Archive for the ‘ On Writing ’ Category

Hard-Earned Writing Wisdom

Does this owl make me look wise?
Photo by Jessy Paston on Unsplash

“Good things happen to those who work at it, but never in a hurry. “
Frank Darbe expressing his sense of frustration by paraphrasing an old proverb.

“Hurry up and Wait is a thing.”
Old Navy saying Frank Darbe relearns every freaking day of his life.

“If at first you don’t learn something, bash your head against the wall a few more times. Wisdom penetrates thick skulls only with encouragement.”
Coined by me, Frank Darbe, while taking three Ibuprofen after a learning experience. 

“Avoiding work is the quickest route to failure, but it proves I, too, can be spectacular at something.”
Anonymous, but really, we all know anonymous is Frank Darbe.

“Coining fake hard-earned wisdom proverbs is avoiding work, by pretending to work and takes more time and effort than work. “
Refer to Frank Darbe’s previous Hard-Earned Wisdom Snippet concerning the avoidance of work.

“A writer pours out both heart and soul for his audience. Though it may only be an audience of one, the writer himself, one can be a damned appreciative audience.
By (applause, applause) the Writer himself. Frank Darbe.

“A 100-word logline is a thesis, not a logline and proves that the writer requires remedial courses in grammar and salesmanship.”
Paraphrased from words spoken by an agent to Frank Darbe at his first Writers and Editors Convention. To which, Frank answered, “What’s a logline?”

“If you never failed at something, you never learned anything. Do you think coming up with good pithy phrases is easy?”
Said by Frank Darbe to his wife when he failed to carry out the trash while coining pithy sayings. Trust Frank, leaning that was painful. He doesn’t sleep well on couches.

“Do not wait for success as a writer. Throw words at your keyboard until the screen vomits, and then self-publish.”
Frank Darbe says, rescue me, I am trapped by a deadline set by monkeys forcing me to write words at random until they become wise.

“That’s it. That’s it. You’re perfect, said no writer ever after penning the first sentence of a fantasy epic for the thousandth time.”
Frank Darbe didn’t say that, and it wasn’t a thousand times really.

“Lists of Hard-Earned wisdom are like goodbyes spoken to visiting relatives, they go on too long but are sincere.”

Just Finish the Darn Book

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

Walking Shadows

At fifty-four-thousand words, Walking Shadows is close to the end. It has been a long trip, starting, stopping, starting, stopping due to depression, grief, doctors, medicine, and recovery,. Better, I see it within no more than two weeks of “The End.”

I’ve avoided picking it up again because of a bad habit. Hit a rough spot in the book or emotionally, and I start something new. Chasing the new and shiny story is my worst habit as a writer.

Worse, I avoided it because I lost the narrative thread, and because the ending no longer made sense to me. Realizing last night, I was being both unprofessional and a fool, I dusted off the data file. After dithering, I realized that I know how it ends, I just was not sure how to get there from where I last wrote. I started the novel project of writing the last three or so chapter from back to front. It sounds backasswards (one of my favorite words form my Oklahoma childhood) but I can set down and write the last chapter without a hitch, and once I get that done, I will extrapolate backwards until I reach the point where I stopped writing.

And there is something very comforting in writing the last chapter of a long work.

Walking Shadows: After Able Ruse’s mother dies, he is forced to leave the religious community where grew up and live with his strange Grandfather in Scapula, California, haunted by Walking Shadows that stea the souls of children and and and take over their lives.

Writer Zaide’s: Advice for Wayward Writers

Zaide Himself

My Main Character Dies Halfway Through the Novel. Can Lesser Conflicts Bring Adequate Tension to the Plot?

In Empire, Orson Scott Card wrote a novel where the POV character in the first half of the novel is shot in the head by an assassin and dies midway through the book. After his death, other characters carried the POV. The Death of the main character did not conclude the crises that started the novel.

In Card’s Novel, the plot was not solved by the death of the main character. It was a political thriller where other characters picked up the plot and conflicts. The novel did not hinge on the Main’s character’s conflicts.

Whatever your central conflict might be, it should work like a relay race, where the next person takes the baton and runs with it. Dealing with the death of the original main character became a subplot for his friends, wife, and children.

I do not think that “lesser conflicts” will work. Your readers bought into your main characters crises and conflicts. The death of the main character should be a failure in the novel’s core conflict that others must rise to face.

A Delicate Truce by Ben Douglass

Ben Douglass, A Delicate Truce is a brief report of a generational collision between a father and a daughter, both anchored by their own experiences that leave them unwilling to cross the generational divide. The adopted daughter Lisa lives in a world informed by revolutionary youth, a young woman seeking to understand her roots in a world she does not remember, having been transplanted into a middle-class Jewish household. Arnie Sussman, a father who loves his child, is lost in the face of the young woman she has become and find himself unable to understand how the world he sees filtered by nuance and gray tones is for her slashed with jagged lines of black and white.

Their truce for the duration of a family evening at the theater proves difficult to broker. More of difficult cease fire, and their clash though not epic is familiar to parents who often look at their children in dismay.

I enjoyed this Flash Fiction, and found its portrayal of two very different people, both blinded by a version of privilege but unwilling to see past their blinders.

Ben Douglass and Mercury Flats Publishing

Indie writers and publishers go hand in hand. They range from small, boutique publishers providing editorial and publishing services for a price to sole proprietor publishing houses created to handle the works of one writer who serves as Writer, Editor, Publisher, Artist, Book Designer, Bank, and chief cook and bottle washer.

Mercury Flats falls under the later description, operated by author and owner Ben Douglass. His works are available from Amazon.
Konstantin’s Birthday: 4th Revised Edition
Inmate DET-3
Confession of a Former Zombie: A Memoir
This Ain’t The Waldorf Astoria, Honey!
Raw Beginnings: An Omnibus

Dreams Noxious Delights

Swift Essay in Surrealism

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

I sit trying to begin, delete my words, try again.
Seeking something to unlock my dark, gilded passion. Lost, lost. My lament, my dream of noxious delights, found at the bottom of a bloated body bag.
My nightmares die, their hollow bellies swollen with words I never pen. Close my eyes and begin blind, see the keys of my board with prints of my eyes, where keys melt like the Dali’s clocks, letters running away from misconceptions, abandoning me at the edge of a lake of lice, my fingers chasing the stretched words, spiders pinning letters to a board, sucking their dry radish souls.
The ears, watch for the ears, they hear what eyes do not feel.
An epitaph: Calamitous Sensuality!

Writer’s Log 01.27.2019 – 1055

Yesterday I faced the beast embodied in a big photo of the seat of my pants. Non-obligatory pantser joke. Realizing my novel went in the wrong direction, I backed up and figured out where I went wrong. I asked questions about motivation, conflict, how scenes contribute to the end.
I’m losing some words, but it will be a better book.


I know that may seem hyperbolic, but anti-depressants put my mind together, and without it, I will be mired in self-doubt and playing Wizard 101 for hours between starting a new novel every other day before flushing it down the crapper. There but for the grace of Doctor Sitapati go I.
Some may be taken aback by my confession. Some may label me weak, or crazy, or DEPRESSED, which society often considers worse than the others.
If they break an arm, they see a doctor. No harm no foul.
If they have cancer, they see a much more expensive doctor. It’s their health, and there is no shame in taking care of themselves.
People who are depressed, or suicidal, or schizophrenic, or labeled as having some emotional problem, should tough it out. THAT IS WRONG! If you are sick, you are sick. Don’t be shamed or feel ashamed. GET HELLP!

Now to get to work.

A Pantser’s Lament

For a pantser, the potential of the blank screen is cocaine shot straight to the third eye creating a pineal high, an occult fusion of creativity and melatonin. Nothing is holding the story to the earth, and you can fly to Andromeda or places much father and stranger.
The Downside is the inevitable crash when your story wonders into a dismal swamp in the bowels of a pointless pit. Your characters followed a freeway sign reading, “So what happens next, asshole,” and stand sphincter deep in “quickmud, abandoned by conflict, comfort, and subplots.

The Inevitable result of this unmapped waypoint in a writer’s peerless prose is the decision to abandon all hope yee who write yourself here, or regroup and rethink where your story took its left turn in Albuquerque. (Remember this decision. I’ll get back to it later.)

For me, that point is fifteen thousand words into my work in progress, the first of a Space Opera Trilogy. I began knowing how the first book started and ended. As for the rest, I have visions of mutated sugarplums dancing in my head., my series antagonist, and a frontal lobe full of MacGuffins. Sometimes, it is just a fusion of an aha moment and despair fixed by jumping back a scene or two, adding a new character to subplot to the mix, or just muscling past the swamp freezing your short and curlies. More often, a pantser throws up metaphorical arms and returns to the potential of the blank screen and moves on while pretending to be older and wiser. (The former is always true, but the later almost never.

Step 1: Cry it Out Dude

No, I am not suggesting you go biblical by rending your clothes or moving right into sackcloth and ashes. The pointless pit where a Pantser finds the story leads depresses and disheartens the creator and creativity. Our darling is drowning in foul odorous quickmud, and that requires a moment of grief. I am not suggesting a side trip through the five stages of grief recovery; you’ve lost your narrative direction not your dog or cat. I recommend a cup of coffee, no more than a glass (oh hell make it a bottle) of wine, or a joint. Take the last two under advisement. Alcohol loosens inhibitions but depresses the mind. Pot leads to a relaxed sense of well being but can cause cases of the munchies and lead to, “fuck it, dude, and light up another.”

Step 2: “Whatta Ya Lookin At, Back to Work!” Hector Barbossa1

Feel better? Good. Remember that choice in Paragraph 1? I told you we would get back to it.
Okay, you are fifteen, twenty, fifty thousand words of peerless prose with nowhere to go. Probably, you got her through a combination improvisation and declaring, “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. You’ve sunk your plot in quickmud by crossing that swamp without a support structure. No, no, no, I’m not suggesting you change your authorial religion from Pantser to Planner. The whole point of this exercise is to do the minimum amount of work so you can find a rope and pull your characters out of the mud. Unless you want to dump the last hour, day, week, or month of writing, do not enter the Abandoned Hope Hotel. Every pantser must make this decision for themselves but for efficiency’s sake, regroup, especially if the word count is a substantial portion of a novella or novel. I have found two approaches that help me get back on track. (No, you don’t have to use them both, just find one that works for you. )

Structure, Structure, Structure

One of my professors of creative writing said, “classic western story contains thee acts, a beginning, middle, and an end.” You are not going to turn into a “Planner” if you take a moment to write on note cards (old school) or make a comment in our manuscript a basic outline of your acts.
Act 1: 25% of your book containing your hook, your instigating incident, and your point of no return where POV character commits to the story.
Act 2: 50% of your book, with rising action where the character tries to solve the problem where the stakes of each action get higher and lead to the final failure and the black moment where everything seems lost.
Act 3: 25% of your book containing the climax and denouement (resolution). With that minimum blueprint, most of the time you can see where your book went wrong and put it back on track.

Arc Your Characters

In my experience, a lot of Pantsers write character-driven stories, by asking themselves what would the character do next. Fix a character disaster by creating a character arc for your POV character. An arc resembles an arch. In the beginning, your instigating incident creates tension that the character tries to relieve through some form of conflict (mano a mano, emotional, legal). Reduce character tension by defeating whatever causes the character’s problem. A few cards or comments in your document can reveal the points of conflict and stress and get you back on the road.

“Let Me Sum up” Inigo Montoya2

This is neither a comprehensive list nor an attempt to turn readers into Planners. These approaches worked for me. The intend and purpose is to find the quickest way back to writing the novel. I do not find troubleshooting narrative problems fund or pleasant. There are other approaches I did not touch. For instance, narrative cohesion can fall apart when a character makes an abrupt change without having gone through the process that causes change. (example: POV character is a dynamic leader in the first scene but turns to a follower by the middle of the book.) A simple character dossier can fix this, and changing the dynamic question to “What will my character do next and does it fit the characters personality. Finally, I started writing this for myself, and now I have solved my problem with the work in process, and its times for me to get to work.

1: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl “

2: “The Princess Bride.””

Thoughts on Paranormal Romance: Pride Mates – Ashley

I don’t read romance novels. It’s not a rule, just that my tastes run in different genres. An interesting statistic from The Most Successful Self-Published Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors that Paranormal Romance is the highest selling sub-genre from Self-Published and Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors. No, I do not intend to jump into that genre, to chase the money, though, God, money would be nice. Since I write Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) and Fantasy (Why don’t they call it Fan-cy) I thought that some of the techniques would help me create characters that will appeal to more readers. (Oh, please, get your mind out of the gutter.)

Though I’ve only read the first chapter, there are a number of techniques used by author Jennifer Ashley I found interesting. She writes in a limited Omniscient. It first shows up on page 6, after five and a half pages in in Kim Fraser’s head, listening to a 50/50 mix of thoughts about how freaking sexy/dangerous the “Shifter” Liam Morrissey is (description of her physical reaction to the man, the word sexy is not used) and the first intimation of he plot concerning “Shifter” Brian Smith accused of killing his human girlfriend. ”
“Liam smiled again. His eyes returned to normal, and now he looked like any other gorgeous, hard-bodied, blue-eyed Irishman. “You, love, are—”” Jennifer Smith, Page 6, Pride Mates.

The switch in POV without a scene break surprised me. I did not expect and first thought it was head jumping. As far as I can tell, Smith is consistent throughout the novel. This almost microscopic detail of the physical and sensual responses between the characters sets it apart from most fiction I’ve read. It also makes me itch to write something from a limited omniscient point of view.

The focus on the sexual attraction sets this novel, and I suspect the sub-genre, from others. In a way, it is like reading the minds of a class full of teenagers in a sex therapy class. So far, I am enjoying the book.

Sometimes Things Break Down

Lady Ven Aleyo
Creative Commons PIxabay

Monday’s post was late because I forgot to publish. Yesterday, I wrote most of a new chapter 1 of Starjackers, and set up a series in Medium (You need to do another) and now I am trying to catch up.

I lost count of how much I wrote today, though I appear to be around 1500+ words on StarJackers. I also added the Romance subplot. Ven Aleyo has changed from my original idea and is now a Subspecies living on the colony of Venice, a mostly water world with cites built around the few pieces of ground that rise above the waves of floating cities. As I see the planet, It is an old world where plate tectonics has ceased.

In Medium, I have created to Series that are used to showcase the articles and stories. I am happy with those.

Wow. I made a snap decision to finish Spell Thief as another Novella, eventually reaching about 35 thousand words. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I started, I think it came along very well. Spell Thief was going to be the first of a fantasy series, anyway, and it is a perfect match to Starjackers. I am setting my goal with Spell Thief to 500 words a day.

Today, I wrote well in excess of 2000 words. I admit that I am very happy where things are heading. I really want to reach a point where I have several books in Amazon, and hopefully start bringing in a bit of money.

Writer’s Log 01.20.2019-0752

Sundays are tough, it’s family you know. I want to stay on task, to make my goal, and today I did. But Sundays are difficult. We went to a movie today. We cooked. We hung out together. Tonight the boys went to see Glass.

Adventures in publishing: A reader found an error in Shift. Got it fixed, but I have learned a serious lesson. Editors make mistakes and writer’s pay for them. I need to work much harder with editing from the beginning.

I reached 1099 words today, and wrote a thousand words.