Saturday, September 28, 2013

Diagrams

So, after a few days of suffering the Between Times, I went back to working on a novel (or at least  a novella)  that I had cast aside for months when the words, scenes, characters, and enough red herrings to stock a fish market, amassed to the point that I found myself as confused as the improbable future reader would be.  The story's chronology jumped around as events unfolded, one scene followed another sequentially when it should have preceded it and flashbacks happened BEFORE the events they described. Characters mentioned events that had not occurred or were not mentioned earlier.  In other words, the manuscript structure was a terrible mess.

I've used mostly databases and spreadsheets to help me plot stories recently, but these seemed of little help to taming this particular ms.  Years ago I often used diagraming to clarify the flow of a story so I thought I'd give it a try.   Visualizing  all the scenes and/or plot points on a single white board, sheet of paper, or computer screen made it easier to discover relationships.  Initially I used PowerPoint and drawing packages until I stumbled on Inspiration,which greatly facilitated both the drawing and arranging aspects.

I took apart the messy WIP and, after I broke out the major scenes and/or plot points, I started arranging them sequentially along an arbitrary time line.  The first thing this did was to illuminate the before and after questions. The other thing was that I could see the relationships between scenes and plots.  Further examination of the diagram indicated what scenes were missing and how I should link them within the story's sequence.  In the diagram below, the color coding of the main arc is yellow, the subplots green and blue, and the material to be written is in pink.


The story is by no means finished, but for the moment I am happy that I have untangled the knot of poor plotting and can now go on to (hopefully) complete the story.

#SFWApro

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Between Times


I hate this time, this purgatory of between-ness when my latest (and always greatest) story has been submitted and before the next-great-story-idea impels me to write .  In these periods when my brain is not consumed with a single idea, I cast about, unsure of what to do.

My writer's workbench is covered with incomplete projects, stories that have not yet found a home, and those that just don't seem to work properly.  There are the great  unfinished novels lying about in their not-quite-finished state, waiting for only a kind hand to guide the last 10, 25, or 75 percent of the remainder.  I page through the unfinished drafts, pecking a word, a sentence, a paragraph or scene or two before abandoning the effort and take a stab at another, hoping all the while that lightning will strike, the heavens part, and the great illumination would suffuse the work.

Alas, that never happens and I plod along, pecking, pecking, pecking at dull, lifeless prose, resigned to having the piece achieve high mediocracy at best.

Somehow pieces do get finished, at least finished enough that I can start editing, which is my absolutely favorite part of writing. I love polishing the words, brutally cutting swathes of text or moving them about to more interesting territory, expanding parts where something must be explained and slicing the obvious, banal, or clich├ęd phrases so that the story reads as fresh as if it had emerged fully formed in a conversation. Then I add a few more touches to ensure it is in order and off it goes - another submission launched into editorial review space.

And, at that point, I am once again in the between times purgatory.

#SFWApro

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gentleman Broncos (not a review)

Gentleman Bronchos was recommended by a friend, who chuckled as he did so.

I was captivated by the opening credits, something I usually ignore, because they depicted in background the covers of science fiction tales from the 50's and 60's, many of them creations of Kelly Freas and all of whom were viewed again to elicit fond memories. Gods, I even recall some of the stories these covers depicted. Many were covers of Astounding, now Analog, magazine, but there were other covers I recognized as well.  I "rewound" the CD to run through the opening credits two more times, just for sheer enjoyment of seeing those images and still, ignored the credits themselves.

Alas, the movie did not live up to its proud, promising opening.  This movie is about writing and imagining bad SF. It is excruciatingly campy for the most part, especially the movie-within-the-movie scenes.  Even the non-campy parts are cringe-worthy.

My favorite character was the famous writer (Chevalier, played by Jemaine Clement) who is so awesomely full of himself that he is blind to any other talents save his own.  Come on, we all know a few writers (no names, no names!!) like this; pretentious assholes for the most part, preening peacocks who fret and strut, etc. and think their methods, their approaches are beyond reproach.  Chevalier typifies this type.

Was this why he'd chuckled?  I hope not.

There is a rather contrived redemption at the movie's end, but when it failed to explicate the Chevalier's fate satisfactorily I rolled back the opening credits, occasionally stopping at a cover of particularly fond memory, and wishing Kelly were still with us.

#SFWApro

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Spikes

My blog's traffic history is replete with spikes of activity that I suspect do not reflect people who actually read the posts.  Having the map of Russia light up frequently indicates that many of the hits are spambots or worse.

So how can one judge readership?

Comments are one reliable way, followers are another (ten for the first and eight for the latter).  If I assume that only 1% of readers would bother to comment, that leaves me with eighty people who read my weekly posts. Sometimes I'll write something that undeniably appeals to a larger group, such as worrying about  submitting too early, or the Ten Stages of Story Development  I also got a big hit after I appeared at ReaderCon a month ago.

Why should I care about the traffic numbers?  No reason, except to give mean excuse to write this post for my (few) stalwards to read.  But mostly I write these blog posts to please myself, imagining some aspiring writer in a cold garrett seeking consolation that at least one other writer is equally as miserable, but willing to admit it.

But misery should not the predominate force in a writer's life. Instead there should be a passion for words, for the rhythm of sentences, the pace of paragraphs, and the smooth arc of a well-crafted plot.  The true writer is ever in pursuit of the perfect line that says exactly what they want, in an elegant manner, and with an economy of words.  Such a goal is seldom achieved, yet striving for that line, that perfect phrase, that simple yet significant turn of phrase is what impels us to create, to write, and to endlessly submit so that we can reach to another soul and so inform them of life and its joys.

But sometimes, just getting the damn thing done is enough.

#SFWApro