Tag Archive: writing
Recently I was on one of the buses that I regularly take to get to my university. As I was riding I was taking in the scenery and smiling to myself. A girl who had taken the seat next to me noticed and said I must be having a good day. I responded by telling her I was observing the scenery and thinking about some of the trees. In particular I drew her attention to the Spanish Moss growing on several of the trees.
“Is that what’s growing on them? I’ve heard of Spanish Moss but I never saw it before,” she told me.
I nodded and replied, “Now picture that stuff moving on its own, maybe reaching down and grabbing a someone as they’re walking by.”
That freaked her out a bit as she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “That’s creepy! You must be into horror movies and such.”
At that point I explained that I was an author who had two books out already and a third coming in December. From there she relaxed and I told her about my Para-Earth Series. By the time we arrived at the university she said, “I always wondered how writers come up with so many ideas. You must be thinking about stuff all the time.”
Smiling I said, “That’s true. Even when I’m not physically writing, I’m always writing.” As soon as I said this I started really thinking about what I’d just said and realized how true it was.
While I can’t speak for other writers, I can safely say that no matter what I’m doing at any given time my mind is always pondering story plots, new characters, places, what if situations, you name it. I could be bowling….
And find myself thinking about what goes on behind the scene where the machinery is gathering up the pins and resetting them. (Note: I have actually been behind that area thanks to my older brother Ernest who worked on the machines. He took me back there with him a few times to show me what he did) After thinking about it, I pictured various scenarios like when the pins are brought down by the machine, what if a human arm was set upright among them? Or what if the machine where your ball comes back instead you get around bomb with a fuse lit. What would you do? How did it get there? What’s going on?
Other times I could be wandering among the trees and just listening to the sounds of the leaves rustling under my feet. I also try to make a mental note of what the air smells like at that moment and how peaceful the area is around me. In moments like that, I’m trying to take a mental photo of everything I’m seeing and feeling, so I can try and rebuild it with words for a scene in a story. And then I find myself asking what might happen in such a scene? Will a unicorn show up among the trees? Or will a strange little figure appear from inside a tree and start talking to one of the woodland animals or a child who happens to be in the neighborhood.
Ideas sometimes come when you least expect it. Even when you’re just kicking back and maybe shooting a game of pool to pass the time, a thought or an image may come that sets your mind on fire. Sometimes it might even be the atmosphere of your surroundings that may be the spark that sets you mind alight with ideas and possibilities.
As writers, our minds are always working on ideas or stories, even when we’re not aware of it. And i find this idea to be a great comfort to me. There are times when the old “Writer’s Block” comes to visit and I find myself staring at my computer screen for hours or even days. I want to write something but nothing comes. On days like that I’ll try working through the block, or exercising, or bouncing ideas off other people… all to no avail.
But then I’ll decide to get out and about for a while. Sometimes I’ll go to a mall, or do some shopping, or wander down by the beach. I don’t always find the answers I’m seeking and after a while may even stop trying. However, I do so knowing that sooner or later, something is going to fire my imagination up and I’ll be ready to get back on my computer and finish the story I’d been working on. Why? Because I’m always writing… even when I don’t realize it. I hope the same is true for all of you.
Until next time, take care and keep writing everyone!
Don’t trash that crappy first draft!
Oh it may be full of grammatical errors that would send your high school English teachers into hysterics but that’s not reason enough to throw it away. And maybe the plot line may move like a 1920’s Model T going backwards up the crooked mile, still is it truly worth destroying? And perhaps most of the characters may be as shallow as a puddle, and probably deserve to be drowned in one, but do not throw that draft away!
Instead I want you read every last word, even if it’s hard as hell to get past the first few pages, keep reading! Do not stop until you’ve read the entire thing.
Why? I hear you ask.
Because, that shitty first draft may be the most important one you ever write.
I’m being serious here folks. And no I’m not going to be going on about how every journey in writing starts with a first draft, or something like that. What I am going to tell you is that first drafts, even the lamest ones, have value.
When I first started writing “The Door”, it was going to be the second book in my Para-Earth series. Mainly because it was going take up exactly where the first book “The Bridge” left off. I thought there was no way I could possibly put another story in between the two, even though I really wanted to focus on the second lead couple (Cassandra Elliott, and Julie Cloudfoot) and their blossoming relationship. My original plan was to develop their growing love in the second book, but things were getting too complicated. Too many characters, too many subplots, I had to scale back. So after writing almost 70,000 words in “The Door”, I said enough and set it aside. Instead, I followed some “bread crumbs” I’d left myself (see my blog entry from January 31st https://akrummenacker.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/follow-the-breadcrumbs/) back in “The Bridge” and found an opening.
I had clearly stated that a month had passed between the climactic battle and the events that happened in the epilogue. I had also sent Julie and Cassie over to the west coast. I had plenty of room for a story in between that would involve just the two of them, as well as leading them back to witness the events that took place during the epilogue of “The Bridge”. Thus, “The Ship” was born.
But even after I finished “The Ship” and published it, I was not ready to back to “The Door”. Instead, a new character had captured my imagination and I began work on “The Vampyre Blogs”, hoping to release it next, before returning to “The Door”.
However, after finishing the first draft of “The Vampyre Blogs” I realized I wanted to release it around Halloween and the time had passed. So I sent it off to my editor for corrections, even though it was a first draft. I know it will go through many more changes, but in the meantime, I needed to get back to “The Door” because it had to come before my vampyre’s first tale. I needed to finish the underlying story arc that was running through my first two books. It’s turn had come and I needed to finish it.
By this time it had been over two years since I last looked at it, so it was with experienced eyes that I pulled it out and started to look at the first few pages. Originally, I thought it would be easy to insert just a few scenes and continue the flow I had started, but it didn’t work out that way.
Thanks to “The Ship” so many plans and ideas had to be scrapped. And my writing style had changed. A number of people told me how much my writing had ‘matured’ and now I could clearly see it for myself. So much had to be changed and rewritten. At times it almost seemed too much.
I began to doubt myself and wondered if I was really up to the challenge. Could I really make this story work? Time and again, I kept running up against ideas that no longer fit, and characters who needed to be removed from the story entirely. I began to question myself and ask, “Should I just trash this and start over from scratch?” But then I’d run across scenes that were perfectly fine and still flowed beautifully with the new stuff I was creating. In fact, it felt like what was I creating now was way better than what I’d originally done. And at the same time, the overall storyline was still following what I had wanted all along. In fact, I’d found ways to improve it.
But I was still running up against obstacles and areas where I just wasn’t sure what to do.
Then by sheer chance, I was scrolling through the new draft which was being built on top of a duplicate file of the original first draft. But I overshot where I had left off and found a scene I had completely forgotten about. Pausing I re-read my words and was taken aback by the power of the scene and the beauty I’d created. This scene HAD to stay, I told myself. Then I began thinking, ‘Are there other scenes like this one I’ve forgotten?’
So I did the unthinkable…
I stopped work on “The Door” and took a few steps back. Instead of writing, I decided to read every word and every page of the original first draft.
It hasn’t been easy at times, but I’ve been unearthing scenes that to me are absolute treasures. I’ve also been cutting and removing other scenes and characters who no longer have any place in this book, but might be good for another story down the road. I’ve saved those sections and preserved them in a separate file folder. Those who’ve been following this blog know I always urge writers to do this. What may not be working in your current book, might be just the thing you need in another one down the road.
As for the scenes I’m keeping, I am breathing a sigh of relief. Some of them are better than I anything I might have tried to replace them with. New ideas and ways to move the story forward are opening up to me. But I still have to finish re-reading that ‘shitty first draft’ before I start writing new scenes.
There are more scenes and ideas I’ve forgotten about, of that I’m sure. I may not want to keep all of them, but I suspect even if I don’t keep any of it, they will give me knew ideas. So don’t give up completely on that first draft. Save it, learn from it, and build from it. You might even want to preserve certain scenes from it.
All stories start with a first draft that can be more than a little rough around the edges. But without a first draft, you can’t begin your story.
Until next time, take care of yourselves my friends, and keep writing.
In case you hadn’t heard, I started attending the California State University at Monterey Bay in August and the workload had been fairly manageable, until recently. Things are heating up and I have less and less time to work on my novels, including “The Vampyre Blogs”. I had planned on getting the latest draft finished, edited, beta-read, etc. so I could have it out in time for Christmas.
Mid-2015 “The Door”
Alex, Veronica, Julie and Cassandra face a new threat which is connected directly to Cassandra’s family dating back over three hundred and fifty years.
October/December 2015 “The Vampyre Blogs – Homecoming”
In 1862 Nathaniel Steward was only sixteen years old. He left home to fight in the Union Army, knowing the experience might change him. He had no idea how much it would. Now, 150 years later, he’s finally coming back to what he thinks is an empty manor. What he doesn’t know is someone has been waiting, and some ‘thing’ is following him, a being that does no belong in this world.
Mid-2016 “In The Shadow Of The Door”
Cassandra’s ghostly protector Brandon has always been an enigma to many. Now, we get to hear his story which will lead directly up to the events that took place in my third book, “The Door”.
December 2016, “The Vampyre Blogs – Family Ties”
Nathaniel is back and he’s not alone. A mystery involving a member of his family has arisen, but so has an old enemy. New dangers arise that threaten not only those he loves, but his entire hometown. Like any soldier he will fight to protect his place of birth, but it may cost him his very existence.
Mid-2017 – No Title Yet
Brandon’s story continues as he and his uncle continue to struggle with the family curse that everyone believed was over. The threat has been thwarted but not ended and time is running out. Soon the door will be reopened and nothing will be able to stop what will come out of it if they don’t seal it for good first.
December 2017, “Harlequin House”
When Alex was only twelve he entered inside the most haunted place on the planet with a team of paranormal investigators. Most of the team died before his very eyes and he barely got out with his sanity intact. Now, twenty years later, he’s going back. Will he be as fortunate this time?
For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember I’ve mentioned a number of times about saving your work on Google Drive, or on a Memory Stick, or even a CD. I’ve also suggested that when you edit your work, if you’re going to cut a scene to save it in a special folder. I say this because even though the scene, or even a character, doesn’t fit in the story you’re working on you might be able to recycle it for another story down the road.
The thing I forgot to mention is that occasionally you should go and look through that folder every so often. Especially if you’re looking to start a new project, or have hit a bad case of writer’s block. Something in that folder may be just the thing to help you get your scene going again.
I also have another special folder that holds works in progress that are unfinished. Or in some cases, are pretty much a complete first draft... (said under my breath while looking away in embarrassment)
You forgot you had a completed 1st draft?
“Yes, I’ did. I got caught up in other things,now be quiet Roscoe!”
As I was saying, yes I found I had a complete first draft in that file folder. It needs reworking of course, but the entire story is there. Unfortunately, it will be a while before it sees the light of day.
Why? Because it is a historical period piece that involves Brandon Elliott, one of the major recurring characters in my Para-Earth Series. His spirit appears frequently in order to watch over Cassandra Elliott, his many times great-grandchild. However, her story is not finished yet and I cannot tell his tale until hers is finished (sort of). The two are intricately connected in such a way I have to finish telling her secrets, before I can reveal his.
However, this will be resolved soon. Cassandra’s secret will be revealed in “The Door” which I hope to have ready in May 2015. Then after releasing the second installment of “The Vampyre Blogs” in December 2015, I will aim to release Brandon’s story in early 2016. His story is so big it will take at least two or more books to do it justice, but I’m looking forward to doing it.
Anyway, getting back to my original point…
You actually forgot you had a completed 1st draft?
“Yes Roscoe, now let it go please… sheesh!”
As I was saying, the practice of keeping special folders and backup copies of my work has helped me on a number of occasions. I’ve even got a 50% finished first draft of “The Door” waiting for me to get back to. Like the other works I have on the back burner, having some of it already waiting for me to get back to it, actually gets me eager to return to it.
So remember, save those parts you edit out and keep checking the folder you put them in. You never know when you might find a treasure in those folders that can totally turn your work in progress into something fantastic.
Until next time…
He actually forgot? Oh that is rich!
(sigh) He is just not going to let this go is he?
Until next time take care and keep writing.
Okay, you’ve written your latest masterpiece. It’s finished. You’ve got your cover ready, the editor has done their work, the proofreading is finally over, you got a back cover blurb, dedication page, table of contents, etc. In short, your baby is ready too be published.
You’ve only got one thing left to do, make it available. So you go to Smashwords, Kindle, Lulu, whoever you use to publish your precious labor of love, and you start getting asked a bunch of questions. What’s the title? How many pages? The name of the author? Do you have a synopsis ready? A blurb? Then you reach “What genre is your work?” “What label do you want to put it under?”
Now, if you have an agent…
No not that kind, the other kind, the ones who represent books. Curse you Marvel!
Anyway, if have an “literary agent” you already know what genre you were working in, because one of the key elements in finding an agent is knowing what genres they represent. In turn, your agent would’ve shopped your work around to a publisher who specializes in that genre. So you should be okay. But what if your an Indie Author? Then this question can become more problematic for you. Not always mind you, but sometimes.
I for one am finding myself slowly falling into that latter category. Why, you ask? Simple, I’m one of those authors who crosses genres sometimes without even meaning to. My Para-Earth series covers mystery, horror, paranormal, and even science fiction, all in one book. But it doesn’t stop there! Oh no! I brought in a gay couple into my work and now I have another section of audience I might miss if I don’t label the book correctly. In fact, I’ve had to use a few different labels for “THE SHIP”, as compared to the ones I originally put “THE BRIDGE” under.
You see, I emphasized the gay aspect of the second book because of my main characters were a lesbian couple. Now they appeared in the first book and played a large role in it, however they were the second lead couple and the focus was not as fixed on them.
So even though both books are part of my Para-Earth Series, and the characters were recurring ones, the focus had shifted thanks to who was the lead couple this time.
But this is only the beginning, my friends. The more I’ve researched genres, the more I’ve found things have changed. What was once horror, may now be considered Fantasy, or Paranormal. Thrillers can be set in modern day or in the future (wouldn’t that be sci-fi?).
This is not a new issue folks. I’ve seen this going on for decades. HP Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, is a prime example for “What genre did he really fall under?” Many consider him the master of the macabre and automatically put him under Horror. Yet, a number of his creations like the Old Ones, or the Elder Things from “The Mountains of Madness” were beings from outer space. Outer space? Doesn’t that fall under Sci-Fi? I’ve found him in books stores under both Horror and Sci-Fi (a fair solution).
But what if you find yourself telling a love story, which is impacted by a huge mystery, that involves ghosts, psychics, and beings from an alternate reality? What do you call that? Horror? Mystery, Paranormal Mystery? Some people suggested a genre called “Dark Fantasy” which seems to combine these elements under one label. Great solution right? Wrong!
When you go to Smashwords, Kindle, Createspace, etc. you don’t see Dark Fantasy as one of your choices to answer the question “What genre is this book?” Instead you get: Horror, Gay/Lesbian, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, etc. You don’t get ‘blended’ options.’ Oh you get offered sub-genres which will let you add some of those, but the main genre you place your book under is the first label people will see when they do a search. And if that label doesn’t fall into their usual reading choices, you probably won’t even get them giving your book a ‘sampling’.
Determining the genre of your book is a huge thing. But there are other problems. Even within those “main” genres, there’s a lot of disagreement about what falls under them. Which is going to be the subject of my next blog entry, because I’m running out of room on this one. And the topic is a big one that a lot of writers struggle with and I want to give it equal and fair room for discussion.
In the meantime, if anyone would like to share their thoughts or experiences in dealing with how to define your book by genre, please leave some comments down below. As I’ve stated many times in the past, the purpose of this blog is so we can all learn from one another. As readers and writers, we’re all in the same boat, so pooled knowledge can be a powerful tool for us all.
Until next time, take care all 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?