jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo: Logic)
I ran out of time yesterday because I was still entertaining guests, and I wanted to give this post the attention it was due. The reason why, is because I've been eagerly waiting for the chance to write about this for a long time.

Creating a language for your novel is almost essential, if you're writing about any kind of made-up foreign culture. This applies equally to aliens as to invented cultures on Earth. It adds a sense of realism and believability when the words you use in your novel sound like they weren't just made up randomly, but follow consistent rules - even if you're the only one who knows what those rules are. Even if all you're going to do is name your characters, there is a process that'll help to create that realistic feeling, as if they come from a real language that actually exists.

Now, I don't mean that I'm going to be publishing a full Austejan dictionary to go with Dale Shepard and the Bug Aliens from Outer Space. I haven't made up enough vocabulary, and I have only a very shaky grasp of Austejan grammar. But I have done the steps I'm about to impart to you.

1. Create an alphabet or set of phenoms. Every language has its own set of sounds. Try listening to people speaking different languages - or go ahead and try to learn one - if you don't know what I mean. Generally the first thing I do, is go through the alphabet and eliminate a couple of letters (it doesn't have to be a lot!). Maybe there's no L or H sound in your language, so just cross those right off.

2. Come up with some new sounds. Now that you've eliminated a couple of sounds, try to come up with some combo-letter sounds that are going to be used in the language. Try making up some that don't exist in English! Think about whether sh, th, ch sounds are in there and make up some of your own as well. Maybe do some letter substitutions - for example, K doesn't exist, but instead they will use Ch. Think about how different English would be if you made those changes.

Just keep in mind that if you try to make up a language with only 10 letters you're going to be very constrained. Also if every sound is a combo-letter or sound that has no equivalent in English, no one will be able to pronounce your character's names. A few small changes go a long way!

3. Come up with some rules. These can be pretty arbitrary, but you should apply them strictly. If you decide that all female names end in T, then don't give any males a name ending in T (without a good reason). The consistency of a few simple rules helps the whole thing hang together and even if the rules are subtle enough that no one actually picks up on them, they'll subconsciously feel more realistic than if every name is alphabet soup.

For example, in Mortis Unbound I had clear rules for naming, such that all males ended in a certain set of syllable types, and females had a different rule. I also doubled the letter "I", like in Liiran. I went further and came up with suffixes they used for place names, like -ora for capital cities. Note Laxamora and Talgarora are the main cities named, and they comply with this rule. Laxam is the name of the Empire, and its capital is Laxamora. I came up with a whole list of words for rivers, oceans, and other geographical features, which were occasionally used as necessary in the book.

You can go further than this, make up entire grammatical structures, come up with vocabulary and just keep going as far as you want. A great resource if you want more is Holly Lisle's Create a Language Clinic. I learned a great deal from this and applied it for Mortis as well as the rules for names and places in Dale.
jessicasteiner: (Save the World)
Yesterday I had an internet outage at my house that lasted the entire evening (and in fact, it's still not fixed, and the tech is due on Monday morning. Sob).

I wrote a great deal more than usual, and I finished the first draft of Dale.

...There may be a connection here.

I've already got a lot of things that I want to change and improve, including adding an entire sub plot. Unfortunately I have no idea what it'll be about. However, I'm overall very pleased with how it turned out in a general sense. I'm letting it sit at least until May, I expect, when I'll pull it out again for the first polish.

In the meantime, I'm editing OtherWhere. I've also started writing a short story which I plan to submit to an anthology.

And that's the State of Jessica Steiner's Writing for tonight. Good night!
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the last two months have been pretty terrible for my writing productivity, and my blog productivity.

Things I've accomplished:

1. A huge amount of lawyering work, making no dent in the ever-rising pile on my desk in my office.

2. My very first multi-day Supreme Court trial. Which was as stressful as you might expect. Which is extremely. I didn't get any writing done for the week before, or the actual week of, the trial.

3. Getting so deathly ill from the flu, that I discovered the downside of working with my wife is when she gets even sicker than I am, and then there's no one healthy to work. Especially since I had that trial I mentioned. Remember the ever-rising pile? Yeah.

Thankfully, my Mom flew back from Arizona and worked while Miko recovered and I worked a trial.

Counteracting the guilt is a few facts:

1. I am only 3 chapters from the end of the first draft of Dale Shephard and the Bug Aliens from Outer Space. This is definitely the fastest I've finished a novel. I normally wind up taking months off at a time, which makes it take a long, long time. But I started this novel in November, and now I expect to get it done in early March.

2. Soon (probably this week), I will be doing an interview about Mortis Unbound at Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, one of my favourite writing podcasts. I'll announce and link when it happens! I'm very excited and slightly nervous.

3. I started editing OtherWhere, my technothriller murder mystery about an MMORPG. And it doesn't suck so far. Also exciting.

I really hope March is less crazy than February, January, and heck, December were.
jessicasteiner: (Fangirl Moment)
I just discovered that a bunch of people friended me and I hadn't gotten around to friending them back, so sorry about that! I'm glad to have you here, and if you want to introduce yourself in the comments, I'd be most grateful ;)

Two days ago I shelved The Dreaming for a while and started work on a new draft of a novel I'm calling Dale Shepard and the Bug Aliens. It's a YA novel, which I'm having a great deal of fun with, about a teenaged boy from small town Arizona who gets the chance to attend an alien flight school on another planet.

It's near....ish? future Earth, so I'm having a few fits with fiddling around with upgrading the technology to the point where humans have interstellar flight, without making Earth seem too completely different. I can't wait to introduce the aliens, either.

I'm sort of mentally calling it my "Harry Potter in space with aliens instead of magic" series. It's planned for four books, but we'll see how the first one goes, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if it expands out to a longer series than just four as I develop it. I'm expecting it to have lots of fun characters and awkward romance and action.
jessicasteiner: (Bad Writing Day)
Mortis Unbound is now up online and rolling and I'm working each day on trying to get reviews and get the word out without being utterly obnoxious about it. So my plan was to get back to The Dreaming and get that draft finished.

I'm about 80,000 words into the novel and it's about 3/4 done. But I've been trying to get back into it for about two months, and it's been a struggle. Part of that struggle has been life-related - the stress of buying a house and some work-related stress of trials and craziness that took a lot of energy. It's hard to keep up on writing every day when all you want to do when you get home is collapse on the couch and watch Lost. (Yeah, I'm a bit behind on pop culture).

But after a lot of thinking, I've come to the conclusion that there's more going on here than life stress.

Last week, I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses, a podcast I've kept up with pretty religiously over the last four years. Dan Wells was talking about his new novel, Hollow City, which has a lot of things in common with Dreaming. As I was listening to what he was saying, I realized that there's quite a few things about the novel that just aren't coming out the way I want them to. A lot of things that are making me dissatisfied with how it's coming together.

Now, I could plough through and get the last quarter finished, then go back and edit, but I feel like until I figure out how to fix the problems I want to fix, I will be wasting my time, writing a lot of things that I'll just throw out later. I've been struggling through this novel for two years already, and I'm fearful that if I stick with it right now, it'll be another year before I finish the draft.

So I've decided to put Dreaming on hold and work on a new novel that I'm more excited about, edit the hell out of OtherWhere, and then come back fresh to Dreaming and rework it from scratch.

I feel a bit bad about the decision. I don't want to be the kind of person who drops projects when they get hard and go with the next shiny thing - professional writers are not like that - but I talked it over with my wife and she agrees that this is the right thing to do. So hopefully there'll be more frequent updates as I set this project aside and free up my mind to work on something new and fun.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I reached another turning point in projects, so I thought I'd do an update.

Today I finished the first draft of my [community profile] originalbigbang story, which isn't due until September or something, lol. I wanted to get it written and out of the way so I wouldn't have it weighing on my mind as I work on other projects, and I'm glad I did.

It's called Grim Opera, and is the fifth instalment of my Hunter Grim short story series, which is a series of gay erotica stories set in a post-apocalyptic world, depicting a love story between a vampire hunter (who is also a vampire) and his shape-shifting apprentice. I'll probably release the stories as an anthology someday. It was fun to revisit this world, and it definitely won't be the last time I do.

I got a little positive feedback from one of my beta readers for The Sleeping Death, which was nice to hear. I also got back into contact with my editor, who had been on vacation. I signed my contract, sent my deposit and my manuscript, so now all I have to do is wait.

I'm pretty excited. I feel fairly confident that the book will stand up generally to scrutiny, and I'm very interested to learn where I can improve it. I'm sure that my editor will have things to say, of course, and I'm sure I'll learn a great deal and that my writing generally will improve because of this experience.

I'm also a tiny bit nervous that it'll hurt a lot to get the feedback, but I have faith that Marie-Lynn will give me constructive criticism gently, and that it won't be in the vein of "this sucks, start over". Anything less shattering than that I can probably handle. After all, I've been writing fanfiction for over 13 years. I've gotten lots of unhelpful negative comments in my life.

In the meantime, I've started work on my draft of The Dreaming once again. I started this book quite a long time ago now, and I keep making a lot of progress in short bursts and then putting it down to work on other things. I'm determined to get it done without getting distracted this time, partly because I'm really getting excited to get started on my next project, which is my "Harry Potter in Space with Aliens" series. I'm doing character profiles for that series, whenever I don't feel like writing.

So that's where I'm at!

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Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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