Writing Process Blog Hop

Hi everyone!

I was recently tagged by Erica in her blog for something called the Writing Process Blog Hop.  As a writer, I thought it asked some good questions and would be intriguing to answer :)  Here goes nothing!

What Am I Working On?

My current focus is on a project called Chronicles of the Sentinels.  This represents the beginning of at least a trilogy of novels, although I’m already coming up with ideas for stories beyond the initial trilogy!  The central characters are three ordinary college students who are caught up in the struggle to preserve a mystical barrier that blocks all magic from Earth.

Another project that I’m only working on ‘part-time’ is the second book in a series, called The Sword of Dragons – Burning Skies.  While Chronicles is more of a unique fantasy, The Sword of Dragons has a more ‘traditional’ fantasy setting, with some unique twists on it :)

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

Chronicles of the Sentinels is a modern-day fantasy, and while those are becoming increasingly popular these days, the path it will take is somewhat unique.  The premise is that magic is real, but thousands of years ago, to prevent a Babylonian god from coming to Earth to conquer humanity, the Sentinels, a group of extraordinarily powerful wizards, came together and built a barrier that blocked all magic from Earth.

Image source - http://www.fanfiction.net/  (A good example of what Nabu should look like)
Image source – http://www.fanfiction.net/ (A good example of what Nabu should look like)

Fast-forward to today, and Marduk’s half-human son Nabu makes a final attempt to bring down the Barrier…and succeeds!  So imagine in today’s society that magic, once thought to be flights of fancy or heretical, suddenly becomes very much real.  How would this impact society?  How would this impact individuals?  While telling an exciting and fun adventure tale, these topics will be explored throughout the trilogy.

Why Do I Write What I Write?

Image Source - http://www.wikipedia.org
Image Source – http://www.wikipedia.org

Why I write in general is covered in my About page, but why do I write Fantasy?  That’s actually a very good question, one which I haven’t thought much about.  Fantasy has been a genre that has always intrigued me.  While the first movies I remember watching were science fiction (Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek 3), the first real, proper novel I remember reading was The Hobbit.  Even before then, children’s books filled with magic and mystical creatures always enchanted me.

So now I wish to forge my own tales in that fantastic, imaginative genre!  Furthermore, just like with Science Fiction, Fantasy is a genre in which writers and their readers can explore very deep, very important concepts of humanity in an engaging way.  Who are we?  Why are we here?  What is human nature?  Why?  All of these can be explored without boring the reader, and you never know the impact your stories will have on their own lives!

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

I covered this in-depth in a two-part blog article (Click here for Part 1) but I do have a somewhat structured process that has really helped me with novels.

The first part is what I call pre-writing, and that is all of the work involved before actually writing the manuscript’s first draft.  This includes brain-storming, researching, character development, location development (such as map drawing), culture development, everything you should do prior to starting a new project.  Much of the development is written down by hand in journals.

All of my writing journals so far.  From top left: TSOD book 1, TSOD book 2, TSOD book 3.  From bottom left, TSOD Bible, Chronicles of the Sentinels.
All of my writing journals so far. From top left: TSOD book 1, TSOD book 2, TSOD book 3. From bottom left, TSOD Bible, Chronicles of the Sentinels.

The second part is actually writing the first draft.  In my pre-writing, the final stage is writing out chapter outlines so that when I write, I know what each chapter should be about ahead of time.  But I also don’t stick to that as hard-and-fast rules.  If the story takes me in a different direction, I’ll adjust accordingly :)

The final stages, what I guess you could call “post-writing” (like post-production on a movie) starts with two proofreadings, first on the electronic copy, and then on a printed hard-copy.  If I’m satisfied with the second proofread, I then send my novel to any friends willing to ‘beta read’ to get their feedback, and then with their notes and comments in-hand, I do a final proofread.

Tag People!

Not sure how many folks I’m supposed to tag, but off-hand there are two I’d like to tag: Ivyon from “Ivy Mosquito” and Victoria from “Coffee, Write, Repeat.”  If either of you have already done this before, please put a link in the comments here, I’d love to read your responses!

Thanks :)
-Jon

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50 Followers and Two Award Nominations!

Hi everyone!

Two incredible things happened to my blog today!

The first is an incredible milestone: 50 followers!!  I can’t believe that after only a month (a month and 10 days to be exact) I’ve already reached this amazing milestone.  When I first started my blog, I didn’t really expect to gain many followers, but I am pleasantly surprised.  Thank you to everyone who has followed me through the start of this journey :)

The second is that I was nominated for two blog awards by Victoria Davenport (if you haven’t already checked out her blog, I highly recommend it!)  They are the Very Inspiring Blogger award and the One Lovely Blog award!

very-inspiringlovely-blog
This came as quite a surprise for me, but a welcome one :)  There are rules I am encouraged to follow for these awards:

The Rules (or as Victoria said, they are more like guidelines :)  So think of them like the Pirate Code!)

  1. Thank and link the amazing person(s) who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

If you’ve already been nominated for these awards, I’d say there’s no need to go through all of this again unless you really want to :)

Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

  1. When I first started writing, I wrote a Star Trek story that involved me and all of my classmates.  Keep in mind I was in 5th grade at the time, lol.
  2. My obsession with dragons started with Dragonheart.
  3. The first actual, proper novel I remember reading was The Hobbit.  That probably doesn’t surprise anyone here ;)
  4. I used to be very, very near-sighted until I had lasik performed.
  5. For most of my life, I hated the idea of ever living in a big city.  Now I live in one and love it!  So much so that I don’t think I could ever move back to a small town again.
  6. I took over 4 years of French (2 in high school, 2 and a half in college) but I have still never been to France.
  7. I was interviewed by a web-hosted MTV show that was on a video game tour across the U.S. in 2007.  I worked in a video game computer lab on campus at the time.

Now on to the nominations.  This was not easy, there are a lot of really awesome blogs I’ve found over the past month!  I also wasn’t sure if I was allowed to go outside of wordpress, so I stuck to ones I subscribe to on here.

One outside of WordPress I’d like to mention is writer Laurel K. Hamilton’s blog – I’ve never actually read her work, but a friend of mine recommended I check out her blog when I first started my blog, and I’ve enjoyed following her blog :)

Nominees (in no particular order):

  1. Publish or Perish
  2. Beauty Within
  3. Forgotten Meadows
  4. Ivy Mosquito
  5. Ronovan Writes
  6. Brett’s Future
  7. Inside the Life of Moi
  8. Jacke Wilson
  9. Bookshelf Battle
  10. One Up Five Down
  11. Long & Luxe
  12. Words on a Limb
  13. Embracing a Wounded Soul
  14. Megan Elizabeth Morales
  15. Daily (W)rite

I highly recommend checking out those blogs, they are all very awesome :)  And I have to apologize, but it’s late and I need to get to bed, so I don’t have time at the moment to let them all know.  A total cop-out, I know, but I have to work tomorrow :(

Thank you again to everyone for following and to Victoria for the nomination!  You all are awesome!

-Jon

Voyage Through Time

Hi all!

As a writer I’m always on the lookout for something to inspire me and inspire others.  After a discussion with Ivyon on one of her blog articles, I found a quote that resonated within me and thought I would share it with all of you who read, who write, or do both:

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” – Carl Sagan

Image Source - http://www.brainpickings.org
Image Source – http://www.brainpickings.org

In a sense, that makes all of us who read time travelers.  Even better, those of us who write build time machines :)

-Jon

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Plot Progression Completed!

Hi everyone!

I have some exciting news!  Today I finished laying out the general plot of my new novel, Chronicles of the Sentinels!  (I’ve decided to drop the first “The” in the title after some feedback.  Thanks Victoria!)

I am pleasantly surprised at how fast I’ve developed this story!  I actually only started writing down the plot on 8 June and only a few days later am already finished.  I started working on the actual idea on 11 June.  I’ve never developed a novel this fast, but it is so much fun!

For those who aren’t familiar with my pre-writing process, you can check out details by clicking here, but essentially I now only have one step left until I can start actually writing the story, and that’s writing out the chapter outlines.  This will most likely take longer, as I will write down in greater detail what I want to happen in the story.

In The Beginning – Who’s on First?

In my past novels, I’ve always written the very first chapter from the perspective of the primary protagonist.  In the case of The Sword of Dragons, this has been Cardin Kataar.  However in Chronicles, I’m actually tempted to do something different.

Unlike The Sword of Dragons, I’m not planning to include a prologue in Chronicles, or at least not for the first novel.  In my mind, a prologue wouldn’t fit with the tone I’m going for in this novel, plus I really like the idea of the reader making discoveries along with the characters.

However, once I finished the plot progression, I realized that starting the novel out from the leader of the Sentinels chasing after Nabu would be beneficial, since it would set up the events to come shortly after, as well as events towards the end of the novel.

So I’m actually wondering if anyone who reads my blog knows of examples where a novel didn’t start out from the protagonist’s PoV?  Would you consider them “successful” novels?  Did it cause you confusion as to who the main character of the story was?

Character Changes

One thing I know I’ve mentioned is the past is that a writer shouldn’t be afraid to change things during the development of a story.  If it isn’t published yet, it isn’t ‘canon’.  Having said that, I’ve considered changing some things up.  Most of them deal with minor characters.

Image Credits - http://mainlineoptix.com
Image Credits – http://mainlineoptix.com

The one thing I am strongly considering, however, is Alycia’s comfort level with her ‘nerdy’ nature.  I originally had written down in my notebook that I wanted her to be very comfortable with her nerdiness, but later on I wrote that she was uncomfortable with it and would, over time, learn to be okay with it.

However, as I re-read the first few pages in my journal today and saw my original idea for her, I realized why I wanted her to be comfortable with her nerdiness from the beginning.

Even in today’s society, where ‘nerds rule the world’ ;) I still have known nerds and geeks to struggle with self-esteem and self-worth (I certainly did for a long time.)  Yet I would argue that they are among the best kinds of people, the most interesting, the most intelligent, the most kind-hearted (most of the time, let’s not talk about Sheldon ;) ).  I believe that anyone who is a nerd or geek has every reason to be proud to be so.

So if one of the primary characters of the novel were to be a nerd, and proud to be so, I would hope it would send that message to readers.  It’s not only okay to be a nerd or a geek, it is completely awesome!!

To my fellow writers, I add in this reminder about your work: whether your stories are read by a handful of people or millions, you’ll be presenting role models to your audience.  Its been my experience that those who frequently read often connect to one character or another on a very personal level.

So keep that in mind when you write a character.  No one is perfect, and frankly we like reading about flawed characters over flawless ones.  But be conscious about how your work will affect your readers beyond the book, especially young adult or children audiences.  Inspire them!

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon

Facebook Page – Yea or Nay?

Hey everyone,

So tonight I have a question to all who follow my blog: should I create a writer’s facebook page?  Before you all rush down to the bottom of the page and type in a resounding “YES!” the reason I hesitate and am asking you all is that I am still unpublished and without an agent.

I did read in an article in Writer’s Digest that published fiction writers should create one to cultivate readership, but what about an unpublished one?  How many of you have a facebook page, and would you mind putting in a link to it so I can see what you do?  Who are other writers who have facebook pages that you follow, and why do you follow them?

I’ve looked at some established authors on facebook, such as Timothy Zahn and Laurel K. Hamilton, but I’m a long way towards being that established, lol.

Image Source - https://www.facebook.com/TimothyZahn
Image Source – https://www.facebook.com/TimothyZahn

Thanks everyone!  :)
-Jon

Modern Fantasy – A Title At Last!

Hi everyone!

Just how important is a title?  Can a good novel with a bad title still become a success?  Can a bad novel with a good title still earn a writer a living?

The title is often the very first thing we see of a book, coupled with its binding display or even the cover if the novel is turned to face outward at the bookstore or library.  It has to be eye-catching, and has to be appealing to our target audience, which means it has to fit the genre of the novel.

Keeping all of these things in mind, I’ve struggled to come up with a title for my newest story, the modern fantasy I’ve been writing about here.  How do you capture the spirit of a modern fantasy without making it sound cheesy?

Images Source - http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com
Images Source – http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com

I’ve thrown a lot of titles around in my head, asked others for opinions on some of them.  For a while the contender was something like “The Guardians of the Barrier” Or “The Sentinels of Magic”, referring specifically to the group that protects the Barrier that blocks all magic on Earth.  I’ve even tried to come up with a good title that reflects the three protagonists, but nothing sounded right to me.

This struggle to find a title quickly became frustrating.  Finally I ended up spending a couple of hours just sitting down trying to find a title.  I looked up synonyms for various words, like Sentinel or Guardians, or Barrier.  I had a list of words on a word document and tried to figure out how to put them together into a coherent and fitting title.

Of course, one of the things to consider is whether or not there’s a novel or series out there already using a title, and this was another roadblock I ran into.  I thought I had come up with the perfect title, and found that there were no fantasy novels by that name.  Then when I did just a general search for the title, I found there was a science fiction that used the title I had come up with.

What finally helped me figure it out was by analyzing the warriors who protect the Barrier, who stand watch over Earth and protect humanity from the strange creatures that fall through the cracks.  Originally I called them the Guardians, but I realized a more fitting title for this group was Sentinel, which was a name I had considered using earlier.

And so I’m excited to announce that I finally have a title for my new project!!

The Chronicles of the Sentinels

This will be the primary title for each novel in the series, while I’ll also have a subtitle for each one, similar to the novels I’m trying to find an agent for now, The Sword of Dragons (book 1 has no subtitle, while book 2 has the subtitle “Burning Skies”).

I don’t know what the subtitle for the first Chronicles book will be (one thing at a time!) but I’m glad I now have a specific title for this project and don’t have to refer to it as “that modern fantasy story” anymore :)

Let me know what you all think!  Love it?  Hate it?  I love hearing from you all!

-Jon

Emotion in Fiction – Connecting to Your Readers

Hi everyone!

For many people, feeling emotions, especially when they are their own emotions, can be a frightening thing.  Yet for writers, not to mention actors, musicians, pretty much anyone who ‘puts themselves out there’ for an audience in some way, emotions are an essential gateway to connecting to their audience.

Image Source - http://www.rmfw.org/
Image Source – http://www.rmfw.org/

It was honestly something I never really thought about until I read an article recently on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers website.  As I read this article, I realized how much it rang true, in every respect.  It also reminded me of some of the greatest moments in the last novel I completed, The Sword of Dragons – Burning Skies.  Some of the most memorable stories out there evoke some of the strongest emotions.

Connecting to the Characters

One of the key aspects the article mentioned was breaking through the emotional barrier, and how many writers fail to do so.  Some don’t even try, perhaps because they don’t think they need to or that they shouldn’t.

But stop and think for a moment about storytelling.  What is it, exactly?  At the most basic level, it is relaying a sequence of events, whether in order or out of order, to another person.  Sounds rather dull and boring when you put it that way.

Go deeper.  What is it about stories that draws us in?  There are the typical tropes of wonder and imagination, especially in genre fiction like Fantasy and Sci-Fi, and that can draw someone in by itself.  However, I guarantee you it isn’t enough.

Image Source - www.sw-unity.org
Image Source – http://www.sw-unity.org

Think about one of your favorite TV show or movie.  What’s one of the first things that pops into your mind about that movie or show?  I’ll bet for most of you, it’s the characters.  When I think of Star Wars, I think of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  When I think of Lord of the Rings, I don’t immediately picture the One Ring in my mind, but I see Aragorn, or Frodo and Samwise.

My point here is that we think of characters, people.  They are what we remember, and that is because we are able to connect with the characters.  Even in stories written from the 3rd person, we inhabit their lives, their world.  We root for them, or we hate them, or we fall in love with them.

That link we feel for them, the one that makes us remember them, is an emotional one.   And that is because, in a sense, they opened up to us (even if they had no choice, mwahahah!)  We get to see those characters’ innermost thoughts and emotions.

Reaching Inside

With all of that in mind, breaking through the emotional barrier, for all artists, becomes essential.  When we do so, we’re able to realistically convey emotions that connect us with our audience.

Image Source - www.bridgetteraes.com
Image Source – http://www.bridgetteraes.com

Actors, at least the best ones, are masters of using their own emotions.  Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo Montoya in the movie The Princess Bride, revealed in interviews that when he was approached to be a part of the movie, he was offered any role.  He chose Inigo because Patinkin had just recently lost his own father.  So throughout the movie, he imagined that he was on a quest to avenge his own father, and in the final sword fight with the six-fingered man, he imagined he was fighting the cancer that killed his father.

The best musicians also do this.  My high school choir director always told us that no one wants to come to a performance to watch “dead fish” sing on stage.  She encouraged us to reach inside, feel the emotion of the song, and to express it in our performances.  Lindsey Stirling plays with incredible expression of emotion (just watch any one of her youtube videos for proof!)

Image Sources - houseofgeekery.com
Image Sources – houseofgeekery.com

Some of the greatest artists, including painters, were able to use their own emotions in much the same way.  There was an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor gets to meet Vincent Van Gogh.  Later, when speaking to a modern-day museum curator about Vincent, the curator says “He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty.”

Examples from The Sword of Dragons

As a writer, I’ve found that some of my best work also comes from reaching inside of myself and finding emotions that coincide with a scene.  Earlier I mentioned an example, a scene I wrote in Burning Skies.  One of the central characters feels broken, lost, utterly useless.  She’s trying to find her way, but despairs that she never will, and she spirals further and further downward in her emotional journey.

In one of the key moments of the novel, the character hits rock bottom, does something horrible, and when she realizes what she’s done, nearly goes over the edge.  As all of this plays through her head and heart, I wrote about how she expressed these feelings, and I found that as I did so, I reached back to one of the worst times in my life, remembered the emotions I felt, felt those emotions again, and wrote without having to ever think about how the character should or would act.

When the scene was completed, I found that I had actually started to tear up myself.  I felt a bit embarrassed about that, after all I do almost all of my writing at Starbucks.  But later when I re-read that scene, it and the scene following it turned out to be among the most powerful scenes in the novel.

It isn’t just about dark emotions, however.  This example can hold true for every emotion.  Love, joy, sorrow, sympathy, every single emotion can, and perhaps should, come from within the writer.

Breaking Through the Barrier

I realize that for many people, especially in this digital age, what I’m suggesting might be extraordinarily difficult.  It means acknowledging your own emotions, allowing yourself to feel them, intentionally evoking those emotions and the memories associated with them.

It can be an uncomfortable prospect.  However I strongly believe it is key to being a good writer.

So I’ll leave you all with yet another bold statement: emotions aren’t something you have to hide from.  Yes there is pain and sadness, and these can be uncomfortable emotions.  But there is also exquisite joy and happiness.  All of these various emotions hold an incredible beauty all of their own, and if you’re able to learn how to explore those emotions by feeling them, you’ll make yourself a better writer.

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon

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