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From One Writer to Another: A Short “How To” on Writing Fiction


I wrote this post for my friend and colleague Rachel Thompson’s BadRedhead Media blog several months ago. And now it comes home. 🙂


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/MindJournal

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/MindJournal

Do you have an idea for a great story? Does something inside push you to string letters together in complete sentences that end up filling multiple pages? Do you feel as if you’ll burst if you don’t stop RIGHT THIS MINUTE and record those scenes and that dialogue swirling round and round in your head?

Welcome to my world, and the world of so many others like me. Welcome to the world of WRITING. What do I do NOW? you may ask. I’m so glad you did. I have answers for you. 🙂 In this post, I’ll address writing historical (specifically, medieval) and fantasy fiction, as they are the setting/time period/theme of my current Work in Progress.

While writing fiction can be as simple as sitting down and setting pen or pencil to paper (or fingers to computer keyboard – whichever your preference), it isn’t always so. It surely wasn’t that simple for me. Oh, the words may flood your imagination and before you know it, you’ve written a complete chapter. Good for you! I sincerely hope it’s that easy for you. Quite often, though, research is necessary, even if it’s just looking up the meaning and best use of a word or phrase.

Research

If like me you write historical fiction, then your setting (geographical) may be a place that exists or did at one time exist in the real world. If so, you’ll need to be sure you know a few things either before you begin writing the story or at some point before you’ve finished your first draft:

  • Where in relation to the rest of the world that place exists (or did exist, if it doesn’t anymore). Part of my book takes place in medieval Silesia, Poland. While it still exists, the borders have changed over the centuries and today it’s divided between Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia.
  • Topography – mountainous, plains, desert, etc.
  • Climate(s)
  • Culture(s) – how the natives interact with one another and with foreigners/visitors.
  • Cuisine
  • System of exchange – bartering, coin money, etc.
  • Native/national costume/style of clothing (if any). I say “if any,” because in America for example we don’t have any one national style of clothing.
  • Weaponry, soldiers/armies, defense/offense, justice system
  • Sexuality – discrimination between the sexes, expectations and perceptions that separate the genders, local/national traditions/norms for single persons, married persons, etc.
  • Language(s), dialects
  • Medicine/healing
  • Travel between cities, towns, villages, countries

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. The necessity for research is one reason why some books and series take years to write and publish; all of the research that must take place before pen is even set to paper, research that continues while writing, and then the redrafting, polishing, editing and proofreading. If you’re going to spend the time and energy writing a story with the intention of publishing, then you want to be sure it’s your best work. Every time. Your writing skills may improve with each successive book – in fact, they almost certainly will improve. That doesn’t mean your earlier works weren’t your best; they were your best at that time.

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Historical Fiction

So. What will you write about? Will you write a coming-of-age tale? Will you write a swashbuckling adventure full of pirates and damsels in distress? Whatever you choose to write about, you’ll probably discover the truth of one of my favorite quotes of all time about writing. Leo Tolstoy said, “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” The first time I read this quote, I took it as a challenge – a challenge to find a book that WASN’T about one of those two stories. So far, every story I’ve read (literally thousands) has supported this statement.

All fiction is based on one of these two ideas, and you build upon them. Even if the story doesn’t begin with a journey or an arrival, one of those is still present. While, as Patricia C. Wrede points out, a hero going on a journey or a stranger coming to town aren’t plots per say, they ARE precipitating incidents that introduce the plot; they are where the plot begins. They are the foundation upon which all fiction is built.

Fantasy

And what about fantasy? On one hand, writing fantasy can be easy – it’s often make-believe, after all, and subject only to the limits of each writer’s imagination and motivation. On the other hand, it needs to be believable. And if your fantasy is set in the real world – sort of a small step off the beaten path – then you still need to research the setting, time period, etc. This is what I did in my book, SERPENT ON A CROSS, and its work-in-progress sequel, VEIL OF MENACE. I combined real-world historical events and places with fantasy, mythology and Jewish mysticism/esotericism. Some of the fantasy-related research that’s gone into this series is:

  • Eastern European (mainly Russian and Polish) mythology and folklore
  • Jewish folklore and superstition
  • Jewish proverbs
  • Jewish esotericism (NOT kabbalah – my story predates traditional kabbalah)
  • Other writers’ works on any of these subjects

The Actual Writing

Even though writing fiction may not always be as simple as sitting down and setting pen to paper, it doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect; it shouldn’t be. In my case – because I love research so much – the actual writing was sometimes set aside in favor of the research. I finally had to make myself stop (or at least pause) researching and start (and finish) writing the story. Of course, my impatient characters often made their presence felt, usually in the middle of the night, not letting me sleep until I wrote down the scene(s) beating at my imagination.

As for what to write about, the sky is virtually the limit (actually, I’m pretty sure outer space still has vacancies as well). Write about what you know and want to share with others…write about things that scare you that you wish didn’t scare you…write about something you’re interested in learning more about.

One of the wonderful things about writing a story is that you will always learn something, whether about yourself as a person or as a writer, about the subject, about the location. Perhaps all of the above. Such a wealth of knowledge awaits you as a writer. What are you waiting for?

Recommended Reading

Some general research recommendations (all of which I have read) for writing fiction and fantasy:

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Filed under books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, How To, Reader, Reading, Research, writer, Writing, Writing Tips

Guest Post: New Poetry from Rachel Thompson


Today my friend, the multi-talented Rachel Thompson, shares with us some of her new poetry.


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New poetry from Rachel Thompson, featured in the new Feminine Collective Love Notes From Humanity: The Lust, Love & Loss Collection on Amazon now.

 ___________________________

The Day Is Worried

 

The day is worried about me.

Reaching out in fingered waves to hold me steady

But it’s no use

I’ll not be walking through her garden of green tendrils today

I don’t know the way.

Feet slipping on rust and golden leaves

My hand slow dances for purchase

Finding only air.

 

The day is worried about me.broken-people-day-is-worried

Enveloping me in her cloudy blanket

One I toss away

White wool too heavy today when

I can’t find my breath

Searching for the pull of his light

To bring me home.

 

The day is worried about me.

She can’t find me in my usual places

Hiding away

From myself today

Flashing green eyes hiding locked-door secrets

Even I can’t understand…

Maybe I’ll find my key

As the day morphs into night.

 

The night is worried about me.

He can’t hold me in his arms

I am transparent, slipping away in the quiet way I do

Weightless, floating

Further and further from his grasp

Until my night-man throws out his anchor

Catching this desolate girl, pulling her close;

Safe in his strong, capable arms.

Watching worries chase stars across the sky.

 ____________________________________________

Just Fine

 

I’m not who you want me to be and that’s fine.

No, it’s not fine.just-fine-2
Fine is fucked. Fuck you, fine.
Fine means cool, copacetic, mellow.
You think that’s what it means to be me.

I am hot,
I am not in excellent order,
I am tired
Of you telling me what to do
How to feel
What to think
How to be.
I am not your mother’s daughter.
I am me.

I brazenly sashay my swinging hips
Up to your delicious mouth
Dripping with their coarse demands…
Chewing your thick, cherry lips,
Tearing your lost mumblings
As red drips from my gnashing teeth
Who owns your wants now?

This tough girl who used to quietly shrink at your words
My heart shoves hard at my chest, wanting out.
Tears form and fall as I wipe them away with a furious fist.
Hating to admit how much it hurts
When you shred me.

Why do you think what you say matters?
Stunning, how the breeze flows without your say
Pebbles may move in your wake,
But never trees.

This is my life and you have no access key.
I don’t want to be fine in your eyes, whatever that is.
Talk to yourself with your bloody mouth full of ire
Go be fine in your own life.

I want more.

I want free.


Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is represented by literary agent Lisa Hagan, and is published by ShadowTeamsNYC.

She is the author of the award-winning, bestselling Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in both the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Book Festivals), and the bestselling, multi award-winning Broken Pieces (as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed).

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), Feminine Collective, IndieReader.com, 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly,

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live weekly Twitter chats, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish (Tuesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST), and #BookMarketingChat, co-hosted with author assistant Melissa Flickinger (Wednesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST).

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Author Contact Information:

Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
Twitter (Business): @BadRedheadMedia
SexAbuseChat: @SexAbuseChat
BookMarketingChat: @BkMarketingChat
MondayBlogs: @MondayBlogs 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelThompson
Facebook (Business): https://www.facebook.com/BadRedheadMedia
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+RachelThompson/
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/rachelintheoc/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/rachelintheoc/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rachel-thompson/24/784/b95
Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619475.Rachel_Thompson
Author Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/j9oaH
BadRedhead Media Newsletter: 
http://eepurl.com/koN8r
Full-size Author Photo Link: http://i119.photobucket.com/albums/o158/Froze8/RachelThompson_

Rachel’s new book, Broken People (the continuation of Broken Pieces and Broken Places) will be published by Shadowteams NYC, later this year.

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Filed under Guest Post, Life, Mental Health, Poetry, Real Life, Relationships, Survivors, Writing

Guest Post: On a 40th Birthday by C. Streetlights


My dear friend C. Streetlights, author of Tea and Madnessjoins us again this week, this time sharing one of her beautiful poems. I love her words. Enjoy!

blonde-826027_1280
I remember the freckled-faced sunshine girl
(always smiling,
always laughing-eyed)
calling over my cinder-block fence
my shyness turning to the sun,
to the bells that twinkled
with
feet that dropped to bricks.

I remember the fear I felt
(it being there,
always my companion)
when I entered the pool, cold
water wrapping around me,
then plums falling from
the nowhere sky,
and
slowly sink like treasure.

Golden hair followed,
(the only time,
she never was a follower)
diving for her tree’s
pirated and purpled gold,
she
patiently lured me into swimming.

Always the same story,
(silly fights,
sometimes, rarely)
fearlessness came in shades of
golden-yellow/freckled happy.
Coaxing fragile courage from where
I hid it,
under a porch, or in an attic.
No matter.

I knew this girl once,
who
(really never knew what
no Body ever does)
could jump the fence like
fairy tales jump a moon
who
didn’t realize she was
lightning in a bottle for some
who
is still the laughing-eyed girl
who
I’ll remember as
my childhood friend.

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__________________________________________________________

cstreetlightsAfter writing and illustrating her first bestseller in second grade, “The Lovely Unicorn”, C. Streetlights took 20 years to decide if she wanted to continue writing. In the time known as growing up she became a teacher, a wife, and mother. Retired from teaching, C. Streetlights now lives with her family in the mountains along with their dog that eats Kleenex. Her memoir, Tea and Madness, won honorable mention for memoir in the Los Angeles Book Fair (2016) and is available for purchase on Amazon.

C. Streetlights is represented by Lisa Hagan Books and published by Shadow Teams NYC. For all press interviews and other inquiries, please contact Ms. Hagan directly.

You can connect with C. Streetlights on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon Author Central, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

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Filed under Friendship, Guest Post, Life, Poetry, Relationships, Writing