Snoculf Snollitrot

Where do you get ideas for naming characters you write? It’s fairly straight forward to use standard names you hear in the day to day world around you. Have you ever created a name, something never heard before? I think the names in science fiction and fantasy are interesting, the names created out of thin air. They say something about the writer, the culture the writer lives in and knows.

I came up with a character name which I may never use. But it sounds pretty good. I read it on a package of cheese flavoured chips, the French name (because we have English and French on packaging here in Canada).

Snoculf Snollitrot

Snollitrot alone is a pretty great name for some kind of character. I picture a secondary character in a Lord of the Rings fantasy. But, to keep things interesting I’d really like to use it as the name of the leading man in a paranormal romance. I can just hear him asking the love of his life to marry him and become Mrs. Snollitrot. Who could turn down such an offer?

Write a Themed Niche Blog

You want to start a blog, something new and fresh that will keep you inspired to write it and bring in lots of people to read it. I still see a lot of people starting to blog and covering the same old road-weary topics like blogging and marketing and combinations of those. It’s a mistake. Few people have enough real credentials to claim to be experts in either blogging or online marketing, both are still too new and change too quickly. (Yes, there are some experts and authorities and those who get fresh ideas, but most are regurgitating content shamelessly). Why put yourself in that pack when you can choose something far more interesting that really suits you!

Go for a niche blog in the real spirit of a niche blog. Start by evaluating your interests. Write a list of things you love, things you like and things you have been doing or thinking about lately.

I did this and came up with:

Holidays/ events, traditions with recipes, crafts, etc.
Pagan/ Wiccan/ spiritual topics.
Green living compared to old pioneer and etc. ideas.
Armageddon, science fiction ideas.
Urban and rural exploration.
Women in history.
Canadian history.
Folk tales, fairy tales and the paranormal.
Old things, vintage, antiques.
Arts and crafts from the past.
Local history and societies/ groups.
Survivalist theories.
Living off the grid.
Old words and phrases.

Then I narrowed it down to three topics from those: Holidays, Spirituality and Environmental. I didn’t really want to blog about any of those three, each seemed to be a topic I would like short term but then feel boxed in by later on.

When I looked at my list again I realized that everything on my list connected with history in some way. I love history, think it is one of the very under rated things we have. There are some blogs about history, the history of an area or a selection of people. But, they seem kind of stuck in a rut and are only of interest to a limited readership. I wanted a wider appeal while staying true to myself and feeling I have a free range of ideas and inspiration to write about.

So, I came up with the Green Living History blog. It is live now but still being poked and prodded along. I still need to add tags and categories for instance, maintenance work before much posting and promoting can really begin.

Anyway, if you try this you can find a niche of your own. Not a limited niche like history for a certain area or a blog about knitting or a blog about some other smaller, limited niche. Try to expand and find a themed niche rather than a topical niche.

If you love knitting consider more than just knitting. What are other things knitters like: holidays, history, vintage patterns… yes, those are kind of easy to guess. If you are a knitter you know more in depth interests and niche topics from your own list of interests and experiences. You can have a blog which started with the idea of knitting and ends up being a themed niche which appeals to knitters and a lot of others who fit into the niche but may not actually knit themselves.

I don’t know if my idea for theme niches versus topical niches is clear. I hope so. I think this is something that can really grow. A theme niche has room to grow, to expand and evolve. A theme niche blogger will need to keep a good list of topical niche blogs for ideas and resources, they are your resource. But, a theme niche blogger goes that bit farther, into offshoots, side trips and even the odd daydream.

Let me know if you start a theme niche blog. I’d like to see what others come up with once they start making a list of everything and then sort it down to one niche. I once wrote for a site called BackWash where the tagline was “The Internet by Personality”. I think this was an idea that should have worked. But, it can work for you, with some planning, some thought and some invention.

My Interview at WhoHub

Interview with: Laura Brown [thatgrrl]

WRITING

What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I don’t remember what I first read. The books that haunt me from childhood are ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson and one about a ghost named Miranda. I began to write as a kid, as soon as I was able to form sentences. I’ve kept journals I wrote since I was 4 years old. My family were the first to read what I wrote.

What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
Right now I am reading a lot of paranormal romance, urban fantasy. I’ve given myself the goal of writing one for Harlequin, one of their series. But it is not available to be read anywhere. My daily posts about writing and such are on http://wordgrrls.com

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Chaos, basically. Right now I’m working on the 500 word plan. Write 500 a day then stop, even in the middle of a sentence and don’t get back to it until the next day.

What type of reading inspires you to write?
Anything that has strong writing, the kind that you get so deep into you forget you’re reading something written at all. It just seems to be taking on a life of it’s own. I also really like reading something that doesn’t forget life is funny, crazy and should never be taken so seriously that we smother ourselves with the weight of it all. Great ideas and new things inspire me to write, I write every day.

What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
A beginning, a middle and an end. Which is why poetry is so over my head most of the time.

What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
It doesn’t matter. The writing itself makes more of an impression on me. Some people can’t pull of the basic plan of showing not telling. That is what spoils a story for me.

What well known writers do you admire most?
Those who have published a second time, gotten the first done and then had the balls to do it a second time and do it well. Shirley Jackson will always be special to me.

What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
They must be imperfect. Mine evolve as I write the story. I have to go back and fix things to make sense when I’m finally done.

Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
No! My brain tries to work faster than my mouth and I get it all bungled up.

Deep down inside, who do you write for?
The future. No one person just people in time ahead of where I am now. That could be a day ahead, a year ahead, just the future sort of anonymous and in need of filling.

Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
I’ve written when I needed to. But I kept that to myself or have long since deleted it, never to be seen again.

Does reader feed-back help you?
I get some feedback in my blog. It’s nice but too unscheduled and unpredictable to be there when I really need it.

Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I came in second place in an erotic writing competition once. I don’t enter competitions really.

Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
No. Who do you really trust that much?

Do you believe you have already found “your voice” or is that something one is always searching for?
My voice changes as I grow and evolve and learn new things.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I’m not very good at that part.

What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Coffee.

Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I never use my printer. I love having the computer to write with, especially since word processing became so simple and effective.

What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
Twitter is the one I most like these days.

What has been your experience with publishers?
Good. I haven’t had a book out yet but I’ve only been rejected once by a publisher actually. I’m sure the ratio will change once I start trying to find a place for my book.

What are you working on now?
Weblogs and sites, copywriting. A paranormal romance/ urban fantasy as a longer term goal.

What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Keep your old copy for sentimental reasons and to have a clean copy of your original. Then rewrite them all based on who you are now and things you have learned.

What is Your Writing Process?

Quoted from Whatever, in an interview with Kelley Armstrong (Canadian paranormal fiction writer). This is her reply when asked about her writing process and how it may have changed over the years she has been writing her books.

After seventeen books and countless pieces of short fiction, my process still changes. I think now, though, that it’s “shaking things up” rather than refining the process. Sometimes I’ll have a ten page outline. Sometimes, I’ll have two paragraphs. I’ll write long-hand for two books in a row, then switch to direct keyboarding for the next two. But the one thing I must have in place is the main character. Nothing works without that. If it’s a new character, she’ll be refined over the course of the book, but when I sit down to start page one, I need to feel I know this person well enough to slip into her skin.

If There is No Magic?

A question I read on Scribatious, a blog by Faith Van Horne:

Is it fantasy if there is no magic?

I hadn’t thought of this before. But, is magic what makes one story fantasy and another story science fiction? If so, where does the whole paranormal genre fall?

Maybe the first thing to do is decide what magic is? Is magic a unicorn horn or is it tarot cards? Magic, to me, isn’t something you can easily pin down. I think of Pagan magic and Earth Witchery and then there is the fantastical magic which includes things I’ve never seen before and would be surprised to ever see. I think fantasy is the type of magic I don’t expect to find in the real world.

So, I think it isn’t fantasy if there isn’t magic. What do you think, and why?

The New Paranormal Fiction is a Mystery

I’ve been noticing an interesting fiction genre, paranormal mysteries. Yes, a mystery with a ghost or haunted house is not new. Most of the Pagan/ paranormal mysteries begin with a stereotypical young woman who is a Witch and owns a bookstore/ sells antiques. It would be nice if they could stray away a little from that standard. But, it is somewhere for the paranormal writers to go as the current genre begins to age a bit and dig itself into a well worn rut.

I can see a paranormal mystery where the main character is a middle aged woman, an Earth Witch, administrative assistant by day and jewel thief by night, who just happens to be lurking in a closet when someone is murdered in the next room. She heard a few sounds, a voice and puts together a theory of what happened. But, she can’t go to the police to explain what she heard to the people investigating the murder. It would be possible to just forget the whole thing… but, how can she when karma is such a bitch?!!

I like it the blending of the paranormal women’s fiction with the mystery genre. I have always enjoyed mystery stories and science fiction/ urban fantasy. I’d like to see some of the well known paranormal fiction writers like Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, Genna Showalter, Kresley Cole, Mary Janice Davidson, Michelle Rowen and Katie MacAlister get into this.

Here are authors which I have found, so far. I am going to look for more next time I am browsing at the secondhand bookstore (still the best place to find old titles in any series you are reading).

Shirely Damsgaard

Madelyn Alt

Yasmin Galenorn

If you know of others, leave a name and link (if you have a Twitter or blog link for the author) in comments here.

Word Stringing and Pinning Them Down

Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences. – Anne McCaffrey

I’m working on fiction. I have the idea but it keeps changing and I keep coming up with different main characters. The more I try to nail down a plan the more I get sidetracked by other plans. I need a sticking point. Yet, in writing fiction there are a lack of rules when it comes to keeping on track and sticking to the point. A work of fiction can wander into all kinds of territory. Add in the paranormal or science fiction and… the variety of elements are endless. Which planet do you want to start on?

Self discipline and I are not very well acquainted. How do you pin down an idea and keep it? Maybe I should look up butterfly collecting, they tend to be good at pinning things down…

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” – Winston Churchill

Princess Tatianna, My Dazzling Secret Alter Ego

Once in a while I imagine myself as the beautiful, slender, fashionable and diamond wearing Princess Tatianna. Coming from some old world type of family, whether they be Russian royalty or something touching on the paranormal like Fey creatures. Although my sisters may be the typical blondes, I am always brunette. (Stay true to your roots, even if it eventually has to come out of a bottle). Princess Tatianna, not always her name, has an extensive glamourous and gorgeous wardrobe. The woman must have a palace just for all the clothes I have imagined her wearing at this point.

Quite often she is going to elaborate functions. Quite often she wears someone like Keanu Reeves on her arm because he has the important things like good looks, strength (an assortment of strengths, possibly a few mystic powers thrown in too) and conversation. Quite often Princess Tatianna is in the midst of some adventure. Not always a dramatic adventure. Once she found a lost crown belonging to the dragons, once she led a revolution for the trolls who were being badly picked on, another time she was running away from the dastardly villain on an amazing horse built like a Clydesdale but able to run like it was lighter than air and yet another time she merely had to make polite social conversation at a party thrown in her honour.

I have a lot of fun being Princess Tatianna. She is great company on a long bus ride or while waiting for laundry at the laundry mat. Do you have your own Princess Tatianna, whatever her name and description? Write a little about her. Don’t be shy or feel too silly. Everyone should have a dazzling secret identity/ alter ego. Only, why be secret when you can brag about it a little?

Who Will Win the UnDeath Match?

So far the werewolves are ahead. They’ve outlasted zombies, vampires and angels. (Are angels undead?)

I would have to pick dragons as their next challenger. No, dragons are not undead. But, I can’t seriously see angels as undead. I think that opens the options up to other immortal creatures and a dragon can give a werewolf a pretty serious bad day, any day. As much as I love Kelley Armstrong‘s werewolf characters (especially Elena) I know they can’t walk away from a match against dragons. Though, I will admire them just for having the courage to show up.

There are too few books in the paranormal chick lit genre which include dragons. The last one I liked is a bit old now and not so likely to be found on the shelves at your local Chapters. Have you read Stephanie Rowe’s Immortally Sexy series? Looks like it ended at the fourth book a couple of years ago. A shame, we need more dragons in paranormal fiction. Especially the kind which can ferociously battle werewolves while enjoying a full, passionate life full of chocolate, good books, adventure and treasure hunting!

What do you think? Which undead/ immortal creature do you pick as the ultimate winner in the UnDeath Match? Check in with them on Twitter too.

How to Comment on Writing

Being part of a writing group is a good thing. It gives you an extra push to achieve your goals and you can get some feedback about your writing from people who are writing themselves. But, being the person giving the feedback is not easy. Whether you review someon’e writing as part of a group or one on one for a friend you want to balance the criticism with positive comments. Keeping it constructive and yet honest too. For those brave enough to give constructive feedback here are some points to discuss about the writing you are reviewing.

Purpose: Is the purpose of the writing coming through clearly? Whether the writing is about cleaning your toothbrush, finding a shark in your bathtub or the latest best selling paranormal romance… does the purpose of the story/ article come through clearly?

Voice: Does the story/ article have a personality? Not every piece of writing will have a lot of personality but there should be a voice behind it, you should feel the writer gave something of themselves to the work. You should feel the writer was interested in the topic they wrote or the story they told.

Audience: Does it have appeal to the reader? Will the reader appreciate the story or article, does it speak to the reader or just drone on as if the writer was talking to themselves? Are all the reader’s questions answered?

Content: Has the writer included enough information, relevant information? Does the story have a beginning, middle and an ending?

Form: Are the ideas or the story plot presented logically so the reader can follow the information and easily move from one point to the next? Even a time travel story needs to have plot the reader can follow and understand clearly.

Writing Devices: Does the story include dialogue, personal experience, specific details, descriptions, or creative comparisons? Non fiction can use interviews as a device as well. A little variety is a good thing.

Purpose Again: Does the writing make the reader react in some way? Smile, laugh out loud, get angry, feel sad, or relief at solving a problem, when you finish the writing is there an overall reaction you are left with, something to make you remember the writing? What is especially good about the writing?