Tag Archives: story telling

Word Count & Nearing the Finish Line

Getting over the hump sure has helped.  In a little over a week I was able to write 10,000 words and probably have another 3,000 ahead of me before putting Skyway aside.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the scope and placement of Skyway has changed and the ripple effect of those changes won’t be completely felt for the next few months.  The biggest challenge is that Gabby’s faith journey in this novella will be different than intended and I won’t know exactly where she is in her faith journey until I write the two other novellas that precede Skyway.

Therefore, I’ve left the faith aspect in Skyway purposely vague and will fill in those gaps when I see where Gabby is and where she needs to be in the grand scheme of these five novellas.

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This novella has been a challenge, but for all of the right reasons.  I can’t wait to finally put it to bed and start working on novella number two… well, the new novella number two.

 

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Word Count & Getting Over the Hump

This week was a tough one, writing-wise.  As mentioned on our last podcast, the second novella, Skyway, takes place over a continuous 36 hour period.  Because of this limitation and a lot of the moving parts having to do with plot and character, what would normally be a smooth process has been quite a struggle.

Fortunately, we are on the other side of that obstacle and nearing the finish line on this draft.  There’s still one major plot challenge ahead of us, and it’s a biggie, but it’s for the right reasons.  I’ll post more about that next week.  However, I’m excited to get this first draft on Skyway done as soon as possible so I can go back and give it a good reshaping/polishing.

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Another exciting development is we’ll be sending out our first novella, The Homecoming Incident, to our second group of Beta Readers in the next week or so.  When starting with a group of Beta Readers, there is always a bit of coordination and logistics involved in getting the material to them via Kindle or other forms.  That adds some time the first time you do it.  After that, it goes very quickly.

This second group of Beta Readers are all within our target demographic, so I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

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Word Count & Rewrites

I did a lot of writing, but not that added a lot to the word count. I did add a couple of thousand words to Skyway, but spent most of the time re-writing The Homecoming Incident based on our Beta Reader feedback.  The end result was a couple of hundred more words in total, but a better story as a whole.

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I also invested quite a bit of time hashing out the Skyway plot.  It’s not a complex plot, but it has enough moving parts that, if you don’t take them into consideration, the reader will be pulled out of the story.  I know exactly where I want to story to travel, but the specific steps within it require that all of the tentacles of the story remain connected and believable.

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Word Count & Stumbling Along

I didn’t do it.  I didn’t keep up my 1500 words a day.  I tried, but the empty page glared back at me this week.

My problems were three-fold.  First and foremost, I was burned out.  I have never written 1500 words a day in my life.  Not solely toward a book.  Sure, I probably write more than that just working and emailing.  But the nightly 1500 work effort was new and my creative tank drained to empty.

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Secondly, I lost the story.  The second novella’s plot is more complex than the first one, which was a pretty direct line between beginning and end.  The second novella bobs and weaves and when I needed to attack, I had no more punches left.  There was one evening I spent two hours looking at the screen trying to pry words, any words, out of my head and onto the page.  None were forthcoming.

It wasn’t until I took a fresh look at the story again and worked through some vague plot ideas until they were razor sharp, that the story was able to flow again.  This is the way writers block always rears its ugly head with me.  It’s not that I can’t write.  It’s because I don’t know what I’m supposed to write next.

Lastly, I enjoyed life a little more this week.  Even though you don’t have to keep your Lenten sacrifice on Sundays during Lent, I was still writing 1500 words a day, including Sundays.  This past week, I took the day off.  Monday was also the opening day for Major League Baseball and my son and my best friend took in some innings at the Rays/Jays season opener.  And challenges at work and health issues with family and friends was like a vice grip on my creativity that hindered my writing.

However, once the story cleared up in my head and things settled down in my personal life, the writing quickly returned to form and I was still able to collect a little over 4,000 words this week.  Not bad, all things considering.

Hopefully next week will be less interesting and more productive.

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Word Count & Beta Readers

The first Gabby Wells novella, The Homecoming Incident, is in the hands of my first group of Beta Readers.  Can’t wait to hear their responses, make the tweaks and send it to our second group of Beta Readers.

I’m about one-third of the way through the first draft of the second novella titled Skyway.

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Not all 1500 words a day ended up on the page of Skyway.  Some went to quick fixes on The Homecoming Incident and some went toward outlining Skyway.  All that being said, however, I’m very happy with the 9,000 words I was able to write this week.

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How Video Games Can Make You a Better Writer

Video games can make you a better writer.

I know what you’re thinking.  I’m nuts.  My wife would agree with you.  She is fond of calling them “stupid little video games.”  She’s also fond of calling anything that she thinks is a waste of time as “stupid little.”  Like this “stupid little blog entry.”

But, if you look at the structure of video games, you can learn a lot about setting the audience’s expectations, fulfilling them and/or changing them while, at the same time, raising the stakes with each new surprise.

Case and pointUncharted 3

Uncharted 3 is as if National Treasure meets Indiana Jones was turned into a video game.  You are Nathan Drake, a fortune hunter who finds himself stumbling across epic adventures involving hidden cities, untold fortunes and nefarious evil villains.

As technology has improved, the game play has improved as well, including allowing you to participate in insanely cinematic events.  It’s this new technology that has allowed game developers to take the gloves off, from a story telling perspective, and indulge in the nearly impossible to make an exciting game even that much more memorable.

And it can also make you a better writer.

Here’s how.  At one point in Uncharted 3, you desperately need to stow away on a plane before it leaves so you can save your best friend and mentor who is being held captive where the plane will eventually land.  Your girl friend will help out.

Below I’ll sketch out each major segment in the scene.  Watch how the game developers set your expectations and choose either to fulfill them or twist the outcome to amp up the danger and elevate the risk.

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  • Plan 1:  Sneak on before it takes off.
  • Obstacle:  Armed baddies between you and the plane
  • Expectation:  Run, shoot and fight your way through.
  • Surprise:  You make it to the runway, but the plane it taking off faster than you can catch up to it.

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  • Surprise:  Your girlfriend shows up with a Jeep.
  • Plan 2: Still need to get on the plane!
  • Obstacle:  It’s about to take off.
  • Expectation:  Girlfriend will drive you to hop onto the plane’s wheel before it takes off.

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  • Outcome:  Expectation met.

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  • Plan 3:  Hide out until the plane lands and you can save your friend.
  • Obstacle:  Staying hidden.
  • Expectation:  If I stay out of sight, I’ll be safe.

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  • Surprise:  Mid flight you are found by a very large, angry man.

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  • Plan 4: Knock guy out and hide.
  • Obstacle:  Guy is frickin’ huge and won’t go down and wants to throw you out of the plane
  • Expectation:  Use something bigger to defeat him.

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  • Outcome:  You open a parachute of an airlift cargo crate and knock the guy out of the plane.

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  • Surprise:  The chute pulls out the crate, a truck and causes the plane to shift wildly.

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  • Another surprise:  You are blown out of the plane.

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  • Another surprise:  you snag the cargo netting of the crate barely attached to the plane.
  • Another surprise:  You have to shoot your way passed baddies coming down the cargo netting to get you.
  • Plan 5: Shoot the baddies, climb your way back onto the plane.
  • Obstacle:  Nut jobs with guns.
  • Expectation:  It’s a game, so if I shoot well and fight well, I’ll make it.

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  • Surprise:  After killing the baddies, the cables holding the cargo to the plane snap and everything starts sliding off.  You have to run up the moving cargo and jump to safety.
  • Expectation:  If I make it, I take control of the plane and land.
  • Surprise:  As soon as you reach the cargo hold, baddies start shooting at you.

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  • Plan 6: Shoot, duck, cover and take over the plane.
  • Obstacle:  More dudes with guns.
  • Expectation:  With good skills I can take the plane.

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  • Surprise:  The ensuing gunfight causes a fire which ignites and explodes cargo leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.
  • Plan 7:  Hold on for dear life and climb baby, climb!  Take over the cockpit and save your life!
  • Obstacle:  Gravity, air suction, damaged plane.
  • Expectation:  These games are all about gun play and climbing.  I can do this.
  • Surprise:  You’re sucked out of the plane without a parachute.

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How do you survive?  Well, you’ll have to play the game to find out.

But this exciting sequence is a great example of making each plot twist up the stakes, increase the danger, surprise your audience and challenge the protagonist.

So, the next time your storytelling significant other decides to invest an unhealthy amount of time on a “stupid little video game,” remember, it’s research.

And it just may make him (or her) a better writer.

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Writing

I’ve read a lot of blogs and posts and articles and advice columns about writing and a lot of them come down to one basic conclusion:

Writers write because we don’t really have a choice.

It’s not that someone is holding a gun to our head or anything. Well, maybe there is a writer out there in that situation, but I would tend to believe they would be the minority.

Writers write because we must. It’s in our DNA.

Sure, writing is painful and hard and frustrating and fun and enjoyable and annoying and liberating and self indulgent and expressive and lonely and enticing, but, even though writers feel drawn to the craft, we seem to spend an equal amount of time avoiding it.

We want to write, but get distracted by a good show on TV or laundry that needs to get folded or a lawn that needs mowed or a couch that needs to be napped upon. Eventually, though, the urge gets the best of us and we find ourselves back in front of the keyboard staring at a blank page wondering if the gutters need to be cleaned.

Then, finally, we decide to focus and sit there and try to be clever or funny or serious or passionate, hoping that whoever reads our work doesn’t think we’re a complete moron.

Just when we think its all work and no play (and no pay), we are rewarded with a moment that is equal parts awesome and fleeting, like the first hit of crack to a junkie… it is a moment of creative inspiration.

It’s one of those rare times where the gods of storytelling infuse your brain with something so special and magical and moving that we are compelled, no matter the time of night, to write it down. When we’re done, we sit back and smile, knowing we’ve been given a momentary insight into the creative collective.

Real writers, paid writers, novelists (the best-selling kind), have the one thing the rest of us struggle with most.

Discipline.

They get up and write, whether its easy or not, whether it is inspired or not, whether their facebook status is updated or not. They are not distracted by tweets that long to be twittered and socks that need to be drawered. They write.

It’s work. It’s a job.

I hope to get there someday. I hope to have the time and the discipline and the talent and the creative drive to do what Koontz or Patterson or even the fictional Castle does.

But, whether I’m the best-selling author in the New York Times or the best selling author in my family, I’ll still write.

I’ve been doing it for twenty years now.

I don’t really have a choice. It’s just what writers do.

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Man of Steel – Slave to the Story

The latest incarnation of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel, does many things well and some other things poorly. The overall experience, however, is satisfying.

There are **SPOILERS** in this post, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, take the necessary steps.

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When facing the blank page, the story tellers (David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan) decided to tell the origin story of Superman by including a battle between two Kryptonians, Kal-El (Superman) and General Zod.

If you decide to take that route then a couple of things have to occur. The battle between two super-human beings must be epic. The scale must, therefore, be large. And the ferocity of the fight must be like something we have never seen before.

And Man of Steel does all of this very well.

The problem? The battle is so large, with bodies, cars and trucks destroying all of the buildings in sight that the collateral damage will invariably include hundreds, if not thousands, of casualties.

The effect? You lose a sense of concern for the inhabitants of Metropolis during the struggle. After watching entire buildings crumble and collapse, seeing a few people huddling behind cars for safety is almost laughable.

The story tellers also do their best to try to get us to identify with an alien that cannot get hurt by our standards. The end result is a mixed bag, where you have sympathy for Superman, but we can’t possibly feel empathy.

Another wasted moment was due to the misplaced revelation, or clarification, of Zod’s motives. Kryptonians are bred for a specific function in society. They are engineered. Kal-El is special because he was born the old fashioned way, which is illegal.

Why is this important?

Zod decides, in order to save his people, he is going to terraform Earth to make it the next Krypton. The down side? Humanity gets destroyed in the process.

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At the end of the story, before Zods ultimate defeat, he tells Kal-El that he was made, genetically, to protect the people of Krypton and that he has no option but to do whatever it takes to do that. Including killing everyone on Earth.

That clarification, that revelation, came too late, in my opinion.

It would have been far more powerful if Zod would have told Kal-El that information when they first met. Because then the epic, explosive battle would not only have been massive, it would have been inevitable.

And that inevitability would have made Kal-El’s sacrifice, being forced to kill the last of his people, even that much more devastating.  He simply would have had no choice.

Finally, by choosing this uber-villain as Superman’s coming out party, I can’t help but wonder; how can any human villain ever come close to being a threat to Superman as was Zod and his army?

How do you top that? How will an average bank robbery, or kidnapping, or nuke, or terrorist event even blink on the radar of consequence when Superman already took out an army of super beings?

When you commit to a story line, there can be some unintended consequences. The creators of Man of Steel may have written themselves into a corner by choosing to tell this new origin story this way.

What do you think they’ll do to give Superman a legitimate challenge in the sequels?  Will it be more spectacle or more personal?

With two sequels already planned, it won’t be long before we find out.

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