October Scribblings

This year has been pretty unproductive as far as writing goes, although I’m pleased to announce that Corrugated Sky‘s second anthology, Smoke and Steam, is in production and we hope to have it out before Halloween. Save up your dimes and be sure to buy a copy (or two or three)! The book will include four novella-length short stories, so this volume will be much heftier than Tales of the Black Dog, running in the neighborhood of 250 pages.

I have to admit that work has wiped me out mentally this year, but I finally feel as though I’m pulling out of the nose-dive and managing to get back at the keyboard without feeling an overwhelming sense of loathing. Since I work as a copy editor, I read all the time and I guess I just got burned out. Instead of writing and reading, I’ve been taking up knitting (yes, really) and making small projects that make me feel as though I’ve accomplished something. Although I did make a shawl, and that wasn’t really a small project, so I feel doubly accomplished for managing to finish the project (and I’ve even worn it a couple of times).

I have three major writing projects on my desk right now: the Smoke and Steam anthology; my novel, Seacombe Island; and a nonfiction project that I’m developing from my master’s thesis, which has been sitting for three years collecting dust. I’m ambivalent about doing NaNo this year, but a part of me says that I need the mental challenge and group pressure to get back at the keyboard and stay there. We’ll see. I have 26 days to make up my mind!

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Thursday Writing Prompt No. 141

My sketch of the clock at Savage Mill, Maryland. Media used: Canson art journal, Utretch sketching pencils, and Ooly Kaleidoscope multi-colored pencils.

I’ve joined a Meetup sketching group to do some urban sketching. Many years ago I took an art studio class, and since then I’ve taken watercolor painting and dabbled a bit with acrylics, markers, and colored pencils. I’m kind of a lazy artist and it helps me to have an assigned project or something particular to focus on to get started. So, with no further ado, let me introduce this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt.

Clocks have been with us for many centuries in one form or the other. We have atomic clocks that measure time down to the pulse of a cesium atom; we have mechanical clocks with gears and flywheels and pendulums; we have sundials, where the shadow cast by the gnomon indicates the hour; and we have water clocks, where the slow drip, drip of water filling up a reservoir is measured to show the passage of time.

Your writing prompt for this week is to come up with a different way to measure the passing of time, whether for an alien race, or a group of humans. You should plan on deciding what kind of measurements would be of importance to your characters, and then design a timekeeping device or some way of tracking time that can be used by more than one person. For example, say your characters only care about the seasons, and they want to measure the solstices and equinoxes. You’re probably thinking about Stonehenge and Mayan temples, but how else could they track these things? And if your characters measure the hours, what kind of device would they use? Water-powered, steam, wind turbine?

Have fun, and plan to do a little bit of research for this one. Some clocks are really works of art and will be a good source of inspiration for you, even if you’re considering something other than a mechanical clock for your timepiece. Also check out sundials for a bit of variety. The North American Sundial Society is a good starting point, and there are links to images as well as instructions for constructing your own sundial, should the maker bug bite you.

Almost Vacation

Writing is a long, hard slog this year. Work has been so difficult that when I have time off I just can’t bear to sit at the computer and do any more thinking. I feel like all of my creative energy, and the desire to do anything, has been sucked out of my soul.

But my vacation starts at the end of next week, so I’m hoping a week away from the insanity will restore some mental energy and I’ll be ready to pick back up on some projects. My steampunk story for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology is at the editing stage, and we’re expecting to get the book out in the next month or so. In other news, I’ve been approved for Shutterstock and and I have uploaded five images so far.

Writing about Settings

Setting is the time and place where your story is set. It can be as mundane as a typical suburban neighborhood or as exotic as a foreign country or alien planet. Remember, “exotic” to you might be the mundane to someone else, and vice versa, so you will have to rely on your skills of description to bring the setting alive.

Another term for setting is location, although that is more properly limited to the physical space in which the story is set. But setting involves much more – the time or era when the story is taking place (past, present, future); the passage of time, such as how long a period your story covers (a day, an hour, a character’s entire life); mood and emotion; physical location (for example, deserts, cities, planets, underwater algae farm, Victorian London); geography (the description of the physical location as related to nature – rivers, mountains, etc.); and weather and climate.

Additionally, your setting needs to be populated, otherwise there’s not much of a story. First, consider the people you’re writing about: are they human? It’s not a dumb question, because depending on your story you could be writing about protagonists who are fully human, paranormal creatures such as werecows, or aliens from another planet or dimension.

Use descriptions of the physical landscape (geography) and buildings to help establish your setting. It helps to look at photographs of locations when you’re trying to come up with descriptive text, but don’t forget to use sensory descriptions to make the place come alive in the mind of the reader. The beach may look wonderful, but what does it smell like? Is the breeze strong? Or hot, or cold? What kind of sounds does the protagonist hear at the beach? Does the sand crunch under his sandals, or get into his shoes and give him a blister?