Dealing with novel challenges is nothing new for A Drift of Quills. I know, you read the fabulous stories, and they’re just so darned good that you can’t put them down until you reach those last two words: “The End.”
Easy for you to say, Oh Gentle Reader! Behind the scenes though, you are quite likely to find an author contemplating murder, natural catastrophe, or even a lightning bolt from the heavens (is that natural?) to strike down a difficult plot problem. And those suckers pop up when you least expect them, whether you plot carefully or write with wild and careless abandon.
So here’s the question of the day: What has been the biggest writing challenge with our current novel?
Novel Challenges? Do Your Worst!
My experiences in the novel-writing game are relatively few, but so far, every novel has posed at least one challenge. I’m not talking about the Usual Life Challenge that pops up every time you choose a cool project and Things Happen. Like the furnace goes out, or you get the flu, or you remember at the last minute that a Quills Post is due tomorrow… No, I’m talking about novel-specific snags and pitfalls. Like the Beisyth Web in As the Crow Flies, or the (top secret now) timeline issues in Flesh and Bone.
Once in a while, the writers that make up A Drift of Quills actually take a break from writing. No, really! Maybe you want to know what do we do when we’re away from the writing desk. Is it gardening or improvement projects? Baking or bull riding? How about dragon-taming? Do these extracurricular activities inspire new stories or scenes? Help us focus? Read on to find out what we do with all of our copious spare time…
Let’s Take a Break from Writing…
My writing desk follows me everywhere. Virtually, anyway. Overheard conversations make good fodder for dialogue. A turn of phrase from a television show or movie often suggests an entire scene or plot point. I realized during a discussion about some people in my life that one of them in particular would make a fantastic model for a character. (No, I will not say whether protagonist or antagonist!)
I try to jot these ideas down on my phone, but sometimes I really have to tell my desk to go to its room and let me take a break from writing. Have you ever noticed that not thinking about a thing is like a magic solution for finding an answer to it?
“Whim” has often been the instigator in my break-time activities. When I’m stuck and getting nowhere with my writing, chores are my go-to writer’s block breaker. Weird, right? There’s nothing like the soothing scrub-scrub-scrub of a brush on the shower floor, or the noisy hum of the vacuum cleaner to get the ol’ brain cells dancing.
Filling the Creativity Bucket
Okay, but seriously, though, my creativity bucket needs refreshing now and then. Quite often, I do that by finding another, different creative outlet. I love fooling around in Photoshop, doing digital matte painting and maps. I’ve done some digital scrapbooking as well.
But, Robin! Can you tear yourself away from the computer at all?
Why, yes, I think I can! Sometimes I putter around in the garden. Our newly installed back yard is deliberately low-maintenance. I love looking at it, but I don’t want to have to work all the time to make it pretty. Hubby and I often sit in our (still new) swing and admire last year’s labor. It’s lovely how much the maple tree has grown in just a year, and how well it shades the swing now.
I also like to do—in fits and spurts—family history, baking, quilting, reading, crafts of various and unpredictable sorts, and decorative painting on walls. Much of that has slowed down or stopped this year. I’m spending more of my days with my writer’s hat on and evenings are for Hubby. Usually, he wants to watch television or a movie, but sometimes he feels well enough to take the Jazzy Chair we were loaned out for a spin around the neighborhood. I walk. I hear exercise is supposed to be good for me…
I used to be quite a gardener. I had a huge plot. I can’t even estimate its size. I grew berries, beans, corn, squash, melons, peas, and on and on. Admittedly, even at the best of times, I tended to lose a fair amount of my crop because I couldn’t eat it in time and wasn’t big on storing methods (although drying herbs or beans was always a hit with me). (That said, I usually had an abundance. Don’t believe me? Check the pic here of just one wheelbarrow full of tomatoes from one year.) Also, in truth, I lost some crop to overzealous weeds that would come along about the same time that I was no longer having fun.
Author of The Unseen Chronicles Parker’s website
I don’t often get the question, “What keeps you busy?” That’s usually because I have three little boys running around and through my legs. I also work as a full time real estate agent, running my own business and managing property for myself and others. I have a master’s degree in film, but I’ve taken a step back from film production and editing to give more time to my love of writing.
And while I enjoy real estate and homes and remodeling and flipping, that isn’t necessarily where I get inspiration or rest. I don’t garden – the wonderful wood nymph I married is in charge of that department. Likewise, film and film editing is work – enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.
There are a couple of things I do that fill me up, that aren’t work, and sometimes even provide inspiration and encouragement… (Read more!)
Are you ready for Fiction Shots #2? Giddyup! A Drift of Quills are writing again—It’s a flash of fiction! Three different stories inspired by one picture.
The catalyst for these stories comes from the whimsical “Non Lo So,” by Zhiyong Li on Artstation. It tickled our fancies, for sure!
Pour yourselves a nice cool glass of lemonade (or a delightfully warm cup of hot cocoa, depending on the hemisphere), and see where our imaginations have travelled…
Fiction Shots #2
Flash #1: Opposite Tricks
By Robin Lythgoe
When Toady says they’re to paint the Widow Grayling’s house, Akasha stares along with everyone else.
“Orange.” Uneven teeth make his smile particularly fiendish. The gang erupts into hoots and shouts of laughter at that. The widow’s a quiet woman of modest means. Her house used to be brown, but most of the color’s chipped off now. It would no more willingly wear orange than would the widow.
“She needs some brightening.” Zekan always backs up Toady. If their illustrious leader decided they should all become acolytes at the local temple, Zekan would hand out the cassocks and thump anyone who questioned the choice. Same if Toady resolved to filch grub down in the Bellows—Royal Ghost territory, where Toady’s Azure Fang Gang would swiftly find their end. Hopefully not a permanent one… Did the Ghosts kill children? Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Fiction Shots #2 (Little Girl, Big City)→
Terrible Books—Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em? A Drift of Quills reads a lot of books. It’s our job. (Stinks, right?) We are bound to come across lemons now and then—and this time we’re talking about what we do with them. Do we keep reading? Throw fits? Recycle them and hurry to the next? Read on to discover our take on Books We Hate…
We’ve all come across them—those books that are so badly written you wonder if the author was even an earthling. Or, assuming that they weren’t hatched on another planet, if they bothered to attend grade school. Or if they live in a sensory deprivation chamber and have no freaking idea what the real world is like. The first pages of such a book are usually painful. Do you risk the agony of finishing the entire book? You want to know my philosophy?
Life is short.
I have been known to read books I don’t like, but there has to be a good reason. Like loads of wildly good reviews. Lots of awards. Inclusion on allegedly important lists. And even then I don’t always finish. Why should I? Life is short. And there are so many other, better books to read!
I used to wonder if I might not learn something from these “good” books.
I did! There’s no accounting for some people’s taste. This world would be a really boring place if we all liked the same things, did the same things, thought the same things. Thank goodness we don’t! And thank goodness there are a meeeellion more books to choose from when I come across drivel labeled as “an enthralling adventure bound to captivate,” “a book that touched me in profound ways,” “heartfelt,” or “unputdownable.”
I can put it down.
I can list it on my Did Not Finish list and withhold any and all fancy-schmancy stars on any review sites.
And sometimes (if the writing really makes my blood boil) I write a passionate review with lots of bolded sectionsand underlined phrases. Vehement outrage. And flames. I shake my fist, too, but that doesn’t translate well to paper. But I never post it. I tuck it away in a folder, and go find another book to read.
Let me point you to a few good ones right here, just in case you need some salve after writing your own fiery non-review: Flinch-Free Fantasy.
What to do with a book you hate? Or, even worse, a book that was just, ‘meh.’ It doesn’t even warrant the energy of hurling it against the opposite wall. It barely deserves a sigh and a shrug, and certainly won’t get a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Too much effort for a story that simply didn’t captivate. So what do you do with that story? Are you a finisher? A staller? Or a tosser?
Do I finish books that I start, but hate? I can answer this question with a single title: Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. I found Moby Dick to be utterly, incomprehensibly, annoyingly, mind-bogglingly boring—and odd—and downright awful. I hated it. Hated it! Nothing, nothing anyone could say about a color, or its significance, or what Melville may have mean to symbolize through the use of a color, could ever possibly resurrect this title for me. I found a solid 70% of the work to be complete nonsense—a waste of ink and a waste of paper. Lest I be mistaken, let me put it simply: I truly and completely abhor this work. Perhaps more than any other I’ve ever read. So… (Read on. You know you want to!)
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What do you do with the books you hate? We want to know! Tell us in the comments below!
Conlang—constructed language—is today’s topic for A Drift of Quills. Do we make up our own languages for our books? How? If not, why not?
Pull up a chair, grab yourself a cookie or twenty, and read on to find out how the gang feels about fictional languages!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I have a kind of lazy love for language. My copy of the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style makes me crazy, but… I’m one of those readers that will highlight passages in novels that sing to me. Sometimes I copy them into a file to come back to later so I can oo and ah over them. And I did take the equivalent of seven years of foreign language in high school. (I think I learned more about English there than I did in English classes!) Then there was Tolkien. Was my experience a recipe for conlang or what? Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Conlang (What’s That You Say?)→
It’s time for some Fiction Shots — flash fiction, that is! A Drift of Quills are at it again: one picture, three authors, little bitty writing space. The inspiration for our tiny tales comes from an untitled piece by the artist JuYoung Ha on ArtStation. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
It’s always fun for me to see how other authors interpret a picture or invent a story from it. Isn’t it delightful how wonderfully, crazily different we all are? Let’s see how these fiction shots play out…
Welcome to A Drift of Quills, and today’s fun topic of “Book Spine Poetry.” This form of literature is pretty simple, and we’re excited about simple this month. Book spine poetry is a kind of “found” art. First, you need books. Start with one or two that spark your interest. As you stack them up, swap them around until they create a poem or a poetic “story.” The limitations encourage creativity, and we love creativity!
My taste in poetry is questionable.
I gravitate toward freeform (usually only my own—how arrogant!), the unusual (sample below), or limericks and “revised” song lyrics (for which I blame my husband).
In my teens I went through an angsty period where I wrote reams of freeform poetry, 98% of which were terrible. Wrist to forehead dramatically, I determined I would make my living as a moody poet. Until I discovered a) how bad I was and b) how difficult that career choice actually was. I like food far too much to take up life as a Starving Artist.
Dr. Seuss might have had some influence on my choices of “unusual” poetry. I liked the silliness then, and I still do. So I find myself tickled by such things as “The Song of Milkanwatha,” by Marc Anthony Henderson, a parody of Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.” And I love the dubious humor of Ogden Nash:
I don’t mind eels. Except as meals, And the way they feels…
Limericks are easy to like, and easy to have fun with, though I prefer the non-bawdy variety. There are such things, yanno! Trivial detail for you: limericks are said to have derived from the chorus ‘will you come up to Limerick?’, sung between improvised verses at gatherings. “Improvised” is the key word here, and segues well into the “revised song lyric” category.
My wonderful, funny husband is always changing up the lyrics to songs to suit the occasion. His most often misused song is probably the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies television show, but he is perfectly willing and able to exercise his (really questionable) talents with any other song in the universe. He discovered early on in our marriage that it was nearly impossible for me to stay angry at him when he sang silliness at me.
Now that we’ve established that serious poetry is not my forte, I present you with my latest attempt at book spine poetry:
There is something Freudian involved here, I’m sure. It turns out that I used two of the same books that appeared in my lastbook spine poetry exercise. I assure you, it was unintentional. Please feel free to translate what you think this means; I’d be interested to know!
These days, as I’m wrapping up my latest work, I’m realizing how much of what I write is intended for—is directed specifically at and to—young women. While I’m certainly old enough, I have no grandchildren of my own. I’m finding, however, that the grandmother in me is coming out anyway. She comes via my life as an author, and my granddaughters include… (Read more!)
Poetry pushes us to the limit of our understanding – to the edge of ourselves. That’s why it can be so chaotic and disorienting, but it can also be where we learn something new. Something that we couldn’t have known before, had we not been challenged.
But the challenge of poetry is a soft one. A gentle breeze that carries us beyond, to a new place, and then brings us back, changed. Because when you learn something, you change. You become something new. The old has died…
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We’d love to have you join us in our poetry-making. Post your family-friendly photos below in the comments!
Face it—nobody likes a one-star review, whether we’re authors, parents, employees, or anything else. Today A Drift of Quills discusses how they feel about those zingers. Are one-star reviews ever helpful? The more I thought about this particular can of worms, the more I wanted to put a lid on it! Yes, people have the right to express their opinion. No, it’s not always kind, helpful, or even necessary. Yes, the person under the glaring light of criticism might learn something valuable. No, that doesn’t give Everyone Else the right or the duty to shred someone’s work to pieces.
Did it just get really foggy in here?
Has a low rating of my book ever helped me? Well… no. I can’t say it has. The few I’ve received are vague or whiny. There’s no meat to them, you know what I mean? They don’t do me any good, and they don’t really help other readers, either. It’s like having someone say that peas are nasty, disgusting things that everyone should avoid. But wait! Other people like peas! And I hear they’re good for you. And such a pretty color. And round. (Do you happen to like round things?)
Don’t go getting too excited about stabbing folks with one-star reviews and tacking on lengthy criticisms, though. While some books are really horrendous (I’ve read my share!), take a minute and breathe. Remember what it’s like to be a human being. (You are one, right?)
I’ve found it helps if I walk away from the book I hated. Simmer down a little. And then I try to think of something I actually did like about the book. Yes, sometimes it’s a challenge, but there’s usually a description or a funny comeback, or something worthwhile.
And if I can’t think of a single positive thing about the book, I write a flaming rant of indignation and fury—And then I never post it anywhere.
Interacting with criticism is never easy as an author. There’s opportunity to grow, to shape our stories, and do better, but it still isn’t easy.
From the reader’s point of view, reviews can provide a wonderfully unvarnished perspective on what to expect. I read reviews on everything from books, computers, a new lawn mower or a plastic doodad to organize junk. Just how well does this doodad organize? How well does a this mower mow? How well does this computer compute, and how well does this book read? (Click here for the rest of the story!)
I believe that in general, the more reviews, the better. When I see a book with few reviews and those that are posted are all 5-stars, I tend to think that the author got a few friends to post positive ratings in an effort to promote sales for the book. By contrast, when I see a book with quite a number of reviews, I expect that I will find that some people have highly praised the work, while others will have been considerably less flattering.
When I personally review a work, I try to put myself in the shoes of the average intended reader for that work. (Read more!)
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How do you like getting “one-star reviews” for things you’ve done? How do YOU deal with giving them?? Let us know in the comments below!
What’s our inspiration? Writers and other creative people have many different approaches to beginning their projects. Today A Drift of Quills are talking about what inspires us to write our stories. They’re near and dear to our hearts, and writing a novel is an extraordinarily personal experience!
As I near the day I push the “publish” button for the second book in The Mage’s Gift, this seems a good time to reflect on the motivation behind the story. I think it was years in the making, and I think I will say the same about all my books and stories. What does inspire me? What prompts me to set pen to paper (I really did start out that way), and then fingers to keyboard? I’m inclined to call it “magic.” Continue reading A Drift of Quills: What’s Our Inspiration?→
Who better to come up with some nifty bookish gift ideas than A Drift of Quills? Being bonafide readers and writers ourselves, we know about this stuff. We are, after all, not the only literary types in our worlds. (That made sense, right?) To save you time, spark your imagination, and hint broadly, we’ve set out to track down some of the coolest, funnest, funkiest, interesting ideas for your Christmas (or otherwise) gifting…
Bookish Gift Ideas for You and Everyone Else on Your List
Bookish gift ideas are nice to have any time of the year, right? We all know people who love to read and write, and there are many gifting occasions throughout the year.
But it’s December already, and although we have the same twelve months every year in which to prepare ourselves, we’e running behind again. And if you are one of those Miracle Early Shoppers, you’re probably still looking for a few last minute ideas for stockings, or office parties, or… all that jazz.