Novel Progress Update

I have officially passed 18,000 words! I am creeping up to the quarter-point of my goal.

I am less than 200 words away from finishing my fourth chapter.

I suppose this doesn't mean much to you, though; you don't know anything about my novel yet. Soon I will give you some details about the work, so please look forward to that.

Fantasy World Building: The Land

Welcome to the first installment of my Fantasy World Building series of posts. The posts will include: World History; Beliefs; Research; Maps (in-depth). More ideas for the series may crop up, and as always I am open to suggestions. So, without any further ado:

Before your characters begin their journey you will need a world ready for them to explore. This doesn't mean you will need to know every nook and cranny of the land, but it helps immensely when you know exactly where your chracters are, and where it is they're going.

For starters, you will want the country within which your characters will be travelling. If the journey spans a number of countries, you should include those as well. The best way I've found to visualise my world is to draw a map. It doesn't matter whether it looks good or bad, all that matters is that you can see where your characters are or where they are headed. Below is an image of the map I drew for my latest work-in-progress, Aundes Aura.

I have called this world Válkia. I believe there are more details to the world, particularly in Arlea, but considering my characters have only just left their home town, I don't think it is absolutely vital that I have those details right now. For the names of my towns and my countries, you may or may not have noticed that I have borrowed heavily from other languages in my quest for interesting names. The name "Tierra" comes from the Spanish word for "earth". The name "Arlea" bears a resemblance to the French "Arles". "Robarre" is what I came up with when thinking about the French pronunciation of "Robert", being "Robear". The capital "Parthon" comes from the French words "by" and "tuna", mashed together. The name of the southern country comes from the phrase "Du thon" meaning "some tuna". Finally, "Mengerikaan" in Arlea borrows from the Indonesion word for "horrible", being "mengerikan".

This is all very random, no? The roots of these names are meaningless to the point of ridiculousness (tuna, anyone?), but they help me name the places nonetheless. Who says that the names have to mean anything?

As you can see, though, each country has a different linguistic influence. Duthonne is very French driven, and Arlea so far has island-like influences, almost like a tribal language. Meira is far more subtle with its names. One town I have not found the right name for is "Anoria", near the mountain range, but for now at least I have something to work with.

Even more so than what I have drawn on my own map, there need to be differences in your landscape to make it feel more realistic and keep it a little interesting. I think my map may be geographically incorrect, but I doubt that matters much. Which is more important? The story? Or whether or not that mountain range can be there due to the placement of tectonic plates on the world? Like I said, the aim here is to keep the adventure interesting. Grassy fields are nice, but if the whole book were set in grassy fields... well, it hurts me inside to imagine that, both as a reader and a writer.

Within or between the countries you have created, you will want some conflict. This outer conflict will be very much related to your World History, and having one will help you with the other. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, there are the creatures of Mordor who act in the favour of Sauron. Pure Evil. But beyond that, there are the men of the east. Then, stacked on top of that, there are the quarrels between the allied countries, between their own countries, and between their own houses or clans.

Maybe in your own novel, there are two equally fit candidates for the Throne--how do we decide who will be King? Someone assassinates one of the canditates, perhaps? But this is not in any way related to the main characters, it is simply backstory to the world, or history. See how thinking of the outer conflict has brought us to create some history, some reality to this world?

Finally, what do you want your villages, castles or landscapes to look like? Will you go early medieval with small, stone houses? In my case, I have chosen an Elizabethan style for my world. To make sure I understood what I was talking about, I did some research to find out how the buildings were made. Elizabethan buildings had a squared wooden frame, between which was woven a "wattle" (sticks and twigs). A white plaster called "daub" was then spread over the "wattle" to create the walls.

Sometimes it is easier to "see" what your village or area looks like if you draw it. I rarely draw, but here is something I tried out recently.
Welcome to Emareus, the capital city of Meira. This here is the village district. If you follow that path through the forest, you will come to Emareus Castle, where the Queen resides. Of course, there aren't just nine houses in the entire village.

And that concludes my first entry into the Fantasy World Building series. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Regaining momentum!

Momentum is important. I know when I lose momentum, my story stops flowing. In the months of October and November, I lost my momentum. Below I will list the word counts I reached for each of the months since I have started wring "Aundes Aura".

September - 7,904 words.
October     - 846 words
November  - 1,341 words

And finally,

December (so far) - 2,635

Something incredible happened in the very beginning: I just knew exactly what to write. In that first month I wrote a phenomenal number of words when compared to the other months. There are still about ten days left in December, so by then I should have more than 5,000 words done for the month. I'm feeling great!

My daily goals are small, but it seems they have been effective. My goal is simply to write at least 200 words a day. It keeps the story moving, and having a goal helps me move on through the more difficult sections. The number of words I do usually sits somewhere between 200 words and 1,000 words. For example, last night I wrote 600 words.

Unfortunately, I have not written at all on some days of this month. I am completely determined to reach my goal, and thus I have begun a "word debt chart". Every time I miss a day, I write down the date on the list, and next to it 200 words. Every time I write 200 words more than I needed to to reach my goal for that day, I can cross that date off the list, having "paid back the debt". It is difficult to explain, so I will give an example.

On the 14th, the 17th and the 19th I didn't write anything at all. Those dates went onto my debt chart. Last night I wrote 600 words. That is 400 words more than my 200 word goal. So I cross off the 200 words from the 19th, and the 200 words from the 17th. Then that's 400 words of debt paid back. This will help me reach my 200-words-a-day goal.

Am I crazy? Have I gone too far?

A question for my followers.

It is evident that I will at some point run out of ideas for posts on the technicalities of writing. After that, this blog will be much more based on my novel and other musings. My question for you is: What would you like from me?

1. To continue posting on the technicalities of writing until I run out of ideas, and then move on to my story.

2. To begin revealing things about my novel now, and interchangably write about writing.

3. To write mostly about the novel, and every now and again write about writing.

In addition, I invite you to add any ideas for what you would like to see from me. Character interviews? More on publishing? More about random things? Synonyms for overused words? Anything that comes to you, please put it in the comments.

Thank you for reading my blog!

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Need further motivation? Have a carrot.

So, today I decided I wanted to write four hundred words, but I was really lacking the motivation to do it. "What's the point in writing four hundred words? It's only a tenth of a chapter, and what's the use in that?" But if I didn't write those four hundred words, tomorrow I would have to write that and more to make up for my lack of writing today.

But that won't be happening. Not this time. Four hundred words isn't much, but I am a slow writer. This is because as I write, I read over to make sure it makes sense, and if it doesn't I edit it until it reads easily. (In fact I just edited that last sentence, and I am already up to the next paragraph.) People who have read my work have said that it is a good first draft. It's good to know the time I put in isn't being wasted.

Anyway, today I wrote exactly four hundred words, and I wouldn't have followed through with it if I hadn't used this motivational method. I found three motivational methods for writers here, and the one I used today was the second one: "The Carrot". The premise of "The Carrot" is that you have a reward which you will only recieve if you reach your goal.

So, I walked down to the milkbar in the 39oC heat, bought two packets of Skittles, came home, put them in the fridge and told myself I wouldn't get to eat the Skittles unless I reached my four hundred word goal. Of course, the reward will need to be something you actually want, or you won't really be motivated to work for it. With the reward in mind, I sat down and wrote for just over three hours (yes, three). Then, my goal having been reached, I took my reward from the fridge and devoured it contentedly.

Mission accomplished.

How to keep yourself writing

We write because we love it. Many of us write because we can't not write, because we have so many ideas floating around inside our heads that if we don't write them down we will explode. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration.
But for some of us it is difficult to keep on writing, especially when we have so many other commitments. Most of us have jobs, and when we aren't working many of us have children to look after, or work that needs to be done around the house. Some of us are still going to school or University. It is difficult to find the time to write amongst all our other commitments.
But don't fret. If you can write just one hundred words a day, you can write a novel. In fact, in two years you would have a seventy thousand word novel.
What's important is to keep your story moving. I have discovered one rule that keeps me writing, and keeps me feeling that my story is going somewhere. This rule is to write every day. It doesn't matter whether you write one sentence or a whole chapter. If you sit down and write something each day, your story will be at least a little closer to the end. If you are finding it difficult to push through a particular section, see if you can write one hundred words a day for a week. After the seventh day, you will have written seven hundred words in total. A hundred words a day may sound a bit lazy to some people, but if you hadn't done that--if you hadn't written anything at all in that week--that would be seven hundred words more you would have to write.
There is one other thing that helps me to keep writing, and this I have learned this from Garth Nix. On his website he said that each time he finished a chapter, he would write the date he finished it, the word count on that chapter and the total word count on the novel.
He says: "The word count is a relatively small thing, but it has an amazing psychological effect, particularly as more and more chapters appear and the word total grows. I find it very encouraging, particularly in the first third of the book, which always seems to take me half the time."
In the picture for this blog you will see my own adaptation of his technique. Every day I sit down and aim to write at least two hundred words a day. Every time I finish writing, I enter the date and the total word count on the novel. Then, whenever I look at my log I can see that, yes, my novel is actually getting somewhere. Now I say I aim for two hundred words. Sometimes I go under that, but more often I write three hundred words. When I am inspired, when I suddenly have a burst of ideas, I can write between four hundred and eight hundred words. Then there are the rare but valuable times when I write over a thousand words.
For those of you who can easily write a thousand words or a chapter in a sitting, you are incredibly fortunate, and if you have the time to do so, writing a thousand words a day would get your novel finished very quickly.
For me, though, I write rather slowly. So when I see the word count on my novel rising, it gives me hope that I will be able to finish it. For such a large project, it's important that I have that hope.
Even though I am a slow writer, looking at my log I can see that over the month of September I wrote approximately eight thousand words. Seeing that statistic boosts my faith in myself, that just maybe I might be able to reach my 70,000 to 100,000 word goal.
Garth Nix has written a great piece on how to get a novel written, and it can be found here.

Word count does matter

People will tell you that the word count of your novels doesn't matter. This is largely true. While you're writing, you should be worrying about the writing and not the word count. However, what it doesn't say is that word count really matters if you seriously want to be published.

So, as I didn't wish to recieve any nasty surprises (namely my novel being too short), I sent queries out to a number of agents in Australia where I live. I am writing an epic fantasy novel, and I believe it is also young adult. So here's what went down with the agency, Australian Literary Management:
When it is ready, I plan to submit my manuscript to Australian Literary Management. I was wondering what kind of range would be acceptable as far as word count for an Epic Fantasy novel.Also, when stating the word count should I be using the word count that Microsoft Word tells me? If not, which method should I use?

Dear Ryan,

A word count given by microsoft word is fine. As a rough guide fantasy novels can be anywhere in the range of 100, 000 words to roughly 160,000 words.

Best regards, Karen Colston
That was where I started to get worried, because for my novel I am aiming for between 70,000 and 100,000.
Thank you for your prompt reply. If the novel was marketed as a YA Fantasy, would 70,000 to 100,000 words be too short? I may have to integrate the idea of the sequel to reach the 100,000-160,000 mark, which is entirely possible, but I'd prefer not to.

Dear Ryan,

Yes that word count would be fine for the YA market, unfortunately though, we are not looking at any YA material at this time. A list of literary agents can be found on the Australian Literary Agent's Assoc website;

Best regards,

Karen Colston

So there we go. This agency wouldn't accept my manuscript if it wasn't within the range they were looking for. As you can see, the number of words that are needed are dependent on the genre you are writing. A young adult, epic fantasy novel would have a word count of 70,000 to 100,000, as opposed to a general fantasy which would be 100,000 to 160,000 words.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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