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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scraps of a Book Part 4 - Secret Sauce Not Included

To this point we have covered a lot of ground in a short period. A world has been born, characters are on the hunt for adventure, and banter is rampant amongst them. Whether the story ends with a bang or a soft good bye; it has to stop somewhere. But, is the first story of your career complete?

No. Not even close.

Over the course of building a story errors will be made to the overall manuscript. Your first draft is done, but edits are inevitable. I don't know of a single author that doesn't have to rewrite something or fix a scene for continuity. This is where my fourth and final post in the series will end. A few things must be considered before tackling such a beast. READ what was written before putting chapter after chapter on the chopping block like an execution, because this is the first step in editing. Skimming through some of those chapters might find them new homes somewhere deeper in the story where they fit better and others might need small tweaks to stay where they are. Reading it again helps you see where continuity of the story went awry. All of this brings the story closer to completion.

Finished? Good, because you just got started.The time has come for a second draft.

 Magic begins here. Words are clay in your hands as you continue to mold the story into a beautifully shaped vase. Step two is actually editing everything (rewriting a manuscript for a second draft). That is accomplished by removing useless words or grammar as you read it thoroughly. I prefer to print out my manuscript for this process; however, you may wish to save paper and edit directly from whichever word processing program you use.

Changes are done, the story flows in a constant timeline that makes sense. What next? I would hand (email) a copy to friends and/or family willing to sit a spell and read it. Feedback at this point will help mold the story further - a second pair of eyes to critique your manuscript won't hurt. Joining a writing community online or in your home town is a good place for feedback too. It is actually in your best interest to hear early on what others think before committing to a physical print of your work. The next step is coming soon. Take of they tell you and sculpt it into your masterpiece.

Step three is revisions. Listening to feedback and altering scenes becomes a multi step process. Don't rush! Your exquisitely crafted vase comes with patience and perseverance. Rework scenes to be more descriptive, add dialogue to explain confusing actions, and above all else check for a smooth flow from chapter to chapter. Once everything detail has been corrected, it is time for a professional to take over.

 Step four might be the most important beside writing a good novel. Hire an editor. There is an abundance of editors/proofreaders out there to choose from. Look to fellow writers for recommendations or use the editing services of an indie publisher for final polishing of your manuscript. Editing isn't always perfect the first time. What comes back from an editor are more than just grammatical corrections, new suggestions for plot or fleshing (developing) out a particular character are a few things to expect.

Some companies charge for each round of edits. Whenever you change major parts of a story more edits will have to be done, hence the charge for each round. Do as much editing as you can through online writing communities before leaping in with both feet. Don't in debt because you bought too many editing packages; use the free resources available to you first. You are now ready for beta readers to test drive the vivid world and charismatic people you've created. Take their feedback, revise, repeat - so is the life of a writer.

Well, by this point you've completed the not-so-impossible: writing a novel. Congratulations! Sitting on your desk is a finely crafted vase made of neatly stacked paper and ink ready for shipment to a large publishing house or awaiting a final coat of paint (cover art and a back cover blurb). We've had a wonderful time together trapping those ideas to paper. Now get to work. Stop dillydallying over pictures of kittens or how to win a Sudoku game, because readers, like me, are waiting for the next great novel.

Good luck becoming an author. I wish you luck in converting what started out as a hobby into a career.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Art of Lying

There are two thruths we take for granted -
1. All our life we are told not to lie.
2. Most books of fiction are believably fabricated lies with a dash of truth thrown in to hold the story together.

Why does that matter to you? Writers of fiction make a living as being resourceful liars. Good examples of this are things that go bump in the night like zombies and witches. They are real, really! I'll try to explain these two twisted truths to the best of my ability so it all becomes clear. We'll start with an obvious choice: witches.

Witches are dotted throughout history as an important pillar of authority as a sort of spiritual guide and a medicine man. High priest, shaman, and voodoo priests are all varying titles for the same job, which is typically refered to as a tribal healer: a lofty position held primarily by both women and men. Most often, herbs were used to heal the sick in a very elaborate way to make tribal members think magic was the root cause for their miraculous recoveries. Because of flashy dances and rudimentary slight of hand, the practice of shamanic ways lost traction as Christianity gained momentum. Shamans and their ilk became feared and their ceremonial practices were looked at as barbaric.
This way of thinking sprouted inaccurate tales of people summoning demons and placing curses of unsuspecting folk. Here is were witches and their less talked about counterpart, warlocks, find a comfy home buried beneath the rubble of lies that created their myth. Truth is something others see to fit a particular problem, an ugly truth no one wishes to admit to. Nowadays, writers toy with the built-up mythology surrounding witches to fulfill mystical enchantments other creature cannot do or brew concoctions to fill a need like a love potion.

Did someone say zombie apocalypse? Yes, it is time to move on to an undead subject. Zombie have found a way into the hearts and (clearing throat) minds of people. Where did it all being? It all started in the African and Haitian nations by a little religion called Voodoo. I can't find the video clip I'd seen years ago explaining this phenomenon of zombie making, but I do remember the news anchor talking about an indigenous plant as the main ingredient to create a zombie. Witch doctors would use this plant to drug clients and essentially make them appear dead. Afterwords, when professional doctors proclaimed them dead, those under the drugs influence would rise up again and unconsciously do the witch doctor's bidding. Again, over time we deformed the myth of zombies into what we now know of them.

Gettong back to what I originally started with, writers take something true and spins it until only a fraction of the orignal tale exists to keep his or her story based in reality. Some of what I told you above are loose interpretations of how each creature got its start to emphasize how truth begets a lie. Fibbing makes a writer money, rooting a story of fiction with real situations creates a good book. Its all in how you look at things. When Americans first created their flag did they keep the same colors as the United Kingdom's Union Jack as a slap in the face when proclaimed independence? I don't know, but it sounds good.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Being Too Literal?

Flickr photo
Being literal has its good and bad days. My son taught me this the other day when he had a test about vocabulary. He had to memorize a group of definitions for the upcoming test and the word 'sharing' was one of them. The phrase oneself was used by the school to explain how sharing is the process of giving to others the same amount as oneself. When he got his test back the word 'oneself' was replaced with yourself: he ended up getting the question wrong. Was it the school's fault for teaching my son to learn in a way that requires him to only memorize the necessary answers for testing or the genetics I passed on to him? I might need to sit down with my son and explain the fundamentals of thinking outside the box.
Yes, I am quite literal most of the time. It is very possible I cursed him with that particular gene; more to the point, is it right to have a school teach for what will be tested? I say no.
Only teaching what is needed for a state mandated test is ludicrous. If I was taught about a war in 1776 without knowing why it happened - so I could produce the proper answer on a test - does not sit well with me. Forced standardized testing in schools might be the culprits standing in our children's way for a chance at higher learning. Our children are subjected to testing on a regular basis; however; they are only taught what will be on mandated tests. Is it fair to them? No. An alternative for parents is to teach them at home. Home-schooling can be stressful and rewarding at the same time for both student and parent, and sometimes costly. Then again, the food might be better at home ... sorry, I strayed from the topic.
What happened to the days when Teachers used a curriculum as a guideline they put together instead of something carved in stone by the state? Maybe someday we will, again, move beyond teaching only what shows up on a test and actually begin to broaden the mind of our young again.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Another Year of Spendor Gone

What a year it has been for all of us. The world almost came to an end (again), our faith in Wall Street sits on a fiscal cliff like lemmings waiting to take that final step over the edge, an outcry over SOPA went out to the masses, and Facebook tried the stockmarket.  We had a run for our money in 2012. Now that the Mayan calendar has run out, what will 2013 bring us?
On a personal note I accomplished a few goals. Two more books went out with my name on them - Ocean's Fury (a tale from your own view of events about a cruise ship in peril) and Temperature: Bitter Cold. They are available at any online bookstore along with Temperature: Dead and Rising.
I also had a small book signing locally to kick off the release of Temperature: Bitter Cold with some of the proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (It's never too late to donate. Contribute directly or purchase a book to help out). I also made time to print out fanfare for the coming novel - Get quality work at VistaPrint .
The holidays would not be the same without family there to support you. I had a great support team this year, which allowed me to spend way too much time in my office to finish writing instead of partaking in routine events around the house. So, to make up for it I stopped blogging, making notes for the next manuscript, and killed off the majority of time I spend on social networks promoting my work to spend quality time here in my home. Time management isn't my friend and Santa forgot to gift wrap me some. I hope to fix that in the coming year by spreading my time evenly between family, a paying job, and my passion to write. To that end, I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays and good tidings for the coming year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What a Year can Make... and Lemonade Wasn't on the List of Ingredients

It has been a very long year for me. I spent a year of my writing time to market the first novel as most novice authors might do. We really want to see it sell and put everything else on the back burner. Turns out to be a really bad choice. What would have happened if the novel boomed? What else did I have to offer? Nothing, nothing at all.
Time flew by without me noticing. My several attempts to setup a book signing (not one of the bad marketing elements) gained few sales; got enough to buy gas for the ride home. I spent endless hours building webpages to showcase my new novel, ran giveaways for publicity, and drown my Facebook friends with my bottomless posts about this great new read they should all pick up. After one full year of promoting, I had the title of the second book written down – on scratch paper. Talk about progress towards my second book! I should have been editing it by now instead of just figuring out the title.
Here’s a little side note before I go on, what is written above is all true and should leave a sour twang in a reader’s mouth to think selling a novel is more important than the work itself. That’s not so. I felt it was important for those reading my post today to gain one bit of insight I lacked. “Don’t stop writing. No matter how dear to you your first manuscript is; the important thing to keep in mind is offering something else after that book starts flying off the shelves.” I am not dissuaded from my poor marketing skills to try again, but I have also learned to leave these kinds of matters in knowledgeable hands when I can afford it. Money trees don’t grow well in sandy soil and I seem to live in a desert.
The real goal of an author comes from and old saying, “They like me. They really, really like me.” It is the craving to have your ego stroked, petted, and praised for doing such a good job. We, as writers, always seek out vindication for what we do. On the flip-side, bad reviews could kill the initial inspiration driving that newly born writer. He/She might have a great storytelling voice, but just needs a mentor to guide them. Bad reviews are wonderful. These reviews tell a writer where something went wrong and allows them to fix it in the next novel. Positive criticism (even in its lowest form of sounding down right mean) can improve writing skills. I have listened to those worldly critics and done just that with the sequel to Temperature: Dead and Rising.
With all this said, I sit and wait for the current publisher to to finish the formatting and release my second novel, Temperature: Bitter Cold, into the wild. I will keep you apprised of thing until then through my fan page or website.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What's Wrong Here?

Not a good sign when the weather report doesn't know what to expect. They only claim to know the sun is up right now, maybe.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Steps in Editing (the kind for short legs...)

Words to live by and learn from. Lulu's Blog - The Editorial Process has great advice for writers of every level.They're right that traditional publishing houses help their writers immensely with fine-tuning a manuscript. What does a self published author have to look forward to? Well, there are friends, family, and a sometimes pricey editor (depending on the author's word count) to wade through innocent mistakes missed on the first few revisions. These people are invaluable to a writer as is a large publishing house is to a well-known author. Whether an author seeks out professional advice from a publisher or a friend, he or she must always remember what advice comes back negative in a good way. They want to see you succeed. Take what has to be said and run with it. Read more tips from Lulu's blog to improve your editing.

Don't forget to visit Panhandling Fantasy or the Dead and Rising homepage to see what's coming out next from me.