Random Thoughts – Drafting

Update: I’m writing this in a semi-haze, so please forgive if I sidetrack. I don’t intend to edit this post. Just a random series of thoughts.

1. Looking back at what I have done.

Had a long time to ‘debrief’ myself on my plane ride from Singapore to San Fran – freaking 20 hours in the air with 3 hours of layover time in the now Wifi-enabled Japan Narita airport. Being alone in the plane, away from my keyboard did me a lot of good in terms of thinking about what I want.

Personally, I felt that the last story opener I wrote The series on Goodbyes taught me a lot on two things:

  • What I can leave out in a story and let it be said in the white space
  • Weaving some subtext into the dialogue, which I will explore next time, but not in the next few works (don’t think this works that well for the superhero genre)

And with that… well, I think I’m ready to start writing something more substantial. Hence, in this post, I shall present my thoughts on my writing future:

2. The promise I want to make myself going forward

Today is the day – No more unstructured, whimsical writing. I’ve pandered long enough with half-written openers and plot lines in the last two months to know what I want. From now on, everything shall begin with a draft, a complete draft from start to finish including all plot lines, sub-plots and whatever internal message that I would like to convey with the story.

Here the limitations I will set myself to in future as I narrow down what I want to write about:

  • Basics: Semi-fantastical worlds anchored in the modern society.
  • Genre: Action. Science-Fiction deviating slightly to the macabre.
  • Word Length: 15,000 – 25,000 (Lemme bang out a few of these first)
  • Editing: No more editing in the middle of writing! This is the reason for drafting
  • Preferences: I would still like to explore the super-hero theme at least initially.
  • Writing Speed: Bang out more words, less thoughts. 1500 a day is the bare minimum, either in drafting or actual writing.

3. Drafting Requirements:

  • Scene by scene drafting, no ’empty’ space aside from actual dialogue and action sequences.
  • No posting on the Blog.
  • Each scene draft must be complete with purpose and nature of dialogue and what I want to achieve.
  • If I run into trouble with the main writing, refer and change the draft first.
  • Draft first, write later. If I get stuck, always refer to the draft.

4. Starting Now!

Today I officially began to draft a complete story from start to finish, looking at it from a top-down perspective instead of living scene-to-scene and moment-to-moment. So I’m embarking on my own little NaNoWriMo (since I’ve away from home and can’t commit every single day.) But let’s set a weekly target of 8,000 words considering I still write 3-4 days a week.

For my first story, I’m going back to superhero fantasy again. I initially chose horror, but well, I don’t think I’m good at hidden scares, more of a grotesque person.

5. Why suddenly Drafting

From all the research I’ve done about great writers… none of them honestly just pick up a pen and write. I don’t intend to flutter from a structure to another anytime soon. From my earlier works, you can probably tell I’ve a formula I use in my openers as well as my character archetypes. Now it’s just extending the practice into a novella-length work first before extending it again once I get comfortable with it.

I have 2 10,000+ word semi-stories which while I think they are readable, aren’t exactly what I want to introduce myself with. The writing is tolerable but I still want something tighter instead of having a chunk of explanation and dialogue in between. To me, that’s just not good. The story should flow, particularly in shorter pieces.

6. What I want

  • Short: 15,000 – 25,000 words
  • Action to Action – Explanation kept to a minimum, hence my choice of universe
  • Short and curt dialogue, which works well with male characters anyway.
  • No half-page explanations. If it doesn’t work, just change it.
  • Basic formula – Action opener -> Cue to smaller event -> Cue bigger event -> End.
  • By final third of the book, everything should be resolved except a twist.
  • One constant moral throughout the book.
  • Currently I’m looking at Wreck-It Ralph as a good example of how to pull all the above all. Honestly, the cartoons have still the best storylines in modern storytelling except they tend to whine on too long on relationships.

End post. If anyone of you have any exercises, cues or articles on drafting, lemme know.

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Lee Child: Write What You Feel

Lee ChildWhile trying to dig up more useful guides and resources to improve my writing, I got this tip from an article in Writer’s Digest on how to start writing a novel. Of five they posted, this was the one that caught my attention.

5. Instead of “write what you know,” try writing what you feel

In an exclusive interview with WD, bestselling Jack Reacher creator Lee Child explains:

The worse [writing advice] is probably Write what you know. Especially in this market. In the thriller genre, for instance, nobody knows anything that’s worth putting in. There are three people in the world who have actually lived this stuff. And so it’s not about what you know. [Write] what you feel is really excellent advice. Because if you substitute Write what you feel, then you can expand that into—if you’re a parent, for instance, especially if you’re a mother, I bet you’ve had an episode where for five seconds you lost your kid at the mall. You turn around, your kid is suddenly not there, and for five seconds your heart is in your mouth and you turn the other way, and there he is. So you’ve gotta remember the feel of those five seconds—that utter panic and disorientation. And then you blow that up: It’s not five seconds, it’s five days—your kid has been kidnapped, your kid is being held by a monster. You use what you feel and expand it, right up as far as you can, and that way you get a sort of authenticity.

In my personal opinion, this should be easier for fiction writers, especially those who work in alternate-reality worlds i.e. fantasy, sci-fi. But I’m thinking out loud that it might be possible to work on a simpler level. For example, writing in the first person view of say a famous person or a rocket scientist. You could interview a real one, but how exactly do you write how he is feeling, particularly pertaining to his field.

In my last story Alone In The Crowd, I tried just that. I had a rough plot and a sequence of events I wanted to write about, then i just went with it. The story was taking place from the point of view of a slightly deranged writer who was firstly, a famous horror writer, and secondly, someone who was ostracised and bullied in school.

Since Stephen King’s butler hung up on me when I told him I needed to interview the King, and also since I’m more of a bully instead of the bullied, I had experience in neither. So I just wrote, and tried to put myself in his shoes, i.e. writing based on a feeling / bluffing instead of writing what I know. Since I’m writing about a writer writing, I tried to put my own head into his as well.

The result was intoxicating. Reading through the roughly 1500 words I’ve written last night, of which only 600 or so were non-crazy or structured enough to post, I found my thoughts drifting randomly from the mundane to the perverse. He could be watching paint peel off the wall simply to avoid eye contact, or he might be smiling at an annoying person who he has no interest talking to, while thinking about how he would kill the person in a story. I tried to use this ‘feeling’ space to touch on the experiences he had in his past (to handle backstory).

I wondered what would happen if I tried to write all of that drunk.

I tried to put more feel / thoughts into the story instead of a direct do/say/describe approach. Personally, it felt very natural to write, especially in drafting. Thoughts and emotions rarely comes out in coherent forms, and I just went with it, so bear with me if you do read the story above. I’m currently free-writing the rest of the story and am already up to over 3000 words due to the ease of putting it on paper (editing will be hell later though). I kinda like this approach and might stick with it in future.

So, what do you think. Do feelings and whimsical emotions in stories appear too rambling for you, or would you prefer the meat and potatoes of just the facts of the story. (Michael Crichton / Da Vinci Code sort of books would fall into this category.)

Midweek Ravings: Happy One Month Old Blog!

Fact or Fiction: The more you blog, the MORE you want to blog

blog

When I started blogging just a month back, the first thought that appeared in my head was whether I had enough content or writing in me to sustain posting in the long run. Back then, all I wanted was a personal journal that would allow me to express thoughts, opinions and the lessons I have learnt in a conducive setting. Blogging seemed like the most obvious choice since I wanted to post more than just words or daily entries. I wanted to play with whatever medium I wanted, and I wanted to write more than just my day to day life.

Unfortunately, the moment I clicked the “create blog” button, I panicked. Holy crap! What should my first post be! Taking a cue from a quick look around the web, the first post seemed to be usually an introductory post, so I created the About Me page. Then came the dreaded second post i.e. The post that is actually supposed to be content. I wanted this to be a writing/reading site, so I scoured my favorites and bookmarks for old reads that I have found on the web. This went well for a while, I made a few posts in my first two days… and then I ran out of things to say.

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Comic Origins: Dr Manhattan

Dr Manhattan

Dr. Jon Osterman / Doctor Manhattan

Who is he?

A superpowered being who is contracted by the United States government. Scientist Jon Osterman gained power over matter when he was caught in an Intrinsic Field Subtractor in 1959. In contrast to other superheroes who lacked scientific exploration of their origins, Moore sought to delve into nuclear physics and quantum physics in constructing the character of Dr. Manhattan. The writer believed that a character living in a quantum universe would not perceive time with a linear perspective, which would influence the character’s perception of human affairs. Moore also wanted to avoid creating an emotionless character like Spock from Star Trek, so he sought for Dr. Manhattan to retain “human habits” and to grow away from them and humanity in general.

When you talk about comic book hero origins, most people would instantly think of Spiderman, Superman, Batman or one of the other upcoming Marvel heroes. These were always the most recognisable comic book heroes in pop culture. But the one that has always struck me as the one most brilliantly told is the backstory of Doctor Manhattan from the Watchmen. I loved how Moore revolved his story around the concept of time, or rather the absence of time, and I felt that Zack Synder brought it out perfectly in Doctor Manhattan’s monologue in the film version. There were so many little touches that only repeated viewings of the graphic novel and movie can do it justice.

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Ramblings Of A Noob Blogger

Being the noob bloglet that I am, I have developed a unhealthy obsession with the little ticker on the top of my WordPress page. On one hand, I find it extremely insightful in telling me how people are discovering and using my site, but on the other hand, I find myself irritably worried whenever I see it flatline for a couple of hours.

This is my first blog, so I came in here with no expectations. But slowly, as the views, likes and followers came in, I found myself steering my postings towards what I think gets attention – quirky little quotes and pictures. Then suddenly I stopped. I felt like a cheap little whore posting quotable memes. When I came back, I decided to focus on what I set up the blog for, pimping my own stories.

Then out of nowhere, I start getting significant search engine referrals for a particular post of mine, one of the photo prompts. Heck, someone even shared it somewhere, and I am beginning to see a big distinction between views and likes. That got me thinking, which one should I actually care about?

From what I see, bloggers on WordPress seem to be liking posts for the sake of it, or perhaps it’s a “I see yours, now come see mine” invitation. No offence meant of course, it still does wonders for my e-peen. But my most read posts actually got very little attention in terms of likes.

So, I would like to ask the REAL bloggers out there, not the pro-SEO and meme-me too posters. What should a noob bloglet actually care about when posting.

Specifically:

  • Length of an article? I think I need to cut back.
  • Are pictures necessary? We know most are screen grabs from Google.
  • Is it fair practice to take content from other sites and post it? (Even though you credit them)
  • Is it obnoxious to post content that you know no one wants to read?
  • Should I fish for likes and followers using non-original content?

I could probably google it and read some semi-pro site for this information, but I would like to seek a few alternative views first. Thanks in advance for any opinions you have to share.

P.S: I think this would constitute as a fishing post right?

EDIT: Just did quite a fair bit of research on spam-liking and spam-following. Ah well, guess the only true measure of readers is the number of comments / actual views you get then.