Friday, 21 October 2016

The Fantasy Fiction Formula

This was one of the books I took with for my holiday in Provence, though I saved it for last, because I chose to read it as part of my interest in developing my writing, so work not fun.  However, the book was a revelation and I wish it had been published four years ago when I first started writing.  Though this assumes that I would have had the sense and wit to make the most of it back then, which is not a given.

Deborah Chester is the person who Jim Butcher learnt to write under.  For those of you reading this and thinking writing to a formula is somehow wrong, stop and put your assumptions to one side.  The formula referred to in the title is the list of things that a novel needs if it's going to work as a story.  In short, this is a book about the craft rather than the art of writing.

I'm now using it to help me work through my second novel and it has also helped me to understand the feedback I received that said my first novel was not straightforward enough.  What I can do to address this feedback is limited by my writing ability and all I can do is work at upping my game.

For anyone who is writing I can wholeheartedly recommend reading this book.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Once I Was Young and Computer Savvy

My first job with computers was circa 1974 when they were vast machines that occupied air-conditioned halls, tape decks were a thing, and programs were entered using punch cards.  Home computing was Sinclair ZX81s and I aspired to owning an Apple II, but never did.  My first computer being an Apple Macintosh, which I got in 1988.  The late eighties and early nineties I was there at the forefront of home computer use and could walk into a design studio and sort out SCSI cabling issues with aplomb.

After nearly twenty years of having the same internet service provider I find myself having to set-up a new email address, and as a result change my FaceBook, Amazon, eBay and other account settings.  To say that this has been frustrating is an understatement.  I've been reduced to shouting at my computer in frustration, which on a scale of one-to-ten rates about an eleven for pointlessness.

And don't get me started on spam filters that sent every confirmation email into a special place that would only appear after repeated logins to my new domain.

To add to the total joy, I also find that my blogger contact forms won't update to send emails to my new address, even though I've changed the email setting, and furthermore, to make my life especially miserable, the blog lost all the links on my blog list.  And then there's Yahoo, where I'm forced to change the address of each list I subscribe too individually.

And I used to take such things in my stride.

Then this morning Susan's car wouldn't start, because the battery had died.  My truck is currently in Aldershot being serviced and getting its MOT, so this was the icing on the cake of a very stressful week where I've not managed to do any work on my novels.

The good news is that I guess that sometime next week my friends will receive an email from me with my new address.  Ah the bliss!

Monday, 3 October 2016

En Provence

We've been to Provence, courtesy of my friend Holly's parents, who so generously invited us to come over and stay with them for a week.  They spoilt us rotten with good food, excellent wine and took us out for a dinner in Gourd.

To help us digest the feast we wandered around the fortified town.  Exploring the path attackers would have to take to force their way into the town in the Middle-ages.

We also went to Lacoste.

Lacoste is where the infamous Marquis de Sade had his castle.  We walked down from the ruins through a labyrinth of stone passageways, exploring the nooks and crannies in the hot sunshine.

The map shows the ruined castle, where we started, and we went right through the town to the bottom left and back around to visit the church too.

Then Holly bought us lunch at the CafĂ© de France, which was delightful.  Afterwards Susan was fair tuckered out by all the walking.

You can read about the Medieval Faire we went to in Venasque here.

During the rest of our holiday we managed to swim almost every day, with Susan taking delight in wearing her favourite pink bikini.

Also, while relaxing, and being away from the internet I was able to sit and read some books, which I shall review in passing in due course.  But of course all holidays have to end.  Too soon it was time to travel back on the superfast Eurostar for our return home.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Eleven Weeks

Burglary Dog from VOTOMS: the series that inspired Bad Dog.

Eleven weeks is how long it has taken me to get the end of edits my Beta reader flagged in the fourth draft of Strike Dog.  Now all I have to do is write a bunch of new scenes and fill in a lot of extra world building background details to replace the chapters removed in the edit.  I'm obviously relieved to have gotten through what became quite a slog, not only for me but also I imagine for my Beta reader who went above and beyond the call of duty.

However, I now have a much more realistic view of how long it takes to write stuff when one is working as well, and without the day job things would be a bit tight.  So it's relief not to have money worries, even if that comes at the cost of not being as productive as I would like.

As they say, life, no one gets out alive, and there are no promises.

Soon I will start on what I'm calling the fifth draft of Strike Dog, but before I do, I plan on doing some polishing on Bad Dog.  I spent a weekend away seeing friends, who both read an earlier edition of my novel, and discussing the rejection feedback, in between hanging out with my godson and his sister.  The consensus being that the feedback was sufficiently vague it was impossible to make substantive changes to the novel.

We discussed taking out some or all the third-person point of view sections, which are in the novel so that the reader always knows what's going on, even when my protagonist does not.  I had been considering removing some and restructuring the novel to have a prologue and epilogue that would have most of the third-person parts of the story to top and tail the main story, but this was shot down on the grounds that reader would lose the perspective of the villains.

I also thought about just having a first-person story, but then I'd be left with a novel that was only 57,314 words long, which means it just isn't long enough to sell: and that really would mean a re-write that would break Heinlein's third rule of writing.

So now I'm pondering the ineffable qualities of writing: the gestalt that is a novel, the synergy of plot, character and style from which a story emerges.  All of which is just a fancy way of saying novels are made of words put into the right order to tell the tale you have in mind, which is harder to do than it looks.