Category Archives: Writing

Writer’s Log: 1881

I picked back up on Shadow Shoals, another 10k words. Recently I tried to perform that character shift that I mentioned a few weeks ago: Start with a character’s persona on one side of a paradigm — evil say — and then try and convert that character to good. I had to be subtle, dropping allusions to the shift, hints that the character’s mind appeared to be changing. I think I succeeded.

Dred Rowland drops into the tightly knit group a fiend and eight thousand words later, after dramatic trauma and multiple events emerges the friend. Of course, this is just a subplot, but it needed to be done to affect the end result I’m going to reveal later.

Towards the end of his conversion Dred feels compelled to ameliorate the angst between he and the sister of a wounded girl so, he recites a rhyme of his youth:

Dream of the dandy, lions and lambs.
Drink honey nectar, eat toast with jam.
Swim with the fishes, fly with the geese.
Sleep in soft blankets, your head on soft fleece.
Dream of the night we sailed the sea,
Dream of the day you come home to me.

~~~

And, in the spirit of every little bit helps Inkitt has a free mini-course for writing a novel:

https://www.inkitt.com/writersblog/new-program-for-authors-inkitts-novel-writing-bootcamp/

Lesson II portrays the three act pattern and to it the speaker models Star Wars: a New Hope (the first made Star Wars). It made sense as the guy explained it. Having some broad organization seems wise when creating a massive writing effort. One wouldn’t write a 10k line software program without having a pretty detailed plan.

~~~

And I’m anxious to get into the 2000’s for my writer’s hours. It’s been too long already.

 


One man band

In Pleasant Grove Utah, there is (was?) a small restaurant called One Man Band that served breakfast/lunch for a small Mormon town. On Sundays we’d go down there and have the place to ourselves. On Sundays, a slow day, there truly was just one guy doing everything: orders, cooking, billing, cleaning up. Slinging eggs and hash and pancakes, he was a marvel to watch, especially when a few other families would join us.

OneManBand

I think about that guy’s job and equate it loosely to writing.

So many jobs get bundled up in the task that is writing, novels mostly, but any substantial writing contains the hallmarks of the One Man Band.

First you have to create a compelling story, with compelling characters. Those characters need to enjoin a cyclically action packed and restorative plot, with dramatic tension between them. The story must unfold in parts made from parts each with tension and relief. The story calendar must remain accurate, the plot context’s must remain cogent, and the foreshadowing, and allusions must pan out with accuracy and intrigue.

And then there’s the craft. The writing must have a rhythm of tight terse prose and flowing boisterous description. The mechanics must be accurate, the dialog must be leading but not too vague. The tags and actions must introduce speakers while the play out of angst between said speakers ebbs and flows. And the hundreds of other nuances that make up great writing must all be compiled into this story.

And then you need to rehash it through editing. Then package it up for querying. Maybe you need to cover it, blurb it, synopsis it.

Dozens and dozens of tasks, all must come together in a natural, cohesive blend that is a novel.

After the lunch rush, the One Man Band guy always looked exhausted. Yeah, I think I know what he was feeling.


Writer’s Log: 1852, Time

* A Writer’s Level Four topic.

I picked up the axe and swung it as if I could split the world. It arced through the air and plunged toward the white aquiline neck that lay outstretched before me.

Only the day before, that same neck had twisted and her eyes had glared at me, her mouth wide with complaint. I’d tried to explain. She’d had none of it. She’d squawked and run off. Was it because of my previous indiscretion?

Yes, I’d been lured away, tempted successfully by another; a body so plump and inviting. So? I was the one in charge, why couldn’t I have what I chose when I chose it?

For that she’d condemned me.

But now she would pay the price.

The silver shimmer of my blade blazed in the sun. The thwock of the edge of my axe chopping her head from her body echoed hollow in the courtyard.

Her goose was cooked. I roasted her that night for dinner.

~~~

Time. Time is the forth dimension (ha), that writers must master. Can you spin time like a web, an hourglass within a glass within a glass? Can you spiral down though time and successfully unwind the twists of your temporal exploration to return to the here and now? That is the challenge. And the accurate tracking of time’s layers is the task.

Above, we start in the past, drop to a previous time and still yet again to a time before that. Four deep:

Now. Then. Before then. Before, before then.

Clearly such a skill must be mastered when scaling the massive temple that is the writing pyramid of excellence.

How are you at managing time in your stories? I suck. But, hell, I’m still on level 3.1. You?


Writer’s Log: 1846

[RE: Iced, in reply to my editor…]

This story is one where I’m trying to put my big-boy pants on and write to a bit higher age level. It’s still not fully “adult” yet, despite the cursing.

There is one writing factor that I’ve recently been trying to internalize which I’ll be attempting to apply across the board. This is the avoidance of any explanation of a character’s mind or emotional state. The best writers somehow avoid this lazy writing and use only description and dialog to portray whatever is going on inside a characters mind. But for a neophyte writer, it’s natural to want the reader to understand precisely what character X is feeling — so why not just tell the reader?

~~~
Normally, Travis seethed with anger. He’d failed six times to finish the Iron Man race but, this morning, depression sucked him deeper into the nest of bedding he’d swum in all night.
~~~

Easy to write, but explaining this situation distances the reader. The reader doesn’t have to do any work, any distillation of the scene to understand Travis’ mind.
The problem, now, is that to convert that “telling” scene into a “showing” scene will take some doing. Will take some work on the author’s part to place Travis in a situation where these same emotions become evident through his actions and speech.

~~~
It was eleven pm and Travis still sat at the bar tapping his fingernail on his empty glass. He glared at the sportscaster describing the results from the twenty-first Maui Open. “Fuck,” he mumbled. He’d been forced to pull out of the race that afternoon, exhausted. “I should just give up, right Joe?” Joe wasn’t listening; hadn’t listened all night. Travis walked home the ten blocks and fell into fitful sleep. Cheerful Hawaiian birds woke him at dawn. He lay there, eyes wide, a frown chiseled into his face. I’m just not cut out for this, he thought.
“Get up, Trav,” his brother called from the kitchen. “So what you had to quit again. Now you know six ways the Iron Gods will beat you down.”
Travis cracked his frown, stretched it into a grimace and threw off his bedding. He swiveled upright and attached his artificial leg. “Go to hell, Drew.” He clumped from the room to start another day of training.
~~~

More writing to get the emotions out, but the reader had to figure them out, had to participate.

That is the lesson I’m trying to teach myself now.

~~~

Second attempt at version #2. Not much shorter (19 words). A few extraneous details were pulled. I like Joe ignoring him and the birds waking him up.

It was eleven pm and Travis still sat at the bar glaring at the sportscaster describing the results from the twenty-first Maui Open. “Fuck,” he mumbled. He’d been forced to pull out of the race that afternoon, exhausted. “I should just give up, right Joe?” Joe wasn’t listening; hadn’t listened all night. Travis walked home the ten blocks and fell into fitful sleep. Cheerful Hawaiian birds woke him at dawn. He lay there, a frown chiseled into his face. I’m just not cut out for this.
“Get up, Trav,” his brother called from the kitchen. “So what you had to quit again. Now you know six ways the Iron Gods will beat you down.”
Travis grimaced and threw off his bedding. He swiveled upright and attached his artificial leg. “Go to hell, Drew.” He clumped from the room to start another day of training.

 


Writer’s Log: 1845

I can fuckin’ write.

(And so can you, probably.)

Here’s the thing — just a short note — reading back stuff (buku stuff from my past, recent and ancient) I come across and find some turn of phrase, some eloquent flourish of words I may have (yeah it was me) penned in the past, and I think, shit, I wrote that? Daayamn, that’s not half bad.

Like that flash of gold at the bottom of a pan, black sand slipping to the side, water’s ripple urging the skur of tans-and-blacks to move out-the-way. There! Yellow and stunning. That’s the feeling when you read something you wrote that just frickin’ sings. You wrote that. I wrote that. And it was poetry in prose. Pitchers of pulchritude in pottery.

It worked. (And worked well.)

Those glimmers of talent are everything. Absolutely everything, to a grub of a writer. Am I any good? Is this worth all the bloody trouble? Is anyone ever going to read me? I should quit — right?

Yes. Yes. Yes. No.

The end of all this? Write for yourself. If someday you come back and read what you writ, ages ago, and smile, chuckle or — if you’re cosmically good, drop a tear — then it will have all been worth it.

 


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.