An Excerpt from Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris

This is just a quick post to let  everyone know that I’ve added an excerpt from the first chapter of Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris under the “Fiction Excerpts” page in the main navigation (under “Steampunk Novella”, cause the full title doesn’t fit on one line). Or you can just click here to get to it. It’s the first scene, which makes up half of the first chapter.

The novella is now completely formatted, and I’m just waiting on the artwork for the cover. My husband is doing a digital painting of part of one of the scenes (I’m not so good at digital painting, so I’m leaving that part of the design up to him). We collaborated on what the image would include, and I’ll likely be doing the text layout and such for the cover (though he keeps trying to convince me to let him do it; this is what happens when designers are married to each other).

I spent a bit of time today formatting the ebook for Kindle. I’ve still got to do the formatting for epub and Smashwords, which I’ll do over the next few days. If all goes well, the book will be out on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords by the end of this week. Stay tuned!

Is Short the Future of Publishing?

Every day we hear new stories about the future of publishing. It’s pretty common knowledge at this point that the big corporate publishers (often referred to as the “big 6”) are having a hard time. Small, independent publishers are folding. And everyone’s wondering what the future will bring, and whether publishing as it is currently known will survive.

I honestly couldn’t tell you. I think that publishers who are well established in specific niches have a better chance than generalists, but that’s all just speculation. I’d rather discuss something that’s a bit more specific. Continue reading

Online Resources for Fiction Writers

I was talking to a friend on Facebook the other day and he mentioned something about how I knew all these great resources online for writers. I have a tendency to forget that not every writer out there knows a lot about the resources the internet has to offer them. I work online on a daily basis, constantly looking up new resources for one project or another, and come across new tools all the time.

So I’m going to attempt to put together all the best resources I’ve found useful into a single reference guide for fiction writers. I’ve scoured my Google Bookmarks to come up with this list. If you have other tools you’ve found useful that aren’t included here, please share them in the comments! Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Countdown, T-8 Days: What About Plot?

Yesterday I covered character development, and talked about how it’s vital to any good novel, but especially to a winning NaNoWriMo novel. But that doesn’t mean you don’t also need a decent plot.

There are a few ways to approach “plotting”, depending on your goals and aims. Stephen King has a great method. He doesn’t “plot”, he just puts characters in a situation and sees what happens. It’s the ultimate “What if?” approach. This kind of organic plotting obviously works brilliantly for him. There’s an element of it in a lot of the best novels out there. If you’re going to try this, make sure you know your characters inside and out so you know exactly how they’ll respond when different things happen.

Other people like to plot things out, beginning to end, knowing every step along the way. I do this sometimes. It’s what I’m doing for this year’s NaNo project. The first year I tackled this project, I started an outline, then quickly abandoned it and just went with whatever came to mind. It worked better than I expected, but still not as well as it could have.

Some people only have an idea of where they’re going to start and where they’re going to end up (hopefully). And others have no clue other than a basic idea.

I generally wouldn’t recommend that last one for NaNoWriMo (especially if it’s your first NaNo) unless you’ve written a novel before and know that it works for you. Having at least a general idea of where you’re going and where you’re starting serves as a guidepost so you know what needs to happen. It’s easy to get lost or boxed into a corner if you have no idea what needs to happen next.

At the same time, don’t stick rigidly to your outline if you choose to use one. Sometimes the best ideas occur to you while you’re writing, and require changing around some things. Go with it. Adjust your outline if you need to, or just toss it and go with the new idea. An outline is there to help you write. If it’s getting in the way, it’s not longer helping.

But again, how you plot is a very personal choice. What works for one novelist fails miserably for another. Here are a handful of plotting resources you might find helpful:

How to Write a Book in Three Days – And you’re complaining about having only 30 days? This method is incredibly detailed and has a lot of useful information about how to outline a novel and what you need to have handy to make sure you don’t get stuck. And it’s the method used by a published novelist.

Evil Overlord Devises a Plot – A fun plot generation tool. Not necessarily useful.

Novel Outlining 101 – A great outlining article, with examples.

How to Plot a Novel for Beginners in Writing – A short overview of the classic three-act structure.

StoryToolz Generators – Two useful plot generators: Story Ideas and Multiple Conflicts.

About Conflict

Conflict is the backbone of a good plot. Whether it’s internal or external, without conflict, you don’t really have a story. And you’ll bore your reader to death, even if your prose is beautiful.

Conflict is relatively simple, though: Your protagonist wants something. Something is in his way. There you go: conflict.

My favorite analogy for conflict within a novel is to chase your character up a tree. Then throw rocks at him. Then throw bigger rocks at him. Just when you (or your reader) think he can’t take any more, light the tree on fire. Whether he gets out is up to you.

As always, if you have more useful plotting tips or links, please share them in the comments!

Countdown to NaNoWriMo: T-10 Days

I can’t believe it’s already almost November. (Where did summer go? And is Christmas really just over two months away? AH!) And of course, November means National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.

I have a mixed history with NaNoWriMo. I did it first in 2008, right after I began writing seriously again. I finished my second novel in just over 33 days (hitting the 50,000 word mark around November 15th). Then I tried it in 2009, and I got about 14,000 words into it when I gave up. I just wasn’t feeling the story. I think it’s because I tried to take on something too serious and it took all the fun out of it. I’ll probably finish that novel at some point. If it doesn’t depress me too much.

This summer I finally went through my NaNo winner from 2008 (I was afraid to even look at it, for fear that it would be completely unintelligible) and decided it wasn’t that bad. Sure, there was head-hopping galore (though I was surprised that some of it almost worked…almost) and the plot went off on quite a few tangents, but there’s some real potential there, with the general world and the characters especially.

So this NaNo, I’m going to start over on that one, and rewrite it entirely. No cut-and-paste from the original, just a thorough outline and some really well-developed characters.

Now, there are a few things I have going against me this time that I didn’t have last time. First of all, I’m now working full time. Plus, I’m possibly taking on a couple of big (one of them really BIG) projects in the next month or so. Time will definitely not be on my side this year.

Of course, I also have a lot more writing experience. I’ve completed six novel first drafts at this point, and done edits on almost all of them. I’ve grown as a writer a LOT since 2008. I expect (hope?) to walk away from this year’s NaNo with a manuscript that only needs polishing and minor editing (since it will technically be a second draft, anyway).

In the next ten days, I need to finish up my outline (I have it mostly written out, I’m just putting it on index cards so I can properly combine all three points-of-view and make sure everything matches up). I need to make sure I really do know my characters inside and out. And I need to get all this information copied over into Scrivener so it’s all right at my fingertips when I’m writing. Scrivener’s full-screen mode is also helpful when I’m trying to write without getting distracted.

I’m also hoping to post some helpful tips and tricks over the next ten days to help out anyone else who’s thinking of participating this year. Whether I’ll be able to post here every day, plus get my regular work done, plus finish up my own NaNo prep work, plus get ready for my annual Halloween party is anyone’s guess. This might fall by the wayside. So if you have tips/resources/etc. that might be useful to others participating, please share them in the comments here!

And good luck to everyone!

3-Day Novel Contest Fail

So, the 3-Day Novel Contest was a complete failure for me. Mainly because I just didn’t bother putting much effort into it. Holiday weekends are just not the best time for be to try to tackle big projects like that. Mainly because there’s other stuff I’d rather be out doing on a holiday weekend.

On the plus side, I did manage to get a decent start to a novella. It’s something I’m definitely going to keep working on, though I’m not sure where I’m going with it.

I think I might give the 3-day novel thing another try, but on my own time, when I can actually take three days to write when I don’t have any other commitments. Winter is just around the corner in my neck of the woods, so I think I’ll be able to find a block of time to do it. I’ll just wait for a blizzard!

Weekly News Roundup for May 15th

This is going to be another short one. On a personal note, my freelance writing has really picked up recently, with three new inquiries in the past couple of week and two new regular gigs. Keep an eye on my portfolio page for updates on new articles I’m writing. I’ve also picked up a ton of new Twitter followers (you can follow me @cameron_chapman if you aren’t already).

Dan Holloway wrote a great article on the future of books over at the Streamwriting site (which is run by Hannah Davis). It’s a great article. Dan is really on top of new technology coming out in the publishing world and is taking advantage of a lot of it himself (have you seen the interactive novel he’s writing in a Facebook group?) At some point in the future I’m supposed to have an article going up on the same site. Stay tuned for that.

I am almost finished with the website for the new book. It’s currently in the hands of it’s first beta readers and I’ll be starting some edits this weekend on the first few chapters. I’m forever greatful to those who are taking the time to read it and they’ll all be mentioned in the acknowledgements and possibly get a case of champagne if the book does really well…

Nathan Bransford has his usual excellent round up of other publishing news. My favorite of the stories he mentions is the one from the New York Times addressing piracy concerns over ebooks. Very interesting read.