Tag Archives: Indies

When a Pantster has to Plot – or how I wish I knew then what I know now…

Excel worksheet showing the timeline for each character

I consider myself to be a pantster because I don’t plot the events of my stories out in advance, but as you can see from the Excel worksheet above, there comes a time when plotting is a necessity.

Every ‘event’ shown in the top half of the timeline has already happened – in book 1 of Vokhtah – and generally speaking, I managed to keep that story nice and tight. The trouble started when I first realised that the timeline for the caravan to and from Deepwater was way out of whack.

That unpleasant discovery lead to the first Excel spreadsheet which reverse engineered the plot, but only for the Blue/Messenger and the Apprentice. If you haven’t read Vokhtah, don’t worry. All you need to know is that the Blue-disguised-as-a-Messenger and the na-Seneschal-disguised-as-an-Apprentice were the two main characters. Reverse engineering their timelines necessitated the making of a map:

Map of Vokhtah created using Inkarnate

The grid on the map allowed me to get a realistic [ahem] idea of how long the different parts of the journey would take. That was when I realised just how out of whack my guestimate in Vokhtah actually was.

What the hell was I going to do about it? Vokhtah was already published and book 2 relies on that timeline. Could I fudge it?

The simple answer is no, I can’t fudge it because a small fudge in book 1 will snowball in subsequent books as I weave the lives of the other characters into the storyline.

In desperation, I went back to Excel and created the spreadsheet you see up the top.

I’ve now got a pretty precise handle on the various timelines, but what’s become painfully obvious is that a few things will have to be changed in book 1. They’re not major things; the story stays the same. What will change is the sequence of some of the chapters. Chapters, and the sequence in which they occur, give the Reader a sense of time passing. I needed more time for certain things to happen, even though they aren’t mentioned at all in book 1. These are the things that happen concurrently with the main plot and lead directly to plot events in the next book.

What kind of things? Gestation, for one. The Six of Needlepoint is mated on day 16 of the story [in book 1]. Something has to happen XX number of days later, but it can only happen if the foetus has had a reasonable amount of time to develop…

Okay, I can see some of you rolling your eyes in disbelief. Why don’t I simply make the gestation period fit what the plot demands?

The reason is that biology is my thing, and although I’m writing about aliens, there are certain things that probably stay the same for all carbon based lifeforms – the bigger the animal, the longer its gestation period. So yes, I could fudge it, the Vokhtah series is a work of fiction about a place and a people that do not exist, but… -deep sigh- I HATE scifi that fudges things.

So, now to my regrets. When I published Vokhtah [book 1 of the Suns of Vokhtah], publishing anything was a brand new experience. I did a lot of research about how to publish as an Indie, but there were so many things I did not know, could not know. One of those things is that the first book of a series sets the rules of the world in place. Subsequent books have to live with those rules. You can’t just suddenly change a core constraint – like time – without ruining the story for people,like me, fussy, picky people with a decent memory. 😦

By the time I’d written the Innerscape series I knew better and did not publish book 1 until the whole damn lot was right. I think it shows in a plot that is tight, despite being written by a pantster. How can I do any less for Vokhtah?

The result of all this soul searching is that once the whole series is finished, I’ll put out a new edition of the first book before I publish the subsequent books. I just hope that doesn’t mean I’ll lose all the hard won reviews dating all the way back to 2013. 😦

Anyway… every decision has consequences, and I’ll just have to live with mine, but boy do I wish I’d known all this in 2013.

Anyone else have regrets?

Meeks-with-a-sad-face


How many writers/poets also love creating visual art?

The idea for this question arose from a conversation I had with Chuck Litka, about typos.

I find typos very distracting when I’m reading as they seem to leap off the page at me. And I can’t ‘not see them’.

I hypothesized that the reason might be because I do digital graphics where I’m used to working at the pixel level. The more I thought about those typos though, the more I saw a pattern emerging. And it had nothing to do with typos.

See what you think:

Chuck Litka is a writer and painter.

I love words and digital graphics.

Diana Peach loves digital graphics too.

So does Audrey Driscoll.

Chris James is a writer and photographer.

Frank Prem is a poet and photographer.

Yorgos writes and draws.

Candy Korman is a writer, lover of art, and dances the tango.

Robbie Cheadle is a writer and creator of art with fondant.

And my crafty friend Anne is a botanical artist who paints and embroiders whilst also writing interesting posts on her blog…

And those are just the creatives I can think of off the top of my head. Apart from Anne and Candy, I believe we all create our own book covers, so there is an element of functionality about our art, but I suspect we’d want to be involved even if we weren’t DIY Indies.

So I’m throwing the question out there:

Is it possible that wordsmiths need to create some form of visual beauty in order to recreate it with words?

Or is there something even more fundamental going on?

Is it possible that wordsmiths are also into music? Or dance? Or food?

Food is such an elemental part of life. Do you have to be a good cook in order to write convincingly about food?

Lots of questions and not a single answer, so I’d really like you to share your thoughts in comments. And by ‘you’ I mean Indies, traditionally published writers, photographers, painters, graphic artists, musicians and cooks. If I’ve missed anyone please share that too.

-hugs-
Meeks


Hitting the ‘of course!’ moment

The ‘of course!’ moment is when a Reader suddenly understands something pivotal about the plot, or one of the characters. To me, the moment should feel like a light bulb going off in the Reader’s head, or that moment of triumph when the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle falls into place. The problem, as always, is how to get there.

If your breadcrumb trail is too broad, the Reader will guess the ‘of course!’ moment long before it happens, resulting in a boring anticlimax. But if you don’t leave enough breadcrumbs, the Reader will feel cheated because the moment will have little connection to what’s gone on before, and they will have had no part in working out the great reveal.

Of course, this all assumes that the writer isn’t trying to cheat. I can’t say it’s happened to me a lot, but I have read a few books in which the writer paints him or herself into a corner, and then brings in a hitherto unknown, secret weapon that demolishes all in front of it. Or gives one of the characters a god-like power that wasn’t there before, and which none of the villains can resist. In other words, a cheat.

In my not so humble opinion, we writers create worlds, and those worlds should have rules which all of our characters obey. If we are going to change those rules half way through, there must be a compelling reason for it, and it must be presented to the Reader bit by bit until the change becomes a new rule rather than just a ‘get out of jail’ card.

In my own writing, I try to leave small, apparently irrelevant breadcrumbs all the way through my stories. Some actually remain as irrelevant titbits, but others grow until they become a necessary part of some ‘of course!’ moment.

In the Innerscape trilogy, I introduced Kenneth Wu’s signature scent [lemon] very early in the first book, more to flesh out his character than anything else. By the last book, however, the scent of lemon triggers a breakdown in his Grandmother, and helps fool Miira when she sees Kenneth’s avatar at Jaimie’s house.

A far more critical breadcrumb trail involved the Innerscape avatars themselves. Identity and deception are two of the main themes of Innerscape, but I wanted Readers to feel a sense of shock when they realise that the staff avatars can be used by anyone. I started laying breadcrumbs in book 1 by having David the sound technician join Miira’s orientation wearing Stanley’s avatar. The importance of those avatars continues until it reaches its climax in book 3.

I won’t tell you what that climax is, but I hope it gave Readers an ‘of course!’ moment. 😀

Do you consciously, or unconsciously, create ‘of course!’ moments in your own writing? I’m particularly interested in what the plotters amongst you have to say. Do you plan these moments right from the start? Or do you realise their significance only as you write?

It’s Saturday here already, and I have a hot date with an mmo. Have a great weekend everyone. 🙂

cheers
Meeks

p.s. is anyone have trouble accessing images in their media library? I can’t seem to go back beyond 2017. 😦


What, Where, When, How…and Why?

What, where, when, how and why are the necessary elements of every great story, but in my not-so-humble opinion, the ‘why’ is the key. Without it, the event [what], its setting [the where and when], and the mechanics of how it happened are like the dry pages of a history book – factual but boring. Only the why brings the story to life because the why is always about people.

We are eternally fascinated by ourselves, but most of us are small, insignificant motes living small, insignificant lives. Only in fiction can we become something more. Only in fiction can we live bigger lives…from the safety of our armchairs.

In The Game, a six-part drama produced by the BBC, we are taken back in time to the Cold War when the Western democracies were pitted against the Soviet Union in an undeclared, covert war fought by spies, assassins, traitors, and information gatherers. Both sides had developed nuclear weapons post World War II, so if either side started a physical war, the result would be mutual destruction, many times over. It would be the end of everything.

I grew up in Australia during the Cold War, and although we felt very distant from all the pushing and shoving in the northern hemisphere, the possibility of being wiped off the face of the planet was very real. I remember reading Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and wondering how I would spend my last hours of life. Trust me when I say that the fear was real, as was the threat.

That is the ‘where’ and ‘when’ in which The Game unfolds. The ‘what’ is Operation Glass. No one in the UK’s MI5 know what Operation Glass is about, but they all know there might not be a UK if the Soviet plot is allowed to succeed. The following is a short trailer from Episode 2:

All of the people shown in that scene are key players in MI5, and you automatically relate to them as the ‘good guys’, but are they? Bit by bit as the six episodes unfold, we learn snippets from the past of each player, but these snippets are not just nice to know background fluff, they are the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Put the pieces together correctly and you discover how Operation Glass took MI5 by surprise.

If you know anything about that period of UK history, you’ll know that deep cover traitors were discovered. To say more would be to spoil a part of the story. Suffice to say that the ‘why’ of each character in The Game is vital to the story.

If I were doing a movie review, I’d give The Game 5 stars along with a recommendations that you watch it on ABC iView [for Australians]. But I’m a writer, and I have to say something more, something about balance. The ‘why’ may be key to any story, but it has to be balanced by all the other elements.

Frankly, nothing bores me more than a work of fiction that reads like a therapy session using fictional characters as the medium. Yes, the deep hurts of our lives are necessary if we want to write strong, believable characters, but great stories require that we sublimate those hurts. Great stories require that we find the universal in the personal. We have to find the elements that are common to us all. Only then can we write three dimensional characters that all of us can relate to.

And then we have to place those characters in terrible situations from which they will emerge stronger, braver, better…or dead. Okay, not always dead, but you know what I mean. 🙂

May your stories grab readers by the short and curlies, and may your characters display motivation we can all recognize! Write well, all you wonderful Indies out there, and may 2021 see you all gain the recognition you deserve.

love
Meeks


Resources for Writers – Reddit

I have read mentions of ‘Reddit’ for so long that I should know what it’s about, but I don’t. I’ve always been too busy, or lazy, to find out. This fabulous article is going to change all that:

Social Media is the place to ask questions and make connections. As a writer, many of the magazines I publish in or authors/editors I meet are via connections on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. One platform that I also visit for this purpose is Reddit.

Not only does it give an insight to the platform itself, it provides a list of ‘sub-reddits’ [think groups] that could be invaluable, especially for science fiction writers like me. 🙂

Here’s the link to the article:

https://nowastedink.com/2019/04/05/20-useful-subreddits-for-sff-writers-by-wendy-van-camp/

My thanks to Chris the Story Reading Ape for posting about the article.

Well, it’s Saturday here in Oz, so happy weekend all!

Meeks


Australian #Selfpublishers needed to beta test KDP how-to guide

Apologies! I’d love to send beta copies of the paperback overseas, but the postage is a killer so this plea is for Aussies only.

So what do I want and what do you get?

I’d like 5 volunteers, anywhere in Australia, who’d be prepared to test the KDP how-to for functionality. I’ll send you a questionnaire to make things easier, but essentially, the questions I’d like answered are:

  • do the step-by-step instructions leave anything out that a real beginner would need?
  • do the examples make sense?
  • are the screenshots good enough?
  • are the page numbers in the Table of Contents accurate?
  • are the page numbers in the Index accurate?
  • if dipping into a guide is your style, do the Table of Contents and Index help you find what you’re looking for? Quickly? Easily?
  • is the cover too garish? Tone down the green? Pick another colour for the back cover entirely?
  • and of course, typos, but only if they hit you in the face. Don’t worry about combing through each page.

In return, you get to keep the proof copies I send you. No strings, no obligations. However, if you return the questionnaire, I’ll also send you a ‘first edition’ of the final, finished version. If you want it signed, I’ll do that too, but you can have it naked if you prefer. Again, no strings, no obligations. 🙂

Almost as important are the things I won’t do:

  • no using your email address in any newsletters, either now or in the future,
  • no contacting you directly with any promotional stuff, and
  • no pressuring you to write a review.

So there you have it. I’m hoping to have the proof copies ready within 2 weeks, so if you think you’d be interested, please contact me on:

meeka at triptychacf dot com

or

@acflory on Twitter.

Many thanks,

Meeks


Online Privacy, Security and Newsletters

I’ve just come from Indies Unlimited, one of my favourite websites because of all the free information they provide to Indie authors. The article that prompted this post concerns the new EU regulations and how they relate to newsletters. One of the key facts in the article is that people who use newsletter companies, such as Mailchimp, will have to ask their European subscribers to formally ‘opt in’.

I strongly recommend that everyone who uses a newsletter to communicate with subscribers take a close look at this article:

https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2018/05/14/authors-with-newsletters-must-get-subscribers-to-opt-in-again-per-eu-regulations/comment-page-1/#comment-3488092908471512056

After reading the article, I was curious to see what Mailchimp had to say about the new EU regulations. What I found was not really a surprise, but it did concern me enough to write the following comment:

Great post, RJ and something all Indies have to look at very seriously, because very few know exactly what the Newsletter companies are doing with their own data and the data of their /subscribers/. This ignorance, and the responsibility that goes with it, will not disappear with a simple opt-in form.
I don’t use a newsletter service but I decided to check out your link to Mailchimp, as it’s a very popular one. The following quotes are taken straight from their various pages:
INFO COLLECTED
‘That information may include your IP address….and other information about how you interacted with our Websites or other websites.’
[the important bit is ‘or OTHER websites]

TRACKING DEVICES & PERSONAL INFO
‘In some cases we may use cookies and other tracking technologies described in this Cookie Statement to collect Personal Information, or to collect information that becomes Personal Information if we combine it with other information.’
[the important bit is ‘that becomes Personal Information if we combine it with other information’]

THIRD PARTIES
‘The third parties that set these third party cookies can /recognise/ your computer both when it visits the website or service in question and also when it visits /certain other websites or services/.’
[the important bit is that Third Parties can include every tech company on the internet including Facebook, Google, Amazon and countless others. Seriously].

TRACKING SUBSCRIBERS
We also enable our users [that’s people who use Mailchimp for newsletters] to employ cookies and similar tracking technologies in connection with their use of our Services in order to allow us and our users to track their subscribers.
[the important bit is ‘to track their subscribers’].

“Do Not Track” or “DNT” signals. Since uniform standards for “DNT” signals have not been adopted, our Websites do not currently process or respond to “DNT” signals. MailChimp takes privacy and meaningful choice seriously and will make efforts to continue to monitor developments around DNT browser technology and the implementation of a standard.
[the important bit is that Mailchimp IGNORES do not track requests. In other words, until they’re forced to obey, your choices don’t matter doodly squat to them].

Now that the EU is bringing in such strong regulations [and other countries may follow], we all have to make choices about how we treat other people’s privacy and security [because data gathered by ad companies can be hacked and used by anybody with the technical skills].

I don’t use any of the newsletter companies, but I know that in the past I’ve signed up for newsletters from online friends and colleagues. Now I’m quietly seething because I am very concerned about my privacy and online security. That’s why I deleted my Facebook account AND deleted everything to do with Google. To learn that I’ve been spied on like this is…not pleasant.

I know that most of you don’t see the privacy/security issue the same way that I do, but I’m asking you to please consider those who get caught up in it without any idea that it’s happening to them.

Not happy,

Meeks

 


Neural network needs help with novel writing

I couldn’t resist this one. A neural network [human brain-like computer] needs thousands of ‘first sentences’ from novels to learn how to write a first sentence of its own. Think of this as teaching baby to become Shakespeare. 🙂

In order to feed baby with enough first sentences, Janelle Shane of ‘Ai Weirdness’ is asking netizens to donate first sentences from their own novels, their favourite novels, or any novels on their bookshelves [or Kindles]. These first sentences will be fed to baby to improve its current, um, not-so-creative efforts. Some of its first sentences are hilarious.

I’ve donated first sentences from my books so why not jump in and donate some from yours? No need to register or even leave an email address so it’s super quick and easy. You can read the article and find the form here:

http://aiweirdness.com/post/167049313837/a-neural-network-tries-writing-the-first-sentence

Go on, do it!

Meeks


‘Free’ doesn’t sell books – and here’s what does — Matthew Wright

canstockphoto8443816This is one of the best articles I have ever read about marketing.

https://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/free-doesnt-sell-books-and-heres-what-does/

cheers

Meeks


Playing Charlie Cool by Laurie Boris

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a glowing review of Laurie Boris’ novel ‘Don’t Tell Anyone’ . You can find that review here. One of my favourite characters from that story was [and is] Charlie, the MC’s gay brother-in-law.

Sadly I knew Laurie did not write series, so I resigned myself to not meeting Charlie again. And then the woman tricked me [in the nicest possible way]. 😀

First, Laurie brought out a novella called ‘The Picture of Cool’ which you can buy on Amazon for the princely sum of $1.

Now The Picture of Cool is a kind of sideways step in the series, and focuses on a part of Charlie’s life that is barely mentioned in Don’t Say Anything. In book 3 however, the Trager family story continues!

Not surprisingly, book three is called ‘Playing Charlie Cool’, and will be out in October, 2014. But! Thanks to Amazon finally giving us Indies the ability to promote the pre-ordering of our books, you can now pre-order ‘Playing Charlie Cool’ on Amazon. 😀

I’m seriously excited about both the book [which I have already pre-ordered] and this new ability Amazon has finally given us. If enough people pre-order, the sales spike on launch day will send the book zooming up the sales rankings. And that, my friends, can make the difference between success and failure. Put simply, with so many books available on Amazon, being seen in the crowd is the single biggest problem we face.

So please, give Laurie’s new book a fighting chance to be seen. Pre-order now!

-hugs-

Meeks


%d bloggers like this: