Monthly Archives: March 2014

Don’t Be Afraid to Scrap

I’ve been working on book 3 of the chronicles since Monday. I knew, in general, what I wanted to accomplish with the book, but I had no ideas about specifics. So I spent Monday brainstorming with OpenOffice Calc opened on a new outline spreadsheet. It was completely blank except for the headings: Timeline. Plots. Plot Points. I sat and stared at it. It was so blank. Where to start? Well, what did I have, story-wise? I had a vague idea of what should happen by the end of the book and I had a potential starting point, the epilogue of the second book. But starting right at the end of that would be a little boring. There wasn’t much going to happen at that point, aside from the surprise that had already occurred. And something pulse-pounding or dramatic or scary or something action-y should open a book. But nope. I had no ideas for an opening.

Alright, I thought, then think more about the book as a whole. It took me a few hours, but eventually I filled in some plot points. Not all from the same plot, and not all actual plot points. Some were mere scenes that I knew could eventually become plot points. I think I filled in maybe six that first day. Even so, it felt a little underwhelming. But it was just the first day–I had time. More ideas would come as more plot points were filled in. One idea would lead to another and that to another one or more, and so on.

Yesterday, I decided to use one of my tricks from writing book 2: focus on one subplot at a time. I knew who/what the antagonist was going to be, so I decided to focus on the subplot that would get Antagonist hooked into the main plot. I sorted the spreadsheet by plot and started brainstorming again. It helped. I came up with many ideas about how Antagonist would think and actions (along with Protagonist reactions) that might be taken during the three acts of the book. I also made sure I could come up with justifications for those actions that made sense. At the end of the writing day I had about eight more points for that sub-plot. They were decent enough, would lead to some exciting and cool scenes and events, but something was nagging me.

It wasn’t until a few hours after I’d stopped writing for the day (I never stop thinking about a work in progress, or rather, my brain never stops thinking about it) that the reason came to me: this whole sub-plot didn’t excite me. It wasn’t that it was boring, it just didn’t click for me. And if it didn’t click for me, I wouldn’t be able to make it click for a reader. To make matters worse, another subplot I’d thought of didn’t seem to be related at all to this one, which meant one or both should be eliminated. But I loved that other sub-plot. Not only was it cool, it could dovetail into ideas I had for future books. A few thoughts on adjusting the Antagonist sub-plot popped into my head throughout the rest of the night, but I was still unsatisfied.

This morning I grabbed my mug of coffee, my cinnamon toast, and headed to the computer determined to tweak this sub-plot and make it better. I spent an hour or two brainstorming. What if this happened, or that? What if Antagonist had this desire, or that desire, instead? The ‘what if’ game helps to come up with potentially off-the-wall ideas, some of which can be awesome. But I was having no luck. I decided to think about that other sub-plot. How could I get it involved in this sub-plot? I spent time thinking about it but couldn’t come up with anything. That is, until I thought: How can that sub-plot be connected to Antagonist. I thought about Antagonist a bit and an idea came to me. It would mean abandoning the current sub-plot entirely and scrapping everything I’d done on it the last two days. So what? Sometimes you have to kill your darlings. Whether they are darling because they are awesome, or darling because you worked so hard on them, if they don’t work, lose em.

Now, I’m not entirely crazy. I saved the current outline and then used Save As to create a draft 2. In the new draft is where I would start fleshing out this new sub-plot. I’d have the old one handy in case this new one didn’t work. I sat back then and thought about the new plot. I spent a few hours doing so, following ideas where they lead and considering how everything could be connected into a story. It was working rather nicely. And as I thought and typed in plot points I realized something: this new plot clicked with me. I liked it. I liked where it was going, where it came from, and some of the things that could happen because of it. It also gave me an idea for a dramatic prologue.

That’s not to say it will end up exactly as I have it conceived right now. It might end up being tweaked later, but it certainly feels more right than the previous one. So don’t be afraid of scrapping something that isn’t working. It just might give you the freedom to come up with a better idea.

Categories: Dragonlinked, Lethera, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Bond Available in Trade Paperback Format

The Bond cover

The Bond

After a bit of a wait for both websites to coordinate (Create Space and Amazon), The Bond, already available from Amazon in Kindle format, can now also be purchased in trade paperback format. Once a consolidated link is available, where you can acquire both editions from the same one, I will update this post.

EDIT: Both formats are now available from either link. Merely select which format you want from the list shown on the page.

Categories: Books, Dragonlinked, Lethera, Update | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Another writing resource: Etymology

I wrote a piece a few months back about how Google can be used as a great little writing tool. While I was writing The Bond, sequel to Dragonlinked, I found I used Google a lot in another way: to find the etymology of several words and phrases.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way they have changed through history. Why is etymology important? Well, Dragonlinked Chronicles takes place on another world. I wanted the books to have some tie to the familiar, however, so I set Lethera at almost the same technology level that Earth was during the same time period, the late 1800s. In some ways Lethera is a little more advanced than Earth (medicine, and thus, hygiene—due to diagnostic, preventative, and curative magic), while it is behind in others (electricity, gunpowder—also due to magic being used instead). Therefore, since the books are pseudo-period pieces, I wanted to ensure that words and phrases I used made sense for the time and technology, etc. For example, in the Preface of The Bond, I initially referred to anaphylactic shock, but a quick check of the Online Etymology Dictionary (Google: anaphylaxis ety) revealed that the term anaphylactic shock wasn’t really in use until 1916, which is just beyond my 40 year allowance for medical terms (the book takes place in 1874), so, I decided against using it and conveyed the medical issue another way.

For period pieces, and even for pieces set on other worlds/societies, there are many instances where an etymology check can prove handy. For example, say you are thinking of having a character or the narrator say or think ‘Such and such took off like a rocket’ or ‘rocketed away’ (Clich鍏? Probably, but useful enough for this example). Well, do they USE rockets on that planet/society? Has the character/narrator seen or heard of one? Could they have? When did rockets (or that specific phrase) come into general use on Earth? Does it makes sense for that character (or the narrator) to use that phrase? a quick etymology check will answer many, if not all, of these questions.

Hand-in-glove with the discussion of etymology as a tool comes the idea that you should concern yourself with this aspect of writing as well. It ties into suspension of disbelief. As readers we are willing to let a lot go, but if some wildly out-of-place detail pulls us from the story, our suspension is broken and that is something, as writers, we want to avoid doing.

So, think about adding this nifty little tool to your kit, and keep at your craft!

Categories: Tips, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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