Friday, March 26, 2010

Movin' On @150pgs/Contest Ongoin' Too/VOTE

Hello all -- has been much smoother sailing but I know I need to go back and do a lot of rewriting yet even so; when I do not wish to stop in mid scene because I cannot recall a person, place, or in the complete name of a character (hey, it happens) or the detail I need, a certain number say of lifeboats aboard or number of survivors, and I don't want to stop the flow of creative jucies coming through, I insert a big, fat capital X. Later, I clean up my X's when I am in editing mode; this savs a lot of grief and time. I can put a Titanic Timeline beside me or on the screen and go seek out the Xs via Replace and boom-boom-boom shoot them down like ducks in a row. I like to catch these up every ten or so chapters, and yeah, I am into Chapter Ten now! Feeling pretty good about that. Next installment remind me to write about breaks...scene shifts, how to set them up.

To date, I've continued with the order of one chapter Past, one chapter Future as the present in the story is 2020. It is a challenge to make each story as enticing as the other, and as I have said, I love to challenge myself to reach further, and this is certainly dragging it out of me.

There is another bit of business I'd like to share with you all, and that is under the heading or umbrella of X.... see, forgot but I know where I left that info., so I will go look it up and be right back.

Meanwhile here is the complete list of suggested BETTER titles than MINE for this novel; as you recall, I was using the wokring title PlagueShip Titanic and was never married to it, so I set up this contest to name that book. At this point, I may begin to ask folks to VOTE on the best title here in this list and so have something more than my mere subjectivity in making a choice. A kind of poll to help me out. Here are the titles so far (still have a few days of March left should you wish to leave a comment with your suggestion on the title and win a copy of Dead On and ack. page mention in the Titanic tome).

List is here:

Ransom Aboard
Ship for Ransom (Ship of Fools is already taken)
Titanic for Ransom
Death for Ransom
Hull Hell
Blown Ballist (sorry my friend, but I think this is funny)
Sea of Corpses
 --from which I extrapolated - Sea of Shoes (just kiddin' of course)
 --from which I extrapolated - Sea of Sacrifice and Sea of Ice
Raising the Dead
Dead at Sea
 --from which I extrapolated GhostShip
Pestilence Aboard (need an exterminator?)
Pestilence Passage
Pestilence Passenger
Pestilence Watch
Plauge Watch
*special suggestion - do as Prince does, no title, a Symbol only
Violins Played, Death Danced
 --Deah Dances to Violins maybe?
 -- Violins & Violence
Splinters of Fate
 --Shards of Fate maybe?
Curse to Forever
 --Curse of the Titanic
Karmic Voyage (after all J.P. Morgan was aboard)
Escape Titanic

I know how I am leaning, but I promised to keep the contest open until end of March so there may be more titles to come. Do not worry about my extrapolation titles for if I were to decide on a title extrapolated from one suggested, the winner is same with all the rewards! As his/her title was the catalyst for the idea.

Now I recall the craft issue I wanted to take up:  Notice how I did not talk about doing an outline but rather leapt into Chapter One from the get-go.  Know why? Go to the head of the class. I do not myself write up an outline or keep character cards, or do any of the prelim suff save research and note-taking. Not a good idea for everyone.

I will briefly discuss why I choose not to do an outline and why it is fine for some, not for others to do outlines. Much of it has to do with how we are wired differntly and the level of experience with organizing a novel. If it makes you comfy to do an outline and keep cards, etc., by all means go forth in this manner; I respect anyone who can put a novel together in any manner he or she can.  For me it gets old fast such prelim steps to writing, and for many people it kills spontaneity and again for me once a story has been told, even in outline, it can't help but get old for its author. But beware. Know thyself. If you have put together outlines and character cue cards and gone that whole nine yards only to never get the novel written, then this is not a good method or practice!

Use the practices and methods that appeal to your creative side, and remember a novel is not a spread sheet. I build it scene by scene and while I have a general notion in my head of where I am gong and where I want to end up, I like NOT to know what's coming next from page to page, scene to scene. I prefer an organic mehod or approach, allowing Chapter Two to have evolved in a natural progression from Chatper One and so on.  Of course it is Writing Without a Net....and of course you will write yourself into a corner here and there, but writing oneself out of said corners is part of the challenge and excitement of writing for me...and I emphasize for this author. There are  many mystery writers who write the last chapter first and write TO it.

I have never done this and it sounds like a logical way to work, but for now I do not know exactly how things will turn out in PlagueShip Titanic except that I know the Titanic will go down in the one story of the retelling of Titanic in 1912, and that someone will wina and someone will lose in the futuristic story in 2020 but at the moment I don't know if good or evil will prevail or if the creature is someone we trust in the early chapters.

Thanks so much everyone who has submitted titles. Earlier posts have gathered in titles as well. I have gathered them all together and if you wish to VOTE on a particular title or suggest additonal titles to bolster your chances, do so via comments here as it helps me keep them in order. Hope no ones done got their feelings hurt with my jocular remarks but that's just who I am. Nothing bad intended.

Thanks again and I hope you're finding the journal interesting. Can I  finish this book by Feb. 2011?  I mean polished and ready for an editor?  I have hopes that I have not fallen too far behind this goal.

Professor Rob

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Contest to Name my Next Book ongoing/Hit page 100

Want to remind everyone that a free hardcover edition of Dead On is yours, signed...signed by moi....for a mere comment left here on a better title than mine, PlagueShip Titanic, my working title which I am not so happy with....Also the winner gets his or her name IN the novel on the acknowledgment page for Naming the Novel. That's a double win!  Competiton is so sparse anyone might win at this point!  Keep those comments coming in; contest rules - there are none!  It is that easy!  Contest continues throughout March and if nothing better comes through the door it may be extended but hoping NOT.

Now as to progress on the novel; I have recreated the lost pages from memory, and while not word for word, I have the scenes back and intact. Happy camper but it still took a chunk of time to rewrite from my head!  So I am out a couple of weeks and due to the slow start am behind a month so must annoounce now that I am not going to make the first deadline of a rough draft in three months.Darn it's going to take four at least. I am so pleased however with the way it is going that I forgive myself.

It is not unusual to have rocky road problems at the outset of getting a novel underway, getting those first scenes--establising people, places, and issues or themes down on paper; it is why we call it a rough draft. The real work comes in rewriting these opening scenes until every pore in your body is shouting YES, that's wha I'm talking about! Hitting page one hundred has that effect on me.  Getting to that first hundred in writing a novel tells me the book can and will get done.

I was right to interweave the Past story chapteers with the Present story chapters sooner as it helps to compel the pace along for each separate storyline. First time around, I had two chapters opening with the Past story followed by two chapters of the Future story (or modern day tale). But giving it further thought, I deicded to tighten and cliffhang each storyline better by alternating chapter one then two, followed by three then four.  Past, Present, Past, Present - like that.  It has a much faster pace as a result and hopefully, the new balance will appeal to readers. I think it will; hope so.

This got me thinking along with the fact I began writing new scenes before recreating the lost ones from memory; got me thinking how most novels are written NOT in this manner. First you have the two storylines coinciding right alongside one another, and most importantly, I began writing scenes out of timeline as they do in shooting movies. I found this a challenge. I know I want that scene but have not written the previous one yet. Tricky and I know I will have to go back and read from the beginnnng up to this point to be sure I have not flubbed a lot of things that could be flubbed working out of chrnonological order. I hope my characters will all support me and be sports about how erratic the writiing is going so far, but I have every confidence in them. 

I am happy so far with the characterizations and the plot; I work hard to make plot and character involved with one another. Like most of my books before this, I am dhallenging myself to do somethiing fresh and new as I am not interested in doing the same book over and over, using same formula, even in series work. I want my characters to grow, change, react as well as act. I am so happy too to be working again with Inspedtor Alastair Ransom despite his fall from grace and using an AKA and hiding out from certain authorities.

A gtreat deal  more dialouge has been added, and pages are building, but there is a great deal more to go. Best get back at it. Any questions, suggestions, comments please add a suggestion on the title. To get ideas for the title think Titanic...doom and gloom, a plague aboard, karma,  Meanwhile, I will keep working on the worldview and mindset of each of the characters.

Thanks and happy writing - latest Kindle titles are Killer Instinct and Aftershock!

135 ebooks with my name on the covers have sold this month at the Kindle bookstore. If you are one who has purchased, please consider doing a review of the book on; you would have my undying gratification (for what that's worth!)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Simmering a Book in a Year w/setbacks & backdrops & Dialoguing It

We're not going to allow a few setbacks to cripple us; we must talk to ourselves...keep up positive feedback to that portion of the artistic mind that says we are frauds and that any day now, somone is going to call us out for our fradulent behavior.  Yes, I get this nag in my head just like you do, and I have written over fifty novels, a goodly number of which have pleased people out in the world. Even so, I am bombarded often with nagging questions such as "Who do you think you are anyway?  Are you that arrogant that you presuppose anyone or someone out there will want to read anything you have to say?"  I have to fight back such negatives of course.

Then such is compounded by foolishness as in LOSING 75 pages of polished work (as I polish a scene before I go much further along).  I got tired of trying to recoup the pages from my PC and opened an earlier rough version, and so started from page one on rewriting AGAIN...polishing once more the apple. I typically nowadays use this process -- reread up to where I am, write the next scenes, say one to three, maybe another chapter or two, and then I go back and rewrite and polish. As a younger upstart, I just rammed through and raced to the end to get the whole manuscript out of my head at once and then put it aside for a time and then begin rewriting this stack of papers, as I would print it out. But more and more, over the years, I began this parobala approach - two chapters, go back, rewrite to four, go back, rewrite to six, go back, etc.  It works for me these days. The bad news is I am behind time-wise and page number-wise at pg. 50 rather than 75 and am still facing dredging up twenty five pages from my memory bnaks.  That is my next job.

However, the setback has had a silver lining or two.  In forcing me to rewrite and polish again, I located a better center of gravity for each of the various settiing both the Past story and the Present story require. While the ship Titanic itself with its splendor will be the main, primary setting, requiring a great deal of reseach and thought, there are also several minor sets from staterooms to mine shafts and shipyards; same in the case of the Present story, while research salvage ship Scorpio is the primary set, a number of other sets come into play like the busy galley, the cramped quarters for the dive team, the submersible later, and the pancaked in on itself interior of Titanic in 2020.  So I was reminded that even minor sets require that there be an intimate interplay between them and the characters who stand out before these backdrops and that the research and backdrops cannot be allowed to overwhelm the characters and the human story out front and center stage.

But even more of a gift or Phoenix from the foul error and stench of flames!  OK, sorry for the drama....but out of the loss of pages, I was also reminded in having to go back to page one and rewrite from there how very important that I steal as many "lines" as I possibly can from the 'omniscient' voice of the narrator and put those lines into the mouths of characters or into the minds of charcters as thoughts, or smells, or tastes, or touch.  To in effect stop the lazy writing of letting the narrator do all the heavy lifting and turn it over to your characters. Let them do their own walking, their own thinking, their own talking and sniffing and kissing and caressing.  Rather than have a narrator tell the reader that David caressed the iron derek, his eyes filling with a sense of admiration at the power of this ship, SHOW David doing the caressing and have David speak his mind by putting another character on deck beside him.

BESTest way for me to illustrate what I call "Dialoguing It" (it being narrative prose/snore time) below find the initial writing so filled with narrative followed by the self-same scene but "Dialogued" instead.  Showin' rather than Tellin' if you will.  As you read each scene, notice how once you get to dialoguing and showing, more characters come into play, more action occurs, more character is revealed, and the story is moved along with a great deal more visual components and use of the five senses.  Here are the two sample examples from PlaugeShip Titanic:

THE REWRITE using Dialoguing It:

Buckland and the five other divers, including Dr. Irvin, reported to the tough-minded, former naval captain, Lou Swigart, head of the team on Scorpio. It’d been Swigart who had hand-picked David from hundreds of applicants for this mission. David had been told early on by Lou, some fifteen years his senior, that there would be no headline grabbing crap as he put it then. Lou didn’t mind repeating it for the group now where they sat in a cramped operations room.

“Nothing in the way of news or reports is going out to the press about this mission to Titanic; that means nothing about you either—no interviews, no phone calls—nothing. Consider it top secret. Got it”

Lou, a big man, filled the space where he stood beside a lectern. “Nothing said that isn’t cleared by the Woods Hole Institute PR machine. I put it to you now…simple and direct: There’ll be no freaking headline-grabbing cowboys here" He paused, taking them all in. "Not on my dive team!” He’d warmed to it, pacing now, adding, “It’s a purely scientific and salvage operation this…this expedition, ladies, gents…and so to the scientists go the spoils—whatever’s dredged out of the belly of the wreck down there. But make no bones about it, the entire structure is unstable, and what we’re proposing…well it could easily—easily turn into a suicide mission. You need to know that going in, and if any one of you decides this morning it is time to back out, your replacement is waiting in the wings to be flown out by chopper once we’re at sea, understood?”

“I do…completely, sir,” Buckland replied, feeling certain that Lou was talking about him the entire time thanks to the press that he and National Geographic had gotten on the botched salvage operation in the Sea of Japan. Despite Buckland’s opinion to not air the program, the producers had overruled him and other divers who felt as David did that it should not air on network TV, given the dire turn it had taken, costing Wilcox—who figured heavily in the program—his life.

“You don’t go into this thinking you have something to prove, people,” continued Swigart, ignoring Buckland. “This is now, and it’s hardly the Sea of Japan. Trust me, these are great depths we’ll be working at, beyond anything anyone has ever accomplished before—the real reason I suspect you’re all here, willingly…” He let this sink in before adding,“And this series of dives will prove the new technology right or wrong.”

“In other words,” said Will Bowman, grinning, “live or die.”

The room erupted in a quiet chorus of murmurs.

“I need the bread, Lou,” said Buckland. “Not here to prove anything to anyone.”

NOW here is the same scene BEFORE Dialoguing It -- wherein the narrator gets all the lines:

Buckland reported to the tough-minded, former naval captain, Lou Swigart, head of the dive team overall on Scorpio. It’d been Swigart who had hand-picked David from hundreds of applicants for this mission. David had been told by Lou, some fifteen years his senior, that there would be no headlines going out about this mission to Titanic that were not cleared by the Woods Hole Institute PR machine. That there would be no headline-grabbing cowboys here. “Not by my dive team!” he had shouted. “It’s a purely scientific and salvage operation this…this expedition, Dave, and to the scientists go the spoils—whatever’s dredged out of the belly of that beast down there. But make no bones about it, the entire structure is unstable and what we’re proposing…well it could easily—easily turn into a suicide mission, you understand?”

“I do…completely.”

“You don’t go into this thinking you have something to prove, Dave. This is now, and it’s hardly the Sea of Japan.”

“I need the bread, Lou. I signed on for the hundred thou.”

The rewrite using more Show and less Tell will be longer, more fleshed out, understandably so.  True I changed the scene from one of a private meeting between David and Lou, but in rethinking the scene it demanded that Lou meet and say these things to all his divers at once at this tine as they ar about to set sail for the shipwreck.

That's what thinking in terms of dialoguing the moment, allowing characters to state things and feel things as opposed to getting it from a faceless narrator does--makes the scene!  Makes it work because the author has put far more effort into it. I am floored when I see bestselling novels chockfull of Telling, a lazy man's method and quite often it is a dyed-in-the-wool professional tired of his job same as you might have a burned out teacher tired of the job and ought to step off, reflect, seek out something else to do and not cause the suffering of others as in students or readers as the case may be. How often do readers, not sure why or how but they know Author X has lost that flare s/he had in the early books in a series but gone in the later books?  This is the problem--allowing the Telling, Narratives to stand whether than doing the back-breaking work of fleshing them out and allowing the play to go forward without the chorus in the corner (or the Wizard behind the curtain coming on stage) and Blatantly Telling us what to think.  It is a lazy man's method, a lazy author at work--and all of us are given over to it as our brains just want to take the path of least resistance, which is TELL the story.  Show the story, now that takes pick and shovel.

Thanks for dropping in and hanging with me as I write PlagueShip.  I have gathered in a number of alternative titles and the contest continues until end of March.  Get your suggetion in by simply commenting here.

Rob Walker
PS - my highly acclaimed Instinct titles are going up as Kindle books this month beginning with Dr. Jessica Coran's first FBI ME case - Killer Instinct.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Time And Time Again Time Wins, Writer Loses...But!

Again my week was so filled with everything and anything pulling me away from the writing of Plagueship Titanic that I got next to nothing done.  In fact as it is the book is sitting with this inertia-inspired grin on its face staring back at me.  Ever have that happen?  If so, you may want to get thee to an asylum.  But books do have a way of smirking at you, talking back even, as when characters and scenes won't do what you want them to, or simply go in another direction.

This business of Cooking up a Book is no piece of cake; no one said it'd be easy, and I promised the blemishes with the smooth skin, now didn't I?  Scheduling time to write can come back to bite you, especially if you have kids in the home and you are working a job.  Fatigue and time and inertia all conspire against you, and when you down the evening meal with every expectation that a bit of food will energize you to do some evening work....well no, it rather puts you in a frame of mind to relax instead with the evenng news and a favorite TV lineup.

I write best in the AM frankly but when a deadline is looming, I write all hours of the day.  The motivation of someone is wating on your finished product is a great help to keep you on schedule but you do not often have the luxury of knowing there is an agent or editor "anxious" to see your product.  That is definitely the case with a cross-genre novel like PlagueShip as it can not be pigonholed as a suspense, a mystery, an historical thriller, science fiction, or a horror novel -- as it is all of the above with a romance thrown in for spice.

Thus this weekend I again am making time -- key word there is MAKING it, creating time for writing.  I have done it in the past and can do it now. A magician's trick.  You make time for those things you deem important and just plain in need of DOING.  Doing is the trick and without it there is no production, no "rushes"  for the day that you can go over and rewrite.  Cannot rewrie what ye do not write.

That said I did get two suggestions for titles to replace Plagueship Titanic as I am not married to said working title and there is a Contest going on for best alternative title.  The two I have so far are neck and neck on the interest scale but I expect more to come in as contestants have until the end of March to come up with a gripping title that encompasses in capsule form the nature of the novel.  To ENTER your suggestion for a better title it might help to see the suggestions already made....then again it might paralyze you.  At this point, I will await more suggestions and list these next week on the 6th Installment to give you a chance to enter fresh and without any preconcieved idea that "I could never top that!"  Do lealve your suggestion for the title to win an ackknowledgment in the book and an autographed copy of DEAD ON in your mailbox by going to the comment box below and leaving word.

I intend once again to get at least twenty-five pages done this weekend to make up for my shoddy laziness of the week. Weekends, holidays, Spring Breaks, Summertime, Christmas, New Years--these are writing days where I often use time to devote to my writing.  If and when I become independently wealthy with too much time on my hands, I will likely not use time as wisely and will get even LESS done in terms of crafting novels. I have found that students with less time do better work than those who have twice the time. A strange paradox that time thing.

Going to keep this short so I will sign off now and get to work on PlagueShip. Meanwhile do vistit to see a great review of my ebook Kindle Original - Children of Salem.  And to learn just how wonderful Kindle ebooks have been to some Indie Authors like myself check out Joe Konrath's blog as it is amazing.

Thanks for coming by
And do leave any questions, comments, advice etec, you like

Rob Walker