My Week in GIFs

After writing over 2,500 words in one day:
tangled_best_day_ever

And then, realizing I had to throw out almost 1,000 of those words because I’d gone in the wrong direction AGAIN:
buffy_sad

And then, having a friend help me figure out how to keep most of what I’d written (and only throw out 372 words):
relief

So, you know…nothing new.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

In Retrospect…

…maybe Hawaii isn’t as conducive to writing as I thought.

 
I spent two days wandering around Aulani, trying to find a good place to write. The winner? Nowhere. So I’ve just been enjoying the pools and lazy river and fruity rum drinks, like you do. I still carry around my notebook, just in case, but the situation’s been highly discouraging so far. 🙁


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Taking a Midcourse Assessment of Narrator

assessmentNow that I’ve hit the midpoint of Narrator, time to see how my outline‘s holding up. Just a quick read-through of my index cards is enough to throw out half of the upcoming scenes. Maybe Arianna was focusing on a problem that wasn’t important anymore, or Calder was taking an action that he never would now that he’d lived through the first half of the book. But it’s not just about being out-of-date. I noticed a few points where I could actually ramp up the conflict by letting the characters succeed instead of fail.

I dropped a few storylines. I also have new storylines that didn’t exist when I made the outline, so I have those to work in. I won’t bother writing up the new index cards I need, though. Not all at once. I’ll just try to keep a few steps ahead of my writing. I want to be able to keep the index cards current with any new changes.

This and a few other checks are part of the Midcourse Assessment in Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways writing course. With Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering as a close second, this is the single most useful instruction I’ve seen on how to write. If you’re curious, feel free to ask me about either one!

And with that, I have some new index cards to make.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

A Short Update

Status

scrivener 5.32.55 PMI’m writing up a storm lately, so I’m only stopping here long enough to give you a short update. I passed the midpoint of the novel last week, and have been finishing up a lot of scenes. I’ve had to make a few adjustments to my outline, but (obviously) I think it’s for the best.

Yup. That’s about it. Now, back to writing.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Meet Calder #2

Calder 2In my massive rewrite of The Narrator, I’ve just passed the midpoint. I was pretty worried about the scene, and kept putting it off and putting it off. But when I finally dove in, it was actually pretty fun.

And I owe it all to Calder #2.

There are two Calders in Narrator: the original, and the one the Narrator tried to make by changing his backstory. At the midpoint, the second Calder manifests (because of an enchanted forest) and the two Calders have a bit of a chat.

And that second Calder was a treat to “work with.” He was very talkative and came up with some great stuff, all without really trying.

(I know that to non-writers this kind of talk sounds crazy, but characters usually take on a life of their own. They can be complete chatterboxes, like Calder #2, or they can refuse to give up any information on themselves and frustrate the crap out of you.)

So this scene was going better than I expected, but still with a lot of false starts and backtracking. And suddenly Calder #2 was dragging his feet, and refusing to cooperate, and giving me a really crappy performance — until I put back some paragraphs I had removed. Once they were back in place, he was more than happy to talk again.

Things slowed down again as we neared the end of the scene, because Calder #2 knew this was going to be his only scene, and he was reluctant to “leave.” I could tell he was trying to stretch out his time. I felt bad for him, too, since he was (for the most part) so great to work with. But alas, I don’t think I’ll be able to justify bringing him back.

Even if it would be fun.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter Twelve

Quote

“What are you doing?” she hissed through her smile. She refused to allow the court see how upset she was with him. “Why did you challenge Brindon of all people?”

“Because Tarell doesn’t use a sword when he fights.” Endar snatched up his waterskin and guzzled half the contents.

“But Brindon is lame,” she reminded him. “You can’t humiliate him in front of the entire court like this.”

“Why not?” he demanded. He dragged his hand across his mouth. “You think he’s going to start his war because I hurt his pride?”

“Certainly won’t help matters.” She glanced back at the crowd, easily spotting Pennington where he leaned on the yard fence’s top rail. Her stomach lurched and she turned her back on him. She didn’t have time to deal with that right now. “This is a mistake.”

“Mine,” he said. “Not yours.” He tossed the waterskin on the ground and picked up a small leather-bound book.

Arianna eyed it warily while he turned it over in his hands. “What are you doing with that?”

He idly flipped through the pages. “I need a second wind. I’ve already had two duels, Brindon’s had none.”

“For good reason!” She moved to his shoulder, blocking the book from the court’s view. “If I can’t talk you out of stopping the duel, at least promise me that you won’t use magic.”

Endar met her determined stare. He wore an easy smile, but she noticed faint lines of strain along his jaw and around his eyes.

Slowly, he ran a finger down the page. As it passed each line, the sharp handwriting billowed and curled in its wake. His back straightened, the lines on his face disappeared, he seemed to thrum with new energy.

He snapped the book shut and handed it to Arianna with a smirk before striding back into the middle of the yard.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Don’t Split the Party — No, Not Even Then

clipart-tabletop-rpg-dice-set-ii-256x256-9f70If you’ve ever played D&D, you’ll be familiar with the joke. Terrible things happen when you split the party — and your perfectly balanced team can’t take advantage of all its cool bonuses when the members are spread out across the fictional countryside. For example, the wizard is awesome at magic, as long as the fighters keep enemies from punching him out while he casts the spell. But if the fighters are across town, well…that wizard’s SOL.

Now, in writing a novel, I didn’t think I had to worry about this. My characters are going to run into problems whether they’re together or not.

But of course, I didn’t think about my problems. As soon as my characters split up for the chapter, I got stuck.

On every. Single. Storyline.

Calder’s part for this chapter is really cool — but I hadn’t yet figured out why it was happening. So that took some brainstorming. I’m on the right track, but I still have some things that need to get resolved.

For Eustace, I had already written the meat of his portion, but I got stuck on how to end it. My original ending was pretty dumb, so hopefully the new ending where he meets everyone’s favorite character is better. He’s done for this chapter, but I already know I’m going to have a re-entry problem when he catches up to Calder. What does he conceal? What does he reveal? I don’t think even he knows.

I knew how to end Saydie’s section, but beginning it? Sheesh. That went off the rails real fast. While trying to get un-stuck, I brainstormed about Pennington’s plan and the novel’s structure. Ended up learning something cool about Saydie’s history with Pennington, but I’m still stuck.

Then there’s Arianna. To be fair, she was already separate from the others, so my getting stuck on her storyline was for a different reason. I had over-complicated the crap out of her storyline. It took a while to figure out what I could throw out and what was actually necessary for where I wanted Narrator to end up. (And also so that I didn’t have to throw out everything I’d written. Because yikes.)

So…now I know where to go with everyone’s storyline, I just have to actually do it — and trying to write these next scenes is like when I was depressed. I know what I want to write but I can’t make my hand spell out the words. Hopefully I can manage to write this week, get Calder’s party back together, and move on.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

The Two Calders

Prince Calder, ready to go on an interesting adventure.I’ve been re-watching the first few seasons of Murdoch Mysteries lately. It’s set in Victorian Toronto, with a detective who uses cutting-edge science to solve crimes. Of course, a lot of that science is commonplace today, including x-rays, ballistics, and recreating the likeness of a person from their skull. Murdoch’s interest also extends to the social sciences like psychology. I just passed one of my favorite episodes, where the suspect has Dissociative Identity Disorder — and it reminded me of Calder.

No, he doesn’t have DID. A person with DID has two or more distinct identities (or personalities). In the show, Murdoch and the doctor he consults observe that the suspect’s identities are vying for control, and she switches back and forth. One minute she’s a meek young lady, the next a confident, angry woman.

Calder, on the other hand, has two identities that are hardly distinct. They’re more like two lives that he lived simultaneously. One life is that of a Crown Prince, the life as it was supposed to be. The other life is that of a younger son. These two identities also vie for control, but it’s much more subtle. (I love my subtleties.)

In fact, it sounds pretty similar to what WebMD lists as an effect of having DID:

Identity confusion or identity alteration. Both of these involve a sense of confusion about who a person is. An example of identity confusion is when a person has trouble defining the things that interest them in life, or their political or religious or social viewpoints, or their sexual orientation, or their professional ambitions.(emphasis added)

Each Calder has his strengths and weaknesses, in addition to his own memories. But as the novel progresses, the lines begin to blur until Calder has trouble knowing which is which.

Disclaimer: I have not studied psychology. I did not throw much research into this. I just made a cool connection while watching a tv show and wanted to share. 🙂


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter 5

Quote

By the time she reached the main courtyard, most of the court had turned out to greet their new king. All eyes were trained on where the road emerged from the forest two hundred yards away. Ladies were caught up in last minute primping for their bachelor king, while lords were placing bets on the exact moment he would appear. Arianna stifled a laugh. The multitude of frills and flounces reminded her of an exotic aviary.

With a few smiles and nods in the right direction, she was able to maneuver to the front of the flock. Unfortunately, she ended up at Brindon’s elbow.

At least, unfortunately for him.

Arianna pasted on her sweetest, sickliest smile — the one Father had said made her look like a feral horse. “Good morning, brother.”

He merely nodded in greeting. His lips were a thin, disapproving line, and his eyes seemed to have sunk into his skull. Not a morning person, then.

Good.

“Don’t tell me I missed the reception,” she cried, pitching her voice in an unattractive whine.

Brindon winced, and she nearly laughed in his face. Her game wasn’t much, and it certainly wasn’t useful, but it was oh-so-very satisfying.

“I was so looking forward to it,” she continued, digging in the vocal screws. “He promised to bring me all sorts of presents.”

“Is that so?” Brindon seemed to be trying his best to tune her out. Impatience rolled off his shoulders like rain. But his gaze never left the spot where the road left the forest.

He looked…nervous.

And why shouldn’t he be? He probably expected Endar and Quin to be rotting on the southern road, not trotting up it.

“Don’t worry,” she said gently.

The switch in her manner caught Brindon’s attention. He looked down at her and raised an eyebrow in silent question.

As dismissively as possible, Arianna turned back to her own vigil and said, “I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about you.”


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.