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Writing Update: Novella Accepted + GameNationSA

“What is the title of your novel.” Nicky asks me in an excited and almost crazed WhatsApp message. “Do you have an idea for a cover? Is there a blurb? We need cover images for the upcoming blog tour!” The message continues. For a moment my mind goes into immediate panic mode before the excitement of this rather random message begins to sink in; my novella is about to get published!

On top of this exciting new journey, there was the rather sad ending of Gamecca Magazine where I had been writing as a game journalist for more the five years. This too came in a rather random phone call from my editor Walt Pretorius, who sadly told me the digital mag was publishing its final issue that coming week. Thankfully I had met with Boris from GameNationSA through a number of gaming events. After contacting him about writing for the gaming site, he was keen for it and this past weekend I went to GeekFest and wrote an article For The Love of Geek. His reply ended with “Welcome on board.”

So what does this all mean…

Naming the Novella:

Coming up with titles is a struggle I’ve had for… well most of my writing life. The draft I sent to Nicky was simply labeled Novella Draft 1 because I had no idea what it was called. How does one get around to coming up with titles? Well some just come to you “Junk Yard Angel for example, while others need nothing more than a single word that explains the plot like “Innocence”.

Here are a few ways to come up with your title:

  1. It’s in the Story: There could be a line in your story that encapsulates the basic premise of your story. It might be dialogue or the hero/villain saying some awesome speech about what their goal or purpose is. It could also be your main character’s profession – your story might just have a title in there. E.g. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, The Black Swan, The Books of Blood.
  2. It’s in the Plot: Perhaps the overall plot of your story has a main premise or character or time period. You can use these in the title of your book to make it obvious what it’s about. E.g. The Mist, Animal Farm, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  3. Symbolism for your Story: Nothing speaks to us more than metaphors and symbols. Look at how spiritual leaders and the like always use them to teach us some inherent lesson. Your book title could have the same concept, telling a bit about the book or the plot or the character using symbolism. E.g. A Song of Ice and Fire, Altered Carbon, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
  4. Simple Story Synopsis: I’ve seen a lot of the older horror novels use this premise often, usually prefaced by the word “The” and followed by the most basic, single-word, that says exactly what the story is about. E.g. The Dark Tower, The Haunted, The Legacy. Otherwise its just a simple premise as the title: Population Zero, Dark Harvest, American Gods.

While there are other ways to come up with a title, just make sure at the end of the day, the title is:

  • Memorable
  • Tells you about the book
  • Grabs the readers attention

Novella Cover Art

The name of your story can play a large role in the look and feel of your book cover. However there are many other factors to guide the design, as well as various sources for inspiration if the name is not enough. I personally had nothing in my mind and I did not want some clichéd “Goosebumps” cover either.

Here are ways I was inspired for my cover art:

  1. Main Character or World: My novella revolves around two main characters in two different time periods. For my cover, I decided to feature both characters in their respective eras to both display their personalities and to show the alternating timelines. You can do the same, showing your character, a character in their “natural habitat”, or a vision of where the story takes place.

Brian Smith The Killing Kind book cover C.L. Polk Witchmark book cover H.G. Wells The Time Machine book cover

  1. Title as a Picture: I had initially thought of using the name of the book for the cover, but also had a fear it would be too cliched and felt overdone. At the same time, there were also ideas that worked really well using the novellas name. You too can use the title of your book to inspire the cover.

Matt Wallace Greedy Pigs book cover Stieg Larsson The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book cover Brandon Sanderson The Final Empire book cover

  1. Mystery Between Title and Cover: This is, to me, one of the better and most effective cover designs used in the published space. Many books I own have this clever symbolism of title and cover and only once you’ve read through the book does the cover really both come alive and make greater sense. This cover usually grabs the readers attention and makes them question what the story is about.

Sean McGuire Every Heart A Doorway book cover  

  1. It’s Really Cool Okay!: Sometimes you can just have a really cool cover…

Ted Dekker Three book cover Ransom Riggs Tales of the Peculiar book cover Ray Bradbury The Illustrated Man book cover

  1. It’s a series: Occasionally series will have amazing covers that carry through with each book.

Scotland Yard's Murder Squad book coversWriting the Blurb

Writing blurbs is never easy. Once the title and cover of your book has drawn the attention of a potential reader, the blurb is either going to put them off or reel them in, and of course you want to reel them in.

So how does one go about writing a blurb?

  1. A Simpler Version of Your Story: Take the central aspects of your story that make it standout, and write a compelling, compressed version.
  2. Best First and Last Line: The opening line of your blurb should immediately pull readers in with a promise of good things. The last line should have the same effect, perhaps even ending on a cliffhanger for that final reel in.
  3. Set the Mood: Another way to write your blurb is to set the tone and mood of your story, so readers know immediately what they can expect both in terms of genre, but also story.
  4. See What Other Authors Did: Sometimes you just need to look at what you like in other books, or blurbs that you feel work and see what formula its built on. Then you can write it in your own style

Blurb for Stephen King’s new book “The Outsider

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.


No promises but as I continue along this whole “my novella is getting published” new phase of my writing, I will attempt to keep you all updated on the progress. Thank you for taking the time to read. What’s happening in your writing/reading world?

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Death of a King: Steampunk Joburg Comes To Life

Yes you read that right. Remember my idea of turning Johannesburg into a city of literal gold, powered by steam engines? Well I’ve finally come up with a concept that will bring this envisioned idea to life. The book(s) will be titled Death of a King and will involve… well, kings, in a less traditional format.

Books and Art

I’m always referring to myself as an “artist” when self-promoting but I have done very little to show this side of myself. Which is one of the reasons why Death of a King will take on a different kind of format. Similar to the Japanese light novel, I will be adding images into the book to enhance the story further. That way there’s the epic story happening and visuals to augment the experience.

The Story

As I stated before, the story will focus on Kings, but with an added twist to the whole element. The story will also be mainly based in South Africa, Johannesburg, but will incorporate a lot of Africa too. It will also be very dark, and fall under the genre of grim dark which Adam Roberts describes as:

“fiction ‘where nobody is honourable and Might is Right’, and as ‘the standard way of referring to fantasies that turn their backs on the more uplifting, Pre-Raphaelite visions of idealized medievaliana, and instead stress how nasty, brutish, short and, dark life back then really was’.  he noted that grimdark has little to do with re-imagining an actual historic reality and more with conveying the sense that our own world is a “cynical, disillusioned, ultraviolent place”. ~ Wiki-Grimdark

Release Date?

Ha, if only I knew. The concept itself requires a lot of world building and character development. Of course there’s the art aspect of it too so drawing images to that fine detail and style will also take some time. Then of course it’s writing the book itself and that whole editing process. It’s going to take a while.

However, I just wanted to let you know of what is coming and you will probably see all of this coming together on this blog. Once the ball is rolling, you’ll be sure to see my other sites bring it all together such as Patreon-only artwork, concept art, short stories from the created world and much more.

So that’s my writing update for May. Apologies for my silence, and hoping to hear from you all as I continue this writing journey.

Two Types of Story Crafting I Discovered (Again)

Some time back I submitted an unnamed novel to my editor for a look-see. It’s a horror story set in two different time-zones, intermingled with time-travel and wax sculptures that bleed maggots. It was an idea borne from two prompts and co-joined into one grisly story. It also required a ton of both research and thumb-sucking.

At the same time, or at least close enough to it, I had that mind-blowing concept of a Steampunk version of my city, Johannesburg, which you can read in my last article: New Inspiration – Steampunk Johannesburg.

I came to realise, though it’s nothing new, that there are two main ways I go about writing a story:

Story Built Around A World

When I came up with a steampunk version of Joburg, I didn’t have a story. It was merely a city of literal gold, with gears built into the rising towers, slowly cranking at each turn, controlling various parts of the city. Some of it controlled the mining for gold. Others, the changing of traffic lights, the control of water, the generating of electricity. A great idea in my head. What then did it need?

  1. A Fitting Story: Of course every great world needs a story. A compelling story that fits the time, location, and people of the created world. In my head, as I saw this city unfold in front of my mind’s eye, I spotted a figure running along the roof tops of this fabricated city. Who was he? Why was he running? What was that clutched under his arm? As the world is set in a steampunk era, the story could have a feeling of being old but with an air modern lifestyle. There are plenty of stories that can be created from this amazing golden era!
  2. Compelling Characters: Right so I have the first character sorted – the guy running on roof tops. Maybe he’s being chased by Federation airships and Commander van nie Kerk is hot on his trail. Maybe he’s running to a secret organisation with documents tucked under his arm. Was the character part of political intrigue or perhaps inside the package he carried the still warm heart of his latest victim? Each of these story ideas can be spun around me new world, creating characters varying from inventors, to pilots, alchemists, mad-scientist, and who knows what from the story I hope to tell.
  3. Intriguing Plot: It’s all well and good to have a diverse world coupled with a brewing story and compelling characters, but what it really needs as well is an intriguing plot. Maybe the gears that everyone thinks merely run various aspects of the city, are actually pieces of a bigger cog. A gear slowly winding down to the destruction of the planet like a giant clock at the center of the earth. Maybe they control the opening and closing to the gates of hell? Maybe its alien technology and below ground in the mines, they have enslaved humanity to use them for powering the cogs. Our character on the rooftop may  figured out what’s happening down there and is on a quest to save us all from certain doom. Or they be an advocate for the villains, escaping with plans that will ensure our destruction. Who knows…

A World Built Around The Story

Five years ago I found an image on the internet. A beautiful drawing of a girl with white hair and black vest, grey sweatpants falling down to bare feet. She had white wings. Above her head was a halo… made of barbwire. It’s title: Junk Angel. Once I saw her and the title, a story began to form in my head. The story of a girl who was the Junk Yard Angel.

The first iteration of Junk Yard Angel was about a woman who killed people and turned them into her own mechanical monstrosities.

Later on I began to expand on this story, building the persona of this mysterious woman and trying to find out where exactly she fit in. Thus I had to build a world for herin. I saw junk yards, broken cities, old-school bars and taverns; places where she could find her victims… and they wouldn’t be missed.

What then did it need?

  1. A Kick-ass World: When you have a crazy maybe-half-robot-totally-human-looking girl with a razor wire halo, then her world has to at least reflect that fact. So much so that most of the JYA world has been built around her. When you read the story you will understand just how much.
  2. An Amazing Backstory: Knowing where your character (and sub-characters) come from, help define the places within the world of your story. You consider the environments around the characters and ask how the world would look around them. For instance, I have a character from a country similar to Russia/Serbia where snowfall is a constant. What kind of technology or tools would they use in this environment, and how would it reflect in the story.
  3. Mysterious Magic/Tech System:  On the topic of technology, perhaps your characters have an occupation that requires them to use machinery. Aviator. Solider. Taxi Driver. Doctor. Engineer… and so on. Or perhaps they have a particular ability such as magic or some form of “kinesis”. Perhaps there’s a supernatural element to them.
    Each of these help define the progression and history of the world, affecting how everything looks and works from buildings to locations to attire to religion. The world-building aspect of your story built from both story and characters.

 

What is your writing process when it comes to story-telling. Does your world affect your story or does your story affect your world? Perhaps both? What techniques do you use to define what kind of story you’re going to tell?

Camp NaNo 2018: The Dilemma of Stagnant Progress

It’s been a slow week for me this Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve restarted about five times, struggled to write that killer opening line, and now I’m trying to get my story going. As slow as it’s going, I’m working on not quitting. I think there’s a gem in this story somewhere and I just have to keep chipping away until it reveals itself. I will probably re-write it anyway but for now it’s all about getting that word count going yeah? Speaking of which, here’s my current progress:

 

 

Writing Without a Plan:

The idea formed back in March (how is it April already!?) and back then I couldn’t wait to write. So I put down the basic thought and left it to simmer. What happened between then and now? Who knows. I didn’t want to think about the story in case I write it before I write it. You know? It’s playing out in your head, building itself up but not in any physical sense? Yeah that. Only when I sat down to start writing, I found that the story had lost its bulk and become a wasted, formless thing. Skulking in the dark recess of my mind on its last leg.

I didn’t know where to start or how. Couldn’t figure out where I wanted the story to go. I still don’t, but it’s beginning to take some shape again. My little ball of unformed clay spinning and spinning and spinning while my dirty hands form and reform the piece of clay into something. Anything.

Getting Over It

As much as I hate that “Just get over it” phrase that we sometimes use, with the expectation that the recipient of the advice will simply overcome their struggle and be fine, I’ve had to tell myself the same thing. It didn’t work, of course, but it changed my mindset a little. Set a silver lining against the clouds of doubt forming. This was augmented by:

  • Reading: Okay so maybe Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Brandon Sanderson aren’t the greatest motivators, when they know how to spin engaging stories so well and seemingly easily. Nonetheless reading their works has helped clarify some of my own writing issues. Especially with the skeletal framework that is my current WIP. I just finished King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and looking to finish The Illustrated Man by Bradbury. I’m feeling a shift in the winds.

      

  • Music: I’m writing a horror so I needed something heavy. That turned out to be Lamb of God, Slipknot, and the occasional Paramore because there’s apparently romance in my story. Hearing the heavy guitar riffs and deep vocals from these metal bands (not you Hayley Williams, your voice is a dream) I find the scenes writing themselves out naturally.
  • Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Manga: Movies, series, anime, and manga – that’s the good life. There’s a lot of good content out there, with unique stories and characters. How they form all of those smaller intricacies that later reveal themselves to be key sub-plots to an even bigger (and mind-blowing) main arc still baffles me. It also motivates me.

Not My Best – That’s For My Editor

Nicky, if you’re reading this, I apologise in advance haha. I’m not really happy or proud of this novella, but I’m writing it. I will finish it. By the 30th of APril (hopefully sooner) I will have 30 000 words of story. Of writing. Of content that later can be tweaked and refined and made better. Maybe this is my Carrie (Stephen King threw it in the trash. His wife rescued it. It was his first published work). Maybe. Nonetheless I will keep writing.

And that’s all I can do right now.

Writing Hiatus (Not Really)

Hey all,

I guess it’s been a long time since I updated the blog and the reason for that is my mind just failing to wrap itself around life in general. Just a lot of things happening all in all which makes writing difficult. No it’s not writers block, and nothing health wise. Just choices I’ve been making in the last couple of months all catching up at the same time, and emotionally I’m frayed.

At the same time, yesterday I churned out 3000 words in about an hour as two different intros for an idea I have. Each of them an intro to a new story twirling about in my mind like a ballerina doing an endless series of pirouettes. So rather than trying to catch up to March blog posts and book reviews and the endless list of books I keep adding to my reading list, I’ll be going on a mini-hiatus.

So what will I be doing in the mean time?

Camp NaNo Prep

Camp NaNoWrimo is coming up next month. I’ve decided to write another novella (while my other one is still with my editor/publisher). The story is a horror romance temporarily named Upon an Endless Sea. That’s about all I have (I doubt I will use all previous drafts I’ve written haha) so I’ll be using the rest of March to put down some characters and a plot of some sort so I can pants my way through April.

Reading

I am so behind on my reading. Not that I haven’t been reading. On my bedside table (and following me around like a demonic shadow) is the book Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams. It’s about an angel who goes into hell to rescue his demon lover. Beautiful ain’t it? Not so much. It’s like Williams was playing DnD with his characters and every side of the die was an even worse situation than before. A true descent – pun intended. I also have to finish The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradubury and a bunch of other author requested book reviews.

Binge Watching (a.k.a Inspiration)

Yes, yes, yes. I will be watching all the series and movies and anime I haven’t seen yet. Me and Netflix/Crunchyroll gonna have a good time. On my list is:

  1. Altered Carbon
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. Insidious 2 + 3 (watched first already)
  4. Baywatch (Don’t even ask)
  5. Dexter
  6. The Machinist
  7. The Taxi Driver
  8. Jacob’s Ladder
  9. Requiem for a dream
  10. Zodiac
  11. A list-full of Anime

Talk about distractions inspiration. Anyway, here’s to a productive March of planning and onwards to an April of writing.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll see ya’ll in April yeah!?

Submitting the Perfect Story

The year begins with a bang and there’s been much afoot since the clock turned the calendar over from 2017 to 2018. I’ll be meeting Nicky of Chasing Dreams Publishing this Saturday to work on getting my own novella published. What I hope to be a psychological thriller horror based on a short story I’m working on.

This particular short story is an idea I want to submit to FlashBack Fiction by the end of this week. The foundation for what is to come. The problem is that I keep running into the same wall every time I get to that 500 word limit; I find the story… boring.


The Perfect Story

I sit at my desk and let the mind begin its usual marathon run through visuals and ideas until it latches upon a man in a high collar shirt, white, and sleeves rolled to the elbows. Perfectly tousled hair whips in the soft breeze as he walks through a bustling street filled with dames in flouncing dress and lace parasols. The men tip hats, lips curling up with their carefully trimmed mustaches. Others ride by nonchalant on bicycles with empty baskets leading the way. Many park against intermittent trees lining the paved walkways where cafes and curious shops have opened for the morning. Woven chairs are arranged around square tables draped in cloth, adorned with cutlery and obscure vases from the local artisans. Coffee. Bacon. Toast. Their scents fill the warm air. Accompanying the scent is the rustle of leaves from the nearby trees. The crinkle of newspaper as a man in a bowler hat turns his copy of Die Zeit. Tranquil. Peaceful. Happy.

It contrasts the thoughts swirling through my protagonist who watches with a careful smile hiding his darkest thoughts. The satchel at his waist portrays him as an artisan though none know of his particular work. Of the “museum” that awaits him in the bricked apartments right above the supposed serenity the scene in front of him plays. He knows behind the coiffed styles of both the men and woman, behind their rosy cheeks and wide smiles and oiled beards lie secrets. Fears. Worries. Dark thoughts. They aren’t that much different from him. Not much at all.

And this is where I begin my story. The above description is a cut scene from my mind and now we step into the protagonist’s shoes as the writing begins.

Only from here, as I try to slip the darkness into the serenity, I find the pacing too slow or too fast. The transition too drastic or not drastic enough. I’m failing to find the balance between writing style and effect. To add that gut-wrenching punch drawing breath from lungs as you wail “No!” in horror and squirm where you sit, glancing behind you as paranoia sweeps along your spine in cold tendrils.

That. That is what my perfect story would be. But I’m struggling here. Anyway let me get to writing the new draft and see if I can craft the perfect story so I can submit it. *Sighs

Genre Writing: Horror – Do’s and Don’ts

That task of writing is never easy. Enjoyable but not easy. Sure one can have a great session and put down five thousand amazing words with little effort. Others have written novels like this (looking at you Anne Rice/Chuck Wending/Stephen King/R.L. Stine). However, the rest of us struggle through each word and sentence and paragraph to get that completed novel. When writing, there are some general do’s and don’ts we must consider regardless of genre, to help us through the task of writing. I tackle some of these below:

First Things First

I am not Stephen King or Clive Barker or any of the amazing horror writers out there. I am me. I have a completely different persona, history, life and ability as myself. So the first thing that I never do is compare myself to the greats. I refer to them and reference them, nothing wrong with that, but when I write I do not write to become King, Lovecraft or Straub. So don’t do it either!

Don’t think cliches are overrated:

This is where people immediately falter when it comes to writing a genre. They hear other writers, published and unpublished, tell them not to write cliches. I personally think they are wrong on a fundamental level. The genre’s work because of these cliches. Look at the Orphan/Chosen One cliche in Percy Jackson, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, King Arthur, Wheel of Time, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Giver and so on and so on. Imagine they told these authors “Chosen one’s are so overrated. Don’t do it.”  and how many of these great books (and movies) we would have lost.

Do it different:

Yes there are a lot of them, but there are many ways that you can write the cliche to make it different. Unique. Start with the cliche (if that’s what you have) and build on it until it’s yours.

“The merit of originality is not novelty, it is sincerity.”

~ Thomas Carlyle

Don’t assume “It’s been done before.”:

Very similar to the cliche but different on one aspect: it may not be a cliche. Think of the Marvel/DC comic book universe and the idea of mutants or humans with super powers. Now think of I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, Jumper by Steven Gould, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and many others (My Hero Academia!?). Each of them talk about super-powered humans but each of them tackle the story in a unique way.

Do it unique:

Very much the same advice as cliches. Find a new way to write the idea but in a unique way. Use the same perspective or character types but different from the norm. Now I’m not saying steal ideas and just re-write the characters or story, that’s a no-no. Nonetheless you can take elements you enjoyed in those and craft your own story.

Everything has already been done. Eevery story has been told, every scene has been shot. It’s our job to do it one better.

~ Stanley Kubrick

Genre Writing: Fundamentals

Much of what I’ve read when it comes to choosing a genre is confusing. The reason it’s confusing? Motivation.

I’ve read articles that tell you not to limit yourself to a genre – you’ll stifle your writing. Some are references to other authors who have a multi-genre story where the novels they write are not defined by a type… and shouldn’t be. These blog posts have said things like,

“The easiest choice to make is not to choose at all. By choosing to stay open to writing in any genre you are free to pursue any idea that grabs you.”

Some articles are geared towards what the audience/publisher wants or how to get published. They say things like,

“Choosing the right genre makes it easier to get your book into the hands of readers who are likely to enjoy it the most.” and “Stay current with what’s showing up in the market.”

As for me personally, I write according to what I want to write. Similar to the former point above with one exception; I gear the idea towards a genre or let the genre guide the idea. I limit myself or have free reign. The only time I have an audience or publisher in mind, is if I’m entering a competition or given specifics about what to write.

How do I Choose a Genre?

There are two contributing factors that determine what kind of story I’m going to write. They are Emotion and Idea.

Emotion

I’m a pretty emotional guy. Well maybe that’s the wrong way to put it… I am temperamental when it comes to my stories… uhhhh, okay I am affected by mood. Yes that’s it, I am affected by mood. How does that work? Well here are some examples.

  • Genre: I can write a horror story at any time. It’s my default genre. The genre then guides the idea forward into a story where I flesh out the idea but always referring to the genre. Examples are:
    • Horror: Scare the living daylights out of the reader. What are things I am afraid of? How do I set the mood to reflect fear? How do the characters deal with this fear?
    • Sci-fi: Futuristic technology at its finest. What is something on the fringe of technological possibility that tells a great story? What setting best captures this world? How do the characters react to this world?
    • Fantasy: Knights and Magic. What world suits this genre? What kind of characters can I expect? What epic adventure can the characters undertake to capture this genre?

However, depending on how I’m feeling, a genre can become multiple genres. This is how my emotions affect the genre:

  • Horror Romance: When I feel happiness or joy I am able to write something light, but my love of horror twists it into a dark tale.
  • Dark Fantasy: Excitement courses through my veins and I’m inspired by the idea of an adventure but horror twists it into something darker.

Idea

Like many creatives, I get sparks of ideas that start off with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” From there on the idea manifests itself into a genre. Examples are:

  • What if Idea: There was a girl who found a coin…
    • Horror: The coin belonged to a demonic being who slowly starts to possess her the longer she keeps it.
    • Sci-fi: The coin has “3017” on it with the face of a robot. She’s then pulled into the future.
    • Fantasy: The coin allows her to cast “magic” and she finds there are more people with these special coins.
    • Romance: A boy runs up to her and says it’s his coin and they find a common ground on coins.
    • Steampunk: The coin only works on a specific automaton that powers a steam-powered machine.

Sometimes emotion can affect the idea, but on most parts it plays a lesser role and I try to match my emotions/mood to the idea. Unless it sparks a beautiful new story from the idea…

Fundamental of Genre Writing

These are just some of the basic ways that I will come up with a story. For the next segments I will discuss how I brainstorm ideas when writing horror, and more in-depth. I will show the tips and tricks I use, the research sites and the whole process. With it, I will post a short story on Friday to show how I implemented it.

Looking forward to seeing you.


How do you come up with ideas for a story you’re writing? Do emotions play any role? Is genre important or the idea or both?

As a reader, have you ever wondered how an author came up with an idea? Do you only read certain genres or read specific authors because they focus on your favourite genre?

I’d love to know.

The Idea Fiend – Aligning Your Thoughts

If you’re a writer, I’m pretty sure you have days when ideas flood your mind like an overfilled dam. Whether those ideas are for stories, characters, worlds, or plot points, if managed badly they could get seriously overwhelming.

Align Your Thoughts

I’m currently working on multiple projects (when am I not) and the result is a growing folder of first drafts, story notes and, occasionally, quotes. I don’t have a plan for them other than, “I’ll get to it eventually.” And unfortunately that eventuality never comes to fruition.

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
― Mercedes Lackey

What I’ve started doing is the following:

  • Create a Project:  I use X-Mind, a free mind mapping tool, to plan my ideas. Each idea gets its own bubble and I explore each one enough to have some of the basics covered.
  • Make Notes: When I’m not at my computer I use my phone or a notepad to jot down the ideas. Nothing long-winded or detailed. I write short, simple points in bullet form, then link them as I see fit while the ideas flourish.
  • Voice Notes: When I’m driving, I usually put my phone on the dashboard with the voice recorder on and just talk about my ideas. I probably look weird but… aren’t all authors?

Once I have all the ideas, I explore each of them using the age old method: Who? What? Where? When? Why? (and how?)

Things to cover

This method is useful for exploring various aspects of an idea. When it comes to story ideas I use them as follows:

  • Who: Who are the characters in the story?
  • What: What is the story about? What are the characters doing? What is their motivation?
  • Where: Where is the story taking place?
  • When: When is the story taking place?
  • Why: Why are the characters doing what they are doing? Why is the story happening?
  • How: How am I telling this story? Perspective. Genre. Style. Tone. Voice. Etc.

The same method can be applied to scenes.

  • Who: Who are the characters in this scene?
  • What: What is this scene about? What are the characters doing? What happened before? What will happen afterwards?
  • Where: Where is this scene taking place? Where are the characters?
  • When: When is this scene in the story?
  • Why: Why are the characters doing what they are doing? Why is this scene happening?
  • How: How do I start/end this scene? How do I move the story forward?

Things to keep in mind

While having a billion (exaggeration) ideas and jotting each one down is great, the truth is: you can’t write out every idea into a story. Here’s some quick tips on what to do with all of them:

Choose the best/favourite one.

Not all the ideas you have will be great. That’s a given. So why not choose your favourite. If that one doesn’t work, choose the idea that works best or is fleshed out more.

Test it out.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to try out each idea. Choose a couple of your favourites/best and give them a test trial. Take your characters for a walk, explore your world, tell part of the story, or analyse your plot in short paragraphs. See which one is worth focusing on first.

Let it simmer

This is a slightly “dangerous” one but could be useful. Let ideas simmer for a while and do something else. You might gain an epiphany while you cook/clean/game/exercise etc. Just don’t let them sit for too long or you’ll be counterproductive.

Ask a friend

Or a writers group if you’re part of one, or fellow bloggers/writers. Gain some fresh insight to help you make a good choice. Bounce the ideas off people you trust.

Draw it out

Or make an actual mind map or some visual aid – like the wall you see in detective movies. It’s difficult to see your computer files or notes in their individual spaces. Pin them up or use sticky notes with a couple of words then tie them all in using red string (wool is best… also, sarcasm – although now that I think about it…).

Above all else, enjoy the process! One of the worst things to happen is for you to hate the idea you were so excited about. Just remember: the (recycle) bin is a terrible place for an idea to be.


What do you do when you have too many ideas? Please share your advice, you never know who you might help in the process.

What Does Your Story Say?

When I initially began writing, I was purposed to write stories with meaning. Not just fluffy fun tales of over-powered heroes saving damsels in distress, beating the familiar evil villain, and then riding off into the sunset with said damsel. It was too cliched. Too fake. Too fictional.

Hence that amazing quote by Anais Nin on the title of my blog. “Not what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” There could be many reasons why we might not be able to say something, but in our writing we can most certainly elaborate on them. Explore and expound for others to read and comprehend.

I’ve thought about changing that quote a number of times in the past, but I can’t get past the truth it speaks. It guided my tentative steps into serious writing. As fun as writing fan-fiction and ghost stories can be, sometimes I needed to write something with substance. Something concrete, addressing a personal issue or belief. I attempted a lot these in the past, ranging from Christianity to relationships to my greatest fears.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece of writing I labelled The Past:

The Past…

…is like a dark cave, contaminated, murky, fearsome place, one that we cordon off and try to forget about, ignoring the signs all around us that point back to it. But we cannot escape it. We sometimes linger at its entrance, gazing within the dark confines to see what can be seen. Safe enough. Safe enough away from what we know is within its depths. We know of the familiar creature within, one that bares an undeniably resemblance to ourselves, except for its blank dead eyes, dead in trespasses and sins, blinded from the truth willingly.

I was in a dark place for a while.

Self vs Other

These days I seem to be driven by concepts that are ‘out there’ rather than close to me. Removing self from the story and characters to create something outside of me. It’s much easier to ignore introspection. To escape to books and movies and music and art.

I could only hope to recreate those sensations in my readers. However, what I failed to notice, was that each creator of those inspirational  works had their own directive to their creation, a source that guided their work. It not only made them unique, but I as the recipient of their creativity, was able to experience what they experienced much deeper and fuller.

Combining self and these external sources, can create something beautiful. For example:

  • Adele’s soulful musical style was inspired by her own heartbreak, relationships, and a desire to making up for all the lost time through nostalgia and melancholy – yet she was inspired by Amy Winehouse and the album Frank.
  • Masamune Shirow (Masanori Ota) is a qualified oil painter, and creator of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. He writes thoughtful post apocalyptic cyberpunk futures with female protagonists – inspired by (and creator of) erotic art.
  • Stephen King’s stories involve the “every day man” thrust into a horror-fueled adventure, with running commentary on abusive, religious mothers (or priests) – the king of horror was inspired by other kings of horror H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear stories driven by gore and satire, are a manifestation of his creative mind – inspired by old music, where he uses the music to create scenes in his head and bring them to life.

Prolific creative figures who have combined their own experiences with their inspiration to produce amazing works.

When I make a film, I am hoping to reinvent the genre a little bit. I just do it my way. I make my own little Quentin versions of them.

~ Quentin Tarantino

Truth in Fiction

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying every story I write will be an obscured memoir of things I want to say but can’t say. I am saying, however, that there will be elements of ‘my truth’ to each story. Drawing from me and drawing from outside of myself to create. Ultimately sharing my truth in fiction, and still having a great story to tell. Combined with world building and character building, I can fully embrace a character and world without feeling like a stranger in my own story.

Like a ghost in a shell.


What does your writing process entail? How much of yourself do you put into your stories? Is your main character usually you or a version of you, or do you draw other people as your characters? What’s your inspiration?

Lorraine Ambers

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