Tag Archives: writing process

Data Dumps

You have a great idea for a fantasy. There are four hominoid races that range from almost good but a little more on the bad side to very good, practically angelic. There are also corruptions of two of the races that are evil.  Of course there are also wizards that really don’t make a race, but are different from the others.  Plus, of course a handful of intelligent and semi-intelligent creatures and monsters, like dragons. They all have their own cultures, religions, myths, personality traits, physical characteristics, ways they use magic (or don’t), etc. And, of course, the world has a rich 10,000 year history plus the “Age of Myth and Legend” which gives another 25,000 years.

So there is all of that detail in your story.  But then we get to the story itself. Hold, though, we need even more detail… Continue reading

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Today’s Editing – Another Show vs. Tell Post

I am currently doing a few editing run-throughs of my novellas targeting some very specific problems relating to “show vs. tell”. Yes, this is a huge topic and many words have been written about it, but I just want to talk a little bit about what I am specifically targeting right now.

There may be technical names for the various types of “telling”.  I’m not sure.  There are two variations that I am looking at, though I will mention a third as well. Here is an example of the first:

The sun was bright causing a blinding glare from the desert.  John was hot, tired and thirsty.  He knew that if he didn’t find shelter soon that he would most likely die.

Yeah, not great writing, but that is not the problem.  I could dress this up and try hiding the “tell” quality in a fancy wrapper, but if it basically boils down to, “the sun was bright, it is hot and John I tired,” it is pure “tell”. A possible solution might be: Continue reading

Writing Exercises and POV (Part 1)

Lost Star

When I first started this blog I did a series of writing exercises.  Every now and again I do more.  I’m not talking about just following the various challenges, like Friday Fictioneers or Sue’s #writephoto, I am talking about experimenting.  As anyone who read the story I posted yesterday, Honor, knows, I am doing a bit of experimentation again. This time it was triggered by the Ursula K. Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft, which I received for Christmas.

Point of View (POV) and tense are two big choice any writer has to make when starting a story.  They are also areas that are very easy to screw up.  Before i started a blog, I spent some time over at the forums on Writer’s Digest and found that people were very militant with POV.  Pretty much only first person and limited third person from a single person was acceptable.  There could be no changes whatsoever in any work.  One POV, solid like granite. Continue reading

A First Year

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I have always enjoyed writing.  I also enjoyed creating stories.  The problem is, those two things didn’t always coincide quite right.  I would write stories in my head and nonfiction for school, work or different organizations, but I always grew frustrated with myself when I tried to actually write those stories out.

One morning in November of 2009 I posted a poetic line about the beautiful, unseasonably warm day.  A friend told me that she thought it sounded like a great first line of a short story.  So I sat down and over the next few days I wrote a story to fit that line.  What came out was the story Indian Summer, which I posted a few days ago.

A week or two later I wrote another story, a “short-short” of about 500 words.  A few weeks later, in mid-December of 2010, I wrote another longer story.  The new story, Five Long Walks, I planned out in my head before starting.

I was hooked. Continue reading

Practical Editing….

 

 

When you are done, you’re done, right?  When I post something on my blog, once I click publish, it is a done deal.  If I go back and find 10,000 typos?  Oh well, too bad.  OK, I do sometimes go back and correct things, but usually not after the first day or two.

I spent a good chunk of time the last few weeks before I published The Fireborn reading over it to catch errors and typos.  I also had two people go over it for me.  Between the two of them, they caught a dozen or so things that I had missed and had a handful of subjective ideas.  So when I clicked Publish, it was a done deal.  I had done my work.

A couple of months later I heard some complaints that there were a lot of typos.  I knew I would have to go back and fix them, but I didn’t want to.  When you are done, you’re done!  Last week I finally broke down and faced the inevitable.  I had to fix it. Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Blog-Stories

Recently someone told me that her uncle really liked The Monsters’ House, which is the first story in my short story collection, Seasons of Imagination.  I told her that I wasn’t too surprised, given how much symbolism there is in the story.  I then said that I really don’t use a lot of symbolism in my short stories.

“Why not?” she asked.

She had me there: why not?  I think it is because I typically write “flash fiction” instead of “short stories”.  My typical story is made for my blog.  It is usually very short.  Not including the 100-word Friday Fictioneers, my typical story runs about 1,000 words.  They tell a simple story.  The Monsters’ House is closer to 8,000, maybe 9,000 words.  It is complex.  The characters have time to breath and grow.  There is room for little motives and symbolism.

Still, why not?  Why don’t I use more symbolism?  I know it does creep into my stories, sometimes intentionally, usually not, i.e., subconsciously.  But I rarely sit down and think it through. Continue reading

The Itch

I walked around the house humming.  It wasn’t a song known to anyone, just something I was  improvising without thinking.  I turned to the dog.

“Are you ready to go out, is that why you do shout?  With gnarly little woof, you need to get out, from under the roof?”  I sang this improvised ditty and the dog got excited.  It knew “Out” and that’s all he cared about.  It didn’t matter how awful the words or melody or voice were, there was a walk to be had.

I had been humming and singing for days.  At work I had to force myself to talk to coworkers instead of sing. My tendency when I opened my mouth was to sing, so I was very careful.  I mean, even if it wasn’t weird, I realize I don’t have the greatest singing voice around.

At last, Friday came.  I sat down and started playing the piano as soon as I could.  Later, I turned on my electronics and music computer.  All of those improvised songs were gone, but it didn’t matter.  A new one soon came up.  I worked the entire weekend on it and had a finished recording on Sunday evening.

Back at work on Monday, I didn’t even have to think about talking.  Singing an answer would have felt so wrong.  Right? Continue reading

The Telling of Backstory?

I recently completed my second draft of The Halley Branch.  Before I even think about doing a third draft, I need to solve an issue.  Maybe…

I have a bad habit in  my books to have a huge amount of history and backstory to fill out.  Sometimes backstory doesn’t need to be told, just implied, but in these stories, you have to know it to understand the present story.  I also include a lot of philosophy, which often is 100% needed to understand the story.  OK, so how do I get it out there?

In The Halley Branch I have four chapters that are dream like sequences where the main character has a dream or vision that tells him about the past (only one chapter is a dream).  I think this works well, but it only covers a couple of percent of backstory and philosophy.

So what did I do?  I have another four chapters of the main character talking to other people who tell him the history.  It all makes sense in the story and gives us pictures of the characters as much as it gives history and philosophy.  In other words, through the characters’ dialog I am telling you backstory, but I am also showing you vital information about the characters by their action, interaction, the words they chose, and how they chose to use them.

There are two problems, or two sides of one.  A lot of people would call this information dumping, which is really frowned upon today.  And people would say that it is “telling”, not “showing”, which is true.  However, I do have those other 30 chapters of showing, so do these four chapters ruin it? Continue reading

How Do You Draft?

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About two weeks ago I started a second draft of The Halley Branch, a novel I wrote for the blog in real time in 2015 (I wrote and posted a new chapter every day).  Last night I was talking to someone about drafting, and we were thinking slightly different things.  I am a little curious on people’s opinions about how to draft.  I know, each person does things their own way, like the old arguments about being a Planner or Pantser when writing the first draft, but I am still curious.

I see two major styles of drafting, Old School and Edited Draft.  OK, I made up that last one because I didn’t want to call it “The Lazy Way”, particularly since that is my current technique.  I’ll give you a definition as to how I see these methods. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on The Old Mill

Today I posted the last chapter of The Old Mill!  Below are some random thoughts about it.

When I wrote the little snippet of a story, Galvin, I had no idea where I was going to go with it.  More than anything, it was just a quick character sketch of a small town oddball, what I’ve heard referred to as “a bit of local color”.  Later I decided to revisit it.  I used Galvin as a starting point, but it wasn’t long before I took it in a totally different direction.  (Actually, I later added a chapter before Galvin, The Old Mill)

OK, time to step back for a minute.

Years ago, perhaps decades ago, I visited an early 19th century Federalist Mansion, The Barrett House.  This house is in New Ipswitch, New Hampshire, home of the oldest mill in the state.  I was very impressed with the place and its history and wrote a book in my head based very loosely on it.  It was a ghost story about a woman who wanted the truth of her family to be known.  It ended with a gruesome discovery from the early 19th century, at which time the ghost went away.  I later decided it needed a kicker at the end, a bit of a twist, but one that made other parts of the story make sense.

This story was quickly forgotten.

Until now. Continue reading