I Didn’t Win at NaNoWriMo… or Did I?

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant

Welcome to December 1st and the first day after National Novel Writing Month!

I hope if you participated, you achieved your big WIN and have the euphoric ambition to continue with your novel into December and beyond. Even if you didn’t get a NaNo-defined win, I hope you were able to make some solid forward progress and accomplish some personal goals.

Because that’s what NaNoWriMo is really about as far as I’m concerned–making us into more productive, more consistent, more successful writers.

I haven’t had much success at NaNoWriMo previously. Last year, I created an account, wrote one day, and then fell off the wagon. Then for Camp NaNoWriMo, I got through about half of the month before I burned out and spent the next several months not writing and in a state of self-loathing for not writing.

In October, I made myself join and participate in a few Facebook writing groups, namely Ninja Writers and Your Write Dream. I cannot stress how helpful these two groups were for me to get the kick in the butt I needed to start writing again. So much so that I got the bug to try NaNoWriMo again.

In fact, I wrote a post about it here.

1667 words per day sounded like a good way for me to reach the dreaded burnout followed by self-loathing. So I decided to up my normal word per day goal of 300 to 500. I knew going in this wouldn’t get me to 50,000 by November 30th, and I was okay with that.

I pre-planned. It was a truncated pre-plan, because I made the decision to participate in NaNoWriMo literally less than a week before November 1st. I had a solid idea of the beginning, middle, and ending. I wrote about half of the outline. I bought a new set of pens–I decided to try the Papermate Inkjoy pens and found an 8-pack of assorted colors. I bought a new full-size 5-subject notebook–I decided to write my entire first draft longhand. I bought a new half-size notebook–my standard for note-taking.

On November 1st, I started writing. I wrote every day for 30 days straight. A few days, I only managed a few sentences, but I still added to my word count. I aimed for 500 words per day and accomplished that all but three days. I participated in writing sprints with the Ninja Writers group every Sunday–several times during the day we would write as much as possible for thirty minutes and then report back. They were my most successful writing days in all the time I’ve been writing.

NaNoWriMo Ending

On November 30th, I had over 33,000 and a daily average over twice my goal. It wasn’t 50,000, but that hadn’t been my goal. My goal for November had been to write and write every day.

Goal accomplished.

I may not have won in the definition NaNoWriMo uses, but I feel I won because I made a writing habit and I didn’t burn myself out.

NaNoWriMo Writing Tracker

My goal for December is to continue writing every day and to finish my first draft. I’ll also be working through pre-planning another novel in the Plotting Workshop.

The premise for this novel?

A chivalrous knight has his black and white world turned upside down when his lord and lady are murdered and their daughter disappears.

Between that and writing a book for work (among other projects), I think I’ll have a fairly busy winter.

~ Effy

End Note: I’m not impressed with the Papermate Inkjoy pens. They write nice and even but I don’t think they lasted as long as they should. About 130 pages in and five of the eight are already dead, with two more close behind. Some quick math and I estimate each pen only wrote about 20 pages each.

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Confessions of an eBook Reader

ebook

Over recent months, I’ve been trying to read more, and more importantly, I’ve been trying to expand my book bubble outside of my comfort zone. Not necessarily out of my fantasy comfort zone, but at least out of my current favorite authors comfort zone. To help with this, I’ve signed up for a few daily ebook emails—eReader News Today, Book Barbarian, Book Bub, and Book Shout. These newsletters bring me a daily dose of new authors, usually the first book of a series, for cheap or free. It’s given me the courage to expand.

Not only has it sparked some ideas for my own stories by pushing me to think outside of where I’ve gone so far with my fantasy world and my current novel, but it’s made me realize a few things about what catches my interest as a reader. In turn, this has helped change some of my ideas of what’s important for marketing a book.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve realized through the process of finding and reading ebooks.

Judging a Book by its Cover

We’re told all our lives that “judging a book by its cover” is a bad thing. With people, I totally agree. But with books, there might be something to it at least I unconsciously seem to think so. I’m definitely drawn to a book cover that capture my attention. When I’m quickly scanning these daily ebook newsletters, there’s only a few factors I have to go by—cover image, title, book blurb, and price. Sometimes there’s a rating too, which I also find helpful. But like with scanning anything, the most attractive cover image is going to catch the eye first.

This is what started me reading the last series I started. Eleanor, by S.F. Burgess, has a simple yet beautiful cover. As it turns out, it was so good, I bought the second book.

So whatever lies between the covers of the book, the cover has to be the first thing to captivate the reader’s attention.

A Captivating Beginning

One thing that getting a handful of books per week for cheap or free means is that I have the ability to scan the first half dozen pages (or maybe not even that far) to see if a book feels worthy of my time and attention. If it doesn’t suck me in right away—either because of a lack of action, uninteresting characters, or difficult to read prose (either because of language or typos)—then it’s on to the next book. Some of these free books I’ve downloaded will probably never be read because of this.

Getting PoV Right

Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but I’ve realized I’m a bit particular about point of view, almost as much as I am about a book being polished of typos.

I prefer the same point of view to read as I do write—third person limited.

The book I’m currently reading is Born of Water, by Autumn M. Birt. I’m greatly enjoying the characters and story, but the point of view is distracting. It’s written in third person, kind of half limited, half omniscient. The person’s head it’s in changes within the same scene, sometimes it stays the same for a few paragraphs, sometimes a few pages. Sometimes I have to double back to see who was thinking what. Amazingly, the rest of the story’s elements somehow override everything else and I’m almost through book one.

For my own writing, I’ve become fond of the third person limited, and changing the point of view at scene changes. To note whose point of view the scene takes place, I always start with the first sentence naming the PoV character. ie. “Lakeerae sat down beside the crackling fire.” It allows me to get deeply into the character’s point of view, and it is important to me to know what the character is thinking and why they think they and others do what they do.

How to Write a Series

The sticky part of writing a series is making it work both as individual books and as a whole. Each book should be able to stand on its own and contribute to and move forward the series. I’m very particular about reading books in order, but it’s also important for a reader to be able to pick up the series from any point and know who’s who and what’s going on.

There’s nothing worse than a series cliffhanger that makes you feel like the author is trying to con you into reading their next book.

Book Hangover

One problem I discovered with my current way of finding books is that I haven’t been paying adequate attention to how many books might be in the series I’m starting. Or whether all of those books have been published yet.

It results in a wicked book hangover and makes it difficult to start a new book series.

I’m also not the most patient person, particularly when it comes to reading part of a series and then having to wait for the later books. I’ve been burned with this a few times, some series longer than others. I got really into the Cinder series, by Marissa Meyer. Three books in, I discovered the fourth book wasn’t published yet. Thankfully, I only had to wait a few months. I’ve waited much longer for book five and now book six of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin.

I’m always worried I’ll lose track or interest in a series if I don’t read them consecutively.

This has made me wondering if I should reconsider how I plan to release my novels when they’re edited and ready for publishing. Should I spare my (future) readers the frustration of waiting for unknown periods of time for the rest of the series? Should I wait and release them all together?

It’s an appealing idea. I don’t need the money. I have a job I don’t plan to leave anytime in the foreseeable future. I know it would push back the timetables, but it might be less stressful—once I release one, I’d feel pressured and obligated to write the others as quickly as possible.

Conclusion: Publishing Ideas

I know I’ve got some time to consider how I want to go about publishing and marketing my books, but it’s never too early to start thinking about these things. So what have I learned that can help me?

  1. I need a great cover and book blurb to convince readers to buy my book.
  2. I need a captivating beginning that makes sure my reader doesn’t put it down.
  3. I need a well-edited book that is as error-free as possible.
  4. I need to write in a good and deep point of view for my book.
  5. I need a complete series that is satisfying both individually and as a whole.
  6. I need to decide whether I’ll release my books one at a time or all together.

I think these are good things to consider as I write and edit.

Speaking of a good book blurb, I have a first draft of it for my first book:

Jadeflare—an uncommon magic fed by the elements themselves.

Now it is in the hands of a stubborn, reluctant young druid fleeing from a dark creature that is killing others of her kind. With the help of her loyal wolf companion, an aloof hawk, and a sharp-tongued gypsy, Lakeerae must stop the dark creature before it hunts her down. Her journey will take her from the safety of her home to black places ruled by her nightmares.

Will she be strong enough to bring light back to the darkness?

Please let me know what you think. Too much? Interesting enough? Suggestions?

~ Effy

On Writing: My 8 Favorite Worldbuilding Stories

fantasy world

As a lifetime reader, watcher, and writer of fantasy, it always fascinates me to discover an extraordinary new world. The stories with the greatest worldbuilding–worldbuilding that is completely interwoven with the story–seem to be the ones that stick with me throughout my life. Because of that, I wanted to touch on 8 of my favorite, mostly those that have been made into movies.

Many of these stories have inspired certain pieces of my own worldbuilding in my world of Dadreon.

Here they are in no particular order.

Warning: This post may contain spoilers! I will be discussing the specifics of plots in a number of movies/books. I will do my best not to give away any endings or plot points that directly reveal the ending.

The Neverending Story

The Never Ending Story

The Neverending Story is the perfect story of an outsider who enters a troubled fantasy world in the middle of a conflict and learns of it as he goes. The relatable human boy, Bastion, learns about the world of Fantasia as it unfolds before him while reading a story book and seeing it through the eyes of Atreyu, the story’s hero. Atreyu is trying to stop the Nothing, which is eating away his world. But how do you stop “nothing”? Throughout the story, Fantasia is portrayed as a world so beautiful and full of fascinating creatures that you want to see it saved.

This was adapted from a book that I still need to read.

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal

I love this movie. Not only is The Dark Crystal gorgeous and full of Jim Henson’s creations, but the story and the world are incredible, even 30 or so years after I first watched it.

An all-powerful race kept peace until the source of their power, the crystal, cracked. The benevolent race was split into two separate races–the evil Skeksis and the good Mystics. It is prophesied that only a Gelfling can heal the crystal, and so the Skeksis hunt the Gelflings to what they think is extinction. But two remain, and they journey to heal the crystal before their world is plunged into a thousand years of dark Skeksis rule.

Also, I love that The Crystal Method use the opening lines from The Dark Crystal in one of their most well-known songs, “Trip Like I Do.”

Wizards

Wizards

Wizards is a lesser-known movie, and strange in many ways, but fascinating and rich–and a cartoon! It is both fantasy and science fiction, because it is based on a post-apocalyptic Earth destroyed by war and man-made weapons. This war killed most and mutated those who remained. Only thousands of years later has Earth and its inhabitants started to heal, and it has become a world of fairies and elves versus mutants and assassins. Two twin brothers were born–one good and whole, the other evil and mutated–who became the most powerful wizards in the world. Blackwolf, the wicked brother, becomes the ruler of the wasteland, Scorch, leading the rabble of mutants and assassins there. He tries over and over to conquer the fairy land of Montagar and fails until, after searching the ruins of old civilization, he discovers war machines and a projector of Nazi propaganda. The films encourage his mutants and terrify the fairies and elves. Finally, the good brother, Avatar, is forced to journey to save the healing world from his brother, and he leaves on this quest with the fairy Elinore, the elf Weehawk, and the assassin-turned-ally Necron 99 (AKA Peace). The scenery, creatures, and characters are all wonderful, even in the blunt and brutal way they are portrayed. That’s probably why I like it, because the characters are all flawed.

The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn is another obscure cartoon movie I’m not sure anyone has seen. It is beautiful and full of wonderful characters. It is about exactly what the title promises–the last unicorn. Why is she the last? Well, that is what she leaves her safe, enchanted forest of everlasting spring to find out. She follows stories of the Red Bull:

You can find the others if you are brave. They passed down all the roads long ago, and the Red Bull ran close behind them and covered their footprints.

On her journey, she discovers a magician and a scullery maid who accompany her. They come to the castle of King Haggard, who is the owner of the Red Bull. There, they discover the old King’s obsession with the sea, a fairy tale romance, and the fate of the other unicorns.

This movie was adapted from the book of the same title by Peter S. Beagle. I have read and very much enjoyed it.

Unico in the Island of Magic

Unico

The cartoon movie, Unico in the Island of Magic, is probably the only Anime I will ever like. (I tried to watch Akira long ago and numerous times, and it still makes little sense to me. It always feels like big chunks of plot and explanation are missing.) This movie is about a little unicorn who was banished by the gods because he had the ability to bring great happiness to those around him, a power the jealous gods felt should be only theirs. The West Wind takes pity on tiny Unico, and instead of banishing him, takes him elsewhere. Because of this disobedience, the West Wind is forced to move Unico whenever the gods discover where he is. So this takes Unico on many adventures, though his memory is erased each time he is moved.

In the Island of Magic adventure, Unico is taken in by a girl named Cheri. Cheri’s old brother, Toby, is the apprentice of a powerful and evil magician named Lord Kuruku. Toby’s job is to change people into living puppets and lead them to Lord Kuruku. When Lord Kuruku changes Cheri’s and Toby’s parents into living puppets, Cheri and Unico go on a quest to find Toby and beg him to stop. I mostly remembered this for how much Lord Kuruku scared the crap out of me as a kid, but also because of the strange land the story takes place in.

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon

I love cartoons. Maybe that is obvious from this list. I also LOVE dragons. So I really wanted to sit down and watch How to Train Your Dragon, and I’m really glad I did. The Viking fishing island of Berk is constantly plagued by dragon attacks. Hiccup, the bumbling son of the Viking leader is a disappointment to his father, who thinks his son will never be a dragonslayer. Hiccup, however, is more of a tinkerer than a warrior. After a raid on the village, Hiccup follows an injured dragon into the woods, but he can’t bring himself to kill it. He later befriends it, helps it to fly again, and learns more about the dragons and why they are raiding his village.

This was adapted from a book that I still need to read.

Avatar

Avatar

I was far more impressed with Avatar than I expected to be. The story is good, even though it is a standard humans versus “primitives” story, where the humans try to come in and take whatever they want because they feel they deserve it more than the indigenous species who belongs there and lives with the land instead of destroying it. It is the worldbuilding of this movie that pulls everything together and makes this well-known story different and gorgeous and new all over again. I love how seamlessly the Na’vi live and interact with their world of Pandora. They communicate and work with the animals of the planet through fascinating symbiotic relationships. They also speak to their goddess, Eywa, through their beautiful groves.

Ender’s Game: Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead

This last one is not a movie. The book Ender’s Game (which was recently made into a good, but mildly disappointing movie) is my absolute favorite book. It is the follow-up book, Speaker for the Dead, that contains some of the best worldbuilding and alien/creature creation I have ever encountered. Ender is asked to Speak for a dead man on the colony planet, Lusitania. He discovers people there who are walled into their village in an attempt to avoid any more interaction with the local culture, the Pequeninos (the Piggies). Ender finds out that the Piggies killed a few of the local xenobiologists who were trying to teach them to farm, among other things. It seems the Piggies are an intelligent race, happy to learn the things the more advanced humans want to teach them, and so Ender has to unravel the mystery of why these seemingly friendly aliens have killed some of their human teachers.

The life cycle of the Piggies unfolds during the course of this and the two following books (Xenocide and Children of the Mind), and it is this life cycle that I find so fascinating. It has inspired me in my own work. I hesitate to say more, for fear of ruining the story for others.

Read them. That’s all I’ll say.

In Conclusion

When writing and especially when worldbuilding, the more you read and watch the more you have at your disposal to spark your own ideas. I honestly feel the movies above that I enjoyed as a child, and continue to enjoy as an adult, do this because they are fascinating and original and thought-provoking. I have obviously added to them in more recent years, and these newer stories have only broadened my ideas of what COULD BE or what MIGHT BE and most importantly, they have sparked the all-important phrase: WHAT IF?

And that simple phrase–WHAT IF?–is the basis for all we do as writers of fantasy and science fiction.

Never stop asking: WHAT IF?

~ Effy

What story worlds inspire you?

Wax Poetic: Note-Taking

writing tools

A quick pic of my favorite writing tools!

Why do I write?

Because there is something soothing about writing – even if it is just scribbling notes in my notebook.

If I can write down what is in my head, it relieves some of the anxiety attached to those items.  Writing down things I have to do relieves me of some of the pressure, because it makes them more concrete and more easily conquered.  It helps me sleep, because there is not the worry of forgetting.  I know they can be accomplished when they are put into words instead of a jumble of thoughts in my head.  Writing down story ideas or character information or world details pulls them from my brain to ease the worry of losing them to the swirl of mangled thoughts.

This past weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking through a decision – a very important decision – and it turned out to be writing it out in several different ways that helped me decide.  Even writing and rewriting the same thing several times helped.  I wrote it out in pros and cons.  I wrote it out in free writing.  I wrote it out in a to-do list.  I rewrote when my notes got too messy.

Finally, about midnight on Saturday night, all this writing led to a decision and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and relaxation.  And I slept great.

I have decided I am only going back to school part time for the fall, so I can stay full time at work.

So for fall, I am just taking Tech Writing II and the online class about the short story and novel.

Part of my decision was based on how heavy a load of homework I knew I was looking at originally.  I had myself scheduled for 14 credit hours.  Writing and reading and two classes on building webpages.  Plus balancing work.  Even with 6 credit hours, I know these two classes are going to be a lot of reading and writing.

The other part of my decision came from knowing how much progress I have made at work since going full time and much progress I still want to make.  I have a lot of projects I want to finish, and I think the fall is the best time to work on them.

It was even more relieving to find out my decision was the one my boss really wanted, even though he would not have said so.  I imagine he thought it would be irresponsible for him to steer me in any direction that was not school.

But that’s just it – I’m not quitting.  In fact, I love going to school.  I would be happy staying in school until I’m 70 if I could keep finding classes to take.  I could finish the number of credits I need between fall and winter if not for the fact I can only take one Tech Writing class at a time.  Most of my electives are taken care of.  I am bottle-necked by my main class.  I am currently filling in with classes for completely separate certificates that relate but are not part of my Tech Writing degree.

All of my classes are related to what I want to do and what I am doing at work.  My work makes my school possible.

So my ultimate goal is to make school and work continue to build off one another.  I believe focusing on accomplishing the rest of my work goals – which were hard to focus on during our busiest season during the summer – is the best course of action for me right now.

~ Effy

What are your fall goals?

So for now, I am staying full time at work, and my plan is to go back to full time school in the winter semester.

On Writing: The 4 Major Story Structures for Fiction

Book Tornado

There are different ways to start a story and different ways to write them.  Sometimes they start with an idea for a character and that character’s journey.  Sometimes they start with a place, known or invented.  Sometimes they start with a problem that needs solving.

Whatever motivates you to write – take it and run!

Looking for motivation to write?  Here are some different types of story structures that might help get you started.

I have my favorite author Orson Scott Card to thank for these 4 story structures.  He wrote an article for Writer’s Digest about them.  I believe they are also mentioned in his book on writing, “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.”  They have inspired me on how to focus my stories – some fall into all 4 of these categories.  I hope they in turn inspire you or at least help you focus your story to a fine enough point to start, continue, or even finish.

Milieu Story

In the Milieu Story, the focus is the world and showing and explaining that world.  Want an example of a Milieu Story?  Think of the Wizard of Oz.  The point is made most obvious in the movie because as soon as Dorothy arrives there, the movie goes from black and white to color, then back to black and white when she leaves.  This is because the land of Oz is the focus of the story.

Start: The protagonist arrives in the world.

End: The protagonist leaves the world.

Idea Story

In the Idea Story, the focus is seeking and discovering new information.  The best example of an Idea Story is a mystery.  Something unexplained happens and the main character has to figure out the how and why.  Think of the Dresden Files series.

Start: A question is raised.

End: The question is answered.

Event Story

In the Event Story, the world is out of order and the focus is making things right.  The Lord of the Rings is a great example of an Event Story.  The world is in disarray and Sauron is trying to conquer it.  The story revolves around stopping him and setting the world back to “right.”

Start: The protagonist enters the conflict.

End: A new world order is established.

Character Story

In the Character Story, the focus is the development of the protagonist.  I heard somewhere the series A Song of Fire and Ice (ie. Games of Thrones) described as a character story, or more appropriately a group of character stories.  Since I do not know how the series ends yet (after reading all the books), I cannot confirm or deny this.  But it makes sense.  Especially the character Daenerys, who has gone through a number of moments of character growth already.  Despite all the story arcs, I think she will end up being the “main” character.

Start: The protagonist becomes unhappy and/or seeks change.

End: The protagonist settles back into happy or gives up.

The are a number of other ways to categorize story structures, but I find these to be the most all-encompassing.

~ Effy

On Writing: Writing Prompts – Helpful Distractions and a Means to an End

 

The Writer's Adventure, by Sexton Burke

Writing prompts – the writer’s savior

I ordered a few books about writing, specifically a few about ideas for writing.  I keep finding myself at roadblocks with pieces I want to work on, and working with writing prompts has been helpful.

The book I flipped through this weekend is called The Writing Adventure by Sexton Burke.  It has pages of starters for writing.  In fact, each prompt sits on a full page so you can write.  I am not sure if I will do any writing inside the book – that is what I have all these notebooks for! – but I think it is a neat concept.

The book starts off with a few prompts geared towards personal reflection.  So I focused on these, and I figured I would share.  Maybe, as they helped me, they can help someone else too!  In fact, I think these might help content creators of all types, not just necessarily writers.

Sum up your most important reason for writing in a single word.

Every time you sit down to write, put this at the top of your page.

My word: Share!

Sharing my thoughts, ideas, feelings… this is my biggest reason for writing.  As I mentioned in my post about why to create a blog, I write because I am the only person who can say what I have to say.

It also gave me an idea for one of the six word memoirs we worked on in Creative Writing: Share it, Show it, Tell it!

Make two lists… the first detailing what it is you love about writing; the second, everything you struggle with.

What I Love About Writing:

  • Sharing my thoughts, ideas, feelings
  • Putting my thoughts into words
  • Making worlds and characters come to life
  • Creating a world of many layers and fitting them all together
  • Making A and B work together, whether it is pieces I have created or lore pieces from WoW that fit with my personal characters

What I Struggle with About Writing:

  • Making time
  • Finding the energy
  • Writer’s block
  • Writing about what I want to write about (often I end up working on prompts instead)
  • Distractions that come up while I am writing (usually self-induced, “researching” various items on the internet)

Reframe your view of the obstacles in your life that impede your writing.  Make a list of these obstacles.  Then, next to each one, write about how you can overcome the obstacle and how it might be used as a tool for creativity.

My obstacles:

  • Work – Use work as an inspiration instead of a hindrance.  Start writing some pieces about window cleaning!  I need to write down ideas as they come to me for posts and infographics.
  • School – Continue to use school projects as inspirations for blog posts.  I have used essays and short stories and even public speaking pieces to inspire blog posts.  Re-purposing my school work makes it serve multiple purposes.
  • Time – I need to MAKE TIME to write, instead of making excuses about not having time.  Sitting down with writing prompts (like these) are a good way to start.  I need to schedule time where I am not allowed to do anything but write about SOMETHING, no matter what it is.
  • Energy – If I need to drag myself off my butt, then so be it.  The important part is to keep myself motivated, create scheduled chunks of time (both for accomplishing things and for being “lazy”), and make writing more of a habit.
  • Inspiration – Writer’s block is no excuse for a blogger!  I do not have to stick to one story or topic.  I do not have to write anything in order.  I can write snippets as they come to me, and publish them in logical chunks.  Heck, I can post pieces I write from story prompts.  I am basically without limit on what I can do here on my blog.

Take a moment to examine [the] lists from the previous [prompts]…  Describe in detail what you find to be the single most challenging thing about writing and why it affects you the way it does.

It is not so much writer’s block I find frustrating, but not being able to work on the pieces I want to work on.  It seems whenever something is strong on my mind, my ability to actually write the story evaporates and instead I have to switch my focus and work on something else.  (ie. writing prompts)  I enjoy prompts, but I have plenty of stories I would prefer to be working on.

Now, determine what needs to be done to overcome this challenge…  Find a solution.  Write it out.

The past few weekends, I have been spending my free time working on updating and fleshing out the details of my personal fantasy world – Dadreon.

The other thing I do to combat writer’s block is to write out of order.  I write as things come to me.  Sometimes, writing out of order helps me to get back to the part of the story I was working on.

So the solution: Keep writing!  Write regularly.  Write as things come to me.  Write from prompts when nothing comes to me on its own.

 

From The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence, by Robert Anthony:

“Psychological studies in personal performance show that individuals who have a plan and goals for their lives are happier and more successful than those who do not.”

What are your goals as a writer?  Do you have plans for achieving them…?  If you do, write the plan below.  If you do not, it’s time to create one.  Write it below.

My short term writing goal is to continue to regularly post on my blog – whether stories or posts about writing or personal stuff.  Post regularly.

My mid-range goal is to get back to actually writing stories in my personal fantasy world.

My long term goal is to eventually get a novel finished and published.

So there is an idea of what I have been working on this weekend.

~ Effy

Do you have any input or writing goals to share?  Please let me know!

DBA Effy Part 2

Hello, my name is Effy

A short time ago, I wrote a post asking for some advice about possible pen names.  That post left me with as many questions as answers.  It may not seem obvious on the blog, but I have been thinking about it a lot since.

I think I have come to a decision.

But first, I wanted to share the progression of my identity going as far back as I have been creating – both writing and drawing.

First, it was my initials, JKR, that I doodled in the corner of drawings and on the bottom of sculptures in art class.  (Does it date me that we still had art class when I was in elementary school?)

For a short period, I used just JR to sign my work.  But I was never fond of its resemblance to “junior.”  So that was short-lived.

As a joke, I used the initials RAR for some time in middle school.  It is kind of a long story, but the condensed version: It would have been my initials if I had been born a boy, because my father wanted to give me his name.  Apparently, he got over that by the time my brother was born.

My longest running childhood nickname was James, and I wrote it in a stylized form on all my work.

dba-effy-2-james

Then, there was the high school signature that followed me to adulthood.  I still use it instead of my initials on everything from work to official documents.  It started as J-me, but was soon shortened to just Jme, which is how I sign it instead my initials.

My initials

When I first started making a presence for myself online, I started with the handle Littlegirl.  I did it mostly as a joke to annoy my then-boyfriend, who argued it would attract every internet predator in the world (which it never did – maybe it was TOO blatant).  But somehow it stuck with me for a number of years.

Online gaming required a more avatar-driven name, and for many many years, my avatar was Rosaelyn.  In fact, I still keep that name for alts.  She was my original Druid, and is now my Hunter.  Rosaelyn as my nickname began way back in Asheron’s Call.

It was not until I started playing WoW that I took on Effraeti as my main avatar name.  Prior to that, it had been only an alt name.  At first, I only did it because I had already named my Druid Rosaelyn.  But my Shaman was my favorite before I even created her – being a Draenei and a Shaman, she was perfect.

And having people call me Effy quickly became very comfortable…

Effy has stayed with me for about four years now, and somehow it seems more me than any nickname before it.  It has become my writing pseudonym in addition to being my WoW avatar.  I probably never would have thought to try and use it professionally without the coaxing of my Creative Writing teacher.  In fact, I would not have thought to seek publishing for any of my work – I was content to leave it all here on my blog.

But now…  I want to be Effy in a more professional sense.  And I think I have figured out how.

With some help from my real name, Joe, and my mom, I have put together a pen name:

Effy J. Roan

Effy = “well-spoken” or “melodious talk”  (Which I did not even know when I started going by that nickname!  Thank you baby name finders.)

J = I thought “Effy Roan” seemed like too few syllables, and J is for Jamie!  🙂

Roan = “redhead”  (For obvious reasons!)

I think it is very original and memorable.  I do not see it getting mixed up with another writer.  And Effy is so easy to say and remember.  I already like it.  But I am curious what you all think?

My goal is start branding myself better – watermarks for my pictures, a new header for my blog, and expansion of the dark blue of my blog’s color scheme.  But first, to finalize my writing name.  Then, I hope to make it official by filing a DBA.

~ Effy

What do you think of my new proposed pen name Effy J. Roan?

On Writing: 10 Types of Short Stories

A Notebook and Pen

My blog posts have taken many forms over the years – WoW-related mostly, from transmog to raiding to Best-in-Slot lists, but also short stories, personal thoughts, and school work.  I enjoy everything I write, but I have come to realize that my favorite thing (next to actual writing stories when I have the ideas) is writing about writing.

Recently, my very talented streamer and video-creator beau WoWMartiean got access to the current Alpha testing for Warlords of Draenor.  It has been interesting to sneak peeks over his shoulder, despite how adamant I usually am to keep my distance and not learn anything about WoW content before it is released.  Honestly, I think that has all been thrown out the window since 1) I live with him and 2) I am too damn nosy and curious.  I cannot help it, now I want to know about the changes to Mistweaver Monks and see every little bit of Draenor I can.

*****  *****  Spoiler Start  *****  *****

One of the things he and I have discussed so far is a new type of rare mob being introduced.  I am not sure of all the details, but Blizzard is referring to them as “vignettes” and they seem to be a rare with more complicated mechanics than a normal rare.

*****  *****  Spoiler End  *****  *****

This started me down an interesting train of thought… and I decided to write a post on the different types of short stories.

Defining a Short Story

To discuss the different types of short stories, first I should define a short story.

A short story is a piece of brief literature, usually written in narrative prose.  Short stories can be written in a variety of formats, but the most typical features a small cast of characters with names and focuses on a single, self-contained incident.  Short stories make use of a plot and other normal literary components, just to a lesser and shorter degree than a novel.  They also vary in length.

10 Types of Short Stories

Now that we know generally what a short story is, we can discuss the different types of short stories.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, since short stories come in a wide variety of lengths and styles.  But this is a list of the most common.

Anecdote

An anecdote is a short account of something interesting and amusing, which usually tells a story about a real person and/or incident.  Often, anecdotes are used to illustrate or support a point in an essay, article, or chapter.  They are very short, but have no specific limits.

From grammar.about.com’s entry for the anecdote, an example anecdote about Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“In [Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s later years his memory began increasingly to fail. He used to refer to it as his ‘naughty memory’ when it let him down. He would forget the names of things, and have to refer to them in a circumlocutory way, saying, for instance, ‘the implement that cultivates the soil’ for plow. Worse, he could not remember people’s names. At Longfellow’s funeral, he remarked to a friend, ‘That gentleman has a sweet, beautiful soul, but I have entirely forgotten his name.’ Perhaps most touching was his term for umbrella–‘the thing that strangers take away.'”

(Reported in Clifton Fadiman, ed., The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, 1985)

Drabble

A drabble is an exceptionally short piece of fiction, usually of exactly 100 words in length – not including the title.  The purpose of a drabble is extreme brevity and to test an author’s skill at expressing himself/herself meaningfully and interestingly in a very confined space.

A drabble example, by the lovely Matty, is available over at Sugar and Blood: Light as a Feather.  In fact, Matty has many drabble stories!

Fable

A fable is a succinct story featuring anthropomorphic creatures (usually animals, but also mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature) to tell a story with a moral.  Often the moral is explicitly told at the end.  A fable is similar to a parable, but differs most in the fact that fables use animals to tell a story but parables do not.

The most well-known example of a fable would be any of the many told in Aesop’s Fables.  The one I always remember the best is The Ant and the Grasshopper.

Feghoot

A feghoot is an interesting short story type also known as a story pun or a poetic story joke.  It is a humorous piece ending in an atrocious pun.  It can be very short, only long enough to sufficiently illustrate the context of the piece enough to lead up to the pun.

I found an interesting blog of all Feghoots.  This one is a good example and totally groan-worthy as the format requires: The Buck of the Draw.

Flash Fiction

Flash fiction refers to an extremely short piece of literature.  It has no widely accepted length, but has a debated cap of between 300 and 1000 words.

I found a whole webpage of flash fiction, called Flash Fiction Online.  It has a small section of fantasy and I thought this one a good example to share: One Last Night at the Carnival Before the Stars Go Out.

Frame Story

A frame story is also known as a frame tale or a nested narrative.  It is a literary technique of placing a story within a story, for the purpose of introducing or setting the stage for a main narrative or a series of short stories.

A few good example of a frame story would be a flashback within a larger piece or a quest within a larger game environment.

Mini-saga

A mini-saga is a short story told in exactly 50 words.  It is a test in brevity – about saying a lot with a little.

I found a fascinating “guide” to writing a mini-saga.  It has a few examples and the bottom is for filling in with your exact 50 words.  There was another page with good advice and a progressive piece as an example.

Story Sequence

A story sequence, also called a short story cycle or a composite novel, is a group of short stories that work together to form a longer piece, while still functioning as complete short stories on their own.

It would be hard to link to an example, but the best I can think of are several of the works of Isaac Asimov – the Foundation books and I, Robot (the original book, NOT the story portrayed in the Will Smith movie) in particular.  They are not a novel in the traditional sense, but instead a collection of short stories in chronological order that both tell small stories and one larger one.

Sketch Story

A sketch story is a shorter than average piece containing little or no plot.  It can be merely a description of a character or a location.  Character sketches are common, and a good way to build a character that will eventually be part of a longer piece.

I found this good handout about character sketches, including an example.  I wrote a piece a while back about writing character sketches.  I think Regrets, my original blog post and the start of my Shaman-Effy/DK-Effy stories, and the character sketch piece I wrote for creative writing last semester are both good examples as well.

Vignette

And finally, we come to the vignette, which started this whole post in the first place!

A vignette is a short, impressionistic piece that focuses on a single scene, character, idea, setting, or object.  There is little emphasis on adhering to conventional theatrical or literary structure, or story development.  It can be a stand-alone piece or part of a larger work.

From grammar.about.com’s entry for the vignette, an example vignette by E.B. White:

“The strong streak of insanity in railroads, which accounts for a child’s instinctive feeling for them and for a man’s unashamed devotion to them, is congenital; there seems to be no reason to fear that any disturbing improvement in the railroads’ condition will set in. Lying at peace but awake in a Pullman berth all one hot night recently, we followed with dreamy satisfaction the familiar symphony of the cars–the diner departing (furioso) at midnight, the long, fever-laden silences between runs, the timeless gossip of rail and wheel during the runs, the crescendos and diminuendos, the piffling poop-pooping of the diesel’s horn. For the most part, railroading is unchanged from our childhood. The water in which one washes one’s face at morn is still without any real wetness, the little ladder leading to the upper is still the symbol of the tremendous adventure of the night, the green clothes hammock still sways with the curves, and there is still no foolproof place to store one’s trousers.

“Our journey really began several days earlier, at the ticket window of a small station in the country, when the agent showed signs of cracking under the paperwork. ‘It’s hard to believe,’ he said, ‘that after all these years I still got to write the word “Providence” in here every time I make out one of these things. Now, there’s no possible conceivable way you could make this journey without going through Providence, yet the Company wants the word written in here just the same. O.K., here she goes!’ He gravely wrote ‘Providence’ in the proper space, and we experienced anew the reassurance that rail travel is unchanged and unchanging, and that it suits our temperament perfectly–a dash of lunacy, a sense of detachment, not much speed, and no altitude whatsoever.”

(E.B. White, “Railroads.” The Second Tree From the Corner. Harper & Row, 1954)

In Conclusion

I find all of these types of short stories interesting.  So much so that I would like to try my hand at each.  I am hoping to steer my fiction in a more personal direction, and start writing more pieces that take place in the fantasy world I created.  Some of these are very short pieces – which will probably take me longer to write than my usually pieces.  We shall see.

~ Effy

Are there any major short story types you think I missed?  Or do you have any good examples of some of the types listed above?  Please let me know!  I am always on the look out for good fiction!

DBA Effy or What’s in a Name, the Redux

OW-Characters - EffyOne of the best things to come from my Creative Writing class this past winter?  Being pushed to submit some of my work for publication.

The thing currently holding me back?  Whether to submit my first work for publication under my IRL name or under my avatar name.

I am leaning towards using a pen name, because I have become so comfortable being “Effy.”

I have been Effraeti/Effy for about four years now.  I went by my avatar name Rosaelyn for longer than that, but I never felt as connected to that name as Effy.  Is it because I have been writing under Effy in addition to using it as my in-game name?  I think so.

I am also not sure HOW to officially label myself…  As Effraeti?  As Effy?  Is a single name okie, or do I still need a last name?  Would a single name be pretentious?  And what would I use as a last name if I decided to go in that direction?

My creative writing teacher, Jas, thinks I should make my pen name just “Effy.”  It makes sense.  It is both easier to write and easier to pronounce than “Effraeti.”  But I feel that “Effraeti” is my full avatar name and therefore should be my “official” pen name.

I guess I am writing this in the hopes of getting some feedback.

~ Effy

What do you all think?  What should be my “official” pen name?

#NBI2014: The Single Biggest Reason You Should Create a Blog

101 Pers - Shakespeare Blog™“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.”

~ Charles de Lint

This quote gave me a lot of inspiration in writing the original speech that led to this post, so I thought it an appropriate opening.  A blog gives you the best and “safest” place to find an outlet for your stories.  It gives you a simple, quick forum for writing, publishing, and sharing, all from the comfort of home and with the mask of whatever name/avatar you show to the world.

BloggingWhy tell your story?  Because no one else can.  Make it about telling your story.

I have been blogging for three years now – first on Effy’s RP and now here.  While I have blogged mainly about World of Warcraft for all of that time, I created my blog because I wrote a short story that was not happy with just getting onto paper.  It insisted upon being shared.

I took the plunge and I posted it on the internet.

And I have never regretted that moment.

Writing - just do itIt led to many more stories – both fan fiction and my own brands of fiction – and it has led to many, many posts.

The idea of starting a blog can be a daunting one, but unless you just get out there and do it, you will never know what might come of it.

We are all walking around with stories to tell.  Sometimes, we express them to friends.  Sometimes, we write – either in stories or in journals, which we may or may not share.  Sometimes, we keep all of our thoughts inside.

A teddy bear sharing ice cream with a puppyWhy share?

I spent years writing but never sharing my stories.  Even when I did share my writing, I shared with friends or family who read to be supportive of me.  I never knew whether they really liked it, or were just being “nice.”  I never received any real, helpful feedback.  But beyond these people who would only tell me how great my writing was, I feared what criticism I might receive from others.

But a story untold is just flat words on paper, or worse yet, an unshared idea that never leaves your head.  That is a true tragedy.

Maybe you think a blog is difficult to create or too much work or that no one will read it.  Blogs are not only easy to create – WordPress will walk you through the simple steps of starting one – but there is also a vast community of support once you get started.  The blogging community is one of the friendliest and most helpful I have ever come across – especially the Warcraft blogging community.

Collaboration happens often and in many forms and there are a number people to encourage you.

NBI

 

Newbie Blogger Initiative LogoThe Newbie Blogging Initiative is both a website and an event for helping new bloggers get started.  The provide support and resources, as well as stirring the rest of the community to action.  It is mostly geared towards gaming bloggers, but the information shared can be helpful to all.

Blog Azeroth

Blog Azeroth LogoBlog Azeroth is a forum where bloggers can come together.  The most interesting part of the interaction on Blog Azeroth is the Shared Topics.  Anyone can suggest a topic and anyone can participate in writing a shared topic post.  Shared topics are a great way to get involved with the community.

Bloggers Who Have Inspired Me

Navimie of the Daily FrostwolfNavimie, of the Daily Frostwolf, is one of the most amazing bloggers I know, and the nicest too.  Long before the NBI came about, Navi became a powerful voice of encouragement to me in particular.

Navimie’s advice?  If you want to write, just write!  Don’t write for others, write for yourself first.  You will be more genuine and more motivated.

Truer words have never been spoken (or written).

Akabeko of Red Cow RiseAkabeko, of Red Cow Rise, has been another voice of encouragement to myself and others.  She has participated in the NBI and other events to drive collaboration in the blogging community.

Akabeko’s advice?  She has a great list!

  • Write about what you know and what interests you
  • Remember that a blog can be about anything – from business to poetry
  • Cites your sources!  (Other bloggers and content creators LOVE link-backs, and it is a great way to get noticed.)
  • Give your opinions
  • Find your voice
  • Include pictures wherever possible

Other Resources and Tips

This is definitely not the limit of great resources or bloggers out there.  It just takes some time to get the momentum going.  The best thing you can do is participate in all of the great community events going on all the time, and comment on the blogs of others!  Both ways will get you seen in ways other than just those who find you through web searches.  Being active part of the community is the best way to become a part of it.

Twitter helps too.  Even if you do not use it much, you can connect other bloggers, other WoW personalities, and other players.  And you can tweet your blog posts.

Remember: every view is one more person touched by what you have to say.

Now What?

Now that you know some of the support available out there once you get started… how do you start?

Create a free blog and go from there!

Once you have a blog and content on that blog, even if only five people see what you have posted, that is five more than would have seen it otherwise!  Picture what that could mean – having viewers for all of these ideas, stories, thoughts, and opinions that never would have made it out of your head otherwise.

Creating a blog has the ultimate purpose of getting your writing seen.  A blog gives you a place of lower stress and pressure than trying to get published, but still has the same end result of people getting exposed to your thoughts and ideas.

Without a blog you have no outlet for your ideas.  Without a blog you may never know what would happen if you share your ideas.  These can all be easily solved by just sharing.

The one downside to sharing?  Negative comments.

How do you handle negative comments?An article called “7 Tips to Deal with Negative Comments on Social Media” gives some good advice.  The best points were the following:

  • Identify the issue – Your critic more than likely has an issue with your product or message, and not you personally.
  • Decide if and how to react – Not all criticism deserves attention.
  • Be specific and direct – Focus on the issue, not the person.
  • Be real – Take ownership of mistakes.
  • Create a dialogue – Keep cool, stay on topic, and treat the critic with respect.

Happy faceThe positive possibilities far outweigh the negative.  By creating a blog and sharing all the ideas and thoughts and opinions you have within you, you can succeed at the following:

  • Get viewed
  • Receive recognition for your work
  • Possible publication
  • Get paid to blog (with paid ads)

Take Action Now!So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and go create your blog!  (And if you have one already – post, post, post!)  Go express yourself, make yourself known, and share your ideas, stories, and points of view.  Because that is the biggest reason anyone should create a blog!

~ Effy

If I have inspired you, but you would still like to know more, please feel free to contact me!  I would love to chat!