A Retreat, Shame and wth? An Editor…

I got back from the writing retreat setup by Randy McCharles earlier this week. Randy’s a great friend to writers of all levels. Check him out. He has new series coming out soon. More news as events warrant.

 

Ok – the people at the retreat made me feel ashamed of my commitment level.

They were a bunch of BIC’s (Bums In Chairs) It was humbling. Their schedule looked something like this:

  • Writing by 630 AM
  • Short Break 10:15
  • Lunch Noon (45 Min)
  • Short Break 230 ish
  • Dinner 6:00 PM (an Hour)
  • And most nights another 2 hours of writing then a sit around chat.

With the guilt hanging over my head after the first day I tried to buckle down and get crunching out the writing.

Here’s what got accomplished:

  • 30K editing pass – and then sent to an editor for revision, plus alpha readers. Yes I crapped my pants.
  • 10K New words
  • Major problems resolved- two
  • Incorporate all changes from Editor on the Prologue. (2500 words)

Robert J. Sawyer Blessing My Keyboard

This is for what I refer to as the “CheeseSpaceOpera” Today’s working title “Icarus: Book One of the System War”.

Some of you might be still coughing about me sending something to an editor, please check her site out: http://moreedits.ca/. If she can work with me, she can work with anyone.

So in an effort for full transparency – Yes –  I am on the road to having something published; either self-published or otherwise. (Insert Laugh Track Here)

The biggest single new technique I learned and put into practise – Editing pass while you listen to the story. I did this through MS Word’s “Read Aloud” function. It’s astounding the sheer volume of prepositions I don’t put in when I write.

What are you going to put into practice for your writing?

Be Well…dcd

Part Deu…prepping the soul/spirit/mind.

While it is important to cultivate being creative and make it a habit to be creative without care for your surrounds, it behooves me see what I could do to maximize the success of the writing retreat. I’ll stop with the horsing around now and get to the point.

For several years now I’ve recommended the following videos in this order to help writer’s. As a writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy I am drawn to the new and the old or ancient. It’s good to remind myself there are excellent resources for writers in the near past. I would include Stephen King’s Book, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft , In this list of resources.

Shawn Anchor’s presentation at a TEDxBloomington in May of 2011 is my goto when I get off track. It involves outliers, unicorns, breaking his sister’s arm and most of all happiness. If you’ve watched it before, watch it again.

 

The second video is from Elizabeth Gilbert. This presentation is not about “Eat, Pray, Love”. It’s about creativity and the dreaded “M” word – MUSE.

This presentation is from Ted2009, February.

 

Sadly there is another side to this preparation, dealing with the stress of day to day life or problems that have to be dealt with.

  1. Do the doable before you go. The issues will be there when you get back.
  2. Don’t pack problems for others at the retreat to solve for you. If it’s a writing problem, sure, but you know what I mean.
  3. In my experience, many creative people have trouble being selfish. You owe it to yourself, be selfish, enjoy the retreat, relish the time you have to write.
  4. Balance. You can’t write every single second of your retreat. So don’t judge yourself when you have a second cup of coffee or a second glass of wine.
  5. Strive to find flow. Most authors and artists talk about getting into a flow where the writing just comes out. Work on finding Flow. Basketball players, indeed professional athletes talk about finding flow. If you don’t believe in “flow” that’s fine, you’ll thank me when you find it.
  6. Write down what distracts you, make a list that you will deal with later.

I would say that all of you have read the blog and not watched the videos. Now is the time to go back a watch the videos.

Remember the goal is to prepare for the retreat, not start the retreat early.  Don’t confuse preparation with doing an activity. Proper preparation helps maximize what you get out of something, whether it’s a holiday or a retreat.

“It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Be Well…dcd

What good shall I do today?

After I’ve had coffee of course.

I will be fortunate enough to attend a writing retreat at the end of May.  This is a selfish goodness for me. This is a holiday for me. And like any good holiday you need to prepare and pack, because as my wife says, “Pants are good”.

IMG_20170806_070213.jpg

When I was a younger man and took a holiday it took me two or three days to forget about work and be present in the holiday I was taking. There were entire trips where I never lived in the holiday. Never enjoyed it, fully. I was an idiot. I can’t emphasize this enough. The stupidity of not enjoying, your holiday is fundamentally wrong. I would go so far as to say, evil. People who are kind and generous often learn this late in life. It’s sad and tragic. In my case one of the great regrets of my life. (I know, I know, suck it up princess, some people never get holidays)

Why do I mention this? Because I need to prepare for a holiday, and so should you. For me there are three areas I prepare:

  1. Health
  2. Soul/Spirit/Mind
  3. What to pack?

Health wise I try to start my healthy regime 3 or 4 weeks in advance. I am starting now to make sure that I am physically prepared. While it seems obvious, consider what you will be doing. What hours will you be keeping? Will you need to adjust your sleep cycle? How active will you be?

I am unaware of any holiday that doesn’t change your physical activity level in some way. Whether it is walking more, or using muscles that you don’t normally use. If you are going canoeing and you haven’t canoed all year there is a great chance you will have back problems, for example. Take steps to strengthen your back.

Drinking. Will you be drinking more? Or will you be drinking less? Figure it out make choices that don’t let what you drink determine if you enjoy your holiday. There is nothing worse then running out of your favorite gin half-way through a holiday, except running out of your favorite coffee.

When I canoed regularly we brought two coffee makers on the trip. One was the morning cup of coffee, big robust, plentiful, filtered coffee. The other was a stove top espresso machine, complete with demi-tasse cups. You immediately have new friends if you offer a hard core, freezed dried food canoeing team espresso.  The husband and wife who are traveling with their children drinking instant coffee will think you’re angels sent from heaven. And if you pull out a little Bailey’s , be sure to have kleenex handy for they will be crying.

I point this out for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t believe it is healthy to make major life changes when you are taking a holiday. Don’t try and quit drinking coffee on a holiday. Secondly, everyone needs an indulgence on a holiday, maybe’s it coffee and Baileys, maybe it’s pedicure or maybe it’s just sitting in a chair and reading undisturbed. Figure out what your indulgence will be, make it happen.  Health wise know your limits. And you don’t know your limits until you write them down. As I writer I know there is a significant difference between what I think I will write and what actually goes on the page. The written word defines something, places limits on it. Know what you are capable of and if you are found wanting try and get better.

So for this trip, I plan to try and write 5000 words a day. To do that I know that i will need to exercise to keep from being worn  out. That means that I am making sure I take long walks every day. It also means that I have the shoes that I am going wear while walking. No blisters from new shoes for this guy. That means I will be exercising more than normal, which in my cases, figuring out when and where. Simple enough.

Not so fast bubba Louie.

It’s not enough to walk more, although its a start, I also need to walk with a camera pack, because I know I will be taking pictures.

You are way boring and pedantic now.

You’re right, but for me, to enjoy a holiday I need to consider the details. Maybe you should too?

oneRock

Be Well…dcd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine how fat we would be if we could fly.

I think that most people have dreamed about flying. How freeing it would be. But if there is no physical component to flying, say like wings we have to move, my lack of physical fitness would literally balloon to epic proportions. Think zeppelin size people floating around. And the price of toilet paper! Sanitation systems. The list goes on and on. It would be a shitty world.

Seth-Sideways

Or by being able to fly, we solve global warning, or at least take a big chunk out of it. No need for cars, roads, parking problems are thing of the past. Parkades are torn down for parks. No road rage, stress is down. Commute times plummet.  Without cars to haul goods around we focus on local stores and markets.

Both of these are examples of worldbuilding. You could use either one of these ‘worlds’ in a story, but as you can imagine, each bring radically different impacts to my story. (or your story). What this example does for me is clearly demonstrate that setting is a character in any writing you do. Whether it’s for local papers or epic fantasy like Sharlene Engel is doing, once she stops traveling the world. And yes that was a cheap shot at Sharelene to finish her re-write on her awesome novel so I can read it! (This digression brought to you by it’s all about me (r)).

My struggle with world building is containing the ideas and concepts of the world. They have to make common sense. Practical impacts on the awesomeness of your world. What are the limitations? We are all limited, what constraints do apply to your world? Here’s an example.

Imagine your flying people are space explorer’s and they are in researching a planet for possible first contact. No one on the planet they are investigating can fly. So our intrepid researchers have to walk. What is the impact of walking, on people who have never walked? Or only walked very short distances? (If you like do this as homework)

The better question might be, how can this impact my story?

In our example one of our researchers stubs and breaks her/his/their toe and is forced to go to a local hospital. How can this incident impact first contact between two species? I am sure you can see dream up several ways this can be used in any genre of any story.

My current work in progress has a situation where the artificial gravity goes on and off as a result of intermittent power failure. And while artificial gravity is fascinating to me, what’s more important is the physical impact on characters as they move through the environment trying to save their friends.  There is no need for me to explain in glorious detail how the artificial gravity works, it just does. We don’t stop to explain how electricity flickers on off in power failure, it just does.

I am trying very hard to let common sense and character interaction be my guide. For those of you that know me, you can stop laughing about me using common sense.

Be Well

dcd

Reset your defaults…

Yes, gibberish for a title. It’s one skill I can excel at.

Listening to Writing Excuses the other day and MRK used the expression, defaults. The context is that we all have defaults if direct clues about people aren’t given.

Example: White Male protagonist in a story, by many including me, will be assumed to be straight. White Female protagonist ditto. These are my defaults.

The majority of characters in most novels/movies will be male.

All of these examples are also stereotypes and there are of course, exceptions to the rule. But in general these defaults hold true. When they don’t we treat the situation as odd, or unique. When is the last time a brothel scene in a book or movie was populated with an equal number of males and females?

2018-04-22 08_19_32-Clipboard

None of this is new to the discussion of gender in writing. The point I am trying to learn or teach myself don’t use defaults. If a characters sexual orientation or gender or species is not relevant, and doesn’t come up naturally, DON’T MENTION IT. Does the reader need to know that the engineer on my spaceship is a Slargbo from planet Xenius X? Maybe the fact Slargbo’s have two brains that function in parallel will be important at some point, but until then, the answer is no, the reader doesn’t need to know. Or yes because you want to foreshadow it. But I am only going to foreshadow it because it’s necessary. I don’t need to define my characters gender or sexuality because of my personal defaults. Nor their brain capacity.

“I better tell them this character is gay.” “I better tell them this one is bi-sexual.”

I mean really, in life do people come up to you and say, “Hi I’m Ryan and I’m bi-sexual.” No, it’s ridiculous. I don’t go around saying, “Hi, I’m Doug and I’m straight.”

Other examples of “defaults”: dwarfs in fantasies always speak with a Scottish accent, drink ale,  and have beards. (even the female dwarfs)

Or the engineer on a Star Ship always lies about long it takes to repair the ship. “Oh I canna do it in less than 4 weeks in space dock.” And then has it repaired in 4 hours using spare parts made out of lasagna.

As I am working through the Cheesy space opera novel I am making a conscious effort to populate the world with women, but treat it as the norm. I am wondering what the effect will be on the reader. For example, any side characters or “spear carriers” are women. Why? I haven’t clue, it felt right.

It will take real time to repair the ship, and the engineer will underestimate the time. There will be characters and spear carriers of various genders and orientations. Will you know who is what – only if it furthers the story.

Be Well

dcd

 

 

 

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

One of the many skills I am working on is letting readers do the work. Let them make assumptions right or wrong.

Jacqueline watched as a man walked down the stairs of the lecture theatre in a worn leather jacket and felt hat. 

 The reader will and should start making all sorts of assumptions. Is the man the professor? A student? Why a leather jacket? Who wears a felt hats these days? Is this an Indiana Jones knock off?

The answer to the description can take us many directions.

IMG_20180323_142443.jpg

“Many of you are wondering why anyone in this day and age would wear a felt hat. Some of you are thinking, ,”Oh great another wacko prof”. The man paused and then continued. ,”It’s the only item I have from my father who died when I was five.”

The answer should trigger a whole bunch of questions in the reader’s mind. The underlying one, the one they are trying to answer is: Why is it important for the professor to tell the class such an intimate personal detail.

As a reader who is trying to become a writer and then an author, my process is to reverse engineer from the reaction that I want.

In the above example I want the reader to feel sorry, to have pity on the professor. I use the hat for that. Later on in the story you can use the same hat for a different effect. Let’s say the student and Professor start to date. In a moment of intimacy he confesses that his hat is just one he bought years ago. Not his father’s and his father didn’t die when the professor was five. He admits that it is just a story to gain the trust and pity of the students. The student dating the professor who’s relationship started with the story the hat now has to call in to question everything she knows about the professor. Just as the reader has to doubt what they have been told.

A second outcome could be that the story of the hat is real, but the professor still uses it to gain and inside edge teaching and having romantic affairs with young students.

A third outcome could be the professor gives the student that hat as he is dying and she becomes a professor, etc.

The real reason of course is so that no-one looks too closely at the leather jacket which is in fact a pilots jacket from the Second World War and the professor hasn’t aged a day since he donned the jacket and the professor is part of a secret study on increasing the longevity of humans.

Here are the current rules I have around this concept:

  1. The readers are always smarter than me.
  2. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Tell the truth but make it sound like a lie.
  3. There will always be people who can figure out what clever bit of trickery you are trying to hide from them. Don’t worry about it. You’ll waste countless hours trying to outsmart yourself with no success.
  4. The only way you are going to get better is to practice.
  5. Don’t force the reader down a path. Describe items in simple direct terms. Only give away the least amount of information.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get my hat and get back to writing.

As always be well…

dcd

[Interlude] WEM, Apple, Microsoft and Victoria’s secret…

Like most people in this age, I work overtime. In exchange for the overtime I take time off. I try to arrange my time off for Fridays. This Friday I had some errands to run for work.

I made it to WEM, the largest mall in the world. At least I think it still is. If not, it is one of them. Once in the mall, I needed to negotiate the sprawling temple to consumerize to one of the King’s or should I say “Princesses” of today’s modern age, the Apple Store. Let me be clear, I am not anti-Apple. In fact I have recommended people to use Apples. They aren’t for me. The reason why, shouldn’t allow us to be distracted from the title of our mini-blog.

I arrived at the shrine to Steve Jobs early. Inside the troops were gathered in their muted blue and gray shirts listening to the evangelist, strengthening them for the incoming horde of heathens, who for some reason had been not been properly vetted, and therefore had purchased an apple product and now needed the help of genius priests to solve their spiritual needs of staying connected to this world. With the glass freshly cleaned, and yes, I mean the glass front to the store was professionally window washed directly before opening, the doors to the house of worship were opened. I waited for the all the other believers to enter before I dared enter. I had said my goodbyes to my family, carefully hid my Chinese knock-off android device and cross the threshold.

And was not struck down by lighting…

With a deep breath, carefully stood to the side looking overwhelmed, not sure what to do. In less time then it took Ben Johnson to run the 100 meters an acolyte arrived at my side.

I explained I was here to pick up an iPad, it was in the back and correctly gave him the name of my dial a prayer partner. He mystically disappeared. And now that I think about it, I don’t remember actually seeing him walk to the back. He just silently apparated and reapparted.

When he apparated I made a mistake. I took out my phone. A simple Redmi phone. Popular the world over.  Security started working towards me, carefully positioning themselves so I couldn’t penetrate deeper into the sanctum and taint the holy of holies without clearance. How do I know they were security? They smiled at everyone, but me.

With care I turned to the wall and pretended to look at the pictures on the stained class of the church. Ok, not stained glass, but they are truly amazing, crystal sharp images. Stunningly beautiful. Seriously, go into an Apple store and look closely at the pictures, not the TV displays, the pictures. They are amazing and detailed. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to Victoria’s secret)

The re-apparition of my personal acolyte mildly startled me from the revere I was experiencing. Thankfully, my credentials and spiritual ranking was affirmed through my offering and I received the iPAD. I left the store dazed and proceeded to get out of the mall as fast as I could. This took me past other stores, of course.

One of them was the Microsoft store.

Why ,Oh why, couldn’t I have remembered to walk on the other side of the mall? They smelt me, and as their visual acuity for the Dark Prince Jobs avatar is unrivalled, their heads turned and then their bodies turned as perfect and precise as a mia michaels modern dance piece to me. With laser focus they locked on the bag I carried and their eyes travelled with slow purpose up my body to look me in the eyes. They knew I had betrayed King Gates by entering the apocalypse of apple. I darted with a speed I hadn’t known since my youth into the nearest store.

“Are you looking for something for yourself, or someone else?” A voice said from somewhere behind me. I was still making sure I wasn’t being followed. Fortunately it was a windowless store.

Idiotically, I replied with a plea for help, “I just needs some support right now.” The exhaustion taking me.

“Certainly sir, just this way to the fitting rooms.” The voice continued.

$125.65 with GST later I had secured my Apple bag inside a Victoria secrets bag. On the upside, my moobs have never felt better.

Be Well…dcd