How to Invent Your Own Measurement When World Building

Weight, volume, speed, and time: there are many aspects of daily life that we have to measure in order to function and communicate with those around us.

An agreed-upon unit of measurement is essential in society, and the way we measure things says a lot about our culture. It’s only natural that when we start writing and world building, we feel encouraged to invent our own type of measurements to create a more unique society. It’s much like creating a new language.

The thing is, in order to have an immersive world, we need to understand how different units of measurements are invented. We can do this by learning about the history of some units of measurements.

In this video, I take a quick leap back in time to get some inspirations… and then I take a crack at explaining the ones I created in my epic novel. I hope this video can show you what works and what doesn’t work when inventing units of measurements.

Have fun!

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10 Canadian Writing Contests in 2019

As a writer, there is no better way to support a literary magazine and the writing community than to submit your work into a contest.

Writing contests are also a great way to get you focused on completing a piece of work to the quality where you get that little spark of hope that maybe (just maybe) it’s good enough to win, be published — and earn you some sweet sweet spending money.

Looking ahead to 2019 (OMG! Can you believe it’s already the end of another year?), I’m planning to return to my tenacious roots of accumulating rejection letters.

Winning a contest is a big deal because in a world where the hardest part about being a writer is being read. Having a revered peer not only read your work but regard it as worthwhile is something nobody can ever take away from you. That being said, it’s always just someone’s opinion, so whatever, right? The important thing is loving the process, not the accolades. 

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have some motivation.

So here is my challenge: enter as many contests as I can in 2019. I hope you will join me in this endeavour. Maybe I shouldn’t encourage you since you will end up being my competition. Either way, that’s not the point. The point is to write more, improve as a writer and yadda yadda. Good luck!!  

Here are 10 Canadian Writing Contests in 2019 (in order of deadline):

The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction

Prize:

  • $1,500 grand prize
  • $600 runner-up
  • $400 2nd runner-up

Deadline: January 15, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CDN
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45

Max Length: 6000 words

More details at PRISM international

 

Let Down Your Hair Contest

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $1000
  • Second prize: $150.
  • Publication in an upcoming issue of EVENT
  • All entries will be considered for publication

Deadline: January 20, 2019

Entry Fee: $32.95

Max Length: 1,800 words

More details at Event

 

CBC Literary Prizes – Nonfiction

Prize:

  • Grand Prize: $6,000, publication in CBC Books, and a two-week residency at The Banff Centre
  • 4 finalists: $1,000 each

Deadline: February 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $25.00 (taxes included)

Length: 2,000 words

More details at CBC

 

The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest

Prize: $1000

Deadline: March 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $40

Length: No word limit

More details at The New Quarterly

 

Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction

Prize: $1,000 (CAD)

Deadline: May 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $25 CAD
  • USA: $30 US
  • International: $35 US

Length: 3,500 words

More details at Malahat Review

 

The Grouse Grind Lit Prize for V. Short Forms

Deadline: May 15th, 2019

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $500
  • Runner-up: $150
  • Second runner-up: $50

Entry Fee: $15

Length: 300 words

More details at PRISM international

 

The Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award

Prize: $1000 and a one-year Duotrope Gift Certificate ($50 USD value)

Deadline: May 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $40 

Length: no word limit

More details at The New Quarterly

 

Room Creative Non-fiction Contest

Prize:

  • First prize: $500 and publication in print
  • Second prize: $250 and publication in print
  • Honourable mention: $50 and publication online

Deadline: June 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $42 USD

Length: 3,500 words

Note: Open to women, trans, two-spirited, and genderqueer people.

More details at Room Magazine

 

Prism CREATIVE NON-FICTION CONTEST

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $1,500
  • Runner-up: $600
  • Second Runner-up: $400

Deadline: July 31, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45 USD

Length: 6,000 words

More details at PRISM international

 

Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: Aug 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45 USD

Length: 2,000 and 3,000 words

More details at Malahat Review

 

Bonus:

Here are some notable writing contests that haven’t posted their set 2019 deadline yet. I will keep you posted when those are up.

Annual Lush Triumphant Literary Awards – Contest Opens Jan 2019

More details at Subterrain

Short Grain Contest – Contest takes from Jan-April

More details at Grain

 

Know of any other Canadian writing contest? Please share it in the comments.

 

Naming Your Characters: 3 Tips

Naming your character can be challenging. Unlike naming your pet or your children, a character comes with their own experiences and history.

While it might seem like a name can be something you can tack onto any person, that is not so.

A name can alter the way other people interact with your character and how your character thinks about themselves.

In order to find discover or create a name that fits, we must think less like the writer and more as the parents or guardians who named the character. Once you know the naming conventions of that society, the family within it and what external factors influenced the choice, you can be assured that the name you have given your character is one that fits.

When I wrote my story, I didn’t dwell too long in coming up with names for my character. I simply needed to get my story down and introduce my characters. Well, here I am at the editing stage and it’s time for me to think a bit more about what my character’s names should be.

In the video, I highlighted three characters, whose names were mere snap decisions. I decided to delve a little deeper into those names, understand why I picked them initially if I can unlock any hidden meanings behind them, and massage them to discover another level of creativity that might fit those character’s personalities better.

The 3 tactics I took — that you should try as well — towards finding a perfect name for my characters included:

Understanding the etymology and meaning of the name

One of my character’s name is Delaine, which means “a lightweight dress fabric of wool or wool and cotton made in prints or solid colors.” However, my character doesn’t resemble the traits of being lightweight or soft. He is tough, gritty, and vengeful. I should consider giving him a name that correlates to his personality… or I can keep it as such and find the irony in his name.

Thinking from your character’s parent’s perspective

Imagine what it would be like to be the parents of your character. Were they proud of their heritage and wanted to ensure that certain names were passed down from generation to generation? Or were they hippies and liked to give unique names? Getting into the mindset of the actual people naming their children will give you a clear direction on how to name someone or something.

Combining different words together and changing the spelling

My character Bernard Barnwell is a farmer: Barn-well. That’s by no means clever, but that was literally how names were created in the beginning. People simply received names through recognizing who they are or what they do. Such as Johnson, means John’s son. Nevertheless, here is where you can attempt to be a little more creative. Take Barnwell for example, what I decided to do was make it less obvious. So, I found the Old English word for Barn: Bearn, and combined it with the Norse word for skill (replacing well) skil. Combined I have Bearnskil. A name that is, generally speaking, unique.

Are you writing your story and having a hard time coming up with a suitable name? Give these three tactics a try and see if you get a spark of creativity. Don’t forget to have fun, and enjoy the process.

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The 3 Rules of World Building

So you want to build a world, well, like anything, there are rules you have to follow. A world cannot function any which way you want, there are certain elements and mechanics that you have to understand first in order for your intelligent readers to accept what you have made.

When you think of the world you live in it is easy to see all that is around you as a series of random events, but in reality, everything that exists and occurs is the result of something else (cause and effect). Mountains do not simply appear out of nowhere, an Earth-shaking event had to occur in order for the mountains to sprout: tectonic plates. In every event or with every existence, there is a cause.

Nothing happened by accident. Everything follows a rule, and so does world building. In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about 3 rules you must be aware of when you start building your world.

The 3 Rules of World Building:

  1. The environment – landscape, plants, climate, animals
  2. The intelligent life – race, culture, language, religion
  3. The impending change – climate change, approaching war, a death of a family member

These are elements you will have to follow in order to have an interesting and believable place for your characters to inhabit. Hell, even thinking about these aspects will be enough to launch you in many ideas for your world. That’s the magic of world building. So much of it, you haven’t even thought about yet.

Interested in learning more about writing, editing, and the art of world building? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

Can Society Exist Without a Government?

World building is hard.

You don’t realize how little you know about the world you live in until you start writing about it. In my story, I wrote a sentence stating that a town has no government. What does that even mean?

Can a society exist without government? Or will leadership form from those with the highest influence?

In this video, I explore this question, diving as deep as I can into the topic without getting too political. Staying at the very surface of what government means to me, I decide whether that sentence still fits in my story or will I have to rephrase that to better interpret what I meant when I wrote “no government.”

Verdict: Government is hard to define, but to me, the government means leadership. Think of yourself and your friends, is there a member that makes decisions?

“Hey, let’s go to Portland this weekend, I’ll drive, just chip in for gas money.” Is there someone in the group who creates plans for everyone? That guy or gal is the leader, like it or not. It might even be yourself, you high achiever, you.

The point I’m trying to make is that government will form as long as there are plans and decisions needed to be made. If something is broken in the house, who decides to buy a new one? Probably dad. He is the leader. He is the king. He decides.

If we can live in a society where there are no crimes, no deterioration of infrastructure, and no plans for the future… then yes, we can find a society without a government. But we can’t.

There might be a brief moment in history where a definitive government might not be clear, but eventually, the person or group with the most influence will take over and fill the void.

 

Interested in learning more about writing, editing, and the art of world building? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

How to Describe a Setting: 3 Tips

Settings can be a powerful way of exploring culture, nature, and history — it can also be a way to show the internal joy and pain of your characters who reside within the setting.

Think about the setting you are in: are you enjoying it or are you wanting to leave? How the setting affects us says a lot about who we are. Keep this in mind the next time you write your character into a setting.

Do they want to leave or have they finally made it?

If you want to create a realistic setting for your characters to interact with, consider these 3 aspects when writing:

1. What are the physical elements?

Can you point out where this place is on a map? Are you able to describe the floor plan? Knowing where your setting is located will help you determine how far your character needs to travel to get from one spot to another or where they need to go to retrieve an item or find someone to talk to.

2. What does the place look like?

The appearance of a setting can help the reader learn a lot about it. Does the setting have well-paved roads or are the infrastructures in ruins? Has there been a recent war or is this place prospering? Is the kitchen clean or is it gross and messy? A setting can tell the reader a lot about the history and those that reside there.

3. How do the characters feel?

Does the character want to be there? Does it bring back wonderful memories or has it been a prison for him? What your characters do within that setting will give more details into the relationship between the person and the place. In the end, you can describe the setting all you want, but if the character is not responding to those details appropriately, you will lose your readers.

 

Interested in learning more about writing and editing? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

3 Tips for Introducing a Character in Your Novel

Introducing a character in your novel is a lot like introducing a friend at a party, you shouldn’t tell everybody everything, but rather, just the essential.

From there, you allow the character to engage with his or her surrounding, thus letting everyone else experience the character in action as opposed to you telling the audience everything up front.

When examining how you’ve introduced your character, ask yourself, is this detail relevant? Do the character’s actions show their personality? If so, avoid exposition. Trust that your readers can paint the picture of your character themselves, simply give them the colors they should use and set them off. This is especially important at the beginning of a story, as you don’t want to overload your readers.

How to introduce a character in a novel:

  1. Don’t over describe your characters
  2. Use actions to show traits
  3. Exhibit the character’s flaws

In this video, I’ll give some character introduction examples and gives some writing advice to improve your story.

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6 Tips to Improve the First Chapter [Video]

 

I’ll admit it, my first chapter was not what I thought it would be… there are many areas I can improve.

I counted 6 areas — at least. In this episode, I’m going to highlight six editing tips that you can use when you start writing and editing your first chapter. It is an important chapter, so it is worth taking the time to get it right. You want to introduce the character and the setting. You want to show off some flair and mystery, but you don’t want to cross the line: offer too much backstory, describe the character too much, or miss the opportunity to do the most important thing: tell your story.

1. Know where your story starts

Are you starting in the middle of an action sequence or a moment of intensity? Or are you starting by easing the readers into the story with a regular average day set up? Knowing where your story begins allows you to set the tone for your story.

2. Don’t Over Describe

You may want to impress everyone with your wonderful word choices, but don’t overload it at the start. The important thing is the story. Allow the actions to illustrate your character’s traits and save some of those well-written descriptions for when you really need them.

3. Have a Main Character

Your readers will need a guide through the plot. It can become hard to follow if multiple characters are jostling for the main storyline. You can switch characters later on, sure, but at the beginning, it is advantageous to appoint a character with the lead.

4. Cut Backstory

Don’t overload your first chapter with too much backstory. It is easy to do because you, as a writer and creator of worlds, want to get all the juicy details, history, and lore onto the page. Which is fine. But you are going to have to cut it in the second draft. I must remind you that backstory, although may play a critical role in the story itself, it is also more impactful if the history can be revealed in a way that it feels well blended into the plot. Too much backstory slows everything down.

5. Don’t Mislead

It might be tempting to add a twist or a surprise into your novel right off the bat. Nothing like a good shock to hook your readers, right? Unfortunately, misleading your reader can piss them off and cause them to put down the book and go off and do something that they know will have an appropriate payoff, like cleaning the house. I implore you to avoid starting any story with a dream or simulation sequence.

6. Can it Be a Short Story?

Forget everything else about your novel. Throw it all away. Actually, don’t. Just put it aside. Take only your first chapter and ask yourself, “If someone found this one the street, and they read it… will it be enough for them to have a good time?” If the answer is yes, then carry on.

I hope these tips helped, please let me know what you think. Love to hear your feedback.

 

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How Reading Out Loud Improves Writing [Video]

Always read your writing out loud. Like tasting the food before serving it, reading out loud allows you to identify the nuances of your creation, the elements you wouldn’t notice if you simply read silently.

How does reading out loud improve your writing? Well, your brain is a powerful machine, it is able to piece together information, even if the information is not complete. If a word is missing, your brain would be able to fill it in. It’s actually quite remarkable that it is capable of doing that. However, you don’t want your audience — those that are experiencing your writing for the first time — to get tripped up by missing words or odd sounding sentences. These stylistic slip-ups can distract your reader and take them out of your story.

Reading out loud is the most effective technique when editing. If you skip this step, you might end up with a manuscript containing a lot of embarrassing mistakes.

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How Many Drafts Should You Write? [Video]

 

How many drafts should you write?

4. Well… it could be 4 or it could be 400. Every story is different and every writer is different, and there is no one number. You, as the creator and editor, will have to decide when you are ready to show people what you’ve got.

In this episode The Other Epic Story Vlog, I talk about my strategy for editing my novel.

The 4 Phases of Editing

  1. Structural edit
  2. Grammatical, style, and bad habits edit
  3. Feedback edit
  4. Repeat 1-3 Editing your novel is an important step.

While you can spend forever editing, at some point you need to send it out into the world for feedback.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!