Monday, April 2, 2018

How do You Create Your Masterpiece?


Working at a book table during a recent Con set me thinking. You get to meet and talk with a lot of new or developing writers at these busy events. Some come looking for hints, or just want to talk about the writing world in general.

One young gentleman’s comment that he only writes in longhand in a notebook got me thinking. When I mentioned using computers he was dead set against them. Pen to paper was the only way for him. He intended to work that way until he had his final draft of his manuscript completed.

I too started out writing in a notebook. I still have them buried in my office somewhere. Then I graduated to a manual typewriter. (I’m a two-fingered typist and I like it that way.) The typewriter certainly made for easier-to-read work. I also went through large reams of paper and whiteout by the jar or strip.

Then I graduated to a Commodore 64 computer and 5 inch floppy discs. I was in my glory. Unfortunately, I still have two novels that never escaped from the floppy discs. Fortunately, I do have hard copies buried around the office somewhere, if I ever get the ambition to transcribe them on to my latest computer while editing out all those beginner errors at the same time.

Now I have three laptops, numerous thumb drives, and an external hard drive. Which brings me to the moral of this lengthy tale and why I’m quite happy I kept moving on up through the equipment in search of something better.

I was wrestling with my latest epic recently. My Beta reader was working me over. I decided she was correct, again. I needed to make some important changes. First, was completely re-writing the opening. Then, I needed to make several changes through the manuscript. Next I had to add some new scenes to make sense out of the revised opening. I shudder to think of doing this amount of revision work on a typewriter or even the trusty Commodore. Never mind scratching around in a notebook!

I can give another better example. A couple of years ago I turned in a manuscript that came to somewhere north of 100,000 words. That particular publisher decided it was a bit long for them when they brought out the print editions. Their request, cut the manuscript into two, flesh those two out to a decent length of somewhere over 80,000 words each, and then write a third novel to turn the whole project into a trilogy.

I can imagine doing the above using a handwritten notebook. One final thought on the subject. I keep a separate file on the computer of notes for each project that I can call upon and bring up as I am working. Useful stuff such as, “How did I spell that character’s name?” or “What did I say was the color of her eyes?”

Experience is a good teacher. Bottom line, writing is a very personal exercise. Write in the way that suits you best, and take all the advice from us old timers with a grain of sea-salt.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)
5

Friday, March 2, 2018

Things a Pantser Will Do


I’m a pantser and proud of it. Here is one reason why.

I was working on a lengthy manuscript the other day. The scene had the heroine trying to escape a boring party and being harassed by a dull male until she eventually shooed him away. At that point he was just inserted as part of the scenery. I began to wonder if he had an ulterior motive. What was his real purpose? Maybe he was up to no good.

If I was a serious plotter I would already know the answers, having decided he was simply a walk-on, throw-away character passing her by in the night. But being a pantser, I wondered if I should find something useful for him to do and employ him a while longer.

The heroine was going on a trip. Would anyone be curious about this? I have it! My throw-away character is a bumbling spy who must continue to pursue her. Gives me someone to keep her busy while she is in transit. I can use the action around this hapless male to explain the how and why of a few other things going on rather than use a boring info dump. So I did.

Might never have come up with this angle if I was a meticulous plotter. While not a character who will become a main player, he did get to play an expanded part.

I often create characters I know little about at the time, only to learn more about them as I create. Sometimes they become major players. In this case a simple walk-on player earned at least two more scenes and probably made enough extra to cover his groceries and beer for the next week.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Matter of Length


I’m currently struggling with a sequel to a novel that hasn’t been published (or accepted?) yet. This project was originally going to be the second and third in a trilogy. Being a confirmed pantser, I had the ideas but no detailed outline of these next two books.  About a hundred pages in I started to wonder if I had enough plot to warrant two volumes. Maybe a single volume, divided into parts one and two would be better? Which leads me to a discussion on length.

When I started writing I’d knock off a novel, send it out, and while waiting the two years for a rejection letter, fire off several short stories to anthologies. I had one editor tell me twice, in her polite rejections, that my short stories sounded more like novels. I eventually had a short story win first in a writing contest, and another published in an anthology, but the novel seed had been germinated.

I really do prefer the novel length where I can get to know the characters well while spinning out the tale. Then I discovered the novella. (In my fevered brain, about 30,000 words)

I wanted to write a fantasy detective tale for some time. I had the ideas and format and dashed off “Housetrap.” Then I discovered the novella is not an easy sale. There are a limited number of markets. I had an editor tell me he liked the story but it was too long for his magazine. Not to be discouraged, I whipped up two more tales, packaged the three together as book-length, and fired them off to publishers. It worked. Two publishers asked to see the manuscript. Of course, two years later they were still saying they were interested. In the meantime I found someone else (Champagne) and we were away. The Housetrap Chronicles are up to number eight now, with the first six packaged in volumes 1 & 2 and all available as ebooks.

But I still normally prefer the novel length with my usual target to come in at around 100,000 words.

One of my last forays back into the realm of the short story was a tale told by disheartened knight who rescues a lady seeking refuge. I finished the project but wasn’t entirely satisfied. What happens next? I ended up writing in effect three more short stories, each told by a different individual, and linking them together as “Knights’ Bridge,” in a novella format and much more satisfying, to me anyway, than the original short story.

Of course, length is also subject to the publisher’s needs and wishes. I wrote a tale, that came in somewhere over the 100,000 word mark and sent it away. The publisher loved it but had a request. She asked that I split it into two full-length novels, which meant adding more meat to the story, and then write a third as she felt there were too many loose ends still dangling. That was an interesting exercise, and fortunately the format of the plot made it an easy chore. There was even a brief discussion about turning it into a series.

Pick a length that suits the tale, and write it, but in the back of your mind, think about publishers and the markets where hopefully it will ultimately end up.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Why I Write Fantasy and Soft Science Fiction


There is a good reason why I write soft science fiction. I wasn’t a science nerd at school. Physics was the first subject that threw me for a loop when I ran headlong into it. Up until that class, I’d always held it over my buddy Allen that I was better than him in school. Then physics grabbed me by the throat and threw me for a loss. Allen aced it.

So when I write a science fiction story, you know there are certain areas I’m going to have to fudge. I try to avoid technical explanations I might have to give, and there are potentially minefields full of them out there in the void. (Which is not really void?). I really admire writers who can get the details correct (as far as I’m concerned!) while not dragging down the story with heavy techno-babble.

I always toss out the old line that if I’m writing a story where someone is driving a car, I don’t have to explain the inner workings of a gasoline (or hybrid electric!) engine, so why do you want to know how I get my spaceship up to warp speed? But that’s not quite true, is it? I think you should try and make the story believable. Still, when you go to those big budget summer movies, it’s permissible to suspend belief and just let the adventure rip.

The reason these thoughts are rattling around inside my head is I’m working on the second volume in a projected trilogy where at least some of the story will fall into the Space Opera category. I’d like to get the little details sounding correct, even if I have to fudge the big picture. This is a bit of a struggle.

Fantasy is another matter. I’ve often told friends the reason I write fantasy is because I’m lazy and don’t have to do all the research to create historical novels. That is only partially true. I like to make up settings, build worlds, characters and plots, unrestricted by conventional countries and backgrounds. I’ve always been a fan of history, read a lot of it, but have little desire to be restricted by having to stay within the existing lines, so to speak.

I ran face-first into this with a recent trilogy. I decided to write a what-if alternate history. Great, now I can make up a lot of the details once my change in what happens in history takes place. However, I still have to stick to actual geography, and blend in what is going on in the rest of the real world. This means having to take the time to do some actual detail searching instead of plunging blindly ahead with my writing. Now I catch a glimpse of what the historical authors go through, and why, I really prefer to write fantasy. Besides, I really can get sidetracked mucking about where the research may lead me rather than sticking to the actual creating.

I’d rather let my wild imagination make things up instead of doing the research, with one caveat. You still have to write within the realms of possibility, in your imaginary world, or explain why not. Rules are made to be broken, but only knowingly.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas

Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)