Depicting that witchy aesthetic can be part of the fun of writing an urban fantasy novel. Crystals, fancy magical rituals, swirling doorways that rise from mist or dark shadows are cool. Using rose petals to cast a circle looks awesome and who doesn’t love a cupboard full of magical herbs and oils? But let’s face it, all this stuff requires investment. If you’ve got a character on the run, on a limited or realistic budget, or if you’ve got a character who may live somewhere without access to all the “stuff”, how do you build their magic?
May I recommend sigils and other magical symbols?
Sigils originally referred to the magical signatures for angels and other beings—which is still an amazing “who done it” urban fantasy tool. Maybe you’ve got a magical detective looking through crime scenes seeking the sigil or the perpetrator and tracking them that way… Every work a person does leaves their sigil calling card, which can’t be erased, but can be obscured.
Or maybe you’ve got a lot of characters communicating across a distance. The sigil may be the only way they can verify who did what and when. It becomes an identifying code.
Or you could use sigils like chaos magicians do. They take a word or phase they want to embody and create a symbol out of the letters. First, they write words or phrases of the desired result. Then they cross out all the vowels, then they get rid of repeat letters. Finally, they pull all the letters together into a symbol. Sometimes the symbol is burnt, or drawn every time they want to call that power/energy. Sometimes the sigil is a meditation or visualization tool. Sometimes it’s a banishing technique. Other times the sigil is used so often its original origins are forgotten from the conscious mind.
I love sigils because they are flexible, easy and cheap to make, and because they can have so many uses and meanings. But I also love sigils because even the least artistic of us can create something cool AND we could add it into a book with very little work. Plus that symbol can be drawn, carved, or even hidden in another work. There’s a lot of layers and levels one could build with sigils.
If a character created enough sigils, they could use it as their own shorthand language. It could have the mystery of hieroglyphics with the modern utility of stenography.
Habitica is a free online site (and phone app because everything is a phone app right now) that allows you to write goals and track your progress. Like all progress trackers, Habitica gives users satifaction by checking off completed tasks and clearing a dashboard. More than just checking a box, the site gives the user points that allows them to customize and build a small fantasy character. Doing dishes or completing a writing goal isn’t just exciting in its own sake, now your little character can level up to achieve better armor or a better attack. While “gamifying” work can appeal to anyone, I thought the fantasy character nature may appeal to fantasy or scifi writers.
There are three styles of habits one can write.
“Habits” or goals that a user strives to repeat daily or 2-3 times a week. They are important but the user doesn’t want to be penalized if they don’t get around to completing these things every day. Instead the habits will color coat, suggesting how good a person is at completing them but not setting anyone back if they don’t get to an item every day.
“Dailies” are mandatory tasks that renew each day. If you DO NOT complete them, they will negatively impact your little avatar. This is a more carrot/stick method of goal planning where completing the goals gives your character great bonuses but forgetting to do them too often will lead to your avatar passing out.
“To-Dos” are one time, one-day style tasks. Finishing them is epic, but there’s no set timeline on getting to them and there is no need to repeat the tasks.
How I use Habitica as a writer
While I first used Habitica for the “Dailies” section. Forcing myself to either “put up or shut up,” I find it’s healthier for me to use the “Habits” and “To-Do” sections. It makes me less likely to micro manage my time or fill up my goal list with things I KNOW I will complete so I can collect the points. Checking off boxes and making plans makes me feel good and sometimes I’ll make a ton of plans instead of working on anything. Habitica enables this kind of behavior, so if this is you, beware.
I use the “Habits” section to suggest things I like “check social media X for X amount of time,” “respond to 2 people in y forum,” or “write x amount of words this week.” Habitica can also be a reminder system. It helps me remember to focus on general life or well-being items outside of writing specific goals.
Sometimes Habitica is just a tracking system. If I am trying to decide between projects I wanted to work on, I might create a habit for each book/story and see which one I checked off the most.
I planned to use the “To-Dos” to manage all my creative writing ideas, but it’s unnecessary. I’m excited about all my story ideas and can just keep a running paper list. I jump into creative projects without problem. Instead my “To-Dos” fill with ideas for blog posts and suggestions regarding what to edit next. This way when I schedule time to write up blog posts, I don’t waste time wondering what topics to cover.
Overall, Habitica has helped me stay organized and focused as a writer. While any list could do this. There is extra incentive to do well when there’s a cute little avatar face staring back at me asking for the next couple points to level up. I realize this won’t work for everyone, but if you’re in a rut, it might be worth trying.
Talk to me! Do you use any habit trackers in your writing? Do you use a planner at all or does all structure repel you? How do you feel about deadlines and goals when it comes to your writing or creative process?
easy to say “I want to write a novel” or “I want to be a blogger” or even “I
want to grow my following” and it’s much harder achieve these goals. Today, I want to talk about how to set and
Have a clear image of what a successful end would look like. Today’s end goal will be “I want to complete my first draft.”
Create a deadline. For example: “I want a rough draft at the end of the year.” My “big goals” are always end of the year goals. Thinking ahead more than a year makes me sad and anxious. It’s too big and there are too many places where the plan could go awry. You have to find your own large goal sweet spot. Maybe you’ve got what it takes for the five-year plan or maybe you only want 30-90 days.
Create goals and timelines for each chunk. You might use your story arc to create these goals. Like if you have a three act story, you want to spend 3 months writing the intro 4 months writing the middle and 5 months writing the back third. Or you might break the book by chapters and decide to write 2-3 chapters a month. Personally, I use straight word counts, but everyone will have their own organization.
Identify any stumbling blocks in achieving your goal. I can type about 1,000 words an hour once I get into a groove. What holds me up is research.
Create a way to move around the “hard parts.” To succeed in my plans, I need to limit my research or mark-up areas where I’ll need to verify or detail out in a second draft (if I even keep whatever scene it is). Besides that, I need to set a timer when I start researching. No more than 45 minutes of impromptu studying. Any more time needs to be scheduled and accounted for.
Schedule time to meet your goals. I can’t write my rough draft every day. Instead, I’ve scheduled time each week to write and I stick with a weekly word count goal. My goal is 3,200 words a week. To reach my goal I’d only need to write about 2,700 words a week, but I’m setting up a safety net with a larger goal. This way if my story is longer than I thought or if I fall short some weeks, I could still finish my project.
Actually block out the time you plan to use each day/week/month and keep a reminder near you. Trying something new? I recommend that at first you give yourself double whatever the amount of time you think you need. If that’s too much time awesome!
If double the time doesn’t complete your task, relax. Your experience is normal, don’t be discouraged. I recommend backing off your yearly goal and just spending a month recording your process. How far do you get in each writing session? How long are the sessions, are shorter or longer spurts better for you? Are there times of day that make writing easier? Use this self-knowledge to create a more realistic plan and goal for you. Remember if at first you don’t succeed; you just need a different plan!
Grump Old Gods: 3,000-4,000 words “We’re looking for stories about mythical Gods who are waning, reborn, retired, or otherwise AWOL from their assigned post.” speculative fiction pay is royalties
Electric Spec: 250 and 7000 words “speculative fiction elements. We prefer science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre, but we’re willing to push the limits of traditional forms of these genres” pay is $20
Would But Time Wait (New England Anthology): 4,000-6,000 words “Ulthar Press is seeking original, unpublished short stories for an anthology of folk horror with New England ties, scheduled for release at Necronomicon-Providence in 2019. For the purposes of this project, we are defining folk horror as horror literature in which the present (in the story, not necessarily current day) collides with the history, folklore, traditions, and psychogeography of a region. The term “folk horror” came to prominence in describing a subgenre of film represented best by the “unholy trinity” of Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). In general, themes include:” pay is $75 flat
Slice Magazine: up to 5,000 words “The theme is “Birth.” All submissions during that time will be considered for Issue 25, which will be released fall 2019.” pay is $250
Outlook Springs: Flash and short stories “Send us your weird, wobbly wordwork: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. See genres for specific submission guidelines,”pay is $10 for flash and $25 for short stories
Superior Shores Press: 1,500-5,ooo words “The Best Laid Plans, which will include stories of mystery and suspense with an overarching theme of “the best laid plans” pay is$25 flat fee
War of the Worlds : Absolute War: 4,000-20,ooo words a lot of details on this but basically looking for same universe as “War of the Worlds” a different take on the invasion or prep for the invasion pay is 5% gross profit
Enchanted Conversation: Fairytale, Folktales & Myths: up to 2,000 words “explore the different aspects of love set within the fairy tale, folktale, or mythic templates. Work can either be re-tellings of established stories or use original characters. Be bold, traditional, lyrical, or experimental in your storytelling and enchant us with stories set in a variety of locations around the world and time periods from ancient to modern.” $10 flat rate
Monsters Out of the Closet-Gothic: length varies “From haunted manors, repressed secrets, and horrifying leaps of science and faith—this episode celebrates the tradition of Gothic literature and film.” pay varies based on length but is at least $.01 a word
Our Write Side: Steampunk short stories: 3,500-10,000 words “Steampunk began as a literary genre loosely inspired by the real or imagined cultures, events, and technologies of the Industrial Era. It can take various forms, from an alternative history, to a dystopian future, to a complete fantasy world untethered to our sense of time and space. In more recent times, Steampunk has leaped from the pages of books and into people’s lives in the form of special events, elaborate costumes, and dedicated “sports.”” pays a percentage of sales
Once Upon a Future Time: up to 15,000 words a scifi story that incorporates a fairy tale or folklore. ALL AUTHORS RECEIVE FEEDBACK on their writing. pay is $50 and royalties plus a copy of the book
Arsenika: up to 1,000 words all flash and micro flash or poetry. They respond in 14 days of submission pay is $60 for flash and $30 for poetry
Matter Press: ???words suggests short? looking for anything that deals with the idea of compression. Response time is 1-3 days and the pay is $50
Smoking Gun Press: 1,200-6,000 words “We welcome stories involving all types of supernatural beings… witches, zombies, vampires, ghosts, werewolves and other were-creatures, demons, and anything else we’ve left out! Mixing and matching of different types of beings in the same story is acceptable” all genres are acceptable pay is $20 and a copy of the anthology
Iridium Press: up to 5,000 words any story so long as it has QUILTBAG+ content pay is $.03 a word.
Belanger Books: 5,000-10,000 words “this collection will feature all new traditional Sherlock Holmes adventures with a science-fiction edge. Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of Steampunk will feature Holmes in a futuristic Victorian setting. See him deal with airship pirates and steam powered robots. Maybe he’ll even deal with a time traveler or with alien invaders. ” pay is royalties
Selene Quarterly Magazine: up to 100 words between 101-1,000 words 1,001-1,500 words 3,000-7,500 words “Selene Quarterly Magazine publishes quality fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art that dwells in the shadows. SQM desires stories and poetry that are thrilling, reflective, and imaginative.” pay scale varies for length but all are at least $.01 a word
Ulthar Press: 2,000-5,000 words ” looking for strange, gothic, and fantastic fiction in the manner of E.T.A. Hoffmann between 2,000 – 5,000 words in length. Stories that merely graft his characters into a new story will not be accepted.” response time is 60 days and the pay is $.02 a word
Thuggish Itch: 1,000-4,000 words theme is theme park looking for horror, scifi, and speculative works. pay is $5.00 under 2,000 words and $10 over 2,000 *to make this ‘worth it’ you need to write a 500 word pieceD
Space Opera Libretti: 2,000-7,000 words “The short version of what we want: Silly, diverse sci-fi that involves music. If it’s actually about operas in space, all the better!” pay is $.06 a word
Inkling Press: up to 5,000 words “The first anthology released by Inklings Press was Tales From The Tavern – a short collection of five fantasy stories by some of the early, happy crew that thought it was time to have a go. You can still read that – it’s collected in the Tales From The Tower anthology that rounds up the first year of Inklings Press.” flat $50 pay
Vex Me No More: up to 5,000 words “We want your witch stories! Though they do not necessarily have to be female-centric, they do need to be tales of powerful, unique beings. Remember, this is a horror anthology, so while you can have elements of other genres, we want to be scared.” pay os $.02 a word
Bad Dream Entertainment: 1,500-8,000 words “Bad Dream is now accepting submissions of humorous dark fiction. Editor Brett Reistroffer is looking for original horror fiction with a strong sense of comedy, and most themes, subjects, and settings are welcome but standard genre tropes are definitely discouraged (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.). The comedic aspect can be goofy and slapstick or black and morbid, just as long as there are equal amounts of darkness and humor” pay is $.06 a word plus split royalties
Curse the Darkness: 3,000-10,000 words “For our inaugural anthology, Curse the Darkness*, we’re throwing our doors wide open and inviting submissions on the theme of darkness. That could be the absence of light, the presence of evil, or the sinister thoughts of the afflicted. However you choose to interpret the theme, just make sure you leave us afraid to turn out the lights.” pay is $75 flat rate
Alternate Peace: up to 7,500 words “is to feature alternate history stories where the divergence from our timeline comes from some kind of peaceful change to our past. It must explore the consequences of this divergence, not simply introduce the divergence. Stories featuring more interesting historical settings and twists on the consequences of the peaceful divergence from our timeline will receive more attention than those with more standard changes to the course of history. ” response by end of Feb 2019 pay is $.06 a word
Temporally Deactivated: up to 7,5000 words “is to feature stories where the author explores what the phrase “temporally deactivated” could mean with regards to a person, place, or thing. Stories featuring more interesting takes on the twisting of time and how it is integrated into the story will receive more attention than those with more typical twisted time stories. We do NOT want to see stories where “temporal deactivation” means simply death.” response by end of Feb 3019 pay is $.06 a word
Portals: up to 7,5000 words “is to feature science fiction or fantasy stories that contain a portal opening up between two different worlds and the consequences that come from that portal. We are attempting to fill half of the anthology with science fiction stories and half with fantasy stories. ” pay is $.06 a word
Nothing Without Us: 1,000-3,500 words “All works must be fiction—fiction based on lived experiences is welcome. The lead character must be disabled, blind, Deaf, Autistic, neurodiverse, and/or live with mental illness. We do not expect all of these in one character, although we’re sure that character would be amazing. We are accepting fiction in all genres with the exception of hard-core erotica. We are also only interested in previously unpublished works. ” “We welcome writers across the disability, mental illness, developmental disabilities, neurodiversity, blind, and Deaf spectrums. We welcome those who manage invisible and visible disabilities and/or chronic conditions. We welcome those who count spoons! We’re just looking to have an entire work where we elevate the stories written by the folks in our community. We welcome the communities that intersect with the disabled, neurodiverse, mentally ill, blind, and Deaf communities, such as the LGBTQIA2 communities.” pay is $.03 a word
Allegory Online Magazine: up to 5,000 words but between 500-2,000 seems best “We specialize in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. We will consider other genres, such as humor or general interest, provided that the work possesses an original, “quirky” slant.” pay is $15
Cafe Irreal: up to 2,000 words “This fiction, which we would describe as irreal, resembles the work of writers such as Franz Kafka, Kobo Abe, Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges. As a type of fiction it rejects the tendency to portray people and places realistically and the need for a full resolution to the story; instead, it shows us a reality constantly being undermined. Therefore, we’re interested in stories by writers who write about what they don’t know, take us places we couldn’t possibly go, and don’t try to make us care about the characters.” pay is $.01 a word min $2
Crystal Lake Publishing: 500-5,000 words a non themed anthology in the dark fiction genre with fleshed out three dimensional characters pay is $.03 a word
Nexxis Fantasy: up to 15,000 words “Nexxis Fantasy has a twice a year publication. Our goal is to publish an exquisite science fiction anthology filled with the greatest works from across the galaxy.” the upcoming theme is “Lost” pay is $1 per 100 words
As I shared recently on my personal blog, grammar is the bane of my existence. I’m so excited to tell the story or express my idea, that I never push pause and wonder if I’m structuring well. Then, I have comb through everything looking for missing letters, forgotten articles, passive voice, adverbs, missing commas, and the list goes on.
This is NOT a post about the weakest element of my writing (though my rambling could transform it to that in an instant). Instead, I would like to present writers with some tools to combat the grammar demon. After all Microsoft Word and Open Office’s tools, don’t catch most mistakes writers fear.
ProWritingAid:Is hands down my favorite editing tool. I use the “style” and “grammar/spelling” report the most and it helps me find all my major pitfalls. There are over 20 reports a writer can comb through. It allows me to hunt down overused words, pacing problems, and repetitive sentence structure. When I’m “into” my story, I can spend days pouring through the reporting procedures making every element perfect. And I walk away with the sense I improved my writing
Beyond the different reports, there are different evaluations for different writing. I set my editor to ‘Creative’ on default, but you may prefer, “business”, “casual”, “web” or one of the other seven styles.
I use ProWritingAid in the web editor mode, but it has add ons that connect it to Mac, Scrivener, Word, and more. I’ve been working with the software for a little over the year and there are major quality of life improvements with this software. For example it doesn’t get rid of my bold, italic, or underlined text anymore when I copy and paste from one document t to another.
ProWritingAid allows you to use their editor for 500 words or fewer for free. To use the editor on longer works you must purchase. They have many pricing options and it’s affordable (less so than when I bought in but still WORTH IT).
Grammarly:This was the hottest grammar software on the market three years ago when I first poked around in the blogging world. I was convinced this thing would 100% make all the right corrections, and I was disappointed. A fellow writers’ group member, Ashley Saunders, (who is an expert on all syntax and structure) pointed out how much the software missed in my writing. She complained my “edited” draft still read like a rough draft.
Because I was so disappointed with the free services of Grammarly, I never investigated if the paid version provided better corrections. The pricing is more reasonable now than it was then. It may be worth consideration. Still, ProWritingAid offers more evaluation tools. For a writer looking to make their work the best and not just grammatically sound, ProWritingAid exceeds Grammarly.
Hemingway App:An excellent free web app that offers writers insight into readability, adverbs, and passive voice. I used to run everything through here. Since I’ve worked with ProWritingAid a year, I’m convinced the software finds everything Hemmingway App does and makes more helpful suggestions on how to correct issues I’ve encountered. Still, this a wonderful free app and perfect for an aspiring writer not ready to invest any money in a new editor.
Word Counter: I haven’t played a lot with this online tool, but it’s an interesting cross between Grammarly, Hemmingway App and a word production app. Their evaluations look interesting and the service is free. They send me emails about twice a week and the topics are interesting.
Do you have a grammar editor of preference? Am I missing the BEST one? Have I over hyped one editor while downplaying another? Talk to me, tell me more about the tools you use to make your writing everything it can be.
Looking at the path from spoken story, to recorded story, to printing press, and now to online and print formats, I can see that technology historically is huge for the aspiring writer. It seems that as technology and communication improve, the different ways it can help writers also exponentially increases. I’m awed and overwhelmed with the different tools at our disposal. To help sort the varying tools, I’m creating a series that explores different services mean to help an aspiring writer. This week we have tools meant to increase daily word count or to encourage a daily writing practice.
750 Words is my favorite of these sites. The purpose is to write 750 words or three pages every day. Once you’ve created an account, it will provide a space to enter text and you just type. When complete, send in your work and 750 will analyze the writing to see whether you were happy or relaxed based on keywords. The site will break down when you paused and when you were in a hot streak. For those who like to compete, you get points and a score board if you keep to the daily 750 word assignment. Best of all, all your writing is private. First thirty days are free and it’s only $5/mo afterward.
Write or Die is an software that puts pressure on the writer to produce text in a set amount of time or…consequences. The most disturbing thing the software does: it deletes words if you pause for more than a few seconds. Write or Die will either help you up your word count or obliterate every letter on the page. It costs $20 and I’ve often toyed with whether it might be worth the price tag to place my feet to the iron. I’m afraid I don’t have the stomach for the software.
Word Counter does a lot more than count your words! If you create a free account, you can create goals to work towards and the site will track progress for you. The site is linked to Grammarly, so spelling and grammar can be altered through them. Beyond that, Word Counter offers stats similar to those available on Hemingway App. It provides a reading level, how long it would take to read or speak, and it also offers a “word density” that may suggest whether you need to crack open a thesaurus. For strict editing, I prefer ProWritingAid, but if I was looking for a hybrid motivational tool and editor, Word Count seems like a capable option. It’s free to use.
Rescue Time, the wonderful Christopher Palmer mentioned this site to me, and I think it’s great for the aspiring writer. The light version lets you set goals and tracks how much time you spend on the web and where. It let’s you know how much time in front of the screen you’re wasting not writing!
What do you think? Do you use any of these softwares? Do you know of any other sites or apps that encourage word count or daily writing? What do you use to track your writing metrics?