Saturday, January 31, 2015
Recently I went through another bout of Writer's Block.
Actually, I hit this particular wall some months ago. It was while I was still working on the original 1st draft of "The Door" when I encountered the block and it was a doozy. No matter what direction I tried to take the novel in, things just seemed to get more complicated and confusing. Too many characters, too many plot points and subplots going.
In the end I wound up working on "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" story. I had a pretty clear vision of where I wanted to go with that one so I worked on it instead. I did this partly in the hopes of having a breakthrough with where I'd left off with "The Door", but in the end I never got past it.
Even when I completed the first draft for "The Vampyre Blogs" I wasn't any closer to getting past my block with "The Door". Now anyone who's dealt with a severe case of Writer's Block will tell you that it can be a real pain in the butt. Especially when you can't seem to find a way around the bugger. No matter which way you turn, forward, left, or right, you can't seem to get past it.
Well, I finally decided to go back the way I came and see if I could find another method by going over my old tracks (or in this case my previous novels).
This actually worked for me because "The Door" was directly connected to my two previous novels "The Bridge" and "The Ship". Most of the same characters were involved so I had something to work with. While going over the previous books I started to notice little details I had just thrown in here and there for flavor or setting. And it was there I found that I had inadvertently left a trail of breadcrumbs that I could follow, which I did. Soon I saw a whole new direction that I could take "The Door" in that I had never even considered before. What made it even better was the fact that it was a path that was very clear, at least from a writer's point of view. I could plan out little twists and turns to take the reader on, while at the same time still see exactly where things should land up.
Again these details seemed minor when I first put them into the previous novels, but now they were giving new life to the story and it was exhilarating. Who might have known who? Was one of the breadcrumbs I'd left behind in the first story. The audience knew a relationship had existed between these two characters, but the 'leads' in my story were totally unaware of the connection. Upon realizing this I got an idea of how that information could be learned, prompting whole new scenes and plots for "The Door".
Another little crumb came from yet another 1st draft that I plan on getting back to next year. A portrait that hangs in one room was to play a part in that story. But then it occurred to me that the portrait could be used now in a way no one would've expected. An alteration was made to it that will become a huge revelation for my heroes in "The Door".
So right there, an unfinished subplot along with an innocuous piece of setting suddenly provided me with the means to start racing along with the story once more. I still have a ways to go, but at least I feel more on course with the book.
Now this does not necessarily work with all cases of Writer's Block, but you can add it to your writer's toolbox. And it doesn't necessarily have to involve other works you've got going. There might be a piece of scenery or a character quirk inside the story you're working on. Look around see what you've done, you never know when you'll find you accidentally left a trail of breadcrumbs in your wake that might lead to a breakthrough in your story.
So until next time, take care and keep writing.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
This week I started a new semester of classes over at the California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB). I'll be going here for at least another four semesters after this one. I try to keep to just 12 units at a time which allows my wife and I to qualify for campus housing. CSUMB has what they call East Campus Housing which is more like a duplex than an apartment. Being a family we have the place to ourselves rather than having to share our space with others.
The rent is reasonable and our gas, electric and cable are all included. So you can understand my wanting to stick around here for a few more years while my wife Helen (who just earned her Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics) finds work and we can start building up our savings again. BTW, if anyone knows any good job openings for a Mathematics wiz in California please let me know. She's sending out resumes and applications like crazy and is eager to find more opportunities.
Anyway, what does all this have to do with anything. Well, taking classes eats into my writing time so I may not be as productive some days as I'd like. However, I'm going to try and keep things going as much as possible. I will be aiming for at least two blog entries a month, but I'm hoping to do more. Especially when one of my classes is a Professional Writing course.
Before anyone gets excited, I'm not talking professional writing for novels, or short stories. This writing class is about writing in a 'professional' environment such as business, non-profit agencies, and professional journal magazines.
However, I'm finding the class and what I will be facing rather interesting. Although the tools of the trade are very similar (good grammar, formatting, editing, research, etc.) one must use a different type of mindset. For instance, I'm going to have to choose a topic and do research on it (sounds familiar so far, right?). But I have to use peer-review journal articles, respected websites (no wikipedia), as well as non-fiction books. From there I have to create a proposal letter, an oral presentation, then a 10-12 advocacy report (single-spaced). This paper will involve a lot of research and rehashing of information that has already been done on the topic while also trying to add some new insight about the topic. I will have to use the APA style formatting that is required of professionals, as well as have certain number of citations and a reference page. After that I have to create a "Letter of Appeal" calling for action/support. Then in the final steps I will have to condense my 12 page report into a one page Executive Summary. I will also have to create a e-portfolio and visual presentation for the class.
I am also expected to have a separate blog just for my class and create 15 blog entries over the course of the semester talking about my topic, or my class itself.
Doesn't sound like too much for one semester right?
But never fear, I'm not going to let it get to me. Instead I'm actually gaining ideas for blog entries about the differences between the types of writing and how I have to change gears mentally from one to the other.
I'll also be posting about my work on the novels and what's going on in my head. I won't be neglecting those kinds of entries.
So stay tuned, have a great weekend, and keep writing.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Hello everyone, today I want to give you all a little insight into how things are going with my latest novel.
Some of you may know that I had started working on "The Door" some time back, but then set it aside to work on "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home". I did this originally, because I'd hoped to get the vampyre book out last October, but of course that didn't happen. My classes at CSU Monterey Bay got crazy with the workload so I couldn't finish in time.
Now, the vampyre book is set around October so I wanted to keep with the whole Halloween timing, so after finishing the 1st draft I've set it aside and gone back to "The Door". This is actually beneficial since "The Door" will temporarily wrap things up for the heroes of my first two novels "The Bridge" and "The Ship". So by going back to "The Door" I can have a sort of trilogy to put out as a box set come Christmastime.
With this in mind I dove back into my first draft of "The Door" which was about 2/3's done. And below you'll see how I felt about this at first...
But then something happened. I'd forgotten where I started that book out and who was where when I completed my second novel "The Ship". Originally I just had Alex and Veronica in the scene at the end of "The Bridge", but at the end of my second novel "The Ship" I had my other two major characters Julie and Cassandra showing up on the scene seconds later.
Now, I figured adding Cassie and Julie would be easy and I wouldn't have to change too much of the scene I'd written for "The Door". Oh there might be a few details here and there, but nothing too major, right? That's what I kept telling myself two weeks ago...
This is how I feel now...
I swear it feels like I'm rewriting just about every sentence, every word, even the commas and periods! Why? Because I wanted to have my four main characters back together right away and so did my audience. In doing this, I changed the entire dynamics and course of events that followed. The main story is following close to the original plan, but the dialogue and actions changed dramatically.
Furthermore, I've also had to remove other characters and events I had planned from later parts of the book as well, because they don't fit anymore. Yet, I'm not disappointed or sorry to see them go. The story I has had it going originally was becoming too complicated. I needed to simplify things a bit. Plus, thanks to "The Ship" I was able to introduce certain new characters there who would be appearing in this third installment, thus simplifying some of the upcoming scenes.
There's still plenty of intrigue and mystery in store for my readers with "The Door". But it's taking a slightly different form than what I'd originally envisioned, which in my opinion is for the better. There's still a long haul ahead, but sometimes you need to walk away from a book you're working on in order to get new ideas and a fresh perspective.
But if you do this, be prepared to be flexible and ready to jettison parts or even entire ideas, chapters, or characters from the story. DO NOT DELETE them though. Save those fragments and put them in special file on your computer. Just because they're no longer useful for this story, you might find they have a life of their own that may give birth to a whole new idea down the road.
Rewriting may not always be fun, in fact it can be downright infuriating at times. However, it can be a very effective tool to help you create a much better product for your audience.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
If you're reading this I'll take it that you survived 2014 and are a glutton for punishment because you're still reading what I have to say here. Bless your hearts.
With that said, I'm going to try and start the year off on a good note here by posting the opening section of "The Door", which will be the third book in my Para-Earth Series. This time Alex, Veronica, Cassie and Julie are back together to face threats old and new.
The white-haired man known only as Z has returned, along with the fragment of the creature our heroes helped destroy in "The Bridge". For those who read book 2 "The Ship" we saw Z and his companion help protect Cassandra from the threat that arose from the deeps, but it wasn't out of kindness. He has plans of his own for her and now they're about to bear fruit.
But the girl is guarded by her friends Alex and Veronica, as well as her lover Julie. Plus of course there's the ghostly Brandon who has watched over the girl since the day she was born. However, Z has allies of his own. Betrayal and danger await from the most unexpected quarters.
With all that said, allow me to post the first preliminary sketch for the cover, along with the opening sequence of "The Door". I hope you enjoy, but remember one thing, 'You enter at your own risk...'
The door stood in a hillside near an open field. Grass and weeds had long ago swallowed the stonework that surrounded it, leaving just the portal itself visible. The dark wood looked strange and sinister. In the grain one could almost see contorted faces crying out for release.
Few people came here, if ever. But now tall figure appeared with a long cape of jet black approached. He had long white hair and wore a black frock coat. He strode up to the door and halted. After studying the vegetation around the edges, his eyes fixed on the portal itself. A smile slowly crept over his hawkish features as he turned away.
Strolling along the slope he continued to study the plants along the way. The changes he’d noticed around the doorway were getting more prominent the further he moved away from the portal. Eventually he reached one section where the flora had become almost sinister in appearance. “Oh yes,” he whispered and listened closely to the silence that seemed to have settled in this area.
Suddenly, his cape began to billow and flap even though there was no wind.
The man stiffened and leapt some fifty feet straight up. The folds of his cloak spreading like gigantic bat wings as he descended onto a thick branch of a neighboring tree. Landing with the grace of an eagle, he bent his head and stared downwards.
Smoke-like hands had shot out of hillside itself, reaching and grasping at the space he’d just vacated. With growing satisfaction he watched the ghostly appendages waved about in an almost pitiful manner, knowing their quarry had eluded them yet again. Finally, they slowly sank back into the dried leaves that covered the ground, and disappeared from sight.
Stepping off the branch he landed nimbly and proceeded to move away just in case the offending appendages tried to make another attempt to accost him. But nothing happened, much to his delight.
His cape fluttered briefly in the still air.
“Yes, they have become much weaker,” he murmured as if answering a question only he could hear. “We’ll start keeping closer tabs on the girl.”
Once more the black fabric moved of its own accord as if in response.
“Yes, keeping watch over her would be difficult for us. The son of Jerome has been watching her more closely than ever after that business on the other side of the continent. But I have other allies who will keep us apprised of her movements,” he told his garment. “They are already in position as a matter of fact. Thanks to them I know Cassandra is in Connecticut right now, visiting the very friends who helped kill your parent.”
This time the ebony shroud did not move.
He was not surprised. The being was primitive in many ways. Loyalty to its progenitor was not part of the creature’s nature. Then again, it wasn’t his either. After all he did share a lineage with his intended target. He’d even orchestrated her birth, but only to make sure the bloodline was as close and true to that of the original ‘key’.