Capital Quandary: A Grammar Tale

As I have been working on my new book, I’ve run into questions that probably should have been considered in my first novel.

Whoops! Live and learn. 😛

This quandary, as is almost always the case, revolves around grammar. I am not even the red-headed stepchild of a c-rated grammatician, so often find myself struggling to bring my writing into proper form. This time around the writer’s block, I was pondering capitalization.

Pretty sure that I couldn’t be the only fantasy writer struggling with when to (or not to) capitalize names of species or races, I looked for help.

All those readers out there lifting grammar-sharpened noses to avoid the waft of my inadequacies, pinch that honker and try to be understanding–writing fantasy (or sci-fi) presents some out-of-the-norm challenges.

As all of the curious are wont to do, I turned to my trusty search engine.

The result? A rather interesting article that can get a bit heavy and convoluted toward its center, but pulls out nicely in the end.

“Capitalization of Fantasy Race Names,” by Mark William Chase helped sort me out.

In a nut shell, he came to this conclusion:

“Can the people of the race/species be identified as having a common cultural heritage, language, religion (or set of beliefs), or general ideology, that uniquely distinguishing them as a group?” If the answer is yes, their name should be capitalized as it is with Visigoth or Celt. If the answer is no, then they are not a distinct cultural group and their name should be lower cased. This is why elf, in general fantasy terms as well as in mythology, is lower cased, while Elf is capitalized in fantasy works such as Lord of the Rings where the Elves do have a common cultural heritage.”

-Mark William Chase
Capitalization of Fantasy Race Names

As language is a continuously transmogrifying monster that gobbles the woulds and shoulds of our oral and written traditions without even the courtesy of chewing with its mouth closed, everyone has a right to their own opinions, so I leave it to you to decide whether or not this is a viable policy.

For me, it works. So, my mengens will be lower cased, my Eidolons capitalized, and the poor humans will not even know they are being slighted.

Sincerely,
the comma-deaf waif wishing she had a clue

Sources: Mark William Chase: “Capitalization of Fantasy Race Names
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First steps

Well, I’ve managed to focus my novel’s first chapter into a first person perspective and I think it worked!

I mean, I think my main character’s voice pushed through to the forefront even more assertive than I could have hoped for. I am going to wait until a few of my most trusted advisors read the chapter before making final decisions, but I think they will like the changes as well.

Difficulties:

Did I or do I?

During my revisions in changing the perspective, I was in a constant battle of the tenses. In third person, that sort of consideration has always flowed smoothly through my brain.

However, in this version, I found myself stumbling in some areas over present and past tenses. I’m not sure if this is simply a *paucity of practice or general lack of grammatical skill on my part.

Haha…grammatical skills. I’ll never claim to have those.

Looking up some general advise to help navigate, I discovered this section on Now Novel.com that I thought interesting:

3: Mix the tenses for colour and variety

Le Guin raises a good point about writing tenses. Le Guin describes the downside of telling a story almost exclusively in present tense:

‘It all rather sounds alike…it’s bland, predictable, risk-free. All too often, it’s McProse. The wealth and complexity of our verb forms is part of the color of the language. Using only one tense is like having a whole set of oil paints and using only pink.’

Instead mix different tenses where appropriate, but signal changes between time settings:

For example:

That morning, she had run her usual route to the store. As she turned the corner, she had come upon a disturbing scene. Apart from the glass and metal sprayed across the road like some outgoing tide’s deposit, there were what looked like two stretchers, mostly eclipsed from view by a swarm of emergency workers.

Now, safely home, she decided to lie down, all the while trying to get that scene out of her mind.

Mixing the tenses can help to show the cause and effect of interlocking events. The use of the past perfect to describe the scene of an accident in the example above is effective because the past perfect shows what is already complete. It gives it an irrevocable quality, the quality of a haunting, living-on-in-memory event. Finished, but not finished in the character’s mind’s eye.

Source: Writing Tenses: 5 Tips to get past, present and future right

Now I really want to read more from Le Guin, obviously, but this description pretty much describes what I’m trying to accomplish. I think I managed to work out the kinks, finding a balance between the various aspects of do, did, and have done. However, I have no doubt, it will take more practice to master the fine art of the tenses in first person.

Positives:

Did she really just say that?

I think Satani’s character really gets a chance to shine in this version. She says and notices some aspects of the scenes I hadn’t considered in third person.

For non writers out there, this must sound really pretty insane, but I promise I won’t stick my head in an oven, if you will just roll with the oddness.

As, first person is such a in-depth view into my Character’s head, I find that she notices specifics that the third person narrator, no matter how close, did not. It’s kind of fun writing this closely with her, feeling as if I’m finally right there in the action, rather than standing back on a platform to judge and tweak each sentence.

Another article that had a lot of generally good advice that stuck out in my head was “First Person Point of View” on The Writers Craft.com

First person point of view is the most reader friendly. It’s intimate. The reader feels like the character’s best friend. In fact, the viewpoint character will often confide in the reader things he wouldn’t tell his best friend.

Source: First Person Point of View

So, here we are, learning how to see the world differently. I hope this will be a productive new journey for my writing. I can’t see how it will hurt. You will all have to be the judge when my book finally does come out. Until next time!

Sincerely,

A woman along for the ride

*I’m always learning new vocabulary. If you want to join in, please do!

Transitioning perspectives

My first novel, Starkin, has been on my computer for years now, patiently awaiting a moment of sheer bravery.

I've submitted my manuscript many times and had an equal number of rejections or lack of responses. This put me in a rather poor state of mind, which, among other distractions, contributed to my two-year writing sabbatical.

Now, I'm beginning a final editing round before self publishing and am making some frightening and difficult decisions. Most pointedly, about perspective.

My writing has always lent itself to third person, but over the past few years, as urban fantasy has grown in popularity, the realm of first person perspective has truly blossomed. I've been reading some amazing heroic journeys crafted by authors such as Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews, which have made me look at my own writing and wonder…what if?

What if my character's thoughts, already bursting through the gaps of a close narrative, just need a whispered nudge to fall into an entirely new scope? What would the grand I do to, and for, my story?

I've decided to find out. I am going to take the first chapter and Beta test my theory. Can I wrangle the first person perspective into a true outlet for my character? Is she strong enough to fill that role? Is this just what she needs to get her voice out there?

We will just have to wait and see.

Sincerely,

An explorer with pen and paper

A thirst for words

I’m excited to say, my beautiful toddler is able to self entertain long enough these days for me to sit down and write.

I feel like I did when I first picked up a #2 Pencil and yellow long-leaf notebook at the age of 10, wondering with growing amazement what story would come out of the tip. Maybe my mommy-time sabbatical will prove to be a blessing in disguise! I’ve taken two years, and some change off, and now my batteries are recharged and the ideas are flowing.

First step: Planning!

I’ve decided to write an Urban Fantasy novel series, which has been rumbling around in my head for years! I’ve played with the first 40 pages a few times, a tendency I seem to have before I can get serious about a project.

With the discovery of Scrivener, I’ve enjoyed the act of really breaking my world down into manageable, as well as research-able, bits. If this is going to be a longer series and a world I visit often, I want to make sure all the street signs are loud enough and the sleazy Overseers are believable.

I am getting into the aspects of my characters that I truly enjoy ferreting out, motivation and inspiration. I use a variety of methods to eek out every possible smidgen of emotion to help me understand each character’s journey. One of my favorite exercises, as suggested in “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook,” is to have my characters dream.

Once I’ve outlined their past and futures it seems only fitting to give them leeway and see what direction we go in. You’d be surprised what hidden emotions, fears, hopes and resentments come out in this step.

In my first novel, “Starkin,” the dream stage for my  protagonist changed the entire route I was taking with the novel. It flowed as true and perfectly imperfect as a waterfall. I’m hoping I’ve gotten to know my new character, Lina, just as well.

Here’s hoping!

Yay for writing! Let’s do this!

Sincerely,

A fierce determination

 

Names

Names, names, names, names, names…

When writing a new novel, you’ve got to generate what I consider to be a confusing and somewhat cumbersome number of names. You must give that city, the street, an apartment building, the lead character’s dog walker, karate master, bus driver, demon ruler, and some random city park a name.

I know as an author of Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, the urge is to add so many vowels that even I can’t pronounce the result, but I must, and will, resist.

This time around, I will have some names that are a bit more fantastical, coming from a fantastical race, but largely the world will be human mixed with magic. This means there will be Dave the baker, Tisha the security officer, Simon the part-time musician, and so many other “normal” monikers.

But naming things isn’t as simple as pulling words out of a hat (or google search engine), especially in a novel where names have power, history and impact on the characters’ society. For example, the library…just a building filled with books, right? Nope! It is one of the infrastructures around which this world will run. Thus, I can’t just say welcome to the South Nashville Library… It must have a name that not only matches the building’s import, but also attains the interest of the reader…

So, how to find just the right name for just the right fictional place or character? I’ll let you know when I can figure out this library’s blasted name.

Until then, wish me luck!

 

World Building

My brain is brimming with new laws, maps, religions, magic, characters, and all the thousands of major and tiny building blocks of a new world. I’ve been brewing my next Urban Fantasy series, which I hope to start (technically, restart) writing within the next few weeks.

So far, it is shaping up to be a fun world to create and maintain.

Getting the world set is proving to be an interesting challenge. I need to stay super organized, but I’ve never excelled in the OCD arena. However, I am going to give it my all.

In an effort to actually keep the myriad factoids about this world properly organized, I’ve purchased Scrivener. Now, here is a program for a writer.

I believe Scrivener will be to me as the IPhone now is to my life.

How did I live without it?

No clue.

Just glad I don’t have to anymore.

So, onward with the writing, researching and general awesomeness that is world building. Minecraft can’t touch this, my peeps.

P.S. I love Minecraft.

 

 

 

Back in Action

Alright, so, I’ve been gone. Not many people out there will have noticed the absence. I can’t blame them. I haven’t given anyone, even myself, much reason to be sad about my  sabbatical from writing.

That is about to change.

As a mother of a 15-month-old girl, who makes my life so much more complicated and wonderful than I ever thought possible, I can readily admit that I’ve been criminally negligent with my writing. I’ve breastfed, cuddled, coddled, texted, Facebooked, and Townshiped my way through a year and some change. I will never say it wasn’t worth it, but I do feel a smidgen of my time could have been directed toward my writing.

I did read a good deal, which I hope will have kept my thoughts and plots nimble. We’ll see!

Moving forward, I know I have a new depth of understanding about life that will certainly color my perceptions. I’m curious to see what will come of me. In a time of life when very little of my energy can or does go toward myself, I hope that in this at least, I can focus fully.

I say this as my daughter clings to me crying as if her heart is broken.

Oh, the adventures ahead!

I invite you all to join me.

Outlining or writing straight into your story?

I’ve taken Creative Writing/Novel Writing classes for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. There are many books that will discuss the “best” way to plan your novel, round out your characters, and otherwise finish your book. The Weekend Novelist Cover photo

On the right track:

One of the best how-to-get-shit-done books I’ve read so far is The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray and Bret Norris. During a novel writing course at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, I followed the formula and, sure enough, came out at the end with my first completed novel.

I feel that following this sort of outline is helpful in the beginning because it gives you a chance to learn and grow while still getting the words down on to the page. The Weekend Novelist is especially encouraging for those who have schedules that don’t allow for a lot of time for a daily writing schedule…hence the title.

Me, Myself, and writing blocks galore:

As I’ve been having trouble sitting down and getting the writing done, I’m wondering if I need to go back to this book and follow a formula that I’ve already used one to get it done. I’ve written a few longer projects from beginning to end without this process, but now that I’m stumbling maybe it’s time to step backward and use those starting blocks again.

Is I normal, or is I ain’t?:

I can’t help but wonder if this is a normal issue for writers. I feel like I can get a good feel for my characters, world, story and such without these steps, but then why aren’t I getting any writing done?

The easiest answer: I’m super lazy.

The more complicated answer: Fear.

I feel that both are true in their own special way.

But what helps get us past these self-made walls of emotion and self destruction? Is it backtracking or simply pushing forward in the same fashion we did before the meltdown?

What works for me works for you?:

Even when on the top of my game, when I have a rough outline for a story and know the characters I want to use, what’s the best method to get it all straight in my head and on paper?

Is this sort of book or similarly rigid steps are necessary for every novel? When do you absorb the message and move beyond the routine? Do you ever?

I feel like when I’ve been steamrolling into a novel of the romantic variety I’ll hit a roadblock and it takes a long time to recover. Maybe this reflects that lack of pre-preparation. Or perhaps it would have happened even if I’d followed the rules.

Maybe one day I’ll know for sure, but for now…still learning.

Feel free to share everyone because I need advice!

Navigating Kindle Direct Publishing

I’m grateful for authors who put up their experiences like this. Those of us who are starting to tread into the scary self-publishing waters truly appreciate any and all advice we can get!

Lisa Morrow Official Author Page

KDP

Learning to use Kindle Direct Publishing to publish my novel To Kill a Wizard wasn’t nearly as hard as learning to properly format my book for Kindle readers. Both, however, had their challenges, which I’ll share here, as well as, some tips on how I formatted my novel.

Things I learned:

  • First, I uploaded my book and made sure there were no basic issues.
  • After that, I looked at how my book actually appeared on my Kindle Previewer. I found I needed to adjust my spacing, indents, and font size, depending on what I thought looked best.
    • In “page setup,” I changed the page size to be six-by-nine.
    • Then, I had to select a “custom margin” based on the size of my book. I believe I went with the “top,” “bottom,” and “outside” being .5, the “inside” being 0, and the “gutter” being .75.
    • I selected “mirror margins” and applied…

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