Knowing When the Time is Right

It’s been almost three years since I lost my son. This morning, after spending several hours on another project, my thoughts returned to the manuscript I started less than a year after his death. I thought I might pick up where I had left off and see it through to completion in the next year or so.

I thought about how I would structure the manuscript, what would be included and how I would tackle the more sensitive issues. To my surprise, I found a way around the ever present issue of the possibility of offending people with my words. I started to think, “I can do this!”

Then I sat at the computer and opened the old documents. I read through what had previous been written and by the time I got to the end, which was really nowhere near the end of the real story, I was in tears. Memories of those dark months resurfaced and I could feel depression creeping in on all sides.

I’m not ready to write that manuscript. Perhaps I never will be. I see no reason to put myself through something (again) that tore my life apart. For now, I’ve closed the documents and returned to the edit of Mirror Image – a safe story – because I know now is not the right time.

A Bruise Causes Standstill

In Mirror Image one of the characters has a bruise. This bruise caused me to come to a complete halt in the edit. How could a mark of this type cause so much trouble? Believe me, this is a question that has been turning around in my head for a while now, but I’ve finally worked out what I must do.

The bruise signifies something very important. And I’ve had the hardest time trying to decide where to go from here. I had two options:

    1. Delete the bruise and remain on the original path I planned.
    2. Keep the bruise and move onto a different path.

I found it hard to make a firm decision, so today I wrote the options down (in more detail) and then I wrote down what the purpose of the story is and compared it to the options. Why I couldn’t work this out in my mind, I have no idea, but when I saw the details in black and white…the decision was simple!

Option 1 is about real life and the reason for the bruise would mean the end of reality. Option 2 would mean the story is just that – only a story. This would give me more creativity, but it could possibly be the end of my credibility where the theme for this story is concerned. It would also mean I would be abandoning the reason why I wrote the story in the first place. And when I saw that reason written down, I was reminded of how important it is to get the message across and suddenly the decision was easy.

I must go with option 1. The bruise must go!

Now that the decision has been made, I can return to my planning and make the necessary changes so that I can continue with the edit. Finally!

Let the Reader Soar

Just because the prose is not eloquent doesn’t mean it’s not good.

~ Benjamin Solah

Benjamin Solah is talking about the book Twilight in the above quote. Visit his website to read the full post – On Twilight. What I’m about to say has nothing to do with Twilight; it’s about all published books, but the quoted sentence prompted my thoughts and that’s why I’ve included it here.

I’ve read a lot of books over the years – some have been great, many have been mediocre and a lot have been tolerable, bordering on terrible. And yes, I’ve even attempted to read some that could only be described as a complete waste of time and money; and I always wondered how those ones got published.

In my opinion, the books that didn’t make the grade (for me) might have been great stories if I had persevered, but I can’t see why I should force myself to read dribble. But were they really dribble? Or was it simply a case of those particular stories not “speaking” to me personally.

I find I enjoy books I can relate to. Books that confirm I’m not the only person with a particular problem or goal, or the only person looking for love and acceptance, or the only person to experience grief, happiness, fear, joy and all those other emotions that fill me during any given year. I enjoy books that help me explore topics and places I love. I don’t enjoy books that force me to explore topics and places I find incredibly boring. But that doesn’t mean the person sitting next to me or across from me won’t enjoy that same story. Those people have different views to me, have experienced different lives, have different goals and most likely enjoy hobbies that differ from mine, so it’s likely they will enjoy different books to me too.

One thing I must say is that some of the great books I’ve read have not been written particularly well, but the characters and setting have pushed that fact aside and allowed me to soar into the world of make believe. A book is about the written word, of course it is, but it’s also about pulling the reader into the pages of the story so that they feel part of what’s going on. A book that does that is a success in my eyes.

I just wanted to share that with you.

Stone Turns to Jelly

Isn’t it funny how a scene you’ve written seems to be set in stone, when in fact it’s only cast from jelly?

~Simon Haynes

As you know, I’m having trouble with Mirror Image. I haven’t been able to work out what that trouble really is, but I suspected it had something to do with two things:

1. Indecisiveness on my part, and,
2. Not planning that section of the story properly.

As you also know, I’ve been using TiddlyWiki to help discover what the problem is and I guess I was hoping to find out that I had accidentally overlooked part of my planning. This would have allowed me to backtrack and fix the problem and then move, happily, forward. This did not happen.

This morning I did the internet rounds and read Which Beginning by Simon Haynes – the very last statement is quoted at the beginning of this post. When I read the statement it made me think of my writing problem and it confirmed something I’ve always known – but needed to hear again – our writing is not set in stone and neither is our planning!

This takes me back to the two points above. I did plan the section I’m having trouble with properly and part of me always knew that. This means the problem is my indecisiveness and the more I think about it, the more I accept it’s true.

When I planned Mirror Image I did so with a certain theme in mind. However, when I wrote the first draft I shifted the entire story midway to follow a theme that is close to the original. At the time, I felt sure the shift would hardly be noticed and to a reader it might not, but for me it has made a big difference. It has made such a difference that I have come to a stand still in the edit.

Now I must decide if I want to return to the original plan and theme; and continue writing about something that is part of me. Or, do I want to let go of that connection and tell a story. It sounds like an easy decision to make, but it’s not. I remember why I started this story and to let go of that reason feels wrong in so many ways. Yet on the other hand, I must consider what is best for the story overall. There are moments I want to adjust my planning and forge ahead, but then I have moments when I want to deliver the message, which was the whole reason for starting this project in the first place.

At least I finally know what the problem is. Now I just have to make a decision.

TiddlyWiki

Resuming work after a nice break is always difficult, but it has to be done if food is going to be put on the table. Today, I returned to work after a break of almost three weeks. *sigh*

However, I won’t dwell on that. Let me tell you what I’ve been doing – in terms of writing – since the beginning of the New Year. I’m pleased to be able to say that I have spent many hours every day on my writing projects. I haven’t actually written a single word, but there’s more to writing than the actual written word.

A friend told me about TiddlyWiki and showed me her files, so that I could see it in action. It’s free to download and use. There’s a tutorial if you need help understanding how a wiki works. Once downloaded, you just copy the file, changing the name of it (by doing this you can use the downloaded file over and over again) and then you can start using it straight away. There’s no real installation and it’s loaded onto your computer. You don’t need an internet connection to use it either, even though you use your browser when working with it. The file is small enough to put on a USB flash card too. It’s so easy!

I have used an online wiki before, so I understood the working of it, but needed a reminder how to do things like using the bold, italics and underscore features, and also how to insert images. There are plenty of other things you can do too ie ordered and unordered lists and blockquotes.

But what am I using it for? I know you want to know. It’s ideal for planning writing projects and for gathering all the research (including images you collect) associated with that project, into one file. Every aspect of the planning can be cross referenced too, which is brilliant! If you set up the wiki correctly, it will make your writing project organised, efficient and everything will be at your finger tips.

The first wiki I set up was for the Marlinor Trilogy. I have a lot of research material, which was placed in folders according to subject, but even so it was getting almost impossible to find anything (even when I knew the information I wanted was there…somewhere). Now that information is categorised, cross referenced and tagged…and there’s a search function too! Apart from that, I’ve also set up the planning for the story – world building, character lists, storylines, themes for each book, plots for each book and an in depth history, which also links to the research material to prove authenticity. It’s absolutely the best way to organise your planning.

Then I created a second wiki and started doing the same thing for the children’s chapter books.

I literally spent hours every day working on this, but the result is fantastic. I discovered I had changed the spelling of character names between book 1 and book 2 of the children’s series. That is now fixed. I discovered information in my original planning that had been lost or forgotten. That cannot happen again. I believe the children’s series and the trilogy will be better because of the time I’ve invested in getting these wikis right.

Now I intend to create a third wiki for Mirror Image. This is the project I should be editing, but I’m having trouble with. I’m hoping that, by creating the wiki, I’ll work out what the stumbling block is and get passed it.

I highly recommend TiddlyWiki. However, if you want to do the same thing online, from any computer, then I recommend PBWiki, which is free and you can change the settings so that only you have access to it. If you’re not using a wiki to organise your writing, then you should try it. I doubt you’ll be sorry.

Writing Goals for 2009

Everywhere I go I seem to be seeing the question, “What are your writing goals for 2009?” I feel stressed when I read the question, let alone try to answer it. But answer it I know I should do.

What are my writing goals for 2009?

First and foremost, I don’t want to put pressure on myself because that is a sure way of not writing a single word. However, I can’t leave it at that, so:

1. I would like to finish Mirror Image. “Finish” meaning a polished version ready for submission. I don’t know how many edits that will take.

2. I would like to fully plan book 3 in my children’s series. I know where it starts and ends, but there is no middle to the story – not one that I’m happy with, anyway.

3. I would also like to continue with the in depth planning of my adult trilogy. I envision the writing of this project maybe next year or the year after.

I’m not willing to say any more than that as I would like to surpass my goals rather than not reach them.

Putting the writing to one side, I am hoping that 2009 is a big year for me on a personal level. I’m hoping to secure a future for myself that will hopefully take underlying stress and worry away so that I’m free to enjoy life. This will lead to more productive writing, I’m sure.

Are you a writer? What are your 2009 writing goals?

Author Interview: Alan Baxter

This is the first author interview for 2009. I plan on doing one a month throughout the year and I hope you will return to the website each month to read them.

The first interview is with Alan Baxter, author of Realmshift and Magesign.

alan-baxter

Alan, welcome to Scribe’s Writing Desk and thank you for allowing me to interview you. Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

I’ve always had the desire to write. As far back as I can remember I was making up stories and writing them down. I once got into trouble in primary school because my teacher was convinced that my parents must have written the English assignment that I handed in. Once my parents had convinced her that it was my own work she became concerned about the dark nature of it as there was murder and blood involved. So I guess I’ve always had the urge to write dark fiction!

Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest book is MageSign, which is the sequel to my debut novel, RealmShift. In RealmShift the protagonist is a very powerful immortal called Isiah with the unenviable task of trying to keep some kind of balance between all the world’s religions. In the sequel, MageSign, the protagonist is back again, but on a rather more personal quest this time. Both books are rollicking good thrillers on the one hand and dark speculative fiction on the other. They’ve been called dark fantasy and horror and urban fantasy and a number of other things, so they’re obviously a little hard to pin to any genre. They’ve both received great reviews and I’m very proud of them. Both available on Amazon, of course, and you can learn all about them and read the first three chapters of both for free at my website!

RealmShift-MageSign

They sound, and look, intriguing! What project are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on promoting MageSign primarily. I’m also usually working on a few short stories, as I love the short story medium and I’ve got a handful out here and there, trying to get them published. I’ve sold a few, which is always gratifying. I’m also starting to put together the bones of my next novel as a project for next year. It’s a new book, with new characters and a new idea, so I’m quite excited about it. I like to let the idea stew in my brain for a while and then I’ll slowly start to make notes and put together a rough story plan, then the serious writing begins. I’m at about the notes stage now with the next book. I’ve also set up an independent publisher called Blade Red Press, so I’m working on that as well.

It’s good to hear that you have numerous things to keep you busy. Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

Anywhere and everywhere. For example, I recently wrote a short story about a guy that dies and leaves his daughter seven garages all over Sydney that she had no idea existed. It’s a bizarre idea, but it came about because I heard of someone that really did that. His family were mystified to discover, on his death, that he owned seven garages. I have no idea what he did with them – in my story it all becomes dark and ominous, of course! Real life provides fantastic fodder for speculative fiction. I just extrapolate people and events that I notice and paint them with my own particular brush. Other times a scene or a character will just pop into my head and I’ll build a story around that. That’s how RealmShift came about. I came up with the idea of the Isiah character and just let it percolate in my mind for a while and slowly built a story around the character. Inspiration can be found everywhere.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Not always! When I wrote RealmShift I had no idea until about halfway through how it was going to wrap up. With MageSign I knew exactly from start to finish all the major story details and just had to build it and flesh it out. With this next book, I know the beginning and middle, but again have no idea how to wrap it up at this stage. But I trust in my abililty as a storyteller and I also believe in the story itself – if you start to tell the story, it’ll lead you on to the end.

I look forward to reading more about that story in the future. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I usually work on one novel at a time, but always have several short story ideas rolling around. If I’m finding the novel a bit tricky, I’ll put it aside and write a short. That helps to relubricate the story-telling machine and I’m usually able to get on with the novel with renewed inspiration and motivation. In between novels I tend to write shorts and blog posts and all sorts of things like that and I’m always trying to promote my current and previous work, so there’s always several writing related things happening. And with Blade Red Press up and running now as well there’s another thing to think about!

Best of luck with Blade Red Press. I hope all goes to plan. Who would you chose to play the star role if your book was made into a movie and why?

Well, given that my “day job” is as a martial arts instructor, there’s a lot that Isiah does in the books that I could probably do a lot better than a regular actor. But could I act as well? Who knows. I do love the idea of playing my own hero as I’ve always been a huge fan of movies, but I don’t think I really resemble Isiah all that much. A lot of people have commented about how both RealmShift and MageSign would make great films, so I’d love to see my books optioned one day. Being such a movie fan, seeing one of my novels on the big screen would be awesome. I think I’d probably get involved and insist on being the fight choreographer (as most movie fights are awful) and then have a cameo role as a minor character somewhere. Perhaps I’d body double for the star in the fight scenes!

Now that would be interesting. I hope the situation arises so that we can enjoy that cameo role! 🙂 My sincere thanks, Alan, for participating and please accept my best wishes for the future.

If you would like to find out more about Alan or his books, please visit his website – The Word – or stop by Blade Red Press.