Category Archives: Writer’s Log

Elder centers: beta reader bonanza

I wonder if there are any elder care centers around that might entertain the idea of creating a beta-reader club.

Here’s a population of folks with time on their hands. They have organized activities, book-o-the-month clubs, social gatherings and whatnot. They sound like the perfect victims for assaulting with the likes of a poorly written beta-level novel.

“Hello, Epione’s Excellent Elder Care Home? Yes, I’d like to swing by with rough-printed copies of my new novel for your residents to read, at their discretion and interest level.

I would bring donuts…

You’d have to get approval from management? Of course. Yes, the content is relatively tame — no hard-core sex scenes, or disembowelments.

I can come by? Excellent.”

Baby Boomers Abound. I think this is an untapped resource ripe for harvest. Imagine organizing the Elder-Brain-Trust into a distributed knowledge processing service center. Millions of old-foggies bored to tears, aching for something to do with their time. And here come all these nascent authors in need of beta readers. Bingo! A perfect match.

I’m gonna print off 10 copies of my latest story and march right down there. For $85 I can get ten printed copies delivered. Sounds like a plan to me.

 

 


The writer’s mind: a basket

The writer’s mind is like a basket.

Initially, during the nascent years, the basket holds gross instructions and blatant rules: a. watch your use of passive. b. mind your use of filler words. c. adverbs – don’t! And so on and so forth.

Later the basket fibers get infused with the earlier concepts which become second nature (hopefully). But still the basket is full. d. mind your dialog tags. e. avoid cliches. f. use specific attribution – don’t generalize.

And later still: g. show don’t tell, h. maintain proper POV. i. mix your sentence lengths.

And later and later and so on and so forth, ad nauseam (and I am indeed nauseous at this point).

At every stage the writer’s mind remains a basket. A basket that has been soaked and saturated with the nuance and persuasion of a dozen, a hundred lessons before it. But still, it’s full. Full of the next set of applicable aspects of “writing well.”

And yet, the agonizing march proceeds. ARRGH!

Regardless of saturation level, the basket is full of all those subtleties that the most advanced writer wishes to instill in their stories, their characterizations, their depictions of a reality that exists only in their own minds — but will, with luck, live in their reader’s.

Jesus! Will it ever end?

No. Apparently not.

My basket, it over-floweth.

 


Writer’s Log: 1821

Two years into this writing effort and I’m just now starting to shift from tactics to strategy.

I started writing Blue Across the Sea in the summer of 2016. I literally pumped it out in 90 days. I had no idea what I was doing aside from telling a story I’d had in my head for some time. Then came the realization that story is nothing without proper delivery. Imagine a stuttering bard. Alright, I said, if this writing pastime is important to me — I’d better learn how to do it well.

I’ve kept at it. And as I sit down these days to write, I find I’ve now shifted from focusing on the technical aspect of putting words to paper to strategizing the story. I’ve learned to trust, perhaps falsely, in my semi-developed skills at avoiding passive voice. At creating rhythm in sentence structure. At controlling dialog, the tags, the punctuation, the brevity. These and many other nitty-gritty functional aspects of writing, skills I should have learned much earlier, have been subsumed by my writer’s conscious (or so I tell myself).

My “sit down and get to it” tasks now feel as if they’ve taken on an elevated approach. The scene is ending, how to slip in a bit of suspense? This character feels thin, what nuance or foible can I add to make them feel more real? I’ve pounded this character to a pulp, they need a bit of a reprieve so that the reader can breathe easy for a time.

The scope of my writing has expanded. I’ve leveled up — finally.

Have you noticed stages in your writing ability? What stage are you at now?


The Gribble’s Eye: Part I of a serial

Eye-Iris

As promised. Here is the first part of The Gribble’s Eye as done as a series of posts — destined for editing and compilation as a YA/MiddleSchool illustrated novel (eventually with all parts I-V). We’ll see how easy it might be to heighten the jeopardy and seamlessly stitch the pieces together. These were released one after another on my main author’s site.

If nothing more, you can hop into each post just to take a look at the pictures… (In the end there will be 50 of them!)

You can just start at 1.1 and links in each will lead you to the next (as they should).

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.1 (7/15/2018)  I’ll be releasing an abridged version of The Gribble’s Eye as a series of posts focused on the images masterfully created by Yulian Mulyono. These installments will be a much condensed version of the story which I will then compile into a sister book offered to the youngest of readers. The writing is geared toward … Continue reading

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.2 (7/16/2018)  “A wish, made by a child, sends shivers into the world. Vibrations through existence. And deep within the Earth, entities exist, beings that listen to such vibrations, beings who hear the wishes of children.” Professor Brimson’s eyebrows twitched as he waited for a reply from his guest, Professor Richard Clarke. Clarke had begun to drift … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.2

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.3 (7/17/2018)  Sadie held her flashlight in a tight fist as the cave’s inhabitant began to emerge. First a thin stick-like leg tapped forth. Then another. And another. In the red-tinged light she could see each jointed appendage was covered in prickly black hairs. The massive spider’s feet, two of which turned out to be hands covered … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.3

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.4 (7/18/2018)  Sathena preferred that only her mother call her by the endearment “Sadie.” Lady Ara seemed to notice the girl’s hesitation.“I see. Well, perhaps in time you’ll learn to trust me. For now, bring forth the Eye you still hold within your pocket.” “I’m sorry, but my mother used to call me Sadie. My father, though, … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.4

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.5 (7/19/2018)  The next morning, Sathena met the tutor, Ms. Trindell. She had bobbed red hair and Irish green eyes and carried a modern briefcase containing two laptops, Sathena discovered later, one her own, and one a spare for her student. Harry greeted her first as Sathena opened the door; without hesitation Ms. Trindell took charge of … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.5

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.6 (7/20/2018)  Ms. Trindell continued to return each morning; Sadie began to eagerly anticipate the sound of the VW coming up the drive. On the tenth morning of their lessons, an hour before Allie was to arrive, Sadie murmured to Harry, “Tonight is the beginning of the full moon. How can I keep my promise to Father … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.6

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.7 (7/21/2018)  Allie met Sadie halfway up the drive after parking her VW in the pull-out just inside the gate. The Professor, Sadie said, was away at a conference. “I really appreciate your help. It’s just Harry, you know. I can’t do both.” Sadie held the dog’s leash steady. “Hello, Harry, you massive beast, you. “Sadie, I’m … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.7

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.8 (7/22/2018)  “What happened to ‘we’re in a hurry’?” Allie asked. She and Harry had both kept a tight eye on Lady Ara as the spider moved ponderously around them in the growing moonlight. “Oh, the hurry is still upon us. But for what we need to do, calm nerves and a clear mind are more important.” … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.8

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.9 (7/23/2018)  “The moonlight calls. Shall we read the runes?” Lady Ara asked in a lightened mood. With the story told and the vows made, the spider once again lifted the heavy looking-glass from her satchel. She held it to Sadie who took it and weighed it appraisingly. Sadie stood, extracted the blue marble from its box … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.9

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.10 (7/24/2018)  Harry’s nose lifted in the faint night breeze. His furtive sniffing and quick glances indicated that others prowled the night. A small whine escaped his throat. Allie pulled the dog closer to her, soothing him with soft words and a firm stroke down his side. “No, Allie! Hand the leash to Sadie.” The spider’s gravelly … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.10

The Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.11 (7/25/2018)  The great spider doffed her hat and gloves and stuffed them in her satchel. The grunting sounds from the ravine reached the edge and her scarred leg twitched in anticipation. A snorting, grotesque monster, shrouded in dark clothing, scrambled over the edge of the gorge and put its face to the ground, snuffling for tracks. … Continue readingThe Gribble’s Eye: a serial 1.11

 


Writer’s Log: 1790 Sentiment Cycle

Ready for maths? No? Well, how about pictures?

TGE_SentimentCycle

Nice, Mole, what are we looking at?

What you see before you is a word sentiment chart of The Gribble’s Eye plotted over the length of the story. This was created using some “R” code and the libraries offered by the professor behind http://www.archerjockers.com/

The pair of people behind the book The Bestseller Code used such code to allow them to grade and understand the so-called literary market: https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Bestseller_Code.html?id=4fXUDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false

I took their code and ran my second, wee novel through it. And that picture is what the code produced.

Sentiment goes up and down. Happy and gay and positive. Sad, angry, loathsome and negative. Good books have a signature sine wave of sentiment. Marketable books have this even more.

Now, mine is neither good nor marketable, but, it’s interesting to note that there is a definite pattern to the story: We start up, then down, up, down, and end on a big UP!

Whee! What a ride.

You want to do this for your own story? Sure. Here’s the R code:

library(syuzhet)
library(readtext)
setwd("C:\\Documents and Settings\\MeTheUser\\Desktop\\")
text <- get_text_as_string("YOURBOOK.txt")
s_v <- get_sentences(text)
raw_values <- get_sentiment(s_v, method = "syuzhet")
dct_vals <- get_dct_transform(raw_values)
simple_plot(raw_values, title = "TITLE OF BOOK", legend_pos = "top", lps = 20, window = 0.05)

You’ll have to struggle with installing the supporting modules — but, hey! You’re smart. You can figure it out.

(If you can’t, send me your story text — just words — and I’ll run them through this bit of code for you.)


Writer’s Log: 1782 Cyclical story structure

Last night I watched Brandon Mull’s #9 video on youtube (he subbed for Sanderson). Mull is eccentric and idiosyncratic (to say the least). But his thoughts (once they come out) were spot on. From them I designed my own writing organization philosophy. (To be honest, Sanderson also poses similar story topologies.)

It goes like this:

StoryCircle1

Characters and subjects
experience events and perform actions, which result in consequences which then pose implications
back on the characters and subjects.

This cycle exists at the story level, the chapter level, the scene level and even the paragraph or sentence level.

An old man battles nature and himself, but in the end loses. He catches the biggest marlin of his life. In doing so he sails far from his home port. But the sharks attack and devour the marlin leaving him with nothing to show for his magnificent struggle.

StoryCircle2

A story is a set of these cycles both concentrically, and independently organized. Like this:

I’ve never considered such a structure, however, as Mr. Mull continued, what he alluded to was that these self contained scenes (the little cycles within the bigger chapter cycles within the story cycle itself) can be isolated and written as standalone pieces. Much like the way Anthony Doerr explains how he wrote All the Light We Cannot See.

These scenes can then be stitched together with narrative which would include both time and space references: [detailed scene #1] — “Two weeks later the train pulled into San Francisco.” — [detailed scene #2].

I recommend watching at least Mull’s singular video. He’s hard to watch. He makes reference to his Mormon ideologies – cough. But in the end I found his advice useful.


Cover: The Gribble’s Eye

Tribe,

I’m on the lookout for a cover concept. The Gribble’s Eye is “draft-ready” but we’re still working up the 50+ illustrations: 25 done, 25 more to do. This is the story of a teenage girl and her 20-something tutor and a couple of Greek myths who serendipitously team up to fight the minions of Chaos. The story takes place in northeast England and Scotland (Series #1).

(If anyone would like to volunteer as a beta reader — Widowcranky was gracious enough to have read it thus far — let me know.)

TGECover1

 

The covers (two so far) have sucked. I’m just not getting the idea-waves blasting through. This was the first cover (Yulian drew it and I hacked at it with crayons (photoshop) — but who could tell):

 

 

 

 

TGECover2

 

The second cover, both Widow and Yulian shot down with a .50 cal. BAR.

So, ideas? Live action YA covers seem popular these days (a photo with scenery/costumes later touched up with dramatic light/shading/text).

I’m open to any suggestions.

 

 

Third effort. This one after I discussed the options with the artist and Phil H. So, I went out back and with a hammer and screwdriver and chiseled an eye into the patio concrete. Then I found a blue sapphire marble on the net and copied it in with editing and such. It’s a first pass effort. But I think this might work.

StoneEyeCover