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Update on The Whitehaired Shooter…

whs

The White haired Shooter

Been working steadily on the first revision of The Whitehaired Shooter.  The first draft was all narrative and bits of dialogue. Pretty much pure “telling.”  I just got the story out, and like it. I think it’s pretty solid. But it really stinks as a piece of fiction.

Early on in my studies of fiction writing, I remember laughing at a writing tip. Basically it said just get your story out for your first draft. Then read through it. Then start at the beginning and write it from scratch.  Sounded bogus to me.

I find that’s exactly the process The Whitehaired Shooter is undergoing.  And it’s awesome.  Instead of trying to edit and “fix” the story I pounded out, I’m rewriting from page one. And this time around, I know what I want to say.

I believe it’s coming out as something that — well — like something I’d like to read. Imagine that! And this method was not the waste of time I thought it would have been.

It’s been more like this first draft was a first rehearsal- reading from the script and getting to know the parts.  The first revision is paying attention to the props, use of the stage, checking lighting and sound, and getting ready for a dress rehearsal.

It’s real work, but I’m having a ball. I can’t wait for “Opening Night.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Writing the Book

 

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When Your Character is a Liar

Liar

Writing Backstory:  When Your Character is a Liar

Just this morning I discovered I have to revisit the drawing board for one of my characters. The antagonist in my novel has a colorful enough “real” history already in my planning– but she’s a pathological liar.

What I had overlooked, until reviewing my newly installed Timeline, was the need to build her “fictitious” liar’s backstory. Her life’s story was tough — abuse, drugs, gangs, prison– but the lie, the story she tells others to blend in, is another matter. And because SHE believes it to be real, it has to be crafted as though it was. A bunch of random lies told here and there to throw people off won’t work.

I have a new found appreciation of what causes writers to  often appear distracted. My first novel’s draft taught me how difficult building a whole world can be. But  I’m now being blown away at the level of discipline –and close brushes  with insanity – that’s required of anyone attempting to craft a mystery/suspense thriller.  WOW!  Here’s hoping it’s just temporary…

As I go about my job, paying bills, cooking dinner, driving and so on, I’m playing over the stories of my characters in my head. Trying to make sure they are believable and interesting. Now I have to work with my antagonist, the pathological liar, and she is extremely bright and well organized – so I guess I’ll have to just pretend to be that too, as I muddle through today!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Writing the Book

 

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Developing a Timeline

clocks

Developing a Timeline.

Today I’m going to share a powerful — yet simple– tool that has improved the “big picture” of my story.

My timeline is a simple spreadsheet – Dates form the column headers, and the rows are free form, used for tracking developing threads and storylines.

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Since I’m already well into my first draft, I have dropped scenes/actions from my growing story into it. It’s already helped me track the complex and various themes/undercurrents at work. I’ve found some gaps to fill in, and believe I could have overlooked them by just reading back through what I’ve written. The timeline should result in a stronger, better story by helping me hit all my marks, and keep me from wandering too far off the story in dialog and scenes.

The spreadsheet helps visualize the components and characters of the story, and has helped me to see how they can weave together better. For example, I’ve already seen where earlier insertion of a character into the story eliminated the need for backstory later, and found opportunities for dropping bread crumbs and background hints that will tie together later on.

Early in the outlining process for this novel, I developed a timeline for my character back stories, and it was extremely helpful. I thought through what drives my players. But using a timeline for the main story just seemed too complex.  Building it now , I can now see how it’s a great tool to use while writing, and imagine revising will benefit as well.

Many writers prefer using sticky notes– or 3×5 cards– pinned/taped to a board or wall that serves the same function as a spreadsheet.  Personally, I’m not disciplined enough for that, and find a spreadsheet is much more forgiving.  I love the flexibility a spreadsheet offers.  For instance, I’ve just decided it would be helpful to color code Point of View into the timeline. I  believe it will help me examine which character has the best POV for the action/scene unfolding.

Do you have tools, tips, tricks or suggestions that help you develop your story?I’d love to hear from you.

 

I’m adding this to my “Lessons learned” list!

16.  Develop a Timeline for your Story. A spreadsheet, or sticky notes/3×5 cards can be used to see the character interactions, story development, plot line and twists, and help you see the “bigger picture” of the story you are writing as it will unfold for the reader. Simple and powerful tool to keep your writing on track and coherent!

 

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Writing the Book

 

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Show Don’t Tell – real world lesson

Show Don’t Tell – real world lesson

One of the most frequently given reminders to the new-to-the-craft of fiction is “Show Don’t Tell.”

After hearing that over and over, and often without any substantial guidance on how to improve, the fledgling writer can glaze over hearing that phrase. I did for quite awhile, anyway.

It was surprising and refreshing to see the following in the “signature” yesterday in an email from one of our real-life customers, a Safety Engineer:

Tell them-They will forget

Show them-They will remember

Involve them-They will be committed

I was intrigued, and of course, googled it. References from Chinese Proverbs, to Maya Angelou, and MHSA (Mine Health and Safety Act) led the results.

I gained an added level of appreciation for the “Show don’t tell” rule. I hadn’t “connected the dots.”

From my own experience in training employees in computer programs, it dawned on me: writing rules come from practical, commonsense, “universal truths” we already know. Another mandate for writing well – to “Tell the truth” in your writing, just became a little more digestible as well. Art mimics nature. What we write, even though it’s a made up story, should resonate with the real world, stay true to human nature, and be something that our reader can become a part of, because it is believable.

Imagine that!

 

I’m adding this to my “Lessons learned” list!

15.  Show don’t Tell and other writing rules come from the “real world.” Realistic, relatable fiction writers know that. These “rules”  help to build a more human world for the reader. Instead of fighting them or feeling being bound by them, respect and understand them. They are there for a reason.

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Writing the Book

 

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Plotter? Pantser? Maybe a bit of both?

BitOfBoth

In blogs and on critique sites, there can be a lively exchange between fiction writers about the merits of being  a “Plotter” or a “Pantser.”

The Plotter camp favors outlining and structuring  your novel, the most extreme plotters subscribe to developing all the elements of your story, asking in depth questions about plot, characters, pacing, pinch points,  before beginning to write. Some write out long narrative style outlines, others more truncated versions.

On the other side of the discussion, the Pantser’s , as the name implies, write by the seat of the pants with very little more than a general idea in mind.  Just write it. Often cited are feelings that extensive outlining would rob the story of any spontaneity or creative spark.

While I lean towards being a plotter, eventually I’ve employed  a “bit of both.” I’ve found great value in outlining my story, but then I hit a point where I just started writing, adjusting the outline to fit where I have wandered. Returning to the outline gives me a quick look at possible plot holes, further character development needed, and a chance to restructure as needed. It’s turning out to be a very useful tool.

And  here’s my revelation:

# 14   I suspect  plotters spend more time on the front end, and probably less in re-writes and revisions. And  pantsers do more editing and rewriting at the end.  But whichever way a story is approached – plotter, pantser, or a bit of both, you still wind up needing to attend to all the elements of a good novel.

To see the lessons I’ve learned while writing my first novel, click here:   Lessons I’m learning while writing…

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Writing the Book

 

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Reading other debut novels while writing…

Reading

 

 

I’m at the half way point of the first draft of my book, am at around 46,000 words.

I’ve eased off a bit on the intensive study of fiction writing I was doing, and begun to read other new debut novels. And I’m finding it very helpful.

It’s helped me to identify some issues I’ve had in my own writing.  It’s easier to see how someone else handles characters, narrative descriptions, structure and scenes, than to recognize it in my own work. I’ve enjoyed reading these novels, and when I reach a stretch of text I want to skim through, I stop and study it.

When I start a writing session now, I have gained a little distance. It’s provided a welcome break from over-absorption in developing my own story, and the words flow easier.

And…. not only have I gotten help with my own writing and enjoyed the stories, I am also supporting some new writers while I’m at it!

 

Lesson learned:

#13.  Reading other debut novels while I’m writing my first book is very helpful.

 

To see the lessons I’ve learned while writing my first novel, click here:   Lessons I’m learning while writing…

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Writing the Book

 

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Developing Minor Characters

Major Role of Minor Characters

Major Role of Minor Characters

Minor characters in a story can provide opportunities to develop plot and add depth to main characters. Richness, intrigue and interest can be woven into the story by letting the minor characters provide foreshadowing, backstory, and show different aspects of the setting and main players. Having interesting, well developed and believable minor characters makes for a better novel overall.

Whenever possible — when I need a minor character for a “function” – a teacher, an employer, a store clerk etc., looking to see how a relationship/friendship that relates to one or more of my main characters  just might enrich the plot. Instead of having “throw away” or cardboard characters, or combining two or three minor characters into one with more depth makes a more relatable story.

Of course there will always be a cast of unrelated “bit part” characters who show up once and disappear, but if possible, even those should be as developed as much as possible.

In my “practice novel,” a rescue team is introduced around the midpoint. They haven’t existed in the early chapters, but will have a major role in the second half. I had two minor characters fulfilling minor functions early on, and I have consolidated them into one character. This new minor character, who has been a teacher of the protagonist, becomes a contact point between the protagonist and the rescue team leader. He is the leader’s brother. The brother’s expanded role makes parts of the story more plausible, and more interesting.

This expanded role allowed me to add more depth to the team leader, as well as the protagonist. It increased the level of intrigue, and I will use him again farther into the story.

Writing a story is like weaving a tapestry. By interweaving the colors/characters, it starts to build a beautiful picture, and develops more depth while using a smaller cast.

 

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….

 

 
 

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