organization · Writing

Adding a Works In Progress Page

So you may have noticed something new in the upper menu of my website. It’s a “Works in Progress” page!

What is it?

I’ve been talking about potentially adding a works in progress page for a while but was hemming and hawing because I didn’t know if people would actually care. When I posted about it on Twitter, my friends and readers seemed enthusiastic, so here you go.

I also wanted to make this because it holds me accountable in my writing, and I think it adds a little more excitement surrounding my forthcoming projects. It’s basically a catch-all for the projects I am working on or intend to work on. And it’s a place where readers can keep an eye on what I’m doing and where the books they’re excited for are in their production.

If you want to, now may be a good time to check out the WIP page before I talk about it (I’d suggest opening it in another tab if you’re interested).

How does it work?

This page is broken down into currently in production, on deck, and backburner.

Currently in production is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the projects that I have started or am actively working on. Right now, I’m actively working on The Reanimator’s Heart and I have some words on Trousers and Trouble. In that section, I’ve also included a progress bar, and a slated release date. Since I’m not that close to being done yet, I do not have a specific date, so seasons/years will do. Right now, I plan to update the progress bars once or twice a month. I’d like to say twice a month, but I may forget (my apologies in advance). There will be a date for when the progress was last updated.

On deck is comprised of works that I know for certain I am working on soon. Typically I have plot ideas for these or know at least somewhat where they are going. I also want to specify that if there’s a series and there’s only a finite number of books listed, that is subject to change. I mention book 4 of the Paranormal Society Romances with a “the end?” because that’s the last book I have in mind now. That doesn’t mean that some character won’t steal my attention and become book 5. So don’t get sad if you see less books in a series you like. These books are also not in any sort of production order. Now that I have more than one series going, I don’t know which series’s book will grab my attention next, so I make no promises as to the order of completion (if only I could be so regimented).

Backburner projects are not shelved,they’re projects that are still marinating. I would like to work on them, but they’re still underdeveloped in my head. I don’t like to work on stories until I have a decent idea of where I want to go with them and who the characters are, so I make note of them and let them sit until they start to gel. I’m super excited about everything on this list, but I have to segregate them from my on-deck projects because I get overeager and scattered if I don’t have a semi-regimented to-do list. Having 10 series going at once is fun but not the best business decision.

How Often Will This Be Updated?

I’m aiming for twice a month. I would like to update it every two weeks or so because there should be a substantial change for my current project by then. As mentioned above, I may forget, but I promise I will update it at least once a month. If you’re very interested in this new page, do not check it every day, it will not change that often, lol. You also get to see how slowly I write.

Slowly but cleanly! Don’t panic when I don’t drop 50k words in a month because I tend to not need to do major edits on books, which is a perk of writing like a snail. Once I finish a draft, the updates will change from word count to editing progress.

Going Forward

Going forward, I will add more details as projects are fleshed out and come into themselves. So as I have titles and blurbs and links, those will appear on the “Work in Progress” page as well. Of course, I will still post about these things in regular posts, but that page will be a nice catch-all for things you may have missed on the blog.

Let me know what you think of the new WIP page!

Writing

Adding Texture to Your Story

This something I talk a lot about when I teach my fiction writing classes, especially when we get to world-building, but I think it might be important to discuss what I consider to be the difference between texture and description before we get too deep into this.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Texture is description, but description is not always texture. That’s the very basic difference here. Texture goes beyond what something looks like to focus on what does it feel like.

Texture is a subset of description that ties back to the greater world-building and adds vibrancy and life to your story that basic description does not. It’s also a sustained effort throughout a scene or work. We create texture by utilizing sensory detail strategically, especially by evoking a sensory triad. A sensory triad is when you pull in three out of the five senses in short succession, so within a sentence or two. What this does if done well is to activate different parts of your reader’s brain by evoking multiple senses at once, which creates a more immersive sensory experience.

Now, you can’t just mention a smell, a texture, and something you hear without using descriptions or adjectives that are specific or it won’t be evocative enough to do much. In my classes, I refer to these specific, evocative words as gourmet words because they’re often a little fancier than your run of the mill adjectives. Some examples are things like: briny, scaly, herbaceous, plunk (onomatopoeia is incredibly evocative), marbled, peppery, honeyed, etc. These don’t necessarily need to be complex words, just evocative or specific. An example of a sensory triad being used to set a scene might be something like this:

When he first arrived at the hibachi place, James had enjoyed the soothing pluck of the zither music they piped over the speakers, but as more diners came in, he could barely think over the clatter of plates and the excited whoops from the party at the grill behind him where an onion tower roared into a tiny volcano. Rubbing his temples and squinting at the menu in the near dark, he decided not to order anything with onions; the sharp, charred smell from the other table was churning his stomach.

So I whipped up this little paragraph on the fly, but let’s take a look at the evocative bits. Hibachi is specific, and if you’ve ever been, there’s an immediate image, but if there’s not we have further description of the feel of being in the restaurant. First, we have the “soothing pluck of the zither.” Even if you’ve never heard a zither, we can assume it’s a string instrument. “Excited whoops” is a specific type of exclamation, the use of “roar” with a small onion inferno is another good noise verb. Then, we get to rubbing his temples, which is, to me, a sensory thing. It’s a self-soothing pressure. “Squinting…in the near dark” gives us the action of seeing/holding your face in a specific way and how dim the restaurant is. And finally, we add in the “sharp, charred smell” of onions churning his stomach. I’d also argue that churning works as a sensory detail because it’s very visceral, and most of us know exactly what they feels like.

Now, what you might notice is the lack of specific visuals. I could have spent time on the dark wood tables or the koi motif on the scrolls hanging from the walls. More than likely, I would have included that at some point in my description, but visuals are often the least interesting but most relied upon sense. Do we need to describe a setting? Absolutely, but when adding texture, you need to make sure that you are branching out beyond just decor. I specifically refer to it in my classes as texture because it is something you should feel, not just see. In order to establish an important setting, you have to get the sensory experiences going. The other visuals can be peppered in later or throughout the scene instead of clumping them all together. Readers are more likely to skim a paragraph delineating the decor than a sensory experience worked into action or thoughts.

The best way to create texture is to work with the idea of unity of effect. Now, this goes back to Edgar Allan Poe writing about short stories, but I’m going to co-opt the idea of unity of effect because writing a novel or longer work still requires that unity in order to create texture. This extends to a unified world in your story through cohesive world-building. This shouldn’t be mistaken for homogeneity because you can have a unified world made of many different parts. Take New York City for example. I can stand on a street and smell pizza, chicken wings, and truffle butter all from the same spot. What would hammer home the unity of New York’s texture would be things like brief mentions of taxi yellow, screens playing ads, the jostle of crowds, the smell of halal or hot dog carts. If you keep touching base with these sensory experiences, your reader remains in that moment and reconnects with descriptions you have mentioned earlier.

You don’t need to be super heavy-handed with this either. A solid sensory foundation can be reawakened by brief touches in later descriptions, or they can be complicated and even thwarted, depending on the scene. An example of this might be describing New York City at winter time when it’s super crowded, then stepping into St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The soaring space within the cathedral and the quiet of being inside a church immediately changes the tone. That sensory experience whiplash as you establish this opposing texture can be really powerful in creating interesting, visceral detail.

There are also some less obvious ways of adding texture that rely more heavily on world-building than on individual sensory descriptions, such as focusing on:

  1. Fabrics/materials- what fabrics are being used in this world. Is it silk? Barkcloth? Brocade? Denim? All of these fabrics have very different textures, histories, uses, and connotations. Integrating fabrics in clothing and building materials or decorative arts is a great way to add vibrancy, and it also speaks to the world-building. At the same time, be careful that you aren’t choosing these as window dressing and that they make sense within the world itself.
  2. Colors/pigments- I feel like I’m rehashing Victoria Finlay’s wonderful book topics, but the use of color can be a fantastic unifying force in regards to texture. We see this a lot in movies (looking at you, Wes Anderson), so think of it in a similar manner with your stories. You may also want to delve into the meanings of colors to your characters’ society, how they represent (or don’t represent) class, and even within decorations or buildings, how does paint or color create mood?
  3. Food- I love a good food description. If your writing a fantasy food or something you think readers may not be super familiar with, remember that you don’t have to spoon-feed them what it is. Give them the general feel of the food’s taste (spicy, peppery, sweet, etc.), a hint as to what it’s made of (a flaky crust, tender meat, creamy corn), and you’re good. Food is a great way to add a bit of color, smell, and texture into a scene and to ground your reader in sensory detail (and make them hungry).
  4. The weather- If the Regency and Victorian periods did one thing right, it was creating a mood with weather. Think about how the weather can add texture to your story through sensory detail. The beating sun warming a character’s back, the spray of ice stabbing their cheeks like needles, a warm spring breeze as they sway in a hammock. Combining the spring breeze with the drone of bees in the garden beside them and the gentle sway of the hammock as their food skims the grass is a great combination of detail.
  5. Gross things- I didn’t really know what to call this category, but gross things felt appropriate. Nothing is more viscerally evocative than something that is disgusting or unpleasant. The slimy grip of algae catching your foot in the water or the sulfurous punch of opening a tupperware that has been in the refrigerator too long is not something one forgets, which means it is very easy to evoke those senses.

The worst thing when creating texture is that you don’t always know what something specific smells or tastes or feels like. If it’s a fantasy setting, I would say do your best to imagine it and try to compare it to things your audience would recognize. If it’s a real world thing, then do your homework. When writing Kinship and Kindness, I googled, “What does the bayou smell like?” I had smelled swamps in NJ, we have plenty of marshes, and they’re quite pungent in summer or after a heavy rain, but it does vary. Luckily, we have the internet and most people are very willing to describe things for you. Actual in person research is best but not always feasible, so do your best with what you have and don’t be afraid to ask people if a description makes sense. Also, keep in mind that we all experience smells, tastes, and textures differently, so what smells wonderful to one person is offensive to another. That experience can often be fun to play with.

I hope this helps you integrate texture more into your work in the future. And always remember that after your first draft is a great place to go back and flesh out your settings/experiences.

Happy writing, peeps, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Writing

The Absent Awkward Authoress

The Awkward Authoress has not been posting nearly as often as she really should, and for that, she must apologize. I have unconsciously decided to take a little hiatus from blogging this month to throw myself wholly into my writing. For nearly all of May and most of June, I struggled through The Earl and the Artificer, adding only a hundred words or so here or there, taking several weeks to muddle through a chapter. In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that I was participating in Camp Nanowrimo and that my goal is 15,000 words by the end of July, which would bring my manuscript’s word count up to 30,000 words if I met my goal.

Well, it’s going swimmingly, and I am trying very hard to keep up the pace with my novel. The downside is that to keep productivity up, I have had to take a step back from blogging for a little while. In August, I hope to figure out how to balance writing and blogging better, but for now, I will be only posting once or twice a week until the end of the month. Most will probably be progress updates and info posts about my current WIP. I do feel guilty about neglecting my blog and its readers, yet I hope you will understand that my novel is more pressing. It will be my thesis project for my MFA, and I need to get as much of it done over the summer as possible because once the school year starts, I know my productivity will drop dramatically.

When you get the chance, I hope you will check the Progress and Projects page at the top of the website to see how The Earl and the Artificer is coming along. I should be updating it every few days.

Once again, I apologize for disappearing this month, but it’s for a good cause.

Writing

Project Announcement: An Ingenious Mechanical Devices Short

Hi everyone,

I have decided (now that I’m about halfway in) to announce that the first short companion story for my steampunk/historical fantasy series the Ingenious Mechanical Devices will be out by the end of the summer.

What is it?

The story will be roughly 5,000 words or so and will take place after the events of The Winter Garden (IMD #2). It will be a standalone, but obviously, it would make more sense if it was read along with the other Ingenious Mechanical Devices stories. The working title is “An Oxford Holiday,” the story revolves around Adam journeying to Oxford to visit Immanuel. Unfortunately, getting a little privacy and time together is more difficult than it seems. The story will be offered for free on all platforms when it is finished (Amazon may take a few days to catch up with the other ebook platforms).

Why do this?

It may seem odd for an author to post something so short and for free, but I’m thinking of this short story as a free sample, a bonus for being a loyal reader or an incentive for new readers to give my work a try. I also know that it will take me a while to finish writing The Earl and the Artificer, so by releasing a short story, I’ll hopefully keep my readers interested between the two books. Recently, I have been reading K. J. Charles’s A Charm of Magpies series, and one of the things I love about them is that she writes short stories to go along with her books. It’s a great little teaser between stories, and I devour them just as I do her full-length novels. It’ll just be a light, fun story, but it will hopefully add a bit to the series and give a hint as to what will happen in book four when Adam and Immanuel reappear.

Additional Information

If you get the chance, please drop by my Progress and Projects page at the menu bar. Every few days I’ll be updating my word count bars as I progress. You can also check out what I’m working on and what I’ll be tackling in the future. Stay tuned for more info about my projects, and hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll have a date for the release of “An Oxford Holiday.”


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