Clutter Or Backstory?

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Almost sixty years of living can produce a lot of baggage, especially if everything is too precious or important to throw away. Can I afford to chuck those vinyl records that filled my ears when I was a teenager? Surely some of my old VHS recordings must contain gems that can’t be trashed? However if I take a lesson from writing, then too much information or backstory can bog the tale down, make the reader close the book after a few pages.

I was on schedule to complete my January writing targets and yesterday I finished the first read-through edit of my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel – Wyrm Blood. I just need to print out a hard copy for the next edit in perhaps the summer. February was scheduled for the next edit of the first ‘Gossamer Steel’ book, Wyrm Bait. But then my past caught up with me.

Pre-2000, life was in a downward spiral in terms of property but belongings kept accumulating as my ex-wife and I moved house/flat. In 2000 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and we sold our home, I moved in with my mother shifting the detritus of my life into one room & corridor. When I re-married in 2010 the attempt began to throw the clutter away and thanks to my new wife, much of it was disposed of, or moved into our home IF it could be used. Some remained ready for the final sort out, but annoyingly when you create space like digging in sand it fills up again – mainly with my sister’s junk. On our last visit, it was impossible to get at my stuff, so I gave up.

Then on the 4th December my mother had a fall and went into hospital, then moved into a ‘healing centre’. Yesterday my brother rings up to say she will be home next week and can I clear my old room of the junk at least, in order that the live-in nurse can use the room. Great warning, especially when I’m in a wheelchair, my mother’s flat is up five steps and there’s no room in the corridor for easy access either. Plus I don’t travel at all well.

But you could sit outside and tell someone [my wife] what to throw out, when it’s brought out’.

Great idea when it’s cold, I need a toilet regularly, my wife suffers from asthma and a bad knee and hip, plus I know what I really need to keep – the things that add meaning to my life but not the clutter of my past. In addition the pressure of having to go there, deal with the problems = stress = severe MS attacks that my wife has to cope with, not just me.

English: Main symptoms of Multiple sclerosis. ...

English: Main symptoms of Multiple sclerosis. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Multiple sclerosis#Signs and symptoms. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After editing a few draft novels, I’m learning that you only need the backstory elements that add substance to the characters. Clutter isn’t needed, which means differentiating between information that adds to the characters, and facts that are only needed while drafting the characters in the background notes. Hence there are things, which I know are at my mother’s flat and I value as part of me – like the letters that I wrote from Canada as a teenager. But old clothes, VHS tapes and certainly anything that reminds me of my failed marriage are superfluous to moving on, especially if they carry memories of bad decisions.

I’ve always taken this quote to heart: “I turn over a new leaf every day, …But the blots show through.” Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar, chapter. 11. But unlike Billy Liar, I’ve moved on so the blots have to go. Yes the clutter is my responsibility but then surely my siblings can understand that having a disabled brother is a responsibility too. Or perhaps I’m expecting too much?

Billy Liar

I can list the 4 things I need from the past that’s cluttering up that room: 1. my old writing folders; 2. my Lord of the Rings souvenirs; 3. my old letters; and 4. a black cast iron kitten. There are books in the bookshelves but my brother is not worried about them, only my clutter which has been piled in a jumble with my sister’s clutter. Oh she lives in Singapore. Any more and the precious few become clutter in my new life, not backstory. Friday I will be nodding goodbye to the detritus, I suspect.

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Nothing but the Truth

Cover of "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd"

Cover of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As a fledgling crime writer in England these words should at least be embedded somewhere in the background or at least in the minds of some of my characters. Yet just because a witness claims to speak the truth, should all my characters be honest in their dialogue and thoughts? I do not have the skill of Agatha Christie to pull off the deception in Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but most of us are not totally honest so why should my fictional creations be? So my readers don’t get confused?

I try to ensure that the characters are not totally contradictory in their words and actions, unless that is clearly part of their make-up and consistent across all their actions. Deception can be a part of someone’s persona as long as it is believable. However it’s realistic to portray most people as having layers of personality and masks to hide certain things – isn’t it?

What is Truth anyway? Surely what one person sees as the truth can be another’s injustice or lie. Some people make an art of justifying their own actions and that works as much for protagonists and antagonists. Gone are the days of white-robed heroes versus black-caped villains. The power of Truth has also diminished over time, or so it seems if one glances at the following quotes:

Anti-Stratfordian Mark Twain, wrote "Is S...

Anti-Stratfordian Mark Twain, wrote “Is Shakespeare Dead?” shortly before his death in 1910. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain’t so.

MARK TWAIN, Mark Twain’s Notebooks

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

ALBERT EINSTEIN, Ideas and Opinions: Based on Mein Weltbild

Or does this show that it all depends on perspective? Does Truth prevail as long as the judge and jury are society and not a single group or person? Sometimes it seems that the media can become judge, jury and executioner … or maybe I should say politicians decide they are. But then I’m only a retired journalist that tried to report only the facts, although those were often the facts as stated by those I interviewed.

However, there was one article that I had to research very thoroughly as it was a controversial doping incident – equestrian not cycling. I attempted to interview parties on all sides, and when I wrote the article for an online equestrian site, I ensured that it was a balanced assessment. Fortunately there was almost unanimous agreement that it was one of the best reports at the time.

English: Toronto: Winston Churchill statue at ...

English: Toronto: Winston Churchill statue at City Hall Deutsch: Toronto: Winston Churchill Statue am Rathaus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Was it still my version? Can a writer ever stand back and be objective? Winston Churchill said, ‘History is written by the victors‘, and looking back over thousands of years that seems so wise. What I was taught in school about the Roman Empire took their point of view, not the ‘barbarians’ that we now know had as rich a culture but it was subjugated by the victors. How much of the negative image of Marie Antoinette was Revolutionary propaganda? How will Nazi Germany be remembered if fascism writes future history books?

I’m moving perhaps into the area of Alternate History, which in most cases is merely a fiction genre akin to science fiction, although there are some excellent academic works out there. But maybe some of the old historical accounts that were once authorities strayed too – strayed from the truth for justified reasons that might have been called for dramatic or political effect.

Thus I ask again: what is Truth? My protagonists think they speak the truth but the antagonists have their own version. If a jury was asked to make a judgement then both versions would be tested, as are the jury of readers. And if the tale was turned on its head and told by the guilty victor, who would know? Is the innocent man telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

WILLIAM BLAKE, Auguries of Innocence

*~*

Inspiration from a source close to my heart: http://duskweald.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/snow/

Makeover Time

English: Male long hair in Western culture. To...

English: Male long hair in Western culture. Totnes, UK 2008 (Saturday afternoon, about tea time) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the last century long hair was part of a rebellious image along with a shaggy beard, or so the Saga of the Silver Scribbler began. I grew older and the hair turned silver and thinned but I persisted in keeping my image – it was me, it was my individuality, even if I was told repeatedly that it made me look old. Then came the transformation, the day when my wife helped me to cast off that past and discover what I could become – with some scissors. And I haven’t looked back … although I’m probably due for another trim as I write this.

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As we move into 2013, it’s my website undergoing the transformation and I’m sure that my readers will agree that the layout is brighter, clearer and easier to navigate, without so much scrolling down a thin column of black and red. Does anybody remember what’s black and white, and read all over?

The wonderful thing about WordPress is that a Blog-meister can try dozens of themes without losing their original material. Great to see what it could look like if you are tempted by Garishmod or Enhancedcyber or in my case Sunspot. Select what you want and you have an instant makeover.

Okay, there will be tweaks to make – like reducing the size of the Blog awards – but it’s not like starting again. I left that for my poor wife to do on our new website at www.duskweald.wordpress.com. Our old site at www.duskweald.co.uk was becoming impossible to update so we have decided to move it or rather build an improved version. Once again we have experimented with themes, and hopefully found a suitable one.

Thus Writing Wings evolves, at least in my mind where the inspiration to continue scribbling emerges. Hopefully I can inspire words and images for others but I am always open to suggestions for future blogs that provide the motivation to create. Ideas please.

As the Saga of the Silver Scribbler unfolds, there is a niggling fear growing in my head, one that has plagued me for a while. The Work In Progress, does it lead anywhere? How?

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Spiral of Hooves should be published as an e-book sometime this year by Spectacle Publishing Media Group. There is a sequel planned but could this be a dead end? I’m a writer all-but-housebound by my MS, unable to get out easily and sell myself. MS takes a toll on my energy and ability to devote time to writing, social media, self-promotion and all the work required to be a writer. Self-publishing takes all that and money. Traditional publishing requires an agent, which means approaching them then getting out there and meeting them … but how?

Or am I writing merely to share with family and friends? In many ways the writing is my way of putting the images in my head on paper or screen. The satisfaction begins when at least one person – my precious wife – can share the images. That is the moment when it begins to feel worth doing. A labour of love.

At least in this life perhaps the options have ended and that is just my karma, plus a legacy for those left behind. Reincarnation?

You Want Me To Go Down Where?!

You Want Me To Go Down Where?! (Photo credit: tobym)

A sequel of questions or opportunities?

 

Well I’ve finished my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, or rather the first draft of another outpouring of words – Wyrm Blood. Hopefully it makes more than a bit of sense as I had a detailed outline to work to, although I made a few changes as I got further into the story and discovered extra sub plots. Some of those will require a new draft, which will perhaps be Draft 1.5 rather than Draft 2.

Wyrm Blood is the sequel to Wyrm Bait and as such the central characters are the same, other than the antagonists. However that throws up a question:

Cover of "Darkspell"

Cover of Darkspell

How does a writer ensure a new reader learns about the characters from Volume 1?

I realised that I needed to supply some indications and I have attempted to build it into dialogue as much as possible. I have also tried to reference Volume 1 in passing but not as info dump type exposition. At the moment I am reading Darkspell, Volume II of Katherine Kerr’s Deverry epic fantasy series. I read Volume 1 in the summer so I know where she is referring to events in that book but I am grateful for the reminders and realise how well she blends them in.

Obviously this doesn’t just apply to characters but to events, although they should arise from well-crafted characters. However there is a danger in erring on writing less and leaving new readers with unanswered questions – loose strings in a way. That is something that I will have to address in editing Wyrm Blood.

 

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it possible to foreshadow the sequel in any way?

Once I started working on the outline for Wyrm Blood there were elements that were ripe for inclusion in the opening novel Wyrm Bait, so these were worked into the draft at that point and I will ensure that both novels are linked in this way. However once the opening novel is committed for publication that will stop. Whenever Volume III becomes a reality the option will not be there, although I will be able to amend Volume II, Wyrm Blood.

As I am playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, an online MMORPG, with my wife at the moment, the Star Wars universe and story development has lessons in terms of sequels, not least that prequels can undermine the freshness and the novelty of the original. In many ways those writers and film-makers that have re-visited the setting of their initial product successfully, have done so be creating a new tale, albeit set against the same background. Terry Pratchett is a prime example in my mind and an inspiration to us all in so many ways.

 Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...

 

How should a writer tackle a sequel to a first published novel?

I am in the process of having my first novel Spiral of Hooves published as an e-book and my contract allows for them to publish other books in the Chasseur series. As I was writing Spiral of Hooves there were elements that I felt could be developed and there are places where these were added so future events could occur. I have a rough outline for Tortuous Terrain which shifts the setting from Europe to North America but still involves two of the central characters. How the novel pans out may depend on the success of Spiral of Hooves, which does create a slight deterrent to writing the story. Yet there is a part of me that wants to revisit my created equine world where I started, especially as there has been time to let everything marinade.

Talking of marinading there are other novels either in my bottom drawer – The Last Leaf and Fates Maelstrom – or in some sort of outline – Eighth Passenger, a novel about love across boundaries and war, that began life as the idea for a TV series. Where I go in 2013 will have a bearing on which WIP receives the necessary input of energy required to move it ahead of the queue.

 

Until next time the Silver Scribbler wishes you all Good Writing.

How hard are the Three Rs?

A foggy evening 01

A foggy evening 01 (Photo credit: AnneCN)

Happy New Year to one and all whether ye be avid readers, passing travelers or fledgling writers like me. May 2013 be filled with purpose, inspiration, endeavor and fulfillment.

Before you delete this page as a return to school or education, please believe me that the Three Rs are notreading, writing and arithmetic’ but some profound observations – well at least my take on my plans for the year ahead, along with a glance at the twisting road traveled in 2012.

Hence the Three Rs become: reaching realistic resolutions. WARNING: I’ve never been much good at sticking to New Year Resolutions but here goes.

Published Novel:     In 2012 I managed to get Spiral of Hooves accepted by a US e-publisher, Spectacle Publishing Media Group and hopefully this year the novel will become readable by more than a handful of inspirational mentors. However my intent/resolution is to get at least one more novel published in 2013, possibly Wyrm Bait which is the most progressed. But that requires me to produce a draft that will lead to Resolutions 2, 3 and 4.

Beta Readers:     I realize that finding willing Readers for a Work In Progress is not easy, neither is learning to apply their constructive critiques wisely [ADVERB!!!]. I was lucky on Spiral of Hooves to have colleagues from the Tunbridge Wells Writers Circle who were willing to read the manuscript and make valuable comments. However I feel that I will have to cast my net wider [CLICHÉ!!!] for the next WIPs, in part because I need some comments from typical readers of the genre and of MMORPGs – the setting for much of Wyrm Bait. Once the manuscript is ready for constructive criticism, I will be making a plea for volunteers. Resolution 2 – find willing Beta Readers.

Editor:    Editing has to be both essential and tough. It is part frustrating slog and part chance to rediscover and remould the words. In 2012 – and before that – there were some days when I enjoyed editing but others when I got lost in the forest of errors and stragglers. I don’t expect that to change over-year. Once I have re-drafted a manuscript then I know that I will have to turn to a professional if the work is ever to be seen by the buying audience. I’m not sure where to look but I have some ideas, although money is an issue at this stage. So resolution 3 is to find an editor that is both constructively critical and sympathetic.

edit on the go

edit on the go (Photo credit: fensterbme)

Publisher:     When I have passed Resolutions 2 & 3 then I will have reach a firm decision on how I intend to get published. Back in 2011/2012 there were periods in which I seriously considered finding an agent and even compiled detailed lists of which ones to approach; list that I still have. Then I began to realize that I would need to travel to anyone that expressed interest and wanted a face-to-face interview/assessment. Being disabled in a wheelchair and restricted by my MS as to the where I go, that got ruled out. Or are there agents out there that will use online conferencing to assess clients? What about mainstream publishers? Can I tread a conventional route in my wheelchair? And then there is self-publishing, an option I considered pursuing when I got a winner’s prize from CreateSpace completing NaNoWriMo in 2011. Problem = money. Any spare would go to the editor, so then where? Resolution 4 is my Catch 22 – decide how to get published.

Final Drafts:     I need to ensure that I finish 2013 with at least two final drafts of my current WIPs, including whatever that publisher-ready novel. There needs to be something in the pipeline [CLICHÉ!!!] that takes the pressure off [CLICHÉ] when the publisher/readers/conscience tells me another creation needs to find a place on some other tables/hard-drives/e-readers/old-fashioned parchment or whatever. So Resolution 5 is produce at least TWO final drafts.

First Drafts:     When those final drafts are passed on to their next incarnation, it will be essential that some of the ideas that are churning around inside my head or gathering dust under my computer desk have become First Drafts = by the end of 2013. Mathematically, applying the arithmetic that I learnt decades ago, I know that if I keep subtracting 2 from 6 there will be zero. As I write this blog, I have six novels at various stages from Spiral of Hooves, which should be available soon as with e-publisher, to its sequel Tortuous Terrain, which is an outline idea with characters and opening scribbled in its own notebook awaiting more. In between are four WIPs all at least first draft so in theory I can relax for 2013 as far as creating more is concerned, concentrating on the editing. But that ignores the urge to created, to explore new ideas and the future … and NaNoWriMo 2013, which should yield another first draft. Resolution 6 – write two + more first drafts.

100k in 100 Days:    During November and NaNoWriMo my daily word count was between 1,750 and 2,500 words but that was a drain on the rest of my life. I need to have some realistic target and with the 100k in 100 days challenge I have a new target, one that might be achievable as it allows for more than just novel words. This Blog post counts and basically all but not the shopping list. As a result I will attempt to post more often during the challenge: This is my more leisurely version of NaNoWriMo, where you have from 1st January 2013 until 10th April 2013 in which to write 100k words. That’s just 1000 words a day. There are some, not very strict rules. See: http://www.facebook.com/groups/125279004297437/  Resolution 7 is to write at least 1,000 words per day indefinitely.

Hard Read:    Reading has always been a part of my life but TV, gaming and writing have always proved to be distractions from this essential pastime. At the moment I am reading various crime/mystery/thrillers that I bought but there are books in my bookshelf that are definitely Fantasy plus ones that I never got round to reading after buying them second-hand to complete sets. One book usually takes 4- 6 weeks as I spend so much time on the computer, but I need to reduce the time online – delete more emails perhaps. Resolution 8 is read at least 12 books in 2013 and vary the genre so not boxing-in my mind.

MMORPG:    TV is no longer the escape nor cinema. When I can put the writing aside then I escape to another world. Playing games – MMORPGs ~ Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Games – with my wife is our wind-down even if we get frustrated sometimes. Unfortunately even restricting gaming time to evenings we have a variety-seeking habit of changing games after a while and I keep creating new characters. We were playing LOTRO – Lord of the Rings Online – but are now in SWTOR – Star Wars The Old Republic … and we met online in Perfect World. Resolution 9 is to reach the maximum level on at least one character in SWTOR by the Spring.

AirTravel

USA:     For those who hadn’t realized, my wife was born in the USA and her family are mostly in Idaho and Utah but it will be two years in April since we saw any of them. Although Juanita talks to her kids, her mum and an aunt on the phone that is not the same as physical contact. Money is tight but getting over to see at least some of them has to be the priority – after covering essentials on both sides of the Atlantic BUT before luxuries. So Resolution 10 should be No 1 as it’s getting over to the States and spending time with the family in 2013.

Looking back over this Blog post I realize that to earn my Writing Wings I need to focus and the Three Rs that I have to concentrate on should be: reading, research and writing.

Whatever your poison [CLICHÉ], good writing – The Silver Scribbler