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4 Stages of Writing: A plant-based approach to creating fiction

Crafting Fiction

I have a relationship with writing, and it’s mostly good. Sometimes, I am consistent about creating chapters, and sometimes… I am not. Like all relationships, writing takes time, dedication, reflection, and care to stay healthy.

I admire writers who have found systems that work for their writing processes. Personally, I try new strategies all the time. I particularly like dedicating a daily time, a weekly word count, and a scheduled one-day session.

While I do seem to favor longer writing sessions, I hit a road bump with my last six-hour Saturday.  Thankfully, my fiancé was there to guide me through:

The Results of My Writing Process

On December 23rd, I wrote the latest installment of The Staghorn Crown, a monthly serial novel that I release for Patreon. Last night, I posted it on Patreon in PDF and eBook formats. Each installment is one or two chapters long, usually 2,000-3,000 words in length per installment. You can read the opening chapters here.

For Installment Three,  I drafted scenes during a six-hour Saturday session. The results were interesting, leading me to this insight about the writing process.

My “Rough Batch” of Words

My six-hour writing session initially produced four “chapter starters” which needed heavy revision. Unfortunately, I clumsily tried to revise too many chapters at once, neglecting my usual practice of working chapter by chapter, scene by scene.

This was a “rough batch” of writing. Laura helped me re-organize the chapters scene by scene for clarity and continuity. Installment Three includes two of these revised chapters. Through redrafting scenes, editing, revising, and polishing the writing, I was reminded of how the entire process is like growing and tending to plants.

4 Plant-Based Stages of Writing: Planting Seeds, Watering, Pruning, and Thriving

Stage One – Planting: With plants, we plant seeds and water the initial sprout. Likewise, in writing, we first plant the seeds of our ideas through the prewriting and initial drafting process.

Stage Two – Watering: We then water the seeds and sprouts of our ideas by adding new material, revising, or complementing the writing with additional structures.

Stage Three – Pruning: When the plant begins to mature,  we prune away the pieces that make the plant unhealthy or inhibit it from growing into something more magnificent.

In writing, we do the same with edits, cuts, and rearrangement. It’s reminiscent of bonzai at some stages – we have to be delicate, and deliberate. Sometimes, no pruning is necessary. How lucky!

Stage Four – Thriving: Lastly, we let the plant thrive. Our initial work is finished. Although, sometimes you have to repeat stages for your work to stay alive.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it reminded me of the steps I had missed. I usually spend more time “watering the plants,” and as I know well, skipping this stage could really do some damage.

Is your process similar? Or, do you have a different metaphor?

-Curtis


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I will update this group with the most popular / relevant posts, news, and materials related to the process of creating and publishing my fantasy series.  You can post your own content too, if you think our community will find it useful.


How One Children’s Fantasy Book Inspired Me to Rethink My Artistic Process…

Lyra’s Oxford

Philip Pullman published his trilogy, His Dark Materials in 1995.  The three main books in the series included:

Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the U.S.)

The Amber Spyglass

The Subtle Knife

Lyra’s Oxford is a companion novel to the set, along with Once Upon a Time in the North. When I was looking through my book collection, I found an old copy of Lyra’s Oxford in my bookshelf. It was sandwiched between a few other paperbacks I’ve neglected over the years. This edition is simply beautiful in the way it is designed and executed. It is this design that made me take a step back and rethink my creative process.  Take a look at the photos below:

The artwork is the most striking aspect of the book’s visual appeal.  Jon Lawrence, illustrator and engraver, contributed these visuals to the book. The aesthetic is amazing. For me, I can’t resist the look of woodcut and engraved design, nor can I resist the appeal of engraver as a metaphor.

Engravers work on their products with sustained effort over a long period of time, eventually rendering an intricate whole from thousands of little creative decisions.  The parallels to the writing process are pretty obvious.

Jon Lawrence’s work inspires me.  The artwork, layout, and overall aesthetic of this edition urged me to sit down, slow down, and rethink what I do.

Mapping Out A Story

In the center of Lyra’s Oxford, a neatly creased fold-out waits for readers to discover its secrets. This unassuming piece of paper is folded into eighths, with the facing page entitled “The Globetrotter,” a “Series of Maps for the Traveller.”

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The Globetrotter – Lyra’s Oxford, Philip Pullman

As the reader unfolds each section, the pages reveal publications, sketches, and advertisements that directly and indirectly allude to characters in the whole His Dark Materials series. It is an outstanding example of keeping continuity within a series.

When fully unfolded, one side of the fold-out  features a tricolor of Oxford, rendered in gorgeous engraver’s print. This style reminds me of the woodcuts of Will Schaff, another artist whose artwork I enjoy. The other side features a plain grid-style map of Oxford. Of course, the map is not the “real” Oxford. This is the Oxford of Lyra Belacqua, the main character in Pullman’s series. Still, there are similarities between both Oxfords.   

 

I felt a surge of curiosity when I first opened the map. My eye was drawn to each cartouche, emblem, and ink-lined street.

 

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Fold-Out: Jon Lawrence, Lyra’s Oxford

 

Lawrence’s work does a great job at mapping out a story without even telling it. I imagine the collaboration between Pullman and Lawrence was riveting; or, at least I hope so! While I looked at this map, I thought about a comment my fiancé made in my early journey of planning The Staghorn Crown, a fantasy quintet that follows the lives of four girls as they come of age in a magical fortress called the Stellaria.  As I drafted the first scenes of The Staghorn Crown, Laura turned to me and said, “I assume when this is published, you’ll have a map of this place.”

Of course, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted the Stellaria to look like, but I had not thought about hiring an artist to make it. Until then, I had made my own sketches of rooms, towers, and ancient keeps.

After my encounter with Jon Lawrence’s engravings, I could enrich the reading experience of my novels by having these maps available. My search for the best artist to render them is underway, and I continue to sketch in the meantime.

Keeping My Goals, Changing My Process

What is my largest take-away?

I learned that I need to periodically slow down and look at the bigger picture. How will my own books provide an experience for the reader? How can I make my own writing immersive? After all, I enjoy the experiences provided by Pullman, Martin, Gaiman, Rowling, Barnhill, and Nix,  and feel inspired whenever I read them.

Lyra’s Oxford gave me the space to sit down and rethink my creative process. I have so many questions:

How do I craft fiction with excellent continuity? How many revisions will this take? I write this, smiling and knowing that it will take enough revisions to make me happily exhausted.

Part of this blog is documenting this complex process.

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am a self-publishing author and teacher.  My overall goal is to write a twelve-novel fantasy saga. In 2016, I created the world, mapped out the books, and treated the project as a hobby. My fiancé and I traveled to England, where I was inspired by the beautiful seaside town of Whitby and the Yorkshire Moors.  After that, I had to create these books. It’s become a little bit of an obsession.

While this dream began with a student’s response to a writing exercise, it has since grown. I hope it keeps growing. In the end, creating these twelve books is about sharing a great story with others. I have decided to keep the same goals, despite add one important aspect to my practice. I am thankfully spending more time slowing down.

The Goals I will Keep, No Matter How:

  • To complete the series and build a readership over the next six years.

  • To release preview chapters and installments of my work online to readers, patrons, students, and friends/family.

  • To become part of a writing community so I can see, appreciate, and share the magic of writing.

I hope the little decisions I make along the way are guided by these larger aspirations.


To stay updated on my books, consider joining the Books of Brylennia Facebook Group, where you can connect with Laura and me on the process of writing, editing, creating this fantasy series, and self-publishing. You can post your own contributions too. Join us on the journey. 

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Saturday Writing Session # 2 – Take-aways from five hours of writing

Paper Palaces Saturday Writing Session (1)For those of you who don’t know, I’m a middle school teacher who is also trying to write a twelve-book fantasy saga in my spare time. It’s the most amazing job in the world, as I get to work with children and their writing. To do my job correctly, I need to be efficient and dedicated. Likewise, my writing practice should follow the same principles.

When I come home, I usually grade papers, work on novel-related projects, and spend time with my fiancé. I have to budget my time; it’s just a necessity. My career has its own schedule, calendar, and set of deadlines. As a result, managing my work life is often easier than finding the time to manage my writing projects.

Until a few weeks ago, I tried to write every day. For two years, I wrote in the morning. Last year, I wrote in the evenings.

In a previous post, I explored the benefits of sitting in one place for six straight hours and writing fiction. I talked about my first six-hour session and why I chose to write in a cafe of all places.

One of the largest findings from my six-hour Saturday session was how incredibly happy I felt.  This made sense. After all, writing is, to me, one of the best activities that a human being can choose to do.

Take-Aways from Today’s Session

Today, I wrote chapters for The Staghorn Crown, my serial novel for patrons on Patreon. I found the five-hour session was useful. Here are some take-aways:

  • I walked into the cafe with a blank page and an empty stomach. I walked out, five hours later, with a sandwich, two coffees, and 3,500 words of useable material.
  • The hour I spent revising felt easier than usual, as I had created solid fiction during the previous five hours.
  • Fewer passages needed pruning.
  • Scene-to-scene continuity was clearer.
  • I felt accomplished earlier in the day.
  • My writing deadlines are now impossible to miss.
  • My fiancé, who also happens to edit The Staghorn Crown seems to like this new approach as it frees up time during the week for us to enjoy each other’s company.
  • I’m happy.

If you like what your reading, consider following this blog, liking a post, or joining the Books of Brylennia Facebook Group.

Stay updated on my books, by joining the  Books of Brylennia Facebook Group. You can connect with Laura and me on the process of writing, editing, creating this fantasy series, and our methods of self-publishing. You can post your own contributions too. Join us on the journey.

Writing Wednesday # 3 – Quotes from A New Nine-Novel Fantasy Series

Recently, I have been working on The Witch’s Uprising, the first book in my nine-novel fantasy series A Thousand Watchful Eyes. At the same time, I have planned and started drafting The Staghorn Crown Quintet, a series of five serial novels released to patrons as they are created.


(I’ve included a slideshow of quotes below.)


All twelve of these books are part of my dream to create a massive series that tells the story of a girl, her daughter, and the generations of people who are affected by their actions. It is a story about the strength of humanity in the face of fear, greed, hatred, and ignorance.  All twelve books are set in a magical, medieval-inspired fantasy world known as Brylennia. Working titles for each book are included here.

The Staghorn Crown series follow Quinn, Rhea, Tava, and Celesa and their respective challenges growing up in a magical fortress belonging to an ancient order of magic-wielding women.

The novels from A Thousand Watchful Eyes continue that story, generations after. Twelve-year-old Harlowe, Nineteen-year-old Aurelia, and fourteen-year-old Bryar, each play a part in thwarting the return of an age-old war between the Witch Queen, the Stellaria, and a new agent of ancient evil.

The story, in its entirety, spans all twelve books, each of which are planned (in a massive spreadsheet…Thank you J.K. Rowling for inspiration!).

In the slides below, you can find quotes from the two related story arcs: A Thousand Watchful Eyes and The Staghorn Crown prequel quintet. To support the making of this series, you can become a patron here, or follow me on this blog, Twitter, or Instagram. The links are in top menu.

Feel free to repost this content. In fact, your share, repost, or tweet supports the making of these books and subsequent publications. If you’re a fan of this project, consider liking my Facebook Author page for more updates.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you have a WIP or series that you are working on, please share it in the comments along with a link in your blog. If you enjoyed this post or the idea of this series, please like and share.

-Curtis

Photographs of Whitby – Seaside Ruins and Inspiration for a YA Fantasy Series

A few years ago, my fiancé and I traveled to England. Whitby stood out as one of the most picturesque locations I have ever seen in my life. Yorkshire, as a whole, is very beautiful. Here are nine photographs of Whitby that served as inspiration for the novels in my young adult fantasy series A Thousand Watchful Eyes, particularly the serial novella The Staghorn Crown. Clicking the photos will enlarge them.

9 Photos of Whitby that Inspired A Thousand Watchful Eyes, The Witch’s Uprising, and The Staghorn Crown

 

 

(Click to enlarge.)

Have you been to Whitby? Is there a different place that inspires fantastic feelings?

Share in the comments.


Sample chapters of The Witch’s Uprising, the first book of the series inspired by these photos is available to read on Tablo. For more information on this young adult fantasy series, you can see my Books page.

When can we read The Staghorn Crown?

The Staghorn Crown, a fantasy serial novel will be released for Patrons on November 2nd, 2017, earlier for Gilded Armor Patrons.

If you are curious about any future installments of this serial novella, the Patron Calendar is now up and running with a list of major dates and important events.

Like, comment, or subscribe to stay updated on any pertinent information regarding The Staghorn Crown, The Witch’s Uprising, or A Thousand Watchful Eyes series. Or, show your support tangibly by becoming a Patron.

 

 

 

7 Simple Ways You Can Help Me Publish My Twelve-Novel Saga

Crafting Fiction, Telling Stories

In case you didn’t know, I’m writing novels. In fact, I’m writing twelve.

Each of the twelve novels are connected by one large, overarching story.

Within the saga, there are two main storylines: The Staghorn Crown Quintet and A Thousand Watchful Eyes. Readers can enjoy each series separately, but the story is richer if read as a whole saga.

Below are 8 ways you can help me publish my twelve-novel saga.

One: Follow this blog!

Following Paper Palaces will not only help me build a base of readers who enjoy my posts, but it will also give you the benefit of staying posted on my curiosities and writing process along the way. Just click that tiny button…

Two: Pick one of my social media profiles and follow me!

Facebook.com/curtisteichertbooks

Instagram/CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter.com/staghorncrown

Three: Like my posts or leave positive comments

Liking posts and leaving comments spreads awareness for my content, thereby helping me reach a larger audience.

 

Four: Tell a friend about what you are reading

Share what you read with others. Tell fantasy readers and writing enthusiasts about this blog. Or, as a bonus, share CurtisWritesBooks.com.

Five: Share a post, a quote, or link.

You can do this on social media, via email, or in real life. Any share, whether it is a quote, post, link is a great gesture. Thank you!

Six: Join the Books of Brylennia Facebook Group

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Stay updated on my books, by joining the  Books of Brylennia Facebook Group. You can connect with Laura and me on the process of writing, editing, creating this fantasy series, and our methods of self-publishing. You can post your own contributions too. Join us on the journey.

Seven: Become a Patron

Become a Patron

 

This is a simple, yet generous act, and it is the only action that requires money.

By making a donation, you keep this site ad-free, allow me to pay artists and professionals for their hard work and collaboration, and keep my budget for this twelve-novel project healthy. Patrons get installments of The Staghorn Crown Quintet as it is written. Read more here on my Patreon page.