Friday, 29 August 2014

I think I’m a gardener

Not in the real world sense but in the writing sense. There is an idea that you can be a story architect who plans it all out to the ‘enth degree and builds a beautiful constructed story OR you can be a person who throws out a whole lot of seeds, sees which ones come up and then prunes them or transplants them until you have a finished story.
This is often termed plotters and pantsers - as in they work by the seat of their pants.
To think of writer examples, Ken Follett - Pillars of the earth - is a plotter/architect. He starts with a plan for each chapter and then expands it all out. He talks about it here in his masterclass lectures.
He thinks it out and writes a twenty five to forty page outline. It contains everything chapter by chapter that will happen in the book. He also writes out biographies for each character. This process takes him about a month. He is famous enough to then send that outline to his agent or publisher and, if they approve, he can get paid for writing it. That’s a pretty big incentive in my eyes.
The snowflake guy, Randy Ingermanson, does a similar thing. He starts with a one sentence synopsis and expands that to one paragraph and then expands that out to one page and so on…  
I have read all about this method and I have downloaded a template for Scrivener and I have tried to use this method but… it’s just not me.
Examples from the other end of the spectrum are Dan Wells, the horror writer, and George RR Martin, Game of Thrones writer. Terrifying isn’t it? The guy who makes up the incredibly wordy, detailed and complex world of Game of Thrones is making it up as he goes along.
Dan has a rough plan, not for the story itself but for the marks it should hit. He calls it a seven point plan. He has uploaded some lectures on this to YouTube and the link is on his website. The marks are things like: the hook - the idea that grabs you as a reader, the turning point, and the resolution.
Or here for a pdf slideshow.
Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy writer, says he is somewhere in the middle. He outlines the story but his characters emerge as he writes it. In this situation, how will my main character react?
Neither way is better than the other; they are just different.
Having tried both, I think I lean towards pantser/gardener.
My most popular fanfiction stories were written in pretty much the order they were posted with daily updates loaded as I wrote them. I had a vague idea of the ending; very vague - as in X ends up with Y and they are happy and to get there and this has to change about Y. I totally wrote Apologies in six weeks (all 90k words of it) and pulled the ending out of my ass in the last chapter and I had one review that said I had intricately planted this winding thread right through the story. I wish I had planned that, but… Nope.
Same with Best Friends share everything. I was just writing sex and then had to go back and find the story. Maybe I left some hints for myself? I don’t know… but I had to make sense of it all later.
I have been trying to be more planning oriented and in the process I think I have squished myself worrying about what my main character’s favourite food is or whatever else I am meant to be filling out in his character sheet.
Start at the end, start in the middle, or fill out characters later - whatever. Who cares, as long as you are writing?

Friday, 15 August 2014

Is it worth five stars?

Goodreads has a star rating system. According to the site, the stars have the following values:
·       1 star - I did not like it,
·       2 stars - it was ok,
·       3 stars - liked it,
·       4 stars - I really liked, and
·       5 stars - it was amazing.
At its most basic, the star system has four positive stars and one negative. If everyone gave every book five stars, the system would fail.  So I don’t know where this idea came from that your book has to get a five star review or it is a failure. It has made Goodreads into a world where sock puppet authors give themselves five star reviews and other authors attack readers who post a negative review. Really, people? Really? Aren’t readers your market? Be nice to them. Or at the very least, don’t attack them in an environment that is supposed to be for them.
I've talked previously about how not everyone will like everything you write and they shouldn't. If you see a book with a few reviews and they are all five stars, then there is something off.
Last night I watched Priest on DVD. It is based on a Korean manga and is a fantasy movie set in a theocratic world where humans and vampires are at war. You give confession in a line of automated booths that look like portable toilets.
Humans have selected and trained a group of elite fighters to defend them and they have heightened senses and super-fast reflexes. The world is a gritty, quasi western world but they have awesome weapons, incredible looking dirt bikes and it is all very stylish and very dark. The vampires are genuinely terrifying and like nothing you have seen before. Vampires, who are supposed to be wiped out, kidnap the priest’s niece. It stars Paul Bettany as the priest, Karl Urban as a wonderful bad guy called Black Hat, Lily Collins as the niece, Cam Gigandet as a local Sherriff literally called Hick (bwahaha) and the wonderful Maggie Q as a fighting priestess.
It is not a five star movie; it is what people might call a guilty pleasure - although I object to that term. Things that please us and do no harm should not be felt with guilt.
It gets a rating of 5.7 out of 10 on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 16%. Its budget was $60m and it made $78m worldwide, but was considered a financial flop and I doubt the obvious sequel will ever be made.
Would I give it five stars? Heck no. Did I enjoy it? You bet I did.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Scrawling your name onto my skin

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

The bandage itched and the area underneath it felt sore and tender. He kept touching it; pressing against it as if to remind himself that it was there.
He did it again; his eyes closed in something close to ecstasy.
When he opened them she was standing in front of him. “Hey.” His voice managed not to squeak.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Her solicitous look nearly unnerved him.
“I’m... fine.”
She glanced at his hand where it pressed over his heart. “Are you sure?”
Her head tilted. “Really? ‘Cause you look like you are having a heart attack.”
A nervous laugh escaped him. “My heart is fine,” he assured her. If by ‘fine’ you meant it started beating faster whenever she was around. If by ‘fine’ you meant his heart belonged to her. And she didn’t know. He had never told her.
It must have been the way he looked at her that gave him away because suddenly she put her hands on him. She lifted his shirt.
And his secret was exposed.
She stared at the tattoo under the cling wrap cover.
“What is this?” she asked in a low voice.
He couldn’t answer her.
She tried again, “That... that’s my name.”
God... as if he didn’t know that. He had it marked on his skin with a heart. He could only nod.
“My name,” she repeated. “But I don’t think of you like that.”
“I know-”
She looked guilty.
“-and that’s okay,” he continued. “The closest I will ever get to you is scrawling your name onto my skin.”
And the day he got it done... she had touched him.
© AM Gray 2014

Kid 2 tells me this is super creepy…

Sunday, 3 August 2014


In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
He laid the book on the shelf instead of putting it back where he’d found it. It might be a giveaway; he should not be here, let alone be looking for ancient papers hidden inside old tomes.
He was putting aside the ones that seemed to have thicker pastedowns inside the front or back covers. Promising endpapers as it were. In the past he had found one or two pages hidden in this manner. He was also looking down the back hinges of a few. A small, folded piece could be slipped down behind the headbands.
A glance toward the windows showed no light in the sky. Did he have time to finish his search? He had to. He would not get another night.
A noise in the hallway; as if the front door was closed very carefully. He doused the light but probably too slowly. Backing away into a dark corner, he held his breath.
The steps stopped at the library doorway.
Please go away, he prayed silently but it didn’t work. The door pushed open, and a girl who walked with a slight stagger lurched in and threw herself down on the settee under the window. She didn’t even see him.
He stood there and waited.
She made a heartfelt sigh and then she fell asleep.
He should have picked up the books he had put aside and left the room, but he didn’t.
Creeping over, her looked down at her. Her cheeks were flushed, her lips very red and her hair lay in a tousled mess around her face. He had a sudden urge to brush it away from her face.
Her eyes fluttered open. He was too slow to move and she just looked at him. “Oh,” she muttered, “You’re real.”
He had no idea what that meant. Flustered and with no time to run, he whispered to her, “Go back to sleep.”
“Okay,” she agreed happily.
When her eyes closed, he succumbed to his impulse and brushed the hair from her forehead. She smiled at his touch.
He didn’t take the books. He felt guilty.
He asked around and he found out that the niece of the old man who owned the estate was visiting for the summer. That must be the girl who had disturbed him.
But he wanted those books. And he was frightened that the girl would recognise him. He kicked himself for being so sentimental as to leave them behind.
And he wondered what her comment about him being real meant.
He changed his hair parting and allowed his beard to grow a little before he was brave enough to approach her at a regional function. It was a children’s performance or some such. He took little notice. Once he had talked to her for most of the night; she seemed unwilling to desert him, as well.
Now he wanted both; the girl and the books.

© AM Gray 2014