Friday, October 28, 2016

I'm stuck on "Lucifer's Forge," just 10% from the finish. Nothing is coming to me and I'm not sure I should be trying to force it. I'm going to set the afternoon aside to try to come up with something, but I feel like I need a stronger trigger.

I think part of the problem is that I don't have the whole story in mind right now, that sense that I understand where all the parts fit. And some of that comes from the knowledge that chapters will need to be moved around to fit the timeline.

This is also the part of the book where it isn't so much about exploring as bringing it all home. It's all well and good to invent scenes forever, but if I want to wrap up the plot, I'm sort of constricted to going to each of the storylines in turn and bringing them to a slam bamm finish. Strangely, knowing what I have to do, having an outline, actually makes it harder.

I have four main story threads, which is more than usual, and each of the threads have a number of characters. I'm assuming, hoping, the reader can keep track.

Basically, each of these threads needs a couple of chapters each, plus a couple of other misc. chapters to come to a satisfying climax.

I guess I'm leaving a lot of the work to rewriting this time, which is usually not a good thing, but I'm hoping this time it will be different. Hoping the research will be fruitful. 

No hurry.

Maybe that's the problem.

I think the book as it is currently written is over my head; requiring too many details to get right.

For instance, at writer's group, Gary pointed out that the Santa Ana's blow from the east to the west, which makes nonsense of the chapter I wrote. How many other things like that am I getting wrong? How plausible is any of it?

I'm thinking that though I can't completely eliminate the mucky-mucks, I can try to eliminate the "meetings" which seem to me to be the phony-ous part. I just have to keep chipping away at the unbelievable elements, until I have something that passes the smell test.

If I don't think that is going to happen, I'll just publish it myself with the awareness that nobody will read it. Move on the the next thing.

If I want to make things easier, I probably should move away from real life detail stuff. Thrillers for instance. I'd like to write thrillers, but I've always been uncomfortable with the technical details, and that's what thrillers almost always require.

Maybe I should just write my supernatural tales, which require no research. Maybe I should write things that require nothing but my own imagination.

The historical westerns are a little different in that fewer people are going to challenge me on the details. There is a built in suspension of disbelief among readers of such material. A little research goes a long ways. 

On the other hand, if I can pull this book together, it would be a more impressive achievement. It's a more ambitious project, to be sure.

I'll try my best with the research, and hope that the telling details tie it all together.


Dave Cline said...

You might create a mindmap of your story and once you get it all spread out in that format, you might see how best to tie it all together.

Good news, I finally got an agent to request my full manuscript of Blue Across the Sea. I've got a growing rewrite list but fortunately it's not critical of structure. My first chapter however has not thrilled multiple agents (they said so), and this brings me back to one of your comments where you thought to write the first last... something I might try myself now.

In the current version as well as the sequel to BAtS, I've got a couple of technical vignettes which I had to research deeply so as to get them nailed accurately. I actually had those in mind before I started the story as they establish the basis for some of the movement (literally and figuratively) of the story. I wanted to get them as true to form as possible so as to not upset any experts of said technologies who might read it.

If you IM me an email in fb I'll echo with the link to BAtS, if you care to breeze through it.

Duncan McGeary said...

I don't read anything else when I'm writing, but when I finished with this book, I'll take a look.

What do you mean by a "mindmap?"

Getting an agent to request a full manuscript is easy!

Duncan McGeary said...

"Isn't easy..."

Dave Cline said...

Mindmap. There are numerous offerings on the net, some better than others. Here's a quick one I made that gives you some idea how to use them:

(might not work)


Dave Cline said...

Duncan, what are your thoughts on this topic?

Duncan McGeary said...

I could be wrong, and it may be a flaw in my writing, but I think the story is the story, and that people either buy the "author's voice" and go along with the story or they don't.

The adrenaline jolts are fine if you can do them, but it's to me it has to come from the story, and artificial ginning up of emotion is just melodrama.

I mean, obviously, you're right in the general sense. And the better your writing is, the more emotion you will evoke, but I've turned away from the panting, sweating, "Oh, My GOD!" parts of storytelling.

It does seem like every book, movie or show has to start with an action scene these days instead of easing in.

I don't know, maybe you're right. Maybe that should be the focus. But again, the story itself needs to evoke those feelings.

There is a lot of "This is how you do it" and it mostly pertains to triggering those things, and it seems somewhat phony to me. Sometimes I just want to sink into a story, and there needs to be enough interesting threads to follow, and then as the book progresses, you tighten it up, put in more and more action, and reach a climax.

But most of all, the "fictional dream" is what I'm after. A reader can comfortably slip into it and go along and get lost in it. That's what makes it a reading experience.

Duncan McGeary said...

I do think that many readers what something "remarkable" to happen in every book, some startling idea or plot twist or new take on things.

But if you go into a book with that as your goal, that is what the book becomes.

The Da Vinci Code was a terrible book; a mystery that offered only one possible villain and then cheated by misleading the reader away from the one possible villain. But apparently the idea of Jesus having a wife was so mind-blowing that people ate it up.


When I first came back to writing, I think my focus was on being "different" and "clever" and so on. But the story unfortunately became secondary, and the characters. I gave up the "clever."

It wasn't until I gave up on that and just eased into telling a "story" that I got back into the swing of things.

Obviously the premise needs to be interesting, and you need to make the story interesting, but sometimes I just want to sink into a book. Not every book needs to be a life-altering experience.

I mean, how often does that really happen? I could probably come up with a dozen books, maybe a couple dozen, that really changed the way I thought or felt about things.

Meanwhile, I eat up mindless thrillers by Lee Child and John Sandford like candy.

Nothing wrong with that, I don't think.

The main thing I'm doing is writing the stories as they come to me, without any regard to formula or what I think might "wow" other people.

I figure if I ever write the "wow" book, the book that changes the way other people think or feel, it will be a natural event.

Duncan McGeary said...

As you can tell, I really like talking about writing...

Dave Cline said...

Intentional manipulation of psycho/chemical responses is something that I would think would only be done by a master, and then only experimentally. I think, like you, dedication to the story takes precedence in most author's efforts. If their stories emote predictable reactions in predictable scenes then it's probably just due to good story telling and not some planned tapping of the hypothalamus.

What I was exploring with that post was whether one could evaluate a good story by the analysis of evoked emotions -- after the fact. And maybe, like you mentioned, as a tool to try and tune passages such that they prompted deeper or broader responses.

Duncan McGeary said...

You undoubtedly know more about this than me, but apparently they already have a program that will run through a manuscript and tell the publishers if it has enough of the "best seller" elements.


Of course, if everyone uses that program, doesn't that make nonsense of it?

Dave Cline said...

Humanity is nearing the cusp of building human-superior artilects. Such things, in isolation or narrow scope, may be come so self-referential that what they judge as good vs bad, may become -- yes -- nonsense.

I see two paths to the non-isolated instances of such machines: 1) They learn what the perfect story's formula contains and therefore begin to judge all work in comparison to this penultimate model, thereby destroying variety. Or 2) they begin to choose (or someday create!) works that are Frankensteininan amalgams of stories that, although provocative and commercially viable, drift from the formulaic standard that humanity has come to know as a good story.

There's a tautology at work here, people write to formulas because formula driven writing sells. To a degree.

Machine's may bastardize story formulas so much that we either become blase regarding story telling, or, like fashion in the Capitol in The Hunger Games, stories become bizarre and unintelligible.

Or, a machine like an ALANN, augments our humanity such that we are exposed to plots and scenes and narrative conundrums we would have never experienced without them. If there's a buck to be made we can be assured someone will have a go at creating such artilects.

Duncan McGeary said...

Then I shall belong to the Rebel Writer's Alliance!

(Writing hackneyed plots that are nevertheless human.)

Duncan McGeary said...

You can tell it's written by a human because it's terrible!