Post #39 – A French Writing Adventure, Part 2

Featured

9/20/18

Last week I detailed a laptop battery issue that kept me from writing for several days while on vacation in Paris. Before leaving the U.S., I had grand plans of writing every night once the family went to bed. Since that wasn’t happening, what’d I do instead? I read! And it was luxurious.

I don’t get much free time to read. I don’t get much free time at all. What little I have I mostly use to write. From a reading standpoint, I’ve been working my way through the same two books all year. For some reason, I tend to read a physical book and an ebook simultaneously. I hope to finish reading both by Christmas. Then I can get an early start on my two for next year.

I also have subscriptions to two sci-fi magazines: Galaxy’s Edge (it’s free to read online) and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (purchased a year’s electronic subscription on sale for $5 on Amazon). Before this trip, I don’t think I’d made it through an entire issue of either.

I’m pleased to report I’ve now read an entire issue of Galaxy’s Edge. I’m still working on the MFSF issue. Even once I resolved the battery issue, I continued reading in the evenings after everyone went to bed. Following a day of walking and chasing two kids around the beach (we’d moved on to Aix-en-Provence and finished in Antibes on the French Riviera), I was too tired to write at night; or the logistics of our accommodations didn’t permit me to keep a light on. (My next laptop needs a back-lit keyboard.) I usually could finish a story or two before nodding off.

as an aside, before kids, when vacationing, my wife and I each would take a book to read and then we’d share a third book. Even then, we often bought one or more books from a local store. We were prolific readers. Good times.

Once in Antibes, we stayed at a great Airbnb with a second story terrace. There, during a couple nap times, I managed to hammer out a few more words. The three painters we experienced in Provence (Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Picasso) were not that inspiring for my writing, but the opportunity to write in the open air on a terrace was. I finished the first draft of a short story that had languished for a while and started a flash fiction piece. I also wrote several hundred words for the latter on my phone while waiting for takeout one night. Got to take advantage when the inspiration strikes.

Words written in Provence = 5000. (Some of these I wrote on the flight home, but I’m still counting them as written in Provence.) Words written on the entire trip = 6500. Not a novel, but I’ll take it. This will go a long way towards meeting my quarterly goal of 12,500 words.

Let me know in the comments how you relax on your vacations. For those writers, do you write, read, or a mix of both?  Or do you focus on eating, drinking, sleeping, and being merry?

Photo credit: SoleneC1 via Pixabay

Post #38 – A French Writing Adventure, Part 1

Featured

9/13/18

I recently took a trip to France with the family. Keep in mind, any time traveling with kids is a trip not a vacation.

We traveled to Paris and Provence. Though I’ve been to Paris before, I was excited. I don’t normally take my laptop transatlantic, too much weight, too likely to lose or damage, and too likely to get searched upon arrival into the U.S. This time I decided to do so at the last minute. My fantasy football draft would happen while I was abroad, plus I could write in France!

Think of the company I’d share–Dumas, Voltaire, de Saint-Exupery, but most importantly Jules Verne. I could write in the birthplace of the grandfather of science fiction!

We planned to stay near the Eiffel Tower because my oldest daughter was enamored with that piece of architecture. Having booked our hotel well in advance, we set out. Going transatlantic is always difficult. It’s essentially a red eye. It’s harder with kids because they sleep on the plane. Normally, I do too but not this time.

We arrive at the hotel at 8:30a (or 2:30a by our internal clocks). Somehow they have a room available. It’s not what we booked, which was one with two double beds. There are four of us. Instead what was ready, and what we readily took due to exhaustion, was a room with one double bed and a trundle bed, meaning two singles, one on the floor that tucks under the one at sofa level. I didn’t know it was called that. My wife had to tell me.

I was excited because we were on the 11th floor, and there was a small table next to a window. I instantly fantasized about writing there overlooking the city.

After seeing a couple things that day, including the Eiffel Tower from street level, we went to bed early. The next morning the family slept and slept. Conveniently positioned on the sofa, I got up and decided to write. I finished a flash fiction story and added two scenes to my novella-in-progress. All that was missing was some French coffee.

Once the family final woke, we left and took in some more sites. Only when we got back did my wife look out the window and note we had a view of Notre Dame and the Pantheon, two of the sites we saw that day. The window had a weird angle, which we thought was odd, until my wife looked to her left. That’s when she notice we had a great view of the Eiffel Tower! I spent the entire morning staring out at beautiful Parisian rooftops when I could have moved the table a little to view the Eiffel Tower. I know, rough life.

Here’s the bad news. I didn’t bother plugging my laptop in that morning and drained the battery. When I went to recharge it, it wouldn’t cooperate. I have one of those sets of travel plugs to convert various outlets around the world and the accompanying surge protector. Using both, the battery would charge for a couple minutes and then stop, but it worked fine for our other electronics. I was devastated. How would I write? Do I hammer out words in the note app on my phone? Do I buy a notebook and try longhand?

For two days, I tried different plugs in our room and changing the angle of the plug converter, surge protector, and laptop plug. Nothing worked. Then my wife said something that made me realize I didn’t need the surge protector. Sure enough, plugging the laptop cord directly into the plug converter worked. The laptop began to charge! Crisis averted.

The final tally from my four days in Paris: 1500 words written. Without the recharging debacle, exhaustion, and a sick kid the last night, it likely would have been more. I’d have to make up for it on the rest of the trip. We were on to Provence to be inspired by three great painters.

Photo credit: Pexels via Pixabay

Post #33 – The Running Plotter

Featured

8/9/18

I’m a plotter. I can’t deny or hide from it. Even when I’m stuck on a plot point and say I’ll write up to that point and see where the story takes me, I still can’t be a pantser. I write to the sticking point and then get no further until I’ve plotted the next part.

When do I plot? Thank you for asking. I don’t sit down and have brainstorming sessions to develop a plot. That sounds like something a professional would do. I don’t have time for that. When I have time to write, I need to write not plot.

Instead, I plot at two other times: when running and when falling asleep. I didn’t develop into a runner until law school and even then I didn’t develop into a decent runner until years later. I’d get through runs in those first years by thinking about things. An early favorite was naming all a band’s albums, like Pink Floyd or Tom Petty.

Now I plot during my runs. I don’t listen to music or podcasts. Those mess with my pace. Plus I think it’s safer to listen to my surroundings. Keeping my mind from wandering is a constant battle, but when it doesn’t, I plot. I’ve come up with some decent plot points. I now find runs almost unbearable when I’m not working on a new piece and therefore don’t have anything to plot. As an alternative, I’m often able to develop a story on the spot. Sometimes I’m not. Recently, it’s been the latter, so I’ve worked on plotting blog posts instead. Got to keep the weekly ideas coming!

The other time I plot is in that netherland of consciousness found between wakefulness and asleep. I use plotting as a sleep aide. No Ambien for me. Thinking about that next plot point usually puts me right to sleep. It doesn’t even matter if I come up with the next plot point or if I remember it when I do. Sleep is it’s own reward. I find when the plot point does come to me, I readily remember it when I turn next to writing that story. It may take me nights, or weeks, but eventually the next plot point works itself out. In the meantime, I sleep soundly.

Let me know in the comments when you plot, if you are a plotter. If you’re a pantser, what do you think about while running and falling asleep?

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire via PixaBay

Post #27 – Collaboration

6/28/18

Last Sunday, I organized a workshop for the Northern Virginia chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. The topic was collaboration. My friend, and established author, Bria Burton graciously agreed to be the speaker. She has collaborated on four themed anthologies with The Alvarium Experiment. The fourth, titled The Prometheus Saga 2, will be released July 27.

I took the idea for a workshop on collaboration from Collaborators by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. As a sci-fi author, I first encountered Anderson’s work writing in the Star Wars universe. In addition to his own novels, he’s since dived into the Dune universe and written at least 13 books (and probably more) with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian Herbert, finishing Frank’s original series and providing the backstory to that universe. He additional has collaborated with his wife, Rebecca Moesta, as well as Doug Beason and Dean Koontz.

Anderson postulates there are five main types of author collaboration. These are:

1) The Full Monty where both authors contribute the same amount of effort and develop every step of the project together.

2) Round-Robin Method where Author A writes the first section or chapter. Then Author B writes the next section or chapter, and so on back-and-forth.

3) First Draft, Last Draft where the authors discuss the project initially and agree on the basic story line, characters, setting, etc. Author A writes the first draft, and Author B edits, fleshes out, and does a final polish of the manuscript. In The Science Fiction Professional, sci-fi author Mike Resnick confirms he uses this technique frequently when collaborating. Of course, at this point in his career, Resnick is Author B.

4) Master and Apprentice which is similar to First Draft, Last Draft. Here the two authors consist of an established writer and a new writer. The two authors develop the story’s outline together, which the Master approves. Then the Apprentice writes the first draft. However, instead of conducting a full edit, the Master offers comments on the draft and gives suggestions and brainstorms solutions to address weak spots. This method is designed as more of a mentoring experience and a way to give the Apprentice a leg up in the industry by contributing the Master’s name to the work.

5) Ghostwriting where one author usually is silent and yet does all the work. The ghostwriter’s name may or may not appear on the work. This is seen often when celebrities decide to write. It’s also seen when an established writer no longer desires to continue a series he/she created or is no longer able to continue the series due to death. V.C. Andrews is a prime example.

Anderson also points out the numerous reasons for collaborating. These include gaining additional expertise, splitting the workload, having a new learning experience, for fun, and to build your carrier. He also cautions there are pitfalls to collaborating. If collaborators do not choose each other wisely, they may never speak, let alone work, together again.

Having never collaborated on a fictional piece (I collaborate almost every day on nonfiction pieces for work), I enjoyed hearing about Bria’s experiences. I’ve mentioned before I’d like to collaborate with one of my beta readers. I believe our strengths and weaknesses are complementary. I write dialogue well, while she’ll be the first to tell you that’s not her strong suit. She is better at establishing the settling, which I struggle with. I’m hoping together we can pull our strengths and develop a great story.

I have just such a story in mind. It’s my next project after hammering out the novella I mentioned last week, the submission window for which will close August 13. I’m hoping once I commit to this project here, it’ll be a done deal. I’ve already worked out the plot points. I just need to get them on the screen.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever collaborated with another author and what the result was. Are you still speaking to each other?

Photo credit: diannehope14 via Pixabay

Post #22 – Finding Inspiration 2

5/24/18

In Post #19, I lamented how I’d run out of ideas for short stories. In Post #20, I explained where I planned to find inspiration for new ideas but failed to address two important sources – my current writing projects and calls for submissions.

I think one of the reasons I have not had any new story ideas is because I haven’t written as much lately. I find when I’m writing one story, other stories often pop into my head. Sometimes these new story ideas are sequels to what I’m currency working on. Other times, it’s a completely new idea. Creativity spawns creativity. That’s certainly a motivating factor to get back to writing more.

Another frequent source of inspiration are calls for submissions. I’ve written three short stories specifically crafted to satisfy a call for submissions. One was a very general call for humorous speculative fiction. Up to that point, I had not written a funny story; so I wanted to take on the challenge. I came up with a 2000 word sci-fi story that incorporated dad jokes.  Feel free to cringe.

Another call for an anthology asked for fantasy stories with female leads and stated the anthology always ended with a short humorous story. Having tackled humor once before as noted above, I again tried my hand at it. I like the added challenge of crafting a fantasy story, a genre I hadn’t tried yet. This time I came up with a 2300 word story loosely based on a pun involving a well-known evil mythical creature.

The third time involved a ridiculously specific call from Uncanny Magazine. The full call is here. In sum, it involves a mysterious corporation, since vanished, that created a portal to other worlds and times on three interlinked tropical islands. Oh, and the islands are inhabited by dinosaurs. This time I ended up with a 3100 word story, which again was written to be humorous.  (I’m beginning to see a trend here.)

The results were mixed.  I enjoyed writing all three, and my beta readers all thought the stories were funny. That was heartening. Unfortunately, all three were rejected by their intended markets. That was disheartening. Regardless, I’ve continued to submit these three stories to other markets.

I realized, though, each time I read one of these calls for submissions I immediately started crafting a story in my head.  Why not do that more often?  Authors Publish releases a list of markets with themed calls about once a month. I’ve had to stop myself from going down the rabbit hole of thinking I can craft something by the deadline, which all too often is too soon for me to realistically draft something. I’m now contemplating the opposite. Why not let my imagine be spurred by these calls? Even if I don’t make the deadline, I’ll eventually have a story for submission elsewhere. It’s the inspiration that I need.

One call I recently came across that got the imagination going was from FurPlanet with a theme of The Rabbit Dies First. The call asks for anthropomorphic tales “centered around two concepts: the rabbit is going to die, and someone else is next.” How about that for stirring the imagination pot?

Let me know in the comments where you find inspiration for your writing.

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay