Two Years

Today marks two years since the first post went live here at Today’s Author. In that time, we’ve built a strong, vibrant community of writers and readers. We’ve shared stories and experiences, ideas and feedback. We’ve grown to a community of thousands!

We have been told that our posts have helped in many ways: breaking through writer’s block, kick-starting a series of stories… even completing a college thesis.  With every post and every writing prompt we publish, we hope we are bringing useful and helpful content and ideas to help each of our community members reach their writing goals.

As we look forward to another exciting and creative 2015, we want to know what types of things you, our community, would like to see in the coming months.  Is there a topic you’d like to see us address? Do you have an idea for an exciting new feature for the site?  We welcome feedback as we continue to build this site and this community. Feel free to leave your ideas here in the comments or use the Contact Us form if you’d prefer.

We are excited to be part of your creative life and are happy to have you with us. Thanks for sharing with us for two years so far and here’s to the next two years and beyond!

Write Now Prompt for December 19, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

Turning thirteen was proving to be difficult transition for everyone in the family.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Just for Fun: Let’s Write a Story

Today, let’s write a story together. It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect, let’s just have fun with it.  Each of us can add a comment with a few sentences to keep the story building. Come back throughout the day to add more!

 

Here is an opening:

 

The mall Santa looked out at the long line of kids waiting to talk to him and get their pictures taken. His mind drifted off as he imagined the end of his shift and the beginning of happy hour that evening.  He was snapped back to reality when the kid on his lap made his final gift request.

Now it’s your turn: continue the story in the comments!

Write Now Prompt for December 16, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

When the clock struck twelve, everything changed.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: Holidays in Writing

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

There are holidays in every month, but the big holiday season is upon us. Are holidays – religious, national, or cultural – a big part of any of your writing? Have you written an entire story around a holiday or incorporated a holiday as a major element? Have you written about a holiday with which you were unfamiliar and had to do research to make it authentic in your story? How did you do the research?

 

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Write Now Prompt for December 12, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

How was it possible to notice such beauty on the saddest day of her life?

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

On Cultures: Religion and Holidays in Fantasy Fiction

Creating a fantasy world is challenging. In urban fantasy and other fantasy and science fiction genres, authors can rely on real religions, cultures, and holidays to add depth to a world. For those of us who choose to build a society from scratch, holidays and religions are often overlooked, cutting out a very important dynamic in the relationships between people of the same culture, as well as the relationships of people from differing cultures.

When I created the world hosting my Requiem for the Rift King series and The Fall of Erelith series, I had a lot of ideas relating to who my characters were and the society they lived in. In The Fall of Erelith, religion plays a huge role in the world and how people act and behave. Holidays, however, were something I didn’t pursue, not until later. When I thought about this, I came to one frightening conclusion:  I was apprehensive about including holidays in my fantasy world because I was afraid of offending people. Holidays are important to people and can bring out extreme opinions. It’s polarizing, and sometimes in a bad way. By including religion and holidays in my cultures, I had to be willing to face the potential fallout from fans and readers.

People care about their beliefs.

And it was for that reason I made a point to be very careful to include religion as an actual part of my fantasy world–not as a backdrop for extremist groups in the story or as an antagonist, but as something that impacts many characters on a daily basis. If real people care about their beliefs, fictional ones do as well.

Religion and its role in a society plays a huge part in how people think and grow. Holidays are a direct manifestation of people’s beliefs.

Sometimes, the lack of religion in a culture is the defining element of that culture. There are so many possibilities. Ignoring the impact of religion and holidays on a culture, I feel, is a mistake. I can’t tell you how to create a realistic culture that fits your world; culture, religion, and society is something that must be balanced. However, I’ll share how I approach creating a society and culture, complete with religions and the holidays birthed by the beliefs of people.

I begin the process by choosing a government type. Society and government are often closely tied together. For example, those who live within a junta will have beliefs surrounding the art of war. They may also have a religion relating to what happens to their souls after death. Consider the vikings; their belief system is closely tied to their war-like culture. The concept of Valhalla is a perfect example of how the culture of a people and its beliefs closely tie in with religion.

More peaceful regions and governments often have more benevolent beliefs. Theologies form their governments completely around their religions. By choosing the government type first, I can often look at a culture and figure out why that type of government works for them.

Then I consider what sort of religion matches with the culture. Piece by piece, a society is born.

Defining a religion is difficult; being honest, I do a great deal of research into real religions and I apply the theories and tenants of these religions to my fantasy creations. I don’t copy a religion from Earth, but I do look at the history of the religions of Earth and apply their development to my worlds.

It’s a very difficult line to walk. I want to create viable religions, but I want to respect the very real religions on Earth. This is part of why creating a fully-rounded culture is sometimes frightening for me. Have I delved too close to a real religion? I don’t want to offend people, but I want to tell stories with well-rounded societies. Once I began adding religions, holidays followed in its wake. People have holidays for many reasons. Some celebrate an event, such as a birthday. Christmas is the obvious example. While it’s a Christian holiday, other cultures have embraced some of the secular elements of the holiday. I considered that too. How would these holidays I’m creating impact those who don’t believe in the religion associated with the holiday? (And here is a key point: many holidays are associated with religious belief.)

When I create a culture, I determine the holidays based on the nature of the worshipers and people living there. A society heavily reliant on farming, for example, will have harvest holidays and planting holidays. These are causes for celebration–not necessarily religious in nature, but tied to their ethics, beliefs, and lifestyles.

When I’m creating a culture and functional society, I’m weaving a tapestry rather than identifying a single thread. Because of this, it’s one of the hardest pieces of worldbuilding for me to implement, as the beliefs of the people are truly what shape who my characters are. I’m not really creating a religion or a holiday, but rather a lifestyle.

And that, I feel, is why it’s worth the effort to create a culture complete with religion and holidays.

10 Beautiful Words

nanowrimoI love words. I keep a list of about three hundred favorites, the ones that draw a mental picture that involves taste and feel as much as sight and sound. I browse them when I’m editing my manuscript, sometimes for inspiration but just as often as a reminder that writing requires a vast collection of great words.

I’d love to compare the average person’s vocabulary (approx. 17,000 words) to a writer’s. I’ve read that Shakespeare used only 15,000 words in all of his plays while Milton used barely 8,000. The problem of course: How many words do you have to sort through to find those perfect 15,000 or 8,000? Because those two gentlemen are about as perfect as a writer can be.

I’m working on a mid-level draft for my current WIP. I’m just about done with the plotting and will begin wordsmithing in about a week.That’s where words come in. I used to be comfortable neologizing words that would fit my story, but have been disabused of that habit (not fully disabused because I just verbized the noun ‘neologism’). Now I stick to words other people invented.

Here are ten you can actually use in your writing without sounding stuffy:

  1. abecedirian–means what it says–a beginner.Rudimentary. The abc’s.
  2. bandog–a large and fierce chained dog. This one’s appealing mostly because I love dogs.
  3. caliginous–murky, dark. Say it aloud. It sounds good.
  4. carabinieri–Italian national police force. This has a strength, a foreign power that I’ll probably never get to use because my characters aren’t going to Italy. I might have to plot a trip.
  5. cobble, as in ‘cobble together’. Can’t you just see that 1700’s cobbler tap-tapping at your plan, creating a beautiful mental quilt from scraps of disparate ideas
  6. confluence–a flowing together a coming together of people. ‘A confluence of events’. Comes after you’ve cobbled for a while.
  7. concatenation–interlinked series. MS Excel users know this word. It’s how you cobble together clues and discover a confluence of events. I love problem solving in quirky original ways.
  8. dappled–mottled, spotted. A dappled meadow, or horse. I see the dancing spots of brilliant color
  9. deus ex machina–a powerful image of an unexpected problem-solver. I’ll get it into my writing eventually. So far, it’s sounded contrived.
  10. doppelganger–Alter ego. I know in my writer’s soul I can turn this ghostly double into a problem-solver.

You have to admit, these are cogent and pithy words. Let me know how you use them.

I write a lot about words. Here are some other articles:

I’m not the only one who writes about favorite words. Here are Yorick Reintjens’ 117 favorite words. Or Imgur’s list of 100.


Jacqui Murray is the author of dozens of books (on technology in education) as well as the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education which you can find on Structured Learning (a collaborative publisher).

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Write Now Prompt for December 9, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

Feeling the stares of everyone around her, she closed her eyes, took a bite, and imagined she was eating imported chocolate.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Learning how to be critiqued

I feel like there’s a lot of advice out there for writers in critique groups on how to give the most helpful, most sensitive, most comprehensive review of someone else’s work. What seems to be lacking is an understanding of how to take and respond to a critique.

I’ve been involved in various writing groups and classes over the last twenty years or so.  I have developed a very thick skin. But I remember when it was new to me and I was easier to crush. So my first bit of advice is to ease into the process. Start with some critique exchanges on a heavily moderated site like scribophile.com. Getting feedback while remaining anonymous can help you toughen up in private.

There are some things to remember whenever someone is telling you what they think of your work. Even if your reviewer doesn’t acknowledge it, their opinion is only as valuable as one reader. You are free to disregard anything they say.  Keep in mind: they may just not be your audience.

Once you’re brave enough to join an in-person or online critique group – and I believe any writer serious about working toward publication needs to get here – the best advice I can give is to say thank you.

If you have submitted your work for review and someone has been kind enough to spend time reading and offering feedback, be grateful. No matter what they say. Even if you think they’re arrogant and wrong and mean. Say thank you. If you think their advice is bunk, disregard it. But say thank you.

If you get a reputation for arguing with reviewers and getting defensive about your work, it will get harder to find people willing to spend time giving you feedback. The harshest critique of all will have value if only to toughen you up.

Writers need to be tough if they’re going to weather the vague rejections of literary agents, the suggested changes of editors and, harshest of all, the reader reviews on Amazon.