November 17, 2010

Inspiration for The White Sail's Shaking

Awhile ago I did a post on what inspired me to write my novel Wordcrafter (the rough draft of which is now complete and going through edits). Since I am now fairly deep into my story The White Sail's Shaking, I thought I would do the same for it.

1. It started with this history of the rise of the U.S. Navy after the Revolution, Six Frigates by Ian Toll. I was far more interested in the British Navy during the Age of Sail than with the American before reading this, but the colorful history, especially that of the original six frigates, intrigued me. A story was brewing before I finished this book.


2. The most interesting part of Six Frigates was, I thought, the period of the First Barbary War. It was fairly small and gets much less press in history texts than the War of 1812, but all the same, it had some grand exploits, plenty of drama, and a gorgeous setting on the Mediterranean - perfect for a novel.


3. Stephen Decatur was a fascinating character. However, since writing a novel actually based on a historical figure, no matter how obscure, is very risky, I had no desire to try it out with Decatur; he does figures prominently in The White Sail's Shaking, since my character serves under him.

4. The Age of Sail, though quite bloody and, when one gets down to bare facts, unromantic, still thrills me. I love the old sailing ships and the British Navy during this period of time has long interested me with its assortment of famous ships, battles, and men.



5. I have a difficult time remembering when I didn't enjoy the first four Hornblower movies (The Duel/An Even Chance, The Fire Ship/Examination for Lieutenant, The Duchess and the Devil, and The Wrong War/The Frogs and the Lobsters). I used to watch them just for the sake of rewinding the VHS after someone was shot, to watch them "fall" upright again. While I don't enjoy either the books or the newer movies as much, I still love those first four and watch one when I need inspiration.

6. The sea is mysterious and enchanting, and frightening. The yearly trip that my family takes to the beach has made me grow to love the sound of the waves on the shore and the smell of salt, and the grey days that hang over the water like a cloak, and the feel of a storm off the water. There are few settings that could be more inspiring than that.

7. As I have some Sicilian blood, Sicily's history interests me more than the boot of Italy does, inspiring the character of Marta and some of the scenes during the novel. Also, the beauty of the Mediterranean is a huge plus.



8. The Prince of Egypt soundtrack is wonderful for writing, as it has a wide variety of tunes - epic, haunting, bittersweet - and the vocalization is just right for the setting on the lower Mediterranean.




9. John Masefield's poem Sea Fever inspired the title - "I must go down to the sea again / to the lonely sea and sky / and all I ask is a tall ship / and a star to steer her by, / and the wheel's kick and the wind's song / and the white sail's shaking, / and a grey mist on the sea's face / and a grey dawn breaking."

Post inspired by K.M. Weiland's Fifteen Degrees of Inspiration.

November 7, 2010

NaNo: Pros, Cons, and News From the Front

Photo by vonslatt, Flickr.

National Novel Writing Month is the incredibly fun, incredibly insane time of year where writers attempt to bang out 50,000 words of a novel from day one of November to day thirty, hoping to get something good from their efforts. This is my third year participating in it and watching others participate in it, and the pros and cons of it become pretty apparent the first or second year; a home-school curriculum that my family once used listed in its catalog who would benefit from using their material, but also who wouldn't. And it is true that while NaNo is very fun, it may not help everyone with their writing. So here are some of the pros and cons that I've noticed while doing NaNo myself.

Pro: The primary goal of National Novel Writing Month is to get people to just write - to sit down and finally bang out whatever story has been itching in their brains. This is very helpful for those who want to write but believe that they don't have the time; it will amaze you how much time you realize you actually have when you've got a deadline.

Con: What you bang out may be abominable. I know the organizers of NaNo would probably say that this isn't the point, but it's true: what you write may be riddled with grammatical flaws, plot holes, and characters who appear to have schizophrenia. You may cringe at the thought of editing the thing.

Pro: But chances are, you'll come out with something good, even if it's a diamond in the rough. You're at least writing the outline of a story that can be expanded and revised after November comes to a close, and if nothing else, it's at least good practice for people just starting to stretch their wings in writing.

Pro: The goal is reasonable. It's not like the Write-Or-Die program that threatens to delete your document if you don't type like a rabid squirrel. 50,000 words sounds very daunting when taken as a whole, but once you break it down and realize that the daily count only has to be 1,667 words, it doesn't seem so large anymore. Plus, you have the encouragement of watching your wordcount rise.

Con: Targeting a certain amount of words in a certain amount of time does lend itself to manuscripts full of what is called "adjective-padding," "adverb abuse," and what my friend calls "blargh-spackling" - the making up of nonsense words to boost one's wordcount. This really isn't a decent way to do NaNo, especially when even the creators of NaNo try to make it clear that the wordcount isn't the purpose of the organization. If you end up with 50,006 words, 35,629 of which do not aid the plot and 1,885 of which border on blargh-spackling, your month of typing was in vain. What you've ended up with is fluff, not a story. Don't. Blargh-Spackle.

Con: After you get through that month-long rush of creativity in November, you may hit a slump. It's easy to lose interest and set your partially-finished novel aside, especially if you feel like what you wrote is rubbish. Many people squeak by 50,000 during November or even get a larger wordcount, but stop writing on December 1. Since that date is outside the jurisdiction of NaNo, technically this is an acceptable way of doing it; however, if you won't stick to it and make something of what you've been wrestling with for a month, NaNo has been a failure and a waste of time. Don't do NaNo if you don't have some reason for writing that will keep you going.

And now, news from the front.

Novel in Progress: The White Sail's Shaking

Genre: Historical Fiction

Time Period: 1803-1804, set during America's First Barbary War

Favourite Theme: The Chariot Race, Prince of Egypt Soundtrack

Wordcount as of 10:45 am November 8: 17,010
 
meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings






The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings






Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing



Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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