Tag Archive: ideas



This week I got 8 people lined up as “Beta-Readers” for my second novel “THE SHIP”.

For those not familiar with beta-readers, they are basically test readers for you book.  They will read the story and give you feedback on what they thought of it.  But what kind of feedback am I talking about?

Well this may vary from writer to writer.  For me I’m looking for the following feedback:

1-Did they like the story? (this is a given, I have to know whether or not the story is even working for my readers in the first place)

2-How was the pacing?  Did the story drag a lot, or was it too-fast paced and hard to keep up with?

3-Were the characters likable and did you come to care about them?  Did they intrigue you?  Did you want to see more of them in the future?  (I’m working on an ongoing series where I will rotate some of the cast from time to time)

4-Spelling errors?  (I’ve done my best but some things will still slip past me so a few more sets of eyes doesn’t hurt)

5-Grammatical issues?  (I’ve chosen my team from a variety of people including a few authors and grammar nazis who will be more than willing to point out areas of concern)

6-Did the story flow well?  Were there areas where there were contradictions in who was where during an action sequence?  Was there an idea that got confused and hard to follow?

7-FINALLY: What did they think of the piece overall?

This is a lot of questions I know, but this is the book’s testing ground.  One of your last chances to work out the bugs and iron out any problems before you unleash your work on the public.  And trust me, sometimes the public can be unforgiving and harsh.  Remember, most of them will be putting out money to buy your work, so make sure you strive to put out a really good product.  Your reputation is on the line whenever you put out a book.  Never slack off on quality or it’ll hurt the sales of your next book.

As I mentioned earlier in this entry, I’m doing a series.  So one of the things I made sure to do was get at least a couple of beta-readers who did NOT read the first book.  People are not always going to buy your books in order, so make sure you keep each story neat and self-contained that anyone can jump into whatever part of your series they happen to spot.  Give enough references to past events from earlier books so intrigue them enough to maybe want to check out the earlier books, but not detract from the one in their hands at that moment.

Beta-Readers can help your work tremendously.  And like editors, you don’t have to take EVERY suggestion they make to improve the book.  You want to keep faithful to your own vision, but weigh the pros and cons for each change.  Some may prove to be a master-stroke, while others may not.  After all beta-readers will not know your long-term vision for your book and have all the insights you do.  So be careful how you take their advice.

Finally, always be gracious even if they give advice you don’t agree with. Remember, they’re trying to help your book become something even better.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Nanowrimo Is Coming….


Well, one third of October is gone already and Halloween is coming.  But so is something more terrifying, at least for those who brave the challenge.  November is Nanowrimo Month and I’ve signed up for it.  For anyone unfamiliar with Nanowrimo, it’s quite simple.  Starting on November 1st you have until the November 30th to write 50,000 words of a brand new novel.  That’s right.  You start a brand new novel from scratch at the beginning of the month and try to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days.  It doesn’t mean the novel has to be completed, you just have to have written that amount of words for your novel.

Now to some this sounds easy, to others it sounds daunting.  The object here is not to create finished product, but a first draft and have those 50,000 words of it done by the end of the month.  It has been calculated that a person would need to do 1666 words per day, without missing a single day to make this goal.  Easy right?  Wrong!  In my case, I will have to fight perfectionist tendencies and resist the temptation to go back and redo certain sections I’ve already written.  This happens to me all the time while writing.  So this will be one of the major challenges of the exercise.  I have to remind myself that fixing areas and rewriting scenes is what 2nd, 3rd and 4th drafts are for.  The purpose here is to get that 1st draft done period.

I’m hoping this experience will help me overcome that problem, which is one of the reasons why my 2nd novel has been taking so long.  I keep going back and fixing areas or changing things which affect the rest of the 1st draft so I wind up doing more fixes elsewhere instead of just getting the damn story finished so I can go back and make changes.  An unfinished story is an unfinished story, period.  We’re not meant to have a perfect 1st draft, just a full story.

Oddly enough, I didn’t have this problem with my 1st novel “The Bridge”.  It was more like a Nanowrimo story.  I got the 1st draft done and then spent weeks cleaning it up.  I need to get back to that mindset.  Why did I change my habits?  I think because I’m more aware of how rough the 1st draft of “The Bridge” was and I’m afraid of wincing over and over again at what I’ve done and trying to fix it.  Getting a cleaner 1st draft seems to be what I’m trying for with “The Ship”, but it’s hampering my attempt to get to the final big climactic scene.  I have to remind myself that those errors will be caught LATER!  I dont’ have to work on them now.

As for what I’ve got planned for Nanowrimo?  Well, it will involve vampires with the typical weaknesses of legend, yet there will be a twist that makes it fit in my Para-Earth Universe.    That’s all I’ll say.  I’m creating a bit of an outline and getting my characters lined up and getting to know who they are before I begin on November 1st.  All of this is permitted in the rules.  You just can’t start writing the actual story until November 1st.

So here’s to Nanowrimo.  If you want to take a crack at it yourself, here’s the link to sign up:

http://nanowrimo.org/

I’ll be talking more about Nanowrimo in the coming weeks so stay tuned.  I’ll try not to bore you all with it, but just share some of what I’m going through as it happens.  I promise to still post about different parts of the writing process and giving tips.  So until next time, good luck and keep writing.

PS: Here’s a sneak peak at what the cover for my Nanowrimo project may be.  It’s not the final product, more of a work in progress.  I want to do some more tweaking to the image, but I think this is close to what the final image may wind up being.

Apple MacBook Pro laptop

Inspiration From History…


Roanoke The Lost Colony

 

CROATOAN

A lone word carved on a pillar of a fort that had once housed a colony of 90 people from 1587 until 1588 or ’89 perhaps?  Who can say, because in 1590, there was no trace of the colonists who had made the isle of Roanoake their new home.  No sign of a struggle or battle could be found, and the local native Americans on the island proclaimed no white men had ever settled there.
Roanoake, or “The Lost Colony” as it has come to be called, is an actual mystery right out of early American history.  Many ideas and theories have been put forward to explain the disappearance of the nearly 100 settlers, but no hard evidence has been discovered to say exactly which theory if any is the correct one.  As for the word carved in the lone pillar “Croatoan”, what did that have to do with anything?  Well according to those who’d come to check on the settlers in 1590, a plan had been set in place where that word would be left in plain sight if the settlers decided to pull up stakes and flee to another nearby island.  The name of that island was Croatoan (today it is called Hatteras).
But again, there has been no solid evidence found to prove the settlers did indeed go that island.  They might have been lost at sea, or changed their minds and dispersed elsewhere.  No one knows.  Again, it remains a mystery.
So what does this have to do with writing.  Two words “inspiration” and “ideas”.  With an unsolved mystery like this, a writer can have a lot of leeway to build an entire story around what might have happened.  Now I was first introduced to the story of Roanoke when I was in grade school.  Naturally I was immediately fascinated by the story and kept wondering what might have happened.  Of course, being so young I never really did anything with it.  But the idea of coming up with an explanation, even a fictional one always stayed with me.
Today, as I’ve gotten about 3/4’s of the way through my second novel, I’ve finally found a use for this historical mystery.  The story does not focus around the mystery or Roanoke, but does utilize it in a very effective manner.  Without giving too much away, I’m using a fictional scene of what happened to help demonstrate the power and age of the ‘Big Baddy’ in my novel.  Something that has lasted for over 400 years and is still creating new terror in modern day.
But one does not have to simply rely on unsolved mysteries from history to get ideas.  Oh no.  History is chock full of events you can focus on or have play a part in your story.  Disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York 1911, is another example.  According to the records the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, LOCKED and BLOCKED all emergency exits, effectively locking in their workers to make sure they got a full day’s work out of them.  The conditions inside the factory were attrocious and extremely unsafe.  Literally a disaster waiting to happen.  And in 1911 it did.  A fire broke out and raced throughout the building.  And of course with the doors all locked, no one could get out.  Many jumped to their deaths from the upper story windows rather than burn.
Now there is no mystery to what happened in that factory, just simple facts.  But a writer can build a story around the circumstances leading up to and including such a disaster.  It doesn’t have to be Triangle Factory fire.  A fictional factory or place under similar conditions can be created along with reasons for the disaster.  What if it had been done on purpose?  Lives sacrificed, but for what reason?
History gives us a lot to work with.  You only have to look into a subject that is of interest to you.  Maybe it was a rumor or event you read about when you were a kid that always stuck with you.  Or perhaps just curiosity or a fascination with a subject you have.  Explore that subject through history and see if you get some ideas.  There’s plenty for us to work with folks.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Okay fellow writers, here’s a question for you all.  How many of  you find yourselves working and reworking a scene because something just isn’t right?  In your mind, you know what you’d like to happen, but something just doesn’t seem to be working right.  You make a change here, then a slight a tweek there and suddenly everything goes KAFLOOEY!    You suddenly hit a dead end, or the entire plot has taken a detour to No-wheres-ville.  When this happens to me, I get the same feelings I had whenever I tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  I know all the parts and where I think they should go, but they’re just not in the right spot.  And trying to get them in their proper place can be a nightmare some days.

Now this has happened to me on a number of occasions.  Some people tell me to have an outline, but that never works for me.  Why?  Because my characters start going in other directions by saying or doing things I hadn’t originally planned.  Admittedly I let them get away with it, but only if what they’re doing seems to be working better than what I originally planned.  Sometimes this works, but not always.  When it doesn’t I do one of two things:  I’ll delete it completely and try again OR  I’ll save the scene in a separate folder on my computer.  You never know when an unused scene can be useful later in your present story, or could wind up being perfect for another book entirely.

Personally, I kind of like it when I can just delete the scene because then I get to point and laugh at my characters saying, “See?  I told you this wasn’t going to work… NEENER-NEENER.”   Unfortunately, I tend to do this out loud and get some really strange looks from anyone within a 30 foot radius.    It’s at this point my unseen characters got to point and laugh right back at me, which is really annoying because they know I still need them and can’t kill them off.  Damn, my creations can be annoying at times.

Anyway, getting back to my original point.  Writing a scene can be quite frustrating and difficult at times.  But, there are many ways   of tackling this problem:

-You might change who’s in the scene, keep the ones who are most poignant and add someone else from the cast.  This can change the tension levels and the entire feel of the moment.

-Change the location where the action is happening.  Maybe the setting is the problem and you can get more out of a different location.

-Is a major piece of information about to be revealed in this scene?   If so how much of it do you really have to unveil at this moment?  Maybe you should only reveal a portion of the information.  You can whet the appetite of both the characters and the audience with this method.  By doing this your characters can go off half-cocked, which can make for some very interesting scenes as they make any number of mistakes or jump to wrong conclusions.  I personally like this because the character who isn’t perfect, and learns from their mistakes, is someone the audience can really relate to sometimes.  On the other hand the characters can aware that something is still missing and we can follow their efforts to learn more which can lead to some very tense and exciting scenes as well.

So, don’t be afraid to tear apart a scene that’s frustrating you.   Try some really different ways of reworking it.  And if you find yourself still hitting a wall, ask yourself  if the scene is truly relevant in that particular point of the story.  Maybe it can be replaced by an entirely different scene that can serve a similar purpose.    Who knows, you may wind up with something that opens new avenues for your plot that are even more interesting than what you originally had in mind.

What other methods or tricks have you come up with?  I’m sure everyone reading this would be  interested because we’re all trying learn from one another when it comes to writing.  So please leave your experiences and suggestions down in the comments section below.

And for the record,I did finally defeat the dreaded Rubik’s Cube.  Mind you I did not remove the decals and change them around (which is something my wife did when she was kid).  Nor did I take the cube apart and reassemble it so the colors matched up.  What did I do?  Simple, I spray painted the entire thing silver and used it for a paperweight.  A very creative solution, don’t you think?


Well, a new month has begun and here I am already doing another entry about writing.  This is what happens when the muse takes hold and has something to say.  I hope you all enjoy today’s installment.

Yesterday, against my better judgement, I started writing a second book.  Mind you  I’m still working on “The Ship” which is the sequel to my first novel “The Bridge”.  But I was having troubles with “The Ship”.  I was making progress, but it was so slow I was going crazy at times.  I would write over a 1000 words in one day and then dump about half of them because they weren’t moving the plot along or really helping develop the characters as much.  I kept what did seem to be working and built on that the next day.  Sometimes this is one way of dealing with Writer’s Block for me.

Then yesterday, something else happened.  An idea for a different book that is part of my Para-Earth series started gelling like no one’s business.  It had sat on the back-burner for so long now it was boiling over.  Scenes and characters started coming to life to such an extent I had only one of three options:

A) Start writing the book

B) Leave it alone and hope I don’t forget all this great stuff that was coming up

C) Start taking notes and outlining the damn thing for later.

I tried opting for C but next thing I knew I had written the opening scene of the book and was plunging forward with the project.  Tentatively I’m calling it “The Vampire Blogs”.  And as a homage to Bram Stoker who gave us “Dracula” I’m doing it as a series of journal and blog entries.  I’m choosing this route because I knew I wanted to do the entire book in the 1st person perspective.  Now most 1st person narratives stick with just one character throughout the entire story. This is a great device for a mystery or thriller because the audience can only know as much as the main character.  So when he/she gets surprised by something they didn’t know, so are we.

However, I knew from the start I’d need to be showing the audience what was going on in several different people’s heads while using the 1st person voice.  So how was I going to pull that off without confusing the hell out of my readers?  I turned to my “Spare Brain”, my wife Helen who is more well read than me, and asked for advice.  She told me that from what she could recall it had been done before but that it could be tricky.  Then she struck on the idea of paying homage to Mr. Stoker and instead of just letters and journals, use blogs and journals on the internet since I was using a modern day setting.  This was a masterstroke on her part.  I now had a clear path of how to switch heads and keep the “I” voice without confusing the audience.  The other thing I loved was the fact that I could build more suspense by letting the audience know things that only some of the characters were aware of.  Nothing gets an audience going like seeing some of what’s coming and realizing the characters don’t have a clue about it yet.  Plus you can still surprise your audience at times because they don’t necessarily know everything about the characters or the situation.  They know only what your characters have shared with them so far.

Let’s Talk Settings….


Well folks the response from my question about posting more about writing, and the different aspects that make up a story,  was overwhelmingly positive.  So here is my first posting in that vein.  Today I’m talking a bit about “settings” for your story.  Now settings do more than just give the reader a location where the action is taking place.  Settings do much, much more to the story.   They can be a mere backdrop or they can have a definite impact on how your characters are shaped.  How they become the people they are when we meet them in your story can be very much affected by their settings.

For instance… where does your story take place?  In Heaven?  Hell?  Another planet? This world?  If it is this world, what time frame?  Middle Ages? The future?  World War I or II?  Another time entirely?  And how does that setting affect the rest of your story?  Does the environment your characters are living in shape their personalities or how they get by in life?  Are they isolated with few friends because of the terrain or location?   Are they considered the outsider by the rest of the population who has been brainwashed to fit in and act a certain way by a higher authority?  In Frank Herbert’s “DUNE”, the setting of Arakis had a major role in shaping the main character Paul and his mother.  From leaving a world of splendor with water and lush vegetation to going to a barren desert planet, where water was more valuable than money or any riches.  The dangerous and harsh world re-shapes Paul from pampered youth to hard-bitten leader of the desert tribes of Arakis.  He learns hard and fast how to survive the threats of the planet itself, along with the political backstabbing that led to his father’s murder.  Setting can create a great tension that helps drive your story.

A setting can also be the major plot of a story as well.  In Ray Bradbury’s short sci-fi story “HERE THERE BY TYGERS” a planet itself is the main plot point.  A survey team for a mining company arrive on a planet that is sentient.  It offers them anything they could ever wish for: food, lush vegetation, water, even companionship.  It is a living paradise with the most gigantic and caring hostess you could ever meet.  Unfortunately, through the actions of one of their team, they learn the price of disrespect.  He is killed after purposely trying to hurt the planet by drilling samples in a savage manner.  He hates all planets and feels they must be beaten down and tamed.  In the end, the rest of the crew decide to return home, all save one member who has fallen in love with the planet. The others learn of his departure AFTER they have left and envy him.  They know the planet will take care of him and even maybe extend his life in a lush world that aims to please him.  But they can never return.  Even as they look back on the world it now ‘appears’ as a violent raging world of molten lava and volcanic eruptions.  They realize that the world was in a way a woman who had offered them everything.  But they had scorned her and now she is furious and will not let them return to her surface.   A truly brilliant piece.

So what kind of setting are you aiming for?  An inner-city ghetto?  A desert where an army is trying to deal with survival in more than one respect?  Or are you creating a  quiet suburban town where ‘nothing seems to happen’.  In each case your characters must interact with their surroundings.  That setting should shape your character’s personality and development before and during the story.  In that quiet suburban town where your lead is bored, what secrets lie beneath the ground or behind those seeming bland windows of the cookie-cutter housing that lines the streets.

Settings are powerful tools and not just backdrops.   Keep this in mind as you write, because you never know.  The setting you create may be one that you’ll want to return to again because there are more tales to be told from there.


I wanted to say thank you to everyone who took part in my “Hobbit Birthday Party Weekend”.  Whether you picked up a copy of the book or helped promote it, thank you so much.  We all know getting the word out about a brand new book is more than half the battle for Indie Authors.  So this was a real shot in the arm.  I’m pleased to say that 39 people took advantage and snapped up a free copy through Smashwords over the last 3 days.  I felt somewhat vindicated for not going the KDP route, where I would have had to given them the exclusive e-book distribution and sales for up to 90 days.  I know Amazon is bigger and has a wider reach, but I never felt right about cutting off Nook, Apple and other e-reader customers.  So thanks for letting me know I did the right thing.

 

Now, I’ve never done a free e-book promotion before, so any of your more experienced authors please let me know if 39 was a good number or not.  I’m still learning as I go along this path.  As a result of the promotion I already got one 5 Star review that is now up on Smashwords.  I’m hoping for many more reviews, since it helps promote more sales or so I’ve read.

 

Today I’ll be working on my e-press release kit and then a physical one as well.  I also have to do research to find out who/where to send press releases to.  This is seeming to be the next big hurdle for me so if anyone has advice please leave it here, it would be greatly appreciated.

 

Finally, book number 2 “THE SHIP” is coming along nicely.  The first draft is about 1/3-1/2 done at this point.  I’ll be doing more drafts of course to clean things up and make sure the pacing is going well.  But even more importantly, to make sure I’m keeping the readers’ interest.  The new book has a similar fun feel to the first, but it’s also feeling quite different to me.  Mostly because I’m dealing with different leading characters, who were prominent in the first book.  But now the focus is on these two women developing their new romantic relationship as well as dealing with new and old enemies.  I’m trying to keep a balance between the nervous romance of two people getting to know each other more deeply, while also developing the secrets they haven’t shared.  It’s an interesting experience for me as a writer.  I know that in the end their relationship will have gone much further, but to make it happen gradually while not losing the fun ‘banter’ that a lot of people enjoyed in the first novel is quite a balancing act.  But, this is still the first draft.  Creating just the right balance is what 2nd and 3rd drafts (along with edits) are for.

 

Take care and have a great week everyone.

 

 

“THE BRIDGE” is coming….


Just got the word today from Createspace, I have finally formatted the interior of the book, the cover art, the back cover, the spine, etc. to their specifications and it’s is now PRINTABLE!  I know there’s a lot of stuff I just mentioned that some of you may not be familiar with, but you can find out more about it in detail on my other blog:

“Musings Of A Creative Mind” at:  http://allankrummenacker.blogspot.com/

That blog is all about the process of writing.  Now I will be adding things to take into consideration while making your own e-books.

But here, I want to wax a little philosophically.   It hit me after I saw the e-mail saying the book was ready for my final review proof that a lot of my life experiences are coming together in this venture.  I’ve been an artist ever since I was in junior high school, and now those talents came into play in creating this book.

I’m also going to have to start marketing and getting my novel and myself known by going to Libraries, bookstores, contacting local radio stations, and newspapers as well to get the word out as well.  A lot of those same skills I used back in my days of being a Realtor/Mortgage Loan Officer.

But it doesn’t stop there.  I’m going to be considered self-employed by Uncle Sam and anything I make off this book the US Government and the IRS are going to want a piece of come next year.  So now I’ll be tracking all my expenses in relation to selling my book.  Now automatically, Createspace is going to keep 30% of whatever I make off each sale and set it aside for me for tax purposes next year.  But what about my ordering physical copies so I can mail signed copies to those who want ones like that?  What about going to conventions or giving talks?  Heck, even the gas I use going to the post office and back are expenses I need to keep track of in order to claim them on my tax return.  Again, I did all of that before when I was in real estate.

My years of being part of the sci-fi fan community is also coming into play.  I’m going to be offering myself as a speaker at those conventions and trying to sell some copies in person as well.  I have a large network of friends in that community and this book is going to be right up their alley too.  And I know a number of them will be only too willing to help me spread the word and find other venues to spread my work around.

In all it feels like so many aspects of my life are suddenly coming together in this writing venture, and it give me hope.  I can’t help wondering if somehow all I’ve done in the past has been leading up to this career.  And maybe I’m just full it and have just got a head full of  “WOW I’m being published…” and everything seems rosy and I need to take some glasses off.  Who knows?  Time will tell.  But as long as I’m ready to fight and work to make this pay off and spread the word, I’ll hope for the first part to be the truth.

Anyway, thanks for your time and I’ll be posting again soon.  Hopefully with news that the book is ready for sale.  In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of other work to do still.  Like setting up the Createspace store that automatically comes with signing up and publishing with them.  I’m planning on some other items besides having just the novel available.  Some T-shirts and mugs with quotes and images will be available there too.  At least, that’s what I’m hoping.  Stay tuned everyone and thanks for following me.  This journey is FAR from over, it’s only just beginning a new stage…


By now,  you all know I’ve been working on the book cover for my Paranormal/Mystery/Sci-Fi novel “THE BRIDGE”.   It’s been an interesting experience, which I do not recommend it for everyone unless you’re an artist yourself.  It has it’s pros and cons.  In my case I love having way more control over the creation of the image that is going to basically be my “Introductory Handshake” to the world.  Remember, this is going to be my debut novel and I want to catch peoples attention who have no idea what to expect when they first see the cover.

Now, I’ve seen images used on books that I thought were interesting but did not always have all that much to do with what actually happened in the story itself.  In fact, I’m sad to say, there were a few where the image was more interesting looking than the story.  But what really got me on occasion was where there was some kind of really cool scene on the cover that never appears in the story.  I felt cheated in a way.  Oh the story might have been a good one, but part of me really felt frustrated by that ‘missing scene’.  Now, I know we all want to capture the audiences imagination and interest, but I want to make sure I’m being fair about it.

Now in my case, since the title of my novel is “THE BRIDGE” I could’ve just gone with a bridge from around the right time-frame as the one in that appears in my story.  But while picturesque, I wanted to add some clues as to what or who the reader may encounter on that bridge.   So I decided to add a figure and one in particular stood out in my mind, the “White Lady”.   She is a ghostly figure who haunts the bridge, supposedly searching for the baby she lost from it many years ago.   But by the same token I wanted to raise some questions in the viewer’s eyes.  Why does her hair seem to flow and move like Medusa’s?  Is she even human?  Are we seeing some kind of Gorgon?  Or is she something much more unique and different?

We all need to get  the viewers attention by capturing their interest in some subtle or intriguing manner with our book covers.  Mind you, not all covers have to be like the old movie posters of Star Wars where we see the tall and impressive Darth Vader looming in the background while Luke and company (who appear much smaller at the bottom) are racing to meet the HUGE threat overshadowing them.  It depends on the story itself.  It can be subtle with an intriguing character who somehow catches our interest with their good looks or pose.  Or can be even more subtle, a building or structure that evokes emotions or a memory that draws the audience towards it.

I’m learning that a lot goes into the creation of a book cover.  Luckily I’ve had years of artistic training to draw upon to help me reason out what kind of image I wanted to use.  Who or what the ‘star’ of the image was going to be and what kind of backdrop or stage would be helping frame it.

Well, the cover is nearing what I hope will be the final stages.  Here’s where it stands now, I hope you enjoy it and that this entry has given you all some good ideas of what to keep in mind when making or getting someone else to make the cover of your book.   Take care.

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Here is the 3rd installment of my 4 part video story about me and my wife moving away from Santa Cruz to the Monterey Bay Area.

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