Some of my Favorite Resources For Medieval/Fantasy Writers

Since I’m currently reworking my main manuscript I’ve been critiquing every aspect of the world I’ve created, trying to give it the edge of accuracy. Much of my world is (like the majority of fantasy) based on Medieval Europe precepts (but, you know, with Demons… =D ) Obviously I have worked hard to make this a unique land with its own cultures and customs but the historical accuracy nerd inside me won’t be content until I make some of this worlds’ aspects line up with their real world counterparts.

My main concern is hierarchy, both in a court/castle setting and in the military. I’m still struggling with Medieval military rankings, from my reasearch it seems like one hot mess! Might be time to create my own army ranks and structure, after all, fantasy writer!

But for everything else I have come across these sites that offer a ton of fantastic information.

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This site offers a description of dozens of Medieval characters, raging from nobility, gentry peasants, clergy, etc. with an explanation of their place in things. Honestly wish I had found this one sooner!

Medieval People, Titles, Positions, Trades & Classes

http://www.lscacamp.org/Portals/0/Medieval%20People.pdf

Compiled by Tammie Pattie

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This one is great for understanding how titles work

A Quick And Dirty Guide To Feudal Nobility

http://dankoboldt.com/feudal-nobility-guide/

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Dictionary of Medieval Words

Tired of every medieval-based character carrying a boring old sword? Pick out one of the more interesting named weapons from this list of ‘Medieval Words’. It also includes the parts of a castle and of knights armor.

http://medieval.stormthecastle.com/medieval-words.htm

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Ye Olde Medieval English Terms

And to finish off, I’ve always loved old-fashioned slang (Though my favorite is Victorian!) So here is well put together list of Medieval slang, sure to bring color to any manuscript!

http://www.citrus.k12.fl.us/staffdev/Social%20Studies/PDF/Medieval%20English.pdf

 

Well, now that we have all this knowledge, what are you waiting for?

Hahaha!!!!:

 

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Word Count Conundrum

I hate those words. Word count.

It’s something I don’t like to think about when writing, yet something we have to think about. when writing our query letters the word count is placed front and center, practically the first thing an agent sees. And that number can make them pass on you without a second look. When I first finished my current manuscript it weighed in at 127k. I think that evened out to about 350 pages.

At that point the manuscript was freshly finished and unedited, so yeah, a lot of that was crap that had to be culled. I started to research ‘appropriate’ word counts. Turns out that (according to some) a YA Epic Fantasy is ideally between 80k -120k, the last really being at the end of the acceptable limit.

Ouch.

I managed to hack it back to 120k and around then I started querying.

Too long, go back and make it shorter.

I finally cut it back  to around 110k but then I took a look at what was left. It seemed that in struggling to follow this rule I had lost my story. The last reply to a query letter I received was personalized, the agent took the time to tell me what she thought. She complemented my work and gave me a few ideas on what it needed, ideas I agreed with, it was great! Except for that one line where she added that she felt that it was really too long for a first novel.

Let me state now, I understand the reticence to take on a long first manuscript from an unpublished writer. They have to pitch this fat sucker to publishers, who don’t want to waste the money on the printing of something so big if it’s not going to sell.

But here is what I really want to talk about.

I like big books. (Come on, I know you sang the rest of that in your head!) As a kid I remember reading the first Harry Potter book in a single day, since then my books have only gotten bigger. If I’m going to spend money on a book, I want something that is going to last me longer than a few hours. A 250-300 page book really doesn’t cut it.

One of the agents I researched had written that she didn’t believe any book (I assume she meant in YA?) should be over 100k. Do you realize how short that is??

I want to write the sort of books I want to read, it goes against my nature to write a short book, so where does that leave me?

Well, after that email from the agent I sat back and took a long look at that book. Sure I could cut it down even more but it would no longer be the story I want to tell.

I threw caution to the wind and began rewriting it with no regard for word count. There was so much that I wanted to expand and add, back stories I wanted to tell, places I wanted to go, but a word count under 120k hardly allowed for any of it. Now, as I rewrite, the word count is creeping up and up. But that’s ok, I’ve never been more confidant in my own writing and in the story I’m telling. I’m going to let it grow as it needs to, to become what I know it can be.

I don’t expect to publish it right now, I don’t have grandiose plans of being the exception to the rule. My plan is to keep working on my second manuscript. This one will easily fall into the correct word count category, plus I feel it will also appeal to the current fancies of readers. (ah, but will the public taste change before I query?) Let’s just be optimistic for a minute and assume that that book catches a publisher. Then, with a book under my belt, I can put forth my epic fantasy. (by the way, am I the only annoyed by that term? The word ‘epic’ is epically overused.)

The word count is currently reaching past 120k once more and it will probably grow some more. I have a feeling it will probably settle back where I started, around 127k-130k. Depending on how high it gets, I may quietly send a few queries out to a few agents who specialize in epic fantasy, just to see how it goes. I’d like to think that if the book is good enough the word count won’t matter but we know that’s just me being wishful!

Agent's face when the see my word count.

Agents’ faces when they see my word count.

In the mean time I should get to work on the shorter book, but it’s currently languishing as I lavish all my attention on it’s bigger sibling. Sigh, I guess we just can’t help having favorites.

A Challenge to Writers

Someone recently shared this list of obsolete words with me. I found it extremely interesting, both the words themselves and the way that they have faded from common use. But why should they be forgotten? We’re writers, right?

And our work is going to be published one day, right?

Well, why not try to bring some of these words back into use?

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Click for a larger image

The word ‘Yestreen’ caught me by surprise as I’m actually quite familiar with it, as the above states, it is popular on Scottish folk songs which I love.

So how about it? Let’s see if we can use any of these words in our current work!

Although, perhaps we should not encourage the spanghewing of frogs and toads…

 

(After publishing I noticed that I had misspelled my title, and on a post regarding writing, too! How embarrassing!)

The Massacre of Excessive Words

When I first finished my current manuscript it weighed in at a whopping 127,000 words.

Uh huh, imagine an agent’s face if THAT had popped into their in-box.

Of course, we all know that an unpublished writer is not going to get a book that big published without the help of several miracles and, since miracles seem to be in short supply around here,  the only thing to do is edit the snot of it.

At first it seems utterly impossible,  when you’re looking at your newly completed masterpiece you KNOW that every single word is completely vital to the story, ‘It’s perfect, why should I ruin it?’

Sit back, take a breath, and wait for reality to hit you in the jaw. There, did it hurt? Because it will soon. Yes, there is a masterpiece in their somewhere, but at the moment it’s lost in that trash heap of words. Beginners don’t want to hear this, I certainly didn’t (for the record, I still consider myself a beginner but at least I know the rules of the game now), and all that editing is a pretty daunting task. Then you dive in and start slicing and dicing, you’ve removed irrelevant scenes but your word count is still way too high, what now?

I’m going to share some of the tricks I’ve learned in the hopes of helping other people who are struggling to clean up their novel and cut down that pesky, all-important word count.

REDUNDANCY

‘… She thought silently.’  Well, duh, that is how most people think. Sure she could be speaking her thoughts out loud but in full context it’s obvious she’s not, I don’t need to say this,  the reader has already figured it out.

Yawned tiredly, said out loud … you get the picture. Ditch those redundant words!

S/HE SAID _____LY

“I don’t like editing!” She exclaimed loudly.

“I know, but it really is necessary,” he said soothingly.

“I’d rather shovel manure then change one more sentence,” she muttered darkly.

It sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? Sometimes you really just don’t need those extra adjectives, if we are doing our jobs as writers properly then the reader should be able to pick up on the characters’ emotions without us telling them so bluntly.  By no means am I saying get rid of every case of this but I bet once you start looking you’ll realize you may have overused this sort of phrase, I did! 

HE SAID/SHE SAID

While we’re on that subject do you really need to add that after every bit of conversation? If it’s just two characters then the reader already knows who’s talking. if you can do without it here and there then ditch it! (Be careful though, there’s nothing more annoying for a reader than losing track of who says what and having to go back and read again)

REPEATED NAMES

“Did you like the movie Helen?”

“I did Jack, what shall we do now?”

“Well, Helen, we should probably get back to editing.”

“No, Jack, anything but that!”

People don’t actually speak like that, thank goodness because I would be in real trouble when I tried to remember names. It’s annoying to read but it’s pretty easy to fall into this habit while writing.  DITCH ‘EM.

ELLIPSIS …

 Did you know that every time you use ellipsis it adds three words to your word count? Or at least it does on my word program, I suppose it could vary on others but still, why risk it? They can be really annoying when over used anyway. Sure they’re handy when a character trails off into la la land … what was I saying? Oh, right, I guarantee that you can get rid of at least 90% of those ellipses and your writing will be better off for it.

Following these guidelines have helped me clean up my writing and knock my word count down (but is it low enough? We’ll see) and I hope they’ll be helpful to others. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed just remember;

Totally true!

 

Writer’s Block Busted.

Writer’s Block. The phrase sends shivers down the spines of writers everywhere.

     Dramatic yes, but is there anything worse than sitting there trying to write and finding that your brain is utterly blank? And I’ve just suffered the worst bout I’ve had in a long time. My querying is on hold because I realized there were these pages in the middle that just didn’t work hard enough for the story. It should have taken a day, two at the most.

     Easily a month later I was this close to murdering every character and dumping the novel in a trash heap. My brain was utterly frozen. No, a better word would be over-heated. The stress of trying to write when it wasn’t naturally coming kept me awake at nights and made me fall behind on everything during the day. I tried all the usual remedies; brainstorming in a notebook (which is usually my best inspiration method), working on something else, stopping writing all together.  But nothing, the little voices in my head had stopped.

Writer's Block And then, last night at close to twelve pm BOOM. INSPIRATION. BRAINSTORM. MY IMAGINARY FRIENDS LOVE ME AGAIN.

     I wrote all night. Good bye, writer’s block, won’t miss you!  Writing … it feels wonderful …