Archive for the ‘Writing Experiences’ Category
My fourth novel, Ghostkiller, is completed at long last. It is the fastest novel I’ve written to date. The earliest copy of the file that I can find is dated January 2011, which means this story wrote itself in considerably less than two years. Which I think is pretty cool, my fastest time ever. My previous fastest time was two years exactly, for A Warrior Made, which was also a somewhat longer book.
I described the first and only origin story of this novel here, although I have a vague feeling that I may have had some other ideas which were shapeless and allowed themselves to be taken over by this one. But that origin only got me the first line, and the rest, as usual, spun out from there. I know some of my usual tricks came into play early on. With a first line like “Aren’t you a bit young to be raising the dead?” the obvious follow-up is that the guy is as old as they come.
My first tag line for this thing, back when I had no idea what it was going to be about was, “It’s about a man who kills ghosts for a living”, which I would tell to anyone who asked and then watch their brains explode trying to figure out how to kill something that was already dead. Now that I actually almost a little bit maybe know what the story’s about, I have no idea what the tagline should be.
One brilliant idea later…
How about, “Stealing from the dead is no way to get a life”?
It’s really kind of strange and unpredictable what will strike a reader’s fancy. In the latest chapter of my latest fanfiction story, Sparring Partners, I had a scene where Sarah and Ellie go to a bar for some ‘girl time’ (a phrase which makes my wife gag every time she hears it)(not that type of gag). Sarah has commented that her relationship was so screwed up that they had three first dates, two first kisses, and fell in love at first sight, so having the wedding after they got married should come as no surprise.
When I started writing the chapter I was in a very different mindset, I guess, since the opening scene has a very different tone, Sarah asking Ellie to help her arrange her wedding after the fact (her desire to say her vows in front of people who will hunt her down and kick her ass if she fails to keep them is another favorite scene). This often happens to me, by the way. I’ll start a story with no real idea where I want it to go, and then something will occur to me halfway through. With these fanfics it’s usually easier, since I’m modelling the story I write on the story they told, but in this case the story they told doesn’t have much to offer.
The nine2five idea was mainly intended to keep the tone and theme of the show after season 2, developing them in the same direction season 3 did but not the same way season 3 did, since season 3 was really poorly done. In this case, since Chuck isn’t an agent he’s not going to go out and seduce a mark, or face the grim prospect of burning him afterward (my comments about season 3 above notwithstanding, I happen to like this episode because of this sort of dramatic development, most of the things that made season 3 suck weren’t in it).
As a result, I’m free to use this timeslot to work on other aspects of the overall season, such as the wedding, and getting Chuck and Sarah in shape for it. It’s not every couple that gets post-marriage, pre-wedding jitters. Sarah is trying to become a ‘real girl’ with a ‘real life’ she has no idea how to live, since she never had one, and she sensibly turns to Ellie, the realest girl she knows.
When they walk into the bar, the first thing Ellie asks about is the two first kisses, and Sarah says, “Damn, lost a nickel.” She then takes a nickel from her pocket and moves it to a different pocket. This chapter is already turning out to be one of the more popular I’ve ever done, and that gag is one of the most popular gags in it. Don’t ask me why, it was just a little whimsy when it first occurred to me to write it. I guess it’s the whimsy that does it. Sarah is usually such a sober sort of girl that something so ‘out of left field’ has more impact.
It’s the little things.
Hi, It’s me, posting for the first time in a very long while. My stories ganged up on me, and I’ve been stuck writing them rather than blogging. The upside is that I finally managed to finish my fourth novel, Ghostkiller. The downside is that I now have to write a query synopsis for Ghostkiller.
So when my friend Nimue was looking for places to post I said “Absolutely!” And someday, when my mental health allows, I’ll write a blog post about query synopses.
Hello. You may have been expecting Marc, this being his blog, but he’s very kindly let me borrow it to help me further my plans for world domination. (Said plans are to involve cake and tentacles.) I’m Nimue Brown, and I write stuff. Which sounds ominously like an alcoholics anonymous style opening gambit, doesn’t it? No, I could stop any time, I have this under control… I’ve never written a political thriller. Otherwise, at some point I’ve tried just about every form and genre, although on the non-fiction side my insane rampage remains limited to the tiny handful of subjects I know anything about. (Paganism and Druidry, and how to write really awful books, for the greater part).
Having grasped that Marc likes to blog about the writing experience, I thought rather than just beat you about the head with ‘buy my book’ content, I’d try and write something that might fit in here and could possibly amuse someone. Anyone who thinks the life of a book author is glamorous ought to spend a couple of days actually trying to sell books to people. It’s like working in a sales department, with the added bonus of getting to take it personally when people aren’t interested. Therefore, in self defence, I’m trying to find ways of talking about my new books that won’t bore me to tears. You, dear reader, hopefully benefit from this as well.
Finding the writing voice depends rather a lot on who I’m supposed to be being. This, for example, was going to be written in my serious-blogging-author voice, which seemed appropriate for the task in hand. That was two paragraphs worth of lost the plot and failed miserably then. We’ll try and straighten up now and get the right voice in place, yes? Because of course the voice you use as an author is an important sort of thing.
I have my meaningful Druid voice for www.druidlife.wordpress.com which carries me safely into the realms of non-fiction book writing as well. I’ve got my dark and grim voice, best used for gothic horror, but sometimes that gets confused with my comedy voice if I accidently get too Lovecraftian. Things too terrible to describe have a life of their own. It’s dangerously easy to shift from deliberate horror to accidental comedy, I’ve learned. It’s also far too easy to go from deliberate smut to accidental comedy too, but that’s another story.
If I really want to mess with my own head, there’s always the option of writing something that doesn’t even have a narrator in it. Despite years of doing comics scripts, this still feels a bit weird, like going out in public wearing just my knickers. Writing without a narratorial voice is just so… exposed and… naked.
Inevitably there are days when I get confused, when the playful steampunk voice somehow sneaks into the Druid writing. Worse still, the alter-ego gets out when she shouldn’t. (The other me is a sassy, obscenity-touting author of rude books with a much more defined attitude than the regular me, and who is starting to develop a decidedly American accent.)
I’ve never been very good at sticking to the same thing for long. I get bored easily. I go from fiction to non-fiction and back again. I flirt with novels, churn out short stories and blog articles, the odd script… some of them are very odd, truth be told. It means I don’t have a stable author identity. I don’t have one voice that is definitely mine. How I write depends so much on what I’m writing and who I’m writing it for. If that sounds a bit like an ongoing identity crisis… that might be a fair assessment.
The really odd thing is, that when it comes to my own preferences, what most attracts me to specific authors, is their voice. But then, most of the writers I follow tend to stick to one thing, rather than ambling about all over the place, which probably helps. It’s much easier to market yourself and develop an audience if you do one identifiable thing, I suspect. There isn’t the same problem of waking up in the morning and wondering who you’re going to be for the next couple of hours. Nor is there the issue of getting part way through what was supposed to be a sensible sort of blog post and hearing the other, not so sensible voice sneaking in.
Who was I supposed to be, again?
It’s possible of course that the little voices in my head will undertake to organise, synthesise and turn into one, coherent voice that I could use for everything. What would that sound like? Comedy gothic druidry with a steampunk twist? That’s got to hurt. There’s probably some kind of cream you can get for one of those, mind.
Oh, and did I mention, there are books? On the non-fic side, Druidry and the Ancestors http://www.amazon.com/Druidry-Ancestors-Finding-place-history/dp/1780996772/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349344809&sr=1-3&keywords=Druidry+and+the+ancestors#_, and the embarrassingly naked in public without a narrator thing is Hopeless Maine, a graphic novel series from Archaia, which is here – http://www.amazon.com/Hopeless-Maine-1-Personal-Demons/dp/1936393573/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349345049&sr=1-1&keywords=hopeless+maine
Posted June 24, 2012on:
This one was pretty difficult, for a variety of reasons. Mainly because I have little experience writing fight scenes. I don’t like them much, mainly because I don’t have any interest in following individual swordstrokes, or punches, or whatever. That sort of stuff belongs in the ‘descriptive prose’ section of the stuff that I don’t like.
In a similar vein, I don’t want to write stuff that I don’t know much about. Since I have no training in any of the martial arts and no desire to research them just so I can fake it, I’d rather not write about them. Which makes writing a scene primarily about combat rather difficult.
What I’m much more interested in is the character’s reaction to the combat, his feelings about it. Which, since most combat training is intended to make these actions as reflexive and thought-free as possible, is rather difficult.
Then came the Shakespeare. I had no intention to make a Casey a Shakespeare-o-phile, but it seems perfectly natural to me that he be so, especially of the St. Crispin’s Day speech. But is that any reason to use that speech as the motif of a story that I already couldn’t write, thus ramping up the difficulty level a few more notches?
Well, yes. I like to challenge myself. Most of my fanfic writing is a challenge to myself, a challenge to write in different forms and modes than I would normally use, such as the purely narrative chapters of Not This Time. I enjoy writing contests for the same reason. Some of my best stories come from a simple request, a challenge to write a story that combines elements I would never have combined on my own. And if you want a motif to pattern your story on, you can certainly do worse than Shakespeare. Some people learn by reading. I learn by doing.
This is me doing.
Posted April 13, 2012on:
In this chapter I take one of the most critical moments of the series and turn it sort of upside down. Hey, it’s not my fault that that those TV writers leave so much wiggle-room when they cut to a new scene.
One of the biggest ‘problems’ I have with writing is that I created this reflex for myself that makes me try to find a different way to do something if I’ve done it before, or seen it done before. Normally this isn’t a problem for a creative artist, in fact it’s a pretty good requirement for the job, but when it means that you have to come up with a new way to something that you just plotted out, it can be a bit of a pain. But the plot itself falls under the heading of something I’ve seen before, so there I am.
Anyway, we’re in the home stretch now, one more chapter to go to the triumphant conclusion, and then maybe I can get around to finishing my novel. Before re-imagining the entirety of season three.
I didn’t really plan for this to happen, but the series morphed itself, as my stories often do. It’s become the backstory behind the Sarah vs. Sarah conflict in my other story, Chuck vs. The Epilog. It adds a bit to the challenge, trying to come up with an ending that is triumphant and ambiguous at the same time. (Hopefully I’ll do a better job than George Lucas did with the Prequel trilogy.) I’ve had a bunch of ideas, actually, lots of good stuff that I hope I can do justice to.
Wish me luck.
Then maybe I can get back to Ghostkiller for a while.
It’s kind of a funny thing about tracking statistics. On the one hand they give you a sense of achievement, when you can see how many people have looked at your stories, how many reviewed them, how many saved them on their favorites list or created an alert for the next one. It’s all very gratifying, especially considering the lack of such statistics in the real publishing world. But (and you knew there had to be a ‘but’ coming) at the same time they also put a certain pressure to write the next story, when you see the rather sharp dropoff in the number of people reading. As other people post stories your latest moves down the page and then off the first page entirely and you feel like you have to post something new to get back in front again.
I have to fight this feeling. I was plugging away at Ghostkiller mainly to get it done by Lunacon, which I didn’t. After Lunacon I sort of took a break from that effort and wrote other stories instead. Chuck fanfics are good practice in alternative writing styles, and lots of fun. But now it’s time to get back to work.
I was just re-reading a story I particularly like, and discovered a plot flaw. Gasp! Shock! I know, a story with a plot flaw! Well, it happens, and quite often they don’t get noticed unless you get someone like me who obsessively over-thinks these things. What started to bother me was trying to figure what sort of plot flaw it was, since ‘plot flaw’ is a generic sort of category.
The basic flaw is this: A woman finds out her husband is under a termination order, and runs away with him, after asking a trusted third party to find an alternative. After she runs, the trusted third party discovers a method to make her husband safe, so the order is cancelled, and now TPTB want them to come back before something bad happens. In order to do this they take the husband’s sister hostage, and place a false story in the media about it, to send a message to the fleeing couple, as well as incentivize them to return, so that they can be told the order was terminated.
That this plot is flawed is obvious, but it occurred to me to wonder what type it was. Plot flaws come in a multitude of types, just check tvtropes.org if you don’t believe me, but they basically boil down to two, flaws of omission and flaws of commission. At first blush this looks like a sin of commission. Why take the sister hostage when all it will do is piss off the wife and make the situation worse?
Well, the whole rest of the story, and there is quite a lot, depends on the wife racing off to rescue the sister. Since this depends on the action of taking the sister hostage in the first place, I initially considered the problem to be an Act of Plot, an action undertaken simply to advance the plot. While it is true that the general’s logic in ordering the hostage-taking may be sound, the subordinate who has greater knowledge of the interpersonal dynamics of the situation certainly should have known better and argued against it. Which he didn’t.
However, there is a further plot flaw than just this.
After the sister is taken hostage, TPTB place a false story in the media to let the fleeing couple know that they have done so. Okay, fine. But if that’s the case, why not place a message in the local media that the termination order was cancelled? Sure they’re not likely to believe you, but it at least let’s them know there’s a new situation they need to verify.
This is a plot hole, in that the whole subplot about dropping the order is completely ignored, even though it’s the reason for taking the sister hostage! All that TPTB want is to tell them that they don’t have to run, but instead of just telling them this they try to capture them first, which makes zero sense to me. If there was no trusted third party available to verify the matter I could see it, but there is.
So the author committed two plot flaws in one scene, one of which masked the other. The act of plot acted like a band-aid, covering up the plot hole, and sending the story off in a wholly unnecessary direction. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, provided the writing is good and the grafted on plot is useful and/or interesting (which it was). But it should be done very carefully, since it can clearly break the flow and pull people out of the story.
One of the things that keeps me writing is when I get caught up in one of those moments when so many parts come together it’s like the universe is yelling at me to write the damn story already! They’re not moments I get a lot of, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a pantser most of the time, or in spite of it.
I only get it with scenes, or short stories. Novels give me too much time to play with an idea and find a way to make it different by the time I get there, I guess. Short stories can be written very quickly and let me stay focused on the main thought.
The first one I got as part of a contest, where I was the prize. The lady who won was supposed to get written into a short story by me. (There were actually 10 authors and 10 winners.) To this day I don’t know if what I did was what my publisher wanted. I got some life details from this very nice lady and proceeded to write an entire story around her, with her as the major character.
The reason is the set of details she sent me, plus the fact that I was not writing the story just to please me, as I usually do, but I was writing a story for her, always a great motivator to me. I’m much more likely to do something for someone else than I am for myself. Once I got the details my mind just exploded in a flurry of story logic, trying to figure out ways to link them up into a coherent and consistent story with a fantasy style. The most important details were the bearded dragon lizards. This led me naturally to think of dragons but in some classically me non-standard sort of way, which led ultimately to me turning most of the great cliches of fantasy literature upside-down, like elves.
This was okay, since the story was about her, firstly, and secondly, I used the cliches the way cliches should be used, to fill in the background as economically as possible, and only step forward when they had something new to contribute. Which was important because I had so much else to do with this story. I was awake for two hours that first night, plotting out most of the story for the first time ever. It took only a few weeks to write and arrived early as my story ‘Off the Map‘, which for some reason is only available through Fictionwise and BN.com, which bought Fictionwise.
The second time was two weeks ago, when my only favorite TV show ended, with a major storyline unresolved. Naturally, this led to story-logic inspired chaos in my head. Instead of someone’s life details I had everything I knew of the show. Instead of a promise and a person I had characters I cared about and an unresolved storyline that would not leave me alone. The result was the same, even more strongly, since I was trying to complete something that was already shaped by story logic, which most lives do not seem to be, for some reason.
‘Off the Map’ is a 10K-word story that took me about two weeks to write. ‘Chuck vs. the Epilog’ is a 7K-word short story that took me three days to write. The story gripped me not only in the planning stages, and yes, I did plan this one rather completely, but also in the execution. I was seeing a TV show and writing down what they said and what they did. I was hearing the characters talk and trying to make them all sound like the characters I loved. It was a totally unique story, from my perspective, with minimal introspection. TV isn’t good for that. Everything I would normally put into the character’s perceptions of their environment, or in their thoughts, hopes, and dreams, now had to be shown on stage and in the flesh. This story is my fanfic ‘Chuck vs. The Epilog’ and I honestly feel it is one of the best pieces I’ve ever done, even if a lot of the backstory is left out since I assume most readers know the show.
I felt for that one brief moment the way gods must feel all the time, and I really hope you who read this get to feel that way at least once in your lives because it’s really cool, and terrifying, to be so carried along by something so much greater than yourself.
It was a glorious explosion that I hope doesn’t happen again any time soon, because I’m really tired, and I have stories to go before I sleep.
I don’t usually write fanfics. I get all hung up sometimes about using someone else’s characters and making sure the voices sound right and all that stuff that applies to anyone monkeying around in someone else’s back yard. It’s possible they may like what you did with their flower beds, but then again…
I do take inspiration from other people’s work, usually negative.
- ‘Why did they do that?’
- ‘I could have done this better.’
- ‘I’d rather the story went this way…’
Many times I take these ideas and use them to enhance my own stories. Not in any way that violates copyright, of course, but there’s no need to say where the idea came from or use names anyway. It’s the scenario that matters.
A fanfic is a different beast, and there are different types of fanfic. Many are enhancements of something, a story written to add corroborative detail to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Or it could be hairy and convincing, but not enough for the guy writing the fanfic. Some TV shows try to mirror their weekly schedule in the script, and fanfics are written to fill in the gaps. One fanfic author I especially like blithely ignores the romantic tension plot of our mutual favorite series and has the characters expressing their affection openly, if not explicitly.
What makes a fanfic work for me is whether or not the storyline of the original story needs to be changed to accommodate it, a technique known as retcon, for retroactive continuity. (I’ve read some novels that try to do the same thing, which to me is a sign of bad writing. We won’t even mention
Highlander 2.) The less ‘retconning’ there is, the better the fanfic, at least to me. My respect for the logic flow of the original story sort of requires me to try to carry it forward into any fanfics I read, or write. A story that at least doesn’t contradict the original is minimally OK. If the logic flows into the fanfic, if the fanfic explains something in the original story using the story’s own logic (which I’ll call explanatory power), so much the better. (Of course the author of the fanfic may have a different idea of what that logic flow is than I do, in which case he’s wrong.) Clearly multiple fanfics can be written to extend or embellish any story at any point, and as long as they satisfy my criteria I’d say they were all equally good, qua fanfic. The actual writing may still suck.
I have so far written all of two fanfics, not counting the scenes in my books which were inspired by other stories. Those were scenes, not complete stories, and the characters were my own. I’ll give you points if you can tell me what the scenes are and what the inspirations were. Points are cheap.
My only reason so far for writing a fanfic is that I felt a complete or partial lack of closure to a story arc, i.e., the logic is incomplete. Incomplete logic annoys me in and of itself, which often means that the story itself bothers me, given how tied together the two are. My first fanfic was written solely to scratch an itch inflicted upon me by the TV series Chuck, back in season three, when a story arc that stretched for four episodes ended abruptly, without a happy resolution, or even a sad one. I suppose I could have lived with a sad one, but since I prefer happy endings that’s what my fanfic gave her, sort of. It’s on this site as Free Story #2, above. It was a short exercise for a minor character. No retcon involved, nor any explanatory power.
I just finished my second fanfic yesterday. Again it is for the series Chuck, one of the few TV shows to have characters that involved me enough that I would care enough about them to write a fanfic. The series just ended, and the final episode ends with a major plotline unresolved. The producers say this is to allow viewers to make up their own endings, but the more likely explanation is that they wanted a hook to hang a new series or movie possibility onto. Innocent that I am, this rather cynical second possibility did not even occur to me until after I’d plotted out the fanfic I wanted to tell, to resolve the plotline as I felt it ought to be resolved, i.e., no retconning, maximum explanatory power, and an HEA.
This was the fastest writing I’ve ever done, 7K words in three days, or about 9 pages a day. The characters were there and I knew them all and loved them. I believe they all act in character and sound right. I knew the story intimately, and even though the logic isn’t exactly the tightest in the world, there were certain conventions to be observed and standards to be upheld, and I think I did. It’s one of the few I’ve ever plotted out from beginning to end, or was able to. This story wanted to be written and it wanted to be written right now! (Plus I’m in the middle of another novel and job-hunting so I really don’t have a lot of time.)
I sent it out to a few beta-readers already, and I’m hoping to post it either tonight or tomorrow. If you like the show Chuck I hope you’ll check out my story and tell me what you think. For other fanfics about all sorts of stories, not just TV, check out fanfiction.net. I’m sure there are others.
Remember, all authors love feedback. If you have a favorite author, write and tell him so. Tell his publisher so. The only way to keep the stuff you love available is to spread the love and spread the word.