A Writer’s Net for Catching Ideas: Keeping a Writer’s Journal (What, How, and Why)

Today I’m here to talk about keeping a writer’s journal: what it is, why I do, and why — if you’re a writer — you should too. 😉

Nearly nine years ago, on November 17, 2008, I pulled out one of my many hoarded empty journals, and started my first volume of what I called “A Forest of Thought: An Author’s Journal”.

I call it my writer’s notebook/journal these days, but each year since finishing that first journal on December 31, 2010, I’ve started a new Writer’s Journal on January 1st of each year, which means I’m currently on my 8th volume. (I may actually stick with this current one for another year since it has room, but we’ll see.)

So, your question: what is a writer’s journal, and why have one?

Firstly, it is not what I call my writing log (which is where I keep a list of all the writing I do each week, throughout the year) and it’s not a place for journaling in diary-form about what it’s like to be a writer (though occasionally such thoughts will creep in).

For me, at least, it’s my catch-all go-to place for keeping writerly notes.

  • New story idea? Goes in the journal.
  • Cool name I want to save for later? In the journal.
  • Pages of frustration about how I’m stuck in my writing? Journal.
  • Snatches of dialog at 2 a.m. because my characters were talking in my head when I wanted to be asleep? Ditto.(Though these I often type in on my phone and transfer them to my journal in the morning.)
  • Random fact or cool thing I saw that day, or description I jotted down about a building I went by, or an overheard conversation? That goes in the journal too.
  • Writerly to-do lists? Yep, that too.
  • Lists and lists and lists of WIPs? Lots of those.
  • Snatches of poetry? In it goes.
  • Hit an exciting place in my writing (like finishing a story)? That goes in there too.
  • Interesting dreams? Jot ’em down. (Never underestimate the power of dreams for ideas.)
  • And, probably the most common one (besides random ideas), are new plot point flashes of inspiration for any of my dozen or so WIPs. So many breakthroughs.

Basically, this is where I write down all those things that I think “Oh! That’s cool! So cool that I’ll remember it.” Because… I don’t. How many awesome ideas have I had, only to lose them to the mists of mysterious brain fog of forgetfulness, and kicked myself over losing… I’ll tell you, it’s been a LOT.

Which is why I decided to start keeping one journal, specifically for all my writerly thoughts. I’ve had lots of other journals, for writerly or non-writerly purposes, and I still sometimes use other ones for writing-related stuff, but mostly, I stick with these, which makes it handy and easy for me to know where to find my ideas.

The first page of my first Forest of Thought journal. (Please excuse the dubious punctuation. *cough* Also, disclaimer: my handwriting is rarely this neat because I’m usually in a hurry. XD)

Because let me tell you, these journals are a gold mine of ideas. You may not know what to do with an idea when you first have it, but believe me, when you’re about to start a random novel the next day for NaNoWriMo and you’ve never done it before, these notes scribbled down over time are going to be a lifesaver.

I give this example because it’s what I did my first NaNo — I spur-of-the-moment decided to write a book the next month, and I had a vague idea, but flipping through my very first Forest of Thought notebook was when I gathered all the ideas I needed to turn it into more of a book.

The final lines of The Owl of Kedran’s Wood were originally more or less a random snippet I wrote in there one day and had no idea who said it — imagine my surprise when it found its way into the lives of Tare and the Chess Club and formed the perfect ending to book one.

The snatch of song that became so central to my novella The Rose and the Raven was originally jotted down much earlier at random.

The idea for countless of my WIPs began with a few hastily scribbled lines in my Forest of Thought journals.

So many characters have gotten names at the right moment when I needed them because I flipped back through and found the right one I had saved.

If I’m stuck or discouraged, I go to the pages of my notebook and scribble down my thoughts and usually find my way out of the woods, or at least I know what my problem is and feel better.

And there’s no greater way to get re-inspired to go back to working on a project than to be perusing my old notes and find how excited I was about a plot-twist I had scribbled down and semi-forgotten.

But even aside from all the usefulness, it’s just a wonderfully secure feeling to know that even if you don’t actually USE your idea, or won’t for years, that at least you didn’t lose it forever, like if you said you’d remember it and then the next morning — gone. Having that security and peace of mind is fantastic.

It’s also a handy way to keep an eye on the chronicles of your writing career, as for-fun or serious as you want it to be. Each volume of my Forest of Thought journals (I call them FT: Volume 1, Vol 2, etc. and am currently on FT8) has a different flavor, both because they’re all different shapes/sizes/”feels”/looks, and because I go through different books I’m working on or focusing on, and I remember that and associate the different years with those books.

Sometimes if I’m trying to remember when I started a story, I can say “Oh, well I wrote about it in my green journal, which was in 2013, so that must be when I started”. It’s chronicling my journey as a writer, and all while saving great ideas that I periodically go back and glean from the many pages I’ve filled.

The hardest thing? Getting into the habit of writing in your writer’s journal.

It took me years to find the balance and get so that when I had an idea I would be sure to write it down.

2008 and 2009, I hardly did any writing in my journal — just every few months, if I had a really interesting idea and remembered to write it down, I would sometimes remember. Later in 2010 was when I got more active with it, and by the end of the year I was chronicling my NaNo adventures most days, and managed to fill the last page on December 31st. The opportunity to start a new journal on January 1 was too much to resist, and I’ve done it every year since. I often fill the whole journal and write on the last page on the last day of the year, but sometimes I don’t fill it and end up leaving the final pages blank so I can start a new one, but it’s a tradition of mine that I look forward to the most about the new year: starting my new writing journal the first day of the year. 🙂

It’s hard to turn it into a habit to remember to write in your journal all the time, especially without thinking you need to write something even when you have nothing to scribble, but I think I finally have it down. So far this year and last year, I’ve written something (even if it’s just a single note/jot/name) in my writing notebooks every week except one. (Yes, I keep track of my writing each week in a writing log on my computer, and I noticed this trend and have kept it up.) It hasn’t really been on purpose, but even if it’s just a note to say that I’m stuck on something, it really has become a habit to dip into my journal at least once a week with whatever writerly ideas are on my mind.

But remember, I started this process nearly a decade ago, and it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve gotten better about remembering most of the time — and I still sometimes think of something and don’t jot it down, so the process isn’t perfect. 😉 So if you’d like to do something like this, don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work out for awhile. Just keep at it and save those ideas!

If you’re not an oldschool journal hoarder like me, try keeping your notes on your phone or in a file on your computer — sometimes I wish I did that because they’d be searchable. XD And at times I do opt for typing my ideas when I have a LOT of them, and so they don’t go into the journal because it’s more efficient. But I do enjoy having a physical place to keep notes with a physical pen — it’s soothing for me, and also handy if I don’t have my laptop with me. But if it’s likely to make you procrastinate keeping notes, then don’t let the idea that it has to be a physical notebook keep you from doing something like this–just do it on your computer, like I said! Just try to make it a habit to keep those ideas, somewhere you can go to save your thoughts.

Later this week, on Friday, I’ll be celebrating 9 years of A Forest of Thought: An Author/Writer’s Journal, and starting (hopefully) on my tenth year keeping a writing journal. My FT volumes have been some of my best friends through my writing years, something in which I can confide my story ideas and struggles. (They of course can’t outdo real, actual writer friends, who are the absolute BEST. ;))

I’m very glad I started back in 2008, and I look forward to much more scribbling. 🙂 I know I wouldn’t be the same writer without them.

I will leave you with the last words from my first volume, penned December 31, 2010:

Onward to new horizons! Horizons never seen, horizons merely dreamt of, horizons that have but been glimpsed — onward!

How about you? How do you save all those little ideas/tidbits/plotbunnies? Thanks for reading! ^_^

Advertisements

Vintage Jane Austen Mini-Reviews + Sarah Scheele Interview + Giveaway!

The Vintage Jane Austen Blog Event is running this week (November 5 – 11) and features a giveaway, reviews, interviews, and more, for this lovely series of stand-alone retellings of Jane Austen’s classic works retold in a 1930s American setting. There is one yet to release, coming soon, but the other five are all available in ebook and paperback now!

For the tour today, I’m excited to have Sarah Scheele (author of the Mansfield Park retelling, Bellevere House) here for a quick interview!

I’m also spotlighting each of the Vintage Jane Austen books below with some mini reviews. 🙂

And when you finish reading, be sure to scroll down the whole way and enter the giveaway!

First, a little bit about the talented author I’m interviewing…

Sarah Scheele scribbled incessantly as soon as she could read and write. A heavy background—some might say an overdose—of literature during her childhood set writing into a loop she has yet to escape. That education in classics gave birth to several of her stories, including a rewrite of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park for this collection. She used to wonder why Edmund and Fanny couldn’t have a better resolution?—and so she decided to give them one. Today she does many things with her time. But then she writes, which is the most important thing to mention in an author’s biography. Sarah lives on a farm in Texas with a ladylike cat and a tomboyish Pomeranian.

Visit Sarah Scheele online at her Website, Blog, and Facebook Page

Interview with Author Sarah Scheele

1. What was your favorite part of writing Bellevere House?

Probably the adaptation of the Bertram’s theatricals into renting the house to various people while the Sir Thomas character (Uncle Warren) is away. I didn’t want to have the characters simply do a more recent play among themselves, so I tried to choose something that could get them into lots of trouble in the same kind of way. That area was written early and never changed much because it’s kind of a short story on its own, apart from the bulk of the remake.

2. That was a hilarious part! 🙂 Do you have a favorite book (and/or character) by Jane Austen, and why?

Hmmm…Northanger Abbey, maybe. The abbey is a fascinating set and as a little kid I actually wrote my own version of Mrs. Radcliffe’s Udolpho (since I hadn’t read the original) pulling names and scraps of detail from things mentioned in NA. And for second favorite, Emma’s a really fun character. It’s hard to show those flawed people so we aren’t soft on them but we also see their point of view. I like watching Emma movies more than reading the book, though—and the opposite for NA.

3. Can you tell us a little about your other available books and what you’re currently writing?

It’s funny because they’re mostly fantasy with literally no bearing on this VJA thing. Victoria: A Tale of Spain is historical, but it’s based on Snow White and started as a fantasy story. I also have a set of five short stories, called Facets of Fantasy, and a children’s sci-fi novel. Getting Bellevere finished was a pretty involving process, so I’m just brainstorming new things at this point. Currently I’m doing an urban fantasy–like a western, but with Elves and dragons.

4. Ooh, I’m intrigued! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Instinct, mostly. I’ll admit I’m not one of those all about the craft writers, though I would say I take it seriously. But I don’t have much of a method. I just find things everywhere and save them for later. Animals, pictures, a funny line from a TV show, anything I can imagine turning upside down and then taking it from there. It’s about possibilities. Like throwing on lots of different things and suddenly you’ve got an outfit.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors?

That’s a hard one because I tend to think in books, not authors. I might love one work by an author and never read—or like—another by that person again. But overall I’d say classics are always a good bet (currently I’m reading The Wind in the Willows) and for recent books I like almost anything about kids in our world who stumble on marvelous adventures. And comic stories with funny dragons in them. You just can’t beat a funny dragon if you want to get away from reality.

Yesss! I love dragons. Thanks so much for coming over to my blog for an interview! 🙂

You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me.


And now for my…

Mini Reviews

One of my favorite things about the Vintage Jane Austen series is how individual and unique they are, different from each other but with those unifying threads of the Great Depression era and Jane Austen retellings. They fit together as a series so well, while at the same time being vastly different, with different styles and fresh outlooks from each separate author. They’ve all outdone themselves, and through the whole varied series I have enjoyed all of the books immensely!

I usually read fantasy novels, but I enjoy a Jane Austen or a historical from time to time, and these books are definitely worthy additions to the world of literature. They’re wonderful retellings of Jane Austen’s beloved works, and also lovely novels in their own right. 🙂 Below are some mini thoughts on each. (Please note I received free e-copies of these books for the purpose of writing my honest reviews.)

Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma)

Sarah Holman retells Emma in this novel which I believe to be her best work yet. 🙂 I loved how it was able to keep all the plot threads tightly written together in a shorter space than the original, translated into the 1930s perfectly, and all while being fun, too! Fredrick Knight (the Mr. Knightley character) was my favorite thing about the novel (with a sort of Mr.-Knightley-crossed-with-Frank-Hardy-but-grown-up sort of vibe; yay for the ’30s), along with the so-fun banter and relationship between him and Emmeline. It was fantastic. 😀 There’s a strong Christian element as well.  I so enjoyed this book. ^_^ Emma fans, don’t miss this one!


Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility)

Kelsey Bryant writes an absolutely gorgeous YA retelling of Sense and Sensibility. The writing is beautiful, the research pristine — I was drawn completely into this story and 1930s Ohio/New York setting. It was captivating! Both sisters (Ellen and Marion Dashiell, the Dashwood sisters in this) were so well written, and all the characters were so vivid and likeable — except for the ones we weren’t supposed to like. 😉 Add some fabulous twists, an adorable romance or two ( ❤ ), some much-needed extra “screen” (page?) time for Everett (Edward’s character), and a thoughtful faith element, with a sprinkling of humor, and you have an utterly delightful retelling! ^_^ Definitely a favorite. 🙂


Bellevere House by Sarah Scheele (Mansfield Park)

You don’t really think of “fun” when you think of Mansfield Park, but this retelling by talented author Sarah Scheele flips that on its head. It’s written in such a witty, charming style, with many parts absolutely hilarious to read — and funny books are my favorite. 😀 A bit more of a re-imagining than a straight-up retelling, it runs away with the Mansfield Park story (which, though I liked the original book, I found Mansfield Park kind of depressing to read) and makes it a mostly-lighthearted romantic-comedy type story. It was so much fun! It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, with occasional more serious subjects. I liked the characters, the writing was awesome, and overall I just had a blast reading this one! 🙂


Perception by Emily Ann Benedict (Persuasion)

Emily Ann Benedict pens a sweet retelling of Persuasion, fitting the 1930s time-period like a glove. I loved how Abbey (Anne’s character) and Freddy (Wentworth’s character) and their roles fit so well with a post-WWI/Depression-era setting. Her once-wealthy family in decline due to the Depression, and him just out of the army after the war, as a journalist. I really liked the other characters too, and enjoyed “visiting” Boston and Cape Cod… The writing was of an elusive quality just right for the “feel”, and the book had one or two twists but was mostly a very faithful retelling of one of my favorite Austen novels. Yet another worthy addition to the Vintage Jane Austen series, which I continue to enjoy so much! ^_^


Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones (Pride and Prejudice)

Coming soon… A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice… set in 1930s Arizona.

This one isn’t out yet, but I’m very excited to read it when it releases! P&P is my favorite of Austen’s original novels, and I think this retelling is going to be amazing. 🙂 I can’t wait! ^_^


Second Impressions

What an absolutely sweet (and varied!) collection of retellings! I absolutely loved these little tales — all so unique, and either funny, touching, or just plain enjoyable. ^_^ Some are modern, others historical, or with a dash of kingdoms/light fantasy, and even a sci-fi story! Lovely Jane-Austen-esque gems by talented authors, this collection of stories is a wonderful addition to the Vintage Jane Austen series, and if you’re an Austen fan, you definitely need to give this sweet bundle of tales a try. Excuse me while I hug it. ❤

I’ll be sharing my full review of Second Impressions (including mini-reviews for each of the short stories in this collection) on my book blog tomorrow, so stay tuned! 🙂


More Links

You can find the VJA books on Goodreads HERE.

If you’d like to read my full reviews for these books, you can find them by clicking the covers below. 🙂

 


Tour Schedule

Visit these blogs during this week to find interviews, book reviews, and much more!

November 5

November 6

November 7

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 11


Giveaway

As part of this special blogging event, we are giving away a $25 Amazon gift Card.

Enter to win HERE.

And don’t forget to check out www.vintagejaneausten.com if you’re curious about the series.


Thoughts? Share ’em below! Thanks for reading! 🙂

#WIPjoy: The Siren and the Skyship

During October, I was following along (some of the time) with #WIPjoy (Work In Progress Joy) by Bethany Jennings, on Twitter, answering the prompts I wanted to answer, with The Siren and the Skyship, my NaNo novel.

I thought it would be fun to gather my answers and post them all here, for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter or just want to read them all at once! (And, to be honest, so I can see what I said and remember it, for part of my plotting. XD)

I also just figured out how to embed tweets in a post, so I’m feeling technologically advanced. XD Bear with me… *cough*

I’ll be muchly busy with NaNo, and I know I haven’t replied to some comments and haven’t done much blogging because I’ve been busy trying to prep for this month-long writing adventure and had other road blocks like colds and computer issues, BUT I STILL LOVE YOU, I PROMISE. I do have some blog things coming up and hope to catch up on comments and things very soon.

Love you guys!

BRB, have a novel to write.

(And a short story since I’m minorly rebelling for NaNo and starting with a short story…)

Enjoy…

Day 1: Introduce your WIP!

Day 2: Tell us about YOU

Day 5: Ask a question other writers might be able to help with!

Protagonist Week

Day 8: Introduce the MC (share a pic!)

Day 9:  How would your MC use Twitter?

Day 14: Who is the MC’s best friend?

Day 19: Your biggest daydream about this WIP’s future.

Day 20: When your WIP is a movie, what would the credits sequence be like?

Character Takeover Week

Day 22: Antagonist – Favorite snack food?

Day 23: Protagonist – Last dream you had?

Day 24: Side character – Is the author evil?

Day 25: Antagonist – What’s something that keeps you up at night?

Day 26: Protagonist – How do you like to celebrate your birthday?

Day 27: Side character – Your secret vice?

Day 28:  Protagonist – Worst way to die?

End of October Fun!

Day 29: What’s something that’s creepy in your WIP?

Day 30: How do your characters celebrate Halloween (or other holiday), if they do?

Day 31: Your dream cosplay from your WIP!

And there you are!

I hope you enjoyed this mini-look into my Work in Progress — thanks for reading! ^_^

My (Not-So-)Secret Weapons For Surviving NaNoWriMo

So, confession time. It’s Monday, which means I post here (usually). I had an idea for a grand POST TO END ALL POSTS about NaNo and surviving and EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW, IN ONE HANDY POST. Unfortunately, I’ve neither written it, nor have I taken my own advice and gotten prepared for NaNo yet, PLUS I realized that most of my tips are… well… in previous posts?

Therefore! I will mention a handful of new things I’ve discovered that help, and then leave you to peruse my previous NaNo posts (linked at end) for further tips, if you’re so interested.

Because we’re a half a month away from NaNo (WHAAT???) and I’ll be honest: I’m not ready.

I’m so, so not ready.

I need to go spend my time prepping for NaNo, plotting my novel, and trying to conquer my several-miles-long to-do-list. IN TWO WEEKS, MIGHT I ADD. *tries not to collapse and curl up and hide behind a tapestry* Rehashing all the stuff I’ve said about NaNo in previous posts is, sadly, not going to help with that. XD

ANYWAY! Behold, a few of my recently discovered (since my previous posts) not-so-secret weapons for conquering NaNo!

Tools in My NaNo Toolkit

Time

(pinterest)

Time is your enemy during NaNo (TICKING DOWN TO THE END NOOOO) but it can also be your friend.

How?

Well, I’m a long-time advocate of wordwarring (with friends, and with oneself on a timer), but also: during this last Camp NaNo, I discovered the magic of setting a timer for an hour and focusing on writing just for that time. Can take a break afterward, but focusing NOW. Just for an hour.

I can usually write 1K in an hour, which means (theoretically; hear my story laughing at me. XD) it should be a couple of hours per day, yes? *cough*Leavemetomydelusions.*cough*

Make time your ally: use it with timers and word-sprints and chunks of writing time for focusing.

Make it work FOR you.

Scrivener

Screenshots for this year (below, top) and last year’s NaNo (below, bottom)

SCRIVENER IS MAGIC, OKAY. I used it last year and it. was. amazing. I hate buying software and stuff because I’m cheap and like free things, but I tried it free for a month during NaNo last year and loved it so much I got it (half-off with a NaNo coupon).

The plotting and organizing features give me life, and having a word-count goal set on each individual chapter/section/day was SO helpful — and the fluidity of being able to merge or separate them at will was amazing. I also utilized the full-screen writing mode to lessen distractions, and loved to make it a slightly-smaller window to write in, with a small window of my browser open in another part of the screen, showing the counting-down wordsprint tool on the NaNo site. 😀 SO motivational!

All the planning

This one is both old and new. I’m keeping notes in a dedicated-journal just for this project, which is helpful/inspiring. The journal and the scrivener are the new things, but planning is SUPER IMPORTANT. Unless you’re a pantser, in which case I salute your bravery. I reeeally need to do a braindump scribbling-down of all my ideas (so many scenes and things in my head!) and then organize those and make an outline… But anyhow. Plot plot plot!

Bullet Journal to stay organized

Please note, I keep an “ugly” bullet-journal, which is to say, I don’t make mine a work of art and I don’t actually “journal” much (like talk about what I did; I just mark stuff off).

It’s like a daily/weekly/monthly/planner thing which I use with bullet-points of to-do-lists and things going on, and I usually plan it out a week or a month in advance.

I’ve done stuff like this before, but this is the first time I’ve had an actual bjournal (my abbreviation) to do it with.

I have a page or two of to-do lists for October, and will have one for November. I have a page for a to-do list for each week. And I have a page for every day, with info at the top about stuff going on, and a to-do list. Also daily trackers in a list on one page for keeping track of stuff I should do every day and don’t want to rewrite over and over, and a calendar list so I can keep track of what’s going on.

It doesn’t have to be fancy (in fact, please don’t try!) but both for pre-NaNo-prep, and for NaNo itself, it’s very handy to keep track of stuff!

NaNo runs at an insane pace, and I’m seriously going to need this in order to keep life/writing/ML-ing straight. Not to mention daily wordcount goals listed each day… 😉

Draft Zero

Last but not least: Draft Zero.

I SERIOUSLY need to do a post about this, but it’s basically getting the story down in its most basic form. It’s a mix of extreme plotting (but super vague too? It’s hard to explain) and very rough first-draft. It kind of bridges drafting and outlining so that I can Howl* myself into writing without actually writing, and then it’s easy to expand into a real first-draft.

I have so far only done this in segments — like a scene or chapter at a time (often out of order) and then expand it. I used it especially for the ending of my short story Darkling Reflections (actually the last third of it) and my novella The Rose and the Raven. Super helpful.

I WILL post about it someday, but basically don’t worry about spelling/punctuation/sentences; just write down what happens in brief bullet-point order (dialog included!) and throw in descriptions/whatever, whenever you feel like it. Basically give yourself permission to make a mess on the page.

I may try to do this for NaNo, or I may just do it each day as my outline-plotting before turning each chapter into a first-draft chapter day by day. Not sure yet. Either way, it’s my biggest secret weapon, and with it in my toolkit, NaNo-doubt doesn’t have a chance. 😉

*Apologies for those who don’t understand this Howl’s Moving Castle reference. It derives from a quote Howl said about being a coward — and the only way he can trick himself into doing things is pretending he’s NOT doing them. I’m very Howl-ish and am a slitherer-outer. XD

***

And there you have my 5 new tips. Thank goodness I only did five because otherwise this post would be enormous. XD

I hope these tips (and the ones below) help you. But you know what? Even if you don’t have tools or secret weapons, even if you’re not prepared for NaNo… you can still do this. If you have a story you want to tell, then that is all you need.

All you REALLY need is to show up each day in November at the screen (or pen/paper) and look in your heart and write.

You’ve got this, writer! I believe in you! Now get out there and conquer this NaNo. 🙂

Check out more tips below. ^_^ THANKS FOR READING, AND GOOD LUCK! ❤

You may also enjoy…

(click images to visit posts)

Beautiful Books: The Siren and the Skyship (NaNo 2017)

It’s almost NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, dontcha know), so that means it’s time foooor…

Beautiful Books!

Yes indeed, Sky and Cait have thoughtfully put together a questionnaire to fill out regarding our NaNo novels! (Or any kind of novel, really.) So check out the linkup and join in if you like, and read on for a look at the novel I’m planning to write this November! 🙂

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I’m not sure exactly what sparked the idea… it just sort of happened.

June 26, 2015: I wrote in my then-writer’s-journal (I keep a new one every year) about a steampunk fantasy Little Mermaid story with the roles switched (mer character a guy, prince character a princess/skyship-captain). The title arrived a couple weeks later, and a week or two after that, I met the side character whose subplot tied everything together, along with an explosion of other characters and details, turning into a novel I was dying to write.

It’s expanded somewhat since then, but the main story idea is all from June-July two years ago, and I’ve been excited to write it ever since!

2. Describe what your novel is about!

I don’t mind if I do! It’s a YA Steampunk-Fantasy retelling of The Little Mermaid… ish.

Here, have a burb. *tosses summary at you*

The Siren and the Skyship

by Deborah O’Carroll

(NaNo 2017 Novel)

It’s just another mission on a voyage through the clouds for Her Royal Highness Princess Tasmania Peckham-Archley, Captain of the HRSS Star-Dreamer. Until she is saved from a fall from her skyship by an unseen rescuer, and an odd young man comes into her life with sky-blue eyes and cloud-white hair.

Auren never chose to be a cloud-siren prince; he would rather steer a skyship alongside the young woman he loves—who happens to be a princess and a captain. But to become human he must make a trade. Who needs a voice, anyway?

All Rook wanted was to serve in the skynavy, but everything he holds dear is taken from him. Fighting to forge a new life for himself, he carries the most dangerous secret of all—one the Sorcerer of the Mist will be happy to take off his hands.

When assassins strike close to home and send Princess Tasmania’s world spiraling into disarray, she will need all her friends at her side to face cloud-city ambassadors, spies, more assassins, sky pirates, the Sorcerer of the Mist (who keeps collecting things that don’t belong to him), and oh—maybe a little love.

These cloud voyages may turn out more interesting than the Star-Dreamer’s crew anticipated.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Clouds. Skyships. Steampunk. Tea. Love.

(All images from Pinterest and belong to their respective owners)

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

(All images from Pinterest and belong to their respective owners)

Meet Princess Tasmania, captain of the skyship Star-Dreamer; Auren, the invisible/insubstantial wind-spirit-type Cloud Siren who wants to be human (okay, so he will be very early on…); and Rook, the former skynavyman whose father was a skyship admiral and whose mother was the daughter of a pirate king and an assassin.

Rook keeps threatening to steal the show because he’s awesome, but I keep trying to remind him that this is a LITTLE MERMAID RETELLING and he’s neither main character from that story. (Tasmania and Auren are awesome too, but, well… Rook…)

Anyway, consequently, I don’t know who’s the real MC, so I’m currently calling all three of them Main Characters and letting them fight it out. We’ll see what happens. XD

(All images from Pinterest and belong to their respective owners)

Other characters include: Noya (Tasmania’s best friend/right-hand gal), Xasper (a street-thief-turned-cabin-boy who may or may not be WHOOPS SPOILERS), an assassin lady, a couple of cool pirates (and some scary ones), various quirky/eccentric/epic crew-members on Tasmania’s ship, several villains, and Tasmania’s awesome brothers. The side characters are nearly as vivid in my mind as the main ones and I’M SO EXCITED TO WRITE THEM ALL. ❤

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Getting ready for the hectic adventure that is NaNoWriMo, and prepping to write a book, are two separate (but in this case related) things. NaNo prep I usually do all or most of the stuff in this post: 30 Things To Do For NaNo Prep.

When I plot a novel, I like to have a summary, a rough outline, and a chapter-by-chapter list if possible, as well as names for characters, maybe some inspirational pictures, and just… well… to feel READY.

I also set up a pin board thing each NaNo. This is my current one (subject to change) and includes inspiring quotes by friends, NaNo stuff, inspirational pictures, and links to my Scrivener and folder.

This year I’m currently trying something new, which is having a dedicated journal just for writing down ideas for this story. I haven’t done much with it yet, so I’m not sure how helpful it will be, but so far I’ve jotted down some thoughts I’ve had over the last two weeks, which was handy. I’m hoping, soon, to really buckle down and write out a lot of my brainstorm ideas, and sort through old notes I have, and then see if I can organize (perhaps with Scrivener’s help) something out of the jumble that will hopefully end up resembling a plot outline… Hey, at least I have three weeks in which to do so, right?? *eye twitch*

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

ALL OF IT. Okay, so I’m really excited to do a Little-Mermaid-ish story; I’m suuuper excited about the skyships and this world, and just the FEEL of it; I’m in love with these characters and can’t wait to write their stories. 🙂

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  • It’s in a fantasy world, which largely consists of floating cities in the clouds (Princess Tasmania is from the palace at the top of one of these), lots of rocky pillars thrusting up into the clouds and mist, farms and forests on the land below, and lots of ravines with cliffs plunging down into the misty unknown (nobody goes down there because it’s Not Safe), with wooden slat bridges and/or rope nets strung across the ravines and between pillars in some places.
  • There is no ocean in this world. (Oh, look. The Little Mermaid without the SEA. XD It’s all in the sky, peoples.)
  • A lot of the story (theoretically) takes place on skyships (a mix between our seagoing ships of the 18th century and STEAMPUNKERY), because skyships are awesome.

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Auren wants to marry Tasmania, and, well, there’s a lot standing in the way of that, which will include the trading-away-his-voice thing. (How can you ask somebody to marry you when you can’t, you know, ask?) So, that is to say, the Sorcerer of the Mist is in his way, and he’ll have to do something about that if he wants his happily ever after…

Princess Tasmania’s ultimate goal is order and keeping those she loves (and her ship) safe. Standing in her way is… pretty much everything in the book. XD Assassins and pirates and plots and all the things. But mostly her goal is getting rid of the threat against her and her family and friends, and definitely standing in her way is the Sorcerer of the Mist…

Rook just wants a normal life in the skynavy, and a family to love wouldn’t be amiss. His family being… pretty much dead… is therefore awkward, and so is himself being presumed dead and therefore kind of out of the navy. Then his major problems are a captain with a vendetta against him, oh, and awkwardly ending up without a memory… Yeah… So — surprise — it’s the Sorcerer of the Mist’s fault again… (This guy’s behind a lot; he’s a very busy fellow. XD)

9 How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Whaaaat? And ruin the surprise?? (*cough* Which is another way of saying: I have no clue as of yet, since I haven’t written it. XD)

10 What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

So I don’t really pre-plan themes? But I think I’d like a strong theme of love and also friendship and loyalty. *shrug* What can I say, it’s a YA romance-y-ish novel, and I want all the characters to learn to be friends too. XD

I’d like the reader to feel like they just read a swashbuckling, EPIC, fun (and hopefully amusing?), possibly feelsy story, one worth spending all that time reading (and all the time I anticipate I’ll spend writing it. XD). I want them to feel like they just read a GOOD book, and to close it with a smile. 🙂 (And possibly hug it, but you know, that might be asking too much. :P)

~ ~ ~

So there you have a look at the novel I’m planning to write for NaNo! I’m also featuring it for #WIPjoy over on Twitter, so if you’re curious for more tidbits, you can peruse those throughout October.

I’m also thinking about posting some NaNo tips here on my blog next week, maybe, so stay tuned for that…

Who else is doing NaNo?? You can find me on the site as Celtic Forest Dweller if you need another writing buddy, and, yes, I do have a Pinterest board for this novel (which is currently messy and in need of organizing, but for what it’s worth, there you are. XD).

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed. ^_^