Tag Archives: writing process

Politics and Fiction – Oil and Vinegar?

I have three general rules that I use when writing fiction, particularly longer form fiction.  I mean, there are more than three rules, but I want to talk about these three interrelated rules today.

The first is that if it doesn’t meet the needs of the story, it doesn’t belong.  I just read about a cool discovery on Venus.  Needed?  Nope, it stays out.  I discovered the meaning of life.  Needed for the story?  No.  Use it elsewhere. There are grey areas, of course, but usually they can be justified.  For instance, in fleshing out my characters, Bob might be an extreme astronomy nerd, so he starts a conversation with, “Did you hear about what they found on Venus?” instead, “Hi! How are you today?”  This tells you a lot more about Bob than it does about Venus. 

The second rule is that the author needs to stay out of a work of fiction.  The author seems to intrude in older fiction all of the time, but it doesn’t settle well in modern works.  The author (me!) can feel strongly about something, but it stays out unless it can be worked naturally into the story.  If I, as the author, just write in “Nazis are bad people,” it is jarring, but I can have, “Bob read Frida’s post and discovered she was a Nazi, and Nazis are bad people.” This is something Bob is thinking, not the author, so it isn’t jarring.  Unless you previously liked Frida.

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An Amused Muse? Or So I Hope…

I took a deep breath.  The smell of new electronics hung in the air, giving me some inspiration. My fingers reached down.  A modern synth-string sound emanated from the studio speakers.  Yes, modern, and yet the strings had a certain sizzle that spoke of the late 1970s.  I had spent over an hour getting the sound just how I wanted it.

I listened closely, with my body as much as my ears.

Perfect.

My fingers changed position on their own, so I had a G in the bass.  My left hand was also playing a D, with a Bb, D, F and A in the right hand.  The smoldering G minor 9th chord just oozed that downtown, cool jazzy feeling.  You know the one.

I shifted, without thinking to B Major 7.  Yeah, a quick pivot on the Bb/A#.  It felt right, and better yet, with that sizzling string sound, it sounded right, even if very dissonant. Very, very dissonant.

Cool.

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WTF is Up With My WIP? ;) The Old Mill

The story of the story of my Work in Progress (WIP) is a bit of a story. Got that?

Sigh.

OK, back to the beginning.

In late 2016 I wrote a stand alone character sketch of a local oddball (not real! fictional). Later I added a little to it and brought the idea of “the old mill” into the story. In the spring to early summer of 2017, I wrote and posted a serialized novel, The Old Mill, starting with those stories. This was a very rough draft of a story, as I posted each chapter the day that I wrote them. The good news was that I used story ideas that had been kicking around in my skull for years.

At the end of 2018, I decided I wanted to sharpen it up and release it by the summer of 2019. I did a lot of rewriting and drafting, and was pretty much done by late August 2019. I didn’t reach my goal, but having it out in the late fall was very doable.

Through the autumn of 2019 I posted teasers, sketches, and even a big chunk of one of the chapters of the reworked work.

But it was never published.

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Question About Cover Reveals…

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A few years ago I asked  people when they thought a cover reveal should be brought out.  I was surprised that several authors who were traditionally published told me that about six months was right.  Their reasoning was that the cover was the most basic component of the book’s promotion.  One said that she had a cover reveal before she had even finished the rough draft!  The idea is that every time the book is mentioned anywhere, the cover is there.  The cover symbolizes the story in people’s minds.

Since that post, I have noticed that most people do a cover reveal a few weeks before the release.  In fact, I often see a cover reveal paired with a preorder or an announcement of the release date.  I very rarely see the reveal more than three weeks out, perhaps a month if we stretch it.  I have even seen the reveal the day before the book was released!  Actually, I’ve seen the cover reveal less than a week before the release date several times and by several different authors.

So, what do you think, when is the ideal time for a cover reveal?  Should it be months ahead of time so the cover comes to symbolize the book and it is deep in people’s minds, or should it be days before the release to build that hoped for excitement?  Someplace in between?

As you may have guessed, I have the cover of The Old Mill ready to go, but I haven’t touched the manuscript since early October, shortly after finishing the second draft.  Just curious on what people thought.

Silly Question on Blurbs

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About two months ago I wrote a blurb for The Old Mill.  It wasn’t quite right, so I did a few changes.  Much better.  But then I noticed something.

The blurb was in present tense.

Even though most of my fiction is in past tense, I always write the first draft of my blurbs in present tense, though occasionally I have done an odd mix of tenses (ugh…).  One of the pluses about being in present tense, if I ask questions at the end of the blurb, they can be in present tense or future tense and seem fine: “With Amesbury entering a new “time of dying”, seemingly at the hands of the long dead Thomas Goode, the man said to be responsible for the first “time of dying” in 1821, will Gill succeed and perhaps drive off the black clouds, or will the evil forces streaming out of the Goode Mill, the Old Mill, win, destroying everything, and everyone, that he holds most dear?”. If the blurb is in past tense, can I ask such a question? You know, the action has already been resolved…

So a quick question for you: Should a blurb for a book written in past tense be in the past tense, or does writing it in present tense make sense?

After I write this, I will spend some time on Amazon and see what others have done, but I’d like to hear your opinion as well.

Killing Characters and Reality in Writing….

These two topics, killing off characters in your work and the amount of reality you need, can each take a half a dozen posts or more, but I was thinking about the intersection of the two.

My writing can be called “speculative fiction”: the majority is science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and horror.  Yeah, I’m often working with the supernatural, so how real do I need it? Of course I do put some reality in there to make it easier for the reader to connect, but every day things, like sleeping, eating and using the little boys/girls room is only put in if there is a reason.

My WIP, The Old Mill, is more on the horror end of the urban fantasy-horror spectrum. Not really a “real” genre ;)

About the time I finished my rough draft of The Old Mill, I read a blog post about killing characters in horror. Pretty much the idea was, if people aren’t dying, why would the main character, or the reader, be afraid? Of course you can ask how many people died in the scariest book I ever read, The Shining (not including looking into the past), but that book was written in the 1970s, not the twenty-teens! If you finish the book and six of your eight main characters are still alive, go back and kill four or five of them…

Maybe a little extreme, but she had a point. Continue reading

Drafting and Editing

Fiction

Typically when I write “The End” on a story, that is the beginning of the journey. Revisions and editing are a much longer, and to me, more difficult process than writing. Writing is a lot of fun! Editing? Not so much.

We each have our own methods and our own ways of doing things. I tend to get more granular as I write each draft. Ooops, but hold on. I really need to talk about how I define “draft” here, because it may be different than you think.

Draft Numbering

In ways my background as a computer nerd come to the surface in my draft numbering scheme. There are two or three components. There is the draft number and then the revision number and often a date-stamp.

I follow normal writing convention by calling my original rough draft “1st draft”. If I were really following the software model, this would be draft “0”.

I change the draft number when there are significant changes, usually end to end. This is typically rewriting chapters, deleting large blocks of text, adding chapters, adding large blocks of text, etc. Of course, as I said, as I go on it gets more granular, so I’m not adding or subtracting chapters at draft five! At that time, it is just a feeling that there have been significant changes since the last draft number. Continue reading

The Weekly Smile for the 9th of September, 2019 #weeklysmile

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I try to mix up my smiles a little :)  It gets boring if I give the same on week after week after week.  This one is a little different, but if you read my blog regularly, it won’t be surprising.

Back in the late winter and spring of 2017 I wrote and posted a serialized novel, The Old Mill.  I pretty much wrote and then immediately posted each chapter, so it was a very, very rough draft.  That isn’t too unusual for me.  I did the same thing with The Halley Branch, which I posted in 30 consecutive days.  I have also done other serials, from three of four parts, to 20 or 25 chapters.

So, back to the Old Mill, I loved the story.  It was one of my favorites. But I hated the writing.  I mean, it’s not terrible, but I hope I am better than I was in early 2017. I also hope that my well-edited work is better than that roughest of drafts. Continue reading

Conversations About Dialog

Fiction

What do you consider your biggest strength when it comes to writing?  I think dialog comes close to the top of the list for me.  I’ve had several people remark on it.  Yeah, I keep my mouth closed in real life, but my characters blab away…

Truthfully, I overdo dialog.  In fact, in the past I have had beta readers comment on my over use of dialog. Not all – I’ve had others that had positive things to say about it.

I have started editing “The Old Mill”, a book that I posted here as a serial.  One thing that I discovered, to my dismay, is that I have entire chapters that are 100% dialog.  Some are phone conversations.  Others are people sitting around chatting.  After I did one quick pass through the book I almost felt that it would be easier to make it into a play than a novel.  Not just a play, but an Elizabethan era play, with few stage directions. Or perhaps an opera.

Ouch. How do I fix that?

I am now in the middle of a rewrite. One thing that I am doing is changing it from all first person to third person.  Every chapter is in one person’s POV (well, for the most part), but the chapters can be in different POVs.  OK, most are in the main character’s POV, just third person. But I have added other POVs, which really helps develop the characters and makes the entire story more three dimensional.

Does this help with the dialog issue? Continue reading

Editing The Old Mill

I hate editing.

A few of you may remember my serialized novel, The Old Mill, that I posted a little over two years ago.  After finishing the book I decided to put it on the back burner and work on other things for a while.  One problem is that there are a few similarities with my book The Halley Branch and I wanted to put some space between the two.  So the rough draft, which I had posted here, was sitting, gathering dust.  For some reason i couldn’t get the inspiration to pick it up again.  In my opinion, the hardest part of writing is doing the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. drafts.  The first draft is the easy, fun part.

A couple of weeks ago I picked it back up and started the next draft.  I haven’t made it very far….

The first thing I ran into had to do with names.  I changed the name of one character half way through and have already run into both versions of the name.  I don’t remember why I changed it and which is the final name.  I’m about 90% sure that I will have to make a third version of the name.  The problem is, a lot of names run in the main family of the book, so doing a search on the name is only partially helpful.  I may hit another character with the same name. Continue reading