Composition

I think most writers prefer composition to planning or editing or marketing. Just sit down and write, right? For me, it’s important to get into an environment where I am alone. Or if not alone, it’s important to be in a place where no one around me is talking or listening to music or watching Dexter on Netflix. So I prefer to write at night when the kids are asleep, or during the school day. I have to have a tanker of coffee. And I have found that I write better, I’m more productive, when I use my little Netbook. It’s slow. It’s like molasses on the internet. And that’s great because I don’t need the distraction of the internet. If I’m away somewhere, Microsoft Word and Excel are all I have open. So I settle in, and just write.

I like to start by reading what I wrote the day before, remind me where I was. Then read over my outline for that chapter, so where I’m going. Then I start a conversation with the characters. “This is your situation. What will you do? What is true to your nature? You don’t know about the garbage you’re about to run into, but how might you handle it when you do?” I think of people who inspire me, good or bad. What would they do? I try not to imagine myself in the conflict because then all of my stories would be the same. And since most of us think we’re pretty reasonable creatures (most of us are wrong), all my stories would be boring.

If the chapter is really funny, or really sad, or loaded with some other kind of syrup, I try to to throw some other spices into it. Can you have a blooper at a funeral? An argument? Who wants to read about a normal funeral, anyway? They’re sad and quiet. Can your scene about a funeral be more awe-inspiring or respectfully funny?

I’m pleased if I write 1,000 words a day, excited if it’s 1,500, and exhausted if it’s 2,000.

Concept

Some of the writers I chat with in Writer’s Cafe asked recently how well dictation software works for writing novels. I would never try that, as the software could never understand the difference between what I’m saying and what I’m meaning, in my opinion. But I have “Dragon Naturally Speaking,” and I think it could be useful for the first step I take in novel writing, which is Concept.

There’s no structure to the concept stage. It’s just about blurting out everything that comes into my head about a story. Getting it all down so I don’t forget. Last night I was brushing my teeth when I got a great idea for how to solve the problem of travelling to planets in other star systems. So I ran back to the computer and typed in the idea. Normally I apply this kind of idea to an existing story idea. I looked to see if I had any stories about travelling to other planets, so I could use this idea as the means to travel there. But I don’t have any stories about people going to other planets. So I saved it as a text document in the folder for a sci-fi epic I plan to write one day.

The concept stage can be a couple of paragraphs or a couple of pages. It’s rarely longer than that. If I read my notes back to someone, they should make sense, but maybe not a lot.

I was talking to my oldest son a few years ago about story writing, structure, Act I, Act II, Act III. It was a 300 mile drive, so we had lots of time to hammer things out. We started with a silly concept idea. What if you had a big spill of oil or grease in your kitchen or garage, and you poured kitty litter all over to absorb the goo, and from this you got a monster that tried to eat your family? So we went over what the family might be like, what the monster’s motivation might be, and how this would create conflict for the family. Who changes and who stays the same? Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? What if the monster turned out to be the good guy? It was a lot of fun.

Sometimes two or three concepts can be attached to the same story. Sometimes a new concept requires a new folder. Some of these come from dreams I have. Some come to me when I’m out walking, or cooking dinner, or washing dishes. They almost never happen when I’m sitting at the computer, trying to think up something new.

The key is to write them down, even if they’re silly. If you decide later the idea was stupid, it’s easy to hit delete.

Places to Market eBooks

I picked up a couple of things from Writer’s Cafe’ at Kindle Boards. A lot of people talk about free promotions, where you list your ebook as free of charge for up to five days on Kindle, and as large numbers of people download it, its “fame” picks up, and the author tends to get a certain number of incidental sales after the free promotion. I was seeing figures something this: for every 5,000 copies given away, the author tended to get maybe 500-700 sales. It seemed to work for a lot of people, but a better way appears to be using sites like Bookbub to promote a discounted book, and build some real excitement and readership that way. An idea one writer mentioned was to buy the ad from Bookbub when you have two or more books on Kindle, so that your other titles get residual sales from people buying your new title. They’re there anyway, so some buy your other books. Brilliant.

One thing the Writer’s Cafe’ authors talk about at length is getting reviews. So when you read a book by an indie author, please provide them with a review on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com and/or other places where people buy indie books.

And thanks!

Creative Guilds

I would love to hear from people who think of themselves as creative (producing some kind of artistic product), and learn whether they belong to a guild or union or something like it.

It seems to me that Indie creative people can lend each other a hand by sharing each other’s works on their blogs and other websites. Most of the guilds I have seen are for people who are well established in their creative field. But would it help for lesser-known creative types to band together?

Let me know what you think.

And remember, WordPress doesn’t make it easy anymore to see a blogger’s reply to your comment on their post. You have to go looking for it, like in “Comments I’ve Made” on the main dashboard page.

Crescendo

Beginning to compose the crescendo for my novel, Fugue in C Minor, currently 68,000 words into it. A lot of things are about to happen in the narrative. The pacing has to be just right. I am really enjoying this novel.

56,000

An exceptional child, a curious loss of memory, and a tall thin stalker who claims to have the answers. That’s Fugue in C Minor.

The manuscript is up to 56,000 words now. I’m speeding up in my old age.

Update on Novel

So I went on vacation, spent some time in California, saw my oldest son who’s in the Navy, drove a gazillion miles there and back, and didn’t write a darned thing in my novel until last night. But now it’s at 48,000 words and moving forward again. I’m having fun with layers. Novels are like onions.