Magic is Back Baby: Writing a Good Line of Dialogue

When you get something right on the page, it is a major relief for any struggling writer worried that their voice won’t amount to much. I just wrote a line of dialogue in my latest revisions that, if its indication of anything, reveals how close this manuscript is to finally being done.

I’m on the autism spectrum, and that causes me to struggle with social interaction. Though I excel in academic areas and can freely hold a conversation with friends, social interaction is often not my strongest suit. That I feel comes across in my writing, where early drafts of my stories often contain idealized social talk with little conflict, or whatever conflict I put in is stilted and unrealistic.

I can recognize my weak areas, and dialogue is one of them.

But I’ve learned a lot from Stephen King’s excellent memoir on writing, and one of the things he talks about is flexing your muscles, seeing where you need to improve the most and focusing on those areas so you can bring them up to the levels of your stronger suits.

The first part of this is recognizing when there is a problem, which I already knew before even picking up the book. The second step is simply doing something about it. Getting on the dumbbell machine and flexing it.

In the first chapter of my book, the hero, a dragon, catches a pair of adventurers trying to steal his favorite pice of treasure. Being sort of a big jerk, my hero doesn’t exactly have many kind words for these intruders. Upon hearing a deity he’s familiar with is somehow involved in this intrusion, the dragon asks the question.

“How does a deity take interest in a rodent like you?”

The earlier draft was not very good. The reply was “I asked her for help. She sent me here.”

It was simple and direct, blunt in its own way, but there was no flare. This other character, christened a rodent by my lead, has some gonads of her own. She’d want to throw that back in the dragon’s face, I thought. So what to do?

The answer was in the actual insult. he called her a rodent, and what brings rodent’s running?

“I wanted some cheese.” she now says to the wyrm’s face.

This isn’t Shakespeare by any stretch, but it did make me chuckle a little. Stephen King was right. Flexing those writing muscles does work. This line will not win any awards, but the simple fact remains that it is much better than the last reply, so I can improve my writing after all.

That makes me much more hopeful for this latest draft. I’m already halfway done with the first chapter and expect to wrap it up by tomorrow or Wednesday. If I get a good pace going, I can plow through two to three chapters a week, and finish this draft in somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 weeks.

Better get back on the writing warpath.

Advertisements

2000 Words Down

Well I set myself aside a daily minimum of 2000 words, and vowed last night to meet that goal come hell or high water. Before I turned in for the night, that goal was met.

Chapter 1 I expect to be the most tedious as that is the chapter that has changed the least since this book’s inception. Chapter 2 (formerly Chapter 3) has the same problem. In many ways it felt somewhat like photocopying, though there were still improvements in visuals and the pacing.

What I’m really looking forward to is Chapter 3 onward, because those are the parts where the story has changed the most. It’s there where the new and improved characters, scenes and dialogue will really be able to take wing.

I sit here at my place of employment at 4:50 in the morning, my shift not starting for another hour or so. I don’t expect my 2000 word minimum to be met today due to my work schedule, but as with any goal that doesn’t mean you should just stop. Let’s see how much I can type in an hour.

My New Writing Routine

Well, the evening is young and my fingers are itching to do the keyboard waltz again. In less than an hour, My digits will be doing a little dance of letters and bringing my first book to life yet again.

There’s been much for me to think about, not the least of which has been my schedule and what time of day I’ll be devoting myself to writing. I have much to do in the way of my daily routine, not just writing but also my gym trips, job search, and a healthy few hours to catch up on my reading. When oh when do I write?

I’ve chosen the morning prior to the gym as my mind is still racing from my dreams, but after the gym I would likely just want to do a quick rest before going onto the job hunt. Also if I wrote after the gym, I would perhaps spend too much time on it and neglect my applications. The gym provides a nice barrier, and it would be easy to knock out at least 2000 words before hitting the treadmill.

I’ve chosen my evenings to read in. It feels like such a good way to end the day, buried in the pages of a book, and that would be a good way to keep the brain active even as I drift off to sleep, so once I wake up in the morning, everything will be ready to go.

Now when to close the pages on this book of mine? I’ve been wondering if I should post a definite deadline on myself. I expect this draft, like the last ones, to take two or three months to complete. Then what? It won’t be done after that. There will still be hammering out problems with the prose and dialogue. Perhaps minor re-writes here and there.

I’ve chosen to give myself another year at most and then call it a day on this book. It will have been four years since the first picture was drawn for this come the end of 2017, and i fear if I spend too much time on this piece, I’ll suck the life right out of it.

Some people take four or five years to finish a novel. I know Rowling took seven to finish the first Harry Potter book. I don’t think I can spend seven on one book, especially since ideas for the next several keep coming. It distracts me from the one at hand.

I do believe in one year, probably less, I can make this book the best I can possibly make it. I did learn from On Writing that no writer will ever achieve 100% of what they want, but that’s okay. Try for it anyway to see how close you can get. Maybe I can hit 99%.

And with that, salutations friends. It’s time for my fingers to do the keyboard waltz. The dance will take us back to a familiar place of untamed wilds of sea and sky, of elves with mullets and warriors with the healing touch, and great beasts in the sky with titanic wingspans and breasts filled with fire.

It will be a most rewarding adventure.

Draft 6 Begins Today

Writing isn’t easy, and re-writing is sometimes harder, but you go on because to stop now would mean to give up and let what could be a good story die. Today I begin the sixth draft of my first book, the fantasy epic, Never Heroes. It has been a struggle up to now, but the struggle finally seems to have an end in site.

I mistakenly called my previews draft the Pre Final Edit Final Edit. I thought it was done. But after my editor let her thoughts be known I came to an important realization about the manuscript.

Some of the chapters I had written I didn’t very much look forward to going over. They bored me. Some flew by with the ease of a soft spring breeze. Others were more like trudging a swamp. If it was that way for me, surely it would be the same way for my readers. It was time to spice it up and the first way to do that was by reading.

I must have ordered 10 books this last week, and I don’t expect them to last very long. An important book in this new library is Stephen King’s On Writing. Though I feared this book to be dry, it most assuredly was not. It has been an incredibly entertaining and engaging read, and has reinvigorated my confidence in this being a craftI can master.

It also helped me come to terms with this book never being 100% what I want it to be. I’ll shoot for 100%, but if I come up short at 90, that will be just fine.

I’m giving myself until May to close the book on this one and get it ready for the presses. The overhaul the narrative is going through really has changed it, all for the better. Insignificant side characters were set down while those that should have had the spotlight were given their dues. All the issues I had worried readers wouldn’t be able to accept I finally realized could just be re-written into things they would, and the story is all the better for it.

Even now in bullet point outline form, this thing is much better than the last draft. It’s a much smoother, more competent piece that, for the first time in as many months, has me excited to write it. Even now, nice new bits of prose and dialogue are coming to me as I drift off to sleep and as I get up in the morning.

This thing will be finished, and at last it shall be great.

I May Be Getting Paid to Write Soon

Well, after my latest article, an analysis of the criminally underrated Halloween III: Season of the Witch was released, it has done pretty well for itself, topping 1300 views. Now for most that’s not a lot. For me that still ranks as one of my most read pieces, and that has been most thrilling.

Since this article and the one on Manhunter have done so well, I was invited to take the next step and be one of the sites partner contributors. All I need to do is complete a few exercises, and I may, for the first time ever, be getting paid to write.

It probably won’t be a lot, a little bit per article, but hey! Getting paid a buck for a written piece will be a first for me, and hopefully a milestone the rest of my life may build on. Here’s hoping this goes well.

Ride the Reading Rainbow

Ever since Saturday, I’ve been reading. Sometimes a page a day, sometimes a whopping 120 pages, but I’ve been reading. Even as someone who read nonstop in High School and moved away from books in college, I had no idea this is what it was like. Reading is like a dream you have that you catch vague details of, but try as you might you just can’t remember it in the morning.

But I remember it now.

A tip I had constantly received in my writing was in order to write, you had to read. I tried to wiggle my way out of it, saying if I did that it would take valuable time away from my own work. Yet I still had time for movies and the occasional video game so go figure.

In preparing for my 6th draft of my first book, I was willing to try anything to get some inspiration. A friend told me if nothing else seemed to be working, I should just pick up a book and read. I ordered a couple of books and haven’t put them down since.

I’m already a third of the way through Stephen King’s On Writing, and aim to finish up another large chunk of it before the start of my shift. Most importantly was his debut novel Carrie. Carrie is a short book at a mere 180 pages, and in spite of that I had never read it. I was aware of the differences between the DePalma film and the book, but never thought to read it.

I had been picking at the book for a few days and started Tuesday on page 60. Then the evening came and I just couldn’t put it down. I finished the book in three days, a new personal record which I hope to break soon.

What surprised me most about reading was just how much it tickled my brain. Every line it seemed rejuvenated my burnt out writing circuits. Ideas started coming on how to fix my book, I re-learned the language of prose and instantly picked up on the things in my work that so bothered me.

I didn’t consciously know the issue I took with my work, but there was that feeling while editing it. A feeling not of excitement but of boredom. I was bored editing my chapters because lets face it. They were boring. Now as I re-outline my work, the ideas that come don’t seem so boring.

This next draft may be a good deal shorter, but It will be so much sweeter.

Up next I’ll be reading Salem’s Lot, and that one I’m really looking forward to because I haven’t seen the movie. I’ll be just as surprised as everyone else.

Reading has changed my apprehension and despair about my book into hope and optimism. For the first time in so many months, I think this book may actually have a chance at being something special, and all because I finally got the courage to hop on the Reading Rainbow.

I intend to ride it all the way to Oz.

Rest in Peace Saar’Jya (For Now)

Saar'Jya-The-Dragon

Stephen King said it was always important to kill your darlings. Now he didn’t just mean killing a character off. Writing consists of many darlings, from a piece of prose that really tickles the writing bone to a favorite scene that means a lot to you but carries the plot or characters nowhere.

He also didn’t mean literally killing these things. Sometimes they just have to be cut. This week, in the midst of planning the sixth draft of my first fantasy book, I lost a darling.

I think I knew this was coming for a while. Like a relative that just got a bad diagnosis, I didn’t really want to believe it. ‘No. I can still make this work. I’ll figure some stuff for her to do in order to keep things moving.’ Deep down however I knew the character had become but a piece of set dressing.

That character was Saar’Jya.

Never-Heroes-Saar'Jya

Saar’Jya is supposed to have been the first true dragon to appear in this universe, and as such has become a deity. As outlined in the article on this universe’s dragons, current dragons owe a lot to the Matriarch. She’s also a very fun character as she’s quite snarky.

She swears, has a dirty sense of humor, and is all around…interesting to deal with. Basically she’s Dr. Cox from Scrubs if he was a dragon and female. I lovingly dubbed the graceful creature as ‘The Deity of Snark.’

Saar’Jya was the first character designed for this story, and the work our artist did is still among his best. As the character was the first true dragon, the concept artist decided to incorporate more primitive looking elements in her appearance. He linked the wings to a dimetrodon like sail, gave her a very serpent like body, and kept her features very simple. We added an iridescent shine to make her scales as opals, and she was finished. The work was beautiful.

Never-Heroes-Saar-Jya

Still, though the design gorgeous and the work impressive, in this story there was no real place for her. She just showed up for a couple of scenes, spouted some exposition and was never heard from again. Her functions could be very easily filled by the other characters. In that case, why shouldn’t they? To cut her would save valuable page space that could now be used to enhance the others. That seemed the wise thing to do, painful though the decision was.

Zhyx the Red Dragon and the Dragon Goddess

But that was just this particular entry in this series. There are at least three more books planned set in the magic land of Haiden. Not every character was introduced in the first book of the Harry Potter or Lord of the Ring series. Professor Lupin and Sirius Black may be great, but we had to wait three books to meet them.

I’ve got the funny feeling this will not be the last we see of the Deity of Snark. The main hero of this story was originally but a supporting player, but he forced his way to the front and hasn’t been dethroned since. If that taught me one thing about my characters,  it’s that no matter how timid they appear on the page, they’re very stubborn.

Saar'Jya-Dragon-Deity

If I know Saar’Jya, she’ll find some way to get back in. When she does, the Deity of Snark won’t get any complaints from me.

My First Writing Success

A few months back, someone took notice of my modest little blog and invited me to contribute to their website, where various academic and pop culture related articles would be promoted and showcased on the information highway.

Since then, I’ve written eight articles for them dealing with some of my favorite films. I’ve written articles on Manhunter, The Terminator, Predator, as well as a little nod to that time Pokemon stole music from a slasher film.

Though creative fiction in prose and screenwriting will always be my first love, I do enjoy writing articles on books and films. There’s something very liberating about professing your feelings on a piece of art that moved you, be it in a positive or negative way.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll be talking about a little occurrence involving the article for Manhunter. For those of you who don’t know, Manhunter is the first first hannibal Lecter movie. Based on Thomas Harris’ chilling novel Red Dragon, Manhunter is often overshadowed by Silence of the Lambs and all subsequent adaptations of the Harris books, which is sad because it really is one of the absolute best in the series.

In my article I offered high praise for actor Tom Noonan’s performance as the tortured and dangerous Francis Dolarhyde. Noonan is an actor I love a great deal, him appearing in several favorites of mine such as Wolfen, Last Action Hero, Eight Legged Freaks, and The Monster Squad.

My last article had done respectably with some eight hundred views. I figured this would be a fun write. It went online on the 19th of October. Cut to Friday the 21st. I’m at work for a quick shift of four hours and am off in thirty minutes. I had a few extra minutes so I decided to check my Facebook feed, and what do I see but Tom Noonan, who I followed, has a new post.

Tom Noonan had posted my article.

I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell all my friends what happened. One of my first ever articles outside of my blog and I’d managed to grab the attention of one of my favorite actors. What to do in a situation like this?

Noonan said in his post that he was embarrassed at putting the article up, but he shouldn’t have been, because he made my Friday. I left a comment offering my compliments to his work and my deep thanks for his taking notice of my writing. The rest of my day went by pretty quickly.

The last few days I’d been losing hope. Maybe this writing thing wasn’t for me. Maybe it was something i liked but something I just wasn’t that good at. Then this happens and I start thinking ‘If Tom Noonan could take notice of my work, maybe I do have a shot at this after all.’

Since Noonan’s boost, the article has surpassed 3000 views. To me, that’s on the moon.

So, Tom Noonan, if you ever read this, I must thank you again. You’ve given me the strength to write on.

I Just Read the Greatest Short Story of All Time

Greetings all.

You know, it has been a most interesting week for me in the way of words. One of my articles on MoviePilot has gone viral and even gained the attention of a prominent actor, my first batch of new books arrived early and I’m already almost a third of the way through one of them, Stephen King’s On Writing.

Stephen King was the first of several authors I chose in order to brush up on the craft of writing, but he is one of many. The second author I found myself gravitating towards was Kurt Vonnegut.

Even though I’ve never read Vonnegut’s work, I had seen many of his lectures. He has a very fascinating way of speaking about stories, such as this wonderful lecture he did during his days as a teacher, talking about the shapes of stories. He not only unearthed the simplicity of narrative structure, but he did it with great and engaging humor.

After watching this and many of his other interviews and lectures, I deduced that I could learn much from this man and his skills in The Craft. His most well known book, Slaughterhouse Five, was high on my list of must reads, but as I trudge along to save up the money for my first collection of Vonnegut’s works, I just couldn’t wait. There had to be something out there for me to read right here, right now.

I found it in what may be the most brilliantly conceived short story ever written. It is a poignant and moving tale of intimate love and humanity’s last desperate reach to touch the stars.

The name of this story, The Big Space Fuck.

In this future where giant man eating lampreys have taken over the world, humanity isn’t doing so well. Children can sue their parents for bad parenting and the government gives you extravagant gifts for getting abortions. Knowing that the Earth will soon be unable to bear them, humanity fills a massive rocket with sperm and shoots it into the Andromeda galaxy in hopes it will hit something and allow their life to spring anew.

The story is told from the point of view of a couple being sued by their daughter who watch the proceedings on TV, watching politicians speak of this wonderful event while wearing rocket shaped cod pieces to celebrate The Big Space Fuck. They hope watching this event shall rekindle their hope, but are sadly eaten by one of those giant flesh eating lampreys just before the rocket launches.

I swear this is true, and it really was written by Vonnegut. I do offer my highest compliments to this story with complete honesty. It really is brilliant. From the first line to the last, the story tears one belly laugh out of you after another. The humor here is beyond relentless. Everything in here is a joke, right down to the world building, and every joke pays off in the final few paragraphs of the story.

Vonnegut is smart. He keeps this little apocalyptic/pornographic farce short and sweet, probably to avoid having the reader smother to death on their own laughter. Vonnegut, you are a dirty man, and I love ya for it.

I eagerly await reading more of this man’s work, though He will be hard pressed to top something as genius and sticky as The Big Space Fuck.

I Forgot What Reading Felt Like

I’ve been so busy writing the last few years that I neglected to pick up a book. Last night that changed when a few books I ordered arrived early.

The first book was Stephen King’s On Writing and the second was a collection of his works, Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining. I aim to read them all in between focusing on my own work.

Blew through a lot of Carrie last night. I’ve gotten so used to watching my fingers dance on a keyboard, I forgot how good it feels for my eyes to dance across a page.

Time to ride the Reading Rainbow.