July 31, 2013

Writer Wednesday Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 6:50 am
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Last year, I had a few writers on this blog to talk about writing in a bi-weekly blog-fest called Writer Wednesday. I thought it was time to revisit some highlights.


Julie R. Andersen: Writing is an Addiction I’m Glad to Have
Julie shares her experience of what to me sounds like a nightmare: what do you do if you can’t write?

Joshua Alan Doetch: How Can You Write This Stuff And Not Get Screwed Up?
Joshua tackles the age old question: why do we love writing horror? And who better to attempt to describe that lust, than the person who writes horradorable fiction?

Krista Holle: My $20,000 Mistake
Krista shows and tells us the difference between first and third person, and why she prefers one over the other.

I hope you all enjoyed revisiting these posts as much as I did.


May 31, 2012

Writer Wednesday is Going on Hiatus

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 6:52 pm
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Sorry to say this, but until the game I’m currently working on ships, I do not have the capacity to run this blog as well as I want. Something had to give, and it was Writer Wednesday. My bi-weekly guest spot will open up for new submissions in the beginning of July and will probably get up to speed again by August.

As always, would love to have more guest posters. I just have to have time to actually keep up with it.

See you on the flip side!

May 9, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Ethan Kincaid

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 1:03 pm
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Today, I’m proud to present Ethan Kincaid. My first meeting with Ethan’s writing was when he joined our writing group, St-Norbert’s Writer’s Circle. He presented the first chapter of his novel, and the first comment he got was: This is the most publishable material we’ve looked at yet. A mere year later, he’s getting ready to publish the full thing himself. Keep your eyes open for Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy. I’m happy to be one of the first to recommend it.

As someone choosing the self-publishing route, Ethan gets his hands dirty with every part of the publishing process. Here, he talks about how to pick a cover artist.

So, you need to commission novel cover art for the first time? Don’t panic. There is a great wealth of artists at your fingertips right now. Before you get on Google, let me suggest something: don’t go with a hugely famous artist.

You want a professional and you can have one. What I recommend is not taking the first five search results as your ideal candidates. If you frequent art sites like DeviantART or Elfwood, for example, you already have favourite artists. You like them because their art speaks to you. While an artist of greater renown may have a huge, impressive profile, how do you know they will give your work the “face” that fits your vision? You’re about to shell out some serious cash here. $500 to $2000, paying half up front, is pretty standard. Think about it.

Artists have egos, some easier to deal with than others. With all the prospective publishers, agents, and editors you have to flatter, you don’t need one more person to coddle. Lesser-known artists are more likely to be approachable, affordable, available, and flexible. The quality of their art is often the same or better than the big players.

I’m negotiating with some artists I’ve admired for years. Let me tell you, it’s an incredible feeling of excitement. Enjoy that! Also, take pride in giving money to an artist who really needs it. You may have noticed that it’s tough making a living on art. You can make your favourite artist’s life easier by giving them your business.

Got some artists in mind? See if they take commissions and what their policies, availability, and pricing are like. Send inquiries to at least three artists. If they’re available for commission, send a brief idea of what you will need on the cover. The artist will probably give you a price estimate at this point, based on the difficulty of the work.

They might offer to do a rough sketch of their idea, especially if their portfolio is smaller than some of the big-name artists. They might do this for free, or not. Remember, you’re paying for their time. If you ask for a sketch, be prepared to pay for it. They will usually have prices posted on their webpage for sketches. Budget for it. They might not want to do a sketch for you before you pay half of the commission fee. Sadly, this is because sometimes an artist will get cheated by a client taking their sketch and getting someone else to realize the art for cheaper. Be sensitive to the artist’s needs.

That said, if the artist is impatient with you, doesn’t take the time to answer your questions, frequently misunderstands what you say even though you’ve been pretty articulate, or you just have a feeling that they’re not very good at working with newbie authors, don’t make a contract with them. Whether it’s a simple communication problem or a prima donna attitude, you do not need the extra stress. An artist that will work with you to realize your dream is worth far more than a famous name.

April 29, 2012

Do you want to be part of Writer Wednesday?

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 9:22 pm
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You would be in great company with people like Joshua Doetch, Deborah Bryan and Anne Marie Stamnestro.

All you have to do is drop me a line in a comment, and I’ll send you the details.

April 18, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Karl Andre Bertheussen

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 11:35 am
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Today, I’m pleased to present Karl Andre Bertheussen, senior narrative designer for Funcom‘s game Age of Conan. Karl Andre’s job is to make sure the story told in AoC is compelling enough for people to keep playing the game. So who better to share some insights on designing narratives for games with us? I’ll leave the floor to this master story designer.

Narration in Games
What is game narration?

Most people associate “narration” with books or movies, but most games today rely on storytelling as well, just not in the conventional way of the traditional mediums. The key difference being audience interaction. A game involves the player actively in the story, whereas the audience of a movie or the readers of a book merely observe it.

However different, writing a game narrative has some similarities to that of a novel or screenplay. The degree of difference often depends on what sort of game the studio is developing. For example, a story in an first person shooter (FPS) will most likely be told in a very different way than the story of a single-player role-playing game (RPG). In this blog post I will focus on massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s), and the challenges of making good game narration for these types of games.

In a novel, the writer takes the reader down a strict and narrow path, much like a screenwriter does with the audience of a movie. From beginning to end, the reader is presented with plot, characters, and inciting incidents in the order the writer intended. The audience knows and accepts these rules, because breaking them (by fast forwarding or skipping a chapter) would ruin the experience of the medium.

In a game we don’t have the luxury of guiding the player down that same path, because if we do, we take away the freedom of choice which is a key part to why we have an audience in the first place. That presents us with the following challenges: How do we go about telling the story? How do we make the narrative work if the player has complete freedom of what he wants to do when, or even skips entire areas of the game? And on top of that: With games being so much more than narration, how do we make the players invested in the story?

The last question isn’t a big mystery: Players get invested in game narration for the same reasons they get invested in a good book. Plot, setting, characters, and drama – but unlike books, the game medium presents another important element: the possibility for the player to choose the outcome of the story, that the choices they make in its course has consequences and can change the world they interact with. However not impossible, these are difficult elements to incorporate in an MMO, because the game world must be constant to all players. If you rescue the farmer’s daughter, another player can do the same five minutes later. Even though you’ve made an impact on the world, the farmer’s daughter will still be captured for all those who didn’t rescue her yet. For some players this can take away from the story immersion, but as with skipping a chapter in a book, most players accept this rule of perpetuity in an MMO, and sees the story as something being told to them personally, rather than to everyone at once. Clever design can also help with this. As long as the captive farmer’s daughter is kept away from your future adventures, it becomes easier to accept that your action had an impact.

Making narration work in a game which offers freedom of choice in what to do when and where, is not an easy task. Having the player do quests is one solution. A quest is basically a small task, sending the player into an area with a specific purpose in mind. For example: rescuing the farmer’s daughter. If the main story of the play area is that brigands have taken control, you weave that information into the quest at hand, for example by placing the captive daughter in the brigand’s HQ. In this way, we can add a visual component to the narrative. Adding an HQ and placing out hostile brigands for the player to encounter on his way, is narration by gameplay, and an important way of telling the story. When the player returns to the farmer (with the freed daughter) he will know that the brigands are antagonists, whether he read the written narrative or not.

Quests are an important element of game narration. The way they are structured is very important, and the narration can easily falter if the story designer doesn’t know his job. How the quests are arranged, in which order they appear and where, and what bits of information the they give the player at which time, needs to be carefully planned to tell a story successfully. Sometimes quests are tied together, thus making sure the player is told the story in the order the designers want; sometimes quests stand alone, just supporting the main story by introducing characters or locations that are important to the narrative. The key to success is to find the right balance. As with a novelist, a game narrator doesn’t want to confuse his audience with too much information at once, give away the plot too quickly, or bore them with tedious details. He simply want the audience to enjoy themselves.

Game narration is a huge canvas to paint, but since I have greatly exhausted my suggested word count of 300, I believe I should end on this note. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

With a humble bow to all you dreamers out there,
Karl Andre Bertheussen,
Narrative Designer, Age of Conan (Funcom)

April 3, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Even Tømte

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 11:12 am
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Even Tømte is many things. An artist, a journalist, a writer, a father, a larper, a great friend. So it’s no surprise that he has a way with words. But this piece, which I’m honored to host on my blog, is not only well put, it tells great truths:

1. Writing leaves you exposed. Scary as hell.
2. Break all the rules.

Truer words and all that. I won’t spoil anything else. Just trust me when I say: you have to read this.


Break the Rules

I am a journalist in the specialized press, which means I cover a clearly defined field, for professionals and people with a special interest. I write about international economy, aid, and development for a government-owned magazine. Like most other fields, development has its own tribal language. We use words like MDGs and LDCs and the Paris agenda and good governance, or the Norwegian equivalents thereof. Like most journalists in the specialized press, I find it hard to write in a language that is at once intelligible, engaging, and precise.

The world is a strange place. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find engaging with the world to be a constant challenge, particularly the spaced-out parallel dimension that is the media. You turn the page of your newspaper, shell-shocked. You struggle to keep your breathing calm, reading Facebook, watching the news playing out its grotesque theatre, maybe even watching TV or getting turned into a neurotic by your smartphone. Screaming headlines about a politician tweeting something tounge-in-cheekish, «cultural debate» (is this art? Vote here: yes/no), some model getting «boob shocked», how to get the perfect smile (complete with a price list), cupcake recipes or those darn pictures of cute animals that people keep sharing, and it’s in some weird, fucked-up way your job to read this, ’cause you gotta keep up with the news, and you have this sinister feeling that you’re part of this too. This is how you pay your bills.

No wonder you drink.

No wonder you take up smoking at the age of thirty-one.

Pour me another one.

I recently started writing songs for my band. Stumbling a little at first, but gradually getting better at it. Embarrassed about my own texts, but encouraged by my fellow band members (who are razor-sharp writers themselves). It is great fun, and goddamn hard. No more telegraph-style news, no distant analytical musings or hiding behind sterile professional terminology. Honest, personal, hard, raw. Writing leaves you exposed. Scary as hell.

Going back to the job again was hard. Bills gotta be paid. But the feeling of alienation was stronger than ever. Hard-wired into the journalist ethic is a strong commitment to reality. But is this real? How do you present reality in a formatted, click-winning way with an hour or two of research, without bending and distorting and fucking it over? Do anyone still believe they can read the papers and learn what the world is like?

As a survival technique, I started writing parody. Portraying the absurdity around me, but in a format that is less internalized than the language of «news». Still bending and distorting, but according to different criteria. I find it to be a more honest way of describing what I see. While working, I would jot down impish comments and sentences in my notebook that were never meant to find its way into my news articles. I kept the texts stashed away on my hard drive for my own amusement.
Then one day, one of my devilish little texts started melting together with the actual news article I was supposed to write. I was a little puzzled by that at first, then I thought oh, what the hell and hit the publish button, and there it was. «The naughtiest text written in a government publication in years», one of my superiors called it. My editor loved it, and I thought, maybe I have found a way of dealing with the job after all. We’ll see.

Is there a lesson here? I think there is. Write stuff, write different stuff than you normally do, break all the rules, and then bring something home.

April 2, 2012

Guest post: Writing in public

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 8:05 am
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Good morning, guys!

Today, I can be found over on A Garden of Delights, blogging about writing in public.

Let me know what you think!

March 21, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Deborah Bryan

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 8:00 am
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Before I knew what a lovely blog Deborah Bryan has, or what a wonderful author she is, I loved her. I loved her because, when I took my first small steps onto this blogging platform, she welcomed me with open and encouraging arms. She was the first to press my “follow” button, and the first to comment. So I have to admit that I’m a bit biased about Deb. She could pretty much murder someone in front of me, and I’d still think she was all right (she’s like Kyle MacLachlan in that respect).

From her For This I Am Thankful (FTIAT) guest post series to her heartbreakingly personal posts, she always knows how to hook her reader and win their hearts. She certainly won mine.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go have coffee with my main character.

Taking time for coffee with character(s)
When I wrote my Glass Ball trilogy in 2004, time was in much, much more abundant supply than money.

Writing was my escape from being broke and without internet access in Japan. As long as I was writing, my world was the fictional town of Munsen, Montana. One of Munsen’s teens, Ginny, was a friend whose nearness helped me overlook the distance of my real-life friends.

I nurtured that nearness by writing virtually non-stop over the course of a month and a half. I’d wake up at 2 or 3 a.m., boot up my laptop and write until I had exactly twelve minutes left to get ready for work. I’d rush to get everything together and fly to work, arriving (barely) in the nick of time.

After work, I’d come home and crank out words until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I’d then sleep for a few hours and repeat.

I did this daily for the month and a half it took me to write the trilogy.

Seven years later, I commute, work and take care of a dog and a toddler as well as caring for myself. I’ve edited only one of the books I wrote in Japan. I recently started editing the second, a task which seems so very much more daunting in light of my current circumstances than writing a book in six days or a trilogy in six weeks under my old ones.

When I’m away from the computer imagining what I’d like to do with my time, my answers include things like “watching Castle,” “reading,” “playing Bejeweled Blitz,” and “cleaning the toilets.” Just about anything quickly done seems better than working on a task that can’t be done except in microscopic bursts over a very long haul.

But when I do sit down at the computer, I remember how much Ginny meant to me when I really, really needed a friend nearby. As I breathe life into her story, I’m touched to remember how her strength in the face of her struggles helped me feel a little stronger in the face of my own.

I’m only able to give her 20 or 30 minutes of my time at a go these days, but when I do actually sit down to give her both my time and my attention, I discover I’m giving myself a gift, too. In those moments, I remember the old days with Ginny as if we’re sitting together and chatting over lattes. As she tells me about her troubles, I listen and give suggestions I hope she’ll heed.

Each moment I sit down to write, I invigorate a good old friend no less real for all she lacks a physical presence. She got me through loneliness more intense than any I’d endured before, or have endured since.

It may be a struggle to find the time for her, but she’s worth it. Only by giving her this time will I ever be able to learn her full, true story—not just the one she predicts is coming, but the one she’ll actually live.

I’m probably going to keep on wishing I’d decided to give her the time a few years ago, before I became a mom. But in the moments we share while the rest of my household sleeps, I’ll savor the time I do have to catch up with Ginny … and the joy of seeing, as we talk, her path become illuminated.

March 19, 2012

Five Writing Lessons I Learned at University

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 7:34 pm
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Last week, I wrote a guest post about the differences between writing fiction and academic research. Well, to be honest, it was mostly about fear of rejection, but the differences between academia and fiction writing was in there. If you don’t believe me, go read for yourself. But that wasn’t the point. The point was: today I’m going to semi-contradict myself and talk about the similarities.

You see, there are five important lessons I learned from academic writing that I readily utilize in my fiction writing:

1. Research, research, research
The only way to really know a subject is to research it extensively. This is as true for world building as it is for academic papers.

I learned that lesson during the defense of my thesis, when my opponent brought out three relatively obscure sources using a different form of language research, but overlapping source material, and asked why I didn’t reference them in my reading list. How could I have missed those?

I imagine that feet melting feeling to be somewhat similar to one you’d get after reading a forum comment by a fan who didn’t buy your universe’s quantum mechanics because you didn’t adhere to some not-wikipediable theory. And sure, you can bluff your way out of it, like I did in the defense of the thesis (it went okay), but wouldn’t you rather be on top of your game?

2. Research, then move on
The flip side of the first lesson is knowing when you’ve studied enough. How to draw the line between extensive research, and procrastination. Sure, it’s important to know your field, but you have to make it narrow enough that you can know it well. And you have to move on once you have a good enough idea about what you’re studying that you can write the story.

I’m sure we’ve all gotten stuck in endless research mode once or twice, the key is knowing when to shake ourselves loose.

3. Write the introduction last
Okay, so I know this header is a bit misleading, because I always write my introduction first. That’s how I get into any article, story or novel. But the advice stands. The only way to write a good introduction (or a great first chapter) is if you know what’s happening at the end. You need to know what to allude to.

My method: write the introduction first, then never look at it until you’re done writing the whole thing (be it article, thesis or novel). Then write the intro again, fitting the shape the story took, not the shape you thought it would take in the first few weeks.

4. Make an outline
When I moved from academia to fiction, I threw out all my outlining lessons and let my imagination run free. After finishing the first draft of a novel, I understood that the outline was key after all, so I brought it back into my work. You see, outlines structure us in a good way. A good outline helps you shape your story, and gets you past those bumpy parts where you can’t remember what you originally thought you wanted to say and maybe you’re not sure you want to be a writer after all, maybe you were really meant to be a trucker, driving along the open road, or maybe a boss at a big company or a personal trainer, they have fun, right? I hate those parts, and my outline lets me skip past the panic by letting me save the hard parts for later, because I know where the scene leads, so I can start there, and go back later.

5. Screw the outline
As with academic papers, stories evolve while we write them. That’s why I use my outline as I use my initial introduction. I write it, then I ignore furiously. Outlining is a good exercise, but never let yourself be bound by it. The goal is knowing where you want to go on the map, but if you take a detour, the outline will change to match it, not the other way around.

How about you? Any other similarities between academic and fiction writing? What was your greatest success going from academia into fiction, or the other way around?

March 14, 2012

Writer Wednesday Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 7:05 pm
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Due to real life pressure and deadlines at work, this week’s Writer Wednesday will be pushed until March 21st.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

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