Walking and writing with my new DIY Traveler’s Journal (tutorial from @sealemon) and I’ve also started a new journal for this week’s writing activity for #TWSO: daily #freewriting for at least ten minutes. I picked this journal from @maydesigns because I thought the inspirational quote on the cover was a perfect description of how freewriting can be a creative and inspiring journey to discovering one’s writerly self. #amwriting #writersgonnawrite #writer #writing #journals #journaling #walking #inspiration#creativity #traveljournal #maybooks #eldoradohikingtrail
Out for my morning walk. Lots of inspiration and ideas have come to me while walking and listening to Writing Excuses podcasts. Brought my research and school notebooks with me to write down my thoughts. Something about writing while surrounded by nature really inspires creativity. #amwriting #writer #writersgonnawrite #walk #creativity #inspiration #TWSO #mynovel
I have been quiet about my progress with my novel because I had to switch gears. My last update about writing was Plot Structure: The Writer’s Journey and Using a Plot Board. It was such a fantastic development with my novel. I’m a visual learner, so it helped tremendously to see my plot points organized and how they fit in the three-Act, eight sequence structure. The natural progression from there was to start writing. I reached 3,000 words and I finally had something to share in Novel Boot Camp for the critique session! It was a thrilling, nerve-wracking experience. I knew my story was intriguing and different which is what my critique partners noted. I felt validated that I have a story that others would be interested in reading.
The other part of the critique was how unclear the setting was. It was unclear to me and it was coming through in my writing too.
So, with this feedback, I decided to really dig in to my setting. This is what I know about my story and character so far:
• My main character is female and half Asian.
• There is a class system.
• My main character is also a warrior.
• The magical aspect of the story is rooted in nature.
• It’s a YA Fantasy.
• I didn’t want the typical Medieval European inspired fantasy setting.
There are other details about my story and character that I already know, but since this post is about world building, these are the details that I will be addressing in this post. (Can’t give the whole story away yet!)
World building is a daunting task especially if you’ve never done it before. My previous writing experience was in Contemporary Romance/New Adult Romance. Fantasy is a genre that I’ve recently started reading (by recently, I mean within the last three years). I also am aware that reading and writing fantasy are two different skills. I realized that I needed to do a little market research on successful YA Fantasy stories specifically stories with Asian settings or non-traditional Medieval European settings.
There were several titles that caught my attention because the settings were unusual (to me).
• Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Here’s my review at WordPress and at Goodreads. What I liked about the world building in this book was how the author uses Russian culture as an inspiration for her setting and blends it together with her story.
• The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow. Volume 1 by Fuymi Ono: Here’s the book decription on Goodreads. I found this book on a list of Fantasy stories with an Asian setting. (Yes, there was a list like that on Goodreads!) I thought it was a manga, but was pleased to discover it’s prose. It reminds of my Inuyasha anime/manga phase. I loved how the author sent her character from modern Japan to a fantasy world–very much like Alice following the rabbit down the hole and ending up in Wonderland. This story is very reminiscent of that except the main character Yuko fights demons.
• Stormdancer: The Lotus War Book One by Jay Kristoff: Here’s the book description on Goodreads. I actually heard about this book on the podcast Writing Excuses episode 10:18: Build an Entire World? Are You Crazy? Japanese steampunk? Say no more! Actually, I’m also enjoying how the author treated the class system in his story. There are four clans and one guild. Each clan is represented by a spiritual animal. The main clan in this story is the Kitsune (fox) clan. The female main character Yukiko is from the Kitsune clan. The author has an incredible vision of an industrialized Japan where the environment is also failing which he captures so well through the perspective of Yukiko.
• The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: Description on Goodreads. I felt like my journey for creating my novel was putting me on a path to encounter N.K. Jemisin and her novels. Her name kept coming up in my research for days and I kept putting her books aside because they weren’t YA and as you can see from above, I already had quite a few titles to read (still reading). But then Rick Riordan did a review on The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and he mentioned an interview the author did for The Guardian. It was a light bulb/Las Vegas bulb moment. I wasn’t alone in my vision and she articulated exactly how I was feeling:
“I don’t really understand why so many fantasy writers choose to focus on worlds that just seem strangely denuded. But to them I guess it doesn’t seem strange. And I guess that’s their privilege. It isn’t mine.”
I love the Fantasy genre. I enjoy being taken away to new worlds and encountering unique characters. After reading N.K. Jemisin’s interview, it really made me think about the kind of Fantasy stories I’m drawn too. The few titles I mentioned in this post are just a few, but some authors that stick out in my mind in YA Fantasy are Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, Kristin Cashore, and Marissa Meyer. All of them have strong female heroines in their stories in settings that challenge the traditional fantasy setting of Medieval Europe. My first exposure to Adult Fantasy was Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. I still get flaily and teary eyed when I think about those stories. Mistborn was the perfect beginning for me to get into Fantasy because in an otherwise hero white-male dominated genre, it gave me a point of reference that not all Fantasy books were like that and to give the genre a chance.
Then I started reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Yeine Darr is a mixed race young woman of low social standing who has been named as one of the heirs to the kingdom. Her mother was of royal lineage, but abdicated her position because she loved her father. YES PLEASE. I swear this book is like the kindred spirt/soul mate of the story I want to write.
With examples of Fantasy books as part of my research for world building, I began the task of organizing the details for my story’s setting. This took a lot of time for me to figure out because I had never taken on such an endeavor before. It was frustrating, exhausting, and most of all incredible! When I thought I had hit a dead end or my vision for the story seemed ridiculous, I’d discover a detail that would reassure and even validate my intuition for my story’s setting. It’s such an amazing feeling to have that validation and realize you’re on the right path.
My next post will be on organizing my world building research. Have I mentioned how much I love learning? There will be a presentation board, sticky notes, and washi tape involved.
A sneak peek at my next post’s topic. I know you’re all anxious to see my attempts at world building and creating a map. Don’t worry, guys, my drawing skills are awful, so you will not enjoy my attempt at drawing a map.
Here’s the next post World Building Part 2: Story Research.
So, what does an aspiring writer do while waiting for the writing program to start in the fall?
I go to Novel Boot Camp!
Novel Boot Camp is a free summer workshop run by Ellen Brock. Last year was the first workshop and I’m excited to participate again this year. Novel Bootcamp includes lectures on various aspects of writing and also publishing. There’s also a workshop aspect where writers can share their work and receive feedback.
The first lecture is How to Be Creative.
I wasn’t sure what I would get out of this lecture because I felt I had no problems being creative. (Insert laugh here.) Then after finishing the lecture, I realized two things: I don’t know anything and I need to listen.
This part resonated with me:
You don’t need inspiration to be creative.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that the electric burst of excited inspiration we’ve all grown to love is often detrimental to the creative process. Instead of getting to work, we wait around for that “creative high” we love so much.
This myth of creative inspiration, of getting it right the first time, of putting pen to paper and developing a masterpiece without utilizing a plan, making a mistake, or hitting a roadblock is not just mythical, it’s damaging. It sends one of two messages to aspiring writers:
- I can’t do this because I don’t have creative inspiration.
- I can do this because I have creative inspiration.
Neither of these messages are true. Both messages limit writers by encouraging the belief that when you just get your magical amazing burst of inspiration, all the pieces will fall into place.
Well, they won’t.
For the rest of the lecture, go here.
I love writing, but I have a process. I’m creative, but I’m also grounded in rules and technique. I love exploring “what if” situations, but I have to map out where I’m going. Ellen’s lecture taught me that creativity can be cultivated into a skill. Her lecture also helped me accept that I’m not a pantser, but a plotter–and that’s okay! I’ve also learned that inspiration isn’t necessary to creativity.
Last summer, I had an idea for a novel, but when I tried plotting it out, it wasn’t right for me at the time. I had writer’s block for several months and I started doubting myself because I couldn’t find inspiration. When I started my copyediting certification program, I was hit with an idea and the character was so strong and vocal that I was dying to get her down on paper. Of course, I couldn’t because I had to focus on school, or at least that’s what I told myself at the time. Inspiration seems to strike me whenever it seems impossible for me to set aside time to do something with it.
Now that I’ve decided to be a writer, I have to build in time to be creative. It’s an ongoing process–allowing my creativity to flow. It sounds a little hokey, but it’s very fitting for where I am in my journey. For so long I’ve always downplayed my interest in writing as just a hobby. Now that I’ve acknowledged that I am a writer, I’m learning how to bring that part of me out more by giving it more time to create.
Ellen’s lecture really helped to validate that even if I don’t have inspiration, if I’m writing–writing anything–it’s still creating.