So here we are again. Back at the old writing of helpful insights…
So what do I write now? I had an idea eariler but it was for a different topic or story. Should I go develop that? I am getting no where here on this project…
If those starting sentences sounded familiar you might have some experience with “writer’s block”. That old foe that plagues even the most successful of authors. Can we slay him? Maybe not, but we can seal him away again.
So first things first, what is writers block?
Well as the name implies it is a mental block that seems to have wedged itself between your mind, creativity, and your physical action of writing. This subconscious mental state can be as frustrating as it is perverse. The mental block can even affect and effect other parts of your day to day life.
In short, you desire to push your creativity and capabilities in one direction, and you receive unexpected resistance.
So what do you do to get rid of it?
Thank you for asking!
Well to get rid of it, stop pushing against it…
Not super helpful huh?
Okay, let me help by explaining more.
Your mind, my mind, and The mind, all tend to wonder.
Your mind is drifting from thinking about your project, to the conversation earlier with that one person, to the sale at the store, to how you needed more sleep, the conversation you overheard, that person that annoys you, why is there so much of that color of paint these days, how you need more sleep, what your going to eat next meal…
You see my point? You can’t focus on all that at once, so the mind is fluid and drifts around.
Step one. Take a deep breath. Let’s begin.
So first try to identify why you can’t focus. This is almost always internal (no matter how much that person clicking the pen 10 feet from you grates on your nerves). What is worrying you? Little tasks that need done? Make a short plan to deal with it, and stick to that plan.
Feel better? No? Yeah me either, so lets continue.
Next if you’re fixated on another idea, write a quick overview of it. Maybe it really is your next great idea that will change your life… Probably not, but an overview should spark the idea back up if it really is a good idea to start with.
After that doesn’t work, change your environment. A short walk, and think about the things you see or encounter (not about the project, or deadline). 10 min later, go back to the project. But instead, reread some of it, or the reread the assignment, or both.
Next, remember that thing that inspired this story? Try to. Was it a conversation, situation, or something else? If the details are fuzzy, try and reexperince it (as best you can).
Now write something. Build something in the story. Set a scene, describe a landmark, or introduce a character. Like Chris, the unhelpful troll who doesn’t understand your problems. What’s he look like? What does he sound like?
HEY! What are you doing? Is that writing you’re doing? How’d that happen?
No more writers block if you follow steps like those. All of them, and don’t skip, it’s a process. It really does work, hasn’t failed me yet.
Was this helpful? Yes or No, and let me know if you have your own process down in the comments.
Until next time. May God bless you and keep you.
I will be setting up at Old Timers day festival in Peebles, Ohio tomorrow. The festival officially kicks off late afternoon the same day. Be sure to stop by if you are in the area!
Meant to get this posted Saturday when they came in, but the new bookmarks are here!
If you find me at any of the festivals (including OTD this year) I will have these on hand to pass out!
As you can see it has the trilogy artwork and book titles on the front. On the back is my picture (from the back of the books, I really should get an updated picture for the next book release), a brief bio, list of published books and my website at the bottom.
I should have some bumper stickers to bundle with book sales, or sold separately for $1. They are still in the mail, but should be delivered by tomorrow. I will upload pictures of those once they arrive as well.
I am excited to get to meet anyone and everyone at the festival 😁
Until then, May God bless you, and please don’t feed the Jacobs
Welcome to the final installment in my Basics of writing mini series. This will be the one that strings all the others together. In other words, how to string a series of ideas together to make a story.
So you have a good idea for a book. It will have action, romance, a thrilling conflict, interesting twists, and possibly the best single climax that a book has ever had. You sit down and you know the basics we’ve covered already, Character building, world building, setting and supporting details (if you missed any of those, they are here on the blog 🙂 ). But when you sit down to start that first chapter, you freeze. You have great ideas, but no idea how to get started.
First, take a deep breath. All writers and authors have been there, so No it’s not just you. Second, in a separate document, write down all your ideas for the story, as specific and as detailed as you wish. Third, well this is where the path widens up.
There is, by far, more than one way to write a story. So lets go over a few popular ones:
Some start by making (what I call) story pages. These explain locations, characters, and conflicts that will or could take place inside your book. Once you have all these places, people, and things figured out then; you figure out where you want to start and end the story. And finally of course start typing, or writing on paper if you prefer. You can have their journey completely mapped out, add details of each location as they arrive. Your character’s struggles that will shape their growth are predetermined mostly by your plan. And you finish the way, place, and time you planed in the beginning (or a revised way, if you find things flowed a bit different when you got to actually writing the story).
Another way is to simply jump in. Build the world as you go, and develop your characters accordingly. This style typically starts at the beginning, and might only have a vague idea of where they are going; if any at all. You start Chapter 1, introduce your world or a main character, then start minor conflict; just to show where your character is right now in terms of characteristics. Send them on some type of journey in the next several chapters (doesn’t really matter what kind, emotional, physical, philosophical, a mix of them, they are all taking the character somewhere). Give them another test, to show their growth, possibility introduce the villain (if you haven’t already). Set another journey with a “battle” in the last two chapters.
Yet another way, write the final chapter first. Then go back and start at the beginning. The last chapter could have references to events that take place elsewhere in the story; be sure to pin these somewhere to remember so your flow works. You have a definite idea of where you are going, and a vague idea of how you get there. Determine how far back you wish to go, then start there and lead your character to the ending you already wrote. The growth is shown by how different you made the character in the beginning from the one at the end. The world, can be developed over time, but be sure the final setting makes sense in it.
As you can see there are many ways to write a story. These are just three common ones off the top of my head. You can of course implement any mixture of these, and completely different methods as well (I don’t know them all of course haha).
So what do I do, to write a story?
Well, my first novel that I ever completed I used my third example. Almost exclusively actually, the only additional element I eventually employed (after having 4 or so chapters written) was I wrote short paragraphs of what should/could take place in each chapter leading to my pre-written end (in order to make sure I remembered everything). The next two books in the trilogy were “started” after I had written about three fourths of the first novel. They were more “story paged” in that I wrote an overview of each book that hit all the highlights, broke out the chapters with a paragraph each, and knew what characters were being introduced and when.
By the time I started writing my second book, details had changed in what I presumed the first one would have contained (details can change in the moment). So much of my original overview wasn’t completely accurate. That was fine, I just gleaned what I could from it and wrote a new chapter breakout and started writing from there. The same happened for the third book as well. Was my extra effort to plan much of the story wasted? Absolutely not! This back and fourth created an internal feedback loop, which is something that collaboration with another author could also gain you. I was basically re-evaluating work my previous self had written with “new eyes”.
This kind of feedback is useful and many people will advise you (no matter your writing style) to find a mentor to help you develop your stories. While I do have great non-author support and feedback (my wife and my mom), the feedback I get from revisiting things I wrote a year or two a go is also valuable. Just recently I was doing this very thing with the book I have been writing, and I realized my tone and flow were all a mess. Which last week I announced was being delayed due to that. The story will still happen, but now I need to rewrite it and that is never fun. Even though that kind of exercise isn’t fun, it is helpful because your finished works will be all the better for it.
So in closing, adopt a method of writing (or combination, doesn’t have to be one I listed), seek feedback (either from people you know will give you honest feedback, or another author), and don’t be afraid to rewrite parts that don’t fit or flow right (your story deserves the best flow you can achieve. Just don’t get carried away rewriting the first chapter a dozen times without continuing the rest of the story).
That’s it for this series, I hope you all find it helpful in some way. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.
We have covered Character building, and world building so far this month. This is the third installment in the series. If you are interested in or perhaps missed the first two you can find them here:
Character Building: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/07/18/basics-of-writing-character-building/
So lets first explain what I mean when I say setting and supporting details. They do sound a lot like world building after all.
So world building is the details within the world you built. For instance, a town inside a country, inside the world you created. Setting is more of the scene in which your characters currently reside. It helps to show things like time of day, time of year, temperature around the characters, etc. These things don’t do much to the world building, they don’t tell much about the world, but do make the time spent reading more immersive and relateable.
So that is what I mean when I say setting, are supportive details any different? Kinda. Supporting details, are things like expressions, clothing, and things within the setting. So in that way yes they are basically the same. But supporting details can also include moods, mentioning of past events in case a reader didn’t read the book before, and references to events that took place off “screen”.
Ok, you explained what your talking about, but why should I care about these? They don’t sound important to the story or the plot.
Glad you brought that up. I mentioned before that it helps make your story more relatable and immersive, but that is not all. What dose it mean when you say a story is immersive anyway? Well a simple expression for it is “you get lost in the story”, or in other words you loose track of the real world around you and your mind puts you completely in the world of the book/story.
Relatable on the other hand, helps a story be immersive. You bring up things the reader has likely experienced. Simple things like being cold, anxiety, being unsure, clothes not matching or making sense on another person, etc.
If your story is immersive it will flow much better and you will have tapped into what I refer to as “the magic of a good story”. This magic is what captures the imagination of the reader, makes them loose themselves in your story. When you have tapped into this magic that is exclusive to story telling people are far quicker to praise your writing. They will tell your friends about the story, those friends might check it out, and suddenly you could have a best seller, or even just sales in the first place haha.
That magic is hard to cast, and takes a lot of practice. Not everyone can use it to its full effectiveness either, but everyone from a small fish like myself to JK Rolling herself could use with continued practice in tapping into this magic. I call it magic because while we do know what it is, and have a good idea how it works, no one really understands it yet. Stories have always had this quality, even if we go back to the verbal story telling around a campfire on the edge of a cave.
Bards, musicians, authors, public speakers, and teachers all try to use this elusive magical quality to be able to get the message into the minds of their audience. It’s importance cannot be understated, and effective use of both setting and supporting details will help you tap into this mysterious and amazing ability.
That’s all I’ve got for you all this week. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.
Last week we started this series of the Basics of Writing with world building here is a link in case you missed it: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/07/09/basics-of-writing-world-building/
This week we are diving into some of the basics of Character building. I feel like this topic doesn’t need me to explain why it is important, I mean what kind of story is it if you have poorly built characters? That isn’t to say that books haven’t been written with bad characters, but such stories tend to be forgotten. After all, your characters are (typically) who tells your story to begin with.
So, how do we build a character anyway? Well, it helps if we start with an archetype. You have many to choose from, the “everyman” to “paragon” to “mary sue” just kidding don’t use that last one. Now, please understand me here, Do Not stick to an archetype solely, or force a character to only fit in one category. Sticking too strictly to an archetype tends to make your characters boring, and stagnant. You do need to utilize them however, because if you say have a character that switches what category they fall in rapidly without good reason you will only confuse your reader. I mean, we didn’t see Frodo (everyman) turn into Gandalf (paragon/sage) in the end of the Fellowship of the ring.
So lets build a character from scratch right now.
Ok, so we are going with “everyman” in this example. It is can be a common archetype for the main character of a book. They are easy for the reader to relate to, and tend to struggle with similar things that most people struggle with. They don’t normally possess any extra ordinary skills either.
What kind of physical traits should he/she have? Well, we should probably make sure they are close to “average” maybe a little taller/shorter, a little more/less strong than their peers, and have a certain yearning to become something more than what they are now.
So lets make this a female character, who is a little taller than average, and while lacking extra strength physically she knows how to use her height to win a fight if she needs to. She has brown hair that sits just above her shoulders in length, and has a natural wave to it. She has fierce green eyes, and a thin face with a few freckles on her cheeks.
There we go. We have the appearance of a character, but that is only the beginning. Now you need to have a couple story decisions before you can do much more. For instance, is this your main protagonist? Lets say she is, what kind of character traits should she have? Well kind and loyal are both normal protagonist traits, but we don’t want to fit the mold too closely so how about we go the route of loner and suspicious of others?
We have a couple of character traits now, that’s a good start. But it doesn’t mean much without context now does it? Which is what the first part character building truly is at its core: Giving the reader background information about characters in a story over the course of many chapters. You can start your first chapter and revel your character’s appearance, and even dominant traits within the first few pages. Explaining as the story goes on what struggles they face going forward, and have already faced help the reader to understand what this character is all about.
So say about five chapters in you find out that due to the betrayal by a close family friend, she lost her younger brother to a group of bandits and doesn’t know if he is even alive. That would explain why she tends to be suspicious of others and why she tends to be a bit of a loner.
The next part of Character Building is growing your characters over the course of the story. Our green eyed protagonist is forced to work with another girl and that girl’s brother in order to proceed the plot. This makes the character uncomfortable, and forces them to adapt to new situations they have previously avoided. Being placed in uncontrollable circumstances is another trait of the “everyman” and one that is fairly universally kept.
Now you have a growing opportunity for the protagonist. They could work with others better as a result of this situation, voice their distrust which could lead to emotional growth, or even out right fail and see it as justification of their previous feelings causing them to grow more callous towards others. Growth is necessary regardless of what traits your character ends up growing into. It makes the reader gain more emotional connection to the characters, look at Harry Potter. He started something of an “everyman” and towards the end took on the mantle of “the hero”. That growth took place over several books, and countless situations. In the end he even changed archetypes (which is also okay, when there is enough supporting information for it).
You as a writer weave the story, and build the world, and the characters within it. By using effective world building, and character building you can write memorable stories for people to enjoy for generations. These are your two greatest tools as a writer. You must learn how to use them effectively if you wish to create great stories, and further yourself in the art. Of course you can also just use the information to make better creative narratives for a school assignment as well, so to each their own haha.
That is all for this week, I hope this explanation made sense to all of you.
Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.
This week in the basics of writing, we will be covering World Building. Well, world building within fiction anyway.
So what is world building?
As the name implies world building is a building of the world in which your story takes place. Setting the stage for the reader. Forging a world to get lost into.
So it’s like, the supporting details about the places the story takes place in?
Yes, and no.
World Building is far more than just a couple of lines that set the atmosphere. It does much more than just describe the difference between scenes. The goal is to make this land of fantancy feel just as impactful as the world in which you read the book from.
Which gets us to why it’s important.
Character dialogue is great inside a story. Epic conflicts, growth (physical and emotional), and accomplishments are all awesome to read. None of these and more, have any lasting impact without effective world building.
If you don’t believe that the place exists, how are consequences meaningful? Can you achieve something in your mind only? No, not really. Yet stories can make you feel accomplished, despite not really existing outside your mind. This is due to effective world building.
So we have covered the what and the why of this subject. Now let’s dive into the how.
This is something that is easy to mess up when starting to write. Books especially require well thought out world building to keep a reader hooked. This can be solved by trying to find natural ways for your story to answer some questions about itself.
Those questions could be like:
- How do people earn money in this area?
- What are common modes of transportation?
- What does the political scene look like?
- What do people eat?
- What are the species of this world?
And the list can go on forever. The point is, don’t be afraid to draw paralels and contrasts to our world. Don’t force it though, that can break emersion. For instance:
Say people can’t ride horses in this country. A poor way to explain that could be.
“It is illegal to ride a horse in this region. We’ll have to walk.”
That sentence doesn’t help develop more out of the world, rather it just places the obstacle and tells you people ride horses. A better way to do this would be:
“Riding horses in this region became illegal some time ago. It is due to the king becoming gravely injured while riding a horse as a child. It would be best if we simply walked instead”
You see the second does a few extra things (besides just increase the word count). It establishes a monarchy in the region. A passage time is implied, which builds a local history. It can be assumed that the ruler of this region is cautious, and wishes to keep his subjects safe (albeit in an overprotective way).
World Building answers questions the reader might not have known to ask. It keeps you thinking about the settings and characters within the story. These are key to keeping interest of your audience, and crafting an emersive world.
Well that’s all I have about the basics of writing when it comes to world building. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.
The KDP free book promotion ends today for The Sage of Hytrae trilogy!
Fill out the holes in your collection, or grab the whole thing before it returns to $5 a book.
Thank you to the hundreds of people who have grabbed a copy of one or more of my books. If you liked them, please consider leaving a review. Without reviews Amazon’s algorithm can’t suggest it to new people. It’s one of the major obstacles to overcome being self published.
Thanks again everyone! And remember, Don’t feed the Jacob’s.
I might not have a normal update this month, but I’ve got something better for everyone… Free books!
The entire Sage of Hytrae trilogy will be Free starting July 4th, and until July 8th. This marks the first time you can pick up the entire series for free since the series concluded late last year! This kind of deal won’t likely happen again so don’t miss out, links to each below.
Why would I give away literally every book I’ve written, so far, away for free you ask?
Well two reasons. First to hopefully gain some reviews. Without reviews on my books people don’t get them recommended to them, they don’t show up on anyone’s list of reads from amazon, and they don’t show up well on amazon search results. If I can get the books into a few thousand hands for free, my hope is at least 1% of them leave reviews. This helps me long term.
The second reason I am giving them away is to help promote summer reading. These books target a large age demographic. From late elementary to Jr high all the way up to your grandma, is an age you could enjoy these books. It is beneficial (especially in school) to read over the summer. It helps your grades at the beginning of the next school year plus keeps you entertained during down time through the summer.
A couple things people have told me in person about the book (which I wish had been left as reviews online haha):
“Easy to pick up, hard to put down” – Young adult
“I don’t normally read this sort of thing, but I honestly enjoyed it a lot” – somebody’s Grandma
So my hope is to get some copies out there one way or another. Don’t miss out to get the entire adventure for the best price out there… Free!
Please note, Only the kindle ebook’s are free during this time frame. It would be quite difficult to talk amazon into giving away paperbacks haha.
I’m happy to say that progress is being made on the newest book, as well as the new banner for the site!
I have a bit of editing to do on the banner, but it should be live in the next week or two. (Update: Its up now haha)
As for the current book in progress; some new scheduling of my time should get progress going more consistently on all my writing projects! So look forward to some new details in the coming weeks and months as it begins to really take shape!
Last month we looked at creativity in a number of blog posts. This month the plan is to cover two or three new topics. One of which will be: Disappointment is always a good thing. An odd statement I know, don’t worry we’ll look more into it soon.
That’s all the news I’ve got for now. So until next time, and remember don’t feed the Jacobs
I have been giving my next project a lot of thought this month. Among my ideas were some projects I started back in December of last year (and some even older than that). It has not been easy to choose which project to work on next. Despite this difficulty I have decided a plan of action, and I do have some details to share!
I’m happy to announce that the next book I am working on will be an all new tale with a pleasant mix of Science Fiction, and Fantasy. An exhilarating story that mixes science and magic, in ways that might challenge the way you look at the two. This stand alone Novel will place you, the reader, into the story and whisk you away on a journey that will be hard to forget!
You might be thinking: Hey, The Sage of Hytrae trilogy had some Science fiction elements in it too, what makes this different? I would say that trilogy focused more on the fantasy side of the story, but don’t worry we’ll be getting back to Hytrae eventually.
So what other details can I share? Well, I obviously don’t have a release date, I haven’t been writing this one very long after all. But I can tell you that my plan is for this book to be out by the end of summer (if all goes according to plan that is). I’m excited to share more as it develops over the next couple months!
I’m hoping to get the website updates, banner, artwork, etc. done this month as well so hopefully we’ll have something a little more fitting for a multi series/genre/novel author blog page.
Until next time, and don’t feed the Jacobs!