XbyFri… Failure is NOT an option

Sorry, Apollo 13.  It is an option. It’s always an option.  Declaring this bold statement doesn’t eliminate failure, it just removes the mindset or drives it underground.

With that in mind, I have not delivered on my 10 pages by Friday deadline.  I am still knee deep in Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.  It’s been crystallizing how the structure is supposed to look, and I’ll be able to mate that with  The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (and the dark side, The Negative Trait Thesaurus by the same authors) to get a grip on the characters and their part in the structure of the novel, upon which I can hang the words.

The thing about XbyFri was that I was attempting to produce pages for Kristin Lamb to review and give me feedback.  While I value Kristin’s kind offer, I am not at a point to accept it. Any writing I give her would be stunted and lacking in the things I’m working on mentioned above, and that would waste her time looking at it.  I would rather use her time for valuable pursuits such as those who do have content to review who would benefit from her wisdom.

Give it a few weeks. I think that the understanding of plot structure will open up the whole thing immensely.


Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.

Curse you, XbyFri! In Which the Author Rides in Airplane with a Talkative 7 Year Old

I had opportunity to review a few pages of a craft book on plotting.  A craft book, for anyone new to the biz, is a book to guide you and help you understand basics or nuances of minor stuff like plot, character arc, archetypes, and sundry other junk.

Or major stuff.

I was on an airplane yesterday with my son.  He’s 7.

Awesome, time to read how to do plot, I think.

“Say dad, I’m scared.”

“Close your window then. Here’s my phone. Fruit Ninja?”

“Fruit Ninja! AWESOME!” He descends into slicing fruit, his fears of impending death/maiming/flying forgotten. That, my son, is why I only let you play this very rarely. You treasure these fleeting moments of Fruit Ninjadom.

I open the page on my kindle and begin to read. The author explains he was deterred from writing by the conventional wisdom that good writing can’t be taught; it’s there in your bones, or forget it. He details that he finally started figuring out that no, it’s not in your bones, as much as it can be taught. And how he decided to write this book to bring the Truth to the Masses and help the rest of us pull ourselves up.  Good, good, let’s get into the meat of it. Tell me what I need to know.

“Say dad?” That’s my new name. Saydad. A majority of his sentences to me start with that.

“Yes?”

“I have a new high score in fruit ninja!!”

“Ah, yes, very good.” There. That ended the conversation. He’ll go back to–

“Say dad?”

“Yes?”

“Look at this high score. This is my highest score ever!”

“Yes, yes it is.” Back to plotting.

“I keep hitting bombs,” he says.

“Yes, I know, but you’re not allowed to say that word because it’ll get us in trouble. Call them cherries.”

“Okay.”

Now to plot.

“Are we in the air?”

“No, open your window and you’ll see. We’re not moving yet.”

“Oh. It’s too bright, I can’t see fruit ninja.”

“You’ll know when we’re moving, though. You should open it.”

The plane begins to move, pushed backward by a tug.

“There, we’re taxiing. It’s like moving in a car.”

“I’m scared,” he says. Fruit Ninja is forgotten.

“It’s fine. We’ll be fine.”  I lean over and open the shade to see out. He closes it.

I get in a few more pages of plot, but the 7 year old is peppering me with comments and questions. I conclude that I will not be reading anything on this flight. This is a Big Deal for him.

A few moments after takeoff, I negotiate to open the window shade and I point out the beach below, and the mountains, and our house.

“Hey, this is pretty cool. I think I like flying,” he says. He’s an external processor. We spend the rest of the flight discussing atmosphere, height, speed, how long it will take, snowy mountains, lakes, why planes are better and safer than cars. Soon, we land, and gather our bags and walk through the terminal. I explain what a slot machine is and advise him that gambling is evil. I’m a dad, I’m allowed to paint the opposition with broad swaths and descriptions.  We look at a display of big horn sheep, a large rocket, and a model of a train. There are pictures of wild horses lining the walls.

I decide to stick it to the mustang lovers. “Son, don’t ever let anyone tell you those wild horses are natural on this continent. They are not. They are escaped horses from the conquistadors. They are not natural to this environment and there is no argument that will ever make them that way.”

We walk down an escalator.  There’s his grandma.  He stands still for a moment, indecisive. “Go give her a hug!” He runs to her, calling out “Grandma!” and is wrapped in a hug. She never thought she’d have grandkids, so this is a nice gift that keeps on giving, watching her two grandchildren grow over the distance.

I didn’t get to plot yesterday. I did get to hunt for rocks in the eroded tailings of a hydraulic gold mine, and the little boy and I played in the snow a little while.  Grandma gave us a styrofoam box and we brought home some snow for my 3 year old daughter, though it’s a little slushy now. I got to drive for 8 hours, time spent talking to my son.

Now you know why I didn’t get to read much about plot.  I tried, but yesterday wasn’t quite right for it.  I can see that XbyFri is going to be a bust; I need a lot more information on how the large picture comes together before I can make the small picture come together on the page.


Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.

Meeting that deadline xbyfri

This is a miserable process.

The more I study character archetype, the more conflicted I am. (That’s good, conflict!) My goal? Fix the character archetypes to match the standards of whichever system you’re using (there seem to be several, Jungian included).

Doing that requires that I fix the story to meet the requirements of the character arc. The start point of the writing has been changed three times now.  It may get changed again. From my previous post, I had the story start with the navy crew detecting four ships. It was a yawner. Well written, but boring from a plot perspective. [Modestly speaking.]

So I yanked that out. Started it with the Captain getting on the bridge, evaluating the threat, saying alert the marines.

This is still inadequate because it’s not meeting a scene/sequel format.  I believe that the captain scene will also be dropped.

Alternate currently considered beginning: Marines get alert, get ready, load on shuttle, some equipment failures, shuttle launches when ship is in danger and the shuttles make their way back to the planet.  The ship becomes a bookend ship (destroyed in first act).  Obviously, this is moot, writing like this, since there’s no plot.  I’ve abandoned the one I have, so I need to go back and re-do that part.

But first things first! Back to creating a plot.  The one I have isn’t going to work, primarily due to the character arc.  I. Am. Throwing. Clumps. of. Hair. On. The. Floor.

Argh! back to my outline.  Define the character. Surround character with the stereotyped characters. Create goal. Create conflict.  Redo characters. Adjust story to characters. Expand from general short outline to one page on each act, then create scene sequel pairings with specifics: goal, conflict, disaster, recovery, dilemma, (oxford comma ftw) and decision.

This is going to be bloody.  Step back.  I will do this.  There will be a book series. I will prevail.

Scene and Sequel – bloody progress. xbyfri Part A

After playing an hour of terrible BF4–either everyone was hacking or I was terrible, or both–I settled down with Word to churn out my ten pages.  I managed to do 6.

This is an analysis of what I’ve written. I won’t reproduce the actual writing here, as there is no point. I will talk about my processes of what I’m doing. This might get messy. Those of you in front might get splashed with outline.

At this point, I’m putting content on the page. It looks pretty. Garamound, twelve words a line, and hanging quotes.  Yeah, that kind of pretty. What’s happening in the story is not pretty.

The first scene, the one that’s supposed to grab my reader by the throat and light ’em on fire and offer no hope at all… that one is meh.  Heart pounding excitement? Nope. A routine destroyer makes long range contact with four warships.

Yawn.

How dull.

Where’s the conflict? The XO is afraid to wake the captain. That’s it. That’s the conflict. And it’s not much of a conflict. See, we know that when the warships get close enough, then you HAVE to wake the captain and say “we’re in a pickle Captain” and maybe you get yelled at, but we also know if the ship gets destroyed, like so many bookend space vehicles do, it was justified for him to wake the captain and we aren’t emotionally invested in the XO because we know he’s going to die anyway, right?

So let’s discuss the bookend space vehicle.  A bookend space vehicle is a space vehicle that is destroyed or disappears in the opening scene of a book or movie. It may be the focus of the story to discover or uncover the reasons behind its destruction. Because it is frequently used, readers typically do not want to invest in the BSV at the beginning because it usually turns out to be a waste. If we start to identify with a character and the character is then snuffed out, we mistrust the writer because that was Not Nice.  The BSV does afford a good grabbing moment as the BSV can be put in horrible straits and suffer destruction and it makes an exciting opening scene.  If, however, the BSV is the focus of a Goal/Conflict/Disaster, it is almost impossible to provide a sequel to the scene and thus it is stand-alone.

So there’s my answer. Putting on my Pontius developmental editor hat, I’m going to have to scrap the scene and either replace it with a scene sequel or leave it out.

The next scene is the marines aboard the ship being alerted and them getting suited up and loading on to a shuttle.

Purpose? Introduce us to the marines, and then locate them on the shuttles for the upcoming Disasterous Space Battle.  Focus is on Lcpl Yuen, who leads a fireteam. We meet the fireteam and find out things about those four characters which fill in our background.

The writing there is adequate, but again, where’s the conflict? Um… Yuen has to get her team suited up in a hurry.  The new guy is slow.  That’s conflict?  I guess it could be.  Marines are about conflict. Maybe some background–the fireteam is in trouble for not being fast enough or efficient enough, and they’re under the gun.  If they screw up one more time, Yuen gets a negative counseling statement on her record. Who cares about immanent destruction of the ship when your career is threatened by the new private screwing up by the numbers all the time? If he fails, it’s your fault.  We know, as long as I’m writing this much detail about these characters, that we’re going to be packed up in their duffels for the long haul, and that even if the ship is a bookend, the marines are not.

Thus:

Scene: The XO and crew are terrified of the captain, who is asleep.
Goal: XO wants to get through the watch without any incidents.
Conflict: Possible incoming fleet is not acting friendly. When to tell the captain?
Disaster: Waiting too long to call the Captain when the ships are, indeed, unfriendly.
POV: XO (executive officer, second in command)

Sequel: The Captain bawls out the XO for waiting too long -in front of his troops-, and will put a note in the XO’s file derailing the XO’s career. Captain attempts to hail the incoming ships.
Reaction: XO mourns that his career is destroyed by drunkard Captain.
Dilemma: Should the ship run or turn and fight the fleet?
Decision: The ship will fight and probably lose.

To fix the scene, we’re going to have to emotionally invest in the XO and we need to ratchet the captain into a real Queeg character- a drunkard with a mean temper who will never be promoted above destroyer Captain. The focus is on the XO’s internal processes, not the brick brack of running the ship and routine contacts and all that jazz.

More on the marine section later. That’s going to need a good tweak to introduce conflict and make sense.

What do we call it? WriTePaByFri? The 10 page 7 day writing challenge

I’ve got this goal of 10 pages by Friday. Good pages. I can write 10 pages of mediocre adequate slush in an evening, so the amount isn’t the problem.  It’s the content.

One of the problems is to name it something, so it’s iconic and stuff.  Write Ten Pages by Friday becomes WriTePaByFri, or Writepabyfri. Which sounds dumb.

Maybe latin? Decem ceras a veneris. That’s hard, the Romans didn’t have pages per se, so it’s ten wax tablets by Venus-day.  Maybe XCeaVe. Exceave? Sounds like a sleep medication for seniors.

A mix! WriXpabyVen.  No, no, that’s not it.

XbyFri.

That’s what I’ll use.  Mind, I think nano is a horrible name and emulating it causes me digestive stress, but it’s just what we’re going to go with.

I’d ask for your votes, however, I’m impassably dictatorial about this and you’d probably all decide Writepabyfri is your favorite, and who cares what I want?

I WON! I WON! Wait. What have I done!? Sacre Bleu! The 10 pages challenge

I was commenting on Kristin Lamb’s blog, like you do, and after the careful slapdash application of humor and chutzpah, I said, “Oooh, ooh, did I win the internet? Where do I send my 20 pages? Aw, wait, that was a different month. Never mind. I’ll go back to my story spreadsheet.” That is, to send her 20 pages of my fine writing and she’d critique them, probably put lots of red marks all over it, and send it back to me. This is something she offers as an incentive to people commenting on her posts – one person a month wins that.  At least, that’s the idea I’m getting.  And she must be good; she’s got 15,000 followers, and that’s about 14,000 more than Jim Jones ever had.

And she responded, saying “You know what? Points for creativity. Send me ten to kristen @ wanaintl dot com. LOL. Thanks for the laugh!”  See, chutzpah for the win!  I will also point out that this makes me a paid writer: I wrote something humorous and received compensation in kind, which is critique of 10 pages, normally a service for which Kristin charges… mmmmph dollarsUS.

One little tiny problem. I don’t have 10 pages.

It’s about 200 words a page, and I’ve got 75 pages of non-conflicty fiction, 15,000 words.  Those aren’t representative of the new me, the one that knows stuff. Like three acts and scene/sequel. But the new me hasn’t written that much, because new me is trying the whole outline-your-book-so-you’re-not-rewriting-it-when-you’re done.  Sure, there’s a lot of dashes, but you gotta do it.

And you hate to send in 10 pages of crap.  She’d hate it, too.  Don’t make people regret their acts of kindness, Pontius.

This leads me to my dilemma (conflict, if you wish): How to produce 10 pages of high quality product that will lead to hearing excellent insights from an industry professional. If this was opera, I’d be the new tenor doing a master class (a short one) for Dmitri Hvorostovsky.  Gulp. With writing, I can fake it (sorta) since it is, after all, my native tongue.  But you can’t fake tension. And conflict. And scene/sequel. And a really fantastic outline.

So my mission is to write ten pages of scene sequel in… I give myself a week.  High quality. Fantastic top level stuff. This ain’t nanotanemo bay writer’s challenge, it’s 10 pages. One week. High quality.

First, I have to repress the urge to write boring scenes full of conversation and not much action. So… start with an explosion? That’s a helpful place to start. I so want to start with the discovery of the enemy fleet and ease into the hot tub from there, but I know that’s deadly dull and will kill it flatter than Kansas.  Get a running start and start it at the moment of: impact.

And Tuesday I’m flying to Reno and driving back. So it’s 6 days.


Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.