Category Archives: Writing

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.


I am Crow

I am Crow.

Like you I am Omnivore.

Like you I wonder at the Universe.

I plan and scheme and take when I can, what I can.

I dance and dodge from your wheels, your threats.

Still I survive. I cock my head and caw at your fist in the air.

But I take no notice of you. Opportunity is all you provide, seldom and resentful.

You attempt your deceits while I fly from you and all you pretend to control.

I laugh, I cry, I lament my losses, my failures.

Yet I can spread my wings and lift into the wind, soaring out of your reach, your sight.

While you languish, trapped, chained to the ground.

I am Crow.

You will never be Crow.


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


Writer’s Log: 1751 Writing Wrong

No, not righting wrongs. I’ll leave that to the characters of our stories.

What I’m referring to here is practicing the craft but doing so incorrectly.

We all know, a “writer writes” (both Billy and Danny say this in the movie), but what if what you write is wrong? Poor form? Grammatically, technically, logically, or structurally wrong?

If you practice and practice, but you’re doing so in a way that you’ll need to correct yourself, perhaps severely, in the near future, what you’re doing is learning bad habits.

Bad habits are hard to break.

I was a fool when I began. I just dove straight in; the water was deep and dark and could take my plunge. Unbeknownst to me, there were snags and rocks and muck just beneath the surface — and boy did they hurt when struck. I’d been an avid reader, effectively watching from the sidelines as authors plied their craft. “I can do this,” I thought. “Swish”, “Goal”, “Crack” — the sports analogies are many. Fans feverishly following every movement of the hands and balls of expert players: “Sure looks easy from here.”

I’d been better served by writing small pieces and having them tortuously shredded by a fiction editor; take baby steps, careful, incremental progress. I’d have learned the right way to write. Instead I created an unstable foundation which I’ve had to deconstruct and rebuild over years now. I’m explaining this in the hopes that some burgeoning, aspirational writer takes these cues and adjusts the arc of their career such that they build a solid foundation — first.

Here are some corner stones I’d wish I’d learned early on.

  1. Grammar, dialog grammar specifically. Proper use of the m-dash, semis and contractions.
  2. Active vs Passive. When you write “was” or “were” outside of dialog think, “Can I say this with more action?”
  3. Controlled use of dialog tags. “He said, she said…” Scale back such tags. Instead use a character’s actions to link spoken words to a character.
  4. Describe don’t explain (or show don’t tell for most). Adverbs tend to tell, that’s why they’re frowned upon. When you explain you insert a layer of distance between the story and a reader.
  5. Maintain proper POV. Oy! what a bother. Learn your POVs early. Subtle intrusions into the minds of characters — whose thoughts we should not be privy to — are a no-no.

    These last few are more style and nuance and are never fully learned, only slowly perfected.

  6. Consistency of voice, both of the story and of the characters. If you write over time, months or years, on a story, you’ll need to keep the voice of your characters in your mind as you sit after a break and begin afresh. That’s why may writers say “write the whole thing in a flurry.” Well, I can’t do that. So re-entering a character’s mind is critical.
  7. Story mechanics: time accounting, flashbacks, dreams, travel, world building consistency. These will help your story become complex and engaging. Time serial stories are boring. Screwy physics or mismatched abilities will break your reader’s suspension of disbelief.
  8. Cycles of conflict, action, resolution, reflection. This is my personal preference; frame your stories as a sine wave of varying activity.
  9. Character arc: hidden angst, emotion, motive, doubt, conflict, result. A more advanced subject here. Good stories have odd and conflicted characters.
  10. Plot design and tuning: allusion, foreshadowing, subplots, intra-themes. Complex stories force the reader to work — and a working reader is an engaged reader.

These are points of advice I’ve learned from many editors and writers, here and elsewhere. You know who you are.


Have we met? I love you.

Imagine having a relationship with someone for years, decades perhaps, and never having met them.

I’ve known people, through my work on the net, literally for decades. One fellow, Charles Carroll, I met while writing magazine articles for MIND (Microsoft Internet Developer) in the late 90’s, and while we worked on that ancient technology known as Classic ASP. We still connect, though infrequently. I’ve never met the man.

I once worked for a fellow for five years; we never spoke. Only exchanged emails.

These days it’s as common as “Alexa: play my morning mix”. We get to know folks — through the internet — and may never speak to them, never see them, never identify who they really are. But yet, we know them.

Attachment through familiarity. Time does that to folks in occasional, or frequent contact — regardless of the medium of communication. Consider penpals: a 19th and 20th century pastime which hooked up people from across realms, countries, continents. They exchanged pleasantries, goings-on, and perhaps, more deeply, misgivings, personal beliefs and aspirations.

Did they meet? Seldom is my guess. But still, they developed a relationship. Perhaps a true and soul-penetrating connection that may have held the two ends-of-their-string up for years.

Today this exists anew. All of you have people you interact with whom you’ve never met. Will never meet. Are such relationships lesser than because of this physical divide? I think not. I think there are those of you with whom I’ve connected, on some level, through this digital bridge. And I think you too have made connections to folks you feel attached to, indebted to, cosmically enmeshed to the point where their absence might leave you wondering — what happened? Where are you? You might feel deflated somewhat, lost.

What if they were to go away and you would never know them again. Their cheerful notes would cease. Their place in your ritual would gap open, unfulfilled. Their vanishing would leave a hole in your life, one that you might not patch, not really knowing if their absence was permanent — or their delay of interaction simply stretched out.

Stretched out and out… until forgotten.

I’m certain, were some of us to meet, we’d be fast friends, confidants and fishing buddies. And as you disappear from my virtual life, and I from yours, recall that there was a spark of connection shared between us.

I’ve never met you, but I love you.

 


Writer’s Log: 1734 – If only…

For those of you who care to follow my writing progress, here’s a brief interlude:

A Paleo Friendship #1: https://goo.gl/Jsj7nn
A Paleo Friendship #2: https://goo.gl/YjLJC3

If I could slap a button, big, round and red, and send myself back to such a time – POOF! That would be the end of me.

POV: First Person
Era/locale: 25,000 years ago, North American Western Coast
I’m going for “Hunger Games” style action and description. This is just an experiment, a diversion. One I’ve probably wanted to write since I was 17. It’s just a teaser, but, well, judge it for any writerly-progress.

(It’s still not “my voice”, as PH is wont to call to my attention. And it’s still YA — for some reason I can’t seem to push myself into adult writing mode.)