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Sequels1

  • T The Definition of Strength

    Sabra has been searching for his answer for three long years, and at long last he may have found it. It just might not be the answer he expects.  · Viking ZX
    26,557 words · 2,395 views  ·  165  ·  0  · 

Featured In13

More Stories6

  • T The Definition of Strength

    Sabra has been searching for his answer for three long years, and at long last he may have found it. It just might not be the answer he expects.
    26,557 words · 2,395 views  ·  165  ·  0
  • T Why Me?

    It's been four days since Tirek, and Discord is finally feeling back to being his old self. Or is he?
    7,287 words · 3,357 views  ·  517  ·  8
  • T The Dusk Guard: Rise

    Steel Song is a lot of things. Earth pony. Uncle. Professional bodyguard. Retired. So when he receives a mysterious package from Princess Luna, he's understandably apprehensive. Things are never as they seem in Equestria...
    274,966 words · 3,537 views  ·  404  ·  6
  • E Old Habits

    It's Nova's first official day off, and he's decided to spend it in one place he knows he can relax: the Canterlot Bazaar. But when he has an unexpected encounter with a face from his past, can he face the pony he once was?
    19,698 words · 846 views  ·  165  ·  1
  • E Hearth's Warming Cookies

    It's Hearth's Warming season and that means presents, caroling and—of course—making Hearth's Warming Cookies. But just what makes the cookies so important, anyway? Young Jammer Song is about to find out....
    7,054 words · 551 views  ·  94  ·  0
  • T Emoticon

    It's Steel Song's day off, and he's got plans. Plans of the relaxed sort. Plans that most definitely do not involve a strange, brown earth pony who acts like he's known Steel for years. And why is he running, anyway?
    10,199 words · 787 views  ·  143  ·  2

Blog Posts213

  • Friday
    Sick Week

    So, what's new?

    Don't get sick, that's what. I managed to pick up a sore throat that messed up my voice and then turned into a cough that was not only keeping me up till the wee hours of the morning, it was giving me a nice headache and bit of grogginess that made work all but impossible for a day or two. So I'm about 12,000 words behind on my quota. I basically almost lost a week. Boo.

    On the plus side, a new Smash Brothers came out, and I did manage to use the sick time not only to do some worldbuilding for Shadow of an Empire, but to get the last bit of editing done for both for "Remembrance" and ... well, I'm still working on a title for Dawn's side story. Anyway, point is they're BOTH going up soon. All I need now are the covers. As soon as I get those, we'll have a release date. Which will be pretty cool, because I'll be releasing BOTH stories simultaneously, and then uploading the chapters according to a timetable. I'm trying something a little new since both of them take place at the same time. Maybe I can grab two feature box spots at once!

    Anyway, just a quick update. Trying not to cough up my lungs. Sound like I'm going through puberty again. Enjoying the new Smash brothers.

    Oh, and in case you missed it, the newest bonus chapter of Arad's "Mente Materia" is out, and it might seem a little ... familiar to you guys.

    6 comments · 32 views
  • Tuesday
    Being a Better Writer: Character Descriptions

    Late update today. I'm battling a sore throat, so I'm trying give myself the sleep I need to drive it back. My voice sounds weird right now.

    Anyway, today's topic inspired was by a bit of a firestorm I saw with regards to a story that someone had written. And while the firestorm in question will definitely not be the subject of today's post, nor do I wish to get into that as it is an entirely separate topic, today's topic will brush up against it for a brief moment.

    Today, I'm going to talk about character descriptions.


    Character descriptions are something that every new writer struggles with, and often many somewhat experienced writers as well. Because when we get right down to it, character descriptions fall into one of those writing areas where no one teaches you how to do it, and everyone assumes that it's fairly straightforward and to the point. "You shouldn't need to be taught about this," the public mindset seems to say. "How hard can it be? You just describe your character!"

    Well, as it turns out, and as most new writers discover when they put their pencil to paper for the first time, describing your characters is much more difficult than it appears. It's hard. Many writers, in a fit of panic (or without realizing it), will simply throw out a narrated description of basic looks—eye color, hair, figure, etc—and then just jump right into the story, without realizing how jarring and unappealing to the reader such a description is. Only upon going back do most of them realize how truly unappealing it is for a story to start off with "Bob was asian, five-foot-three-inches, with brown hair and brown eyes ... etc, etc." Only when they do realize how unappealing it is does the real panic set in, when they realize that they have no idea how to do any differently.

    Which is why I'm talking about this today. Because to many readers, how you describe a character can be a make-or-break point for the entire book. Young writers don't quite realize how important something as simple as a character description can be to the readers acceptance of a work. Plenty a time has been the moment when a reader has picked up a book, read only a few paragraphs, run across a poor character description, and put the book back on the shelf. Why? Because even if they don't consciously realize it, a poor character description is often an indicator of other problems with the book, be they weakness of story, poor attention to detail, or just in general a low quality read.

    Yikes. Suddenly the amount and care for detail you put into your character description takes on a whole new level of importance, doesn't it? It might not just be something that's a nice part of your work, it's something that the very reading of your work may hinge upon.

    Kind of makes it important to get right.

    So, where do you start? How do you go about making sure that your character description is going to be something that keeps your reader flipping through your pages? Well, to start, you're going to need to know a few things about your work.

    Perspective and Voice

    First of all, what perspective is your book going to be using? You need to decide this and acknowledge it in your introduction of the character. Because trust me, very few things will make your reader put a book away like a narrative that jumps to an entirely different style or out of character to introduce someone. If you're going to write in first-person limited, you cannot jump to third person omniscient to introduce your character and then back (especially if you stay in character, with one very specific case exemption). It's horridly jarring.

    In other words, keep your introduction in perspective. This might seem obvious, but then again, I've seen numerous novice stories where the writers have made just this mistake without even realizing it. So first person stories stay first person with their character descriptions, and third-person stories stay in third person. Omniscient stays omniscient, limited stays limited. More on this in a bit when we get to the how.

    But before that, we also need to discuss voice. Voice is make-or-break with character description, though it matters more if your perspective is first person, as it's much more apparent. What is voice? Voice is how the character talks, speaks, and acts, and combined with perspective, breaking voice can be incredibly jarring to the reader. Let me show you want I mean through an example. Here we're going with a first-person, omniscient, direct perspective (ie, the character is telling you a story) and I'm going to give him a voice. Now let's watch what happens when I break that voice.

    It was a cold morning that morning, like most mornings were back then. Cold. Dark. Wet as a piss-poor boot on a rainy day. I still don't know why I bothered to get out of bed that morning. Maybe I was tired of rolling my face into that mildewed pillow over and over again. Maybe I though it'd be worth thinking about going to work. Or maybe I just wanted a nice, stiff, hot cup of coffee. Although in all likelihood, I'd only get one of those things. The local coffee shop was a right pisser when it came down to it: always busy, always getting your order wrong, and never happy to see you unless you were some well dressed posh boot-licker with a stick shoved up his backside. And that wasn't me.

    I'm nothing ordinary. I look very normal. I'm five-foot-two inches; so short. I have dark hair, usually unkempt, and I'm not particularly fit. I have blue eyes, a larger nose, and a bit of stubble around my strong jawline. I'm a bit on the thin side, and I'm usually listening to a pair of headphones.

    Ow, that actually took some work to force myself to write. But did you catch how jarring that was? We start off with this very well-defined voice, things are going great and then POW! The voice is gone. Instead we have bland, everyman description. We could have cut those details straight out of a character file and simply changed the perspective and tense to match the prior paragraph.

    And all I really did was change the voice. With the voice gone, the character's unique attitudes and perspectives either vanished or became flat. Would the one telling the story in the first paragraph have used the phrase "pair of headphones" or "a larger nose?" Not at all! He would have said something like "My nose has always been a bit on a ugly side, sort of like a squashed Mr. Potato Head has taken up residence on my face." Or something like that.

    While this may seem obvious, you'd probably be surprised how many new writers make this mistake, or worse, published writers. I've cringed at many a book (some of which were otherwise fine) where every time a new character came onto the scene the author would break perspective, character/narrator voice, or both when describing them. Crud, I've read one book (and this is a published, bestseller, more's the tragedy) where every new character completely broke perspective and voice, going from third-person limited to what was almost a direct, to-the-reader paragraph written by the author. It was bad. really bad. Then again, so was the rest of the book.

    So, keep perspective and voice in mind when it comes time to describe a character. Reread your descriptions later—out loud, if needed—to see if they flow with the rest of the story around it. If necessary, make changes. But of course, before you get started, here's something else to think about when it comes to character descriptions.

    Reason, Scene, and View

    Originally, view was going to be a different perspective form, but I figured that'd be too confusing. So we're going to go with Scene, View, and Reason. Because as important as perspective and voice is, there are other things to consider when introducing a character.

    Reason is the first thing you should consider. It's AMAZING how many authors mess this up, but let's think about this for a moment. Say your character is in a firefight. Things are exploding, the situation looks bleak—and suddenly a new character bursts onto the scene to save the day, midst gunfire and explosions. Now, how much reason at all does the main character have to give a detailed description of the character in question, considering they're trying not to die? Very little. And in such a scene, certain details are going to be much more important to the character than others.

    Even outside of limited perspective writing, don't make the mistake of thinking you can just drop all the details on the reader. Pacing (something I should do a post on later) is incredibly valuable. Dropping a full description of a character into the middle of a climactic scene? That pulls the reader out of the scene and ruins the pacing. So every time you think to describe a new character, don't hesitate to ask what reason you have for doing so in the first place, and what reason you have for writing the details that you do. Please, do not be the author who pulls us out of a story talking about the new female characters cup size and tight, slap-worthy behind. You'd better have a darn good reason for that aside from personal appeal.

    Even with your viewpoint character, you need reason. A lot of newbie writers just make the assumption that a character who's starring in the story should be described immediately, but that's not really true. How many of you wake up and then do a mental catalog of all your features? Maybe if you're a narcissist, or if you've got a reason to care about one particular aspect or feature for some reason, then yes, you'd think about it. But how many of you do a daily rundown?

    You don't. Reason. Sure, you can hand-wave it, but that pulls the reader out. Give your character a reason (such as the "looking in a mirror" character description trope. Or better yet, just let the description come naturally with the elements of the story.

    Now scene. I touched on that above, but I'll go a bit further here. Remember your scene and the context therein, not just with regards to emotion and events, but things in the room. It's a bit jarring for characters to react in random ways ith character descriptions that aren't contextually related to the scene around them. Use the scene to let your character's looks be known. For example, when Steel dunks his head in the water barrel at the beginning of Rise, the resulting splash and description of him cooling off also describes much of his body type and coloration, easing the reader into a natural picture of what he looked like (this was also something that a certain well-known fic site's pre-reader disliked to an incredible degree—they actually demanded I dump it and just start with a generic, straight description, one more reason I view them as about as competent as a bunch of kindergartners when it comes to fic work).

    Lastly, view. This is a subtext of voice, really. Basically, what it asks is that when you describe a character, make sure that you're doing it not just from the proper perspective, but with their view. What's important to the describer? What details would they notice that are both important to them and also useful to the reader? This can really flavor your book, your characters, and most often seems to become a stumbling point when a writer writes a gender aside from their own. I think we can all see where that goes.

    Point is, your character's viewpoints matter when describing someone. They might see things through a lens that isn't fully correct, or view motivations falsely. This is entirely fair, and we shouldn't be afraid to pull punches when this happens. Even if the reader disagrees with an observation a character makes, it tells them something about both characters.

    The Details Themselves

    All right, we've talked about everything else up to this point to set the stage. Now let's talk about the nitty-gritty specifics with all that other stuff in context.

    First of all, you don't need to describe everything. Remember the lessons above, but also take in this bit of wisdom: A perfectly visualized character often is not a perfectly described one. This is because like characters, we often remember and fixate on specific details rather than the whole. A mark of clever, experienced writing often is that when describing characters, the author will give you just enough specific details to get your attention, but let you fill in the rest of the details. Let us take Harry Potter, for instance. What specific details were we given about Snape? If you're like me and most readers, you remember that he was thin, gaunt perhaps, and that he had greasy hair and a greasy nose. JK Rowling didn't dump many other details (at least, not that I recall right away). She gave you just enough to envision him, and envision him you did.

    Stephen King is a master of this. Go ahead, reread one of his works and pay attention to the details he offers. They often aren't many, no more than three or four details that interestingly enough can paint a very broad picture. And yet when reading his books, readers praise the descriptive characters and how well they can envision them. Despite the fact that he's only giving you a few direct details.

    Tricky, tricky, Mr. King. You knew exactly what you were doing too. Giving the reader the details that were important to know or to visualize, and then letting all the other blanks just sort of fill themselves in.

    Perspective matters again here, as different characters will observe different things, and here's where we get to the elephant in the room: race.

    Unfortunately, race (in America) has become a sort of screwed up version of "The game." Basically, if you mention it, everyone loses.

    Uh-oh. It's sad, but true. There is literally no good way to tackle this that will please everyone. In a country where you can be publicly blasted for "not being (insert race here) enough" and race and culture have become so hopelessly intertwined as to be indistinguishable to most people, character race is basically an open invitation for an absolute crap-storm of rage to descend on your work.

    And nobody wants that. So how do you dodge it?

    First, never—and I mean never—unless you have a very character-specific point to raise, begin a character description with "they were -insert race here-." Seriously, do not. That is the path of the crap-storm, because the moment you use any sort of racial identifier, anyone who at all has any baggage attached to whatever identifying word you used will unzip it and set up shop. And every word thereafter will be, unfortunately, picked through by that entire baggage set's personal handlers, who will interrogate everything you write to look for "problems."

    Yeah, seeing the issue here? Don't use racial terms.

    Do you even need to? Well, actually ... No. No you don't. First of all, culture and "race" are two distinct things but slammed together in the modern world climate. And you don't need to directly address either in order to describe a character.

    Think back to what I said about Stephen King's writing, or Rowling. Drop the details people need. You don't have to say "I'm Hawaiian." You can have a character mention that they grew up in Laie, Hawaii. Or you can observe that they have tanned, tough skin.

    Truth is, you can dodge a lot of the controversy just by giving the important details. Maybe hair color. Or the tint of their skin. And none of these are declarative statements of race. It's tricky, but in the modern climate, it's something you just have to deal with.

    Summary

    In conclusion, when describing characters, think about perspective and voice. Then bring that into play with the reasons, the scene, and the view of the character. Then, lastly, consider which details are important. Do this, paint the scene, and walk away with a character description so natural it'll seem like your reader really knows them.

    Good luck! See you all next week!

    12 comments · 160 views
  • 1w, 16h
    Whoa. Correia Takes the SJW Movement to Task

    I know, I've been quiet lately. I've been trying to finish up the first draft of Colony (which is in the final act now, finally), and that's kept me pretty busy. Hunter's story is getting its editing pass this weekend (so ... tomorrow, actually, dang) and will start going up not long after I work out the cover details.


    Anyway, before I get back to work, I just wanted to share a link. This link, specifically. It's from Larry Correia's blog, and it's sort of a summation, a "why I do this," of sorts. And it tackles, of all things, the SJW insanity and how it's been hurting writing.

    Thing is, I feel he makes some incredibly good point. Correia's been fighting this fight for a while, and he's never been shy to point how foolish an opponent's arguments are. With this post, he summed up just about everything distubing that's been permeating the writing culture, and in a very blunt, to the point sort of way.

    Warning: It IS blunt. But sometimes bluntness is needed, and in this case, I happen to think Correia is entirely correct.

    I'd prefer not to kick off a firestorm of controversy in the comments, and with this one, that's a possibility. So in the event you want to weigh in on this, remember the rules of my comment threads, please: No cursing. Be considerate and well-spoken. Don't resort to nastiness, bile, or any of the other typical, less-astute methods of conversation seen around the internet.

    Anyway, I need to get back to work! This book needs to get done!

    13 comments · 189 views
  • 1w, 4d
    Being a Better Writer: Character Versus Plot

    Character Versus Plot: What's Driving Your Story?

    Today we're going to talk about a lesser-considered aspect of storytelling and writing. I've bandied about with a few different introductions to the concept and summarily discarded all of them, so instead I'm just going to jump right in and tackle things.

    Effectively—and understand that I am for the purposes of today's concept, grossly simplifying—every story out there, written, told, or seen, rides a sliding scale into one of two categories: They're either a character-driven piece or a plot-driven piece. That's it. These are your options, and understanding which your story is going to be, as well as more importantly, how to achieve this, will play a part in determining the success of your work.

    Okay, some of you are nodding, some of you are confused, a few are wondering where I'm going with this. So let's look into this one a little more deeply.


    We'll start with the underlying concept behind these two options: All stories are driven by something. Now, when I say that a story is driven by something, I don't mean the antagonist, or the inciting incident, or even the growth of the character. What I'm referring to by driven is the events or actions by which the story is pulled forward.

    Bilbo leaving Frodo the ring, for example, is something that pulls the story forward. Harry receiving a letter from Hogwarts. Vin being noticed by Kelsier. A story is, in it's purest, simplified form, a collection of events. But something inside the story must happen in order for these events to occur. Cause and effect.

    What I'm discussing today is the method by which the story moves forward. Is it character-derived, or plot-derived?

    I see a few of you are still scratching your heads. The simplest, easiest way to describe this idea is to ask what causes the story to continue forward. Is it the characters? Or is it some force outside of the characters? Is the story moving forward because of my characters actions and choices, or is it moving forward because it needed to move forward so something happened?

    Both types of story exist (and, as one would expect, most stories are a blend of both, weighted in one direction or the other). Thriller novels, for example, tend to be driven more often by their plots than by their characters. Events that move the story forward are "Acts of God" or other higher powers which exist for the sole purpose of dragging the characters along from scene to scene. The writer wants a car chase to happen? So he funnels the story towards that end, placing the characters in a situation where there is only one possible answer—car chase.

    Stories that focus more on character, however, take a different route. Rather than plot-based forces pulling the story forward, these are stories in which the characters choices are what move things along. Rather than outside occurrences forcing a character to engage in a car chase, this will be a story where the character is given valid options and then chooses to engage in the car chase.

    Now, I'm certain a lot of you are simply nodding and thinking to yourselves "Well of course, that makes sense." And yes, it does. But now we need to consider this question: Which one are you writing?

    Because to tell the truth, while your works will undoubtedly have both aspects included in them, each story you write is going to gravitate towards one type or the other, and understanding and acknowledging this in advance will make your work much easier.

    For example, take my work on Colony. Colony is a much less character driven work than my last few stories, and it took me a while to realize it (downside of pantsing the story). Much of the major events that control the story are driven not by the characters choices (with a few exceptions), but rather by outside, plot-driven forces. None of the character's ever wanted to go to the colony world of Pisces, for example. Instead, they're press ganged into it by a powerful megacorportation who, while offering them a substantial monetary reward for carrying out their task, really doesn't give them much in the way of a choice. The other options are so unappealing that it's very clear to the characters and the reader that the only recourse is to accept the job and head for Pisces.

    There are other events like this in Colony. But for Colony as a story, that's all right, because the focus isn't the character driven elements, it's how the characters react to being thrown into these situation, and the situations themselves.

    Another example of a plot driving: Everyone's favorite, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry never chooses to be a wizard and start receiving letters from Hogwarts. The letters simply start arriving one day. And then, characters with power outside of Harry's control determine the reaction (taking the letters away, nailing the letterbox shut, and fleeing to a cabin on an island). Much of the driving force of The Sorcerer's Stone for the first "act," in fact, is not character based at all. Harry is pretty much dragged along up until the setting has been introduced, at which point he starts making conscious choices of his own (befriending Ron, for instance, or helping take down a troll).

    Come to think of it, The Sorcerer's Stone is probably a pretty good example of the two types and how to juggle them, as the first half of the story is mostly Harry being dragged from point to point, while only after he acclimates to the new setting does he really start making choices that move the story forward.

    Knowing which particular style your story is going to serve as the primary driving force of your story before you start will do wonders for how your story turns out. For instance, if you want to write a deep, character focused drama with introspective characters coming to grips with their own lives ... and then create a story that is entirely driven by the plot and not by that character, the entire theme and objective of your work will be weakened. Likewise, if you want to write a rollicking action story that never stops, but choose to have much of the story driven by the characters, you're putting a lot of weight on those characters to make the choices that will continually keep the action-ball rolling. Sure, it can be done, but it's not easy, especially if those characters start trying to make decisions that would pull away the action-adventure focus.

    What does this mean for you? Well, that you need to make a choice before you get too far into any work about exactly which driving force you want to be in control of your story, and then think ahead to how that's going to change your story. Can you count on your characters to make certain decisions to move the story in the right direction? Or will you need an exterior force, a plot moment, to take control and move things forward? How will it change your story to have such a force interacting with your characters? Will it put the reader's focus in the wrong area? Will it detract from the theme or moral of your work? A story in which the theme or moral is that we always have a choice, for example, would be rendered ironic by a story in which everything was driven entirely by the plot rather than the characters.

    Conscious acknowledgment of what drives our story can be a powerful tool in forming a strong narrative and focus for the reader. For example, look at the storyline of Bioshock. One of Bioshock's greatest storytelling powers was it's insistence that the character was the one making the decisions, that the character was driving the story. Only when you reached the twist did you learn that everything the character had gone through was in fact, not a character decision, but the plot dragging the character along and convincing him that their choices were their own when they were not. Bioshock's creators built up a powerful narrative based on what observers perceived was a character-driven story, and then brutally tore that construct away at a critical moment while showing the player how willing they had been to believe that it was all character rather than something orchestrated by others. Bioshock ended up being recommended in Time magazine partially because of how well its story juggled these two concepts.

    But that's pretty advanced use of such a tool, so don't expect to do something like that right away. In fact, don't expect to need to. What you should expect is to understand what drives the story of your own works. When you sit down at a keyboard or with a pen, ask yourself: What is going to drive this story? Are my characters subject to the whims of the plot? Do they choose their own path? How will this affect the story I have in mind? Will it make it less exciting? More exciting? Should I consider changing my focus between the two in order to strengthen an aspect or theme of my work?

    As with many things, either of these alone will not make or break your work. However, a firm understanding of how they work and what they can do for you will, with time, be part of the polish that grants your work an extra shine of quality.

    Good luck with your writing, and I'll see you all next week.

    12 comments · 184 views
  • 2w, 4d
    Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast Number 1!

    I'm back! Woo! Man, does it feel good to by typing away at a keyboard this morning!

    So, as I was looking over my list of topics this weekend, I came to a realization: A large part of what I had left to do from my list was mostly there because I'd never felt they would make a sufficient topic on their own. And the few topics that hadn't been left for that reason had been left untouched for their own reasons; namely, that they were better-suited to one-on-one Q&A sessions, truly massive and in depth writings, or very specific break-downs.

    "This is no good," I thought to myself. How can I manage to tackle all of these small issues in separate posts? They'd be small. To the point. Too abrupt. But I still wanted to cover them.

    Which is why today I'm doing the first ever Micro-Blast! Why do separate posts for each one of these small topics or general ideas, when I can do several of them in one, quick, condensed post! This way, I can clean out the last of my old list before moving on to a whole new range of topics. So, without further ado, let us begin with the blasting!


    What Kind of Plot Structures Should I Use?

    So, this is one of those questions that I mentioned being better for an audience or a one-on-one session. Because there's a lot about your plot structure that's up to you. Clearly, you want to contain the classic points everyone learned about in grade school: introduction, inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution.

    But that's a really, really broad brush to "paint" with. In truth, there are a multitude of plot structures out there to chose from (three act, four act, five act, no acts). The first thing you should probably consider when sitting down to put together a story is what sort of story it is. What genre is it? What sort of things do you want to focus on with your story? What perspective will be using? Each of these choices will make some plot structures more appealing than others, and help narrow your focus. A comedy, for instance, is typically not going to have "rising action" in the same what that an action film is. They'll be similar, but different, and that's going to affect the structure of your plot.

    If you're looking for help with this, I have two bits of advice. The first would be to familiarize yourself with various types of plot structures, specifically those types of stories that you want to write. Study and recognize how those stories structure their plots with their major points, and what causes rising action or a resolution. Again, while the concepts may be similar, the execution will be different, and you'll want to plan accordingly.

    The other bit of advice is not to forget the basics. We can go on all day about particular types of plot structures, but that's getting pretty precise, and usually is something more often done by those who talk a lot about writing ... but not as much by those who actually do the writing. Inciting incidents, calamities, setbacks, climax ... these aren't just tried and true methods—they're core components of every story in one way or another. If you're worried about a plot structure, don't feel reluctant to go back to the most basic concepts and line everything up that way. Figure out where your points fit on the classic structure. Don't worry to much about the nitty-gritty, but rather spend your energy and focus on the core components. Then, as you write, you'll find yourself gravitating and discovering the specific techniques that work for you and your readers to make your story the best it can be.

    What's the Proper Way to Map a Writing Process?

    I've had this question a lot, from a large variety of novice writers. A lot of these young writers read various author blogs (like mine), go to panels at cons, or even see/hear interviews with their favorite authors and have noticed that there seem to be a lot of different ways to write a book. And each of them wants to know: what's the proper way? What should I do to map out my story?

    The answer is, fortunately—but slightly unhelpfully—whatever works.

    Because there's no set "correct" way to set out to write a book. There's the way that works for you, and every author is going to have a slightly different take. Some authors sit down and simply start typing, making it all up as they go along. Others meticulously plan out every detail in advance. Others dialogue their book while hiking in the mountains and then transcribe it later (no joke).

    Which one works for you? Well, that's up to you to find out. But I have noticed in my years of writing that most writing authors do tends to follow one of two primary styles, with one of two sub-types beneath it.

    The two primary styles are what are known as "planning" and "pantsing" among authors, and each author tends to sit somewhere along a scale between the two end points. Planning is pretty obvious: These are the authors that sit down beforehand and plan everything out. They outline the plot. They write up character files. They draw/develop a map of the world, a history, the governments, the religion, the tech base and who discovered it. These are authors who prepare enough supplemental material for their book that they could probably write a second book just doing a detailed rundown of the world they've built. These may be fantasy or sci-fi worlds, but they might not be. You can do a ridiculous amount of planning for even a modern-day work. And research. Lots of research.

    The other type is the "pantser," or discovery writer. Called such because they write "by the seat of their pants," with no plan or outline, they just go. These are writers who sit down and just start typing. They have no idea who the villain is, or even who the main character is. They just write. And write. And as they write, they pick the pieces and parts that they like and build a story.

    Now, a quick subnote before I move on. Planning writers often have fewer editing drafts than a discovery writer. A planning writer, by virtue of the design, will often only go through 4-5 drafts, maybe 6-7 at most. A discovery writer, on the other hand, will find themselves (at least, from the discovery authors I've spoken with and listened to) doing 10 or more drafts for a single book, as there can be a meandering focus that narrows as the author writes the story into its niche.

    Now, all authors tend to fall one way or the other on this scale. I tend to fall far more on the planning side of things, though I've learned this by consciously forcing myself to experiment with discovery writing in its more pure forms. Figuring out where your talents and strengths lie will only help you as a writer. Some people are simply discovery writers, willing to do the extra drafts and just discover a story in a bunch of words.  This is where they'll find enjoyment and their creative spark. Others (like myself) are planners, diving deep into the lore of the world in advance and building complex structures that need to be carefully guided.

    Now, I spoke of writing sub-types. The two are linear and non-linear. And both types of writers can do either.

    Linear writing, as one would expect, is writing straight from point A to point B. Start to finish. No jumping around, You write a scene when you get to it.

    Non-linear writing, on the other hand, is piecemeal. The author jumps around, writing scenes and events out of order and filling in the blanks as they go. The end result is still linear to the reader, but the author may have written the ending first, and then worked backwards. This sounds crazy, but authors of both types do it. Robert Jordan, who was definitely a planner, wrote his series this way, which is why even in the final books (which, due to Jordan's death, were written by another author) have portions of scenes and even whole chapters written by Jordan though he was long-since dead when the book came out. Discovery authors do this too. One discovery author I heard talked about how he wrote his books backwards—he did the ending first, then went backwards, writing chapter by chapter to reach the beginning. He was a thriller writer too.

    Which one is for you? That's for you to decide. Experiment. Try a few things. See what you think, what works.

    What's the Big Deal About Grammar?

    Well, it's what makes a story understandable. I understand that for many young writers grammar is a bit of a sore spot, because grammar is tricky, but having proper grammar can make or break a story. Grammar gets even trickier when you get to varying international standards between nations and whatnot, but here's the core of it.

    Proper, consistent, grammar matters. I say consistent because whatever style of grammar you choose, you must be both correct and constant with that style. If you're going to use the word "grey" instead of "gray" be consistent about it. If you're going to follow a style and rule of grammar, do so.

    Now, are there instances where grammar rules are meant to be broken? Of course. But before you can use that excuse, buddy, you've got to have a pretty good understanding of why. So learn your grammar.

    Wait, Break Grammar Rules? You Can Do That?

    Yes, actually. In fact, you'd be surprised how often it happens in the novels you read. Usually, the culprit is dialogue, but there are rare cases where material not in dialogue may need to be—for whatever reason—incorrect. Regardless, this is definitely an advanced concept, and one that must be carefully utilized. Why? Well, because there are instances where correct grammar can actually hinder or confuse a reader. And I can speak from personal experience that the better option is to go for the incorrect option that looks correct but isn't. But in order to make that distinction, you're going to need two things: Experience and a solid knowledge of the correct form. Make sure you have those first.

    But What About Grammar Purists?

    To be blunt: They can shove it. People that go around spouting nonsense like "everything MUST conform to the Chicago 15th style manual or it is not a good story!" are usually about as valuable to a writer as a large mole on the side of their nose. In other words, they're noticeable, but provide no useful service and are generally unlikable to the extreme. They can sit in their little pretend towers all day looking down at "the rabble," but in the end, only literati pay them any intention. They devalue a story by basing its worth on the wrong things. And since we're on the topic ...

    Critics

    Look, here's the thing to understand about critics. There are two kinds: professional critics, which most self-described critics think they are, and amateur critics, which most of them actually are.

    A good critic is useful. But most of the time, critics tend to be amateur and fall into one of two categories. There are those that enjoy tearing down others for their amusement, such as one self-described "reviewer" I found who in over 40 reviews of his that I read did not have a single nice thing to say. Not one. It was all just what "sucked" about these works and why no one should bother with them. The other is the kind best described in this parable:

    Once there was a man who enjoyed taking evening walks around his neighborhood. He particularly looked forward to walking past his neighbor’s house. This neighbor kept his lawn perfectly manicured, flowers always in bloom, the trees healthy and shady. It was obvious that the neighbor made every effort to have a beautiful lawn.

    But one day as the man was walking past his neighbor’s house, he noticed in the middle of this beautiful lawn a single, enormous, yellow dandelion weed.

    It looked so out of place that it surprised him. Why didn’t his neighbor pull it out? Couldn’t he see it? Didn’t he know that the dandelion could cast seeds that could give root to dozens of additional weeds?

    This solitary dandelion bothered him beyond description, and he wanted to do something about it. Should he just pluck it out? Or spray it with weed killer? Perhaps if he went under cover of night, he could remove it secretly.

    These thoughts totally occupied his mind as he walked toward his own home. He entered his house without even glancing at his own front yard—which was blanketed with hundreds of yellow dandelions.

    Source

    There's valid criticism and then there's criticism that's best not to dwell on because it won't help. One of the challenges of being a writer will be figuring out who's honestly trying to help you ... and who's just being a smug, "I'm smarter than you," self-aggrandizer.

    Any Advice for General Fanfic Writing?

    —Know your source material backwards and forwards.

    —Understand what purpose your fic will serve. Is it serious? Goofy? Will it only appeal to a certain bit of the fanbase? A large portion?

    —Be prepared for mixed responses. Your story will likely conform and be at odds with any number of personal fans headcanons. There will be feedback.

    —Write your story yourself.

    —In the same vein, don't write others stories for them. Or modify your stories to appease someone else's headcanon.

    —Be polite. Yes, there are plenty of anonymous Jackholes out there. Don't be one. At the same time, be firm in supporting your work. It's yours.

    —Fanfic is a good place to experiment with ideas and concepts...

    —...but only after you've become proficient in the basics of writing. You can try new things, but don't set out to make your first ever written work more complex than Primer.

    —Don't write fanfic for money or attention. Both are nice (and one's illegal), but do it because you love the universe you're writing in.

    —Grow thick skin. There will always be at least one person who simply despises your work with a passion, and would rather you die as a writer or a person than keep writing. They'll find you, sadly. So grow some armor.

    —Have fun. Seriousness aside, this is fanfiction. You can treat it like serious business, but you can also just do it for kicks.

    What Does My Day Writing Look Like?

    This one really isn't much to answer. I get up around eight, work out, have breakfast and a shower, do some morning scripture study, and then settle down at my keyboard. I write from around 10 in the morning to around 7-8 at night, sometimes with a half-hour break for lunch. The daily quota is a minimum of 3000 words, but 4000 is preferred, and anything past that is gravy bonus. Sometimes I'll be on a roll and hit 5000 by two or three. Other times I'm up until 10 or 11 writing. It's a slog, sure, but I like it, and the payoff is worth it.

    But if you were hoping for glamour, well ... lol, I'd be boring to watch.

    PHEW! All right, that's it for my first Micro-Blast! I hope you all enjoyed this quick summary of stuff, and now it's back to writing for me! Oh! And before I forget, to those of you who have enjoyed Dead Silver and One Drink, you can now find both of them at Goodreads in addition to Amazon. The Goodreads advantage is that you can simply click once to leave a rating on either of them, without needing to write a review. If you've got a Goodreads account and don't mind helping out, a quick click can help make the difference in how many new readers decide to pick up my books!

    Have a great week, everyone!

    4 comments · 172 views
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Source

It's been three days since the Equestrian Railway Service incident, and things are finally calming down in the wake of the Dusk Guard's first mission. Three days since the team's first mission came to a successful conclusion. Three days since their first trial by fire. Three days since Sky Bolt, the team's engineer, had everything she'd created put to the test. And it all worked. Nothing went wrong.

So why can't she sleep?

First of the Side Stories to The Dusk Guard: Rise. Familiarity with Rise is not required, but recommended.

Side Stories so far:

Carry On

The Definition of Strength

Old Habits

Emoticon

The Saga has a TV Tropes page!

"This is 100% Approved by Twilight's Library!"

Added to Twilight's Library 12/5/2013

Featured on Canterlot's Finest

Special Thanks to Sonorus, Jorlem, Sinister Voice, Templar22 and Bronze Aegis for their help pre-reading and editing.

First Published
6th Nov 2013
Last Modified
20th Nov 2013
#1 · 54w, 13h ago · 1 · · Drift ·

The story has come out great ^^ can't wait to see the rest.

Also, holy cow! The cover art is amazing! What type of golem is that? It looks huge, like a crystal, but it doesn't look like it's made of that.  So can I assume it's one made out of metal?

#2 · 54w, 10h ago · 1 · · Drift ·

>>3462499

That is some pretty cool cover art.

#3 · 53w, 6d ago · · · Drift ·

Looking good!

#4 · 53w, 5d ago · · · Drift ·

>>3462499 >>3463219

It was the closest I could find to a metal golem with what limited resources I had. It's not actually exactly what a metal golem looks like (for instance, they don't really have heads in my mind and only the one "eye" in the chest), but it does look pretty neat, I agree!

>>3464877

Glad all of you are enjoying "Carry On" so far. This is the first time I've given a female character her own viewpoint story (as opposed to a viewpoint segment in a chapter), so it's been a real experiment.

#5 · 53w, 3d ago · 1 · · Dream ·

Congrats, Sky Bolt.  Now you just need to invent an array (or set of arrays) that can be used to enchant other arrays or crystals, and you'll have a fully fledged magitech revolution on your hooves.

(I'm sure Mint won't come for revenge on you, when she sees you getting rich off of innovations she would see as her own.  Nope, nothing to worry about...)

#6 · 52w, 2d ago · · · Awake ·

A difficult subject to talk about, especially by those who suffer it.

#7 · 52w, 1d ago · · · Awake ·

>>3518808

Do you feel I did it justice?

>>3482973

She'll never get that far, fortunately. No matter what, it will still take a unicorn to actually do the enchanting, so she's not going to go full out revolution over the course of the story. She will, however, have to deal with the ethics of her creation as the series progresses.

As far as Mint swearing revenge, well, technically Sky Bolt still came up with this, as Mint was doing it via an entire different route. Then again, Mint's unstable. I won't say anything here, you'll just have to keep reading.

#8 · 52w, 1d ago · · · Awake ·

>>3520259

I think you're off to a good start.

#9 · 51w, 6d ago · · · Dream ·

>>3482973 LOL. nope, no problem what so ever...

#10 · 51w, 6d ago · · · Awake ·

>>3520259

But theoretically, could a unicorn enchant a crystal with the spell to enchant a specific, other spell into crystals?  

#11 · 51w, 5d ago · 1 · · Awake ·

>>3531613

Well, in theory they could with a matrix of some kind, but it'd take a computer so powerful and advanced to govern the process that even we wouldn't be able to do it without perhaps some of the most advanced computers ever built working in tandem. Each crystal is unique, and part of the reason it takes so long to enchant one is that the enchantment must be done in sequence, with nearly every part of it repeated hundreds of times as it realigns the crystals structure to channel the spell. As the enchanter moves through the crystal, they have to alter their spell for each successive slice of crystal, while keeping in mind both the layers before that they've altered and what's coming. One can throw caution to wind and "brute force" it to speed, but then they expose themselves to magical feedback that can break ones sanity, damage ones body, or even cause destruction if not properly checked. An artificial system also wouldn't have the emotional ability either, as emotions are something nothing can imitate.

It's far more likely that in a few hundred years or so, someone will realize that rather than enchanting the crystals, it's easier to artificially make a crystal to be enchanted, But we won't see that happen in TDG unless the show itself shows it.

#12 · 51w, 5d ago · · · Awake ·

>>3532157

Ab, ok.  I didn't realize how complex you were making the enchanting process.  Still, more worldbuilding is always good.  :twilightsmile:

#13 · 51w, 4d ago · 1 · · Awake ·

>>3532339

There's a lot of background stuff I have in my back pocket that will probably never come up unless someone asks about it, just like most series. :pinkiesmile: But yeah, crystal enchanting is something that is best done organically, at least at this point in the series.

#14 · 50w, 6d ago · · · Awake ·

This will definitely be read by me when I'm not busy writing! :pinkiecrazy:

#16 · 49w, 4d ago · 1 · · Drift ·

Erm, that was pretty cool

I mean....well done, seriously!

You well deserve that favorite!

:pinkiecrazy:

#17 · 43w, 5d ago · 1 · · Dream ·

Post Traumatic Stress? Oh dang....

#18 · 43w, 10h ago · · · Awake ·

>>3603203

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series as well.

>>3812033

The PTSD was a tough one to tackle, but I think I did well at it. I had to do some research and whatnot, but I think it was worth it. Sky Bolt's struggle with her new job aren't over yet, as you'll see in "The Definition of Strength."

#19 · 35w, 3d ago · · · Drift ·

Nightmare after their first mission. PTSD much? Team shrink required. Lots of things on her mind.

Like how you're planning on giving characters spotlight stories.

#20 · 35w, 3d ago · · · Dream ·

Dying is a common theme in this. Wonder what Luna's up to or dealing with, if not handling probably the worst nightmare seen so far.  Really really needs to talk to someone about this. Is why shrink definitely needed. Doc is good, but this is more mental health that requires specialist.

Hunter please at least voice your concerns over to Triage.

Wait. Blade escaped? Why?

Huh, keep at this and you will invent the magic circuit.

Imminent mental breakdown warning.

#21 · 35w, 3d ago · · · Awake ·

Now Luna helps. Well, better late than never. Memory lapses? This is not good. Does the mental degradation causing Radiant to go mad have anything to do with this? Ok, maybe not Luna, if she's busy playing poker. Or maybe she just took a quick break and fixed it.

Glad to see Bolt finally talking about her problems. Small steps. Won't be seeing her completely fixed by next story, unless there's some big time skip involved.

Huh, how much medical knowledge does Triage even have? Still think that Dawn will recommend a specialist.

Enchanting worldbuilding is interesting. Wonder how this would mesh if the unicorns / Bolt makes a circuit, while at the same time electronic circuits started somewhere else.

#22 · 34w, 3d ago · 1 · · Awake ·

>>4104104

The memory lapse wasn't actually something she was suffering from in the real world, but rather the dreamstate, kind of like how you can do something one day, and then have a dream where it hasn't happened yet. Same situation. In the real world, she wouldn't be facing that scenario, but in a dream?

As far as Dawn's knowledge of psychology, she holds a capable range of education in it. In the Rangers, mental trauma isn't a surprise (after all, they deal with a lot of dangerous wildlife) and accidents happen. Hunter isn't the only one to lose friend or family in the Rangers, and Dawn has dealt with all manner of survivors guilt, PTSD, and other mental trauma as a result.

#23 · 33w, 4d ago · · · Dream ·

Um, not sure what to make there, I half expected her to wake up midway through and find that her success was a dream, but this chapter seems... rushed.  I moves forward very quickly with little cohesion, and Blade and Mint escaping?

Blade wouldn't betray her honour like that, she was beaten fair and square, contract terminated, and while she'd be exiled, it wouldn't dishonour her, whereas running from a fair cop would.

As well as Mint?  the meekest of the two sisters, granted still as smart but seriously.

Besides that, the escape, how?  I highly doubt that the princesses and guards would let such a dangerous enemy go, unless she had another teleport crystals, but since they knew she had made those wouldn't they have searched her for them.  Not to mention the delivery "Hey troops, the criminals that we spent all of our time since our first assembly trying to apprehend have just escaped and I'm only telling you about it now, also we're not pursuing them under any circumstances even in the periods not compiling gear and skills for our next op."

Okay that was a bit harsh but my point's there, a bit rushed.  However this is the first of your side stories, so maybe I'm being short-sighted.

Good so far though

Honora Imperator

Edit: Incidentally just realised that I barely said anything good, but wow, so Sky Bolt finished designs that would not only preserve the Dusk Guard Budget, but turn the entire field as a whole around?  Sweet.  Great work Sky Bolt :pinkiehappy:

#24 · 33w, 4d ago · · · Awake ·

>>4162201

So I double-checked ... and it looks like you missed the Epilogue of "Rise," since your last post was on chapter 42 of 43.

Don't you know? You always check after the credits for a stinger! :pinkiehappy:

As far as the questions raised ... all I can say is "MANIACAL LAUGHTER!"

Which isn't really saying anything, but I can't very-well give stuff away now can I? :raritywink:

#25 · 33w, 3d ago · · · Awake ·

Honestly, I think my favourite characters are Nova and Sky Bolt. Nova because he is just so "chill with a side of badass", and Sky Bolt because she is quite a bit like me. We both like to tinker with things in our own little workshop space, and then proceed to completely confuse someone with a long winded explanation of how our latest creation works, whether we were asked or not.

Also, does she have ADHD? If so that would be another commonality.

#26 · 28w, 43m ago · 3 · · Awake ·

As a veteran with PTSD I am impressed with how well you seem to grasp the impact it has on someone. Not sleeping, flashbacks, the effect it has on one's life. You really did it justice.

#27 · 28w, 17m ago · 1 · · Awake ·

>>4367355

Thank you. I'm glad to hear that I did well with it. When I set out to write "Carry On," I knew that handling Sky Bolt's PTSD would be a delicate issued that deserved careful treatment, and I ended up doing a lot of research into PTSD and reading accounts of those who suffered from it in my search for accuracy. I'm very glad to hear that I seem to have succeeded in giving it the weight it needed.

And on another note, thank you for serving in the armed forces.

#28 · 27w, 4d ago · 1 · · Awake ·

Ah ha! It looks like Sky Bolt will be dealing with the stress going forward in the Saga. I feel that it's a very nice development of her character, and could open the door to a lot of meaningful interactions with her friends.

I mean in addition to what's in this story, of course.

You gave me a little double-fake-out. At the end of Rise I was happy to see the long awaited ride with her parents taking place, and was simultaneously sad that you didn't want the ending to overstay its welcome with another scene. So at the beginning of the story I thought, "Oh yay! We get to see the flight!" Then Sabra showed up and I thought, "Oh, dangit! It's just a dream."

And then the nightmare turned out to be utterly terrifying, so I'm not complaining so much as saying, "D'oh! You got me!" :pinkiehappy:

#29 · 26w, 4d ago · 1 · · Awake ·

oh wow. nice story. I m impressed with how deep you have gone with her psicology, maybe this the first or one of the most of the fic I have read that make a character so rich

#30 · 22w, 4d ago · · · Awake ·

>>4382276

Yeah, I knew from the very beginning that despite her words when she first met Steel, she really didn't know what she was getting into. She'd never actually faced death before, not in that way, and I knew right away that her dealing with the mental effects of what she'd signed up for would play an important part of her character. It'll continue to be a part of her and who she is, along with how she and the rest of the characters grow. :pinkiehappy:

>>4419920

Thanks! It took a bunch of research, but it paid off.

#31 · 16w, 1d ago · 1 · · Awake ·

It's been said but I have to say it again.  You did a wonderful job here with Sky Bolt, and a great starting look at a very difficult and extremely real scenario and situation for her.  Really looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

Also a great job of working the whole 'was that really Luna in the dream' angle.  I think it works really well keeping that vague from Sky Bolt's perspective.

#32 · 14w, 2d ago · · · Awake ·

very nice. the PTSD is very deep, which enriches sky bolt's character. the whole dusk guard has nicely 3d personalities. i love it. overall very good job. the second chapter felt a bit rushed, but thats probably just me. :applejackunsure:

so overall :yay: :rainbowkiss: :rainbowkiss: :twilightsmile: :moustache: :moustache: :moustache: 7.8/10

#33 · 13w, 5d ago · · · Dream ·

Where's Luna, dangit?

#34 · 10w, 2d ago · · · Drift ·

Once again I'm sucked in, you can definitely see the PTSD poor Sky Bolt has.

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