And the Blog played on…

Coffee Break!

This weeks Blog is dedicated to Tunny, who gave me props for focusing more on the Writing of my manuscript and less on my Blog.  So, it is a little ironic  that I’m here blabbing to all the world about it, but it got me thinking about all the ways in which I procrastinate about hitting the keys.

If you are like me, it’s really hard to make yourself write more and visit with folks less.  There always seems to be one more person you can share with, one more funny email you can respond to, eight more things you could Blog about, someone who needs an answer to a text message, etc., right?

However,  all the texting, visiting or emailing with any of those wonderful people are sucking up time you could be spending on your manuscript.  You wanna get those idea down on the page?  You need to detach a little from your electronic umbilical cords, and tell everyone to sit tight, you’ll get back to them after you’ve written the next chapter.

Now that I know I can begin a story, craft a middle, and have a notion of an end, from where I’m at now, the point is to COMPLETE my manuscript .  Completing my manuscript needed to become, and has become more important to me than socializing.

If I spend a majority of time Blogging, my manuscript writing time suffers for it, period.  But, because it is my Blog about my writing, it’s okay to take a break now and then and Blog for a little while.  Did y’all catch that, NOW & THEN .

I am Blogging now because I took a bit of Writer’s Break.  I was on a writing roll for the last several hours, body starting to grow sore and stiff, and my eyes feeling a bit dizzy.  Good time for a break and a cuppa Joe.  So, I decided to check my email and I noticed a comment on my Blog.  This being my break, I allowed myself to follow it, and here’s why:

I’ve a new rule about breaks:  During a Writer’s Break, all socialization and attachment to the electronic umbilical cords must be solely to people who are Authors or Writers.

I know that other Writer’s understand the need to be mostly absent from the world so you can write, and you don’t expect me to Blog or contact you every day.  You expect me to have my nose to the proverbial grindstone, churning out the pages and mixing my metaphors.  I expect the same of you…except the part about hashing up the metaphors.

One of my favorite Authors, Seanan McGuire said, “Writing a book is a solitary exercise, actually finishing it is not.”

She is referring to all the people who helped her in getting her manuscript through all of the stages of proofing and the many people it took to read and reread and hack out the stuff that she couldn’t see through to edit out herself, along with those who hosted her when she was writing abroad, and folks who simply listened to her whine.  Notice that even on the home stretch there is still a lot of writing to do?  I highly recommend McGuire’s Blog  50 Thoughts on Writing for her best Writing tips.  Check it out.

So, our writing Blogs are important for us as Writers aspiring to be Authors.  They are a place where we can get writing advice when we are crumpling up the 20th false start.  They are a safe venue for venting our frustrations and cheering ourselves and each other on when the going gets tough and the tough want to quit and take an aspirin and a shot of whiskey, or to offer the same to another Writer in need.

All of this until the day we become an Author.  That’s when our Blogs become part promotion and part lesson, where we answer questions about how we got there to our fans, and why we didn’t off ourselves instead to our worst critics.

Right.  Time to get back to my manuscript, folks.  Thanks to you all for reading this Blog, and may you get right back to your manuscripts; my coffee is finished and this Writer’s Break is over!

What?  Are you still here?  We’ve got work to do!  Ciao,  C.K. Garner  😀

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Get into Character!

What a Character!

Do you start your story with all of your characters already written out?  Do you know how they will act, what they might say?

I am a person who sucks at dialogue; but now, because I’m dabbling in character creation, I feel like I’m learning, or they are teaching me… it is as if the characters, once created are speaking for themselves, each with a distinct voice to suit his actions.

The fun part of writing is pushing the situations just little bit, or a whole shove from the norm, at the same time as  trying to keep it real.  The characters can help you along, or you can create a character grid, and make sure to follow closely.  What might a character do?  How far should you push them?

For Example, if I think a character is vain, I really get silly with that vanity, i.e., I try to take it way beyond what a normal person might do.   I’ll have them missing conversation, irritating people, and losing weight because they are so engaged in their reflection in the dinner plates they forget to eat!  If a person is clumsy, I have them tripping all over the place.

Are they an evildoer?  They are going to take a shot at your baby sister’s baby bunnies, drag the key down the side of someone’s car, blow up pigeons for fun and chuckles, and generally wreak havoc.

Same goes for nice.  Made of sugar, but sometimes spice is the answer there.  As for the middling ones, it helps to shove them over either edge to see how they will handle the drop.  Sometimes a character will grow if you push them, this is especially true if you shove each into the other!  The characters will tell you what they will and won’t do along the way once you start getting them down on the page.

I like to take them to extremes because it makes the story better, even if I tone them down later.  It’s just fun to have a character go beyond the bounds of what is the accepted “norm”.  The lengths to which you can manipulate your characters into a twisted tale are endless, and even impossibilities are, well, possible if you decide they are real enough to write them down!

For the rest of the month I’ll be catching up on all of the possible goofs I have missed in adding the new characters.  I want a seamless blending where I have added them in, which means line by line editing.  I take the time when doing this to catch dropped punctuation, spelling errors, grammatical no-no’s, etc..

It is also a good time to check and see that your characters are showing, speaking, and acting it out rather than you telling the story.

Believe me, no matter how many times I go over it, I catch a couple more errors, and kill them off, hiding the evidence, so that by the time I get to the end, I will be ready for the next batch of revisions from Friends, Beta Readers, Agents and Editors.

I recommend you  try adding a couple of characters and see what happens with your story.  I’ll bet it grows in ways you didn’t expect.  Have fun playing in your world, the company is great!

C.K. Garner

More On Audience:

Don't know who your audience is? Find the perfect fit using character and content!

I commented to a recent blog:  Foetal Positions in an attempt to explain why I blog to an audience, but it got lengthy, so I decided to expand on the manuscript portion of my answer here.  For me, content  and character are  high on the list in choosing my audience,  and you might consider examining this for yourself if you elect to have an audience at all.

I thought I was writing a fantasy novel for adults, but it may be a young adult novel instead, or perhaps a young adult dark fantasy book, due to its content and character development leaning in that direction.

Though the situations may be a bit dark,  young people live in a much harsher reality than society gives them give them credit for understanding.  By the time they are teens many are exploring darker imagery.   However, beyond the darker side of life and pushing boundaries, my manuscript is growing into a coming of age story on its own, but I think that it can be enjoyed by adults, too.

Now, this was not really my initial plan, but rumor has it there is an audience for YA fiction, and lets face it, who amongst us wouldn’t want to have our scribblings published, perhaps be successful enough at the game that we can, if not quit our day job, ease up on those hours and devote more time to writing?

I have another manuscript started, a horror novel.   This second enterprise is definitely adult in content, moreover involves murder, sex and violence, and it is already holding steady in the adult audience position of its own accord, the characters dealing with adult situations more graphic than in my fantasy novel, even as they grow through solving the mysteries and murders, and evolve in their character arc.

My audience with the first novel, when I’m published, will likely be adults at first; those who have guided me on my journey, and those friends who will buy one to show support, but I’ve a feeling my young adult audience will trickle their way through to find my bit of work, and with any luck, come back for more.

The second novel will pull in a mature audience, and have a following in perhaps both the horror and dark fantasy genres.

Here is one thing to keep in mind when writing to your  audience, and your intentions and responsibilities toward them:  This quote by agent Jon Sternfeld“All genres are mysteries…” 

What this means is that you, as a writer are attempting to engage your audience, your readers in a play of, “Hey, there’s a mystery to solve here,” or a dilemma to overcome, etc., and you promise, as an author to give them a bit of a peek, a chance to anticipate, participate, and unravel the clue, to care about the characters, and solve the problems presented, regardless of genre.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.comblogAgent+Jon+Sternfeld+On+Engaging+Your+Audience.aspx

Batton Lash in Good Company at ArtLabs Studio

Durante el panel de Troma, comentando sobre el...

Batton Lash: at Troma Panel

Batton Lash, The Author of Supernatural Law and one of the writers of Radioactive Man comic strip among many other hats (mentor and friend to C.K.Garner among them) launched his new studio this evening!  See his comic book series here: Batton Lash/Supernatural Law

Located within ArtLabs Studio on San Diego’s famous Adams Avenue, a street long known for its antique galleries and Street Fair, Lash’s new studio found perfect company with four other artists who share the ArtLabs Studio space, and whose works were featured on every wall.

The opening of the new studio coincided nicely with the annual Art Around Adams event, here’s the link:
Art Around Adams

A constant crowd of folks flowed into the Art Lab building from the two mile long Art Around Adams Walk, which features art and music incorporated into local businesses, a truly unique format in San Diego, checking out the art on every wall, chatting with the artists, and sharing champagne toasts all around, accompanied to live music.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with James Hudnell author of “Aftermath: Humanoids” who gave me a great mini lesson about “theme” and “character arc” in writing, which I will be thinking about as I continue scribbling my own manuscript, you can see his work here: James Hudnell Aftermath: Humanoids.  I enjoyed the fine company of one of Batton’s long-time artist assistants, the charming Madame Melissa, as well as meeting Batton’s famous wife, at least famous for all Geekdom and comic book fans, Jackie Estrada.

Though though you may not have met her, if you are a Comic-Con International fan, you’ve likely seen Estrada’s name and work.  Jackie is the administrator of CCI’s Eisner Awards, which represent an Oscar equivalent for best of the best in the Pop Art and Comic industry, and has for years been the editor of several Comic Con related titles as well as holding the position as co publisher of Exhibit A Press.  So, this was a night of high falutin’ company indeed for this very new Writer!

Hats off to Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada; pioneers of the small press industry!  Congratulations on the new studio!

C.K. Garner

J.K. Rowling plays nicely with all the tropes and genres..

Our love worn copy of Harry Potter

I’ve been thinking about Harry Potter today in relation to writing my own novel.  I dusted off my son’s battered old copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, abandoned now that my son is twenty and moved out into the muggle world as a young adult, and began rereading it, with an eye for what drives this little volume that started a worldwide reading frenzy.

After a few chapters, I caught up on a few things that I had seen before in many, many books happily read over the years.  At the most obvious, this is a classic coming of age story.

Harry has the ability to grow, and the reader, if he starts reading this as a child, will mature right along with him, can relate to him from every aspect of what it is to be a kid.  From what he is required to eat as opposed to what he wants to eat, from  the tedium of studies, to happiness with professors  he enjoys, and the schoolyard bullies, lurking around the corners, kids, and adults who remember being a child, can relate to him.

Then there are the friendships that develop as Harry gets to know Hermione Granger, Ron and the whole Weasley clan, and learns how to relate with the other students.  He goes from a lonely child to a boy with close friendships.

Finally, there are the adult figures.

Harry has absolutely no experience with adult characters beyond the Dursleys, and he has no reason to trust any adults.   But with the arrival of childlike, if intimidating Hagrid, Harry begins to see adults in a new light, and this will continue as he grows and meets Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and the rest of the cast, keeping in mind, he meets the not so nice ones as well, but chooses who he will associate with, once he has freedom of choice beyond the Dursley House.   Thus, Harry Potter comes of age before our very eyes through his interactions with humanity, or rather Wizards and Half Bloods and Muggles who touch his life, and change him mostly for the better.

Next, Harry Potter is a rags to riches story.   He sleeps in a cupboard, and lacks bedroom, pets, toys, friends, family and good inside or outside activity.  He has no one who sees or cares what is happening to him at the Dursley’s hands.  Creature comforts as simple as a decent bed and a good meal are denied him.  Just a couple of chapters in, he is eating savory sausages,  has a protector and companion in Hagrid, and finds a new place, richly vibrant and alive in contrast to his life with the Dursleys.  The money wealth is only secondary with all that comes his way.

Last, but only because this is such an involved subject, the tropes available just endless, Harry Potter is the classic tale of Good against Evil, and the struggle of our protagonist to learn about himself, the sacrifices his parent made, the eventual knowledge that his father wasn’t always the nicest kind of guy, the ambition to push forward and become a leader, albeit reluctantly, and the battle against the Ultimate Foe, one who goes after children…well, the need to choose between the good and the ugly and the middling ground in between lay in at the door of this classic Genre series.

So, what to do with this deluge of information?

I take it as a lesson that my novel doesn’t have to fall into just one category or subject arena.  Sure, it’s nice to bust out with something original, but the tropes laid down in stories past are still going because they are beloved familiars.  I can twist and tweak them at will just like J.K. Rowling did and does.  The good guys can become bad, the bad good.  The rich can become richer, and the poor stay poor, or the poor can gain wealth to no good end.  The lonely find a host of company, or just the reverse, find delight in the art of being alone.  It’s all up to me, and to you, the writers.

>Back to the Reason for the Blog: The Writing!

On Writing

Stephen King advises, "Kill your darlings" for better editing.

>Now that I’ve finished for the most part with creating a Blog and then transferring that Blog to WordPress Blog, I can get back to the parts I like!  Writing and Editing and Research for my manuscript. Yay!  That is today’s plan.  So, lets focus on tips for writing and editing.

I have a magic wand for you, Dear Reader, to use when editing! It is Stephen King’s formula for writing, then cutting out the clutter. This was good advice that he received from an agent after one of his manuscripts was, yet again, rejected.

Here is the formula King uses:   Second Draft = First Draft -10%

I read about the formula in Stephen King’s book, “On Writing “ recommended to me by Tone Milazzo, Author of Picking Up the Ghost , and Batton Lash, Author and Artist of  Supernatural Law . Thanks guys!

Much of  King’s book is a humorous tale of his background, and his life as a constant Writer before getting well published. But once you get to a chapter he calls “Tools the book really takes off!

The “Tools” chapter and beyond are some great, solid bites of getting your words on the page, and then editing, and to quote King, “Kill your darlings “.  What this means is, after you have decided you have edited out all you possibly could from your manuscript, after you think it is finished, do it again.  You do not have your final draft until you have killed the passages you think are “Darling”, i.e. your “keepers”, etc.  When you have rewritten your best scenes, then you are on your way to a better manuscript.

If you think it sounds nit-picky, try it.  Are there any adverbs you left in play?  Get rid of them and rewrite those sentences that contain them.  Do your Beta Readers (Also called Betas, people who read your manuscript before editor or agent) yawn each time they hit a certain passage?  Kill it!  Got a long tirade that really doesn’t move the story forward, or back story that doesn’t clearly have a reason for being there?  “Kill those Darlings!”  I’ll chat at you later after I’ve revamped my favorite passages.

My latest “What if” session resulted in a new mission: Add Characters=Realistic Protagonist

Puppeteer

Adding additional, or secondary, characters can help develop your protagonist!

After my last “What if ” session I found myself developing a whole new character.

I’m going to plop this character down into several scenes from beginning to middle, which is the extent to which I have written my Fantasy Manuscript, and add her to my protagonist‘s friend list.

Yes, this means I get to go back and revamp every interaction between most of the characters already written, but I think my readers will know my protagonist better through the new character.  It will aid in moving the tale along, and add some moral compass, too.  So, all in all, it is worth the extra work!

I’m also introducing two more characters, one  originally planned for  the second book  of the Fantasy series, and the other an enemy, or frienemy as they are called.  My protagonist needs work, and I need to show the reader her less desirable traits, as well as her better traits.  My protagonist must learn how to make good choices to grow in maturity, and act to follow suit.  These can be expanded on through her friends points of view.

Conflict, not perfection, and the struggle to move forward make my protagonist appear more real, and that will help my reader to relate to her.  The secondary characters provide support for, or undermine her  further development, which helps to drive the plot.  Mission accomplished…well, not quite yet.

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me!  Now you try.  Add a new character and see what it does for your story.