World Building in Your Stories

The number of movie adaptations based on graphic novels or animae has been growing.  Heck, take a look at your Netflix lineup! From Ant-Man, to Death Note, Dare Devil, Ghost in a Shell – let’s never speak of that Last Air Bender Shyamalan mess though. Shh.

But all of these adaptions have another thing in common: world building.

When it comes to writing, world building is everything, no matter what genre you’re in. Can the reader picture the universe your characters are in? Are the characters following the rules you created? Is the world distinct and vibrant or vague and just another mesh of other well-loved stories?

World building takes skill. It takes constructing your setting and timeline. It takes constructing a culture. It takes constructing three-dimensional characters and not cardboard cut-outs. Universes can be created, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Animated Universe. It made sense watching Saturday morning cartoons to see the Flash appearing in Metropolis, betting that he was faster than Superman because, well, duh, why not? The rules had been established in that world.

At the end of the day, your story has to pull in your readers to the point where they almost forget their reading a story – to the point where they invest their time to finish your book. And to the point where they take your world into their own hands in the form of some fanfiction.

 

submitted by ChiWriMo participant Sarah Luyengi

Choice Book Recommendations

New books, new year! There are so many début books to keep on your radar this year. From young adult to graphic novels, 2019 is the year that keeps giving. But how can you keep up with all the new authors you ask? Besides simply roaming through your favorite bookstores or asking a librarian at your local library, you can always plug in and head over to Goodreads or Amazon in the comforts of your home. What do the stars say?

-        The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

The blurb: “In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.”

If you are a fan of mystery and suspense, this one should be on your radar. Stories that reveal seemingly Perfect People and their Imperfect Lives have been on an upswing ever since titles like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and Big Little Lies have turned into smash hits.

-        Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

The blurb: “A literary courtroom drama about a Korean immigrant family and a young, single mother accused of murdering her eight-year-old autistic son.”

Recently, literature focuses more on immigrant families and the immigrant experience in the US. Important stories like this are ways to connect the division between citizens and foreigners. The narrative on behavioral health has also changed, and combing two important subjects makes this book a good “want to read.”

-        Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

The blurb: “Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in I.T., trying to keep the spark in his marriage, and struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.”

This book gives flash-backs of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter and that’s a good thing! The plot has Philip Van Dyke themes all over it, coupled with a Interstellar-like familia bond between father and daughter. Don’t miss out on this one.

Find a comfortable couch and your favorite blanket to read some of these debut books. Have any other books on your radar? Don’t forget to share!

 

submitted by ChiWriMo participant Sarah Luyengi

First Quarter Check-In

Did you make a New Years Resolution to write more? How has that been working out for you?

It’s that first millisecond of the New Year – cheers, clapping, and is that a hint of regurgitated vodka? – and the idea of Being a Go-Getter is still fresh. But, once you actually slog your way through January, it’s already somehow February and your writing is almost non-existent.

No fear! In this world of Netflix and 90 second microwaveable dinner, it’s common for your writing goals to be shoved in the back. Here are some ways to nudge it back to the forefront of your attention. They may be easier said than done, but what’s the harm in trying?

-        Create a deadline for yourself! It’s helpful to hold yourself accountable. Making a deadline gives you that extra sense of urgency to finish your work. Make sure that your deadlines are reasonable, though. It can be easy to mark a date on a calendar without really giving yourself enough time. At the end of the day, life happens, and sometimes that can interrupt your writing time. Don’t forget that your deadlines are there to help you get through it.

-        Join a writer community; hearing other writers’ challenges and successes can be just the push you need. Online platforms are perfect for meeting hundreds of other aspiring writers out there, like you, from different walks of life. You can always take it a step further by meeting in-person. Local libraries and independent bookstores typically offer writing events – there’s always something out there!

-        Read something that influences your writing skills and get the creative juices going in your noggin’. Take a glance at the best-sellers section, staff recommendations, or movie-adaptions to find a story that can spur on your own work. You could take it a step further and specifically look for a book in the same genre that you’re writing, too.

Get into the mindset of writing and you may just surprise yourself by starting something new. The year is not over yet.

 

submitted by ChiWriMo participant Sarah Luyengi

The “Secret” To Winning NaNoWriMo

I have an insight.

Just hear me out.

There’s a widespread secret to “winning” NaNoWriMo (in the traditional sense). And it’s actually numerically true. Like, it’s measurable and about as scientific as you can get when you’re talking about something like noveling.

Here is the secret:

Survive Week Two.

Without fail, every single NaNoWriMo, the sharpest drop-off occurs after Week One. People can go strong for 5 to 7 days. That’s easy – it’s practically like a Creation Vacation! WHEE, NOVELING! But then… you realize… oh geez, you have to DO something with what you’ve just created. The characters have to… exist. And live. And breathe. And do something… interesting. Like, a plot or something. Right? NOOOOOOO!

Picture1

But how can they do that when you feel like you’re starting to write complete crap? Your creative resources are starting to flag, right? You’re feeling drained, maybe even a little resentful? Oh geez, ANOTHER night in front of this computer/notebook? I WANT A BREAK. (table flip, lots of screaming)

Here’s the thing: Most people who manage to survive and slog through Week Two end up “winning” NaNoWriMo. THIS IS A FACT, we see it every November. Maybe not with 50k words, but they manage to actually write most of the 30 days of the month, hit an admirable word count, AND they shockingly find they’ve built up so much momentum that they can keep going, even after the deadline of November 30th is over.

This phenomenon has been present since the beginning of NaNoWriMo, if you read the founder’s book, No Plot? No Problem! (by Chris Baty, this book seriously changed my writing life). I personally think there are scientific reasons surrounding this, related to what we know about habit-building and behavioral modification, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

So, if it helps at all, if it gives you even the teeniest tiniest bit of motivation to hang on and keep going, despite the part of you screaming to just stop and give up, just think of it this way: if you survive week two, you’re probably going to “win” NaNoWriMo – whatever that means to you. And isn’t that kind of pretty awesome?

 

Guest Post by Kari Trenten

NaNoWriMo: Rough Drafting in the Shadow Forest

Guest Post by Kari Trenten

Perhaps it was a mistake to attempt to write a rough draft of My Tool, My Treasure for NaNoWriMo.

I haven’t finished my revisions on the first book in my Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest series (Stealing Myself From Shadows). Nor have I completed them on the second (The Hand and the Eye of the Tower), or the third (A Godling for Your Thoughts?)

Why take on the rough draft of the fourth book?

Because it’s NaNoWriMo, a time set aside for rough drafts. All of the energy and encouraging posts (and believe me, writers, I find them encouraging, thank you) are aimed at people trying to churn a story out in its rawest, most creative form.

This draft needs to be written. Now seems like as good a time as any to do it.

I’m working on a series, a magical journey based on Tarot card imagery. My Tool, My Treasure is part of it. I’ve only got a hazy idea of where I’m going. Writing this rough draft clears more of the path to that destination. I need the bones, the framework of the overall story before I flesh it out.

Everything I’ve read and listened encourages me to think long term. To have a long term plan. Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest is a major part of that long term plan.

Readers don’t like to wait too long for the next part of a story. I’ve already taken more time than many of them would like. I still think it would be better to release Stealing Myself From Shadows when they won’t have to wait too long for The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, A Godling for Your Thoughts?, My Tool, My Treasure, Blades of Thought, and My Cusps Runneth Over afterwards.

Yes, I have that many books planned. Originally the first book was going to be inspired by the Greater Trumps, the second by pentacles/coins/diamonds, the third by spades/swords, the fourth by wands/staffs/clubs, and the last by cups/cusps/hearts. Only I ended up with two books inspired by Greater Trump imagery. At first I thought they’d be companion books, concurrent with each other, until I realized that Stealing Myself From Shadows was the first book. All the preludes I’d posted at inspirationcauldron.wordpress.com were urging me to tell Christopher’s tale first. The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, Danyel and Tayel’s story was second.

I’m still confused by the association of swords and spades with air. I’m equally confused by wands and clubs being different faces of a similar suit, one affilated with fire. The sword feels more fire-like to me while the wand feels like air. I’m not always sure of this, especially since the wand might also be a club.

I’ve been struggling to learn about the symbolism of these cards for years, yet I still have much to learn. The crippling fear of my own ignorance slows me down in my path to self publication.

I’ve got to move forward. I’m not writing about the Tarot cards themselves. I’m writing a series of ambient fiction novels inspired by the cards.

That’s the story I want to tell, the story which needs to be told.

Best move on with it.

 

 

Nano-eve is tomorrow

“Nano-Eve is Tomorrow”

by Malik, your 2018 Nano Cheerleader

 

Nano-eve is tomorrow and all through the land the writers were waiting, ideas in-hand.

With outlines and research the Planners they sit, patiently waiting for Day One to hit.

While Pantsers are waiting for the starting bell to discover what story their mind will tell.

However they write – with desktop, phone, or pen,

one thing in common for all is the when.

On the first through the thirtieth, heed this small advice -

During Nanowrimo, never miss twice.

:)

2018 Never Miss Twice

 

Hem and Haw About NaNoWriMo

“Hem and Haw About NaNoWriMo”

A Poem by A. Catherine Noon

The Self: I have an idea for NaNo, but I don’t know about it…

Hem: Yes, write it!

Haw: No, dummy, that’s a horrible idea.

Hem: Really? I have an idea?

Haw: No, that’s not what I meant. Don’t write it.

Hem: Don’t write what?

Haw: The idea.

Hem: I thought you said there wasn’t an idea?

Haw: No, there’s no idea! No writing!

Hem: So the idea is that there’s no writing?

Haw: Oh my god, shut up!

Hem: I get it!! Write the idea about the Silence! Once upon a time…

Haw: No! Stop it! Don’t!

Hem: ~typity~ Did you say something?

A. Catherine Noon
2018 Co-Municipal Liaison, Chicago Region
National Novel Writing Month
10 Events, 7 Wins
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

Guest Post by ChiWriMo Member Jennifer Worrell – “I have to get this sentence just right.”

I have to get this sentence just right.
On the first try.
But really, I need to go back and read everything I wrote up to this point first…
…and fix all these mistakes too.

Where are all my edit-as-you-go brothas and sistas?  He-ey!  Holla!

*Slap slap slap*  This is NaNoWriMo.  You’re doing it wrong.

I can’t divorce writing and editing!  I admit it!  I go back and reread what I wrote last time because it helps me recapture my mood and tone.  And if I see a mistake, it seems pointless to take notes and revise it later.

NaNo is different.  It says to hell with conventions and honing skill and trying to write the next Great American Novel.  Instead, it begs you to do the opposite.  Your first draft will not only be garbage, it’s expected to be garbage.  If it isn’t, the other participants will hate you.  Just sayin’.

Serious writing is like going to the symphony.  You dress up in your finest and hope no one laughs at your attempt at class.  If you’re lucky, beautiful music happens along the way.  NaNo is like making mud pies in your backyard.  It’s messy, it makes no sense, and you’d be horrified if someone saw it.  It’s recess for your inner child.

It’s been said that first you should tell yourself the story.  That’s great advice for NaNo participants.  Tell it like an old coot: Ramble.  Write about it in casual terms, without the thesaurus adding flourishes to your prose.  Bore yourself with information in both senses of the word: drill it into your head, over and over, until you know every corner of your story’s world, every freckle and flaw of your characters, every color and shade of the setting.

Freewriting is your friend, and it’s just that: freeing.  Worrying about getting it perfect is a waste of precious time.  You only have 26 days left!  There’s no room for procrastination or fine tuning.  Quantity is the name of the game here.  Quality comes later.  Somewhere in that unholy mishmash, you’ll unveil a nugget or five you can polish up and worry over on December 1st.  Until then, beat it!  Go play in the dirt.

And So It Begins…

2017-10-31 Blog Pic 1

It’s All Hallow’s Eve, or as we in ChiWriMo like to call it,

The Day Before NaNo!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not actually ready.

Wha?

No, really.

But here’s what I’ve learned from NaNo’s past:

Don’t panic. All words count during NaNo.

What does this mean in my case? I’m a pantser, which means I write “by the seat of my pants.” As much as I’d like to be more of a planner, my personal process doesn’t seem to work that way. Yeah, I can plan. But when the rubber meets the road, I’m a pantser.

NaNo will start whether I’m ready or not.  Which brings me to:

You don’t have to “be ready.” You just have “to write.”

Write is a verb. As a matter of fact, it’s a nice, crunchy, active verb – and if you’ve read how-to articles related to writing, you’ve probably heard exhortations to use active verbs in your writing.

Very well.  I shall to write.

Or something like that.

But see, this leads me to my next point:

Rough drafts are Rough Drafts: equal parts “rough” and “draft.”

What happens when you order a draft beer?  (No, really, stay with me here.) The barkeep pulls the lever, after putting a glass below the spigot of course, and poof.  Beer shows up.

Writing is kind of like that. You put the paper or word processor (the glass) in front of the fingers (the spigot) and pull the lever.  It ain’t gotta be pretty; it’s just gotta be words.

Pretty soon, a rough draft becomes a draft of a novel. But don’t rush it.

It’s just the start of NaNo.  All you gotta do, wrimo, is write 1,667 words tomorrow.  You don’t even gotta write ‘em all in the same sitting.  You could write 500 here, 250 there, a thousand after that… Which, for you math-inclined folks, is actually 1,750.

See how that happens?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Okay, I didn’t say that, a really smart guy named Lao Tzu did.  But it’s true, nevertheless.  And even the longest novel begins with the first word.  And the English language, assuming that’s what you’re writing your novel with, has lots and lots of words.  And a great many of them can be used to begin sentences.

Just start.

To paraphrase the famous Nike ad, “Just do it,” just start writing.

You can DO this, wrimo.

WE can.

Write on.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

An Interview with ChiWriMo Member, Bree M. Lewandowski, Author of Under Winter Lights, Part One

I had the opportunity to interview one of our ChiWriMo members on her recent release, (well, okay, I kind of pounced on her and wouldn’t let her get away until she agreed to be interviewed).  So here, without further ado, is what we’ve all been waiting for:

Bree M Lewandowski

The ChiWriMo Interview

2016-11-25 Book CoverCWM: Which came first, writing or dance? How do they inform each other for you?

BML:  Dance definitely came first for me. It was one of those things my mom put me in because she liked dance, the same as her mother. And whether it be nature or nurture, I liked it too. A lot. And specifically Ballet. In Ballet, the dancer takes a melody and brings it to life. The invisible becomes physical and tangible. If that’s not the closest thing to real magic in this world, then I don’t know what is. Perhaps that wonder extends into my love of writing. Like Ballet, it should be impossible. When I sit down to tell a story, I lack touch, sound, taste, color. All I have are words on a blank sheet of paper. But through those words, I can take the reader to new places, introduce them to new characters and make them feel in new ways. It’s amazing!

CWM:  Your new book is Under Winter Lights: Part One. What was the inspiration for it?

BML:  There is a wonderful film from 1948 called, The Red Shoes. It is an imaginative re-telling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale and features my favorite ballerina, Moira Shearer. I can’t count how many times I have watched that movie and it made me want to take a world rarely portrayed in literature and bring it to life.

CWM: How many Parts can readers hope for?

BML:  Two. The story, as I originally conceived it, proved to be a bit too ponderous as a stand-alone novel.

CWM: How has participating in National Novel Writing Month changed your writing?

BML:  Oh my gosh, so much! Before I tried National Novel Writing Month a few years ago, my writing habits had capsized. I wanted to write, but I lacked the self-discipline to make myself sit down and flex those creative muscles. Then one day, while I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a friend mention she was doing NaNoWriMo. I asked what she was talking about. When she explained, I couldn’t shake the idea. Here was a chance to right a habit I wanted so much to reclaim. No excuses. I signed on and have not looked back. National Novel Writing Month gives writers a chance to flourish and fight for what they want most-to create. NaNoWriMo helped me take control of my sinking ship and steered me towards other writers trying to do exactly the same. And as if that wasn’t enough, I am now able to proclaim that I am a published author, a title I never once believed would be mine.

CWM: What are your plans for your dance and your writing in 2017?

BML:  Do both more and with increased creativity and efficacy. Hopefully.

CWM: Coffee or tea?

BML:  COFFEE.

CWM: Dark or milk chocolate?

BML:  Milk chocolate. But the good stuff. Not some waxy $.99 chocolate bunny from 7-Eleven.

CWM: Deep dish or thin crust?

BML:  Deep dish, please. I like my gluten.

CWM: How ’bout them Cubs, man? How do you feel about the Cubs winning the World Series?

BML:  I can’t believe it actually happened. For as long as I can remember, my father has joked about what a hopeless mess the Cubs are. When I got married,even though my husband was a die-hard fan, he admitted what a disappointment the team was. But they did it! And it’s been really nifty seeing a city rally around the Cubs. Signs everywhere, people cheering in bars together. In such a social media world where people rarely look up from their devices, it felt wonderful to come together as a community, to feel that sense of camaraderie. Go Cubs, Go!

CWM: Your profile says, “furry baby mommy.” What’s your perfect furry baby?

BML:  All of them. If I had the space and disposable amounts of income, I would have sixteen cats and seven chow chows. My ideal snuggle fluff purrs, has a blue tongue, and holds my heart on a string.


Thank you to Bree for taking the time to share a little about her writing, and her new release, with us!  Guys, she’s even got a book trailer.  How cool is that?

Blurb: The world of Ballet had always been Martina’s world, made of music and magic. But the seasons are changing and like the snow tumbling over Chicago, Martina’s music-box world is swirling.  Director of The Bellus Ballet Company, Alan Jung, can offer her luxury and fame. But Russian rebel Maraav, “a wolf with gray eyes,” has everything Martina needs.  Three hearts made of hope, flesh, and stone…  With the curtain set to rise…

Under Winter Lights: Part One

Book Trailer