Writing Space: Wendy Van Camp

As the creator of No Wasted Ink, I often take a back seat and feature other writers here on the blog. After all, it is rather difficult to interview oneself! I thought that instead I might do a writing space post to give you all a glimpse of where the posts of this blog are created.

“Intrepid” Young Filmmaker Wendy Van Camp with her Super 8 Camera
I’ve always been a writer and a storyteller, although I haven’t always told my stories with words. I wrote my first novel at the tender age of four years, all handwritten on wide ruled school paper in child’s scrawl. All three revisions of it! I still keep it as a memento, but it is locked away where no one can see. My second novel was written during my mid-teen years on a broken Selectric typewriter. The carrier return had to be pushed with my right hand while I typed with my left. I clearly remember the scent of whiteout and being painstakingly careful about typos as I wrote. I did several revisions of this novel over a two or three year time span and learned to type as fast with just my left hand as with both. For some reason, my parents never saw fit to fix the typewriter for me.

In college I discovered filmmaking and shifted my focus from the written word to telling stories with a script and a camera. I remained happy with this medium for a good fifteen years of my life. I’ve produced and directed feature length projects, more talk shows than I can remember, parades, city council meetings, and toy commercials. As time went on, I developed a small artisan jewelry business and gradually, as television and film work moved overseas, I focused more on creating beautiful items for women to wear and learned to love the freedom that the lifestyle of an artist offers. I did not return to writing stories seriously until 2010 when the idea for a novel burst into my mind and would not let me go. I have been writing novels, articles and short stories ever since. No Wasted Ink was started New Year’s Day 2012 and is now my writing home on the web.

Wendy Van Camp's Writing Space and Studio
Wendy Van Camp’s Writing Space and Studio
These days, I have a dedicated writing space in my home. No more broken Selectric typewriter on the kitchen table for me! A room in my house is my “creative studio” with a lovely view of our lemon tree and my rose garden just outside the window. Here you will find my jeweler’s bench, workbench, shelves of supplies, a comfortable plush chair to relax in, and my trusty desktop computer and desk. I write most of the short fiction, articles and the blog posts on the desktop using my Scrivener program. The large monitor is an asset to me as it allows me to blow up the text large enough to be seen even with my aging eyesight. I love my studio and spend most of my day there, either working on jewelry to create stock for my jewelry business, writing or just enjoying the Internet during my off time. My dog has a certain spot behind my chair and she keeps me company during the day. So far, the hammering, sawing, or intense concentration to my computer doesn’t bother her. That is loyalty.

Alphasmart Neo and Samsonite Shuttle Case
Alphasmart Neo
I use other tools in my writing. An Alphasmart Neo is my drafting machine of choice and you will see me with it out in the coffeehouses when I am drafting a new story. The small screen and distraction free writing helps me focus on my work. I credit using the Alphasmart for helping me win the 50K goal at NaNoWriMo for the first time. When I need research information I refer to my filofax writing binder where I keep character sketches, notes and other information about my novel, or in a pinch I will call up information on my ipod touch. I also use a NEC Mobilepro 900 that I have souped up by flashing it with upgraded software. It is what I use for revisions since it allows me to see more of the text than the Neo.

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

Book Name: Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
First Published: 1719

Daniel Defoe might be considered the father of journalism itself as he was one of the more prolific journalists of the eighteenth century. During his career as a pamphleteer and writer, he published around 370 works on a wide variety of topics, the majority of which were political in nature. The content of his seditious writing landed him in prison, but he gained his release by agreeing to be an intelligence agent for the Tories. The rumor and eventual confirmation of his spying eroded his reputation as a writer and a gentleman and thus he was looked down upon by his contemporaries such as Jonathan Swift, Sir Walter Scott, and Alexander Pope.

Defoe worked hard to create the impression that he was a gentleman, although he was not born so, being the son of a butcher and presbyterian dissenter. In order to create the illusion of gentility, he added the suffix “de” to his real family name of Foe. He was known to have purchased crests to place on his carriage to further the idea that he was a gentleman born. Defoe was constantly in debt and landed in debtors prison, but eventually through his business connections managed to find many jobs from being a tax collector to a merchant of hosiery, general woolen goods and wine. He also received a sizable dowry when he wed Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a London merchant. Eventually, he was able to purchase a country estate and a ship that he used in his merchant business to gain the status that he longed for, but it is thought that due to his constantly being in debt and the trouble with his seditious pamphlets, his life with Mary and their six surviving children was a troubled one.

Defoe came to novel writing late in his life, penning his first book Robinson Crusoe when he was sixty years of age. The success of his first novel helped to redeem his writing reputation. The book went on to be translated into several languages, became the inspiration for many other novels and in our century for many films. He has gained worldwide and critical acclaim as a novelist starting in the twentieth century and beyond.

Robinson Crusoe is about an Englishman who is stranded on a deserted island for 28 years. With the supplies he’s able to salvage from the ship that was lost during a violent storm, Crusoe eventually builds a fort for a home and then creates for himself a mini-paradise by his own labor and effort in taming animals, gathering fruit, growing crops, and hunting. He recreates a civilization, with all its comforts and economy, except lacking in human companionship. It is a time of hardship and of learning to have faith in god for Crusoe as he examines the beliefs he has been raised with.

After living alone for twenty years, Crusoe spies a human footprint in the sand and soon encounters a tribe of cannibals. During his encounter with the fierce warriors, he rescues a black man who would have been put to death by them. Crusoe names this man Friday and treats him as a servant at first due to the color of his skin. A common view of imperial England at the time. What makes the story more interesting is that Defoe the author treats Friday and the other “savages” as true human beings, although coached in the cultural views of the time. At the end of the story, Crusoe makes his escape from the island when a ship of mutineers sail to its shore. He helps the British captain take back control of his ship and in exchange for his service, Crusoe is given transport back to England.

Does anyone not know about the novel Robinson Crusoe? It has entered our culture on so many levels and has been celebrated time and again in books, movies and plays that the very idea of a man living alone against the elements all returns us back to this original tale. Or was it really original? There are those that say that Daniel Defoe based his novel on the true story of Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers’ expedition after four years on an uninhabited island off the Chilean coast.

A 21st century author, Tim Severin, postulates that Crusoe is based on the castaway surgeon Henry Pitman as the most likely inspirational candidate. Pitman wrote a short book about his escape from a Caribbean penal colony, which was followed by a shipwrecking and misadventures on a deserted island. This book was published by J. Taylor of Paternoster Row, London. His son, William Taylor later published Defoe’s novel. Pitman appears to have been living in the lodgings above the publishing house and it is likely that Defoe may have met Pitman in person and learned of his experiences first hand or perhaps could have read a draft of his book via the publishing house.

Robinson Crusoe is considered to be one of the first novels ever written in English. It reads as a classic adventure novel, indeed it is the prototype of such novels, but as you peer deeper into its theme you see thoughts on the importance of civilization, of faith, and of friendship. It is a worthwhile book to read and I highly recommend adding it to your reading list. As writers, I feel that it is important to have a good understanding of the classics. For how can we go forward without knowing what went on behind us? Not to mention, why miss out on novels that have stood the test of time?

Robinson Crusoe book coverYou can find Robinson Crusoe to read for free at Project Gutenberg.

List of Daniel Defoe Novels:

    Robinson Crusoe (1719)
    The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719)
    Serious reflections during the life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his Vision of the Angelick World (1720)
    Captain Singleton (1720)
    A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
    Colonel Jack (1722)
    Moll Flanders (1722)
    Roxana (1724)

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

Happy Monday! It is time for the latest crop of writer’s links here on No Wasted Ink. Enjoy!




Making Big Adjustments as a WAHM

The Principles of Possessives

Simple Scrivener tip: mark off your scenes

Why Being a Sellout Will Help You Write What You Love

11 Easy and Efficient Ways to Build Knowledge, Self Teach, and Learn Every Day

Writing Better

Wired For Story. Using Brain Science To Hook Readers With Lisa Cron

The writing was – to me – far more important than any ‘career’

For New Writers: Three Tips For Becoming A More Better Writer

Overwhelmed? Too Busy?

Creating the Outline of a Novel: From Notebook to Scrivener

A novel always starts out in the back of my mind as a nebulous zygote. A character or a single scene is the seed from which a beautiful child (novel) will be born. It grows there in my mind without my noticing it until one day it solidifies. I say to myself, “Ah ha! There is a story there to write.” It is time for the birthing process to begin. For some people, this means “pantsing” a rough draft without any thought beyond the original seed. For me, I prefer the outline process to give myself a solid foundation with which to build on.

I like to begin the outline process with pen and paper or in Word on my desktop. The pen and composition books are easier to take with me and give an extra layer of creative play that I’ve come to value. There is something about the feel of paper and a pen in your hand that is comforting. It slows down the process enough to allow you to think the details through. I always use a pen, not a pencil. I do not want to be able to easily erase what I’ve written. This is not a time for editing, but for allowing unhindered expression to come forward. I can not do this on a computer due to my fast typing speed. Lately, I’ve been favoring the notebook method over using Word on the computer to outline.

When starting a notebook, I will put the name of the novel at the top, the year I started working on it, and what volume this notebook is. Sometimes there is only one volume, sometimes there are more. For my first novel, I barely had any notes at all. Most of my ideas were in my head alone. Now I find that there is more value in putting the ideas down on paper as best I can. A novel can stretch out over a few years time in the the writing of it. That is a long time to remember tiny details.

My novel’s beginnings are a scrawl of different things. Mind maps where a central character or scene is at the center and I ask myself “what if” questions and then write down ideas as they come no matter how strange around the central idea. Most of these “what if” scenarios are cast off as illogical or too far fetched. Ideas that I like, I highlight, but otherwise simply leave them in the notebook. I sometimes will write down narratives of scenes that have come to me. I don’t go into details, that will come later with the writing of the novel itself, but I try and capture the essence of what is percolating in my subconscious.

I start doing “interviews” of the main characters as they come to me. It is a method that I learned in a creative writing class last year. I make a note of the character’s physical features and find an actor that he can be loosely based on. I begin to formulate the personalties and emotional and intellectual goals and ideals of each character. I write down phrases that would be common to them alone, gestures and other habits that help make the character his own person.

Since I write science fiction and fantasy novels, I find it helpful to rough out a map of the land I’m writing about. Nothing of great detail, enough so that I know where everything is located and can have a good idea as to how long travel time is between the different locations in the story. If I decide that a map will be useful to the readers later, I either will create a better one myself or hire an artist to draw one for the book.

At this point, I open up a file in Scrivener and start to set up the project. In the research area, I create files for the character sketches, the location descriptions and decide on keywords to represent each character, location and special object. This helps me to track information during the revision phase of writing. I also like to print out this information to fit into my writing filofax journal so that I can take my research information with me when I write outside my home. I consider the Scrivener files to be the master copies and my filofax the copy. When I update the information, I update Scrivener first and then print out a new page for the filofax. I like to use the filofax since I don’t have to worry about electricity or waiting for the information to load up in a computer. What I need is all there organized in my writing journal without distraction of the Internet.

Once the research information is in Scrivener, I start an “outline” file in the research area. I write a short paragraph of each scene of the novel from beginning to end based on the highlighted areas of my mind maps from the notebooks and the short scenes that I’ve already written down on paper. The master outline is one file in the research area of Scrivener and a copy is printed for my filofax writing journal. At this point I’ve closed my paper composition notebooks and am working completely in Scrivener.

The final step, before I begin drafting, is to take each outline paragraph and create a separate file for it in the drafting area. I will give the scene a title, write a short synopsis of it in the scrivener card and then paste the entire description paragraph into the document notes section of the inspector. I also label and put in the status of the newly created file.

Every writer uses a different method to create their novels, this is the way I cobble together mine. I consider Scrivener and my filofax writing journal to be the key elements of the system. Scrivener organizes my research and novel information and the filofax is its backup shadow that comes with me everywhere. Together, they form the backbone of my creative process and help to make writing my novels easier.

Author Interview: Patrice Sarath

There are times when you meet a fellow author and things just click. I had that experience when I met this author. Like Patrice, I am a fan of Jane Austen fan fiction and of fantasy, so I was tickled to see that she has published in both of these genres. Please give a welcome to Patrice Sarath here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Patrice SarathMy name is Patrice Sarath. I am a writer from Austin, Texas. My fantasy series, Books of the Gordath, includes Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl. My sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, called The Unexpected Miss Bennet, came out of my great fondness for Austen’s works. I also write short stories, which have appeared in Weird Tales, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Gate, and Realms of Fantasy, and other magazines and anthologies. When I’m not writing I’m mucking around with horses or riding my bike or playing with my dogs.

When and why did you begin writing?

I was five years old when I wrote my first book. Maybe younger, because I couldn’t actually write. But I wrote the best monster story ever and then threw it dramatically into the fire, because it didn’t measure up to the ideas and images in my head.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The Crow God’s Girl is the third book in my Gordath cycle, but it is not the conclusion of the trilogy; in fact, it can be read as the starting point. In The Crow God’s Girl, Kate Mossland, a 21st century teenager from North Salem, New York, is trapped in an alternate fantasy world. Everything is going to be okay, though, because she is betrothed to a noble young man and she is going to be quite wealthy and well-protected and respected. Of course, the best laid plans are the ones that an author loves to gleefully upturn, so naturally things happen to upset that apple cart. Kate discovers that she has hidden strengths that carry her through to a new life far from the one she originally thought she was destined for.

What inspired you to write this book?

The entire Gordath cycle came out of my experiences growing up in Connecticut. I rode horses there — it’s some of the prettiest horse country in the world — and riding on the trails you could be a few miles away from the highway but it felt like the middle of nowhere. What would it be like if you could ride your horse straight into another world? I brought that idea into the Gordath cycle and it continues in The Crow God’s Girl.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m not sure how to describe my style — I think that’s best left up to my readers. However, when I was writing The Unexpected Miss Bennet, I adopted a modified Austenesque style. Austen was a busy writer but she can also be very modern and stripped down, even if we don’t always see that. My Miss Bennet tends toward Austen’s stripped down style with I hope something of her wit. It begins, “It is a comforting belief among much of society, that a plain girl with a small fortune has no more interest in matrimony than matrimony has in her.”

How did you come up with the title of this book?

That’s a great question! I have a wonderful writer’s group called Cryptopolis. I put several title ideas out to them — the working title of the book was Lady of Temia — and then one of my friends came up with something completely different. And it stuck. So if you need a title, call Patrick. He’s good at this kind of thing. My first book, Gordath Wood, was my title — Red Gold Bridge was suggested by my editor at Penguin, Susan Allison. And I am proud to say that I came up with The Unexpected Miss Bennet, which I think really suits my book.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t really do messages. That’s for readers to come up with. I want readers to enjoy my books, re-read them, find different nuances they missed the first time, etc. But messages should never be a writer’s mission. Well, that’s of course for every writer to decide. But messages are not my mission anyway.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The inciting event in the Gordath cycle is getting lost in the woods. When I was 12 years old, I got lost in the woods and went missing for a very long day. I use some of that in the first book when Lynn Romano first disappears in Gordath Wood. It was a scary, exhausting day, and I know I put a lot of my experience into her experience. And of course, the opportunity to ride in some of the prettiest countryside also made it in the book.

What authors have most influenced your life?

Jane Austen and J.R.R. Tolkien. Stephen King. Robert Louis Stevenson. Georgette Heyer. The Brontes. Barbara Kingsolver. There are others, but these are the authors who come to mind first.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?

I am friends with and fans of several writers, but none who I would consider a mentor. That said, I learn from all of them.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Aleta Rafton did the cover art for The Crow God’s Girl. I selected her because I love the covers she did for Gordath Wood and Red Gold Bridge and it was important that this book to have the same look and feel. The cover designer is David Chang, who is in my writer’s group, Cryptopolis. He did a fantastic job.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

At this point, if you are a writer, aspiring or otherwise, you’ve heard it all. Everyone has said the same thing, and there are only so many ways to say, write every day, persevere, always learn, always seek to hone your craft, and develop a thick skin so you can withstand rejection but also learn from criticism. So there’s no point in saying it all again, really. That’s the only formula I have.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

If you like fantasy, romance, and adventure, you will like The Crow God’s Girl. So please, take a look and check it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Crow God's Girl Book CoverPatrice Sarath
Austin, Texas.

Covert art by Aleta Rafton

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