Tag Archives: Writing

Writer’s Log: 1732 Neil Gaiman

EXCERPT FROM “The View from the Cheap Seats”:

“I was, as I said, twenty-five years old, and I had an idea for a book and I knew it was a real one.

I tried writing it, and realized that it was a better idea than I was a writer. So I kept writing, but I wrote other things, learning my craft. I wrote for twenty years until I thought that I could write The Graveyard Book–or at least, that I was getting no better.

I wrote it as best I could. That’s the only way I know how to write something. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good. It just means you try. And, most of all, I wrote the story that I wanted to read.

~~~

And then, whether the work was good or bad, whether it did what you hoped or it failed, as a writer you shrug, and you go on to the next thing, whatever the next thing is. That’s what we do.

~~~

We who make stores know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort.

And that is why we write.”

~~~

The above was from Neil’s acceptance speech for the 2009 Newbery Medal.

  • I had an idea for a book and I knew it was a real one.
    There you go. You sometimes just KNOW that an idea is a good one.
  • It was a better idea that I was a writer.
    Wisdom told him that he shouldn’t write this story ‘just yet’. Wow. How many of us would just blunder into it and write it anyway?
  • I wrote it as best I could.
    Is that not all everyone of us can hope for? To write as best we can — at-the-time?
  • I wrote a story that I wanted to read.
    Please yourself as a writer. Do that, and what you produce /may/ become something that will please others.
  • You go on to the next thing.
    Write. Edit. Perfect (to the best of your ability) — and move one. That is the single biggest lesson here. Just. Keep. Writing.
  • Someone there needs your story.
    The world is huge. And if you have a TRUE story to tell, unique, well conceived, and well executed — then there WILL be an audience for it. Maybe not in your lifetime. But someday. Would you deny them, that one person, in the near/far future who benefits and is changed by your story? No!Write your Story!

I self published a novel

I just self-published a novel through https://www.draft2digital.com/. (ebook only.)

The process, which in and of itself was a piece of cake, took me a half-dozen tries to get the format right (downloaded from GDocs as a .docx) to make the title and copyright and all that work out correctly. D2D then gave me a 6×9 (or any other size) PDF that I took over to https://www.thebookpatch.com/ (A POD service.)

There I fetched the cover template and built my own cover in Photoshop. With the JPG and PDF in hand, I uploaded both, proofed both and voila’, I was done. I ordered 5 copies at $8.50 apiece, and I had them delivered within about 10 days.

Bing, bang, boom – done. I never thought this was gonna be easy.

But it was.

BATS_BooksArray

What I learned:
  1. So, yeah, it IS easy. Mostly. The writing and editing were by far the hardest part.
  2. Your Microsoft Word version of your manuscript is the key to a good looking eBook and PDF for print version. Perfecting this takes time and effort and, well, you just have to beat it with a big stick until it complies with your wishes.
  3. Draft2Digital will create a POD (print on demand) version of your book — all ready-made for you to take over to a POD site like TheBookPatch.
  4. Now, D2D’s PDF is not “perfect.” It’s good, mind you, but you can’t control the leading, or font size. So, you get what you get. However, you can republish (within minutes) again and again and, until they DO provide better control of the POD PDFs, well, you’re stuck.
  5. TheBookPatch didn’t quite represent the page count accurately. What I thought was X pages turned out be be X-60 pages which changes the dynamics of the book spine width. This is important because your homemade image MUST fit your book’s final dimensions. (I’ve subsequently fixed this…) Note: I was able to upload new text and new cover images — without a hick-up. Easy-peasy.
  6. The cover image was ME, ME, ME.
    1. I drew and colored the crappy sailboat and sailor (20×30 drafting paper).
    2. I took it out back and put boards and some odd cable around it and took a picture with my phone (ayup, an old android phone).
    3. Then I drew a frickin’ map — took a picture of that and Photoshopped the hell out of that puppy.
    4. I also took a selfie with the same phone and used that as my “I’m special — look at me” image on the back.
    5. Here’s the final cover… Nice huh?!

BATSBookCoverSmall

 

Will I do this again? You betcha!

Should you? You bet you! Write something, anything. Get it edited (as best you can) and publish that gorgeous work of narrative art!

Draft2Digital’s link:
https://www.books2read.com/u/3L9ABD

The BookPatch link:
http://thebp.site/144960

Here’s some miscellaneous videos that I found to help, in general. (Nothing to do with the above process…)

Self publishing tips ‘n tricks:

Ray Bradbury on Madmen:


Writer’s Log: 1570

Writing keeps me alive.

The experiment continues. A couple of months ago, death and its long ivory fingers reached unerringly for my throat. Writing, the act of writing, held them off. The effort of putting words to paper continues to do so today.

The stories that I wish to tell implore me — do not forsake us — and so, I stay the knife, the noose, the clack of pistol hammer slamming home against the breach.

But the pleading grows faint. The day-to-day grind draws its pint of life’s blood, its quart of soul from me every setting of the sun. The light turns orange and the lift I feel from the sunset’s cheery color lessens.

But the stories are relentless. They will not be, so far, denied. I rather resent them at times.

To abandon all that is this mundane daily slog and leap out, writing, would be everything I could have ever wished for. I’ve considered this act throughout this long, strange ride that is my life.

Yet here I am, an established, and dependable provider, dedicated to the mechanical production of money through the venue of software code; the ugliest, the most ineffectual end product the world has ever seen. Turn off the power and what do you have? Emptiness. That is my contribution. Despicable. These are the words that run through my mind right now — I FUCKING HATE COMPUTERS. But that sentiment is less than useful. We are here. Trapped in our digital snow globes. And the fact remains, I’m far more culpable that you. I helped create this dystopia we languish within.

But writing… It’s the only soaring vista that spreads out and returns, piercing my heart. Write. Write well and maybe all of this will not have been for naught.

 

 

 


Writer’s Log: 1523 To all new authors

To all new authors out there, (here’s a shaker of salt, spread that around first won’t you…)

Now, to all authors who are starting out on their first novel. STOP! I mean, don’t like, STOP completely. Only stop and listen to this short public service announcement:

DO NOT WRITE A COMPLETE NOVEL WITHOUT PROOFING IT IN STAGES.

That will be all. Goodnight and good luck.

What? You want more than that? Explanation maybe? Well, alright. Here you go.

  • Write your first 5000 words and then get those beat to a bloody pulp.
    Don’t write another word until those first words are crushed and shredded and torn asunder. You need to know that your so called ‘style’, your knowledge of prose construction, may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. Mine wasn’t. Mine was abysmal. Anyway, stop, do not proceed until you have gotten your writing, the actual mechanics of writing compelling fiction, down much better than you think you do.
  • Now, write your next 5000 words, and yes, STOP there too.
    So, now that you think you’ve gotten the shop-floor process under your belt, that you think you can start rearranging the work flow. Nuh-ah. No way. Your next task is to take your 10,000 words and, hey, look at that, you’ve got 1/8th of a novel completed. Does it have the plot firmly established? Does your MC, your main character have a dark unknown past? Have you established the stakes? Do you have an antagonist? Do you have an ending in sight? Have you figured out the big ‘change’ your MC will undergo? Yes? Well alright then.
  • Write your next 10,000 words and then STOP. (Getting tired of stopping yet?)
    Here you need to step back, way back, and consider your theme, your story’s arc. Does it warrant finishing? Have you created a sub-par plot, a cliche’ meme? Are you nosing along the same worn path as tropes of your genre have blazed a thousand times before? Are you writing something unique and compelling — so much so that you, YOU, will feel compelled to finish it? Yes? Well, moving on then.
  • Finish the damn story.
  • Did you have a climax? Did you build up the tension and character development the whole time? Did you leave a trail of inference, crumbs your readers can follow and extrapolate on their own? Did you fulfill your MC’s goal? Did she/he change? Did you leave some questions in the end so that your reader doesn’t feel all wrapped up like a burrito? Yes? Good.
  • Now put it away for at least TWO MONTHS.
  • Write something else.
  • Now, with your original story, is the story, as you remember it, still compelling? Still worthy? Have you learned additional skills, more stylistic treatment of dialog, of tension, of character development that you can now apply to this story? Good.
  • Now rewrite it, line by line, word by word, as if you’ve never read it before.
  • Put it away for another TWO MONTHS.
  • Write something else.
  • Reread it as if you’re completely unaware of the story. Does it ring true? Does it speak to you? Your soul, your heart of hearts? Do you find yourself just reading it — not judging it, as if you’ve fallen into the story and can’t help but continue?
  • OK, here you go. Now you can start to consider querying it or self-publishing it. You have of course already submitted parts of it during your learning process to friends and literary types for evaluation — right? RIGHT? Good.
  • OK, publish this bad-boy.
  • Begin editing your next story.
  • Repeat.

[Postscript: Why would you write this way? Well, If you think you can sit down and bang out a novel, without any mind to the writing — you’re dead wrong. What you’ll have in the end is this thing. This godforsaken, putrid thing that will take so much work — fixing the actual writing — that you’ll feel defeated, right out of the gate.

So don’t. Don’t think you can just write a novel without first getting at least WAY better at the CRAFT of WRITING. Work the craft as if you were Wax On and Wax Off — right? OK, carry on then.]


Writer’s Log: 1522 Staying on the Clock

One of the more difficult aspects of writing, I find, is remaining cognizant of clock and calendar time within the story.

Imagine if your story’s internal time frame spanned only a single day. But, it took you a number of months to write it. Here you are on chapter 7, maybe 30,000 words in and yet it’s only noon on your tale’s wall clock. Keeping a consistent understanding of the passage of time is hard.

My stories tend to take 2-3 months to unfold, internally. By the time I’ve reached 3/4’s of the way through, I get a bit lost as to how much time as elapsed; has it been a week since the rock slide destroyed the cabin? Or was that two weeks ago? Did the main character break that window only yesterday? Whoa, three thousand words later it feels like last month (and it may have been, physical writing time-wise).

Stretching out the calendar writing process, over months (if not years), disconnects my head with how fast things have happened in my stories. Time and time again, I’m stunned, as I start a new scene, to realize that the story, within itself, is only a few days old. Hell, I’ve been writing for two weeks, and my characters have only gotten to the end of the second day?

Clock time is easier than calendar time. And I’ve found that year-spans are easier than calendar too. She was twelve. Now she’s fifteen. But days, weeks and months? If you’ve read the Harry Potter series then you’ll notice Rowling uses holidays to mark calendar time. Seasons can help too. But if your story takes place over, say, summer, then you have to find another, event oriented, time division mechanism. First came the flood, then the crickets, then the tornado, then a fall down the cliff, then the forest fire, and now the harvest.

And here’s the rub: Calendar time often represents the duration in which you want to mold and change your characters. He starts out shy, but by the end of the summer winds up confident. She begins distant but  learns, over the weeks, and months, to be caring and involved.

Calendar time will divide the development of your characters into segments so that you can show their progress (for better or for worse). And that is the challenge, to manage your character’s evolution — in time.


The Pulse and Glow 1.1

I’ve had this story in my head for a long time. I decided to give it a start and see how it felt.

The Pulse and Glow

The world balances at the tip of peak energy. More, ever more, beg the people of the planet. And who are the First World nations to hold back those of the third? But their plead for more rings hollow. And every engineer, every climate scientist, every physicist, geologist, economist, and, lately, politician realizes that more is no longer a possibility.

In a tiny village in Iraq, a dreamer, an engineer of mysterious skills, discovers a possible answer to the energy crisis. The battle to release this invention into the world becomes his and the world’s only salvation. But Abani is only a simple engineer. And the Russians, and Saudis and Norwegians would rather not see their hegemony of the world’s oil reserves jeopardized. The illuminati, long acknowledge to command the world’s economy are about to lose control — all because of a tiny device that delivers ‘free energy’.

Chapter 1…

https://goo.gl/BgXCaK

 


Writer’s Log: 1488 Nuances of clause placement

‘Milly paused, wiped her lace handkerchief across her brow, and looked up, startled, to find Antonio sitting upon the impatient stallion, staring intently at her, later that afternoon.’

I’ve been editing Blue Across the Sea, my first, anxiously anticipated novel and, as I do so, I find numerous occasions where I flip, mix, or bludgeon a sentence with improper clause placement.

The above sentence is contrived, but serves to represent various issues, or what might be issues regarding the placement of clauses. Primarily among them is the concept of time.

My case in point: “later that afternoon.” Notice how I stuck that at the end. Now, why would I do that? Inexperience is usually the culprit. But, as I start to rearrange BATS, I find that I must reconsider these strange compilations of sentence structure. Do I want to leave the concept of time for the end? Or would moving it to the middle or the beginning be more appropriate?

‘Later that afternoon, Milly paused, wiped her lace handkerchief across her brow, and looked up, startled, to find Antonio sitting upon the impatient stallion, staring at her intently.’

Here we move time to the front of the sentence. That feels more comfortable — setting the context of the final intense interaction of Antonio and Milly to occur at the end — the punch.

But maybe I want to emphasize the time-of-day as more important than Milly and her beau.

‘Milly paused, wiped her lace handkerchief across her brow, and looked up, startled, to find Antonio sitting upon the impatient stallion, staring intently at her, later that afternoon. The storm had built in the heat of the day and the winds now competed for the young woman’s attention.’

Or maybe, as one might hope, with the modified emphasis, we follow through with Antonio’s intentions and take the reader into the lurid and steamy…

‘Later that afternoon, Milly paused, wiped her lace handkerchief across her brow, and looked up, startled, to find Antonio sitting upon the impatient stallion, staring at her intently. He slid from the saddle, strode forward and snatched her kerchief lifting it to his nose in a deep, fulfilling breath.’

It all depends on what comes AFTER the clause. This is the lesson I’m having to teach myself. (A ruler smacks swiftly down upon Anonymole’s knuckles, bad Anonymole, bad!).