Thursday, September 16, 2010

Finding something the reader wants but doesn't have

Every fall, I make the pilgrimage back to Mecca, St. Vincet's College, to watch the first few practices of the Steelers. I take notes on what I see and then go home and type them out on several web sites. I love doing it for the Steeler fans, because the reports they get in the papers are so limited. Mine are long.

Notes on Scout.com

You wouldn't think there'd be much interest in notes from a practice by a simple fan, but this year between the two practices I attended, those notes were viewed by about 20,000 Steeler fans. There were far more hits on the threads, but a lot of them would be duplicates. The notes are nothing special and they're thrown together in the night after the practice so that the fans get to see them in the morning. If you have something people want, you can get a lot of people reading what you write.

Determining what people want but don't have isn't easy, but you shouldn't follow some formula and assume it's the only way. I thought I was writing those notes for a few of my friends on a message board, twenty or thirty people at the most. Then they got picked up by sites like this:

NFL Fanhouse

And pretty soon I had sites offering to pay me to do something I loved anyway. Point is, don't discard ideas because you think you're the only one who "gets into it", whatever the "it" is, as much as you do. If there's something you're into, I mean really into, why not write about it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ironing the transitions

The rails in the picture are the ones that used to carry me from the suburbs into Pittsburgh. They were about seven miles from our house. Either I'd take the bus, get a ride, or walk. I used to like walking the distance because I figured I'd drop a few pounds along the way, save the bus money, and not bother anyone that way.

The first chapter of The Mind Walker is an introduction to the protag and the antag, and a peak at the plot. The plot starts in earnest in chapter two and I just wrote the first draft of a little transition piece that would get me to the rails, if you will. Unfortunately, I can't take my time and walk the distance from the intro to the plot, so I'm going to have to shorten it up with ruthless revisions. I'd be thrilled if I can get it down to three or four paragraphs with a touch of dialogue thrown in. Dangerous things, transitions. Easiest place to lose a reader in the bookstore. Pray for me....(just kidding)

Second day fiddling with the opening section

Spent another day adjusting the opening of The Mind Walker. It's the third or fourth different opening. I was happy with the last one which introduced the antag first, but since I'm in the protag's POV first person, I wanted to give the reader a brief section to develop the protag under circumstances in which the antag doesn't overwhelm the scene, which is what happens in the second section. Of course, I thought it would be a couple hundred words, and it grew to a bushel over a grand, because I stuck in glimpses of two of the sub plots and the dreaded back story.

For anyone who's working on their opening, Kristin has some words of wisdom:
Pub Rants

I know it's hard to do a good opening, because I typically hate the opening of books. When I was a boy and mom would read me books, I used to prod her to skip ahead to the good parts. Alas, every book has to have a beginning. Hopefully, mine's entertaining enough to get the reader to the second section, in which "the good stuff" starts. I'm fairly certain I can keep a few readers if I get them to the end of the first chapter.

Of course, I reserve the right to change the opening a hundred times until I'm happy with it. I know that I have at least three or four more adjustments to make to it, but maybe it's time to set it aside and work on other parts, then come back to it with a fresh set of eyes......right after I make a couple more minor adjustments today.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome to my den

First post on the latest blog. Gotta think of something really profound to say. Yeah, right, like I'd cough it up for free if I had something profound to say.

Current status is "rolling along for a change." The Sand of the Pearl (working title) has been put on hold at approximately 30,000 usable words and 30,000 words removed via a series of decisions as to which scenes and characters to cut in order to be able to trim the plot down to something I can fit inside 120,000 word novel. Probably more stuff to cut in the future, but I'm not concerned about that now.

Cutting was actually helpful for the other WIP, the one I'm actively working on. The Mind Walker (working title?) which is around 28,000 words entered into the computer with another 20,000 in notebooks and on the dicta phone. Stole one of the scenes because I had a similar character in The Mind Walker, and I was cutting the character completely out of Sand of the Pearl as a POV character. The role of the evil general and the scene in which he battles with The Prime Minister adapted nicely from a historic saga to a sci-fi blast.

The Mind Walker is an amalgam of something I was working on a while ago, and the 2008 or 2009 Nano. I wrote the scenes for Nano, and was going to have a linear plot, but decided to start in the future and insert the modern day scenes as a flashback because there were more future by about a 30% to 70% ratio, so I didn't think the flashback would be so obtrusive.

Originally, it was going to be all 3rd person, the story would take us through the part of the book that takes place on Earth, but then I have them travel through space to a distant planet, and that takes time, and I liked the first person for the futuristic scenes. But I think it's awkward to introduce a first person narrative mid-book, so I buried the 3rd person in the middle as flashbacks.

I was working on another futuristic sci-fi, and I liked the world I'd built and some of the plot points, but it was a hollow plot overall. Instead of making the world the ship arrives at in the other one, I simply changed it to have that world already developed and pick up the futuristic world after it's been developed some to make it more interesting, and I had a ready made world with its own plot lines ready in the other story, but of course, it was in third person, so now I'm changing the parts I'm going to keep and adapt for the other plot line to first person and cutting the stuff that's no longer appropriate. It's surprisingly easy. Kinda worries me that my writing is all the same story since these scenes are so easily adaptable and interchangeable, but not enough to make me rethink anything.

So there's a glimpse into the demented mind of Vrabinec, Fred Pasek, me. (I'm practicing speaking in third person for when I get famous)