Meet J.R. Rainville, an author who just published her first fantasy novel, Sneakthief! She shares how Scribe Forge's writing tools helped her nail her worldbuilding and write the best version of her novel.
You can read her book, Sneakthief, here (more on it below!)
Confessions of a pantser
I am a pantser.
When writing, I fly by the seat of my pants, letting the words come out, hoping for the best, and then taking comfort in the fact that revision can fix the glaring errors, gaping plot holes, and anything else amiss.
It worked pretty well for my MFA novel and has worked pretty well for most other writing I've done. So when it came time to write my first novel, Sneakthief, I pantsed that as well.
Who needs outlines?
Even though I had the writing process drilled into me, and knew intellectually the value of an outline, when it came to fiction I felt intimidated by outlines.
I felt like they would stifle my creativity; that I couldn't change plans; that the joy of discovery would be gone. In the end, I did not outline Sneakthief's first draft.
I knew I was in trouble...
Sneakthief is a fantasy novel, and while I've read extensively in the genre and written a lot of fantasy fanfic, I had a lot of work to do. And unfortunately, the first draft definitely showed it.
As I went through the finished first draft, I used notecards to outline what happened in each chapter, and what was missing. One thing I kept seeing come up was a lot of gaps in my worldbuilding, specifically around how magic worked.
It was a very surface-level understanding and presentation of my own world, and it showed in those early drafts.
I sent my third draft to a beta reader, whose works defy reality while still telling amazing stories; I really respect them and their work and therefore their advice. So, when they came back with feedback around "embroidering the world" more and had questions about just how things worked in my world, I knew I was in trouble.
Bridging the gap between pantsing and planning
Luckily that's when I first saw ads for Scribe Forge in my feeds!
The Essential Worldbuilding Blueprint and Workbook looked like it had exactly what I needed, so I ordered it. When it came in, I got down to business.
I love that this book has an introduction about worldbuilding in general, and then starts delving into the nitty-gritty of it: asking questions about law, society, religion, systems of magic, planetary tilt, star proximity... you name it!
This got me thinking about my world in a way I hadn't considered before, and I ended up really building the world, rather than just telling a story and hoping no one noticed my pantsing.
As a result, draft five was much more cohesive, and a large part of that was the understanding and realization of the world in which Sneakthief takes place.
Mastering chaos in a simple but brilliant way
Another issue I have as a writer is the sheer volume of ideas, and how to catalogue them!
I've tried journals, but then I overthink it: is the notebook too pretty for my ideas? Is it too plain and will I lose it? Is it too big or small? Can I keep all my ideas in one book, or do I need a separate journal for each?
Thankfully Scribe Forge released The Writer's Epiphany Notebook, which organized things in a very simple, but brilliant way for someone like me (anyone, really!).
Organizing ideas without stifling creativity
The first few pages were designated as a table of contents. I could put my ideas all over the book, even separate them across several pages if something intervening got written.
By just writing down the page number (already printed on the blank journal pages) in the contents, I could tell where things were.
The Writer's Epiphany Notebook was really what I needed. It has lined pages, blank pages, and bullet-grid pages, so there are a lot of options to keep things in order.
I've recently purchased The Essential Life Planner for Writers as well, and that's helping me keep my publication goals, and what I need to achieve them, on track.
Making pantsing even better
While I can't quite stop pantsing when I write, I can say that Scribe Forge products have helped me stay more organized, and have helped me make more sense of my ideas.
My world feels more cohesive, and I'm much more confident writing in it.
J.R. Rainville's novel, Sneakthief, is available now!
In Eldingar, magical ability is a gift granted by the One Above. Those born without it, the ungifted, are sentenced to serve in the church or be executed as heretics.
Theodore Tolliver can't cast a spell to save his life, but he'll be damned before he resigns to a life of servitude. When he's conscripted into a shadowy band of ungifted bandits, he begins to make a life for himself as their Sneakthief. At home in the shadows, it's not the life he imagined, but it's better than what he'd been headed for.
Nicholas Alcyon watched, helpless, as one of his best friends was taken into church custody two years ago. As the scion of Eldingar's oldest family line, his whole life has been curated to position him for success, and he's intent on using that to make good on his promise to change the world.
When the Sneakthief is sent into the capital city of Umbrial to rob the church itself, it should be the heist of a lifetime. Instead, it sets in motion events that could help them both achieve their dreams--if they're willing to work together. And if they can survive.