Releeeeeease The Unicoooooooorns!!

…Wait, what? The unicorns? Why are we releasing unicorns? And honestly if you’re talking about the unicorns in the Darkness and Good anthology by Amy Laurens and Liana Brooks which is OUT TODAY, releasing the unicorns is SERIOUSLY Not A Good Idea. Like, at all. You do want to *live*, don’t you? DON’T YOU???

Besides. If you died, how would you order your copy of this amazing anthology? YOU WOULDN’T. And then you’d NEVER get to read the ALL-NEW CONTENT that we wrote JUST FOR THIS ANTHOLOGY that you’ll never, EVER get to see ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD!!

Plus you won’t get to see that we really can actually Write Kinda Good and that when we say the Darkness and Good blog is drafts only, we actually do mean it.

Look, the anthology’s actually pretty good, okay? And it has pictures. Pretty pictures. I should know, ’cause I drew them. /nodnod. And these are the fan-favourite stories from the blog, so they must have at least SOME merit, y’know? And, like, the anthology’s on sale for the next month for $2.99, AND if you buy it direct from Inkprint Press you get both the epub AND the mobi files! (Or, y’know, you can buy it in print from Amazon and get the mobi file free if that’s your thing.)

Anyway. I’d better go. Some stupid person set the unicorns loose and now the fate of the world’s uncertain. I, for one, do not want to die a unicorn related death any time today. Or, for that matter, tomorrow. So yeah. Imma go round up unicorns. You… go read a book, or something like that.

πŸ˜‰
A

Darkness and Good: 38 fantasy and science fiction short stories by Liana Brooks and Amy Laurens

Save

#MadeItMonday: Cover Reveal Time!!!

Welcome to #MadeItMonday, where I post something I’ve made in the previous week, and where you can join in and post something you made too! The rules are easy: post a pic somewhere of something you’ve made in the last week (ish; let’s say in the last month as the hard-and-fast) and tag it. Sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the beautiful things we’ve collectively created, and celebrate the fact that humans can be awesome! πŸ™‚
Whee!!! It’s COVER REVEAL DAY!!! And yes, I am totally cheating and using this as a #MadeItMonday, because our budget for this anthology was about

this big

so I did the cover πŸ˜‰

Darkness and Good: 38 fantasy and science fiction short stories by Liana Brooks and Amy Laurens

Yeah, okay, it needs a thin border around it. Hmm.

ANYWAY, yay! New book! We’ll be setting up preorders in the next couple of weeks, and the lovely Darkness & Good anthology will be released March 19. I’m excited!

From the Darkness and Good blog comes a collection of fans’ favourite stories, all in one convenient volume. Come read about gods and monsters, unicorns and shapeshifters, magical worlds and galaxies far, far away!

Oh, and if you’re a regular follower of the Darkness & Good blog, never fear – there’s some new content in this anthology too πŸ˜‰

 

What have you made this week? (It doesn’t have to be fancy!!) Don’t forget to tag your contribution, or even better, leave a link in the comments!! I love seeing what inspiring things other people have made πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

 

#MadeItMonday: Sketches for Darkness & Good Anthology

Welcome to #MadeItMonday, where I post something I’ve made in the previous week, and where you can join in and post something you made too! The rules are easy: post a pic somewhere of something you’ve made in the last week (ish; let’s say in the last month as the hard-and-fast) and tag it. Sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the beautiful things we’ve collectively created, and celebrate the fact that humans can be awesome! πŸ™‚

Today you get a sneak peak at an upcoming release. If you’ve been following the blog for the last couple of years you’ll have heard about Darkness & Good, the short story blog I run with Liana Brooks and Thea van Diepen (and if not, go check it out! Free short stories posted weekly at least 3 weeks every month!). If you’ve been paying *super* close attention, especially on twitter, you might have seen comments about ‘the antho’ or, ‘D&G antho’: Hurrah! Liana and I* have collected all the most popular stories from the first two years of Darkness & Good’s existence, and are releasing them in an anthology!

* Thea only joined us after these two years πŸ˜‰

I do all the formatting for our Inkprint Press releases, and will only a little hinting from Liana, decided that a) each new short story would start on a right-hand page, and that b) consequently, there were some blank left-hand pages, and that c) blank left-hand pages in the middle of a book look really ugly, so d) I should do some (quick) sketches to fill them! So the anthology will have illustrations, which is pretty exciting. It also has a cover, which we’ll be releasing *really soon*!! So much excite.

So anyway, my contribution to #MadeItMonday this week is one of my favourite of the sketches I’ve done for the anthology, for the story Red Planet Refugees, which you can read in raw, unedited form right here on the Darkness & Good blog πŸ™‚ The sketches are just super quick line art, but it got me drawing again and I had so much fun doing illustrations for nearly half the stories! Yay!

Line art of washing on a line by a corrugated shed on a sandy plain or desert

Don’t forget to tag your contribution, or even better, leave a link in the comments!! I love seeing what inspiring things other people have made πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Free Creepy Short Story On Darkness & Good!

It’s my turn to post a free short story to the Darkness&Good blog again this week. This is an older story, because I freely confess that I’m spending every inch of my writing time trying to finish my novel Fox Red so I can release it next year, but you’ll enjoy it πŸ˜‰ Desperate Measures is a creepy little wedding story; I feel kinda sorry for the MC, actually πŸ˜€

Anyway, click to head over to the Darkness&Good blog and read Desperate Measures πŸ™‚

 

Over 40 Free Stories! An Anthology of Stories for Teen Readers

YOU GUYS IT’S NEARLY HOLIDAYS. This, my friends, is a Very Exciting Thing. It also means that hopefully you’ll get some more regularly scheduled blogging – and I’m going to do my level best to set up some sort of blogging system that will work to keep things happening regularly throughout 2017, I promise >.<

BUT! IN THE MEANTIME! FREEEEEEE STOOOOORIEEEEEEESS!!

First of all, I have another short up on the Darkness&Good blog this week. It’s an extract from my work in progress, Fox Red. If you’re following along on social media, this is #FoxBook, and the reason I’m sharing an extract with you is…

*drumroll*

that-moment-when-boxset

The first part of Fox Red is being included in this fantastic anthology of sff YA stories! You can find this awesome anthology of stories for teens on Amazon here, and it’ll be available across all other retailers within the next week or so too. NOTE: It’s 99c at the moment, but if you wait a week or so for the price matching to kick in, it’ll be perma-free πŸ˜‰ I’ll remind you about it again once that’s happened, so if you want to wait until then, go for it πŸ™‚

The section of Fox Red that I’m sharing on Darkness&Good is NOT included in the That Moment When anthology, so you get bonus bits of story (woohoo!). And if you like what you see, make sure to head over to my Fox Red page for updates on the story and related things like inspiration images and music πŸ™‚

9 days till holidays. See you on the other side.

<3
A

Plotting #5: It’s A Wrap

Missed out on Day 1 of Plotting? Catch up here!Β There’s alsoΒ Day 2,Β Day 3Β and Day 4.

Whoa, day 5 of plotting! So pretty much all I’m going to do today is provide a quick wrap-up, including an overview of the main points discussed in yesterday’s video. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, besides the live demo of actually fixing the plot of HNOT, here are the key ideas we discussed:

1) Amy says ‘really’ too much.

2) Post-it notes are an awesome tool for visualising the plot of your novel all at once. You can use colours to track points of view (POV), subplots, and more.

3) Liana’s Plot Sheet lists: 3 antagonists; 4 plot twists; opening, ending and climax; ticking time bomb; emotional/thematic statement; thematic concepts; colours; dominant imagery and shapes. See below for a template!

4) It’s okay to write your way into the plot in a draft, but make sure you attend to this in edits.

5) This post-it note visualisation is a process you can do either before or after writing your draft – it can be planning or revision depending on your preference.

6) Your starting scene not only sets the tone for your novel, it also sets the ‘rules’ for your series if you’re writing one. If you start with a character scene, you’re establishing the series as character-focused, and readers will expect to stick with your main character/s for the whole series. You *can* deviate from this, but it’s just not what your readers will be expecting. If you start with a more world-focused scene, on the other hand, readers will subconsciously expect a world-focused series, and you can get away with switching main characters more easily, because you can introduce a starting motif that helps the reader settle into the book and makes it feel like ‘home’ (something that seeing the same character in a new situation would usually do).

7) Establish all POV characters early on and make sure they’re proactively doing things and making choices.

8) Antagonist 1 is your lover in an enemies-to-lovers story – twist 1 brings them in to be an ally.

9) Look for weak conflict (too many conversations is a clue), and weak POVs – is the information learned in one character’s scenes repeated when other characters learn it? Is this POV absolutely necessary?

10) Establish the powers/rules/physics of your world, especially if it’s magical, as early on as possible. Readers need to know what’s possible, especially if things are possible in your world that aren’t in real life.

11) Characters need a scene goal, something that is motivating them to act, something that they are trying to achieve – they can’t just be reacting to everything around them (you can write reaction scenes, but keep an eye on what their goal still actually IS, because they HAVE one, even if it’s just, ‘survive’).

12) Villains always feel like they are the hero of the story, and always think they are smart – they do get caught because they make mistakes, but THEY think they are right and smart.

13) To be a hero, you have to have a villain.

14) Everyone in your story wants something. The antagonist is the person standing in the way of that something, whoever that person might be (and it can change from scene to scene).

15) Character motivation is a common missing ingredient in the work of new writers.

16) If you need to write long sentences to explain what’s happening in the scene, you might have too much going on or a lack of clear focus. You should be able to identify a clear protagonist, antagonist (not always a person), conflict and twist or climax in one short sentence. (A made-up example could be, “Mercury fights her way through the demons to get to the Key, only to discover it’s gone.” Mercury is the protag, who obviously wants the Key; the demons are the antags, who probably want her dead; the conflict is in the verb ‘fights’; and the twist/climax is that when Mercury gets there, the Key is gone.)
17) If a character already has or gets a new skill in the book, it mustΒ come into play – akin to Chekov’s gun (if you show a gun on the wall, it better go off in the next three chapters, or else don’t show it to begin with). Remember though that ‘coming into play’ can also mean establishing a clear expectation about the character the item/skill belongs to, not just literally using that item (though this is the easier path).

18) Don’t end chapters with going to bed, work, etc – end with a hook a la the Nancy Drew Hardy Boys series, which often ends chapters not with the door opened to reveal a monster, but with the act of the door still opening.

19) Readers love minor characters – give them genuine wants and needs and make them smart and funny.

20) The best POV characters are the ones who know the least and have the most to lose.

21) Sometimes the character who knows the least is the one who thinks they know the most.

22) Throwing in a random POV scene can be jarring, so make sure you set the book up to be ‘that kind’ of book.

23) If ever you get lost and don’t know where you’re going, aim for twists. OR,

24) If you can’t plot a whole story at once, just plot to the first twist. Write that, then figure out what comes next and plot to the next twist. Rinse, repeat, and you’ll end up with a complete story πŸ™‚

25) Don’t be tempted to think that the first time your character wins their goal is the ending of the story. They also have to deal with the fallout of getting what they want, which means the bad guys will be after them, and they will have to dispatch the bad guys one by one from smallest to largest.

26) A strong lead up to the climax is having your MC face down the Big Bad (Antag 3) and fail.

27) You’re perfectly allowed to make answers up on the spot, but just make sure that you do end up with the answers.

28) Liana makes a valid point: knocking people unconscious IRL can actually cause massive trauma to the brain. Use unconsciousness sparingly!

29) Romances work better if your hero rescues your heroine rather than knocking them out πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€

30) Moment of despair is when everything is stripped away from the character and they find out what their core power and motivations are. They realise who they are when everything else is taken away, and that they have the strength to fight on regardless. This is why the moment of despair is so important, because it’s your character’s ultimate commitment to their course of action, right before the climax of the story. It’s essentially the climax of their character arc, which then allows them to achieve the climax to the plot arc.

31) Your first few novels are going to be messy: You’re learning how to write, you’re learning your voice, you’re learning what your style of plotting is. The good news is, editing is a learned skill. You can learn to edit. And don’t forget that content edits and line edits are very different skills.

32) Realistic expectations are just as vital in a writing career as in everything else. You’re on YOUR track to writing, and it will take as long as it takes. Some people might be faster – but some people will also be slower, and you are who you are. The sooner you make peace with that, the less stressful your writing apprenticeship will be. (General figures thrown around are 10 years and/or a million words to reach genuinely publishable quality writing.)

33) To reiterate: post-it notes are an awesome way to make the plot of your novel more comprehensible as a whole. Having it all physically visible in front of you is the best way to test pacing, character balance, subplot balances, and so forth. Try it!

34) When in doubt, kill a fictional character. That’s sound advice for any problem, right there.

And that’s it! Don’t forget to check out the earlier posts if you haven’t already to collect all the resources. Thanks for stopping by – if this was useful to you at all, leave a comment, and send the link to a writing buddy – if you liked it, they probably will too πŸ™‚
Until next time!
<3
A

Plotting #4: Live Replot

Missed out on Day 1 of Plotting? Catch up here!Β There’s alsoΒ Day 2Β and Day 3.

Today, the climax this has all been building towards. A couple of weeks ago I was super excited to able to visit Liana in Alaska (!!!!), and while I was there, Much Plotting Occurred. We plotted 6 novel/las that week, I think, mostly mine, and plotting so many stories in such a short space of time was *really* beneficial for my plotting skills. As well as the simple repetition of skills, it was also amazing to stick everything up on post-it notes on the wall and conceptualise the whole plot at once. I’ve done this before, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a handy door/wall/vertical space to stick post-it notes on for extended periods of time (since my writing time is extremely sporadic during the school term) and so I’d fallen out of the habit.

Anyway, we were fifteenΒ minutes into replotting How Not To Take Over The World (officially abbreviated to HNOT) when we realised that we were actually covering A LOT of stuff that would be really useful to other writers – so we stopped, set up the computer, and filmed the whole session for you πŸ˜€ It’s totally uncut (except the brief pause in the middle where we stopped to get water and snacks) and live and messy and glorious and we’re both in our pyjamas looking TOTALLY UNGLAMOROUS, but if you can deal with that, there is some really useful plotting information here. Plus, weird accents. Yay! πŸ˜€

A couple of things to note if you didn’t read the summary yesterday:
1) Read the summary from yesterday. The video will make a lot more sense. HA.
2) The video is filmed in mirror image, so the post-its go right to left (sorry!).
3) We dive right in to talking about The Key. In this story, which you’ll know if you read yesterday’s summary, the Key is a magical artefact, a highly powerful object enabling the wielder to use vast quantities of magical power.
4) At 11 mins 30 sec I mention the Deviran backstory story – you can read The Making Of An Overlord here on the D&G blog.
5) At the end I note that I’m going to do a beat check. All that involves is running through my beat sheet (see Day 2) and making sure that the scenes I have match up to the required beats – though it won’t be a one-to-one correlation because I ended up with 47 scenes and the beat sheet allows for 40. Nonetheless, the novel did have all the necessary beats in about the right places once we were done. Yay! Success!

And if you want to follow along, you can grab the original plot we were working with in yesterday’s post, and you can see the final revised plot here πŸ™‚

Tune in tomorrow for our final plotting recap πŸ™‚

Plotting #2: Beat Sheets

Missed out on Day 1 of Plotting? Catch up here!

Okay, so, yesterday I confessed to you my secret nightmare as a writer: structure. Not because I resent being constrained by arbitrary rules or whatever, but because actually, after reading a crap-tonne of new-writer stories in the last ten years, I have a healthy appreciation for a well-structured story and I’m *just* *not* *GOOD* at it myself. Which, URGH. I’m an English teacher and a writer and I have *experience* with these things and I read a lot and I know what good structure looks like, so why, why, WHY is this whole structure/plotting/pacing thing not more intuitive for me? Seriously?! Gnurgh.

Anyway. The turning point for me was the discovery of beat sheets. Beats are nothing more or less than those points you have to hit in a structure – like, there’s a call to action at the end of act one, a turning point in the middle, a climax at the end – that sort of thing. But those three or five or eight or twelve beats never seemed to be enough for me to keep up the pacing in between times, and not meander around in a way that left the conflict dragging. Oh, the scenes are FUN and PRETTY and SHINY and often also even WITTY, but they still… meander.

And look: I’ve nothing against meandery books. I like lit. fic., or at least as much of it as I do most genres. I appreciate character-driven, wandery sorts of stories. But I also know that you have to be a really good writer to pull them off in a way that makes them accessible for public consumption, and I’m not ashamed to admit that my primary goal here is to write stories that people actually want to *buy*. I write for myself, because if I didn’t I’d get so twisted up in anxiety that I wouldn’t write at all (why hello there, 2012-2013). But I want the end results to be accessible for other people to *enjoy*. There’s that saying, right: I write for myself and revise for my readers. Yup, good idea right there. Except thus far my revisions have always been nightmarish slogs of retrofitting structures and proper character arcs to Really Broken Drafts, and quite frankly, that process sucks. If I can learn to do my structure/pacing/plotting/character arc right the first time, I’ll save hundreds of hours in revision – and once you know the rules, THEN you can choose to break them at will.

Hence, beat sheets.

First came Save The Cat by Blake Snyder, a book on writing screenplays that delves into structure and the different ‘genres’ that movies actually fall into. I highly recommend the book, if only for the reconsideration of how genre applies to stories, and how knowing what genre you’re actually writing can change the way you look at the book – and you’ll be surprised by the genres and their definitions, too, because it’s not about the trappings and cosmetics and setting of the story, but rather the plot/character arc and the beats that the story needs to hit.

Secondly, Jami Gold’s amazing free beat sheets, based on the information in Save The Cat and another book I haven’t read, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I’d tried to make something like this for myself years ago and failed, so when I found these I was super excited.

And finally, something I wrote up myself based entirely on Jami’s beat sheets just recently – while I was visiting Liana, in fact. I got sick of using the calculator in Jami’s sheets to calculate when things were supposed to happen, and on the basis that I was pretty much aiming for a 40-scene, 80k novel or a 20-scene, 40k novella each time, I wrote up this beat list, which tells me which scene number each thing is supposed to happen in. As you’ll note, nearly every scene has a specific job, and knowing that has made a HUGE difference to my ability to keep the pacing of the story on track.

By way of experiment, I also used the novella sheet to plot out a novella while I was with Liana. It made the whole plotting process just like putting together a jigsaw, and while I’m sure there will still be things to fix and tweak, it’s the first time I’ve delivered Liana a plot and had the tick of approval with only a minor tweak or two. YAY ME I AM LEARNING THINGS WATCH ME LEARN. You can evaluate the success of this process yourself hopefully next year – this novella is one in my Puricorn (Age of Unicorns) universe (see short stories here and here) and I have a cover for it ready to go… I just need to write and edit it >.< πŸ˜€

Anyway. I hope that some of these resources are useful for you! Feel free to share some of your favourite plotting resources in return, and tune in tomorrow for an epic case study: How Not To Take Over The World!