Category Archives: timeline

Changing your perceptions

I had initially began the first of a long series of books with a male main character. While listening to a writing podcast (I believe it was writing excuses), they talked about switching the sex of your main character in order to alter how you see them and to refine the core of the story.

When I did this, it completely eliminated my writers block. I have since entirely switched that main character to a female, and it has unlocked the story for me nearly entirely.

So now everytime my story starts to lag I look at how I can alter it in a fundamental way, which will so thoroughly change the way I see the story. In order to hopefully unlock the next scene which seems to allude me.


Pieces to the puzzle

I have had in mind a slightly different time keeping system based off the sun for my largest project. For some reason I couldn’t see the solution, so I reached out for help from a facebook group I’m in, and the help I got was exactly the piece of the puzzle I had been looking for. Although after I began to play around with using it, something seemed off to me, though I couldn’t place it. My brother in law came over one day to pick up my nieces which were visiting, and I talked to him about it, as I do due to him being interested in this type of stuff and the genre as a whole. He came up with an idea for writing the system I already had, and that’s when the last piece I needed clicked for me.

What that last piece did, was amazing to me. Suddenly things I had been struggling over for months clicked into place, old and new ideas began flowing like crazy, my drive was instantly back. All because of one little idea about a time keeping system. What i realized then, was as my story grew, I had built ideas onto ideas. The time keeping system was one of the first, and my own mental organization set priorities for things to figure out based off chronological fabrication.

I haven’t known this long enough to figure out if I can bypass this priority system that’s been automatically established, but if I figure something out, I’ll make another post about it. Although, it may just possibly be my way of working through such things and I have to adapt my system to it. Time will tell.


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World Building vs. Writing

Being new to writing, I’m still learning how to write a full complete structured story, versus snippets of awesome ideas that pop into my head. Trying to find the balance of world building, outlining, creative writing, can be hard. I don’t want to paint myself into a mental corner world building so much so that I can’t creative write when I need to. I thought I had done a lot of world building, so I made myself stop and focus on writing to make sure I didn’t paint myself into that corner.

After trying to write for about a month, with no success, I sat back and went over my recent experiences. What I saw blocking my creative flow was a lack of substance. This confused me at first, so I began looking much more closely at why there was this lack of substance in my minds eye when I had done all the previous world building. That’s when the scope of my story really struck me.

It is going to be an expansive scifi. Epic isn’t really the right word I don’t think, as it doesn’t match the markers which constitute an epic. At least it might not, and there it hit me. I don’t know…all I know is it’s really big, with numerous rich cultures which play off each other in a massive balance.

I couldn’t write the story because I still didn’t know enough about where it takes place. Even though I had what I thought was a lot, there were far too many holes which let the creative mist escape my minds eye. Basically it wasn’t a lot of world building for the scope of the story. So now I’m back at it, making timelines, maps, filling out my wiki, figuring out how the different tech levels effect the cultures the various characters grow up in. How some types of jobs move characters from one culture to the next and how that effects those individuals and the friends they’ve made over the years.

So my lack of knowledge of my world kept my imagination from coalescing into the story I wanted to write. I will still keep an eye on myself to prevent world builders disease, but I’m going to be much less likely to force myself to stop building. I think once I get enough world built I will have so much story that I have to write it. As I am adding more things to my wiki, filling out histories of key organizations, my imagination is going “Oh cool!” and making tiny stories of snippets of time. It’s not enough for me to write, what it is doing is filling those holes where my creative mists were leaking. Once they stop leaking, I’ll start writing.


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Pricing your work

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts about the detriment of pricing your books too low. While that makes a huge amount of sense, and I can’t argue with any of it, in fact I agree with all the reasons they give, I have one that trumps it. At least it does for me. The reason is, I grew up poor, with a ravenous appetite for books. So basically I starved my mind. In fact, I got so used to starving it, when I grew up and made plenty of money, I still didn’t buy books because I had already trained myself to not want them. When you want to read as badly as I did, yet can’t, it creates a “keep away from me” attitude. Much like I have now for cigarettes. That’s right, I felt the same way for books as a child as I do for cigarettes now. Doesn’t that sound right to anyone? If it does…you have issues.

Now, the way I feel about books is a mixture of joy and resentment. I will find a great book, and realize the rest of the series is $9.99 per book. Or I will read a great story and realize the rest of the series is $5.99 for the entire series. Writers can now make a good living off of cheaper priced books. I for one will never price my books $9.99 for an e-book. I want the cash strapped people to be able to enjoy my work too. But most importantly, I want young readers to be able to read as much as they want, to not be limited to a book every birthday or christmas.

The E-book market is a change, something that will uproot the known practices and alter the thought processes of consumers. But that will never happen if prices stay the same. E-books are a wonderful new tool, why not use it? Instead what I’m seeing quite often is the publishers from before e-books are trying to maintain the status quo. They are trying to price the e-books the same as the print books even though an e-book is much much cheaper.

I have seen Baen books putting up free e-books from some of their high selling authors, so they are learning and good for them. But the subsequent books are still the same as the print books. Many self publishers have free sales, or even perma-free books to get people reading their stuff. It’s called a funnel.

So for all you new authors out there, let’s change something for the better. Take a lesson from those high selling self publishers and price your books between the status quo and cheap. Remember those what-if kids out there who want nothing more than to get lost in your stories.


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Prologues & Epilogues

So, what people normally do with prologues and epilogues is add depth to a story that just doesn’t seem to fit in the main story. It could be a brief excerpt of thousands of years of history to explain why things are the way they are. It could be a “they lived happily ever after” like they did in the harry potter movies. Recently I was listening to a podcast where an author was talking about putting chapter excerpts from the next book at the end of his books. That got my mind to thinking, what if.

What if, instead of sprinkling explanations throughout a new book of things that happened in a previous book or books, you just had excerpts as a prologue? What if, instead of a cliff hanger (which I hate, usually) you make the reader want more by giving them a taste of what’s to come?

So basically, the prologue catches the reader up. This can be good for new readers who are just coming into the universe, or for loyal readers who might have had to wait a long time for a sequel, and instead of needed to read the previous book all over again, they can just read the prologue and all the memories of the previous book(s) come flooding back, along with the drive to learn “what happens next!” which is built in momentum ready to go.

Sometimes I really enjoy reading the previous books in a series, like Ender’s Game. Then again, after about 7 books, you start to just read the new book and struggle to recall everything relevant. That’s why I can see the reasons for shout-outs sprinkled throughout the new books in a series, even though they bug me. A second benefit that just occurred to me is that a reader might not know about a certain book that leads up to the one they are reading. A good for instance is the books in the Liaden Universe. Often times there are short stories, or whole other series that tie in and a new reader will not know what order to read them in. As a matter of fact, the writers have made a Correct Reading Order list just so readers know to go find these other books before they dive into a series that will leave them confused in a few spots.

Now Sharon Lee and Steve Miller don’t do the shout-outs, or if they do they are so clever or talented that I haven’t noticed them. In fact reading their books has made me think about my own universe and how I can remedy issues in my own universe that  I come across as a reader of theirs. I also hope I can make stories half as interesting as theirs are.

What if, I made these book ends not only explanatory and enticing, but hyperlinked? In the prologue, you’d have “Excerpts from ____” with the name of the book hyperlinked to a buy page. That way a new reader could stop there and go pick up the previous book if they wanted, or read the excerpt and hope it explained enough, and read on. The epilogue being a chapter excerpt also having a hyperlink would allow the reader to go then and get the new book, if they were so inclined, or a link to my web site (when I get one) so they can watch for a release date.

I’m really excited about this idea, and think it could solve many issues I have come across while reading series or universes. What are your thoughts?




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Knowing when a side quest needs it’s own book.

A side quest is usually a smaller but still important quest that the protagonist needs to accomplish before they can face their greatest challenge. A great example of this is Luke Skywalker going to Dagobah to seek out Yoda. Luke had no idea why he was going, or what he would find, but he was driven to go. While the training Luke received was crucial to his character progression, it wasn’t the main goal of the series, to stop the Empire. Another side quest is rescuing Han from Jabba’s Palace. Without Han they may have never destroyed the shield generator, and the Empire would still dominate the galaxy. Those side quests are essential to achieving the overall goal of the series.

Side quests are essential to storytelling, even if they are very small. But sometimes a side quest is so important, or so interesting, that it demands its own storyline. Lately this has become much more acceptable and even welcomed. Origin stories for favorite characters, spinoffs for beloved side characters, just consider a Yoda origin story. Sometimes a side quest happens outside the storytelling. Past events that lead up to the action the reader is suddenly thrown into. What if we never knew what Gandolf did when he left the dwarven party? Sometimes these need to be told, and sometimes the sudden appearance of the result is best, like the sudden appearance of the dwarven kin to aid in the fight against the dark horde. Could the gathering of that reinforcement army be its own book? Absolutely. Would it have made the Hobbit better? Absolutely not. That sudden appearance brought sudden hope, which was essential in the emotional roller coaster of that part of the book.

While doing my experiment of short stories for character backgrounds, I realized that their pasts were so interesting they were begging for their own books. At first I dismissed the idea thinking that my imagination was just wanting to play and I shouldn’t allow it to run away with itself. But the more i thought about it, the more I saw these character driven quests from vastly different perspectives which lead into the books I was wanting to write. Basically my imagination made its argument and it found validation.

These stories erupted from a natural fleshing out of the idea I find so engaging for the story. Why did this happen, how did these characters get here and why, etc. What I discovered when I began outlining these stories, is that filling in these gaps in the story has explained and filled in parts of the original. Also, once I allowed myself to let go of a specific structure or trilogy, quartet, series, etc. and just tell the stories, I found the ideas started to flow once again as if I had burst a dam. I was stifling my creativity in attempting to contain it in some preconceived structure to which it didn’t belong.

So in closing, find that balance between a flowing imagination, and a structured story. Don’t assume a story has to be any certain way, let it find itself. This can be done in the outlining, world building, character development, or writing itself for those pure pantsers out there.


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Personal Wikis

I first heard about personal wikis on the SPP. Granted this isn’t a new idea, nor is the program Sean spoke about using, but it was new to me. The guys on SPP were talking about a program called wikidpad which I subsequently downloaded and started trying to use. I will be honest, I sabotaged myself with this program at first. I thought it was HTML heavy and because of that initial misconception, I mentally blocked myself. So I downloaded two other applications for my mac, scribbleton & voodoopad. Both seemed to be great wiki programs, and I tried both thoroughly.

Voodoopad is only a trial, and at 15 links you don’t really get a good idea of what the full program will be like, so I passed on it.

Scribbleton was free all the way and was a great wiki, easy to use and as far as I could tell unlimited. The problem with scribbleton for me was the lack of allowing multiple wikis (more in a minute) and suddenly deleting my entire wiki.

Now… there were glitches with scribbleton when I used it, which could be it’s interaction with my OSX 10.6.8. Any time I tried to start a new wiki for a different book, it froze entirely, requiring me to restart my macbook pro in order to open it again. Now the sickening part. One day I woke up, started up my laptop, opened scribbleton and my wiki was gone. There were no traces of any of the wiki files. I restarted and they were still gone. So that was the end of my experience with scribbleton.

After a few days to eliminate my depression over weeks of work gone, I decided to give wikidpad a chance again even if I had to learn HTML. Opening it again I went back into the ‘getting started’ files, and suddenly realized how foolish I had been. There was no need to write in HTML, all your data is stored in plain text.

So I started building my little corner of the galaxy which my universe sits in. It was all downhill from there.Hours and hours of typing and I had rebuilt what I had lost in scribbleton and doubled the information in my wiki.

Now…the reason for a wiki is to keep your thoughts in order. Just like a fan wiki, a personal wiki allows for any information you deem important in your universe at your fingertips. Whether it makes it into the book you are currently writing or one you will write in the future, or never makes it into a book but helps you build the scenes in your mind, it’s easily accessible.

I was working on outlining my book and I could not for the life of me picture a scene where I wanted my story to go. Once I started building my wiki, that changed. Linking aspects of my universe together to make a whole picture helped immensely to construct scenes. Suddenly entire subcultures I had never envisioned sprouted into existence. I may never use them more than window dressing on a scene, but knowing the culture allowed my mind to make connections it couldn’t before.

I guess you could view it as the universe’s character. I didn’t have the universe’s character profile filled out extensively enough yet. Building a wiki allowed me to do that. It also showed me reasons why certain characters were doing things I pictured them doing. I’m not even writing yet, and the characters already have a mind of their own. So in closing thank you Jason Horman for making wikidpad open source and free for everyone, including us struggling writers.


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