Throwback Thursday – 5 Things That Will Make Me Drop Your Book Like a Hot Potato – Revisited

Part of my ongoing thing on Thursdays to revisit some of the older posts that are still valid. This one dates back to Nov 22, 2011.*


I read Chuck Wendig’s 25 things that will make me keep reading your story and it made me think, I have WAAAAAYYY more things that will make me STOP reading your story (Okay, I might have overstated that, it’s only 5 things).  And of course he posts about that very thing this morning.  ARRRRGGH!   Anyway, not to copy, but I had this idea in my head, so I’m going with it.

If I see a blurb that I like or a nice cover or get a recommendation from one of my friends, I will pick up your book and give it a fair shake.  Unlike Chuck, I’m not standing in the doorway with a gun in your face waiting to not like it.  If I’ve gotten as far as cracking the cover and reading the first page I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.   I want to like it.  But there are a few things that will make me drop your book like a hot rock, or hot potato or anything hot. You get the idea. Here we go: Continue reading “Throwback Thursday – 5 Things That Will Make Me Drop Your Book Like a Hot Potato – Revisited”

Running and Writing

bcd2e-img_0485Chuck Wendig posted yesterday about his effort to start running, and it got me thinking about my own love/hate relationship with running. When I was a young man I loved to run and had speed, but I suffered from the same ailment as Chuck, Osgood Schlatter’s disease.  I had to quit playing soccer and football, which was a real bummer for me, as my life was centered on sports back then. My focus switched to academics, and it proved to be auspicious. If that hadn’t happened I likely wouldn’t have gone to the Air Force Academy or became a pilot. Sports wouldn’t have done that for me. Continue reading “Running and Writing”

Wendigisms 2: The Penmonkey Strikes Back

I needed a good title for the sequel.  I thought about naming this one Revenge of the Pen Monkey but Chuck already used that title for one of his writing books.  Next was Dead Man’s Prostate, but that’s just a little too gross to publish across the interwebs.  The Quickening doesn’t sound bad, but I’m happy with what I picked. 

These are all giblets of stuff Chuck has published on his website and most are related to the art of writing in some form or fashion.  They’re priceless.  The first page of stuff is here on my 1st Wendigisms page. You can always read more over at Terribleminds.  

And without further ado:

  • Feculent turd-heads
  • Eff that in the ay, emmer-effer
  • I will beat you to death with a sock full of your own teeth
  • Mornings tend to be when your brain is at its lemon-scented freshest
  • Think of this as a narrative laxative
  • Covers that look like someone just ingested a rod of uranium and threw up in a clown’s shoe
  • Suddenly your voice is scratchy and dry like you’ve been gargling watch parts and cigarette butts for the last ten years
  • Loosen your mind sphincter
  • Shock-prod your brain-squirrels into powering the endeavor at hand
  • Sad trombone
  • Harvest all the delicious Idea Chilli *nom nom nom*
  • Plot is like Soylent Green: it’s made of people.
  • Sweaty genitals, which is the worst ice cream flavor ever
  • Massaging the prostate of your soul
  • Your artistic faucet won’t offer anything but a quivering, syphilitic drip
  • You are not a sad friendless little tugboat
  • It’s about throwing caution into a woodchipper
  • coffee so black it might as well have been ink poured out of a squid’s behind.
  • scream like a Tasered girl scout
  • you were just rolling around in a dish of someone’s fingernail clippings and hoagie sweat
  • Extract those wretched little nuggets of hard black hate-coal and use them to fuel the writing
  • trees only read magazines about trees. Printed on the flesh of humans
  • your jaw hangs loose like a broken porch swing
  • Secrete enzymes to build your own authorial exoskeleton
  • Ngggh
  • we’re all gonna end up under the Grim Reaper’s riding mower
  • it’ll slip through one of the many mouse-holes in your mind-floor
  • chipping off the tiniest sliver of our intellectual granite
  • Shake lose the barnacles you’ve gathered while floating inert in the murky harbor of your undoing.
  • I’m allowed to make up new words because I have my Pennsylvania Writer’s License
  • jet-lagged and dung-brained
  • an autumnal orgy of sweet arctic fruit-sex
  • SEIZE THE CARP. No matter how hard that fucking fish wriggles.
  • Embrace the Viking immortality of having your ideas live forever.
  • a rollicking case of the spiritual pee-shivers
  • Cement your genital stamina

Wired for Story

 

Chuck Wendig interviewed Lisa Cron this week for his blog Terribleminds and she gave us her take on developing story.  Another great find for interviews by Mr. Wendig, he rarely disappoints.  Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain.  She has a new book out called Wired for Story, and I can’t wait to read it.  She is a big time producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer and also teaches a writing course at UCLA.  She has spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories.  It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make your story click with the reader.  They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind.
            On Lisa’s blog she touched on why books that get panned by critiques can still sell at amazing rates.  It answers the question as to why books like 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of books.  I remember picking up The Hunger Games, because my wife and daughter love it, and reading the first couple of pages and saying to myself, the prose just aren’t all that, but next thing I knew I was 100 pages in and couldn’t put it down.  Stephanie Myers Twilight books have been criticized for not having elaborate prose also, but the one thing all of these books have in common is they tell a great story and in a way that touches those chords in the mind.
            The concept has already had an impact on my writing.  I think it helped me frame the true story for my WIP.  CJ Cherryh had a recent rant on her facebook page (5 July) about the difference between plot and story and now that I have this new frame of reference I can see that she was saying basically the same thing.  The plot is not what drives the story.  The plot is just a tool to get the characters to create the story you are trying to tell.  The plot elements are moveable and malleable. 
When I deal with libraries and such, people who appreciate books, I often get asked questions about the creation of ‘plot’ — in the sense of the sort of book reports we used to have to give in school. These usually amounted to a recitation of what happened in the book. And these always confused heck out of me—I started writing at 10. I had been wrestling with ‘plot’ and ‘theme’ and this sort of thing on an intimate level for (at my young age) years, and the definitions of those terms that I had to memorize for tests just didn’t ring true with the way I did things. There was a wrongness in the basic assumptions that was bugging the life out of me.// Took me twenty years to figure what WAS bothering me—and to this day I really can’t define those terms, because they may shift with every type of book—but I came to a very basic conclusion: there IS no such thing as ‘plot’ in the sense most of these analyses deal with it. Plot is NOT the sequence of things that happen in the book. Those are the ‘things that happen in the book,’ and they actually are the most replaceable, ephemeral, rearrangeable things about the book. If you could lean over my shoulder while I work, you’d see me move things about, put events in different order, yank something I don’t want, put in something similar but ‘else’, and in sort, work with the causality and the chain of events, but these are not the plot. They are gears that need to mesh correctly, these are pieces that need to operate smoothly together—to PLAY OFF the ‘real Plot’ of the book, which is much more of a three-dimensional diagram of the lines of tension between the characters. You arrange events to tweak these lines of tension and cause a chain reaction, and figuring out how to do that may require you to change the events, change the people involved, change how the news travels, change the order of things—you see what I mean? The Real Plot is that 3-d constellation of characters and alliances and relationships, and these Actions are nothing but a set of triggers that could be ANY trigger. Finding the most logical order of triggers is head-work. Theme? I’m not sure what the hell that is. I think it’s the answer to that basic question a writer may want to write down on paper and pin to the wall above his desk: What’s this book about, anyway? And very often there’s no one word answer, or there is—say—like Loyalty; but that doesn’t say much. It takes the whole book to say what there is to say about that item, the way you see it, the way it affects the Real Plot, the feeling it generates. That’s why my teachers sometimes ticked me ‘wrong’ about certain answers, when I’d really thought long and hard about the answer and didn’t agree with the expected answer. That’s because when you start pushing those buttons on my personal console, you just may come up with a different book. Different answers. You may now realize that I’ve just answered that persistent groaner of a question “Where do you get your ideas?” —with the observation that ideas are no problem, so long as a writer has a pulse rate—but that Execution, ie, getting those ideas to assume a good constellation of tensions and then tweaking those lines of force to create a natural cascade of reactions leading to a satisfactory ending—that, THAT is the hard part.
                                                                                     –CJ Cherryh
 
Keeping STORY in the forefront of my mind as I revise the WIP is really helping me focus on the things that can stay and the things that need to go.   It also helped me refocus my Query letter.  I know what the essence of the book is about and was able to better articulate it. Here is the core of my new Query Letter:
 
What does an immortal bajillionaire have to complain about?  That’s what Remie La Jeunesse keeps reminding himself.  It’s how he’s managed to get by the least few decades, but he’s reached the end of the line.  He’s young by Nemesi standards, at 786, but he can’t find happiness anymore.  Weary of the death and despair he’s suffered for the last several centuries, Remie is ready to end his life, but he has one last obligation to fulfill.  He’s just received the call that the plan he’s spent 240 years meticulously planning is finally ready to trigger.  Will carrying out the plan be his demise or will it reignite his passions?
 
Anneliese Trahan is a damn good pilot and a rising star for Nobloquy, the military arm of Nollevelle Corporation.  Her career path seemed to be on the fast track after leaving the comfort and security of her family trade ship, but the intervention of a past lover derails her plans and puts her on a collision course with a man determined to destroy Nollevelle and any chance at a captaincy.  Will she be the one to end his life or save his soul?
At any rate, I ordered Wired for Story and should have it by the end of the week.  I’m maybe a 5th of the way through my 3rd rewrite and hopefully it will be ready for submission soon.
Clear Ether!

BLACKBIRDS is out TODAY!

One of my new favorite novelists, Chuck Wendig has a new book out TODAY!  It’s Blackbirds.  Here is the blurb: 

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.


The cover rocks and I’ve heard nothing but great reviews so far.  I love his wit and his twisted view of the world.  I haven’t read it yet, but I did pre-order it. I’m certain it will be entertaining and colorful.  Hopefully it will be here in a few days.  Please give him a look see.

Clear Ether!

5 Things That Will Make Me Drop Your Book Like a Hot Potato

I read Chuck Wendig’s 25 things that will make me keep reading your story and it made me think, I have WAAAAAYYY more things that will make me STOP reading your story (Okay, I might have overstated that, it’s ony 5 things).  And of course he posts about that very thing this morning.  ARRRRGGH!   Anyway, not to copy, but I had this idea in my head, so I’m going with it.

If I see a blurb that I like or a nice cover or get a recommendation from one of my friends, I will pick up your book and give it a fair shake.  Unlike Chuck, I’m not standing in the doorway with a gun in your face waiting to not like it.  If I‘ve gotten as far as cracking the cover and reading the first page I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.  I’ll have the gun tucked into my belt, in back under my shirt, so you can’t see it.  I want to like it.  But there are a few things that will make me pull that gun out and blow your face clean off!

 

  1. I picked up a book recently that had a great blurb and interesting ideas, but the language was unique for a lot of things.  It was hard to follow because of this.  It’s nice and all that you went to the trouble to try to make this futuristic place, with new fangled words for everything, but If I have to read the page three times to catch what your drifting then something’s wrong.  My shooting hand starts to twitch.  It’s a fine line to make it “feel” all futury but overdone, it will just lose the reader.
  2. I don’t mind if a book has lots of characters, as long as the POV is consistent.  And by consistent, I mean not jumping from one head to the next as the paragraph changes with no warning, no break or any sign that will clue me that we just switched heads.   You might get away with this once, but keep doing it and it’ll get my ire and likely a bullet to the face (i.e. I’m putting the book in the Salvation Army box in my basement).
  3. Most of us are willing to suspend our disbelief when we pick up a book.  But every now and then something will break the mirror that holds the illusion together with facts that are SO blatantly wrong that I can’t get over it.  Like in Iron Falcon Eagle.  A movie about a kid, whose father is a downed F-16 pilot, who goes out and saves the day by flying an F-16 Fighting Falcon and they call the jet by the wrong name.   Or perhaps something less obvious, that I happen to know is true, like poisonous tarantulas.  No such thing.  My suspension of disbelief comes to a screeching car wreck of a halt … book in the basement box.  These things are incredibly simple to determine, even a 30 second Google search will show the error of their ways.
  4. I’ve read a sizeable number of books and have a baseline of expectation for prose.  They don’t have to be Nora Roberts great, but it should be slightly better than my 10 year old can do.  Okay, that’s not even fair, my 10 year old is an exceptionally smart kid and can write pretty well, but something at least close to that level.  Your writing style is so simplistic that It’s like vanilla icing on cardboard.  I’m not a fan of vanilla icing.  I know some of you might be, so let’s make it dog poo icing on cardboard.  I’m gonna pass on this.  It lacks hardly any description and the sentences are all the same length.   It just lacks something.  This alone will often not be enough to make me put the book down if I have nothing else to read, and by nothing, I mean I’m stuck in the airport for five hours and have no other options.   My reading list is usually ten books deep at a minimum, and I will forget to pick this one back up at some point and move to the next on the list.
  5. The opposite of the previous problem is too much love of the world.  Paragraph after paragraph of description.  I enjoy envisioning a new world as much as the next geek, but it can be overdone.  I’ll end up skipping past a lot of the descriptive and do this enough and I’m skipping the entire book.  I can appreciate how much work went into building this lovely world you’ve created, but I don’t need to know every single detail that crossed my field of vision as I turn my head.  Keep it pertinent to the story and let my imagination fill in the blanks.  I like a little description, but once you’ve gone past the first paragraph describing how the sun hit the old church building and tell me about how the door used to go into a basement that is covered over blah blah blah …  I don’t care.  Unless that door leads to a torture chamber or a secret path to an underground hideout or something at least partway useful to the story just skip it.  You can chop these prose off and save it somewhere to put in later.  Or in a different story. But it doesn’t belong in this story if it’s not moving the narrative along somehow.

Other than that I’ll probably gut it out and try to finish your story.  That’s only 5, not 25, but that’ll have to do.

Clear Ether!

 

Wendigisms

I’ve decided to keep track of my new favorite author’s metaphors/similes. The man is Chuck Wendig and I’m going to call these Wendigisms. The man is a prodigy when it comes to metaphor and creative use of the English language, the Maestro of Metaphor. I’ll be mining his metaphorical gold nuggets and keeping a list of my favorites. I’ll be mainlining those gold veins like a heroin junkie. That’s right, I’m addicted. I’m sure Chuck, er, the Maestro, could have created a better metaphor there; I am merely the keeper of the archive. He is a writer of many forms, and he pontificates over at Terribleminds. What … are you still here? I’ll wait…

This is by no means a complete list, in fact it barely scratches the mildewed linoleum surface, but I intend to keep adding more. These are posted here with his permission. I welcome your suggestions.

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Built like a sagging brick wall, head like a melting lump of Play-Dough
  • art-o-leptic fits of imagination
  • squeeze out word-babies
  • shoved deep into their colonic grotto*
  • slower than a legless caterpillar rolling up a rocky knoll
  • A gift basket of hookers
  • wriggling free from a uterus made from fractal swirls
  • count each pube on your story’s scrotum
  • Spit ‘em out like broken teeth
  • feel like he’s wearing a tuxedo made of bumblebees
  • A hot fresh bucket of words
  • we will now refer to lava as “earthjaculate”
  • kicked in the junk drawer
  • superheroically buoyant
  • epic diaper-breach
  • fleshy 3-D meatbags
  • A burning nugget of possibility tumbling out of the bleak black nowhere
  • high on your own stink, huffing your word-fumes
  • a swirling hate vortex living in the space between your heart and your gut
  • Fatigue nibbles at your marrow like an army of tiny chipmunks
  • ejaculate your DNA into every cell of that story
  • suicide shoes
  • sky the color of a bruised cheek
  • pinnacle of paroxysmic pleasure
  • You need to master Manuscript Lovemaking 7
  • Progress tastes like bacon
  • Embrace the rewrite. From behind.
  • It’s time to blast my six-shooters at the words and make those pesky f***ers dance
  • You pull a mental hammy and s**t your brain-diapers
  • work that was as pleasant as a dildo violation
  • As if writing is a job on par with “unicorn tamer”
  • Other days it feels like you’re birthing a lawn chair from your hindquarters
  • create quantum entanglement between your butt and your chair so that you write
  • right in the catcher’s mitt known as your “crotch.”
  • a thimble full of mouse turds
  • align their chakras and birth their story on a beam of light
  • bleeding imagination juice on the page
  • *poop noise*

 

 

 

 

Why do we do it? (No excuse, sir!)

Get that chin in, maggot!  Oh, sorry, flashback. There is only one answer to a “Why” question when you’re a freshman at the Academy, but I digress . . .

 

There’s been a lot of noise on the interwebs lately about how or why people should blog or even in some cases not bother to blog at all.  Some of it I agree with and some of it I think is bordering on the ridiculous, but is that really anything new?  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

 

I am fast approaching my one year anniversary on this blog and looking back I had no idea what I was going to do with this site when I started.  The entire purpose has always been just to have a space out here in the nether to share stuff that interested me, and the largest focus has been on writing, because that is what I’m doing with the bulk of my “spare” time.  On the other hand, I always did intend this to be a place to connect with other people.  I am extremely flattered that anyone is reading this stuff.  I’ve found that I really like to see people stopping by and reading and leaving comments, it has its own addiction.   I love being able to connect to my favorite authors in this new electric frontier, it’s easier than ever before, so in that vein I started this blog with the hopes of one day having my book published and have a place to connect with my readers.  Maybe that’s conceited, it’s certainly not intended to be — I like to think of it as hopeful.

I’m not nearly as disciplined as a lot of my friends who post multiple times a week and on a set schedule, but this was never intended to be about anything specific, just a forum for me to share bits of whatever flotsam crossed my path.  Roni Loren put it very well, “I am not a blogger who writes. I am a WRITER WHO BLOGS!”

I’ve found that I enjoy blogging.  Maybe it would be better if I had a set schedule of different stuff for each day of the week or at least specific days.  Chuck Wendig has a great format over at Terribleminds.  He has a food blog, 25 things, an interview, a word challenge and a random post about whatever strikes his fancy.  Not in that order.  Jami Gold posts every Tuesday and Thursday about writing and blogging.  Roni Loren has two blogs, one specifically for writing and one to promote her “Author platform”.  I’m definitely not ready to do anything that ambitious.  Just trying to post at least once a week for a year has been a challenge.  Not one I always accomplished, but I am going to try something new… I am going to start a regular series of posts about the story I’m working on, as I get it ready to sell.  It might still be awhile before it comes out, but I am going to share nuggets from the book.  I’m going to introduce characters and setting, to hopefully flame the interest a little.

The first installment is going to be on how I created the story.   I’m leaving something to look forward to.  Heh!  Thanks to everyone who’s shown up!  I really appreciate it!

 

Clear Ether!

Review – Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey by Chuck Wendig

I’m reading Chuck Wendig’s book on writing, CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY, and it’s not only chock full of good writing tips but is also very entertaining.  He has a flair for metaphor and colorful language, so be warned.  But, I absolutely love Chuck Wendig, he is irreverent and cheeky  and is genuinely funny.  One of the things I’ve plucked out of the reading is something I didn’t really have in mind when writing the book, but I think it’s instrumental in creating a story that is engrossing and something that will draw the reader to the next page.  That something is tension, or more precisely, building the tension. 
It should start out slow but the tension should build incrementally to a simmering boil until the climax where it should … climax.  I’ve made some notes and know where I need to work it in.  It shouldn’t hit you in the face, but be a subtle increase until you can feel it as the reader.   

I’ve also been thinking about the follow-on stories.  Once I print this, I can’t really go back and change it to make it fit the story arc better (well I could if I self-pub this but that is not how I’m going to roll), so I’m trying to figure that stuff out now so I can bring in some foreshadowing or more importantly make sure the right characters are following a story arc.  I’m not an outliner normally but I can definitely see the need for it, especially for a series of books where you have overlapping characters and an overarching story arc that needs to be built in.   I’m making progress on both fronts, revising/editing and developing the plotline for books two and three.  There’s lots of lines of backstory on the cutting room floor.    

 
Clear Ether!