Tag Archive: plot



When I started out on this writing journey, I never saw myself as someone who could a whole bunch of writing projects going at the same time.  That kind of thing was reserved for some of the great prolific authors like Isaac Asimov, who was notorious for working on multiple projects on a regular basis.  The man insisted on having a portable typewriter or two wherever he went.  And if he couldn’t get his hands on a typewriter, he’d pull out a pad of paper and a bunch of pencils/pens and wrote the old fashion way, long hand.

But me, I could never picture myself even thinking about working on more than one story at a time.  In fact, the very first novel I started working on was set in the early 1800’s and I had gotten about 2/3’s of the way through the tale when my wife pointed out that a historical piece would be harder to market.  On hearing this, I gave it some thought and put the story aside and began a whole new piece which eventually turned into my first published novel “The Bridge”.

After finishing that book, I thought about going back to the piece from the 1800’s, but wound up moving forward with my current characters, one of which had connections to the family who were featured in my unfinished work.  However, moving forward was still difficult.   I was taking college classes which of course made excessive demands on my time.  But that was only natural.  School had to come first, however when we moved to Marina so Helen could attend CSU Monterey Bay, I took two years off from studies and focused more on my writing.  Which in turn led to my finally finishing “The Ship” which I released back in 2014.

From there I began work on a third book with those characters, which is still underway at this point and time.  What happened?  I was having difficulties in building the story, things were getting too complicated.  Too many characters, too many ideas, it was turning into something too unwieldy.  Yet I still wanted to be writing, so I wound up putting it aside and started up “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”.

With that book I had a more clear idea of where I wanted things to go, who the characters were, and how it would end.  Plus, I had a co-author, namely my wife Helen who had been my consultant on the first two books.  Mind you it still took another 2 years before this book was ready to for release, however I didn’t mind it so much.  Why?  Because I had started up another blog, called The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition  https://thevampyreblogs.wordpress.com/, where I was regularly writing short stories involving different characters who were to appear in the novel.  The idea behind this was to  build an audience for the book before it was released and create a loyal following.  Yet by doing this, something wonderful happened.

I wound up training my brain to think about more than one story at a time.  Writing all those shorts, was a great exercise and now I find myself thinking about multiple storylines on a regular basis.  Now why is this such a big deal to me?  I’ll tell you in my next entry.

I know, I know, I’m cutting things off just when things are getting even more interesting, but this post is getting pretty long and I still have much to say.   So please be patient and I WILL have the 2nd installment up in a week.  Until then, take care and keep writing my friends.


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.

2nd Drafts, How I Handle Them…


As of today I’m already a third of the way through the 2nd draft of “The Ship”.  Progress has been good and I’ve been pleased with how things are going.  There will probably be a 3rd draft as well.  What happens after that?  Well, that’s a tale for another entry.

Today I wish to discuss how I deal with a 2nd drafts.  I handle 3rd and 4th drafts the same way, so don’t expect any blog entries on those.  It’s the same process all over again to try catch whatever I missed on the previous draft.

Like many authors, I’ve been learning a lot of things on my own.  There’s no exact set of rules for how to do  write and create a book, though many people have tried to explain it.  Every author is going to handle things differently, whether its how they create a story (with an outline, flying by the seat of your pants, etc.) to editing, proofreading, whatever.  Different things work for different people.

In my case how I handle dealing with 2nd drafts is pretty straightforward.  After I complete the first draft on my computer and save it.  I will then save it again using the “Save As” function and labeling it differently.  In this case “The Ship 2nd Draft”.  From there I will begin going over the entire story, page by page.  I already know what the current word count is (139,806 in this case).  I know this is one of the things I want to change about the book.  I also want to keep track of the pacing of the story, as well as watch out for ideas or concepts being repeated unnecessarily.

I proceed to go over the story line by line.  As I go along I try to keep an eye out for excess verbage such as “he/she said” because it’s usually pretty easy to tell who was speaking.  Another thing I watch out for are sentences beginning with “now” or “but”.  Sometimes I’ll use them unnecessarily, and also, if used too often they can be a little jarring to the eyes of the reader.

Another thing I’ll be looking for as I go along is how well I phrased certain ideas.  Does it read smoothly or is there something not quite right.  I may rewrite a paragraph or line and make it more easy to understand and pleasing to the eye.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll also be keeping an eye out for plot points or ideas being repeated in two or more areas of the novel.  I don’t know about you, but I spend weeks or even months writing a novel.  So I sometimes I forget what I wrote a few weeks back and wind up repeating myself later in the story.  This happened a lot in my first novel “The Bridge”.  However, I seem to have gotten better about it, because I haven’t been finding that happening as often in “The Ship”.

Finally, one other thing I’ll do as I go along is see if every scene, or even characters, are really relevant to the story.  I have removed characters, or even entire scenes, more than once from my stories.  I’ll do this because either the character or subplot is not really needed, or they feel really out of place and don’t belong in this particular story.

I’ve also removed lengthy scenes and simplified them because I plan on using the much longer version as the basis for a follow up short story, or another novel entirely.  Certain references that appear in “The Ship” will be expanded upon in a collection of short stories I’m planning on doing down the road.

So that’s an overview of how I handle 2nd, 3rd and 4th drafts.  All of these things help to cut down the word count as well as allow me to tighten the story up and improve the overall piece.  Mind you, I still plan on getting the book edited by others.  I’m just particular about getting the entire story down and told in a certain way before I let anyone else even get a glimpse of it.

As I said at the beginning, how I handle drafts and rewrites may not be the same as other people.  What’s your way of dealing with 2nd drafts and rewrites?  Enquiring writing minds would like to know, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below, this way we can all benefit and learn from each other.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.


For those of you who haven’t heard yet, my father-in-law has been fighting cancer for the last year.  Unfortunately, he’s fought the good fight but due to masses of blood clots in his head, they cannot finish the job.  So he is now in hospice care at home.  As you can imagine my wife, myself, and our family are devastated and are trying to spend as much time with him as we can.    So I won’t be posting as much, but I don’t want my readers to be left without much new here.

 

So I’m offering you all the chance to post articles about writing here on my blog.  Feel free to push a book or books of yours, but please offer some tidbits or story about an aspect of writing and how it affected that particular book(s).   I’m looking for insights into plot, editing, characters, development, rewrites, cover art, publishing, agents, self-publishing, etc.  Again, all I ask is that if your pushing  book, make sure the article connects to it.

 

I look forward to hearing back from those who are interested.  And by the way, if you have an old entry from your own blog that fits what I’m looking for and would like to update it or just reproduce it for the audience here, that would be okay as well.  Just let me know.

 

Thanks and take care of yourselves everyone.  I’ll be posting and keeping you all updated on what’s happening with my father-in-law and the family.


I’ve been on a roll recently with novel #2 “THE SHIP”.  I mean I got some serious wordage down, like over 10,000 words in a couple of days, which I thought was impressive.  But then it happened…  I hit a wall.  Not literally of course, just figuratively.  My story suddenly ground to a halt and I had no idea how to get out of the corner I’d put myself in.

 

Sometimes, writing can be like going through a maze.  You go straight, come to a junction turn right, go a ways, make a left, straight, another left, etc. and you really feel like you’re making progress.  In fact, you’ll be out of this thing in no time… then you come to a dead end and you have no idea what went wrong.  Sometimes, you can pull out a hammer and chisel, or a huge drill like Wile E Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons and make your own way out.

 

At first I pulled out the ACME Super-Atomic Laser Drill to get out of my current dilemma and get the story moving again.  Unfortunately this led to a new problem.   My efforts did not FLOW with the rest of the story.  In fact it felt forced and was throwing the book out of whack.  And it was going to be very obvious to the reader.

 

So, I chose another route.  I took a few steps back and retraced my path to see how I got into this mess in the first place.  I wound up losing a lot of the word count I had been so proud of, but it was necessary in order to find the problem.  It turned out I was adding in too many characters into the story.  I already had a fair number of people who were already more than adequate and able to fulfill the same function as these newcomers I’d created.  Now I had a choice to make.  Should I be using the new people just to give them a cameo and then have them disappear from this story, in order to use them in a bigger role in another book?  For this had been the plan.  The problem was where I was inserting them.  The timing was all wrong, I was putting them in a the wrong spot.  Furthermore, I had to ask myself, were they really needed at all?

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you may want a character(s) for a cameo in your current work because you plan to bring them back in another work where they will play a more major role.  But you have to place them just right, especially if their role is not critical to your current story.  This is what happened to me.  Where I was placing them in my story, would have logically necessitated their continuing appearance and involvement in the story.  It wouldn’t have made sense to just bring them on and then dump them afterwards, especially when they’re the parents of one of your two main characters.

 

So, I looked over the scene where I brought them in and asked myself, how can I simplify things?  Do I have characters available (including my current batch of supporting ones) who can fulfill the same function without causing a major disruption?  The answer was yes.  In fact, the ones I chose actually made the transition to the next scene much easier.  So that’s the route I chose.

 

Now, I know that in real life we meet a number of different people every day, who may or may not play a major part in our day.  But that’s different from a book.  In a book, your audience is already trying to keep track of a number of characters you’ve already created.  It’s not always a good idea to overload the reader and expect them to be able to juggle who’s who and where they came in.  So little cameos that serve no real purpose can be a problem.

 

However, if you’re laying down a hint of something major to come later in your current story or a future one,, that’s different.  But even then, the timing of the cameo must be just right to make that character’s cameo memorable.  Plus you may seriously want to give the reader a major hint there is more to this person and we we will be meeting them again one day.  I did this with one of my two villains in “THE SHIP”.  He showed up a couple of times in “THE BRIDGE”, and the way I did it left my readers fully aware that this was the start of a series and he’d be back.  I got a number of e-mails asking about him after people had read “THE BRIDGE”, which let me know I had done a good job.

 

So sometimes we need to keep things simple, not just for the readers but for ourselves as well.  Make your story enjoyable and easy to follow.  And if you are writing a series, it’s good to leave your readers with hints or mysteries that more is to come.  But don’t overwhelm them by leaving too many mysteries unanswered at once.  You may wind up confusing or disappointing your readers when you don’t follow up on the one they wanted you to explore.  It’s important to play fair, remember without loyal readers and fans, you may wind up without an audience.

 

So be careful about how you load up your story.  Keep it simple enough to follow, without losing the complexities and twists that keep your readers coming back for more.

 

Until next time, take car and keep writing.


As you all know I’ve been working on my second and third novels for a while now.  Mostly the second one which has been taking longer than I had anticipated.  At first I wondered why this was so?  I was much more experienced since my first go-round with completing a book.  I’ve learned a lot of the pitfalls and mistakes that can be made by now.  So I should be able to crank this puppy out in no time right?  WRONG!

Now before I proceed, remember I’m only speaking for myself and what I’m experiencing in this process.  I’m still very much on the learning curve and I would love to hear some of your experiences down in the comments section below.  You may very well wind up giving insight to other issues I haven’t thought about yet, which could be very helpful.

Anyway, as I said before the process is taking longer than I’d hoped.  I originally figured I’d be laying down the plot for book four by now, while having book three 2/3’s of the way done.  So what’s been happening?  Why am I working so slowly?  I think it’s several things.

First, folks who’ve read “The Bridge” really loved it even with the imperfect editing job I’d done on my own since I couldn’t afford a professional editor.   Yet the readers were willing to overlook any issues on that front because they were swept up on the story.  Plus they fell in love with the characters and how they interacted (especially with Alex and Veronica).  So, there are high expectations for “The Ship”.  However, I’ve shifted the focus to the second lead couple Julie and Cassandra, and relegated Alex and Veronica to a few brief chapters in the new book.  But what happens to them is still connected to the new story and has major implications for book #3.

So with the shift in attention to Julie and Cassie I’m dealing with a whole new situation.  They have a much different relationship and chemistry.  Alex and Veronica already had long term relationship when we met them.  But Cassie and Julie are just beginning a romantic relationship.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with their story, Julie and Cassie are lesbians.  So right there the dynamics of their interactions are going to be a bit different, and not just because they are both women.  I’m approaching their situation like I would any two people who have just become a couple, but I’m also keeping in mind the added pressure and worries of being gay.  They know there will be those who disapprove of their being together, including some members of their own families.  And I’m trying to make their developing relationship both tender and realistic, rather than a male fantasy where they are just eager to jump into bed with each other.  I want to the audience to see them as real people, not just stereotypes or caricatures.

But I also have to keep the reader engaged by getting them to care about these two young ladies.  So I have to juggle events and scenes in such a way to keep the audience laughing, intrigued and rooting for them while slowly building threat of the approaching danger and mystery that Julie and Cassie are about to become enmeshed in.

Now another issue is the pacing of the story.  People loved how I did it in the first book.  It wasn’t too fast, nor too slow.  And I kept breaking off scenes in such a way as to make the reader eager to turn the page so they could start on the next chapter.   Not as easy as it sounds, at least for me.  But I believe I’m succeeding in keeping this up with the new book.

Another problem is too many details or unnecessary scenes.  This is something I encountered with the first book.  But in that case I didn’t realize how much of a problem it was until after I finished the first draft and then re-read everything.  This time I keep catching the problem as I’m still working on the first draft, which means I go back edit and rewrite as I’m going along.  Or, I’ll find a scene I wrote earlier works better in a section I’m currently working on, so I have to pull it out and move it.  Then I have to go back to where I had it and fix any issues the change made to that area.

Plus there are other issues as well, which I may cover in another entry.  But this gives you a good insight to what’s going on for me as the author.  Again I’d love to hear from some of you about what you’ve encountered with your writing.  I am using a ‘mental’ outline in my head.  I tried writing one out but kept changing it over and over as I went along that it looked more like a bad set of directions that could get the most experienced cartographer to throw up his/her hands in surrender.  Everyone has their own style.  Plus, my characters have a tendency to change the plan as I go along by coming up with alternative ideas that were better than the ones I’d had in mind.

So again I’m making progress, just a bit slower than I’d planned.  How is/was the writing process for you on your 2nd, 3rd or even 7th book?  I’m sure both me and the other readers would love to hear about it.  Please tell us about your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks to tuning in and I’m looking forward to hearing what you all have to say.  Take care and thanks for reading.


Okay, in my last entry I disclosed I was working on a vampire novel.  Now this is a genre that has been done and redone so many times it’s unbelievable.  And almost every time there are new twists and turns added to it that they barely seem to resemble the traditional vampires that Bela Legosi and Christopher Lee made legendary in Hollywood.  Today we have vampires that just totally ooze sex appeal, can sparkle in daylight instead of turning to dust, can have sex and produce offspring, are either monsters or saints, etc.  And they are still as popular as ever in spite of all the changes to the original legend.

 

Now I’m not just talking about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.  That was not the first vampire story.  There were many others. If you ever get the opportunity check out “The Penguin Book Of Vampire Stories” and you’ll see ones that predate Mr. Stoker’s work by quite a few years.  But in that collection you’ll also meet other kinds of vampires: snow vampires, ones who hide inside portratis, aliens on different planets, etc.  In this collection there are creatures of all sorts and shapes that are still called vampires.

 

This brings me to today’s subject.  How can you breathe new life into a genre that has been written about so many times over?  Well that’s up to the writer.  As in the case of Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer and others, they tweek the original vampire concept to suit their story ideas.  Sometimes they provide and explanation about why their creations don’t adhere to all the old legends, sometimes not.

 

So, you may be thinking, “Okay Allan, how are you going to ‘tweek’ the vampire concept and make it fresh and different?  What changes are you going to make to the traditional weaknesses and rules?”

 

Here’s my answer.  All the traditional rules of garlic, being welcomed into a place, avoid sunlight, shape-shift, control minions, etc. will be in effect.  So where am I making the change?  Simple, my vampire is NOT undead.

 

At this point I’m sure a number of you are thinking if he’s not undead then he can’t be supernatural.  So how can all those limitations and vulnerabilities still apply to him?  That’s where the creative writing process comes in.  All of these things will be addressed in the story.  And it won’t just be about a biography about my vampire.  There will be dangers.  The internet allows people access to a lot of information.  And this story will be taking place in modern day.  So there will be suspicious townspeople, cops on the hunt, the threat of discovery, a ghost, and villains (human and otherwise) to be battled.

 

So there you have it.  A new take on a much used subject.  But instead of changing all the rules, I’m working with them and making new reasons for why they apply.  And in doing so, I’m hoping that a number of you are already really intrigued and are looking forward to checking the story out when it’s ready.  If this is the case, then I’ve succeeded in breathing new life and interest into a genre that has been worked and reworked many times over.  And it can be done with so many other genres such as fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, you name it.

 

So what genre or legendary creature/being have you thought about working on?  Is there one close to your heart that’s been done a lot already?  If so, how can you make it new and interesting?  Are there rules for how it behaves or can be dealt with and what are the explanations behind it?  Is there a new way to approach these things?  Give us a new spin on it that still makes sense and intrigues us.

 

I’d love to hear from you and so would other people who read this blog.  Leave comments below and tell us a little about what you are working on or have in mind.  Be careful not to give your whole idea away.  Just leave tantalizing hints that will get us revved up to check your work out as soon as it’s ready.

 

Until next time,  keep writing.


Good afternoon everyone.  I have a question or two for you all.  I noticed one of my recent posts really seemed to resonate with a large number of you.  Specifically, it was the post about Press Release Kits.  I got a lot of feedback and thanks for sharing that information and was really glad so many found it helpful.  

 
After seeing that response and hearing back from so many it got me wondering.  Would you all like to see some more articles about writing (character development, plot, setting, self-publishing, etc.) on this blog as well as updates on my work?  I’ve already been adding some reviews and have been thinking about having guest blogs or interviews here as well.  How do you all feel about me adding some of these to the blog? 
 
If I do go this route, it will be one of each throughout the month along with my regular postings.  So, let me know what you think and what else you might want to see here.  I strive to be informative as well as entertaining.  
 
I’m looking forward to your responses.  Thanks and take care.
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