Friday, February 05, 2010

Watch a Novel Come into Being from idea to publication

With the new year, I decided on a resolution -- to get a new novel underway, and while it is an idea I had visited in the mid-eighties, I wanted to revive it and start anew.  It is a mix of historical suspense and a futuristic tale. This on the surface may seem a bit odd, maybe strange, and certainly ambitious. In fact this title idea is quite ambitious, so ambitious in fact that it may never see completion--especially if I start thinkikng of it in its entirity rather than in controllable pieces and parts like the varied pieces of an enormous puzzle.  Imagination has me going back to the Titanic -- the infamous Titanic, a subject so many readers can never get enough of.  I have myself read extensively about the night the Unsinkable Ship slipped below the waves, and due to some disturbing facts without answers, I have long wanted to "explain" these facts--odd behaviour of Captain Edward Smith in particular.  And so the book begins with a huge questioning WHAT IF?  What if Captain Smith, a man with a stellar seagoing record, a man on his last voyage who had never so much as put a dent in a ship in his entire career, how he could on Titanic's maiden voyage CAUSE the worst maritime disaster in recorded history--and WHAT IF he did it on purpose?

What would be Captain Smith's reasoning?  What could cause this stern, steel-spinned captain, admired by all, to intentionally ram Titanic into an iceberg field at full speed, an iceberg field he knew was out there thanks to the Marconi messages recieved in the radio room and placed in Smith's hands?

So what came first, the What If premise or the research?  The research suggested the idea of involving the captain in a "benign" conspiracy to destroy ship and all aboard.  The plan was in fact that no one survive--and that the plague spread by some evil force let loose aboard not survive and not reach land in New York or anywhere else. Smith went down with Titanic along with thousands of souls, but he fully expected those in lifeboats too would die of the elements and exposure, accident and the pull of Titanic as it went down.  His instructions to his crew were meant to snuff out all life aboard in order to contain a horrendous disease-spreading MONSTER.  Yes, my intent is to put a monster aboard the Titanic in an effort to answer the inconguities of the circumstances found in the history books.

So my first efforts have been to READ, then read, then read.  Read everything I could find on the famous shipwreck down to where the ore in the ship came from.  Second job is to pull from the reading and research a pivotal and exciting premise via an imaginary leap.  These two jobs--research and flight of fancy get the novel underway.  I have done the reading over years and years.  The premise has been living in the back of my mind since the mid-eighties when I started to once before do this book.  Pulled away by other contracts and considerations, I have leaped back into what I am calling PlagueShip Titanic.  It will take me months if not a year to complete the book as I am working around a job, four children, a wife, a dog, a cat--all of whom require pampering and attention, not to mention the visitudes of life and things like flat tires.

So like Julia-Julia -- I aam propsoing you follow me here and I will report a couple of times a week on how the manuscript is shaping up.  I will discuss openings, beginnings, scene-building, chapter building, point of view, time shifts, point of view shifts, setting shifts and juggling the historical chapters (story) with the futurisitic chapters (plot).

This past week, I somehow managed to craft some 30 pages.  I hope to run the novel to some 400 pages at minimum but am not at all sure I can make it that far.  I hope you will wish to follow me in the progress of this "monster" tale ground in fact.  The challenge--one of many--ist to get the reader to believe in the viability of the monster and its disease carried with it.  How does the writer convince the reader of the IMPOSSIBLE?  One important technique--detail, detail, detail.

Using examples from the ongoing work, I will discuss every aspect of the art and craft and science of the writer and the process.  Do hope you will find this of interest and come along with me to the Writing Zone.

Next DIRTY DEEDS mystery/suspense blog will soon follow.


Morgan Mandel said...

Maybe you'll inspire some would-be writers to jump right in and write also, Rob.

Morgan Mandel

Peg Brantley said...

And maybe you'll keep me on my toes.

Any way you (or your son) can set up an email notification to subscribe to for new posts?

And could be . . . you'll get a writing craft book out of this. Cool.

Beth said...

What a GREAT IDEA! I have always wanted to see a writer at his craft! It is an incredible journey from idea to published work!

Rob Walker said...

Peg -- good idea; Morgan, I hope to getting a craft book out of this -- I do have one up at and as an ebook at amazon Kindle called Dead On Writing. @Beth -- and all of you, thanks for the enthusiastic support. While I am no Julia Childe, I hope to cook up a good book. Did a few pages earlier today on the book, and will keep everyone posted on progress. Did some editing on it today as well.
Coming up with character names, so important.

Peggy Blann Phifer said...

Following this via RSS feed right into my mailbox. This is a nifty idea and I'm eager to follow the process.

Jacquie Rogers said...

You and my dh. I swear, he's read every book and seen every documentary on the Titanic.

Your premise is really intriguing! I'll definitely be dropping by for a progress report every now and then.


Rob Walker said...

With the opening underway - took me several days to craft as compelling an opening as possible, I will be flogging....ahhh blogging soon on this point of where to begin a story, especially a multi-generational story but my remarks can be taken to any story. Think of me as a writing coach...Coach says!
Hey everyone here, thanks for popping in. I will soon post a new blog regarding what gets me truly going on one idea--why I choose it over others awaitng my attention, and how I get churned up and underway....down to how I reward myself for small closures like a scene as little as a few pages.

staff said...

Great idea, Rob!
I learned from a PhD friend to keep a project journal (Sue Grafton is another writer who posts some of her project notes online). I use my journal to track ideas, research questions, progress, non-progress (though I'm of the opinion that EVERYTHING helps, even if it involves staring out the window), and so on. Plus it's always helpful when you've encountered a snag to read back on how you solved a snag in the past instead of thinking it's a condition unique to the present.

I highly recommend using this method, whether done privately or publicly.

Barbara DaCosta

P.A.Brown said...

The concept sounds fascinating. Count me in as a huge fan of Titanic stories. I will be following you on this and hope to have a chance to buy the finished product.

I don't see why there would be a problem with suspending disbelief. Look at The Day of the Jackal or even Raising Titanic, which I've enjoyed reading even after the real Titanic was found. There are a lot of SF books that deal with alternate histories.

Earl Staggs said...

Hey, Rob! What a terrific novel (in both senses of the word) idea. I've always wanted to watch a master at work.

Rob Walker said...

Wow - such an eclectic *how do you spell that word? Group. I am going to blog on the opening lines, why I chose to open the story as I did with the realization that in the past, I have changed my openings; that I needn;t LOCK down on it just becuase I designate it the opening. This is a thing we do. We label this chapter one, and we think it's a done me, not for some time now. I am going to be putting down this new entry soemtime next week but wanted the word to get around a bit before I do that. Have so far 33 pgs....

Rob Walker said...

Hey all -- my SECOND installment is in. Check it out; next installment when I reach page fifty or so....currently on 44 not just written but rewritten pages. Part of my process is to rewrite as I go...ten pages forward, twenty back, twenty forward, ten back...etc...etc.... Again seriously appreciate all your support. Will blog approximately once a month here.

Rob Walker said...

I just surpassed page 55 and am on chapter 5, and am trying to keep a running bibliography of character names...cause I forget the names real fast...also decided early on to keep the chapters to no more than ten typewritten pages. Plan to put up another blog on how it is going this weekend.

Love it when the dialogue carries the story along.


Rob Walker said...

I just surpassed page 55 and am on chapter 5, and am trying to keep a running bibliography of character names...cause I forget the names real fast...also decided early on to keep the chapters to no more than ten typewritten pages. Plan to put up another blog on how it is going this weekend.

Love it when the dialogue carries the story along.