Blog for describing updates to some of my writing projects
I only have a few dozen readers, but I do sometimes get emails, asking technical questions or asking about the progress of certain storylines in my interactives. I don't especially mind getting emails, but I assume that for every query I get, there will likely be a few other people with the same question who haven't sent an email.|
This blog--which probably won't be updated much--will be to answer such questions in a publicly accessible forum.
|This week I thank the handful of people who are doggedly sticking with that storyline in TWS. It was a writing exercise, and is definitely out of the usual line for the BoM/TWS story universe.
So it is weirdly gratifying to see that the chapters are getting more views in 24 hours than my stand-alone stories, like the ones I've been submitting to the "WEIRD TALES CONTEST" , get in two weeks.
EDIT: Dang, I got so wrapped up in the above that I forgot to give a shout out to bori258. Thanks for the tip!
|As promised, today you'll find two new storylines beginning. In BoM, there's "The Two-Faced Kid" . And in TWS you'll find the experiment described in "Disclaimer" : "The Girl Who Was Late to Class" .
If you want to compare my opening chapter to Milda Harris's, you can go to the Amazon page for her book and click on the "Look Inside" feature on the cover. There you'll find the first half of her first chapter. Her complete first chapter is ~2800 words; mine is ~1700.
I did not actually outline the book; rather I jotted down notes about the book as a whole. Here is the info I had that was relevant to Chapter 1:
Citrus Leahy wakes late the day of a test in World History and has to bike to school. (Her single mom is at work.) Sent by a guard to the office for a tardy slip, she there meets a popular girl she's loathed for many years, and who has given Citrus the hated nickname "Orange" (a play on "Citrus"). When she pauses outside the door of her 2nd-period class, she sees that her identical double is inside taking the test.
I'm astonished to notice now that in both versions the security guard has a coffee. Either it's a stereotype, or that detail of the original seeped into my subconscious.
|As I talk about below ("Disclaimer" ) starting tomorrow I will be posting a new storyline in The Wandering Stars. (A little prep work is going up today: "An Extra Takes Center Stage" .) But tomorrow will also bring a new BoM storyline.
That's right. I'll be posting two storylines concurrently, though in different interactives.
I'm doing that because I recognize that TWS is rather less popular than BoM, and I don't want to test people's patience with a (gulp) 24-chapter TWS story, especially one that in its narrative form departs significantly from the familiar patterns. So I'm going to be posting BoM chapters too.
I'll be returning to "My Friend the Guinea Pig" , and continue it with a sequel to "Concussing Keith" . The story thus far (and there's hardly been any "thus far" at all):
Will is intrigued by the book he found at Arnholm's, and has made a mask with it. But who to test the mask on? He doesn't want risk his own face, so he's got his friend Keith Tilly to put it on. Now Will has a choice between sealing the mask or adding another face to it to make a hybrid ...
|You know what's a really good exercise for when you're learning how to write? Plagiarism.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
So I've talked about this before: How a long time ago Lawrence Block wrote a column wherein he wondered why authors don't copy each other's work as a learning exercise, the way painters copy the work of other painters in order to study and learn from their technique. After giving the obvious sort of answer—copying art helps develop the eye and the hand; copying books is just typing—he mulled the merits of a different sort of copying, that of writing new stories in the style of other authors. But he wound up deciding that this didn't have much practical value.
It surprised me that he didn't contemplate the converse: Rewriting someone else's story in your own style. Or, to give my idea a somewhat more detailed exposition: Outlining a book; putting it away until you forget both the abstract story and the voice in which it was written; then pulling out the outline and composing a new text for it.
It seems to me that this sort of thing—which is, admittedly, pretty much straight-up plagiarism—would make a dandy sort of exercise for new authors.
I mean, think about it. What are the two biggest problems that most beginning writers have?
1. A lack of ideas
2. Lack of practice in picking the right words and putting them in the right order.
The kind of plagiarism I'm describing—oh, let's call it "creative reimagination"—solves both problems. It gives the new writer an idea to work from. Better, it gives him a complete outline, including characters, motivations, settings, and incidents. So equipped, the new writer then has the entire length of a book to practice all the nitty-gritty craft: writing dialogue and descriptions; making the characters and the incidents vivid; practicing analogies; figuring out what to show and when to tell. That is, picking the right words and putting them in the right order.
It can also tell him if he's the kind of writer who can compose to an outline or if he's more comfortable improvising.
I should add one more recommendation. When doing this sort of thing, pick a story that you like but which you think has some serious flaws. Maybe the characters just don't pop. Maybe the dialogue is flabby or the exposition too thin (alternately, too verbose). Maybe there's a shortage of interesting incidents. Maybe the climax is all wrong, or the story begins too early or too late. But find a book with flaws and then, in your version, try fixing them. It's extra practice; and when you go back to look at the original, you won't feel so bad about your own attempt if the original is only mediocre.
I tried that a long time ago with one book, and I learned a lot. (For a start, I learned that I really do like writing novel-length stories, not short ones.) I didn't finish it, though.
So a few months ago I decided to try it again. Starting tomorrow, I will share the results.
I share it not to brag, but to demonstrate in a concrete way my suggested exercise. You can even compare my version to the original, Milda Harris's Doppelganger, which is available on Amazon.com.
A couple of notes:
1. Milda Harris's book is actually Part One of a three-part book. (Except she hasn't written Part Three yet.) She ends on a cliffhanger, and she never explains what exactly is going on or how it works. So I invented an explanation so as to present a finished, rounded-off story.
2. I set my story in the BoM/TWS universe (in the latter, actually), so the settings and many of the characters diverge in significant respects from hers. The two lead characters retain Harris's names, though the girl's nickname changes.
3. So all this means that the plot of my version and the plot of hers gradually diverge and eventually reach different climaxes. That's okay, though. Part of the writing exercise should be to gain the confidence to deploy more and more of your own invention as you go along.
4. I'm not going to call her book "mediocre" and I'm certainly not going to call mine an improvement. But there was one very big thing about her book that I didn't much like, and that I definitely tried to improve upon. If you do read her book, you can try to guess what it was.
5. At the same time, there is one aspect of my version that I don't like—a serious weakness that I don't know how to fix. You can amuse yourselves (and mortify me) by telling me what you think it is. That way I'll find out about all the hideous flaws it actually contains!
|... you have to pick it back up again. Did I announce a few days ago that I was going to take a hiatus from BoM writing? Oh well ...
I was going to concentrate on a novella set in the Westside universe (non-magical division). But as I started writing it, I realized that I don't really know my protagonist very well. She's only been nominally introduced in the universe—literally, by name only—so although I didn't find myself stuck, exactly, I didn't have a good enough feel for her that I felt comfortable writing for her.
So I've returned to BoM writing, probably for a couple of days, as I pen a couple of BoM chapters featuring her and thereby get some kind of a handle on her. When will they show up? I'm not sure. Sometime between one week from now and never.
Anyway, FWIW, 3472 words in about 2:30.
|Hmm, maybe I should move these weekly posts to Saturdays. It appears I can't remember to do them on any other day. This week, my thanks go to:
for their support and the encouragement that comes from their tips. Thanks, guys!
|You might notice a real profusion of choices at the end of the chapters I've been posting lately. That's to take advantage of the extra choices I get with the Upgraded Membership [again, thanks to all my commissioners and tippers!] but also because these chapters occur early on in the story and I want to maximize choices so that there's lots of possible variations that can be played. But I'll admit it does leave some of the choices, like "Go to a party (3)", looking really dumb.