Parallel Plotting Predicament

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

Plotting was simple with previous draft novels, even when there were two interweaving plot arcs. But how did I end up with three parallel ones? More important how should I be writing this novel?

Draft blurb for “Seeking a Knife”: Welsh Detective Sergeant Sparkle Lodge suspects that the death of a researcher is linked to the priceless 200 year-old Memoirs sent to Nadine Palmour, a Native American journalist. Is Nadine descended from the author of the Memoirs, an English naval officer, Talcott Wendell? Is the theft of his naval dirk in 1920 a cold case that has to be resurrected?

Three POVs in three separate settings, two separated by location – North Wales and Texas – and the other by historical time – the memoirs are from the War of 1812, between the USA and the British in Canada.

I recognise that there are three different areas of research, three sets of character sketches, but are three outlines that gradually weave together? I had initially planned to do all the research, character sketches, and then one interweaving outline of the whole novel. I have a rough outline so know how the novel should unfold – and a time line for the present day arcs. But the great plan hasn’t worked out beyond those elements.

My first POV character, a Welsh Goth in the North Wales Poice  arrested me. Who wouldn’t want to develop a character based on Abi in NCIS? So I have her sketched out, and a few lines on those she interacts with.  Worst of all I have written around 10,000 words that cover the first third of the novel from her POV.

Do I stop? Do I continue with her story, until she meets the Native American? Or should I just work on the parts that inspire me?

Pauley Perrette aka Abi

Pauley Perrette aka Abi

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. This is my attempt to talk about my doubts and the fears that I am trying to conquer. I want to be encouraging, and by posting perhaps this is a way of saying keep striving. Visit IWSG and some other great bloggers, not all as insecure but great fun.
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG
The awesome co-hosts for this February 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax!

Advertisements

Eight Headless Chickens

headless-chickens

It was a good end to 2013 with my first book published and the first draft of the sequel written, but January has been eight chaotic days, running around like the headless cliché… sorry, I mean chicken.

As I said in my non-resolution, Baiting the Bull, I had simplified my plans for 2014, aiming for just a small step each day. In a way that worked, but my mind still wants to veer off down different tracks.

Is that because it knows that I am playing mind games? I can’t hide the potential workload from myself, not when it mocks me each day. I sit at the computer and know what is going on, however hard I try to shut the demands off.

There are at least eight demanding chickens that I cannot hide from.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

  1. Spiral of Hooves: the novel won’t sell itself so I need to promote it, without spamming the world.
  2. Wyrm Bait: the second novel I wrote, which has been professionally edited. But I’m finding it hard to tackle a rewrite.
  3. Gossamer Steel: a collection of short stories that links to Wyrm Bait. Where my passion is at the moment. Also have a linked novella, The Last Leaf, my 2011 NaNoWriMo win that needs editing.
  4. Challenges: 100 k in 100 days and My 500 Words. These give me the daily challenge to write – as in 3 – but not to edit. Will suffer when 7 takes over.
  5. Reading Blogs and other Social Media: finding enough time to give these justice is nigh impossible, and yet I need to connect with other people out there. That includes all the amazing IWSG folk.
  6. Reading novels on Kindle &/or paper: a writer needs to read, if only for pleasure. But sadly, as a slow reader, I have difficulty reading on a Kindle but that’s how I buy my books. Quicker reader the old fashioned, un-ecological way.
  7. Packing for our move to Wales next month: in less than eight weeks we are moving to Harlech. Boxes are taking over our lives, and the other details must be sorted. Writing will get harder.
  8. Gaming: something had to suffer and this is it. Some would say good riddance to this waste of valuable time. But it is crucial escapism, especially when you are trapped by a wheelchair. It is also the inspiration behind 2 & 3.

I need to focus myself back on the basic steps forward, and stop letting the headless syndrome affect me. I just need to identify the priorities. Without a head, this chicken can’t cross the road and get to the other side.

What do you think, dear reader? What’s the best way to cross the road?

***

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

This is my first posting of 2014 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group This is when we release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Bob Milne, River Fairchild, Julie Dao, and Sarah Foster!  Many thanks to you all for your time and effort towards making all IWSG members feel welcome.

mike-the-headless-chicken1

And for those interested in Headless Chickens, visit:

http://www.coloradoguy.com/mike-the-headless-chicken/fruita.htm

Major Roman Boissard ~ Entrepreneur or Thorn?

English: Flag of Canadian Army

English: Flag of Canadian Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been apprehensive about interviewing Roman Boissard about his role in ‘Spiral of Hooves’ ever since he objected to my interview with Du Noroît Stud’s nutritionist, Lina Jardero. However, it is important to establish whether he is the interfering nuisance that his son, Gilles makes out, or whether the family equestrian business is his creation and dependent on him.

Monsieur Roman Boissard, many thanks for making time to see me…

Major Boissard to you. And you are late. Your appointment was last week, Clarke. I presume that you were never in the army otherwise you would show more respect. Army discipline would sort out your sloppy ideas.

Of course, Major. Can I ask what you did in the Canadian Army?

All I can divulge is that I was posted on covert operations with front-line combat regiments. Essential work that must remain confidential. Move on to the next question, I am a busy man.

Did you establish the family equestrian enterprise, Boissard Équestre with your son?

Tabernac, I formed Boissard Équestre on my own, without any help from my useless playboy son or those who exploit him… most of them foreigners that don’t understand us.

Who are your closest friends?

My business partners, like Patrick Harfang. We play golf together at our country club near Bromont. I trust them more than my son. Patrick is a sharp businessman, who can turn any failing business round and make it far more profitable than it ever was.

So you would consider this Patrick Harfang as like part of “your tribe”?

Of course. I can always trust his advice. It’s sound. The reverse of my wastrel son, Gilles.

What would you have to do to get kicked out of this club?

A ridiculous scenario and one that would be unmotivated.

Before the novel began, what were your hopes for the future? What changed that?

My dream was for Boissard Équestre to produce first-class horses for the Canadian Equestrian Team. But everything that I have tried to achieve has been opposed by my son and his under-qualified team. What use is a University degree when it ignores the scientific advances of prominent businesses? Lina Jardero is a total fraud.

But Gilles has said, “Papa is merely a nuisance”. The implication being that you are at fault?

Calisse, if I wanted I could make his life messy, but there are sensible options, if he would only listen to me. I am a reasonable man.

53/365: Over the hills and far away

53/365: Over the hills and far away (Photo credit: Rrrodrigo)

So what do you think is going to happen next? Can you reach an agreement with your son?

If he knows where his real loyalties lie. And those loyalties are not to his so-called friends. Who are they anyway? A salope groom that merely wants his money, a failed scientist that risks the horses with her experiments, and a scruffy academic that is a born criminal.

You are suggesting that Armand Sabatier is dangerous, so you don’t trust him?

He tries to take advantage of us with his pitiful moods. He’s too shifty and evasive, pretending to help everyone. Maybe I should have his contract terminated. I’m not even sure that he’s allowed to work in Canada.

By termination, you don’t mean murder? Your son suggested that you might kill someone, but not Armand, surely?

If I want him off the stud, I have easier ways to remove him. Now, if you want a suspect and if it isn’t my son, then the Frenchman would be ideal. However, I don’t think he has the brains to use anything other than a computer. A born failure, as an academic and probably as a criminal.

What was your most shattering, and most recent encounters with death?

In the military I saw my share of death, and it needs to end there. As I’ve said, I’m a reasonable man for whom killing is only a last resort and in combat. Life is sacred.

I accept that you have been misrepresented by others. In that respect, what’s your greatest talent?

As an entrepreneur, to always find the most cost effective but also most cutting-edge ways forward. That is why I was very keen to proceed with the trials of genetically-modified feed. And despite the critics close to home, the breeding stock look excellent and the financial projection is positive. The business has great prospects. As a family-man, to provide for my family, even Gilles.

Gilles sees himself in the hero role, ignoring the fact that a protagonist can always be female. What about yourself, are you heroic?

I have the military training to be a hero, but I fear that my age might be against me. Writers, like you, want young dynamic heroes and I suspect that means my son. Or are you suggesting that your novel features some trendy heroine protagonist? You can’t mean Jardero or that useless groom Fedon? That would be laughable – it will never sell.

Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in ...

Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think I have an age advantage over you, Major Boissard. Even if I lack the military discipline. Are you applying for the protagonist position?

Dare you ask? I have all the qualifications, even if others want to condemn me. If my favourite actor, Harrison Ford can still be the hero then I accept the promotion.

Thank you, Major Boissard for the valuable insight into your true personality. I have other candidates for the position, but I will assess your credentials with due consideration.

As long as you are not seriously considering my son. Tabernac, that would be a major mistake, even if he has his leeches.

 

Forthcoming interviews:             

Odette Fedon, Head groom at Du Noroît Stud

Armand Sabatier, Du Noroît Stud EIA researcher

 

Other ‘Spiral of Hooves’ interviews:

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?

Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?       

Studs o' Death

Studs o’ Death (Photo credit: Anthony DeLorenzo)

                  

Time, Editing, plus Writing a Novel

As I slowly write my way to sixty – well 59 come August – I am increasingly aware of that precious commodity called Time and the need to juggle the commitments that life has thrown up.  Writing is of course my chosen profession for retirement and therefore the one I should choose to focus on.

For the last two weeks I have been carrying out what I have called The Overview edit on my second draft novel Wyrm Bait and yesterday I completed it.  Time was an important part of the edit in at least two respects:

(i)           Chronology – I needed to ensure that the sequence of events worked even if in some instances flashbacks were needed;

(ii)         Length of time – ensuring that the storyline covered the right amount of time in terms of weeks and months.  (My first novel Spiral of Hooves suffered for a while by getting that wrong.)

I am reasonably satisfied that the overall storyline works and that there aren’t any glaring gaps or wasted scenes/chapters. The best analogy is that the dominoes look like they are laid out in the right order to fall in sequence but I still need to check that I have chosen the right domino in every instance. Maybe there is room to fit in some more dominoes – a subplot maybe – especially as I have at least one chapter which feels too short and in need of another scene, but as yet nothing is crying out to be added.  I could however see plenty of places where I could expand on things like description and insert more actions to underline the words, in the next edit stages.

Continuity:  from an overall perspective I ensured that glaring errors including character inconsistency and muddled motivation were corrected and that plot revelations were timed right. Even found one character with a name totally wrong – taken from a pre-novel idea.

Pacing: this feels right but I know that when I start to work on Chapter level editing that pacing will really be tested.

I made some grassroots changes as I read the draft through and saw the mistakes, but I also made notes on things I needed to do at the next draft stage.  I even got some inspiration for the sequel Wyrm Blood and was compelled to scribble out the opening lines and the structure of the first scene.  The basic idea was already lurking in the wings as the protagonist, a wannabe writer, is asked what his next short story is about: ‘Umm..human sacrifice.’.

At this stage I find myself reflecting on how writing has changed over Time because of the computer.  Pre-writing and for thousands of years, storytelling has been a mix of stories learnt from the bards almost word for word but perhaps Chinese whispers change even storytelling.  Was The Iliad as the transcribed Greek stands, told exactly in those words originally?

Famous writers from Chaucer to Hemingway all had to re-write their work at each draft, word for word.  Each draft was truly a new version while with computers it is tempting to just change the errors in the previous draft.  And there lurks the danger that every subsequent draft can carry hidden errors, compounding the mistakes.

I admire Robert Louis Stevenson for his rewrite after supposedly burning the first draft of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He re-wrote the novella in three to six days.  Whether the story is true or merely apocryphal, it suggests that the effort in the reworking was worthwhile.

So should I be re-writing my novels word by word, searching as I write for a better way to craft each phrase, each paragraph, each scene so that the next draft is not an amended version of the previous?  Can plotting the story in detail, knowing my characters intimately, reviewing each day’s writing, focusing down a level at each draft, have the same effect? At least I can try to re-write some of the scenes in Wyrm Bait where I feel there is more to add.

Time well spent of course but then there are other things to do and the juggling is not easy.  For a start there is the MS which some days slows me down so much I can’t even crawl out of bed and if I do the headaches, stiff hands and exhaustion can drive me crazy.  Fortunately I have learnt to live with the MS and my wife Juanita is my daily blessing.   I admit that at the end of the day we escape together into another world as we are both passionate gamers – playing Lord of the Rings Online at the moment.  It is escapism but also inspiration especially for Wyrm Bait which is set against a Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) – also the setting for a future series.

Then there is social media: I’m finding that the time commitment is increasing as I read more blogs, post more Tweets, check out my two Facebook pages – one more equestrian and one more Writing.  Plus there are all the emails to check and react to.  I sense that soon it will become too much if I don’t limit myself as I’ve also had to do with the gaming.  Today I found these blogs: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/05/02/book-marketing-giving-up-social-media/ and http://writerunboxed.com/2012/04/27/should-you-focus-on-your-writing-or-your-platform/ which say things more succinctly than I can.

So this Blog will be weekly but never daily, the Tweeting will be whenever I see something important and I will prioritise my Facebook writing page over the other.  Then perhaps I can write more.

The next stage for Wyrm Bait is research on the workings of the gaming world using a book called The Complete Guide to Game Development, Art & Design to add missing colour & texture to some crucial characters and scenes.  Beyond that I have to work on another novel for a competition – but that’s another post from The Silver Scribbler.

Editing that Novel

Originally posted on http://www.rolandclarke.co.uk on 17 May 2012

As I embark on editing my second novel, Wyrm Bait, it seemed a good moment to reflect back on the lessons I learnt editing the first one.

Editing was one of the reasons why Spiral of Hooves took 12 years of writing before I had a final draft that I had confidence in.  Sounds like I kept on re-writing and in a way I did, but in totally the wrong way – I call it back-editing or back-pedalling.  I would write a few of the early chapters and then show them to other writers, mainly reading short sections aloud to the novel group I belonged to.  They were anxious to help and I failed to discriminate between constructive criticism and comments to discard.  So I kept going back and re-writing the same chapters, even re-reading the same scenes to the poor group.

Eventually I saw the error of my ways and began to be more selective in what I listened to, although by then my characters and plotline had gone through major changes.  When I finally had a complete draft that I could begin to revise, a lot of the novel in terms of structure, chronology and scene order as well as character consistency was all over the place.  Revising that was a massive scissors & paste rewrite but at least I then had a draft that began to flow – so I could then go through and hone the actual words.

While going through all these drafts I read somewhere – apologies if I don’t know where – that one should start with the overall picture and work down to the level of the individual words with each rewrite.  Hopefully after the chaos that was Spiral of Hooves I might have an easier time editing Wyrm Bait and enjoy what is meant to be as much fun as the writing.

I envisage 3 phases to Editing:

1.   The Overview:  ensuring that the overall structure of the plotline works and even surpasses the original intent of the plotting done before I even started writing.  When my partner/No 1 critic-reader read the finished novel aloud, I made notes on what didn’t work BEFORE putting the novel in the bottom drawer; so those notes are my starting point.
It helped having the background & detailed characterisation worked out even before I devised a detailed scene by scene plot using cards plus my novel writing software. I also wrote the second novel (and subsequent ones) without back-peddling EXCEPT each day I re-read and made minor changes to the previous day’s writing before I wrote the next chunk.  Also I kept ensuring that events that needed foreshadowing were inserted or changed as necessary plus any potential inconsistancies were avoided.
Therefore this edit should in part have been done in (a) the read-through notes & amendments; (b) the daily review and other corrections while writing the first draft.  But it doesn’t mean everything works at this stage so I will still have to do an overview.

2.   Chapters – Openings & Cliffhangers:   It remains to be seen whether I was beginning to write more self-contained and concise chapters in Wyrm Bait, with the cliffhangers to keep readers moving on. I will need to ensure that the tension is kept up but not at a break-neck speed as there need to be lulls both overall and within the individual chapters.  One crucial thing is that the plot keeps moving forward and the characters either grow or at least learn.  I also know that although I did research when I plotted the storyline and when I was writing, that there are areas that will need researching in more detail, given how the plot evolved.   This could all mean one draft or probably more like two or three as I know the chapters in Wyrm Bait vary in how they are written, with some sketched roughly and others overwritten with flights of purple prose.

3.   Every word counts:  So finally at the grassroots level there are the individual words and the phrases they either enhance or kill, deciding if the sentences flow and the paragraphs work.  After Spiral of Hooves, I know that there can be a lot of dead wood hiding at this level as unwanted adjectives and adverbs, inappropriate verbs or obvious embellishments.  I might have cut out large chunks by removing whole scenes and even chapters but fine tuning the words and removing the dross added light and shade to the flow of that story.

On one level it’s daunting reflecting on what has to be done but I know that it is also exciting as I will be discovering Wyrm Bait again and I have the chance to find the jewel at its heart.  Isn’t that what we are doing as writers – crafting a precious object from words?

Although I’ve used various online sites and real-paper books as I tried to learn this craft of writing, one comes to hand as useful at many stages: Writing The Thriller by T. Macdonald Skillman – Published by Writer’s Digest Books ISBN 0-89879-928-7.  With contributions from other thriller writers it has some invaluable chapters including one on editing called ‘Words on a Page’ which is one of my ongoing references.

Welcome to Writing Wings

Welcome to Writings Wings, my Blogging home online and a place to keep friends and followers informed about my journeys in the World of Writing & Scribbling as I try to evolve from a fledgling fiction writer into someone that can offer words of import or entertainment or even amusement.

On this Blog I will post my more instant musings as I perfect my writing and learn the art of editing the words into something that you would like to read.  For details on my writing you can also visit my website at www.rolandclarke.co.uk where Work In Progress gives a few clues to the novels and other creations that are finding their own wings through my scribblings.  If you want to know who I am, click here on About fora few clues.

In time I will add some Favourite Links including a portal to my life beyond writing at The Duskweald – www.duskweald.co.uk – as well as other valued links.  Finally if you want to get in touch either click on the Facebook, Twitter links above OR by following the blog by email below.

See you on the journey fellow traveller ~ The Silver Scribbler aka Roland Clarke.