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ABC’s of Writing a Book

October 31, 2010 1 comment

Always:

It’s always on my mind: When I first started writing this saga three years ago, I didn’t have huge chunks of time to make bad choices and mistakes to speed up the learning curve. If the love for telling a compelling story had been absent or fake, I would’ve never made the progress or learned the hard lessons of merely writing and structuring a story. The muse is always with me. It’s like running into a brick wall. Bludgeoning yourself against it until there’s a crack, is lunacy if you don’t carry a vision in your heart…at all times. It’s more than that simple counterfeit for inspiration: mood. It’s a routine, often boring and tiresome routine. It’s a “I gotta do this no matter what” attitude. In reality, that is how you keep the dream alive, looking for kindling and stoking the fire with routine. You have to make the best of time. It doesn’t matter what mood you’re in.

Early last week I was writing on two and a half hours of sleep after a bout with insomnia the night before. I gulped some coffee and wrote mincingly from 9AM to 1:45PM. At 1:35PM I typed one of the best lines in the whole book, almost by accident. If I had succumbed to the excuses I gave myself, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stumbled—literally stumbled—upon that line.

Be:

Be a writer, like a pro athlete or salesperson or guitar player: train. Write/play every day, something. That is the law. Practice taking thoughts from your mind to paper at the very least; get a journal, a blog, write. Get a coach via other writers. When you’re reading a book or watching a movie, get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening to your feelings, your mind. What makes you react? Make notes. Learn from watching “the game”.

Submit to a wise writer. Read books about the art of writing and storytelling structure. I’ve read twenty plus at this point about the art. I know that some so-called storytellers do not read books about the art. To prove it, one can find ample evidence in a stack of vain self-published books. What astounds me is the seemingly complete lack of training and comprehension. Seems to me, if one loves writing, then one would study it. Faced with the odds of being published, many of these vain people wonder why they had to self-published or turn themselves into cheap quasi avant garde rebels, making six books sold into some sort of bohemian badge. I have an odd reaction when reading many self-published authors: anger. I get furious. They’ve put all this effort and money (paying the printer) but obviously spent nothing, including time on the study of the art. I also get the urge to just stop writing now and send my manuscript in. Against this “competition”, I’m a freaking combo of Hemingway and King.

I do acknowledge there are many excellent and/or successful self-published authors. Vince Flynn self-published his first book and there are many exceptions to the rule nowadays. However, generally speaking, “self-published” means the agent or publisher had significant challenges with your work.

If you’re intending to be a successful writer, study the art! Do not leave it to the gods of publishing, luck, or a hunch. Be worthy of your calling. When you pick that pen, pick it up like a highly motivated, highly trained warrior, or like Eddie Van Halen picks up his guitar in his studio away from the crowds.

Creating:

Creating a compelling story has a high difficulty factor, like spinning saucers on sticks. I had no concept of the intellectual challenge when I started (maybe because I’m so dumb). The odds are against you and me. One has to be on ones toes. The process is one thing, but there are times when thoughts bloom or drift into your mind that are thrilling, awesome…and substantial as mist. Why? Creative thoughts are like dreams; we forget them. As a scientist has a net for catching butterflies, a writer must have a notebook to catch thoughts. I have a notebook named “Thought Catcher” (Dream Catchers hung on the rearview mirror don’t work). Carry one of those little 3×5 composition notebooks; it can fit in your back pocket. I carry one and it’s packed with thoughts, dialog, scenes, character notes. All you need is a reminder, not the full-blown scene or idea. Multiple times, I’ve had a great thought about the story. I assumed since it was so awesome that I would easily remember when I sat down at the laptop or when I got to a notebook. Wrong! It’s like retelling that half-forgotten dream as the day wears on, you remember less and less. Creation dies. Sometimes I forget the notebook. I find a receipt or napkin, and scratch with a pen that’s running out of ink. It’s that crucial. Thoughts fly away; catch them before they do.

I write this to myself as well as others. I need to remind myself to follow my own advice.

Always Be Creating.

Changes and Challenges

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Theme music for this blog entry.

Last week many encouraging things happened amidst trying to kick-start the creative process of writing part three of Creed of Kings. I learned a hard lesson. I stopped writing and edited/revised 409 that comprised part one and two. I should’ve started writing part three while editing.  But I’m back in the groove now…for at least a few steps anyway. I do sense that feeling—a state of mind—I had when part two exploded early this year into the awesome part it is now, in my “humble” opinion. I’m just about there with part three, I’m at critical mass. Conditions are ripe for a tornado of creative swirling.

I had three GREAT ideas to weave into the storyline while I fiddled around looking for the groove; ideas that I would not have had I been banging the keys helter skelter. I’ve done that before, the stampede to nowhere. The directionless stampede required me to scrap huge sections of writing when the dust settled. I require forethought. I’ve been meandering, searching too long, which isn’t any better. In the meandering (trying to kick-start), I did stumble upon these insights (again, no revealing of actual story here, this is fundamental stuff):

  1. Expound on an antagonist, that is in part one, and bring her further back into a back flash with a crucial protagonist character. It brings more meaning and emotional depth to the protagonist’s plight in the current timeline. Moreover, a “1b” if you will: Write in another more substantial antagonist for this character in the current timeline.
  2. Write into the story an antagonist for another important character different from the one above. As it stands now for this good guy, I simply have him regretting the past and wishing things were different. With an antagonist, he will have a focal point, and so will the reader, to associate with angst-ridden memories. The protagonist will have a show down with this antagonist from the past at the end of book one.

 Of course, I know those are fundamental things. I have those principles working in the story already with other central protagonists and there is a great evil that all will face. All things work together for those who stick to it.

A crucial theme in the story still needs elucidation/teasing/foreshadowing. It grew into one of the core elements of the story, if not the core. It is “good enough” now but I sense that I’m on the cusp of a deeper, more substantial aspect of this theme that I’ve yet to completely discover that, if found will perhaps nudge this story—at least for me—closer to potential greatness and it has to do with the above point 1.

Tactics of my writing revealed:

About steaming full speed ahead, I’m all for it. It just doesn’t seem to be my style. I wish it were. I’ve come to realize, there is a balance and a rhythm, when it comes to my style. I found it by accident while I was striving for speedier output. Everyone has little quirks. I pour the cereal first, then the milk. My dad pours the milk, then the cereal. I think he is nuts for doing that. There are all kinds of problems with that in my opinion, but I digress. Whatever I think about it, he gets the task accomplished to his liking, and so do I when it comes to writing, even though I don’t do it exactly the way lots of folk think I ought to (I’m willing to adapt in the future). I’ve discovered this rhythm, because I’m perfectionist who as absolutely no right to be a perfectionist. But, here it is:

 I’ll make a leap ahead by one hundred or two hundred words. I know what I want deep inside although I can’t nail it down. So, I read over the words and I will “perfect” it immediately, then leap another hundred or so words, then go all the way back and start over, making edits and revisions as I go until I’m at the end of the last leap. I will take a breath and repeat until I’ve written the chapter. I’ll do the same with the next chapter. Then I’ll do it with several chapters In a row. I’ll print it out, do red ink edits/revisions, return to the computer, and correct my hand written corrections as I type them onto the Word doc. Then I repeat. This is how I do it. Somehow, I think if I blazed to the end of the chapter, in the end I would spend just as much time.

Then I give to an editor (I’ve done this part one. My writing at the time needed lots of improvement). On the next go around, I’ll type in the editor’s corrections and even then still make my own edits and revisions.

I call it progressive revision and editing. That’s my style of production.

When I’m in the midst of this process I submerge/elevate into the muse mode, what Stephen King calls a trance-like state. Interruptions are devastating, as you can imagine. I do all this so that I can attempt to put the readers in the same state, so they will have culture shock when the book is closed. They will truly feel as if they’ve been in another world. That is escape. That’s what I want to give. I hope it is priceless.

It is a supreme challenge. That is what I’m aiming at. Why not?

Categories: Book Progress

What is Great Fiction About? | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

What is Great Fiction About? | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga.

  I’m creating an entire culture, society, belief system, landscape, philosophy, history and creatures around characters and story. As Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and non fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” I can’t rely on a world ready made, to draw from and resonate in the readers mind. I’m trying to make a world, that has never existed, make sense and do it well enough for readers to be willing to suspend disbelief long enough to go for a ride. It is my hope to make that ride unforgettable—then I realize my godforsaken Visa bill is due and I’ve put the envelope in that special place where I just knew I wouldn’t forget its location.When I try to objectively read what I’ve written, I’m very pleased. I try to back the pleasure off a few notches realizing that I’m biased for my own material. When I imagine the plans I have for the characters and story, it moves me emotionally because I can project the finish manuscript’s feel. I think is different in a good way from most fantasy fiction. My reading of fantasy fiction is not exhaustive but I’ve read a lot of books.

When they say there is nothing new under the sun, that is correct. It has all been done. This is what I’ve tried to be mindful of when creating my book.

From Robert McKee’s masterpiece “Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

Story is about principles, not rules.

Story is about eternal, universal forms, not formulas.

Story is about archetypes, not stereotypes.

Story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts.

Story is about the realities, not the mysteries of writing.

Story is about mastering the art, not about second-guessing the marketplace.

Story is about respect, not disdain, for the audience.

Story is about originality, not duplication.

It makes you wonder if anyone in Hollywood has read his book.

What I want to do is juxstaposed in McKee’s book with what is typical in creative efforts nowadays in books, movies and music.  

When talented people write badly it’s generally for one of two reasons; Either they’re blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove or they’re driven by an emotion they must express. When talented people write well, it is generally for this reason; They’re moved by a desire to touch the audience.

When a person reads my book, I want them to be sad its over because they’ve fallen in love with those characters in that world. I love books that make me feel that way. I think that is a good feeling. I want to give people those kinds feelings.

Categories: Book Progress

Don’t Plan on Inspiration, Plan on Plodding Relentlessly | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Don’t Plan on Inspiration, Plan on Plodding Relentlessly | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga.

So…what are you going to do with your future? Imagine yourself leaving a fertile mountain range to trek across a desert plain to another mountain range, that you hope is fertile. I did that, I made some mistakes, I adjusted, I learned. I’m doing those aforemention three, seems almost by the second. I’m still trekking. The other range of mountains isn’t so hazy now. I’m sure there will be some last minute pitfall, “beelzebub has a devil put aside for me.” A ravine into which everything could tumble might appear beneath my feet at the moment I reach the edges of the other side.

“We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan,” said Harvey MacKay. I remember thinking that the muse would compel me to the writing desk. I would walk, hypnotized to the laptop and begin typing in a stream of consciousness, a masterpiece of universal renown. At the end, I would print it, call my publisher, who would overnight a SASE for my manuscript. Okay, not really, but very early on I was deceived by moods of inspiration and held them in too high regard. I thought I had to sustain these moods, like a dopehead thinks he needs a doobie to think clear. That slowed me down for years. I would only write when inspired. That was a bad plan. I was waiting…and if you are waiting for inspiration, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter. My plans kept crumbling. I stayed in the foothills of my comfort, venturing on the edges with an outburst of inspiration once in a while. You can’t plan on inspirational moods to drive you across the desert.

That was a long time ago now. I’m not an inspiration junkie now. I’ve been sober for a while. What you have to do is plod relentlessly across the barren landscape. Very simple. That’s “the plan”. Write. Write some more. Then …write again. When you’re done with that, write. <repeat> Then, amazingly, what happens is that when you fathom what you’ve done–a 409 page MS Word manuscript!–you get inspired, really inspired. You start to think that you’re really going to pull this off. That your characters really are going to intrigue people, that the story will take the readers by the throat, heart and mind.

Doing this for the money is laughable. The odds are too great. What keeps me going is thought of giving the reader the emotions I had when reading a great book, or watching a great movie, something lasting, unforgettable. If someone tells me that, it will be worth it. I heard that the odds of writing a New York Times bestseller are slightly better than dating a supermodel.

So as Jim Carrey said  in Dumb and Dumber, “So, you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…yeah!”

ART

Categories: Book Progress
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