If you look for my stories online, you will, unfortunately, come up empty. That being said, it doesn't mean that I am not an author, writer, and storyteller. Currently, I have one novel that still needs one more edit and a read through, and a second WIP that is taking me far too long to complete.
In my current WIP, I winged it for the first four chapters, and then my writing dried up. I was unsure of what and where I wanted to take the main character. Should have her delve in long-forgotten dungeons, or take her out and about the land I have created looking for adventures along the way? I was stalled. I didn't know my direction, or hers, so I began to jot down some ideas. I floundered in a lake of uncertainness, at least that is how it felt to me, and then while lying in bed, it came to me, write a synopsis of the story. It was a great idea, not original, but great nonetheless. There was a problem though. I was using Open Office, and that made it difficult to keep my ideas, and plot lines organised.
It was a successful writer that I follow that suggested using Scrivener. I have to be honest, I wasn't too keen on buying a new program for my writing, but it had a thirty-day free trial, so I thought, What the heck, and I downloaded it. Once I got past the extensive tutorial I started moving my WIP from Open Office to the new platform. I'm not going to get into all of the great things that Scrivener does for you, but I will share how it helped me keep on track.
Scrivener is great for being able to make notes while you're writing, and It gives you an easy way to keep track of your plot lines, current, and to come, by the use of it's 'Cork Board' feature. Characters, locations, and anything else you need to keep organised can be kept in the 'Binder', for easy access. I'll give you one example. You begin your story with your character, we'll call him Ted. Ted arrives in the Tower of Lonely Ghosts and has to find his way out of the situation you have put him in. First, you will make a Character template, name it Ted, and provide all the details you currently have about him. You will add his appearance, fears, what gets under his skin, and lastly, you will add that he starts in the tower and why; as the story continues, you will add to the character and keep track of changes by referencing the chapter and page he appears in. Secondly, you will create a Location template and do much the same as you did with the Character sheet, except this time you will mark all those who make appearances in the tower and when. Scrivener is great for keeping you organised and reduces the chances of creating plot holes and such.
When trying to keep track of the distance between locations, and weather changes, for example, I can't say enough about creating a map to keep your mind focused on where your MC is at all times. There is a great, free program out there called Inkarnate. The map-making tool allows you to create awesome maps that will help you to remember things such as, Ted having moved on to the Withering Wastes, which is very much a desert. No rain will fall here, and Ted's armour needs to be carried because it's much too hot to wear, and again, you will make note of this place in Scrivener by adding that Ted has arrived, and why. You will also make notes on the location, and any persons of interest that dwell in it.
You can see how using tools like the ones listed above can make your life much easier, and so far they have helped me stay on track.
Anyway, I have digressed from my earlier thoughts of me wanting to outline, or summarize my story if you will. Knowing where to begin wasn't going to be the issue. I knew where I was, and kind of where I wanted to go with my WIP, but the future of my character remained cloudy. After much contemplation, I decided to write down how I wanted the book to end, and after an hour or so of making notes, I was happy with the finale, and I added the folder to Scrivener, but I still needed to get the MC from where she was, to where I wanted her to be.
My plan of attack was simple. First I would make notes of major and minor events I wanted her to experience. I placed them in a time line, first to last in the 'Binder', and then I filled in the rest of the story by doing a summary of each chapter, making notes of plots, locations, and characters as I went. Over the course of two days, I spent my time evolving from coffee to gin, while I lead my MC through the story of her life quests and journeys. Surprisingly enough, the outline I had created flowed nicely and smashed down the writer's block that I had created for myself. It was a win. I don't think I could have done it without the tools I had gathered. Writers of old must have torn their hair out trying to keep track of everything.
Now, to be fair. The first novel that I wrote was written wholely on Open Office and I think I did fairly well keeping track of everything. I guess the difference is that it was written in a first-person tense, where my current work is not. Why that makes a difference, I can't say, but in my little brain, it does.
In conclusion, I won't go as far as to say that my way of doing things is the best, but it did help me get to a point where I could easily carry on my WIP without struggling with trying to find direction and a purpose for my MC.
I hope this helps to alleviate some of the many challenges we all go through as we crawl along, hoping to give our readers out there a satisfying ending to our tall tales.
I am an unpublished author, more by choice than by failure.I wrote my first novel a couple of years ago. My daughter had me do the Na No writing challenge and I came up with an eighty thousand word story that I keep editing, over and over. I've written a books worth of poetry that I like, but it's very dark in its nature, and I'm working on a fantasy novel right now. I also do some beta reading here and there.
I live in a small town in South Western Ontario with my wife, son, and two energetic Springer Spaniels.
You can find me on Twitter @NormBoyington
For me, the process of writing a story is an adventure. As a writer of epic fantasy, people often ask, “How do you world build? How do you establish plot lines? How do you create characters? How do you build magic systems?” To each and every one of those questions, the answer is simple. I don't.
So many people devote countless hours (some take years!) building a fantastical world. They spend days and weeks fretting over magic systems. They agonize until the sun comes up about the plot. I get it. There are a lot of people who require structure. Hey, if that works for them, great, but I don't have the patience, nor the time to devote to these things when I could be writing instead. I don’t need to stress over things my characters are going to sort out for themselves anyway.
What do I mean by that? Well, in some circles, I am called a ‘pantser.’ I had never heard of this term until a few months ago. It means I fly by the seat of my pants. Truth be told, I like to think I fly by the seat of my character's pants. When I sit down to write, I haven't spent weeks agonizing over scene development or crisis management. Heck, I don't even know what the land looks like around the next bend in the trail. The beauty is, I don't have to. My characters tell me everything I need to know as they experience it.
My worldbuilding consists of maintaining two detailed excel spreadsheets, which, by the way, are made and added to as the story progresses. Nothing is done beforehand. One spreadsheet, the places spreadsheet, has a tab for everyplace, road, river, etc. I put in the story—each with their own description. The other spreadsheet, the people spreadsheet, lists almost every character mentioned, with 3 subcategories: Physical Description, Clothing, and Other. (The obligatory guy that shows up and becomes collateral damage, doesn’t count.)
At some point, I generate a map, but not before the story is well underway. Why, because the characters haven’t told me what’s on the map yet. And magic systems? Huh? I write fantasy. Magic is an inherent part of the story. I don’t explain how people stay alive by describing the intricacies of breathing: oxygen enters one’s lungs via a tube called an esophagus and then passes through…you get what I’m saying? You just accept the fact that the character’s body is capable of breathing. That being said, I don’t need to explain how magic works—by definition, it’s magic!
There are days when the writing process doesn’t flow. Those days are tough. Some people like to hide behind the security curtain many refer to as writer’s block. I refuse to let myself do this. On the days writing doesn’t come naturally, my word count suffers for sure, but I still get a count. I force myself to write the word, ‘The,’ and then the next word, and then the one after that. You might surprise yourself. Once you change your mindset from “I can’t do it” to “I am doing it,” more often than not, the so-called ‘writer’s block’ disappears. Don’t worry if it’s not Pulitzer prize winning material—that’s what editing is for!
For me, writing a story is simple. I put a character in a room, or on a trail, or in a boat, and all I need to do is have them place that first foot in front of the other and give them a shove. The rest is easy. The land and their story will evolve before their eyes. My job as a writer is to keep up and tell the reader what my characters are experiencing.
Life is short. Don’t let it pass you by with your characters locked inside your head. If you don’t write it, no one can read it. Sit in front of your keyboard, look through your character’s eyes, and take part in the wondrous adventure awaiting them.
Richard H. Stephens
Born in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1965, Richard began writing circa 1974, a bored child looking for something to while away the long, summertime days. His penchant for reading The Hardy Boys led to an inspiration one sweltering summer afternoon when he and his best friend realized, "Hey, we could write one of those." And so, Richard did.
As his reading horizons broadened, so did his writing. Star Wars inspired Richard to write a 600-page novel about outer space that caught the attention of a special teacher, Mr. Woodley, who saw his talent and encouraged him to keep writing.
A few years later, Richard visited a local bookstore. The proprietor introduced him to Stephen R. Donaldson and Terry Brooks. Richard's writing life was forever changed.
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/richardhstephens
YouTube Channel: https://bit.ly/2NKpOhn
Word Crafting is a blog to help writers strive for excellence. If you would like to be a guest blogger, pitch me an idea.