The Day @ChuckWendig Kicked My Arse

Last Tuesday evening I drove on down to Tattered Cover books in Denver to see Chuck Wendig on the last stop of the Wanderers tour. (“What’s Wanderers, precious?” I hear you say. It’s a bloody good book, I answer. Lookie here.) I walked into the store, then I walked into the man (really – he happened to be near the door and was right in front of me as I entered. I shook his hand. I haven’t washed that hand since.)

And I bought a hardback copy of the book (even though I already had the book on Kindle, because if I’m gonna get a book signed, I want the book signed), and I sat and listened as he described how the book came to be (on which I will say more) and then took questions including one from me even though he couldn’t hear me properly because I’m still getting over this damned throat bug and I’ve been speaking in a hoarse whisper for a month or more.

At the end he signed the book and I got a selfie with him (which is pretty awful – I should have asked someone else to take the pic, but it didn’t occur to me at the time). And sometime during the proceedings, yea verily, he kicked my arse.

(checks video)

Ok, he didn’t literally kick my arse.

Let me go back to the bit where he talked about the genesis of Wanderers. He mentioned that the story just started off as a very simple idea: a little girl starts sleepwalking – and doesn’t stop. She walks out of the house and into the world and other sleepwalkers join in. (Not a spoiler – that all happens on the first page or two of the book, and sets the stage for everything that happens after.) That’s it. From that simple seed he built the rest of the story.

I’ve mentioned my own story-developing process several times (I even wrote a little book about it). It involves spreadsheets and timelines and peril/tension scales and so on. And if you take a look back at earlier posts here you’ll see that I was working on timelining a story a few months ago.

That sort of died; as I’ve also mentioned, stuff has been happening since December that’s made finding time and staying focused on writing really hard for me, and thanks to that the timeline work ended up fizzling out. (It’s not 100% dead. It just dried out like a mummified corpse. Add the right kind of juice and it might come back. I haven’t decided yet whether to resurrect it; I’ll figure that out when things get back to something more like normal.)

Back to Tuesday. Wanderers starts off as a one-sentence seed of an idea.

Wednesday, I think about that. I also think about a one-sentence idea that had been niggling away at the mid-brain for a couple of weeks. And I start writing it down. Started with that scene, then what happened next and then what happened after that.

Yesterday (Sunday) evening, I wrote the ending (although I’d had the bones of the ending in mind since Wednesday or maybe Thursday). But the whole thing was down on paper (well, actually I used my reMarkable, which made it go waaaay faster. But still, handwriting.)

No timeline, no spreadsheet, no scene cards. No tech. No process-with-rules-I-feel-I-should-stick-to. I just started with this opening scene that I hadn’t been able to get out of my head, and five days later I had a story.

I started off thinking it would be a short story, but it grew like kudzu. At this point it’s just a story, not a book, but it is going to make a book. Not immediately, of course – I’ve put it to one side for a couple of days and then I’ll review what I have and look for inconsistencies, and even though I already have my characters (they became people as I was writing the story) I want to write down some back stories to help me keep their little details straight in my head. And then I’ll start banging actual keys and writing actual words that will become an actual first draft.

For the first time in months, I’m excited and ready to write this thing. The dry spell is over – for good, I hope – and it’s all because Chuck Wendig (figuratively) kicked my arse.

Until next time . . .

Spoke Too Soon

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I’d got my storyline to the point where I’d started working on the timeline.

As it turns out, I got a little bit ahead of myself. I’ve had to stop working on the timeline because I realised I’d made a mistake with the story. And boy, is it a doozy.

The way I had the story set up, the first of the four stories starts with my protagonist having a problem. And the way the story went, that problem had been worked out by the end of that same first story.

That doesn’t work; it would mean she’d need a new problem to take into the second story. And if she’d already dealt with the biggest obstacle in her life, then what possible hurdles could she have in the second story that would even come close to that?

Here’s a couple of examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about; this should make it clearer.

First, look at Harry Potter. His problem is Voldemort. And while he wins fights against The Dark Lord in each book, Harry doesn’t actually beat him for good until the final battle at the end of the last book.

Another example: Neo’s fighting the machines and we find that out early in The Matrix, but he doesn’t end the war until the end of the third and last movie.

Last example: Frodo encounters the One Ring not far into The Fellowship of the Ring, and the story only ends when he destroys the ring—and Sauron—at the end of The Return of the King.

Ringfrodo

You get the picture. I’ve had to go back to my plotting and change things so that the problem my protagonist has at the beginning of the first book carries her through a series of adventures all the way through the complete set of four stories. And that in turn has meant adding in a bucketload of back story to support things—and the rabbit hole gets deeper as she learns more about the truth behind her original troubles a little at a time; she only finds out the complete details close to the end of the last story. It also means that what was to be the second story in the series will be pretty much torn down and replaced, and the way things are going it’s not impossible that I’ll need a fifth book to complete the whole tale.

So at the moment timelining is suspended until I get all the details worked out and written down. What I thought was going to take a few days is now looking like it’s going to take a few weeks at least. This thing is becoming a monster.

I’ll post more on this as I progress.

 

Finish Your Book now in print

FinishYourBookKindle

AFTER a certain amount of messing about, Finish Your Book is now available on paper here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1522043837 — cheaper than a $6 cheeseburger, and better for you, too. (Disclaimer: please don’t eat the book; I suspect the inks and stuff are not exactly FDA approved.)

And of course the non-dead-tree version is available from all good eBook vendors. See https://petefordwriter.com/books/finish-your-book for details.

Finish Your Book updated

I found out that the Finish Your Book file I uploaded to Smashwords didn’t get converted properly (my bad—I messed up a paragraph style). As a result the text ended up with first-line indents on every paragraph instead of the block paragraphs I wanted.

The problem is fixed; I uploaded a new file with the corrected formatting. If you bought the book on Smashwords you can download again (you already paid for it, so no need to buy it again). The way I understand it, if you got it on a Nook, Kindle, or Kobo, your device copy will update automatically within a few days. If it doesn’t, I believe you can remove it from the device then re-download it and you should get the updated version.

FinishYourBook

Now, I need to go and update the links on the Books page to add the B&N link.

Thanks to all who’ve bought and downloaded the book. I hope you enjoy it and it helps with your writing!

Coming soon: writing process book

IF you’ve been following updates on my Work-in-Progress (WiP) page, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a short non-fiction book about my writing process while I’m (1) waiting on markups for The Artemis Device from my copy editor, and (2) waiting on responses from agents for the query letters I sent out for Smoke & Mirrors. The first could appear at any time; the second I don’t expect for at least another couple of weeks.

So in the interim, and before I get properly to work on the SF novel I’ve been thinking about, I decided to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while—document my writing process. And thanks to the writing workshop I’ve been going to the last few weeks, I also decided to write it up in a form that I can self-publish, in the hope that maybe I can do something that will help other aspiring writers.

By short I mean that the main body will probably end up being around thirty pages; my writing process, boiled down to just the essentials. The stuff I wish I’d known when I was just getting started, in a form that someone can read in an hour or less and keep handy as a reference after.

I started with a series of about half a dozen blog posts I wrote here a while ago; I’ve cleaned those up, expanded on them with some better examples and some additional material, and changed the order of things around a little bit to make it a bit more logical.

It’s just about done; the main text is complete, I think—I’ll be checking it through again to see if I missed anything. It needs a few things yet: a cover page, a proper title, and some front and back matter. And I have to re-read the Smashwords guides to remind myself how to format it all up. But I expect to have that all done in a couple more weeks at the most, and then it’ll be out (and of course I’ll announce it here when that happens).

On that note, time for coffee and a read of that Smashwords formatting guide. Until next time . . .

(p.s. I’ve decided to cut down on the political comment a bit. Not completely; if and when I have something I want to say regarding “president” Loco Pandejo and the Keystone Kabinet, I will. But since I managed to get myself back on the writing horse the last few weeks, I want to focus more on that. I seriously considered unfollowing all the politically-related Twitter accounts that I’ve added over the last six months, but I still feel the need to stay up with what’s going on so I guess I’m stuck with those until the Jedi arrest Trump and the rest of the traitors and pack them off to prison.)