March Noticeboard

March 31, 2010

Poseidon’s Trident:
Current Chapter in First Draft (Typed) Stage:
Current Chapter in Edit Stage: None

Goals for March:

  • Write 250 words a day – Did well up until a week ago, than slackened off, partially due to assignments/exams, and partially due to laziness.
  • Complete NPI – Was knocked out of the comp.

Goals for April

  • Write 250 words a day. April 1-12 are excused.

I participated in NPI this month, hosted by Nick Enlowe. I did well, but ended up being knocked out of the competition in the final week.

I’ll be away camping during the Easter school holidays, so this blog won’t be updated between now and  April 12. But when I return, newly published author Graham Storrs will be guest posting here as part  of his blog tour for his novel TimeSplash. I look forward to having you, Graham. Also next month, I’ll be posting on swearing and henchmen.  As I said above, I’ll also be posting my NPI word counts for March 16-31.

I think I have to admit that I’m no longer reading one book a week. I don’t why, but my pace has slowed right down. This month, I finished reading Pirate Latitides, by Michael Critchon, and read a Tara Moss author, Fetish. It was the first time I read one of her books, and I loved it. Have the next three sitting in my TBR pile. I finished off the month reading Mutiny on the Bounty, by John Boyne (author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), and Tara Moss’s second novel, Split.

Can I just say that Mutiny on the Bounty = Awsome book. Boyne has some great writing skills.

That’s it from me this month. Have a happy Easter!


Travel Math

March 28, 2010

I recently came across a website which I believe is a nifty tool in calculating time and distance.

Travel Math is an amazing site. Using its features, one can calculate time differences between, say… Moscow and Washington (Moscow is ahead by 11 hours); the distance from Sydney to Shanghai (7835 km, or 4.8 miles); the flight time from Brisbane to Dublin (20 hours, 43 minutes). You can even calculate the flight emissions!

Also on Travel Math, you can find:

  • Driving distance/time from A to B
  • Fuel cost of driving from C to D
  • The latitude and longitude of point E
  • Closest airport and nearby hotels in point F

As a writer with several different locations all around the world as settings, Travel Math is an essential tool for my writing. I use it to calculate what time it would be in city B after the characters have travelled X hours from city A.
Even for writers who have story’s which include travel from San Francisco to  New York, this can be a handy tool in working out how long it would take your characters.

You can visit Travel Math at

Skip the Prologue!

March 25, 2010

Recently, I was reading through some old posts belonging to KM Weiland. I found one, which I rather liked, and seeing as it was dated from 2007, KM Weiland is graciously allowing me breathe new life into the post through my blog. You can find the original post here.

Writers have an ongoing love affair with the prologue. You know, that chapter before a chapter inserted at the beginning of a book, intended to fill the reader in on important need-to-know info, so that he and the writer will be on the same page (pun intended) when they dive into the “real” beginning of the story.

Readers, on the other hand, tend to regard the prologue with an emotion that falls somewhere between confusion and outright disdain. Prologues, all too often, are nothing more than big fat stumbling blocks between them and potentially juicy stories.

Why the disparity? And who’s right—writer or reader? The answer to second question should be abundantly clear to anyone who’s spent more than a year churning out fiction: the reader is right. If the reader doesn’t like something, it’ll hit the trash basket faster than sour milk. So writers would do well to sit up and take notes. Ask most readers across the globe, and they’ll tell you unequivocally that they tend to skip the prologue.

Maybe writers should be doing the same thing.

Prologues, with very few exceptions, are a prime example of the writer wanting to hold his reader’s hand. Mr. Writer figures the reader won’t possibly be able to figure out the backstory without a little help, so he naturally spells it out in the greatest possible detail.

At first glance, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, “generality is the death of the novel.” Lack of information undermines the entire arc of the story and leaves the reader dangling in uncertainty and dissatisfaction. But are prologues really the best way to supply that necessary information? Or do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Think about your own reading experiences. Do you enjoy prologues? Be honest: Do you even read prologues most of the time? Even the most brilliantly written and engaging prologue is likely to possess dangerous and inherent flaws. Chief among those flaws is the fact that prologues force readers to begin a story twice. Any emotional investment they may have given your story is destroyed by the time/setting/character switch that takes place when they turn the page and find themselves staring at “Chapter 1” in bold type.

I can hear writers everywhere screaming, But the information in my prologue is vital! My story simply won’t work without a prologue! Won’t it? Take a closer look at your first chapter. Generally, you’ll find that a strong first chapter (which is a must with or without a prologue) will provide a stronger opening for your story than will a prologue. Prologues, all too often, are little more than information dumps. That is, after all, their sole purpose. And therein lies the problem. Prologues are meant to convey information—*not* meant to hook the reader. No matter how compelling your information, without the hook your potential readers are outta there.

Over the years I’ve written more prologues than I like to think about. But here’s the surprising thing: Without exception, my stories were stronger without the prologues. Almost without exception, the prologues were so non-essential, I was able to cut them completely. And, in so doing, I spared the reader from slogging through paragraphs of suddenly non-essential information, and I spared myself from losing my readers’ attention before I’d even gotten started.

Consider carefully. Is there not some way to reassemble that “vital” information later in the story? Backstory is

much more effective once the reader has a reason to care about your characters. As for flashbacks: If it’s important enough to garner a scene of its own, it’s probably important enough to deserve a place in the story proper.

So blow off that eraser, warm up the delete key, and start skipping some prologues!

About the Author: K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released Behold the Dawn . She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and AuthorCulture.

World Building 101 – Government

March 22, 2010

Over this month, I’ll be posting on world building. Throughout March, I’ll be posting on the basics of world building, geography, history, magic, religion, and government. Today, I’ll be ending the series with GOVERNMENT.

First of all, decide what type of government there will be? A monarchy  (king/emperor), a oligarchy (power in the hands of a few wealthy citizens), a republic, a dictatorship, a democracy?

Next, decide what services are provided by the government? Schools? Wells for water? An army to protect the towns and villages? Welfare for the unemployed? And how are these paid for? Does the government tax the citizens, or do they rely on donations? Perhaps only the wealthy are taxed?

Who are considered citizens of the nation? Everyone, or perhaps on the wealthy?

What will happen if the head of state is killed? Who would be the next head of state? Who will take over until then?

Lastly, how is the power of a country/government measured? Wealth, population, size of land, size of army?

This ends the World Building 101 series. Hopefully you learnt something from it. I know I did. If you want to see past entries, you can do so by clicking the links below.

The Basics

World Building 101 – Religion

March 19, 2010

Over this month, I’ll be posting on world building. Throughout March, I’ll be posting on the basics of world building, geography, history, magic, religion, and government. Today, I’ll continue the series with RELIGION.

People need something to believe in. Your characters are no different.

On earth, there are many different religions, so your story will probably be similar in that aspects. Do the Dwarves, Elves and other races have different religions? What do they worship?

How are the gods of each religion? Is there one (like Christianity), or are there many (Hindu)? If there are more than one, is there a hierarchy, or are they all equal? What do the gods look like? Are they human like, or do they look a bit like animals?

How do the characters worship them? Do the gods require human/animal sacrifice? Or do the characters tithe a percent of their earnings for the church?

Do the people have the right do decide their religion, or is there a state religion, which everyone must follow? Does the ruler decide the religion, or if there will be no religion?

What customs surround death? Are the dead buried or burned? What traditions are there, and why are they there? Do the characters burn hair, or put coins on the eyes?

I couldn’t think of much to discuss, so this is a bit of a short post. Next week, I’ll be ending the World Building 101 series with a post on government.

Novel Push Initiative – Half Time

March 16, 2010

This month, I’ve been participating in a Novel Push Initiative, or NPI. The aim is for all participants and get a chunk of writing done, by writing 250+ words a day.

Thankfully, I’ve survived this far, and just want to share some statistics.

Day 1: 435
Day 2: 516
Day 3: 272
Day 4: 281
Day 5: 289
Day 6: 504
Day 7: 300
Day 8: Day of Reprieve (0 words)
Day 9: 292
Day 10: 297
Day 11: 329
Day 12: 271
Day 13: 269
Day 14: 1039
Day 15: 406

Total so far: 5,500
Chapters completed: 1

As you can see, I started off fairly strong, but I began to struggle at about Day 3. Assignments had to be finished, and exams had to be studied for. I used my Day of Reprieve (where participants can write less than 250 words, and still stay in the NPI. If a participant writes 1,000+ words in a day, they’re granted another DoR) on Day 8, as I completely forgot.
I managed to write over 1,000 words on the 14th with help to a short story, which boosted my word count to 630+ words. I managed to write another 400 words that night to grant me another Day of Reprieve.
In the next half of NPI, I expect my word counts should be a little better, now that I don’t have some horrible maths revision to study *shudders at thought*

Fingers crossed that I can complete the next half!

World Building 101 – Magic

March 11, 2010

Over this month, I’ll be posting on world building. Throughout March, I’ll be posting on the basics of world building, geography, history, magic, religion, and government. Today, I’ll continue the series with MAGIC.

Magic is a big subject, and there’s a lot of things to figure out. The big thing to decide is the limitations of magic. There needs to be limits, otherwise, what’s to stop the wizard from simply waving his wand and the story can be over.

What does it cost a wizard to use magic? To their spells get weaker and weaker? Or perhaps magic exhausts them? And how to wizards use make their magic? Do they say a few incarnations, or do they have to drink a potion? Wand? Crystal ball?

How can you learn magic? Do  you go to a special school, or are you born with it? If you need to learn magic, how? Where? What costs are involved?

How do wizards make a living? Do they use magic to make money, or do they need a day job?

How long does it take to cast a spell? Hours? Minutes? Or a few seconds? Can using the help of another wizard speed up the time? And can a wizard help another to cast more powerful  spells?

How do different races view magic? Perhaps Dwarves are scared of magic, and forbid in their city? Perhaps Elves believe that magic is sacred, and shouldn’t be used often?
Along these lines, are wizards above or below they law? Are there certain spells which are illegal? Because of the effect, or what is required to make the spell? How are wizards using these spells caught and punished? Is there a special court to trial these wrong-doers?

How is magic used in warfare? You should consider how magic might be used to an army’s advantage. Perhaps making strong armour or more powerful weapons?

Lastly, you need decide on magical transport. Do your people have magic carpets, or can they teleport? Who can use these transport methods? Only wizards, or can the common person use these? Keep in mind that this will affect your story. If characters can teleport, why would they need to spend days walking to a certain destination?

In the next post, I’ll look at religion.