Ode to a Brainstorm


storm cell #9

Brainstorm!

A couple of Blogs back I promised that this week would be add a few new characters week for my manuscript.  I played with a few ideas in my head, none of them bearing real fruit until I had a waking vision.  I was munching my dinner in my car when suddenly my mind opened up with a great picture of  a creature; a scary, but beautiful night creature.  Yeah, yeah, I know you’re all thinking Vampire, right?  Nope.

I have been re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which I mention last Blog.  Ala J.K Rowling‘s experience on a train, no pen or paper handy with the idea for Harry Potter in her head, there I was with no pen or paper available, only my mind for a page.  To make matters worse, my dinner break was ten minutes from finished.  What to do?

I brainstormed that new character in my head for that ten minutes until she looked completely fleshed out and real.  I drove my car back to the job, thinking hard about those ideas of her made whole, got out and locked the car, walking a little blinded by the vision in my head. I was so desperate to hold onto her.  I could see her eyes becoming more and more real.  They haunted me until I was through the doors of my work.

So, my vision stayed with me.   My lovely one grew taller.  She gained hair and skin and a lithe physique.  Her eyes were her best feature, but all of her, well, I think I’m in love, like a parent of a new daughter I just wrote into being…except I hadn’t written her down, yet.

By the time I left work, headed home in a happy, calm mixture of thought, she gained personality traits, had a way of moving about, something of her very essence was captured.  She now existed.

So, after a start with no paper or pen, last night I finally wrote her character into my manuscript.

I added this character so readers could connect with my protagonist better, see her through the eyes of her newly created friend.  I went further to decided how she looks, speaks, acts, and interacts with my main character and the others thus far introduced.

She worked like a charm but for one thing; I love the new character so well I’m afraid she’ll take over the story!  But, if J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter could function well with such appealing characters as Hermione and Ron Weasley, okay, Ron was comic relief, perfect foil for serious Hermione, maybe I’ll be okay with this new creature just as she is.  And perhaps later on she’ll get her own story.  Could happen…

Manana I’m adding one more character to the mix, a villainous type, and perhaps two other minor characters for this book, that will grow into their own in this and the next book.  Yes, Virginia, there is a sequel to the manuscript I haven’t finished…yet!  I realized that to tell the story I have brewing, I will need more than one book unless I want it to be two thousand pages long.  Thus I’m splitting the tale as I write it into two sections.

I have yet again, through close reading of Harry Potter and a bit of knowledge about J.K. Rowling, moved ahead in my manuscript.  J.K. Rowling really does have a touch of magic…if you look into her first Harry Potter Book long enough, you will find everything you love about a good tale…and then you get to keep it and apply that magic hand to your own writing.  I could find it and keep it, and even apply it, you can, too.  Tag, you’re it.

Well, gotta add more characters, and work on catching them all up into the tale.  Cheers!

C.K. Garner

J.K. Rowling plays nicely with all the tropes and genres..


Our love worn copy of Harry Potter

I’ve been thinking about Harry Potter today in relation to writing my own novel.  I dusted off my son’s battered old copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, abandoned now that my son is twenty and moved out into the muggle world as a young adult, and began rereading it, with an eye for what drives this little volume that started a worldwide reading frenzy.

After a few chapters, I caught up on a few things that I had seen before in many, many books happily read over the years.  At the most obvious, this is a classic coming of age story.

Harry has the ability to grow, and the reader, if he starts reading this as a child, will mature right along with him, can relate to him from every aspect of what it is to be a kid.  From what he is required to eat as opposed to what he wants to eat, from  the tedium of studies, to happiness with professors  he enjoys, and the schoolyard bullies, lurking around the corners, kids, and adults who remember being a child, can relate to him.

Then there are the friendships that develop as Harry gets to know Hermione Granger, Ron and the whole Weasley clan, and learns how to relate with the other students.  He goes from a lonely child to a boy with close friendships.

Finally, there are the adult figures.

Harry has absolutely no experience with adult characters beyond the Dursleys, and he has no reason to trust any adults.   But with the arrival of childlike, if intimidating Hagrid, Harry begins to see adults in a new light, and this will continue as he grows and meets Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and the rest of the cast, keeping in mind, he meets the not so nice ones as well, but chooses who he will associate with, once he has freedom of choice beyond the Dursley House.   Thus, Harry Potter comes of age before our very eyes through his interactions with humanity, or rather Wizards and Half Bloods and Muggles who touch his life, and change him mostly for the better.

Next, Harry Potter is a rags to riches story.   He sleeps in a cupboard, and lacks bedroom, pets, toys, friends, family and good inside or outside activity.  He has no one who sees or cares what is happening to him at the Dursley’s hands.  Creature comforts as simple as a decent bed and a good meal are denied him.  Just a couple of chapters in, he is eating savory sausages,  has a protector and companion in Hagrid, and finds a new place, richly vibrant and alive in contrast to his life with the Dursleys.  The money wealth is only secondary with all that comes his way.

Last, but only because this is such an involved subject, the tropes available just endless, Harry Potter is the classic tale of Good against Evil, and the struggle of our protagonist to learn about himself, the sacrifices his parent made, the eventual knowledge that his father wasn’t always the nicest kind of guy, the ambition to push forward and become a leader, albeit reluctantly, and the battle against the Ultimate Foe, one who goes after children…well, the need to choose between the good and the ugly and the middling ground in between lay in at the door of this classic Genre series.

So, what to do with this deluge of information?

I take it as a lesson that my novel doesn’t have to fall into just one category or subject arena.  Sure, it’s nice to bust out with something original, but the tropes laid down in stories past are still going because they are beloved familiars.  I can twist and tweak them at will just like J.K. Rowling did and does.  The good guys can become bad, the bad good.  The rich can become richer, and the poor stay poor, or the poor can gain wealth to no good end.  The lonely find a host of company, or just the reverse, find delight in the art of being alone.  It’s all up to me, and to you, the writers.

Sometimes all it takes is Hello.


A bonobo fishing for termites using a sharpene...

Something to chew on...

So, there I was, frustrated and ready to toss in the towel, bots 35, CK nada.  Then something magical happened.  Five legitimate hits made it through the mire! Each one of them a gem, a treasure, because not only were they encouraging, but they have interesting sites, really great things to say about life and pondering lies, to write or not to write and why they keep going, or what makes them feel, etc.  All of them combined kept me going, gave me new reasons to be happy, to keep writing. Ready?  Makes me think of a trip to the San Diego Zoo, I took recently.

The bonobos (very close cousin to chimps) were lounging about, engaging each other in various fashions.  One pair in particular was interesting to watch.  A bonobo was trying to scratch a spot on his back and shoulders.  I could see that he just couldn’t quite get the spot.  This went on for some time, the bonobo looking frustrated and ready to throw something, when a second bonobo knuckled up, assessed the situation, and began scratching the first ones back.  They both looked immensely pleased with themselves.  Finally, massage and scratching service finished, the second bonobo sat there, not moving, but still looking content.  The first one stretched, reached next to him, and producing a piece of fruit, inspected it, then handed it to the back scratching bonobo who saved the day.

That bonobo smiled hugely.  I swear he grinned ear to ear.  He broke the fruit open, sniffed and gloried in it, sat down next to the other and began to gnosh.  Then he stopped.  He lifted a chunk of the fruit and gave it to the one next to him, and they both sat and finished the snack, happy with the excellent agreement.

Moral of the animal tale?  The more I watch those bonobos the more I understand what it is to be human.  So to the back scratchers who made me feel like continuing the blog was worth while, I thank you, the fruit I offer will be in the form of telling everyone about you and providing links to your words from my words.  Merci, to you all, you keep me in good spirits, may those good spirits be returned to you tenfold.:)

http://ontopofthehighestpole.wordpress.com/

http://christyfarmer.wordpress.com/

http://foetalpositions.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/shenanigans-writers-block-and-inspirationalism/

http://jonathanpezman.wordpress.com/

http://storytellingnomad.wordpress.com/

Back to writing


Well, no one is going to see this but the bots as they have taken over my referral box and comment box!  Alas, Askimet does not catch them and they have overridden the Kingdom at wordpress. So I’m going to leave off Blogging for awhile until they fix the referral spam problem.  I’m not writing the Blog here for the bots, I’m writing it for the exercise it gives the mind, and for contact with other Writers and Authors, to see what they are doing, and to share what I have found in researching the road from Writer to Author.  I’m writing less, and I find myself spending more time trying to find a way around the bots and worrying about my stats than writing, and since that is what the whole blog is for, but it has been corrupted, *sigh* I just don’t see any other option.

On a happier note, I’m going back to writing offline, of course, where I always compose.  I’m about half way through the manuscript, and the decision to put my energies to that instead of fighting the bots makes me feel better already.  Makes me wonder if the Blogging is really worth it?  Perhaps the best author sites are true feedback sites, where they critique each others work.  I think that after working on my manuscript for about a week, I’ll do some research in that arena.  I’ll see you later folks!  I hope the writing links provided in my blogs will help you on your way!

Cheers!

C.K. Garner

Blog while you write to promote your manuscript, and learn the ropes of publishing before you finish.


Interaction + Sales

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

>There is a lot of advice about writing out there, but many sites fail to mention that you need to learn the ropes about publishing before you finish your manuscript.  Since I’m a new writer long the path to author, I was concerned when I got to the halfway point that I didn’t know a thing about how to get published once I have my manuscript completed and edited a thousand times.

Then I stumbled across Nathan Bransford’s Blog about Writing and Authorship. Bransford, a former agent for Curtis Brown, Ltd. and now an Author,  talks about what you need to do ahead of time, things you should be researching ahead of your completing a manuscript.  Under the title, “How to find a Literary Agent” you can connect to his straight talk about the work you need to do.  Blogging is a start.

You can read Bransford’s solid advice about how to begin, HERE.  Bransford champions learning about and beginning to promote yourself by connecting with other Writers and Authors and learning about agents before you need them…makes sense, right?  So let’s get Blogging!  Meanwhile, KEEP WRITING.

>Back to the Reason for the Blog: The Writing!


On Writing

Stephen King advises, "Kill your darlings" for better editing.

>Now that I’ve finished for the most part with creating a Blog and then transferring that Blog to WordPress Blog, I can get back to the parts I like!  Writing and Editing and Research for my manuscript. Yay!  That is today’s plan.  So, lets focus on tips for writing and editing.

I have a magic wand for you, Dear Reader, to use when editing! It is Stephen King’s formula for writing, then cutting out the clutter. This was good advice that he received from an agent after one of his manuscripts was, yet again, rejected.

Here is the formula King uses:   Second Draft = First Draft -10%

I read about the formula in Stephen King’s book, “On Writing “ recommended to me by Tone Milazzo, Author of Picking Up the Ghost , and Batton Lash, Author and Artist of  Supernatural Law . Thanks guys!

Much of  King’s book is a humorous tale of his background, and his life as a constant Writer before getting well published. But once you get to a chapter he calls “Tools the book really takes off!

The “Tools” chapter and beyond are some great, solid bites of getting your words on the page, and then editing, and to quote King, “Kill your darlings “.  What this means is, after you have decided you have edited out all you possibly could from your manuscript, after you think it is finished, do it again.  You do not have your final draft until you have killed the passages you think are “Darling”, i.e. your “keepers”, etc.  When you have rewritten your best scenes, then you are on your way to a better manuscript.

If you think it sounds nit-picky, try it.  Are there any adverbs you left in play?  Get rid of them and rewrite those sentences that contain them.  Do your Beta Readers (Also called Betas, people who read your manuscript before editor or agent) yawn each time they hit a certain passage?  Kill it!  Got a long tirade that really doesn’t move the story forward, or back story that doesn’t clearly have a reason for being there?  “Kill those Darlings!”  I’ll chat at you later after I’ve revamped my favorite passages.

Damage Control: Repair your sentence structure. Edit!


My least favorite part about writing is repairing sentence structure in my manuscripts; i.e. editing. That being said, you won’t be surprised to find, that my least favorite part about blogging is repairing sentence structure, can you say editing?!  I knew you could. Guess what?  If you want your manuscript to become a  novel you are going to have to do a full Dumpster’s worth of  editing.  So, I’ve decided to quit whining and learn to embrace the editing process. I’ll rehash a Blog I wrote about adding a character to help develop my protagonist, and getting organized. I’m going to restructure the entire post, remove anything that isn’t related to it, post it again. Goodtimes. Good practice for my manuscript!

I read a lovely Blog about how to create better sentences here: http://foetalpositions.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/shenanigans-writers-block-and-inspirationalism/

The Feotal Positions Blog is a wealth of information for Writers and Authors alike to aid in paring those sentences down into simple, readable structures.

That is tonight’s post, Folks.  Off I go to do some chopping and restructuring!  You do the same.  Confused?  Visit Foetal Positions Blog in WordPress!

My latest “What if” session resulted in a new mission: Add Characters=Realistic Protagonist


Puppeteer

Adding additional, or secondary, characters can help develop your protagonist!

After my last “What if ” session I found myself developing a whole new character.

I’m going to plop this character down into several scenes from beginning to middle, which is the extent to which I have written my Fantasy Manuscript, and add her to my protagonist‘s friend list.

Yes, this means I get to go back and revamp every interaction between most of the characters already written, but I think my readers will know my protagonist better through the new character.  It will aid in moving the tale along, and add some moral compass, too.  So, all in all, it is worth the extra work!

I’m also introducing two more characters, one  originally planned for  the second book  of the Fantasy series, and the other an enemy, or frienemy as they are called.  My protagonist needs work, and I need to show the reader her less desirable traits, as well as her better traits.  My protagonist must learn how to make good choices to grow in maturity, and act to follow suit.  These can be expanded on through her friends points of view.

Conflict, not perfection, and the struggle to move forward make my protagonist appear more real, and that will help my reader to relate to her.  The secondary characters provide support for, or undermine her  further development, which helps to drive the plot.  Mission accomplished…well, not quite yet.

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me!  Now you try.  Add a new character and see what it does for your story.

>Formatting Your Manuscript: Section One, Traditional Format


Manuscript

Don't wait! Format your manuscript now!

>When I began writing, it was on paper.  Ten sheets of crazy written notes in chicken scratch handwriting, filled to capacity on both sides. I even had teeny notes in the margins and running around the edges!  Beautiful to have the ideas down, ugly to look at.  I transferred it to the computer, started fleshing out those ideas, making them bigger, scrapping some, just writing.  However, I was all over the place with fun word fonts tiny print sizes, not to mention right justified margins.  There was nothing to distinguish between one chapter and the next, and it had random headers and footers for chapters and notes.  With an eye on future publication, I knew I needed to get my writing into manuscript format, both for my own organization, and eventual manuscript submissions.

So, I dove into the search to find the best manuscript formatting advice.  And there is a crazy amount of information out there!  For this first segment I’m going to concentrate on traditional publishing formats.   After reading two books with content on the subject, and twenty websites, I came up with a good  answer, and a couple of links. Depending on the publishing house, there are many ways to format a manuscript, and each one has its preference.  There are, however, some prominent commonalities.  The following list should get your writing in good order, and when you get to the finish line, your manuscript will be properly formatted aside from front page.

Get organized, get formatted, get going!

The following format applies to Traditional Manuscripts only:

  • A one inch margin all around is the industry standard.
  • Margin should be left justified, resulting in a ragged margin on the right edge.
  • Most prefer no header or footer
  • Type size should allow for editing and ease of reading. Size 12 or 10 are best, but trend leans toward size 12.
  • Most Editors and Agents prefer to read fonts in New Courier, but Times New Roman is  acceptable.  This can vary widely between Agents, Editors, and Publishing Houses.  Check before you send your manuscript!
  • Double space your lines.
  • Use a .5 inch indentation for a new paragraph.
  •  To begin a new chapter, insert a page break, but check with the Publishing House guidelines as this varies highly.
  • Another option to indicate when one paragraph starts and another stops is to use a pound sign # centered at the start of a new chapter, but once again this varies highly by Publishing House.  Check their specific guidelines!
  • Words that you want to emphasized should be underlined.  Do not use italics.
  • Number your pages at the top of each page!  Make sure they are sequential, starting from 1, 2, 3, etc. each page getting a number to the end page which will have the highest number. There are specifics as to where each Publishing House will want the numbering, but for writing purposes top right should do.
  • There is a lot of conflicting information as to whether or not to print your name at the top of each page.  But from researching this, it is better to skip it until you have selected an agent or publishing house, then apply those guidelines. 
  • Want more information about formatting you manuscript or a front cover letter? My usual go to guy, Author Nathan Bransford and this nice clear information from Moira Allen, editor of Writing World.com Moira Allen, Manuscript Format

>What’s in a Name? How do you choose a pen name and should you?


Mask

Do you use a Nom de Plume?

>Do you recognize any of these Author names?  Richard Bachman, Mark Twain, J.D. Robb, Paul French, David Axton, Joanne Rowling, Dawn Cook.

Give up?

They are Stephen King, Samuel Clemens, Nora Roberts, Issac Asimov, Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, Kim Harrison.  So when do you use a pen name?

There are several reasons to publish under a Nom de Plume instead of your own.  In some cases, for an already established Author, a switch to a different genre is the push. For instance, while Auroa Hartsmith might be an okay name for a romance author, it might not work for a horror author…unless she is rewriting a new version of Frankenstein.

Another reason is privacy.  Some authors are pretty quiet in their home lives.  They may not want to share so much of their real persona with the public until they are putting on their game face for press reviews and panels and signings.  There are also authors who are writing about controversial or adult subjects.  Their privacy is important because of possible harmful repercussions to their dayjobs or public reputations.

An author may want to write more books than a publishing house is willing to commit to, so writing under a different name helps the author avoid legal entanglementsif they move to a new house, or even publish for themselves.  It all depends on the contract entered in to originally.

A new Author may want to keep their options open for future publications to varying audiences.  Perhaps the voice you are writing in now is suitable for children’s literature, but say you want to use the same name to write a horror or adult novel.  The voice would change according to the audience, and the subject matter would be inappropriate for the kiddies, so the name should follow suit, to avoid complications.

Some Authors simply don’t feel the name has a good ring to it, and they want a name that sounds younger, or older according to their tale.

Choosing a pen name that does not give away your gender can be helpful in marketing your book to a larger audience.  Unfortunately, it is still common that people tend to buy books leaning toward a certain gender for a specific genre.  J.K. Rowling’s publisher felt that her gender might limit her target audience in marketing a book with a boy protagonist.  J.K. Rowling instead of Joanne Rowling is a gender neutral choice.

And here’s an interesting snippet: When an author chooses a name, they may be encouraged by their publisher to select a name that comes after the letter “E” and before the letter “N” in the alphabet.  This is because, according to market research, people have a tendency to look at titles from those that are near the top to middle of the shelves.  They are less likely to choose a title from the lower shelves.That means that if you have a last name starting with a “Z” your work will not be as visible to the customer trying to find a good read.

So, many authors do use a pen name for many and varied reasons. I didn’t see a whole lot of cons discussed, and in fact, the pros are numerous, so I wrote this Pen Name Blog in a positive light.  Have fun choosing yours!

C.K. Garner =^,^=

>Stuck on what to write? Play the "What If" game.


Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

>Stephen King’s book, “On Writing” has a great tip for when you don’t know what to say next, or if you are trying to think up an idea for your novel play the “What if” game. It’s easy to learn, just pick a subject. Say you like Zombies. Now play “what if” with the idea of Zombies:

What if Zombies were teachable?
What if you could train them to do mundane work like mowing the lawn or bicycle repairs?
What if they accidentally ate your neighbors cat while mowing the lawn because you had them on too long a chain?
What if there was a movement to free the poor worker ant Zombies?
What if someone proposed a Zombie Bill of Rights?
What if the Zombies came unleashed and ate their owners?
Would the Zombies still mow the lawn out of habit?

There. Considering that was “What if” on a single subject, how many other possibilities or impossibilities are there to write about? Now you get the idea!

Playing “What if” brings you to ask and add more questions. Soon you’ll have plenty of questions asked that need answering! So, the next time you don’t know how to begin writing your novel, or are stuck for ideas in the middle of your manuscript, look around your neighborhood and start playing, “What if…”

>Something every potential ebook Author should read…


A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

For tonight’s post, I’m simply going to direct you to the right of my Blog page where the My Blog List resides.  Note the name Nathan Bransford. I’ve mentioned him before as both Author and former Agent.  Read what he has to say about the scuffle between Amazon ebooks and Apple.  Sounds like ebook Authors will take the hit possibly in publishing restrictions, perhaps in accessibility, likely in the wallet.  I’ve a very loose understanding on this, so I’m directing you to The Pro, Nathan Bransford.  Follow the link to his page.  The article you are looking for is “This Week in Books” dated 5/13/11 Nathan Bransford talks about ebooks and the possible new rules

Blogging is a Start…


Climbing Gear

Equip yourself with the right gear and learn the ropes of getting published!

>There is a lot of advice about writing out there, but many sites fail to mention that you need to learn the ropes before you finish your manuscript.  Nathan Bransford’s Blog about Writing and Authorship talks about what you need to do ahead of time, things you should be researching ahead of your completing a manuscript.  Under the title, “How to find a Literary Agent” you can connect to his straight talk about the work you need to do.  Blogging is a start.  You can read the info. HERE.  Bransford champions learning about and beginning to promote yourself, connecting with other Writers and Authors, and learning about agents before you need them…makes sense, right?  So here’s my attempt at getting my WordPress Blog account to connect with  Blogspot so I can connect with more of you brilliant Writers and Authors!  Wish me luck!

http://ckgarner.blogspot.com/

>Writer’s Break: Have you read any Steampunk lately?


>Ah, a little rest for the cramped fingers.  Time to relax with a good read.  I am quite involved in a very active group of alternate historians known as Steampunks.  The books in the Steampunk genre tend to lean towards alternate history of the Victorian Era, which speculate as to how things might be in the future.  Think HG Wells, The Time Machine, Sherlock Holmes, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and now Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest.

Boneshaker differs a bit from a lot of books in the Steampunk genre, as it takes place in the Alternate history US, instead of the typically seen Victorian British Empire.  It leans more to a Western ideal of the times such as the search for Gold, issues of culture and status, the Civil War and the expansion of travel through trains, and in true Steampunk fashion, dirigibles.  Want to know a bit more?
Here is a full review of Boneshaker by Cherie Priest at boingboing.net 
To visit Author Cherie Priest’s Blog click here

>Get started on your manuscript!


start start start

Getting started: Plant ass in chair, then play "What if?"

>People ask me, what does it take to get started writing a novel?  Well, for me my writers block broke, and the ideas just came flooding into my head.  It was so overwhelming I had to leap out of my shower, where I was when it happened, and run for paper and pencil.  Then I spent the next couple of hours wrapped in a towel, scribbling the ideas down on ten sheets of paper stolen from my printer.

When I finally stopped, my hair and towel were dry, and I had ten sheets of tightly cramped writing using both sides of each sheet. The ideas that rushed forth that day were the basis for the manuscript I am working on now, and I guess I should count myself lucky I had such an experience.  But many writers just can’t seem to get started.  I am not really an exception.  There were things I was doing that got those floodgates to burst. 

So how do you go about getting to the beginning of writing, pushing those ideas you have banging around in your head to the page?  I don’t remember where I heard it, but it is some of what I had been attempting to do before my writers block broke.  The answer is “ass in chair time”.

You must sit yourself down in the chair either with paper and pen, or an open blank page on your computer screen before you, and not allow yourself to leave from that spot until you have written something on the page.  Even if it is only, “Dear G*#, I have no idea what to write!”  Then play the “What if” game. (See earlier post)

That is what I was doing several weeks before the big flood of ideas in March of 2010.  See, I even remember the month in which it all started, because it was that momentous an occasion in my life from ideas for a great story, to actually getting them on paper.

Remember this:  “Ass in chair time” is where it starts.  So go plant your ass in a chair, and get writing!

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