to be Perfect or Set. Why would it be? You haven’t actually written the story yet, you haven’t tested its limits. But it’ll give you something to start with, something to feel comfortable about when you start.

via 30 Days of WorldBuilding by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant

To Plan or Not to Plan

Life has been busy and I haven’t had time to do much of anything lately, especially do the internet rounds and check up on my fellow writers. Today, however, I decided to correct that and have been doing the rounds.

The first stop was Benjamin Solah’s website. He’s getting ready to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo which means he’s planning the 50,000 words he has to endeavour to write in the month of November. Because of this Benjamin has written some very interesting, and inspiring, posts which I’d like to link to here. First, there is NaNoWriMo: How I Plot My Novel and then there is NaNoWriMo: How I Create Characters. As I’m very much a visual person, I love the idea of using gaming facilities such as Simms to build a character. Anyway, both of these posts made me thinking about my own writing, so if you need something to help you along, go and give them a read.

When I landed on Struggling Writer’s website, I was pleased to find a post that is in contract to Benjamin’s. Whilst Benjamin is planning, planning, planning, Struggling Writer (also participating in NaNoWriMo) is set on not planning! If you are not much of a planner, then his post Novel Planning for Pantsers might be of interest to you. Struggling Writer admits that this year he’s going to remain a pantser writer by doing a bare minimal amount of what some would call planning. He has included some links to some interesting writing resources too.

For me, it’s been an interesting and informative hour or so. My fellow writers are planning and not planning for the upcoming NaNoWriMo (which I won’t be participating in this year), but the ideas they share (as well as the links) are all worthwhile and inspiring. Personally, I’m a planner from way back, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find inspiration from a non-planner, because I have.

Thanks guys and good luck in November.

Action and Result

I’ve been reading tips on writing – not anything genre specific, just anything to do with the craft of writing.

Most of what I’ve read today is common sense, or maybe just stuff that I’ve known for a while which makes me think it is common sense. But then I came across a small tip that reads:

Present action in action-result order.

Example: She looks – and sees. He bites – and tastes. She asks – he answers. The arrow hits him – he cries out.

–from “Fiction Makeover” by Evan Marshall

Again, common sense, but this particular tip is something I needed reminding of and I thought I’d share it with you too.

But, there are always exceptions to rules so when you want to hold suspense for a moment longer, here’s another tip:

To show a character’s reaction to something shocking, break the action/result rule and show the reaction before describing what is being reacted to.

Example: She opened her mouth to call out but as she stepped forward the beam of her flashlight dropped and she gasped in horror. Marcel lay in the green bath tub, his eyes turned vacantly to the ceiling. Blood spattered the sides of the tub…

–from “Fiction Makeover” by Evan Marshall and example excerpt from “A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax” by Dorothy Gilman

In the above instance, to describe the scene and then the reaction would create a sensation of a delayed reaction and possibly the reader detaching from the character.

Writing: Working Towards the Future

For many months I have been working on a manuscript called Mirror Image. It is a project I have always felt was worthy of telling – not only for the story itself, but for the underlying messages too. It is a manuscript I believe in and I know that, if I were to write it well, it is a story that would catch editors’ attention.

However, it is also a story that runs parallel with my own life. Whilst it isn’t the story of my son’s suicide, it closely travels the path of what my family went through. This makes it a manuscript that stirs emotions in me that I cannot control, cannot combat. And I doubt I’ll ever be in the situation to face the heartache that the manuscript puts me through when I’m working on it.

After much thought and soul searching, I have decided to put this manuscript aside…permanently. The pain it causes me isn’t healthy. The feelings it stirs in me makes me depressed, which leads to not being able to sleep and when I do…I have nightmares. In turn, the sleep deprivation causes me to feel irritable and angry towards other people. And I don’t mean just angry, I mean really, really angry – to the point of wanting to hurt someone, anyone. This isn’t my character at all and it scars me. I thought I could pull myself through it and I thought it would become easier with time, but I can’t and it isn’t. For my own sake, I have decided that I have to put my health first in the hope that my emotional strength will improve over time.

I have also decided, finally, not to tackle the manuscript I had planned and started to write called Suicide: A Mother’s Story. If I can’t write a fictitious story about suicide, there’s no way I’ll be able to write the true story.

Having given myself permission to stop, I feel somewhat relieved…and free. I didn’t realise these two manuscripts were like dark clouds hanging over me until the decision to stop was finally made. There’s no guilt, which is something I expected. I do not see the time spent on these manuscripts, especially Mirror Image, as a waste of time either. I can chalk the time up as writing practice, but more importantly I see the writing as therapy. Maybe that’s all I really needed from the manuscript. To face the emotions and torment I felt. Maybe I’ve spent the last two years working on something that has made me face my past so that I can move on to my future.

Inspiration Friday: No E

A writer needs to write, but sometimes the words don’t flow and there are no ideas. This week I have a challenge for you. Are you up to it? I guess I’ll find out.

The exercise:

Describe the ocean in around twenty words. Trick is, you’re not allowed to use any word with the letter e in it.

I’ve seen some amazing results from this one. What will you come up with, I wonder.

Thanks to Saraneth for this suggestion.

October 2009: General Update

There hasn’t been much of interest for me to post about lately. Life is moving forward quickly and before I know it the end of the year will be here. In a few weeks, we intend to go away for a couple of days, inland, which I’m looking forward to for various reasons.

The books in the trilogy I’m reading are thick – over 700 pages each (except the first one, which was a little over 500 pages) – so they are naturally taking me longer to read than usual. I’m enjoying them immensely and this set has gained a place on my favourites list. Not many books make it on to that list.

My new family tree is growing steadily. Each weekend I spend at least a couple of hours transferring information from the old tree and, this time, I’m sourcing everything that is entered into the tree. I have a lot of regrets with that old tree, but at least I learned from those mistakes. With the help of DaF Genealogy (see the link in the sidebar), I’ve even managed to climb over a brick wall that had been holding me back for some years.

On the writing front, I am pleased to announce that I’ve completed the first draft of a non-fiction children’s picture book. The facts are there and now I have to make them entertaining for the intended audience (and the person reading the words to the child). I feel I have that under control. Then I’ll have to work on the proposal, which I think is going to be very difficult to write. I’ve already started doing the research and have printed out some examples. From what I’ve read, for non-fiction it is customary to send the proposal prior to writing the manuscript. However, I decided to write one of the manuscripts as an example to include in the proposal. If it helps or not, I cannot know, but that’s how I’m going to approach my submissions in this genre.